Monday 1 June, 8.19 pm (anchored at Port Vila)

It was a late night. It was early morning.

The first contingent of the new crew arrived last night at 11:50pm, via Air Vanuatu, with Jim and Ann stepping aboard. Richard Tatwin and I went out to the airport to greet them and after a hot drink, prepared by Bob (in his PJs) on our arrival back at the boat, it was off to bed around 1:30am.

Then Will and Kathy were up at 5:00am for their trip out to the airport.

I must say, Jim travels light, which is not to say Ann doesn’t, but when the bags were lifted, counted and passed aboard there were rather more of Ann’s than Jim’s. “That one’s full of the museli you asked me to bring … and AAA batteries!” protested Ann. But space is no more a problem on board, at least not now that we have offloaded the optical machines (we have transported from Sydney) for the local clinic, along with a bevy of boxes and other medical supplies.

Ann has taken up residence in the forward cabin. She’s there on her own at the moment, in amongst the spare bags, flippers, fishing rod, spear, boxes of chocolate, 12kg of coffee!!, spare toilet, (that’s right, toilet, not toilet paper) paper towels, (and toilet paper) giant saucepan etc etc. Of course it’ll all be cleaned out, spic and span for when Jenny, her cabin buddy, arrives on Friday.

Jim will move into the double cabin tonight after sharing Bob’s cabin last night. Then when I move out on Thursday, Bob will move into my cabin, making way for Tony and Martin. When the music stops, grab a cabin.

In order to gain an understanding of the food supplies and where everything is, Ann has been emptying the cupboards and re-packing them … we can now move in the saloon. We also went down to the local market and picked up and array of fruits and green things, some of which Ann has turned into a a wonderful meal, the last bits of which I’ve just removed from my teeth. In saying that, it really was a lovely meal, with small bits of lovely steak we’ve had in the freezer since we left Sydney on 2 May.

Ann really was in her element at the market. Jessie, who works at the local eye clinic with Richard, came with Don and Meg to sort the boxes of glasses on board and later went with us to the market to identify and explain some of the items on offer. Jessie was originally from the island of Ambae, where the second medical team will be transported later in the month. Jessie will be traveling with the medical team and so it was important for her to get a bit familiar with the boat and what might be in store.

Later this afternoon, Bob had the idea to take the dinghy for a spin, over to see the Dawn Princess, the enormous white ship which is tied up against the wharf on the other side of the harbour. There along the waterside was a frenzy of Ni-van stalls selling all sorts of handicrafts and produce (probably all that stuff that will be confiscated by quarantine when they finally dock back at Sydney in a week’s time) Going over there by dinghy was a lot of fun. Bob opened the thing up and there we were racing along at probably 25 knots straight at the white wall of steel which was the Dawn Princess. In other ports around the world you might expect security to intervene, or for the water canons to be turned on us, but eh, this is Port Vila. Everyone races around in their dinghy, and I don’t think there’s a Bislama word for “war on terror”.

I received an email from Andrew, who went home yesterday afternoon … “I arrived home safely last night” he writes. And after jokingly suggesting he might be quarantined here in Vanuatu for the next month, he goes on to talk about his mistake in ticking the wrong box on the immigration form when he got to Sydney …

“In an ironic twist I ticked the wrong box on the health declaration. The error meant I had swine flu symptoms! The customs man swung into action but I assured him I felt well. He asked “why did you tick this box?”. My only answer was that it was a mistake. The travelling eye team had already prescribed x2 reading glasses for me but I was travelling with my old glasses which aren’t much help these days. Anyway the customs man said it was now out of his hands. I must be taken away and interviewed by a nurse. A golf buggy and driver was summonsed and a mask put on me. I then sat in the back of the buggy while I was whisked through the terminal building, through all the duty free shops, past all the other arriving passengers with an orange light flashing and a loud warning beep sounding on the buggy. It was quite a spectacle. On arrival the nurse wanted to know which countries I had visited and how long had I felt sick. I assured him I wasn’t sick. “But it says here on the card that you are”. “Yes I know but that was a mistake.” “Oh. But the front line had to send you to me?” “That’s right.” “OK, off you go”. And back I went complete with flashing light and beeper to start the process all over again.

So there you go … when you get your eyes tested, make sure you get new glasses so you can fill out your immigration form correctly.

We just heard the horn from the Dawn Princess – she’s moving out. I wish we could “sail” as fast as her – Sydney in 4 days!!

We’ve now had our evening coffee, there’s a list of jobs ready for tomorrow and the cool breeze is gently moving the fly screen at the window.

The idea of a walk along the waterfront was suggested, “walk!!” called Bob, I’ve got a sore back from all my walking today”. I think he’s still a starter.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and more preparations

Rob