Able Seaman

I Almost lost my Finger !!!



Intro:                    Welcome to Crew: Life at sea podcast. Here we will share the skills you need to make your experience and adventure out at sea a success, hear inspiring stories from experienced crew, from all diversities, gain knowledge and know your rights. Be Part of the crew life at sea, and let’s welcome your host, Raymond Crystal.


Raymond:           Hello and welcome to Crew: life at sea, the only place where you can find useful information, advice, insights, and resources to help inspire you to take that next step in working on a cruise ship. Welcome to the show, ladies and gentlemen. And today we have with us a job description which you may not understand or know what it really is, but that is why we have him with us here today. It’s called an able man, you know, he’s able to walk, hes able to talk. He’s just able to do many things. Able man, please tell us what is an able man, and your name and how many years you’ve been at sea. Just give us a little bit of a rundown.


Roland:                Yeah, hey guys out there. I am Roland, hailed from the Philippines. An able seaman, not enable. An able seaman means we’re doing like, working alone on the vessel, which some of the lower ranks should not do it. Because they’re not enabled yet. The able seaman on the cruise ship is categorized into two, the quarter master and the fire patrol. The fire patrol, these people that are doing the rounds on the ship, make sure that everybody’s safe. No troubles, no fire, no nothing. And the quarter master is doing like driving the ship in the confined waters, he’s driving the ship during arrival and departure with the order of the captain or the pilot.


Raymond:           Which one are you classified as?


Roland:                I was a quarter master here.


Raymond:           Ok, so can you tell me how many years have you been at sea?


Roland:                Yeah, I’ve been at sea for like 13 years. Twelve years in the cruise ship and one year local in the Philippines.


Raymond:           Oh, that’s excellent. So can you tell me how did you get to this point in your life?


Roland:                Well, I think it’s really my passion to be a seaman, because of my house, I’m living near the coast. I saw ships passing, coming in, coming out. So I think I realized maybe I’ll be on one of them one day. Then one day I realized I wasn’t worried, and then came to see the world for free. That’s it.


Raymond:           So what made you decide that this was your career that you wanted in your life?


Roland:                I think basically because I heard that seamen get better money compared to other jobs. So I think this is one of the things that motivates me. Because we were raised from a poor family.


Raymond:           Can you tell me the process, if somebody wanted to work on board as an ableman, how would they go about doing that?


Roland:                Well, it depends on your country, how it will be. But basically we have this STCW, as long as you have this STCW you are compliant with these certificates.

Raymond:           The STCW 95 is like four courses in one, and now you have to have this to go on sea, it’s compulsory. it’s firefighting, medical aid, survival. There’s four or five of them, proficiency in security. before you didn’t need them, now it is compulsory.


Roland:                 It is required by law.


Raymond:           So to apply, what certificates would you need in order to get this job? The ableman. What certificates? Do you need any type of certificates?


Roland:                Yes we have the COC, certificate of competency. The government will require you if you’re a seaman to do this one and to do that one. And then in the end you can have this certificate of competency.


Raymond:           How many years?


Roland:                No, it’s not years, it’s like training courses.


Raymond:           And the course that you did, how many years was that course that you did that you told me about?


Roland:                This course was like. But before you take this one, of course, you need to pass this three-year degree course.


Raymond:           What’s the name of that?


Roland:                I got my bachelor of science in marine transportation. it’s a degree. From this one, you can pursue a career as an officer, like the officers on the bridge. Like me, I have an officer license but never managed to use it here, because of some kind of discrimination.


Raymond:           Yeah. You know how it is. Now that’s why we can we talk about these things. This happens.


Roland:                So yeah, I felt like an unable seaman.


Raymond:           Yeah, I understand this thing. On the ships, it’s a little weird when it comes to discrepancies in that different countries because of how different people make different salaries and living style, living costs. So they use that against quite a few of us. But I think we’ve all come to agree, there’s nothing much we can do. So as an ableman, can you tell me the physical side of the job, because I know that it’s a lot of physical work.


Roland:                Well, yeah, it’s really a physical job. You need to be physically fit, mentally and emotionally, because you’re away from your family. Physically because you need to climb up these masts, if it’s necessary. You need to climb up using stairs, and bosuns chairs, and Jacob’s ladders, circling the anchors. You need to go deep down to the tanks to clean these tanks from the shifts.


