Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Journal Entry - October 29, 2008 - Sailing with The Boys!

Author: Scott

Tonight I am speeding downwind towards Australia with my surrogate crew sleeping, one in the cockpit and the other in "the nest" also known as "the pit". With Pam's absence aboard Starship "the nest" is just one of the strange changes that has taken place during this piece of the voyage. You see normally Pam and I alternate sleeping in the aft berth while the other is on watch. The linen is always kept crisp, clean and dry to maintain one haven of sanctuary while living on passage in what is similar to spending your days inside a washing machine. Alas the pristine sleeping berth, now known as "the nest", has become a conglomeration of sheets, sleeping bags, blankets, throws, pillows and maybe even a towel or two, all swathed and intertwining. Starship's current crew does not clean one's feet and carefully climb into the aft berth; they now hurl themselves upon the nest and burrow their way into position so that there is a thick barrier against the lee cloth and ample layers of sinewy coverings twisting and snarling around their body parts to serve as covering during watch. Add in the factor of limited showers and washing, hot tropical weather, and by the end of the voyage the nest would serve as a great whelping den for a litter of street puppies.

Yes, things aboard Starship are certainly different. The crew is made up of me, Tony Purkiss, and Patrick Silver. Tony has been mentioned in a number of prior Log-Blog's, he is an Australian blind sailor who became our mate last year during cyclone season in Australia. When I phoned Tony to see if he could help me sail the boat to Australia from Vanuatu due to Pam's sudden vision crisis, Tony simply said he would do whatever he could and promptly cancelled all of his commitments to help out.

Patrick is a new acquaintance and now friend that we met in Port Vila. Patrick is a friend of Graeme and Rebecca's on 'LL" and has been working in Vanuatu for the past eighteen months. While in Vila we were soon seeing Patrick often and he quickly became a regular member of our little group as we explored the island. In fact, it would be strange if we didn't run into Patrick whenever we were in town, and he could always be located at the coffee shop. When Patrick first learned of Pam's situation while we were on Santo he was off in a second hunting down local medical resources in Vanuatu. Knowing that Patrick was planning on returning to Australia for a few months I immediately thought of him as potential crew for the passage. Upon asking, Patrick said he needed a little time to work on the details, but called the next day to say he would be happy to be on the crew. I now had two crew members in less than two days!

As this is not an official passage of the Blind Circumnavigation with Pam and I aboard, but rather a delivery of Starship so that Pam can continue the voyage from a port she has previously sailed the boat to, we are able to allow Patrick to be crew despite his limitation of being fully sighted. An example of this limitation became clear when I was orienting Patrick to the boat and I described the location of the fixings for tea. These items are tucked way back on top of a shelf in a locker. I told Patrick if he just reached in the locker he could feel four Ziploc baggies. Well, he rooted around, fumbled, groped but still could only find two of the baggies. Eventually he had to succumb to bending over to stick his nose in the locker and even with his eagle eyes; he still only managed to find three of the baggies. Sighted people! You wouldn't want to stand between one and the toilet the first night in an unfamiliar dark hotel room, yikes! We have officially dubbed Patrick our token ‘sighty’. Actually he is an excellent sail trimmer and racer by day, but needs to be kept below at night so he doesn't hurt anyone. Okay - okay - okay, maybe I am being just a little silly here, and I do have to admit that it is awfully convenient having a pair of 20/20s on board. Imagine being able to see the direction of an approaching container ship, or thread your way almost effortlessly through a narrow marina. Having Patrick aboard has given me a true respect for the challenges Pam and I face every day on voyage.

Speaking of sight let me give you a few visuals of the temporary crew aboard Starship. Tony is a big guy, not obese, just big in a Shrek sort of way. He has a booming deep voice and would be your guy if you needed to fend off an oncoming fishing trawler or push an iceberg out of the boat's path. Patrick is tall and wiry, bordering on lanky. He moves gracefully around the boat but is quite strong from his profession as a builder. Both Tony and Patrick are seasoned sailors with far more racing experience than me. We have settled into an eating pattern that coincides with our body types. Tony gets about half the meal, I get a third and Patrick is happy with whatever is left over. Our meals on passage have been quite gourmet with offerings like pork loin baked in apples and cinnamon, and pan sautéed steak in fresh garlic and olive oil. Being volunteer crew, I was determined to feed the crew well. This may be the first passage where I have actually gained weight.

Now I must say that the new crew does have a tendency to taunt me with their
Aussie slang and threats of feeding me Vegemite and lasagna with cream sauce (imagine that, lasagna with cream sauce… Hey, that's okay mate, I just pull out the yellow American mustard and instant coffee bags to keep them shivering in their boots.

So far our voyage has been quite peaceful, especially compared to my last tour of this part of the ocean. It is a pity that Pam is not experiencing these calm seas, light winds, and endless blue skies as we traverse a big 1020 high. We have had both good fast sailing and long calms with the iron headsail purring away. Oh, did I mention that we are not only crossing with the boat "LL", but as always we are racing. As of 06:30 this morning we were nearly 30 nautical miles in front with eight less engine hours. Now, the fat lady hasn't sung yet, but I can almost taste the frothy schooners at the pub, our prize for not only winning this leg of the race to Australia but also having already won the leg from Vanuatu to New Caledonia. Looks like "LL" might stand for "L- Loooooooooosers" - hehehehehee. Okay, enough of my gloating, they could magically still pull out a win on leg two. We will just be happy to see our friends in Australia - and of course catch their dock lines for them!

Each day I have communicated with Pam via email over the SSB radio. She has been to the doctor as described in her recent Log-Blog. It seems from here that she is doing well and her retinal tears are healing as expected. Starship and I certainly miss our fellow crew member, but soon she will be back in the saddle, or rather the PFD to continue the voyage after cyclone season.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Journal Entry – Ocotober 27, 2008 - Life Happens Even…

Author: Pam

This past month or perhaps even the past eight months has been a reminder for me that life happens even if you are sailing around the world. It may also prove true that life seems more magnified and events feel more significant when you are thousands of miles away from home. You may recall in February I had a nasty fall and as a result I have a new Australian smile with crowns on three of my front teeth. In May, while crossing the Coral Sea Starship was knocked down by a huge wave, which destroyed her dodger, resulting in a two month unexpected delay in Noumea, New Caledonia. On September 22 my right eye decided to come to the party which resulted in an emergency trip from Vanuatu to Sydney to seek medical care from an eye specialist.

Over the past month while I have been dealing with this latest event I have had a lot of time to think and ponder life. Especially as I struggled to lay face down 22 out of 24 hours of the day post surgery for five days. I was originally told I would have to perform this pretzel defying feat for ten days. I was sure after being sleep deprived and every muscle tied into a knot my eye might be better, but I would surely be a crazy woman. It was proving to be one of the ultimate living in the moment experiences I have had so far in my life.

Today is five weeks since I first became aware of the blurriness in my right eye. It has been two weeks today since I had the Vitrectomy. I saw Dr. Downie last Friday and he said “the retina seems to be in the right place as far as he could tell”. As far as he could tell is the disclaimer I guess for how difficult it is to get a good look at the back of my eye due to the size and shape of my pupil. I was experiencing some pain on Thursday and Friday and discovered that was due to the pressure being quite high in my eye (again). He increased the number of drops and put me back on a pill to lower the pressure. It is down, but I don’t believe it is back to normal yet. I will see him again this Friday. All of the gas has dissipated as of today, which is nice, it was like looking through a liquid fog at first and then circles that got darker as they got smaller. I now have to wait several weeks before the stitches in the front of my eye dissolve and then I should be able to wear my right contact lens again. I have been wearing my left contact lens and relying solely on that eye. I did wear my glasses some, but I found they magnified the blurriness. As of today I am feeling good about the healing process and my attention is turning towards what’s next for Starship and her crew as we wait out yet another cyclone season.

Starship and her surrogate crew (Tony and Patrick) arrived in Koumac, Northern New Caledonia on October 20th, after a 48 hour passage from Port Vila. They left Koumac on Friday, October 24th after waiting for a weather window. Leaving on a Friday is notable because it is the first time Scott and our boat has left for a passage on a Friday. It is a nautical superstition that it is bad luck to leave on a Friday and we have thus far chosen to observe this belief, as well as no bananas on board. There are several other superstitions we have made exceptions for either knowingly or unknowingly. We usually have bacon (pork is supposedly a no no) and recently we were told umbrellas are bad luck and we have five. As of yesterday Starship was 716 nm (nautical miles) from Newcastle, Australia. The crew is all doing well and Starship is sailing like a champ. They could reach Newcastle as early as Saturday or as late as Monday.

Since our plans for this cruising season were very unexpectedly interrupted Scott and I have not had an opportunity to even discuss what we will do during cyclone season. I am looking forward to having my home back. Although I have once again been reminded how blessed I am to have such amazing friends I am looking forward to at least feeling grounded by being back on the boat. I am also looking forward to a little more variety in my wardrobe; the options I packed are feeling a bit slim.

So, as I have said this journey has been the ultimate opportunity to live in the moment and to stretch my edges. And, Alexander Graham Bell said: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” I am not looking upon the closed door, but wondering what lies beyond the one that has opened.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Journal Entry – October 14, 2008 Update on Pam

Author: Scott

When last we left Pam she was being closely observed by her ophthalmologist in Sydney. She returned to the Dr. last Friday and learned that she had increased bleeding inside of her right eye. Based on these findings the Dr. informed Pam that she would require a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure where the vitreous fluid inside the eye is cleaned of blood and other material, allowing the Dr. to more thoroughly examine Pam’s retina. This procedure was completed yesterday and it was determined mid-surgery that Pam had two tears in her retina. The surgeon then attempted to make immediate repairs by introducing a gas bubble into Pam’s eye that would hold the retina in place while it hopefully reattaches. Pam is now comfortably convalescing in Sydney with our dear friends David and Donna Marshal. At this point we have no further information on a long-term prognosis and Pam continues to cope with this situation with amazing resilience and bravery.

