This Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating strange and misfit love stories. Because love is weird, and weirdo love is the best love.
We are all of us are beautiful and unique snowflakes, and it's only right that dating apps cater to every possible community. If you're into woke graphic designers, Bumble is the dating app for you. Fancy a freelance type who goes to the same coffee shop every day? Happn. Want the dregs of society to send you unsolicited dick pics? It's Tinder. (What is wrong with you?)
But what if you’re craving a man of the tides? A date who knows their stern from their bow?
Enter Sea Captain Date. Claiming to be the number one dating site for masters and commanders—a claim I find impossible to fact-check, but which I doubt anyone would seriously challenge—those welcomed aboard can set up a profile to navigate the stormy seas of dating in order to find the one. (By the one I mean, sea captain.)
My first impression is that Sea Captain Date is a joke because the homepage appears to be covered in stock images and absurd jokes. One hopeful announces on his profile: “I'm gonna come right out and be honest with you. I have a hook. It's on my right arm. It's not a big deal. I can swap it for different attachments." Another adds, "I'm usually pretty picky about who I date but beggars can't be choosers so I decided to lower my standards." I can't tell whether this is classic sea captain behavior, or just people messing about, so I plunge straight in.
Setting up a profile is easy, but nowhere do I have to prove I am a legitimate captain, which concerns me. How can I trust that anyone else is? After choosing an appropriate username, I deliberate over what I'm searching for, eventually settling on "penpal." (The other options are: "marriage," "one night stand," "friendship," "interests share," "hang out," or "love.") Sadly, there is no specific "compare sailor hats" category.
The breadth of high seas hotties on offer is both impressive and suspicious. There’s an 84-year-old man called Captn_Iglo with a bushy white beard and pipe, looking to date women aged 19 and up.
If he’s not your thing, you can always date Ice Cube. Sorry, MountMeLIkeAShip.
Or go for drinks with an actual boat with whom I am, remarkably, 90 percent compatible.
Joking aside, Sea Captain Date is beginning to smell funkier than a uncleaned fishing trawler. Except not only have these marine vehicles and rappers not logged in since 2016, they’re patently not serious about getting steamy on the seven seas.
Here's my theory: Thanks to the extensive media attention the site got when it was founded in 2012, jokers set up profiles in their droves and warded off the actual, lonely-hearted sea captains who wanted to connect with people.
And there were indeed sea captains active on the site at one point; if you look back to around 2015, you start to see the real users of Sea Captain Date.
Look at this profile:
Or this guy:
They're genuine sea merchants looking for love, pushed out by the joke merchants looking for laughs. And it's been something of a death knell for the site. Only one person has joined in 2018 so far, and he doesn’t appear to be a sea captain—his Twitter account hasn’t been active since June last year.
Determined to find hope, I message some of my matches. First: Captn_Iglo. His profile tells me he is “Captain of the Iglo," which I presume is a boat, but after some light research, I discover it’s the name of the company that owns British frozen food brand Birdseye, best known for its marketing campaign featuring a gruff sea captain. Coincidentally, Captn_Iglo's imagee is also the first result on Google if you search for "Captain Birdseye fish finger." Right, another joke profile.
Another match is tanakiki55 who says he’s a janitor, looks suspiciously like a model, and is interested in everything from being my pen pal to marrying me. He hasn’t been online since July, so doesn’t reply.
Everyone else is inactive. There is nobody on the online chat either, despite the site boasting thousands of members, and it's a Friday night—peak time for drunkenly messaging sea captains. The next day, there's still nobody online.
On the third day, I idly check my matches and see a new profile. Not only that, but he is currently online. My heart jumps into my mouth. My anchor drops into the sea. My pipe falls out. I think I’ve just used all my boating terminology in one go, so don’t expect any more.
Not wishing to overthink things, I say hey. And then I wait. Come on Piotr, 24, from Russia, looking to date a female between 20 and 101! (I've changed his name; I don't want to out any Sea Captain Date users who aren't fictional advertising mascots.)
I'm frozen and rudder-less. A genuine sea captain has replied! I can’t speak Russian, so I run his message through Google Translate. It’s not the simplest way to communicate, but the life of a seafarer is rarely easy.
We have an incredibly polite conversation, with me asking him how he is, him asking me how I am, him reporting that he is excellent and where do I hail from? If only we could use Google Translate all the time, dating apps would be so much nicer. Case in point: you can’t ask someone to get their penis out, because Google doesn’t know how to translate it. I tried, and when I translated it back it came out as this:
You can, however, ask people if they are a sea captain. He says he is, therefore validating the entire site and confining any lingering doubts to Davy Jones’s Locker. Sure, he tells me he technically works on land in Moscow’s boat servicing centre, but that doesn’t stop me envisioning our life together on the high seas. Maybe we’ll have children, and we’ll name them after the isolated islands we come across on our travels.
Then Piotr says, "Send me a photo."
Turns out, it seems that sea captains aren’t any different from regular landlubbers. Crafty as a pirate, I ask him to send a photo first. He sends me what is clearly a stock photo of a sailor, so I return the favor. If catfishing is a crime, we are going down together.
I learn that I am the only person he has found to contact through the site. We are the last living remnants of the sea captains. I also learn that “ha ha” in Russian is “xa-xa”.
Aware our time is coming to an end, he repeats the maxim that, by law, must be uttered on dating sites and apps, whether they be on sea, land, or air: “Send photos.” I log off. Half an hour later I get an email notification telling me Piotr has sent another message that translates as: "I do not have a girl I want sex…))))"
Curiously enough, my sea captain tryst was very like every other online dating experience I’ve had: pretending to be someone I'm not, while trying not to send nudes to Russian catfishers with imperfect grammar.
I contacted the Sea Captain Date offices to see why the site had gone so quiet, and if the surge in joke profiles had anything to do with it. They, like everyone apart from Piotr, never replied to me.
On a more serious note, it’s sad we had to ruin SeaCaptainDate for our own amusement. It could have really helped the real life sea captains of the world connect with those who understand the often nomadic and lonely life of a sailor. I hope they found another way in which to share their love of the waves with a special someone.
On a more practical level, if you want to hook up with your own personal sea captain, I'd suggest hanging out at local docks. Unless you want to have Google-translated cyber sex with a Russian catfisher, in which case, you know where to find him.