What would you consider as the best of times in shipping? The answer, I suppose, will depend on the needs and expectations of those being asked.
Shipping lines would see sustained high freight rates as a godsend; crewing agents, an ample supply of ship officers; nautical schools, a spike in enrolment; and maritime charities, a continued flow of donations. All that, however, has to do with business. I would rather look at shipping as a culture — a conglomerate of general customs and beliefs that define its essential character.
The 20th of December 2021 marked the 34th anniversy of the Philippines’ Doña Paz ferry tragedy. As usual, the day whizzed past with nary a tribute to the 4,341 who died on that fateful day in 1987. No, it was not because of the mad holiday rush. As I pointed out in my 2010 blog post, Filipinos have such short memories and Philippine ship operators have amnesia.
“The object of a New Year,” wrote the English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton, “is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions.”
With that in mind, I have listed down some New Year resolutions which seem perfect for certain maritime individuals and organisations. Of course, they can be broken as quickly as they are made. But as the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s way.
I have gathered together the following vintage photographs for readers of Marine Café Blog who are celebrating Christmas. They all have a connection to the sea, ships and sailors. This is but a small collection, but it provides glimpses into what Christmas was like in the old days.
Some anti-whaling activists may look askance at artworks that show the hunting and killing of whales. They probably can’t be blamed. Whaling is nasty, bloody business. The reality, though, is that it is part of the maritime heritage of a good number of countries.
In these five oil paintings, French Impressionist artist Claude Monet takes you to the docks — where ships and barges congregate and sweaty stevedores load and unload cargoes. It is an interesting place filled with a sort of piquant energy that can leave a lasting impression.
Marine Café Blog often hones in on topics that are hardly talked about by the maritime community and generally ignored by the shipping press. It was the first to raise three issues in particular which involve the rights and welfare of seafarers. Perhaps I should take some pride in this, but I don’t. The reason is that these issues continue to fall on many deaf ears. It can be bloody frustrating.
There are tonnes of photographs of the day (7th December 1941) the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. But there are vastly fewer comtemporary works of art depicting the historic event.
Sailboats have an enduring kind of beauty and elegance. A photograph of sailboats may be 100 years old or older. It may bear some bruises and blemishes from ageing, but the charm of the subjects still comes through. The photographer, who had long ago died, had made the ballerinas of the water deathless.
Knowing the historical and cultural context of a song can lead to a better appreciation of it. In the case of Soon May the Wellerman Come (The Wellerman, for short), it is in fact necessary . This whaling song which has gone viral (it is not a sea shanty) makes specific references to the whaling tradition of New Zealand and to whale hunting in general. To know the meaning of some of the words and phrases used is to understand what the song really tries to convey.
Boat models may not look as magnificent as a scaled-down replica of a Spanish galleon. Even so, they can exude a certain charm that would delight the viewer, especially one who loves the sea and watercraft. In addition, they can open a window to the maritime past of certain cultures.
The English language is sprinkled with idioms that have a nautical origin. Some people may use them routinely without being aware of the fact. The following are 10 such idiomatic expressions. They illustrate, not only how the shipping world has impacted on everday language, but also how it has helped unify peoples across the English-speaking world.