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Anthem Adrift
Soggy Slogging
06/27/2012, Vureas Bay, Vanua Lava

27 June 2012

Has it yet been mentioned that Vanuatu is wet? If it weren't for that river spring and occasionally the ocean, would have forgotten what blue looks like. Do, however, have a real good handle on grey and green. Arrived at Gaua (Santa Maria) Island in the Banks & Torres (don't know why lumped together as they're distinctly separate groups) after a rambunctious eight and a half hour sail from Santo. Tomorrow expect to enjoy a similar if shorter passage to Sola on Vanua Lava for clearance following day on to Solomon Islands. It's suppose to be drier, but warmer (this is one of those 'no free lunch' things, but at this point ready to trade).

Chief Richard (about half the senior, male population seem to be chiefs) paddled by to say hi, have us sign his book and ask for fish hooks and rope. That was all the excitement we could handle. Had dinner, took a shower and went to sleep in preparation for yet another unconscionably early departure.

28 June 2012

Initially motored north in the lee of Gaua with no wind or sea. Comfortable ride, but not altogether a good thing. Diesel will be scarce until Honiara, some considerable time from now, so need to sail auxiliaryless (not a real word) predominantly. However, since there has been no sun and, except for yesterday, no wind, water tanks and batteries are low. It's a conundrum. Once past north end fortunately there was a reprise of yesterday, plus the always entertaining squalls and rain, to help.

Due blustery east winds causing a restive anchorage off Sola, much of ICA fleet has settled in Vureas Bay west side. Except for rain, an odd williwaw, more rain and ummm... more rain this is a little bit of heaven. Local guy in his dugout canoe said weather is usually dry and bay had no man-eating sharks (a problem at various places in Vanuatu). Right. Friday through Sunday are promised to be sunny. Right.

Government officialdom will grace us tomorrow morning by boating around (for suitable reimbursement, about 3 hours return, no roads) from the big village. Thus will we formally end our visit to Vanuatu and allow the swarming horde to proceed, however belatedly or recklessly, toward Santa Cruz of The Solomon's (a short double overnight) where we clear in on 15 July... don't ask, don't tell.

"Isn't it interesting that the people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?" - Kelvin Throop III

Jack

Nappyless Happiness
06/26/2012, Port Olry, Espiritu Santo

"The Lady" from USS President Coolidge

26 June 2012

Had some government crap to endure on Thursday morning starting just after we arrived from Palikula, but evening margaritas and tortilla casserole (AKA Ecuador desperation) on Freezing Rain helped assuage the aggravation. Regrettably it didn't do anything for the resultant morning effects therefrom (real word).

Next four days were chockablock with beguiling diversion. Friday involved, besides the one 0730 sleep-in, some chart briefing then dinking up a local river to the "blue hole" spring that fed it - clear, cold and, coincidentally, blue. Next day made two dives on President Coolidge (the wreck not the guy), first around the outside and then through the bowels - tighter and darker than one (this one) might have supposed. Remora followed us the entire first dive, but didn't, apparently, think there was much profit in latching on. Sunday was a rain forest river float to the cascade we climbed up before trekking back to pickup truck transport.

Monday had a dive on Million Dollar Point. After WWII (the big one) U.S. didn't want to drag all the equipage back home for various political, economic and logistics reasons so sold everything for a million bucks to France, who shared New Hebrides with Britain. Figuring they'd get the lot anyway after we left, those Gallic rascals reneged on paying, so the local commander bulldozed it all into the ocean. Great dive, but the best bit was a profusion of fish with no fear, no doubt assuming from reruns that Lloyd Bridges was harmless.

After a week of poco siesta we're beating feet up to the Banks and Torres Islands to check out of Vanuatu on Friday for the Solomon's (AKA New Georgia).

"The scientific name for an animal that doesn't either run from or fight its enemies is lunch." - Michael Friedman

Jack

Beat Feet Complete
06/20/2012, Palikula Bay, Espiritu Santo

20 June 2012

That which was prophesied came to pass. There was no air over boat motoring same speed and direction as wind, but it was rainy. Those cynics who think this was a snide remark should be ashamed. Cool and clammy are way better than hot and steamy.

Left at daylight and reached Palikula Bay well after sunset, just before total darkness, to stage for short sail into Oyster Island early tomorrow to do official government type crap. Having to meet schedules is not one of the more agreeable attributes of an organized rally. However, water tanks were filled, duty free diesel is in the offing, it's Mexican Night on Freezing Rain, onboard systems are complaisant and we're not sitting on a sofa in our bathrobes watching Wheel of Fortune on telly. All complaining is strictly recreational.

A pod of bottle-nosed dolphins came to play and show us through the pass just at twilight. Another sailboat at anchor showed on radar, but neglected to set a light. He remedied this oversight after we would have run him down had we not been vigilant. G&Ts have magically appeared and dinner is imminent. Tah tah.

