Sorry tumas … (very sorry)

Friday 5 July 2013

With the last Ships Log entry at last Saturday, some might be forgiven for thinking the crew of the good ship Chimere had turned off the Spot GPS locator, up anchored and headed back out to sea. But the truth is, the HF radio Email system is failing to transmit, email coverage at Havannah harbour is currently extremely poor (maybe due to the incessant rain), and there have been a few other urgent issue to attend to first.

So rest assured we are still on target with everything and will do all we can to get a daily message out from now on.

We have just dropped Kiwi John off at the airport for his return to NZ. A very sad time for all of us. John’s assistance and involvement over the last 7 weeks has been just an amazing thing. His enthusiasm and ability, under some quite trying conditions at times, has really been an inspiration and there were a few heartfelt blokey huggs as he climbed into the dinghy for the last time. A sincere thank you John, from everyone!!

In a few hours we pick up the balance of the sailing and medical team from the airport, then with local health workers Helen and Morinda, we all make our way across to Havannah and away tomorrow morning; the start of Mission 1 – 2013

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Mission 1 begins

Rob Latimer

PS Just to show that I did actually write some earlier Ships Logs, here are two (slightly out of date) for you to enjoy …

A Tranquil Night at Sea

Lat: 17.29 Long: 168.13

30 June 2013

Sunday dawned in Port Vila and the overcast, drizzly, and very humid weather of the last couple of weeks showed signs of clearing away as a patch of blue peered through the canopy.

We’d said our good-byes to Gary Jago last night, with his flight back to Melbourne via Sydney set for 7:00am this morning. He, along with the rest of the delivery crew had done a great job, but of course duty calls and the inevitable return to work.

Tidying, sorting and stowing continued and at around 7:30am, while Christine and Tony unpacked and repacked a portion of the (large)onboard “pantry” in readiness for the medical tour, which starts next Friday, Ni-van Dental worker Bob Natuman stepped aboard to say g’day and check what time we planned to head off to Tongoa Island. We settled on around 2:30pm, which would give him time to nick home to see his wife and small child and for us to do the final lash-down.

Around 9:45 Kiwi-John and I strolled up the hill to the Presbyterian Church and enjoyed the traditional warmth and friendship of their service and afterwards even stood in the line to shake the hands and wish a blessing to all in attendance.

We got talking with retired Government Minister of 16 years, Pastor Sethy Regenvanu and his wife Dorothy who kindly drove us back to the boat and came aboard for a brief chat and look round.

Christine knocked out a couple of lovely loaves of bread and after lunch and Bob’s arrival, it was time to let go the lines and chug out of port (maybe you can see the Spot map on this page of our track)

As mentioned earlier, our destination is Tongoa Island, to pick up a 6 member optical surgical team stranded there since last Thursday and destined to remain another week (at least) due to rain and a wet grass air strip – mud no good for planes! Anyway, it’s about 60-70 miles away, north of the main island of Efate, with our course taking us around the SW tip of Efate then off in a NE direction, threading our way through a few small islands on our way.

It’s currently about 9pm Sunday, we’ve been going around 6 hours and the wind is currently from the east at around 15kts, which is very favourable. The seas are slight and we have a slight heal to port as we lope along. In these conditions we could probably make 7.5-8.5kts, particularly with such a smooth bottom (the boat that is) however, at that speed we’d probably get there at 3:00am tomorrow morning – not a good idea. Not just because the team of six will no doubt be asleep, but because it’s always unwise to approach an anchorage in the dark. So we’ve been doing all we can to slow the boat down – reducing sail, slackening the sheets and even pulling sails down, so as to keep the speed at around 5kts. Our plan is to arrive around 6-7:00am and make a quick turnaround so as to return our passengers the same day in daylight. So far everything is working to plan, although as the wind freshens I have to check myself when I think we have to slow down instead of speed up

At the moment, Jon and I are on watch and it’s only the sounds of the sea, the wind and the clack, creak, strain of Chimere to keep us company – everyone else is sound asleep.

Catch up tomorrow

Smooth seas, fair breeze and … we do passenger service

Rob Latimer

Did I say gentle breeze?

Shefa Province

Monday 1 July 2013

Due to our usual “Sailmail” HF radio email system failing to deliver on Sunday night and there being no other internet option available to us, things have been a bit quiet in the communications area of late.

It’s now actually three days hence (ie 4th July) and as I reflect on the trip to Tongoa and back on Sunday and Monday it seems such an age ago.

But picking up where I left off on the Sunday night around 9:00pm, I think I said something like “slight seas and a slight heal as we loped along” … well it might have been around 15 minutes later, possibly an hour, but it wasn’t long before we got the liquorice all-sorts of weather – almost made this Melbourne boy home sick.

Certainly the wind picked up as we cleared the shelter of the main island of Efate, then the seas got a bit confused and “rolly”, then we had an all-out tropical downpour complete with lightning, and I think thunder, because we couldn’t hear it over the sound of the rain pelting down. Then as the wee hours of the new day dragged by, a glimmer of a half-moon could be made out behind the thinning clouds and the wind began to die away leaving us with a horrible rolly swell that caused us to alter course further north just to improve the boats movement.

During all this time we learnt just how hard it is to slow good ol’ Chimere down when conditions favour doing 8kts and more.

As for the crew and how they fared, on what we considered a bit of a test run for the missions ahead … I’ll start with Bob Natuman, technically not a crew member because he’s a Ni-van dental worker, but man can that guy sleep! Kiwi John, Ramon and John took everything in their stride and with Tony now officially fulfilling the role of “The Doctor” he was given time off for past good behaviour. Our trusty cook, Christine also knew things were well in-hand up on deck and decided to confine herself to the bunk; saving her strength for catering duties the next day when we’d be picking up our 6 guests.

At 6:00am we arrived at the village of Panita, Tongoa and for a short time dawdled up the coast a short distance (and back again) at 2kts waiting for enough light to move closer in and drop anchor; which we did at about 6:30am. It was then a case of unlashing and clearing the decks as best we could, so as to launch the dinghy.

A group of people began to gather on the black gravelly-sand beach as we approached and by the look on their faces it was clear they were very happy to see us. It soon became apparent that it might have been upwards of a month before a plane would dare land, it all depended on the rain stopping – at least for a couple of days.

Around this time one of those indestructible Toyota Hi-Lux diesel utes made its way onto the beach in the distance and in a cloud of trailing black smoke delivered one almighty pile of gear. Not just everyone’s personal bags, (that was just one dinghy load) but all the surgical equipment which I can’t begin to describe. All I know there were some very big and heavy boxes, some with fragile written on them and big arrows pointing UP.

The cargo also contained two roosters in the one bag, a hole cut at each end for them to look out – in opposite directions of course. Gave it very much the look of a push-me pull-you chicken. We had to ask how long they’d been breeding two headed chickens ? The answers came amidst howls of laughter. (There was also a cardboard box with chickens in it but they weren’t so interesting.)

In the end we did find a spot for everything, oh and the passengers, Dr Johnson Kasso, Annie Bong, Helen Karie, Basil Aitip, Lui Daniel and Colwin Dingley and we got away around 8:30 for a very pleasant, glorious sail back; at least that’s what everyone said, I think I went to sleep after breakfast and woke up on approach to Havanah Harbour.

With the aid of mobile phones a truck and a minivan had been booked to meet us at Gideon’s Landing (check his ecolodge out on the web) and around 4:30 in the afternoon unloading began.

So here we remain at anchor, off Gideon’s Landing, where sleep came easily to all aboard the good ship Chimere.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Tongoa and back in a day

Rob Latimer

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