The Chimere Day Cruise

Tuesday 11 August, Pt Vila

All aboard, all aboard.  Travel Vouchers?  Got ya Travel Vouchers.  Move down the back of the boat.  Careful on the ramp.

So began Vanuatu’s newest adventure sailing experience … as 19 people clambered (and in some cases, this was an accurate description) aboard Chimere for a day’s sail to Hideaway Island.  Our biggest concern was the weather, which had been slowly improving over the past day or so.  But when a rain shower passed over around 9:00am, all eyes went skyward to see whether this was a one-off, or the start of something bigger.

Fortunately, it was a one-off, and before long the sun peaked through the grey canopy and the risk of sunburn became the biggest danger of the day.

Before anyone ran the risk of getting burnt by the sun, however, it was necessary to actually get aboard, which was done by way of the wooden plank from the concrete seawall up to the bow of the boat.  The tide being in, this made for a steep climb, but to make things a bit safer, I’d managed to secure 2 boarding planks, which were lashed side by side, making it a veritable highway, albeit at a rather steep incline!

Once everyone was aboard, (and an approximate head count made), it was then a case of extracting ourselves from the seawall.  Over the past week, new boats have been coming in constantly, so we are packed in side-by-side, basically separated by the width of a rubber fender, lined up like sardines in a tin, some bow-first (like us) and some stern-first.

Fortunately, the marina tender boat hovered around to make sure all went to plan, helping us remove the stern-line whose other end was attached to mooring bouy.  Once underway, to the strains of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, (“A three hour tour …!?”) and we’d sorted out who was going to play the roles of The Professor, Therston Howell the Third and Ginger, it was smooth sailing out of the inner harbour and off in the direction of the open sea.

Now when I say, “sailing”, the noise of the motor could clearly be heard, but before long we had the jib and staysail flying proud and in the interests of the purists we shut down the motor to reveal the true sounds of the sea – the lapping of the passing sea, the wind in the rigging, and the giggles and laughter of the passengers spread out on the deck like litter on a beach.  And I mean that in the nicest possible way – it was a lovely sight.

Out in the harbour the wind picked up and a gentle swell could be detected as the 15 knot south east breeze carried us along on a smooth course.  “What about the mainsail?” someone said.  Well, yes, we could put that up, but with 19 people spread around and everything going so smoothly, it seemed prudent to keep moving parts on board to a minimum.  And the boom does have a reputation.  And anyway, someone’s found it to be a nice place to recline, on the sail and between the “lazy jacks”.  (ropes that keep the mainsail neatly resting on the boom)

After a couple of hours sail, we were safety at anchor in Mele Bay, next to Hideaway Island, with some people choosing to go ashore in the dinghy for a swim and snorkel some electing to stay aboard and relax under the foredeck shade cloth.  Lunch followed, with generous servings of watermelon, pamplemousse, banana and pawpaw, bought from the PtVila market.

The home leg was a bit more lively, as we sailed (and motored) into the wind, but no one got wet, no one lost their lunch and no drinks were spilt – which is a good definition of a pleasant day’s sail I reckon.

Those aboard were, Sue and Frank Martinu, Paul, Rae-Ellen and Lachlan Graham, Andrew, Nila and Heather Latimer, Linda Latimer and me, Dorothy Pooley, Barry and Anne Newman, Kim Warby, Jenny Wiseman, Mike and Robyn Clarke, Terrence Mackaness and Lorraine Beyer.

With all the yacht traffic of late, we were keen to make sure our vacant position on the seawall wasn’t filled in our absence.  But Elsie, the lady who runs the show, assured me we were quite safe, and that Moses (the boatman) would help us back in upon our return.  Sure enough, as I lined up our 5 metre wide, 25 ton Chimere, into our spot, which looked all of 14.5 metres wide, there was Moses and his deckhand in their small boat ready to pass up our stern line.  Our trusty MSM crew of Terrence, Andrew and Mike, plus press-ganged recruits – Paul, Lachlan and Kim took care of the bow lines and the side fenders and all went to plan. (no doubt, much to the relief of the yacht-owners either side of us!!)

It was a textbook, seawall landing, to end a textbook wonderful day afloat.

After another lovely evening socialising it was a welcome pillow that finally greeted my head around 9:00pm.  (apologies to those at my table who witnessed me falling asleep from around 8:30pm.)

On a more sober note, while we were all enjoying ourselves, the skipper of the yacht Windcastle, which arrived two days ago, (and which is moored 3 boats up from us), is mourning the death of his wife. They sailed the seas together and apparently she was unwell when they arrived at the island of Epi, just north of here, but then suffered a reaction to some medications administered from their first aid kit.  It is such a tragic situation.  I haven’t had a chance to meet him, but you can just imagine the loss and devastation he must be feeling.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

As our Aussie visitors face their last day in Pt Vila, our thoughts on Chimere are turning to the homeward voyage, with the list of necessary tasks growing and three new crew expected this week-end – Justin (son-of-Bob) on Saturday, and Tony (of Medical tour 2 – Ambae – fame) and Kevin (a very recent recruit, I’m yet to meet) on Sunday.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and a happy “Day Cruise”.


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