Archive for 'Vanuatu to Australia'

Au Revoir

Lat: 16 38. 957 S
Long: 147 39. 590 E

Kia ora Pura Vida fans,

Tis the ninth day of our passage from Luganville Vanuatu to Cairns Australia. The crew although bored a little stir crazy and smelly are in good spirits as we count down the miles in the remaining 24 hours of our smooth fast fishless frolic across the Coral sea..
The passage has produced some interesting phenomenon, we have had flying fish, squid, freak waves and bananas rain down on us and yet “Big Tuna” (aka “National Geographic”, ie Colin) cannot reel in a fish on the line we have had out for nine days.
It seems the gods are smirking on us for having had such a fantastic adventure and even the powerful almighty invincible gods are just a tidbit jealous of what we’re up to.
I could but I won’t rant on much longer, this is my last blog and passage with Pura Vida. It’s been a fantastic experience of which I will never forget. Big ups ya selves Pura Vida and what a pleasure it was to meet all the lovely associates and family of the aforementioned syndicate.

Venaka Vaka Levu,
Senor Functional.

Lat: 16 13.391′ S
Lon: 154 16.040′ E

We’re into our 6th day and making good time. We’ve been talking twice daily with S/V Imagine and S/V Anima on the SSB and we learned the other day that there’s a $275 overtime charge if we arrive in Cairns outside normal business hours, so we’ve been racing to make it in before 4:30 on Friday. I normally take that sort of thing into account, but I forgot this time. So far, the cost of the second-hand radio has been worth it. We changed course to take a shortcut through some reefs and luckily the trades have been strong (20+ knots) so we’re having one of our faster passages. It was a bit rough the first night after changing course, but the motion is better now and we’re still averaging 6 knots or so. Making it in time on Friday looked doubtful originally, but now it’s looking possible.

colin2 We better get there fast!


Provisioning in Luganville resulted in a whole stalk of bananas for the passage (for about $3). We didn’t count them, but there must have been more than two hundred. We’ve had bananas to snack on, banana bread, banana pancakes with banana sauce, French toast with banana syrup, crepes with Nutella and banana, … you get the idea. I really like bananas, but I think it’s the last stalk we’ll have for a while, and if we manage to make use of them without having to toss many it’s going to be a major achievement for the cooks as well as for our banana-saturated palates.

Catching live food hasn’t worked out as well. We’ve passed several Asian fishing vessels, but haven’t had a bite since we left Vanuatu and lost the lure we were using. We’d gotten pretty accustomed to getting a tuna every time we put the line out. Unfortunately, two large seabirds have met their end in the wind generator blades in the last couple of days. It’s never happened before, but last night a second one flew into the port wind generator around sunset. Apparently it was trying to land on the wind generator and couldn’t see the blades. Colin and I had the sad job of fishing it out of the dinghy with an oar and a boat hook and tossing it into the drink. Amazingly, the wind generator blades seem to be OK. We told S/V Imagine, who are headed toward the Torres Strait, and they’ve also had birds on deck and perched at the stern recently which is rare for them as well.

It won’t feel official until we’re through the Torres Strait, but we’ve officially crossed the Pacific for the 2nd time. If we’d gone west from New Zealand we would have been in the Tasman Sea instead of the Pacific Ocean and once we left Vanuatu, we’ve been in the Coral Sea, where we’ll stay until we’re through the Torres Strait. A couple of days ago we reached the 1/3 mark, as measured by longitude, in our attempt to sail around the world. I chose it as the day to shave. I think it was the first time I’d shaven since I got back from the US and Lauren was glad to see several months of scruff disappear. It’s hard to believe we’re going to try to do the remaining 2/3 in less than a year. This month is the first of a 4-5 month stretch where we need to average about 2000 nm a month to make South Africa by the start of the cyclone season in November. For us, 2000 nm a month means 14-20 days of each month spent at sea, so we’re grateful for every day that we keep up a good speed and cover a lot of miles. Yesterday we covered about 156 nm, which is averaging over 6 knots and is near the high end for us. We’re learning to deal with the added motion of keeping up a reefed mainsail in addition to just the jib in strong winds in order to get some extra speed and thinking a bit more in terms of the time of the passage.

