Saturday 12 June 2010 (South West Bay 16 28.9 S 167 26.5 E)
Last night an island trading vessel steamed in to the anchorage and anchored in shore of us. Obviously they have local knowledge. The boat had 2 deck houses joined by a “carport” with empty 44 gallon drums on the roof and sacks of copra in the scuppers. The crew crowed the decks laughing and singing. After anchoring they fished for their tea.
The medical crew had a long day and surprisingly had a big general medicine load rather than the normal eye care work. As a result we couldn’t get away last night and when the team came back in the local fast boat from the far flung bays where they worked during the day they came straight to Chimere. Martin cooked up a storm for the crowd on board which was followed by singing around the guitar lead by Tim with a later entry from Alby. Carl is having trouble deciding whether Alby’s nick name should be “Shark Bait” or “Karaoke King”.
Most of the medical team found spots on deck to bed down for the night. Carl, who spent years fishing two- up off the wild English coast and could go all day without speaking, was seriously disorientated with such a noisy crowd on board. He compensated later in the day by having the afternoon to himself on board where he did a beautiful job of cleaning up. They galley actually sparkled.
Richard and Basil stayed ashore over night and when they returned at 6:30am we set off for South West Bay. There was a steady SE breeze blowing so we sailed along under jib alone and the engine at 1500 rpm charging the batteries. Our course took us close to the shore as we sailed west then north west till we could turn to round a protecting reef into a wide bight called South West Bay.
Getting away early meant there was no time to have breakfast so when the activity of getting away finished Paul decided a full English breakfast was required. So with everyone on deck taking in the beautiful scenery and at the same time not doing anything to trigger the feeling of sea sickness he had the cabin to himself. Breakfast included, fried home (ship) made bread, baked beans, poached eggs and crispy bacon washed down with a nice cup of tea. Have you noticed Paul cant have a cup of tea, it has to be a “nice cup of tea”. Carl is grumbling somewhere in the dimly lit cabin that “there were no kippers for breakfast”. Nor are there likely to be Carl, since your fishing efforts hasn’t resulted in the catching of any fish. “Ah’m a temperate fishermaan, Ah’m still acclimatizing to the tropical cond’utions” I heard him explain to Paul who was keen to know why a man of his experience couldn’t catch a fish.
As we got closer to South West Bay excitement mounted among the Whyte family. On board were Mary Grace (83), and her daughters Rosie and Isabelle and Isabelle’s husband, the boat crew’s very own, Martin. Mary Grace made the same journey to South West Bay 60 years ago with her husband Rev Whyte. They lived there for 12 years. Mary Grace worked as a doctor. Isabelle and Martin have often participated in the medical program but this year the tour coincides with the wedding of Mary Grace’s Grandson, Chedwa. So Mary Grace joined Chimere to reach the destination while Rosie joined the medical team and would be there as well. Other members of the family will make the trek by other means. Locals from villages all over the district will be attending the wedding to be held next Tuesday. The Chimere crew will be in attendance and have planned a washing day for Monday so we will all have clean blue MSM t-shirts and dark blue sailing shorts. Very regimental and very spiffy.
As we got to the last way point before rounding the reef Mary Grace was clearly getting agitated with anticipation. She took in every detail of the fascinating landscapes with deep ravines, waterfalls and a shroud of mysterious blue mist tinting everything. Martin suggested she might like to steer and she jumped up like a shot and looked very pleased. After rounding the reef we headed straight for the village where the clinic was to be held rather than the recognized anchorage deep in the bight of the bay. We inched in and found a clear bottom in 6m where we dropped anchor. By now the sun was burning through the mist and the heat was intense and the humidity drawing sweat from our bodies like a reverse shower. In these conditions we started the big job of unloading the numerous boxes labeled SW Bay. The Bulka bags earned their keep allowing us to hoist huge quantities straight from the deck to the dinghy. The dinghy has a load capacity of 700kg and handled the job well. First the medical team bags went ashore, followed by the medical gear, two trips for medical team, a load for the local school, another one for the budding pottery industry and another with general medical stores. We got things off the deck and into the dinghy easily but landing on the beach at the bottom of a cliff was an over whelming sight. There was only one thing to do.
“Richard, Richard this is Chimere do you copy?” we radioed ahead to Richard who went ashore first to organize the clinic.
“Chimere, this is Richard, over”;
“Richard, how are we going to get this gear up the cliff, over”;
“Chimere this is Richard, I’ll organize some help, over”
True to his word a group of men of all ages took the gear, one box at a time, up the cliff as we emptied the bulka bags. After a few trips we had to stop for drinks. We got so hot we stopped for drinks after every trip after that.
On the last trip we were told to hurry up and come ashore for a village welcome. This was new to us. All we could think of was getting everything ashore then collapsing in a shady spot and not moving till our core temperature had dropped back to normal. After getting the hurry up we all piled into the dinghy with the last load.
We climbed up the cliff, carrying what we could, reaching the top and panting heavily. The short walk allowed us to recover our breath in time for the official welcome. The ceremony was held on the village green which was surrounded by concrete bench seats and a little stage at one hand. A lovely spread of cool drinks and pamplmoose was on a table under a tree. We lined up in the hot sun with the table under the tree a mere mirage and our eyes squinting through streams of sweat. Pastor Peter gave a lovely welcome speech in Bislama followed by a reply of appreciation from Richard and an explanation of the clinic service, also in Bislama. Then two young ladies came down our line bowing to each of us in turn, placing a garland of flowers around our neck and shaking hands.
The welcome was followed an hour later with a prepared lunch. The clinic got going for the afternoon and while it was in progress it allowed the boat crew a bit of time off. Gravity drew us down hill to a beautiful stream. Pastor Peter said we could wash ourselves and clothes in the stream. Our eyes lit up. We, with the exception of Carl who was having his solitude moment (or me time), went down to the river. Fortunately we asked a local lady if it was OK to wash there and she explained very nicely that yes you can wash in the river but ladies wash here and men go up stream around the bend. This pleased Christine and us boys splashed our way up stream. It was bliss to wash in that river. On the way back we noticed that Chris hadn’t finished, so to be discrete I asked a young lady who was walking that way to tell our friend that we were walking back. We waited for Chris on the top of the cliff overlooking the bay and Chimere anchored peacefully off shore. Eventually Chris walked back still with the lady we had asked to speak to her. Tilia gave Chris our message and then showed Chris the best way to wash clothes on the rocks and chatted about her ambitions to become a nurse.
Our long day is now coming to an end with Chris cooking tea and the lads telling stories around the saloon table.