Oakland’s Waterfront Takes Center Stage at PortFest 2003
Oleta Adams to Star at PortFest 2003
Grammy-Winning Oakland Interfaith Choir on PortFest 2003
Bay Crossings Journal
Bay Crossings Poetry
Freeway Service Patrol Logs 1 Million Assists
Wine Festival by the Bay
How Do Bus Drivers Feel About Golden Gate’s Financial Problems?
Paving the Way for Buses – The Great GM Streetcar Conspiracy
Port of Call: Cayenne, French Guyana
Opening of Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Changing of the Guard at San Francisco’s Last Shipyard
The Port Of Oakland Needs Your Help!
Taste of Oakland
East Bay French-American School To Host Annual "La Place Du Marche"
What the AC Transit Bus Driver Knows
The Iraq war reader
Judge Orders Carnival Cruise Line to Stop Illegal Dumping
On the Oakland Waterfront, Seafarers Club Breaks New Ground
Year of the Salmon!
WTA: For Whom the Bridge Tolls
New Ferry Building Sunday Garden Market Opening May 4th
San Francisco Bay
Vermeer Chocolate Martini
Oakland Arts Focus
Music Calendar - May 2003
In appreciation: David Clark
Water Transit Authority  WTA

On the Oakland Waterfront, Seafarers Club Breaks New Ground

Headed by former Port of Oakland Public Relations Executive Bob Middleton

By Wes Starratt

Clergy who serve seafarers on ships docked in San Francisco Bay recently celebrated a major expansion to their office and hospitality center, which is located adjacent to the Seventh Street Marine Terminal in the heart of the Port of Oakland.

Known as the Seafarers Club, the facility is operated by the Episcopal Church in partnership with Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. Port chaplains meet daily at the facility to plan visits to ships berthed at Bay Area ports, while seafarers on shore leave use the facility for recreation, phone calls, e-mails, and a wide range of other services.

The Seafarers Club is an outgrowth of the Sailor’s Institute, which was originally located on Steuart Street near the San Francisco Ferry Building. Burned out in the 1906 Earthquake, the organization occupied various locations on the San Francisco waterfront before moving to the Port of Oakland in 1971 when the name was changed to the Bay Area Seafarers Service.

Today, the coordinating chaplain for the organization is Bob Middleton, a 20-year veteran of community and media relations and former Communications Director of the Port of Oakland. I have known Bob for some time, and he was, in my estimation, a really first-rate public relations person who was completely dedicated to the Port of Oakland. So, how did he end up a chaplain? It’s a long story.

Bob was a key member of the Port of Oakland’s staff at a time when containerization was in its infancy, and Oakland was the first and the largest container port in the world. Said Bob, "I really earned my paycheck by explaining the new container hardware to visitors." Later, Bob found himself in the middle of the very nasty Bay Area dredging battles that pitted the Port against fishermen, farmers, and the entire environmental community.

Finally, after 20 years of defending the Port, he obviously had enough, and left in 1997. He started attending divinity school part-time and tried the public relations consulting field, but he found that "his heart wasn’t really in the business." So when the position of Episcopal Chaplain opened up at the Seafarers Club, he decided to try it, while at the same time studying part-time to be an Episcopal deacon. That was in 1999, and he has been there ever since. Here "people really appreciate what you do for them," and that apparently makes a big difference to Bob! People have obviously become more important to Bob than the movement of containerized cargo. We wish him well in his people-serving profession. People are pretty important, after all!