After spending a few action packed weeks in Aur Atoll we set sail back to Majuro with what looked like to be a good weather forecast. The winds had been blowing out of the NE for days and the weather report showed one more day of this wind direction as we raised the anchor sailed towards the south pass of Aur. Approaching the pass I could see this was not to be the case the wind had already clocked way south and had somehow already generated a nasty swell to go along with it! To make matters worse we could see a series of squalls stacked up on the horizon! We cleared the pass trailing a few lines and landed nice yellow fin before the first squall hit and that was the end of the fishing for the trip.
The pass into Majuro lay 65 agonizing miles to the south and I found myself furling and unfurling the jib sail for the next 5 hours as squalls would pass by blowing at over 30 knots and dumping tons of rain as they went by. For Daria the rougher the seas get the sleepier she gets and in these seas it was not long before she was sound asleep leaving me to drive the boat alone. After 5 or six squalls passed I have had enough of it all myself and left the jib most the way rolled up and started the engine. I set the auto pilot and radar alarm and then took a nap. By dawn the skies had cleared and we found our way through the pass into Majuro and motored our way towards the anchorage while beating into a 20 knot SE wind the last 12 miles.
Anchored safely we wondered how we could have had such crappy weather in both directions visiting this amazing atoll?
Bob on Braveheart was anchored a few boats away and had recently returned from the states with bags full of boat parts and other stuff…and one bag full of stuff was ours! We thought this would be much faster getting parts delivered to us than trusting the mail system but as it turned out it saved little or no time since our plan was to meet Bob over a month before in Tuvalu…. But the nice part about the delay was it made it a little like Christmas after all. As we opened packages we ordered months before, some of which were surprises since we forgot what we ordered them so long ago. Other packages were delivered via US mail (Majuro even has a US zip code) began trickling in and by Christmas we received all our packages except two lost packs of fishing lour’s. Santa was nice enough to send me a few new kites for Christmas and Daria got a box full of girlie stuff and some new clothes. One special gift Daria received was a pit of Burberry sunglasses she found on e-bay that turned out to be fitted with her prescription. They were not listed that way but hey small miracles happen!
The Tide Water Restaurant was close by and located right on the wharf and served decent food most the time and a place we could get on the internet. Daria spent many hours talking to family and friends while posting tons of pictures and stories on our blog while eating bowl after bowl of ice cream! While Daria sat in air-conditioned bliss eating ice-cream While I spent the day filling the diesel and propane tanks.
While doing our last minute shopping we checked out every store in town and to our amazement found one store with a icebox full of Hagen Das Ice Cream! Needless to say every square inch of freezer space was stuffed with Hagen Das when we set sail!
Christmas was fast approaching but with 90 degree days it did not feel much like Christmas to either of us. We would hear the holiday music playing on the taxi cab radios and in the stores in Marshallese and did not understand the words but recognized the tunes. In the supermarket we found a whole turkey and all the fixing for a Christmas feast as we stocked up Downtime. One of the other boats Bluebird with Bonnie and Richard aboard were organizing a party and on Christmas day and about 20 of the World Teach teachers and several other cruisers got together for Christmas dinner. These teachers were fresh out of college and volunteered to teach for a year on one of the remote atolls. They came here from all over the US, Canada, and Europe, one was even from Riverside Ca. 10 minutes from where I grew up. This was their first school break since arriving in August and everyone was happy to be back in civilization with warm showers, flushing toilets and air conditioned rooms.
Daria did an amazing job cooking her first ever whole turkey! And even more of an amazing job afterwards making it disappear! She had to try a wing, a leg, some breast meat, and some more breast meat…….soon it was all gone!
After Christmas we did our last bit of shopping loading up the boat with carts full of basketballs, soccer balls, volley balls, crayons, coloring books and lots of other toys for the island kids.
My friend Mark at Pacific Trading brought another order of Heineken and Miller light out while Daria went vegetable shopping and by the end of the day we found ourselves ready to sail.
With Downtime loaded with enough supplies to get us to Palau and 4 months down the road we set sail for Wotje Atoll with yet another great weather forecast! Ya right! But that’s for another story…….
Merry Christmas all our followers,
Pete and Daria
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Dec 26, 2012
We spent a week in Majuro catching up on internet and restocking Downtime with what we could find in the supermarkets in town. To Daria’s dismay the produce selection was as poor of quality as we had seen in a long time. The “fresh” produce looked pretty rough after it’s 3 week trip across the sea but we found out that if you went to the market every day you could eventually find what you were looking for. Also during the week we spent there I went out on a dive with a few other cruisers out to the pass with Cary a local dive charter captain and fellow sailor. The dive was 12 miles from town in the main pass and the pass had an amazing amount of fish life in it along with several large sharks!
We spent one morning at the ministry of internal affairs to received permission to visit the outer atolls and saw the rest of this small town.
On our way out of the lagoon the next day we stopped for a snorkel just before the pass and found much of the coral to be flourishing and lots of fish too see. Half way through the snorkel Daria became frantic and told me one of here caps fell of her tooth as she was swimming back to Downtime. I thought this can’t be good and how would we find a cap in all that white sand? She got back to the boat and was carefully going through her snorkel looking for the cap with out any luck. We were considering our options and while I was putting away the gear I shook the sand out her dive booties and could you believe it that her cap fell out and landed on the deck! (the cap floating in the ocean current and fell directly into one of her boots!) Whew!! What a relief! We had a emergency dental repair kit aboard and an hour later her tooth looked like new! And they say there are no miracles?
We set sail at 9:00 pm for the 80 mile trip to Aur Atoll. The winds were fresh and blowing 20 to 25 knots and we just set only the jib sail for the overnight passage. We thought the seas would calm down when we were a few miles from land but they never did? If anything they got bumpier! It felt like we were back in the North Atlantic with waves smacking us from all directions? There must be some strange currents around here causing all this wave action?
At daybreak I set the fishing lines as we approached the atoll hoping to catch a fish to give the village when we arrived. The wind had lightened but the waves were still crashing on the reef we would have to cross. Our charts showed several passes to the north and we hoped the skies would clear so we could clearly see the pass as we went through. Daria went forward to watch for bombas (rocks) as we slowly went through the reef going through a pass just over 100 feet wide and 35 feet deep with jagged coral reef on either side with waves crashing.
Having safely cleared the pass and made our way across the lagoon and anchored in front of Tubal Island. We were greeted on the radio by James Bond 007! James is the local medical practiciononer and as it turns out would become our good friend and connection to the village for the week. The village only had 150 people so every one naturally knew everyone. James greeted us when we came ashore with a big bunch of bananas, giant cooking bananas, and drinking coconuts.
We had been hearing that the islanders could be a little standoffish and rude to visitors but our experience has been totally the opposite and we were warmly welcomed by everyone we met.
Meeting James and his family was the link to making the whole week an amazing adventure. As we sat down and shared stories with a fresh coconut in our hands James began telling us a little about the island and what was going on that week. First of all it was Gospel Week and the 7th of December was Liberation day from Japan and the day they celebrated the arrival of the first Missionary. Sunday would be a huge celebration, one of which where a sister island Aur would come over and they would all celebrate together a the arrival of the first missionary bringing the gospel.
In one our conversations with James he told us that his wife owned Mummet Island the small island we could see 9 miles across the lagoon. Unfortunately they have not been able to get out to the island for almost two years since his father in law had passed away. Daria asked if they had coconut crabs on the island and when he explained there were probably more crabs than we could catch in a week the decision was made to take he and his family to the island the next day.
I went ashore early the following morning to give the family a ride out to Downtime in SD with all their gear that they would need to spend the night camping on the island. We had James, his wife ,two daughters, two sons and nephew aboard Downtime as we set sail for the island. While sailing I changed to some baits James recommended and soon after we landed a few nice Rainbow Runners while crossing the lagoon!
James’s wife is an expert weaver and she gave us small woven hearts, dolphins ,and fish to put on our small Christmas tree. She also made a beautiful basket and other woven decorations for us while we were there. Special gifts that we will treasure, a small token for us taking her and the family to her island. Thank you so much for all the gifts!
With the winds still blowing out of the NE we found we would have to anchor in the lee on the SW outer side of the island outside the reef with the open ocean behind us. We found a place along the outer reef with a small shelf and 40 feet of water to drop the hook on and luckily it wrapped around a big rock and held fast. We let out another 150 feet of chain and backed down over the outer edge of the reef and were now sitting in 200 feet of water! Wow what a drop off along this reef! This definitely would be one of those night I would be sleeping with one eye open and have the anchor alarm on hoping the winds did not shift from the west!
We left Downtime anchored on the reef and lowered SD to bring the Family ashore in a bumpy sea. Safely across the reef and onshore James assessed the remains of the shelter that had been last used 2 years ago. The shelter had the tattered remains of a blue tarp and a few pieces of rusted tin for a roof another small structure nearby covered the copra (coconut) drying oven. In the past they came out for a month or two at a time and harvested copra while living primitively on the island that covers roughly 25 acres.
The older boys went out to set traps for the coconut crabs which involves splitting a copra (when coconuts are dry they call them copra) and wedging them between a few low branches just above the ground outside the holes where the crabs live, wedging them tightly so the crab does not carry away the bait. Later they go back with bright light and sneak up and blind them with the light and grab them being careful not to loose a finger in the process.
Back at the shelter the women were cooking fresh fish (rainbow runner and travelly) and rice for dinner, along with the fish and rice they served baked breadfruit and cooked bananas. The fire was made from coconut husks and when they cook fish over a fire they use the coconut shell for fuel which burns hotter and cleaner. They cleverly serve the meal in a woven palm leaf which takes them all of 20 seconds each to make. (The first true “GREEN” paper plate)
By morning they had caught two sacks full of two different types of crab, one a small land crab about the size of your hand and the other the famous coconut crab we had been hearing about that grows to over a foot round and can pinch your fingers off with their huge claws that they use to open coconuts.
In the morning, when Daria and I arrived back on the island, there was a fresh batch of steamed crab laid out on palm leaves and we sat down for a crab breakfast. James showed us how to crack open the crab by cleverly cracking them between two coconuts, using a full one as a hammer. To me eating crab is a like slowly starving to death since it requires much more work to open and eat them than the energy you are consuming, but Daria loves the little critters and can eat them for hours.
Later we walked around the island which was a sanctuary and nesting ground for many sea bids and green sea turtles. Daria and I were walking back to the shelter and we saw James and the older boys digging in the sand under some tress near the shore line. To our dismay we saw that they were digging up a turtle nest! This kicked Daria’s “save the turtles” action in gear and she began giving them the save the turtles speech. The sea turtle is in danger of being over harvested in all these atolls and is endangered to the point of soon becoming extinct if things do not change.
All the islanders know this but nobody is following the ban on eating them! Daria told them she refused to let turtle eggs on Downtime and I agreed with her. It was just a awkward moment being on another persons island in their country trying to enforce what is right. Reluctantly the men put the eggs back in the nest and re-buried them, hopefully several of the 80 plus eggs that were buried would hatch and a few turtles will survive to live and return and lay eggs of their own on these shores one day?
Later that morning with everyone back aboard Downtime we set sail for the return trip to Tubal Island. We re-set the fishing lines and were sailing along the reef towards the pass and found ourselves sailing directly into a flock of feeding birds and landed a nice 35 pound yellow fin tuna. This one fish would surely make up for the protein loss of the turtle eggs and we gladly gave the fish to the family. Later while gong through the pass we landed another fish, a nice barracuda to add to the bounty we had been given by the sea.
During the passage Daria cooked banana bread and fish for all crowd, girls really liked it and was asking new recipes, but simple sweets and chips disappearing fast too!
Back at the village the work of processing the crabs began and Daria spent hours picking meat out of the steamed crab legs. She worked her hands raw in the process but did use a ball peen hammer instead of coconuts to break open the tough shells. In the process of getting one of the larger crabs into the pot one grabbed onto her finger but she luckily was able to shake it loose before it took off her finger! One night she cooked delicious pasta for me with crabs, cream and fennel from her sister recipe.
Over the next several days we would bring fish ashore for the family that we had stored in our fridge on Downtime since they do not have any way to keep it cool on shore. Just try to imagine living without a refrigerator or ice!
On Thursday James asked if would like them to catch us some lobsters? Well, after my last lobster experience in Kiribati I was a little leery about going lobster fishing but I said sure lets go. I would just need to bring masks, snorkel’s and flashlight batteries. The two boys that caught the crabs on the island would be doing the catching and we would hold the bag for what they caught. I said I was not going in over my waist this time since I almost drowned last time! They promised this would be much safer than my last experience and rarely did they go in water over 4 feet deep to catch lobster. We would have to wait for low tide which was at 2 am. I met them on the beach in SD and we drove 3 miles down the lagoon on a calm moonlit night to a deserted island known to have what we were looking for, lobsters! The moon was in its last quarter providing plenty of light to see on this clear starry night and we anchored SD of the lee shore and walked to the island with high hopes. I had one thing to do before I went out and that was to call my Dad on his 70th birthday. It will be a call I will not soon forget, standing on a moonlit beach talking on the satellite phone to my Dad 8000 miles away. After the call I flip flopped my way out to the shallow reef where the boys were wading in the water with their dive lights searching for lobster. They had caught two by the time I arrived and within an hour we had 10 in the bag! This was definitely going much better than my last time out! The boys waded across the reef that connected the two islands while James and I made our way back to SD taking a shortcut across the island. It was darker in the jungle and soon our faces were covered in spider webs and our legs were being scratched by the underbrush and we made out way across the island. We made it back to where we left SD to find that she had drug her anchor and was now sitting on the reef in about a foot of water! Dang! I did it again, stranded myself! James said he would be right back and brought some fishing floats that he had seen washed up on shore. We put them under SD and rolled the dink into deeper water. Whew! Good idea James! The boys had made their way to the next island walking across the reef and catching a few more “bugs” along the way. It was not a great lobster night according to James but we had enough for a few nice meals! Thanks James and the boys!
There was a big celebration this weekend to celebrate Gospel Day, the day the missionary brought the Gospel to the islands back in the 1800’s The whole village had been practicing their dancing and singing and we had be hearing it aboard Downtime all week. We were told church started at 10 and finally somewhere around 11 the bell rang (a old oxygen cylinder with the bottom cut out being struck with a claw hammer). The celebration started with the pastor giving praise and then different age groups doing a crazy dance to a beat played on a electric keyboard being led by a guy blowing a athletic starter whistle. After this was a donation in which I put one of two bills I had in my pocket. The guy holding the basket asked if I wanted change? I said that’s alright, the church can keep it. Then there was another dance with younger kids and another offering…..and so it went…I should have got change and a few smaller bills to put in all of the 8 different dance offerings.
Four hours later the service was finally stopped for a break and we were welcomed to stay for lunch as honored guests, which you guessed it would require another offering (people usually give 50 cents) . We were invited to sit at the Mayors table and enjoyed a lunch of steamed coconut crab, whole lobsters, pork, baked bananas, rice, and breadfruit. Our beverage choice was Mountain Dew, Pepsi of green coconuts, we drank coconuts! Naturally sitting next to the Mayor we had all you can eat lobster and left the table unable to eat another bite.
The kids on the island would swarm around us and be so friendly, asking questions like where you from? And what’s your name? Can we come see the boat? The bags full of candy would disappear and smiles were shared.
We met the World Teach volunteer Julia from New York earlier in the week and today another volunteer, Chuck also from NY was up from the southern village of Aur for the celebration. They were part of a team of almost 30 teachers who volunteer to teach English on the islands for a year to gain experience after graduation. They are paid a whopping $100 a month but have host families that give them food and lodging while they are here. We invited them both aboard Downtime later that afternoon for an “American style” meal and cranked up the Air Cond for them and grilled a few steaks which they both enjoyed. It had been 4 month since they started teaching here and we were the first Americans they had seen since. We loaned Julia the sat phone to call her family as our Christmas present and she was able to talk to her family for the first time in months back in the states.
Monday was another holiday and school was out and I met the kids on the beach with SD and a surfboard. The kids had no idea what I had in mind and it took a little coaxing to get the first kid on the board but soon they were all lined up want to try and surf behind SD. Thirty something kids tried and 6 were able to stand up which was amazing since this was everyone’s first time! We all had so much fun watching the crashes and the success of those that were able to hang ten!
The kids here are so courteous and respectful to their elders and if one achieves something the whole group celebrates! We had the first kid riding the board and the whole group was clapping and giving him praise on shore. It is like they all want everyone to enjoy success and share the glory and are so un selfish. We spent two days dink surfing and then had a big party with 20 kids drinking pop and eating Oreo’s on Downtime! This is one Island I will never forget!
The next day we headed south to Aur Island in hopes of doing some kite surfing along the reef there. Again we were greeted with coconuts and bananas and were able to give three rainbow runners in trade that we caught along our way. This is the Island the Chuck taught at and we went to the school to say hello to he and his kids. The village was a little bigger than the one on Tubal and was very clean and well kept. Without James it was just not quite the same though and we did not feel as welcome here.
Daria enjoyed snorkeling and feeding the huge silver groupers from the back of the boat. It reminded us Tuamuto’s in French Polynesia.
I waited two days for the wind increase to kite surfing strength and finally on the third day the winds filled in and I was kite surfing for hours, which is not always the smartest thing to do if it has been two months since the last time you did it! I was pretty sore the next day!
On Saturday we had Chuck out for another dinner, one he had been craving since he been on the island.., Pizza and beer! Just after dinner I got a call from James which was strange because I knew his radio did not reach all the way from Tubal? It turned out he was Aur and that his uncle had passed away that day and they needed some tools to cut wood for the coffin! I said I had a tape measure and saw and soon we were ripping 2×4’s on the back of Downtime! The funeral was to be Sunday at 10 am and when we arrived just before he told us they had to burry him that morning because of the terrible smell. So we missed the ceremony…..
One more day of kite surfing on Monday and the weather started changing for the worse….We were trying to return to Majuro for Christmas and it looked like the winds would be blowing our way for just a few more days so the next morning we set sail at 4 pm with dark skies and squalls on the horizon.
The winds had been NE for days and only decided to change out of the SE the day we set sail! We would be close reached with bumpy seas all the way back to Majuro. I gave fishing a shot going through the pass and landed a nice yellow fin tuna and put the poles away for the rest of the trip.
The sun set and the fun began with one squall after another slammed into us every hour just like clockwork. The winds would be blowing 15 knots and then all of a sudden jump to 30 plus along with a driving rain. They only lasted 10 to 15 minutes or so but it finally came to a point where I left the jib triple reefed and started the engine to keep us heading in the right direction and got some sleep.
Morning came with the pass into Majuro a few miles off. We cleared the pass and spent the next two hours motoring into 20 knots winds towards the anchorage.
Our friend Bob on Braveheart had arrived from Fiji several days before and we looked forward to spending the holidays in Majuro…not really but this is where we find ourselves….
In out next adventure we will be heading to several more atolls to the north including Bikini the island where they tested The H bomb!
Until then Peace! And get out there and live your dreams YOLO! (you only live once)Pete and Daria
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Dec 22, 2012
On the second atoll we stopped at illegally at we had quite an exciting time! We always ask ourselves when we hop into SD what kind of adventure will this turn into today? We brought our bag full of gifts and had Downtime safely anchored just inside the pass into the atoll as we headed to shore with our tool bag intentionally left out and a few parts laying around to claim engine trouble if the authorities were to show up again and ask what we were doing here. After all there is always “something” that needs to be worked on and fixed when you live on a boat right?
