A girl in every port. The expression sums up the popular image of the sailor: an inveterate womaniser and skirt-chaser. The reputation, I think, is not wholly undeserved. With their pockets filled with dollars, seafarers get to meet women in all shapes and colours around the world. The temptation to have a fling can be too great to resist.
Some maritime Casanovas never change. They go on with their merry ways long after they have grown older and quit sailing. On the other hand, there are seamen who may have sown their wild oaths but eventually settled down and remained faithful to their wives. I have known both types. Many seafarers, I am sure, can identify themselves with the following artworks:
How many out of every 10 Filipino ship officers would do whatever they are told by their foreign captain? I once posed this question to a former chairman of the state marine licensing board in Manila, himself a licensed master mariner. Without hesitating in the least, he answered: “Eight out of 10.”
“That which is not slightly distorted,” wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire, “lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity — that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”
The following works of marine art grab one’s attention precisely because they contain, in varying degrees, the distortion and irregularity that Baudelaire spoke of. They are not an imitation of reality. They are mirrors created by the artist to reflect that reality as much as their own inner thoughts and feelings.
In June of 2018 Marine Café Blog exposed the rampant practice in Manila of shortchanging seafarers in the conversion of their dollar remittances to pesos. Uncrupulous manning agents are still at it in 2020. All told, they rake in millions annually without getting even a slap on the wrist for their financial mischief. Why this deplorable state of affairs continues is not hard to understand: the system facilitates the stealing.
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg was Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. Given the amount of bashing the 17-year-old has had to put up with from adults, she deserves another title: Punching Bag of the Year. Greta has been called more names than Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un combined — or Hitler and Stalin, for that matter.
Generally speaking, people tend be more impressed by things that are large than by similar things of smaller scale. Thus, a mansion is likely to draw more attention and plaudits than a bungalow; a limousine more than a compact car; and a cruise ship more than a catamaran. Yet, size does not — or should not — matter when it comes to art.
To all the readers of Marine Café Blog, a peaceful New Year. May the following quotes provide you with some inspiration as you navigate through the waters of 2020.
In 2019 the shipping industry almost went crazy over wellness training and the issue of seafarer mental health. The noise from the charities was so loud that it seemed like depression at sea was some kind of an epidemic worse than the Ebola plague. It did not help that the conformist maritime press amplified their frantic messages and slogans. Marine Café Blog refused to be suck in by all that frenzy.
The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously wrote: “Who is the wisest man? He who neither knows or wishes for anything else than what happens.” Maybe so, but what is a new year or life itself without wishes?
The curse of climate change is upon the land. Sometimes I dream of snow falling on boats and harbours and all along the coast — a shelter from the torturous heat of the tropics, a wonderland like those depicted in the following artworks.
The end of 2019 is more than a fortnight away. But as the old saying goes, time and tide wait for no man. So I thought I would try to get ahead of the sweeping tide (impossible as that may seem) and share some quotations about time. I trust that these will serve as food for thought and a source of inspiration for all ye readers of Marine Café Blog.
Frankly speaking, I am amused at how much attention the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” has been receiving of late in the US political scene. The expression can be traced back to the 16th century. It literally means “something for something”. In some cases, those who engage in quid pro quo could cross a legal red line as when a boss promises an employee a pay raise in exchange for sex. But what person — or nation — has not been guilty of the practice at one time or another?
No applause for them from the shipping press. Nor glowing tributes at fancy awards dinners. Yet, maritime pilots quietly perform work that is nothing short of heroic.