Ship mates are not like land friends. If you travel, they can be similar to friends you meet on the road too, or friends you make while living in another country. The friendships aren’t the same as ‘regular’, ‘real life’ friendships. They are formed much faster, out of necessity of having someone to rely on, or finding someone who you just resonate with.
Ship friends don’t act like ‘real world’ friends, as they don’t think in the same way. They are in general more honest, they’ll tell you if you upset them more openly, and will also often drop things to be for you more. They think nothing of hopping on a plane to visit you when they’re not working. If they can make something happen, they will. You go through things together. You suffer through being apart from your loved ones and your love together. You suffer through heartbreaks together; you suffer through GI outbreaks together. You visit crazy places around the world together and the experiences you have bind you in a way that just isn’t the same as going ‘down the pub’ with people at ‘home’. It’s on a different level entirely. And if you’ve never been on a ship, you can’t really know it. The best/only way to experience it without working on a ship is to sail as a friend on board with a friend who does.
Some ship friends will last a contract, and some will last a lifetime. From sobbing my heart out at my first goodbye on ships to my very first shipmate, 13 years later, things haven’t changed that much from my perspective on friendship on ships. I don’t cry when every person leaves, but I still cry about twice a contract when a really good friend leaves. I cry mostly, if they meant a lot to me and if I don’t know when I’ll see them again. I have learned over the years how to separate the wheat from the chaff with friendships (as well as relationships), and so I don’t waste too much time or tears on the ones that I know won’t be friends ‘til the end. But I still cry for the ones that I know will.
A good example of how ship friends (or traveller friends) are; is from when I got married last year. I had my hen night (bachelorette party) at a 1920s style Gatsby Party in Glasgow, in Scotland. A ship friend flew from Lithuania to London, then drove up with her friend from there for it, while a traveller friend (who’s lived in several countries) casually flew in from Venice for the weekend for the occasion.
The actual wedding was on the ship in Quebec in Canada, so we didn’t expect many people to make it to the ceremony. However, our parents and three friends came to cruise for it – three ship friends, who had flew in to Montreal: one from Toronto, and two from New York (and our parents flew over from the UK).
Also, eight ship friends drove the three hours from Montreal to Quebec (staying overnight the night before), for the wedding to join the celebrations.
For the wedding party back in England, four ship friends came too. Two drove up from London (to Derby), and were our photographer and hairdresser doing wonderful jobs for mates-rates for photos and gorgeous hair as a wedding present. One very good shipmate flew over from Ireland, and another very good one (the same one from the actual wedding) flew in from New York.
That is how ship friends are. They are wonderful, and the friendships are closer.
Ship friends are what make the best times even better, and the worst times bearable.
Thinking back through my ship contracts, while overall I’ve loved it, I’ve had two contracts that were awful for two different reasons, and it was having a couple of very good, reliable friends on each one that got me through it.
Incidentally, the two friends that got me through those awful contracts were two of the ship friends who came to my wedding celebrations. One of them was the friend who flew over from Ireland for the wedding party in England. The other was the friend who came from New York for both the actual wedding cruise in Quebec, and the wedding party in England.
They will both certainly be friends for life.
To all my ship friends, whether we speak often (like Neil and I, who usually speak at least once a week) or if we haven’t spoken for years, I still value our friendship and am always happy to reconnect and catch up. Whether you’re still sailing or on land now, I wish you happiness always.
What do you think about ship friendships? Do you feel they are different from friendships with people at home in ‘real life’? Do you have any stories about exceptional friendSHIPs that you’d like to share?
Please write your comments below 🙂