A floating library might seem an odd setting for a stage performance of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe but the Logos Hope is an extraordinary ship not bound by frontiers, languages, or conventions. The converted car ferry was on a 10 day stopover in Santa Cruz, and I got to meet just a few of the 400 crew members drawn from 60 countries.
Even among a bumper crop of luxury cruise ships, the fourth ship of the GBA (good books for all) christian charity organisation made a big impression and had a steady stream of visitors treading up the gangplanks. I made my way through the visitors section with video histories in Spanish and English playing on the screens, and strolled through the ranks of 5,000 books for sale. There were a lot of religiously inspired books, well they are a missionary project, but also lots of modern thrillers, travel tales, and childrens books. Sales of these books go towards funding the ships voyages, volunteer crew members also pay for their passage by raising sponsorship, there are only 10 paid full time crew.
Captain Chris Hughes, originally from Bristol,gave me the full tour, after 40 years experience with tankers he retired and has served on two of the earlier GBA fleet since 2006, he´s also an experienced north sea pilot. There was an unmistakable pride in his vessel and crew and it was noticeable that the crew we met on the tour were very relaxed, no salutes and even the uniform is functional rather than formal. They all seemed young to me (well who doesn´t) but the skipper pointed out that they even have an 80 year old on the crew.” They all have to apply to join us and need to have a basic fitness level but they undergo on shore training for health and safety before even stepping on the ship.” There are other basic boxes to tick. “We are an evangelical movement so they have to be committed christians, we segregate male and female crew, the two or three bunk sleeping quarters are single sex, there´s no alcohol, smoking, or drugs allowed on board and the ships working language is English. Once on board they get allocated specific duty groups like books, galley, cleaning, engine, and deck.”
Whilst admiring the view up on the bridge, the captain told me more about the 40 year old ship. “It used to be a ferry between the Faroe Islands and Denmark, so when it was bought and converted in Germany in 2009, new stabiliser sections were added and a new upper deck. There are 4 engines, two propellers with variable pitch for better manouvering, and we normally travel at a fuel saving 10 knots although it can go at 15 knots.”
The bridge seemed very uncluttered and minimalistic but it was deceptive, the computerised navigation system zoomed in on their next course to Guyana picking out every fine contour and detail of the sea with a light touch of the captain´s hand. Continuing the tour downward, the 400 seater theatre was being prepared for the show, big screens would translate it into several languages. Passing the galley, the smell of freshly cooked bread tweaked my nose, and we had a peak inside the hospital the dentists office, and at the engine room from a safe distance.
A chart on the wall of another area showed details of one of their main missions, supplying water purification systems, they also supply eye glasses and clothes, and do some teaching, painting, and anything they can do to help at their ports of call. Since 1970 the organisation has visited 160 countries. Captain Chris stressed that they have to be invited, they don´t just impose on destinations, they have even visited some muslim countries. It was time for me to swap the gentle lapping of the ship for dry land as the crew prepared for another long spell at sea. With so much to do I´m sure the time must fly by but if the crew ever get bored they can always read a book, they have another 800,000 in a warehouse to back up the on board library.