It’s a little sad to be leaving the world of the Pacific islands behind us, with their Polynesian and Melanesian cultures, friendly people, beautiful islands, clear, warm water, and slower, simpler way of life. When we’re at sea, I chart the equivalent of a noonsight on a pilot chart, which is a large-scale chart showing the average weather conditions for one month of the year for the South Pacific Ocean. It reminded me that just over a year ago we arrived in Hiva Oa in the Marquesas and started our first real Pacific island experience. It’s been an unforgettable year that we’ll be reminiscing about for a long time.

Lat: 15 31.931′ S
Lon: 159 40.463′ E

Dallas and Lauren have obligingly permitted me to have a go at a guest blog as I am urgently craving the attention of someone other than my fellow crew members who have been cooped up in close quarters with one another for a good 4 days and are on the verge of deciding who to eat if it comes to that. As I write this the debate is on and Lauren, being imminently democratic, has decided it should be put to a vote. I guess its time to start kissing babies and hugging puppies. Alas, lacking these requirements, I suppose I must do it the old fashion way and come up with something I can bribe people with. Too bad I’m out of chocolate.

Duty free shops were numerous in Port Villa, Vanuatu, the last real port the crew of the Pura Vida paid a visit to and I took full advantage. To those who are not familiar, duty free shopping is great because import (or export..who really gives a damn) taxes are not applied and once one is out of the country, you get to bust into your bag of goodies. In my case, I was craving chocolate (insert joke here) and managed to get my hands on some Toblerone and Snickers. Toblerone, for those who don’t know, is a Swiss brand of chocolate that comes in a large, triangular tube shape container and weighs about a pound. A pound of solid chocolaty goodness was a temptation I was not prepared to handle responsibly and as result it was completely devoured in a matter of hours. Now, if you are thinking, this is completely disgusting and offensive, you would be correct. Not only because I hid my treasure and refused to disclose my bounty afraid that I might have to share, but also it was just a hell of a lot of chocolate for one person to consume in that amount of time. (In my defense, I have contributed to the snack supply in the past so if one were inclined to imagine me hiding under a sheet in my berth, greedily devouring obnoxious amounts of chocolate; well, you’d have the right idea and I’m comfortable with that). Having not succumbed to a sugar-intake induced coma, my treachery was finally discovered and my punishment swift. The next day I polished metal on the boat.

Before we get to my brutal but much deserved sentence for failure to disclose and share yummy treats, I must touch upon the avian tragedy at sea that was suffered by the crew of the intrepid Pura Vida. I say we suffered, the bird that kissed the wind generator with his beak really suffered. Sitting in the salon (no not that type…we are not living in luxury out here folks), quietly and peacefully reading a book or trying to find my hidden stash of emergency snickers, my rest and relaxation was rudely interrupted by a loud crash outside and a few shrieks from Lauren or Shiroma. Apparently, a seabird of some sort or another had managed to fly a little too close to the spinning blades of one of the two wind generators toward the stern of the boat. The wind generators, two wind-vane shaped contraptions that extend about 8-9 ft. above the cockpit of the boat, have three blades that spin in decent winds and generate power for the boat so we have juice for the hairdryers, espresso machine and satellite TV in the salon.

Now, in decent wind, these things move. These things move fast. These blades achieve a rpm speed that has to be dangerous. I have visions of standing night watch as generator blades max out at the level for catastrophic structural failure and send high-velocity shrapnel through whatever might be in the way which would potentially include me as I typically occupy the cockpit during night watches to, you know, make sure we don’t hit something hard. So, the point is they move fast and shouldn’t have too much trouble slicing cleanly through whatever might happen to take a strange and twisted interest in them like a bird perhaps. The night before we had two and then later three seabirds take quite an interest in the top of the mast of the boat and attempt several landings where inevitably they intended on using the Pura Vida as the largest solid toilet they had ever seen. (You can’t blame them, how would you feel if you always had to go on a wet surface?).

