New Caledonia: Exploring Grande Terre

On Sunday (6 October), we picked up our anchor at 16.00 and made our way through the Ouvea lagoon towards the outer channel markers. We had all three sails hoisted as the wind was forward of the beam and we cleared the island before dark. We enjoyed a lovely sunset at sea and managed to sail directly towards our destination, although we had to make a couple of corrections to keep high of the rhumb line when we got swept down by the sea.

Around 5 am on Monday we enjoyed a moody sunrise. By 8 am we had made our way through the Pass de Thio to come inside the fringing reef admiring the mountains of Grande Terre en route. At 10.44 we had our anchor down off the beach at Ile Nemoli having completed another 78 mile passage.

Once we were settled we cleaned up and had a nap. Suitably refreshed, Richard did the laundry (he is quite good at pink jobs LOL) and I blogged (knowing that publication would have to wait until we had better internet coverage). During the afternoon we were joined by a few other rally boats but there was plenty of room. We were hoping to move quickly down the coast of Grande Terre, inside the fringing reef, making the most of the forecast of low wind days (as the predominant trades here are from the South East).

Early evening, we sat in the cockpit and raised a glass to Mum, as it was her birthday. Love you Mum and miss you so very much. Here’s another lovely photo bringing back lots of great memories of happy times together.

Tuesday morning the alarm went off at 5 am and we ran the weather models again (using our satellite connection) to check that our plans were still viable. Damn! The wind had strengthened and was now going to be from the east, so our next anchorage was not going to be tenable as it was exposed from that direction. We decided on an alternative so at 6.30 am we picked up anchor and headed south. We were motoring along with the main up to keep us balanced and of course the wind clocked, was stronger than forecast, and was right on the nose. We also had to contend with large lumpy seas and adverse currents. Not wanting to run the engine too hard we just made very slow (and uncomfortable) progress. By 14.30 we had the anchor down in Kouakoue Bay having completed a very tiring 29 mile passage. We were alone in this lovely serene (uninhabited) bay and settled down for a quiet night on board and didn’t even mind that there was no internet coverage.

Wednesday morning and we awoke to rain and clouds…….. And it rained…..and it poured. And it continued most of the day. And, of course, this wasn’t forecast either. So we decided to stay put and had a day just catching up with some boat jobs. We did a mini spring clean down below and Richard also did engine checks. Another quiet evening was had on board.

Thursday morning and we headed out again at 5.30 am. It was lovely, the sun came out and it was flat calm. There wasn’t much wind so we motor sailed towards our destination of Yate. This was only 27 miles away and we made good time getting the anchor down by 10.45 am.

Later on we were joined by SV Exocet Strike and SV Jonas. We got dink down and headed up the river on a mission to find a small store near the hydroelectric power station. We looked and looked but couldn’t see anywhere it was obvious to land the dinghy and also gain access to the road….by this time we were joined by Stella and John in their dinghy. They spotted a more obvious spot under a couple of trees and so we pulled in there and waded through the shallow water and foliage to come out on the road. Result!

We walked up the hill and were met by ferocious barking from some angry looking dogs who clearly wanted to take chunks out of us. Luckily they were securely fenced into their yard. We found the store (and petrol station) and managed to restock on some much needed provisions (our beer and wine stocks were dangerously low LOL). So we returned down the river happily laden down with enough to keep us going for a while longer. Later on we went to have showers only to find our water tank was empty!!! Damn. For contingency we always carry a full 10L water jug so it wasn’t really a problem. We did a bit of checking and found nothing wrong but quickly realised that the main water pump had failed (and this was relatively new as we had only installed it whilst in Fiji). We watched the sun go down over Exocet Strike and decided the repair could wait until the following day.

On Friday morning we weighed anchor and left Yate at 9.25 am to time our passage through the Havannah Canal on a rising tide. This is because the currents can be strong, up to 4.4 knots, and we obviously wanted to go with the current not against it. We headed out through the scary-looking reefs but were not anxious as the charts are pretty accurate. We motor sailed in light airs enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery along the way. We also made water to refill our fresh water tank.

We managed to time it just right and got through the Canal into Bonne Anse – passing huge channel markers/lights along the way. The only vessel we saw, apart from our fellow sailors, was when we were overtaken at high speed by a ferry.

Anse Majic bay is a nature reserve so there were free well-maintained mooring balls for us to use. By 15.35 we were secured for the night in another beautiful bay. We quickly swapped out the water pump and really enjoyed the hot showers. New Caledonia has surprised us with its beautiful scenery and we haven’t really scratched the surface of what there is to offer. Oh yes and the internet in this bay was good enough for me to publish a blog. Woo hoo!

At 8.50 am on Saturday morning we left our mooring ball and headed out passing a nickel mining operation nearby.

The trip to the Carenage (Baie de Prony) meant meandering up the river almost to the end and we found a few other boats there ahead of us.

By 10.45 having travelled only 8 miles we had our anchor down and a good set. We sat for a while making sure we were good to go and, when we were comfortable, we headed out in dink. We spotted the mares tails clouds in the sky which usually means high winds to come so we’ll be keeping an eye on that over the next day or so.

The destination for our dinghy expedition was the hot springs and the cascade falls. We went up the river feeling like real explorers and had to navigate some pretty large boulders and rocks as it was low tide. At one point we had to wade through the shallows pulling the dinghy along rather than ride inside LOL.

We eventually found the small wharf, followed the path up, and came across the area where the hot springs had been diverted into a man-made bath. We had a lovely time relaxing in the warm (not hot) water.

Afterwards, now that the water was a little bit deeper as the tide was coming in, we headed further up the river to see the cascades. The water flowing was actually warmer in this area and it was very pretty. Richard took off like a mountain goat across the rocks but I was sensible and looked after dink LOL.

Heading back down the river doing more exploring we spotted an osprey in flight and then it settled on a branch to eat its fishy catch. We couldn’t get too close but at least we managed to get a photo. And of course there has to be a picture of Morphie up the river. Back on board we had an early night having enjoyed our little adventure.

Sunday morning (13 October) we weighed anchor and headed back down the river towards Anse Majic again. The plan was to overnight there and then head off to Iles de Pins very early the following morning. However, the wind had other ideas. It was now going to swing to the north / north west overnight and was forecast to be above 20+ knots with a south west / south flow the following day. Any southern element made the main anchorage in Iles de Pins untenable. So, just for the night while we decided on what to do next, we pulled into Caroline Bay in the Baie des Manguiers for overnight protection. We were the only ones in the bay and it was quite tranquil. We had a lovely evening and enjoyed watching the moon come up over the surrounding hills.

During the night the winds picked up and blew hard, must be the first time the forecast had been accurate LOL.

