9 years ago, suffering from serious work related burn-out, I decided I needed a scuba diving holiday break, away from work. The only one that I could find online for next week, was diving the wreck of the SS President Coolidge, a 200mt cruise liner that had sunk, just outside Luganville (Vanuatu) in WW2.
While here I decided that I could not keep working with the stress levels that I was carrying at the time.
2 years previously my plant micropropagation business, that had been growing organically since I started it 25 years previously, was then at a size that was consuming 120% of my mental capacity, with 18 staff. Then one of my customers made me a very lucrative offer to put my starter cultures and Intellectual Property, into a laboratory he was working with in Indonesia. It ended up being a one week in three in Indonesia endeavor, with every second trip including visiting another laboratory in Thailand (plus visits to China, India and Malaysia to explore using laboratories there to outsource production). I did make it happen, but the mental effort was overheating my brain, to the extent that you could have fried an egg on my forehead.
While in Vanuatu (all those years ago) I decided that I could not continue working with that much stress. So, when I came back to Oz, I opted out of all the overseas stuff and bought a 40ft yacht, which I referred to as my “nicotine patch, for a work addiction”. My youngest daughter Phoebe, wrote a lovely essay in her first year of university on her father’s love of making mistakes, because he learns a lot more from his mistakes than his successes. and Boy did I learn a lot while owning the boat I renamed Eden Sur La Mur ( can you imagine saying that repeatedly on a staticky 2-way radio, and expecting someone to understand what you said…..lesson leant…… Logic is very easy to say and be heard). A 40ft tired ex charter yacht, was the perfect boat to own for 3 years, while I wound my business down and worked out what boat I should buy.
2 years after my first trip to Vanuatu, I had closed the doors on Benson Micropropagation, to then work on getting a Development Approval to put townhouses on the land the laboratory was on. Which lead to find and buying Logic, which then lead to giving all my goods and chattels to my eldest daughter Kate and her then fiancé (now husband) Jackson, to embark on a life as a boat living, cruising yachty.
I an now repeatedly pitching myself to make sure It is not a dream, that I am living the dream, that I had as a 15yo boy.
This was all bought home to me in one of those delightful serendipitous coincidences, that have occurred throughout my life, read on to find out what it was…….
I left Uri Island, to sail up to Luganville to top us with diesel and re-provision with food. There is no fuel dock in Luganville, so I had to jerry can it from the petrol station.then get a taxi, to take them back to AlbertI got talking to the taxi driver, Fabrice, who told me that his children were getting baptised in the catholic church tomorrow (Saturday), and he would enjoy having me there.
Also in Luganville were my friends from Lakona Bay on Gaua, who were still waiting for transport to get them home from the National Cultural Festival (that finished 4 weeks prior). This fact needed to be celebrated, so Chief Christopher and I headed off to the market, too buy some kava for a session the next day.Fabrice and I went on a kava bar crawl, that eveningOn the taxi ride, in the morning, to the church for the baptism, I drove past the accommodation I stayed in all those years ago (with a mental note to come back for a coffee, after the baptism)The church was rather gloriousinside, as well as outsideit had celibated it’s 100 year anniversery, 12 years agothe children were very well behaved, for their water shockThere is something rather special about being in a country were the family buys a bolt of material, to turn it into matching cloths for the whole family, using a hand powered sowing machine as I have become use to, they love having me in their photos then it was back to the Coral Quays Resort.
This the very bungalow I was staying in, when I made that momentous decision, all those years ago.with all the associated memories, of staying here
then I had to juggle the post Baptism party and a kava session with my friends for Lakona Bay, on the other side of townTaxi there, a couple of shells of kava, then a taxi back to the Baptism Party (250vatu ($3AUDs)each way). Where I had a loverly 2 hour conversation with Fabrice’s policeman brother Georgie. Can you imagine what it like to be a policeman without a revolver on one hip, a taser on the other and pepper spray, in there somewhere. It was a very enjoyable and informative conversation.
Next morning I went to Saint Teresia’s for mass.
There always a kaleidoscope of colour on the female side of the churches in Vanuatu
when I was in Big Bay, a few months ago, Chief Bill and I had agreed, that he would sail with me down the west coast of Esperito Santo.
