Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 April 2 :


       If you like reading stories about sailing...and if you've found this blog I'll presume for a minute that you do...then you probably enjoy reading about iron men facing menacing seas and narrowly avoiding a watery grave.  Those stories are easy to write and one tends to idolize those writers as great sailors for surviving the unforgiving ocean. 

       I'll admit, I'm sometimes a bit embarrassed not to have such a story myself to tell every month here.  But after many thousands of ocean miles under our keel, I've come to understand that the best sailors tend to have few such stories.  That is to say, they've thought out the potential dangers and taken preventive measures long before it ever comes to that epic tale.  Perhaps it's just the Family Doctor in me--always thinking about prevention rather than waiting to cure the disease. 

      I've been thinking about that more and more as our next cruise approaches.  I find myself studying the weather to avoid rough seas on our passage.  I find myself casting a critical eye on each part of the boat to see that it's ready for another season.  Looking for trouble before it becomes trouble.

      So with that in mind, as the waves started kicking up here in Opua with the approaching storm, Kathleen and I were lying in our bunks when we noticed a faint little scratching sound coming from above us with each bob of the stern.  "That's not a sound I recall hearing before", I thought.  Soon Kathleen was commenting, too, that I needed to look into that annoying sound.  So the next morning I sighed a deep sigh, rolled up my sleeves and went looking for trouble. 

     It didn't take long.  After removing an access panel, I found that one of the steering cables beneath the helm (and above our heads in the aft bunk) had slipped off its pulley.  With the movement of the rudder in rough water, the cable would alternately tap against the access panel, then tighten and scrape against the side of the pulley where it had already started to wear a little groove. 

     Immediately, my mind projected forward.  It was the middle of the night, 500 miles from land.  The seas and winds were picking up on our stern quarter when suddenly that cable finally snapped and we lost steering with full sails up.  All hell breaks loose as we round up and heel way too far over, threatening to pitch the person on watch into the black sea.  The sails start flapping violently--perhaps one tears badly.  It's too rough to open the stern hatch to access the steering quadrant now, so we spend several terrifying hours pulling down sails, trying to remember how to rig the emergency steering, and so on.

    I remember hearing such a story from a boat that arrived in the Marquesas a few weeks after us.  But that won't be Uliad's story.  Instead all I'll have to tell you about is how I spent an hour at anchor with my head in the stern locker tightening the steering cable just enough that it won't slip off its pulley and start abrading on the metal fittings nearby.  With a little luck, all I'll be able to tell you about is our sunny, pleasant, boring week of gentle winds and pleasant seas, and a boat that works perfectly.  Well, with a little luck, and a lot of preparation that is.


 April 4: 

     This storm has turned out to be every bit as bad as predicted.  The rain and winds started a few days ago, and has now reached a steady 25 knots at our masthead and, the weathermen say, a steady 40 knots, gusting to 50 offshore.  The bay is awash in whitecaps and we all ended up just sitting around on the boat all day reading books and doing home school with Emmett.  We're used to living in a small space, but when its too miserable to even open a hatch, the cabin fever starts to set in even for us.

The storm approaches OpuaEmmett studies germs in home school

     Emmett has been studying protists and fungi in science class, so we managed to find agar powder at health food store back in Whangarei (who knew?) and strictly by a wild guess as to the recipe, managed to pour our own agar plates and culture both bacteria and fungi to study under the microscope.  Kathleen was of course horrified to see us intentionally growing germs on her boat.  Fortunately, Emmett was able to perform an experiment that scientifically proved that her "Myers Green Day Kitchen Spray" that she loves and carries back from the USA with her every trip works better than the cheap generic New Zealand Kitchen disinfectant.  That made Kathy happy to hear so now she's putting up with the science activities onboard.  But I think deep down she'd prefer this kind of learning to take place in a school laboratory rather than 2 feet from her kitchen.  

