Thursday 24 June 2010, 2pm (Tangoa Island, 15 35.305 S 166 59.242 E)
This morning’s 6:30am start was really a 7am start because the medical team slept in after a restless night. That was good, as it turned out, as it gave Carl a bit of time with his friend Tony. Carl had promised Tony a fishing rod so early this morning Tony paddled out to wait for Carl to wake up. Carl spent a while ceremoniously handing over the rod and showing Tony how to use its features. Tony was very pleased with it and I think Carl has made a life long friend. When Tony left we also gave him 2 copies of the mud brick stove booklet that we only had time to talk about as opposed to demonstrate. There was one copy for Tony and one for Chief Fred.
We finally caught up with Chief Fred last night just before dark. Paul and I chatted with him about his concern to get a clean water supply for the village. We dashed back to shore to use the last bit of daylight so Fred could show us everything and to get pictures and make notes. All the young men of the village, including the medical team were playing a very serious game of volley ball to finish off the day. The school in the village has weekly boarders and their water supply is good. Fred wants to emulate that system for the whole village.
Once the medical team was aboard and we said our farewells we set off for Tangoa Island, about 6 miles away. The anchor winch that Carl reconditioned worked beautifully. The weather was a bit indifferent but the wind was favourable. There was low cloud cover and a ground swell coming from the south. While we were raising the anchor a tropical downpour drenched the crew. While traveling to Tangoa Island, Paul made egg sandwiches for all hands. Richard adopted his normal position on the coach house roof while the other two medicos sprawled out on the settee below and fell fast asleep.
On the way a pod of dolphins came to look at us. Before seeing them I had seen a whole school of fish jump vertically out of the water and wondered what was happening down below to motivate such a strange display. Shortly after dolphins could be seen leaping from the water coming from that direction. They were a much smaller dolphin than I had seen before and they didnt have the habit of playing at the bow. They saw us from a distance and all headed over to inspect. They jumped clear of the water and made a great display as they raced towards us. A few stayed a while but eventually joined their friends.
Tangoa Island is close to the south coast of Santo, the largest island in the chain. The coast is littered with small islands and without the GPS it would have been difficult to identify our destination in the hazy, low cloud conditions. The swell made the trip a little uncomfortable but on rounding Tangoa Island it disappeared. The mainland sent a finger of land jutting out towards the island. Canoes were drawn up on the beach on the mainland side. These belonged to people living on the island who have their veggie gardens on the mainland. The beach was like the carpark for the commuters going to work. As we arrived we searched for a good place to anchor. “Richard can you ask this fisherman where to anchor” I asked. Richard whistled then bellowed, ” wea place bai me sakem anchor”. The fisherman got very excited and waved his arms. I couldn’t understand his Bislama but the sailor in me deduced there was an underwater pipe up ahead. I called to Ray at the helm to slow down, then shortly after to bring the boat to a stop. The fisherman then waved his hands up and down and said “here, here”. I called to the guys in the bow, “let the anchor go”. Not since leaving Sydney have we had to worry about underwater man made obstructions.
We got the dinghy launched and Paul and Grant did 2 runs ashore to get the people and equipment landed. A little while later Richard radioed to ask if we had more hats in stock. We did, so Paul, Grant and I went ashore with them. The clinic was in full swing and more formal than normal. On arrival the elders rose to greet us and shake hands. They then asked everyone to tone down the noise they were making. As a result it was the quietest clinic I have been to. I said to Paul “lets unload the hats and leave so everyone can talk again!” I had asked Bob earlier if I could take some photos of his dental work. It is great to see this new aspect of the clinic going well. We spent a bit of time with Bob and his patient and then left the clinic. Paul met a young man, James, who agreed to show us around. We passed by a new partly finished concrete block church with an older meeting room nearby. After leaving the church grounds we crossed over a barbed wire fence in to a grassed area scattered with remnant forest trees. Pigs, chocks and cattle grazed here and there. An old run down building was located in the middle of the paddock. James told us this was the kindergarten. Children had seen us and started running out of the building to wave. About 20 very cute 3 to 4 year olds waved and ran around excited and giggling.
In the grassed area were the remains of old village community buildings and an old well. We passed through the paddock and into jungle, heading in the direction of the ocean coast. James told us the names of trees and fruits as we went along. He showed us the pig enclosures which were ingeniously constructed using natural ravines and blocks of coral. Smaller pigs were kept in pens made of sticks and surrounding a Banyan tree. Growing up in such a village, so many things would become part of your make up. The warm, damp soil we trod over, the dripping leaves of tropical jungle, the sound of pigs and chooks, the earthy smell and the low, dimly lit huts and wafts of wood smoke. In the distance is the sound of surf and here and there the voices of mothers and children. As we made our way back to the church after walking in a large circle we saw the kindergarten children returning home. They had each made a nice posy and were carrying it back home in a rough conga line. The little girls looked very serious about it and carried their flowers safely home while the boys skipped and jumped, seemingly forgetting about their precious cargo, only to be holding the container by the time they reached us. I could only imagine their mothers asking what was in the container and the boys looking down in surprise, thinking “where did the flowers go?”.
James picked up a pamplemoose each and we stopped outside the clinic and ate them. “James would you like to see the boat” I asked and said he would. We wound our way down off the plateau where the village was located to the beach. On board James seemed very interested in everything, but was very quiet. After a while I said “do you want to go home?” and he replied “no, I have never been on a yacht like this before” So he sat quietly in the saloon watching Ray and Carl doing urgent repair work on the refrigerator and freezer. Grant cooked up a nice lunch of tuna and noodles followed by, you know what is coming don’t you? – a nice cup of tea. Lunch included chocolate biscuits from a secret store of Carl’s. James later took the guitar down and played and sang for us.
Between them, Ray and Carl got the freezer working again, and averted culinary disaster. On the subject of food, which I have avoided mentioning recently on account there is only so much you can write about it, Paul has been doing a lot of cooking lately. Food is always a big subject here. You might recall Christine has been seconded to the medical team and is putting in very full days working ashore. So Paul has shown the initiative to prepare the evening meals lately. One night it was chicken pie. The pie was beautiful but as I was in the saloon writing the log that night, I can attest to the difficulty of making pastry. With the difficulties known it was doubly appreciated. The next night it was a fish stew on a bed of fried rice. The fish was the very fish Carl and Tony had caught so the meal had a ceremonial aspect and it was beautiful.
Christine came back to the boat tonight very tired after her day’s work in the clinic but feeling very satisfied. She was promoted to taking blood pressure tests. She now handles blood sugar and blood pressure and is a real pro. This has freed up Bob to do more dental work for which there was a big demand at this clinic. Chris is now making bread and very soon Paul will enter the galley to use up one of Martin’s pre-cooked meals that thawed when the freezer broke down.
In the last few days we have received messages via sailmail over the HF radio from family and friends sending their love. The messages have been very well received on board and have been shared around to those who haven’t received a message. We are all feeling very content at the moment. Our web master also tells me the MSM web site is being read by many people from all over the world which is lovely to know. Thank you for taking the time to read the log and please pass on the web address to anyone you think might find it interesting. Everyone’s support is greatly appreciated.
Fair winds, smooth seas and cold beers