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