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.
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.
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.
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
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.