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Time to catch breath

Time to catch breath

Monday 7 October 2013

Port Vila

As I sit here at the Coconut Palms waiting for the enthusiastic early morning staff to fully stock the breakfast bar, it seems I have very little to do but relax and soak up the sunrise; something staff doctor, by appointment to MSM, Graeme Duke has been prescribing me for weeks.

The Supporters Tour wound up yesterday morning with 30 happy souls, including the last of the Mission 3 crew, Capability Cathy, (who has been mentioned before in dispatches for brave and conspicuous attention to duty – since early September) climbing aboard their Air Vanuatu flight back to Australia.

Return skipper, and carryover volunteer-champion from many a past Chimere command, Bob Brenac, flew in on Friday to join (crewmembers since mid September) David and Sally.  Then yesterday afternoon last minute recruit (and I really mean last minute, as in, confirmed 5 days ago)  Cameron Heathwood flew in on the Brisbane Virgin flight, with return-voyager Carl Warner – veteran of the 2009 and 2010 missions – flying in one hour later from Sydney.

My initial thought after checking out of the Melanesian Hotel – which suddenly felt quite empty and deserted after my return from the airport to work through my final breakfast – was to grab a spare bunk aboard Chimere at the waterfront.   But with Mike Clarke, (fellow MSM co-ordinator) now in Pt Vila and already booked into The Coconut Palms it seemed best to follow him there.  After all, the return crew of 5 has enough work ahead of them getting Chimere prepared for sea without me getting in their way.

Looking back on the Supporters Tour, it’s been very satisfying to hear the positive comments and again, a special thanks to Ari from Excuse2Travel for all her work in the background in making it happen.

After the very moving “Village Experience” at Morinda’s home of Paonangisu at the north of the island (remember how to pronounce it … Pow-nan-isu) last Monday, each person pretty much did their own thing on the Tuesday, with Wednesday seeing half of the team, (plus a few extras bringing the number up to 21), aboard Chimere for a sail around to Hideaway Island for a time of snorkeling, eating, relaxing and socializing.  Included amongst the “extras”  was Ken and Joy off the motor vessel Trinity Castle who played the role of deckhand and I think the term Ken used was “galley wench” … but I may have misheard that.  At the end of the day, however, when it came time to start the engine – which would not start – Ken took on the roles of diesel mechanic and electrical engineer as he first diagnosed the problem as a dead (or dying) starter motor and then pulled off the very last “start” of the starter motor with the aid of a big screwdriver.

Consequently, the next day – Thursday, saw no Day Sail, as we set about pulling off the starter motor and ordering a new one from Australia – which new skipper Bob was able to pick up from the Sydney warehouse at five minutes to five that afternoon and bring over as rather heavy luggage the next day.  Lucky Bob has taken to leaving most of his clothes and belongings aboard and had room in his bag for the 17kg item!

For those not so familiar with dirty things like motors, etc, a hint to the importance of a starter motor can be found in its name … STARTER motor.  Like most things, nothing happens unless they first START, and that’s what a starter motor does … it starts the motor by receiving an electrical charge from the batteries (when you turn the ignition key) which then turns a small gear which then in turn engages with the main motor – thereby starting it and enabling you to drive forward (and backwards if required)   I know we are a sailing boat, but the motor is very useful a lot of the time.

Ken’s screwdriver trick. which he tried only after many attempts at hitting the side of the unit with a hammer, was really one of those miracle strokes that would not work a second time owing to the electrical system suffering what the service man the next day described as … “a catastrophic failure” … not what you want to hear.

Tuesday 8 October
The crew of Chimere are now ready to depart Port Vila.  It’s early morning and I’m back at the Coconut Palms breakfast bar madly typing away with my two fingers.  All the team has to do now is obtain their Customs and Immigration Clearances (after first paying around $175AUS), fuel-up and then lift the dinghy on deck.  The final weather forecast will determine whether they return to Sydney over the top, or around the bottom of New Caledonia.

Special mention again needs to go to Ken, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the new starter motor is fully operational.  His and Joy’s involvement in the work of MSM has really been a blessing and they fully deserve to wear their MSM shirts with pride..

