Vanuatu: Efate, Malekula and Espirito Santo

At 10.30 on Sunday morning (18 August) we left our mooring ball in Port Vila and headed out through the harbour to head north towards Malekula. The winds were very light at only six knots so we motor sailed for a while until around 15.00 when the wind filled in behind us so we went wing on wing making good speed at 6+ knots. We also saw two whales in the distance as we watched the vapour from their blow holes but sadly they didn’t come any closer.

At 21.00 the wind moved forward and we were on a beam reach having a great sail under a nice moon. There was a lot of boat traffic around which surprised us – we were also accompanied by another three yachts who had left Port Vila. By 03.00 on Monday morning the wind eased so we motor sailed again. At 12.25 we had anchor down in Port Stanley, Malekula opposite the village of Litslits. We got ourselves cleaned up and chilled for a while having completed the 132 mile passage.

At 2pm we realised that we were dragging. Damn! The anchorage is listed as average holding and the bottom was very rubbly. So we picked up and got set again. By this time the tide had fallen exposing the coral / rocky seabed near the beach, which isn’t great for landing the dinghy. So we decided to have a quiet night on board, enjoying our first sunset in Malekula.

Tuesday morning we were up early and headed ashore just after high tide. We were met by numerous children on the beach who decided to help us bring the dinghy up the beach – lots of little hands and laughing faces.

We entrusted dink to their care and walked to the main road, got a truck ride into town (which is a form of public transport and I was lucky enough to sit in the cab while Richard climbed into the back). This costs V100 pp each way (less than a pound). We were dropped off at the showground and went through ready for our first taste of the National Arts Festival. This is only held every five years so we were extremely lucky to be in Vanuatu to witness this cultural event.

We took a seat in the stand and listened to all the speeches, including from the Prime Minister of Vanuatu.

We then watched our first Kastom dance – with tribes coming from all over Vanuatu to take part. Each island has its own distinct culture and tribes so the costumes were different and the dances were telling different stories. The men were often wearing little more than penis sheathes…and some of them had less than that with everything on display with them proudly propped up on woven penis shelves! The dancers were predominantly men although there were some women groups too. Interesting public announcements were made during the day primarily focused on hygiene telling people to wash their hands after going to the toilet; before they eat; and after changing nappies. There was also free toothpaste and toothbrushes available in the medical tent.

At lunchtime we headed off to find some local food in the outlets lining the arena and Richard found a fish laplap which is the national dish of Vanuatu. Breadfruit, bananas, taro or yam roots are grated into a vegetable paste which is then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven with coconut milk. Basically it was grilled fish sitting on a gloopy yellow brick with the consistency of wallpaper paste. It was horrible! I just had tiny sweet bananas and pamplemousse (sweet grapefruit) instead which was fine. We both, however, loved the huge sweet doughnut things…..

We headed back to the village after a day of dancing, foot stomping, drumming, magic and other delights .

Back at the village we sat on the beach and chatted to the kids while we waited for the tide to come in enough to get dink afloat. Dink was absolutely filthy and filled with sand, and numerous small handprints kind of gave away the culprits LOL. The village is very poor and living conditions are primitive as the houses have virtually nothing but four walls and they cook outside over open fires (although they do have running water and electricity). The village church was overrun with dancers from other islands who were using it as their sleeping base during the festival.

Wednesday was food day and this time Richard tried shrimps in a coconut paste cooked on a fire inside a bamboo pole. He enjoyed that (and helped the lad finish it all off) and we found out that the origin of this dish came from climate change. They explained that with increasingly frequent El Ninos in the Pacific they have more drought periods which means they can’t grow their staple crops so this simple dish sustains them during those difficult periods (plus crabs and other fish).

Other food tents were set up showing how they prepared traditional meals and it was very interesting to watch the women at work. They were also highlighting other handicrafts such as wood carvings and traditional mat weaving.

Oh yes, and we also literally bumped into the Prime Minister having a bottle of water (having just taken some kava) in one of the tents.

The magic tricks performed by some of the tribes got the best responses from the crowd who rushed to the barriers to watch more closely. The local kids loved to chat too.

Another day of Kustom dances so here are some more photos – most memorable this time was the guys holding the red flowers without realising, at first, that they had black and white snakes attached.

During the day they announced ‘public’ dances where all the locals could rush into the centre of the showground and join in the fun after a Kustom dance had been performed. Vanuatu people are supposed to be one of the happiest in the world and they certainly appear happy most of the time. It was delightful to watch their pleasure and to hear their laughter. Also loved the sound of the TamTams (traditional carved wood poles they use for drumming).

