WARNING: This is a long one.
I’ve been avoiding writing about what has actually been going on here for the past week because we were told not to give away any hints as to when we were planning to set sail. The main reason being that once the locals find out the exact date of the sail, they make their plans to hop on board as “stowaways”.
All that being said, last week was a week filled with hard work. Instead of spending most of my days by the coffee machine, I was carrying boxes of goods from the container on the back of deck 4 to our storage rooms at the front of deck 2. We had to clear out as much stuff as possible from the container before the sail because we knew that it would not be possible to get into it once we were on the sea. Along with that, we also got a giant shipment of sodas for the ten day sail…because heaven forbid we run out of soda! We spent an afternoon moving that from the entryway at deck 5 to the refrigerator on deck 6.
Preparation for the sail is a whole ‘nother story. The Africa Mercy is an old ferry boat that used to transport trains. Thus, the bottom of the ship is FLAT, which means that it rocks big time…AKA everything that is not tied down will fall down. So to prepare, we had to secure the container, the two storage rooms, the soda fridge, our ship shop, snack bar & Starbucks. Everything up high was brought down and hardly anything could be stacked in such a way that it would slide. I felt like I was putting puzzle pieces together & it was like a game…which made it ten times more fun. At the moment, the crew has to do their ship shopping out of boxes that we placed on the floor along with the ultra secured items that we squeezed onto the shelves.
And that’s basically how last week went.
Now for the sail!
Prior to the sail, we had two black outs (the power of the entire ship goes out), two “at sea” fire drills, and a stowaway search. For the stowaway search, the entire crew spread out all over the ship & checked every possible hiding place to make sure no one had climbed aboard. As a test, three crew members were hidden. But other than those three “stowaways”, none were found. Then, with lots of prayers that we would actually leave on the date planned, we left yesterday morning with no troubles at all! Two tiny tug boats guided us out of the port & we all waved good bye to Benin. The majority of us had mixed feelings…we were glad to be done with this ten month outreach but it started to feel like a second home and we got to know the city and people there fairly well.
But now we are on a ten day journey to Tenerife! No, this is not a poor country in need. Instead, it’s a place where the ship is worked on & long term crew can get some rest. The majority of the crew is going home on December 22nd or sometime before Christmas. But some of us are staying all the way through…seeing as work still needs to be done, people still need to be fed.
So far, over the course of just 24 hours, I’ve gotten to see the most amazing sunset, flying fish, and deep blue waters. It’s still a weird feeling to walk up the stairs (trying to keep my balance) and see the water moving by rather than the usual ten ships and city of Cotonou in front of me.