For a great u-tube video made
by YWAM showing many of my friends from the Pacific Link, click this link:
I really enjoyed sailing with these people and being a part of this work.
Here is an article
I wrote for the "Kings Pointer", the Merchant Marine Academy alumni magazine
WATERS" By John McDonnell, Class of 1965
Dawn is breaking over the Ivi River in the Gulf Province
of Papua New Guinea. The river is nearly a mile wide but there are no charts of the river and its many mud banks nor the mangrove
swamps that line the river. Navigating this water are two Kings Pointers, Captain Jeremy Schierer, Class of 1996 and Chief
Mate John McDonnell, Cass of 1965.
Captain Jeremy and Chief Mate John on a medical mission, Papua New Guinea
The ship is small,
a 30 year old Japanese fishing boat that has been converted into a medical ship carrying a team of medical professionals,
including physicians, nurses, dentists, an opthomologist , a midwife, and general volunteers. They are all volunteers with
Youth with a Mission, or YWAM. They are missionaries that instead of preaching, are showing people the message taught by Jesus,
helping others who can not help themselves. (acta non verba). The vessel draws about 4 meters, and if we run aground
there are no tugs around that can save us. Jeremy has been aboard the Pacific Link for eight years and has been doing this
kind of work for nearly ten years along with his wife Lori. John has, since his retirement, been volunteering his time with
humanitarian aid ships such as the Africa Mercy. This is his first time with YWAM and the first time he has ever navigated
with Google maps.
YWAM has purchased a state of the art charting program called CeeScope that uses GPS and echo
sounding along with Google Earth maps that plot about ten soundings per second, and corrects them for tides, salinity, and
temperature. It can be carried in the vessel, named Pacific Link, or in one of its two Zodiac boats along rivers, estuaries,
bayous, and slews and can plot those soundings on the map, creating a chart for uncharted waters. Previously Jeremy was brave
enough to enter these uncharted waters with little or no known information just as done by navigators from previous centuries
like Captain James Cook.
Pacific Link anchored in a tight spot near the village of Wowobo, Gulf Province, PNG
uncharted rivers are many villages of a few hundred people who live in the jungle lowlands of Papua New Guinea and are among
the poorest areas of the world, poorer even than most of Africa. The villages have no roads, no electricity, and no water
or sewer systems. The river water is brackish so they need to collect rain water for drinking. They speak over 600 tribal
languages here, most of them in only a small group of villages and are unknown to the outside world, and Pidgin as a second
language. They live in a barter society, there are no stores within a day of canoe paddling. Of course there are no doctors
or dentists nearby. There is no Internet, either, but often if you climb to the monkey bridge you can get a cell phone signal,
weak though it may be. The YWAM volunteers are remarkable people, who love their work and are willing to put up with less
than ideal living conditions in order to make a difference in the lives of people who have very little hope for a long life.
YWAM volunteers aboard the Pacific Link in Papua New Guinea, May 2012. the sign is our motto "I want to
Live" in Pidgin.
Anyone with medical or nautical experience who would like to join a venture like this
should contact email@example.com
Now, in 2012 I am entering my 50th year of sailing since going
on my first ship as a cadet in 1962. I still hold a valid license and want to use it. Staying at home is not what
I want. I have sailed for Feed the Hungry and Mercy Ships, and now a new volunteer opportunity has opened up with
Youth with a Mission better known as YWAM. The Pacific Link is a converted Japanese fishing boat that has been
re-fitted as a medical ship, a small version of the Africa Mercy that carries a crew of 50 and serves small villages
in Papua, New Guinea from an operating base in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. The Ship is captained by
a Kings Pointer by the name of Jeremy Schierer, and he was looking for someone to sail with him for a few trips, and then
possibly relieve him as captain. That sounds like a real adventure to me. The Africa Mercy is a great resource,
but for a seaman it can be unproductive if you are in port most of the time. The Pacific Link sails a lot more
frequently and to challenging, uncharted places up the jungle lined rivers of Papua New Guinea. Their website is
www.ywamships.org.au. Here is a picture of the Pacific Link:
Monday, April 23rd 2012, The big day has arrived, and in an hour I will depart for Houston Bush Intercontinental
Airport. My flight to meet the Pacific Link in Townsville will be a long one, with connections in Los Angeles, Sydney,
Brisbane and finally to my destination in Townsville. It requires a total of 24 hours in the air, and 36 hours on the
clock. If I can make it squished in an economy middle seat all that time, I guess I am good to go! I have gone
over the packing list many times, but I'm sure I forgot something, and probably have a lot of stuff that I don't need.
