Saturday, 13 October 2012

Episode 12 - New Caledonia to Vanuatu's Southern Islands


Halo olgeta blong Vanuatu!
Welcome to Episode 12 of the Hog Blog.

At the end of Episode 11 we had just finished our sailing circumnavigation of New Caledonia’s mainland onboard Lorelei with friends Ben & Wendy on their cat “Just Magic”. We stopped for a few days in Noumea to re-provision and clear customs.

Leaving Noumea

The last few days in Noumea were jam packed and fun. We did a full provision of food and explored a few parts of the city we hadn’t been to yet and in particular the Latin Quarter.
We had a great weather window starting on the 19th Sept. so we decided to clear out that morning and do a team effort to fill up both boats with duty free fuel ($1.13 Aus per litre) before departing that arvo.
Unlike Australia, once you have cleared out of New Cal, you have 3 days in which to leave their waters.

The Crossing Noumea to Mare

The first stop was down to the Canal Woodin and our favourite bay down there – Baie Ire for an overnight stop. It was motoring most of the way into the wind and we arrived after dark but happy we were on our way.

Stage 2 was a mission! We left just after lunch and motored thru the other side of the Canal and into the Havannah Pass. The swell was short, sharp and uncomfortable. Once we got into open ocean and over 300m deep then the steep chop settled down a little bit and we were able to sail overnight to the Island of Mare in the Loyalty Islands. The sail was rough though and both boats reefed down for the night. Ben and Wendy struggled to slow their boat down and we had a hard time balancing the sail plan. We all felt sick and were glad to be in early the next day.


Mare is the southern most Island of the 3 Loyalty Islands that are part of New Caledonia but lie about 1/2 way between New Cal's mainland and Vanuatu's southern islands.
We anchored in a stunning bay at Pede Beach in a narrow gutter surrounded on both sides with coral bommies that came up to the surface from 10-12m. The snorkeling is regarded as the best in New Cal and we did 2 sorties exploring the area and thought it was quite good – not spectacular and no big fish but pretty all the same.

While in Noumea we visited the tourist info centre and got a book on Mare. It tells of an amazing cultural experience for travelers and the area wanting to promote tourism. We read up on the etiquette and shopped for the appropriate gifts for the village chiefs, etc..
Well it was all in vain when we took the RIB into the wharf at the main town of Tadine. The people were not very friendly – not unfriendly just reserved and nothing like the smiling happy people we experienced all around the mainland. We even got shoved out of the way and pushed in on at the local store queue trying to by some bread.
We went to the Tourist Info centre at the town hall. We knew we were in the right place because the photo was in the book. The book stated this is the only one on the island and the place to book trips, etc..
Well the people were not helpful at all. Wendy speaks French so it wasn’t a language issue. We tried to book a tour of the island for the next day but couldn’t. We even showed them the contact details and photos in the book but that didn’t help. We tried to organize a hire car from one of 3 car hire places but they couldn’t do that either. They couldn’t even tell us where the local attractions were located that were less than 2klm away from where we stood.
In the end we gave up and left and vowed to do our own thing and find them ourselves the next day.

Parking the RIB on the land was the next issue as the entire coastline is this amazing series of limestone bays with small undercut rock ledges as the shoreline. We found we had to bring the RIB up to the edge, drop 3 of us onshore with all the gear and leave one in the RIB to anchor the boat offshore and swim back in, clamber up the rocks and join the others.

Well persistence paid off because we found the first attraction with the help from the lonely planet guide and a cop out for his morning jog – The Natural Aquarium. This cool spot is a coral reef and fish eco system that is inland with clean seawater feed thru a spring system from the sea. It was too shallow to snorkel but it had loads of pretty fish and untouched coral.

The second spot was the highlight. The LP guide said one line about a sink hole on someone’s property, behind their house and opposite a large gravesite to a local elder. We found the grave and went and knocked on the house opposite as the book said to do. The lady thought we were weird asking permission to visit the hole but they were very friendly. She took us to the site with her 2 young daughters leading as guides. The eldest was about 7 and had a large tattoo of a flower on her leg which was a bit weird considering her age.
The amazing sink hole was carved into the rock that was deep and lined with dense trees and vines. The undercut cave on one side had some great stalactite formations hanging from the ceiling. We climbed down with our gear and set up on the edge with cameras and snorkeling gear. The water was clear and quite deep on one side. We found some caves at about 8-9m deep. We freedived as deep into them as we dared but they went a lot further in. In the shallow end we found lots of logs and branches with stacks of little shrimp. We had an absolute blast.

