Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Photos. In no particular order..

Approaching Tanna : see the smoke rising from the Volcano?

The three  fresh mackerel I ate for breakfast

4 of my passengers about to go home

Going ashore at Aniwa

Racing across the Ash plain beneath Mt Yasur

David and Suzanne about to make my dinner

The Village has an ocean side as well as the Harbour side

Tanna:Bottom left. My track IN from very bottom, then out to Aniwa,(not shown)
up past Erromango to Efate and Port Vila, Top.

Chewed up Kava Root

Pouring water through and squeezing out the drink

Kava root and Taro for sale at Lenakel market

Wharf at Lenakel

Port Resolution ; Sapphire Breeze at left

Port Resolution early morning

Another view of Port Resolution and Sapphire Breeze

Walking up Mt Yasur

On the Edge

Inside the crater

Looking across the rim of the volcano

Another view of Mt Yasur and the ash plain from the river crossing

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Port to Port

I slept badly on Sunday night listening to the wind, worrying about having all these passengers on board and imagining all sorts of things going wrong. As soon as it was light I pulled the dinghy out of the water, dried it off then rolled it up and stowed it, took the sail covers off, forced myself to have coffee and some cereal, put the hydrovane rudder back on and the Vane as well and then as I was finishing, about 7am, Nelson arrived alongside with the first passenger. He clambered on and soon Nelson had delivered the other four. There were two young women and three young men, one of who had his phone playing funky music and in his hand a small portable speaker. Clearly he thought he was coming for a fun jaunt across the sea, and I knew he had miscalculated because looking out from the Port to the open ocean outside the horizon was bumpy and irregular as large swells continued to roll by, and the wind remained around 20 knots. They sat around the cockpit and I gave them a little talk saying they must remain seated in the cockpit or if they wanted they could go inside but no-one was going up onto the foredeck and I warned them about the boom. I showed them the buckets. The they helped me raise the main to the first reef, I pulled up the anchor and we swung round and sailed out past the other yachts and waved and shouted goodbyes as we headed for Aniwa. For three hundred yards it was smooth sailing and they all looked pleased, the funky music played and we were on our way - it was 7.30. Half an hour later it was a totally different scene - we were sailing with the wind and the sea coming to us from the side, so there was a lot of rolling, as well as bouncing up and over some of the irregular waves, and every now and then a good swell would smack the side of the boat and splash and occasionally completely soak everyone in the cockpit. The music had long stopped and three people were vomiting over the side, or into a bucket, hoiking and spitting continuously,one was down below seeming to be OK and the guy with the music was silent and grim faced. I stayed at the helm to try to negotiate the swells a bit better than the hydrovane would and allowing for the effect on our course of the wind and waves driving us sideways tried to steer so the trip would be as fast as possible. There was no danger but it wasnt comfortable for anyone. I tried to keep reassuring them and offered water and biscuits. No body said a thing! Aniwa is a very flat island and wasn't visible for the first 45 m minutes but inevitably it slowly emerged on the horizon and I pointed it out to them but nobody looked. After three hours we at last were on the leeward side of it, the sea was much calmer and we could see people and thyen a village only half a mile along. "That's our village" the group spokesman said, " Go in, we can get off here" - and I looked and saw a flat coral reef with an abrupt edge falling away into deeper water. A small spur of sand and rock acted as a tiny breakwater, and then I noticed three or four canoes being paddled furiously in the far from quiet waters heading our way. Where exactly did he intend for me to "go in" I wondered, and my first thought was 'this is crazy, I have no idea what coral outcrops and obstacles there might be." Fortunately the sun was shining and it was possible to make out clear gaps of sand so after dropping the main we motored cautiously closer to where the canoes were coming from. I ended up as close as 10 meters from the coral ledge and circled round and back and forth as the canoes came bouncing and rolling along side and first the sick passengers then the cargo and the other men were taken off without mishap. It took about half an hour as we had to wait for the canoes to go ashore and return several times. As soon as the last man was in his canoe I motored back out to clear water with a huge sense of relief, shouted goodbye as they all turned and waved from the shore and then after pulling the main back up, headed for Port Vila, 120 m miles away.

I laughed half an hour later thinking they would never believe how things were on the boat now : it was another scene altogether : I was going close to downwind very steadily, it was very dry, very comfortable and I was sitting back under the dodger as the Hydrovane took over the helm, relaxing and having a cup of orange juice and reading my kindle!

