Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Port Vila - Vanuatu 2008

02/06/2008 Port Vila 

Once in Port Vila we anchored at the quarantine buoy and called Sailing World on Ch16 and they brought out the quarantine officer, he was nice young man but he did take all our meat and vegetables he also took our garbage.

By the time we left the quarantine buoy area and took up a mooring with Sailing World it was too late to go to Customs or Immigration but we were told that we could still go ashore as quarantine had cleared us. We took a mooring as the anchorages here are not good holding, we had four tries at anchoring at the quarantine buoy and dragged anchor each time, we finally got hold but I am sure it was wedged behind a rock that held us whilst going through quarantine.

Once we had settled at the mooring and put the covers up we had a shower and went ashore, first stop was the bank to get some local money the second stop was the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant for a cold beer and a meal.
(The Waterfront Bar and Grill) 
(Good feed)
(A Good red)
(Meet Boots the resident cat)
 (When Boots wants a feed he rings the bell)

I brought Nancy to Vanuatu for her 50th or was it 21st birthday, probably the latter if you ask her, that was nearly three years ago or was that weeks, you know how it goes. We had already started to plan the retirement some years prior to that and had the plan of buying a catamaran to go sailing but our plans were to buy in Oz and sail coastal. At that time sitting at the same bar Nancy said may be one day when we get confident and more competent at sailing we could sail from Oz to here? Who would have thought that we would be doing it the other way around.

03/06/08 Port Vila - Vanuatu

Last night at dinner we met a couple from Switzerland, they moved here about a year ago and they love it here. It is the easy life, they retired early due to good position in Switzerland. We also met up again with Michael an American that we met in Raiatea and again in Tonga a sole sailor. He left Tonga  on the Wednesday a week before us from Neiafu, he was by-passing Fiji as he stated the reefs are too dangerous so he was going south of them. He got beat up pretty bad in the storm that hit us, being further south he got the worst of it, it took him 26 days to get here, he said he battled all the way, the winds were that strong that it bent the stay his radar was mounted on. He does not have a very fast boat it is an old Westsail and he does not push her along too fast in the best conditions. In good conditions the trip should have taken around 7 to 10 days. He was pleased to see us and we are going to have dinner with him one night this week.
Vanuatu has change a little there appears to be more local young people hanging around the streets during the day, it may be the younger generation from outer islands wanting to live the more European lifestyle as this was a trend when we were last here. There are some new buildings going up and house prices are equal to Oz. The locals are still very nice and friendly and it is still a paradise here it brought back fond memories from our previous visit.
(The view from our mooring which is between Iririki Island and the main island so very well sheltered. 
 (A Patrol Boat went passed and berthed near Customs Office)

This morning we went to customs cleared in then to immigration it was all painless and the officials were helpful. We then started to look around the shops, stopped at the French Bakery for morning tea, they have some delicious goodies there. I was looking for another handheld GPS, my back-up one has failed for whatever reason and although we are well covered with chart plotter, a GPS and a GPS antenna that works on CMap on the laptop I would still like to replace the other back-up unit. At this stage we have been unsuccessful but will try again tomorrow.
 (Walking into town from the dinghy dock at the Waterfront Bar and Grill)
 (The local markets)
 (You can get the cheapest feed in town at the markets, local women have set up tables and chairs at the back of the market and you can select what you want to eat from the different stalls, a meal hear cost $6.00 AUS go to a hotel same price as in Australia $28 to $35 Aus)
(Flowers at the markets)
 (Local blokes playing boules)

 (Main shopping area)
(Just what a man needs a good size beer)

06/06/08 – Port Vila

We have walked around Port Vila a number of times looking for a new hand held GPS without any success; it has given us quite a bit of exercise. It is not crucial that I buy one here but I thought it would be good if I could pick one up duty free.

It has rained a fair bit the last few days so we haven’t done much other than walk around the shops and see what good deals we can get. Customs will give us a form 24 hours before we leave to buy the duty free items that we want.

I received an email from a past work colleague the other day with some photos of a sailing vessel he and his father has built, quite a classic yacht they have. He asked me about what I have learnt during our voyage in regard to sailing, it is a question that is hard to answer although I think I have learnt a lot. You can learn a lot whilst you cope with difficult situations at sea, in quiet times during calm days and a hell of a lot from other sailors when in port.

