Rest day at Futuna

Rest day at Futuna

Sunday 2 July 2017
Futuna Island

The Admiralty Pilot (book) to the Pacific Islands Volume II refers to the anchorage at Futuna as: “…W coast of NE point, steep-to except for foul ground, indifferent anchorage at a depth of 44m … landing on sandy beach in small cove. ” And at the main village in Herald Bay …  “no anchorage on account of the great depths, landing is reported to be precarious”

So here we are anchored in Mission Bay, Futuna Island, in 20m of water with the anchor and chain resting below us on coral and rock, more like a mooring, than a real anchor, with the 630 metre high island rising dramatically from the water just 500m off our starboard bow.

It’s a stunning sight and ample reward for the night sail from Aniwa; a time of (mostly) sleep on the part of the medical volunteers and attentive shift-work, and sporadic rests for the sailors. Whilst the wind was largely on the nose for the whole of the 40 miles, the seas were mercifully low and so we could motor sail at an average of about 4-5 knots, arriving around 9:00am this morning.

On arrival and after Daniel had done a brief snorkel over the side to confirm the best spot (out of a generally bad area) many went for a swim and generally mucked about – it was Sunday after all.

I ran Bob, Morinda and Dick ashore in the dinghy to discuss the next day’s clinic and survey, only to find that the nurse and pastor/elder were at the other end of the island at Herald Bay.

Some of the sailors grabbed an opportunity to catch up on some sleep, while most went ashore in the afternoon to wander around and explore
On arrival we were met on the beach by a young 12 year old lad, Lenson, who later swam out to the boat. I saw him sitting with a towel over his shoulders in the cockpit drinking a hot chocolate and felt compelled to inquire whether he was a stow-away, or he’d been kidnapped. The answer was a bit unclear, but I got the computer out and showed him some video and photos of our previous visit here in 2010. Pretty soon he could identify his 5 year old self in the old photos and pointed out … “that’s my mother” … “that’s my sister … my brother” etc

He was a very pleasant young man and was finally dropped back to the shore by Daniel, complete with backpack, shirt and cap.

With no clinic today it really was a chance to relax and catch up on things. In my case, and out of necessity, I did some clothes washing and even had a shave. Others read, slept or explored ashore.

After much radio communication back and forth between Bob and myself, it was confirmed that the clinic and survey will be at Herald Bay on the other side of the island, despite the poor anchorage reports. If needs be we will drop everyone off around 7:00am tomorrow and return to this anchorage to wait the day out. But contrary to what I’ve read, the locals say it has an OK landing and anchorage, so I’m keen to discover more.

Morinda, Bob and Dick are staying ashore, leaving 11 of us aboard for the night. Today’s two loaves of freshly baked bread and herb rolls came out perfectly once more, with Antonio taking charge of the galley tonight in pursuit of the most perfect Italian Pasta Creation, after which he performed wonderfully on the guitar to everyone’s enjoyment.

The sea can be heard crashing on the nearby rocks and beach and there’s a gentle roll to Chimere’s motion.
Being such a different island to Aniwa it will be interesting to hear from the medical team at the end of tomorrow whether any real difference can be observed in the general health of each island.

With so much having been packed into this last week it’s hard to believe that it’s only a week since the high-drama rescue of the two Germans and their yacht at the entrance to Port Resolution, Tanna.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and rest day at Futuna

Rob Latimer


Monday 9am

Herald Bay, Futuna

PS Sorry about the lack of photos and replies to email etc – communications  is poor at Mission Bay but much better from Herald Bay

Dropped Oral Health Survey team off onto small beach at Herald Bay then retreated back to relative calm of Mission Bay where we will run clinic for those in need

Gerry does a great job hovering in the rolly Herald Bay while we run the Survey team ashore

Night sail to Futuna

Saturday 1 July 2017
Aniwa Island

It’s now very quiet here at anchor on the west coast of Aniwa. It’s around 8:30pm and the string band music is playing on the CD.

All the clinic and survey equipment has been loaded and lashed to the fore-deck and all the sailing and medical folk are aboard – dentists Antonio and Tami, doctors Doug and David, nurses Annette and Deb, local health care workers Morinda, Bob and Dick, plus sailors Gerry, Martin, Peter, Daniel and myself – 14 in all.

The fresh bread is out of the oven and everyone is settling down for a good night’s sail to Futuna. Some of the medicos are already testing out their allocated bunk and Martin has finished putting waypoints into the chartplotter.

Communications are still poor – read, non existent – and so sending emails and photos are out, but the Iridium satellite is getting a word out; although those satellites don’t always line up the way you’d like, making for frustrating delays and temperamental transmissions

The full day clinic on shore was indeed a “full day” with the two doctors and nurse (Annette) seeing 79 patients including around 30 kids with conditions as diverse as epilepsy, malnutrition and what the doctors describe as “grotty ears”. There were a lot of “giggling girls” who arrived in groups.

A rewarding aspect was working with the local island nurse, Anne Marie, who helped greatly in explaining each person’s condition and made assurances about future ongoing care and follow-up where necessary. There were also the usual back and chest pains from hard work in the gardens and life generally, plus high blood pressure likely caused from cooking with salt water.

