This time 1 month ago, I had just returned home from my first trip on-board The Ferry. I was a wreck. 12 days of trying to remember list after list of steering marks, cargo categorisation and segregation, radio calls, procedures, timings, buttons, checklists… My head swam with lists of lists of lists. I’ll never get this, I thought. This is way out of my league, I’ve barely seen a traffic situation, let alone a difficult one, in the last 4 years! I’ve not looked at dangerous cargo categories and segregation since my Mates, and that was only to refresh what I last looked at when I did my OOW! This is all so fast and never stops, when do I get time to do all the non-bridge stuff?!? On both of my last ships, life was gentle and slow, at least compared to this. This is a maelstrom of frenetic routine. This is ferry life.
I have now done 3 trips, the first, epic 12 day stint was enough to put me off for life quite frankly, and were it not for the looming Cerberus of Mortgage, Christmas, and Tax Bill From Last Year, (and I thought there was the slightest chance of finding another job in the current economy), I might well have said thanks but no thanks. But I know which side my bread is buttered on, and so proverbially hitched up my skirts, girded my loins and went back for more. The first half of that second week was the hardest, I cried twice, because I was struggling to nail the finer details and flourishes, and any further criticisms, no matter how minor and well intentioned, just felt like the final nail in the coffin of “It’s just not working out”. So due to my shame and embarrassment of not having gotten it All Down-Pat yet, like someone who’s been there 5 years or who was a The Ferry cadet, I became angry at myself for being so dumb (Everyone else only needed a week,……. except that one from outside who took a bit longer,……. and that person who took much longer again, But lets be honest, I’d stopped listening, I always use the high achievers as my yardstick. [Y’know, just to give myself that extra sense of failure]), and godsdam it I wasn’t going to cry, not in front of co-workers, not in front of the people I wanted to call my peers, not in front of people I need to be taken seriously by. So I avoided eye contact and gave brusque, one word answers. And godsdammit both times they noticed and, worst of all, they were nice to me.
So of course, people being nice is lovely, and I like people who are nice, and I will always try to be kind and understanding, especially if I notice someone is distressed, and that’s exactly what the people who had to deal with me in this tearful state were. They did exactly what I would have done if the situation was reversed. Which is why I felt incredibly uncharitable and mean when I wished that they had just left me alone to hide my shame and frustration while I berated myself for my own (perceived) inadequacies. Of course about 3 days after that, They (the powers that be, not those particular individuals) told me that they thought I was good enough to do it all without a babysitter and I’d done bloody well to go from such a standing start as I had, which frankly threw me completely, as I’d been feeling like nothing was ever going to click. It has clicked though, I felt like I had broken through a curtain this last week, and now I am on the eve of my 4th trip, and while I’m not skipping and dancing, I’m no longer dreading the prospect of another week.
So it appears that I work on a ferry now, if you’re surprised by this news you still have nothing on how I felt about it when I first got the job. Within an hour it went from “There’s this temp job starting Monday (a whole weekend away), would you like to apply?” to “Can you get there tonight (Friday)?”. Of course I said yes, what idiot wouldn’t when you’ve been unemployed for 6 months out of the last 9?
When I made the decision to go for my mates, I had figured out the finances, based on a theory that I’d get a job within two months of getting my mates ticket. Looking back, this was incredibly naive and in today’s job market I’d want to ensure I had the finance to take a full year out before I left a job to study without sponsorship. Anyhoo, I had quit my perfectly good job, in an interesting part of the world, without too much pressure and no uniform requirements, without any idea who the hell was going to give me my next paycheque, and now I have this job. It Is What It Is….. however, this idea does not currently feature on the list entitled “Best Ideas I’ve Ever Had).
Rather ironically though, I did have the best job for a moment there, over the summer, I achieved a goal I’d set on this very blog 8 years ago: I became Chief Mate on the Pelican. I didn’t write anything here for fear of jinxing it, and it fell apart anyway, but I’m still so glad I got to be there, for a couple of glorious months at least, in the position I’d been aiming for since I first set foot on a Tall Ship 20 years ago. For a couple of months this year I genuinely and literally lived my dream, sadly, everything after that is a bit of a let down right now.