No, I can’t go with him. Ever. Please stop asking.

Being married to a guy who goes out to sea elicits ongoing explanations–what does he do, why does he go away; he’s fishing, right? (Wrong)

At the gym today, one of the girls asked me the question I have been asked literally hundreds of times, “Do you ever get to go with him?”

NO, I can’t ever go with him, nor can I meet him and spend a few days sightseeing.

In the middle of the ocean?

These are working vessels. They don’t carry passengers for safety and security reasons; plus he works ALL the time.

Usmm-sealA refresher for new readers…my husband’s a tugboat captain. He’s also referred to as a mariner or a merchant seaman. He’s a member of the United States Merchant Marine.

The way most tug captains and crew are paid when they’re out to sea is on a “daily rate” basis which means he’s literally on the clock 24 hours a day.

Sometimes it’s eight hours on and four hours off, or six hours on and six hours off. In the “off” times, he has to eat and shower and sleep, which is why seamen often suffer from sleep deprivation.

When he comes home after a long assignment, it takes about a week to regulate his body to a more normal sleep/awake pattern.

I guess there are still some situations where spousal visits to ports are possible, but that’s never been my own experience, and since I get seasick and tugs are super noisy and smelly and dirty, I’m not sure it would be that much fun.

Here’s how we prepare for a long assignment. We’ve discovered that having a departure routine is also a coping strategy, as it helps us work as a team.

The prep is a major undertaking, although a reluctant one on my part, because it ends with a drive to the airport as a couple and the drive home alone. When our beloved pets were still alive (Victor the Border Collie and our daughter cat, Bandit) just getting the suitcases out of the garage actually caused them to become depressed, as they both came to associate that action with their daddy going away. So sad.

A very old pic of Bandit as a kitten and old man Victor

Bandit as a kitten and old man Victor. The best kind of love.

We make a lot of lists so he’ll have enough supplies of personal items to last the duration of his assignment. He’s often gone for 2-4 months without any stops in port or he’ll be in a part of the world that doesn’t have a Target or CVS on every corner.

There’s always a cook aboard the tug, so he doesn’t have to worry about preparing his meals, but he has to have enough toothpaste (4), dental floss (4), vitamins, the kind of tea he likes (Yogi Antioxidant and Ginger), underwear, socks, shampoo (Kiehls is the shampoo of choice), sunscreen, and supplies for his marlinspike seamanship projects.

ropework bottle IMG_0786

I pack raw almonds, raisins, dried (unsweetened) mangos and papayas from Trader Joe’s to ensure he has healthy snacks for as long as possible.

He fills two large suitcases, two medium suitcases, and a backpack that contains his computer, iPod, other personal items.


Serious things…

I think it’s important to have a discussion about serious matters,  just in case.

It’s something no one wants to think about, but the reality is that a tugboat is a dangerous place, and it’s smart–not to mention empowering–to be prepared in the event of a worst case scenario.

I suggest making sure you each have current powers of attorney and easy access to all financial documents. (I’m not an attorney; this is just what we have found to be a good idea).

He always checks our two cars to make sure they’re in good working order, fills the gas can for the lawnmower, and completes any last minute house repair jobs. This last time he washed the second story windows. (I abhor dirty windows!!)

It’s these little things that he does that make me feel like we’re still connected even when he’s an ocean (or two) away.

It’s equally as important to know how to reach him in case of an emergency. Cell phones often don’t work in remote locations, and there’s a definite course of action with the company if it becomes necessary to bring him home.

Make sure that neighbors, family, friends have that emergency contact information–just in case.

After his first long assignment, we installed a security system for peace of mind as much as for actual protection.

And to give you a real idea of what life is like aboard a tug, try this…
Leave your lawn mower running in your living room 24 hours a day.
Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can.
[Taken from]

78 thoughts on “No, I can’t go with him. Ever. Please stop asking.

    • I’m hoping one day he’ll decide he wants to go back to working locally like he did for our first 15 years! Hope you had a great weekend! Get ready for that big storm we’ll scheduled to get.

      On Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 6:38 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  1. People don’t ‘get’ a lot of things;many Americans with 9-5 jobs have no clue how the rest of the world lives.
    Hat’s off to Tugman…and you,Mrs.Support. He has an important job…and he’s lucky to have you and your candle in the window.(Spouses, and I mean usually wives, never get enough credit for holding down the fort and making their mates able to do their jobs).


    • right you are. Sometimes even always happy me gets a little frustrated with the waiting and not being able to plan things. Not often but today ha ha.

      On Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 6:49 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


    • Thank YOU! He even got me all prepared for an earthquake or fire or blackout (we had one last year when he was gone). I have a wind up radio, tons of water, tent, camp stove, flashlights with extra batteries, he’s very thorough!


