Friday, 01 September 2017
En route to Luganville, Espiritu Santo from Asanvari, Maewo
As the sun set on our final day for Mission 3 we hoisted sails and headed out of the beautiful bay at Asanvari on Maewo Island leaving the cobalt blue waters of the bay and waterfall behind and set our heading for our departure port of Luganville on Santo Island, some 60 nautical miles away. As we were heading off with our mainsail up, we received a call on the radio from some fellow yachties we had met yesterday, who bade us farewell and safe sailing and reminded us that the work we do is admirable. I agree and it’s time to reflect on the Mission and think about what we have achieved, but first about our day.
Today, after our early dawn swim, we held a morning clinic to see if we could finish the final 6 survey participants to reach our target for this village but alas with a big wedding in the village everyone was busy elsewhere preparing for the celebration. Annette (or Nettie as she is fondly known), our hardworking nurse, was the only one busy seeing patients with all sorts of interesting issues. The last one was a solo French sailor who had a very badly infected leg from some coral cuts he received a few days earlier. With strict instructions to keep a check on his temperature, handing over her trusty thermometer (a big sacrifice for a nurse I think) and some drugs, instructions to get some assistance in sailing his yacht from some locals who may like a trip to Port Vila, we said goodbye. I think he found that difficult as he was particularly keen on our Nettie. We packed all the equipment and once it was stowed on board we enjoyed a lovely lunch made by Erica our hostess at the small guest house where the medical team stayed. The Skipper announced that the departure time would be later in the afternoon to ensure we arrived in Luganville in the early morning daylight tomorrow. With an hour or so to kill, we followed Karl, a young local man, on a short walk to the other side of the island where he was to show us a cave that we could snorkel into and come up in a lovely grotto a bit further around. We followed him into the surf and reef decked out in our “glass, pipe and leg blong duck duck” as snorkels and fins are called here and enjoyed the amazing coral and fish as we swam towards the entry to the cave. Alas, the sea was too rough to enter and we swam back to shore. We did walk back to the grotto to look into the caves where we would have come out and they looked amazing. These beautiful islands have some many hidden treasures to enjoy if you are lucky enough to get a bit of time off.
With everyone packed off into the dingy, Nettie, Anne and I decided to swim the kilometre or so back to the yacht for exercise. With everything packed and stowed on the deck by our able crew, Jon, Ray, Grant and Mark, it was time to go. As the sun set, we gathered in the cockpit to relax as we sailed and Bob, Dick and Jay settled down in the saloon to watch an action movie. As usual any chance they get, they had set a line and lure as we left and before too long the noise at the stern of the yacht told us something had taken the bait. With a call to the boys of “fish on” the movie was quickly forgotten and the excitement of bringing in a very large yellow fin tuna on board overtook the action movie. Depending on who you ask, you get a variety of answers from 30 to 60 kg of fish. Whatever it is, it was huge and just so majestic. I watched in awe of this beautiful fish struggling with the fact that we had caught it versus the fact that I would enjoy some yummy fresh tuna tomorrow! Grant’s dinner of spaghetti bolognaise was devoured after the fish was gutted and stowed in the bottom of the fridge …… no mean feat, I can tell you. I have never seen such big grins on the faces of the boys. It was a delight to watch.
So, at the end of a very special day, it is time to reflect on what have we achieved. We have safely delivered the service we had planned which was to conduct the National Oral Health Survey on the islands of Pentecost and Maewo. We have provided medical, optometry and dental treatment to those in need. This was made possible this year with our volunteer medical team and Chimere’s hardworking crew. But what stands out to me the most of all, is the fact that we are a group of individuals, from different ages, backgrounds, cultures and customs who have so many different ways of doing things but at the core, we all have the same desire to volunteer out time to such a worthy cause. Congratulations Mission 3 team, you should be very happy with your achievements.