Hola mis amigos,
Ally here, reporting to you live from dry-dock in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
June was crazy really, so my apologies for only now getting some news to you.
Here's a round-up of what's been going on, and what is to come!
We left Guinea on 11 June. The last few days were busy with saying our last goodbyes to friends, loading the last bits on to the ship (or sending the last bits onward to our next port, Dakar). I was responsible for coordinating the pack-up of all of our off-ship sites and dock space, including loading all of the vehicles. This takes a lot of coordination and planning, but honestly passed the planning stage, I didn't really do anything! A couple called Chuck & Kimberly came for the umpteenth year to lead the pack-up team, and they took the whole plan from me and pretty much told me to stay out of it, in a nice way. I asked Chuck when he started: "how have you done this in the past? Do we meet every morning and discuss what's going on that day?". His response was perfect: "no, I'll stay out of your way, you stay out of mine, and we'll get it done!" - I couldn't have been more pleased. And true to his word, they got it done, with time to spare. It was remarkably and thankfully incredibly stress-free. Still busy, but stress-free.
This means we got to enjoy the last couple of weeks in Conakry, and say a proper farewell.
We enjoyed Guinea and its relative simplicity. Each country is remarkably different; anyone who thinks Africa is Africa is sadly mistaken. Guinea is Guinea, but it's not Cameroon, Benin, Madagascar or Congo. They look similar to us, but most European countries probably look the same to non-Europeans. It's so diverse in culture, and you have to learn afresh every year. Senegal will be no different, and will be very different.
Louis even got to enjoy the fairground in Conakry's main park. He did enjoy it, honestly.
The sail was short, unfortunately for us sailing lovers. Louis did better with the life-jackets this time on the drills, and seemed to enjoy watching out for dolphins. I think he was a bit disappointed in the lack of "boash" but other ships are usually too far away for him to notice, if and when you're lucky enough to see one. We survived, arrived early, and had a fairly smooth sail by Africa Mercy standards.
Work started almost immediately upon arrival in Las Palmas. Our Managing Director, Warrie, is away, so I am covering for her in Managing Director duties if and when required. On arrival in Las Palmas we briefed the Crew on what they needed to know for living in a shipyard before the Captain released everyone from the vessel. Crew are very good at being ready for those moments and within minutes the ship is pretty much empty!
We joined a couple of other families for a wander into town and enjoyed a Father's Day beer in the park, lying on grass. Grass is one of those things that we miss dearly. I've been lying on a lot of grass the last few weeks.
Amy and Louis left three days after we arrived as Louis can't live on the ship during dry-dock. They returned to England for just over three weeks (six days left, though who's counting?).
The ship was lifted out of the water the day after they left. It's always an impressive sight, and that it only takes a few hours to lift 10,000 tons out of the water and push it on rail tracks into position is quite extraordinary.
Top photos: the Africa Mercy in dry dock, sitting on the blocks. A very impressive sight!
Bottom left: the same propellers me and the dive team cleaned a few weeks earlier
Bottom right: one of the many holes cut in the ship. This is on Deck 3 in the Cargo Hold; you can see the old railway tracks exposed on the right of the photo
A friend prayed in one of our management meetings (and apparently she was repeating something I said a few years ago, though I can't remember it) that shipyard is about focusing on "one big patient". The Africa Mercy is now the patient; she needs healing, she needs fixing, she needs taking care of. We have large number of projects going on and the work continues seven days a week to get her ready for the next field service, and a couple of projects are looking ahead probably to the end of the ship's life. Some really big work going on, and all seems to be going well. But don't stop praying for that!! We need to leave here on time with everything working as it should, even if God has to fix a couple of things for us along the way.
I have stayed with the ship this time and continue in my usual role as well as filling in for another couple of jobs. Dry dock is not a comfortable place to be because of the heat; we can't run the air conditioning when we are out of the water. The sun heats up our windows and they end up like radiators. Redemption for us having so many windows in our cabin when some Crew have none! But seriously it's 30 degrees C as I sit here and type, an improvement on 32 degrees last night.
It does cool down outside and get chilly, and I've been getting out running while I wait for my cabin to cool down to a bearable temperature. The challenge being here in Las Palmas is getting off ship and enjoying being here without spending money. I've been blessed with fitness and no injuries, and a bike that I got for free and rebuilt cheaply, so I can entertain myself. The beach is free, lying on the grass is free, and swimming in the sea is free, which helps.
We have two weeks left on the blocks in dry-dock (pray that we get in the water on schedule). We then have about 10 days left in the shipyard before we go for sea-trials which will (hopefully) take us to Tenerife. We will stay in Tenerife for a week before eventually sailing to Dakar, Senegal, for our next field service. Our arrival in Senegal is timed between public holidays, and Tenerife provides the opportunity for the Technical teams to get some rest (hopefully) after a long shipyard period, and for our new Crew to get some training before we arrive and hit the ground running.
I will be project managing the setup period again, as I did for Guinea last year, but this time we know that the Advance containers have arrived already! For those who missed those crazy stories, make sure you check out last year's blog posts.
We will then start getting to know a whole new country, culture, people, Day Crew, patients... exciting times.
Between now and then we will look to have some family time before we leave here, and we will celebrate Louis's 2nd birthday in a few weeks, too. We will all have birthdays in the next three months: Louis in July, Ally in August, and Amy in September.
That's all for now folks!
As we head into the next 12 months with Mercy Ships, we are still looking for regular supporters to meet our monthly target. If you'd like to sign up to be a regular sponsor, this would be a great time to do it! To join Team Jones, you can sign up to donate regularly or one-off here: https://www.mercyships.org.uk/donate/
Peace and love,
Ally, Amy & Louis xx