Life at Sea

Trimaran, Yacht, Sailing, Sailing Ship

Some will argue life at sea was simpler back before regulations were established by the IMO, US Coast Guard and ABS. Many of the ships were Foreign Flags. Today you’ll find seafarers prefer American flagships; the cover is better, and they’re unionized. “There’s far more paperwork now,” says Third Mate Mike Loesch. “Instead of doing only the noon report, you’re now doing three reports a day.”

Every Refuge House was commissioned by the United States Life-Saving Service. They had a keeper whose sole job was to maintain the house, keep it supplied of clothing, food, and walk the beaches after the storms. When they came across a shipwrecked sailor they gave him”refuge” in their house. The men got to stay for a week or two. Some got back on boats heading north. A lookout tower was constructed and used to watch for enemy submarines in World War II. Over the years they’ve been operated by the US Coast Guard and the Navy. Today just 1 house remains in Martin County on Gilbert’s Bar. In 1976 it was recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.

Since this is a massive topic I thought I’d stay the program. And, enlist the help of a few seafarers. Third Mate Mike attends to his security inspections or maintenance if the chief mate needs it done. After lunch he relieves another third partner and stands watch until dinner. The conclusion of the 12-hour day and another sunset. If the ship is docked, instead of standing lookout on the bridge he would be in the cargo control room monitoring the cargo operations. Also making rounds on deck and assessing the lines. 1 thing you don’t need is the boat to slip away from the pier.

Hot and cold meals are provided three times a day. Breakfast is your typical fare. Lunch and dinner offers many different fish, meat and a salad bar. If anyone has a food allergy, like I do, you will need to let the Captain know when you board the ship. According to Civilian Mariner Wendy, I’d starve on the navy’s ship. Their food is mostly noodle foods using a salad bar and overcooked veggies. Not exactly nutritious. I find this ironic because she is on a logistics ship.

Must be inspection day now. Tensions are high. Everyone’s stressed. Not sure why. To me an inspection is a good thing. If they find something wrong on the ship it has reported, then fixed. Right? Well, not necessarily correct. Each inspector has their own interpretation of how things should be done. Usually from first-hand experience years before when they crewed. Certainly not how things are done today or what you had been told to do. Regulations are changing all of the time, and everybody is expected to adapt. However, resources are not always made available.

Woohoo! After countless sunsets of reds, pink and gray, land is finally in sight. The ship is going into port where its crew members get to go onshore for a mental health break. The only question – is it full of safety checkpoints or can you walk right off the boat and be in the middle of everything? Some guys like to get away or take a break. The ones that come in on a Foreign flagship usually head to Walmart before heading out again. Poor Wendy, that’s when she gets the busiest. She arranges travel for some of her crew members that are leaving the boat for vacation. They do not get to leave the boat until their replacement will get onboard. Mike and Captain Tod do not always go ashore either. They have this philosophy work is work. I don’t always agree. Sometimes it’s a good idea to get off the boat for a change of scenery. Even if only for a few hours. Maybe today, a few more crew members will join the boat. That would be an excellent help. Just like in corporate, the crew is asked to do more with less people. According to Mike, the distinction is that the office building is not going to run into something.

If you have read any of my things, you will know safety is a mega concern. Crowley Maritime sets it high on their list as well. Every meeting begins with a safety and cultural moment including wellness and behavior. They realize to be a top performing company they have to support their workers work life balance and health. Their trainings vary depending on the ship. Its operations.

side personnel. Each petroleum ship has magnetic signals throughout the ship. “We don’t want to be responsive,” says David DeCamp, Sr Communicator, Strategist for Crowley Maritime. “We are thinking prevention and avoiding incidents as much as possible.” Just remember, when you’re on the ship, it’s 1 hand for the boat and one hand for you. Keep your balance and keep safe.

Back riding the waves, the team appears happy. Many sunrises and sunsets later end of tour duty is fast approaching. I start to wonder what signs to watch for that people are prepared to get off the ship. Oye! How do they handle the stress? After all, my stints on recreational boats are much briefer and less crew. So, I asked about.

“When the men get quiet,” says Mike. “If you are standing watch together and for four hours they do not say one word when normally you’d be having a good conversation. After that you’ll see them begin fouling things up a lot. Some guys will just explode, or else they’ll do something – either conscientiously or subconscientiously – where it is endangering their job.”

Wendy says you are going to hear of somebody who starts giving things away. Saying goodbye to other people on the ship or just seems despondent. These are typically signs of suicide, she says. Notably, amongst the younger team members.

When it comes time to destress, hit the gym onboard the ship or do some form of exercise. Talk to your peers and find some alone time. Particularly if you’re married. It helps ease their stress as well. If email is not easily available, write those emails , then once in port send them out all at once. Guaranteed the receiver will be awaiting them. “Remember it is important to take care of yourself,” says Captain Tod. “Not just mentally but physically. Sometimes you have-to consume that pastry at 3:00am or beverage that thick coffee. Working long hours adds extra stress to your body both physically and emotionally.”

Finally, it is important to enjoy your time off. Isn’t that one of the beauties of going to sea? Someone else is doing your work on the ship for the next 75 days or however long your tour of duty is. Get rested up for possum control. Recharge. Then get ready to get back out there for those long hitches.

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