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"Don't waste your life at sea."

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  • "Don't waste your life at sea."

    A few weeks ago, I was reading something or other and one, clear line just stayed with me. 'Don't waste your life at sea' it read, and it made me ponder over the prospect of life on a ship. It went on to say how shore leave is so much shorter nowadays, and that shipping companies' highest priority is getting the cargo to it's destination in the most cost, fuel and time efficient way possible with the crew only being an afterthought. Therefore crew are overworked 7 days a week with only a day or two shore leave, sometimes being denied access into the country.

    In addition, I've heard many seafarers complain of the sheer boredom of life at sea - surrounded by waves and sky with no other human contact other than the rest of the crew. Plus being away from family, spouses SOs, I find it unsurprising that whenever I tell people I want to join the MN, they look shocked and say 'what on earth draws you to that field of work?' The answer, I tell them, is because of our Nation's rich maritime history, and how reliant we are as an island nation, on shipping.

    I'm not even a cadet yet, in fact I'm still in my first year of studying A-Level so I may be talking absolute rubbish. Therefore I ask what are your views on this? Why would you want to work in such a mentally straining enviroment, like 'prisoners with a salary'?

  • #2
    A Career at Sea is the best choice I have ever made. I have seen and done things I never thought I would. Leave ratios I would say are better than they have ever been. Communication at sea is good enough now in most cases that communication home is no problem. You will probably not find yourself on the ships and the situations you describe if you choose your companies wisely. I have also had utterly miserable times that no shore based job could rival but a nice sunset or a good view the next day and all is forgotten. A Life at sea is what you make it for the most part, and its not for everyone!


    • #3
      Let's be honest;

      + Are you going to make **** loads of cash and retire early? Unlikely - you'll still earn significantly more than the average UK wage, but don't expect to be a millionaire.

      + Companies only in it for the money - of course they are - this applies to every company in the world, not just within the shipping industry - if you believe / anyone tells you differently they are kidding themselves!

      + Bordom - What job is honestly not boring sometimes? If you're lucky enough to find a job where you love it then great - stick at it! But for 99.9% of us, every job we do is going to be boring occasionally!

      + Internet / Communications - Exist but don't expect to have constant connection unless your exceptionally lucky - in a world where we're permanently connected to everyone on land, I can see why some people struggle with life at sea - hell our passengers can't even last 7 days without their precious bloody internet. Most ships these days do have some form of communication but don't expect it to be fast, always available or cheap for you!

      + Shore leave - will depend on your ship type, route and what your job role is onboard. Expecting to see the world while working as an officer is just dumb - if you want to do that be a shoppie on a cruise ship - what you will get though is significant time off to go travelling on your vacation period if you so wish - having several weeks off at a time regularly throughout the year is something very few jobs on land will give you!

      As I've said many times, you'll either love a life at sea, or hate it. Nobody can tell you what it's like and you won't know until you've done it.
      “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

      – Mark Twain
      myBlog | @alistairuk | flickr | youtube Views and opinions expressed are those of myself and not representative of any employer or other associated party.


      • #4
        As said by Thady, the career is what you make of it. I’ve had some incredible experiences at sea and I don’t regret a second, however I’ve also decided that I’ve had my fill and will soon be taking steps to make a move ashore.

        It doesn’t sound like anything in that article was incorrect, you just have to make sure that you know what it is you’re joining. While the career has huge benifits compared to life in a normal 9-5 job, you will sacrifice more than most in the long run.


        • #5
          Sounds like I shall enjoy my time at sea, thanks for the information.


          • #6
            To throw another angle into the mix... it isn't a bad career at all. I'm enjoy my time as a cadet and at sea. But you're what, 15 or 16? The first year or two of your cadetship you're going to be handled with safety gloves and probably only given limited freedom during your limited time ashore. You'll get plenty of older officers and ABs (no offence) telling you about all the shore time they had as young lads, but that was a long time ago when a ship might be moored up for two weeks, not 36 hours. It's a different game now. Then you graduate and spend half your life at sea working (Because it is work, just like any other job, as has been mentioned a few times already).

            Not saying don't go for it, it sounds like you're really into the idea of the merchant navy, but maybe consider finishing education and enjoy being a teenager for a bit before applying because, to be honest, you'll probably have a better time as a young adult with a bit of life experiance behind you anyway.
            27//Officer Cadet//Phase Three//Warsash

            My officer cadet blog -


            • #7
              I'm 16, 17 in July and thinking of waiting a year after sixth form and maybe do a yacht deckhand course for a couple of months in that year, and do my cadetship in 2021/22. Then I can take it from there, but also the issue of relationships crop up. Still, I'm sure (I hope) it'll all work out... Thanks for the response.


