Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Arrival in Monrovia, Liberia - 5th February 2008...

After a five and a half day voyage from Tenerife, the M/V Africa Mercy arrived safely in Monrovia, Liberia, yesterday morning. It was a beautiful voyage. Calm seas and good company made for a wonderful experience. In fact, the seas were so calm at times that you would have thought we were moored to a dock. Seriously. At other times the ship did roll a bit, but it was nothing too hectic. It just made one rather sleepy, as if one was a child being rocked to sleep in a crib. But once again no actual seasickness affected me.

During the trip down from Tenerife I did a couple of Piracy Watches up on Deck 8 aft, and those were uneventful. It is good to get involved in protecting the ship. After all, this is my home. And it is a privilege to be able to help the Officers and Deck Hands and to really take ownership in this vessel. I also spent quite a bit of time up on the Bridge during the 00h00 to 04h00 watch, with Second Officer Jan Tuinier and the lookouts. It is so interesting to be up there and see how things function. The Bridge is completely blacked out at night, so as to increase the visibility for the Officer of the Watch and the lookouts. It is similar to driving a car at night – you don't drive with the interior lights on, as this decreases visibility and creates glare. I just love being up on the Bridge. It is a wonderful place to be – especially at night.

During the sail we also had a combined at sea fire, lifeboat, and piracy attack drill. But during the drill someone saw something in the water and so it ended up being a man-overboard operation as well. We had all crew abandon the drill and report to their final muster stations on Deck 7, so that we could account for them all. The ship was turned around and the rescue boat (also known as the MOB boat – Man OverBoard Boat) prepared for lowering. The Captain announced on the PA (I was up on the bridge - at Muster Control) that this was not part of the drill. Once all crew were accounted for, and we had scouted the area where the object in the water was sighted, we continued with the drill. It turned out that the object was a plastic packet floating in the water. For several moments it was very tense up on the Bridge – and, indeed, on the whole ship. We then continued with the original scenario and did all we had to do, before we were given the orders to stand down and muster. I mustered at Lifeboat Station H – Boat 1, forward starboard. It was very exciting!

We have had several ping pong or table tennis tournaments during the voyage – and those were lots of fun. However, we had them on the days when the ship was rolling a bit, and so this made for interesting games! Dolphins also made their appearance on the bow from time to time. In fact, last Saturday they put on such a magical display, jumping out of the water and swimming along with us. They are such beautiful creatures.

Yesterday, Tuesday the 5th of February, we arrived safely at the Freeport of Monrovia, Liberia. It was very special as it was my 24th birthday. And I was able to celebrate some of this birthday on the sea as well as on land. It was the best of both worlds. I woke early to watch our approach into Monrovia. It was rather eerie as we sailed through thick sea mists, and out of these mists shapes appeared all around us. The shapes were fishermen, in their small boats, waving and welcoming the world’s largest charity hospital ship back to Liberia. We embarked our pilot at 08h05 and by 09h00 had safely docked at our berth. Also moored to our dock is a vessel, Blue Atlantic, which was caught with 3,5 tonnes of cocaine aboard. It was captured by a French frigate. The cocaine (with a street value of US$ 500-million) was handed over to the Liberian government and has been burnt. The ship is now guarded by UN troops. During our Advance Team briefing the Captain made a joke that it’s just as well that the cocaine has been burnt, because if the wind were to blow from the direction of the drug smuggling vessel, then we might have some Mercy Shippers acting stranger than usual! We’re a pretty strange lot as it is!

During the morning I was involved with the Customs, Immigration, Port Authority, and Port Health officials. I was there to help my boss, Rob Cairncross, with anything that needed to be done. And hence I was all smart in my uniform. The afternoon was spent relaxing – and sleeping – and then in the evening myself and my good friend Marius spent time walking and praying together on the dock. We also decided to organise a very informal, last minute party for me. So I had about a dozen of my closest friends meet me in the Midships Lounge where we spent some quality time together. It was good to relax and laugh with good people. I needed it. The friends I have here on the Africa Mercy are amazing. I am truly blessed. I ended my birthday up on the Bridge, doing Swimmer's Watch. So that’s the first update from Monrovia in 2008. Keep posted for more!

No comments: