17/11/2015, Tin Can Bay anchorage
We really enjoyed our time at the Bundaberg Port Marina. The importation of PANNIKIN went smoothly & was completed in a week. Customs & Quarantine were quick to respond to paperwork & nothing was a hassle. The marina has a restaurant, take away shop & a lovely gift shop. There is also a large seafood co-op next door selling fresh seafood & the local spanner crab. The marina supplies a mini bus into Bundaberg twice a day during the week. Staff were very friendly too!
It was great to have a meal with & catch up with our friends too. Garry & Kerry on TAKE TWO arrived the day after us & kindly lent us their car so we could explore the area. Dave & Rose on AUSSIE RULES arrived as well. It was good to see them...we hadn't seen them since Mexico.
Once we were cleared to leave the marina we headed south to the Great Sandy Strait...a protected waterway that runs between Fraser Island & the east coat of Australia. We spent four days floating down the Strait, fishing & generally having a lazy time. We had a walk through the Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser, which is really lovely & spent most of that afternoon watching a dugong swim around the anchorage.
We are currently anchored in Tin Can Bay waiting for a weather window to head to Mooloolaba. We had a walk through town yesterday, did some groceries & spent the rest of the afternoon fishing off the back of PANNIKIN. Only caught a shovel nosed shark! Our fishing competition is going well...Steve has caught a few more fish that Ange & is ahead in the species count... 4 to 3!!
It's great to be able to ring family & friends whenever we want. Seeing as though we are on PANNIKIN until the end of January our little journey hasn't quite finished yet!
07/11/2015, Bundaberg Port Marina
We picked up anchor at 7am on Tuesday 27th after being farewelled by the anchorage dugong. He swam right past the back of the boat & lingered on the surface for a few breaths. Amazing! Our passage to Australia didn't start off terribly well! We were 8 hours out on our first day when we heard a thump and then a twang! It sounded as though something fell from the mast & bounced off the life lines. After a good search around we discovered the port side D2 shroud had snapped. After 20 minutes of deliberation & tossing around our options we decided to turn around & head back to Luganville. It was a slow old sail unable to tack....it was a very late night. Up early the next morning to winch Steve up the mast to remove the snapped shroud & replace with the OK starboard side one. Then into the local hardware to get some stainless steel wire to jury rig the broken one. Back up the mast to attach & then tighten the rig. Dinghy & motor back on deck and we headed off again at 8am.
Our passage across was varied... Wednesday was very rough with 25-30 knots of wind & lumpy seas. Thursday through to Friday afternoon was lovely with 12-15 knot of wind & calm seas. Beautiful sailing under a near full moon. Friday night, Saturday & to Sunday lunch time was high winds again & uncomfortable swell. We managed to break our 24 hour record... we did 175 nautical miles from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday. The wind dropped again on Sunday afternoon & by 2am Monday we had a spinnaker flying. It did a good job of keeping us moving until Tuesday afternoon the wind dropped completely & we had to motor for a couple of hours. Early Wednesday morning treated us to more wind as we approached Bundaberg. We dropped anchor outside the Bundaberg Port Marina at 5.30am & had a well earned sleep while we waited for Quarantine & Australian Border Force to begin work at 9am.
After being directed onto the Quarantine dock we were inspected by Customs & also Quarantine. Aimee from Quarantine was very thorough, but we had no problems with anything which was a relief. We now had to start our paperwork to import PANNIKIN into Australia. Customs will not let us leave the marina until we have the paperwork started & we pay our import fee/GST. We needed a valuation of the boat & then our broker will organise the paperwork. We hope to have all this organised and completed by mid next week.
The last couple of days have been spent ducking into Bundaberg to get bits & pieces, Aussie sim cards for our phones and a general look around. It has been wonderful to get phone calls & emails from all our friends & family. It's nice just being able to pick up the phone & talk to someone whenever we want. Internet is so fast too!!!
Exercise is high on the list too!! Lots of walking and bike riding while we are at the marina. It is close to the small village of Burnett Heads - which is really lovely. A walk along the river early each morning has been great.
