Port Vila and onward

We arrive Port Vila Vanuatu at 10am. Awesome. We can see where we are going. Radio in to the marina. They have plenty of mooring bouys. Their work boat leads us to one and we are tied. It’s Friday morning and we have customs/immigration work to do. Kat is flying out tomorrow and will be returning with her siblings in 4 days. Minors age 10 and 12. We need some govt paper from Vanuatu to be sure her arrival at the Vanuatu airport is smooth. So I am off to the Govt offices. I still have not paid for our port fees from our check in out at Port Resolution either. That’s another office. On the other end of town. What did you expect!?

We find out way to the immigration office and get things moving on the permission letter for Kat to arrive in Vanuatu with her siblings. The official helping us tells us to come back on Monday to pay. Oh Kay… I’m figuring this out. Anything you need done requires 3 visits. One to start. Another to pay. And last to pick up your document. Distributed about town to keep it interesting. And it is. The market is in the middle of all this. And a proper market it is! Kat stocks up.

Its been a travel and I’m done for the night after dinner on shore. Kat and Bas head out for some clubbing. They have a blast and find that they are the only white people in the disco. A young woman walks them back to the marina to be sure they don’t get lost.

Saturday Kat departed for Australia. All paperwork in hand or in progress. Its complicated as she is going to be traveling with minors, even if they are her brothers. I get my bicycle out of its storage sack and put back together for a trip to get a few boat supplies. It is a brilliant day to go for a bike ride in Port Vila.


I rode out to the end of town to visit a marine supply guy that helped us on the phone with our fuel pump questions. Nice guy. We end up watching some old video from the Tea Clipper races on YouTube. Think Cutty Sark. He had a friend visiting in the shop that does solar installs for the out islands. They tell me where I can buy a courtesy flag for Vanuatu. Strangely enough it is not easy to find one. But I do. The shop guy gives me a bonus small flag. I fix it to my handlebars.

I went shopping for something appropriate to toast on the Big Green Egg. I find a place to cut us some thick steaks. Something they call a Scotch Fillet is a US Rib Eye. Kat crossed the Pacific on a boat called La Pita. As I mentioned last post we shared some of the crossing from Tanna with them. And they are here in the Port Vila anchorage. Kat is gone to Australia to collect her siblings. And Bas and I will host owners Klaus and Tilly on Spill The Wine. Nice people.

I had time the next day, so I decided it was time for a haircut. I think the last was somewhere in NZ and its been awhile.

Kinda weird. The short haired guy has blonder hair. Hmmm….

The harbor here is pretty interesting. There are a number of derelict boats wasting away on the shoreline.

The remains of some cyclone no doubt. I’m not buying any of them! Too bad about the photo exposure. The boats were backlit at low tide.

Sunday night the Soccer World Cup happens. France vs Croatia. Vanuatu was formerly a French/British territory. I had no idea how seriously they take Soccer. Or maybe they just take a party seriously. France wins. And the party starts at 11pm. And is still rolling until just after dawn. Traffic Jams. People hooting and hollering. The thrill of Victory. I did not get in the middle of that as it started so late. But impressive. “Go France Go!” indeed.

On Monday it is time to go back to pay the immigration fees. I ride through town. Bike is way faster than a car because of the usual heavy traffic. The road turns one way against me. And it is hot. As long as I am moving its comfortable. But when I stop it is Hot and Humid. I park my bike and enter the govt office. No AC. Same helpful official as last week. She sorts me out quickly. The sweat pours off my body in the enclosed space. Hurry! I feel like a levee is about to Iet a torrent of sweat loose. I feel a drop roll down my spine and another accumulating on my nose. And I’m done and off not a moment too soon.

Off to Customs. This is at the other end of town. I find my way there and the same guy that helped me check in at Port Resolution on Tanna is taking care of me again. Get the port fees paid, cruising permit in hand and off we go.

