What was a tragic end to one of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s Committee vessels, Alfreds II, after she broke her mooring and ran aground on Terrigal Beach earlier this year whilst on loan for the World Laser Championships is a blessing in disguise for the people of Nimowa Island, in the Louisiade Archipelago, Papua New Guinea.
RPAYC Club member Kevin Dunn has purchased Alfreds II from the insurance company to restore the vessel to a seaworthy condition and then will donate her to the people of Nimowa Island, Louisiade Archipelago in Papua New Guinea where she will be used as an ambulance and inter-island transport vessel.
With his wife Frances, a retired school teacher, Kevin first sailed to the Louisiades in July 2002 extending from an RPAYC cruise to the Whitsundays.
After they left Cairns, they ended up at Jomad passage and then sailed right down to the end of the Louisiades, a distance of some 200 nautical miles where they visited all the islands over a period of two and a months.
On Nimowa Island, they got to know Father Tony Young who is a Mission priest from the Catholic Sacred Heart Order.
“He’s been up there doing his great mission work for some 44 years,” said Kevin Dunn. “We got talking with him and offered our services thinking he may want a little cottage built (Kevin is a retired carpenter/builder by trade) but he asked us if we could build a TB hospital. So from one TB Hospital it went to two TB hospitals, three ambulance boats, solar power, fit-out of the hospital and water tanks.
“Did all that down to the last nut and bolt as you can’t buy anything there – as the island itself is 200nm from Milne Bay, on the SE end of PNG.”
They handed it over to the mission and applied to AusAid for $2.6m.
“Then it got bogged down in red tape. We then designed a 9km inter-island water main from a beautiful flowing stream to the island where there is a school, a hospital and the mission, and 500 people. For six months of the year they have no fresh water, no water to drink. Prior to that they had to get in the banana boats and go to this river to get their drinking water and do their washing.”
With no doctor for 200 nautical miles and the only transport being open 19ft banana boats with no seats, no safety gear, no spare motor, not even a pair of pliers and a screwdriver it’s obviously an important project for these humble and lovely people who still survive in a subsistent society.
“So when Alfreds II came up I jumped at it as it will be absolutely ideal for up there. No matter where the boat’s going there will be passengers – women, children or sick people. That’s the reason we took this on and we intend to get it up there and donate it to the people and the Mission for their use. It’s 200nm back to the mainland and Milne Bay where there is a doctor and hopefully this can help save lives. If you designed a boat for up there, this is just perfect.”
Alfreds II will be used in the Nimowa Islands as an ambulance, patient transfer and inter island transport.
“Eventually they will stop the air service to Missima due to the cost and the lack of clientele so the only way to get back to the mainland will be by this vessel,” said Kevin. Even though the population of Nimowa is 500, Father Tony’s mission covers some 6,000 people. He charges about five kina a day at the hospital but every patient brings minders along to do the cleaning and feeding of the patients.
Kevin and Frances have been there a few times since their initial visit; to help the people and the mission, doing things like chasing AusAid for the grant for the hospitals, and to meet engineers to assess where to run the water from. The restoration of the vessel is a major project and Kevin has to repair the extensive damage to the hull which he’s about halfway through the grinding process.
Also due to the beaching of the vessel, there was a few tonne of sand through the engine mounts and the engine needs to be rebuilt. After that comes the waterproofing and the glassing of a piece of deadwood right along the bottom of the keel to stiffen up the whole boat which will extend past the propeller and pick up the rudder.
“We’ll put a stainless steel rubbing strip on that again so that if they hit some coral it won’t punch a hole in the bottom of the boat,” Kevin said. Interestingly, Kevin plans to modify her into a motor sailing vessel because as Kevin points out, “the islands stretch in a south easterly direction so you’re either going into or travelling with the trade winds. I intend to put a short stick (mast) into her for downwind sailing and to help save on the exorbitant fuel costs.”
With the cost of fuel running about $3.20 per litre and because the mission is run on a donation basis Kevin plans on running her on coconut oil.
“I am at the moment trying to source a press in order to extract the oil from the coconuts. Between 10-14 coconuts equates to one litre of oil and because up there in the tropics the coconut oil stays fluid it is ideal. So with Alfreds II you could run diesel in one of the tanks and coconut oil in the other. At present they’re running fishing boats, cars, and trucks on neat coconut oil. So that’s our aim.”
With no shortage of coconuts on the Island they could supply other villages with a diesel alternative and therefore earn a small income.
A self funded retiree on a modest income; Kevin is seeking support in financial donations, physical items and volunteers to help restore her.
“We are still after funding to assist, we need about another $80,000 to finish the project. For example, the coconut press is somewhere around $5,000 to purchase, we also need things like an aluminium dinghy to put on the boat, a life raft, solar power to keep the batteries charged, life jackets, sails, all sorts of medical equipment including a stretcher, volunteer diesel engineers and other volunteers to assist with the project.
Donations are tax deductible and can be made through the Melbourne Overseas Mission.
“We will build her up strong enough to put up with the conditions up there, with plenty of storage space given only one engine will put back in her. It will help with Father Tony to do his patrol and carry passengers and carry out his work. He’s the only white man within 300nm and we owe these people of the Louisiades and Milne Bay province our very existence.
“Not many people know this but the Japanese attempted to land on the Australian forces’ airstrip in 1942 during WWII. A Milne Bay man put them in the jungle a few miles away instead. If they had landed where they wanted, it was only a hop, step and a jump from there to Australia. They were ultimately defeated, more than 600 Japanese lives were lost, along with a smaller number of Australians. The battle of Milne Bay became the first defeat of the Japanese Imperial Army in history,” Kevin commented.
In support of Kevin’s project, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club is hardstanding the vessel in the boatyard until the end of August and providing a marina berth for a further six months to assist Kevin with this most worthy cause and community project.
“The support of the Alfreds Yacht Club has been bloody terrific, putting the project under notice and supplying a cradle and a berth, at no charge. They have helped spread the word and the support from volunteers so far has been tremendous. To my knowledge this kind of project is a first for the Club” Kevin said.
Kevin can be seen most days of the week climbing the safety stairs to work long hours on the boat restoring her. “It’s all worthwhile, the mission and the people of Nimowa Island and the surrounding area won’t know themselves when we hand over this boat for them to get around and for its use as an ambulance and inter Island transport vessel.”
“We intend to deliver her to the people and the mission after the cyclone season somewhere around April 2009,” Kevin concluded.
Kevin Dunn is seeking the support from individuals or companies through either their time to assist with materials for the restoration or financial support. For more information or to make a donation please contact the RPAYC on (02) 9997 1022 or you can contact Kevin directly on 02 4977 2243 or 0418 441 151 or via email email@example.com