Lifestyle and health

Merchant Navy Facts – From a sailor’s wife

This is a guest post by Remya Pillai, Remya and I bumped into eachother on instagram, being sailor wives we instantly connected.

Remya has done her MBA in Finance and Systems from Pune University. Currently she is working with Amazon India. She has two lovely daughters Shreya and Shrvya. Her husband is a Chief Engineer(Marine Engineer)  and she loves to share her thoughts on lovely journey of motherhood and other aspects of life, what better way to share than writing, so she chose to write. She has also started Momkidlist with intention of making collection of useful lists for Mom and Kid.

Life of a mariner’s wife

Being a wife or a mother itself is a great responsibility, but what`s so special about being a mariners wife. I do not wish to repeat the same old tape that being a mariners wife is different as we have all heard it repeatedly. I agree one has to be strong however does it not hold true for other wives and mummies. If your husband is an actor who travels frequently,or a businessman who travels or a soldier or say any other profession that requires being away from home. So I conclude my words saying being a mariners wife is not an ocean of harships, its a ocean of opportunities, its only your attitude that matters

Life is glamorous for those who love to enjoy the glamour

For those who love to taste a luxurious lifestyle having 7 star hotel stays and spas being a mariner and wife is one of the best things that happen to you. From meeting wives of fellow mariners, the numerous kitty parties and get togethers celebrating every precious moment in life in style. Majority of wives as I have seen are well qualified, having a mind of their own and most important strong thinkers. Ships, exotic countries, smart uniforms, great technologies, enchanting sea etc. might make our life at sea seem nothing short of a Hollywood flick.

However no lunch comes for free and there is no gain without pain. All these fortunes have to be achieved after bearing the realities. The reality for the sailor is the dirty boiler suits, the torn safety shoes, the condition of one’s face at a dusty port, the fatigue that engulfs them at the end of the day. Agreed that there is a certain level of sheen that exists in our line of work, but that lustre is after the price is paid for it. For the queen it is single parenting, doing household chores alone, handling finances alone, facing all problems single handedly when hubby is away.Though friends and family are always a support system.Optional  support for a spouse is not possible in traditional way of face to face communication.Its digital and at times not there.

Family life-caring loving father who finds time

I do not understand why sailors are interpreted to be inherently unfaithful! There was a time when a sailor was greeted at ports with a string of women to choose from. But then that was decades back! However, over time this has become a thing of the past. Combine that with the possibility of ruining one’s health and life back home, we have a purely fictional idea of a sailor’s entertainment at port. It is undeniable that if looked for, services can be found anywhere in the world, but that’s for any human being and not restricted to a sailor. A new country, a new port offers a plethora of sights and experiences. Also, none understands the value of a relationship (and the loyalty that goes with it) more than a sailor. Time away from loved ones doesn’t weaken bonds but strengthens them instead. Unlike others, seafarers know the true meaning of – someone special is waiting back at home.

Todays mariners  have access to internet 24*7 and available to chat. As I see the world arround me most husbands are out on office trips meeting strict deadlines not being able to make time for family.Wahat I understand is that its a matter of time management and taking efforts to make relationships work. We all put efforts in one way or other to make this system called family work. A mariner has his way of contributing in the same. Gone are the days when a sailor hardly met his family and had no updates about his home. Technology has advanced, we evolved and its time to make new family system work. This new family system has its values and traditions which are influenced by globalization and advanced technology. Families spend quality time by going on vacations together, families are digitally connected. We may miss celebrating every birthday and festivals every year but we know the value of time together with family and spend it wisely.

Food and drinks:

We all have a notion that sailors drink too much alcohol and that alcohol is cheap onboard (but that doesn’t give them the liberty to drink it freely, in fact many companies follow “No Alcohol” Policy). The food onboard is prepared for multinational crew and is prepared by a seasoned chef. Thus offering a  multicuisine menu.

Are they rich and earning loads of money?

