Seafarers working in English Bay and Vancouver Harbour got a welcome surprise Saturday, as roughly 1,000 presents were delivered by boat to workers who can’t be with their families Christmas morning.
The event, dubbed Christmas at Sea, was put together by two Vancouver-based groups: Tymac, a marine transportation company, and the not-for-profit organization Mission to Seafarers, which travels the world ensuring the well-being of seafarers.
The two groups collected donations of cash and items to create Christmas care packages: socks, touques and other warm clothing; Canadian-branded mugs and other similar souvenirs; and plenty of candy and Christmas baking.
Rev. Peter Smyth, senior port chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers, said it’s important to remember these people who work so hard and often go unnoticed.
“I think people see ships, and they don’t think of the people who are on the ships and the sacrifices they make to bring us all the things we have around our Christmas tree and around our table,” Smyth said.
“So today we are thinking of them and hope people will spare a thought for the seafarers.”
Tynac donated a jet boat and crew for the event. Representatives of both groups, including Hnatko and Smyth, boarded the boat with the presents and traveled from ship to ship delivering the gifts.
Thank yous and holiday wishes were exchanged on every ship, as the smiling seafarers accepted bags full of gifts, one for everyone on board.
The Mission and Tymac have held similar Christmas events for seafarers over the past 40-plus years. Tymac used to host dinners for workers, before delivering presents by boat became a possibility.
“I think this means a lot,” Mission worker Hendrick De Vries said. “I mean, these guys are out for months at a time without seeing their families and being so solitary. I think it means the world to have people come out and give them something, even if it’s just a small token.
“I mean, you don’t even know what’s in these half the time. But a gift is a gift, right?”