Friday, August 31, 2007

LIfe in Port VIlla, Vanuatu

What's old is new again... Singer Sewing Machine

I've been wanting a sewing machine for a long time and finally found one that works on universal power. Hand crank power that is. You must crank with your right hand and guide the material with your left... much more difficult than a power machine that allows you to use two hands. None the less I'm getting the hand of the machine and although slow it works great. This is the same model Singer my grandmother used and perhaps my great grand mother. The machine works great for basic projects and I have plans for cushion covers and lots of little repairs around the boat.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chief William get's a ride to Port Villa

The chief asked for a ride from Dillons bay to Port Villa. It was a fast overnight twelve hour sail. Unfortunately, the chief did not feel well... other wise a great privilege to help out the chief a member of the high council here in Vanuatu.

Sacred places

Kathy entering one of the ancient burial tombs for commoners.

Dave in upper cave housing the remains of the cheifly lineage.

Joe the future chief is the direct decendent of these skeletal remains.
Joe describing the "death table" where if you were unwell or mortally wounded you would be brought here to die on this stone within the commoners burial cave.

Sandal wood trade

Ten year old tree. Joe Mete the future chief of Dillon Bay.
Twenty five year old tree prepared for market. This wood will bring 1000vatu per kilo or about 10USD per kilo (2.2lbs). Smaller younger trees bring 600-700 vatu per kilo. The wood is processed to yield sandal wood oil.
Logger with a days work of wild foraged sandal wood. Good money can be made in the short 3 month open season. Forward thinkers are planting trees for the future and this may make them rich men in 15 to 20 years.

Scales keepers/buyers.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Birthday dinner

Unpongkor (Dillon's Bay), Erromango Island, Vanuatu

Jif (Chief) William N. Mete and his wife Marta generously invited us in for dinner and live music ashore. We arrived to find temporary building elaborately decorated with fresh brightly colored and aromatic flowers. Benches lined one side of the hut measuring twelve by twenty feet and opposite, a generous fifteen foot long table resplendent with heaping platters of local fare. Jif William warmly welcomed our small group and then shared some of the islands tumultuous history of fierce tribal wars, ruthless European traders, cannibalism and the arrival of missionaries whom were sometimes eaten. Jif William then smoothly transitioned to his vision of the future and outlined the steps to ensure traditional values and lifestyles are maintained while embracing the inevitable and ever-present rush of change. We were all very impressed with the seventy five year old Jif's leadership and youthful vigor After a pre-dinner prayer I was invited to cut my birthday cake and the fifteen person band led a rousing and unique rendition of "happy birthday". The Jif's wife then adorned me with a special birthday scarf and flower lei and ceremoniously powdered my face with white powder of some sort. Then we loaded our plates with sumptuous island fare and enjoyed hours of traditional music and great conversation.

Dillon Bay, Erromango Island

David a village elder, local baker and fruit paddler (delivering fruit and fresh bread to boats at anchor. We traded some rice, canned tuna, fish hooks and fishing line for fresh fruit and bread. The next day we went for a 3 hour walk to David's garden in the bush to obtain some yams and papaya.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dave's B-day, Dolphin swim & Fish story.

Dillon Bay, Erromango Island, Vanuatu
18 degrees 49 minutes South by 169 degrees 0 minutes East

Dave's birthday in Dillon Bay. I started my b-day with a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs and boiled yams followed shortly thereafter with a freshly baked birthday cake. Sitting on deck enjoying a beautiful morning and eating my cake too Kathy points out a huge fish jumping across the bay. I spot the "fish" as well and after a few jumps recognizing the "fish" to be a dolphin. I suggest we try for a dolphin swim. Kathy agrees and we quickly grab our snorkel gear and jump in the dingy. We approach the pod of dolphins numbering thirty or so and I shut off the engine and slip into the water. Visibility is exceptional and although we don't get too close we enjoyed the beauty and grace of these creatures from their underwater perspective. Climbing back in and we reposition the dinghy and slip into the water a second time. The dolphins on this occasion tolerated our interactions, but did not appear too interested and kept their distance, so taking our cue we continued our snorkel expedition well out of their area.

Erromango islands' seashore is mostly rugged cliffs composed of volcanic basalt and uplifted sand and limestone. Viewed from the sea the sheer cliffs house hundreds of caves and provide the imaginative mind visions of undiscovered treasures and artifacts waiting within. The caves are all but inaccessible due to the sheer ramparts blocking accent from above or below and further fuel the intrigue. We took a long dingy ride around the bay marveling at jungle topped cliffs. Snorkeling at several different locations was unspectacular in respect to coral, although we noted many large cone shells and looked in vain for lobster in the many cracks, crevices and caves inhabiting the underwater world.

