It’s been busy, busy, since our return to Port Vila, Vanuatu. Naturally we were struck by the devastation that Cyclone Pam has created here. These beautiful, green, lush, tropical islands have been stripped naked; the views from the aeroplane as we arrived back were striking. On Efate, everything is brown, villages with buildings knocked down or washed up, and one could only stand in awe at some of some of the trees that had been knocked down, roots now standing metres in the air.
For the sailing community it’s been a cruel blow – it’s estimated just over 50 boats were on mooring buoys in the local harbour, a so-called cyclone hole, yet around 30 boats were sunk or destroyed. The pictures of boats washed ashore, piled up on beaches or with masts sticking out of the water made us realise how fortunate we were with Adina being in the boatyard.
But time has not stood still. People have been out working hard, really hard, to clear up the destruction. There has been a daily sound of chainsaws accompanied by smoke drifting up into the air from the debris they’ve been chopping away as people set to restoring their lives. The local Ni-Vanuatu were the hardest hit. We’ve always had a soft spot for them, they are incredible happy people but often shy. Ask them how they are, you have to press hard to find out if all is ok. “Are you ok, is your family ok?” “Yes, good” “Is your house ok?” “Fallen down”. The immediate aid seems to be effective on the whole with emergency water, food and medical supplies getting out. Food is a problem, people rely on their own crops and all of those have gone. The fresh market which we daily visited and so loved still remains empty. But things are recovering, the greenery is returning, banana trees are shooting out big leafs. It’s a good sign.
As for us, we’ve been flat out getting Adina ready, helping with some clean up, meeting up with friends to see how they are doing, out and about spending peoples donations to buy help for the ni-Vanuatu. Adina was unscathed, plastered with leaves but nothing a good clean couldn’t sort out. Our mainsail is furled up inside the mast and when we got it out it was covered in mud. Goodness knows what was in the air during that cyclone! Some furious work on her and she was launched on schedule on 1st April. As she sat in her cradle in the water we were told to check there was no water in the bilges to ensure there were no leaks before they let us out of the cradle. Much to our initial horror there was a thick layer of water in the engine compartment. But we soon pumped it out and worked out it was water from the cyclone that had been sitting in the bow and had flowed back. Relieved, we went up to give the signal they can let us go. Waste of time, they had already let us go and we were off!
We motored Adina around to the harbour and secured her to a mooring buoy we had pre-arranged. It was a lovely moment when Elsie, the owner of Yachting World who owns the moorings and restaurant that so many yachties enjoy, came up to us and said “It’s so nice to see your lovely boat sitting out there”. We felt a little proud, we’ve so loved Vanuatu and it was nice to be doing our part and leading the way for what we hope will be a good sailing season and hope many sailors will still come to visit Vanuatu.
Since then it’s been final preparations and starting to say our farewells. We’ve taken Adina out for a test sail and she was like a puppy unleashed, romping through the waters. So touch some timber, all good with her and she is now being loaded with fuel and provisions and getting a nice clean and polish.
Also keeping us happily busy is spending all the kind donations people have made and we are still getting daily donations which is just super! Adina’s bow is now heavily weighed down with building materials, tools, tarpaulins, food, clothes, homewares and some first aid. Susie and I just can’t thank you enough and know the people we give it to will be enormously grateful. Whatever they get, their lives will be better for it.
We’ve talked to many people who have access to information about how the outer islands have been affected and we’ve narrowed down where we will go. If the weather holds good (the forecast is being a little difficult), we hope to visit the islands of Emae and Epi to deliver supplies and spend time helping with the recover efforts. If all goes well, we will leave Port Vila on Thursday 9th, sail up to Havannah Harbour and then head off from there to the outer islands on the weekend to help where we can.
Finally a big thank you to our friends who have helped us getting ready – much appreciated.
It’s time for Adina to set sail.