Life on a Tanker: together at mealtimes

The Australian Spirit Galley Crew

The Australian Spirit Galley Crew

Karen Campbell, a current a naval architecture and marine engineering (M.Eng.) student, recently had the opportunity to go onboard one of Teekay’s conventional crude vessels, the MT Australian Spirit. Over the course of 13 days, she had a front seat view at a vessel in action once it left the shipyard – and also got a glimpse into what life is like at sea. She has written a series of blog posts about her experience, the third of which is below. We hope you follow along as she talks about touring the ballast tanks, mealtimes, work-life balance, community and family onboard, social activities, living on a tanker, and being in the bridge while sailing into port.


Chatting over mealtimes was one of the best ways to get to know the people on board and to hear about their stories and perspective about life at sea. It was also a great way to try new foods, and to learn how many different types of masalas exist!

There were three areas where the ship’s complement would eat. As a visitor on board, I usually took meals in the officers’ mess with the Captain, Chief Engineer and his wife, the Chief Officer, and any other officers or engineers who were eating at the same time. Officers and engineers would often take their lunches in the duty mess instead, as work clothes (such as boiler suits) were not to be worn in the officers’ mess room and running up and down the stairs could get tiring after a while. The rest of the crew ate in the crew mess room, which was slightly larger and where the karaoke system was set up.

My second day on board, I learned that it wasn’t just the Chief Officer and me who had embarked in Whiffen Head. Some 20-30 snow crabs showed up at our dinner! Having never tackled an entire half-crab (complete with a tasty sweet chili sauce) on my plate before, I was a little unsure how best to go about eating my meal politely and neatly in front of my hosts. I’m not sure how successful I was at that, but in retrospect, the shared experience was actually a great way to get us laughing together and therefore to break the ice. Food is a wonderful thing in that respect.

The food continued on a similar note (though nothing quite as extravagant). I sampled all sorts of vegetarian masalas, meat dishes, and overall familiar base foods prepared in ways I’d never tried before. What struck me the most was not any one dish, but the number of cultures represented on my plate every single meal. The international nature of the food always lent itself to conversation. The most common topics that kept coming up over the table covered topics such as produce and dishes from where we were all from, languages, dialects, and accents, celebrations and cultural norms, weather and climate.

The galley was all stainless steel. It was located between the officers’ and crew mess rooms and featured deep sinks and restraining bars around the large stovetop on the island to minimize risk of mishaps in rougher seas, though apparently they’re a bit of a hindrance otherwise. A set of stairs led from the galley down to the stores, where there was a large area for dry and canned foods, as well as refrigerated rooms for produce, fish, and meats.

People think it’s strange that milk comes in bags where I’m from. To me however, it was funny that the milk on board was in Hershey cartons, labeled ‘Served chilled’.

Original story: Together at Mealtimes

To read more about Karen’s experience, read her next blog post here.