Is there a dentist in the house

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Beachfront Resort Anchorage, Luganville


The day started sad with the 7:00am departure of Skipper Jon and crewman Mark. They had served their Tours of Duty with distinction, for Mark two tours in fact, so there were mixed emotions as they took the dinghy to the beach for the very last time.

From there it was just a short walk to the main road and a brief wait for a local taxi to come and take them away. (The pre-arranged taxi just didn’t show?!)

As I write this Ships Log Jon and Mark will probably be landing back in Australia.

There was a definite sense of loneliness as I dragged the dinghy back down the beach and into the water. Now there was just me. Not that I’d have long to wait before Chimere would once more be a hive of activity. The new crew and the medical team will all be piling aboard late Friday, ready for the start of Mission 4 early the next morning.

Looking out into the bay, the wind and the waves had definitely calmed down, as predicted. It had also gotten rather crowded over the past two days, with 6 yachts now bobbing quietly at anchor; three having come in during the night.

Returning to Chimere in the dinghy I climbed aboard – and Yes, for certain family members, I did it particularly carefully because I know I’m on my own for the next two days and there’s no one else aboard to giggle at any misfortunes, or even provide assistance if necessary. It was then a case of prioritizing tasks for the next few days … swapping the empty gas bottle, exchanging dollars into Vatu (hoping the rate has returned to the high of Monday) catching up with Richard to confirm the Friday flights from Port Vila for the Government Dental Health who will be joining Mission 4, plus the many little jobs that always need to be done aboard.

No sooner had I put the kettle on … got to have another cup of tea/coffee … and “what’s this??” … “a dinghy approaching off the starboard beam??” … “wonder who they are??”

“AHOY”, came the call from a fellow sailor, (seven years out of Holland) Deep Boel, as he slowed his dinghy to a stop off the stern. “Greetings, heading to town?” I inquired.

“No, we have diverted from Fiji, we are on our way to Papua New Guinea, but my partner Mallika here has had toothache for several days and we felt another two weeks at sea was too much.”

Mallika then spoke up, “We saw the word Medical on the side of your yacht and was wondering if this included dental. I’m taking Panadol and started antibiotics yesterday, but it’s swollen and really hurts”

“Come aboard”

We were soon chatting in the cockpit like old friends, and after a call to Dr Barry Stewart, who was setting up at a nearby school for a day’s oral health surveying, it was confirmed that Mallika would be seeing a dentist by the end of the day, here aboard Chimere. The visible relief on their faces was priceless.


We chatted some more over tea and coffee and as it turned out Dutchman-Deep was a real handy man when it came to boats, and anything I’m sure, a photographer by profession, and Mallika was a Vet. Both had spent seven years getting to this point in their sailing life-adventure which had seen them sailing up the Amazon River, travelling through the Panama Canal, chartering for several years in the Caribbean, exploring the Galapagos and making landfall at the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

After showing Mallika and Deep around the boat … after all, every yachtie is interested in what other boats look like on the inside … we got to lifting the floor panels to explore the engine … “oh that’s a beautiful engine” exclaimed Mallika … What a woman !!

“Is there anything I can do to help with the maintenance on your yacht while we are here?” inquired Deep “I can come back after lunch if you like” . “Are you serious”… I replied?

“Yes, certainly”

So it was that after I’d returned from town having exchanged the money (yes the rate had returned to the high of two days ago) obtaining a full bottle of gas, plus a few groceries, Deep returned to Chimere dressed in his old clothes ready for work.

“It would be good to get the prop-shaft brake working again, maybe we could work on that?” I suggested. This seemed to be a particular specialty of Deep’s, but after lifting the floor boards and having a good look around with the light this led to the observation that there was evidence of salt water in places where it definitely should not be. This naturally led to the water-cooled exhaust system under the galley sink and that was how we discovered the leaking hose clips; a new job for tomorrow … along with the prop-shaft brake, which we are still to address.

The arrival of Barry and Bob brought boat-maintenance to a halt and so Deep went off to get the patient while I went ashore to get the dentist and his assistant.

Pretty soon Barry, assisted by Bob, were doing their thing, complete with dental chair, injection, (dental) hand tools and cotton wool. There was a ceremonial tossing of the offending tooth over the side as Mallika expressed immense relief and appreciation at Barry’s abilities.

Barry and Bob were soon on their way which left me more than happy to take up Deep and Mallika’s invitation to dine aboard their catamaran.

It was indeed a lovely dinner and I also got to meet their cat, yes a cat! Not a sea dog, but a sea cat, aboard a cat-amaran no less. I didn’t get the cat’s name, but after 7 years aboard it is very familiar with life at sea and has its own set of well-established routines and habits. Given quarantine regulations in most countries it also lives almost exclusively aboard.

Rather than head straight back to sea tomorrow, our new best friends will stay another day here at anchor – making sure not to step on land, thereby requiring formal Customs, Quarantine and Immigration entry. The extra day would enable Deep to continue assisting with the prop-shaft brake repairs and for Mallika’s to be sure her tooth extraction has indeed healed.

Anyone who has ever had tooth-ache, and it doesn’t have to be aboard a yacht, 5 days from land and 14 days from the next main port, will know how Barry’s experience and abilities were appreciated beyond measure. Tank Yu Tumas Barry from your two new Dutch best friends

Fair winds and smooth seas is there a dentist in the house …?

Rob Latimer

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