This morning, Monday, we awoke very early to find that the strong winds were backing and it was clear that we would have to move again pretty quickly as south winds (as forecast again!) would leave us exposed on a lee shore in this anchorage. Debating where to go we spotted some boats had moved out of Anse Majic on our AIS which meant that there were free mooring balls. So we quickly weighed anchor and headed on over. By 7am we were securely tethered and returned to bed for a while.

This was a good call as the wind continued to swing through the morning and we are now in a more protected position although we are nodding a bit in the fetch right now. I’m blogging while Richard enjoyed his internet fix first and is now working on his fishing lures. Apparently we are going to have a freezer full on the next passage…..

Our plans to go further south have been thwarted by the wind and so we are considering where else to go in our limited time left here in New Caledonia. We are also starting to look for a weather window to reach Bundaberg in Australia which is about an 800 mile passage. Before that we need to pull into Noumea for customs / immigration purposes plus we need to provision up for the journey as our stores of food and diesel are quite low. And, of course, there is the Australian paperwork to complete in preparation for our arrival.

So the final image to finish today’s blog is of us both relaxing up the river in the hot springs.

Bye for now


New Caledonia: Lifou and Ouvea, Loyalty Islands

Thursday (3 October) and the winds had eased so we headed ashore to walk through the village. It is beautifully kept with manicured gardens, palm trees, and traditional housing with gorgeous views out to sea. Sadly no villagers appeared to be home, although we did meet their pigs and chickens.

Continuing to wander the village we came across the the wood-fired bakery and treated ourselves to some of the tastiest crustiest bread we had ever eaten. Yum.

We also found the church school which was incredibly quiet with all the curtains drawn so we think we must have hit upon siesta time. Heading back to Morphie we had a quiet afternoon and evening getting ourselves ready to go to sea again.

At 5.40 am on Friday morning we picked up anchor and sailed out of the bay. The sail to Ouvea was downwind and we ran under a full genoa only. The seas were lumpy and it was a bit of a sporty ride with gusts up to 27 knots. We reached the anchorage outside the Paradis d’Ouvea hotel by 14.10. Another 50 mile passage successfully completed.

The pure white sand of the anchorage was amazing – it grabbed our anchor so hard – I thought I was going to be ejected over the bow when we came to a sudden stop. So no worries on the anchor not being set LOL. We got dink down and headed ashore and left him on the absolutely stunning beach.

We asked permission at the hotel to leave dink on their beach and they were very friendly and welcoming. So we sat on the hotel verandah and had a couple of (blisteringly) expensive local beers watching the antics of a huge spider that had strung his web across between two trees. We then returned to Morphie before dark.

Saturday morning we were up early and headed ashore to meet other Rally participants as we had arranged a tour. We picked up John and Stella (SV Exocet Strike) on the way as we wanted to minimise our dinghy footprint on the resort’s beach – we pulled them all out of the way and chained them together for security.

We met Pierre and Michel, our tour guide and drivers. They had two vehicles so John, Stella, Richard and I headed off with Michel in his little car….which was filthy dirty and held together by rust LOL. The others headed off with Pierre. At first we didn’t think that Michel spoke much English but he soon warmed up and had a wicked sense of humour so we had a great time talking to him.

The island of Ouvea has a tragic history. It is one of the Loyalty Islands (like Lifou) which is largely populated by Kanak tribespeople. They live traditional simple lives and wish for independence from France. However, they are in the minority, with very few islands they can call their own. But they welcomed us to find out more about them and, as both Pierre and Michel were Kanak, we were allowed to visit certain significant tribal and spiritual areas that would otherwise not be allowed.

First stop was the beach at Mouli (in the south of the island) and gave us sight of the channel markers into the lagoon that we had come through the previous day.

Moving on we then stopped at the Mouli bridge which has special significance with the inner lagoon being sacred ground. We walked across the bridge admiring the beautiful scenery and even spotting some turtles and rays in the fast-moving waters below. We had bought snorkelling gear with us (and this was supposed to be an exceptional area) but we all decided not to go in as the current was ripping through and the winds were particularly cold. (And yes if I look a bit windswept that is because I was LOL!)

Moving on we headed past the razor-wire fenced gendarmerie towards another village, Fayaoue. The south and the north of the island are largely Catholic with the middle section being Protestant but they all get along as they share a common culture. Each village has its own chief so there is at least one traditional house surrounded by a wooden stockade to symbolise his status. On this island alone there are numerous languages with the villages in the South using a dialect which is similar to that used by islanders from Wallis and Fortuna.

Moving on we came across the memorial to those who had perished in both world wars plus other conflicts and tragedies (eg a ferry sinking with huge loss of life and a soldier that perished recently in Afghanistan). It was beautifully maintained and guarded by two large statues. This was clearly an important place for locals, evidenced by fresh flowers having been recently laid.

Next stop was The Blue Hole of Hanawa which is so deep that even a Cousteau technical diving expedition was unable to find its true depth. It is definitely linked to the sea as the limestone walls showed signs of the changing tide and housed lots of tropical fish who thoroughly enjoyed the bread we gave them.

Taking a brief break from the tour we headed to the ATM for more drinking vouchers plus a small supermarket where we treated ourselves to ice cream. Moving on we checked out the huge desalination plants that service the island and also a coconut oil distillery and soap factory, although none of them were operational as it was Le Weekend.

The next place was another memorial. This one is particularly significant for the islanders. In 1988 the locals wanted to fly their traditional flag above the gendarmerie. There was a fracas and four policemen were killed. The Kanak activists then took (French) people hostage and split them into two groups – the group that were held in the village were later released unharmed – and the others were taken to the limestone caves. The hostage-taking was allegedly designed to kick start a dialogue with the French government about the perceived poor treatment of the indigenous population. However, France never negotiate with “terrorists” and sent in special forces to free the hostages. All activists were killed in the process. And to add fuel to the fire many were found to have been executed (or refused medical care) according to an independent medical examiner. So this memorial to these young men is a place for the Kanak people to celebrate the lives and ideals of these martyrs. To show solidarity with other indigenous populations in the region the wooden carvings that commemorate each of them were carved elsewhere representing the Melanesians, the Aborigines, the Maoris and the Polynesians who are all determined to maintain their own culture and regain ownership of their lands. Never truer the saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Moving on we headed further north and wandered down to the foreshore to be met by this stunning limestone gorge which was absolutely beautiful.

Next stop was the Turtle Blue Hole where we saw some turtles swimming freely. Another sacred place although we did bump into an interesting character who wanted to charge us for taking photographs but was quickly undermined by Pierre who stated that it was not necessary.

Having seen many beaches, villages and other sites it was now time to go for lunch. Beautiful place but also a potentially tough life particularly on the windward side of the island. Check out these fisherman in the surf.

