Did it! – Mission achieved

Sunday, 03 September 2017

Well, followers of the Chimere blog, this is the last entry from the Mission 3 team. As reported last night, we are anchored off the Beach Front Resort in Luganville. Deb, Bob, Jay and Dick left immediately after our celebratory breakfast as they are all involved in the next mission to the Banks Group, the northern most part of Vanuatu. They are also doing the dental survey here on Santo starting Monday. Annette and Steven left today on the 0900 flight to Port Vila, Anne and Christer were dropped off at their resort on Aore Island, adjacent to Luganville, while Ray and Grant left on the 1800 flight to Port Vila leaving just Mark and myself to tidy up and finish the cleaning.

The primary aim of our mission was to conduct a dental survey of 1% of the population of Pentecost and Maewo Islands. We met this aim with a lot of hard work, mainly because it was often difficult to find the people of the right age and gender to participate in the survey. This task was made more difficult because school holidays had started and another group running a similar mission had preceded us by a couple of weeks.

Mission 3 was not all work however, how could it be when you are visiting some of the most beautiful Islands in the Pacific? As reported earlier, we hiked up a volcano, which was subsequently assessed as a level 3 (evacute) warning meaning that we would not have been permitted on the mountain. We swam in fresh water streams, waterfalls and an impressive gorge. The sea water was so warm and clear that we started the Chimere swimming club with many of the team swimming more than a kilometer before work each morning thanks to the prompting from Deb our resident fitness coach. But the highlight was probably the snorkeling using “leg blong duck duck and glass and pipe”(which translates to goggles and fins). The coral and resident fish were amazing, colours that are so vivid that it is hard to believe that they are a part of nature. We saw groups of fish wearing the same uniform, prompting Deb to name them the football teams going to practice. We even attempted to snorkel into some under water caves but the tide was too high and the sea too rough.

As with many missions before, Chimere has performed faultlessly. She does all that is asked of her accommodating all 12 team members, transporting all the equipment and dealing with whatever nature throws at her. She is a very safe and competent boat. As reported in our first log entry, Chimere was in excellent condition at the start of our mission and it was going to be a challenge for the Mission 3 team to keep her that way. I am pleased to report that she is at least as good as we found her or even better as we were able to address a few persistent defects. I wish to pass on my thanks to the team for their hard work and support in this matter.

As with most things, the success of a mission relies on the performance of the team. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with a very competent, adaptable and just plain, the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. We have all shared in the communal duties, all contributed to writing the log each night, shared in the survey duties and even all had a go at driving Chimere’s boats. All of us had a turn at Chimere’s helm, a first for many of us. Even the often-difficult job of finding somewhere for everyone to sleep turned out to be a non-issue as everyone was able to find somewhere that met their needs. The only area to cause some concern was the menu. The three ladies on board had rather particular thoughts on what we should eat and what we should not. They also required some different ingredients from the rest of us for a variety of reasons. All this lead to some lively discussions, all in good fun, but at the end of the day the ladies always won and the men ate more greens and fruit than is our normal practice. But all is not lost men as Mark, me and later Rob, who turned up ahead of schedule, dined on pancakes tonight. We called them protest pancakes!
Our thanks goes out to all the people who have worked behind the scene making our mission possible. Your support and the support of the folks at PCV have been invaluable.
So here we are at the end of our mission with mixed emotions. On the one hand there is a real sense of achievement of having succeeded in what we set out to do, but on the other hand we have to say goodbye to good friends as we all go back to our lives. We have all swapped contact details with the view to staying in contact and who knows, there may be a reunion.
Yours Aye for the last time,


Dawn at Luganville

Saturday, 02 September 2017

Luganville, Espiritu Santo 

Thump, thump, crash, crash, rattle, rattle, whirr, bang, crash. Woken from my sleep by the sounds of the crew on watch changing sail settings. What time is it? I’m not due on watch yet.
Later, more noises, but quieter. Time to get up (03.00). Captain Jon was sitting looking at the chart plotter, on-watch crew, Ray and Grant, were steering and keeping watch. Outside there were lights indicating that we were entering Luganville Harbour. The other islands we have visited are dark, very dark. Our plan to arrive at first light has gone terribly wrong – we are here three hours too early, despite reefing the main and furling the jib. With the care and planning of a retired naval officer, Jon coaxed Chimere into the port, past the shipping area into the yacht basin where we safely anchored. I stayed on anchor watch while the others retired to their bunks. Watching the dark night gradually change to grey. Soon, everyone will be on their way, to their separate lives.


