Vanuatu Cyclone Pam 1503 01
Part of the Port Vila waterfront that we know well: Nambawan Café, the start/finish of the Vanuatu Open Water Swims. See below for more info about cyclone relief.

Vanuatu

We first visited Vanuatu 35 years ago, in 1980, a couple of months after independence. At the time, Jimmy Stevens was still in gaol in Port Vila. We have plenty of friends there, both ni-Vanuatu and expat. We've even experienced earthquake there. We feel we know the place reasonably well.

So when something occurs like cyclone Pam last week, we take notice more than we might of a place that we don't know so well. It doesn't mean that we don't care about other places, but we feel it more personally when it affects a community we know, that contains our friends, whose fabric we're familiar with. That's human nature.

We know, for example, how basic, flimsy, impermanent and vulnerable many of the dwellings are. We know how many ni-Van people don't have meaningful jobs or income. We know how tenuous are the services that we in the first world take for granted. We know how limited is the availability of health services, of fresh water, of sanitation – the essentials of a healthy community. So we have some idea of how devastating last week's cyclone is to ni-Vanuatu people individually, and to the nation as a whole. Wantok states such as Vanuatu have enough problems holding their nations together without the bloody weather tearing the infrastructure apart.

We've been getting up there twice a year lately, so we know our way around a bit. We're looking forward to the annual Vanuatu Open Water Swims on June 6, and to Espiritu Santo Swim Week, which we organise oop north on the island of Espiritu Santo the week afterwards. We have many bookings from swimmers who plan to come there with us this year.

Our message is this: it's all still on. The worst thing that could happen to Vanuatu right now – apart from the outbreak of an epidemic of reporters blocking up all the vacant spots on the Port Vila waterfront while they do their live crosses – is for visitors – tourists – to stop going there. According to reports, tourism makes up 40 per cent of Vanuatu's national income. The country relies on our visits. It's not just us paying for hotel accommodation, transport, food and bus tours, and what have you. It's the jobs of the ni-Van people employed to provide those services to us. So if you want a way to support the ni-Vanuatu people, then visit Vanuatu. And if you're already booked, then don't pull out.

Vanuatu-after-Cyclone-Pam
A view familiar to any visitor to Vanuatu: across the harbour to Iririki, from the waterfront near Nambawan.

TC Pam did its worst work from Efate south to outlying islands around Tanna and Erromango. Oop north, Santo, Malekula and the Banks and Torres island groups, the damage, as best we can make out right now, was not as severe. Indeed, we were relieved to receive an email yesterday from Bev Anti, the chair of the Espiritu Santo Tourism Association (ESTA), with whom we run the Espiritu Santo Aore Swim, this year on June 10.

It was a circular email – not just to us – to "friends" and contacts of Santo, such as travel agents, regular visitors, etc, letting everyone know the situation on the ground there...
"Santo has been blessed," Bev said in her email, which was sent through the satellite communications system of a local resort, Turtle Bay, given mainstream communications at that point were still down.

"Cyclone Pam has passed by the Island of Santo causing only minor damage. We have clean water, power and plenty of food," she said.

And she added: "The business community of Santo is terribly concerned of the warnings for travellers to cancel their travel plans to Vanuatu. The media of course is reporting the situation in Vila but this is not Santo.

"If our Island can keep receiving the visitors, businesses in Santo will survive the crisis situation in the months to come.

"This in turn will support many local people who will be able to support their families in Port Vila to rebuild their lives.

"No tourism and our Vanuatu economy will suffer greatly.

"All the resorts are receiving an over whelming amount of cancellations. If this keeps happening the economy of Vanuatu will suffer...

"We are asking everyone in particular: Wholesaler travel Companies, OTA, Travel agents to support Vanuatu now when we need you the most."

Port Vila and Santo airports re-opened to international flights yesterday, and domestic flights connecting Port Vila with Santo and Tanna also resumed on Tuesday. So you can get to Port Vila, and you can then go onwards to Santo.

ProMedical Vanuatu

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Port Vila and other areas still are cleaning up, of course.

