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Selfishness – An Apology


I’m sorry.

Over the last few mo…..well let’s face it, over the last year I’ve been somewhat of a selfish pig I suspect.

To people who were kind enough to let me into their lives, stay at theirs, meet their family, & all the other stuff that comes with being close friends.

I find it difficult being a friend sometimes. I allow distractions & the job come between me & them.

I’ve been studying for my Chiefs, then away at work, then studying again. I actually haven’t had much of a leave in nearly a year now. The last 2.5 months I have had a weekend here & there off, but most days have been taken up with studying for my Chiefs Oral exam.

My mind hasn’t really had time for much else, I’ve spoken, actively spoken to about 8 people outside of my Family in the last 6 weeks. My entire being has been consumed with passing my Chiefs. I’ve had to be selfish to do this, whether it was a conscious or subconscious effort I’m not sure.

The leave before I had opportunity to see friends close to where I was studying & didn’t. Instead I tried making friendships away from college & put my heart & soul into passing my written exams.

I’ve grown distant from people I count as my dear friends.

I never meant it to happen, & I didn’t want it to.

Maybe I spend too much time alone, so I forget there are others out there, maybe I am inadvertently selfish all the time & I’m only just noticing it.

Maybe this is just a load of self indulgent bullshit.

I’m sorry if you’ve felt like I’ve ignored you, forgotten you, left you behind, or sidelined you. Because I haven’t. I’ve been trying my best to be something, be a somebody.

& I appreciate you all, & think of you often.

I’m sorry I’m not there, but I’m thankful you’re here.

Why, why like this?

On board I can cope with stress, no problem,

Split pipe? Isolate and change.

Fuel leak? Isolate and clean.

Blackout? Kick duty engineer, start stby generator, ask why emergency didn’t start, kick electrician

Sewage system down? Get angry that 4th can’t fix it, fix it myself, stress gone, kick 4th anyway.

I can deal with work stress, I have the answers, and if I don’t have the answers, the Chief will, and if he doesn’t well, I’ll wait until smoko and take the piss, and the stress dissipates, it might be because I am blissfully unaware of everything that is going on, or it might be because I have accepted that not matter how well you look after an engineroom and its equipment, if something wants to fail, throw its hand in, fall over, or generally make a mess of what is always the bit you’ve just cleaned, that’s fine, its done, dusted. The engineroom Ernie has done his deed and away you go to fix it.

But why can’t I cope with real life stress? And why do I let one bit of stress infect every part of my real life? Honestly, when I get stressed ashore, it’s like someone has dropped a bag of water, and it just goes everywhere. I am suddenly not the cold calculated git I am onboard. I no longer have the “ah cock it, that’ll do” attitude that I generally have.

I feel abandoned, insecure, dull, uninteresting, disconnected and generally like a weight round everyones neck.

I get stressed and worried about one thing and like trying to hold back leaks in a dam wall, you can only block so many,, and the one you can’t reach has all the leak through it. Well the last couple of weeks its been getting worse, dam gave way, stress coating everything.

And I don’t get it. Why. Why I do this? Why I focus on one part of my real life, and go into what seems like self destruct mode with it when I’m stressed. It’s not fair on me, and it’s not fair on others.

Is this my way of gaining control? Is this what happens? If by forcing something, feeling something other than the all consuming stress, my brain and body prefers that?

Because if that’s the case, it can fuck right off, I want to go back to being in control of myself again, and being a decent person, not this malingering needy cycle I have slipped into.

You’d think, my brain would help me out here, but no, he put me here, and he’s damned if he’s gonna help me back out.

The utter and total shit.

Now then chaps and chappesses.

For too long now I think I’ve taken to long term planning….everything.

I’ve always needed to know where things are going, how things should be, needed to know if it was worth it, whether there was any point to my current actions to warrant me doing something and carrying on for something. Living in the “now” was something other people did, other people who could obviously manage themselves better and were abel to have a good time, so I wanted and tried to plan like that.

