Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Our Second Anniversary

Can't quite believe it but 2 years ago today we left Falmouth in company with a certain German boat at the beginning of our voyage - and a great friendship. Our blog, from the day before we left, reads: "We met a really nice German couple in a beautiful 48 ft cutter called Stormvogel. They are doing the same as us and we compared passage plans. We'll set off at the same time so it'll be good to have another boat for company and photos, though their extra length should make them quicker than us (we'll see!). If your German is up to it, they have a really nice website www.wiedekamm.com "

As it turned out, Stormvogel and Maunie proved to be incredibly evenly matched for speed so we shared thousands of miles together; on the 3000 mile passage from Galapagos to the Marquesas we reckoned we were never more than about a mile and a half apart.

Peter and Heidi are currently in Indonesia and the warm weather appears to be making them dress a little strangely, as you'll see if you read their most recent blog post.

Anyway if you'd like a little trip down memory lane to see how it all began, our first 'going foreign' blog entry from the 31st August 2012 is here

Our next little adventure begins tomorrow as we leave Savusavu, as the wind calms down a little, towards Viti Levu, the biggest island to the west of here. We've planned some short passages and are considering the scarily-narrow passage inside the reef around the north side of Viti Levu - we have a new crew member joining us on the 10th September for a couple of weeks so we're heading to an anchorage that will be handy for the main airport at Nadi. 

Meanwhile, Graham's spend the best part of today installing a wonderful, free navigation software package called Open CPN on the pc so that we have additional back-up for the main chart plotter. The great thing is that it's possible to download Google Earth images so we can overlay these onto the chart (just like GE on the net, but without needing to be online) which will be a big help in identifying the reefs. Actually, loading the charting software was fairly easy, but trying to get a little USB GPS receiver to talk to it has been problematic and Graham has been using some of his best words, usually reserved for boat maintenance in confined spaces. It's a battle that he has yet to win.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Photos from Savusavu

It's fun to be in the hustle and bustle of this busy little market town and then to be able to row back to Maunie on her mooring, just 30m from the shore, when we want a bit of peace. Here are a few photos.

Maunie, right, and a less fortunate vessel

A beautifully decorated temporary structure for the VIPs at a 'Smoke-Free Savusavu' campaign launch - attended by very few people yesterday, It took 2 days to build and was immediately torn down afterwards.

The wonderful vegetable market

Vendors sell drinks and snacks to passengers before the bus leaves

A bumpy 2-hour journey awaits


The first elections since the coup 8 years ago will take place on the 17th September and everyone's uncertain of how it will play out. The $85 per tonne cane price would get our votes.

One of the many Indian-run 'sell everything' shops on the high street

We ate at a lovely Chinese restaurant last night - £8 per head for starter, main and 2 drinks. It wasn't the Chong Pong though.

J. Dayaram & Co operate an equal opportunities policy in all of its recruitment and selection procedures

Thursday, 28 August 2014

In Savusavu

We're here for a few days in Savusavu, enjoying the opportunity to restock, get washing done, eat out (very cheaply) and catching up with old friends on boats including Salsa, Red and Quixotic. Salsa, from Sweden, is a boat we first met in Spain and Staffan and Eleanor, with their children Andreas and Erika, run an excellent blog with some great photos which gives an honest insight into the additional challenges of cruising with children aboard - here

We'll take some photos around town today and post them on the blog before we leave on Sunday or Monday (when the wind drops a bit) for new cruising grounds to the west of here. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A new video - launching the first new dugout canoe in Fulaga for 6 years

As you'll have read in an earlier post, we were amazingly lucky to be in Fulaga when the first new dugout canoe was ready to be hauled out of the forest and down to the sea. Its builder was Meli, our village host, and he said he's going to call the new vessel Maunie II 

This is a short video which Graham filmed on launch day: Watch Video

Saturday, 23 August 2014

If you want to get really good diving photos.....