And the organiser of the Vanuatu Open Water Swims in Port Vila, Troy Spann, a transplant from Queensland, is busy, too. Over the past few days, we've constantly been aware of how this has affected Troy, because the first vision sent from Vanuatu following the cyclone featured Troy's shop with a broken window. Until more vision became available, we reckon we saw Troy's shop three or four dozen times.

Over the past year, Troy has been instrumental in setting up a new service in Vanuatu, ProMedical, a medical rescue and retrieval service operating as a volunteer service much as the Police and Fire Rescue Squads operate here. The difference is that Troy and his friends started this service from scratch, recruited volunteers, organised their training, and raised money and sourced equipment, including "the jaws of life".

The primary need, as Troy saw it, were incidents such as car accidents. But the cyclone has thrown up other needs, and you can learn about how ProMedical has been working in cyclone relief since early last Saturday morning on their Facebook page... Click here... and on their website... Click here

See above, ProMedical staff preparing to distribute water to ni-Vanuatu communities.

Just yesterday, one of ProMedical's supporters Zeak Smith, has set up a facility to donate directly... Click here 

Over the last 22 hours, supporters have donated $8,970 (including $100 that we just threw in ourselves), this with hardly anyone knowing about it.

We know the people behind ProMedical – Troy, his accountant wife, Mel, business associate Zeak Smith, and a team of volunteers, both ni-Van and expat. They are absolutely worth supporting.

Now you know, please consider helping... Click here

There are a range of other appeals available, too. For a more complete list, see the ABC's website... Click here


What's your next adventure?

vanuatu olry 250We've just posted details of our 1st inaugural oceanswimsafari to San Sebastián in Spain, where we'll do the Isla Santa Clara swim, and gorge ourselves on pintxos, txakolí and cider. What are they? Come with us to find out...

Vanuatu

June - Port Vila, then Espiritu Santo Swim Week - Two swims in Port Vila, then a week of ocean swimming and other escapades on Santo, Vanuatu's Adventure Island. Do either or both legs... Click here

tonga whale 250Tonga

July-August - Swim with whales - A week of swimming and whale watching in this unknown Pacific paradise, with the opportunity of getting in and swimming with the whales... Click here

Greek Islands

August - In the wake of Jason and the Argonauts, and Mamma Mia - Sail around the Northern Sporades, where Jason sailed, and Meryl Streep tried to marry off her daughter, with some of the best food you'll ever eat, and swim in some of the best water you'll ever experience... Click here

san sebastian pintxos 250Spain - San Sebastián

August-September - Pintxos, txakolí, cider, and swimming - The Basque country at the western end of the Pyrenees in northern Spain is a rich cultural mix. You'll get a taste of much of it on our inaugural oceanswimsafari here... Click here

Spain - Costa Brava

September - On the other side of Spain, the eastern end of the Pyrenees, we'll get more of the world's best water in the Mediterranean, and the world's best food, and more culchural mix, dipping our toe into the world -- and the home -- of Salvador Dalí... Click here

yasawas tavewa 250Fiji

October - Mana Fiji SwimFest and the Yasawas - One of our favourite Pacific island swim venues, a festival of swimming at Mana Island, and a week's oceanswimsafari to perhaps the most beautiful, remote swimming location on earth, the Yasawa islands. Do both or either... Click here for Mana... and here for the Yasawas

Heron Island

October-November - Enormously popular over the last few years, Heron Island offers the most beautiful water, right on the Great Barrier Reef. It will be a cathartic experience for you, too. Have you ever swum with sharks?... More details available soon


This weekend

Another ten swims around the joint this weekend, continuing Mad March/April, the months where new swims have had to go to find air. Never mind. We reckon autumn is the best time of year to swim.

Sat, March 21 - Mt Maunganui, Napier (NZ), Coogee (WA)
Sun, March 22 - Balmoral, Fingal Bay, South West Rocks, Stanwell Park (fos series), all e (NSW), Auckland (fos series) (NZ), Port Augusta (SA), Bonbeach (Vic)

This weekend, we're taking online entries to the four NSW swims on Sundee, while Stanwell Park and Auckland (The Rangitoto Swim) both are rounds in the fine ocean swimmers sseries in NSW and NZ respectively.

