• Joe Etheridge

Another View Through the Weather Window





How did you end up out here boy? You’re a long way from home

The ship I’m writing this on is my 2nd vessel as 2nd Officer. My first was, like I said last time, a big Platform Supply Boat working out of Aberdeen in Northern Scotland. That was all I knew, from leaving sixth form college with 4 A levels and 13 GCSEs, I had the choice of university or something different.

I studied Business Studies, Law, Politics and Geography for 2 years. Academic subjects full of essays, logical thinking and intellectual debates. Usually, my classes were full of people who already knew what they wanted to do with their lives;

“I want to study geography and then go to university and then be a geographer”

“I want to study business and then go to university and then work in a business”

“I want to study politics and then go to university and then be a politician”

I went to a high achieving college, full of high achievers. The lecturers all had the intention of getting everyone into university, at which point they would shake hands with each other for a job well done; and for the most part, it worked. I have friends who are now holding Masters Degrees in everything from Political Science to Medicine. But I never had the pull to any university course, especially not having to pay the premium that English Students are forced to fork out for higher education in this modern era. The debate of tuition fees is one that can be fought out elsewhere, because thanks to my choices I have no right to say either side is right or wrong.

It was not until my 2nd year of A levels when I realised what I would like to do, and unfortunately it was none of the subjects I had picked a year ago, and none of the subjects I was able to carry on for another full academic year. Watching a badly rendered YouTube copy of a BBC Scotland documentary creatively named ‘The Merchant Navy’ sparked an interest inside my 18 year old mind that I could probably do that as a job.

I’d spent my first year imagining that my AS level exams would be exactly like my GCSE exams 1 year before; easy enough to scrape a pass through paying attention in class and doing ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING to avoid studying at home. Oh boy, was I wrong?

Family holidays were always a huge part of my childhood. My parents earned enough so we could comfortable afford holidays every year, and so we did. Every Easter, Summer, October we’d be away somewhere doing something. Unfortunately, my AS Level exam results came out during one of these holidays and thanks to my ‘it’ll be fine’ attitude, put a downer on the beautiful welsh coastline.

Second year came around and I had to make a choice, try and uphold the ‘it’ll be fine’ mentality, or do what nearly everyone I had grown up with had done a year previous, revise like fuck; that’s what I did and it worked. I began ploughing hours into the college library, running through exam papers and that was when I found the Merchant Navy series. The kick up the arse I’d received in Wales was replaced with a sudden burst of motivation that only comes from wanting to do something other than study.

Roll on 4/5 months and my grades had bounced back to where they should be and all of my friends started interviewing for university places all across the UK; Durham, Cambridge, Aberystwyth, Lincoln, Lancaster, Dundee, among other places. Meanwhile, I was sending out application forms and CVs daily to all the biggest shipping companies I could think of and hearing nothing back for weeks, it was disheartening to say the least

Impatient as I am, fishing has never been a true hobby of mine. A whole lot of waiting for 1 exciting moment, and then back to waiting; a cycle that is not a million miles from my job hunting, trying everything I could think of to get a cadetship with the likes of Cunard, P&O or Maersk (just so happens these companies are also featured in the Merchant Navy series- maybe that is just a coincidence?)

After waiting weeks and weeks for any replies, a company called Clyde Marine rang me during a law lecture and I could have easily fallen right out of my chair seeing the Glaswegian number flash up on my phone. After gabbling a few incoherent words at my Law Lecturer (sorry Giles), I ran from the room and towards the only spot in college that had mobile signal, known as The Wall; unsurprisingly, because it is just a wall, and also where students would congregate at the front of college and smoke.

That phone call was my first invite to an interview, which over the following few days was accompanied by interviews with companies with offices nationwide. Funnily enough, whether it was the right choice or not, I accepted Clyde Marine’s offer in the February of that year.

A-Levels came over me like some torrential downpour, soaking into every layer of myself. Resitting 4 exams from AS to bring my overall grade up was a major additional weight on my shoulders but I had found the motivation I needed to continue revising as hard as I could, which paid off and I came out with grades higher than I had ever expected.

June 31st, I finished my last shift at my part time job (more on that later I’m sure), and I spent 2 months getting ready to go and start a career in the oldest industry in the world that doesn’t involve me selling my body.

Until next time,


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