Monday 17 May 2010 Port Resolution

The day started well and just got better.  Scott, Bill and I followed our well worn path to the steam vent village to deliver some photos we took yesterday, while also retrieving the demonstration brick brought from Australia as the … “here is one we prepared earlier” exhibit.

It was then onto a nearby village where we met up with some people Bill and Scott had met yesterday and we also stumbled across Charlie Joseph, an older man we met on day one in the village and to whom we gave a wind-up torch.

As we opened up the “How To Make a Mud Brick Stove” manual and talked about the benefits of making and using a stove which uses less wood and more importantly produces less smoke, a crowd gathered and it was agreed all round that we needed to find some clay.  “But we have no clay here.  Maybe on other side of harbour, above steam vent, there is clay there.  We use him for face painting in Kustom ceremony”  Charlie explained.

It seemed a long way to walk and an even longer way to carry the stuff back, given there was no water high on the side of the hill on the other side of the bay.  “Are there any lads who can each carry a little bit of soil back?”, I enquired  “No, they all gone to the gardens today.  Maybe they do it tomorrow” replied Charlie.  “Well how about we go over there now, and bring back enough clay for one brick, just to show how”, said Scott.

So it was agreed, and we all set off, but after about 200m I noticed some yellow dirt at the edge of the road/track amongst the mostly black sandy loam which seemed to meet our requirements, therein saving an awfully long walk.

Scooping up a bag of the yellow soil we trotted back to the village where we added the usual dry pandanus leaves and water with 4 quality bricks being made.  Not enough for a stove, but Charlie promised the lads would go and collect the super-quality clay tomorrow and make more.  We’ll go over there and check tomorrow, because I took some photos which I promised I’d print out for them and we also said we’d lend them some DVDs to watch on the TV which was in one of the huts.

While walking back to the dinghy, who should we encounter in a (the only) passing 4wd ute but Don MacRaild, the co-ordinator and founder of the eyecare program who has been working with the land-based medical team since they arrived a week ago.  He had been trying to track us down for an hour or so to give us a dozen boxes of surplus glasses to be loaded aboard Chimere,  and he knew we were nearby because in asking in the local villages he saw evidence of our presence through the mud-bricks that had been made – it seemed everyone knew about these blue-shirted mudbrick evangelists from the medical boat.

The boxes from Don filled the dinghy so we decided to take it all out to the boat straight away and have a bit of lunch, while Don made a bee line back to the village in the ute where the latest clinic was being conducted, about 15km away –  downwind of the volcano as it turned out and constantly being rained on by ash and a permanent smell of sulphur.

Our arrival at Chimere coincided with a passing visit from a tender off another yacht which had come into the bay yesterday.  But this was no ordinary yacht.  This was a 100 foot Farr designed $10 million carbonfibre super yacht with a mast about twice the height of ours.  We’d chatted briefly with the Australian skipper, Geoff (or Jeff) earlier and they seemed interested in the medical transport work we were doing.  And here they were pulling alongside Chimere in their massive dinghy with centre consol controls, seating for maybe 6 and a massive outboard on the back. “Would you like to come over for a drink?”, asked Geoff as we finished handing up the last of the boxes to Bob, resplendent in his blue shorts and nothing else.

I’m not sure who said “yes please” first, but having marvelled at the size of the boat anchored way out in the harbour all  morning we were keen to get a closer look, so there wasn’t a lot of thinking-time in jumping at the opportunity.  Scott took maybe 3 minutes to change his shirt, (for some reason he thought the mud stains from the morning’s activities was unbefitting a superyacht) Bob put a shirt on and away we raced, tying our dinghy up next to theirs on the teak laid stern-platform which led to the teak-laid steering platform, which led to the teak-laid under cover entertainment space which kind of flowed onto the teak-laid side decks and forward to the bow about 20-30 metres further on in the distance.

The tour of the yacht, Rapture, took in just about everything.  The engine room you could walk around in and which had a kind of surgical cleanliness about it, the owner’s cabin which was rarely used it seemed because the owner came aboard only occasionally from his home (no doubt one of his homes) in the USA, the guests cabins which seemed to peel off here and there all over the place, each with ensuites, the crew’s quarters, the amazing galley, dining room, nav station, storage compartments, purpose-build everything, 300 litre/hr water maker, 4500 litre diesel tanks, 2,500 litre water tanks  … you get the idea.  Halfway through the tour I suggested I’d better take the lads away lest they never want to get back aboard Chimere again.  Then there was a call made for lunch – quiche and salads on the afterdeck, as a few more drinks were passed around.  After an hour of this we were starting to get used to it, you had to remind yourself every now and then that you were still aboard a boat.

It was then time for skipper Geoff to visit Chimere with the “tour” being conducted from the saloon table where we sat and where I was able to demonstrate some Vanuatu cruising software which must have been the only thing our boat had that their boat didn’t have; apart from Bob, Scott and Bill of course. The tour of Chimere went something like … this is the saloon, over there is the galley, that’s the companionway we’ve just come down, over there are the cabins and that’s the nav table … oh, we also have a bowl of fruit to create a certain ambience.  I think we impressed them in a simple, earthy kind of way.  Their wonderful hospitality certainly qualified them for a free DVD of last year’s MSM mission, which we hope they enjoy, and then we were really touched when Geoff handed over a large wad of Vatu as a donation towards our work; a really unexpected surprise.  Thank you so much.

Geoff and his crew then went ashore to arrange a tour to the volcano, with Scott and I going shortly after to retrieve a handheld radio Bob had passed onto a man in a canoe earlier in the day for him to pass onto Don.  It’s a long complicated story, but we got the radio back after making enquires with the first person we met upon landing ashore.  We then invited three French sailors off the yacht anchored behind us over to our place for coffee and biscuits around 5:30pm.

At the appointed time they paddled over and we discovered that he – Jean-Baptiste (John) and his wife Anik, have been travelling the world for a very long time and even home-schooled their two children, who are now 30 and 26 years of age for several years.  John is a writer and maintains a daily blog on a sailing website which has an active following worldwide.  I believe the site is  www.banik.org so I’m keen to check it out.  They spoke about sailing in Guatemala, Caribbean, Europe and their plans to head over to Darwin and Thailand in a couple of months.  They too seemed interested in the mud bricks and in their travels had seen adobe houses in Sth America and felt the idea was well suited to this region.  After two hours or so of fun and lively discussion they paddled off into the night the short distance to their boat leaving us to reflect on an amazing day.  We had made several new best friends and felt well and truly ready for bed.

More mud bricks tomorrow and more maintenance aboard, with the doctors Iain and Ann due to come aboard on Thursday.  There was also a French Canadian backpacker we met today in a village looking for a ride to Pt Vila, but we’ll find out more about her tomorrow no doubt.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and safe travels fellow yachties

Rob Latimer