Relaxing is hard work!

This is where we were!

Whilst my last post stated that I was “Busy, busy, busy…” I was on retreat with my good friends and fellow Chaplains’ at the Bield Retreat Centre – very relaxing, yet exhausting too… that said, I did return this morning to my home, hospital and ship visits this morning, then catching up with emails and letters before starting this update… as ever,  busy, busy, busy… Haha! Here are some pictures from the retreat:

 

 

 

Presentation to ‘father Tim!’

Cutting his cake

 

And some relaxation and chat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was great to have a break from the routine and spend time away from the port (although seafarers were never far from my thoughts and prayers and formed the topic of almost all our conversations!

Good food too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going home was a bit harder – see the picture below!  

Plenty of washing up to do!

 

 

 

 

 

     Great Banter…

Visitors continue to make use of the Seafarers Centre and with the new opening times in the afternoon, 1300-1500, Monday through Friday, we have seen an increase of visitors and it was good to have Walter, the Captain and the cook visit for a bit of banter…  

         A honorary Scotsman?

 

 

 

We also had a visit from Captain Singh of the detained vessel, the Malaviya Seven…

I was able to introduce him to the delights of “Scotland’s other National Drink,” IRN BRU. He did say it was nice, but I’m not sure if he was just being polite or not! 

The vessel is still under arrest, awaiting the end of the 42 days before their plight comes before the courts. Their generator hire expires next week so they will be facing more blackouts and limited cooking. Things are very fluid just now, but I am grateful to the companies who have donated financially towards their welfare needs. They have asked for no publicity and I respect them all the more for giving so generously without seeking public recognition for their actions. 

                  Tennis anyone?

Of course, boredom continues to be an issue for the crew. It is difficult during a ‘normal’ crew change cycle to keep from getting ‘edgy’ with one another, but after over 13 months for some guys on the vessel, it is not surprising that things can get a bit tense from time to time.

An Angel?

The 1st officer and 2nd captain enjoy a game of tennis on the after deck – and in glorious sunshine too!

We all seek to support them in as many ways as we can. There is a team of “friends” of the crew who do so much more than I do, and one person in particular, helps with medical issues, being a nurse with the NHS.  I wont embarrass her by saying too much, but she is very much appreciated by the crew and all at the Aberdeen Seafarers Centre for helping out so often and in so many ways, not only with medical issues, but also taking them out on outings and generally helping out whenever she can. Thank You!

The splash in the bottom left of the picture is of a dolphin having fun when I was out with Ricky Greenhowe on his vessel Sea Cab. He does Harbour Tours and often sees the dolphins ‘at play!’ We were out as STV 2 were doing a live broadcast, the cameraman and reporter found it a bit choppy so struggled a little… even though it was lovely and sunny and not that bad! Always good to get off dry land!

And on a personal note, I am now a grandfather… my youngest son and his wife gave birth to Daniel Joshua, 6lbs 6oz on Saturday, 29th April. 

My next youngest son and his wife are due to add to the Drysdale clan in July… a baby girl this time by all accounts. Below a couple of the many photographs… :o)

           Proud as punch!

 

          Praise the Lord? – Starting early?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well enough from this doting grandfather… more updates to follow. Tomorrow I will be in Invergordon for the Port Welfare Committee Meeting tomorrow… Such fun!

Blessings,

Howard ><>

Busy, busy, busy…

And I really do enjoy being busy! 

It is great to be out and about visiting ships when the weather is fine – it does happen occasionally in Aberdeen! We have also had some awful weather too – with some snow, hail and freezing cold to boot!

                  A tranquil day?

The good weather can be seen in the picture opposite taken from the bridge of a vessel, it can be rather nice in Aberdeen. 

     Smiles from a Happy Seafarer!

However, for one Filipino seafarer, his arrival in Aberdeen went badly when he discovered that his luggage had not arrived with him… Sadly, the vessel was sailing that evening and he needed some clothes to ‘tide him over’ before they came back into port. So, arms full of clothes, razor, shampoo and soap, one happier seafarer left to join his vessel. (He did get his luggage on his return!)

