September 2, 2011 0700 hrs, 20.11 S, 170.04 E, Log: 150,347 miles
Baro: 1019, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 78.3 F
Broad reaching at 7.4 kts in 15 kt SE winds, moderate seas
ADVENTURES WAITING ON THE HORIZON!
Our 13 days between Legs 4 & 5 were a treasure. We are convinced that Fiji has to be one of the best tropical cruising destinations in the world. After our saying goodbyes to our excellent Leg 4 crew the following day we headed to Lautoka by taxi to reprovision then set sail for one of our favorite spots on the planet, Musket Cove on Malololailai Island. We anchored in the same spot and walked the same beach where we were married by a sulu-wearing Fijian minister in 1998, between Legs 4 & 5. We scheduled 13 days off this year between Legs 4 & 5 and not only did we get Mahina Tiare in top shape, we had time for trail running, kayaking, swimming and visiting with our Fijian friends and cruisers. Life just doesn’t get any better!
We headed back to Vuda Point Marina Friday morning giving us plenty of time on Saturday for reprovisioning and stowing the food. I spent three hours Sunday morning at masthead, replacing a failed Lopolight tricolor before our Leg 5 crew met us for safety orientation in the afternoon. They were all staying next door the amazing First Landing Beach Resort enjoying every minute as they caught up on sleep and decompressed by the pool side or sandy beach.
Monday morning was a whirlwind of signing our Leg 5 crew on at the immigration office in Lautoka, picking up fruit and fresh bread and getting ready for departure. Because of a fickle change in rules, we had to physically anchor MT in Lautoka Harbor, not just come in by taxi for our final outbound customs clearance. We made the two hour trip there and were able to clear out and set sail that afternoon.
We had some light winds for the first day, but the trades filled in so nicely that we’ve been under double-reefed main and had up to 40% of the genoa furled for most of this passage to keep our speed under 8 knots and make it a little easier for our crew getting their sea legs.
Crew relishing chicken curry on a calm evening
TC enjoying the dawn watch
We’ve yet to catch a fish, but we had a booby bird spend night before last perched on the lower lifeline, just a few feet from the helmsperson.
A rig check and deck survey for stranded flying fish soon becomes a morning watch ritual for Donna
Sailing conditions have been amazing – no squalls, very modest seas and few clouds. As we sail south, the water and air temps have been dropping daily which has been very pleasant.
Aneityum Island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatom on the horizon ahead just became a Port of Entry for Vanuatu a few months ago, something I learned about on www.noonsite.com. We’ve long been curious about this rarely visited island that has several very protected anchorages, but as it lies 55 miles directly upwind and against a strong surface current, we, and few other sailors have ever visited it.
September 6, 2011 0600 hrs, 18.49 S, 169.00 E, Log: 150,463 miles
Baro: 1017, Cabin Temp: 75 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77.3 F
At anchor, Dillon’s Bay, Erromango
As we approached Aneityum we picked up the AIS signature on our chart plotter of Pacific Pearl, an 850’ P & O cruise ship and then soon saw her superstructure on the horizon. “Mystery Island” is the name given to Inyeug Islet, a small uninhabited island forming Port Aneityum Harbour where cruise ships occasionally stop giving their passengers a day of snorkeling and beach time. It was quite a surprise to find our visit on this rarely-visited remote island coincided with the arrival of 1900 Australian tourists! In Lonely Planet Vanuatu we learned that the cruise passengers were not allowed on Aneityum, but only on Inyeug Islet.
TC keeps a watch as things get rather busy coming into the anchorage. We saw Tenaya, an HR 40 and shouted an excited greeting (Amanda doing a Viking Haka) to Jim and Katie Thomsen, Leg 1-2007 (www.tenayatravels.com) who had just sailed in from New Zealand via New Caledonia.
We chatted to a ni-Vanuatu Customs inspector who stopped by in a skiff and he said that he and immigration and quarantine officers would be busy for several hours clearing the cruise ship, but suggested I meet them at the dock on Mystery Island after lunch. Whist waiting for the immigration and quarantine at the island I chatted with the Customs inspector for an hour, who then all came aboard MT to clear us in. By the time they left it was nearly dusk but we all immediately headed ashore.