The Crossing from Mare to Vanuatu

If all open ocean passages between counties were like this one then we’d sail forever! We left early and motored around to bottom of Mare for 3 hours to get a better angle of sail to Aneityum which is the southern most Island in Vanuatu.
The seas and winds had dropped and the passage started slow and steady with 4 knots of boats speed. At dusk we could still see Mare but the wind increased to 12 knots and we pushed on thru the clear night at a comfortable and consistent 6-7 knots. We arrived at 11am still doing the same speed and anchored up in a protected bay that is a tropical paradise just waiting for us to explore.
There were 6 other cruising monos also in the bay – 2 from Canada, 1 French, 1 US and 2 other Aussies.

Coming into Aneityum, Vanuatu


Aneityum is a small round shaped island with three small villages. There are no cars or roads and lifestyle is very traditional with the exception of their mobile phones and solar panels to charge them!
Just out from the main village where we were anchored is Mystery Island which has been fully set up for the P&O cruise liners when they show up approx. 6-8 times per month. It is uninhabited at any other time. The locals have small businesses set up for when the Ships arrive.

Well it had to be the fastest customs clearance ever. Within 10 minutes of us being anchored up, the police boat was alongside and 2 officials, Kiven and Timothy were in our cockpit having a cold drink and doing the paperwork. 4 refills of cold cordial (called sirop here..) and 20 minutes later it was completed and our quarantine flag was lowered, having being up for a grand total of 30 minutes. In New Cal it was up for 3 days!!
We found out later that everyone in the village was off to a funeral that arvo and Timothy wanted it done before then.

We had a jam packed week at Aneityum and did a stack of activities both in the water and on shore.

The Snorkeling thru the pass between Mystery Island and the main island was fantastic. Lots of big sand trenches of various depths offset with loads of coral bommies in between. The plate coral formations and fish life was amazing.
There was also a great snorkeling area along the reef edge just near the main village. There was and awesome cave system marked by a white buoy and a wreck and clown fish gardens 100m further down marked with a black buoy. These were both only 150m from our boats and we could snorkel them at any time.

We did a paddle over to Mystery Island. Ben took his new stand up paddleboard (SUP) while the other 3 of us kayaked. It was great to have the whole place all to ourselves. There is a cruise ship due in 5 days time and we will return when it’s in to see the markets open.

During our second day we met Keith, a local elder who also has a small business doing snorkel/scuba guiding and island tours. Over the week we did a lot of things with him with the first being an island walk up to a large waterfall.

On day 2 most of the yachts had left leaving just the 4 Aussies each with a couple on board. The eight of us hired Keith as a guide for the day and he took us on a trek through his village and up into the mountains to the waterfall. It turned out to be a long 10klm walk of 3.5 hours up and 2.5 back down. The track was soft and muddy and we must have crossed the small river over a dozen times to get to the top. Each crossing was over slippery moss covered rocks and we all took a fall at one stage with Lisa doing the best when the other Lisa in front stopped and she fell into the fresh water completely submerging, backpack and all. Luckily she was only carrying the drinks as Paul had the food and cameras. The rainforest was stunning and so was the waterfall. The water was freezing but refreshing when we went for a swim under the falls.
We arrived back at the beach mid arvo all safe and sound but a little stuffed.

We were all a little weary the next day so we had a slower day which was perfect timing to coincide with the annual primary school fete and fundraiser.
The school which is located right on the beach was government built but is community run and funded. The kids from the 2 outer villages also go to school here and board with local families during the week only going home on the weekends.
The fete ran over 2 days and was a big event.
The kids weaved the walls for the stalls and the families of the school kids were encouraged to contribute food and produce. The local fishermen went and caught fish and the school brought a cow and slaughtered it.

Everyone chipped in and helped with the food prep and cooking.
There was lots of it!
We first brought figure 8 shaped doughnuts and deep fried rice cakes which were yummy.

