Archive for 'Fiji to Vanuatu'

All Good

Since our last blog, we had a couple of our best days at sea so far. The trade winds filled in as predicted, so we put up the spinnaker and left it up for most of the remainder of the passage to Tanna. In the calm seas and steady winds, we were averaging 7 knots without feeling like we were moving. We had forgotten what it was like to sail in such ideal conditions, and we were all in very good spirits, even Ash, who was in a bit of withdrawal since we didn’t have enough juice to constantly run the stereo.

fruit Shiroma even felt up for baking!

The speed of the boat must have been ideal for trolling as we caught four fish in two days! Considering we had never caught a fish before this passage, that is a pretty major accomplishment. Granted we threw two of them back (one was a medium-sized barracuda that Colin wasn’t sure about eating and the other was a tuna with parasites inside and out), but the two tunas that we kept were really good. We tried preparing them in several different ways–two kinds of sushi rolls, pan-seared, fried, and in tuna salad–and I liked them all. Dallas still hasn’t developed an affinity for fish, but for the rest of us, it is a great supplement to the usually vegetarian diet.

DSC_0565 (2) Colin was pleased with the catch of the day

We cruised into the anchorage at Port Resolution on Monday afternoon and found that our friends on S/V Marionette had just arrived as well. (Those of you who have been following the blog for a while might recall that this was the boat that was declared missing during the September 2009 tsunami.) Ash and Colin were interested to discover that Cathi & Markus currently have three female crew (two Swedish, one German), and before long, Cathi and I were making plans for the five of them to join us for dinner aboard Pura Vida.

First we all went ashore to check out the “yacht club”, which turned out to be a large, empty, open-air room with a few folding tables. There was a sign advertising drinks for sale, but there were no drinks or staff to be found. We did, however, meet a local who had moved from the neighboring village into an isolated wooden bure next to the yacht club. He waited patiently while we caught up with our friends on his property before realizing that we should move on.

From there, Dallas, Colin, and Markus decided to head to the “Naka Mal” hut where men and only men are allowed to gather to drink kava. (Needless to say, this is at the top of my list of reasons not to live in Vanuatu.) It sounds like it was a really interesting experience, but I will let Dallas tell you about that…

The rest of us took a walk through the village before returning to the yacht club for a cold shower. (It was surprising to find indoor plumbing in a little shed outdoors.) The path to the village was beautiful, lined with the usual palms along with large banyon trees with sprawling roots that extend to the top of the trunks and beg to be climbed. We passed several people walking along, carrying wood or food back to their bures. Unlike Fijian homes, most of which were concrete shelters with an adjacent bure outside to serve as the hot weather shelter, this village contained only the thatched roof bures. The people we passed weren’t ebullient like those in Fiji and only looked and spoke to us when we spoke first.

bananas Cooking bananas

Back on the boat, Shiroma and I prepared a nice meal for 10. Her potato pizza was so yum! While we had been ashore, S/V Anima had arrived to the anchorage, so the three aboard came over as well to bring our total guests to 13! Not bad for our first night in a new place! Martin brought his guitar, of course, and I did my best to recruit people to sing along. Most people just made requests, but one of Martin’s German crew was quite an enthusiastic participant.

music Taking our show on the sea

The guys went to the other side of the island today to check in, get Vatu (local currency), etc. Shiroma and I stayed behind to hold down the fort and relax. We’ve already had a local come by in his outrigger along with his two younger brothers to bring over a basket of fresh tropical fruit (papaya, pamplemousse, passion fruit) and a plate of island-style chicken and taro, cooked up and ready to go. Apparently he made some kind of arrangement with Ash this morning…



The family transport


The fresh flowers in the fruit basket were a nice touch

We will meet up with the guys later on at the top of the volcano!! Shiroma and I are going to walk up with the Marionette crew (2 hours each way!), and the guys will arrive by truck when they get back from town. Looking forward to posting some pics of the crater when we get to Port Vila, probably in a few days.

Lat:18 32.158′ S
Lon: 173 43.399 ‘ E


Well, after two full days at sea, I finally feel up for typing. It seems like the week and a half that we spent at the marina was enough to wipe out our sealegs. Between the motion created by the steep quartering & confused seas and the constant 80+ degree heat inside the boat, all of us have been pretty wiped out. The breezy cockpit is definitely the place to be, but with rain on and off throughout the last two days, we haven’t been able to enjoy it as much as we would like.

