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Showing posts from 2016

On to Efate and Port Vila

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From Tanna Island, we sailed about 9 hours with one reef in the main sail and the genoa to Dillon’s Bay on Erromango Island. Unfortunately, it was raining. No locals came out to the boat and we didn’t go ashore. We left the next afternoon for an overnight sail to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. Instead of going too fast and arriving early, our timing and speed were good on this passage and we arrived outside the entrance to Port Vila about 2 hours after sunrise. The weather didn't cooperate, however, and a severe thunderstorm rolled in. We considered trying to race the massive black clouds and get into harbour, but as we saw SV Dream Catcher swallowed up by the dense cloud and the lightening started coming in thick bolts, we turned around and slowly motored back into the sunshine. About 2 hours later, the storm had passed and we were moored off of Yachting World in Port Vila.
After having limited access to a variety of provisions, we were in heaven at the Au Bon Marche superma…

Tanna Island

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It is difficult to stop in Port Resolution as it is not a regular Port of Entry, so one must organise and pay transport for Customs and Immigration for checking into the country. In addition, there are no banks or ATMs in Port Resolution. Many cruisers found it difficult to obtain Vanuatu currency (vatu) in Fiji, so most of us arrived with no local currency. Stanley, from the "Yacht Club", helped many of us by convincing transport drivers and others to accept USD. 
We decided to travel to the capital of Tanna Island, Lenakel, on the West side of the island to exchange our USD, or take money out of an ATM. The trip involved crossing the ashfields on the downwind side of the volcano. Due to some confusion about whether a bank was open in Lenakel (it was a provincial holiday) or if a large hotel would change money for us, we ended up crossing the island and the ashfields 4 times! Most of them were while riding in the back of a pick-up truck.


We were unable to change money, so …

Port Resolution and Mt Yasur

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We had a lovely sail for the first 48 hours from Fiji to Vanuatu. On the third day, we hoisted the gennaker and maintain about 5 knots per hour. On the fourth day, we had to furl the sails and motor. That afternoon we anchored in Port Resolution, in the southern Vanuatu island chain, next to the smoke spewing volcano, Mt. Yasur.
It was so exhilarating to land in Vanuatu. Aside from the active volcano and the steam vents at the anchorage, the mountains were covered in trees and jungle plants and the beaches, both black sand and white, were unspoiled.
We awoke the next day to learn it was a holiday in Vanuatu so there was no Customs or Immigration service. Stanley, the caretaker at the Port Resolution “Yacht Club”, assured us we were allowed to go ashore to see the volcano. That afternoon, we piled into trucks with SV Dream Catcher, SV Rehua and SV Second Wind and went to the entrance of the volcano. Before walking up to the rim of the volcano, we were given a safety talk, were sorted …

Final week in Fiji

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The three boats, Good as Gold, Free Spirit and Roxanne, left Mana Island and went north towards Naviti Island, the place known for Manta Rays. We all decided to anchor part way to Naviti Island, at a little gap between Waya and Wayasewa islands. We chose this place because it was supposed to have good snorkelling and it was close enough to we could make a day trip to Naviti Island the next day. At low tide, Waya and Wayasewa are connected by a sand bar and at high tide the locals drive their boats though the gap. We did some snorkelling and the reputation was well deserved. Unfortunately, the bay seems to have been invaded by Crown of Thorns, an invasive species of starfish that eats coral at an incredible rate and is killing reefs around the world.

Instead of taking all three boats to Naviti for the day, everyone got onto Roxanne for the trip. Once there, we saw several tour boats from the local resorts. The coral and fish here were plentiful, like lots of places in Fiji, but the Man…

Exploring around Mana Island

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We had been in Fiji for three months, and we needed to extend our visas or leave the country. Now that we were having fun with Chuck and Lauri on Free Spirit and with Tom and Lynn on Roxanne, we figured we’d stay a bit longer. This meant we had to head to the Immigration office in Latoka. All three boats left Robinson Crusoe Island and had a lovely sail north. We passed Cloudbreak and saw some surfers out there, but it was much quieter than during the competition we’d seen a few months ago. As we entered the main lagoon, Free Spirit headed off to Musket Cove for a big regatta that was starting there. The wind was still good, as Good as Gold and Roxanne continued sailing the 10 nautical miles across the lagoon towards Latoka.


