All aboard for the Lolawai Express

Friday 8 September 2017

Last night at Luganville

Apologies for the lack of a Ships Log entry yesterday. In the end it was a case of events, and the need to actually … “do stuff” … overtaking my ability to document them.

I can’t say it won’t happen again, but it’s been a big few days. Partly due to the relatively short break of just 6 days we allocated between Mission 3 and Mission 4. This always had the potential to create “preparation issues”, but fortunately the care and attention, not to mention maintenance and repairs, shown to Chimere by the previous two teams left her in a wonderful, ready-to-go- state.

Still, things happen, and the arrival of the Dutch sailing couple … one with a dental emergency (Mallika), which Dr Barry was able to treat, and the other (Deep) with a willingness and ability, to repair the prop brake, presented an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. In the end, thanks to Deep, Chimere not only had her prop-brake repaired, but we also uncovered a leaking exhaust-water hose that we were able to fix .

As we sit here at anchor in the idyllic Lolawai Bay, yesterday seems a very long time ago now. But in the end most things got done, including the …
– Sorting of food and the purchase of extra stores such as cheese, frozen mince and fresh fruit and vegetables. (Plus cans of lemonade and Coke … but don’t tell anyone because our official line is that it’s “not good for you” – rubis kai kai – sugar and tooth decay and all that … it’s just that I like having it on board for semi-medicinal reasons as a treatment for seasickness and lack of energy – not for me, but for those who show signs of “suffering”. It works wonders)

– Return and re-packing on deck of the dental gear used for the past four days in Oral Health Survey work around Luganville

– Planning work for the upcoming Supporters Tour

– Tidying of Chimere inside and out to make way for the new “mess” that was about to descend

Deep and Mallika sailed past mid-morning for a final good-bye wave as they departed the anchorage bound for Port Moresby. Once again they conveyed their heart-felt appreciation for the dental care provided, which I was very happy to accept on Barry’s behalf.

Heading into town around lunchtime the tide was out and faced with the task of dragging the small dinghy up the beach (which is always a bit of a challenge) I looked around and spied a young man sitting under a tree who was more than willing to lend a hand. “Name belong yu?” I asked … “My name is Godey”. We then chatted for a while about what he was doing and his future plans and interests, which in the short term revolved around attending to the family garden up in the bush and developing his music.

“What sort of music” I inquired … “Guitar” was the answer. I then explained what we were doing and that come 6:30 tonight we would have a crowd onboard the yacht and if he wanted to come out for a few hours to play music with my son Matt, then he’d be most welcome. I even mentioned that we had a violin onboard and Matt might even be persuaded to play it for us.

As we parted Godey said … “I will come tonight”

The new team members flying into Luganville from Australia on the evening flight from Port Vila included doctors Graeme & Jeremy Duke, nurse Cathy West, plus crew members Matt Bryant and Matt Latimer. Other team members already in town included crewmember Martin Burgess of Delivery Voyage and Mission 1 fame, plus dental worker Deb Allen, dentist Barry Stewart and helper Annette Vincent. Then there was PCV Health manager Richard Tatwin, dental care worker Bob Natuman and eyecare worker Jay. Plus local Ministry of Health employees, dentist Wellin and dental therapist Pakon. Hopefully that all adds up to 15.

Of course those coming in from Australian, as Barry and I had done last Sunday, would be tired puppies by the time they’d landed in Luganville around 5:30pm
Richard made the short trip out to the airport to meet everyone, with a taxi that was big enough to accommodate everyone, plus their gear. By 7:00pm excitement levels were high aboard Chimere as a mountain of bags and medical gear was loaded aboard in 4 trips from the beach and bunks and cabins were allocated. It didn’t take long for healthy noises to begin emanating from the galley, suggesting some had taken the task of preparing dinner in hand.

As I made my way off the beach with the last load of passengers and gear a torch light could be seen making its way along the beach. It was actually after 7:00pm and I’d actually given up on seeing Godey, as arranged, but still I said out loud … “Oh, I’d better go back and see if that’s Godey”. On reaching the shallows I cut the engine and called to the light, now closer, “is that you Godey?” … “YES, it’s Godey”
Talk about cutting things fine.

Dinner was a wonderful tuna and bok choy ensemble on a bed of exotic, fast cooking noodles (2 minutes I think the packet said) Yes, the tuna caught a week ago by Bob and Jay at the end of Mission 3; a fish that keeps on giving!

