27 April 2010 | Majuro,Marshall Islands
I don't know if anyone out there is still following my adventure as I have blatantly
neglected updating my blog for a very long time.....but I will Try to do my best to catch up and fill in
the time in between.Right now,Ironie is swinging on a mooring in Majuro,Marshall Islands.
Yup,back in Majuro!I will back up a bit and let you know how i ended up back here.
At the last blog update i was in Vanuatu involved with project M.A.R.C.,the medical assistance
organization,and was waiting for one of their doctors,Sue Lin,and an Alvaie crew member,Frank to show up in Port Villa
so i could get them up to the Maskeline Islands for a clinic there.Frank showed up first.Frank is an ex-cop from Aussie.
At our first meeting we had to double check each other and realized we had met at the Beachfront Resort in Santo
a few months earlier.Small world huh?...When we had first chatted Frank had told me that he was retired and wante to figure out
a way to constructively spend his time off.He'd also met Seamus at the Beachfront and been turned
on to Project M.A.R.C. and crewing on Alvaie.Frank is a real likeable guy and you really start to
like him more when he keeps buying you cold gin and tonics!Frank is a major force to be reckoned
with for sure and would keep us all well juiced and laughing for the next month or so. Doctor Sue Lin showed up the next day but
Air Vanuatu had decided to misplace her essential luggage.SueLin isn't your stock doctor type.She is about 5'9" young and beautiful and "built"...lol...!!Should be a fun crew!At this point there wasn't much to do
but move on to Ironie and start the party until her bags showed.I sailed Ironie from the busy Vila anchorage a few miles west to the Hideaway
anchorage near Mele Village where Frank and SueLin would come aboard.It is a much more pleasant place to while away a few days.I had already
spent a bit of time anchored there and gotten to know the local hangouts.there is a upmarket hotel on "hideaway"
island just a few hundred meters from the main island as well as the Barefoot Beach Bar just opposite "Hideaway island "where they have very cold beer
and amazing Pizza which they cook in a wood fire oven!Super Yummm!!I had sailed to the anchorage
unassisted and in a stiff breeze.I was surprised to see about a dozen yachts in the usually nearly empty anchorage.They were from
a rally that had come from New Caledonia the week before.I also spotted some friends there on "Samba".I came into the anchorage
under sail to the amazement of the ralliers.I sailed right between them came up into the wind, ran forward,dropped the anchor,and backwinded the mainsail to set
the anchor.I don't think the rally folks had ever seen anyone do that before and i got alot of complements later from them.I said,"doesn't
everyone do it like that?"haha ...I'm such a smart ass sometimes...
Frank and SueLin showed up the next day to get acquainted with Ironie and drink some G&Ts (supplied By good ol ex-copper Frank!)and wait for SueLin's bags to show.
We had a good ol time watching Mike from the Barefoot Bar playing with his new toy,a flying dinghy!
Thats right,a Freakin' flyin' dinghy!!I saw it with my own eyes taking off and landing!Imagine a hang glider lashed to the top of a 16 ft dinghywith an engine and propeller slapped on the ass-end
and you get the idea.They told me it can go up to 10,000 feet and has a range of over 200 miles!Crazy stuff!Anyway it was good entertainment
if a bit noisy.After 2 days of fun in the sun at Hideaway,SueLins bags showed up with the
spare parts and coffee maker requested by Seamus, Alvaie and crew as well as some medical supplies of course.
So off we Sailed heading out of Mele Bay West past"Devils Point".which has a wicked reputation for rough confused seas.We had light conditions so Devils Point wasn't a worry.We passed
the SW point of Efate Island and started on our course to the Maskelines.It was apparent that
Ironie was blessed with a crack crew.Frank was nicknamed "The Optimizer"for his penchant for trimming sails,his eyes always aloft maximizing sail shape.
For an overnight sail it was quite eventful.First off,it was SueLins birthday which Frank wore a bowtie for.Next, as we were
approaching the pass into Maskelines we heard on the radio that there was yet another Tsunami warning for Vanuatu.Luckily
we were safe at sea,the best place to be if a tsunami should strike.So,we just slowed the boat down
and waited for the dangerous time to pass.as we got underway with no apparent tsunami we caught a Dorado or MahiMahi.It was a beautiful fish and Frank did the
dirty work of the kill as i couldn't quite do it and his backround as a cop made im the likely choice.SueLin reminded us that Mahi-Mahi mate for life which made
the killing so much easier,thanks SueLin!So Into the pass toward Sakao Island we sailed and were greeted by our happy friends on Alvaie.Ironie had a real challenge to anchor as there was another boat in the anchorage
and there is only room for one boat at reasonable depth and not on coral.Alvaie was anchored in the deep water.I had planned to use the Project M.A.R.C. mooring but it was nowhere to be found.I decided to anchor in a far from ideal spot and try to figure out what to do.
Seamus thought the mooring had floated away but I wasn't sure of this and thought we should look for it under the water.Sure enough there it was about 6 ft below the surface.it seemed the barrel the mooring was tied to
had filled partially with water and made it sink.we decided to work on it and get it in shape to use.Seamus,Frank and Jay did most of the work I stayed aboard Ironie with SueLin and Misha the 2 cuties of the bunch.After
some time and cussing Seamus and crew had the mooring back in working order and Ironie safely tied on!AHHH ,time to have a SueLin birthday party!!WOOOHOOO!!
As coincidence would have it,the was a cultural arts festival going on on the island just South of Sakao.It was the Maskeline Islands Cultural Arts Festival.Project M.A.R.C. was going to have a clinic on the festival
grounds.We could be helpful and have some fun too!The festival involved all the different tribal areas on Malakula Island. where Maskelnes are a very close neighbor.On Malakula,there used to be wars between 2 tribes,the "Big Nambas"and "Little Nambas".Namba is a penis sheath worn by natives all through out Vanuatu.The Big Nambas used to be some bad-ass boys on Malakula kicking the asses of the Little Nambas and occasionally eating them.
they were the last cannibals in Vanuatu,logging in the last meal of missionary stew somewhere in the late 1960's so there's still quite a few who remember the taste...yummmm!! anyway,all is technically forgiven from the old days but I think they still trip each other out..
The festival grounds were set in a big field with trees surrounding and the sea in the distance.
We would see singing and dancing all in traditional garb and body paints.
Really cool stuff,right up my ally.On the first day of the festival,we took project M.A.R.C.'s "Ribster" super-dinghy from our anchorage in Sakao to the festival,about 5 miles away.We got the clinic up and going.We even had our stretchers just in case one of the dancers got mashed or the Big Nambas and Little Nambas decided to go at it again for old times sake.The first day of the festival was pretty
unorganised and when things did get going it was alot of "welcome this" "welcome that "and speech making.There was a warning speech to everyone not to be scared of the different kustoms they would see.no body was out to hurt anyone it was just a performance.people take their magik and kustom very seriously here.they did get a bit of dancing in at the end.Day 2 was much more fun with 5 or 6 different dancing groups.There were substantial
time in between performances as each group took the dancing very seriously and there were alot of preparation and getting thier mojo on and such.
It was very diverse in dancing and what the dancers wore.(Check out pics in the Vanuatu /Duff Islands section on my blog pics,It is in a sub-folder in the Vanuatu section).This was the day that the Big Nambas would perform.There was a hushed anticipation as to what they would do.Their group was the most serious looking of the bunch.They reminded me of P&G people,not exactly
happy go lucky types.As the group came out and did a monotonous,repetitious chant they built it up for nearly half an hour and then this incrediblly body painted, from head to toe man came bursting out and did a very sexual/violent dance with lots of nervous energy.it was really amazing stuff.Everyone was pretty floored!There was one more group after the Big Nambas but I'd say they would be hard to follow.Day 3 I paddled my kayak to the festival in a big rushing current that runs between the islands,a real thrill-ride.Once at the festival grounds there was more dancing,food and fun.by the way, they had a great spread of food everyday
lots of local veggies,fish and of course,pig.good stuff!!The clinic went well and no one had more than minor injuries.After the festivities it was time for Ironie and I to go solo again and say goodbye to Alvaie and crew.Alvaie was going to go up the west side of Malakula and I would go up the Windward,East side.We would see each other in Santo in a week or so.I stayed once more in Banam Bay for a few days Then stopped at Akamb Island on the Northeast coast
Akamb had a crap anchorage but it was a cool island with lots of deep kustom.When I finally got in at Santo at the all too familiar Beachfront Anchorage.There were my buds on Alvaie having just arrived a few hours earlier.I was happy to see every one and we had a big welcome.It was now getting late in the season and I was making plans to head notrh.I had kept in contact with Dani from the yacht Caca Fuego.She had expressed interest to crew on Ironie to Kiribati and the Marshalls.She had signed on
and I was to meet her at the beachfront.Dani is an Aussie gal and a real outdoorsy ,sailorly type as well as being a marine biologist and diver.I was keen to have her as crew for he long passage north.After she had arrived and decompressed from her travel from the Solomon islands where she had spent 3 months diving and working,we got down to the business of getting ready for our trip.We provisioned Ironie and jerry jugged fuel and water ,did the check-out and before we knew it we were off.Sad goodbyes to Seamus and crew but
it was definitely time to get out of the South Pacific tropics.Alvaie was to head to Vila and then to New Zealand.Bye friends oh, and F'in Frank too...lol just kidding mate!!
