When Taylor Perez unexpectedly docked his cable vessel in Hawaii and joined the Mercy Ships crew for lunch on the Anastasis in 1984, he knew he was in for the ‘sail’ of a lifetime.

“I wasn’t really expecting much, but was blown away by the atmosphere onboard,” Perez said. “It was friendly, it was family, it was quality.”

Thirty-six years later, Perez has had quite the journey — and he has certainly made a lasting impact along the way. During his time as a captain, Perez has led teams onboard every single vessel in the Mercy Ships fleet: AnastasisGood SamaritanCaribbean Mercy and Africa Mercy.

Now, as a self-proclaimed repurposed captain (read: not retired), Perez is in line to lead the team again in early 2021 for a full field service in West Africa onboard the Africa Mercy. We recently caught up with Perez to learn more about a day in the life as a volunteer ship captain.


What did your day-to-day schedule look like onboard Africa Mercy?

A: “Every day in port during one of our “field services” in Africa is a little bit different, but I usually start my day by sending a few emails and attending meetings as early as 7:45 a.m. A typical schedule might look like:

  • Monday — The entire crew meets in the International Lounge and each department shares an update on what they’re working on to ensure all work is coordinated.
  • Tuesday — The deck department meets on the bridge for worship time and to hear a message.
  • Wednesday — The entire technical staff meets for a short devotional and then onto some type of technical training, such as firefighting, damage control, etc.
  • Thursday — We have worship time and connect with other departments.
  • Friday — We meet in our individual departments.”

What makes captaining a Mercy Ships vessel particularly unique?

A: “As you can imagine, leading a Mercy Ships vessel is a much different experience than any other captain position because you’re facilitating the operation of both a hospital and a full community. There are a lot of shared responsibilities, meetings and different types of decisions to make as it relates to the community and security onboard, environmental issues and more.

Another cool aspect is that you’re always working with an international crew — it is multi-national and multi-regional. It’s remarkable – the input you get from so many types of people and the shared world view. With this variety, we’re also able to really invest in our team members and provide training and experience for many different types of maritime positions. If someone is interested in learning about navigation, for example, we can help make that happen.”


What has been your favorite part about working onboard a Mercy Ships vessel?

A: “Contrary to typical maritime environments, it isn’t super competitive. We’re all in this together, and we’re all getting paid the same thing — which is nothing!

We bring together various expertise to help make whatever country we’re visiting even stronger. In addition to reaching people that are in need, one of the main priorities of Mercy Ships is to train and build the medical capacity within the country in which we are serving. Our job is to put ourselves out of work.”

What types of volunteer positions are needed to support ship operations?

A: “For this department, we need officers and technical crew in both the engine and deck fields — such as licensed seamen, electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, carpenters and more. It’s also important to note that we’d like our volunteers to be servant leaders, as we’re serving others on the ship. This is an important attitude to have while onboard.”

Perez also urged those considering joining the Mercy Ships team to visit the website and apply  even if they feel not quite ready. He believes that the timing will be right when that call comes. Interested in joining our engineering crew or volunteering in another role on the ship? Check out current volunteer opportunities here.