Thursday 22 June 2017

lat -19.523 lon 169.499

Sailing southeast in this part of the tropics, at this time of the year, can be problematic when you consider the wind blows mostly from that direction; often at considerable strength day after day – hence the term “Southeast Tradewinds” no doubt?!

Heading NORTH , or WEST , or even EAST is usually a breeze (excuse the pun) but anything south-ish ???!!! … enough said.

It is therefore with great pleasure, relief and a sense of satisfaction that we made the 130 mile trip down from Port Vila in around 26 hours, making good use of a friendly south-WEST breeze, calm seas and intermittent use of the motor. (As sailors we are far from being purists!)

We are now snugly anchored in Port Resolution, named by Captain Cook in 1774, although legend has it the locals had a few names for it too; and still do. Although way back then the harbour was reportedly 2km longer and 5m deeper – nothing to do with global warming, more the impact of earthquakes and probably the neighbourhood volcano Mt Yasur, that attracted Cook in the first place.

On the way down we made a drive-by visit to the rarely heard from village on Ipota on the east coast of Erromango Island; a village we have not frequented before. The reason for the stop was to check out the anchorage – part way up a river – (yes, that’s right, a river) in anticipation of the stop we will be making there towards the end of the mission.

The verdict in the end, after Annette kept the helm of Chimere half a mile off and Gerry took me and Bob ashore in the dinghy, was in local language… “istret”, or, “no worries” as most others would understand it.

This is in contrast to other places where, “tell ’em ‘e’s dream’n” is more on the mark.

On arrival here at Port Resolution , with the anchor securely down, I took local health care workers Bob, Dick and Morinda ashore to confirm arrangements for conducting a week’s worth of medical clinics and the all-important National Oral Health Survey, plus the hiring of a truck to both transport the gear and the medical team of 11 and a few sailor-helper-tag-alongs.

Oh, this also includes the picking up two volunteer doctors and dentists from the Tanna airport, (flying in from Oz) on the other side of the island, (Saturday morning) along with an optometrist from Port Vila hospital (hopefully) … and who knows, a nighttime journey to the nearby volcano at discount “medical rates” if possible. If anyone can, local Tanna-man Bob can. Although, take a look at Bob’s hairstyle and you’ll understand why his current nickname is “Sideshow Bob”

l-r Dick, nurse Nancy, Morinda and Bob

Nancy, the retired Lenakel hospital nurse who has run the local Port Resolution clinic on a volunteer capacity for the past 6 years, was able to solve most issues; even accommodation for Morinda, who, it must be said, spent at least 25 of the 26 hours down from Vila “resting” on a bunk. There’s no doubt that walking on grass, or sitting under a tree have amazing restorative properties?!

Returning to boat it was then the turn of “the rest” – Gerry, Annette, Martin, Peter, Debra and Daniel – to explore ashore; something we all intend to do more of in the brief lull before it all starts in earnest on Saturday.

That said, Nurse Nancy and many in the village, are Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) so Saturday is a day of rest. Others in the village seem to be Presbyterian, who’s day of rest is the more traditional Sunday … but in the interest of health-necessity, I’m assured there will be a half-day clinic Sunday afternoon as a compromise.

Outside right now it’s as flat as! It’s about 10:30pm, everyone has gone to bed (Martin and Daniel are spread out on the foredeck I think) and the sky and water are very very black – save for the stars above and the luminous phosphorescence at any disturbance in the sea below. The only natural sounds are the distant rush of the surf at the harbour entrance, the ripple of the waves against the hull and naturally the hiss and bubble of the steam-vents and boiling water at the edge of the bay 200m off the starboard beam. Amazing what you can get used to…

Before I fall asleep a second time tonight…

Smooth seas, fair breeze and things are going our way

Rob Latimer