Latest From The Watch Ashore


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.  

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.


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