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Sunday, April 15, 2007

At Sea at Last

March 28 2007 dawned misty and cool, a day like so many others of the past months, a day full of long stressful hours and effort and activity. Most things were not complete, much equipment not fully installed, contractors still frantically trying to correct glitches in their installations or complete their contracted work. Indeed, the shipyard were still painting the ship right up to departure time while ship’s crew waited for more equipment to be lifted on board. For at least the third time in two years, crew were assembled to sail the ship as promised by the shipyard. Would this day finally be the day? In spite of all the difficulties and challenges, there was a difference. Things were finally being put in their final positions, gear secured for sea, engines and control systems tested, food on board. Behind all this were the prayers and encouragement of countless supporters. And upholding all of this we knew the promise of God, that the ship would be completed in “the fullness of time.” So, after almost exactly eight years of planning, delay, change, frustration, hard work, prayer and sacrifice, Africa Mercy’s engines rumbled to life in earnest, checks were completed, mooring lines came aboard and the ship slipped easily away from West Quay for the last time. The river Tyne was shrouded in fog as the ship passed downstream. After years of anticipating the passing of the ship between the North Sea breakwaters, we were a little sad that they were barely visible in the fog. But then the ship was at sea, the pilot disembarked and the testing of the ship could begin in full operational mode. Like many others, Tim spent countless overtime hours preparing every detail of the departure, and like those others, Tim spent many hours on the bridge and elsewhere in the ship observing the performance of all the old and new systems. During his watch, his team executed various tests and recorded information on the control of the ship. It was also a great time to get the crew into “sailing” condition, and the bridge teams operated the ship by various means, tested the ship in emergency turns, and checked out numerous problems or glitches.

After 26 hours of maneuvers and tests at sea, Africa Mercy headed for a new port and a new set of challenges. At about 1600 Africa Mercy sailed into Blyth, a port north of Newcastle, and moored at “Battleship Wharf.” It was a wonderful feeling to arrive in a new berth, in a new port, to begin a new work with the vessel we have been investing in for many years. Much still remains to be accomplished while the ship remains at Blyth. The sea trials were conducted while the ship was still categorized as a cargo ship. So we still need to see many contract items completed, and many of these will have to be done by the crew, before we can receive our “passenger ship” classification. (Since there is no “hospital ship classification” in the International Maritime regulations, our Mercy Ships must meet passenger class regulations.) Due to constraints by the shipyard, there are many tasks that still need to be done and equipment installed to make the ship an effective mercy ship. Further, there will need to be a lot of training in emergency procedures, which we ourselves are busy developing now that the information on the new systems is finally being handed over. Finally, we will have to actually load the ship with final supplies.

Please pray for the crew as many long hours lie ahead and rejoice with us as we see God guiding us into this new stage.

Click below to see more images of the sea trials

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