merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

July 27, 2017

waiting by the phone...

    Every week I speak with Beady when he’s in port. Every week. I rarely acknowledge how lucky I am to even have this luxury and sometimes even pout (yes, grown women can pout) when I only get to talk with him for a few minutes because he’s, get this, working. What a jerk! So I was fortunate to be reminded of my good luck last month when Beady and I were having a little difficulty speaking due to conflicting schedules and his heavier than normal workload on the ship. As we were making an appointment to talk, I was instantly reminded of what an endeavor it was to speak with Big Daddy Mitchell when I was a kid and he was sailing around the world. That stopped me dead in my ‘woe is me’ tracks.  

   You see, when I was little and my father was out to sea, communication was “An Event.”  To speak with him took weeks of planning and 1 or 2 days of actual waiting by the phone.  No e mail, no satellite phones, no cell phones, no texting…just snail mail; specifically, snail mail on his part as we could never write to his floating address.
  It would begin with a hopeful letter from Daddy. He was entering such and such a port in such and such a country and he had heard there was a phone just inside the small town he’d be able to use to call home. Now, with any luck, they’d be sailing into port on a weekend otherwise Mum was at work and I was at school and there would be no telephonic reunion, unless he called at 3am and I wasn’t woken up for those calls. Often we’d receive this all important letter weeks in advance only to be thwarted when Daddy would send a follow up letter indicating the port had been cancelled, he couldn’t get off the ship, or their stay would be too short. ‘Maybe at the next port,’ he’d write and we would wait patiently to hear of his next attempt at contact.
   If all matters eventually went well, my mother and I would spend the majority of a weekend inside the house waiting for the phone to ring. Difficult for a child during the summer, even more difficult for a single mother who uses her precious Saturday and Sunday time to run errands and prepare EVERYTHING before the work week begins again. However, the phone would ultimately ring and we’d take our turns catching up with Daddy and catching him up on life ashore. Sometimes the calls were cut short, sometimes the phone never rang, but in most cases there was plenty of time to speak with him and attempt to plan the next phone call weeks or months out.

As I think on that time and how inconvenient it was to our home schedule, I feel guilty knowing that for Big Daddy Mitchell, those phone calls were the world, as I imagine they were and are to every mariner. Their life goes on without them in some ways and the sting of that must have been lessened by each and every one of those phone calls.

 I imagine the same can be said for today as well. We have e mail, text, cell phones, and now Skype and Facetime. We are so lucky, so fortunate to have technology on our side and it must make life a little easier for those out to sea to stay connected, still woven into their lives ashore. Communication is vital to mariners; it’s a lifeline to emotional well-being. The ability to speak with loved ones, friends, and family while at sea ensures balance of mind, the strength to get through the ‘work week,’ and continuity of one’s own life despite the fact miles of ocean separate the mariner from it.
   When I was confronted with the ease of my reality today in communication with Beady and thought back to our George Lucas type productions for speaking on the phone with Daddy, what stopped me short was knowing there are still mariners out there who experience the same difficulties he had over 35 years ago. Even e mail is a luxury on some of the ships sailing around the world today, which boggles the mind. Surely the work output of a sailor is increased dramatically when he or she is given fairly consistent access to loved ones. Surely one’s sanity is well-kept when a chance to see or hear how their child’s day went at school is permitted. 
   So I am lucky, I am fortunate, but more importantly, Beady is all of those things and more. More lucky than Big Daddy Mitchell, more lucky than just 8 or so years ago when an e mail every few weeks and a random call from somewhere was his only way to speak to us. Now, he can regularly keep up with his family and know we’re all right, that we miss him, and we love him more than words can say. And knowing that makes me feel better about his being away and his ability to work with a more peaceful mind. 

So, no more pouting for me, I must try harder to be more grateful for ALL that we have.

                                              Copyright 2017 Callie's Mariner

October 13, 2015

be safe...

  I say those words to my husband every time I drop him off at the airport when he heads back to sea.  It's the last thing I say as he walks through the terminal doors.  

And I say them every time we get off the phone while he's working--I even end my e mails and texts to him with those two words...always.  

     Over the past twelve years of our relationship, it's become more important to me than saying 'I love you.' It's much like a talisman, making me feel as if I have some sort of control over what occurs to him out to sea if only I remember to say that all important phrase. It's become so ridiculous, I've even called him back if I thought he didn't hear my request. Silly. 

'Be safe' means everything to me...stay away from the side rails, watch all of the lines, don't walk in front of the cars you're loading, steer clear of bad weather, wear your safety gear, blah, blah, blah.  Honestly, there are times I'm surprised I can hang up the phone with him and continue on normally with all of the crap buzzing around in my head.  


     So when news of the El Faro hit, the first thing I wanted to do was fly out to L.A., march my husband off the ship, and bring him home where he would instantly be swaddled in bubble wrap and tucked away in a closet for safe-keeping.    

      But instead, I spent my time rather unproductively, dipping my toe intermittently into the pool of insanity imagining it was my husband out there lost at sea, trapped in the ship as it sank, or even the poor, lifeless soul the Coast Guard found in a survival suit.  'How lucky am I?' floated in and out of my mind every day as I watched more and more coverage, but 'This could've been him' hammered at my head incessantly and so much louder. So after finally being able to hear Beady's voice, I was instantly relieved, glad to give up the pessimism that had settled on my soul for a moment.  A false sense of security crept in as we continued to speak and I began to think that this sort of thing couldn't happen to my mariner, not to my husband...but after we hung up, I knew that of course it could. My husband isn't special, he's not immune to this type of tragedy, and he's certainly not invincible. This absolutely could've been him and the realization of that, the finality it comes with, just sucks.

    Unfortunately, ships sink all over the world, the tragedy off Crooked Island was not an anomaly.  And bad weather is a certainty for Beady and the crew he ships out with, as it is with every mariner across this globe. Mother Nature will never be ignored just as surely as that new I Pad your neighbor ordered yesterday will eventually reach its destination. This is the way of the shipping world, an industry that delivers 90% of what you and I want and consume. Time surely marches on, but it seems to do so quite obnoxiously where an unforgiving sea is concerned. 

       I don't know what happened on that ship, I'm not sure we ever will, but I do know this.  There were 33 fantastically important people aboard that vessel, people who were loved, missed, and worried over pretty constantly--and I'm guessing each of their families must have had their own version of 'be safe.' I'd like to think those words actually worked in their own way and because of that, there were little mercies that occurred throughout the El Faro and in those waters we will never know about.  

      So I'll keep saying 'be safe' to my husband when he heads out to sea for work, when I finish up with him on the phone, or when I send off a quick e mail during the week to just check in. I want him to know he's loved, I want him to know he's cherished, I want him to know that he means the world to me. But more importantly, having watched this tragedy unfold in our maritime community for the last few weeks, I just want him to come back home.  And I think that's all I've ever really meant when I said those two words...please come back to me.          

Copyright 2015 Callie's Mariner     



October 09, 2015

el faro family fund...

   'TOTE has set up a fund in conjunction with the Seamen’s Church Institute, North America’s largest mariners service agency, to create a fund that will support the families and loved ones of the crew of the El Faro...100% of all donations made to this account will go directly to the 33 families.'

   Glad to find an all inclusive fund.  Every mariner family is important, I just hope that it helps in some way.  To all of the families, you are loved immensely. 

                                          Copyright 2015 Callie's Mariner 

October 05, 2015

what does it hurt to hope...

   For the last 5 days I've been glued to Twitter, Facebook, CNN, the Coast Guard page, and the website Tote Maritime set up for the families of the El Faro.  I'm sure many of you have as well.  As this has unfolded, it's been incredibly overwhelming to see all of the positive thoughts, prayers, and messages of hope people have posted and sent out to the families.  This maritime community always seemed a quiet one to me, filled with people who put their head down to the ground and just worked it out.  No complaints, no 'woe is me', and certainly nothing that would draw any attention to how they exist on a daily basis.  It makes me happy to know there is (and has been) so much love, so much understanding out there for all of us as we travel through Merchant Mariner Land.
    However, within the hope there's been a disturbing amount of venom in the form of people who are quite sure they've got all the facts and are therefore qualified to speak intelligently about the ship, the crew, the company, and any other bit of minutiae that pops into their head.  "Experts" who are absolutely sure about how things unfolded on the El Faro and what the outcome will be.  I don't know, maybe they're right, but here's my question...

what does it hurt to hope?

    Each family has THE most important person in their life unaccounted for right now.  Their days and nights are filled with terror, grief, confusion, and I'm sure about a hundred other emotions.  So why isn't hope allowed?  

     Why is it so important for that hope to be smothered with about a dozen worst case scenarios you can think of?  Is it imperative to be the first one to think of a terrible outcome? What if you're wrong? 

But more importantly, who gives a shit if you turn out being right. 

So stretch your mind, have a feeling, and whatever you typed into the comment section on Facebook just now, delete it.  You're writing about someone's son, someone's daughter, someone's parent, someone's partner.  Give them the consideration they'd most certainly give you if the roles were reversed...please.

These girls have the right idea.

And in the meantime, I'm going to hope against all hope, just as I know all of the other families who don't have loved ones on the El Faro will.  For the crew, for their families, for their friends. They deserve our hope, they deserve every last bit of it, and guess what?  They deserve it from you, too.  Go on try, it doesn't hurt.           


September 22, 2015

money and the mariner family...

      In our house, I'm in charge of the finances for obvious reasons...I'm here year round.  Beady gets updates when he's home, but it's basically me running the money show.  Sometimes it seems as if his pay is on its own random timetable, as if bi-monthly and monthly are merely suggestions, but I know there actually is a pattern and after 12 years (fingers crossed) I think I've finally got the hang of it.  Now, I have my own method for managing this mariner household financially, but the women below say it way better than I ever could.  It makes me wish I'd had their advice when I first started out with Beady.   

Amy...About 6 years in Merchant Mariner Land, no children, works full time as a nurse.  Her mariner is on for 4 months and off for 4.  Words of Wisdom...Plan Ahead!

"Try to remember those big chunks that get deposited have to last for when he's home and that getting back on the ship isn't always a guarantee, anything could happen."  How often does your mariner get paid?  "Every two weeks when he's out to sea...since I get a paycheck it definitely helps, but we are very conscious of what we are spending and what needs to be done/repaired.  There are always 'we can do this project after my next time at sea' situations.  It does help us pace ourselves.  We put a good chunk into accounts we don't routinely use as a way to help save.  If your mariner submits vacation pay once he's home, maybe try to wait a bit before submitting...this will help soften the no paycheck blow, and planning ahead is always important!"

Lindsey...Nearly 10 years as a Mariner Family, they have one child and Lindsey works full time.  Best advice?  Budget!   

"His paychecks come once a month regardless of whether he is at sea or not.  We split everything 50/50. He has his bills he's required to pay set up on autopay and I have mine. I never wanted to be judgmental about his spending so this worked the best for us. The more important bills ie. mortgage, come out of my accounts so that I can keep watch on it all. Random fact: I split my half of the mortgage payment between my two paychecks to spread my money out more evenly through the month. For example, rather than sending $750 to the mortgage account from the check on the 25th, I send $375 each time I receive a paycheck. $750 still makes it into the account, just doesn't have to arrive all at the same time and payment is still made in full on time. Make sense?" What's your one or two best money tips for this lifestyle? "BUDGET. Doesn't have to be all inclusive, down to the penny or even really detailed. Just know what you have, where it needs to go and when. Figure them out together!!!! Don't be "surprised" by your obligations or by how your partner spends money. Make your savings an automatic withdrawal immediately after the checks are deposited and a line item on your budget. If you never have the chance to you use it, you really won't miss it."

 SnipeWife... Almost 20 years married, two kids, her husband is on 75 days and then off 75.  SnipeWife works as a substitute teacher.   

How do you manage the finances given your mariner's pay schedule?  "He gets paid twice a month, in the beginning it was hard because there was a difference in sea pay and home pay.  But just before we had our first child, the company did away with overtime and it was built into the salary and averaged out in the 13 paychecks a year; sadly there was a while where I'd rack up the credit cards and his bonuses went to paying those off--what a waste! We've started using the Dave Ramsey method and rarely use the credit cards except for MAJOR things for the home." How do you manage financially when your mariner is home? "In our first year I gladly handed the finances over to him when he got home but soon learned that it just can't be split like that. I guess because there is no difference in his pay sea/home my biggest thing is the difference in the paychecks at the beginning of the year till about May because of taxes." Money Tips? DO NOT GET DEPENDENT on credit cards. Live well inside your means and save up for the things you want. Give generously."

Shana...No kids, 6 years of Mariner life, and she works part-time.  Her mariner is 4-6 months on, 2-3 months off.  Secret Weapon?  Planning in a 4 month increment.

"He gets paid bi-weekly but when he's home, only gets two paychecks (during the first month) and these are half the regular paycheck. I have 4 accounts I budget the money between. First I set aside what is needed for the mortgage, etc for that month. (I pay the utilities out of my account.) 2nd account is a savings account for his time off. I have a goal, of about 8k, so that when he comes home, that pays the mortgage and all monthly bills. After putting money in both these accounts, the remainder I divide between a life savings and checking account. His minimum time away is four months, so I always go off of that. If we are saving for something or need to pay off something, I make sure it's done in the 4 month increment. I don't like to count on extra months." 


1. Kids, no kids, how long have you been with your mariner?
We met online while he started a 4-month trip overseas. Officially met when he got off the ship. That was in 2008. We have two children and, God willing, many more to come ;)
2. Do you work outside of the home?
No, I am a stay-at-home-mom. I worked for one year with our first son and it was SO HARD.
3. What is your mariner's schedule?
Just got off 75-day rotations and started a new job this week with 21-day rotations.
4. How often does your mariner get paid?
Every two weeks.
5. How do you manage the finances given your mariner's pay schedule?
I do most of the budgeting and he does most of the spending but we both know everything about our finances at all times (take turns paying bills, etc.)
6. How do you manage financially when your mariner is home?
Whew! We have been spending so much money on our new home lately which starts to drain the reserves before he heads back to work again. We always make sure we have enough in savings to get us by for a while (our goal is 6 months) should something happen with his job.
7. What's your one or two best money tips for this lifestyle?
Don't blow it all when you start vacation! It looks like a lot of money at first but it has to pay for a lot of things. I am cheap and thrifty and no matter how much money Matt makes, I will always be cheap and thrifty.

Kara...90 days on/90 days off, together for 4 1/2 years, we have two teenagers.  

     He gets paid "Once a month on ship. And vacation pay comes in a lump sum, usually towards the beginning of the vacation. It works. 'Everything is just balanced carefully. I pay things as they come in, and pay ahead and early when I can. He gets paid more when he is working, so I pay a little extra then. An extra amount or an extra payment. Gives us breathing room when he is home." When he comes home "He likes to take over the bills, it works for us somehow. But we talk about stuff, we talk about everything. I know we spend more when he is home. He wants to have fun, and get the big expenses taken care of."  Any tips?  "Save!! He has put away a lot in savings and retirement funds. Make sure you have enough to get by for a bit in case anything happens to the mariner. Loss of job, health issues, etc. Make sure YOU have access to that money in case of an emergency. Have a Power of Attorney! Just being married to him isn't enough for most banks and credit cards! I found out the hard way. (Thank goodness his dad still had POA!)"

Katie... Over 4 years together, no children-she's employed as a social worker.  He has a 3 week on/ 3 week off rotation and may be reassigned to the coast of Africa. 

"We are both financially responsible, however it was a bit more difficult for Pat to understand the concept of budgeting as he has never really had to do it and he always received large, monthly lump sums of money with his first job. His first job he would work for a few months, come home and then not go back to work until his bank account would get low. It was very inconsistent and that was his way of life. Now that I think of it, it would probably have made the finances more difficult if he was still getting paid so sporadically. Since he got his new job, he is currently getting paid on a bi-weekly basis even on the weeks he is not working so he gets a consistent paycheck every 2 weeks. I think this change in pay schedule has made it easier for him to understand why budgeting is needed. I go over all of the bills with him and make sure he understands what money is going where and how to pay the bills if I was ever unable to. What is on auto pay, what is not; where to find all the account passwords to the utility logins, when they are due etc. He was quite impressed with the Microsoft excel spreadsheet I made for us. It was of course, color coded, highlighted and probably a bit OCD and obnoxious for his taste but he knows it makes me feel good having it. The last thing I want is for him to not understand how things work, after all that is how his brain works an engineer.  I worry about not having enough money, as I am used to living paycheck to paycheck and he isn't. I guess this is due to his immense feelings of financial security as he has never had to worry about budgeting before. Bottom line is my worrying and OCD about bills is offset by his relaxed confidence about finances which works great for us! I suppose my advice would be to both understand your family's budgeting needs and make it work for you. Make it something you can both take a part in. I know including Pat in the finances when he is home makes him feel more at home and it is something else we can share together. I think that sometimes he feels bad for not being home all the time and for not having a "normal" job. Although, knowing that his hard work is supporting his family helps him feel better and allows him to feel like he is contributing to the family even when he is not here."

Danielle...5 years with a marine engineer, 3 teenage sons, and she bartends 2 days a week.  

"My mariner's typical sailing schedule is 63 days on and 63 off but he hasn't taken a permanent position which makes it nice because we kind of pick and choose when he goes out. While he is gone I get a draw which pretty much covers bills and then when he gets off the ship he gets the remaining amount that I have to TRY and budget for an undetermined amount of time lol. So usually when the finances get low that is when he has to go back out. Money tips that I have.... Keep him out of it! The less money he thinks we have the better we are. I don't lie about it but I don't give him daily updates let's just say. It is very hard because he knows he makes good money and I have a hard time telling him no when it comes to purchases because he does work so hard and sacrifices so much-- finding that happy median is always an interesting task."

What's your best piece of advice for managing money with your mariner?  Let us know!  

Copyright 2015 Callie's Mariner

September 21, 2015


Over the last few years, I've noticed a bigger voice for merchant seaman families.  Some have been around for a while, others just made their big debut.  Though I wish the list was longer, I'm just so glad there are so many more of us out there!  Happy Sailing!

Tugboat Life, Tugboat Wife

Megan The Nautie Mermate

Girls on Tugs

Support in the UK

New England Waterman

                        Let me know who you follow!  I'd love to meet them!  

February 14, 2015

high heels and the captain...

   I sat on the floor of the closet examining all of my shoes and wondering, 'Should I wear heels out to the ship?'

  Okay, a little explanation is in order, right?  You see, back in November, after hearing that Beady would be delayed out to sea FOR THE THIRD TIME!!!!, I took matters into my own hands and purchased a plane ticket in order to see him.  Though I knew it would be a less than 20 hour visit in which we slept for 8 of them, I was excited to finally catch a glimpse of my husband in action, the crew he spoke incessantly about, and the big, beautiful ship he sailed on for months at a time.  But back to the heels...

     Yes, very impractical.  Yes, wholly unreasonable.  But, for me, it was a sure fire way to get under Beady's skin!  I could just see his face when he met me at the shipyard gate and hear the words, "You're not getting on MY ship with those shoes.  Are you crazy?  That's a major safety hazard!!"  So often he's such a Dudley Do Right.

      So I toyed with the idea for a few days, fully prepared to take a pair of flats so I could accommodate the anxiety he would adopt after seeing the offending shoes.  But in the end I chose to forgo said pair of heels.  It was a difficult decision in that I hadn't seen him in a long time and wanted to make a good impression.  Long, blond hair down and expertly set, blown perfectly by a gentle breeze off of the nearby water.  A pair of skinny jeans which would "acknowledge" the recent weight loss I had achieved.  The beautifully feminine sweater I had just purchased for such an occasion and those tremendously tall and striking high heels.  I wanted him to see what he'd been missing all of those months in one gorgeous snapshot.  Oh boy, do things ever really go that way for any of us?

A bit how I felt as he escorted me onto the ship!
At last, the day was upon us and I headed to San Diego with a lightness in my step, sans spiky heels.  I waited anxiously at the gate and when he finally arrived to meet me, I was completely overtaken.  
With the ship.  Did you think I meant with him?            

 She was a monster!  I couldn't believe the height, the length; she was incredibly imposing in one breath, then a monument of beauty in another.  I was suddenly fearful of climbing aboard, as if somehow I would get lost in her deepest, darkest depths, yet I couldn't help but move towards her, she was so exquisite.


The next 20 hours were amazing.  I met most of the crew (including Lena), got an incredibly thorough tour of the ship, and gained a new found respect for my husband as I sat quietly in his office and watched him work as the captain.  Who was this guy?  Why is everyone being so respectful?  Don't they know he can't eat with utensils?  All joking aside, I was so proud of him, so proud of how far he had come and I wished, in vain, his entire family had been with us to soak it all in.  

I couldn't help but think about Big Daddy Mitchell, too.  How he had spent so many years earning a living this way, far from home.  And though I'd had a deep well of respect already for merchant mariners before I boarded the Jean Anne, it seemed to grow infinitely as I walked around, listened, and felt for the briefest of moments what it must be like to choose this life.  Though I know everyone aboard probably saw themselves as fairly ordinary, I saw them as remarkable and forever will.  Who does this?  They do.  Thank you. 

   Oh and my wish for that one gorgeous snapshot?  Here's how I ended up.  Beady gave me a personal tour, but first insisted on dressing me the way a mother might ready her child for that bitterly cold walk to school in the winter.  His most hideous flannel shirt (electrical tape blue and murder scene red) went over that sweater I had so painstakingly selected because the deck was incredibly chilly.  On top of that, an attractive highlighter orange safety vest, so I wouldn't get run over by one of the thousands of cars driven onto the ship that night.  He then handed me crayola yellow ear plugs that stuck over an inch out of my ears ensuring hearing damage wouldn't occur and a rubber band to pull back that beautiful, blond, long hair so it wouldn't get caught on some of the more sharp and unforgiving "things" that might be sticking out on the Jean Anne.  I was sexy, I was hot, at least I knew I was under all of those visually offensive colors.       

     Time slipped by so very fast, as it always does when you're with your mariner, and eventually ran out for us.  But as he walked me off of the ship (he wishes) and lovingly pushed hovered as I stepped gingerly down the gangplank, I just had to mention my aborted plan of wearing high heels for the visit.  He quickly snapped back, no smiles all business, "If you'd done that, you wouldn't have gotten on my ship."  This girl's a lucky one. 


Copyright Callie's Mariner 2015

June 25, 2014

day of the seafarer...

Of course you know by now that it is officially the Day of the Seafarer all over the world.  A moment when we take the time to thank all of the men and women who bring us 90% of what we live with each and every day.  When I look around the house, it's stunning to think of everything that was brought here by sea.  But what's even more incredible is to know that despite such giant contributions to this world, the life of a seafarer is still a fairly anonymous one, which is why the IMO and other organizations are making such efforts to put a face on the shipping industry.     

I could definitely go on and on about what seafarers have brought me of a tangible nature, of course we all could.  But what I wanted to write about today was what one seafarer, in particular, has brought me and I'm not referring to Beady's Law or any myth/legend about sailors.  
(Although that would be funnier.)

What I'm referring to instead, are the most important things, the elements of life that are so sweet and help you get through the rougher times we all encounter.  

To begin with, Beady has brought me a tanker full of memories from all the travels and adventures we've experienced over the years.  His job, and the schedule that comes with it, has given me the opportunity to see so many parts of the world with him.  Places I don't think I would have ever seen had I not married a seafarer.  I love him so dearly for that. 

And of course, there's the love.  This seafarer has brought me an endless amount of it from the day we met.  It's a well I draw from repeatedly and what gets me through the tougher parts of Merchant Mariner Land.  Many, many times, when I've been at my darkest and thought, 'Why do I do this to myself?  Why have I married a man that's never here?!' I stop and consider the alternative.  That's always a slap in the face, a wake up call, because I'd rather be with the man I love for half of the year than not at all.      

 But the most important thing Beady has brought me?  What's more important than love you ask? 


Yup, this boat would've sunk a long time ago without it.  Laughter has always been a critical part of my life from the time I was a wee one, and I can't imagine how I could possibly do without it, especially in this "line of work."  Now he doesn't make me laugh 24/7, or even daily, but he so often pulls out this huge moment of humor and I deteriorate into fits of laughter that border on asphyxiation.  And the lack of oxygen, for however many minutes, is completely worth it.  Worth the sadness I feel at dropping him off at the airport, worth the anger I feel when the furnace breaks down or the car starts smoking, worth the birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays he might miss.     

 So for me, life is good because this seafarer has brought me my fill of the world, my fill of love, and my fill of pee your pants laughter.  And now my wish for you is to take a moment to appreciate all of the "stuff", tangible and not, that your seafarer has brought you.  And remember, sometimes the best gift they give us?  Leaving for a few months, everyone needs a time out now and then!  

Copyright 2014 Callie's Mariner

June 14, 2014

father's day at sea...

     How many Father's Days must my father have spent at sea?  Most likely a lot though I can't remember a one.  Why?  Because it didn't matter.  He was my father 365 days of the year, not just for a day.  He still praised me over the phone when I experienced moments of excellence, listening intently as I described every boring detail of the occurrence.  He spoke sternly to me from shore-side, in whatever country he was in, when he heard I was giving my mother an excessively hard time.  He assigned me tasks at home from letters sent quickly in between ports, ensuring I wouldn't turn into some lazy, good-for-nothing teenager who wanted nothing else in life but to lay down.  And most importantly, he constantly told me how much he loved and missed me when he was out to sea, whether I wanted to hear it or not.


     Yes it was an unconventional way to live, being apart for half of the year, but it didn't tarnish our relationship, we were never wrecked.  His presence was felt in that house, gone to sea or not, every day.  And if Father's Day rolled around and he wasn't there, we planned for the day he would be, as the cards and presents were put aside for his return.  He was, and still is, the very best father I could ever have and he managed the best way he knew how, despite the limitations Merchant Mariner Land dictated.  

    So Happy Father's Day to my dad and all of the other fathers out there who, for whatever reason, must leave their loved ones from time to time in order to earn a living.  You are missed constantly, you are loved incessantly, and you are appreciated all the days of the year, not just the ones for which you are home. 

                                                          I love you, Daddy! 
   Happy Father's Day and thank you for absolutely EVERYTHING!!!  

Copyright 2014 Callie's Mariner




February 17, 2014

cutty sark and giant black labs...

