Ray’s First Day

Saturday 19 June 2010 Luganville 3:30pm

Grant and I set off from the resort to the airport on foot. When we got to the main road we noticed it was awfully quiet. Maybe the amazing transport system would fail us. A few cars went the other way but none back into town. After about 2 min a taxi going the wrong way for us screamed to a halt. It was the driver that helped us with the petrol. He called out to jump in. He explained that he had a passenger but after dropping her off at the local watering hole he would take us to the airport. He extolled the virtues of the local gathering place as a good place for island food and kava. It was a collection of roofed shelters scattered around a small general store serving the local island population.
Once on the road again and heading to the airport he stepped on the gas and got some frightening speeds out of that tiny taxi. At this speed I wasn’t going to need all the time I had allowed to get to the airport. The driver explained he was an amateur boxer. We told him we had been told about a boxer from South West Bay when we were there. He instantly knew the name and was pleased we knew about him. I asked our driver (his name sounded like Jeremy) about where to get CDs of local string bands. He said he used to play in a string and has friends in string bands. He put on a tape and cranked it up when he knew I was interested. Jeremy said he would wait for us at the airport and take us home again. So we sat and had a cold drink while we waited for Ray.
Ray arrived on time and we sped home in Jeremy’s taxi. When Jeremy set us down at the resort he said he would get a CD of a string band for me and drop it into the resort.
Back on the boat Chris had cooked up a storm and we had a lovely dinner and Ray gradually got to know his new ship mates and his ship board home for the next 10 days. We turned in early and had a peaceful night’s sleep.
This morning we had a slow start. Breakfast was served in shifts. Outside, the morning was clear and the early rays of sun revealed mist in the valleys and clearing clouds from the showers last night moving cross the hill tops. Wisps of smoke rose slowly here and there from the vegetation revealing cooking fires and places of habitation.
There were a few jobs we wanted to get done so that we knew everything was ready for departure on Monday. If we got them done quickly it would leave time for exploring the underwater sights at Million Dollar Point. Ray, Chris and I set of to do a basic shop. Whenever Chris used the term “browse the shops” we told her browsing was yesterday, today we get the things on the list. As a result the shopping didn’t take long. Paul and Grant started collecting water from a tap near the resort and Carl was ministering to the ailments of the on board fresh water system. While in the bilge Carl got his head and arm caught and he started to panic. He called to Grant at the top of his voice but Grant couldn’t hear because the generator was on and making a noise. He had to use all his concentration to stay calm and find a way out on his own. He is telling the story now and laughing but it wasn’t fun at the time.
Today has been a beautiful tropical day. Blue skies, puffy white clouds and so far no rain. If you were out in the sun it was very hot. If you were like Carl, working in the bilge, you were a lobster been boiled alive.  When the jobs were all done, Carl went off for a shower and we assembled at the resort bar for lunch. “Its nice here” Carl said in tones of surprise as he sat down. Compared to the bilge everywhere seemed cool and inviting. We lingered over lunch, enjoying the breeze, the shade and the lovely blue water beyond and Chimere waiting at anchor.
After finishing all the chores and making sure Chimere was stored and ship shape once again, Ray, Paul, Carl and Grant went off to explore Million Dollar Point while Andrew and Christine took a break for a few hours. This is the place the Americans chose to bulldoze all their stores at the end of the Second World War. It was amazing. They simply pushed everything into the sea. There were tank tracks, engines of all descriptions, axles, differentials and all manner of other things that would make an engineer drool. They even saw a couple of 8 inch gun barrels amongst the debris.  After an hour or so of snorkeling, they decided that million dollar point was now worth about $10,000 from a salvage perspective. The sea is doing what it does best and it is gradually reclaiming what was dumped. From an ecological perspective, it is amazing to see how so many of the machinery parts and broken glass have now become part of new rock/coral formations and now have new life growing from them. It won’t be very long before the whole area will simply be new reef and rock and all signs of WWII will be gone. After making sure they had paid the local land owners their required fees, they rejoined their taxi and returned to the beach resort. The driver had kindly offered to pick them up at the end of their swim and would not take payment until the end. It is this level of trust and honesty that is sometimes sadly lacking in much of western society.  So after returning  to the resort for a few cleansing ales, the intrepid crew made their way back to Chimere for a delicious home cooked meal, courtesy of Paul (Cook) and Grant (Sous chef). Masterchef has nothing on these guys as they cooked steak and chips à la Chimere.
Tomorrow, some of our intrepid explorers intend to dive on the WWII wreck of the SS President Coolidge, a huge ocean liner used as a troop carrier during the war. Carl and Ray are both certified divers and are looking forward to diving on what is recognized as one of the best wrecks in the South Pacific dating back to the mid 20th century.
Fair winds, smooth seas and welcome aboard Ray.

Andrew (with help from Ray)

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