Ship’s Log: Day Nine (Melbourne to Tilbury)

The second day of the Pacific Crossing, ninth day on board.

Last night the mate on watch announced that we would repeat the same day, 1 August, since we were crossing the International Date Line. A first, I must admit, to have exactly the same day pass. On a plane, you leave late on one day and arrive on its morning in North America, but it is nothing like this, when the whole day simply repeats. A hint of ‘Groundhog Day’?

Tonight the shy first mate, having become used to me, opened up some more. He wondered whether we were bored, how much we paid (a lot for him!), why we chose to go by sea. We talked more openly of the ship’s cook – I thought he was pretty good, but the mate said they always complained about the cook. He laughed at the invitation we had received to the third engineer’s birthday party, especially when I said I had never sung Karaoke before. Sometimes we have a band on board, he said, since many play instruments. But I asked about contracts and work, especially in light of the many captains and officers who could not get work with the world’s economic woes. We are paid less than them, he said simply, but it is big money at home, so we don’t mind. We have work. What did they do with the money? According to the contract 80% had to go home, although what you did with it after that was your own business. Like the many other Filipinos working overseas, I mentioned. Did he like working as mate? He wasn’t bored, he assured me, for it was hard work, but he did find himself between the shipping company and the crew, each making demands one way or the other.

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