Sons of the sea, bobbin’ up and down like this. Over the ocean, bobbin’ up and down like this...” This song reminds us of the late winter nights we spent singing around a campfire. But sailing for months together and leaving behind family isn’t all that easy. Only if you have a great passion to explore new places and new cultures, and you are fond of sailing, you can pursue this career. On National Maritime Day (April 5), we catch up with a few seafarers who share some mindblowing experiences about their adventures and also the bonding they share with the family on board.
Life At Sea
Apoorv Tripathi, marine assistant engineer, says, “Leaving the family behind is indeed sad, but when on board you have a welcoming family there as well, ready to fill into the shoes of the ones you’ve left behind.”
He further says that though they have a busy schedule on board there are moments when they get to experience the sights and sounds that only very few people get to enjoy. “Be it sunrise or sunset or migratory birds flying more than a quarter of the way around the world — the sights and sounds are amazing,” he says.
Recalling his Equator Crossing Ceremony, he says, “This is a big ceremony and involves a party.” For this occasion, he was dressed as a joker which was followed by a party.
He adds that with all the ups and downs that they go through while on board the time the voyage ends and they sign off, it is like leaving a family behind all over again.
While social media is creating misconceptions about people belonging to different communities, but on board it is a different story. No matter which country or religion a seafarer belongs to, they are all one big family. Prashant Mishra, a third assistant engineer, believes that sailing with just 18-23 crew members belonging to different communities and spending long months with them help create a close bond.
“We have a Burmese preparing food, a Croatian decorating the deck, an Indian dancing and a Filipino who is the karaoke in-charge,” says Mishra adding that it’s a melting pot.
This cultural diversity on board helps them to know and understand different languages and cultures, and brings them all together.
Missing a date
Exploring new places or making new friends is fine but how about missing a day from your life? Rebant Jacob, navigational officer, still remembers the first time he crossed a manmade wonder — the Panama canal, but what he can never forget is crossing the International Date Line. He says, “When I was at my navigational watch on December 14 in 2014 my chief officer asked me to look out for the International Date Line which lies in the middle of the Pacific ocean. I wondered what would happen when I crossed the dateline.”
The next day when he woke up he saw something rather unusual. “The date read December 16 and that is when I realised that December 15 was officially missing from my life,” he adds.
A day with refugees
Along with on board duty, you also have to be a good Samaritan. Fourth engineer Sumeet Gattani was anchored outside Libya, when he, along with his crew, had to rescue refugees. “We got a distress call to pick up migrants,” he recalls adding that there were hundreds of people crammed in a rubber boat. They got them on board. Initially, the crew thought that the people could be a threat to their lives, but later they understood the situation. “Majority of the people were from Somalia and they did not understand English so we had to communicate with them in sign language,” he recalls adding that they were on the rubber boat for over 24 hours waiting for help.
“The next day we received another distress call and by the time we reached the boat, it was half filled with water with two dead bodies floating around,” he says.
Creatures of the Sea
Whale watching is an absolute treat and Dhanchandra Shetty, navigational officer, had his special sighting during his visit to the South coast of Australia.
“The sea was calm and a soft breeze was blowing and I heard one crazy noise. Wondering what the unusual noise was I went on the bridge to see and I saw the most magnificent sight — three huge whales just a few meters away from the ship,” he says.
He says that he could not believe that he was this close to one of the world’s largest mammals in their full glory jumping in and out and spraying water. He believes that he was lucky enough to see something so incredible in such close proximity.