As I fly through town I realize. I am the only white guy on a bike in this town. Hell I am the only guy on a bike in this town. And there are not many white guys either. No idea why bicycles are not common here. They seem a perfect fit. I get back to the marina and it is time for another shower before heading to the boat. Maybe that is why bicycles are not more popular…. I fill a couple of my Jerry jugs with water to top up the tanks. Not a great idea to run the watermaker in a harbor. Filters last longer on the open sea. Although I would have to comment that the visibility in this harbor is amazing. The first harbor I would consider running a watermaker in if I had to. But the water on shore is good and free so no need to consume the battery power. The tide must flush this waterway thoroughly to make the water so clear.

More Bislama fun. I do not know why I find this so amusing. German isn’t funny. hmm.


Above would be a youth center.


And this is to remind you that every drag from tobacco accumulates to kill you.

I have inaugurated my new outboard.


I picked up a two stroke gas Mercury in Fiji. I grew weary of the unpredictable availability of Propane. The new one works. And it is smelly. There is extra oil in the fuel just now because that is what the manufacturer recommended for the first tank as part of the running in process. Next tank should be less smelly. It is a 9.9 hp unit just like the 9.9 Lehr propane motor. Performance was weak until the running in period was done. Couldn’t have anything to do with me peeling the 9.9 off and putting one 9 back on upside down so it says 6 now would it? Nobody wants to steal little motors. At first the new motor would not plane out the dinghy. Which seemed really weird to me. The good news us after the run in period it planes out the dinghy just fine. And the odor improved.

Kat returns to Vanuatu on July 19th with her siblings, Simon and Lukas, in hand. Along with plenty of associated gear. And Spill The Wine wept. Bas departs for shore accommodations and I deliver our new crew to their Vanuatu home.


We have a couple more days of chores and provisioning to take care of. Trick is how to keep two young weasels entertained? Or do I assault the job list? We plan some outings to local attractions. We visit a swimming hole. Another fabulous Blue Lagoon (Number Unknown). But what kid does not love a rope swing? The pool was big enough to swallow a herd of cruise ship passengers. But the good news is there was no cruise ship in port today. 🙂

For that matter, what kid does not dig driving a dinghy?

Kat wants to go to the boat supply store to shop. We have life jackets for the boys but she is looking for a particular sort for them. Store has a few but they are nothing like we seek. Reality is nobody wears life jackets in the south pacific. So no one sells them either. The only ones they have are the orange ones for insurance purposes. Maybe…

I take a bicycle trip up the hill to find a French butcher. They have good meat and French wine with corks!! Not that it matters but NZ and AUS wines are predominant in most of the south pacific and they use those screw caps. Corks are just novel. And I witnessed A Miracle! There was another bicycle in Port Vila! The guy was even wearing a helmet. Definitely not from around here. There are no motorcycles either. Odd.

We decide to take a very short cruise over to a neighbor bay. We get anchored and relax and a big green turtle floats by. The attraction here is a restaurant that does a fire show. Think Cirque du Soleil but a bit more minor league.


Turns out to be a great attraction. And the photo does not do justice. Hundreds of people show up to watch. And after the show the audience is welcome to come play with their fire tools. Adults and kids both. What could go wrong? Well nothing does. Its fun.

It is time to go back to Port Vila for last provisioning. Beyond here no grocery stores be! At least for awhile. Green groceries collected. A couple liters of yogurt at $15 each (ouch!). But imported is imported. I stop in to the local LP Gas depot and they fill me up presto. And all they have is Propane…. ARRRG!! If I’d a only known! Actually I’m still happy to have a gasoline motor in hand. How nice they have propane here, but there are plenty stops yet to go and my expectation is that butane, not propane, will still be the only fuel in many of them.

We dose the boys with half patches of Scopalamine to ward off sea sickness. We are late on this, we should have done it the night before. Exit the harbor and start sailing North. And the boys turn green.


But they had their reasons. Apart from late meds the seas as we turn North were quite lumpy and random. Perfect to make one sea sick. And Kat did some research. Turns out your seasickness potential peaks at age 12. We hit their sweet spot.


But they recovered quickly as we moved behind the island and the seas calmed down a bit.

