July was the month that saw me with the most independence I’ve had since I got hired on with this company. When we left Jacksonville just after midnight a month ago, the mate didn’t even get up for departure and I was out on deck with just the ABs while the captain did his job in the wheelhouse. I ran the winch and the towing gear as we left the dock on the wires (not a common practice elsewhere, but the only practice here) with two Moran tugs assisting as usual, and everything went smoothly with no problems at all. The experience has been very empowering.
Now I am completely responsible for all the regular second mate duties, including chart corrections and route planning, but I’ve been going a step further and taking on the task of learning all the chief mate paperwork as well. I’m reminded for the first time in years how tedious it is shuffling paperwork. The amount of pencil pushing deck officers have to do on tugboats (and ships too, of course) is absolutely staggering to me. Not that it was any cakewalk being a deck hand – I will forever appreciate what these men do. It is backbreaking work. I enjoyed working cargo and handling lines because it let me move around and get outside, though it took a toll on my body, namely my shoulders, wrists, knees, and especially my back – all strained and damaged from trying to move heavy things with body strength that I simply didn’t have. My hearing has seen a noticeable decline in the last three years as well.
That being said, I don’t regret a day of it. But the push to get off the deck and into the wheelhouse is over for me, at least right now, and I’m faced with the new and unfamiliar challenge of mastering the administrative side of things. It takes me back to handling a vast number of documents as a boarding agent at Transmarine, where we kept a file on each ship that grew more massive with every day the ship was in port. Much as I despise paperwork, there’s only one answer to this problem: work harder and move up soon.