Latest From The Watch Ashore

Social Media Project

Project Report 2016 The Watch Ashore has been supporting merchant navy families since 1933 and like most organisations it has seen its membership wane and decline, going from, in its’ heyday  with hundreds of members and 16 branches throughout the UK, to now just five/six active branches.   We were given a fantastic opportunity working with the Merchant Navy Welfare Board. Using a grant from the Merchant Navy Fund, short training courses in the use of social media were provided in a project that aimed to help the organisation raise its profile, improve its outreach and increase its membership. Following on from my report at last year's AGM, you know the funding was granted in Sept 2014 and the subsequent courses took place in the training suite of the MNWB offices.  In total 8 members have been inducted and although we did have more volunteers the dates of the training courses didn't fit in with their other commitments.   Our volunteers come from Yorkshire, Scotland , Cornwall and Devon.  In October 2014 the first group of Watch Ashore members travelled to Southampton to attend  one of three proposed training courses on Social Media, Welfare Guidance and Signposting.    We were all given Samsung Tablets for the project and the first challenge facing us was how to use them!  Fortunately they were all set up and ready to go.   It certainly was a baptism of fire and boy did we feel apprehensive.  The one thing we were not short on was enthusiasm and slowly we got to grips with Facebook and less confidently with Twitter.  It certainly has been a very steep learning curve as we embraced the “social media world”.   The re-vamped website has been up and running since last March 2015 and we are continually reviewing it and making adjustments to improve as necessary.  As well as giving advance notice and information about fundraising events and celebrations organised by the different maritime charities, we have blogs from members, branch news and links to various support networks.  Through the website we were approached by a London PR Agency who had been commissioned to do a report for the Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation. Various subjects such as Schools, health, family, financial and communications were covered and some of the points that we submitted were included in the report.   The Bridge Report was published in September and if nothing else, it gets us mentioned along with Maritime Charities and reached a very wide audience.    We have had various contacts via the website and some, like the one previously mentioned, have been very productive.   We have made The Watch Ashore  visible on social media  although over the years both at Branch and National level, the Watch Ashore has supported and raised funds for many Maritime Charities – (Mission to Seafarers, Apostleship to the Sea, Sailors Society, Seafarers UK and Deep Sea Fishermen to mention a few).  We have strengthened these ties, whilst making new ones, with the other various Maritime charities, notably with the NFF, and in general have made ourselves known to the wider maritime community.  We worked very closely with Find the Sea Families campaign, Sailors Children Society and now have well established working relationship with them.  What has become obvious with younger seafaring families, is that the feeling of isolation, and others not understanding the seafaring way of life, is still relevant today but due to lifestyles, work commitments our more formal way of meeting up doesn’t appeal anymore and this is where using social media has given The Watch Ashore a lifeline to continue offering support and friendship to merchant navy families.  We all have friends who fit into different groups. They might be neighbours, school friends, work colleagues, family etc. With social media an intrinsic part of everyday life, friendship groups or meetings still play an important role in supporting the partners of seafarers through the good work of The Watch Ashore.    We think the need for that type of group is still very relevant today.  With our hectic fast paced lifestyles, it is good to stop and take time for yourself, socialising with someone who knows the ups and downs of life with a seafarer.   Since Watch Ashore have started using social media we have gained some new younger members, like Mila who has joined the Plymouth branch.  Mila, whose husband is in the RFA, has recently become a British Citizen and we are delighted to have her join us.  Carole and Ashley are also new members, who live in Scotland and because they, and some other new members, don’t live near a branch we try to meet up every couple of months for lunch/drinks and in between times keep in touch via our closed facebook group.  We want to recruit more members to the Watch Ashore, and hopefully share the joy, friendship and support that we have enjoyed.  It can be a lonely frustrating lifestyle but we are here to offer support and social media is a contemporary way to respond to the needs of seafarers families.    At the start of this project our aims were to raise our profile within the wider maritime communities, reach out to younger seafaring families, and hopefully increase our membership.    Although our funding has come to an end we will continue to raise our profile and offer friendship and support to all seafaring families.  The MNWB and AMB Marketing, has given us the tools, knowledge and encouragement to reach out via social media channels, and also the confidence to keep improving on the success we have achieved so far.    The Watch Ashore can never thank them, or The Merchant Navy Fund, enough for giving us the opportunity to raise our profile and hopefully ensure that The Watch Ashore has a brighter future. Facebook. The Facebook page was set up as an awareness tool to let people know about us and to share information.  It has been very successful and feedback from people and other organisations, who have liked our page, is that they find it friendly and informative.  We get weekly status reports and regularly reached over 300 viewings a week.  Sometimes other viewings and likes hit nearly a thousand as was the case when we highlighted the British Legion not inviting MN WW1 veterans to participate in the Festival of Remembrance. As you will appreciate we are constantly reviewing how we can improve or adapt our social media presence and one significant change is that we now have a closed Facebook group.  This has only happened in the last few months as feedback from prospective and new members, taking into account current lifestyles and their familiarity with social media, the forum wasn’t working for them and as the focus was engaging and attracting younger members we had to address this issue and the Watch Ashore Members Group was created.     Using the closed group as opposed to the forum means no cost involved and it is easy to manage and promote, any member can join the group either by requesting or by invitation from a current member. Twitter We were less confident about this and it took a while to feel comfortable posting tweets etc.  After a slow start I am delighted to say that we have a well established presence on Twitter.  We have regular followers and every day we tweet and retweet comments.  One of the contacts via our twitter page is from Carl Hough who does the remembrance pins.  We also get private messages via the site and of course support and promote maritime charities in whatever campaign is current.  For example:-  Woolly Hat Day. Seafarers Awareness Week.  Came by Ship.  Merchant Navy Day. #JustSaying the new campaign from Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. We also use other social media sites such as Instagram, Google+, snapchat, What’s App and really it is the choice of the volunteer which media she prefers.  Signposting and Guidance. Obviously because of confidentiality I can’t disclose personal details but I can tell you that through various social media channels we have been able to reach out and help families we are fulfilling our aims, we have also referred people to Seafarer Support, SAIL and various other agencies. In conclusion I think we have achieved our objectives of raising The Watch Ashore profile, working closer with the maritime community and have gained new members.    I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this project and would like to thank everyone involved for all their help and support.

