It’s the vibe …

Tuesday 26 May, 10:02pm (anchored at Dillon’s Bay, Erramango)

There’s something about Port Narvin … hard to put your finger on it … it’s the vibe.

We awoke to a glorious sunrise, a steady breeze from the SE and calming seas.

At 6:00am action was already evident on the beach as the local motor boat was readied and the medical team prepared to board. By 6:30 the boat was aside and we handed them a bag full of life jackets (to be sure… local boats don’t come with lifejackets)a mobile VHF radio and an extra container of 2 stroke fuel – just in case. Then off they sped on flat seas, into the rising sun. It was a beautiful sight. Bob came out of the hatch … “what’s all this commotion?” he said.

The medical team was heading around the large mountainous point, the 1-2 hours, to the village of Ipota on Cook’s Bay – actually named by the man himself back around 1774. The plan was to run the clinic for half a day and then return and board the yacht for the trip around to Dillon’s Bay in the afternoon and evening.

After waving off the medical team and wishing them luck, (plus an earnest prayer I must confess) it was then a case of preparing the boat for their return and our departure mid afternoon. Will, Kathy and Bob went ashore to collect all of their bags and Andrew and I finished off the school photos – which we eventually laminated, making them almost indestructible! (We also gave it to them on disk, two copies, which would be great if they ever get a computer and printer in the village. One of the teachers said, “the disk is great, we can use it for a school magazine.” I said, “a school magazine is a great idea, how would you produce it?” “Oh, we would have to travel to Tanna down south, they have a computer there and that is the head of the Tafea Region Education Department”

Andrew and I sat and talked with George and three of the other teachers for some time. We asked them about the syllabus and the curriculum and we noticed that one of the junior teachers was reading a book called “Think Big”. George explained that they have a syllabus book for each year level, and for each subject, part of a national syllabus, but their copies are so old the pages fall out, or they get ripped. “It would be good if each student could have their own copies” he said

After the hard work, Will Kathy and Bob, plus a few folk off the large catamaran anchored nearby, paid a local boatman to take them down the coast for a bit for a swim, snorkel and sightsee. Seeing that the roof of the local boat had caved in and was very weak on account of passengers regularly sitting on the boat’s roof, Will offered to strengthen it. This he did, along with Tom (the carpenter Presbyterian minister) and the boat owner using spares and tools from Chimere – to a seriously big audience – made bigger because the work coincided with school break and the school is about 100m (tops) from the beach. After an hour, Will finished his work, sweating profusely, to the satisfied smiles and cheers of those around. They even did a “test sit and jump” on the roof of the half cabin boat to demonstrate it’s new found strength.

Andrew and I took a few final photos, which were printed off and delivered – including one of Tom (hard at work on the boat) and his father Joe, mentioned in yesterday’s Ships Log. We also got a guided tour through the village to the waterfall a short distance up the hill. The lushness of the forest, the variety of the vegetation and the fertility of the soil is just amazing. And every now and then there are trees which have trunks so big you’d think it would take a minute to walk around them. The trunks comprise generations of aerial roots which seem to merge to form an enormous twisted single truck supporting a canopy the size of the Faraway Tree – for all those politically incorrect souls raised on Enid Blighton

Right on 2:00pm, the medical team arrived back at the boat and after transferring the numerous boxes of glasses and medical supplies from the small boat we were starting to say our farewells and waving ashore around 2:30.

The medical team saw 153 people at Ipota, in half a day, which compared with 222 patients yesterday at Port Narvin – not bad considering the village consists of only 500-600 people.

One interesting point to note is that one of the teachers at the Port Narvin school was actually taught by Don MacRaild, when he did a stint of teaching on the main island of Efate back in 2000. There were two others we met who were also taught by Don all those years ago, who now have positions of authority.

As principal George said, when we asked him what the biggest hurdles facing his village were, he said, “a good education, good health and preserving the environment”

So now we are all aboard – 5 crew and 8 medical volunteers. It’s getting onto 8:00pm, Dillon’s Bay is just 4 mile ahead and we are finishing a wonderful 6 hours sail – sunshine, good wind, 1-2m seas, dolphins and now a glorious sky full of stars. We are about to do an instrument landing.

We have just achieved a very easy landing, Kathy served up a very welcomed dinner about an hour ago and we are now sitting around in the saloon polishing off a cup of tea. Andrew and Will ran Richard and Morrison ashore in the dinghy to ensure everyone in the village knows the clinic is on tomorrow and we are all sorting out who’s going to sleep where. Some will be on deck, there’ll be a bit of bunk shuffling and some will be on the saloon floor. But the lights will be going out shortly.

Just one final reflection on the unpleasant sail from Tanna to Erromango and hopefully it doesn’t break the sailing code … “what happens aboard stays aboard” but to quote Bob … “everyone who’s sea sick has eaten carrots. Even if they haven’t, they have, because it sure looks like it one the way up”.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and when the music stops, grab a bunk.


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