Crossing to Australia

It was the best of times it was the worst of times. The crossing to Australia begins. There are more reefy bits on our way and we make plans to steer clear of them. At the end of day two some wind arrives, but not so favorable. It is coming from our destination so we are hard on the wind and into the waves. Which are not so big, thank you very much. Running full main, storm jib, and part of our regular jib. It’s working. But will work better when the wind moves more from the east. This is predicted. And we’re ready. Cue the windshift already!

This passage started with a nice whale goodbye from Chesterfield reef. Then the fishing for wind began. I can’t really complain. It was blue skies and little fluffy clouds for both motor days. Our heading is just west of south.

Then the wind filled in. 20 to 30 kts. Forward of the beam at first, then moving more to the east and hitting us square on the beam. Generally more comfortable than forward of the beam, but now the waves are on the beam too. I’m used to a lot of downwind sailing. Wherein the waves will roll under your stern. Which would be quite a bit more comfortable. But if you like an interesting ride, we’re getting one today. And the clouds have come threatening rain. But there’s none yet, just the spray through the cockpit from time to time.

We have read about the East Australian Current. It flows south just off the coast of, you’ll never guess, Eastern Australia! Seems we should find it soon, it would boost our progress. We’ll see.

As we approach the coastline of Australia I have to confess. I am torn. And I am feeling it. It’s physically uncomfortable. I am about to leave my 42 foot home. Not very excited about that. I’m going to be reunited with my wife Nancy. Now that is a great idea! But it will be in the great big Seattle. I’m almost phobic about returning there. It’s still a great place but I’m done with living life in that kind of environment. In the old days I had to keep a calendar to keep track of a million damn fool things I was doing.  I have not had to do that in over a year. And I don’t miss it at all.

Breath slowly. I’ve lived in the big world before. I can do it again. Long enough to figure out how to get away again anyway. Hold on tight for just a bit longer.

The leg we are just wrapping up was the most motoring leg ever for Spill the Wine. And we knew that would be this way. We should have waited a day or three for wind to improve. But there was that flight to Uganda on my Calendar.  No way around that.

Chesterfield Reef

It took a day to get ourselves back into passage rhythm. Then we can go the distance comfortably. Wind is generous and we make Chesterfield 4 1/2 days later just after dawn. We find the anchorage about noon. Within an hour a humpback whale and her calf come swimming by. Then a dolphin says hello. Seems a friendly place!

We have neighbors. 3 New Caledonia boats. They speak a little English. But maybe our French is better. So we are required to use it. Good exercise! Cyril and Magalie invited us over for pizza night on their catamaran Black Lion.

Here there is some earth above the tide line. But not much. This place is mostly reef. No one lives here of course.  Sunsets are awesome.  Great place to look for the “green flash.”  And to relax.11 asunset.jpg

Spill the Wine looks relaxed.

So does the boy below.11 sunfeet.jpg

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We had a bird visit us.  Odd blue beak.  I’ve heard of Blue Footed Boobies but the feet are not blue….  Hmmm.

The snorkeling here is top shelf. We see the biggest Moray Eel ever. About as big as a good sized dachshund. But of course we viewed from a distance…

Beach day. There are a thousand birds nesting on this island. Eggs. Chicks. Parents annoyed at us for getting too close to the island. We find a sandspit that offends them only a little. The adults keep swooping on us. None of them got caught in our hair.20180827_164306293

Hard to appreciate via the above photo but the closest bird is about 4ft away.  They are after us. They were quite offended about sharing the beach with us. And here is why.  They nest here.  Spot the egg to the right of the bird.  Half sitting on it.  All about temperature control apparently.

Bird egg

We have tasked ourselves with making letters out of our bodies to send a message home. This reminds me of yoga. But we get our photos. Just had to be careful of the air traffic.  Kat did the creative work.  I just bent myself into a few pretzels.received_1347233065407002.jpeg

The next day we took Spill The Wine across the lagoon to tour some other islands. Lots of coral bommies in the anchorage. So that was tricky.

The wind has been steady at 15 kts since we arrived. And it’s not so warm either. Warm enough if you are in the sun anyway. Just the same, we are ready for a windless day.

