Saturday 13 July 2013

Emae Island

The day began blowier than normal, overcast and not very promising. The initial idea, after looking at the white caps all around and passing showers, was to declare a lay-day. But after obtaining a 7 day weather forecast which revealed that it was going to stay like this for, well, the next 7 days, the idea of declaring a lay-day kind of seemed a bit silly.

In the end it was around 8:00am that James and I slowly putted off to the beach in the dinghy, slowly gliding her up and over the advancing waves so as not to get too wet.  The tide was sufficiently high enough to enable us to easily weave through the coral reef and there was Helen and Morinda on the beach, surrounded by friends and a few children, packed and ready to be picked up.

After getting Helen and Morinda back aboard the bouncing Chimere it was then a case of securing the dinghy to the stern davits, retrieving the anchor and setting a course for the island of Mataso about 15 miles to the north.  We got away around 8:45am and the distance was covered in no time at all, with the wind astern and a small jib set; plus the motor ticking away in the background. (Refer to Spot GPS track)

The size of the waves picked up as we left the lee of Emao island and on arrival at Mataso we came in close in search of a suitable spot to anchor. Very few people ever visit this island, so little information is available in the cruising guides, however, with high, steep sides and the main village on the weather coast it was always going to be difficult in these conditions.  A break in the reef on the NW side of the island was our only hope and whilst the swell in the lee of the island was less, we were soon met by a swell coming back at us from the opposite direction; having curved around the island from the other side.   The sea was deep close in, making anchoring difficult too, but it was the “wind bullets” caused by the steep slopes and swirling wind that repeatedly hit us at 50kts +, with driving sea spray, that sealed our decision to move on.  We initially thought to move onto the next island north, Makira; the site of our next clinics, however, being a small island with an indifferent anchorage we figured the same problem would be encountered. Consequently, we set our sights on the larger island of Emae where it was known a good anchorage could be found on the north coast.

The thought of a calm anchorage raised the spirits aboard somewhat, with the 3-5 metre swells starting to test the resilience of some.

By mid afternoon we had dropped anchor on a sandy patch amongst a coral reef, with the stillness and calm bringing everyone to life; along with it must be said, a big pot of canned spaghetti with toast and grated cheese.
An advance party of Jon, Ramon, Helen, Morinda, Lyndon and Kristie went ashore to look for a man named Donald – the local health care worker and all-round island leader – so as to inform them of our unexpected arrival  and willingness to establish a dental, eyecare and general medical clinic over the next couple of days; instead of at the islands of Mataso and Makira.

Tony, Christine, James and I remained aboard doing chores or resting.

On return, the shore party told tales of having found a wonderful guy named Donald, of a very well organized and neat island of around 2,000 people and having ridden aboard one of only two (working) vehicles on the island.

Being Sunday tomorrow, and the day of rest, it was agreed that we would set up the clinic, but that treatments would not begin until Monday and continue through Tuesday.  Everyone on the island would be informed tomorrow at church of the clinic; which Donald thought would be very well received given that no dentist had been seen on the island … “for a long time” … which we understood translated into years.

There is a grass airstrip on this rather large island, and at the eye clinic that was conducted here last year a lot of people had apparently asked about the provision of dental care, but sadly they were informed that it was eyecare and general medical care only.  So it will be interesting to see what level of care is required.

Dinner tonight was another one of those pre-prepared and frozen meals made by Joy Harvey from North Ringwood Uniting Church.  After 1½ months the shepherd’s pie was very well received.  Thanks are hereby officially passed on by all !!    James’ latest cake was also well received – a lemon/pamplemoose cake with lovely thick icing – plus sliced banana and pawpaw – amazing.

Everyone has now gone to sleep and after the journey up here and the rolly anchorage at Emao, our latest spot here at Emae is a real blessing.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and a good night’s sleep.

Rob Latimer