2018 Vanuatu. Visit from NZ friends Pete and Mel

Click here for Google Map Link – Lakatoro

Lakatoro would have been a nice anchorage but while we were there the weather was nasty. Denny and I had a long dinghy ride to the dock and from there a 3 mile walk to the airport where Pete and Mel would be arriving. We did manage to find a ride and it was a

Burned out hulk of an airport

good thing we did because I wouldn’t believe we were at the airport. It was just a burned out building, open to the elements and no security or gates. There were a couple of people hanging out with their luggage and that was the only evidence that we were in the right place. We waited and waited and waited. Finally Denny found somebody that looked like he was an airline employee and asked about the flight schedule. He informed us that the flight had been cancelled due to thunder and lightening storm in Port Villa. So we headed back to the boat not knowing where Pete and Mel were. We finally got a text that explained they were delayed, and then one saying they were on the way. The wind had worsened so we arranged a water taxi for them as the dinghy ride would have been a wet one. With the wind howling there wasn’t much to do except take a little tour of the nearby village. We decided not to stay in Lakatoro any longer and sailed to the next anchorage that was a little more protected.

Click here for Google Map Link – Crab Bay

Crab Bay was a little challenging to get into as there was coral everywhere. The little hole we anchored in wasn’t very large with minimal swing room, so we put out a second anchor to keep us from swinging. It was still very windy out but we were sheltered and felt no swell. There was a nearby nature reserve with a trail so we decided to do some exploring.

We found another shipwreck on the beach which is always sad to see. We couldn’t find the story about this boat on the internet. One of the planned stops during our friends visit was to do the volcano hike on Ambrym. The hike would take 10 hours through some rough terrain and uphill and it would have to be guided. We decided we would do it in 2 days and hire porters to carry our food, sleeping bags and camera equipment. This would give us more time and energy to enjoy the hike and the volcano. We got a weather window so after 2 days in Crab Bay we set sail for the next Island, Ambrym.

Click here for Google Map link – Ambrym

 

 

 

The link to google map will give you an idea of our less than desirable anchorage and the distance we would have to hike to the Volcano. Google describes Ambrym as one of the most active volcanoes in the New Hebrides and one of five lava lakes in the world. We were all pumped to go. 

We took a hike through the village looking for a guide, along the way we made friends with a village dog or I should say he made friends with us.

Our Buddy Flea

We named him Flea for obvious reasons. He followed us everywhere and was even prepared to jump in the dinghy with us. From the boat we could see him trying to swim towards us and  made it half way before giving up. He then started barking and pacing back and forth on the shore for a long time (Mel’s offering of cookies may have something to do with Flea’s persistence)

 

It was a hot and humid stroll around village and we were starting to second guess our ability to do the walk. We  came across a cozy, little Cava bar where we could celebrate our success. We found somebody who had the experience and knowledge and willing to take us to the volcano Caldera but the weather wasn’t cooperating. There were low lying clouds and it was coming from the wrong direction which would probably hinder our view of the lava lake in the crater once we reached the top. We weren’t willing to do the hike without being able to actually see the volcano. We waited for a day but weather wasn’t improving nor did it look good for the next couple of days. However, it was a  good sail (motor) window to head back South to the main Island, Efate. There were no available flights from Ambrym to the main Island that Pete and Mel could take in order to catch their connection to NZ so we decided to abandon the Ambrym hike. We hope to come back someday and do it. The night before we left we did see some Dugong swim by the boat and on the day we left Pete, who was in charge of fishing, caught us an Albacore Tuna so we were happy with that. The passage back to the main island Efate was an overnight motor but that was better than a beat against prevailing wind.

Clouds hanging over Ambrym

 

 

Click here for Google Map link – Havanna Bay

Back on the main Island we spent the time enjoying food from some nearby restaurants and resorts. Pete and Mel had friends that had a little cottage near where we were anchored so they were able to get off the boat for a little while. I did end up with a very nasty infection from a small cut on my ankle that appeared to be nothing at first. The cut became swollen, red and from there the symptoms worsened and I had fever and chills. It was going to be a hospital emergency stop for me but luckily Pete and Mel’s friends had the proper ointment and antibiotics and by morning I was cured. But it does stress the importance of keeping small cuts clean and having appropriate medication for these instances. The outcome could have been very bad for me if appropriate action wasn’t taken quickly.

We enjoyed our time with our friends and 12 days seemed to go very fast. They were back to NZ and it was time for us to head to New Caledonia with one stop on the way, our last chance to see an active volcano in Tanna.

