Earning his place aboard Midnight Sun


Tyler Vanderlip
TOTE Services
Second Mate — Midnight Sun 

Tyler Vanderlip grew up in Malibu, Calif., where he spent much of his free time on the water diving, sailing and fishing. Those early pastimes turned into a career working aboard oceangoing ships.  

 Vanderlip, 29, works as the second mate aboard TOTE Services’ roll-on/ roll-off Midnight Sun. The 839-foot ship carries semi-trailers and vehicles between Tacoma, Wash., and Anchorage, Alaska. Traveling at 22 knots, the ship completes the 2,900-nm round trip each week.

Vanderlip started his first maritime job at age 14. He acquired a work permit that allowed him to work for Rick Hays, a Malibu sportfishing captain who became an early mentor. Whenever Vanderlip wasn’t working on deck, he’d be in the wheelhouse learning the navigation equipment and other maritime skills.

 “Rick instilled in me that a career on the water would be most successful if I went to one of the maritime academies and graduated at the third officer level,” he said recently. “From then on, I devoted my time and energy to fulfilling this goal.”

 Vanderlip attended New York Maritime College, part of the SUNY system, where he completed his cadet observer/internship aboard Midnight Sun. He graduated in September 2017 and had a job waiting for him aboard the same ship. He started in October 2017 as a third mate, and was promoted to second mate in January 2021. 

 “The primary focus of this position revolves around voyage planning, the navigation equipment on board and the weather,” he said. “Tote’s year-round liner service to Alaska inherently brings adverse weather conditions especially during the winter months challenging one’s weather routing abilities and meteorology understanding.”

 His schedule at TOTE is one of the unique aspects of the job. He works 10 weeks on the ship followed by 10 weeks off. He now lives in Nevada but still makes his way back to Malibu often. “The majority of my time off the past two years,” he said, “has been spent restoring a 42-foot aluminum sailing ketch in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.” 

Vanderlip has found numerous rewarding elements of the position. First and foremost is the camaraderie working with his fellow sailors. But more than that, he has received mentorship, training and professional support to learn and succeed on the job.