Paul and Ben then set up Paul’s 8m long octopus kite on the beach and flew it for the kids. They were a little reserved at first but after a while we had scores of kids all running around under it, getting wound up in its legs and tracing its shadow in the sand. They even got the hang of flying it and they played with it for ages. It was a great ice breaker and the parents were pretty happy.
Ivan one of the other Aussie yachties took his Frisbee in and had the older kids entertained as well.

Note the windmill which he made. It spun surprisingly quickly.

For lunch we had fish, stick meat (kebabs), rice, taro, coleslaw and cassava pudding with coconuts for drinks and sugar cane for dessert. We were sooo full.

In the arvo the women had a round robin volleyball contest and the men watched the soccer game complete with teams in matching outfits.

It was an awesome opportunity to observe village life and a great way for us to interact without having to intrude into their normal daily life.

After the relaxing day on land, we decided to do a days blue water spearfishing at a few of the deeper offshore bommies we can see on the Ipad charts. We decided to take Keith with us as he was pretty keen to watch how we spearfished for pelagics.
As it turned out he had never seen a fishfinder, Ipad, rubber weight belts, floats and float lines, carbon fibre, etc… To say it was a real eye opener for him was an understatement.
The first reef was just out from the bay entrance and came up from 35m to 13m. We didn’t see much as the run out tide had the viz down to 20m.
The next spot was well offshore in over 60m depth. We didn’t need the Ipad charts – we could see the 14m top of the bommie clearly from the boat a long way away. The viz was 40m+ and the current was 2 knots. We used flashers and burly and had a great time with a very excited Lisa scoring her personal best Green Job Fish.
Paul was set-up for a large Wahoo, Tuna or Billfish but it didn’t eventuate.

On the Saturday Night Keith organized a Traditional Feast for us. They usually like a minimum of 8 people but with only the 3 Aussie yachts in the bay, they did it for the 6 of us. There was the 4 of us and Alan and Lisa off the yacht Amnesia.
We had no idea what to expect and were asked to be onshore at 4:30pm and BYOG.
Well what we experienced just blew us away – in more ways than one!!
Keith met us and led us around the beach to a fantastic set up and we had a sunset drink under a little thatched roof hut right on the waters edge.

We then were invited to the main area and had a welcoming ceremony and a 3 part display of traditional costumes and how they are made, making fire the traditional way and tribal dancing with singing. We were encouraged to join in for the last one which we all did.

The backdrop was perfect with the sun setting behind the festivities.
We then were shown dinner which was a mixture of Fish (Lisa’s Jobfish she caught), chicken, octopus, turtle, and loads of traditional veges such as sweet potato, cassava and taro.

But before dinner we had to partake in a traditional Kava Ceremony. The Kava here is not like Fiji’s powdered stuff but is locally grown, very strong and is drunk by most of the adults in the village. Drinking it on an empty stomach gives you a much better buzz.

After dinner we hung around the fires, drinking, dancing and hanging out with the locals.

All in all it was a fantastic experience and hard to believe the effort they put into the night for the 6 of us. There must have been 30 village people involved. The cost was 1000 vatu each or about $12 Aussie.
The money raised goes toward sending the bright teenagers off to get further education which in turn will benefit the village long term.

On Sunday the first cruise ship turned up. It was the larger Pacific Jewel coming from Sydney. The minor issue was being a Sunday, many of the locals would prefer to go to church rather than assisting on Mystery Island and Keith was a little short staffed with his tour business so he asked Paul for some help for the day.
For Paul it was a bit of fun and gladly accepted to do it for free.
Keith runs Game and Bottom fishing, Spearfishing, Snorkelling and Main Island Tours and had 3 boats and locals lined up.
They are not really pro-active and just sit there waiting for the tourists to come up to the desk and enquire. So Paul went the opposite, sought out the P&O shore manager and got the low down on the tour. It was school holidays in NSW and QLD and the boat was packed with 1968 guests and a whopping 850 children. Normally there are less than 200. So Paul changed the signs around to suit the more family orientated snorkeling tours and greeted every passenger at the gate and gave them the hints on the island, the tides, the wind, best times to do things, and where the best snorkeling was from the shore. Nobody does this from the villages or P&O and the guests were happy to listen. Paul then plugged the tours particularly the snorkeling to the hoards with mask, snorkel, fin packs on their backs and so it began. They are only there for 8 hours with money to burn and it was so easy to sign them up. Paul carved up the prices for families or groups or if they had their own gear and even custom invented tours for those wanting go a bit longer or to combine a few of the tours.
Keith was head spinning as Paul had the locals running around like headless chooks and the 3 boats booked to capacity with tours running all day. Once everything was lined up, Paul made up some small reef maps for a quick brief, jumped in the boats and went along on the trips as the snorkel guide. The guests were stoked. The staff later told us it was the biggest day of takings ever with the only one unhappy being poor Joseph who is Keith’s main opposition.
More than anything we hoped they had learnt a few things from Paul’s experience and the day with them.
Lisa, Wendy and Ben went into the Island to have a look around for a bit for fun but only lasted a short while before the whole scene became a bit too much for them.
The Pacific Pearl was due in the next day and Keith really wanted Paul to work again but we didn’t think it was fair on Joseph and the weather was perfect to sail to Tanna, so we said our goodbyes and sailed out of the harbour at 7am just as the Pearl had anchored.