2018 Vanuatu -Santo

Click here for Google Map Link for Ratua Island

Click here for Google Map Link for Luganville Bay

We left Malua Bay, Malekula early in the morning and headed to the northern island of Santo. It was a great sail. We spotted a shark fin so we knew there were sharks nearby and we caught a very small tuna on the lure we were towing. We returned it to the sea as it wasn’t worth taking.

This little fellow managed to get himself sucked into our Water Maker filter while making water on the way. We set it free.

We had planned to anchor close to Ratua Island where there was a nice little resort. I was ready for a little resort visit and enjoy a nice meal off the boat. There wasn’t enough room to properly anchor but we were told by a Catamaran that there was a boat leaving within the hour. We waited and waited and then decided to radio the boat that was supposed to leave. Unfortunately, they were having engine problems and had decided to stay so our planned outing had to wait. It was getting late and we had a couple of hours to go before we would reach the next anchorage which would actually be near the main town in Santo, Luganville. There were standing waves as we traversed through the East pass and it seemed a little daunting but luckily we had timed it right with the tide so we moved along quickly. It was a long way from the Segond channel to Luganville but we managed to get there just before nightfall. The dated cruising book we were using said that this was a calm anchorage. That must have been a joke or written with some sarcasm. We didn’t sleep well that night at all, as we rolled back and forth. Early in the morning we blew up the dinghy loaded with our shopping bags and our empty propane tank and set off for shore, but it wasn’t to be. The dinghy motor would not start and the rolly bay was not a place  where Denny could work on the motor nor could we safely row to shore. We really did not want to spend another night at this anchorage so we off loaded the dinghy, deflated it and set off for the next bay that according to the cruising guide was going to be protected, although by this time we were seriously doubting the information provided  in the dated guide.

 Click here for Google Map link for Palikulo Bay

The Guide was kind of right, Palikulo Bay was a beautiful anchorage, but their waypoints to entry it were off, we ended up snaking in between the coral heads on our own. It was wonderful to have a nights sleep with the boat sitting still. The only other boat there was from NZ and left early in the morning so we were left to explore the area on our own. While Denny worked on the dinghy motor, I kayaked the bay and found a nearby golf course. Once back on the boat I googled the golf course and found pictures of the locals playing on the course in bare feet! Once Denny had the dinghy back in action we made it to shore with garbage, backpacks and the empty propane tank. We found the road and a truck stopped and offered us a ride to town. The passenger in the truck turned out to be a chief from one of the villages in Ambae. Ambae is a nearby Island that has an active volcanoe that just erupted requiring all the people living there to be evacuated. The chief was driving around getting a census count of the people living near Luganville so that he could get aid for the families from the Red Cross. People were living in temporary tents and were hoping to go back to Ambae by the end of the year. We were a little skeptical about that considering that some of the villages on Ambae were covered in 3 to 4 feet of ash.

Dishwashing duty at the market meal stand

Lunch at Luganville market. A deal for $5.00 / plate and a gracious chef

We made a few stops before going to Luganville and they offered to take us directly to the propane tank fill station, waited until the tank was filled and then took us back to the market. As they were planning to make several more stops in the

surrounding areas they offered to take us back to our anchorage in the afternoon. The generosity of the Vanuatu people continued to amaze us.

We had a simple lunch at the meal stand and replenished our fresh fruit and vegetable supply and made our truck rendezvous for the 20 minute ride back to our boat anchorage. We spent 4 more days exploring this bay which had World War II relics and white beaches. 

Click here for Google Map Link for Peterson Point

Peterson Point was our next anchorage and we used the waypoints in the guide to enter the narrow, shallow channel. Well, surprise, the waypoints were off. All I could see was reef all around as we entered the bay and heard Denny talking into our headsets that all we had was 2 inches below the keel and no option but to keep going. We made it through without scraping bottom although our nerves were a little frayed. We did use the dingy before we left to find a way better route to escape the bay.

Denny fixed our anchor light while in this safe anchorage. View from the mast!

Peterson Point was a very protected little nook and there was a boat here that had been anchored here for the past 10 years (it’s there in the google map picture if you look closely). They had floated a 500 kg ( about 1000 lb) anchor from World War II remnants left behind, dropped it to where they wanted to be anchored and just chained the boat to it.  They were a wonderful German couple in their late 70s with no plans to ever sail again.  Many of the surrounding islands, including the one that the Octopus Resort mentioned in our trusted cruising guide have been bought by China and then soon after closed. The Islands are now “private” and had security guards ensuring nobody set foot on the shores.

This little boat has been here for 10 years!

 We kayaked or dinghied to both of the blue holes, Riri and Matevulu.  The entrance fee was $500 Vatu which was about $5.00 US. It is appropriately called blue hole as the water is an iridescent blue.

