Seamen are not very different from farmers but that’s not always very evident. Both of these professionals have to weigh their actions very carefully as a bad decision may lead to the loss of ship or farm. The farmer might stay alive after the loss of his farm but that’s not always the case of a skipper.

The one trait seamen and farmers have in common is the fact that they cannot be produced in schools or universities, they are born and almost destined to their jobs. Sailors must have come about the same time of the invention of agriculture when large amounts of produce could only be transported by some kind of barge on a river that was also needed for irrigation. Commerce followed agriculture and bigger ships were needed and the people to handle those ships. Over the centuries ship-wrighting and sailing became important around the North Sea and the European Atlantic shore, not forgetting the Mediterranean Sea and by the 19 hundreds knowledgeable seamen could be found all over Europe and the USA. I’m not forgetting the great Pacific Ocean navigators of whom we know far too little but I’ll talk about them another time.

Then, the European merchant navy became assaulted by European politicians, particularly after WW2, when socialism lifted it’s Janus head and started taxing shipping companies to death. Still today, politicians don’t understand that when you tax a profitable business out of its profits, that business will go away. To beat the taxes, shipping companies moved the home-ports of their ships to pisswilly countries like Panama, Liberia, etc, where they bribed the officials to their guise. Unfortunately, this loss of European shipping to flags of convenience also led to the loss of control of the seaworthiness of ships and the quality of their navigating and mechanical officers. If your ship is registered in Rotterdam you can’t appoint a half baked Filipino as skipper but when you fly the flag of some obscure island in the Caribbean he doesn’t have to be baked at all.

Celestial navigation is not a difficult job but to do it properly you must know that you know it. A sextant, a chronometer, that can be replaced with radio signals if you have electricity and reception and a few books are all that’s needed to know where you are on the ocean. You go about it methodically.

 Nowadays, even a politician could find his position at sea by pushing a few buttons on a GPS device but of course, these people remain on land, preferring to take baths of people as the French say (bains de foule).

Many shipping companies are still properly managed despite flags of convenience but more are not.Two or three months ago a well-found container ship ran full speed on a well-charted reef near New Zealand, ship lost, much pollution. Filipino skipper and mate in jail pronounces a satisfied idiot NZ minister but he can’t make the company pay for the damage. An Italian cruise-liner has a fire in the engine room, no more power. Luckily the ship is near the Seychelles, hardly ever a hard blow there. The ship’s engineers can’t repair! A few score years ago no ship’s engineer would have had a fire in his engine room except in war time but had it happened he would have been able to rebuild his engine room. This Costa Allegra was built almost 60 years ago as a cargo vessel, then modified to a container ship and ended up in her twilight years by being lengthened and smooched up as a cruise-liner for gullible landlubbers and greedy operators. How did she obtain a sea-worthy ticket? 

But who am I to remark about loss of seamanship and engineers that can’t fix a toilet. Our world is run by a bunch of politicians amongst which the honest ones cannot be detected anymore. In this country it is admitted that one fifth of all taxes collected disappears in the pockets of those people who ‘liberated’ the population. People who call themselves ‘rappers’ but are likely to be rapists and thugs are considered ‘artists’ and paid vast amounts of money. Good-looking ladies that sing a bit, show some leg and titties are honoured like great divas when they die of an overdose and in debt despite the millions their software collected.

Just as well there was a fishing boat around to tow this ‘Allegra’ out of the pirates’ clutches. All those warships to combat the pirates were, as usual, useless and a fisherman, who now belongs to the last of the seamen, prevented a possible catastrophe.

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I received an e-mail from Uno Elisasen [unoelisasen@hotmail.com] telling me his father found a dead sperm while in South Groenland in 1985. Uno still has 6 teeth which he wants to sell. Any buyers? In England such a tooth used to fetch about 25GBP.


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One Response to Seamen are becoming a rare species.

  1. Anne Reille says:

    Bravo et Merci de continuer tes blogs!
    A.

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