This afternoon the wind died down from 25+ knots to around 10, and with that came a much calmer sea. Although that’s not great for us in terms of speed (we’re struggling to keep up 4 knots now with the jib and full main), it helped all of us zombies to come back to life. Dallas talked to Martin on the SSB (he’s about 100 miles behind us) and shared with him the good news about the Lakers championship victory (thanks to Brett for the timely e-mail update). Ash started pulling in the trolling line and discovered that we’d caught our first fish! It was a tuna, not a very big one, but more than enough for Colin to filet and prepare for dinner.


As expected, the wind continued to die, but not before we got a full night and morning of light wind sailing. We didn’t move far, but we did get some rest. Around noon, not even the spinnaker would stay set. It tore itself on some bow rigging and we dropped it to drift until the wind returns. The seas are calm, so drifting is pretty comfortable. Colin, Ash, and I got in a couple card games and everyone had a jump in the deep blue (8000 feet to be exact) to cool off. At our current drift rate we should be in Tanna in just over 3000 hours (we’re actually not drifting on a course for Tanna, but the GPS says to be patient). Luckily, the tradewinds should fill in before too long and give us a nice sail in.

This morning for breakfast we added malaria pills to the hot biscuits and fruit that Colin whipped up. He’s already cooked two breakfasts on passage and survived the rough start without puking, so he definitely gets passing marks as offshore crew. Malaria pills will be a daily tradition for us for the next 6-7 weeks or so as we’re stopping at several places in Vanuatu where malaria is present and the pills have to be taken daily for 30 days after any exposure.

To backtrack just a bit, we obviously checked out of Fiji and are headed to Port Resolution on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. The customs guy at Latouka bent a couple rules for us. He let us check out with the boat at Vuda Point instead of bringing it to Latouka and let us check out the day before leaving. That’s usually not an issue, but he told us that although you have 24 hours to leave after clearing customs, you only have 1 hour to leave after clearing immigration. Even though his demeanor was a little grumpy, he stamped our passports with the next day’s date and told us to have a good passage. I was happy to be done filling out Fiji paperwork. It’s been the worst country for paperwork since Panama. The Fiji customs forms are just New Zealand forms (which are very detailed — 4 pages to check in or out) with a different symbol at the top. The difference is that you have to fill in the same form multiple times in Fiji, so I’ve had a chance to fill out 20+ or so pages of forms moving around and finally leaving Fiji.

We’ll miss a lot of the friendly Fijians we’ve met, but won’t be missing Vuda Point too much. There’s a convenient swimming pool at the resort next door and good, reasonably-priced pizza, but 10 days is a long time to be in the hot, windless boat harbor with all the mosquitos and the tens of small flying cockroaches that land on the boat every day (I fear we’ll be smashing those for a long time).

All in all the repairs went well. We seemed to improve the water pump situation after replacing the pump and getting a nice T-valve from Martin. We’ve made the reefing system simpler, but we’ll see how it goes when we actually test it at sea. Ash & Colin re-stitched the tramps, and Colin and I were able to seal up the instrument area so the we shouldn’t have any more GPS drop-outs due to rain. I was able to fix the top oven burner by cleaning the thermocouple contact at the gas valve. That was a pretty involved process that involved taking apart most of the stove/oven, but Lauren can now use the oven with both the top and bottom burners staying lit for the first time in months and months. Lauren & Ash polished the stainless rigging, and I was able to replace and tighten a belt on the port engine so that the raw water pump starts every time now (it was about 50% before and I’d have to jump down in the engine room and get it spinning by hand). The rudder turned out nicely (even Martin gave it high marks) and after the challenge of dropping and re-installing it in the nasty Vuda Point marina water I’m hoping we stay clear of reefs for a while. On a side note, the small area of new timber in the rudder is mahogany. Mahogany is pretty prevalent here, and the joinery guys working in the marina shop gave me a piece for free. They actually thought it wasn’t good enough for a rudder, but consented to let me use it since I was covering it with glass and epoxy. The first village we visited had an entire shack made of rough mahogany timbers, and I can guarantee you the residents were far from affluent.