We had some fun swimming and taking pictures of floating leaves with our underwater camera trying to capture the colours surrounding us.

 

 

 

 

 

Having fun with the water camera. Floating leaves and fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found a natural vine swing on our way to the blue hole

 

Fresh water swim in Riri Blue hole

 

We did find a little resort on the main Island where we had a nice lunch with a couple from Australia that had arrived a couple of days after us in their Catamaran.

 

Cattle enjoying famous Champagne Beach

 

I celebrated my birthday in Peterson Bay and Denny splurged on a $100 taxi and took me to Champagne Beach as it was something I wanted to do. The beach was nothing like what I had imagined it would be. It was overrun by cattle and there were some run down stalls permanently set up but were probably only occupied if there was a cruise ship nearby. It was a beautiful, pristine white sand, teal blue water beach. Service men came to this location with bottles of champagne to celebrate the end of the war and that’s where the name ‘Champagne Beach’ originated.

Birthday present to Barbie. A day on the beach

Click here for Google map link to Surunda Bay

Vegetable provisioning. We buy what’s local and learn to cook with it. Our favorite is Snake Bean

Our last anchorage on Santo was in Surunda Bay. From here we caught a ride with the manager of the cattle ranches.  They grazed 6,000 head of cattle on 6,700 acres.  All the cattle went to markets in Japan.  The beef in Vanuatu is very good, some of the best.  We were headed back into Luganville  to re-provision as we had our friends Pete and Mel from NZ coming for a visit in a couple of weeks. Luganville is the largest town in the neighboring islands so that’s where we had to go again. Once we had filled our backpacks and had lunch at the market we filled our Gerry can with gasoline for the dingy.  We then sat at the side of the road and managed to flag a taxi for the trip back to the boat. The taxi driver was happy to take us to our anchorage as he lived nearby there but had a couple of stops to make. First, put a few liters of gas in, with appeared to be one of the only two gas stations in the town. It was Grand Central Station at the pumps with cars strategically positioning themselves in a line for the next fill up. Some cars seemed to have skipped the line but nobody yelled or honked the horns. Very civilized despite the chaos. From there it was to next station to fill the tires with air and that was as chaotic as the pumps. Replacing well-worn tires didn’t seem to the norm here, just keep adding air. Once we were on the way and about half way to our destination the taxi driver asked if it was ok if he stopped at a Cava bar that belonged to his cousin. He would be our host and buy us a Cava drink. What could go wrong with that idea. We did stop and Denny bought all of us a drink. We met his “cousin” who owned the Cava bar and also had some property in Australia. He seemed very well read, articulate  and knowledgeable  and Denny was bold enough to ask him what he thought of all of the property in Santo being purchased by China.  He had some strong opinions and was troubled by what was happening. They gained their independence in the 1980s and were slowly losing it now to the Chinese in debts to be later paid and in property being purchased. He pointed out that the Prime Minister of Vanuatu had been invited to China and given the red carpet treatment almost annually but countries like NZ and Australia had only invited him twice.  (this is not a fact that we did any research on so cannot vouch for it being true). He found it disconcerting and really had no solution to what was happening so long as the Vanuatu people had a short lived, short sighted economic benefit from this arrangement. We talked about this for quite some time and he offered us and his ‘cousin’ the taxi driver another Cava shot ‘on the house’ before we left. It was strong Cava and I could feel the effects and so could the taxi driver who drove us back at a snails pace with all other vehicles passing us. Luckily we made it back alive.

But the highlight of this anchorage were the children from a nearby village that we made friends with.

They had waved me over to say hello while I was on one of my kayaking explorations. I knew there was another ‘blue’ hole nearby so I asked if they could take us to it. We brought the dinghy over, loaded it with the 5 kids and we made the slow trek to the nearby blue hole. It was really a concrete swimming hole fed by some fresh spring water. Denny was quick to jump in but the kids just hung by the edge and wouldn’t go in. It took me a while to realize that swimming in the ‘blue’ hole was forbidden. The kids wouldn’t break the rule but were afraid to tell us about it until I asked a direct question as to whether it was ok to swim. They said we had to make a cell phone call and ask for permission and probably pay a fee. The kids visited Landfall and we gave them Coke popcorn, cookies and they watched a movie. They were amazed at all our storage lockers and the canned goods we had and they were amazed at the great tasting fresh water that our watermaker made from seawater. After their visit to our boat they were anxious to give us a tour of their home. They showed us every tree, bush, garden that offered fruit or veggies that they could eat, in contrast to our canned food lockers. Their little sister kept collecting flowers and giving them to me. We got a tour of their playground which were the remains of an old house/café. It had some local drawings on the walls which they proudly showed off. Everywhere there was shattered glass and they walked around in their barefeet without a care. They promised to drop by the next morning with some fresh coconuts and Navale nuts that they had skillfully peeled and it tasted like almonds. It was their way of thanking us for the popcorn and coke. They were energetic, fun children and we swam and hiked with them. They had lots of free time as they were on a 2 week school holiday and were basically left on their own while their parents worked. They referred to me as the ‘Queen’ as instructed to by Denny and they loved it and were always concerned for my welfare during the hikes and swim. They found us a harvest of wild lemons that looked like oranges but tasted like lemons.