      Emmett continues to get better and better with his ukulele.  I downloaded & printed off a whole bunch of chords and lyrics sheets for him to practice with...songs that I thought at the time would be fun, classic sing-along type tunes that everyone would enjoy.  But now after hearing him practice, I wonder what sort of father encourages his son to sing lines like "...there's booze in the blender/ and soon it will render/ that crazy concoction that helps me hang on" (Jimmy Buffett- Margaritaville)   or "I may be qualified for a one night stand/ but I could never take the place of your man" (Prince).  I gotta be more careful.  I gotta go find the chords for "Kum Be Ya" or something.



April 7:

    It was nearly 5 years ago that we were getting ready to go sailing.  Among all the things we did to prepare was schedule one last visit with my local dentist in Wisconsin.  So I was sitting in the dental chair explaining our plans to Dr Robinson--wanting him to know that if there are any potential problems in my mouth we should take care of them now.  I remember how our dentist listened to all this, then slumped back on his stool and said, "Steve, you are living my dream.  Ever since I was a boy reading Kon Tiki I have imagined sailing around the world."  But life and family got in the way and his nautical adventures were limited to having a number of boats on Lake Michigan.

    We kept in touch over the years through the blog and email, eventually telling him that if sailing across the sea was really on your bucket list, then you should come and join us for the crossing from New Zealand to Vanuatu.  Well, we didn't have to ask him twice, but we did have to make him wait--our plans changing over time so that we've now stayed in New Zealand for nearly a year and a half. 

    So today we're finally starting to make Jim's boyhood dream come true.  We met him at the airport in Keri Keri where despite the long overnight flight and a bit of jet lag, he still managed to wear a smile.  In fact, he's wandered around the boat all day with the expression of a kid at Disneyland and I finally insisted that he stop saying "thank you for letting me come along" any more.

Jim Robinson arrives to join Uliad

    It is really an amazing thing to introduce someone to the cruising life.  Just as we were getting bogged down in the drudgery of provisioning and our anxieties of the long upcoming passage, along comes Jim--reminding us just how blessed we are to be here, right now, doing this.  We really are living our dream, Jim's dream, and probably a lot of other people's dream, too. 


April 10:

     With Jim on board and the provisions all on board, we're now just sitting around waiting for the right weather window to make our escape.  The Easter weekend brought another final round of visits with our wonderful friends we've met here.  We went down to the Meadows' family farm for Easter Sunday and had a great feast.  Then last night, they and our wonderful friend Robin, came up to Uliad for a final tramp (a.k.a. hiking...get your minds out of the gutter) with a 'last supper' followed by our tearful final goodbyes.  (For now, we tell ourselves, only for now!).  We managed to clean up the kitchen today and re-stow everything including several containers full of left-over Easter ham that should make for great snacking on the crossing.

Hiking with Jim, Robin, and the Meadows family

     Ahead lies a beautiful weather window.  A front is predicted to pass sometime tomorrow which will swing the winds around from the north to the south as a large high pressure moves in.  This should be just what we need to bring nice winds to push us all the way to Vanuatu.  So tomorrow we plan to be up early to top off the fuel and water tanks, clear out of the country, stow the dinghy and be ready to set sail as soon as those winds shift.

     For now, the anchorage is silent, the boat is still.  I should be enjoying our last peaceful night of sleep for a while, for soon we'll be living at 10 degrees of heel and taking night watches at odd hours.  I should be sleeping.  But of course my mind is swimming with the excitement to be back at sea and running through lists that I haven't forgotten any preparations. 

    I'm not sure what the wifi situation will be like in Vanuatu, but I suspect that it may be a few weeks before our next post.  So until then, wish us fair winds and bon voyage.  


