How to become a Merchant Marine

Here’s how my captain did it. He grew up around water his whole life; his dad took him sailing on major voyages to Europe and up and down the eastern seaboard. I know he thought about teaching as a career, but he chose to go to a maritime academy. (I can’t say which one.) Some people start out by working on fishing boats or join the Navy, Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, or attend other maritime schools.

In my opinion, it would be a good idea to find out if you are prone to seasickness; otherwise you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.

I think you have to be pretty good in math and sciences; you need to learn GPS and radar.  Before there was GPS, all mariners needed to become experts in celestial navigation; navigating by the planets. You need to learn to be proficient in reading charts (that’s what they call maps of oceans and other waterways and coastlines). Even though a captain’s job is to navigate and drive the boat and manage the crew, he (or she) needs to have a lot of knowledge about the engine room. If something goes wrong in the engine room, or the engine needs maintenance, the captain must know how to diagnose and work on these problems, even though there is an engineer on board. They need to know a lot about weather conditions because they are very affected by adverse weather. All the high-tech tools that boats are equipped with are still at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Just yesterday, my captain called to let me know they are having bad weather (usually that means it’s really windy) and they will take a detour and “hide” near some islands until the winds “lay down”. That means he won’t get my package for another day. I hope the brownies and granola are still fresh!  (See the granola recipe below. It’s super simple and so much cheaper than buying the packaged kind!)

If you’re thinking of becoming a mariner or you know someone who is considering it, I believe it is important to  bear in mind that as captain and crew of a United States merchant vessel (whether it’s a car carrier or a tug boat) one should professionally represent our country. It’s no longer the days of Tugboat Annie or Max Miller’s I Cover the Waterfront. There’s tons of stuff I’ve left out–these are my observations and what I’ve learned from my MM. I don’t think I’d want to be the cook; they work super hard providing three meals a day and all the clean-up!

Most importantly, you need to have a wonderful spouse or significant other, am I right? The one to come home to.

Homemade Granola
4 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/3 cup  pure maple syrup
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1TBS cinnamon
1TBS fresh or dry ginger
In a large bowl, mix maple, agave, oil, spices. Add oats, mix well to cover. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. It makes clean up easier. Spread oats on baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for about 2o minutes or until lightly browned. Don’t let it burn!  When it’s coolled, I add raisins, chopped dried apricots, sliced almonds. Use your imagination and add your faves.  Sometimes I add flax seeds or chia seeds; depends on what’s in the pantry.