23 April 2012 | Stewart Island
31 March 2012 | Edwardson Sound - Chalky Inlet
31 March 2012 | Pickersgill harbour
31 March 2012 | Dusky Sound
31 March 2012 | Breaksea Sound
31 March 2012 | Fiordland - New Zealand
02 March 2012 | Milford Sound
24 April 2011 | D'Entrecastreaux channel
19 April 2011 | southern Tasmania
19 April 2011 | Port Davey
19 April 2011 | Bathurst harbour
19 April 2011 | Bathurst channel
07 April 2011 | Port Davey and the Bathurst Channel
25 March 2011 | Port Macquarie
24 March 2011 | Macquarie habour
20 March 2011 | Macquarie harbour
"Oh Dear" - A story by Frances
09 August 2018 | Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
Together with our bags of glasses and other assorted paraphernalia we were ferried the 700 metres to shore in a large dugout canoe. This village was well prepared, a table with four chairs surrounded by woven mats had been set up under a large shady tree. The morning was busy, the village was long established and had many elderly residents. After I attended to a procession of people with complicated sight issues I was hoping for a straight forward test for readers only.
As the next woman, who was '60 plus', was taking a seat in front of me, her friends said �"the woman is blind�". I thought 'oh dear', we can do a lot but we're not miracle workers' and at the same time hoping my face didn't show my despair. I began asking questions and another person amongst the observers said �"the woman is blind - from birth�". I thought 'oh dear' again, Paul glanced over when he heard this statement, he too was dealing with his own complicated clients.
I picked up the test sheet thinking I would at least go through the motions and held it in front of her face. There was a slight shake of her head, and she said �"all dark�". I moved the sheet very close to her eyes (only an inch or two away) and I noticed a slight change in her facial expression and asked �"little bit clear�". I saw the subtle and fleeting rise of her eyebrows (an affirmative answer in island communication) and I said to myself 'maybe there is hope' and I start testing for severe myopia (short-sightedness).
After forty minutes or so of extensive comparison of different strength spectacles, and much to my amazement (and to the wonderment of the woman and to the crowd of observers) this woman was now seeing her world for the first time. For me to watch as her world became �"all clear�" is something I shell never forget. She told me without the glass everything was all smoky and dark and she could only see shapes not people. She waved to a person in the distance, she could see the 'pikinini�" playing and the coconuts in the trees, she could see Monkey Fist anchored in the bay.
We smiled at each other, she slowly stood, shock my hand, raised her eyebrows fleetingly in appreciation and said �"thank-you to much�" and moved away with her collection of glasses �- two pairs -1.25 'to look close', two pairs -4.75 'to look far' and a pair prescription sunglasses ('medical sunglasses' as we call them) to match. I thought 'oh dear' the woman wasn't blind she just required a pair of corrective eyeglasses, that us in our developed world, all take for granted.
Throughout the remainder of the clinic the woman sat in the circle of observers, clutching her precious glasses, watching the proceedings. Many times I noticed people coming to her to look at her glasses. Her expression reinforced for me that our hard work �- to bring better vision to the remote villagers in the Solomon Islands is so worthwhile.
Maybe the next recipient will be an easy one.......
I sincerely thank all who donated to our project to make this a reality.
Please Note �- Normally people only receive one pair of spectacles, however in cases such as the above, we do give two pairs if we have a large amount of the prescription required.
Last Days in Temotu Province
09 August 2018 | Santa Cruz (Ndendo) Island, Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
After leaving Utupua it was time to make our way back to the eastern coast of Santa Cruz (Ndendo) Island before heading back to Lata. Another fantastic and quick sail found us arriving in Dendu Bay under hazy conditions by mid afternoon �- visibility was down to less than 3 miles. On arrival outside the main village of Nangu, we passed a note to a passing canoeist who promptly headed back to shore to deliver said note to the relevant authorities. By the time she reached shore I estimate there were 100 people surrounding her canoe to find out what was happening!
