Usually, the seamen come to him. Now, because of COVID-19, Wayne Sutton has to go to them. But he cannot board the ships — he is only able to go as far as the gangway, and only to see a few men. It’s a very different Christmas for Mr Sutton and his team at the Marine Terrace-based Mission for Seafarers, and more so for their clients. The chief executive and chaplain of the “land lifeline” for seamen, Mr Sutton, along with wife Gladys and a skeleton staff, is busy packing hampers for the seamen on ships in the Geraldton port over Christmas. “Usually, I can go on board and see the men, take gifts to them,” Mr Sutton said. “Not this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. “The seamen are not allowed off and we are not allowed on, and I can only go to the gangway and talk to a few men. “We’re expecting about 10 ships into Geraldton over the Christmas period. “Our shop sales are down because the seamen come here and buy goods. We’ve set up an online store, but it will be nothing like it was.” Mr Sutton works with the shipping agents to provide many services to visiting seamen. “I’ve sometimes had to drive seamen to the airport to be flown to Perth for medical reasons. It’s varied work,” he said. The Suttons each do about 50 hours of volunteer work a week while living off Mr Sutton’s pension. Whenever it gets demanding and they feel they need time out, they think of the seamen they look after. “They sign on for nine months, and it’s eight hours on and eight off for the the whole time; there’s no such thing as a weekend or a public holiday,” Mr Sutton said. Last year, more than 5000 international seamen — more than half of the 9000 who came to Geraldton while their carriers were in port — visited the 155-year-old building which houses the organisation. “Our reward is in serving the seafarers and looking after them,” Mr Sutton said.