The village is quite small and with no recent supply ship the shops were shut tight as there were no goods to sell. We met Animo, a very chatty 23 year old school teacher, who told us about their village and history. She said that the first European missionaries had been cooked and eaten, as had a second group of Samoan teachers. Only the week before a sizable group of Samoan Christians had come to accept the reconciliations of the villagers, apologizing for eating their ancestors 175 years ago.
The village playing field adjacent the beach with the church and school
The nakamal (kava bar) that Animo led us to was just a thatch hut in a clearing with a dozen of very zoned-out looking guys sitting on a fence. She apologized that the nakamal had just closed and said that the guys should be heading home to their families for dinner soon. Vanuatu’s kava is far more powerful than Fiji’s and if you’ve drunk too much the local’s claim you’ll be “listening to the kava”.
Before setting sail 55 miles to Tanna Saturday morning we all headed ashore early for walks and run and to meet the quiet but friendly villagers.
Marie-Claude brought a stack of French school text books which she donated to a still-sleepy friend from yesterday who is the French teacher. Before Vanuatu’s independence from France and Britain 30 years ago, there were separate French and English villages and schools. Animo told us that recently many of the schools had been combined.
We had a perfect 50 mile broad reach arriving at Port Resolution, Tanna Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanna_(island)) with plenty of visibility for selecting an anchorage. Captain Cook anchored his ship here in August 1774 to investigate the great glow he saw in the sky while sailing past. I have visited Port Resolution several times since my first visit in 1989 and looked forward to seeing old friends.
As we approached Port Resolution Donna was very thrilled to spot her first whale. We watched as three whales surfaced heading south, then turned 180 to keep us company for awhile.
Ashore I met with Werry, the Port Resolution Yacht Club & Bungalows manager who recommended I chat with his cousin Stanley in the main village nearby about arranging for a truck to take us to the volcano. The yacht club (www.portresolution.com.vu) is a very cool thatch structure with three cliff-front rental bungalows for rent. Werry also mentioned that we should be sure to check out the new women’s cooperative market. We found a new building with woven baskets, shells and Port Resolution Yacht Club membership cards for sale, and some very proud ladies.
Stanley mentioned that Mt. Yasur volcano had been quite active and said there would be no problem arranging a truck for the following afternoon. The cost was 5000 vatu, or about US$55 including park admission and the guide and truck.
Several of us went ashore at dawn on Sunday, some exploring the beaches and Amanda and I for a long run stopping frequently to meet and chat with locals.
At precisely 3pm our volcano ride arrived. Tonu was 18 years old, and the fairly recent model Toyota 4WD truck belonged to an uncle. He’d lied about his age to get a driver’s license at 14 and had been driving groups the tortuous 45 minutes to Mt Yasur volcano most evenings since them. When I first visited Tanna in 1989 there were very few vehicles on the island and Barbara Marrett and I hiked to the volcano, our guides Charlie and Remi getting us terribly lost for hours in the jungle on the return. Now with the rise of tourism there are three trucks in Port Resolution and dozens on the island.
|We really hit teaching Sunday morning covering engine room check out, anchoring, engine maintenance, splicing only taking a break when Tom, the son of my old friend Charlie, came to visit by canoe to trade fruit and vegetables for a little petrol so the village kids could watch a movie that afternoon. Upon heading ashore we enjoyed a visit with Stanley learning more about the Tannese history and culture.||Marie-Claude presented the primary school teacher a large duffel bag full of school books donated by Calgary schools and Donna had brought medical supplies which she delivered to the nurse. Amanda promptly started helping a girl make local snacks; a sprinkle salt on slice of coconut which then gets wrapped in a single leaf and threaded onto a stick. Tastes rather like salty coconut wrapped in grass.|
We went through a park entrance gate and then a little further up a very steep narrow and rutted track through bush until we came to a clearing of cinder slopes with a peak where two outhouses and a pathway marked the short track to the crater rim. It was very dry, windy and we could hear rumblings ahead!
