05 November 2009 | Espirito Santo, Vanuatu
Having said our goodbyes to Tin Soldier and Airstream we dropped our mooring line at 5:30 the following morning and headed out the channel for Asanvari Bay on Maewo Island, about 50 miles to the east. We had heard wonderful things about this bay from other cruisers so we wanted to check it out before heading back down to Port Vila where we would check out of Vanuatu.
The trip across to Maewo- although to windward- was mostly pleasant and fairly uneventful. We opted to go to the north of Ambae Island and were therefore protected from the swell and much of the wind for most of the trip. Just as we cleared Ambae and the wind started to pick up the clew on our staysail blew out- probably due to UV damage to the threads sewn through the webbing. A bit of excitement but we got it rolled up without any drama and continued on our way.
Asanvari did not disappoint. It's a beautiful bay: emerald-green vegetation, white sand, crystal clear blue water- we could see our anchor clearly in 40 feet of water. The star of the show though is a two-tier waterfall that cascades down to a small pool, before emptying into the bay. The fresh water comes from a spring higher up on the island and so the cascade is plentiful and constant.
We anchored around 3:00 and though we were quite tired we knew it was right and proper to go ashore and pay our respects to the chief. Chief Nelson was very friendly and welcoming. We chatted for a bit while Maddie and Sophie handed out little toys and goodies to some of the children. After our visit to the village we got back in the dinghy and made the first of what would be daily excursions to the waterfall. (We've never been so clean!)
The following day Chief Nelson's son, Nixon, came by in a dugout canoe and visited with us. He later gave us a tour of the village explaining to us some of the rituals and beliefs of his people. There is an interesting dichotomy with the people of Vanuatu: thanks to the missionaries they are devout Christians who go to church regularly- but they still have very deep-rooted superstitions full of black magic and things "tabu".
We ended up staying in Asanvari for several more days, hoping for the wind to moderate or shift to allow us to get down to Port Vila. Port Vila makes for a much better wind angle- and shorter distance- to New Caledonia than leaving from Luganville on Santo.. Unfortunately we were in a period of "enhanced trade wind conditions" (yet, again!!!) and getting down to Vila would be a total bash. (Not the good party kind of bash, but rather a beat-up-the-boat-and-crew-as-the-boat-tries-to-force-her-way-into-strong-head-winds- and-big-steep-waves kind of bash.)
We continued to pull weather and it looked like there was no end in sight to the current conditions- we were apparently sitting in the middle of a "squash zone" with a huge high pressure system to our south and a low pressure to our north. We finally decided that Port Vila wasn't in the cards for us. if the weather eased up enough for us to head south we needed to use that window to make for New Caledonia, or risk being stuck in Vila waiting for another opportunity to go south. So we upped anchor and headed west, back to Espirito Santo.
It was strange coming back to Santo. When we'd been there a week before there were lots of other boats, but they seemed to have all vanished. In fact, we were getting a bit weirded out: this was the first time that in the 2 years of cruising that we'd felt so ALONE. Where was everybody? Well, of course the answer is they've moved on to Australia or the Solomon Islands or whatever. Two big rallies had left the previous week and that flushed most of them out. Also, we are fast approaching the start of hurricane season so it is time to get going. So the plan is to ready the boat and wait for the weather that will allow us to head south the New Caledonia.