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.

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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.

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Above would be a youth center.

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

I have inaugurated my new outboard.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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The Batcave had a Guardian!

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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.

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