Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Swine Flu warning

If you receive an email from the Department of Health telling you not to eat tinned pork because of Swine 'Flu, just ignore it. It's spam.
Brilliant, Simply brilliant. Olly

Monday, 27 July 2009

Another cold day

Today Sally and I had a day away from the kids and away from the ship. Our niece, Alex, looked after Noah, Anna & Libby whilst we spent the day sprawled out at the pool at Hotel Du Lac. Unfortunately, it was overcast and windy, and freezing cold (well, 26 degrees actually). The pool was deserted except for us; I was wearing 2 t-shirts and a rain coat: Sally was wearing her rain coat and had a sarong wrapped around her legs to keep warm. Still, we had a great day, and the walk home warmed us up! Olly

Sunday, 26 July 2009

All hands on deck

Sunday 26th July: An appeal for helpers in the dining room received a great response. Several ladies came forward to help clean up after breakfast, including Anna and Libby...

And Sally and Noah (although he's not a lady).
Today the ship is also scheduled to move to the oil terminal to refuel. The Deckies and Engineers (and me - I am part of the gangway team) were up at 6am for a scheduled move at 8am...which has already been delayed until 12 noon. Last time we refueled it took 24 hours - I suspect that we won't return to our dock until the wee small hours of Monday, so there will be a lot of tired technical crew around tomorrow...Olly

Our Receptionists

These guys and gals are our dedicated Receptionists. Between them they cover Reception 24 hours a day; to answer the phones, embark & disembark crew, watch the Fire Panel, monitor the VHF radio, and do a million other things. They have all boldly volunteered to regularly stay up all night and sleep all day as part of their shift patterns. They are wonderful young people who have all made big sacrifices in their personal life to do the job. Bless 'em all. Olly

Happy Birthday Liberia

Liberia became independent from the USA on this day - 26th July - in 1847. Happy 162nd Birthday, Mama Liberia. Olly

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A sad little thing

Several new crew from Liberia have recently joined the ship. I saw one of them this evening walking proudly around in a brand new pair of jeans - with the big cardboard manufacturer's label still stapled into the front of the waistband and on display to everyone. This made me think that these were probably the first ever brand new jeans this guy had ever owned (most clothes in Liberia are bought from the market or from a passing wheelbarrow, and are cast-offs from Europe of North America). And this made me very sad, because it reminded me of the daily struggle in Liberia (but Noah said it made him happy, because the guy is now in a position to buy new jeans for the first time!) Olly

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The dock

Our dock is a busy place right now. Not only does it provide a berth for the Africa Mercy and parking for 28 Land Rovers and Nissans; also two different pipeline contractors are working simulateously in the same ditch, one making a new pipe for diesel (the red pipe), and one checking and repairing an old pipe for vegetable oil (the grey pipe, below)...

...the dock also provides a berth for a discharging bulk carrier (oh, how I love bulk carriers). Fortunately this one isn't unloading dusty cement clinker (or we'd be totally covered in dust by now), but it is discharging some kind of mineral for the cement industry into literally thousands of waiting trucks...and each truck drops just a little bit as it trundles past my workshop. The scale of such an operation is quite fascinating - big grabbers capable of carrying 8 cubic meters of mineral are used to unload the ship into big hoppers...

...under which trucks park to be loaded. Vast quantities of the mineral spill onto the dock, so a couple of diggers are constantly on hand to scoop the spills into other trucks.

Amongst the trucks and hoppers and grabbers and dust and noise, a single grain of corn (delivered by the last bulk carrier that discharged on this dock 3 or 4 months ago) has germinated and will one day grow up into a beautiful plant. Lovely. Olly

The cure for Aids? In Benin?

Freddie is a Ghanaian mechanic I know who lives in Benin. We use him for changing clutches and other big jobs like that. Today he told me that God has given him a recipe for a herbal concoction that will cure Aids, and he's got a few friends who've been drinking his medicine for the past year with no deterioration in their health and a good ongoing blood count. He wanted some advice from me about how to test his medicine further (because I know everything, apparently)...so if you are interested in getting involved, just let me know. Olly

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

An extraordinary young man

Three months ago a Maersk container ship came into the Port of Cotonou. Their 3rd Officer was a young Irishman called Billy, who wandered over to the Africa Mercy whilst his ship was being unloaded, to see what we do. He was sufficiently impressed, and completed an application form there and then before he sailed away again. This week he left his Maersk ship as soon as it came back into port, and joined the Africa Mercy as 3rd Officer, with a two month commitment. Great. If only more professional seamen joined us this way. Olly

Liberia -v- Benin continued

We've been in Benin for a little over 5 months now, and are already over half way through our time here. The sights and sounds and smells of Cotonou are now very familiar, and I have to concentrate hard to remember the finer details of life in Liberia. But one difference between the two countries jumps out at me every day: how peaceful the Beninoise are compared to the Liberians. I have seen no mothers beating their children (and no beating-sticks for sale); I've seen no men beating their wives or girlfriends, or screaming women beating their husbands or boyfriends; no fights in the street; no stonings; no attacks on police; no vigilante mobs, and no bodies in the street or bodies in the water...I think Liberia will need several generations of peace before her people become like the Beninoise. Olly

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Another week goes by, and I'm finding it hard to blog...

