I am thinking back at going to sea as a cadet in the 70’s, sailing on a “redneck” ship and being pressured to get a haircut before going ashore. It was a crazy ship and there is a lot of stories from it, but perhaps another time for those.
During this time, I read Michener’s The Drifters which mainly captured the life experiences, dreams and adventures of several young travelers as they roamed Europe during a tumultuous period of the 60’s. At some point, I looked up the definition of “Hippie” and in essence it is defined as one who rejects the established mores of a mainstream lifestyle… A counterculture. I realized just then we who go to sea, are all just a bunch of hippies.
Now understandably, a lot of people who went to sea and made a career out of it, based on a broadly defined definition of success may be offended, being called a hippie. Many though I believe, would agree that “we” who went to sea, are indeed, part of society’s counterculture.
Going away for weeks or months at a time, our life as viewed by landlubbers has always been a lifestyle to be eschewed. Although many of us assimilated ashore into a similar lifestyle as our landlubber friends, there remains something that separates us from those whose careers include commuting to a 9-5 job. As a “Hippie”, they do not understand our work, our desire to travel, our solitary lifestyle and to some degree, even our speech.
The other day I had a great conversation with a 3rd year maritime academy student, who used the term “shaft alley” as a slang, meaning going to or moving into, a lifestyle / career not quite fully defined yet exciting and full of opportunities for those who love the sea and it was at the same time confusing for her friends who remaining ashore. She, and the many other young people who have chosen this life, are the “new hippies” and I wish them luck. They have so much opportunity to live a lifestyle of their choice, full of adventure, both at sea and while ashore. I hope that they don’t get caught up in a landlubber’s lifestyle which makes them servants to debt, but instead live with the concept YOLO in mind.
The good news though, is that us “hippies” will always remain united in the Brotherhood of the Sea! Our stories will be told while we are amongst our friends. Our memories of our times at sea and the love of the ocean hold fast.
Fairwinds and following seas!