If you want to get really good diving photos:

1. Go to a dive site with good visibility
2. Make sure it's sunny up top so the light's good
3. Find some wonderfully coloured coral
4. Add some beautiful tropical fish
5. Delete the disappointingly dull photos taken with your GoPro like this one:

6. Go with someone who has a decent camera and borrow their photos!

Adam on Bravo has a good waterproof housing and strobe light for his camera so have a look here

Friday, 22 August 2014

A video of Maunie sailing in Fiji

On the sail from Fuluga to Taveuni we had the 'Blue Monster' Parasailor spinnaker set for 24 hours. Here's a short GoPro-on-a-stick video: Watch Video

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Diving the Great White Wall, near Viani Bay

Today was the first day of diving in the Somosomo straight near the island of Taveuni. We anchored in Viani Bay but only with some difficulty as the bottom is strewn with coral 'bommies' and pinnacles and we didn't want to damage the coral or get our anchor chain wrapped around one. Eventually Graham snorkeled around to find a clear spot for us and Bravo to drop the hooks whilst Dianne enjoyed driving Maunie around single-handed and brought her expertly to the perfect spot.

So this morning we were picked up at 07.00, along with Adam and Cindi on Bravo and Karen and Cheryl on Interlude, by a fast dive boat to take us around to the Dolphin Bay diver centre, run by Swiss Roland and his German wife Viola. Two dives were planned for the day, the first being the Great White Wall which is widely rated as one of the top ten dive sites in the World. Due to the normally swift tidal currents, the dive can only safely be done on about 3 days of each month and so we'd planned ahead to be here at the optimum time. It is, truly, an amazing experience best described by more experienced divers than I - this was only my (Graham) 16th dive so here's a link that tells you more

Whilst Graham was getting wet on this and a subsequent dive aptly named the Fish Factory, Dianne was chilling out on the beach and enjoying a very therapeutic massage in the little spa at the wonderfully low-tech but hugely friendly resort; we rounded off a great morning with a delicious lunch. More diving and chilling tomorrow.and Friday but we'll be around for evening (UK time) Skype calls Friday and Saturday night. Drop us an email if you'd like to chat!

Finally, we've met some great cruisers here and most have their own boat blogs - Bravo's has some more great stories and photos of Faluga so have a look here

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Faluga Photos 2: Village life

 Here are a few photos from the village:

Family picnic lunch in the school field

The delights of a digital camera - Cindy shows her photos

Meli and Jima find a comfy place to sit

The boys pose in their new sports shirts 
The entire school on the beach - for post lunch teeth brushing

A party thrown for Adam and Cindy's 24th wedding anniversary (note spelling on poster!). They were dressed in traditional tapa wedding skirts for the occasion.

Anne and Dianne are taught the moves to the Faluga Canoe Dance by headmistress Dau and top fisherwoman and weaver, Gailee

Jonni pours a new batch of kava into the bowl

Graham (in traditional sulu) pounds yagona root to make kava, under Meli's supervision
Jiko finishes another mat and instructs Jess on the techniques
The proud VHF team - Graham, Aqila and Adam with the newly-installed aerial mast at the Clinic
The house cat with 3-day old kitten
Meli and Jiko's house. No electricity or running water and just an open fire for cooking in a nearby lean-to. The most welcoming house in the world.

Meli enjoys a tast of Christmas Pudding and whipped cream which be brought to our leaving party. We didn't like to tell the Methodists that it contained alcohol as they all loved the taste!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Faluga Photos 1: the lagoon

The island of Faluga is horseshoe shaped and, once you get in through the scarily narrow pass in the surrounding reef, the lagoon is a beautiful place to explore. It's also a wonderfully rich fishing area for the locals who have a name for every one of the hundreds of little islands and rocks. Here are a few photos to give you an idea.

Odd-shaped rocks in silhouette

Sustaining tree life, somehow, but suffering a touch of erosion
The village has two 'fibers' but fuel is always in short supply so the fishermen often pole them through the shallows to conserve stocks. They sometimes take these open boats on four-hour sea passages to the nearest island that has a doctor if a patient needs urgent medical attention but a helicopter medevac can't be justified

Net fishing is a job for the women each Saturday

A ride in a yacht tender is always welcomed - and the water really is that clear!


