As someone who is working in seafarer jobs, you know very well that life at sea can sometimes feel a little bit isolating.
Time spent away from your family and friends and sleeping and eating in an enclosed space surrounded by people you probably don't know (at first) can take its toll.
It’s no secret that jobs at sea are not an easy option when it comes to choosing a career and while seafarer wellbeing and mental health is at the forefront of a lot of peoples’ minds in the maritime industry, as the person onboard you know that better than anyone.
That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of awesome things about seafarers jobs - there are and no doubt you can list quite a few of them! But you need to make sure you're living your best life while you're away working at sea.
And part of living a fulfilling and happy life while you're working away in a seafarer job is to make sure you have a support network of people you can turn to when you're having a less than awesome day.
In other words, your fellow crew.
And although you might not have much in common with absolutely everyone onboard your vessel (apart from being hundreds off miles offshore at any given moment in time!) being able to share some friendly banter (or even a good moan) is crucial to your wellbeing.
So let's take a look at some ways you can make life onboard a little more fun and friendly!
6 ways to create a community onboard in seafarer jobs
As a seafarer, a huge part of ensuring your time spent on board isn’t damaging your mental health is making the most of the sense of camaraderie that comes with spending so much time with a small group of people.
Are you guilty of not socializing at sea?
It’s all very well saying that community is important but how can that be achieved when it can be so tempting to ignore social interaction with your fellow crewmates and instead curl up in your bunk with your laptop?
Are you guilty of heading straight back to your cabin after your shift or watch and not having much to do with your fellow crew members unless it's to do with work?
The relationships you have with your crewmates form a support system while you’re at sea and they may be the key to helping lift your spirits - or anyone else's - if you're feeling less than 110%.
Of course there are other factors that make socializing at sea a little more difficult these days: trips can often be shorter, and so is that crucial bonding time spent in port with your shipmates.
Smaller crew numbers also play a part in the amount of social interactions that are possible to have and the removal of bars and alcohol onboard have also taken away that friendly drink after a watch or shift is over.
And as vessels become WiFi-enabled all of this has led to a continuation of the way we rely on technology and gadgets when ashore.
Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that you shouldn’t take your games console, cell phone, laptop, music player or eReader on a trip but unplugging and making time for some human interaction will benefit everyone concerned.
No one’s suggesting you need to be the life and soul of the party but, as with any job, work is always easier when you’re enjoying yourself!
Related: How to Deal with a Negative Crewmate
6 Tips for socializing when working in seafarer jobs
Whether some shipping companies should do more to create camaraderie among their crews is open to debate, but as a seafarer there are definite steps you can take for yourself to make life onboard more enjoyable.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Create a chat group
Okay, we know we only just said that you should unplug your devices and take your headphones out but bear with us for a moment!
These days we’re all used to being in message groups on chat apps and it might be easier to connect with your fellow crew members online to arrange a hangout, or even just to share a joke or a meme. These small actions will help to create a sense of community.
2. Head to the gym
If you’re lucky enough to be working on a vessel that has exercise equipment ask someone else onboard to come along to spot you. Or arrange a contest such as who can do the most chin ups during the course of a month.
This is a great way of spurring people on through some friendly competition and the beauty is, they can be done at any time and tallies kept on a chalkboard or notice board in the gym.
3. Arrange a movie night
Pick a movie (or a box set/series), arrange a time, and let people know. Simple! And don’t forget to hold showings at different times so that those on different watches can take part as well.
Watchkeepers can suffer from issues caused by tiredness and mental health so show them a little love too!
4. Organize a gaming tournament
Yes, we know this is another electronic based activity but this involves playing as a team or in a knockout type competition, not alone in your cabin! Don’t forget to post start times and results in your group chat to whip up some friendly rivalry!
5. Learn from your fellow seafarers
Any free time you have in the periods of downtime in your seafarer job could be put to good use by swapping skills, talents or knowledge with other crew onboard.
This could be anything from learning the basics of coding to learning another language to becoming more familiar with the duties of other ranks, different parts of the ship, or technologies onboard.
And if you're working in entry level cargo ships jobs, this is an excellent opportunity to advance your maritime career by learning from those in higher seafarer ranks.
6. Get sporty
We've all seen the videos of crew enjoying a friendly game of cricket or football/soccer onboard a vessel so why not arrange your own match? Or even just a quick kick about?
It's a well known fact that exercise increases our mental health and wellbeing (and keeps us fit too, obviously) so whether it's football, cricket, or even running races, as long as the weather and conditions allow, why not grab your sneakers and a few crew members and get your sport on!
What tips do you have for creating a community for the months that you live life at sea and work in seafarer jobs?
Is there anything we’ve missed that you know is a sure fire way to get you and your crew mates laughing onboard? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on our Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages!
Find your next seafarer job with Martide now!
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for your next job at sea, have you downloaded the Martide mobile app yet?
This post was originally published on October 27th 2019 and updated on February 25th 2021.