Another occupation condition amongst a select group of men and boys was ear problems caused from deep diving.
We were shown great hospitality, despite our unexpected, impromptu arrival, 2 days early.

Anyway, it’s now getting close to 10:00pm and the sailors are doing what they must to prepare Chimere for sea … closing hatches, stowing things low, starting the motor etc, and directing the medicos to their bunks for some much needed sleep.

I’d better sign off now, and pick things up later

Smooth seas, fair breeze and night sail to Futuna

Rob Latimer


Just arrived Futuna

And they have Internet!!!!

Dentist Tami and Antonio work the lens!!!

We gave it a good go

Friday 30 June 2017

Aniwa Island

Our 40 mile journey from Port Resolution Bay to Futuna Island started well.

All were aboard in the morning darkness, but I’m sure new coral heads had grown overnight because the dinghy seemed to find itself in a minefield of them, all new and totally unfamiliar and nothing to do with the operator of course.

After lifting the medical team’s personal gear aboard (the clinic gear was lifted aboard late yesterday) along with the dinghy, we hoisted a reefed main and about 50% of the jib then made a cautious exit of the bay around 7:00am, taking special note of the rocks nearby on which the Germans had most likely had their “encounter” just 5 nights earlier.

Wind was from the East South East (ESE) at around 20-30 knots, with our destination- Futuna Island, pretty in the same direction. None of this would generally be a problem except the seas had built to around 2-4 metres and so within a short period of time it was clear this was not going to be a fun day out on the water.

At one point the sun came out to bath the growing wetness (and cold it must be said) in a warm, soft light and there was even a whale breaching some distance astern quite obviously enjoying the conditions more than us. It was around this time that a series of questions were considered in my mind … do we really have to go to Futuna Island today, couldn’t we perhaps swap with nearby (downwind) Aniwa Island where we plan to be on Sunday? Will the medical volunteers and others aboard still love me at the end of the day if we keep this bashing to windward up for the next 8 hours? Ignoring the passengers and crew for a minute, isn’t this putting extra unnecessary strain on the gear and rig?

So it was that after consulting with Ni-Van health workers Bob and Morinda it was decided to change plans and go first to Aniwa (less than 10 miles away) and if the weather improves still sail down to Futuna on Sunday. We were outside phone range, but it was agreed that they would all understand and that plans could be rearranged in this way.

It’s amazing the difference a 160 degree turn to port can make to the motion of a yacht … and it must be said the mood onboard – talk about instant-calmer … and the other sort too possibly. Within 90 minutes we were in the lee of the island, anchor down, beginning to lay out lunch with Bob phoning the island elders, church leaders and health worker to organise a vehicle to cart our substantial pile of medical, dental and optical gear from the dinghy up to the island clinic.

Aniwa is a small island with a population estimated at around 300 a short distance off the NE coats of Tanna. Futuna is a bit further away with a population of 600 and while Aniwa is flat and long, like an aircraft carrier, Futuna is roundish and high – rising to a central plateau of around 650 metres (and covered in jungle) – as close to Jurassic Park as you are likely to find.

After a few dinghy rides delivering gear and people to a small concrete landing on shore, through a gap in the coral and behind a reasonable surf break when the tide was in, we had completed Step 1 in preparing for the next day’s mission. Word will pass quickly around and so we should expect a big turnout tomorrow.

Back on board Chimere … the generator parts arrived from Port Vila yesterday and mid afternoon today Gerry fitted them and wacko !… we were back in business producing 240 volts along with freshwater from the indigo coloured sea around us.

Dinner tonight was mostly a spag bol creation from Daniel and it should be mentioned that both Peter and Daniel have just returned from a couple of hours in the darkness watching a Jon Frum cult singing and dancing “performance”. (Maybe do a websearch of Jon Frum)

Our communications are limited to the satellite email, so unfortunately there are no new photos

We are fortunate in having a written contribution from nurse Annette, which you can read below.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and we gave it a good go…

Rob Latimer


Report from the field

There is a particularly persistent skipper sitting beside me, ‘encouraging’ me to write about the health services provided thus far! To be fair, I have been procrastinating for a few days and I did volunteer to do this given that I am the nurse and I have been working alongside Dr David and Dr Doug. So, now while we sit at a beautiful anchorage at Aniwa Island, I shall put pen to paper.

You may ask why we are anchored at Aniwa Island and not Futuna Island this evening (just in case you are closely following the itinerary). Unfortunately, the weather was not too kind today with a strong easterly wind and squalls which made for some uncomfortable sailing and a few ‘green’ passengers/crew. Rob made the wise decision to alter course for Aniwa Island with the hope that when the wind settles we will be able to sail back to Futuna. We will keep our fingers crossed. Despite the wild weather, we still had a beautiful sail with the sighting of a breaching Humpback whale, flying fish and the stunning indigo coloured sea set against a backdrop of the mountainous, volcanic Tanna Island. There certainly are a few perks to nursing amongst the Pacific Islands.

