Not much has changed since I was at sea a long time ago. I sailed on a Shell tanker for more then three years at one stretch with only one docking period that gave some air. I had asked several times for furlough but that was never granted. In those days there was a permanent shortage of officers and crew due to the very low salaries. Working ashore would give you a salary raise of 15-20%, also due to shortages. Not long hereafter all seafarers got a raise of 12% which improved the situation. Obviously they were pretty desperate.
At the end of that period we were bound for Rotterdam which would give an opportunity to get some leave. In those days you had to sign up for the voyage meaning that if the ship returned to Rotterdam the voyage had officially ended. They took care to avoid the ship calling on Rotterdam.
So I sent a telegram to the office for some well earned leave. The reply came quick and was short: “Leave not allowed”. I send another telegram in the same cryptic style: “Will hand over my resignation on arrival Rotterdam”. I then received an elaborate reply asking me to reconsider my “hasty” decision and that this called for a discussion at the main office. Finely they pointed out that since I was younger than 27 years old I had to serve in military service for two years.
The end of the story was that I got three months of leave. I must admit that as a bachelor I was soon fed up and bored stiff with life ashore and after two months, a bit shamefully, asked for a ship again…