More sandspit islands. Not so many angry birds here. But the turtles have been nesting here. Lots of pits in the sand where they laid their eggs.  The pits don’t show very well in this photo but what you can see is the extent of the reef.  On the right is the sea.  On the left is the lagoon.  Very narrow bits of land here.11 a in out.jpg

We came upon a turtle that had laid her last egg. Maybe last year.  This shell is about 4 feet long.  Just think how many pairs of tortoise shell glasses you could make with this!!11 ashell.jpg

There was a free kayak on the island. You just have to haul it off.11 akayak

We shortly discovered it’s being utilized by the hermit crabs for shade. We discover this when we moved it.11 crabs

About a hundred crabby hermit crabs. But then that’s situation normal for crabs…

Back on Spill The Wine we decide to catch up on maintenance.   Kat bought a slick waterproof dive flashlight.  There is a magnet on a toggle that moves about 5mm back and forth.  This actuates the switch is triggered magnetically and is inside the housing.  Which leaks.  Sweet as.  We chase the water out of it and in the process the said magnetic switch is bumped off the printed circuit board (pcb).  There are little holes in the pcb to match the electrodes of the switch.  You’d think one could just reinsert them but no.  They are full of solder.  If only I had a tool for removing solder from a hole….  Oh.  I do.  It is called a solder sucker.  If anyone out there knows a fancier name lemme know.Soldersucker.jpg

Good tool.  You press down the plunger and it clicks into a cocked position.  Then you melt the solder to be removed with a soldering iron.  Place the white tip by the melty solder and push the black button to release the plunger.  This sucks air (and melty solder) into the device and off the pcb.  PCB

Next we resolder the magnetic switch into place.  Better than new.pcb work

Here is the big picture.  Notice nothing on the horizon.  Chesterfield reef is that kind of place.  Anyway when we were done it worked but still leaked.  Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.  Kat may well leave this flashlight on the boat when she departs just to drive me insane!

Our anchorage was a bit rolly. And windy. The wind shifted and there was some discussion in the middle of the night as to whether adjustments were required. Then the wind died so we shortened the anchor chain a bit and went back to sleep.

The next day shows very little wind. We recrossed the lagoon. When the wind drops the water lays flat and spotting whales and turtles is much easier.

After we anchored we dinghy’d out to find whales. In the middle of the lagoon we turned off the dinghy motor and just waited. You could hear the whales singing while we were sitting in the dinghy. Really spooky. Even louder after we got in the water of course.

We had good whale luck. Mom and calf were near. And we got to watch three males go swimming right by us. The water was 40ft deep and quite clear. The whales gave us the Eye. I’m just glad they saw us. Beware that tail! Just ask Nancy.

Meanwhile back at the anchorage, it’s time for celebrating Magalie’s birthday on Black Lion. Our neighbors once again host us with marlin kebabs this time.

Happy birthday Margarite! She likes to dance.11 adance

Nights like that make slow going the next day. But we get it together and depart for Australia. This is another place we’d rather not leave. Chesterfield is beyond the edge of the world I swear. I wonder if those New Caledonians were real.  Probably were.  I lost a bet with Cyril and owe him some champagne….

On our way out of the lagoon mom and calf gave us a goodbye show. Whale magic.

Last Vanuatu Days

My neighbor Tobias stops over at 530. We are planning to swap bootleg movies. It’s what Pirates do. So much less toxic than shooting cannon balls at each other.11 tobias

He is a pretty interesting cat.  He lives on his sailboat and runs a solar power business.  He helps islanders that don’t have access to power get hooked into solar.  I should come back here a work with him for a few months.  I would love to know more about solar and electrics than I currently do.  He’s Dutch if I recall.  Married an island woman and now they just had a baby.  A Vanuatuan now!  Hold on tight Tobias!

Later it’s time to collect Kat at the airport. Her flight comes in at 10pm. I figured I’d dinghy in to shore, hit the restaurant and ask them to call me a taxi. It’s 930. They be closed however.  Bummer.

I wander into the parking lot. Jeffery the security guy explains that he is expecting a taxi shortly bringing in new guests. We wait a bit together. But time is short. And my money is on his incoming guests being on Kat’s plane.

I thank Jeffery for his company and head for the road to town. I haven’t tried hitchhiking here. Good spot. Right under a streetlight. Perfect night, perfect temperature. Quiet. Beautiful.

