is it mad, or even a little nuts
to imagine that a coconut can save a dolphin's life,
a shark, or perhaps an endangered coral reef?

On August 1st, Mad Men star Jon Hamm will launch the 2015 Oceana SeaChange summer party,
a charity auction dedicated to helping protect and conserve our precious oceans and marine life.
Among the items to be auctioned: a stylish BMW i8 sports car, a week at Sir Richard Branson's
luxurious Caribbean retreat, and an exquisite, hand-carved coconut sculpture by Neville Hockley.


Day 2,975 - Tanna, Vanuatu (19° 26S 169° 13E)
10:20hrs - July 23rd 2015
Best Fire Ever!

According to the month I was born I'm an air sign but I have always secretly imagined myself to be a fire sign. Among cruising friends I have a reputation for being a fire maker. The deal is Neville chops the wood and and I burn it, that's how it works, and over the last 8 years and many many beach fires we have had he has gradually come to the conclusion that however much he chops, that's how much I'll burn, so instead of chopping several nights worth, he'll only chop one fires worth at a time and if I run out I will scramble around in the dark with a flashlight collecting driftwood, coconuts and anything else I can find to keep it going, and when it's time to go, I always just need 5 more minutes, I hate to leave. My preferred goal with evening beach fires is to have just  enough fire still going so when it's time to leave that I can still see it from the boat when we are back aboard, and I like to imagine all the hermit crabs and assorted beach critters enjoying the fire after we've gone.

We've had some epic fires in our time but I met my fiery match in the volcano on Tanna. We are almost at the end of our time in Vanuatu and it was appropriate that one of the last things we do here before we go was on a grand scale, and Mount Yasur volcano was it. We drove across Tanna island in a bumpy hot 4 wheel drive tour, weaving and bouncing along unpaved roads for 2 hours to get to our destination stopping for a while on an expansive moonscape of ash plain at the base of the volcano to consider under what circumstances all the lava rocks scattered around us had landed there and when the next one might appear.

It was still light when we got to the base and after meeting our guide and being instructed to do exactly as we were told i.e. stay close and if the guide runs you run etc. we reached the first level to be met with an almighty shuddering boom welcoming us to the volcano. There was a tangible sense of awe with that first boom, mixed with adrenaline and a tiny uncomfortable fear that this actually might be bigger than we had been expecting, but also an overwhelming urge to get to the top as fast as we could so we wouldn't miss anything! When we reached the top we picked our spot and sat down balancing on the soft ash rim of the volcano ready for the show of a lifetime, and it didn't disappoint. We sat there for hours watching explosions of lava being hurled into the air, seeing and feeling shockwaves as each explosion vibrated the air around it, were thrilled excited frightened and humbled by this edge of your seat experience, understanding that at any moment despite a somewhat naive sense of security the volcano could just shake us all off our soft ash perch and swallow us into its fiery lava stomach.

The photos don't do it justice and words don't convey the magnitude of the experience. All I can say is that if you ever get a chance to see this in real life, do, particularly if you like fire, you'll never want to leave.




Save a dolphin!
Make an absentee bid on Dream Time's coconut sculpture! Learn more >


Maui Jim helps us see
the world at its very best, find out how >





Tanna, Vanuatu    A view of Mount Yasur from across the ash plains.


Quick Fix: 15° 31.3 S / 167° 10.0 E
July 13th, 2015 (day 2,965)
Conditions:  Wind: 20/E  Sky: Clear.

Bia Blong Yummi - Mi Wantem Tuska!
It's time to celebrate. We've witnessed the legendary naghol land divers of Pentecost, experienced an uncomfortable namba (penis sheath) dance in the Maskeylnes, sailed under a plume of volcanic ash in 30 knots of accelerated tradewinds, swam with turtles off the idyllic Ratua Island, and dove on the world famous USS President Coolidge - a luxury Titanic-style cruise ship that, on its very first visit to Vanuatu whilst operating as a troop carrier, sailed directly into the wrong channel and hit a 'friendly' mine. It took us three weeks of day sailing north from Port Vila up to Santo, mostly in crappy conditions, and thankfully just a 24-hours motorsailing sprint back to Vila in a rare respite from the tradewinds, a 478-mile round trip. It's good to be back. Now, time to kick back and relax with a local brew!



Quick Fix: 15° 31.3 S / 167° 10.0 E
July 10th, 2015 (day 2,962)
Conditions:  Wind: 25/SE  Sky: Cloudy.

What The Hell Was That!
Even at anchor Dream Time speaks to us - her bulkheads creak, rigging whistles, lines stretch, we're familiar with every noise and its meaning. But a few days ago we experienced a new noise, a low reverberating rumble that shook the boat down to the keel, including the seabed we were anchored to. I guess when you're cruising over the Pacific Ring of Fire you should expect a few earth tremors. Heck, we even sailed under a plume of volcanic ash just to reach the anchorage. But this was our first earthquake on Dream Time, and while it was just a mere tectonic twitch, one that barely registered on the Richter Scale, it had us scanning the shoreline for signs of a tsunami. Next week we'll hike up Mount Yasur, an active volcano, to pay our respects before leaving for calmer anchorages.


Pentecost, Vanuatu    Naghol (land diving), the most intense, mesmerizing, distressing and unforgettable ceremony we have ever witnessed.


