Elizabeth Bay, Erromango 18  42’S, 169 00′ E Saturday 22 May 2010

Our rolly night at anchor off Port Narvin came to an end early this afternoon when we up-anchored and headed up the east coast, across the north coast and then down the west coast of Erromango.

Out destination was to be Dillons Bay, but with a couples of hours still to go and light starting to fade we inched our way into a small anchorage called Elizabeth Bay, just a short hop up the coast from Dillon’s bay.  The Cruising Guide say’s it’s an OK spot to stop, but the chart plotter gave nothing away and even has us located about half a km inland at the moment!

I started writing the Ships Log but barely got the first line out when it occurred to me there might be fish here.  So grabbing the last of the bait from the fridge I baited up some hooks to reasonable success – by our standards.  We left the baited hooks in the water when we came below for a lovely meal prepared by Ann and then upon checking them discovered all the hooks had been eaten off, with the lines bitten through.

For the last couple of hours the rain has been falling and with the decks nice and clean we have opened the port deck filler cap and the water is trickling into the main tanks – much better than carting drums from the shore.  Might have a shower tomorrow.

It was good to meet with old friends at Port Narvin, from our visit last year.  There was Tom in particular and his father old Joe and then this year a few extra names; Simon and young Jackson, plus Chief Joe, and Joe his son, Susianne (who I thought was Chief Joe’s grand daughter, but might have been his daughter) Chief Samuel in charge of the clinic (with something of a hopeless job, with no real medical knowledge but responsible nonetheless for everyone’s health) and Paster Moses and Paster Robbie, who were co-ordinators of the youth conference

I took several photos of people in the village, including several men who are involved in growing sandalwood.  Each tree is dutifully cared for and actually sold to foreign investors when they get about 2m tall.  They then get paid to look after the trees until they are ready to harvest; about 15 years down the track.

Scott has been on the hunt for lobster and managed to get a woman to cook up a couple of coconut crabs while we waited for Iain and Ann to finish treating people.  The tasted lovely, but he was saying that the locals divide up the coast and ban fishing there for 7 years and then open it up for only 1 year, unless people needed to raise money for school fees and then once they’ve raised enough to pay the fees they can no longer fish there.

One of the medical people from tour just past, Ruth Wilkinson, packed aboard Chimere a few boxes of all sorts of things, coloured pencils, children’s books, hair clips and bands, post-it notes, toys, all sorts of things – well we gave a few of these items away today, which were a big hit.  We also gave a soccer ball and pump, donated by the Donvale Christian School, to the school, which they greatly appreciated.

For more of a medical perspective, I’ll hand over to Dr Ann Miller

Ann Miller reporting …
An interesting time medically in Port Narvin, an unscheduled stop! The 500 or so residents of this otherwise well organised village have been without any health care since the last eye care team came through last year. they have no nurse, or dresser, though they are supposed to have one in training in Vila.

The chiefs were very concerned that many of the picanninis had not been immunised, and told us that a few children had died in the last year. Mothers also have no trained help with delivery, there is very little education about contraception, and many families have 7 or 8 children. The average age in the village seemed very young, and there were many very young pregnant girls.

There was a week long youth convention at the Presbyterian church, which provided us with plenty of sore knees and backs….some of them had walked for 2 days over very mountainous country, carrying heavy packs to get there, and were preparing to walk back again. no wonder their knees were sore! chief Samuel was our interpreter, and we were able to give him some impromptu education in the use of the few drugs he had in the dispensary. He was very grateful for the donation of dressings and bandages from Chimere!

Cuts and grazes are very common here and fester very quickly because of flies and the tropical environment. The patients soon divided according to gender, and we managed to see about 75 patients in the day and a half we were there. Several people were referred on to Vila or Tanna for surgery, or for investigation of potentially serious conditions. we have developed a pantomime to illustrate back hygiene, which the locals find hilarious.
Our trip to the other side of the island (Dillons Bay) was a delight, with fair winds and calm seas, with some rain. the north coast is rich in caves, many of which contain bats (from the smell!), and gannet colonies on the cliffs. the fishing was unexpectedly good, with a trevally and a pike caught at anchorage in  this remote bay.

Our last day in Tanna was also good fun. we had set out to one of the villages in a somewhat sombre mood, as teams had not had encouraging experiences there in the past, having been regarded with suspicion in the custom village nearby. The dispensary was neat and clean, and well set up. Jimmy was helpful and friendly. we were just getting started on the few locals who had turned up when we became aware of a commotion outside. looking out we were amazed to see several men and women in custom dress i.e. grass skirts for the women and grass aprons for the men, who seemed to be led by an albino! He turned out to be an irrepressible Polish tourist who had, in the space of 10 short days, managed to overcome years of suspicion and alienation, and had persuaded the custom villagers to attend the dispensary for treatment. we later went up to their village, which seems to survive on the tourist trade. The level of illness among the children was quite high.

More from Ann later.

At the moment it’s still raining and there’s a wonderful sound of water pouring into the tanks.

Everyone’s asleep and I’m about to join them.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and a wonderfully still anchorage!

Robert Latimer