I have just signed a new contract with my shipping company which has set me up for the next three years. This included a huge pay rise, endless training opportunities, chances for promotion and personal development in my sea career. 2010 starts off with me back studying Mates/Masters for 10 months to gain my Chief Mates ticket. This is then followed up by a graduation and a week of celebrations! 2011 and 2012 has me working back for the company who is sponsoring me through school next year. 18 months sea time will need to be gained within 24 months before I can then sit my Masters Oral exam in the end of 2012. During this time the company will send me overseas to gain 6 months sea time elsewhere (hopefully a cargo ship). My dream has always been to gain my Masters ticket before I reach the age of 27 years old. As well as this I aim to pay off my first home mortgage by then. A lot to aim for but I am focused and determined that I will reach this by then. My new contract promises me a pay rise every year, a promotion to second mate and also opportunities to train younger cadets up in this industry. The work schedule is week on/week off with 4 weeks annual leave plus accrued leave on top of that. Working 12 hours shifts for 7 days is just bliss when you think of having 7 days off afterwards. I will be living back up in Auckland and flying to Wellington every second week to work. It’s a good thing that I love flying! So my new contract has been signed, with many thanks to my employment lawyer for all his help with the negotiations and benefits. I am now fully employed and on a regular pay roll. That mortgage may just be paid off after all.
What other job allows you to sit back in a leather chair and watch the sun rise or moon set while working? Having the chance to watch dolphins and whales swim past you in summer and making wishes on numerous shooting stars every night in winter?
Every job has its negative qualities about it. It’s the positive which we have to keep reflecting on when we feel like our job isn’t worth it anymore. In my industry from the outside it seems like happy sailings in beautiful weather with stunning sceneries. But when a blustery southerly screams through in winter, followed by 5m seas and thunderstorms, the last place you won’t to be is at work. This can be compared this to the days in summer where the seas are like a sheet of glass, the sea life has come alive and the temperatures are really pleasant. Working on a ship, day or night and in rain or shine just shows the extent of the variety of change that can occur when at sea. Boredom is seldom experienced in my industry. There is always something to do whether it is working or doing your own personal task or hobby in your down time. I have gone through times when I am away at sea that I wish I was home with my family and friends again. Visa/Versa, when I am home in my time off wishing I was back on the ship working again! There has to be a fine line in drawn in life which divides work from family life. When I am on the ship that is my time to myself to focus on working and my own personal downtime so that when I at home I can focus on spending quality time with my family and friends. We only live once and so many opportunities are lost because people take their work life home into their family lives. In the end you love for your job is lost and your interest in your working for pleasure dies out. Keeping the two lives separate is the best way to maintain a balanced life of love for your family and your job.
Have you ever though to yourself that ‘I have been doing this for so long now, it must be time for a change to try something else?’ I have only been on my career path for 6 years so far, it’s not that long I know but to me it feels like a life time and I do have my days where I would like to try something different one day.
My passion at this stage in my life is at sea, and while I spend half my time living and working on a ship I still have many other dreams and passions that I would like to live out one day.
1 – To work as a Commercial Chef for a high class top restaurant (I am sort of starting to live part of this out when I am off the ship. It’s only minimal, but being able to cook for the household each night is keeping this passion alive.
2 – To travel the world in 12 months with a best mate. Writing, sketching and photographing my way around the world.
3 – To become a sportswoman and representative my region in my two favourite sports. Netball and Touch Rugby.
4 – And I still love working with kids up in the South Pacific Islands (3rd world islands) There are so many things that I dream of doing one day. We can’t do everything though all at once. Various passions become achievable at certain stages of our lives. Right now the career which I am in has me set up for the next three years. I am happy and wouldn’t give this up to work in another profession just so that I can tick it off my list. I will get a chance to achieve all four of my passions mentioned above, when though? Who knows? All I know is that I will achieve them sooner or later.
We all started in the same position, at the bottom, and now after all going our separate ways we are now coming back to study the next stage in our sea careers together again next year. Out of the 5 guys from the class of 2007 2nd Mates, 2 are from cruise ships, 1 is from the offshore industry, 1 from NZ coastal tankers and 1 from the NZ rail ferries. The syllabus for Mates/Masters next year will consist of weeks of: Marine Engineering (2) Ship Masters Business (2) Compass Adjustment (2) Command Meteorology (2) Maritime Administration (1) Maritime Commercial Practice (3) Managing Vessel Condition (3) Command Principles and Practice (2) Naval Architecture (5) Piloting Ships (1) Control Navigation and Emergencies (4)Managing Marine Operations (4) Orals Prep Course (4) and three short courses which I have already completed - Ship Masters Medical (1) Advanced Fire Fighting (1) GMDSS Radio Operator (1) It’s going to be a pretty full on year with studies and exams, what will make it most enjoyable will be the guys who I’ll be studying with again. We get half day Wednesday’s and Friday’s and study classes two nights a week at one of our houses. And I must not forget to mention the quiet drink at the end of the week to unwind after a week of sitting in a classroom. Only 6 months to go now!