When I reflect upon the past week I feel so privileged to be a member of the MSM team and to have supported the outreach health clinics in the villages of Port Resolution, Sulphur Bay and Ierke. I feel so privileged to have been welcomed by each community; each members generosity of spirit, inclusiveness and warmth. We have all been embraced with unconditional regard and given so much from those with so little. If only, the villages knew how much we take away from our experiences. We have been provided with beautifully prepared breakfasts, lunches and dinners, decorated with flowers, tablecloths and sounds of village life surrounding us: children laughing, playing and crying, cows mooing, the chatter of the women as they prepare our food. We have provided clinics with the distant rumble of Mt Yasur serenading our health assessments.

Our clinics have been visited by young and old, healthy and frail, dogs, pigs and kittens and community members whose bodies are pleading for rest to relieve the back and knee pain from years of hard work.
In each of the villages back pain, knee pain and respiratory tract infections have been recurring themes for many adults presenting to the clinic. Thankfully, high blood sugars were infrequent. However, it was confronting to hear of some incidents of domestic violence leading to ongoing physical and emotional distress for many women and no doubt children. On a more positive note, there were also impromptu consultations where both Dr Doug and Dr David were able to provide support. This included providing education and medication to a man whose 34 year old brother had recently suffered a Stroke.

For the pikinini’s, recurring themes included ear infections (many as a result from diving), skin infections and respiratory complaints. One little patient who caught our eye and touched our hearts was a young boy who had been playing outside the ‘window’ of the clinic at Sulphur Bay (by the way, the clinic was an old concrete structure with holes for windows and sticks across the door to prevent pigs entering. It resembled more an old abandoned farm shed than health/dental clinic. Given its unwilling status, the space proved to be a humble but effective clinic for the day). This little boy was observed with a piece of material wrapped around his wrist. Hmmm I thought. What could be under this? A quick game of ‘cat and mouse’ and I plucked the little boy up and over the sticks (remember the pigs?). What met us under the cloth was of grave concern. The little boy had fallen out of a tree and broken his arm (Collie’s Fracture) one month ago. The village had practiced Kastom medicine and cut the boys wrist in two places to assist with healing. Unfortunately, the wrist was distorted with swelling and infection. From a Western medicine perspective, the arm required immediate treatment. Whilst Dr David was able to give an immediate dose of oral antibiotics, apply a backslab (a cardboard box lid) and dressing, a cultural dilemma became apparent. All attempts were made to encourage the boys guardians to take the boy to the hospital however this went against the villages traditional healing Kastom. The following day, Dr David and Bob, our Ni-Van Team Leader, went back to Sulphur Bay to check on the little boy. Dr David was able to provide further oral antibiotics however a hospital stay remained uncertain.

It is without doubt that we would not be able to run these outreach clinics without the support of our local village volunteers to assist with communication and cultural understanding. Alice was our ‘angel’ who worked tirelessly in this role. Alice became one of the team and wore her blue PCV health shirt with pride. I smile as I write this thinking of how Alice enlisted (at short notice with an ear piercing whistle) some young men to assist with carrying all of the medical boxes back down to the beach. The young men were ten 10 years olds who bounded over with great enthusiasm, picked up the boxes and randomly plonked them on the beach as if they had been blown ashore in the last storm!! It was such a privilege working with Alice.

There are many more experiences which come to mind on reflection of this extraordinary week of assisting with the health outreach clinic. Stay tuned for the next installment. There is also a whole story regarding the National Oral Health Survey and all of the tremendous work of the dental team on this mission. I think the skipper may need to ‘encourage’ Deb to write about this. I do hope my story has provided a little insight of Medical Sailing Ministries mission.

Annette Hesselmans
Registered Nurse

Tomorrow we go, early.

Thursday 29 June 2017
Port Resolution (last night)

So much happening on so many fronts, it’s hard to report on them all.

Gerry trucked it to Lenakel to find the generator parts, which is a blog in itself as he persisted with his fruitless inquiries at the post office only to end up at the airport itself where he found the small bag of capacitors.

I remained the day on Chimere and with the assistance of local man Stanley we carted 320 litres of water onto the boat in drums- effectively as a Plan B in case we can’t make water in the short term.

We said good-bye to the Germans; they came over for coffee and to see my onboard Bunnings warehouse!? They jokingly suggested we might be riding higher in the water after the amount of stuff used on their boat.

While at anchor they experimented with their new tiller and from the smiles in their faces they were very happy with the result.

In the end, the farewell was quite an emotional thing – within the blokey unwritten code of practice of course – and through bear-hugs and handshakes all round, both expressed again their deep thanks and appreciation for being plucked out of a … “no hope situation” to use the owners words as he mentally re-lived the experience of just 5 nights ago and the very real prospect of eventually abandoning his sinking vessel and retreating to the life raft.

The medical team wrapped up a successful day and tour to this part of the country-hopefully more detail from them soon.

We currently have three large bulker bags full of dental, medical and eye care equipment on the foredeck with the medical team coming aboard in the morning- at 5:30am to be precise, for the 40 mile excursion out to Futuna island. The medical team won’t have to stay on the foredeck, they’ll be given a bunk and afforded all the comfort we can provide.