One of the most recent lessons I learnt was from Neil in Vuda Point Marina, we were talking about the storms that we had been in, and how we handled them. He said he took a page out of Chichester’s book. Chichester wrote when you get hit with a storm the first thing you should do is go below and make a cup of tea. This may sound silly to some but it has a lot of merit, you can get into a lot of trouble reacting without thinking. If you have prepared your vessel well for the conditions of sailing, like us we always reef sails before dark so if something does hit us in the dark of the night we are already reefed down. Some old salts may say you just reef down when the storm comes and take things as they come, each to their own I say.

When you think of what Chichester wrote it makes a lot of sense in that statement, however, after reading Chichester's book I don't agree with all he did, he took a lot of unnecessary risks, how many boats have been found intact with no one on board or the crew had abandoned the vessel early. Some lives have been perished after abandoning ship and the vessel has been found with little or no damage. Just before we left for this adventure there was a catamaran found of Townsville with a torn foresail up and the main sail intact it had left Airlie Beach some six days prior. There was no one on board when it was found, the engine was running the dinner table was set and the GPS was working. Police tracked back the GPS and found that the vessel had a sudden change of course not long after they had left Airlie Beach this also coincided with a storm that hit that area around that same time. The crew was never found there have been a lot of theories to what happened the owners wife thinks there was foul play because the fenders were over the side, fenders are often left over the side in the excitement of leaving port on a big passage until someone notices them and pulls them in. My theory is that they were ill prepared for the storm the full sails were out when the catamaran was found; they obviously were not wearing harnesses for safety in stormy waters. Whichever the case those poor souls were lost and the boat was found intact with little damage.

I think it was in the fatal storm of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart where men perished in a life raft after abandoning a yacht and the yacht was found to be still afloat after.

 My belief is that the life raft is the last resort as one sailor said you should not get in a life raft until you have to step up to it. Fortunately with catamarans they do not sink and you can stay with the boat. A capsized boat is easier to find than a small life raft. The life raft can still be used as a dry place to be but stick with the boat if you can. Monohull yachts can be different because they do have that big lead keel that if the hull is damaged the yacht may sink but it is better to stay with that yacht until the sinking is imminent.

I know that the worst storm we faced was that of a few weeks ago; I did not make that cup of tea and may be I should have. I did however react very fast but I did slow down before making any major decisions, I had no choice I had just been woken from a deep sleep and I was trying to get myself together to take control of the boat, that waking up time gave me time to think before diving in and doing something. Once I had planned what to do which was to go bare pole and get rid of the sails, I was able to control the boat head her into the wind and get the sails down then turn her around and keep in time with the waves with the engines.

Each storm is different, the previous storm out of Rarotonga that was not as bad I left the genoa out about an eighth of the way and used that to keep in time with the waves. I can remember thinking to myself, “I hope I am doing this right”. The main thing is not to panic or make rash decisions, think it out and if it is not working try something else; you can feel it in the boat if things are going good or bad.

I mentioned in one of the earlier blog pages of an article in the Cruising Helmsman magazine where a couple had practiced sailing their yacht for four years on the coast and around Moreton Bay, they said when they eventually left for their first blue water sail across to another country they learnt more in the first four months than they did in the four years practicing on the coast. One of the main reasons for this is probably (my thoughts only), when you are sailing coastal and the wind and the seas pick up a bit and it starts getting a little uncomfortable you head for shelter because you can. I know we have done it ourselves. When you go out in blue water there is nowhere that you can shelter. You can if you see a squall steer away from it on some occasions but you do not see these on a moonless night.

Another thing is that we are cruisers not racers, cruising does not have to be fast and it is less wear and tear on the boat and crew, we often sail for comfort, we may go away from our rhumb line and do a few extra miles on the crossing for the comfort. In the racing game it’s go fast and to get there the shortest route. This also adds a lot of stress to the boat and its working parts and crew.

One of the other things we have learnt in our travels is that charts are not always right, some charts go back to the 1890’s, and there are still a lot of uncharted waters. We do not always believe the charts when entering ports unless we have proved them to be right. Entering Lautoka was a perfect example we entered and left the pass in the dark. The pass had lead lights and they lined up with the charts and CMap so we had proved them right and could trust them. Where you cannot prove them right it comes to one eye on the sea and one eye on the depth gauge. The depth gauge will show you where you are on the chart with the sea bed contours and your visual will soon see the colours below indicating shallow waters. There is nothing wrong with calling up on Ch16 VHF radio to another yacht that has already made the passage to get vital information; we have done this often if we are not sure.