Anyway, the bird struck solidly with a loud crash and after that we don’t have a clue. I am an animal lover of the first order so this was kind of a bummer but, things happen. The bird hopefully limped off thinking: man that did not go the way I planned it or dude, why did she have to hit me, all I was gonna do was ask for her freakin number. The wind generator seemed to have suffered little to no damage and we both parted ways hopefully to nurse our wounds and never meet again. Seriously though, at the time I thought this was sort of like two bullets managing to hit each other after being fired from a great distance, pointed at one another. Basically, very remote possibility of these things meeting right? I mean, what are the odds of two objects coming that close to one another out in the middle of this enormous thing called the Pacific Ocean and don’t these birds have some nest to go home to? I would be provided an answer to the first question the next day. As far as where these birds go when they get tired of flying around and crashing into things, I haven’t got the faintest clue and nor does anyone else as far as I’m concerned.

Boredom at sea is something I can imagine many sailors have had to combat throughout the history of this insanely delightful mode of transportation. I’m sure many solutions cannot be mentioned here and the crew of the Pura Vida is quite adept at coming up with wholesome and in no way degrading or embarassing ways of entertaining themselves at sea. Reading, playing games and conversations about food are popular methods especially as the passage wears on. At the moment, we are four days into the passage and sanity levels are (if we comply with Homeland Security specifications) at a solid and safe yellow stage in a non-cabin-fever, Jack Nicholson-lurking-about-the-Overlook-Hotel-with-an-axe kind of way. No practical jokes or needless humiliation or degradation at fellow crew members expense has taken place and peace reigns supreme. Until today.

Today, I am guessing due to my chocolate treachery, that Dallas, in his always pragmatic way, cheerfully suggested that the solution to our current state of boredom might be some boat maintenance. (In order to clarify, Dallas and Lauren are the furthest from slavedrivers you could possibly imagine…in fact, I’m quite certain if I just sat on my rear and did absolutely nothing to help they wouldn’t say a word in protest). I am inclined to help out on the boat because I am generally useless as this is my first sailing voyage. I know nothing of sailing except when to stay out of the way and sometimes I even got that wrong. Not to mention I owe Dallas and Lauren lots of stuff that has managed to find its’ way overboard when under my care. Right now I believe my tally is three plates, one steak knife, one spearhead and one hacky sack, don’t ask. So needless to say, I am eager to help when I can. This was apparently one of those times but honestly, I think Dallas was trying to make a point that dumping things overboard and hording chocolate was completely inappropriate behavior aboard their vessel. My punishment was polishing the lifelines that run along the lateral edges of the boat and keep crewmembers onboard which is nice.

While there was nothing extraordinary about the chore, (it was actually nice to spend some time in the sun and contribute something to the workload) it did afford me the amusing thought that perhaps Dallas or Ash, the first mate, might put on an Admiral hat and come berate the lazy sailors polishing steel and bark at us saying things like, "I wanna see my face shining back at me in that steel you worthless pile of @#$%". As I finished polishing the starboard lifelines, Lauren was working on the port side, not due to corporal punishment as was I but just due to her nature as a solid contributor to workload and general well-being of the boat and crew. As she was finishing the job toward the stern of the boat, instinctively she looked forward off the port bow in the way that one who has been out here awhile does to occasionally take a look around even if it isn’t ones’ watch and she spied a boat on the horizon. A large boat. A large boat that wasn’t changing directions and was headed in our general direction.

Now, before panic ensues among loyal readers of this blog and alarms begin sounding to call the Australian Coast Guard to begin the search, I could not have posted this from the life raft which is designed more for survival than Internet access so, we are fine. Lauren had noticed the boat on the horizon and having notified Dallas, authorities on the boat had the situation well in hand. While a sharp eye was kept on the boat by Lauren; Dallas hailed them on the radio and of course, I grabbed my camera. While this may sound like the most useless thing to do under the circumstances, that’s only cause it was but it was also the only thing I could do. If in doubt, document.