   Last week, while my mariner was out to sea, a very important person in both of our lives passed away quietly surrounded by those she loved fiercely.  Callie...Beady's grandmother and the woman who allowed me to use her name for this project left us all on a Saturday evening.  Though I've written about her in the past, I wanted to take a little more time to share who she was with you and what she meant to Beady and I, after all, she's one of the bigger reasons I even began with Callie's Mariner and for that I will always be grateful.
    I was so fortunate to have spoken with her about Callie's Mariner this past summer and actually watched while she read the first post I ever wrote about her, anxious for the reaction.  I shouldn't have been surprised when she looked up at me and said, "Cantankerous, huh?" despite the fact that I'd spent over a thousand words of praise on her within the piece.
   "Yeah," I shot back, with a big, fat smile on my face.  "It's true.  Ask EVERYONE."  She laughed quietly, then spent the next 10 minutes or so asking me about the site, who read the posts, where were they from, did they seem to like it.  It seemed a curious enterprise to her, but in the end, anything that had to do with her precious and perfect grandson was a project worth doing. 

    Our beginning, 11 years ago, wasn't so successful.  After finding out she was a lover of scotch, I purchased Chivas Regal hoping to win her over with liquor on our first meeting.  "Oh, thank you," she said unethusiastically, then set it aside to settle into a big bear hug from Beady.  She didn't have a drop of it that day as I watched her refill her glass, twice, from a large bottle of Cutty Sark.  Thinking I'd failed, I was shocked to find out several years later that the Chivas Regal had been promptly hidden, to be consumed for her own personal use.  She shared the Cutty Sark, but not the good stuff.  And yes, no one in her family told me this because they love to watch newbies struggle with her.  Sick.
    And there was the time a few months later, while sitting at the dinner table for a big family gathering, she looked at me and said in a low, but serious tone, "If you hurt my grandson, I'll kill you."  Mind you, the woman was about a foot smaller than me and I had at least 100lbs. on her.
    I smiled, then chuckled nervously waiting for the rest of the family to laugh as well, but nothing.  Silence from everyone.  "Okay, Satan," I replied, "I'll be in the living room if you need me."  And there you are.  Looking back now, it seems so obvious that the only reason we ever came to "blows" was because of her love for Beady and the worry that he might be hurt again.  It took so much time, but I think she finally realized that I loved him just as much as she did and that I would take care of him forever, she didn't have to be anxious anymore.  At no time was that more evident than when we left New England for the south this past December and she pulled me aside to say this,"You take care of him, Jennifer.  But, you take care of yourself, you hear?"  She reached up to hug me as I nodded yes, then pulled away and continued quietly, "...and listen to me, look at me...if you don't like it down there, if it's not what you wanted, you can always come home.  Okay?"  I was stunned, but so very flattered that her concern had more to do with me than Beady, I think I might have even rubbed it in his face when we got into the car to leave.  Yup, that sounds like me.  Looking back, I wonder if she was putting herself in my place and remembering just how difficult it was to be the center, the rock while your spouse and partner moves in and out of your life.  Whatever the reason, I appreciated her concern and honesty.  It was a perfect ending for us.               

  Over the years, I've certainly had opportunity after opportunity to be a vigilant observer of Callie.  Because our start was so contentious, she became a curiosity to me, someone I needed to figure out, so I'd know where and how to sail, so to speak.  Funnily enough, it took me nine years to realize it was me I needed to figure out, not her, and that was when the boat hit its calmest waters ever.  Yet, those nine years hadn't been wasted, not at all.  There were so many things I learned about her, what made her tick, and those are the things I wanted to share with you.

    She loved to begin her day with coffee and a crossword puzzle from that day's newspaper with her son.  She went to every child and grandchild's graduation from high school and college.  She bowled every week, even when an oxygen tank became a permanent fixture in her life, for the pure fun of the sport and to catch up with her friends who meant so much to her.  She made the absolute best mashed potatoes and peas EVER on this planet.   She loved and missed her husband every day.  She loved black Labs, always had them, and was in fact distressed about leaving her last one, Holly, behind when she passed away.  She has been to countless baseball, softball, basketball, football games in which her grandchildren played, prouder than anyone else in the stands I would imagine.  She loved scotch, especially Cutty Sark, but you could get her to drink a higher quality one if you paid for it!  She would sit often with her youngest daughter, whispering and giggling as if they were sisters or best friends and not the other way around.  She loved to keep track of the baby ducks that swam on Pushaw Lake each summer and watch them grow and leave their mother.  She would often point them out to her great grandchildren and listen proudly as they counted the entire group each time the ducks passed the camp.  She once "gently" stabbed a loved one in the hand with a fork because they took more than their share of oysters out of the oyster stew.  She loved to keep the temperature in the house around 78 degrees, no matter the season and despite multiple protestations by her over-heated family.  She loved to open up camp every year around Memorial Day and ensure the flag was put out with respect and care.  She would sometimes sit so quietly, chin in the palm of her hand, staring out of the dining room window looking towards the large hill on the back of her property.  She never let anyone speak ill, even in jest, of her oldest daughter.  She kept a collection of coffee mugs from each of the colleges her children, grandchildren, and even grandchildren-in-law, graduated from.  She could knit like a fiend.  She loved the color red.  "What are you getting into out there?" was her favorite and most famous question whenever anyone would wander into her kitchen.  She loved, loved, loved, loved her first son-in-law, treating him so much like her own son as the years went on.  She sent birthday cards to her family every year that included as many dollar bills as the age they were turning.  She loved Cuckoo clocks and didn't mind being called Cuckoo-Grammie by the countless little ones who paraded in and out of the house.  Though she'd traveled many places over the world in her lifetime, she loved being home, it was the best place for her and she could never understand why anyone would want to leave.  She loved to play Double Solitaire with her family and has even been known, on occasion, to throw all of the cards on the floor when she was losing.  She celebrated 21st birthdays with nearly everyone of her grandchildren.  She faithfully checked the obituaries every day to make sure she wasn't in them.  She loved to mow the lawn, even in hellish temperatures, just because.  She loved living in the house her husband built.  Loved making Angel Food Cake for her loved ones.  She went to countless family weddings, including the last one, which she was proud to hold on her own land.  She loved to make a ridiculous amount of desserts for every holiday.  She loved tacos from a box, but denied it bitterly even when confronted with evidence proving her consumption of them.  And she loved to dance...

    Three days before her death, Callie sent me an e mail telling me how sorry she was to hear my uncle, the man in the picture with her, had passed away so suddenly.  She remembered how much fun they'd had dancing at my wedding and that she kept this picture up in her house always.  As it happens, he preceded her in death by a week exactly, so I like to think he waited around for her and they danced on their way to loved ones like this after sharing a fine glass of scotch.  I can think of no better escort for her than my wonderful, hilarious, good-natured, and absolutely adorable Uncle Rock.  It must have been nice.   

    As for Beady, he's left with a trunk full of memories he's so happy to have experienced with her.  She wasn't a typical grandmother, full of sugar and spice, but I think that's what he loved so much.  She gave as good as she got and he was never happier than when teasing her he could elicit the yelling of his name.  His eyebrows would go up, he'd smirk, then look at her slyly waiting for her to laugh.  Sometimes she would, sometimes she'd smack him on the back playfully.  Either way he knew he'd won.  She loved to spoil him rotten when he visited, buying him special things to eat, making sure he had whatever he needed, asking him time and again if he was all set.  She let him finish those crosswords in the morning, even if it meant erasing what she'd already put in.  It didn't matter, she loved it.  And he'd laugh every time he called her just to check in, for the holidays, or her birthday.  Why?  Because she'd talk for about a minute then rush to get off the phone since it was "costing him an arm and a leg" to speak with her.  But most importantly, she was so proud of where he'd been, what he had accomplished in his life.  She followed him around the world with that special map of hers, plotting his career from year to year, so anxious to talk to him about it every time he visited.  And Beady was so glad that she lived long enough to see him promoted to captain this year and to speak with him from the ship as he took his first turn in that position.   


She was his biggest fan, and now she can watch over him all the time and won't have to wonder and worry as to where her mariner is.      

Copyright 2014 Callie's Mariner

December 13, 2013

anchors away...

    So tomorrow is the big day.  After 10 years, Beady and I are heading out for a more southern adventure.  The house has been sold, the boxes packed, and the tears are just starting to flow, AAAUUURRRGGHHHH!  I'm a hideous crier! 
So farewell for now Portsmouth,'s been a wonderful 10 years, I couldn't have asked for a better time. 
SeaPearl in port, one of many that moved through each year.

North Church, downtown Portsmouth.  You can always see it from the bridge as you cross into Maine from New Hampshire.

My most favorite sight in the spring after a harsh and long New England winter.

Where it all began, Stranger Danger at the dreaded bus station!

Our favorite watering hole, Martingale Wharf.  We made lots and lots of plans here with a beautiful view of the water.

Always great shopping!

And even better food! 

The sight I will most remember Portsmouth for.  Those beautiful tugs...

So we will head out tomorrow and even though I know I'll be a little sad and even more sentimental, I'll try to remember this one little thought ---->

It will undoubtedly make the journey so much sweeter and at the same time, most importantly, make it just a teensy bit easier to move away from the deliciousness of a quaint and cozy city on the water to a bright and busy explosion of life with my tiny family beside me.  I'll let you know when we get there!

Copyright Callie's Mariner 2013