During our trip and the situations that we have been in we have tested the boat to see what it is capable of. Once battling a situation and you are in control take the boat a little step further to see if the boat can handle it. I did this during the storms; we were being pushed off course by miles so once we were settled I started to change course bit by bit towards our original course and got a feeling of the boats behaviour. You soon learn what the boat is capable of and you get confidence in the boat as well as yourself.

This catamaran like most, does not like tail winds she is quite slow, it would probably improve if we had a pole to pole the genoa out and may be one day we will get one. The other thing with cats is that if you get in a sea that is on the beam and it is a short choppy sea the boat will rock and it will shake the wind out of the sails. In this case it is better to have little sail out, we found that in such seas having the wind on the port aft quarter and the sea on the beam rocking us we have the genoa out about half way and we move along faster this is due to less weight up the mast and the boat does not rock as much leaving the wind in the sails. So sometimes less is best.

On another note I have found that the cruising yacht world is like the movie Pay Forward, many cruisers will help you along the way, and it is quite often that you cannot do anything in return for them. Therefore you ensure that you offer assistance to another cruiser that requires assistance when you are able to and this pays back the favour. The cruising yacht world is a level playing field whether your rich or poor you have the same problems, you have breakdowns at sea even new yachts break down at times and you help each other. We have only come across one yacht so far that has been a user and has not given back in return and unfortunately he was an Aussie.

Talking safety and safety equipment an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is an essential safety device that a person should have on board any vessel, they now manufacture personal units that I believe bush walkers or people travelling the outback should have. There are two types the 121.5/243 MHz and the 406MHz. The 121.5/243 MHz units will cease operation in February 2009, so don’t go buying one of those. The 406MHz are replacing the older model units. The one we have has a GPS contained within and if we did run into trouble where we needed to be rescued we can set that off. The unit we have registered so as soon as it is set off it will identify who we are our boat name and type and our location accurate to be within 5 metres. The 121.5/243 MHz is only accurate to about 5 nms. Personal unit’s retail around the $800 mark, the one we have cost about $1,200, its cheap when you consider it can save your life. How many bush walkers have perished or been lost, if they had one of these they could get help immediately.

Well over the next few days I hope I can give you more on Port Vila, we hope to be taking an island tour on Sunday so we may get some nice pictures for you.

09/06/08 – Port Vila

Yesterday we went on an island tour that was quite interesting, we had done a similar trip three years ago when we visited here but this trip was to different places of interest.

Our first stop was to a cultural village, this cultural village is run by village members that live nearby, and the chief wishes to promote his peoples culture as like many places it is being forgotten.

They are dressed as they were prior to European influence and show how they survived; however, they did not display any cannibalism. The last tribe to practice cannibalism in the Vanuatu Island was in 1969, the main reason this was practiced in the earlier days was that the island had around 3 million population and there is very little food source. Europeans came to the island teaching religion and changing the ways of the Vanuatu people and they also bought disease that the local native had no immunity and that reduced the population to 200,000 to 300,000 as it is today. Europeans have done this to nearly all of the pacific islands.
 (They suddenly appeared from behind trees)
 (They showed a few different dances for different occasions)
(A coconut stripped down and shaped like a teat, this is what they use to feed a new born if the mother dies or is ill)

They showed how they build their homes out of wood, bamboo and leaves from certain trees to thatch the roof, how they caught fish using spider web rolled up that attracts the fish and another method that they used with a certain vine, when introduced to salt water the poison in the vine removes the oxygen from the water and the fish die and come to the top and float on the water.

 (Showing how they use palm leaves to build homes)

They also had fish traps made from vines that I think the Australian crab pots may have taken their design from.

They showed how they make medicine from plants and how they can feed a motherless baby with green coconut juice.

They then demonstrated their dancing and they also had a tribesman from a northern island that is a fire walker that he performed for us.
 (This young man is from a northern island where they walk on hot coals and he demonstrated)

The rest of the tour was visiting the different villages and seeing some of the local sites, lunch was served from two places, the first we had a dugout canoe ride and sampled the local cooked food, that was entrée then the lunch was at a small tourist place (owned by an Australian), where a selection of local cooked food was served whilst a local band played and sang.

