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.


After watching 3 films this afternoon/evening, I have to wonder occasionally if I have “socially” wasted my life to date. I mean it’s only now really, where I would say I am making proper friends.

The 3 films I watched were Human Traffic, The Inbetweeners & Kevin And Perry Go Large.

I’ve never been on a “Lads on Tour” holiday, I’ve never really had a group of friends that close where I would consider going on holiday with them. (I do have a few now but not loads), I’m aware that Human Traffic isn’t exactly a holiday film, but it’s the message it carries.

I mean yes working on cruise ships was basically a lads on tour for 5-6 years, but it’s different when you are working, I mean yes I drank and fornicated by way round the world on the ship, and you had a group of lads all the same rough age who main interest and social past time when off watch was drinking and fornicating. But it was all done to schedule and between set times. No matter what I did the night before, I always had to be up for work the next day, or more often or not the same day, in a few hours. It wasn’t like a holiday. Even now when I’m on leave I generally wake up for the 1st time at 0715-0730 for the first 2-3 weeks. Even after a night out.

I’ve now also reached the age (at least my body feels like it) where a few pints of real ale having a laugh in the pub because you can hear everyone more or less is more appealing than going and spending over a fiver for a piss poor measure of rum and coke, listening to someone drunkenly yell and spittle into my ear, then feel socially uncomfortable as everyone else boxes off and I scramble for a taxi trying to avoid the drunken tosser looking for a fight with the large quiet person getting into a taxi relatively sober compared to the rest. I’m beyond that.

Its been a good while since I went “clubbing” (a good 24 months I would think). I’m beyond it. Totally. I think. I dunno, it’s a hard one to call at times. Penzance doesn’t exactly blossom with excellent nights out.

But I wondered whilst I was watching these films, why, why have I ended up like this? I mean yes quite obviously I put work 1st, anyone whose met me would say I unequivocally put work first, but this is because I’ve nothing else to put before it. But why didn’t I when I was younger make an effort to go on holidays and stuff?

I first went to sea when I was 17, I had my 18th, (Off South America) 19th, (In Pacific Somewhere) 20th, (Mediterranean) 21st, (Mediterranean) 22nd, (Caribbean) 23rd, (Transatlantic) 24th, (Caribbean) 25th , (Caribbean) and 27th (Aberdeen Docks) Birthdays all on board a ship at work. My 28th will probably be on-board as well.

So I’ve never really had an excuse to organise a big blow out holiday as I’ve always been at work. My 26th was at home, I presume, it wasn’t on a ship.

So occasionally when I watch films like this I feel this void, I feel this emptiness that I don’t have these stories of Ibiza or Malaga or one of those places ending in “a” which seem to be the places to be and say you’ve been.

Don’t get me wrong I have had more nights out and parties and heavy sessions than most people have in a life time, but they were all to a set schedule and routine. On cruise ships, if you not getting drunk in the Wardroom, then you get dunk in the crew bar (considered a night out) or a crew party (BIG night out) but it was always the same people, drinks, routines, nothing special, nothing that films are made of, well unless you count “Behind closed doors” Documentary a film. Hell if C4 decided to do a documentary on my times on cruise ships it would only be do able late at night, with a warning before hand. But I digress.

Yes I suppose I have sacrificed a social life for my job, my career. I replaced my social life, for a way of life. Yes I do regret it slightly, but then I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’ve always, maybe selfishly, put the job first, I’ve had to, haven’t I? If you haven’t anything outside of work really, why not launch yourself fully and passionately into work? It doesn’t hurt anyone.

I wish I’d had the chance to do lads on tour. I wish I’d had the close knit bunch of lads.

But these days I’m getting those friendships, OK so they aren’t “lads on tours” relationships, (mainly because I am friends with girls as well), but they are friendship I hope that make me see the benefits of coming home. Friends I get to spend good times with, not necessarily just hard drinking nights with, because, if I’m honest, that’s what my old friends are really. But I’m making new friendships, making friendships with people who I actually don’t feel like I need to prove myself to them. People I feel genuinely close to, and always pleased to see, and I have a sneaky feeling may miss me occasionally.

