How To Stay Healthy if You Work On a Tugboat

(Previously posted, but I continue to be questioned about what my tugboat man does on his long assignments.)

Have you given any thought to the daily life of a mariner working aboard a tug at sea?  


Wheelhouse or bridge on a tug

Imagine being stuck for a couple of months 24/7 on a tugboat approximately 120 ft. x 35 ft. with several others; Captain, Chief Mate, Engineer, other mates and deckhands, and a cook.

It’s a fairly sedentary life with bursts of physical labor, but mostly there’s a lot of sitting and standing, as in “standing watch”.

Standing watch or watchstanding refers to the division of qualified personnel necessary to operate a ship continuously.

What is Standing Watch?
On a typical sea-faring vessel like an oceangoing tugboat, specific crewmembers keep watch on the bridge (also known as the wheelhouse) and the engine room. It’s a twenty-four hour, seven days a week job. Time is divided up as “watches” so that every one is on a rotation.

Someone has to be there all time, or else it’d be like a car rolling down the road with no driver!

On a tugboat, there is usually a team of two bridge partners, a lookout and an officer or mate who is responsible for the safe navigation of the ship. Safe navigation means keeping the vessel on course and away from dangers as well as collision avoidance from other vessels. The engineer ensures that the tug will continue to operate around the clock.

A secondary function of watchkeeping is to respond to emergencies on the tug or involving other ships.

When they’re not standing watch or working, the crew sleeps and eats.

They watch videos, play video games, and read books.  Most tugboats aren’t large enough to hold exercise equipment like a treadmill or an elliptical; consequently, there are few opportunities to exercise and maintain good health habits.

My tugboat man developed his own workout routine when he’s unable to go to the gym and he’s stuck on a tug for days – weeks – sometimes even months.

Neither one of us are licensed trainers but we both share a lifelong love of being physically fit and healthy.

My tugboat man used to be a goalie on a semi-professional soccer team, and has always worked out, lifted weights, martial arts, surfs, skis, and swims.

I’ve taken ballet most of my life, taught aerobics, and work out almost every day. We hike and bike and ski as our activities together.

Not my hubs abs, sigh...

Not my hubs abs, sigh…

This is a basic but comprehensive cardio and strength training routine. Unless there are dumbbells or weights on board, he doesn’t travel with them, so this routine doesn’t use them.

Because of the steel decks, there isn’t a lot of jumping around because that surface is too stressful for knees and other joints. If he can’t do jumping jacks safely; for instance if the tug is bouncing up and down in a storm, he’ll do high knees, high steps, or kicks. He brings a jump rope but can’t always use it.

Actually, this is a good routine to follow if you need a workout while you’re in a hotel that doesn’t have a gym, or even if you’re not a member of a gym.

Add a 5 lb. or 8 lb. (or more) weight for a set of curls, triceps extensions, and shoulder presses, and that’s all you need to be on your way to good health and strong bones.

A Tugboat Captain’s Basic Guide to Exercise
Performed as a circuit; depending on fitness level: two to five times. Starting with one circuit is 100% OK. It’s important to move around and be active at any level.

Start with three to five minute stretch.

  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 25 squats
  • 25 burpees
  • 20 lunges (alternate legs after 10 lunges)
  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 50 sit-ups
  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 25 squats
  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 20 lunges (alternate legs after 10 lunges)
  • 25 burpees
  • 50 push-ups (5 sets of 10)
  • 50 sit-ups
  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 50 push-ups (5 sets of 10) Alternate regular push-ups with triceps push-ups.
  • 50 sit-ups
  • If he can use his jump rope, he’ll end the session with a three-minute jump, or a count to 500.

Don’t forget to always end with a series of stretches.

Check out this video for some great chest exercises:

2 thoughts on “How To Stay Healthy if You Work On a Tugboat

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