Christmas – the time of the year that’s all about being with your loved ones. Family gatherings, holidays, socializing, and gifts; the Christmas joy is what we all look forward to, throughout the year. The situation however, is a tad different for our dedicated seafarers at Maersk Line who spend these holidays on board the vessels, in the deep oceans, thousands of miles away from their family and friends.
Does that mean a ‘not so happy’ Christmas aboard our Maersk Line vessels? “Not when you have a good crew with you to spend this day with” says Uffe Juul Andersen, Second Engineer on the Matz Maersk, one of Maersk Line’s Triple E vessels. “Without a doubt, being away from your family and friends is one of the biggest sacrifices you make when undertaking a career as a seafarer. You feel this sacrifice all the more at Christmas time. Socializing with the rest of the crew is another great way to keep oneself entertained’’ says Andersen.
With the advances in technology, internet access and communication facilities have made it easier to keep in touch from a distance. This however can also contribute in amplifying the feeling of homesickness as it makes you realize what you’re missing out on.
Aditya Mohan, First Officer at Maersk Line on board Marie Maersk agrees that the homesickness can be dealt with by being with the crew. “You learn to become a family, this family changes every time there is a crew change, but we learn to look out for each other and help around. At the end of the day, we are only 20 something people onboard a 400 meter ship.”
The Christmas rituals on board the ship, for sure, are a bit different than what we usually see around us. Aditya talks about what Christmas day is like aboard Maersk Line ships. “We do have a Christmas tree. It’s one of those days where the crew actually enjoys the entire day off and we are down to minimum manning for running the vessel. We have the watches for the navigators on the bridge and an engineer on duty in the engine room, other than that the entire crew takes it easy, mingles, and prepares for a very lavish Christmas dinner. The Chief Cook of course is the busiest person around Christmas preparing the elaborate feast for the day. In the evening around 4pm all the crew gathers in one place where gifts from the god mother are given out, her letter is read to the entire crew along with other greetings that have come in for the vessel. This is followed by the dinner after which the crew indulges in games and competitions.”
The experience of spending Christmas at sea, away from where you are used to spending it, brings its own set of uniqueness. When asked what his favorite Christmas at sea memory was Andersen recounts the Christmas of 2012 onboard the Gerd Maersk. “It was my first Christmas away from home so I actually expected to really feel the distance, but the excellent crew made it an evening to remember. We were passing through the Indian Ocean. The weather was around 27 degrees, a Christmas temperature that is quite uncommon for a Dane! We had a traditional Christmas meal with lots of food followed by some games. It really was a memorable Christmas.”
For Maersk Line seafarers, Christmas at sea indeed has its own special moments of joy and cheer that the crew shares as one family on board the ship. At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping the Christmas spirit alive!