Life at Sea: Wake, work, sleep... repeat

05/07/2017 9:12 am

Sea Sunday is the day in the Church's calendar when seafarers are at the forefront of our minds.

We reflect on the contribution they make - helping to put food on our tables, clothes on our backs and goods and furniture in our homes.

It’s celebrated in Churches across England and Wales on 9 July and gives us an opportunity to pray for seafarers and their families - and those who support them.

Seafarers spend long periods of time at sea – sometimes working in very tough conditions. They leave their families for months on end, and for some, that means missing pivotal events – like the birth of a child.

Roy is a Filipino seafarer who is in exactly this position. He works as an able-bodied seaman and cook on a small vessel.

His girlfriend is about to give birth but he's seven months into a standard 10-month contract – his fourth as a seafarer.

He tells us about his life on-board the ship:

"At sea I feel like a prisoner. We can't go ashore and after we finish our day's work, we go to our cabins, sleep, then wake up... that's our life.

"We are lucky as we have internet on board and can communicate any time, but for those seafarers who don't have internet access it'll be boring every day."

What are the biggest challenges Roy faces out at sea?

"One of the biggest challenges is working in bad weather - it's hard to get up to start the day as the ship is rolling and pitching. It can be hard to work with the people, if one of the crew is arrogant or doesn't respect other people."

"It's also hard for us to communicate with our families because here on the ship it is morning and in the Philippines it's afternoon or evening - six or seven hours difference - so sometimes I need to adjust and wait for my girlfriend to wake up. Then, after my job is finished for the day, I can be a little bit tired and I want to sleep. But I like to talk to her before I sleep. She's pregnant and will give birth soon but I've been on board for seven months and I absolutely can't go home because I have a 10-month contract. When it ends and I go home, my baby boy will be three-months-old. It's not possible for me to go home unless I pay for my ticket myself - but it's too expensive for us."

Apostleship of the Sea, the Church’s agency supporting men and women at sea, has chaplains at ports around the UK.

Roy appreciates their ship visits and concern for his well-being – not to mention spiritual support:

"Working on a ship every day, you only ever talk to the crew on board so we're always waiting for someone to come and visit us to ask "how are you?", "what do you do now?", "are you well?". It's nice for us to talk to other people.

"[Apostleship of the Sea chaplains] also give us bibles so even though we're tired and always working, we are connected to God - we're reading the Bible so at least we don’t forget. We can't go to church every Sunday but we can spend our nights reading the Bible."

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Please remember seafarers on 9 July. If you want to support Sea Sunday, please visit the official website for Apostleship of the Sea.


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