SPCZ overcast - Vanuatu Fri/Sat 29/30June

Thursday ended up very calm & peaceful, unlike the rest of the day which was grey & rainy. I sat out in cockpit in the moonlight, having first put plenty of anti-mosquito cream on, & after arranging mosquito netting over boat hatches!! Completely dark & seemingly uninhabited where I was anchored - & I only just managed to get there before light failed. I relied on Nobeltec charts & chartplotter (both! - trying to reduce chance of error!) for position of anchorage in lee of tiny island of Uri in
Port Stanley on Malakula island. Fortunately, they were both accurate. I'd chosen an anchorage to come into that looked fairly straightforward - no coral heads lurking too close by, nice sandy bottom instead, since distance was a bit tight for a day passage...but even so, I felt really uncomfortable coming in to anchor without any chance of seeing through water at lurking coral in the near-darkness. Other closer anchorages looked a bit dodgy for entering in bad light, let alone at night....
I'd had to motor-sail a lot, trying to make sure of getting there in daylight, with strong winds gusting up to 25kn as I left and very little a bit later - they kept being highly variable - mainly NW-NNE & so 'on the nose'! What might have been quite a good sailing day was rather ruined trying to get too far ... only benefit was batteries being well-charged!!

A couple of small boats, each with several people in them, were going back to another nearby island as I came in at sunset (not that I could see any sun.... dark grey clouds....) - smoke showed where they were probably heading for. Very basic, traditional subsistence living around here. Gather this is a marine reserve for giant clams! Had 3 or 4 dolphins leaping around boat as I made for channel between islands to get in... always nice! And actually found a flying fish on deck later in the day
- from previous overnight passage, presumably - and saw several more today - flying over surface of the sea a long way.

As I left this morning (Friday), at first light, a couple of dug-out, outrigger canoes appeared - one with a single person in it, the other with two... women, it turned out, hoping for a tow towards the local market where they were taking their oranges.. unfortunately, my path was nowhere near theirs so, regretfully, I couldn't help, much as I would have liked to if only time had allowed it.

I was hoping to get to Luganville in time to check-out for a possible weekend departure, weather permitting... although looking at the available grib files isn't encouraging - not until 2nd July (Monday) do the winds begin to look better - settled SE Trades looking more likely then, with very light & variable N winds before that.

I have various things I must do before I start that passage, so I made for a 'resort' anchorage on the island of Aore opposite the town of Luganville at the S. end of Espiritu Santo, with a regular little ferry over. On arriving soon after 2pm & picking up a mooring, having had to motor-sail all the way against a headwind, I busied myself filling with diesel from my jerrycans - I don't know yet if I'll be able easily to refuel in Luganville over the weekend.... & it was actually NOT raining for a
change!

Yet again, it was a day of dark grey clouds and occasional rain showers - the northern islands of Vanuatu demonstrating that they are in the S Pacific Convergence Zone (not the ITCZ around 5N &/or 5S, but the SPCZ around here & on to Fiji & N.Cooks which gives frequent bad/rainy weather/storms).

Saturday: Went over to Luganville to see where Customs & Immigration are- both firmly closed until Monday, when I'll clear out. Diesel situation not at all simple or easy (no fuel dock to fill up at) so will leave without buying more fuel - will use up my spare from my stowed jerry-cans instead - needs using anyway, since not good to store for too long. Will just take me a time to finish doing it tomorrow, having already spent time on that today...
Town of Luganville very run-down, with shops struggling to make a living, just two basic hotels and almost no eating-places - except one pleasant one, run by a woman from Seattle(!) whose husband runs a vanilla plantation. I shall miss diving on the 'Coolidge' wreck - pity since it's reputed to be very interesting - luxury liner requisitioned by the US in WWII for troop-carrying and sunk nearby after hitting two mines (I must have sailed over her on my way in here!) There's also a connection with
Kauai here - the story of 'South Pacific' was written here - 'Bali Hai' is supposed to be the nearby island of Ambrym. (The film was made on location in Kauai.) Lots of remnants of the US military presence here on Espiritu Santo.

Written by : Mike

Trackback URL