Longitude: E 167 46.167
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - Goodbye Port Vila
We left Port Vila early afternoon for an overnight sail to Revelieu Bay on the Island of Epi. We had a chance to connect via Skype with Garyn, Ted and Marian, and Mom and Dad during the morning before we left, letting everyone know that we would not have Internet for a couple of weeks.
Our trip to Epi was uneventful (just the way we like it!). The seas and the wind were so calm, we ended up motoring most of the way. The mainsail was up but it really didn't do much good. The moon was late coming up around 10 p.m. and on the wane. Nevertheless the moon is such a great friend on the dark sea at night even when she is only a quarter.
Thursday, July 21, 2012 - Hello Epi
When I woke up around 6:00 a.m., we were just lolling off the entrance to Revelieu. As soon as the sun came up a little more and my eyes were focused, we headed into the Bay which is protected to some extent from swells because of a horseshoe reef just under the surface of the water.
Our friends on Skylight, Brian and Claudia, had stopped at this bay and had given us the name of a lady with whom that had become friendly. They asked if we would say hello to her from them. Armed with her name and a bag of school supplies, we headed into shore around 10:00 a.m.
We met some children on the beach and asked why they were not in school. They told us that the teachers were in a workshop and they had no school today. We asked if they could direct us to the lady named Lucy. One of the boys said that Lucy was his mother, and he ran off to get her.
Within a few minutes, Lucy came down from the village. We introduced ourselves and she asked us to follow her. We spent the morning at her house meeting her children and some of the neighbors. Her eldest daughter Alex about 10 years old was peeling and washing a stack of manioke (casava root), with a huge bush knife.
Her brother Ben had a sling shot and was trying to find fruit bats to kill.
Once the roots were peeled and washed, Lucy got out a huge grater and grated the white roots into a gooey mound. This mound is actually what we think of as tapioca and can be used to make puddings, thicken soup or stews. Her plans for the manioke was to mix it with chicken meat and stuff cabbage leaves. Then it is baked, loplop, in the ground with hot stones. The chicken already had its neck wrung. It would be thrown into a boiling pot of water to loosen the feathers from its body, before being butchered for the loplop. Growing and preparing food is an endless cycle for the women in the village.
Lucy told us that the school was an hour's walk from their village. Her children got up at dawn each morning and walked to school so they could be there for the 8:00 start. I was a bit reluctant to hand over the school supplies to her as the children were clamoring all over me for the contents when I pulled out the backpack that had Nemo the fish on the front. I explained to them that this was not for them, but for the school. Lucy promised to give the bag of supplies to the head teacher, but I'm pretty sure the school would receive the supplies in a plastic sack or basket and one of her five children would get the backpack. No worries, the supplies are for the children so however it worked out, it would be okay.
While we were visiting, Russ fit two of the older ladies in village with reading glasses, and we blew up our globe to show the children and neighbors where they were and what our route was from California their little village. We gave out a few balloons and lollies (hard candy) to the children and the adults. They seemed to enjoy our visit as they continued their work preparing loplop.
One of the visiting neighbor ladies had two children that both had some deformities. Perhaps their genetic pool was too closely related. Her one son of three or four years of age had six fingers, one poking out of his thumb like a chicken claw. Her youngest son, between ages one and two, had huge testicles (the size of grapefruits) and another appendage that looked like a second penis. We only got of glimpse of him when he took of his shorts to go to the toilet. The mother kept him covered while the older son was not wearing any pants at all.
Before we left, we were given limes, pamplemoose, and, kasava root. We took two of the children out to the boat for a visit, Ben and a bright little girl named Namba. They were incredibly tactile on the boat touching the fabrics, running their hands over the wood, picking up and examining objects. They noticed some children's books I had in the v-berth. They picked out one that neither of them could read and could have easily been read by children of the same age in America, so I read it to them and gave them a little reading lesson as we went. Neither of the children had honed prediction skills, even though the picture book was written in a way that begged the question, "what do you think will happen next?" Namba was better at reasoning than the boy. Critically thinking is not something that is either taught nor practiced. We enjoyed our visit with the children and took them back ashore and said our goodbyes as we would be leaving early the next morning and heading to the Maskaline islands at the bottom of Malacula Island, where we were looking forward to meeting up with our friends, Brian and Claudia on Skylight.