And that was more or less how it continued for 24 hours till I arrived in Port Vila on Tuesday around lunchtime. I still didnt sleep too well because we had to gybe around Eromango Island and the wind was now dead behind me, the boat was upright but tending to roll again. I tried to sleep on one side of the boat and then the other. At dawn Efate was in clear view amd as I sailed in I could see the red roof of the big church in the Village I had stayed in with the kids a few weeks before, and the Resort where Janet had stayed, and the 10 2-bladed power generators of the wind farm along from Mele Falls and the Zip lining place we went to. Turning into Mele Bay, the wind became gusty and fluky but the water was flat and we idled up towards the Port where after calling them up on Ch 16, the yacht club gave me a mooring right alongside the American solo sailor I had met in Port Resolution. He had departed just after me and got in an hour before.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Last Day in Port Resolution

I wasn't able to establish a good SailMail connection yesterday or this morning - Sunday - but I will try again tonight and tomorrow morning and who knows, perhaps I will get through. I'm just hoping the problem is not the Radio - if youre reading this on SUnday Night or Monday morning then I guess the Radio wasn't the problem, which will be a huge relief to me.

The weather has continued to be somewhat problematic with strong trades around 20 - 25 knots according to the last GRIB I saw and reflected in the Bay as gusts reaching 20 even though the sky has cleared almost completely and after a few showers over night the rain has gone. Everyone here seems to be set on heading North to Port Vila tomorrow, which was my plan as well, so I have begun preparations for departure in the morning. The BIG issue has been the request to help with transport to the nearby Island of Aniwa of up to 9 people from there who have been trapped on Tanna with no money to pay for the trip home. I had agreed to take 3 and so had the eccentric Italian, but yesterday morning to everyone's surprise he pulled up his anchor and sailed north on his own. That put more pressure on me and I increased my Passenger List to 5. I asked the sailors on another biggish yacht that came in yesterday if they could lend a hand but they were reluctant. In any event 5 is all I can agree to and I understand the other sailors reluctance - it is rather inconvenient, and alters the sail plan and adds a little stress to departure time and the ETA. As long as I arrive in Port Vila Tuesday before dark that will have been OK, but it does depend somewhat on the passengers arriving on time and being taken off at the other end on time. I keep telling Nelson they MUST get their support well organized at the other end, and he reassures me that they have.

I've been keeping the batteries topped up by running the engine for an hour in the mornings, something which I hate doing, but its necessary. Ive also been through my stores and taken ashore for David a few things that I will probably never eat, some I would but wont before I get to Vila so can be replaced, and I've also given bags of rice that I bought in Fiji for the express purpose of giving to people. AFter wandering the village this morning and chatting to various people I went to the big soft comfy chairs at the Yacht Club and ate dried apricots, and almonds ,with water for lunch while I read some more chapters on WWI. What an horrendous debacle that whole event was from start to finish!

Soon I expect canoes to start arriving alongside with the bags of the people I will be taking in the morning, and after thats done I'll go ashore for the last time because David has invited me to his place for a Farewell dinner!

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Things that fix themselves

A few mornings ago I noticed one of the compartments of the inflatable dinghy was noticeably sagging, and over a day it became worse. I ve been dragging the dinghy up and down beaches for 7 years without trouble so it was a disappointment to realise there was a leak but then I thought it lasted well to get this far undamaged. I talked to Levi a crewman on the nearby Cat about how one goes about finding the leak - soapy water, he said - and I rummaged about in my stories and found my packet of dinghy patches and glue. It was a slow leak so I didn't think I would need to fix it right away. I pumped up the deflating compartment before I went ashore again, and to my syrprise, it hasnt needed any further attention! The leak must have been a sticky valve that unbstuck when I reinflated! Good news!

The other self fixing thing has been the stern tube. After getting here over a week ago there has been no leak at all from it, so I am specially glad that I decided not to proceed with efforts to replace it after the workman had stripped a bolt and broken another one trying to get it off. God only knows what other mayhem might have been created!

My throat also seems to have fixed itself, - with the help of Penicillin of course - with todays Photo of my tonsils showing considerable improvement! Dont worry - I wont Post the photos!

However something which will not fix itself is the solar panel. The sun came out yesterday and I immediately noticed that the battery was not being recharged. I checked the wires on the Panel and followed them into the back of the Nav Station. There I found a solar Charge Controller, a small black box with wires going into and out of it. Clearly water has been getting to it, and the last three days of rain have finished it off - all the wires and the terminals were converted to a green mush, and inside the Box the circuit board was delaminating! So I shall have to get that replaced in Vila next week, and in the meantime run the motor to keep the batteries full.

