The good with the bad: reflections after leaving Vanuatu for Sweden

Photo creds Wabi Jayme
When you're sailing, you discover that one of the greatest things you encounter is not beautiful islands, dolphins or beaches. It's the sailing community. Sailors being good to sailors just because they're sailors. I can't write down all the times I helpt a yachtie or when I was helped by one, but's it's beautiful every time.

Here in Vanuatu, I thought about that a lot, because of the sudden sharp contrasts. Also, the contact with Sweden made it more clear, which friends to rely on and which are not.

One example: me and Tobias arriving to Port Vila, stuck on the quarantine anchorage without permission to go ashore. The sailors on the boat next to us come over to say hi and we tell them we really wanted to go to the store because we miss fresh food. Some time later, they come back - with a small package containing fresh chicken, ripe mangos, and two bottles of red wine. Can you imagine what this means when you've been on canned food diet for almost a week?

Waking up at the mooring near the boat yard, I have a lot of work to do, it's 06:00 in the morning but already hot and humid, and I'm also dead tired. Breakfast: a cold can of beans, then start working on deck. Suddenly a dinghy appears. The captain and caretaker of the boat right beside comes up to say hello, with a big sweet juicy ripe papaya, straight from the fridge. I offer him some boat gear and money so he can keep an eye on my boat when I am away. He says he does not need anything, as his employers take good care of him, but he's happy to help me out and keep an eye on the boat. Lovely.

But it's not all sunshine stories and fun. Coming from the South Pacific, after dealing with happy people that always have a smile ready, and do not care about materialistic values, I guess I was too naive for Fiji and Vanuatu. It feels like a completely different part of the world there, mostly at Port Vila. The taxi drivers scam you, people do not honor their word, I was ripped off by 4 people during 24 hours, and suddenly the world turned dark. A guy bought my surplus fuel and never turned up with the money, backstabbing both his buddy and me (I was left pennyless, though managing somehow to get 50% of the money at last, which cost me a lot of time that I didn't have and a lot of frustration I could do without). But, I guess I will have to take the bad with the good...

When you are a long way from home and sailing, you are heavily dependent on someone to take care of the stuff back at home. Bills and papers do not pay or sort out themselves, and no authority is interested in scanning and mailing them to you, or sending them to P/R somewhere in South Pacific. The crew I had during the past year was extremely lucky as his friend helped him with everything from finding a tenant to fixing things big and small, and that was priceless. I had a bit less luck, as the person who promised to take care of my stuff when I was away, in exchange to getting my apartment in return, was not as reliable. It's not very nice to find out that one has got two or three bill reminders (almost risking being blacklisted financially), or "reply within 10 days" authorities’ letters that are several months old, when you are far, far away. Swedish tax office and other authorities are not forgiving if some paper is not sent to them within a reasonable amount of time, and that made life very hard for me, especially when it came to trust. Also, the person was owing me money, which of course makes life difficult when you are away on a tiny budget. So a word of advice to those planning to sail for a long time: find good friends who is reliable, and will not let you down after a few weeks when sorting mail becomes boring.