April 11:


   In the past 6 months, I made a point of asking everyone I met who had sailed north and south from New Zealand about how their trip went.  It turns out just about everyone has the same experience we did going south:  a few nice days, then some fierce headwinds for the final few days.  So what do you look for to go north?  The most logical advice I remember getting was from a New Zealander who had sailed back and forth to the tropics at least a half dozen times.  So this is what he said:  When a low comes through New Zealand followed by high pressure, go as soon as the winds turn to blow from the south.  Don't wait for the seas or winds to calm down because if you do, then you won't get far enough north before the next Low comes along and finds you sailing upwind in the rain.

    So this beautiful weather window appeared:  a relatively weak low, followed by a strong high.  First it was going to be Tuesday that the low passed.  Then Wednesday.  Then maybe not until Wednesday night.  We were ready.  I called Customs and asked to clear out only to hear that the Opua agent had gone home for the day and could I maybe clear out tomorrow morning instead?  Now I suppose I could have...but after the forecast changing and postponing that wind shift repeatedly, I was getting a bit antsy to get on with it already.   And then, NZ customs makes a big deal about how you have to notify them 72 hours in advance of your intended departure and fill out an unusually large number of forms and include a photo of your boat and after all that, leave IMMEDIATELY when clearance has been given.  They're pretty strict about that and make a point in their brochures that agents are ready 24 hours a day to clear you out so there is no reason to do anything else but leave IMMEDIATELY out of NZ waters.  So I was more than a bit annoyed when the Opua customs agent whined to me about having to drive all the way back, and couldn't we maybe just clear out tomorrow morning like several other boats were doing?  I probably could have.  But now I was annoyed, so I dug in my heels.

    "No", I said.  Then I reminded him of what the brochures say and how I was following everything to the letter and he had gotten our 72 hour notice... *heavy sigh*.  He drove back.  He demanded that the whole ULIAD crew appear in person rather than just having the captain present the passports.  He had me sign a paper stating that I understood that I must leave IMMEDIATELY and if I hung around after clearing out I'd be subject to huge fines. 

     So we cleared out, but the wind still hadn't shifted to the south.  We took our time getting the dinghy secured and everything ready to go.  I was pretty sure that Opua Customs went straight home after finishing our paperwork.  They probably weren't looking at us with binoculars timing how long it took us to get underway.  On the other hand, I was pretty sure we'd better not still be in the anchorage by tomorrow morning.

     Finally by 8:30pm, the last band of rain had passed on the weather radar (still had some wifi megabytes to use up), the wind clocked around to the west, and we raised our anchor.  We motored slowly out of the pitch black anchorage and followed the channel marker lights out of the Bay of Islands.   By the time we rounded Cape Wiwiki and started heading out to sea, the wind was howling at 25 knots and stirring up some nasty chop.  We set our sails and hunkered down, knowing that the seas would only build as we got further from shore.   Shortly after pulling out the mainsail, the outhaul car on the boom gave way, so I spent the next hour figuring out how I'd jury rig some sort of replacement for that. 

     Which was nice, as it gave me something to distract me from my nausea.  Daylight revealed 10 to 12 foot swells roaring up at us from the port quarter.  By now Jim was looking decidedly nervous about what he had gotten himself into.  Kathleen and Emmett retreated to their bunks and did their very best not to throw up all day.  I thought about the other times we had returned to the sea after a break from sailing... I remembered how in Trinidad we were met by a pod of dolphins who surely were welcoming us back to the ocean...or how in Raiatea we slipped past the reefs with such a warm sun and a perfect following breeze.

     New Zealand didn't send out any dolphins, and we had probably burned our bridges with customs so I just wiped the salty spray from my face, swallowed hard, and kept going.


April 15:

     By day 3 of the passage, things were looking a bit better.  The seas were still pretty big, but the wind had slowly clocked around behind us which makes the motion on the boat much more tolerable.  The sun was out and we could just start to feel some warmth in the air as we sailed ever closer to the tropics. 

