The sailor was home from the sea. And so was the Supernumerary.
We were on leave. No, not that sort of Leave.
My first husband was in the Merchant Navy, and I was privileged to be able to go to sea with him. On my first trip we’d joined the ship in Hull sailed across the Atlantic to Panama, through the Panama canal and down to the South Pacific Islands, heading for Papua New Guinea. Then we’d sailed home via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal.
I’d travelled the world and four of the seven seas.
We paid off on the 23rd of December, just in time for Christmas.
The guys worked 2 on 1 off – so basically for every two days they worked, they got a day of leave. We’d been at sea 5 months, so we could reasonably expect 2 ½ months off.
We had a house down in Devon, on the south coast. It was a tiny cottage not far from the beach. Idyllic really. By tiny, I mean Very Small Indeed. One-and-a-half-bedrooms, stairs coming straight out of the living room, the tiniest of kitchens.
We’d only had about three months there between getting married and joining the ship, so we were looking forward to spending some time at home. We were in a village – there was a village shop and a Post Office. The beach was about a mile away. For anyone who knows Devon, our nearest beach was at Beesands.
It was nice to be on our own. It was nice to have a bit of space, after spending five months in a cabin meant for one person. We had a garden, we made our first tentative attempts at DIY. We got into a routine of weekly shopping, days out, walks on the beach.
After five months at sea with all meals provided (which sounds great, but sometimes you just fancy a bit of bread and butter) it was quite nice to just decide what to eat and when to eat it.
It was like we were on holiday, but without having to go home after two weeks. I think some of the locals wondered what we were doing there. How could we be on holiday for weeks on end?? What they didn’t see were the long hours, seven days a week work that my husband did when we were at sea. He earned every single day of his leave!!
For me, however, it was beginning to be a bit of a problem. I wasn’t working. I was 20, my friends were all at university, and I knew I was going to get left behind. What would you do? Travel the world or get a proper job?
I decided to travel the world.
By mid-March we knew we would be getting the joining letter imminently, giving us the instructions for joining our next ship.
The shipping company only had to give 24 hours’ notice. Imagine that for a moment. 24 hours to pack for six months and close the house up.
Where next? You’ll have to wait until mid-March to find out! (Clue – I tick off one more of the seven seas!)
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