Saturday 26 June 2010, 7:30pm, Luganville (Beach Front Resort)

We’re back in Port.
We re-anchored last night so we were more secure. This time we anchored a bit closer to the mainland to avoid what appeared to be a coral ledge closer to the island. Unfortunately that put the lee shore (the one we would drift to if the anchor didn’t hold) close behind us. We felt the anchor was holding so decided on an informal anchor watch where every time someone woke during the night they were to look outside to check our position. With all the rain and the effect of dampness the main GPS and chart plotter ceased to show our position. Paul’s hand held GPS was pressed into service. It shows a trace of the vessels position and in the morning the line it had recorded looked like the meanderings of a demented spider. Our anchorage was definitely subject to tidal eddies and the vessel moved all over the ground within the scope of the chain.
At last the rain had stopped and the night was very windy. Not much sleep was had. In the morning the radio blared out “G o o d   m o r n i n g  Chimere” in Robin Williams style. It was Richard on the radio feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed and wanting to be picked up from the beach. Paul hadn’t finished his pancake with maple syrup breakfast plus a nice cup of tea. So he calmly got into the dinghy with the whole breakfast on his lap and I drove the dinghy to meet Richard on the beach. Richard told us it was market day on the mainland side of the channel and that he would like to see what they have. Richard has been buying taro throughout the islands and we now have ton of the stuff on deck. Paul bought spring onion and island cabbage for Chimere’s pantry and we went back to the boat. The wind was still quite strong and likely to be a headwind for most of the way. The big swell had moderated but the waves kicked up by the wind were fairly large. All this foretold of a slow trip.
With the GPS not working and with Navy chaps aboard we used it as a training exercise. Grant did a good job of setting up the backup GPS and working out the course back to Luganville. Just as we started to motor away and had sounded three blasts of the fog horn and waved to those ashore, the chart plotter started working again. It proved to be intermittent on the way home but working enough to be useful. We can handle this.
Far from being a slow trip things worked out very well. The wind was initially on the nose but the engine had no trouble pushing us into the seas at 5kts at 2000rpm. It couldn’t do 2000rpm a while back. With the various repairs done in Port Vila the engine is very chipper. Then we routed ourselves behind some islands which gave us shelter from the sea and picked it up to 6kts. A while later, with a slight change of course, we were able to set the mainsail and still later with another course change to line up the Segond Channel we could set the jib as well. The wind had moderated but we seemed to be sailing well. Then we looked at the speed indicator and it showed 8kts. We must have had a 2kt current running with us. So the sea gods were with us. They also threw in a few showers so we didn’t get complacent.
When we got back to our favorite Luganville anchorage at the Beach Front Resort, there were 5 yachts at anchor. We found a spot and dropped anchor in 5m at 11:30am. We sent Richard ashore with his gear. He was off to the airport. He plans to send the surgical equipment by local ship to Luganville and it should arrive by Tuesday or Wednesday. We will then load it aboard ready for the next crew to take with them on Tour 3. Bob went ashore to stay with his brother in town somewhere. Carl, Paul and Grant went into to town with the only fixed task being to send the photos to the website. They haven’t been seen since.
Life on board can seem strange for anyone new to it. If you are reading this log but haven’t experienced it, it might be hard to imagine. For instance there are strange sounds. Deep gurgling sounds when the boat rolls back and forth and some waterline outlet is alternately submerged. A gerring sound when the water pump runs at random times. A sump pump starts up for no apparent reasons and makes a smooth running sound followed by gurgles and the sound of running water. The terrifying sound, when heard from below, of the anchor chain suddenly running out. The toilet. What can I say about the toilet? Firstly it is very noisy (it is an electric macerating pump) but it has an interesting way of changing pitch according to the load it is dealing with. This can be a bit embarrassing at first but is now quite forgotten. The sound of the gas stove being lit with the staccato clicks from the piezo ignition. (these clicks now initiate a salivary gland reaction from some of our “can’t be fed too much” crew) The HF radio has a whole range of sounds depending on what it is doing. They all sound very desperate and important and it really over plays it’s hand. There is the engine noise which, these days, is music to our ears. The same can be said for Harry Honda, the little generator, which as I write is pumping in 40Amps to the batteries. Then there is the rigging. Depending on factors that defy explanation, the rig will set up noises without warning. Suddenly there is the slapping of a halyard on the mast, the creaking of the boom and the sound of the wind through the rigging which can be a gentle soothing sound in light winds grading up to the sound track of a psychological thriller in gale force winds.
Sounds are not the only new sensations one experiences. There is the movement of the boat; whether at anchor or underway and depending on wind, wave and tide. There are new smells. There are the cramped spaces, the damp air and the ploughman’s diet cravings. There is sunburn and sun cream, scratches and Betadine, knocks on the head and fleeting sympathy and 2am calls to go on watch and another coffee to stay awake. For the new recruit the sensory intake can be over whelming.
Our crew are well seasoned to life at sea and take all this in their stride and go on and do a day’s work; including running the ship, making repairs, loading and unloading the dinghy, packing and unpacking the cargo each day, making trips in the dinghy usually in open water, sometimes through surf landings or on long coastal treks. Carrying the boxes from the landing place to the clinic and back again. Making sure the medical team is well looked after. Surprising them with a coffee or chocolate. Sometimes some of our crew is seconded to help the medical team. The list goes on and we have all enjoyed and valued the experience immensely. We have valued the opportunity to be part of the communities we have visited and many friendships have been formed. It is wonderful thing to be part of the community’s solution to their health needs. Each year the local capacity grows.
For Tour 2 our official work is now complete. We will do some repair jobs and generally get the ship ready for the next crew who arrive on Thursday. The ships log will continue throughout this period. Skipper Rob will take over at the end of the week.
Fair winds, smooth seas and we’re back on port