So off we sailed in Ironie towards the Banks Islands in Northern Vanuatu.The Banks promised to be a great group of islands with lots to see.Our first stop was Gau island.Gau at the time of our visit was
under severe alert due to volcanic activity.She hadn't blown her to but was sure acting up.We visited a small village on the S.W. side of the island where we were greeted and shown around the village.The people told us about the water shortage the island was experiencing due to foul water from sulfur being put in the fresh
water system by the volcanic activity.There was only one small spring supplying the whole side of the island,and it was only accessible at low tide.Rough times for Gau.On Gau we did a hike up a dry creek ed up to a waterfall guided by some local kids.the kids liked to draw pictures on the rocks on the way up the mountain.a nice hike!we stopped in a few other anchorages up the coast and then did a passage
a passage to Mota Lava island just a bit West of North from Gau.Mota Lava sports the famous Waterfall Bay.It was a good anchorage and a fine waterfall to be sure!
We spent a few days here swimming and taking on water and veggies.Moving on we had intended to stop at the Reef Islands in between Mota Lava and Uraparapara,the next island to the north,but the winds and sea conditions were a bit stout for a low lying island with not much in the way of protection.We
gave the Reefs a miss and sailed into the bay at Uraparapara.Entering the bay is pretty fantastic.It is a volcanic cone with one side blown off.Kind of shaped like a big squashed "C"High ridges all around.We entered in 30 Knots with big ol rollers taking us in.The sea calmed slowly as we got farther back into the bay.We anchored in the back corner.There were 3 or 4 other boats anchored here,the first we'd seen since leaving Santo.
We rested up as we were greeted by locals in dugouts.It was a pretty amazing landscape and we took it all in.We eventually made it to shore through the maze of mangrove and got a bit of the lay of the land.Dani wanted to hike up to the ridge so we made a plan to do that.We were invited to a performance by the local string band that night.It was raining so they set up in a small house which lent an amazing acoustic atmosphere.great night with some excellent musicians!they even had a 7 year old kid in the group on drums.great,great stuff.the next day there was to be a fund raising event for the local school where we were promised lots of food and kava.We made friend with a french family sailing around
and met the Chief Nelson of the village.The next day we did our big hike up the mountain escorted by the local kids again.It was pretty much straight up!slippery and slidy all the way.Dani hiked barefoot like the feral sheela she is...Great views from the top and everyone enjoyed a big ripe papaya I'd brought.One of the local kids showed us how to make fire rubbing sticks together.Talented bunch on Uraparapara.After about a week on the Island we set off to the NorthEast and I was hoping to make Tikopia Island in the Eastern Solomons and then make our slog North to Tarawa in kiribati.We sailed out of Uraparapara and were sailing into 20-25 knots on the nose.I was desperately trying to coax Ironie to make a course for Tikopia but she wouldn't do it on one tack.We were about 10 miles out and I noticed
a big gaping tear in the headsail.Well,that just wouldn't do!I was expecting this to happen for some time as the sail i was flying took the former owner of Ironie,Josh, all the way "around" so the old rags' time had come.It was too windy to change sail at sea so we headed back to Uraparapara for another night.We made it back to the achorage by noon and did a sail change.The only problem is that the spare headsail is a real dog with a big ol'belly and wouldn't take us to windward for the trip we had planned.I told Dani the news and said we would have to change our
plan and go to Kosere in Micronesia instead.She seemed ok with this so after a nights rest we headed out to sea again with a new course and a new destination.The sailing conditions were better than the day before with a 15 knots Easterly breeze.The course to Koserae would take us through the Santa Cruz islands in the Eastern Solomons and directly past the Duff Islands.
I had read about the Duffs in the book "We the Naigators "by David Lewis.They still practice traditional navigation there and I was very interested to make a stop here if at all possible.I couldn't find any information about anchorages and had no navigational map.he only information I had was from the Lonely Planet guide book but it did have a small map.I showed it to Dani and asked if she were up for a little adventure cruising.She was keen so we were on!
We spotted the Islands early morning of our 3rd day out of the Banks.It was a clear day so reef spotting wouldn't be a problem.As we cautiously approached the islands we say a canoe approach.he was paddling fat towards us.Cool!some local knowledge.The man came along side and we told him we were interested to anchor here.He said he knew a place and so we invited him aboard to help us pilot Ironie to anchorage.Harry was the boys name and he was just as you would picture
the Solomon islands native with beetle nut stains on his teeth and down his chest and a big tied back mop of hair piled up on his head.we started moving towards the island but I wasn't comfortable in the 10 meter depths so i pulled out of approach.There was a power boat approaching and Harry said it was his brother.We were to follow Harry's brother .Off we went parallel to the island.in 30-40 meter depth.It was way too deep to anchor.By this time there were 10-15 canoes following us waving and shouting.I felt I was
in some kind of James Mitchner novel.We finally found a sad patch in 22 meters of water at an open road stead.I dropped the hook.We were hooked up good in the sand but there was a chop and a swell running.I'd been in worse.Dani was ok with it too so we relaxed and greeted our new friends.After chatting for awhile we said we needed to straighten up the boat and then we would come ashore.hen we got the kayak out and paddled to shore,Ironie looked pretty prone out there.I thought we would try to find another spot a.s.a.p. .
We were escorted to the villge by the kids and Met the Chief who everyone called "horrible Stanley".We finally figured out they were saying "Honorable Stanley"...So we met "horrible Stanley".Dani gave him a small gift of a lava lava as a token gesture thanks for letting us stay.we were here without proper permission as we had not checked into the Solomons so we were hoping that horrible Stanley would be cool.He definitely was!!We were told that we were the first yacht to stop here in 20 years!!We were given the royal treatment here.We were shown the school with the latest internet facilities!I even sent an email to my mom...We were also shown the man-made
islands that were built about a 100 meters off the coast.there were many people living here and everything was neat and tidy.The islands were built by the islanders to avoid the malarial mosquitoes on the island.They told us that they have been there since the 1600's at the first sightings of the islands.pretty impressive!During our tour I was given a gift of an oar and a canoe baler by 2 of the villagers.Very local and very cool!after the tour Stanley asked us if there was anything we needed.We told him we could use some veggies and fruits.We wrote up a list of what we wanted....coconut,papaya,yam,sweet potato,island cabbage, etc...
He said he would see what he could do.Dani and i paddled back to Ironie for a rest and a swim.We had been on board for less than an hour when we noticed some canoes coming out to the boat.They came alongside with loads of fruit and veg!there were 2 at first and then 2 more and 2 more and they kept coming!!we couldn't take all the stuff they brought us.Ironie was busting at the seams!They had never had yachts here so the people didn't understand the protocol of being asked aboard so everyone that came with veggies just tied up their canoes to Ironies stern and then just climbed aboard.I didn't count but there must have been 20 people on Ironie!It was such an awesome welcome.I broke out the cookies and candy and even made them curry and rice burritos.
Everyone hung out and we played music and just enjoyed everyones company.Dani and the women went up to the bow to chat and I hung with the men in the cockpit.It was getting to dark and the party was breaking up.We said good night to our new friends and cleaned up the mess.A few candy wrappers and a couple of beetle nut juice stains were the worst.This was the place that many sailors hope to go.completely untouched and pristine.Dani and I felt very lucky to be here.We enjoyed a very well deserved rest after all the excitement.It was a fun day.
The next day Harry came out and helped us find a better anchorage on the end of the island.Still in 20 meters but much better shelter.Unfortunately it was very far from the village.We spent a couple of days diving and snorkeling and doing a bit od land touring.Harry's father helped get us some water from a spring and then it was time to move on again.We said goodbye to Harry and his Dad and sadly sailed away.I was a great stop but we couldn't hang too long as cyclone season was fast approaching...Off we sailed past the western part of the Duff chain dreaming of the delights of the uninhabited islands.we both said we would come back one day to these untouched ,pristine islands for a longer stay....sail on Ironie...sail on...
