Arriving in the small village of Anelgoahat., Aneityum* offered us an immediate immersion in Vanuatan culture and village life. Usually we enter countries through larger towns and then search out the more remote places to explore. The small village of Anelgoahat was a mix of traditional thatch buildings, and the more sturdy 'hurricane ' style buildings we have seen across the Pacific. The islands Senior High School is situated here, and all the yachties were invited in for their fundraiser- a sporting day to mark the end of classes for the term. The villagers here are accustomed to tourists, as a large Australian cruise ship stops here on a regular basis. On these days, the typically white pristine beaches of Mystery Island become a sea of color, as 2000 (yes- 2000!) people off load onto the tiny island to enjoy the tropical beach and reefs. The villagers make money by taking their trinkets across and selling them to the tourists. (*Anatom is the French name- the islanders themselves call it Aneityum)
The sports day was highly entertaining as we watch teenagers sprinting around the 'track' bare footed in hot pursuit of each other. Having watched my own children in track and field events, I enjoyed the subtle contrast and similarities with interest. The track was a rough dirt trail which outlined a large field, which was more or less flat. On the second turn, which they ran counter clockwise, the track went around some huge Mango trees, up the hill and then along the main village path. There was no preparation to the track, and the children raced across what ever happened to be there, their feet registering no concern! No fancy track shoes for this crowd. Man were they fast! They were competing for qualification to attend the upcoming Pacific Games in Thailand later this year. According to a friendly villager with good command of English, any one placing first in their event was entitled to compete in Thailand! We forgot to ask how they would afford the trip. Racing around the track, some had incredible racing insight, waiting to kick at the end to pass the leader. Many kids leading made the tactical error of looking back to find their opponents, loosing valuable seconds, and sometimes coming in second as a result! We have some great shots of the beach front track action, but will have to wait for an internet connection to post. We did see some cell phones flashed about, but the police/double as quarantine official admitted that signal strength was very poor.
By the second day of post passage recovery, we had dried out our lockers and were ready to set off. There were seven boats already in the bay by that time, and although we were invited to a yachtie pot luck that night, we chose instead to go around the backside of the island to explore a small anchorage there. The island was a stunning backdrop to our sail as we made our way around to the north side. We actually went in search of time in the water with sea turtles, as the area is toted as a marine sanctuary. The water was very murky, with heavy sediment from slips above the small village, possibly as the result of attempts at forestiy. So no jumping in the water here., but as we entered through the reef system, villagers came down to the beach, with a gaggle of children pouring down shouting and whistling their excitement. It became obvious that we were meant to have our first 'real' experience of village life in Vanuatu! In seconds of dropping the hook, four young men paddled out in their outrigger canoes to greet us and invite us to the village.
We again struck it lucky as the primary school in the village was having their session closing events. Many of the boys were dressed in traditional wraps of leaves and colorful head dresses, with face paint. It was open house, and the teacher gave a summary to the parents and then invited them into the classroom to see their children's work and report cards! A peek around the small classroom showed a strong emphasis on hygiene and health. How to keep your eyes healthy, washing hands before you eat, that kind of thing. The teachers presentation to the parents was lengthy, during which time we watched as preening went on amongst the audience. Adults running their hands through children's hair, and even kids plucking lice out of their neighbour's hair. Some even had a partner in the attack, passing on the tiny critter for it's ultimate destruction between the teeth of their assistant. This is just part of life here, and was as natural to the villagers as picking up a ringing cellphone is to a North American. ( note to other cruisers- a nit picking tool would likely be a very nice gift or trade item to bring along!)
Outside the classroom we had lots of fun sharing our camera with the kids, who were very shy in taking photos with our camera. We like to pass our camera to kids, as they often become more spontaneous and relaxed as a result. We were the first boat here in over a year, and it was very obvious that the kids did not have much experience with tourists of any sort. We enjoyed watching the typical social dynamics, with the young men hanging out by the beach, working the dug out canoes to greet us, setting up their fishing nets and listening to their music played through a boombox! Most of the adults were attending the school function. The preteen boys hung in a loose circle under a tree, a comfortable distance from the smaller kids who all sat on a mat near the teacher. The village has only 100 people living there, and by our estimation about 1/3 were children!
We spent most of our time with Noti, who presented us with a large basket, probably about 15 kilos of freshly picked mandarin oranges, to which we offered in exchange some good quality rope, and other small items. The village had a DVD player and we made a copy of Nemo for the children to watch, and supplied the school with a box set of Planet Earth. They were pretty happy with the exchange. We also took group photos of the school kids and made copies for their teacher.
We are now on our way to the island of Tanna, to see the live volcano of Mt. Yasur!
Any one want an orange?
05/06/2012, new zealand to Vanuatu
As we approached the island of Anatom visibility was poor as a huge dark rain cloud hung between us and our destination. We hoped we would get a good drenching, but were only blessed by a light shower. Paikea Mist is a salt encrusted mess, and would have been one thirsty boat!
We sailed right to the reef we are now parked behind, hardly using a sip of diesel the entire trip! Paikea Mist suffered a torn lifesling fastener, but otherwise is is A1 shape.
What a gorgeous landfall, possibly the most beautiful one we have ever made. Arriving at low tide the locals were out on the reef collecting shellfish, and whistled and hollered to us as we arrived. There are two other boats at the anchorage here. To our starboard stretches the sandy beaches of Mystery Island with it's outlying reef and stunning water visibility. The water is blissfully calm, the beers are open, and we will wait for customs, who apparently will paddle out to clear us into Vanuatu! YAHOO!