Crabs, lobsters and octopus are also on the menu; Alfretti shows off his coconut crab

Sunset on our final evening in the lagoon
More photos of Faluga to follow

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sailing a Falugun dugout canoe

As you will have read on previous blogs, Graham was lucky to be able to sail on an incredible craft in Faluga.

Here are a couple of vidoes:

The first is Meli sailing off to find some fish. Watch 

The second was shot by Graham when he got to sail aboard this amazing vessel. Watch

Hope that you enjoy them!

Safely back in the land of cars, buses and internet!

Well we've had an almost perfect 175 mile passage up from Faluga to Taveuni, pretty much a reverse route from our way down but much, much easier. We flew the Parasailor spinnaker for 24 hours non-stop and have just had our last two beers to celebrate dropping the anchor. 

We set off in company with Bravo, a lovely 46 ft American boat who flew full white sails rather than spinnaker and arrived about an hour after us; it was, as ever, good to have a friendly navigation light in visual range throughout the night. The conditions were lovely, though, so we both slept on our off-watches and feel remarkably OK now.

In the anchorage here we are within a dinghy ride of a shop, an off licence, a bakery and a fruit and veg stall so tomorrow morning we'll be beating a path to their doors (it's Sunday afternoon now so nothing will be open). We're also in range of internet again - hurrah - so here's the first photo for a while. Lots more to follow:

Meli's current sailing canoe

Friday, 15 August 2014

Tears in our eyes

We leave Fulaga tomorrow morning – high tide and slack water in the reef pass will be at about 9.30am and we'll do the 170 mile overnight passage back to Taveuni where the delights of a supermarket and off license await! We've done pretty well to survive nearly 5 weeks without a shop; we've done lots of bread, biscuit and cake baking, had some excellent fresh fish and cooked plenty of pasta and tinned food. We've also eaten some interesting and, mostly, very tasty food in the village, though starchy cassava isn't our favourite. However we are really sad to be leaving Fulaga.
Our last formal day in the village was on Wednesday and was pretty memorable. It started with Graham joining a few other yachties to help drag Meli's new dugout canoe out of the forest. This was the first new canoe to be built here for 6 years and is the largest (about 22ft) to be built for many years. It's taken Meli about a month of solid work, spread out over the last five months, and it was just amazing to walk the 3/4 mile, roughly-hacked path through the dense hardwood forest and suddenly to come upon the absolutely beautiful hull lying where the tree was felled. These days a chainsaw is used for the felling whereas the old method was to hack away at the base of the trunk with an axe then light a fire at the tree base and return the following day to find the tree down.
Meli had carved the outside of the canoe, with just an axe and an adze, so that it was beautifully faired. He'd done most of the digging out of the hull but left more wood still to be removed;  there's a balance to be had between making it light enough to move but strong enough to withstand the knocks of the challenging journey to the sea. It transpired that we were the first foreigners to witness the process and indeed we all joined in as much needed manpower. A supple 1" thick vine was the pulling rope and 5ft length of 4" thick tree trunks were laid at around 8ft intervals across the often rocky path. The smooth hull of the canoe slid remarkably easily over the green bark of the logs and, in between 40-50 yard pulls, we went back to retrieve the logs and move them in front of the canoe. About 15 men from the village were there and the journey was hard and, at times, dangerous when the 500kg canoe slid down the steeper sections, threatening to run down the pullers. Eventually, after about 3 hours we emerged, hot and sweaty, at the water's edge and the canoe floated to a great cheer. Meli looked properly pleased; he told us that he'll rig this canoe as an outrigger initially but really wants to find another tree to make an identical hull to make a drua – a sailing catamaran that would be a scaled-down version of the ancient voyaging canoes. He also said he will call the boat Maunie II and we really don't think he'd joking; his wife Jiko says he will carve the name on the hull. Wow. We have lots of video and plenty of photos of the day so will post them very soon.
After all that excitement there was just time for a quick shower and a bite of lunch on Maunie before we headed in to the village for our formal goodbyes. First we went to the chief where Meli acted as our spokesperson but Dau, the wonderful headmistress, translated our speech of thanks. The 86 year old chief was lovely and wanted to know what we'd seen and done; he obviously wanted to chat (via Dau as translator) so we swapped a few stories until Dau winked at us and said in English 'he wants to talk but he's old – we should go!'. We returned to Jiko and Meli's house to find the furniture-less room already filled with people and the party began with many rounds of kava and brilliant singing. We just felt that we were in a room of good friends and one of our thank-you gifts to the family, a photo album of prints of our time here, was passed around with much laughter and enjoyment.
Meli and Jiko gave us beautiful farewell gifts. Jiko had made a traditional pandanus mat and woven bags whilst Meli proudly presented his carving that we'd seen in its early stages (seeing all the work and skill that he'd put into it made it all the more special). He'd learned that Dianne loves penguins so had gone to the school library to find pictures (and had even watch the DVD of Happy Feet on the school computer!) and he's carved the most perfect 18" tall penguin for us! Unbelievable.
The party got into full swing with about 30 people there and Graham showed them videos of sailing on Meli's canoe (Meli looked particularly happy at that) before Graham did a farewell speech and the villagers sang the Farewell Song (in Fijian but translated by Dau, starting the tears flowing). We shook hands with everyone in the room, with lots of hugs and further tears all round. What a night.
Though we'd formally 'checked out' we had decided that we'd give ourselves a couple of quiet days to relax and get ready for sea so we moved Maunie to a more remote anchorage, away from the village. Before we weighed anchor, though, we saw a couple of familiar figures on the beach so dinghied across to find Jiko and little Jima sitting watching for us and waving madly; it was good to have a final personal goodbye to someone who's been such a wonderful host and friend. Jiko said she doesn't want to host another yacht as she can't bear saying goodbye. After final hugs we returned to Maunie and weighed anchor, with Jiko waving from the shore until we were out of sight but this was not to be our last farewell. As we crossed the lagoon we saw a familiar, ragged blue sail coming towards us and there was Meli on his old canoe, out fishing. We motored alongside taking final photos and shouting farewells; as we changed course and motored away we saw this lovely, talented, tough man wiping tears from his eyes.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sailing a dugout canoe

