Wednesday 3 June,  10.21pm (anchored at Port Vila)

It started just a few days out of Sydney, and that’s more than 4 weeks ago now. Bob had his trusty Toshiba laptop out in the saloon and was tapping away and true to form, when he was done, he then packed it away neatly in the right place. (A place for everything and everything in its place)

The next day the cry went up … “anyone seen my mouse? … he’s done a runner”

“No” came the answer, “I haven’t seen it”

“No, I haven’t seen it” …

“Hey Bob … have you checked in with the muesli?”

“very funny” replied Bob ” … I had him yesterday … I packed up the computer … went to my cabin and now I can’t find him, he scampered away”

Everyone then had some suggestions … “Have you checked behind the seat cushions Bob? What about in your bed, under the mattress?” What about in your pockets? Did you go somewhere else, what about in the tool bag”

“Yes, I’ve checked there, and there, and there. I’ve checked everywhere” said an exasperated Bob.

Then, for a few days, things went quiet. Till Bob came out with … “Martin … is my mouse in your computer bag?. Your bag has more pouches and pockets than you can poke a stick at … maybe it found its way into there … it’s quite a small mouse?”.

Martin’s bag was duly dismembered and hey presto … no mouse. At least not Bob’s mouse.

Another week went by, things went quiet again, we’d made it to Tanna Island, Bob had his computer out. “Where DID that mouse go? I just went from the saloon, to the cabin. Nowhere else. Where could it be? Look at all the places where he could hide on this boat … I still reckon my little mouse went back to Australia in Martin’s bag … he could easily have hidden in one of those pockets”

It didn’t end there. Last week as we came into Port Vila… “I wish I could find that mouse.” I heard Bob mutter. “Here little fella, come to daddy …”

Then this afternoon as Bob and I were working through the list of jobs, Jim and Ann had gone on a 6 hour island tour and I was briefing Bob on everything I thought was important prior to me leaving tomorrow morning, Bob spied a small cardboard box which houses his spare backup GPS machine.

“Have you looked for mousy in there Bob?” I said … “I’m just doing that now” came the excited response from Bob. “There he is!!! My mouse has been found!!!! He must have gone in there for directions from the gps and got disoriented. That’s right, I was playing with the gps and had it plugged into the laptop and then put it away at the same time I put the computer away.”

Trust me, there was much excitement and rejoicing over the mouse that was once lost but which is now found.

Another exciting thing happened today in connection with computers and that is, Bob and I were able to connect his laptop up to the SailMail HF radio modem and configure it in such a way that he can now receive and transmit emails and weather maps on his laptop.

Given the limitations of our (that should read MY, because Bob is actually very good with gadgets and machines) computer skills it was with a great sense of relief that we overcame the final error message about COM PORTS 1,3 & 4, Lat Long positions and Radio Model type etc etc.

The long and the short of it is that I can now take my laptop home with me for a month, knowing that communications aboard will continue as before.

Ann will take responsibility for regular website messages, but I’m sure there will be contributions from all aboard at different times.

One quite strange thing happened yesterday while I was sitting down below – I think I was actually typing on the laptop, there was a strange sort of vibration through the hull of the boat. The hull seemed to be going up and down very quickly and it felt like nothing else I’d experienced. The boat didn’t roll from side to side, it just remained stationary but seemed to be rumbling like it was being shaken by some big invisible hands.

After 10 or 15 seconds I clambered out of the hatch and everyone was still up on the foredeck working away packing boxes, unaware of the sensation. “Did anyone feel anything?” I called out. But all I got back were blank looks which gave me the impression that they thought I was close to the edge. “It was a vibration kind of thing. The boat kind of went up and down”. About then I gave up. But I looked across to the yacht tied up next to us about 20 metres away. The woman on that boat, Trish, who seems busy much of the time entertaining her two very active children, was coming out of the hatch and she caught my eye and said, “That was an earthquake, wasn’t it?” I had to agree. I’d definitely felt something and that’s all I could imagine it to be.

As we were sitting out in the cockpit tonight eating another of Ann’s delicious concoctions, with green stuff from the market mixed with small bits of beef and noodles, Bob said, “did you feel that?” “there was a kind of vibration through the boat”

None of us did feel it, but I asked whether they felt yesterday’s tremor and Jim and Ann said, “didn’t you hear, there was a big earthquake, 6.2 on the scale very deep down not far from here yesterday”. So maybe you heard it in the news. If you did, then I’m here to report … we survived.

The marlin fishing tournament continues along the waterfront. Seems like it goes on all week. Tonight the boats came back and there were a couple of big tuna being displayed, but no marlin yet.

On the medical side of things, I had a meeting yesterday with Don MacRaild and Meto Nganga, the financial secretary for the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu about delivering a dental service to the people of Vanuatu, in a similar way to the Eye Care project. I’d had some interest from potential volunteers last year who were keen to offer their dental skills, but at the time we were fully occupied dealing with the transport side of things. Just in passing over dinner last night I said to Jim, “Eh, Jim, don’t suppose you know any dentists who’d like to get involved in some volunteer work here in Vanuatu?”

“Well, as a matter of fact I do” said Jim. “I had my teeth looked at before I came away and my own dentists was keen to know what I was doing and where I was going and said he’d like to do some volunteer work and give something back”.

So who knows where this might lead.

When we were down at Tanna Island we had someone asking whether there was a dentist amongst the eye care volunteers. Sadly there wasn’t, although the doctor/surgeon Hugo would have found a solution I’m sure if it was necessary – and we have a fine selection of pliers and chisels on board the boat he could have used.

But seriously, most of us have had toothache at some stage in our lives and the thought of not being able to get relief is a hard one to deal with. Little wonder so many people here are missing teeth, they just knock them out.

So that’s about it from me … at least for a little while … but stay tuned for more entertaining reading from Ann and the crew. You’ll hear more about the medical team in about 2 weeks. At the moment, the boat is being prepared for the next medical mission, which starts on 18 June in central Vanuatu.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and up at 4:45am tomorrow to catch my flight home.

Rob