[new images from Mission 2a now uploaded, including above sketch of Chimere by David Beaty]
Tuesday 6 July 2010 Mere Lava , 14 27.42 S, 168 01.13E
Tonight’s title was one of Matt’s.
Not that he only wore a T-shirt, we do have a dress code aboard you know, but as we glided effortlessly through the night before a steady SE trade wind, with brilliant stars above and friendly sea below, Matt must have been reflecting on his previous sailing adventures around Bass Strait and even in the height of summer there weren’t many nights on which it was warm enough to get by with just a T-shirt.
But last night was different. And magic, even by Vanuatu standards.
Changes of watch throughout the night went well and everyone seemed to get enough sleep. Bob, Gibson and Robyn were not called upon to fulfil this duty as we expected they’d have to put in a day’s work running a clinic upon arrival.
In reading through last year’s Ships Log it was tempting to just cut and paste large sections of text into tonight’s message. The island of Mere Lava appeared out of the morning mist and then for the next 4 hours we charged on at over 6 knots all the while details of the island becoming clearer and more distinct.
Bob and Gibson appeared around 7:00am and soon after we had breakfast and listened to string band music on the CD player; a recording I bought before we set sail from Santo.
Once in the lee of the island we soon found the anchorage from last year with white painted anchors on the big boulders at the top of the beach.
The sea was calm and before long we had the anchor down and secure, the dinghy in the water and had sent the advanced party ashore. This comprised, Bob and Gibson, Lainie, Robyn and myself. After completing the strenuous climb up to the village it was agreed that a clinic would be held from 2:00pm and people sent out to the neighbouring 3 village to let them know there’d also be a clinic tomorrow.
We hope to catch up with the island nurse, Patricia, and the many patients treated last year, whose details have been brought by this years doctor Patricia. One very special patient from last year was Linda Sor, who we evacuated on account of requiring a caesarean in a few weeks. We were keen to catch up with her this year and in asking around were soon informed that she was back in her village after the ordeal down on Santo last July, but that her baby died. A baby whose name was Geoffrey. We were really sad because for so long we had anticipated seeing this little baby, who would now be nearly one year old. We even had some baby clothes set aside. But little Geoffrey died after just a week or so in this world, but as Robyn was quick to point out, the mother would probably have died too if she hadn’t been evacuated. So true, and very much the way of things here, where services are few and people do not expect much but are appreciative of whatever they do get.
Later in the day a steady flow of young folk made their way out to the boat, some by canoe and some by swimming. All came aboard and at one point I think Matt counted close to 20 as he, Mike and I stayed aboard ship while Gerhard returned with Bob and Gibson and many boxes of medical and optical supplies for the clinic.
Matt had devoted the afternoon to fixing an in-line blower fan that takes bilge smells overboard via a big hose, a vent, and the fan in question. The fan is mostly turned on when the engine is running and for some time it had joined the list of things-to-be-fixed or simply unserviceable items, but Matt was determined to put his new engineering qualifications into service and get this particular unit working again. Being a sealed unit Matt chose to begin proceedings with a hacksaw in order to open it up to determine exactly where the problem lay. Reflecting on the day’s activities, Matt commented about how enthralled his audience was in his engineering explanations and every aspect of the operation. The pulling apart of the fan, the use of a rivet to act as a new motor shaft in attaching the fan, and exactly which wire went where. The colour of each wire, how the fan operated by being attached to the motor, how a motor works, the way it’s connected to the battery, why it was useful etc etc etc. While some kids fished off the foredeck with gear we found in a box, Matt reckons at least another 10 followed his every move intently as the process was finally brought to a conclusion.
So tomorrow we take a team ashore to run a full day clinic and we’ve put out some feelers concerning mud bricks, and there might even be some clay nearby, but more of that tomorrow.
