Saturday 16 May, 10.30pm  (anchored at Lenakel)

Twelve hours after leaving home Andrew, along with the first medical team, made it to Pt Vila, where they stayed overnight in accommodation provided by the Presbyterian Church. It was then a short flight the next day (yesterday) down here to Lenakel, on Tanna.

Yesterday was truly one of excitement, anticipation and dreams becoming reality as Andrew finally stepped aboard. Andrews’s gear was quickly stowed on his bunk and he soon felt right at home as we swapped stories of travel and adventure.

The medical team came out on the boat briefly and there was excitement about starting work, with today’s clinic being much anticipated. Apparently there was a throng of patients at the hospital yesterday, expecting there to be a clinic, but Richard Tatwin, the local director of the Eyecare Project made arrangements for them to be picked up from their homes today and brought in.

The first patient was none other than our own Bob, as he stepped ashore for the first time. Nothing serious, but Andrew walked Bob up the hill to the hospital, where a persistent ingrown eyelash was removed in a matter of seconds – no Medicare card, no Gap Payment, no bulk billing or private health card – no cost.

It’s nearly 12 noon now, Bob’s back on board and he’s just headed off for his regular nap … “Doctor said lots of rest” … were Bob’s parting words. (“Gonna milk this for all it’s worth” I think I heard him mutter from his cabin) I suspect Bob needs the rest after spending a good hour and a half ashore – a shock like that can really do things to you.

The clinic went well, with around 60 patients being seen. Several of these will require eye surgery for cataracts and this will be done in a month or so when a visiting ophthalmologist drops by.

Martin, Will and Kathy tried to pick up some more water for the tanks at the town tap, but discovered that it’s turned off on Saturdays. Doh!!

For whatever reason, our meeting with George, the quarantine man, at 9:00am on the beach, didn’t happen. I suspect we’ll be doing that part of the inward clearance in Pt Vila in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Martin took the opportunity to go to the bank yesterday. To get some local Vatu. There was Martin standing in the queue, just like home really, and just like home, when you get to the counter you put your purse, handbag or whatever on the counter as you chat with the teller about the pending transaction. Well unlike home, the guy in front of Martin lobs his tomahawk on the counter in a move that, back home, would have alarms ringing and automatic shutters activated. Probably make the evening news. But no one batted an eyelid, the man did his business, and life went on. (I think the war on global terror still needs to be waged here in Lanakel.)

Apparently the kids at school have their booklist at the start of each year, which includes pencils, exercise books, rulers etc, (no surprises there) well in some parts it also includes a machete. I’m sure THAT would catch on back home given half a chance. Here it’s more a case of controlling the prolific vegetation. After all, they’ve got all, volcanic soil, lots of sunlight and no shortage of water. I should at this point make a few small corrections to past messages –

I found the correct spelling to our customs friend – It’s Iau (Pronounced – Ee-ow) Tuan.

And the fish we caught wasn’t a Wahoo after all – it has several names, including Mahi Mahi, Dorado and Dolphin Fish (not to be confused with the other type of Dolphin, whose relatives are caught only for scientific purposes) No matter the name, it still tasted wonderful.

Saturday ended in a relaxed way for Andrew and me, over a locally prepared meal ashore, with Martin, Bob, Will and Kathy digging out the BBQ from an underfloor storage compartment to cook up dinner aboard.

Once again, it turned out to be a late night, with sleep coming very easily.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and welcome aboard Andrew.

Rob