Talk about writers block. So what's happened in the last week? On Friday night my parents left. On Saturday we spent a cool, overcast but dry day at the pool at Hotel Du Lac - it was wonderful being dry after the previously miserable day at Babs Dock. Sunday we pottered on the ship, and Sally collected a new "daughter", Eliana, from the airport - she's here for 4 weeks as a cook and we're sort of keeping an eye on her. Monday night Sally was back at the airport collecting another new "daughter" - Alex, our niece, who is here for 3 weeks as a Dining Room Steward and living in our cabin. The weather has been cool, overcast and windy, but dry. I dove (dived?) on Tuesday and again on Thursday, to check nothing was wrapped around the propellers before our brief sail to the fuel dock on Saturday to refuel. I've added another hat to my head - I'm now the Dive Team Coordinator. And we're following the Charles Taylor trial in the Hague with interest. Bye for now. Olly

Friday, 10 July 2009

A very wet day at Babs Dock

Today Sally & I went with the kids to Babs Dock as part of the Summer Program. The motor boat that takes us to the dock broke down after its second trip leaving 9 adults stranded in the car park, so four of us walked across the lake (like the locals) just as rain set in for the day. A couple of canoes carried the remaining 5 through the mangroves and across the lake - photo below is of Mrs Peet and Mrs Aldum arriving in the rain....

And boy oh boy, did it rain! It didn't stop from 11am until 7pm. But that didn't stop the kids from enjoying themselves - photo below of Libby playing in the sand, in the rain...
And Ann below looking cold and miserable...
The motor boat was fixed early afternoon, so we were able to return to our vehicles without having to swim. But we were all soaked and cold (what, in Africa?) by the time we got back to the ship. I've never been so happy to climb into a hot shower! Olly

The kids with Granny & Grandpa:

We've all had a lovely time together! Olly

2010 itinerary

Our 2010 itinerary has recently been announced. We will spend January in Tenerife and Gran Canaria for re-supply and some dockyard work, before sailing to Togo, West Africa, to arrive mid February and remaining there until mid August. Then we will sail somewhere to have new generators fitted. An exciting year ahead of us! Olly

Sunday, 5 July 2009


On Friday, I went with Anna and my parents to the historic city of Ouidah, an hours drive outside Cotonou. We visited the reconstructed Portuguese slaving fort, which was originally one of five forts owned by Europeans in which slaves were processed before being sold and shipped across the Atlantic. They were made to sit in a sun-scorched yard for 15 days with nothing but bread and water to eat; the survivors were accepted as fit enough to begin the 3 month sail across the Atlantic. Those who died were thrown into the moat and eaten by the lions and crocodiles which were kept there. Below, the Portuguese living accommodation:
Below, the town's square which served as the slave market for those who survived their 15 day ordeal in the Fort:

Below, a statue showing how rebellious slaves were trussed as punishment and to stop them escaping:

Below, the only way of escaping their fate was death. Many killed themselves by eating sand or chewing off their own tongues and bleeding to death. This statue, showing "freedom" is at a memorial site on one of the many mass graves in the area:

Below, this "gate of no return", built in the 1990's with UNESCO funding, is a memorial to those West Africans who were captured and slaved through Ouidah. Beyond it is the sea; small canoes crewed by locals would take the slaves through the breaking waves to the larger slaving ships crewed by Europeans or Arabs. Over half of the slaves originally captured died before they reached their new masters in the Caribbean or the Americas.
Although the local Chiefs and their tribes did not start the slaving industry here, they profited very handsomely from it and were involved in the capture and processing of their enemies. How barbaric. It was a very sobering day, and we learnt a lot from the guides in the local museum and around the town. With so much history of tragedy, death, violence and exploitation, I guess it comes as no surprise that Ouidah is a capital of voodoo, which is still practiced today on a large scale.
Lastly, my dad and Anna having a snooze on the way home after an emotionally exhausting day :


Saturday, 4 July 2009

Just a quickie...

Saturday night, 10.40pm: Its been a hectic week. My parents arrived on Tuesday evening to spend a week with us on the ship, and I had my 40th birthday on Wednesday. Between catching up and celebrating, I've not had a minute to go near the computer until now. So, thanks for all the birthday cards and emails and Facebook messages - it made me feel quite special to know that people all over the world hadn't forgotten me. Time for bed now though. Hopefully I'll find time to post some photos tomorrow. Olly