Off to shore we went and made our landfall at the first small village on the left of this remote island . We pulled up to the beach and the people kind of just stared at us and did not know what to expect from these strange visitors Later we found out there had been only 4 boats that had visited here in the last 12 months! We went ashore and were greeted by the chief who’s name was Daryl, he was a young man in in his mid 40’s and spoke good English . I gave him a Downtime hat as he started talking to us and became friendlier and he welcomed us into his village. We sat down in the shade of a small palm thatched hut and had the customary fresh coconut which he had a boy climb a tree and then open for us. We sat there and shared stories while drinking our coconuts and passed out our gifts to the villagers which always lightens the mood of the whole village. After talking a while he offered to show us around the atoll and down the road we went to the main part of the town. Well, town was just a church, a meeting hall and a small store and that was it. Along the way to town we met other families who lived along the shore, on the whole Atoll Daryl guessed that a total of 2000 people lived on this small piece of land in the middle of the Pacific. For those of you that do not know an Atoll is the remains of a reef system that once surrounded an island which has long ago sank. Most are circular shaped and rarely more than 3 to 4 feet above sea level and several miles across with an lagoon inside with water depth of 20 to 200 feet. The circular shaped piece of land is anywhere from 20 feet to a half mile wide and made up entirely of limestone (seashells and coral) and thickly populated with coconut trees which is the life blood of these island.
Without the coconut tree there would be no way to survive here on these remote atolls. The tree provides a variety of necessities starting with shelter in the form of shade and then there are the leaves can be woven into very durable shelters. Then there is the coconuts, the green (young) coconut offers a very refreshing and nourishing drink and then there is the meat of the mature nut that can be grated and cooked or pressed to make coconut milk to be used as a sauce. Then when the nut matures fully it can be dried and sold as copra which is made into oil products. This is a labor intense process which involves first finding all the nuts that have fallen to the ground in the last few months and hauling them (by hand) to a central point where they use a spike set in the ground to pry the husk off the nut. Then they split the nut with a machete and lay it in the sun for a few days to dry. This is made difficult with the frequent rain squalls that pass over the islands and they have to be always ready to put a tarp over them to prevent them form getting wet. When the shell and meat are completely dry they pry the meat from the shells and put them in a large gunny sack that when stuffed to capacity weighs about 120 pounds. For all this work they are paid 25 cents a pound which is about $30 for a sack which contains a little over 300 coconuts or roughly 10 cents a piece!
Dried coconuts are used to feed the village pigs and dogs and even the chickens!Some of the questions we asked along the way were about drinking water and getting supplies delivered to the atoll. We found out that the drinking water comes from shallow wells that had been dug by the Peace corps and military years ago and have a small hand pump to lift the water which is only 10 feet below the surface and a supply ship comes once a month to bring food and fuel and to haul back the copra crop to Tarawa and was late as usual and everyone was out of fuel for their generators.
While we walked along I was thinking, what do these people do all day? Is there ever any excitement and what do they do for entertainment being so far away from it all? The answer to that would come all too soon……
No sooner had that thought crossed my mind when Daria said, “I think I left a banana bread baking in the oven on Downtime” Oh Snap! We have been gone 2 hours with the oven on and no one aboard the boat! We made our way back to where we left SD to find her sitting high and dry on the sand with the tide all the way out! There was no way possible we could drag the 900 pound dink 400 yards to get her back in the water and we found ourselves stranded! To add to our frustration we found out all the village boats were out fishing and Downtime was anchored 3 miles away so the option of swimming back was out of the question…. Here was just the beginning of our island excitement!The Chief told us that since we were stuck here we might as well stay for lunch while I gazed at the horizon looking for signs of smoke from where Downtime was anchored.. He invited us sit down on some nice woven mats that he had brought out to the middle of the village under another thatched roof area while the women prepared lunch in the cooking hut. While we were sitting there I asked Daryl if they ever went lobster fishing? He answered that they usually went at night with flashlights to catch them then and then he asked if we would like to come back for dinner and they would go out and catch some for us if we provided the flashlight. We thought this was a great idea and accepted the offer thinking they must do this all the time right? He told us they would cook us a fresh chicken dinner and had three young men set off to catch the “fresh chicken”. More excitement began as three young men picked up their chicken catching sticks and rounded up the village dogs. I have to tell you watching the next events unfold was hilarious!!! Three grown men and a pack of dogs went chasing the fastest chickens you ever saw! Sticks and chickens were flying everywhere with dogs barking and chasing after but the action lasted only a brief time and then Daryl regretfully told us we would be having fish for dinner since the chickens were just to hard to catch.
Lunch was served and we dined on clams and rice with coconut sauce. They also served dried fish (salt fish) which Daria likes a lot. All this was washed down with a few more fresh coconuts. After lunch they brought out a few pillow and told us we might as well take a nap since the tide would not be back in for a few hours. I tried to sleep but the thought of the oven being on and who knows what happening to the banana bread that had been in there for 4 hours at this point kept me from dreamland. While I was resting (actually thinking we might be stranded here) Daria was recruited to learn how to weave palm leaves that would later be used for a new thatched roof panels by the women of the village. She picked it up amazingly fast to the astonishment of all and was weaving palm leaves like she had been doing it her whole life. That was good since I was thinking we might need this skill later to build a house if the boat burned down!
Finally after a few more agonizing hours the tide came back up and we drug SD out to deeper water and raced back to Downtime to see what kind of damage there was. To our amazement there was not even any smoke in the salon, just a burn banana smell that left a stench for a few days and the charcoal black remains of what would have been desert that night. What a relief!
That afternoon we moved Downtime closer to the village bouncing off a few uncharted sandbars along the way and anchored a few thousand feet from shore. We decided to row the kayak ashore and leave SD home for the night so we would not find ourselves stranded for a second time that day. Daryl had asked for a few gallons of gas for the generator and to also bring a dive flashlight to catch lobster with and any DVD’s we could give the village.
We loaded up the supplies and paddled to shore which now at high tide came right to the edge of the village. This was a totally different view than we had leaving earlier when there was a few hundred feed of beach in front of the village and we wondered if we were at the right place as we paddled up in the setting sunlight.
The lights came on with the generator running in the background and dinner was served. Roasted fish with rice and coconut sauce. You have to wonder if they ever get tired of fish and rice? After dinner he hauled out the TV and DVD player and set it up in the main gathering area and popped in Batman Returns while the men gathered around the kava bowl and the rest of the village gathered around for movie night. Daryl was one of the few people in the village that spoke English and you have to wonder what everyone was thinking of this movie without understanding a single word of it.At around 10 pm Daryl told me it was time to go catch lobster and I asked if I could come along. Having no idea what this would involve I asked if they would take me out with them thinking I could learn a new skill and Downtime would be forever more with lobster in her freezer.Well, this was the beginning of what would be one of the craziest adventures of my life! It all started with the transportation to the beach. The village had a Honda trail 110 with more miles on it than any one on the island could count. Towed behind this scooter was a trailer that two of the guys that were trying to catch chickens earlier that day hopped on to. Daryl would drive and I would sit backwards behind him with my feet on the trailer. Down the road we went leaving a cloud of blue oily smoke behind us with me sitting on the back backwards gasping for fresh air. The guys on the trailer must have been immune to carbon monoxide and were breathing the smoky exhaust like it was nothing new? After several miles of dirt road we turned off and drove strait down the middle of the airport runway all the way to the end and then made a turn towards the beach through the jungle. I was getting the feeling that they did not do this all the time when Daryl kept asking one of the guys on the trailer which trail to turn on? The guys who could not catch a chicken earlier that day would be the same guys who were going to catch lobsters tonight! Oh well maybe lobster catching was their gift to the world?We finally arrived at the end of the trail and unloaded the gear which was 2 old masks, my one small flashlight, a pole spear I brought along and a old gunny sack. I thought this must be easy if that’s all the gear you need to catch lobsters. Luckily I was smart enough to wear my dive booties but the two other guys just had flip flops on. Daryl said he would be staying on shore to watch the scooter and the two guys would go out and catch a few lobsters while we waited. I asked him if it would be alright if I went along with them because I would like to learn how it was done, he gave me a strange look and said sure why not. This turned out to be a REALLY bad idea on my part……..I eagerly followed the two guys out onto the reef on this moonless pitch darks night with only the light of the stars in the sky. Looking back towards shore we saw Daryl standing there with a small LED flashlight which was our only reference back to shore. Foolishly I gave one guy the only other flashlight we had, but I did keep one of the two dive masks, the pole spear and thankfully I was wearing good boots to walk over the rocky coral bottom with. In the distance we could hear waves crashing on the outer reef as we continued walking out into deeper and deeper water. Soon we were chest high and a half mile from shore with Daryl’s light just a pinpoint of light on the horizon. Soon the waves were breaking on us and we dove under each of them as we continued to go farther out onto the reef. We were at the edge where the waves were breaking and barely able to touch bottom when we finally turned the light on and looking down we could see the bottom change from a flat rocky surface to a series of jagged valleys and drop offs along the outer edge of the reef. We were swimming at this point scanning the bottom for lobsters, coming up for air and getting smacked in the face by waves while trying to breath and unknowingly being swept out to sea by the outgoing tide. The next time we looked down it was 20 feet deep and the reef had disappeared beneath us. We could see the faint light on shore and I began swimming desperately towards it. In my mind I was thinking that “this could be it” I would be found washed up on a beach somewhere or eaten by a shark! I swam hard for what seemed like forever and finally I saw my guide standing on the reef in front of me. I swam up to him and told him that I was done lobster fishing and was heading back to shore. If he understood a word of what I said I do not know but thankfully my feet were finally back on the jagged reef. I fell into many holes on my way as I stumbled in the darkness back to shore. The poor guys behind me had lost their shoes and had been tumbled on the reef by several waves. The one guy who had the only light the last time I looked to have been swept way out by the current and I thought for sure he was lost to the sea. I made it back to shore shaken and exhausted by the experience and curiously asked Dayrl when the last time he went out there at night was? He said it had been a long, long time… And I understand why!We waited on shore for what seemed like forever for the two guys to return. Finally one guy stumbled ashore beat up and shoe less and he plopped down on the ground next to us exhausted. We yelled out for the second guy and after several tries finally heard a faint reply. The guy who had the light was in the worst shape and had a near miss being swept out to sea finally came stumbling out of the ocean. He had abandoned the flashlight, dive mask, and his shoes while he was swimming back against the current while saving his own life.
