Published: October 13th 2008October 7th 2008
Team Banem Bay
Missing from this photo are Rose, Phillipe, Marie, Tom, Claire, and Ali. All were key players. The villagers liked them so much that they threatened to eat us if we didn't let them stay.
Banem Bay turned out to be a raging success. Thanks to an amazing pack of donors, volunteers and the indispensable crew of the Alvei we surpassed all our expectations and accomplished far more than our original goals. As usual there were complications and delays but the team conquered all obstacles in the path like true champions.
After the hassle with our cargo delivery we finally decided to cut our losses and give up on waiting for it all to arrive. We were nearly a week late in our departure as the original plan was to be in Banem Bay (or be leaving for it) on the 1st of August. Wednesday the 6th saw Alvei leaving Port Vila with a full crew of sailors and volunteers. Those that came specifically for Project MARC were: Mark Nolan, a Aussie builder with much experience in Vanuatu; Tom Dalton, a civil engineer from the States; and Peter Schienpflug, an Aussie with extensive NGO building experience in tropical jungle environments. Alvei’s crew included: Rosie, our Kiwi cook; Niklaus, a Swedish carpenter; Rose, a Brit advertising executive; Marie, a Swedish factory worker; Jorge and Victoria, a young English couple; Gabs, a British backpacker (we picked up
Team Leader of the Sason Line
Tom is the civil engineer from the states. I'm sure there will be children named after him in Lambul.
in Vila); Carola, a German teacher; Phillipe, a French Telecom engineer; Peter, an Aussie tall ship sailor; and of course Evan and Kat, our leadership on Alvei. Our donor heroes are too numerous to name here, but everyone should know that without their help none of our work could have been accomplished.
Once the anchor was up and down we motored out of Port Vila’s harbor. Our first destination was Sakao in the Maskelene Islands (just off the South East corner of Malekula). This trip is normally an overnight sail but we made such good time that we had to stop outside the channel at night and wait for sunrise before entering the pass. For this first passage many of the new people on board got seasick and spent some quality time hugging the rail. Tom Dalton’s seasickness needs to be specially noted as it was some of the most creative that I’ve ever seen. (I’ll let your imaginations fill in the blanks here. Just imagine a blunderbuss with dry heaves. Yet he still managed to laugh, smile, and steer!)
Sakao tuned out to be a longer stop than planned. I had wanted to have a short stay
Team leader for the Fartafo Line and co-genius behind the weir wall retention plan.
for supply delivery and then departure for Banem Bay on the same day. The weather had other plans, however. After offloading some lumber, medical supplies, and cement, we took on a couple outboard motors and buoys for future expeditions. The Banem Bay team also got a chance to tour Sakao’s clinic and see Henk and Nellecke’s cabin to study some of the local builing techniques. And then came the rain….yes, that kind of torrential tropical rain that drenches you to the soul so thoroughly that your grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be wet from the downpour. Needless to say, we didn’t feel like sailing on to Banem Bay that afternoon.
The morning of Friday the 8th gave us pretty clear skies and a chance to dry out some of our gear. Since the anchorage is so deep it wasn’t until 9:00 that we were motoring out of the Sakao channel and on to Banem Bay. The winds were good and I was both relieved and excited to finally be on our way. The work hadn’t yet started in full but I was already feeling the time crunch.
Around midday we dropped anchor in Banem Bay and set up the
This may one day the base of operations for Project MARC. Pretty crazy eh?
ship for what would be a two-week stay. Finally we had made it and some of us were chomping at the bit to get to work. First things had to come first, however, like arrangements with the chiefs, meetings with the village elders, and the usual ceremonies and speeches that welcome volunteers to the village. I knew that I’d have to prep the villagers for the volunteers’ arrival, so I rowed the Pelican (our one man dinghy) over to the village of Batou 5 and met with Chief Sam. It actually turned into quite a busy afternoon that Friday as I walked to Fartafo, Repatsivir, and Retur villages, meeting with all the chiefs and arranging a Saturday morning meeting and salu salu (welcoming ceremony).
That night I climbed back onboard Alvei with sore feet from a long trek but a good outlook on the work ahead. All of the chiefs I had spoken to were very supportive and very happy to see Project MARC’s return to the Bay. Alvei’s crew was also excited to get onto the island to see some of the real Vanuatu that few people get to experience.
Saturday morning the 9th revealed a pretty
Loading goods from Sakao
We'd left a few outboards here with other supplies. Getting them back before the rain started didn't work out so well.
good turn out for the welcoming ceremony in Fartafo. As usual, the festivities started an hour late but the speeches were short and we were left with plenty of time to survey the water system. My plan was to take the afternoon to show the volunteers the water source and key points along the water line where they would be working so that they could get an overall picture of what they would be doing over the next couple of weeks.
The state of the water system was not what I expected: the water worked where I didn’t think that it would work, and was dried up in places that I thought it would be flowing freely. This was an obstacle to be sure, because I had purchased supplies for certain problems that I’d planned to fix, but not for the problems that had unexpectedly sprung up. Such is way of things with Project MARC, you’ve got to roll with the punches. Next year I plan on visiting the sites before purchasing supplies. This way I’ll be able to see the changes that have occurred in the year since we were there last. Surprises will always pop up, I’d
Meeting of Chiefs
Here assembled are Chief Sam of Fartafo, Chief Vanu of Lambul, and Chief Simon of Repatsivir, along with several elders and sons.
just like to reduce the number to a manageable amount.
Sunday is a no-work day for people in Vanuatu so I knew that it would be pointless to try to start work on this first day after our introduction. The day turned out to be very productive in the end though. Several of the crew went to a joint Sunday service between several villages. This turned out to be a good bonding experience for the crew and the community. I’m glad that we had the opportunity because we made miles of progress in diplomatic relations between the villages. During the second half of the day I took the crew and volunteers to the waterfall by Retur Village. This also was good because it really boosted the morale of the volunteer labor force. I’m glad that they got to share an amazing experience from the island because I was about to ask them to heft 40 kilo sacks of cement up steep jungle trails to the top of a very large hill.
The best part of the day was spent passing through the villages on the way to the waterfall. All the volunteers got to meet the kids and
These women were lucky and only had to carry their buckets about half a mile.
families that their work would benefit because the path we took was along the water line. The villages we saw that day hadn’t had running water for years, and in several places the children would have to walk for hours to retrieve a bucket of water. In Retur village itself, the people had to walk down a very steep cliff face to fill their buckets, and then have to climb back up laden with the water. These were people that needed our help, and we needed to get to work.
There are more photos below