So, lads on tour, maybe it’s not be all it’s cracked up to after all, but friends for the journey mean so much more.




My mother found this and sent it to me


Sometimes when the bands are playing
And the uniforms march by,
You will see a seaman watching
With a wistful looking eye.
And you know just what he’s thinking
As he hears the cheering crowd
As the soldiers and the sailors
Swing along, erect and proud.
He is thinking that his country
Saves its honours once again,
For the uniforms, forgetting
All the seas forgotten men
He is thinking of the armies
And the food, and fighting tanks,
That for every safe arrival,
To seamen owe their thanks.
He is thinking of his buddies
Who have paid the final score,
Not in khaki or in navy,
But the working clothes they wore;
And we’d like to tell him something
That we think he may not know,
A reminder he can stow away
Wherever he may go.
All your countrymen are proud of you
And though there’s no brass band,
Not a bugle or a banner
When Merchant Seamen land,
We know the job you are doing,
In your worn out working clothes
On the seas where death is lurking,
And a fellow’s courage shows.
So be sure to keep your chin up
When the uniforms parade.
What a man wears doesn’t matter,
It’s the stuff of which he’s made.
Author Unknown


I was not born ‘till 41-I wasn’t at the fore, but later on I sailed with men-they told me what they saw.
There never was a ‘phoney war’ for the merchant-men at sea. Especially in the early years-with two men lost from three.
Sitting ducks for E-boats and explosives in ‘bomb alley’. An easy moving target, from engine room to galley.
They were blown from burning ships-torpedoed by the Hun. Or victims of atrocity-shot by a Nippon gun.
Plenty perished in lifeboats, many gave the sharks a feast. Still pretty much defenceless, the ships rolled West and East.
They sailed North in Russian convoys-braved the ice and foe. Lived in hell conditions-and pitching, blind in snow.
Some sailed independent-they steamed South on their own. Perchance to meet the U-boat-lurking ‘neath the foam.
Many thousand seamen died-risking life at sea. It was the brave survivor who told me their history.
The lethal mines would sink them, or the tinfish named by some. Or possibly a Junkers on a mortal bombing run.
Crews foundered in the ocean-black or freezing cold. With mangled steel beneath them and pig-iron in the hold.
But if they shunned the enemy, and escaped the heaving slaughter, well they just signed on again, and went back to the water.
To the lads that never made it home-to all the men that died, wouldn’t it be apt to say “They never made the tide”?
Over forty years I’ve toiled at sea- aboard all types of craft. But I doff my cap to those young souls that went and joined a raft.
I’m mighty proud to march for them, on the 11th of November. For this very special breed of men that I for one remember.
I haven’t any medals-but I wear my badge with pride.
As the bugle sounds the ‘last post’ for the men who missed the tide.

Joe Earl

Music Ownership Pt2

OK so a while ago I did a blog on music ownership and its ties to your life It was only a brief pre-amble before I launched into the top 5 most memorable/most owned songs of mine.

Anyway I thought I’d develop it a bit more.

Dick Dale once seaid that “Music is the soundtrack to our life” This is a stupid thing to say,what else is going to be a soundtrack? But I get the meaning behind it.

How often have you heard a song and its brought back a memory that, despite how hard you try, results in a gormless grin across your face as you remember the time you thought it would be a good idea to do 40 shots of Southern Comfort in one cocktail party to break fleet record (Walkie talkie Man – Steriogram) or the time when you got cruelly dumped just before you left for a new job (several years ago Linkln Park – In The End).

Its amazing how songs can bring out memories we thought we had hidden deep in the back of our minds. You cant remember why you walked into the kitchen, & all that changed was the colour of the walls, however 10 years pass and you hear “The Troggs – Wild Thing” and you suddenly remember the smell of the perfume of the girl and the time you and 15 of your best mates serenaded her with that song.

Music holds a lot more memories about the past than a lot of us realise. And it doesn’t have to be about the first time you heard the song. I 1st heard Dropkick Murphys – Bar-room Hero at college when I was 18 but it will forever be the song of the time and nights and early mornings I spent partying hard in the Wardroom on the Queen Mary 2.

