Friday, November 28, 2008

Parked on the Sunshine Coast

It’s the end of November and here we are, “parked” in Lawries Marina in Mooloolaba on the wonderful Sunshine Coast just north of Brisbane. What a great place- beautiful beaches as far as the eye can see, rivers, canals, great weather. What more can you want?

We are here doing a fairly major refit. So far we have:
Imported the boat into Australia in Bundaberg and then sailed south to Moololaba through the Great Sandy Straits inside Fraser Island
Converted to 240 volt
Replaced the fridge system with a 12 volt unit
Had all sails checked and repaired and a new staysail made

Had a huge cover made that covers from the mast all the way aft – lovely to keep out the sun and rain and creates a cool breezeway
Made new cockpit cushions
Made new covers for the interior cushions
Replaced the windlass and had the anchor and chain regalvanised
Replaced the forward and aft facing windows
Painted under floor and locker areas
Replaced the chain plates on the forestay and backstay
Installed a new stove
Completed installation of engine room insulation
Made a new cover for the forward deck area
Replaced our batteries
Put the final coat of finish on the cabin floor that was started in NZ in 2007
And of course the usual varnishing, polishing, servicing and so on that goes on all the time.

We have been very busy………

So what’s next?

Down to Daylesford at the beginning of December to prepare “La Laiterie” and surrounds for Laura and Adam’s wedding on February 7th. Swapping boat work for yard work so to speak.

Next year? Back here in late February to haul out, antifoul, service thru-hulls and motors and then start day sailing up the east coast mid to late April to be in Darwin by the end of June so we can take part in the rally heading north. By November 2009 we plan to be in Thailand where we will most likely “park” for a year or so, travel locally and to surrounding countries and of course do the next stage of the refit: paint the hull, repair teak decks, replace port lights and on it goes.

I used to laugh at that definition of sailing that read “fixing your boat in exotic places” but guess what?????.... We wouldn’t swap it for anything.

Robyn and David

SV Maajhi-Re

Friday, November 09, 2007

Schools Supplies - Vanuatu

Last Friday evening I was told by an expat that she’d heard a marvellous story about some yachties who had turned up at a couple of Vanuatu schools and made unexpected gifts of a small library to each. Yes it was Maajhi-Re. It seems good news travels fast around Vanuatu.

The expat was a yachtie taking time out to work with the Peace Corps here in Port Vila. She is setting up training programs for teachers, 40 per cent of whom have a “calling”, but no actual training. Other yachties, mutual friends, introduced us to her over sundowners at the Waterfront Bar and Grill.

We are in Port Vila for an extended but unexpected stay until David’s pinched nerve and sciatica problems setlle down enough for us to consider the passage to NZ. It is cyclone season but we figure we can do what is necessary in this good natural harbour in case a cyclone comes along early.

So where have we been the last 2 months since leaving Fiji and where have the little school libraries been gifted?

We cleared into Vanutau at Sola, on Vanua Lava, the main island up north in the Banks Group, in mid September. We heard of a cultural festival at Gaua, (the next island south) and headed there for a week. Getting to know the 3 local villages quite well, we also visited the local school, the Losolava Primary School. It is very well run but with quite limited resources so the first library was gifted. The headmistress was delighted, if a little overwhelmed, and said “It’s a miracle that one day you just come walking up from the beach with this wonderful gift”. The year 8 class with their Peace Corps teacher, took time out to share their classroom with us and thank us for the books and teacher aids.

Headmistress Patricia and Volunteer teacher Stephen with the year 8 class

Losolava Primary School, Gaua

Heading down the Vanuatu island chain we made the difficult south east passage into the prevailing trade winds to reach Naone Village, on the island of Maewo. This we visited last year and the village and local school were the catalyst for our school supplies project. We were determined to provide a library for these welcoming and lovely people. On arrival, we took ashore some photos from last year’s visit by way of introduction, but a number of people had already recognised us, including Vannerly, the young teacher we met last year. If you have only had 3 yachts visit in one year you tend to recall the visitors I guess. Our gift was enormously appreciated by the headmistress, Delma. It was Constitution Day holiday and World Teacher’s Day celebrations and we were invited to the village ceremonies at the school, not suspecting that we would be the special guests for the celebration as a result of the gift. Speeches were made to the assembled villages by the pastor and schoolteacher who described in detail the gift of books received. God was duly thanked for sending us to the village and the school.

