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Easter Appeal 2014

Bryony Watson is one of Apostleship of the Sea’s volunteer ship visitors.She shares her thoughts on the lives of seafarers.

                I became a ship visitor after attending a talk given by Father Colum Kelly, Immingham port chaplain at Corpus Christi church in Cleethorpes. Living close to the coast all my life, I have often watched the ships come in around Spurn Point, or seen them at anchor in the distance, but when Father Colum spoke of the many hardships faced by seafarers on a daily basis, I realised that we knew nothing of their lives.  They were almost invisible and this affected me deeply.
                I first visited ships giving out Christmas gifts packed in shoeboxes in December 2012. Since then, I have visited many ships in Immingham, Grimsby and on the River Trent. Unfortunately I can only visit once a week, as I am currently studying for a degree in fine art.
                In February last year Father Colum and I visited a ship facing many difficulties. The ship 
was the smallest, rustiest ship I had ever seen, and, a year on, I have thankfully only seen one in worse condition. The ship was thirty years old, and confidently expected to last at least another five, though it did not look like it could last another five minutes. On board we found a small crew of six, all from different countries, including the Philippines and Albania. It was the first crew I had seen in which the only language they had in common was English, and broken English at that.

                It struck me then, as it has many times since, how tiring and frustrating it must be to be unable to speak your 
language with anyone, save occasional contact with family, for the entirety of a ninemonth contract. Having seen the state of the ship, and hearing about the difficulties with communication, I expected to find a divided crew, and a strained atmosphere. I found neither.
                They were friendly and welcoming, dismissive of the difficulties that had struck 
me as being insurmountable, and their joy at seeing us and having us both on the ship was humbling. We talked with them like old friends for an hour, hearing their stories of family back home, the places they’d recently passed through and where they were going to next.
                This visit in particular made me think about the immediacy of ship visiting; how, in the 
space of one hour, we met for the first time, built friendships, and left knowing our paths may never cross again. I think we each gained something from the experience; for myself, their friendliness and cheerfulness was inspirational. I can only hope that they felt our support and knew that they are not forgotten or invisible.