During the CMA Shipping Conference on March 22, 2023 in Stamford, CT, NAMMA sat down with Jay Brooks, Executive Director of Sailors’ Snug Harbor, to get an understanding of their work.
Listen to the interview here or read a transcript below [edited for clarity]:
NAMMA: What is Sailor Snug Harbor?
Jay Brooks: we’re an active charity that helps retired merchant sailors with their living and housing costs in retirement.
NAMMA: Can you give me a thumbnail sketch of the history of your organization?
Jay Brooks: Yes, for sure. It’s a long history. Our founder Captain Randall passed away in 1801 and his Will said he wanted to leave his farm to help “aged, decrepit and worn-out sailors”. We ran retirement homes for the first couple hundred years for the most part, but now we help mariners wherever they live. We do not have a retirement home anymore but wherever they live we’ll try to help them live more comfortably in retirement.
NAMMA: Why do the seafarers in our generation need help and what’s the kind of help that they need in your experience?
Jay Brooks: Well you know the industry is well-paying and the vast majority do not need help in retirement. But as with any profession, if you live 10-20 years on a fixed income, eventually inflation or life choices will catch up to you. So probably as with any average 80-year old you’ll find some that could use help with their living expenses. We have about 340 mariners spread out over 33 States. With that population, we lose about 10% a year so we’re always trying to add 10% a year. We try to do as much outreach as we can to find those mariners.
NAMMA: How can seafarers’ welfare organizations or the seafarer centers help you to help seafarers?
Jay Brooks: They’re on the ground in those port cities and a lot of mariners do end up retiring in the port areas where they grew up and where they live. They oftentimes have volunteers. Just spread the word. If you have any volunteer retired seafarers that could use some help. Even if they can’t, they may know somebody they sailed with. That’s how we get almost all of our referrals. Somebody reads about it or sees something about it and then they tell somebody who probably would qualify for our help.
NAMMA: Are there any geographic or national limitations on who you can serve?
Jay Brooks: Yes, you have to have sailed on a U.S flagged ship. We only help those living in the US and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. So that is our main restriction going forward.
NAMMA: Besides just giving monetary help, what is your deeper impact on the lives of the seafarers you serve?
Jay Brooks: We try to be their friend and give advice. We screen them for other programs that they’re eligible for. We try to help them apply for some of these things especially as this generation is not too great on the computer. Under 50% have an email and probably well under that use an email and use the internet. So we do a lot of screening for other programs and checking up on them as often as we can to see how they’re doing
NAMMA: Thank you.