Our next destination was the Banks Group of islands. This group is even more isolated than the rest of Vanuatu, partially due to the extra distance. The southernmost island, Gaua, is 25nm north of Espiritu Santo. This is too far for most of the locals, and most cruisers don’t bother making the crossing so they turn south after Espiritu Santo.
In order to arrive at Gaua before dark, we made a 05:30 departure from Port Orly on the northern end of Espiritu Santo. The forecast was supposed to be a downwind sail, but it turned out to be 3 hours of motoring, then 6 hours of sailing upwind. Most of the 6 hours was spent hand steering because the little CPT Auto-pilot didn’t deal well with the big swells. It just cannot anticipate as well as we can. Our friends on Free Spirit were about 1 hour behind us the whole way.
We anchored in Lacona on the SW side of Gaua, where there is a lovely black sand beach we’d have to explore the next day. The morning mist looked lovely in the jungle green mountains of this island.
Morning mist on Gaua
There was a nice little viewpoint overlooking the bay, so we went ashore to check it out. The locals were very nice, and of course the kids all wanted to talk to us. The viewpoint was a short walk passed the village’s nakamal (men’s hut for drinking kava).
Statue in from of Nakamal
Good as Gold and Free Spirit anchored at Gaua
The women on Gaua discovered a way to make “water-music”, which involves some chanting while a number of women slap, scoop, skim and swirl the water to make a number of different percussion like sounds. The locals were interested in what goods we had, and offered a Water Music performance as trade.
Most people in the Banks group are subsistence living, so trading with travelling yachts is a very common way to get items they cannot produce. Ropes, batteries, LED lights and school supplies were the most common requests, with fresh fruit and vegetables being the most common offering.
Village boys playing on the beach
Mother and daughter - Gaua
Father and daughter - Gaua
In addition to trading for goods, a somewhat common request is for transportation. These islands are quite rugged and there are only rough foot paths connecting the villages. We ended up taking a couple and their son to Lusalava, a 15nm trip to the other side of the island. The mom is the local junior school teacher and had to get to Lusalava for meetings with the government, and the 14 year old son was heading back to boarding school (high school) for another term. The trip was uneventful for us, but the boy was not used to the motion and got sea sick. The dad wasn’t looking too good either, but he remained stoic. We decided that our boat is a little too crowded with the extra people, and we don’t want the added responsibility, so we’re not going to be transporting people again unless it’s a dire situation.