We had a fantastic week at Aneityum.
The Island has only recently been set up as a customs clearance port for yachts and the locals are doing all they can to promote it and turn it on for the passing yachts. They have asked all of us to give the island a big plug and we will gladly do so. We highly recommend it to anyone wishing to start at the bottom of Vanuatu to work north. And why wouldn’t you? Its stacks easier to clear in than at Tanna, has a better anchorage and with the predominant South and East winds it’s all downwind from there!


The sail to Tanna was great one with 52nm of tropical downwind sailing. We pulled into the main anchorage of Port Resolution mid arvo with the run taking just over 8 hours with all sail up. Ben and Wendy did it in 6.5!
Whilst this is a popular anchorage, there is no detailed info on any of the electronic charts. We had to use common sense and our eyes to navigate our way in. We are sure this wont be the last time, especially the further north we go. Being second behind Ben and Wendy has its advantages sometimes!

The first morning at Port Resolution we decided to explore the bay and the best way was by Kayak or in Ben’s case – SUP. First we went outside of the bay to explore the cliffs and the large amount of sea caves.

Once back in side the bay we found a stack of thermal vents around the shoreline that were spewing out boiling water and steam. The volcano (more about that later…) is only a few klm’s from here so it explains the large amount of geo-thermal activity around the bay.

We also found a small reef at the end of the bay that had a great little wave breaking over it. Paul just had to give it a go on the kayak. Out of 4 waves he made 2 and got coffin rolled on the other 2, once smashing onto the reef and grazing his wrist. Boys will be boys…..

On the way home we stopped and had a chat to the local fisherman in their dugout canoes. This picture is of Wilson who had caught 10 small mackerel in his net that morning.

The biggest drawcard at Tanna is Mount Yasur and its active volcano. It is the most accessible active volcano in the world. We had also heard about it from friends Chris and Helen who went there a few years back so we had a bit of an idea what to expect but either way the experience was truly awesome.
We booked in with our tour guide to pick us up in the village at 4pm. From there it was a 45 minute bumpy ride up to the base of the volcano in his Hilux Dual Cab. We then hiked up the side of the mountain and skirted the crater’s rim until we reached a good viewing point. Ben and Paul raced ahead and were walking towards the lip when a large, loud explosion went off and sent a plume of glowing molten lava rocks into the air 100m above their heads. They stopped in their tracks and just looked up in awe then at each other before racing to the top. The facial expressions were priceless. The girls further back screamed and stopped cold as the deep roar and vibrations went right thru us all.
The view from the edge into the crater was amazing. We set up the cameras and waited for the larger explosions which came about every 3-5 minutes. The noise of the expelled lava rocks landing with a thud was unnerving and the rocks glowed red for several minutes before solidifying.

We camped on the crater’s rim until about 1 hour after dark before making the trek back down to the car making the bumpy trip back to the village.
It is a humbling experience watching Mother Nature in all her glory with such a powerful force. Several tourists have died there in recent years and many have had close calls. The locals are very aware of its potential destructive power and treat it with the respect it deserves. The guides are still in awe of it even though they get to experience it regularly.

The next morning it was back into the village to meet with Serah who the girls had lined up to do a weaving class with. Ben and Paul tagged along for a while to watch and learn also. Serah had some dried Pandanus fronds to use and they set about making 2 small hanging baskets while sitting in the sun outside Serah’s restaurant.

