Tuesday, 22 August 2017
Our route took us to Havannah Bay, and then as the sun set we sailed out through the fringing islands for the sail north to Malekule and the Maskelyne Islands. We had a brisk wind astern and made good speed to arrive after breakfast. My first choice of anchorage was rather too exposed, so we tucked in behind Awae Island, where we soon met people paddling their canoes to and from their gardens or fishing grounds.
The following day we set off the 30 miles to Ambrym Island which was clearly visible with stream issuing from its three volcanoes.
From Ambrym, where we witnessed traditional dancing, and enjoyed sharing kava in the evening with locals, we set off again to Malekule Island. Here we anchored off Uripiv Island where a sandy beach fronted the village. We were shown round by a young islander, Colin, who showed us his house, built of women palm mats on a wood frame, and thatched with palm leaves. He had built a sweet little playpen for his 3 month old son. The village was very neat and tidy, and their water supply was a well, dug into the coral, which delivered a steady supply of fresh water. There were other wells for the 600 inhabitants, but only one was consistent fresh.
That evening we sat and drank kava and chatted with locals, including a couple of Peace Corps volunteers. Very peaceful, but I don’t seem to register any effect of kava, unlike the locals who were all spitting at the bitterness of the liquid. Supposedly it numbs ones mouth and makes one calm. I felt the calm…..
We said farewell to Uripiv and sailed overnight to Luganville to clear out of Vanuatu. Our schedule has slipped a couple of days because there are no Customs and immigration facilities on the weekend, and we missed getting there on Friday.
Now the weather has changed and it’s rainy today. We are trying to get another gas canister to fit the boat, as our European ones cannot be filled here, and we are rather short of gas for cooking now.
Next stop could be Port Moresby, unless the weather and timing are right to push on through the Torres Straits toThursday Island, where we must clear Customs. Biosecurity is very strict and we are concerned at how much of our ship’s stores will survive the inspection….
Our final stop in Vanuatu at the northern island or Espiritu Santo, where we finalised formalities and did some last vegetable shopping. It's a windy stretch of water ad clearly the pilot boat didn't survive the last cyclone.
Next stop could be Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea before tackling the Torres Strait towards Darwin.
I have updated the calendar so that you can see the current schedule.
We rather reluctantly said goodbye to Erromango, where we had enjoyed meeting the villagers and were impressed by the lovely canoes in constant use.
We arrived in Port Vila at 07:30 after a good overnight sail in starlight. The port was very busy with yachts and other ships. We had to squeeze under overhead power lines, with a clearance of only about 3metres. and then picked up a mooring off the Yachting World marina. Not a pontoon marina, but with a few stern-to moorings along the wall. The Waterfront Grill provided an easy place to relax and watch the boats go by.
As it was Saturday we rushed to get to the Museum before it closed at noon. It was well worth it. There was an extraordinary collection of masks and headdresses, some excellent canoe figurehead carvings and lots of quirky information about the history of the islands.
We then met Edgar, who did wonderful sand drawing, played various flutes and a bamboo tubular bells instrument and told stories.
We then headed down to the market where we found a spectacular display of vegetables for sale. We also found food stalls, where we eventually settled on Anna's kitchen for fried fish and rice, whilst Robert and Francis chose curried fish from a nearby stall.
The following day the McAdie family packed up and went ashore, while Justin and Toby arrived. That afternoon we did a big shop up at the large supermarket, and stowed it all aboard.
Monday dawned and I went to get my cruising papers at Customs over at the cruise ship dock, and then back across town to Immigration, where I succeeded in completing paperwork before they closed for lunch. The team had meanwhile stocked up on fresh vegetables, and in due course we were ready for sea. It just remained to get our Australian visas on line, and to submit advance notification of our arrival. At this point I had a horrible shock, when I got a message saying "Visa denied. Please contact our nearest consulate. "
The good news - there's one in Port Vila. The bad news - its closed on Tuesday as its a public holiday! I then realised that I had made a mistake with my passport number, starting with 009 rather than 09, so obviously they wont let a Double O into Australia. :-) When I resubmitted my application, to my great relief, I got a visa letter by return email......
Monday, 21 August 2017
Having anchored in Craig's Cove we organised a trip to a remote village to witness traditional dances and magic. These old men made a powerful dance on the sacred village dance floor, shielded from womens eyes by high hedges. The tam-tams witnessed the age old ceremony in a row.
Friday, 11 August 2017
Walking through Unpongkor I met Mali who asked whether we would like some lobsters. If turned down an offer in Fiji, but with a crew who likes them I agreed. In return Marlow asked for fishing line, and when he arrived at night with a sack of 6 spiny lobsters I was able to provide 120 metres of 59lb breaking strain line plus about 25 big fish hooks.
We had our first delicious lobster lunch on Tin Tin!
We anchored for three days in Dillons Bay, Erromango where David Tahumpri welcomed us to the Yacht Club he is building. He already had an impressive array of flags decorating the room, to which we gladly donated our old Cornish flag duly annotated and signed. We also provided a bundle of books to start off a book exchange. All he needs now is a fridge full of cold beers, which are in the plan.