MY 1ST TIME AT SEA
DECK CADET FOONG THER HWAN
SS TENAGA DUA
1978’s LNG (METHANE) GAS TANKER
(JULY 2007 – JANUARY 2008)
If a young man walks up to me one day and tell me that he is contemplating a career as a seaman, there will be many, many things that I shall tell him.
First of all, I shall tell him that there are neither great adventures nor any more new lands to discover, but there will be experiences that will stay in his heart forever.
I shall tell him that the modern sailor has to go to school first, so that he can learn how to use a spanner instead of a sword, the GPS instead of a sextant.
I shall tell him that he has to start off his sea career as a cadet; the lowest form of life onboard a floating prison. You can’t sail a ship with a university degree.
There are at times you feel like giving up.
I shall tell him that he might have to wash the toilets and scrub the floors, scaling the rusty deck and cleaning will become one of the most important skills in his sea life. I shall tell him about the orientation games onboard.
About the new cadets have to stand at the forward station, shivering in the wind, with the instruction to look out for the small fishing boats that will run across the sea.
About the new cadets having to be shave his hair bald as an initiation ceremony for crossing the Equator for his very first time.
About being issue fake electricity and water bills for his lodging onboard when there is no such thing.
And most of all, about the enthusiasm of the older hands at ensuring that the new kid gets drunk and loses his virginity at the first port of call.
And if he smiles and asks me about the women around the world, I shall tell him that there are different types of seamen:
• There are those who abstain and tell you that they abstain. Here are those who indulge and tell you stories that will make you cream in your pants.
• And of course, there are those who abstain and yet tell you that they are the Don Juan of the seven seas.
And then I shall tell him that there is only one type of seamen as far as shore people are concerned, and it is a stigma that we all have to carry with us.
I shall tell him to forget the earthly pleasures, for there will not be much.
I shall tell him when he does go in for breaks; I shall tell him to make two cups of fine coffee; one for the captain and another one for the chief officer, before making one for himself.
I shall tell him to swallow salt tablets every day, so that he does not dehydrate and drop senseless while working.
I shall tell him to take good care of his health and his hygiene.
He'll have to wash his own clothes because mama will not be there.
I shall tell him to sleep whenever he can, for when the phone rings in the middle of the night, he'll have to jump up and run up to the bridge and be ready for action immediately.
And I shall tell him that the phone rings often; and is common.
I shall tell him that he will meet some good mentors who will guide him in his work and in life,
and I shall tell him that he will meet some seniors who might scream and throw spanners at him for making mistakes.
I shall tell him that sometimes things can be so hard that he'll feel like crying, and I shall tell him that he can only cry in his cabin.
I shall tell him that he will make many close friends onboard. Some last for just that ship, some longer.
I shall tell him that he will learn to trust his friend with his life and the friend will give him the same compliment in return.
SWEET RETURN... SACRIFICE
I shall tell him that if he makes it through the first ship safely, the moment of signing off from the first ship will be one of the sweetest moments of his life.
I shall tell him that time will fly, and soon it will be time for him to sign on another ship.
I shall tell him about the joy of signing off and going home.
About the joy of having months of vacation to spend with loved ones.
About the joy of spending money from the hard earn at sea.
And then I shall tell him about the fear and worry as the leave finishes and the money start to run out.
I shall tell him about the concern that the company does not call him back for another contract, and yet,
I shall also tell him about the heavy sinking feeling when the phone rings and it's time for him to pack his suitcase, “The Sea is Calling, my friend.”
I shall tell him about the crying girlfriend, and about the worrying mother.
I shall also tell him about the empty bank account and the sea time that he needs.
I shall tell him that it is a career of rapid rise in rank and earnings.
That he will have plenty of savings compared to his peers ashore.
But I shall also tell him about the sacrifices that come with it.
I shall tell him about being onboard during the festive seasons, and special occasions.
Then I shall ask him to think more than twice before joining as a seafarer and I shall wish him
And The Legacy Continues …