To celebrate the completion of another mission, we arranged to have breakfast at the nearby resort, and to take the obligatory group photo. The medical team walked into the city centre whilst the sailing team caught up on their sleep.

Tonight will be another crowded night on board Chimere, but tomorrow all but Jon and I will be gone, on holiday in Espirito Santo, or back to Australia. Then will be the clean up before Rob arrives on Monday and preparation for the next mission will begin.


From a personal perspective, I am honoured to have participated in the Oral Health Survey – as I sat there recording the wellness or otherwise of someone’s teeth, I thought, “This is why we are here” to provide the Vanuatu Health Department information of their people’s oral health, from tiny villages and remote islands. However, I enjoyed the looking after of the vessel more, and at times I had to pinch myself, “It’s like I’m in a dream, but I’m awake”, living on a yacht, in the tropics, doing boaty things.

Mark Stephenson

A Time to Reflect

Friday, 01 September 2017

En route to Luganville, Espiritu Santo from Asanvari, Maewo 

As the sun set on our final day for Mission 3 we hoisted sails and headed out of the beautiful bay at Asanvari on Maewo Island leaving the cobalt blue waters of the bay and waterfall behind and set our heading for our departure port of Luganville on Santo Island, some 60 nautical miles away. As we were heading off with our mainsail up, we received a call on the radio from some fellow yachties we had met yesterday, who bade us farewell and safe sailing and reminded us that the work we do is admirable. I agree and it’s time to reflect on the Mission and think about what we have achieved, but first about our day.

Today, after our early dawn swim, we held a morning clinic to see if we could finish the final 6 survey participants to reach our target for this village but alas with a big wedding in the village everyone was busy elsewhere preparing for the celebration. Annette (or Nettie as she is fondly known), our hardworking nurse, was the only one busy seeing patients with all sorts of interesting issues. The last one was a solo French sailor who had a very badly infected leg from some coral cuts he received a few days earlier. With strict instructions to keep a check on his temperature, handing over her trusty thermometer (a big sacrifice for a nurse I think) and some drugs, instructions to get some assistance in sailing his yacht from some locals who may like a trip to Port Vila, we said goodbye. I think he found that difficult as he was particularly keen on our Nettie. We packed all the equipment and once it was stowed on board we enjoyed a lovely lunch made by Erica our hostess at the small guest house where the medical team stayed. The Skipper announced that the departure time would be later in the afternoon to ensure we arrived in Luganville in the early morning daylight tomorrow. With an hour or so to kill, we followed Karl, a young local man, on a short walk to the other side of the island where he was to show us a cave that we could snorkel into and come up in a lovely grotto a bit further around. We followed him into the surf and reef decked out in our “glass, pipe and leg blong duck duck” as snorkels and fins are called here and enjoyed the amazing coral and fish as we swam towards the entry to the cave. Alas, the sea was too rough to enter and we swam back to shore. We did walk back to the grotto to look into the caves where we would have come out and they looked amazing. These beautiful islands have some many hidden treasures to enjoy if you are lucky enough to get a bit of time off.

With everyone packed off into the dingy, Nettie, Anne and I decided to swim the kilometre or so back to the yacht for exercise. With everything packed and stowed on the deck by our able crew, Jon, Ray, Grant and Mark, it was time to go. As the sun set, we gathered in the cockpit to relax as we sailed and Bob, Dick and Jay settled down in the saloon to watch an action movie. As usual any chance they get, they had set a line and lure as we left and before too long the noise at the stern of the yacht told us something had taken the bait. With a call to the boys of “fish on” the movie was quickly forgotten and the excitement of bringing in a very large yellow fin tuna on board overtook the action movie. Depending on who you ask, you get a variety of answers from 30 to 60 kg of fish. Whatever it is, it was huge and just so majestic. I watched in awe of this beautiful fish struggling with the fact that we had caught it versus the fact that I would enjoy some yummy fresh tuna tomorrow! Grant’s dinner of spaghetti bolognaise was devoured after the fish was gutted and stowed in the bottom of the fridge …… no mean feat, I can tell you. I have never seen such big grins on the faces of the boys. It was a delight to watch.

