Sunday, July 16, 2017

Heading North from Port Vila

After the boat was put in the water, we spent another two weeks in Port Vila. Some of our time was spent getting some necessary jobs done on the boat, such as putting the sails on. The rest of our time was spent buying provisions, as we knew that there wouldn’t be much available as we explored Vanuatu.  We decided it was time to retire our Canadian flag and hoist a new one.

Dina up the mast - reattaching the flag halyard

New vs Old

After a few days in the anchorage, we noticed that our solar panels weren’t providing enough power and certainly not providing as much as they used to. A simple bit of diagnostic work showed that the panel which was damaged in Fiji (link here, or photo) was not providing any power. There are a lot of people using solar power in Vanuatu, so we went to a couple of shops and found a very reasonable replacement panel. By some awesome stroke of luck, it was the same size and had the same connectors as the broken one, so installation was easy. At this point, our cupboards, fridge and freezer were full so we headed out.

Our first stop was at the island of Nguna, which has a large dormant volcano overlooking the little bay. Last year, Dina had enjoyed stand-up paddle boarding so much that she bought herself a board. Now that we were in a quieter place than the Port Vila harbour, it was time to inflate it and try it out.



Dina trying out her new paddleboard

We also figured it was time to get in the water, so we snorkelled along the little reef in the bay. The coral was okay, and it was nice to see some fish. Luckily, a sea turtle swam past us as we headed back towards the boat.

A nice sail north of Nguna brought us to Lamen Bay on the island of Epi. This bay has crystal clear water, but it took a while to notice because the entire bay is black sand. When the sun was out, we could see the bottom easily in 8 metre deep water. One afternoon we watched a sea turtle eating the bit of grass growing on the bottom.  It’d come up for air and then swim back down to continue grazing.

Lamen Bay is famous for dugongs (a relative of the manatee) and sea turtles. We saw many large sea turtles and a few even swam along with us, but we are not sure if we saw any dugongs. They are very shy and surface very briefly. Along with 6 people from 3 other sailboats anchored in the bay, we went with a local fisherman for an afternoon snorkel at Lamen Island, just outside of Lamen Bay. As the fisherman’s boat approached the beach, he pointed out a dugong grazing in the shallows. However, it was gone as soon as we got into the water.

We will continue to hunt for a glimpse of the elusive dugong as we explore more islands in northern Vanuatu…