Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Show

Whilst on the sail the Academy did their Christmas Show 'Bethlehem Express'. It was one of the most entertaining and professional kids shows we have ever seen and a credit to the teachers and students who worked so hard to put it all together in just over 1 week!! Here are a few pics of the fun:-)

Monday, December 21, 2009


We're finally in Tenerife. Strange how quickly you get used to being at sea and the ship moving all the time. Now we are tied up safely we still haven't put things back on shelves incase the ship rolls and they fall off!
Anyway it's great to be here and the kids are loving being able to go to the park and run around. They went into their first toy shop for almost 11 months yesterday - talk about excitement!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All at Sea

still no kraken - but lots of rolling about on the blue stuff today. Another full day of sea-life with a turtle, dolphins and 'big fish' which could have been whales or Orcas (the Chief Mate didn't want to commit himself). Getting quite excited about the prospect of Tenerife now, but still lots of paperwork to get sorted. Its hard to stay motivated though when the ship is swaying about, the sun is shining on my back and the sea is crying out for me to just sit and stare at it.
Spent a good part of yesterday getting our computer files set up for Togo so all our letter templates etc are now in place and ready to be used. Good job we did as today I have about 80 letters to sign for crew re-joining the vessel in Tenerife:-(

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Spy with my little eye....

Well after a couple of days at sea so far we've seen dolphins, whales (just), flying fish and a water 'spout' sort of mini tornado thing - which was a first for me!

Now if only we can find that Kraken .......................

New Mercy Ships Website

The new Mercy Ships Web site has been launched. At present only the USA version is rolled out so if you go to the general web page www.mercyships.org and click on the USA flag you'll see all the new stuff. One new feature is that all crew have their own page! So go to http://www.mercyships.org/page/outreach/view/crewmates/Rob and you'll see me. It's just a standard script at present but will be updated as and when I have time to submit something more personal about the clan:-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

All at sea

Well after 10 months of BENIN we are back at sea and heading for Tenerife. After a final week full of red tape, paperwork, missed deadlines and false promises we somehow managed (God's goodness) to get everything we needed in place to sail. So yesterday at approc 11:00 we sailed out of the harbour and waved goodbye to a handfull of people on the dock. It wasn't the most memorable departure, but for me at least it was one that I've looked forward to the most. Benin is a great country with lots of nice people who really appreciated the help that Mercy Ships offered - but for the Purser it was very, very hard work. Here are some pics of the ward being cleaned, lifting vehicles onboard, and other stuff.

10,000th dental patient!!
Ward Cleaning




No more of this for a while....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Busy Busy

No blogging for a while so what were we doing? Well we've had our share of sickness with both girls being on Anti Biotics due to bad stomaches (Shigella?) and Anne on Anti biotics at the same time for a different infection. Then Nathaniel (not wanting to be left out) managed to get 'kissed' by an Acid Bug that left a nasty looking mark on his face.
All this together with packing up the ship, a day of no electric whilst the engineers cleaned the engine cooler again, transferring vehicles to Togo, preparing at sea muster lists etc has kept us a bit busy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Presidents Dinner photos

As promised here are some pics from the Presidential Dinner showing Don Stephens receiving his award, some of the dancers and the beautiful layout of the dining room.

Lots of Lasts

Yeah I know it's poor grammar! As we get nearer to sailing we have lots of "This is the last time we'll do this in Benin" moments. Last week we had our last refuelling and last container delivered to us here moments.
The re-fuelling barge came alongside and the whole process went very smoothly thanks to the expertise of our technical crew.

The last container was full of frozen food and true to form it came in the evening. Before I could sign off the paperwork I had to check the temperature guage to see if it had been kept cold. If not then the thousands of dollars worth of food inside would have quickly spoiled. However the guage was at the end of the container that was against the cab of the truck, so I had to try to squeeze into a tiny gap to see it. I tried, failed and had to let the drivers (very skinny and much younger) assistant do it. I'm in the blue T-shirt with the white writing on the back...

The last frozen one,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ITV - TYNE TEES check it out.

The film footage of the AFM in Benin should be shown on Tyne Tees television (ITV) each night from 7th – 12th Dec (5 x 5min news reports). The footage will also be on their web site so anyone else shoul dbe able to log on a take a butchers (butchers hook - look). However be warned - it may contain footage of us ..... Aaargh!

Presidential nosh

One thing you can always say about Mercy Ships is that it gives you opportunities to meet people and visit places that you would never otherwise experience. Last night was one of those events. The whole crew was invited to the Presidential Palace to have a meal with his Excellency Yayi Boni, the President of Benin. Unfortunately Rachel-Elise was poorly so couldn't go, and Anne volunteered to stay behind and look after her, so it was just me Iona and Nathaniel (and 300+ crew members)

What do you do at a Presidential dinner? Well we waited in a large meeting room for over two hours first, then were allowed into the (very posh) dining room where we sat at tables seating 9 for another 30 minutes or so before the President made his entrance. Then he presented some very prestigious awards to Don Stephens (founder), Deyon Stephens(co-founder), Dr Glen Strauss (eye surgeon and VP of medical stuff), Ken Berry (CEO of AFM) and Daslyn Ouenounou (Mercy Ships Benin Country Representative). Then there were some speeches, then FOOD - YES!! By this time it was after 9pm and Nathaniel and Iona were almost passing out from fatigue and hunger - but they behaved impeccably. Fish, Chicken, Rabbit, Goat (I think), rice, noodles, chips (YES), salad.... yum. Oh and wine and Coca-Cola.

