"Arctracer" Letters

Epi Island, Vanuatu, June 2002

We've been at Lamen Bay, Epi Island, for about a week now. The villagers here are terrific - very nice people who are relatively well-educated and speak adequate English. We've had some tours and meals ashore, and had some locals on board for popcorn and "stories." Yesterday, Jerry helped them set up a new tv satellite dish so that they could watch the World Cup (soccer, or "football" to everybody outside the USA). This is the world's most important sporting event, even if it isn't considered very important in the USA. This village is fortunate to have one of the few secondary schools in Vanuatu. It has grades 7 through 10, and students have to pass an entrance exam to get in. The school has a generator and a tv set, and with the satellite antenna now receiving World Cup games the whole village is overjoyed. We printed out the World Cup schedule to post in the village meeting hut, and were asked to make a copy for another village, so everyone can follow the progress of the remaining 32 teams. We met one of the teachers and gave him notebooks and pencils for his class, along with some of the many pictures I'd cut out of magazines, glue, rulers, graph paper, protractors, and reading glasses so he could see what he was reading. I also made origami cubes with him and some of his students. The villagers in all these Pacific Islands love to make these. After we finish making them I put thread through them so that they can hang them up in the bamboo bungalows that they live in. We've seen the resident dugong a few times and there are at least two turtles that also frequent this anchorage.

(view Epi Island photos)

Jerry spent almost a week replacing all of our plumbing with good reinforced plastic hoses and stainless steel hose clamps. We now have a hand pump for fresh water in the galley, a foot pump for fresh water in the head, and use the electric water pump only for the shower. The whole system is simpler and more reliable now. We've had plenty of rain, so we've been able to keep our water tanks topped up. However, the rain hasn't been excessive, and we've enjoyed some nice weather too.

The locals are keeping us supplied with food from their gardens, so we've mostly been eating local food in an attempt to consume all that they give us. Some of the foods are yams, taro, cooking bananas (plantain), bananas, grapefruit, oranges, papayas, some kind of huge vegetables they call beans, "Island Cabbage" (more like spinach), and chilies. Of course we have also given them small things in trade. We've been eating lots of peanuts since they are grown by several people here. They get about $ 50 U.S. for a whole sack of them when they send them to Vila (the capital) to be sold at the outdoor market or exported.

Soon we'll be moving north. It sure is easy to stay many days in a place like this. We'll be visiting some other islands on our way to Espirto Santo where we have to check in to get permission to go to the Banks and Torres Islands.