Vitamin Sea: The Saga of a Goan Shippie

Brother, I’d extremely hard times but it’s all good now. Life — and the sea — has been generous.

These words are ringing in my head as I’m writing this blog post. These words are of my long-lost schoolmate — Nativity Alphonso.



It’s circa 1993-94, I used to reach his home, and we use to walk together to the school; every day. I still remember his cozy little home and a loving-kind family—mother, father, son, and daughter. Life was hard. The family used to stay in this one little room with scarcities but there were hope, compassion, aspiration and a dream. A dream to change the future forever, and luckily Nativity was a brilliant student.



It’s 2017. He’s working as a top-most employee in a prestigious shipping company; in India. He’s been around the globe several times. He’s has seen the sea like no one. The sea is his mentor, friend, lover, boss, audience, and all of that. It’s been 17 years since he’s sailing; from one corner of the circle to another.

My friend Nativity has seen extremely difficult times in life. But he never gave up or surrendered to defeat. He faced all the problems like a warrior and made them into opportunities.


Recently, I went to Goa to meet him as he’s onshore for a few months. We were discussing his life journey. In Mumbai, they lived in a little home and now he’s made a mansion in his native place — one of the most beautiful villages in the world.

The name of the mansion is CASA DE ALPHONSO.

It’s a beautiful and huge mansion — I think the biggest in the village. The top of the roof is painted red and it’s seen from far; across the serene river that flows behind it.


Nativity has seen it all.

The dance of the whales, calling sunrises, crying sunsets, loneliness of the sea, infinite skies, naughty waves, furious storms, horny men, sexy women, waterfall of alcohol, busy ports, marvels of technology, mega-structures, sleepy eyes, awaken dreams, changing seasons, songs of fire and ice, starry nights, rainbow-filled days, no end or beginning and all of that — everything.

Nativity has seen it all.


While talking to him the other day, I learned so many things about life at sea. The challenges, pain, fun, perks, etc. I learned that a seafarer doesn’t need a visa to enter a foreign country but they have a seaman’s service book.

I also learned that Indians and Filipinos make the best team on the ship. I never knew anything about the life of a seafarer — fondly called a shippie — but now, I’ve got 10 reasons to be grateful to them:

  1. Seafarers run the global economy
  2. Seafarers sacrifice their social life
  3. Seafarers fight the toughest seas and roughest weather
  4. Seafarers risk their lives through piracy and war zones
  5. Seafarers face extreme health hazards
  6. Seafarers follow the toughest regulations and laws
  7. Seafarers work round the clock with monotonous routines
  8. Seafarers work the most without the basic rights
  9. Seafarers are at high risk of decriminalization and abandonment while performing their duties
  10. Seafarers live with least accommodation and communication facilities

My friend has made it real big. Big at heart also. He’nature and wildlife lover. He has made a small forest inside his residential premises in Goa; that also includes composting using Trustbin. And all of this is managed by his loving-kind wife — Mayo — while he’s away on the ship.

Seafarers are probably all around you, throughout society like silent war veterans. The struggles of ship life are shared by all who’ve spent nights listening to the waves crash against steel walls.

Forget any romantic notions of life on the ocean wave — most modern-day seafarers are simply prisoners with a salary.

Life is at sea is hard but Nativity is harder.

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