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Board Life

This page is mainly about the MIR, but most of it more or less applies on all tall ships that take trainees.


A tall ship is a very special vessel - a kind of ship which the very most trainees have never seen before they come on board for the first time. The MIR is a civil school ship which trains cadets for the Russian merchant marine. This is a type of education which has become rare in the western world. Russia still keeps up the tradition that every navigational officer has to have sea times on a sailing vessel before he receives his navigation diploma.

For various reasons the MIR takes on board paying trainees additional to the students of the State Maritime Academy. On one hand those are of course commercial reasons as the upkeeping of a tall ship is extremely expensive. On the other hand there is the contact and understanding between Russian people and people from other nations. Who sails on board MIR is entering a new world. He meets Russian people and the Russian way of life. For many people - especially for those from the Western World this is a completely new experience. So it is for the cadets of whom the very most have never been out of Russia before. During their sailing practice on MIR they can test their English language skills and get to know people from all over the world.

New for the most trainees is also that they do not sail as passengers but count to the crew and can become an active part of the ship's routines. In fact they have the same rank as the cadets - although as paying guests they do not have all the duties of the cadets. The MIR is not a cruise ship and lacks of any luxury. There are no deck chairs, but also no dress codes and captain's dinners. However, the MIR is also not an adventure sailing ship, where landlubbers can pretend to be sailors for some days. Other than on the numerous traditional sailing ships where a voluntary crew of enthusiasts and hobby sailors works together on the MIR professional nautical education is provided. The permanent crew consists only of professional seamen. This has some consequences for the living together of crew, trainees and cadets. To explain this I will talk a bit about MIR's permanent crew and the board life. 

The permanent crew

The permanent crew of the MIR consists of 50 persons. Those are professional seamen who are all educated and certified to the International Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW). Many of the crew members are employed with the MIR for many years. As a rule they are on board 12-24 months and then have 6-12 months vacation. For those seamen the MIR is working place and home. Of course they have their homes and families in St. Petersburg/ Russia, but there the ship is only for some weeks every year. The major part of the year the crew is living on board. So it is understandable that they need a part of the vessel where they are undisturbed during their off-duty hours. Trainees - and also cadets - have no access there, unless they have been invited. The crew members have their cabins in this part of the ship - most of them not even a cabin of their own - plus their tv-room, their mess room and their sanitary tracts. The difference of interior between those areas and the more public areas of the vessel is marginal. To make obvious where the private areas are, they have carpet on the floor (nickname: "carpet-departments"). The officers are accommodated in the aft part of the vessel and the ratings live in the tween deck midships. While at sea these areas are divided from each other by bulkheads. It is common practice that the officers do not go into the accommodations of the ratings and vice versa.

The Ranks

The crew of any ship consists of officers and ratings. While officers have to study navigation or engineering at a maritime academy or university for some years the ratings absolved some on the scene training and special classes at seaman's schools. Every officer has visited these classes, too, and also has had some training on various vessels before getting his diplom. On the MIR there are always some crew members who own higher certificates than the rank they are working in. There are not so many jobs inside the command of the vessel so that a seaman who wants to work on the ship often can only muster as rating and only after some time can hope to enter a higher rank.
However, among those who are on board for some times ranks are not so important. They live together as a big family or as a crew of friends. The crew calls each other by the first name. The master is called by the first name and the "fathersname" (a Russian habit which expresses both - familiarity and respect).


Uniforms are not popular among the crew. During a day sailing or when the master has ordered it, they are worn. In port the watch officer wears uniform so that strangers can easily see who is on duty. But when the ship is underway, everybody wears what is suitable for the weather and the work he is doing. So don't be irritated when you see the master leaning to the rail for fishing wearing a sloggy parka.  

The cadets have a working outfit and a parade uniform. The latter is also their school uniform when at home at the academy. The academy is a boarding school and everybody is wearing a school uniform. On board MIR they are wearing private clothes when off duty. This makes sense. So everybody can easily see, which cadet is at watch (an can be employed for work) and which cadet not.


There are numerous traditions in seafaring, but who hopes for the singing of shanties is wrong on MIR. The music during the work comes from the board broadcast: Russian pop music. Shanties may be much more romantic, but the cadets are between 17 and 19 years and see this differently. 

There are no traditions on board only for romantic reasons. If things are made in a traditional way, so it is because this has proved reasonable over the years. 

Do's and Don't's

10 golden rules to make your trip a success:

this page was updated 10/07