Well, I have my wonder woman t-shirt on again – thank you to my Irish dragonboat buddies. As I lay curled up in the cockpit while Ron was at the helm during the course of our 36 hour sail across deserted waters, he looked at me asleep wrapped in a cotton blanket, and thought ‘what a woman, not many would be doing this with me!’ Nice to be appreciated even if I was asleep!! I have to say it was epic. All I was worried about was the sea state, we knew the winds would be below 20 knots. The state of the sea coming from Port Bouquet to Ouvea last week was enough to cure me of sailing forever. It was horrible and I could tell by the look on Ron’s face, it was difficult – Ali, he has learned not to say too much! I did ask at one stage if we were safe and he assured me we were, but what else is he going to say??!! I donned my life jacket but wondered about that. I always remember Maggie saying ‘I’d rather drown if we capsize’ and I think that might hold true out in the ocean blue. Who wants to bob around in the ocean waiting for what might be never rescuers? Scary thought but there it is. If there is time to deploy the life raft then that would be good, but if not? Doesn’t bear thinking about and obviously doesn’t happen very often.
So next scary thought is something happening to one of the engines. Well that’s not too scary. We can motor on one. It would have just delayed us. If we hadn’t got in by about 3pm we would have had to anchor in the quarantine area in about 20 metres of water with coral and rubble at the bottom and it’s not unlikely the anchor would be fouled in it. Who wants to haul 20+ metres of chain and anchor up by hand which is what we’d have had to do with our handicapped anchor winch.
Am I painting a bright enough picture?!!
A few night time musings: I wanted to write while at the helm as I make up really good lines in my head. Of course I can never remember them when I get a chance to write. I could go below to get my book but Ron’s asleep with his foot sticking out and with the bumpy sea I’m sure to wobble into him on my way past. He’s let me sleep heaps and he’s only having short bursts so he needs it. I feel like I need to be doubly alert then, cos when he’s so tired he forgets to do little things – like take the brakes off the lines when doing sails etc. Nothing major just doesn’t help. Moonlit sea is always wonderful. We were lucky this voyage coincided with a full moon. It’s like having a streetlight on over the ocean. Otherwise it’s pitch black and you are really flying on instruments! We need to maintain a certain speed to get to Port Vila in time to be shown where our mooring ball is. We have special permission (because of our defective anchor winch – which BROKE off its mounts when our anchor had fouled on some coral) to go straight to the buoy rather than anchor near the quarantine buoy in order to be cleared in. So if we miss office hours we would have to anchor in deep water in coral and rubble, not a nice thought. So I sit there staring at the speed and wind gauges, willing the speed gauge to stay above 6 knots consistently – it isn’t – and the wind gauge to go more easterly to give us a better angle – it doesn’t. Well it does eventually but far too late to give us a swift passage. It hasn’t been a bad crossing – biggish seas but widely spaced so we roll over, with the odd corker thrown in just to show who’s boss. One cup broken – an Arcoroc, unbreakable but when they do break they shatter into a million pieces. Also, the plates smashed into the cupboard door inside and I later find one melamine one cracked. We don’t eat much on passage (except when crew is aboard, they strangely demand to be fed!), just hard boiled eggs, pre-prepared spag bol, vegemite bics, muesli bars etc. Haven’t had many hot drinks, too rough to make.
We crossed into latitude 17 on the voyage (Melbourne is at 35 I think). Noumea is across from about Yeppoon and Vanuatu is across from Townsville so it’s going to be warm. New Cal’s weather was mid 20s which was lovely with cool nights.
We arrive in pouring rain, have to put our nav lights on, it’s like sailing in fog almost. So humid, 85%. Stays like that for 2 days then finally clears.
So we arrived in Port Vila, managed to get into the outer harbour by 2.30 so we were able to radio in and get Willy to meet us to help tie up to our mooring buoy. He met us in a long boat driven by his co-worker and I’m up the front ready to do what I have to do. I turn around and back and Willy is up on our boat, he’s sprung up like a monkey onto the tramp! He makes a neat bowline with the thick heavy buoy line and we rig up a rope through the eye and back onto our anchor locker cleat. Done and dusted. Ron and I hi-five. We’ve just done 190nm on our own. Quite an achievement. Don’t really want to do that again on our own. Radioed customs, they said they would come in the morning, you can go ashore!!! That’s ok, we’re in bed by 7pm!!!
