merchant mariner families

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

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