Too quiet. No traffic damn it! I need some wheels. Hitchhiking is so much more fun when you don’t have to be anywhere on a schedule. Sailing is like that too.

The Gods smile upon me and a car comes by and a ride I have. Aso is my driver/benefactor. I tell him I’m going to the airport to pick up a friend and he tells me that he is not sure there’s any planes coming in. The last one comes in at 6 pm.


He offers to take me out there anyway just to see what the circumstances are. We are driving through town and he stopped by a crowd of cab drivers and asks them something. I think some discussion about whether there is a plane coming in at this hour or not.

We proceed with the airport and son of a gun, there is a crowd of people. Something must be going on.

Aso parks his vehicle and I looked in the backseat and I noticed that he actually is a taxi. He had stowed his identifying equipment in the backseat so perhaps he was done for the day but decided to pick me up on the side of the road anyway. Thank you Aso.

He says he will wait for me. I approach the terminal to see if I’m in the right place at the right time. I asked some of the people there are what are they waiting for, and lo… they are waiting for a plane from Port Vila which is exactly what Kat should be arriving on. Oh good.

And she does. A little bit late but so it goes. Bags collected and we begin to exit. There is a bamboo pipe band making it happen at the airport. We really have to pause and enjoy. It’s something I’ve never seen/heard before. They are playing bamboo pipes with something that looks like fly swatters. Percussion I suppose. Vanuatu style.11 band

We find our driver, load up and return to STW.  Kat has had a lot to think about while in Australia and has some decisions to make. She is looking at a Captain position on a really cool research sailboat. The problem is she really does not want to return to Germany’s cold winter’s. Which would entail living in a box (apartment) again. This is not boat life. But the rest of the gig is really cool. The owner is in for some serious negotiations. Hold on tight!

Time to get busy with fuel.  Since duty free fuel is not an option I’m off for the local station.  I dinghy up a river just around the corner from the anchorage.  Park under a highway bridge and there is a fuel station right at the end of the bridge.  I’ve borrowed a few cans so I can make it all in less trips.  Managed to spend what remained of my Vanuatu money on fuel.  Perfect!11 dinghy

We host a dinner in the middle of stowing supplies on our last night. I hope this was a good idea. Tobias and also Ian and Wendy from Outsider, another neighbor boat.  Today is the day to round up Veggies for the trip as well as for tonight.11 toby

Dinner was a good idea. The Outsiders have been cruising for years and they have some valuable info regarding Australia. Thank you!  We blew their mind with Chicken on the Egg.11 chicken.jpg

The next morning we pack the dinghy and chase the last details.  Say goodbye to the staff of the Beachfront Resort.11 staff

The tide in the channel will favor us if we leave about 1pm. We didn’t want to leave Vanuatu. But leave we did. On a course for Chesterfield reef. 550 miles to the SW.

Adventures in Clearing Out

Tomorrow is the day to start exit paperwork.  But today is relaxing Sunday.  Here is a water taxi headed for church.11 church

Notice the shipwreck at the beach behind them.  Lots of WWII relics here.  One was a 600 foot long cruise ship they made into a troop carrier.  The Calvin Coolidge.  It hit a mine and sank.  Thousands of troops aboard and only one man was lost.  We had a chance to dive on that.  Very much intact.

I was planning on clearing out of Vanuatu Tuesday the 21st but I expect this will entail a lot of running around and probably take more of the day than I would have thought. So then I thought maybe I should get started Monday and see if I can get a few of the Elements of that project taken care of.

I got off to a bad start. I started to go down the road on my bicycle on a dawned on me that I didn’t have a passport and I don’t have any paperwork.  So if I was actually offered the opportunity of getting something done I wouldn’t have the tools necessary but I was halfway to the immigration customs office so I said I’ll just go find out what’s necessary and then I’ll come back if I have to. So visit with the Immigration and they tell me that the port authority is right next door and I’ll have to go talk to them about checking out. They gave me a couple of forms which I wasn’t really able to fill out as I didn’t have the data. In particular I couldn’t remember what date it was we actually arrived in Vanuatu.

I took the forms and I headed back to the boat to get the information I needed. Everybody is closed at lunch so I had lunch at the Beachfront Resort and in the process of waiting for my food I filled up the water jugs to top up the tanks in Spill The Wine.