Jack

Chill Wills
06/19/2012, Port Sandwich, Malakula

Lap Lap, Pamplemousse and Drinking Coconuts

19 June 2012

Directly following the demonstration in a neighboring village of how to make laplap which is wild yam (or other tuber) mashed into paste, cooked in banana leaves under hot fire rocks and spread with coconut cream (way better than poi), we presumed to weigh anchor for the 10 mile sail to Lolowai. We presumed incorrectly. Dragging all scuba gear out of most inaccessible depths of quarter berth for a dive facilitated freeing anchor chain from beneath a chunk of volcanic rock at 12 meters (40 feet), a condition suspected day before, and finally proceeding toward mistake number two.

Realizing distance and forecast wind wouldn't allow a day trip back to Malakula to retrieve a 7 to 10 day registered airmail package that took 4 weeks to arrive in Port Vila and was subsequently picked up by crew of one yacht then transferred to another with whom we were returning south to rendezvous, but wanting to see Lolowai, we went into the inner harbour there, skimming over the rim of a collapsed volcano, spent two hours napping then departed after dark on a falling, low tide without mishap and sailed 18 hours overnight, hard on a 10 to 24 knot wind that should have been more abeam, to Port Sandwich. (Did anyone follow that?)

Contact made, package received, thanks and a computer program given in return. Rather than sleeping we unshipped dinghy and outboard for a trip into shore to trade for produce from the first resident we saw and for a trip up a mangrove lined river nearby. So now, tomorrow, early, to begin the slog back 75 miles, dead downwind in 6 knots forecast (i.e. with engine on and no apparent breeze), to Oyster Island for scheduled customs clearance and duty free fuel day after tomorrow morning. Who thinks cruising on a yacht in the South Pacific is relaxing? Show of hands. Ah!

Jack

Thusness
06/16/2012, Asinvari, Maewo

Grotto

16 June 2012

The usual purpose of trailing behind the boat a hook embellished with flashy plastic and rubber camouflage is to catch fish (Non-mammal aquatic creatures are generally pretty dim and don't appreciate the limited nutritional value). Someone should have mentioned this sooner. With one albeit delicious, yellow finned exception our activity in this area has been disappointing. We have, however, dedicated ourselves to remedy that regrettable circumstance and ingest more omega-3s.

After a lovely and restful night with only a trifling effect from the remarkably strong gin & tonics force on us (forced I say) by Sue from Haku II previous evening, Jan & I were adopted this morning by a family in the village of Asinvari (which, if understood correctly, means the volcanic rock which comprises a large bit of shore here). Each of the nine crews had its own family. Rally organizer John Martin of Windflower was adopted by the head guy Chief Nelson a few years ago. In exchanging gifts we received two beautiful handmade baskets and an avocado. Spokesman Darlinda will bring us eggs in the morning. Good thing as we were facing the wretched eventuality of eggless brekkie.

A canyon into the shore created by eroded lava flow provided us with an absolutely brilliant, afternoon snorkel. Caves, tunnels, dive-throughs and some spectacularly colorful fish would have made even Gary on Inspiration Lady, who has an aversion to seawater, fancy getting wet. Rinsing off the salt under a shoreside waterfall 100 meters from our boat didn't suck either.

Pig roast tomorrow and more snorkeling. Sun beaming, breeze wafting, mandatory boat work absent, ice out the wazoo. Convenient that this is not always thus as such thusness would bring everyone here with none left to support us thusly.

Jack

Guile with Style
06/14/2012, En Route to Asinvari, Maewo

15 June 2012

Took advantage of dreadfully dour and rainy day to install new fridge. To my and all who were acquainted with this undertaking's stupefaction it was accomplished in time for happy hour at Oyster Island Resort with aforementioned close personal, albeit mostly new, friends. Good spirits and humor were unrestrained due less to successful completion of the task than to free drinks and munchies attendant to a mate's (no Cal, this is from a whimsical version of English and has nothing to do with mating) birthday.

Spent one more day in this completely protected, shallow-entry anchorage before mid-tide motor sail seven miles south to Palikula Bay for staging to Asinvari. Made command decision, eschewing common wisdom, to chance rolly anchorage tonight and not stop at intermediate Lolowai to avoid 10 mile beat tomorrow based on timing of forecast wind shift. This breaks cruising rule #13 which states that anyone who trusts the accuracy of any GRIB is a chowderhead (muttonhead if English) and, for such reckless gullibility, consequently shall be smitten.

Upon arriving at 1400 meter contour and with appropriate ceremony (negligible), consigned incapacitated fridge to the depths. Fearing oversensitivity, new unit was not informed of this action so as to preempt an emotional response and potentially warm gin & tonics. With boat systems as with children the hallmark of a good progenitor is trickery and deceit.

Jack

Out of Your Tree
06/10/2012, En Route to Espiritu Santo

Land Diving

11 June 2012

Imagine this conversation in the distant past: "Hey Louie, let's build a 30 meter (100 foot) tower on a hillside from branches and sticks, wrap non-stretchy vines around our ankles and, wearing only a "penis sheath" (angled 45 degrees upward with the dangly bits dangling), leap from the top to come up short and swing back to slam into the ground." "Great idea Fred. I'll go first." If anyone has seen this on National Geographic, Tarzan or Adventures in Paradise, it looked much saner than it actually is, completely starkers. Not a sport for chubbers (only men are 'allowed' to do it) or anyone with the slightest aspiration for healthy elding. Leaping began at lower levels and worked upward until the final lunatic who, we were told, twisted his ankle, but appeared to be holding his one scrap of clothing while limping away. Locate us sometime and see the video. Yowzers!

