The Federation of
Merchant Mariners
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Dear Editor

Thank you for the latest new Horizons and for the birthday card.  This business of getting older is much over-rated.  One just has to keep a sense of humour.  Difficult sometimes.

I am so glad that I went to sea when I did.  At least in my day ships were in port long enough to see something of the country and in some cases make friends.  Modern container ships are often in port for only a couple of hours with a new port every day.  When one has learned to cope with a lavatory seat which rises and falls at 30 feet a second what excitement is left?  Even the long leaves aren’t much compensation as all one’s own friends are working during the day.

The grounding of the Italian liner has taken up much of the news recently.  In my view they are ugly ships and carrying 4,000 passengers all in their little cabins.  I can’t help thinking of sea-going versions of Butlins!  Admittedly on troopships we sometimes carried as many as that but it wasn’t intended as a holiday.

My first ship only carried about a dozen passengers, all with special reasons to obtain a passage in wartime or with some special influence.  The voyage to Sydney took about six weeks and we tended to get to know them – except for one pompous couple travelling with the two daughters.  I expect their concern was to keep them unsullied by the licentious sailors so fraternisation was discouraged.

Derek Baxter