We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nip Tuck

Our home for three months! The Astican shipyard, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
After a few years in West and Central Africa the poor Africa Mercy starts to look a little worse for wear. As former Danish rail ferry, "The Dronning Ingrid", the AFM is over 30 years old and she needs a lot of upkeep! Every year we go into shipyard and this year it was time for the Africa Mercy’s biannual dry dock. This meant that the ship was raised out of the water to undertake large repairs that cannot be done whilst in the water. This year, as well as the usual removal of all the barnacle and debris from the hull, it was time for some major works on our rudders and propellers. The fresh water tanks were cleaned, repaired and resealed and the starboard side of the hospital received new epoxy flooring to match the portside, completed in 2013.

Many of the cabins, including ours received new lino, “wood look” flooring. Our cabin also received a major clean, including the ventilation systems. We had suction vents installed in each of the bedrooms and the leaky pipe outside our cabin door was repaired. In fact lots of leaky pipes were repaired! The transport office (as well as many other offices) was overhauled and we all got shiny new desks, shelves and leather chairs.

The hull was painted and a new corridor construed to lead to the bow. The life jackets were all checked and the life boats had a safer release mechanism installed. The crane had new windows fitted and the crew and hospitality galley were the recipients of some lovely new ovens!

With the ship out of water it was bye bye children as the families moved to on shore accommodations. As in 2012, our family was hosted by the wonderful staff at the Riu Waikiki. It was fantastic to be reunited with many of the staff who were still working there.

As our stay extended (twice) to almost six week as the dry dock period ran over time, it was a great opportunity to talk to the staff about what we do and why we do it. Many of them were extremely fascinated by the concept of leaving everything you know and love to serve in the poorest nations on earth…..and pay to do it! The kids had an amazing time in the kid’s club and we were excited to welcome David, one of the kid’s club leaders, on board for a tour and a meal. We also had a visit from the Waikiki manager and her family.
Whist at the Waikiki we were able to be a part of a press conference, with the Spanish media, about the ongoing relationship between Mercy Ships and the Riu chain of hotels. We featured on several TV stations and in newspapers. Who says our mission field has to be confined to Africa?

Despite a wonderful effort by our technical crew and the Astican shipyard workers our propellers didn't quite work as planned. We saw God at work in the timing though. If this had happened in field service it could have been a major issue, maybe even a deal breaker. But there we were in a developed nation waiting to see how the Ebola crisis panned out. The problem was worked on for several weeks, further delaying our departure date and during this time the ship freezers that hold all our food decided to die. It seemed as if we would never leave the ship yard.

I can safely say that we are most definitely on our way. The shipyard is five days behind us! I am writing this post in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and as a crew we are celebrating God's goodness and faithfulness. He had a plan all along and we are excited by what is to come!

Please enjoy a pictorial of the Africa Mercy in shipyard/dry dock

The tugs pulling the AFM into the dry dock berth.

Slowly making her way in.

The crew stand on the stern taking in all the action.

Almost in.

The Africa Mercy's huge propellers appear out of the water.

A view from the bow.

Loaders help to finish dragging the AFM out of the water The ship is dragged up by tracks.

It's a long way down to take your garbage! Hence the garbage chute that started on deck five and ran to a skip on the dock.

The huge scaffolding that makes up our "gangway" in dry dock. Believe it or not, this gangway only made it to deck three. Our usual gangway enters at deck five!

A cool vantage point of the enormity of the majestic bow.

The work begins! Shipyard worker begin the arduous task of taking of the giant propellers.

Getting there.......

Those things are BIG!

Getting intimate with the propellers in the workshop.


What an amazing difference a bit of spit and polish can make!!

The hull before it's shiny new coat of paint!

Close up of the hull work.

This is the door to our cabin. I will do a post later on the inside of our cabin so no sneak peeks now! We had a leaking pipe just outside our cabin for 18 months. It has caused the carpet just inside our cabin  to be constantly damp and mould had formed. Above, the pipes are finally being fixed!

The hospital floor prepped for the new epoxy flooring.

A ship in dry dock can have all kinds of hazards!

The usual entrance to the ship on deck five looks out onto fresh air!

The temporary, dry dock entrance on deck three through the "eye room" in the hospital.

The Transport office....a work in progress.

The finished product! Lovely!

Another renovated office in the hospital.
A whole lot of life jackets that have been cleaned an checked!

Beautiful new oven for the hospitality galley. Lots of yummy treats will be made for crew and guests this oven!

New glass in the crane. I can see clearly now.....

The Captain's whiteboard makes for interesting reading during dry dock.
* Fresh water outages are expected throughout the week
* Tuesday night: fumigating galley- Pizza night delivery
* Curfew 1:30am
* Please do not remove fans or any equipment from dining room or galley
* Clear all food from crew galley fridges by Sunday evening-power off on Monday

These are just a few things on the busy board. Dry dock and ship yard are a very unique period in the Africa Mercy's calendar. Crew numbers are smaller and we are in a developed nation. However there are different kinds of challenges that face the crew. Shipyard is essential to the smooth running of a ship and we appreciate that the Africa Mercy is so welcome into the Canary Islands year after year so we can continue our life saving work in the poorest nations on earth!