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Saturday, November 23, 2002

November 23, 2002-Cruisers Make Difference

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Gene Mim-Mack and Robbie Springs and their daughter Allison

In a quiet bay on a rugged jungle island in a remote corner of the South Pacific, a cruising couple built a yacht club for visiting yachts and in doing so, made a bit of paradise even better, and made a dramatic impact on the lives of the villagers living there.

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Asenvari Bay

At Asenvari Bay in Vanuatu the villagers have been welcoming cruising sailboats and their crews for years. Cruisers who visit Asenvari love the place and the hospitality; the harbor has good shelter, is gorgeous, and the natives are very friendly. Chief Nelson, head of the local tribe, had built a native style building to serve as a "Yacht Club", where visiting cruisers relaxed and maybe had a cold beer. The women from the villages sold crafts and arranged feasts and dancing shows on request. It is a mutually agreeable situation, the locals have an industry and the cruisers have a place to hang out. It was great, except for one thing: the old yacht club building left a lot to be desired. It is (or was) dark, low and cramped and after a few years, was falling down. The next cyclone to hit the area would probably have flattened the yacht club.

Enter Gene Mim-Mack and Robbie Springs and their daughter Allison who had been coming to Asanvari on their sailboat Noason for years. They enjoyed Asenvari, loved the friendly people, and they wanted to do something to repay the village for all the hospitality. They talked to Chief Nelson, who mentioned the new yacht club building he’d been dreaming about. He showed Gene some plans that had been prepared. Gene and Robbie jumped in with both feet and decided to tackle the project of building a new yacht club.

In November 2001 they started writing grant requests and by February 2002 both New Zealand’s Vanuatu High Commission and Australia’s AUSAID agency had approved the requests and provided the money. Gene started shopping in Australia for the building materials and keeping with a tight budget he visited demolition sites looking for bargains. Used windows, kitchen cabinets and other items were purchased and packed into a container for shipment to Luganville, the nearest Vanuatu port to Asanvari. Some native materials, such as Natangora Palm leaves for the roof, would be obtained on the island. Anything available in Luganville would be purchased there. Gene & Robbie sailed from Australia with the remaining bits and pieces aboard Noason then transported the whole lot from Luganville to Asenvari.

By July 2002 Noason was anchored again at Asanvari, loaded to the gunnels with supplies for the new building, with more trips to come. Once they brought a cement mixer on Noason’s deck. With Gene leading and the villagers helping, the first western style buildings to be constructed on the island were soon taking shape. Concrete was mixed on the beach and a sawmill was set up in the mountain forests, using chain saws to cut large beams and timbers. Bamboo was woven into mats for the walls and the palm leaves were woven for the roof. In addition to up to 24 men working on the site, many of the women in the village collected and prepared bamboo and roof leaf. The yacht club was a project for the whole village. By November, with the cruising season drawing to a close, the yacht club building, guest bungalow, and women’s handicraft center were nearly all finished. Gene and Robbie decided to stay late, into the cyclone season, to wrap it up.

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Building in Progress

By November 23, 2002, the Asenvari Yacht Club was complete, the kitchen appliances were in and the plumbing was hooked up. The villagers took turns trying out the hot water shower and switching on the gas burners on the new stove. Chief Nelson presided over a grand opening ceremony and predicted great things for the new club. Gene, Robbie and Allison trundled off onto Noason and set sail for Australia, waving goodbye and just beating the arrival of the season's first cyclone, happy in the thought that when the cyclone did come, the new building would probably remain standing. All in all it was a very successful project and cruisers will undoubtedly enjoy Asenvari even more than before.

Click here for more Asenvari Photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Asenvari

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