Ferries and sea legs

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

After receiving steady drizzle for most of the night the crew and the medical team ashore awoke with high hopes and guess what we got – more drizzle. It was enough to wet but not enough to wash the boat.
By 0800 we were loading the clinical stores aboard and embarking the medical team aboard Chimere for the first time. After stowing the gear, providing a safety and familiarisation brief, the report went to the captain that Chimere was ready for sea. After weighing anchor and dragging to the surface what looked like a tonne of sand and mud from the bottom of Homo Bay, we were off. Soon after sailing the rain cleared to present a glorious rainbow as we motored ever northwards towards the next village. The winds were fair – fairly absent – and we had a following sea so the gods had smiled upon our new companions for their first voyage as we made our way to Melsisi.

By just after midday, Chimere was anchored safely off the village in about 8M of water – about 50M from the shore. At about 60M from the shore, the volcano upon which the island was made, drops off to an indeterminate depth. Being so close we wondered whether it was worth even launching the boat however the medical team was not enthused about swimming ashore so we decided that after a leisurely lunch they would take the traditional route.

Lunch was a delicious mix of salad, cheese and crackers, with half the team opting for a mouth- watering bowl of two minute noodles, the chicken flavouring enticing the Ni-Van boys back for more. I’m not sure they realised we were just building their strength to help with the work, as the young muscle for our crew had gone down for the count. At the time of writing we are not sure whether Grant has the same bug that laid Deb low a few days ago or whether he has come up with something of his own. He showed no interest in either breakfast or lunch, which alarmed the rest of the crew so much that we considered calling an ambulance. After discussing what such an emergency vehicle might consist of on Pentecost, we dismissed the idea. Eventually with all the sympathy we could muster, we decided he simply needed to harden up and that he would come good with a little bed rest and fluids. That’s what comes from being on a mission like this with your father!

In short order, the medical team managed to get ashore, mostly dry from the waist up as they were all but thrown onto the pebbly beach. Captain Jon was the only casualty as he jumped out of the boat and stubbed his little toe on a large pebble. He was kind enough to remind us off it for the rest of the night and with Annette, we discussed the need to amputate it and put us all out of our misery. With a local truck carrying their equipment, they began the trek up to the village to begin their afternoon clinic with Mark joining the team to act as one of the recorders. Nine went ashore and only three returned – the remainder partaking in the hospitality of the village.

Local nurse Laurence was very helpful, with ten dental patients queued up and nurse Annette was immediately dragged into assist with a medical emergency. Five oral health surveys were completed and half a dozen other patients were seen. The dedicated dental team continued to work as the sun went down and the boat people returned to their safe haven – or what they thought was safe. We were then informed that a ferry was due in overnight although it was unclear how we could possibly be in their way. Nonetheless we prepared for sea on the off chance we would need to sail at short notice.

Fair winds and smooth seas
Ray Rees
p.s. The ferry was Vanuatu Cargo, who delivered a load of pigs, and we didn’t have to move.


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