Talking Politics Aboard Ship

Small talk gets big in a hurry when the subject of politics comes up between people on opposite side of the spectrum who are blinded by their ideology.


It doesn’t bother me in the least. Whenever politics come up, I step back from the conversation and if that doesn’t work, I find a reason to walk away from it all together to attend to more personally meaningful matters.


It all went to hell when boats and ships got satellite TV which, these days, are always tuned to a politics/news channel. It was once unheard of to have a TV turned on during meal time. The line was crossed; now it’s all politics/news. Before work, during breaks and meals, after work. That was seen by the political addicts as the green light to talk politics on board.

I wish my captain would order the news channel disabled ship wide. Print a one page daily news highlights each morning and put a copy in each break room. Things would be so much better.


I agree. I was sailing between south African ports during the Gore/Bush debacle. I think you’re right in wishing for a single sheet of paper summarizing world news. It’s exactly what we got. A ship is a workplace, not a political debate society.


When I first started sailing there was no satellite TV. We did get news; the radio operator would print a news and sports sheet usually one or two pages long with the news of the day. One copy went to the officer mess, another to the crew mess.

News drama was when some inconsiderate ass took the sheets out of the mess. When that happened no one could read the news that day. Bad day for the fool if the crew figured out who it was! Yet no one discussed the news. That wasn’t polite.

The never ending argument was why the RO didn’t print more copies. That was countered by the argument that the idiot should know not to take the news sheets out of the mess. That argument/ counter argument would burn for months.

I miss the old days.

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We used to get safety bonuses , both captains agreed to combine the money and get a decent satellite tracking device and boxes in every room. Although we watched many news shows and movies, “The Price Is Right” was the most entertaining at lunch.

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I don’t know many other work places where you spend your “off the clock” hours (if you want to even call them that) still kind of on the clock and still at work. I don’t think it’s somewhere you should air your dirty laundry or go out of your way to argue, but on the ships I’ve been on after 120 days with mostly the same people it’s almost unavoidable.

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The 24 hour TV news cycle makes people crazy. The talking heads and video clips are designed to sell products on behalf of advertisers by pandering to their targeted audiences with repetitious sound bites introduced as BREAKING NEWS!

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It seems that all threads on all forums these days devolve into political discussion often to the detriment of the forum - whether it is for mariners, pilots or DIYers. I do my best not to join in but sometimes it’s just too tempting.

However the adage not to discuss politics and religion on board is (in my option) a good one and something that I enforce religiously on board. The problem on a ship is that you can’t escape the discussion in the mess room, and additionally there’s almost always a power difference involved.

I spend about 8 of my 12 months as a cadet with a particularly noxious CE who would continuously pontificate at the dinner table and in the bar (where the cadet was assigned the barman position) about what was wrong with the world in general and in particular with anyone graduated from a maritime school in the last 10 years or so (note this guy was in his early forties). I hated the mans’ guts but couldn’t do anything about - or even pipe up against it - since he had to sign off my task book (I’m a dual licence guy, as was the norm in NL in that era).

More recently (working as a master) I’ve had people almost come to blows on the bridge over the civil war in Ukraine, tensions were understandable as people were dying on both sides at home but you really can’t take it on board with you - and anyone who mentions the conflict where I can hear it can go pack their bags and join the fight on their preferred side back home (I understand just enough Russian to pick that up!)

Another one was a Malaysian safety officer who assigned himself the role of Imam of the ship’s long time Indonesian crew (of whom some had pretty liberal interpretations of their nominal religion). The bosun informed me that if this new fellow doesn’t pull his head in he might have an accident with an angry fitter and a 55mm spanner…

So yeah, don’t discuss that stuff on board, even with people who you think would agree with your views. Especially not with people who are dependent on you for their future career as they may feel brave enough to tell you how they really feel.


Forgot about this thread:

I know a guy or two…who was very similar. You can’t escape the galley talk. Have seen signs at more than a few good places “Eat and get the hell out”

What ships have satellite TV now?

Had satellite tv on the large tugs for decades. Early on , we (The crew) paid for it ourselves. After I retired heard the last outfit I worked for picked up the tab.

Before I retired most ships I worked on had satellite TV. Due to the make up of the crew the TV in the galley was tuned to Fox News. After some ruckus, Fox News was banned first under much protest on some of the ships, all other news channels were eventually banned in public areas. “The Price is RIght” became popular again. I personally thought, considering the crew, it would be better if only educational programs were allowed. The Smithsonian and Science Channels were my suggestions.

Alex Trebeck was a hit as well. May he RIP


Currently I work research & most times the professors & students are “make their own clothes, grow their own organic with their own homemade fertilizers” types. Many of the American officers are on the polar opposite of the political spectrum of the researchers. But we all like our jobs, crew & researchers alike & everyone knows what happens if we cause problems by talking politics. Funding comes from both Republican & Democrat lawmakers & higher ups in the research hierarchy knows to play their cards close to their chest. Political polar opposites can work together if they have half a brain & want to keep their jobs. But don’t fuck up anywhere else concerning your work because political polar opposites will stab you in the back if they are just slightly that type of people.


There’s plenty of TV onboard.
I concur generally with the avoidance of polarizing subjects being discusses onboard. There’s nothing to gain by feeding a belief system in close quarters.

One good thing that is likely to come out from all this mess: I predict that the insurrectionists, as a condition of parole or probation, will be required to complete courses in American Civics. They will also be required to give talks on the same.

I don’t see how this second part of your comment has anything to do with, “Talking Politics Aboard Ship”. Sounds more like talking politics on gcaptain forum?


[quote=“Sand_Pebble, post:18, topic:58042, full:true”]

You don’t think people, even mariners, might learn something from repentant insurrectionists?

Most ships I’ve been on only allowed the mess room TV to be on the Safety Channel, showing HSE stuff, rig business, crew photos, etc. During meal times that lead to actual conversation. I found that preferable.

Having Direct TV meant you could watch whatever news or non-news you wanted in the comfort of your own cabin.

In Canada you count on the lounge TV almost always playing hockey, which could lead to political-worthy disagreements, but much more good natured.