Mark’s first day in paradise

Thursday 13 July 2017

Port Vila

As Mark’s first day in Port Vila draws to a close, sleep once more makes its successful assault on the senses. I don’t know why – it happens every night – but around this time each night I get to thinking … “better do the day’s Ships Log” … then I fall asleep, or come very close.

That said, tonight I did plan ahead somewhat by asking Mark a few hours ago if he would write his own “Chimere Crew View” … after all, at the time he was writing his own daily diary and I figured something for wider circulation would provide another interesting perspective.

Around this time I was starting to heat up last night’s chicken leftovers (with a spoon of curry powder for good measure) for tonight’s feast, and we heard a man off the stern getting into his dinghy with a stack of groceries and other things. It was dark and I called out … “I’ll give you a hand passing the stuff down”. There came a distinctly American accent in reply, offering thanks and informing me that he would first need to pump up the dinghy on account of a persistent leak.

His ankle brace and crutches kind of got my mind thinking and when he was done pumping I handed down the drums of what I took to be water, plus shopping and a few boxes of other things. “Why thanks for your help with all this, my names Harold, by the way, I’ve written a book and it’s just been published”

We chatted for a bit and he told me he was off a big old clunker of a boat up the harbour. Then soon after it started raining – not too heavy, but enough to make you think more was to come. “I’ll get you a tarp to put over everything” I said … “No, that’s fine, I won’t be long” came Harold’s reply as I said farewell with a “have a great night” and walked aboard our stern-plank.

Then followed a time of domestic activity on Chimere – putting on the rice, heating up the chicken, rinsing and washing dishes … while outside the persistent … “prrrrm” … prrrrm” … “prrrm” … of a 15hp Mercury outboard motor which would NOT fire into life, no matter what combination of choke, throttle, effort, face gesticulation or expletives was employed. Finally the noise of the *&%#!!! motor ceased as Harold stopped pulling the starter-cord and sat in the light rain reflecting on the situation.

“I should go out and see if there’s anything I can do to help” … I said in a quiet voice to Mark as I climbed our stairs to see what state my new acquaintance Harold was in … head in hands … oh, that’s not positive?! Don’t say we guys can’t read facial and emotive clues.

“There’s probably nothing I can do to help, you’ve no doubt tried everything already … but I feel your pain with an outboard that won’t start” … this was my opening remark and Harold was more than willing to engage in conversation about the so-and-so Mercury and how it was not what he was promised when it was bought some time ago, and it’s given him no end of problems etc etc … “but if you’d be kind enough to tow me out in your dinghy, that would be right kind of you”

“No worries” I said, “I’ll just get a torch”

So began my UberDinghy tow up the harbour, pretty much to the end of Iririki Island to a boat, nay “Schooner”, that Mark and I had passed earlier in the day as we’d together explored the bay. At the time I was so intrigued by the boat that I took a couple of photos and sure enough there was a hand painted banner advertising the aforementioned book … “about adventure & dreams” … to be found at …

“I must confess, your ship gives the impression of a Hollywood movie set”, I said in the nicest possible, upbeat way as two inquisitive cats peered over the gunwale at me … “Oh wow, you’ve got cats too!!” hoping my earlier comment hadn’t offended.

“Yes, she’s known as the pirate ship round these parts … I used to run day tours out of Vila here with a pirate theme and there was a short movie made of it, but that was a while ago now”

Harold then went on to describe a list of prior achievements and pinnacle-moments of this once glorious vessel from the Caribbean to Vanuatu.

“Stop, stop!!” I jokingly called … “you’ll spoil the book … I’m keen to read it!! … just send me a text, or call me if you can’t get your outboard started and you want a lift to shore – I’ll come and get you”

By now Harold had clambered aboard passing words of thanks back to me as I started retreating back through the drizzle to Chimere and dinner preparations; which Mark had expertly appropriated.

I’ve attached the photos of Harold’s boat (which I’d taken earlier today) and from the brief Google-Search I was able to do of Harold and his book, he bares more than a passing resemblance to Lieutenant Dan from the movie Forrest Gump … Especially with the crutches, which had me holding back the urge to say … “Lieutenant Dan, you’ve got new legs!!” … in that thick southern, Forrest Gump twang…

Having experienced first hand something of the man, I can’t wait to read Harold’s book!

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Mark’s first day in Paradise

Harold finally got his outboard started and I bought a copy of his book this morning when he tied up near our stern. Looks like a true Ripping Yarn… (or mostly true). Well worth checking out on line

The First Day

Rob has asked me to make a contribution to today’s blog with the impressions and expectations of a new arrival.

For the record I arrived just before midnight last night into the hot and humid Vanuatu air. Living in Tasmania I was expecting to be hot, and I was, but I was unsure how I would cope.

After not-enough sleep, the day broke promising to be warm (hot) and Rob and I walked up the hill from here for a meeting at PCV Health. As a newly arrived sailing person with no medical training, I had nothing to contribute to the meeting, but had plenty of time to reflect on the merit of a good airflow and drinking plenty of water.

Port Vila is noisy, cheerful and full of colour. The roads are busy and the footpaths are narrow. A lunch of fried fish in the market, among the locals, full of noise and colour, was a marked change from yesterday’s cheese sandwich.

One of the things I have been looking forward to is a tropical ripened banana. And I have now had one and can confirm that they are much tastier than the ones we get in Tasmania.

For anyone who knows me they’ll realize how I was in my element this afternoon as Rob and I looked over a traditional Polynesian catamaran, albeit with fiberglass hulls, then visited the slipyard where the yacht that the intrepid crew of Chimere rescued last month was being repaired.

Tomorrow will be a time of settling down to the business of sorting out Chimere for the next mission. Filling tanks, re-stowing gear and supplies and waiting for the other new crew members to arrive.

Mark Stephenson

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