This post is dedicated to all the working sailors out there! Who do you want to dedicate it to? Add their name in the comments below and then share the post with them.
I’m a professional mariner, a licensed and working captain, or simply put….a sailor. It has a nice ring to it.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a sailor”, I say.
My reply is often followed by a quizzical look and a question or two. “So what do you do all day? People pay you to just sail around? It must be nice to be on a paid vacation.”
What do I do all day?
I help teenagers do things they never thought they could possibly do.
I sleep in the rain with one eye open.
My students trust me with their lives, and I teach them to be trustworthy with my own.
I move vessels when the owners don’t have the time, or ability, or courage to do it themselves.
When I’m cut, I stitch my wound.
I help shy, insecure people become strong leaders.
I help arrogant, oppressive people find compassion.
I make shipmates who don’t know or like each other work together as a team.
I show people how to resolve conflicts.
I often swim in icy cold water, even when I can’t stand it.
On a voyage into the night or a surprise abandon ship drill, people follow my lead even when they are nervous.
I expect my students and crew to never give up, even when they are cold, wet, or seasick.
And, when the winds calm, and the sun dries them out, I show them what they’ve done. And they feel joy, success, and camaraderie.
I go for days, weeks, sometimes months without showering, taking a day off, or sleeping in.
Sometimes I get scared…especially when I have to climb the rig.
I try to make others comfortable and safe, even when I’m tired and wet.
I study the weather, note the tides, test the systems, and plan my route.
Then I do it all over again.
I cherish brief moments when dolphins swim in the bow wake or a shooting star launches across the sky.
I respect and reflect on moments when it’s a close call.
And I log everything.
I pour over textbooks to troubleshoot my engine.
I learn to use new tools.
I balance sensitivity with sternness.
I maintain professional certifications and regularly update skills and trainings.
Sometimes I clean wounds, comfort injured, and splint bones.
I consciously work to create an environment of emotional safety and physical safety. I believe they are equally important.
I organize, inventory, re-organize and re-inventory.
I make tasty meals out of just peanut butter, beans, and raisins.
I mess up and have to make repairs.
I stand watch alone for hours.
I choose my bed based on the direction of the wind and waves.
I do without television, Internet, and still find joy.
I find my “alone time” by simply turning my gaze outboard.
When things break, I fix them instead of replacing it or redeeming the warranty.
I treasure the few things I have with me…an unsolved Sudoku puzzle and a colorful jelly pen. I do love jelly pens.
So, what do I do all day? I come alive. And, I promise you, if passage making and sail-training were a paid vacation, then everyone would be doing it.
This is a tribute to all working sailors! Honor a sailor you know by adding their name in the comments below and then share the post with them.