Arriving back at the village and we looked out to see that Morphie was missing from her spot! OMG. We then spotted her behind a catamaran, realising that she had dragged again in the winds that had strengthened during the day. We rushed back to her in dink, picked up the anchor, and dropped it again. Heart stopping moments or what?!? She had dragged back almost 20m (and luckily alongside another boat and not into it). So we had a quiet evening in the cockpit taking readings and continuously checking everything. Thankfully the wind eased overnight.

Thursday morning and the wind remained light so we were comfortable about leaving Morphie again in the anchorage. Heading into Lakatoro it was more of the same. Only this time one of the Kustom dances took a darker turn when it turns out a pig has to be killed every time this dance is performed. So they dragged this tiny piglet across the grass by his legs and one of the dancers came out of the troop and bashed him over the head so he was left twitching on the ground to die. All very brutal but it appeared to be to the delight of the crowd, including the children. I guess the pig would have been cooked for food later so can’t criticise just was a bit surprised as we weren’t expecting it. But then there was a lighter side to the show with a specially designed dance done by a cultural group who called it the tourist dance and showcased lots of photos being taken and bums being wiggled – the crowd (and us!) were in hysterics. So funny….. Also loved the gull headdresses that flapped their wings as they danced around.

In the afternoon we visited the large town market before heading back to Morphie. Lots of lovely fruits and vegetables on display and all carried in leaf baskets – no plastic bags here.

Back in the anchorage we went for sundowners with Asa and Don (SV Bla Ellinor) and Jeff and Katie (SV Mezzaluna). We talked about the weather as it was forecasting strong winds of around 30 knots on Friday night and into the weekend. Well, with our experience in the anchorage, there was no way we were staying put. So we decided that we would leave early Friday morning (sadly missing the last day of the Festival) and we all looked at possible anchorages on Espirito Santo. Back on board we moved the outboard onto the rail, raised dink onto the arches and got ready to go to sea.

Friday morning by 6.10 we had weighed anchor and were motoring in light winds away from Malekula north towards Aore Island. This is opposite Luganville (which is the main town on the bottom of Espirito Santo) and has a resort with a few mooring balls which are sheltered from the prevailing winds. So we motor sailed there being joined by a large pod of dolphins for a while, which always makes us smile.

We arrived to find no mooring balls were available (operated on a first come first served basis). But during the trip we had downloaded the spot weather forecast again to find that the strong winds were now not due until later on Saturday. So we headed across the pass to Luganville Bay and anchored down after another 43 mile passage, relieved to find a sandy bottom with good holding. But in the cloud and gloom it certainly wasn’t inviting.

Bla Ellinor, who also left Malekula that morning, decided to continue around the corner into a more sheltered bay on the east coast of Espirito Santo when it became clear that Aore Island was not an option. We planned to move to join them there in the morning if the winds started to fill in.

This morning, Saturday, however, there was hardly any wind at all and it looks like the sun might even come out. The anchorage is quite comfortable and is opposite a cruiser-friendly resort, Beachfront, with easy bus access to Luganville (so that we can re-provision). Later on the wind did pick up – but nowhere near the forecasted strength – so we plan to stay here for a little while (if the weather permits). We want to go diving on nearby famous dive sites (the wreck of the President Coolidge and Million Dollar Point where the US army dumped all their equipment after WWII) so this is as good a place as any to do this from. Fingers crossed for settled weather for a while.

So, to finish, here is my favourite costume and dance of the whole Festival. We had an amazing time and feel that by seeing this spectacle we understand a little bit more about Vanuatu culture and their customs. It is truly an absolutely fascinating place.

Bye for now


Vanuatu: Trip to Yasur Volcano, Tanna

Friday morning we were up bright and early and packed our overnight bag. We headed ashore, dumped our rubbish, dropped off our laundry in the Yacht World office (they do a wash, dry and fold service) and then walked into town. We stopped at the pharmacy to buy malaria tablets which are available over the counter here (unlike New Zealand or Fiji which required a doctor’s prescription). We then went for a hearty breakfast in Jill’s cafe and started our course of tablets. By 11.15 we were sitting on a wall above the Waterfront bar and restaurant awaiting our transfer to the airport.

This turned up promptly, we met our fellow tourists, and drove to the airport. We passed two prisons on the way which looked pretty grim (to say the least) and lots of industrial activity. We arrived at the airport domestic terminal and were met by the Air Taxi crew who sorted out where everyone would sit and weighed both us and our luggage. We met the pilot and waited patiently to be called once we had paid our airport departure tax of V200 pp (less than £2).

We did wonder how we were all going to fit in as the trip advert said they had eight and nine seater planes and there were 11 of us. But they had two aircraft readied and a family of three went in one small plane while the rest of us were in the other. Here we are with our plane, a view of the cockpit from our seats and heading down the runway as we took off towards Tanna.

We had hoped to see Erromango island en route but the low cloud cover was dense so we travelled across the top of the clouds at 9,500 feet. Got quite chilly up there too. As we arrived over the island we were flown over and around Yasur volcano (whose crater is 400mx700m to give some idea of scale). It was absolutely breathtaking.

