Fi Baird our highly experienced stockwomen is up to around the 200-voyage mark, so has things down to a fine art when packing these days.  Camille Camp who recently completed her maiden voyage on the Ocean Shearer; 9 days of sailing from Townsville port to Vietnam with 13 200 head of cattle! Here are their ‘must-pack items’ and a few tips for anyone going onboard a livestock vessel.

On Deck

Fi: Bumbag, knife and notebook – Bringing back that 80’s fad, the bumbag is a perfect way to keep medicines, clean needles and fresh syringes on my person while doing cattle checks. The knife is a must for cutting chaff and sawdust bags or customising a piece of rope. Notebook for jotting down pen numbers and ear tags for my treatments.

Camille: A rechargeable torch, it makes pen checking a lot easier! You’ll be using it a lot so make sure it’s a decent one. Having rechargeable is just more convenient. Headphones – Most of the time you’ll be working by yourself and it can be extremely noisy on deck. Having headphones in with some background music playing can really help make it feel less lonely. Just take it from me, don’t get caught busting out moves as you’re walking around the decks!

Food & Beverage

Fi: Depending on what fad diet I’m on, I tend to take along some snacks for after work and my own Weetbix and Yoghurt because the breaky’s onboard are fairly heavy. Hope you have a taste for bacon and eggs as that is a standard onboard. I also take my own butter because shipboard butter is often cheap Asian butter loaded with sugar.   Fruit is readily available onboard, and Cookie is always willing to sneak you a few extra pieces when requested.

Camille: I’ve never considered myself a coffee snob, anything fancier than Nescafé Blend 43 is too strong for me! However, I’ve also never drunk so much coffee in my life as I did on that voyage, especially during loading and discharge! The coffee on the ship was a particularly nasty instant coffee blend and I learnt from that experience and have brought gourmet coffee sachets for my next trip! Your own coffee cup is handy for when you haven’t got time to sit and sip!

Clothing & Footwear

Fi: A good pair of boots for loading and discharge and an old pair of sneakers for during the voyage.  Bare feet are unacceptable inside the accommodation so pack a pair of jandels (thongs)! Ladies, count your underwear and hand-wash and dry inside your room.   Jeans and a tidy shirt for discharge as you are representing a company, but during passage I am a big fan of lycra (to the dismay of the crew) and singlets (to the delight of the crew). It can get sweaty in the cargo holds when you are working hard, I change and shower several times a day so I pack clothes that I can wash and dry regularly.   Tip – grab a heap of t-shirts or singlets from St Vinnies or cheapies from Target etc, that way if they are well worn you can leave behind for the crew to use as rags.

Camille: Scarves/bandanas – Okay so this one is mainly for the women. Your hair WILL get disgustingly dirty and smelly. I started wearing a scarf over my hair to try keep it covered as much as possible. This wasn’t an act of vanity; I simply didn’t have time to wash my hair every single night!

Personal Effects

Fi: I never get on a ship without plenty of downloaded documentaries and podcasts. I sometimes take short online courses while I am onboard, so I have all that work downloaded also. Books are a must too, keep yourself entertained of an evening.  I always pack my own towel, soaps and shampoos although all of these are available onboard. Ladies – head straight to the mess-man and request extra towels for your hair, and blondes, you will need a good shampoo to counteract the brassy tones from hard RO water onboard.  Perfume and lippy – a spritz of Chanel and a pop of red every morning keeps me feeling glam in my manly surroundings.  I take my own loo paper too; I have always been too shy to ask for it.  I have learned that nearly every voyage someone will be having a birthday, so I always pack some gift cards and a few little treats. This can really make the day of a sailor thousands of miles from his family.

Everything you own will smell like cattle by the end of the voyage so I recommend putting a clean change of clothes in a plastic bag and wrap it tight so you can leave the ship and perhaps directly to a flight, smelling reasonably fresh.  A good ballpoint pen, chewing gum, Australian cash, and a photocopy of your passport are worth packing also.  Oh and make sure to pack a universal power adapter!

And of course, the best thing a stocky can take onboard is a great attitude and a good work ethic. Respect the rules of the vessel, keep your accommodation clean, clean your tools for the next stocky, and always thank the Captain and crew as you leave the ship.

Camille: Novels, videos, playing cards! I found that I didn’t have much free time during the day, but the evenings certainly can get boring. Download a heap of movies, pack that novel you’ve always wanted to read but have never had time, just anything that will keep you entertained for a few hours.

That’s my input to the list, I’m sure there’s more to add to it which I’ll learn along the way. If you’re about to set off on your first voyage and you’re worried about packing the wrong stuff don’t be afraid to shoot an email or message off to someone who’s done a few boats. I found everyone I spoke to was more than happy to share their tips and tricks.

Happy Sailing.

Fi & Camille