Nestled in the heart of a major industrial area on the Columbia River waterfront at the busy Port of Vancouver, Washington, is a cozy haven for mariners that welcomes men and women from all around the world. The Seafarers Center has been operating for more than half a century, with help from local donors. Their welcoming house on site at the port is a cozy refuge where people can get off ships and take a break from the rigors of life at sea.

This week on the Ship Report I’m talking with Kent Williams – he’s the center’s executive director. He’ll share stories about what the center does to help mariners far from home, offering services like a ride to a store, a place to wire money home, a place to worship. or just a quiet place to reflect, far from the throb of diesel engines and the demands of constant work at sea.

I visited the center last weekend to give a talk about a trip I took on a cargo ship in 2010, my personal glimpse of life at sea. That’s where I talked with Kent Williams. The interview, and my visit to the center, reminded me how much we all depend on the fraction of the world’s population that makes their livelihood on the water. The world’s merchant seaman workforce is about 1.5 million people, a fraction of the world, or even the US, population. Those men and women, operating about 50,000 ships, bring us all our stuff. And that’s just the raw materials and manufactured goods. Factor in the world’s fishing fleet, which brings us much of our food, and you see a web of life in which we all depend upon each other.

In this season of gratitude and thanks, let’s give thanks to the mariners who pass silently and invisibly by our doors each day, on the mighty Columbia River and other waterways of the world.

Here’s a link to the story about the center and my talk, that appeared this week in the Columbian newspaper:

Center celebrates seafarers, brings holiday cheer