My friend, Mr. Turtle

Denny even managed to convince them it was oranges and their expressions were hilarious as they bit into the sour fruit. I told them his nickname was the ‘menace’ for a very good reason. It was sad to have leave these resourceful, amusing, amazing, kind, happy, generous kids. It was an amazing 5 days surrounded by white beaches, turtles and happy children.

 

 

Click here for Google Map link for Port Sandwich, Malekula

Our friends from NZ Pete and Mel were flying into Malekula to visit us for 10 days so we had to leave Santo and head back South. It was a sail against prevailing wind so we had to pick a weather window. And we picked a great one that allowed us to go all the way to south east Malekula, Port Sandwich. It was a very protected anchorage and there were 7 sailboats there when we arrived, the most we have seen since we left Port Vila. We were only there for 2 days and only got off the boat to have happy hour with a Canadian couple on Katie M II, a boat that was in Riverside Marina NZ while we were there. From here we could easily sail in a northern direction to Lakatoro to pick up our friends who were arriving in a couple of days.  

2018 Vanuatu -Malekula Island

Click here for Google Map Link

Lunar Island

Our next destination after the Maskelyne Islands would be the West coast of Malekula Islands. Most cruising boats would prefer to sail by the East coast and it’s probably a much more scenic and anchoring friendly coast but we like stepping off the beaten track. A part on our Windlass had broken at our last anchorage so now when the anchor had to be hoisted using power I had to be down below with my head in the chain locker and keep the tension on the chain by  pulling it into the locker. It didnt require a lot of strength just continuous pressure and if there was 150ft of chain out, it was an arm workout. The Windlass part had been ordered and was scheduled to arrive in Port Vila in a month or so. Anchoring in deep water was not fun. Lunar Island was a beautiful peaceful anchorage with a steady stream of fruit bats flying overhead as the sun was setting. It’s worth clicking the Google map link to appreciate the beauty of the anchorage. It was only a quick overnight stop so we didn’t take any anchorage photos.

Malekula, South West Bay.

Click here for Google Map Link

South West Bay anchorage was a large, open bay but very shallow, so great for anchoring. As the prevailing wind is from the East or South East the open bay on the West coast was pretty good for the light winds we had. The highlight for this anchorage was the large lagoon which we explored extensively by dinghy.

 

The locals traversed the lagoon with their dugouts to get to their farming plots. We came upon a very nice family with their dugouts loaded with their harvest and with no hesitation, they offered us a large Papaya and a large bundle of Island Cabbage. I had never tasted Island Cabbage before and although a little slimy when cooked it tasted much like spinach. Denny invited the children to ride with us in the dinghy back to the village. It was a half an hour paddle by dugout which was sitting pretty low in the water with all their vegetables, momma, kids and dog. We made it back the same time as we had to take the long route due to shallow, low tide waters. The kids, although a little shy and spoke a little French only, had great fun driving the dinghy.

smiles are universal even if you don’t speak the same language

We had dinner at Chief James house. He had extended an invitation to share a meal with him and his family after I brought in a freshly baked coffee cake and we asked for permission to explore the lagoon. We arrived at their hut and we were invited to sit with them and we were given peanuts on the shell before dinner. The family consisted of the chief and his wife, the chief’s dad and 2 children. I brought along a curried sweet potato and pumpkin dish  which they seemed to enjoy. but other than that, there was no joy in the dinner. Only Grandpa spoke and ate with us, everyone else sat further apart and focused on a large flat screen TV which blasted a French show. The chief, scooped up a large portion of food for himself but set it aside as he was high on Kava and his wife lingered by the door socializing with people that passed by the house. It felt like an obligatory dinner invitation and the main meal was Cassava Lap Lap packets and fried papaya. Denny and I drenched the packets with our curry sauce to make it edible. Maybe our expectations of the village welcome was a little high after meeting the wonderful family in the lagoon.

The anchorage did offer some nice kayaking opportunities and beautiful sunsets.

