Off to a ship? Here’s what you need to know!


As seafarers we often face the problem of being sent flight details for the next day; the suitcase is hardly packed and we have no idea what to take with us! Then, once onboard, we realise that we didn’t take either the first or the second. So what to do, and how to get ready in the right way?

1. Documents

Let’s say you have received your long anticipated orders to join the ship and need to fly tomorrow. In that case, the first thing you must do is check you have all the necessary documents. Don’t miss any of your numerous certificates! Once you have reassured yourself that all the documents are ready and on stand-by, start packing!

2. Scales

Portable scales are an invaluable tool that allow you to weigh your luggage after you have finished packing. The flight’s weight and size allowance can be found on the airline website, but normally the limit is 23kg. Why is it important to do so beforehand? You don’t want to be publicly pulling your belongings out of your bag at the airport, wondering whether you will be let through security wearing five coats.  Think ahead!

3. Clothing

Turning to packing, remember that you aren’t going on holiday or to a beach, but work. Take casual clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

If you are an officer there is typically no need to overdress or look excessively smart. Keep it neat. For instance, trousers, jeans, shirts, jumpers, jackets and uniforms are all very good, but I wouldn’t recommend wearing shorts, tracksuits, and t-shirts.

Taking slippers on ship is never a good idea as you can only wear them in your cabin. Bear in mind you can’t wear footwear that doesn’t protect your heels. Moreover, working on the bridge wearing no socks is simply bad manners. Remember, the ship is not a beach but a place where you do serious work.

If you want to exercise on the ship, take one set of sportswear. If you like going out in different ports and cities when not on watch, you ought to take at least a couple of nice outfits. You don’t want to have your photo taken in different countries, cities and places wearing the same outfit all the time! Dress differently when exploring.

4. Home comforts

It is not always guaranteed that your cabin will have the necessary (or nice) stuff. To make your cabin a haven, it worth taking your own soft pillow and bed linen, an eye-mask for sleeping, a shower sponge, a box for protecting your toothbrush, and a wash bag filled with quality toiletries. Think about what you really need to feel comfortable in the cabin, and if it is not too big, better take that.

5. Medicine

Many companies will assert in their policies that you are forbidden from taking your own medicine onboard the ship. Nevertheless, it is usually better to take all the necessary pills. You never know which medicines will be available in the ship hospital, and it is often the case that the simplest nose drops or painkillers are missing, with the next supply scheduled to take place in a number of years. Imagine if you didn’t bring those nose drops? You would end up working for months with a runny nose.

6. Laptop

Similarly, you will be sorry if you don’t bring your personal laptop with you as it can help you a lot on the ship. Namely, it will enable you to work and entertain yourself in your cabin. A small warning: on account of ship software being written in DOS and only working on the Windows platform, you are better off taking a laptop that works with Windows. And nope, I am not advertising Windows here. I have Mac and often have moments when I wish it could support .exe.

7. Entertainment

How will you keep yourself distracted from the repetitive daily routine? Films and books can be an effective solution, so quickly start updating your HDD, memory sticks and your laptop’s hard drive with new films. Don’t know what to download? Try the top 10 latest releases in different genres such as comedies, horrors, actions etc. Do you have a favourite television show? Excellent, download all new seasons and episodes.

8. Revise Revise Revise

Another essential thing to do is to revise, study and prepare. Gain all the knowledge you need to perform your role to the highest standard, and fill in all of your gaps. Perhaps you want to practice how to tie certain sea knots or remember the challenges you faced previously when you didn’t know what to do. Regardless, make the most of your past experience and learn new things that will help you to do your job more efficiently and get promoted faster.

9. A Positive Mindset

Last but definitely not least, it is crucial to have the right attitude towards an upcoming voyage. Make sure you feel positive and mentally ready. Sharpen up your character. Once on the ship don’t isolate yourself from the rest of crew, but at the same time don’t push yourself to start talking to everyone. Just stay cool and be yourself.

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