Back at the boat I set up a siphon to get the water into the tanks. And I sat down at the cockpit to fill in the forms with all the various data required. Tanks are full, forms are packed and I head back to town first by dinghy and then on my bicycle.

First stop is the govt cashier to pay the bill. But the official doesn’t know what to charge me because no one in the office seems to know exactly how much I’m supposed to pay per day. I think they’re used to seeing a Form walk in with a number on it and that’s just what you pay. I knew that was potentially a problem. I thought about going to the Port Authority first but that was way out of my way I’m trying to cut down the number of trips I have to make. I didn’t do well on that score today.

And I’m off to the Port Authority. They are supposed to close at 5pm. I got there a 130 and the door was locked. So they are technically open but they’re functionally closed because there’s no one here. I’ve a book to read. I’m going to operate on the theory that maybe they’re out doing some inspection of some damn fool thing and will come back before too long. We’ll find out how fruitful that little avenue is.

It worked. Someone showed up. And I got my port fees taken care of. And I stopped next door at immigration and they assured me that all I needed tomorrow was 2 passports and we could clear out. Rubber stamps and everything. Ok.

I stop at the duty free store to see what is required to purchase duty free alcohol. They tell me passport and clearance papers. Cool.

I decide I’d better visit the wharf to see what duty free fuel requires. Nice wharf. Lovely shipping containers. Friendly security and stevedores. Who speak only a little English. I enjoy Bislama but I no speak plenty. They were puzzled about my fuel question but I got the idea I would be welcome to bring the boat over tomorrow. Oh Kay…11 wharf

Now it’s Tuesday. Kat arrived last night and is dead from siblings and travel. Let her sleep. Later she starts inventorying and cleaning the bilge storage so she can shop. It’s an 8-10 day crossing to Brisbane and we will stop at a New Caledonia reef on the way. Without clearing into New Caledonia. This is piracy. But we have a pirate flag so it’s ok. And I’m running out of pages in my passport anyway. No more stamps please! I think I have just enough pages to get back to Seattle.

Reef should be cool. Fishing. Catching up on sleep. Surfing the internet… Well, probably not an option. No people on this reef. Quite remote.

It’s Tuesday and I’m off for more checking out stuff. Passports to immigration. Get stamped out. Stop at Port authority next door. I didn’t get a good feeling yesterday at the wharf regarding fueling and I want to verify that I’m under control, went to the right wharf etc..

I review with Port official what happened yesterday. Ah. Wrong wharf. There is another wharf, domestic, beyond the shipping one. Bicycle up and off we go.

I find the domestic wharf. Some ships, some people, some children on the scene. I look for the person in charge. I’m freaking the children out. One goes running to his friends chattering away. Not sure what he was saying but I did get blah blah blablahblahblah white man. He probably said goofy tall white man on a funny looking bike. It is big enough for me. I can’t hide. I’m not from around here.

I did find the wharf authority. He seemed to know about fuel and I left with the impression that I would be welcome tomorrow. I felt as confident about this arrangement as I did at the last wharf. I don’t see any fueling equipment.

I go down the road a bit further. Oooo! Pacific Energy office on the left. Looks promising. In I go. Nice staff informs me no duty free fuel this week. Some equipment is broken. Too bad but no crisis. They tell me to go to a regular service station. I can do that.

Next I head for the duty free store to stock up on some wine. At the register I learn that passport and port clearance papers that I was told were all I need yesterday are not all I need. There is a form. Of course there is. I’m off for the customs office. It’s right by the wrong wharf. I know my way around this town.

Keep in mind that I started this a day early. So time is not running out. That makes all this educational and challenging but not stressful. And everyone is very nice. It’s still a beautiful day in Vanuatu.

The detour to customs is fortuitous. Turns out I was supposed to go here anyway. Checking in and checking out is very thorough, let me tell you. Of course I am telling you…11 bike

Customs officials inspect my entry papers. Hey! Spill the Wine arrived with three people and I’m leaving with two! I explain that Bas debarked in Port Vila. I debarked him with officials there but apparently my papers did not get updated. I tell this lot he flew to New Caledonia and they believe me. Thank you. I walk out cleared with customs and have my duty free form in hand. It has a cool official stamp. Bow down to the Great and Powerful Stamped Form!11 formm

It’s not over yet. Still have to go to the duty free with stamped Form and stock up. The duty free people need to fill in Form with what I bought. Then return the Form to customs office. Then the process is complete. I think. But I thought that yesterday too… Anyway we are leaving for Australia. Too soon. I love Vanuatu. Seriously my latest favorite place.