So, at the end of a very special day, it is time to reflect on what have we achieved. We have safely delivered the service we had planned which was to conduct the National Oral Health Survey on the islands of Pentecost and Maewo. We have provided medical, optometry and dental treatment to those in need. This was made possible this year with our volunteer medical team and Chimere’s hardworking crew. But what stands out to me the most of all, is the fact that we are a group of individuals, from different ages, backgrounds, cultures and customs who have so many different ways of doing things but at the core, we all have the same desire to volunteer out time to such a worthy cause. Congratulations Mission 3 team, you should be very happy with your achievements.
Deb Allen

The Local View

Thursday 31 August 2017

Asanvari, Maewo

Tonight’s blog is brought to you by the PCV Health team –
Bob Natuman, Mission 3 Team Leader and Oral Health worker
Dick Nakat, Eyecare worker
Jay Watson, Eyecare worker
Deb Allen, Oral Health Educator

Medical Mission 3 long yia 2017 hemi makem out wan narfala team blong medical we hemi consist long 4 crew memba, 2 dentis, 2 nurse, 2 Optom mo 2 dental nurse. Team I bin wok start long South Pentecost long village blong Pangi olsem stat blong wok blong team, team I wok folem island long 2 nara station we hemi Melsisi mo Abwatuntora. We hemi north blong island blong Pentecost mo team I bin continue blong mapem aot work blong olgeta long wan narafala island hemi Maewo long village blong Asanvari. Olsem team mifala bin cooperate together blong mekem ol work ia. Ol pipol long evri village we team visit oli very fortunate blong lok mo tekem ol services we mifala I karem aot.

For those who aren’t fluent in Bislama – “2017 Medical Mission 3 is a new medical team which consists of 4 sailing crew, 2 dentists, 2 nurses, 2 eyecare workers, and 2 dental nurses. The Team started working in the village of Pangi on South Pentecost and in another 2 places at Melsisi and Abwatuntura. We continued to work on another island to the North called Maewo in the village of Asanvari. As a Team we have worked together to do all our work. All the people in each village where the team visited are very fortunate for all the services the team have carried out.”

Olsem wan medical team memba long mission ia, mi really enjoyem taem blong mi wetem ol coliques blong mi. Wok hemi gud mo mi really kat wan gud taem. Thankyou long skipper mo ol crew we oli save lukaotem good mifala lo ship. Tankyu long Debra and Annette long ol nice sandwhich lo lunch time yumi stap sail. Tankyu also to everiwan we oli part long mission 3. Bai God nomo i blessem yumi long ol works blong yumi.

Translation – “As a medical team member for the mission here, I really enjoyed my time with all my work colleagues. The work is good and we have a great team. Thank you to the Skipper and all the crew who have looked after us on the yacht. Thank you to Debra and Annette for the nice sandwiches for lunch when we were on the yacht. Thank you to everyone who has been part of Mission 3. May God bless us all and our work.”

Nem blo mi Jay Watson. Mi bin pat lo mission 3 we team I travel mo work long Penticost from South to North mo South Maewo. During long mission mi fil hapi tumas from mi visitim different places mo long wok place everyone ol coliques blo mi I kaen mo friendly lo mi. Tank yu tumas long Debra blo save explainem samsamting we mi no save, ol nara Dentist, Nurse, Bob olsem team lida we i save organism ol good accommodation mo kakai. Mo tu tank yu tumas long skipper Jon mo ol crew we I save lukatoem gud mi long ship. Hope blo lukim yufala next time, mo bai God I blessem yufala long work blong yufala. Ta.

Translation – “My name is Jay Watson. I have been part of Mission 3 who travelled to work on Pentecost Island from South to North and to South Maewo Island. During the mission, I have felt very happy that I have visited different places and work with all my colleagues who have been kind and friendly. Thank you to Debra for explaining the things that I do not know, all the dentists, nurses and Bob, the Team Leader, who has organized the accommodation and our food really well. Also, thank you to the Skipper, Jon and the sailing crew who have looked after me on the yacht. I hope to see you all next time and may God bless you all and all your work. Ta.”
Translated by Deb from Melbourne, who was kindly taught to speak Bislama by these guys, over the 3 years working here in Vanuatu.

