The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. However, please do note that every individual sailing on board has faced different situations/conditions and the the author’s views mentioned herein is a product of such experiences. We kindly request all our readers to respect the author’s views and please so consider that neither the environment nor the people on all ships are same.
Shipping companies commonly boast of the privilege of family carriage they give to seafarers. While some of them provide this opportunity only to the top 4 ranks (Captain/Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer and Second Engineer), there are others who are more liberal and extend it across levels for officers/engineers. This leaves greater prospects for wives of seafarers to accompany their husbands on ship. In practice, it may not really work out as smoothly as it sounds for circumstantial reasons in a lot of cases; those being able to make it to the sea are no less than a fortunate lot.
Life at sea is not a cakewalk; neither for the mariner nor for his wife. While the mariner gets accustomed to it over a period of time, his wife often struggles to familiarise herself in the first place to a whole new world around her. It helps if she acknowledges that the ship belongs to the realm of men despite the role reversal in today’s scenario. In such situation, she must not feel pulled down while being guided by her husband on matters relating the ship and the people on-board. After all, he has past experience and sailed with people of different mindsets and working styles. She can safely trust his judgment and instinct while dealing with the crew and carrying herself on-board.
The following best practices will cement the ground realities and further help her sail through the ‘life at sea’ with some ease:
1. Be Disciplined: Seafarers are required to be disciplined on-board. Their wives must follow suit. Meal timings are fixed on ship and seafarer’s wife should adhere to those. She must appreciate and eat what is on the menu for everyone else. There are separate mess rooms for crew and officers where meals are served. Quite often, there are designated seats for every officer. Seafarer’s wife should follow the arrangement and occupy her seat. Carrying food to the cabin should be avoided as much as possible.
2. Conduct: Seafarer’s wife, just like seafarers, must practice appropriate conduct. Her behaviour should be conducive to the professional work environment on ship.
– As a practice, a seafarer’s wife can safely address all seniors (those above her husband’s rank in the hierarchy) as “Sir” while all others by their rank or first name. (However, this depends on the type of environment on board and the person’s own will.)
– It is also advisable to maintain a low profile than being a ‘talk of the town’ kind, since attracting undue attention is definitely uncalled for.
– Engaging in frequent personal discussions with others on board may give wrong signals to fellow members on-board. Maintaining pertinent distance is important. Pleasant disposition with a friendly attitude is always appreciated.
– Seafarer’s wife must not attempt to convert the galley (ship’s kitchen) to her own kitchen. While she may be a perfect cook for her husband, the ship’s Chief Cook is vested with the responsibility of taking care of the meals for the entire crew. Cooking something specific for kids (if accompanied) is fairly acceptable. Doing it for herself or her husband is “OK” once in a while. On rare occasions, treating the entire crew with any of her hand-made specialty may be considered as a thoughtful gesture.
– Public display of affection between the seafarer and his wife is a complete NO. Also, she must not tag along with her husband on the entire ship while he is working. Seafarers work in teams and people do not like being ordered, instructed, or for that matter chided in public. Those at the receiving end may not appreciate seafarer’s wife’s presence in such scenarios. She must try to distance herself physically from work-related discussions as much as possible.
– Barbeque or indoor parties are often organised on ships for seafarers, as a good way to unwind and have fun. Seafarer’s wife can attend and enjoy these events. She can also engage herself in managing games during these get-togethers or otherwise, for the entertainment of everyone provided the Master encourages or is supportive of such ideas. The men on ship generally want to dance and let loose in parties. Presence of family members often inhibits them to enjoy in their own ways. It may be good for the seafarer’s wife to make her exit within a couple of hours. A word of caution here is to still be conscious of her conduct at all times. In case alcohol is being served, she may give it a pass.
– A seafarer’s wife will frequently get accompanied by other officers while having meals in the mess-room. All table manners and courtesies hold well on such occasions and should be observed by the seafarer’s wife. Using fork and knife to eat, waiting for others to finish on your table, or excusing yourself to take leave are few such commonly seen mannerism people follow on-board.