We ran clinics over several days at Nanga as well as the biggest village (Bimber) on the large offshore island called Lord Howe Island. On the way back from Bimber we stopped at the health clinic settlement at Dendu to give the clinic nurses a supply of reading glasses to supply to those we missed. A local tramp steamer pulled in with many people on board. Someone must have pointed us out to a passenger and so we were at it again for the next hour or two. How can you refuse to help when someone walks up to you with his glasses held onto his face by a piece of string?
And.... we saw our first crocodile in the Solomons !!! Probably two metres long. The people don't go swimming in the lagoon there but it doesn't stop them from paddling around in their canoes. Some of the visitors who paddled out to Monkey Fist were kids as young as 10 or 12 and they had with them pikininis of less than 18 months old.
And it's time to say goodbye to the Temotu Province (Santa Cruz Islands)
After nine weeks in the Temotu Province it's time to set sail to other remote areas to the north. In the time we have been here we have seen only one other yacht which was anchored in Lata many weeks ago. The conditions here have often been very challenging but it has been worth the effort. Tomorrow we'll head to the small islands of Santa Ana to the south east of San Cristobal, 200 miles to our west, after that we are not sure due to our outboard motor situation. Our options regarding it have been whittled down and we now have three choices �- Frances fly back to Australia from Honiara and bring back the parts we need; continue on without an outboard or abandon the project altogether. We have decided that the third option is unacceptable to both of us as we still have too many pairs of eyeglasses on board and we feel that we can still reach many people who need them, so one way or another we will continue on. After we resolve that issue, our next destination is Ontong Java atoll (also known as another Lord Howe Island), 150 miles north of Santa Isabel Island and 600 miles north west of our present position. We plan to also conduct clinics along the way.
The feedback we have had since returning to Lata has been excellent, with many people stopping us in the street and thanking us for their glasses. A number of people have conveyed to us that �"in every house it is what people are talking about�". The director of nursing at the hospital said he had never had so many people come to any clinic at the hospital. Ana, the eye nurse at Lata, said we were able to achieve what she could not because they didn't have the health budget to allow her to do so. We have left a supply with the Ana at the hospital and we understand people who missed out during our clinics last month are already making their way up there to see her.
Both Frances and I feel we have achieved to the best of our ability what we set out to do in this remote part of the Solomons and that, as a result, many people's lives have been improved. We have left, as we always intended, supplies of various strength glasses at the local health clinics (and provided training) as well as with the hospital in Lata. By the time we leave we had fitted and supplied (including those left at the health clinics) 4,788 pairs of glasses (as well as given over 3,500 pairs of sunglasses).
And to the people who believed in us and gave their support - we thank you for helping us achieve what we have so far and we plan to build upon it over the next few months. Finally, the next post which I will publish shortly, will be a short and moving story by Frances about one of the people we were able to help in this remote Solomon Island province. Enjoy.
Yet another challenge
01 August 2018 | Utupua Island, Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
After running clinics at every village on Vanikoro our next stop was Utupua, the slightly smaller island 40 miles downwind. We had a very good breeze, albeit from more or less dead astern (so a bit rolly) and we managed to average around the seven knot mark. As the day progressed the sky became more and more hazy as well becoming overcast. By the time we arrived in Sabben Bay, the atmosphere was similar to having a huge bushfire nearby but without the scent of burning. It's a phenomenon we've encountered once before in the Louisiades (PNG) nine years ago, I believe it's referred to as the �"tradewind haze�". Visibility was down to around four miles and everything was grey and dreary. Not much good for photos either.
