About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Thursday, July 20, 2017

BRAVO crew goes full Indy Jones on Erromango

After our spectacular visit to Tanna we headed north to Erromango, the next island in the Vanuatu chain (Vanuatu claims 84 inhabited islands!!!)

Fishing report:  The big event was that we hooked up with a marlin!  Oh baby baby, that was a first.  The reel just started screaming, but by the time we took Bravo out of gear and lunged for the rod, it had snapped the line.  But WOW, the fish just kept dancing out of the water on it's tail for a good 20 seconds after that, celebrating it's freedom, and rubbing my nose in the fact that it had stolen a favorite lure!!!  Swim on, mighty fish, we were no match for ya!!!


Village is along the shore and up this beautiful river valley


David at his yacht club, made us feel right at home.
Dropping the pick in the beautiful open anchorage off the village of Dillon's Bay, we were immediately visited by David, a fixture of the village and eager host to visiting yachties from around the world, who paddled out to us in his dugout canoe.  We agreed to come visit David and his family at his "yacht club" the next day, and arranged for him to guide us to some interesting nearby caves we'd read about.  Sweet as!!!

We picked David up at the beach in the morning to dinghy out to the caves, which were reputed to house human bones and remains.  We'd heard quite a bit about cannibalism in Vanuatu (the last known instance of humans gracing the local menu was 1969, not exactly ancient history!!!  Long pig was apparently quite a delicacy, with the head always reserved for the chief.  As in any culture, rank has it's privileges!!!

After motoring through some dicey coral reefs, David showed us where to land the dinghy, and we followed him into the jungle, up a steep gnarly rutted almost-path.  We really had no idea where it was leading.

All of a sudden David stopped in his tracks, pointing at a small opening in the cliff.  Flashlights on, time to descend.  Within the cave we found multiple piles of bones and skulls.  David said that a landslide had "rearranged" several of the bodies, and only one or two were really somewhat identifiable as skeletons.



















David told us that this was his family's burial cave, and that these were the bones of his ancestors, not those found out back of the local deli.  He said that after dying, the body was buried upright in a deep hole, with the head sticking out of the ground.  A fire was lit around the head and tended for one month, after which the head was twisted off and put on display, along with the bones.



Leaving this cave, he asked if we wanted to see another, further up the cliff, where even more bones  were located.   "Lead on, David, we're all in!!!"

Cave is at the top of the photo, to the right of the tree roots.



What could possibly go wrong here???





This cave was less defined, more open air, much as the caves of bones we saw in Fiji.  The skulls were neatly arranged, and David said they were chiefs and their wives.  The major break in one of the skulls was a bit curious, but who knows???  (ed. note:  We have learned since that on Efate Island, where we are at present, the chiefs, when they died, were often buried with their wives buried alive alongside them.  (One rascal, Roi Mata, a 13th century chief on Eratoka Island (aka Hat Island) off of Efate was buried with 25 of his favorites.  The site was discovered by a French archeologist in 1967.  Now a Unesco World Heritage Site due to its cultural significance, this island is considered "tabu" by local villagers, and no one lives there.)


David was a great host, and encouraged us to walk around his village as much as we liked.  The pretty place is along the Dillon River, lined on one side with small family farm plots, growing a variety of local vegetables....yams, pumpkin squash, bok choy, taro, manioc, bananas, oranges, etc.  The path walked along the river, where women were always busy washing laundry and bathing the little kids.  A really idyllic scene.

In reading about Erromango, we heard the story of John Williams, a missionary who, along with his buddy and fellow missionary James Harris, was killed and eaten here in 1839.  It seems that they landed on the island shortly after some other white men had come to the island to load up on sandalwood.  They killed some villagers in a squabble due to their non-payment for the wood, and tempers were still high when the missionaries arrived.

Seems that they killed both, kept Harris for one meal, then sold Williams' body to another tribe.  There was reputed to be a rock near the village where they laid Williams body to measure it up for it's value.  The quest to find the rock was calling our names!

Turned out to be a half day of false starts and dead end trails through the jungle trying to find the rock with its gouges of Williams height and girth.  Finally an elderly local, Amos, agreed to lead us to the rock above the river.  And there it was, marked with a plaque even!






Cindi lying within John Williams guide marks!


The plaque itself had an interesting back story.  It seems that for many years, numbers of the local villagers  have felt that their village was cursed due to the killing of missionary Williams, and putting him on the local buffet line.  As a way to remove the curse, the descendants of those responsible for the murders wished reconciliation with the Williams family.  In 2009, 170 years after the event, 18 members of the Williams clan traveled to Erromango from around the world.  With emotions still surprisingly raw after all this time, the day long ceremony was apparently very moving, as dozens of villagers lined up in front of the Williams's to ask for forgiveness.  All seems good now!


During one of our walks through the village, a local man walked up to Adam to ask if he could fix the fiberglass boat belonging to the medical clinic.  After the recent fiberglass repairs in Aneityum, our glass and resin supplies were getting a bit low, but we of course agreed to come in the next day and give it a go.  It was a much larger repair, the boat having been rammed full speed by another local boat.   Though the repair might not have been pretty, it should hold and keep the water out.  The day after the work, we saw the boat back in service, in the water, after being grounded for several months......success!!!

Project management meeting....."Let's do this!!!"










While of course we wanted no payment for the boat repair, the village insisted on giving us a farewell basket of vegetables and fruit.  Wow, what a terrific gift, and a welcome one, as our veggie supplies were getting pretty low!












Some additional photos shot around the village:













Typical friendly waves everywhere.  Legacy and Bravo in the background.









David and Adam gather coral for the yacht club pathway....David wouldn't accept help from the city boy in carrying the load!


Kids gathering beach firewood for cooking at home paddle past Bravo to say "hi".


Laundry day






Yacht club




We really enjoyed our stay in this lovely village.  Once again the local people couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming.  Happily, they've changed the menu!!!  Next stop, the big city, Port Villa on Efate Island, where we are currently writing this blog post, trying to catch up!!!


















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