Back here in Port Vila, Vanuatu I am awaiting the arrival of our good friend and blind sailor Tony Purkiss, who will be joining me on the voyage to Australia. Also on the crew will be Patrick a recent acquaintance and friend in Vanuatu. The three of us will sail across the Coral Sea to the east coast of Australia, and then make our way south to Newcastle. Once in Newcastle Pam will be able to rejoin the voyage after the cyclone season from a point where she has sailed with me, allowing Pam to continue the voyage without any gaps in our route.

If you would like to send Pam your well wishes, please send us an email through the website and I will be sure she gets your message.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Journal Entry - October 5, 2008 - Fish for Pam!

Author: Scott

Today rates among one of the strangest days I have experienced thus far on this incredible adventure. Today I am single handing Starship from Oyster Island to Banam Bay, Vanuatu. But first things first…

Our recent Log-Blog explained that Pam had to suddenly fly to Australia because of potentially serious symptoms she was experiencing in her right eye. I received a few updates last week that put Pam and I on the worry roller coaster. Her original diagnosis was that her eye was inflamed but no other problems were visible. Two days later she returned to the same ophthalmologist only to find that she had experienced a hemorrhage in her eye, with the possibility of a retinal tear, and a very high pressure reading of 44. The next day Pam saw an eye surgeon in Sydney (thanks to the help of our friend Tony). The specialist in Sydney confirmed the hemorrhage but operated from a sensible position of observation, after some extreme suggestions from the first eye specialist. Pam's pressure was at a normal level with the help of eye drops and the bleeding in her eye seemed to have subsided. At this point the ophthalmologist wants to closely monitor her eye and Pam has another appointment on Friday. The ophthalmologist also advised Pam that she should not continue sailing to remote locations until more information is available about her condition, therefore we have decided to return Starship to Australia for the cyclone season. This change in routing will certainly alter our plans for the remainder of this cruising season but not extend the overall length of the voyage, as we intend to continue on to South Africa after the southern hemisphere cyclone season.

With this turn of events I am now single handing the boat to Port Vila, Vanuatu. I will then either sail Starship with our good friend Tony Purkiss who is also a legally blind sailor living in Australia, or with Pam if she is given the go ahead from her ophthalmologist. In either case Pam will be able to resume the voyage next year from a location she has sailed to, thus continuing the voyage for her without a lapse in routing.

So here I sit without my friend and sailing partner for the first time since departing San Francisco. I am in radio contact with our good friends Graeme and Rebecca on LL, but Starship feels strange and lonely without Pam. The seas have been rough today with nasty wind on the nose. However, with every cloud there is the proverbial silver lining and today I caught a big juicy Mahi Mahi, only our second fish to date on Starship. Tonight I will honor Pam (aka the Fish Girl) by devouring a feast of fresh fish for her. By the way for our cynical friends out there, YES I did get a photo of the fish.

So, yet again the crew of the Blind Circumnavigation has proven to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches and we are moving forward or perhaps a little backwards with a smile on our faces. We achieved our goal of returning to the South Pacific to visit Vanuatu and New Caledonia and this experience has enriched our overall voyage greatly. I am confident that our time during cyclone season will be full of wonderful experiences. We already have an invitation to take part in the barbecue sail to Lord Howe Island and maybe a sail on a returning race boat from this year's Sydney Hobart race, and of course we get to see our many wonderful Aussie friends in the deal.

Don't you worry the Blind Circumnavigation will move forward with gusto!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Journal Entry - September 27, 2008 Important Update from Oyster Island

Hello Friends of the Blind Circumnavigation!

This is just a quick update to bring you up to date on a bit of a concern we are experiencing on Starship. We are currently on Oyster Island in northern Vanuatu. Four days ago Pam developed a pain and blurred vision in her right eye. This condition has persisted and after consultation with medical professionals in Australia we have decided that the best course of action is for Pam to fly to Australia for a complete ophthalmological evaluation.

At this point we do not consider this situation an emergency but rather circumstances requiring timely attention.

Please check in on the website over the next few days for updates as they become available.

Scott and Pam

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Journal Entry - September 11 - 13, 2008 - Lamen Bay, Epi Island, Vanuatu

Author: Pam

We made it through the night in rolly Revoliue Bay, but boy were we motivated to make a move the next morning. Lamen Bay was our next stop on Epi Island, a whole eight miles away. One could get used to these day hops. We weighed anchor at 0830 and drove two hours reaching Lamen Bay at 1030. There was not enough wind or time really for a sail. As we approached Lamen Bay a naval ship crossed fairly close behind us leading us to believe they were not planning on stopping. However, their next maneuver was to go in front of LL and head straight into Lamen Bay and drop their anchor. Lamen Bay is wide open exposed to the west, but you can get in close enough to be protected and thank heavens there was no swell. Besides the naval ship there were no other yachts anchored, so we scouted around and anchored a safe distance from the shore and the ever present bombies (coral heads).

About five minutes after we dropped the anchor a dinghy was headed directly at Starship from the Naval ship. They came alongside and without asking permission or identifying themselves three of the five of them boarded Starship. I was sitting in the entrance to cockpit and though I did not feel at all threatened, I did not invite them on board any further than the side of the boat where they were standing. They asked if we had a cruising permit and I said we have a sealed envelope to give to Customs in Luganville when we check out. The guy seemingly in charge asked me to write the name of the boat and the crew on his clipboard. Then the second guy asked to see our passports. They asked where we planned to check out and we said Luganville and they reiterated we need to visit Customs in Luganville and if we want to check out of Sola in the Banks Islands we must ask permission in Luganville. They disembarked and it looked like one of the guys in their tender took a picture of the boat, Rebecca confirmed later he did. They headed for LL and we called and gave them a heads up. We have not been boarded "at sea" since the California coast at the beginning of our trip, when we were boarded by the US Coast Guard.

As we are now full on into the island hopping routine, there does seem to be a routine developing, deploy the dinghy and head to shore to explore our new surroundings. So, after changing into our swimmers (as they say in Australia) we headed for shore for a walk and a swim. We had read in our cruising guide there was a resort, a high school and an airport, otherwise we didn't have much information. There were a couple of young men sitting on the beach where we landed the dinghy and I asked if it would be ok if we went for a walk. They basically looked at us with the deer in the headlights stare with a smile. We took that to be a yes and we headed off on a road inland turning onto a path we thought would head back to the beach. We passed a couple children, but otherwise there really wasn't anyone around. We also passed a couple of huts with the preverbal chickens and roosters roaming around, but we didn't actually see another person until we met Ron sitting with his shiny silver support cane on an upside down canoe. He was friendly, but also a man of few words and only one front tooth (according to Rebecca).

We are finding the people of Vanuatu to be very friendly, but also quite shy. It has been quite difficult to have a conversation. The native language is Bislama (pigeon English) and as in any language when they speak to one another it is with confidence. Many people do speak English, but not many with confidence. Therefore, they may be able to understand and speak English, but they often do not speak very loudly, making it difficult to hear their responses. I have also observed they ask very few questions. The children are openly curious with their stares, enthusiastic hellos and big smiles, but they seldom initiate any interaction or conversation, so far anyway. If you ask them, how are you? They will respond "fine" and flash a beautiful smile, but that is usually the end of the conversation.

After a swim at the beach we decided to head back to the boats for lunch and a rest after getting no sleep the night before. For someone who does not nap, I seem to be getting quite good at it, I slept all afternoon. We made veal with cream sauce and rice for dinner and enjoyed the peace and quiet of a civilized anchorage.

The next morning we awoke to discover a large square rigger had arrived in the night and was making trips to shore delivering the people on board. We had also watched a maxi yacht come in after dark and roam around looking for a place to anchor, my how the neighborhood can change in a few short hours.

We headed over to LL and hung out while Rebecca finished baking bread, which was fine with us since she had promised us a loaf. We were feeling especially lucky since we had had to throw almost an entire moldy loaf overboard. On one of the trips back from shore the 2nd Mate from the square rigger stopped by and asked if LL could possibly move in a bit closer, so they could get in closer and out of very deep water. He also invited us to join them on shore for a BBQ that evening, which we all thought sounded like fun. Graeme was more than happy to oblige and move LL, so he and Scott went off for a squiz in the dinghy to locate a good spot. That done, LL weighed anchor and tucked in a little closer to shore.

When the bread was baked we headed into shore for another look around and in search of the Sunset Paradise Resort, Scott was most likely hoping for a cheeseburger. We landed the dinghy on a different beach, which didn't prove to be a good idea due to the number of coral heads dotting the approach, definitely not nice for swimming. Graeme ended up pulling the dinghy around near the beach we landed at yesterday. On our way to meet him we met several guys who had been snorkeling and we quickly learned they were guests on the 105 foot square rigger, the Soren Larson. She sails out of New Zealand and makes a nine month passage through the South Pacific. She has 13 crew and up to 23 guests at any given time. She is registered as a training ship, but the guests are not students per say, it is up to you how much you want to participate (though they do help keep watch and do safety checks). The guests are on board for anywhere between 10 days and 9 months. I hope we get invited for a tour.

