Secretary, MSM Inc.
Greetings from MSM,
The MSM Annual General Meeting was held this Sunday 5 December at 1:00pm
Download the Annual Report now.
Thank you again for your interest and support of MSM as we reflect on the year that’s past and look forward with anticipation to the year ahead
Greetings from MSM,
It’s that time of year again, and if you have a few minutes to spare, we’d really appreciate your company at the MSM Annual General Meeting this Sunday 5 December at 1:00pm
Contact me on [email protected] for the Agenda and Financial Statements and the Log-In link and Password for the online meeting.
The Annual Report is in the last stages of completion and will be sent out soon
Thank you again for your interest and support of MSM as we reflect on the year that’s past and look forward with anticipation to the year ahead
Tuesday 13 June 2017
Port Vila Waterfront
Finally some rain. Not that things are getting dry here in Vanuatu. But it came last night. I know because my cabin’s deck hatch was open and there’s nothing like rain on your face to bring you out of a deep sleep.
There go my plans to start painting the deck tomorrow I thought. But of course I could start painting the cockpit, which is under cover, that would be dry.
Because we are “parked” stern-to here at the sea wall, we come and go through the cockpit and so painting this part of the boat is not without its hazards. But I’m pleased to say that we have the first coat on and in the 26° heat it dries pretty quickly.
And I’m pleased to say that there are no white footprints throughout the rest of the boat!!
In preparation for the eventual clinics that will be conducted in the villages to be visited, Martin and Peter worked on attaching mosquito netting to the lightweight sun shelters we bought before leaving Sydney.
We have two such shelters and they will be used for the dental survey and also dental treatment. All part of looking after our dentists and naturally the comfort of the patients, but also keeping the crowds of gawkers and curious onlookers at bay. Out in the villages, “community health” takes on a whole new meaning with half the community turning out to watch – whether it be a diabetes test the pulling of a tooth, or a simple examination – not a lot is private!
Not a lot more to report. Hopefully the rain will hold off for a day or so to give us a chance to work on the rest of the deck.
Oh, we have a new neighbor tied up next to us. A yacht called Morild – all the way from Norway – and as I chatted with the skipper this evening over the hand lines he admitted that as a self confessed atheist he’s been in more churches in the last two years, as he cross the Pacific through Polynesia, than he has for a very long time. (Polynesia being to a very large extent Christian; a mix of many different denominations.)
Captain Helge Witzo (yes, he’s a real life ships captain, albeit retired) then asked if there was anything he might be able to do to assist the locals as he sails north through the islands over the next few months?
Knowing that Medical Sailing Ministries is a Christian group he then jokingly asked whether we would accept assistance from an atheist.
“Most certainly” said I … and I suggested I’d ask around to see what transport needs might exist amongst the groups with whom we network. Maybe Scripture Union, the Bible Society, or the Presbyterian Church have bibles they need distributing…?!
I know for a start that we have a 35 kg brass bell for a newly constructed church, plus 100 kg of potting clay, which needs to be delivered to South West Bay on the island of Malekula. I’ve no doubt we’ll chat some more tomorrow!
Smooth seas, fair breeze and time to paint
Monday 12 June 2017
Port Vila Waterfront
The start of a new week gave us the opportunity to attend the morning devotions up at the PCV office (Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu) from 7:30am
We were warmly welcomed and got to meet all of the leaders in the church and to further discuss the plans for the upcoming medical missions
It was then back to the boat to unload still more boxes of equipment brought over from Australia and meet with a marine electrician by the name of Geoff; a man, as it turns out, I got to know four years ago when we were here last.
And why might we need a marine electrician I hear you ask? Well, on the voyage over from Australia the high-pressure pump attached to the water maker decided to stop working. It’s a 240 V machine and so I’m naturally wary of fiddling around with screwdrivers and pulling it apart. Of course having had to replace or fix so many things aboard that had got to the end of their useful life I had visions of needing to buy a whole new pump – but as it turned out the problem was a simple $10 relay switch. When I say simple, I mean it was simple for our man Geoff, who will pop back in a few days in order to fit the new part.