We went to Michel’s compound and met his mum and other family members who had cooked a huge buffet for us and some other (medical volunteer) tourists.

The spread was huge and included land crab, coconut crab (which is an endangered species in Vanuatu) and some large fish. Richard thoroughly enjoyed most things although I was a bit more challenged by the menu. I really didn’t care for the cremated puffer fish as they are one of my favourite swimming friends LOL.

A fun time was had by all and we headed back in our vehicles towards the hotel. We stopped on the way to pick up some provisions at another small grocery store and then back to the dinghies and returned pretty tired back to Morphie for the evening.

Sunday morning we checked the weather and the wind and seas were continuing to flatten so we had a good chance of reaching the main island of Grand Terre if we did an overnight sail. So after a day relaxing and chilling out we picked up our anchor and said a fond farewell to Ouvea.

Bye for now


Vanuatu to Drueulu, Lifou, New Caledonia

Friday afternoon (27 September) at 4pm we headed out of Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu for the last time. As we came out into the open ocean we were met by lumpy seas and stronger winds than forecast (oh what a surprise) and, of course, they were forward of the beam. So a pretty feisty start to the trip. The sun went down and it was pitch black with no stars, no boats, just nothing. All very eerie. The wind continued to blow and we were getting thrown around a bit by breaking waves. Then rain squalls come through with 28 knot gusts. It was also a bit unpleasant as the movement of the boat was making us both feel a bit queasy. Oh well, never mind.

By noon on Saturday the winds had started to stabilise, the seas had flattened considerably, and it was pretty sunny. What a difference a day makes! The wind had gone more easterly so we were sailing nicely along on a beam reach under a reefed main and genoa.

We got ourselves settled into the routine of being at sea and, by the time the sun went down and we went into our night shifts again, we were enjoying the passage.

By 9pm we needed to boost our batteries so motor sailed for a short while. The wind then moved further forward again and by midnight was fickle and feisty again. At 3am on Sunday the wind just died so we continued under engine towards Lifou which is one of the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. We also took the opportunity to make water at the same time. By 6am it was land ahoy and at 9.30 am we had the anchor down amongst the other Go West rally participants, having completed another 222 mile passage.

The anchorage is really pretty and the sun was out – just lovely! The water is so clear we could even watch the cuttle fish who seemed very curious in our anchor chain and snubber LOL.

Having caught up on some sleep, we were sitting in the cockpit enjoying our new surroundings when were visited by two humpback whales – a mother and a calf. OMG what a treat! The locals rushed out in their boats to take a closer look and it was almost as if they knew each other with the whales surfacing near their boat while they all admired each other. Although quarantined and forced to stay on board with treats like this who cares?!?

Monday morning and the officials had flown in from Noumea to process the fleet. First, though, was the biosecurity guy Jeanne (who lives in the bay’s village of Drueulu) to come on board. We had nothing to hand over as we had an empty freezer and our fresh fruit and vegetables were consumed en route. So we were dealt with very quickly. Then I was taken by the rally organiser, John, to his catamaran Songlines where the customs and immigration officials were waiting. I had already completed all the documents so another painless exercise. Sadly we didn’t get any stamps in our passports as we are European (currently!) and we were told we could stay as long as we liked. Lovely welcome.

In the afternoon we headed ashore to meet other rally participants. Boats had converged here from both Fiji and Vanuatu. There were people we had met before and some new faces so it was good to get together. John told us the plans for Tuesday and we then just enjoyed a social time on the beach. Back on board Morphie for dinner and, when the sun went down, it was pretty cold.

Tuesday morning we were on the second minibus taking us into We, the main town. First stop was the ATM to get local currency, followed by the OTP for SIM cards so that we could all get back online. Back in the bus to the large supermarket and we stocked up on meat and fresh produce, plus some rather nice French wine. We were particularly excited by the crusty baguettes and the cold meat and cheese cabinet, but managed to reign in our enthusiasm and didn’t over purchase LOL.

Back to the boat and we enjoyed a lovely crusty ham and tomato baguette. Absolutely fantastic – it’s funny what you crave when you can’t get it! At 2.30 pm we headed back ashore to get rid of our rubbish as the local villagers had arranged a truck to take it all from us (for a small fee of course). Then we walked to Jeanne’s house in the village and took over a large meeting area where John gave us a run through of places to go / see in New Caledonia.

John also explained about the on-going friction between the indigenous Kanak population and the French, which means that in some traditional and sacred areas we are either not allowed to visit or be welcomed. Really useful information as we would not want to face any hostility by inadvertently straying into the wrong place. After the talk we moved to the eating area – having first inspected the fish and chicken being cooked over the open fire – and sat around and socialised.

We were supposed to be meeting the chief but, for one reason or another (we think he was a bit shy about addressing such a large group) this didn’t happen. So Jeanne took us into the traditionally-built chief’s house and gave us a really interesting insight into their culture.

Afterwards it was time for the feast and the food (three courses) was really nice. It was an enjoyable evening and we were delighted that the local lads (who were security for our dinghies on the beach) were happy to wade in and help us depart. Such friendly people.

Wednesday and the wind was howling with gusts of up to 30 knots. There was an island tour available to us but we didn’t want to leave Morphie unattended on a high wind day so we stayed onboard, did some boat jobs, relaxed and had a movie night.

This morning Thursday and the wind has reduced a bit so some of the rally participants have departed and we plan to head out very early tomorrow morning. This is a ‘destination’ rally so the formal arrangements are over and we’ll all move to our own schedules going forward. If the conditions continue to ease today we plan to go and visit the local village this afternoon.

Our next destination is another Loyalty Island, Ouvea, about 50 miles from here. This island is the only true atoll in New Caledonia and the local people there are a mixture of Polynesians and Melanesians living their traditional lives. The reef, lagoon and beach look absolutely beautiful so we are very excited to be able to visit and, fingers crossed, may even be able to go diving.

Bye for now


Vanuatu: Final days in Port Vila, Efate

Sunday the weather was horrible….rain, overcast, cold and generally miserable. So we decided not to go to the Kustom Karnival after all (as it was on the beach). The wind was howling and the 30 knot gusts were even felt in the anchorage so we were pleased in the end that we had decided to stay onboard. Later on we headed ashore to the Waterfront for sundowners where we caught up with fellow cruisers.

Monday morning we headed out for more food and water. Richard also purchased more diesel which he decanted into the fuel tank on return. He also finished the varnish keepers which will protect the wood for now while I cleaned some of the stainless. We then relaxed for a few hours before heading in for sundowners which was very social again as we were joined by Karen and Cheryl (SV Interlude – Canada) plus Stuart and Sally (SV Blithe Spirit – Australia) and also met Stuart’s Mum Marilyn (a very sprightly 82 year old) who is visiting on holiday. We ended up staying out longer than we planned as we enjoyed watching the World Cup Rugby.

