16 February 2017 | Devisidero, Barrancas de Cobre, Mexico
13 February 2017 | Yavaros, Sonora, Mexico
04 February 2017 | San Rosalia, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
25 January 2017 | San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
23 January 2017 | San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
19 January 2017 | Port Escondido, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
19 January 2017 | Salinas Bay, Isla Carmen, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
18 January 2017 | Isla Carmen, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
15 January 2017 | Aqua Verde, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
07 January 2017 | Sea of Cortez, Mexico
05 January 2017 | Timbobache village, Baja California Sur, Mexico
03 January 2017 | Nopolo, Baja California Sur, Mexico
02 January 2017 | San Evaristo, Baja California Sur, Mexico
31 December 2016 | Isla San Francisco, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
27 December 2016 | Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
25 December 2016 | Isla Partido, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
24 December 2016 | La Paz, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
18 December 2016 | Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
16 December 2016 | Bahia De Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead)
13 December 2016 | The Gringo Coast, Mexico

The Reef Islands

19 June 2018 | Tanga, Fenualoa, Reef Islands
It's just on four weeks since we departed Brisbane and we are happy to report that things have been going more or less as we could have hoped. We are in the Reef Islands about 80 kms NE of Lata after arriving here a little over a week ago. The total population is around 6,000 but access to many of the villages for us is problematic (tides and shallow lagoons) so people must make their way to our clinics rather than vice versa. Betelnut is a problem and I'd say the only people who don't chew it are those under the age of 10, some as young as six are chewing. The teeth of adults, or the stumps of what they have left, are stained deeply red or are black and often the elderly chewers mash the nuts up with a small mortar and pestle and then use their gums to chew the paste. The main language is a local Reef Island language, followed by Pijin but most people understand enough English to allow to do communicate and there are enough translators around to fill the gaps. Luckily, most have Anglo-Saxon names and we've come across a few real archaic gems like Boniface and Polycarp.

Probably 95% of the people live in thatched huts and live subsistence lives �- some fish but it seems mainly breadfruit, pawpaw, bananas and coconuts. There are no cars and the main form of transport is either by canoe or OBM (outboard motor or a boat with an outboard motor attached) �- long, thin, fibreglass boats, perhaps up to 6 metres long. People travel via OBM between here and Lata and it only takes two hours in good conditions but the conditions are rarely good. When there is a breakdown there is no search and rescue system so people and boats just go missing, sometimes for weeks and sometimes they just vanish ,never to be found. Other than a few government jobs, there is no employment and we assume that money in the community (e.g. for running OBM's) comes via the �"Onetok�" sytem �- relatives with jobs in Honiara sending money back home.

We've just conducted our 5th clinic at the small health clinic at Tanga on Fenualoa. So far we have fitted and supplied over 700 pairs of spectacles and over 2,200 pairs of sunglasses. It continues to be a steep learning curve for us to set up and conduct clinics on the scale we are now doing, having said this though each clinic is better organized than the previous one. One of the most important things we have learnt is that the more help we have the better. The reading/distance glasses create less of a problem than the sunglasses but everybody is keen to make sure they don't miss out so it's a constant process of maintaining law and order. We have decided that the best use of our available sunglasses is to only provide them to people 18 years and older but it's a challenge to make sure that this is maintained, as the young boys and girls find them difficult to resist.

Today we has the assistance of both registered nurses here, John Langku and his wife Elina as well as three volunteers on top of Frances, Caroline and I and we managed to keep everything pretty much under control. We were extremely busy yet again. Although we are not health professionals, it is evident that many, many people have suffered sun damage to their eyes and we would expect one day they would lose their sight altogether. But perhaps our efforts will give them at least another couple of years of sight. Our time at the clinics is intense and exhausting and outside these hours we need to restock and reorganize so generally after eating we are in bed by 8 or so.

The weather has been generally very unsettled �- overcast with rain and squalls which makes navigation though the uncharted waters even more challenging. And it's hot and it's humid. The nights are generally around 28 to 29 degrees, similar to conditions in the build-up in the Northern Territory and, without our cabin fans, we would not be getting any sleep whatsoever.

We are unsure of our plans exactly but will spend at least another few days here before moving on and of course any plans are governed by the weather.

In summary, everything is going very well and the local people are very grateful to have this opportunity to be given better vision. We'll update again in a little while.

Passage completed - 1,285 nautical miles

07 June 2018 | Lata, Ndendo, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands
After 10 days at sea we made landfall this morning at 10 am local time. For the last 5 hours the wind had turned to the NE and so we were forced again to motor. The last night at sea was black, rainy and squally but Monkey Fist soldiered on very nicely until we blew a seam in the genoa. There's a few hours work. We prefer to sail 100% of any passage but sadly on this occasion we motored 55 out of the 240 hours. Did I mention how HOT is is here!!! Phew, it's a bit of a shock to all of us but we are hoping that it was a particularly hot and still day, around 34 with very high humidity and no swimming here because there are crocodiles.

