"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



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Diving


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!


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Return to Mutengene

Two days before Christmas we returned to Mutengene to deliver two refurbished bicycles to Denise's two sisters, Karen and Esther. These had been left to me by a departing family so I rebuilt them for Karen and Esther. Although they are a bit big for them now I am sure in time they will grow into them. And we gave them helmets too.

Auntie Gwen was working in her salon so Tam and Monica went to visit her. And although we had emphasised not making anything special for us, Denise had cooked an amazing lunch. Mark said it was the best pasta he had ever had. It was so good that he ate it all including the bits he normally wouldn't as it was so good. High praise indeed from a teenage boy!


Santa's 4wd delivering Chrissie presents


Harry checking out the chooks


The chooks


Auntie Gwen at work


Putting in hair extensions


Denise and Tammy


Karen and Esther


Esther getting the hang of it


Karen and Esther and friend


Not the school bus on the road to Mutengene


I'm sure we can fit a few more in.


Traffic


More traffic


Road hazards




Live chooks on the roof