Vanuatu Priorities 2007 What really Maters

Vanuatu Priorities 2007

Only after working in Sydney during the cyclone season for Dancyn’s and my financial needs was Dancyn prepared and well stocked. I left Sydney, Australia early in the winter of the southern hemisphere. It was time for my third round of exploration under sail in the South Pacific. Dancyn rode those frontal lows out of the Tasman Sea northwards for the warmer climes of the French territory New Caledonia. After a few months fishing and diving we left New Cal for the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Vanuatu was a place where an ancient people live with wisdom as they did a thousand years ago. It is the first place I spent months immersed in a culture traveling alone. It is where I learned what things are most important.     

Underwater Video at end!

My sailing partner of many years left to help her ailing mother. After years of doing everything as a bonded pair, I was eerily flying solo. Not that I have ever needed much of an excuse to get involved with villages but single handing can get lonely. After a month gunkholeling northbound through Vanuatu I pulled into Lamen Bay on Epi Island. The volcanic beaches were of course onyx colored sand. Almost immediately I spotted numerous lumbering green sea turtles popping their heads up for a breath between investigative forays beneath the glassy surface. I dropped the hook into15ft of crystal clear water and noted the anchor well set in rippled black sand. Soon there after I spied my first Dugong, the pacific version of manatees or sea cows, grazing on the benthic grasses around Dancyn’s anchor and chain. Pods of Pacific Spinner Dolphin passed through the anchorage every morning, the visits punctuated by their air born twisting acrobatics. I quickly synchronized my schedule with that of the marine fauna of the Lamen Bay. 


Over the years I’ve developed a passion for going to church wherever I might find myself. Here in the South Pacific the services are usually simple and short. I love the reflective and thankful end to my week. The music and singing are always a delightful glimpse into a community’s unique approach to worship. Depending on the extent of my local involvement it is perhaps rude not to go, as I am a guest anchored off the village. Being a “palongi” or outsider there are always invites after the service to visit an elder’s home or to feast with members of the village. What a great way to make friends and trading partners. Sunday or not in Vanuatu I finished most days by visiting the local Naka-mal. The Naka-mal is where I found myself drinking Kava, a mild narcotic, with Ni-Vans. Men gather at days end and sit in these temple like huts. Kava tastes like dirt but its cool hum vibrates in your numbing mouth and mind. The Naka-mal is a dark place where quiet words are spoken among the male hierarchy. Here I realized men all around the world really have the same concerns.

After a few days on Epi I connected with David. David and his huge family all lived in 6 small grass huts just off from where Dancyn rested at anchor. I was so enchanted by four generations sitting together eating, talking, listening and learning. This phenomenon is common in many places around the planet. So why was it so unique to me? The more time I spent around his family the clearer the world became! The Nivans of Vanuatu speak Bish-lama, a language consisting of local dialects, English, French and even a few Spanish words! Knowing these languages along with the ingestion of mighty strong green Kava I began to practice and learn Bish-lama. Immersion into this wise and friendly culture began slowly but after a few weeks in Lamen Bay I felt like a family member. Daily trips at daybreak, up to the family “plantation” in the highlands, soon became expected for their adopted sailing nephew. I would return to Dancyn midday after the hour march through the jungle but it was rare that one of the 4 older sons would not come pick up off Dancyn, spear gun always in hand, in the afternoons and paddle out for a hunt along the reef! Fish became my contribution to the family and a way also to thank the village for their hospitality. We made several successful daylong fishing trips on Dancyn! I learned to love the power of the wild Yam and the group treks shirtless and barefooted through the jungle collecting it. Regardless of my presence, I soon realized there was always a banana leaf for ”Lap Lap” set for me every meal by my new Momma. I began to think of ways I could keep Dancyn there safely through the approaching cyclone season. I witnessed the unbelievable and learned of the old magic that all mothers there practice. I laughed and watched and learned from Ni-Vans who had lived this way for hundreds maybe thousands of generations. Everyday I seemed to become better at understanding what is most important in this life onboard this green and blue rock 3rd out from the sun.

For years now I have questioned if I made the right choice leaving Lamen Bay on Epi Island. I was so very focused on sailing little Dancyn all the way around the world. Today, I am not sure that all I ever needed to know, all I ever need to do, all I ever needed to be wasn’t right there in that tiny little village. I miss them and think of them everyday, but the adventure continued.

The following video clip is of me, ever the naturalist, molesting a local green sea turtle in 25 feet of water out from DANCYN’s anchoring spot off David’s beachfront plot. Seeing myself then reminds me of how clear things were to me. If I take a deep breath and remember Lamen Bay, that clarity comes back.
Under water video clip of Moment of Clarity

1 comment:

  1. where is the video clip? did i miss it? what are the most important things? :-) Ashley