Working at sea; its so “romantic”

I made a Facebook post for my family and friends, to illustrate a bit of the living conditions while working at sea. For the active seafarers that frequent this site, this is very typical, but I thought it would be a good post to share here as well.


Allot of people don’t really know what working at sea means. I often get the feeling from comments I hear, of how “romantic” it must be. While there are certainly some very positive aspects of the job, there are quite a few challenges.

It occurred to me that not many of my friends have actually seen my “home away from home” while at sea, for basically half of my life. Here are some pictures of the living areas of the tug I am currently working on (have been for some time) as Chief Engineer – which is pretty typical of the few others I’ve worked on.

Below, that’s my cabin; the bunk is 28 inches wide but at least I have my own sink – all the decks are at a weird angle – not level, or square – so be extra careful when moving about.

We usually have a crew of 7 “mature” men, six of whom share the one bathroom – the captains has his own. Built in the 60’s, this tug has no air conditioning, which can get a wee bit hot in the summer. About 15% of the time, we get TV signal on one or two channels. Our allowance of company internet bandwidth is 50 mb of data per day, if we are close enough to shore to catch cell signal.

I am “on call” 24 hrs a day, while the others work a six hours on, six hours off “watches”, while onboard. We usually work two weeks on two weeks off, but I am doing a 30 days stretch this time. Typically I work from 7 am to 9 pm, taking a nap from 1-3.

We have two meals a day, prepared by the deckhands who are known as Cook Deckhands. This is the galley, our common area.

The boat is constantly moving, pitching, heaving, heeling, etc, in all sorts of weather. The two locomotive engines (about 20 feet from my sleeping head) are rumbling the whole time, while we push a barge containing about 10,000,000 million liters of flammable petroleum product.

This last photo is where I spend most of my day, the “engine control room”, which serves as laundry room, closet, and food storage space as well.

You might say, but Martin, there is only four pictures. Yes, that’s it. There are no other living areas on this tug, the other parts are working areas like fuel tanks, workshop, the engine room, bridge, etc.

While we don’t plan on being in weather like this, it does occur.

Transport Canada and Australian Marine Safety certified Marine Engineer, over 25 years experience sailing professionally on commercial ships all over the world. Creator and editor of Father of three, based in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.