The Sea Cadet, No. 9, Vol. 2, May 1945

A Day in the Life of a Merchant Seaman By C.P.O. T. MORRIS (C roy don ,East Surrey ,Unit )"We'll start squarin’ up for'ard,” says the Boatswain, and leads the way to the fo 'c’ sle head Dingy dock land may not look like the start of an adventure, but to an ordinary seaman re­porting to the Merchant Navy Pool for the first time the sight of men wearing the little M.N. badge, the foreign faces, unknown tongues, maybe the sound of a ship’s whistle— these are some of the things that live in his memory for many years. At the Pool office he is given a card bearing his name, address and rating. He must pass a medical test to show he is fit for sea service. He is then told to report daily. In addition, he must change his civilian identity card for a seaman's card, which carries his photo­graph and fingerprints. The day he is selected for his first ship, he enters the Board of Trade office with the rest of the crew and listens to the Shipping Master rapidly reading the articles. He catches brief sentences: “Obey the lawful commands of the Master,” “Sailors and firemen m utu­ ally to assist one another in the general working of the ship.” He lines up to sign the articles he is then a member of the crew. Now he can go home and pack his bag. Return­ing aboard at the fixed time, he reports to the Chief Officer and Boatswain (pronounced Bosun). The latter is in charge of all able and ordinary seamen, and the ordinary seaman's life is dom­inated by him. The ship has been discharging in­wards one cargo and loading outwards. Ashore gang has been working the ship during that time, and like all shore gangs they have not troubled to keep the ship tidy. Even the inexperienced eye of the ordinary seaman can see that there is plenty to do. “We II start squarin’ up for'ard,” says the Boatswain, and leads the way to the fo’c’sle head. Mooring ropes and wires that have been left in heaps by the shore gang are sorted out, and coiled on their gratings and drums. Ventilator cowls arc shipped, and any “Irish pennants ”hanging from the rails are cutoff. Eight bells, and break­fast. At two bells, in the forenoon watch, the hands continue the work of squar­ing up. Hatch covers and tarpaulins are placed in position. The ordinary sea­man learns to rolland stretch the can­vas, to tuck in the corners and fix the battens. Derricks are then lowered into their crutches, the derrick guys being shackled or lashed, and then hauled taut fore and aft, the ends being neatly coiled and lashed. The foredeck begins to look shipshape. When No. 2 hatch is finished, all hands knockoff for a ten-minute “ smoke-oh ”and maybe a cup of tea. 258
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