Raymond:           You’re not scared or claustrophobic at all?


Roland:                I am not, but the problem is the oxygen. Well, we check this, we check everything as required by law.


Raymond:           Yeah I heard about this, if you go into a confined area, you cannot go with one person. It has to be two people.


Roland:                You can go, but there has to be somebody on the manhole looking after you. You can’t go by yourself because somebody could fall down there, then someone can grab you.


Raymond:           Yeah because i saw this training video of something, the one guy went down and the oxygen or some air issue, and he just passed out. And if you’re alone then you’re gone, that’s why you have to have a second. So don’t worry guys, they will be happy to partner with you no matter what. So talking about tender operation, which you were doing today, as i recall. Tell me about a typical day of a normal tendering operation.


Roland:                Well, a typical day for a tender operation. I drive the tender.


Raymond:           Did you have to do a course to drive the tender or do you just come on board and they let you drive it?


Roland:                Before we come on board, we have this proficient survival craft, which requires you to be a driver. If you have this proficient survival craft then the ship can give you a tender certificate.


Raymond:           But when you were home you didn’t actually drive the tender. You only came on the ship and then started to learn on the ship. So what happens if you crash? Because it’s not that easy, because I see there are two levers.


Roland:                You need to be familiar with this engines, rudders and everything. It’s basically like a ship, a small ship because with two engines and two rudders, are the same principles to the big ships. If you push the right lever, then your tender will move to the left. This is the principle of the twin engines. When you want the tender to drive straight, then you can just push both evenly. when you do the manoeuvre like when you go alongside or we depart from the pier, then you can play along with this.


Raymond:           I saw when you guys did the one tender; it was very difficult to guide. it took so long to get in.


Roland:                Sometimes depends on the weather too. Especially in a rough sea, timing the engine and timing the approach. But you will learn.


Raymond:           So what parts of your job do you find the most challenging?


Roland:                The most challenging for me is navigation, like traffic in the sea. And not only using the tender but on the ship, and using equipment like radars. That makes me excited.

Raymond:           So it’s challenging and exciting?


Roland:                Yeah


Raymond:           So how stressful is that in doing this type of a job?

Roland:                Well, it is stressful, but as long as you love your job, the stress goes off. It’s really stressful, but you are in this industry. You have the mind set and everything. You love the job, so everything will be easy for you.

Raymond:        But I always see, you’re always a happy man, just smiling and always making jokes, but you just want to be with your family. It’s so hard for people who have families. We have to sacrifice so much. But is it really worth it? Sometimes I don’t see my daughter for so many months in the year. I’d rather be with her bringing her up.

Roland:            This is something money can’t buy.


Raymond:        That’s what I’m trying to get to people. I know people who don’t even see the children two months in a year for 10 years. I can’t do that. I refuse. I will only do this for a couple more because I just recently had my child, but before it was wild and enjoyed the ship life, but when you get married. Problems. How many children do you have?


Roland:            I only have one daughter, seven years.


Raymond:       Wow. Congratulations. I have a little girl, four years, they’re beautiful. daddys little girls. So tell me a little bit about your hours of work and your scheduling of your day, like how many hours of the day do you work? And when you’re off what do you do? Roland: Yeah. As per our contract we are required to work 11.3 everyday and then we’d get a bit of extra overtime. It will reach around 12.


Raymond:        How do you log your hours? How do they know?


Roland:            We have this roster.


Raymond:        And you get paid extra for overtime?


Roland:            Yeah, we get paid a little extra, and we get paid on the tender operation. If you can have ten tender operations a month, you get one hundred dollars.


Raymond:        So living on board, as we just said, can be very tough, you know. So tell me about your accommodation space and what benefits do you have?


Roland:            Our accommodation has two in a room, but I’ve been on other cruise ships where you have a whole cabin to yourself.


Raymond:        Knowing what you know now, if you could change one thing in your life,

what would it be and why?


Roland:           That’s a very nice question. If I could turn the page, I don’t think I would take this kind of job. Basically because you’re away from your family. I just realized when I get married, and got older, how hard it is to be away from your family.  And so, like I said, need to embrace the pain, we are here. We cannot turn back the time. At this turning point I’d choose to be a lawyer Juts kidding.

Raymond:        You see Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we’re here for, to embrace and to let you know the real deal. All right. Imagine toughest day you’ve ever experienced at sea. Tell me about it, and how you got through it.