After a 75 minute flight we were approaching Tanna airport.

The White Grass Airport was small and with no officials around we just walked through to the lounge to meet our ongoing transport.

We were given complimentary baguettes and water before we drove across the island for about two hours enjoying the sights with most people waving at us along the route. The road was often unmade and very uneven and then suddenly you would come across a concrete road which wound up and down in hairpin bends around the mountains. We saw lots of sights but the funniest one was the bread delivery truck!

We stopped to admire views of Yasur volcano in the distance. We also drove across the ash field and saw the volcano rising above us while we got covered in dust from the plains in the wind.

Arriving at the bottom of the volcano we were met and given transport numbers for our lift to the top of the volcano in 4WD trucks. But first we had to pick out our country name and take it to a welcome area where all the tourists congregated sitting on tree stumps.

The presenters talked through what was going to happen in English and French and then the main guy Max had to choose a chief for our tribe. And, yes, you guessed it, Richard was chosen even though we were sat down amidst the middle of the 100+ crowd of tourists. So he did the ceremonial giving of the kava root to the chief and sat back down.

Then the dancing started which was reminiscent of Africa particularly the women who were jumping like pogo sticks which looked very similar to the dance of the Masai warriors. There was a lot of noise with whistles, chanting, jumping and stamping of feet. The ground vibrated beneath us. And at this point one of the guides came over to us and told us to listen carefully to what they were saying – and they were thanking Richard for bringing his tribe to visit them in this special place.

Afterwards we were taken to the trucks and we all squeezed in – it was pretty tight to say the least, all wearing hard hats.

We then arrived at the bottom of the path going up to the first lookout point so we trekked up there. It was much steeper than it looked so we did have to stop for a few breathers along the way.

As we arrived at the first point we were told we could carry on towards Point 7.

At the top there was a barrier but it was rickety and not to be trusted. One slip and you were tumbling straight down into the lava.

It was decided that the volcano was playing nicely so the guides started to take people to Point 8. But this was up a very steep narrow ledge to the rim being buffeted by the strong wind where one wrong step and you were toast. So we decided that this was a step too far for us and stayed put.

That decision actually did us a favour as the crowd thinned and we had ring side seats. The clouds of sulphur were growing and there were groans and loud explosions from the earth beneath us down into the centre….then it glowed red….and then the lava exploded into the air. It sort of came out in slow motion – hit the mountain slopes just below us then slid back into the hole. Was pretty spectacular and awe inspiring.

To stand on the rim of an active volcano was way up there in our bucket list of things to do but we never thought it would be possible. This is one of the few places in the world where it is allowed. And what an experience. The smells and the noise of the power of nature as it erupts are truly awesome.

We then waited for the sun to go down. The eruptions increased in size and intensity and, of course, we now had a light show in the dark. Wow!

Finally it was time to go, although it was difficult to pull ourselves away. We picked our way carefully back down in the dark to the trucks, returned to the bottom of the volcano across the plains, and then picked up our transport to our overnight stop. The road was largely unmade and a few times the driver had to have a few runs at it to make it up the steep rutted road. Finally we arrived at Rockwater Resort and were met by the owner and his staff. This resort has all been hand crafted over the last few years and remains a work in progress. We had a lovely simple room and enjoyed a quick shower to get off all the dust off the day. We then went to the restaurant for dinner and enjoyed a nice cold bottle of wine.

Throughout the day we had been chatting to fellow sightseers and they were from all over the world – with two Brits, two Spaniards, two Australians, three Turkish American, one Norwegian and one Swedish in our group. We thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them all and listening to their travelling tales. We also bumped into fellow cruisers at the volcano who had come up from Port Resolution the nearest anchorage. We had a lovely night’s sleep in a bed that didn’t rock and felt huge. It had been a very long day but OMG what an experience!

In the morning we were up very early for breakfast just after 7 in preparation to be collected at 8. We wandered the resort and enjoyed looking over the ocean at the impressive coral and the beautifully clear sea below us on the cliff. Loved the steps taking swimmers down to the cave and the sea below. The resort is simply amazing – so glad we chose to stay there.

We headed back to the tiny airport again, paid our V200 departure tax, and took off to return to Port Vila on Efate. This time we travelled at only 2,500 feet so we did have a good view of the ocean below us and Erromango. Only 50 minutes later we were approaching Port Vila and were down on the ground in Efate, loaded back into the bus to be dropped off at the Waterfront.

We headed into the office and collected our laundry and then took off back to Morphie. We then dropped our bags and headed back into town to go provisioning as we had no fresh produce or hardly any meat left on board. Town was busier than usual because there was a cruise ship in but they didn’t get in our way as, let’s face it, going to a local butchers, the supermarket and the fruit and veg market is hardly cruise-ship passenger activities LOL.

