Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu

We cleared out of Fiji at Vuda Marina after the standard half day wait for Customs at around noon. There was a very friendly and talkative Immigration officer and a quiet and somewhat grumpy Customs officer. We motored to the Malolo Pass to exit Fiji's outer reef. This pass is right next to the famous Cloudbreak surf spot.

The passage was about 450 miles total. It took just under three days, with the first one being a comfortable full main and genoa sail doing 7-8 kts. For those of you more land oriented, this is like doing 60-65 mph on the freeway and feeling that you are making good time. Next day was bumpy seas and higher winds. We took a reef in the main sail and rolled up the large genoa, and pulled out the staysail. That kept us going for another 24 hours till the winds got light again. Then we did a slow sail till about 9 miles offshore Tanna and turned on the engine just after sunrise. Tanna Island's claim to fame is its very active volcano. From offshore you could not see any red glow at night, but as soon as the sun came up you could clearly see the steam venting and creating a cloud over the volcano.

We are waiting on Customs now. Hopefully we will get cleared in this morning and perhaps do the trip to the volcano crater tonight.

Paul



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Sunday, September 17, 2017

End of an interesting Fulanga visit

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There are lots of empty, remote and evocative beaches among the islets in Fulanga’s inner bay. No footprints on this one till Chris and I defiled it.

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Interesting erosion on the volcanic rocks making lots of mushrooms and arches. That’s Chris standing under the arch in the clear shallows.

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The eels like the shallows too. This one had a skin pattern that would sell out quickly on some Texas cowboy boots.

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There were a lot of live shells among the corals when we dove inside the passages. We put this marble cone in the catch-and-release category. Although given how toxic to humans they can be with their harpoon it would probably be fair game to take him.

FulangaP9080107 There were a lot of live cowries among the coral. Really beautiful shiny shells. Being defenseless, we also put them in the catch-and-release category.

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You can see how big these pretty creatures are.

We did a good snorkel in the main pass. You head out, preferably with two dinghies for safety as the tide starts to turn inward. This clears the water and gives you a good drift dive along the outer reef and into the pass. We saw three black-tipped reef sharks, a decent sized barracuda and a ton of reef fish sporting their usual colors. I’d show you all the schools, along with daring close-ups of the sharks but my underwater camera’s lens completely fogged up. I guess the desiccant I put in the housing was too far past its due date.

The wind finally filled in and we left Fulanga for an overnight passage to Kandavu. It was descent downwind sail but when got near Kandavu it was still very overcast. We decided to continue moving on as the time we have to make Australia this season is getting short and sail to Port Denarau. We arrived at the pass through the reef at about 3am after being hit by the heaviest downpour we have experienced in the Pacific since we left Central America. We have been through this cut before and it is used by large ships. It has a brightly lit and functioning set of red range lights that line up with the pass, so we decided to head in at night, something we rarely do. It’s a little nerve racking knowing that you are so close to the breaking reef while passing in in the dark.

We arrived at the anchorage in front of Port Denarau about 7am and crashed out for awhile to catch some needed rest after the two day passage. Then it was two days of getting ready to sail to Vanuatu. Load up the tanks of fuel for the main boat, petrol for the dinghy and Propane (actually butane) for the galley cooking. Then a couple of big shops for food stores and beer and wine.

With a little bit of luck we will clear out of Fiji in Vuda Marina on Monday and start a 3 day sail to Vanuatu. We emailed Vanuatu Customs to request permission to stop first in Port Resolution on the island of Tanna. This is not normally a port of entry. Tanna has a very active volcano that is pretty easy to visit – we’ll see.

We will probbaly have limited connectivity while in Vanuatu so the blogs will pile up, like they have for the Lau Group.

Paul

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fulanga Beach Blanket Bingo Party

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The village people of Fulanga organized a beach –party to celebrate Fiji Constitution Day. They organized the cruisers to bring food to share and they supplied a pig for a roast. There was about a half-dozen boats in the bay among about 3 or 4 anchorages, including one super-yacht, Antares, a 131 foot ketch with a Hawaii/Vancouver couple and their two younger kids onboard.

The Antares group were very friendly, both the owners and crew. They took some interesting drone shots of the party. I’ll post some links when they send them to me.

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All the cruisers brought in their water toys, SUPs and kayaks, into the beach for the party. The local kids spent hours in the water with them.

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The biggest treat was this blow-up toy brought over by Antares.

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For the smaller kids that couldn’t stay in the water too long, makng giant bubbles filled in the time before eating.

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There was a pretty heavy rush for the food once the pork and shared dishes were laid out. Adults first before any kids could start. The kids all waited patiently. Chris baked a chocolate cake for desert. When it went out after the main courses were wiped out I walked over and saw a bunch of villagers staring at it. I picked up a spatula and started passing out pieces. It was decimated in minutes.

FulangaIMG_7500One of the patiently waiting kids.

fulangaIMG_7495Complimentary beverages were offered on-demand.

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And of course Chris never turns down a free beverage.

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One of the Dutch cruisers is traveling on his cataraman with his 91 year-old mother. That’s Mom waving in the dinghy. Each morning he would take her to the beach with her big-tire walker/wheel-chair and she would do a beach walk. Now what do you do to train your children to take care of you like this when you’re old? Not sure if this is just the Dutch way or not?

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The village has this twin engine landing craft style boat. It hasn’t been operational for awhile due to steering issues. The engineer off Antares spent a few hours and got the steering running. Then all it took was to ‘borrow’ fuel from the cruisers and it was ready to go. This pic is using people power to push the heavy craft off the beach. I don’t think any of the cruisers thought it would be moved till high tide, but the village headman had a plan. All the villages loaded up and got a ride back to town from the sandspit party.

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That’s all the villagers except the pig you see on the beach here. He stayed for lunch after a large, sharp knife was borrowed from a cruiser by the party planners.

Paul