Sabben Bay is the site where a Swiss sailor was reportedly attacked and killed by a crocodile during the 1990's while diving on his anchor, apparently it was a ritual he had. Sounds a little odd though - the water is not clear in the bay, nor would it ever be clear I would imagine. Also the bottom is mud so he would have no hope of ever seeing anything if he was diving on his anchor. The police did not attend and there was no investigation (we spoke to the ex-nurse who found the body at the time). Also the locals seemed to make a big thing of the fact that he had a particular tattoo on his arm that indicated he was in the mafia....I'm not sure how that story got started?? We didn't see any crocs while we were on Utupua, but no doubt there is still the odd one around. The anchorage is some way from the villages which are located at the mouth of the bay, about 5 kms but it's reasonably calm water so we took our loaded up dingy and headed off. After conducting a clinic at the main village of Nembao we headed across the mouth of the inlet to the smaller and picturesque village of Asimbo. After a big day and many happy people left in our wake, we packed up the dingy and started heading back up the inlet. A few hundred metres from the village the gearbox of the outboard motor destroyed itself. At the time I assumed I must have hit a rock or reef, so we started to row the four kilometres or so back to Monkey Fist, at about 1.5 kms per hour (it's no speed machine when rowing and fully laden). After about a kilometre or two of slow progress we can across a large sailing canoe plus a smaller one. The guys offered to �"rescue�" us and tow us back to Monkey Fist under sail. Why not? So off we went - they were towing us in tandem, the small canoe towing the big canoe which was towing us. We made much better progress and were back on Monkey Fist drinking coffee in half an hour. We found some sunglasses for the guys and some old rope so they were thrilled.
Later inspection of the outboard showed no signs of hitting anything, the propeller didn't have a mark on it so we're still at a loss to know what happened. It will be impossible to be repaired in the Solomon Islands so we have another challenge in front of us. We have approached Tohatsu Australia to see if they will supply us with a new lower leg but as yet we have had no response. The cost of freight to the Solomon Islands is insane. We have had some parts shipped to Lata (new blades for the wind vane and a water pump for the auxilliary motor �- all up about 2kgs) and the cost of that was around the $450AU mark and it's taken three weeks to get here and that's with Toll Express!!! We were going to be charged over $1,000AU duty as well until I pointed out we were exempt from paying it as we were a visiting yacht. So as you can see, the outboard repair isn't going to be easy or cheap
After this incident we needed to rely totally on local boats �- OBMs and canoes to ferry us to and from the villages. Where communication via HF radio were possible, we made arrangements that way otherwise we would pull up outside the village, find someone in a canoe, or wave someone on shore to paddle out to us, and give them a note to give to either the chief or the health nurse about our proposal to run an eyeglass clinic there. Some had heard of the project and some not. The system works quite well but takes away all of our flexibility and takes some time to organise, as often things in the village are not always simple. Still we managed to visit all the villages on Utupua in the seven days we were there, including an hour stop at a small settlement called Tahua Fou. It was much too deep to anchor anywhere near the village and too far to row from the anchorage, so we pulled alongside the reef and waved some people over to the edge. They had heard about our project and organised a young man to bring a canoe around from the front of the village and ferry them out to Monkey Fist for vision screening, which they did. Three very happy people were dropped back on the reef and we continued on to the next village of Tanimbili.
At Tanimbili we spoke to a guy in a canoe who passed the message on to the chief (no clinic) and so we went and anchored as close as possible, about three kilometres away. After an extended wait the OBM turned up with a very thirsty 30hp outboard on the back �- fuel required - ten litres! We went to the village and our clinic was extremely busy but we were unable to help everyone before the light failed. We were asked to come back the following day and we agreed to do so �- 10am was the agreed time upon and we were told there would be enough fuel left in what we supplied already. We were assured that the tide would not be an issue and we could come back as soon as we'd finished. Just after midday the OBM turned up �- the tide had been too low to get out over the reef! Anyway, after everyone was seen to in the village we headed back to MF in the OBM - and ran out of fuel 200 metres from her so we paddled the rest of the way. We had planned to depart the anchorage for the next village so we took the OBM in tow, gave them a litre of fuel and dropped them off at the entrance to their village channel. They chose to paddle from there and save the litre of fuel gave them. Fuel (premix unleaded) is available in some of these village and the cost is $5AU/litre so it's not a cheap way to travel. Mind you they only seem to have one speed �- flat out!!
A few days later....