We failed miserably in our task. The meat in the butchers looked awful and the guy serving in his wellies and blood-covered overalls didn’t inspire! So we decided not to purchase meat from him. No doubt the organically-produced beef, in particular, is stunning but the hygiene standards looked somewhat lacking. So we walked back to the Waterfront – I left Richard having a cold beer keeping out purchases safe – and I walked up the hill towards the larger supermarket. And, of course, their meat counter was great so I was able to get most things I wanted.

Reunited we then returned to Morphie and unpacked everything. Richard did boat jobs while I blogged before having dinner and an early night.

This morning, Sunday, we are getting ready to leave Port Vila on an overnight passage heading north towards Malekula Island. The local arts festival is being held there and involves lots of traditional dancing. This festival is a very important cultural event here in Vanuatu and is not something that is put on for the tourists – so really looking forward to it. Not sure about the black magic bit though LOL. Not sure about internet access going forward as we travel to more remote areas but will post updates when we can.

And I have to leave you with a final shot of the Yasur volcano doing its thing at night. An incredible sight to witness up close.

Bye for now


Fiji to Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu

Thursday night we headed into the bar at Vuda marina for the last time and bumped into Craig from SV Crocus whom we had previously met in Musket Cove. So we had dinner with him and enjoyed our final Fijian sunset. Shortly afterwards, we were joined by Chris (SV Sea Bear), JP and Julie (SV Eleuthera). And a good time was had by all. Leaving the bar for the last time we had hugs from all the staff when they realised we were leaving for good this time.

Friday morning (8 August) we were up early and got Morphie ready to go to sea. We headed into the cafe for coffee at 10 to meet the customs and immigration officials to get officially checked out of Fiji. We requested a 1300 departure which they accepted. Documents in hand and when we were finally ready to leave we chilled out for a while down below. Then we were asked to come up on deck as the staff were there on the dock to sing us a farewell song. OMG what lovely people the Fijians are. We have had such a special time.

At 1300 we were ready but the fuel dock was busy so we had to wait….and wait… Eventually around 14.15 we were fuelled up and departing Vuda Marina bound for Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu. The passage was a good one – apart from the initial blip with a water leak to the engine – and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The wind was lighter and more fickle than anticipated so we had to motor more than we would have liked and the sailing was slower when the wind finally filled in strong enough to sail. The last 12 hours were particularly uncomfortable with a short chop and rolling seas from all directions pushing us around all over the place. And, of course, the wind picked up to a lively 18 knots during the last night when we had to slow down to 4.5 knots to ensure a daylight arrival – never mind! The island of Efate was definitely not inviting as we neared in the gloom.

We arrived into Port Vila at 9 on Wednesday 14 August (as planned) having completed the 555 mile passage and we were weary but very happy to be here. We anchored in the quarantine anchorage and awaited the officials to come on board, with our nearest neighbour a little helicopter sat on a floating pontoon.

Customs had been pre-warned of our arrival by SV Mezzaluna (who had been in the quarantine anchorage overnight having arrived late the previous day) so they came out around 10 to see us both. Having dealt with Mezzaluna they came on board Morpheus. We gave them drinks and chocolate biscuits and had a chat. They didn’t even bother to check down below just took our word for it that we were compliant (which we were of course). We were then given an invoice to pay biosecurity and instructions to come to the customs office at 2pm that afternoon. We took down our yellow Q flag and replaced it with our Vanuatu one and then proceeded under the overhead power lines (grateful for it being low tide so we had more clearance room) as we headed into the inner harbour.

We were shown our pre-booked mooring ball and tied up. The harbour is full of mooring balls (at £11 a night) and there is very little room to anchor as a result. The moorings themselves are huge and regularly maintained so we were happy to trust Morphie to them.

We then headed to the dinghy dock and walked through town. Our immediate needs were to buy a SIM card for the phone to get online and to get some cash from the ATM as we were unable to get any Vanuatu Vatus in advance of our arrival. Mission was accomplished easily although data packages here are quiet expensive when compared to Fiji, which was a surprise. We also found a hairdresser so I made an appointment for the following day before we headed back to the dock. We then took the dinghy through the channel to the customs office. We had to tie to a large tug and clamber on board so I waited in the dinghy while Richard went and dealt with the officials. First was customs (a free service in regular hours) and we were granted our inter-island clearance allowing us to move around freely in Vanuatu. Then he headed to biosecurity to pay our bill from the morning. Then to immigration to complete cards, get our passports stamped and to pay their fee. As Europeans we got three months on arrival but our friends Geoff and Katie on SV Mezzaluna only got one month as Americans. Makes us wonder what will happen if the UK does actually leave the EU later this year.

