merchant mariner families

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

May 28, 2013

the nautie mermate

   Just this past year, I was poking around the internet, looking for merchant mariner blogs when I came upon one written by a Chief Mate who just happened to be a woman.  'What is this sweet piece of heaven?'  ran through my head more than once as I gobbled up her words in a matter of hours.  For every piece I read, my husband's world opened up to me in a totally different way.  It was as if she translated his feelings, stories, and experiences into 'woman speak' and I finally got just why he loved his job so much.  (For that one favor I will be forever grateful.  Thank you.)
   I contacted Megan the Nautie Mermate a few months ago in the hopes that she would grant my request of an interview, which she did, and I'm just so pleased to share it with all of you.  She's witty, quirky, thoughtful, gracious, and someone I hope to meet very, very soon.  Make sure to check out her blog, simply click on the links below each pic you'll see, when you're done reading the interview!

Megan the Nautie Mermate

CM:  Alright, Nautie, how long have you been shipping?

Nautie:  Well, I graduated in 2005, so about 8 years.

CM:  And what got you into this?

Nautie:  I grew up in Hawaii and all I knew was that somehow I wanted to work on the water.  I looked into Marine Biology, but ended up stumbling across Maine Maritime Academy in my search for colleges and knew it was perfect for me.  Becoming a merchant mariner was a great way to get a trade, have a steady job, and work on the water! 

CM:  Anyone in your family involved in shipping?

Nautie:  No...sailing tends to be a family trade (I have many shipmates who have family members that sail), but that's majorly not my story, I'm the only one!

CM:  Speaking of family, what's yours like back home?

Nautie:  I come from a big family that hates me shipping out...they wish I was home and available all the time.    

CM:  So how do they, and you, deal with your absences?

Things in a Mason Jar
Nautie:  The short answer is I miss out on a lot and it's harder on them than it is on me.  However, to be quite honest, since I started the blog people are dealing with my absences much more gracefully.  I was having a hard time staying in touch with everyone because I couldn't write enough e mails every day!  But with the blog, I can write a bit every day for everyone.  It's also been great to give them a little snapshot of my life.  They can see the photos of the vessel, of the cargo, of my mini garden, of my mason get the idea.
Little bit of Green

CM:  Any special someone in the picture?

Nautie:  No...the bummer about being a Lady Sailor is that finding that person can prove quite challenging.  I know it's hard for Gentlemen Sailors, too.  I think often about how I'm missing out on starting a family of my own, but I'm just not ready to go ashore yet!  I can't imagine what the dynamic would be if I had a significant other waiting for me at home, 100 days would feel like a really, really long time!

CM:  So settling down is a thing you've considered?

Nautie:  Of course!  But one of the things I think about is this...the lack of a family life while sailing is the biggest difference between the men and women out here, meaning I know a lot of other Lady Sailors and very few of them have left a significant other or a child at home.  I'm not sure I'd be comfortable leaving a child at home and heading to sea for three months, but at the end of the day, you do what you do when you need to do it!

CM:  Are you ruling it out for now?

Nautie:  Honestly, I think that settling down while still sailing may be nigh on impossible.  Sometimes I think, 'If I could just meet a great engineer', then we'd be in different departments, but he'd still get the sailor in me.  And other times I think I'd better quit sailing and find a match maker or I might end up a crazy cat lady in my old age!  

CM:  Well that fear certainly isn't exclusive to women of the sea, I can attest to that!

Nautie:  You're right, but if you know any single sailors, or dudes who could handle a Lady Sailor, give me a call!

CM:  Alright now, let's get down to the job!  Tell me a little bit about what you do.

Nautie:  Well, I'm currently sailing as a Chief Officer on a Heavy Lift Ship.  It's awesome!  It's 'old-school shipping' at its finest.  We are literally a tramp vessel meaning, we have no schedule...we just go where there is cargo, like generators, gas turbines, wooden crates full of equipment and goods.  It's great because we're always seeing new types of cargo. 

CM:  And what exactly do you do on the ship?

Nautie:  The generic answer is that I run the deck.  My primary focus is managing the deck gang, as well as the maintenance schedule of the vessel, and caring for the cargo.  I report directly to the captain and with his help I coordinate any major projects, port stays, or regulatory requirements.

CM:  How long are you out there for?