Being an avid fisher, Robyn sounded out a few lads late today about getting us some bait so we can do some serious fishing. We thought they might have found something else to do because as it got later and darker there was no sign of them. But a short while ago three lads deposited a small bag of small fish on deck in, for which the princely sum of 1500 vatu was paid (about $19AUS) We have no idea what was fair, and the lads were too shy, or reserved to venture a price themselves. But they seemed happy with the deal.
Tonight we have a bonus addition to the Ships Log; a summary of the day’s events from our latest Cub Reporter, and nurse, Lainie.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and back at Mere Lava
Cub Reporter and nurse, Lainie Verboon, provides an account of her day ..
We are on course and heading NE to Mere Lava. The crew are snug in there bunks we have: 8 people and bunks for all! I pinch myself and wonder if I am really here sailing on the South Pacific. The moon is rising a golden glow appears and after sometime the moon brightens and the sea is shimmering! The light produced assists our overnight passage. The sky is lit up by millions of bright stars including the magical milky way! Mike and Matt are on next watch there is a wind change it swings to the NE we pull down the jib and bring in the main the engine is running we hope the wind behaves itself and goes back to East South East. I am excited anticipating the next days events! I go below and join the sleeping crew!
Clambering up the steps after a short snooze (Wanting to be on deck for sunrise) I meet Rob and Mike on deck “a good time to be up , Take a look they say!” Forward I wander all the while in awe of the most memorable sight to behold! This dormant volcano rises 3,000 feet above sea level , there is cloud cover at its peak. We stand on the deck in awe as Mike and Rob point out and describe the surrounding islands.
With 23 Nautical Miles to our destination crew are emerging one by one “A New Day Begins on board Chimere. Spirits are high with excitement growing! Gibson adding to the songs of morning in his Ni Van tune! A Mere Lava Morning is something special!
Eight Nautical Miles south of Mere Lava we can almost see the trees on the island. Meri Lava stands strong and proud a silver shimmer lies encircling the island like a visual calling!!
Excited we wonder what must be going through the minds of the islanders as we approach ready to anchor! We blast the horn on arrival which tells them we are here next we have children standing on high rocks waving, whistling back and forth they are pleased to see us!
Once anchored and secure with dinghy lowered into the water Rob, Robyn and myself with Bob & Gibson set off to the village to assess the lie of the land! We are given a very warm welcome on shore and after a while Lois (school teacher/tour guide) escorts us into the village! “Picture Mount Everest and this only goes a fraction of the way to how it felt to be climbing up this steep and intrepid incline! (Well for me anyway!).
A few stops on the way with Gibson by my side saying in a gentle e voice “go slowly go slowly”, he stops and we check out the garden , a Kava plant, and a couple of pigs tied up squealing at our presence! Arriving at the village it is quiet and peaceful children are at school the women are preparing a special delicacy called “lap lap”, Robyn and I sitting in their straw thatched huts with the children. A toddler is chuckling when I play a game with him and the new matchbox car he just received!
The children get home from school some of the villagers have been to introduce themselves to the doc and I.
I go to test out the “loo”. Robyn reports “Have seen worse” It is a hole in ground squat type if you know what I mean! On my return children are outside sitting on a brick ledge I wave and say hello they are very shy and sheepish. I have some coloured balloons intrigued they approach and after a short time we are laughing heartily and the ice is broken! Gerhard has been watching us from a distance and wonders whether it was me or the children having the most fun !
I am summoned to the clinic there is WORK to be done . People gather around we are setting up in the kindergarten and we begin eye testing (Gibson), dental checks (Bob), history taking (Robyn). My role is to take blood pressures and glucose monitoring we see aprox 20 patients in 2-3 hours .
It is 5pm and time to make our descent back to the shore Robyn and Gerhard forge onwards I hang back with Bob, too nervous to go it alone on this treacherous descent .
Relieved to be on flat ground I catch up with the crew. Heading back to Chimere weary yet very happy and satisfied with the events of the prvious 24 hours.
Time for me to sign off now but not before I say a big thank-you to Rob our trustworthy skipper and driver behind the mission . He is an inspiration to us all. Thanks Rob.