When I visited the Clinic on Thursday the Nurse told me about an old woman he had seen a few days before with a problem that he couldnt figure out. He wanted me to see her and I agreed so he sent a message to her in a nearby village, and she returned today. When I first got to the Clinic she wasn't there but in the sun outside were a young man and his wife and their new baby, there to find out about vaccinations. The clinic had run out but Bob who has only recently finished his Nursing training, was well informed and keen to make sure some were obtained. Eventually the old woman returned and we went inside to the Clinic office. Bob was very keen to learn so I explained my methods to him, in history taking and examination, the general principles that if followed make medicine so much easier. In developing countries Doctors and Nurses dont often appreciate the importance of taking a very broad hsitory from their patients, and often neglect basic principles of examination, and too quickly focus on a diagnosis - and often get it wrong - but that might be a result of having scores of sick people to attend in a very busy day, a scenario we dont often have to face in the west. But in Bobs clinic, that was certainly not going to be the case. So we talked to the old woman and then examined her and figured out what her problem was - nothing serious - in fact for such an old lady, after ten children and who still worked very hard in the gardens, she was in pretty good shape. We reassured her and she seemed very happy.

Later I spoke to Nelson about his friends who are wanting to get back to their island, the island of Aniwa which is 12 miles north of here. When he first mentioned this to me there were three, then four and now nine! I spoke to the eccentric Italian and he seemed ready to take three, but no more than three but I would not take six! We will work something out! But Ive warned them that as there is no harbour or recognized anchorage there, someone will have to come out to take them off the boat. Otherwise they will have to come to Vila with me!

The weather is improving, with sun and cloud today but winds over 20 knots out at sea. I will probably sail to Port Vila on Monday - arrive Tuesday.

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Friday, August 21, 2015


Now we've had four consecutivce days of unpleasant weather. At least yesterday there was no rain but the cloud was thick and low and my Solar Panel was putting nothing into the battery. I wenrt ashore for a cold shower, and the water ran out while I was still covered in soap. I wrapped my towel round me and went to look for Stanley who gave me a plastic bucket of water to rinse off in. I visited the Health Clinic, a neat little cottage with two small rooms, one a consulting office - so I got Bob the Nurse to check my Blood pressure - it was good! - and the other contained an obstetric bed for birthing, but the set up looked awfully impractical for such a messy business that I wasn't surprised when Bob said women didn't use it. In fact most women here who are pregnant are expected to live in Lenakel for the last few weeks of the pregnancy and deliver there. I developed a sore throat during the day and felt cold and shivery, so went back t the bhoat to warm up and take some antibiotics and some pain killers. I opened m y mouth and took a picture of myu tonsils and the right one was inflamed and covered in pus! I suspect its a bug I acquired from the Kava ceremonies.

Today Saturrday dawned with a little blue sky for the first time since Monday but the wind is still gusty and I think out on the ocean sailing wouldn't be all that pleasant. The other yachties will visit the Volcano this evening and we might all be leaving tomorrow, or perhaps Monday...

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tuesday and Wednesday

ON Tuesday morning it started to rain, and the three other yachts all departed , thier crews having visited the Volcano on Monday evening. I was left in the gray misty bay on my own as the wind picked up and the boat swung back and forth on her anchor. ABout 11, to my delight, the Catamaran and the tiny sloop I had seen at anchor in Lenakel emerged from the gloom and set their anchors not far astern of me, and we exchanged waves. It was a day for staying on board and doing yacht chores - which for me has mostly meant finding the drips of rain that get through. Rain seems to find ways into the boat that sea water doesn't so I have little sessions of mopping up at intervals. The rest of the time I read, I have done a couple of crosswords, I eat and I make cups of tea and I sleep. Ive been reading about the first World War on my Kindle.

About 4pm Ruby buzzed across in their dinghy, soaking wet and invited me back to their boat for dinner, so a little later, with my wet weather gear on I went across and took with me a big pile of veges I had been given, and several pieces of LapLap that David gave me the night before. The skipper of the tiny sloop, Scott came over and so did the skipper of another yacht that had arrived, also a solo sailor, an eccentric Italian with a penchant for Lady Boys. So all in all we had a very enjoyable meal with a few drinks and lots of jokes and laughter. I got back about 8.30, between showers.

Today, Wednesday the weather has been just as awful and I have stayed on board all day, emerging between showers to bail out the dinghy which was a foot deep in rain water. I had a visit from Thompson in his outrigger canoe, he offered me some fish but I declined as I wasn't going to be able to go ashore to clean them and I definitely didnt want to do that on the boat as the fish smell will linger for ever. He visited me a few days ago and left a big pair of boots to repair, which I have now done using araldite and some clamps to hold them firm whilst drying. He will come for them when the rain stops.

