Monday, March 22, 2010

Forty Eight Hours

Four days ago I was half way through another lengthy vacation from work. Contemplating the next month of freedom I was planning another expedition to the mountains to take advantage of the remaining snow and then a spring time camping trip after the melt but before the mosquitoes and their larger equivalents, the tourists, arrived.

I was six weeks into a steady yoga routine, catching up with old friends and making plans with new ones. I had even planned to go on a date or two taking advantage of my status as a single handed sailor on the seas of romance. On account of all the fun I was experiencing with life ashore my heart sank when I answered a call from the shipping company and heard the crewing coordinator say "We need you out there in two days".

"Out where?" I thought as my plans ground to a halt. Fixing the leaky roof, renting a room out, replacing kitchen lighting, painting the bathroom; it all would have to be done another time. The upcoming Punch Brother's concert, my dinner date, a ski trip and everything else would have to be missed. I would have to pack, find my steel toed boots, get a haircut, wash my car and get my head around spending the next four months at sea, all in 48 hours.

I remained calm on the phone and expressed my excitement to return to a job I had been assured 9 months ago but had never panned out. Once the conversation was over though I was in a daze. No one had told me I would be expected to join the ship overseas; I obviously hadn't been included in the planning process. Now my new job was being thrust at me in short time and I was feeling very unprepared to switch off the at home mode and turn on the "Every days a work day" mode.

Yet it had to be done. This was my new job, one I had been seeking for over two years and I wasn't going to let a little rain in the kitchen stand in my way so I began making preparations. Two days passed and I had frantically wrapped up every loose end I could think of when I received another email informing me that the ship had been delayed on account of a sandstorm and that I'd be flying out within the following two days. Now those two days have passed and I'm still waiting on the couch, hamstrung by the potential that I would need to be in Boston in a hurry, unable to venture far from home or my phone.

Situations like this remind seafarers of the sacrifices that have to be made for the profession. The ability to make plans with friends and family and maintain a social life during breaks from work can be erased when unexpected returns to work are necessary. Balancing between isolated and dangerous work with long periods at home is a tough mental task. Shipping is unlike any other profession I can think of in this regard. And the unpredictability of the business can wear on you, especially when larger life responsibilities like a spouse and children come into the picture.

I for one have little to tie me down at the moment and have the flexibility to pick up and go with two days notice. I'm wicked excited to join the largest ship of my career measuring in at 868 feet and I'm even more thankful for the friends I have in the area to bid me farewell with a New England boiled dinner. It would just be nice if for once the return to work wasn't such a damn unforeseen adventure.

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