  2. I always get ‘doesn’t your boyfriend get sick from eating seafood everyday?’ LOL

    I have to agree that their job is dangerous. I just had this conversation with Cadet. If there’s a fire in the engine room, he have to see whats wrong and even try to fix it…

    Seamen contribute so much to a country’s economy, yet a lot of people fail to recognize this (at least thats true in my country). Most people look up to bankers etc…


  3. I like the last bit about the lawnmower and the alarm clock. Poor guy. I can only marginally relate when my husband is on call and the darn phone rings in the middle of the night and nearly gives me a heart attack. I couldn’t do that for a living. My blood pressure would be sky high. Not to mention being away from Target (or our equivalent Walmart) for 2 to 4 months. 😉


    • I’ve been on a few tugboats here with him in the harbor and also one fun trip I took a 4 hour train up the coast to where he was and he came to get me in a small boat to motor to where his tug was working and I spent the night. That was kinda fun, but the tug was anchored ha ha, and then I took the 4 hour train ride back. Personally, I don’t know how those guys do it. PS You do NOT want to wake him up those first few days. He’ll sleep sitting up on the sofa. It’s gotta take a toll on the body.

      On Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 9:44 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


      • When my husband was in residency working 100 or more hours a week, he couldn’t stay awake. HIS doctor told him that many, many doctors at that point in their careers are on some medication to get through. People need sleep. I know I do. I couldn’t do either of those jobs for that reason alone. 🙂


      • you and me. I need sleep and i LOVE to sleep. I love to fall asleep. Talking about sleep makes me sleepy and I just woke up!

        On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 6:33 AM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


    • For the first few days he’s home, I have to remember to put a note in the garage to remind him the alarm is on if he comes home from surfing and I’m not there. He needs a reminder! I appreciate your comment!

      On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 7:03 AM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  4. When my kids were little, my husband had a job where he traveled one week every month. There were times when I thought it was SO difficult. When they got older it was actually liberating and fun. Routine was without a doubt the key to success. I honestly cannot imagine having him gone for months at a time, your strength and independence are inspiring.


    • I’m not sure about strength (but thank you!) but I definitely am able to function on my own. Although we’re pretty much joined at the hip when he’s here, I have lots to do when he’s gone.It would be much harder to deal with if we had small kids at home.

      On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 7:25 AM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  5. I must admit I do appreciate the space when my bf works lates every other week but your situation, Well you are very strong! Heartbreaking reading about your pets missing him too.:-(
    I guess your blog really helps you to keep your mind off things.Your Blog…and Shopping! x


    • Yes, blogging, cleaning, shopping, seashells, working out at the gym. That about sums it up nicely! A little bit of space is good, but this has been going on for about 4 years (before that he worked in our local harbor and managed a tug co too so he was mostly always here) I think we have it worked out pretty good. Sniff, I miss my animals every day! I think it’s time to fill the house again….

      On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 7:42 AM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  6. This sounds like a lot of preparation and strength! I give you and your husband a lot of credit… it can’t be easy not seeing each other for months at a time. But, at the same time, the job he does is very needed and honorable. Here’s hoping if he’s out on a trip now, that he comes home safe and soon! 🙂


  7. Pingback: 11-11-11 The Game is Afoot Part 2 and an invitation « bridgesburning

  8. People think of a life at sea as a romantic life, and not of the reality.
    I’m glad you two have a routine for it, so the captain can just focus on doing his job and coming home to you.


  9. Wow. What strength you must possess to live life to the fullest with a less-than-perfect path to travel. I admire you both. And I would prefer to not have the lawn mower running on full blast inside my home. Ever. 🙂


    • Its gives you a pretty idea of what it’s like, another side effect is potential loss of hearing from those noisy diesel engines! I’m really not brave. No hardship for me except missing my best buddy!

      On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 4:34 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  10. Thank you for sharing all of this. One would think it must be fun and glamorous. It definitely isn’t a regular job. You must eat and breathe the routine! {{Virtual hug}}


    • Thanks for the hug, I needed that! Tomorrow’s our anniversary, sniff, I’m OK, I’m a brave girl! I wish I had about 4 dozen of your cupcakes right about now…

      On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 6:35 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


      • I would bake you 8 large ones right now and drive them over to you if you were closer. Happy Anniversary! You are a brave ‘Hello Kitty” girl!!


  11. But, can’t you ever just go with him–oh wait, damn. Oops, sorry… 😉 I couldn’t resist. But it sounds like the makings of a beautiful but lonely romance. I always thought it was brilliant for you to keep a blog of it.


    • I agree, I’ve only been waiting because I won’t leave my babies, so for basically 20 years, we never travelled together and now we’ve been able to go on vacations. But he and I both want dogs and cats again!

      On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 4:31 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  12. You covered just about all the bases in your story. The woman at the gym was clueless to life. God Bless the Families who dedicate their lives to do the jobs that are done like your family. They are to be honored like our military who are overseas also and face many of the same perils. My hubby is retired and home safe now, his saga of his wars is still with us in his dreams. Having a strong and loving wife at home is what makes it worth the trip and worth coming home to…Thank You. Thank You to your family for serving our Country.


  13. I just couldn’t imagine how hard that is! Being away is bad enough, but dealing with not always being able to get up with him… wow! sometimes you just need to hear that voice.


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