Whales came along to cheer Lukas and Simon up. Kat spotted them on the depth sounder. The depth was erratic and she was sure it was a whale. I wasn’t convinced at first, but it’s hard to argue with a whale when they show up.

We are heading for Nguna island. A small island associated with Efata island. On our way we are passing a small bay on the west side of Lelepe island. Looks appealing. Ok maybe that is enough sailing for our little crew-lings. I head in. With no plan. This is my mistake. This was not our intended destination so our normal preplanning is yet to be done. And we are about to arrive. And the crew-lings are getting excited, running around, asking questions. Its very distracting. Kat is looking at the google earth images to see about a reef. I note visually that we are coming up on a reef. Kat is back on deck and it is time to reverse course and drop sails. Maybe overdue time. We get the motor running and we gather our wits. Still time to make a plan.

lelepa google image

The satellite images show a pass about the middle of the reef that would be best approached from just south of west. And we start looking for it. Visibility is pretty good but the pass does not reveal itself. Another cruiser is snorkeling in the reef zone and indicates where we should enter. So we try it. Very skinny water under our keel but it will do. Anchoring in 12 feet of water with nice sand bottom. Good holding as the sun goes down.

The google images we used quite a bit and we found to be a powerful tool in poorly charted areas especially. Kat figured out how to integrate them with a charting program called Open CPN. They are much more useful than the charting in many cases. And used together with charting you have a very useful tool. On the other hand, sometimes clouds happen and the images are not so clean as this one is.

The next day we note beachy palapas onshore. And there are tourists on the beach! Turns out the village on the south end of the island brings tourist day trippers out in skiffs to Lelepa island for various activities and this is their lunch spot. After they leave a woman comes out in a kayak to share the leftover snacks with us.


And she stayed for tea. And damn my eyes I lost track of her name. ARRGGG!


Here is the view off the beach. STW and a neighbor. Reef invisible! Those sneaky reefs…


The Batcave had a Guardian!


C’mon in! We did not leave a light on fer ye!

STW Cave Bats

Those little black dots are bats. They are small but small ones are more scary, right? Hey! Show fear! Bats are scary! Actually they were flying all around us during our minor spelunking. None got caught in anybody’s hair.

At this anchorage we meet Alex and Sarah. They are English people touring on a boat named Bob. Sarah shared some awesome photos with us. Like the above Batscape. Or Below…

STW Cave Skulls

Or this one. If the bats didn’t scare ye, the Skull on the right will!! Or might anyway.

STW Kayak

Its a fine day for a kayak said Kat.

At the end of our Batcave shore hike Simon stubbed his toe on a root. Earning his sea name “Simon Nine Toenails.”. Peeled that sucker right off. Both boys ended up with trouble of this sort. Even Kat got a splinter. Trick in life is to know when to wear something like shoes. And playing soccer shoeless with a raw toe is a good way to keep it from healing. But I suppose we all have things to learn.

S/V Bob (Alex and Sarah’s boat) left yesterday and now our time has come as well. Our postponed visit to Nguna Island is next. Spill The Wine is off for the village of Utanlangi to help them celebrate Vanuatu’s independence day. 11 miles. No provisioning required.

Tanna to Port Vila

I got up early and started to pack the dinghy. Stow the motor. Bail out the water. Install the bridle. These things make noise. So not long and my crew is rousted. It’s a bit cool but quite humid. If you move at all it’s going to get you hot. After all those departure preparations it is time for my last bath in this bay followed by a swimstep shower.  No photo available… Then coffee.

We weigh anchor at 0800 and exit the bay. We are bound for Port Vila 120 miles to the NW. Bas makes eggs served with baguettes, butter, and honey. I love breakfast! The wind fills in and we are making 7 kts on a broad reach. It is a good day.  Followed by a good night.

