10 Things I Learned as a Seaman (That I’ll Never Learn Anywhere Else)

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Seaman's Life | 0 comments

1. The Captain is Always Right…

“If the Captain is wrong, verify the first rule.”

Every seaman who has sailed for many years knows this old proverb. Moreover, he had probably experienced something unpleasant when he told head-on that, “Captain, you are wrong!”

Being a Captain means having the overall responsibility of the ship, her crew, and her cargo. Before judging his commands, know that every decision he makes is for the best of all parties.

But what if you see that what he’s doing is not correct?

2. Shit Happens.

No matter how careful or how well-planned you thought your job could be, there are times when events surprise you. These things happen on the least expected days. When bad scenes unfold, we are usually caught off guard.

The fire alarm went off at one in the morning. A mooring line parted. The perfectly calm sea suddenly turned into 6-meter waves. Someone got injured. You are dragging your anchor in a crowded anchorage. A seaman is at the mercy of them all.

The list could go on and on. But what’s so great about these incidents is that a seaman will always find ways to get through them. Seafarers are very creative. They find solutions to every unimaginable problem. That’s why seamen are tough.

3. Ignore the A-holes.

A seaman’s sailing experience is not complete unless you come across people who are the complete embodiment of hate, complaints, and Parenthood (magulang). They will try to take advantage of your work and talk about all the negative things about other people.

Complaining everything about the job is mostly what they do best. They grumble about the work, the people on board, the management, and even their lives.

The best thing to do is to keep a safe distance against those kinds of seaman. Minimize contact, especially with topics that provoke their negativity.

4. Go Ashore and Carpe (that f*ckin’) Diem.

Nope, that is not as a sexy word as you think it is. Carpe Diem is a Latin word that literally translates as “pluck the day”. It means enjoying the pleasure of the moment without concern for the future. Every seaman has this kind of opportunity.

I had experienced this many times when I was on shore leave. Walking the streets of Dublin was so fascinating that I literally forgot about the vessel and my watch.

A picture of a galleon ship reminded me about it so I hurriedly scrambled to check my wristwatch. I was relieved to find out that I still had two and a half hours to spend. Those days were the most memorable part of my sailing career.

And because of those kinds of experiences, I now know the formula for enjoying my shore leave even if I don’t spend money like crazy!

5. Be Prepared to Work 24/7.

Whenever I’m on board, I condition my mind and accept the fact that there will be times I’ll be working outside my watch.

This includes during holidays, Saturdays, Sundays late nights, early morning, and mid nights. It enables me to establish my composure if ever work needs me anytime and I won’t be too surprised about it.

Unfortunately, there are seamen on board who expect to have the normal 8 to 5 life. They already know this fact because they have been sailing for 10 years!

Of course, there are times when the voyage is too short that it compromises our rest hours. Maintenance is also pushed by the management even if the trip is only hours away.

But if you want to complain, ask those who gave the job orders, not your fellow crew. And if you want to sleep soundly every day, do it when you’re home.

6. The Sea Isn’t Always Calm.

All business plans come to life (again) during heavy weather. But on a glass-like sea, seafarers bury these plans deep under their consciousness. Still, some seamen never learn or only learn when the waves are seven meters high!

You must always expect that good things never last. The good things are, and so do the bad ones.

You are a seaman and you are at the mercy of the sea. No matter how much you try, you can’t choose which waters to travel to with what kind of weather around you. Whenever a storm hits your ship or a seemingly unsolvable problem arises, remind yourself and say that,

“This too, shall pass!”

For the fresh meats out there on their first sailing experience, you must know some techniques for handling seasickness. Anyway, you will develop that kind of strategy on your own. What works for others may not work for you so you better study and know yourself.

7. You Need Peace of Mind.

From what I observed, some seamen on board always want to win and be right all the time. They would lay out their stories, observations, or opinions and feel strongly about it.

Suddenly, someone tries to prove them wrong. The next thing you know is that they are in a heated argument.

My advice, mind your own business and not give an F. Listen to them but keep quiet when it doesn’t concern you. Nod your head as if you are agreeing. Whenever what you hear is not correct, tell him the truth.

If he does not listen, don’t give another F. You need peace of mind more than winning an argument. Every seaman does.

8. You are Here to Acquire Capital.

One of the prime reasons a seaman chooses to work on board is because of the high pay it offers. The money is for his family back home so they may live the life he imagined.

Unfortunately, seamen and their families see this as the end game. Most seafarers have great difficulty saving their money, especially during vacations

Seafaring is one of the best jobs out there that gives thousands of dollars which is also more than enough to make a living. The extra cash you make here can be possibly used for pursuits of other income streams.

Start doing some extracurricular activities when you are on vacation. This enables you to not get stuck working on board and complaining here until 65 years old.

Now that we have a strong dollar, you should know the best strategy for using or investing your hard-earned money. You may hear people on social media complaining about the weak peso. The truth is, you can benefit from it and see this as another kind of opportunity.

9. Every Seaman Must Do Their Job Well.

The main reason why you should do your job well is because this is the bread and butter for you and your family. People will notice the kind of work you do. They will know the quality of it as well as the initiatives you made to get the job done.

This is very important for two reasons. One is your reputation and this is important for every seaman. The crew on board will have confidence in your ability. News like this spreads to other ships and the office as well. Naysayers will find it difficult to spread lies about you too.

The second is promotion. You are more likely to be promoted if you know the job. We are here for the money and this is actually a pay raise.

10. Be Friends with everyone including the Galley Department.

The Galley Department is the backbone of the ship. This is the only place where all the crew can be gathered every day.

But not all people are pleased with the food because not all Chief Cooks can be the best Cooks! Conflict always happens here because of the crew complaining about the menu for the day. Suddenly, they created bad relationships with the Galley Department throughout their contract.

What I learned is to respect what’s on the table and be on good terms with the GD. This has reaped more benefits. I get invited to go shopping in the provision store. There are times that they secretly give me an extra steak or a very nice dessert (basta’t wag lang daw akong maingay!).

Whenever they don’t see me during lunch or dinner, they reserve a nice meal for me which can be better than the rest. And the best thing that happened was when they offered me (sometimes) to court their pretty young daughter!

These work for me. I practice some of the things here and the others I practice a lot. They may or may not work for everybody and you may also have other tricks that you are practicing on board.

Whatever you do to make your sailing fun, peaceful, and memorable, do it with all your heart. Share this post with your fellow seaman to help them.

Ahoy and may the winds be in your favor.



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