Smooth seas, fair breeze and time to take breath

Rob Latimer

To read older Ships Log posts go to …

A tidy ship is a happy ship …

A tidy ship is a happy ship …

Thursday 26 September 2013

Port Vila, Efate

A tidy ship is a happy ship …

Not to say that Chimere has in some way been unhappy as a messy ship,
but there’s nothing quite like a neat and tidy boat; which after much
cleaning and chucking out Chimere now resembles.

There’s parts of the deck I haven’t seen for months, but all is now
ready for the Supporters Tour, which officially begins tomorrow with
the arrival of about 30 folk from Melbourne on the afternoon flight.

Today was dedicated to attending to last minute jobs – the itinerary,
accommodation queries, printing, Village Tour details, hotel transfers
and bus transport plus mundane things like food and catering.  It’s
shaping up to be a fun and rewarding time for all.

Matt and Cathy took the dinghy for a spin around to Hideaway Island
this morning, primarily to try out their snorkeling and to check it
out for when we take Chimere around there on the Supporters Tour Day
Sail next week.

David and Sally continued cleaning and we departed from fish to have
Cathy Burgers tonight for dinner.

Not a lot else to report.  Till next time …

Smooth seas, fair breeze and just one more sleep …

Rob Latimer

Port Vila by sunrise

Port Vila by sunrise

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Port Vila, Efate

In the end it took about 26 hours of continuous sailing to get us from Port Sandwich to Port Vila; not a long distance, but made at least twice as far by our need to tack into almost constant headwinds.

Our arrival at the entrance to the harbour coincided with the arrival of the P&O ship Pacific Jewel; in Port Vila for the day on one of its regular South Pacific cruises.

For a while the ship appeared as a flashing red beacon on our chart plotter, with our expected “collision time” reducing from 15 minutes down to around 5 minutes at which time she turned to starboard in order to follow the leads into port.  Up close she’s a big sight and we all agreed that despite being a sailing boat we’d give her right of way.

In the end we docked with diesel to spare in the tank and after tying up first at the fuel wharf around 7:30am to fill up we learnt that they themselves were waiting for a fuel delivery, which wouldn’t happen until later in the day.  So we bought just 50 litres in drums and decided to do the big refill in a couple of weeks – just prior to returning to Australia – so as to buy it duty free – a saving of around 30 cents per litre.

It was a good feeling to be tied up safely once more at the sea wall here in Port Vila, an area known locally as The Waterfront.  After breakfast, there was a lot of cleaning, sorting, offloading, and chucking-out going on, but by mid-afternoon a few tired puppies were choosing to have a lie down.

Our next door neighbour here at the seawall is an Australian, Larry, who is completing a sail across the Pacific after buying his yacht in the US.  Matt was over there for a short time having a chat and he came back with no shortage of stories about crew “issues”, including one where, despite glowing references etc, one crew member was violently seasick, didn’t eat for days, was diabetic, forgot to bring his test kit, seemed to be drug dependent and became gravely ill around 1,000 miles out of LA.  It got to the point of considering what do you actually do with a dead body on a boat ?  Their solution was to apparently put it in the dinghy and tow it behind.

In the end a satphone call back to Larry’s doctor in Australia helped a bit, although he didn’t give the guy much hope, however, the passage of time and a few pills from the boat’s first aid kit kept him alive till Honolulu, at which time he decided to jump ship.  Larry’s stories certainly put our epic onboard tales of coral cuts and muscle strain in perspective!

As we were making our approach this morning, past Iririki Island, I heard the words “Trinity Castle” on the VHF radio and the distinctive voice of Ken – our new best friend, along with his wife Joy, from our week spent in Luganville.  It was Ken, introduced to us by the crew on Mission 2, that made a couple of housecalls to fix our battery charging issues before the commencement of Mission 3.  They also had Cathy and me over for dinner on their lovely motor cruiser; which they had recently bought in Seattle.  Apparently Joy and Ken, after reading our daily Ships Logs, were well aware that we’d delivered their donated paint and car battery to the village of Dolap on the west coast of Gaua; plus a range of other facts about our mission north.
It was great to catch up again and we look forward to seeing them some more over the next week or so.