To the point where enjoying myself went out the window quite frankly. I couldn’t relax in anything, without knowing, a full plan, a full sequence of events, whether the decision I was making now, would be worth it in the long run. (we aren’t talking red wire/blue wire stuff here by the way, I mean social, relationship, nights out, entertainment, non work type stuff)

Which is strange frankly, as when I’m at work, the unknown is what I deal with, and going ashore in the badlands of bizarre shithole ports is a speciality subject of mine, the aftermath of which is usually reserved for sharing with select company, over select drink, in hushed tones of revered reverence.

But I suspect – in fact know, that things have come to a head. I’ve let this overwhelming concern for my longterm future in minuscule aspects of my life, ruin, sometimes, parts that really should have been fun and stuff.

So now……now stuff has happened – which through spending near enough all my life on twitter for the last 4.5 years, I have learnt is none of your concern, I need secrets, I need a private life, regardless of what it is about – something has happened that’s made me realise, living for now, taking something at face value, and just enjoying the moment, is good, damn it it’s even healthy.

I get caught up in the details, caught up in wondering if a badly pronounced word is enough to ruin an entire night. If cough in the middle of someones conversation will give off the impression I am not interested.

I need to, want to, and finally am I think, becoming someone who can enjoy himself in a moment in time. Without looking for cause for concern. Without being so worried about the future, that the future is killed off.

Because that’s just suicide of the soul, just one tiny slice at a time.


I’ve been using the term “College is not an environment I thrive in” quite a bit recently.

It’s true, even though all we are doing is talking about the job, OK in some deep detail, but still, it’s ALL job. It’s not an environment I like or feel comfortable in, I’ve struggled through every day of academic life I ever found myself placed in.

I’m still surprised I have a Class 2 Certificate of Competency, with full Chief Exemptions. I am not the worlds most intelligent guy. I struggle with 95% of the things I do. It physically hurts for me to write for more than 25 minutes. I have the ability to recall injection pressures of fuel injectors I set up 10 years, but ask me to draw the circuit diagram of an AVR I practised half an hour ago? Then its a whole new kettle of fish.

However in all honesty, I am in the happiest place work-wise, I have been for years. I’m at the rank I’ve wanted for just over 12 years now, I’m working on engines people don’t believe the size of, which I strangely like. The size of the job still impresses me, the fact I physically climb into engines for a living.  


(AJ in a cylinder of main engine from Maersk Chennai)


As much as I do want my Chiefs Ticket, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me if I didn’t get it. Being Chief involves mainly paperwork, getting dangerously stressed, and not that much dirty hands. I enjoy being hands on, I enjoy being the go to man onboard for issues, I enjoy being a bit of a dick downstairs and being in charge. I am a Second Engineer and there is no getting away from that, I’m just not sure if being a Chief is for me at present.


I think being a Second with A Chief Engineer ticket is good, and really how it should be, however, if I fail to achieve it this time I’m not going to be that gutted. It’s not like failing my 2nds, I’m already a 2nd, I’m already where I want to be.


To be honest also, since going 2nd a lot of stuff has ironed it self out mentally for me. I am in a better place in my head, still having wobbles, but this a) just one of those things, b) is also partly due to being at college I suspect. Which brings us back to why it’s an environment I don’t thrive in.


I’m better when I’m doing, rather than when I’m being told. I’m quite an animated person at work, I swear, take the piss, liable to throw something, usually a shifter when I’m annoyed, tell people in no uncertain terms when I’m right and they are wrong. I am comfortable with how I work and how things work onboard. I am confident in my work, and confident in making sure other’s work, and woe betide the engineer who regularly falls below my slackest efforts.


On board, I’m “The Man”. I’m the engine room character, I’m the source of tales of nights ashore and drinking onboard. I can relied upon to belittle someone humorously, find suitable jobs for suitably abled people. I have control over a close knit bunch of lads, I enjoy it and relish it. I almost look forward to it every day. 