Graham had an wonderful sailing experience yesterday when Meli took him out on his dugout canoe. It's the last surviving sailing canoe in the village (and there is only one other left in the village across the lagoon) and so it was a very special half-hour sail. Meli really knows his vessel (he built it, after all) and once he hoisted the slightly ragged tarpaulin sail it creamed across the lagoon at an impressive rate of knots. Almost-continual bailing is a integral part of sailing these canoes as the joint between deck and hollowed-out hull leaks quite badly but the boat was remarkable stable and changing tack involves shifting the mast to the other end and swapping the steering oar as well. Some video to follow.
This morning we will witness an event which doesn't happen much nowadays. Meli has found a suitably sized tree in the forest and for the past few month has been working on it to make a new hull for the canoe; today the men of the village will help him haul it out and down to the beach. This afternoon we will go to present out Tatau to the chief which is the formal goodbye ceremony, the opposite of the sevusevu, and then we have our goodbye party with our hosts. We'll move Maunie to an anchorage close to the pass into the lagoon tomorrow morning then spend the day preparing for sea; as long as the weather forecast remains favourable, we'll leave on Friday. We'll be terribly sad to go.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The subject of tonight's presentation is........

Our unusual existence in Fulaga continues with a new and predominantly entertaining experience unfolding each day. Yesterday it was a visit to the 'Pick and Pay', a sort of bring & buy sale in the school where some wonderful food was to be bought and where we donated a few small items such as playing cards, bags and caps, to be sold towards village funds. After that it was an energetic scrabble up some rocky cliffs to an incredible set of caves, probably inhabited at some stage and now home only to a very noisy and upset seabird chick about the size of a partridge. Finally the day was rounded off with Graham making a presentation to about 25 of the 'Youth Group'.
Membership of the Youth Group seems to be pretty flexible and, although there's a theoretical upper age limit of 35, we had one chap of about 60 listening intently. Bis (the chap who met Joanna at university in Suva, as you'll remember) had asked for a talk about working as a team and making changes so Graham put together a PowerPoint presentation referencing his experience of working in factories and he tried (reasonably successfully we think) to relate them to the organisation that is Fuluga island. The Youth Group are keen to be seen to be making changes and progress in a very traditional and hierarchical community but they have some challenges to overcome –including the fact that many people here don't really want things to change all that much (and we have to say that we can sympathise with their point of view). However, things do need to move on, particularly in the areas of diet and healthcare, and the Youth Group are trying to make change happen. Overall it was a very successful evening, though it was the first time Graham has had to pause, mid-sentence, during a presentation to receive a cup of kava!
The formalities completed, the meeting turned into an excuse for some singing and dancing – Georgie, a British girl from the yacht Oyaragh,  is on a one-woman mission to teach the choreography of the Kate Bush classic 'Wuthering Heights' to everyone she meets (and why not?) so we had a lash at that after completing the 'Fulugan canoe dance'. Calumn, the young skipper of Oyaragh, provided a spectacular finale with a fire dance.
Today we saw two completely opposing things that really illustrated why this is such an intriguing place for us to visit. First of all, Meli came hoisted the sail on his dugout outrigger canoe to go fishing in the lagoon; the design hasn't changed in centuries (we learnt that from Dau, the head-teacher, when she explained the significance of the canoe dance last night) but we noticed some ex-Maunie halyards holding the mast in place. We'll post some photos and videos soon.
Secondly, and less pleasantly,  we have, it seems, caught a nasty little, 21st Century virus from, of all people Batai the nurse. He'd asked if we could print some documents for him (follow-up letters to parents of kids who'd measured up as being underweight or overweight in the recent health check); the only printer, in the school, had run out of ink. Of course it ended up as being a more complex process but we did it, only to discover that the memory-stick he'd borrowed from one of the teachers had a Trojan virus on it. He thought his anti-virus programme had sorted it (once he was shown how to operate it by Adam from Bravo) but the virus is obviously newer than his software. Our main laptop also has somewhat out-of date antivirus (we normally don't connect it to the internet or share data) but our little notebook, used for writing blogs and other internet stuff, has a bang up to date tool which spotted it as soon as we tried to transfer a photo across from its bigger brother.
Luckily the virus doesn't seem to be affecting the operation of the big laptop but we can't clean it until we get back to somewhere (like New Zealand, probably, to be really safe) to sort it without risking the loss of precious photos and videos. Thankfully we backed it up to a hard drive a couple of weeks ago but the episode neatly illustrated the problem that new technology, and visiting boats, can bring to a place like this. Without internet here, there's no way to update anti-virus databases on the island's four or five computers and, of course, locals and yachties alike have been enthusiastically swapping memory sticks with photos and videos. So now, presumably, all the pc's are infected with at least one computer virus and the question is, how do you clean them? Answers on a postcard (or virus-checked email) please.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

