Latest From The Watch Ashore

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.  

Hull Maritime Museum Exhibition

A new exhibition at Hull's Maritime Museum hopes to inspire a new generation of heroes at sea. Hull's Maritime Museum hopes to inspire new ideas on how to improve safety at sea through a new exhibition. "SOS - Heroes of the Humber" celebrates the bravery of seafarers and their families. Collections Assistant Jocelyn Anderson-Wood, says there are many people from the region who helped save hundreds of lives: "Alexander Gordon Carte worked to invent life saving equipment like the life-saving rocket which was used by people onshore to get a rope to a ship in distress. After a few years they were stationed all up and down the Yorkshire Coast and they saved something like 400 lives in the space of 20 years or so." She says they've looked at heroes from the 1800s up to the present day: "I don't think people, still to this day, have a grasp of what dangers people face when they go to sea. If we can inspire some people to create more life-saving equipment, to go out and rescue people, that'd be really great." Admission to the Maritime Museum is free and the SOS - Heroes of the Humber exhibition will be on display until the 5th June.

More tales from a Sailor's wife

I hanker after the old days when several blue airmail letters, all at once but numbered so I could read them in order, would drop through the letterbox. The odd phone call usually about half way through his six month trip, stomach doing flips every time the phone rang - especially near the end of the trip when that call might bring details of flights and being reunited. Sometimes the company personnel department would call to ask how things were ... and give homecoming details. It all made you feel part of it. Nowadays there's no connection with the company and mostly we converse by emails and messenger services. And of course broadband on ships is pretty much like broadband on land ... Sometimes it's not reliable and sometimes the sailor is busy working and forgets that his partner is home just waiting for an acknowledgement! Just a word ...   Instant contact is not always a good thing and we at Watch Ashore have talked about this a lot recently. We have members ranging from 20 to nearly 100 ... Some have never experienced the immediacy of modern communication with sailors and personally, this Sailor's wife thinks it might well add to the angst of a modern day MN WAG. We expect a reply and if we don't get one .... All sorts of thoughts run through your mind. He doesn't love me, he's gone off me, he's found someone else .... All completely irrational! Coupled with the misunderstandings that can arise from only communicating with someone by email ... No facial gestures and tone of voice to help with interpretation ... And the fact the sailor is in practical work mode when our emails and messages arrive as opposed to taking time out to read our letters in a warm private environment. In the past our sailors would have taken private time to write home and would chose their words carefully and thoughtfully and equally would have looked forward to the mail sack and letters from home . Now things are written in a rush while they're working, while they're in practical work mode! It's not the same and things are lost in translation. Days go by without a word and you don't notice!   This Watch Ashore member has been communicating with her sailor for 29 years now with one foot in the past and one foot in modernity and Yep! I hanker after the old days!  

Tales of a Sailors' Wife

"Join me on the ship," he said. "It'll be fun," he said. So there I was in Corpus Christi, Texas getting on a launch boat that looked like it wasn't fit for purpose, to go fifteen nautical miles out to sea with my Sailor to join his ship. The 'fun' started when the skipper of the launch boat handed me a huge roll of blue hand roll ... The type you find in commercial kitchens to dry your hands ... Saying, "You might need this when we get out of the harbour because it's going to be a bit pitchy and the Windows leak!" So there was definitely quite a swell and the Windows did indeed let in water and there we were on a leaky boat on our way to join his ship. The journey out was .... Well let's put it this way - this MN WAG was brought up by the sea, sailed dinghies in lots of very windy weather and basically was a sea salt herself and I've never been so anxious! Thankfully, unlike my Sailor, I wasn't sick but it meant we couldn't get alongside the gangway to board the ship. The options were ... Return the fifteen nautical miles in the leaky launch or climb up the stern of the vessel on a rope ladder! The vessel was in ballast meaning that it was really high out of the water and I was never great with heights nor was I ever able to manage the rope ladder to a friend's tree house.  Neither choice was particularly appealing but never one to shirk a challenge ... I climbed up the rope ladder step by step watching my beloved luggage be hauled up on a rope! This was about 26 years ago and I can laugh about it now but in a recent conversation with my Sailor, he admitted that in nearly forty years of joining and leaving ships, he had never before and never since had to join a ship in this manner! And actually ... I've joined him several times since this first experience and also never had to join in this way again .... Yet!!!!  

