Tuesday, May 31, 2011

High There

The South Pacific Ocean, like all of the major ocean have a dominant "High" pressure cell located within these areas, they give regular and constant winds in a generally set direction which are call "Trade Winds"

Sailing the Trades, as they are often fondly called, means for relaxing, and relatively easy sailing (as long as you are going with them and not against them)

And like all good things in life, nothing lasts or stays forever, and that also can be said about the Trades.

We have again for the last 30 hours had wonderful sailing, power broad reaching with the asymetrical spinnaker up logging a constant 8.5 to 10 knots. Everyone has beem helming (steering the boat) and the grins on faces as the speed climbs over 10 knots is always infectious.

BUT, it stopped !! Bugger, Dam, put some more money in the wind slot machine! Please

Hmm, cant do much about that I suppose, so we have to continue at a slower pace under engine and what ever sails will stay up and not flap and flog themselfs to bits.

The South pacific High is a littler bit similar to the North Atlantic high, in that it is a split system, it starts in the west and pushes into the east, as it increases in size it dominates the whole area untill it gets pushed further to the east, then weakens as the next new high pressure cell forms again out in the west. Between these two High's is often a dividing low presure cell to keep it all mixing up, and making sure that sailors dont relax for too long.

We now have only 1,163 nautical miles untill we get to our most western waypoint, then we will head down towards New Zealand which is another 1,100 miles.

So, see you soon, well that depends on the Trades ?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Xplore Medivac Up Date, Pitcairn to Gambier Island

There is deep sadness on board Xplore at the present time as we continue through to Gambier Island, I have attached 3 emails to the Mayor of Pitcairn and officials of what has transpired in the last nine hours.

Stephen Wilkins

I am so sad to have to inform all concerned with the Medivac of Terry Young that at 1638 local Pitcairn time on the 21st of May that he passed away whilst on board Xplore Expeditions on route to the Gambier islands Mangareva.

Melva Evans the paramedic nurse and all of the crew on board Xplore work hard for 35 minutes to try to resusitate Terry but were not able to.

During this time we sort additional medical information and advice to assist us from Pitcairn doctor Peter Cardon .

We will continue through to Gambier island with an expected ETA of the morning of the 22nd of May.

Stephen Wilkins Xplore Expeditions

Dear Stephen,

I understand from Dr Peter that Terry has passed away.

I wish to pass onto you and your crew my deepest gratitude for what you have done and what you continue to do for us. I didnt expect this to happen but I know you did all you can. We're all grieving the loss and i know you're grieving with us too. Could you please pass this message on to everyone on board and know that even in times of grief one can find love and peace. I know this event will affect you all for the rest of you lives, but know this, that we have reserved in all of our hearts a special place for all of you guys.

Thank you guys and gals...one and all

Could you also pass on to Melva the following message...."You did good sis...proud of you girl! I know you're feeling devastated right now but know this...."Naked I come from my mothers womb, And naked shall I return there The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord" Job 1:21 Hang in there and we'll see you soon.

Mike Warren Mayor of Pitcairn

Dear Mike, we all here on Xplore have been touched in a very special way with this whole experience, with Terry, Pitcairn and life.

You are very true with what you wrote, that this is an experience which has and will touch all of our lifes for ever.

Personally I feel sadness and grief that I wasnt able to get to know Terry better than what I was able to in this very short time, we did talk whilst he was with us and I felt that there was a very warm and kind man there, maybe one day you all there in the island will help us to understand more about what and who that man really was.

The whole team on board thank you for your kind words, and we all know that there is now a connection with Pitcairn which no one ever can take away from us all.

None of us ever, for even one moment considered any other option than what we chose and that is to help our brothers in need, for that we stand proud as humans with empathy and love in our hearts.

Please do pass this one with our deapest sympathies to all of the family and such kind folk there at Pitcairn.

Stephen Wilkins, Audrey, George, Julie, Mike, Bob, Lyn, Catalina and Melva

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday on my mind

Well some stories just have to be told as it happened and as it is.

We arrived in the early dark to the mystical dark shape that loomed out of the ocean called Pitcairn Island.

I have read and dreamt about this place since I was a child and was shocked by the news stories in early 2000's about the family crisis and crime that happened in this fabled and historic island.

Inhabited but the mutineers of the Bounty in 1790, Fletcher Christian and his followers certainly found an amazing remote Pacific island, that originally was charted as being in a different location, hence why they knew that they wouldn't be found for quite some time.

We chatted with the locals on the radio (Brian with a warm welcome and the offer for the next day of a good cup of tea on shore) and to get inside advice for last nights anchorage, we needed a place ideally close to Bounty bay, but with light to some time moderate winds from the North East we knew it would be a rocky rolly night. But to anchor on the other side of the island would dearly eat into shore time today, and we had only calculated a day or two here at best and the weather is still changeable, so we cant muck around.

Shortly after anchoring the heavens opened up once again and a deluge of rain coated Xplore with thousands of gallons of water (something that we are getting used to again here in the tropics)We had agreed to call the island some time between 7 and 8am to arrange for our visit and there wasn't anyone on board how wasn't champing at the bit to get to meet what these amazingly friendly people in the very special spot.

Dawn broke and I quietly sat on a damp deck marveling at the eastern side of the island as dawn broke through the distant skies, looks like not a bad day of weather for us, even if the wind was meant to pick up a tad during the day.

7.30am seemed like a good compromise to see if the island was awake, and what unfolded after that was an act of god.

Now god does move in mysterious ways, ways that I cant begin to understand, but Friday the 20th of May 2011 was meant to happen, to us on Xplore and there at Pitcairn.