We completed entry formalities without any problems and, for any yacht considering entering here, there are representatives of all the required departments so basically anyone can do so. The people have been extremely friendly and also rather curious about what all the signs mean on the boat (i.e. Eyeglass Assist)and so after a very short period of time, the whole town knew of our project. Communication is interesting as not everybody speaks English, many preferring Pijin, however we found many people extremely well spoken and articulate. Just because someone lives in a small, remote village and lives a subsistence life style does not mean they are unintelligent or simple, in fact, often we have found it is the reverse. How many of us can speak 3 or 4 different languages? Mind you, a red mouth resulting from betelnut chewing is a little off-putting.

We were uncertain as to whether we would conduct a clinic here in Lata itself but after consultation with Eric, the vision trained nurse at the hospital, there is a great need for us to help out here so we have planned to return on the 4th July to fit and supply several hundred people in the local community with glasses (with the hospital staff's help). Our plan now is to take a couple of days for r & r (rest & repair) before heading out the Reef Islands.

On a different note, on the way into Ndendo we threw out a lure and very quickly caught a huge Yellow-Fin Tuna, at a guess around 28 kgs. We cut a couple of meals off it and donated the remainder to the hospital who were extremely grateful to receive the gift.

1,100 miles logged - 200 MTG (miles to go)

05 June 2018 | 150 miles NW of Espiritu Santo (Vanuatu)
We've finally had some decent wind. For the last 48 hours we've had just about perfect wind - 18 to 20 knot off the starboard quarter, for the last noon to noon run we've managed 160 nm. Late yesterday we entered the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) that frequently sits over the top of Vanuatu and the Solomons where we are now encountering low cloud and rain but the wind held overnight, however we now have calms and adverse winds and have decided to motor for a few hours to try and find the other side. Forecasting in the SPCZ is notoriously difficult but we shall have to make do with whatever we're dealt. Our ETA in Lata at this point is Thursday and hopefully we'll make it then, as Friday is a public holiday and then there's the weekend so we probably won't be able to clear in until Monday, so keep those fingers crossed. Caroline and Frances have been busy in the cockpit crocheting finger puppets for the children. Sea life has been limited to a few pesky Boobies and some small black and white Storm Petrels.

500 miles logged - 700 MTG (miles to go)

01 June 2018 | Off the southern tip of Chesterfield Reef
We're not breaking any speed records out here, but we ARE getting there. During the first 36 hours we were plagued by adverse winds from the NE and E as well as extended periods of calm, and this was intermixed with rain showers so we ended up motoring more than we would have liked. The wind gradually filled in from the SE but never with any conviction and we still experienced patches of no wind. Yesterday the wind backed to the SW and on occasion we had 20 knots and were moving along nicely at 6.5 to 7 knots but alas, it didn't last. Most of the time we are doing between 3.5 and 4.5 knots, so unless things improve that probably means an 11 or 12 day passage. Still the weather is nice and the seas are kind and we are generally still sailing - and, regardless, what else can we do? From here we turn more to the North and head directly for Lata, 700 miles (approx. 1,350 kms) away. The colours, as always are magnificent and we share our nights with a huge, bright moon.

Not much sea life, the occasional sea bird and one flying fish. Last night a booby had an unsuccessful attempt at landing on MF but only managed to fly into one of our "clears" surrounding the cockpit which apparently dissuaded him from giving it another go.

And so the day has finally come

27 May 2018 | Moreton Bay, Queensland Australia
We have been working overtime on getting everything ready, which included setbacks such as no water flow to the auxilliary engine and a non-functioning galley saltwater pump valve. Later, a saltwater leak into the hull appeared that turned out to be caused by, what we then realized was, the non-standard replacement valve we bought. Long story of course, Oh the joys of boating.......

BUT, eventually everything is sorted and we are happy that Monkey Fist is ready for the passage - i.e. seaworthy. We've stocked up with six months of supplies and we're heading out onto the high seas. In the end we managed to fit 12,000 pairs of spectacles and 6,000 pairs of sunglasses onto our humble home on the sea. Our good friend Caroline (nurse and sailor) has joined us for the first few weeks and we've been cleared by Border Security to leave the shores of Australia. Currently we're heading north through Morton Bay.

The passage to Lata should take us around eight to nine days of mixed conditions but with a little luck we should be able to sail most, if not all the way, with reasonably favourable winds (and without running into overly severe conditions). That is our plan at least and everyone has to have a plan, don't they.

We'll try and update a few days into the passage and, once we are on the ground in the Solomons, every week or two, which will be fed to our Facebook page. Alas, there is no internet where we are going so our updates for some weeks to come will only be text - the pics will have to come later. Let's face it, when people don't even have glasses how likely is it they'll have internet access? When you are reading our updates we ask you to keep in mind the remote nature of where we will be working.