Tuesday we were very busy. This time we went around the boat in dink (holding on for dear life as the latest cruise ship passengers were ferried backwards and forwards throughout the anchorage) and cleaned the stainless on the capping rail (which was particularly bad on the transom for some reason) and also the rub rail. We then input all the waypoints for our forthcoming passage to Lifou into the chart plotter and also marked all the danger areas (I use the skull and crossbones symbol) so that, even if we are zoomed out, the bits to avoid remain visible.

Pretty tired after a very productive day we headed over for sundowners again and were invited to join Blithe Spirit and Interlude for a day out on Wednesday as they had hired a van and driver. This was really nice of them and we were very happy to be included. We then returned to Morphie for an early night.

Wednesday morning and we were up bright and early and headed ashore to meet up. Sadly Sally wasn’t able to join us as she was poorly. And, of course, it was raining again despite the sunny forecast. Grrrr…..never mind… least we won’t be sitting on the boat all day! So we drove through Port Vila and headed up towards Port Havannah which we had wanted to visit by boat but were not able to as this was inside the rhinocerous beetle exclusion zone. We went to Francesca’s (an Italian restaurant) and wandered the beach (which was broken coral rather than sand) and I was particularly taken by the tree roots that dotted the shore.

We kept out of the rain on the deck and fussed over the dogs (who loved Richard). The others went snorkelling but we didn’t bother just enjoying the peaceful surroundings and the views when the weather brightened up briefly.

Later on we had a very leisurely lunch (which was delicious). We stayed on the deck watching the finches eating the papaya (known here as paw paw). After lunch we had a group photo and Richard even decided to let one of the dogs pose too LOL.

Returning from Francescas we stopped at the Tanna Coffee factory which roasts the coffee that is organically farmed near the volcano. It was interesting to watch the process and of course we had to taste the end product in the little cafe.

In the same building they also make sandalwood oil. Interestingly, they can only make 500ml out of 40kg of raw material, which makes you realise why this natural product is so expensive. They didn’t seem to be selling a lot of it in the little store but I guess it would be different on a cruise ship day.

Moving on we then headed to the distillery where the gang tried the limoncello and rum tasters….but I declined, having had a few glasses of wine over lunch. The kava flavoured rum was not a hit LOL. I enjoyed checking out all the different vinegars, oils, jams and jellies on offer. Arriving back at the Waterfront we had a quick drink before heading back to Morphie. Had been a lovely day.

Thursday morning we ran the weather models again and were delighted that they finally agreed. The wind was going to be more easterly than expected (giving us a better sailing angle) and the seas had calmed down from the 4m swells earlier in the week. So we are finally going to be leaving Vanuatu. Woo hoo!

We got all our paperwork together and headed to Yacht World to pay our mooring fees and got some more cash out of the ATM. We then headed over in dink to the main port to visit customs first. All forms were in order (phew). We then returned our cruising permit and the guy retained our passports for the documents to be completed. We then went to the Harbour Master in the building next door and paid our departure fees which came to just over VT9,000 (around £75). Receipt in hand we returned to customs who gave us our clearance document. Then to immigration to fill in more forms and get another clearance document and stamps in the passport. Wasn’t too onerous really but I would hate to think how long it would take if there were numerous yachts wanting to check out at the same time…..

Coming back around to Morphie in the anchorage we checked out all the wrecks on the foreshore. You have to wonder why they don’t clean these up…….

Later on we headed over to the Waterfront for our final sundowners here in Vanuatu and said our farewells. We have thoroughly enjoyed Vanuatu (despite the weather!) and maybe we’ll return one day to see more of the islands.

This morning, Friday, and we were up early and started preparing the boat for sea. I cooked our dinner and stripped beds getting our passage stuff ready. The grab bag is packed and things have been stowed away properly as we will be heeling over a bit on this 200+ mile passage as the wind will probably be forward of the beam (although we hold out hope for a beam reach). Richard has also done his engine checks. While I’m blogging Richard went ashore to spend our remaining Vanuatu currency on some bread and coke and then we’ll get the outboard on the rail and dink up on the arch in preparation for our afternoon departure.

We will leave the anchorage today around 4pm (so that we can clear the island before the sun goes down) and expect to arrive in Lifou Sunday morning. We will then be quarantined for the day until Monday when the officials will turn up from Noumea for the official check-in process. We will not get a chance to get a SIM card until Tuesday so we’ll be offline until then. If you want to check up on us visit the ‘Where are we now?’ page and watch our tracker. We are very excited to be moving on and it certainly looks very beautiful!

Bye for now


Vanuatu: Still in Port Vila, Efate

Sunday morning (15 September) and it rained again, hard! So we just stayed on board down below before heading ashore for sundowners with Chris (SV Sea Bear). We were all feeling a bit miserable and were definitely fed up with the weather. But at least we were safe and secure in a sheltered harbour with access to facilities. The sunset was so beautiful it almost made up for the dismal day.

Monday morning and it was time to make some decisions about our proposed Tuesday departure as Customs and Immigration clearance needs to be done 24 hours in advance. So we ran the weather models again only to find out that the weather window had closed down and we would now be looking at arriving at the Havannah Canal in 25 knots of sustained wind with higher gusts. This area is known to be particularly challenging in high winds so we decided not to risk it. The Go West Rally (which we are participating in from New Caledonia to Australia) had made a special arrangement to check into Lifou in the Loyalty Islands instead (which are not usually a port of entry) and means a shorter passage and the opportunity to visit more islands rather than by-pass them. So we signed up and made special arrangements with the officials to clear out of Vanuatu on Saturday for a Sunday departure. Lots of paperwork to complete but at least we now had a plan. Whilst I was busy doing all this Richard took himself off to get some diesel – the fuel dock is not open on a Sunday so an alongside fill up before departure wouldn’t be possible. Jobs done we later had sundowners on board Morphie with Chris.

Tuesday morning and the sun came out. Hurrah! I worked hard cleaning, waxing and polishing the cockpit whilst Richard did some mechanical jobs and also swapped out our ensign. He also found and repaired our French courtesy flag. During the afternoon Sea Bear left the anchorage but sadly we were down below so failed to wave him off which was a shame. Safe sailing Chris! During the day we had received an email from the Go West Rally organiser who articulated concerns over the updated weather forecast for scheduled departures from both Fiji and Vanuatu but promised to stay in touch. It certainly looked pretty feisty to us! Unbelievable how things change so quickly.

