Monday 21 June 2010 Avunatari, Marlo Island 4:45pm
Today marked the start of a hastily planned second leg of our tour of duty. At this point in the program we had arranged to be involved supporting the field surgical project. However, the surgeon was unable to come and that part of our tour was canceled. Richard worked up a plan B which involves running clinics on the islands not far from Luganville. Because of the short notice, no volunteer medicos were available so this tour is entirely staffed by locals plus our own Chris who has been “seconded” to the medical team. After a gap between the end of the main tour and this tour starting, we are now into Day 1.
Last night I downloaded a weather forecast from the HF radio in readiness for the trip. It was a steady as she goes forecast; E to SE winds of 10 to 15kts. Nice and easy. That is not what we experienced last night. 30kt winds and torrential rain more like it. I got up numerous times in the night to make sure all was well. I knew our batteries were low so that was a concern in the back of my mind should we have to up anchor in a hurry. Electricity is a constant issue. Everything runs on electricity. The toilet, the water supply, fuel lift pump, lights, fridge and freezer, the anchor winch, the computer, the radios, the GPS navigation system etc.
At 5am I dared the wrath of the sleeping crew and started the generator to get some life giving electrons into the batteries. The generator immediately started pumping 43Amps in to the battery bank. The noise didn’t seem to disturb the peaceful slumbers of the crew.
Just after 6am Chris got up and feeling much better than she did the day before, which had been declared a quiet day, decided porridge was required and set about making a big batch of that favorite cold clime breakfast. In spite of the hot humid weather, Chris had a few takers for porridge. Everyone was up by 7:30am and Carl finished off the breakfast cooking with fried eggs on toast. It goes without saying that everything was washed down with a ‘nice cup of tea’.
Since we have been in Vanuatu we have accumulated a serious cargo of pamplemoose. Carl says its measured in tons, now. Carl decided to juice a lot of them so we now wash things down with pamplemoose juice as well as tea.
The wind started to moderate at dawn and settled at about 20kts. Ray, Chris and I went ashore ahead of the eye team arriving so Ray and I could have showers and Chris could get some last minute things at the shops. Richard, Gibson and Bob arrived on time and we moved bags, boxes and people to the boat.
The main engine was now running and had taken over the Amp duties from the generator. When everything was stowed and tied down we got the anchor up. That sounds easy but it took 15 to 20 minutes to retrieve 40m of chain and a 40kg anchor all the while coaxing a reluctant anchor winch to actually winch. On the helm I was very aware that once the anchor came out of the bottom of the sea bed we would start drifting and very close behind me was another yacht which I wanted to avoid getting any closer to. Paul called out when the anchor was off the bottom and I slowly put the boat’s head into the wind and inched forward while the rest of the chain was pulled in.
The trip back down the Segond Channel got faster and faster as the tide took a grip on us. With the engine ticking over we were doing 7.5kts. We made such good progress that at one point we were peering into the distance to identify the village when Richard said “the village is there”. We had already arrived. We motored in circles several times, inching closer to the shore each time. Eventually we anchored in 9 m and the tide and wind immediately began to fight over which would have control of the yacht.
Richard said “The locals should go in first to get organized, and Chris, you can come with the bags” This might have been a good strategy but it could have been expressed differently. We all agree on that. It didnt work out quite like that, though. The landing area was through a narrow twisty, windy passage among coral which opened into a small, shallow cove. Looking down into the coral was fascinating, with large blue star fish, dory fish and myriad shapes of coral of all colours visible. The coral was just under the surface and the edge of the coral was a vertical face that defined the channel. Very quick reactions were needed by the helmsman to remain in the channel and off the coral. So with shallow water to contend with the bags went as a separate delivery and Chris was given a special dinghy ride on her own.
By about 2pm the clinic was in full swing. Ray and I went ashore later to deliver some dental equipment for Bob, who has been trained in the ART system. Chris was busy dispensing glasses and we chatted with the Chief who was waiting for some dental treatment. Ray enjoyed his first experience of how the clinic runs. We are now (6pm) back on board, its dark outside and Paul has just offered to cook tea much to Chris’ delight. Chris is now kicking back with a chardonnay. Carl has just noticed men going off fishing and is busy on the radio trying to get a gig. Grant is planning a snorkeling outing tomorrow and Ray is quietly taking in the general chaos of the saloon activity.
While the clinic was in session Carl remained on board and completely disassembled the anchor winch with fervent hope of completely avoiding the anchor raising performance of this morning. Not long ago he brought it down to test it on the spare battery and voila it spun beautifully. That is not the description Carl used. More like a “bag of shavings” but he did seem happy that it spun. It means he can sleep easily tonight and reinstalled the anchor winch motor in the morning.
Its time to send this log off. It is getting harder and harder to concentrate with all the banter going. “Paul what do I have to do to make up for all the bad things I’ve said to you so I get plenty of food tonight?” pleaded Grant. “Christine why did you let my crab go?” deplored Carl. “Do you know Ray, that these boys washed the decks yesterday while I was asleep and sent water down the hatch on to my bed. I let fly I can tell you!” Chris asserted. “You can’t pull rank on this ship Dad” says Grant to his Commander Father “No that’s right you have to muck in” Carl has just snuck up on the topless blogger sweating away at the computer and taken a photo…………….Grant has started reading the log from last year about Ann Shoebridge’s trip through the Millennium Cave. So Grant’s planning has moved on and the saloon banter has now given way to wholesome conversation.
Fair winds and smooth seas and disagreeable anchor winches.