All formalities completed with both of us feeling a bit land sick and finding the heat a bit much we took ourselves to the Waterfront (which is part of the Yacht World set up) and had our first taste of Tusker lager, the local brew. And very nice it was too…. We stayed for happy hour, being joined by SV Messaluna, SV Bla Ellinor and SV Ice Bear, and so we ended up having a nice social evening. But we were too tired to stay out and retired back to Morphie, had a quick cheese on toast supper, followed by an early night.

This morning, Thursday, Richard dropped me off into town to go to the hairdressers. And I had a good time chatting with the locals finding out a bit about them. Was a great experience and the hair cut was pretty good too LOL.

Returning to Morphie I admired the beautiful flowers and the huge selection on offer in the vast fruit and vegetable market. I also spoke to a couple of older ladies wearing their traditional dresses, which are a bit Mother Hubbard, and apparently were forced upon them by the missionaries a long time ago.

The locals speak Pidgin English to each other (of which there are many different dialects according to the village they come from) and their main languages in school are both French and English. We spoke to a few people whose main language (other than their own local dialect) was French so needed to listen hard and try to remember my limited vocabulary again.

Back on board and Richard is doing a few boat jobs while I’m blogging. We’ll probably head ashore for happy hour again later. Tomorrow (Friday) we are becoming real tourists as we are taking an Air Taxi trip to Tanna Island. This scenic flight will take us over Mount Yasur which is an active volcano and then we’ll be driven up the volcano itself by 4×4 to see it in all its glory. This is one of the few volcanoes in the world that you can stand on the rim and watch the lava bubble and explode inside. Very excited about seeing this especially as we will be there for dusk. We recognise that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the price reflects that (especially as we are staying in a resort on Tanna overnight) but, as it is our 23rd wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks, we are making the excuse that it is our joint present to each other!

Bye for now


Passage to Vanuatu – part 2

Sunday (11 August) continued to be benign with very light wind conditions so we motor sailed all day.  The sea continued to flatten and we made the most of the near-perfect conditions so had lovely hot showers and well as making water.   We were ever hopeful that the wind would pick up but, by 5.30 pm, it had disappeared altogether.   Sails were flapping so we went into our night shifts motoring under bare poles.   Calm and steady conditions meant for a good night especially with a huge moon although cloud cover kept the stars hidden from sight.   No ships were sighted at all.

Monday (12 August) was another beautiful day.   At 6am the wind changed direction and started filling in.   By 8 am the engine was off and we were sailing on a beam reach at 4.5 knots in 9 knots of breeze.   The swell was less than 1m and the seas were pretty flat.   This is about as good as it gets!   Blue skies on a sunny day with the deep blue ocean sparkling all around us.  Fantastic.

In these conditions we were on schedule for a Wednesday arrival as we had planned.  Two other boats, who left Fiji a couple of hours ahead of us, are pushing harder so will arrive on Tuesday.   They also had the advantage of motor sailing on Saturday night when we had to rely on sail power alone, so they pulled away from us as we were going so slowly.   We are, for the first time, participating in a SSB Pacific cruisers net each day at 8.00 and 17.30 reporting our position so we are aware of those around us.   We are happy to just plod along with the wind so long as we are making way in the right direction.

By lunchtime the wind had picked up to 13 knots and we had the most perfect sail doing 6 knots on a beam reach.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.   As had happened the day before, around 5.30 pm, the wind died completely.   So it was back to motor sailing throughout the night – good job we got diesel in Fiji!   The seas picked up a bit too for some reason so it did get a bit rolly again for a while.

Overnight we had a close encounter with a large motor vessel who was not a pleasure boat or a cargo ship.   He did not have AIS but we picked him up on radar and eyeballed his progress as he slowly passed behind our stern.   As we are nearing the islands of Vanuatu and its territorial waters we wondered whether he might have been a coastguard cutter as we know they are actively watching boat traffic to ensure that people abide by the regulations – boats that stop in non-designated ports of entry before checking in are treating as potential drug or people traffickers with heavy penalties for non-compliance.

This morning, Tuesday (13 August) and we still have no wind but the sea state is increasing with a short interval between waves making it pretty rolly.   At 10.15 we still have no wind – although boats ahead of us are reporting 18 knots (which is actually forecast).   We have just recalculated the remainder of our passage so have slowed back down to 4.5 knots as that is the maximum speed we need to arrive into Port Vila by 9am local time (which is one hour behind Fiji).   We are expecting feisty conditions later today so anticipate sailing slowly and steadily through it – we just hope we can keep our speed down LOL.