After a swim we headed back to the boats for lunch and to prepare for our trip over to Lamen Island. The day before Sam had stopped by LL in his canoe and they had invited him on board. They learned 300 people live on Lamen Island, which is located approximately two miles across from Lamen Bay. The people who live there come across to the "Big Island" to work in their gardens. There is a primary school on the island and Sam said it would be ok for us to come for a visit. Apparently, the tuition is 1000VT ($10.00) per child per term. We planned to talk to the Head Master about sponsoring at least one child for a term and I gathered up a few school supplies and stickers to donate. We headed out in LL's dinghy, it would have taken a month of Sundays in ours. It was a bit choppy on the way over, but fortunately we managed to stay dry, the trip home was completely another story. We landed the dinghy on the beach and headed to where the sand stops and the rocks begin, this is where we would find Sam's house. Along the way we were stopped by a number of men who wanted to know our reason for being there. One of the young men offered to show us Sam's house and in about a second flat that meant several children and another adult male. Sam was home, but we clearly woke him up from a nap. He was polite and offered us a small bench to sit on. Graeme asked about visiting the school and Sam informed us the school was closed on Friday afternoons. He neglected to mention that yesterday during the discussion of when we would visit. Sam said he would take us to the Head Master's house, but he wasn't sure if he had gone over to the "Big Island" or not. Lamen Island is very pretty with lots of great, big trees and no cars. However, there are two mobile phone companies that have set up towers. It is strange to be walking through these very remote and rustic villages and see people talking on their mobile phone. Telecommunication really does seem to know no boundaries. Scott had a great time taking pictures of the kids playing in the water, they definitely are not camera shy. The Head Master indeed was not home and we had run out of conversation with Sam (we learned he had a kava hangover and was not feeling very chatty) so we headed back to the dinghy and roared back across to Lamen Bay arriving looking like drown rats. When we got back to Starship Scott rolled out of LL's dinghy and completed the task of getting soaked.

I did chores for the rest of the afternoon and Scott took a nap, he is even better at napping than I am. I prepared pasta with pesto to bring to the BBQ and we headed back in to shore a bit after dark to make new friends. When we arrived the BBQ was full of meat and the table full of food. Inside the yacht club there were several local children dancing to a DVD of island music they were watching on a small TV. Otherwise, there did not seem to be many locals around, however I suspect they were there in the shadows. We chatted with several people we had met earlier in the day about their experience aboard the Soren Larson and where they were going next. It wasn't long before chow was on and we all grabbed a banana leaf plate and headed for the buffet line. There was heaps of food, burgers, rolls, sausages, pasta bake, cucumber, tomato, our pasta, Rebecca's fried rice… I have never tried to balance food on a banana leaf before, though a little wobbly it did make a very nice plate. We all sat at the long table on benches in an open structure, under a thatched roof. When Scott went back for seconds and I went to lend my support, we met Tasso. We had read about him in the cruising guide, he owns the resort and yacht club. He had heard about these people who didn't see well and was very excited to meet us. He said he wanted us to meet his wife and son and in a couple of minutes he was back with them and two other family members. We had a very nice chat with him and he was thrilled we had chosen to stop in Lamen Bay. We had hoped we would see him again the next day on shore, but unfortunately we did not. As we were getting ready to head back to the boat, we were invited aboard the Soren Larson the next morning for a quick tour, they were planning to leave at 0900, yippee! Graeme, Rebecca, Scott and I climbed into the dinghy and headed back to Starship, the night was young and the moon was almost full. We sat in the cockpit under a gorgeous moon and shared some of our more intimate and personal life stories and our friendship bond grew a bit deeper.

The next morning we were up and ready to go over to the Soren Larson at 0800, that is when they said they would be finished with breakfast. She makes the second tall ship we have met on this adventure so far, the Picton Castle in Rarotonga (Cook Islands) was the first. The Soren Larson was built in 1949 and has undergone major rigging changes over the years. Her interior woodwork is absolutely beautiful, despite an interior fire at some point. The crew and guests were gracious and very proud to show her off to four wide eyed and admiring visitors. Our visit was short, we didn't want to overstay our welcome. I did have a quick chat with one of the crew as I was disembarking who is from Boston and is quite familiar with MDI, my little island in Maine. We both agreed we were a long way from home.

The rest of the day felt like a lazy Saturday. We went to shore and explored in the direction of the airport, hoping the shop might be open. It was no surprise to find that it closed. A light mist started to fall as we wandered along and observed more of the ease the children seem to have with just having fun. They were everywhere, swimming, canoeing, sitting on a tree branch, playing sports (we weren't sure what the game actually was), running, playing with a puppy and endlessly laughing and giggling. I can't think of many things that have warmed my heart in the same way. Before heading back out to the boats to prepare for our departure in the morning we found the water tap and filled up our four collapsible water jugs and deposited our rubbish in the designated spot.

After a stop by LL on the way to discuss our next destination and have a snack we headed back to Starship. We stowed the dinghy, made dinner and called it an early night so we would be rested for our next hop to Malakula Island the next day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Journal Entry - September 10 - 11, 2008 - Holy Rolly Cow!

Author: Scott

Today I feel like living Jell-O! Last night we spent the night at Revolieu Bay on Epi Island, one of the rolliest anchorages we have experienced on the voyage to date. What makes us appreciate just how awful it was is the contrast from our prior night's calm and peaceful experience at Port Havannah on Efate Island.

Our departure from Efate Island was filled with the anticipation of leaving the comparatively bustling modern life of Efate Island and Port Vila to return again to the traditional island life of villagers outside of "the big city". Our cruising guides told us that on Epi Island we would find kind gentle people and perhaps interactions with sea turtles, and even dugongs (sea cows). A dugong is a large lumbering creature, with a thick body and whale-like tale. They are known to breed and feed in the bays on Epi Island and other cruisers have reported swimming with these immense and gentle friends from the sea. Cool! I want to swim with a dugong!

Our first stop on Epi Island was Revolieu Bay, a large and relatively open bay from the northwest, west, and southwest. Upon entering the bay I could feel the swell gently lifting the boat from the northwest and I wondered to myself, 'could this swell make things a bit unruly?' In short, the answer was a resounding YES!!! We dropped the hook in ten meters of clear blue water with a white sand and crushed coral bottom. The surrounding landscape was lush green with low lying mountains and very little sign of life on shore. There were no other yachts on anchor, and soon it became clear why that was.

I first noticed the roll as I was waiting for the anchor to set, but I figured things would soon settle down. I was wrong. We bounced, we thrashed, we wiggled and jiggled, we bounced, we rolled… Shortly after anchoring Graeme and Rebecca dropped by in their dinghy, which was a bit of a surprise, as they silently slunk up to Starship rowing without a motor. LL's dinghy is easy to deploy off davits, but they have a bigger challenge of transferring their motor to their dinghy, which is mounted on the rail. Therefore, they often will go motorless and paddle if they are just visiting an anchorage for a single night. With our friends on board we caught up on the past two days spent on our respective boats and of course talked about our current amusement park-like anchorage. Beck said when she looked over at Starship she could actually see our keel flash in the roll. They had decided to use their fancy "Flying Fluke" anchor to anchor their stern into the oncoming swell. A "Flying Fluke" is a nifty anchor that is designed to glide through the water upon release and embed itself in the bottom at a distance from a boat, thus eliminating the need to paddle out in a dinghy to set a stern anchor. It sounds too good to be true, but they reported that their "Flying Fluke" did its job and that their stern anchor had calmed their boat somewhat. We also considered deploying our stern anchor in the more conventional fashion, but decided that the roll would soon abate. We were wrong.

Before they departed Starship we agreed with Graeme and Rebecca that if the roll continued, we would head off for Lamen Bay, just another eight miles north. It was also a wide open bay and would be easy to anchor, even if we had to drop the anchor in the dark.

Preparing dinner was a challenge, but the real fun began at dish time. Plates were flying, glasses were skidding across the counter, and cutlery was bouncing around. All I could think about was finishing the dishes so I could rest. We did finally finish the dishes with no casualties, but rest did not come easily. As the boat rolled on through the night, anything not wedged into place jumped and rolled around building to unbelievably loud crescendos of noise. Halyards smacked the mast and Starship serenaded with all her secret squeaks and moans and groans. I was up at least twice in the night to tame objects that had come to life. In the end I was lucky to have managed two hours of sleep. Pam probably had even less with her proclivity for insomnia induced by the slightest noise. Pam's simple description of the night was 'trying to sleep in a torture chamber'.

Dawn finally did come. I know this as I was up to greet the sun. With the new day calm was not restored in the anchorage. We never had a break as we weighed anchor in sloppy swell, eager to move on further north, in search of calm, our sanity, and perhaps a dugong.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Journal Entry - September 9, 2008 - Port Havannah , Efate

Author: Pam

After three fun weeks in Port Vila we finally broke away and are on the move again. We left Port Vila at 0915 and motor sailed around the corner to Port Havannah, arriving at 1330. We had 9 to 19 knots of wind, unfortunately on our nose. Motoring wasn't really a bad thing after being on a mooring for three weeks, Starship's batteries needed a good drink.

We had to make four attempts at anchoring, which I must say is unusual for us. First attempt we ended up too close to Listowell Lady, second attempt the anchor did not set and we continued going backwards in reverse and the third attempt the chain got caught in the windlass. There was only one other boat in the anchorage, so there was plenty of room for our trials and errors.

