The Family

It is often asked, how can a man, or a woman work at sea when they have family at home? Well, today I will not go into the reasons this can happen. Look at me as only one example. I had a family quite literally out of the blue. When my wife told me she was pregnant with triplets money became the most important thing in either of our lives, far outweighing anything else.

We are doing an eastern european itinerary right now. Making stops in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and other places and this causes allot of excitement in our crew because many of them are from these places and it is giving them a chance to see their family. Their husbands, wives and children often come to the port we are in and visit them. In many cases, they come onboard at one port then follow the ship port to port until it is to far away to reach any longer. Stretching out the time they have to be together as long as they can.

In most cases these couples have been together for a long time. Old sailors and engineers whose wives have been waiting for them at home for most of their marriage, their children usually teenagers or young adults, often times married themselves bringing grandchildren to visit.

For the past week we have had many family visitors. I see them up in Horizons passing through while getting their ships tour when I go for morning coffee. I often get to meet meet the kids, and the wives or the husbands of these crew. I see the glowing pride in the crew members face, be it a young newly joined crewmember showing his parents around, or an older long time employee showing his teenagers or grandkids around, they are always bursting with pride. They are so happy to show the ones that love them what they do, and where they are and what their job is for all that time they are away from home.

But the question that always is asked is how can this can work? How is it that people can be apart so long and so often and still remain in love?

I have actually been wondering that myself these days. So I asked many of the family I met how they feel about it. I asked wives how they get by all the time without their husbands. They told me it was hard but that it was worth it, they needed the job and it paid for things that needed paying and the time the man was home was rewarding. It’s the answer I already knew.

I asked a man who stays home while the wife works the same question and he told me that she made more money working at sea than he did and so he stays at home in Croatia while she works at sea. He raises the kids. They are a young couple, so I asked him if he thought it would work forever and he said he hoped they wouldn’t have to do it forever, but they will make it work as long as they must.

I met the woman of one sailor who has been working on ships for 30 years. They have stayed together and raised three children, all of which are now married and they have 9 grandchildren! I asked her for advice. I told her about my family and how I am never home and I asked her what the secret to making it work is. She told me there was no secret, just that it took them allot of work. “I work as hard as him” she told me, “we have both worked hard and suffered separation but look at my family. We have a wonderful happy family that we cared for well” and she was right. They had taken the best option life gave them, as crappy as it was, and made the best of it.

I had to ask the nagging question though. I wanted to know if she loved him, after all these years of being apart. “Of course I love him. But after all these years I love him more when he is away than when he is home”. I thought she was making a joke and I laughed, but I felt immediately bad because she wasn't laughing. “What do you mean?” I asked her. “When he is away, I remember to easily that he did what he had to do, as I did what I had to do, for us. He gave up being with his children, he gave up being with me, he gave up having a home so that the kids and I could have all that. How could I not love him?”

You see many of the people who work on ships, they are single and young and having an adventure. But there are also many, many like me, who started out that way and then life took strange turns. I make more doing this than I have been able to make working on land. For the sake of my kids, I continue to work at sea.

You know I am not a sentimental guy, but because I recently had problems in my personal life this sailor's wife touched me deeply. The sailor is my new hero. He is a Bulgarian who I have only ever seen as one of our sailors onboard. But now I know he is the strength behind a family, and it worked. Not only did he work hard and give up allot, he made it work! That is amazing. He managed to keep them all together, and by the looks of it, they are not unhappy. I am sure it wasn’t easy. I am sure they had some hard times. But this man achieved something I consider miraculous. He has fulfilled a role in life that any man should be proud to fulfill. His wife raised a family alone with only her hopes and commitment to hold onto. These are wonderful people. I think next time I see him sitting in the corner of the crew bar ill buy him a drink.

So next time your on a cruise look closely at the crew. Almost all of them have a family at home they are working to support. They are all heroes. It’s a hard life to be away all the time when you don’t want to be, but the money is good. And as everyone knows, money is the one thing you can’t be without when you have kids.

P.S. recently someone left a message asking how to contact me... but they didn't leave ME an email address. So I don't know how to contact them? Anyway. leave me a way to reach you.
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HI. Thanks for leaving a comment! If you want to contact me you can email me at (sbmclean at gmail dot com). Cheers!