As we sit here at anchor in Santo (Luganville) the rain pours down.
Chris and Jo have taken a cabin ashore at the Beach Front Resort, (about 400 metres away) so until Andrew arrives on the early morning flight up from Vila in the morning, it’s just Mike, Terrence and me rattling around below decks. To go on deck is basically to get instantly drenched and there are only so many dry clothes one has available to put on and there’s really no way of getting anything dry. When it’s necessary to go out, the solution I’ve found is to don the togs, get drenched, then towel off when back below deck.
Our current plan is to set sail south tomorrow once Andrew’s aboard, and the replacement solenoid he’s bringing has been installed. (By trusty Chris) But tonight, we thought it would be good to go out to dinner – kind of a farewell to Chris and Jo. It would have been nice for Graeme to have been with us too, but I’m sure he’ll be with us in spirit. As I type he’s in the air, Melbourne bound. But I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from him.
To quote Bob from way back in May, when we experienced weather like this in port Resolution, it’s … (and I paraphrase) … “sleep, eat, read, eat, read sleep … read eat … etc”
One extra thing we have indulged in is a bit of reflection. The memorable moments, the narrow scrapes (not everything makes it into the Ships Log) the personal interactions and so on.
Mike had a big hand in running the many film nights we conducted, given his technical capabilities in being able to get all the pieces of technology to speak the same language, and has submitted the following message to Ships Log. He is now officially our onboard Cub Reporter and we hope to hear more from him in the near future.
Mike takes up the story…
Film Nights – A Hazardous Pursuit
“I think we’ll run a film night in the village tonight” announces Captain Robert. “Get all the equipment ready Mike, we’ll go ashore at 5.00 to set up”
So commences the process of running a movie night in a village that does not have power, and for many young ones, it’s the first time they will have seen anything on a big screen.
A couple of hours before we are due to depart, I commences gathering and testing all the equipment needed – the projector, a sheet for the screen, computer, audio equipment, movies, ‘Harry’ the Honda (our 40kg petrol generator) and his 30 metre cable.
By 5.00pm everything is ready to transfer to shore and the big decision is made – which movie will we show tonight? Ice Age and Ice Age 2 are popular and suits all audience’s, I think we’ll show them. (we had shown Chicken Run, but it was a ‘bit too obscure for the young ones’). Ice Age it is!!
All loaded into the dingy, we set off to the shore, generally a rock ledge or a steeply sloping black sand beach with a surging swell and breaking sea. We are met by locals ready to transfer the equipment to shore and carry it to the village. The villages are rarely along the shoreline, with many of the villages being 15-20 minutes walk up a steep jungle track (more about that later).
When we arrive at the village, we find the venue for the movie night, set up and quickly have a throng of curious young children (and some adults) watching every move. Many from outside looking in, as space is often at a premium. Projector set up first, then computer, then the audio, in preparation for Harry’s lifeline to be delivered and plugged into a multi board and its all go! The film night begins when the power is on!!
Ice Age movie commences (the squirrel chases the nut) and the children are mesmerised by the experience. Their faces light up, eyes wide open, unbelieving at what they are seeing. Soon the adults join in, their faces equally as expressive, as they join in the throngs of laughter. Seeing these faces makes film nights worthwhile.
Ice Age, Ice Age 2 and then the two Medical Sailing Ministries short videos – the Delivery Voyage and Tour 1 – Tanna and Erromango. (Refer website links) These are always well received as we depart Sydney to the Kells music and show the 1400 mile voyage to Vanuatu. Video of Tanna and the eruption of Mt Yasur volcano is often met with a ‘Ohhhhhh’ and frequently when showing the other clinics, a call of “there’s my cousin” can be heard. Ni-Vans have cousins everywhere!!!
Finally after the ‘thank you’s’ the omnipresent Richard Tatwin senses the mood of disappointment and announces he will play action movies until the petrol in the generator runs out. He will have the equipment ready to pick up from the rocks in the morning.
‘Tank yu tumas’ is the call all round as Captain Robert announces it’s time to for us to leave and return to Chimere. That’s often easier said than done – let me recount a typical experience.
We set off from the village unaccompanied, carrying a few bags, cameras and often the ship’s computer which we have used to run the movie.
“Which way is the rock ledge” is the first question, as jungle tracks look so different in the dark? These are times when your head-torch becomes your best friend!
Down the steep slope we go, picking our way between slippery tree roots and mud, in the rain. About half way down, Rob who is leading turns around and says “what’s that?” – he had heard a cracking in the tree canopy above. Before he could finish the words, there was a big thud a couple of feet away on the path, and a coconut a big as your head, rolled into Mike’s ankle! I am glad I was not under that one!!
With more of the same steep slope, slippery roots, mud and a winding path, we finally made it out of the trees. Now, to negotiate the 100-200 metres of sharp coral to the rock ledge, where the dingy will pick us up. I pick my way across the coral step by step very slowly, in sharp contrast to the locals who walk over it as though it were a football field. We are now sitting on a rock, near the rock ledge looking out to sea for lights of the dingy that will pick us up.
Chris, our electrician, mechanic and sailor (who moonlights as a first violinist in a regional orchestra) is the dingy driver tonight and had been in and out of this cove a few times during the day. We see the bow torch in the distance and switch on our head-torches to give him an indication of our location. It all looks so different in the blackness of night! As slowly, the single light draws closer, all we can hear is the crashing of the waves on the rock ledge below. The dingy is about 500 metres offshore in a direct line with the channel to enter the cove.
The dingy enters the channel and slowly negotiates the rocks until we see its white bow enter the cove. “Sit on the rock ledge and get ready to step on to the dingy” says Rob. The dingy draws up to the rock ledge and the bowman (Terrence) fends off the dingy from the rocks to avoid any chance of the sharp coral piercing the inflatable. On the surge of the tide, when the dingy’s at its highest you step across in the dingy. One aboard, two aboard, all aboard!
Now to extract ourselves from this surging cove into the pitch blackness of the channel.
“Head torches off so that I can see in front of us” calls Chris. We slowly extricate ourselves from the rocky cove with forward and reverse engine movements, zig-zag around the rocks and out into the channel , deeper water and relative safety.
We can see the deck light of Chimere in the distance and are all packed at the back of the dingy as the sea is choppy and frequent waves sweep over the bow an soak the person in front on either side, just in case they weren’t already wet.
Chimere gets closer and you look over the side to see the tiny phosphorescent fish darting under the dingy. We are now within a few hundred metres and start to relax a little and soon alongside and hop on to the ships steps and safety.
Strip off the wet clothes, down below to dry clothes and time to re-live the experience.
Was it worth it? Getting back to the boat was an obstacle to overcome, but remember the wide eyes, faces and laughter of the locals. YES, it was worth it which is why we ran a number of film nights on this tour !!
For my work collegues – there was efficiency was in the way the film ran, quality in the movie and a service to the local people.
Well done Mike
Smooth sea, fair breeze and please let the rain stop