Jesse’s anchorage, Ambae

Saturday 20 June, 9.16pm (anchored at Nduindui, Ambae)

Medical team 2 flew in yesterday. We crammed everyone and all their gear into three minute taxis – those Daewoo kitchen appliances that masquerade as cars – and delivered gear to Chimere and the people to their accommodation, hijacking Martin and the goodies he had brought with him in the process. Immediately he arrived on board, Martin took over Bob’s role as He Who Dismantles and Rebuilds, while Bob sat back with a coffee for a well-earned break.
We joined the medical team for dinner at their accommodation – they prepared an absolutely wonderful meal of fresh fish cooked in fresh coconut cream with island cabbage and fruit salad and ice-cream, topped off by Chimere brownies. A round-table introduction where we each gave a brief description of our backgrounds revealed a very diverse set of individuals with two things in common (three if you count the fact that we’re all on this tour): everyone has a sense of being strongly privileged and wants to share that with people who can really use it, and all of us are happy to have a go at doing things we’ve never done before.

The medical team is comprised of three Ni-Vanuatu; a specialist eye-care nurse, a trainee nurse, and a member of the eye-care team who has been involved with the work here for some years. The Australians are a pharmacist-turned optometrist, two nurses, a GP, a general assistant and a Rotarian from Sale who is an experienced team member on this programme.

That meant there were fifteen of us on board for a very early breakfast this morning before heading for Ambae. Our planned 5am start was delayed for two hours due to an electrical storm with high winds and torrential rain preventing us getting everyone on board until it abated, but once we got going the wind was in our favour and we moved along at a rollicking pace of up to 7.5 knots under the main, yankee and staysails, beating into a large rolling sea. Anyone on the foredeck was rapidly saturated. Jessie, one of the Ni-Vans who originally comes fom Ambae and at whose village we are currently anchored (hence “Jessie’s Anchorage”), asked me at one point “Why does the boat lean over like that?” meaning why does it heel? “The way the wind works the sails, it makes it go better” I said, and remembering my fear when I first experienced a boat heeling – “But it NEVER falls over!” “Never?” “No, never.” She relaxed at that, and I felt secure that what I had said was true for Chimere, at least.

We reached Ambae well inside our projected time frame, dropping anchor at 2 pm. Black volcanic rock lined the shore (no sand), and we were passing the binoculars trying to figure out what was on the rocks below the secondary school. As we drew close, we saw it was a great deal of graffiti, and washing spread out to dry on the rocks. Volcanic rock holds a great deal of heat, and is used for cooking fires, and now we know, quick-drying of washing as well.

James’ Michener’s “Jewel of the Pacific,” (his description of Ambae in “Tales of the Pacific” on which the musical “South Pacific was based) has a lush green coastline fringed with coconut palms. The palm fronds spill down the mountainside to around 10m of the tideline, with just glimpses of habitation hidden between the trees. and the inland mountains are permanently shrouded in mist. The drop off the beach into the ocean is pretty well 45%, as the sea depth is well over 100m right up to within 100 m of the coastline. We were greeted by a couple of residents in outriggers with whom we engaged in lively conversation.

Just as we finished our Jen-lunch, the trucks arrived to drive the team and all the gear 40 minutes to their first clinic location. Hopefully we’ll be able to receive news of their progress by mobile phone before we pick them up next Friday and move them to their next point of work.

We hadn’t exactly had a party on board, but there was the kind of disorder you get when a lot of people have moved through a space. It’s good to have spent the day doing what we came for, to have tidied up, leaped into the sea (fully clothed in my case) cooled down and cleaned up, eaten a delicious meal (Martin’s organic steak from the French Island farm – and Bob ate FERNS!) and catching up on the sleep we missed last night.

Thanks Margie for the chocolate via Tony Richards!!

Ann Shoebridge and Martin Purcell



4 thoughts on “Jesse’s anchorage, Ambae”

  1. hmm google maps of limited use – clearly google reckons you’re remote, even if it doesn’t feel that way from on deck. if you’re dropping the medical team off and then coming back for them, would it be rude to ask how you amuse yourselves in the interim? i’m sure you’re more than a water-taxi, or daewoo of the waves (which would however add a new spin to waving down a taxi). glad you haven’t fallen overboard with all that listing!
    loving the vicarious adventure!

  2. Hi Crew on the Chimere.
    Daily I read with interest your travellings, freezing to death down here in Melbourne, I wonder how Tony is going one week on? and we are missing him from the HBYC yard.


  3. Hi Hilary,

    No, not just a Daewoo of the waves (Chimere’s a grand lady, I’ll have you know!), but we’ll discover the seeds of our expanded role today when we go in to give a hand. Never fear – it will be in the post! We’re just waiting for the bread to finish its second rising and then bake before we leave. I thought if I started at 6 am I’d be done by 9, but it’s 9.30 now and even the bread works on island time…

    It’s impossible to predict what we’ll do from hour to hour, let alone day to day. Other than departure times, which are of necessity elastic due to the vagaries of weather, days unfold rather then working to an accurate plan.

    xo Ann

  4. Hi Peter,

    Glad to hear you’re following the adventure. I trust you’re looking after Moontide for me. We have to get her up here at some point – it’s a great cruising ground. Great people, great variety in the islands. See you when we get back.


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