Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Not secret agents, but shipping agents. One of the most important relationships that the Pursers Office has in any country is that with the shipping agents that are assigned to represent us. All our paperwork goes through them for customs, Immigration, mail, arrivals, departures etc etc. Here in Benin we are represented by COBENAM a State owned company. We visit their office at least twice a week - often much more frequently, and have spent many hours building up a raport that allows us to work as well together as possible. Here are a couple of photos of their office and some of their staff.

Check out the questionnaire

LOOK RIGHT! Please take a few seconds to fill in the little questionnaire about what you'd like to see more of on the blog:-)

If you haven't noticed the fish then spend a moment feeding them. They follow your curser and if you left click you can feed them. Cool eh?

Of course I'm busy!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twin Day

Every few weeks the Academy onboard has a fancy dress day. Today was 'Twin Day' where each pupil and teacher had to partner up with someone and dress just like them. Rachel and Iona decided to work together and Nathaniel twinned up with his German friend Ken. Scary likeness huh?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We're having chicken tonight...

Anyone remember the 'Chicken Tonight' Advert? It had to be one of the most annoying ever to grace the airwaves! Well in Benin if you want fresh chicken you get the real deal at the market. Not sure if our friends in the animal rights sectors would approve of this transportation system though.......

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Jesus Film

With 6 operating rooms the Africa Mercy has enabled Mercy Ships to greatly increase the amount of medical help we can offer to Western Africa. To staff the OR's and ward more and more beds onboard have to be given over to the nurses, doctors, surgeons and support staff who make this amazing work possible. In the early days of Mercy Ships there were teams onboard the ships whose full time job was to evangelise local communities using drama, puppets, music and of course, preaching (anyone remember Crosstide and Lazarus?). Now the focus is slightly different though the emphasis on the 'two hands of the gospel' is still as strong. However some outreach activities such as the 'Jesus Film' have remained. Each week the film is shown from the back of a Land Rover in local communities at the invitation of partnering churches and pastors. Christ is still being preached through our actions, our love and where necessary our technology.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More fishes

I know we've posted pictures of the fishing village before - but I think these are worth seeing as well!

Catch the fish

Weigh the fish

Clean the fish

This is one reason why we don't swim here!

Dry and sell the fish
to buy food for these kids

Birthday Treat

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me (etc) Yes Saturday was Rob's 42nd birthday and instead of a party (I can't quite manage musical chairs and the other more physical games anymore) we went out for a meal with some friends. When we got to the Indian restaurant that we'd planned to go to there was a kids party in full swing - and rather than join in with them (for reasons already mentioned) we tried a place we'd not been to before. The food was great and once they realised we were celebrating a birthday they even gave us a free cake. YES FREE! Wonderful. It was slightly amusing that they thought that our friend Sally was Rob's wife because he was sitting next to her - sorry Olly (and Anne). For those in Britain who know us and our liking for the Indian Takeaway around the corner from our house, it wasn't quite up to their standard but it was a lot cheaper.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Facing up to it

Well we've given into the pressure and have signed up to Facebook for a trial period. Now we'll see what all the fuss is about! So far I have an inbox full of requests from 'friends' who either want to be recognised as such or who have'poked' me?! Maybe there's an idiots guide to facebook somewhere that will help get us started?

Training? It grows on you.

Throughout our time in Benin Jean-Claude and his team have been training local farmers how to improve their crops and also teaching them why and how things grow. Every day he drives miles to pass on his skills and knowledge and because we are now in a country for 10 months the farmers can see the improvement in their crops using these new skills. Seeing is often believing and the increase in crop growth is testamony to the quality of teaching that is given.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Wheels

We received a new land rover last night( here's a picture of it before it was shipped). It had a smooth sail over from Holland and a rather long wait in Benin customs whilst the paperwork was sorted and registration, insurance etc sorted. I can guarantee that it wont look this shiny in a few days time. Our vehicles have a very hard life here and it is a testamony to the build quality of Land Rover vehicles and the diligence of our hard working mechanics that our fleet keeps working all day every day.

