115-Year Old Vessel Joins Aceh Relief Mission
Beacon of Hope
By Jamie Furniss
A 115-year old vessel sets sail from on a GLOBAL
SIKHS-WAVES OF MERCY mission to bring emergency
supplies to victims of tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia.
The historical sailing vessel, Vega, sailed
from Langkawi, Malaysia, today fully loaded with
more than 6 tonnes of supplies meant for the mission's
on-going humanitarian relief work in Aceh.
This makes Vega, built by Norwegian brothers
Ole and Johann Nerhus, the oldest vessel to participate
in the tsunami relief efforts.To make best use
of space, Vega was emptied of fixtures and fragile
items. The cargo consists primarily of rice, bedding
and towels, plastic sheeting, biscuits, medical
supplies, sardines and baby food.
"We are not so worried about the cargo,
Vega was built for that. We are worried about
all the half sunken boats and other trash drifting
around out there. People have seen whole houses
float by and most of our electronics are simply
not working. Even if our radar was working it
would still be dodgy at night," says Vega's
Captain Shane Granger.
Manned by volunteer crews from Singapore, Germany
and the United States, the ship will be supplying
additional goods for GLOBAL SIKHS-WAVES OF MERCY
team that left on January 6.
When asked about sailing such an ancient vessel
in these difficult times, one crew members said:
"Vega is much stronger than most modern boats.
I'm not worried at all, but I do wish we had working
radar to see the drifting boats and trash at night.
That is scary."
The mission, spearheaded by Malaysian Sikh Youth,
also known as Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia, have
sent a team of 31 volunteers, including 10 medical
WAVES OF MERCY, which among others handle the
sea logistics of the operations, is a Langkawi-based
relief team began by the island's yachting and
boating community in response to the Dec 26 undersea
earthquake and tsunami.
"The mission has proven remarkably successful
as we have been able to spot and aide villages
cut out form the rest of the world. We are able
to do this because we have the boats," says
Captain Hugo Crawford.
This has been achieved using a combination of
private vessels such as Vega that have been made
available to GLOBAL SIKHS-WAVS OF MERCY, and chartered
commercial ferries and fishing trawlers.
On Jan 14, the GLOBAL SIKHS-WAVES OF MERCY team
on board a yatch, Sean Paquitto, found a village
found a group of villages close to the town of
Lhok Seudu. The town had been cut off from the
rest of the world for some 20 days.
"The villagers have had only rice to eat
and are suffering from numerous problems. There
is severe anemia, malaria, fungus disease, infections,
scabies, malnutrition and general hunger. We are
in great need of mefloquine as a malaria treatment
and mosquito nets," says Dr George Latham
on board vessel Sean Paquito, currently anchored
outside the shores of the villages.
Sometime before 1893 the Norwegian brothers Ole
and Johann Nerhus laid the keel for a small wooden
60-ton cargo boat that has survived for well over
a century of carrying cargo to become one of the
oldest Baltic stone carriers under sail. She carried
her last documented cargo of building stone in
After an extensive restoration in 1995-6 Vega
began a new life. First she sailed in support
of the United Nations Agenda 21, which promotes
children's rights. Now she has a crew of communications
experts who dedicate their time and energies to
Public health and conservation education.
Vega's crew has successfully created major communications
programs in 7 different countries and 6 different
languages, while at the same time enhancing the
capacity of local agencies to produce their own
communications materials. A large part of Vega's
work is volunteer. There is a Vega website at
www.sailvega.com where more information about
the boat is available.
When asked why they agreed to undertake this
mission, one crew member replied "We want
to do more than just produce brochures and posters.
We want to actually get out there and deliver
supplies. The brochures and posters can come later,
after people are fed and cared for."