The next day I visit duty free. I have my form. I have my check out papers. I have my passport. I fill my backpack with beverages. Pay the bill. And I’m done. I ask if I can leave my heavy bag so I don’t have to tote it all the way back to customs to turn in my form on my bike. They are happy to help, of course!

Zoom back to customs. I turn in Form. Official wants our passports. WTF? They were stamped out yesterday. I’m not clear why he still needs them. But nevermind that. He does. Bike back to the beach. Dinghy back to boat. Collect  passports. Dinghy back to beach. Bike back to customs. Share passports. I receive yet another Fabulous Form stating I am cleared to depart.11 form This is the second one of these. I do not comment that I now have two. Such a conversation would not go anywhere productive. And the second one has even a bit more “Officially” look to it. You tell me which one you like better!

I’ve met up with Kat now. She has a taxi full of supplies. But there is room for my heavy bag. Yay! Taxi back to duty free store. They’re closed for lunch. Of course they are. Taxi back to beach.  Driver was an interesting character.  He had retired from police work.  He worked for the government here when France and England shared management of Vanuatu.  This has been an independent country since 1980.11 taxi

Next dinghy to boat. Start stowing supplies. Lunch is over. Dinghy back to beach. Taxi back to duty free. Collect heavy bag and back to boat.

I lost track of how many trips. There were a few eh? Such nice people. A bit more organization to their border systems would be helpful I suppose. But I would not swap the people for any others.

Touring Santo

We have the boys to entertain, so we are doubly ambitious to get ashore and see what Santo has to offer.  We did a tour to a swimming hole back in Port Vila.  So we decide to do that here too.  Another good day.IMG_20180813_100332334_HDR-1Lukas swing

Now next time someone tells you to suck in your gut be aware that this action does unfortunate things to the expression on your face.  As illustrated below…IMG_20180813_102331381_HDR

And it would appear that the children have been a bad influence on Katharina.  She used to be so well behaved…IMG_20180813_102047242

Another day we took a tour to a village a bit inland from the coast.  There we would be hiking in the forest and treking through a cave that a river had carved into the hills.  We started in a van that took us up to altitude.  Then we hiked into the village.  IMG_20180812_101940718_HDR

Notice that the grass at their feet and the dirt yard are completely manicured.  In our travels in all of the south pacific this was the rule.  Well tended dwellings.

When we arrived we came upon a group of men that were rendering Kava root into a paste that could be used to make the Kava beverage.  They must use a different kind of Kava root in Vanuatu.  Or maybe a different process.  It has a greener flavor than Fiji or Tonga.IMG_20180812_164546323

Here the guys are working the root fibers through a meat grinder kind of device.  My mom had one of these and in her world it was for grinding meat to hamburger.IMG_20180812_164747057

Next you put the pulverized root in a sack and work that sack though the water to create perhaps a tea that tastes of the earth.  You drink it from a coconut shell that is passed around and leaves your tongue a bit numb.  Yer partying now mate!

Shortly after we arrive we are set up with a guide for the bush hike. 111 big tree.jpg

This takes us through the forest and down into a canyon.  Steep.  They had a network of ladders to make it all happen.

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Then it was time for face painting to appease the gods while we traveled in their forest.111 ears.jpg

Sorry about the ears Lukas.  Some day I’ll grow up.  maybe.

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The river runs through the cave it has created over the eons.  Notice someone disappearing into the cave upper right.  And what do caves have?  Bats.  Lots of them.  And what do bats do?  Yes they do do.  The rocks inside the cave are slick with it.  Lets just say you would not lean on those rocks twice.

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In a couple places the roof of the cave opened and you got some light.  But mostly dark for sure.

More ladders and some ropes helped us through the cave,111 light

At last!  There was a Light!  Which got bigger.111 light 2

Looking back at our exit.111 exit

After lunch on the shore we headed back to the village.  Mostly walking down the river bed in waist high water.  222 riverIMG_20180812_175025373

These folks will sleep well tonight.