Friday, July 22, 2011 - Goodbye Epi, Hello Manacula
We pulled up the anchor around 9:30 on Friday morning and once again found ourselves motoring north towards Manacula. We were going to an anchorage off of one of the Meskaline islands at the bottom end of the larger island of Manacula. Our weather files indicated some strong winds were coming that would be shifting from all directions so we wanted to find an all weather anchorage well protected from wind and waves. It turned out that our friends were in just such an anchorage.
We arrived in the anchorage between Awai and Avok Island around 1:30. We had our anchor down less than two minutes, when Brian and Claudia jumped in their dinghy and came on over with big smiles and huge hugs. Oh how wonderful to seem them! We last saw them in Fiji before we left for New Zealand last November.
As the wind kicked up we settled in for a great afternoon of visiting and sharing dinner together. I made a shrimp and papaya curry. Claudia brought the rice, some pan fried fish she had caught earlier in the morning. It was a feast!
Brian has become known as the generator fixer here in the area and has gotten four of the twelve broken generators working. These people have so little money but they save up to by generators so that they have some electricity. The generators they are buying are from China and while the generators are still basically "new" they break. The metal in the generators from what I understand hasn't been tempered correctly and the fittings are blowing apart. Perhaps these are seconds from China, but it is terrible that these folks are throwing their money away on these junk generators.
To make matters worse, the Ni-vans here in these remote islands are clueless about how things work and have few tools even if they did know how to make things work.
The main technological tools the people in these villages have are the big bush knife, some pots and pans, a few fishing hooks, rakes, and some plastic bottles. We saw one man with a plane smoothing a dugout canoe and another man with a screwdriver.
The people here in Vanuatu, at least in these remote little villages, are by western standards, are well fed but incredibly poor and lacking in basic maintenance and repair skills for some of the newer gadgets that have come to them….cell phones, generators, solar powered lights. Anticipation skills, much like we learned in Tonga and Fiji to a lesser extent, are not a part of their daily lives. They live from hand to mouth. The people in the remote villages don't even have a money economy although they are forced to do something to collect vatu because they must pay school fees for their children.
The average Ni-vans in Port Vila, we were told, made about $100 a month US. Those who have a skill or degreed may earn $1,000 a month. Just within the last two years, school for children through class six is free. Families with children going to high school and some of the private schools, pay about $300 a quarter per child. For people in the remote villages, even $100 US a month would be considered a fortune as they basically do not sell handcrafts or other items that would generate any income.
Saturday, July 23, 2011 - Preparing for Children's Day
We spent Saturday morning cleaning up the boat and relaxing. Several families in dugout canoes stopped by the boat to trade. They were looking for children's item to give to their children the following day which is Children's Day in Vauatu. While the families went to their gardens to bring back produce to trade, Claudia and I dug through the v-berth on Worrall Wind for kid things.
Our one v-berth locker was filled with school supplies and other stuff we brought from home, paper weights, stuffed animals, ceramic knickknacks, frisbees, mardi-gras beads, wooden ball and paddle, rubber duck, costume jewelry, hair bands and combs, little mirrors, hotel soaps, lotions, and shampoos, small packages of nose tissue. I also had some plastic tumblers and plastic containers with lids, dish towels, balloons, candy, pencils, erasers, stickers, etc. Claudia had some stuff on her boat and another boat Emily Grace came in that also had balloons, whistles, and bubbles.
