Tuesday 2 June, 9.53pm (anchored at Port Vila)

In some respects it seems we’ve done nothing today. We’re still gently bobbing up and down here at the marina wall, the sun came up and the sun went down. As the tide moves in and out the plank that reaches from the bow to the concrete wharf creeks and groans as the ropes tighten and loosen and the wood rubs this way and that. It’s a noise you barely notice during the day, or up the back of the boat as you have dinner, but in the stillness of the night, as you lie in your bunk with your head on your pillow it’s amazing how the noise travels … I’m not sure what letters to use to describe the noise but it seems to get amplified through the steel hull, then every now and then there’s a “thrump-crash”, as the wharf end of the plank drops down the concrete step as the bow of the yacht rises with the tide and the angle of the plank increases.

For Ann in particular, who is in the forward cabin, the noise is most pronounced. In the wee hours the noise had Ann out of her bunk thinking we were being boarded by strangers – I think she was going … “save us all from being murdered in our bunks, by pirates”. I suspect the lateness of the hour, her sleepiness and lack of familiarity with her surroundings may have led to the over-active imagination.

Bob also got up in the night, thinking he could adjust the tension of the rope, or the angle of the plank to stop the … how did he describe it … “angonised groaning of the ropes and wood” … but after a considered inspection he thought better of it and went back to bed.

Around 5:00am I also got up and inspected the ramp, following one of those unexpected bangs, and in the tradition of Bob, I also did nothing and went back to bed.

As for security, yesterday we were sorting glasses on the foredeck and the local security guard, who walks up and down, (plus and tradesmen working on the building nearby – who seem to all be his mates) were curious about what we were doing and in the end Don gave them each a pair of sunglasses. We stopped when requests extended to their wife, children and friends. The security man, Tom Patrick, said he would take extra care of our boat. He said it was his first day on the job, so I offered to make him some business cards – even took a photo of him. I’ve made the cards, some I’ve even laminated, but late today I wasn’t able to find him … but I’m sure he’ll be there tomorrow. I’ll also have to break it to him that we have no more glasses to give away, because we need them all for the remote villages up north!! In talking with Tom, we discovered he was from Tanna island, down south, and was actually from the same village that Meg was from. Meg’s father, (who is still going well at age 97) established a school there in the 1940s, which Tom went to.

At the market, Ann and I asked if we could take a photo of the cutest kid – dressed in a fairy costume and in talking with the mother we said we’d drop back a copy of the photo. I did that today and they were really thrilled.

Another task today, which I did with Bob and Jim, was to look through all the charts and cruising guides of the Central Vanuatu region, in order to finalise some of the planning and navigation for the second medical group. In checking the flight schedules it was discovered that the plane into Norsup on Malakula has been changed by a few hours, so it was decided to change the pickup to Luganville on Espiritu Santo, often referred to as simply Santo, which is just a few minutes extra flying time north. The good thing about picking up the medical team in Santo is that the place they need to be taken, Ambae island, is only about 30-40 miles due east, or around 6 hours sail. This means that it can all be done in daylight hours which is really good, given that some of the anchorages will require some local knowledge.

In discussing the plans and the sail up to Santo, (from where we are now at Pt Vila), I’m a bit disappointed that I won’t be joining them, but it will be good to get home for a month and to be reunited with my ever-supportive wife Linda and my wonderful boys, Matt and James. In looking at the islands north of here, it’s amazing to see the variety. There’s the island of Lopevi, deserted because the massive cone volcano is too active, there’s Epi with forests, waterfalls and a friendly dugong, other islands with coral reefs, perched lakes, thermal pools and volcanic ash plains, plus another island where blokes jump off giant towers with vines attached to their ankles (admittedly, springy, quite strong vines – and they wear a strategically placed gourd for protection …)

As Ann was emptying and re-packing the food cupboards I got a call from up on deck that a Scottish lady and about 9 of her friends were on the wharf asking after me – well, who could that be I thought?! In fact I knew straight away, because prior to leaving Australia I had a call from one of my favourite (retirement) financial planning clients, Jane Everitt, who said she was going to be in Vanuatu for a wedding in the same week that we were going to be here. An amazing coincidence. So for all those game enough to climb the plank (we don’t talk about walking the plank) it was tea, coffee and chocolate cake (yes, that’s right, Ann cooked two chocolate cakes – with icing – this afternoon) in the saloon. Two of the visitors were, Grace and Ellie – all of about 5 and 3 – and reports are that one of them ate 3 pieces of cake – which was taken as a grand compliment to the chef. There were sticky fingers all round. It was wonderful to have Jane and her friends onboard – a little bit of home, so far from home.

At the end of one email we received yesterday – from Peter Bandy (from Nth Ringwood Uniting Church) was a wonderful quote:

“To Get What You’ve Never Had

You Must Do What You’ve Never Done”

I thought that was really good. I mentioned it to Bob and Jim chipped in with another one …

“When you’ve got money to burn, the fire’s gone out.”

And then there was one of my dad’s favourite ones…

“Anyone who never made a mistake, never tried anything”

Tomorrow I plan to train Ann, Bob and Jim in the art of using HF radio to transmit emails and receive weather maps, so after tomorrow the regular reports of the mission’s progress will be done by them. I’ll still have some input, and Mike will continue to do a wonderful job in the back room actually putting stuff up on the website. I’ll be back in the chair in early July when I return to assist with transporting the third medical group north to the Banks and Torres groups.

Right now, I’d better get to bed. The music is pounding out from the classic covers band at the bar 200m up the waterfront and in going up on deck I met a new security man who told me that Tom Patrick is on duty, so I’ll nip down there and give him the cards. I hope I don’t get swamped with requests – my onboard printing business will be closed down soon.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and the days go so quickly.

Rob