The not so fun part about cruising & onwards adventuring
We got out of our Mediterranean park with the help of Forfar from Squander. Jenne had, thru no fault of her own, missed her connection in Sydney and was delayed by 24 hours. The morning of the Friday, the day of our anticipated departure, was flat calm. We gathered up Forfar and exited our mooring without incident. Anchored out the front, Ron dinghied Forfar back to his boat, and we sat out the front until the big cat we knew was leaving, sailed past. We then radioed into the marina and headed into our berth for the night. We did some more shopping and prepping. Headed to Le Bout de Monde around 5 with Zofia and Daryl from Master Plan, to await Jenne’s arrival. She finally arrived after 6. We had a drink then settled her luggage aboard, then headed into town for a Chinese meal. Only Toni got disoriented and it took nearly an hour to go 3 blocks. Lovely meal anyway.
Up early the next morning, and away. Straight to Baie Uie, home of Wally’s adventures and the crab feast. It was a beautiful day and we anchored without incident. Went straight to the river in the kayak. Next morning went back in the kayak and Toni did some sketching. Went much further up the river than before.
Next day took off for Anse Majic where we were to meet up with Easy Tiger et al to distribute all our Oz goodies. Hooked up to a mooring. Early next morning dinghied ashore then took on the steep climb to Cap Nda. Stunning views from the top of Canal Woodin all the way down to the Isle of Pines. Young woman up the top near the lighthouse studying all the boats going to and fro. Don’t even think of doing the wrong thing, they’ve got everyone’s number.
Easy Tiger, Bossa Nova and Sans Souci arrived after lunch. Drinks aboard SS. Presented SS with their batteries, ET with their new auto pilot computer – fitted successfully, woohoo! – and showed Bossa our new ukelele!
Next day had a paddle board around, nice bit of coral, then headed over to BN for a feast. Roast lamb and pork, veggies and 2 desserts. These gals go all out! Jenne and Leanne had two health sessions together, wonderful, particularly for Leanne.
All these boats headed off Friday morning for Baie Uere, or birthday bay, as they were heading into Port Vila, while we headed up to the top of Baie Prony to sit out the weekend of westerlies. We got up there early and we dinghied to the wharf, then walked to the thermal springs and up the river to the low lying falls. Beautiful. This was the most exercise we did all weekend. Saturday morning was calm and then the winds came. Ron and I were up by 1.30am Sun watching the wind gust up to 30 knots. Would have been ok except a cat parked right in front of us, over our swing area, and made us nervous. At the same time, 1.30am, we could see a power cat dragging, so I yelled until I woke up the owner of the monohull the cat was dragging close to, then he started yelling and finally the cat charterers woke and eventually left the area and went around the corner into the next bay. Two more boats dragged but with less angst than that one. They too left. A most eventful and anxious night.
Sat on the boat next day. Winds finally died down about 4pm. I had a sleep from 2 til 4, Ron didn’t. Watched a movie and into bed by 9. Most boats left before dark, we’ll leave early in the morning, heading for Amedee or Maitre.
Up early next morning, beautiful calm morning, bit of rain. We had a rainbow from one side of the river to the other. Motored down the river and at the top of Ilot Casy Ron likes the look of the northern anchorage where we’ve never been before. So we’ve travelled a whole 5nm and decide to tie up to a mooring for the day/night. Securely tied on we head around the corner in the dinghy to the usual mooring where Moose awaits (I’ve now discovered his French name is Mouss, he even has a facebook page). He’s actually not there, he’s off walking with others. But we soon catch up to them and ‘steal’ Mouss away!! He took us for a walk all around the island this time. Jenne got to the top for the all round view. A lovely couple of hours in beautiful woodlands, cycad forests, beaches. It really is a beautiful island and a shame the resort didn’t survive.
Back to the boat for lunch and a snooze. Then off in the kayak, paddled one way then the other til the wind hits us. Back on board for sundowners. Watched a large US flagged schooner trying to anchor off the point. Eventually they come into the moorings area. Ron yells out ‘how long are you?’, 19m came the answer. Ye Gods. There’s 40 m between mooring buoys. Not a lot of swing room. Anyway Ron lets him know he’s not happy but hopefully the other boat will keep an eye on how we’re all swinging. Got another long cat on the other side of us. O well, hopefully it’s a calm night.
Greg reminded me (on our recent trip home) that I hadn’t put in the blog the tale of the dinghy running out of fuel in Noumea. It was the night of the rally party. The four of us, me, Ron, Greg & Ben, headed back to our boat in the dinghy after the party. The motor stopped after about 5 minutes. The boys thought it was Ron pulling their leg. Um, nup. Lucky the crew were in the middle seat as they got to row. Timing was dreadful (mind you, the dinghy paddles are not terrific). Ron and Toni’s directions are befuddled by alcohol so soon we’re doing a circuitous route thru all the boats in the anchorage. Takes us ages to find our boat! The boys are knackered. Next morning, they point out the route we took. O my goodness, never let me in charge of directions again!!!