Around mid morning the boys attention span had waned and so they set off for the beach in search of surf. They found a great right hander of a rocky point and decided to surf it that arvo on the higher tide.

At lunch time the girls were well on their weaving way but only ½ finished so we all stopped for lunch at Serah’s small restaurant/cafĂ© which is named “The Avoca Restaurant”. Avoca is the local name for Avocado’s and not named after the popular NSW Central Coast beach. Either way Paul had to get a photo with the boards next to it.

On the way thru the village to the point break the boys picked up 2 kids that followed. That soon turned into about 2 dozen who sat up on the headland overlooking the point while they surfed. Well you would have thought it was the ASP final with the way they hollered and jumped around with each wave caught. It was so funny with the boys revving them up too.
They returned from the surf slightly battered and bruised after surfing over the very shallow coral reef. A few minor dings in the boards and a few scratches on their fins and legs but otherwise all was good.
The girls had just finished the baskets so the timing was perfect.
They were very proud of their creations.

Note the girls in long skirts inline with the local customs.

The next few days we spent the time relaxing, going to the beach, exploring the villages and interacting with the locals. We started to feel quite comfortable in the main village and we know a few people now which helped. We visited Susanne’s little track side stall every day to buy locally grown fruit and veggies off her. The quality and taste was excellent and very cheap. A hand of 20 large sweet bananas is a dollar and the paw paw and sweet potato are very tasty. It’s been our first opportunity to buy local village produce and should be common practice going further north and into summer & warmer weather. Can’t wait till we can get some mangos, avo’s, pineapples, etc...

Lisa relaxing in her hammock that friends Chris and Cynthia
brought for us before we left.  C&C - It’s awesome – many thanks…

Susanne’s small stall

Susanne making lunch for her family. Banana and Coconut with cabbage.
She cooked it and on our return from a swim she saved some for us to try.

The local pigs. The smaller ones just wander thru the village most of the time.

A large WW2 shell - It’s not something you’d normally see on the way to the beach…

Wendy at the Village Hot Springs - they use hot rocks to cook meals with

The dugouts came out everyday to our boats to trade, sell produce or ask us for things like fire makers (lighters), tinned corned beef and batteries. All things which we don’t have! We brought other things like hooks and clothes to trade.
The biggest issue for them is charging things. They have no way to charge phones and electronic devices. We are asked this all the time. Ben relented once when a young girl asked him to charge her speakers which were USB and not 240v so not so bad. When he returned it to the beach the next morning there was a queue of people with things for him to charge. He politely had to refuse. Once you do it for one then the word is out and is relentless so we just now just have to say no to everyone.
We have however met Tom who seems a little more educated. He paddles out with his 4gb flash drive and asks us to put 4 new movies on it every second day which we do as a trade for bananas and cucumbers which he grows. We returned it on the first day in a small waterproof snap lock plastic bag. We think he liked that more than the movies!!

After another fantastic week and a few new experiences we left Tanna Island and sailed north to Eromango.


Eromango is the third southern most island of Vanuatu. It is a roughly circular island with only one semi-decent trade wind anchorage – Dillon’s Bay on the Western side.
The sail from Tanna to Eromango was a fast one. With Port Resolution on the Eastern side of Tanna and Dillons bay on the West of Eromango, we had to sail around the top of Tanna and diagonally across the gap between the two islands. This was a 56nm run and downwind all the way.
We left at 5am with all sail up and were flying in 16 knots of true wind within 5 minutes of leaving the anchorage.
At sunrise on the way up the coast we went past the Volcano for one last time.

About 1/2 way across the gap the wind increased and we very sitting on a minimum of 8 knots and surfing down the waves into the 10’s. Just Magic was up into the 15’s! They double reefed the main and we dropped the mizzen and single reefed our main and continued at a less loaded pace of 7 knots surfing to 8.  We completed the run in less than 8 hours and Just Magic in 7 and a bit.

The next morning we put the RIB in and entered thru the small rivermouth.
The villagers were waiting for us under a tree and they guided us with hand signals through the shallow river bar to a small beach.