3. Dress Suitably: One is often judged by the clothes he/she wears. Dressing appropriately is extremely important on ship. Body hugging and revealing attires should not be worn to attract unwarranted attention. Simple jeans with comfort fit T-shirts or leggings with decent neckline and comfort fit dresses works best while sailing. Seafarer’s wife will find floaters, sneakers or sports shoes more comfortable for a safe movement on the ship’s surface keeping in view the intermittent rolling.
4. Safety Measures: A seafarer’s wife must hold the importance of safety and security in high regards while on the vessel. She must comply with the safety instructions at various work areas and respect the restraint expected of her on-board. She is also required to regularly attend the drills conducted on board and make efforts to familiarise herself with basic safety measures for her own good.
5. Be Responsible: The seafarer’s wife must act responsibly at all times. Ships are equipped with various facilities, equipment and services for the usage and recreation of all the seafarers on-board. Steam room, sauna room, gym, indoor games and internet/wi-fi facility etc. may be there to name a few. Seafarer’s wife is free to use all the facilities available to her, but responsibly.
Wastage, excessive or unnecessary usage of food, water and electricity resources should be avoided by her as a responsible passenger on board.
Ships often roll and hurl in rough seas or bad weather due to which most of the things are fixated and lashed to keep them safe. It is her duty to keep her cabin and stuff therewith properly secured for avoiding any damage or injury.
6. Be Empathetic: It is thoughtful to be empathetic towards all the sailors on-board. They work hard to maintain, manage and navigate the vessel in tough work conditions. They get limited pre-defined rest hours. A small gesture like closing doors softly or playing music/TV at optimum sound levels is good to practice. Ships with common internet/wi-fi facility often have restrictions and shared usage guidelines so that everyone can get to use it within the defined space limit available. It is expected from everyone to adhere to those.
7. Be Patient and Positive: Life at sea often gets dreary and monotonous for the seafarer’s wife. Unforeseen circumstances, port operations and day-to-day deck/engine work often detain mariners for long hours of work at a stretch. Seafarer’s wife will need to be patient and open to acclimatise to such situations as and when they arise. Uncertainty around shore-leaves and sign on/off for varied reasons tends to disturb those on-board. Maintaining realistic and reasonable expectations from her husband keeping in mind that the ship is his workplace becomes important in such scenarios.
Self-motivation and a positive outlook are vital for both seafarers and mariners’ wives on board ships in order to have a memorable stay. Keeping herself engaged in constructive or recreational activities will help her combat any negative thoughts and monotony.
She can truly find bliss in her life in the form of: companionship of her husband, ample time to retrospect and read, an adventurous life, travelling across the globe, beautiful and most pure surrounding (those jaw-dropping picturesque sunrise/sunsets, rainbow, dolphins and what not!) It’s exquisite all around.
Every seafarer’s wife’s experience will be distinct in its own way and mutually exclusive every time she puts out to sail. Her experience often varies depending upon the rank of her husband, different set of/individuals she meets on-board, the voyage that the vessel follows and frequency of ports and shore-leaves thereof, etc.
As we elucidate the tenets a seafarer’s wife should live by while at sea, the role of her husband too assumes paramount importance when they sail together. While she puts in her heart and soul to accustom to the sea life, it becomes her husband’s responsibility to appreciate and acknowledge her efforts and be empathetic towards her concerns and feelings. He should take that extra mile to make his wife comfortable and accepted in a world entirely unknown to her. Invariable communication and enormous trust apart from love, care and understanding between the two helps a long way. Just lending a listening ear also works wonders a lot of times.
More than often, seafarers’ wives have had their once in a lifetime kind of experience while sailing and enjoyed it immensely. There are many who would second this thought. Travelling, trying various cuisines, meeting people of different nationalities, learning about different cultures have often lent a complete new perspective to look at the world around them.
Here’s wishing ‘Bon Voyage’ to all the ladies out there who are setting out to sail soon!!!
Over to you all. Feel free to pour in suggestions I might have missed or you do not agree with.
Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.
The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight.