merchant mariner families

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

February 22, 2013

pirates and the merchant mariner

   johnny depp...what?

   It was a few years into my relationship with Beady that I first heard about pirates.  I was reading the paper and noted a small article about them off the coast of Singapore where Beady's ship often moved through.  I laughed instantly and handed him the paper thinking he would smile, give it back to me, and continue watching the football game.  But he didn't.  Instead he turned the TV off, folded the paper up nice and tight, and looked at me with his serious face.  Now anyone who knows Beady understands this kind of face only makes an appearance once every seven years, and it has to be something pretty incredible to alter his mood so dramatically.  Add to that his turning off of the TV during a football game and my insides began to churn.  "What?" I asked and continued laughing, though a little maniacally at this point.  In my defense, Pirates of the Caribbean seemed to be everywhere and all I could imagine was a group of lunatics dressed like Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp, roaming off the shores of Singapore, threatening bodily harm with plastic, duct taped swords and eye patches.  Beady tipped his head in a most canine manner, but instead of appearing cute and loveable, he seemed disgusted and impatient with my ignorance.
      "What," I asked again, "have you actually seen any of those they really wear puffy white shirts?"  His job seemed suddenly more interesting to me and I wondered how I could get on the ship for a tour.  I'm just as nimble as Keira Knightley.  Aren't I?  As I mentally reviewed one of her action scenes from the film, Beady cleared his throat and began to educate me on the very real world of pirates in Merchant Mariner Land.
       "It's not a joke, I'm sorry to say."  Could it be?  My father had never mentioned pirates, and he'd been all over the world as a mariner.  And neither one of them had ever brought the subject up in the time I'd been dating Beady.  Great, something else to worry about while he's out to sea.  Wonderful...
        My husband spent the next hour explaining the institution of piracy, not just in Singapore, but in places like the peaceful Mediterranean, or off the coast of Africa in the Gulf of Aden, and in the Arabian Sea--essentially places his ship was frequently contracted to.  He told me about the maneuvers and stalling tactics mariners learn in order to evade pirates, how armed men board unarmed ships, and how he, my Mariner, had been taught to give them whatever they want.  "The company will pay," he said calmly, then answered all of my questions as I frantically rattled them off, one after the other.  I became agitated, then downright scared and started to see him, my father, their collective mariner friends in a very different light.    
        When I asked why this kind of information wasn't plastered all over the news, he patiently explained that because an American ship hadn't been taken yet, the media in the states most likely found it irrelevant even though thousands of American mariners dealt with this threat every single day.  He added that there were attacks nearly every week and that many mariners were still being held hostage and had been for months now.     
         It took me a few days to calm down and accept what I could not change.  Beady would never leave his job because he loved it, and I would never ask him to for the same reason.  I couldn't go back on that now just because the world became a little bit more dangerous to me.  He had already been living with this reality, had adjusted, and did the best he could, along with his crew, to make sure pirates never boarded their ship.  How would my new awareness change any of that? 
       So it's a thought, one that remained until he found a new position on a ship that sails strictly from San Diego to the islands of Hawaii, where I think if any pirates would board, they would definitely look like Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.  I still have my list of what ifs that move to the front of my brain when I drop him off at the airport, but pirates are not among them anymoreI'm very lucky in that respect, and counted each and every one of my blessings when Andrea Phillips became a household name.  I can't imagine what she went through, I can't imagine what her children went through, and selfishly, don't ever want to understand.

   Note:  Pirates are still "working" around the globe, though much less off the coast of Somalia where Andrea's husband was taken hostage.  Security patrols and the decision many ships made to carry armed guards for deterrence purposes have led to the decrease of incidents in that areaSadly though, piracy has begun to pick up in Nigeria and continues on in many waters throughout the world.  Debate continues about arming merchant mariners and a few organizations have begun work in Africa to try and treat the causes of piracy there.        

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