Stanley

The capital of the Falkland Islands, Stanley is a small town of only about 2500 pop (2016 census). I wondered how isolated and deprived the local people might feel, or if they missed much the ‘advantages’ of the big cities of the rest of the world. I wonder if they get sick of all the tourists tromping through their town when the cruise ships come in?

I think I wouldn’t mind living somewhere like Stanley. It has all I need- boats to work with, friendly people to talk to, museum, shops, restaurants, hospital, pubs, and beautiful scenery to walk around in.

they even have a distillery...
and a brewery

Sadly, I didn’t get much of a chance to hang out and BS with the locals or sample the local delicacies. We were only there for the day and there was so much I wanted to do.

After stopping in to check out the local Seaman’s Center, I followed the paved footpath along the harbor front from the ship into town. There were informational signs along the way to describe the sights and the different birds to see along the way.

I detoured across the road to take a look at the cemetery. A large monument- the Cross of Sacrifice- tops the central stairway flanked with poppy- painted stones in remembrance of those killed in war.

The gates were closed, so I just peeked over the fence and continued walking along the harbor front, appreciating the history lessons I was getting from the signs along the way.

I noticed a couple of sailboats at the boat yard as I approached downtown. I was expecting more traffic, this being pretty much the only port for thousands of miles. But I guess maybe that’s why there wasn’t more?

There used to be a lot more. I really wanted to see the old sailing ships. Stanley Harbor is littered with the wrecks of about 20 ships- 100 more scattered around the Falklands. I had already passed by the wreck of the Afterglow- a 1920’s patrol boat- next to an old chimney used to burn the bones in ‘Hutchies’ slaughterhouse. All that’s left of the Afterglow is the boiler.

wreck of the Afterglow
remains of Hutchies slaughterhouse

Downtown Stanley looked like a what I imagine a small British town from the 1950’s would look like. A two-lane main street with shops, cafes, and government offices clustered in the center. The famous whalebone arch and cathedral are right across the street from the Post Office with the red phone booths outside. The streets are lined with neat little houses and well tended gardens. A couple blocks from the Post Office brings you to the Falkland Islands Museum.

looking past the whalebone arch to the names of ships that have protected the islands
interior of the ‘Southernmost church in the world’

Continue past the museum to find ‘Victory Green’ with a few old cannons and the mizzen mast of the SS Great Britain. The famous six master of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was launched in Bristol (UK) in 1843. She was the longest (322′) and most advanced passenger ship in the world from 1845-1854. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic in 1845 (in 14 days). She had a troubled lifetime, including being sold for salvage once and being sunk for 33 years in Stanley. Eventually, she was raised, restored and is now a museum ship back in Bristol.

For such a small and out of the way town, they do have a lot of war memorials, and they’re all well tended to. The 1982 Liberation Memorial is just past the museum, and after another couple of war memorials (Royal Marines, Battle of the Falklands, and 1914 Sea Battle of the Falklands), you’ll finally find the wreck of the Jhelum.

1982 Liberation Memorial

She was an East Indiaman, built in 1849 in Liverpool. Abandoned in 1870 after suffering much damage in a storm and just barely able to limp into Stanley. I was a little disappointed. There really wasn’t much left of the Jhelum. The weather had turned nasty again, with high winds and cold, so I decided to head back to explore the museum.

wreck of the Jhelum

It was full of all sorts of interesting items explaining Stanley and the Falkland Islands. History, battles, biology, botany, Antarctica, and stories of day to day living were on display. I was especially fascinated by the artifacts of nautical history upstairs (of course). They had photos, paintings and pieces of the ships that called on their port during the heyday of the great sailing ships.

They had ships wheels, and ships bells, figureheads and furniture, chart tables, samples of salvaged cargos (ink), silverware, and so many more interesting items.

ink bottles salvaged from the John R Kelly

I would’ve loved to stay longer, but signed up for the tour over to see the king penguins on the other side of the island, so had to get going. Maybe one day I can return to spend more time.

WISTA Sista’s Help Santa with Seafarers

Tonight was the annual get together of the Houston-Galveston area WISTA Sista’s to ready the Christmas care packages for our local seafarers. The Houston Pilots let us use their facility to organize the assembly of the boxes.

One side of the room had tables filled up with supplies for the shoe boxes: pens, mini-flashlights, pads of paper, snacks, candies, razors, hats, gloves, toothpaste, cards/envelopes, calendars, tissues, etc.

The other sides tables were filled with supplies for the assemblers (us)! 😉

Trays of cheese and crackers, sliced turkey and salami, pickles, olives, fruits and dip, sandwiches, tiny little cheesecakes, sodas, coffee and wine. 🙂

A few of us filled up the boxes, while others wrapped them up and tied ribbons. I’m not sure how many we made up, but we filled up 2 trucks by the end of the night. Half will go to Houston, and half to Galveston.

I’m not that much into Christmas. I usually work over the holidays. In fact, up until the last 2 years of this horrible downturn, I’ve worked every Christmas but 2 over the last 40 years! It’s great to be home with friends and family. To enjoy all the holiday spirit, traditions, good cheer and company.