Yeah! Here we are finally at the volcano park entrance and yep…we’re trying to smile.
As we approached the crater rim, there was a great KABOOM as large amounts of molten lava were hurled into the air. Tonu advised us not to stand to close to the edge, duhh!, as we watched and listened to rumblings.
|Every few minutes we would see a shock wave and feel the mountain tremble before hearing the explosion and watching the lava splatters hurled skyward. We were the first on the mountain, but every few minutes another battered 4WD would arrive with guides and guests from all over the world.|
As it got darker, the fireworks just got better!
Within an hour of sunset most of the volcano watchers started heading back down to their trucks. On Amanda’s advice and lessons gleaned from her visit last year she suggested that we bring foul weather gear. Several of our crew did and stayed warm – the rest of us were freezing!
I knew from the previous two times I’d replaced the solenoid and pressure reducer over the past 14 years that this was a several hour job squished in the anchor locker. Exhausted, I decided to wait until morning to make the repair.
By the time we got back to Port Resolution and out to Mahina Tiare, cups of tea and hot chocolate followed by a tasty hot dinner were on everyone’s minds, however, ¾ of the way through making dinner, our stove stopped. As we’d recently filled the propane tanks in Fiji, we were fairly certain the propane solenoid had failed due to corrosion. Amanda made couscous instead of pasta and “Kitty’s Seafood Sauce” worked just as well.
Monday morning was a very busy one! We wanted to set sail for Erromango Island by 9 am to have good light for landfall and anchoring and had also promised to stop by the school to see if David could fix their generator. I managed to get the solenoid 90% installed and waterproofed and Dave, Donna and I headed ashore and up to the school. Donna had more medical supplies for the clinic.
Dave, an aircraft A&P mechanic as well as FedEx pilot gave repairing the broken recoil spring on the generator his best effort before we returned to MT and set sail.
It was great to sail past the slopes of Mt Yasar and view the belching, reminding ourselves that only last night we’d been peering into it’s lava depths.
Our light winds filled in as we cleared the island and we had a great sail at the end, arriving at Dillon’s Bay, Erromango http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erromango at 1635 with plenty of light for anchoring and a few completed Turk’s heads. A couple hours before arrival I had been reading and resting in the aft cabin and couldn’t figure what all the tromping around on the aft deck was about until I poked my head out to see Dave landing a nice tuna! After anchoring, we all jumped in, snorkeling up to check the anchor before an amazing sunset, complete with green flash.
September 9, 2011 0600 hrs, 17.44 S, 168.18 E, Log: 150,553 miles
Moored stern-to, Yachting World, Port Vila http://yachtingworld-vanuatu.com
Tuesday morning after communications, electrical power systems and watermakers class we headed ashore at Dillon’s Bay.
Donna had more medical supplies for the nurse and we donated a large bundle of tooth brushes courtesy of previous expedition member Sue Grimm.
We crossed the river bar entrance and landed the dinghy near the meeting hall, church and clinic. Coming ashore we were met by Jason, the chief of one of four clans that make up the village.
Jason eagerly filled us in on the history of the island and village, and showed us the church. Until 1985, there had been just one Presbyterian Church, but now there were seven different churches.
As we stood on the rock beside the river where John Williams was parceled up Jason mentioned that recently the village had held reconciliation with the relatives of John Williams, George and Ellen Gordon and James Gordon, all Presbyterian missionaries of Scottish descent who had come from Canada, only to be killed and eaten. He said that since the reconciliation the villagers felt that their fortunes were improving.
Later that afternoon we set sail six miles north to Elizabeth Bay, a recently-abandoned village and site of a former logging operation. I head read and Jason confirmed that there were many miles of logging roads leading from the bay and I pictured exploring the island’s bush on these roads.