The tale of two Nakamal

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Asanvari, Maewo

Hi, name blong Steven. I’m one of the dentists on MSM mission three. I live in Melbourne and am recently semi-retired. I came to be involved with the MSM mission through Dr Barry Stewart and the Australian Dental Association Vic branch.
This is my first trip as a volunteer dentist on the MSM mission. Actually, it is my first time as a volunteer in the capacity of a dentist. However, it is not my first time to Vanuatu. I’ve been here on two occasions previously on scuba diving trips. The reason that I have become involved is that, it has troubled me at times, that I would enjoy my time as a comparatively wealthy tourist in a poorer country.
This blog is largely one of my impressions about what I have seen and experienced over the course of the mission. My strongest impression is from the people of Vanuatu, the Nivan. They are a people who appear to be happy, clean and orderly respectful. Their teeth are unstained by any betalnut chewing habits (as a dentist I can confirm this). There doesn’t seem to be any alcohol problems.

I notice that their lives are governed by two influences, the church (largely the Presbyterian Church) in recent times and the ancient influence of Kustam (evolved over centuries of tradition). The two seem to coexist comfortably. Yet there are contrasts.
The previous Sunday some us attended a Catholic church service, the only reason of which it was convenient being close to our mission work location. Yes, we worked on the Sunday afternoon. Our work location that day was in the village Nakamal; which is what might be best described as a large one roomed hut that serves the purpose of being the central location for village social and administrative life.

There seems to be two significant buildings in a village. One being the Nakamal and the other the Church building. When you enter the church building your first impressions are of bright space, clean, a concrete floor that may or not be polished and the air smells, well like air. There are many rows of benches with a central aisle, plenty of seating for everyone. People would sit on the benches and face the front towards a cross and altar.
When you enter the Nakamal it is dark, there is a residual smell of smoke and there is a fire pit immediately to the left that is about two metres in diameter sometimes smoldering. The air smells of smoke and people. The dirt floor is uneven and chickens roam around freely. There is no formal seating and people sit anywhere. To the untrained eye its seems somewhat disorderly. Quite a contrast to the church.

However, people seem to meet in the Nakamal every day, but the church once a week. Nakamal meets the needs of everyday lives while the church the spiritual. The whole village sings in the church, and very beautifully too. Whereas specific groups of people who meet in the Nakamal sing tradition ceremonial songs prior to doing business, sitting on woven mats in a large circle in the middle of the room. Such as when we witnessed the senior women of the village doing what I was told is monthly community banking. The village chief and elders are never far from the Nakamal as we found out when we would enter the various villages. I found it interesting that church has a door and the Nakamal has no door whatsoever. I’ll leave any conclusions to others.

Today we had a rest day after what must have been the busiest day of surveys and dental work. The dentists were exhausted, and yours truly was almost in tears having to extract large adult teeth from six-year-old kids.
Arriving at the next island, our last, we had a chance sail across the small strait under wind power for the first time at 3 knots, later the engine powered up to push us along faster.
At our anchorage, we had the privilege of seeing a dugong, well I saw its nose anyway.
We also visited a beautiful waterfall that had a pond at the base full of carp that fed out of our hands. The day finished with a great dinner cooked by our skipper Jon and we watched a sunset over an adjacent island. Ah paradise.
Maybe I will come along to the next mission trip.

Fang (the dentist?)

Abwantuntora Dreaming

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Abwantuntora, Pentecost

To follow on from some of the words Christer wrote yesterday, I would like to comment from a lay person’s perspective. Yesterday I was acting as a recorder for the dental surveys when Steven emerged from the surgery – picture a barren room, a bare concrete floor with the patient reclined in a portable fold up chair in the corner to make the most of the natural light streaming through the louvred window. One of the biggest teeth I’ve ever seen had just been pulled from the jaw of a girl not much older than ten or twelve and we hadn’t heard a peep from her.

