Fri 31 July 2009, (Santo)

In the end, our trip down from the Torres Group up north took 38 hours, with much of last night spent trying to tack around the south west corner of Espiritu Santo (Cape Mata’avea) into an East Sou’East wind of 20-30 knots and a really mixed-up, confused sea.

The initial thought, as we headed down the coast of the island, was to do a quick overnight stop at a wee dot called Wusi, under Vanuatu’s tallest mountain, Mt Tabwemasana, which rises nearly 6,000 feet from the sea.  A vote was taken and the consensus was – lets get back ASAP.  At the time we were in the sheltered lee of the mountain range and we had the engine on in order to make some forward motion.  As we got further south, however, the wind just continued to climb along with the seas, so we plugged on, one tack at a time.  The final approach to Luganville, the Segond Channel, was eventually  reached around 6:00am and we caught the last 2 hours of the tidal flow making it a dream run.

With yesterday having been Independence Day, (which we spent at sea) today was something of a quiet affair in town.  “The effects of last night’s kava”, I jokingly suggested to one of the chaps we met at the wharf when we stopped by to collect about 500 litres of water.  He laughed in agreement.

For the record, the big inter-island soccer tournament was won by Pentecost Island – a first.  All that bungy jumping off tall towers doing more than promoting a good yam harvest maybe?

We met up with Richard Tatwin briefly this afternoon.  He’d flown in from Loh and was flying out to Pt Vila later tonight. Richard had just been up to the Santo Hospital with the list of surgical referrals from this last month’s medical work and at the hospital they were very surprised that for many patients, one-way transport had been paid for by the Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness Project.  (The Government Health Department pays the return journey for patients, but often this is of no value because people can’t afford to actually get to the medical centre in the first place) You may be aware that Graeme Duke did a sponsored walk earlier in the year, “walk4icare” and the $3,000 raised will go a long way in providing assistance in this area.

Richard spoke of his and Don’s response to the past 3 months of medical work and how the yacht had made so much more possible.  They’d always felt that the benefit would be greatest in the Banks and Torres Groups and they felt this was indeed the case.  There are many reason’s for this, including…

  • the distances between islands,
  • the cost of air travel (a local flight of a few hundred kilometres can often cost as much as a flight from Pt Vila to Sydney)
  • the inconvenient (and sometimes unreliable) nature of the flight schedules,
  • the lack of fuel for local boats,
  • the open water and the high likelihood that bad weather will prevent local boats from operating
  • poor communications.

In summary, they were very happy with the boat, and the added benefits it offered in terms of transporting the boxes, setting up clinics, communication, flexibility to change plans to suit local conditions, provision of petrol (and a more reliable outboard motor) for local boats to use when appropriate and being able to help villagers in other areas, such as repairing equipment, running film nights and printing photographs for the locals.

At the moment we are at anchor off the Beach Front Resort in Santo, the same spot that Bob chose to anchor at earlier in the month and I’m falling asleep as I type – a bad sign, or a sure sign of something …

It’s been a quiet day, and there is a strong need to replenish the sleep reserves.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and back in Santo

Rob