The ride back to the village was quiet and un eventful and the whole way I was thinking we were probably all happy just to be alive as the scooter chugged down the dusty road back to the village.
When we finally arrived back to the village, sadly we did not even have one lobster in the sack, heck we did not even have the sack! But no body seemed surprised by this and I bet it has been a long time since any one there had even tasted a lobster!
The generator was still running in the background along with one of the movies we bought ashore playing on the TV. The same group of people were staring at the screen, Daria was sleeping and the men of the village were still gathered around the kava bowl with that far away kava look on their face…to them it was just another day on the atoll……
Peace from Captain Pedro and Daria
Dec 16, 2012
We left Vanuatu at 5pm on 8th of November.From Pete’s mail to Bob, 10th of Nov : “300 miles under the keel so far and we are STILL close reached heading our way N-E. Who knows where the end of this road is? we will most likely continue to see the winds shift to north and not have to touch a sail for the next few hundred miles to the equator. The good news is the winds are strong and we are making decent time for a BASH!
We should be in Kiribati in 5 days about the 15th unless the winds say NO, then we will continue on to the Marshall’s direct (hope not). Been going to fast to fish so no good stories other than passing Anuta Island (Cherry Is) at about 5pm last night. There was a proa cat on the beach and about 10 people that we saw on this remote island. It looked like 150 years ago except they had clothes on. The cat was drug up to the tree line and it looks like they live there 200 mile from anywhere?”
2 days later:
“Bob! make sure you get fuel before you leave, your going to need it! We have been motoring for two days and the only wind to be had is on the nose! 3-4 knts. Any who…..we have seen two tuna killer helicopters fly by in search of fish. We have drowned several lures in our attempt to land one ourselves and new recruits are lined up to replace drowned comrades. The freezer is near fish less so it is about time we catch something. We will be stopping at a few islands along the way since we have developed (engine troubles) and will need a few days at each atoll to sort the issues out. I am sure it is just a loose connection or the key is in the wrong position? who knows? hehehe!
We will arrive at our first port to repair in the morning”
From 15th of November:
“Still no wind or not much any ways!
We crossed the Equator last night! who-who!! We were about 100 miles out from Eanikai Atoll and were hailed by the coast guard and after 7 tries they understood “Downtime” was the name of the vessel! We were going to stop for the “day” and work on the engine but who was right on our ass first thing in the morning? The coast guard! We had the main down and took out a reef, like we always do it that way….and re-set main let out the jib and the fishing lines and turned north.
We were trolling through several schools of feeding fish with hundreds of birds and caught a few small tuna. We switched to small 4″ baits and had better luck than the bigger baits. Then a few miles up we hit a big school of tuna!! all 4 lines had a fish!!! And then…the Mako’s (shark) came and ate ALL our fish and took two lour’s! fuckers! But one 5 foot shark gave Pete a work out and we got him to the boat before the line snapped with a cedar plug in his lip! so no use fishing there!
We went 40 miles up the road and anchored at Rotuma and took SD to shore a few miles to the north next to the church and spent an hour with the locals who were all very welcoming and gave us coconuts to drink and showed us their village. Very cool! Very remote place!”
From my mail to Kate 18th of November:
“We are anchored in Abemama, we spent some time at the village for the last two days. They are very nice here and present me 2 home-made dresses, fed us lunch and gave us dry salty fish, which is really testy with cold beers!
First day SD was high and dry for 5 hours while we had a banana bread still in the oven! IT WAS BLACK WHEN WE FINALLY GOT BACK!”
We arrived in Tarawa early morning on 19th of November.
From mail to Bob:
“Well all the stories from last year are BULLSHIT and we had a nice time in Betio. We anchored at 1’21.915n 172’55.791e next to two other boats in 25 feet of water. Contact Tarawa Radio on channel 16 on arrival and they will organize a boarding party of 5 people to come out and clear you in. We did not have this info and went to town and did 2 hours of running around to the dismay of all officials. Any who we got cleared in. You can have fuel delivered to the boat for $5 a gallon! Although it is a pain…you have to go to the fuel office on the left side of road by big fuel tanks and pay first. They brought ours in a tanker un-metered? but I think the amount was right? The 8-10 am delivery was actually at 1:30 and the hose was a 2 inch reduced to 1 inch with no valve on the end! let her rip and cross your fingers it will all fit!
We met Kaure, who has a cab and is a retired school teacher and knows every one the island. He might be a good tour guide. He gave us a ride two days for 6-7 hours all over town and charged $30. You can park the dink at he head of the harbor next to concrete steps and there is an ANZ Bank if you take the first right and walk half a mile. Across from the bank is a (All local) shop that has fresh produce in a refrigerator, onions by the bag full and tons of frozen meat, and canned and paper goods. Best shop i saw in town.”
This tim clearing out was on me. Early morning I went with Kauri started my run around with paper work and visiting local markets… Prices for veggies: salad – Australian $10, 1 avocado -$8, 1 apple – $2, 12 eggs – $8, huge flying fish at local market $2 per pound and coconut $0,5. Internet – $1,8 per hour but very-very slow…
Around 1pm I went back to the boat, I got all papers for next port, but did not pay tax yet… Truck with diesel just arrived… Pete was so pissed of after waiting diesel for 5 hours, that we left without paying tax.. he-he.. no idea how much it was!
We sail from Tarawa around 2 pm and stoped outside Butaritari for a day! We did not go to village, were just waiting better direction of the wind.
The next night we anchored outside Milli Atoll and even snorkeled there! It was cool:) a lot of different fish and coral canyons!
We arrived in Majuro on Friday night and and finally caught Mahi and 2 rainbow runners and dogtooth tuna as we made our way inside the pass to the Atoll!
living our dream,
Daria and Pete
We set sail from the northern most Loyalty Island of Atoll d’Ouvea after spending 6 amazing weeks in New Caledonia for a 200 mile sail back to Vanuatu in the 3rd week of October. The weather had been stormy all week and we were having a rough crossing the day we left and were being slammed by crazy big waves and 25 to 30 knot winds. The weather didn’t stop me from fishing though and several hours into the trip we had a huge fish on the line. After an hour and a half of fighting this monster in the rough seas I don’t know who was feeling worse, the fish or Daria and I. Downtime was being tossed around by the 12 foot waves and I was fighting one of the biggest fish I had ever had on the end of a pole! The fish would take in seconds the hundreds of feet of hard fought line that took what seemed like forever to reel in. At one point as the 40 foot leader finally started winding on the reel we got a mere glimpse of this 7 foot shinny silver/blue monster before he made one last run under the boat and cut the leader on the rudder. My hands were bloody from being slammed against the rail and my arms ached from the constant pull of this monster but I was somehow glad that he managed to get away because it would have been several more hours of hard work to cut him up and put in the ice box. Well that’s the story of the fish that got away….
The seas and winds did not let up as we bashed our way to Port Villa on Efata Island, the capitol city of Vanuatu. Needless to say we arrived tired and hungry since neither Daria or I had much of an appetite due to the rough weather on the sail over. We dropped the anchor just in time for a big rain squall to wash the salt from Downtimes decks and found ourselves ready for something to eat and a long nap.
Port Vila is a one of the major cruise ship destinations in Vanuatu and there is a new ship on the dock 6 days a week. This would also be one of our last chances to get provisioned at any major grocery store for the next few months. The supermarkets here were well stocked and we did some major shopping during our stay. This would also be one of the last chances to find a decent restaurant and we tried a few with mixed results. The best was a French restaurant that has been there for 40 something years and the food and service was amazing. They also had a few local delicacies on the menu one that I will most likely never see again, Flying Fox (Bat) and the other wild pigeon. Daria just had to try the Flying Fox and she said it tasted a little gamey. I passed on even trying…. We had been seeing these amazing creatures flying over the islands since Tonga but this is the first time we saw one on a menu. For the main course Daria had a plate full of slipper lobsters and I went for a pasta dish and a cup of French onion soup.
It rained almost every day during the week we were there and it made shopping miserable. On our last day we went to the local vegetable market and stocked the produce fridge on Downtime and were ready to set sail and explore the northern islands of the country. Too bad we were still too early in the season for mango’s , we seem to always be just a month early in the last few islands we have been?
While I was stowing everything and preparing before we set sail I checked all the lockers and to my surprise found 2 inches of diesel covering the floor of the fuel locker! I have to say I was not a happy sailor at this point! One of the stainless steel fuel cells must have cracked on our sail here? Luckily I was able to pump the fuel off the floor and through a special filter we have and put it back into one of the two undamaged tanks. Now that the mess was cleaned up we had to decide if we wanted to spend another week here getting the tank fixed or brave sailing the 1000 miles to Kiribati with 100 gallon less fuel aboard Downtime? We raised the anchor and threw caution to the wind and headed to the next island. It is what it is after all….
