Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chasing turtles

The Soren Larsen was fortunate enough to anchor in Lamen Bay twice during our time in Vanuatu - once during the Fiji to Vanuatu voyage and then again during 'Vanuatu Discovery.' To look at Lamen Bay was not very special, but it was its visitors that made it.  Due to the sea grass growing quite close to shore, turtles and the occasional Du Jong come to graze.

On our first visit to Epi island, I was determined to see at least one turtle and grabbed my snorkel as soon as there was a chance to leave the ship.  I wasn't left disappointed. Not only did we stalk a large turtle (pictured above) I also sighted a ray of some sort.

On our second visit the wildlife was even better.  Not only did I go snorkelling and see a grand total of five turtles munching on sea grass (no photos this time), two whales came into the bay, right next to our ship so that the female could give birth to her calf.  They hung around for a long time and were still there when we brought up the anchor. Again no pictures - I was too busy going ooow and ahhhh and then attempting to distract people away from the whales and back to getting the main sail up. Here I learnt sailing will always lose against giant tailed mammals.

* Again thank you Mr Biddlecombe for the photo.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Small nambis get their groove on

Yes that is a leaf wrapped around his 'nambis.'  The villagers of Banham bay belong to the 'small nambis' affiliation rather than the 'big nambis' group - who live in land. Many of you who know that nambis means penis might be giggling a little, but  I want to clarify one thing (which needed to in turn be told to me whilst I was sniggering like a little girl); the size of each tribes nambis refers to the decoration size on the genitalia, not the er, package.

In their custom dress the people of Banham Bay were good enough to demonstrate their dancing.  Screened from the main village (women - as in local women - are not permitted to watch) the men's dancing and singing was amazing, full of life and all performers put in their all.

When we watched the women's singing and dancing, I was struck by their dress a lot more.  After the missionaries converted the Vanuatan's, women began to cover up, which is standard practise today. However,when it comes to their customs, the old ways take over. And the old ways, rock the house.

Thank you again Banham Bay for welcoming us into your home.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Banham Bay - Vanuatu

A beautiful place where the Soren Larsen received great hospitality.  

With humble leaders....

 and a picturesque location...

it was a communtiy so special...

 that even the toilets look mystical.

And if you walk a little further into land...

and a waterfall is found

Along with a puppy - can I keep it?

After visiting Banham Bay,  I couldn't wait to see what Vanuatu had in store for us.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Sighting old friends in Vila

And so we reached Vanuatu, the Soren's home for nearly two months.  After a few days sail from Latouka, Fiji  we made it to Port villa   The capital had a least one cruise ship in a day, and I was pleased to see the Pacific Pearl.  It took me back to my days living aboard the Southern swan in Sydney, living in Campbell's cove in the rocks.  Each morning I would wake to see which cruise ship was docked at the international terminal.

My first impression of Vila was good,  easy to access facilities and yet not too many people (except when the people came off the cruise ships for a couple of hours).  The namberwan cafe (really spelt like that) was a great place to get WiFi and enjoy a coffee or beer.

However after clearing customs and immigration, we began our Vanuatan  adventure into some of the most secluded communities in the world.

Monday, 8 October 2012

A short story of fiji

I think this is the shortage post on a country. After sailing from Tonga, we sailed for five days  to Fiji.  It was a voyage of change, what with the conversion from galley to deck work.  Our first port of call was a small fishing town to clear customs and then on to a picturesque island.  Here we celebrated our captain's birthday in style: a string band, rum and karva on the ship's deck.  after more sailing  we reached our our final destination, Latouka, or 'little india' as we came to call it.

In all honesty, what I saw of Fiji didn't impress me.  the few snorkelling spots we went to were damaged and latouka, where we spent our layover, was not the prettiest town.  Also, it wasn't fair on Fiji to come straight from the Vavau group in Tonga, as it was a hard act to follow.

Yet with new voyage crew aboard and our stores loaded, it was time to sail onto our next island nation. The place I was most excited about visiting. Vanuatu here we come....

Picture taken in the coral gardens, Tonga, where we sailed from. it was just prettier.

Saturday, 6 October 2012


From Tonga onwards there was a change in my role on the ship.  After three months in the galley I made the transition to deckhand.  As time has past, I've found myself drawn more and more onto deck and when a opportunity came for me to join the deck crew, I jumped at it.  Working as a cook did have its benefits, but I reached a point where I was learning very little and not enjoying myself the way I used to.

My daily routine has certainly changed. At sea, instead of working all day, you join the watch system.  This is either 12-4, 4-8 or 8-12, a.m and p.m.  On watch you organise voyage crew, do baw watch and take the helm, do safety rounds, sail adjustments and whatever else the officer on watch wants you to do.  Along with standing your watch, deckhands must do a minimum of two hours maintenance or cleaning on the ship.  Oh, and there are the calls for 'all hands on deck.' that can be fun at 3am in the morning!

 My sea sickness has improved since leaving the confined space of the galley and using sea sickness pills that work for me.  I also believe that I'm better at controlling the nausea and overcoming it in quicker time.
When the Soren is anchoring between sails, the Deckies are still kept busy working throughout the day and then taking an anchor watch at night.  Day work can be anything from sailing, running errands, cleaning to even more maintenance.

Yet I loving the fact I'm learning new skills everyday. At times I can get frustrated. it can feel like I'm not learning fast enough, why haven't I remembered that knot I was shown a few days ago and how do I prepare that two part epoxy paint? I hear myself asking so many questions and I just want to be sure I'm not going to f**k up.  I especially get angry when I can't physically do something and need to get a man's help.  weighing around 8st and reaching 5.3", there are some things I cannot lift or get tight enough.  one of the most annoying things about my role is on occasion coming face to face with my weaknesses.   But as time goes on, my muscles are improving and maybe one day I won't need no stupid boy's help.

Climbing aloft is also a big part of the job, and although I've never had a problem with heights, it has taught me to trust myself a lot more.  There are times when you have to be confident to do what's needed, from driving a tender in rough weather to overseeing the windlass engine when others are flaking in the locker.
At the moment, learning new skills in maintenance has been one of my favourite parts of being a Deckie. from wood to metal work, getting involved and revamping the ship has felt very rewarding.

Farewell full nights of sleep, goodbye to the responsibility and respect you receive in the galley - hello to deckie life.

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