Out on the ship, it’s hard to deal with the holidays sometimes. You miss all that’s going on at home. You may or may not have communications with your family (some ships still have no internet access for the crew and cell phones usually don’t work unless you’re in port). Most ships try to do something special for Christmas. They’ll set up a tree, put up some decorations and cook a special meal. Santa may even show up at the ship! 😉

You have no idea how much difference these little shoe boxes can make to a ships crew at Christmas. I’ve seen guys break down and cry. It does make you feel good to know that someone out there is thinking about you. Someone who you don’t even know, that wanted to make sure you had something special for Christmas.

I’m hoping I’ll be back at sea by Christmas! I don’t know if I’ll see Santa this year, but I know that there are people around the world who care for the seafarers (not just Houston, I know Freeport’s seaman’s center does and other seaman’s centers do too).

PS- WISTA is an organization of women in shipping and transportation- there are men members too, we call them WISTA Mr’s 🙂 We had a couple of students from Texas A&M tonight (male and female). We had women who work in insurance, logistics, trading, piloting, training, and sailing. The maritime industry covers a lot of ground, there are all sorts of jobs on shore and on the sea.

SoCS: Vol

Linda’s challenge today for Stream of Conciousness Saturday is…

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “vol.” Find a word with “vol” in it, and use it in your post. Have fun!

My first thought was ‘volvo’, I don’t know anything about them. I’m not really into cars, especially not newer models. Then I thought of ‘volunteer’. I volunteer sometimes at our local Seamans Center (in Freeport, TX). I haven’t been able to lately. I’ve just been too busy. I don’t really understand that, since I have hardly been working.

Usually I work offshore. I’m gone for weeks at a time and then home for a while. When I’m home, I have to catch up with all the things I didn’t get to do while I was gone.

Since I haven’t been working, I figured I’d be able to get a lot done. It hasn’t worked out that way at all. I spend so much time looking for work! I also found a couple of part time jobs so that takes up even more of my time.

Oh well. I will continue to volunteer when I can. As a seafarer for most of my life, I appreciate how much any Seamans Center is worth to a sailor. Maybe not quite so much as in the old days, when we had to wait to go ashore and then go find a telephone office. We’d have to wait in line for hours to call home.

Now we have phones on board and some people even have cel phones so they can call home once the ship gets near enough to land. The Seamans centers still offer phones to call home. Now they also have internet access (a BIG plus).

It’s a friendly place in a strange port where you can go hang out and be comfortable.

Anyway, volunteer was only my first good thought. My next thought, and the one I really wanted to write about was voluntarism.

That is at least as important to me as volunteering. In a way they’re connected. I strongly believe that we should all follow the principle of voluntarism. I think it’s the best way to live together as a society. Everyone free to live the way they want, with no one else forcing them into a mold they don’t fit into. All doing the things they really want to do. The way I understand voluntarism is- living life through voluntary actions.

That means I am against the use of force. I agree with the Libertarian NAP (non-agression principle- which does allow for defense of self and others). I do not think any (responsible) human being has the right to control another as long as a person is not harming anyone. There are all kinds of arguments that can be thrown out there, like ‘what does it mean to be responsible?’, ‘what does it mean to harm someone?’. etc, etc, etc.

Serious libertarians spend hours debating such questions. I am just a libertarian ‘lite’. I want to live a peaceful, prosperous life. I want to live as a free human being. I want everyone else in the world to have the same ability.

So many people think it would never work. But it has worked in the past. If you look at the most prosperous, the most advanced societies on the planet you’ll find out that they also had the most liberty. Just compare North and South Korea for a good idea of what I’m talking about. People who are free to live as they chose can get very creative and they do mostly find ways to get along.

I was reading something just the other day about an ancient city. I think it was in Turkey somewhere. The article mentioned that it was, in fact, an anarchy. If this wasn’t a SoCS post, I would go and look it up (I will do that later and post on it). 😉

In the meantime, check out my sticky post at the top of my blog. Take the quiz and see where you stand on the idea.

She Saw Some Seamen!

lol! 😉 Now a days the politically correct term is seafarer or mariner.

I was at the Seamans Center in Freeport on Tuesday. I stopped by there to drop off a pile of magazines, see who’s around and say hi. I do that whenever I’ve collected a bunch every month or 2. The sailors like to look at them even if they might not be able to read English very well.

I was surprised to see there were actually some seamen around. Usually when I go there’s nobody there but the local volunteers (most are old veterans who remember the role of the Merchant Marine in their wars).

Turns out there was a chemical tanker in port and a few of the crew actually had enough time to go ashore. That doesn’t happen very often any more. Most deep sea crews will stay aboard for 6, 9, 12, 18 months before their contract is up and they can go home. Most docks now are really far out of town, they don’t make it easy for the ships crews to leave the ship (sometimes they make it impossible), and so the crews are extremely isolated for months on end.

