Tug Life // Seasick


Confession:  I threw up for the first two days I was at sea on this lovely ole tug. 

Thinking about how much more a tugboat feels sea conditions didn't even remotely factor into my decision making process when I took the job. 

To be clear, I'd take the job again...I'd just be a little more prepared to feel every single ripple. 

The first clue I was no longer on a ship hit me when we were tied up to the dock. I'd lay in my bunk and feel the boat rocking. I'd be standing in the wheelhouse and I'd have to catch my footing for a second. At the dock. In a sheltered harbor. With a breakwater. 

Getting underway we headed into about a four foot swell. 

To say the vessel pitched would be a mild understatement. We felt every single wave. 

My body REVOLTED. 

During my first watch I had to run to the head and toss my cookies twice. My relief showed up on the bridge and as I was giving my turnover I had to blurt, 'oh my god I'm gonna be sick'....and RUN off the bridge to make it to the head. 

This kept up for two solid days until I felt like I could barely move (and my shipmates looked at me with pity and / or disgust)...and then I started to feel better really slowly. 

I'm now at the 45 day mark. Most days I'm golden but sometimes, if we hit the swell just right I'm wishing I could be somewhere else.  

We've also had phenomenal weather so I'm a little worried that my cookie tossing days aren't over. 

Note to self:  tugs move A LOT. Pack Dramamine and ginger chews. 

Tugboat Dislikes


I got to thinking today that's it's only fair I share my dislikes. It seems like a good idea to keep things real and share the downsides to tugboat life (as far as a transition from a ship goes).  

Here goes.  

I share a bathroom. This isn't the biggest deal ever. But, guess who forgot to pack shower shoes?  This girl. The ick factor is high.  

Space is at a premium. My room is about the size of a cleaning gear locker on a ship...okay fine...that's an exaggeration but, my room is small and so is everyone else's.  

You're never alone. Because the boat is small (hence space being at a premium) it's very had to find some time to yourself.  

Exercise feels nigh impossible. On a ship you can really stretch your legs. Sheesh, a walk to the bow alone is a decent leg stretcher. Here, not so much.  

It's wet. We take A LOT of spray and water on the stern. This really drives the above dislike because not only is walking at a shortage - you'll get soaked - plus, it can be unsafe.  

We feel the weather. (Hence it being so wet.). This could be a post of its own and probably will be however; we Rock and Roll. It can make things really challenging.  

All in all, the likes and dislikes remain properly balanced and life remains good. 

Tugboat Likes

I'm on my first rotation on a tugboat and, I've been really, really enjoying my time onboard. 

Here's a couple things I've been really liking (as opposed to ships): 

It's relaxed. People seem to take a very common sense approach to things which means that for the most part it's a much more relaxed environment.

It's dynamic.  We're much more in tune with the environmental factors. What's the wind doing?  Lots of current today?  What are the assist boats doing? How much water are we in?  

It's a community. It's blown my mind how much the tugs take care of each other.  Shared groceries, shared water,  shared information. Two days ago a tug dropped off a box of herbal tea for me. It's very, very refreshing.   

It's social. The crew actually socializes. Cribbage anyone?  Wanna watch a show?  There's one dining room table - we have lively dinner conversations. It's so good for morale.  

It's an open galley. Off meal times you can go to the fridge - find some food - and sheesh even cook it up if you want!  Coming from ships this feels like a luxury.  

It's flexible. Specifically regarding food. We actually go shopping at the grocery store.  If you want a specific cereal put it on the list.  Again, coming from ships this feels like a luxury.  

It's fun.  Hands on often times equals fun and that's very much the case here.  


It's also really hard to not love using the hashtag #nautietugshavenicersterns on Instagram.  


I've been living and breathing ice conditions for the last week or two.  It's not something I ever thought I'd track, pay attention to or, make plans around.

I've enjoyed the challenge of navigating through the ice immensely.  Not only does it require heightened awareness and constant vigilance it's also just down right gorgeous.  

ice edge

The ice fields we've been operating in have a distinct edge.  There are random pieces of ice through all the waters surrounding the North Slope of Alaska but, the ice we've been tracking has a fairly clear line where it begins and ends.  We track it on the radar but, we also have partners in planes who fly the region daily (as conditions allow) providing an ice report.

ice field

When you enter the ice field conditions vary based on location.  For example ice will 'stack up' around a barrier island making it much more challenging to transit.  The photo above is only about 40% concentration - but from the waterline you can see that it's really challenging to find clear paths to navigate through.

ice along hull

A lot of the ice is old and soft.  As our hull would make contact it would crack, roll and give way.  Part of the 'constant vigilance' is to constantly be scanning the horizon to assess the next pan of ice for what type of ice it is.  Is it solid?  Large underwater portions?  Are there fractures or weak places for us to target?  What color is it?  Our vessel is designed to operate in ice which gave us a huge advantage.

ice field

You can clearly see that not all ice is created equal.  You can definitely prioritize what you want to avoid when the concentration is only at 40%.  

One thing that surprised me was how dirty the ice was!  As this ice has broken away from its original location it's been 'rolled' by the forces of nature.  At some point the brown bits have touched ground or the bottom of the seabed rolling through the mud.  

Our toughest portion was about 60-70% concentration and it was much, much, much more challenging then 40%.

There are currently concentrations of up to 80% and we're hoping that a good blow will open things up for us.

In the meantime, I'm editing and resizing photos because Big Bertha had a field day!  I can't wait to share more!

Just a friendly reminder, I use Instagram a lot.  If you're frustrated I'm not posting you can almost always find me there!  @nautiemermate 

A Northerly Update

It's starting to get cold. Today we had little mini icicles on the railings - and it snowed! 

We spent two days last week in very heavy ice. It was intense, exhilarating, gorgeous and exhausting all at once.  

We are currently anchored and waiting in a safe harbor for the ice conditions to improve.  

It's incredibly hard to believe that it's August.  It seems like everyday feels a little more like winter.  I looked outside my window today and thought, 'I really hope we're out of here by mid-september'.   

I've been posting a lot of photos to Instagram but, I realize not all you lovelies can see them.  

Here's a mini look at what my Instagram feed is looking like!

Leader of the pack.  

Leader of the pack.  

Tugboat friends! 

Tugboat friends! 

A pan of ice along the hull while underway. 

A pan of ice along the hull while underway. 

Mini icicles in August! 

Mini icicles in August! 

I loaded these all from my phone - while I cringe to complain about the wifi (because...hello!  awesome!) - our connection is slow and spotty. Please excuse the lack of formatting! 

The Arctic Circle

arctic rainbow

There are Mariner Milestones - I’ve been lucky enough to hit a few of them in my career.

The Prime Meridian - 0 degrees Longitude

The International Dateline - 180 degrees Longitude

The Equator - 0 degrees Latitude

I’ve crossed these imaginary lines.  Most times I’ve crossed these imaginary lines in the middle of the ocean with nothing to mark the occasion other than a glance at the GPS to say, ‘yep, here I am’.

I crossed a new line this week.

The Arctic Circle - 66 degrees 33 minutes North Latitude

As per usual it was a quiet affair with no fanfare.  My shipmates had all crossed it before and were uniformly unimpressed.

Mother Nature however, felt that a proper welcome to the Arctic was necessary and graced me with a nearly white rainbow.

Here’s to Mariner Milestones and Rainbows.  May they never get old.