Dinner was … surprise, surprise … fish … apparently we have now officially consumed all of Mahi Mahi No. 1 and will be starting on No. 2 shortly.

David and Sally decided to go out on a “date” tonight and went to dinner at the local restaurant called The Waterfront where they got stuck into the steak … plus dessert I hear; not much of that onboard Chimere of late I’m afraid.

Speaking of Sally, it should be revealed that she was rescued from the [onshore] shower this afternoon by Larry – our previously mentioned next door, boat-neighbour.  In re-reading that, it probably doesn’t sound the way it was meant, so by way of explanation … the door on the facility is a bit temperamental and it was Larry who finally heard Sally’s cries for help and could open the door, when she found she couldn’t.  In husband David’s defence, he claims he went to the shower after realizing Sally had been away for a very long time – then to discover the security man and Larry working on the door to free the captive within.  All’s well now though … just goes to show how risky taking a shower can be.

We caught up with Bob this afternoon when he came to cart away the dental gear off the boat and after a brief afternoon nap it was back to the telecommunications company TVL, just before closing time, to find out why my connection wasn’t working.  Apparently it’d run out of Vatu … ie more money required, again !!

Helpful TVL service staff, Graham and Jason, know me on a first name basis by now and did their best to explain it all to me … again.

It’s hard to believe that it’s just two sleeps till the Supporters Tour begins on Friday, although by sneaking in a couple of extra naps, for me, it might be four sleeps.  We have ordered some good weather for the 10 days, but regardless, a good time is guaranteed for all.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Port Vila by sunrise

Rob Latimer

PS  An apology for anyone following our SPOT Tracker on the website. Apparently it stopped emitting a beacon around 3:00am this morning, making it look like we’d dropped anchor in the middle of the ocean. Rest assured all is good, maybe it was getting tired too.

Oh wind, where for art thou?

Oh wind, where for art thou?

Tuesday 24 September 2013

At sea – Port Sandwich to Port Vila

For a day at the beach it was perfect – sunny, warm, gentle breeze, lovely.  Hard to believe the day was in the same season as yesterday, given the wild conditions just 24 hours ago.

However, for a yacht trying to head south the conditions were/are frustrating at best. Our 4:30am start from Port Sandwich in south east Malekula, was
greeted with a southwester, then later it blew from the south, then almost nothing, then finally at 5:00pm a southeaster, then again, virtually nothing.  Wouldn’t be such a problem if we had lots of fuel and could just turn on the motor, but as mentioned yesterday, we’re a bit light-on in that department. Not quite running on fumes, but probably down to the last 50 litres or so.

We’ve had the engine ticking away in the background for some hours now, at low revs, but just enough to keep us doing around 4-5 knots into a lumpy confused sea left over from yesterday’s blow.  Then, after winding in the jib because there was no wind to catch, a southeaster finally came through causing much excitement and enabling us to turn off the engine and still maintain 6 knots under sail alone.

Then 15 minutes ago, around 11:00pm, the wind died away again, with our speed sitting at around 1.5 knots – I’ve resisted the urge to turn the motor back on in the hope the wind will return sometime soon – a test of both patience and faith.

On the plus side, the sky is full of stars, the moon has just risen above the horizon and the sea is now blissfully calm.

In other news, Cathy made two lovely twisted savoury herb rolls today along with the usual loaf.  And for dinner,  fish was very much on the menu again – this time curried, with quite a bit now in the freezer for the future.

As you may have guessed, we decided to travel through the night in order to arrive at Port Vila tomorrow morning.  David and Sally are currently on watch – I think we hit 2 knots a short while ago (still very little wind and I haven’t turned the motor back on), with Matt and Cathy in their bunks – oh, I hear some action, they’re getting ready for their 12:00-3:00am watch.

Good news, I just heard the sheets tighten and we took on a slight lean to starboard – the wind may be on the return – we’ve even crept up to 2.5 knots

Smooth seas, fair breeze and where for art thou wind
Rob Latimer

To read older Ships Log posts go to …

The Humble Cardboard Box.

The Humble Cardboard Box.

Some of you may remember the days when purchased groceries could be taken home in used cardboard boxes being discarded by the store? This was before the days of flimsy plastic and reusable grocery bags. I think Bunnings had a similar setup until a couple of years ago?  I recall as a kid going to the grocery store where discarded cartons could be selected for packing mum’s purchased items. It was fun rummaging through the pile of used cardboard boxes to select the strongest and sturdiest. If you chose carefully the boxes could be later commandeered for constructing cubbies, toy castles, cars, airplanes, helicopters or any number of creations.

The first commercial cardboard box was produced in 1817. Corrugated cardboard was invented in England back in the mid 19th century, and patented in 1856. Prefabricated sheets of cardboard (to fold into boxes) was discovered by accident in 1871 when a paper cutting machine malfunctioned.

Cardboard is made of flimsy paper yet can be very useful and stand up to a lot of pressure and abuse!  Corrugated or fluted cardboard, as it is sometimes called, changes flimsy sheets of paper into a sturdy light weight material that withstands much greater loads than paper alone: up to 1000 times stronger just by a simple process of glueing two sheets of paper to a third piece that is fluted or corrugated. This is helpful when you need to store and manually transport numerous items of different shapes and sizes.


Did you know that cardboard is a vital element of Prevention of Blindness and MSM projects? Without cardboard we would not have these lightweight, durable, sturdy containers for the medical and dental supplies and equipment. For the Eye Care and Medical teams we have found boxes used by the Baxter medical supply company to be most handy. Their size and construction make them practical and resilient: not too big, not too small, not too heavy, but just right.

The poor boxes get fairly rough treatment on tour. Into these boxes goes medications, equipment, and other gear necessary for the team. They are thrown, hauled, carried, stacked, buffeted, and carted on and off Chimere, in the bulker-bag to and from dinghy, on and off dry land, over water, to the clinics and back again. But they never seem to mind or complain. At least, I’ve never heard one complain. The same cannot always be said about the owners!

“Baxter boxes”, as we call them, are readily available in most hospitals where they are usually discarded and sent for recycling.  So I went to the hospital and asked the guys down in the supply/ stores department.
“Can I please have a few empty Baxter boxes?”
“Why not?”
“Sorry we don’t purchase their products. We purchase the Fresenius company product.”
I was about to say ‘But you cannot have an MSM tour without Baxter boxes!’ Instead I asked: “Can you show me the boxes?” Fresenius’ boxes are slightly larger and not quite as strong as Baxter boxes, but “I’ll take them”, I replied. Sadly we can now report that Fresenius boxes are nowhere near as sturdy as the good ol’ Baxter box. You see some boxes have greater strength of character than others. Some appear to buckle under pressure.

People are like flimsy sheets of paper: we are all made of fragile materials. But in the hands of the right Person we can be changed to something of sturdy design, able to withstand pressures, and be thrown about without breaking. Some provide joy to little kids, others of great use to higher purposes. So when next you carry a humble cardboard box remember it started out as three flimsy sheets of paper.

Off Duty Cub-Reporter


Ending the day with a nice Sandwich

Ending the day with a nice Sandwich

Monday 23 September 2013

Port Sandwich, Malekula Island

With a forecast of a strong NW change in the order of 30kts, plus rain and SE gusts all night, we were packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Over breakfast, we once more gave thanks for the wonderful cockpit canvas covers that both kept the rain out and enabled us to sit around and relax in comfort.  In the end, with no sight of the NW change, we headed off around the east of the island, putting in one tack after another, all the while waiting for the wind shift that would push us to our final destination of Pt Vila in double quick time.

Before leaving around 7:45am I called Rose and explained our situation – that we’d love to have spent the day in the village but conditions wouldn’t allow it.  Rose completely understood the situation and said that she may well see us in Pt Vila on Friday when she has a meeting with the Education Dept regarding her vocational training centre.  I got the impression Rose would have jumped aboard Chimere for the trip south in a flash, but she has her work cut out for her getting the buildings ready for the school.

Back on the water, progress was very slow around the east coast, and after about 2 hours we somehow came to the consensus that we should turn around and go back – along the north coast and down the west coast.  There was also the thought in the back of my mind that we should be a bit conservative with the use of fuel, given that it’s now about 3 months since we tied up at the fuel wharf and are on the last tank full.