I have a bunch of toys and trinkets to give away to the children in Papua New Guinea, but kept my one bag, a backpackable
duffel bag down to a little over 40 lbs. For survival on Australian food I brought a jar of organic peanut butter and
some black pepper for spice. This past weekend I spent with my wife Ines, and we went to the Houston International Festival
and got front row seats at the Tango show, which was a really nice goodbye date. On Sunday our son David came home from
College Station to say goodbye, and the weekend before that we had Juliet and her beau Petter Braun here with his parents,
who were really nice, and we had a good time. Now I am as ready as I can be for my two month trip to one of the most
remote places left on earth.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012, After my 36 hour trip to Townsville,
I arrived with luggage and in reasonably good condition, and was met by Captain Jeremy Scheirer, who carried my bag and took
me to the Pacific Link and put me up in the captain's cabin! The ship was moored stern to a sea wall in what I guess
is the fishing port but without other fishing boats around. There are services on board, but if you need a long shower
(which I did) there are facilities ashore about 50 yards down the seawall. The ship does have wifi at present, so I
am able to communicate with the outside world for now. I met a number of the crew, there are about 6 of the normal 15
aboard getting ready for the sail. Tomorrow (actually today) we are having a breakfast with the former Prime Minister
of Papua New Guinea (which is called PNG by locals and later in this blog for easy writing) so I will be brief, but only wanted
to tell followers that I am doing well, and after I get my cabin organized, I will be great.
April 27, Friday Morning. Up early for a meeting with crew to try on new breathing apparatus, etc. Yesterday
was busy. After reviewing fire extinguishers and life raft hydrostatic releases (usual work after the Flag State inspection)
We shifted the ship a few hundred meters to the fueling dock. We are not in the main port of Townsville but in a fishing
port built in the entrance to the river, the port is about a year old and well built, a necessity because a bridge was built
across the river restricting access to the old fishing port. We get free wharfage here, and it is very modern.
We tool only 5500 liters of diesel, enough to get us up to Port Moresby. Everything on this small ship is very small,
about 70% the size of normal ships, that is the ceiling height requires you to walk around with a permanent stoop. The
anchor windlass was rusty and I was worried that it would perform its duties of raising and lowering the anchors, but it worked
perfectly inspite of a rusty exterior. Such a small ship responds very well to heaving on its mooring lines, even though
it was a windy afternoon yesterday. After about an hour of bunkering we returned to our spot, stern to a quay with a
stern gangway. The YWAM crew from the office brought us food from there, because the ship galley is not yet opened,
we are just starting to take voyage stores. The deck crew is young and eager, and prefers to handle lines by hand rather
than using the winches, a big change from commercial crews. They displayed a fairly good knowledge of line handling
inspite of a lack of experience. It was a pleasure to work with them, and a pleasure to see the engine and steering
gear working well. Today there is another "function" aboard at 10 A.M., I will start getting ready.
Last night I had cramps, maybe from my small bed, but I am glad I have a room to myself, most share small rooms below.
Saturday, April 28. Yesterday we loaded stores for the trip.
The young crew again impressed me with their energy in getting things to the place where they belong. I pitched in,
but am still suffering from a bit of jet lag and a cold I picked up. It was a rainy day, which didn't help much.
