Seafarer's Wife

The Seafarer’s Wife: The Maiden Voyage

When I decided to marry a sailor, an officer of the merchant navy, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into considering I knew the guy for over a decade and had dated it him for the majority part of it. My husband joined the merchant navy straight out of school so I pretty much knew the nature of the job he had, even before I started dating him. Needless to say, the whole dating period was full of long distance relationships, months of waiting before we saw each other and loads and loads of emails.

I thought all this would become a little easier when we got married because we could spend all the time he was on-shore together but boy, oh! boy , I in for a surprise.  If dating a sailor was difficult, being married to one was no walk in the park either. The fact that we got so used to being together when he was on-shore made the time he was away all the more miserable. Birthdays, anniversaries and many more occasions that mattered had to be spent alone and the rosy picture of being married to a man in the uniform went right out of the window.

As a consultant with a hectic schedule and never ending deadlines, work kept me pretty occupied so I could not even think about taking a break for almost two years of our marriage and needless to say I had never been on board a ship. That however, changed this year.

The Paperwork

Joining a vessel for as a family member requires alot of paperwork. You need to make sure that you have all the required visa and approvals for the countries the vessel is visiting or might visit to avoid your trip being cut short prematurely. I initiated the process on my own since my husband was sailing at the time and got down to the nitty-gritty of an international sea voyage. After multiple visits to the company’s office and a zillion embassies, I finally had all the papers and visas I required to sail with my husband.

The Setbacks

The biggest thing you learn as a seafarer’s wife is uncertainty. Things change within a matter of hours and I am not just talking about the temperament of the sea. My visa was done, I was already making lists for stuff I needed to carry and had also managed to get my sabbatical approved from work to join my husband when I was told that the route of the ship had changed and it was now sailing through HRA or High Risk Areas and family carriage was not allowed.

This was August and I was pretty much left in a limbo because I had put my professional life on hold to join my husband on-board and now that was not happening. The same scenario repeated itself before I finally joined in November so word of advice to my fellow supernumeraries would be to do their best and prepare themselves mentally that all their planning could go for a toss pretty much till the last day.

If you are planning to sail with your  husband, you have to be prepared to put everything on hold not only when you are joining but around the time when you plan to return as well. Honestly, this was one of my biggest fears I had when I decide to sail with my husband but I was fortunate enough to be working with an organisation that was supportive of the situation I was in.

Life On board

I never understood my husband’s love for the sea till I woke up to my first sunrise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I was completely amazed by the sheer beauty I was surrounded with. Each wave that crashed into the edge of the vessel would create a colorful rainbow as the water was hit by dancing sunbeams. I have been at sea for a month now but I still find myself standing at bridge of the ships for hours with the wind blowing through my hair and the gentle spray of sea water on my face listening to nothing but the sound of the winds and the waves.

Words are not enough to describe the feeling I have everyday as I wake up surrounded by the vast seas and what a humbling experience it is. Every doubt that I had about my decision to experience life on-board was swept away by the currents of the ocean and all that is left is the joy of enjoying a life away from the mundaneness of the repetitive schedule on shore.

I was also left amazed looking at the camaraderie shared by colleagues on-board. Coming from an industry that is competitive and after working in environment where most friendships do not survive the pressure of moving up in the chain of hierarchies, a sort of pseudo family like dynamics was a pleasant change. I received a quite a warm welcome on board and was finally able to shed the cynical and competitive side that I usually have around a workplace. I guess the fact that most of the seafarers work and live under harsh conditions while spending months separated from their families help them to forget their inhibitions and bond with their fellow workers on-board. This has been another highlight of my experience on-board and I have been able to develop some really close relationships with quite a few fellow officers and crew members that I am definitely going to cherish my whole life.

Wanderlust

I have been on-board for little over a month now and so far I have already visited three countries. The best part of being on board is that you might not necessarily visit the usual touristy hubs of the countries and instead get an opportunity to discover smaller and more authentic parts of the country you are visiting. The experience you get of the local culture is so different from the  usual vacations and in my experience so far, seafarers are quite adept at getting around even in countries that barely speak English.

My inner traveler cries teas of joy every time our ship visits a new port and I am so thankful that I am able to discover corners of the world that I hadn’t imagine visiting in my wildest dreams.  If you are someone who is bitten by the traveler bug as well then I am pretty sure you are going to enjoy this nomadic lifestyle.

This is all about my experience so far and I decided to pen down my experience in a few parts for anyone who might find it helpful. Expect loads of travel posts in the next few weeks along with posts on things like tips that might come handy to any of my fellow supernumeraries out there.

Are you a seafarer’s wife?

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