IDF sailor finds his way back to sea

“The hardest part to get used to is the feeling that you’re always moving,” says Sgt. Nitay Efergan, who is serving in the Israel Navy.

July 30, 2013 00:48
2 minute read.
SGT. NITAY EFERGAN of the Israel Navy stands aboard his ship near the Gaza border.

Israel Navy sergeant on boat 370. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)

Even for the most devoted aquaphiles, living on a navy ship is not an easy task.

Everything is compact – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom – and there is little room to store personal items. The beds are half the size of standard twins.

“The hardest part to get used to is the feeling that you’re always moving,” says Sgt. Nitay Efergan, who is serving in the Israel Navy.

Raised by Israeli parents in Ocean City, Maryland, Efergan lived minutes from the beach. Endless summer days were spent fishing, swimming and surfing.

So when his family made aliya when he was 15 years old, Efergan never thought he would be so close to the ocean again, let alone living on it.

Today, instead of building sandcastles on the shore as in his childhod, Efergan can be found in the middle of the sea, stationed by the Gaza border. He and his shipmates are always on call, making sure no one illegally crosses into Israel.

“It doesn’t matter what time it is, the ship always has to be ready to go out to sea.

If someone tries to cross the border one night, I don’t sleep.”

Even when the ship is docked, Efergan and his shipmates sleep inside it. It is their home. Every morning they wake up early to check that everything is still working. If something goes wrong, they are the ones responsible for repairing it.

Efergan recalls one afternoon when the engine suddenly turned off.

“There was no one to fix it. I had to fix it with a few friends and it took until 4 a.m.

Work here isn’t easy.”

The constant upkeep isn’t the only difficult aspect of living on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Efergan has also encountered dangerous weather like four-mete-high waves and freezing rain.

“When rain is pouring on me, when people are throwing up, when I’m wet and cold, sometimes I can’t even bear to be in my own skin.”

Still, he says his time in the navy has been worthwhile. He compares his shipmates to brothers, lifelong friends. He also recently took a course to become a chief engineer, studying the complex makeup of engines and ships.

“Before I got here, I couldn’t tell you anything about a motor, a car. Now when I go home I can fix my car. I could probably make a career out of it. I didn’t have to pay a cent.”

Efergan hopes the strength he has acquired in the navy follows him throughout his life.

Nothing he might choose to pursue, Efergan added, could be harder than what he encountered in his service.

Although he doesn’t plan on returning to the Ocean City beach of his childhood, he knows he wants to live near the sea.

“Living on the ship is like a job, but it’s still like home. You only hear the ocean, the waves, the wind,” Efergan said. “It’s the most spiritual thing you can imagine.”

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