The day after we slowly made our way to the top of the awesome volcano on Tanna, we were all pretty exhausted, and Dallas and Shiroma were feverish, so we decided to stick around and do very little for a day before sailing on to Port Vila. Ash managed to have a few more interesting encounters that day with locals who were interested in trading for gasoline, money, etc. The locals had lots of bartering power since they knew where to get home-grown tobacco and coffee, both of which Ash was in desperate need of.

We got up early the next morning and weighed anchor just before Anima. Shiroma jumped on the VHF to start the trash-talking with Martin to get him in the mood for a race to Port Vila. I guess she did a good job as he weighed anchor very quickly with his manual windlass, and we were soon on the same course passing by the continually smoking volcano. Anima’s two smaller sails outmatched our one jib in the strong but inconsistent following winds, and he arrived a few hours ahead.

volcano Mt. Yassur from the sea


anima Anima underway


Port Vila is the largest city in Vanuatu, and from the harbor it looks quite nice. The water is as clear as any city harbor water that I’ve ever seen (much better than Suva!), and there is lush vegetation all around. However, the main drag of town is catered to cruise ship passengers, so there’s a duty free shop on every corner, a few restaurants, bars, and resorts, and not much in the way of culture besides the colorful market.

market The tropical flowers are stunning



And sometimes surreal-looking


We ended up spending the weekend on a mooring just in front of the Waterfront Bar and Grill which turned out to be an especially convenient spot since it rained almost the whole time. Fortunately we had lots of people to socialize with. In particular I want to mention the German couple who are crewing on Anima because of their unique travel plans. They are just a bit older than us and after seven years of marriage, they took off on a "partner year" of travel that consists of destinations like here, the Great Wall of China, South Africa for the World Cup finals, Canada, etc. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s worth taking a look at their pics even if you can’t understand German–"".

The nightlife in Vila consisted mostly of a couple of bars and dance clubs for tourists, but we briefly stopped in for a drink at one of the locals’ clubs on Saturday night. We got our fair share of attention since we were the only white people there, but I found the local men and women to be friendly and laid back. (Shiroma says the men were aggressive.) Almost everyone was dancing to the reggae music.

The Waterfront Bar turned out to be the place where cruisers congregated and waited out the rain, and it was there that we met the Kiwi delivery skipper for a 65′ superyacht called Anteus. Reese invited us over for some "nibbles" and to check out the boat on Sunday night, and we were all pretty impressed. It’s a racing yacht with a flat bottom and retractable keel that has been converted into a cruising yacht (sort of). With 400 square meters of sail, it planes across the surface of the water at speeds of up to 25 knots. It seemed to be an ideal boat for Reese who says has a new lease on life after a rugby accident that left him with a broken back and neck. His philosophy of "strong winds = hoist more sail" seems to be working out for him in the racing world as he just came 2nd in the solo Tasman race and is planning to participate in the Vendee Globe solo-round-the-world race next year.

Monday we checked out, provisioned with duty free supplies that can’t be opened until we leave Vanuatu (a big test of Ash’s will power!), and sailed out to Paul’s Rock just a few hours northwest of Vila. We arrived in time for some outstanding snorkeling before sunset. The fish here are fed by the local villagers on a regular basis, so they approach people when they get in the water! There were schools of fish of various kinds when we hopped in, and sure enough, when Colin swam past me, I could see a trail of fish swimming behind! The water was crystal clear, and the coral heads were blossoming with various shapes and colors.

pauls rock Plentiful coral at Paul’s Rock

Shortly after we finished snorkelling, S/V Marionette arrived as planned, and we decided to finish the day with a fire on the beach. We headed to bed early after a weekend of late nights in the "city" (most of our crew got up at 1:00 a.m. the night before to watch Germany advance to the quarter finals of the World Cup) and slept extremely well with the rain pattering down on the boat.

Today we snorkeled some more and then dinghied over to a waterfall that Ash spotted from the boat, only to discover that we had landed our dinghy on the beach where Survivor: Vanuatu was filmed. We met a man from the nearby village who said he couldn’t take us to the waterfall without offering some money to the owner of the land (the chief of the neighboring village, I guess), but when he learned we just wanted to see the falls that we could see from the boat (just a little one caused by runoff from the rain), he agreed to take us in exchange for some tobacco. His English was really good, and he turned out to be an entertaining guide. We followed he and his dogs up through the mud to the landing where the water pooled and had a great time standing in the pool and letting the cool freshwater stream down over us. On the way back down the hill, Cathi and I spotted an interesting orange fruit growing in a tree. The guide used his knife to open it for us to reveal cocoa beans covered in a sweet white jellyish substance. Between this and the coconuts, crabs, fish, and wild pigs, the Survivor contestants were spoiled for choice of foods on this island!

Speaking of being spoiled, Shiroma is currently cooking another pizza, this time with garlic and a leafy green from the market that we are calling spinach. As much as I enjoyed French Polynesia, it was seriously lacking in reasonably priced quality food (esp. dairy products), and having them around definitely adds to the cruising experience. So does having Shiroma around!

Tomorrow the plan is to sail up to Cook’s Reef to do some scuba diving, followed by a night sail to Ambrym, called the "Black Island" due to the volcano ash and the use of black magic. There’s so much to see and do here in Vanuatu that we could easily spend a few months here, but we need to keep moving if we are going to make it to Indo by the end of August.