Port Havannah is recommended as a good stop to make the passage to Revilou Bay on Epi Island a nice day sail. Since we were only staying one night and the village is a bit inland we decided not to deploy the dinghy. We spent the afternoon reading about the Banks and Torres Islands at the top of Vanuatu and finishing up a few chores. It was very hot and it only took Scott about 15 minutes to go for his I have arrived, the anchor is set swim. I wasn't up for a swim so I spent the afternoon trying to find the right lack of clothing, which proved to be a challenge. Of course just after I put on my bathing suit top and a pereo I looked out and there was a guy in a dugout canoe headed straight for the starboard side of Starship, where I had also hung 13 pairs of my underwear to dry on the lifelines. The people of Vanuatu are very shy and seemingly quite modest, I immediately felt under dressed as I sat on the side of the boat with no where to go, I had been seen I was sure. He approached the boat and offered me some tomatoes, not to buy, as a gift. I said one would be lovely, but he gave us four. Scott had a nice fishing hook handy, which he offered and Reuben accepted with a smile. His kanu (canoe in Bislama) was huge. It took him two months to make it out of a Milk Tree (or white tree). It had pieces of wood lashed in the center where he could put the fish he catches, which he said there are plenty. Reuben told us 30 people live in his village and 15 of them are children. We bid him goodbye and I took the opportunity to bring in my knickers (as they say in Australia and NZ), you really never know who might drop by.

The anchorage was dead calm and remained so throughout the night and once the moon came out it was beyond perfect. Starship did not move or make one sound all night and we had a blissful night's sleep.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Journal Entry - September 8, 2008 - Our Stay in Port Vila

Author: Scott

Port Vila on Efate Island in Vanuatu is everything we imagined and more. During the past three weeks Port Vila has been our home, and though we had heard so much about this bustling small city in the South Pacific, we were delighted to personally discover the charm Vila has to offer.

Port Vila, like many other island towns and cities, is situated along a main road. Most streets do not venture far off of this main thoroughfare. The city is alive with transportation, mostly small jitney buses that are designated with a "B" for bus or "T" for taxi. A bus is a shared ride for 100 VT per person and will usually take you directly to the door of your destination. Taxis are exclusive to your needs at modest rates. Anyone wishing a ride would never be waiting long as these enterprising vehicles are always scouting for fares. The traffic in Vila is almost always bustling in the city center. Once outside of town the roads quickly turn to dirt and with the exception of the main road, diminish down to small dirt tracks, some leading into the hills and center of the island.

Poised in the center of town is the marketplace. A concrete slab with a large overhanging roof serves as the city's market. People from around the island bring in produce for sale, often sleeping in their stalls at night to avoid the trip home. The market also hosts a lively street food business, with long picnic tables surrounding makeshift kitchens. While walking around the market's food stalls there are wafts of all sorts of smells, some good and some not so good. The flies are a constant challenge to these entrepreneurs and it seems like some people are hired just to wave banana leaves over the offerings to keep the flies away. Most of the produce available for sale at the market is tropic climate fruits and vegetables such as bananas, papaya, coconuts and taro. There are also some lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum, beans, and onions. One day we even came across ripe raspberries.

Fanning out in both directions from the market are various restaurants and shops ranging from glitzy duty free shops to basic shops such as the local butcher and plumbing supply store. There are a number of grocery stores in town with the two Bon Marches leading the way as the most up market option. We also found good deals at Centrepoint Market.

The restaurants in Vila are plentiful and wide ranging. You can get a decent cheeseburger at Jill's American Grill and at the Waterfront Restaurant. The Waterfront Restaurant also makes quite good Mexican food (for the South Pacific) with chicken tacos and nachos among my personal favorites. At night the Waterfront Restaurants pulls out the tablecloths and becomes a decent dinner spot, complete with live entertainment, that eventually heats up to night club levels after ten. Another favorite spot is the Numbawan (number one) Café on the beach near the anchorage. Ivan the proprietor has done a fine job of capturing the cruising essence with his outdoor environment with tables and chairs on the sand, overlooking the bay. On Wednesdays and Sundays he offers a free beachfront movie that serves as Vila's only cinema. Throw in free wireless Internet after three and you have a recipe for a successful cruiser hangout. Throughout Vila there are also many move dining options ranging from the budget minded to the extreme gastronomic experience.

We found the yachting facilities on Vila to be adequate and charming in the spirit of a far away destination. Yachts have the option of anchoring in the north or mooring in the south. You can also opt to tie up med moored style on the sea wall. Yachting World is the provider of both moorings and space along the sea wall. They also include cold to warm showers, and manage the fuel dock. Also available in the Yachting World vicinity is a well run Internet Café and laundry for hire in the Yachting World office. A load of laundry costs 800 VT or about $8.00 for wash and dry or 450 VT for wash only. A real benefit to using the Yachting World moorings is the close proximity to Irriki Island. Irriki Island is a resort on a small island that spans the mooring fields. Yachties are welcome to use the facilities as long as they are paying customers for drinks and the occasional meals. The island makes for a beautiful stroll, there are two pools, sailboat and kayak rentals tennis courts, fair snorkeling, two decent restaurants and a spa. It was a real treat to get to hang out by the pool, dipping in the chilly fresh water.

This Log-Blog entry would not be complete without mentioning kava. Kava is a root that grows rampantly in the South Pacific. When crushed and mixed with water the kava root produces a numbing and euphoric sensation. Although just as much of a drug as alcohol or marijuana, kava is a legal substance in Vanuatu, and widely used by the inhabitants. Kava can be purchased at a kava bar or 'Nakamal'. This is generally a hut or small building with a counter and kava kept in a barrel and ladled out to customers into 'shells' or bowls. Kava is prepared in a number of ways throughout the islands ranging from chewing the root, then spiting it into a banana leaf and filtering water through the leaf. The group sharing the kava would then be united through saliva and not just the experience. Kava is also ground in a meat grinder or pounded with a stick in a tube, then water is filtered through it. It is unanimously agreed upon by the locals that Vanuatu has the strongest kava in the world (Tanna kava being the strongest of all), and the method of chewing the kava is known as the most potent way to experience the effects.

Of course I could not leave Vanuatu without trying this experience, as they say, 'When in Rome…". It was suggested that to truly feel the effects I should have at least four shells, and I had five. Upon drinking the first shell I could immediately feel a numbing sensation in my mouth and throat, similar to Novocain at the dentist. By the time I finished all five shells I could certainly say that I felt mellow and a bit numb. I would not compare the sensation to drinking alcohol, I felt very clear headed, but I was also happy to just sit and chill out. I probably could have just sat there for eight hours in fact.

During our time on Efate Island we did have a chance to tour the island. Rebecca's mother Mary came for a visit and we were invited to join them for a day trip in a hire car, designated with an H on the license plate. Although we found the island to be slightly unspectacular with much of the view obscured with thick jungle and coconut plantations, we did happen across a spectacular spot called "The Blue Lagoon". This private lagoon in owned by a local village and offers the use of the lagoon for a nominal fee. The water here is a crystal clear aquamarine brine mixture of fresh spring and tidal salt water. The lagoon is an inlet from the sea with rocky shores that snake their way back to the head of the little bay. There are basic toilet facilities, a makeshift changing room (with a black plastic bag curtain), picnic facilities, and best of all a rope swing over the water. Graeme and I took full advantage of the swing, and I made a spectacle of myself posing as a lizard on a branch and inadvertently falling off the branch into the cool water.

While in Vila we did manage to finish up a few projects on Starship. We hired a mechanic to oversee the first independent servicing of our engine. The mechanic who showed up was named Alex and he was quite a character, having lived the last twenty years in Papua New Guinea. Alex shared a number of yarns with us, and was tremendous at providing me with helpful tidbits about diesel engines. By the time he left, I had learned much in the four hours he was aboard Starship and his generosity continued as he would only accept payment for two hours of labor. We also had our mainsail repaired in a few places by Eric who lives on a boat with his family. We found Eric to be serious, knowledgeable and friendly. As we prepare to depart Vila we feel that Starship is in very good condition to face the remote areas we will be sailing to.

When I think back it is hard to believe that we have spent three weeks in Port Vila. The time has gone quickly and it seems that we have been constantly busy. I think Vila is still a loosely kept secret for a wonderful vacation for anyone wishing to taste the South Pacific, either on or off a boat. The people though sometimes shy are wonderfully warm and friendly. I see a day when the island will reach a level of tourism from Australia and New Zealand that will rival Hawaii; you can already see it in the escalating property values. For now Port Vila is it a magical place and well worth a visit.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Journal Entry - August 17 - 18, 2008 - What do we do with these pumpkins?

Author: Scott

Tonight we are enroute to Port Vila, the largest city in Vanuatu. It is a beautiful sailing night with gentle winds on our starboard beam. We have spent our last day and a half at Dillon's Bay on the island of Erromango.

Dillon's Bay was our only stop on Erromango Island as there are limited accessible bays on the island. The bay was open and very exposed to the west, but with a short exception where the winds blew from the north, southeast trade wind conditions soon settled in leaving Starship well protected in this somewhat rolly anchorage. At the head of Dillon's Bay is a river that runs inland, with a village meandering along the northern shore. The island is densely forested with tropical vegetation and looks green as far as the eye can see.

Our first night on Erromango was spent settling in to the anchorage. We did not deploy the dinghy but I did have my customary swim. Pam even got wet and we swam over to LL to say hello. The water was deep blue with a very clean white sand bottom below. We did not see a single fish. After the swim we treated ourselves to a shower. Graeme and Rebecca came over for a sunset chat and Pam and I had a quiet night onboard in anticipation of the next day's visit to the island.