Click here for Google Map Link

Malekula, Malua Bay

Malua Bay didn’t offer much protection either but again we were blessed with calm winds. As soon as we were anchored we were welcomed by 2 locals each in their own dugout canoes and both stayed on opposite sides of the boat competing for attention. At last I had to make a choice and promised one local, Melten, to meet him on the beach in the morning so that he could guide us to the ‘blue water’ hole nearby.

It was a 20 minute walk to the blue water hole and it was a beautiful natural, fresh water

Barbs Big Leap of Faith

swimming hole with a small waterfall that one could slide down on and some ledges that offered some diving and jumping opportunities. Melten was a great host and didn’t ask for any money to be our guide. He did ask us if we wanted any fresh produce for trade for school supplies but we offered to buy it. He came on board offering some fresh lemons and apologized about not being able to bring some fresh tomatoes which is what I really wanted. We spent a great afternoon sharing a little about each other’s way of life. It was here that we learned that when couples marry in Vanuatu a dowry of $1000 US has to be paid to the woman’s oldest brother or the father in the case where there is no male sibling. So needless to say Melten courted his now current wife for a long time to make sure she would be a good wife. We later learned that in most cases the village contributes to the dowry fund. We also learned that they pay taxes on the Copra they sell but get no pension and very limited government services in return (ie. minimal health care). They are also required to pay $1000 US for school fees for each child. A lot of money for them to accumulate considering their subsistence living. Requests for donations for school fees seemed to be a recurring theme at most village anchorages that we went to.

He read the cruising guide’s description about our anchorage there and thought it was hilarious that we should keep an eye out for Dugong. I guess the guide should be updated to exclude Dugong sighting at this bay. Melten seemed to enjoy learning about our culture as much as we learned about his. That is what we really love about cruising even though the constant requests for donations can be a little discouraging.

Always new things swimming around the boat

 

2018 Vanuatu -Maskelyne – July 20 to 29

Click Here for Google Map Link

Beautiful village on Uliveo near where we were anchored

Our visit to the Maskelyne Islands would have ticked almost all our ‘bucket list’ boxes for our visit to Vanuatu if we had boxes to tick. If it had had a volcano we would have stayed here for the remainder of our visit to Vanuatu.

I will say that there was one distasteful incident which happened on a Catamaran anchored near us. A local that introduced himself as the chief dropped by while we were visiting on their boat and demanded that we pay a fine for snorkeling in Tabu waters. As our host family had told us where to go for snorkeling and hadn’t mentioned any restrictions, we refused to pay the $20 fine. We promptly left the Catamaran not wanting any further discussions with the local. We were informed the next day that he had been an impostor. Although infrequent, there are such incidents that give the village as a whole a bad reputation in the cruising community. I included this story at the beginning as it really was just a little blip to an otherwise beautiful experience and probably our favorite Vanuatu anchorages. And we loved the people.

If ever in Uliveo have Stewart give you a tour of the villages. Great stories and a wonderful personality.

The dugout, main means of transportation by paddle or sail in Uliveo. No cars!

We arrived at Uliveo island by mid afternoon and now had to find our anchorage point. The 2015 cruising guide showed an anchor icon in one bay but the waypoint indicated the anchoring in another bay. Hmmm, which one is correct? A local in a dugout came by our boat and volunteered to show us the pass. We invited him on board and then he proceeded to try to help us but couldn’t say which bay we should anchor in. Our first pick turned out to be a bust as it shallowed up really fast and there was coral everywhere. Stewart, our visiting local suggested that we try the next bay, which is where other visiting boats have anchored. It was a little nerve wrecking getting in as it became shallow quite quickly before it dropped off again.  Stewart had no understanding of how much water our boat draws being used to paddling a dugout most of his life. He gave us no warnings about how shallow it would get, just three feet under the keel at one point, or where we should really anchor.  Part of his reluctance to say anything may be mainly due one of the culture habits that became very apparent to us, Vanuatu people just don’t like to give you ‘bad news’ or ‘negative answers’. They would rather say nothing or tell you what you want to hear. And this has been a recurring theme while visiting Vanuatu and sometimes it got us in trouble.

We did anchor nicely in a very well protected hole. Shortly before arriving, we had caught a pretty large Barracuda and as we had some concerns about Ciguatera poisoning we gave most of the fish to Stewart. Google will tell you that Ciguatera poisoning is caused by consumption of reef fish contaminated with ciguatoxin which originates with certain algae associated with coral reef systems and accumulates up the food chain from small herbivorous fish to large carnivorous fish such as the Barracuda. It has no specific color, odor, taste but the effect of the poisoning can make one feel ill for a long time.  When we asked whether they ate Barracuda the answer was “yes”. When we asked whether Ciguatera was a concern the answer was “sometimes”.  It turned out that the fish was fine and they enjoyed every morsel or so they told us.