Bye for now


Passage to Vanuatu – part 1

We finally slipped away from Vuda Marina, Fiji, at around 14.15 on Friday 10 August bound for Vanuatu. We wouldn’t usually leave on a Friday (superstition and all that) but this is a tricky distance. It is 545 miles to Port Vila on the island of Efate, assuming you could sail directly in the direction you want to go. That equates to four and a half days at our usual cruising speed of 5 knots. We want to avoid arriving at night (so we may need to slow down as we get closer); we do not want to check in at a weekend (lots of customs overtime fees); we need to get there before Thursday which is a public holiday (more fees); and we want to make the most of this benign weather window. So practicalities won over superstition in the decision-making process.

The sea was flat and the sky was blue but the minimal forecast wind was on our nose as expected. We motored down the coast towards the main shipping channel – the Navula passage – hoping to get through before dusk. We arrived into the cut as the sun was going down and we watched a spectacular sunset along with a green flash. Woo hoo.

As we moved away from Fiji, Richard retired and I did the first watch. The (almost full) moon showed me the way and the conditions were great with moderate airs and flat seas and we were sailing nicely along on a reach at five+ knots. Richard stood the next watch and came across two large fishing boats. Then I took the midnight to 3am shift and spotted lights to port. There was no AIS signal so I checked the radar and acquired the target. As I closed in on the vessel the AIS signal finally appeared and the large Chinese ship travelling at 5 knots was on a collision course with us. I left it a while to see if he would change course but nothing apparent so I radioed Yuan Wang 5. Main questions: are you a fishing vessel? Do you have lines or nets? No reply. Eventually they responded and it turns out he was a 722 foot cargo ship and wants to know my intention. So I told him I would pass behind his stern and turned 20 degrees to port. He replied that he was going to hold his position and speed so all was well. Once he was comfortable with our courses and relative positions he decided to have a chat – amazed we were sailing – apparently we are so very brave LOL. As I passed his stern he turned and ran parallel for a while then crossed a couple of miles behind my stern, so it would appear he was going around in circles for some reason.

By the time we had swapped shifts again we were sailing along in about 14 knots of breeze running downwind. The sea state, however, had deteriorated as the wind swung behind us and it was very rocky and rolly. Richard had a large gin palace come close by on his shift and by the time we saw the sun come up there has been another couple of tankers. Wasn’t really expecting quite so much traffic on this route.

Saturday 11 August the sun came up and it was turning into another lovely day.

There were lots of birds of paradise flying around us and we enjoyed being at sea again – just wish it would stop rolling! During the day the wind decreased and Richard decided to start fishing…..and, within half an hour, he had caught a lovely little tuna which he promptly gutted and filleted with the fillets going into the freezer. Lots of clearing up to do so he decided one fish a day was enough LOL.

Later on, just after we had eaten dinner, we decided to run our engine to charge the batteries. Almost immediately water stopped coming out the stern. Bloody hell – not again! We have spent two months in Fiji without any problems since the engine was serviced and the system was thoroughly checked out on our arrival. But nothing we can do in the hours of darkness when the engine is too hot to work on. So we went into our normal shift patterns overnight and used the portable generator to top up the batteries.

This morning, Sunday, 12 August and we were sailing slowly downwind only managing 3.5 knots speed over ground in 8 knots of breeze. Richard had his head down the hole taking the engine apart while I stayed in the cockpit keeping the boat moving forward. Thankfully the sea state had reduced with only about a 1.5m swell right now.

Within half an hour Richard had identified and fixed a water leak as it came into the system; had removed and reinstalled the impeller (just in case) and topped up the oil and tightened the fan belt (while he was there). We cautiously started the engine and voila she started first time, good water flow out the back, and we are back in business. Phew!

The wind reduced to 6 knots so we are now gently motor sailing towards our destination (only 339 miles to go). All is well on the good ship Morpheus.

Bye for now

Fiji: final days in Vuda Marina

Thursday evening we headed to the marina bar for sundowners and enjoyed the spectacular sunset.

Friday we did a few boat jobs and generally just got ourselves organised to go back to sea. We got our clearance documentation for Fiji from the office and started the task of filling in all three forms (by hand, in duplicate without carbon or course) in preparation for our departure. We also started completing the numerous Vanuatu arrival and cruising permit documents.

In the late afternoon we went to the bar for sundowners and enjoyed watching the boat movements in and out of the narrow entrance to the marina as well as listening to the live music before heading back to Morphie.

When we got back to Morphie we couldn’t climb on the bow as the tide was too high and the width of the boats stopped us from pulling the boat forward towards the small dock. So we ended up climbing on our neighbour’s boat and crossing over instead. This was quite tough for me to achieve so we definitely need to take notice of the top or bottom of the tide when we leave the boat!

Saturday morning we were in the cockpit having breakfast when we heard Sea Bear on the radio. Luckily a few boats had already left so there was room and, by lunchtime, he was safely secured. Later on we met up with Chris for a few beers and enjoyed catching up. He had taken a completely different route around Fiji to us so it was nice to exchange experiences. Look how he is dwarfed by his neighbours!