Wednesday morning and I did the washing using the spare 10L jug of fresh water we had stowed in the lazarette. Richard was on a mission for refrigerant gas again. He had found out a few places where he could buy it (allegedly) and walked the town, and walked, and walked only to be turned away from all stores that he visited despite the locals telling him that it was definitely available. Fed up from being given the runaround he returned to Morphie but at least he didn’t come back empty handed as he had filled up the jug with fresh (potable) water. The harbour water here is surprisingly clear and looks clean but, near the main street, there is a warning not to swim because of ‘health risks’ (although they do actually swim off the casino beach near our mooring). Not sure what those risks are but don’t fancy making water (just in case) so we are going to fill up every time we go ashore and use that to top up our tanks. During the day SV Mezzaluna and SV Bla Ellinor turned up in the anchorage having had a rough and bouncy sail down. We all headed ashore for sundowners and ended up in a big crowd having a few cold ones. Was very social.

Thursday morning and the rally was confirmed as postponed with the new date for checking in pushed out to Monday 30 September. This is really cutting down our available time to explore New Caledonia but what can we do?!? So now we are going to be here in Port Vila for another week. As we had virtually emptied the freezer in preparation for entering into New Caledonia (which has strict bio-security rules about food) this meant that we now needed to go shopping. So we headed up to the Bon Marche supermarket for a provisioning run. Back on board we unpacked and stowed our goodies before returning ashore for more water and happy hour sundowners.

Friday we had a lay in and relaxed. At 4.30 pm we headed ashore to meet the gang and bundled into a bus to take us to the Beach Bar in Mele who are the original hosts to the Vanuatu fire show as the performers come from the nearby village. So we took our seats and enjoyed the view along the beach and out to sea as the sun went down.

And here’s Richard with our supplies LOL. Spotted the name tag?!? Yes, Asa decided we should fit in and look like a proper tourist group rather than a bunch of cruisers so made us all wear name tags and even had a little flag to jolly the 10 of us along.

The fire show was amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Saturday morning and it was cloudy and grey yet again with a bit of rain in the air. A cruise ship had come into the port overnight so there were lots of local boats buzzing behind our stern carrying tourists to and from their various activities. Wish they would observe the no-wake zone though as we get rocked and rolled around a bit LOL.

As we are stuck here waiting on weather we are using our time to get on with boat jobs (today it was varnish keepers on the rail). Was a pretty windy day so looks like the forecast might actually be correct for once! We had a quiet night on board before having an early night.

This morning, Sunday, and I’m blogging very early before the internet speed slows down as more people come on line. Then I’m going back to bed for a while. This afternoon we are returning to the Beach Bar to see their Kustom Karnival which includes live music, kustom dancers from the Banks Islands (remember the snake people from the festival in Malekula?) and even clowns. So looking forward to that.

Bye for now


Vanuatu: Aore Island to Port Vila, Efate

Sunday morning (8 September) we had a lazy start and went ashore in the afternoon for our final visit to the resort. We enjoyed a bottle of wine sitting on the deck overlooking Morphie in the anchorage and just chilled for a while. Then we paid our bill and went back aboard for dinner and an early night, having secured everything ready to go to sea the following day.

Monday at 4.30 am in the pitch black we headed away from Aore Island and out into the channel towards Port Vila, Efate. The weather window for going south was very narrow so we had abandoned the idea of island hopping on the way as we realised that we would probably get stuck again. The sea was calm and there wasn’t much wind so we just motored gently along. By the time the sun started coming up we were moving away from the islands. Goodbye Espiritu Santo and Aore, it had been fun.

When we cleared the islands the seas just went completely flat and it was like a mill pond. The wind was very light (around 6-8 knots) but with flat seas and a current in our favour we were making more than 5 knots with all three sails deployed. Was a nice day at sea although Richard lost one of his lures to a very big fish who just hit it and chomped it off – the speed and strength of the take was amazing and we were both grateful that this one got away LOL. The sunset was just spectacular and there was very little boat traffic apart from one ferry and two other yachts also making the most of the calm conditions to run south.

Tuesday morning it was cloudy and cold with rain in the air. The wind picked up to 21 knots on the nose. But we managed to sail into it with just our main and staysail deployed and continued to make good progress. This change, of course, was not forecast yet again. By 6am it was pretty horrible and we had an adverse current so our speed dropped to an average 3.6 knots but we just pushed on. By noon we were approaching the cut into Port Vila having avoided the extended Blue Exclusion Zone because of an infestation of rhinocerous beetles.

We arrived into the outer harbour having completed our 170 mile passage and couldn’t raise Yacht World on the radio (who manage the moorings) so we came through into the inter harbour and stooged around. Eventually we got a response but were told to wait…and wait…and wait. So we anchored until they were ready to assist us. The moorings here have sunken ropes and no pick-up buoys so you have to get help to pick one up. The anchorage is over coral so not good holding and the moorings pretty much dominate the bay here. Eventually, by 4pm, we were securely tied to a mooring. We got ourselves cleaned up and headed ashore for a Jumbo Tusker at the Waterfront pleased to be back.

The Waterfront bar and restaurant is part of Yacht World and have boats med-moored to the wall. It was absolutely rammed and all the moorings were full (we got the last one!) as the Pacific Cruising rally is in town. Was a nice social evening and it was good to catch up with Chris (SV Sea Bear) again. The temperature took a real dip during the evening and we were both pretty cold when we got back to Morphie.

During the night the rain started….it was torrential…..and made a horrendous noise hitting the coach roof above our berth. In a break in the rain on Wednesday morning we went ashore to the big Bon Marche supermarket and re-provisioned. The upside to the overnight rain was that Morphie no longer needed a wash down to get rid of the salt from the passage.

Having got everything stowed we headed back to meet Chris and Craig (SV Crocus) in the rain again. We enjoyed Happy Hour but it was so cold we resorted to wearing jeans ashore and dining down below on our return.

Thursday and it was still raining. So another day down below although Richard did service the generator in the cockpit during the day. This is getting us down a bit but I made myself useful stripping the bed and doing a bit of cleaning then completing the outward documentation for Vanuatu and the inward documentation for New Caledonia (we just need the dates completed once our plans firm up). Apparently the South Pacific Convergence Zone has moved a bit and it is the reason why we are getting unsettled weather and stronger than normal trade winds. This dire weather restricts our movements and has certainly been a major feature of our season this year. Despite the rain, we met Chris and Craig again for Happy Hour and then went on for dinner at a local Thai restaurant (which bizarrely has a massage parlour inside). Was very good food.

Friday morning and it was still raining….. Getting fed up with this that’s for sure. I’m also struggling a bit with my hip and back as the damp seems to seep right into the bones. So Richard kindly left me to rest up while he headed out into town. First stop was a propane fill. We can fill our original US bottles here in Vanuatu but know that is not possible in either New Caledonia or Australia so we needed to make the most of this opportunity. He also purchased some oil and hunted high and low for some refrigerant gas but sadly didn’t find any. When he came back he looked like a drowned rat!