Looks like hiking is bad for my hair…222 hair

But before any sleeping its dinner time.  Join us in the cook house.  Where it is quite dark….222 banana.jpg

Our chefis using banana leaves make up the cooking enclosure.  And into that go roots and other veggies.  Then the whole thing is put on rocks heated with the fire.222 banana 2

While the cooking takes place there is time for some juggling.222 juggling

And then it is time to dine.222 presentation

Mosquito nets kept us comfortable, but I have to say that bugs were not a big problem in any case.  The next morning we hiked out to the van and found our way back to Spill The Wine.

Last detail was for Simon to finish his openwater diving certification.  Kat takes him off to the divemasters and he passes nicely.  Congratulations Simon!  Simon and Lukas both got to swim with turtles.11 asimon

11 alukas

Guests come and guests go.  It is time for Kat to pack up the siblings, take them to Sydney, and put them on a plane to Germany.  They will never be the same.  Neither will I…  🙂

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Wait until their parents get a load of their cool tattoos!!222 tattoos.jpg




On to Santo

Apologies for being away from the blog for too long.  I have some serious catching up to do.  Hold on tight as we pick up on the way to Santo.

We Departed the Maskelynes on the way to Luganville on Espirito Santo island. It was an overnight 100 miles to arrive at the village of Avunatari just short of Luganville. We left later in the morning. Lots of whales are on this path. But they don’t pose for photos.  Kat likes to fish.  On the overnight passage she caught a couple of tasty tuna sorts.20180806_184354825-1

Seasickness bites Simon a bit but especially Lukas. He actually started running a fever of 102.6 F (39.2C). Got our attention. As soon as we arrived at Avunatari we anchored and I went ashore to reconnoiter. Low tide and the cove was shallow so I had to walk.  Trying to keep Simon’s banged up toe out of the water to avoid infection.20180808_083457113_HDR

Not sure why I bothered… When it comes time for kids to throw rocks in the cove, Simon seems to think infectious beasties in the water be damned!!IMG_20180808_082040217_HDR

Friendly people on shore (such a surprise!).  And girls grow on trees!IMG_20180807_112612465_BURST001

And boys grow on boats.  IMG_20180807_105159113_HDR

And there is a bungalow hut style hotel. It’s time for Lucas to come ashore to recuperate. Kat stayed with him and in 24 hrs he felt nearly 100% better.

We had lunch at the lodging that day. Local food. I’m sure bananas were involved. The couple operating it were very accommodating. IMG_20180807_113217640

He peeled us a coconut. And the guy also ran a small grocery where we could get a few supplies, like eggs!

We needed some beer too. I asked a young boy where the beer store was. And he took me there. Where I bought a 6 pack from an even younger boy.  IMG_20180807_134429747-1

And a frozen treat for my guide. This is not how it works where I come from but I’m not where I came from any more. And it works here.

On the recovery shore stay, Kat and Lucas became acquainted with two young men from Belgium. We invited them to snorkel a wreck with us the next day and they were for it.IMG_20180808_085905826_HDR

As wrecks go it was falling apart. But the fish were cool. And it was fun to have fresh company.

Soon it is time to head for Luganville. It’s about 10 miles away. Not much of a crossing. Nobody gets seasick. :). We left midmorning and arrive about noon. There is a resort on the south shore of the channel that rents mooring bouys.  Lucas explores the cool trees on the beach. 20180809_145458817_HDR

We get tied up and go ashore for a nice lunch with proper fries. Luganville is on the north shore of the channel and we are moored on the south shore.  But there is a passenger ferry.  Which we take to Luganville. Supplies. Kat needs a dive torch. Some groceries. Visit the butcher. Get acquainted with town. We like Luganville.

The next day we miss the ferry so dinghy over to Luganville. This wrong side of the channel thing is getting old. After we get back from town we cut loose and take STW across the channel to the anchorage in front of the Beachfront Resort.  Much more practical for us.  Easy to find transportation to town which is only a mile away anyway.  Way easier to get my bicycle to shore here.  Its only 100 meters or so away.  Great bicycle island.  Flat terrain and town is about a mile away.

The services available at the Beachfront Resort are awesome. Restaurant, laundry, drinking water. And they really make you feel welcome. The first resort we moored at was only ok this way.   Three cheers for the Beachfront Resort!Image result for beachfront resort santo photo