One of the hardest things about going to sea is staying in touch with friends and family. Times are changing and communicating while at sea is getting much, much easier. I mean really, I'm blogging....in the middle of the ocean! I'm one of the lucky who's company has switched over to fleet broad band. Having internet at sea is an indescribable luxury. I haven't been sailing very long - and in the short amount of time I've been sailing this have changed dramatically. I remember when I was a cadet that everyone would race ashore to use the payphone on the dock. People would actually get into fights over people talking too long! By the time I was a third mate everyone had a cell phone....and you would be hard pressed to find a payphone on a dock. Now as a second mate things are even better! Last night, I skyped with my mother! Talk about wonderful! With all these advancements in technology and improvements in communication it is still really hard to stay in touch! The catch with staying in touch is that it requires TIME. After a long day the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down and typing out a long e-mail. That being said, I want to get a nice long e-mail :) Plus, because communication is seconds away people expect you to communicate. For example, my Captain is inundated with requests from the office on a daily basis. Not too long ago a Captain would have left port and his home office wouldn't hear from him until he made his next port call - which could be weeks! It doesn't take much for communication to feel like a burden instead of a treat. I mostly just like to call home and hear a familiar voice....just a quick fix...it's all that I require.
Staying in touch with friends who ship is even more of a challenge! Our schedules are hectic and our transits may take us to opposite ends of the globe. Having internet and e-mail onboard make things a little easier but it's never quite the same thing as getting to say hi.
Last night, I got to do something VERY exciting (this may qualify me as a maritime nerd). I got to talk to a friend on Single Sideband Radio (SSB)! All ships carry a radio outfit that we call GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System). This allows us to place calls to land based stations as well as ship stations when our vessel is in distress - it also allows us to communicate with other vessels in distress. We also routinely receive safety updates in our area of operation - like weather or extinguished lights, etc. In the old day it was also how people would call home when they were at sea. They would connect with a land based station who would patch them over a phone line. Now that you get the gist.....last night I had a friend in the general area - we were able to use e-mail to decide on a communication time and we also sent eachother frequencies to monitor. In no time at all we were talking to eachother!!!! He was about 150 miles away on his way to Italy just coming out of the Suez Canal.....I was on my way to Greece. While we were on the SSB we established another talk time and were able to talk this morning when we were almost 300 miles apart! We're going to try again this evening to see how far we can take this while we're both in the Mediterranean.
I truly can't tell you how exciting this was. I've been sailing for 6 years and I've never once spoken to another station on SSB!!!! To be able to finally use the SSB and get to talk to a great friend was amazing!