Departure from rainy Port Vila to Malekula Island

August 7, 2008

We left Port Vila about 11am ago for the one hour trip to the anchorage off of Mele Island about 5 miles away. We will be here for only a few hours. At 5 pm we will depart for Southwest Bay, Malekula. The trip is about 100 miles. That is too far to do during daylight hours and still arrive with good light. We expect the passage to take about 15 hours although we cannot judge the wind yet since we are still in the wind shadow of Efate Island. We needed to leave the mooring field of Port Vila by noon in order to avoid low tide. There is a narrow and shallow pass to navigate to leave, thus the need to stop at Mele Island.

It has been raining off and on for the past 4 days. We carry our rain jackets wherever we go, and we have had a lot of places to go. We had to re-provision the boat which was a time consuming task that required stops in a variety of stores and markets. We also added 150 liters of diesel to our tank by schlepping jerry cans in our dinghy. We also had some nice meals out ranging from a cheap meal at the vegetable market sitting at a common table with all the other customers to two nice meals at French restaurants.

There is a three day festival in southwest Malekula that starts on the 12th. There will be Kustom dancing and other events. The two major groups on Malekula are the Big Nambas and the Small Nambas. The names originate from the size of the penis sheath (namba) that men wear. Apparently, the Big Nambas and the Small Nambas have not gotten along over the years, although there is no warfare between them these days. The size of your namba still matters alot in Malekula.

The Big Nambas wind purple pandamus fibers around their penises and secure the fiber to a belt made of bark. The testicles are exposed. They kept a stone fireplace where outsiders who they disliked (Small Nambas) were ritually cooked and eaten. If a Big Namba woman pleased her husband, he would permit her to have her two front teeth knocked out by hammering them with a rock. Small Nambas wear only one leaf on their penises, which they tuck into their bark belt. Testicles are also exposed.

No other boats are accompanying us for this passage. The Vera’s are in Epi Island and we might not see them again. They are leaving Vanuatu for the Torres Strait (north of Australia) in a weeks time. We expect to find quite a few other boats coming to this festival since it has been talked about alot.


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