It was the first rain they had here in weeks, Australia is a dry place. As I predicted, I forgot to bring my undershirts,
and got a ride to town and bought some. GOOD NEWS, I finally am starting to believe that we can make our 5 P.M. Monday
sailing. There is a lot to do, but on a small ship it is easier to do them. If we sail on Monday we will arrive
in Port Moresby on Thursday. Saturday and Sunday will be work days. Today we will drill with our new fire equipment
and breathing apparatus. The food is a lot better than I expected. Australian food has improved since my last
visit in the early 1980's. They even enjoy peanut butter and hot sauce, which were not available back then. When
we sail, we will stay inside the Great Barrier Reef until we get to Two Mile pass, which is north of Cairns, which will
give us some protection from the Easterly seas and swell outside the reef. This small ship makes many of the volunteer
crew seasick and any way we reduce the rolling and pitching is a big help. I really enjoy navigating, and will keep
busy with frequent course changes around the reefs and shallows inside the reef.
Sunday, Not a day of rest on the Pacific Link. Things did start
a little slower and later than before, but we are working to get things stowed and secured for sea after about six months
of laying idle here in Townsville. It does now appear that things will be ready to sail on the high tide tomorrow afternoon.
Our draft is less than 4 meters, but the Ross river estuary where we are docked is only dredged to 2.5 meters, and we need
to enter and leave our berth on high tide. Our new harbor is just about a mile south of the commercial port of Townsville.
I am now over any effects of "jet lag" but have developed a slight cold and cough that slows me down a little.
I am writing a lot in this blog now, because tomorrow my internet access will end, at least for the three day sail up to Port
Moresby. It does appear that there is now spotty cell phone service, even in the jungles of New Guinea! So I may
have some ability to send and receive text messages. In this modern age we have high expectations of excellent communication.
I will see if I am now able to attach a photo or two to this blog.
Monday April 30, Sailing Day! What a day! So many things
to get ready to sail. Our sailing time scheduled for 1700 (5 P.M.) and we have to fix the fire main, the Sat. C communications,
replace a broken refrigerator, and last night the ship's air conditioning failed. We worked all day getting ready and fixing
things, the YWAM staff from Townsville and the TV news crews were on hand for the departure. Then the harbor master and pilot
came and said that we were too deeply loaded for the current tide level, and we had to get a truck down so we could pump the
gray water we had stored near the stern and transfer diesel oil to the forward tanks. Finally it was all finished, and about
15 minutes late we brought in the gangway and cast off lines, and I was heaving up the anchor when my cell phone rang, the
first time since leaving home! It was my wife, Ines, telling me that our son David, who was home from college, was hospitalized
with what they thought was appendicitis, and he would be operated on in the morning (it was 2 A.M. there in Houston). That
was a real poor piece of news for our sailing, David was home studying for his finals for his Junior year at Texas A&M.
Fortunately he was at home where his Pediatrician mother could look after him.
I was assigned the 4 to 8 watch,
which I like, I really enjoy watching sunrises and sunsets, the nicest time of day. Once outside of the harbor, we sailed
up the Australian coast inside the Great Barrier Reef, which is interesting sailing. It is not difficult in this age of GPS
navigation, but must have been very difficult using only radar and fathometer to back up the lights and buoys. This small
vessel moves a lot inside the reef, and gets to really dance around on the waves once outside.
Tuesday, May 1st
when Captain Jeremy came up to relieve me he said he was ready to sail outside the reef in order to save some distance and
time. Of course the waves would be bigger, but it would be safer and easier navigation. So we sailed through a break in the
outer reef near Cairns, and headed on a course of 010 to Port Moresby. It was easier navigation, but more boring for me. The
ship rocked and rolled heavily in the SE'ly quartering sea. About half the crew became sea sick. Fortunately I was just fine
with that, but the violent motion of the vessel made moving around difficult, and I got some scrapes and bruises from moving
about. During the night our air conditioning sprung a leak once more, and the cabins became really warm and stuffy, which
made it hard on all of us, especially those who were sick. I stood some hours of watch for our second mate, David, who was
a trooper and hard worker, but feeling queasy and unable to focus when on watch.
