Saturday 11 July, 9:15 PM (En route to Mere Lava, NE of Espiritu Santo)

What do you know about Mere Lava?

Me too a few months ago.  Then I saw it on the medical clinic schedule and figured that if I was going to be sailing there with medical folk onboard then it would pay to do some research.

The Cruising Guide of Vanuatu showed the island as a small dot of green in the blue ocean south east of the main island of Gaua (aka Santa Maria) but that’s it, no words and no description.   A look at Google Earth revealed an equally blurry smudge.  The paper chart was slightly more informative showing it to be 9 miles by 6 miles rising to a 3000 foot peak in the middle.  The Admiralty Pilot of the South Pacific, (a sizeable hardback publication) says it was once a volcano and gives it about 3 paragraphs essentially saying that it exists and that there’s an anchorage off a small beach on the North side. The island is apparently too lonely even for the Lonely Planet Guide to Vanuatu.  I couldn’t find any mention of it in the index.

But after months of planning, and a few days of frenetic preparation since the old crew left 4 days ago, here we are, 3 hours into our 14 hour overnight sail, northeast of Luganville, Espiritu Santo (affectionately known locally as “Santo”)

After quite a bit of northerly weather over the past week, (which is bad for heading in a northeasterly direction) the wind switched to south west yesterday.  The rain stopped yesterday too and so by late this afternoon we had seas less than 1 metre, a wind from behind of 20 knots and a magically bright moon lighting up the water like day (well maybe a bit less than day, but you get the idea)

Around 1:00pm Richard joined us, along with his assistant from Pt Vila, Jessy, (refer last tour of Ambae recorded so wonderfully by Ann)plus, or so we thought, Franklin, the Ni-van Govt Health Worker from the island of Vanua Lava (village of Sola)  But as the dinghy approached Chimere, it was clear, this was not Franklin – or if it was he’d gone a bit pale since I met him yesterday when he arrived from Pt Vila by plane with the rest.  So who was this new guy in the front of the dinghy?  Authorities would have described him as Caucasian male, blonde, light built, early 20s of possibly northern European extraction.

All the gear was thrown aboard and before long the dinghy was hoisted into position on the deck.  Amongst all the pulling of ropes and packing away of bags I got a chance to introduce myself, “Hello, my name is Robert” I said.  “Oh, hello, my name is Simon.  I met Franklin in my travels around Vanuatu and because he is not well and cannot come on this part of the trip he asked if I would like to come”.

“Oh”, I said, “No worries”.

“I am qualified half electrical and half engine mechanic.  Frankiln thought I could be of some use.  But I help with what ever you need.  There is a broken generator on Franklin’s island and I might be able to help”

“Are you Norwegian, or Swedish?” I said, in an effort to find out a little more about my new passenger.  “I am German, and I have finished my apprenticeship and National Service and am traveling” he said.

So how about that, another electrician on board – we won’t be starved for conversation that’s for sure.  And he’s also a mechanic – mmmm, who knows?

Right now it’s around 10:00pm, we are doing around 6 knots over an almost calm sea.  The wind is on the port stern quarter and we have four asleep on deck – Richard, Jessy, Simon and Jo, one asleep below in his bunk – Graeme, three in the cockpit talking stars, log books, sail settings and courses – Mike, Chris and Terrance, and me below at the Nav station wearing out my two typing fingers.  It is simply a glorious night and in the morning we will awake to Mere Lava off the starboard bow.  We have a few planned watch changes – I hear Jo is now up and will go on watch with Chris for the next two hours – I should go to sleep soon, that means I’ll be on from 12:00 midnight.

Dr GD has fitted in well.  He prescribed a sea sickness tablet to Jessy before we left and I asked whether he bulk billed for that consultation, and whether he charged more for Saturdays.  He then reminded me that this was a house call and that he did pretty well out it all – he’s allowed to dream.

Meanwhile, we sail on into the moonlit darkness, listening to the waves, the creaking of the ship and the rushing of the wind in the sails (that was Mike’s bit – he’s a secret poet as well as a “cook”)

Smooth sea, fair breeze – and it certainly is tonight!