Our destination today … Mota Lava

23 July 2009 8:40 PM (Mota Lava anchorage)

The rest day yesterday was very well received, helping us to regain our strength and make things a little more ship-shape aboard.

We managed to re-fill our petrol containers (used for the outboard and Harry Honda generator), picking up a total of 62 litres at the equivalent of $3.40 Aus per litre – a bargain!!

With the tide well in, we were able to make an easy dinghy pick-up from the pile of undermined broken concrete that passes for a wharf and most importantly, no one got wet.

Mike Clarke takes up the story …

Following the resounding success of cub-reporter and Post Writer Graeme over the past few days, Captain Robert asked me (Mike) if I was ready to take on the challenge of writing the daily post so that it could be submitted to the Examination  Board to qualify to become a Cadet Reporter.

Following yesterday’s ‘lay day’ due to poor weather, which proved to be a very wise decision, since the winds reached 35-40 knots and gusting (for the non nautical that’s 60-70 km per hour). Last night we prepared for today’s sail with our usual discussion of timings, tactics and passenger numbers. Hence bed reasonably early (10.00pm)to prepare of the next day ahead.

Today, Captain Robert allowed us a sleep-in and so invited us all to a leisurely breakfast of tea, coffee and toast, as long as we were ready by 6.30am to complete preparations (including gathering another 80 litres of fresh water from the Sola Community Centre tank) before bringing the passengers on-board at 7.00am.  The invitation and reality are however quite different, with a cup of tea, coffee and a couple of slices of toast, on the run, the best the crew can get.

The Medical Team were standing on the Sola “Wharf”  (read broken collection of elevated concrete slabs which become useable at high tide)  at the designated time (7.00am) ready with luggage to be transported aboard, by dinghy.  The usual routine was employed with our master dinghy driver (Chris) carefully picking his way through the rocks for his first trip to pick up the luggage and one or two passengers.

With the first load on board Chris then set off to collect the remaining passengers and  boxes that were used at the previous day’s clinic.
It is not until the final dinghy trip, that we (the Crew) know how many passengers there will be for this section of our voyage.  “There’s only nine” calls out Terrance.  Just the Medical Team today, no VIP’s, backpackers or inter-island travellers (see previous posts).

With all passengers safely aboard and standing on the foredeck, Captain Robert commenced his “Welcome Aboard” speech and information on today’s sail.  “Welcome again on board Chimere” he commences and follows this with his usual safety information section (one hand on the boat at all times, availability of life jackets, trusting the crew in an emergency and of course finishing with arms outstretched pointing to the emergency exits).  He delivers today’s voyage information, “Today’s sail is approximately 14 nautical miles, the wind is from the South-East, of 20-25 knots, 1-2 metre seas and nice sunny conditions for a good sail of 2 to two and a half hours to Mota Lava”.

Following this, there is always an offer of water and seasickness tablets.  The medical team have sailed with us before and are generally well prepared, so no takers for the tablets.  The medical team are all members of the Chimere Frequent Sailors Club and will soon qualify for a free sail to anywhere Chimere is going whilst in Vanuatu.

“I hope you enjoy today’s journey and I will keep you informed of progress, or any time I would like to take a photograph of you, as we are underway.” concludes the captain.  Given these are ‘experienced ‘ Chimere passengers, there is no need to introduce the crew who will be looking after them during their journey (Jo above deck and Mike below deck).

With the dinghy back on deck, the stairs up and all items lashed down (safely secured), it was time to weigh anchor and commence today’s journey from Sola to Mota Lava.

We left our anchorage in Sola (13.50S, 167.33E) at 8.00am and headed out on a NE course to Mota Lava.  The headsail was set and along with the ‘iron headsail’ (the motor) the boat was propelled along at a comfortable seven knots.  All passengers stayed on deck which made for an easy trip for Mike (me) who looks after cabin based passengers.
The seas were fairly calm for most of the journey thanks to the shelter of surrounding islands and a general abating of conditions.

At around 10.10am, the Captain called the welcome words  ‘Drop Anchor’ and the anchor was set on coral and sand in 25 metres, about 100 metres from the reef edge.
The process is then reversed of unloading the dinghy, disembarking the medical team, their luggage (as they are staying overnight in the village), and the medical boxes for today’s clinic.

