Captain Ken #29 - Weddings, Funerals and Services

Captain Ken Owen had a long career at sea which included sailing as master with Overseas Containers Limited (OCL), P&O Containers and P&O Nedlloyd.   Ken is now retired and in 2020 he started writing a monthly article for publication using the pen name 'Captain Ken' in the Mellor Church Outlook magazine.

A number of articles that Ken has written are about his time at sea and he has very kindly agreed that we can share them here.  

In the 29th article in the Captain Ken series on the PONL Heritage site Ken Owen tells us about the responsibilities of a ship's master when it comes to church services.    

This article was first published in the church magazine in April 2023.

A ship's captain has a big variety of responsibilities, most people are aware.  We are expected to conduct funerals, where necessary, but contrary to common belief not actual weddings. 

A great friend of mine, while master of a large passenger ship, was rudely awoken in the early hours following a very late passengers' party.  'Please Captain' said the young man responsible for waking him, covered in lipstick and bow tie at an angle, and his girl on his arm 'Will you marry us?' 

'I'm afraid I'm not actually licenced to do that', replied my friend, 'but if you let me go back to bed I'll give you a cover note until the end of the voyage'. 

On another occasion, while I was chief Officer on a ship, one of the passengers was a Church of England Rural Dean.  He was returning home from Hong Kong where he had been helping the Mission to Seafarers.  He had asked us if he could hold a Sunday morning Service for both passengers and crew to attend.  Our captain asked me to tactfully suggest to the Dean that, immediately following the Service, he might like to join us for a drink.  'As a matter of fact' said the Dean, 'I will be delighted to join you, as I do tend to Thirst after Righteousness'. 

The Blue Funnel cargo liner Laomedon

In the nineteen seventies. I was chief officer of the Blue Funnel cargo liner 'Laomedon'.  We were employed on a joint service with the Swedish East Asia Company and De La Rama Line of the Philippines, and known as the Blue Sea Line.  Our service was from New York and eastwards round the world, returning to New York.  We connected some of the world's biggest cities with some of the Philippines tiniest villages. 

One of these tiny villages was on Mindanao island, near to Davao and Zamboanga. There were no roads or railways connecting with anywhere, all connections were by sea. 

We were calling there on a Sunday, and the Minister at the local American Baptist Church kindly invited the captain, chief engineer and myself to attend his Morning Service.  It was a Service I shall never forget, I was surprised to find we were each expected to give a twenty minute sermon, as did all others in the Congregation, and the Service just went on and on way into the afternoon.  I was quite concerned, as from my pew, I could actually see our ship, the only one in the port, and noticed the crates of plywood, coming straight out of the sawmill, were being loaded more and more slowly. 

I was quite relieved to get back on board and in control again. 

(This article was first published in the March 2023 edition of the Mellor Church Outlook Magazine).

For further articles in this series:

Captain Ken Owen has kindly provided us with a new series of articles which will be published on a regular basis here.  If you are interested in reading other articles that he has written which we haven't yet used then please feel free to go to