There comes a time when we heed a certain call. For some of us it might be to save the wretched African; others might develop a fondness for screwing his fellow man to accumulate money.
And there’s the call of the ocean. As old as time itself. One hundred years ago it was to lance a damn big sperm whale for his juice; now it’s to become the skipper of a super yacht or sail around the world.
And for those who enjoy the ocean’s oiled coils, what better métier than to be the pilot of a lavish surf-charter vessel? Drive at night, anchor in the day, surf until your heart explodes, come in, soak yourself in pirate juice (rum and coke) and do it again and again.
It ain’t easy to get the wheel of a good boat, unless you want to drop a mill or so yourself, but it’s possible. Heres how.
1. You’ve gotta be a Master IV or better
The way commercial boats work is this. You build up an arsenal of what they call tickets. The more sea-time you do, the more sea-miles you log, the more study you take, the more tickets you get. In Australia, a popular route is to accumulate the required sea miles for a Master IV, either as a deckhand or even a cook if you’ve got a breezy skipper who’ll sign off your log-book, and head to the Australian Maritime College down in Tasmania for the 10-week Master IV course. But, just ’cause y’Master IV don’t mean you got the wheel yet. But you’ll get on the boat. And once you’re on the boat…
2. You’ll learn the surf-spot route
What good is a surf-charter skipper if he can’t take you where you want to go? Now you’re a Master IV you’ll become what’s called a mate: you’ll be on watch, drive the boat while the skipper snoozes, ferry the passengers out to surf breaks in the tin boats tethered to the stern. You’ll study the charts, you’ll learn what’s breaking where and how, in what wind and tide. You’ll make relationships with other boats and skippers that’ll last years.
But these aren’t the only skills you need. Like,
3. Can you fix?
Whenever something breaks down on my boat, the only tool in my box is a credit card. I wave it in the air while the bastard pushes my face into the pillow and screws hell out of me. You can’t do that on a surf-charter boat, middle of nowhere. If the air-con cacks it; if an outboard is refusing to start; if the steering just… stops working, these you must be able to fix.
4. Do you like booze?
Very, very important. I’ve never met a skipper who couldn’t drink an entire boat under a table.
5. Are you in the mistress game?
It’s a single life, the life of a seaman. Sure is hard to hold a girlfriend or marriage together when you’re out at sea for years at time. But a man, or gal, gotta eat don’t he? And so you must groom sexual partners in various ports, from Male to Phuket to Singapore. Screwing the cook or the cleaner or a guest never ends well. You ever see jealousy play itself out on a confined space such as a boat?
6. It’s a helluva responsibility
It’s a game when you’re a passenger. Such fun! So many laughs! But when you’re the sole master of a dozen or more people in seas that host earthquakes and tsunamis and at least half the people are pissed some of the time or unaware that the midnight ablution they’re taking could be their last, it plays with your head.
Every second, you keep a mental list of who’s where… numbers… numbers… numbers. Passengers wander at night, passengers go swimming in the dark, passengers spontaneously decide to freedive to stupid depths, passengers grab the boat’s tenders for a lark. Every single time it happens, they dance on the precipice of tragedy. And the only person to blame? You!