Sunday 31 May, 5.34pm (anchored at Port Vila)

It was sad day. Saying good-bye today to my brother and boat-owning partner, Andrew. He’s just caught the 2:00pm Virgin Pacific flight out of Vila, bound for Sydney. The noise of the jet climbing and carving an arc over the town had me up on deck just now. I watched skywards as the big red plane quickly made it’s appearance then disappeared into a bank of gathering cloud.

After two weeks aboard, Andrew didn’t really want to go. This was clear as we began to discuss with Bob the plans, schedules and navigational considerations of the next medical tour, which starts on the 18th June and extends through to early July.

“With all the talk of swine flu, maybe I could be quarantined here for the next month?” Andrew offered in vain.

There’s no doubt, the last 14 days have been a wonderful time of service, discovery, introspection and learning. Since early childhood, Andrew and I, along with our father, Bill, have dreamed, read, talked, planned and dreamed some more about sailing the Pacific – and here we were – on a yacht, our yacht, in the Pacific. At times, as we chatted with local Ni-Vans, were guided through their villages and accepted gifts of banana, grapefruit (giant grapefruit with a French name I can’t spell – something pupplemoose) and coconut, at times we had to pinch ourselves.

All those years ago we never dreamed that in the process of sailing we’d be assisting medical teams access remote island villages. But in a way, there’s something fitting in the way our early dreams are now being played out; the aspect of “service” being so much a part of the legacy left to us by our parents, Bill and Alice.

Whilst work commitments have ensured Andrew must return to Sydney, he will return again, for the first couple of weeks in August, to assist in sailing the boat down from Santo to Pt Vila, before the voyage back to Australia in late August.

In addition to sailing and his work on the boat, Andrew has also been deep in discussions with Richard Tatwin and Don MacRaild about design considerations for an expanded eye and medical clinic here in Pt Vila; using his civil engineering and sustainable energy credentials to the full. There was talk of enclosed verandas, insulated envelopes and security mesh, plus a list of other building terms. I’m sure there’ll be more involvement as the project develops.

At the moment, Will and Kathy are gathering all their things together and packing their bags for an early getaway tomorrow. Of all the many travel options on offer they have settled on a flight to Malakula Island, where they will do a 4 day walk and then another flight to Maewo Island followed by a boat ride down to Pentecost Island. They then return to Sydney on 10 June.

Tonight we are having a special meal onboard for Don & Meg, Margie & husband Michael (who flew across to share a week’s R&R) plus Richard Tatwin – not sure whether we are going to meet the future Mrs Tatwin – Rosie?! Apparently there was going to be a marriage last month, but family negotiations and arrangements needed some more fine tuning – so it’s been delayed till August. In preparation for our guests, Bob and I have been scrubbing the decks. They look much better now, however, coming from Melbourne with all her water restrictions and reservoirs down around 30% capacity, I was half expecting to be arrested for hosing down the deck like I was – the sort of thing you did as a kid in summer all those decades ago while the sprinkler played on the lawn next to the improvised water slide.

In running out of clean clothes I was driven to doing some clothes washing today. Extended my shower at the onshore facilities by a good 20 minutes it did – it was kind of a recycling process – enough said. I even looked in a mirror … and I must say, Andrew’s suggestion of a neat trim of the many whiskers that have sprouted was probably good advice after all – I think I probably look like a cross between Fuzzy Bear and Crusty The Clown. Having come this far without shaving though, I can probably hold out for another 4 days.

In order to balance my home and work life, I too will be heading back to Australia – this coming Thursday 4 June. As I mentioned, I think in the last post, Bob will be in charge of the boat while I’m away – ably assisted by Jim, Tony, Ann, Jenny and Martin.

Ann and Jim fly in tonight (11;50pm), Tony and Jenny land next Friday and Martin arrives with the second medical team 18 June.

Hope you enjoy the new photos, which I think Mike added to the website yesterday. We’ll have some more photos in a day or so, introducing our new crew members. In the meantime you can check them out in the Crew section.

Smooth seas, fair wind and farewell Andrew.

Rob