How Ships and Strong Men Survive Storms?


Storm. A violent disturbance of the atmosphere. As we say the word a catastrophic image emerges in our heads. There’s thunder and lighting. In some places, there may even be sand and snow. Strong winds accompany heavy rain which makes the situation even worse. It creates havoc as properties are destroyed and precious lives are lost.

Disturbing. Dreadful. Disastrous.

Anyone wouldn’t want to be caught in the midst of it, right?


Cruise ship in the middle of a storm

At sea, storms are horrible experiences. When I was still working on cruise ships I had my fair share of unwelcomed encounters with them. It can be quite scary especially when you see towering walls of water slamming into the ship. It’s certainly nerve-wracking to look at how angry waves forcefully toss us from right to left. The turbulence was very evident and it’s easy to feel nervous and helpless.

Yet no matter how heavily battered these massive water structures are, they can endure bouts of ruthless weather. A ship’s survival during harrowing times at sea is dependent on three things.

1. Sophisticated Technology

Cruise ships of our time have state-of-the-art weather forecasting equipment. The ship’s Bridge has maps, satellites, and computers to keep track of the weather. Cruise lines also have control centers that track the position of their ships. Some even have designated meteorologists to inform them of big storms and hurricanes. All these give an extra layer of protection for the ship.

2. Sailor’s Skill

A cruise ship or any other ship can’t move on its own. Strong engines power this floating hotel as it sails. Highly-skilled and well-trained sailors run these engines. Aside from the technical knowledge, it takes courage and commitment to execute a safety plan when in the throes of storms. Thousands of lives depend on them. It requires a lot to make good judgment when threatened by heavy rains, flooding, and tumultuous winds.

3. Ship Itself

The repeated impact of the waves can potentially damage the ship and break it apart. This can most likely happen especially if the pounding is too hard. There is always the threat of listing, capsizing, and the most feared of all – sinking. But let’s not forget that ships are made for moving. Ships can go through cruel seas because they have technology that stabilizes them. They are made of heavy steel. The presence of guests and crew also adds to their weight. While under construction ships go through rigorous tests that include storm simulation. They also do sea trials to make sure they are ready to sail.


Woman in the midst of a storm

Storms not only happen at sea but also in our lives. Life storms can happen at any moment. Unlike sea storms that can be predicted and avoided, life storms can catch us unaware and off-guard. None of us want to go through storms. These are storms in our finances, in our jobs, and in our relationships whether they be family or friends.

COVID-19 which is wreaking havoc across the globe up to now carries no water nor wind. But like any other storm, it created a sense of futility, bewilderment, and fear that was too much for anyone to bear. 2020 is nearing its end and the once elusive vaccine is finally being tested. However, in other parts of the world, the virus continues to spread.

As of December 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded that there are more than 1.6 million deaths. Currently, there are over 71 million confirmed cases in 218 countries and territories. Left and right businesses are going bankrupt and people are losing their jobs. This has certainly left many powerless, confused, disappointed, angry, and depressed.

Like ships that brave the ruthless storms across the sea, men can muster the strength and courage to overcome life storms. We, too, can emerge victorious long before the calm. Coronavirus will also pass. It may not get weaker but we can get stronger to fight its wrath.

Inspired by my many years as a seafarer, these are things I believe we can do to stay positive in these challenging times.

1. Skip

Bad weather can affect cruise lines schedules and itineraries. Cruises get canceled rarely unless the storm will hit the port where the guests will embark. The captain might delay departure by a few hours, worse a day or so. Sometimes, he can also switch the order of the scheduled ports. A port may be skipped altogether if the seas are too rough. The cruise can be shortened or lengthened depending on what he thinks is safe.

How does this relate to life? Well, sometimes things happen unexpectedly that force us to drop our plans. Skip the joy brought by things we desire and trade them with what’s immediate and important NOW. Sad, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve painted a very clear picture of what you really want. Only to realize in the end that there’s no way they will happen. Instead of feeling sorry, let’s encourage ourselves. Skip and delays do not equate with no or never. Not yet. Have the patience to wait a little longer.

2. Think

When storms threaten the path of ships, combined efforts are required. Headquarters staff back up the crew onboard. Weather forecast companies and meteorologists supply them with relevant information. Involved parties think with the aid of advanced technology so they know where to take the ship. Warnings are given to prepare for imminent danger.

Somehow it’s okay to say that seafarers are in a better position when battling storms. Warnings help them calculate their moves. Though nothing can ever prepare you for a disaster, it never hurts to be notified. For most people, this is not the case. Oftentimes, you don’t get the slightest clue that something horrific is about to come. The big bully just shows itself, knocks you out, and laughs. Don’t cry. Find the will to stand up. Think things through and answer the big question of “What’s next?” Come up with emergency response plans and if you don’t have one ask around. Other people who have been through the same thing can show you how.