The tooth was wrapped in gauze and he cradled it, almost tenderly. I really didn’t want to look, nevertheless before long I found myself studying it in morbid fascination. Three huge roots came together at the crown of what was once a strong and proud molar that should have served the girl for her whole life but instead it had been significantly eaten away by decay. It was a stark and heart-breaking illustration of the effect that western habits are bringing to many of these islanders. When one surveys a 12-year-old, generally their teeth are in nearly perfect condition but by the time they reach fifteen, it is amazing to see the deterioration over a few short years.
This morning, after an early morning swim with the skipper and yoga class on the foredeck, nurses Deb and Annette, headed ashore for the morning clinic. They were assisted by crew member Mark, who has become known as ‘the ideas man’ for his knack of coming up with solutions to seemingly intractable problems. After completing our morning chores – a sailor’s job is never done – and with Grant ship keeping, Captain Jon and I climber the hundreds of feet up the winding road to see how things were progressing. It was most pleasing to see crowds of patients lining up for the various services that were on offer.
After a local girl, who spoke remarkably good English, took us around to get water samples from various water sources around the village, we returned to Chimere where I took a well-earned swim and Jon took a well-earned?? nap. It was gratifying to see the abundance of live corals that abound following the devastation of cyclone Pam a few years ago, proving just how resilient mother nature can be. There is no shortage of small tropical fish inhabiting the reefs and bommies although there was almost a dearth of larger fish. We suspect the locals, who paddle around in dug-out canoes day and night, have overfished the crystal clear inshore areas.

A steady line of patients to see Annette kept her busy all day. After treating a couple of quite unwell children with anti-biotics, her afternoon was spent mainly with village elders and other adults, including a couple of men with dangerously high blood pressure. Annie Pooh Shoes organized the dentists, Christer and Steven and when they were not doing surveys, they were busy with even more extractions. The eye team alternated between working with eye patients, helping out with the survey questionnaires and scrubbing dental instruments. A total of fifty-four surveys were completed by the time the clinic closed its metaphoric shutters for the day. Anyone who has taken part in such a clinic can attest to just how draining it can be.
The medical team finished work at about 15.00 and the task of packing up and returning the stores to Chimere, commenced. The newly refurbished winch made short work of the lifting, with most loads coming up in top gear with the grinder using one hand, until he ran out of puff. Dick, one of the Ni-vans on the team even pitched in to the sounds of wild cheering and encouragement from his peers watching from the shore.

The team headed back to the clinic at 1800 for a special thanking and closing ceremony before a delicious meal of yet more rice, local vegetables and a hint of some sort of meat tantalized the taste buds. Eventually the boat people, as we have become known, made their way back down the steep and winding track to the shore.
The walk could have been romantic and it could have been by moonlight but as fate would have it, that was not to be. It was a pitch-black night and everyone was doing their best not to slip and fall. Had someone at the rear of the group gone down, it would have been like a bowling alley with ten pins going in all directions as they all tumbled down the hill. Finally, they reached the almost silent waters lapping around the dinghy that would return them to the relative safety and comfort of Chimere. All this amongst the chatter of flying foxes and the noise that other jungle dwellers make during the early nightfall. During this adventure, the remainder of the team retired to their shore based quarters for the night.
Another peaceful night at anchor beckons before we sail for our next exciting adventure to conduct the final clinic of the mission on Maewo Island.
And so, until tomorrow…
Ray Rees

In your Dreams

Monday 28 August 2017

Abwantutora, on Northern Pentecost Island

Imagine a teenage boy in the seventies, confined to an isolated, snowy mountain town in northern Sweden, where summers are three months of the year and 10 degrees, winter the rest, dreaming of a tropical island in the South Pacific. Imagine him borrowing every book in the library about those islands and dreaming. That is I and that is “chimѐre”. I had to look the word up in a French dictionary and it means “in your dreams”. I am Christer Lindée, one of the two dentists and Ann, who wrote yesterday, is my wife. I didn’t quite manage to have my career as a dentist on a Pacific island but close. We have lived in far North Queensland for nearly 30 years. But now, the “chimѐre” is happening, in Vanuatu.

