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S/V Blue Dawn of Sark: Circumnavigation I & II
Sea's Reflections
Malekula Festival: Sand drawing & Kastom dances
Masks & Spider's webs
08/05/2010, Dravai, Malekula, Vanuatu

The next day the festivities took us to Dravai, a quaint little village with lovely traditional huts, each surrounded by a neat garden of colorful flowers. Our guide walked us to the sacred ground where we were going to witness the famed Masks' Dances of Malekula.
The headpieces made by the Small Nambas tribe can take many different forms; human faces, spirits, or even animals. Some are decorated with boar tusks, feathers, leaves or even with a very special fabric! A spider's web cloth, it is secured to the mask and pulled over the face and neck (see below), covering them both and looking like hair. This incredible fabric is used as a base for much sacred artwork. We could not wait...



Once the two dances were executed we returned to the village for a lovely lunch. The men then showed us their skills at sand drawing. Magnificent geometric shapes became rays or turtles. Behind the beauty of the lines, the sand drawings were also used to pass on messages or to tell a story. It formed a language of memory, place and community, unfortunately they are in grave danger of disappearing...

Pacific Islands
Malekula Festival: Initiation ceremony, after the circumcision
Deeper into the Anthropological Journey
08/04/2010, Lamap, Malakula, Vanuatu

The truck came and picked us up early in the morning, we all squeezed in the back enjoying the breeze, people jumped in and out. We bumped along the dusted road until we reached the village of Lamap. A chaotic party of running kids and screeching piglets welcomed us. A stagnant cloud of smoke enveloped the village, the women were already preparing our feast. An explosion of yellow and blue from the school uniform of the children appeared, they approached and quickly swarm around us. We were overwhelmed by so much attention. Their big curious eyes taking all in, some were caressing my hair, other touched our skins, all asked a hundred questions.
The master of ceremony arrived, everyone went silent, the air became charged with kastom and magic. A long and elaborate explanation started, we all drunk his words. This was going to be really special as even the local women and children had never been allowed on the Nasara, the sacred ground. Originally, when Tagaro created Vanuatu, his magic stones traveled between the islands and talked to each other in a nasara. When people arrived, they followed the stones and traded in these areas.
I was feeling uneasy and shy, the weigh of secrecy and unknown on my shoulders. Everything around us in the sacred ground was going to be alive with the spirit of the ancestors.
We followed the master of ceremony, alert and apprehensive, through a barb-wired fence, walking down a narrow path where the jungle was thick. The Initiation ceremony will start soon taking a child straight into adulthood. The three boys (around 10 and 12 years old) have been secluded in a special hut for weeks during which time the circumcision took place. They were not allowed to see anyone not even their family.
The nasara delimited by stones was in front of us, a barrier of branches blocked the rest of the way and at our feet: food, piglets and offerings. Behind, three gigantic tam tams stood, drum beats and vivang rattling could be heard. The branches were shaking, a group of men traditionally dressed were trying to break through. Using more and more power the barrier collapsed, they danced in circle leaving a track on the ground. The three boys came out, they were accompanied by their uncles bow in hands. They shoot arrows up in the air, words were said, each family member united around a huge branch breaking it in half. Parents were welcoming their boys back, mothers cried and with moist eyes presents were given. Holding their uncles hands the dance started again, they were covered with colorful pieces of fabric and people threw talcum powder on their heads. They were now "Men", their mothers could not chastised them anymore, they are allowed to wear the namba and buy pigs.

Pacific Islands
Malekula Festival: Cook's Landing
Living History
08/03/2010, Port Sandwich, Malakula, Vanuatu

Captain Cook landed in Port Sandwich and 236 years later the community organized a festival to commemorate this moment in a 4 days celebration of Culture, History and Art. What we saw and witnessed was incredible:

Under the shade of tall coconut trees we stood, the tension was palpable, the nature silent. A triton shell trumpet was blown, leaves stirred in the faraway jungle, rattling noise joined in. Deep cries followed, humming the nature back to life. It was getting closer and louder, putting us under its spell. Some type of incantation in an unknown language reached us. We could now see human shapes through the opening. They were proud, strong and half naked. Their body painted in black, white and ochre patterns were striking. A collection of feathers high on their heads made them look like birds of paradise. The rest of the costume consisted of "vivang" (ankle rattles), a belt holding the "nubang"or penis sheath and the warrior club made of dark wood. They advanced fiercely towards the ceremonial ground under the protective glance of the huge human faced drum. A smaller one stood between branches and they started to go around it in slow motion but something disturbed them. They looked towards the sea, a ship was sailing in under full sail. Closing onto the shore its power taunting the indigenous people, she dropped her sails and anchored. By now the apprehensive natives of Malakula had walked to the edge of the water. Women and children which wore grass skirts and were bare breasted were kept at a safe distance. The chief and its warriors paced the beach up and down displaying their strength and readiness to this incomprehensible apparition. Aiming impressive weapons at the long boat approaching they seemed very agitated. A man in a captain's full dress coat stood there and was holding a leaf or branch up in the air as a sign of peace. This is how Captain Cook was supposed to have landed on Malakula in July 1774. The reenactment seemed so real that it left a deep imprint on me.
A ceremony between the two high ranked men took place, they exchanged words and gifts. Dogs were also given to the Chief which neck was adorned by magnificent boar's tusks. They marched together to the ceremonial ground, a dance started and a pig was killed.