Sunday and we had a lazy start before heading to the garden early afternoon and met Chris – so we sat out in the sun enjoying the live music and some late lunch. Was a really fun afternoon. We then had a quiet evening onboard.

On Monday we took the day off. Richard had twisted his knee climbing on and off Morphie the day before and my hip was also playing up so we just lazed around reading, resting up and stayed on board all day.

Tuesday we did some more jobs like filling up the water tanks and doing some hand washing. In the evening we met Chris for pizza night to find that the staff had been decimated by a Fijian flu bug and the service suffered as a result. We were later getting back than expected (thankfully we were still able to climb back on) as it took a while to get our bill. But was fun anyway.

Wednesday morning our large neighbour left so we pulled across to their position next to Chris and closer to the little stubby dock that sticks out. And, at last, it was easier to get on and off the boat. Very happy we settled in only to be asked to move again as they needed a big space for a catamaran. We agreed to move but only after we had taken the opportunity to get the outboard firmly on the rail in preparation for our departure for Vanuatu. We then moved and ended up next to a scruffy boat which is occupied by a single older woman and her baby rescue kittens. By now we had been busy for hours and hadn’t even had a cup of tea. So we headed to the cafe for breakfast.

Returning to Morphie (grateful that we could get on and off at will now) we had a wander around and visited the boat yard behind us. They dig ‘graves’ for boats here for cyclone storage so we had a look at this set up. Not sure we’d fancy it! What amazed us, though, was how many of them were still sporting canvas and sails. If you have left your boat for cyclone season in a grave, surely you would have removed all this stuff? Interesting though that this marina had been hit by a Cat 5 Cyclone Winston and the majority of the boats had come through unscathed (we assume they tie them all down to the ground as well).

We also looked at the marina’s expansion plans which will destroy the reef outside as well as reclaiming some land so that superyachts can visit but can’t see this happening in our lifetime!

Anyway, back to Morphie we spotted some great looking birds almost parakeet like but really small only about the size of a sparrow.

When we got back on board we found the kittens had been visiting us. They are pretty cute but they kept trying to go down below so we closed the hatches and we kept returning them to their own boat. But this game carried on and on and they obviously enjoyed it as every time we picked them up they purred with delight! Here are some pictures of them looking cute, requesting permission to stay, and asking for a share of our chicken salad dinner LOL.

During the day JP and Julie turned up on Eleuthera so we caught up with them and arranged to meet for sundowners later. We were also joined by Chris. Was a fun evening.

This morning, Thursday, and finally the weather models had aligned so a Friday departure is on the cards. So we got up early, informed the office we want to check out with customs in the morning and then headed into Lautoka for a final provisioning run. We came back and I’m now sitting outside the cafe blogging while Richard is doing engine checks, general cleaning and stowing our stuff ready for going back to sea. Here’s the last picture of Morphie in Fiji squeezed into her marina space

The passage to Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu will take us about 4 1/2 days based on a 5 knot average and, with some light winds forecast for the first 24 hours, we may well be slower. So we’ll be offline for a while but will blog during the passage to keep you posted on our progress – and don’t forget to follow our tracker on the ‘Where are we now’ page.

Bye for now


Fiji: Fun in Denarau and back to Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu

Friday afternoon we headed to the NZ business event and caught up with Paul from Bay of Islands Marina. We enjoyed a few hours in the Rhum Bar chatting before we headed upstairs to the formal reception with free drinks and nibbles that Paul had kindly invited us along to. We also caught up with Nigel and Amanda from the Sail Pacific Circuit Rally and a fun time was had by all. We even saw the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand who said a few words.

Leaving the party behind we headed to Lulus for a pontoonie and enjoyed the live music before calling it a night.

Saturday morning it was pouring with rain….and it rained…and it rained cats and dogs all day and night. We bailed out dink and put him back on the arch so that he wouldn’t fill up again. It was so miserable we just had a quiet damp day and evening on board.

Sunday morning and it was still overcast although did clear up later. At 5pm we went ashore for happy hour and then got a taxi at 7pm to the venue to see a show called Fiji Untold which was billed as a “Broadway-style dance performance showcasing traditional Fijian concepts and stories in a modern and innovative way”. Well, the taxi driver had never heard of it. So we had to give him the telephone number so that they could give him directions. We turned off the main road at a sign and then headed inland along a dirt track – this can’t be right surely?!? Anyway, the taxi driver wasn’t convinced either so he phoned again and they talked him in.

We arrived into a muddy field with a circus-like big top tent. We were given our own VIP badges, complimentary soft drinks and a big tub of popcorn. We then were escorted inside to take our seats. Hang on a minute…where is everybody?!?

