|My mascot doll sailing with me|
So we motored into Vavau and came to dock at Neiafu. Only a few yachts there. That was in 1997 of course, but I gather it might not be much different nowadays. The Pacific Ocean is vast and islands are wide apart. You really have to be serious about 'cruising' to get there. Perhaps with the advent of automatic sailing and automatic navigation a lot more sailboats will venture that far. In 1997, however, there were not many people cruising around there. It was the end of June or the beginning of July i.e. the cool season in the southern tropical area of the world and the weather was just fine.
After mooring everyone went out into 'town' and I staid on board. As I was in charge of the galley and the cooking I figured I had to clean up a bit after the last passage. I was in no hurry to visit the place being myself a resident of a Pacific Island at the time in New Caledonia.
Not more than 20 minutes after the rest of the crew had left I get a call on the short wave radio. A major accident. Little Tom had fallen into the water and hurt his head badly on a reef. He was rushed to the local hospital if there was one. I prayed. I prayed the Lord, God, our heavenly Father, not to turn this heaven into hell for those parents who had taken me as crew on their board.
It turned out that this very day there was an Australian surgeon on duty at the local hospital. This guy consulted in Vavau regularly something like twice a year and it happened to be this very day. Tom was promptly operated. He had an eyelid sewn back on. Call it a coincidence!
What else do I remember of Vavau? Pigs roaming around freely in the streets. A guy on a yacht having sailed from Hawaii looking for crew. I didn't take it as I was on my way back home to New Caledonia. The original plan had been to sail to Hawaii following Captain Cook's trail. That was not to be, I had to admit it. I also remember going for a barbecue somewhere on the island sitting on wooden benches at the back of a truck. We joked about going to a barbecue not to eat but to be eaten... a dubious joke, of course. Pacific islanders of old used to be man eaters. It is not diplomatic to recall this detail of history at the best of time.
A digression: in New Caledonia when I first arrived there in 1989 I met a Melanesian guy who invited me for a beer and chatted me up. I bragged that my grandfather was a farmer. He replied "well MY grandfather was a man eater"... and we laughed. Some people do have a sense of humour.