Wednesday May 2nd
was more of the same, in fact, I think the wind increased in velocity and moved closer to the beam, blowing at 25 to 30 knots.
It didn't make the ship roll much more, but there were few happy campers aboard, and of course few hot meals, the cooks were
sick, too. We made do with sandwiches and a few leftovers. There are good apples and oranges aboard, and I am eating healthy
things. I do miss my glass of wine with my meals, but am probably better off without it.
Thursday, May 3rd Arrival
day. When I got off watch we were about 40 miles from the Port Moresby entrance. I had my cell phone with me, waiting to find
service so I could check on David's surgery and progress. Finally at 10:50 A.M. I got a ping and made a call to Ines, and
found out that things went well, and that he was progressing, and hoped to be out of the hospital in a day. This was Wednesday
evening in Houston.
Just after lunch we entered the reef at Port Moresby. We went to anchor since we were not sure
what berth we would have. The pilots let us enter and anchor without pilotage, which is free for this YWAM ship. Jeremy is
a confident ship handler and did not mind. We anchored in the inner harbor near many other smaller supply boats and coastal
freighters, and there we cleared quarantine, customs, and immigration. Around 4 P.M. we got the word to heave anchor, the
pilot was on his way. I was on the bow for docking, which was on a wharf reserved for mostly coastal traffic and supply boats.
There is a 2 meter range of tide here, and once docked it took a lot of effort to find out a way to rig a gangway that would
be O. K. at both high and low tides. We are in a container yard, and had to have a safety meeting with the port management,
and we need to wear hard hats, reflective vests, and carry shore passes going in and out of the terminal. ISPS conventions
are taken seriously here in Papua, New Guinea, much stricter than I saw in Africa. I was glad to stay aboard, even without
the air conditioning since my cabin has a fan and two port holes. Once in port the sick members of the crew revived quickly
and food started appearing at meal time. We had a nice communal gathering and meal together on the fantail at sunset, with
views of the city and trees and ships in the harbor, a nice end to a three day sea passage.
Friday was a day of
work, touching up the rust streaks on the hull, and my job was to let out the chain of the port anchor, six shots, and muck
out the chain locker, and cut off the bitter end where it was welded to the bottom of the locker and relocate it with a fiber
break away attachment at the top of the chain locker, which would allow us to slip our chain and depart quickly from an anchorage
when needed. This evening we had another nice meal together on the fantail, and hope they can fix the a/c soon. A technician
said he could fabricate a new fitting that would not leak out the refrigerant. Again I slept in my cabin, and am getting used
to having no air conditioning once more, like on the old ships I sailed on 40 years ago.
Sunday, May 6th. I just
got up and for the first time in a long time I slept very well. Yesterday a technician came to the ship and replaced a big
section of copper piping and a T-fitting in our air conditioner, charged it with refrigerant, and started it up. My cabin
last night actually got cool enough for me to put on some covers! Yesterday I took the day off, although David did work with
our deck crew on some projects. The tidal range here require us to maintain a gangway watch to keep the lines and gangway
safe. I am impressed that the young men are so willing to work, even on weekends. Yesterday I did ride in the J boat over
to the yacht club, which was a beautiful club with a restaurant and bar and large patio overlooking the harbor. I enjoyed
two cans of soda after walking over to the Harbor Mall, which was a supermarket and a few other shops. One of them was a duty
free that had gifts that were really made here in PNG, so I had to buy a piece of jewelry for Ines, as a reward for her great
work helping David recover. Today, Sunday, we are going at 9 to the Four Square Church.
