It’s Almost Christmas!

Yep, no doubt you are all rushing around visiting shops, buying items online desperately hoping to get that special something or perhaps you are just panicking now!! 

Meanwhile, seafarers are stuck onboard, being many miles from home, their families and friends. Many will be at sea on Christmas Day, but a few of the 1.5 million seafarers will be lucky enough to be in port.

Aberdeen Seafarers Centre has been distributing Christmas gifts to vessels in port for the past 5 years and since 2001, it’s Superintendent, Howard, has been doing this. It all started with a couple of hundred parcels wrapped in our living room with my wife and kids helping and has grown over the years to some 3,000 parcels wrapped in September/October by over 50 volunteers! We have given out over 1,500 so far this month!

It’s a small gift of a woolly hat, knitted by ladies up and down the country throughout the year, each stuffed with various items useful to seafarers. They are really grateful for them.  

We have much to be thankful for too… our homes, our families, our health and so many good things that we so often take for granted. 

That is why I enjoy each day, laugh often and try to bless others as often as I can. 

As an ex seafarer, I well remember the sacrifices made by many good people who helped me even though they did not know me! Now some 30 plus years on, I endeavour to bless those whom I don’t know and bring a little cheer this Christmas to the many thousands of seafarers that will visit Aberdeen. 

I cannot do this on my own and the Seafarers Centre needs help from our team of dedicated volunteers. If you live in Aberdeen, why not consider joining the team and have some fun in pleasant surroundings to bless those who transport 95% of the goods we consume in the UK? Fire me an email and we can meet up for a coffee and a chat!

Now for some updates on what has been happening at the Centre and at home!

I was part of the Christening ceremony for the Portland Sentinel – always a fun time as we commend the vessel and more importantly, the crew who sail her, to the Lord’s care and protection.

Having a chat with a seafarer

 

Sometimes it is just good to talk as this Indian seafarers did – it had been a few years since we last saw each other so much to catch up on! 

 

 

 

 

Seafarers Decorating the Centre

 

Some of the crew from the Malaviya Seven helping to put up our Christmas decorations!

 

 

 

 

Two of the many Woolly Hat knitters who donated so many gifts for seafarers! Thank You!

 

 

They also donated lots of toiletries, woolly hats, stationary and personal hygiene items – a big THANK YOU to one and all.

 

 

 

 

Cook in Lidl for some shopping

 

 

The cook and his two assistants off the Big Orange 18 getting supplies in Lidl

 

 

 

 

Fire Marshalling certificate

 

Eight of our volunteers underwent Fire Marshalling training and here are their certificates to prove it! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our newest ship visitor – Graham on left!

 

Graham has taken to the task well and is enjoying it – not sure why both have crossed arms though?

 

 

 

 

And onto an update with the work at home…

Painting going well…

 

 

The bare walls had two coats of white before the walls were given a Jasmine White coat!  

 

 

 

 

 

That’s better!

Need any stones? Free to collect!

We’re almost there!

 

All we need now is to buy my Man-Shed!

Open to recommendations! 

 

 

 

So much more has happened, but as usual, I have just been too busy to update my page! 

I don’t anticipate updating again until after our Christmas Day ship visits – it may even be the New Year… we shall see. 

Below is our card from the Seafarers Centre to all its supporters. With my new administrator in place, I hope to be better organised for next year! I have asked her to call those in my contact list so please do not be surprised to get a call or an email from “ascreception1@gmail.com” although I am hoping to sort out our whole email system early in the New Year – again, time will tell…  If you are reading this and are not on my contacts list and want to be added – just email Stacey at ascreception1@gmail.com 

So I will draw this to a close and wish you a meaningful festive season, filled with happiness and joy that comes with the Good News that God’s gift of Christ brings to all mankind.

Merry Christmas,

Howard ><>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just another Monday…

Or is it? 

We all look for the exciting, for something new or a special event. This, in my experience, rarely happens!

Last week was another week with more amazing and fantastic highlights to share… and some ordinary things too!

But first, looking back, here is a picture of my earlier visit to Shmu Radio! 

DJ Howard?

DJ Howard?

This takes me back to the days when I use to do some DJ work with Jasper (not Carrott!) in my late teens at the local community centre and a few pubs and night clubs as well! 

I do not think I will be returning to those days anytime soon, but it was fun to be miked up again and my thanks to Mike and Lady Gadah for having me on their excellent show.

