Lifestyle Seafarer's Wife

Seafarer’s Wife: The Pros & Cons Of Sailing With Your Spouse

This is by far the most requested post and the most frequently asked question since I started sailing. I understand where the question comes from because to be honest, there isn’t a lot of information out there. I know this because I had the same question and I looked, and looked and found zilch before my first sailing.

Also, before I get into all the details, here is a quick disclaimer – I am not claiming that I am covering all aspects of this experience. Everyone has a different experience at sea and these are just based on mine and what I have learned by sailing with other supernumeraries. I have been sailing for the most part of almost 3 years now and this is just my personal opinion about being at sea as an officer’s wife. I am not bashing the profession, I am not being ungrateful or creating undue expectations, I am just being honest here.

Now that the little disclaimer is out of the way, lets start with the good things about sailing with your spouse first.

Here are the Pros

You get to make up for all the lost time

One of the biggest challenges that anyone with a family member in the merchant navy will tell you is how they just want to spend more time with them. Separation for months at a time definitely takes a toll on everyone, particularly when you are talking about spouses. Sailing with your spouse gives you the opportunity to make up for that lost time and for once, your spouse has a normal 9 to 5 job. You get to share meals, celebrate special occasions together and basically you get to see your better half every single day.

Travelling the World

I am so grateful for this part of the decision to go on sailing. Waking up in the middle of the ocean, having the best view in the world right outside your window, getting greeted by a double rainbow after it has poured, watching a pod of dolphins jumping near the hull or visiting this remote corner of a country where the locals have no idea what a tourist is are some of the things you experience while sailing. Its an adventure at every port, and obviously the fact that you get to experience it first hand and share it with your special someone, makes it all the more memorable.

First Hand Experience of The Life At Sea

No matter how many stories you hear or how many times your spouse explains what they do on-board, the kind of understanding you get of the challenging nature of this job when you are at sea is incomparable. It is very easy to loose sight of the challenges that come with the big bucks, the world travels and all the other perks of this job. It is a one of the hardest forms of occupation, harder on your spouse than you can ever imagine so having the opportunity to experience it helps you to support them better and be there for them in a more productive way.

Support System For Your Spouse

This was a pro that was voiced by every sailor I spoke to, who has sailed with their family. Like I said, it is a stressful job. There are no weekend and the rest hours are pretty basic so it ends up becoming a 24×7 thing for months at a stretch. I have seen my husband working 56 hours with just 5 hours of sleep in between, working outside in pouring rain, freezing cold and debilitating heat.

But then after a long day, having a support system to come back to is priceless. Other perks of sailing together includes your spouse not having to be stressed about getting in touch with you, or not being able to be there for special occasions or having someone to talk to. Other than that, you can always lend a helping hand to them whenever you can or just be there to give them a hug after a difficult day.

Now The Cons

Your Career Takes A Backseat

This was the biggest reason why I didn’t sail with my husband initially. I have always been an ambitious person so taking a break that would cause my career to take a hit was a big decision, honestly, the biggest decision of my life. Unless you are a freelancer with the flexibility to manage the jobs you take up, managing a full-time occupation with sailing is a challenge. My way around it was to take a sabbatical for my first sailing and then when I was totally sure that I liked being at sea and the life on-board, that is when I decided to take the break.

Sailing Can Be Lonely

Not everyday is adventure. You are not at ports everyday, you don’t see rainbows everyday and you most definitely might not have things to keep you busy on a daily basis. Your spouse is not on holiday, he or she is at work so they will not be with you the whole day, there is very minimum access to internet or to most form of entertainments so you have to get innovative to keep yourself occupied. You are away from your family and friends, you miss special occasions, important events, even saying goodbye to a loved one. The issue is that its easier said than done. I had to rediscover alot of my childhood passions, make peace with the fact that I am going to miss occasions and people but even then there were soo many days when I just wanted to go back home.

The Rules & Culture On-Board

This one is a bit personal. I am not someone who does great with rules and there are so many rules when you are on-board a vessel in the middle of nowhere carrying hazardous cargo. There are time slots for meals, dress codes, table etiquettes, rules about addressing the crew and so on and so forth. Since it is your spouse’s workplace, you obviously can’t take the rules for granted, avoid them and definitely not defy them.

The feminist in me squirmed every time I was told to behave a certain way as I was a supernumerary on-board and for someone like me, who has not grown up or worked in the “Sir or Madam” culture, getting used to all this was an adjustment. I understand the need for rules and discipline on-board but when you are almost 30, changing your everyday habits is not easy.

 

And that’s pretty much the crux of the good and the bad of being at sea as a supernumerary. I am a strong advocate of crew being able to sail with their families and I always urge fellow supernumeraries to go for it but make sure you are prepared for the things I covered in this post. I had my fair share of doubts regarding this lifestyle but I have grown to love my time on-board and it has become my home away from home.

Are you a seafarer’s wife? What are the pros & cons of sailing with your spouse according to you?

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