Time to catch breath

Monday 7 October 2013

Port Vila

As I sit here at the Coconut Palms waiting for the enthusiastic early morning staff to fully stock the breakfast bar, it seems I have very little to do but relax and soak up the sunrise; something staff doctor, by appointment to MSM, Graeme Duke has been prescribing me for weeks.

The Supporters Tour wound up yesterday morning with 30 happy souls, including the last of the Mission 3 crew, Capability Cathy, (who has been mentioned before in dispatches for brave and conspicuous attention to duty – since early September) climbing aboard their Air Vanuatu flight back to Australia.

Return skipper, and carryover volunteer-champion from many a past Chimere command, Bob Brenac, flew in on Friday to join (crewmembers since mid September) David and Sally.  Then yesterday afternoon last minute recruit (and I really mean last minute, as in, confirmed 5 days ago)  Cameron Heathwood flew in on the Brisbane Virgin flight, with return-voyager Carl Warner – veteran of the 2009 and 2010 missions – flying in one hour later from Sydney.

My initial thought after checking out of the Melanesian Hotel – which suddenly felt quite empty and deserted after my return from the airport to work through my final breakfast – was to grab a spare bunk aboard Chimere at the waterfront.   But with Mike Clarke, (fellow MSM co-ordinator) now in Pt Vila and already booked into The Coconut Palms it seemed best to follow him there.  After all, the return crew of 5 has enough work ahead of them getting Chimere prepared for sea without me getting in their way.

Looking back on the Supporters Tour, it’s been very satisfying to hear the positive comments and again, a special thanks to Ari from Excuse2Travel for all her work in the background in making it happen.

After the very moving “Village Experience” at Morinda’s home of Paonangisu at the north of the island (remember how to pronounce it … Pow-nan-isu) last Monday, each person pretty much did their own thing on the Tuesday, with Wednesday seeing half of the team, (plus a few extras bringing the number up to 21), aboard Chimere for a sail around to Hideaway Island for a time of snorkeling, eating, relaxing and socializing.  Included amongst the “extras”  was Ken and Joy off the motor vessel Trinity Castle who played the role of deckhand and I think the term Ken used was “galley wench” … but I may have misheard that.  At the end of the day, however, when it came time to start the engine – which would not start – Ken took on the roles of diesel mechanic and electrical engineer as he first diagnosed the problem as a dead (or dying) starter motor and then pulled off the very last “start” of the starter motor with the aid of a big screwdriver.

Consequently, the next day – Thursday, saw no Day Sail, as we set about pulling off the starter motor and ordering a new one from Australia – which new skipper Bob was able to pick up from the Sydney warehouse at five minutes to five that afternoon and bring over as rather heavy luggage the next day.  Lucky Bob has taken to leaving most of his clothes and belongings aboard and had room in his bag for the 17kg item!

For those not so familiar with dirty things like motors, etc, a hint to the importance of a starter motor can be found in its name … STARTER motor.  Like most things, nothing happens unless they first START, and that’s what a starter motor does … it starts the motor by receiving an electrical charge from the batteries (when you turn the ignition key) which then turns a small gear which then in turn engages with the main motor – thereby starting it and enabling you to drive forward (and backwards if required)   I know we are a sailing boat, but the motor is very useful a lot of the time.

Ken’s screwdriver trick. which he tried only after many attempts at hitting the side of the unit with a hammer, was really one of those miracle strokes that would not work a second time owing to the electrical system suffering what the service man the next day described as … “a catastrophic failure” … not what you want to hear.

Tuesday 8 October
The crew of Chimere are now ready to depart Port Vila.  It’s early morning and I’m back at the Coconut Palms breakfast bar madly typing away with my two fingers.  All the team has to do now is obtain their Customs and Immigration Clearances (after first paying around $175AUS), fuel-up and then lift the dinghy on deck.  The final weather forecast will determine whether they return to Sydney over the top, or around the bottom of New Caledonia.

Special mention again needs to go to Ken, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the new starter motor is fully operational.  His and Joy’s involvement in the work of MSM has really been a blessing and they fully deserve to wear their MSM shirts with pride..

Smooth seas, fair breeze and time to take breath

Rob Latimer


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