Day 2,955 - Pentecost, Vanuatu (15° 54S 168° 11E)
20:33hrs - July 3rd 2015

We've witnessed fire walking ceremonies in Fiji, heiva in Tahiti, lakalaka in Tonga, haka dances in New Zealand, even a four-day matava'a o te henua enana festival in the Marquesas, but none of these compare to the unforgettable intensity of naghol.

The naghol, or land diving ceremony, is only performed on one island and during a specific season. It is a tradition performed not only to ensure a successful yam harvest, but also for men to prove their bwahri, or inner warrior, and for boys who wish to prove their manhood. And before tourists arrived in Vanuatu eager to pay for the privilege of witnessing this unique ritual, it was a private, ancient and sacred custom reserved for just a single week in May.

But in the 1960's, David Attenborough revealed the shocking tradition to the world when his BBC film crew tracked through the jungle to capture the first grainy footage of Pentecost's land divers. Now, not only is the ceremony performed most Saturdays during the months of April, May and June, but it inspired AJ Hackett to launch bungee jumping in the 1980's, commercializing the ritual for millions of thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies around the world.

But remarkably, we discovered, even with all this exposure and attention, land diving on the island of Pentecost remains as genuine, dangerous and authentic today as it did when the first ni-Vanuatu ancestors jumped centuries ago.

The tower, rickety and unfinished in appearance, and looking as ancient and forboding as the tradition itself, sways on a hillside overlooking the South Pacific, tethered to the jungle with 150 foot vines as though restraining the very spirit from jumping which is believed to inhabit the structure. Each season the construction is built anew using only freshly cut tree trunks, branches and vines. A trusted village elder bares the heavy responsibility of selecting and cutting liana vines, carefully matching the diver's weight and height of jump to ensure that each diver's head will connect with the earth as the vines stretch to their absolute limit. The hillside is chosen for it's forgiving slope, and the soil turned for a more gentle landing. But the margins for safety seem impossibly narrow, especially when you consider there are no modern tools used in the preparation: no scales to weigh jumpers, no tension meters, not even a tape measure to verify instinct.

The ritual can only be performed safely from April to June when the vines have the best elasticity. In the dry season they become too brittle, in the rainy season too soft. In fact, the only recorded naghol fatality was in 1974 when a special royal ceremony was arranged for Queen Elizabeth II, tragically, for the land diver, she visited Vanuatu in February.

We arrived in Vanuatu in May, and quickly sailed to Pentecost eager to witness a ceremony which had not only captivated me as a child, but had inspired me, even with a very acute fear of heights, to bungee jump in Australia many yam seasons ago.

We anchored in Londot Bay in thirty feet of clear water over black volcanic sand, sharing the anchorage with just two other sailboats off a shoreline shrouded in dense jungle with a single plume of grey smoke rising from a traditional thatch village. Luke Fargo, a village elder and the man responsible for promoting land diving in Londot, marked the beach landing for us with an old white sheet lashed to a stick, and it was from Dream Time's deck that we got our first glimpse of the naghol tower, its summit barely visible amongst the rustling palm canopies.

Even for our tiny group of sailors, just six adults and three children, the entire village prepared, gathered and participated in the ceremony. Woman wearing traditional grass skirts swayed, whistled and sang from behind the tower, while men and boys, wearing nambas (penis sheaths), stomped the ground aggressively while chanting encouragement to divers.

Land diving is said to originate from the legend of tamale, a dispute between lovers resulting in a woman fleeing a demanding husband, seeking refuge in a banyan tree, before finally jumping with vines to escape. The husband, perhaps a little too eager to follow, jumped after his wife without vines and fell to his death. It is said that naghol is performed to remind woman that men will not be deceived again. So it is taboo for woman to touch the tower, the vines, or even walk on the sacred earth where the men land. It is also taboo for a man to have sex the night before he jumps, which seems like a poor deal to me.

The jumps were increasingly more difficult to watch, unsettling not only because each consecutive diver climbed higher towards the uppermost platform, a staggering eighty feet above the ground, but more because of the very real, guilty and disturbing understanding that these men were jumping on that day not to secure a healthy yam harvest, or to prove their manhood, or even to assert themselves over cunningly superior wives, but they were jumping for us, a group of spectators so small that most venues couldn't possibly justify the time and energy of performance for such a small return.

One by one we watched six divers climb, prepare and throw themselves off the tower. Some in our group looked away or fixed their eyes on the tower rather than the landing area below. The three cruising children covered their eyes or ears to protect themselves from a sight too disturbing, or from an echoing sound too distressing when the wooden platforms intentionally cracked and collapsed under the final and ruling strain of the vines.

One man, who was performing his first dive, visibly shook and trembled on the narrow platform before crossing his arms tight against his chest then reluctantly, and slowly, falling forward. A man clinging to the tower behind him swung a machete, cutting a support which would allow the jumping platform to collapse under the final strain, vital to absorbing the initial shock and preventing the vines from snapping. While two men below held the vines to prevent them from catching against the tower during the diver's free fall, and two more men waited at the base of the tower ready to assist the diver, who, resisting an unimaginable instinct to protect himselves with outstretched arms, must land head first.

The ceremony lasted for an hour and I felt drained from the experience, from the gut-wrenching anticipation and tension, and the concern we all seemed to share for the divers. I sat mesmerized on the muddy grass, neck craned and fully absorbed by the experience. Not with just a primitive curiosity - a morbid fascination that I think we all share deep within ourselves, but with the knowledge that I was witnessing something truly unique. It was an unforgettable ritual that I feel privileged to have experienced, but without any doubt, would never choose to watch again.