Am I too old to join the Merchant Marine?

Probably, darn it. I had uncles who were in it, and sailed the same routes in the video below, and they had a few stories. There are positives: like the isolation and repetitive mundane tasks and long stretches where nothing happens. There are negatives, like the isolation and repetitive mundane tasks and long stretches where nothing happens. But man, the peacefulness and beauty of the sea sure are tempting.


  1. says

    Yes! I was thinking there has got to be some cool math and careful accounting behind cargo storage.

    Uh, you weren’t being sarcastic, were you?

  2. says

    Somebody I forget who worked out that ship exhausts cause lightning. They logged lightning strikes and they correlated well with busy shipping lanes.

  3. whheydt says

    My father sailed as an engineering officer prior to WW2…just prior. Having decided that the US was almost certain to be in the war and that sailing on oil tankers was a rather poor job choice in a shooting war, he applied to the Maritime Service and was accepted for officer training. He left his last tanker on 6 Dec. 1941 and reported to Fort Trumble (New London, CT) in January 1942. I have a uniform ribbon and the associated card to go with with it. (The ribbon drives knowledgeable military people nuts trying to identify it.) It was issued by the War Shipping Administration for “service in the US merchant marine during the period of national emergency of 1 Sept. 1939 to 6 Dec. 1941.”

    He left the Maritime Service as a Lt. Commander in June 1954 when the base he was working at–Maritime Service Training Center, Sheepshead Bay, NY–was closed down.

  4. ealloc says

    Beautiful. Reminds me of the impressionist book “An Iceland Fisherman”, part of which takes place on exactly this route. It has amazing descriptions of the sky, based on the author’s first hand experience as a French naval officer. Recommended.

  5. unclefrogy says

    I have a friend who went to the merchant marine school in the San Francisco bay, she graduated and is now working for a shipping company figuring out how the cargo (containers) is loaded and unloaded to facilitate the route of the ship from port to port and what cargo goes where and takes as little time as possible.
    sounds like a massive headache to me. a game of Tetris that you have to be able to play in reverse in the shortest number of moves possible. math might help but so would aspirin.
    uncle frogy

  6. says

    I used to be in the Merchant Navy (UK term for Merchant Marine) a long time ago. Some things I still miss are the stars on a tropical night and watching the Wandering Albatross in the Southern Ocean.

  7. paramad says

    I joined the Navy in 1970, bootcamp in San Diego first duty station was Key West Florida working on WW2 submarines like the Tirante. I got to sail the Carribean, Gulf of Mexico, up and down the Florida coast, New Orleans. We steamed up the Mississippi which was a treat since I could walk across the Big Muddy at Itasca Park in Minnesota when I was a kid.
    I was stationed on two ships in four years the USS Howard W. Gilmore AS16 a sub tender and the USS Milwaukee AOR-2 an ammunition oiler.
    The video brings back memories of standing watch on the bridge, laying on the helo deck under tropical skys so brilliant it felt as if you were going to be drawn into the universe. The beautiful mornings, the sunsets and the storms!
    I went across the Atlantic twice and was stationed in La Maddelena in Sardinia. I went to many counties and ports and had many adventures. Loved the ocean and almost joined the Merchant Marine but I had had enough of the Navy.