It is hard to put my finger on the atmosphere around the ship as it nears time for us to sail. Tangible anticipation, sorrow, joy and crazy busyness......After ten months in the Congo loving and learning about the country, it's culture and it's people we pack up and leave, praying that we have left a legacy of excellence and of Christ's love and compassion. Praying that those we have not been able to help can lay testament to a white ship filled with people who care, in the name of Jesus. Praying for our day crew that one day we may meet again on this earth, thanking God for all the ways they have blessed our ship community and the patients and that they will be able to find employment after we leave their shores. Praying for all the crew who have passed through the halls of the Africa Mercy while we have been docked in Pointe Noire and for those who are leaving us after years on board. Praying for our patients, that their healing is holistic, spiritually, mentally and physically.
Underneath our sadness lies excitement. Many head home to see family and friends whom they have not seen for a long time. The rest of us look forward to another of our homes, The Canary Islands. The taste of fresh strawberries on our lips and luscious green grass underfoot, beckons. A two week sail lies between us, the comfort of a developed nation and some well deserved rest for most.
It almost seems wrong to experience such a contrast of emotion.
Wow-it was really hard for me to pick out some photos of our departure, for which the preparations actually start weeks beforehand. We even have a "pack up team" who fly in especially for the occasion and our very own "Vessel Transition Coordinator" to oversee this mammoth task. It takes the whole crew to prepare for sea, even the young ones participate in the final stowaway search, hours before we sail.
Andrew driving a car out of the container onto deck 8.
Everything must go! One of the fork lifts being lowered by crane into the cargo hold on deck 3.
One of the biggest pack up jobs is the hospital. One week is all the crew get to completely pack up a 78 bed, fully functioning hospital ready to sail. Glad wrap becomes a lifesaver!
Vehicles loaded? Check!
Pool drained? Check! Why waste such a secure space?
This is what a few hundred crew's last garbage run looks like-gross! Whilst at sea we have to keep all our personal garbage in our cabin. Due to Maritime law, the only thing that can go overboard is food scraps.
The large swells captured from deck eight.
Leaving a country means lots and lots of drills!!! Our last "at sea' drill before our departure.
Our eerily quiet and empty berth space in the hours before dawn, like a ghost town. Where once hundreds of feet had pattered and patients and crew had chattered, now lay still and silent.
A tug cuts through the ocean in deceptively calm waters.
The gangway is readied for raising.
Up she goes!
The deckies hard at work doing whatever they do with all those confusing lines. They are champions!
The last of our lines being released by Congolese port workers on the dock.
Just to prove that you don't have to be big and mighty to be powerful and strong, a little tug hauls us out to sea.
The pilot boat.
Our Chief Engineer, Ananda, making sure everything is tickety boom in the engine room.....while a few decks up Captain Tim does the same in the bridge.
Before we went past the breakwater the starboard lifeboat was lowered as we had been unable to test it for ten months due to it's proximity to the dock.
(Photo credits to me, Josh Callow, Ryan Cardoza, Leah Ferguson and Jess Rothwell)