More Fulaga adventures

The weather has been pretty windy for the past few days as a big high pressure system has passed south of us so we've listened to the wind whistling in the rigging and braved the wet dinghy rides ashore. We've spent time baking bread, biscuits and cakes to take into the village and trying to create inventive meals from a dwindling stock of tins supplemented by a few root vegetables.
The villagers are now less shy about asking for our help where we have kit or skills so a couple of days ago we donated some VHF aerial coaxial cable that we had aboard Maunie and worked with another skipper, Adam, a ham radio expert, to build a new aerial for the village clinic's radio (which in turn was donated by a yacht a couple of years ago); Batai the nurse is now delighted that he can contact boats in the various anchorages and is making full use of the new tool. Yesterday he called 'Charisma' and we all 'lurked' as they went to a new channel. (For non-yachties we should explain that on VHF radios there is a calling and emergency channel (16) but, once you have called another boat you should move to a new, working channel. The Americans all use Ch 17 (so they say 'shall we go up one?') but, whichever channel is used, it's technically illegal to for other boats to listen in to the conversation but, of course, we all do (it's known as lurking) and we've now formed the Faluga Lurkers' Association). Anyway, we Lurkers heard the following:
Batai: "Hi Anne"
Anne (on Charisma): "Hi Batai – the radio sounds great now! What can we do for you?"
Batai: "Um, sorry Anne, but I need $200 from you."
Anne: (after a short silence) " Oh, er, well... I'm not sure we have that amount of cash on board"
Batai: (giggling) "No, no, I'm just joking!! I was calling to see how Bob was...."
Batai was still giggling later that day that he'd 'had' Anne. Like most Fijians he loves jokes.
The advantage of the new aerial for us is that Batai is happy to take our messages for other villagers which saves us a 30 minute walk and gives us the chance to warn our host families when we're coming in; they tend to drop everything and start cooking us meals if we arrive unannounced!
Yesterday we took 4 locals (plus a toddler), 2 other yachties and we also towed a local fishing boat (to save their precious outboard fuel) across the lagoon to the village of Naividamu where we were welcomed like old friends. We were included in a birthday party kava circle, were fed very well (a pig had been slaughtered for the occasion) and enjoyed listening to the men singing traditional songs, accompanied by guitars. When we left there there heartfelt calls for us to return; the village is at the leeward side of the lagoon so isn't a sheltered anchorage and therefore doesn't get many yachts visiting.
The weather has now calmed for a couple of days and it's a good weather window to leave but we've decided to wait until the next lull which will come, we hope, in about a week's time. It'll give us a chance to visit some more of the island, do some fishing with the villagers and, of course, prepare to say goodbye. Leaving Fulaga is a two day process which includes a formal feast with our host families, a final Kava session with anyone who wants to join in and, finally, a farewell audience with the Chief. A couple of boats left yesterday and two more leave today and each crew reported that tears were shed by yachties and villagers alike.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Assessing our impact...

We (and all the crews of the 8 or 9 yachts here) are very aware of our potential impact on this small community of Fulaga. Our host families are all unbelievably welcoming and generous but we all worry that we might be a burden on a village where the supply boat brings only basic staples once a month. We are a relatively new impact, too because, until two years ago, access to the Lau group was very strictly limited and only one or two yachts would make it here each year.
We chatted to a young couple, Bis and Joanna, the other day and they gave us some excellent insight into the economic and cultural impacts of the visiting boats. Bis and Joanna met at university in Suva before returning to Joanna's home village here two years ago so they bring a very different perspective to the island; they reassured us that we shouldn't worry. They explained that the host families really look forward to looking after visiting boats – they take it in turns though a few families, whose English isn't so good, do pass on the opportunity – and that our enthusiasm for the island makes the locals realise that they should be really proud of their home. Apparently other islands in the Lau Group have become quite jealous of Fulaga's success in attracting foreign boats.
There is clearly an economic upside to our arrival, though it doesn't seem very great. Each boat is charged an 'anchoring fee' of $50 (about £17) on arrival, something that would normally make us unhappy as the right to anchor for free is something we try to protect, However we were promised that this goes into community projects and the annual income from this will only amount to perhaps $3000. After the anchoring fees, the main source of income from us visitors is the sale of the exquisite carvings for which the men of Fulaga are well known; we've all bought wooden bowls or drums or animal figures and Bis estimates that this is worth another $3000 – $4000 per annum. Unsold carvings are shipped to Suva where they sell in the tourist resorts for three times the price but the importers and retailers pocket the difference. Dau, the wonderful head-teacher, told us that a lot of what they send to Suva is 'rubbish' and she said that the best work that the men do is given to yachties as farewell gifts (more on this subject in a later blog!). Finally, of course, there's a difficult-to-quantify economic value in the foodstuffs and other items that we give to our host families'; used yacht ropes, 12v lights, pumps and even empty screw top glass bottles and jars are really useful so we're all rooting around in our boats to see what we might have that the village could use.
Perhaps the most valuable thing that we can offer the Fulagans is our combined and varied toolbox of skills and experience. Over the past days we've all helped Batai, the wonderful 25 year-old island Nurse who is now 8 months into a 3-year contract from Suva, conduct a series of health checks on all of the inhabitants of the three villages. Height, weight, blood sugar and blood pressure were recorded so that Batai could then carry out follow-up checks where necessary; it gave him a very good indication of the overall health of the islanders.  He was concerned that about 20 of the school children were underweight so would be working with their families to rectify this but overall he was fairly happy with the results and each adult now has his or her own health booklet which contains the results of the tests and their target weights. The job was completed in three days and Batai said it would have taken three weeks without our help; the villagers seemed genuinely delighted that we wanted to assist and that they were the centre of attention. The Maunie team was given the job of calculating the Body Mass Index for each person and there was a lot of laugher and comment when their result was shown on the Underweight to Obese scale – no patient confidentiality here, the outcome was happily shared with everyone in the room, with cheers or boos depending on the result! On the day Maunie helped, 49 villagers attended. It was a real social event and at one stage, breakfast was laid out in the middle of the hall, slightly undoing the 'eat a bit less' message.
There have been lots of other skill-sharing activities going on too. Several crews have been to the school to conduct lessons and yesterday was our turn. Before the lesson, we went to find the children who were all on the beach. When asked what they'd been doing, their reply was, "Brushing"..."Brushing the beach?"...."No, our teeth." A few weeks back there had been a call for tooth brushes and paste so a yacht had brought lots in and now an after-lunch bell is sounded and the children all head down to the beach to brush their teeth. For the lesson, we took the laptop and plugged it into a 21" tv screen to do a presentation about our journey from England. We had some videos from Yeo Valley so could show them the farm (they'd never seen cows or sheep before) and we made some yogurt and got them to taste it before showing them a video of the Yeo Valley dairy in Blagdon. We had about 60 kids sitting spell-bound and then had them doing some silly things so it seemed to go down very well: Adam from 'Bravo' was on hand to take photos so we'll post a few on the blog soon.
So, we're happy that a great symbiotic relationship has developed, we're making very firm friends and we know that locals and yachties alike will be very upset when we have to leave. Meanwhile, though, we'll continue to savour every minute of the experience and yesterday afternoon's 'Ladies' Party' was a great example of the fun side of it all. The women sang and danced (they have been rehearsing, with much laughter, all week) whilst the men sang along and drank kava. A wonderful meal was then provided - the yachties all contributed cakes, biscuits, etc. (ok, so the villagers have a real sweet tooth) but the locals produced wonderful crab, fish and vegetable dishes. It was a 'fundraiser' so generated about $500 (about $300 of which came from the crews) towards community projects.
The balance remains a fine one, however, and a careless attitude by visiting boats or a promise of a commercial project could easily change things forever. A few years ago an Australian developer arrived here and spied a set of small islets in the lagoon as a potential site for a hotel; he gave the chief $18,000 in cash as a deposit and promise of diesel generator for each village if he could go ahead and build his resort. The chief said that he and the council would have to think about it. Three years later the developer returned, expecting the money to be spent and the deal, by default, to be done but he was surprised when the bag of cash was returned, untouched, accompanied by a shake of the head. Bis told us that some people still think they should encourage the building of a resort here but his advice (as someone who has nearly, but not quite, completed his business degree!) has been listened to and he has warned of the dangers of allowing foreign money into the island. We've all told him about the horrors of Bora Bora which has become a community dependent on the low paid jobs in the expensive resort hotels around the reef and where the obvious wealth of the tourists has bred jealousy and unhappiness and,sadly as a result, lots of petty thieving from visiting yachts. So, for the moment at least, things won't change too much.
Finally, the possibility of thoughtless yachtsmen troubles us so all the boats here are spreading the word about proper and polite conduct. Sadly, a week ago we heard a yacht called Bellamy calling to another boat on the VHF; the skipper had an English accent so Graham called him to ask if he needed any help or advice. He explained that his vessel was 'slightly larger' than most so wouldn't be coming into the lagoon – Bellamy is a 52m long motor yacht but his tender (44ft, 6ft longer than Maunie!) would come in to take his 'guests' (who arrived by seaplane) for a picnic on the beach. He said he had a 'guide' on board called Nigel who knew all the protocols and he would come in to offer the sevusevu to the Chief. Sure enough, the large motor boat came in to the beach but nobody came to see the chief – the villagers couldn't understand what had happened to the boat and why they hadn't come to pay their respects. So, Captain Ben on MV Bellamy, you're hereby named and shamed.