Monday, May 7th. Our trip
to the church was nice, and I was able to see more of Port Moresby, which is far better developed than anything I saw in West
Africa. The pastor picked us up in his truck, which is what they use for a church bus. YWAM will do a project with them while
the ship is here in port for the month of July. The service was mostly music, although more modern than the Gospel hymns that
I enjoy, it was melodious and the singers were good. The sermon was on the 23rd Psalm. Afterwards I took the eight of us including
Jeremy to the Yacht Club for lunch. I paid the bill, about $120 US, with my visa. We walked the mile and a half back to the
ship following the harbor highway. I rested the remainder of the day, and got caught up on my reading. This morning we had
a meeting in the lounge until 9, and then I got back to work on the project of marking the anchor chains and cleaning the
chain locker. The most important part of the project is to satisfy the Cook Island flag state surveyor that the anchor chain
is no longer shackled inside the chain locker, but can be slipped in an emergency. Of course there is a lot of mud in the
bottom of the locker that needs to be removed before doing this. It is a dirty job, one for Mike Roe!
8th. Today I was waken up early by my cell phone. It was our accountant, who asked about our Harris County tax rendition due
next week. I had not known about that, I was just dealing with them last November and thought everything was under control.
The phone call probably cost us more than the tax! I was glad that he was there to resolve things I should be doing myself
if I were at home. Yesterday we spent time taking some of our medical stores and putting them in a container on the dock,
so that we have more room on our first few outreaches, and can load them back aboard in July. We filled up a 20 foot container.
Later I took two of our volunteer seamen, Austin and Stuart, to work on the anchors. We finished pulling in and marking the
port chain, all six shots, and backed out the starboard anchor to the bitter end, another six shots. The starboard chain locker
is just as dirty as the port, and we could not get much of a start on it because it is under the fore peak storeroom that
is used for food storage, and that needs to be ready to receive more stores today. Access to the chain locker is through the
fore peak stores. Therefore we will try to get the job done today if we have time. We will also have to detach the chain from
the vessel and arrange the break away attachment at the top of the chain locker. After that we will pull in the chain and
mark the shots. I hope to get up to an Internet cafe sometime soon, so I can read my email and delete 90% of it. It is funny
how cell phones and Internet have changed the way of doing business in the last 20 years. Yesterday afternoon a rain storm
came over the ship, and it rained in torrents continuously until after I went to bed at 9:30 P.M. Later: This morning we finished
cleaning the starboard chain locker and fixing the chain connection. It went a lot easier than on the other side. We were
finished with most of our jobs by lunch time, so l took the opportunity to go ashore to check out any Internet cafes. I took
a taxi to the Grand Papuan Hotel, and across the street at the telephone company I found a place that had the service, but
with only two operating computers and a line of people waiting to use them. I did not take my laptop, I didn't know if a white
guy walking around with a laptop would be a target for robbery, but I wanted to be safe. I was able to use my cell phone after
a cumbersome registration process that allowed me to view my last day or two of emails, including the one about our Buenos
Aires apartment being rented, which is good news. The effort to reply to that one email cost me 20 kina, about ten dollars,
and took me about an hour and a half. So much for the Internet. I may go again before sailing in order to post this blog and
take this computer with me, but with someone else who can go with me.
Wednesday, May 9th. Today dawned cloudy.
Last night we had visitors who sang for a worship service. The music reminded me of the Polynesian music we enjoyed on our
visit to the Marquesas on the Aranui 3. The language they sang in was English and Pidgin. I turned in after the service. Dave,
the second mate had been sick Tuesday, so I had taken over some of his duties for awhile. Today he is back to his usual jovial
self. I still have to get used to his Australian accent. This morning I laid out the courses to the Western province on the
charts. We have an e-chart program, but we also keep paper charts as well. That is one thing that I am good at, and finished
quickly, and we are now waiting for a fuel truck. We need to take about 25000 liters of diesel for the next couple of outreaches.
