lol! 😉 Now a days the politically correct term is seafarer or mariner.
I was at the Seamans Center in Freeport on Tuesday. I stopped by there to drop off a pile of magazines, see who’s around and say hi. I do that whenever I’ve collected a bunch every month or 2. The sailors like to look at them even if they might not be able to read English very well.
I was surprised to see there were actually some seamen around. Usually when I go there’s nobody there but the local volunteers (most are old veterans who remember the role of the Merchant Marine in their wars).
Turns out there was a chemical tanker in port and a few of the crew actually had enough time to go ashore. That doesn’t happen very often any more. Most deep sea crews will stay aboard for 6, 9, 12, 18 months before their contract is up and they can go home. Most docks now are really far out of town, they don’t make it easy for the ships crews to leave the ship (sometimes they make it impossible), and so the crews are extremely isolated for months on end.
That’s why the seamans centers are so important and so appreciated by sailors around the world. It’s a place where we can get off the ship, get online, buy phone cards, call home, find a souvenir, send a postcard, etc. It’s a place for us to be comfortable and welcomed in a strange port. They know what we do and how we are. They’re not scared off by our tattoos, rough clothing or language. They have pool tables and comfortable chairs to relax in. Some have restaurants and bars (not this one). The Freeport Center has free coffee and cookies and plenty of magazines. 😉 They’ll even take the crews out to Walmart or the mall so they can go shopping.
I was happy to see that this particular ship had a couple of ladies on there and even a little boy. Lots of foreign companies still do allow the crew to bring their families along (like we used to). I’m sure it helps the families stay together and should help a lot with crew retention too. Of course, those countries don’t have the tradition of sueing everybody for every little thing either. 🙁
I’m always glad to go down there and visit. I volunteer when I have time. I love to meet the people from all over the world. For instance, this ships crew was from India. They were headed through the Panama Canal and then to Taiwan. The Seamans Center can always use more help! I’m always glad to see one when I get to a new port. I know I’m always welcome and have a place to call my ‘home away from home’.
Sailors are invisible to most people. We used to dock in the center of town and everyone was familiar with ships and sailors. Now, we’ve been pushed out of town, real estate is just too expensive. Now, we just do our work out at sea everyday, all over the world, and no one ever thinks of us or knows what we do. The only time we’re ever noticed is when there’s some kind of maritime disaster. Makes people think it’s terrible out there, the things we do. Actually, there are million of us sailing all day, every day, all over the world. Behind the scenes. Bringing all the things you need from one place to another. Ninety Percent of Everything. It’s a book. Worth a read!
In case you’re interested, I have a page for seamans centers on my blog. It’s a work in progress. If you want to look for one in your neck of the woods, it might be there already. If it’s not, would you mind sending me a link so I can add it to the page. Or if any of you know of any others, please send me the info so I can add them. Thanks! 🙂