Due to the early start – and it’s already 10pm I’m deliberately signing off now- before I involuntary fall asleep and because I really need to catch up on my sleep.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and tomorrow we go

Rob Latimer

Another day in the Bay

Wednesday 28 June 2017
Port Resolution, Tanna

Before I begin another … “day in the life of Chimere & MSM” … I’d like to thank everyone who has sent through encouraging comments and supported us in so many ways. The team really appreciates it !!

Where to start? Probably the first thing is “power” … 240 volt power to be precise … the stuff that makes the lights work when you flick the switch or makes the TV go [or recharges our drill batteries for getting coconut drinks]. Well at the moment we are having a few issues with generating sufficient 240 volts to run the water maker

The tank’s getting low, and everyone is going to notice it in a couple of days if the problem is not solved!

Through the miracle of modern communications we have been able to locate the required capacitors for the generator in Port-Vila and through Barry Stewart’s assistance and that of the other Barry who works in the PCV clinic, a small parcel containing the essential components, was put on the afternoon plane to Tanna.

The goods were picked up at the electrical warehouse in Port Vila this morning and around lunchtime driven were driven out to the airport. I have visions of Barry handing the parcel to the pilot and him poking it under his seat for the flight down but that’s just me I suppose.

I am assured that the parcel is now in Lenakel on the other side of the island awaiting pick up

Pick up can be done in one of several different ways. First, I could get myself on a truck traveling to Lenakel, pick up the item in person and then return. Or, I could find a driver who is going to be going there anyway and ask if he might pick it up from the post office and bring it back.

This second option seemed the most efficient, enabling me to remain on the boat doing work. And so tonight after dinner, Bob led me through the village with the aid of the torch to meet a man who might solve our problem.

It’s at this point I fell asleep out here in the cockpit. It’s late, dark and quiet but at the end of the day I’m sleepy and nature takes over.

Smooth seas, fair breeze… until tomorrow

Rob Latimer

Clinics and Oral Health Survey in full swing

Tuesday 27 June 2017
Port Resolution, Tanna

Medical clinics (and Oral Health Surveys) were conducted here at Port Resolution on Sunday afternoon and yesterday but today the show went on the road north along the coast to Sulphur Bay … drawing its name from the effects of the nearby volcano Mt Yasur.

Peter informed me that there were 15 people loaded aboard the 4wd twin cab ute, with the gear being carted earlier by the same vehicle; owing to the fact that a second truck couldn’t be found.

Sulphur Bay could equally be called Ash Cloud Alley because that’s what you get when you live downwind of a very active volcano and it’s not always good for your health; in fact, rarely.

What I know about today’s medical, dental and optical activities was gleaned from brief discussions tonight ashore over dinner (catered as usual by the woman from the local Presbyterian Church) with the returned team members. In summary they were flat out all day, Antonio the dentist saw around 15 patients with his tooth-pull-count after 2 ½ days at around 100 apparently.

The doctors saw around 30 patients today I believe, but I wasn’t able to get details of the eyecare activity.

After some encouragement however, we can expect some diversity in the evening report-writing (aka Ships Log) with nurse Annette likely to step up with an In-The-Field contribution, plus maybe Tami in relation to the progress of the Oral Health Survey and Daniel with a younger perspective; sorry Tami and Antonio but you must be at least 30 now?!

Three crew members joined the ranks of the medical-folk, Daniel, Martin and Peter, each doing useful support-work such as collecting village water samples, sterilising dental equipment, dispensing spectacles, carrying gear (and there’s a lot of it) and setting up the clinics; including mobile dental chairs and erecting the sun/mozzie shelter.

The team arrived back tonight in the dark, a bit late at around 6:30, with their prior VHF radio message being relayed from another yacht in the bay. It was clear the team were keen to return to their bunks when 7:00pm came around as they were pointing to the door. It was “good-night”, “see you tomorrow” all around as those onshore lingered a bit longer before retreating to their “bunk-house” next door – maybe I should also get one of the doctors to write a “Cub Reporter” contribution. I overheard tonight’s discussion about a boy with a broken wrist (from falling out of a tree) who had further infections caused by Kastom Medicine’s attempt to cure the problem by cutting the skin in various places. Dr David and Annette did all they could to locate the mother and initiate an effective course of treatment but it seemed there was resistance which hopefully they can overcome upon their return tomorrow; for the sake of the boy’s whole hand and possibly more.

Gerry and I remained aboard Chimere, trying to fix a few “issues” with creating new ones.

Given we’d anchored a long way out in the bay at the conclusion of Sunday’s rescue mission and it had become quite rolley, our first task was to raise the anchor and relocate further in. Oh yes, that’s right the anchor winch decided NOT to work when it was most needed Sunday night, giving a pathetic “click” from the switch box when the all-important button was pressed instead of a manly “GrRrRrrr” from the motor accompanied by the clunck and rattle of chain passing through the mechanism.
We’d fall back on the hand-over-hand method, just that now we didn’t have 6 burly Ni-Van men aboard to drag the chain and anchor aboard, just little ol’ me and Gerry and a hand winch at the base of the mast. Then after testing everything with the volt meter Gerry pressed the button one more time and bingo, the machine simply sprang into action – that simultaneously horrible yet beautiful mechanical noise.

