Sunday, June 24, 2012


At the age of 41, after a 20-year career as a writer and media flack, I pulled an Ishmael and quietly took myself to sea.

My grandfather was a bluewater mariner and also ran a little shrimp boat for a while. My father sailed with the Coast Guard on buoy tenders and medium endurance cutters for four years. I grew up on a peninsula on the middle Texas Gulf Coast and have been messing about in boats nearly my entire life.

I guess you could say it’s in my blood.

Blood doesn’t get you a paycheck, though, and it’s been an interesting journey, these past (nearly) two years.

There was the Coast Guard-approved course, then finding a boat less than 50 tons but over 32 tons to build time to upgrade my license; learning about marine diesel engines … figuring out the differences between operating a small boat for pleasure and a large boat for profit.

Three months on a 100-foot crewboat out of Texas nearly killed the dream: a first captain who was a perpetually angry dry dunk, a management culture that feared and openly despised its employees … it was a useful learning experience, but not a lot of fun.

This spring I hit the road and traveled to the heart of workboat country – Southwest Louisiana. Within three days I had two job offers (and have received two more in the three weeks since). At the same time, three other captains I used to work with running fishing trips and eco-tours in South Texas also landed workboat jobs here.

The work is out there for anyone willing to do some research and invest a little shoe leather.

Today I’m third captain on a 145-foot fast supply vessel working as a field boat on the outer continental shelf. We normally come back to the dock in Morgan City, Louisiana, once a week for about 24 hours I'm relief master (second captain) on a 165-foot fast support vessel working out of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

This, then, is my running commentary on this fascinating industry. It will, no doubt, be a chronicle of my greenhorn mistakes as well as any success I might find. It is the point of view and impressions of one person who is not an expert and does not have a global view of offshore marine transportation.

I may not always be very specific, and names sometimes will be changed to protect the innocent (or ambiguously guilty). I’ll re-tell some stories I hear from others, and already I’m starting to understand that wheelhouse stories are kind of like fishing stories: I can’t vouch for their veracity if I wasn’t there.

Otherwise, I am not making this shit up. 


  1. Aaron...just found out about this when you came to mind my friend....I will be thinking of you under those full moon when you might be under it in that big wide sea of Peru the sea is known as "MAMA COCHA" MOTHER SEA and if you ever have time you should look up the Moche civilization in Peru..unlike the Incas who only ruled for a couple of hundred years, the Moche tribe was around for a loooooong time and they worshiped the sea...they had sea gods..crab men, dolphins, octopus man....because the sea to these northern coast tribe of Peru ruled the tides, waves, the catches of fish, animals i.e. sea turtles, seals, whales etc, hurricanes etc....MAY THE MAMA COCHA ALWAYS PROTECT YOU MY FRIEND IN YOUR CONTINUED RELATIONSHIP WITH HER....SALUDOS Y ABRAZOS SIEMPRE....MILAGROS :)

  2. look forward to reading this blog more often. ishmael is one of my favorite narrators. cheers