Seafarer’s Wife : The Woman Behind A Successful Life At Sea


On an eventful day when a Mariner’s wife stands at the horizon and sees the lights of a ship waning away as waves budge it further into deeper seas, her heart sinks into depths greater than the ocean itself and resurfaces astoundingly. These women deserve salutation and admiration from family as well as society, their role more often understood than told. Life of a seafarer is not a cakewalk, neither for him nor for his wife.


Be it the long awaited haul by the family, especially the wife Mrs. Aditi James of Capt. Sunil James who fought with all her might to get his husband rescued back from the prison in Togo despite suffering irrecoverable loss of their only child Vivaan, or the deserted families of Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan involved in Heibei Spirit Oil Spill incident, whose detention generated controversy and protests from all parts of the world and shipping fraternity, the wives of these sailors have endured great sufferings and fought several difficulties, most of the times single handedly. As seen in several unfortunate maritime events around the world, seafarers and their families have equal share in the grief and anguish they have been subjected to, time and again due to unfavourable laws of coastal states and criminalisation of seafarers. The journey of pain in such events is enduring and takes toll on one’s life, especially on the wives of mariners.

Sculpture of a sailor's wife

A mariner’s wife ardently takes up various jobs as part of her duty, which often requires coping with emotional ups and downs while their husbands are away, socialising with vexing relatives, handling household jobs, and if situation requires, taking up matters with ministries, governments and embassies to bring their spouses back home. In unfortunate events wherein seafarers have been stuck in foreign ports or went through unfortunate accident, the spouses and family of these seafarers have stood by them, showing great courage, patience, and grit in rescuing their loved-ones.

A seafarer’s wife has to go through a variety of issues both when on land and at sea, the main among them being:

Parenting: One of the biggest and arduous challenges a seafarer’s wife has to undertake is parenting and looking after the well being of children when their father is away at sea. She assumes sole powers and responsibility regarding the education and grooming of children at each and every stage, right from exhaustive infant care to handling needs of emotionally demanding teenagers. Mapping their progress at every level and passing through testing times when a child needs medical, moral and emotional support, a seafarer’s wife single handedly manages a variety of issues, showing great determination and courage.

Loneliness: Though the wives of seafarers find ample opportunities to keep themselves busy, solitude always prevails and often makes them feel feeble (mostly emotionally) in presence of their social counterparts. Perpetually they are bold enough to overcome and continue supporting their spouses, but dealing with badly timed questions from relatives and friends regarding married life and their concern about upbringing of children, family issues, managing household jobs etc. sometimes do take toll on their mental and physical health. However, the ease with which a mariner’s wife deals with these stumbling blocks is commendable.

Household Errands: The absence of husband puts a mariners wife on the forefront to fulfil countless household tasks such as paying bills, settling repairs, decorating interiors, managing finances and investments on behalf of mariner husbands, not to forget the formal socialising as well. In case of joint families (still prevalent in several parts of the world) she is also required to look after parents of both her’s and her husband’s. More often than not, this also includes attending and supporting their medical care and daily needs. With due span of time, a mariner’s wife inculcates enough resolve and mettle to cope up with and fulfil the needs hovering around herself.

While Onboard: Even while sailing onboard ships, accompanying their husbands, a mariner’s wife is required to exercise restraint and discipline. Apart from infrequent shore leaves and parties on board, she has to regularly attend drills, cope up with frozen foods, comply with meal timings, and follow safety instructions at various work areas. Moreover, onboard they have limited access and areas to keep themselves engaged, which can take a toll on them if the vessel is on long voyages.

Being a mariner’s wife needs immense courage and valour, which makes them stand out from other women, who always have the opportunity to enjoy the company of their husband but often do not value it.

Though the need for a healthy family life has been widely accepted and understood by shipping companies that often encourage interaction and participation in social events for mariners and their families, there is a lot to be done in order to provide an ideal life for a seafarer and his wife.

Needless to say, the importance of seafarer’s wife in providing a healthy family life to mariners at sea, needs to be acknowledged by the rest of the world which relies heavily and widely on trade and shipping.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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