Tuesday 22 June 2010 2pm Avunatari, Marlo Island 15 38.533 S 167 05.348 E
The weather was quiet over night so our anchorage remained comfortable. Even so, several of us got up during the night to check things. A couple of times it rained. Chris and Ray were up early and got breakfast started. No one had porridge this morning. We took Chris ashore so she could be at work by 8am. About an hour later Richard radioed asking for dental swabs. We looked high and low but could not find them. We found ordinary swabs which we thought could be used instead and took a supply of them ashore. Bob the dentist was happy with the swabs and Richard said he remembered the dental swabs were taken off the boat in Malekula and are still there. That explains why we couldn’t find them. There has been so much stuff stored on board that finding things is difficult. Initially we had a storage guide but after a few days of pulling things out, putting some things back, sending other stores ashore and generally mixing things up, it got difficult. Paul has a retentive memory and could usually find things.
By the time we delivered the swabs, the clinic was in full swing. Chris barely noticed our visit because she was concentrating on giving blood sugar tests and there was a line of patients, sitting on wooden benches, waiting for their turn.
When the NiVan team arrived yesterday, Richard, Gibson and Bob introduced themselves and explained that Bob came from Tanna and Gibson came from Malo, the island we are now on. Paul asked cheekily, “isn’t Tanna a wild place?” never having been there himself. Gibson and Richard fell about laughing and in between fits, called out “say that again, say that again so Bob hears you”. It seems to be generally agreed by anyone not from Tanna that the Tannese are a wild lot. Bob (the man from Tanna) has the most impish and engaging smile and he took the jibing with good humor.
A couple of days ago I mentioned the morning starting out still and hot and the sea was oily smooth. I forgot to mention the fish chase we witnessed. We sat under the awning and contemplated the heat and the humidity. The air was hazy with moisture so thick we speculated that we could swim to shore without touching the sea. All of a sudden some little fish jumped out of the water. Then they did it again. Someone remarked that there must be a predator down there chasing them. Just then, the said predator broke the surface and flew at the fish trying to escape through the air. The little fish fell back into the water and re-emerged further on only to have the very large and very fast fish chase them into the air again. The little fish darted left then right then straight ahead then left again. Each time the predator got closer and matched them turn for turn. It was so fast it was hard to keep up with. For surface viewers it was over very quickly. For the little fish I can’t say how it turned out. I think their last manouvre was to disperse in many directions at once. In spite of the abundance of fish Carl still can’t catch any of them. As we left our anchorage yesterday Richard saw a dugong. I had seen something break the surface quietly then disappear again without knowing what it was. It might have been the dugong.
This morning Carl put the anchor winch back into to its place after its grease and oil change and general clean up yesterday. The electric motor had suffered from continual immersion during the delivery trip to Vanuatu in April due to the bad weather experienced. The anchor winch is often not given the reverence it deserves and is right up there with important bits of kit. To reinstall the motor, Carl climbed in the well head first on his back. He slid his body bit by bit into this space until only his feet could be seen. We have this on photographic record and when back in Luganville I will up load the photos. Once into that position he had to hold the heavy motor up to its bolts under the deck and simultaneously bolt it on. That takes 4 sets of hands. Somehow he did it with 2. Paul was surgeon’s assistant and operated at deck level. The anchor winch is now back in place and functioning. A full test under load will have to wait till Thursday morning provided the weather doesn’t ask us to move in the meantime.
Meanwhile Ray had found a few chipping tools and started work on a nasty rust blotch on the side of the hull. Ray worked from the dinghy with help at times from Grant or me. Work was interrupted a few times for a nice cup of tea. Eventually we got the rusty area cleaned up and masked off. Ray then sprayed zinc primer on to the patches sheltered by a wind break held in place by Grant and me.
After a first sitting of lunch the lads went snorkeling. This area has the best coral I have seen and well worth snorkeling over. It had to be a short outing though because Paul has organized a soccer competition with the school children complete with prizes.
Ooh, Oooooh everything hurts. Carl, Paul, Grant and I have just returned from the village in the last of the day light to be able to see the coral. That soccer match that Paul planned for the school children changed at the last minute. Instead of being spectators, the four of us where dragged on to the field at half time to play out the rest of the game. I was talking to the chief and asked “do you play soccer?” “yes” he replied. “Well would you like to play on my team?” I asked, clearly taking an early strategic lead. Grant and I were on one team while Carl and Paul were on the other. My opposite number was Carl, none other than a first class rugby player (played for England, I think Paul was saying), twice my body mass and twice as fast on his feet. Everyone knows that mass times velocity equals momentum. Carl clearly had an advantage. I had to work on other aspects of his game to get any advantage. “Hey you’re off side buddy!” I called. Carl looked up and realised I was right and briefly looked sheepish. Then his expression changed to the cheeky little boy that he is at heart and he called out “the refs not calling off side in this game” He was right actually and I had just lost advantage of knowing the rules. The ref by the way was one of the teachers. She wore and attractive island skirt and blouse and she could blow the whistle very decisively. Her expression could change from steely eyed referee to a broad engaging smile in the blink of an eye. She called out to the teams that Carl, Paul, Grant and Andrew were to play. I had seen these boys play and we were going to be lambs to the slaughter. Suddenly she didn’t seem quite as nice and she turned her smiling expression towards us. Her sparkling eyes seemed to say “You’ve been dropped in it”. She then turned to the boys and repeated that our names were “Carl, Paul, Grant and Andrew not Oi Oi Oi pass the ball”
The game started. I adopted an early strategy of waiting back for a random ball to come towards me all the while saving energy to give some hope of making it through the game. Suddenly the ball came towards me and I kicked a well place ball to the wing and by good luck someone on our team trapped the ball and ran forward. How was I to know who was on my team? “Are you on my team I ask a boy?” he replied “yes”. They all replied “yes”. Some of the boys became bold and said, doubled up with laughter “He’s not on your team”. Grant played a sterling game for our side. So did Chief Fred. That was stroke of good work I must say. Richard and Bob joined the game later. Richard on our team and Bob on theirs.
