Since I find myself having to pack now – I’m going pretty much straight from my holidays to ship I thought I would mention briefly the topic that all us sea farers have to deal with regularly.
The first few times you join a ship you will undoubtedly have loads of stuff with you that you don’t need – most likely you’ll also not have stuff you need – I have deduced over the years that the higher up the chain you get, the less baggage you take; having observed most captains traveling to / from ship with what I would class as “hand baggage”!
If you are flying to a ship, chances are your company will have booked you on “marine tickets” – this is a special type of booking which normally entitles you to increased baggage allowance and some perks, while costing your company pennies for the flight – there also flexible tickets which can be cancelled / changed by your travel department pretty much up until the time of departure.
Always check with your airline what your baggage allowance is… you might have 40 kg, but its probably between 2 bags, maximum of 23 kg per bag. Some airports will refuse to accept baggage that is over 23 kg – regardless of your allowance!
A useful tip; normally companies will leave you a few hours between connecting flights to ensure you make the connection, on marine tickets its normally possible to change to earlier flights once you arrive at your connecting airport – even if your baggage is checked all the way through – so if you have 4+ hours wait and theres a flight leaving in the next hour or so, its always worth asking if you can be transferred.
So back to packing, what you need to take and how much you need to take depends on length of trip, what type of ship and where you’re going! Obviously if your spending 3 weeks on a ship in the North Sea, you’ll be able to take far less than someone spending 4 months on a ship down in Antarctica.
Toiletries: Ensure you take enough shampoo, toothpaste, shaving foam, toothbrushes, razor blades and deodorant to last you at least a month (if you aren’t sure if you can acquire them onboard and you’re likely to be sailing somewhere that you wont be able to get off – take enough to last you the entire trip). On a side note; toiletries are surprisingly heavy and will take up a substantial amount of your baggage allowance – so if you can do without 6 different brands of shampoo it’s worth taking the minimum you can survive with!
Uniform: Make sure you take the correct uniform! Your company will be able to tell you what you need to have with you – normally safety equipment (boiler suits / safety shoes / hard hats / etc) will be supplied onboard the ship, but you normally have to cart other uniform items around with you. You can save space by sticking socks inside the shoes and make sure you put at least 1 shirt on the top of your suitcase so its wearable on arrival!
Personal Clothes: If you’re on a cruise ship, you’ll wear uniform 90% of the time – you could even wear it 100% of the time if you particularly want, so theres no real need to take 100’s of t-shirts, shorts and trousers. I get away with 4 or 5 t-shirts, 2 pairs of trousers / jeans, 2 shorts and a jumper which I basically only wear when ashore or if i’m to lazy to put uniform on to go for breakfast.
Underwear: Take enough to last you at least 7 days! Bare in mind that black / dark colours are normally visible through the white trousers / blouses (for girls) so best to take some white if you’re going to be in the tropics!
It gets cold! Pretty much everywhere gets cold at night – so remember and bring a jumper. Also bare in mind that even if your out in the tropics you have to fly back to the UK at some point – nothing worse than arriving in London when its -8 with nothing but a t-shirt and jeans on!
Electronics: If you’re a cadet its a good idea to take a laptop with you. Once qualified you will take a laptop with you as it provides hours of entertainment when your bored! Don’t bring loads of DVDs with you – copy them to a hard drive otherwise its just wasted space and weight in your baggage. Do get a portable hard drive and / or a USB pen drive and always keep a copy of your work on it. If the worst happens and your ship sinks its easier to grab a portable hard drive than the entire laptop when your running to the boats. You’ll also want a camera, your mobile phone and if its separate iPod / mp3 player.
Do remember to bring the chargers and USB cables! I recommend you put the charger (or very least USB cable) for your phone in your hand baggage! Its also a good idea to bring a USA & European adaptor since chances of the sockets on your ship being UK style are pretty slim.
Documents: Do NOT put your documents in your hold baggage – if it goes missing your screwed. This includes your Discharge Book, CoC, STCW Certificates, TRB, Medical, Vaccination Certificates, Passports & Visas. Its also a good idea to take your Ops / Nav workbook as hand baggage just incase! Take copies and stick the copy in your hold baggage, also leave a copy at home! Whenever you return home take an updated copy of your discharge book.
There’s probably quiet a lot of other stuff I’ve missed, so if you have any tips or spot some omissions feel free to comment below.