To be quite candid my motivation was money, pure and simple. I didn’t avidly want to be a surveyor from an early age or anything. I just thought that working offshore would be a good way to combine a decent pay packet with seeing the world, the job would be interesting and being at sea would be fun. By and large, it has been.
I was in my mid-20s when I decided to do a course in Hydrographic Survey at Plymouth University, and working in a pub at the time. It was quite an intensive course and there’s a bunch of regulars from that pub now know more about hydrography than is good for anyone, as I used to get back in time to open up then write my coursework on the bar! But it all paid off and I swapped pulling pints for running lines.
Working offshore will impact on your home and social life. You can’t go away for weeks or months on end and imagine that it won’t. It’s a lifestyle that takes some getting used to, and the time you spend at home will be altered by it. Your routine will be different to the vast majority of other people’s, and you’ll have to adjust accordingly. Most people will reach a point where they either need a break from going away all the time, or they need to stop it altogether.
The flip side is that when you do have time off, there’s a lot of it. If it suits you it suits you. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
The thing about offshore is, you work with people from different countries, with different backgrounds, of different ages and different religions and different genders, all the time. It’s one of the most diverse working environments you can find yourself in, and it’s really good fun for exactly that reason.
However, none of those factors are what define you on a boat. It would be a mistake to embark on a career at sea with the expectation that you’ll be discriminated against for any of them, because in the context of life onboard they really don’t matter. What matters is whether or not you work hard, are friendly, can put up with things going wrong (which they will) and can keep your sense of humour.
People do make assumptions about women doing certain jobs, it’s true. It’s a fair bet that, as a woman at sea, you will at some point get asked if you’re married, if not when you’ll settle down, and when exactly you plan on fitting childbirth into your schedule. I would say this about that attitude:
Sometimes this is entirely innocent and the product of someone’s cultural or generational norms, or simply friendly curiosity, and really not intended to cause offense.
Sometimes it isn’t, and someone really does have a genuine sexist dig. In my experience I’ve encountered this attitude very rarely, and more frequently onshore than offshore.
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