“December 19, 2012
Dear Rev. Anderson
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for taking my mother, my wife, and myself for an impromptu tour of the Seafarers Center back in October. It brought back a lot of powerful memories for myself as I worked as a full time ship visitor for five years from 1980-1985 under the guidance of Reverend Norbert Mokros, the founder of the Seafarers Center, and his able assistant of many years, Elaine Almquist. As is the case with so many things in life, I could see that there have been many changes over the past 25 plus years, but still, some things remain unchanged, such as the ping pong table sitting in the chapel!
At the time I worked at the Seafarers Center, we occupied the entire building and I actually lived in one of the upstairs apartments. I started at the Center as a new college graduate and quickly embarked on a 5 year apprenticeship in world culture. I can look back on those years now and see what a large impact it has had on the rest of my life. Probably the most important thing that I learned was the fact that no matter how different the culture, no matter how different the political system, or religious beliefs, we human beings have far more in common with one another than most of us ever realize. The very same things make each one of us laugh, or cry, or tremble in fear, or swell up with pride. I had the privilege to share with people from all over the world some of their most intimate moments- from comforting a Yugoslavian sailor after his fiancee told him over the phone that she was leaving him for another man, to talking to a group of British sailors right after the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina, to driving a group of Finnish Sailors to a funeral home after one of their comrades had hung himself in despair, to taking a few Taiwanese sailors canoeing down the Brule River on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. I now appreciate what a priceless experience those years at the Seafarers Center were for me. There is no question that each and everyone of us have more in common with one other than any political or religious or cultural differences should ever come between. If I remember correctly, I believe I met people from 105 countries in the five years I worked as a ship visitor-what a fascinating and rewarding experience! Thanks again for allowing me to take a trip down memory lane.
Sincerely, Kyle Hodsdon”
Many brought dishes to share including some very delicious deserts. Main courses were provided by the Director, Tom Anderson, along with friend Jerome, resident Soobin and others. Everyone pitched in to set the tables for our meal, and many brought gifts to share in our gift exchange.
Soobin brought some of his fellow Korean exchange students from UMD to join in on the fun. There was a lot of story sharing and laughing going on all night. When the gift exchange happened, everyone took a number and chose gifts in order, and could even ‘steal’ gifts from people who had a lower number and had chosen first. Everyone ended up satisfied with a smile on their face.
Merry Christmas to all!
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The MV Vikingbank was in Duluth harbor from November 12-14, 2012. While they were in port some of our ship visitors went on board to visit and hand out Christmas gifts. One of our volunteers, Teri, is pictured here in the mess hall with, from left, the Captain, Cook, and 2nd Mate of the Vikingbank, with Teri seated at the far right.
They crew of the Vikingbank were very pleased with the visit in Duluth, and were kind enough to send us an email greeting at Christmas along with this photo of their ship!
Thank you MV Vikingbank for sharing some time with us, we hope to see you again soon!
Have a blessed holiday season, and enjoy the beginning of 2013! We hope to see and hear from you soon.
The following photos were taken on December 14, 2012 in the Seafarer’s Center.
On December 19, Seafarer Volunteers made their final visit to the final Saltie ship of the season here in the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI. The Federal Sakura, built in 2005 and registered in Panama, is over 620′ long, over 75′ wide and nearly 50′ tall according to BoatNerd.com, a website which lists salties that have entered the Great Lakes. You can find info on many ships that have been in the Twin Ports during the 2012 season on BoatNerd.com.
The Federal Sakura left Duluth shortly after the Volunteers visited on December 19, around late afternoon/early evening. You can track the Federal Sakura‘s progress through the Great Lakes and the Locks at BoatNerd.com’s Saltie’s Positions page or you can see an interactive map of current ship positions at MarineTraffic.com.
While in port, Seafarer Volunteers were able to deliver many helpful things to the mariners on-board. Thanks to many donated hours of work and items, there was a Christmas gift filled with a warm, hand knit hat and scarf for each mariner, along with personal items that it is hard for mariners to get, such as shaving razors, shampoo, and other personal car products. Mariners also have the opportunity through the Seafarers Center to purchase cheap phone cards to use with the Center’s cellphones to call their friends and family back home. Some baked cookies and candies were also donated to be brought to the Federal Sakura. The mariners were very appreciative of these gifts from the Center. It means a lot to them to be able to contact their families using the quality, yet cheap phone connections that the Center and it’s many donors are able to provide. The mariners are always very gracious to Volunteers from Seafarers Centers all over the world, and will always offer coffee or snacks, and occasionally lunch as they did on the Federal Sakura! Filipino food, yummy!
The Center also offers transport services for marines to get off of the ship, to either go into town to make necessary purchases, or to visit the Center to use the internet or have time alone to meditate, think or pray. Many thanks go to our Volunteers who sacrifice their time to transport the mariners around town or to the Center to make their lives more comfortable during their journey. Also thanks to our Donors and grant writers who helped us to get a new van in which to transport the mariners.
While on board, we had a chance to sit down and chat with the Chief Officer of the ship, Cesar C. Gojoco. Cesar, along with the rest of the crew, is from the Philippines.
Cesar has been a mariner since 1996, and has worked with the same company for all of those years. He is a father of two boys, the oldest is 6 years, the youngest is 8 months. He is typically away from home for 8 months at a time, and then is at home for 3-5 months, depending on the company’s needs. He just started this most recent 8 month journey about 4 weeks before arriving in the Twin Ports. Cesar says that he and the other men on the ship really appreciate when the Seafarers Volunteers bring the cell phones and phone cards onto the ship for the men to use and buy. He says that they have a satellite phone on the ship, but it costs $25 for just under 40 minutes to call home, whereas with the phone cards they can call the Philippines for $5 for just under 40 minutes! The phone cards definitely allow the mariners a little more freedom to speak with their families at a leisurely pace, which is especially welcome around the holidays. Cesar said they also appreciate that the Center is willing to drive the mariners to the mall, because goods in the US are not as expensive as Canada or other places so they can buy things like small electronics or clothing. When the Volunteers transport the mariners to the Seafarers Center, the marines can use the free Wi-Fi that the Center provides to Skype chat with their families also, which is something else that Cesar said they all truly appreciate! This is especially important for Cesar, because for the past 5 years he has been on the ship during Christmas, and has been unable to celebrate with his family.
We are very thankful we had a chance to speak with Cesar, and all of the crew of the Federal Sakura. The marines are looking forward to opening their gifts on Christmas, under the Christmas Tree and decorations that their company has kindly provided to make the common quarters look more festive. We wish the Federal Sakura and her crew the best of luck as they head to Montreal, and then onward to Turkey!
Merry Christmas everyone, and thank you for your continued support!