Saturday, 26 August 2017

Loltong, Pentecost

Hello to all our followers on this rather pleasant Saturday afternoon. We are anchored off Loltong on the northern end of Pentecost Island and the medical team has gone ashore to conduct dental surveys. We have this afternoon and tomorrow after church to complete 50 surveys, before we move further north to Abwatuntoro for another 50 surveys and any arising clinical work from both Loltong and Abwatuntoro. We are anchored inside a reef next to the village with sandy shores, ringed by high mountains. Penecost Island is very rugged with lush jungle down to the shore line. There are no really good anchorages on the island as they are all exposed to any weather from the west and from wind bullets when the south easterly trade winds blow strongly. But the lack of anchorages is compensated by the sheer natural beauty of this part of the world.

As reported yesterday, the main halyard winch decided to grind to a halt. It was very difficult to turn the winch even with no load on it at all. Never fear, Chimere’s crew have a plan. We tried a number of alternate rigs to no avail, including the anchor winch. We then investigated swapping the main sheet winch for the defective main halyard winch. We soon discovered that the bolts securing the winches were not going to be undone without disassembling the winches, something we feared doing as they are very complicated pieces of equipment consisting of numerous cogs, springs and bearings. After removing the two circlips we were able to lift the winch drum off, revealing several needle bearings and what is essentially a gearbox underneath. It was soon apparent that the lubricant in the gearbox had deteriorated into a thick paste that was preventing the gears from moving freely. We then used a solvent to wash out the gearbox, noticing that the winch turned more freely than it had all mission. After replacing the lubricant, we tested the winch by lifting the supplies bag into the big rib to support the team ashore here at Loltong. We are very pleased to report that the winch is working perfectly. Well done to the team!

While the crew were busy with the winch, the medical team commenced their helmsmen’s proficiency certificates. This involved Annette, our sailing nurse, mentoring Steven (dentist) and Anne (dental assistant) as they steered Chimere from Melsisi to Loltong. After tentative starts and some accidental engine rev changes, things calmed down and by the end of their hour each on the helm both seemed quite relaxed, if only in a straight line and under motor power. Both candidates performed admirably and both were assessed as competent helmsmen. The rest of the medical team are looking forward to their turns in the future.

When the medical team went ashore to set up the clinic here at Loltong, they were mobbed by happy, smiling, excited children. The team reported that the ni Vanuatu nurse Marie had everything organised with the clinic to be set up in the village nakamal which is a large building in the centre of the village made in the traditional style of natangora roof, woven walls, dirt floor with a fire pit inside. The team quickly decided that it was too dark inside so the set up the surveys under a tree. It is not often that you see a dentist working under a tree. Tomorrow we will set up our tents.

The team staying ashore have very good accommodation; individual huts, right on the water’s edge under overhanging trees. They have invited us ship dwellers to dine with them tomorrow night, an invitation we readily accepted.
The medical team have been one staff member short for the whole mission, so one of the crew have been working as the dental recorder. This interaction of medical and sailing teams, as well as the sail training, volcano hike, river hikes and swimming have all served to bring both teams together and I for one am thoroughly enjoying the mission and the company of some pretty extra ordinary people.
That is all for tonight.
Yours Aye
Jon