We are enjoying being back in Australia!
25/10/2015, Beachfront Resort anchorage, Luganville
Last Sunday & Monday we spent at an anchorage off Ratua Private Island Resort. The water was crystal clear & there was heaps of turtles...some very big. Steve had a great snorkel on the reef in front of the resort & saw heaps of fish. It was nice to get away from town for a while.
Tuesday morning back at Luganville we were greeted by a dugong swimming around the anchorage! He was in no hurry & was there for a least an hour. Ange's mum Lesley & nephews Samuel and James arrived late that afternoon - great to see them after so long. There was lots of catching up to do!
Wednesday was a day of exploring Luganville for Ange, Lesley & the boys while Steve stayed behind & tackled a few boat jobs. The town explorers were just about to enter the Visitors Information Centre when the earth started to shake...then it got really bad...we had to hold onto each other & a couple of locals to keep standing! Lots of people ran out into the middle of the street & even some ladies were screaming. After our initial fright, then understanding what was going on, it was a pretty awesome experience...about 20 seconds worth. Nothing was damaged but all the stock on shop shelves was thrown to the floor. Reports later said that it was a 7.3 earthquake...pretty big! We continued our shopping after that, checking out the local fruit & vege market and a couple of little handicraft stores.
Thursday morning Steve snorkelled with the dugong for about 15 minutes! We said goodbye to Geri & Richard on PANTHERA - they were heading to Brisbane that afternoon. We all piled onto PANNIKIN & headed north to a lovely anchorage near Oyster Island Resort. We visited the beautiful blue holes of Matevulu and Ri Ri, did some great snorkelling and swimming and then happy hour at the resort. Back to Luganville then on Friday afternoon. Samuel & James both had a turn on the helm!
Saturday we hired a car to take us to the north of the island. After taking a couple of wrong turns & driving on a really bad road we finally found the correct one & our trip was much smoother. First stop was gorgeous Champagne Beach. The water was so clear & beautifully blue and the sand was powder soft. We all had a swim & the boys a snorkel as well. Then onto Port Olry where we were spoilt - lobster lunch! This is a really beautiful spot as well. It would be nice to spend a week up there staying in the little bungalows & swimming in the blue, blue water. Finally to end the day we snorkelled at Million Dollar Point where the US Army sank a ton of jeeps, earthmovers & other equipment at the end of WW2. All just off the beach - great!
Today Steve did two dives on the SS President Coolidge - an ocean liner converted to a troop ship which hit one of the USAs own mines & was sunk off the beach. It is one of the world's most accessible wreck dives & not to be missed. The rest of us went to Santo Fire Walks & Cultural Village where we had a top time. Lots of singing & dancing, fire walking, basket & mat weaving - topped off with a traditional meal of taro and coconut chicken & spinach leaves all baked in a ground oven. We had a ball & the chief and his villagers were really lovely.
Sadly, our visitors head home tomorrow. We will check out of Vanuatu & start our journey to Australia on Tuesday. After nearly 3 years we are almost home! Look out Bundaberg...here we come!!
15/10/2015, BeachFront Resort anchorage, Luganville
We've had no internet service since leaving Port Vila... so there is a bit to catch up on!!
We enjoyed our last few days in Port Vila...especially the weekend with the AFL Grand Final, the Wallabies vs England rugby match & the Rugby League Grand Final capping it all off on Sunday night. Steve watched all three, while Ange gave the NRL game a miss & spent some time reading.
Monday we spent provisioning for our trip north through the Vanuatu islands & Tuesday morning we did a load of washing & grabbed some fruit & vege at the market before picking up anchor heading out of Vila & up to Havannah Harbour at the north of Efate. Apparently during WW2 the US navy was stationed here - a lovely big harbour/bay area with calm water. We anchored in Esema Bay around 4pm & had a quiet night on board with the exception of catching up with an Aussie couple from Lake Macquarie who popped over to say Hi. They have been sailing here to Vanuatu for the past 12 years & spend each season helping out villages with various projects.
