Going south, Vanuatu….the loop

The wind was from the South East at 15-25kts for 6 days, making it silly for me to leave my anchorage in Post Stanley, half way down the eastern side of Malekula, and motor into it.

I had struck up a friendship with Karl, who lived on one on the nearby islands. We would go off, trolling for fish during the day and he and his family would have me ashore for dinner at that home in the evenings.The weather forecast was showing the SEly abating, as I was discussing my leaving, Karl, out of blue asked if I would like him to come with me, as he would like to experience sailing to Port Vila on a yacht. It was so far from left field, it took me a day to process, before I embraced the idea. The next day Karl and his wife Norah went off too their garden on the mainland in Albert

to stock up the larder for his family, while he was away and provision Logicwe, left the next morning with supposedly a 10kt head-wind to motor 20miles south to the South Eastern corner of Malekula. The wind very quickly became 20kts on the nose, with a mean swell, that kept on breaking over the cabin. After an hour of this I had had enough, it looked like we had enough of an angle of the wind to go east to Ambrym, so we did. Karl’s first introduction to yacht sailing was 25kts hard on the wind. It was quite an adventure for the pair of us. It was pleasant to finally drop the anchor off Ranon on Ambrym.

Karl cooked dinner on our first night

The plan, the next day was to head around the top of Ambrym, to run down the east coast too Paamaonce we came around the top of Ambrym, it was not the 15kts Easterly of the forecast, it was the 20-25kt head wind, we has yesterday with an even meaner swell.

There was a very very early cyclone west of The Solomon Islands, that was totally confusing the historic data generated weather forecasts. Cyclone Liua (the earliest cyclone on record), was sucking in moist air from everywhere, turning the usually very reliable weather forecasts, into gibberish.

After the 20th wave broke over the cabin roof, I had had enough and turned 180 degrees, to go north to Pentecost.(The boat GPS satellite tracker, has us going towards Fiji around now, moving in the short steep swells must have confused  the GPS location generator, as the reality was, that we rapidly moving straight north).

It was a quick sail up to Wali, were I had visited last year

I recognised Chief Luke from last year, waiting for us on the beach, so once the anchor had dug we were in Albert heading towards shore. Luke’s brother had died a few days before, so naturally we were invited to the wake,  a short ride, in the back of a ute to the south.

They had killed a cow for the celebration of his lifeWe ended up having to walk back to the anchorageNext day we were off, up the coast to Loltong.

Karl was having fun playing with my toysand seeing places he knew of, but had not seen, until nowAs we approached Loltong, Paws, a boat I had met a few times in the past came up on the AIS, anchored in LoltongLoltong is a spectacular anchorage, were I had the feeling of being in an amphitheatre of greena great place for a bottom cleanThen a trip ashore with a soccer ball for the boyswho had a shaded soccer field, under an enormous banyan treeI was not told 2 important facts, as I sat under the tree watching the boys play.

1. the seam in the seat of my pants had failed

2. there was a fire ant nest under the tree.

The tube of cortisone cream back onboard, came to the rescue

That evening the rain bucketed down, with 30kts wind bullets regularly shooting across the anchorage from the south. I had a heap of anchor chain out, the weight of which would pull the boat forward in the lulls, then the gusts would hit, slamming us back, on the now bar tight anchor chain. The boat would then be full of noisy creaking and groaning. 40mts behind the boat was a shallow coral reef. sleep was not deep or relaxing, with a very tight anchor alarm setThe next morning Karl, needed to bail all that rainwater out of Albertbefore heading ashore looking for a cigaretteIt was Sunday, so we went off to the French Roman Catholic church for some amazing singingthere is real “Pied Piper” feel to walking, with a posse of children following

the girl on the left is obviously from the Crocodile Dundee school of bush knife sizingI gave Narissa a volley ball, life has not been easy for Narissa, her mother died of cancer in the hospital in Port Vila, then her father was killed in a fight on Tanna. She and her two younger brothers are now living with her Uncle (Matthew) and his wife (Marie). A few hours later I saw her holding onto the ball, as if it was the most precious thing in the world. So I gave her a red marker to write her name on the ball withAndy off Paws, spent a day fixing up an old sailing dingy that an earlier visiting yacht had left. It was a big job. I added a small main-sheet ratchet block and some sail-mending tape to the effort

We got some cloths washing doneMatthew and Marie fed us dinner, then Matthew send one of the boys off to dig up one of his kava plants, to prepare some “wet” Pentecost kava. Which was as good as Pentecost kava is rebound for being. 2-3 shells and I was very pleasantly stoned. (the flash on the phone was playing up, so no photos)

I retuned the hospitality by inviting what I though would be Marie and Matthew and the three children out to Logic, for a movie and popcorn afternoon. I should have known, it would end up being 9 children and 3 adults.

After 3 nights of stressful sleeping the forecast had the wind swinging to the east and dying in the morning.

Andy on Paws is a professional commercial skipper, so I decided to defer to his skills and follow Paws out, through the channel between the reefs, just as the sun was rising (I would have waited until the sun was up a bit more, so as to get a better visual of the reefs)

we sailed in convoy with Pawspast Ambae, were their volcano had started erupting a month ago, and did not look like stopping, forcing the indefinite evacuation of the 12,000 inhabitance too Luganville on Espirito Santoto get some more diesel and provisions.

We had a favorable weather forecast, so we left Luganville early the next morning for Port Stanley. One of Karl’s brothers lives in Luganville, so he spend the night ashore. It must have been a big night of brother catching up, as it was not too long before he fell asleep on the foredeck after over 2 weeks of overcast/rainy skies and 20kt plus headwinds it was very enjoyable to have blue skies and a light westerly for a relaxing sail down to Karl’s homeNorah, had been informed we were coming an had a laplap (cooking in an earth oven with hot rocks), ready for our home coming feast

7 days and 179 miles and we are back were we started,

(with the need to work with the weather, not against it, reinforced even more in my thinking, from now on. )

Karl and Norah went off to their garden the next day and I caught up on some boat jobs.

One of the sheet winches, was making some unhealthy noisesthree of the hatch polycarbonate window, have the adhesive starting to fail, so I crossed the smallest one, off the job list

……….as is typical, I am 10days behind in my blog postings, the next one will be a biggy, Karl and I had an actions packed sail down to Port Vila. I will spend a few days catching up on boat jobs, then get stuck into it.