Sunday, 29 August 2010

Cape Agulhas...

Cape Agulhas is the southern-most tip of the African continent and is the official spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The Africa Mercy rounded this landmark and sailed into the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean yesterday. The photo at right is of the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas, built in 1849, to guard ships from the treacherous rocks and currents in this area. I visited this stretch of the coastline last May, and many of these photos here are from this trip. It is certainly worth a visit if you have the time to drive down to the southern-most tip of Africa!

Information board at Africa's southern-most point.

Standing where the two oceans meet.

Even with the lighthouse, shipwrecks do still occur, like this one of the Meisho Maru 38, a Japanese fishing vessel which ran aground in 1982.

Local fishing boats in the waters off L'Agulhas.

The southern-most tip of the African continent.

The Africa Mercy rounds Cape Agulhas in near-perfect weather conditions.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Fairest Cape in all the World...

It was Sir Francis Drake in 1580 who called it "The Fairest Cape in all the World", and early this morning the Africa Mercy passed the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point (photo at left), of which Drake was referring to, at a distance of some ten nautical miles. And for me, passing my hometown of Cape Town was a rather emotional experience. With tears in my eyes, I could make out the cliffs and mountains of the Western Cape. Places that I know like the back of my hand. It's a strange feeling to be sailing home on my floating home. And from many miles out sailing along a calm sea, Sir Francis Drake was spot on, because through my eyes, this land is certainly the "Fairest Cape in all the World."

Land Ho! The coast of South Africa comes into view!

The view looking towards Cape Point and Cape Hangklip - the two capes that are on either side of False Bay.

Cape Hangklip visible here.

Composite shot of the coastline of the Western Cape.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Off the coast of South Africa!

The Africa Mercy crossed the mouth of the Orange River (the natural border between Namibia and South Africa) - although far out to sea - and sailed into the waters off the coast of South Africa late yesterday morning! We are now sailing steadily down the west coast of South Africa and will pass my hometown of Cape Town early tomorrow morning. I already feel the tug of Table Mountain calling me home!

Helicopter Target...

The port in Durban employs not only a pilot boat service, but also a helicopter pilot service - dropping the pilot onboard vessels by means of helicopter. So in preparation for our arrival in Durban, the Deck department have painted a large yellow dot on the aft of Deck 8 to aid the helicopter when it drops the pilot onboard. Be sure I'll try and get as close to the action (as is safely possible) when this happens next week!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Force 9...

So the waves I posted about yesterday were actually comparatively tame compared to today's swells. In fact, the Africa Mercy has run into a Force 8/9 gale on the Beaufort Scale. Now bear in mind that Hurricane strength is Force 12, and you'll see that what we are experiencing is pretty rough!

A Force 8 storm is characterised by waves of between 5,5 and 7,5 metres in height and wind speeds of up to 74 km/h! The waves we are hitting are crashing into the bow and sending spray up onto the windows of the Bridge far above. It's a pity that these photos can't really convey the true power of the sea, but I hope that they will at least give you an idea of what we are experiencing.

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the LORD on high is mighty.
(Psalm 93: 4 NIV)

A large wave hits the bow...

Followed by another...

And yet another...

Leaving the Bridge windows pretty drenched!

Sailing Olympics...

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 22nd August), a few hours before we hit the rough stuff we are currently experiencing, the Midships Lounge of the Africa Mercy played host to the first-ever Sailing Olympics. Teams of up to four participants were entered into the games that allowed competitors to test their skill in Hobnob tossing, Wii racing, Beanbag throwing, target practice, and many other fun events. Many of the events had a "Hobnob" theme since it is these biscuits that we use here onboard to alleviate the symptoms of seasickness.

My team was called North and South, because two of the team were from the Northern Hemisphere (USA) and the other two were from the Southern Hemisphere (South Africa). Nevertheless, we all wore South African football (soccer) jerseys.

It was a really memorable day that once again outlined the wonderful community atmosphere on this ship.

