Up a Lazy River
January 27, 2009 10:12 AM   Subscribe

How feasible is it to find work on a boat in Colombia/Venezuela/Panama that is bound for the eastern seaboard of the United States, preferably Norfolk or Baltimore?

I am in Lima, Peru currently, but I plan on ascending northwards towards Venezuela/Colombia, would like to make a boat journey to the US, anyone know a good time of year, good port, good place to look or any other good advice about finding work on a ship in order to travel.
posted by cloeburner to Travel & Transportation (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have no direct experience, but I have a couple of friends who've made the trip in the opposite direction.

Friend 1 is a skilled mechanic and audio/visual guy. He'd show up at the docks and ask around until he was directed to the parties responsible for hiring on cruise liners. He'd present his credentials, chat for a while, and move on to the next ship. Given enough time and legwork he'd find himself employed, at sea, and headed south.

Friend 2 is a friendly, hardworking wanderer, the kind of guy who walks when he can't find a ride, sleeps in a ditch if he can't find a barn; a modern hobo. His approach to finding boat work is the same as Friend 1's, except he doesn't have the skills for cruise ship employment. Instead, he looks for work on boats that have high turnover due to hard, dangerous, or unpleasant work. Find a boat, approach the person in charge of hiring, chat, move on to the next ship. Once again, legwork.

I seem to remember that harbormasters, or the harbormaster's office, is the first place to go, as the office is in constant communication with the incoming and outgoing ships. The office may give advice on who's hiring and who specifically to speak to. There may even be job postings there, but if not, the people at the harbormaster's office would most likely be able to point you in the right direction.

I hope my friend-of-a-friend, third-hand anecdotes help, and happy sailing.
posted by lekvar at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2009

Yeah, except for cruise liners, which tend to belong to corporations of significant size, most freighters are one-off deals connected to their cargo by a bewildering, convoluted legal relationship that can involve dozens of different legal entities and jurisdictions. You want a job on a ship, your best bet is just walking up to the pier and asking around. Turnover is decently high because the work tends to suck, and those freighters that fly the Liberian flag (most of them) have almost no safety regulations.
posted by valkyryn at 1:27 PM on January 27, 2009

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