The decision to become a merchant mariner came later in life for me. I had a parent in the industry, but I decided to pursue a career in science instead. After earning a degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, I worked in salmon research at the University of Washington for twelve years. Fisheries is a very applied, “blue-collar” science, and I spent as much time out on the water as I did in the lab or behind a computer. It was very engaging, fulfilling work, and as a native Seattleite, I loved being involved in monitoring and recovery efforts for what is culturally and economically a totem species of the Pacific Northwest.
About a decade in, I decided to pursue an entry-level license with the Coast Guard. I submitted my sea time and tested. On my time off from the UW, I started taking part-time work aboard all different types of vessels: fast ferries, private yachts, small research vessels and charter vessels. I already knew that I loved working on the water, but really enjoyed the fact that with one license I could pursue such varied work, always learning new skills, seeing new places, meeting new people. And unlike with research, you never took your work home with you.
When I decided that I wanted to pursue this as a full-time career and work towards an Unlimited license, I have to admit I didn’t exactly know how to go about it. I decided to enroll in a two-year program at Pacific Maritime Institute, which combined time at sea with an efficient way to complete all the STCW training, courses and signoffs required.
For the past two years I have been sailing bluewater on Oceanographic research vessels. The work is endlessly varied; each cruise is different in terms of cargo, destination and mission, and the crew works to make the vessel an efficient platform to facilitate whatever the science dictates. I am currently studying to test for my 1600 Mates license, and from there will continue sailing towards an Unlimited officers license.
The options in this industry seem endless. I learn about new opportunities every day, and I really enjoy the fact that, at least for now, I am not limited to doing any one thing.
You can follow my experience at www.deepsixholiday.com