There was no-one there at all, perhaps we had got the time wrong? So we checked and were told that we were the only VIPs so could sit wherever we liked this evening. Seriously wondered whether we have been sold a pup we were relieved when another single tourist turned up LOL. Then a few people filtered in behind us but they were clearly friends and family of the performers. So just three paying customers then for a whole show!

The lights went down and the dancing started. We had a brochure explaining the story of Lagi the Chief’s daughter. Well, we could’t read anything else because of the darkness so we just sat back and watched. The high energy dancing and singing was amazing but we really didn’t understand what was going on as there was no commentary whatsoever and it was quite dark (almost evil) in places.

That said, we still enjoyed the experience, and it was nice for the three of us to meet the dancers afterwards.

We got our taxi driver to come and pick us up (in the rain again sigh….) and made it back to the marina just as there was another deluge. No point getting even wetter so we took advantage of the BYGOF late night extra happy hour at the Hard Rock Cafe and sat it out and read the show programme properly. Brief synoposis is that the Chief’s daughter, at her coming of age, was ready for her first dance in a ceremony to mark the continuation of the bloodline and the survival of a community through dance. But Lagi refused to be constrained by traditional barriers and the elders could not allow this adventurous spirit so she was banished to the bamboo forest. This then takes her through a journey of daring self-discovery into the mystical underworld where there is an Octopus God, Giant Women and a shape shifting Iguana Spirit who is adorned with the lost dance sticks of Lagis village which are eventually returned to her as the rightful royal owner and she is able to return to the village as a heroine. Phew! Would have made much more sense if we had known all that in advance LOL.

Eventually the rain stopped and we headed back to Morphie quickly before the heavens opened again.

Monday we headed into Nadi the nearby town and visited the Sri Sivasubramainya Swami Temple. We were given floor-length wraps to wear as shorts as not allowed and dropped our shoes off so headed barefooted into the temple to have a look around. Very pretty and serene place but not helped by the huge lorries sounding their horns for such a long time at a ear-splitting volume that we actually wondered if it was a town-wide alarm or something!

Moving on we headed into the centre of town and found a place to get some photographs printed and a post office so that we could send them to Chief Joe as we had promised. Job done we then had a look around before deciding to come back to the marina. It was still overcast and cloudy and really humid so we got hot and bothered pretty quickly and Nadi is really really busy with lots of traffic and more caged shops so didn’t feel the need to linger.

Back in the marina we did some shopping in the small grocery store and then had a couple of cold ones in the Rhum Bar. Whilst there we saw the beautiful sailing superyacht (Maltese flagged) head out of the marina. We had watched the crew meet the guests and walk them down the dock – couldn’t believe that it was just a bunch of teenagers – guess someone has a very rich Mum and Dad!!! Later on, back on board, we enjoyed watching the rainbow lighting up the superyachts on the dock, we are definitely in the cheap seats LOL. As the sun went down the mountains lit up beneath the clouds which was absolutely stunning.

Tuesday we thought it was our last full day in Denarau so we dropped off our rubbish, got our petrol cans filled and I went to the office to pay for our mooring ball. Well, they had it down that we were leaving on Thursday not Wednesday and didn’t charge us at all for the first night on the dock as they had mucked us around. Result! We returned to Morphie and had a lazy afternoon. In the evening we went out for dinner at the excellent steak restaurant Cardos and enjoyed the live music having first been entertained by the Hard Rock Cafe staff doing their version of YMCA during happy hour.

Wednesday morning we took it easy. We had been constantly watching the weather searching for a window to leave Fiji bound for Vanuatu. And the weather gods are not looking down on us too kindly at all. So we are probably here in Fiji for about another week based on the latest download. We were not able to extend our stay in Denarau as the place is rammed and everything is fully booked so we had to decide what to do. In the recent cloudy and rainy conditions we have had to use our standby generator to keep the batteries topped up as the solar panels are not keeping pace with our consumption. So we decided, in the end, to return to Vuda Point Marina so that we can plug into shore power. Later in the afternoon we went ashore for our final Happy Hour in the Hard Rock Café and enjoyed some snacks before returning to Morphie.

This morning (Thursday) we got ourselves ready and Richard did his engine checks. Then, with all things flexible crossed, we called Vuda to see if they had space for us. This is a first-come first-served marina so not a certainty, especially as it is high season here. Thankfully they could accommodate us so we got our fenders and lines ready for our arrival. At around 10 am we slipped away from the mooring ball as a boat came in behind us clearly anxious to pick it up. Bit naughty really as, officially, we didn’t have to depart until 12 noon. Never mind…. We left the superyachts behind and headed out through the pass. Our stay in the tourist hub of Denarau had been a lot of fun.

By 12 noon we were safely in Vuda tied up, secured, and plugged in after a feisty few miles in strengthening winds. The guy on the boat next to us looked familiar and it turns out we knew him from Guatemala. What a small world. This is the view from Morphie’s stern this afternoon.

Bye for now