!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.

One thought on “!Almost on the Road to Vanuatu

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