Naturally there was an extra bowl of dinner for Godey who entertained us with his singing and guitar playing, including a very good rendition of what would have to be the all-time classic Vanuatu favourite … Hotel California.

Matt did indeed get the “ship’s violin” out and amazed Godey and all of us with his playing. He even gave Godey his first violin lesson. If enthusiasm is any measure then Godey will go far, but by 10:00pm it was time to drop him ashore, with everyone sad to see his smiling face go.

Sleep and a satisfied calm finally overcame the boat around 11:00pm. Richard Tatwin, Wellin and Pakon were staying ashore with the agreement being that I would pick them up on the beach at 5:15am.

It must have been close to 11:30pm that I gave up on the idea of writing a Ships Log, as the distant doof doof beat of an onshore party, barking dogs and crowing roosters could be heard from onshore. (Yes, roosters, at 11:00pm. And as for the doof doof music, it was still playing at 3:00am when I got up briefly, then again at 5:00am when the alarm sounded!)

Saturday 9 September 2017
Lolawai, Ambae Island

The day’s forecast looked promising, N-NE winds (most unusual!) less than 10 knots with seas less than 1m.

By 5:30am, the three remaining team members were onboard and by 5:45am we had retrieved the anchor and were heading down the Segond Channel, past Million Dollar Point to port and Aore Island to starboard.

As it turned out the wind eventually backed from the south east and with the engine ticking over in the background we made around 7 knots for much of the 46 mile hop, with a mix of sunshine and driving playing havoc with my washing

By 1:00pm we were lining up the white, onshore leads into the small and extremely snug Lolawai anchorage, passing one other anchored yacht, Alba with husband and wife Nick and Susan aboard who got to know Phil Wicks and his team on Mission 2, a couple of months earlier at Epi and Paama Islands

Congratulations go to Matt and Matt for organizing lunch just prior to arrival and once at anchor Richard, Jay, Wellin, Bob and Pakon went ashore to do their usual organizing. In brief, it’s church ashore tomorrow at 8:00, then set up for an afternoon clinic with a full day clinic on Monday.

The fish that keeps giving once more formed the basis of the evening meal, with the fish-head finally making its way off the boat (and out of the fridge where it had taken up half the bottom level) to feed the lads staying ashore

The large catamaran Rendezvous came into the anchorage in the afternoon. They do charter work around the islands, skippered by either Gary or Justin from the Port Vila boatyard. Today it was Gary in charge and we dropped over in the dinghy for a brief “g’day” as they awaited their “customers” return from a day’s fishing on a local motor boat. Then after dinner, out of the darkness, a banana boat approached our port side with a couple of Ni-Vans aboard, plus an older Aussie man; a charter passenger off Rendezvous. Shining lights back-and forth I jokingly confirmed, “you not pirates I hope?!”, to which the reply came that this man was out fishing today and a three-barb hook had gone into his lower leg, possibly hitting an artery because there was a lot of blood spurting out. The Ni-vans had managed to pull out the hook and it was bandaged so I suggested “… come on up the ladder”.

Not wanting to suggest that all emergencies aboard are of a dental nature, Dr Graeme Duke was called for this one. His first words without seeing the man were … “Jeremy, I’ve got a referral for you …” Jeremy was doing the dishes at the time and I think that’s where he stayed for most of the consultation because Graeme gave it a good once-over as the man explained that he’d had cancer in the leg and there were several screws holding the bone together which the hook might have got near. The long and the short of it was the bleeding had stopped, Graeme re-dressed it, gave him a course of anti-biotics to combat the inevitable risk of infection and said he was one very fortunate man. We wrapped his bandaged foot in a garbage bag – to keep it dry – for the 200m boat ride back to Rendezvous and to show their appreciation they gave Graeme one of the large tuna they had caught earlier in the day, plus some mandarins.

Who would have thought? More tuna, when we were just starting to run out?!

Good work Graeme. So far the emergency treatment score is neck-and-neck … Barry 1 – Graeme 1.

At the moment, it’s only the sound of the waves on the nearby beach, the chatter of fruit bats and the occasion rooster (yes at 11:00pm) I can hear as the first day of Mission 4 draws to a close.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and all aboard for the Lolawai express

Rob Latimer

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