What seafarer has not suffered from a bout of loneliness and boredom? These twin monsters can creep in like the tide after one’s watch is over and there is little else to do. Some seafarers may plunge into depression. One maritime charity group seems to think that a two-day online course on mental health costing £125 per participant will address the problem. What a silly idea! Why not promote instead the love for reading amongst seafarers? As the following quotes suggest, books can do wonders for both mind and spirit.
I recently came across a traditiional folk ballad called ‘Hard, Hard Times’. It is light-hearted but has a serious social message, so I thought I should share it with the readers of Marine Café Blog. The song talks about dishonesty, greed and hyprocrisy in society at large — the same ills that plague much of the shipping and mannning sectors and cause misery to those who work at sea.
Those who exploit seafarers — and there’s a legion of them — have no need for a guide. The thing comes naturally to the greedy and the shameless. But if there were such a guide, it would probably include the following items, the first seven of which pertain to manning agents:
I have just spent several days searching online for artworks that depict the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay (also known as the Battle of Cavite). My search yielded a good number of interesting pieces. However, I found none that was created by a Filipino artist. This comes as no surprise. Although Filipinos pride themselves in being a “maritime” nation, the country has a paucity of marine art. Indeed, it lacks a tradition of such art — the kind of tradition that one finds in England, the United States, the Netherlands, Spain and other traditional maritime countries.
What is it about pirates that makes them so appealing to many people? They are essentially dislikeable characters. Captain Jack Sparrow, the main protagonist in the Pirates of the Caribbean fantasy film series, may not be the murderous type. But he is a rogue, a trickster who uses subterfuge and bluff to achieve his ends.
Nobody delights in war except warmongers. War is synonymous with death. It is horrifyingly ugly. Samuel Butler, the 17th-century Engish satirical poet, called it “the artificial plague of man”. Oddly enough, however, there is something beautiful about battles at sea, especially those involving frigates and other sailing ships built for warfare. The following works of art are some of the best I have seen on the subject.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us,” wrote Franz Kafka, the German-language Bohemian novelist. I don’t know if ‘Close Encounters in Maritime Manila’, an e-book which I published in 2018, is sharp enough to cut through the figurative sea. That sea is frozen hard in the hearts and minds of many local folks.
Like countless people around the world, I am fascinated no end by seashells. Just looking at them is a source of great pleasure. It can even be therapeutic. Someday, I might write a poem on the subject. In the meantime, let me share the following three verses and a haunting song about seashells. Relax and enjoy.
What legendary creature could be more popular than the mermaid? Since the days of silent film, this mythical being with the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish has been featured in more than 60 movies. She has graced countless children’s books. Her image greets coffee drinkers as they order capuccino at a Starbucks counter and drink from the cup with the twin-tailed mermaid logo.
Marine Café Blog recently detailed how Filipino seafarers were being short-changed big time on their remittances. Yet, despite the scale of the problem, the press has not deigned to take up the issue. Nor have I heard the seafarer unions and the bleeding-heart maritime NGOs openly condemn the cheating. The same was true when I first wrote in 2013 about Manila’s maritime flunkeys — i.e., cadets who work as unpaid labour for manning agencies and unions. Why the silence?
Enough of the empty slogans. A meaningful, and certainly more creative, way to pay tribute to those who work at sea is through music and song. The following videos feature some of the best songs on YouTube about old sailors and fishermen — those hardy spirits who cut their teeth on boats and have spent many years at sea.
Old age is a topic most people want to avoid. It is almost taboo to talk about it in a materialistic society where youth is admired like some kind of jewel. Sooner or later, however, old age — frequently defined as 60 or 65 years of age or older — will come as surely as the ocean tide will kiss the shore. The following quotes may provide some consolation or even inspiration to those who have reached, or are about to reach, this stage in the voyage we call Life.
I have posted so many articles about marine art that I have now lost count. So it’s about time that I wrote about my personal approach to the subject. I have no pretensions to being an art critic, much less an art historian. But I do have a passion for art that started in my late teens. The world of marine art is so vast that I have to continue educating myself. With that in mind, I should lke to share some tips for appreciating marine art, most of them applicable to art in general.