So last week – our exciting news was that it was a fairly routine week! However, there were a couple of exceptions.

Not so Good News.

We can no longer recycle toner cartridges. The last ones we sent (a Euro pallet) raised just £24.50. This makes it unviable to store all the toners for 3 months and then shipping them to the recycling company. I am really thankful for the great support that Seletar Logistics an Thistle Couriers have given on supporting these efforts, but as I said, it just wasn’t worth doing anymore.    

Good News! 

We were able to sell the 82 new toner cartridges we received that were going in the skip. One of my volunteers, Cara, did all the hard work and got a terrific price for them! Anyone want to guess how much we received? This is dangerous, but the closest guess to reach me by my next post will get a free Aberdeen Seafarers Centre baseball cap. 

So if your company changed their laser printers and you have unused toners, donating them to Aberdeen Seafarers Centre can raise a significant chunk of cash to support seafarers. 

Ordinary News!

seacabThere has been the routine stuff going on and plenty of happy moments! Ship visits continue and a bit of banter with the lads who had just been transported by Ricky Greenhowe on the Sea Cab from their vessel anchored in the bay on their way home. He took this picture.

It was wonderful to be onboard the Malaviya Seven when the RC Bishop of Aberdeen along with Port Chaplain Doug Duncan visited.  I’ll update with pictures when I get them from Doug’s photographer in due course. After half an hour of good banter in the mess with the whole crew, I left them to enjoy lunch onboard followed by a service conducted by the Bishop.

Our Administrator is settling in well and is a real help to me. How did I survive for so long without her! 

Several useful meetings took place last week and it is always good to be welcomed by the staff of the various companies that support Aberdeen Seafarers Centre on an ongoing basis. Keep up the good work! It has been another tough year for them as well as seafarers in general and listening to their views over a coffee is never wasted time and helps to keep things in perspective. If I haven’t visited recently – get in touch – always happy to give an update of what is happening at the Seafarers Centre!

Home visits too…I spent over 2 hours with one widow of a retired seafarer  told me that I had made her day. “He used to talk about the sea too and the family don’t know that side of him. Talking with you made it better,” she said to me.

We are here for all seafarers – those intending to go to sea, those at sea and those retired from the sea – along with their families too! Do get in touch of you know someone who might appreciate a visit for a chat… sadly, in these PC days, I no longer get referrals from hospital or other agencies and as I have said many times, I do get frustrated at meeting many retired seafarers for the first time at the crematorium when it is too late to help them. 

There are a lot of vessels at anchor just now – 11 listed on the harbour website, but there are many others outwith the harbour limits – well over 20… signs of the continuing poor market conditions. Surely 2017 will see some improvements? We live in hope!

We received the certificates for those volunteers who completed the Fire Marshalling training course… so any seafarers visiting will be safely escorted out of the building in the unlikely event of their being a fire!

If you would like to volunteer one day a month for a few hours, please do get in touch and we can chat over a coffee and see what you can do to enhance the welfare of all seafarers. 

Back to some paperwork now – working on a business plan; sorting out publicity for the Sea-Shed and arranging finances (90% agreed) and other necessary things associated with the running of the Seafarers Centre. 

I best get on… hope you have a totally amazing week – or just an ordinary one! 

With every good wish

Howard ><>

FOOTNOTE:

As promised, here are the pictures of the visit to the Malaviya Seven along with an article in the Energy Voice

 

The Malaviya Seven

The Malaviya Seven

On the Bridge

On the Bridge

Bishop Hugh Gilbert with the stranded crew of Malaviya Seven

Written by Jon Hebditch –

 

 

A group of Indian sailors, who have been stranded in the north-east for more than five months, have received a special blessing from the Bishop of Aberdeen.

The Malaviya Seven, a supply boat owned by Indian company GOL Offshore, was originally stopped in June after claims that staff had not received their wages for months while working in the North Sea.

The Mumbai-registered vessel, which was chartered by BP in the first half of June, was allowed to leave the harbour in August after a pay deal was settled.

But it returned to the Granite City last month and was detained again by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Life aboard the ship for the Indian sailors has proved increasingly dreary with precious few home comforts at their disposal.

But in response, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen Hugh Gilbert OSB, working with the Apostleship of the Sea charity, paid a special visit to the suffering seamen.