Time for me to get up there.along the way I added a nice 5kg Dog Toothed Tuna, to the list of species that I have caughtthis photo typifies Big Bay. The SEly trade winds cant get into here, so it is flat seas, unlike anywhere else in Vanuatu. The peninsualars either side are tall and usually cloud toped. Plus there is a youth paddling one of my SUPs around John Peter and his family are from Ambae. Ambae’s volcano had a major eruption last year, forcing the evacuation of all the people who lived on the island. John Peter and his family are now living in Big Bay. Far from ideal for a people who have a multi-generational cultural attachment to their traditional lands. He was looking very forlorn, so I invited him out to Logic to watch videos on the laptop.unbeknown to me he had taken the day off school, to see if he could do some bonding with me.
At the end of the school day he ran Josephine out to LogicJosopine is the 4th of Cheif Bill and Shelly’s 5 chidren. She has the infectious cheekness that comes with having 2 elder brothers and a sister.the first night in Big Bay, was a movie night on Logic, for about 15, complete with copious popcorn (I was very busy being a host and forget to take any photos).
The second night I went ashore for dinner with the familythe next day we went out fishing in Logic, with Bill’s father, Paramount Chief SolomonBill had more patience than me, so he went off trolling, while I went for a snorkel. There was a flock of 10 eagle rays, cruising around (again should have taken the camera).
After a lot of perseverance Bill landed a 5kg Skipjack Tuna. Which he volunteered me to cook onboard (roasted in the oven), while he went ashore to pick up the pickininies I ended up feeding 20-25 people, boat loads that wanted to see what Logic was like, kept on coming and going.
there had been a strong Southerly in the Tasman Sea, that was now resulting in a big swell on the western side of Esperito Santo, which rules out Bill and my sail down that way, so reluctantly I left, to go down to eastern side of Santo.
I had to spend a few days in Hog Bay, waiting for a lull in the trade winds. Sunday came around, so to continue my education into all the Christian denominations in Vanuatu, I went to service at the Neil Thomas Ministries’ church (NTM). Mr. Thomas spun his ministry out of the Methodist Church. Very Evangelical, with a lot singing and arm waving to a an electric organ/synthesiser.
(if I am back here again on a Sunday, I will walk the extra 10 minutes to the Presbyterian church).
I now needed to get a move on, so as to be be in Lamen Bay on Epi, for my Precious Eldest Daughter (PED) Kate and her husband, Jackson, to fly in, in 10 days time. Which involved waiting for lulls in the upwind trade winds, to put in big days, then waiting for the next lot of lull days.
I got too an anchorage within walking distance to Olal on the next Friday (the forecast for the weekend was 25-35kts, which would not have felt comfortable, anchored off Olal).
Massing and Rah, came past in a banana boat, asking if I had any old rope. I had replaced a couple of tired mooring lines earlier in the year, keeping the old ones, for just such a request. So the boys said they would come back with some fruit to trade them for.not just a heap of fresh fruit, but decorated with fresh flowers……. this is a very special country.
Come Sunday I did the 45minute walk to Olal, to St. John’s church for mass with Father Fabian.I got to read the second readingFather Fabian, as he did when I went to mass here last month, had a very poignant Gospel reading (which he did in English for me) and an attached sermonThe Gospel reading he chose, was very relevent to were the world is at, at the moment.
Luke 16 (1-8)
The story of the dishonest steward.
He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”
I most certainly think that the villagers of Vanuatu are the “the sons of light”, happy to let the “sons of this world” think they are “shrewd in their generation”, because that shrewdness does not create inner happiness.
The French speaking Roman Catholic Villages of Vanuatu , and in particular Father Fabian, have has a profound impact on me, this cruising season.
The Sister’s of Mary, blow the keyboard/synthesiser of the NTM, out of the water.
This blog post ended up taking me quite a while to finish off, because I did not just “do it“. I did it in a way that reflected my personality (who I am). I have learnt so much and grown as a person, over this journey, which is what life should be about.
2 more sleeps and I get my own (biological) pickininie fix, when PED and Jackson fly in (hopefully the wind does as forecast and drops from 30kts, gusting 38kts), for their 11 days on Logic.
Barry (from last year’s Frazza) and Bruno, fly into Port Vila on the 13th of October for the passage back to Oz.
Time to start seriously planning this southern hemispheres’ summer escape, to a northern hemispheres winter. I have never done a full on White Christmas, which is on the wish list, as is an Irish ROAD TRIP, being in Dublin for Saint Patricks Day (17th of March). There is a lot of days between those two dates, so if anyone has any idea or wants to come along for those trips or anything else in-between, please get back to me.
I need to be back in Oz, in late March 2020, to get Logic ready to head back over to Vanuatu in May, to re-visit all my “relatives”.
If you think you can enhance my enjoyment of next years’ cruising season, please let me know.