Mission to Seafarers Annual Service

Myself (Sue Williams) as National Chairman and Christine Payne, National Vice Chairman, were honoured to represent the Watch Ashore at The Mission to Seafarers Annual Service held on 6th July at St Michael Paternoster Royal. It was a wonderful uplifting service with an excellent speaker, The Rt Revd, the Lord Eames, OM. Primate of All Ireland. The anthem Crossing the Bar sung by Lloyds Choir was amazing. We bumped into another of our members, Julia Escott, with her husband Keith. They have supported the Mission for many years and Keith has received a bronze medal from the Mission in recognition of his service. It is the Mission's 160th year of caring for seafarers around the world and their services are more in demand than ever so please support in any way you can.  

Seafarers Awareness Week

Again this year Watch Ashore members have been helping to promote Seafarers Awareness Week.  Throughout the week various organisations have held events to raise awareness and we have been delighted to be involved.   The Watch Ashore Plymouth members organised and manned displays in local libraries to raise awareness.  Glasgow Branch assisted with the Seafarers UK bucket collection.   The MNWB SW Ports along with Plymouth University held a seminar/workshop  "Maritime Jobs for Future Generations" and throughout the week we have been highlighting the Seafarers Awareness Week via all the social media channels.

Seafarers Awareness Week

With two weeks to go, Seafarers Awareness Week 2016 is shaping up to be the biggest campaign yet, since its inception by the charity Seafarers UK in 2010. Seafarers Awareness Week (20-26 June) will this year showcase Maritime Jobs for Future Generations, and there has never been a more timely campaign to promote UK maritime careers and employment opportunities, both at sea and ashore. Recent reports* have revealed a growth in UK merchant shipping and a forecast huge global shortfall in the number of seafarers, including deck and engineering officers. Seafarers Awareness Week provides an opportunity to promote the UK maritime industry's contribution of £11 billion a year to the economy while supporting over 113,000 jobs. During Seafarers Awareness Week a host of activities across the UK will see the participation of key organisations including IMarEST, Maritime Educational Foundation, Merchant Navy Training Board, Nautical Institute and UK Chamber of Shipping. The week, sponsored this year by Inmarsat, also encompasses several maritime training establishment events, in Blackpool, Dartmouth, Liverpool, Newcastle and Southampton. All registered events, including some taking place just before or after the week, are promoted on the Seafarers Awareness Week website. To view the current events list please visit http://www.seafarersawarenessweek.org/seafarers-awareness-week-events/local-events Complementing the Seafarers Awareness Week events and intensive media relations activity is a campaign encouraging primary school teachers and children to think about the maritime world and how 95% of UK imports come by sea, including half the food we eat. Seafarers UK, partnered with Fyffes, has created interactive materials starring Freddy Fyffes, the loveable banana character, enabling even the youngest school children to take part. Free promotional materials are available to download.