Whilst we really are a sailing boat, Chimere’s best work is done when the wind is well off the bow.  Tacking, or sailing close to the wind, is not something she likes doing, but is made more bearable with the engine ticking away in the background – even at 1200 revs, it makes a big difference – particularly when there’s a sea running against us.

So we turned around and headed the other way.  Instantly, the sea became calm, the kettle went on and everyone started to smile again. Most importantly, the speedo started topping 7 kts plus.

It took us all of 15 minutes to pass our morning’s starting point and last night’s anchorage and as we glided past I could almost feel the locals ashore, who might have been observing our ‘progress’, chuckle to themselves and sagely say … “I knew they’d be back”.

It was late morning before signs of a wind change were apparent – the rain kept falling but now it was stronger and came in squalls.  The wind moved progressively from SE to the much publicized NW and continued for about 10-15 minutes by which time we’d set the sails and were enjoying the ride; at 7-8 kts.

A change of watch and within a few minutes the wind moved again, this time to the south and south west and it blew with amazing ferocity. The sea, which had previously been flattened by the rain, was now whipped up by the wind into short waves whose white tops were being blown into white streaks.

Getting a second reef in the main and furling most of the jib was a testing experience.  It was hard to believe that we were still in the lee of the eastern tip of Ambrym – relatively sheltered waters – and that once we rounded the point it would be worse.

A quick check of the northern coastline on the chart revealed a possible anchorage close inshore and so we plugged on.  Progressively the waves reduced in size and we inched forward to find a nice spot to drop the anchor in 10m of water.

The stillness was certainly a welcome relief as we started to clean up and restore some order to the chaos.  The strength of the wind, at the height of the storm, had actually caused the front canvas awnings – the ones that stop the wind and rain from blowing in your face – to unzip and make like they were going to blow away altogether, but some swift action by Cathy quickly brought them under control and stuffed down the companionway for future sorting out – later inspection fortunately revealed no damage.  But without the front covers, things were a bit wetter in the cockpit than we’d become used to and at this stage Vanuatu was feeling quite cold and wet, not quite the tropical paradise in the brochure.

With the stillness, talk soon turned to the matter of lunch, it being at least 1:00pm by now, … would it be spaghetti, cup-a-soup, toast, maybe baked beans – and was that on the toast, or toast on the side – exciting stuff to be sure.  You’ve got no idea how important a piece of toast and cheese can be at times like this – it’s all about context.

By 2:00pm the white caps in the distance seemed to have subsided somewhat, the wind gusts had died down and we began scouring the charts and cruising guide for a suitable anchorage closer to Pt Vila that we might reach before dark.

In the end we settled on the eastern coast of Malekula and felt that the southerly wind which was now blowing might just enable us to get there with a minimum of fuss.

Underway again, with reefs in the main and jib – just to be cautious – we soon discovered there was very little wind to catch.  It seemed all the wind had blown away earlier and in its place, when we came out from behind the lee of the island, was a confused sea and a 2-4 metre swell.  Just horrible.

With the aid of the motor (at low revs) we managed to just make 5 knots and seeing a few small fish breaking the surface and a few birds circling, we thought it was time to get the line over.

A few minutes later we landed a small tuna (enough for 5 lovely fish steaks tonight) and then a short time after this a large Mahi Mahi – just like the one caught the other day – was it 25 kg?  always hard to tell with these things.

Now with enough fish in the fridge and freezer to last us a week, we kept the line aboard and set about sailing the boat and cleaning up the blood.

Our arrival at Port Sandwich, on the SE coast of Malekula, was a welcome relief, and our policy of arriving at an anchorage in daylight was reinforced tonight as we narrowly avoided dinting the coral with our keel as a result of Matt’s keen eyesight; standing partway up the mast.  I suspect the words FULL REVERSE have not been spoken so loudly on this mission, but Cathy at the helm was quick to follow orders.

Some weather forecasts still have the wind coming from the NW, but others say it’ll blow from the south tomorrow.  Either way, we’ll be underway by 5:00am with the intention of getting as close to Pt Vila in the day as possible; keeping use of the engine to a minimum.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and ending the day with a Sandwich
Rob Latimer

Plugging our way south.

Plugging our way south.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Nopul, Ambrym

Working our way down the west coast of Pentecost ended up taking a bit longer than we’d expected.  We got away early, around 4:30am, but found progress a bit slow, with a few tacks necessary into the SE wind.  Then we adopted a new strategy – get close enough to shore almost to anchor, then use the calm seas to basically drive south, making sure to stay in deep water.

It was grey and blowy and as we started out I’m sure Matt was heard to say, “at least it’s not raining”, not long before passing showers began to turn into rain.


The exposed water between the islands threw up some more challenging conditions, with the still  anchorage here at Nopul, on the northern
tip of Ambrym, being a welcome reward around 2:15pm.

Our key reason for dropping in here was to visit a new friend, Rose Wuan, whom we’d met by chance in Pt Vila some weeks before and who turns out to be friends with people I know in the Vanuatu Fellowship group back in Melbourne.  Rose has been working hard for several years to establish a computer and IT vocational training centre here at Nopul, a region her family has had strong links with going back many generations.

On arrival I gave Rose a call and pretty soon her and her friend Annie, the local nurse, were on board Chimere enjoying a cup of tea.
Our plan was to go ashore tomorrow to learn more about the region and to see if there is clay for the making of mud bricks, however, a short time ago we looked at the most current weather forecast and the prediction is for the gusty SE wind we are now experiencing to be replaced with an even more gusty NW wind – quite rare in these parts but great for heading south!

So, while we are currently enjoying a lovely sheltered anchorage in the lee of the land, by morning it’s all set to reverse, making our north facing anchorage a bad place to be.  In preparation, we have lifted the dinghy aboard and will keep a weather eye out for the arrival of the change.  It will be a big disappointment, not to be able to spend more time here with Rose and her friends and family, but there’s not a lot we can do.

In other news, there isn’t much.  Newcomers David and Sally have fitted into ship board life well while old salts Matt and Cathy continue to keep things running, it’s significantly quieter without the medical team aboard.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and plugging our way south

Rob Latimer

To read older Ships Log posts go to …

100 Days for Nelson

100 Days for Nelson

Saturday 21 September 2013

Asanvari, Maewo Island

After a beautifully still night at Lolawai it was a late start this morning, with last night’s brief being, … “up at 6:00 away by 7:00”.

In the end we were up a bit earlier, but still got away at 7:00, retracing our chart plotter track, or cookie crumbs as they are sometimes called, over the coral bar and out of the bay.  Once around the tip of Ambae we set our course for Asanvari and around 9:15am we were dropping anchor again in the sheltered waters of another still bay.

After a cup of coffee it was time to get the dinghy over the side and into the beach. Today was a special day being the 100 day remembrance of Chief Nelson; something of a legend in this region and relatively old at 76 when he passed away about 3 months ago.  There was a big crowd near the beach
and lots of activity.

We were welcomed by a man named Justin who explained the significance of the day and made us feel very much at home – that we could talk to
anyone, walk around anywhere and also have kava and food with everyone as it was made available.

We explained that we were here three years ago and gave Nelson’s daughter, Iris, copies of our photos from that time.  It was wonderful to also meet local nurse Olivette, who was very welcoming.

Later, when we discovered that Olivette also does health education in the schools, we gave her a copy of the laminated “Healthy Teeth Healthy Life” presentation, plus the teacher’s notes and student worksheets.  There were also a few medical supplies and bandages still aboard which we were able to leave and a copy of the mudbrick stove material.

We had done a mud brick demonstration here back in 2010 and whilst several people remembered the experience no one seemed to know what became of the bricks.  I suggested to Olivette that because it’s the women and children that mostly suffer from the effects of smoke inhalation that perhaps they needed to either take charge by making the stoves themselves, or insist that their men do it for them.

We were sitting around talking with the locals out the front of the meeting house, or Nakamal, and I received a tap on the shoulder with a few words about taking kava now in the meeting house.  Inside it was very dark and it took a while for my eyes to adjust but soon I could see the big pile of hot rocks in the middle waiting for the food to go on, with many men around the edges using special stones to crunch up kava roots and prepare the drink in wooden bowls.  There were the women at the far end laying out banana leaves and handling the food, which included pieces of the pig killed earlier.


The cup of kava seemed awfully large for someone who avoids this sort of thing, and pretty soon I was joined by David who also took his medicine.  It didn’t take long for the effects of the kava to hit home and soon my scrambled brain was trying to maintain a decent conversation with those around me.

Later in the afternoon it was clear that many of the locals, plus visiting family and friends had consumed more than one cup of kava with a lot of smiling and lying down on the grass going on.

Other people we’d spoken to included Freddie the teacher, who was Chief Nelson’s nephew and the local Anglican minister Simeon.


Matt, Cathy, David and Sally enjoyed a nice snorkel and swim ashore at the waterfall which tumbles into a big pond near the beach; just astern of where we are anchored.  The kustom owner of the waterfall (just a short walk from the main beach and village of Asanvari) is Alex and over the past few years he has built quite an establishment, with bar and chairs and a patio overlooking the sea and facing he evenings sunset.  Theres even a place to park you dinghy and we had a lovely time chatting with a few other yachties there, including a Swedish man Lars who has spent the last 5 years sailing the world in his 65 foot yacht – including Brazil, Chile, Cape Horn, Patagonia, Antarctica, Easter & Pitcairn Islands – he was quite the character.

Just as we were coming back to Chimere to prepare our dinner and get ready for the morning’s departure a catamaran entered the bay and from their meanderings and the folk looking over the bow it was clear they didn’t quite know where to anchor.  So we thought we’d zip over and at least say hello.  As we approached a young Aussie accent from the helm yelled out …  “any ideas on where to anchor under 20 metres ‘round here?”.

Their boat was called “Skimpy”, and someone had written “bikini” after that on the side of their hull and with surf boards lashed to the side rails and mirror ball (yes, that’s right mirror ball, as in 70s disco) suspended from the roof in the cockpit it was clear this was a fun and lively boat to be aboard; sun tans, smiles, muscles and little in the way of clothing, showed that the young men and women aboard had adapted well to their surroundings.  Finally they found they comfortable anchorage, just 50 metres astern of us and sadly we won’t get to know them any better tomorrow because we are off early again – south – and they are on their way north.

Tomorrow we plan on making it to the north coast of Ambrym where we hope to catch up with a woman called Rose Wuan; someone we’d met in Pt
Vila a month back and who urged us to drop on by.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and 100 days for Nelson

Rob Latimer

Lovely Lolawai.

Lovely Lolawai.

Friday 20 September 2013

Lolawai, Ambae

Away at 5:30 from Luganville this morning, it was a mixed bag as far as the wind was concerned.

It started out from the south east, then later in the day went easterly, then north easterly, then north westerly, then hard on the nose from the east southeast.

It took us a bit longer than expected, with quite a few tacks finally getting us across the 50 odd miles by around 3:30pm.

You might do a Google search on the bay here at Lolawai  it really is a lovely spot.


On arrival, we wandered up to the hospital after asking a few people if anyone had any bananas.  We are keen to get hold of some bananas! They seem to be in short supply.

Up at the hospital, and the visit was purely social in case you are wondering, we asked around for Mary Tabi – a nurse we had got to know well on a previous mission, and a man called Hope, who was in charge of the anti malaria program when we were here in 2010.  At the time, (in 2010) Hope had taken us on a long and rough 4wd (eventually unsuccessful) ride in search of clay – to make mud bricks.  (surprise surprise)


Well Mary wasn’t about, but Hope was, and we chatted for a while like old friends.  Hope was no longer into chasing mosquitos, as he described it,  because he’s been suffering hypertension and has just stabalised his health after a few months in Pt Vila.   His wife is a senior midwife and sadly they had just had a still birth in the hospital earlier in the day.

Hope was at pains to pass on a Lolowai welcome to me and the crew and emphasise that we are always welcome to return, anytime.

I asked about the anchorage at a place called Asanvari on the island of Maewo, about 20 miles away, and whether it was true that Chief Nelson had passed away.  “Yes, that is true” said Hope “three months ago, in fact tomorrow is the 100 day gathering to remember Chief Nelson, you would be most welcome if you were to go, free kava and food, you must go”.

Further in our conversation, Hope told me that he has 5 children, one studying IT in Vila, one is a pilot and in Fiji, one is training to be a nurse and one is in year 7.  Hope also said that Chief Nelson was his father … at least one of his fathers … which means an uncle.

So it is settled, tomorrow we get away early and head the short distance across to Asanvari – all in our quest south to Pt Vila in a way that avoids too much tacking into the steady SE trade winds.  At Asanvari we may also get to meet Nelson’s son, Nixon, whom we got to know quite well when we were there in 2010.  My son Matt played violin while Nixon played guitar – particularly Hotel California (or at least the introduction)

We might have some photos on the computer we can print off and laminate as a way of remembering Chief Nelson and the brief friendship we established 3 years ago.  (At the time I had a go at fixing Nelson’s boat with some fiberglass we had on board, taking over from another yachties efforts when he told me he was running out of resin and needed to get away)

In seeing me typing tonight’s blog Matt called out that I should mention we had fish again tonight for dinner … “that 20 kg fish just keeps on giving” … did I say 20kg fish?  You know sizes can be quite deceptive and now that we think about it, the fish was much the same weight as a suitcase you might check-in … probably around 20kg … very heavy!!

And I see that today it is Friday 20 September, which means that in just 7 short days, the Supporters Tour begins in Pt Vila with 30 people coming across for a time of island experiences and a lot of fun – thanks again to travel agent Ari from Excuse2travel for her most generous donation of all profits made on organizing the tour – a total of $4,500!!   Not many sleeps now.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and lovely Lolawai
Rob Latimer

To read older Ships Log posts go to …

Setting our sights on Pt Vila

Setting our sights on Pt Vila

Thursday 19 September 2013

Beachfront anchorage, Luganville

With the medical team gone and our task now being to return Chimere to Pt Vila and from there to Australia (first Sydney, then Melbourne) it seems a bit strange to still be doing nightly Ships Logs.

Whilst essential to the overall mission, the return voyage seems to lack the interest and purpose of the daily operation of clinics and the activities of 11 people aboard a small boat of 53 feet; that’s less than 5 feet of boat each on average.

After the horrible, stormy end to the Loh-Santo leg, yesterday was very much a recovery day, but still it seemed, not enough sleep was had.

Today it was a sleep-in till around 7:30am and after the usual breakfast, battery charge (using the generator) and tidy up we were ready to head into town around 9:00.  On our list of tasks was to pay a visit to Brian and Jan Dodds off Another Angel (from Pacific Yacht Ministries) at anchor nearby, but then Cathy called out “Brian and Jan approaching in their dinghy – ready to board”

It was great to catch up again and to swap stories.  Brian started with, “I hear you installed the taps we sent up to Gaua” … someone had passed on the news and we now knew who the yachties were that had bought and sent the taps up months before; the story we’d heard when we were up there and which explained the presence of the taps.

“And you painted the clinic roof”, Brian continued.  That last bit wasn’t technically correct, we’d just organized for the rusted screws that hold the tin down to be wire brushed and painted – using the paint  bought by other boaties, Ken and Joy off Trinity Castle, which we were carrying north for the village of Dolap on the west coast of Dolap

We passed on thanks from the small island of Merig for their assistance in years past and we talked about our sailing plans in the immediate future.


We made it into town around 10:30 and managed to buy all the essential extra items we’d either run out of, or needed for new fish recipes we were keen to try on out 15kg catch from the other day.   I may have said it was 10kg, but it’s now been a few days and some on board were sure it weighed a bit more than 10kg?!

The weather forecast appears favourable and so in our bid to avoid tacking and taking the SE trade winds on head first, our plan is to zig zag our way home, stopping overnight at Lolowai (Ambae), Ranon ay (Ambrym) and Revelieu Bay (Epi)

So the plan is to be up by 4:30am and away at 5:00 to enable us to cover the 50 miles with plenty of time to explore.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and heading south in the morning

Rob Latimer