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.