Sunday 4 July 2010 Luganville, Vanuatu

Today, or more correctly tonight, was the time we were supposed to head off across the horizon to Mere Lava.  But it was not to be.  The day started well … sunny … calm … a bit slow (it is Sunday after all) as we continued the final preparations for departure.

There was Gerhard topping the boat’s water tanks with drums filled ashore and transported in the dinghy, Matt up to his waist below the floor boards at the front of the boat fixing the sink and shower bilge, (yes we do have a shower of sorts on board) and Lainie and Mike threading the genoa sail back onto the forestay after it was removed so that a loose edge could be hand sewn by members of the last crew, plus a helpful ni-van volunteer, Christine, who works at the local resort.

Just typing Lainie’s name reminded me of the other day when we were loading packs, bags and general gear on board … “who’s hair dryer is this?” I inquired, although I think it might have come out something like …”WHO’S HAIR DRYER IS THIS!!?!”  … enough said.  (Although, in her defense and as a past boat owner herself, Lainie does understand that the power requirements of a standard hair dryer far exceed the capabilities of the average yacht, which might explain her impish look when this valuable piece of her luggage was revealed)

Being Sunday there were a lot of locals wandering along the beach and so Gerhard’s exertions filling up water bottles and driving the dinghy back and forth attracted a lot of attention from the local children.  Helpful in the extreme these kids, who seemed to be travelling in flocks would seize the containers, race off to the tap then giggle and squeal and jump about as each one was capped and dragged back to the dinghy in turn.  Eventually, Gerhard must have felt their devotion to duty was worthy of reward and asked whether they’d like a ride out to the boat.  “yes, yes, oh, yes!!!” was the reply with claps all round.
So it was that we saw Gerhard returning about mid way through his water-duty, with the dinghy up on the plane with maybe 6 little kids screaming and yelling with delight.  The dinghy was barely alongside when the excited kids jumped at the ladder two at a time and clambered on deck.  “Hello, hello, hello, thank you thank you” the kids repeated as they set about exploring everything in sight.  The next trip ashore saw Gerhard bring more kids out, with some of the original ones returning for the ride … and of course to help fill more bottles.

We did a headcount and think it was nine kids in all, with one of them being treated for a nasty sore on the leg by Lainie.  It was a fun time and when Lainie asked,  “is this the first yacht you’ve been on?” they exclaimed “yes, yes” followed by lots of clapping, and then one or two said that  most yachts don’t like them coming aboard.  But today, at least for these kids, things were different.

While some of the kids were gathered around Lainie in the galley and a few more were up the front “helping” Matt with the fitting of a new bilge pump, there was a need to rearrange some of the items in the freezer.   In particular to move the half-melted ice-cream (yes, it was a weak moment yesterday at the supermarket) down to the bottom of the freezer where it might be colder.  Mike had gone up on deck and so there was Lainie transferring (pouring) the ice-cream into a smaller container and it was as if the already excited kids were suddenly electrified – “ICE-CREAM, ICE-CREAM, ICE-CREAM!!!” they exclaimed.  Those “attached” to Matt’s activity up the front section of the boat suddenly lost interest in his educational dialogue on water, pumps, connecting wires and batteries, as the words ICE-CREAM echoed in everyone’s ears.

Trying to diffuse the situation Lainie explained that it was Mike’s ice-cream, to which they made a bee-line up on deck to seek out this “Mike” of which Lainie spoke.  Mike by now was awake up to the situation and when confronted with the excited question from the gathered throng … “Where’s Mike?” … felt compelled to let them down easily with the admission that “Mike not here”, (at least not the Mike that was going to see all the ice-cream disappear in a matter of seconds.)  We were only thinking of their teeth.  Ice-cream can cause cavities after all.

We did end up feeding the kids, but it centred mostly around fruit sticks, oranges and pamplemoose which were happily received by all.
On the list of tasks completed today we should also add the main water tank bladder, which the previous crew thought might have sprung a leak, but after much testing by Gerhard  was found only to have a loose tap fitting which was easily fixed before refitting down in the bilge.
There was also the boat’s house batteries which got a serious re-charge with maybe 15 hours of Honda generator time, bring them back to full power – demonstrated by way of 4 green lights on the dashboard panel one of which was flashing!!  Maybe not so exciting for you, but it sends us wild out here.  You start the day with 4 greens on the dash and man it can’t get any better.

The final 20 litre drum of petrol was filled up mid afternoon and all looked go-for-launch tonight, but then I caught up with Gibson (the apprentice optometrist who was supposed to join us with Bob aboard at 4:00pm tonight) in town (in fact my taxi driver turned out to be Gibson’s uncle and pointed him out to me walking on the side of the road) and he explained that Richard Tatwin, down in Pt Vila, had been unwell, had lost his phone and had not dispatched the boxes of spectacles as expected.  Consequently he had no glasses to dispense.  What to do?  In the end we managed to track Richard down (something poor Gibson had been trying to do since last Thursday) and it was agreed that he would get some boxes on tomorrow mornings flight which Gibson would collect before coming back to the boat with Bob for an afternoon departure.

No problems, he-good.

So here we are, an extra night in the calm waters of Luganville.  It was strange when we were phoning backwards and forwards, me to Gibson, Gibson to me, then to Richard, and back again, with a call to Bob also thrown in … then Gibson said to me, “when you phone me, Richard Tatwin’s number displays on my phone” …  “Did you type Richard’s name instead of mine” I inquired.  “No, it’s Digicell”  “But how does Richard’s name come up when I call?”  “You call me and I’ll show” said Gibson.  So I dialed the  numbers and Gibson showed me the display on his phone and sure enough it said … “DIGICELL, Richard Tatwin”

Then we looked at the numbers in more detail, and it seemed almost too amazing to believe.  My ten digit Telstra mobile phone number from Melbourne, (currently on international roaming) had exactly the same last seven digits as Richard’s seven digit Digicell Vanuatu phone number. As a result Richard’s name appeared on Gibson’s phone each time I called him.  I still find it hard to believe, but there was no doubt about it.

In closing I should mention last night’s dinner guest David Beaty who put paint to paper to lovingly paint a watercolour of Chimere at anchor here in Luganville.  It was really nice of him and hopefully there’s a copy up on the website pretty soon for all to see.

The owner of the boat on which David crews, John Turpie came over this afternoon to chat islands, charts, places to visit, anchorages, villages and characters we’ve met and I was able to send him away with a  few mudbrick manuals and moulds … in the hope that he will spread the mudbrick and low smoke stove word through the northern islands.  John’s partner, Sylvia (Siv) Grava flew into Santo on the same plane as us last Thursday night. They are all from a small place on the Eyre Peninsula, Sth Australia, called Elliston and after being apart for 5 weeks or so, John and Siv looked keen to be reunited.  Along with David, they’ll work their way up through the northern islands over the next few months, a fitting reward for their horrific crossing of the Coral Sea from Queensland – a tale of endurance and survival with sails blown out, water coming in and Murphy’s Law being proven right on more than one occasion.

And finally, my apologies to Ramon, whose name was left off the list of past crew members from my Ships Log of two nights ago, sorry Ramon.
So tomorrow we go … or at least that’s the plan.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and “ICE CREAM”

Robert Latimer