After that, plus lunch, oh and an afternoon nap, time seem to just disappear. Peter and I started a couple of jobs onboard and when Martin returned from uptown we laid plans for tomorrow – which includes visiting Customs to obtain our Inter-Island permit, obtaining a shorter turnbuckle for the staysail and finally painting the deck.
Things are starting to be put in their place on deck and below, but it’s a slow process. Made even slower when new problems keep arising.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and there’s always tomorrow
Sunday 11 June 2017
Paunangisu village, North Efate
With three crewmembers flying home to Australia this morning (Cam, Rob Lott & Josh) and Martin on a “relaxation break” up on Pele Island it was only natural that Peter and I would head to Paunangisu in North Efate to attend church and be reacquainted with longstanding friends in the village.
Elder Kalmaire organised the transport and by 9 o’clock Peter and I were on the road for the 1 hour journey north, ably driven by Melvyn
The weather was glorious and the sun glistened on the sea all the way to the horizon as we passed Havana harbour, providing first-time visitor Peter with the perfect introduction to the region.
The congregation was in full voice when we arrived but of course there’s no sneaking in the back here; especially for two white-folk like us. Young Johnston (a very helpful year 10 student we’d got to know the last time we were here) was allocated to look after us and whilst we did initially sit in the back row of the church pretty quickly Johnston moved us closer to the front under direction from the elders.
The service was conducted largely in the local Bislama, with several hymns sung in what is called “language”. That is their village or regional language known as Ngunanese; one of more than 100 such languages throughout the country. Whilst we could gain a reasonable understanding of what was being said, fortunately a generous amount of English was also spoken; partly for our benefit. The welcome was very warm and there was even a song written and performed to mark our “return”.
I was invited at one point to say a few words and it gave us an opportunity to share greetings from our church in North Ringwood and speak of the warm connection both communities share, despite our obvious differences.
After the service there was the obligatory handshake congo-line from the exit door, giving us a chance to reacquaint ourselves, if ever so briefly, with the many people we’ve got to know over the years. It really was an emotional time with lots of hugs, handshakes and kisses all round.
The new secretary of the congregation Margaret remained with us for lunch after which we met Asel, the amazing lady who has taken on the job of regularly cleaning the toilet; not just any toilet, but of course the Best Public Toilet in the South Pacific.
The facility really looked great and truly lived up to its name!!
Whilst Asel receives a small payment for her services we nonetheless gave her a portable solar light as a special gift in recognition of her dedication and the importance of her role
Along with the construction of the toilet 18 months ago there was also the installation of the 20,000 L water tank donated by South Australian company Aquamate; plus of course gutters and downpipes both sides of the 30 metre long church building.
It was great to hear stories of how the watertank never ran out during the last extended dry period and was the last port of call for the local village residents when it came to obtaining freshwater for cooking and drinking. As we sat there under the mango tree chatting and eating, many people came to fill up buckets, which only confirmed the importance of this facility, open to everyone, in the life of the community.
A massive thank-you goes out to Aquamate in South Australia for their generosity!!
We were both tired by the time we made it back to Chimere, still bobbing at her morning lines on the seawall on the Waterfront.
It was then a local dinner of fish and chips and pretty soon it was time for sleep; particularly after getting up at 4:30 this morning to help in getting our crewmembers away.
In reflecting on the day, my lasting memory is of the “welcome song” in this morning’s church service and the explanation from Elder Roger that … “we welcome many visitors to our village but today Robert, we welcome you home”
Smooth seas, fair breeze and home in the village.
Saturday 10th of June
The process of changing over from one crew to the next continues. Cam’s loyal duty as skipper on the delivery voyage comes to an end tomorrow when he Josh and Rob Lott fly home. Cam has been conscientious all day passing on knowledge and transferring information about where things are stowed, what still needs fixing and outstanding jobs that need to be done.
In the tropical morning sunshine three of us supervised Cam going up the mast (safely secured is the bosun’s chair) to check the fittings and scrape off some of the loose paint which might be concealing corrosion.
