Sunday, 13 January 2008

Fire Fighting, Cycling, and a Dragon Tree...

It has been a while since I last posted, so I thought it was about time that I updated this. Over the past ten days I have been doing a fair amount of working at Reception, but have also had time off to enjoy more of Tenerife's sights and sounds. But more on this later. I'll start things out by telling you what I have been doing here on the ship in my spare time.

If you've known me for a while then you will know that in my Grade 11 year, way back in 2000, I did my job shadowing at Salt River Fire Station in Cape Town. There is something about fires and fighting them that have always fascinated me. And here on the ship I've been doing a fair amount of work helping the Duty Fireman, my good friend Marius Moe, ensure that all the fire fighting equipment is in good, working order. Every week the fire stations on the ship are checked... and this includes checking the air pressure in the cylinders as well as ensuring the SCBAs are in order. (SCBA = Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.) The "Africa Mercy" has four fire stations and four Fire Teams when we are on outreach. At the moment we are only using Fire Teams 1 and 3. However, we still do equipment checks of all four fire stations. Divided amongst the fire stations are sixty air cylinders. I was checking that the air pressure of each cylinder was around 300 bars. It took quite a lot of time. But not as much time as if it had been only one person on duty. And once we had finished checking all the equipment I got the chance to get kitted out in full fire fighting gear. So that was great fun.

This past Thursday (10th January) we had a fire drill and this put all our hard work (on the fire fighting equipment) into practice. Fire drills on the "Africa Mercy" are not light-hearted affairs. We respond as if it is a real emergency. Scenarios are drawn up which allow all the emergency teams to get practice. Smoke machines are used to set off the smoke detectors, and this then registers as a "prewarning" or "fire" alarm on the Fire Panel in Reception. We then contact the Duty Officer who investigates and then gives the order to set off the Crew Alert alarm. The past fire drill scenario was that a fire was started in cabin 4417 due to secret cigarette smoking. Cabin 4417 is located next to my cabin, and on hearing the Crew Alert alarm I headed out to muster in Reception (I'm part of the Muster Control Team). On my way out I could clearly see the smoke pouring out of the cabin. It was very realistic. There were two victims trapped in the cabin, needing assistance. The Fire Teams, once mustered, then had to go through the smoke-filled room and passageways to find the victims, who, once found, are transferred into the care of the Emergency Medical Team. So it is quite a detailed process. But it is always good to get practice.

The past few days I have also had the opportunity to go cycling along the northern coastal road. This road winds its way along the coast, taking in some great scenery. It climbs high above the beach at San Andres (the beach is called Playa de las Teresitas - seen in the photo above) and then drops sharply down to the village of Iguesta de San Andres. The north-eastern coastal road ends here in this beautiful valley. I cycled this route yesterday (Saturday, 12 January) and was reminded of the breath-taking scenery of Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa. Both roads cut sharply into the cliffs above pounding waves. The climb is also very much like Chapman's Peak, in terms of the gradient of the slope. I left along this route at just before sunrise (which rises late at a few minutes before 08h00) and was back at the ship just after 11h00. It was good to get out and do some cycling. And also just to get away from the ship and take some time to myself. Always good.

In the afternoon of the same day I joined a small group in exploring the north-eastern side of Tenerife. Unfortunately our choice of vehicle wasn't that great. All the vehicles were taken, but for our Landrover Pickup. And we soon learnt why. The clutch was slipping, the engine struggled on the hills (reminded me of the car I drive back in Cape Town!), and to make matters worse, the handbrake didn't work! But it all added to the adventure! We drove past Puerto de la Cruz to the very picturesque town of Icod de los Vinos. Here we wandered along the narrow streets, surrounded by typical Spanish architecture. We visited El Drago, a Dragon Tree said to be over 1,000 years old, and also drove through to Garachico, one of the many "Old Quarters" in Tenerife. There is a small fortress standing guard over the ocean. And many small walkways that wind in and out of the rock pools. It was good to see the power in the ocean, and be reminded that there is Someone much bigger who controls all things.

So it has been an exciting few days since I last posted. And things will get even busier as we near our departure date. Indeed, new crew members and those returning from vacation are coming every day now, and soon the ship will be fully manned and ready for our next Liberian Outreach. Get ready Liberia, we'll be with you soon!

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