Basic but comfortable tourist lodge

There was a small basic resort on the island and there were  some NZ visitors staying there.  As they had not had a taste of a cold beer since their arrival in Uliveo we invited them on board for Happy Hour.  We were also craving some socialization as so far other cruising boats have been scarce.

As we had arrived on a Friday we were quickly invited to the Sunday Presbyterian church service. We arrived at Tom’s house at 10:00 for the 10:30 service. Tom took one look at us and suggested that Denny borrow one of his collared shirts and that I borrow one of his wife Esther’s ‘Island dresses’.

My borrowed Island dress. Covers everything, especially the knees

She came out with 3 and then accompanied me to the eating area hut and watched me try on the dresses. She shook her head to the first, second and third dress and then exclaimed I was ‘Fat, very Fat’!! Her comment took me by surprise and I found it  refreshing that they had no body shame to casually make such a remark  and I exclaimed that life was good. Although I was a little puzzled as by comparison to a lot of the ‘mammas’ I was not so fat?? I realized later that she was probably referring to me as being ‘Tall, very Tall’ and most dresses did not properly cover my knees.  (at least that is what tells herself,  and of coarse I have agree)

The church service had the usual local vibrant optimism and  unabashed singing and at the end of the service they welcomed us to their village, said a prayer for our safe journey and then asked us to lead the exit procession so that we could give a hand shake to all attendees and receive many a  ‘God be with you’ remark. Tom and Esther invited us to share a Sunday meal with their family and it was the first time we ate the local Lap-lap, Vanuatu’s national dish.

Sharing Sunday dinner with Tom and family. Still wearing Island Dress. I was actually enjoying it!

It was made by grating manioc, smothered in coconut cream, wrapped in banana leaves and then cooked in a ground oven of hot stones. It wasn’t Denny’s favorite but the second time we were invited for a Lap-lap meal and chicken was added it was actually pretty ‘tasty’!

Tom’s family sharing a meal on Landfall

We had several meals with Tom’s family and also invited them back to our boat for dinner. I am not sure if the meal was a hit but the cake sure was.

Tom’s sister harvesting the shell meat for the Sunday dinner

Tom invited to go fishing in his brother in-law Philippe’s power boat for a fishing excursion. All we had to do was bring our own fishing lines, lures and supply the gas. They weren’t too impressed with our lures, too BIG! Most of the fishing was done inside the reef and the tuna they were catching were no more than a foot long. Fish was actually scarce and we were told that they used to export 40 large bins of fish per week to the markets in the larger islands.

Fishing with Philip. Lots of rain, no fish

Now they can only fill up about 25 bins and that is slowly diminishing. They were actually contemplating putting a stop to all netting. difficult to do if fish is one of the main income source for the small islands in the Maskelynes. It was a great way to see the outer islands although we hit some very hard rain and wind on our return trip making it a miserable ride home. We didn’t catch any fish with our lures.

No pic of a Dugong but lots of other interesting sea creatures

We did do some snorkeling as there were Dugong here. And I finally saw several Dugong although not with a camera.

We stayed at this anchorage for 10 days so that we could partake in the annual Canoe Race festival. This was a 2 day celebration which included lunch and dinner, watching the local canoe races and even participating in the tourist canoe race, which I won (thanks strong big arms)!

The festival took place on the North side of the island with a beautiful backdrop of the mountains of Malekula and colorful canoes scattered on the beach and ready for the races.

The day was filled with a range of canoe races which included different age groups, ladies and men but never mixed as that was Tabu, and mother daughter races.

The BIG boy canoe race

The SMALL boys getting ready

 

Preparing the Kava. Notice the meat grinder being used

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a Kava making demonstration which was basically peeling the Pepper plant root and grinding it using an old fashioned meat grinder into a small bag which would be submerged in a bucket of water and water squeezed through the bag to seep the drug out of the ground root.

Meat grinder Kava

This process was repeated 3 times and then we were all offered a cup to gulp down. I could feel tongue and lip numbing for about 10 minutes but nothing after that. It was suggested that we drink about 4-5 cups to have the pleasant, happy, relaxing feeling. They named the kava ‘Morning Fresh’ as no matter how much you drank you would wake up morning fresh. We found that hard to believe. First cup was free but after that we had to pay.

Kava ready for drinking

We were good with just a taste as the sloppy, grey dishwater kava drink wasn’t all that appealing.

For one it was ‘hmmmm, maybe’, for the other it was ‘I’ve done it before and love it’ and for Denny it was ‘let’s get this over with!’