The GRIB predicted this weather would last 48 hours so hopefully tomorrow the sun will return, the others can get to Mt Yasur and I will be happy just to get the boat dried out and my batteries topped up again.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015


On Monday I went ashore at 7am to get a ride across the island to Lenakel which is the main village. I paid Tourist price but the tourist seats were taken up inside the twin cab ute by some French people were staying in a rented bungalow near the Yacht Club. Instead I sat on the back of the ute with several other local people and held on grimly as the vehicle ground and lurched and bumped its way along the rough road for two uncomfortable hours. The scenery was amazing in places - we went past the turnoff to the Volcano but the road then skirted the very edge of it further on and crossed an ash plain, a windy dust swept desert-like expanse where the road disappeared. We crossed a shallow stream that cut deep into this plain, and then he road ascended to a kind of plateau in the middle of the island before descending again on the other side to the town. We arrived about 9.45 and left at 2pm. I wandered the dusty streets and chjecked out the few stores there, and the market and the wharf and also visited the Hospital where I met the Doctor, there on his own and unsure when the other doctor will get back from Vila . He was too busy to show me round unfortunately, but as is so typical of developing world Hospitals I noticed donated unusable equipment in several places, long lines of people waiting around outside and buildings in serious need of maintenance. There were two new babies in the maternity wing.

I had been told that in Lenakel Public internet was available so went to find it. THey seem to have skipped the step where internet Cafes have Computers you can use and gone straight to wifi - in other words you have to bring your own computer which of course I had not done!

Down on the wharf a tiny interisland freighter was rolling wildly in the ocean swell as cargo was unloaded by hand, and anchored oput furtherb were two yachts, one of which was the catamaran nthat for a fgew days I had been moored beside at Vuda Point Marina. Later on the street I ran into Ruby, one of her crew, and we discussed ou passages across. They are thi9nking of comiong around to Port Resolution where the anchorage is calmer and access to the Volcano is so much easier.

I had been asked to buy some Kava root abnd cigarettes for the Nakamal, and did so, along with some floour for Nelson and a loaf of bread for myself. The return journmey was complicated by all the supplies that were loaded onto the back of the ute and an extra couple of passengers, so it was a reliuef to get abck about four, and then walk nmup nto the Nakamel mto meet David and Nelson and Thompson - whose boots I hjave yet to repair n- and had some more Kava o drink, a poiece of fish and some laplap. I returned to the boat in the dark and reminded mysdelf yet againj not to ever oleave the boat without bringing my headlamp.

Today, Tuesday it is overcast and light rain is falling. I think I will mostly stay on the boat today. I noticed just now another yacht I was familiar with at Vuda Marina has turned up.

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Monday, August 17, 2015


Before I had time to go ashsore on Sunday, a chap called Thompson paddled up and showed me a pair of old boots that were coming apart and asked if I could fix them! So I will clean them up and reglue with Araldite - but I didnt promise him they will last long or that I have any particular skill in boot repairs!

I went in for Church but couldnt find it and instead found myself sitting o0n the grass with a group of young men, chatting with the one who had better english. He had lived in New Zeraland for six months about ten years ago, picking Kiwifruit, a story I have heard before. It seems theres a special relationship between NZ and Vanuatu that enab;les fruit pickers to come over to work - no douibt to everyones advantage. This guys name was Nelson and he particularly remembered his visit to the AUckland Zoo and seeing monkeys, giraffes and an elephant. Another highlight was the Auckland Sky Tower.

In the end I spent most of the day with these guys as we walked off through the village, through the bush gardens and past another enclosure of pigs, through still recovering forest out onto the coast beyond the village. One climbed a cocnut palm and we drank the clear water from inside, and from others the white flesh. WE slowly made our way along a long curving white ssand beach with breakers washing across the reef into a shallow lagoon. Three times they swam with a net and with goggles and snorkels looking for fish and ended up with about a dozen different moslty small and pretty reef fish.

For my dinner I heated up the rest of the LapLap with some onions and tomato. It was filling and tasty.

The weaher is fine but the forecast is for rough sea and winds gusting to 35 knots in the next couple of dayts so rather than rtace away as most of the other yachts seem to do after visiting the volcano, I will stay till the weather improves again. Today I will get a ride over the rough bush road to Lenakel, the maion village on the island. I would like to visit the hospital, buy a few things at the market and try to find an internet place to check email and news.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015


It started raining yesterday afternoon so I went ashore for my cold shower with my wet weather gear, and once cleand uip followed the rough road out past the main village looking for the Big Banyan tree, where David had said was a track to the left. I followed it up through the forest past a small collection of traditional homes, past a muddy rough pen holding pigs, looking for the Yakoben Nakamal, a special place where men gather to drink kava. I knew I had found it when I came across it a few hundred yards up the bush track because the ground levelled off and opened into a truly magical place that took my breath away, even in the rain. It was a large flat space without vegetation but enclosed by several even more "Big" Banyan trees, thier massive systems of roots seeming to form vertical walls that reminded me of mediaval cathedrals, thier huge canopies arching over like the roof, yet it was all forest. Several large smoky fires were burning and the men round them were dwarfed by the trees. I was beckoned over to one group of old men who all introduced themselves and shook my hand as I stood in the smoke warming up. WHen David appeared he took me further on to another clearing and another extraordinary sight, a huge gathering of women children and dogs were busily preparing food under a makeshift awning. The food was mostly what is known as LapLap, manioc mashed and cooked wrapped in banana leaves with some little pieces of meat scattered through it. It was all set out on the muddy earth on top of more banana leaves. We ent further on into the bush through a new track and came to another makeshift hut, with another smoky fire and inside lying on the ground in rough dirty sheets were the three boys who that morning had been circumcised in that very hut, by the "Doctor" The boys had to remain in there for the next three days, could be visited by men and boys but not by women, while other young men stayed with them all the time and gave them food and water. The newly circumcised boys were around 10 or 12, were very subdued and said almost nothing. I had previously asked David if I should bring themn something, and he suggested sweets so I divided my two remaining bags of lollies into 3, and added a few almonds and handed them over. They said nothing. I think their operations must have been pretty bloody awful - scissors had been mentioned...