After having had rice and, chicken wings for lunch and dinner every day, the only variation being whether it is served with taro, cassava or yam, I can perfectly well understand that the locals take to white bread, Coca Cola, lollies etc but it sure isn’t good for their teeth. It is really sad to see how much dental decay there is here and along with that diabetes and other Western plagues. One town we visited had a dental chair at the hospital, not working mind you, no power, running water or instruments; that makes work here limited to extractions. The most important teeth which we call the six year molars, were pulled out on kids in Australia and Sweden in the forties; that is happening here now. When they are pulled out the other teeth move and the bite becomes a mess and on top of that the best chewing teeth are lost. It is sad to know but that is what we are doing. Sometimes we have to pull out front teeth too, on young people – sad but true.
My wife and I have volunteered in New Guinea but it is different there. Often the New Guineans don’t have access to shops and if there is no sugar, there is no tooth decay but they never brush their teeth so their teeth come loose from gum disease making them easy to pull out. Here in Vanuatu, we are pulling teeth out because of decay and the roots are big, long and firmly attached so extractions are much harder. Another interesting detail, for dentists at least, is that people get their wisdom teeth without trouble. In Australia, jaws have become smaller and when it is time for the wisdom teeth to come through they don’t fit. Here, the jaws are still big and all teeth fit without trouble. I even saw one guy with an extra tooth behind the wisdom tooth.
The other amazing difference to Australia is how good the kids are. As a dentist, you hardly ever do any treatment on an Australian kid without complaints, often even tears. Here they just sit in the chair and smile and after treatment, which in our case is only extractions – the worst of all treatment, they are happy and proud. My thoughts are that we are over-protecting our kids (it is called “curling parenting” after the sport where team members sweep the way in front of the puck) and we scare them by repeating things like “it won’t hurt”, “don’t worry”, “you are so brave” “you will be much better than mum” which obviously makes kids suspicious. They don’t know what to be afraid of but obviously there is something….
The boat has just dropped its anchor at Abwantutora, on Northern Pentecost Island, and after “smoko” which, strangely enough, is coffee and tea, we will go ashore for two days’ work. One dentist will do surveys and the other extractions. This is apparently the biggest town on the island so there will be plenty of patients. For the survey – that is good because we are a bit behind in numbers – so hopefully we will be able to catch up. So for now “so long”.
Christer Lindée

Church, Children and Chocolate

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Loltong, Pentecost Island

Ahoy me hearties!! So, Cap’n Jon has finally worn me down and nagged enough for the humble dental nurse on this intrepid adventure to put pen to paper (or finger to key). Being the team member with negligible sailing experience and sadly the only one to suffer the curse of sea sickness, I hope I will not disappoint you in that I can share nothing of ANY significance when it comes to the workings of the ship. I have no idea what the winch is up to, nor whether the hatches are up or down…but I have enjoyed the few hours of motoring we have done so far…and my Stemitil and Phenergan and dodgy Chinese sea sickness patches that I bought off EBay are serving me well. May it long continue!
The two dentists and myself have thus far been staying in the villages with our three Ni-van team members. We have been very well looked after and every effort made to make us welcome and comfortable. We have eaten lots and lots of rice and taro and cassava with several variations of chicken wings! I have no idea where all the wingless chicken ends up, but there must be a lot of them! Every now and then a lovely banana, piece of pawpaw or pomelo comes our way which is very much appreciated.

We have really been ‘living it up’ in our waterside Loltong guesthouse. We have two bedrooms and a dining and food prep area and are even hosting a rather flash dinner for the team here tonight. The shower in our front yard consists of a little tin shack with half the sea facing wall missing. It has a great view…both ways perhaps… There is a bucket of water to douse ourselves with, after which we soap up and douse again. Very refreshing at the end of the day. The toilet is a bit more of a hike up a stony path past the cooking hut. It looks legit. White pedestal, cistern, toilet seat and even paper…but sadly, no water. That has to be emptied into the loo by bucket from the 44 gallon drum outside. Oh well, it still serves the purpose.
This morning Cap’n Jon picked us up outside our door in the dinghy and took us ‘around the corner’ to attend church in Lantano where we also stayed for the day to do our Oral Health Surveys. The service was lovely, conducted in a mix of English, French, Bislama and the local dialect. The singing was of course done acapella in stunning four part harmonies. Such a beautiful privilege to experience.
The surveying was a bit slow going with a couple of our Ni-van recorders being a bit under the weather today, but by the end of the day we still managed to accomplish quite a bit. The children in this village have been very forward and confident from the start. We have played a few games and done the hokey pokey, and I have had to keep a close eye on both the dentists’ and my stool to be sure that our little three year old friend didn’t keep stealing them. Whenever one was missing, sure as eggs, this little guy would be happily perched on it somewhere nearby.
So, while we have been slaving away with our dental and child entertaining skills who knows what our dedicated crew have been up to. I have heard rumours of naps and tedious housekeeping chores as well as the worst lunch so far. I actually did Ray a favour yesterday by depositing an appropriate amount of mud from my sandals in the bottom of his dinghy thus giving him a good reason to give it a good wash. He accused me of bringing cow pooh onto his boat so I may now have to answer to the unfortunate name of Annie Pooh Shoes…but there is NO WAY it was cow pooh. Just saying…

I had best sign off now to our faithful followers, as there are increasingly impatient requests for me to finish up so the crew can head back to Chimere. But that is OK. All will be forgiven soon I have no doubt…as I have chocolate!
Thank you for your interest in our adventures. Over and out.

