x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Four-hundred strong crew of floating book fair MV Logos Hope tell of adventures at sea

MV Logos Hope is more than the world's largest floating book fair. For many families, it is also home.

Carlien Govender sits with her son Milan, 8 months, while captain Tom Dyer, a 30-year veteran of the mission, talks with Sylvester Janik during a lunch at the Logos Hope ship's canteen. Silvia Razgova / The National
Carlien Govender sits with her son Milan, 8 months, while captain Tom Dyer, a 30-year veteran of the mission, talks with Sylvester Janik during a lunch at the Logos Hope ship's canteen. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // The MV Logos Hope is the world’s largest floating book fair. But for many families, it is much more than this – it is also home.

Four hundred people from 55 countries – the youngest just eight months, the eldest 70 – live on the ship, which is arrived in Abu Dhabi last week.

They bring with them incredible stories of sailing the globe, peddling books to be people of all races and religions.

“It does have its adventures,” said the captain, Tom Dyer, 58, of life on the ship.

He joined GBA Ships, the charitable organisation that owns and operates Logos Hope, in 1980.

He intended to sail with the company for just six months, but after completing his first adrenaline-fuelled voyage, the American became hooked.

Mr Dyer was 25 when his ship sailed from Hong Kong to Thailand and came across what appeared to be two boats stranded at sea. The crew quickly sprang to action to rescue the passengers, Vietnamese refugees.

“We actually rescued two boats of boat people,” Capt Dyer said. “We were able to help them, so that was a great start for me. So, six months just kept moving on.”

Little did he know then, his adventures were just beginning. He met his wife through GBA Ships and two of the couple’s four children were born at port cities.

“My wife’s gone through shipwreck with two babies, had a son born in Chile and a daughter born in Amsterdam, so it’s been a very exciting life,” Capt Dyer said.

The shipwreck was in 1988 when their second child was just six weeks old. Their ship, Logos, was travelling through the Beagle Channel in South America when very strong currents swept it off its path and ran it aground.

Everyone abandoned ship as water began flooding the overturned vessel. No one was hurt, but the ship was damaged beyond repair.

When the vessel was replaced in 1989, the Dyer family returned to the sea with their children, who are now grown up. One of their sons continues to serve on the Logos Hope.

The Dyers are one of about 15 families who live on the liner, the world’s largest sailing book fair. The vessel will be docked at Abu Dhabi’s Freeport, at berth 40 behind the Iranian Souq, until November 24.

Among the families, there are about 30 children – enough to require a primary school, which teaches the British curriculum.

“We have a great school on board,” said Carlien Govender, who is raising two children on the ship with her husband, Seelan Govender. The Govenders’ eight-month-old son, Milan, is the youngest person on board.

“We realise we have the opportunity to do this and it felt right for both my husband and I at this time of our lives,” said Mrs Govender, who is from South Africa. “When we see what the ship is able to do, that we’re able to serve people in practical ways, but also encourage people who are sometimes overlooked by the societies we’re in or don’t have the resources that we can provide. It’s just incredible for us to be part of it.”

Part of the GBA Ships’ mission is to offer charitable services to some of the port communities it visits. Volunteers have helped rebuild orphanages in Liberia, donated books to schools in Sudan and offered eye exams in Guyana.

Most of the volunteers are single and between the ages of 18 and 30. To join, volunteers must be 18, speak English, be physically fit to sail, be Christian and able to raise a monthly sponsorship from their friends and family.

The ship receives additional financial support from businesses and private donors.

“We live in a world where there’s enough hostility between nations and I think one of our key messages is that it is possible for diverse cultures to live together in harmony,” said Mr Govender, 37, also South African.

“What this community displays is that it is possible for us to cross cultural barriers and cross nationalistic barriers to live together and understand one another and that’s a key message that we’re taking around the world.”

rpennington@thenational.ae