Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Captain's Kit

I'm due on the boat in a week and already I'm doing laundry and packing for a 14-day hitch.

I've seen more than a few threads on gCaptain asking: "What do I take to the boat?"

It's true, I'll probably never make anyone's best-dressed list, and frankly I don't care. I've always appreciated sturdy, practical, comfortable clothes that don't require any special care.

Upon being hired at one boat company, I asked the personnel manager if what I was wearing (jeans and polo shirt) would be okay for the boat.

"That would be terrific," he said. "A lot of our captains look like they're going to a dog fight."

Most boats are business casual, with the emphasis on casual, but the officers set the standard for the entire crew and that standard is reflected in everything from footwear to the condition of the bilges.

1. Long pants. I've tried 'em all -- from jeans to Dickies to Carhart -- and have settled on Wrangler's Men's Cargo Pants ($18.97 at Wal-Mart). They come in twill and rip-stop, and they're remarkably sturdy. They're also cheap enough that if I splatter them with paint, I don't pout.

2. Shirts: No company I've worked for has had a uniform requirement, though most do have t-shirts and sweatshirts available from time to time. I wear a combination of work t-shirts (Wolverine, Carhart, Magellan), fishing shirts (Columbia, Magellan) and my favorite graphic tees.

3. Shoes: The SMS policy of any company will likely specify steel-toe shoes or boots for all crew members on duty. In practice, wheelhouse personnel often get by with tennis shoes or Crocs or even flip-flops. I wear Sketcher steel-toes, and I'm on my third pair in a year.

They're comfortable, but tend to fall apart after a couple of months.

4. Light jackets and sweatshirts: layers, layers, layers.

5. Hats: I wear 'em, mostly because of an unfortunate hairline. For the same reason, I usually just buzz my hair down to the scalp. Low maintenance.

6. Flip-flops, shorts and light t-shirts for off-duty cabin and lounge time.

Every offshore vessel should have a functional washer and dryer, but I usually take enough clothes to go a week without doing laundry.

In addition to clothing, I typically pack bedding -- a twin sheet set and a pillow; a sleeping bag to use as a comforter, one or two bath towels and toiletries.

Additional gear includes my laptop (which doubles as a DVD player and music center), my Kindle (which holds my recreational reading, as well as Bowditch and a copy of the Rules), an iPhone, which I can tether to the laptop for interwebs access, a small LED flashlight, and my Spyderco Pacific Salt pocket knife.

I consider the last two items to be safety requirements.

At any given time I may also have a couple of small screwdivers (to quickly address wheelhouse rattles or malfunctions), wirecutters or needle-nose plyers.

All of that gear goes into a sturdy daypack I carry everywhere. The daypack also holds my license and certification documents in a waterproof pouch and a physical copy of the International Rules.

If I'm lucky, I'll remember chargers for the laptop, phone and Kindle.

Finally, I pack sunglasses (for most of my life, Costas, but mid-hitch one month I picked-up a pair of Wiley DVX polarized safety glasses at Wal-Mart, and they're pretty awesome), safety glasses, reading glasses, work gloves, a hard hat and my work vest.

And that's it. That's the basic "going to sea" kit for a modern-day (oilfield) mariner.

Did I miss any essentials? Please leave a comment!

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