              • #8
                Boredom, what is this boredom of which you speak?

                I dream of boredom

                Actually and sadly I do......but that's cos this ere boat keeps throwing curve balls at us, so we do like a touch of boredom, it means nothing exciting hapened and nothing expensive fell off......upto and including the cargo (happens more often that you realise)

                Come to sea try it, love it or hate it, make an informed choice it really isn't for everyone it IS a life style and (to be old fashoined) a career, while I realise that it's unfashionable to want these things they are nice, they pay for my nice life, my 3rd wedding ( don't ask), my 6 months leave a year ....... it makes life nice, though there is some poop around the place and the industry give it a whirl
                Trust me I'm a Chief.

                Views expressed by me are mine and mine alone.
                Yes I work for the big blue canoe company.
                No I do not report things from here to them as they are quite able to come and read this stuff for themselves.

                Twitter:- @DeeChief


                • #9
                  I came to this late and I would advise anyone young do the same. OK that's not for everyone but you could take a gap year. No you don't have to go to Tibet, sleep in a yurt, find yourself or other such nonsense. But go work in a bar or call centre for a year. Move in to your own place. It will benefit you in so many ways


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lewis View Post
                    I came to this late and I would advise anyone young do the same. OK that's not for everyone but you could take a gap year. No you don't have to go to Tibet, sleep in a yurt, find yourself or other such nonsense. But go work in a bar or call centre for a year. Move in to your own place. It will benefit you in so many ways
                    Ei, there's a lot to be learnt from life that you won't find in a classroom enviroment or couped up on a ship.
                    27//Officer Cadet//Phase Three//Warsash

                    My officer cadet blog -


                    • #11
                      I absolutely loved my time at sea. Last year at 32 years old I swallowed the anchor after 15 amazing years at sea. Yes, there were some days that I was bored, days when I wished I was at home and days when waves were rolling across the bow that I wished I was anywhere else, but it was worth it.
                      I had good times on cargo ships, passenger ships and super yachts.

                      Now I park other peoples ships and go home afterwards... Some ships I board are well run, happy crew and serve me a delicious lunch. Others are miserable, badly run and I wouldn't eat even if they offered... (food forms an important part of my deciding factor of how good a ship is)


                      • #12
                        Think yourself lucky. When I was at sea we had these strange things called 'letters'. If you were particularly unlucky they'd chase you all round the world and finally arrive as a big package a week after yo'd paid off on leave...
                        io parlo morse


                        • #13
                          Im coming to this industry late. im due to start at South Tyneside in September with PG tankers. Previously i served 9 years in HM Armed forces in the infantry. I fought in Afghanistan twice as a soldier on the ground. Since leaving the military ive tried my hand at a few jobs. Ive worked in Birmingham as an ambulance technician for WMAS. ive worked in the outdoor sports industry but all of which ive done ive disliked for one reason or another.

                          This led me to this line of work, the more i researched the more i felt there are certain people who enjoy being part of a niche industry, with the perks on offer etc. A good wage in relation, opportunities once qualified and you have experience seem pretty good. Ive worked before abroad in a small industry and ive worked in the uk where i was home most nights and i certainly belive working away is far more appealing.


                          • #14
                            Just accept the fact that whilst youre away you will have to work and perhaps work hard.

                            But in my opinion its all worth it when you pay off. I'll admit I don't particularly enjoy it, but as someone else mentioned, what percentage of people enjoy their work. I see this as a means to an end, 5-10 years to get some decent savings behind me, whilst doing the likes of travelling in my leave time. After that, settle down somewhere and transition ashore, hopefully.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by alistairuk View Post

                              + Shore leave - will depend on your ship type, route and what your job role is onboard. Expecting to see the world while working as an officer is just dumb
                              When anyone tells me to go back deep sea and see the world I instantly think of Moby Dick:
                              “Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me what ye see there.”

                              For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest. But concentrating all his crow’s feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started me on the errand.

                              Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I could see.

                              “Well, what’s the report?” said Peleg when I came back; “what did ye see?”

                              “Not much,” I replied—“nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and there’s a squall coming up, I think.”

                              “Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where you stand?”