Update on Christmas at Sea

Update on Christmas at Sea
In 2016, I published an article on the Seaman’s Church Institute and their Christmas at Sea charity. Since then, the world has changed exponentially, but the needs of mariners remains consistent. Most international trade is moved over the oceans, and professional mariners still spend the majority of their working days far from shore. Whether roaming the oceans or rivers of the world, working as a sailor remains a difficult life. The SCI remains committed to supplying seafarers with support – including warm clothing donated by volunteers.

Have you ever noticed how much cooler it is by the beach? Multiply that when considering clothing needs for a transoceanic job. Oceanic gusts mean that the body is constantly buffeted from all sides, and accessories that block the wind are important. Hats that hug the head, vests that provide warmth without excess fabric, scarves that wrap the next and cover the chest – mariner style is practical. Pompoms and fringe, which can get caught in machinery, are no-nos, as are pastels that show dirt. However, bright and deep colors, which raise spirits, are appreciated. What’s also welcomed is the time and effort provided by people willing to knit for those they’ve never met.

Operating out of New Jersey, the SCI has been tending to the needs of mariners since 1898, when the first Christmas drive was created. The organization has offices in New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, and Texas, but there is an active online presence accessible to all. The website offers information about the program as well as a wealth of knitting and crochet patterns. These instructions have been created to focus on the specific needs of working people at sea, and so the organization requests that you use them when knitting for their clients. However, feel free to personalize your gifts with the yarn, colors, and techniques of your choice.

In addition to knitted gifts, seamen appreciate items such as Chapstick and hand lotion, which are difficult to get when one is at sea for a month at a time. Hard candy adds a festive touch and taste, as do handmade Christmas cards and pastimes like Sudoku for downtime.

In these days of quarantine and isolation, many of us are able to empathize better with those away from family and friends during the holidays. Giving to others is a time-honored way of acknowledging our good fortune, as well as a method of raising our own spirits. Find some beautiful yarn, perhaps some superwash worsted wool, and stitch up a garment to send for the holidays. I always find that I get as much as I give when I perform service; perhaps you will as well.

For more information, check out the Christmas at Sea Facebook page or the Seaman’s Church Institute website at https://seamenschurch.org/christmas-at-sea. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with this group beyond my articles and donations.

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