You'd be surprised how many of 'em are still out there. On my last voyage (2005) I sailed with an 80-year-old seaman who started going to sea at the age of 18. He said he first shipped out during World War II, on an old Hog Islander. He insisted that he was going to continue shipping out as long as he could pass the physical and the union allow it. I was also on a freighter carrying ammo to the Persian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War, the crew of which included a 76-year-old A.B. He told us that he had been torpedoed TWICE during World War II. After that he quit the Merchant Marine, joined the Army and became a paratrooper, where he he believed he stood a better chance of surviving the war!
The best story I heard was from an old A.B. with Lykes Lines. He told me that after his ship was torpedoed he and the other survivors were picked up by the British, who then placed them in an internment camp until they could prove that they were bona fide survivors and not German spies! Eventually they were released but, because they were not military personnel, they were not repatriated. The survivors had to live from hand to mouth in Britain until they managed to secure jobs on other merchant ships heading back to the States. He also told me that, in those days, a seaman's pay stopped once his ship was sunk, and the company took no further interest in him. In addition, he said, if a seaman did finish a voyage he got 30 days leave, and if he hadn't shipped out by the 30th day, he received his draft notice on the 31st day!
Last edited by Klaatu83; 10th July 2009 at 01:01..