We sailed around the western end of the group and then set a course NW towards Kosere.We had good sailing for about a day and a half and then the winds became more northerly and then moved into the NW and stayed there not allowing us to make our course.convinced this was only a temporary condition we continued on our way making it as close to our course but going NE.This condition persisted for the next week!It was being caused by a big low over Paupa New Guinea and wasn't forecast to change anytime soon...Hummmm...I thought about it and decided we would
head for Tarawa and hit Kosere after.Dani was ok with this plan so we came off the wind and took a direct course for Tarawa in Kiribati passing directly by Nauru.I thought I would try to make a stop in Nauru even though the cruising guide said cruising boats are not welcome.We sailed off with our NW wind on our way towards Nauru.We were surprised to sight a large object one day about mile off Ironies starboard forequarter.We thought maybe it was a lifeboat.As we got closer it revealed itself t be a huge tree trunk floating inverted.It was a monster and I was glad not to have run into it at night!Dani wanted to dive on the thing but i wouldn't let her.After we passed the tree the waters became really active with large schools of tuna feeding.They were everywhere!!It was really encouraging to see that much activity in the water as having many conversations with Dani about the decimation of the worlds pelagic fish population and the general shitty condition of the worlds oceans in general.We eventually sighted Nauru.The winds were light and we were just ghosting along.I tried to raise Radio Nauru on channel 16 all day but got no response.e could see the big cantilever system that they use to load the bird guano/phosphate on the big ships with.Nauru is one of three Islands in the pacific that has been systematically strip mined for phosphate over the past 100 years or so completely scaring the landscape.They are in "secondary "mining operations now, Im told,getting the last crumbs...There wasn't much wind so we just slowly ghosted past the island.Around midnight we were 12 miles off shore of Nauru when we saw a boat approaching us from the island.It was an official government boat with Customs and Quarantine officials and crew aboard!they came alongside and requested permission to board!I was really
surprised at this.Ironie had never been boarded at sea by anyone!And,it was bloody midnight 12 miles offshore!Ok,whatever.the guys came aboard asking why we were there.I told them their island was in the way between Vanuatu and Kiribati.then they wanted me to fill out their paperwork.I said that we didn,t want to stop at Nauru and we were on our way to Tarawa,why should we have to fill out their paperwork.They said we had to fill out their forms because we were in Nauru territorial waters.Ok,ok we did as they requested and then they had the nerve to ask for $35!!I basically told them to get F'ed and sent them on their way.I was totally shocked by this whole encounter,and then the gall to ask for money...crazy stuff!!Dani said that she thought that they had one of those secret
black site prisons on the island and thats why they are so touchy about who gets near their bird poo island...Nauru left a bad taste....Bye Nauru keep stripping your island...crazy huh....oh well,off we sailed into the early morning blackness.We made steady progress towards tarawa.We briefly entertained the idea of stopping at Banaba, Kiribati bird poo island but thought to give it a miss.One blown out ,phosphate island was enough for this trip.We came into Tarawa with squally conditions following the waypoints I used last year.good thing I had them
as the first channel bouy was not there anymore,got washed away,I was told.We made the anchorage near Betio and took a much deserved rest after the long trip from Vanuatu.It's always nice to make a smooth landing....It was getting close to Christmas,and I was hoping to make a stop in Butaritari on our way up towards the Marshall Islands,and see the great celebration they have there like i did last year.It was back to my original plan now which was that I would go to the Marshalls and try to get some work again...When we checked in
with Immigration and Customs we were told that They don't allow outward bound yachts to stop in Butaritari anymore.It seems that our friends on Samba that May and I spent Christmas with last year on Butaritari Abused the system and didn't check in properly or something and now all the yachts are suffering for it....ahhh one bad apple does spoil the whole bunch ,it seems...oh well.So,after checking in we had our first cold beers after 2 weeks at sea and caught an instant beer/sleep deprived buzz...ahhhhh,all my back muscles could finally relax...good stuff!!We hung around Betio and Bairikei a bit had some yummy chinese food at Aboys Kitchen and tried to make or plans for the next step.Since we couldn't
visit Butaritari Dani said she thought she would fly home to Australia to see her family for the holidays and then maybe go up to Indonesia to reunite with her former boatmate John on Caca Fuego.That means Steve and Ironie would be on our own for awhile.No problem....I would welcome a bit of R&R and solo time.Dani Flew hoe a few days later and i was left chillin' out in Tarawa.there was another single hander named Mike who was on their way to Koserae and also a boat named Galivant with Bruce and Marion aboard.Gallivant was also on their way to Majuro but were waiting for Cary and Karen from the boat Seal who were flying in from Aussie whom Galivant was going to transport to Majuro.The Westerlys continued to blow for a week or more making the anchorage in Betio very bumpy to say the least.Barrels and barrels of rain came out of the sky ...When it finally cleared was time to leave Tarawa, Ironie left along with Gallivant.The forecast was looking "so-so" but it didn't look like it was going to get much better
So Off I sailed...I left about an hour ahead of Gallivant and was promply passed in another 2 hours.Gallivant which is substantially longer than Ironie was movin and groovin and Ironie was doing her normal 4-5 knots.We kept in contact on the VHF radio but they were soon out of range.After I passed Butaritari.The wind decided to shift into the North which of course was the direction I wanted to go.I wasn't prepared to motor into it so I beared off and took the best course i could,tacking occasionally. I was making piss poor progress and then the shit came on...The winds picked up and the rain came down.It lasted
for 3 days With winds up to 40 knots and more rain than I've ever seen!I didn't get much sleep during this period.It was up and down in and out with the headsail...When I finally made it past Milli atoll in the Southern Marshalls the wind and rain gave me a break.I had wind from the East which made Majuro an easy shot.I had great sailing the rest of the way.I made the pass at Majuro around dusk with a healthy 30 knots to tack into up the lagoon.I decided to grab a mooring at an islet named Enimonit,outside of town.It was a bit of a challenge to hook a mooring at night but I got her on the first try! I slept the sleep of the dead and awoke to a lovely morning at lovely Enimonit....ahhhh nice!I cleaned up the mess of the 5 day 400 mile passage and had a nice leisurely morning before heading into Uliga dock and dealing with the check in....I sailed in and my ol' buddy Larry from Katey Lee
greeted me and took my mooring line.It was good to see some familiar faces,Hawkeye,Rubicon,Katey Lee all have been here since last year.Nice to see everyone again.I was happy to get some American style provisions here and also have a place to get parts and peices sent(which include a new Ironie headsail!Thanks for the help on that one Mom and Rick!!!).Majuro is a great place for that.I was hoping to get my job back at the Coop School but was told they were full up.I ended up getting work at a discount store here called EZ Price working Construction I worked there full time and made a few bucks to put in the ol' cookie jar for future adventures.Now I have been in Majuro for 4 months and made lots of new friends.Ironie is getting some much needed and deserved T.L.C. and now that my job at Ez Price has ended I am planning some new Ironie adventures.keep tuned....Fair winds and a calm seas to you all....Captain Steve
05 September 2009 | Port Villa
Hallo to all from beautiful Vanuatu!!Ironie has now been in Vanuatu for 4 months and loving it.After
a rough beginning with the drama described my last blog entry,things have been cruising along in true Ironie form.
I changed out the motor mounts on Ironies engine and did an allighnment with assistance from Dan "The Fix-it Man"
in Santo ,which took up most of the first month here in the country.Many thanks to he Beachfront Resort for Ironies extended stay.
After dealing with Ironie's various mechanical issues ,my mind was getting back into cruising mode.It was time to see these lovely islands...
My first trip out of Santo was to the island of Maweo.i sailed about 60 miles due east to reach the beautiful perfect bay of Asanvari village
on the far south west tip of the island.New crew for this trip was Hiromi from japan.We had a light wind passage at night to asanvari arriving early in the morning and even catching a nice Wahoo on the way into the anchorage.
On arrival Ironie and crew had a much deserved swim in the clear(30 m vis) water followed by a fresh water wash in the anchorages waterfall.
Ahhhhh,the month I'd spent under Ironie's engine just seemed to melt away in the tropical sunshine and clear blue waters...a cure for all stressful muscles and mind...
We spent a week or so enjoying the anchorage and the village.We made friends with Beth and Meg, "Gap" teachers from Aussie and Wales respectively.
We also made friends with Chief Nelson and his son Nixon.
We left Asanvari to Penticost Island just 5NM south of Maewo.There were 30 kn winds in the channel between the 2 islands which gave Hiromi her first taste
of wind on Ironie,a 5 mile roller coaster...lol...fun We anchored in the river mouth of Batnavini village about halfway down the west coast of Penticost.We were
welcomed by the local chief and even were invited for Kava and dinner having the honor of being the first yacht to visit the anchorage this year!
We got a nice tour of the village by the local children,then had a great snorkel on the reef south of the village.Very,very beautiful corals in clear waters but not many fish.
The plan was to continue south but a strong southerly was blowing so plans were altered to make another visit to Asanvari and then head back to Santo were Hiromi was to catch a flight back to Japan at the end of July.
We enjoyed another nice stay at Asanvari and then had a challenging sail back to Santo under a very unusual 25-30 knot west wind!.Ironie weathered the bumps like a champ and once again brought us safe and sound into Santo.
We did make one more trip to Oyster Island Anchorage on the east coast of Santo which was a very nice calm bay.We hung out at Turtle Bay Resort which is managed by "Matt and Patricia". Matt is a professional cown and does a great acrobatics act that i got to see at the independence day celebration in Luganville...amazing!!!After Hiromi left it was back to Stevie solo mode.Days were filled with boat projects and shopping and usually would end with a few Tuskers(local beer) or some Kava at the local Kava bar.Kava is seriously strong in Vanuatu....not for wussies!!
Meeting lots of interesting cruisers like Rick and Annie from"Storm Girl" and Paul and Francis from"Sea Spray",John and crew from"Caca Fuego"Andy from "Kai"...Ahhh ,one motley cast of characters to be sure!!
