Volunteering on the JWB - Part 1: First Impressions...

My name is Howard, and I am an Ordinary Seaman in the deck department of the SS John W. Brown, and a member of the Board of Directors for Project Liberty Ship. I started my association with the ship in June of 2005 when my daughter and I took a Living History Cruise and discovered that you can join the project and volunteer as a member of the operating crew, and joined PLS that day.

I was impressed on my first volunteer day when I neglected to bring something to eat and Don Webster, a member of the deck Department, offered to share his lunch with me. Don’s gracious offer displayed how much the crew members look out for each other which included someone who only had four volunteer hours! 

While I volunteered for the deck department Rick, who was then Chief Mate, made it a point for me to know that while he appreciated me helping on deck, I could volunteer in a department where I wanted to work and that it would be my decision of which area I would end up in. The oddest part of my first day (considering that I come down from the Philadelphia area) was running into Bill Bear of the deck department whose son was one of my best friends some 30 years ago when we were classmates in vocational-technical school. 

I can work in "ANY" department, you say?

I can work in "ANY" department, you say?

Howard's son, Andrew, is seen here during some down time between operating the ship's cargo gear. Andrew is also an active volunteer, and valued member of the crew. 

Howard's son, Andrew, is seen here during some down time between operating the ship's cargo gear. Andrew is also an active volunteer, and valued member of the crew. 

Howard (foreground) and his son Andrew (background) handling mooring lines while tying up the ship.

Howard (foreground) and his son Andrew (background) handling mooring lines while tying up the ship.

They say first impressions are the most important and everything that happened to me on my first day aboard the ship told me that this is where I was supposed to be. The one thing that continues to impress me is that the people who are leaders, either as being a member of the Board of Directors for Project Liberty Ship or the licensed officers of the ship, all lead by example. I have never been asked to do something that I did not see an officer doing; whether it is chipping and painting, squeezing into a void space, loading stores, mopping the deck and even washing dishes after a meal. It seems there is no job too menial to perform for the leadership personnel of this organization. 

One of the many projects Howard has been involved in. This is a safety net made for the accommodation ladder, completed in a 2 day marlinspike seamanship marathon before a cruise! Also heavily involved were the students from the New York Harbor School. 

One of the many projects Howard has been involved in. This is a safety net made for the accommodation ladder, completed in a 2 day marlinspike seamanship marathon before a cruise! Also heavily involved were the students from the New York Harbor School

Of course there is the other job that I enjoy tremendously which is that of Docent for visitors either at the pier or on Port visits and “talk up” the ship. 

Right: Visitors dance to the music and entertainment provided by the Manhattan Dolls.

 

 

 

Below: Howard, Liaison to our featured musical performers, The Manhattan Dolls, talks logistics before a cruise. 

Howard directs Ray in microphone placement for the guest speakers before a cruise.

Howard directs Ray in microphone placement for the guest speakers before a cruise.

Aside from the people that have kept this organization going, I stay involved because this is one of the few operating vessels from the Second World War; virtually all other museum ships, while impressive, just sit there and look pretty – on this ship everything works, we operate, we steam and we sail under our own power. No matter what, you can’t beat that!

Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.

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