Getting down to business

[plesae note that there are 3 (three) posts today – web admin]

Wednesday, 5th May 10.30 PM Aneityum Island, Vanuatu.

After yesterday’s ordeal of simply arriving, today was a case of getting down to business, albeit after a bit of a sleep-in.

As we ferried boxes ashore it was pleasing to see that the medical team were still cheerful as they got into the day’s activities and there were kids everywhere under the veranda of the small clinic building as eyes were tested, teeth inspected and injuries and illnesses attended to.

Talk still revolved around yesterday’s arduous journey getting here, and I don’t think I heard the term “near death experience” mentioned once today, so it’s amazing the difference a day, or a good night’s sleep in this case, as you’ll appreciate if you’ve read yesterday’s Ship’s Log.

Some, however, were starting to think ahead and realising that the boat is really the only viable way of getting off the island, asked about the impending journey to the next island – Futuna. “It’ll be much smoother” we assured. “Oh really?!” came the reply. But there truly is a wonderful mood amongst the team and quite a bit of good humour that I’m sure will ensure everyone climbs aboard for another go at this sea transport caper at the end of the week.

Tony the dentist/crewmember did an amazing job today, and was in his element training the dental cadets, Bob and Shirley, who seemed quick to learn and eager to get their hands dirty. Tony had them picking away at the teeth of the 6 and 12 year old kids with the hand tools and then mixing up the glass ionomer filling agent before getting them to push it into the infected teeth.

Tomorrow the medical team was going to take a local boat around the point to a different village, although the last I heard most have chosen to walk after hearing that it was a similar distance and duration by track as by small boat. I think it’s the terra firma thing again, the more firma the less terra, or it could be they just want to enjoy a hike through the local tropical forest.

At this point I suppose I should mention Andy’s “hand incident”, although I know Bill will be covering it in his message.

From my point of view, I was there in the cockpit last night when the movement of the boat caused Andy to lunge in an awkward way catching his fingers in the metal handgrip on the cockpit dodger. Andy’s response was immediate as he felt the middle of his left hand with his right hand and exclaimed, I think I broke something. Not something you want to hear, and over the next few hours as the pain increased and the opinion of the two doctors aboard (one of whom is a surgeon) was given, poor Andy realised an x-ray and more medical attention would be required, preferably as soon as possible.

So where do you find such equipment and specialist medical attention. Certainly not in these parts … except that is, on very occasional days every month or so when a cruise ship drops anchor about half a mile away in order to disgorge passengers onto Mystery Island, located a short distance away

And would you believe, today was such a day. That’s right, as we crawled out of the hatch for our morning walk around the deck, there was the big (very big) P&O Pacific Dawn anchored out on the edge of the bay, already running a shuttle of small boats taking passengers ashore.

“Do you think they might have a clinic on board”, I asked. “A clinic?!” someone said, “They’d have a whole flamin’ hospital on that thing”.

Reaching for the VHF radio handset, as we didn’t have a lot to loose, I gave them a call … kind of one white ship to another.

So, putting on my best speaking voice I gave it a shot … “Cruise ship in the harbour, cruise ship in the harbour, cruise ship in the harbour, this is sailing vessel Chimere on channel 16 do you read over”

And back came the reply … “Yacht calling Pacific Dawn what is your location?”

My response … “Just inshore of you, closer to the beach” And back came the response in perfect Queen’s English, “Oh yes, are you anchored off our port bow”

I then delivered the news of our injured sailor and a brief run-down on what we were doing here transporting medical teams amongst the islands and we were thrilled when after a short break the officer came back with the news that he’d spoken with the medical unit and if we could run the injured person to the pontoon on Mystery Island the security personnel would assist in relaying him to the ship for treatment.

So that’s what we did, with Bill going with Andy to the big white ship for support. As I say, Bill and Andy will fill you in with more of what took place onboard the Pacific Dawn – including the tour of the ship, the buffet breakfast, the hospitality and generosity … Oh and the x-rays (provided on CD when they left) a sophisticated arm brace, sling, specialist referral letter etc etc. Just amazing!!

All we can say is “Tanku Tumus” to P&O and to Dr Colin Cameron, (Senior Doctor), and his team, who have now become Andy’s newest best friends. It was also mentioned that the encounter with Andy, Chimere and the work of MSM might be featured in a P&O web publication, so we’ll keep you posted on that one.

What happens now, well Andy has booked to fly out on the small plane on Saturday and will be home in Melbourne Sunday night to his ever-supporting wife Leanne. Not the way Andy expected to finish his wonderful contribution as an MSM volunteer, particularly after having survived the two-week voyage from Sydney.

Thank you Andy, you’ll be sorely missed and we look forward to greeting you aboard again one day.

It’s now getting late as Bill and I type our respective messages on separate laptops here on the saloon table. I hope our versions of the past day or so don’t differ too markedly.

Tomorrow, while the medical team goes overland, Bill, Scott and I will get involved with a leader in the community here to see whether mud bricks can be made from the local soil in order to construct “low-smoke” stoves to reduce smoke inhalation and increase fuel efficiency. There’s also the class photos we plan to do for the school and the movie night + dental hygiene talk from Tony. (I think we might do the talk first if that’s OK Tony)

Smooth seas fair breeze and farewell Andy

Robert Latimer

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