by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director
On Thursday, July 1, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) celebrated its first anniversary of managing the International Maritime Center in Oakland, CA, formerly part of Bay Area Seafarers Services.
I had the pleasure of attending the July 1 Casino Night fundraiser that doubled as the anniversary party. Located at the beautiful Oakland Yacht Club in Alameda, SCI hosted 86 guests from the Oakland Port Authority, local churches, and Bay Area maritime businesses that support SCI’s mission. With great live music and delicious food, our guests enjoyed each other’s company, played the gaming tables—no gambling, just gaming—joined a silent auction, and took chances on “Luck of the Draw” raffle prizes donated by friends and local businesses. SCI expresses strong appreciation to Bay Area community development coordinator Adrienne Yee and her local development committee for coordinating the night’s festivities.
In the days before and after Casino Night, I was able to call on SCI friends in the Bay Area, including private businesses like Hornblower Cruises & Events
, a great company that has offered SCI a future fundraising night on its vessels. I met with senior officers of the USCG Pacific Area Command to discuss common concerns regarding maritime education for mariners and the continuing menace of piracy off Somalia. Also, I enjoyed a 6-hour evening transit with the San Francisco Bar Pilots
who navigated a bulk ship from Oakland toward Stockton, including the invigorating ascent and descent on the Jacob’s Ladder off the ship’s port side. Earlier, we even welcomed 25 residents from Oakland St. Paul’s Towers
, who brought their lunch to our facility and toured the immediate neighborhood with many questions about seafaring life and transportation logistics.
Most of all, I enjoyed several blocks of time at the International Maritime Center itself, welcoming dozens of international seafarers who visit our facility every day. Our Oakland center enjoys a wonderful mix of volunteers and staff who drive vans to transport seafarers while hearing their stories and responding to their spiritual or humanitarian needs. Because of their very brief shore leave, seafarers often visit our center for an hour or two, using Internet access to connect back home, shooting a quick game of pool, or relaxing for a few minutes on our outside deck with its sweeping port views … and noisy geese to entertain.
When several ships are in port at once, I shake hands with seafarers from around the globe—places like Korea, China, Philippines, Ukraine, and India. Each seafarer has a story to tell, but all share a desire for welcoming community and respite from their stressful work at sea. With refurbished facilities and better communication about our mission, the International Maritime Center bustles and often seems to burst at the seams.