Able Bodied Seaman

I only just found out about the #AtoZChallenge yesterday, so I’m going to try to catch up. Today is already the day for “F”!

I’ll make mine today for “A” and “B” with Able Bodied Seaman.

I’m a sailor, a professional mariner. I’ve pretty much spent my entire life at sea, since I was a little kid growing up on my dad’s 1910 staysail schooner. I decided after high school (on a sailing ship) that I no longer wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to be a ship captain!

The first step on that long, hard road was to become an Able Bodied Seaman (AB).

Back when I started, you could just find your way down to the docks and schmooze your way into a job. People were willing and able to give you a chance, let you learn the ropes on the job. Of course, being a female back then (and even now) made things much more difficult. “You’re a girl, girls can’t work on boats!”, “Girls can’t be captains!”. For me, it was easier to go to school and get my AB ‘ticket’ (merchant mariners document) that way.

Now, the Coast Guard has changed the rules (in order to comply with the IMO’s STCW regulations), it is no longer possible to just work your way up. You MUST go to school! You MUST spend at least one week and a few hundred dollars to get ‘trained’. And there are usually more requirements, that is just the bare minimum.

To become an AB, you’ll need to accrue a certain amount of ‘sea time’, time working aboard a vessel. You’ll need to get certified as a Rating Forming Part of a Navigational Watch (RFPNW). You’ll need to be ‘assessed’ by an ‘approved assessor’. Then you’ll be allowed to sit for a test (after paying a couple hundred bucks in fees for background checks, TWIC, etc).

You’re tested on all sorts of things: rules of the road (not at all the same as the ones you learn to drive a car!), seamanship, knots and splices, how to launch and recover a lifeboat, safety, fire fighting, cargo operations, steering a ship, helm commands, etc. All this applies to the “able” part of being a seaman. Before you are an “able” seaman, you are just an ‘ordinary’ seaman (OS).

You’ll also need to pass a USCG specific physical by an approved doctor and also a drug test. This is where the “body” part comes in. There are a few specific things they will fail you for- color blindness being a big one. There are quite a few more they will make you jump through hoops over.

The main issue I’ve had with them over the years is my weight. The physical specifies that if you are over a BMI of 40, then the doctor can ask you to show that you are ‘fit for duty’. They will make you climb the stairs, or lift weights or do certain things that are listed on the physical form they are filling out.

I have been fat since I was 13 years old. I’ve always been able to do anything I need to do physically (tho I admit, I have not needed to run any marathons!). I’ve tried pretty much everything to lose it, even having my jaws wired shut. Nothing has ever worked. I’ve pretty much accepted that I will be fat for the rest of my life. BUT, I have not and never will accept that my weight precludes me doing my job as AB (or mate, DPO or captain)!

I once saved my mates a** by spotting a discrepancy while loading tanks. Saved us from having a major oil spill. He later thanked me by telling me I “would make a great AB someday”. I asked him what he meant since I was actually sailing as AB for him at that time. He said that “AB means ‘able body’ and you are way too fat to be considered able bodied”.

WOW!

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Remembering the Importance of Seafarers

 

Remembering the Importance of Seafarers.

June 25th has been declared by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) as the International Day of the Seafarer. Yes, I’m a little late with this post, but I hope you’ll read it and think about it anyway. I’m at sea at the moment. All of the people who work as seafarers spend most of their lives at sea and aren’t always able to keep up with the rest of the world.

I’m very fortunate that I’ve worked my way up to a position where I have some options. I refuse to work on any vessel any more that doesn’t allow me internet access (it works here at least sometimes). You’d be surprised how many companies don’t think that’s important!

I’m one of the few lucky ones. I work in a very competitive area and my wages are much higher than most. I remember my deck crew on the tuna boat asking my why they didn’t earn American wages since they were working on an American boat. The only (true) answer I could give them was Continue reading

MLC 2006 | Seafarers’ Bill of Rights Enters into Force | gCaptain ⚓

MLC 2006 | Seafarers’ Bill of Rights Enters into Force | gCaptain ⚓ Maritime & Offshore News.

I really hope this helps, but I have my doubts. Notice how the seafarers have been punished worse than anyone after 9-11. Because of stupid TWIC rules, they have stolen away the RIGHTS we have always had for hundreds of years! Most ports in the USA now refuse to allow seafarers access to shore leave using excuses such as that we are security threats! If they do ‘allow’ us to transit through their facilities, they charge outrageous fees. No foreign seafarer can afford to pay to get out the gate, it is really sickening how these people (I’m one) are treated every day.

Another pet peeve of mine is the ongoing exploitation by crewing agents both here in the USA and in most other countries. It has been illegal by both US and international law to charge a seaman for a job, yet there are still plenty of companies that do that here (I have dealt with a few myself over the years) and especially virulent overseas. Why can’t they charge the hiring companies the fees? They are the ones who HAVE the money! Seafarers are not known to be rolling in the dough. No, but we are known to be desperate to go back to work and so they continue to take advantage of us instead of doing the RIGHT thing and going to get paid by the company they provide the seafarers to.

Oh yeah, then there’s the issue of refusing to provide a decent atmosphere on board the vessel, undermanned, under provisioned, just plain unsanitary and unsafe ships, and we all just put up with all that and do our best to do our jobs. Yeah, I HOPE the MLC 2006 helps the situation but since the ones in the past didn’t do a whole lot, the companies always found ways around, I think they will manage to find ways around this one to and all us seafarers will still be stuck in the same old boat (literally).