Tomorrow we head towards Maitre, a resort island just out of Noumea. It’s school holidays so the mooring could be busy and if it is we’ll head over to ‘birthday bay’ and head into Noumea on Wednesday. Lots of shopping, washing to do, then we clear out on Friday. And Jenne has one more night in a hotel before going home.
And as it happens, the seas were a bit rough so we didn’t fancy another rolly mooring night. The mooring ball at Casy had a loose attachment and the noise kept us awake most of the night! So we anchored in birthday bay for Jenne’s last night at sea.
Into the marina next day as we’ve scored a berth. Mightn’t have accepted it had we known prior it was in a shared pen with a huge motor boat. A very tight squeeze. Took everything off the side of the boat, except we forgot about the fins on the paddle board which protrude outwards. I had Jenne on watch and I was tossing ropes to our helpers when I heard a bang. Later found the large fin had collected the motor boat and left a black smudge. Stealthily at 10pm Ron got the mop and creamy cleanser with us giggling behind him and cleaned it off. All good!
Jenne spent her last 2 days doing kinesio on willing patients, and helping us with shopping. The boys cleared out on Friday morning, we hit the duty free shop, and left the marina (us with a lot of help).
It was a hurried goodbye to Jenne.
So in company with Easy Tiger, Bossa Nova, Supa Trooper, Sueno Azul and Sans Souci, we head south. Aim is to get over to Ouvea, the northern most island in the Loyalties, with a few stops on the way. Hopefully our first day out we’ll either get down to Casy (40nm) or even around the corner to the east coast. No such luck. The seas were quite choppy, the winds blowing noserlies (thanks Brian) up to 20, so as the lead boat we radioed and said ‘birthday bay’ beckons. There was no argument so we all pulled in there for the night. Thankfully, the next day the winds were in our favour, so we headed south, thru the Havannah Pass (fearsome reputation fortunately not lived up to today as we timed the tides right) and around the corner a way into a mini Gadji, Bay Niu. Not as blue water as Gadji but very nice. Here we sat out a few rainy days although Supa Trooper and Sueno Azul decided to make the run to Ouvea as they were keen to get to Vanuatu quick as. Shame as Supa was going straight to Vila, rather than Tanna as our mates are, and we would have like to kept in their company, but we were in no hurry so elected to stay.
A few days later we head up to Port Bouquet, a beautiful large area with several anchorages surrounded by beautiful hills. On our way in to the port, Ron had great difficulty getting the main down. The pulley twisted and he had to manhandle it down. Took us over an hour with the light fading. Finally got anchored. ET and BN keen to press on to Ouvea next day, we were keen to fix our main halyard problem and elected to stay another day. Sans Souci said they had stuff to do so happy to stay with us. Fixed the halyard very quickly so had a nice day running around in the dinghy and having sundowners. Up at sparrow’s next morning – the anchor is stuck, we’ve found the only bommie in the area. I’m teasing the chain up when I notice the WHOLE winch coming away. Ron didn’t quite understand what I meant so he had to come and have a look!! The mounts had broken off and fallen in the anchor locker. Well that’s not good. Sans Souci had already left but beautiful souls they are, came back to lend a hand. Hugh dinghied over and together the boys hauled the chain up by hand. All 30 metres of it. Poor Ron was exhausted. So off we go, a bit delayed with a 70nm run before us. Ron was too tired to get the main up, so we just put the genoa up and the first couple of hours were ok. But then the seas picked up. A 3-4m following sea. I was actually quite nervous, it was not at all comfortable. I ended up sitting in the saloon looking forward, as looking out the back was just too scary. The boats that had gone yesterday had had a dream run, a beam reach and seas that were bumpy but manageable. They got in by lunchtime. Us by 3pm, never has a pass thru a reef looked so beautiful.
Into this atoll of Ouvea. Oh my god, stunning aquamarine water, swim straight off the boat, beautiful miles long white sand beach, a resort in front for meals (some good, and with wait staff who really didn’t want to be there, but we persevered and got them laughing). For example, went ashore for a drink at the pool bar and also to check said pool bar would be open the next day for lunch as friends had gone there and said it was great. Assured it would be open. Got there next day – shut!!! Too funny. So 14 of us headed into the main restaurant and demanded (very nicely) what was on the specials board at the pool bar – a crab dish. They obliged after much cajoling. Unfortunately they weren’t as good, only tepid, I was a bit worried but never got anything from it. We also booked a tour with a mini van for 10 people. The bus turned up – for 8 people! We had a South African couple with us, and as the ringers in we were waiting for them to offer to step out, but noooo. So Ron and I stepped out and were then invited to join the ‘next tour’ in a car with a Japanese couple. So we agreed. Well we had the best afternoon. The Japanese couple were lovely, she spoke very good English, he a little, and she was very engaging, asking us questions and giving us info. Our driver only spoke French and didn’t talk much so with my little French I asked questions and found out some info we all wanted to know – population (4,000), work opportunities (fishing, tourism and coconut soap – bought some, really nice!) etc. He took us to a war memorial that turns out to be the local guys who died fighting against the French in the 80’s. They finally won independence not long after. Also took us to two different deep pools fed from the sea. Had some amazing fish life in them, and some turtles. I asked if kids jumped off the walls into the pools – yes! How on earth do they get back up? Scramble up the walls! Will post pics if I can. Then took us to an inlet surrounded by steep cliffs that we were not allowed to kayak down or swim in. Shame, as it was stunning. Sacred land, fair enough. They also don’t grow much here, but they do bake bread, so I asked our fearless leader to ‘take me to the baguettes’!!! Leanne has a great pic of me leaning out of the car showing off my spoils!
