A matter close to the heart


Tragedy has struck our seas off the coast of Italy as the Costa Concordia sinks. This matter is close to my heart for many reasons. I just returned from two weeks onboard a cruise ship and as most of my readers know, my husband is a Staff Captain. I am also a former crew member and I fear the worst for those who probably perished in the belly of the ship…where most of the crew cabins are located.

When I first started dating my husband he was a Safety Officer. I gained a new respect for his role onboard and took my responsibilities quite seriously when it came time for rescue training and drills. I learned that he could be held personally liable if something went wrong and that not only could it cost him his career and reputation but also his freedom.

I have been reading all the reports on this recent tragedy of the Concordia and as usual the media has been quick to point fingers and find fault with the Captain. I too have been wondering what the heck happened that night. Was the Captain taking unnecessary risks?  Did he wait too long to sound the general alarm? Was there something seriously wrong with the ship and he lost control? Why was the passenger drill scheduled for the next day? Would the passengers have still panicked if they had done the drill earlier?

In time, hopefully all these questions will be answered. But I fear nonetheless. Why? Because not only the Captain was detained by police but also the first officer. If this was my husband’s ship he too would likely be in police custody trying to justify his actions. I’m not saying this is wrong. There is a huge level of responsibility in these positions and they must be held accountable and answer to authorities.

Many have also criticized the crew for being unorganized…I’m sorry, but all of us do drills weekly when the ship is in an upright position! Of course things appeared to be chaotic, just walking in an upright position obviously posed a challenge so how could crew get organized? My guess is they did the best they could.

Personally, even with all my former training, I will never know how I will handle such a situation until I am really in it. Will I panic? Will I keep my wits about me and help others? Will I follow my safety instructions which were assigned to me even though I know my muster station is underwater? What then? What’s the contingency plan?

I know how to launch a life raft, flip it over and collapse the roof for a helicopter rescue. I was an artist on the ship, not a navigational officer. But these were skills I learned in order to feel safe and secure and assist others if such a disaster occurred on my ship.

I pray for those who suffered during this tragic event. I pray for the Captain and hope that the public don’t sentence him without a fair trail. I pray for every crew member and passenger who is aboard a ship right now. Many crew members are young and unfortunately all too often I see the guests lack of respect for their training. If your ship is sinking please, I beg you, if a crew member is trying to help you listen to them!

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About lmarmstrong66

I'm a blogger, painter, writer, singer. For the love of all things in nature and creativity.
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4 Responses to A matter close to the heart

  1. Nancy Di says:

    As someone who loves to cruise I was horrified to read reports of the ship running aground and sinking. I know I take for granted the safety of these “floating cities” and hate the mandatory muster, all too anxious to get on with my vacation. Never again. Thanks for helping to raise my awareness.

    • Nancy,
      Crew members must write a safety test every time they return to a new contract and must sign-in at every drill. If they fail they are sent home. If they don’t show up for drills they are sent to the Staff Captain’s office and will get a warning on their file. There are continuous courses about crowd control, etc. Each ship’s crew is tested by Coast Guard several times a year. Practice drills for medical, fire, and abandon ship are all drilled regularly. I wish that the cruiselines would emphasize this more to the passengers. They just see us as dishwashers and dancers. I’m not saying that all crew take it as seriously as I do but they still know more about safety onboard than your average passenger does.
      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. Sandy says:

    The captain abandoned his ship….he was advised on numerous occasions to go back but refused, at least that’s what everyone on TV is claiming. He was on a life raft making his escape 2 hours after the ‘accident’…

    • Dear Sandy,
      Thanks for dropping by my blog.
      I’m certainly not saying the Captain’s actions were right or wrong, but the media certainly doesn’t have all the facts and I think it is unfair to make judgements…I’ll leave that to the authorities, not the media. I personally feel sorry for him. He does seem to have made some bad decisions and that is unfortunate. Who knows what he was thinking. Being a Captain is a very high pressured job. He was on a very new ship and it was obviously “supersized” (i.e. ridiculously, unneccessarily big). Costa is as much to blame for this by asking the Captain to sail in the channel instead of where it was safer in the open waters on the opposite side of the islands…why? all so that the passengers could have a prettier view out their window during dinnertime. It was just a matter of time before something like this happened and the magnitude was unpredictable. There was no way of knowing if the ship was dented or had a hole in it until water started to come in.

      I think our nature is “fight or flight” in such cases and he chose flight…one can never really know which one we will choose until the moment arises, wouldn’t you agree? I personally think I would be crapping my pants in panic, but then again, maybe all my training would take over and I would take charge and help others…I hope I never find out the answer to that!

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