Next morning, we’re sitting around waiting for quarantine. By 11am I radio, finally they answer, o come to the customs wharf, we’ll clear you in over here. Me: ‘I should come after lunch, you’ll be closed soon’. Him ‘no, no you can come over lunch’. Hmm, really. Ok by 12.30 we’re ready to go. There’s a cruise ship in and that’s where we have to dinghy over to. There is no dinghy dock. There is a rock wall with stairs built into it spaced about 20 feet apart with long boats coming and going ferrying cruise ship passengers to and fro the town. Not sure about this but there is nowhere else to tie the dinghy up to. So we make our way to the office, it’s shut for lunch. Yeah, thanks man. Only shut for an hour so we wander thru the touristy market they have set up for the cruiseships. Ron buys a wallet cos that’s what he does. Finally we get into the office. They have received all our paperwork I sent by email – which is a relief cos I left the printed ones on the boat (fatigue?). However, they cannot print off forms for us to sign so we need to fill out 2 of them again. Sigh. Very nice man but….. Then we need to see biosecurity – they are supposed to come to the boat before you do anything but they told us to come to the office (could the pouring rain have had anything to do with that?). So around the corner to the office – it’s locked. We wait. Finally another official comes, wondering where the biosecurity guy is, takes us under his wing, parks us on a bench, makes some phone calls. We chat. He’s 25, Eric. He leaves us after half an hour with an underling. Finally someone gets some keys and underling can fill out paperwork for us and take our money! So then we have to go back to town to Immigration which is a bit of a wander in wonderland. Lucky we met some friends on the way who gave us very good directions. Go to the old French embassy, up the stairs which are being painted, turn right, down the corridor, anyone will tell you which door….. I sent the forms, ‘no we don’t have them’. Fill them out again. I don’t have the exact cash. The cashier isn’t in today (she wasn’t in last week when friends had the same problem! Maybe she’s fictitious), come back Monday and pay. Lucky we had decided to leave Tuesday and not before. Soooo funny. The French were kicked out of here back in the 80s and they don’t seem to have left much of an impact. We hear a few French accents around but most people speak fluent English as well as Bislama – a kind of pigeon English that is not too hard to understand.
I leave my washing at the office, $20 and quite a lot is washed, line dried (or maybe machine as it’s been raining non-stop) and folded so neatly – even our undies! Walk up the hill to buy some grog. They have a gazillion minibuses here with rego beginning with B. You flag one down and tell him (usually) where you want to go (and it’s all on one main road pretty much) and you jump in and when you get off you pay 160 vtu per person (about $2), we have been for the same price on about a 40 minute drive (out to a fire and dance and dinner show with friends last night), and one about 5 minutes (cos we had shopping). There are also taxis but we don’t see many.
I missed the photo of the century yesterday. There’s a brand new boardwalk along the riverfront. They are gearing up for mini Olympics in Dec – should be very interesting as peak hour along the main road is diabolical, bit like Bali but no motorbikes. Anyway lots of the locals gather here and the kids after school swim. As we walked along I saw a group of young boys run down a concrete block and fly off the end into the water. It was one after the other, about 20 of them. What a shot that was. It is so locked in my memory bank.
Out of the main shopping area, as you walk along, if you make eye contact and smile, everyone says hello. Even the young teenagers. A couple of uni students approached us yesterday and asked if we’d do a survey as we were tourists – ‘tourists?’ I said. ‘How did you know we were tourists?’ laughing. They just wanted to know how long we’d be here, how much we’d spend, etc. Lovely young people.
As I write, we are being entertained by some music coming from some place on the other side of the river. So nice. Ha, just realized it’s a seventh day Adventists church assembly! Hallelujah!!
So a big grocery shop tomorrow in preparation for our visitors – Greg and Pru. Hope they like spam, just kidding. Thought we’d save the market for Monday, it will be an event. HUGE.