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.
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”.
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:
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.
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:
The “Day of the Seafarer” was first celebrated on 25th June 2011. After 11 long years, one would imagine that things have changed for the better for seafarers. But that is not the case. The litany of sins committed against the men and women who toil at sea has not grown shorter. The following are seven of the things that have not changed:
Fortunate are those who had toy sailboats when they were children and played with them outdoors in the water as the sun shone brightly and one’s imagination unfurled like white sails in the wind. Childhood fades, but memories of those beautiful days will stay forever.
Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT)… Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT)… Net Tonnage (NT). These terms could confuse those with scant knowledge of shipping, journalists, and even seafarers. I have often encountered news reports that describe a ship that has sunk or run aground as “weighing” so many tonnes. What exactly is the reporter referring to?
The Japanese have a love affair with the moon that goes back centuries. It is reflected in their traditional art and poetry and the annual moon-viewing festival called tsukumi. It is not just the moon’s beauty that drives this lunar mania.
The shipping industry is never short of hearts that bleed for seafarers. But how much value does it actually place on the men and women who work at sea? Part of the answer can be found in the cash benefits paid out under the ITF collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) to the families of seafarers who die whilst in sea service.
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.
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
Many would probably assume that ‘The Wellerman’ (full title: ‘Soon May the Wellerman Come’) is the most popular shanty. But this song is a 19th-century whaling ballad from New Zealand, not a shanty. The popularity crown goes rather to ‘Drunken Sailor’.