What's new?

Here's a picture of the opening of the new accommodation that Mercy Ship shelped to build at the Hevie Agriculture training Centre. Now students will be able to come from all over to learn new agricultural skills and have somewhere to sleep.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Amazing Transport Solutions.

Do you ever complain about public transport? Ever get stuck behind a slow moving truck? Ever wish your car was bigger so you could fit all the families stuff in it for that beach/camping holiday? Here are some solutions from Cotonou..... and yes that is a fridge on the back of the moped!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Moving House

Whilst Anne was lying in a hospital bed yesterday the dockyard made us all move house. Or at least move our house (ship). A dredger has been busy for the last couple of weeks clearing silt from the harbour to ensure that the ships can get in and out safely, and yesterday they wanted to dredge the piece of dock where we've been berthed for 7 months. So we started engines, lifted gangways, cast off lines and (with the help of a couple of tugs) moved the M/V Africa Mercy a couple of hundred metres towards the harbour mouth. Then after a few hours we moved back again. Now how many of you have ever moved house twice in one day?

Tough Weekend

Anne was poorly yesterday (Sunday) with some strange sickness / dilerium. The doctor thinks it may have been due to the chicken she had at the local Beninese restaurant Saturday night, but whatever it was it made her poorly enough to spend the day in ICU onboard, hooked up to drips and machines that go Bleep. I did take some photos but she wont allow me to post them (spoilsport)! She's back in our cabin now and doing better though obviously not fully well again yet. I guess that if you're going to get ill in Africa then the Mercy Ship is the place to do it!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I recently found these old pics of the AFM whilst it was in the North East of England getting converted. The sunrise picture was taken from deck 8 whilst the ship was being pulled out of the dry dock in Wallsend to be towed back over to the Hebburn dockyard. Rob had arrived at the dockyard after the gangway had been lifted and had to be hoisted onboard the vessel using a dockyard crane and 'cage' along with Mark and Chris. Oh happy days!!

Pool? What Pool?

I mentioned yesterday that Nathaniel will enjoy playing in the pool with some friends during his party on Saturday. At present the pool we have onboard is on of those big circular vinyl things that can be emptied and folded down when we sail. The original plan of the Africa Mercy showed her with a pool fitted- but this was one of the things that was abandoned during the conversion project due to lack of money . However whilst in Tenerife this year we hope to have a permanent steel pool fitted to the top deck of the ship which has been paid for by an anonymous donor. This will be a major blessing to the crew for years to come, not just for recreation but for fitness and as a place for the crew to gather outside of work hours. God is good.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Yesterday Nathaniel achieved the grand old age of 7! The day started with a pancake breakfast (after opening his present - a car transporter), and then after dinner (Burger and chips) he had his cake. His party will be on Saturday afternoon when four of his friends will be coming round for games, more cake and a swim in the ships pool. Simple but fun!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our Back Yard

What do we see when we look out of the windows at the dock here in Benin? Well the dock here is much busier than Liberia. Whenever a ship berths behind us there is a constant stream of trucks squeezing between our landrovers and the safety fence. This means that at times it is very noisy and dusty and you have to be very careful when walking out of the dockyard to avoid the vehicles and workers. However it has been our home for the last 7 months and it is amazing how quickly you get used to your surroundings - whatever they are like. The dock in Togo should be a bit more spacious next year, but we'll have to see exactly how it turns out!

View from the dockyard gate towards the Africa

Looking aft towards the mouth of the Harbour

Looking forward towards the dockyard gate

The Africa Mercy viewed from the 'Fishing Village' in the port.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Market Trading

If you want to buy something in Africa then 9 times out of 10 you have to go to the market. Whenever you visit your senses are bombarded with sights, sounds and smells that can leave you totally over-whelmed, but it is an experience that most are more than happy to repeat and plenty of our crew enjoy popping out to see what they can find.