Tuesday 6 August 2013

Sweet Carolyn (Bay)

During the night the wind became quite strong. Dave, who sleeps in the cockpit, felt the full blast of it and had trouble sleeping. Down below I had a fitfull sleep as I listened to the noises a boat makes when the wind gets up. By contrast I think the others slept well and emerged in the morning quite refreshed.

We were all up by 6:30am and after a quick breakfast, up anchored and motored the short distance around to Carolyn Bay. On the chart Carolyn Bay looks like an enchanting little anchorage. However, in the tropics an enchanting anchorage can be filled with coral. And so it was at Carolyn Bay. We anchored off shore but even then we were concerned about bommies (vertical columns of coral) and the possibility of getting the anchor stuck in the coral. As we approached the place we wanted to anchor we searched for a patch of sand. Having found some sand we carefully dropped the anchor on to it.
Martin ran Morinda, Helen and me into the bay in the dinghy. The advance party went ashore to find the Pastor and/or Chief of the village and find out where to hold the clinic. When Martin and I returned to the yacht we loaded the medical equipment and headed back to the village in convoy with Denis in the second dinghy filled with our esteemed medical team.

The building we had been shown for the clinic was a typical concrete block structure with only a couple of openings for windows.  This makes for a very dark space and not ideal for our dentist in particular. In the end we set up most of the clinic outside while Gary (dentist) set up in the door way to catch the light yet remain out of the wind.

Two babies had been born over night so Helena (doctor) and Isabelle (Midwife) set off to the clinic to see how the mothers and babies were doing. One baby was born at 1am and the other at 6am. The mothers had walked 4 to 5 hours to the clinics yesterday. The husband of one of the ladies left his wife at the clinic to have the baby while he walked on to SW Bay for big church gathering. Once the baby was born and both mother and baby were getting on well, the nurse took the mother home to her own long house to care for her till the husband came back because walking 5 hours back home on your own with a new born baby is just a bit much! By the way the cost of the child birth unit was 1500Vt or a little over $15. Oh and the post natal diet was fresh bananas and a bit later included lap lap (chopped root veg wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in the fire)
The local clinic was a wonderfully organized place and they made good use of their limited resources. The clinic is run by a nurse and a nurses’ aid; Both ladies being very committed to their roles and very proud of their clinic.

An interesting technical feature of the clinic was a solar powered fridge which they used to keep drugs. Temperature records are meticulously kept to ensure the drugs remain viable. A second fridge was powered by gas.

Our clinic ran well with the dentist being the most popular; so to speak. When I returned to the clinic after one the trips back to the yacht, I found a group of people nursing sore mouths after a tooth (or was it teeth) extraction. Gary had certainly been busy. I spoke to one man and he said (as well as he could in the circumstances), “I have 10 teeth out” and he held up all his fingers in case I didn’t understand him.
Denis has developed some new sterilizing techniques and was able to keep a constant supply of instruments up to our busy dentist.
A peculiarly Vanuatu ailment was presented to our doctor today. An 81 yo lady complained of a bad back so Helena asked a series of questions to narrow down the cause of the problem. “Did you have an injury at some point?” Helena asked. She said “yes, it the problem started when I was hit by a coconut”, “Oh” said Helena with surprise and looking around to see if there were any overhanging trees. “And when was this?” Helena continued. “30 years ago” was the matter of fact reply. This is now the second coconut injury Helena has encountered now.

Communicating with remote villages has been difficult and our numbers were lower than expected today as a result. It is possible that the message will have now passed on to those who need help so tomorrow could be quite busy. Lower numbers meant we could pack up early and take the yacht back to Milipe for the night.

At the end of the day Helena exclaimed “we’ve had a tidal wave of pamplemoose today!” A lady came earlier in the day with a bag full of pamplemoose (large sweet grapefruit) in appreciation of the medical services she had received. Then there was a bunch of bananas accompanied by a lovely written note of appreciation;

“Tankumus blong hospitality wishim yu watem famli wan gud taem from gudfela wok we yu bin mekem. May God blessem yu fela; from Carolyn Bay. God Blessem.”

Then followed more pamplemoose from other patients. At the local clinic Megan and Helena presented the nurse with a pair of reading glasses. In return she had 3 pamplemoose which she gave to Megan, Helena and Rhod. She then noticed I was pamplemooseless and had the nurses’ aid climb the tree and fetch one more for me. As we left we ‘accidently’ left some of the pamplemoose behind but they were spotted and patients ran after us to make sure we had them with us. We love pamplemoose but they are accumulating at a faster rate than we are using them.

The dentist was assisted today by a lovely man,  Alishon, who had been a boat builder. He picked up the technical things of our dental surgery very quickly and helped all day. At the end of the day we gave Alishon a cap and invited him to have a look at the yacht because of his interest in boats. He was delighted and went over everything in detail. He asked if we had a magazine with boat pictures in it that we no longer needed. “No worries if you haven’t got one” he stressed. I gave him one of Rob’s magazines! It went to a very appreciative recipient. On the way back in the dinghy he said he was very happy to see the boat and thank you again for the magazine. “I will tell my family what I have done today”. Earlier in the day he gave Megan some valuable advice about catching reef fish. We had been a bit paranoid about the advice we had been given about some reef being poisonous. “How do you tell which ones are poisonous” was the question to be answered.  Alishon’s advice? Well here it is…..”if the ants and flys don’t go on the fish then it is poisonous!” OK, so the ones covered in ants and flys are OK to eat. We wont be fishing for reef fish!

As Alishon was leaving the boat he said we were anchored in a bad place. The anchor gets stuck in the coral. With that sobering thought we packed up and tried to up anchor. All went well at first but then everything came to a standstill. We were stuck. Martin peered into the clear water and deduced that the chain had wrapped around a coral head but the anchor look OK. So with his direction I backed and turned and went forward until at last we broke free. With happy hearts we motored back to the anchorage at Milipe. We have to return again tomorrow and we are not sure how to avoid anchoring there again.

Tonight, we had Jamaican fish curry rice, bananas, coconut and tomato relish accompanied by Bob Marley music. Now everyone is thinking of turning in and on the stove is the happy hissing sound of dental instruments being sterilized in the autoclave.

by Andrew Latimer

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Sweet Carolyn (Bay)

www.msm.org.au