It was around this time that I met Seamus O'brien from "Project Marc"(Medical Assistance to Remote Communities").Project Marc is a hand on aid organization that sets up and maintains clinics and aid posts as well as
village infrastructure needs for water and other things.Seamus is one of the directors for the group and asked me if i would like to volunteer mine and Ironie"s services to the organization to help with thier projects on the west coast of Santo,to drive a group of volunteers to the end of the road and also help with their bush
expeditions as their camp manager.Later i would be need ed to help get Seamus to Port Villa and then later still to transport 2 doctors to the Maskelyne Islands in southern Malukula.
I jumped at the chance to work with Project Marc as is seems like good organization and i could definitely use the money they would pay me for my help.The first thing I did was to help
with the west Santo trip as a driver.We had Seamus, myself and 4 volunteers and all thier gear to transport to the west coast of santo by truck.The roads outside of Luganville,the main town on santo
are pretty bad and get worse the farther that you get away from town.we made it about halfway to out destination in our mazda 4 WD rented truck when we were met by a river of mud.
We saw tire tracks in the mud so knew it was possible to pass so ,with Seamus behind the wheel we went headlong into the mud and promptly got WAY Stuck!!
The next truck that passed us while we were "axle deep" had twice the clearance we had and drove its wheels on one side of the road on the footpath that gave him enough traction to plow through the river of mud.
OHHHHH,that's how it's done...hahaha.Te next truck that came had some sympathy for the poor ,clueless white men and pulled us out with their far superior
truck.when we were free a decision was made for thr crew to hitch a ride the rest of the way in the far superior truck,as we were told gets worse not better farther up ,and i would spend the night camping at
the local bible college and then taking the rent a truck back to Luganville in the morning. Seamus and his voluneers woud be in the bush for the next 3 weeks...
lol fair thee well friends...
I had a nice leasurely drive back to town the next day stopping at the most beautiful "blue hole" along the way.The blue hole is a natural fresh water spring with super clear fresh shockingly blue water
.I had a nice swim and made it back to town for the lunch hour.
The next couple of weeks I sailed around the north central islands of Vanuatu solo.I've never been into solo sailing because I don't think it's safe on longer passages and I also like to have company on the sails but I thought I'd give it a try as the
islands here in Vanuatu are close together and most sails are day sails anyway ,should be fun...
So off I went to my favorite anchorage Asanvari,which is also a good staging ground for sailing south. I had an uneventful night sail to Asanvari arriving early morning.I was hoping to be there in time to say goodbye to Beth and Meg the gap teachers
we had met the last time we were there.I arrived the night before thier going away ceremony and party...great...The girls were given
quite a party for sure.they had been living in the village for 6 months and were liked very much by the villagers,they would be missed.the ceremony started with
some speech making followed by a kava ceremony.the girls did well and downed their kava without pausing or puking.next the children at the school sang a song they wrote followed by the local
string band knocking out a few numbers.Next,all the members of the community lined up and said goodbye to the girls individually and bestowing gifts on them.Beth and Meg were drowning in locally made handicrafts by the end of he ceremony.
After the formalities,Beth kicked up some good ol aussie pop music and had the whole crowd
dancing line dance style ...more kava followed and everyone was happy with a good kava buzz to boot...fun was had by all...
The next morning I sailed for Penticost and spent one night anchored at Batnavini,moving on to Ambrym Island,where i hoped to climb to the volcano there,a 2 day hike from the coast.
As I was sailing down the west coast of Penticost i caught a very nice YellowFin Tuna...yummm...Then just as I came out of the lee of Penticost i was socked in with torrential rain on my way to Ambrym and the Ranon village anchorage.I needed the rain to let up to get a visuial fix on the anchorage
but it did'nt seem to want to stop so I inched into the anchorage under c -map electronic navigation and radar.I got in close enough to get a visual on the island and started getting
reasonable depth soundings .As it goes ,as soon as i got the hook down the rain eased up.
I was hoping to stage my trip up the volcano from Ranon but it turned out not to be a good anchorage at this time because the wind turned north east just after I arrived.The next day the wind was stronger still in the north so I abandon the volcano trip for the time being leaving
for the anchorage on the north west coast of Ambrym called Craigs Cove ut as I was sailing the beautiful north coast of Ambrym the winds backed into the north west which would make Craigs Cove untenable.It was about 3 pm and i had to find a place to anchor for the night.
The skys were getting dark and it felt like something was brewing so i opted for the very very safe anchorage Port Sandwich
on Malikula Island about 10 miles away.I started sailing towards Malikula.It was around this time that i checked the bilge and saw a bunch of oil under the engine!!woah!,what's this all about?!?As i was sailing I could'nt really pinpoint where the oil was coming from
.i figured i would wait to get into Port Sandwich and figure it out then.The weather got increasiingly stormy.Just as i was coming in to Port Sandwich the thunder and lightning was kicking in full time along with a nice heavy rain.I was anchored safe and sound in Vanuatu's best
hurricane hole,i was tired and needed some sleep i went down below... let it blow...
I woke up to a nice clear morning and a very wet boat and a engine leaking a shit-ton of oil.hummmm it seemed the oil was coming from a high pressure oil line.I wanted to go slightly north out of Port Sandwich to Banam Bay, a place Seamus had told me about.I figured I'd sail there and fix the
engine.I went under sail into Bamam Bay anchoring by just backwinding the mainsail to sink the anchor.I met some friends there from a boat called "Sabbatical 3"I had met them in the Marqueseas 2 years ago and here they were again. I hailed them on the VHF
and told them of my problem.Mark the skipper asked me if he could help and i asked if he could sell me a bit of oil since i was out.he was kind enough to do.Now all I had to do was to figure out how to fix a broken high pressure oil line.I asked another yacht there
what they thought about it and suggested fixing the line with solder and metal putty.I had heard of this method so thought I'd give it a try.My new friend Michael said he would give me a hand.So,we went to work on it...first we cleaned up the steel oil
line around where the crack had formed with abrasives and the carefully soldered the metal and then encapsulating the whold shibang in metal putty.The fix worked well and got Ironie back on the road.It seems that the increased vibration from
the new configuration of the motor mounts had cracked the oil line.Ironie was sure keeping me on my toes these days...It was getting close to the time where I was suppose to meet Seamus
again in Santo so after a week or so in Banam Bay I headed back north to Santo where i could order a new oil line and meet Seamus for another land adventure into the Big Bay Bush where I would be Camp Manager for the next survey expedition.
I sailed the 80 or so miles to Luganville arriving at night around 3 am and anchoring back at the Beachfront.In the morning I was greeted by Rick and Annie from Storm Girl.Nice to see some friendly faces and beer drinking buddies.They were preparing for thier trip back
to Darwin Australia,where they are from.Seamus and crew were back from west Santo and were getting the new trip plans together.It seemed it would be Me ,Seamus,Amy,(a pharmacist from the hospital) and 2 Scottish student doctors(called "baby docs" here)named Amy and Caroline...so,
Me ,Seamus and 3 cute girls on a camping trip into the deep bush...sweet...lol should be fun!!
We had the hospital truck which was a Toyota Land Cruiser,a definte improvement over the Mazda!!We got our camping gear and supplied with food piled into the truck and off we went for a 4 night camping trip.This was a great treat for me having been living on the
sea for a year and a half a trip into the woods would be a welcome change.We got off the pavement and started on the rough roads to the interior.Alot of villages were having Independence
Day celebrations so we saw lots of people taking time off working in thier gardens to have a bit of fun.We came to the first major settlement named"Corner"
There were soccar games and music going on and food stalls and lots of colorful "Ni-Vans" having a good ol' time.We stopped for awhile and then drove on.Two in the front 3 in the truck bed.We made it down the Road and finally to our first campsite in "Butmus" where we were hosted by Jerry
and his family.We set up camp and the got the cooking done then got into Jerrys potent kava before eating...WOW,Butmus kava kicks butt!I could'nt even bring myself to eat after kava and just went into my tent and slept great until 2 am when the bloody
roosters started...ahhhh,I'd forgot abot these evil vermin in my time on the sea...ROOSTERS!
I truly hate them!!Oh well,life on land,some things you conviently forget about....The next few days we visited some very out of the way villages.The hospital truck was up and down the mountains and valleys.We took turns riding in the back.On the way back to Santo,the 3 girls were in the back and Seamus and I we serenaded
by an 80's-90's medley of pop hits with Amazing Grace thrown in when we passed a dead dog in the road.We all got back to the Beachfront for pizza and Dewars on the rocks courtesy of Seamus(thanks dude!!).I was happy to see Ironie right where i left her safe and sound in the anchorage.My land adventure was alot of
fun but i was very happy to return to the sea.Nice breeze,no bugs(or bloody roosters!!) and everything is relatively clean....home.