Our first stop was just 15 miles to the north and we anchored on Eretoka Island and went for a dive. Unfortunately being this close to a major city we did not see very many fish left on this reef. The water was in the mid 80’s, crystal clear and it sure was nice to be diving again. Later that afternoon we continued up the bay in hopes of spotting a Dugong ( a large plant eating mammal related to the manatee) known to live here but we not so lucky in spotting one and dropped the anchor along Moso Island unknowingly in a marine preserve. With the boat safely anchored we went ashore to the Resort and spoke with the manager about diving and he told us for $200 he could arrange a diving trip and for another $30 we could see their turtle preserve. Well in my mind for $30 I can buy 2 six packs of beer throw my dive gear in SD and go find our own turtles! So thanks but no thanks…This is a country where people make $2 an hour after all? We thought oh cool there should at least be some great diving and snorkeling here in the preserve right? Wrong! The coral here like many other places is being killed by over fishing and The Crown of Thorns (a coral eating starfish looking thing) . The preserve is just the start of the long process in getting the reefs to heal but it will take many years to restore centuries of damage that has been inflicted on them. What happens to many reefs is that the locals catch ALL the fish. Some of those fish are the house keepers and some the builders and with no one cleaning the reef gets covered in algae and coral suffocates. that’s my opinion…..No fish=No Reef
In the morning we continued sailing north and attempted to stop at Emae Island but the combination of the wind direction and lack of accurate charts made it too dangerous for us to attempt anchoring there. We were finding more and more that our chart plotter was not very accurate and was offset by up to a few hundred feet from island to island. Our back up plotter was not much better and it was a rare occasion when they both agreed on the exact same location?
We had just 3 hours of daylight left and navigating at night was out of the question and we had to find a place to anchor. We motor sailed 12 miles north to Epi Island. The pass between the two islands was were two tidal currents met and the ocean had wild waves crashing into each other as we sailed through. We anchored on the SE side in a bay to our selves next to stunning thousand foot high rock cliffs. In the morning we took SD back to explore a few the small islands that we had missed in our rush over the afternoon before. We were looking for a place to dive on out lying islands, but found just one point close to where we anchored and Daria was able to snorkel with a turtle.
Lonely Planet said there was another Dugong preserve on the north end of the island and we motor sailed our way up to go search for them. The winds were still out of the S-W and the anchorage on the west side was not going to be too comfortable so we found a spot out of the wind on the north end of the island in a small bay. This turned out to be a very special anchorage with a view of 3 active volcanoes! As the sun went down and the sky darkened the clouds above the island of Ambrym began to glow and amazing orange color and there was a faint glow over Lepevi Island which is shaped like a huge inverted cone. We have seen several volcanoes here in Vanuatu, but being this close to so much energy and power just never gets old, I found myself staring at them for hours….
The next day the winds settled down and we were able to take Downtime around the corner to the west and anchor in front of a small village. We were welcomed to the village by the chiefs daughter Wendy and her brother who came paddling out in a dugout canoe. We gathered our gifts and went ashore and met the village Chief and the village traded vegetables and fruits for hats, tee shirts, toys and candy. There were about 150 people living in this village. While we were talking with the villagers an American came walking up and it turned out he was a peace corp. volunteer from Minot ND of all places! This was his last day of a 2 year commitment to help the villages on the island and later that day he would be flying home to the snow and ice. We asked him what he had accomplished in the last two years and basically he said things in the islands move really, really sloooooowwwww and a few things were in the works but not much has been achieved. Later we took SD in another search for the illusive Dugong to no avail…Lonely planet claimed these were easy to find and friendly? After our search we set sail for Molekula Island just 20 miles north.
We dropped the hook in Gaspard Bay on the south end of the island after a near miss with a coral head on our way in (darn charts)! The bay was part of another marine sanctuary but anchoring was permitted and we found ourselves surrounded with some of the thickest jungle we have ever seen. The vines here were growing wild on the mountain sides covering everything including the palm trees!
We set the anchor and we immediately started seeing turtles surfacing for air all around the boat. Turtles to me are as interesting to me as volcanoes and it just never gets old watching them. Oh there’s one! And another! Too much fun!
In the morning we lowered SD and went to see the rest of the sanctuary. The weather was nice and warm and we brought our snorkel gear and set off for another adventure. Along the way we stopped at a few nice reefs and saw some beautiful coral and fish. We headed toward another village and on our way found three boys going out fishing in their dug out out-rigger canoe and we gave them hats, shirts and candy. On another small island we found a large sign with a map of the reserve and we discovered we were anchored in a Dugong feeding area! We raced back to go search for this illusive creature!
Finally we were in the right place at the right time and got a glimpse of these wonderful mammals! But we soon found out that watching Dugong’s is like watching turtles race, they only surface every 20 to 30 minutes just long enough to get a breath of fresh air and back down they go. At least your anticipation builds while you wait for that brief sighting….the rest of the time you are wondering which way are they going and are we still in the right spot? OH well Dugong’s are off the bucket list!
Our next stop was Ambym Island the home of the two active volcanoes we had been watching for days. The anchorage on the N-W side of the island just next to Ranwakon Point which provided good protection from any southerly winds but was wide open to the north. The village here is small but has several guides that will take you to the volcanoes and do a 6 hour hike through the lava fields to the crater.(weather permitting) Daria went ashore and booked the trip for the following morning and we hoped for good weather.
It had rained most the night and by morning the clouds were breaking up and we thought the hike would be a go. I took Daria to shore but the guide had decided it was a holiday due to the elections going on, so no hiking today or the rest of the week for that matter? Oh well….With the hike canceled we decided to go check out the north coast in SD and drove east along the black sand beaches in search of the inland lake that was supposedly just 6 miles away. The beaches here have the most amazing sand, pitch black with shiny specks that sparkle in the sun! Oh and the sand gets burning hot from being so dark so shoes are a great idea! Along the rugged coat we set the anchor and swam to shore to ask a local where the lake was since we were totally lost…he told us we needed to go two more miles and then hike inland a half mile. We anchored in a small bay with the beach to ourselves and once ashore we headed into the jungle along the path in search of the illusive lake. Well either Lonely Planet went to a different lake or we were in the wrong spot again….the lake we found was covered in algae and not “spectacularly” clear but the hike through the jungle was interesting.
Election time here in Vanuatu is a BIG deal and everyone gets involved. There are big parades, marches and lots of parties for weeks. The percentage of people voting here has to be much greater than back home.
Daria was not able to hike to volcano, but she did a good job to giving away coloring books for kids and costume jewelry to the women back in the village. In exchange the local people brought for us a big bag of mangos! Yummy! We finally have mangoes!
The snorkel in this bay was amazing and Daria thinks it was one of the best spot in Vanuatu because of contrast of colorful fish with bright mushroom corals growing out of black-black sand bottom with crystal clear water! Simply amazing! It’s a shame our underwater camera didn’t work!
We set sail back to Molekula and anchored in Port Stanley an met Carl one of the only people in the small village who did not go the mainland to vote on Uri Island. He paddled his out rigger canoe out just after we anchored and asked us to charge his two cell phones. In the morning he came back out to get his phones and brought us bananas and popo (papaya). We asked him if he could find a few lobsters and he offered to take us along to catch them. We dove on a few coral heads nearby in the bay and within an hour had caught two nice sized lobsters! Carl made it look easy and knew exactly were these spiny creatures hiding places were. In trade we gave him a set of snorkel gear and a Downtime hat.
The next island to the north is Santo where we would clear out of Vanuatu in Luganville. We had trolled lines for days and just before the pass we finally had a hit over a sea mount just before the pass and landed a nice Wahoo. We made our way through the pass and picked up a mooring ball at Aore Resort just off of Aore Island for $15/day next to our friend Paolo on Super Mario who we had last seen in Fiji.
Luganville is the second largest town in Vanuatu, but nothing special, the dingy dock costs $1000 ($10 US) for 4 hours, but at least someone is watching it for you. We went ashore for lunch and to check out the markets since this would have the last shopping of any kind before leaving Vanuatu.
We would also need to top off the diesel tanks here before we left with duty free fuel at just under $5 per gallon US price.
Getting fuel was an adventure in itself…..We had to first clear out. This involved going to the Customs office and filling out clearance papers, then to the harbormaster to pay our fees(about $100) then we were able to get a duty free form for fuel. We then had to bring this form to the fuel station (they said just 2 kilometer down the road) actually 2 miles……We walked…At the fuel station we had to guess how many gallons (Liters) and we needed and pay in advance for that amount… then make an appointment for delivery…Back to the dock master to pay dockage fee for fueling another $45… and then back to customs to let them know when the fuel was coming and let them know when we would be leaving. Wheeeww!! Well…the fuel was to be delivered at 4 pm and we were tied to the sea wall were the cruise ship would be docking in 12 hours and patiently waited. And waited…..Finally a little after seven the truck showed up and the fun began. Our friends would fuel first and had tied along side Downtime and we drug the two inch grimy fuel hose across our deck and they began fueling. The truck operator dispensed fuel 5 gallons at a time and we needed a abacus to keep track of how much we received! At this rate to took 45 minutes to fill Super Mario and then it was our turn. I told the guy to give me 100 gallons (400 liters) to start with and fueling process went much faster until the time the tanks were full and we still had 30 gallons left. It was either take it or leave it with no refund so we decided to put it in 5 gallon cans. I got to tell you filling 5 gallon cans with a 2 inch hose in California would be a environmental disaster on the front page of the LA Times. I wrestled the hose and was able to get the majority of the fuel into the cans and finally this messy job was finished.
In the morning we went back to town to the fresh market to get out last supplies with sunny skies overhead. Daria got all the produce shopping finished and I brought it all back to Downtime and went the Customs dock to finish clearing out while Daria got a few last items at the supermarket. About the time she got the shopping wrapped up and most of the people were debarking from the cruise ship the skies darkened and it started to rain. Not just a little rain but a deluge and everyone was scrambling to find a place to get out of the rain. There we at least a hundred vendors that had set up tables selling trinkets and souvenirs all franticly covering them up with tarps or whatever they could find. The cruise ship only comes to this port twice a month and it was a shame the weather had to be to terrible for all these people. I bought Daria an umbrella which was the fastest selling item at the moment but I just continued walking in the warm rain back to SD which by now had 20 gallons of rain in her.