With calls from the Pura Vida untranslatable, the only verbal response was one of, "no English". The boat was clearly of Asian origin with what appeared to Chinese characters painted across the main superstructure. Most likely a fishing trawler, approximately 80 -100 ft. long, the boat changed course about a half-mile from the Pura Vida, crossing in front not risking a collision across the starboard side of the boat. Although not seeming to rattle the more experienced members of the crew, the encounter was exciting. I’m not sure whether the sight of something other than things I like to dump overboard floating to the bottom or birds that like to get up close and personal with supersonic wind generator blades was the catalyst for excitement or if it just felt like a close call. Regardless, blood pressure elevated and boredom for the moment was suspended as we watched this thing leave us in the dust, not so much as a wave or salute or gift of fish which had to be plentiful on this thing cause we haven’t caught anything in days. Clearly, these guys were hogging all the tuna and that makes me mad. Too bad I’m out of chocolate.

colin Somebody get this guy some chocolate!!


Lat: 15 45.167 S

Long: 164 25.409 E

From Malekoula, we sailed 40 miles north to Luganville, the jumping-off spot for cruisers headed to Oz. It is the 2nd largest “city” in Vanuatu, and after the village in Banam Bay, it certainly seemed well developed, but it was still very small by American standards. The main street was pretty quaint with lots of cafes, and each of the little grocery stores sold baguettes, indications of the historical French presence here.

guitar I found a home for the second hand guitar that I picked up in NZ

The Americans’ former presence here can be seen as well, although I wouldn’t describe the evidence as quaint. They (or we, as the case may be) used Vanuatu as a landing point for equipment during World War II, and at the end of the war, decided it was cheaper to leave it here than to ship it back to the U.S. More precisely, they drove a million dollars’ worth of trucks, tanks, cranes and miscellaneous equipment out onto a jetty that they then blew up. While Dallas went for a medical investigation yesterday (in response to our cajoling), the rest of us snorkeled the Million Dollar Point and found it to be pretty interesting, although most of the debris is now unrecognizable. We could make out the wheels of a truck, a crane, and two distinct ships that were wrecked there along with tons and tons of what appeared to be scrap metal (part of the jetty?). As unsightly as the whole scene was, there was a healthy crop of colorful coral that had attracted several large schools of fish. The most beautiful sights (more colorful coral, larger fish) were around the ships and could only be seen by free-diving 20′ or so. That depth is not a problem for me anymore, but once I get there, I only have time for a quick glance around before I want to return to the surface.

fish wheels

The snorkeling was the extent of our recreation in Luganville, with the exception of a few evening beers at the resort. Dallas had selected July 6 as our departure-from-Vanuatu date (in keeping with our long-term schedule), so with only two days to prepare for the passage to Oz, we had to get down to business quickly. Quite frankly, it was a little stressful for all of us, and with the discussion of three different crew changes in a period of 48 hours, I started to feel like I was on a reality TV show. A cruising boat really would be ideal for such a show. There is always potential for drama with several people sharing not only a small space but also limited resources (e.g., food, dinghy, stereo). Add to that the fact that we are constantly on the go, far away from the people and places that are familiar to us, and thus relying on each other’s company both on and off the boat, and you have a recipe for some fairly intense interactions and relationships. The five of us represent three different countries and very distinct and different personalities, so it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to create a sense of community in such a short time, albeit not always a fair and balanced one. We are learning that, as with any relationship, communication is the key.

Now that everyone has said their piece and we are back at sea, there’s a very calm atmosphere aboard Pura Vida. Of course that might be because everyone slept for most of the first 24 hours! No one is sick, but the unfamiliar offshore motion seems to have the effect of a rocking chair to a baby. Nevertheless, we made great speed yesterday, knocking off well over 100 miles. Today we are flying the asymmetrical spinnaker for the first time since leaving NZ and moving along at 3-5 knots in 10-20 knots of SE wind.