On the Job

10 Ways to Spot a Rookie on Board

2 March 2022 By Gavin Rothenburger
An illustration of a name tag stating, "Hello, I am a Newbie"

Gavin Rothenburger has been the author of Dockwalk’s humor column Last Laugh since 2008. For questions, concerns, or for general badmouthing, you can write to me at gavinrothenburger@yahoo.com.

Rookies can be charming or annoying, a pleasant balm to the older salts and terrifyingly dangerous all at the same time. As such, it’s important to know how to spot one. Here are a few signs you have a rookie on board:

1. They have a go-getter attitude and the watch duties are completed to exemplary perfection, with the duty member even remembering to lock the crew door. Unfortunately, you do have to explain that seven other doors were left unlocked and the missing artwork presents a real problem that they’re probably going to serve time for.

2. If at any time you whisper that there’s a four-beer prize for whoever can best dive in and polish the brass submerged in the ‘Black Tank’ and you get a volunteer.

3. The decks are scrupulously and prodigiously shammied with an attention to all the finer points only accomplished by those who were born to detail. The fact that it was done so thoroughly with fresh, coarse sandpaper when you said the shammies were “next to the sandpaper” is a dead giveaway.

iStock/Oleksandr Chaban

4. Someone who complains about their job and talks s%@t about their superiors and any contractor, guest, or marina worker who looked sideways at them. No, wait…that’s the rest of us. Anybody who’s not doing this in an obvious greenie.

5. Ask who wants to volunteer to be the man overboard in a man overboard drill while mid-Atlantic. If a hand goes up, they’re probably green. Or a little touched. Either way, Darwin is at work.

6. If they’re extravagantly perplexed by a squeegee, a mop, or a Swiffer but can nonetheless use their phone to hijack the printer and manipulate the vessel’s speakers all while getting a Tinder date with a next-door junior crewmember before lunch.

7. Look around you — they look happy. (Leave them alone. Joy gets crushed naturally.)

8. Rookie status is reinforced If hearing words like head, galley, cofferdam, or athwartship triggers the same facial expression that you wear when contemplating the co-tangent of a sine wave radiated by a neutron star, they might be inexperienced. Or, really, if someone goes to get something out of the kitchen.


9. Anybody who suggests that working 14-hour days for three weeks straight is at all unusual, unsafe, or against even the labor laws of a Soviet-era gulag. Clearly, they have a lot to learn.

10. If current crew of the opposite sex suddenly stops burping at meals and making inappropriate jokes, chances are there’s a new (and pretty) face nearby. Similarly, if the chef’s food suddenly starts improving, or if the toilets work for more than three consecutive days, you’ve got a greenie close who needs impressing. Enjoy it for the week.

There are many more signs that mostly involve excited people being excited about exciting things the rest of us can no longer be bothered taking a picture of. So, beware and enjoy these adorable little disasters.


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