That’s why the seamans centers are so important and so appreciated by sailors around the world. It’s a place where we can get off the ship, get online, buy phone cards, call home, find a souvenir, send a postcard, etc. It’s a place for us to be comfortable and welcomed in a strange port. They know what we do and how we are. They’re not scared off by our tattoos, rough clothing or language. They have pool tables and comfortable chairs to relax in. Some have restaurants and bars (not this one). The Freeport Center has free coffee and cookies and plenty of magazines. 😉 They’ll even take the crews out to Walmart or the mall so they can go shopping.

I was happy to see that this particular ship had a couple of ladies on there and even a little boy. Lots of foreign companies still do allow the crew to bring their families along (like we used to). I’m sure it helps the families stay together and should help a lot with crew retention too. Of course, those countries don’t have the tradition of sueing everybody for every little thing either. 😦

I’m always glad to go down there and visit. I volunteer when I have time. I love to meet the people from all over the world. For instance, this ships crew was from India. They were headed through the Panama Canal and then to Taiwan. The Seamans Center can always use more help! I’m always glad to see one when I get to a new port. I know I’m always welcome and have a place to call my ‘home away from home’.

Sailors are invisible to most people. We used to dock in the center of town and everyone was familiar with ships and sailors. Now, we’ve been pushed out of town, real estate is just too expensive.  Now, we just do our work out at sea everyday, all over the world, and no one ever thinks of us or knows what we do. The only time we’re ever noticed is when there’s some kind of maritime disaster. Makes people think it’s terrible out there, the things we do. Actually, there are million of us sailing all day, every day, all over the world. Behind the scenes. Bringing all the things you need from one place to another. Ninety Percent of Everything. It’s a book. Worth a read!

In case you’re interested, I have a page for seamans centers on my blog. It’s a work in progress. If you want to look for one in your neck of the woods, it might be there already. If it’s not, would you mind sending me a link so I can add it to the page. Or if any of you know of any others, please send me the info so I can add them. Thanks! 🙂

Around Aberdeen: Day 1

I made it to the rig on Monday. I’m settling in here at my new job. So far everything is going as well as can be expected. I’m learning the ropes here. Nothings really much different on the ship itself or it’s operations.

The big differences are just in the way they do the paperwork. They DO have free fall lifeboats on this vessel. I didn’t notice that from looking it up online. So, I guess there really was a good reason for them to send me to the class last week. 🙂

I did have a good time after all. The course was better than expected. I got a chance to look around Aberdeen after the end of class each day.

The first day was spent just wandering around town. I walked down the main road til I saw something interesting. The first thing I saw was the seamans center (it was closed) and the Fishermans Mission.

Yes, of course it was interesting to me, I’m a seafarer! 😉

I stopped in to chat with the man who was running the Fishermans Mission. We compared notes on the situation in the UK and the US regarding fishermen and fish stocks. Seems things are pretty much the same. Not enough fish, getting harder to catch, much harder to make a living, more and more regulations, less and less people joining the industry.

I found out the seamans center didn’t open til 1800 and planned to stop by on my way back that night.

Further down the road, I found the Maritime Museum. Yes, it looked interesting, but it was closed on Monday. 😦

I hoped to stop by again but would have to hope to get out of school early since they closed at 1700.

I wandered around the downtown area for a while. The city was involved in an art project called “Wild Dolphins“. Different artists were given ‘dolphins’ to decorate as they saw fit. You could pick up a map to follow the trail to find them all. There were quite a few scattered around town.

I found lots of interesting old buildings, pubs, restaurants, shops, the tourist information center, and Castlegate with its Mercat Cross (and Spiderdolphin). 🙂

As I was gathering information at the tourist center, the ‘Queens Baton’ and its entourage came running by. Scotland was hosting the Commonwealth Games for the first time in many years so they were running around this ‘Baton’. Kind of like the Olympic torch.

There was a buzz about it at our school, they were looking forward to the attention of the press. Our instructor even got to launch the free fall lifeboat to carry the torch down the River Dee while the BBC filmed the whole thing.

It seemed to be a major event all over the city, everyone I spoke to mentioned it. They seemed very happy and excited about it.

I walked by Marischal College and a statue of Robert the Bruce (King of the Scots). I turned the corner and discovered the St Nicholas Kirkyard. That was a pretty cool place, a quiet old church surrounded by big old trees and gravestones green with moss. I saw plenty from 1600, 1700, 1800 and even earlier. I always thought people back then died much younger, but many of them lived 60+ years (according to their epitaphs).

I found myself on Belmont Street, an area of cobblestone streets and old buildings, re-purposed to bars and restaurants. It was a pretty lively area to hang out, relax and enjoy the day. I wish had more time to spend out and about town. I would have liked to relax over dinner and drinks in a few of these places. 😉

I was getting tired and my feet were getting sore. Walking for hours in flip flops is not really the most comfortable way to do it, but I wasn’t ready to buy a new wardrobe yet and was told my luggage would arrive by the time I got back to my hotel, soooo… no shopping (yet).

I just made my way back to the hotel, to be ready for another day of exploration in the morning. 🙂