Thursday 28 May, 10.10pm (anchored at Port Vila)
After a big day at Dillon’s Bay running a clinic, the medical team came aboard around 3:00pm and by 3:30pm we were heading north to Port Vila after giving the village a solid 3 blasts on the horn as a final farewell.
The wind was from behind, the seas were calm and there was much laughter and jollification aboard, as dinner was prepared before a setting sun. The night was balmy and the crescent moon shimmered on the water ahead as the phosphorescence played in the spray from our wake. It was truly a glorious evening.
After a time sitting on the deck watching the stars and the passing waves, pretty much everyone had a bunk too … except Richard who was keen to sleep on deck and Andrew and I who slept in the saloon. Will, Bob, Andrew and I took turns on watch throughout the night and were greatly relieved that indeed everyone was getting a good night’s sleep and would arrive the next morning in Pt Vila refreshed.
As the early morning sun illuminated the sky it also revealed the coast line of the island of Efate which crept closer and closer. By 6:30am we were serving breakfast to the medical staff, with Kathy and Will knocking up a batch of muffins – banana of course (we came away from Erromango with a swag of them)
The Port Vila Harbour was entered as we rounded Pango Point and at 8:15am we dropped anchor in the quarantine area. On our way in we called up the marina, Yachting World, with whom we had arranged a berth and by 10:00am they had brought Mr Quarantine (John) aboard and we’d filled out the required form (We’d already done the business with Customs and Immigration down on Tanna back on the 13th May, so quarantine was our only requirement)
So here we are. In Port Vila. The Capital of Vanuatu. A thriving, cosmopolitan, if somewhat chaotic city of around 40,000 people. There’s electricity, $30 mobile phone plans (that’s with the phone, which includes $10 of free calls) more cars and trucks than you can believe, villas, condos, resorts coming out your ears, casinos, taxis and massive foreign embassies and government buildings – and yet less than 24 hours ago we were sitting in a remote village, with minimal health care, no roads, no electricity and two motorised vehicles – and that’s on an island about 40km x 20km. The contrast with Vila is kind of surreal. And they say that up north amongst the Banks and Torres islands it’s even more remote and under-developed!! (we go there in July)
Yachting World have really looked after us. They have tied us to the wall (essentially a marina berth) here in the centre of town and we come and go by way of a wooden ramp leading from the concrete wharf to the anchor. They even said they’d charge us half rates, given the nature of the work we are doing, which was really kind of them.
We had a burger today for lunch, which was a bit of a thrill, and tonight Don organised for us all to have dinner at a local catering college, which operates a restaurant as part of their campus. It was very good value and a great night. Unfortunately, I kept (nearly) falling asleep, and am almost asleep now, but being moored in the middle of the Vila waterfront I can hear the marimba band coming across the water from Iririki Island Resort and the classic Credence number Proud Mary being pounded out from the 4 piece “play anything” (so long as it’s pre 1985) Band in the Waterfront bar a couple of hundred metres up the wharf. I must confess, three of my crew are still up there – along with selected members of the medical team I should add. I’ve come back to write this note, and found that with the tide having come in, the plank from the concrete wharf to the bow goes way up into the air, making it necessary to walk the plank (very) straight.
For tonight’s dinner Bob declared, “I’m putting on a brand new shirt – this is my going out gear!!” There was even a rumor that he’d made use of the shower facilities ashore!
There are probably about 10 boats along the wall here at the waterfront and each has an interesting story. We’ve had time enough today to chat with a few of them. There are two boats with kids and tonight as we headed off to dinner in the dark there was a 5 year old girl two boats up swinging on the bosun’s chair half way up the mast like it was a play swing at the park. She’d lived aboard with her parents for most of her life.
Now it definitely is time to go to bed
Smooth seas, fair breeze and we’re really here in Pt Vila