Plymouth Branch

Plymouth branch had a really good Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.    They welcomed Mrs Suzanne Spencer as new Branch Chairman, Mrs Helen Rendle as Vice Chairman and Mrs Helen Crofts as Secretary.     It was all change as we welcomed 4 new committee members.        

New Executive Committee

Retiring Chairman, Chris Rankin, introducing our new National Executive Committee.  Sue Williams - National Chairman.  Christine Payne - National vice Chairman.  Suzanne Spencer - General Secretary.  Sandra Walker - Treasurer.  

National Chairman's Report

There have been many changes with the maritime sector past and present.   Change is all around us and that will continue but change must come with progress for the Watch Ashore.   You here today and those at home have helped make a difference during my chairmanship over the past 4 years. During  2015 we were saddened to hear that Rita Richards past National Executive treasurer had passed away.  members  from the Humber branch where she had been made an Honorary Branch president, attended her funeral and I also received a lovely letter from her family in response to the sympathy card we sent. I received news that Jean Jones, our former National Exec secretary's husband had passed away and then our  dear friend Graham Warren.  All will be sadly missed but on a brighter note I am delighted that both Pat and Jean have joined us for this weekend. Agnes Macfarlane was booked, packed and ready to travel when she had a fall and was advised not to come, and poor June Geddes is making slow progress following surgery a few weeks ago.   Some of our other members including Barbara and Ian decided to bite the bullet and stay at home this year - all will be missed and we wish them all a speedy recovery. Since the last AGM we have been delighted that the Watch Ashore project has been stimulating interest - Ina will give an update later but suffice it to say that the project with MNWB came to an end last month and they are finalising their end of project report this month which they have assured us will be copied to us.  Obviously this will be sent to branch secretaries for issue to all members, but Peter Tomlin has sent me a draft copy of an article he is hoping will appear in Nautilus International Telegraph and the MNA, this was handed out at the council meeting yesterday and there's a copy here.   He says the project has been all about the MNWB helping the Watch Ashore to help itself.  It has provided a small group of keen volunteers with the tools and skills they need to achieve their goals.  Thanks to the enthusiastic approach of these volunteers it has successfully raised its profile and is adding new members. We were especially delighted to have two names put forward to become Vice Chairman, considering in the past we hadn't had any volunteers, my thanks to Lynda de Boo and Christine Payne.  Unfortunately before we got to the voting stage, Lynda had to pull out due to personal circumstances, but I'd like to express my thanks to her for putting her head above the parapet!  It just shows that we all still want to continue! We will need to vote on Christine taking up office just to ensure we have followed the correct procedures. Our tree is flourishing at Mariners Park and we had a plaque put in place with wording suggested from Barbara and Ian - commemorating 80 years of the Watch Ashore supporting our Merchant Marine. Jennie has brought some photos for us to see too.  We were also approached to be part of an event in the  Hull Maritime Museum (February- June 2016) where Lady  Headleys chain of office was displayed - Mary will update the meeting as I understand she visited the exhibition. Earlier this year we were shocked to hear from members that Sailors Society had written in a mail drop letter asking for money to help develop an app to keep in touch with other seafaring wives world wide.  In this letter they said that Sea wives was the only group supporting MN wives! I have written to them on your behalf to remind them that the Watch Ashore has existed since 1933 and that in the past we have fund raised for them also - no reply as yet!   However, it does show us how important wives and families still are and maybe we will be able to work alongside them in the future - they are aiming for world wide families which has never been our remit. Over my term in office last year I was invited to the Fishermans Mission conference as a guest speaker, and involved in International Day of the Seafarer, Seafarers Awareness Week.  Representation at Sea Sunday, laying a wreath at Trinity Gardens London where I was delighted to count 7 red ensigns being flown in that small area where the names of 25,722 men and women for whom there is no grave but the sea , are recorded.  Along with some members, the Executive were involved in writing to MPs in support of MN Days effort to Fly the red ensign and I hope we will stimulate even more interest this September.  You may be interested in a recent publication produced by the Government called World Class Marine - http://maritimeuk.org/we-content/uploads/A-world class-maritime-centre.pdf which reads that Government and industry are committed to investing in the next generation of maritime professionals, capitalising on every opportunity the market provides by building capacity and taking an innovative approach to training for roles at sea and ashore.  The Shipping Minister Robert Goodwell is aware of the challenges facing the UK Maritime sector and significant investment is required for Nautical colleges in England to match spending in both Ireland and Scotland and critically that being invested World Wide - please let's try to continue to raise awareness of these issues. We have been in touch with the Nautical colleges in both Scotland and England and have reached agreement for them to include a flyer about the Watch Ashore in all new entry packs- many mums don't know what to expect when their son or daughter starts a career in the MN and this is something which we are all very aware of! This year SfUK asked for feedback on the grant they gave us to help with our 80th birthday celebrations. They had agreed to help with the cost of hiring coaches and disabled taxis, room and equipment hire.  We managed to keep the costs down, and the remaining money that had been offered was drawn down in August 2014 and then handed to MNWB in October to help defray expenses for the project. We gave donations to Shelter Box and also Mrs A. Sard who abseiled to raise money for SfUK. There is much to recommend this year and still more untold and you will understand that the project progresses on a daily basis. It is still exciting to be part of this unique group and it continues to be an honour and privilege when I represent the Watch Ashore on every occasion. In conclusion I must thank all the Executive committee for all their hard work - we must all remember they are volunteers!   Both Suzanne and Sue have covered for me whilst I visited my family earlier this year. My special thanks to Helen for managing our finances over the years and she will now be able to come to our future meetings with no responsibilities.   Special thanks also to Ina our project leader - we have come a long way with much more to do now that the project trial period has ended. And finally I'd like to wish Sue and her new committee my best wishes for the future. Chris Rankin MBE MNM May 2016

