How many days has it been?

We are now at Losalava on the island of Gaua. However, here is a part of a Ships Log from three days ago, when we were at Merelava, just 35 miles to the south east Read more…

[New pics posted in Mission 3 Gallery – admin]

Sunday 1 & Monday 2 of September 2013

Losalava, Gaua Isand

Whilst communication from Chimere to the outside world has been poor, to non-existent over the last 2 days, it hasn’t been from want of trying.

For some of the time circumstances have just overtaken our ability to write things down and then there has been the lack of telecommunication towers on the nearby islands  to keep us connected and able to email messages.

The HF radio Sailmail system is still playing up, however, I did manage to get a weather forecast last night and an email from co-owner Barry Crouch.  With Barry having to pull out of Mission 3 on account of work commitments, his brother-in-law David kindly stepped up to take his place and after the poor weather on the first night and a few other challenging issues we were unsure whether Barry might have known something we didn’t .  Hopefully David will still be speaking with him by the end of the trip.

When we consider what has been packed into each day, it seems amazing to think we have only been on the boat, as a team, since last Friday night; just 4 days.

To maximize the value of our time here we tend to want to cram the most into each waking hour, and then to top it off, maximize the number of hours each day we are awake.  Eventually though, sleep becomes unavoidable.

We are now at Losalava on the island of Gaua.  However, here is a part of a Ships Log from three days ago, when we were at Merelava, just 35 miles to the south

Merelava, Sunday 1 Sept 2013
With the wind still up and the sea a bit on the rolly side we  got through the night OK;  Matt and Dave taking in turns to wake and check our position and that the anchor was still doing its job.

We have found that the tide runs back and forward along the coast here.  When coming from the direction of the wind all is fine.  The two act as one and the boat stays nicely in line with the elements.  When the tide goes the other way   the two create opposing forces that has us at 90 degrees to the wind and waves resulting in the uncomfortable rolly motion mentioned above.

It was an early day for all, with most up with the sun and getting into their various tasks before the designated, after-church meeting on the rocky point off our stern to have everything portered up the incredibly steep slope to the village.  There was Barry sorting out his dental gear with assistance from Bob.  Graeme running around making sure the right drugs were loaded and optometrist Nancy planning the day alongside Gibson.  Dave and Matt were given the job of making a flipchart presentation holder out of ply wood for all the A2 sized laminated healthy posters.  Then all the while there was Cathy making sure everyone was eating their breakfast and that sufficient food was packed for lunch.

Matt and I stayed aboard the boat to keep watch and attend to a surprising number of things – one of which was to use the dinghy to set a stern anchor to hold us fore and aft to the wind and waves, thereby solving the tidal flow issue mentioned above.

Dropping everyone off at the rocky headland to our stern was the first test of the day; not only 9 people, but all the gear – a mountain of it.  Fortunately a large group of young, strong lads had been recruited to help carry the mountain of gear up the hill and they squealed and giggled embarrassingly as our folk were half lifted and half pushed from underneath to get them from the level of the dinghy to the level of the black, volcanic rocks.

The tide being out, the 2-3 metres wall of rock ahead of us at first seemed insurmountable until small footholds and handholds were pointed out.  Holding the dinghy in one place required me to maintain the forward throttle to keep the bow, (protected from the sharp rocks and barnacles by a tarp) firmly up against the rock face.


It’s currently late in the evening, with Doug, Graeme, Matt, Gibson, Bob and myself having returned earlier from showing a movie up in the village.  It was a big night in Tasmat Village – we showed the movie Lion King and before the start of the main feature Graeme gave a heath talk, (all good clean family-friendly content) Bob spoke on keeping your teeth healthy and Doug gave a devotion involving some actions out front with three people linking arms to signify our close relationship with “PapaGod” and his “PikininiSonJesus”

Showing the movie brought back memories of when we did the same thing back in 2009.  At that time, while Ice Age, was keeping the children entertained, we were negotiating the evacuation of the young woman Linda Sor, who required a caesarian delivery in about 2-3 weeks.  They hadn’t seen a boat for many months and so Linda and her new baby faced a very uncertain and doubtful future.