May or may not be depending on investment habits and spending habits as is true for any individual. Some of the wives have great knowledge of shares mutual funds and other financial aspects while others are dependent just like any common man. Over the years the returns determine rich and poor. General belief is that shippies get paid a huge amount of money. Agreed, the pay is good. However, it is similar to the pay that individuals get after getting themselves a decent MBA/Masters and landing a respectable job (Of course, after certain years down the line in their careers). It is correct that the initial pay is far better than what one would get at shore, but the gap closes up as time goes by. Moreover, people at shore ought not forget the pains a seafarer has to go through to bring in that sort of money- time away from family, living at the mercy of nature, tough labour onboard etc. In our favor though, we don’t have to pay taxes, and rightfully so (Rules on taxes may vary across different countries)!

Get To See New Ports and countries if time permits:

Times have changed and so have trading patterns. Discharging at ports is fast and efficient, leaving little or no time for shore leave. Some ships don’t even get to reach port at times. Bulk carriers  are probably the only kind of ships that have the luxury of being at port for over a couple of days. That too, work shifts and stress makes seafarers put bed rest over going out to the city. Just because seafarers visit new ports and countries that doesn’t mean they have the luxury or opportunity to roam around according to their own wish.

Here again I would like to mention some ships travel shorter distances and cover many countries so you get to see ports with family and shop from around the world. For the wives and family you have to have a passport and valid visa of visting countries and paperwork cleared while reaching the port as routes of travel may not be fixed and you may not be prepared.

 Its contract based not 6 months sailing and 6 months on shore:

There’s a universal idea that all seafarers have a ‘common 6 months on, 6 months off’ regime. So naturally, they believe that the life is easy for we work for 6 months and laze around for the other 6! Ridiculous, come to think of it. First of all, contracts differ in tenure. It can be 4 on, 2 off or a variety of other combinations depending on the rank and company. Secondly, the months that we don’t work, we’re only spending and not earning. Even with companies that pay while their seafarers are at home, it’s normally much reduced. Third, the work that we do over the few months that we are onboard, makes it necessary for us to go back home and relax; else we’d all go insane. Couple that with handling family, relationships, exams etc. and we barely get proper time to completely switch off, life certainly is not easy!

Education is important to be a sailor

Gone are the days when joining the merchant navy meant getting on a ship when one came of age and sailing away. Many people think going to sea doesn’t need many qualifications. But the truth is today, every rank, including the crew of the ship, has to be well informed, educated, trained and dexterous in theory as well as practice. As far as the officers are concerned, it is a different ball game!

Studies pertaining to the merchant navy have become very intense. Those who have been through 3 years of BSc in Nautical Science or 4 years of BTech in Marine Engineering will clearly know the hell they have to go through! It is a competitive exam that requires immense preparation and grilling which can be a whole new article. Officers earn ranks and certificate of competency after an engineering degree, a maritime course and then a marine engineer which is a real tough path involving a lot of sacrifices.

Solitude and idle sea life

Life is easy for seafarers, there is nothing much to do on board ships – that’s what many people think! A myth goes around that people at sea just laze around, fish and make merry once the ship sails. As many don’t have a clue about the working of the ship, they think seafarers have lots of time in hand which allows them to booze, travel and relax. However, the fact is seafarers are one of the most hardworking people in the world who have to face serious issues everyday on board. I became a blogger while I was on ship. At the end, however many inappropriate things seafarers might hear about their profession, the love for the sea and their job is never diminished. Sailors love talking about their job and their stories at sea. Seafarers work very hard through the roughest weather putting their lives at risk.

checkout my post on challenges and perks of being a sailor wife

Shipping is noble field of work though not recognized

It’s important that the common folk is well informed about the merchant navy and life at sea; for if it wasn’t for seafarers, the economy of the entire world would come to a halt! From oil, laptops to clothes and almost everything in-between, how do the goods needed to power the world get from one place to another? Even in our modern, speed-driven and globalized economy, 90 percent of everything still travels as it did almost 500 years ago: by ship. The shipping industry carries necessities like food and clothing all over the world, and yet it’s an industry that goes largely ignored by people outside of it.  There are many issues that do not gain importance from the isolation of a shipping crew to the complicated business of flags of convenience. I do not know why shipping goes unnoticed though no matter what the future holds, the world will always need ships. The merchant navy is an auxiliary entity that might be called upon in case of dire emergency to assist the navy. As in a business wherein goods are exchanged for monetary gains, the merchant navy involves the same process where goods are handed over from A to B for money. Might be a reason they don’t get national recognition for their hard work.

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