Some will argue life sailing was easier back before regulations were established from the IMO, US Coast Guard and ABS. But could it have been really? Most of the ships were Foreign Flags. That meant long tours of duty with no union. Today you will discover seafarers prefer American flagships; the pay is best, and they are unionized. “There’s much more paperwork today,” says Third Mate Mike Loesch. “Instead of performing just the noon report, you’re now doing three reports per day.”
In 1875, nine Houses of Refuge were built down the Florida coast; between Miami and Jacksonville; every 25 miles. Each Refuge House was commissioned because of the United States Life-Saving Service. They had a keeper whose only job were to maintain the house, make it supplied of food, clothing, and walk the beaches following storms. When they stumbled on a shipwrecked sailor they gave him “refuge” in their house. The men got a chance to stay to get a week or two. Some returned on ships heading north. A lookout tower was built and accustomed to watch for enemy submarines in World War II. Over the years to remain operated because of the US Coast Guard as well as the Navy. Today merely one house remains in Martin County on Gilbert’s Bar. In 1976 that it was 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 tremendous topic I thought I’d stay the course. And, enlist assistance from a few seafarers. Tour duties last anywhere from 75 days to months up to speed a ship. Before the sun even warms their faces, Third Mate Mike is around the bridge for his morning watch. Captain Tod is busy obtaining 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 when 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 within the bridge yet be in the cargo control room monitoring the cargo operations. Also making rounds on deck and checking the lines. One thing you won’t need is the ship to slip out from the dock.
Hot and cold foods are provided three times daily. Breakfast is the standard fare. Lunch and dinner supplies a variety of fish, meat plus a salad bar. If anyone carries a food allergy, like I do, you must let the Captain know once you board the ship. According to Civilian Mariner Wendy, I would starve within the navy’s ship. Their meals are mostly deep-fried foods using a salad bar and overcooked veggies. Not exactly nutritious. I find this ironic since she’s over a 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 excellent thing. If they find something wrong within the ship it gets reported, then fixed. Right? Well, certainly not true. Each inspector has their very own interpretation of how things carried out. Usually from first-hand experience years earlier if they crewed. Surely not how situations are done today or that which you were told to complete. Regulations are changing at all times, and everyone is anticipated to adapt. However, resources aren’t always delivered.
Woohoo! After countless sunsets of reds, pink and gray, land is finally in view. The ship is heading into port where its crew members reach go onshore for the mental health break. The only question – will it be full of security checkpoints or is it possible to walk quickly the ship and stay in the middle of everything? Some guys wish to get away or relax. The ones that come in over a Foreign flagship usually visit Walmart before going out again. Poor Wendy, this is when 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 are able to 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 great to get from the ship for the change of scenery. Even if only for any couple hours. Maybe today, a number of more crew members will join the ship. That would be a great help. Just like in corporate, the crew is asked to accomplish more with less people. According to Mike, the gap is that the business building isn’t going to encounter something.
If you’ve read some of my stuff, you will know safety is a mega concern. Crowley Maritime puts it on top of their list likewise. Every meeting starts having a safety and cultural moment such as wellness and behavior. They realize to become a high performing company they need to support their employees work life balance and health. Their trainings vary depending for the ship. Its operations. The seafarers and shore-
side personnel. Each petroleum ship has magnetic signs through the entire ship. “We don’t wish to be reactive,” says David DeCamp, Sr Communicator, Strategist for Crowley Maritime. “We’re thinking prevention and avoiding incidents wherever possible.” Just remember, if you’re around the ship, it’s one hand for your ship then one hand in your case. Keep your balance and turn into safe.
Back riding the waves, the crew appears happy. Many sunrises and sunsets later end of tour duty is around the corner. I start to wonder what signs to watch out for that individuals are ready to have off the ship. Oye! How do they handle the worries? After all, my stints on recreational boats less complicated shorter and fewer crew. So, I asked around.
“When the blokes get quiet,” says Mike. “If you’re standing watch using them and for four hours they just don’t say one word when normally you would be having a good conversation. After that you will notice them start fouling things up lots. Some guys will just explode, or they’ll want to do something – either conscientiously or subconscientiously – where it’s jeopardizing their job.”
Wendy says you’ll learn about someone who starts giving things away. Saying goodbye to others around the ship or simply seems despondent. These are usually signs and symptoms of suicide, she says. Especially, between the younger crew members.
When referring time to destress, hit the gym onboard the ship or do a little form of exercise. Talk with your peers and look for some alone time. Regular hitting the ground with your family is important too. Especially if you’re married. It helps ease their stress also. If email is just not readily available, write those emails anyways, then once in port distribute them all at once. Guaranteed the receiver is going to be looking forward to them. “Remember you need 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 for a body both physically and mentally.”