And now the Kava ceremony! We went back to the Nakamal and kava root was being chopped up with machetes, the dirt scraped off and then David and half a dozen others began chewing into it, biting pieces off till their cheeks were bulging then chewing and chewing and chewing till a great glob of chewed up Kava root with the consistency of thick porridge was expelled onto a fresh clean green leaf sitting in the mud. Eventually all the root was converted into these hamburger bun sized mounds of pale grey/yellow mush. It was now nearly dark, and to make the drink, each mound in turn was supported in a filthy cotton tea towel , ater was poured inot it and it dripped out below into old coconut half-shells. To assist the process small boys, who were never permitted to drink the Kava, came across and worked the mash in their hands, squeezing and mixing it as more water was poured though, and then finally twisting the cloth from both ends to express the last remaining drop into the coconut. Now, in one go, facing east the entire contents were drunk. Soon it was my turn...I swallowed it all and received some appreciative comments from everyone watching. It wasnt unpleasant and I had already put out of my mind the potential ingestion of someone elses diluted saliva and oral hygiene.

Now I was permitted to eat LapLap and expected to smoke a cigarette, a home made one of a rolled up0 local piece of tobacco leaf inside some notepaper. It was necessary to hold a glowing stick from the fire in the other hand as the cigarrette kept going out unless you puffed continuously. Again, it was not unpleasant. And now, in the dark by the glowing fires evertyone simply settled down and spoke in low whispers if at all, stared into the flames and up into the night sky, almost soundlessly we smoked our cigarettes and meditated and relaxed. It really was quite amazing, the stillness and the sense of closeness with everyone. The one sound that disrupted things but soon became part of the experience was the constant hoiking, throat claring and spitting and coughing of the old men under one of the other trees.

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Mt Yasur, and Ceremony

It was good for me that the ICA Rally arrived because they had organized the Mt Yasur trip and I was able to join in. Otherwise I might have needed to organise it myself and it would have been a lot more expensive. It was really good talking to all the other yachites, mostly Kiwis who didnt take themselves too seriously and weren't all that prone as others that I have run into seem to be, to talk and brag about their sailing exploits and nothing else. So we all piled into the back of two sturdy Utes, squashed together like sardines and set off along the very dodgy dirt main road between here and the main town, Lenakel, to a turn off where we paid the Park Entry Fee of 3500 Vatu ( about $40 AUD) The journey only took about 45 minutes all up and we got out on the ash covered moonscape slopes of the volcano in the late afternoon, and followed a steep concrete path some of the way then a crunchy ash track right up to the very edge of the crater. It was really quite a terrifying place with not one signpost about the dangers, not a single rail or rope or barrier to inhibit the curious, and a sickening feeling that anyone could put a foot wrong at any second and plunge over the edge, sliding and tumbling down the impossibly steep inside of the crater to another ledge and then a drop into the steam and lava and smoke and ash and rumbling inferno hundreds of feet below. Inevitably there were a few individuals who had to advance closer to the edge than anyone else, and who walked along closer and with less care and more quickly than anyone else, ignoring the possibility that a stumble, or a crumbling piece of rock could either lead to them or a person they might fall against or grab in panic plunging to a horrible death. The sounds emerging from way down there were ground moving crashing and banging and roaring that at times was interrupted by a sound like a huge explosion, a sound that was muffled thumps till you got to the rim. Then the thumps became gut wrenching crashes that seemed to shake your lungs and make you flinch and duck as a huge mushroom of black and brown ash billowed up along with a spray of flaming lava rocks, some of which went well above the level of the crater rim but then fell vertically like rain, slamming into the sloping crater walls, and then tumbling like a fiery stream back into the hidden depths. Wind gusts carried a strong smell of sulphur, and volcanic ash blew into our faces as we followed the track in single file along half of the crater rim, the sun slowly setting and the glow and the fiery trails of lava becoming more vivid as night fell. It really was an amazing and awe-inspiring sight, seeing the inside of the planet, realising that it is a seething molten furnace, a place with so much violent utterly uncontrollable energy only a matter of a greater or lesser number of meters beneath our feet no matter where we are. Wrecking the planet by Burning coal, and making nuclear reactors seems somehow ridiculous in this context.