Team North and South.

The Dining Room team.

The Pepto Team.

The First-Graders even entered a team.

Trying our hand at Wii Racing.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Hitting the rough stuff...

As we sail further south we are beginning to hit some heavy South Atlantic swells, causing large waves to crash against our bow and spray over the decks. Every time we hit a wave it sends a bump and a shudder down the spine of the Africa Mercy. These waves may not look that large from these photos, but believe me, they are nasty!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Academy Sports Talk...

While we are slowly making our way towards South Africa, the Academy, the school onboard the Africa Mercy, have organised a number of South African presentations for the students. These have focused on facets of SA culture, from the flag and national anthem to the languages spoken and sports played in South Africa.

This past Wednesday I was invited to the Academy to give a talk to the elementary students on the sports that are played in South Africa. I brought my Springbok rugby jersey, my Proteas cricket jersey, and my Bafana Bafana soccer jersey, along with my rugby ball, cricket ball and cycling helmet and gloves. And of course I had my vuvuzela which the children enjoyed seeing and hearing!

The talk itself went very well and the children enjoyed hearing all about the various sports played within South Africa. They also enjoyed hearing how South African's great patriotism and common support for sports events hosted in SA have helped unify the nation.

It was a privilege to be able to share a bit with the Academy and to see the great work that our teachers do with the children. They really are a blessing to the crew!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pollywog no more!

The Africa Mercy crossed the equator, for the first time in its career, in the early hours of this morning. It was also my first crossing of the equator onboard a ship, which means that I am now a Trusty Shellback, and a Slimy Pollywog no more! For more information on shellbacks and pollywogs click here.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Departing Togo...

At around 11h30 yesterday (Sunday, 15th August) the M/V Africa Mercy pulled out from the quayside in Lome, Togo, bound for Durban, South Africa.

The day started with the Deck department loading our four remaining vehicles on to Deck 8, followed by the lifeboat muster in which all crew were accounted for prior to sailing. Shortly thereafter we embarked our pilot, lifted the gangway, and headed towards the open seas. But prior to exiting the safety of the harbour we tested our starboard lifeboats and then sailed out of the Port Autonome de Lome. We were honoured to have a naval escort from the Togolese Navy for our first hour upon the open seas.

So we are now sailing a two-week journey upon the Atlantic Ocean (and then the Indian Ocean - when we round Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of the African continent) headed for Durban, South Africa. Please pray for safe travels and calm seas as the Africa Mercy heads into the southern hemisphere for the first time. And as we sail please also remember the country of Togo in your prayers. We were blessed by our time in Togo and may God bless this special country.

The boat muster on Deck 7.

Tug Lome stands by.

Pulling away from the dock that has been our home for the last six months.

Leaving our dock behind as we prepare for our lifeboat manouvres.

Testing the lifeboats.

The pilot boat approaches as we leave the tugs behind.

Clearing the breakwater and heading out to the open seas.

The pilot comes alongside.

Togolese Navy inshore patrol vessel P761 "Kara" follows us as we make our way along the open seas.

And escorts us for the first hour of our journey.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Fufu Dinner...

This last Wednesday the Purser and Reception team went out for dinner to honour our day volunteer and translator, Epiphanie, who has served alongside us throughout the Togo Field Service. We went out to a restaurant of her choosing and enjoyed a meal of fufu together.

Fufu is made of mashed yams and is eaten with some form of meat and a spicy sauce. I had goat's meat with fufu. It was my first time eating the traditional West African dish and it was really good, reminding me a little bit of a traditional South African dish, pap (similar to fufu, but made with maize) and wors (sausage).

It was great to get off the ship as a team and enjoy time away from the work environment. However, it was sad to say farewell to Epiphanie as Thursday was her last day at work. Here are some more photos of this fun evening.

James, Epiphanie, Annette.

Johan, Heather, Epiphanie, Ani.

Rob and I.