Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter At Sea (Rougher Than You Think!)


                 Here Be Monsters

Well it’s winter in the North Pacific Ocean and that means nasty weather. You know how when you’re watching the weather channel and they say the storm moved safely out to sea? Just remember that there are sailors out at sea in that storm. And guess what? ‘Safely out to sea’ for the landlubber means dangerously heavy weather imminent for the sailor. So let’s just think a safe thought for those caught in heavy weather at sea this winter.

      Actually a pretty nice day for those on the Ship

Robin sent me an email from her ship describing horrifying seas and high winds. I’ve been in some heavy weather myself and it makes my stomach churn thinking about being in those conditions.


Imagine not being able to sleep yet having to work anyway. In terms of watchstanding mates, they generally work 4 hours watchstanding on and 8 hours off. So you stand on the highest weatherproof deck of the ship(the Bridge) and monitor the ship’s progress to your destination. The bridge is the apex of the pendulum and so the motion is very exaggerated – when the ship rolls, the people on the bridge have the most motion. It can be so bad that you literally have to hold on to the rails and not move for fear of being flung across the bridge to violent and painful effect. Many have sustained broken bones in just such circumstances!


So you can barely stand. And you certainly can’t get any sleep because you’re constantly tossed out of your bunk. And all of your coworkers haven’t slept either. No one has any patience. Tempers are quick and short. A simple task of making coffee or filling out a logbook becomes extremely difficult. You begin to wonder what the hell you’re doing out here in this inhospitable environment? Oh right. People in Alaska need their plastic walmart toys for the holidays. Wait, that’s not too fair. They really do need their groceries too. But I really don’t want to die. And this ship is old. Can we really withstand this weather? Is it worth it? Sometimes I really think they aren’t paying me enough for this crap…..

And never forget the awesome power of nature at sea. There are no words to express how powerful the ocean is. Even when you see it and experience the ocean in it’s power you cannot comprehend how immense and devastating it can be.

    Why did they stow everything strewn about the deck?

Containers out on deck are stove in from the power of the waves. Many containers are lost overboard every year due to heavy weather. There are ways to avoid the worst of the storms in terms of navigating around them. But guess what? That adds time and distance to your voyage. And you’re on a schedule remember? The Captain is responsible for the safety of the crew, the ship, and then the cargo. There is quite a bit of pressure from the ‘bigwigs’ sitting safely in their climate-controlled offices urging the ship to remain on the schedule. So if you slow down due to heavy weather or try to sail around the storms the office yells at you for being late. I think every one of the ‘bigwigs’ should have to spend one winter voyage at sea to experience the danger and appreciate the conditions the sailors must endure to remain on schedule.


The KAUAI Bridge portholes blown out from a wave. Note the overhead was destroyed too!

So next time you casually walk into a store and nonchalantly grab a cheap plastic item off the shelf or even a fresh piece of fruit from some faraway land remember that some hard working sailor has endured possibly some horrifying seas and sleepless nights of hard work and determination to bring you these items.

      I just want to go home now

It is not thrilling and exciting to be at sea in this very rough weather. It is terrifying.
Enjoy your Christmas toys; thank your favorite sailor today!


  1. thanks for this post-it was informative.

  2. Never been in a huge storm, and my first thought would be, "I just hope I don't spill my Miller."

    Then I remembered the, "No beer on the ship," rule. That's got to make those voyages even more alarming.


Keep it clean. Don't be mean.