In the Messroom

And in the Messroom

The Bishop said: “Our port chaplain, Doug Duncan of the Apostleship of the Sea, arranged for me to visit the vessel. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with the crew, bless the vessel and share a meal on board.

“Though the situation will remain tense until justice has been done, it was clear the efforts of the Apostleship of the Sea and others on behalf of the crew were much appreciated. Gratitude and good humour were evident.”

The charity has been supporting them in various ways, including providing warm clothing with jackets and fleeces being provided by parishioners throughout the diocese.

Toiletries have also been provided by staff of the Stroke Unit in the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI).

Mr Duncan said: “It’s an anxious and stressful time for the crew, but having someone from AoS they know and trust to support them makes a difference.

“The AoS have made all crew members feel part of their family during this difficult time, where they have enjoyed visits out of the port environment, and also attended the Russian Choir performance in St Peters in Aberdeen and the crowning of the statue.

“At present, the crew have enough water, fuel for heating and food on board the vessel.

“Hopefully, we are nearing a solution to this dreadful experience.”

 

Aberdeen Seafarers Centre has been heavily involved for many years in the welfare of the crew, however, with the vessels detentions, the need for our continued support has been heightened and we have sought to be sensitive to their needs, giving supplies of food, milk, toiletries, excursions, free phone cards enabling 500 minutes a month to each crew member to call home to their family and friends, as well as the gift of a week’s salary for the Festival of Diwali.

The crew have made extensive use of the facilities of the Seafarers Centre on a daily basis, including pool, table tennis, books, CD’s and DVD’s, second-hand clothes and of course our free superfast broadband.

But it is those who so generously give to the Centre that enables us to bless these unfortunate seafarers who are in a difficult place through no fault of their own. Without the ongoing support of local Churches, businesses and individuals, we could not continue the vital work we do! Thank you each and every one of you.

Thanks are also due to our team of volunteers who man the Centre, do ship visits and 101 other things that go unseen.  

Time for bed! 

Demolition Time!

I promised in my last blog that I would update you on progress of demolition of the Air Raid Shelter. It has been hard work and I am grateful to two people in particular that have greatly helped with this and to be honest, they’ve done the bulk of the work so far and I am indebted to them for all their help! 

Here are some pictures showing the progress:

My son on top of the world?

My son on top of the world?

Let the hard work commence...

Let the hard work commence…

Making good progress with the roof!

Making good progress with the roof!

Where is the roof gone?

Where has the roof gone?

Breaking the stones!

Breaking the stones!

Still lots to do!

Still lots to do!

Even if we work until the light goes!

Even if we work until the light goes!

We are getting there!

We are getting there!

img_7406-shed

Just one row of stones to reach the foundation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a lot has been done… but still lots more to do! I now have to get rid of some rather large stones and then level out the base… Volunteers are always welcome and I can feed you with tea/coffee and cakes!

On the seafarers front, we continue to be busy… much to be thankful for and plenty of  exciting things going on. 

The most noteworthy was my appearance on the local radio, Shmu FM.  If you missed it, the programme is now available to listen to via the ‘listen again’ feature on the programme page where people can listen into it anytime (it will be there until the 24th Nov 16). The link for it is: http://www.shmu.org.uk/fm/shows/so-why-dont-you (and you just click on the ‘listen again’ tab in the blue box on the page). It was such an enjoyable time… just not enough time to mention everything I wanted to talk about!

Best of all, as I came out of the studio, I was approached by Colin who was listening to the show and wants to volunteer… Mike said it was the quickest ever response to a request for volunteers!!

There are many opportunities to volunteer at the Seafarers Centre – do get in touch if you would like more information! You can email me using this link: Email me!

Finally, a ‘heads-up’ that in January I am launching a new club for Retired Seafarers in Aberdeenshire. Whilst it will be aimed at retired seafarers, all seafarers are welcome! The plan is to initially meet once a month on the last Friday morning of each month. (1000-1200-ish!)

It’s name? SEA-SHED! I know that it is a play on the popular and growing “Men’s-Shed” but it will be similar in many ways… but with a Nautical theme. We hope to do IT skills, have various speakers each month and generally have a fun time together. Ultimately it will be driven by the members interests and if requested, could meet more often! 

This will be a FREE event so if you know of (or are) a retired seafarer that lives in the Aberdeen area, please do get in touch. You can email me using this link: Email me!

Enjoy your weekend – I think I will be painting Naomi’s bedroom! 

