Saturday 29 August 2009 (Rushcutters Bay, CYCA, Sydney)

[more photos available – admin]

As was the case four months ago, we are once more tied up in the safe, secure, comfortable surroundings of The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, here in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.

Back in May it was very much a time of anticipation.  Of the voyage ahead.  And the uncertain task of transporting medical volunteers amongst the many remote islands of Vanuatu.

Now, it’s a time for reflection.  Of looking back, recalling the experience and the wonderful opportunity to have served in the unique way that we have.

It is said that by giving, we truly receive and there is no doubt, all of us involved in the Medical Sailing Ministries have received much by our involvement in the recent mission.

In this, one of the last Ships Logs, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved for sharing the vision, giving of their best, plus their shear hard work and dedication in so many areas…

… to the ship’s crews, those in the background helping with administration, budgeting and the website, the many sponsors who helped prepare and assist the ship, to the Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness Project and their partners, for the trust and faith they showed in us, the Uniting Church congregation in Ringwood North, my wonderful wife Linda and boys Matt and James, the dedicated medical volunteers we were privelidged to transport, those of you who have been following the website and especially the generous people of Vanuatu, who enriched our lives through their openness, joy and welcome.

To finally enter Sydney Heads this morning was a great experience.  We proceeded directly to Neutral Bay to clear Customs and Immigration, but not before waving to (my brother) Andrew and niece Elizabeth who had made it out to Bradley’s head to welcome us home.  Then, it was straight over to the CYCA in Rushcutters Bay, where the nice man from Quarantine caught up with us in the afternoon to check aboard for bugs, diseases and the like – none found by the way.

Tomorow, we do the short, 6 hour hop up the coast to Bayview, on Pittwater Harbour, where Chimere has a permanent mooring.  (We’re hoping the current Gale Warning has abated somewhat by then.)  Then for me and Tony it’s home to Melbourne early in the week after we’ve all had a go at cleaning and tidying Chimere.

Right now, it’s 11:30pm, and Kevin, Tony, Terrence and I  have just come back from a celebratory dinner at a nearby Indian Restaurant.  Prior to that, however, it was all ashore for a (much needed) shower and shave at the CYCA facilities.

It is now time for sleep.

The last night in my little bunk, in my little cabin.  I was thinking about my little bunk last night and just how cozy it is.  So much so, that I wrote a short tribute to “My Bunk”.  So if you can only handle a short “Ship’s Log”, then stop reading now, otherwise feel free to read on:

My Bunk

My bunk is more than a bed.  It’s a haven, a retreat, a place to curl up and feel snug inside, while outside the elements rage.

Each bunk is different in it’s own way.  They have a personality.  But strangely, all seek to both hold you snug when the boat heels one way, and then throw you to the floor when the boat heels the other.

My bunk is the lower of two, in my own cabin, on the left, or port, side.  We call it the “wardrobe cabin” because of the, you guessed it, wardrobe which takes up one corner.  A rather flash, solid affair, with two doors, one of which has a full length mirror.

Although there are two bunks, some say the upper bunk isn’t really a bunk at all, just a place to store stuff. That’s because it has a stainless steel support rod rising from the hull below to the deck above, right up through the middle.  To lie in the bunk you have three choices, this side of the steel rod, that side of the steel rod, or somehow, in the middle of the steel rod.

But my bunk is special.  Sure, it’s an odd kind of shape to fit in with the contours of the room.  The mattress is a cheap piece of old foam and the blanket and sheets could probably (no definitely) do with a scrub, but each time I manoeuvre my way into the space, without hitting my head or gaining another bruise from the lurching motion of the boat, it’s like a warm comfortable embrace.

After a lengthy watch on deck, with the wind, the waves and the cold chipping away at my senses and sleep becoming harder and harder to fight, a return to my bunk is like a welcome home; a place where sleep quickly consumes and warmth helps restores the soul.  A space where time stands still, as the boat moves forward, closer to our eventual destination.

Lying on my back there’s also the clear deck-hatch above me, revealing the stars of night and the passing clouds across the blue sky of day.  There’s the mast and sails which can clearly be seen, their set and angle, along with the heel of the boat, revealing our state of progress through the water.  At the top of the mast there’s the navigation lights shining at night and the wind vane giving away the direction and force of the passing air.

Opened just a little, my hatch lets in the passing breeze and on gentle nights, when the rain begins to fall, light droplets of rain fall on my face through the flywire letting me know it’s time to get on deck to bring in the washing.   At other times, when we’re pounding into the sea and water extends across the deck from the breaking waves, there’s contentment in looking up from my snug, dry nest and watching it all passing by.

On one side, my bunk is defined by a raised wooden board, which helps hold me in and on the other, the curve of the hull, through which the ripples of the passing sea can be heard.

When the wind is strong, its shrill, high-pitch voice, like a dozen whistling kettles, enters the cabin from every quarter and when we wallow on the “big blue” in search of a zephyr, the flap, clatter, bang of the sails and rigging strike a mournful tune.

But in the warm, comfortable, snug embrace of my bunk lays a trap.  A voice that whispers from somewhere deep in my pillow … “It’s Ok.  The sails are fine.  Go back to sleep. The wind isn’t that strong.  You don’t need to reef the main.  It’s cold and wet out there.  You’re on a good course.  If you go outside you’ll need to put all that gear back on.  Stay here…”

Then consciousness fights back and the upward journey to reality begins; sometimes with a bang – literally and sometimes with a shuffle to the cockpit and a gentle inquiry to the one on watch … “how are things going?” …  to hear the words my pillow would never utter … “wind’s up, I think we need to reef, or … it’s just about time to tack”.

The task complete, my warm bunk and I are once more united, as the shiver of the night resides and my pillow resumes those words of comfort, sleep and dreams.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and home safe and sound

Rob