merchant mariner families

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

March 05, 2013


  The Phillips Family        MCCOLLESTER/GETTY
    You see that woman on the right?  Lavender shirt, glasses, the one with the 'Yeah, I know my husband just spent 96 hours on a lifeboat as a hostage, but I'm keeping it together' look?  Well, I added her to my short list of heroes a while back and by short, I mean three including her.

       Holly Mitchell~Mommy Extraordinaire      
  Robin Patterson~Power & Attitude Lady 

      and the newest member...      

 Andrea Phillips~SuperWoman,
or as she's commonly referred to,
"That Pirate Guy's Wife"  

        In the early days of April 2009 a story broke about a merchant vessel, the Maersk Alabama, being taken over by pirates off the coast of Africa.  I thought instantly of Beady, who was out to sea at the time, and said a silent prayer of thanks as he no longer shipped in that area, was safe and sound, and headed to Hawaii.  My second thought was for the families of each and every one of those merchant mariners still on the ship.  I couldn't imagine what they were going through and so wished I could do something, anything for them.  Later on in the crisis, I was relieved, but horrified at the same time, to learn most of the crew was safe, yet the captain had been taken from the ship and was in a lifeboat headed God knows where with the pirates.  I watched the news religiously from then on, hoping for resolution, but really only searching for Andrea.  My heart went out to her and the glimpses I caught of her on camera or in photos from the media only served to reinforce that sentiment.  She looked like EveryWoman, perhaps a really great friend, someone's mother, a sister, and I watched in amazement as she continued to carry herself with strength and dignity.  How was she doing it?  Why didn't she lose her mind?  Why wasn't she curled up in a ball with a bottle of Jack Daniels in the corner rocking back and forth because I don't think any of us would've held it against her had she chosen to do exactly that.  My admiration for her continued to grow as the days passed and eventually, we all learned that Captain Phillips had been rescued.  The wait was over, he was coming home.
     In the following months, more and more details about the event emerged and we learned all about the heroes involved and their actions during that incredibly stressful time.  There was the Maersk Alabama crew, men who spent a considerable amount of time stalling, confounding, and even hunting the pirates down on their ship.  Who does stuff like that anymore?  Then there was the Navy and those well-disciplined Seals who successfully ended the stand off by shooting from a moving platform at a moving target.  Yes, both areas were moving...hello?  Does anyone else think that's amazing?  And, of course, Captain Phillips, who sat in a lifeboat for 96 hours wondering at times if he'd make it home ever again.  I would be mental after an experience like that, I can't believe he could even talk after they pulled him out of the lifeboat.       
      But to me, someone was overlooked, and after speaking at length with her I get the sense that's completely okay in her book.  Andrea has put a face on the life of maritime families.  There are so many of us who live this way quietly, no fanfare, no fuss, we just do what we have to do.  It's our life, not so different from others, it's just that our mariners are gone for half the year, every year, but we adjust and it almost becomes the norm.   So what follows is a glimpse into the life of Andrea Phillips, merchant mariner spouse, not an account of what happened on the Maersk Alabama.  Andrea generously shared how she navigates this kind of life while trying to make it as normal as possible for her children.  She talks about her career, her hobbies, girl time, how Beady's Law has popped up continuously in her life and she also described those five intense days at home when Richard was gone and she was powerless to help him. 

                    Thank you, Andrea!

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

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