One of my favourite childhood songs is “I believe I can Fly” the lyrics speak so strongly about believing that you can do anything if you want to. “I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky, I think about it every night and day spread my wings and fly away, I believe I can fly!” The biggest challenge that sets people back in life is thinking and believing that you can’t do something before you have actually tried to.
How do you know if you can’t park a ship between two wharves if you have never stepped forward and taken hold the opportunities given to you? I joined a ship last month where the Captain came up to one of the Deck Officers and asked them if they wanted to take the ship off the berth to anchor in the middle of the harbour. He hesitated and said no because he has never done it before. The Captain then came and asked me if I would then like to. Straight away I jumped and said yes please! The only way you are going to learn how to drive a ship is to actually practice driving a ship. Confidence is one thing that lets a lot of people down. But Could I really do this? I mean me, drive a ship by myself off a wharf and stop in the middle of the harbour and let the anchor go. I’m only a young, small female how could I possibly drive a ship of this size? That’s the sort of questions which I get asked by a lot of people when they look at me working in my chosen profession. It has taken me 5 years to get to a place where I have the ability to believe myself into being able to do something. At the end of the day it’s having confidence and faith in yourself which will determine if you can achieve a task. Think and dream big. Believe you can do anything and you’ll be surprised at how my more you can actually do.
This is an issue that I have been looking into for the past few months. Myself along with several other young deck officers working in our company are starting to experience the feelings of being alone while working at sea. It is not a nice feeling and I hope that if anyone ever feel like this that you are able to use some of these skills to switch out of it.
Just exactly how do you overcome those times when loneliness creeps up? My findings after a lot of research and study show that by writing a couple of lists of the things that you are good at, things you like to do and things that make you happy, you are then always able to refer back to these lists when you start to feel down.
Below is an extract from a couple of lists which I have written for myself this year:
WHAT I AM GOOD AT, MAKES ME HAPPY AND SOME OF THE THINGS THAT I LIKE TO DO:
Running and playing sports in a team, Talking to people, Living and working on a ship, Writing emails but better still receiving emails from friends, Driving ships (ship handling) Cooking meals for a group of people, Writing for my blogpage, Artwork, Cactus planting (gardening) Relaxing on the couch by the fire watching a movie with a good Mate, Socialising with friends in town, Living on a farm and listening to music. These are just some of the things which I can refer back to whenever I feel down and lonely on the ship. By feeding positive information into your system you can actually help change your mindset of the down hill spiral. Try it for yourself one day, you’ll be surprised at how writing these things down can change the way you feel.
Now is probably a good time for me to take 5 minutes to say thank you to all the people who have given me their support since I have been working at sea. I don’t have enough space to mention everyone by name but you know who you are. All the people who have supported me financially, supportively, physically and emotionally, thank you guys! But most of all I have my family and friends to thank. Without them I would be able to enjoy my job away from home. Thank you to all my friends from back home and my Dad for the continuous flowing emails, phone calls, text messages and post cards sent. There is nothing nicer when you are away at sea than receiving a message from a really good friend back home, it’s such a nice feeling.
To all my friends from Kaukapakapa primary school, Kaipara College, NZ Maritime School, Spirit of New Zealand, Marine Reach, Helensville CLC and my Auckland friends and mates (also Massey guy!) You guys are all awesome! I’d also like to thank all the people who I don’t know which send me anonymous e-mail’s with feedback and support from my blogpage. And last but not least the NZMWA – New Zealand Woman’s Maritime Association. Thanks everyone. Without all your support my life working away from hard would be so much tougher to handle.
Most people under estimate the significance of mental strength when it comes to working on a ship out at sea.
Whether someone is away for one week, six weeks or three months, it takes a lot of mental strength to adapt to the change in lifestyle as well as being able to cope with the emotional side of missing loved ones back home.
Physical strength comes with the job. You are kept fit by being active while working on board 24/7 as well as by using the ship gym equipment.
Mental strength on the other hand takes a lot more to build up. Most people say that this comes with age and develops over time. As you grow older you learn to cope with life’s issues and the curve ball’s, which it throws at you a lot more than when you were younger.
So far for me this is my biggest hurdle. Having the ability to adapt to a change in lifestyle every seven days. One week I’ll be with my friends and family at home, working on the farm, feeding the animals, cooking dinners, shopping and sending time with friends socialising in town. Then the next week I’ll be working 12-16 hour days on a ship at the other end of the country. And I have to be honest it does get really hard at times!
As time is passing by I am taking one day at a time and learning techniques on how to manage my life when change occurs.
It’s not easy all the time, but that’s just Life! We have to accept what it throws at us and find the inner strength to pull through it.