'Working at sea is difficult and interesting at the same time. If you feel a desire to conquer the sea, just do it!'
For International Women's Day, one of our SeafarerHelp team's Russian speakers interviewed Margarita, a cook from Russia, about her experience of working at sea.
[Translated from Russian]
Hello, Margarita. What is your rank? How did you get started?
I am a cook. I started as a cook and I continue to work at this rank.
How did you get into the maritime profession?
Please don't expect a long story about a family dynasty of sailors or that I have always dreamed of the sea. I got into it by accident. I used to work as a cook on shore, but once I saw a video about cooks working on ships. It felt interesting for me to learn a new profession and I decided to try. I signed up for a special course, had some practical training and started a new job.
Many people think that working at sea is not a woman's business. What do you think about that?
I agree, but only partially. There are also quite a lot of non-female professions on the coast, but nevertheless women work there. The same applies to work at sea.
How would you describe your character and how does it help you at work?
I am a calm and gentle person, but these qualities are rather unhelpful for sea workers. Working at sea is hard and it requires a very strong character.
How do you get on with your colleagues? Have you ever been discriminated against by male colleagues?
The attitude from men is different. It always depends on the person himself, on his upbringing, whether the parents had respect for women or not. At sea you forget that you are a woman. You are a seafarer, an equal member of the crew. Yes, there were moments when I felt discrimination. Unfortunately, there were many moments like this. Women are not welcome at sea, especially if they are young.
What is the most difficult part of the job?
The most difficult thing is not to lose femininity and not to harden your soul. Working while the vessel is pitching is the worst, especially for those who suffer from seasickness.
What is the most interesting thing for you in your work?
The most interesting thing is the romance of the sea, because many people go to work at sea in order to fully experience it: new countries, cities, beautiful sunrise and sunset, clean sea and fresh air. Even a storm is beautiful if it is not life-threatening.
It is well known that seamen have to cope with many difficulties in the sea (this includes physical and psychological pressure). In your experience, is it harder for women in this regard than for men?
Of course it is more difficult, especially when a woman is alone among male colleagues. Sometimes you forget that you can just talk, you get used to loneliness and confined space. After the contract ends, you have to adapt to normal life onshore.
What helps you cope with the difficulties when you are on board?
It is my goal and my dream. When things get tough I remind myself why I chose this job. My goal is to earn enough money to be able to buy a house in Italy or Spain.
What would you say to those women who dream of working at sea?
Working at sea is difficult and interesting at the same time. If you feel the desire to conquer the sea, just do it! You will succeed, do not listen to those who say that seafaring is not a female profession.