The year I turned 12 I went to sea. Yeah… I know, this sounds like one of those stories Grandpa would tell you when you needed to be reminded how soft you kids have it now and how much harder it was then. I will confess my motive in telling you this story in a moment but for now just realize it it is true—my mother really did put me on a plane from California to British Columbia, all by myself, to work aboard the Lloyd B. Gore, a 128ft, 250 ton tugboat in the summer of 1979. I learned two big lessons. First, don’t ever tell immigration officials the purpose of your visit is to ‘go to sea and work on the docks’ (something about work visas, child labor trafficking and other sensitivities). Second, I learned about the value of Differential (aka: Supplemental) Pay first hand.
My father, who was actually legally working there on an engineering project, came to the airport to pick me up. After being paged, he went to the little room with the big lights in the back of the customs office and completely refuted my story with his own explanation about me being here merely to visit him for a few weeks. He then took me to the dock where the Lloyd B. Gore was tied up and handed me over to the Captain and his wife and, after a couple of laughs about the misunderstanding at the airport, left me to work on the boat.