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David Castner crews up in Bellingham on the five-man Lindsay Foss.

By Hilary Reeves

David Castner was an up-and-coming sous chef at a popular restaurant in the historic waterfront city of Gig Harbor, Washington when he decided to change course.

Born in Sonora, California, west of Yosemite National Park, he enrolled in the popular cooking and hospitality institute Le Cordon Bleu straight out of high school.

“I always wanted to cook,” he said. “After earning my degree in Culinary Arts, I landed in Gig Harbor, where I met my future wife, who also worked at the restaurant. Her father was a Merchant Mariner.”

 Burnt out on long hours, low pay and lack on benefits, Castner decided on a career change.

“I decided to join in the maritime industry in 2013,” he said. “It took, maybe, between four and six months. I did my basic courses at (MITAGS-PMI) in Seattle.”

Castner quickly joined Foss Maritime, working under General Manager Mike Stone on a downtown Seattle tunneling project best known for its 60-foot-diameter tunnel-boring machine named “Bertha.”

“I went to the interview, and as I was driving home, I got a call that I was hired,” he said. “They asked me to come back the next day and fill out paperwork, and when I was driving home that day, I got a call asking me to crew up the following day. So I interviewed on the first day, and was aboard the Henry Foss by day three.”

“It was definitely a learning experience ­– and I got a chance to use my cooking skills again,” said Castner, jokingly, of working on the four-man tug and his meal-prep responsibilities.

Castner wears a hardhat in the engine room of a Foss ship.

Castner’s next goal, he said was transitioning from an OS (Ordinary Seaman) to an AB (Able Seaman).

“I took any extra work I could to get my sea time,” he said. “I did some Alaska trips, some ocean trips…after 260 days, I started my testing.”

Castner was promoted to AB and now works as a deckhand on the Lindsay Foss, a tug that crews up in Bellingham, just south of the Canadian border. The five-man tug escorts tankers around north Puget Sound. He and his wife were married in 2014 and welcomed a son a year later.
“I’ve gotten the chance to be part some pretty cool trips,” he said. “One of the best was moving supplies for the big relief effort for Hurricane Maria. The Lauren Foss crewed up in Baltimore, then traveled to Jacksonville to escort a container barge to Puerto Rico.”

When he’s not on-boat, he’s two-and-a-half hours south, in Gig Harbor, slowly fixing up his house.

“Home improvement is my only hobby now,” he laughed, “but I’d really like to start studying for a license soon and move up to the wheelhouse. My father-in-law is retired now, but he used to be with Foss and it’s really great to be able to talk to him about everything.

“All in all, I’m really glad I made the change. I really like cooking, but it was a great change for me. I’m really passionate about all the learning and all the new experiences. I’ve really been able to grow.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.