After another long day at a big clinic at Aveta (pronounced Avatar) we were taken by big canoe to a couple of small Tikopean settlements (people who originated from Tikopia) to the south and were paddling back to Monkey Fist just before twilight. As we rounded the last point we could see a canoe at the back of MF and Eddie, our young guide, could see that there was one person in the canoe and then shortly after there was another and they started paddling madly away, out to sea. Just a tad suspicious. They were kids whose age we never found out. They weren't apprehended then but later on, after dark, a canoe with a couple of teenage girls dropped by and told us that �"the boys had stolen some mandarins�". They had actually taken a bush orange and a grapefruit from a hanging net in the cockpit. We always lock the boat and put down below anything that might be tempting. All the cockpit lockers are locked and everything else that can be chained on is, and sometimes we will arm the movement sensor alarm down below if we decide it's necessary. Later that night we had yet another visitor, one of the village elders who apologised for the theft, but we said no harm was done. He told us that the boys concerned had been spoken to and on Sunday, at church, there was going to be sermon based around this incident and he said the boys would be punished. Obviously this is a behaviour that the community wants to discourage.
In contrast to Vanikoro, there has never been any large scale commercial logging on Utupua. The villagers still cut timber and sell it but it is on a very small scale and they hold the licences to do so themselves. We were told that some time ago all the chiefs got together and agreed not to permit large scale logging and everyone we spoke to was very happy with that decision. I can only assume that at some stage, the chiefs on Vanikoro agreed to allow the logging and, now on seeing the damage they reek, they find themselves in an unenviable position of halting it. We saw very few OBM's on Utupua compared with Vanikoro so perhaps this was an unmentioned benefit brought be the commercial logging.
Remote Islands to the South East of Lata
25 July 2018 | Vanikoro Islands, Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
It's been three weeks since our last update and I had a mind to wait until we arrived back at Lata but decided to do a quick update anyway.
Weather is always our predominant consideration and the forecast showed a window to allow us to sail to Utupua (pronounced oo-too-poo-ah) and Vanikoro in a few day time so we thought we might be able to sneak around to the east side of Ndendo (Santa Cruz)Island visiting a few "out of the way" villages, which we managed to do. The water is often so deep near the villages, or so exposed, it is impossible to anchor so we have to find an anchorage as near as possible and then take our dingy back, which we're happy to do, if the weather is calm enough. The people here were quite spread out and we did one walking clinic with a guide (at his prompting), along the shore where the huts were quite strung out in a rural type setting. "there's one old man who lives down here..." or "one family with old people just nearby". If you have never visited places like these it would blow your mind just how much the locals can make out of the natural materials that surround them. Very few of the huts have tin roofs and these are mostly paid for by the government, so it's sago thatch everywhere. No two huts are the same and there is a lot of though and creativity that goes into designing and building each one - split levels, verandahs and high-pitched roofs. We were around the area three days before we headed off to Utupua, 40 miles to the south east. The wind, although "on the nose" still allowed us to sail. We only spent one night at Utupua and told the people at Metembo village (where the health clinic is) that we would be back as we wanted to get to Vanikoro while the weather was suitable. The next day the wind was so light that we ended up having to motor the 30 miles to Vanikoro (such is life), which was the furthest south east we would be taking our program. We actually had two days of sun and fine weather - a rare occurrence in this area it would seem, due to the almost ever present Convergence Zone.
We arrived in Lavaka village in mid-afternoon (a must in uncharted tropical areas) and started clinics early the next morning. These islands don't have any mobile network and the only communication is via a HF radio net which they monitior in the morning and afternoon. It's mostly in Pigeon and is a tad tricky to understand especially when the person you are speaking to has had a good dose of betelnut chewing beforehand. Lavaka village had been notified of our arrival but few of the other villages seemed to know. There is always a lot of rumours flying around the place so I guess information gets distorted - stories and yet more stories. However it seemed almost everyone had heard about the sunglasses we distributed on the Reef Islands, however we had decided to save the remaining sunglasses for the remote atoll of Ontong Java 600 miles to the north west. The only sunglasses we supply at the moment are those with prescription and for medical reasons, i.e. people with one eye or with cataracts (we call these medical sunglasses).