We do get many donations of good quality second-hand clothes – including jumpers, t-shirts, joggers, jeans, and shoes amongst other items! If you have anything – having a clear out before you get your summer outfits?? – then please do consider donating them to us in order that we can then pass them on to seafarers in need. 

                   Eyes down…    House!

I have had a couple of speaking engagements recently. These are not to raise funds, rather they are great opportunities to share about the work of the Aberdeen Seafarers Centre and the many needs of the 10,000 seafarers who visit the port each year. It never ceases to amaze me how many people do not know very much about the life if  Merchant Seafarers! 

It is also a time when I can generate prayer support for the ministry and more importantly for seafarers! They travel a dangerous path through many difficult seas… and need, some even appreciate, our prayers! 

However, at a recent group, they started with the bingo! It was very enjoyable evening and no, I didn’t win a line or a house! 

The Centre has been very busy this past couple of weeks with more visitors in the past two weeks than a normal month  in fact, numbers generally are up on last year with around 100 more visitors per month between January and March compared to the same period last year. It is great to see the place buzzing with plenty of happy seafarers using the wi-fi; playing pool or just relaxing and chatting with our team of volunteers.

We are always looking for more volunteers – if you have  free afternoon or evening, why not come and join the team? Do get in touch with me and I will send you our Volunteers Form or pop in for a chat between 1300-1500 Monday through Friday or any evening after 1800. The kettle is always at the ready!

           Awe…

Our volunteers do a fantastic job of keeping the Seafarers Centre open every day of the year.

Stacey, our part-time administrator has been a great help in getting me in order! She is off work just now on maternity leave – and has just had a beautiful baby daughter Lacey! Thankfully, one of our volunteers has stepped in to help and Cara is now keeping me in order! She even had some flowers in her hair – a nice welcome for seafarers for sure! 

There are many tasks that need doing and the centre really would not continue if it was not for the team of loyal volunteers who come  once a month and those who come several times a month! Key to the smooth running of the Centre are our Key Holders who open up the Centre and make sure everything is ready for our visitors – and then clear up at the end and lock up again! What a great team we have – come on down and join us!

 

Over the years I have met and become friends with many a seafarer. Kenny is one such person… after his retirement, we tried and failed to communicate with each other via email and so one day, after getting off the ferry, he popped into the centre with his ‘bird!” 

It was good to catch up and chat for the best part of 2 hours… I cannot repeat much of what we chatted about, suffice to say that we had a good chat with much laughter over old times. 

His ‘bird?’ Well. that was his pigeon – which he breeds/flies and he was taking some to give to another pigeon fancier! All very innocent! 

There are still way too many seafarers who are unemployed. Thankfully some do visit the Centre for a chat. It is difficult to change their circumstances, but I endeavour to give a little hope… and there is always plenty of time for a tea/coffee and a listening ear. 

Yes, as always, there always seems to be one more thing to do… This is not a complaint – I love to keep busy!  So here is a snippet of what I have been doing these past three weeks…

You will all know about the ongoing plight of the crew on the Malaviya Seven, and the non-payment of wages. The saga continues and I have been kept very busy looking after their welfare needs along with the other chaplain, Doug Duncan. Morale has risen and fallen many times over the months and it has been lifted ever so slightly when the vessel was arrested by the crew. This began the legal process to sell the vessel, but it could be another 12 weeks – possibly more. 

This means that they need the support of Aberdeen Seafarers Centre more than ever! Whilst I have sought to keep them out of the media as much as possible, it looks like we may have to make a public appeal soon. They are very low on fuel; have little food and whilst one of the ship’s generators has failed, the other one is at best, ‘limping along!” They have been having scheduled blackouts after breakfast until lunch time, then most of the afternoon and from around 8pm until cookie begins breakfast! It may not seem too bad, but the practicalities are that they are in darkness; have no heating or use of showers or toilets; and can do no recreational things onboard, with most of the crew who are not on watch staying in bed to keep warm.

