How is Christmas onboard a ship?

Captain Stephen Gudgeon remembers the impact of a special gesture from those ashore on crew at Christmas and how he had an unexpected opportunity to thank one of the people behind it.


Christmas has always been a time when you wanted to be home with family and friends. However, to maintain the transfer of goods around the world we continue to work 24/7 for 365 days of the year.

You can never rely on shipping companies or oil majors to do anything to help celebrate festivals onboard.

When talking about the festival of Christmas, we must also remember times of celebration for all our colleagues onboard from different cultures and religions.

However, I want to talk specifically about Christmas onboard and one of the things I remember making it very special were the gift boxes we would receive from The Seafarers Mission representative who was always welcome onboard.

The gift boxes, wrapped in colourful Christmas paper, were in fact recycled shoe boxes containing all sorts of treats. Sweets, toiletries, pair of socks, a Christmas card…a real collection of goodies. Also, of course, there was always the ever-so-welcome knitted woolly hat, multicoloured and worn with pride at the Christmas dinner table, making everyone feel appreciated and happy.

It cannot be overemphasised how well received these items were. Apart from The Seafarers Mission, the donors were anonymous to us and we all wanted to show our thanks.

Therefore, how surprised I was to meet a lovely woman at a party, introduced as Aunty Pauline, who told me she knitted woolly hats to go into the Christmas boxes. Finally someone I could, on behalf of us all, thank for the contribution made to seafarers’ wellbeing at Christmas.

Aunty Pauline has been knitting hats for 10 years and has produced about 1,000 hats to go out in the Christmas boxes. An impressive rate of production by a person who knew no seafarers or lived anywhere near the sea.

It all started when she replied to a local newspaper request. She received a knitting pattern and her contribution began. The completed hats were collected and distributed to The Seafarers Mission in the Bristol and Avonmouth areas.

Too often seafarers are cynical and often a little grumpy but I want to tell you that those Christmas boxes made us all feel so good. We were happy that someone ashore, who we would never meet, cared about us.

On behalf of all my colleagues at sea a very big thank you from us all.

Merry Christmas.





Whether you are on board or ashore, and celebrating Christmas or not, ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you need help or someone to talk to.

Visit for all the contact details you need, including Live Chat. SeafarerHelp is also available for seafarers’ families – we are here day and night if you need us.

This article is shared by courtesy Seafarerswelfare –

For more articles about seafarers, click here.

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