It will be a turtle when finished

 

 

There was a sand drawing demonstration which I had also seen at the National museum in Port Vila. We were asked to pick a specific animal, plant bird and then the sand drawer would make the elaborate drawing all in one smooth flow, never lifting his finger until the picture had been completed. Pretty impressive!

As if all the colour of  costumes and surroundings wasn’t enough, they introduced us to their local birds which I had had rare glimpses of and now could look at up close.

She made a fan for me!

 

 

 

We were given a basket weaving demonstration and shown how the coconut leaves were used to make the walls for their huts, fans, carrying baskets used to carry the vegetables gathered from their farms and throwaway plates and garbage collection baskets. They made all this stuff with such ease and it is great knowledge to have considering plastic has now been banned in Vanuatu.

With a little help, doing some of my own weaving. Making the wall for the hut

Bringing in food by dugout. The island is to small so much of the growing is done on the neighboring island.

Lap-lap or Bunia in the making

The ‘Mamas’ gave us a traditional food making demonstration which included Lap-lap and Bunia (which stands for baked solid food and meat). The main difference between the two being the meat which is included in the Bunia.

Food preparation by the Mamas. Note the sea shells in her hands which would be cooked in lemons

The meals that the mamas prepared for us was very tasty. It included a buffet of shell fish marinated in lemon juice, deep fried taro patties, kumara chips, rice, curried fish and grilled fish and we served ourselves using ‘Island paper plates’ (a stack of 2-3 large leaves cupped in your hands to hold great quantities of food).

The roasting pig required constant attention

For the final meal they even roasted a piglet over hot coals. The roasting was well tended by several men that continually fanned the meat with fragrant leaves and one man manually turned the piglet on the spit as required.

 

 

The children were a constant source of entertainment with their beautiful smiles all eager to watch the races and play their simple old fashioned string games. They would come in pairs and show you what symbols they could create with 10 fingers, a long string and little help.

Beautiful Beatie, Tom’s grand daughter

 

The closing ceremonies included Kastom dancing and singing.This required some pretty elaborate face painting and costume preparation all from local materials.

 

 

life here is much simpler but it is changing and the future is not always the brightest.

2018 Vanuatu – Mangita and Epi Islands – July 15 to 20

Mangita – Click here for Google Map Link

It was great to be sailing again. We left Efate with a beautiful 15 knot wind on the beam, music playing on our little portable Bose speakers and the occasional dolphin jumping ( which only Denny witnessed). Instead of doing a straight overnite to Epi we decided to stop in on Mangita Island. We arrived in the afternoon and the wind was slowly accelerating so it was nice to drop anchor after a careful search for a spot that had no large coral reef outcrops or ‘Bommies’. Soon after we dropped anchor we saw some locals coming towards us paddling (not rowing but paddling) a 14 foot aluminum boat. Ironic how the traditional mode of water travel on this island had gone from paddling dugout canoes to driving aluminum power boats back to paddling but using the aluminum boats. Is that progress ? The wind was strong and it looked like the paddlers were really struggling so we set out to blow up the dinghy in case they needed to be rescued. By the time we had the dinghy ready to go they had made it to the boat. They greeted us with a ‘Hello brother and sister’ and started dumping field corn, coconuts, grapefruits and cucumbers in the cockpit. It wasn’t a welcome gift, they were asking for a donation, a mere $30 to fund their local student soccer team. Hard to not give some money when your cockpit is littered with local produce. They also volunteered (for a negotiated fee based on the catch) to take Denny for a night dive for some fresh crustaceans for our dinner. We also had to supply the transportation and batteries for their torches. It was a fine feast of a variety of shell fish but we both agreed we would not do it again. The amount of meat obtained was not worth the effort of killing these beautiful colorful creatures, most of which had been speared by a spear gun.

What’s for dinner??

We spent an extra day here but had no luck getting  to shore because of the gusty wind and the reef surrounding the beach. It was time to sail onward to Epi in search for the elusive Dugong or Sea Cows. We had a little trouble pulling up the anchor as a part on the windlass suddenly broke. The workaround until we can get the extra part requires me to go down below and keep tension on the chain while Denny uses the windlass. I can tell you it isn’t much fun when there is 200 feet of chain out. A little nerving for Denny too when the anchor is free and he has to make a mad dash back to the cockpit to keep the boat from drifting to shore.