However, some good news! The captain called me earlier tonight to say that a generator has been hired and is onboard. This will consume roughly half of the fuel that the onboard generator has been using, but they are low on fuel.

Feedback from Malaviya Seven

I have managed to organise water for them and I received a gift to “take the men out for a meal” and so that will happen one night next week. 

Obviously, the Seafarers Centre is open to them and many do use it – for warmth and free tea/coffee, tab-nabs and the internet, etc… and for the homely welcome! It is a sad state of affairs and whilst we cannot pay them the unpaid wages, we can open our doors and hearts to them. 

As Chaplain to the RNLI I do visit the Station and catch up with the guys. Today I visited Cal and his dog – an energetic German Shepherd! When the dog made a bee-line for another visitor who was eating his lunch, Cal shouted at it to lie down, at which point the dog came to me and Cal said, “There is no point in going to Jesus, He’ll not save you!” The place disintegrated in fits of laughter. I could point out two errors Cal made. 1. I am not Jesus, just His representative; and 2. Jesus does save! 

Not so many now…

Lots of stones…

It has been a busy time in the garden. The shed is up and now functioning. I just need to get it organised! However, I have been removing lots of stones – yes, remember that old air raid shelter we demolished last year? It left a huge mountain of stones. Well, with a lot of help, those stones are now only a few more to be shifted!! There are so many things I want to get done, but I never seem to have enough time to do them all. Mind you the weather has sometimes frustrated my plans to do various jobs in the garden… at least I can do some things in the shed! Haha! 

Yesterday I spent some time with one of our trustees filling in an application for a grant… not much fun, but essential if the Seafarers Centre is to continue. I am not a fundraiser and certainly am not gifted in this area. This is another area where we could use a volunteer – any takers? 

There are busy times ahead too… but it’s getting late, so time to post this. 

Enjoy the remainder of your week!

Blessings,

Howard ><>

 

 

And the winner was…

Four of the six Seafarers

At the Stadium!

Aberdeen!! Yes, they won against Ross County – but only just!! It was a dour game, though the lads off the Malaviya Seven seemed to enjoy their time at Pittodrie!

Two weeks later it would be the other half of the crew that would be going.

A happy crew!

So I took the other members of the crew to the Hearts match with Aberdeen and they really enjoyed the match which Aberdeen won 2-0. Perhaps they could become a lucky mascot? Rahul commented after the game, “I saw a free football match; saw two goals being scored and as a bonus – a boxing match too!” (He was referring to the ‘altercation’ between the Aberdeen and hearts players during the match!!)

The crew continue to wait for news  – hoping that  they may get paid… but it has been a long time and progress is painfully slow for them. The boredom coupled with the uncertainty is definitely having quite an impact on the crew morale. Thankfully, Aberdeen Seafarers Centre has been open for them to use and we have done our best to support them through this long debacle. One officer and one engineer has been onboard since April 2016 – getting very close to a year now. That is more than the Filipino crews currently do! It’s not right.

We go on supporting them and asking God for a breakthrough…  the ship was finally arrested by the crew on the 28th March. This should move things along, but as ever, it will take time and we remain here ready and willing to support our friends onboard.

Notices are not very interesting…

I had a most enjoyable evening with the Kinellar SWI ladies. I received some woolly hats for seafarers and I think they enjoyed my talk.

I also have spoken at other meetings and I am happy to come to your group and share about the vital work we do to support all seafarers who visit Aberdeen. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me, although I am fairly well booked up this year! 

Then we had a calamity at the Seafarers Centre… a radiator fell off the wall in the Computer room at 0645 – that was when the burglar alarm went off. Gulf have a contract with Chubb and they should call me when this happens – they didn’t and so it wasn’t until midday that it was discovered – I had chosen that day to go straight to port and do ship visits!

