Friday, 21 December 2007

Dry Dock...

This will just be a short one, as there hasn't been much happening over the past few days. It was work work and more work for me. And now I have had a few days off. We entered dry dock on Tuesday the 11th of December and came out yesterday. It was very noisy and warm, with no air-con on during our stay. So it meant that sleep was often difficult to come by, especially on the lower decks. Thankfully I have friends in high places, and slept up on Deck 5, in one of the big family cabins (used by Jan Tuinier - Third Officer/Security Officer - and his family). The families were off ship for our duration of dry dock.

During our time in dry dock I joined a group of crew members and we were given a tour underneath the "Africa Mercy", and it was very interesting seeing our bow rudder, bow thrusters, sea water valves, and propellers. One of our propeller blades (on the port propeller) had to be replaced due to a hairline fracture.

I was also able to get time off ship and so joined a small group of friends in heading down to the southern tip of Gran Canaria. We caught a bus and went all the way to Maspalomas. We visited the Tourist Information Centre, as well as playing putt-putt / mini-golf (I came last - I'm certainly no Ernie Els! But it was lots of fun...), and then walking (getting lost on the way) to the beach and the most amazing sand dunes. The beach is also a nudist beach and so it was certainly a case of switching off our peripheral vision... but it was a fun experience swimming in the sea (not nude, don't worry! :-) ) and relaxing off the ship for a while. We then went and had a Chinese "all-you-can-eat" buffet for supper, and that was really good. We arrived back at the ship at 23h00, after leaving at 9h00 in the morning, so it was a very fun and filled day! It was so good for me to get out from the ship. The past ten or so days were quite manic, with me working 7 or 8 days in that time frame. So it was definitely time I got off-ship for a while!

We are due to leave Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, tonight, and then take a very slow sail across to Tenerife. It should be a lot of fun. Unfortunately I am struggling with putting photos onto this blog, so please be patient as I try and resolve this issue. Thanks.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Arrival at Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain...

Greetings from the port of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands! We had a lovely sail here, and during the voyage were greeted by dolphins, flying fish, whales, and even a hammerhead shark! It has been amazing.

On Wednesday night we had our Winter Wonderland Christmas event, where crew members can sell crafts, arts, goods and cookies / biscuits to fellow crew members. It was a really nice atmosphere, with good food and good crafts, but more importantly, good friends. I'm really enjoying the people here, and am building some great friendships. This was one thing I was worried about before I came, but God has shown me that I never really needed to worry. He has surrounded me with the most amazing friends here on the "Africa Mercy". And these are friendships that, even now, I know I'll be keeping for years and years to come.

On Thursday I woke up early in order to watch our approach into Las Palmas. It was amazing to see all the lights of the island shining out bright into the night. We reached the pilot station (where we take on-board our pilot) at around 10h30, and took on our pilot, and headed into the harbour. Only to be heading back out into the open seas a few minutes later. The berth allocated for us was 150 metres in length. The "Africa Mercy" is 152 metres in length. Mmm, maybe a slight problem! So we were back in open water for a couple of hours, and during this time another berth (at the passenger terminal - we were originally docking in the cargo section of the harbour) opened up and so we headed back in and took this berth. It is close to the shopping malls and other tourist attractions. I have already been off ship exploring with a group of friends. We walked along the beach front in the early evening, after supper, and bought ice-cream and had a good time in each other's company. We also stopped at a sidewalk cafe for drinks, but I had to head back to the ship to get some rest before my long night shift, which I am on now as I type this entry.

So we are berthed here until Monday, and then move into drydock for a week's work on the ship. Following drydock, we should be heading out to Tenerife for Christmas. So as you can see it has been an amazing adventure so far. I really have enjoyed myself and feel so blessed to be part of such a wonderful organisation as Mercy Ships. It is a privilege to serve on the sea.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Departing Monrovia...

After a very hectic last week in Liberia, with medical emergencies and other issues to deal with, we are now safely on our way to Las Palmas, Canary Islands. We departed Monrovia at 12h00 GMT and before our departure had many tasks to do.

The reception department falls under Deck and so I joined a team (Alpha Team - Deck Department) in conducting a thorough stowaway search of Deck 8. This search was repeated shortly after our departure as well. We also had an emergency fire and lifeboat drill shortly before departure to ensure that all people sailing with us were accounted for.

The sailing has been an amazing experience. I really love being on the sea. I haven't been seasick, apart from being a bit drowsy as a result of the rocking motion. One thing I have noticed about this ship is that she does roll quite extremely. You can't walk straight. You always veer off and head into doors! But I've found my sea legs now.

Last night I did a piracy watch up on Deck 8 aft, from 00h00 until 02h00. Piracy is a real (and growing) threat in West African waters. But thankfully our watch (with the Security Officer - he's also Third Officer) was uneventful. You see a lot of stars out here. It's so peaceful.

So we are now on our way to the Canary Islands, a sail of six days. Our first port of call is Las Palmas, where we enter dry dock, and then Tenerife for Christmas.