Luganville

Monday 15 June, 11.42pm (anchored at Luganville, Santo)

Yesterday when we were wandering around Vao with our guide, I saw a teenage girl some distance away, walking with great difficulty using a single crutch. I waved to her and she hid around the back of a hut and peered at us from there. I asked our guide if she had a leg problem, and he told me that she’d had one amputated at the knee because it was bad. She moved so awkwardly that I wanted to have a look at her to see if there was any way I could improve it, even if it was just to offer a better walking aid. But I had no idea of the situation, no access to equipment of any kind, and I was there as a drop-in visitor, not as a visiting paramedic. It’s sometimes hard to gauge the point at which one is being helpful or actually just invasive. The thought of her has stayed with me; had she been in Australia, she would have been fitted with a snug prosthesis (artificial leg), been taught how to move with it, and probably be running about with the other kids or at least functional. There is so much inequity (a certain amount of it perpetuated by expats), and so much need here running right alongside the community and cultural richness.

Today’s sail from Vao to Luganville was sheer delight, with the boat moving along very nicely at upwards of 8 knots under the main and yankee sails. The 15- to 20-knot south-easterly breeze stayed with us -Chimere just about sang. She always rolls a bit when the wind is coming from the side, so my favourite spot for remaining in good condition is on the forward deck, lying in the shade of the sails or the dinghy. Today with the boat heeling, I was sitting on the deck with my feet braced against the gunwhale on the lee side to stop me from sliding. From there I looked straight out at deep blue hills of water rolling out from under the bow, topped with flowing white lacy foam. I felt as though I’d never really seen navy blue before; the water was so live with that colour. It reminded me of those traditional Japanese paintings with blue white crested waves come alive. Jen came and sat alongside me, and we had a lengthy discussion about comparative religion (she’s just returned from a trip to Syria), godness and not-godness, truth and life. It’s rare to be living in such close quarters with others for an extended period and to have the leisure to be able to delve into these essential subjects while enjoying such beauty together.

Luganville appeared at around 12.45. We anchored and took the dinghy in for a bit of an explore. I have to confess it’s hard being here after the remote simplicity of the smaller islands. Although there aren’t many cars, the exhaust fumes are impressive and the area around where we arrived cries out city poverty, which appears less clean and peaceful than village poverty. One wonders what the difference between the two might be like from the inside. It’s too easy to misjudge from the outside.

After we had finished our reconnoitre, we stayed a bit long enjoying cool drinks at a beachside guest place close to where we had pulled up the dinghy. There is virtually no twilight in this part of the world and darkness falls very quickly, so by the time we set off to return to the boat daylight had been replaced by pitch black. As we walked down toward the dinghy, a beam like a searchlight picked us up and followed us back to where we had left it. We hadn’t thought to switch on Chimere’s mooring light before we left, so she was invisible in the darkness. Amid much hilarity we piled into the dinghy and headed off in the general direction of where we’d find her. Ferryman Jim was driving and couldn’t see a thing, but we then realised that our searchlight friends had found Chimere for us and were lighting our way. The beam shone across the water until we had clambered back on board. We have no idea where that kindness came from.

This is where we stay until the team arrives via Port Vila on Friday, cleaning, refueling and restocking in readiness to absorb ten extra people for what may well be a night sail across to Ambae in order to arrive there at a reasonable hour to begin work on Saturday.

Ann Shoebridge

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