I was just waking up one morning and listening to the weather on the "Rag of the Air" ,a weather net out of Fiji,when I heard "Steve,Ironie!!"I came out and saw some faces from the past.It was "Tahaa" with Claudia and Eric aboard a father and daughter team i had met in the Marqueseas in 2007.They had been dismasted on thier trip to New Zealand
and tat was the last I'd heard from them.I thought they would be back in thier home country of Austria by now....Anyway,good to see some old friends and catch up.They had spent nearly 2 years in New Zealand fixing Tahaa ten had sailed her to Fiji then Vanuatu.When Claudia had come to visit me later she told me
she wanted to find another boat to sail on as her dad had plans to sail straight for Thailand with minimal stops and she wanted to spend more time in the Pacific.I told her she was welcome to stay on Ironie until she found the boat she was looking for but I'd be doing a trip south to
Port Villa with Seamus in a few day but she was welcome to join for the trip...done deal,insta-crew...
so,the next phase was getting Ironie all supplied for the next trip.It is'nt easy to get to Port Villa from Santo as the island chain is oriented southeast to northwest and the prevailing winds are from the southeast,directly where we want to go.
The plan would be to sail, yet again, to Asanvari and then to Malakula and then to Epi island and then make the shot to Villa.I told Seamus it could take up to 2 weeks without stressing out the boat or crew too much.We set out in an Easterly breeze which would'nt let me take my prefered course south of Ambae
island which lies directly in the path from Santo so we went North around the top.it was ok but gave up "flukey"winds in the lee of Ambae.In the morning we were
greeted by south easterly winds and stong winds and squally ,rainy conditions.We beat into it and Motor sailed for the last 2 hours into the anchorage.We
hung-out in Asanvari for a couple of days waiting for the weather to improve for our shot to Banam Bay on Malakula,but it was'nt going to improve anytime soon so taking a forecast of south east winds 15-20 we set out for Banam Bay around sunset.Once we were out of the lee of the island we had some chunky seas and snotty conditions and were pinching
the wind hard.Conditions remained the same all night and the next morning but I was able to
lay my course with out tacking but we were hard on the wind to be sure.We arrive in Banam Bay after about 70 snotty miles and were greeted by Seamus' Ni-Van pals.We rested most of that day and got ready for fun with dentistry!!Project Marc had another volunteer boat called "Couteasan" with doctor David and wife Heather aboard.
They were running a mobile dental clinic from thier boat and we were there to lend a hand.the next day after we arrived Seamus,Claudia and I hike to the outter villages to spread the word about the dental clinic.We hiked about 10 miles that day.It was a great hike and we got to see many beautiful villages.We made it back to the boat with loads of fruits and veggies given to us by the locals.
The next couple of days were spent helping with the dental clinic and hiking around.We were also keeping our eye on the weather waiting for an easterly to head south but the forecast was for continued stong southeasterlys for the next week.Seamus was in a bit of a rush to get to Villa as his other volunteer boat the "Alvae",a 3 masted steel pirate boat was waiting for him to facilitate the loading of building supplies,(concrete,tin roofs ,water tanks,etc...) that would be brought back to Bamam Bay and other places
So considering the forecast he decided to fly to Villa early the next week.Sunday was fun day
,as Seamus was leaving and doctor David was taking a day off.So ,we took a hike to the beautiful"Rasa" waterfall with Nellie Peters' son 2 daughters as our guides.Nelle is Project Marc's island contact for Banam Bay.We had a great waterfall trip and then a lovely lunch of "lap-lap"manioc made by Nellie and family,after which doctor David gave the local kids the tooth brushing talk...a very fun day...
Seamus left on the plane and then it was just Claudia and myself to get Ironie down to Port villa.We left Banam Bay and headed to Craigs Cove on Ambrym for a night or two,then back to the Maskelyne islands south of Malakula for a couple of nights and then to Lamen Bay on Epi island where we would wait for an easterly wind to make the shot to villa.I noticed an increase in motor vibration as we were coming into Lamen Bay and Found a broken Motor mount....ahhh the continuing saga...We were still able to motor so it was'nt a big emergency but would fix it asap in Villa...
Laman bay is a nice place but it's main attraction is the local Dugong(manatee) who is very friendly and not bothered by yachties
swimming around him as he dines in the bay on sea grass.We were getting ready to leave for villa one day when one of Claudia's friend came in the bay.It was Masimo and his family on "Frasimada" a big catamaran from Italy.She wanted to spend some time catching up with them so i decided to stay an extra day.the wind was still a bit strong and was suppose to abate the next day so we hung-out and waited.It was a good decision as we got to swim with the famous dugong that day AND we
had a great Italian pasta dinner that night on Frasimada prepared by Simone Masimo's wife.yummy yummy!!
We finally made our passage to Port Villa leaving in the afternoon and arriving in the morning...about 75 nm total with a napbreak in the lee of Efate Island where Port Villa is located.
Arriving in Port Villa was a bit of a shock to the system as I have 'nt been in a tourist place in a looong time and it is touristy!he good thing is that they always have cold beer and ice cream in touristy places so Villa ho!!
Coming into Villa is no big deal until you'r inside and there is nowhere to anchor,everyone pays big bucks to use moorings here....it's all rocky and deep where it is't....No sand to be had bu I had a bit of inside inf from my friend Francis from"Infini" who I'd run into in Asanvari on my first trip there.He is from Villa and told me about a mooring that he used here that
no one bothered him about...cool I'll give it a try...We tied up and so far so good...arrrrr mooring piracy...I ran into my buddy Ted from "Seaquester"here who'd helped me fix my SSB in the Marshalls.Good to see him and his partner Karen. On coming into the harbor
We saw "Alvae",Seamus' pirate boat and she is a looker for sure big steel ting with a square sail rig with big chunky raked back masts...cool!!!We hooked up with Seamus and sunk a few super-power kavas and he told e Alvae had a full machine shop on board and I should talk to Captain Evan and see if he could help me with my broken motor mount.Good stuff!!
I got to know some of the very cool crew of Alvae ,mostly young cool folks out for some adventure.Evan and his first mate Cat sorted out my mount without a though adding a 6 mm plate to the bottom to make the thing bulletproof.Needless to say,the big bottle of rum was bestowed on them for all thier help!!More good news is that Claudia found a ride on Frasimada and will keep Masimo company after his family flys back to Italy.Steve and Ironie will cool our heels here in Port Villa doing a few boat projects until the end of the month when we
will transport 2 doctors back north to the Maskelynes just in time for the Malekula cultural arts festival begining of October.Alls well onboard!!gearing up for more adventure and trying no to get too fat on beer and ice cream...big hugs and hellos to my family and friends!!!I miss you all!!Some people have jobs and some have cruising boats i figure....till next time...Ironie clear....
Marshall Islands to Vanuatu pt. 2
23 June 2009
Marshall Islands to Vanuatu Continued:The next day,after a good nights sleep May,Tony and Eva came out to Ironie.Tony told me that there was a better
anchorage in front of the Beachfront Resort only 2 km. to the west.The anchorage is on a lee shore but the holding is very good.I only planned to be there a couple of days so not a worry....I took May and Eva onboard and we motored to the anchorage and got the hook down and set the snubber,no problem.
It was a very calm day and I went ashore to complete Immigration formalities.When i was in town I noticed the sky getting very dark and the wind coming up.It was a BIG squall moving in.I watched as the waves in the channel built up to huge chop and the wind got up to over 40 knots!! At this point the prudent thing
to do would have been to get my ass back to Ironie and check on her but i stupidly decided to go to Santo Dive and wait out the squall feeling Ironie was securely anchored.A i was sitting with Tony chatting about how I have'nt had any major mishaps sinceI've owned Ironie,Tony got a call from Dave ,the owner of Beachfront,
telling us that Ironie had broken loose from her anchor and was almost on the beach!! We piled into Tonys truck and sped to the resort.As we pulled up,I could see the boat nearly on the beach!!1Holy Fuck!!The rain was still coming down in buckets and the wind was still howling,As I got close to the beach
I saw about 15 guys in the water Keeping Ironie from totally beaching herself. I jumped in the water, got onboard the boat and started the engine.I got her in reverse but She was lying paralell to the beach so we had to get her stern pointed out which was no easy task with the wind still blowing a gale and the waves
hammering the boat.We tryed to put out a stern anchor and winch her ass around but the danforth was'nt grabbing in the soft mud near the beach.We tried to push the boat out wih shear manpower but could'nt manage that either...At this point the wind and waves started to abate and we were able to get some guys in the front of the boat and some guys on the stern
pushing on either side of the boat to make it pivot to get the ass end in the deeper water so the engine could pull us off.This tactic finally worked,and Ironie was free!!!As I was in the water pushing there was one of the vanuatu guys at he helm taking my instructions....As we came loose i had to swim out to the boat
and pull myself up onto her and take over the helm from Ricky(one of the Vanuatu guys from here on in known as"Captain Reverse"...lol) The anchor and all the chain had come out of the locker when the snubber snapped and the chain had jumped the gypsy so we had to try to hook up to mooring.I gave "captain Reverse" the boat hook and told him how to
grab the mooring with it.As things went he grabbed the chain on the mooring and promply dropped the boat hook in the water.As I came around for another pass at the mooring I lost power again.this time the replacement "flex coupler"had blown out leaving us drifting.I went into my storage lazerettes and got out the
spare CQR anchor and a spare 10 meter peice of chain and quickly rigged it and got the boat hooked again...What a crazy morning!!!After "Captain reverse and I paddled back to shore in my inflateable kayak all the Vanuatu guys who had helped keep Ironie from a beaching and tony were waiting for us. I told the guys (who were all from the Banks Islands here in Vanuatu) how much I appreciated thier help
and that they should meet me at the kava bar later and I would shout them all the kava they could drink!!!I was very shaken from the whole affair and I took a good while to get settled down.I was the one who needed a bloody kava!So we all met and got properly wasted on kava at one of the local kave bars.The next day it was picture perfect,sunny and calm,and I found the anchor and chain
snorkeling with my kayak.Tony and a couple of his guys came out and helped me get the chain and anchor back on board and even found my boathook!It seems what happened was,my snubber was pretty shoddy and in need of an overhaul and as the waves got big and Ironie started"hobbyhorsing" it parted which alowed the chain to jump the gypsy of the windlass,which allowed the chain
to run out to the bitter end which was tied to the locker which also snapped under the strain!!So,I was back to "square one",a broken flex coupler and no spare.It seemed i might be in Santo for awhile.....I got the part shipped out in less than a week from Australia and installed it only to find how badly out my allighnment had been to cause
the problem in the first place.the problem was the motormounts which were well and truly buggered...O.K.,I call this part the"can of worms"...so ,on inspection,all the motormounts would need to be replaced.I needed very "low profile" mounts ad had done some researsh and not been able to find any the right size.