Later on we headed ashore for sundowners again, this time in our Musto foulies as it was raining so hard. We met up with Craig and some other rally members who are heading out on Saturday to the Lifou islands. It was really nice to see Nigel and Amanda (the rally organisers) again too. And, of course, we got soaked getting back to Morphie to have dinner. Look how much water we collected whilst we were out for just a couple of hours!

This morning, Saturday, and it was still raining but by noon it had started to ease. It still remains very cloudy and grey reminding us of sailing in the UK when everything just feels damp and cold. Richard has been very industrious having done an engine oil change; replaced the oil filter; changed the primary and secondary fuel filters; and cleaned out the engine bay. He has also done the engine checks for when we get moving again. He has just gone ashore to top up our internet credit while I’m blogging. I desperately need to get some washing done too when it is possible to get things dry!

Looking forward there is a possible weather window to depart on Tuesday. It will be a shame to leave Vanuatu without having visited many of the islands that we had planned to see but the weather has just made life difficult. And we certainly need to move on if we are to arrive into Australia by the end of October. So the next stop is going to be Noumea, New Caledonia, a passage of around 370 miles. The timing of this passage requires a bit of thought as we are going to be going around the bottom of the island inside the fringing reef so we need to be on a rising tide (to avoid strong adverse currents) and well as arriving at the cut in daylight so we can eyeball navigate through this area. Fingers crossed the weather window holds.

Bye for now


Vanuatu: Espiritu Santo and Aore Island

Sunday afternoon, having got ourselves anchored and settled in Luganville Bay, we headed ashore to the Beachfront Resort. We were pleasantly surprised as it didn’t look much from the anchorage and were particularly impressed that they even had a yacht information pack for us when we registered at reception. We had a couple of cold ones before heading back for an early night.

Monday morning we had a lazy start and I stayed on board while Richard headed into town for some petrol. And the rain just kept on coming through in waves. We eventually made a dash for it ashore where we were joined by Aso, Dan, Jeff, Katie and Mark for our (23rd) wedding anniversary meal and had a fun time together. Aso had been to the market during the afternoon and introduced us all to her crab friends who were facing a boiling pot of coconut milk later in the evening. We did tell her off for playing with her food LOL.

Tuesday morning and we up very early as we had organised to go diving on the SS President Coolidge. This was an ocean liner built in 1931 which served as a troopship in the second world war having been converted in 1942 and assigned to the US Navy. Many of her civilian fittings were removed or boarded over for safe keeping at this time. Guns were duly mounted and she was painted grey. She was sunk by American mines here in Espiritu Santo which was then part of the New Hebrides (two ships were lost to friendly fire as, allegedly, the authorities did not inform the captains of the newly laid minefields). When the Coolidge hit the mines Captain Henry Nelson beached the ship and evacuated the crew leaving all their personal belongings behind, with the expectation that they could undertake a salvage operation in future days.

However a coral reef was in the way and ripped through the hull of the ship and within 90 minutes the Coolidge slipped down the shelf and was completely submerged. When Vanuatu won independence in 1980 they declared that no salvage or recovery of any artifact would be allowed from the wreck of the Coolidge. Since then the ship has been used for recreational diving and it is possible to swim through numerous holds and decks. There are guns, cannons, jeeps, helmets, trucks and personal supplies still left on board.

At 8.15 am we were collected by the dive company and driven to their private site on the shoreline. We were delighted to find we were the only divers that day. We were given our (heavy steel) tanks and proceeded to kit up before having our briefing. We were going to penetrate holds 1 and 2 but no further on this first dive. So ready to go and the dive guys carried my gear into the water for me (as we had requested to avoid stressing my back). Richard had to walk in carrying all of his own gear. Our dive leader was impressively kitted out with side-by-side double tanks and he also carried a spare tank and regulators for safety reasons.

This was important to us as some of the dive operators here have a reputation for taking people into dangerous scenarios with deep penetration of the wreck to decompression depths without ensuring that the divers have the appropriate experience/skills to do such technical diving, and there have been deaths as a result.

We carried on walking out across the reef until it was time to descend. The visibility was not particularly good (because of the recent rains) and, at around 30m, the bow of the wreck came into sight……it is huge! We had a look at the variety of objects (including armaments) scattered around and our dive leader decided to shoot us with a gun and try on a gas mask for good measure. We did penetrate the wreck but not deeper than 33m. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

The safety stops were a bit longer than was strictly necessary on the ascent but again, safety first, and we are certainly not complaining. While we were hanging around in the shallower water on the ascent we hovered around a colony of clown fish who were very protective of their nursery. Have never seen such tiny Nemos!

Back ashore and, again, the guys carried my gear out of the water. They realised that I was good on air (having returned with 120 bar after 41 minutes) so they promised to provide me with a smaller tank for the next dive so that it would be more manageable for me. We were taken by minibus back to the dive operation’s resort, Coral Quays, and enjoyed a very leisurely four hour surface interval having lunch overlooking the rain forest.

Early afternoon we repacked our stuff into the trailer and took off again back up the road for our second dive on the Coolidge. This time we took a different route and penetrated slightly deeper to the medical quarters. Really good diving.

The safety stop intervals were even longer this time and to pass the time we fed the fish while sitting on the sandy bottom.

Arriving back at the surface we cleaned up all our kit and was returned to the Beachfront Resort. We made use of their fresh-water showers to clean ourselves and all our gear up and then had a few cold ones with some fellow cruisers waiting for the torrential rain to pass.

Wednesday morning and the forecast was for more settled weather and for the wind direction to be more westerly – perfect for getting to Vao Island which sits at the top of Malekula. So we weighed anchor and headed out through the western exit of the Segond Channel to get a better sailing angle once we were clear of the island. Well, as we neared the exit the wind was not coming from where it was supposed to be and the sea was building and building and we were getting nowhere into the large breaking waves taking green water over the bow. This was stupid – and at the speeds we were making – it was clear that we weren’t going to be able to make the 30-odd miles to arrive in daylight (which is necessary as Vao is surrounded by reefs and we need to eyeball our way through). So we decided to cut our losses and aborted the attempt. As we neared Luganville we realised that there was a spare mooring ball at the Aore Island Resort – somewhere we had wanted to go to – so took the opportunity of picking that up.

Disappointed not to have left Espiritu Santo but, never mind, we’ll enjoy a few days R&R here. We dinghied ashore, registered ourselves, and had a few hours chilling by the pool before having a pizza supper and retiring onboard for the night. Had been a frustrating day but this lovely interlude more than made up for it.

Thursday evening the resort was providing a show by the women from the northern island of Gaua. They are famous for their water music and dancing. So we had a productive day on board doing boat jobs and the laundry before heading ashore about 4pm. We bobbed in the pool and lazed on the beach before having showers and getting cleaned up in preparation for the show and dinner.

