Epi and onward
10 July 2013 | Lamen bay
Happy 4th Birthday Ava! Wish we were with you to celebrate.
Gluttons for punishment that we are, we are back in rolly old Lamen Bay and it is still rolly! Nothing like as bad as last time tho - or maybe we are just getting used to it! We, and the two OceansWatch boats eventually managed to drag ourselves away from Port Vila and have had a couple of days of beautiful trade wind sailing to get the 80 or so miles back up north. Anna Rose has raced along at 6 or 7 knots with a lovely steady wind behind us and mostly a nice following sea. We have day sailed, stopping each evening at places we visited with Kif and Anna et al a couple of weeks ago. Mostly we have been in the company of Catnapp (one of the OceansWatch boats). She is a 38' Wharram catamaran. We had supper with them a couple of nights ago and it was really lovely all sitting on their foredeck watching the stars. She couldn't be more different from Anna Rose: Huge deck space and a central wheelhouse, with ladders down into the hulls, which are divided into 3 small sleeping pods and a galley. She is very well set up for extended cruising, with a big rain catcher cum canopy and masses of space on deck for storing water and fuel and diving gear. We have formed quite a friendship with Glenn the skipper/owner, and are really enjoying the companionship of sailing together. They are here too and we are both planning to sail on to Ambrym tomorrow. Anna Rose and Catnapp sail at a broadly similar pace, which makes it fun to cruise in company, and good for photo ops too. For obvious reasons it is really hard to get good sailing pics of your own boat!
There is another little yacht here too which is remarkably similar in hull shape to Anna Rose, but smaller, and older and full of character. Rob and Kate have sailed her from Alaska and are making their way slowly up to the Solomons and beyond. We will try to stay in touch with them as it is unclear whether or not we can clear into the Santa Cruz islands (the nearest Soloman islands to Vanuatu) so it would be good for us to arrive together, as we may have to pay for the customs officer to fly down specially from Honiara. The cost of the flight there and back is $700AUD, so the more yachts we can divide that between the better!
It is early in the morning, Simon is still asleep and I am sitting in the cockpit. There is a lovely breeze and it is not yet too hot. There is a substantial island in the middle of this bay, a couple of miles offshore and that is where most of the local population live. They live there because there are no mosquitos, and I think also because historically it would have been safer. But their gardens are on the mainland, so each morning they cross the bay either in dugouts or small open boats. One has just passed close by, laden with people all smiling and waving. They are I guess as curious about us as we are about them.
Yesterday we met a lady walking back to her dugout from her garden and invited her to come and see Anna Rose on her way back to the island in the evening. She and her husband did this and we spent a fascinating hour or so comparing notes about our life and theirs. To them the idea of us choosing to leave our home and family and sail round in the pacific for no particular reason is incomprehensible. I can completely see that it would be. (it feels a bit like that to us sometimes too!) The menfolk here often have to go to work in Port Vila, or even fruit picking in NZ and Australia, but this is because they have to find money for school fees, and is not something they are doing though choice. I know its foolish try to make generalisations based on a few conversations, but the impression we have is that people are happy living the life they lead in the villages, amongst friends and family, but there really is no work in any formal sense. They tend their gardens, cultivating and gathering what they need to feed themselves, but with increasing exposure to the goods, commodities, services and opportunities of the developed world they increasingly must want and need money. School fees are a major expense, but also things like mobile phones which, as we are discovering, are definitely not cheap to keep topping up!
Mary and Sam (who came to see the boat) have 4 children, the oldest is 13 and goes to secondary school. This costs 24000 vatu per year (just under £200). They were clearly struggling to find this and goodness knows how they will manage to pay for all 4. I guess Sam will have to work away again, which he said he didn't like doing at all. I imagine everyone is having to make similarly difficult choices. Primary education is free, and it must be hard for children who don't get a chance to go to secondary school, especially if their contemporaries or siblings do, yet for families to have to live apart for months at a time in order to pay the fees must take its toll on them all too. I remember the woman on the beach we met a few weeks ago saying 'we are a village of widows'.
Not sure whether I can post this or not.. It might have to wait for a few days until we get better Internet.