This morning we woke up, did the morning coffee routine and awaited our lift on LL's dinghy to shore. Graeme zipped us into shore quickly with the need to lift the engine once as we glided with the tide over a reef at the mouth of the river. Once in the river we made our way upstream with the village on our left. Life seemed to be very peaceful on Erromango with traditional huts, mixed with corrugated iron dwellings. Children played and hollered from the banks, women washed laundry in the river, and many villagers were busy at work completing chores.

We tied the dinghy on the bank near a ladder that had been built to make the bank accessible and we all scampered onshore to have a look. Not really knowing where we were headed, we walked along the riverbank inland. As we walked we were soon greeted by Tona, a muscular local man who had been working on the project to build a primary school. He greeted us with a warm smile and said there was not much in the way of vegetables to offer us but that he had some pumpkins to give us. We graciously declined, not wanting to take any food that may be in short supply, but Tona would not hear of it. He told us to keep walking up the road to a swimming hole and that our pumpkins would be waiting on our return journey.

As we walked through the thick jungle bush we came across two cruisers from another yacht in the bay. They gave us more directions to the swimming hole. We also came across some women who were on their way to work in the village gardens.

When we found the swimming hole, the boys as in Graeme and I immediately surfaced. We shed our shirts, cameras, and splashed our way into the water. At first the water was shallow and I crawled through the water like the alligator I am at heart, however the rocks soon dropped away forming a cool deep swimming hole. Pam and Rebecca stayed ashore and basked on rocks in the sun, shooting photos and video of the boys at play.

We were told by the cruisers we met on shore that the swimming hole had rocks that you could jump off and this was our primary mission. Once we found the rocks we were out of the water and jumping before you could say "be careful". Neither of us were very careful but we survived unscathed after jumping and later diving into the deep water. We spent the next ten minutes completely entertained by the fact that our Crocs (shoes) float, and used them as mini boats, of course having Croc races. Our time in the swimming hole was one more example of how a simple, unexpected and yet wonderful adventure is always waiting around the corner.

We dried off and then headed back to the village to see our new friend Tona. As promised he was waiting on the road with big green pumpkins in hand. These were not the pumpkins that we are accustomed to in the states. These dudes were smaller, harder and as I said very green. Apparently these pumpkins are also common in Australia. Pam and I graciously accepted this gift and simultaneously and psychically communicated, 'what do we do with these things? Tona told us a little about the village life. Apparently the village men had mostly given up drinking kava as he explained that it made the men too lethargic. Since making this change, productivity in the village had increased. He also told us that life is very different for "people who are not white". He said, "we must all work hard every day or our families will not eat." We were a little surprised by the frankness in this racially loaded statement, but it was made with simple honesty and no malice whatsoever. At some point in Tona's experience he has simply come to the conclusion that people who visit Vanuatu do not have to work very hard, and these people are mostly light skinned. I couldn't help thinking back to the sometimes twenty hour days, spent in a workaholic stupor, while I toiled away building my business. We also observed that these hard working people were much more articulate than those we met on Tanna and seemed to be more prideful of their village.

Once back onboard we made preparations to depart, but before leaving we were visited by a bright yellow fishing skiff. Onboard the skiff were five young fishermen in search of some gasoline or petrol as apparently the regular supply boat was running late. They offered to pay us a fair price for any petrol we could spare and we gladly sold them five gallons of spare fuel. Graeme on LL did the same and now the boys would have the necessary fuel to take them fishing for a full day's catch.

We departed the anchorage around 14:00 and the ongoing race was on. Both boats hoisted their sail as the sun was setting. We had a bit of a glitch raising the main, that left us a little behind, but in the light wind we quickly kept pace. Both boats photographed each other and we settled into a nice sail as the sun set and the stars woke up for a beautiful night's show.

Tomorrow we will arrive in Port Vila, a small victory for Starship as we have heard so much about this small city in the south pacific making our next step along this awesome road to discovery.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Journal Entry - August 15, 2008 - The Mighty Yasur

Author: Scott

It seems that as I age there are fewer and fewer instances where my expectations are shattered in a positive way. So often reality presents a more monotonous result than the shiny and vibrant expectations my brain conjures. Today was one of the most underestimated adventures I can remember experiencing as an adult. Today we met Yasur, purported to be the world's most accessible active volcano!

Ever since we longed to sail in Vanuatu we have wanted to visit the island of Tanna, home of Yasur. Stories have circulated among the cruising community of the volcano that has claimed the lives of those who venture too close to the active crater. Even after hearing these tales, we really weren't prepared for what we would experience upon viewing the beast. These stories were actually confirmed on the wall of the Tanna Yacht Club, with the numerous government warnings and an account of three people who were killed one evening when a "bomb" flew directly at the viewers. Last year our friends Bob and Dianna on "White Swan" also visited Yasur and they had shared their experience with us, and even their vivid account of their time with Yasur did not prepare us for how profoundly this adventure would embed itself in our soul.

The day started out functional with chores on the boat, not to mention a bit of a sleep in, still trying to catch up on our rest from the passage from Lifou. Pam answered a knock on the boat in the late morning; it turned out it was our first visit from a dugout canoe in Vanuatu. It was Stanley (our guide from our trip to Lenakel) and four of his nephews visiting yachts in search of someone to make a birthday cake for his two year old daughter, Naomi. Pam apologized that we didn't have any cake making supplies on board. So, their next stop was Graeme and Rebecca on Listowel Lady (LL), Rebecca came through promising a chocolate brownie cake.

After our chores and sleep in, we dinghed over to LL and scooped up Graeme and Rebecca for an exploratory hike on the beach, where we hoped to find the steam vents and possibly a hot spring that we could see from the boats. We had a beautiful zip through the bay and landed the dinghy on a calm black sand beach. No sooner had we arrived than we were visited by many villagers and even more children. Pam became an instant celebrity when she broke out stickers for the kids. From a distance you couldn't even see Pam, as she was surrounded by the mass of children. We eventually got our hiking shoes on and extracted Pam from the horde. A woman named Mary offered to guide us to the vents and hot spring and we set off to have a squiz.

Walking through the palm jungle I had the feeling that a dinosaur could meet us at any turn of the path. There were millions of coconut palms, banyon trees, huge ferns and thousands of other species of flora and fauna. We only had time to visit the first vent, but it made a nice prelude to the upcoming volcano trip. The vent spewed up quite a quantity of sulfurous steam, and Mary said that the hot spring further up the trail served as a place for the villagers to wash laundry. The return trip was a little more parlous, as it was downhill, but the trip back gave Pam and me a chance to test out the walking sticks that we purchased in New Zealand.

We had to rush back to the boats to pickup the birthday cake, as we were invited to attend Naomi's party at 15:00. We were slightly delayed as a villager stopped us as we were preparing to depart the beach and asked Graeme to trade gasoline for some fruit and vegetables. Graeme agreed to provide the gasoline, but the man would have to paddle his canoe out to LL because there was not enough room for a fifth passenger in the dinghy. We had a short rest at LL while we waited for the villager to paddle his way out to the boat, but once the gas was provided we were off to land again.

This next visit to land would be our final trip to land for the day. We came equipped with all our cameras and gear necessary for the volcano trip at 16:00. When we arrived to the village we were immediately offered palm frons and woven mats allowing us to sit in the center of the village on the hard pack of dirt. At first we sat with villagers staring from a distance but with little contact, then slowly we were visited by many children, dogs, pigs, and eventually the adults came over to interact. We soon realized that all this attention was due in part to the fact that the truck would be late from town and so therefore our trip to the volcano would be delayed. To further put us at ease and maybe sooth and butter us up a little, we were offered heaping plates of rice, grated papaya cooked in coconut milk, a green gelatinous material cut into squares, and some form of cooked animal that we all secretly hoped was pork. Pam and I had wrapped up a green hat for Naomi and she seemed to like it, at least we think she liked it as her English two year old vocabulary was limited to "hello, hello, HEllO, hello". Graeme and I also took the time to introduce ourselves to Ron the village Chief. Ron is 78, suffers from asthma, and has a very good use of the Queens English. We chitchatted about life in the village and finally it was time to pay for the tour and meet the truck. Although we did eat in the village we never did really participate in the birthday festivities.

When the truck arrived we learned that the vehicle would be different from the truck we rode to town in the previous day. This truck was a little more rickety looking with a metal cage of bars over the back to hold on to. The four of us were joined by Jim and Martha from the day before and another American couple. This made eight in the back of the truck, a squishy fit. The ride to the volcano was as jarring and abusive on the backside as the trip the day before. We also soon discovered that though the cage of bars around us gave us something to hold on to, they turned out to be a brain bashing addition to our experience riding in the rolling torture chamber. The ride out to the volcano took nearly an hour and we were in near darkness upon our arrival.

The parking lot for the vehicles is about a quarter mile from the crest of the crater. The entire terrain has a mars like quality, amplified under the bright moonlight of a nearly full moon. I would have felt right at home if were wearing space helmets, talking on radios, with our ray guns strapped to our sides. Instead we were equipped with hiking shoes, flashlights, camera gear, and our trusty walking sticks. Our young driver, suspiciously called our "guide", gave us about two sentences of a warning: "If a bomb flies in the air don't turn your back and run, just stand and watch it like a cricket ball, and then move out of the way". Oh great I thought, this visually impaired guy has been hit by just about every kind of ball imaginable and now I would be dodging hot lava with my incredible low-vision ball tracking prowess. I was in trouble!

