Something happened here on the boat yesterday, that hasn't happened in a long time.
We heard we were getting a new Mate on board, as our regular Mate left us after 3 years, in search of greener pastures.
We've been in touch, he found them.
I came out of the engine room and almost bumped into the new guy, as he was just coming aboard.
What I see is a kid, and I mean a kid, and I know instantly that this guy is a graduate of a Maritime academy.
Robert is a string bean rising to a height of over 6 foot. Clean cut, white blond hair cut short, fit.
He looks like he just stepped out of a surfing magazine. He also looks like he should still be in High School.
I find this interesting because it seems this industry I am in is chock full of old guys (like me).
I can look at any boat in the fleet and see guys working there who have many years of experience. It's just really unusual to see someone this young on a tug.
Unusual enough to become a blog post.
Anyway, when Robert and I first make eye contact, his way of greeting me was..."Sir."
I knew instantly that I was going to like this guy.
I then instantly became depressed, being called Sir, he must think I starred in "The old man and the sea."
We chatted for a bit, and he answered all yes and no questions with a "Yes Sir, or No Sir."
I'm lovin this kid.
His face told me everything. Before I even asked, I knew this kid had never been on a boat before, I knew he was scared to death, and I knew he was lost, totally out of his element.
I was him 39 years ago.
The first day I walked onto a ship is so etched in my memory, I can still see each face, I can remember my first meal on board, I remember the lumpy mattress, and I can actually recall what the ship smelled like.
As I have gained experience (not gotten older) I have always made a point to welcome and make any new guy that comes on any boat I'm on, feel comfortable, because I know what it is like to walk into this alien atmosphere for the first time.
My first week on a ship was the most miserable time in my life. There was 35 guys on this ship, and I went a full 7 days without anyone speaking to me. I was barked at and yelled at, but I didn't have one conversation with anyone.
Just when I was about to say the heck with this and quit, I was unexpectedly invited to to a guys room after work, where there were about 8 guys sitting around having a few beers.
I guess I passed some stupid little test and figured I was ok.
After that night, everything changed. But that first week, as a 18 year old kid, being shunned like that..it was terrible.
So, because of that, I have always made the new guys feel comfortable.
I was showing Robert around the boat, and we happened to enter the galley. I showed him generally where everything was and told him to make himself at home.
As he entered our little pantry
which is packed with food, which we buy with the company's money, he innocently asked, "Do I have to buy my own food?"
I paused for a second, and answered, "Yep, yes you do. Didn't the office tell you about that?"
Let's clarify something here. I'm a pretty nice guy....but I'm no saint.
I just had to mess with him a little bit.
I went on to show him what shelves are the Captains, and what shelves have the deckhand's food. I could see by his face he was totally confused, while trying to figure out how he was going to eat for the next couple days, because he didn't bring any food with him.
When I opened up one cabinet that has nothing but packages of cookies, I said, "This is where I keep my food. If you want a Oreo, just ask me."
As he stared into the cabinet, I couldn't keep a straight face any longer.
I told him to relax, eat all the food you want.
Poor kid, totally lost, but after talking with him a while, seems like a good guy.