Farewells in Efate and Lamen Bay, Epi Island

Mon 28 Sep 2015 21:11
16:35.724S 168:09.59E

Looking at Lamen Island, with Lamen Bay on the far right.

There were things to do. Port Vila was the biggest, most developed place that we would see for a long time so it was our chance to get anything we’d missed in NZ. Luckily some good friends of our from Adina, who had spent the cyclone season in Port Vila (Adina was there during cyclone Pam, happily she came out unscathed, but Tom and Susie weren’t with her, they’d flown to New Zealand to come to our wedding!) got in touch with some friends of theirs, Nigel and Dee, to help us out. They took us up the hill to a Thai restaurant where we got to hear all about the ex-pat communities in Efate, the French and English still very much separate, whilst enjoying a delicious meal over looking the bay, After lunch Nigel drove us all about, he knew where everything was and where everything could be found, and we got done in one afternoon what would have taken us days to manage. 

First call was DHL, to chase a fresh water pump my brother had sent us from New Zealand - we’d finally traced the third water problem, the galley sink has three taps: the hot and cold pressurised water, a foot pump for salt water, and a foot pump for fresh water, to use when you just need a little (or if the pressurised system fails!). The non-return valve in the foot pump that lets the water through to the sink, but doesn’t let air back in, had failed so our pump, instead of sucking water from the tank, was mostly sucking air through this tap.  No wonder it couldn’t build up pressure. All this pumping had tired the old thing out, it was 9 years old or so, and we thought it best to retire it and get a new one whilst we still could. 

Next, after showing us where we’d be able to take our dinghy with gas bottles to refill, was the hospital. We’d stocked up on medical supplies in the chemist in town but had been unable to get malaria treatment packs. We had prophylactics against malaria but had decided not to use them in lower risk areas - we would be in risk areas for maybe 8 months, it’s not good for one to take the preventatives for such long periods but we wanted treatments on board in case we caught malaria. In the mean time we use mosquito nets, anchor away from shore and cover ourselves with deet if we go ashore in the evenings. One advantage to this strategy is that you won’t get itchy mosquito bites as well as not getting malaria.

After that, the fishing shop, we’d not been able to find reasonably priced fishing line, both to trade and to use, Nigel knew where to go however. It was there that we found THE TREASURE, which I’m not going to tell you about until we catch a fish with it, which we haven’t, yet, but we will.

Then the hardware store, for, amongst other things, blackboard paint. I was a teacher, I know the frustration of trying to use a blackboard when the paint’s gone all shiny and the chalk won’t bite. I’ve been a student, I know the frustration of trying to see faint chalk on a shiny blackboard. Armed with out blackboard paint, we are going to transform the teaching and learning experience for hundreds of teachers and students across the SW Pacific! And, last, but not least the supermarket, for vacuum packed frozen beef that we’d pre-ordered, wine, beer, exercise books for school kids, men’s shorts for trading and some things Adina had asked Nigel to get and us to drop off for particular people on particular islands along the way. Nigel delivered us and all our shopping right to the dinghy, making everything effort free. Thank you again Nigel, for being such a help.

All equipped we headed back to Havannah Harbour to drop off some bits and pieces to the villagers and trade for some of their good vegetables. We’d got a Digicel phone card for Kalo to help him make progress with his iPhone and I’d been able to download a program that would transfer apps from one iPhone to another. You see, you have to have an ICloud account to download apps from the app store, but to make an account you have to have either an iTunes gift card, an electronic iTunes gift or a credit card. Kalo had none of these things, we’d seen no iTunes cards in Port Vila and we couldn’t gift him something as we’re on the UK iTunes not the Vanuatu one (which isn’t even on the list of possible countries anyway…) so it doesn’t work… You get the picture. When we explained what we wanted to the chap in the Digicel shop he couldn’t believe a man from the Moso island had an iPhone. "From the villages?" he kept asking. 

Kalo and his son Stanley spent some time on board with us whilst we waited for his wife and some other ladies to return from working in the Port Vila market. Stanley is an absolute delight, he has a real spark about him and loved being on board, entertaining himself happily whilst we battled with technology. Phil took the opportunity to introduce him to a little technology whilst his Dad picked up the ladies, who all came on board to enjoy drink cocoa or coffee and eat chocolate cake I’d made. 

Stanley discovers the iPad!

I’d filled the cake with canned peaches and coconut preserve (sounds strange but it worked!) and they were trying to work out what these strange delicious fruits were, that looked like mango but weren't - they’d never eaten peaches, they don’t grow them in the tropics for some reason. We were glad to dig some more out of a locker for them to take with them, these folk had introduced us to so many new foods, it was good to be able to introduce them to some. When they waved goodbye Kalo took some photos of us on his iPhone, it was lovely to have the local folk taking pictures of cruisers on an iPhone instead of the other way round.

We pulled up the anchor and headed out for an overnight passage, this time to Epi Island. It was the night of the red moon eclipse in England, and we had a glorious downwind sail passing all the smaller islands in the moonlight. 

Ngouna by moonlight. Of course the moon looked much much bigger in life - why do they always come out tiny when you take a photo? (Except for those ridiculous telephoto lens ones with huge huge moons and a wolf in the foreground.) 

Despite only sailing with a very small jib and a reefed mizzen we arrived too early and hove to outside the bay to wait for morning. We decided to drop the sails and motor into the bay and I’m glad we did - there were really strong currents swirling through the gap between Lamen Island and Epi, we had to crab our way across, aiming much higher than our course, until we suddenly got out of the current’s grip and shot forwards. It’s a pleasant, busy bay. We stayed aboard, catching up on sleep, watching the activity on the shore around us and enjoying turtle spotting. We left in the early evening for another over night trip up to Malakula. It felt like we’d been a long time in Efate and we were glad to be making headway North again.