With the volume not turned up too high as most of the crew were still sleeping after doing anchor watch, I called up the island and was greeted promptly by another voice on the radio, and this was Simon one of the island officials and welcoming committee, boy what I welcome we had walked into !

Simon asked when we would like to come ashore and for how long we would be there, just the day I replied as we are heading through to Tasmania. Simon then asked me to stand by as one of the other islanders had a question which we may be able to help with, to which I of course said that we would be delighted to if we can.

We changed channels to VHF 14 after there was a mix up with Peter who was trying to contact us but was calling for a yacht called Discovery, we though there must be another yacht around, but found it very strange that there would be 2 yachts called Xplore and Discovery at Pitcairn island both at the same time and day ? it wasn't, though he just had his metaphors all a bit screwed up, we laughed a lot.

Peter turns out to be the resident doctor on the island with a practice that is responsible for the 52 people who live there, not too taxing one would say, especially as the Pitcairnese have a great reputation of being very healthy. Hmm today wasn't one of those days though, Peter was calling me for something a tad more serious.

I agreed that we could talk as soon as we were on shore, and that if we could help them we would, but a sneaky part of me knew that something more serious was brewing.

The locals here don't muck around, because at 8.20am they had their fishing work boat / dories out through the surf and alongside Xplore which was rolling a bit like a fat pig on roller skates.

Myself and three others were the first in, and whisked onto shore where I had all the ships papers and passports to do the usual and necessary clearance in, what a fantastic ride in to their tiny protected boat ramp entrance, sitting on the back of a booming wave we surfed in with Brenda one of the boat drivers going for it like Juan Fangio. Hard to port we swerved at the last minute behind the break water and full astern she rammed the out board motor, whew, we were there, great ride, dont need coffee this morning.

There at the break water dock were quite a few people and they quickly asked who was Stephen the Skipper ? I raised a happy hand and on this I was asked to jump on the back of a quad bike with a stocky strong bloke, and told that we would sort out customs and immigrations later (all very casual I thought) but they did say that I was to be taken straight to the health center as Doc Peter needed to talk ASAP. hmmmm, me think something's cooking here !

Everyone was so nice and so welcoming to all of us, you couldn't help but smile and to be glad that we had come to Pitcairn, we zoomed up the steep road up the mountain to where the main village center lies, just like Brenda, Brian made some cool sweeping rally driving turns around the muddy potted lanes and boomp there we were at the health center, boy, lots of quad bikes here today, maybe its morning tea time that Brian had mentioned.

I was shown into the center and then passed over to Doctor Peter where we slipped into his hygienic office, a warm smiling face, but you could see that something was troubling him and I already knew that they had a bit of a medical situation that they may need some help on. Peter started talking and within moments I knew that we had been chosen to be here today.

Their problem was that they had one of the locals (Terry) who had 30 hours ago come down with some bad pains in his torso, what started out looking like a stomach ulcer , was actually appendicitis, and to make matters worse, it had ruptured !

We have all heard of horror stories of this happening, but generally years ago, but to be on a remote island in the Pacific is not the place to have this happen. Doc informed me that they had taken additional advice from medical staff in New Zealand, and had tried to contact 2 ships which were in the general area, one ship handout responded and the other was 4 or 5 days away and on route to Panama.

Their medical supplies to be able to keep Terry alive were forecast to last for about 3 days, maybe a smidgen more. I knew what they needed and I didn't hesitate to butt in (yes typical of Stephen) to straight up ask where they needed us to take Terry ?

The closest island with an air strip is Gambier Island and that lies 288 nautical mile West North West of Pitcairn, I had looked at it one the charts and knew that we could do this is 1 1/2 to 2 days max.

What happened during the rest of this Friday of Fridays is legendary, of adventure, hard work, community spirit that I haven't seen anywhere before, coupled with unhesitating warm and open friendship to everyone of us here on Xplore, which will live as a life memory and lesson about humanity and care of each other.

Tonight as I write this we have left Pitcairn 4 hours ago, we have on board two new crew members, one who is very sick and the other is a great paramedic nurse, we have 252nm to get to Gambier where the Tahiti / French medical evacuation team are expecting us, so that they can fly Terry out for emergency surgery.

Xplore sails a little lower in the water, not just because of our two new crew, but because of the incredibly generous offering that were gathered from all of the Pitcairn community during today, fruits and vegetables and local items that could mean that we can open our own grocery store, any where ! I have never seen so many bananas in my life !

We all hope and pray that we can get Terry safely there in time for surgery, he's a big tough looking chap but he's not so great at the moment, we need those smooth trade winds to behave for us and sail us sweetly and comfortably there to Gambier.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Easter Comes and Goes

Like so many of the passing's in lifes calenders, Easter marks a special time, and for those on board Xplore it was as well.

The only difference is that we spent this special time at Easter Island ! not quite on the same date as the rest of the world but it marked a specail mile stone in our Pacific crossing.

The day was hot and virtually windless when we arrived so that by the time we had droped the anchor in the bay of Hanga Roa most dived straight into the clear 26 C waters to cool down.

We enjoyed 3 days there is this remote Chilean island of the South Pacific, renowned for their Moi rock statues that surround the island's coast.

The team had one full day on shore, as the other's were taken up with the "Work List" topping up the fuel tanks useing a local open fishing boat, minor stiching on sails, provisioning and general re-tidy.

Bob's wife Lyn was also there at the shore line waiting for Xplore, and she now makes up our full team of 8 that continue across to New Zealand, hopefully with a brief stop at Pitcairn island which currently lies 346 nautical miles due west of our current position.

More relaxed news to come Stephen