Home' Ausmarine : Jan 2010 Contents My first three months at sea were decidedly hard. In a new
environment where everyone seemed to be barking orders at me
from 5.30 in the morning, and as a servant to almost everyone, I
wondered whether I had made the right career choice.
The Bosun of my first ship had convinced me that I was the
lowest form of marine life, lower than the basic wage he would
mutter, and as such I should salute anyone who moves, and paint
anything that didn't move.
So when I had the opportunity of sending others to sea under a
sponsorship program for some basic training I took great delight in
reading their letters. One Nathan Archer was my first candidate, a
trainee marine draftsman, and in his first letter, he took great
offence at me for putting him on the ship in the first place.
Sleeping in a cabin the size of a broom cupboard, beside a noisy
smelly engine room with an even smellier cabin mate, was the pits.
His second letter a month later was even more scathing, in that
the work he had to do was far more demanding than he thought,
he was missing his home and family. This letter would have moved
his mum to tears. But for me it just produced a wry smile. "Poor
little diddums," I thought, "Suck it up! This is good for you!"
The third letter, a month later, he had moved into a bigger
broom cupboard further away from the engine room, but still had
to move out of the cabin to change his mind, and his new cabin
mates were actually good guys. The letters became more positive as
time rolled on.
After a nine-month stint, the 19 year old Mr Archer stood in
front of a crowd of 300 in his home town to tell of his brief
experience on the ancient Book Ship 'Doulos'.
In the confident and mature manner of a 30 year old, he told of
his work in a noisy, smelly engine room and occasionally on deck,
working with 350 other volunteers from 45 other countries. He
described episodes of his teamwork ashore in poor area villages
that were glad of any help.
He had learnt to work hard for a punitive $20 per month pocket
money. He also had learnt not just to work with other people, but
to live with them as well, as all seafarers must. He had represented
his country at international nights, ashore with community work,
and unknowingly had become a great ambassador for Australia.
In nine short months, this boy had become a man
His parents and friends, like us, were so impressed with Nathan
Archer's maturity, we sponsored a succession of young guys to
follow the path on to the 'Doulos'. My son Stuart did not want
anything to do with this ship and he wriggled like a boa
constrictor that had swallowed a lawn mower to get out of this sea
time. Three years later I couldn't get him off the ship. It could have
been something to do with a young lady from Seattle shaking her
tail feathers at him!
Most of these young work experience people, male and female,
managed to get their STCW engine room watch-keeper certificates,
deck certificates, freefall lifeboat certificates, and some decided to
stay at sea for a long term career. Sponsoring them at $1,000 per
month paled into insignificance when I saw the great results.
The ancient passenger ship 'Doulos', Greek for "servant", at 95
years old, has finally been terminated by the marine pandemic of
new regulations with which she no longer complies.
Run by the German Christian group OM Ships (Operation
Mobilisation) under the GBA banner (Good Books for All), the
'Doulos' ran entirely on donations and book sales. She carried over
one million books at any one time. No one on board was on salary,
not even the Captain, officers and engineers.
As a sponsor, I have visited the ship in several countries and
it was always buzzing with activitiy. In some ports, like Madang
in Papua New Guinea, the queue to visit the ship was two miles
long. In an African port, a group of locals came on board
clutching a very old and tattered book on motor mechanics.
They had bought the book some 18 years before when the ship
last visited and started a garage, and wanted to get the latest
version of the book!
In her latest visit to Australia last year, the ex-Deputy Prime
Minister, John Anderson, was the Ship's Patron for the national
tour and he did the job splendidly.
As ship's tours happen on every day in port, it gives the visitor a
chance to talk to the crew members. Without exception you would
hear tales of how this ship has "grown" each young crew member
and inspired them for a successful life ahead.
'Doulos' started life just four years after the 'Titanic' loss as the
'Medina' and later as Costa Line's 'Franca C'. So now, as a 95
year-old, she finally has to go to the scrap heap. If only I can last
that long! Visit the website www.omships.org and have a look at
this inspirational group and the ships.
After inspiring millions of lives around the world, this
legendary servant is no more, and we eagerly await 'Doulos 2'.
With STUART BALLANTYNE
THE EDUCATION OF AN
SERVANT NO MORE
January 2010 AUSMARINE
Here berthed in Singapore, 'Doulos' was entirely crewed by volunteers
'Doulos' made available texts on family health among other subjects
Photo: Rico Shen
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