Living Well On a Ship

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One thing I have some experience with is living on board a ship. Before I came to YWAM I worked on a cruise ship for 4 years where I would live on board for up to 7 months at a time. We worked 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. Over the years I learnt a lot about how to live well on board a ship. So when I came to YWAM Townsville in 2008 and the leaders here started talking about getting a ship for ministy in Papua New Guinea, I didn’t think twice about the opportunity to once again live on board a ship. So in July 2010 I lead our first YWAM Medical DTS and took my team on board for portions of the school.

Now, the ship we had back then was the M/V Pacific Link, a 37 metre fishing boat that had been transformed into a medical ship….far from the 294 metre cruise ship I was on but there were still a lot of similarities to ship life, regardless of the size of the ship or persons on board, and the lessons I learnt during my years on the cruise ship helped me live well on board. Here are a few.


1. Maintain a good routine

When you are ‘go go go’ as you tend to be on a ship, there is always something on and somewhere to be, it is important to find routine. Keeping a good sleep schedule despite people always being around, eating as well as you can, exercise, and getting rest are all important things to make sure you do.


2. Get a Kindle (or other reader)

I remember when ebooks started to become a thing, I couldn’t believe that I no longer had to choose just a few books to take with me on the ship, but could take hundreds on them on one device! I love my kindle, the fact that on airplane mode it lasts weeks, and that I can have so many books with me wherever I go. When things are busy on board it can be very refreshing to disappear into a book for an hour or so.


3. Exercise

I know I mention this in routine, but it is so important for our overall wellbeing to do something active regularly. Living on a ship with limited space, it takes more effort to get up and do something, but making it a priority is key. On our current medical ship, MV YWAM PNG there’s a treadmill, and few stationary bikes, some weights, and a rowing machine. Plus LOTS of stairs! Exercise on a ship is possible, you just need to commit to do it 🙂


4. Eat well

Now, this can be difficult as your food is bought and prepared for you, but I believe there are things we can do to keep things healthy. Bring healthy snacks from home….fried dough balls, chocolate, and ice cream are oh so tempting to eat when you hit the ports and can finally buy something of your own to eat. Prepare for this by taking your favourite treat from home, and stock up on things that you like and are good for you.



5. Find some space to yourself

As I type this I can imagine many of my past students scoffing ‘find space on the ship, impossible!’. I agree it is hard, but I disagree that it is impossible. When you get on board, find a spot that you feel comfortable in, where you can reflect, read or listen to music and have a moment to yourself. For me personally, I usually find a spot on the sundeck or side deck where I can look out over the horizon and just enjoy the beauty before me. Doesn’t matter where in the world I am, I just love watching the water or coast line.



6. Bring seasick medication!

Ok, this one I don’t actually do, I have been incredibly blessed with good sea legs and I don’t get sick. If you KNOW that you won’t sick then you can ignore this one, BUT if you are not 100% sure. Take. The. Medication. I can not tell you the number of people who have regretted their choice to “see how I’ll go”. Once you start feeling sick, it is too late my friend. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you did ok on the sail to the first location on sea sick medication that you will be fine without it on the way back. Many more have regretted that choice.



There are many other things I could probably talk about but I’ll leave you with this final thought…

Enjoy the experience. Most people on board our ship are there for just a short time. Maybe a 2 week outreach, or as part of their Discipleship Training School outreach. You don’t have to go hard for 7 months, so don’t hold back. Spend time in the dining hall chatting to the other volunteers, make new friends in the villages and soak up every moment. Trust me, 2 weeks goes by very fast.

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Helen Middleton

Helen joined us on staff in 2009. She is Australia born but grew up in Jersey, Channel Islands in the UK. Helen is passionate about seeing people understand who they are, discovering their gifts, and finding their purpose. Being active, heading outdoors and enjoying a good read in a hammock are just a few of her favourite things. She enjoys leading DTS’s and has been involved in leading 11 so far!

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