Paul played a good game for the opposition. I can say that to you, but don’t let on to him I said so. He even won the confidence of the some of the boys as they actually risked passing the ball to him a few times. Carl made flying contributions to the opposition side. All but the boldest boy stood aside rather than risk being bowled over by this enormous frame streaking across the field. A few times it was left to me to tackle this behemoth (or was that beer monster) with indifferent results. It usually fell to the smallest boy on the field who played defense for our side to save the situation. In the scrum in front of their goal the ref blew the whistle and called a penalty against me for allegedly touching the ball. I would like to use the ships log to repudiate this accusation. However, at the time I took it gracefully and after they scored a penalty goal I had to be philosophical as well. I was determined to do better. I looked across at Grant. His face was red and his shirt sticking in a wet sheet against his body. I wasn’t the only one to feel exhausted. As the game went on I restricted my territory to the shade cast by a big tree on to my defense area. After another dashing performance by Carl he pulled up panting and asked if someone could get the oxygen bottle off the boat. Even though he was on the other team I was ready to agree with that. A moment later the ball randomly headed towards me. I lined it up for a kick, a game changing kick, only to have my wading shoe fly off and hit someone (I hope it was the opposition). It didn’t stop me as I chased the ball and made a pass to one of my team mates (a stroke of luck). I went back for my shoe and a little while later the ref gave me the inner sole back.
Paul found himself in front of goal after running up from the corner. A lucky rebound placed the ball at his feet. With a defenders instinct he trapped the ball with perfect control (Paul told me to say that) and let fly. A passing flock of birds were slightly surprised to see a football arrive amongst them. Sheepishly Paul explained he was only a defender. Paul tells us his team mates completely understood. A little voice from our team said “if you’re a defender go to the other end of the field!” and giggled with no self control. (In Bislama it sounded more like “if you defender you no blong here”) The game went on and on. The boys showed no signs of tiring. The heat was incredible. This is a winter sport isn’t it? To make it more interesting the field was covered in cow pats (Paul explains they are hard to miss, when asked why he is covered in it) and in one corner was a grave. There was an enormous cross fall in the pitch and as Paul described it, there was a mountain range on the north west frontier which was a slog to run up to meet Chief Fred flying down on the wing towards him.
To play soccer on a pitch where you could look over your right shoulder and see a coral lagoon, coconut trees and children laughing was surely one of life’s best experience says Carl between gasps for air.
After an hour the game was brought to an end by the ref. Our brave crew had no bravado left and all freely admitted they were buggered.
The teacher then consulted Paul about the competition then turned to the boys and organized a penalty shoot out. Initially Grant and Paul played goalie which given the state we were all in was murder. Then when things got really serious one of the boys took over. The top three shooters were identified somehow. I was watching but had no idea how it worked. Paul and the teacher then made a presentation of national football jerseys donated by one of Paul’s colleagues. The boys were not expecting a prize, so initially they looked like they thought they were in trouble when singled out by the teacher. But fear soon turned to delight and disbelief when it sank in, that they had won them. The boys posed for pictures with Paul and the teacher. The teacher then made a lovely speech and thanked the crew for taking interest in the children, and spending time with them. Daylight was quickly fading and we had to get back to the boat through the coral maze so we said farewell. Paul left a bag of small toys with the teacher to give all the boys. As we walked down the slope back to the dinghy we looked back to see the teacher had all the boys lined up and each boy was receiving a toy in turn. It was a memorable day.
Everyone is on deck taking in the beautiful tropical evening while down below in one corner is Paul cooking dinner and in the other is me typing up the log. It is a race to get it finished before dinner is ready.
Earlier today we all commented that we feel a world away from the life we had known. Carl made the observation that it was good thing we were happy where we are in this tropical paradise because no one has received any messages from home. “We’ve been forgotten”; “Write a silly log Andrew and see if anyone notices” was one suggestion. There were a few obvious rejoinders made at this point directed towards my log writing efforts. I promise I don’t try to make them silly. On the yacht we don’t have the internet and never see the MSM web site. So we are in a communication vacuum out here. Could someone send a test post to the web site so we know someone is still there?
Fair winds, smooth seas and pass the oxygen bottle