It was sugar cane harvesting season, and there is a large sugar processing plant next to the anchorage in Latoka. It was interesting to see the train cars and trucks bringing in lots and lots of sugar cane, but it wasn’t so nice to get a mild dusting of ash fr…

Oops

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With SV Roxanne and SV Free Spirit, we motored to Kavala Bay on the NW side of Kadavu island to get ready for the sail to Beqa Lagoon. As we motor-sailed through Ono Strait, dolphins joined us.



After an amazing pizza dinner on SV Roxanne, we got an early start the next morning so we could get to Beqa in the daylight. We hoisted the main sail before hoisting the anchor and Dina was motoring out of the bay while Malcolm was down below. The charts here are not very good, and depth went from 17 metres to 1.8 metres – Good as Gold draws 2 metres. We hit a reef.
Fortunately, we were not moving too fast. Malcolm dropped the main sail and jumped in the water to assess the situation. He could see there was no damage to the boat. Tom, from SV Roxanne, and a local fisherman, took a couple of lines in their dinghies and drove away to heel us over and we were able to drive back into deep water. Dina was relieved there was no damage to our boat, but she felt terrible about hurting the reef.
We con…

The Great Astrolabe Reef

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We left Matuku before sunset. Once we were outside of the reef, we raised the genoa (head sail). It was very rolly, overcast, rainy and cool. The wind was much stronger than predicted and we were a bit concerned about waves breaking over the stern of the boat. We hoped it would calm down once we were further from the island. The waves did settle into a pattern, but were still very large. A small pod of dolphins joined us until the sun was gone. The boat sailed very well, maybe too well, as we once again were going to arrive at the entrance to Astrolabe Reef earlier than planned. Throughout the night, especially during Dina’s watches, the boat was doing 10-11 knots and she saw 14.6 at one point!
Although we tried to dump wind and slow down, we arrived 4 hours earlier than expected (3 hours before sunrise). We still had lots of wind, but a least the water was calmer because we were downwind of the reef. We gybed back and forth outside the pass for a few hours until we had enough light…

To Southern Lau Group

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We left the SW end of Taveuni Island and sailed in lots of wind and waves directly into the wind coming from the SE. With a reef in the main (not the full main sail) and the genoa (the head sail), we had the rail in the water and were sailing fast. We were aiming for the gorgeous and remote island of Fulanga in the Southern Lau group of islands in Fiji. Throughout the night, we could not get far enough east, so we aimed for Totoya Island, another island in the Southern Lau about 30 nm west of Fulanga. 
We arrived early – before sunrise – so we tacked back and forth outside of the pass in the reef around the island. Once the sun rose, we could see that the pass was wide and deep so we headed in and anchored in a quiet bay, had a nap, then went for an afternoon snorkel. 
A French boat from New Caledonia, SV Ilo, was anchored on the other side of the bay and the two men aboard began whistling and waving their arms at us. We thought something was wrong, so we rushed over. They had been s…

Savusavu and Labasa

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After Zophia left, we spent a few more days in Savusavu getting ready to head out again. This means provisioning and doing some boat jobs like filling our water tanks, picking up and installing the four AGM batteries that we had ordered from China, and getting extra cockpit cushion covers and salon curtains made.

Before leaving Savusavu, we took the bus to the Northern coast of the island to the town of Labasa. The drive across the island is very scenic. We went on market day and it was a bustling town. The market is much larger than in Savusavu and much of the produce in the market in Savusavu comes from Labasa.






As we were waiting for the bus back to Savusavu, we struck up a conversation with a local woman who was also returning to Savusavu. She worked for the Ministry of Immigration and visited the boats as they arrived to Fiji for the official check-in process. When our bus arrived at the station, there was much pushing and we asked Malcolm to go in front of us, push onto the bus a…