They came straight over and gave us a big warm welcome and proceeded to tell us what they had planned for us for the whole day including repairing a boat. It was a bit on the front foot but we accepted having wanted to do most things anyway.
First our guide Donald took us for a walk through the village, visiting the guest houses, school and the garden. We sat in the coconut and banana grove as the kids climbed the tall palms and got us fresh coconuts to drink and eat.

We then took Donald’s son Edward and Paul (who is the Big Chief’s first born and heir to the throne) in our RIB around to another beach and climbed up the hillside to a burial cave from their ancestors. We had to sit before going in as a mark of respect as Paul said some prayers.
The entrance was small and steep but inside it was quite large.
The cave had human bones stacked in piles all over the floor and rocks.

We then climbed up the side of the cliff overlooking the cave to a second cave that held the big chief and his family. Fortunately the cliff face was covered in tree roots which made it easy to scale.

The chief in the middle, his wife on the right, first born son on the left and other son and daughter at the front.

In the arvo we returned to the village with enough tools to repair Donald and Edward’s alloy boat which had a series of cracks along the keel from previously bad welding repairs. It had been repaired since with melted candle wax! The job took Paul and Ben about 1.5 hours and then they went back to Donald’s house for Kai Kai which is basically a meal prepared by them for their guests. The girls were ushered away from the repair site and back to the house. They tried to offer to help with the food prep and in the process learn a little but the were told to sit and “make story”. The food was excellent and lots of it. The difficult thing for us is they will not eat with us or at the same time but insist we finish all the food and they will eat later. We felt pretty bad but that’s their custom and we had to accept that.

The girls with Donald’s wife Lota who made the meal.

Paul with Donald’s family and future Chief Paul on the right.

As we left we were given a load of fresh fruit and veges to take back with us. As if they hadn’t done enough for us anyway, but they were very thankful for the repair on the boat.

The following day we returned for “Tafea Day” which is a celebration of the date of political independence for the southern islands.
In reality all we wanted to do is play with the kids and see the rock – more on that later.
We took our kite in and tried to fly it on the footy field at the school but it just wasn’t windy enough and the kids were still in class.
We sat in the grandstand as the school kids came out and sung the local anthem, the elders did the flag raising and the chief gave a welcoming speech. We were given a warm welcome from the chief during the opening address.

Then it went downhill as we discovered the elections were on and the candidates gave some pretty long speeches as politicians do when trying to win votes. It was in the local Bislama language which is pretty close to English so we had an idea what was being said. The locals around us apologized.
We escaped the speeches with a plan to go over to the other side of the river to see the petroglyph rock of John Williams. He was the first Missionary to the area but didn’t succeed so well and the villagers held him down on the rock, traced around him in the stone and then cut him up and ate him. We didn’t get half way across the field when we were bailed up multiple times for a guide, to stay for lunch, to buy/trade fishing lures, etc… It just got too much and we said we were going on our own. They waited for us on the river bank to return for lunch and wouldn’t take no as an answer. We wanted to lie on John’s rock but so many eyes were watching us…

We went back for a quick lunch. Every person that came up to us and once realizing we were aussies, told us the same story about these Baptist groups from Gladstone that come every year to help with fresh water systems, fishing, religion, etc, etc. We must have heard it 20 times!!!
So at 2pm we bailed finally after many, many goodbyes and well wishes and we left the anchorage at 4pm to sail overnight to Efate Island and the Capital, Port Vila.

All in all it was an interesting time there. We sort of feel for the Eromango villagers. They have no natural attractions like Aneityum and Tanna. Also no safe harbour, pretty average soil for growing crops and some pretty undulating terrain around the village. It doesn’t have a lot to offer to Western World and they are suffering and being left behind the other islands because of it. They don’t need the western society anyway but when all the others are getting it and they’re not… The people were always talking to us about “White Skin’s investing in Eromango” but it is just not viable. Their hospitality was very warm and welcoming just a little too overpowering.
To be honest it was a good experience but it was time to leave.

