Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ready for sea, for real

I have gotten the feeling that I've been away from the blogosphere for too long- two weeks, to be exact. During this time, I started my job as an engineer- official title is Third Assistant Engineer- with America's largest employer of civilian seafarers- the US Government.

Two weeks ago, I started with a week of orientation in Norfolk. Lodging, food stipend, commuter bus and friends ( two classmates from the USMMA) were provided. By starting work at 6:30am, the can-do attitude of seafarers protected is from rush-hour traffic. One old salt remembered when all the per employment and new hire business was taken care of in one day. A sign of our times, a total of one hour was allotted to payroll and benefits, with many more hours given to human relations presentations discussing how we ought to be treating each other already. Between work, commuting, an afternoon workout, and fine dining during Norfolk's restaurant week.

One thing about this job is that it hasn't been a lonely beginning. For whatever reason, about a quarter of my class answered the call to "man the victory fleet". They will be coming in "flights" that start every two weeks, and their numbers will grow through the summer. Some tangible benefits of this job include extended port visits, safe working conditions in a managed-stress environment, camaraderie and commiseration, a 56- hour workweek (compared to 84 hour workweeks required by some American ship companies), a preferred union card after 3 years, should one decide to take shipping jobs from a union hall. One final benefit is transportation provided during "shore leave" in port. I remember on a coal ship I sailed as a cadet on, the freshly graduated engineer was shocked that it cost $50 to get to and from the closest strip mall by taxi. "That is the industry", remarked the wise chief mate.

On a per- hour basis, the pay is lower than what one could find on a commercial ship. Yet there is little fretting, because of the little perks, and the old saying, "money isn't everything". Taking a job "manning the fleet" is a lifestyle choice.

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