Friday July 4 9:04 PM (anchored at Luganville)
We were still having breakfast yesterday when the medicos were down on Lolowai beach waving at us to come and pick them up. Early-bird Jim was on the job straight away, ferrying in boxes of spectacles, cases of testing equipment and our medical mates for the final time on this tour.
As we left the impossibly picturesque lagoon, Director Don (the man of many titles) took up his accustomed spot in the director’s chair on the foredeck, except this time boat crew Tony Owens had plastered his name across the back of it in true director style. The senior member of the Ni-Van contingent, Mary Tabi, who normally occupied the chair next to Don’s, was missing this time, as she was staying home near Lolowai after feeding the Aussie crew for three nights running at the tiny family restaurant – just one of the family businesses. Ni-Van nurse Marie Leah disappeared under a large towel, initially as protection from the sun, but later from the occasional seaspray as we cut through the waves. Jessy (I’ve been spelling her name “Jessie” I’m afraid – and she’s not the trainee nurse, Rena is. Jessy works with Richard at the eye clinic in Port Vila, just to set the record straight) and Rena took up their place sitting on the front of the coach-house; Aussie gopher Mary Treasure lay in her comfort spot in the dead centre of the deck (advice for the sea-going delicate, courtesy of Fletch Finlay), nurse Shirley found a sitting spot to read and vanish into her “zone” when we hit blue water, Dr Tony “Bones” cheerily hung out with Martin in the dinghy for a while, Leo could be found with anyone who was up for a chat, and Isabel became an extra boat crew member, as she does. I was particularly grateful for that when we were building two enormous pizzas to feed 16 for lunch. Recipe available upon application.
As soon as we left Lolowai we had “champagne sailing” (ie shooting along at 7.5 knots, no rolling, perfect conditions- except there was tea, coffee and cordial rather than champagne) for a couple of hours, until we hit a flat spot and boosted progress with the motor. We were still in the lee of Ambae, so everyone enjoyed freshly-baked scones hot from the oven (and vegemite biscuits)for morning tea. As we moved into open water between Ambae and Espiritu Santo, the wind picked up and we moved beautifully along on a reach under the main and yankee sails with the 15-20 knot trade wind. Those medical team members who found the sailing tricky at the beginning of the tour have become positively sanguine, and were even able to enjoy home-made pizza for lunch once we moved into the Bougainville Strait. We made the crossing in an easy 8 hours, disembarking the medical team at Beachfront Resort Anchorage. They had accommodation at the Luganville Hospital guest house, opposite the correctional facility and down the hill from the hospital and busy clinic where Marie Leah works.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve completed the work we came to do. Hundreds of visual acuity tests and pairs of spectacles issued, sunglasses and hats handed out, diabetes tests and blood pressure checked, medical referrals made. Have a glance at two new videos found under “Video Clips” on the website. The first shows the first medical team in action in South Vanuatu, the second shows the MSM crew voyage from Sydney to Tanna from 2 to 13 May. After Chimere returns to Australia in August, there will be video clips of our lot and the following teams to catch up with as well.
The final combined event for us was a visit to the hospital today to see a five-week old baby who is having trouble sucking and is being tube fed. Both medical team and boat crew were spending today in Luganville. We were sending photos over the impossibly slow internet for your enjoyment dear website friends, collecting fuel for the dinghy and Honda generator, returning non-functional Digicel phones, and reconvening in dribs and drabs at our unofficial Santo office and website centre, the Natangari Cafe. A bunch of us were there this morning polishing off fresh banana milkshakes, iced coffees and fresh lime juice and reviewing photos on the computer, when a colleague of Isabel’s walked in. She is a midwife educator, in Luganville supervising a group of Australian student nurses completing an overseas unit of their course. She spoke to Isabel about baby Jacob at the hospital, and asked if we could go and do anything about getting him to suck so that he can start to feed properly and go home. Isabel just happened to have a bottle teat in her kit specially designed to encourage babies with cleft palate to suck, so Isobel (nurse) and I (physio) went to the hospital via her accommodation to pick up (Dr) Tony “Bones” and the teat.
The baby was in the neonatal nursery. Tony put a gloved finger in and felt the roof of its mouth. “Sub-mucosal cleft palate” he said, which means the bone of the hard palate is split but the soft tissue is still covering it. Jacob is already starting to drink from a cup so he may or may not need surgery later on, but at least he has something to go on with, as Isabel had brought with her exactly what he needed.
Our medical team flew out this afternoon and we’ll retreat up the coast from the relative hustle and bustle of Luganville until We pick up Rob, Mike, Jo and Chris from the airport early on Monday and begin handover.