Nautie:  I've basically done three months on and three months off, but it's changed pretty drastically now that I'm on a tramp vessel because on the way home, we might divert for cargo extending the trip significantly.  I'd say in general I average about 100 days onboard.

CM:  Do you get to get off the ship in port?

Nautie:  When I was a junior officer I was a total shore hound!  I was ashore as soon as I was off watch.  I didn’t care if it meant I was awake for 24 hours straight.  If we were in Russia I was not going to miss it!  Now that I’m the Chief Officer I basically don’t get ashore ever.  I just did a 103 day trip with not one minute ashore….other than taking photos of the camels on the dock in Djibouti.

CM:  So tell me what you love about this job.

The Hole Digger----a MUST READ!
Nautie:  I love the people I meet along the way...interesting shipmates, surly port authorities, friendly stevedores.  I love sunrises on my morning watch, I've participated in some crazy shoreside shenanigans, and I've become capable and independent in a way that I never would have otherwise.  It's been an adventure...that's the greatest thing.

CM:  What's been your favorite place to travel to?

Nautie: I think my most unique experience was in Georgia (as in the country).  I spent two nights there before I could fly out.  One night in Poti and one night in Batumi.  The ships agent took me under his wing and gave me a full tour of the country side.  We stopped at roadside stands and bought tangerines and bamboo mugs, took photos in front of snowy mountains, got the car stuck in the was amazing.  Georgia had a huge gap in living conditions.  Poti was struggling and Batumi was thriving.  I firmly believe that it’s incredibly important to see how the rest of the world lives.  Nothing will make you more grateful, more compassionate or more open minded.  Poti, Georgia really sticks out as a place that I never would have traveled on my own but, was an incredible experience that changed me a bit.  

CM:  What's the strangest thing you've seen?

Nautie: Tough one!  I have to say, this past rotation I fed the camels at the livestock pier in Djibouti and also chatted for a bit with the sailors on the ‘camel ship’ that was going to be transporting the camels from Djibouti to Saudi Arabia.  I can’t say it was really strange per say but, it was for sure a little surreal.

Djibouti, Djibouti

CM:  Strangest thing you've eaten?

Nautie:  In Russia...cow tongue with pomegranate seeds!  Unusual pairing, no?

CM:  Uh...yeah.  And now for a left turn.  How do you feel working in an industry dominated by men?

Nautie: Oh boy.  I could go on and on about this.  In a nutshell, I have had very good experiences.  I know that my attitude and, my demeanor will affect those around me so, I attempt to be the best shipmate I can be.  I think that most Gentlemen Sailors are happy to sail with a good shipmate.  How’s that for a diplomatic answer?! 

CM:  Have you had to make any adjustments being a woman?

Nautie:  I think what I've learned over the years is that it's a balancing act.  I've fine tuned my ability to be professional, yet caring.  It's good to have fun, but ultimately the crew will follow your example, so it's important to work hard and then play hard.  

CM:  And how about dealing with men from other countries?

Nautie: I think it’s only fair to allow a ‘break in period’ after they meet me.  I truly understand that in specific ports and specific regions of the world I am far, far out of their realm of experience.  Again, as long as I remain professional and courteous I have very few problems.  That being said….I get STARED at sometimes!  But if anything I probably get treated better than the men.  Sometimes, I know I’m being treated differently, I just remind myself that however awkward it feels it won’t last forever….eventually, we’ll leave port!
CM:  So pull this all together for me?  Do you think it takes a certain kind of person to do this job?

Nautie:  Yes...first of all, you have to do things like Get Rid Of That Mad-On!  You can’t hold a grudge at sea.  You just can’t.  If you do – you shouldn’t! And Suck Up And Be Nice!  Are you hot?  So is the dude standing next to you?  Are you tired?  So is everyone around you?  Are you homesick?  Who isn’t?  Sometimes, when it sucks, and you feel grumpy you need to reign it in….everyone is grumpy…be nice!

But on a more serious note, I also think you need to want an adventure, want to get your hands dirty.  You enjoy solving a problem.  You enjoy a quiet morning on the bridge.  I think you need to realize that attitude is the difference between adventure and ordeal.

CM:  That's beautiful, Megan.  A perfect ending and I'm going to steal that quote!  Thank you so much for your time and honesty, it's much appreciated.  Meow!

For more Merchant Mariner blogs, look in the right hand column under Shipmasters.  There are a few from PG to R-rated, your choice (they're sailors after all, right).

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner

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