Blessings,

Howard ><>

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November, November…

With October having disappeared all too quickly. time for me to update you on what has been happening at the Aberdeen Seafarers Centre (I will do a separate update on progress of DIY at home towards the end of the week!)

Lots going on as ever, but let me share this with some pictures…

Ship visiting is great fun! Doing this is important to bring a little happiness to the seafarers daily routine –  often with  long hours and lots of hard graft… 

A warm welcome from an old friend!

A warm welcome from an old friend!

Cook hard at work!

The cook hard at work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was too early for lunch, but did have a ‘taster!’ Yummy! It can be hard to refuse food, after all, one doesn’t want to offend, yet we do have to engage with all crew and cooks are easy to chat with being in the galley most of the time. 

My good friends on MV Orelia

My good friends on MV Orelia

I visited the MV Orelia and was saddened to hear that she was departing soon on her last job. The vessel will be being scrapped and this leaves a huge question mark over future employment. I’ have visited her countless times since I started as Chaplain in Aberdeen and made many good friends on her and in the picture is the cook and steward… fond memories lads – hope that you pick up a job soon. 

Then ashore, it is great to welcome many seafarer to the Centre. 

img_7244suitcase

This seafarer was heading home in a few days. He came in with lots of presents for his family and was concerned about how he would get them home as he only had one suitcase and it was full of his personal possessions. I told him to wait and I went to our store and was able to give him the suitcase – which was promptly filled with the presents he had just bought!

img_7275bible

The seafarer in the next picture asked me for some religious materials – we do not publicise these or push our faith to anyone, but if they ask… we are always ready to provide what they need.

Donated Jumpers eagerly taken!

Donated Jumpers eagerly taken!

We have had a relatively mild start to winter here in Aberdeen and yet many of the seafarers find the weather here very cold. We received some lovely jumpers which were quickly taken by the two Filipino seafarers in this picture. Note that they are sporting the ever popular woolly hats!

We see many vessels in the port and one img_7218warshipweekend we had several warships visit for some R&R after an exercise in the North Sea. Sadly, they didn’t avail themselves of the free facilities at the Seafarers Centre… perhaps the next time?

It is that time of year again… I have already mentioned this, but I am pleased to say that the wrapping up of 3,000 individual gifts for seafarers visiting Aberdeen has been completed!

Much fun was had by all the volunteers (over 50 of them) and a huge thank you to all who partook of this most enjoyable activity!

Ready to commence wrapping...

Ready to commence wrapping…

And we're off and running!

And we’re off and running!

Lots of fun and banter!

Lots of fun and banter!

Woolly Hat "Stuffers!"

Woolly Hat “Stuffers!”

Santa has lost weight since last year!

Santa has lost weight since last year! 

Diwali Cake (spelling?)

Diwali Cake (spelling?)

Cake Cutting

Captain and Me!

Cutting the cake...

Cutting the cake…

More Food!

More Food!

Let the festivities begin

Let the festivities begin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, the Diwali festivities were a bit of light relief for the crew and I could not ignore their repeated and insistent invitation to join them on the evening. Despite their ongoing plight, they were keen to celebrate an important date in the Indian Calendar.

It is always a joy to welcome them into the Seafarers Centre where they can play pool or use our free fast wi-fi to communicate with family back home.

It is amazing to see how God blesses our giving by giving back. We do not charge for our services and we delight to give freely of the many good things we have been given. I am not a fundraiser and prefer to be giving to the seafarers and do not ask for finances from anyone – be they an individual, business, Church or even a  seafarer!

That said, I recently spoke at a local Church (Stockethill) where they took a collection for the work of the Centre and blessed us by their most generous giving.

seafarers-centre-cheque-presentationLast Friday I was invited to Vroon Offshore Services Ltd. offices where the managing Director, Craig Harvie, presented me with a cheque in recognition of the ongoing work of the Seafarers Centre.

During these difficult times the Centre continues to receive financial support and we are grateful for this generous gift and a big ‘Thank You’ to all at Vroon Offshore Services Ltd. 

Finally, we do need more volunteers – please do get in touch if you could spare one evening a month to man the Seafarers Centre. No seafaring experience is necessary as full training will be given. You just need to be friendly and willing to help – it really is easy!  

Saturday night and I was on duty with Marion and we had 11 visitors to the Centre – all grateful for the second-hand clothes, woolly hats, games of pool, and especially the free wi-fi and a warm and welcoming place to relax off the ship!