We are also loading six drums of unleaded gasoline for our outboard motors on the Zodiac boats. We store them on deck behind
the bow breakwater. One of the nurses that boarded last night is named Lea Zollinger from Switzerland. She is in her mid 20's
and has her blond hair braided in the African style. She must be a distant cousin of mine, since my 3rd Great Grandfather
was Nicholas Zollinger from Switzerland, who came to America with Lafayette during the American Revolution and married and
stayed here. There aren't many people with that surname in Switzerland, she says. We are also waiting for our diesel fuel,
which is being donated by Steamships Shipping, the major transportation company in PNG.
Saturday, June 2nd- Friday we spent the day with orientation for the new arrivals, and securing the
ship for sea. At 6:45 P.M. we let go from the wharf, and departed Port Moresby at 7. I stood the Midnight to 4 A.M. and we
were all happy at how calm the seas were. We did roll in a SE swell as can be expected, but the winds were light and variable.
I slept a little before and after my watches, the Noon to 4 P.M. as well. We are now back at Pai-A point at the only deep
entrance to the river system here in Gulf Province. We are going slowly waiting for the tide to rise. We are going to have
to do a lot of sailing on the jungle rivers, and Captain Jeremy wants to do it at night with the searchlight. Some of the
rivers are shallow, others are narrow, but he wants to get nearer to our destination, a missionary hospital, before we anchor.
Sunday, June 3rd we again awoke early. I slept well, having been on watch at odd hours yesterday. Saturday, after
arriving at Pai a we waited for the tide level to increase to where we could sail up river, but that also meant waiting until
daylight was almost gone. Nevertheless Jeremy decided to plunge into the jungle rivers, using the searchlight rather than
radar. Our little ship has a large searchlight, but it can not be operated from the wheelhouse, you need to climb onto the
monkey deck, on top of the wheelhouse, and near the radar scanners. Dave went up and we kept the radars on standby. It was
a beautiful sail. We had a gibbous moon to help us find our way between the river banks, and Jeremy had previously surveyed
this stretch of the river and put it on google earth maps. After about three hours of river sailing we anchored, about half
way to Kapuna Mission, our destination at the eastern end of the delta region we serve. There are other river bars that we
could have entered that would reduce this five or six our sail through narrow bayous, but we have not surveyed them well enough
to attempt entering areas we have not been before. This Sunday morning we got underway at 7 for another three hour sail through
the narrow winding bayou of about ten miles in length that connects the Iviri River with the Pie River, then down the Pie
to the Wame River. Kapuna mission is about ten miles up the Wame River, and that is where we anchored. The villagers all came
out and waved and shouted to us as we approached. On these waters they see few vessels other than dugout canoes and an occasional
long boat. After anchoring we went into the village, which was really advanced compared to the villages we visited last outreach.
There is a mission hospital here, and they have an ambulance longboat that serves surrounding villages. The town has diesel
generators and electric lighting that is on between 6 and 10 P.M. There is no cell phone signal or telephone here, but there
is a ham radio setup and a limited access to email for the New Zealand staff at the hospital. Supplies are sent up on the
oil company boats that call here infrequently, and deliver fuel for the generators. There is apparently some oil drilling
activity another four hours or so up the river. The village has well constructed wooden houses with tin roofs for collecting
water. It also has narrow (approximately 10" wide) walkways between houses so that there is no mud like in the other
villages we visited and the grass was actually cut. I did see a ham radio station and tower, and they have some connection
with the outside world. I took a few toy gliders and inflatable balls for the children, but they already had enough things
to play with. All in all the village of Kapuna was a century ahead of the other places we saw.
Monday, June 4th,
I awoke about 2 A.M., possibly by the beeping of the GPS anchor watch alarm. Our anchor was slowly being dragged downstream
by the swift river current. I relieved Ben the man on anchor watch, and noted as the vessel was slowly pushed downstream.
