Boats and trains are two very common modes of transport for backpackers. Here is some advice on how to get the most out of them:
Trains can be quite convenient since it is easy to get up and walk around during your trip. If you do not have a specified seat you might have to be quick when the train arrives. People waiting first in line to get on the train might put clothes and handkerchiefs on multiple seats. Brute force may sometimes be the only option to get a good seat.
The Japanese Journey
I was on an organized tour in Japan. We were going to take a Shinkansen bullet train to travel out in the country side. As the train rolled away from the station we started to relax and enjoyed the beautiful sights rolling by and the lush nature. After one hour the tour guide realized he had left his bag at the station. After we reached our destination and had settled into our hotel he took the train back to the station and lo and behold: 4 hours after we had left the station the bag was still where he had left it!
Check where the life jackets and life rafts are located and what to do in an emergency situation. Some ferries have first class tickets on the lowest floor, e.g. China, which may not be so attractive if you travel in an old second-hand ferry with questionable floating capabilities.
The Zanzibar Storm
I was taking the ferry from Zanzibar back to the mainland. Always the wise guy I started humming the theme song from the movie Titanic (My heart will go on). I had barely ended when a storm hit us with huge waves which broke the electronic equipment and people screaming everywhere (though I am not sure if it was because of the storm or my singing). Kharma seems to have a way of getting back at you…