The strong wind became quite cold in the dark and eventually we turned back down the mountain with torch light, back to the Utes and another fun discussion on the way back to the Yacht Club where a dozen of us sat at the table and had a meal of vegetables and omelette, and a most unexpected but very enjoyable Tusker Beer, the beer of Vanuatu.

I slept well and in the morning, fried my three fish for breakfast and they were lovely. By ten, every single yacht, but one, had left Port Resolution. They had been great company but I was glad I wasnt part of the rally and feeling the pressure to move on because apart from the Volcano, there was much more that I wanted to explore on Tanna, in particular the local village and customs. Later, David came by with his net, and I asked him what some of the vegetables were that he had given me - one was a massive raddish the size of a huge marrow, there were eggplants tomatoes and a green leafy thing as well. He was keen to have all the old pots pans plates and cups that I had retrieved from storage, and then he told me about a Circumcision Ceremony they were having later today, and asked if I would like to come...

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

(no subject)

On friday morning after breakfast of cereal and coffee, I hauled the rolled up dinghy out through the front hatch and pumped it up, put it over the side and attached the outboard motor but it wouldnt start. So cleaned the spark plug and sprayed everything with CRC and away it went. Amazing stuff that CRC! During all this, I was visited by Stanley and later by Noel in their outrigger canoes. Noel asked if I had some spare rope and I gave him what I had, it wasnt much but he was very pleased with it, and immediately attached one end to his net and the other to a lump of coral for an anchor. Later he returned and gave me three small fish, the ones the nets catch, and later, ashore I gutted them and will fry them up for breakfast Saturday. Stanley seems to be the go-to guy for yachties, and advised me to keep an eye out for a white vehicle appearing on the opposite side of the bay - that would be Customs. Stanley was also organising a tour to the Volcano for later in the afternoon.
Customs and immigration arrived , and brought with them a very useful woman from the Bank who could change money. I ferried the customs guy out to the boat, and back to the "Yacht Ckub" where the immigration guy stamped my passport, my money was converted to vatu, I paid my dues, and still had plenty for the volcano trip. The Yacht Club is a rather lovely open sided old shed with a tiny locked up Bar, and old battered soft chairs and a settee and rickety tables decorated with a few flowers. The Guest book hanging on a nail by string is rusted shut!

I went for a short walk to find Stanley. The dirt was road was deeply rutted and I followed it a short distance to a group of houses, more like thatched huts with battered tin and timber sides. Chooks and a few dogs and pig wandered about along with numerous children and I found Stanley chatting to a group of people which included his in=laws, his wife and a baby. My main interest was to get a place on the Volcano tour - no problem! I was concerned because the Catamarans had kept coming till there were 11 and three monohulls. Most of these boats flew the Island Cruising Association flag, and had been sailing en-masse since leaving the Bay of Islands in May. They had cleared in at an island to the south of Tanna, Aneityum - or so they thought! SOmehow or other the I(mmi8gration guy worked out they had not cleared in properly, though all of them were certain they had, on the information they had received through the ICA. SO, later as they came ashore to get ready for the Volcano tour, they were told they must get immigration clearance and pay their fees first. Then followed some minor arguments and finally everyone raced back to their Cats to find their papers and passports, and rustle up what money they could find, and rushed back in to get clearance in time for the Volcano tour. Everyone blamed me for dragging the Customs guy over, but in the end they were happy because he was very efficient, had them all sorted in no time, Eva changed their money, they didn't miss the Volcano tour and they now no longer needed to go direct to Port Vila as they had been told to previously to do these now completed formalities.

I should also mention David. He also came alongside in his Canoe and chatted as I sat in the dinghy. The cyclone had wrecked his restaurant and he was trying to rebuild it. Like everyone he recalled the fear they all felt, and the noise that he said was like a jet engine as most of the village was torn apart. Even his pots and pans had disappeared. Remembering there were some old pots and things on the boat I never used I offered them to him. He sounded interested but I havent had time yet to get them to him. Later, at the beach where we all land, he saw me and later returned to the dinghy with a MASSIVE bag full of fresh vegetables including carrots and a coconut. I was almost overcome with emotion because of the generosity of this man, and all these people who have so little and for whom life has been such a struggle this year.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Tanna Emerges

Yesterday Wednesday was a rather uneventful day except for the emergence on the horizon first of an island called Futuna - a different one to the one I sailed to last year - at about 95 miles off and then at about 50 later in the afternoon the first little lumps of Tanna. The sea was what they term lumpy a 1-2m swell but the wind mostly 16 knots. We bumped along at 4.5 to 5 knots most of the time, frustrating because to sail faster would have been easier and the motion of the boat more tolerable. Our ETA fluctuated between 6 and 8am until after dark when the wind picked up considerably and our ETA became 4 or 5 am, in the dark. So at 1130 we hove to in 20 knots and I had a nice sleep till about 3, by which time the wind had eased again and we set off for Port Resolution.