Another boat LaPita exits just behind us. She is a 75 ft ketch. Kat crossed from the Panama canal to French Polynesia on this boat last spring so she is well acquainted with these folks. They caught up with us but couldn’t quite get past. Neither could we leave them behind. It was fun to travel in company.img_20180712_0944224762202690972750051384.jpg

She is a beautiful boat.  Classic photo with someone nearly naked at the bow.  Shake it Klaus!  img_20180712_1412284935821381641215056486.jpg

Kat is making bread and curry for dinner.


I get to skin the husk from the coconut on the swimstep. Curry wants coconut meat and water. We are trolling. Will this be fish curry?

No. The fish here are too smart for us apparently.

Winds were kind to us. Good speed on a beam reach. But not more wind than we could easily handle. img_20180713_061211553_burst000_cover_top2571312224303276685.jpg

Kat and Bas share the dawn watch.

!Almost on the Road to Vanuatu

When we visited Denarau marine complex for supplies we met another Katharina. She helped us acquire Kava for the Lao tour. She invited us to dinner at her house when we returned. Fun. We met her dad and her children. And we had some kava with the Kava dealer! Her dad runs a kava shop in the market.

Katharina takes a mean selfie.

People here name their houses. Kinda cool.

She served us lobster curry with all the fixings and of course, coconuts! Thank you Katharina for sharing your family with us.

We adjusted our crew list to include Bas a couple days ago.  This entails a paperwork shuffle with the Immigration authority.  I scheduled a 10am final signing out for Friday the 6th of July. The officials came at noon. So we had plenty of time for lunch! Nancy and I and Bas and Kat. All my Fiji dollars are spent. They are not so useful out of the Fiji. Vanuatu wants US or Australian dollars I’ve been told.

I sent Vanuatu customs the required advance notice today and lo, this time they didst respond. I tried a few days ago and their web site was Offline. We said our sad goodbyes to Nancy. She is off to Seattle to chase necessary evil dirt details.

The homeland is loath to surrender it’s young (or not so young). And devises all sorts of ways to keep us tethered in boxes. There is a price to pay to finally achieve your freedom. Nancy and I are close to that goal.

We’ve fueled, groceried, watered Spill the Wine. It’s time to go.

Some of our favorite staff come by to seranade us with the Fijian goodbye song. It’s beautiful.

And we are off. Kat, Bas and I for the salty road to Vanuatu and Nancy for the jetstream east and north to Seattle. I’ll join her later after the boat is laid up in Australia for cyclone season.

Days at sea give me time to reflect.  Below is STW’s first crew.  Hot to go to sea out of Seattle bound for San Fran and San Diego.  Above is NZ to Fiji 2018 crew an d Mexico West 2017 crew.  I need more crew photos!!  I’m missing too many people.  So many priceless friends have sailed on Spill The Wine.  Thank you all for sharing.  I have learned so much on the path.  Some things that are good to know.  Some things that I should have known already.  If I keep at it, some day I might be smart.

STW Coho crew

But back on course to Vanuatu.  25kt winds on the beam and seas as large as 15 feet to match. We sail 6-7 kts through the afternoon and night. Mine was the first watch until 0100 then Kat takes over. Just before dawn I’m back on. Stars were brilliant for the first hours of the evening. The moon came up late and was its own show. With sunrise I am greeted by a thousand diamonds on the deck. Fresh sea salt people!

Bas is learning fast but there is a lot to learn. It’ll be awhile before he can stand a solo watch. Great fun to have him on!  He is great at identifying where he can be helpful.  And clever enough to know when he might be in the way.  Key skill set!

We ran the motor to charge the batteries. The autopilot really soaks up the electricity. Mid day we put the windvane, Mr. Sulu, to work. This device steers by the wind and is powered by the wind. So we should do better on electrical consumption.

Tonight it’s beef on the green egg.  Nobody is seasick today.  Bas and I are using Scopolamine patches. Kat tried Stugeron for seasickness. Backfired. Side effects were kinda like seasickness. Clearly not her tool going forward.

I take watch until 0200 then Kat takes over.  Bas splits his awake time between Kat and I to make sure the on watch doesn’t get bored. Thank you Bas.