It was then a tutorial in downloading satellite weather forecasts and writing and sending emails and texts via the iridium satellite unit
Lunch was enjoyed in the central market, where there is a selection of local food vendors all cooking a range of dishes catering to local tastes and budgets. Cam, Bruce, Rob Lott and I all had the fish dish which was a monstrous feed for just five dollars.
The stalls were all closing down, as is normal on a Saturday afternoon, but there was just enough time to catch up with Esther who we have met many times over the last eight years. Esther manages the wood carving stall on behalf of her family from the island of Tongoa; an island famous for its wood carving. Over the years we have bought a total of five carved wooden pigs from Esther, one of which weighs around 40 kg – not quite hand luggage stuff. I dropped in the other day and spoke to Esther’s sister Annie, who was manning the stall at the time and so today when I was passing I heard a voice calling out “hello Robert” … after which we chatted for 10 minutes catching up on news of the last two years since we last met.
After lunch we headed off in the small dinghy to find somewhere to snorkel and after that we paid a visit on the ship Pacific Hope anchored in the harbour
Pacific Hope is a 200 foot long, 500 tonne steel ship operated by the the group Marine Reach out of New Zealand. We are familiar with her because we’ve been networking over the last few years and they’re participating in our National Oral Health Survey. After tying our dinghy up alongside we were welcomed aboard and given a tour of the ship – from the bridge to the engine room. And what an engine room!!! A 1400 hp motor you could walk around, two 300+kVA generators, another 110 KVA generator in the bow, enough bunks for 50 volunteers, plus onboard clinic and surgery. Just amazing!!
Oh, and they also gave us dinner
Coming back to Chimere in the dinghy we actually felt cold in the fading light and after hot showers there was a lot of packing by those heading home on tomorrow’s 7:00am flight; pick-up 5:00am
It’s now getting late, the full moon is glistening on the still water off the bow and all seems quiet aboard as Cam, josh, and Rob Lott prepare to spend their last sleep aboard; Bruce having already flown out early this afternoon.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and passing the baton
Friday 9 June
Port Vila, Waterfront
Having packed so much on board before leaving Australia it was now time to unload everything – from rubber gloves, disinfectant and medical supplies to tables, chairs and sun shelters.
Much of the gear will eventually come back on the boat as we conduct medical missions over the next five months but for now the boat is looking cleaner than it has for a while
Most of the donated caps, clothing and snorkelling gear has been consolidated on board ready for its distribution as we go from village to
While not clearing the boat of cargo there was an opportunity to sit in on one of the planning meetings up at PCV Health and tomorrow Cameron is going to brief me on the workings of the satellite communications and weather forecasting system before he flies out on Sunday
But the highlight today was the arrival of new crew member Peter Wright who was up early this morning to catch a Melbourne to Sydney flight and in the afternoon another from Sydney to Port Vila.
We remain in a period of transition with plenty of jobs to do in preparation for the first of four medical missions starting on the 21st June.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and a time to unload
Thursday, 9 June 2017
Sleep was a welcome relief after arriving in Port Vila around 1:30 this morning on the night flight from Sydney. (And yes the luggage was indeed covered on the tarmac in rainy Sydney and so everything was dry in my bag- yeh!)
All was quiet aboard, not surprisingly,
and so it was just a simple case of setting up the mozzie net and collapsing on the mattress in the cockpit
The day started in a lazy way and pretty much stay that way
Cam, Rob Lott, Bruce, Josh and Martin headed off to see the local sites including the Cascades and the Blue Lagoon, and had a ball.
After breakfast I wandered into town, buying a SIM card for my phone and exchanging some dollars for Vatu
It was then lunch at the Nambawan Cafe (as in “Number one”) while checking my emails using the free Wi-Fi. Or was that… checking my emails using the free Wi-Fi while having lunch.
Dropping in at the PCV clinic gave me a good chance to catch up with Richard, Debra and Bob to briefly talk about mission activities and tonight it was a lovely dinner at Debra’s place on the hill. And what a bus… all painted in our Aussie national colours… quality machine!
