"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Mid Week Break

We've been in Conakry, Guinea for three months now and it has been a tough start up to the field service for us. This is year 6 for us and it has been over 2 years since we have been home to Australia so maybe that is part of it.
Anyway, all three boys are now in high school and this week had their school retreat. So Tam and I took a day and a half off mid week to have break on Ile de Kassa. We caught the ferry from the fishing port with a bikes at 2 pm. This was an adventure and a half as they manoeuvred the ferry and various fishing vessels around till eventually the ferry was tied outboard of an old hydrographic survey vessel. We and everyone else then clambered over the hydro ship onto the ferry with our bikes being passed over. The trip is only 5000 Guinea Francs which is 50 cents and takes about 20 minutes. Disembarking is as riotous with people climbing off wherever they like from both the upper and lower deck. 

Kassa Kounki

For dinner we both had grilled gambas which was magnificent and only about $9 each. We accompanied this with a room temperature chardonay, personally selected from the non functioning chest freezer which served as a drinks cabinet. The caretaker did not know what vin blanc was hence why I had to select.

Grilled Gambas

Awesome dinner

Psychodelic sheets

Everything you need and more room than our ship cabin

Tile mosaic basin

Kassa Kounki

On Thursday we went exploring the island, riding to the north end where there is another nicer "resort" called Le Bamana but known as Abou's Place.

Tam exploring Ile de Kassa

Ray and shark being dried in the sun -truly very smelly

Hello Mr Goat


Beach at Le Bamana

Mick at Abou's Place

I had been told about a fresh water resevoir on the island that you could swim in and jump off a 10 metre cliff into so I went off on my bike to try and find it. After a few missed turns and asking some locals I found a very overgrown single track path that seemed to be heading in the right direction.

Old French Army gun on the way

The path forward

The path behind

Found it!

I didn't jump off the cliff as I was by myself but I did go for a very refreshing swim and checked the depth under the cliff which was deeper than I could dive. I'll be returning with the boys!!

An ice cold beer and a book

Waiting to depart

The old wharf

Traditional fishing boat with Conakry in the background

It was a great break away from our cabin on the ship. More than that, we got to chat with lots of the locals on Kassa and even handed out some flyers for eye and dental patient selection!  We stand out wherever we go - so this was a good thing when we saw people with cataracts.  Any conversation - no matter how bad our French was - we were still able to explain where and when the patient selections are held for dental and eyes.  Having come across at least 5 people in our 24 hours there, we are again reminded of the need for life changing surgery and healthcare.  And grateful for being part of it's provision in Guinea by Mercy Ships

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


I've been on the Africa Mercy Dive Team for 4 years now and am the alternate dive team leader. That is if the dive team leader is not available through sickness or absence then I lead the dives. How much we dive and what we do varies from port to port based on the conditions. This last year in Douala has been the most challenging with large amounts of rubbish - man-made and natural - strong currents and almost nil visibility. So this year we removed the sea water grates - about 500 mm diameter steel plates with hundreds of 8 mm diameter holes - and fitted baskets with strong magnets. The baskets have a greater surface area and thus prevent the total fouling of a sea water grate which can be done by a single plastic bag. The baskets are also easier to remove and clean regularly compared to the grates which weigh about 10 kg.

Ibrahim (Sierra Leone), Edward (Sierra Leone), me, Ruben (Netherlands)

Being a member is not a fulltime position for anyone. All members are volunteers who serve a primary role in another department and dive as an additional duty. We have engineers, engine ratings, deck ratings, deck officers, storemen, receptionists, carpenters, physiotherapists, managers and information systems specialists on the team.The level of training and experience varies from Basic Underwater Diver to Dive Master. We dive with full face masks, head mounted lights and comms which is a bit different to standard recreational diving. And being under a 10,000 tonne ship is more akin to cave diving than reef diving! It is not for everyone.

The front garden.

The rubbish in the Wouri River in Douala had to be seen to be believed. As the tide turned it would carry the floating debris into the area between the bow and the wharf where it would become wedged. This might contain logs as well as the floating organic matter and rubbish. Underwater was as bad. Things I encountered this year included used diapers, condoms, hyperdermic syringes and what I think was a dead cat or small dog. The visibility was so bad some days you could not read your gauges. Replacing grates we had 4 divers working by feel alone to place a 10 kg grate vertically under the hull, lining it up with 4 bolt holes without any of us being able to see each other. truly an act of team work and faith. There was one day when the visibility was about 500 mm and I saw a very large (over a metre) fish. Sometimes it is better not to be able to see.

I am the head on the left.

Odon (Madagascar) and me

The dive team also comes from many different nations including Australia, USA, UK, South Africa, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Netherlands, Philipines and Switzerland.

Me, Odon (Madagascar), Edward (Sierra Leone) and Ramon (Philipines)

And we could not do it without the dock support crew. When we dived port side we only required the dockside crew, often led by Johnson from Nigeria. But when we dived starboard side we would need the support of either the rescue boat or work boat manned by the deck department.

With the Dock Support Crew

Me and Jordan (USA) in Tamatave, Madagascar

Jordan (USA), me, Will (UK) and Nell (UK)

Jordon and me

Me, Nell (UK), Will (UK) and Jordan (USA)

Jordan (USA), Michelle (SA), Dominik (Switzerland) and me

This last year we have been blessed to have JimmyG - the Supply Manager from the US - looking after logistics and comms. He is an experienced diver who was always looking out for us, whether that was bringing us drinks he bought himself or checking on our air levels or helping us suit up and strip off. A great example of someone who is truly servant hearted.

JimmyG (USA) and me in Benin

Each dive takes about 3 hours out of my regular work day and if I lead the dive it is more like 5 hours with the gear preparation and report writing. I enjoy the change of environment and working with a completely different team of people to those I regularly work with. In Madagascar I did not log all my dives but it was probably 20 over two years. In Benin I completed 15 dives. And in Cameroon it was 27. However I got sick 3 separate times in Cameroon after diving in the river. So as much as I enjoy the change in scenery I am hoping for a few less dives in Guinea and a little better water quality.

Job done!