More sleep on and off during the day for all of us. Seas are down to 10 ft waves. Wind 15 to 20 now. Still plenty. It’s starting to look like our planned 4 day crossing will only take 3 days. Better wind than expected!


Tonight we roast a chicken on the Egg. Which came first, the chicken or the sunset?  By color they really look related.  Kat made a big salad. Pomegranate chocolate ice cream after. Times are tough on Spill the Wine. Wind dying so we motor up for speed, electricity, and water.  Shower Time!  Only mildly overdue.

It’s a bit cool tonight. Long pants called for. I had to dig but found ’em. I hope shoes and socks don’t become necessary anytime soon.

Just as we departed Fiji we contacted customs Vanuatu. Can we check in at Port Resolution? Why not? Captain Cook checked in there so long ago. Customs says no. They don’t have enough staff. They want us to go all the way to the west side of the island to their regular office. We’d rather not. Bummer.

As we approach Tanna island we make contact with Vanuatu customs. Ask the same question regarding where we must check in. And Lo! The answer changes! We set a course for Port Resolution. Only later did we find out why that answer changed…

Wind expired on us as predicted. Which means we approach Port Resolution in the dark under motor. Easier for the boat to hit things in the dark, darn. Also easier to see Tanna’s volcano, Mt Yasur. It has a perpetual steam cloud. And that cloud glows red in the moonless dark. Then as we watch it goes Boom! Then hot lava flys into the night sky. Imagine. Fireworks not made in China!

The engine is feeling neglected. I am aware of this because I am the Engine Whisperer. She speaks to me with a voice not heard by ordinary ears. Today she was moving us along nicely and then she said to me, nothing at all! As in she sputtered and stopped. Very subtle. This impressed me as a fuel problem. Maybe air in the system? We sail along slowly and do some assessment.

First I look at vacuum. There is a pump that sucks fuel from the tank through a filter. If the filter is clogged the vacuum goes up. Well vacuum is normal and maybe even low. Next we peek into the last fuel filter before the fuel injection pump. Hmm. Kinda half full. That seems like air. From where?

There is a little primer lever on the fuel pump. If you work it a few hundred strokes you should be able to bleed the air out of the filter. But it does not work. Are we sucking air into the fuel system from somewhere? Fuel pump faulty?

Never mind getting started on a full repair. We are losing daylight and need to get moving. I look into the spares bin and pull all my hose bits. Kat and Bas dig (I mean that, they’re at the bottom) a 5 gallon Jerry can of fuel out of a lazarette in the cockpit. We rig the Jerry in the companionway over the engine. The hose siphons fuel into the filter at the injector pump. Bypasses the questionably functional fuel lift pump. Not pretty but we are under power once again.



We have studied our charts and Google Earth images. Following waypoints Kat set up we limp our jury rigged way into the anchorage and join about 4 other boats. Sleep will be welcome.

The next day we wake to find 15 new boats and see more on the way. The bloody WorldARC has found us again. That is the bad news. The good news is their presence is what changed Customs tune. Because of the number of boats it was worth their leaving their office and coming to Port Resolution.

Time to get serious about the fuel issue. img_20180710_112005431_hdr556616008504430087.jpg

We remove the pump from the engine block and take it apart. Looking it over it seems there is nothing wrong with it. Apart from a gasket I shreded in the dismantle process anyway.

Ok. Let’s reassemble. I make a new gasket out of some handy gasket material (a beer carton).


Then we whack it back together. And the primary pumping function seems to work fine. Strangely enough the priming lever should move fuel too. And it did not before we removed it. Interesting, but that is not likely to be what broke us down.  What can it be??

Now we tested the pump on a jug of fuel. Works. Next we tested it pulling fuel from the tank.  Not work. Has to be an air leak. And it is. The vacuum gauge Ts into the fuel line. Leak identified at the connection to the gauge and resealed.  Last we reinstalled the fuel pump and boom we are back in a properly motorized condition.

Next day we escape the madding crowd for an excursion to the major (relatively) village on the other side of the island. We need local cash and a Sim card for internet. We go to shore and seek out transport. Joe with a truck will provide. We take our seats on the 2×8 inch benches in the bed and hold on tight. Much of the way is definitely a bush road.