But back at college, I’m back to being a nobody. Back to trying to make my voice heard amongst many others. Back to being just another face that ultimately doesn’t really matter. I suddenly have mental blocks on how to describe kit from the ship I’ve just come off of. I suddenly find myself unable to recall even basic knowledge that I know in myself I intuitively know.


It’s a bind to say the least, and it depresses me. Greatly. I’m good at my job, I’m not going to lie. It sounds arrogant, but I am, and I believe you need a certain amount of arrogance in this job to have the confidence in your actions, as an engineer, to know that what you are going to do is the right actions.


And college does not encourage that. I feel like a fish out of water there. I try my best, I think I’m doing enough work, without overwhelming myself, which is very easy to do.


I’d like my Chiefs, really I would, but its not the end of the world, thats for sure.




The other day I organised a “Crossing The Line” ceremony for the cadets onboard. A celebration for crossing the equator, the transition from Pollywog to Shellback.

From my experience in recent years it has dropped off in it’s usage. Nobody really makes an effort or cares anymore. It’s a shame, because as proved this week, it’s a great crew morale builder. Especially when usually if you are on a run between ports that includes an Equator crossing it will generally involve a considerable amount of time in open water – this time for us it has been 26 days between ports.

Obviously it’s not quite the same without beer now that dry ships are becoming more & more prevalent, but you can still have a good time with it. Mine was a beer fuelled, fish stinking, paint & foodwaste extravaganza.

You can still cover the Pollywogs in food, a bit of sludge, make the hair sacrifice, throw them in the swimming pool, feed them their suspect food & drink, let them kiss the fish then kneel before Neptune & kiss his ring. Before joining the fraternity that is the Shellbacks.

It sounds bad I know, but there is no malice, & we’ve all done it & been there, I was covered in paint & food waste (A whole liver was produced from somewhere!). It probably Could be counted as hazing, but as with all things, there’s hazing and there’s hazing. Know boundaries, respect people & always use the threat of doing things much worse than you actually do. I used flour, eggs, water, bit of sludge on the face, swimming pool, the drink was mainly fish sauce with vinegar & Tabasco (about 2 thimbles of the mix to drink) & food, prawn paste onions & ginger. All smells worse than it tastes.

Afterwards all the cadets came & told me how much fun they had & how it was great & now they felt like they were part of the club.

No malice is the key ingredient. As soon as one person stops having fun, it stops being fun for all. Creative controlled carnage.

Also in this day & age where less & less Bris are deep sea & more & more are just in the Offshore Industry or Ferries, crossing the line for a young British seafarer is a rare thing. I plan to keep it going as long as I can for cadets I sail with.

It helps crew morale
It helps break the trip up
It gives this childish 2nd engineer an excuse to do silly stuff & dress up.

So please don’t stop us having fun at sea, the Crossing of The Line is an important ritual of the Deep Sea, sea passage. Just let us be, just let us have our fun. For once.


2nd Engineer
Sheriff of the High Seas


A Little Clarification

I think a little clarification is required as to what “The Merchant Navy” is.

A lot of people seem to think I am in some way part of the Armed Forces.

I’m not. I’m a civilian. I am in no way a Member Of Her Majesties Armed Forces.

Just because it has the word “Navy” in, it does not mean I am part of the Grey Funnel Brigade.

People think because I’m Merchant Navy I’m a Matelot, & I have an exhaustive knowledge of all RN ships from the Falklands forwards. It’s like saying, “You work for Ford Transit Vans? oh right, so you know the history of Alfa Romeo & Mario who worked briefly for them 25 years ago on a production line” 2 completely different things.

Yes I have a uniform that is extremely similar to the RN one. Yes I go to stupidly dangerous ports & seas, yes I work in what are technically classed war zones & yes I work away for months at a time.

But make no mistake.

I am NOT Royal Navy. It even states in my Profile. I’m Merchant Navy.