Right now the sun is just rising behind me under thick cloud covering the sky and Tanna is 12 miles away a grey shape in the gloom, no sign of any volcanic activity.

It will take a couple of hours to get there from here. I will stay on board till tomorrow when the Customs people arrive to clear me in. Ive arrived a little sooner than I had expected, but all in good shape and no dramas to report. Port Resolution has no facilities of any kind, just a couple of villages joined by tracks and a rough road going to the main village some hours away on the other side of the island.

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Cats are taking over

I was unable to connect to SailMail this morning but will write this in the hope I may tonight. But if not tonight night, maybe I'll be lucky tomorrow....

I arrived here in Port Resolution about 10am and dropped the anchor in a mere 4m. As I approached 4 yachts emerged and headed north and a fifth has since left and been replaced by another which arrived a few minutes ago, so now there are 8 yachts here, all Catamarans except for Sapphire Breeze. It sounds quite grand, Port Resolution, and it was named by the amazing Captain Cook who seems to have investigated every nook and cranny of the Pacific, but in fact its a tiny shallow U shaped bay with a narrow entrance between some low cliffs on one side and rock and coral outcrops on the other. On the western side where I am anchored 50 m from the shore there is steam emerging from rocks and from the bush higher up. The bush is dense tropical jungle, and on the opposite shore glimpses of small wooden buildings with thatched roofs, and the shouts of children indicate where the village is. It looks very traditional and very undeveloped. In the bay at least eight men in small single outrigger canoes paddle about fishing, calling to one another, but seeming to mostly ignore the yachts. Ive eaten, had a rest, done some tidying up and put the sail covers on, and have decided now to leave the dinghy where it is till the morning when I wil have more energy to unroll it, pump it up and put the outboard on, The Customs people are supposed to be here at 10 but that may really just mean sometime before lunch. After they have been I can go ashore and explore the village, find out about getting up to see the Volcano and hopefully buy a fresh fish for my dinner. Tinned tuna is OK for a while.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Monday and Tuesday

Sailmail has been frsutrating this season, and sometimes I just cant make a good connection, so when I do, these Posts get uploaded. Hence mondays one only went out Tuesday morning by which time I was beginning to think I was never going to get onto sailmail. IT might be that the best conditions for HF Radio in this region are right around if this arrives Wednesday am. at confirms it.

So Monday I slowly recovered , only had mild nausea by the afternoon, and all day the wind stayed around 18 knots. I left the reef in the main and we sailed at 5.5 - 6.0 knots all day, as at intervals I ate more, beginning with instant tomato soup, later a tin of Watties (NZ) Spaghetti, cheese, nuts and bread, and later a tin of soup with "a quarter cup of vegetables in every can".

During the night some minor dramas with squalls coming through that required reductions in headsail most of which was out by late afternoon, and as usual the head-games begin as I wondered if the forecast had been sop wrong, what in fact was heading my way. I checked the Barometer now and again and if anything it was rising, but I didnt relax and sleep so well, and when I did I had strange dreams. This morning,Tuesday, when I finally got as good sailmail connection I downloaded a weather GRIB file and it predicted good wind for the next 3 days, 15 knots, going SE. I also listened in to "Rag of the Air" a radio net and heard other yachts reporting OK conditions on their way toi Vanuatu, so I felt reassure all would be good. A couple more little squalls passed nearby with some light rain this morning, but theyve all cleared away again.

Looking at our speeds, it was clear we would get to Tanna in the early evening wednesday and would have to heave to till morning, something I did at Rurutu, and at Futuna, and also off Suwarrow, and which I dislike, being near land in the dark, drifting toward a lee Ive reduced sail a little and am trying to go a little more slowly - speeding up was not going to get me there before dark - and so I am hopeful I can just keep sailing in, and arrive Thursday morning.. I believe the glow of the volcano can be visible at sea that will be something to look for wednesday night if it stays clear.

