WE arrived at the Maskeleyne Islands around 8am. This is where the majority of the ni-Vanuatu crew are from. Traditionally known as Uluveu, the islands are made up of raised limestone with its coastline protected by jagged edges.
The interior part of the island has fertile soil, where they plant their staple foods and the ever lethal piper methysticum or yaqona.
We spent Saturday night in the small bay that shelters the villages from the elements. The coastline is lined by the more tolerant mangroves on the windward side and casuarina, pandanus and other coastal shrubs and trees on the leeward. Creation never ceases to amaze.
Skipper represented the fleet on shore so he took our grog warriors of matua Joe Browne, Manasa and Jim with him. All got back safe and readily joined on deck in our newly-opened "bubble gum bar", managed by none other than Iva. I notice once again the full attendance of our watch team, ably led by Tukana and Seru. Aggie-tello (our ninja turtle twin to Donnatello) supplied the growing numbers with "chasers".
The other groggies on deck were Ben, Peni, Richard and Mausio for a while only.
Joining in were the ladies of the Gaulofa and Evoe (the support yacht of the Pacific Voyagers). Lots a powder on board; lots a laughter and talanoa; lots a doped people by morning's end.
Rudely awoken by skipper at 6am for preparations to the village of Sangalai for our official welcome by the three villages of Uluveu. Another rousing welcome put forth by the people. There were many highlights including the garlanding by the schoolchildren, the welcome speech by the chief and in particular the string band who sang the "Welcome to Vanuatu" song. This brought much applause. Our church service for the Sunday was held with the villagers on shore. The local pastor read from Psalm 9: 9-10. "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." He shared of how the arrival of the Pacific Fleet is godsend, especially when we are facing environmental, social and health problems, some never witnessed before.
In response to the welcome and service, Tua Pittman stated how happy we were that the vaka brought messages of hope for the people, but especially the children, to reaffirm their belief in their God, traditions, cultures and knowledge-based systems, most of which have been tested and passed through time.
After the hearty lunch of pork, beef and the local staple of dalo and uvi, Seta, Manasa, Seru, Peni and I returned to the Uto ni Yalo to repair the genoa (head sail) before we depart for Espiritu Santo to get our customs and immigration clearance. Sails up at 1600 hours for the 50 or so nautical miles journey. We weaved and snaked our way through the passages and little islets of the Maskeleyne's after saying belam (goodbye) to our hosts over two days.
The Maskeleyne Islands was our second stop on this leg of the journey. After three days of sailing from Fiji to Port Vila, I was looking forward to making landfall, not because of sea sickness or loneliness, or because of the toughness of the work on board, but just so I can claim to have completed one leg. This trip has already far exceeded my expectations spiritually, physically and emotionally. Again, I can only imagine the oneness my young, yet experienced crew have with the Uto ni Yalo, their brothers and sisters on board, the matua and skipper, let alone our great and vast Pacific Ocean.
I wish one day you can all get to go on a voyage as such. In the meantime, our prayers continue to be with you all, as we know yours are with us too. Until the next blog, here's your Uto ni Yalo sons and daughters shouting from deck, "over and out Fiji". One ocean, one love!