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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sailing on the Africa Mercy

written by Carmen Radley

Crew members enjoying a sunset from the top deck of the Africa Mercy.

A nine-day sail on the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship is different from others. It's not a regular working ship, where every crew member has traditional sailing duties, nor a vacation cruise, where people just relax and watch the blue waters of the Atlantic slide by.

Sailing on the Africa Mercy inhabits an interesting middle ground. On the voyage, crew members balance the pleasure of the ocean breezes with the anticipation and preparations for serving the poorest of the poor for the next 10 months in Benin.

Captain Tim Tretheway is responsible for getting the ship to its berth in Benin, and he praises his deck crew for their diligence and skill. "It's been a lot of fun on this sail to work with the other officers in doing some traditional navigation techniques," Captain Tim says.

While the deck officers and crew navigate the waters and keep watch for pirates and other safety concerns, the nurses are busy training new recruits in the procedures of the hospital, and the Health Care Development department is putting final plans into place for construction and agricultural projects in Benin.

But after work, the crew gets the unique experience of going to the upper decks and seeing the vast blue ocean, interesting marine life, and the bright stars, undiminished by manmade light.
"I love the sail," says Mary Lou Maulsby, manager of the dining room on the Africa Mercy. "Day and night, God's glory is in the skies, the waves, and the exhilaration He gives as we watch His dolphins."

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