Meanwhile we are bumping along at 4 - 4.5 knots, the wind is around 15, and at noon Tuesday after a noon to noon run of 120 nautical miles there was 180 left. Position was 18.56S, 172.39East. The rigging and the mast are all good, theres hardly anythying leaking from the prop shaft, the solar cell has the Batterries "Full" and I am contemplating cooking pasta with a tin of tuna and some tomato and onion.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

On my way

This will be short as I am still sufferring from sea sickness which is not usual for me,, but sittinmg down here typintg doeesnt help. Left Momi Bay yesterday at 7.30 am into conditions much different from predicte3d - actuallly the conditiomns I thought I was avoidinng by staying htere Saturday - all day 2-3m swells and rough sea with 24 knots +/- 2 knots so reefed main and smallo headsail. Plenty of big splashes over dodger into cockpit, watewr across the boat but the wind was from the beam and the saes as well so made good time.Conditons were expected to moderate so I clung to that hope whilst spewing, had only water and two cubes of cheese. Conditionsn only began to settle abouit 4.30 am when I let a bit of headsail out. Now we are passed the point I got to last time, wind now 18-20 and not much white water so if the nausea settles will have a pawpaw and some water to start the day. A yacht passed me during the nught, I saw her in the distance close to sunset then her lights as they gradually bcaught me up - obviously on same heading , for Tanna where I expect to be on Thursday.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Last Bus to Lautoka

The rugged ranges inland from Nadi and Lautoka
The signs says Drunkards Not Allowed
The Cane Cutting season is well under way and the roads and rail lines are clogged with trucks  
All set to go
The Leading Marks for Navula Passage : I am anchored here till tomorrow
I took a final trip in the window-less  bus to Lautoka and took some photos from the window. Walking from the Marina to the road, I pass the Taxi rank and invite the waves and entreaties from the drivers to take the Taxi - but the Bus is more fun unless you are returning with many bags of shopping , in which case I ring Abdul or Kamal and they come and get me from the Markets.

I cleared Customs on Friday and sailed to Navula Pass, 15nm south of the Marina, in  Northeasterlies, gusting to 25 knots but the wind and waves were behind me, and Momi Bay, directly in front when you come through the Pass is sheltered except from the west. Theres a front passing across Fiji today with strong winds and showers and by tomorrow things will have settled and I will get going. I am supposed to have sailed out  of Fiji waters as soon as I could after clearing customs on Friday, but as its three times as expensive to clear on the weekend, I’m doing something which many do quietly, and its a nice chance to check the boat over again. The prop fitting leak is minor and I haven’t put the Hoseclip back on as yet. I’ll just observe for a while.

Tonight I would love to be ashore at  a Pub somewhere because the All Blacks and the Wallabies go head to head for the first Bledisloe Cup match...instead I will try to pick it up on the Radio, perhaps even internet Radio....

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Vanuatu by Plane

Walking to get the bus, house dog accompanying

Mele Cascades Waterfall
Erakor School kids made boats 
Typical Outrigger Canoe, though usually seen floating
Signs and wonders at Outdoor church meeting
Exquisite little beach on eastern coastline
 I flew to Vanuatu and had ten great days with some of my family. We stayed in Erakor Village in an entire house Zoe found through Airbnb. It came with resident cat and dog, had free WIFI a gardener and a cleaner, and amazing views across the water to Port Vila. And was much much cheaper than conventional tourist accommodation.

To get to Port Vila we walked up the road till eventually a minivan with a B on the number plate would appear - one seemed to go by every ten or fifteen minutes -  we would flag it down and be in town in 15 minutes for about $2, and usually have an interesting chat with other passengers on the way.

It was only four months since the country had been devastated by Cyclone Pam, and everyone had a frightening story to tell of hiding from the storm. Many houses in the villages still had tarpaulins for roofs and there were uprooted trees everywhere but few other reminders of the damage done. In the market however noticeably absent were bananas, pawpaw and mango,so tropical fruits were off the menu.

We did the normal tourist things, wandering through the village, tasting the local food, swimming and snorkelling, reading...and it was all over much to quickly.

Back in Fiji, the rigging had all been replaced and the boat taken out of the water so I could replace the propellor shaft fitting and stop that leak. All I needed to do to free the propellor shaft was loosen four bolts and a grub screw. However the bolts were so rusty that I couldn’t move them and was forced to get a local diesel mechanic to do it. Then he broke the grub screw and stripped another bolt while removing the damper to try to get better access...when he arrived with no tools, and headlight with flat batteries that I had to replace I just started to wonder how it would all go...

He then suggested welding a nut onto the top of the grub screw, and various other things and I could see the whole thing spiralling out of control into an escalating series of complications, delays costs and frustrations, as I had with the cam shaft repair last year. I got the stripped bolt sorted by an Engineering firm in Lautoka and asked the mechanic yesterday just to put it all back together and I would live with the leak. Its only ever been a small problem when motoring, and when not  motoring I tighten a hose clip around it and stop it completely...

So, as the boat was out of the water I decided to repaint the bottom with antifouling, and did it myself.

Later today we go back into the water, and looking at the forecasts I think I will be clearing out of here for the last time I hope, in two days time. Ive made it known that I am available to help out in the hospitals of Vanuatu if they could make use of me, but haven’t heard back from them yet.