As you can see, there was quite a bit of damage from the water that flowed for 4 hours… down into our book store! 

The computer room was out of action for a week, but our wi-fi wasn’t affected! A massive thanks to our volunteers who cleaned up and to GulfMark for getting repairs done so quickly, but a big thumbs down to Chubb for their failure to fulfil their contract!

As port chaplain, I have made many contacts over the years and I am very proud to say that I am part of the RNLI as the crew Chaplain. I have had a great time with them and although some have been sad occasions, I do enjoy getting along to their training sessions – keeping my sea legs in action and even scrubbing out the deck of the boat house! Yes, I muck in too!

However, it was wonderful to be part of the special evening at the Town House when the Lord Provost George Adam presented several awards to those who have helped keep the Aberdeen Lifeboat in operation. None more so than Bec Allen who has done so much over so many years and is a great ‘behind the scenes’ worker for the RNLI. Thanks for letting me be a small part of this.

Back to the Malaviya Seven… 

In ASDA getting Kitted out!

I invited four crew to join me at the Annual Nautical Institutes Dinner Dance and of course, being a black tie event, this presented them with a problem… what to wear? 

A visit to ASDA and we soon had them kited out with everything the needed except for bow ties – these were kindly donated by Captain Robbie Middleton out of his large collection – another souvenir for the boys! 

James Bond – eat your heart out!!

They scrubbed up well and looked the part! As you can see from the picture. It was a battle to get them to accept just one offer of many to buy them a drink – and they eventually settled for an orange drink.

Happy times!

Furthermore, the bosun won one of the raffle prizes, but there is no prize for guessing the contents! 

I think it is safe to say that they all enjoyed themselves! 

The latest is that whilst the crew have now ‘arrested the vessel,’ the legal ramifications take time! It has been a long, long haul for them and I am saddened to see how they have been treated by many – however, Aberdeen Seafarers Centre and the AoS chaplain have worked together to help maintain the crew morale through this difficult ‘passage’ for them and we continue to take them on outings and give what financial support we can.

They have become regulars at the Seafarers Centre and we will miss them when they eventually go home, yet we will be delighted to see their ordeal come to an end and their being reunited with family and loved ones. They have made many, many friends here and offers of holidays in India have been plentiful. Some have said that they hope to bring family back to Aberdeen to see the wonderful people who have supported them through these many months stuck in port with no pay. A warm welcome awaits them anytime from all at the Aberdeen Seafarers Centre. Well done to all who are involved in supporting these stranded seafarers.

They may not be going home yet, but it has taken a step forward at last. Happier times are ahead. 

We have seen busy times at the seafarers Centre. Plenty of visitors using the facilities with numbers up in January and February compared with the same months last year. This encourages us to continue to serve the crews of vessels that visit Aberdeen and we look forward to all that awaits us in the coming months and years! 

Despite assurances of the Filipino Seafarers working out of Aberdeen with OSM, they continue to be overcharged tax by their employer in Norway. We have several requests every week from various crew members over the past year who are unhappy that they are losing over 30% of their whole wages and OSM are not giving them any personal allowance. They do say that they will repay them, but it would seem that they are being very slow to sort this out. Hopefully after April 5th, they can get the money back to the seafarers. 

Sadly, we had a death on a vessel and we were asked by the company if they could use the Seafarers Centre for their debrief. It was a Saturday, but we opened up at 1000 until 2200 and gave the lads somewhere familiar to relax and come to terms with their loss – rather than an impersonal hotel room or worse, the crew mess! This worked well and the donation from the company, whilst gratefully received, was totally unexpected. This is part of our ministry to seafarers!