We had reserved a table and they had given us one right on the deck over the sea which was prime position for the show. So we settled down to watch. It was fantastic! How they make the sounds by virtually drumming the sea was just amazing, but it was difficult to get photos as they move so fast! This was then followed by a lovely candlelit dinner, all very romantic.

Friday morning and we were up very early again. We had run the weather models late the night before and there was another weather window to move south. So at 7am we slipped away from our mooring ball saying a fond farewell to the resort, and proceeded out towards the eastern exit of the Segond Channel. The wind was on our nose (as expected) and we knew it was going to be a close hauled sail once we turned towards our destination but all was looking good. Slow going but we knew we could make up time once we were under sail away from the local island effects. Anyway – we turned into the channel between two smaller islands – and the wind increased to 25 knots (forecast at 12-15) and the seas built and we were now punching into the waves hard and our boat speed suffered significantly. OK, local weather effects are often felt in close promixity to the islands and we also anticipated an increased fetch as the sea is channeled through small gaps. But the sea state deteriorated and the wind increased and it was just plain horrible. By now we recognised that we couldn’t possibly make Vao before dark (again!) so we took the decision to return once again to Luganville to await another window. The forecasts are just rubbish here and until you physically get out there it is difficult to gauge what you are going to face. Although we are very keen to move south again now it is not at any price!

So we turned around, pulled out the genoa, and had a lovely sail back towards Luganville. By now the wind had swung SE (again not forecast) and when we got back to Luganville Bay the chop started to make the anchorage very rolly. But we got our anchor down and then rerun the weather models only to find that the wind was now going to increase signficantly during the night. As we had had to run for cover from this anchorage before in those conditions it looked like we needed to move on again. We got out the binoculars and realised that our mooring at Aore Island was still available so we quickly weighed anchor and rushed over there to claim it again as it is protected by the island from the trades. Phew….19 miles….and we hadn’t been anywhere yet again. Frustrating but at least we are safe and sound and will enjoy just being here for a few more days until this latest unsettled weather system clears.

This morning, Saturday, and Richard is relaxing while I’m blogging. We’ll go ashore and visit the beach later this afternoon…. So I’ll leave you with my favourite picture of Morphie from the Aore resort.

Bye for now


Vanuatu: Exploring Espiritu Santo

Saturday night (24 August) the winds picked up and we started nodding into the increasingly large chop in Luganville Bay. By the time we had got up and breakfasted on Sunday morning the wind was still increasing and the anchorage was quickly becoming untenable. So we stowed everything away and weighed anchor. We headed out into the Segon Channel which runs along the bottom of Espiritu Santo. It was horrible, large seas of 2m and wind on the nose. We couldn’t punch into it and make any sort of speed without running the engine very hot so we just had to put up with it and at times couldn’t even make 2 knots. The wind was now howling at up to 30 knots. As we rounded Million Dollar Point the wind thankfully moved behind us and we were able to pull out a reefed genoa and make better way in the rough conditions.

By 13.37 we had worked our way in through the reefs and were anchored in Surunda Bay which was a delight. The bay was large, protected, and with lots of room and good holding in sand.

We joined SV Bla Ellinor and SV Macluska in the anchorage and were followed in by SV Mezzaluna who had just arrived from Malekula. We enjoyed the relative calm of the anchorage and had a quiet night on board.

Monday morning we headed to the beach as we wanted to go into Luganville to re-provision. We asked permission of the landowner, as the beaches are public but the land fronting them is private and we need to go through their grounds to reach the main road. You can see how seriously this particular one takes his privacy – check out his welcome sign LOL.

At the main road, we hitched a ride with a chatty woman who lives on one of the local huge cattle plantations and she informed us of where to find everything in Luganville and refused any petrol money. (Vanuatu is famous for its organic beef and Espiritu Santo is where most of the cattle are reared.) It was very kind of her to take us into town. We wandered the main street and we headed into a local butchers. They had a great selection of beef but not much else so we just bought some steak. Then it was on to the large market for some fresh fruit and vegetables which were all priced up so we knew we were paying the local price and not inflated tourist ones.

I had a look at the local food being prepared by women in the market but didn’t try anything as there wasn’t much that appealed to be honest. The women were quite shy but I managed to get a few smiles out of them in the end.

Moving on we headed to the town’s largest supermarket. We found most things that we wanted including some special goodies as we were hosting sundowners on board Morphie in the evening. Fully laden we got a taxi to take us back to the beach and then dinked back to the boat. The taxi driver wanted V1500 (just over £10) for the 15 minute drive and we haggled him down to V1000 which was fine, especially as we had got into town for free earlier in the day.

Back on board we put everything away, tidied up, and prepared for the gang to descend on us at 16.30. We did an Indian vegetarian platter of snacks plus some cheeses and fresh vegetable crudites with dips. We had one person with a wheat allergy and one vegan so it was a challenge to do an evening which catered for all and luckily the supermarket had a range of suitable products we could offer. We had a lovely evening with Jeff and Katie (SV Mezzaluna – USA), Mark (SV Macluska – UK) and Aso and Dan (SV Bla Ellinor – Sweden). Was fun.

Tuesday was a lovely day with the sun shining (which we haven’t seen much of this season). But sadly the wind was still too strong and in the wrong direction to head back to Luganville. We also found out that the diving on the famous sites is shore diving which is probably too difficult for me to do with my dodgy back – walking across the reef carrying all the weights and equipment would not be a good idea – so we are looking into whether we can find a company offering boat diving. We found one but weren’t able to fix a date in advance as this is so weather dependent. We will continue with our adventure and hope to sort this out for another time later.

In the afternoon we went ashore to have dinner Vanuatu style. We had received permission to use the ‘picnic’ area from the local village and so we gathered wood (with some help from the kids) and built a fire on the beach near the local fishing boats.

We got it going and then put our dishes on the flames. We had good fun and were entertained by Jeff so we had a camp fire sing along. The local kids were enjoying themselves too and stayed the evening chatting and entertaining us. Quite a few other cruisers came over from anchored boats so it was all very social. Before we returned to Morphie at the end of the evening we fed the kids the remainder of our pot luck dishes – and they loved it. The only downside to the evening was that I had forgotten my glasses (as I was wearing my sunnies) so had to stay mysterious wearing sunglasses in the dark like a right plonker LOL.

Wednesday morning and the gang decided to do a six mile dinghy ride to a nearby blue hole but we had decided we were going to take Morphie into Peterson Bay (which was too shallow for the others). So we went back into town for a final provisioning run as we expect to be on anchor for a while now. We managed to hitch a ride again, had a wander around, stopped in a local cafe/bakery for a cold drink and respite from the blistering humid stormy heat of the day. Shopping completed we returned by taxi, this time only paying V500 so that was a bargain!