Ann (Aka Annie Pooh Shoes)

Winches and Reefs

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Loltong, Pentecost

Hello to all our followers on this rather pleasant Saturday afternoon. We are anchored off Loltong on the northern end of Pentecost Island and the medical team has gone ashore to conduct dental surveys. We have this afternoon and tomorrow after church to complete 50 surveys, before we move further north to Abwatuntoro for another 50 surveys and any arising clinical work from both Loltong and Abwatuntoro. We are anchored inside a reef next to the village with sandy shores, ringed by high mountains. Penecost Island is very rugged with lush jungle down to the shore line. There are no really good anchorages on the island as they are all exposed to any weather from the west and from wind bullets when the south easterly trade winds blow strongly. But the lack of anchorages is compensated by the sheer natural beauty of this part of the world.

As reported yesterday, the main halyard winch decided to grind to a halt. It was very difficult to turn the winch even with no load on it at all. Never fear, Chimere’s crew have a plan. We tried a number of alternate rigs to no avail, including the anchor winch. We then investigated swapping the main sheet winch for the defective main halyard winch. We soon discovered that the bolts securing the winches were not going to be undone without disassembling the winches, something we feared doing as they are very complicated pieces of equipment consisting of numerous cogs, springs and bearings. After removing the two circlips we were able to lift the winch drum off, revealing several needle bearings and what is essentially a gearbox underneath. It was soon apparent that the lubricant in the gearbox had deteriorated into a thick paste that was preventing the gears from moving freely. We then used a solvent to wash out the gearbox, noticing that the winch turned more freely than it had all mission. After replacing the lubricant, we tested the winch by lifting the supplies bag into the big rib to support the team ashore here at Loltong. We are very pleased to report that the winch is working perfectly. Well done to the team!

While the crew were busy with the winch, the medical team commenced their helmsmen’s proficiency certificates. This involved Annette, our sailing nurse, mentoring Steven (dentist) and Anne (dental assistant) as they steered Chimere from Melsisi to Loltong. After tentative starts and some accidental engine rev changes, things calmed down and by the end of their hour each on the helm both seemed quite relaxed, if only in a straight line and under motor power. Both candidates performed admirably and both were assessed as competent helmsmen. The rest of the medical team are looking forward to their turns in the future.

When the medical team went ashore to set up the clinic here at Loltong, they were mobbed by happy, smiling, excited children. The team reported that the ni Vanuatu nurse Marie had everything organised with the clinic to be set up in the village nakamal which is a large building in the centre of the village made in the traditional style of natangora roof, woven walls, dirt floor with a fire pit inside. The team quickly decided that it was too dark inside so the set up the surveys under a tree. It is not often that you see a dentist working under a tree. Tomorrow we will set up our tents.

The team staying ashore have very good accommodation; individual huts, right on the water’s edge under overhanging trees. They have invited us ship dwellers to dine with them tomorrow night, an invitation we readily accepted.
The medical team have been one staff member short for the whole mission, so one of the crew have been working as the dental recorder. This interaction of medical and sailing teams, as well as the sail training, volcano hike, river hikes and swimming have all served to bring both teams together and I for one am thoroughly enjoying the mission and the company of some pretty extra ordinary people.
That is all for tonight.
Yours Aye

Bread today, gone tomorrow

Friday, 25 August 2017
Melsisi, Pentecost

For those of you who follow Chimere’s log, you are in for a treat today as we are going to get a medical team member’s perspective and impressions of our mission. I will hand you over to Annette, our registered nurse, proficient sailor and all round good hand.