OK, there’s two items ticked off the list – Fix Winch and Re-Anchor, and it’s not even 8:00am – are we on a roll or what?
We then set our minds to the 6kva generator whose motor worked beautifully, just that it didn’t produce any 240volt electricity – you see the problem? No 240 volts and we can’t run the water maker. No water maker and it’s a case of transporting drums to and from shore, hoping it rains enough to fill the tanks, or limiting ourselves to about 2 litres, per person, per day for the next 10 days, and I don’t see that happening. In the end it came down to two burnt out capacitors, which we hope to have sent down tomorrow and received aboard at the latest Thursday. Let’s hope the parts arrive and we can get the system running again.

Those ashore are apparently craving such things as muesli, peanut butter, milk, bread etc, so a “Survival Food Parcel will be sent ashore tomorrow morning which will be before 7:00am I am assured to ensure the day’s activities are accomplished.

One of the promises made to the medical team – I forget by whom – was that the ship-based folk would return in the morning with freshly baked bread. Not wishing to disappoint, I started the baking process, for 2 loaves, soon after stepping aboard and now, two hours later I’ve just tipped them out of the tins and onto the cooling rack for morning. It did require me to run the engine – good ol Perkins – for half an hour to heat the dough and yeast because we sit the dough under the floor board just near the motor; everything gets warm down there. In my haste however, I’m just hoping that having the oven on 130 degrees for the first 25 minutes instead of 230 degrees hasn’t spoilt the outcome – the loaves look alright … I really should taste some to be sure, but how to do it without it showing, maybe from underneath …?

With our departure from Tanna planned for Friday, I am keeping a keen eye on the weather forecasts of the region and so far it’s looking good, if a little too much on the nose. We’ll be heading East to Futuna, and a wind from the south east would be OK, however it’s set to move east-south- east and then East by the week-end, but fortunately the seas are calm, and Perkins can do more than assisting in raising dough at anchor when called upon to do so!

The latest news on our German friends is that tomorrow we will be helping them build a jury rig rudder for the back of their boat. It will involve the use of a spinnaker pole, floor panels and a collection of bolts and brackets, so watch this space!!

In order to thank the people in the village for their assistance they gave their fully inflated life raft to the village to be used by the kids of the village on the lake behind the beach. It should be a lot of fun. Peter, Gerry and I know because we could resists clambering in and using it as a dive platform and conversation pit. There was also the thought that we could turn it into a jacuzzi, or a back shed if it hung off the back of our boat much longer

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Clinics and Oral Health Survey in full swing

Rob Latimer

Tanna on Tanna… of course

Monday 26 June 2017
Port Resolution

It’s been another big day and it’s hard to imagine what has been packed into the last 24 hours.

The yacht rescue continued in a fashion all night with the German yacht needing to pump water from their boat through the night by use of our pump and portable generator; we’d put it across onto their deck around 11:00pm for them to operate as needed.

They remained rafted up to us through the night and due to the roll of the sea at anchor it became necessary to add several more spring lines and winch them in tight to eliminate the risk of damage as the upper section of their mast and rigging came very close to ours as their roll increased.

Come morning, it was time to better assess the damage and it became clear that the back of the boat has come down hard on rocks or coral thereby pushing it up through the bottom of the boat bending the very strong 100mm solid stainless steel vertical rudder shaft like a banana and opening up a half metre gaping hole through which you could see the big blue.

Attempts were made to stuff things into the cavity from inside and out (by diving over the back) but all to no avail

A group of local fishermen then approached us in their dugout canoes and made the suggestion that “maybe now while the tide is up, you might like to beach the boat on her side on the soft sand – the tide will go out and you can fix”

They went onto explain that a previous yacht that hit that, or a very similar, rock did this successfully.

We took their advice, these guys know boats and the ways of the water – and with the aid of our two dinghies as tug boats we deliberately drove a yacht onto a sandy beach, going against all my natural instincts.

It was a big attraction for the locals and at lunchtime the whole school turned out, pulling on lines to stabilise the boats movements as the sea receded.

That’s the sea showing through the crack in the bottom of the boat as we lay on the sand at low tide

Again – a long story short- Gerry, Daniel and I, using a veritable Bunnings-worth of hardware from Chimere’s workshop, Aqua-epoxied, ply-wooded, screwed, builders-bogged and expander-foamed the stern compartment of the boat around the offending hole.

Just as she was beached, we un-beached her on the rising tide, again with the aid of a large number of locals.

As the sea returned and our repairs were seriously put to the test it was pleasing to see that only a tiny flow of water was seen seeping under some fast drying epoxy.