We could see Mota Lava from our anchorage in Sola and so today’s sail revealed more about the island as we got closer.  Close your eyes and think of your idyllic tropical island of white sand, coral, coconut palms swaying in the gentle breeze, an aqua/indian ink warm sea and even warmer friendly people, and this is it!  A textbook tropical paradise!

Mid afternoon, a call comes over the CB, “can Dr Graeme come ashore again” (he had only just returned to the boat from the clinic) with local anaesthetic to assist Dr Ian Miller (one of the Medical Team) with an operation.  We will hear more about that later.

As soon as we arrive, the Captain usually requests a ‘local’ to come aboard and guide us to a good safe anchorage and today is no exception.  Johnny, the local police chief, son of local island chief and all-round nice guy, is currently on board and he has guided us to our new anchorage with much better access to the village.  Hopefully, this will be a quiet spot for a good night’s sleep.

Johnny has pointed out a ‘fresh water’ spring where we can again replenish our water tanks, so Jo, Chris, Robert and Terrance have just gone ashore with the water containers to collect the water.

This is the life of the MSM volunteer, early starts, on occasions an opportunity for a brief siesta, wonderful interactions with the local village people and then preparing for the next day, another village and another island.

And just for my work colleagues!  Efficiency, quality and service is the name of the game and we have already implemented a number of process improvements, but that’s a story for when I return.

Cadet Report in training

Mike Clarke

Mike mentions that Johnny came aboard to show us a better anchorage than when we first arrived.  What a guy!!  Graeme had met him earlier in the village and when he brought him out to the boat he introduced him as chief of security and police. “So you can show us where we should anchor for the night?” I said.  “Yes, good anchorage” said Johnny.  “And does it have good landing for the small boat to shore?” I continued,  “Yes, very good” he said.

So Graeme went back to the village with some extra boxes of medical supplies on account of a woman’s gangrenous finger (and I saw his medical photos of the finger and it was truly horrible, you can just imagine how much pain the lady was in) which Ian (a surgeon) had to partially amputate.

Johnny was more than happy to take up our invitation to remain onboard and in order to be hospitable we broke out some more Cadbury Fruit and Nut, plus tea and cold water – oh, and lemonade (all rubis kaikai – ie rubbish food).  Mike showed Johnny a couple of short videos of the medical volunteer work being done and afterwards I chatted with him about his position in security.  “I look after the paramount chief”. he said   “Will you one day be chief?”  I asked.  “Yes” said Johnny.  “Who is the chief at the moment?”  I asked  “My father” said Johnny.  “And when will you become chief?”  I said.  “Maybe 2 years”  he said.

I showed Johnny the photo of all the people on the foredeck from when we were down at Mere Lava and he smiled.  “This one I know.  She is from this island Mota lava.  She married man from Mere lava”  said Johnny, pointing to a woman in the second front row.  “She is my cousin”.  An amazing coincidence.

We were getting on fine, then Johnny said, “I make you family.  I call you (and I’m not exactly sure of the word, but it was something like…) Taito.”.  “What does that mean?” I said innocently.  “It means father!” said Johnny proudly.  “Thank you”, I said, knowing this was a real compliment and a sign of respect, but at the same time thinking, how old does Johnny think I am?!

“What year belong yu?” I said to Johnny.  “I am 45”, he said.  “Yu brother blong me.  You be my brother”  I replied with a smile and a solid handshake.  “I am only 5 years older than you” I continued.  So there you have it … my new brother – Johnny.  I couldn’t resist singing him a few lines from the Elvis standard Johnny B Goode, which he knew well – he joined in.

There was a brief chance to then go ashore and meet Johnny’s wife, Mary Grace and their three little children – Mary Grace even gave me some cooked bread fruit, which tasted a lot like (no, not chicken) potato.

When I got to the clinic around 5:30pm it was still very busy, there were people everywhere and it was decided to do another clinic the next day; delaying our departure to Uraparapara which lies about 3 hours to the north.

And the final contribution today comes from Graeme, who found this on the wall of the bungalow/restaurant:

Prayer for the day …

Lord, I shall be very busy this day

I may forget you

but do not forget me


Smooth sea, fair breeze and well done Mike – Cadet Reporter


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