Willem van de Velde II (1633–1707) was one of the leading Dutch marine painters of the 17th century, if not indeed the best amongst them. He was a consummate artist. He depicted fishing boats and naval ships with remarkable precision and artistic discipline — both of which he learned early in life from his father, a sailor and himself a gifted naval artist. Particularly noteworthy was Van de Velde II’s sensitivity to atmospheric changes and the subtle movement of clouds over calm or rough seas. Beyond the technical aspect, however, one gleans from his works the Dutch people’s special connection with the sea and deep pride in their maritime heritage.
Early this February, I invited photographers on Facebook to submit their photographic artworks depicting the sea for a special Marine Café Blog feature. The idea was to show how one can use digital technology to extend the boundaries of the imagination and create memorable images. Here, in no particular order, are the most striking of the works submitted:
Does a country pass or fail the inspections conducted by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to review its compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) ?
It may seem strange for Marine Café Blog to raise the question. After all, everyone has been talking of the Philippines having “failed” the string of EMSA audits since 2006. Filipino maritime officials are expressing optimism that the country will “pass” the next one in March 2020. In turn, the two terms are bandied about by the press, which has done a great deal of sloppy reporting on the subject.
Inspectors from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be in Manila shortly to check once more on the country’s compliance with the STCW convention. Unless they are wearing blinkers, they cannot possibly overlook one basic fact: there is still a glut of maritime schools.
Love is like rich and heady wine. It can intoxicate and send lovers to a state of euphoria as Polish artist Franciszek Zmurko (1859-1910) depicted in his painting, In Rapture. But with joy often comes tribulation and sorrow. The following are some unforgettable quotes from writers and philosophers who delved into one of most complex human emotions.
A girl in every port. The expression sums up the popular image of the sailor: an inveterate womaniser and skirt-chaser. The reputation, I think, is not wholly undeserved. With their pockets filled with dollars, seafarers get to meet women in all shapes and colours around the world. The temptation to have a fling can be too great to resist.
Some maritime Casanovas never change. They go on with their merry ways long after they have grown older and quit sailing. On the other hand, there are seamen who may have sown their wild oaths but eventually settled down and remained faithful to their wives. I have known both types. Many seafarers, I am sure, can identify themselves with the following artworks:
How many out of every 10 Filipino ship officers would do whatever they are told by their foreign captain? I once posed this question to a former chairman of the state marine licensing board in Manila, himself a licensed master mariner. Without hesitating in the least, he answered: “Eight out of 10.”
“That which is not slightly distorted,” wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire, “lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity — that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”
The following works of marine art grab one’s attention precisely because they contain, in varying degrees, the distortion and irregularity that Baudelaire spoke of. They are not an imitation of reality. They are mirrors created by the artist to reflect that reality as much as their own inner thoughts and feelings.
Marine Café Blog will be paying tribute to the sea and the power of digital photography in an upcoming special feature with the theme, Seascapes in Photographic Art. You can be one of the photographer-artists featured. Kindly read the following guidelines for participants:
In mid-January, I issued a call on social media for outstanding waterfront photographs. This was not a contest with prizes for the winners, but a simple celebration of life on the waterfront. A good number of entries came in, all of them meritorous. However, ten pictures stood out because of their composition, content and overall impact.
In developing countries, it is poverty and lack of decent-paying jobs on shore that drive young men and women to become seafarers. It is the siren call of the dollar, not the joy of being at sea and sailing which British poet John Masefield eloquently expressed in ‘Sea-Fever’: I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide/ Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; / And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, / And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
It is easy to be jaded when it comes to the exploitation of seafarers. The tales of woe never seem to end, and one tends to grow tired of hearing them. My unjaded eyes, however, have not ceased to be surprised by the myriad ways in which Filipino seafarers are taken advantage of. Even medical doctors may connive with unscrupulous manning agencies to prey on seafarers.
Well, today’s maritime press seems to be doing a good job of turning out more chaff than wheat. Every story, as journalists learned in school., should be able to answer the Five W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. The first four are easy enough to handle. The last is more challenging. It requires an inquisitive mind and a certain amount of cynicism on the part of journalists. Here are some questions the maritime press has not been asking: