We’ll start with the only scary event on the passage so far. Yesterday afternoon we saw a boat ahead of us in the distance coming towards us. We changed course. It was still coming towards us. We changed course some more. It was still coming towards us. It turned out to be a trawler fishing boat towing three canoes behind it. They were probably thought we were fellow fishermen, or wanted to check out our boat since it was similar to theirs. They got much, much closer than we would have liked. As we passed one another, we waved and they waved back. End of story. No attempted attack or hint of attempted attack, just a wave. But our hearts had stopped for a few minutes until we saw the waving.
We have only passed a handful of other boats. Ships with AIS don’t worry Eric at all, but he freaks out over every boat that shows up on radar without AIS until he is absolutely sure they are not coming near us.
It has been extraordinarily quiet on the radios. There is no traffic at all on the VHF radio, with the exception of a coalition war ship, which was nice to hear. There is very little traffic on the SSB. We have never really had much luck getting good reception on the SSB or HAM frequencies. On the radio nets we have only been able to connect with a couple boats of the many, and we have some difficulty with reception when we do connect.
We are still running without lights at night. Last night was another moonless and cloudless night, with even more stars and bioluminescence glowing since we were farther away from land and lights. Cloudless nights are extremely rare. Often, it is so cloudy we can see no stars, so the clear, dark night was a special treat. We realized that the wake in back is so lit up from the bioluminescence that it looks like there is a spotlight in the water under the wake. Also, the cockpit sparkles from the sea water that washes into the cockpit. It is really pretty.
Yesterday, the seas were surprisingly smooth considering the amount of head wind. The current slowly eased up over the next 36 hours from when we left, but speeds were still very slow, considering the RPM. Today the wind shifted around to the rear and picked up, which has caused the ride to be a little more uncomfortable, but not bad at all. Our speed has gotten almost up to 7 knots now, still a little on the slow side for 1900 RPM.
And on to a blog question:
Q: What is health care like in all the South Pacific countries you have visited? (post tagged as South Pacific because of this)
A: According to our friend Peter that lives in Tahiti, in French Polynesia, health care is socialized and excellent. There are clinics on all the less populated islands, and if it is too serious of a case for a clinic, they send you to an island with a hospital.
According to John in Suwarrow, there are clinics in the Cook’s, and if your problem is too serious for the clinic, you are sent to New Zealand, where care is subsidized. Per Jim at the yacht club, the same is true for Niue.
Tonga is not as good. Per a lady who immigrated to Tonga from New Zealand a couple of years ago, the doctors are good and do the best they can with what they have to work with. But, the hospitals are grossly under funded, are not very up to date, and are not very clean. She said if one were to get really sick they would be better off getting on a plane to Fiji or New Zealand for treatment. The pharmacy in Tonga is privately owned and well stocked, so medication access isn’t a problem.
According to our tour guide, Mike, in the villages of Fiji there is usually a resident nurse and a rotating doctor. There are public hospitals in the Fijian cities that are subsidized and not very good. There are private practices around that offer better quality care than the public hospitals, but most locals cannot afford private practice.
In Vanuatu we didn’t get very clear information. From what we can tell, all the islands have clinics. There are hospitals around, too, for sure on Efate and we are not sure where else. It sounds like health care is subsidized and there is only a nominal fee to see the doctor and get medicine. However, for the villagers that live off the land and have no money, the nominal fee is still a problem. We have no idea what quality of care is like.
Australia has really good socialized medicine. [93-94]