Stanwell Park

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The Big Swim of the South, as they like to style it, and it does have a touch of the "epic" about it, following the Illawarra Escarpment from Colecliff along to Stanwell Park. You can't go wrong on this swim: just head for Bald Hill on Stanwell Tops, from where eejits strap themselves to flimsy wings and hurl themselves headlong into the wild blue yonder. This year, they'll have live music on the lawn after the swim. It's a glorious day out, a stunning course (remember to breathe to the lift), and it's the penultimate round in the fine ocean swimmers series NSW.

Go to the Stanwell Park event page if only to look at Chris Ivin's magnificent video tour of the course. You'll see why we describe it as "epic".

If you entered last year's cancelled Stanwell Park swim, you're eligible for half-price entry this year. When you enter online, just select the appropriate entry option, and key your registration ID number from last year into the appropriate field. If you can't recall your number, email us to check. There's a link for that on the event page.

Online entries to Stanwell Park close at 3pm, Saturday, March 21... Click here

Balmoral

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A different kind of swim in that it's not run by a surf life saving club, but by a group of punters from Balmoral Beach Club, raising funds for the Childrens Cancer Institute. It's a good entry level swim for new swimmers at 1km for the main event, and a good, fast sprint for regular swimmers. Relays and junior swims on, too. It's a very pretty part of Sydney harbour.

Balmoral swim awgies would like you to know, too, that BudgySmuggler are a bronze sponsor supplying vouchers as swimming and spot prizes at the swim. "Beyond that, (budgysmuggler.com.au) also generously donated incentives for selling raffle tickets and have offered that '20% of sales on the day at the swim are being contributed to the Children’s Cancer Institute'," says head awgie, "Punctual" Peter Ellis.

Online entries to Balmoral close at 12 noon, Saturday, March 21... Click here

South West Rocks

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One of our fave autumn weekends away, although sadly we can't attend this season, what with all the swims on this weekend. South West Rocks is one of our fave seaside towns on the NSW North Coast, too, and one of those gems of the North Coast: a North-facing beach. New course for the main event this year: from Horseshoe Bay, along Trial Bay, then back to the Rocks, hence it's new name, Bay to Boulders.

Go to the event page if only to see Glistening Dave's glorious photo essay from South West Rocks last year (that's one of Dave's snaps, above). He's a sensitive shutter snapper, is our Dave.

Online entries to South West Rocks close at 3pm, Saturday, March 21... Click here

Fingal Bay

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Another beautiful near North Coast beach, just outside and on the southern side of the heads at Port Stephens. Not quite North Coast, more Hunter, just north of Newcastle. Fingal Bay is, as it says, a bay, so it's relatively calm, although the start of the main swim is around about the spot where the southerly swell hits the beach. It's a family day out from Newcastle, and an easy day out from Sydney. Get some oysters whilst you're there from the Fishermen's Co-op in Nelson Bay.

Online entries to Fingal Bay close at 3pm, Saturday, March 21... Click here

Rangitoto

rangitoto mission bay

Another epic in Auckland Harbour, from Rangitoto Island into Auckland's eastern bays. Also the penultimate round in the 1st inaugural fine ocean swimmers series NZ, so you qualify for points in the series provided you finish the swim.

It's a ferry ride to the start, so get there early.

Event info... Click here

Go to oceanswims.com for more info about all this weekend's events. Look at Featured Swims on the right of our home page, and under Swims/Calendars for the complete swim calendar.

Long or short of it

We've introduced a new category for swims on our calendar to help you find shorter swims, or longer swims. Just go to Swims/Calendars, and in the drop-down Category menu, search for swims up to 1.5km, or over 1.5km... Click here

Online entries of U18 swimmers

Online entries of swimmers under the age of 18 must be done with the consent of a responsible parent or guardian. Sometimes, the "responsible" parent or guardian evidently leaves it to the minor to enter online, and too often, the parental consent field in the online entry form is left containing only a phone number or maybe even only a first name.

This does not constitute parent's or guardian's consent.

For a minor's entry to be valid, it must contain the full name and the phone number of the parent or guardian. Leaving it to the kids is not good enough. Some parents have found this to their cost when their child has messed up their entries. One child recently entered four times in the space of six minutes, with four payments for the one event. We refund, but there's an admin fee attaching to refunds (the bank charges us for every transaction) and it can be costly.

