Saturday 31 August 2013
Tasmat village, 14 27.37 S 168 01.17 E
Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that it would be a smooth sail from Santo to Mere Lava; a gentle overnight jaunt to ease everyone into Mission 3 after their day-long travel saga from Australia.
In the end, on the positive side, no one was hurt and I think it’s fair to say that everyone will look back on the experience as a time of personal testing and mutual bonding.
The weather forecast certainly gave little away – not after predicting 12-20 knots from the south east and seas under 1m , with our actual experience being more like 25-40 knots from the east south east and seas of 2-5m.
The good part was that the wind was not on the nose, at least not after leaving the Segond Channel which runs the full length of Luganville. Transferring all the new arrivals onboard was a pretty seamless affair last night. In her accomplished, no-fuss, helpful way Cathy had a selection of fruit and snacks available for everyone upon arrival and it was an exciting time finding a place for all the people, gear and boxes – eleven people after all.
So back to the overnight sail. We got away around 10:00pm and with the wind pretty breezy as we got underway, someone must have said something like, “well at least it’s not raining”… just before we received a series of downpours.
As the night wore on however, it became clear that this was going to be a tedious, physical kind of endurance test with the wind and waves coming in on the right side, lifting us up and down for the most part, but every now and then a bigger that usual wave would send spray and white water across the boat and along the deck into the cockpit. The autohelm didn’t much like the rolly motion, so for a lot of the time it was necessary to hand steer. For many, the pre-departure crackers and cheese make a brief reappearance, along with any airline food and carrots they’d consumed during the day.
Again, on the positive side, the new cockpit structure and covers did an amazing job – protecting everyone, and giving the sailors (mostly Matt and Rob) some brief opportunities to ‘sleep’ on the bench seats for brief periods of 10-30 minutes.
Mere Lava first appeared as a haze in the morning mist with the red-ball of the sunrise (caused by volcanic dust we suspect) giving way to a sunny, clear-ish kind of day; but still very windy and with blue, steep seas; reminiscent of a bad day in Bass Strait.
As I sit here and type, Doug reminded me that although he’s here as a doctor, he initially signed up as a crew member, (deckhand/cook if I recall) owing to the fact that carry-over champion doctor, Graeme Duke had already put his name forward. Anyway, Doug suggested his involvement was the result of false and misleading statements given he reached for the rail on several occasions throughout the night and his sailing involvement was largely observational.
As we closed on Mere lava in the late morning, detail could be made out – trees, rocks, canoes lifted high onto the rocks, people jumping along the cliffs, and finally, some relief as we crept into the lee of the island; now to find a spot to shelter and drop anchor. In the end it seemed a minor miracle that we found a place at all. The broad beach from 2009 and 2010 has gone – a victim of a very big storm, and the white anchors painted on the rocks had faded. For a while there it looked like we might have to give the island a miss and bear away to the next island further north … Gaua (village of Loso Lava). Then, as we inched our tentative way inshore, with the howling wind sending bullets of spray in our direction, the depth sounder went from 78m to 24m to 18 and 15m as we moved slowly forward. It was anchors away in 15 metres. Having been here since lunchtime and with 60 metres of chain out we feel pretty confident that it’s a good anchorage; even so, we’ll be keeping a good watch though the night.
After an hour of cleaning up, relaxation and catching up on eating,( and the drying of cushions, mattresses, pillows and sheets it should be said) Bob, Gibson, Graeme and I went ashore and organized for the clinics tomorrow afternoon and Monday. They were expecting us and so now it’s a case of letting people in the four main villages know
Smooth seas, fair breeze and here at Mere Lava once more.
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