Sunday, July 14, 2013

Africa Mercy - Shipyard Renovations: One Nurse's Journey

More from my friend on the Africa Mercy. This is a running post about her work in Africa as a nurse. One more week to go before the repairs are complete, then off to Tenerife for a week and finally, the Congo!

Sun 7/14/2013 2:35 AM

If you missed the segment about Mercy Ships that was aired last February and you would like to see it, you have another opportunity. [click here] They plan to rebroadcast our segment on their program on July 21st--next Sunday evening.  The hour-long program begins at 7 p.m. Eastern & Pacific Time and 6 p.m. Central Time on your local CBS station.  

I personally thought they did a very nice job of representing us to the world; public reaction has been positive, with both financial contributions and volunteer applications increasing immediately after the first showing. Now we get a second exposure--what a blessing, especially considering that Mercy Ships is currently in the process of trying to finance the building of a second ship, and will eventually need to staff it with volunteers.
Meanwhile, the shipyard renovations on this ship continue, pretty much on schedule.  We still hope to be done with this shipyard a week from now.  We will then sail to Tenerife to stay for a week (I still don't know why...) and then we're off to the Congo.  It takes two weeks to get from here to there--seems slow in this age of air travel, doesn't it? But it'll be a pleasant interlude, a time of getting things ready for field service, at least as much as possible while everything is battened down for safety during the sail.
My life is pretty smooth at this point.  I still don't have a bunkmate, and I have been thoroughly enjoying the freedom that that allows, flipping lights on when I can't sleep, getting up and going to bed whenever I please, etc.  I expect I'll get a bunkmate sometime next week.  We anticipate over 150 people embarking between now and then, more than doubling our current occupancy, with every bunk occupied before the sail to Congo.  The times, they are a' changin'.
Yesterday was probably my last day of being able to take some serious time away from the ship.  I am either working or on call as duty nurse every day from now until we sail.  So, to celebrate my freedom, I walked to the shopping mall at the far end of the boardwalk and back--fourteen miles.  Of course, I was too tired to do any shopping, and didn't really want anything anyway.  I could have taken a taxi, but actually, walking was the point.  It was a glorious day, just the right temperature, scads of interesting people to watch all along the boardwalk, occasional music from street musicians or birds, a fellow creating sand sculptures beside the boardwalk, vendors of curios plying their trade, etc.  I noticed a number of relatively young adults wheeling older folks along, lots of families out for a day of adventure, and many older couples strolling along hand in hand.  Some were tourists, of course, but most seemed to be Spanish, and I assume many were locals.  Their beach and boardwalk are a treasure, and they take time to enjoy it.
The shipyard itself is pretty interesting.  The "Catalina" from St. John has been in dry dock next to us for several weeks.  The shipyard men looked so tiny in their perches as they needlegunned and sanded away the rust and then painted the towering ship.  Finally, last Friday, it was ready to launch.  In dry dock, the ship rests on hundreds of wooden supports mounted on wheeled platforms that run along railroad tracks.
The Catalina had five rows of these support gadgets running on ten rails, the equivalent of five lines of railroad flatcars traveling abreast.  To move the ship toward the water, they lined up five large front loaders to push against the central platform--it took that much power, I suppose.  At the end of the line, they pushed the ship onto an elevator platform. Once the ship was in position, about fifty huge motors lowered the platform into the water by unwinding the thick cables, allowing the ship to float.  Alas, the Catalina listed badly, not seaworthy after all.  I suppose that something must have been wrong with the ballast balancing system.  They had to drag the poor baby back into dry dock, where it remains today.  There was lots of activity aboard the ship yesterday, though, so I suppose they'll try again today or tomorrow to launch the ship.
Blessings to you all.  Thank you for walking with me in this Mercy Ship adventure.

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