Click here to see Pictures!

Pacific Islands
Delivering School material through VEO Project
07/27/2010, Efate, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Today we delivered books to schools in Efate through the VEO Project, what an amazing experience!!!! We first drove to the lovely little school of Sorovanga in Black Sand village only 20 minutes from Port Vila. Everyone was rushing, running, pushing, giggling while most eyes were sparkling with excitement especially when the biggest dictionary they have ever seen came out of the box! Our bus took us to other schools but they were all deserted because of the Independence parade so we decided to join in and chase the Vila North school.
Thank you Rowena for giving your time and love to the children of Vanuatu with VEO Project! Please check out her effort in helping education in these far of islands. Pass it on if you know of anyone which would like to get involve or donate some materials: Click Here to go to the VEO Project website!

Click here to see Pictures!

Pacific Islands
Port Vila, Vanuatu
07/22/2010

Eventually the weather became clement, the sky was blue and the anchor chain gave us a happy creaking sound as it came up on departure day. Blue Dawn was trembling like a happy puppy but after the eight days passage from New Zealand she was pleased to rest again in lovely Port Vila. A warm and friendly place where we were really lucky to arrived on Independence Week with fireworks and festivals all day long!

Click here to see Pictures!

Pacific Islands
Sailing towards New Zealand
11/10/2009, 1040.5nm to Go

We are still motor-sailing at 5 knots, we know we are getting a bit closer; it's overcast and colder. It's putting us in the mood for NZ! We should be getting a stronger West to North-West wind soon which we were waiting for to speed us towards our destination. WooHoo... Everything good on board except for the fact that the plate at the head of the sail broke!! It was quite something too see the full main coming down but we were lucky that we were sailing to weather in very light wind. We have hooked up a strong spectra rope to take us to Nz and if this gives there is always the drill to make new eyes to attach the halyard to. Geoff had to go to the top of the mast to retrieve the halyard and was tossed like a puppet, very scary, he is so courageous! His legs were bleeding when he reached deck again... Unbelievable the strength of these sails, I was holding the halyard while Geoff was fixing the plate and it lifted me off the deck?

Click here to see Pictures!

Pacific Islands
Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
11/01/2009

We arrived after the fleet going into the rally to Opua, New Zealand, so we had the island to ourselves, rather nice! We really enjoyed being anchored by Big Mama Yacht club, beautiful little piece of sand and a very friendly place. They could not do enough to help us all! Took a tour of the Nuku'Alofa with our friends on s/v Babalu, a lovely day out exploring the four corners of the island. We are waiting for Ricky to arrive for our last ocean sailing this year...

Click here to see Pictures!

Pacific Islands
Tsunami: Everyone Ok in Vavau
09/30/2009, Neiafu, Tonga

It is early morning, I just woke up, and in my cloudy brain I do not seem to comprehend what I am hearing. The VHF is bursting with Tsunami Warnings!!!
A volcano had apparently exploded underwater at 17:48 Zulu time on the 29 of September 2009; coordinates 15.558 South - 17.073 West at a depth of 18km with a magnitude of 8.3.
As Geoff seems as little concerned as it is possible, I decide to log on to my computer and check what is really going on. All facts are quickly confirmed and all blood drained out of my body, my mouth is dry and my heart is accelerating. Geoff is amused and smirks at me, great!
All the horror from the Indonesian Tsunami came back to me, I know we are safe on a boat anchored in deep water but it really freaked me out...
More and more reports are coming in from the outer anchorages: "water is draining out" and then to everybody shock, a woman voice screamed in urgency and desperation: "Tsunami, tsunami, it is coming, it is coming". A total silence has taken over Neiafu's anchorage, everyone is standing on deck looking out towards the entrance of the bay. I do not know what we are expecting to see but the mind do go crazy. I've forgotten that I was holding my breath when I heard the woman voice and was now gasping for air! Geoff has lost his smirk and he is puffing harder on his cigarette but apart from that he is as stoic as ever! Quite amazing to be able to never panic...
Reports are coming in stating the fact that the water level is dropping, now I am squinting so hard towards the shore and the depth sounder that I still have deep worry lines between my browns!
The voices on the VHF keep on coming in: 1 meter, 2 meters, water is rising now, water dropping again...
Fortunately Vavau was not touched by the Tsunami but all the damages at the neighboring islands make us realized that we were indeed very lucky! Thank you all for the numerous messages.

The island north of us, Niuatoputopu or New Potatoe, was hit and it is reported that 10 people died and 90% of the village was destroyed. Our thoughts goes to all the people which have lost a family member...

Picture of Hihifo village, Niuatoputopu.

In the last few days an incredible effort has been put out by the people of Neiafu and all of us yachties, bags of clothing and food were pilling up everywhere around town and donations were coming in. A total of 500kg of goods were loaded onto the plane going to Hihifo for help relief. Several boats had sailed North to Niuatoputopu island to bring some more supplies and to aid the locals with repairing the damages, generators, water systems; an amazing group of people! A French naval boat has also arrived with a huge amount of merchandises.

Reports from the NOAA Tsunami center:
Click Here to read to Tsunami warning!
Click Here to see the Cancellation report & Data

Pacific Islands

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