Wednesday morning we were up at 5am & heading out of the bay for a 60 mile sail north to the island of Epi. It was along day with winds of up to 40kts & waves 4 to 5 metres pushing PANNIKIN around for all of our journey. Water was constantly over the bow making it a wet trip as well. When we finally arrived at Lamen Bay on the north west point Epi we were exhausted. A quick beer & dinner then a good night's rest. Although we didn't go ashore here it looked lovely with a couple of villages & a small airstrip. Apparently there is also a 'yacht club' here with a small restaurant. We also didn't see the resident dugong either!
Thursday we were off again at 8am to sail northwest across to Uliveo in the Maskelyne Islands. PANTHERA & NICHA had been in contact to say they had organised to see a 'small nambas' dance in the village of Lokienuen, so we decided to join them. Again it was uncomfortable sail with the wind coming from on the beam pushing us around & spray coming into the cockpit. We arrived in time for lunch then a trip onshore. The small nambas dance was great...this time men only...painted with yellow clay from the bay & 5 musicans accompanying them. We got great photos, had a chat with them & then were treated to beautiful drinking coconuts at Stanley's (our yachtie liason) hut & a wander through the village afterwards. All the kids were so cute, running out to say hello & pose for the camera. They certainly aren't shy. Richard & Geri came over for drinks that afternoon & for a catch up.
Friday another early start at 5.30am to head across to Ambrym, the island of black magic & volcanoes, and also the home of the famous ROM dance. We all anchored in Ranon Bay in between the villages of Ranon & Ranvetlam & while Steve & I opted to catch up on some sleep, the other 2 boats went ashore to meet the villagers, have a look around & hopefully organise a dance viewing. Bad news.... the villagers wanted 41,500 vatu (approx $550 Aussie) for us to see a Rom dance - don't think so!!! We tried to organise a cheaper price with the village yachtie liason, but were treated with a resounding NO from the village council later that evening. Obviously they weren't hurting for a dollar (or vatu) here so we gave it a miss. The next morning PANTHERA & NICHA headed onshore & into the wilderness with a local villager to check out his garden (vegetable plot) & arrived back some hours later full of smiles after enjoying their trek. We picked up anchor after lunch & headed the 12 odd miles across Selwyn straight to the island of Pentecost. We anchored in Homo Bay near the village of Behomo, while PANTHERA & NICHA went around the point to Wali Bay for the night. We were greeted by Shane, the village chief, who paddled out in is dugout canoe to welcome us & offer us any fruit & vegetables we wanted. After organising a visit to the land diving tower the next morning he disappeared to arrive back just on dark with a bunch of bananas & some lemons for us. He then disappeared again!
Sunday morning after the other 2 boats came down & joined us we rowed ashore & walked up to the village. Shane showed us through his village, Behomo, then we walked to Panngi where the land diving tower is. Pentecost is lush & mountainous, but is better know for its "Naghol" (land diving) which is one of the most spectacular & impressive rituals in the whole of the Pacific. It only takes place in southern Pentecost from April - June when the yams are right for picking....this custom ensures a good crop of yams for the following year. In Panngi we met Shane's brother, Allan, who is the tower designer & builder and is also responsible for cutting the vines to the correct length which the divers use around their ankles in the jump. We had a great hour or so there, even though it was pouring with rain, being entertained by Allans son, Willie, and taking photos in front of the tower & climbing up the first metre or so. The tower is usually around 35 metres. Willie had some great footage of the previous years land diving on his phone, so we all copied it to our computers later on. They didn't land dive this year as it was too close after Cyclone Pam. After lunch on board the boats we met up again with Shane & walked through beautiful farming land, cattle grazing and coconut palm groves to his taro water gardens where we were going to catch some fresh water shrimp for dinner. Unfortunately because of all the rain we were unable to drain the water garden, so no shrimp for us. We did have a great couple of hours though exploring & spending some time sitting in a small hut built around the roots of a gigantic banyan tree warming ourselves by a fire lit by Allan. They built this hut as an extra attraction for the cruise ship guests that visit every year to experience the land diving. They also offered tours to the water gardens & the lovely waterfall about 20km away. They certainly are making a dollar by allowing tourists to view the land diving - they charge 10,000 vatu (around $135 Aussie) per person to watch, as well as charging for other land tours. Not that you would know it.... they are all still living very traditionally except for western clothing & a mobile phone each. There is still no electricity, but they do have a generator they use now & then. Homes are still bamboo woven huts & the main transport is walking.