Yesterday on our sail up from Tanna Island we hooked and landed a very large Mahi Mahi a conservative forty five pounds and over five feet long (pictures to follow). After shaving off a few choice fillets for ourselves and a few other yachting friends we delivered the remainder to Chief William for distribution around the village. We are now sipping champagne that Kathy surprised me with as we prepare for dining with the Chief of the local village tonight. Rumor has it a band and dancing will also be assembled for our entertainment. A memorable birthday perhaps rivaling last years festivities at Penryhn island in the Cooks

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Big Mahi Mahi

Monday, August 13, 2007

Departing Tanna for Erromango

Tanna Island, Vanuatu

Last night we had a potluck BBQ at the Yacht club here in Port Resolution. Plenty of good conversation, food and great music provided by the local villagers. Before long everyone was dancing and many young children danced in the shadows just outside the light cast by the single bulb lighting the shelter (i.e yacht club). Kathy and I enticed several of the young girls aged five to eight into the light and taught them some basic swing dancing moves. Today we did some more laundry in the boiling hot water springs on the shore and enjoyed a great lunch of Indian food prepared by Kathy. After lunch we went ashore to visit Lillian and offer her a gift of fish hooks and fishing line and then walked to the outer beach to try to spot some migrating whales. Some friends had seen five swim by earlier in the afternoon. Back on the boat we are making final preparations for an early morning departure to Dillon Bay on Erromango Island about a ten hour sail.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Volcano water laundry day

Tanna Island, Vanuatu

Laundry day with super heated volcano water

Our idea was to utilize the two hundred degree Fahrenheit water flowing form the hot springs on the beach to do some laundry. So, we packed up the laundry basket, soap, large cooler and headed to shore. The idea was to fill the cooler with clothes, hot water and laundry soap. This all went as planned, the only problem being the water was two hundred degrees just twelve degrees shy of boiling. Very hot water making it difficult to agitate the clothes and get them clean. I found the solution to be; a stick to carefully stir the laundry. Foreigners on the beach doing laundry in a thirty two quart cooler attracts attention on Tanna island. No less than five kids and two adults watched attentively at all times laughing at every false move when I might accidentally spill scalding water on myself and do a little pain dance. Just for comparison most homes have their hot water tanks set at one hundred forty degrees. Again, this water is very hot hot hot. I was very careful to avoid sloshes and spills as just a drop on your skin would inflict a slight burn. While we worked on the laundry we also cooked our lunch /dinner of taro root, sweet potato, pumpkin and yam in the same very hot water, but a different, clean pool. Laundry done and perhaps cleaner than ever, we floated the cooler full of steaming wet clothes out to the anchored dinghy and set the clothes to hang dry in the trade wind breeze. A productive day in paradise.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Volcano Hot spring

Local kids swimming.

Young boy casting a fishing net.

Kathy getting advice on the nuance of hot spring cooking.

Taro and kasava cooking in a palm frond basket in 200F volcano powered hotwater cooker.

Local women laundry day. At low tide they would use warm water found lower on the beach and would hang dry the items on low bushes at the edge of the jungle.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Friday Night with Jon Frum

Tanna Island, Vanuatu

Jon Frum Village

After our evening visit to the volcano we headed for a Jon Frum Cargo Cult village. Friday night is as sacred to Jon Frum followers as a Sunday seems to be to Christians. The village focal point was a large open sided hut lighted with the glow of a single kerosene lantern with the balance of the village in complete darkness. The blackness of the darkness of the night quickly swallowed the soft melodious song accompanied by lightly strummed guitars. In the shadows just outside the reaches of the lantern light women danced reverently in a trance like state as grass skirts swished about their knees. Outside of the diminutive yellow light cast by the solo lantern one could just make out the women adorned with intricately dyed brightly colored grass skirts of pink, yellow green and purple. Song after song with similar melodies and unknown lyrics set those of us observing into a mild state of hypnosis. I could barley keep my eyes open after a half dozen songs and after a dozen or so dozed off a bit as we sat comfortably on grass mats within the central hut. After a few hours we slipped quietly away, eventhough we understand the singing and dancing continues until morning light. One quickly recognized that this was not a "Show or Performance", but an opportunity to observe the most sacred worship of the Jon Frum Cargo Cultists.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

More Frum Village

Frum Village

Mt Yasur active volcano at the back door of Cargo Cult Village.

Frum Village life

Making lap lap.

Frum Village homes