The Seafarer’s Mind: The Questions I've Always Wanted to Ask

Nautilus Telegraph's Book of the Month for September 2020.

Authors: Martin Otto

ISBN 9783944472232


This self-help guide is aimed mainly at Christian seafarers, but contains experiences and advice that mariners of all backgrounds can relate to. Author Martin Otto is a maritime chaplain who has spent decades counselling seafarers on shipboard challenges including loneliness, infidelity, substance abuse, and trying to care for a family at a distance. In The Seafarer’s Mind, he offers both practical and spiritual guidance – also  highlighting resources such as the ISWAN guide Managing Stress and Sleeping Well at Sea.


Large parts of the book are devoted to first-hand accounts of the problems individual seafarers have faced; words that we perhaps do not hear
enough in the traditional shipboard culture of putting on a brave face. Trying to be a good parent is something that concerns many of Otto’s interviewees, who are typically Filipino seafarers on long tours of duty. ‘What good does it do,’ says one engineer, ‘if I send [my children] money, buy them houses, enable them to attend the best schools, but have no time to enjoy their fellowship?’ While accepting the difficult reality of this situation, the author suggests that seafarers can take comfort in setting a good example to their children through their own studies and hard work, and advises on how to make the most of the time they have at home.


He quotes passages from the Bible which could help the faithful, and offers an interesting selection of thoughts from the children of seafarers. Not surprisingly, Otto counsels that seafarers’ ultimate solace will lie in their religious faith, but he stresses that this doesn’t have to mean praying alone in a cabin: a community of fellow believers is out there, and chaplains in ports around the world are ready and waiting to extend the hand of friendship.