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