Some ship officers stand out as much for their knowledge and experience as for their distinguishing personal qualities. Seven such traits, in my view, are the most important. They define the quintessential officer: integrity, confidence, humility, self-control, patience, fortitude, and empathy. What school can teach these things? I hope the following quotes will inspire the men and women who now wear the officer’s stripe and insignia and the cadets striving to join their ranks.
The vast maritime landscape never lacks for the self-conceited and the arrogant. I have met many such characters, too many in fact — cocky young ship officers, hoity-toity manning agents, overbearing union officials, self-important maritime journalists, and smug maritime academics. They all tend to have a bloated sense of their importance and abilities. My encounters with them prompt me to share the following excellent quotes about pride and humility.
SELF-CONFIDENCE. That is something not taught in maritime academies. Nor is there mention of it in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Isn’t this odd? How can there be competency if one does not have faith in oneself and his or her ability to do things well?
To be brutally frank, most men have a constant need to validate themselves. They do so in a myriad of ways. Some may go into bodybuilding; engage in numerous casual sex affairs; or speak and act arrogantly. Others express their manliness in more subtle ways, such as driving around town in an expensive SUV or displaying their awards and trophies in their offices for visitors to admire..
It’s a kind of psychological weakness from which many a seafarer is not exempt. Indeed, the obsession with manliness is common in the still-male-dominated world of shipping. The following are some memorable quotes about this male phenomenon.
All mariners, presumably, love their mothers. What kind of man does not? Even when one gets older, marries and has his own family, the emotional bond remains. Fond memories linger even after one’s mother has passed away. In a sense, the umbilical cord is never really cut. The following quotes are some of the most powerful on the subject of mothers and their capacity for making sacrifices and for loving selflessly and unconditionally.
Who can truly know what a seafarer’s life is like? Surely, none but a person who has spent some time at sea and worked his ass off on board a ship. But thanks to nautical writers, the curious landlubber can have an insight into that life and perhaps feel a bit of empathy with seafarers.
The following are excerpts from some of these writers. Although they describe conditions faced by sailors in earlier times, the quoted passages should resonate with present-day readers. The truth is that the sea is still a dangerous place, and life is still hard for many mariners — notwithstanding all the noise about their rights as workers and as human beings.
My dream project has always been to write a new code of conduct for seafarers — a credo that would lay down for them a path to self-realisation and a way of life, something similar to the Bushido of the samurai warriors. I am slowly working on it. This undertaking will take some time to finish. Meanwhile, let me share some words of wisdom from Confucius. Although the latter lived more than 2,000 years ago, his teachings should resonate with today’s ship officers and other merchant marine professionals.
What commodity could be more precious than time? A person can amass wealth if he is smart enough like Microsoft kingpin Bill Gates or Chinese billionaire Jack Ma of the Alibaba Group. But who can accumulate time? There is only so much of it allotted to every human being. Ironically, many fritter away their time posting selfies on social media, watching inane TV shows, or engaging in pointless political debate. I trust that the following quotes, together with some artworks, will serve as food for thought about the value and nature of time and about life itself.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote in his pamphlet of essays, ‘Crisis’. He was referring to the American Revolution and the harsh winter of 1776. His statement, however, could apply as well to the time of the coronavirus — indeed, to any time when a person has to wrestle with an extraordinarily difficult or unpleasant situation. I hope the following quotes will provide some inspiration to my readers, especially those who toil at sea and take risks others don’t have to face.
Proverbs may sound banal and old hat to some people. But these short, pithy sayings which have been handed down from generation to generation have much wisdom in them. They are like small fruits from mankind’s living tree of knowledge. The following are some such proverbs which seem quite suitable for certain players on the maritime stage.
As a maritime writer, I must confess that I have, more than once, suffered from self-doubt and a gnawing sense of futility. What does it matter if I write about the rights of seafarers or not? Or about marine art and culture? Will it make a bloody difference? The questions sometimes come like arrows to pierce the soul. Yet, I have managed to continue writing (Marine Café Blog will mark its 11th anniversary this August). I draw courage and inspiration from what famous writers have said about the pain and joy of writing.
Most men and women who work at sea, I suppose, eventually get used to being away from home. But sometimes the loneliness can be excruciating as in the case of seafarers who have been stranded amid the coronavirus pandemic. In such dire situations, it is the thought of being reunited with one’s family that can serve as a fountain of hope.
The following quotes deal with the family as an institution and with married life and parenting. I trust that these words of wisdom will inspire sea workers and help them to better appreciate the value of family ties.