Martin Borthen had a maritime education. He went through the ranks at the Oslo based Spanskelinjen, eventually becoming a skipper. He quit going to sea in 1909, at the time serving as a ship master. Subsequently Borthen worked as a stevedore in Bergen. He was active on the board of Bergen’s association of ship-owners and other maritime institutions. Borthen was appointed Knight of the Turkish Medjidie in 1908 for life saving in the Mediterranean. Bergen’s mariners awarded him the “The golden octant” for his services in 1934.