So here we were.  Five extra crew with our mountain of bags in the middle of the saloon, soaking up the stories and escapades (from the “old crew”) of delivering medical volunteers to remote villages on the north coast of Ambae.  (Refer to Ann’s regular messages in Ships Log over the past few weeks)

Pretty soon it was down to work though, and after being served breakfast, having a swim and a brief spot of fishing, where Chris showed how it should be done by catching a good sized trevally,  (Bob was of the view that there were no more fish left in the sea) we were under sail for the short trip around to Luganville.

There were now 10 people on board and the issue of allocating bunks and cabins for the next two nights of shared life aboard was easily solved, with us “new folk” spreading out on deck or in the saloon, not wishing to upset this well-oiled machine.

Back at Luganville Bob brought Chimere into the wharf to again fill up with water.  There were no vacant spots so we tied up against the boats already there, creating an opportunity for me to chat with the skipper of one small trading boat about possible anchorages further north at some of the more obscure and remote islands, where charts offer little to no detail.

“I come aboard?” the skipper called out.

“Yeh, no problem”, I said, as he stepped over the handrail and followed me down the companionway; plus 5 of his crew as it turned out.

Meanwhile Bob and Jim continued to sort out the water, Ann and Jenny finished preparing a wonder lunch and the others ensured the lines and fenders kept Chimere safe from damage.

I pulled out the appropriate charts, in order to talk anchorages and after much chit chat was relieved to learn that there were indeed places to drop an anchor at both Mere Lava Island and Mota Island; two of the smallest dots of rock, forest and volcano-tip in the Vanuatu island chain.

After more chatting our six new friends from the neighbouring boat headed off.  As they made their way up the stairs I said, “Do you like chocolate?”   Silly question I know, but their smiles confirmed that “yes” they did.  As I gave the skipper a couple of bags of Cadbury Fruit and Nut, with the throw away line to the others … “you make sure he shares it with you”, the skipper said to me, “Do you have any books?  Picture books?  Christian books?”

His request took me back at first, but I said, “I’ll have a look”.  I then went up the front and quickly flicked through the novels, thrillers and sailing books that make up the onboard library and figured nothing was really appropriate.  Then I spied a pile of unopened National Geographics and even an unopened Australian Geographic.  Now, no one in my household in Melbourne will believe this, but grabbing one of each I returned to the saloon and handed them over with a smile, figuring that, as much as I treasure my sizeable collections of both magazines, this man will probably get more satisfaction from them than me.  (I did, however, suffer withdrawal symptoms afterwards, but I’m fully better now)

The ship fully watered, Bob took Chimere back to an anchorage off the Beachfront Resort, a few minutes up the harbour, leaving Ann, Chris, Terrance, Jo and me with the dinghy to go ashore and explore the main street.

If Port Vila is cosmopolitan with a touch of the wild west, well, Santo is wild west, with a touch of … a bit more wild west.

Apart from walking aimlessly down the main street, we also changed some money at the (air conditioned) ANZ bank, did some sightseeing, which included a brief shop at the market, took note of all of Ann’s important landmarks (such as where to buy a wonderful banana milkshake, while getting access to free wireless internet) and then made our way back to Chimere via the dinghy for our first night all together.

Fair breeze, smooth sea and 10 people aboard is very cosy.

Rob