Monday we headed north along the west coast of Pentecost to Waterfall Bay. We had 2 guests for this sail, Shane & his youngest son Nelson. They wished to get to Waterfall Bay as Shane's wife was there, visiting her mother. Shane had a great time aboard, helming for some time & pointing out various land marks & other villages along they way. We were greeted by our village guide, Jessie, at Waterfall Bay & we then walked through the village of Ranmawat to a gorgeous waterfall where most of us swam and we all took about 1000 pictures! NICHA then headed off to the island of Ambae while us and Richard & Geri from PANTHERA decided to stay for a walk to the village of Ranwadi to the local bakery to buy some bread. No bread was available however as flour stocks were low due to the supply ship not arriving that week - the winds blowing for the past 10 days had stopped most ferries & ships running. Ranwadi village is the home to a large college of some 300 students & feeding them was the bakery's main priority! Totally understanding we said farewell to Jessie & headed back to the boats. Although Waterfall Bay had beautiful clear water & lovely villages it was a very uncomfortable & rolly anchorage so we picked up again & headed another 10 miles north to Loltong Bay. This ended up being a lovely protected bay surrounded by reef & the home of 2 dugong! Once we were anchored Steve & Richard rowed ashore & met Mathew, the village yachtie liason, to introduce themselves & get permission to stay. As the sun went down we saw a dugong surfacing right near the boat & some great drumming coming from onshore!
Tuesday morning we went ashore to meet Mathew who was taking us on a walk through the villages. We found out the drumming the previous evening & early that morning was in recognition & remembrance of a village chief who had died recently. They drum morning & night for 100 days after his death. They also prepare the evening meal for the whole village in the namakel (men's hut) for the same amount of time, then each family goes back to preparing their own meals. It took us about 3 hours to wander around, meeting lots of folk & looking at the progress the villages are making in readiness to install a hydro electric generator to provide them all with electricity. Back to the boats then for lunch (Steve's homemade bread) as again here they are short on flour due to no supply ship. We went into Vatulo yacht club for an early dinner that afternoon cooked by Mathew's wife, Mary. It was at least 8 courses of local, traditional food.... local nuts, taro, sweet potato, choko, manioc in pumpkin leaves, coconut dishes, banana dishes, chicken stew & finally a fruit salad made with pamplemousse, paw paw & other fruits. Absolutely delicious & we couldn't move afterwards! Back to the boats then to listen to more drumming & hopefully more dugong spotting!
Wednesday morning after being woken by the drumming & then heading ashore we were approached by the local youth group leader in regards to our departure from Loltong Bay. Apparently there was a Futsal football competition taking place in Luganville, Santo & the local team had won a place to compete in the finals. The only problem was getting the team to Santo. Because the ferries were not running the boys were going to miss out in competing. Would we consider taking them across?? The four of us sat down & decided if it would be a major crisis if we didn't head to Malakula island as planned & went to Luganville earlier? After looking at the weather for crossing to Santo & then the bigger weather window for our trip back to Australia we decided we would help them out. The youth group even offered cash to us as they were desperate to get the team there - we didn't want it of course. We just wanted to help out. It was agreed that the boys would be on the boats by 6.30am Thursday morning & we would sail them across to Santo. The rest of the day was spent doing odd jobs on the boat & a game of dominoes, where Geri was the winner, as it was pouring. We also managed to spot the dugong again, surfacing twice in between the two boats. Steve & Richard did go ashore later in the afternoon to watch the drumming & were invited into the namakel for a cup of kava & a chat with the men.
