Motor Sailing to Espiritu Santo
16 November 2008 | Vanuatu
A funky cross swell woke me up at around 4AM. It really wasn't that bad but I think I was sleeping light in preparation for an early start. The swell was a mix from both sides of the island coming in at right angles so we were going to get a little roll no matter what. The sun was due in an hour and the moon was still going strong so I started to get the boat ready. Hideko and Margaret came up to help and we had the anchor up before 5AM.
Craig's Cove is an easy out, just head anywhere with west in it. Once in deep water we set the main. It wasn't hard because the wind was coming from wherever we pointed the boat. The sea was glass. It seems the areas we're transiting are destined for troughs or ridges (neither with any wind) for the next few days. Hopefully there'll be some wind in the squeeze between the two. It was a nice blue sky day though, if a bit hazy in the morning. The sunrise over the smoking volcanoes of Ambrym was spectacular.
Hideko made some great smoothies with the papayas the folks in Ambrym gave us. Much reading was done. It was a hot humid, no air movement midday motor up to Santo. We couldn't see the island all morning even though it has the 4 highest peaks in Vanuatu. As we got closer we began to make out a monstrous cloud bank over the island. It made the approach fairly ominous. We had rolled up the jib to keep it from flapping about and in the face of the conditions ahead we reefed the main down as a precaution.
Coming in the clouds broke up and we didn't even see any rain (which would have been welcome!). The approach to Santo is as easy as you make it. If you come in the main channel heading west (more or less) it is very straight forward in the day. There are several recommendations for anchorage available. We selected the one popular with the Port Vila yachts in the know to the west of the river. You have to be careful on the approach to this are as the patch built up by the out flowing river to the west of the mouth is large and shallow. The water is also standard river, opaque brown so reading things is difficult at best.
There was a local yacht anchored bow and stern right off of the little sandy point lined with casuarinas. I assumed this was the best spot (the local yachts always get the best spots). We prodded around with the bow to the east of the yacht, south of a little tree growing in the middle of the water and west of a mangled object that is either the small above water remains of a wreck, or a south cardinal mark. The bottom here went from 30 feet to 6 in no time. I backed out of the area and we tried the other side of the yacht.
The only other boat in the anchorage was a fishing/transport sort of thing. He at least was on a single bow anchor. We split the difference between the yacht and the fishing boat, biasing toward the fishing boat who would swing like us. The anchor went down in about 40 feet and we backed down with 200 feet of chain to about 30 feet. I wasn't comfortable putting out any more because we were very close to the area I imagined shoaled up. We tested all around the boat with the lead line and everything looked to have more than 20 feet (the length of the line). I could see little kids playing knee high in the water and it looked the same color as the water around the boat. So I think I might check the swinging area port and starboard a bit with the dink!
So we are here in Luganville Vanuatu! The big American base for the Solomon Islands offensive in WWII. We are excited to explore the town tomorrow and we also hop to dive on the USS Coolidge (a troop ship that was formerly an ocean liner, sunk in the bay by friendly mines). We will also try to fuel up and clear out tomorrow. A tall order. From here we hop islands north for two days and then do a two day passage to the Solomon Islands, Port Mary in San Cristobal. From there it is a three day set of hops to Honiara on Guadal Canal where Margaret will fly home.
It is late in the season and we are generally the only cruising yacht in the anchorages now. Hopefully we'll catch up with some kindred spirits in Honiara or Gizo. We are not happy that we are still at 15 south in mid November but the long range forecasts are still good and we only have a week to go before we're in Honiara. A couple days after that we'll be north of 8S.
In the mean time we're smelling the roses and loving Vanuatu!