Thursday 13 August 2009, (Port Vila)

They say all good things must come to an end.

And so it was for the 16 family and friends, who took up the 7 day holiday package, staying at the Melanesian and coinciding with the end of the Medical Sailing Ministries (MSM) work for 2009.

This Ships Log is supposed to be about yesterday – Wednesday.  But because it is now early Thursday morning and I’ve just come back from seeing our guests off at the airport for their 7:00am flight back to Oz, the sadness of seeing everyone go is still fresh in my mind.

It was wonderful to have so many people come over to share in the “experience”, that IS Vanuatu. In particular, my ever-supportive wife Linda. But it’s hard to say good-bye, and I know it’s a challenge for Linda, not having me at home for such a long period of time, coupled with the uncertainty of me being at sea.  But we are well prepared for the return crossing, our crew of five are experienced and we expect good weather conditions at this time of year.

All being well, we’ll clear Customs and Immigration next Tuesday (18 August) and if the weather is favourable we’ll get away immediately, arriving in Sydney by the end of the month.  Be nice to beat the 11 day crossing time we set in May, but of course that was to Tanna Island, a day’s sail south of here and about 240km closer to home.

So now it’s just Terrence and me; at least until the week-end, when our three extra crew arrive, Justin, Tony and Kevin.

Our current list of tasks include:
– sorting the food currently onboard,(including donations of leftover food from our departing guests)
– buying extra food as required
– filling up with water and fuel
– stowing and lashing down loose items
– sealing the deck hatches (really sealing this time, so that NO water drips on the bunks!!)
– fitting a new deck fitting (the one broken on our sail from Sola, Vanualava to Mota Island)
– more to be added shortly

For those who’ve been following the saga of my right foot, it’s healing nicely, tanku tumus, complements of Cephalexin and Paul Graham’s diligent change of dressings.  My onboard course of pills runs out in 5 days, by which time the ankle should be fully healed, but I managed to buy a couple more packets of the capsules over the counter at the local pharmacy.

On the dental front – Kim Warby, our “holiday-maker dentist”, had a meeting at the dental unit of the Port Vila Hospital yesterday, along with our Andrew and Joe from the Presbyterian Church.  This followed a visit to the Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness Eye Clinic in the Vila suburb of Freshwater, where some old dental equipment was installed some time ago, but which is not functioning.  From these visits, Kim will be able to make an assessment of the current services on offer here in Pt Vila and help in the development of a plan.  A long-term plan which includes the establishment of a new, functioning dental clinic at the Freshwater site, the recruitment and training of local Ni-vans to run the program, the acquisition and ongoing maintenance of machinery, funding, utilisation of Aussie dental volunteers and the development of a mobile unit to be used in the provision of care to the outer islands.  It’ll be a big, ambitious plan, with small steps being taken initially to ensure it is sustainable and successful.  The eye-care program will be used as a useful template in this regard.

As for the weather.  It’s set in again – grey, with a mix of drizzle, rain and showers, oh, and a bit of mist and low cloud thrown in for good measure.  The kind of day when you wish someone in the Port Vila Government could fix the pavements, gutters, potholes, puddles, mud, traffic and pedestrian flow of the downtown region.  It’s bad on most days, but on wet days it’s dreadful.  If there is such a thing as a “Pt Vila Central Development Master Plan”, then it’s a well kept secret.  What currently exists is enough to give a town planner with a gram of ability and foresight a severe headache.

Along with the holiday makers, our crew member Mike Clarke bid us farewell at the airport this morning – after more than a month aboard.  He’s a lot furrier now than he was a month ago.  Enough to type-caste him as a shepherd in a nativity scene Christmas Card I’d say.  It is very impressive, and apparently grown with no artificial additives or stimulants.  But whilst the beard has become very attached to Mike, I don’t think he’s so attached to it.  In fact it did well to survive the clippers a week ago.  I suspect it’s still on for the benefit of family and friends back home – let’s hope Australian Customs and Immigration have a sense of humour when they check the photo in his passport at Tullamarine airport.

In reflecting on Mike’s time aboard, there was efficiency, quality and a high degree of service – plus a constant smile, forbearance, an eye to detail and a complete absence of seasickness.  Most of these characteristics will be put to good use once more when he resumes “normal” life amongst his work colleagues next week, in the concrete jungle of Melbourne.  As a word of warning to Mike’s work colleagues, if you find him detecting windshifts, recording wave heights and his gps position, swaying backwards and forwards while standing still, walking barefoot, or swanning around in board shorts and t-shirt, be patient, these conditions will pass in time.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and farewell family and friends

Rob