With all the shopping finished we set sail for Million Dollar Point to do a dive with Isabelle, Paolo’s new crew from Switzerland , Daria and myself on a bunch of old war equipment the military dumped into the sea when they left the island after WW2. There were trucks, airplane engines, old boiler tubes, old tires, an old ship and lots of other junk that created a reef for thousands of fish to live in. We saw a several large groupers, a huge Napoleon Fish about 4 feet long and a foot long Cuddle Fish. (our first ever)
After the dive we sailed 15 miles north and anchored next to Malono Island, barely making it thought the pass before sunset. We went ashore in the morning to one of the nicer resorts in Vanuatu. The Oyster Resort was located on a beautiful lagoon and there were only 15 to 20 small bungalows for guests to stay in. I was thinking that this would be an awesome place to get away from it all. Just across the bay was a river that went inland a few miles and you guessed it we took SD all the way up. The river was spring fed and became clearer and clearer as we went up. It was really a amazing feeling driving in such clear water and gave us the feeling that we were flying a few feet over the ground. At the source of the river was a hundred foot wide blue hole surrounded with jungle. The water was cool, clear and very refreshing to swim in.
Our next stop on the sail north was Hog Harbor were we anchored next to a reef with hot springs coming out of it. Daria spent and hour snorkeling all around this reef feeling the water continually changing temperature. This must have also been a favorite place for bait fish to hang out because schools of predators fed for hours while we watched the bait fish jump frantically out of the water trying to get away from their hungry prey.
We spent the next night in Port Olay just 15 miles to the north hoping the winds would continue to blow the right direction for our sail to Santa Maria in the morning.
Well, the winds started out blowing out of the SE which was perfect. Then the squalls started blowing mid morning gusting 20 to 40 knots and from mostly the E and NE which is not at all the right direction when your course is NE! As we motor sailed closer to the island the sky began turning a smoky pink color from a great plume erupting from the center of the island. Our first anchorage we tried to stop at on the SW side was covered in this smoky sulfur haze and we decided to continue on to the next bay on the NE side of the island where our friends Paolo and Isabelle were anchored at in Lesalav Bay. We arrived just before 5 and luckily received and e-mail from Paulo stating that the charts were off over a half a mile! Sure enough the pass was no where near close to where the charts showed they were! We made the adjustment and cleared he pass and were able to safely get the anchor set before the sun set and the rains started again.
The main attraction here is a small village in Namasari that does a water music show. Well by the time we got ashore it was pouring rain and there was plenty of water so it should be a good one! We first met with the chief in a small hut and learned a little about their village while the ladies got prepared for the show. I had no idea what to expect? They took us down a trail through the village to a small bay where the ladies were standing waist deep in the ocean dressed in headdresses and baiting suits. The music was made with slapping the water with different hand movements and rhythms. I have to say it was a very unique thing to experience and will never be forgotten. The rain was pouring down and the village kids were all holding banana and elephants ear leaves over their head to stay out of the rain.
The pink smoke continued billowing out of the center of the island the whole time we were there and it made a amazing contrast to the lush green jungle of the island. The chief told us he would take us on a two day hike to see the lake that this pink smoke bubbles up through but I for one could not leave the boat alone for that long and the thought of two days in the muddy jungle was too much even for Daria.
The next island to the north is Vanua Lava and we anchored in Port Patteson. The small town of Sola would be were we officially cleared out of Vanuatu. The town is built along the bay and at most has 500 people living in it. Paolo had the great idea to get malaria tests at the hospital here and a local gave us a ride a few miles down the road in his Toyota truck that looked to be a member of the million mile club. The medical station was just a few small rooms and the doctor sold us 4 tests and 4 treatment packs for just $20.( I hope we never need them) We were not so lucky as to get a ride on the way back and walked the whole way. Later that afternoon Isabel cooked us spaghetti balanies on Super Mario.
The next morning we continued north and decided to see a few more places in the islands even though were officially cleared out of Vanuatu. One was Waterfalls Bay where we swam in a pool with a huge waterfall pouring into it. The village had just one family living in it and Chief Kerely and his wife were very welcoming and served us mangos and popo. They have a ‘Yacht Club” here and each year up to 20 sailors visit the small village.
We had anchored Downtime 5 miles away and Local paddled out to welcomed us ashore to see his village and offered to be a guide to the waterfalls. We went to shore with our gift bag full and met his Father, the Chief and the rest of the village. The chief asked if I had a metal file that he could sharpen his machete with and later when I brought him one he traded me with a bag full of mangoes! The rest of the village gave us fresh green onions, tomatoes, coconuts and a few popo’s! The chief told us he had 10 children and most of the people living here were his immediate family and he was very fortunate to have so much land to take care of them all.
Our guide took us south along the coast to Waterfall Bay in SD and he showed us many interesting points along the way. One of which was a big sea cave and another a natural spring that flowed out of a rock cliff where the paddlers would stop for a drink while they traveled along the coast. While we were at the falls he went to his in-laws for a visit, happy that he did not have to paddle 10 miles to do so. He came back an hour later with a solar panel and asked if I could hook it up for him? Back At Downtime I gave him some wire and a power tester, so now he can charge his radio battery.
The next stop was the Rowa Islands which are no longer inhabited due the fact that the highest point is now only 2 feet above sea level . We anchored out side the reef in hopes of kite surfing the following day in the large protected lagoon. But as my kite surfing luck would have it there was not strong enough winds and none of any strength forecasted for the next few days…..
Vanuatu, the land of volcanoes has been truly amazing and it turned out the last island Norbarbar was saving the best for last. After all the volcanoes we have seen during our time here from afar this island would be one where we could actual anchor inside a sunken caldera in Lorup Bay! The island is 4 miles across with a big bay (middle of volcano) open to the east that is 80-100 feet deep surrounded by the steep 1500 foot high mountainous sides of the volcano. We anchored in 40 feet of water at the head of the bay and were greeted by the village Chief who paddled out in his out rigger canoe. We were asked to stay aboard until he could come back and formally greet us. An hour later he returned with freshly made magnolia flower lei’s and asked permission to come aboard Downtime. He first welcomed Daria with a fairly long traditional welcome greeting and then he did the same with me. After the ceremony he welcomed us ashore to his village. This was the first time in our travels that we had been formerly welcomed and received flower lei’s !!
The village was immaculate with many of the palm covered homes recently recovered. The whole village was well laid out and seemed very quiet for as many homes that were there? Chief Nicholson explained that the election was last night and their party won and they whole village celebrated until sunrise and were now all sound asleep. This was also the first time we had seen small sailing canoes and we left them with one of my old kites to make a sail out of. The chief promised to e-mail a picture when he gets it all sewn up!! We sat in the village and shared stories for hours and it was so interesting to learn how they life in such a remote place where running water is a actual river and the only electricity is made from a small solar panel that charges a battery bank. They are too remote to even have generators because the only supply ship comes just twice a year! In an emergency someone has to hike to the top of the mountain to get a cell signal and call for a boat from Sola 20 miles away.
Vanuatu has been a wonderful experience and a reminder that life is really simple…We really do not need a whole lot of stuff to be happy. Food, Family and friends on an island in paradise seems to work for these few lucky souls. I want to thank everyone in Vanuatu for their warm welcome’s and many, many happy smiles’!
We say good bye to our friends on Super Mario who are hearing to the Solomon Islands, see you in Palau!
Later that day we set sail for our next country, Kiribati. But that’s for another story!! Until then, get out there and live your dreams!!
Peace! Pete and Daria
November 27, 2012
Finally We arrived to Majuro, Marshals, where you can find Internet! Enjoy the new Vanuatu album!
We arrived in New Caledonia after a calm 2 day sail out of Tanna, Vanuatu . The Canal De La Havanna on the south end of the island is known for impressive tidal currents and we hit them as they were going out at over 4 knots creating crazy waves that stood up to greet our arrival. As we sailed around the south side of the island the currents subsided as we continued sailing through Canal Woodin. This narrow passage separates Ile Ouen from the mainland and a few hours later we arrived to our first anchorage in Baie Ngo on the west coast 15 miles south of Noumea.
We arrived on a Sunday and would not be able to clear in until the following morning and decided to drop the hook for the night. The bay we anchored in was surrounded with mountains that had been gouged by bull dozers in the search for Nickel and other metals that are abundant in the rich soil, a mining practice that we would see all too often in the next few weeks. The island is known to have has the richest concentrations of nickel in the world and with metal price at a high there is a big rush to get it mined at any cost.
New Caledonia is the third largest island in the pacific and like many of the island we have visited is surrounded with hundreds of miles of reefs. Tha main island is over 250 miles long and boasts one of the largest lagoon’s and the 3rd largest reef systems in the world.
The land had been settled by Melanesian’s over 1500 years ago. Then discovered by Capt. James Cook in 1774 and subsequently claimed by Napoleon III for France in 1853. France used the island as a penal colony for up to 20,000 prisoners between 1864 and 1894 on the Island of Pines where I am writing this story from.
In 1894 the Governor transformed the island into a voluntary immigration colony where under contract Malabar Indians, Vietnamese. And Javanese arrived to work the mines. Many of which provide the diverse ethnic diversity you see here today.
On Monday we sailed the last few miles to Port Moselle and cleared in and leased a dock for the week. The clear in process was straight forward and after a short walk to the police station we were free to roam the country. I have to say the ladies in the marina office were some of the most helpful people we have ever met.
After a few days of relaxing on the dock we rented a car to drive around the island in, this time driving on the “RIGHT” side of the road western style. I got to admit after driving on the left side for 6 month in NZ it took me a little bit to remember what side of the road I needed to be on….
