How to Prepare for a Life Onboard a Merchant Vessel

While surfing the internet for information on how life has changed onboard during the last decades i accidentally found a list, in the gcaptain forum, on how to prepare yourself for a life onboard.

Crew relaxing in cabin

Although funny and with a good sense of humor it is also awfully true. So, in order to be more prepared for a Merchant Marine life someone could try the following:

  1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet.
  2. Replace the closet door with a curtain.
  3. Four hours after you go to sleep have your wife whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and mumble, “Sorry, wrong rack.”
  4. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of your bathtub and move the shower head down to chest level.
  5. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping.
  6. Every time there’s a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you’re nauseous.
  7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to “High.”
  8. Don’t watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one.
  9. Leave lawn mower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.
  10. Have the paper boy give you a haircut with dull sheep sheers.
  11. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbor’s house. Laugh at him when he curses you.
  12. Buy a trash compactor but only use it once a week. Store up garbage in your bathtub.
  13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or soup. Do not heat!)
  14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.
  15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.
  16. Once a month take every major kitchen and laundry appliance and electric garden tool you own completely apart and then put them back together. Do this every week with your lawnmower.
  17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.
  18. Invite at least 15-20 people you don’t really like to come and visit for several months.
  19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.
  20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit you head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.
  21. Lockwire the lugnuts on your car.
  22. Bake a cake. Prop up one side of the pan while it is baking. Then spread icing really thick on one side to level off the top.
  23. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool, shout “Man overboard, ship recovery!”, run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes/silverware off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your wife for not having the place “stowed for sea.”
  24. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don’t plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) “Stove manned and ready.” Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) “Stove secured.” Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.
  25. Put a lamp shade on your head, tuck your levi trouser legs into the tops of your socks and sit on the floor of your closet with the light out until some one yells, “Secure from general quarters”. (PS: no smoking either.)
  26. Buy a dumpster, paint it gray and live in it for 6 months straight.
  27. Run all of the piping and wires inside your house on the outside of the walls.
  28. Pump 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your basement, then pump it out, clean up, and paint the basement “deck gray.”
  29. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down, trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.
  30. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays turn your water temperature up to 200 degrees, then on Tuesday and Thursday turn it down to 10 degrees. On Saturdays and Sundays declare to your entire family that they used too much water during the week, so all showering is secured.
  31. Raise your bed to within 6 inches of the ceiling, if you don’t have a closet shelf.
  32. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5 am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Reveille, Reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”
  33. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6 am and read it to you.
  34. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock the bathroom door for 12 hours, and hang a sign on it that reads “Secured – contact OA DIV at X-3053.”
  35. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 3 pm.
  36. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.)
  37. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes.
  38. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours before going anywhere. This is to ensure your engine is properly “lit off”.
  39. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.
  40. Repaint your entire house once a month.
  41. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.
  42. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, randomly losing every 5th item.
  43. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel.
  44. Sew back pockets to the front of your pants.
  45. Spend 2 weeks in the red-light districts of Europe, and call it “world travel.”
  46. Spend 5 years working at McDonalds, but do NOT get promoted.
  47. Needle gun the aluminum siding on your house after your neighbors have gone to bed.


  1. Very amusing. Having sailed as an Ordinary Seaman and (most recently) as a Third Mate on tugs and bulk carriers, I can say without hyperbole that this list is, for the most part, accurate despite its comedic intentions. It applies to life on tugs (six to nine men, if it’s an ATB) and bulk carriers (21 to 24 crew.) Over the past ten years I have had to adapt to many different vessel and crew personalities, and many different areas of operation. Still not a bad way to go through life!!!

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