STORIES OF SEAFARERS
There is always danger
By Ruth Setaro, SIH Port Chaplain in New Haven, CT
Eleven men climbed into the van to go shopping. The crew in the back were laughing, joking and singing along with the music playing on the radio. The captain sat in the front seat very somber and quiet. My attempts to engage him in any kind of conversation fell on deaf ears.
We soon arrived at Exit 9 and I drove around and explained all the shopping opportunities and then left everyone off at Best Buy. I gave them my phone number “just in case” and it was determined that I would pick everyone up at 2000 hours at Target.
At the appointed hour, eleven men stood in front of Target loaded with bags and boxes. After squeezing everything in we started back to the ship. As we got back on the highway someone in the back asked if we could stop at a gas station so they could buy cigarettes. The captain, still quiet, explained that their rationing of cigarettes was gone.
As we pulled into a mini market, ten men jumped out and headed into the store. I commented to the captain that his crew looked so young, most of them looking to be maybe in their early twenties.
Then the flood gates opened and for 20 minutes the captain seemed to open his heart. He told me how tired he was, that after sailing through the trials of rough seas that even in port there was no time to rest. There were forms and paper work to file, things to repair and hours of inspections to navigate. He was TIRED. He learned that a car carrier ship that he had sailed on had either encountered a rogue wave or sudden wind that had turned it on its side. Luckily a Japanese naval ship was in the area and was able to rescue the crew. There had been no time to put down lifeboats and the crew was floundering in the sea. The naval ship threw down nets for the men to grab and thankfully all were saved.
“There is always danger,” he told me and “life as a seafarer is very hard. No one can really understand the sacrifices that have to be made for this life. Several months ago, one of my crew jumped overboard. Suicide is a real problem. Depression is a big problem, but what are you to do? This is the lot of the seafarer.”
The conversation quickly ended as the men climbed back into the van. Back at the ship the captain reached over and took my hand and with a quiet smile said “thank you.”