Friday, December 16, 2011

Sailing, Sailing, Over the Ocean Blue

The last few weeks we have been packing up a hospital and preparing all departments and cabins for sail (imagine your house tipping back and forth at 10 degree angles - with the risk of tipping up to 28 degrees).  In addition to this, we also must bring onboard all our supplies that have been on the dock- including our entire fleet of Land Rovers and Nissan Patrols.  Here this Land Rover looks like a toy car, but it has some serious bulk to it.
In the days leading up to our departure we all stayed busy securing our cabins and packing down everything.  We have a Christmas tree (tied to a string, and secured to the ceiling with a magnet).  We have a fridge (bolted to the ceiling through a pulley system).  Our cupboards are jam packed to prevent momentous movement and latched together with metal plates. 

After everything was loaded and secured, our day of departure from Freetown reluctantly arrived.  We had bid a teary farewell to our friends at Cheshire Home earlier in the week, and now it was time to say goodbye to our Sierra Leonean friends and some crew members heading off onto a new journey, away from Mercy Ships. 

The tears streamed down our faces as we waved goodbye to these sweet ones on the dock, Anna, Joseph, Angel, Alie, Allison, & Dulce to name a few.

The Krio worship songs being sung on the dock echoed across the river as we pulled away and were escorted out of the Queen Elizabeth Quay to the Atlantic Ocean.

But it wasn't all fun and games on the ship yet.  Now that we were acting like a boat, we had to do some things that boats do: like practice good safety.  So, our fire drills became "at sea" drills - where you don't actually muster on the dock, but you go to deck seven, get your life jackets and practice boarding the life boats.

Even Baby Daniel (10 months) needs a life jacket, but which size is the best for him?  Mommy and fellow Dutchy, Gerrit, scour the label for the right information.
The rescue boat teams also have work to do - inspecting, doing practice drills and making sure they are in full working order in case an emergency arises.

With the safety drills out of the way, the sailing fun could begin.  One of the fun parts of the sail is that the bow is opened up for the public- this became a great place to watch for sealife and explore a new part of the ship.

Even our Gateway girls (the ones who aren't going home for Christmas) had time for a goofy photo!

Savannah with buddies, Caroline & Megan
And the view is impressive, though not too dynamic.  Several days of this, with rocking back and forth (like you're in a ferris wheel car) gives your stomach a little run for its money.
And while some of us get to play, it's serious business for the technical crew onboard- FINALLY! they must say, they are able to do the jobs they are trained to do.  The ship is out to sea and they can put into practice their training.  Here Ryan is scanning the horizon - pirate watch, sealife, other vessels - anything seen is of importance to us.

Highlight of the trip? The sealife of course.

Some departments continue business as usual (we still eat, we still make a mess, still spend money, and we still have crew coming and going so the galley, dining room, crew services, finance, and HR, to name a few, continue on in the same manner as at port).  But nurses and most hospital crew are reassigned to help in these departments so you get to see many new faces doing different jobs. 

And we rock and roll up and down throughout the day and the night.
Our view for five days looked like this.
And this.
One eventful day of the sail was our bunkering.  This is an old term from the days that ships would receive coal and it would go into ther bunkers.  This term is still used today, though liquid fuel is delivered.  We met up with our bunkering vessel in the middle of the sea.
 What could have been a dangerous process of securing two ships together at sea, went without a hitch and though we did have to wait for a fishing vessel to refuel before we received our turn, all went well. 
After staying in one spot for nearly 21 hours, we were on our way again.
And while we rocked and rolled a good portion of the time, other mornings were gorgeously still, like this one.

Then, Thursday morning - other ships came into sight as we approached the Tema port in Ghana.
The pilot boat came out to greet us and much to our relief, we did not have to go to anchor first (from what we have heard this is an exceptionally rocky time for this ship), but they were able to escort us directly to our berth space.

And again we are greeted by curious fisherman in the port.
This port is massive and quite modern compared to what we have seen in Freetown the past ten months.

And we look on eagerly for what our time here in Ghana will hold.

Standing on the dock is our entire Advance Team, a department that works specifically in setting up the outreach prior to the ship's arrival.  They have to arrange for the logistics of the port documentation, water, trash, bank arrangements (imagine 300+ people ready to enter the local economy), delivery of fresh produce (again for 300+ people), travel visas, etc.  Most of this team is working currently in Togo, also with the hiring of the day workers for our field service that starts next month, as well as working with the Ministry of Health to come to an understanding on what we will offer in exchange for what they will help us to accomplish.

Many of this team left in October or November so it was a breath of fresh air to see their friendly & familiar faces waiting on the dock for us- singing praises, welcoming us (Akwaaba!) to Ghana.

And for Ernest, and other crew members, it is a welcome home, as this is the first time the Africa Mercy is in his home nation of Ghana.  He is proud to be able to show his country where he works and what we accomplish onboard.

And we are excited to see what Ghana has to offer!

1 comment:

  1. Sending you all the very best wishes! What an amazing adventure you are having. You are truly blessing the lives of others. -- Jenny Baker Xanthos