We are Container ships, oil tankers, bulk cargo, car carriers, ferries, Cruise ships, ocean liners, drill ships, FSPOs, PSVs, Tugs, AHTS, drill barges, MPVs, Barges, heavy lift, dredgers, the list goes on and on

& also fishing boats

& super yachts (apparently)

You will notice there that none of those ships, as a rule, are armed.

So next time you see “Merchant Navy” don’t automatically think “Royal Navy” as we aren’t.

At all.



Get Them Whilst You Can

So, following a brief exchange of tweets the other morning, the old age question came up about how to make life at sea more attractive to young people.

I’m not talking about the Royal Navy, as I’m sure most young people are aware of the Grey Funnel Line.

I’m talking about my type of going to sea, the Merchant Navy. The type that many of you wouldn’t have heard about if it wasn’t for me forcing it down your throats every other sentence, about what I do.

If it was me I wouldn’t get 80 year old ex seafarers who have been retired for for the last 20 years talking to them about how great life at sea is, & how you spend your life with your back teeth awash, a girl in every port & a week in every port, as it’s lies nowadays.

Don’t tell them you’ll get to see the world, as if you end up on a deep sea ship you’d more than likely end up seeing various container ports from around the world. Or if you are on a tanker, odds are a lump of concrete miles out to sea & load oil from there.

Concentrate on what in reality they, as cadets will get, ONCE THEY ARE QUALIFIED.

You’ll get a tax free income if you work deep sea or overseas, you’ll have at least a 4 months on 2 months off leave ratio, more commonly a 3:2 ratio, increasing to possible 1:1 as a senior officer (or damn near it).

If you work in the offshore industry don’t bank on getting a tax free income.

You will meet fantastic characters, you’ll see some amazing sites (maybe not Panama ashore at night *shudders*).

You will turn into a geek of the job, you’ll be swinging the lamp, & pulling pistons when home.

You’ll change nearly everything about you, from how you speak & walk, to how you organise your room & life.

You’ll grow up, you’ll learn a trade, you’ll do something with your life, you’ll do something others have no idea about, you’ll do something different & almost magic.

You will occasionally get a chance to be lost & drunk in a ridiculously foreign country, which, quite honestly is fantastic.

Most importantly

You’ll be a seafarer.

You’ll be one of us.

And may God help you.



Someone recently Googled “Merchant Navy Cadet First Trip Homesick”.

Not sure my blog was really much help on that subject so I shall try to adjust this balance now.

Feeling homesick is perfectly normal – especially on a 1st trip. Even more so if you are only young. It’s perfectly possible to be a cadet, on your own, on a ship with no one else who speaks English, aged 16.

You won’t be alone in feeling homesick, most people have at some point been homesick, especially at the start, where you are out of your depth, you are in a (usually quite literally) foreign environment.

To be honest if you are only 16/17/18 & this is the first time you’ve been away from home, & you didn’t at least miss it a little bit I’d be concerned.

The best advise I can give you is this though. Don’t disappear into yourself when you are feeling homesick, not when you are a cadet anyway. You still don’t really know how to deal with it. Most of us old sea dogs have ways with dealing with it if we still suffer from it, but we’ve built up our techniques. Go out on the ship, be social, the last thing that will get you out of feeling shitty is locking yourself in your cabin staring at 4 bulkheads of mottled beige.

Have a quick scoot round the accommodation – see whose doors are open, see if the 3rd or 4th engineer fancies a chat, or if you feel like lowering your IQ a few points try & spark up a conversation with one of the mates (joke, I’ve been told there are some intelligent ones out there), but I’d try to speak to the Junior officers, we don’t bite…hard, & generally are willing to chat shit, it’s not like we have an important date to go on.

On cruise ships get yourself down the bar, you don’t have to get blasted, but theres always someone willing to get a few rounds in with you I’m sure. Ships are social places on the whole, despite more & more of them becoming dry, we do all generally like a good banter session. Even if it takes your mind off it for a bit, it’s better than nothing.

But believe me, you won’t be the first person to feel homesick on a ship, & you won’t be the last. Certainly don’t quit because you are homesick, homesickness passes, once you have your ticket and if you are still getting homesick, you can find a job that is shorter trips, or closer to home. There’s options, but don’t give up because you miss home. I mean after all – you were planning of moving away from home at one point I presume?

Also one last thing, when you are at college, don’t go home every weekend, or every opportunity, the faster you get used to not being home the easier it is at sea, & also with a lot of ships these days you will have free access to email, or at least cheap access, also phone calls are a lot cheaper as well (When I was 1st at sea it was £5/minute), so you won’t be out of contact for long & it won’t cost the earth.

Hope it helps

Stay Safe


A Pact With ME

I made a small deal with myself (which I imagine most people do) at New Years that I would actually start doing something with my life (time off the ship). I lead a pretty dull life when off the ship.

This deal was part of the reason why I quit my last job & started this new one. I wanted more time off to do stuff, more time off to meet people. In my last job, I was constantly watching the days go past, watching the time get closer & closer to going back to work. I never had a chance to relax properly.

Stuff I want to get done this year to improve my life is…

Stop moping about – I have excellent form in moping about past events. Not the major ones, but the little inter-relationship hiccups and faux pas. These are the ones that I generally Mope about and keep me up at night.

Meet more people/spend more time out of Cornwall – Look Cornwall is all well & good, but honestly – it’s an abandoned ignored corner of the country, nothing happens past Plymouth, & the further down the county you get the quieter & more isolated from the rest of the country you feel. Great for some, crap for me.

Go on a date – This is a little complex for me, I’ve never exactly been what you could call a dater. In fact dates wise officially – I’ve had 2 in my entire life. Possibly 3 (there’s a clerical error that might change the total) Now look I’m not complaining here I’m just stating facts. But it’s something I have a slight issue with, a) actually asking b) actually asking. But this year is all about grabbing the bull by the horns & trying to steer it to the end. So this is what I plan to do – after a fashion.

Save money – I’ve been qualified for 7 years now, & if I’m honest & a bit crass I don’t do that badly. Especially since courtesy of the nature of the job I am exempt from paying tax/can claim it back as long as I can prove some criteria. To be frank I’ve, literally, pissed majority of it up the wall. So this year I’ve made a concerted effort to save money & have been quite successful at it, as well as buying some luxury products, instead of just frittering it away. I have also been able to make some regular trips to London as well, where I hope to move to next year some time. (possibly just 2 more trips!)

Luxury products – Sort of follow on from the previous point, I have a tendency to buy lots of little things, then curse myself for not having money to buy something big I feel I need in my life, so I have been turning this around. Have stopped buying everything I have ever seen on eBay ever mainly. I have also given myself things to aim for to buy, yet still been saving. Oh the wonders of planning finances! It appears I can do it!

So this leave (I should be getting approx 2 months off) I am doing stuff. Fun stuff. Buying stuff, having a life stuff & most importantly to me, meeting people.

Weird how one small decision is enough to trigger all this.

I’ve a job I actually enjoy again now, & feel I am making progress, I’m happy again, & 2012 appears to be turning out all peachy & creamy.

But enough about me – how are you?

Cheers & Ta


Whenever I hear The Waterboys – This Is The Sea, after the 1st minute of just basking in its glory my mind goes into a mental sideshow of the fun times of my seagoing career.

I wish I’d taken more photos of it all,had more physical reminders but I didn’t so I don’t have them, but I still have the memories of it.

They are memories of pratting about ashore in far flung corners of the world
They are memories of pratting about in far flung corners of a ships bar
They are memories of laughing & joking with others & strangers
They are memories of fixing & mending for others
They are memories of smiling & laughing about the pratting about
They are memories of nearly falling off a tender after a particularly fun fact finding mission in Pussers Rum Factory
They are memories of making people laugh
They are memories of things that can never be taken off me
They are memories of working at sea
They are memories of things that have changed me
They are memories of things that have made me
They are memories of all that is me, & things yet to come.