Anyway Ron spent our first day there fixing the winch. With Hugh’s help he managed to get two bolts into the winch, should be four, but these are good strong ones, so if we take it easy they will hold it. We will have to baby it until we can get it replaced.
So after 5 lovely days there, we checked the weather and it was time for Ron and me to do our solo sail to Port Vila. The others were going to the island of Tanna to see the volcano but time was against us, we had Pru and Greg coming to Vila, and we had also heard that the anchorage at Tanna could be tricky and if the wind was blowing in a certain direction you ended up with ash all over your boat. As it happened, none of these things eventuated for our intrepid partners and so happy they had a great time. We were happy to head to Vila and get on a mooring and have a bit of r&r. We left our friends early afternoon to anchor up the northern end of the atoll for our very early morning departure (3am) in order to get into Vila before 3pm 2 days later. A daunting prospect. The winds and seas were forecast to be less than 20kn from the southeast. They were under 15 from the northeast. Go figure. We were heading northeast. So punching into it, at least the seas weren’t too big, which was my one fear. I really struggled with fatigue so poor Ron did the lion’s share. I seemed only able to do about an hour at a time before I needed to sleep. Don’t know how people solo sail around the world, or even our mates who do long passages two up. I guess after day 3 you get into a rhythm.
Anyway with the winds against us, we weren’t making the speeds we needed to, as I’m sitting at the helm I’m willing the winds to come a bit more beam on and willing the ‘speedo’ up to 7 knots so we can gain some ground! Eventually this did happen and we made it into port by 3.30pm in time for ‘Willie’ to greet us in his long boat and jump on board to help us tie up. A bloody big gin for me and rum for him and a bite to eat and off to bed……..
We had a few days before our friends joined us so we did some provisioning and exploring. Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu. I think the main street of Kuta, Bali, would have looked like this some 30 years ago. Pretty much everyone who walks past you in the street, smiles and says hello. Got a local sim card – in New Cal you could get 24 hours internet (no data limit) for about $5. Here I get 1Gb for $10 which is easy to go thru if two people do emails and a bit of facebook and look stuff up on the internet. So it will be rationed! I believe reception is not terrific on the outer islands anyway so shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Once our friends arrived, we bought wine and a few more provisions and headed out. The waters outside Port Vila up to the Havannah Passage are a bit rough but once we got inside the passage it was calm waters, but fickle winds. No matter, we went up the top to Esema bay and here we pretty much stayed for the week, with one day having a foray south to try two different anchorages but they didn’t work out, so back to Esema bay. Here we met Skellum and Mr McGawber for a couple of nights. We went ashore to the local village and talked to the people and had a walk up the road looking at the amazing big banyan trees and banana trees and pig pens etc. A few nice houses (by their standards) showed who were the chiefs in the village. They had a big claim restocking plan but it was wiped out by cyclone pam in 2015.
We had been told of the Havannah resort for a good feed so we did a half hour dinghy run and had a beautiful long lunch at the resort. The food was excellent and John our waiter was very entertaining. All too soon time to head back to port. Pru & Greg spent one day doing the museum and we frantically restocked and got a few other items needed for our next adventure. Easy Tiger, Bossa and Sans Souci arrived with tall tales from down south. Four of them had picked up some nasty bug and were quite sick. None of them had gastro ‘bombs’ so Doc CK dispensed some antibiotics. Others prior had had it and reported being unwell for weeks. Fortunately you can buy antibiotics over the counter here so CK’s tablets were quickly replaced and everyone else stocked up! They were needed again a few days later. So there has not been much partying although Greg & Pru’s last night in town was spent at a lovely restaurant with everyone having dinner.
After Pru & Greg left we left the next day with the gang and headed to Pele Island up the top of Efate. Steve’s choice. Not a good one. We are all anchored in sand but our chains are wrapped around coral heads. We are going to get up at 5.30am and help each other out before a 50nm run to Epi. If we haven’t left by 7am we are in trouble. Stay tuned.