Up early yesterday morning to get ready for our passengers. We had 7 guys on each boat & a few bags etc. In appreciation they gave us lots of pamplemousse & a boiled chicken wrapped in taro leaves presented in a locally woven bag!! More about the chicken later.... Everyone was pretty excited, it was the first time on a yacht for any of them. That stopped about an hour later as a few started feel pretty seasick. We had two boys very sick who lay down against the rails & didn't move for the whole trip - except when they were throwing up! We put life jackets on them & tethered them to boat so they were safe. They rest of the guys sat up on deck or slept most of the time. We were pretty lucky with the weather...the wind had decreased a little over night & the waves weren't quiet as big so it wasa pretty comfortable crossing. Lunch time came around & we were happy to share our gift of chicken with everyone on board. Tough little devil...must have spent a lot of time running around the village! Couldn't even cut it with a knife! We arrived into Luganville with a couple of guys very happy to get off the boat - they had been so sick. We will make the effort to go & watch one or 2 of their games. After it stopped pouring (again) we took them to shore & said our farewells. They were extremely grateful & we were happy to have helped them out. We continued onto the bar at the Beachfront Resort for a couple of drinks & a chat about our adventure that day. It was definitely something to remember.
Today we will check out Luganville, grab some supplies, top up the internet & decide what to do from here. Ange's mum & nephews arrive on Tuesday....getting excited to see them.
02/10/2015, Port Vila, Efate
We only had a short 2 night stay in Lenakel. The anchorage was very uncomfortable & the town itself wasn't all that exciting, but we did manage to find some lovely fresh bread & buy a couple of the local beers, Tusker!. Saturday we headed back around to the east coast to Port Resolution (named by Captain Cook for his ship). This is a really lovely, calm anchorage with plenty of locals paddling by in their dugout canoes saying hello. We went ashore with PANTHERA & NICHA to have a wander through 2 of the villages tucked into the corner of the bay. They have been working hard at getting housing back up after after Cyclone Pam, but crops & banana plantations etc still have a long way to go. Also the pipeline that delivers fresh spring water from about 4km away has stopped working so they haven't had easy access to water for nearly 7 months. The villagers were extremely friendly & very welcoming to us. We made a booking for lunch the next day at Avoca Restaurant in the village of Ireupuow - run by the lovely Serah. It's nice to think we can help them out in some way. We walked for about 3 hours that afternoon...the children always running out to say hello & pull cheeky poses when we took photos of them.
Sunday morning was spent doing some jobs on the boat. Ange has started cleaning out cupboards, wiping them clean & tidying up, in preparation for our entrance into Australia. Our lunch at Avoca was basic, but very delicious. Each of us was served an omelette, rice, baked sweet potato, carrot & choko salad and a grated salad of raw vegetables, ginger & a vinegar dressing. All topped off with dessert consisting of small, sweet pancakes & a cup of famous Tanna coffee. Everything apart from the rice & flour was provided by her garden & chickens!! We visited the small community store where the village sells woven baskets, bags & a few trinkets to visiting tourists. Geri & Annabelle couldn't resist the bags, so again we were helping out the village!! Sunday afternoon we went back on shore to give the 2 villages & the local school small donations of staple foods, clothes & water containers from the three boats. We hope that this can help them in some small way. We were then bundled in to the back of the only car in the village - a 4WD owned by a lovely gentleman named Werry. Our yachtie liaison & guide, Stanley, was lucky enough to grab the other front seat. There are no roads on this side of the island only very rough 4WD tracks which certainly gave everyone's kidneys a bashing along the 50 minute journey to the entrance to the Yasur volcano. After parking the car at the base of the volcano we had about a 20 minute walk up to the crater. There were plenty of people already there & Stanley led us around the rim to the perfect viewing location. The volcano erupts every 5 - 10 minutes throwing molten rock way up into the air. The clouds of sulphur that followed were overwhelming, burning your eyes, nostrils & throat. It was very windy so ash & dust was being blown into your face as well. We had sore eyes for a day or two after. As darkness fell the colours were just amazing...so red & hot!! Some of the eruptions were so huge & noisy you took a step backwards & said OMG!!! After about an hour & a half we headed back down to the 4WD & made our bumpy way home. Once back on the boat, a shower was bliss!!!