hummm,well seems like i kind of came to a impass.I was told to talk to an old timer here in Santo named Dan.they call him "Dan the fix-it man here.They said he will take on jobs other people wont.I looked up dan and told him the problem.he said i should get the old mounts off take all the rubber off of each mount and he would try to weld
them solid metal to metal and take all the rubber out of the equationwhich is what had really caused the problem.the rubber on the mounts had gotted so old and distorted from age and heat and oil.So,I got to work....It was no easy task getting the old mounts out.there was lots of grunting and blood involved,but i got it done.Dan and I got the new
"frankenstiened" mounts in place and did the allighnment installing the new flexcoupler and getting Ironie back on the road.All tolled,between waiting for the part and the repairs it took over a month of waiting ,grunting and groaning.I feel I learned alot from "Dan the Man" and got a wak up call as far as being dilligent to the needs of Ironie.It was well and truly my fault for nor replacing the snubber sooner and all
i can do it chalk it all up to lessons learned....There were the bright side to the episode...1:the gods had seen fit to send down 15 Vanuatu angels from the Banks Islands 2:The grounding was on a beach and not a rocky shore or coral reef 3:the boat was able to be fixed in a not so ideal spot Big thanks to Tony and to Dan ad to all the expats here in Santo at the kava bar
for advice and the "Kava shells"...could'nt have done it without ya. Now we can go play in these beautiful unspoiled tropical islands...Next report from Outter Island Vanuatu.A big hello to May who has gone back to her native,Solomon Islands.Ironie and I miss you tons!!! All the best!Love to all!! Captain Steve
marshall islands to vanuatu
24 April 2009 | luganville,vanuatu
Greetings to all Ironie blog followers from the island of Espiro Santo,Vanuatu!Another sailing season
and another equatoral crossing logged for Ironie and crew.After spending 3 months on Majuro,and having made a little money and May aquirring her high school diploma from marshall islands high school(congratulations May!!!) it was time to go.May's visa
was up,and the cyclone season in the northern hemesphere approaching telling us it was time to set sails and head south.we decided to head to Vanuatu partly because May's sister,Evelyn is living there with her husband Tony(they run a dive operation named Santo Island Dive) and May would like to live with Evelyn and Tony for a while.
We bid our friends on Majuro a fond farewell,then spent a couple of days on eniko islet cleaning the dinghy,relaxing and doing a little fishing before the 1450 mile passage to Vanuatu.
We made the pass out of Majuro atoll early afternoon on April 6th(my 45th birthday...lol you old salty man indeed!!)We had a nice 20 knots from the north to get us on our way sailing around
the west side of Majuro.As night approached we settled into our course towards Tarawa Atoll in Kiribati.
My plan was to make as much easting as i could before heading on a straight rumb line for Vanuatu,thinking the South East trade winds could come up at anytime ,which
would make a course of 190 true a little challenging.So we sailed hard on the wind for 4 days to make Tarawa.
I thought about going in to rest up a bit bt realized it was good friday and would have to pay big overtime fees to customs and immigration so i gave tarawa a miss.
Our wind was steady at 20 knots with a 6 foot swell from the east ,so we had good sailing conditions, on we sailed,we encountered lots of dolphins enroute and even a pod of pilot whales...We were making very good progress of 130-150
miles a day for the first week and a half with our east wind,I thought we'd be Anchored in santo in no time at the rate we were moving, but just as we were coming to about
10 degrees south, the wind gods decided to have some fun with us turning the winds to the north east and making them barely sailable at 5-8 knots.So,where i had expected to encounter a South East
trade winds on the nose, I got downwind spinnaker conditions, the exact oppisite of what I'd expected!!So,May and I set our funky blue and yellow spinnaker and broke out the cards on our 3 knot
roll downwind.Our 140 mile a day average,dropped like a stone to 50- 75 miles per day...We sailed on until our wind gave up on us and left us drifting in a lake-like ocean.we motored off and on for a while
when the wind would totally die and sail when we could but now the wind was coming from the North West,West and even South West when it did come.the last 200 miles to vanuatu were all motor miles.We past
Tikopia island(part of the solomons) to port and then entered the Banks group of islands in the north of Vanuatu.We did catch a beautiful Yellow Fin Tuna while motoring through the Banks on our second to last day.Mr. Tuna
was a very welcome visitor and we throughly enjoyed his company.As we entered the channel leading into Luganville(Santo).I was suprised by a rather large 25 ft,humpback whale not 10 ft. from Ironie!A very nice greeting to Santo Island from our cetacious brethren.
We were anchoring in front of immigration next to another boat that was checking in named "sea spray".we dropped the anchor but it dragged so i told May we would give it another go,so i started to bring the anchor back up and i told May to
motor forward.she said we're not moving ,the engine is'nt working!!We were very close to shore so i dropped the anchor again immediately.When i went to check the problem I found the "flex Coupler"(the thing that connects the shaft to the engine),
had fully broken all four bolts that were holding it in place!!Unbeliveable!!!I'd replaced this part in Trinadad at the advice of my friend Leon,so luckily, i still had the spare.After checking in with Customs and Immigration and stopping in to visit May's
sister and brother in law,i went back to Ironie and replaced the broken part.I finally fellto sleep after a 1450 mile passage and a bit of engine repair....all was well,or so i thought!!
TO BE CONTINUED!!!!
Marshall Islands/Majuro atoll
04 March 2009
Hello to you all from Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands!!May and I arrived here about a month and a half ago from Butaritari
in Kiribati.Our passage from butaritari was a short one,only 170 miles or so.We left Butaritari around mid-day with favorable winds in the 20- 25 kt range
blowing from the Southeast.We sailed out of the lee of the atoll and were in the channel between Butaritari and Milli Atoll in the Marshalls by nightfall.
we had a nice sail making a bit of easting to pass Milli on its Eastern side(the prefered route).As we started to round the Northeast corner of Milli,I heard a great racket outside the boat.I thought it was rain but
as I came up from down below,I saw the water all around Ironie TWisting and churning in mad confused current mayhem.I called May up to see the crazy currets then I looked at the gps and discovered we were making 1 knot speed over ground but my knot meter was reading 5 knots,so, we had 4 knots of current pushing the boat in the wrong direction.
We kept twisting and turning in the current until we finally sailed free of its grasp. We sailed the next night in the channel that runs between Milli and Majuro going slow as not to make the pass
for majuro too early.We met another boat in the night named "Panga".They were a motor yacht hanging around the bottom of Arno,majuro's near neighbor to the East.We chatted briefly on the vhf radio
and said we would meet up for a beer when we made port.
The wind had been blowing from the EastxSoutheast most of the trip but when it was time to sail North in between Arno and Milli,the wind gods decided to have a little fun with us and turned the wind to the Northeast putting us on very close hauled with a good bit of current running against us.
Now.it was blowing a stout 25 to 30 knots in our face so we took it and climbed upwind towards the Northeast end of majuro.I had planned the trip to arrive at the pass at mid morning but as our wind had changed direction we would'nt make the pass into the lagoon until mid afternoon...lol...oh well,so much for schedules at sea...
So we sailed bucking current and wind until we rounded the Northeast of Majuro.At this point we were able to turn to the WEst and watched Ironie fly on a nice 25 knot wind on the beam doing 7 knots.It was a great feeling after struggling
to weather for the past 6 hours.We could see the anchorage inside the lagoon as we passed on the ocean-side but we would have to go another 10 miles West to get to the pass and the sail the 10 miles back to the anchorage in the lagoon.We made the well marked pass without a problem.we hooked a mahi mahi as we we coming in but he was slppery and slid off our lure before we could get him
in the boat.We started back into the wind up the lagoon this time minus the ocean swell and were smoking it at 6 knots.We were in contact with the fleet in majuro who had helped us get set up with a mooring and contacted customs and immigration for us.Ted from Sequester and Spike form Holikai
guided us to our mooring and handed us our line.We were told to stay aboard until we wer cleared by C&I.We were anxious to get to shore for May to get some cigaretts but Spike was kind enough to hand us a pack incogneto as we were'nt suppose to have contact with anyone until we were checked in....thanks Spike!!!
