Career Advice

Advice for Making a Career at Sea

7 May 2021 By Ted Morley
Boat Bow

Capt. Ted Morley was raised aboard a schooner and has made a career working on board vessels ranging from superyachts to super tankers. During his tenure at sea, he worked his way up from seaman to master. He currently holds a USCG Master’s License, Unlimited Tonnage as well as several foreign certificates. Capt. Morley actively participates in maritime advisory committees in the U.S. as well as overseas and is involved in regulatory policy review in the U.S.. 

In these uncertain times, many people are looking for a pathway to a well-paying and secure job. Shipping, whether on a yacht or a commercial vessel, has long provided a pathway for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Even now, these jobs exist in strong numbers, but they require training, experience, work ethic, and opportunity. 

I was blessed with a family that raised me on the water from literally days old when we lived on a schooner, and my first "paying job" was at age 15 as a deckhand over one summer. I later worked aboard a range of commercial vessels and yachts from the Caribbean to Alaska. Working on a 126-foot Feadship in the northeast is quite different than working on a 1,154-foot crude carrier in the Middle East, but they're both at their essence the same. Both require good seamanship, strong skills, and a love of the sea. 

Strive for better, earn the license you qualify for, and learn what you need to do the job. Nothing beats experience, and that experience is hard-earned and hard-learned.

I went back and forth, accumulating years of sea time on a variety of vessels. I was also able to "straddle the fence" on a couple of unique vessels from 2007 to 2009 when asked to serve as a training captain and USCG liaison on a newbuild 220-foot shadow yacht and assist in the build of a 190-foot sister vessel, blending commercial ships with the accoutrements of yachts. 

My journey led me around the world and across every ocean at least once — some more than I cared for! The one constant that remained was the drive to better myself as I accumulated sufficient sea time. My father, who had a master's license and a chief engineer's license, told me to work hard and never let sea time go to waste. Upgrading my credentials allowed me to explore new opportunities, set my own course, and constantly strive upward. Working on my last tanker as an AB before sitting for my license, and later as a third mate, I worked with one of the same ABs from that ship. We talked a lot about jobs and life — he said he'd been an AB for more than 15 years and never sat for his third mate's license. After some encouragement and time studying every day, he went to school, got his license, and eventually earned his master's license, sailing on it until he recently retired.

Strive for better, earn the license you qualify for, and learn what you need to do the job. Nothing beats experience, and that experience is hard-earned and hard-learned — use it to make your future better and help those around you do the same. When asked the simple question, "What do you want to be?" remind yourselves of your answer and set a course that takes you there. This industry needs motivated, energetic, and experienced crew, so stay the course and make a career out of what you love.

This article originally ran in the May 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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