We headed up the coast mid-week thinking “How busy can it be?” Well….Pretty darn busy with all the new mining going on! The first and largest hotel we stopped at was no longer even a hotel, but converted office space for the new mine. The next few places were booked full and finally we started thinking we might be sleeping in the car. One last stop at La Nea Hotel and the manager Jean Leonelli was nice enough to get on the phone and call every available place within 50 miles and finally found a room at a mining camp 30 minutes up the road. We drove up to look at the room which turned out to be one of many bunk houses that had been built to house the workforce. It would do in a pinch but had no bathroom or shower, they were located in another building and would be shared with the rest of the crew. Daria was not thinking this was such a good idea…..
Jean the hotel manager that helped us out had mentioned he might have a cancellation but he would not know until 7, so we stopped at one of the few places to eat and wait it out over a crappy pizza and a cold beer. We borrowed a phone and were in luck the room was available so we drove back down and got a good nights rest.
The north west coast is cattle country and we drove by acres and acres of grazing cattle. We even saw a few center pivot irrigation systems growing corn in several states of maturity. I guess in the land of endless spring you can plant corn any time of the year?
The west coast was for the most part uneventful, there were a few nice vistas and beaches to check out but that’s about it. The roads are in great shape and construction is going on every where you look, building infrastructure and housing for the 20,000 mine employee’s who have money burning holes in their pockets. Along the shoreline you could see the continuous reef from a few hundred yards and up to a mile off shore protecting the island, but this left vast shallow stretches of calm water right along the shore which is not all that pretty to look at but would have been great to kite surf in!
On the second day we headed for the east coast, a few hour drive over the mountains The drive was beautiful and on our way we stopped at many lookouts and marveled at the beauty of this county. New Caledonia is home to just over 200,000 people, and 80% live in Noumea and the Southern West coast. This leaves the rest of the country sparsely populated and the North-East coast is no more than a series of small villages that have at most a few hundred people each living in them.
Most villagers were Milanese Natives and lived in simple homes along the coast. Life in a village appears much simpler than the hustle and bustle of the life back in the states. Few people have cars and most people have gardens in the back yard. As we drove along you would see the machete carrying workers heading to and from the fields. The fields were very organize and well-kept growing the basic dietary staples and others growing tall grass with grazing cattle.
I would imagine knowing everyone in town was a given and life would be like having one huge family. The Methodist did an amazing job building churches and converting entire islands to Christianity back in the day.
Our second night we lucked out and had the last room available at a sister hotel of La Nea thanks to Jean the manager at the first hotel making a reservation for us. The room was a thatched hut bungalow on the beach and we slept to sound of the wind blowing though the roof and crashing waves on the beach. The lunch buffet was amazing and we found our selves eating way too much of a good thing, but both walked out with an ice cream cone just the same.
We drove most of the way to the north end of the island and along the way countless water falls and breath-taking views enchanted us. The coast has steep mountains rising up from the sea and had fjords cut into the shoreline that must be crossed by bridge or in one case a small ferry. The ferry ran 24/7 and was free!
One village we drove through everyone was all dressed up and heading to church on a Friday afternoon. We stopped and asked a few ladies what occasion was and they said “Mariage” in French? It’s the same word as in English and after a few times Daria understood it was a wedding. ( My French is terrible)
In the morning we hit the breakfast buffet and were on our way south for another day of site seeing down the east coast. The vegetable stands along the road side were like sirens calling Daria’s name and we stopped at several buying pineapple, oranges, berries, bananas and passion fruits.
One nice thing about driving around an island is that it is hard to get lost, just keep the ocean on your left and you will be going the right way! That’s fine as long as you can see the ocean! But somehow we did manage to get lost a few times… Reading the French roads signs was another adventure in it self….But Daria would get us back on track on off we would go.
Half way down the east coast brings you back into mining country and the road goes right through the middle of one of the biggest mines on the island. The ore appears to be deposits in thin vanes along the hills and bull dozers cut switch backs in search of new deposits. Other areas are intensely strip mined and whole mountainsides are removed leaving behind jagged scars. The ore they seem to be looking for is the color of a new penny, brightly copper colored earth that contains the precious metals. The next mine had literally miles and miles of conveyors moving the ore down from the top of the mountain side to the refinery. Strangely the two mines we drove through were not operating and there was not a soul in site? The main mining commotion seemed to be on the west coast digging up a new found deposit of ore.
The road wound its way south and we stopped for lunch at the mountain paradise of The Evasion Hotel. This hotel was tucked into a mountain valley and offered horse back riding and hiking. From there it was a short two hour drive back to the marina for a good night sleep back in our own bed on Downtime. A little over 1000 Km and three days and this adventure was over….
Our next stop is Isle Des Pine!
Peace! Capt Pete and Daria
Tanna is the next island north is located a short 25 mile sail away. We set sail early and the winds filled in nicely by the time we cleared the north end of Anatom.
We were flying our new Code Zero sail that was repaired in Fiji and it was doing a nice job pulling us along on a beam reach topping 10 knots of boat speed at times in 15 to 20 knots of wind. This sail is huge! It is 73 feet tall and the foot (bottom) is 46 feet long giving it a total area of over 1500 sq. feet. I was confident we had all the bug worked out of this sail but…..I was wrong!
Bang! The top attachment point tore loose and the sail drifted down into the water alongside the boat. Daria! A little help here please…. We spent the next half hour pulling the soaked sail back aboard and roughly bundling it and playing dog pile to smash it down small enough to tie a rope around, we would attempt folding it another day.
Out came the jib sail and within an few hours we were anchored in Resolution Bay which was named by Capt Cook himself. Resolution Bay is the only protected anchorage on Tanna but is still a bit rolling from the sea swell. The locals came paddling up in their dugout outrigger canoes like they have for centuries and welcomed us to their island.
The day we arrived there was a baby boy born in the village and we were invited for a celebration of his birth, well actually a lunch that we would donate a few dollars and get a local lunch. We took off with our bag full of gifts and made our way to the village. The first thing we noticed was that the kids were a little more wild on this island and dirty. The red clay soil was ground into their little hands, feet , and clothes and left me thinking that giving white tee shirts as gifts was not the best choice of colors on an island. I was also thinking what a difference where you are born makes in life…would this little boy spend his whole life in this little village growing up with out shoes orwould he be the one that made a difference in the way they lived?
Our main reason coming to Tanna was to see the active volcano located on Mount Yasur a hours drive away from the harbor. The next morning one of the locals came paddling up and asked if I could charge his portable DVD player and if we had any movies he could have. We gave him a few kids movies and the daily routine of charging the player began. In exchange for the charge he brought us a few bananas, green onion, and basil leaves. Another guy, Charlie came paddling up selling papaya, bananas and fresh eggs and we asked if he knew of someone to take us up the volcano. It turns out that Charlie has a brother, Robert who owns one of the few trucks on the island and for $40 US he would take us to the volcano. Luckily we were able to pay in US dollars since are Vauatu bucks had all been spent and the nearest ATM or bank was a 5 hour ride across the island.
The only road on the island is a one lane dirt road connecting the main villages and also goes to the summit of the volcano. The road is bumpy and washed out in places and most the time you are in first gear bouncing through the ruts, I can only imagine what it is like during the wet season….
It took a little over an hour to get to the base of Mount Yasur which looked like we had made a trip to the moon. The landscape was bare grey rocks and ash and you could hear the grumbling of the volcano from the parking lot at the base of the mountain. A 15 minute hike brought you to the rim of the caldera.
Standing on the edge you look a few hundred feet down into two giant cones that are spewing smoke and ash. The far cone would shoot up huge rumbling clouds of burning ash and the cone closest to us I could look right down into the bowels of the earth. The area surrounding the vent looked like a huge bar b q with glowing chunks of magma surrounding it. The air was bitter with the stench of sulfur that spewed out of cracks along the caldera walls. The vent would make raspy gurgling sounds, the sound of molten lava boiling way, way down in the earth and then the pressure would start building and things started rumbling under foot. And then BANG! Like a huge bomb went off !! The ground shook and chunks of molten lava the size of pickup trucks and washing machines blasted hundreds of feet in the air. Luckily they all seemed to be flying downwind and hitting the far side of the caldera. They landed with a eerie thud and started rolling back down the hill to the bottom of the vent cone and the process started all over again.
I got to tell you that this is one of the most amazing and powerful things I have ever seen in this great big beautiful world of ours and most the time I just stood there in awe knowing that in any moment it all could be over….
Our next adventure will be in New Caledonia!
Until then live your dreams! Pete and Daria<
We had an easy three day 450 mile sail from Fiji and arrived at day break watching a beautiful island rising out of the ocean in front of us. Anatom Island is the southern most island in Vanuatu and one of over a dozen in a chain of Vanuatu Islands and home to around 600 people living in 3 separate villages. We anchored in front of one small village on the S/W side of the island in a bay between the village and Mystery Island.
On our sail across we trolled lines during the day and landed 3 nice fish, two Mahi Mahi and one Walloo. Strangely catching all of the fish within a 5 hour period on the second day out of Fiji ?
My first impression was “Wow look at all the trees” . The islands is thickly planted with pine forests and along with the native trees is luscious green. In all of Fiji we had not seen any tree farming or many trees of any size at all for that matter.
There were 10 other boats anchored here, many of which we had met before. The clearance process was strait forward and pleasant. The island police chief came out to the boat and we had the paperwork done in 30 minute with a minimum of hassle.
The village had a small bank open 3 days a week and in the morning we went ashore to exchange some US dollars to pay the $3000 Vanuatu clearance fee. Luckily the exchange rate is 87 to one….After leaving the bank with 13,000 V dollars ($150 US) in my pocket we went for a walk around the village.
Located in the middle of the village is the Bank, Police station, school, and a small store. The store had the basic staples and not much more available other than a few sacks of concrete and building supplies. The school is a two room building with just a few desks and most the teaching is done with the kids seated on the floor. Across the path was the lumber yard with about 100- 2×4’s stacked under a tin roof.
