We got off to an early start, pulling the anchor from around the coral heads and sailing north along the west coast of Efate.  Once we got out into open water north of Efate, the wind and seas really picked up and soon we were moving along at over 6 knots on just the jib with some decent-sized waves on the beam.  We made it to Cook’s Reef with about an hour and a half of sunlight left, and just as we sailed past the southwest corner of the reef, we caught a barracuda.  They’re good eating if they’re caught in open water, but can be poisoned with ciguatera if they’re near a reef, so we ultimately decided not to filet him.

boat View from S/V Marionette as the racing boat careened past


The reef is about a mile and a half across and out in the middle of open water.  It’s not charted very well, but we’d read that the diving was great, so we really wanted to try and stop.  After our reef encounter in Fiji we were extra careful, but still had a close call before we were eventually able to anchor on the west side of the reef where the seas were blocked.  It was too late to dive, so swam in to the edge of the reef for a snorkel.  The size of the whole thing was really amazing and there was no shortage of fish and coral.  I’d taken the speargun, but missed a great shot on a large parrotfish and mostly saw large fish too deep and small fish in the shallow water.  The sun was getting low in the sky, so we headed back toward the boat, and then I noticed that there was a large sloping wall of coral full of fish just 100 feet or so from the boat.  We’d completely missed it.  There was just enough light left for me to get down and spear a grouper hiding in the coral before swimming back to the boat.

Colin cleaned the grouper and we pulled anchor and moved off of the reef just as the sun was setting.  Our original plan was to sail overnight to the island of Ambrym where there is another larger volcano, but the wind, which has been strong the whole time we’ve been here, wasn’t from a good direction so we headed for Lamen Bay on the island of Epi.  Coming in at night is never fun, but the bay is reasonably open, we had some decent charts, and there were a couple of boats already there to anchor between.  When we awoke, Anima was anchored beside us and Marionette showed up later in the day.

Lamen Bay is known for a friendly dugong (manatee) that swims there and lets people swim nearby it.  We weren’t luck enough to see it while we were there, but we did have a nice walk around the village, enjoying a couple of drinking coconuts and stopping for a warm beer at the local “resort”.  Along the way, Shiroma met a couple of guys (one from Argentina and one from Germany) that she’d met while backpacking in New Zealand.  Needless to say, she was pretty surprised to find them walking along the path in the village.  They’re travelling slow and cheap and enjoying the island life, which has been pretty hospitable to them.  We had a few rain showers in the middle of some afternoon snorkeling and boat projects that added to the unbroken streak of days with rain that started when we arrived in Tanna.


epi2 Some residents of the village on Epi Island


sea The coral was plentiful at Lamen Bay