The climb to the crater is steep with the path strewn with rocks from prior explosions. I kept thinking that I could be standing where each of the rocks came to earth, this experience was definitely a flirt with the odds, but unlike winning the lotto, when you get hit by the unlikely molten bolder you don't become a millionaire, you just become squished and dead.

As we climbed the hill an eerie silence fell over us all, and our exuberance from earlier turned to solemn whispers. There is something about potential danger that makes people quiet. From our vantage point, down the hill from the mouth of the crater we could see huge puffs of smoke with a red glow at the base of the crater. As we drew nearer we could hear the rumble of the volcano and with each stop closer we could hear the thud of projectile rocks striking the ashy surface of the crater, and those thuds didn't sound all that far away. I was walking with Graeme and Pam was walking further down the hill with Rebecca and as we made each stop to wait for the others to catch up I could hear more and more lava "bombs" landing closer.

When we finally reached the vantage point where the other viewers were gazing fixedly down the mouth of Yasur, I had the briefest of seconds to think 'now that red pit of lava doesn't look so bad', when to my complete terror the ground beneath my feet shook with a tremendous roar. The red semi-safe looking lava exploded before my eyes. It was like someone turned on a sun-strength blow torch and we were going to be barbecue. I remember thinking "holly s---" and unconsciously stepping back. The torrent of fire shot straight up hundreds of feet in the air, and lava bombs fell all around us, somehow just falling short of our vantage point. Someone in the crowd eeked out a shaky "that was the best so far tonight". I actually thought "this isn't safe maybe we should go". Just then, the column of fire died down, I caught my breath, and as if to underscore my concern for safety and survival, Yasur erupted again with an equal furry. This next blast seemed to freeze my brain in time, because in the few seconds of the fury, I had time to think with complete clarity. 'How can it be that people are allowed to do this? In the states with hyperactive litigation rampant there is no way this would be allowed. I know that people have died doing the very same thing I am standing here doing, and yet each night people come to witness this incredible spectacle. There is no fence, no net, no return from a step too far forward. Not to mention that at any time a molten blob of lava rock could shoot into the sky and erase any of us from existence. FAR OUT! How can I ever forget this experience? It is the force of nature caught in an instant, the spark that builds worlds, the roots of our existence, unbelievable!' In that instant I knew I was changed somehow.

At some point my own self preservation instinct was lost in the glory of the experience. The eruptions became something that my fear could grasp and I stood transfixed with the others wanting more and staring almost catatonic into the abyss of Yasur. More fire, more thumps, more noise, we want more! At that moment I probably would have stood there fixed in my shoes and been evaporated by a bigger and grander display if it were an option. I have simply never seen something so raw and awe inspiring. So, I stood there as Yasur built up energy and breathed fury into the sky.

I don't remember any of the individual eruptions now, just a stream of waiting, explosion, fire, lava, noise, waiting, glowing, heat, fire. We were all communicating but if there were a tape recorder it would probably sound something like this: "Wow! That is so… Did you see… I wonder… WwwwooooooW! Did you get that? Oh my god… I'm scared!"

The spell for me was finally broken and I came out of my stupor as I heard our driver telling us it was time to go. I think we would have just all stood there glassy eyed through the night if we weren't pried from the spot. We each slowly and begrudgingly turned away from the mighty Yasur and started our trek back towards the truck. With each new fit from Yasur we were stopped in our tracks to whirl around and get a final glimpse at Yasur's wrath. Finally, I was standing by the truck with my memory on rewind and replay.

The trip back was just as bumpy but we were now volcano viewing veterans. The shrieks and protests were cut in half with our minds as numb as our backsides from the potholes. At some point the truck stopped so a young man could jump on the rear bumper hanging on to the cage and Pam quietly pointed out that he was holding on to the metal bars above me with a huge bush knife teetering over my head. 'No problem' I thought, I have faced Yasur tonight, I am invincible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Journal Entry - August 13 & 14, 2008 - Tanna, Vanuatu

Author: Pam

Since leaving New Zealand more than a year ago visiting Tanna and the renowned Yasur volcano has been very high on our list of places we were hoping to visit. However, only after hearing about Yasur from other cruisers did seeing an active volcano find its way to my list of things I might like to do in this lifetime. I can't say I had really thought much about standing on the edge of a volcano while it spews molten rock and ash (possibly in my direction) before adding it to our list of places we intended to sail to.

We arrived in Port Resolution at 0900 and dropped the anchor in what is now our ninth country we will have the privilege of visiting. We are flying our Vanuatu courtesy flag and the yellow Q (quarantine) flag. However, we know that we have to go to shore to organize a trip across the island to Lenakel to check in with the authorities. Once we were comfortable that the hook was set, we deployed our dinghy and went over to pick up Graeme and Rebecca for a trip to shore. From the anchorage there was no sign of Yasur, but there were at least two visible vents on the hillside overlooking the anchorage exhaling white smoke.

We landed the dinghy on the beach next to a path that we decided not to take and headed along the beach towards where we all thought the yacht club might be located. We found a path that took us into a small village where a few men were seemingly "hanging" around. We asked for information on where we would find the person who organizes the trips across the island for yachties. They explained the truck had gone across the island for the day, but they would let the driver know we needed a lift and that we should be at the yacht club at 0800. They then directed us to the yacht club, which incidentally was at the top of the path where we had parked the dinghy.

As we wound our way through the very lush center of the island we encountered children probably walking home for lunch and lots of dogs, pigs, cows, chickens and other animals just meandering around. Along the way we met Mariam who is a primary school teacher, one of the Chief's daughters and Stanley's sister. Stanley was apparently the man we were looking for. According to Mariam he is next in line to be chief, but he is also the man who organizes trips to Lenakel to check in and up to see the mighty volcano. She assured us she would let Stanley know we needed a ride the next day. At this point though we had not talked to him ourselves, we figured we had our bases covered by the multiple people who were now going to let him know of our arrival. We continued walking as a light mist was falling until we came upon the yacht club.

Come to find out and as these things seem to go, we were not surprised to find out The Port Resolution Yacht Club and Cabin was also run by no other than Stanley. The yacht club is a building has a dirt floor, a long table and chairs, a toilet sitting by the door waiting to be installed, two friendly kittens, flags and burgees that yachties have contributed hanging from the rafters all under one thatched roof. You can apparently eat there and buy a cold beer, but that must be only during certain unpublished hours, there was no one about. The cabins overlook the beautiful turquoise water. They are very rustic and the furniture consisted of two cots. There was a separate building with a toilet and shower, with a space for a second toilet, presumably the one hanging about in the yacht club. Satisfied we had accomplished organizing our trip across the island we headed back to the boats to do a few chores and catch a few zzzz's. We have been finding overnight passages quite exhausting, it is not enough time to get into any kind of routine and neither one of us slept well. While we were napping two women off of one of the yachts dropped by Listowell Lady and let them know that Stanley was expecting us at 0700 at the yacht club for our adventure across the island.

We arrived at 0700 to find another couple, Jim and Martha waiting in the yacht club for Stanley as well. Jim and Martha are on a motor launch and they are from Florida. We all hung out and chatted and waited for Stanley who was apparently on island time. He and our chariot arrived at 0800. Now, when I was a kid I loved the rare opportunities we got to ride in the back of my Dad's truck (or anyone else's for that matter). But, nothing could have prepared me and my tail/sit bones for four hours of sitting on a narrow plank with a very thin cushion (that would not stay under my butt) on an almost entirely unpaved and pothole laden road. We headed out giggling at the sight of six yachties and two local guys bouncing and hanging on for dear life in the back of the red pick-up truck that would take two hours one way to reach Lenakel. There was one paved section that may have been two miles long, talk about a short lived relief.

As we reached the center of the island we came around a corner and there was Yasur in all its glory. The foliage abruptly ended as we drove across barren earth of volcanic ash and rocks. We had to shelter our faces as we looked in awe at the smoke and ash spewing out of the top of this mighty dragon and sprinkling down on our heads as we passed by. Wow, we are going to get up close and friendly to that, the concept became real instantly. Tomorrow was going to be one of the most exciting days of my life.

We arrived in Lenakel and the first stop was the bank where we were hoping to use an ATM to get the Vatu (Vanuatu currency) to pay the eminent arrival fees. We all climbed out of the back of the truck with some groans and relief to be on solid ground. That ride was more difficult than most of our ocean passages and we still have to go back, ouch. Ah well, there was not an ATM in Lenakel. We converted the Australian dollars we had and lucky for us Rebecca and Graeme had enough money to make up for what we were lacking. Incidentally, we had tried to get Vatu before leaving New Caledonia and there was none to be had. Once we had the cash needed, we all piled back into the truck and it was reminiscent to climbing back on a horse, at least my tail bone told me so.

We drove a couple more miles to the Immigration office. Stanley apparently rounded up the Quarantine Officer or at least he introduced himself as representing the Quarantine department. As we sat on the front porch of the Immigration Office we were handed forms to fill out for Quarantine and Immigration and we then met with each officer one by one. The Quarantine Officer was very casual and did not seem at all worried about what we had on board. He gave us a form back, which Stanley later said was not valid because he did not stamp it. He didn't have any problem taking our 3000 VT (approx, $30.00 USD). Stanley said he would call ahead to Port Vila and inform them we had all gone through the proper channels. As an aside, this did not happen. Stanley turned out to be basically a kava stoned player, who was not a man of his word and focused mostly on how he could take advantage of his position of power. I was not impressed and I felt badly for the rest of the people in his village who clearly did not benefit from the money he brought into the island. Anyway, I digressed. We paid the Immigration Officer 2000 VT each and were granted a 30 day visa for Vanuatu, with the provision we could extend it if we would like to stay longer. It was approaching 11:30 (most offices and businesses close between 11:30 and 1:00) so we needed to dash off to the Customs office. Actually, the Customs Officer was attending the celebration for the new Education Center that was under way next to the Immigration office, so Stanley rounded him up and he met us at his office. We paid him another 2000 VT and received a sealed envelope from him that we are supposed to deliver to the Customs office in Port Vila.