The path continued inland through jungle and past gardens into a valley. Small houses were built along the way that somewhat resembled log cabins with the exception of thatched palm roofs. The side bark slabs of the logs were used for exterior sheeting having been cut using a small mill was that was set up in the forest that also cut the 2×4 structural parts of the home. Other homes were made entirely of woven bamboo exteriors and long strait trees for supports and thatched roofs. Most homes would have separate cooking huts and eating areas that I would imagine confine the smoke of open cooking fires to one area. The way of life here has changed little in the last centuries and few homes even have running water. The exception is a few that have access to a single faucet that has been installed between several homes. The water must originate from a spring up on the hills and flow by gravity through the pipes since there is no electricity on the island.
The path continued on, and I mean “path” since there are no cars or roads on this island, and we came up to a plot of land where several people were turning soil with heavy forked spades getting the ground ready to plant cassava. Other plots along the way were growing corn, taro, and cava the local anesthetic drink.
The people in the village are all very friendly and welcoming and spoke perfect English. The kids are polite and have beautiful smiles with perfectly strait white teeth, and many have blonde hair.
Kids here most likely never even seen a color TV, car, bicycle, glass window or a flushing toilet for that matter but are as happy as any kids we have met. When Daria and I walked around with the bag of toys and candy they waited patiently for their turn with outstretched hands for their gifts. The simplest things would amaze them, a blow up ball, a toy car or airplane, and best of all a bottle of bubbles. I would blow bubbles and they would dance around popping them in the air laughing and giggling. We gave away small water filled push button game that when you pushed the button the water pushed little floating rings and you had to get them on the dolphins nose. Kids would play these like it was the latest thing from play station! We also brought crayons, markers and coloring books and a soccer ball to the school and gave the teachers Downtime tee shirts which they were thankful for.
Island like these are very isolated but even here there are cell phones in a place where you can literally yell out the window with the same effect “can you hear me now?” since the village is only a mile across.
Mystery Island is less than a mile west from the village and has a small airport with a grass runway that accommodates two flights per week from Tanna the next island to the north. The island was originally purchased by a sea captain and was a whaling station in the 1800’s. There were remains of the station until a few years ago when a typhoon wiped them off the island. No one has lived on the island since and the natives believe it is haunted with ghosts and bad spirits.
Today’s Mystery Island is a tourist destination with a mocked up village and a walking trail nicely groomed around the island. The only Mystery to me was why have they put so many restrooms along the path? There has to be at least 20 of them located every 200 feet around this small island? Then there is the market center for the tourists with 30 covered booths….what exactly can they all be selling in all those booths? We will never find out since the cruise ship bring the tourist only come around once a month.
We were anchored here just under a week and one night the locals invited us to a party in the village. The promise of local food, a culture show, dancing and a demonstrations of other skills they have had passed down to them sounded fun.
The show started with a basket weaving demonstration and then a demonstration on how they make the traditional grass skirts and headwear. The most interesting to me was the man that started a fire with two sticks in less time than I would be able to with a bic lighter! Then came the traditional dancing and singing which was a lot of fun to watch since the kids and everyone else joined in.
While the women were preparing the meal the men were busy chopping Cava roots into small pieces getting them ready to grind them into a pulp to extract the lethal juice. The meal was boiled taro, cassava with broiled and fried fish and chicken, the basic island fare. To wash it down they had green coconuts to drink and pamplemuse (grapefruit) for dessert. I’m sorry but this is one of those kind of meals that if I ate in the states I would have to stop at McDonalds on the way home to satisfy my hunger…But the experience was wonderful!. And drinking a few cups of cava was an experience in itself…
Our first look at Vanuatu was amazing and we can not wait to see what the other islands have to offer.
In our next adventure we will be sailing north to Tanna the island known for having one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world!
Until then Live your dreams!!
Peace! Pete and Daria
We found ourselves waiting for a package that was sent from the states over a month ago…We addressed the package to Port Denareau Post Office and assumed that is where it would be delivered. After several calls during the week it was finally located at the airport terminal and would have to be collected there after paying a $3 Fiji duty ($1.60 US) and a $25 cab ride.
We had a few other things to wrap up before we left Fiji, getting an alternator rewound and a sail re-cut. They were both going to be ready on “Friday” but which Friday was yet to be determined…. The first attempt for pickup was a bust with no package, alternator or sail ready so we sailed back to Monuriki Island, one of our favorite spots in Fiji for a few days.
The weather was perfect and we were relaxing anchored off the island when I came up with the idea to do the shark dive in Pacific Harbor 70 just miles away. This was one of the few days that the wind was calm and we motored 10 hours to get to Pacific Harbor on the south side of Venu Levu. We arrived at midnight and navigated through the 1000 foot wide pass on a dark moonless night with the sound of waves crashing on the reef on either side of us. Luckily this was one time both sets of electronic charts agreed with each other and we anchored in a calm bay in 40 feet of water and feeding fish dancing on the surface all around us.
We woke to a clear calm morning perfect for diving and drove SD in and met with Aquatrek Divers for the world famous shark dive. They have been feeding sharks here for over 14 years and have created a sanctuary for the sharks and fish. They have seven varieties of sharks and over seventy varieties of fish living here all protected from the local fishing industry.
The dive was in your face action with fish and sharks feeding just a few feet in front of you. The guides would bring down 50 gallon trash cans full of fish parts and the feed was on. The guide and trash can would disappear in a cloud of feeding fish that included Jacks, Travails, Walloo, Remoras. and Goliath Groupers that were over 7 feet long and 500 pounds to name just a few. Then out of the blue abyss would swim a huge shark and glide right through the middle of it all and calmly gobble up whatever he pleased. We saw several Bull Sharks, a Lemon Shark (No they are not yellow!) White tips, Black Tips, and Nurse Sharks! Any of these bad boys would have no trouble snacking on an arm or leg! The Giant Groupers would calmly swim up to the guide holding the sack full of Tuna heads and gently take the bowling ball sized head out of his hand and swallow it whole and let him pet her as she swam off. The sharks would do the same just a little more slyly and the guide was sure to not lets his hands get quite so far away from his body.
Luckily these sharks were kept fat and happy and were being fed three times a week. Bull sharks are very territorial and one must have had a been in the wrong place recently and was sporting a 16 inch bite mark on his side obviously inflicted by a much bigger shark than himself. I found myself thinking that I would hate find myself in the wrong neighborhood down here at night!
The dive itself was easy and enjoyed by 30 other divers at the same time. They had a line tied across for everyone to hold on to at 70 feet deep and we all had front row seats for the action. One shark in particular will forever be etched in my mind when he a 10 foot Bull shark swam out of the feed strait toward me and turned just a few feet in front of my face leaving me with no doubt I was in his world.
Somehow your brain lets you relax when there are 30 other people down there…But I don’t think I would be so calm being the last diver down and holding the last fish head…..
After the dive we headed back to Downtime for some lunch and a relaxing afternoon. In the morning we made a 5 hour sail to Notadola Bay to anchor for the night. The Intercontinental Hotel is located in this bay and we called ashore for dinner reservations and were warmly welcomed to dine at Navo Restaurant. Daria went ashore to sit by the pool while I tried unsuccessfully to ride wave break on the paddle board. Around 5:00 I headed in and a few staff offered to moor out SD while Daria and I headed in for happy hour.
The resort was one of the nicest we had been to in Fiji and it was also nice to get off the boat for an evening ashore. Happy hour ended with a fire show and then it was off to dinner. The restaurant was one of the best we had eaten at in Fiji and had very reasonable prices with great service.
I was kicking around the idea of playing another round of golf but morning rain showers encouraged us to get moving so we set sail for Denareau to pick up our package and the parts that were finally ready.
Daria hit the produce market while I made the journey to the airport post office with my Indian taxi driver. Our driver was a third generation migrant who’s grand father was brought over in the 40’s to harvest sugar cane. The Fiji government would offer 5 year contracts to Indians to harvest cane and after 5 years they had the option of staying in Fiji or to go back home. Most stayed and now Indians make up of over 50% of the population of Fiji. The land however is all still owned by Fiji natives and it is hard for Indians to even obtain a lease to farm nowadays. Many have left the farming lifestyle and have found work in blue collar jobs like taxi drivers, mechanics and shop owners.
With Downtime full of provisions and the tanks full of diesel and water (and no water in the diesel we hope) we said farewell to Denareau and sailed to Lautoka 12 miles to the north to clear out of Fiji. The clearing out process involved filling out the same forms that we cleared in on….5 pages in duplicate which you think should already be on a data base somewhere at this point? Oh well….within 30 minutes we were cleared for Vanuatu.
On way out of the country we stopped one last time in Musket cove to bid farewell to our friends Brian and Linda on Malakite and set sail early the next morning for the 440 mile trip to Vanuatu.
One thing we have found is that guessing the wind strength during a passage is pointless and we decided to get a good night rest before we set sail for Vanuatu It is what IT is after all! The projected winds of 20 to 25 knots in reality were 10 to 15 knots making he trip 72 hours not 48 so why bother setting sail in the middle of the night? One thing about light winds is the fact they push Downtime the perfect speed for trolling which is 6 to 7 knots and any faster than that it becomes difficult slowing the boat down to land fish.
The first day we ere blasting along at 9 to 10 knots with 25 knots of wind and lost two fish while taking in the sail but the second day the winds lightened and we landed two nice 35 pound Mahi’s and one 4 foot Wahoo! The last day we found ourselves 110 miles out with light winds struggling to do the 5 knot average that would get us there in daylight hours and going too slow to attract any fish to our lour’s.
It was nice to land a few nice fish and finally have more than enough to give away again. The sail has been calm and the seas kind, so much kinder to us than a friend who left last week and wound up giving his mast and sails to Poseidon after a cable fitting failed causing the mast to fall over and had to be cut away to save the boat.
Our next adventure will be exploring Vanuatu!!
Peace, until then!! And always live your dreams!!
Capt. Pete and Daria