Last night at sea…

Monday 28 October 2013

Off Cape Liptrap, VIC

It seems a bit strange, sitting down to type the last Ships Log – at sea – for 2013.


So much has been packed into the MSM Mission 2013 that it’s hard to believe it was just 4-5 months ago – June 2nd – that we sailed Chimere through Bass Strait – in the the opposite direction of course – as the first of 5 volunteer sailing crews began the task of first getting the boat to Sydney and from their to Vanuatu.

There’s been a total of 36 volunteer team members this year.  Just an amazing number of enthusiastic, capable, willing and wonderful people – 25 sailing volunteers and 12 medical volunteers.  For the mathematically minded you’ll notice that 25 and 12 make 37, NOT 36.  Well one crew member, Tony Richards, did the voyage from Melb to Sydney and from there to Vanuatu, and then, fulfilled the role of doctor, so it seemed fair to count him twice.

This was the first year that we accommodated the combined sailing and medical teams aboard – that’s 11 people for 14-16 days.  It was a bit of an experiment really, but after the structural modifications done to Chimere it seemed very do-able and with the cooperation of each individual team member, it seems to have worked very well.

So thank you to all the team members for participating and for contributing to the success of the overall mission.


As far as statistics go, Mission 1, 2 & 3 achieved the following combined results …

  •  visited a total of 15 separate islands
  •  conducted 33 individual clinics
  •  saw 1,532 patients, comprising…
    • 1246 medical screenings,
    • 805 eye screenings (552 glasses dispensed),
    • 727 dental screenings (with around 400 teeth extracted)
  • delivered 11 dental and health educational presentations to over 350 people
  • conducted 13 mudbrick Low Smoke Stove demonstrations to over 250 people

Importantly, local staff from both the PCV Health Dentalcare and Eyecare were involved in all aspects of the mission, along with Government Health workers on the islands visited, wherever possible.

In addition, prior to the commencement of the first medical mission in July, we were able to sail to the island of Tongoa to rescue an eye surgical team, comprising six people (including a local surgeon) and their equipment, who had become stranded due to the rain.  The eye surgical team had been on Tongoa for a week and were already 4 days late returning with rain likely expected to ground the local planes for another week and possibly two to three weeks.

In preparing Chimere for the mission I think of all the people involved in getting her ready for sea and in particular, Barry Crouch, my co-owning boat buddy, supported by his wonderful wife Andrea, who put so much into getting us to the starting line that I wouldn’t know where to start in describing it.  And then at the last, due to work commitments, not being able to join us in Vanuatu on Mission 3 as planned was a real disappointment – but Barry’s commitment to making sure the mission progressed meant that he had created an opportunity for his brother-in-law Dave to come along, which in itself was fantastic.

Also to thank is my wonderful wife Linda, whose work and encouragement in the background has been invaluable – and I here, now, publicly declare that upon my return to shore I will begin to address the list of domestic chores awaiting me on the fridge – that includes cutting the lawns, sorry, grass.

All those supporters at North Ringwood Uniting Church also deserve a special thank you; tirelessly working away in the background, bringing their skills, experience and gifts forward to ensure that the mission is completed successfully.  Mike Clarke – keeper of budgets, speadsheets and every necessary piece of paper from every past meeting and discussion – I don’t know how you do it – but you do a wonderful job – supported as always by your trusty wife Robyn.  Liz Mallen – thank you so much for your hardwork and constant attention to the website and also to Bianca Latimer with ongoing advice and assistance with the Facebook page.

I know it’s tricky when you start to publicly thank people, because even now, I can think of many, many more whose involvement has been critical to the mission’s success.  And I think that’s what has led to the overall success of the mission at the end of the day – so many people doing what they can, big or small, to make it all happen.  So a most sincere thank you – and in saying that I also pass on the sincere thanks of these in Vanuatu we have been able to assist.  They don’t expect much, they have learnt to do without, but when they do receive help they really appreciate it.


Meanwhile, back here on Chimere, as we successfully round Wilson’s Prom and set a course for The Nobbies and the entrance to Westernport – we have had such a fortunate break in the weather this last day.  We had wind behind us for the past 24 hours and now that we have rounded The prom and have started heading in a north westerly direction, we’ve had a wind change to the south west which would have been on the nose (before we’d rounded the prom) but is now pushing us along nicely.  (Sorry to talk weather again, but that’s the last of it … at least for now …


Earlier today we had a bit of excitement in the cockpit when the handheld VHF radio sprang to life.  An official sounding man was requesting the coordinates of someone and it soon became clear that they were involved in a rescue. We could only hear one voice in the transmission, but the Lat and Lon that was repeated put the distressed vessel just south of us.  It sounded like the radio operator was in a helicopter, then we noticed on our chartplotter screen – along with details of the occasional passing ships – a small icon of a helicopter !  A cute little picture of a helicopter of all things.  I did the natural thing and clicked the curser on it and up came it’s position, direction of travel and speed … 329 knots … 329 KNOTS, like 592 kmh !!   Certainly not a yacht, that’s for sure.

