Lesea Global Feed the Hungry

The Louisa docked at Green Cove Springs, Florida

In 2002 I found employment on another humanitarian relief ship run by a church in South Bend, Indiana.  An evangelical congregation there had purchased a small ship that was formerly a ferry boat in the north of Scotland and the Orkney Islalnds.  It was a seaworthy vessel, even though small.  The Pastor, Lester Sumrall wanted a ship that would carry food and missionaries to the poor in the Caribbean.  He based it in Green Cove Springs, Florida, up the Saint John's River from Jacksonville.  He had contracted with Dobson Fleet Management Services to operate the ship.  They supplied a crew from the former Soviet Baltic States, mostly Russians from Latvia.  They were good seamen, but there were some difficulties that arose when the seamen acted like seamen in a port where young evangelical missionaries were talking with the local population and distributing food.  The mixed message was confusing to the local population in Honduras, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.  Bob Boucek, the vessel operations manager, hired me as Captain and I agreed to work for a stipend that was equal to what they paid the Russian Captain. 

me at the helm of the Louisa, a traditional bridge

I worked on the Louisa for nearly three years.  We would make two or three voyages a year, each one several weeks in duration, but we would need a full crew for about six or eight weeks in order to ready the vessel for the voyage.  It was rewarding and challenging work.  During this time a lot of new regulations came into effect, you can read about them in the "New Regulations" page.  Not only did we need to stay "in class" and have the required hull and machinery inspections, we needed to comply with the new ISM requirements and go through an audit for that.  Even Bob Boucek's office at the church in South Bend had to be audited.  Thanks to this financial burden, and the under use of the vessel it was sold in 1995 to a company that wanted to use her for treasure hunting.   It was arrested near Cadiz, Spain the following year, and the courts are still fighting over it.  R.I.P. Louisa, you had an interesting career.

Working for Feed the Hungry was interesting.  I was familiar with the well organized Mercy Ships organization.  There was an International Operations Center near Tyler, Texas.  Advance teams would be sent out to prospective ports of call to evaluate local needs and conditions, especially places to dock and the logistics of fuel and fresh water, both needed in order to maintain a ship and crew for weeks at a time.   At Feed the Hungry we had none of that.  The church did have contacts with local pastors in the port area, but did not have the government and port contacts with a signed protocol like we had at Mercy Ships.   In one case I was asked to dock at Trujillo, Honduras.  The sailing directions spoke of a large pier suitable for bananna boats up to 150 meters in length and a draft of 9 meters.   In reality the dock had aparently been destroyed by Hurricane Mitch a few years before, and the port had silted up.  I knew I was in trouble when I saw children standing in the water where I was supposed to dock!  We eventually had to dock across the harbor at Puerto Castilla.  During my years with Lykes we always had a husbanding agent in all ports who would arrange entry and clearance for the ship, and aid with customs and immigration formalities.  On the Louisa I was left to take care of that myself, just as did ships a century ago.  It really was a learning experience for me, and made me a better captain as well as a better person. 


copyright 2010