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A Day in the Life of a Seafarer

Some will argue life sailing was easier back before regulations were established with the IMO, US Coast Guard and ABS. But maybe it was really? Most of the ships were Foreign Flags. That meant long tours of duty with out union. Today you will find seafarers prefer American flagships; the pay is best, and are generally unionized. “There’s considerably more paperwork today,” says Third Mate Mike Loesch. “Instead to do just the noon report, you’re now doing three reports each day.”

In 1875, nine Houses of Refuge were built on the Florida coast; between Miami and Jacksonville; every 25 miles. Each Refuge House was commissioned from the United States Life-Saving Service. They had a keeper whose only job were to maintain the house, ensure that it stays supplied of food, clothing, and walk the beaches as soon as the storms. When they discovered a shipwrecked sailor they gave him “refuge” in their house. The men have got to stay to get a week or two. Some got in on ships heading north. A lookout tower was built and familiar with watch for enemy submarines in World War II. Over the years they are operated through the US Coast Guard as well as the Navy. Today only 1 house remains in Martin County on Gilbert’s Bar. In 1976 it had been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This year the IMO’s theme for International Seafarer Day is well-being. Since this is a large topic I thought I’d stay the course. And, enlist the assistance of a few seafarers. Tour duties last anywhere from 75 days to 6 months agreeable a ship. Before the sun even warms their faces, Third Mate Mike is within the bridge for his morning watch. Captain Tod is busy having the morning report out before breakfast. After breakfast, Captain Tod continues his day answering and adjusting emails, handling personnel issues, payroll, orders, etc. Third Mate Mike attends to his safety inspections or maintenance should the chief mate needs it done. After lunch he relieves another third mate and stands watch till dinner. The end of his 12-hour day and another sunset. If the ship is docked, as an alternative to standing watch for the bridge yet be in the cargo control room monitoring the cargo operations. Also making rounds on deck and checking the lines. One thing its not necessary is the ship to slip from the dock.

Hot and cold your meals are provided three times daily. Breakfast will be your standard fare. Lunch and dinner comes with a variety of fish, meat plus a salad bar. If anyone carries a food allergy, like I do, you have to let the Captain know if you board the ship. According to Civilian Mariner Wendy, I would starve around the navy’s ship. Their meals is mostly deep-fried foods having a salad bar and overcooked veggies. Not exactly nutritious. I find this ironic since she’s on the logistics ship. They provide other Navy and NATO ships with fuel, parts, food and sodas.

Must be inspection day today. Tensions are high. Everyone’s stressed. Not sure why. To me an inspection is an effective thing. If they find something wrong about the ship it gets reported, then fixed. Right? Well, possibly not true. Each inspector has their particular interpretation of how things ought to be done. Usually from first-hand experience years earlier if they crewed. Surely not how situations are done today or that which you were told to perform. Regulations are changing constantly, and everyone is anticipated to adapt. However, resources are certainly not always delivered.

Woohoo! After countless sunsets of reds, pink and gray, land is finally around the corner. The ship is heading into port where its crew members are able to go onshore for any mental health break. The only question – would it be full of security checkpoints or are you able to walk next to the ship and have the middle of everything? Some guys love to get away or take a rest. The ones that come in over a Foreign flagship usually head over to Walmart before moving out again. Poor Wendy, then she gets the busiest. She arranges travel for virtually any of her crew members which might be leaving the ship for vacation. They don’t reach leave the vessel until their replacement gets onboard. Mike and Captain Tod don’t always go ashore either. They have this philosophy tasks are work. I don’t always agree. Sometimes it’s essential to get away from the ship for any change of scenery. Even if only for just a couple hours. Maybe today, several more crew members will join the ship. That would be a great help. Just like in corporate, the crew is asked to try and do more with less people. According to Mike, the main difference is that the workplace isn’t going to come across something.

If you’ve read all of my stuff, you will know safety is a mega concern. Crowley Maritime puts it at the top of their list at the same time. Every meeting starts that has a safety and cultural moment such as wellness and behavior. They realize as a high performing company the doctor has to support their employees work life balance and health. Their trainings vary depending about the ship. Its operations. The seafarers and shore-

side personnel. Each petroleum ship has magnetic signs over the ship. “We don’t wish to be reactive,” says David DeCamp, Sr Communicator, Strategist for Crowley Maritime. “We’re thinking prevention and avoiding incidents whenever possible.” Just remember, after you’re about the ship, it’s one hand to the ship then one hand available for you. Keep your balance and remain safe.

Back riding the waves, the crew appears happy. Many sunrises and sunsets later end of tour duty is around the corner. I continue to wonder what signs to look for that individuals are ready to have off the ship. Oye! How do they handle the tension? After all, my stints on recreational boats tend to be shorter and fewer crew. So, I asked around.

“When the inventors get quiet,” says Mike. “If you’re standing watch with these and for four hours they do not say one word when normally selecting having a good conversation. After that you will see them start fouling things up a great deal. Some guys will just explode, or they’ll make a move – either conscientiously or subconscientiously – where it’s jeopardizing their job.”

Wendy says you’ll hear about someone who starts giving things away. Saying goodbye to others about the ship or merely seems despondent. These are usually indications of suicide, she says. Especially, among the younger crew members.

When it appears time to destress, hit the gym onboard the ship or perform some form of exercise. Talk with your peers in order to find some alone time. Regular hitting the ground with your family is also essential. Especially if you’re married. It helps ease their stress likewise. If email will not be readily available, write those emails anyways, then once in port mail them all at once. Guaranteed the receiver are going to be looking forward to them. “Remember it is critical to take care of yourself,” says Captain Tod. “Not just mentally but physically. Sometimes you have-to eat that pastry at 3:00am or drink that thick coffee. Working extended stays adds extra stress in your body both physically and mentally.”

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