And this is a shot of the repairs with her fully floated

After helping the Germans re-anchor with instructions to call us on the radio in the event of further problems … after all we offer a 24 hour guarantee on all our boat repair and salvage jobs, we got a call from Martin asking whether the movie night was still on up in the community hall; the fact that the portable generator was still on the yacht started to raise questions

“Yes, no problems, we are heading back to Chimere now and will pick up the projector and computer”

So it was that about an hour and a half later we presented our movie night to the community to a packed house. And what movie would you naturally show on the island of Tanna… the movie called Tanna of course


You can just make out a couple of the 100 or more heads in front of us in the community hall to view our screening of the film Tanna

Here we were in the shadow of the featured volcano with extras from the movie actually in the audience… one of whom was Chief Johnson who’d come out the boat for tea the other day who actually had a speaking part plying the role… of a chief

By then I was tired enough to sleep on concrete… more tomorrow

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Tanna on Tanna

Rob Latimer


And this is how we left them tonight bobbing on her anchor… and if you look closely that is an Aussie flag being waved by our two new best German friends. (Yes we have a few of them on Chimere too)

Sea Rescue – lift raft, red flares, sinking yacht, action stations … the works!!

Sunday 25th June 2017
Port Resolution


We were enjoying dinner on shore after the first days clinic, and that was going to be the topic of tonight’s blog- not the meal but the clinic and the official start of the National Oral Health Survey

Then, as we were discussing the day’s activities, a concerned looking chief Johnson and a group of men approached us out of the evening darkness asking, “Captain Rob, there is a yacht, hit rocks off the white beach coming into the bay. It has sent up red flares. They are on the radio”

Sure enough, I pulled out my mobile VHF radio and there was the distinct German accent … “we have deployed the life raft, we are sinking, can some one help us please”

Now here’s a first! But from then on, “Team MSM Chimere” swung into action, accompanied by half a dozen strong, fit Ni-Van men.

“Ship in distress, ship in distress, this is yacht Chimere coming to your assistance, we will be with you shortly, do you copy?!!!”

“We are sinking, can you come and help us?”, the voice was full of concern

After explaining to the medical team what we knew of the situation, all of the sailing team, along with the Ni-vans made our way down to the dinghy and out to Chimere. All the while giving reassurance on channel 16 to an evermore urgent voice from the darkness

Once aboard Chimere it was a case of quickly preparing Chimere for sea, taking down deck awnings, starting the motor – putting the steering wheel back on, yes don’t ask – and then winching up the anchor.

Anchor winch wont work, how can that be??!! Why now for goodness sake. Great to have a bunch of fit locals aboard!

“Ni-vans, pull on that chain!!!”

So it was that 40 metres of 13mm chain, maybe 150-200kg in all was retrieved along with the 40kg anchor, in record time!! One big pile on deck.

Gerry then took the helm, supported amazingly by Annette, Deb, Peter and Martin, with Daniels ample supply of toughly muscles put to good use winching the small dinghy higher on the stern davits out of the way of the tow lines. Meanwhile I headed off out to sea at speed in the dinghy with Ware in the bow with his torch

“We see your lights, we will be with you shortly” I radioed

“Ya we see you” came the reply

The wind was behind us as we travelled as fast as we dared in the darkness and the rising seas the further we got offshore.

We could clearly see the masthead light of the yacht, so it was obviously not quite under the water yet, and as we came alongside the deployed orange life raft hung off the stern along with their dinghy, in a surreal kind of “survivor movie” fashion.

It was then a case of reassuring the men, assessing more completely the state of their boat and the water leak and radioing this back to Chimere so they could prepare in advance of their arrival; still maybe 15 – 20 minutes behind us

To cut a long and rather intense story short, Ware clambered aboard the yacht to assist them pull their anchor and 30 metres of dangling chain up, while I assisted with the attachment of two tow lines (from the dinghy) as Chimere did a slow pass.

From then on it seemed to continue as a text book rescue, even though we just kept making it up as we went along; planning and adjusting our actions as necessary

The 2 mile return to the bay was done at around 3 knots with the rudder-less yacht gliding smoothly behind after Gerry had completed the initial wide turn to home.

Another yacht in the harbour used their dinghy to pick up our portable generator from shore – it was being used to provide lighting in the hall where we had enjoyed dinner- and after coming to anchor we rafted the other yacht alongside and went aboard with our high capacity pump to assist in pumping her out

I must say it was a sobering experience to enter their saloon and be ankle deep in water, and to see stuff floating around all over the place … every boat owner’s nightmare!!

Our mobile 240volt pump and 35mm hose did its job and things began to calm down a bit.

In summary, without the depth of experience aboard in the amazingly talented and diverse crew, plus the resources we have packed aboard at our disposal, this episode might well have ended very differently

As it is we now have two very relieved German sailors aboard their “saved” yacht rafted up alongside and a bunch of very tired puppies on Chimere fast falling asleep in their bunks.

No doubt there’ll be more to report tomorrow!! It’ll be a story to dine out on for years to come no doubt

Smooth seas, fair breeze and sea rescue ends well!!

Rob Latimer


Look what we “caught”… a 40 foot yacht!

The chart plotter tells the story … two miles out and two miles back

Blog by committee

Saturday 24 June 2017
Port Resolution, Tanna

About an hour ago, before I dozed off for the first time tonight, the seven of us aboard Chimere sat around the saloon table and did a brain-dump of all that has happened today.

