Ok, so over these years ive had several thousand cliched questions asked about sailors and merchant navy. and i must admit it has become rather irritating explaining over and over again. so here are some myths about sailors and sailing, along with the reality attached to it. i solemnly swear to speak the truth. so here goes:
1. Myth: Everybody gets seasick – WRONG!!! this is usually the first question everyone asks. so ur in the merchant navy eh? dont u get sea sick?? Sea sickness is exactly like motion sickness. does everyone have motion sickness? NO!! so why would everyone get seasick? yea people do get sea sick but not as often as normally believed. personally ive never had sea sickness and ive sailed 17 months in some pretty hostile seas.
2. Myth: A sailor has a wife/girlfriend in every port – Sailors in many ways are like your travelling businessmen, off to different places to finalize deals or whatever. how come ive never heard anyone say- businessmen have wives/girlfriends in every place they visit? What many people dont know is the norms these days are extra strict. no one can board a ship without proper documentation. there may have been a few cases, but dosnt that happen in every profession? im sure doctors or lawyers cheat on their spouses too. then why are sailors branded as cheats? we are human too you know.
3. Sailor’s life is the easiest : Now people have this vision of lounge chairs, swimming pools and a ton of women in bikinis when they think about what a sailor actually does on a ship. They also think we get to go out in every port. i have been to 14 different countries and all i know about them is how their cargo cranes look like. thats it!! the fact of the matter is there is always work on a ship. what work you ask? cargo needs to be loaded, monitored, secured. routes need to be devised for the next voyage. necessary engine repairs need to be done. the need of the hour is speed. so by the time you are done with your work, it is time to depart. it is your good fortune if you get to go out. and no there are no lounge chairs and women in bikinis either.
4. Sailors can guzzle any amount of alcohol – Sure back then sailors and pirates had barrels full of ale and would get drunk at the drop of a hat. but these days that can lead to you getting sacked. Companies have a zero alcohol policy, thanks to all the drunken accidents caused by ancient mariners. alcohol upto a certain percentage is allowed, anything above that is unacceptable. which makes sense coz in that state ur a danger to yourself and your crew. so try being sober for 5-6 months and then guzzling crazy amounts of alcohol. u get the picture.
5. Sailors sail for 6 months and are off for rest of the year – now i dont know which wise guy started this myth. a standard contract would be 5 months sail, 2.5 months off and then back for 5 months. senior officers like Captains Chief Engineers Chief Officers and 2nd Engineers sail 3 months and get 3 months off and the cycle continues.
6. Sailors make a ton of money – Not really. it firstly depends on the type of ship ur on. oil tankers etc will obviously pay more thanks to the inherent risks involved. Secondly it depends on your company. obviously some companies pay more than others but even then, a decent MBA from a good college or a masters will end up paying you the same amount. sure the starting salary has a wide margin, but 5-6 years down the line it is almost the same.
7. I’ve been asked – dont u get bored just looking at the sea everyday? Riddle me this, do u get bored looking at the same roads, buildings etc each day? atleast at sea u often wake up to the sights of an island right next to you, or maybe a few dolphins swimming with your ship, or a pack of birds which fly for days along with your ship which in my opinion is fantastic. the night sky is unbelievably clear, the moonlight does wonders to the sea at night. you have to see it to believe it. i find it calming, the soft rustle of the ship cutting across the water, small ripples that run for miles. i remember this one incident, it was a full moon night and it was moderately cloudy. and in between the gaps, the moonlight shone down like a giant silver pillar over the sea. its called the tyndall effect, like when sunlight passes through a leafy tree. but this was something else. so no, i dont get bored looking at the sea.
8. Sailor eh? What about pirates? – Pirates are like a corrupt government. you know its there but not much can be done. it is an evil that exists and probably will for several decades to some. i dont know if the movie franchise ‘pirates of the caribbean’ can be blamed for it but it sure has risen over the years. what can be done?
9. Ships = Massive pollution – Ships are responsible for just 3% of the world total pollution. the rest comes from industries, automobiles etc. i know there have been a string of oil spills in the recent past but those were all accidents.
10. Sailors have horrible accommodation provided to them – Wrong again. being a cadet my room had carpeted floors, attached bath with hot water available 24×7, a mini fridge, a study table, comfortable bed with clean linen provided daily and a comfortable sofa that could seat 4 people. Every possible type of food is available. yes we too have ice creams, fruits, barbecued chicken, steaks, bacon and whatever you can possibly imagine. tons of snacking options available too, cookies, cakes, soft drinks, red bull you name it. add that to a big screen tv with good surround sound speakers, a playstation 3 and a movies that run in hundreds. it is your home, away from home.
Bottom line after all this is that Sailors are human too. we too work hard, we too have families to think about and no sailing does not imply living on a cruise ship. it sucks ad hurts that sailors are branded as people who just love to while away time and are not really serious about life. working on a ship is no piece of cake. ive had cuts, bruises, burns almost daily. the work environment is hostile, and it requires competence to survive at sea. the sea does not forgive incompetence. i know most of you cant help it coz this seems to be the general opinion for everyone. my mum still hasnt got a complete idea as to what i actually do on a ship and ive tried explaining it to her several times. sure it is hard to picture what a ship must be like and what is done over there, but dont speculate. dont believe myths and dont judge people based on myths.
i’d be glad to answer any other myths that need attending to. feel free to ask. thanks