Some folks have said that only the foreign crew use the Seafarers Centre. Whilst the majority of users are indeed foreign crew, we do get a fair number of British seafarers as well. Recently we have had the opportunity to help one chap in particular – he was looking for a job, so we helped him update his CV and gave a few other pointers, enabled him to access the internet and print of copies of his certificates and most importantly, give hope. Having been made redundant (through no fault of his own) twice, he is struggling with finding work. Dean is a really enthusiastic seafarer and is keen to get back to sea. We have had many chats and he has begun to ask all sorts of questions about life, faith and God. Whilst we do not seek to convert seafarers, those who show an interest are gently given a few pointers in the right direction! He even considered doing a 10 month voluntary stint on Mercy Ships in Africa (https://www.mercyships.org.uk/) until he found out that it would cost him the best part of £10,000 – ouch! He was willing to work without pay for board and keep, but not to pay for himself to work! 

We are grateful to those companies who continue to support us financially. As a registered charity, we do depend on the generosity of individuals, Churches and businesses and if you would like to support the vital work we do, please do get in touch with me.

Those who are not in a position to give financially can support us in other ways. One person is helping to edit some videos; another is helping to clean up the car park; of course many continue to knit woolly hats for seafarers; still others donate warm clothes for the seafarers and the list goes on… so please do get in touch with me if you would like to help.

One final request! We do need more volunteers to man the seafarers center. We have increased our opening hours and this has meant that there are many gaps in the rota to staff the centre. We are open Monday through Friday, 1300-1500; and every evening between 1800 and 2200. There is a secure car park at the rear of the building and we are a short walk from Union Square bus and rail stations! Volunteering is open to all, irrespective of race or religion and the only prerequisite is that you enjoy meeting seafarers with a warm welcome and a happy smile! Again, for more details, do get in touch.

Well I have gone on for too long and I’ve missed out lots of things for sure, but in the business of life, there just never seems to be enough time these days! Good job I love what I do! Haha! 

Have a great day!

Blessings,

Howard ><>

 

What’s a few weeks!

Isn’t life interesting? 

No? Can I swap with you then?? Haha!

Seriously, it has been a very full few weeks since I last posted. Much going on at home and at the Seafarers Centre…

Woolly hats from St Stephen’s Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

A donation of clothes and suitcases..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pool tables being well used as ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so is the Harbour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drew and Peter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ship visiting with Lynne, Drew and Me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was on the Fugro Searcher and a lot of explaining was being done!

Crocodile bread – fancy a bite??

 

 

 

 

 

A request for Bibles for a Bible study on board! No problem…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our lady volunteers gave the boys on the Malaviya Seven a valentine rose (chocolate) and card each!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking of the Malaviya Seven, I have managed to blag free tickets for the crew to watch Aberdeen FC play Ross County this Saturday! I managed to get them kitted out with team scarves and hats…

Not sure how Ricky got in the picture?

 

 

 

 

What a handsome bunch?

 

 

 

 

 

The boss?

And a home visit…

Koos relaxing at home… with an addition to home?

 

 

 

 

 

Koos has a rescued cat – Paws! He seems to be enjoying relaxing in the sunshine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much has been happening and whilst most of it has been routine and happy/good news, there is always something that isn’t so good going on. Good news was that our Book Library Champion, Charlie finally got his hip replacement operation done. All went well and he is on the road to recovery, although it will be a while before he can do book exchanges – for obvious reasons!

We were saddened by the death of  a crew member on an PSV working out of Aberdeen. It was great to see how the companies involved and the various chaplains all worked together to support the crew and the office staff as well. We were asked if the crew could use the Seafarers Centre rather than a hotel buy their MD which we were more than happy to do. I think it worked well and the feedback was very positive. 

This is one of my long term goals – to have a Centre of Excellence for Chaplaincy based in the Centre where chaplains from all sectors could share resources in a common space and be on call 24/7 ready to respond to any and all emergencies. One day…

I was called to assist after a crewman fell in the hold of a cargo vessel that had just sailed from Montrose. I was travelling back from Montrose when I got the call – no I was not visiting the vessel, I was there at the opening of the new facility for seafarers that my good friend Peter runs. Free wifi with 24/7 access via a key-pad. Fortunately the seafarer was ok, but I had to revisit the vessel to help the Captain get the necessary information for hios report. She sailed on to Inverness where she was due to be alongside for 3 days!