One saying we often use is " many places may seem like they are in the middle of nowhere, but to the people who live there, it is the centre of their universe". Let's hope they're friendly!

See you in the soup
signed
Crew of Monkey Fist

p.s. Reluctantly we are leaving our 6 week old grand-daughter Isabella behind.

10 days until departure

18 May 2018 | Brisbane, Australia
With Monkey Fist back in the water we painlessly navigated the tricky channel from the hardstand IN THE DARK! Unfortunately a night transit was necessary so as to utilize the higher tide. However we had hedged our bets by surveying the channel previously with a dingy and portable depth sounder.

And the very good news is..... we've managed to fit all 16,000 pairs of specs and sunglasses on the boat. Our calculations said we should be able to, but theory and practice sometimes don't always agree. Phew!, what a relief.

But we are thrilled to have taken this latest step. Then Frances turns to me and says " I think we can fit some more in". We'll see.

Three weeks until D Day...

06 May 2018 | Eyeglass Assist Central - Brisbane Qld
What's happening in the photo is our calibration of a pair of spectacles which are equipped with adjustable strength lenses (in this case negative lenses). They were designed originally as easy-to-fit vision correction spectacles for people in developing countries. However, they are a) expensive and b) not particularly stylish. So we've taken a pair of these and, using the lensometer at Lions R4S headquarters in Brisbane, we've calibrated them. What this means is that when we assess someone as being myopic, we'll have them wear them as they would normal glasses, then they will rotate the adjustable knob (one for each eye) until they assess that their vision is clear. We should then be able to read from the dial the strength required and provide them with a more cost effective and stylish option. Assessment of distant vision issues is often a time consuming part of our work so this idea has potential to save significant time = more people we can help.

And also - after many, many hours of work, Frances has finally finished counting and sorting the glasses today and we now have a final, grand total of 16,002 - this being comprised of 10,777 pairs spectacles and 5,225 pairs of sunglasses. Sorting the glasses is critical in allowing us to access what we need, when we need them. Having so many glasses on board would be pointless if we could not easily replenish our daily requirements. Hats off to Frances.

The next challenge is fitting them on board. ... mathematics say... ummm... probably. But of course it's not's that simple, so stay tuned!

Less than 4 weeks to go until D (Departure) Day

02 May 2018 | Eyeglass Assist Central - Brisbane Qld
In many a movie there's often a time when metaphorically "the cavalry comes along"....and against all odds, everyone is saved - and that's what exactly what's happened to us.

With Lions Recycle For Sight only able to fill less than half of the spectacles we had requested, it put the Eyeglass Assist Solomon Islands project in jeopardy. Without sufficient time left to sort enough recycled spectacles we turned our focus towards new glasses, expecting that we would need to purchase them. We were hoping that companies - suppliers, distributors or importers would have "old stock" that they would be prepared to sell at a price we could afford. So, deep in the depths of despair, we started searching for a solution to this our latest hurdle. But we had come too far to give in at this late stage and we believed that we might still be able to cut enough corners to make the project viable.

That's when the first of the cavalry stepped in, Paul Kelly from PKA Products in Brisbane (www.pkaproducts.com.au). He spoke to his importer (auslinktrading.com) and they managed to find 800 pairs of old stock (but new and perfectly serviceable) and they were happy to supply them to the project without any cost. Frances and I were taken aback by Paul's generous offer, it's not something we had expected. With Paul's help we had made a promising start to this new challenge.

Over a period of many days making many phone calls and sending emails to companies involved with eyeglasses, we stumbled across Chris Boydell, managing director of a company called "On The Nose" (www.onthenose.com.au). A few emails passed back and forth and one thing led to another, and Chris told us that he could supply us with the glasses we needed (he had 5,800 pairs available) and he said "from our point of view, if you are giving these to needy people, then we don't want to charge you". We were speechless. It's not something we expected - we hadn't approached any business to donate spectacles to the project, time was not on our side, but here were two businesses - On the Nose and PKA products who, out of kindness and compassion, were doing just that.

Their generosity will be a major factor in the Solomon Islands Project becoming a reality and giving 10,000 people in remote places there better sight. We'd appreciate if everyone visit their Facebook pages and "like" them. And if in anyway you can support them personally or via your business, you know that you are dealing with companies and people who want to help make a difference. If this story doesn't make you feel good then we're not really sure what will. Our sincere thanks again to OnTheNose and PKA Products.
Vessel Name: Monkey Fist
Vessel Make/Model: Jeanneau 43DS
Hailing Port: Darwin
Crew: Paul and Frances Tudor-Stack
About: After spending over 20 years in the NT Paul and Frances returned to the sea in 2008. Their first trip was into the Pacific via West Papua and over the top of PNG and then back to Australia where they sold their old traditional boat "Sea Spray" and bought "Monkey Fist"
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