With our official business completed lunch was our next order of business. We walked down the road a short way to a restaurant overlooking the water. The menu for the day was printed on a chalkboard outside the door, fish, rice and veg for 500 VT ($5.00). We sat down with several locals on a bench at a long table. The restaurant had a dirt floor, open sides and a cat that was winding its way under the table. Plates of food were brought out one or two at a time, there was no need to place your order, just sitting down indicated you wanted lunch. The fish was Lolo, it was nice and had a texture a bit like chicken. A pitcher of watery pink drink arrived and several glasses. It was truly a local food experience. Scott and Graeme cleaned their plates and once again I was not quite as adventurous as I constantly waved the flies off of my food.

After lunch we walked back to the bank so Rebecca could exchange more money, again for the benefit of all of us. We checked out the grocery store and Beck bought ten eggs and some tinned tomatoes. Scott and Graeme bought a couple of Tuskers, Vanuatu beer. The store was probably the only one in town and just had a smattering of tinned food, eggs, potatoes and onions. All of the prices were hand written on scraps of paper on the edges of the shelves. There were also a few house wares and other items, though it was in the same building it may have actually been a separate store, I wasn't quite sure. After lunch Stanley disappeared with the truck, so we waited outside of the store on a rock wall until he and the rest of the gang showed up. We all climbed back into the truck and I must say the thin wooden plank and cushion felt even thinner. On the way back it became an exercise of testing my upper body strength as I tried not to actually sit. We had collected a few more passengers, one guy from Canada who was on holiday for three months in Vanuatu and was headed to one of the cabins at the Port Resolution Yacht Club and several local guys. I think we got up to ten people in the back of the truck, bunches of bananas, kava and other items that were collected along the way, foot room became a commodity.

We stopped at a market on the way back, where Rebecca and Jim bought bunches of corn. Which Rebecca shared, but it turned out to be inedible no matter how long I cooked it. We arrived back at the Yacht Club at 1600 sore, tired, filthy (from Yasur) and totally excited about the plans we made with Stanley to visit Yasur in 24 hours. We paid Stanley our 2000 VT each for the truck ride of our lives and headed back out to our respective boats. Though we were filthy, we cleaned up a bit, but decided we would wait and use our precious water for a shower after we visit Yasur. What a day and we are definitely not in Kansas.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Journal Entry - August 12, 2008 - Lifou, A Special Place!

Author: Scott

Our departure from New Caledonia was made extra sweet after spending one wonderful day and night on Lifou Island, one of the three islands making up the Loyalty islands, a Provence of New Caledonia. After spending a night at sea we arrived at the town of We (way), the capital of the Island Provence, approximately 80 miles northeast from the Havana Pass exit from the barrier reef.

Upon arriving in the bay we learned that there was absolutely no anchoring and the only option was a stay at the small marina or to keep sailing to Vanuatu. We have continued to sail with Listowel Lady, and I am bound to report that after our first day at sea, Listowel Lady is winning the ongoing race, as she reached the bay first. Graeme and Rebecca braved the entrance to the very small marina, and arranged for Lulu the manager of the marina to pilot Starship safely to a berth. The entrance is narrow, curvy and surrounded by hull crunching rocks. As we successfully and independently reached our destination, we welcomed Lulu's assistance parking in this foreboding marina.
Inside the confines of the marina breakwater, we were treated to the bluest water we have seen since the Society Islands. The water was baby blue with a turtle paddling by the stern of our yacht. The fingers were thin and small so Graeme and I attached a stern line to keep our sterns pinned against the fingers of the dock.

Once each boat was settled we decided to nap and have lunch then visit the town to find a bank to get money for our marina bills, and a post office to mail post cards. We rode the local mini bus to town, costing 100 CFP. We found the bank and an automatic teller, but when we finally found the OPT (post office), they were closed for the day. We would just have to send our New Caledonia post cards from Vanuatu, par for the course for the crew of Starship.

We walked back to the boats and were treated to views of traditional huts, a pretty church and graveyard, and best of all a flawless white sandy beach with lovely water of every hue of blue and green. I could not resist the temptation to have a splash in the water that was as warm as most swimming pools. When we finally returned to the boats, Graeme and I had just enough time to dive on our respective boats to give the props and our hulls a good scrub down. We are racing after all and we each wanted to have our boats in prime racing condition. I was down one leg (and a beer) so I was extra keen for a good prop scrubbing.

Our plan for tomorrow is a daylight departure. We will sail all day and night to Tanna Island, Vanuatu, the home of the long awaited Yasur Volcano. Tomorrow we will step out into some of the most remote destinations we will visit on our entire journey. I am so excited that it will be hard to sleep tonight.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Journal Entry - August 10, 2008 - Country Details & Impressions of Nouvelle Caledonie

Author: Pam & Scott

After two months in New Caledonia here are some of our impressions and observations:

We are back in a land of cars driving on the right hand side of the road after being in New Zealand and Australia and trying to adjust to the cars driving on the left. The drivers here in Noumea are not good about stopping for pedestrians and it definitely feels like you take your life in your hands every time you cross the street. It has also been interesting being back in a country where you also pass on the right as you are walking after passing on the left for the past couple of years. It's good for Scott, he never got very good at passing on the left.

Many lights in public building's common areas i.e. hallways and restrooms are on timers, leaving you to often walk into semi darkness looking for the light switch.

On the surface New Cal looks like a dirty town, but as you explore you discover "galleries" which lead from the street to hidden mazes of "up market" (as they would say in Australia) boutiques and shops such as Hermes… The city has a distinct temporary feel to it, almost as if they are preparing in advance for the day that the nickel resources diminish and Noumea fades into a ghost town.

The showers at the marina have buttons you push to turn on the water, and push you must about every ten seconds. This is apparently very French and I suppose a way of conserving water, though I have not figured out how yet. It doesn't seem to change the length of the shower time, it just keeps you busy trying to keep the button pushed before the water actually turns off. It is also not unusual to walk into the "women's or men's toilet" to take a shower and find you are sharing the space with one or more couples sharing a shower and speaking French. The TP holders also have small padlocks; cruisers are apparently notorious for stealing toilet paper, go figure.

When you are out and about in Noumea you encounter many Melanesian woman wearing unflattering but bright colored moo moos. As well as, shops where you can purchase your very own moo moo, or the fabric to make one for yourself.

The internet service throughout the country is very slow and very expensive. We feel like spoiled Americans, but on the other hand we have experienced some incredible internet connections in the middle of nowhere, like Niue island. On Niue you could sit under a palm tree and access a free, fairly fast wifi connection.

The air quality in Noumea is very poor due to the dust from the nickel factory and the smell from the sewage that they don't have a good management system for. It is especially bad at times at the Port Moselle Marina. The running joke on the bad days is that we are all berthed in a dirty toilet.

There is a growing homeless population in Noumea, but we have not gotten to the bottom of why it is growing. We experienced blatant pan handling unlike anything we ever experienced in San Francisco (which is amazing to us). Two times while we were making a withdrawal from an ATM there was someone standing right next to the machine asking for money before we even started to make the transaction. We said "no" and they continue to stand there and ask. We encountered some pretty bold people in SF, but I have never experienced that at an ATM.

The people are very friendly and helpful. When you walk along the marina or any of the docks everyone says "bonjour". It is not the same when you are walking the city streets, but near the water it seems that is what you do. I have also been told that there is much more interest in learning English in the past few years then in the past. The other day we were in line at the grocery store and I had a very memorable and special experience. In front of us was a Dad with his approximately eight year old daughter. She wanted to step between Scott and I to choose the sweets her Dad had finally given in to (kids are kids all over the world) and she said, "excuse me" and "thank you" when Scott moved out of her way. I said "your welcome" and her Dad said to me she is practicing her English. He then asked her if she knew "your welcome", she said "yes". He then asked if we were Australian and was quite surprised when we responded American and that we had sailed from San Francisco. He translated this to his daughter, who then looked at us with wide eyes and a huge smile. She then asked her Dad in French how to say "have a nice day", (which I was amazed that I understood) and we ended our little "practice" session with warm wishes and smiles. It was truly lovely.

The school years are defined and delineated in New Cal differently than in the US. The first six years are primary school (5 - 10 years old), the next four years are college (10 - 15 years old) and the final three years are high school. Many teachers work a maximum of three hours a day.

I had to get a prescription filled here and the language barrier was an example of how you have to be very careful and pay attention to what you think is right. The medication in the US is one pill. Here to meet the dosage it is three that you take all at once. So, when I got back to the boat and opened the box I was expecting three pills (and I was told I should take them all at once, which I knew was right). Well, much to my surprise there were seven pills. So, we went back to the pharmacy to confirm whether I was suppose to take three pills or seven, which seemed wrong. Long story short, yes I was supposed to take three, which is all the Dr. prescribed. But, the pharmacy sells it in lots of seven. I was ok with getting a second dose of three, but what am I supposed to do with the ONE pill left over? "Well, that is how they do it here", was the response.

