Making Kava in Ureparapara
4 July 2012
Happy birthday to a all North American countries except Mexico (no aspersions cast). We expatriots salute you.
5 July 2012
Ureparapara is a remote, blown out volcano five miles in diameter which crater was then filled with water creating passage to the surrounding sea. Anchorage and largest village are inside the caldera with steep walls reaching over 700 meters to a rim that was always shrouded in mist. Look about 70 NM south of this Google Earth position to see it. Way cool.
Village experience at this remote island was perhaps best of all Vanuatu. Bought a carved wood laplap tool, which will remain unused for that purpose and subsequently received godlike status (or possibly not) as an electrical genius repairing one fellow's solar charger with a little solder. We caught them in the midst of an island-wide conclave to settle some disputes so chief Davidson, who nevertheless greeted us with garlands, seemed a touch harried. Being a happy and gentle people no one took particular notice of several boys practicing throwing spears with uncanny skill.
Displaying yet again an often regrettable gullibility toward weather weasel pronouncements, a decision has been made to leave this unique island, give the Torres Islands a pass and beat feet for Vanikolo, Santa Cruz. Next two days are proclaimed to have excellent conditions creating an opportunity for sailing overnight, the intervening 120 NM, and avoiding winds increasing every day thereafter by 2 or 3 knots to over 25, with commensurate seas, until presence necessary for scheduled Solomon's clearance in Lata, Ndendo. Closer is better.
Moon Rise Over Waterfall Bay
2 July 2012
Officially cleared out of Vanuatu, we cruise verrrry slowly toward The Solomon's. As there are virtually no roads on Vanua Lava and little reason for costly snooping farther north and in the Torres Group we remain sanguine about avoiding the, however no doubt delightful, local gaols. Solomon Island officials are to arrive by airplane from Honiara into Lata, Ndendo in the Santa Cruz group to clear us all into that country on Friday the 13th. Festivities for the ICA are planned for that weekend. Confidence in the convergence of weather, Solomon Islands Airline scheduling, bureaucratic efficiency and the always delightful PFM is over the moon.
Yesterday's sail to Waterfall Bay off the wind in 13 knots and calm seas from bottom of Vanua Lava to what has been billed as a great anchorage on the northwest side with, oddly enough, two spectacular waterfalls revealed it to be just so. Who knew? Passed two other falls on the way also right at the shore. Partly cloudy and no rain for a change. Ebullience has descended upon us and confidence is over the moon. Next stop Ureparapara then The Torres'.
Just discovered that it doesn't suck to relax and enjoy. We've been playing catch-up until now, but all critical systems are working (not counting replumbing the head, adding DC outlets, rewiring VHF, removing and rebedding both caprail tracks and an expanding list of assorted other projects) and we have over a week and a half to make Lata in the Santa Cruz group, about 200 NM. Only one short overnight sail from The Torres Group of Vanuatu to Vanikoro, Solomon's and the rest daysails. If weather forecast is semi-accurate, may have beautiful sailing conditions for a week or so, possibly forever (confidence is over the moon).
"The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." - George F. Will
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
"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
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.
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!