No, I can’t go with him when he goes out to sea. Please. stop. asking.

When I was at the gym today, one of the girls asked me the question I have been asked literally hundreds of times…”Do you ever go with him?” NO, I can’t ever go with him, nor can I meet him and spend a few days sightseeing! In the middle of the ocean? He is working ALL the time. The way MMs are paid is on a “daily rate” basis which means he literally is on the clock 24 hours a day. Sometimes it’s 8 hours on and four hours off, or 6 hours on and six hours off. In the “off” times, he has to eat and shower and sleep, so that schedule is rife with potential sleep deprivation issues. When he comes home after a long sea assignment, it takes about a week to regulate his body to a more normal sleep pattern.  I guess there are still some situations where spousal visits to ports are possible, but that has never been my own experience, and since I get seasick and tugs are super noisy and smelly, I am not sure it would that much fun. Def not an idyllic scene like a charter boat moored near an island in Greece, for instance…

If you are new to the MM life, I can share some of our experiences that have worked for us.

Here’s a picture of how we prepare for MM going out to sea. We discovered that having a departure routine is also a coping strategy, as it helps us work as a team. The prep is a major undertaking, although a reluctant one on my part, because it ends with a drive to the airport. When our beloved pets were still alive (a border collie named Victor and our adorable cat, Bandit), just getting the suitcases out of the garage actually caused them to become depressed, as they both came to associate that action with their daddy going away. So sad!

We make a lot of lists so he’ll have enough supplies of personal items to last the duration of his assignment. He’ll often gone for about 2-4 months and there are no stores in the middle of the ocean!  There is always a cook aboard the vessels, so he doesn’t have to worry about food, but he has to have enough toothpaste(4), dental floss(4), vitamins, the kind of tea he likes (Yogi Antioxidant and Ginger), underwear, socks, shampoo (Kiehls is the shampoo of choice), sunscreen, and the supplies for his marlinspikemanship, which is the kind of ropework that merchant marines do to pass the time on those long voyages.  I usually pack some raw almonds, raisins, dried (unsweetened) mangos, and papayas from Trader Joe’s so he has some healthy snacks to last a while. He fills two large suitcases, two medium suitcases, and a backpack that contains his computer, iPod, other personal items. A tug is a noisy place and he tried some noise cancelling headphones but they really didn’t seem to work, but we didn’t get Bose, ‘cos they were almost $300.

I think that it is important to have a discussion about serious matters, just in case. It’s something no one wants to think about, but the reality is that a tugboat is a dangerous place, and it’s smart, not to mention empowering, to be prepared in the event of a worst case scenario. I suggest making sure you each have current powers of attorney, and easy access to all financial documents. (I’m not an attorney; this is just what we have found to be a good idea), He always checks our two cars to make sure they are in good working order, fills the gas can for the lawnmower, and completes any house repair jobs. It’s these little things that he does that make me feel like we are still connected even when he is an ocean away. I think it is also very important to know how to reach him in case of an emergency. Cell phones will often not work in remote locations, and there is a definite course of action to take if it becomes necessary for him to come home. I make sure that my son and our friends have that info just in case something happens to me and they need to contact my MM. I’m off to a Spin class, and then a doctor’s appt. I got stabbed in the arm by a vicious blue agave, and it still hurts like I have a broken arm.  I remembered too late to snip off the sharp ends…

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2 thoughts on “No, I can’t go with him when he goes out to sea. Please. stop. asking.

  1. I can relate. I think once they get past the idea that there is something for a sailor other than the Navy, then they automatically assume it is like the Love Boat. Most people have no idea how diverse the merchant marine is. I have actually had the pleasure of sailing with the Chief but he is not on a tug and he currently does not sail international waters. Maybe with Deadliest Catch being so popular you could just say–would you want to sail on that?

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