And we continue to have interesting times in the life of Aberdeen Seafarers Centre. Let me share a little of what I have been doing this month.

I have been doing Amazon deliveries for some of the crew onboard the Fugro Meridian. Their  port calls have been short and time to get ashore has been limited. Best prices are usually online, but they do not have a delivery address. My wife is very long suffering (she has to be – she married me!) and allows these items to be delivered to my home address.  So suitcases, cooks knife, Cooks sharpener, haircutters have all been purchased for the lads who are now heading to Norway before the go home on leave in a few weeks time.

It is always good to catch up with old friends. Both Sunny and Wilmer gave me a great welcome and long conversations ensued about their families and life back home.

Sunny and Me!

Sunny and Me!

Wimor and Me!

Wimor and Me!

Listening to their concerns is most important, but they are generally very happy to be working in the North Sea. There are many hundreds of seafarers that I encounter from many different countries and it is always good to be able to spend time with them. Seafaring can be a lonely life and to have a friendly face and a chat with someone with no agenda is a rarity for them!

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Of course the visitors to the Centre continue to be a source of encouragement to our volunteers. Playing pool (as can be seen in the picture) is always popular, but the free superfast wi-fi is the number one request from Seafarers. Whilst many vessels do have internet onboard, it is very slow and often unreliable. Thus we are rarely without a number of seafarer using our unlimited connection! We are just happy to be able to make communication back home that bit easier! Downloading books off Amazon is another popular request – one captain said it would take me the whole trip to download a book on the ship’s wi-fi!

IMG_6523ToiletIt isn’t always good news! I arrived one day to discover that the staff toilet had become blocked (again!) and overflowed! Time to call the experts in and I was grateful of the services of a Saniflo Plumber…

A simple job for him, however, I did not fancy doing it myself! I may be the ‘jack of all trades’ as the only employee, however, there are limits to my skills! Well, that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it! (Hehe!)

This was a  minor inconvenience compared to helping out the Norwegian Seamen’s Church Chaplain who had received a request for help, but he was on holiday. Could I help? Why yes, of course! We work well as a team and this was one where some pastoral care was needed.

A seafarer had died onboard a vessel whilst sleeping in his cabin. Such events are tragic and have quite an effect on the rest of the crew. I arrived in Peterhead at 2200 and spent time with the Vessel reps who had flown over from Norway along with the agent and the police!

It was a difficult time for everyone onboard and I have to compliment the crew and the Police for doing all that is necessary in such circumstances well. It was 0230 when I dropped off the vessel manager at his hotel and then I headed back to Aberdeen.

I was back the following morning, leaving home at 0600. More counselling, informally and formally, and I noticed that the “Coping with a Tragedy” leaflets that I use on such occasions and had left the previous day in the mess and on the bridge, were all gone! I headed back to Aberdeen with a relatively stable crew who were having a day in port and probably would be sailing the following day. Well done to the vessel operators for allowing them the time to grieve, but they will still face difficult days ahead. My role continues as I offer my prayers for them to God.

Thankfully, my ministry is not all gloomy! I have had some excellent visit to various vessels and good conversations have ensued. As I have said before, my problem is not getting onto the vessels, but getting off! I still hear of those under threat of redundancy and the general mood is somewhat low. Thankfully, the big cuts seem to have slowed, if not stopped, and the charter rates have rallied a little.

Let’s hope that it is the beginnings of a recovery, but it is early days to expect that to happen!

Chris and Me

Chris and Me ‘visiting’ the MV AMADEA

There has been a steady flow of cruise vessels arriving during the month and they have all appreciated our visits as well as the Sim Cards and Top-ups, but especially the use of our free facilities at the Seafarers Centre. Still a few more to come during August… These tend to be smaller vessels due to the limitations of the harbour, however, we did have one larger cruise vessel anchor off. They were visited (at a distance) courtesy of Ricky Greenhowe and his Harbour Tours vessel Sea Cab. So My ship visitor volunteer, Chris and I went out to see her… As can be seen in the picture – we didn’t get onboard, but we tried our best!

I also took my son out on the Sea Cab for a harbour tour with Ricky Greenhowe – and he loved it!

We saw plenty of  dolphins on our tour and I would highly recommend it. If you are in Aberdeen, you should avail yourself or one of his tours!(more details here: http://www.greenhowemarineservices.co.uk/aberdeen-harbour-tours/) Below are some more pictures of the trip:

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Obviously there were plenty more pictures, but that will give you an idea of what we enjoyed. (I forgot my camera so these pictures are not mine!)

You will see the picture of the Malaviya Seven with the Captain and Chief Officer on the bridge wing! Happier times for them as they have finally been paid and those overdue to go home have in fact flown home. They have received their wages and it was a delight to be able to support them over these past few months in many different ways with practical support, ranging from trips out, free phone cards and of course opening the centre out-with our normal hours so that they can contact family back home. It was good to have the AoS chaplain, Doug Duncan, based at the Aberdeen Seafarers Centre, supporting them also. Just before they left I visited the vessel when I was able to give them each a small gift (pictures below) to remember their time with us. I trust that they will return and continue to work in the North Sea after their leave.IMG_6741M7Gifts-1

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I had a good meeting with Sandra Welch of the Sailor’s Society which was very constructive as we look to working closer together in the future. It was also good to meet with some CEO’s and to share my hopes and dreams for the future of the Centre.

Of course, home and hospital visits continue… as do the routine things! It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.

Tomorrow we will be having a Trustees Meeting where we will be looking at some strategic items and seeking to ensure that Aberdeen Seafarers Centre is here for the long term! Time will tell…

Finally, I have produced an A4 leaflet to promote the need for more volunteers. If you live in the Aberdeen area, or you know someone who does, then you can download this by clicking this link:

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I best go… Enjoy your week…

1 Comment

  1. Sandy Guillaume Reply

    Oh Howard, what a wonderful post and such great pictures, even if they weren’t yours.
    I’ve been wondering about you and here I find you on here.
    All is going well for me, as well. I’m working full time since I finished college in 2012. Life had been good. God has been great.
    Your AVM friend,
    Sandy

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