It was a good move as we were not able to check in until the next morning anyway. Majuro is a pretty large atoll and the main administrative center of the Marshall Islands.Majuro is one the 37 atolls in the Marshalls.The population of Majuro is approximately
60,000 of the 80,000 living in all of the Marshalls.My first impression of Majuro was kind of a very low buget version of outter island Hawaii,with no mountains.
There are lots of cruiser friendly ammenities here that seems to keep the american cruising boats here for very long stays.The marshalls is a U.S. territory and so has the U.S. postal Service which is amazingly efficient.We recieve a Priority Mail Package in less than a week!!
There is relitively cheap and plentiful email access.Also,lots of American goodies in the food stores and restaraunts.The one big benifit to Americans is you can work and live in the Marshalls
as long as you wish.The wages are'nt great but if you're creative you can make it happen.
Our first days on the atoll were spent as usual getting the lay of the land,figureing out where things are etc....
it's kind of a busy place with a good bit of "traffic" on the main road(pretty much the only road),but everyone drives slow.You can take a taxi anywhere in "town" ( about a 2 mile strip)
for one U.S. dollar bill. a beer is $2.50 in the bar,and a decient meal will run you 8-10 bucks on the low side.A local meal about $3.00 for some chicken or reef fisk and rice and veg,not a bad deal.
The people are pleasent enough.Although,not as smiley or chatty as the kiribati people or polynesians.We saw many fimiliar crusing boats here :Hawkeye,Rublcon,Katey Lee,Ursa Minor,Hanoa And Creola.
We also made some new friends like Spike and Ted.The cruising Community here is very active.There is a local vhf cruisers net in the morning where everyone make contact,gets the weather du jour etc...and there is also a ssb net on 4030 usb.
There is a monthly friendly cruisers "race" with prizes for the first AND last places!The yachties even have a Tuesday Restaraunt shindig featuring a guest speaker each week.There have been lectures on WW2,coral deseases,Pacific weather...good stuff!Very social bunch here....Most ,if not all the cruisers are american boats.
Occasionally a yacht from another country will pass through(we met one named "tiare"with a french captain.I think the American officialdom keeps most of them away with visa requirements etc...I'd say at least half the yachts here are on the 1 year plus plan.It's not a bad place to hang out for awhile as long as you have something to do.Some of the yachties voulenteer
teach,one works for the N.G.O.s'.Some just have regular jobs like carpenter or store manager....HEY,I even found a job!I'm working at "the COOp school".It's a private school and I'm working as a substitute teacher/office admin.It's a great place to work but the pay rate here
in the islands leaves a little to be desired.What the heck ,I even get a free lunch!!
Shortly after we arrived here,May found out they have the G.E.D. diploma plan and wanted to get in so we signed her up and she has been doing well in it ever since.We willl have to do a little work to get her visa extended an extra month to complete the program.
So "ironie" is getting smarter everyday going to school!It's a fun break from sailing.
One eventful thing that has happened since weve been here...Spike and Ted were the heroes of the day for troubleshooting and fixing Ironies shortwave radio!Ironies SSB is an Icom M700 pro model radio
this is a very good model radio for long distance and emergency communication and it has'ent worked right since I've owed the boat.My trasmission could be heard but the signal was'nt strong or clear.
Spike came aboard one afternoon and found 3 seprate problems with the radio and tuner!!I was very impressed with spike's skills.It turns out he was a electronics expert in the airforce and also an inventor credited with some inverter technology....In a few Short hours spik had the ol' Icom singin across the ionosphere!!Forever thanks to Spike from Ironie!!
I've spent time here gathering things for the boat,fixing lots of neglected projects on ironie,having lots of great "care" packages sent from MOM AND rick in NEW jersey,eating too much ice cream....May has been a regular at the weekly "Baja Rummy" tournament some of the yachtie women have going on,we've been out to the lovely Motu island of Eneco.Lots of positive fun things going on here
for ironie. Right now it's all about school and work.we will keep you updated on our progress.Look for our next installment from the Majuro in the Marshall Islands. Captain Steve
07 January 2009
After spending 2 weeks at Funa Futi lagoon in Tuvalu, it was time to move on.Tarawa atoll in the Kiribati Islands would be our next destination. we had watched as our friends on Creola,Rubicon and the Katey
Lee all left and we as usual were the stragglers .so we bade Tuvalu a fond farewell,weighed anchor and made our way to the northern pass of Funa Futi lagoon.
The wind was east as we found the free wind in the open ocean, blowing at a comfortable 15 knots.promising conditions for a
nxnw passage.we would be traveling from 8 degrees south at 179 east to 2 degrees north and 172 east crossing the equator enroute.
the passage started out typical with the occasional squall and we did notice the temperature climbing as we approached the equator.On about the 3 rd day at about
6 degrees S. the wind decided to switch into the northerly quadrant which put us on a tight reach to close hauled the rest of the trip.oh well,we were getting used to these conditions
now and the seas were flat enough to allow Ironie to make decent progress to the north.
the one thing I was concerned about were the currents we had heard about from the boats that had left before us.As we would get closer to Tarawa we were
told of currents setting West at up to 2 knots which is very substantial on a tight reach.you have to push the boat closer to the
wind in order to make up for getting set away from your destination,this makes the boat claw sideways .well,we would just have to
hope for the best and deal with what conditions we were to encounter.
on about day 3 out of Funa Futi started to come down with an unusual rash which first showed up on my back and within 12 hours
was covering my chest and arms.I had never had this kind of rash before and could'nt imagine where
it had come from.I asked medical advice from some of the other cruisers on the Marshall Islands,and Rag of the Air "nets" and the consensus was an allergic reaction of some kind.
i was taking amoxacillin for an infection i had in one of my teeth....maybe ,maybe not ...anyway,the rash was horrible.hot,itchy,bubbling, moving over my whole body.
It was uncomfortable to sit or lie in any position scratching it felt wonderful but made it worse and more irritated.the heat and the intense sunshine of being nearly on the equator
did'nt help much so i stayed below as much as possible during the day.
there was'nt much to do as we were 4 days out of Tuvalu and 4 days from tarawa.i'd just have to deal with it and hope it did'nt get too much worse.
i must say that we were lucky as the sailing was'nt too difficult and i was able to take it easy for the most part during the passage.also i would like to say that my crew member/friend
May was a pillar of patience and understanding during this time.i'm sure i was a pitiful sight.We tried to keep our sense of humor and played lots of games of the card game "Loka ".It's a
game May taught me and when I finally won my first "Loka" I made sure to write it in the Ironie Log!
as we made our way up the Kiribati islands chain and started to close on tarawa,I noticed the currents increasing just as had been predicted.on our
last night we were sailing between the islands of Maiana and Tarawa with a 15-20 knot NE wind and lots of squalls. We were sill pointing hard into the wind
as we were forced West by current with the squalls twisting the wind in circles all around us.
We steadily clawed our way towards the pass into Tarawa.At day break, we were about 5 miles west of the entrance.we motorsailed
the way in and started to follow the gps track we had gotten from our friends on Rubicon,which identified the sketchy
marks laid out that are the navigation aids to enter the lagoon.we made it to anchor on November 20th at 0900.we were very happy to drop the anchor amid
the giant hulking wrecks of the ship graveyard to our stern.the only other boats at anchor were Ruicon and a Japanese sailboat with a singlehander aboard.
as you can imagine,my first order of business would be to find some kind of doctor a.s.a.p. . the rash had steadily gotten worse and spread
first we had to check in with customs and immigration.we did the dinghy and set off to find the offices,first was customs which was right near the main wharf.
check in was easy.We were then given directions to immigration in Bairiki which was on the other side of the causeway from Betio, where we were anchored.
we hoped on a local bus/van thing and headed to Bairiki.We met 2 nice ladies on the bus and they helped us with finding immigration and told us where to find a doctor.we had
lunch with them and found out they were from the s.d.a.(Seventh Day Adventist church).they had a boat and would go about the kiribati islands bringing doctors and dentists to the outter islands.
I'm not big on all these missionary types being in these islands trying to foster their own beliefs on these people but I'll give them credit for doing what they're doing with the doctors.the outer islands
have very little in the way of medical facilities.
we finally made it to the "hospital" in Betio where we were told there was a very good Cuban doctor.When we got to the
"hospital" it was just as you would picture a really decreped third world hospital to be.The walls were very dirty,it was so hot,flies buzzing us constantly, there were lots of islanders waiting for one thing or another there were even dirty sore ridden dogs walking around....yuck!!
I was hopeful the doctor would be a bit more encouraging than his surroundings.after waiting about a half hour shooing flies.we were let in to the doctors office where we were greeted by
a wave of air conditioning and a very clean Cuban doctor speaking perfect English...(oh happy day!!)
i told him my problem and showed him the rash.he did a quick exam and said it was an allergic reaction to something or other but what it was was'nt that important right now we would
treat the rash....I was given a shot in my butt of something to calm the rash and then i was given 2 prescriptions,one a steroid of some kind to bolster my immune system
and another for the itching.I was so happy to find someone here that seemed to know what was going on. I started my pills and really hoped it would get better.
