Settling in to life aboard (again)

Twenty four hours ago Cathy and I had just spent 18 hours making our way here to Luganville via three flights, (Melbourne, Sydney, Pt Vila, Luganville) and over dinner and some intensive de-briefing aboard were being speed-fed information from the departing skipper and crew – Andrew, Denis and David – about all the important things to be aware of. Read more…

Saturday 24 August 2013

Beach front Resort (anchored off the …)
15 31.36S 167 09.92

After spending a month aboard in  July leading the medical mission around the Shepherd Group (just north of the main island of Efate), it’s a funny feeling to now be back in front of the boat computer, at the saloon table, tapping away on the keyboard … late into the night.

Twenty four hours ago Cathy and I had just spent 18 hours making our way here to Luganville via three flights, (Melbourne, Sydney, Pt Vila, Luganville) and over dinner and some intensive de-briefing aboard were being speed-fed information from the departing skipper and crew – Andrew, Denis and David – about all the important things to be aware of.

Things like … “the battery monitor seems to be mis-reading at 10 volts and a red light appears, but we’ve checked the batteries and they are still holding 12.8 volts – you might like to look at that” … “The water maker is making water with 850ppm of salt, whereas it should be around 350ppm – not sure what you can do about that” …

“You’ll need to get more muesli, there’s plenty of bread making flour and we’re out of fruit juice, meat and chicken, but there’s still a frozen meal from Melbourne” …

”There’s a blue boat anchored here, you’ll meet the owners Ken and Joy, they’d like to drop off some paint for roofs on the west coast of Gaua Is, where volcanic ash has affected the iron… and we met Brian and Jan Dodds off the Pacific Yacht Ministries boat Another Angel who are anchored here, be good if you could catch up with them …”

As Cathy reached for a note book and pen,  the questions and comments kept going back and forth.  The reason for the urgency of course was that Andrew, Denis and David would be leaving in the morning – this morning  – to start  their journey back to Australia – first a flight to Pt Villa followed by an overnight stay, then home by Sunday afternoon , and there was a month’s worth of experience and activities to download into us.

In the end, there’s only so much stuff one can absorb, with Cathy turning the page to continue taking notes.  Everything else aside, my attention was still stuck on … “water maker salt readings too high” and “battery monitor playing up” … the rest I figured we’d sort out or discover in the course of the coming week as Cathy and I prepared for
the balance of the crew and the medical team who would all be arriving next Friday evening.


So here we are … the three amigos … Andrew, Denis and David managed to get away with time to spare – my first big decision as the new skipper was … would I accompany the lads out to the airport to wave them good-bye.  The answer?  Well, much as I appreciated all three of them coming out to greet us last night … even after they admitted today,
“there was nothing else to do around here” … I figured there was probably only an hour or two between a good-bye here or a good-bye at the airport and the saving in taxi fares probably amounted to 2000 vatu (about $24).  So after handshakes and hugs all round  we finally said our good-byes after a long breakfast and some more info-downloading.
Team two had done an amazing job along the south and west coasts of Malekula, now that was in the past as we began to set our sights on the mission to come  – Mission 3, north through the Banks and Torres Groups.

While sitting around a table at the Beachfront Resort who should come and sit down but Ken and Joy off the blue boat which they had recently bought in Seattle and which they were in the process of driving home (it’s a motor boat) – to Queensland I think.  And yes Ken we’d be delighted to take some cans of paint to Gaua.


Turns out there is very little about engines, electrics, boats and mechanical things that Ken doesn’t know – and that obviously includes water makers because when I explained the issue, after listening intently he suggested I try using only 500psi pressure through the filter tubes instead of 800psi.  He said, “you’ll produce less water per minute, but it should have lower salt content”.  And here’s me thinking that the more pressure the better, after all doesn’t more salt need to be squeeze out of the water which only more  pressure could achieve.

But who am I to argue … the first thing we did when Cathy and I got back on board was to test the water maker at 500psi and hey presto, we got water discharging with a salt content of 110ppm – it’ll just take a few more hours to fill the tanks in future but there should be no complaints about the taste.

Now it’s onto the battery monitor gauge and Ken has already offered to “pop over”, suggesting … “it’s probably just the power-feed needing to be re-established” … or something like that.

Diving in the deep-end Cathy got stuck into making a couple of loaves of bread – which turned out excellently – although I inadvertently upped the pressure and expectations when Cathy heard me say to another yachtie that the “no knead” bread mix and instructions that my darling wife Linda had prepared  was so simple everyone aboard had been able to make lovely loaves first time.   I think it was about then Cathy said something like “Oh dear!”


Mid afternoon we had a snorkeling dentist off the yacht, Another Angel, (mentioned earlier)  His name was Christian and he clambered aboard and we chatted away about the mission they have just done in north and west Santo.  He was very keen to taste the bread and we returned him to his boat in the dinghy and at the same time got a chance to meet owners Brian and Jan Dodds from Pacific Yacht ministries – the group that I read about in 2004 and which inspired me to start Medical Sailing Ministries back in 2008.

With the dentist heading back tomorrow they had all decided to go out for dinner and asked whether Cathy and I would like to come too.  It’s was a great night and wonderful to chat with Brian, to learn more of their 7 years aboard and the work they have been doing around the islands.  We shared “war stories” and we were able to get some good
contacts and information which will help for the future.  We were also able to give them information on our mudbrick stoves  and a Powerpoint version of our dental presentation “Healthy Teeth Healthy Life”
The hour is now late and it’s time to fall asleep,  (I must get in the habit of writing earlier in the day) , with life back aboard taking on a comfy, familiar feel .

Smooth seas, fair breeze and setting into life aboard

Robert Latimer

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