Thursday 4 June,  8.36pm (anchored at Port Vila)

Handover is complete. Rob (Latimer) left in the wee hours to return to Australia, leaving Chimere in the hands of a sleepy crew.

After the airport farewells, Ann headed off down the waterfront to the craft market, which in predictable Vanuatu style ended up as an exercise in networking. The MSM T-shirt inevitably attracts questions and discussion. The upshot of one of these conversations was that one of the market stallholders, Gloria, is bringing a load of Bibles to the boat tomorrow to be transported to her uncle way up north in the Torres group during the third tour.

Gloria’s face shone with delight when she realised there was a way to get the heavy load of Bislama language Bibles up to where they are needed, free of charge. Air freight costs are so high that they are prohibitive and she has been unable to send them. Moments like that are humbling – one walks away with the sense of being part of a much bigger picture than we can possibly comprehend or predict, and the role of Medical Sailing Ministries expands another notch.

When I asked Gloria if the Bibles had to go to a particular island or village, she said “No, it doesn’t matter, everyone knows my uncle!” When in Rome…

Meanwhile, Bob and Jim were tackling preparations for departure. “Clearing the decks” takes on a whole new meaning when you have to make sure that the equipment on deck has to NOT MOVE or get damaged in any way in transit, and there needs to be absolutely nothing to trip over when you’re underway – apart from the usual winches, chain plates, cleats, rails and sheets that are there already.

The water tanks are replenished, Bob scrubbed the deck while doing his washing (dual-action T-shirts; great value!) and below decks has also been extensively reshuffled and face-washed. Anyone from any of the crews who can’t find anything, please look under the double bunk in the starboard cabin. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff can be shoved under there….

Richard, the extraordinary Ni-Vanuatu who runs the eye care project here, spent the day setting in motion passport and visa for a little 12-year old girl who was picked up by the team two years ago as needing a hole-in-the-heart operation, a procedure unavailable in Vanuatu. Although funding for her transport and operation has long been available through Rotary, a place in an Australian hospital has not been forthcoming until now. With limited communications in Vanuatu, it took until yesterday to locate the child after a two-month search across islands and through villages by messenger and word-of-mouth. Fortunately she is still alive and more than ready for the operation.

Without the persistence and support of people like Don MacRaild and Richard, benevolent groups would be unable to reach those who can most benefit, or the extensive red tape network would choke the course of action before it came to fruition. This child is one of the many whose life will be tranformed as a result of their efforts.

This evening it was back to the airport to pick up Jenny Thomson and Tony Owens, completing the crew for the trip up north to Espiritu Santo. There, we look forward to welcoming Martin Purcell back to reinforce the boat crew, and we pick up medical team 2.

Pray for strong follow-up to the work that is put in place here, for more workers to do the work, and for fair weather as the boat moves north to continue bringing care to people who are woefully under-resourced.

Ann Shoebridge