Finally the anchor alarm beeped three times and Jeremy came to the bridge, I did not need to call him. He called the Chief
Engineer Ian, and the second mate David, as well as Peter the seaman, and after a brief engine warm up, we were able to heave
the anchor up and re-set it about 30 meters further up stream and put out five shots of chain instead of four. Hopefully that
will hold us. Now at noon Jeremy is considering moving the ship to another village in the area.
We made the shift
in two parts, first, a two hour trip down the Wame River where we anchored for a few hours while Jeremy took the gray zodiac
out to survey the unnamed river that goes up to the village of Koravaki. We made this move because the patients and doctors
required too much time in the zodiac boats to make the trip between Koravaki and Kapuna a realistic trip. We will stay here
about 36 hours, and I hope we don't have problems keeping the anchor set without dragging.
Tuesday, June 5th we
are still anchored in a spot down river from Koravaki, on a rainy day but the rain stopped late this afternoon and we are
going into the village to show the Jesus film after a day of medical work. I stayed aboard, while Captain Jeremy went out
with his survey equipment to see where we were going to anchor tomorrow morning in the Waime River above Kapuna. We are very
close to shore, and this morning our awning on the after deck got caught in some overhanging trees when we swung to the tide.
This afternoon the stern got caught on the river bank, and we had to heave in some of our anchor chain to get off the mud.
I did get a cell phone signal, and was able to get a brief call in to Ines, who just got back from Argentina, but was suffering
from a chest cold. In just two weeks I will be heading back home! What a different world that is from the life here in the
Friday, June 8th, for the past few days I have been down with a bad cold and cough, spending a lot of time
either standing a watch or laying in bed reading. On Wednesday morning we weighed anchor and headed up river, going a few
kilometers up river from Kapuna to near the town of Kairimai. This is a far nicer anchorage than down in Kapuna, because the
current is constantly downstream, and we do not swing around at anchorage. We are only about 20 meters from the jungle, but
we do not swing into the trees. Yesterday I worked in the dental clinic, watching fillings and extractions and giving the
patients post-op. instructions. Some of them needed up to four extractions and several fillings. They were in and out within
an hour. The teeth were fairly well rotted and often the roots broke off and had to be dug out. I prayed with the patients
for their quick recovery and future good health. I showed them how to brush, and gave them a toothbrush and toothpaste. I
was happy for the opportunity to work with the patients. Some of them came in dugouts with their families, others came in
the zodiac launch we provided. All of them, even the adults, enjoy coloring to pass the time while they wait to see the dentist.
Crayons and paper are in short supply around here. Today marks the half way point in our second outreach. This afternoon Jeremy
invited me to go with him to Kapuna to participate in the maiden voyage of their new outrigger aluminum dugout canoe capable
of hauling six tons of cargo, or over a hundred people, which it did after the ceremony, where I was introduced as a Mercy
Ship captain and given a place of honor. Present was Dr. Lyn Calvert, the founder of the hospital, now in her 90's She came
here in 1954 with her husband Peter and established the hospital. They had wanted to go to India, but the London Missionary
Society, who sponsored them, told them they should go to Papua, which they knew nothing about. dThere were a number of times
back in the 70's when they doubted their mission and almost closed the hospital, but they kept at it. It was a real honor
to meet her, similar to meeting Mother Teresa in my estimation. She and her late husband Peter, both doctors, dedicated their
lives to serving the people of this region. The rain fell throughout the ceremony, and I was drenched, and walking around
in my shoes, but most people were in bare feet. They do not seem to mind the tropical rain, and after a while I just gave
up trying to avoid walking in puddles. The kids really loved piling on the new boat. I talked with John, the builder, who
will soon turn 74 and was choked up by all the attention given to his effort to build the boat. They all came for dinner aboard
our ship in the evening, and I spent most of the time talking to their son Neil also a doctor who now operates the hospital.
He told me that he was born here, buried his father here, and this is his home. I was reminded of the story of Ruth and Naomi.
