A place to blow you away

Our welcoming committee consisted of two dugout kayaks and a traditional outrigger canoe, here to show us where to anchor and to learn more of who we were and where we’d come from. As is our custom, we invited all comers aboard and put the kettle on. Read more…

Thursday 12 Sep 2013

Ureparapara, Dives Bay

This really is an amazing place – a bay inside a circle of mountains that forms the rim of a long ago once-active volcano.

Talking with Chief David about whether he’s been up the steep slopes and whether anyone has traversed the ridge and he agreed that it was very steep and that it would take 2 weeks to walk around the ridge – he seemed to speak from experience, but it was a challenge if ever there was one?!

We arrived yesterday in good time after a comfortable sail from Mota Lava.  There were three other boats anchored in the harbor on arrival, including David on Shandon, (neatly attired, eventually) who’d left Mota Lava a few hours before us.

Our welcoming committee consisted of two dugout kayaks and a traditional outrigger canoe, here to show us where to anchor and to learn more of who we were and where we’d come from.  As is our custom, we invited all comers aboard and put the kettle on.
One of the leaders was John who listened intently to our story and welcomed us with the comment that they’d been expecting us.

Meanwhile I noticed a canoe tied up next door at  Shandon and David was chatting with the man.  Later, in talking with David, he said that the man in the canoe had asked whether the other yacht, our yacht, had Captain Rob aboard.  He said yes, it was Captain Rob and so when the man in the canoe duly climbed up our side steps  he was keen to be reacquainted.  His name was Andrew and he had a beard which contained a platted goatee.  He had a kind of familiar look about him and then he declared that he’d given me a stone carved pig several years ago … 2009? I inquired,  yes, 2009, he said.

I ducked below and brought the small stone pig on deck for all to see, along with a rough carved wooden bowl, also given to me by Andrew back in 2013.  It was a great reunion and Andrew declared that he now carves mostly wood, and that he does much better work now.  This was confirmed later when he gave me one of his lovely carved fish in exchange for the chisel, file, rasp, hammer, glue, sandpaper and saw I gave him from the ships workshop – all surplus items from our perspective, but extremely valuable to Andrew who makes his living from selling his wares to passing boats – and as he said, he doesn’t have a saw yet – now he does.

The afternoon was spent carting gear ashore in readiness for a full day’s clinic tomorrow and after dinner we attempted the showing of a movie; something of an anti-climax, to say the least, given it was heavily promoted … “Finding Nemo Tonight” and then after starting so late, the speakers being left on the boat and when they did arrive we couldn’t get the sound to come out … it was all a bit embarrassing, but everyone seems to take things like this in their stride

In the end we were back on the boat around 9:45pm, rather than closer to 12:00 midnight if the movie in fact had gone ahead.  (not such a bad outcome in any event)

Whilst sheltered, the wind gusts in the bay were still quite strong, putting weight on our anchor, and in the confines of the small anchorage we dragged a couple of times causing us to have to re-set – a process involving starting the motor, lifting the anchor and then driving around to find a better place laying the anchor out again; mindful of the other yachts, depth and coral shelf close in.

In the end we came inshore of the other yachts, anchoring in 8-10 metres of water instead of 22 metres, thereby enabling us to increase the holding power of the anchor with a similar amount of chain being set.  The only downside was the closeness of our stern to the nearby coral – but it was calmer.

It was a lazy kind of start to the day today, with all ashore for the clinic around 7:45, for an 8:00am kick off.  The crowds built early but then tapered off prior to lunch with the day being considered overall as quiet.
Bob gathered together around 25 students from the local primary school and gave them a Healthy Teeth talk … they appeared very attentive and hung on every word – Bislama words – delivered with passion and conviction
Gibson helped optometrist Nancy with the taking of patient medical histories with doctors Graeme and Doug handling an array of cases with not a Medicare Card in sight.

Some cricket gear from the Santo Rotary Club was handed out, along with a selection of clothing.  Pretty soon Matt had the stumps positioned in front of the church door with the batter facing the wide open expanse of the “village square”  and was laying down some bouncers.  The pitch wasn’t responding to spin, but there were a few local lads who showed promise in the batting department.
By 5:30 we were all back onboard preparing for tonight’s sail to the islands further north … The Torres Group – lashing down, stowing and generally clearing the decks.

The Torres islands are about 50 miles to the north west, in the direction of the Solomons,  with the plan being to get away around 10:00pm and arrive off the island of Loh for 6:00am – everyone having been rested from a good night’s sleep in their bunks, gently caressed in their slumber by the roll of the sea and the swish of the passing waves … well at least that’s the plan!!  I don’t think many aboard bought it though.  They believe the destination, but they’re a bit wary about the other stuff being “survivors of day one” as they are.

It’s amazing to think that tomorrow is Friday and the bulk of the team will be flying out on Monday !!
Smooth sea, fair breeze and Loh by morning

Robert Latimer

PS   It’s now 11:30pm and we’ve been going for about one and a half hours.  The wind is steady from behind at around 15-20 knots, the sea has a gentle roll, we have the mainsail double reefed and the jib fully out and we are clocking a lazy 6kts under a silver moon.  The engine is off and the quiet creaks and groans of the rigging, the passing waves and those loose items you wish you knew about earlier gives a feeling of the boat being alive.   All the medical team really are asleep !  Maybe my plan will come to pass.    We’ll be there by sunrise.

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