Love to everyone following us with their moral support and emails! Thanks a bunch! Gloria and Michael
Miles to Vanuatu: 0 SOG: 0 (true wind speed 15 knots from 17 T)
05/06/2012, new zealand to Vanuatu
We continue to move along in winds that are slowly turning more northerly as we approach the island of Anatom, now 63 miles away. We've managed to keep it on the beam almost the entire trip, and the wind is now coming ahead of us, at about 50 degrees apparent. Our track from NZ to Vanuatu looks like a long archer's bow, not yet pulled back. Seas are moderating a bit, but is still throwing us plenty of punches.
Paikea Mist was covered with water most of the day yesterday, and of course we are finding small ingresses of water here and there. Before I left I used a light coat of vasoline on all of the rubber hatch fittings- as we had noticed they weren't completely water tight in heavy seas. This seems to have really helped.
The weather gods have graced us with a fast passage, which we are very happy about. Smoother rides, yeah we've had those, just not between New Zealand and the islands! We expect to arrive in Aneteiym by around noon today. We left the Opua dock May 2 at 10 am and were sailing out to Nine Pin Rock shortly there after. If all goes smoothly from here, that's five days and change, so no complaints on our side.
We feel for those still in Opua ready to go but waiting out those strong northerlies. Looks like they hang around for a while. We are also thinking of slower boats who left the day before us in the ICA rally, who will surely be caught in the northerlies that we managed to race ahead of. We've been in those shoes last year, so we really feel for you right now! There's just nothing fun about wind coming from where you want to go.
The weather has been overcast the last four days, just a high cloud cover generally. With the waxing moon shining through the cloud cover or shining its face out brightly between clouds,the night passages have been fantastic. This morning as I poked my head out at 3:30 it was like dusk-or is that dawn- all night long. That's great as we haven't had to use our radar for night vision, except for one squally patch. With the auto pilot working hard in this tangled sea any energy consumption equals less time we need to run the generator, which we are running twice daily at the moment to keep up!
The last 24 hours have been wet and bumpy! Winds continue to be strong, averaging around 25-32 knots. Just after dinner we experienced a squall of sustained winds in the high 30's. Unfortunately that sent our leftover chicken enchiladas to the floor!
Our sail plan has been great, we continue to use the third reef on the main and adjust the genoa. Usually in. When we were in Napier we met Tom and Vicky on SV Sunstone. These two have sailed every ocean on the planet, over 180,000 miles. As they were doing the round NZ race at the time we had quite a lively discussion about storm management. They gave us some tips, one of which has made our third reef much easier to put in, and the sail shape seems much better as a result. Great timing! Thankfully, we put the third reef in early, knowing we would see more wind.
We turned the 'corner' and headed more or less on the rhumbline (still a little high) to Vanuatu yesterday afternoon. Winds are still on our beam, so obviously our decision to go north has helped us. Just about 240 miles to go! Spoken too soon, now coming from ahead of the beam- time to adjust the sails!
Shortly after I wrote the last update I was treated to the most beautiful display of rainbows across the western sky. Despite there being only ocean and sky out here, it is truly amazing how the combination can change just enough to make an impression.
The last 24 hours have been a fast and wet ride. We've been averaging about 8.5 knots (speed over ground- that's with almost a knot of current against us!) Paikea Mist actually managed to stay completely dry for the first full day and a half. I remember watching the first wavelet grace her deck, a hint of more to come, as wind and waves turned more to the east. Water is now regularly washing over her decks and sometimes finding its way into the cockpit. Water in the cockpit is always a big yuck, especially if you manage to get drenched by it as Michael did on his midnight shift. He changed into shorts, it's getting warm here folks!
The conditions are lively, with 2-3 meter "swells" every 4-7 seconds. That's right folks, there's nothing too swell about that! All said though, Paikea Mist is riding them very well, and we kept our course due north all day with winds 20-30 knots on the beam. We plan to head back to Vanuatu later today as the winds come round.
Our spirits are high, we've passed the half way mark (467 nm) as of midnight last night AND we are celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary today.
Love, Gloria and Michael
Miles to Vanuatu: 427 SOG:8.9 (true wind speed 26 knots from 88T) Sail plan: third reef, genoa in and out depending on wind strength.
05/03/2012, New Zealand
Does anyone know a massage therapist who does boat visits on the high seas? In the last 24 hours, Paikea Mist and her crew flew along in winds anywhere from 12-22 with one sustained gust of 28 T. Although she's in her groove her crew is still finding sleep when we can and working on our serious sea legs again.
The day was overcast, but with lots of seabirds to enjoy, including one albatross who stayed with us for miles. They are such a large bird, yet very difficult to capture on film, as they zoom by the boat with incredible speed and agility, while the boat has it's own movement to deal with.
We were a pretty busy crew yesterday with sail changes, starting out with the Code Zero and finishing the day with the main double reefed and the genoa furled in.
We've pulled down the recent gribs which show the low developing south west of us. This will bring more northerly winds to us eventually, so we have steered a course due north (wasn't that where we were trying to head last year Martin?) to put some 'in the bank' as the saying goes. The idea is that once the wind turns more north we can turn west on it to head directly to Vanuatu. For the moment our barometer is steady at 1025.
Skies are clear today, and I started my 4 am shift with a shooting star. But no massage therapist in sight! therapist in sight!
miles made good: 175...