Monday morning we were back into the 4WD & ferried to the 'Kustom' village of Etapu where they still live a more traditional way of life. Our arrival was greeted by hidden beating drums, asking the villagers to return from their crops, & perform for us. We were treated to 3 lovely dances with the men wearing traditional nambas (penis sheath) & the ladies wearing grass skirts & lovely face paint. Our friend Richard had been looking forward to donning a nambas & the chief, Jack, got him organised. Richard looked great & the villagers then did other dance inviting him to join them. Plenty of laughs from us & some great pictures as well! It was a really great morning & we felt very lucky to see other remote village & it's lovely people. As the 4WD had dropped us off that morning & continued onto the markets at Lenakel we had a 2 hour or so walk back to Port Resolution. It was great to get some more exercise with the girls power walking & leaving the guys for dust!!!
Tuesday we headed off around 11am for Port Vila on the island of Efate. We had a shocker of a passage with very little wind as night fell & we spent 8 hours with flapping sails & an uncomfortable roll as we managed only to do between 2- 4 knots. Early Wednesday morning we set the spinnaker again & were able to make better progress. We were very happy to sail into the bay at Port Vila around midday! We cooked up some great BLT wraps, had a beer & went to sleep for a couple of hours. Then a quiet night for us on board the boat.
Thursday we spent exploring Port Vila. We had a great lunch at the town markets which are open 24 hours a day. The steak was to die for!! We also found a butchers & a great supermarket for stocking up before we leave for the northern islands.
Yesterday was a morning of retail therapy for Ange while Steve helped Richard repair the windlass on PANTHERA. Again it was back to the markets for lunch - at a different stall this time - still great food! Last night we caught a bus to the Beach Bar near Hideaway Island Resort. After Happy Hour we were treated to an hour of 'fire dancing.' It wasn't quiet what we expected.... locals dressed up in jeans performing to modern, western music... we were hoping for traditional singing and costumes...but it still was very good & performed by some truly talented locals from the village of Mele near Port Vila.
More boat cleaning this morning & then we will pop ashore to watch the AFL Grand Final & partake in a few beverages!!
25/09/2015, Lenakel, Tanna
We finally made it out of Vuda Marina after a frustrating time getting the parts from New Zealand. In short we were on the hard stand for a week instead of the two days planned which didn't allow us enough time to go north to the Yasawa islands before heading to Vanuatu. This was a bit of a disapointment as we were looking forward to swimming with the manta rays and going to the Blue Lagoon. It ended up that our parts were never actually ordered...the Volvo Penta agent in NZ completely missed our order & the incompetence of the Fijian mob at Vuda Marina regarding communication was so frustrating. On brighter side we did go out to Malolo Lailai Island to Musket Cove Resort & Marina were the annual regatta was in it's last two days. Steve was invited on MATELOT for the race around the island which was great fun & Ange had a lovely morning at the resort day spa. We also went out to the famous surf spot Cloudbreak to find a nice 3-4ft wave breaking with no wind. After watching for a while all the surfers started to leave so we anchored up and Steve paddled out to find he had the place to himself for half an hour. One or two boats from the nearby island resorts turned upwith surfers but there were plenty of waves to go around.
On Sunday we made our way to Lautoka were we checked out the next day and set sail for Vanuatu. A passage of around 500nm. The first couple of days was spent in bumpy conditions with15-20kts on the beam. The good thing was we were making good speed with PANNIKIN averaging 7kts but this did not last and the wind slowly backed and abated allowing us to set the spinnaker for 24hrs. Unfortunately the wind continued to die and we had to motor the last 14 hours into Lenakel on the island of Tanna on Thursday evening. We dropped the anchor and were rewarded with a spectacular sunset with a relaxing beer.