We practiced Lifesling Overboard rescue on our sail north, then found a nice anchorage in 15’ depths on clear black volcanic sand. Most of our crew came ashore to explore the beach and Amanda and I came prepared with running shoes to hit the logging roads. But…directly ashore I found a large CAT log skidder and travel trailer, which must have been part of the logging operation, but when we tried going back up the valley we just found tangles of vines and a few wild pig, horse and cattle trails. I finally found the logging roads further south along the beach and up the next valley, wide enough for two logging trucks and flat as anything but totally choked with vines and tall sticker bushes. So much for trail running on Erromango!
After a swim and dinner we set sail for Port Vila, the capital and main town of Vanuatu on Efate Island. Starting out we had fresh and gusty winds, so we tucked in reefs in the main and genoa, but once clear of the island the wind settled into to 13-17 knot range and we enjoyed a gorgeous broad reach on surprisingly smooth seas.
Right at sunrise our crew spotted Efate Island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efate ahead and by 1000 we had picked up a mooring off Yachting World and were stern-tied with a gang plank ashore. I hit the ground running, clearing us in and signing crew off with both immigration and customs before their offices closed at noon. Meanwhile Amanda and crew had set our awning and launched into sail design, trim and winch servicing.
That afternoon crew explored Port Vila and decided we should catch the shuttle ferry to nearby Iririki Island Resort for dinner. TC’s husband Charles and kids JJ and Tom (our Leg 6 crew) joined us for a lovely dinner.
Our last teaching goal was going aloft and Amanda taught that early Thursday morning before with nearly everyone reaching the masthead before breakfast.
In a flash, Leg 6 was over! What an excellent expedition – we’d covered our teaching goals, visited a new island along with a new anchorage, delivered school and medical supplies, renewed friendships on Tanna, sailed with whales, plus seen what middle earth has on offer. We’re already looking forward to next year’s visit!
Stewart, Dave, Matthew, Donna, MC & TC
Here’s our Leg 5 crew:
Stewart McKean, 60
I grew up in Sydney and Hobart and now live in Coolangatta, Queensland. I have always had a love and respect for the sea being a life long surfer. I have sailed around the buoys in Hobart and made some small passages but yearned for some real guidance and experience on the ocean which I’ve gained during this expedition.
Donna Hoover, 45
On a sunny day in 2004 I was invited by a friend to go sailing on a small lake in Arkansas near where I lived. The boat captain invited us to a hot air balloon event in Mississippi and there I met my future husband. We were married in 2005 and spent our honeymoon bareboat chartering in the BVI’s. I was overwhelmed and enamored all at the same time. Since then I’ve come to believe that land dwellers “truly miss the boat”. Now we bare boat charter annually and own a J24 which we day sail on the same lake I went for my first sail on. Donna oversees the imaging department at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
David Hoover, 41
My passion and love of sailing grew from seas stories told to me by one of my dearest friends, Ray Chase. Ray got me into flying balloons and years later that is how I met my wife Donna. Donna and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas and I fly worldwide as a First Officer for FedEx.
Matthew Percival, 59
I live on the shores of Sydney, Australia’s harbourfront and surprisingly took up sailing only four years ago. This was my second ocean passage, having sailed my Bluewater 40 with my son and a friend from Sydney to Lord Howe Island and back recently.
Hi! 19 years ago I singlehanded my 20’ Pacific Seacraft Flicka from San Francisco to NZ. I returned to the States where my husband, also a singlehander, and I had two children. Now I’m back for a “brush-up”. My husband and children will be joining me aboard MT for Leg 6 shortly – the first offshore training for the children who are now 10 and 12 years old.
Marie-Claude Osterrath, 42
I’m originally from Quebec but currently live in Calgary, Alberta with my husband Mark and two children. Mark introduced me to sailing when we raced Hobie Cats some 20 years ago and sailed and chartered several different boats while living in Australia. Our dream is to sail extensively with our family in the future. Sailing aboard Mahina Tiare has been a dream come true and I’m amazed every day how much knowledge I’m gaining. Mark has been watching our kids while I’ve been sailing and Leg 8 will be his turn to join MT while I watch the kids!