merchant mariner families

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

May 14, 2013


  A little disclaimer here, if you don't want any additional reasons to worry about your mariner while they're out to sea, please don't read any further as this post is specifically about a few of those dangers.  

   About two years into my relationship with Beady, we happened to be at the Kittery Trading Post in Maine (it's a store much like Cabela's and LL Bean) searching for a particular type of knife Beady needed to replace the one he'd lost.  I really didn't think much of it, hadn't payed too much attention to the errand until we arrived there and started looking around.  Here's how the conversation went:

Me:  So, what do you need this knife for?

Beady:  To replace the one I lost on the ship.

Me:  What?  How do you lose a knife on a ship?  Aren't there only so many places it could be?

Beady:  (A little hesitation in his voice now.) kind of fell off the ship.

Me:  Why would you put it down somewhere that it could fall off the side?  Come on!

Beady:  I didn't, it just fell. (He quickly turned away and moved around the knife counter pretending to be interested in a particular one.)

Me:  Okay, that doesn't even make any sense.  What aren't you telling me?  Where were you when this happened?

Beady:  I was painting. 

Me:  Yeah?  So?  Since when does painting the ship entail risk of losing one's possessions?  (Sarcasm, my go to emotion.)  What...were you hanging off the side of the ship or something?

Beady:  (Moving further away from me.) What?  Did you say something?

Me:  Oh my God!  YOU WERE HANGING OFF THE SIDE OF THE SHIP?!!!  (Heads turning now.)

Beady:  It's not a big deal...really.  It's maintenance, we do it all the time.  And it just slipped out of my shirt pocket, I should've secured it, it was my fault.

Me:  (Breathing fast now.)  It slipped out of your shirt pocket?  What...were you upside down or something?  How could it possibly fall out of your shirt pocket?

Beady:  (Silence, head down.  Really, really interested in a particular knife.)



   Needless to say, the rest of the conversation took place outside of the Kittery Trading Post, as we were extremely close to the gun and taser section and some of the customers surrounding us, specifically the men, were looking a little too Bruce Willis to me.  I didn't need some wanna be action hero taking me down simply because I raised my voice to a man that hangs off the side of a ship upside down to paint.  I didn't have time to explain this to them, and I don't even think they'd sympathize.  They all had an 'I literally just got through menopause with my wife and I'm not taking crap from any other woman' look on their fatigued faces, they certainly weren't going to ask any questions before they tasered me.  
    Beady and I eventually moved through this, but it brought all of the horrible shipping stories I'd heard over the years right to the front of my brain for the next couple of weeks.  A friend's husband telling of a shipmate who neglected to secure himself to the deck as they were tossing garbage off of the ship.  He became caught in the piece of equipment and went over the side with it, there was nothing they could do to help him.  Ridiculously huge waves and other scenarios that involve bad sailing weather, stupid, stupid pirates, lines snapping and drastically changing the course of a mariner's life, as well as their families, and way too many episodes of Deadliest Catch.  But the one that just hangs there, will never go away, is a family friend, Nick.  I loved Nick.  He was a mariner that shipped with Big Daddy Mitchell from time to time, was married to the beautiful Faye, and drove a white Jeep that I absolutely loved riding in every time I saw him.  Nick had shaggy black hair, 70's style, a moustache, and the crinkliest smiling eyes I'd ever seen.  It was an absolute pleasure to be around him and I always looked forward to seeing him as he was my favorite of Daddy's mariner friends.  I can't remember when I found out, or how, but one day I learned that Nick had gone to sea and hadn't come back.  It was only in the last few years that I really spoke about it with Daddy and he told me what he believed happened or at least what he'd been told.  Nick had been on night duty, walking the ship, when they think he passed through a space where he was simply swept off by a wave.  They didn't even realize he was gone until his relief came and couldn't locate him.  I think of Nick every time I say goodbye to Beady, so it's extremely hard to just let him go as I want to wrap him up in my arms and keep him safe with me always, but I know that's impossible.  
     So this is what I do, this is what keeps the memory of Nick at bay and all of the other worries concerning Beady's time at sea...I DO NOT think about it.  If it starts to creep in, I dump it because I've found that it serves me absolutely no purpose and I also follow a few other rules, along with Beady's help.

The kind of weather I imagine him to have!
1.  Beady is forbidden to tell me about any bad weather they're traveling through.  I don't want to hear about crazy swells and the rolling of the ship.  The less I know about that, the better, as they're professionals who know how to navigate that kind of nonsense and my potential worry about the situation would do nothing to aid in its conclusion. 
2.  My husband has given me a general description of what he does on the ship.  I do not want to hear about specific things he might do like HANG OVER THE SIDE OF A SHIP to check something out in good or bad weather.  You get my meaning, yes?  
3.  If I'm at a party, or somewhere with my husband's friends, and talk moves around to one of those stories about a most unfortunate mariner, I simply leave the room.  I just don't need the added anxiety.  They can talk about it amongst themselves as I'm sure it's good for them, a way to perhaps quell their own fears, if they have any.  I just don't need to be a part of that.  
4.  (Not applicable anymore, but was once a necessity.) Under no circumstances, is he to tell me when he's passing through pirate territory, although I'm absolutely, thoroughly familiar with where all of those are.  His best friend's ship was nearly boarded by a few, that's close enough to home for me!  

    So this is what helps me get around these thoughts, through the stories, and away from the bad memories, that and the idea that I'll deal with 'it' if it even happens.  And in the interim, I'll enjoy like heck all of the time I get to spend with Beady when he's home since life is very short and extremely precious no matter what your husband or wife does for a living.  
    By the way, if you ask Beady about this particular topic, he simply shrugs his shoulders and says, "No big deal, it's just my job."  And I'm guessing, though he would never admit it, that he feels much safer on a ship with 50 foot swells and a legion of pirate ships following him than he does living here with me! 

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner



  1. Amy wrote..."I'm sort of the opposite... i track the ship and sometimes the weather (when it's something big). i like to know if the reason i haven't heard anything in awhile COULD be because of disaster. i guess this probably doesn't help my anxiety when he's at sea but even though i have my own stuff going on here while he's gone, he and his safety is on my mind.
    your rules are not unreasonable! we all have our boundaries and limits to what information we can handle :) i suppose i'd rather just know and worry than not know and worry, if that makes sense."

    1. No, I totally get that and it sounds reasonable as well. I think I've read way too many horror stories over the years and have developed the craziest imagination because of it! Stephen King has nothing on me. You're absolutely right in that we all have our own boundaries/limits, my rules are what help me get by. We all do what we have to do, what makes sense for us, that's why I love hearing from others about what they do. One, I'm getting free advice and two, not everyone is going to relate to me, but they might to you! So thank you again, Amy!

  2. I am so glad you found my blog and now I found yours! I absolutely love your writing and I look forward to many more posts from you! Have a blessed day, full of calm seas and light winds!!!!!

  3. Partly, the danger is what makes them "sailors".

  4. Ha, I asked hubs about it, and he says he doesn't do that kind of thing ANYMORE, so I guess at one time he did, but now others do...he always has knives with him tho...

  5. Back in 1988 when Dan was an OS he told me about some "rough seas" his captain had taken him through. He assured me it was "no big deal" I was 18 and accepted his answer. 24 years later I see a news paper clip of a hurricane with the words "I survived!" At first I was upset and confronted him. Dan told me the story with details as I demanded. I was terrified and decided 2 things 1)"No big deal" means "don't ask anymore questions!" 2)trust that 26 years of experience will bring him home.