If you stay long enough in your seafaring profession, you begin to see and experience crazy and unexpected things. This happened to me after being promoted on a tanker vessel.
But who doesn’t like one? Besides, a higher rank means a bigger salary, right?
Well, if you were just living a carefree life on board and didn’t mind much about climbing up the next rank, you would be afraid of it.
Afraid or reluctant?
That’s what actually happened to me. A little afraid but highly reluctant when they decided to promote me.
Because on that company alone, I had almost 60 shore leaves within three years! I was that one guy who was known to be always ashore. Always! Every port! On a bike! All the time!
Let me break it down for you. But before that, here’s…
The phone call that changed everything
I was enjoying my vacation with my then-girlfriend and we were discussing plans for the future. It was a nice holiday in their place, away from the fast-paced, busy life on board, and the big cities.
The office suddenly called me asking for my availability (which they do most of the time). I respectfully declined the immediate deployment but before our processor hung up, he gave me a tip.
“They plan on promoting you on your next ship! That’s all I can say. What do you think?”
I didn’t need to think long and hard. Instead, I immediately blurted out a solid “NO” citing hundred-page reasons.
And he was gone, or so I think.
A few minutes later, my phone rang again and this time, it was the big boss on the line. After exchanging formalities, he told me that I was going to be promoted to the rank of Bosun.
Since I was already tipped on the first call, I gave the same solid answer, “NO!”
I laid out my reasons, this time thousands of them, why I’m not fit for the next rank and that there are many ABs out there more capable than I am.
Specifically, I told him that all I learned were helpful tips on how to go ashore which is not helpful on the job at all.
Meanwhile, he also had his reasons why I should take it.
We talked for hours tugging and pushing who would yield to our healthy argument until a solid drunk voice started whispering in my head that became louder every time I declined saying,
“Huwag mong tanggihan ang biyaya kapag lumapit sayo. Huwag na huwag mong tanggihan!” (“Never refuse a blessing when it comes to you. Never ever refuse it!”)
Was this tanker effect?
That was in fact, the voice of my (always) drunk electrician during one of our sessions when I was a deck cadet on my first ship.
That advice echoed to me on that phone call.
Really? After more than a decade?
I accepted the offer.
And my vacation never became the same again.
The number one reason why I wanted to refuse the promotion was that I was not ready.
I didn’t dream of it so I made no effort in learning the ins and outs of the job. As a matter of fact, I was only focusing on my job and how to do it safely and properly.
On top of that, I was always out there!
From Saint Petersburg to London, I made it everywhere my time permits me. I enjoyed Lisbon and Santuário de Cristo Rei of Portugal and even won a photo competition with them.
The city of Dublin was also very bike-friendly during the day and night.
The beaches of Bilbao, Gijon, and Sines were hot and awesome.
I was there at lesser-known places like Foynes, Port Jerome, Warnemunde, La Coruna, and many others.
Historic cities of Riga, Dunkirk, Gothenburg, Aalborg, and Valencia were very welcoming
From 2016 to 2019, I went ashore 58 times. The most times I’ve been outside in a single contract was 21 times. The least times of shore leave was 12 due to long anchorages. Both instances happened on the same ship.
Every time I signed on the next vessel, I was becoming well-known for shore leaves but I didn’t mind them at all. Meanwhile, the guy who is fond of shore leaves was glad I was sailing with them.
One time, I took a friend to London. At the exact moment when he was coming out of the subway, his time froze after seeing Big Ben for the first time.
This is not a passenger ship!
One time, I was 5 minutes late on my duty because I got lost finding my way back to the ship in a UK winter.
Not that I was negligent of my time but there were strikes on the train and my less than two-hour travel became three.
Our Chief Mate angrily told me with a raised voice saying,
The OOW and the Bosun inside the CCR were surprised but stayed silent.
Meanwhile, I went on deck and proceeded with my duty.
I was so sure that the Chief Officer was watching my every move on deck looking for me to lax while on watch.
He made surprise visits very often.
After a few hours, he went ashore and came back slowly climbing the accommodation ladder to avoid detection.
But those things didn’t work. I was busy doing my job during my six-hour watch.
After that incident, I went ashore much more often.
Other reasons why I was reluctant to accept the promotion on a tanker ship
We all know the risk of not knowing our job especially if it leads to a mess. That’s what I was afraid of because I was not ready in many aspects.
It was not part of my plan to become a petty officer either.
In fact, I was giving myself many reasons why I should not accept the promotion.
I was a new guy, only three years in that company, when they decided to promote me. There are more capable ones with experience of more than 10 years in that company alone.
I didn’t have any backers or know anyone in the office to begin with. I applied on my own, got accepted, and started working.
Meanwhile, others have solid backups and connections in the office. They also got special training with some of the Bosuns on the job.
In fact, one of them was already there on the ship where they wanted to jack me up.
I was hesitant and looking at the micro should’ve made me not a candidate.
The only reason why I got promoted
“This is not my plan or doing. The Captain wants you on his ship!”
I was surprised by what the General Manager said. Moreover, I didn’t think that the Captain would choose me.
In fact, many crew members don’t like his style so much due to his strict policies.
And now, he wants to promote me.
When I arrived on board, the one thing he told me was,
“We had many crew to choose from for this position. But we chose you. Do your job well. Don’t let us fail!”
Typical of the Western approach.
Was he aware I wholeheartedly declined this offer in the first place?
In my head, I was saying to myself,
“Well, I didn’t want any of this in the first place”.
I just stayed silent while shaking his hand. Of course, I will do my best. I always strive to do the job better.
This leads me to my next probe.
After 58 shore leaves, why promote me?
This is not to blow my own horn but to inspire other people out there, especially those targeting officerships or people on board operating in the principles of flow.
It could be frustrating especially if you think that all your hard work and efforts are wasted and someone undeserving got the promotion.
Hold fast! This one’s for you.
Since I was still uneasy about why they chose me, I started asking the officers why I was chosen when it was known too well that I was the guy always ashore for whatever reasons. Every time. Every port. Always.
Moreover, I was not doing extra favors or lining myself up for this. In short, no S-I-P-2x.
Their reply was my dependability.
They saw me as someone who does the job and does it well even if no one was looking.
Aside from that, they saw my work ethic and dedication. For me, I always give 101% of myself.
I thought this was normal because it should be like this when you love what you’re doing. Turns out, everyone’s not all the same.
Even if I was tired of going ashore, I still persevered in doing the work well.
They also saw my confidence and safety consciousness in working everywhere- the ship’s side, radar mast, funnel, inside cargo tanks, ballast tanks, pump room, and whatever part of the ship they put me.
Furthermore, they saw how I adjust to the situation very clearly especially when they need it.
It’s not all the time that you have to be on high alert or in a hustle. There are moments when you have to be calm in your work and fast-paced if the situation arises.
The only reason why I received the promotion was that I remembered my crewmate’s advice years ago regarding blessings.
I believe in a Higher Being and the purpose behind every event even if it was not clear why I needed that promotion.
Many years ago, I too wanted to get a promotion with bars on the shoulder but didn’t continue to pursue it. Instead, I kept and continued my work ethic and thought of working out my exit plan instead.
I enjoyed the shore leaves before it was “a social media thing”. After that, COVID came and I began focusing on my new responsibilities on board.
I saw why God gave me this blessing and thanked Him including the people whom He used to give me that promotion.
May the winds be in your favor.