Happy New Year

The Executive and members of the Watch Ashore would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that 2016 is good to you.  

Christmas Newsletter

The Watch Ashore National Chairman – Chris Rankin Vice-Chairman – Sue Williams Hon-General Treasurer – Helen Rendle Hon-General Secretary – Suzanne Spencer   Newsletter December 2015 For those of you who did not manage to attend the AGM earlier this year in York we had a great time catching up with everyone, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones.  The Executive committee has been working hard to plan our 2016 AGM in Bristol May 20-22 at The Radisson Blu Hotel.  We have tried to vary the programme a little but all the favourites are still there starting with a social evening in the hotel on Friday evening, a less formal evening meal on the Saturday and a short outing on the Sunday allowing time to travel home for those not wishing to stay an extra night.   I was delighted to receive an invitation to lay a wreath at Trinity Gardens on MN day along with June Ellett and this year we were honoured to receive an invitation to go into Trinity House prior to the event, a beautiful venue.  Several ladies attended the St Paul's Cathedral Seafarers Service and afterwards I was delighted to be invited to join the London ladies for supper on board HQS Wellington. The volunteers running our web site and Facebook page have had some additional training in Southampton and were the first to support the MNA when they were raising awareness that the MN veterans’ invitations had been curtailed at this year's service!   I would encourage you all to look at the website, and also send in your stories so that they can be added to our site. Hull Maritime Museum is going to put on a temporary exhibition which will run from February to June 2016. The theme is life saving and they will also give examples of organisations that work towards improving safety and would like to include the Watch Ashore as one of these organisations (with one of our chains of office displayed in a case).   Does anyone recall a campaign to introduce radar in all the Merchant Navy around 1952 (which is one example of our activities to improve safety)? Please give me a call if you have any information I can pass on. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ina for all her efforts with the website - she has certainly  been able to reach out to several new wives and partners who have since joined us on the social media sites, and also joined branches.  Additionally my thanks to Judy for once again compiling this newsletter. I wish you all a joyous and peaceful new year. Chris Rankin National Chairman

National Chairman's Greetings

I just want to wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.   One of the groups I am involved in is the South West Port Welfare Group for the MNWB and I recently attended a PWC Chairman and Vice Chairman’s meeting at the Aztec Hotel Bristol and thought you may be interested in the issues which were talked about during the event.   On 1 December Bob Jones Chief Executive welcomed us all – representatives from all 16 Welfare boards attended including representatives from the Sailors Society, Fishermens Mission, AOS and Mission to Seafarers. The programme included – MNWB Strategy for 2016/2017 A very enlightening presentation on “Developing a regional PWC strategy” Capt Jerry Drewitt and Ms Alex Finlay (Tees PWC) based on their experiences.  This was followed by a presentation from David Kenwright MD Achator Offshore, on the role of the ships agent in seafarer welfare and how they fit in.  The remainder of the first afternoon was spent in breakout groups discussing “ MNWB and its PWCs are they fit for purpose.”   It was agreed we were fit for purpose although there were several recommendations of what we might be able to do better in the future. We met again for pre dinner drinks at 1900 hours. It was with great pleasure that when the announcement of the Seafarer Award was made Bob stated that 3 nominations stood out and it had been decided to give an award to each of the nominees Keith Dickson Mission to Fishermen, Diane Erskine Mission to Seafarers and Drew Anderson from Sailors Society. An excellent meal was served to us all and Captain Bob Hone former Staff Captain of the QE2 and now a lecturer in Maritime Studies at Plymouth University was our most amusing and enlightening guest speaker. The following morning both Captain David Parsons and Peter Tomlin updated us on the MNWB review of seafarers centres and findings of the survey to date. This was most interesting but currently as there are a few more weeks to run no outcomes could be discussed, but certainly an interesting and informative review. The next session for the breakout groups was to discuss The shape of things to come – “ is the seafarer welfare sector fit for purpose” these groups were lively and very interesting feedback and recommendations were forthcoming – there will be lots of challenges for us to face in the future we believe. Bob Jones summed up the event saying that the two breakout sessions had given the Merchant Navy Welfare Board food for thought but the main point is that Seafarers are still our customers and our main focus.  The event enabled us all to exchange views, best practices and ideas.   There were concerns on the role of succession planning - volunteers are definitely the future but there is a lot of work to be done in this area – finding more volunteers with the changing needs of the seafarers.i.e. What does today's seafarer want/need – once again more work and challenges to be faced and definitely interesting times ahead for all Port Welfare Committees and all those who support them. Season’s Greetings, ChrisRankin

