Safe arrival at Akam Island

Tuesday 8 June 2010 10:45 am (16  30.846 S 167 38.952 E, Akam Island)
I always write up the log when it is quiet and all the day’s work is done. But today I have the luxury of quiet time when I am not falling asleep thanks to an early arrival at Akam Island. We continued to make good progress last night. We carried a current ranging from 0.8 to 1.4 knots (nautical mile/hr) plus a bit of wind and a little bit of engine (1000rpm). That combination produced a speed of 5 to 6 kt. We kept slowing the boat down but eventually realized that we would arrive at 4am. It is not a good plan to approach a coral coast with uncertain chart accuracy in the dark so we hove to. That is we stopped. With one of our number left on watch everyone else went to sleep. At 5:30am, just before day light, we put up a tiny bit of sail and set course at 3kts. As the morning light crept over the watery scene we set more sail and picked up speed. Mountainous shapes could be seen on the horizon while our destination blurred into the back ground. The wind picked up and cloud massed around the mountains in dark rain filled shapes. As we got close we could see that the clouds sent fingers of mist out into all the valleys trying to gain control of the whole landscape.

Misty air swirled around us but never completely blocking the view. Our destination, Akam Island resolved into a low densely wooded island, separated from the mountains by a narrow channel. The approach to the islands was guarded by an off lying reef. We stared into the grey-blue colours of sea, sky and mountains looking for land marks that we could identify on the chart and to potentially avoid others that might appear without warning. The final approach to the island became easy as we got close so we swung around into what looked like the only landing area; a lovely little beach backed with mature tropical trees and a little bit of activity among children and men of various ages.
Unlike other places we have visited there was no canoe to meet us and guide us to an anchorage. There was a fisherman who looked up and pointed to a mooring. The depth was 30m so we tied up to the mooring thankful we didn’t have to anchor in that depth but aware that it may not be strong enough to carry our weight.
Martin and I went ashore to pay our respects and ask after the medical team. We learnt that both teams had left for the day, one on foot to “a place far away”. Normally distance in Vanuatu is “not far” no matter how far it is. An admission of “far away” sounded like it might be Very Far Away. We’ll find out tonight when we meet up with them. The second team had set off in a boat just before we got to the beach. As we were being told this, the little boat putted past then diverted to speak to us briefly. They were heading to the Malakula side of the channel to conduct a clinic there.
Meanwhile, back on board, Paul was fainting with hunger as he hadn’t eaten for a few hours. So Paul entered the galley and cooked a big breakfast for the men on the team. The 2 ladies declined the food. They also declined the thought of food. A little lemonade was ministered to them which gave them the strength to suggest they might like a walk ashore. Armed with a back pack and two way radio, Martin ran them ashore in the dinghy.
The engine was on for a long time yesterday but it failed to keep up with electricity demand so Mr Honda is now deployed through the fantastic new battery charger that Noah recommended. 40-50 amps is now being pumped into the batteries.
Because we have a few hours to kill due to our early arrival Carl, Grant and Paul have gone snorkeling, Martin is doing his laundry. The ladies have gone for their walk and all is quiet to write up the log. Doing laundry is next on my agenda followed by a sleep.
The boys are just back from their swim. Paul wants a cup of tea (as always) but this time for medicinal purposes because he swam into a bunch of jelly fish. Carl has just surfaced and said exactly the same thing. It must be in the pommie genome. Since they have surfaced I reminded them that they haven’t replied to their messages from home. For a while we thought Carl was the only one to have any friends because he has received 2 message but now Paul has received one too. They both feel very privileged and their discussion about their replies out lasted their written versions. Carl adjourned to the aft deck while Paul started checking what was going to be for dinner and they have now both rendezvoused on the aft deck with a beer. Carl is just explaining that he is a man of few words.
Paul reminded me of the things dropped over board tally; which needs updating. After we took on fuel we discussed the procedure for leaving the wharf, Carl was on the stern line, Grant and Paul up front. Grant and Paul let go their lines first and pushed the bow off the wharf. At the right moment I was to start driving forward at which point Carl’s line was to be let go quickly.  That was the only quick bit in the whole rigmarole. The quickly departing line ran through the gunwale picking up as it passed, Carl’s favourite shorts ( a gift from his great grandfather and having sentimental value I think he said) which were hanging on the life line to dry after being washed . In the blink of an eye they were in the water and the distance between us and them rapidly increasing. Paul made a valiant but vain effort to fetch the boat hook. At least it initiated a discussion about the man over board procedure. But at such a cost.

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