“Nautical Narratives” is an initiative by Marine Insight which focuses on sharing experiences of “life at sea” as seen and felt by real people from the maritime fraternity. In this article, Dr. Kavita K.Roy, wife of a Merchant Naval Officer and an entomologist by profession shares her experiences of the time she spent on board a VLCC with her husband.
“Yourlife is an island separated from all other islands and continents. Regardless of how many boats you send to other shores or how many ships arrive upon your shores, you yourself are an island separated by its own pains, secluded in its happiness”
Inspired by the above words, Dr. Kavita K. Roy discovers the joy of sailing with her husband and urges wives of maritime professional to experience and cherish the unique life at sea. She also enumerates different ways in which mariners’ wives can pass time on board ship.
My husband works on oil tankers, mainly VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers). VLCC’s are huge tankers which seldom touch shore. The best part of seafaring, apart from the experience of seafaring itself, is the time when the ship reaches a harbor. I have accompanied my husband in almost three VLCC vessels and have experienced that the VLCCs seldom enter ports. But I did get the chance to disembark and explore the beauty of places at whichever ports we docked at. These invigorating experiences can never be justifiably articulated in words.
But even as staying onboard is really exciting for a few days, after sometime, life on ship becomes monotonous. Sometimes it’s so droning that it has to be overcome with some productive work. Monotony is a worry that something is being missed out on. It’s the fear of doing nothing. It’s the fear of silence, or more specifically, the fear of the silence of your own mind.
When one controls the mind by letting it go instead of being controlled by it, boredom becomes non-existent and happiness, joy, contentment and peace become permanent instead of being just temporary. Happiness is an inner choice; right here, right now and always, no matter what life’s external happenings might be.
Even as there are countable members with whom we can chat during the leisure hours the crew members get busy in their daily tasks. So the ladies onboard can do plenty of chores to overcome boredom while they are onboard.
I would like to briefly discuss about the things which mariners’ wives can do onboard to make their time productive.
(i) Indoor and Outdoor games: Games provide a means of self-expression. Indoor games like cards, UNO, Chess, and Chinese checkers can be played during leisure hours.
I myself used to play Scrabble with Filipino crew members when I was onboard. This game really helped them to improve their limited vocabulary. Outdoor games are little bit difficult to be organized, but during days when the ship is anchored, they can be organized with the involvement and active participation of all the members of the ship.
(ii) Watching movies: Everyone loves watching movies to pass a few hours. So what you can do is, while coming onboard take as many movies as you can in your hard disk and enjoy them with your husband in your cabin. The best part about watching movies on ships is that you can get a good collection of foreign language movies. I once had a chance to watch Italian and Chinese movies, of course with subtitles.
(iii) Reading: A good deal of reading stimulates the imagination, as the reader pictures what is being read. Reading books can make the most boring moments exhilarating and pleasant. So try and carry as many novels and magazines as possible so as to overcome your monotonous free time.
(iv) Photography: With today’s automated cameras, fast-developing reels and simplified processing methods, photography has become a rewarding hobby offering many levels of satisfaction. I really enjoy watching and capturing the scenic beauty from ships. The beautiful sunrise and sunset which can be seen from the deck and bridge give a soothing effect to your eyes and mind.
(v) Numismatics: (The art of collecting and studying coins, other currency and medals is known as numismatics. A coin collector or a person who studies coins is called a numismatist. )
Coin collection has been my hobby since childhood and a good coin collection is an investment, profitable in a number of ways. As a pastime it has provided me with hours of pleasure and the satisfaction of watching the collection grow. Moreover, coins—old or new, foreign or domestic—will always be worth at least for the metals with which they have been minted, which are often precious metals. My collection of coins increased in number with the increase in the expeditions. Whenever the ship reaches a port, I always make a point to call the agent to give me a couple of coins of that country for my coin album.
(vi) Cakes and Bakes: Cooking is one of the favorite past-times for women. I love preparing different dishes for my family members and learn through experimenting.
Good cooks usually like to share their knowledge, discoveries and skills. I got opportunities to learn and make different kinds of bread, pasta, spaghetti and many more cuisines from Filipino and Italian cooks.
(vii) Fishing: Fishing is a popular sport one can get engaged in while on ship. It can be easily done with basic investment of a cane pole and a few hooks. I enjoyed fishing with my husband and crew members when the ship was anchored and can say that it is an enjoyable experience to keep people occupied for a few hours.
(viii) Shore leave: This is the best part of sailing, where after long voyages we get a chance to admire the exquisiteness of harbor and also an opportunity to go onshore. This really is an exciting experience as you get to enjoy, explore and capture different housing patterns, farming practices and cuisines of that area.
(ix) Geographical Information gathering: As the voyages are long, we get a chance to improve our geographical information, about the oceans, their gulfs, bays and seas, through which we learn about transience, retardation and the advancement of the ship’s clock. Apart from this, when we get a chance to disembark and visit a port we also get to keep a collection of souvenirs of that place. This generally helps us to update and improve our geographic knowledge constantly.
(x) Party time: This is the most electrifying part and involves getting everyone together in organized onboard. An active participation from everyone can make on board parties genuinely enjoyable.
Though there are several other ways of passing time on board ships for ladies on board ships, one thing I have realized is that, one need to have a strong desire to feel and experience the life at sea. It might get a bit monotonous on the way, but travelling by ship is an experience you cannot get in any other field.
australiaforeveryone, Personal Images of Dr. Kavita Roy