Roland:           So the toughest day, I was working at the top of the mast, it’s where the lights are. That’s the highest point of the ship. And Man, I have this phobia of heights. And you’ve got this job. How can I refuse? As far as safety is concerned I have everything. But you cannot fight your mind. You know your fear of heights, I’m trying to come over it, but until now I’m still fighting for it, and sometimes the boss is giving me this kind of job, and I’m like oh not again. Well it’s, I can say it’s mind over matter.


Raymond:        So that’s what happened.


Roland:                        That’s the toughest for me.


Raymond:        So have you worked on small ships and big Ships?


Roland:            Yeah, I’ve worked on big ships that have more than two thousand guests. I worked on a medium size, 600 guests.


Raymond:        Does it make any difference for your job?


Roland:            Job wise, It’s the same because you do the same kind of work.


Raymond:        What I want to know from you is like what are the negatives, which I’ve heard a few already. And what are the positives of your job?


Roland:            The positive side, you get better money, the negative side, you’re away from your family. that’s why i was trying to say that you need to be emotionally tough.


Raymond:           So what safety duties do you have on board because you’re an ableman?


Roland:                OK. During the drill I’m the end command on the life raft. I’m the one commanding, let’s say we need to prepare something for emergency, you need to feel it like a real situation.


Raymond:           So in a real situation, if we had to abandon ship, you would be the guy who would in an orderly fashion, bring in the people in order to sit in a certain way, where we could fill the raft to its maximum capacity. Is it easy?


Roland:                Yeah, the only thing you need to know is, you know what to do to operate during emergency.


Raymond:           So Mr Roland the big question I ask everybody, tell me the most shocking

thing you’ve ever encountered or seen in your career at sea.


Roland:                I heard ghost. I was just walking like nothing because I don’t know and don’t have any idea yet, until these people start to say they saw a ghost there and here.  It’s all in your mind but I cannot take it away.


Raymond:           So what happened? Tell me the experience?


Roland:                I didn’t experience, but I can feel like, I just hear stories.


Raymond:          Ok that’s fine, but what is something that’s happened to you in your whole 8 years? Have you been through? For me, my craziest thing. I’ll never forget when I was five minutes to new year. We had to go to a master station and there was a fire, anything like the one guy has told me about a crew member jumping off the ship. One person’s told me about an explosion. What’s something that happened to you that’s like wow you will never forget it.


Roland:                Yeah. One thing it was tender operation on a medium-size shipping that i boarded. It was a tender operation where the sea was really a rough.  I was almost on the hook where we secure this hook also from the tender. And my thumb gets cut in the middle. And I realized that wasn’t the middle and suddenly the banging and everything because it was a two metre swell. The boat is up and down 2 meters and the banging and slamming in the sea. Then I realized that my thumb is in the middle of something, I don’t remember exactly. If I couldn’t manage to quickly to pull it out quickly it would be cut through. Of course it’s metal with tremendous weight and everything. Plus, the banging and slamming. Maybe not even my thumb would be gone, maybe my whole hand.


Raymond:           Well you’re lucky you got 10 fingers there bro. So has working at sea change your life?


Roland:                Still no.


Raymond:           You’ve been at sea for how many years again?


Roland:                13 years


Raymond:           13 years. Why do you keep coming back?


Roland:                It’s all about the money.


Roland:               Maybe after 5 years if I get enough to build something, a little bit of business or maybe.


Raymond:           Well I hope you do man, because I can see you deserve to be out of the ship and you do because you’re a family man. Just like me, man. And some people I can see they’re not, but I can that you just want to be with family just like me, but it’ll happen soon enough, I promise. So would you recommend working on a cruise line to somebody?


Roland:               Well, the guys who wish to be at sea, be prepared, be strong. That’s it.


Raymond:           Which is your favorite ports and why?


Roland:               My favorite ports. One of my favorite ports is New York. It’s an amazing place. You can buy a lot of souvenirs.


Raymond:           Well let me tell you man Roland, thank you so much for being on the show. It was amazing to have you. You’re a long-time veteran and it’s an honor to have somebody like you on my show. With that said we will see you soon and keep your fingers to yourself and see you later. Ciao.


Roland:               Ciao.


Outro:                 Thanks for listening to Crew life at sea podcast. Want any of your questions answered? Send us an email at Thank you for being a part of our adventure at sea.


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