As we do on boats, a list of topics, issues and items quickly formed and so it was decided that tonight’s blog would be a “compilation”; each event sequentially recorded and described much like as travelogue – or travel-blog – I suppose.

It was suggested that a writing task-force be formed and a management committee formed that would then appoint a sub committee to flesh out each item and report back in the fullness of time. We could present a short-list at a specially arranged conference, with lanyards, giveaways and printed shoulder bags … I think it was about here I dozed off … zzzzz

Considering the list, and starting at the end of day, not really sequential, was tonight’s epic quest to the volcano. This involved all of the team (except me who was very happy to stay on the boat – having survived the volcano-experience once back in 2009) piling into a 4wd and making the arduous climb to the base of the cinder cone, where it was then a relatively straightforward task of trekking UP to the rim of the crater – and no further.

When I mention “all of the team”, I also include the new arrivals – dentists, Antonio and Tami and doctors Doug and David – who landed at Lenakel airport from Port Vila this morning, and finally made it to Chimere in time for lunch accompanied by local dental care worker Bob and eyecare worker Dick. Morinda would have joined us on the boat for lunch, but the combination of the two – boat and lunch – still has her shore-bound for the time being

In short, the volcano trip was a big hit (Hopefully I can secure a photo from one of the thrill-seekers for this Ship’s Log to better tell the story) with the primal violence of the explosions and spouting lava showers truly being a surround-sound, all-senses experience that you feel, rather than simply observe.

The ladies of the local Presbyterian Church made lunch for everyone on their return and so by around 8:00pm those boat-based folk, Martin, Peter, Daniel, Gerry, Annette, Deb and me were safely back on the boat, (dinghy ride through coral in pitch blackness made easier due to full tide) with the land-folk, Morinda, Bob, Dick, Tami, Antonio, Doug and David preparing to settle into their “allocated accommodation”

Having reported so far on topics as diverse as swimming, fishing, sailing, volcanoes, picnics etc … it would be easy to get the picture that this truly is a south Pacific cruise, a la P&O … but rest assured, everything to date has been building up to the moment tomorrow afternoon – after church – when the eye, dental and medical clinic will officially open and some of the first National Oral Health data will be collected.

It really is a great moment to savor


To mark the significance of the occasion all 14 of us were officially welcomed by the head of the village, Chief Johnson Noar. It was a simple but moving ceremony with words of welcome being expressed and our own Bob Natuman giving one in reply. We were each presented with a flower garland and given an opportunity to introduce ourselves and say what part we were playing in the mission.

This finished around 3:00pm and as the team began preparing to head off to the volcano, I made moves back to the dinghy. On my way I made the comment to Morinda that maybe a few of the officials might like to come out to the boat for afternoon tea since I was heading back alone and would be filling in time till the team returned and needed a dinghy ride home. So it was that I was joined by Chief Johnson, Elder Sampson and Principal Thomas for a couple of hours aboard, chatting, eating,bonding, looking at old group photos on the computer from our earlier visits here (and yes, they recognised nearly everyone in the photos naturally) and discussing the history of the region and their appreciation of the arrival of missionaries like John Paton who brought a new message of love and light, replacing a culture of cannibalism, pay-back and superstition

While serving fruit cake and snacks to my guests I also finished off the bread making for the day, baking two loaves which were sampled with appreciation, leaving everyone too full to eat their dinner after being delivered back to the shore on sunset.
A burst of rain then engulfed the boat and as I set about rigging up the deck covers in the dark to enable us to keep the hatches and windows open without letting the water in, I gave a thought for the volcano-adventurers getting soaked to the skin

I’m now about to doze off for the second time tonight and so let me just say, in deference to the list mentioned earlier, that …

Daniel and Peter had an early morning swim to the steam vents, narrowly avoiding burning their bums like a pair of Japanese snow Monkeys, as they sat on the submerged rocks nearby.

Martin sanded and stained the wooden toe rails, Deb cleaned the cockpit. Annette whipped up an amazing biblical lunch for everyone using the leftover loaves made yesterday and the remaining fishes … well, fish actually, part of the 100kg marlin given to us by the motorboat parked near us the other day in Port Vila.

Gerry and I worked our way through a trouble-shooting list, and a process of elimination, in connection with our wonderful Paguro 6kva, diesel generator which runs beautifully, but currently generates NO 240 volts – like having a highly tuned Ferrari in the garage with no wheels. After some emails back and forth with our mechanic Steve in Melbourne it seems like a simple case of burnt out capacitors. They’re pretty useful apparently and when I say “simple” it’s not what you’d call an off-the-shelf-item here in Port Resolution. And just when everything was working so well too, and I was on the edge of say … “what could possibly go wrong now?”