Yes, hospital visits continue and meetings abound, along with the lesser of two evils – paperwork and the other evil – accounts! Haha!!)

Now back to home, an update with work in the garden…

Ground cleared for the new shed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some mud to be disposed of…

Starting the insulation…

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then – disaster – the Shed was broken into…

Smashed open door. New security fittings and an alarm have now been fitted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fence was sagging…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reposted and shored up with stones… A work in progress!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So as I said, it has been an eventful few weeks. 

I’m looking forward to the Football game on Saturday – I’m sure that there will be plenty of pictures!! 

I best get off here for now as I’m on duty at the Centre tonight – opening shortly!! 

Blessings,

Howard ><>

Did Christmas Really happen?

Yikes, It’s been a while! 

Nothing new there then! Haha!

So much to report on… so let me begin with The build up to and Christmas itself!

We were rushed off our feet in the run up – it’s not easy ensuring that every ship gets their Christmas gifts, but thankfully most did! (if you were one of the vessels that were missed, just get in touch and we shall see what we can do for your return!) I could fill the next section with lots of pictures, but I will only post a few here, with lots more at the end – for those who really want to see them! 

Malaviya Seven Crew getting their gifts!

Some volunteers about to board a vessel!

A lady Seafarer gives Santa a hug!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rare break for me followed Christmas day and I enjoyed having the whole family round! Happy times opening gifts after a feast cooked by my son and then some good news! Two daughter in laws are to make me a grandfather – one on May, the other in July and then my eldest said he was getting married in August. Wow!

This news was tinged with the sad news that my father in law (82 and living alone just outside Linlithgow) fell on Christmas Day when out walking his dog and was admitted to hospital. it will be a long slow recovery.

My old shed has been demolished and a new one erected and I am in the process of wiring it up – just waiting for the electrician to check it over and connect it to the mains! I still have to insulate and put sheet boarding up then add some shelves and I will have my own shed! My next project is Byron’s bedroom that needs all walls and ceiling stripped, insulated, plasterboard and wiring fitted and then get a plasterer to do a finishing skim. Relaxation? Aye right!

The old shed comes down…

The foundation

Taking shape…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a new wardrobe for Naomi!

With mirror doors

Meanwhile, back at the port…

Smiling Rahul?

Yes, the harbour has continued to operate and there are still many seafarers who are grateful for the support of Aberdeen Seafarers Centre. The saga continues with the Malaviya Seven. One seafarer on board went through extensive dental treatment. He returned to the vessel with the anesthetic having not worn off and with a skewed smile! He didn’t understand why there was great hilarity amongst the crew until I took this picture!

Sadly, we seem no closer to a resolution to the ongoing issues.

Deflated, but clean??

 I am Chaplain to the local RNLI and I joined them for a Monday evening of training – which amounted to cleaning the station or the inflatable… I chose the station as it was freezing outside! This was followed by good team building over a pizza that was much enjoyed by all!

 

 

 

Above, Peter & Drew. Right, Lynne and Drew get ready to join me for some fun – ship visiting! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koos relaxing at home!

It is always good to be visiting my seafaring friend Koos. He too has had some bad news – his budgie died… but it wasn’t long before he got another companion… “Paws” a rescued cat! The seem to be having a tough life together… 

It’s a tough life

The numbers of seafarers visiting the centre  has picked up this month compared to January 2016. Here’s hoping it is a sign for the coming year!

We have also been blessed with a number of new volunteers – welcome to the team! We trust that you will have lots of fun as you seek to enhance the wellbeing of all seafarers who visit the port.

Well, enough for now… I need to send out the Filipino News to my friends and then get off this computer!

I’ll write again soon!

Blessings,

 

Howard ><> 

And a few Christmas day pictures…