Saturday, January 17, 2009

Global Distress

>So I was up for a job this week against one other guy for the Mate position on a 131 ft. yacht. The size of the boat puts it out of reach for me as Captain, but would have been good experience for me on the way up to my 500 ton license. They loved us both, but in the end he had one more important certification and won out. Since it was my longest interview ever, over an hour, it wasn’t the outcome I was expecting, but at least I know why it panned out that way and can do something about it. And I am. For the rest of this month I will be in school to get my G.M.D.S.S. certification. Otherwise known as the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System it’s all about radio and satellite communications and has nothing to do with the current economic Global Distress!

It’s something I should have technically had while skippering in the Mediterranean. In fact, it was on my list of things to do ASAP since I expected to have problems as a result of not having it. However, while I was over there I simply didn’t have a chance to get it and surprisingly none of the authorities called me on it. If they did I probably could have gotten a temporary exemption since the reality is that it’s one of those things that they require, but really doesn’t come into play for most smaller yachts.

So after this last week and the prospect of heading back to the Mediterranean next season it’s really something that I should scratch off my list. A pretty easy decision even though I had secured a one month salaried gig. So instead of making money this month, I’ll spend some. Or invest in myself if you will. Sort of like folding with a decent hand so that later in the game I’ll be in a good position to take the bigger kitty.

It’s also a requirement for the next career step I will eventually take to reach Officer Of the Watch (OOW). OOW is necessary in order to work as an officer on the large yachts (150-250 ft.). Believe it or not a 100 ft. yacht isn’t that big! I don’t have any real interest of captaining anything over 150 ft, but for anything over 110 ft. (my current limit, more or less) it will be necessary to work as a Mate or 1st Officer in order to eventually Skipper a larger yacht.

Relatively speaking maritime courses are really quick. Usually a week or two as opposed to a semester. However when you take into account the work schedule most yachties are on it really can be a problem to schedule these courses. Typically you’ll get 3-4 weeks vacation a year, but do you really want to spend that holiday time in school for boating when you are burned out from boating and really need time away from the whole scene. Most don’t and opt for a frivolous hedonistic time in some exotic locale. I know, boo hoo! I’m not making a very good case, but the reality is that to take courses, often people have to forgo a whole season of work to get it accomplished.

So it will be good to get this two week course out of the way. After that I’ll have two 1 week courses and one more 2 week course to complete. Then a week of prepatory class for the oral exams and whamo, certified OOW! The real trick is to get on a boat that finds it in its own interest to facilitate your continued education and makes it possible to do it. Particularly since although each upgrade only takes a few weeks of classes the cost equates to a semester or more at a decent college.

After that will be “Chief Mate 3000 ton”. Another 3 weeks of classes and a trip across the Atlantic will grant you this distinguished title and allow you to be second in charge on any yacht in the world. Then another year of service, 6 weeks of classes capped off with another oral exam and you too can be a 500 Ton Captain.

Ironically I can see myself going through all that only to wind up back on a 120-130 ft. yacht! Oh well.

OK. Enough of the yachting syllabuses. Yesterday I helped prepare a new Palmer Johnson 123 ft. (M/Y Ocean Drive) yacht for showing to a potential buyer. Today we took the sheik out on a trial run. As a captain now I really want to try and avoid washing boats myself, I would rather have a crew to do it for me. However, since today I got to drive a 17 million dollar yacht, I guess I can’t complain too much! The president of the company was also on board and he was happy with the way things went. So that is an introduction that can’t hurt. Good thing I didn’t crash! ;)

So I’m dusting off my highlighter pen and getting back to hitting the books. Try to stay warm up there!