On return from their swim Daniel and Peter assisted with the general clean up, Peter giving the waterline of the boat a bit of a scrub as he splashed and frolicked. Tonight’s recount by Peter of the “nasty brown stains on the starboard side” shan’t be repeated here – maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

In the course of all the comings and going Nurse Nancy was checked on and she still has high blood pressure, but the rest has definitely done her good. Instead of “bulk billing” her services I think Annette must have “banana billed” because there was a bunch of them out in the cockpit – a sign of appreciate from Nancy for all the care and attention, for which Nancy constantly apologises,”… putting you to all this trouble…I’m sorry tumas”

I think I’ve got through the list satisfactorily. Amidst all the chatter in the dinghy coming back to the boat tonight I asked “and who would like to write a blog about the volcano experience” … well I think I now know how to shut everyone up !! But hopefully a new “Cub Reporter” … or “Guest Contributor” might emerge over the next few days, particularly with the official start of the clinics and Oral Health Survey tomorrow afternoon … watch this space.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and blog by committee

MSM Team Chimere

The anticipation of medical arrivals

Friday 23 June 2017
Port Resolution 
After an amazingly clear, star lit night the day began sunny and warm with a light breeze from the Southeast
Around 7 o’clock we were joined by one of the many men in their dugout canoes that paddle and fish in this small bay.  His name was Charlie and we explained that we will be running medical clinics over the next few days. He was very interested in attending and called to his friends, one of whom had a bad tooth that needed pulling.
No one went away empty-handed with three Footscray football club caps (donated by Bulldogs tragic Carmel Noble) being given out
I’m not sure whether it was after breakfast, or before breakfast that everyone (except me – someone had to stay on shark-watch … that was a joke by the way, if you happen to be friends with, or related to, anyone on board) went for a swim to the steam vents
While everyone was relaxing in the hot water by the age of the bay I received a phone call from Morinda onshore saying that Nurse Nancy had fainted but was now resting on a bed.
A quick dinghy ride and our very own nurse Annette was at Nancy’s side, ably supported by Deb, taking blood pressure readings, pulse and asking all the usual medication and “how-does-that-feel” questions
It was around this time that travel plan “refinements” where in full swing as texts and emails were exchanged back and forth between me in Port Resolution, Bob in Lenakel on the other side of the island, Mike Clarke and Graeme Duke in Melbourne and doctor David James and Richard in Port Vila.
“Did you know David James is flying into Tanna today, not tomorrow with the others?  Can we get someone to meet him at the airport, he’ll need accommodation too??” started Mike
“i’ll see what Bob can do? I suggested
“Yes, me pick im up no worries” came Bob’s reply
“All sorted Mike… Bob can get David” I assured
Then note from David…
“Sorry to add to confusion but think sorted I am going to Santo on sat 8 am plane from Vila with the rest of team . Staying in Vila as lots to do here’s and thought simpler to arrive with the others rather than make special arrangements for me”
Did he say Santo??  I hope not!!  Cos the other team members are coming south to Tanna not north to Santo.
Thanks be to modern communications … or maybe they created the problem in the first place
Back on board the boat, with Nancy resting and medical team member movements clarified, a picnic lunch was packed and the crew headed off to do some exploring through the village to the ocean beach on the far side.  
I was happy to remain on board with lots of catching up to do including baking bread, mission planning and boat maintenance
But soon after the departure of Chimere’s explorers I was joined by another fishermen in his dug-out canoe by the name of Tawa.  Tawa was keen to trade fruit and vegetables for a mask, snorkel and flippers – or as they say here … “feet blong duck duck” which I was happy to oblige.
In the end Tawa joined me for lunch and enjoyed two new taste sensations – beetroot and Vegemite!  Well, he said he enjoyed them and who am I to doubt his integrity.
Ship’s Log readers from previous years will know that I put a lot of energy into teaching the making of Low Smoke stoves, made out of sun-dried mud bricks.   It was something of a crusade which, in the end, didn’t seem to gain much traction.   Well I raised the idea with Tawa and after showing him some photos and additional information on the health benefits of low smoke stoves he seemed genuinely interested; for his own wife and children plus the community more generally
In the end we developed a plan that we would meet at church on Sunday and make a stove on Monday not out of clay but out of concrete!!  The problem with the sun dried clay bricks seemed to be that they took too long and the system seemed too complicated.  If it is something Ni-Vans understand it’s concrete, and so I’ve been busy redesigning my earlier models into what I’m calling the “Port Resolution 4-Burner Special”.  We’ll see how it works out on Monday.  I asked Bob to bring a bag of cement over from Lenakel, which by the way, are sold in 40 kg bags here!
Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter in the “Low smoke stove Chronicles”
If you want to know just how bad smoke inhalation is, just a small amount of searching on the web will reveal the horrible truth.  At around 2 million deaths per year it certainly kills more than malaria in the developing world.
The stars are out bright as ever tonight and tomorrow we will have the whole team together, if all goes to plan
And as I write this by myself on the foredeck of Chimere I am joined by Daniel, Annette, Gerry, Deb, Martin and now Peter … out to gawk at the amazing profusion of stars above our heads … I’m reminded of the scene from The Lion King … you had to be there
There is a rumour that everyone will be going to visit the mouth of the volcano tomorrow night before the clinics start for real … but we’ll see
Smooth seas, fair breeze and the anticipation of medical arrivals
Rob Latimer