3. Outrun

Do not confront. Avoid. This has been a strategy that work for cruise lines across the board. If a more serious storm is in their path, cruise ships generally try to outrun or avoid them. If the weather is bad the ship will steer around hurricanes, massive storms, and bomb cyclones. Ships can meet speeds of up to 22 knots and beyond leaving storms that tend to move at only about 8 to 10 knots.

Now, what does this imply? I believe we can apply the same principle in real life. It’s okay to move forward and leave behind chaotic circumstances. This doesn’t mean escaping from what the real problem is. It’s more of thinking forward and being one step ahead of the game. Instead of feeling thwarted and stuck, you find ways to inch forward. You put objective frames around the bad experience and look at it as a catalyst for growth. You also change your self-talk. Instead of saying, “I’m done,” you say “I’m in this mess (breathe). What can I do next?”

4. Reroute

If adverse water is unavoidable, the cruise line may change the itinerary. The ship may dock or anchor at an alternate port. On lucky days you might end up in a beautiful place you didn’t expect to visit. The ship might change the order of the ports or go through more sea days to seek a sunny spot at sea. It’s not always easy to find replacements. Arrangements must be made to book the new ports.

Unexpected storms like the deadly virus can instantly alter the course of our lives. Suddenly we have to follow a very different trajectory despite our prior plans. While rerouting, take the detour with a cheerful heart and inquisitive eyes. Learn new skills and try new jobs. Make a living out of a new career you formerly don’t know anything about. Find the inner strength to cope constructively with the inevitable setbacks. Major storms are often defining moments in people’s lives. When dealt with correctly, this journey can be a self-curative process. It can contribute to our personal growth and cultivate greater resilience.

5. Move

Solid engineering and advanced technology can help ships move away from storms. But then, they cannot evade them entirely. Passengers will still feel the rough waters even when they reach far off places. Storm remnants will still be there to intimidate the ship, only with lesser intensity.

What does this teach us? Simple. Ships are made for moving. It knows how to roll with the waves. On its quest for safety, it might finally find the calmest patch of sea but it won’t stay there. That’s not how ships are built. We should do the same. Our hopes and expectations may be out of line with reality but we can’t afford to do nothing. It’s okay to rest but don’t wallow in despair. Keep moving so we know what lies ahead. We will encounter monster storms every now and then but we should not get discouraged. To cope with the calamity let’s refocus our attention and energy on something worth looking forward to. Rather than getting stuck in a web of disappointment that can turn into lingering sadness let’s dream again. Build new dreams and make them happen.


Finding true north

Storms in life are different from storms at sea. Most often than not, they come by surprise and catch us unprepared. No warnings. Sea storms are more or less predictable and so the damages are somehow preventable. On the other hand, most life storms are beyond our control.

COVID-19 is possibly one of the greatest storms I would ever have to combat in my lifetime. Maybe not only for me but for the rest of humanity. We all have our epic stories to tell the younger generation when our hair turns gray and our skin gets wrinkled.

2020 was supposed to be a very special year for me. I finally decided to do my last contract, a retirement from ship life that was long overdue. I was scheduled to join the Joy in May. It’s Alaska season and although the country is quite magical it doesn’t excite me very much anymore. I had the privilege to spend half of a contract there before. Besides, my mind is fixed on saving money.

This year will be momentous. I can finally settle some major bills that’s keeping me uptight for years. This is the year when I can take my family to travel. This is the year when I can go back to my “normal” self. I had to drop those plans in a snap of a finger. We had to make some quick changes since I technically lost my job. Things did not necessarily get canceled but were delayed. And for someone who waited that long to “come home” it is quite agonizing. I have mental pictures of what I want to do next. I already predicted my future and to my horror, fate taunted me in the end. What happened was quite the opposite of what I wished for and expected.

Going back on track is not easy. Getting up, brushing myself, and starting over is still a struggle on some days. I’m tempted to look back at what’s been gone. There are times when I find myself wishful thinking this whole thing didn’t happen. Thankfully, there is some special force out there that gently reminds me to trust the process. Get busy discovering new paths. Unexplored territories can bring us the greatest reward. Don’t let bitterness take root. Storms like this may not really meant to destroy us. See beneath the surface. The water may be running wild, but who knows what’s cooking underneath?

Looking at the big picture, we’re still blessed to embark on this fantastic journey called life. Yes, storms may happen every now and then. They will test our resilience, patience, and faith. Believe that something good will come out of it.

Find your true north and keep sailing. We can be tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind. But HE remains the same. Let’s fix our eyes on Him.

Don’t be a shipwreck.

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