Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Both of the other captains on my boat are good guys – people I’d drink a beer with back home, or spend a day fishing next to. And they’ve both been running crewboats for two decades or more.

One of them, let’s call him Mack, was the captain on the boat at the beginning of my first hitch. He’s also my official “mentor,” the person who at some point will sign-off on my ability to handle the boat, the paperwork, and the customer.

When that happens, I’ll be taken off Short Service Employee status and trade-in my hi-vis orange (“may be a danger to himself and others”) hardhat for a glossy white one. That’s when I’ll also be eligible to get a raise and, and, when the opportunity presents itself, move up to a master or relief master position.

Mack told me last night he doesn’t see any reason it will take the six months our personnel manual suggests.

He’s one of those old school captains I wrote about earlier. Been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. I learn a lot from the telling.

The other night he told me that in the wake of the previous third captain being fired with immediate effect at 0530 the day I was supposed to report to a 130-foot utility boat, he called the office and said: “Send me someone, I don’t care who, but I have to have another captain down here. Just send me someone with a license who can drive from point A to point B – I can handle the rest.”

Then, he said, I showed up and told him I had just three months on crewboats, none of it in the oilfield.

“Well,” he said with a wry smile,” at least I know they were listening to me.”

My official mentor isn’t the only person teaching me stuff on this boat; our engineer, we’ll call him Bill, makes a point of running through one of the systems each hitch. He’s also the guy I can go to and say: “Hey, I’m a little rusty on my eye splices. Can you walk me through one real quick?”

Bill told me he was fortunate, as he was learning his trade, to run across people who were happy to answer his questions and show him what he’d need to know to be successful. He is, he said, just paying it forward.

I look forward to doing the same someday.

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