Sailors do have their own perks while working at sea, and one of them is that they can visit new countries and ports during their shore leave. It is also one of the best ways to break the monotony on board ships.
Travelling during sailing, or shore leave as we call it, is a great stress reliever and also a sailors’ prerogative. Although, now-a-days, there is limited time for shore leave as the port turnarounds are much quicker, travelling ashore to an unknown place can be a bit worrisome, especially, to places where you can’t speak the local language or it has restricted areas not suitable for outsiders.
Photograph by Captain Manish Nayyar
As the barrier of communication takes a toll on the sailor and his or hers shore leave, un-fathomed spots of the city can be equally troubling. Besides, there are good chances of getting lost ashore, as there is a possibility of little or no help at places “where eagles dare”. Such cases are then difficult to handle if all by oneself.
So what should the mariners do to have a great time ashore and not get stuck to the chores of the cities? How should he plan the shore leave? Although there is no specific answer to this as ‘experience’ can and possibly is, a great teacher, mentioned herein are few important tips to make the best of your shore leave time.
Study the City / Town
Ports and cities have their own calendar for events and happenings. Check local websites or ask the locals if you can’t access the net. These are great places to start for researching places of interest, great food joints or local general information. Ask the ship’s local agents for town’s around and about information during your shore leave.
Another smart way to deal with a shore leave is by sharing notes with fellow seafarers/shipmates who have had the shore leave experience. They can be great guides especially with tricky places which have spots ‘to be avoided’, or places which are ‘happening’ and totally safe.
Plan your leave
A very important aspect of going ashore is that it has to be well scheduled according to the duty rosters or watch-keeping routine. Seafarers have the tendency to go that extra mile while ashore. It is not advisable to risk your career or make professional mistakes, by acting zombie or over-scheduling time off the ship. Plan the shore leave well and in advance, especially if you need to adjust with other watch-keepers on board.
Carry proper documents
Carrying proper identification documents such as shore leave passes, seamen book or copies of the same is always advisable as it can save time and effort in cases of mistrust of the identity. Carrying adequate money on person is ok, but many places do not accept foreign currencies.
Exchanging foreign or internationally accepted currencies for local ones makes more sense. Travelling with an international credit / debit card during a shore leave can prove handy, but be careful of hefty exchange rates with some cards.
Getting useful contact numbers and information prior to leaving the ship can help find ‘the way back’. There are places with names that are simply tongue twisting. So it is always a good idea to have the name written on a piece of paper or noted down in your phone if in case it is required. Also, note down important numbers such as of the ships’ agent, the boat/ship’s INMARSAT number or any other contact number available, the terminal gate-keeper’s number and so on.
Be polite and friendly
There are instances where the locals see the sailors as intruders / outsiders and shy away from talking to them. If you are one of those who give negative vibes as given by some with a brash nature, then you are in for some tough times ahead. These can be changed with a little correction of the attitudes. Be polite and friendly, when say, asking for directions. Sailors are not aliens and hence won’t be treated as one as long as they don’t act like one. Experts say being friendly to locals can go a long way for you to have a fun time during shore leave.
Remove the language barrier
When you need to communicate and you are stuck at the bus station, waiting for the right bus which goes past the harbor plain English won’t help, especially, if you are in a place which has limited English speakers. If the words fail you, use the technology or maybe simply elementary drawing. During shore leave, carrying around photographs on your mobile phone, printed pictures or doing some drawings can be of great help to easily ask for whatever is wanted. Try a few mobile apps for translations which can be really handy in crunch situations.
These are some of the most important ways to make the best of your shore leave.
How do you plan your shore leave to make sure you have the best time possible?
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Bikram Pal Singh – is a professional mariner and blogger. He has sailed extensively serving on various Oil tankers and Offshore Vessels. Currently a Chief Officer, he enjoys reading and compiling notes about critical shipboard operations and crew psychology. When not sailing, he loves backpacking, is an ardent adventurer and a certified diver.
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