It’s three days since we arrived here in Santo and the last crew flew home to Australia and it feels like we’ve always been here.

Jo has command of the galley, evidenced by batches of scones, loaves of bread and delicious meals.  Chris, Terrance and Mike have a good grasp of where everything is and are already starting improve, fix and modify things on board in readiness for our departure tomorrow afternoon.

Jo and Chris took in a dive on the famous US President Coolidge and Million Dollar Point yesterday and judging by their underwater photos and feedback it was truly a wonderful experience.  People come from all around the world to do these two dives and here we have them less than 5km down the road.

The story of the Coolidge and Million Dollar Point are fascinating and well worth a quick “Google” or “Wiki” (see how up-to-date and “hip” I am – although I probably just undid the initial impression by saying that)
Apparently the Americans offered all their (considerable) war-time equipment to the local Government at the time, but they (an English/French joint administration – say no more) knocked them back thinking they’d get it for free, or at a much reduced price, when the Yanks pulled out.

Realising this, the Americans did something no one expected – drove, pushed and generally dumped everything off the end of the wharf into the sea and the steep drop-off.  Hence the name “Million Dollar Point”, although “Mega-Million Dollar Point” is probably more accurate.  Chris said the tanks, jeeps, excavators, trucks, graders, fork lifts, front end loaders, you name it, just disappeared into the depths as far as the eye could see.  Incredible!!

As for the Coolidge – it’s a massive 200 metre long ocean liner, come troop carrier, which, as a result of poor judgement on the part of the skipper, hit a couple of  “friendly mines” while coming into port and sits in 25-60 metres of water less than 100 metres off the shore.  (That’s right, 100 metres)

After the dive, Chris and Jo were invited to a kava bar – in the evening – by the dive instructor – an American gentleman who first came to Vanuatu three years ago as a Peace Corp volunteer and fell in love with the place.  We sent them off with all the appropriate warnings and I’m happy to report they came back safe and sound at a very respectable (and responsible) hour.  (Talk to Chris and Jo privately about the experience – I don’t think they’ll be going back any time soon)

The much-anticipated news today was the arrival of Dr Graeme Duke (aka Uncle Gwaeme) from Australia, making up the full crew-complement of six.

Along with Graeme, on the flight from Pt Vila, was the Ni-van medical team, comprising Richard and his assistant Jessy, who is originally from N’dui N’dui on Ambae and who was part of the last medical team transported to that region. (refer Ann’s posts of the past 3 weeks) Plus Franklin, who is the Government Health Worker from the village of Sola on Vanua Lava, one of the northern island we will be visiting in the next three weeks.

It was great to see them and was a firm reminder that our work (and play) of the past few days, in preparing the boat for sea, is about to bear fruit.

Along with Graeme, Richard, Jessy and Franklin came a pile of medical and optical boxes, about 20 in all, affectionately known as “Baxter Boxes”, on account of the brand name stamped on every side.  These contained the many spectacles, sunglasses and cases that will be needed in conducting the clinics.  Plus, we have a reasonable supply of penicillin and other medications to treat certain diseases we encounter, such as Yaws, plus eye and ear infections.

These boxes have now been stowed aboard and while some last minute shopping was done ashore Graeme categorised all (29, counting those already aboard) boxes, giving each an identifiable mark, so as to assist with future transport from boat to shore as clinics are conducted.  (he deserves a medal given the steamy heat below deck during the day)

After my unhappy experiences earlier in the week at both Tullamarine and Vanuatu Customs, Graeme came through on auto pilot – not a problem.  All down to having the right bits of paper. (plus an attractive wife and daughter to distract the officials – yells Graeme.  He knows how to get on)   Graeme’s overnight stay in Pt Vila was a fun experience with the usual barking dogs, roosters crowing at all hours of the night and the early morning arrival of dozens of cars out front on account of the school opposite.

Graeme is now comfortably at home in the double cabin he shares with Mike and is busily making his upper bunk comfy with his electronic gadgets and personal items.

Tomorrow morning we have a planning session aboard with Richard, Franklin and Jessy.  Then, after making final, final purchases in town, we’ll clear the decks, stow all loose items, raise the dinghy and get away in the afternoon for an overnight sail, north east to the island of Mere Lava.  Who knows, we might get there in time for church on Sunday morning.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and welcome aboard Dr GD.

Rob