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

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