Passing the baton

Saturday 10th of June
Port Vila

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

Rob Latimer

Time to unload

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

Rob Latimer

Nothing happened today

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😴

Rob Latimer

Sydney Airport – night flight to Vila

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!

Rob Latimer

Ahhh, alongside the Port Vila sea-wall again

Tuesday 6 June 2017
Port Vila Seawall, Yachting World, Vanuatu

Hi everyone

Chimere arrived at Port Vila at 8:30AM this morning. Customs, Quarantine and Immigration formalities were completed and the crew let loose to explore Port Vila.

Everyone agreed it was a good voyage and we are pleased we could do our part to help the 2017 Medical Sailing Ministries mission to the poor and needy of Vanuatu. Yes the first 3 days were a bit tough but the last 4 days of very pleasant sailing well and truly made up for that.

In summary we sailed 1470NM in 9 days and 17 hours with an average speed of 6.3 knots. Our best days run was 171NM and we estimate 551 lites of diesel were sipped by our ever loyal hard working Perkins.

Now it’s over to the next crew. We hope they grow as fond of Chimere as we have.


Cam & Crew

PS  Check out Cam’s Port Vila arrival and parking track.  When I say “parking” I mean backing a 30 ton, long-keep yacht, with no bow-thruster up to the seawall  (We await the first photo !)


Just one more sleep

Monday 5 June 2017
100 miles SW of Port Vila 
lat -19.00931 lon  168.11418

It’s Monday and the last full day at sea for us. The sea has a most intriguing deep blue hue to it yet, the sunbeams seem to penetrate an iridescent aqua blue close to the boat.

We are definitely in the trade winds that so many mariners before us enjoyed. A consistent steady breeze driving us on to Port Vila. It’s a gentle 10 knots so we sail with grace not pace. The boat is quiet and at peace with the ocean.

It is a little sad coming to the end of our trip but that sadness is balanced with an excited expectancy of seeing the land of our destination, Vanuatu.

Today we doused all sail and headed the boat into the wind to heave to (stop the boat). We trailed a long looped line with a fender attached and always leaving one of us aboard, dived into that beautiful deep blue sea for a most refreshing swim. We jumped off the boat, swam around, dived as deep as we dared frolicking like a bunch of school boys. If you are coming this way, I can recommend it as a good spot to stop for a swim, no chlorine, free admission, filled with the purest of pure ocean water. Just go to 19 36.26S 168 06.69E

It is always a welcome sight to see a large seabird that is curious to see who or what has invaded it’s territory. This one was most interested in us, gliding back and forth effortlessly close to the boat, checking us out from every angle,  perhaps we might be an easy meal?

As I write we approach 100NM to run to the anchorage at Port Vila. We will be there by midday Tuesday and another adventure awaits.

Cam and Rob.

We could nearly pick the coconuts

Sunday 4 June 2017
200 miles SW of Port Vila
lat -21.13139 lon 168.16383

Hi everyone

From Rob Lott …  First Mate of Chimere AKA “Captain Happy Days”

We are now passing the island of Mare in the eastern part of New Caledonia. It was good to see land after passing Lord Howe Island and Elizabeth Reef in the dark. It was also good to get confirmation that the GPS does indeed tell the truth!

The crew wanted to call in for croissants, jam and coffee but the captain has only one eye and that is on the Port of Vila. We are sailing  past tall cliffs and hills capped with Norfolk Island Pines and interspersed with white sandy beaches fringed with coconut palms. We have arrived in the tropics. Yeah!

The boat smells like a bakery at the moment with fresh bread in the oven waiting for our jam and and cream. The seas have abated, and we have a gentle breeze from astern pushing us along track to Port Vila. We are not breaking any Chimere speed records but it is comfortable and very pleasant. This mission is really tough today! Certainly making up for the first few days of rough weather.

Only 204 NM to run to Port Vila and if it stays like this we won’t want to stop.

Josh fixed the navigation lights today and is back on his feet. We did not realize he has been suffering a head cold for the last few weeks. When the captain learned this  he put him on a diet of cold and flu tablets  and a day later Josh’s inner ear started functioning again and he made a good recovery. So herein lies the lesson: Don’t go to sea with a cold or flu!

Until next time.

Cool bananas … and we were so close we could nearly pick the coconuts 

Rob Lott 

It was one week ago today !

Saturday 3 June 2017

60 miles SW of Isle of Pines (New Caledonia)

Lat -23.39584 Lon 167.58676

Hi everyone

Today we celebrate 7 days out of Sydney !

Yesterday evening the wind died off and remained less than 5 knots all night. We motored for 14 hours until midday when a gentle 10 and sometimes 15 knot south westerly arouse which enabled us to hoist the mainsail, unfurl and pole out the jib and get sailing again.

We are still under sail only managing 5 knots or so but it is comfortable, the decks are dry and hatches open. The last forecast we received suggests we can expect much the same wind strength and direction for the next 3 days. This is OK provided the swell stays small. If the swell builds or the wind drops even a few knots Chimere starts rolling too much, the sails slat and bang so we must take them down to avoid doing any damage.

So while the conditions are pleasant we keep busy doing small jobs on the boat, washing, yarning and resting. Yarning has been a treat! Our crew of 5 has enough good stories to fill a decent sized book.

Today we exceeded 1000NM since departing Sydney and at the time of writing have 356NM to run to Port Vila. That’s about two and a half days. Our average daily run has been 149NM which is a respectable  speed of 6.1 knots. To do this we have had to motor for 72 hours since leaving the Cruising Yacht Club.

The Vanuatu Customs arrival paperwork requires a list of the crew and their job title. I had given Bruce title of Cook but decided to change it to Chief Baker.

That’s about it for today.

Until next time,



PS  In looking at the position tracker you can start to see Vanuatu AND New Caledonia on the same page !  Just a few more sleeps and we’ll be in Port Vila

Approaching the bend … nearly time for “Land Ho!”

Friday 2 June 2017
200 miles SW of New Caledonia (Isle of Pines_)
Lat -24 56.786  Lon 165 24.830

Hi all 

We are now 200NM from our turning point south east of New Caledonia.

Life continues pretty much as it did yesterday. Bruce made some bread, washing was done, Perkins is resting, Rob AKA “Captain Happy Days” keeps laughing, and Chimere makes steady progress.

We are rolling along with full mainsail and the jib poled out doing an easy 6-7 knots. The wind is directly on our stern as is a  2 metre short period swell which is not the most comfortable. However things could be much much worse so no complaining. Predict Wind says we will get much the same weather tomorrow but lighter wind. However Predict Wind said that about today’s weather and were wrong. Bouyweather which Rob Latimer sends by text got it spot on.

No sightings to report today except for a few flying fish. We all wish we could see more of them, They are absolutely amazing to watch as they burst out of a wave a glide 100 metres away with great gracefulness. Another of God’s amazing creations!

At our current pace we could be in Port Vila by Monday night. We wont be holding our breath but the thought does spur us on! With only 520NM to go, Port Vila suddenly seems close. To put that distance into context it is much the same as Melbourne to Sydney which took us 4 days with light headwinds all the way.

We got the State of Origin score today so Bruce and Cam had to have to remind our Blues crew members the history of Maroon glory!

Until next tim.