Last night at sea…

Monday 28 October 2013

Off Cape Liptrap, VIC

It seems a bit strange, sitting down to type the last Ships Log – at sea – for 2013.


So much has been packed into the MSM Mission 2013 that it’s hard to believe it was just 4-5 months ago – June 2nd – that we sailed Chimere through Bass Strait – in the the opposite direction of course – as the first of 5 volunteer sailing crews began the task of first getting the boat to Sydney and from their to Vanuatu.

There’s been a total of 36 volunteer team members this year.  Just an amazing number of enthusiastic, capable, willing and wonderful people – 25 sailing volunteers and 12 medical volunteers.  For the mathematically minded you’ll notice that 25 and 12 make 37, NOT 36.  Well one crew member, Tony Richards, did the voyage from Melb to Sydney and from there to Vanuatu, and then, fulfilled the role of doctor, so it seemed fair to count him twice.

This was the first year that we accommodated the combined sailing and medical teams aboard – that’s 11 people for 14-16 days.  It was a bit of an experiment really, but after the structural modifications done to Chimere it seemed very do-able and with the cooperation of each individual team member, it seems to have worked very well.

So thank you to all the team members for participating and for contributing to the success of the overall mission.


As far as statistics go, Mission 1, 2 & 3 achieved the following combined results …

  •  visited a total of 15 separate islands
  •  conducted 33 individual clinics
  •  saw 1,532 patients, comprising…
    • 1246 medical screenings,
    • 805 eye screenings (552 glasses dispensed),
    • 727 dental screenings (with around 400 teeth extracted)
  • delivered 11 dental and health educational presentations to over 350 people
  • conducted 13 mudbrick Low Smoke Stove demonstrations to over 250 people

Importantly, local staff from both the PCV Health Dentalcare and Eyecare were involved in all aspects of the mission, along with Government Health workers on the islands visited, wherever possible.

In addition, prior to the commencement of the first medical mission in July, we were able to sail to the island of Tongoa to rescue an eye surgical team, comprising six people (including a local surgeon) and their equipment, who had become stranded due to the rain.  The eye surgical team had been on Tongoa for a week and were already 4 days late returning with rain likely expected to ground the local planes for another week and possibly two to three weeks.

In preparing Chimere for the mission I think of all the people involved in getting her ready for sea and in particular, Barry Crouch, my co-owning boat buddy, supported by his wonderful wife Andrea, who put so much into getting us to the starting line that I wouldn’t know where to start in describing it.  And then at the last, due to work commitments, not being able to join us in Vanuatu on Mission 3 as planned was a real disappointment – but Barry’s commitment to making sure the mission progressed meant that he had created an opportunity for his brother-in-law Dave to come along, which in itself was fantastic.

Also to thank is my wonderful wife Linda, whose work and encouragement in the background has been invaluable – and I here, now, publicly declare that upon my return to shore I will begin to address the list of domestic chores awaiting me on the fridge – that includes cutting the lawns, sorry, grass.

All those supporters at North Ringwood Uniting Church also deserve a special thank you; tirelessly working away in the background, bringing their skills, experience and gifts forward to ensure that the mission is completed successfully.  Mike Clarke – keeper of budgets, speadsheets and every necessary piece of paper from every past meeting and discussion – I don’t know how you do it – but you do a wonderful job – supported as always by your trusty wife Robyn.  Liz Mallen – thank you so much for your hardwork and constant attention to the website and also to Bianca Latimer with ongoing advice and assistance with the Facebook page.

I know it’s tricky when you start to publicly thank people, because even now, I can think of many, many more whose involvement has been critical to the mission’s success.  And I think that’s what has led to the overall success of the mission at the end of the day – so many people doing what they can, big or small, to make it all happen.  So a most sincere thank you – and in saying that I also pass on the sincere thanks of these in Vanuatu we have been able to assist.  They don’t expect much, they have learnt to do without, but when they do receive help they really appreciate it.


Meanwhile, back here on Chimere, as we successfully round Wilson’s Prom and set a course for The Nobbies and the entrance to Westernport – we have had such a fortunate break in the weather this last day.  We had wind behind us for the past 24 hours and now that we have rounded The prom and have started heading in a north westerly direction, we’ve had a wind change to the south west which would have been on the nose (before we’d rounded the prom) but is now pushing us along nicely.  (Sorry to talk weather again, but that’s the last of it … at least for now …


Earlier today we had a bit of excitement in the cockpit when the handheld VHF radio sprang to life.  An official sounding man was requesting the coordinates of someone and it soon became clear that they were involved in a rescue. We could only hear one voice in the transmission, but the Lat and Lon that was repeated put the distressed vessel just south of us.  It sounded like the radio operator was in a helicopter, then we noticed on our chartplotter screen – along with details of the occasional passing ships – a small icon of a helicopter !  A cute little picture of a helicopter of all things.  I did the natural thing and clicked the curser on it and up came it’s position, direction of travel and speed … 329 knots … 329 KNOTS, like 592 kmh !!   Certainly not a yacht, that’s for sure.

We heard a little more on the radio and then the helicopter disappeared off the screen for some reason.  Our initial thought was that it was going to the assistance of a yacht we’d seen at Eden, but after emailing Cam who helped with the return voyage from Vanuatu and who works in sea rescue we discovered that it was an ultralight plane that had ditched in the sea off Flinders Island and it was their distress beacon that had raised the alarm and a very fast helicopter that had raced to their aid – probably from Melbourne somewhere and winched them to safety – well we are assuming they were lifted to safety.  After water temperatures of 28 degrees in Vanuatu and even 20 degrees in Sydney, here in Bass Strait it’s a not-so-balmy 13 degrees – so the two folk aboard the ultralight are very fortunate indeed.

On the menu tonight … our last serious meal aboard … we had dessert of canned fruit and ICE-CREAM.  I noticed the ice-cream in the bottom of the freezer a couple of weeks back and held off the urge to open the lid until tonight – but never did ice-cream taste so good.

So that’s about it from me.  Thank you to all those who made comments on the website and facebook.  We don’t always get them straight away out here … but yes Carmel we do get them eventually … and the encouragement is greatly appreciated !!

Keep looking at the website for updates of MSM’s work and of course if you’d like to make contact, or you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to make contact.  Donations to MSM are also invited and welcome at all times.  It’s very much a “grassroots” and “volunteer funded” program so whatever you might be able to donate will be gratefully received.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and the last night at sea…

Rob Latimer

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