June 10th we once again weighed anchor at 6 A.M. and this time Captain Jeremy allowed me to take the conn for this three hour
trip down the Wame River and then up the Pie River to Baimaru, which is a fairly large settlement with a sawmill and district
government center. It has no wharf, but does have a number of sturdy buildings, and an air strip, although no scheduled air
service. The best thing it had was a large cell phone tower, and we get good reception all around the ship. I called home
and got David to answer. He and Ines are up at our lake house in Conroe. I was glad for the opportunity to handle this small
ship in the small rivers of PNG. Jeremy wants me to come back in mid-September for outreach #7 as the relief captain. If the
family is in agreement, I would like to have that opportunity to see the Western Province and the Fly River. After our arrival
and anchoring at Baimaru, many of the crew went ashore to the church service. I was tired after standing a few hours of night
watch, then the sail, so I stayed aboard and napped.
Tuesday, June 12th. Yesterday I did not do much. I actually
slept in until after 6, since David took the morning watch. I emptied out the rest of my toys from under my bunk, and distributed
them to the dental patients. I read in my bunk for a few hours, and in the evening we had pizza. The crew seem to really enjoy
it, but I think it is kind of nasty, I did have one small slice of the "hawaiian" pizza, and later made some PBJ
toast. Today I stood watch from 3:30 A.M. and helped Jeremy and Peter get ready for a surveying expedition to the mouth of
the Pie River, in order to chart a way over the bar and into the ocean. That will save us about five hours of difficult river
navigation going back to Pai-a point. Jeremy returned just after lunch, and says he found a way, and will show me how the
software operates so that I can do it myself. Later, after an interruption of an emergency run in the Zodiac back to the hospital
in Kapuna for a little girl with acute malaria with fever affecting the brain, Jeremy showed me the exacting process of filtering
the raw data from a survey, adjusting it for the mean low water datum by subtracting the tide height at the time the sounding
was taken, and then further filtering out the noise created by the boat bouncing on the waves causing a false zero, and then
the general up and down caused by swells and waves, and finally getting a chain of reliable soundings. Then they have to be
put on a google map plotting sheet that can be used for navigating the ship. It is a time consuming process and the software
is not what I would call user friendly. After several hours he had enough data to determine that we did not need to retrace
our steps to Pia-a point, but can go out of the Pie River, but the chart of the area is about useless, we must go over spots
the chart shows are islands! After we are about ten miles off, we can once again rely on the chart.
June 16, Saturday,
my time here in PNG is quickly coming to an end. We are now anchored at the beach about ten miles southwest of our dock in
Port Moresby, and the crew are going for a swim until our berth becomes available this afternoon. Our last couple of days
at Baimaru were uneventful for me. I did some chart work, and cleaned our standard compass, and conducted some classes for
the deckhands on navigation. The doctors and dentists were busy until the last minute because on late Thursday a baby was
born and was not doing well, the temperature was too low and would not raise. I think that the doctors made an incubator for
him. Also on Wednesday there was a fight in the village and one man almost chopped off the arm of another man in a dispute
about a dugout canoe. Our doctors were able to save the arm, only one of the two bones and one of two arteries were severed.
He came back the next day for new dressings, they are pretty tough people. On Friday morning at 6 A.M. we heaved up the anchor,
and once again Jeremy let me take the ship down the river to the ocean following the track line that he surveyed. Once we
got out of the river the ship started pitching into the SE trade wind and seas, and many of the crew became seasick. One man
vomited in the mess hall while I was trying to prepare my breakfast. We had only about a 16 hour sail outside until we reached
the relative calm of the approaches to Port Moresby. We anchored at 3 A.M. this morning about 5 miles short of our swimming
island, we chose an anchorage that was not so close to the beach. At 9 A.M. we shifted the final five miles to our beach anchorage
so that those so inclined could go for a swim. I sent out text messages to Ines and David to let them know that I was back
in cell phone range and would be until I fly home in four days.