I best close for now… 

Blessings,

Howard ><>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My holiday is well and truly over!

Yes, I did manage some time off during the school holidays… it was well anticipated and the planned DIY projects continue! I had borrowed a pneumatic hammer to do the hard work of demolishing the old coal bunker. I also had my son David lined up to help.

Before we started!

Before we started!

My son on top of the world?

My son on top of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the hard work commence...

Let the hard work commence…

Making good progress with the roof!

Making good progress with the roof!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_7144cs5And all was going to plan until…

David fell backwards from the roof onto the rubble… A 999 call and the paramedics were soon on hand to help – then off to hospital.

Thankfully, at around 0200 and after extensive tests, scans etc., he was discharged with no serious damage – apart from his pride! Mind you, he has been given 3 weeks off work to recover.

img_7152cs7So my other son stepped in to break up the large blocks to make the substrate for the foundation for my ‘Man-Shed!”

Not yet finished!

Not yet finished!

Neil was doing well, but it was the rain that stopped ‘play’ and so we are awaiting some good weather – perhaps it will be next year before the weather is good enough for me to continue the demolition! It is a work in progress…

Hospital Visit - on the mend!

Hospital Visit – on the mend!

I was at the Seafarers Centre three times during my ‘holiday,’ but that was a bit of light relief from the hard graft of the demolition work.

Hospital visits continue and this Chief Engineer was well on the road to recovery and was thankful for my hour-long visit – to break the monotony of being in hospital and the goodies I gave him were well received, especially the Top Gear magazine – something to read after I left?

Sad news came with the second detention of the PSV, Malaviya Seven. This is most unfortunate and a devastating blow to the crew.

It has been featured on the TV News so I will not say much more about it other than to say that all at the Seafarers Centre are seeking to support them wherever possible. This included use of the facilities at the Seafarers Centre, but also excursions and the provision of free phone cards to give them 500 minutes to call home and keep in touch with their families. The saga continues…

Free CD's gladly taken!

Free CD’s gladly taken!

I was given a donation of CD’s containing music and audio books… these didn’t get a chance to be put on the shelves when a seafarer was browsing and taking half a dozen of them for use onboard!

Of course, the ongoing wrapping of our Christmas parcels continue… so tomorrow we will have another session when many volunteers (I hope!) will join us to get as many as possible done so that we can get them onboard the vessels visiting Aberdeen.

Hard work??

Hard at work??

Do join us on the 20th of October at 1800-2200 at the Seafarers Centre to stuff, wrap or count the parcels!  There will be plenty of banter and some snacks too so come on and join us.

You may be thinking that it is too early to be wrapping presents… however, I have already given out my first parcels! It was on the NOR Solan – a vessel that I had the privilege of Christening.

She is working on the Huntington Oilfield and crew changing in the Shetlands so will not be back in Aberdeen until next year. The Bosun was well chuffed – he told me that his wife was using the Woolly Hat he received last Christmas!! So they are appreciated!

Paul and other Keyholders

The centre only opens because of the many volunteers who do so much including opening up the centre. Paul, second left, has faithfully opened the Seafarers Centre every Monday and Tuesday for almost 5 years. Sadly for us other commitments have meant that we are losing his services. He received a gift as a token of thanks for all his services over the years. His Apple iPod Nano will enable him to enjoy his music on the go. Paul, you’ll be sorely missed. Thanks for all you’ve done to bless seafarers over the years.

This will leave us with a big hole to fill! If you live in the Aberdeen area then you would be welcome to join the team – please do get in touch and we can meet up for an informal chat and see where your skill set can be put to good use. It isn’t a big commitment – just one evening or afternoon a month is all we ask, but you can always do more if you wish!!

Finally, advance warning… I will be on radio on Wednesday, 16th of November. The programme is broadcast live every Wednesday 2-3.00pm and then gets repeat broadcast at 2.00am Thursday and at 9.00am Monday mornings, and is available online at: http://www.shmu.org.ukradio/shows/so_why_dont_you.mp3

You can listen live on the radio at 99.8fm.

I best close for now…. tomorrow will be a busy day – ship visiting in the morning, Trustees meeting in the afternoon and Christmas Parcel Wrapping in the evening!

Life is never dull, but is full of many joys.

Blessings,

Howard ><>