Just Starting Out: Life of a Young Seafarer
Just the other day I was looking at the Log I kept as a young ‘middie’ with the Blue Funnel Line back in the early 1960s, contemplating my life as it was 50 years ago.
On New Year’s Day in 1963 I was on the mv Antenor, a general cargo liner berthing at Avonmouth in heavy snow. We had just returned from a trip to the Far East, having set out from Birkenhead on 18 September 1962. This trip down memory lane caused me to wonder what life might be like for a young cadet, deep sea in the Merchant Navy of today.
On the Antenor we had six midshipmen living in the ‘halfdeck’, all of us roughly the same age. We were well fed and watered and in that short voyage of three and a half months, had visited many ports including Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila, Labuan, Jesselton, Penang, Trincomalee and Genoa, with the journey due to finish back at Liverpool. In most of these ports we had time to go ashore and enjoy leisure time, learning something of the people and culture of the countries we visited. My Discharge Book was as good as a passport and we were made to feel very welcome in every port visited.
So how is it now for today’s young seafarer? I read regularly of many ports putting restrictions on seafarers’ shore leave which must negatively impact on the opportunity for seafarers to get a reasonable break from the constrictions of shipboard life. I also wonder if cadets still have the company of fellow cadets of the same age group or now sometimes sail as the only cadet onboard, meaning their shipmates are of a different age. From a distance I have an instinctive feeling that the carefree life I enjoyed as a young lad at sea simply doesn’t exist anymore; but I would like to hear from cadets of today, just how life at sea is in the early part of this 21st century.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR