Like ships that pass in the night

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Port Vila Waterfront

Meetings, planning, paperwork, access to Internet, refining itineraries, calculating costs, fund raising… at the end of the day, after attending to an array of back-office tasks I’m left wondering…”what did I actually do today?”

At least Chimere seems to be ticking over nicely… no pumps to replace, electrical faults to solve, no toilet to unblock, no furler to recondition… amazing… one of those brief moments in time when everything seems to be traveling in harmony.

If you are anything like my darling wife Linda at this point you’re saying to yourself… “what are you thinking, don’t say this .. you are bound to put the mozz on things?!”

But I’m not the superstitious type. Not really. Sure, as a sailor I won’t go to sea on a Friday, but that’s different. As for having umbrellas on board? Well that was a new one to me but our earlier Norwegian sailing friend from 3 weeks ago, the one who agreed to deliver the large brass bell and potting clay to South West Bay, said to me … “when you parked next to me I see you have two umbrellas hanging on the rigging ladder there … we’ll I might be an atheist but I will not have an umbrella on my boat… it’s bad luck”

I replied … “and what about setting sail on a Friday?”

“Well no, I don’t do that either…”

Funny bunch these sailor folk!! The other ones I mean … not me of course!

Speaking of sailors, we have the first sailor of the next mission due in by plane tonight at 11:30pm, although if it’s anything like my flight it’ll be closer to 1 o’clock tomorrow morning. Mark Stephenson is his name and I’m nicking out to pick him up at the start of what will be a two month tour of duty

This will be closely followed by Peter Wright’s departure on the 7 AM flight back to Australia. (The same plane after it’s had a few hours rest)

Given that Peter will be picked up at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning the two of them will only be sharing about four hours on board together… not really enough time to build any form of rapport or relationship. But I’m sure Peter and Mark would’ve got on well

The rest of the new crew will come in over the next few days but as for me I’m gonna catch an hour’s sleep now before heading out to the airport around 11 o’clock

Smooth seas fair breeze and like ships that pass in the night

Rob Latimer

Chimere Crew View – Peter Wright

Monday 10 July 2017

Introduction by Rob Latimer… It’s now down to Peter and I living aboard as preparations continue for the start of the next mission in a couple of weeks. Being Monday I attended the morning devotions up at the Presbyterian Church (PCV) at 7:30am and the Clerk Pastor Allan Nafuki led proceedings after explaining that Pastor Obed Moses was rostered on this morning but owing to him being elected to the position of President of the Republic of Vanuatu we wasn’t available … to the amusement of all.

MSM crew member Peter Wright provides us with a new perspective about life at sea aboard Chimere on Mission 1 …

Two days after our return to Port Vila, Chimere rests quietly at Yachting World Waterfront. All but two of the sailing team for Medical Mission One have left the boat for Australia, or for work, or for rest and recreation on Efate. What has been the life of a sailor on this good ship during the preceding three weeks? It started first with maintenance, specifically painting the deck in white and grey and oiling the toe rail.

There were also some electrical problems with the water-maker and generator to be fixed in the first days. Maintenance during the trip involved some more oiling, polishing out scuffs on the topsides, and scrubbing the waterline. A few below-deck items also needed attention e.g. removing escaped salsa and beetroot juice from the refrigerator and general cleaning of the saloon being used by 14 people. All non-organic rubbish was retained and returned to Port Vila in bags.

The hardest physical work was raising and lowering Bulka bags (volume approximately one cubic metre) containing all equipment for the shore-based clinics. Three, sometimes four were hoisted up using a masthead halyard and handy billy over the lifelines and into the inflatable dinghy (and back). There were five anchorages and this happened each time often in the dark. The dinghy also had to be winched back and forth.

Other non-sailing duties included some cooking on the boat and onshore roles – acting as a recorder (Martin), dental assistant (Daniel and Peter), water collectors (Daniel, Gerry and Peter). The water will be analysed later for fluoride content. The most common source was hill water collected above the villages, piped down and stored in plastic tanks. Other sources were roof-top rain water, direct river water, and ground water pumped up manually as required. Collecting the samples was fun. It usually meant finding the chief and/or Presbyterian pastor and having general conversations about a variety of issues whilst touring the village. The sailing team also did many dinghy trips between the shore and Chimere.

The passages between anchorages were great for those who did not suffer seasickness – the majority. Some took medication to assist. We had overnighters Port Vila to Tanna, Aniwa to Futuna, Futuna to Erromango (Ipota), and Erromango (Williams/Dillons Bay to Port Vila. A daysail to Futuna from Tanna was changed to Aniwa on route because of head winds and lumpy seas. The most enjoyable was the daysail around the top half of Erromango. It was a sunny day, winds 15-20 knots and an interesting shore line to follow. For the majority of the trip we motor-sailed under jib and main, both reefed on some occasions. We also used the staysail on one occasion. Average speed was 5.5 to 7 knots.

Anchoring had the potential to be stressful. There were no problems with depth and bottom conditions at Port Resolution (Tanna) and Williams Bay (Erromango). However, Futuna and Aniwa required a bit of hunting for sandy spots and Ipota required manoeuvring Chimere into a tricky “hole in the wall” with limited space. For the latter, the dinghy was needed to determine a good approach strategy and handle stern lines. The other tense situation was the rescue of the sinking Dortita which will remain on our CVs, never to be forgotten for the experience, and for the successful outcome.

All in all, a great sailing experience.

Peter Wright

The Last Night

Friday 7 July 2017

At sea between Erromango Island & Port Vila, Efate

The end of Mission 1 for 2017 is at hand.  We are currently doing the 80 mile hop between Williams Bay (Erromango) and Port Vila.  It’s almost a full moon and everything outside is bathed in a soft light as we glide over a relatively calm sea at 6-7 knots under full “canvas”.

It would be nice not to have the engine on, but our weight and rig-size mean that the wind would need to be a bit stronger than 15 knots for us to make a respectable passage under sail alone.

After a well-attended, full day’s clinic at William’s Bay, we up-anchored around 9:00pm tonight after a final farewell dinner at the Williams Bay Yacht Club overseen by enterprising David and his family.

I say enterprising because after being the first to meet us in the bay, in his dugout canoe, and inviting us all for dinner, he then asked if we had any fish, or maybe some oil, onions, or similar, to assist with the dinner.  Gerry thought this was a novel business model, and bound to be a winner when your patrons are charged for dinner but are also asked to bring along the ingredients for which no off-setting payment is made; bingo!

When I suspected David’s conversation was heading in this direction I relayed a story to him (with much mirth) from a dinner put on by the chief at the Asanvari Yacht Club on the island of Maewo in 2010 – “for all boats in the bay”.  I explained the chief’s strategy at that time was to paddle from anchored-yacht to anchored-yacht building up a varied ingredient-list sufficient to fully cater for the function for which we were each then charged.  Despite his very good command of English I’m not sure David put two-and-two together because still he asked for the ingredients with a straight face. 

“Maybe we should make it 400 Vatu a head instead of 500 Vatu”, I teased as I handed over a generous box of goodies, containing the 2kg of frozen marlin (given to us by another boat 2 weeks ago) rice, noodles, three tins of beans, some onions, an old bottle of olive oil containing around 150ml, half a bottle of sesame oil and three herb containers.

David didn’t take the bait, but the box of goodies was a different matter.  “You can have all the ingredients, David, but I need to get the bottles of herbs and oils back again”,  I was very firm about that.  And now, writing this, 30 miles north west of Williams Bay, I realise one thing I forgot to do tonight was retrieve my bottles of herbs and sesame oil from the kitchen of Commodore David … Doh!!  

Ah-well, we are just hours from being able to buy as many new bottles we like in Port Vila, but it’s the principle of the thing!

Like the Bob Newhart comedy routine from years ago about the final address from the captain of the mythical submarine USS Codfish at the completion of its two year, non stop, “endurance” voyage around the world (well worth looking up) I find myself reflecting on Chimere’s deeds and events and those of her crew and passengers – some glorious, some best forgotten, but all worthy of being recorded in the pages of history. 

Taking each vital character, in no particular order, there’s Daniel: the young, bright, questioning, enthusiastic, fit, late-entrant on the sailing list but one who has proven to be both a worthy crew member, and a key part of the medical team at times as he seeks every opportunity to broaden his community health experience with a view to eventually becoming a doctor.  It’s been great having you in the program Daniel and thank you too for your Ships Log contribution the other day.

Speaking of doctors, we’ve had two as a part of this team – Doug and David.  Normally we have just the one doctor, but when a second doctor said “can I come too?” … hey what’s a bloke to do?  Despite the obvious risk that it only takes two doctors to commit someone to an institution, I thought what could go wrong ? … and the constant reference to “which doctor” (are you referring to) might still be funny after 2 weeks?!   To the point, both doctors have done an amazing job, under sometimes rather trying conditions.  They have shown a deep desire to help everyone that fronts at a clinic and whilst referral facilities, diagnostic resources and medications are obviously limited out here, their main “prescriptions” have included universal respect, understanding and information. Tank yu tumas Doug and David !

Gerry and Annette are what I’d refer to as a “double act” … not only are they both amazing sailors – owning their own large yacht – but Annette is also a highly qualified remote-access nurse.  Both Annette and Gerry appear un-flappable … and I feel qualified to say this given I put them to the test many times, and in many ways.  Thank you for the skills, experience, passion and commitment you have brought to this mission !

Speaking of double-acts, I now turn to Tami and Antonio, both dentists and from what we could all tell both deeply in love with each other – and their profession, in that order I believe.  It’s hard to believe but it’s 2008 that I first emailed Tami – we go way back.  Nothing to do with “winks” on e-Harmony, but about the possibility of her assisting with a dental care program we were thinking of establishing in Vanuatu … the rest is history!  Antonio … what can I say?  What ever it might be it would be in an outrageous, Nino Carlotta Italian accent, with many hand gestures, and louder than usual in case you didn’t quite understand the words being used?!  In this man there are many men … or should I say “a, mare-nee, mare-nee men” (insert hand gestures here) … there is first and foremost the passionate, enthusiastic dentist – the “speed extractor”, all done with no pain.  I know this because in chatting with some of the “blokes” in the village, several said “tut-doctor, he pull-im tut … no pain!”  And there was the lady today who required 11 extractions … yes that’s right 11 … most simply roots at gum level, the remains of what were once teeth, all rotted away; try to image it, I can’t.  Oh, back to the many men of Antonio … there’s the extreme master chef, the musician/guitarist/singer, the … you must meet him for yourself, I know for me … the Tami-Antonio experience has been “Amazing” (insert hand gesture here)

Deb Allen, (whose In-the-field message is below), is truly a one-off.  A sailor who was also employed by Dental Health Service Victoria for many years, Deb is someone I stumbled across maybe 4 years ago when she was participating in a yacht race from Melbourne to Vanuatu and wanting to learn more about the place. Now Debra would be the first to admit  that life’s path  can be many and varied if we open ourselves up to change and being led.  Perhaps not always from the ’burbs of Melbourne, to living in Vanuatu, learning the language etc, but there you go.  As a one-time dental nurse and now fulltime oral health program coordinator, Deb’s approach is to empower, encourage and equip those involved with the program, particularly locals on the ground here in Vanuatu.  With a passion for the National Oral Health Survey, Deb has been the glue between the many components that have been assembled to pull it off – it’s been great to finally get you aboard Chimere Deb !  

Peter Wright is quite that … the right man, at the right time, in the right place.  A reader of the magazine Cruising Helmsman, Peter responded to an article of mine that appeared in the April edition  (just 3 months ago) and as a retired scientist-academic and life-long sailor, he is also a committed Christian from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne – what a fit ! 

Thank you Peter, and also your wife Gigi, for your assistance in getting Chimere away from Westernport on time and for your thoughtful and committed assistance throughout this mission.   Your ability to also consume so many meals from your stainless steel mug with plastic multi-tool-spoon is an inspiration

Martin, what can I say?   You’ve been there since Sydney – the voyage over – you were there for the Port Vila preparation and you were always there whenever needed over the past two weeks of the mission.  Your breadth of experience and cheerful willingness to take on any task has been a constant support to me and the program.  Thank you for writing the Chimere Crew-View (below) and thank you for committing to coming back to Vanuatu someday!

Whilst not technically volunteers, dental care workers Morinda and Bob, plus eyecare worker Dick, are part of the reason all of us volunteers are here.   And it is through you that we gain a window into your country and its people; for which we feel privileged.  We value your friendship and greatly appreciate your leadership. 

Oh my, this has been a long Ships Log entry.  And there’s much more that could be said … but I’ll let Deb and Martin close with their reports below.

It’s now 2:00am on Saturday 8 July, and we are still sailing along towards Port Vila, so it’s technically tomorrow’s blog already, but as the sun rises tomorrow we’ll be gazing on the familiar skyline of … either Port Vila or Noumea … I think …

Smooth seas, fair breeze and the last night …

Rob Latimer


7 July 2017


In-the-field-report from Deb Allen (Oral Health Coordinator)


The Quest For a National Oral Health Survey of Vanuatu

After the many months of Skype calls, meetings, project planning, development, mentoring, risk analysis, stakeholder management, itinerary development, training days, clinical validation, volunteer recruiting, process mapping, budget headaches and sleepless nights, the 1st mission (of 17 in total) of the Vanuatu National Oral Health Survey has been completed.

Thanks to the hard work of many people in Australia, New Zealand and here in Vanuatu, we managed to complete the 153 planned surveys in the remote villages on the Southern Islands of this beautiful archipelago; Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna and Eromango Islands. This was made possible on this mission, by using the sailing yacht Chimere, which in itself was a full-time project for many people who volunteered their time, skills and energy to such a worthy cause.

The surveys, which consist of a questionnaire then a clinical assessment for each participant, were conducted on random people in 5 different age groups; 6 years, 12 years, 15 years, 35 to 44 years, 65 to 74 years. This was developed based on World Health Organisation (WHO) methods to enable world comparison, base data for future surveys in Vanuatu and scientific analysis.

This 1st mission was always planned to be a trial and evaluation time and we only ended up with a few issues that we hadn’t foreseen as being a problem or risk. Our main concern was always going to be accessing a random sample of people that would pass the scrutiny of scientific research. This did indeed pose a few problems but the survey team had brainstormed alternatives which came in handy.

The survey development team had trialled both the questionnaire and clinical assessment times but in practice the clinical assessment team were able to conduct 12 assessments to one questionnaire. This posed a problem with the assessment team wasting valuable time waiting for the assessments to be completed. One of the ‘willing’ sailing crew members was recruited and trained as an assessment recorder which allowed our planned recorder to conduct the questionnaires. In the end, we had two questionnaires being conducted which were then passed onto the assessment team.  

While the main focus was always to conduct the survey, the decision was made very early on that it would be great if we could include a separate dental, eye and medical team to provide well needed treatment to these remote areas while the survey was being conducted. 

Unlike previous years where the medical team were able to spend more time in each village to provide the treatment to the many that line up each day, this year’s hard-working treatment teams were under pressure with limited time. As well as acting as survey data recorders, Chimere’s hardworking crew were commandeered to work clinically scrubbing instruments, taking water samples from each village and supporting the teams in what-ever way they could. Their support proved to be invaluable in being able to achieve what has been achieved. This was often done after the crew had done hours of sailing watches while sailing overnight, so a big Thank you is due to Chimere’s hardworking Skipper and crew.  

Personally, I feel incredibly lucky to be working in a job that combines two of my passions (sailing and oral health) and feel honoured to be part of the planning, development and implementation team on the project. I look forward to the possible outcomes the data can provide in improving the oral health of this small nation, that has stolen my heart.    


Deb Allen


7 July 2017


Chimere crew-view from Martin Burgess


49 days on Chimere.


That’s how long I have been on this boat, Chimere, and on this mission. What an experience!

I have spent time with 17 different people spanning two separate crews. I have sailed from Rushcutters Bay in Sydney to Port Vila in Vanuatu and then around the southern islands of Vanuatu.

I firstly had the pleasure to share the boat with skipper Cam and fellow crew members Rob (Lott), Bruce and Josh. A better bunch of Christian blokes I could not ask for. We sailed across the Pacific for 10 days straight. We were occasionally sick but more often having a great time above and below decks sharing food, stories and lots of laughs. The weather, winds and currents were kind to us. A following wind, plenty of sun and a smallish swell. We saw whales, flying fish an occasional vessel and lots of beautiful blue ocean. A couple of times we took the opportunity to drop our sails and swim in an ocean that was deep (4000 metres deep) and as blue as far as you could see.

After 10 days we arrived in Port Vila and were warmly greeted by Deb Allen and Nicola Young, two outstanding ladies from Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu whom we would be working with on our first mission.

We quickly settled into Vanuatu life. Fresh fruit and vegetables, an abundance of fresh seafood, smiling happy Ni-Vans (the local Vanuatu people), beautiful waters and landscapes and soooo many things to see and do. I could so get used to this lifestyle!

But we were here for a reason. Chimere and its volunteers had been engaged to help with a survey across the islands on what the oral health of the population was like and how it could be improved, so there was some work to be done.

I then had 2 weeks in Port Vila as we transitioned from the delivery crew to the Mission 1 crew. Over the space of that 2 weeks our new crew arrived, Skipper Rob (Latimer) and fellow crew members Peter, Gerry and Daniel. We spent the time, apart from swimming, playing and being tourists, tidying the boat, painting the decks and generally readying the boat for the first mission.

By now I had been on the boat for about 30 days and was having an amazing time in and equally amazing country.

The time came for mission 1. On Wednesday 21st of June our crew along with some of our medical team of Debra, Annette, Dick, Bob and Morinda left Port Vila for Tanna Island. On arrival in Port Resolution we were joined with the remainder of the medical team in David, Doug, Antonio and Tammy. 14 people on board was fun and interesting at the same time, but it worked.

Over the course of the next 2 weeks we spent time with people from 9 villages from 4 islands. We conducted over 150 oral health surveys, saw and treated hundreds of patients needing medical assistance, provided optical glasses for many  and treated again hundreds of people needing dental help. We ate in the local villages, shared stories, showed movies at night and immersed ourselves into the culture of the people of Vanuatu.

On top of all of that we had the opportunity to rescue our new German friends who ran their yacht aground at night and began sinking when entering Port Resolution. That in itself was a mission and not something you experience everyday. Credit for that rescue must go to our more experienced crew members in Rob, Gerry, Annette and Deb who were faultless in their efforts to save ship and crew.

It is now day 49 for me and time to go home. Mission 1 is over and has achieved its objectives. I personally have sailed hundreds of nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean and around the southern islands of Vanuatu. I have spent time in close quarters with 17 great people, many of whom I now call friends and I have an experience deeply embedded in my heart and mind that I will never forget.

I give my thanks to everyone involved in this experience, my skippers, my fellow crew members, the medics who bring their experience and the Ni-Van people of Vanuatu.

I can say with little doubt that one day I will return to this magical place.


Martin Burgess

From one side to the other

Thursday 6 July 2017
Williams Bay (aka Dillons Bay), Erromango Island

At 4:00am this morning it was pouring with rain, the wind was howling and Chimere was rolling more than normal, tied as she was stern to the bank and two bow anchors set mid-stream in the river.

It was still 90 minutes before the scheduled pickup of the volunteers, Bob, Morinda and Dick, on the nearby rocky shore and I was having visions of them coming aboard drenched and somewhat less than content.

I’d written a text to Bob and Morinda suggesting we defer the boarding one hour till 6:30am, but in the end something inside said “don’t send it” … which was fortunate because within an hour conditions had abated and the “miserable” situation had improved to a bearable “dreary”.

The pick-up went to plan and then it was a case of undoing the two shore lines and retrieving the anchors in a step-by-step manner in order to stay in control at all times within the confines of the narrow river entrance.

We’d heard word yesterday that a trading vessel was due into the river entrance today, and after asking the same question what seemed a dozen different ways, the consensus view seemed to be that [if it came] it would be after lunch, maybe 3pm, but maybe the next day.

“Will our boat be in the way?” I asked … “Yes” came the answer “no problem…”
“Show me where the trading ship anchors … is there enough room for him to turn around?” I persisted. “E drives against the shore, lowers a platform at the front, on the other side of you, so plenty room, e-gud”

Having seen these trading ships in action around the islands you would understand my apprehension, but this particular ship was supposed to make its first stop at nearby PotNarvin, so it seemed [almost] clear that a 6:00am diesel-fumed-song-and-dance arrival in this particular river mouth port was not happening tomorrow.

As the sun appeared over the horizon and with all lines and anchors retrieved, Gerry slowly and steadily piloted Chimere out into the open sea making sure not to sink the bow (and thereby cover the foredeck with water) into the inevitable steep and troublesome waves that linger in such places.

Once clear of the rocky headlands we bore away north with the east-south-east wind on the starboard stern quarter moving us along at 6.5 knots under jib alone with the engine just ticking away in the background at low revs
As a designated “travel day”, today was always going to be about comfort and relaxation … despite the early start. There was a plan to make it the 40 odd miles around to the other side of the island in time to run a half-day clinic, but at the very least we should set up the clinic ready for a full day tomorrow.

The lush, rugged and mountainous terrain on our port side was bathed in morning light, made even more idyllic owing to the steady breeze and (largely) calm seas.

Antonio … our multi-talented dentist of Italian origins revealed more of his super-powers by remaining in the galley for what seemed like hours today; much to the amazement of all, given he was “affected” to some degree by the ship’s movement a week ago while sitting in the breezy cockpit. But there he was, cutting and creating his way through an ample supply of local produce – taro and manioc I was told. Plus there were kidney beans, herbs, spices, an assortment of green-stuffs, plus amazingly … delicately cut and prepared croutons, (made from the bread we baked last night) prepared in a traditional Italian manner … just like Nona used to make … I think.

Admittedly, sea conditions favoured time in the galley – today of all days – and it must be said the results were impressive, quite apart from being extremely tasty, satisfying everyone’s need for lunch around 11:00am. Talk about “Iron Chef” mixed with “Survivor” mixed with “Big Brother” … Antonio’s performance today has gone straight to Chimere’s equivalent of the “pool room”; the makings of a whole new TV reality show genre !

The Erromango coast line truly is impressive and with breaching whales once more drawing our eyes to the distant blue we wished we had more time to stop and explore.

Internet access came and went, with a communications tower being seen on the top of the tallest inland mountain, which still is amazing given just how remote this place really is.

Williams Bay (aka Dillons Bay) was reached around 1:00pm and after anchoring on sand in around 7m of water – just north of the river entrance, we were met by David in his dugout canoe, owner, founder, manager and no doubt Commodore of the Williams Bay Yacht Club.

After his official welcome and invitation to come to dinner tomorrow night David joined us aboard for a cup of tea … and vegemite on fresh bread. I also pulled out the laptop again and showed David pictures of when we last met during our last visit here.

Next it was a trip ashore to allow Bob, Morinda and Dick to organise the accommodation for the medical and dental volunteers, while the large bulka bags of equipment were not far behind. A large group of volunteers seemed to appear from nowhere and very soon all the gear was inside the nearby hall being set up for action.

With everyone ashore, some walked up the river exploring, others checked out their bungalow accommodation, others swam – including Antonio who quickly befriended a local fisherman with an enormous spear gun that looked like it could bring down an elephant, and was last seen swimming out to sea with him and another man escorting them in his canoe. The weather was glorious and so just sat around chatting to the locals, with the lush river banks and sweeping pebble-beach of the bay giving this a Garden of Eden look about it.

There was also a chance for us to gently motor the dinghy up the river as far as the rapids and what I recalled from last time to be the village “laundromat” … and sure enough once again there were the ladies and children pounding their washing on the rocks, while clothes lay around on grass, branches and rocks drying in the sun. This is the point at which freshwater from the interior tumbles over several acres of rocks and pebbles to meet the tidal flow from the sea. It’s also the place where many come to collect their household water; mostly with the aid of 20 litre drums aboard dugout canoes as we observed.
It was good to renew acquaintances from my earlier visits and to also discuss the latest news about the appointment of (Presbyterian) Pastor Obed Moses as the new President of Vanuatu, following the sudden and unexpected death of the previous much-loved President, Father Baldwin just a few weeks ago. In talking with many of the men, as we sat on the grass overlooking the bay, I mentioned that I’d been in Port Vila for the very solemn funeral procession of the President through the main street of Port Vila and was able to pull out my trusty iPhone in order to share the footage.
This led to me suggesting we hold a movie night – tonight – so we could show everyone the footage of the Presidents funeral, plus of course a major feature … Finding Nemo.

This idea was well received, and was also well attended, although at 7:00pm, with just a few hardy souls in the room I ventured to ask … “yu think many come tonight” … “yes” came the reply, the ringing of a loud bell not appearing to achieve the desired results. “Once people hear the generator they will come” … the logic being that no one would dare waste fuel and so once the generator starts, proceedings are bound to commence soon after. And sure enough, after a couple of short warm-up videos I looked behind me while inserting the Nemo DVD and the place appeared packed. My biggest challenge was to then remain awake, or at least fall asleep discreetly without falling off my seat

There is one other yacht anchored in the bay – way down the other end – and it was pleasing to learn from the local men that a damaged yacht with two Germans aboard had also anchored in the harbour yesterday and departed for Port Vila this morning; accompanied by another yacht.

We were informed that the German yacht had a make-shift rudder mechanism on the stern and there’s no doubt the locals were impressed to hear the story of the rudder’s making, the patching of the leak in the hull and our rescue of the yacht 10 days ago in Port Resolution; read earlier Ships Log entries for detail!

Tomorrow is the last clinical day of this first Medical Mission for 2017 and is shaping up to be well attended ! I also look forward to chatting with the men some more about low smoke stoves; something I did in 2010 but maybe this time there’ll be more action arising !

Smooth seas, fair breeze and from one side to another

Rob Latimer

Pictures Galore!!!

Thursday 6 July

Rob has sent plenty of Happy Snaps. A selection appear here but see them all on the Mission 1 Gallery page.

Also, for those with curiosity and a strong stomach, Dr Barry Stewart has a whole series of posts on his Facebook page describing how the Dental Survey is progressing in Port Vila.


For those with Facebook logins click this link to go straight to his wall

For those sensible people who have avoided the temptation thus far, you can see each of the individual posts here




Liz Mallen


Big day’s clinic at Ipota

Wednesday 5 July 2017
Ipota Village, Erromango Island

The eye, dental and medical clinic had steady business all day with the Oral Health Survey meeting its target of 10 participants (two from each age group) by 11:00am; they are getting good!

With an island population of around 2,500 the survey requires a sample of 25 (on this island) – all selected at random of course. Nearby Tanna island has a slightly smaller land size, but has a population of more than 30,000, so requires 300 survey participants … you’ve probably figured out the 1% sample-size methodology by now …

Back on Chimere, there was a steady stream of locals invited out for a tour, of all ages, which would invariably involve a feed of rice crackers, bread and vegemite, beetroot, Logan Bread, cold water from the fridge, jelly (both lemon and raspberry – a very bit hit it must be said!) plus Doritos and baked beans (as a substitute for the salsa sauce which we couldn’t find) – and in one case a little bit of each.

Who would have thought that inviting that first group of kids aboard yesterday would lead to a steady stream today…?! But as they say in Alaska, “pat one husky, pat them all” So as groups gathered and demonstrated their persistence by sitting on the rocks, we’d eventually relent and nick across with the dinghy and pick them up – so much for that afternoon nap!

With one group I pulled out the laptop and started showing photos I’d taken back in 2009 when we visited the (relatively) nearby village of PotNarvan (north along the coast from here) In conjunction with the head teacher at the school I’d offered at the time to take, and then print and laminate, class photos. So when I showed the photos today, 8 years later, they excitedly pointed to face after face that they recognised, giggling and laughing at each one. This went on so much that in the end I pulled out the ship’s printer and laminator and did them a copy to put on the school noticeboard for everyone in the village to see.

As we returned each group to the shore we’d sometimes drop a hint that “maybe you find us some banana, or fruit?” … and one group returned late today with a bag full of goodies. Just great kids !

A local boat-man, George, came alongside with his red topped “banana” boat and asked if we had any fishing lures he could buy. He came aboard and there were several old ones I gave him as I apologised for being such a bad fisherman. “you from Ipota? … I asked

“No, me from PotNarvan, one hour and a half up the coast” he said.
To engage him some more in conversation I said, “We’ve been to PotNarvan two times before, in 2009 and 2010 we met a man with a boat there … in fact we fixed the roof of his boat”

“yes, it was the yellow boat, I remember now … maybe you come to PotNarvan and fix the roof of my boat ?” he said with a cheeky grin. “How much vatu for these?” he asked, holding up the handful of old lures, trace and hooks. “E-free, to you, no charge” … which made him happy. And as a bonus I gave him one of our cheap, basic, but near-new life jackets, plus a coil of rope … two things in very short supply out here!!

The general consensus amongst those we met was that this was the first yacht they had ever seen anchored in the river – not quite sure how to take this – but when you look at the lack of detail on the chart plotter I can see why. Whereas the inaccuracies at other anchorages (such as Aniwa island) showed our position on the chartplotter as in the middle of the island 500 metres away, here at Ipota it shows us out to sea, off the coast! Almost as disconcerting.

All the children who came aboard were so respectful and polite. It just seemed a universal expectation that you sit quietly and observe, rather than make lots of noise. Questions centred around … “where are you from?” “Who are your family, pikinini blong yu? Wife?” and “where have you been?”

Cyclone Pam hit this island, along with nearby Tanna, particularly bad two years ago, and whilst leaves and branches have mostly grown back on the trees, the buildings and infrastructure are a different story. One young girl explained that they sheltered in the school and clinic from the worst of the storm, and summed it up in terms of … “things go on, but there is sadness still. We lived in an Australian AID tent”

We asked the kids why they weren’t at school … “no school today?” we ventured …

“Yes” came the answer, (as is the answer to most questions when asked) … “No school because of the clinic”
“So there’s no school so everyone can go to the clinic?” I inquired deeper … “Yes” came the reply again.
Funny thing, later in the day we had one of the local primary school teachers out on the boat, a great bloke called Sanuel (with an “n”) and in making conversation I put it out there … “I hear school was cancelled today so children could go to the clinic?”

“No” (uncharacteristic answer) “No, only for those children who need to go, they were given time out of class”
“ohhh, I understand” I said with a smile, “maybe the kids misunderstood?!” to which Sanuel smiled heartily

Towards the end of the day, with bread out of the oven cooling on the side and plans for dinner well advanced, the VHF radio crackled into life … “Ello Chimere dis is Bob, do you copy, OVER?” … so began the process of de-camping the clinic, carrying everything back to the dinghy, (thanks to a large collection of local volunteers and conscripts too no doubt) stowing it into the white bulka bags (making sure the heavy items like the gas bottle were at the bottom) and then lifting them onto Chimere’s deck, to be lashed down and covered with a tarp.

The medical team members ashore, Tami, Antonio, Doug and David, plus Bob, Morinda and Dick will be returning to Chimere at 5:30am tomorrow – along with their bags – to begin the relatively short 5-6 hour sail around to the other side of the island at Williams Bay.

But more of that tomorrow.

In closing I should say that Ipota has left a very positive impression on all of us and Chimere will be taking a little bit of her away with us – mostly paw paw, passionfruit and a small quantity of bananas.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and big day’s clinic at Ipota

Rob Latimer


Onboard “Cub Reporter Daniel” submits his first post-from-the-field…

Ipota, Erromango Island
Wednesday 5 July 2017


Dearest Readers of the MSM blogs,

My name is Daniel and at 23 years old I am the youngest crew member aboard Chimere. I dare not hazard a guess by what factor I am the youngest, however I am sure that no one would take objection to me suggesting I am the youngest by at least a decade (or two…or three…or…).

First let me introduce myself. I am currently studying a Master of International Public Health and am also a keen sailor. Long story short, I came across MSM last year in a search to satisfy my desire for adventure whilst broadening my understanding of health care delivery in under-resourced settings (and it is safe to say it has delivered on both fronts!!!).

With the other organizations that I have been involved, I have taken considerable time to evaluate whether their mission, objects, and delivery of their service coincide with my own values. This process was a short one with MSM. With the stars aligning this year, I finished my last exam and was on my way to join the crew in Port Vila the following morning.

Before arriving I certainly had my anxieties. Although I had been to Vanuatu on two prior occasions and felt relatively comfortable with village life and the country on the whole, the realities of a mission such as this have considerable unknowns.
One of these unknowns being who I would be spending the next 4 weeks with, in quite intimate proximity and in quite testing scenarios (which I am sure has been made clear from Rob’s previous blogs!). After a welcoming cup of tea and a biscuit or two, I was made to feel immensely comfortable. It was immediately clear that the crew had huge diversity of experience that I knew I would be able to learn a lot from.

Broadly speaking, there have been no shortage of ‘character building’ moments. In these environments you are exposed to settings and situations that often require you to pinch yourself. From observing tooth extractions as pigs and dogs walk within inches of the threshold of the surgery, to seeing children who will not receive simple treatment to prevent life-long damage (see Annette’s post), to rescuing a shipwreck, to living in a close proximity with people you don’t know, to standing in some of the world’s most isolated regions, to engaging with completely foreign cultures, to communicating post operative instructions when neither of you speaks the others language, to eating local cuisine…the list goes on.

It has been one thing after the other. It has been exhausting but immensely rewarding. From my perspective I have gained considerable insight into the functioning of a health care NGO, in the areas that work well, the areas that can be improved upon, and the areas that will be a challenge to overcome, no matter what, I might just add that the shipwreck fiasco might be quite a novel scenario for a health care NGO.

It is easy for a group such as this to come in and deliver short-term primary care for the day that we are in the village.

Where I have taken great joy in this context has been through the bottom-up approach of the mission. Although providing primary care has been an important part, empowering our Ni-Vanuatu team leaders to make the changes in health care that they want to see in their communities is of the greatest value. Cultural attitudes towards healthcare must come from within. This is a long term process and it has been an absolute pleasure to say that I have been a part of it in its infancy.

I will say that if you are considering jumping on board and being involved in an organization like this, you have to be mentally prepared. These settings take their toll emotionally and can drain your energy quickly. However, if/when you get the chance to reflect on it, as I currently am writing this, you won’t regret your decision to take the journey.

Don’t worry about any differences in age or culture, just be receptive to learning from those around you, and the trip will be worth it. Challenging, but worth it.

This certainly isn’t a contiki tour around Europe, but an education on steroids. I have found I have learnt so much about myself, about other individuals and about another culture in such a small space of time that it has been at times challenging for my brain to compute. What I have been able to process however, I can say with absolute confidence, enriched my still elementary understanding of the world.

Wishing you all the best on your future travels,


Up the river at Ipota

Tuesday 4 July 2017
Ipota Village, Erromango Island

In a first for Chimere, we are now anchored a short distance up a river at the village of Ipota on the east coast of the sparsely populated island of Erromango; “land of the mango”
Our stern is facing the shore, with a couple of lines holding us in position, along with the anchor from the bow of course (plus an extra smaller anchor on the port side just to be sure!)

On the way south to Tanna 10 days ago we dropped by to check out this anchorage, because the thought of entering a narrow river, where the depth is unknown and turning room is limited didn’t really appeal; at least not without some additional firsthand knowledge.
On arrival around 10:00am, after our 12 hour overnight sail from Futuna – and, yes we did indeed sail most of the way without the motor running – we lowered the large dinghy and Gerry and I did a quick reconnoiter up the river and soon devised our plan, which very much went … to plan.
The quote for the day however, must surely go to Gerry, who, after everything was tied down and we were ready for a cup of tea said … “this is great, I get to do drive someone else’s boat in places I’d never take my own boat…” In retrospect that probably sounds a bit worse now than it did at the time, but we really do have a great depth of experience and ability aboard that has allowed us to do things others would be reluctant to try; but certainly not in a reckless manner
The village was expecting us and pretty soon there was a fair crowd on the rocks a short distance off the stern, and Bob, Dick and Morinda headed off up to the local clinic in order to liaise with the local healthcare worker, elders and church leaders.
After lunch the medical team, along with their gear, moved onshore and after a considerable amount of local muscle-assistance (in moving each box, chair and table) around 2 hours of health and survey work was completed, as a prelude to a full day tomorrow.
Doug, David, Antonio, Tami, Dick, Morinda and Bob are all staying ashore tonight, with me, Martin, Gerry, Annette, Peter, Daniel and Debra staying aboard as usual.
With the medical folk off the boat it gave us a chance to run the generator this afternoon, filling the tanks with freshwater from our on-board desal plant (at a rate of 3 litres per minute) baking more bread and generally tidying the place up.
We invited a local canoe-man, Charlie aboard for a chat and a bite to eat and were amused at the steady group of local kids who sat onshore near where our lines were tied, either enjoying the sight and novelty of us gently bobbing up and down, or just waiting to see us meet with some undefined misfortune.
Regular communications via the VHF radio kept us informed of clinic developments and at one point I wildly suggested to Martin – who was helping out in the clinic – that maybe we could run a movie night. This was initially rejected on the grounds that there was nowhere to show it, but later it was proposed that the temporary Presbyterian Church building could be used.

So it was that Daniel and I carried the generator, cable, computer and projector (actually young Daniel carried the generator) the 10 minutes up to the village where the Lion King was shown to an appreciative gathering of mostly young people. Special mention here should be made of Daniel’s IT trouble shooting skills in coming through with the actual screening. We had the gear, we had the venue, we had the audience, but do you think the DVD would automatically load. Oh no!!?? Apparently my computer is Region 4, whereas it needs to be Region 1 to play… Agrrhhh. Anyway Daniel did his thing while about 30 kids sat in almost total silence for upwards of 10 minutes as this or that option was tried.
Back on board and still sleep-deprived from the overnight sail last night I know where I’ll be in about 4 minutes – asleep in my bunk.
One amazing thing is that here in the back of beyond I have the inter-web. It’s not consistently reliable, but I’ve been able to send some photos and hope to send this Ships Log too without having to resort to the arduous Sat Com lottery.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and up the river at Ipota
Rob Latimer

Big day in Ipota in pictures

Tuesday 4 July

Ipota, Erromango

Smooth overnight run north from Futuna to Erromango and passing morning showers deliver surprise delights. The most vivid of rainbows such that I need a wider lens.

Anchoring in a river… now that’s a first for Chimere!!

And who else should be here at the same time but the Polynesian catamaran Oceanos on a regional promotion of the up-coming Pacific Games

Dental care worker Bob wakes with a smile. He sleeps so well we’ve suggested he count his dreadlocks each morning because it would be easy to cut one off while he sleeps as a souvenir to take back to Australia.

We have offered to run a movie in the village tonight and this gaggle of kids on the shore nearby took a shine to Daniel, the Pied piper of Chimere.

Pretty soon they were all aboard learning about the democratic process… put your hand up if you want Lion King, now put your hand up if you want Nemo … Ice Age … now only one vote, one pikinini
… after some of the kids joined me in singing Hakuna Matata I think the Lion King it is !!

Check out all the new photos in the Mission 1 Gallery and scroll down this page and zoom in to see where Chimere is now (and has been) on the Predict Wind map.

Liz Mallen (using images and text from Rob Latimer)

Changing plans at Futuna … again

Monday 3 July 2017
Futuna Island

After a relatively peaceful night, with only the occasional chain-on-coral sound from the anchor deep below to focus the mind, it was another early start. Particularly for the sailors who readied the boat from 5:30am to be around the other side of the island at Herald Bay for the unloading of the clinic and survey gear, along with the team, for 7:00am. Breakfast was enjoyed on route

All went to plan, but as predicted we were greeted in Herald Bay by big rolly seas, little shelter, and no obvious landing spot.
“Ello Rob, ello Rob dis is Bob, OVER” … the VHF radio crackled to life as we rounded the point into rising seas
“Hello Bob, where is the village … and the landing spot, OVER??”, I replied
“Can you see me?, OVER”
Between passing rain squalls, all we could see onshore, apart from a towering mountain disappearing into the clouds above, was forest, rocks and surf … sadly no Bob. As for the village, there was no sign of it.
“We can’t see you Bob, where’s the village?, OVER?”, I called.
“Village is up da mountain, on the hill, can you see me?, OVER”

This exchange went on for some time until we had fully entered the bay and more detail could be made out onshore. It was then a case of Gerry keeping Chimere in a holding pattern in the bay against the wind and sea while Daniel and I wizzed Tami, Antonio, Deb and Martin ashore in the dinghy through a very narrow gap in the coral and onto a small sandy beach – where Bob was standing under a tree out of the rain.

As for the many fit young local lads who were supposed to be helping to carry the gear up from the beach, well they were possibly and very sensibly, still in their beds.

So it was decided … the oral health survey team would start their work up in the village, and if anyone required medical, optical or dental care, then they could venture around to the better anchorage at Mission Bay – two hours by slippery walking track.

Phone communications the way they are, the next hour saw a range of plans made and then re-made until finally it was agreed that the local aluminium boat (with a covered half-cab) could be sent around to bring the gear and remaining team members back to Herald Bay to run a clinic alongside the survey; as planned.

Three quarters of an hour later and still no boat, we decided to transport the medical team plus minimal gear the 2 miles back to Herald Bay in our own dinghy. A rather wet experience due to the continuing rain and breaking seas over the bow … and occasionally each side too it must be said.

On arrival at Herald Bay we met the aluminium boat on its way to Chimere, which it did, returning with the two bulka bags full of dental gear.

After the epic climb up to the village, which included at one point a tall ladder up a cliff face, things progressed well in the clinic, however, whilst there were lots of kids, as it turned out there were very few adults, owing to the fact that most had walked to Mission Bay (yes, the exact spot where Chimere was anchored) to assist with tidying up on the small airstrip.

So it was that with no dental patients the dental gear remained in the aluminium boat at the bottom of the hill. If only we’d known about everyone being at Mission Bay for the day we might have saved ourselves a lot of trouble and expense in hiring the local boat.

With everyone back on board by 5:00pm it was a time of relaxation and downloading about the day’s events and it was agreed that even though the clinic didn’t exactly run to plan, the Oral Health Survey achieved its objective of surveying 15 random people, or is that 15 people at random, three from each of the five age groups, approx., 5, 12,15,35 and 65.

Hot showers were all the rage back on board, thanks to our ability to once again make water (after Gerry fixed the generator) along with putting on dry clothes.

Our time here at Futuna is now at an end, and after Peter and Doug’s amazing dinner of chicken, tuna (from a can it must be said) beans, corn, rice and grated carrot was consumed to great acclaim, we are once again preparing for an overnight sail with 14 aboard. THIS TIME, however, it’s in a north westerly direction and with wind from the south east, (as it so often is) we are expecting what we sailors refer to as a “dream run”.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and more changed plans at Futuna

Rob Latimer