Certain songs we can’t listen to without a twinge of sadness or bad times come flooding back to us. I can’t listen to Johnny Cash – I Hung My Head without a massive wave of shittyness washing over me. But I listen to it at least 5 times on the 14th Of September every year. We shouldn’t avoid these songs permanently. These songs are as much a part of out life as the memory they help resurface. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be associated with those memories.

We can’t help choose the memories that go with the songs. The same way we can’t help which memories we save for the long term.

All we can do is enjoy the songs that remind us of them. And pray that it isn’t a Daphne and Celeste song that reminds us of certain happy memories (Like one of mine is).

Cheers and ta


Some songs you hear and are emotionally owned by other people. As soon as you hear them they remind you of the, and no matter how many years ago it happened, that song is inscrutably tied to them for posterity.

Through the nature of my work a lot of people come in and out of my life, I spend more time living with a bunch of strangers than I do with my family. Working on ships usually means you end up spending more time with your ships crew in a year than you do with your actual family. Some of these people I come into contact with do get attached to songs I’ve heard. Whether it’s because of a brilliant night out I had with them and it was because I was in a relationship with one of them or what ever.

So here are my top 5, most memorable songs that are tied in with ex crew members / people Ive met at sea

#5 – Dropkick Murphy’s – Bar-room Hero – This actually reminds me of my time working on the QM2. I was a bar-room here (well Wardroom hero as that’s what the officers bar is called). I was out drinking to the extreme every night and if truth be told drinking myself slowly out of reality. I had a great time, but I was turning into the character the song is sung about. One of the reasons why I had to leave that particular chapter of my sea career behind me.

#4 – Beyoncè – Halo – Sangeeta Nagar. I’m not going deep into what happened or why or who did what to who. I have lots of very nice,happy,emotional, proper life improving memories courtesy of that girl and this song. Sorry girls but this song will forever be hers.

#3 – Eminem Feat. Rihanna – Love The Way You Lie – Stephen Moody. In a totally none gay way this song reminds me of him. He was my best mate on one ship I worked on, and still meet up with him when I can, but over the Christmas trip this song must have been played at least 10 times a day when we were in the TV room, and every time we went up the road, this song seemed to follow us around. I just had a really good time taking the piss, having beers and time up the road being the lads. It was great.

#2 – Beastie Boys – Sabotage – Tristan – This guy is probably one of my closest friends and I can tell him anything, I first met him when I was a cadet, we both started in the the same year, and he lives near me at home. My every lasting memory of Tristan will be sitting in his room at halls after watching England play rugby on the TV in the 6 nations of 2002, drinking Strongbow through a sieve because we wanted draught cider. He wearing his officers hat as appropriate headgear, me a deerstalker. It was a hell of a night this was the song on in the background, as the warden came in as we were half way through this master plan, took one step in stared, shook his head, and said “Well lads I see England won” and walked out.

#1 –The Waterboys – This is The Sea – The number one spot almost went to The Beautiful South – The Lure Of The Sea, to be honest but this song just has more memories attached to it. This song reminds me of everyone and everything I’ve ever seen or done at sea. My entire working career has been about the call of the sea. I found it hard at 1st but once you let the sea in its bloody hard to let it out. There’s guys at sea who think of it as just a job and others of us who see it as more than that, more as calling. I’m one of those, sure I could do a job similar to this ashore, in a power station or water pumping station or in a shipyard even, but it wouldn’t be the same. I enjoy the freedom it gives me, the ability it gives me to leave everything behind me at home and escape. I’m my own man out here, and have none of the stress and strains I have at home. I can disconnect from life and cocoon myself into this world of mine. My favourite verse from the whole song is this

“ Now I can see you wavering
As you try to decide
You’ve got a war in your head
And it’s tearing you up inside
You’re trying to make sense
Of something that you just can’t see
Trying to make sense now
And you know you once held the key
But that was the river
And this is the sea!”

and its true, at sea my thoughts are different from being at home, it all makes sense, everything. The good, mad and bad, in my life runs linear and is not mixed up. Its just that nice out here.

Its the sea.