Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tonga: The Season Wrap Up

This blog is the toughest one yet to write...

Sea Angel is now sitting blocked up and strapped down to the ground in the brand new boatyard in the Vava’u group of Tonga. (We were the first catamaran to be hauled there!) She will sit out the pacific cyclone season there. Mike Bartz, my good friend from Minnesota/Carolina Beach flew out to not only help cleaning and preparing the boat for the lay-up, but he also helped as crew on the last and final Tonga remote island rotation of the season. As a little treat to ourselves, since I chose not to sail the boat to New Zealand, and since it was not far away, we took the opportunity to fly here and spend a couple weeks before heading back to the states for our winter (the rainy summer, cyclone prone season here). Karen, who sailed with me over 1,100 miles from Tahiti, and worked side by side with me throughout all the rotations, flew back North Carolina to take care of some things back home and to catch up with friends and family. There is a great deal that we have experienced together, and these events will leave a lasting impression on our lives and our characters. I miss her and look forward to reuniting with her on my return. The end of this season is bittersweet, to be sure, but these feelings will pass.

At Work - For more photos visit our facebook album

The last rotation and the wrap up brought with it so many feelings and emotions. Having brought clinics to all the remote villages in the Ha’api group, we had decided to move the boat for the last rotation of the season to the Vava’u group where the hospital staff had not reached the most distant villages at all this season. Doctor John Lee, the acting director of the hospital in Neiafu was great and even went with us to some of the remote islands. The islands are beautiful, being much higher and rockier, and there were few reefs to navigate through, as compared to what we had to deal with in the Ha’api. We had two resident doctors from NY (Tracy and Barie Salmon) who are identical twins. They were splendid to be with and made the rotation a true pleasure. Over the ten days we visited and set up mobile clinics at the eastern most villages on the islands of Ofu, Olo Ua, and Mata Mata, as well as re-visiting the closer island villages on Taunga and Hunga. All told the doctors and staff saw 56 patients, many of whom were older and could not travel to be seen at the main hospital. We were also able to sneak in a few snorkel trips and swims off the boat after a day of clinics. The Tongan doctors and nurses onboard with us even swam, speared fish and played a bit. We rented a car on the weekend and all of us toured the main island. We all felt good that we competed a very successful rotation.

On a sad note, during our eastern island visits when we were out of the main port of Neiafu, a fellow sailor on a boat that arrived the day before suffered a heart attack. There are no resources in Tonga for emergencies, no EMT’s or first responders, and it was early morning when the hospital was closed. The locals tried to reach us as they were aware of our doctors aboard but unfortunately we were not there that night. Despite long attempts at CPR but no available defibrillator in all of the island group, he passed away. It was an acute lesson that simple tools available to most of the western world are absent out here, and the consequences are unforgiving. We have been asked by the local pastor to try and help them locate at least one AED unit that can be available through the emergency response volunteers.

The last rotation of the season contained a lot, it was full of beauty, great people, anxiety, sadness, happiness, accomplishment, and a real sense of completion.


For more photos from our first rotation, visit our facebook page here. For more information on our cause, visit www.seamercy.org. The Catamaran has now traveled from Carolina Beach, NC, to Tonga- to become a FHCC (Floating Health Care Clinic) for Sea Mercy - and we've completed our first three rotations. Sea Mercy's vision is to be the most effective preventive, curative, promotional and rehabilitative floating health care provider and service delivery mechanism to support the remote citizens of the island nations. Their mission is therefore to ensure that the community sector has the practical tools and talent available to accomplish those visionary ends. To accomplish this in the short term they will provide floating health clinics to needy populations. To effect long term community improvement, they work to increase awareness of the health issues facing these vulnerable populations.

Please consider getting involved or donating to Sea Mercy, or simply share our cause with your friends and family. Thank you for being with us on this journey!