Later in the afternoon (having done some hand washing) we headed to the beach and went bobbing. This is a lovely bay with sandy beaches and protected waters – definitely the best we have been in for a long time. The village kids were there to join us again and we had catered for them this time by providing chocolate bourbon biscuits. This went down a treat and we had fun with them. They also showed us their climbing skills by sitting in the trees above our heads while we were in the sea. More turned up – so additional biscuits handed out – and Richard really liked the little boy with the wild hair. What a fantastic bunch of pikininis*. They entertained us with their singing so we sang some songs and got them to join in with the actions too (“if you are happy and you know it clap your hands” etc).

[*Before getting criticised by the PC crowd, let me explain. Pikinini is found in Melanesian pidgin and other languages such as Bislama of Vanuatu. This is the usual world for ‘child’ of either a person or an animal and may refer to children of any race. It is not a derogatory or racist term here unlike its potential usage in the UK.]

Thursday morning and we checked the weather again and it was looking good for the run to North Peterson Bay. The entrance pass through this area is very shallow and can only be attempted at a minimum of one hour before high tide. So we checked the tide and double checked our navigational waypoints. Quite daunting but we had an alternative anchorage once through the outer passage if we didn’t fancy navigating through the inner one. So we picked up anchor at 1pm and headed out.

Having travelled just over 5 miles we headed towards the outer pass and then decided to continue through the inner pass with Richard sticking to the route while I eyeballed the coral bombies all around (which wasn’t that easy as the visibility was reduced by heavy cloud cover). It was quite nerve wracking as the route meandered and the reported navigational aides were missing apart from two scaffold poles at the entrance. At one point, we only had 4ft under the keel. By 14.30 we had anchor down in the bay (having travelled a huge 6.86 miles) and were delighted to be here. The anchorage is one of the most protected yet is still open to receiving the breeze – lovely!

Having settled we dinghied ashore to the Oyster Island resort only to find it was closed for refurbishment – which was disappointing. Never mind back on board and we watched three other boats come in although not all of them came through to the upper lagoon. We had a nice dinner (keeping the vegetable peelings for the dugongs that supposedly live in this lagoon) and sat in the cockpit enjoying the surroundings. We spotted two boats further north of us and there were lights on the beach so, on further investigation using Ovitalmap (where satellite images are available offline) we found Turtle Bay Lodge so may try and visit that tomorrow. We had a lovely night on anchor and barely moved despite the strong winds.

Friday morning and we had breakfast watching the local traffic come and go. There must be villages hidden behind the waterside foliage as we have seen many boats turn up with locals laden down with shopping. Our plan for the day was to visit the Mateluvu Blue Hole up the windey river. But we had to wait for the tide to come in a bit to get over the sandbar at the entrance and we took off in dink for our exploration leaving Morphie sitting pretty in the lagoon surrounded by jungle. Just such a shame about this permanently grey cloudy weather…..

We eventually managed to get over the sandbar and were first greeted by cows on the river bank who watched us go through into the river entrance. We were glad we had come through as early as possible as there were lots of hazards (particularly rocks and tree roots) that would not be so clearly visible when the tide came up. We meandered through slowly admiring the scenery and watching the water turn from muddy silty brown to beautiful clear fresh water with a layer of plants moving with the motion of the water.

At the blue hole we were greeting by some locals who asked us to pay an admission fee of V500 each. That’s fine, someone has gone to a lot of trouble to do some landscaping and put up picnic areas etc. We then wandered around and took some photos, chatting for a while with an English family who were both GPS and had been working in Luganville for a couple of months and the kids were in the international school. They were now coming to the end of their stint here. The kids were fearless jumping from the rope swings but came back a bit blue as the water was freezing! We enjoyed the transquility of the place but didn’t fancy getting that cold…..

We headed back just as it started to rain. Back on board we picked up anchor and edged our way carefully up the lagoon (which is uncharted) staying close to the centre where the depths are deeper. It was quite deep all the way and we dropped our anchor again in 10m and got ourselves settled. The cloudy weather was doing our battery bank no good as the solar gains were so limited so we ran the engine for a little while to give them a top up.

Then we headed ashore to the Turtle Bay Lodge and settled in at the Salty Dog Bar and Restaurant. Lovely little place and very cruiser friendly. But getting ashore was challenging with the incoming tide and we had to tie dink off to a fallen tree in the water (with Richard doing his monkey impression on the trunk) while I tied the stern off to some rocks on the other side of the inlet. Finally ashore (a bit soggy) we enjoyed a few cold beers and had a late lunch. Was very nice.

When we left at 5ish the tide was almost at its height and the tree was partially submerged….it was pretty dangerous to get dink back to the shallows without him surfing onto the rocks either side of the inlet – and, of course, we got completely soaked. Richard was concerned because his tree trunk was now underwater and every time the surge took the dinghy the knots got tighter and he struggled to get it untied without falling in! Back on board (somewhat relieved) we had a nice quiet evening in the cockpit before having another early night.

Saturday morning we debated our options. The high tide here is getting later each evening so we decided to leave that afternoon so that we could get through the shallow pass and back to Surunda before dark.

So we had a lazy day (and no internet access) just reading and relaxing. Then at 15.45 we picked up anchor and motored slowly towards the shallow pass. The first bit was relatively straightforward and we saw 10 ft under the keel. The rest was more challenging and, of course, the clouds returned just in time to make eye-ball navigation more difficult. But we made it through although a bit confused by the depths. On the way in, on a 3ft tide, we saw 4ft under the keel. Following our path back out exactly on a 4ft tide, we saw 3ft under the keel. Go figure!

We motorsailed back to Surunda Bay and got anchored before dark. Had a nice quiet evening on board although had to retreat down below in the torrential rain.

This morning (Sunday) we ran the weather again and the relatively settled weather that had suddenly appeared the day before looked like it was going to persist for about three days. So this could be our chance to go diving! Woo hoo. At 7.50 we picked up anchor and motor sailed out through the reef systems and between a couple of small islands (with a couple of wrecks on the reefs to remind mariners of the hazards). It was still grey and a bit rolly as we came out from the shallow water into the deep blue but it soon settled down and the sun even tried to come out.

We rounded the bottom of Espiritu Santo at Million Dollar Point

and then went through the channel to Luganville Bay (which we had been forced out of last week due to dangerous conditions). It was flat calm with people on the beach fishing in front of the small resort. We’ll be going ashore later to explore and ever hopeful that we may see some sun today.

If the current weather forecast is correct (and that will be a first) it looks like we have an opportunity to start moving south to visit some more remote villages on Wednesday but will obviously keep running the models just to make sure, as we are potentially going against prevailing winds and tides.

In the meantime, I’ll finish with a picture of Richard’s favourite pikinini LOL.

Bye for now


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