When the family from Awai island returned, we gave them gifts for each of their five children and received some pamplemoose and bananas. Only two families live on Awai island. Another boat from Avok Island had stopped by and asked for children's items as well which we traded. Avok Island is a larger Island with 400 people and where the children of Awai go to school during the week. It is about a ½ hour dinghy ride from the anchorage.
I have been carrying around from my teaching days, a Bingo game with about 80 bingo cards, waiting for an opportunity to be played. With the huge assortment of "stuff" we had, I decided it would be fun to play Bingo and make the stuff prizes. We asked if we could come to the village the following day which was Children's Day to play the game. It was recommended to us that we come on the Monday after Children's Day, as it would be a holiday and all of the villagers would be available including the children. We were a little disappointed not to come on Children's Day, but apparently this is family day and is celebrated with church activities.
We got together later in the evening with Brian and Claudia for left overs from the night before and I also stir fried up some chicken strips, cabbage, and grated manioke. Both of us had baked brownies too! Another feast. Then we spent the evening teaching Brian and Claudia how to play Baja Rummy! We had a good time.
Sunday, July 24, 2011 - Yipes what is that big thing?
We decided to take advantage of the sunshine to go for a snorkel late Sunday morning. on the reef in the middle of the channel that we had skirted around when we came in the day before. Along with Claudia and Brian on Skylight, and Tom, Kim, and Emily on Emily Grace, we dinghied over to the reef and dropped our anchors. The skin infection that Russ had on his shin was finally clearing up and this would be the first time we had gotten in the water for a snorkel since leaving Fiji. The water was only about 81 degrees and on the cool side so we were all wearing our dive suits. Quite a bit of the reef on top was dead, but where it dropped off down along the sides into deeper water we did see some nice coral and a lot of fish.
At one point I was in fairly shallow water when something huge and grey started to swim by me. I turned my head quickly thinking it was a shark and my adrenalin spiked as this creature swam past me about 10 feet away. It was a dugong! This sea cow was probably 12 feet long and 3-4 feet wide. S/he was swimming quickly and by the time I lifted my head to shout to the others and stick my head back in the water, I could just see her dropping off the shallow shelf down deep and out of sight. Wow! We knew they were about, but it was still a surprise to see one.
After our snorkel, lunch, and a short nap, we visited the little island of Awai with the two families. The families came to the beach to meet and greet us. All were dressed up in their Sunday clothes. We were given a tour of their village which was very orderly and neat, quite a contrast from the one we had visited in Revelieu Bay.
As we were about to leave the village, one of the men showed us fishing buoy that had washed ashore. It looked like a plastic mushroom, little space ship. Fisherman set these out on nets that float about. The units are pretty sophisticated and are costly. When the fishing boats come to retrieve a buoy and get within proximity of where they think it will be, they locate the gps signal it sends off and if they are in range, remotely switch on the diode lights inside the mushroom. There is a solar panel that charges a battery which in turn lights ups the buoy so the fisherman can find the nets.
The guys examined the unit and were asked if it could be converted to a light that would work in a house? Russ, Brian, and Tom said they would work on it and carried the unit back to the boat. Claudia, Kim, Emily, and I meandered back picking up little shells and seeds to use as markers for the Bingo game the following day. We picked up quite a few not knowing how many we would actually need.
Claudia came over late in the day and we made corn tortillas for tacos. We had yet another feast, and played a grudge match of Baja Rummy. Claudia and I lost again!
Monday, July 25, 2011 - Bingo or Bust
We were all in our dinghies at 8:30 and motoring across to Avok Island. We were loaded with prizes and a Bingo game. As we got close to the Avok there was circling reef and the tide was low. It didn't look passable. We waited to see if anyone would spot us and lead us in. Sure enough, a man in a dugout poled his way across the reef towards us.
It was too shallow for us to use our outboard motors without risking damage, so we lifted the motors, stood up and hand paddled and poled the dinks across the reef. We were met on shore by about half a dozen people.