The rest of the day we spent getting a look at this dusty little pacific outpost.we had been warned not to expect a anything close to a pristine environment so i was prepared
for the mounds of trash and the industrial feel of the place.tarawa is the "big city" for the Kiribati people. it was'nt as bad as i had thought it might be.the people were very friendly and everyone greets you with a hearty"maury"(hello).
There were lots of shops ,good ,cheap Chinese restaurants ,internet service and even a movie theater that showed 5 different movies in he same day!(may was very happy for this...lol) .
we had a nice stay in Tarawa even through is was dirty.(the dinghy dock smelled like poo!)we could'nt swim here either because of 2 different types of hepatitis in the water.the water looked
clean enough at the anchorage and we saw lots of locals swimming but we were warned to definitely not swim in it.
We saw lots of movies while we were here.we made friends with the girl who sold us ice cream and movie tickets named Targase. ,most of the films we saw were in the "2-6" rating on a 1 - 10 system...I really enjoyed one we saw called "Hellride" about a gang of bikers getting revenge on another gang for something that happened 30 years before(i'd give it a solid 8!!)....good stuff!!may was happy to see everything.
my rash was very happy to spend the wicked hot afternoons in the air conditioned movie there.the pills and the shot had really done some magic and on the 4th day i was well on my way to recovery!!!
during our days we would tour the island on the mini bus.see the sights...there is lots of world war 2 history here.something like 4000 people(Americans,Japanese,New Zealanders and of course the innocent I-Kiribati caught in the middle!!) died here
in one of the bloodiest battles fought in the Pacific during WW2.the famous"Red Beach"is right between our anchorage and the hospital where i was treated.there is a famous Sherman tank named Ceciela still stuck in the mud
and coral in view from the shore,the turret still above water.it is a sad history and we learned about many atrocities that occured here at that horrible time.the sad irony of the war is it should come to the most peaceful beautiful island in the whole world....
we spent thanksgiving in Tarawa.in our time here some other boats have come and some have gone.we now had "Imagica" from Australia,"rise and shine"from the states Rubicon and our buddies on the Katey Lee.(a sad note,the Japanese singlehander whom we met only briefly left abruptly after being boarded one night at anchorage by some drunks demanding money and cigarettes.he chased them off his boat but was very upset and left the next morning).....we had
an amazing thanksgiving dinner with all the boats bringing food and libations.Matt and Elizabeth from Rubicon outdid themselves with thier turkey and pies.Katey Lee with Larry's cornbread stuffing and Trinda's pecan pie
.here were tons of mashed potatoes and veggies.everything was very YUM!!!!it was Mays first thanksgiving as well and she ate like a true gluttonous American.we were all proud of her!!
so thanksgiving having past we made plans to start on our way north.we applied for permission to visit the island of butaritari(one of the outer islands were we would experience the "real" kiribati) on our way north to the Marshall Island.we were "allowed" a 3 day stop en route but were told
it was said to be easy to stay longer once we arrived.Rubicon and another boat "Hawkeye" were already up there and gave us the all important gps waypoints for the entrance as the c-map and paper charts were substantially in error it was a great help to have these way points....thanks again Matt!!
we left Tarawa in the morning of December 12th under a nice exse wind of 20 knots with about 110 nm to Butaritaris south pass.we had a great sailing breeze on a flat sea until around 0300 the next morning the wind went light and backed into the north.i had made some easting in case this should happen but the breeze was'nt even enough to sail
by without being shoved west by the current.i cranked up the ol' Ironie engine and made the pass in the morning.
coming into butaritari was such a pleasure after the "bright lights and big city" of tarawa.here we had a lovely pristine pacific atoll and a nice calm anchorage.bliss...
We pumped up our Stearns inflatable kayak and paddled to shore(our dinghy anchor was stolen in Tarawa,in the middle of the day,no less,and we needed one here...)we walked into the main village to present the local police officer with our permission letter to visit butaritari,and found a big feast and celebration
going on in the local meeting house(called a "maneaba")there was dancing and singing and lots of local foods.we were invited to sit and watch.it was so good to be back in an outback rural enviroment.after the dancing we found the local police officer and were told we could stay no longer than 2 weeks. great,that would give us time to find a proper weather
window to head to Marjuro and the Marshalls as this passage would entail crossing the inter tropical convergence zone,known as the I.T.C.Z.,which can be a big mess of squalls contrary winds and thunder storms that moves north and south at this latitude at this time of year,best to be avoided af at all possible...
After checking in and a short stroll in the main village where we ran into Matt and Elizabeth from Rubicon and john and Linda from Hawkeye,who had just gotten back from a motorbike tour of the island ,we headed back to the boat for our first swim in what seemed like ages....nice clean pacific waters.ahhhh...
the next day saw Rubicon and Hawkeye leaving on their way north to marjuro as the weather window was open.we stayed to relax for awhile and do our own motorbike tour the next day.as we were relaxing on the boat we noticed another yacht coming in the lagoon.it was "samba"with Ceilia and Franz aboard from Germany ad Austria respectively.
we had met them briefly in Tarawa and knew they were on their way here sometime after we left but were surprised to see them as the night before was very rainy and squally with 40 knot squalls.they said it took them 2days and 2 nights to go the 110 nm with contrary winds and big sloppy seas.....oh well ya take what ya gets...
so we were very happy for the company at anchor here.
we rented a motorbike from a local woman here and took a ride around the atoll.i was keen to ride the motorbike after being jazzed by the movie i saw in Tarawa"Hellride" and fantasized about myself as a tough biker
with a hot babe on the back of my ride...yea right Stevo said May...lol anyway,we rode though many villages saying "maury"to all we passed along the way.lovely,little clean villages with native houses.everyone seemed very happy.
We went all the way to (both) ends of the one road.we had a beach picnic and then on the way back were invited to come visit with a local village.we got off our bike and where welcomed into a fale with men playing cards
and women working in the cooking shed and lots of kids milling around checking us out.We met
the local catholic priest named Fr. Benemanken.he spoke very good English and asked us some questions about our travels and answered some of our questions about the local culture.we had the local coconut toddy some rice ,taro,tea and fish.everyone seemed impressed that may ate 4 fish...
It was a very nice visit on our way back we were shown a local " tobacco shrine"where you make a prayer and leave a cigarette may left a cigarette but we had our suspicions our guide might have smoked our offering...
we returned to the main village,brought back the bike and went back to the boat for a well deserved swim...ahhh....another day in paradise!
the more time we spent on butaritari the more we liked the place and the people.we were invited to a birthday party for a one
year old little girl and were honored guests just because we were visitors.it was a big party with almost everyone from the main village center in attendance.there was food,food and more food.lots of local stuff we'd never tried before.
There are lots of dishes here in Kiribati that I'd never seen in the pacific.after eating there was a bit of dancing by a couple of local girls and then they opened it up to "disco" after moving the tables away.
all eyes were on the"hematongs"(foreigners).i was a little nervous but made a decent showing for a white guy.there is also an interesting
custom of spraying perfume on each other as well as powdering each other with baby powder.a woman walked around powdering and spraying all the guests,still have'nt figured this one out yet.i think it has to do with good luck,who knows...
after the party we "hematongs"along with berkenamen,the priest and some guests from the birthday party went over to the local kava bar where we drank copious amounts of kava and listened to the local men sing song after song
while the kavaswam in our brains...a very nice day indeed...
we also spent christmas and new year on butaritari.we had a nice dinner on christmas eve aborad "samba"franz and celia had cooked a couple of local" yardbirds"and ironie supplied stuffing corn,gravy and our famous "wackycake" for desert(recipie courtesy of "katey lee").there was a big celebration in the maneaba near the catholic church on christmas day.there were people from every village camping out in the maneaba for the whole holiday week.kind of like a Kiribati Woodstock.
the Christmas mass was held in the maneaaba instead of the church because there were so many people.I'd estimate 1000 folks all tolled.the service was good and brief after which we had lunch with the priest,and then the rest of the day was given over to
dancing and singing and celebration Kiribati style!we were honored guests for the dancing,sitting right next to the village elders and the priest.It was an amazing show that lasted
for hours(we left after hour 6 or 7).first,each village had a kind of "sing off".Each village group sang a couple of songs with
a very animated conductor leading them.after the singing there was dancing .each village taking a turn.every one was decked out in the local dancing costumes and properly perfumed and powdered.really amazing music
and dance performances.the people here get so overwhelmed by the spirit of the music/dance,sometimes they cry of faint,(which we witnessed).sometimes the women will get so excited watching the men dance they will flash their breasts!!
we witnessed this too in front of the priest no less!!The name for the flashing translated is"fire in the kitchen"....good stuff!!
Our Christmas in Kiribati will be a memorable one for sure.
new years was passed on board Ironie.Just May and I ringing in the new year together.we planed to leave the next day on the 350 mile passage to Majuro,Marshall Islands.I wish every one happy holidays and a healthy and happy new yearLots of pacific love from May and Steve on ironie!!!