As we travel everyone shouts greetings as we go by and offers us their best smiles. These people have way better (more) teeth than the Fijians. I wonder why? We pass a number of other trucks and note they all sport flags of various countries. Our truck has a French flag and we are greeted with enthusiastic cries of “Go France Go!” img_20180711_1525422877425785932591031928.jpg

And then they laugh. Not sure when I’ve seen such exhuberantly happy people. We fly down the dirt road through dense jungle. Floating on the unbearable lightness of being on Vanuatu’s Tanna island.


The ride was windy enough to be chilly.  Who knew?

One of the other passengers in the truck tells us there are 20,000 people on the island. And there are 24 different dialects. He fills in a few details about the Volcano just as the jungle we have been traveling through is replaced by a vast volcanic desert. Are we impressed by Tanna? Hell yes!img_20180711_1316217837687524306521057743.jpg

Lenakel town has a small produce market with first class product. We bring some home. Find Sim card shop. Even find gin. Our Tonic water has been getting lonely. Kat finds a truck sporting a German flag.img_20180711_143518423_hdr7838167648217035764.jpg She chats with the driver and we learn that the flag indicates what country’s soccer team they favor. They take this seriously.

As we wander through town we see signs in English but it isn’t quite. It is Bislama, the official language of Vanuatu.  If you look at it phonetically it can be decyphered. img_20180711_1457398483266012349581088284.jpg

Last stop was the lemonade stand style kava shop. One for the road!

We take our places on the 2×8 benches. Our bums will be happy when the ride is over. School just let out and we are treated to many calls of Go France Go! from the students as they run laughing after the truck. As happy as these folks are they should live forever.

One the way back we stop at the volcano for a tour. It’s borderline cool so I put on long pants. It’s been awhile! Hike is coming so I went for shoes and socks as well. Felt kinda weird.img_20180711_1610571181230601324006342928.jpg

The Tannaans showed us some dancing and song. They did a fair bit of stomping which reverberated through the black volcanic sand, and up from the sand into your chest. From time to time the volcano would also speak, similarly shaking your bones.  Booms and shrieks of steam escaping the bowels of the earth complimented the songs and dancing profoundly.

The WorldARC comprise much of the audience tonight. Our hosts load the lot of us out for the short trip to the volcano… in a small fleet of pickups with… 2×8 benches! My bum knows fear.img_20180711_1654120106552797514938385554.jpg

The jungle fades as we enter a lunar landscape. Hiking up to the ridge the ridge we look down into… The Fires of Mt Doom! Time for Frodo to pitch “The Prescious” into the Lava stream! I know that’s not how it really happened but cut me some slack here.

The Booms and steam venting are louder now and are a great soundtrack for the occasional shower of lava that Mt Yasur sends into the sky. Thankfully we don’t see any lava showers that are as big as the one we watched as we approached Tanna last night. Really don’t need to be close to a big eruption like that…

With each boom you can watch the shockwave propagate through the clouds of steam. The visual is caused by the air pressure increase the shockwave delivers. Puts the micro droplets in the cloud back into a vapor state briefly. The vapor becomes cloud again after the wave passes. Like you are watching the sound of Boom!

After the tour we catch our truck, they waited for us. Nice fellows. Back to Port Resolution. Sarah runs a small restaurant in the village. She is closed but gets word we are looking for dinner and opens for us. And we were hungry too. No lunch!

Next we find our dinghy in the dark. Find deep water and we are on our way to STW. But now to find her. Seems I neglected to leave the anchor light on. Not that hard really.

As we relax in the cockpit we note that the neighbor boat is swinging dangerously close and there is a collision with STW!  Minor but this can’t continue.  This is one of the WorldARC boats that arrived after us. I thought the fools anchored too close and the consequences are manifest.  As there is no one on that boat we reanchor STW.  Then sleep joins the crew.

Up next.  Bas and Kat an I sail for Port Vila on Efata Island.  120 miles to the NW.