So the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has declared the 18th of May as “International Day for Women in Maritime 2022”. Well and good. Women deserve all the support they can get in a male-dominated shipping world. The question, however, arises: where is the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the celebration of this event?
How many still send postcards by mail? People now use email and social media to send messages from near and far. Gone are the days when one would handwrite a greeting on a postcard, lick a stamp to paste onto it, and dispatch the card by mail to a friend or loved one. Come and have a nostalgic look at the lost age of postcards:
This is the first of Marine Café Blog’s new series of articles about women who have made an impact on society and maritime history. Their exemplary deeds, I trust, will serve to inspire women in the 21st century no matter their station in life. — BU
Ida Lewis (1842 – 1911) was a relatively small woman. According to some accounts, she was only five feet, two inches talll and weighed 115 lbs. But she was larger than life. During the years that she lived and worked at Lime Rock Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, she saved 18 people from drowning. She did not keep a record of her rescues, and the figure is thought to be as high as 25.
Mass layoffs by companies are not uncommon. But the axing of 800 British seafarer jobs on 17th March this year by P&O Ferries, a company owned by Dubai-based DP World, was something else. Because of the scale and suddenness of the move, it was akin to a massacre. And it was rightly met with anger and condemnation, inside and outside the UK.
The 1830s New Zealand whaling song ‘The Wellerman’ (full title: ‘Soon May the Wellerman Come’) has been interpreted by many artists. Obviously the most popular version is by Scottish singer Nathan Evans, whose upbeat rendition went viral on TikTok in late 2020. But a talented singer-musician from Canada, in my view, blows the rest of the pack out of the water.
There is something about sailboats that make them attractive to many people. Is it their graceful movement as they glide through the water? The beautiful shape of ther wind-driven sails? Or is it the sense of freedom that the sight of them evokes in the viewer? No matter, sailboats are a delight to the eye. Enjoy the following drawings as you would a cup of home-brewed coffee.
I was sceptical when the maritime charities launched their campaign against depression at sea. Why the sudden, passionate concern over the mental heath of seafarers ? None of the old salts I have known ever talked about feeling depressed. Indeed, they all seem to have enjoyed their life as mariners.
There is no shortage of maritime do-gooders in Manila: seafarer unions, maritime charities, party list groups advocating seafarers’ rights, shipping journalists, and even (don’t laugh now) manning agents. Though they seem well-intentioned, these bleeding hearts remind me of a 19th-century pen and chalk drawing (pictured above) by Dutch artist Johannes Tavenraat which depicts a horse with blinkers.
Women’s voyage to equality has been long and difficult. And it is not over yet. Even in the shipping world, where one hears a loud clamour for gender equality, women have a long way to go. Why, for instance, has there been no female elected to the post of secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)? Or why is it that no seafarers’ union has ever been led by a woman?
A fortnight ago, I featured in an article some fantastic paintings of fishermen at sea. I called these toilers of the sea “the invisible ones” to debunk the IMO-initiated myth of seafarers as being invisible to the rest of humanity. There is another group of workers who fall under the same category: lighthouse keepers.
The great French painter Henri Matisse was such a colourist that his works are bound to induce feelings of delight and happiness. Through his art, which is often both expressive and decorative, we find ourselves in touch once again with the child spirit in us.
But though Matisse handled colour with audacity, he went about it with conscious deliberation. Like a musical composer, he positioned each colour and each element in their proper places. The result was art that appeals to our desire for the two things that are sometimes denied to us in real life: freedom and harmony.
I have been known for calling a spade a spade in Marine Café Blog, for being so candid at times as to sound irreverent. This is not an enviable reputation in a conservative shipping world. But I wear it as a badge of honour, like a tattoo etched on the forearm of an old mariner.
Fishermen are the invisible ones (not the seafarers as the IMO and the maritime unions and charities falsely portray them). Hopefully, the following oil paintings will shine some light on the lives of fishermen, these toilers of the sea who deserve everyone’s gratitude.