     Uliad races along like an express train.  With 20 knots of wind at her stern, she roars along at 8 knots.  I occasionally see the speed on the GPS jump to 9 or even 10 knots as she rolls down the back of these huge swells coming up from behind.  I wish I had a good photo to post of these waves, but I've learned from experience that on film, the sea always looks gray and disappointingly flat.  You really have to be there to appreciate the humbling majesty of big ocean waves bearing down on you. 

Uliad rides the rough seasEmmett hunkers down with a book

     I had the fishing lines out which turned out to be a mistake at these speeds.  Twice we've lost lures now.  There's just no easy way to slow down the boat quickly when running down wind and at these speeds, the hooks just tear out of smaller fish, or take all the line out with bigger fish.  The second strike came on Emmett's pole, so while he was below rushing to get his harness on, I just kept cranking up the drag and watching the line run out uncontrollably.  I finally realized that there was no way to fight whatever this was at this speed.  I cranked up the drag as far as I could, knowing that the 100 lb. monofilament line would soon snap.  It did and just as I looked back in the wake of the boat, I saw a huge blue marlin take a giant flopping leap out of the water.  I let out a yell and everyone ran up to the cockpit, but by then they had to make do with hearing my fish story.  I consoled myself with the fact that if the line didn't break, and I saw a marlin that size--I'd still probably have to just cut the line in these conditions.  I reeled in the lines and decided to wait for calmer seas to do our fishing.


April 17:


     Jim got more than he bargained for on this sailing trip.  The last two days into Vanuatu, the winds got stronger and the seas got higher again.  We saw a steady 25 knots and higher in the squalls that started coming through in the last 24 hours.  At around noon we entered the sheltered lagoon of Anatom--the southernmost island of Vanuatu.  It took us 7 days to sail south to New Zealand, but only 5 1/2 days to go about the same distance back north.  Blue water cruises can be fast, or they can be smooth, but never both.  So aside from welcoming the village policeman/customs officer aboard to complete the necessary formalities, we're all spending the rest of the day napping and enjoying a quiet, still boat for the first time in a thousand miles. 

Kath scans for reefs as we make landfall

     Just offshore from the village here is an island called Mystery Island.  Cruise ships come here every few weeks to let their passengers frolic on the beaches there.  As a result, the villagers here seem pretty used to foreigners and nobody gave us much notice while we were here.  We went to visit the island and found pretty much what we expected:  a perfect little faux thatch hut village--abandoned now but ready to be manned with sellers of crafts, drinks, and hair braiding when the tourists arrive.  We were told that there are 500 people living on Anatom.  The cruise ships bring about 3000 for the day. 


April 20:

     A check of the coming weather led us to make a quick 8 hour sail north to Tanna island.  It's predicted to get more squally and windy in the coming days so we figured we'd better move before it got worse.  Our destination was a bay called Port Resolution--first discovered and named by Captain Cook himself who anchored here in 17 something or other and named the bay after his ship at the time.  It is near to Mount Yasur--an active volcano of the real story book style where you can climb up and peer over the rim into the bubbling red lava.  Jim had actually visited Tanna a couple years ago on a dental mission trip, so we're hoping he can be a good guide for us.

    Shortly after landing on Tanna we were led to Johnson, brother of the village chief, who kindly offered us each a doughnut stick that he was making at the time.  While munching on these, we were introduced to Chief Stanley- a small friendly guy who heads the village here.  He took us on a quick tour around the thatch huts and out to the ocean beach on the far side.  On the way, we passed the Nakamal, which is the place where the men gather to drink Kava every evening.  In Vanuatu, as in Fiji, only the men drink kava.  But unlike Fiji, women are not even allowed to be around...or even glance at the men drinking kava.  (They take this seriously, years ago the penalty for a woman caught peeking was death.  In today's "soft on crime" environment, some fines are involved.)  So for future reference, Stanley showed us the path by which we could modestly bypass the Nakamal when Kathleen was with us.

Emmett tries a Tanna treat  Dugout outrigger canoes of Vanuatu

     While in Anatom we found a few modern skiffs with outboard motors and concrete block buildings (presumably some bit of wealth trickling down from the cruise ship traffic), Tanna is purely stone age.  The boats are dugout logs, the homes are hand built of thatch and wood.  The clothing limited to shorts and ratty T-shirts.  So it was a bit of surprise when after chatting for a while with the owner of a modest beach restaurant that he asked me if it would be possible for me to charge is cell phone for him on Uliad.  Now I'm not surprised to see cell phones here.  The infrastructure is pretty inexpensive for even the poorest third world country to develop and it is undoubtedly just as useful a tool to the people of Vanuatu as it is to us.  It just seemed odd that a guy in a village with no electricity would get himself a cell phone.  I imagined that forehead slapping moment when his cool new phone was down to that one red battery bar and he looked around his hut realizing there wasn't an outlet anywhere.

     So I made a deal -  one bunch of ripe bananas for charging his cell phone and bringing it back in the morning. 


April 22:

     Word travelled through the village fast, and soon I was doing a good business charging cell phones in exchange for fresh fruit and vegetables.  I called it my "electrons for food" program.  And since I could charge a cell phone, I guess that made me an expert in all things electrical because today a man named Thompson paddled out in his dugout canoe asking me to charge his DVD player and then after plying us with more produce, asked if I could please come and take a look at his generator that was not working properly.  By now we had more papayas than we could possibly eat, so I decided it was time to help the villagers to make their own darned electricity.

     Jim and I gathered up some tools and followed him to shore.  Thompson led us up a path through the jungle to his village where, in a clearing surrounded by huts were spread some woven mats and atop them sat a tiny generator.  The villagers soon crept out from behind doorways to watch me work my white man magic.  I was sincerely expecting to disappoint them all.  I'm no mechanic.  But after 4 1/2 years of struggling to keep our engine and generator and outboard running, I've probably learned a thing or two.  So I decided to give it a shot.

Uliad at anchor in Port Resolution  Jim studies the village generator

     My first discovery was that the gas tank was empty.  But that would be too easy.  I suggested adding fuel only to discover that this was a 2 stroke engine meaning we'd also have to come up with oil to mix with the gas.  Thompson had begged me to bring some gasoline but when I assured them that I don't carry any 2 stroke oil, they managed to find some in one of the huts.  I wiped out the rusty tank with a rag, cleaned the fuel prefilter as best as I could and made my best guess at a 50:1 gas/oil mix.  After a dozen tugs or so it started up, pouring out white smoke before dying.  Fiddling with the butterfly valve on the carburetor, I decided that maybe the carb was dirty.  So I played with spraying carb cleaner down the throat of the carburetor for a while until it would at least run steadily, but it was still smoking like hell.  More gas, less oil in the mix we thought.  Then Thompson pointed out the volt meter on the unit was running at about 300 volts.  It should be 220 or so here for household current so I dialed back the idle screw on the carburetor until the engine slowed enough to show 220.  There!  I worked my magic!

    I suggested a tank of fresh gas, with the correct oil mix and if that didn't get things running right, maybe checking with some other cruiser who knows more about 2 stroke engines than me.  That old generator looked like it could go at any time so I wanted to quit while I was ahead.

    We had also made arrangements to go visit the Mt. Yasur volcano today.  No amount of bargaining or cell phone charging could alternate for cold hard cash here.  Chief Stanley explained that the government had set up a gate and was charging each tourist who visited the famous volcano.  But he did arrange a car for us and his sister, Marii to come as a guide.  Marii apparently couldn't find a babysitter that night because she arrived with 5 children in tow to join us for our trip.  We were enthusiastic as the volcano has recently gotten a lot more active in the past week or two.  We could see its orange glow in the distance from our anchorage at night.

    Our driver took on an adventurous 4 wheelin' adventure through the ruts and mud bogs that make up the road from here.  An hour later we came to the government gate and paid our tickets to drive on up to Mt Yasur.  We finally parked on a plain of ash a few hundred yards from the rim of the volcano.  A narrow path was staked out through the desolate, scorched terrain.  Above we could hear the occasional deep thunderous boom from the crater beyond.  This looked like the path to hell.

  Our tour guides for the volcano  The trail to the volcano rim--view from parking lot.

    We gamely hiked on.  (After all if our guide was bringing her toddler along, how bad could it be?)  When we reached the rim of the volcano cone, the crater extended in a circle, perhaps 400 yards across, which descended down into a fiery center, just obscured from view by a ridge deep below us.  BOOOM!   Another eruption struck showering globs of lava upwards.  The concussion from the explosion struck our bodies palpably like artillery.  But unlike an explosion, the volcano continued to hiss and roar for long after the initial bang.  We were standing only a hundred yards or so from an exploding volcano and the initial thought in Kathleen's and my mind was "Holy shit we're going to die". 

     Even thrill-seeking Emmett registered shock and fear across his face before grabbing my hand for safety and saying, "this is cool...dangerously cool!"  We were on the upwind side of the volcano--good for blowing the ash, toxic fumes, and lava chunks in the opposite direction I thought.  But still, with each explosion we would see the occasional boulder of lava thrown up in our direction before landing with a solid -thwack- into the ash below us.  Two people have been killed here in the last 15 years from being struck by lava boulders, one Japanese tourist and one local.  "So the chances are quite small" I told myself while watching the next orange barrage hurtling upwards.  It took at least a half dozen spectacular explosions for us not to flinch as the shock wave struck our bodies.  And even longer to stop thinking, "OK this is the one that will kill us all!"

Em and Kath up close to the erupting volcano  Mt Yasur volcano at dusk  ((Click here for video))

     As dusk settled in, the orange glow of the lava pool became even more brilliant, the explosions more dazzling, and the roaring noises more spooky.  We finally tore ourselves away in absolute awe of the spectacle we had just witnessed.  "Standing this close to an erupting volcano" Kathleen surmised, "is probably the most amazing thing of our entire sailing trip so far."  Emmett concurred.  And mind you, we have seen a LOT of amazing things on our voyages. 


April 24:

     It seemed like suddenly we looked up and realized it was time for Jim to fly home again.  That went by fast!  In reality, he had a few more days, but the weather was looking like we wouldn't get him all the way to Efate where the international airport was on time.  So today Jim and I awoke bright and early to catch a ride in the back of a pickup truck to get to town.  This is no small thing.  It's about a three hour drive over what proved to be the worst road I've ever driven on.  Sharing the back of the truck with a large pile of luggage, 6 people, and at least 4 chickens.

     So we plowed our way through mud bogs and up impossibly steep and rutted gulleys only to get a flat tire about 45 minutes down the road.  Turns out, we were sharing the ride with Vanuatu's ambassador to China who was home to visit family after his father died suddenly.  So that let to a very brief conversation about Vanuatu's international trade situation (bad) and international relations (pretty good with everyone) which helped distract me from the fact that the spare tire was also flat.

     But third world folks just have an amazing way of figuring out how to get the job done.  By the time I had learned that China was an early supporter of Vanuatu's bid for independence 20 years ago, the driver had flagged down another pick up and managed to borrow HIS spare tire to get us to town.

Flat tire   The ash plain of Mt Yasur--road fords the river in foreground

     So the rest of the road was bad except for an amazing flat stretch across the Mt. Yasur ash plain where the road seemed to just zig zag back and forth for a while as if to wallow in the pleasure of flatness.  Then we had to ford a 2 foot deep river that was busy carving a canyon through the ash & mud before going back to the steep rutted road.

     We managed to go to immigration to get all of us cleared in to Vanuatu (we couldn't do this on Anatom as they only have a customs officer there), then get Jim taken off Uliad's crew list for his flight out.  And after a brief crisis over lack of local currency, we managed to get him on the daily flight to Port Vila a few hours later along with the Ambassador and his family, and most importantly the chickens!

     So there were now a few villagers and myself left.  I asked to stop at the bank to change some currency and got dropped off at the front door of the only bank in the dusty little town of Lenakel.  I finished my business to find our truck gone.  "OK, that's not good," I thought, "Guess I should have clarified where and when we'd meet up again."

     But this was a pretty small town, so I figured I'd just wander around and check out the market and keep my eyes open for a green Toyota Hilux with one wheel that doesn't match.  After an hour of wandering I was starting to get concerned and playing over my conversation with the driver... I'm sure he knew I was planning to ride back to the village!  I started to wonder how long I should wait in front of the bank.  How long would it take me to walk back to Port Resolution?

     Finally after about 2 1/2 hours of wandering and worrying, one of the Port Resolution villagers found me and led me to a shady stoop where they were all waiting.  Apparently the driver took off to get the tire and his brakes (!!) fixed and would be back to pick us all up when ever he got done with that.

     So after another couple of hours, he finally pulled up and we all piled in for the long ride back--this time much of it in the dark!  Kathleen and Emmett were pretty glad to see me by now as I was pretty late in getting home.   



April 26:

     OK, I can't leave the island of Tanna without also telling you about John Frum and the cargo cults of Vanuatu.  It seems that back around World War II, the US Military was building huge bases here in Vanuatu to support what eventually became the Guadalcanal Naval campaign just north of here in the Solomon Islands.  Anyway, to the primitive people of Vanuatu, the US military with its huge ships full of unbelievable wealth, amazing machines, and huge stockpiles of food--you can understand that they might have seen the Americans to be gods. 

    So anyway, legend has it that one particular soldier named John (from America) befriended a group of Tanna islanders who hired to help unload ships on Efate.  John from America (shortened to John Frum) reportedly gave the islanders good advice, and showered them with a bunch of surplus food and stuff at the end of the war, and eventually a whole religion sprung up here around John Frum.  The belief being that John Frum will come back some day and bring more of that tremendous cargo for the faithful descendents of those loyal Tanna workers.  The British were appalled at this and tried hard to suppress the movement; going so far as to imprison its leaders. It just wouldn't die.  These are things I had read in the Vanuatu travel guides.  Weird, huh?

     Near our anchorage, one village makes a small income from hosting John Frum tours to see a few tattered US flags and memorabilia and then watching their Friday night worship services that last well on into Saturday morning.  We passed on the tour, thinking that it might seem a little awkward to be part of a tour group where our guide strolls into town and points out the people with the kooky beliefs.  The cynical part of me wondered if this tradition just persisted as a way for the village to make some tourist cash.

     So fast forward to this morning...Emmett and I decided to bring our ukuleles to shore and have a little jam session there in the shade.  As I expected, pretty soon a good crowd had gathered around to listen to the funny American music.  After a few songs, the chief's brother asks to borrow my uke and he starts strumming out this amazing rhythm and once he figured out a couple chords, starts singing a couple of his native songs for us!   After singing a while, he started to explain that these were John Frum Movement songs and translating the lyrics about WW2 history and such.

Emmett strums with Johnson--learning John Frum songs! 

     Despite having several Christian churches in the village, he said there were still quite a few John Frummers here too.  And then he talked about how his own grandfather was jailed by the British for 17 years because he refused to stop worshiping John Frum!  So the guidebooks are really true!  So we ended up getting invited to the all night John Frum worship and were promised lots of strumming and music there.  I would have loved to go (at the peril, perhaps, of my good Lutheran soul for participating in this pagan ceremony) but by now we had already set our minds to sail on to the island of Efate tomorrow afternoon.

    So John Frum, if you're out there, we're sorry we missed the party.  Do you think you could throw a little cargo in our direction anyway? 




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