Monday 10 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all, a great sailing experience.

Peter Wright