Word spread fast that we had arrived. The men who greeted us took us to a large green area beyond the beach that had a cement stage. The floor was clean and accommodated about 50 children and several adults. Emily from Emily Grace started of the fun, but demonstrating how to make origami "fortune tellers". She had enough origami paper for about a dozen children to fold and participate with her. We used to call them cootie catchers when I was kid.
The kids loved it. When she had finished with her activity, it was time for Bingo, but we had to do some teaching first. First I taught them the song BINGO, only to find out that they already knew a similar version of it and caught on very fast. They wanted to keep singing the song over and over. I quickly lost my voice.
Then we passed out the bingo cards. First I had to teach them the quiet sign and raised my had and explained that I was losing my voice and could not talk over all of their talking. By this time we had 70-80 people on and around the stage. Most of the smaller children were sitting cross legged on the stage with just enough room to put a bingo card in front of them. It was obvious that we did not have enough markers for this huge crowd, so Emily and several of the local men quickly gathered pebbles for the crowd. Some of the older boys chose to play Frisbee with Brian and Russ. Tom was busy taking photos of the whole event.
With some practice we were all playing Bingo! What a sight! Everyone was so engaged and having fun. Even the adults were playing. Some of the men were trying to stand off to the side acting like this may have been a sissy game. There arms were crossed and the bingo cards were on the ground by their feet. The first person to get a Bingo was one of the men, and he was so excited! Russ had brought some D-celled batteries and we had two West Marine over-the-shoulder insulated beer can carriers we had gotten during the Baja Ha Ha. The beer carriers turned out to be perfect sheaths for their bush knives!
We just kept playing the same cards until all of the numbers were finally called and everyone somewhere along the line got a bingo. Claudia and Emily called the numbers and Kim and I checked the Bingos and helped the kids. It took over two hours! After the first Bingo, Russ set up the prize shop. The excitement was incredible. When someone got a Bingo, they took their markers and bingo card to Russ who let them select a prize.
The ladies wanted to play another game and we had to beg off as we had run through almost all of the prizes and it was after lunch and all of us were getting hungry and ready to return to the boat. As we left the village, there were kids playing Frisbee, blowing whistles, playing with balloons, blowing bubbles, girls with hair bands, ladies with earrings and necklaces, men with plastic containers, bush knife sheaths, and D cell batteries. What a lot of fun we all had.
Russ and I returned to our boats, had lunch, and got on our dive gear. Both Brian and Claudia are dive masters and were excited that we had gotten certified. They wanted to get us back in the water and diving. We went back to the reef we had snorkeled on the day before and took a lovely, leisurely dive. The sun was out and the sky was blue. The colors of the coral were vivid and the water clarity was about 100 feet. Quite nice. We saw a giant yellow nudibranch, a school of something that looked like barracuda, a sea turtle, and two giant clams that were wedged open. The clams were probably 2 feet wide. Each of the clams had different colors of lip from yellow, green and brown to aqua, blue, and black.
By the time we finished our dive, we were exhausted, but decided to dine together again and convert the left over taco fixings into a taco salad. Claudia made sone fresh cornbread. By 7:30 we were all ready to hit the sack. It had been a busy day and we were exhausted. No cards tonight.
Brian had been recruited to do a fixit workshop on a neighboring island the following morning and the boat would be picking Claudia and him up at 8:00 the following morning.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - Potluck tonight
The day isn't over as I finish this log, but it's time to get it posted. Brian and Claudia left early for their workshop. I've organized a potluck on Worrall Wind tonight with the four boats in our anchorage, WW, Skylight, Emily Grace, and Karina with Philip and Leslie. Russ is over at Emily Grace doing chart talk with Tom, and I need to get busy making spaghetti sauce and a dessert.
The weather forecast looks pretty dismal for the next couple of days with strong winds and some significant rain starting tomorrow. So we will just hunker down here a few more days before we head north and take leave of our friends. It's been fun!
All is Well with the 2 Sail R's on Worrall Wind