Now enjoying a lovely broad reach under double-reefed main and yankee across to well protected Peterson Bay on Espiritu Santo where we will hunker down for the poopy (highly technical meteorological term) weather in the offing and to perform magical exercises upon our boat to accomplish, among numerous other phenomenon, installation of replacement apparatus criticus to efficiently create cubic objects whose primary intent is to maintain agreeable G&T temperatures. This could be construed to mean installing a new fridge to make ice for our drinks, but that would be no fun, unacceptably jejune and so will not be thusly articulated.

Jack

Break Dance
06/09/2012, Wali Bay, Pentacost

Sunset at Revolieu Bay

8 June 2012

Two weeks after ordering a new fridge for two day delivery by FedEx, extracted, with some effort, information that it had come previous day and was probably being brought to their office in town. A confirmation call was to subsequently ensue. Yachting World was requested, middle afternoon, to call discovering it had indeed arrived and would possibly be delivered in a day or so after return to airport for mandatory customs inspection. A saunter to their office, other side of town (should be noted at this point that desire to depart Port Vila had peaked 4 days previously), provided eye contact with both boxes which I was loath to relinquish, but which they insisted could not be had until next day following previously mentioned scrutiny. After patiently explaining that all their requirements had been met, that sailing that afternoon was necessary to prevent my head from exploding and then staring at agent long enough to elicit a twitch, he, a driver, the boxes and I piled into a van the size of a skateboard and careened through 12 car rush hour traffic to the airport for a 48 second visit with customs agent who, noticing the 1500 vatu "handling fee" clipped to paperwork and having zero interest in observing any parts, whacked my copy with a stamp and smilingly bid me a good journey.

Having been mildly disingenuous with officials about immediately weighing anchor, did so at 0430 next morning for 12 1/2 hour motor upon glassy sea to lovely Revolieu Bay on Epi, arriving just before sunset to observe a couple of dugongs paddle by ignoring the proffered gin and tonics. Really, teetotalling is no excuse for rudeness. Snorkeling next day there and at Lamen Bay, 10 miles north, was excellent although again our offer of friendship was rebuffed by a turtle cleaning remora. Human inhabitants of Vanuatu are infinitely more sociable.

Yesterday's motorsail to Wali Bay, Pentacost was uneventful and somewhat more enjoyable than previous night's gun'l to gun'l cradle dance starting at 0200. Avoided having to request sleep-in delay as land diving ceremonies next morning didn't begin until 1000. Remarkable insanity of this will be described anon.

Jack

Walking, Wading and Wired
06/06/2012, Revolieu Bay, Epi

Cascades

6 June 2012

After two weeks in Port Vila and one and a half since last you were abused by this twaddle, a little miscellany:

During welcome ceremonies in Anatom a band member elicited music-like sounds by slapping lashed-together bamboo trunks of varying length with a flip-flop (jandal, thong). Good to see they're for something besides littering pristine beaches as washed-up flotsam.

A fire dance show at Mele (rhymes with smelly and the aroma of burning marijuana, major cash crop here, may possibly be additional attraction for boaters) Bay, where we escaped the congestion and noise over last weekend, was terrific. It's a shame, however, that Vauatu has never been given credit for their traditional pink laser lighting or for "moon walking". The former cute black kid apparently didn't see fit to offer proper attribution.

Mele is also notable for a series of cascades and pools one may walk, wade and swim up to arrive at a remarkable set of waterfalls. This is, oddly enough, called "The Cascades". Brought our togs, brought a picnic, spent the day. Gaiety prevailed.

Left Port Vila at O dark thirty this morning for points north after yesterday afternoon's "fun with customs", the game cruisers love to play. Will expound upon delights encountered with this campaign in the fullness of time. Don't hold your breath for tomorrow.

Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes. That way, if he doesn't like what you have to say, you're a mile away and you have his shoes.

Jack

Not Cool
05/26/2012, Port Vila, Vanuatu

On the Wall

26 May 2012

Got to the mast thing today for discovery that new metal sheaves at masthead replacing old plastic ones which lasted 25 years were too large and frozen into position. Those riggers in Opua are right off the Christmas list. Next opportunity to install operative bits will be somewhere in Oz September or later. Reeved new smaller halyard anyway, which should help, as well as new flag halyard and cleaned connections at radar antenna. Recalcitrant fridge remains so. May, reluctantly, call Super Cool Monday for additional ministrations and so today moved onto quay for 240 volt power to administer serious therapy. Remain skeptical. Given two under-two screeching children (mother had another in the oven) and later full decibel hollering of parents on balcony overlooking location, have surmised warm beer is viable option. Looking into local consequences of justifiable homicide. Medical professional and "nice' Canadian, Jan, is onboard with this.

Jack

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S/V Anthem
Who: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
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