We heard a little more on the radio and then the helicopter disappeared off the screen for some reason.  Our initial thought was that it was going to the assistance of a yacht we’d seen at Eden, but after emailing Cam who helped with the return voyage from Vanuatu and who works in sea rescue we discovered that it was an ultralight plane that had ditched in the sea off Flinders Island and it was their distress beacon that had raised the alarm and a very fast helicopter that had raced to their aid – probably from Melbourne somewhere and winched them to safety – well we are assuming they were lifted to safety.  After water temperatures of 28 degrees in Vanuatu and even 20 degrees in Sydney, here in Bass Strait it’s a not-so-balmy 13 degrees – so the two folk aboard the ultralight are very fortunate indeed.

On the menu tonight … our last serious meal aboard … we had dessert of canned fruit and ICE-CREAM.  I noticed the ice-cream in the bottom of the freezer a couple of weeks back and held off the urge to open the lid until tonight – but never did ice-cream taste so good.

So that’s about it from me.  Thank you to all those who made comments on the website and facebook.  We don’t always get them straight away out here … but yes Carmel we do get them eventually … and the encouragement is greatly appreciated !!

Keep looking at the website for updates of MSM’s work and of course if you’d like to make contact, or you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to make contact.  Donations to MSM are also invited and welcome at all times.  It’s very much a “grassroots” and “volunteer funded” program so whatever you might be able to donate will be gratefully received.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and the last night at sea…

Rob Latimer

Off Cann River, 3 miles at sea

We saw a family of whales a couple of hours ago. No jumping out of the water this time, but one of them did do a dive right in front of the boat with his/her tail rising out of the water as it disappeared under us

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Off Cann River, 3 miles at sea

Sorry about missing yesterday’s Ships Log. I’ve got a list of excuses including bad weather bad reception plus a general lack of interest in doing anything that wasn’t directly related to sailing the boat.

The good news is that it’s sunny  and we got through the night okay.

The wind is still on the nose but is predicted to start going our way sometime soon.

After tacking in an out against the wind we’ve now found that by sailing close to the coast we can set a course which is  parallel with the shore. It has certainly lifted spirits onboard

We saw a family of whales a couple of hours ago.  No jumping out of the water this time, but one of them did do a dive right in front of the boat with his/her tail rising out of the water as it disappeared under us

Another highlight is that this afternoon Tony and I shared the leftover spaghetti from two nights ago.  After nearly a day and a half on muesli bars, snakes and Salada biscuits it’s hard to describe the joy; right up there with sunrise after a wet, cold, lumpy night at sea.  Tonight we might advance to opening some of those instant meal cans made specially for times like this


Our current plan sees us arriving into Westernport late on Tuesday, about 8 days out of Sydney (weather permitting of course)

Smooth seas, fair breeze and … if only

Rob Latimer

Off in the morning…

Anyway, after two and a bit days sheltering in this beautiful little bay near Eden, we plan to head away in the morning, so look out for the SPOT GPS signal on the website…

Friday 25 October 2013

East Boyd Bay, Eden

Like a good pair of shoes, it’s hard to find a comfy weather forecast these days!

I’m starting to sound a bit like a farmer, sorry farmers, but it’s true … the wind seems to be either too strong, or from the wrong direction, or in recent days … BOTH.

Anyway, after two and a bit days sheltering in this beautiful little bay near Eden, we plan to head away in the morning, so look out for the SPOT GPS signal on the website…

… hopefully you see a lot of long straight lines rather than a lot of back and forth of zig zags. [and also some Vanuatu style island hopping – admin 🙂 ]

In terms of activity and excitement – much like yesterday, there wasn’t a lot today.  Tony got stuck into the anchor well bilge pump, discovering that the reason for it not working was that the float switch needed attention.  And David and John finished off the sewing of the old dodger cover – a very neat job I might say.

I, on the other hand,  set my mind early in the day to the making of a couple of loaves of bread using some of Linda’s pre-packed bread-mixes; about 160 of which were loaded aboard back in June, with about 20 bags still to be made.  The loaves were ready around lunch time and they certainly raised everyone’s spirits.


It was a sunny day today and despite the strong winds further south, generally very still here in the bay; but quite chilly out of the sun.  The big ship at the wharf, Sen Treasure, has finished loading logs in the hold and we are now wondering whether they are going to stack logs on deck.

Late in the day we heard the yacht which anchored this afternoon on the other side of the wharf, talking on the VHF radio to the local Marine Rescue station explaining that his engine wasn’t working and that perhaps the problem was with his oil filter.  Another yacht, the ketch Fandango, which was anchored in the bay when we arrived and which is about 200 metres away, then got on the radio and said he had a filter which might do the job and he’d zip over in his dinghy to lend a hand.  Being half way between the two yachts, I felt I’d put my two bobs worth in and said I had a box of spare filters which he could take over on the off chance one of them would do the job.

Later, as the Good Samaritan off Fandango was returning to his boat he stopped by to return my plastic tub full of spare filters and handed over $20 saying that one of the filters fitted perfectly and the chap was extremely pleased with the assistance – most grateful indeed.

As I sit here typing, it’s nearly 9:00pm and the chap has just called up Marine Rescue to say that his motor is working again, so that’s a nice way to end the day.

So, with an early start tomorrow, we all plan on getting to bed very soon, and that means me too.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and time to move on

Rob Latimer

A make-and-mend day

Thursday 24 October 2013

East Boyd Bay, Eden

It was a lazy kind of morning with everyone sleeping in till around 9:00am.  The sun was shining early on, but there was a definite chill in the air as the wind strength grew, lifting up the waters in this small bay into a bit of a chop.

With little to do but sit around, we made ourselves productive by looking for jobs to do aboard, including sewing up the old cockpit dodger and installing a new bilge pump.  They don’t sound like big tasks, but surprisingly they took most of the day.
And that’s about as exciting as the day got.

The wind certainly blew hard during the day and there were passing showers, but it was nothing compared with the wind gusts of up to 77 knots (142km/h) recorded at Wilson’s Prom.
As I sit here I’m thinking of what else happened today … I asked the guys and some helpful suggestions popped out, such as … “we haven’t dragged anchor”  …  “another yacht joined us in the anchorage – making a total of three”  … “the big ship has stopped loading logs” …
And I think that’s about where I’ll have to leave it tonight … it’s time to watch another DVD
Smooth seas, fair breeze and we’re not quite stir-crazy yet

Rob Latimer

Calm amidst the storm

Wednesday 23 October 2013

East Boyd Bay, Eden

Our early morning arrival into Eden, around 4:45am instead of the expected time of 3:00am (on account of more headwinds)  saw us drop anchor behind the wood chip mill and loading wharf in the serene waters of East Boyd Bay.


Before crawling into our bunks the urge to make toast came over us – probably due to hunger – and so with half a loaf consumed we had one last look at the scenery – native forest astern and a massive loading wharf and pile of woodchips on the bow and fell asleep.

The sun was showing signs of rising as we went to bed, but by mid morning we were all up and about in the lovely sunshine, preparing breakfast proper and contemplating the surroundings.  The first thing we noticed was an enormous ship, which wasn’t there three hours earlier – the  SEN TREASURE  (maybe they meant “SEND” Treasure but the signwriters got it wrong) tied up at the wharf with truck after truck after truck loaded with sawn logs driving down the pier.  Once at the end of the pier the ships cranes lifted the neat parcels of logs up and into the hold.  It’s now about 11:00pm in the evening, the trucks are still coming and they’ve been going all day – it’s a big ship.


After dinner tonight we watched a movie on the laptop and talked about what book we’ll read tomorrow or repair job needs attending to.  I thing some stitching of the old cockpit dodger and fixing a couple of bilge pumps we top of the list.

Regular checks of the weather forecast and observations around the coast confirms we were right in hiding away in this sheltered bay, unfortunately there seems little improvement for several days.

For a bit of fun I thought I would download the predicted weather for tomorrow in both eastern Bass Strait and Cape Horn.

In summary …

BASS STRAIT (Australia)
Gale warning with dangerous seas. Small craft advisory. Use extreme
caution. Very large short period wind waves.
Seas: WSW 5 meters
Winds: WSW 34 to 46 knots

Gale warning with dangerous seas. Small craft advisory. Use extreme
caution. Very large long period swell.
Seas: WSW 5.1 meters
Winds: WSW 31 to 42 knots

Very windy with large choppy seas. Small craft advisory. Large long
period swell.
Seas: WSW 3.5 meters
Winds: WSW 20 to 28 knots

Very windy with large choppy seas. Small craft advisory. Large short
period wind waves.
Seas: WSW 3.8 meters
Winds: W 24 to 32 knots

Enough said about the weather … at least until tomorrow.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and this really is a lovely anchorage!

Rob Latimer

Weather or not … ?

The weather actually started to go bad soon after I’d sent last night’s Ships Log, and had written something like … “at least the weather’s been fine for everyone’s tummy…” I’ll have to stop saying things like that.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

30 miles from Eden, NSW

In preparing for tonight’s Ships Log I asked the guys, “what’s been the highlight today?” … vainly thinking, maybe my beef schnitzel and vegetable ensemble for dinner …

“The weather !!”  came the unanimous response.  Meaning, the improvement in the weather during today after last night’s rather trying experience.

In looking at the weather map for last night there seemed to be this lonely “high wind” spot on the NSW coast around Jervis Bay, and it was the very place we happened to be – for hours.  After starting out from the north, the bad stuff came out of the south, causing us to tack back and forth till by sunrise we were finally rounding Cape Perpendicular (well named by the way) and able to lay a course roughly in the direction we wanted to go.

The weather actually started to go bad soon after I’d sent last night’s Ships Log, and had written something like … “at least the weather’s been fine for everyone’s tummy…”   I’ll have to stop saying things like that.

By way of a health check-up and for the benefit of family at home … everyone’s fine on board.  We’re currently preparing for our second night at sea.  It’s 10:00pm, Tony is going to bed, (after kindly doing the dishes) John is relaxing on watch in the cockpit, along with David and I’m eating into a packet of Mars Bars out of a sense of duty because they got heated up yesterday and might be going off.

Our course currently has us heading straight into Eden, probably around 3:00am tomorrow.  We’d like to be able to press on around Gabo Island, Wilsons Prom and home, but a reading and re-reading of the Bass Strait weather forecast for the next few days has caused us to decide on sitting this one out.   Predicted west and southwest winds of up to 45kts, seas of 3 metres and swells of up to 5 metres do not sound like much fun and Eden is just the place to shelter.

If it actually ends up blowing 20kts from the east I’ll be very unhappy, but the weather bureau has generally been pretty good with their predictions and so we’ll take what they say as fact.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Eden for breakfast

Rob Latimer

Every picture tells a story

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Off every-picture-tells-a-story

Every picture tells a story and in this case the story is to be found in the track of yesterday’s course – nice and straight at first,  then, all over the place like a drunken … landsman … Then nice and straight again. Unfortunately the squiggly bit occurred last night and was accompanied by strong southerly winds and lumpy seas.  But the sun is now out, it’s a new day, and all is forgotten … just got to get some sleep…must sleep…


The home stretch …

And it was in Sydney that Bob said farewell… back to his loving and ever-patient Bev. After 5 weeks aboard it was also where crewmembers David and Sally said farewell, catching the 3:00pm flight home to Melbourne.

Monday 21 October 2013

15 Miles off Woollongong, NSW

Like an opera in 3 Acts, the return voyage  from Pt Vila is now entering its final performance.  Action to date has seen skipper Bob lead the main return leg across the Tasman Sea to Coffs Harbour and then the two day hop down to Sydney; which was completed this morning.

And it was in Sydney that Bob said farewell… back to his loving and ever-patient Bev.  After 5 weeks aboard it was also where crewmembers David and Sally said farewell, catching the 3:00pm flight home to Melbourne.

Everyone’s contribution has been fantastic, along with the other delivery crew Carl and Cameron.

To deliver Chimere home to her berth at the Westernport Marina we now have skipper Rob, (me) plus past volunteer crewmember Tony Owens and two of his Melbourne sailing buddies, John Walmsley and David Bock. Tony, John and David flew in around lunchtime and after some lunch, last minute shopping and boat familiarisation we undid the lines and drove out of the CYCA around 3:00pm, after just a  7 hour stopover.


Given the wonderful location in Rushcutters Bay, surrounded as it is by beautiful yachts, it’s a place you’d really like to stop and enjoy.  But it’s hometime.  And for the next day, maybe two,  the wind will be blowing our way, before a predicted blow from the West and southwest which looks like setting in for a bit.

At this stage we are focused on the 200 miles south to Eden and once there we’ll assess whether we sit tight and let it all blow over, or we press on and take shelter further on.  It all depends on how far we get with the current wind and exactly when the change hits.

Evidence of the surrounding bushfires is everywhere in the smoky horizon, the red sunset, sunrise and moonrise. as well.

An hour or so back Tony, John and David  retreated to their bunks for some sleep with each due to take their watch through the night.

Rightly enough it was my turn to make dinner, given that I at least know where most things are onboard and the seas have been kind on everyone’s tummies as we get used to the constant motion.

With the moon yet to give an appearance the night is very dark, making the glowing sparkles of phospherecence from the bow wake and spray from Chimere’s parting of th sea look even more spectacular than normal

Smooth seas, fair breeze and in the home stretch

Rob Latimer