Efate and Port Vila

We left at 4pm and had sails set tight as we sailed closed hauled at 50 degrees off the wind in the light NE’ers. We managed a 6-7 knots speed until 4am. Just Magic and Lorelei were very close all the time. At midnight during the watch change, they were less than 100m off our side and there was a finger puppet session onto the sail under torchlight as Wendy told us she busted Ben doing it on the crossing from Australia. Ben is the master at this and had these very funny figures projected up onto his main sail for us to see. We were in stitches!
At 4am the wind died and we switched the engine on and it all went pear shaped from there. Paul could smell an acrid smell coming out of the engine room blower vents and went to find the cause. At first all looked OK but after checking the other side, he found flames coming out of the back of the alternator. He got Lisa up, shut the engine down and put the fire out. Just Magic sat off and waited just in case. After things cooled off a bit Paul managed to disconnect the wiring, restart and motor into Port Vila. It could have been a lot worse. It was glassy seas and we were only 12nm away from the harbour and the nation’s capital. We had planned to go to Havannah Harbour for a few days before going into Vila so we just went in early instead and will do Havannah on the way out.
Ben is a sparky (thank goodness) and a quick look later revealed a burnt out Alternator and Regulator that will need replacing. David and the team at Baddiley’s Engineering in Brisbane were onto it within 2 hours of the incident.
It’s just great that Ben and Wendy have stuck with us thru the drama. They could have continued to Havannah Harbour but elected to come into Vila with us. We would have done the same, but still we are very appreciative of their support. We’re all a bit like a cruising family now and are still really enjoying each others company.
We all went to Yachting World and have rented 2 fantastic moorings for the week and the full use of their facilities. We could choose our own moorings and picked the 2 closest to Iririki Island in clear water over sand and right in front of the Iririki Resorts Sports Section which is nice and quiet at the moment and fantastic for a swim. It certainly beats trying to anchor in the harbour which is busy, deep, exposed and terrible holding.

Vila is an amazing place. It’s nothing like Noumea and we are having a blast exploring the place. All along the main road from Yachting World into town are scores of Chinese shops selling major brand name surfing apparel and accessories for a fraction of the prices back at home.

The fresh food markets are amazing, huge and very cheap. We are having a blast shopping here daily and buying some new things to try especially after getting some ideas from the meals that have been cooked for us over the past 3 weeks. And to top it off – we found mangos – for only 30c each!!

The taxi buses in the city are funny. They see you walking and stop, whistle, yell, honk or anything they can do for a fare. Exactly the opposite to home! With a ride to virtually anywhere on the island being $1.50 p/p it’s pretty cheap.

We have bumped into friends Ferdie and Wendy of the Aussie yacht Ruthian who we met and surfed with in New Cal. They are refitting their boat here as labour is super cheap. They have a rented house near the surf beach and we are keen to catch up with them and do some surfing next week with their 2 teenage sons who are great lads and have the local breaks sussed.

The weather and sailing conditions have been superb. In the last week it has gone from warm to hot and yesterday – very hot with 33 degrees and no wind. Ben and Wendy spent the arvo under an umbrella on the back step with their feet in a bucket of cold water and a swim every 20 minutes. We weren’t much better but after 5 years of living in Cairns on the boat we are a little more seasoned.

Our perfect swimming spot off the back of Lorelei

So the plan is to stay here until the new parts arrive. Friends John and Jenny off Sharkface arrive back here from Australia by plane in 1 week’s time. Their boat is on a mooring next to us. Hopefully this will coincide with our parts arriving and we will all provision and take off further north. We will use the time in between to explore the town, do some shopping, playing and some maintenance on Lorelei & our toys.

We may be changing our plans and might head north over the equator for summer rather than south to escape the cyclone and monsoon season. There could be 4 boats travelling in company if it all works out. It looks very appealing and may be some great opportunities for some serious surf and spectacular diving. Additionally it means we don’t have to punch south for 1200nm back to NZ which from talking to many NZ sailors can be a testing trip. We’ll keep you posted….

So that’s it for Episode 12 of the Hog Blog.
We have no idea when or where Episode 13 will be posted from. Internet is becoming scarcer the further north we go and it takes a while to upload this blog using WiFi.

Overall it’s been another fantastic month! A bit less playing with toys and more enjoying some fantastic culture and new experiences which keeps the spark alive and hopefully makes for a more diverse read for you.
This week also marks the 1 year anniversary from when we set sail from Brisbane. We have done so much in the first 12 months including the engine refit.
Wonder what the next 12 months will hold?

So Cheers for now from the team.

Paul and Lisa
Ben and Wendy

Fresh Fish Sushi – just to rub it in….


Time Counter