Epi – Click here for Google Map link

The sail to Epi was pretty uneventful, a wonderful 15 knot breeze on the rear quarter.  The anchorage in Epi was a large open bay so it had lots of swell and roll. It was bad enough that we had to throw out a stern anchor to keep us from being a beam to the waves and thus rolling with every wave. Three days in Epi but and no Dugong but lots of turtles. Every local that we talked to gave us a different location as to where we may find the elusive sea creature. But we did enjoy finally being immersed into somewhat more of the traditional way of life. People used dugout canoes and lived in the simple thatched huts and everyone had a garden, chickens and an occasional cow. They fished with nets and hook and line but it seemed the fish were scarce. Despite the day to day existence it seemed like everyone had cellphones and there seemed to be cell phone towers everywhere. There were also quite a few large trucks for the few miles of road. Walking was not a favorite past time as truck cabs were filled with paying passengers going short distances. There was a Medical Health centre here but only staffed by nurses that made the decision whether you needed to be helicoptered out to Port Vila. There were signs warning people about Malaria and everyone had been given a mosquito tent for sleeping but we were told it isn’t an issue until the rainy season when there is a lot of standing water.

Our next stop would be a day sail to the Maskelyn Islands.

 

 

Some locals sailed their dugouts

 

Hand tools, coconut trees and local knowledge and you have a home!

A good day for washing. Traditional ‘Island’ dress!

2018 Vanuatu – Efate Island – June 19 to July 14

Click here for Google Map Link for Efate – Port Vila

Click here for Google Map link to Efate – Esema Bay

Port Vila was home for Landfall for almost a month. Shortly after arriving in Port Vila Denny had to fly back to Minneapolis to attend his mothers funeral. We basically grabbed a mooring, made some flight arrangements and the next morning he was on a grueling 51 hour flight which included a couple layovers.  We find it hard being so far from home when things happen so we do our best to get back just as soon as we can.   Alzheimer’s had taken her years ago and this was the final chapter.  She was the easiest going person and was always supportive even in doing something as bizarre as sailing around the world.  She will be truly missed.

I stayed behind as we weren’t quite comfortable about leaving the boat unattended. It was a great mooring!

Landfall is somewhere there in the field of boats

So for my two weeks alone I did the usual passage clean up which consisted of cleaning the build up of salt inside and outside the boat. It wasn’t all work. I did explore Port Vila and enjoyed a few nights out with people we had previously met in Whangarei. My favorite was probably the Stone Grill restaurant where a hunk of beef was served on a lava stone heated to 400C and I basically cooked my own strips of meat while eating it. Vanuatu beef is superb!

During my walkabouts in Port Vila I noticed that a lot of vehicles driving around the main street were flying flags of different countries such as Germany, Brazil and France. I came to the realization that it was the flags of countries playing in the World Soccer games. The people in Vanuatu were huge soccer fans and would watch the games on a big screen in the open air. The hollering and screaming could be heard on the boat at ungodly hours as they watched the games streaming live until 4 am in the morning.

Denny was back after a whirlwind two week trip and we prepared for our cruising around Vanuatu.

First stop, the markets for provisioning.

 

 

We both love the local markets as it is a way to learn about local customs and foods. The vegetables of the day included eggplant, bock choy, cucumbers, green beans and variety of herbs. And then there were pineapples, mandarins, raspberries, bananas and pamplemousse (pomelo grapefruit).   The market provided an epiphany of colors and the vendors, mostly the “Mamas”, as they are called here in Vanuatu, were all nicely dressed in their “Island dresses”.

 

 

We enjoyed a couple of meals at the market and for $4.50 US we got a plateful of meat, veggies and rice plus some entertaining conversation with the “Chef”. Not upscale eating but definitely local cuisine at it’s finest.

Flying her soccer team colors on her head. Will France win? Great company, great food.

Can’t figure out what the vegetable of the day is??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before departing Efate we anchored in Esema Bay for some quiet, relaxing time. It turned out to be NOT so quiet with all the local boats roaring by. But early in the morning the huge turtles would make an appearance before the hustle and bustle began.

On the other side of the bay a beautiful 150 feet yacht “Blue Gold” was beached on the reef when cyclone “Pam” passed by Vanuatu, March of 2015. Denny of course had to climb on board and he found everything as it was when it dragged onto the reef. There were clothes, hand held VHF radios, reading glasses and a galley full of stuff. It was as if it had just happened yesterday.  Denny found it  kind of eerie.  Shortly after he climbed on board he was joined by a local guide who was  probably there to insure that things remained untouched. Upon doing some research I found out that the nearby villages of Sunae and Moso had written to the Government to have the yacht removed. Apparently the removal of the shipwreck  is the responsibility of the owner who was arrested in Switzerland, brought to Netherlands for trial and was convicted on bankruptcy fraud. An on going saga with not much hope for a timely resolution.