Watercraft Training – Deckhand

I'm no longer earning my ears!

I’m no longer earning my ears!

This week I’ve been going through my deckhand training. I started the day after orientation (Sunday) and finished yesterday (Wednesday). That’s four days of training. It went by faster than I could have ever expected. I can’t believe I’m about to be on my own. That is so unreal. But I digress.

Training was hard. The first two days I had to be at the TTC by 5:45 am, and the third day I worked an evening shift until 10:30 pm. It was a little crazy, hot, labor intensive, and exhausting. I would come home, pass out, wake up, and do it all over again. There’s a LOT of information and not much time to learn it. I am so thankful that I’m a seasoned veteran of Disney. I’ve spent years in MK. I know those lakes, those hotels, and those docks. I’ve eaten at all of the resorts on the lakes – The Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, The Contemporary, The Polynesian, and The Grand Floridian. Having the background knowledge that I do made this training much easier than it would have been otherwise.

Here are my duties as a deckhand:

– Deckhand the ferryboats
– Deckhand the motor cruisers
– Drive the van
– Drive the pontoon boat
– Run the dockbox
– Whatever else they need (queue stuff, greet guests, talk on the radio, etc)

I had FOUR DAYS. I was loaded down with new information. I learned so much and had a great time doing so! Did you know there are five islands on the lakes? I know what all of them are called now. I know the names of all of the boats, where all the life rings are, and how to tie up a boat at a dock. It’s pretty cool learning new stuff. But it’s also really hard when there’s so much information in so little time. Because today….. was check out.

I shouldn’t have been as nervous as I was about check out. I should have maintained my cool even when things went wrong. I got upset more than once, but was able to hold my composure most of the day. It was a very stressful day. I was tested on my knowledge of where everything is, my ability to perform deckhand tasks, and my driving of both the float bot (pontoon) and the van. And to top it all off, we’re in the midst of a tropical storm here in Orlando.

So picture this: I’m on my second day of driving a boat IN MY LIFE, and I’m dealing with a tropical storm. And getting graded on my ability to dock the boat. Are you still wondering why I got upset? My best advice is to stay calm no matter what.

Now that I’m done complaining, here’s the good part. These are the highlights from my training. I had an excellent trainer who wanted to make sure I was prepared, but also tried to make the experience fun for me. He did a wonderful job balancing my training experience.

– We went backstage at Jungle Cruise and saw their dry dock. There were boats, an elephant, and a hippo!
– We went on board the Grand One when we saw it at dry dock. If you don’t know, that’s the yacht that people can rent hourly from the Grand Floridian. It costs $550/hr to take out on the lake.
– We watched the end of Wishes (fireworks) from the pilot house on a ferryboat.
– We went down the water pageant channel and saw a high school band practicing for their parade around MK.
– Today I got to briefly drive a motor cruiser, which most deckhand trainees don’t ever do.
– I drove a boat in a tropical storm.

Those things aren’t part of the training curriculum, and if you ever end up deckhanding, your experience will be completely different from mine. Hopefully your trainer will throw in some cool stuff for you too, because it really helped me keep my spirits up. Don’t get overwhelmed. They know it’s a lot to learn very quickly.

One more thing about check out – I was wrong a lot. I said “I don’t know” a lot. I messed up several times. But I always listened when he corrected me and tried to soak it all in. I was able to perform my duties well, and I had retained most of the information which I was told. Therefore, I passed. At times was afraid I wouldn’t, but he assured me that I did very well.

Tomorrow I’m taking an online boat safety class, and then I’m part of the fleet!