This time there was no such concerns and being able to use the large church structure meant that more people could be accommodated; and whilst it wasn’t capacity, there would have been a good 50-60 in attendance.

I mentioned the church structure; it really is an impressive building, given the steep environment and that all level ground has at some time in the past been created by hand into terraces out of the forest and jungle.  But back on the boat, as we contemplated the complete absence of the very nice black-sand beach that had made things a bit easier to come and go from shore back in 2009 and 2010, Bob said, “you know they dive for the sand to make the church”.

The image was hard to comprehend, but maybe 50 years or more ago when the church was built, there was no sandy beach – it being formed only in the last 10 years as a result of a substantial land slip down the local valley, and so to get the sand to make the concrete to make the church, men and boys dived close to shore and filled bags which would then be lifted to the surface by other men in canoes.  It was all then carried up the mountainous slope, one bag at a time.

Monday 2 September
All the equipment was up at the village, so it was a relatively simple case of ferrying everyone to the rock landing spot on the lee of the nearby headland.  The tide was out again, so there was much pushing and pulling to get everyone up the shear volcanic rock surface, but it was now the second time we’d all done this so confidence was starting to show.

I stayed aboard to keep watch and catch up on a few tasks, one of which was printing off some photos of the last time we were here for several of the locals.

Around 12:30 Matt took my place and I had a chance to have some lunch with the team and meet some familiar faces from last time, in particular Linda Sor, who was all smiles and happy to say hello.

I discussed the mudbrick stove idea with a few of the men, including the chief, because sadly we’d learnt that the batch we’d made with much effort and community involvement back in 2010 didn’t last so long.  It was hard to establish exactly what became of them but the impression we got was that they took up some important level ground where the young people wanted to play some games – consequently the bricks came second.

Not to be put off I once more sold the virtues of the Low Smoke Stove idea and handed over our demonstration DVD which might have a greater impact.
It was then time to begin the task of carrying everything down the steep path to the waiting dinghy.

Once aboard, there was time to have a swim with the many locals who had made their way out to the boat (swum) including three lads who had been particularly helpful.  They got to choose some flippers, goggles and snorkels from the onboard, giveaway collection – to say they were happy was something of an understatement.  As light was starting to fade and they’d swum to shore, there must have been some lingering doubt, because one of them swam back to the boat to confirm that, Yes, they could indeed keep them.  This return might also have had something to do with another friend, lad number 4, who had also helped and “maybe he could have some flippers too?”

It was then the time of the young women, who swam out together, one girl holding a parcel above her head in a delicate procedure.  This turned out to be a generous gift of nuts, wrapped in green leaves, which had been laboriously cracked sometime earlier.

Evening saw another wonderful meal created by a committee headed up by Cathy, with the stern anchor continuing to do its job in keeping us in a nice straight line.  I should note that our earlier swim gave us a chance to inspect the anchors and by the way the stern anchor had found its way around a gigantic rock, there was absolutely no way it was coming out or being dislodged; not at least if pulled in the current direction.  With departure planned for 5:00am the next morning, this was useful information, we’d have to position ourselves directly above it, or a little behind in order for it to be retrieved.

Also on the topic of swimming, I couldn’t resist, as the local lads were all diving and messing about – one with a wooden handmade spear gun it should be said – accompanied by most of our team, I threw all the available brushes and brooms overboard for everyone to do their worst on the accumulated slime and barnacles below the waterline.  Call it exploitation, but they did a good job, one lad swimming completely under the boat only to reappear on the other side.

As we got to bed, the plan for the next day was for the sailing team to get us away, quietly, efficiently and with a minimum of fuss, while the medical team continued to sleep quietly in their bunks – destination Losolava on the island of Gaua where an afternoon clinic would be conducted.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and saying good-bye to Mere Lava.

Robert Latimer

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