Best if parents take responsibility themselves and make sure the entry is done correctly in the first place.

The child's entry will not be accepted unless and until the parental/guardian consent is valid. If it's not done right at the time of entry, you'll get an email from us, and the entry won't be finalised until the consent is valid.


A message from Surf Life Saving Australia...

slsa coolangatta banner

Ocean swimmers, how would you like to be part of history? Here is your chance!

Surf Life Saving Australia is launching "The Aussie Ocean Swim" to coincide with the 100 year celebration of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast.

It is 100 years since The Aussies were first contested on Bondi Beach in 1915. Until now, the option to compete in this iconic event has been exclusively reserved for members of Surf Life Saving only. Now, SLSA is opening its doors to ocean swim enthusiasts looking for a challenge, with the added bonus of being a part of The Aussies festival experience.

The Aussie Ocean Swim will be held on Sunday April 12, 2015. It starts at the Coolangatta and Tweed Heads SLSC and finishes at North Kirra Beach. The course will provide competitors with a 2.5km course along the pristine beaches of the Gold Coast. Entries are open to everyone over the age of 16.

Entries are now open and will be closing online on Friday 10th of April at 10.30pm, after this time late entries will only be available on site the morning of the event.

Imagine being the inaugural winner of this fantastic new event on the ocean swimming calendar in a landmark year for Surf Life Saving Australia. We only turn 100 once. Help us celebrate a milestone!

Register today and be a part of one of Australia's most iconic sporting events... Click here

Short report from country event....


To the point from Jervis Bay

jervis bay 150315 JD 01 

Logistics

3 hours easy drive from Westleigh down the A6/M1 approx. 200km, 20 minutes south of Nowra. Plenty of golden arches on this route.

Early morning showers during the drive ..clearing to a sunny and cloudy morning with strong southerly winds onshore.

The never ending roadworks at Gerringong and Berry caused delays on the homeward journey.

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The Event

Joint Venture between the Jervis Bay Triathlon Club and the Vincentia Sailing Club.

Both events held in the calm waters of Jervis Bay north of the Vincentia Sailing Club, well protected from onshore winds.

2km was first with a triangular course heading north then NW and then return.

1km involved trekking 1 km north to the next inlet. Swimming east then right turn south and finally west turn into beach.

All events on schedule including a kids 300m.

Post it notes and handwritten results record(this caused some confusion at prize giving).

As the Auggies noted on the day, this event is evolving.

Outstanding participants included Mathew Innes(15) of Roselands and John Fox(52) from Canberra who won both events outright. John is a former National Men's Water Polo Head Coach and Tathra ocean swim champion.

Sydney warriors and fellow travellers included Richard Murray and Clive Dowdell.

Good support from locals/Sydney siders/Canberrians?

Jim Donaldson

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Controversy Corner

Send us your feedback about swims you've done and we'll pubish it here... Click here

Swims open to online entry on oceanswims.com...

Fingal Bay (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
Balmoral (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
South West Rocks (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
Stanwell Park (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
North Steyne (Sat, Mar 28)... Click here
Wollongong (Sat, Mar 28)... Click here
Forster (Sun, Mar 29)... Click here
Terrigal (Easter Sat, Apr 4)... Click here
Pacific Palms (Easter Sun, Apr 5)... Click here
Queenscliff (Easter Sun, Apr 5)... Click here
Copeton Waters (Inverell, Apr 11)... Click here
Mollymook (Sat, April 11)... Click here
Shellharbour (Sun, Apr 12)... Click here
Coogee (Sun, Apr 12)... Click here
Black Head (Sun, Apr 19)... Click here
South Head (Sun, May 17)... Click here
Vanuatu (June 6 and 10)... Click here
Mona Vale (Sun, June 21)... Click here
Mana Fiji (Thu-Sat, Oct 15-17)... Click here
Evans Head (Sun, Nov 15)... Click here

Coming soon... South Curl Curl-Freshwater (Sun, April 26), Tweed River (Sun, Nov 29)


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