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The light and dark sides of the seafarer’s world

The light and dark sides of the seafarer’s world

The world of the seafarer has two aspects. There is the light side, which one sees in the pictures of smiling seafarers on social media. And there is the dark side, which comes to the surface through news photos of abandoned crews or the deplorable conditions on board a flag-of-convenience vessel. The world would not know about the latter if not for ITF inspectors, Port State Control authorities and the news media. The duality calls to mind the Chinese philosophy of yin/yang, the two opposing and complementary forces that underlie all natural phenomena and all aspects of life.

‘Cool Change’: A song even non-sailors would love

‘Cool Change’: A song even non-sailors would love

Popular in the early 1980s, ‘Cool Change’ was written by Australian singer-songwriter Glenn Barrie Shorrock (born 30th June 1944), a co-founder of the Little Rock Band. The lyrics speak of spending time alone on “the cool and bright clear water” — a message that should resonate with anyone who wants to get away, in the words of English poet Thomas Grey, “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”.

19th-century words of wisdom for 21st-century seafarers

19th-century words of wisdom for 21st-century seafarers

I had the good fortune recently of finding a book with the unassuming title ‘Proverbs’. Published in 1854, it was written by Rev. William Scott Downey, an American Baptist pastor before he became an Episcopelian. It is a slim volume of 110 pages or so, but it contains some nuggets of wisdom for today’s seafarers and other maritime folks. Here are 21 of Downey’s proverbs:

Recent Posts

Pilot boats sail on in vintage photographs

Pilot boats sail on in vintage photographs

The pilot boats of the late 1890s and early 1900s are no more¹. Many were lost in stormy waters, whilsts others reached a ripe old age until they were dispatched to the scrapyard. Fortunately, these boats live on in old photographs to give us a realistic view of their design and structure, and sometimes even their dimensions.

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The unheralded lives of fishwives revealed in art

The unheralded lives of fishwives revealed in art

The expression “to swear like a fishwife” evokes the image of a loud and foul-mouthed woman. Although the analogy has the ring of truth, it does not do justice to the fishwives of old. These women, who were often wives or daughters of fishermen, epitomised strength, industry and fortitude. Consider the tasks that they usually had to perform:

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Alluring Japanese art: Rivers and the sea amid falling snow

Alluring Japanese art: Rivers and the sea amid falling snow

There is something inexplicably beautiful about snowy landscapes. This is not the only reason, though, that they figure prominently in traditional Japanese art. For the Japanese, snow is a symbol of purity. The following traditional snowscapes all feature a river or the sea. They reflect the Japanese sense of connectivity with nature; their view of nature as intertwined with the world of the spirit; and their Buddhist-inspirted notion of the transience of things.

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The difference between wharf, pier and jetty as seen in art

The difference between wharf, pier and jetty as seen in art

How can one tell if it’s a wharf, a pier or a jetty? The question can stump non-maritime professionals. But even some seafarers may not be able to give a satisfactory answer. Dictionaries provide varying definitions, some of which can be a bit vague. The following works of art should be of help to those who sometimes or often get confused by the terms

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