Delma’s response was wonderful – very quiet, she just looked me straight in the eyes, shrugged her shoulders and said “How can we ever thank you?” But we had already seen the benefits of the gifts. A small group of boys was sitting silently on the grass watching us with large eyes as David pumped up the new soccerball. When finished he stood up, offered them a kick and next thing a game was on. Boys and young men came from everywhere and the boisterous game progressed with much laughter.

Soon after, I came across a small group of young women who were huddled in the dorrway of the headmistresses office. They were completely engrossed in the pages of one of the new books, with one girl reading excerpts and translating into local dialect, and the rest completely mesmerised.

Delma - proud of her new library

Teacher Vannerley, Robyn and students

The third gift given was to a little school on the northwest coast of the island of Malekula, in Malua Bay. We called in to this secluded bay for a 2 day stopover and after visting the school decided it was definitely a candidate for a small library gift.Origianlyy setup by Seventh Day Adventists, it had long ago been deserted and the local community was struggling to keep it going. The 3 teachers were pleased to show us around and tell us of the efforts they were making. I was touched by the fact they were so proud of their efforts and did not once complain about lack of resources, despite being one of the poorest of schools we visited. They were thrilled when we came ashore after lunch with a large box full of books and teaching charts. I went through the books with them as we unpacked the bos in one of the classrooms. Surrounded by a sea of eager young faces, it seemed an appropriate time to pull out my favourite story of “The Exploding Frog”. It is a delightful large picture book and fun to tell the story and see the looks on the children’s faces as the frog grew bigger until he finally exploded. Actually, I think the 2 younger teachers may have enjoyed it even more than the children.

Teachers and students show off their new library at Malua Bay

We were due to return that evening – the teachers wanted to thank us once again for the library as they were a little overcome earlier by the extent of the books and what it meant for their work. Unfortunately we were unable to come ashore as David’s back condition was deteriorating. At first light next morning we weighed anchor to head as quickly as possible to Vila (still 3 days away) as it had become clear he could not conintue without medical intervention. The painkillers were assisting but the inflamed nerves were getting no respite with the constant movement of the boat and it was imperative we get to Port Vila, a doctor, the availability of drugs and flat calm water to enable him to get the necessary rest and attention required.

So we still have one more library gift on board that will have to wait for the next season’s cruise into the islands. It has been a most staisfying year in terms of the School’s Project. We we were pleased to find a few schools, mainly with EU funding or similar, that were reasonably resourced. We made it a point to visit the schools everywhere we went to ensure the library gifts went where the best use would be made of them. It is our belief that the gift of books has the capacity to change the outcomes for many teachers and their students. One thing is sure – if the expressions of delight and wonderment we experienced are indicative, the books have created untold opportunities for ni-Van children and teachers to learn and grow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fun, games and repairs in Fiji

Arriving in Fiji after an 8 day passage from New Zealand - a bit weary.....

It was a very late departure from New Zealand this year due (firstly) to a backlog of boat projects and (secondly) nasty weather and little opportunity to head north. We finally departed Saturday July 14th and arrived in Lautoka a week later – Saturday 21st.
In the end, the trip north went quite well – no heavy winds or overly uncomfortable seas to speak of and we made very good time.

The first 10 days in Fiji we had Laura and Adam on board and had a very pleasant time sailing through the Mamanuca and Yasawa island groups to the west of Viti Levu, the main Fiji island. Very much a resort area, there are some local villages left but the lifestyle, including jobs, now revolves around the resorts and what they bring to the area.

Sailing in the Mamanucas

On the beach in Somosomo Village with Laura's "adopted" family - they adopted her..........

The highlight was being anchored in Manta Ray Bay in southern Naviti Island. We found out that manta rays are known to swim through the shallow pass each high tide – Laura and Adam took to the water and actually found one. They swam above it for some time while it hovered below feeding on the tide. Excitement plus!

Once repairs were made we spent a week in the northern Yasawas, mostly sheltering from the strong winds at various anchorages, among them the very famous Blue Lagoon. It certainly lives up to it’s name, with turquoise seas, lively coral reefs to snorkel on and a delightful little resort that served excellent meals. We treated ourselves to dinner one might.

Sadly, we have not had the chance to explore further afield in Fiji – we had some gear failure on the way north that has required repairs, and then lost our engine room blower which basically meant we could not use the engine safely,. It took the best part of 4 weeks to have one shipped in, the only bonus was that we were in Port Denarau, and able to catch the local free bus, the “bula bus” around the resorts on Denarau Island and spent our afternoons on their beaches and around the pools. Very spoilt!

So now it’s time to leave the resorts of western Fiji and head to the remote Banks Island group in northern Vanuatu. The next 6-7 weeks will be spent working our way south from village to village, island to island, finally arriving in Port Vila around the end of October. The schools supply project will be in full swing from here on – we have at least 4 small book libraries on board and will be looking to ascertain the most in need schools on our route to give them to on behalf of all the sponsors of the project.

We will be out of internet access for most of the next 6 weeks but will take photos and share the experiences and results with all as soon as we can document and upload them.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Countdown to the Islands 2007

We are now in countdown mode for departure from Whangarei New Zealand enroute to Fiji and then Vanuatu, before returning here to Whangarei next summer to do some more refit work on Maajhi-Re. With the funds donated by family and friends (around $1000NZD) we have sourced and purchased a great set of school supplies to be divided among villages that we visit. It includes readers, story books, wall charts, stationery and soccer and volleyballs. We promise to take lots of photos to share with you all when the supplies are distributed. It will be a very emotional and satisfying project.

The pictures below show the results of our summer's work this year on Maajhi-Re and also a small selection of the school supplies waiting to find a berth onboard.

Planning to head off by the end of next week weather permitting (around June 21). You will be able to track our progress via the Yotreps link on the right of the screen. It will take roughly a week to get to Fiji.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Share our Rewarding Adventure

Robyn in Naone Village, Vanuatu with local school kids

In 2006, we had an incredible adventure sailing through the Pacific Islands on our yacht, Maajhi Re (see below for more tales!). We were welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm by the villages that we visited, and just fell in love with the culture, values and attitude to life.

One of the things that struck us wherever we travelled was how important education was to everyone on the islands, and how everyone persevered to give their kids the best education possible … often with very limited supplies.

Most schools manage without the most basic tools such as writing paper, pens, pencils, and books. One school we visited shared just 4 reading books between all 80 students! While sailing around we did our best to help the villagers provide for their kids’ education. We helped one village organize a fundraising feast for the visiting yachties, and raised enough to send a local girl to high school for a year. We had a small supply of exercise books, pens and pencils on board which we gave to schools we visited. We even gave a few young lads a lift across to a neighbouring island to start their school year! We have to admit they got a little sea-sick, but they did love the adventure. These basic little gifts were received with great appreciation and enthusiasm by the families, chiefs and teachers, and we made promises to come back with more next year.

So as we embark on our second year sailing around the Pacific, we are utilizing Robyn's past teaching skills to start buying some supplies for all the schools with the help of generous family and friends who have helped us stock our boat (and those of our fellow cruisers) with school supplies that will find their way across the Pacific to remote schools. These gifts will be so welcome – we can’t wait to see the beaming faces of the kids, and we can’t wait to take lots of photos to share the excitement with you all!!

We’ll update this blog as often as possible (internet access permitting of course!) so you will see the fabulous results of your generosity. Thank you for being part of our sailing adventure!!

Robyn and David Peile
SV Maajhi-Re

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Northern Islands - Vanuatu

An experience not to be missed, never to be forgotten, and to be revisited as often as we can. In fact we are going back next year. There are so many bays and villages we did not have the chance to visit, and many others where we have formed friendships and made commitments to return in 2007.

Ni-Vanuatu in their villages are beautiful people. Many young people have tried the “city life” of Port Vila and have opted to return to their village, marry and raise a family, and generally strengthen their communities.

In the vast majority of villages, yachties are welcomed with open arms – many villages have built open air “yacht clubs” where yachties can gather. It provides an opportunity for the villagers to raise funds by having kava and island nights, providing meals on request, selling produce and occasionally even beer – if the island trader has come recently and if it is carrying beer. Must say the only beer we ever found was that provided by other yachties!

The highlights? Definitely Asanvari – the chief’s son Nixon is hospitable, talented, genuinely interested in meeting yachties and providing a great experience for the sailors. While there, some yachts headed around the west coast with Nixon, for an overnight cray-fishing experience. They brought back 20 or so which they shared with the village and the other yachties. We took a trip up the coast to the Mooncaves – meeting the resident villagers and hearing the stories of local interpretations of the ancient cave paintings and the meanings of the stalactites and stalagmites.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Naone Village, Maewo Island Vanuatu

Then we found paradise and it was all worthwhile! We anchored in a little bay about 6 km down the western side of Maewo. The bay had a double waterfall (side by side) and a magnificent creek entrance with 2 low and wide waterfalls coming into it. We navigated the dinghy to shore by the washing that was hanging near the creek and found we were in the little village of Naone. Paramount Chief Elliot and Steven rowed out in their dugouts to welcome us - we are the first yacht to call in this season (it started in June!) -and they have had no tourists this year to visit the waterfall. Beautiful village, beautiful people, an abundance of fruit trees, coconut palms, water gardens spreading up the hillside where they grow different types of water taro and kava. They divert the water from the waterfall and river - it flows through and then rejoins on the way down. Very ecological.

Steven (age 21) offered to show us the waterfall next day at 9 am. At 7.15 he was banging on the side of the boat to tell us he had already been to the vegie gardens and had some cabbages, drinking coconuts and peppers for us. He accepted an offer to come aboard for a cup of tea and was excited to look over the boat. But he became seasick down below and had to head for shore!

When we arrived onshore at 9 am there was Steven plus the paramount chief plus 10 other men plus an abundance of children all waiting to greet us. We gave the chief a baseball cap that said "I'm the boss". He thought it was hilarious and was still wearing it after dark.

The procession headed up past the water taro gardens (terraced up the hillside) towards the waterfall - all 20 of us. We were solemnly following Steven and an older, very confident and knowledgeable guy called Jerry. They led us along the path with a bunch of other men who all had some role to play in the village. Funny thing was, each time we arrived at another pathway crossing, there was the chief and co who had got there before us - sitting, smiling and waiting. We could here kids laughing and every now and then they would pop out of the bushes - they got there before us as well!

When we got to the base of the waterfalls it was spectacular. Some of the young men were ordered to climb them and jump off into the pools so we could take photos! We walked around the bottom to the smaller swimming hole, complete with a cave you could swim into, climb up a hole to the back of a small waterfall then climb back into the swimming hole again. David did this and we both swam while everyone stood and watched! Steven was coerced into joining us to make sure we did not get lost in the little cave.

Then to our utter amazement we were being led up the side of the waterfall and actually walked across the face of it to the other side. We stopped in the middle to look over the edge. I was totally bowled over by the experience and every time I looked back at David he was looking very anxiously at me - I think he was waiting for me to freak but I had lots of strong hands to help me along. The guys were all very attentive to the "old" lady.

We sat at the very top and admired the view - Jerry kept telling us the best photo spots.... Then back the same way (it was scarier going down the waterfall than up), back to the village and walked through it to the primary school. We had to stop on the way and meet Steven's father (quite elderly and frail) named Joe. He didn't say much but we shook hands and stood respectfully long enough (I think).

We passed the nakamel, where the men gather each night to drink kava, gather to discuss village problems and solutions, and where the chief meets complainants and issues fines or penalties for misdemeanors. They made it clear I could not go in but was able to stand outside and listen to the commentary. Then one of the guys asked the chief something in Bislama and the chief turned to me and said "You may go in - special permission". Now that is really something as this village is very traditional - what an honour.

Off to see the school, past the school teacher's cow - the only one in the village. We sat in a classroom and the village guys all sat at the tables and asked us lots of questions about Australia, Melbourne, how we had sailed there, what jobs we had, etc. etc. We gave the teacher exercise books, coloured pencils and pens. This school is for all the kids in the north of the island. Some come and live with local families during school term because it is too far and too difficult to travel daily.

We agreed to come back in at 5 o'clock, bring the computer and show them all the photos we had taken.

Come 5 o'clock, we were met by another of the teachers, a beautiful girl called Fannerly, who escorted us to the community hut. We set up the computer and next thing there were 80 men, women and children all there to watch the picture show. After we had seen the local pictures twice they asked to see the other pictures we had. So we showed them Mt Yasur (the active volcano in Tanna). There were lots of "oohs and aahs". Not satisfied, they wanted more so in the end they saw all the photos on our computer - it was like being in the movies or at a fireworks display - lots of exclamations. Then the battery ran out.....

We said our goodbyes and gave the village a set of guitar strings for their string band (bush base, guitars and ukuleles).

On our way back to the dinghy in the dark, accompanied by Stephen and the chief (who was carrying the yellow dingy rope we had given him which he had been coveting to use as a washing line for the women), we were met by some lads who whispered that we should stand and wait as something important was happening. Shortly after, two people came along the path carrying a special bamboo - they were sorcerers who had sensed the devil (hope it wasn't us!) and were making it safe by driving him/her out. We were not allowed to approach or speak with them. Wow! This part of Vanuatu is renowned for magic and sorcery.

Back at the dinghy someone had put in a hand of bananas and 2 more drinking coconuts. Back to Maajhi-Re where we poured a gin and tonic and voted it the best day so far.