Hello All,
My goodness these skippers are pesky! First Rob and now Jon (without the H). Gentle persuasion to write the Blog! Here goes….
Yes, two skippers and two missions. I have been the nurse on Mission 1 and Mission 3. One South and One North. One with doctors and one without. One sailing to the islands and one flying to where Chimere is waiting. One staying aboard and one sleeping some of the time ashore. Different skipper and crew. Deb, Bob, Dick and Chimere remain the only constant ever faithful and passionate to complete the goal. It is so interesting to see and appreciate the subtle differences between each Mission. It is so special to be back in Vanuatu.

The Islands

It seems that regardless of whether you are in the North or the South, the people throughout Vanuatu are warm, generous, welcoming and always smiling. This is no different at Melsisi, on Pentecost Island. This morning whilst walking to ‘work’, children waved and laughed on their way to school; a man with a finely woven basket shook all of our hands with a ‘good morning’ and a family going about their morning rituals waved and shouted ‘Bonjour’ as we gasped for breath climbing the hill.
Melsisi is a village like no other I have seen in Vanuatu. One could almost think we were in the Mediterranean with hill top homes perched on the cliff, colourful concrete buildings, pillars and baguettes. Cows wander about peacefully chewing grass. There are barges collecting/dropping off cargo and this afternoon, a precariously balanced ferry dropped off passengers. There is a hospital with a compliment of staff and opportunity for those very unwell to be flown to Vila. There has been no end to chicken wings being served for lunch and dinner which makes me think all of these wings have come in a packet from somewhere else. A little different to the chicken served on Aniwa and Tanna Island where some hapless chook was sacrificed to feed the hungry team and crew.

Doctors and Nurses

On Mission One, we were blessed with two fine doctors, David and Doug who shared most of the burden of diagnosis and treatment whilst I triaged, assessed and educated. Education, always a comical display like a game of charades demonstrating lifting techniques and back strengthening exercises. On Mission Three, I am the sole representative of the medical team. However, I am not working alone. Each village has its own health service staffed by incredibly skilled and knowledgeable nurses who work autonomously and tirelessly. Somehow, they have welcomed me, shared their equipment and scarce resources and been my interpreter to prevent further charades! With the ‘yellow’ Health Workers Treatment Manual as my ‘standing order’ I have been assessing, diagnosing, treating and educating. Thankfully, Dr Graeme Duke has been invaluable answering my emails when I am not sure of a diagnosis or treatment.

Pipe cots and Floral Sheets

On Monday, the dental team and I arrived in Pangi after a scenic flight. Chimere and her crew were anchored close by however, due to the inclement weather, were unable to launch the dinghy. Whilst the crew were boat bound, we were welcomed to our accommodation: a sensory overload of floral sheets, pink and blue mosquito nets, teddy bear blankets, flowers and sarongs decorating the walls. Whilst the toilet may not have met OH & S standards, the shower (a PVC pipe nailed to a tree with black plastic lining) ‘did the job’. Our hosts ensured we had a thermos of hot water available for our use and provided beautiful meals laid out on table cloths and flowers. Whilst Chimere is certainly comfortable, there is a more functional purpose to her. However, what Chimere is lacking in colourful linen and table cloths, she makes up for with her colourful skippers and crew!

The Skippers and Crew

On both missions, both skipper and crew have been an eclectic mix of ages and personalities. Regardless, both skippers and crews have ensured the smooth and safe sailing of Chimere whilst providing plenty of opportunity to ensure her team taste the highlights of sailing about the islands of Vanuatu.
Today has been a perfect example of the opportunities galore. After finishing the dental survey, dental treatment and health clinic at lunch time, the health team, skipper and some of the crew followed a magnificent river upstream to rock pools and a gorge. We soaked in crystal clear turquoise water before ambling back to the beach. We all shared afternoon tea aboard Chimere before Deb, Stephen and I went off snorkelling amongst the coral and clown fish. A perfect day for the health team. The crew spent the late afternoon bringing the equipment aboard in the drizzling rain. During this time, local nurse Dominik requested to come aboard as he had never been on a yacht before. His excitement and enthusiasm was contagious as Deb showed him about Chimere. He wore a smile from ear to ear and marvelled at the nautical names for kitchen, dining room and bathroom.
Like all good, hard working sailing ships, a little more maintenance is required. This awaits the skipper and crew in the morning. This afternoon, the main halyard winch objected and refused to do its job whilst hoisting up the dental/medical equipment. Now that’s a story for another day…

Oh, and we got the bread!

Best wishes,

Annette Hesselmans