Dinner was going to be roast chicken, but our neighbour here on the waterfront caught a 50 kg tuna on the way into harbour the other day and gave us some very large steaks which we took along and cooked instead. We still have a heap in the freezer for later. I wish we could catch fish. But in talking to Cam I think I’ve establish the problem… you need to actually put a line in the water with a colourful lure attached; must give it a go!?
Predictably I had to be woken up after dinner tonight (where I lay on a couch in the corner) to be told it’s time to go and so now at 10 PM I’m ready for sleep again The temperature of 26° is not that hard to get used although it would be nice if the humidity could be turned down a bit. It’s probably cooled down about 1° since daytime
Tomorrow we start to unload most of the dental and medical supplies on board and in the afternoon we greet another of the volunteer crew members, Peter Wright from Melbourne.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and time to sleep😴
Sydney Airport – night flight to Vila
7:00pm EST Wednesday 7 June 2017
It’s a great relief to know that Chimere is now tied up safely in Port-Vila after her voyage from Sydney
Cam and the crew did a wonderful job!! Congratulations!
Its now time to relax, fix those things aboard that need fixing and let our hair down a little… for those who still have some that is!?
As the old crew prepares to fly home to Australia the new crew will start to assemble in Port Vila over the next two weeks with the medical volunteers arriving on the 23rd June to begin their two week mission – Medical Mission 1
This first mission will involve some of the volunteers flying down to rendezvous on Tanna (as in the movie and the coffee and the volcano) and some travelling south aboard Chimere.
After some land based medical clinics and oral health survey work, it will then be a case of sailing to the more isolated islands of Futuna, Aniwa and Erromango. (Look them up online, they are amazing places)
As for me and my MSM co-accused, Mike Clarke and Barry Stewart, after six months of planning, preparation and no shortage of anxiety, we are very close to the “sharp end” of the mission- actually transporting medical teams to remote villages in order to provide much-needed medical services. And of course the start of the National Oral Health Survey; the first ever conducted in Vanuatu.
After all the frantic last minute jobs, working through the many tasks to be completed, I was looking forward to that feeling of relaxation when you finally sit in your allocated seat and think … “if it hasn’t been done now it doesn’t matter … ” Well unfortunately I’d only just got through the security at Melbourne airport on the way to Sydney when I realised I’d left my vital computer portable hard drive at home. Yep, the one with all those essential mission files and documents, sitting on a hard drive at home!! Arrrr… Serenity Now!!
Enter my dear wife who happily found the hard drive and emailed me the most important files so I could at least download them in transit to work on later. Is this an advertisement for saving everything to the cloud? Maybe, so long as you always have access to the internet I suppose.
Anyway as they say in Swahili … Hakuna Ma Tata …
And there’s my call … oh wait … not to board NF 11 but to inform me that the plane is arriving late and so we won’t be boarding for some time … ahhh, is this “Melanesian Time” infiltrating a Sydney time-space-continuum?
As for my bag … I see a stack of bags out the window in the half-lit darkness… sitting on a trolley-cart on the tarmac below the plane waiting to be loaded … a normal situation but it just so happens to be pouring with rain as only Sydney can, yes with lightning and thunder, the trolley has no cover and once again It seems certain I’ll arrive in Port Vila with an absolutely sodden bag – plus all its contents – at the start of a mission. Is it too much to ask to attach a tarpaulin to a trolley in order to simply cover the bags when it’s pouring with rain? That’s a rhetorical question by the way.
STOP PRESS: I’ve just been approached by the Air Vanuatu manager (well I might have mentioned my concerns in passing to one of the desk staff earlier, alright … a few desk staff) as I sit here in the waiting lounge, to assure me that the bags are actually covered with black plastic – my bad. She was very understanding and explained that because of the lightning none of the workers are allowed on the tarmac until it’s cleared, but they have covered the trolleys with black plastic – Tank Yu Tumas me says, as I tuck into my humble pie.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and night flight to Vila!