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Winding Down at Sea: The Evening Routine of a Merchant Navy Sailor

The vast expanse of the ocean can be both captivating and isolating. While the allure of travel and the satisfaction of contributing to global trade are undeniable, life at sea for merchant navy personnel comes with its unique set of challenges. Long work hours, demanding tasks, and the ever-present need for vigilance can leave crew members feeling drained. This is where the evening routine becomes crucial. It’s a time to unwind, recharge, and prepare for the next day’s duties, ensuring optimal performance and well-being throughout the voyage.

The Elusive Off-Duty Hours: Understanding Work Schedules

The amount of free time available to merchant navy personnel can vary depending on their specific role and the ship’s schedule.  Unlike typical land-based jobs with fixed working hours, work at sea often follows a watch system.  Here’s a breakdown of some common schedules:

  • Deck and Engine Officers:  These officers typically work a four-on, eight-off watch system.  This means they stand watch for four hours, followed by eight hours of rest, and the cycle repeats.  This schedule allows for some free time during the off-watch period, but it’s important to remember that officers might be called upon for additional duties or emergencies during their rest time.
  • Ratings (Deck and Engine Crew):  Ratings often work fixed eight-hour shifts, followed by a period of rest. However, overtime might be required depending on operational needs.
  • Port Calls:  During port calls, some free time might be available for crew members to explore the local area, although this can be limited due to turnaround times and customs clearance procedures.

Beyond Routine: The Importance of Mental Well-being

The Importance of Mental Well-being:  It’s about creating space for mental well-being and emotional resilience. Here’s why a good evening routine is crucial for sailors’ mental health:

Combating Stress and Loneliness:  Being away from loved ones for extended periods can lead to feelings of stress and loneliness. An evening routine that incorporates relaxation techniques, social interaction during dinner, and communication with family back home can significantly reduce these feelings.

Maintaining a Sense of Control:  Life at sea can be unpredictable, and routines can often be disrupted. However, having a dedicated evening routine provides a sense of control and normalcy in an otherwise unpredictable environment.

Promoting Mindfulness and Self-Care:  Taking time for personal care and activities you enjoy during your evenings allows for self-reflection and mindfulness. This can significantly improve mental well-being and overall sense of well-being.

Building Resilience:  Adapting to changing routines and unexpected situations is essential for life at sea.  Developing a flexible yet structured evening routine helps crew members build resilience and the ability to cope with the challenges of their unique work environment.

Technology’s Role:  A Double-Edged Sword

Technology plays a significant role in crew members’ lives at sea, and evenings are no exception. Here’s a look at the benefits and challenges of technology in evening routines:

Staying Connected:  Video calls, messaging apps, and social media allow crew members to stay connected with loved ones, reducing feelings of isolation and offering emotional support.

Entertainment Options:  Streaming services, music libraries, and audiobooks provide a wealth of entertainment options for crew members to relax and unwind during their evenings.

Educational Opportunities:  Online courses and learning platforms can be accessed during evenings, allowing crew members to pursue personal development goals and enhance their skillsets.

Challenges of Technology:

Excessive Screen Time:  As mentioned earlier, excessive screen time before bed can disrupt sleep patterns. Establishing boundaries and setting limits on technology use is crucial.

Social Media Comparison:  Social media can sometimes create a sense of inadequacy or envy.  It’s important to be mindful of curated online presentations and focus on maintaining a positive self-image.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out):  Constant connectivity can lead to FOMO, impacting relaxation and making it difficult to disconnect and be present in the moment. Scheduling dedicated “tech-free” time during evenings can help combat this fear.

The Future of Evening Routines:  Supporting Crew Well-being

The merchant navy industry is increasingly recognizing the importance of crew well-being. Here are some ways companies can support a positive evening routine for their personnel:

Improved Onboard Facilities:  Investing in comfortable and well-equipped crew cabins, relaxation lounges, and libraries can provide a more conducive environment for evening activities.

Flexible Working Arrangements:  While watch schedules are necessary for ship operation, exploring options for flexible work arrangements during off-watch periods can give crew members more control over their evenings.

Mental Health Resources:  Providing access to onboard counselors or mental health professionals can equip crew members with tools and resources to manage stress and maintain their mental well-being.

Promoting Healthy Habits:  Encouraging healthy eating habits and promoting physical activity programs can contribute to better sleep quality and overall well-being, ultimately enhancing the value of evening routines.



A Winding Down Worthwhile

A well-structured evening routine offers more than just a break from work for merchant navy personnel. It’s a vital element for maintaining physical and mental well-being, fostering a sense of control and normalcy, and ensuring optimal performance throughout their demanding work cycles. By prioritizing a relaxing and productive end to the day, crew members can approach their duties with renewed energy and resilience, making life at sea a more fulfilling and sustainable experience. 

So, the next time you think about a merchant ship making its way across the vast ocean, remember the dedication and commitment of the crew onboard.  Their well-being, not just during the day but also during their crucial evening routines, plays a significant role in the safe and efficient operation of these vital vessels.

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