Food doesn't seem as expensive in New Caledonia as it was in French Polynesia, but it is still quite spendy. We have decided it is comparable to Australia, which we found to be an expensive country. However, fruit and vegetables are very expensive here and the options are definitely limited. I have yet to see a fresh mushroom, though I am sure there are some here somewhere and we saw a small container of strawberries for $15.00 US dollars the other day. I didn't need to have strawberries that badly.

Country Details (from the internet):
New Caledonia was settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was made a French possession in 1853. New Caledonia became an Overseas Territory of France in 1956.
In 1864 France set up a penal colony in New Caledonia. The prison closed in 1897. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s has dissipated. The 1998 Noumea Accord allowed for increased autonomy for New Caledonia over a fifteen to twenty year period. Up to three referenda, carried out between 2013 and 2015, will determine independence from France.
Location: Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. Geographic coordinates: 21 30 S, 165 30 E. Area: Total: 19,060 sq km, land: 18,575 sq km (7,174 sq miles), water: 485 sq km. Coastline: 2,254 km Area - comparative: Slightly smaller than New Jersey.
New Caledonia consists of the main island, known as Grande Terre, the Isle of Pines, the Loyalty Islands and a number of small islands. Grande Terre was part of the giant continent of Gondwana which started to break apart over one hundred million years ago. The Loyalty Islands - Lifou, Mare and Ouvea are atolls.

Climate and Terrain: Tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid. Coastal plains with interior mountains. Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m, highest point: Mont Panie 1,628 m
People Population: 207,858 (July 2002 est.)
The indigenous population of New Caledonia are the Kanaks who arrived in the archipelago around three thousand years ago. New Caledonia is called Kanaky by the Kanak people.

Languages: French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects.
Government: Overseas territory of France since 1956. Capital: Noumea.
Economy overview: New Caledonia has more than 20% of the world's known nickel resources. In recent years, the economy has suffered because of depressed international demand for nickel, the principal source of export earnings. Only a negligible amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 20% of imports. In addition to nickel, the substantial financial support from France and tourism are keys to the health of the economy. The situation in 1998 was clouded by the spillover of financial problems in East Asia and by lower prices for nickel. Nickel prices jumped in 1999-2000, and large additions were made to capacity.
Statistics: Telephones - main lines in use: 47,000. Telephones - mobile cellular: 13,040. Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 5. Radios: 107,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 6 (plus 25 low-power repeaters). Televisions: 52,000. Internet country code: .nc Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1. Internet users: 5,000. Railways: 0 km Highways: total: 4,825 km, paved: 2,287 km, unpaved: 2,538 km. Airports: 29.) Heliports: 6. (these statistics were not dated, but it gives a reasonable example of the size of the population, country and advancements in technology).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Journal Entry - August 9, 2008 - New Caledonia Astern - Vanuatu Here we come!

Author: Scott

This morning we threw off the mooring lines after spending just over two months in New Caledonia, where we were originally only spending about a week on our way to Vanuatu.
Like so many times on this voyage, the unexpected has become the reality and with the experience has come a wide mixture of emotions. On one hand, we certainly were not expecting the damage and expense that came with our Coral Sea crossing and the amount of time and frustration that came with making the necessary repairs. On the other hand, we have met such an array of wonderful and kind people in New Caledonia. Thoughts of our new and special friends have been drifting through my mind all day. I have often said that the voyage determines the destinations and this has been so true for our time in New Caledonia. We will treasure the memories we have from spending time with Nathaniel and Malia, our visit to the Blind Association, our tour of the island with Michel and Viviane, and the warm and hospitable lunch with Michelle and Gerard and their family, just to mention a few of the fantastic memories.

There always seems to be a group of smiling well wishers on the dock when we depart, and today was no exception. Thanks to Brett and Sandy for their help and friendship and goodbye to all of those friends we left waving goodbye on the "Visitors Pontoon". Our first day away from the marina was spent in the rainy New Caledonia lagoon as we followed Listowel Lady south to Port Boise anchorage, a large and calm anchorage positioned at the entry to the Havana Pass, our exit from the barrier reef surrounding New Caledonia.

Tonight we had a delicious barbequed steak dinner. The boat gently swayed on anchor as we were each content with our thoughts of what the next leg of this incredible journey will bring.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journal Entry - July 31, 2008 - Road Trip South

Author: Pam
It is truly a treat when we meet local people who want to show us their home. Michel and Viviane invited us to spend the day with them exploring the southern part of New Caledonia. They picked us up at 0830 as promised and we headed off to see the part of the country where red, blue and green meet.

Our first stop was on the shore of a lake where the red dirt met the blue water and sky with green dotting the background. The color of the soil is a very rich red, due to the rich mineral content. I found it interesting that the most prevalent car color is white, but they all ended up covered in thick red dust. Next we stopped to look at the dam that controls the height of the lake and to have morning tea. Viviane brought a thermos of coffee and some cookies. It offered us an opportunity to share a classic visually impaired moment, when both Scott and Viviane reached for their cookie and ended up with the rocks that were holding down the table cloth within seconds of one another. The rocks were about the same size as the cookies, but definitely would not have tasted as good. We all had a good giggle and when we headed back to the car, Viviane warned us there was a big cookie in the path. The cookie warning continued throughout the day and will now forever be part of our hiking terminology. Cookies have been added to koala's breakfast which is now the warning for low branches, borrowed from the Guide Dog trainers in Sydney. It is definitely more fun to avoid (or trip over) cookies and koala's breakfast, than rocks and branches.

Once back in the car we headed for the village of Yate. On the way we stopped in a small village where we saw the grave of a missionary in the shape of a boat by the edge of the sea. He was from France and when he died they wanted to send him home so they buried him by the sea in his own boat.

The church nearby was lovely, but we couldn't go in because there was a funeral in progress for one of the members of the tribe. As we walked by we heard the traditional Polynesian singing we have heard in churches throughout the South Pacific. Michel introduced us to one of the local woman who gave us permission to have a look at the preserved traditional hut that was just down the road from the church, which is no longer occupied.

Scott was sitting in the front with Michel and they chatted away about New Caledonia and the US. Michel had a habit of turning his head to look at Scott, I think he thought this helped him understand his English better, but it did not work for Viviane. One of the phrases she learned in English was "keep your eyes on the road", which she must have said to Michel twenty times or more throughout the day.

Our next stop was at Gite St. Gabriel a Gite and restaurant in Yate for lunch. Michel and Viviane had called ahead and made a reservation as well as ordered a traditional lunch. The well manicured grounds of the Gite overlooked the ocean through beautiful palm trees. There were very basic cabins that were for rent by the night. The price range depended on how many people and whether you wanted dinner and breakfast included.

After our walk we settled in for our surprise lunch. We were served a salad and the basket of bread that seems to be present at all meals. The main course arrived and Viviane told us it was a traditional New Caledonian style of cooking called "bougnia". It can be any kind of meat or fish wrapped in greens and cooked. To make it even more "local" Michel had ordered fish, which was a reef fish called Dawa. When we were given a plate for the bones, I thought oh no Scott is definitely wishing they had ordered chicken. But, he never ceases to amaze me. He tucked in and cleaned his plate of all of the fish, greens and veggies (potatoes, squash and pumpkin) cooked in coconut milk. I liked the fish (the greens didn't work for me) and the veggies, though I found them a bit rich. For dessert they served a lovely fruit cup and everyone had espresso except for me. It was a culinary experience and very sweet of Michel and Viviane to make it happen. We were the only customers in the restaurant and I don't think any of the cabins were rented out that day.

After lunch we wound our way along the coast to our next surprise. As we hiked a short distance from the car Michel was explaining that he knows the US has lots of things that are big and this isn't quite as big and about that time a beautiful waterfall was cascading in front of us. It is the Goro Falls and they are the biggest in New Caledonia. They were beautiful and I was quite impressed.

Next we found ourselves in the middle of newly constructed dirt roads with no signs. Things had apparently changed since the last time Michel and Viviane had been this way. After choosing to go right and finding out we should have gone left from a construction worker, it only took turning around one more time and two more construction workers to get us headed in the right direction. Michel had hoped to show us the Nickel factory, but that road was no longer accessible. It truly just looked like hills of red dirt to me, I was amazed Michel could even end up on the wrong road, much less the right one.

We stopped at a lookout over Baie de Prony, a very popular and cyclone safe anchorage. We were jealous of the eight yachts anchored as Starship sat in yet another marina waiting for her new dodger. Once back in the car we wound our way down the hill and stopped to walk through a local village. There were about ten homes that are second homes rented by retired factory workers, the lease is for 99 years. They were very basic with no electricity or running water, however there was a creek alongside the road. They were surrounded by lush trees and a well manicured "road" wound its way among them. One of the houses had an anchor in front and Popeye painted on the side of the house. Popeye (although he is the sailorman) seemed very random. There was a lovely banyan tree with a giant root span. Scott's favorite site was the old prison wall, we of course have pictures of him behind bars.

The last box to check for our tour was to see a Niaouli Tree, we wanted to see the tree that the bottle of Niaouli essence Michel and Viviane had given us came from. Viviane had been reminding Michel all day to keep a lookout and just before dark he spotted one along side the road. We all climbed out and Michel plucked a branch. It has small green leaves and small white flowers. When you pinch the leaf the smell is very similar to eucalyptus. We climbed back in the car with the branch, the leaves can be dried and boiled later.

We pulled into the Port Moselle Marina parking lot at 1800 feeling as though our New Caledonia horizon had been broadened. We had been feeling sad we were stuck in the marina, we were grateful for the opportunity to see the countryside, especially with people as warm and friendly as Michel and Viviane. They left with promises to stop by the following Monday to bring us copies of the pictures they took. Any excuse to see them would be lovely.