Bristol

Last weekend we held our Annual General Meeting in Bristol and it was a very successful weekend.  Over forty members attended from various parts of the country and on the Friday evening we had our welcome get together in the function suite of the Radisson hotel.   The happy chatter and smiling faces from that night set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  Our first get together of the weekend is always an informal evening where we get the chance to meet new friends and catch up with everyone. Saturday morning was our AGM and at this meeting we said farewell and thank you to our outgoing National Chairman, Chris Rankin, and also to our Treasurer Helen Rendle.   Chris handed over to Sue Williams who will be our National Chairman for the next three years.  We also had a Vice Chairman appointed, Christine Payne, and a new Treasurer, Sandra Walker. A change to our Annual Dinner was that this year we had it in a venue away from the hotel.   We went to Avery’s Wine Cellars where we had a very generous (hic) tasting of wine followed by a superb meal supplied by Cherry Picked Catering.   In true Watch Ashore style it was an evening full of fun and laughter.  Sunday morning was our outing and this was slightly overshadowed because of the rain but it didn’t dampen our spirits!  We had a tour around the Bristol waterways; passing Brunel’s SS Great Britain and admired all the fancy yachts moored in the Marina.  All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel and say our farewells.  A few words from Chris Rankin ...after last night’s great evening catching up with so many Watch Ashore friends - and of course enjoying a few cocktails, it's time for some coffee whilst preparing for my final AGM as National Chairman when I will hand over to the new Chairman Mrs Sue Williams. It's been an amazing 7 years, 3 as Vice Chairman and then the last 4 as Chairman. I've enjoyed working with so many Maritime charities and learned so much from you all so I'd like to thank Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) Seafarers' Advice and Information Line (SAIL) Mission to Seafarers the Fishermen's Mission Seafarers Awareness Week Trinity House Sailors Childrens Society Sailors' Society Apostleship of the Sea AMB Marketing Limited the Merchant Navy Association. I wanted to thank the hardworking Executive committee, Sue Williams, Suzanne Spencer and Helen Rendle for their amazing support. All their hard work has paid off and our AGM weekend has started in its normal fashion -renewing friendships and a spot of retail therapy as we gather together at the Radisson Blue Hotel Bristol. Some of our members have been unable to join us through illness and we wish them all a speedy recovery and look forward to meeting up with them at our 2017 AGM wherever it may be!  

All in the Same Boat

New book out re MV Norland and crew in the Falklands conflict.This is written from the view of drag queen "Wendy" and friends,who helped keep morale and spirits up of 2 Para.Possibly a film in there.A recommended read.Will make you laugh but written from the heart whilst not taking away the very very dangerous situation all those guys where in.The book is called "All in the Same Boat" by Warren FitzGerald  

Fashion Show

The Watch Ashore, Plymouth Branch, organised a Fashion Show last week and  had a brilliant morning looking at some very glamorous clothes, and  raising much needed funds for the Merchant Navy Monument planned for Plymouth Hoe, and the Fisherman's Mission. It was good to welcome Gina Moore and publicity about the Mission to our Fashion Show.  Spreading the word to those not connected with the sea.  Many thanks to our hard working Chairman, Christine, Jenny, owner of Intrigue Fashions at Saltash, and Wendy who ably did the commentary.  

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