Life on a Tanker: work hard, play hard

A panoramic view of the recreation room onboard

A panoramic view of the recreation room onboard

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 fourth and last 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.


The ship is definitely a working vessel, but it is also home to some twenty people who need time away from their jobs as much as anyone. During my 13 days onboard, I was able to watch and participate in lots of the favourite pastimes on the ship.

While onboard, a ping pong tournament was just getting started. The previous one had just wrapped up and had been a big hit, with some pretty sweet prizes going to the winner and runner up. The tournaments were often a point of conversation and it always seemed like there were people practicing for the upcoming one.

Music was a definitely also big thing on board. From music videos being the after-dinner entertainment of choice, to karaoke, to the humming you’d hear as people worked, it was everywhere. Heck, even the ship herself liked to hum from time to time!

One evening after dinner I found myself drawn into the officer’s lounge by the sound of guitar. The Chief Engineer and Captain had pulled out an acoustic and an electric guitar. They were testing out a new amp that was a replacement for the last amp, which got fried when it was plugged directly into the 220 V wall outlet without a voltage adaptor. After watching others play around with the instruments for a bit, I was persuaded by the Chief Engineer’s wife to take a turn, and was delighted to be taught a blues-type scale by the Chief Engineer, and to try to work out chords and riffs for a couple classics with the First Engineer.

If I’d been onboard a little longer, I’m sure I would have eventually found myself chilling out with the crew, singing karaoke in the crew mess. As it was, I only poked my head in once while the system was going, and was far too shy to join in. Next time, I guess!

One memorable evening, most the complement ended up in the officer lounge, where ‘horse racing’ had been set up. Horse racing consisted of a large board with a six-lane track around the outside. Two dice controlled the movement of six horses. Players might bet on which horse will cross the finish line first, last, or whatever has been decided at the start of the race. It was fun to watch everyone get excited about their horse’s progress. After horseracing was over, darts became the game of choice. Even a skilled dart player might have had a hard time hitting that bull’s eye though – the ship was rolling that evening!

Original story: Work Hard, Play Hard