Wednesday 11 Sep 2013

At sea, en route from Mota Lava to Ureparapara

It’s only a 2-3 hour sail, but I thought I’d grab some time to write a Ship’s Log, while Matt and David take care of the ship.
Wind is from the stern at 20 knots, the engine is idling away and we have headsail up skipping along at about 7.5 knots.  The sea is a bit rolly, with the 2-3 metre swells coming up from behind, but it’s a nice action.
Nancy, our … “look into my eyes” … medico, is lying on her bunk … the big bunk she shares with Ruth.  I think Nancy is asleep.

Then there’s Bob and Gibson, I think they too are asleep up front after their night ashore – chilling with friends and family … there’s a lot of family and they are on every island it seems.
Capability Cathy is hopefully relaxing somewhere on deck after knocking up a bowl of lunch for everyone in a galley that had become a bit too warm.  Ruth has found a nice comfy spot in the cockpit to watch the waves go by, (free from the ill effects of the movement which is a wonderful thing)  while Doug reads a book and Graeme enters medical stats from all the clinics onto a spreadsheet – he loves spreadsheets and declared that the 3 or 4 different ones that have evolved over the past few years need to be consolidated into the one … a simple one!

Our resident tut (tooth) doctor Barry is also in the cockpit, soaking up the lovely tropical sailing conditions.  We need to keep him fit and well … particularly after the physical work and focus involved in pulling so many teeth.  I was sitting next to Graeme as he plugged in the numbers and I think 4 teeth from the one patient was the record so far.  With about 90 extractions so far from 120 patients.

Our anchorage was really good last night.  About 4-5 miles along the north coast of Mota Lava from the main village and the small island of Rah.  Although it was windy, the wind came offshore and the sea was still.

Our problems with communications persist.  In the end last night’s Ships Log was send via the HF radio after an hour of trial and error with every frequency combination I could try, even though the Telecom tower I was accessing two days ago so successfully in Sola, 15 miles away is located on this very island, up the hill less that 1 mile away.  I really thought the coverage here would be better as a result!

Joining us in the anchorage was solo UK yachtsman David on Shandon – we first met him in Luganville a week or more back and then caught up over the last couple of days at Sola where we found him anchored when we arrived.  David’s been travelling the world’s seas for 18 years now and he flys home to the Uk for about 6-8 weeks each year.  His all-over-tan status was confirmed by everyone aboard, because although he anchored a fair distance from us, the dress sense of a solo yachtsman – or this one in particular – does not extend to the wearing of clothes – at least not while aboard in remote anchorages.  In company, David’s colourful “wrap-rounds” of fabric pass as suitable island attire, as they might wear in Fiji, but all speculation about the possibility of undergarments has now been set aside.   There is no truth to the rumour that Chimere’s binoculars were used to confirm any of the above.

With so much happening, it has been hard to find time to fully document everything each day.  Graeme and Doug have been great in writing up the Ships Log, because whilst my intentions are good, after dinner, sleep for me has been hard to fight.  I’m very much a morning person and so come 9:00pm I’m normally starting to fade, out here, with so much sea air about,  I fade even quicker.

Yesterday, Tuesday 10 September, was a full day clinic here at Mota Lava.  The day before that was also a full day clinic at Sola, Vanua Lava, plus a mud brick stove demonstration and a community movie night (we showed the favourite Ice Age again) which had us aboard around 10:00pm Monday night.

In reflecting on how well the team has formed into an effective unit, I suppose yesterday stands out as a good case in point.
After the movie showing the night before, the sailing team of Matt, Dave, Cathy and me were up at 4:00am to work through the pre-departure tasks – retrieve the stern anchor, stow everything low, put up the lee clothes, close all the hatches, check the course and then pull up the anchor.

We were away by 5:00am and with everything in good hands I slipped back into bed.  It was Cathy that came to wake me around 6:45am and seeing my initial alert response started out with … “it’s OK, everything’s fine … just checking where we should anchor … we are already here”

A temporary anchorage close to the village was found and the medical team were all up and about at 7-7:30am having breakfast as Bob, Gibson and I took the dinghy in through the coral reef to organize the transport of gear ashore, which was all completed by 8:00, with the team ashore for the brief walk to the village.  The tide was dropping fast and so the crew took Chimere further down the coast in search of a better place to stop for the night.

Thinking we were close to the best anchorage we dropped the pick and Matt and I went the short distance to shore where we found a group of 4  local blokes involved in a Red Cross funded water reticulation program – all willing to come out to the boat and help us find the right anchorage.

Later, after we’d anchored, another man appeared on the shore – Chief Richard, who we brought back for lunch and tea.  We showed all 5 men the mud brick stove video and gave them a copy, plus a mould and instruction manual.   It was a happy time and all committed to giving it a go.

Mid afternoon, Dave, Cathy and I did the 20 minute dinghy ride back down the coast to the clinic to see how things were going – radio communications not extending that far.  We discovered that the local 4wd couldn’t make it to where the yacht was anchored.

In fact the track only extended a short distance down the coast and after all it was a 2hr walk – for a local!  At this point Barry said he’d like to walk, he liked walking, but I think part of the issue was that he wasn’t keen to get back in that 4wd ute again – not after seeing that the brakes consisted of a man with two rocks who jumped out to put them under the wheels and it constantly needed pushing to start.

So it was agreed, David, Cathy and I would zip back down the coast to the yacht, up anchor, bring Chimere to the coast off the village, where we would “hover” just long enough to get everyone and everything back aboard.   The tide was now back in, but light was fading fast and time was running out.

In the end we made it with minutes to spare, as darkness seems to fall quickly here, with our snorkeling activities earlier in the day revealing a patch of gravelly sand – a good place for the anchor to hold –  where we’d dropped a small white buoy as a marker for our return.

The evening meal was another wonderful affair knocked up by Cathy – curry and rice with most retiring to bed early.
This morning it was pancakes for breakfast and then out for a snorkel before heading away north – which brings me to where we are now – just about to enter the island of Ureparapara.  An amazing extinct volcano that you literally sail into the middle of.  Check it out on Google.

Enough from me for now … we are thinking of showing a movie ashore tonight … including a health talk  – “looking after your teeth” and “healthy body”

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and an earlier night than expected

Rob Latimer

PS  We tried to show a movie tonight, but due to there being a community talk and presentation on family violence in the local meeting hut our commencement was delayed nearly 2 hours, then we discovered the speakers had been left on the boat, then when we’d got them we couldn’t get them to work.  By the time this problem was solved the kiddies were facing an 11:00pm finish … not to mention the grown ups.  So we showed a short film of our trip here in 2009 while I gave a commentary.  Getting back to the boat through the breaking waves on the local beach was a wet affair for most – particularly torch-man David up front who took several waves in the face for the team!!  What a guy.