I spent my cadetship on bulk carriers where you could spend a lot of the time at sea not seeing land or going ashore, then get two days in a port. It was quite slow going and culturally isolating.
Once I'd qualified I got a job with a platform supply company. That was working entirely in the North Sea. That was five weeks on then five weeks off. It was an entirely different culture and made life a bit easier. It wasn't the same as being ashore but it was a lot better than being deepsea.
I started dating the woman who is now my wife. We also now have a son. When we started dating, straight away there was a difference in lifestyle. No longer was it just keeping in general touch with people, I had someone I wanted to have regular communication with.
In the last five months of my time with the platform supply vessel company, I self-funded myself to get my chief mate's ticket. I was doing the orals and prep at Fleetwood. I'd moved up to Fleetwood after qualifying to be closer to my girlfriend – now wife – as she was a local from up here.
We'd always talked about looking for an opportunity for me to come back ashore but I wanted to get my chief mate's ticket because it shows progression.
Once I was at the college I was talking to some of the lecturing staff there and asking them questions about how to find work ashore. There was a guy lecturing who said he thought I'd do well in lecturing. He put me in touch with the right person at the college. I made some enquiries and they were keen on me. Before I went back to do my last trip to sea, the college got me in to do an interview and a micro-teach session. I got the job but I had one more trip to do at sea. When I went on my final trip I gave my notice in.
One of the issues about getting a job ashore is arranging an interview whilst you're still at sea. I was quite lucky as things feel into place for me. However, one of the possible aspects I looked at was doing a post-graduate degree. That was where I had a bigger strain from being on a ship and doing something ashore.
Pretty much all of the degrees I was looking at were either full time or part time. So even working five-on, five-off just wasn't possible at all.
I think most of the advice I got probably came from talking to individuals from the industry and also more broadly from other sectors. The guidance I was getting from bodies within the industry was more vague advice that there are careers out there but not much about what they are and what you need to do them. As much as I'd seen there was a little about some of the sectors you can move into.
One of the things I've seen since I've come ashore was that the Nautical Institute did a session about careers at sea and beyond. I attended that as a lecturer along with ten cadets who were about to qualify. The message very much was don't bother coming ashore unless you've got your master's ticket and if you're a master don't think that that will qualify you for a good job ashore as it's a different job and you need to work your way up from the bottom again.
It's all well and good telling people that but what support mechanises are in place. All we were told was just ask us at the Nautical Institute and we'll help out. But the issue is that if you're ashore then you can get to these things easily. You can ring people up. But when you're at sea you don't have that access so regularly.
Officer to shoreside: college lecturer Alex Barlow
College lecturer Alex Barlow shares his experiences and advice on making the move from ship to shore.