Over the next ten days we did a clockwise circumnavigation of the island stopping at the eight main villages which have a population of around 1,200 people in total. It's circumference is about 40nm (80kms)and the island is quite high at around 500 metres, covered in rainforest (where it hasn't been logged) and is deeply indented in a number of places, the anchorages being some distance from the villages so we had to pay local OBMs to take us back and forth (remember OBM stands for outboard motor).
Logging is an issue everywhere on Vanikoro. I won't go into it too deeply here but we actually didn't speak to anyone who was in favour of the logging. The people claimed that they were not paid royalties and certainly there was no evidence of any benefits to the communities. We were told that many parts of the reef were now covered in mud after the rain (which we saw)- the soil washing down from where the logging was taking place. One settlement had a creek for a water supply that, they said, now ran "like Milo" when it rained. The logging companies operating in these areas are from Malaysia but there are also Australian companies logging in the Solomons. Corruption, as always, is an issue. We told a number of people that in Australia we have the same problems they do, for example what is happening down at Dover in the far south of Tasmania - economic development at the cost of the environment and the quality of life of the local people. The difference between capitalism and corruption is often determined by how good one's lawyers are - a few people benefiting hugely at a cost to many and it can all be summed up in one word - greed.
At the village of Emua (pronounced em waa) - only 85 miles from the nearest islands of Vanuatu, on the south east corner there is a health clinic, a very basic standard two room structure. As with many of the villages on these islands, Emua is very difficult to access at low tide. The reefs are wide and either dry or don't have enough water to traverse in a boat, which would make it difficult with an emergency at low tide for someone from another village. We took the dingy in and made arrangements for the clinic the next day with Lawrence, the head nurse. He mentioned that there was a problem with the lights and the HF radio which were solar powered. He turned on the LED bulb and it barely glowed. I told him I would bring some tools the next day and see what I could do. So the following day we ran the eyeglass clinic with the help of all three nurses. Overnight a baby was delivered (at the clinic) and the mother and bub were still admitted when we arrived. I took time out later to look at the equipment and found the problem with the lights was a corroded wire which made me think, if they delivered a baby there the previous night, what did they do for light? Lawrence said that they used his torch and when that battery ran out they used the light from a mobile phone (I mentioned earlier there is no phone service on these islands). That day, mother and baby were healthy and discharged from the health clinic and were taken by canoe back to her home village eight kilometres away. Lawrence said that since April he had delivered ten babies and, as evidenced on all the islands, the birth rate is very high, most families have 5, 6 or 7 children.
For the sailors who read this blog I'll mention the depth of anchorages. We draw the line at about 27 metres, sometimes this means 80 metres of chain out. I guess that's about 140 kgs of weight hanging in the water, including the anchor and the anchor winch doesn't seem to have any problems raising it but 27 metres is deep enough in our books. Also we heard plenty of stories about how there were crocs here but we didn't see one the whole time, no doubt they are there but in very isolated areas and not in big numbers. At one village they had killed a croc a couple of months ago.
I should put in a word about crayfish too as well as mud crabs as, in the end, we had to decline offers to catch us more as we had as many as we could cope with. These were rarely gifts, often people are keen to trade for them, whatever they could get, batteries, clothes, diving gear, fishing gear, etc.,. As per usual the glasses (and sunglasses) are not for trade, they're a gift from the people of Australia. All in all we fitted and supplied 533 pairs of glasses on Vanikoro, and this included leaving some pairs at the Health Clinics with the nurses (whom we had trained in fitting them to people).
17 July 2018
why sunglasses are so important for people living in this climate.
Taumako, Duff Islands
17 July 2018
This elderly lady, Janet who lived on the other side of the island was not able to make it to the clinic so the clinic came to her. She is in her late 70's, early 80's, has never owned a pair of glasses and hasn't been able to see clearly for many, many years. You can decide for yourself if you think what do do is worthwhile. She was given two pairs as well as a pair of sunglasses
17 July 2018
Elina, registered nurse helping with dispensing after screening.
17 July 2018
home visit to people unable to make it to the clinic, with assistance of Mary interpreting.
No items in this gallery.