This was accompanied by some local Beninese dancing from about 5 different groups which the kids found particularly interesting. A very colourful, memorable and honouring experience. We weren't allowed to take cameras but if any photos get published by our comms people I'll stick them on here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

British Matelot cements anglo-french relations

Last week the French amphibious assault ship 'SIROCO' came into port for a few days. I (Rob) had spent 3 months onboard a similar ship (HMS Intrepid) when I was in the Royal Navy, so i was quite keen to check it out.

Thankfully some crew were invited to attend a cocktail party onboard and I was one of the few who got the chance to go (Anne had work commitments that she couldn't re-arrange). So accompanied by the Captain, Chief Officer, Security Officer, Chief Engineer etc I was able to enjoy some refreshments and also got a tour of the Siroco's Hospital and Bridge. It was a all a bit of a 'flash from the past' and even though the Intrepid was a much older vessel the two were extremely similar in layout and design. It was great to get back onboard our much more comfy ship at the end of the evening though!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Adopt a patient

Anne and the children have been spending time getting to know one of our patients. Hervey is 10 years old and had lost the use of his hand due to contractures caused by untreated burns. As the burn had healed the skin had shrunk causing his hand to close up. The surgeons onboard managed to release it and have grafted skin onto the wounds. Please pray that the wound will heal quickly as it has not been responding too well lately, and that he can then lead a full and productive life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boys n Bugs

West Africa is full of intersting uggly-bugs. Recently the ship was home to dozens of large moths, crickets and dragon flys. Each evening Nathaniel would rush to deck 8 to see how many he could find - yes, he's a boy! Here he is proudly showing off a rather juicy moth and a small crickety, stick thing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At the going down of the sun

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.'

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), is probably most famous for that 4th stanza from his poem 'For the Fallen' written in 1914 (see full poem below). It is read at thousands of memorial services around the world on this day, the 11th of November to help us all remember the horror and futility of war, and the great sacrifices that so many have made to preserve our freedom.
As the sun starts to set on our 2010 field service in Benin I pray we will all remember the thousands here and in other parts of the world who still need to experience hope, healing and the real freedom that comes from faith in Christ.

For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remember, Remember

The 5th November for all the Brits was 'Guy Fawkes Night' or Bonfire Night as it is often called. Some very well organised brits had managed to get three small 'Roman Candle' fireworks and some mini-sparklers, so it was down to the dock and time to party!

Ok it was all over in less than 10 minutes - but another of those rather strange memories that will stick with us for years to com.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Five minutes of fame (x2)

A couple of years ago a film crew from Tyne Tees Television filmed us in Liberia. They've now returned to do a follow up on the work the ship is doing, including filming us again. So watch your TV's in late November / early December to see how good our tans are!

As if that wasn't enough media exposure, we saw a copy of a new book today that has a photo of Rachel and Iona (plus some other ships kids) on the front cover and an article inside. It's about different schools around the world and mentions, amongst others, the academy onboard Mercy Ships. You can check it out online at


Now who wants an autograph?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too busy to Blog

strange thing about all this facebook and blogging stuff is that when I have time to think of doing it that means I'm normally not doing much. However wheniI'm busy and stuff is happening I haven't the time to tell anyone about it! Life's full of coundrums I guess.

Well we're starting to plan our departure from Benin and there is a huge amount to do before we can go - including cleaning!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daily Duties

So what do we do on a daily basis? Well today the Pursers Office has to enter all the details of crew who arrived over th eweekend into our database, remove the ones who left, so that we can update all our crew lists, Articles, emergency lists etc. Then we normally have to take all their passports to the Port Immigration to get them processed and get them shore passes to allow them to go ashore. However today is a national holiday so we'll have to do all that tomorrow.

We've just had two boxes of mail delivered which we've been tracking through Fed Ex - so that's two less to worry about. Typically we get about 3 boxes of mail per week and one shipment of ships parts.

There's also a 40' shipping container of supplies/ spares due to us this week. Not sure when it will get here because we're having trouble tracking its progress. Hopefully by Friday night it will be at the ship.

Visas - many crew are wanting to go to Ghana for a weekend so first they have to get a Benin visa, then a Togo visa before they can apply for a Ghanaian one. 6 people have been in so far today for forms and info on that process.

Lots of other miscellaneous stuff as well now about our visit to Tenerife (who needs visas and who doesn't), stuff about Togo Field Service in 2010 and South Africa in August 2010, so never a dull moment.

Just had a call to say another box of mail needs collecting from the agent in town - so I'm outa here:-)

Fun and Games

Just over a week ago we had the 'Africa Mercy Olympics' where a dozen teams of crew competed in various bizzare games - just for the fun of it. Rachel and Iona were part of a team called 'GIRLZ' who finally won the prize for best team mascot (Meg the Alsation). The game on the photo was to get all the team onto a small wooden platform for 10 seconds - quite a task!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Can work be fun?

In my previous role at Rolls-Royce Aerospace we often had training guru's telling us how we should make the workplace an enjoyable place to be. If you spend 40+ hours per week in an environment that makes you miserable how productive will you be?
Do we work hard onboard? Definately. Do we have fun? We're working on it......