Annual Scottish Service for Seafarers

Members from Glasgow and Edinburgh branches attended the Sailors Society 71st Annual Scottish Service for Seafarers held in South Leith Parish Church.  It was a very well attended service with various maritime charities and communities represented.    After a buffet lunch everyone assembled at the Merchant Navy Memorial on Leith Shore for the Wreath Laying Ceremony.   This is a short service but very moving and despite the rain there was a good turnout and eighteen different organisations paid their respects and laid wreaths.

Social Media Course

Last week was our 3rd and final social media training where we had two new team members join us. This is Christine’s account of the two days. Tuesday 3rd November:  Travelled to Southampton by train from Plymouth with Chris R. Taxi to Jury's Inn Hotel, checked in and met up with Yvonne. Unfortunately the flight Ina and Carole should have come down from Glasgow on was cancelled just as they were about to board so they had to make rapid re-arrangements and made their journey by rail missing the first session but they managed to arrive in time for dinner!  We had a brisk walk through the park to MNWB office. Jury's Inn seems to be on a roundabout and crossing roads is a nightmare.  Met by Louise and Alastair then introduced to Sally who would be guiding us through safeguarding procedures, how to handle and signpost enquiries. Discussed various charities, organisations and other places where MN personnel can access help.   Then followed a group discussion in which two different scenarios were presented, it was most interesting. We returned to the hotel for a quick tidy up and then walked to Coco Rio.  Ann Brine collected Ina and Carole to bring them to the restaurant. We had a lovely meal, and got to know each other in a more relaxed atmosphere.    A short toddle back to hotel for a chat and catch up with Ina in Chris R's room, I must be getting old - my nightcap was coffee and I very nearly had hot chocolate! Wednesday Morning: Early breakfast, checkout and slightly easier/safer road crossing (well done Carole for finding a pedestrian crossing!!!) To MNWB where Ann Brine introduced us to many and varied social media sites and ways we might use them to promote Watch Ashore. I freely confess that I'd never even heard of quite a lot of them, however as a former Twitter phobic, I am now fully converted and see the massive outreach possibilities which it offers Watch Ashore. Very many thanks to all involved with the last two days training and hospitality it's been brilliant. Safe journey home everyone, hopefully no delays for any of us. Ooooops hear from Ina that the return part of their flight had been cancelled! The good news was that they could re-book; the bad news was that the flight was delayed. Yvonne’s summary of the two days -  Social media course over, very enjoyable 2 days despite the hazards of getting there! Well done to Ina and Carole, intrepid pair from over the border, epic journey or what! and both ways! I was airborne when we were told might have to divert to Humberside instead of Leeds, but we're reassured the plane had loads of fuel! Comedians some of these pilots! Did land at Leeds thankfully! Word of warning Ladies, check with Ina if you decide to travel anywhere....just to make sure she is safely at home,..Bit of a Jonah on the travel front!!!! (As you may gather from these two snippets Carole and I did have a bit of a hiccup with our travel arrangements but we will keep the full story for another time.)        

The Gansey Lady

30th October Today the Sculpture of the Gansey Lady was unveiled on Bridlington North Pier.  The Gansey Lady really is a masterpiece and I feel so proud to be part of this piece of history.  The fishes on the side depict all the famous and infamous fishing people of the area!  The gentlemen with the jumpers are part of the fishing community wearing their"ganseys"! It is a fitting tribute to (a) the amazing creator, Steve Cargill. (b)The vision of the groups and people that wanted this and (c) last but not least, the support of the local people. 


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