(We were taken to a village via canoe)
(One of the modern villages)

(Bambo Beach String Band played for us as we arrived)
(Lunch was local food which was fish, banana and sweet potatoes and other roots of vegetation)

We then visited where the American airstrips were in the Second World War and then further on where the American Army was housed. An interesting thing is that when the Americans left they offered to sell the trucks and tanks to the Vanuatu Government; the Government could not afford to pay the price so the Americans pushed all the equipment into the sea where it could not be retrieved.

We had a coffee at a place I think Survivor was filmed although one cannot see any evidence of Survivor. We then returned home via visiting other villages and places of interest.

The day was good but the travel between places was rough as many of the roads were in a poor state due to four days of heavy rain some weeks ago. There is an Aussie mob over here that has the contract for the roads and there are survey pegs all around the island.

The average Vanuatu are very poor, there average wage is 5000 vatu per week for a 40 hour week this gives a $65 wage. The prices to shop here are on par with Australia. If you go out for dinner you will pay they same price as a good restaurant in Oz.

They do have locally grown beef here, but I think the cattle farms are European owned and the beef is very good they are in very good condition as there is plenty of vegetation for them and there is plenty of clean fresh water. They have the abattoirs here in Port Vila and the meat is very tender.

An unfortunate incident happened the other night a barge that was carrying cattle from a northern island here to the abattoirs was lost at sea, no one is sure what happened, we believe it was rough sea, all cattle were lost, the crew of seven reached an island safely but the Captain lost his life. It’s believed that the crew is still in hospital suffering shock and at this stage only one them has spoken. The Captain was found and had a puncture wound where he had bled to death. A patrol boat from here went out along with choppers but not much was found until daylight.

14/06/08 Port Vila

Things are quiet at the moment we are just relaxing and waiting for a crew member to join us. Dusty (John) Millar will be flying in on 21 June 08, this is a Saturday, we will then clear out on the Monday and set sail mid morning Tuesday 24 June 08 as we have to give 24 hours notice. The next leg will be about three days to Noumea, we should arrive on the Friday stay the weekend and clear out on the Monday and sail for Bundaberg. The voyage is coming to an end and the questions are already being asked,”What are we going to do next?”

It is a little tough to answer, however, I think for the rest of the year prior to cyclone season we will be getting a few things done to the boat after getting through the process of bringing the boat into the country. So we will be hanging around the east coast away from the cyclone areas.

Next year we will do something, but what we have not decided. Some ideas is to hang around the islands of Queensland or circumnavigate Australia, another is to travel around the coast of Papua New Guinea. We will give some thought about it between now and then.

It is a little hard to think that we only have two steps and we are back in Oz and I think that what some very close friends of ours said to us when we flew home will be true and that was we won’t know what to do with ourselves after this voyage we will not want to settle down.

The fact is that during this voyage we have met a lot of people, other sailors, and the local people in the ports that we have visited. We both like meeting people and seeing how they live or survive.

Last night we had dinner with some new friends that we had met last week, they are originally from Switzerland, a lovely couple with a nice daughter, Paula, Chris and Shelby, and they also have a son that is studying in NZ. They invited us to their home and it is a beautiful home with million dollar views. They employ locals as staff that look after security, housekeeping, and gardening. They pay the locals above the normal wage, they train them and they support them by paying into an aged benefit scheme and they are also going to sponsor the housekeeper’s daughter to go to school. The local Vanuatu children do not all attend school because the parents cannot afford to pay the school fees. Chris and Paula are very nice people and it was nice of them to invite us into their home, we met just by saying hello to them at the Waterfront Restaurant.

We have met quite a few people that have escaped their homeland because of dissatisfaction, some is that they are sick of the red tape, some is because the people they lived by would not talk or say hello. The beauty of these islands that we have visited we see that although the local native is reasonably a shy person they will always give you a big smile and say hello if you smile when passing this is infectious as you make sure that you do the same and in most cases it is you that say hello first. Can you imaging walking down Pitt Street in Sydney and say hello to a perfect stranger, I used to do it all the time when I visited Sydney, some people would look at you very suspiciously and not answer, some would look away and not answer, but it was refreshing on the odd occasion that someone would smile back and say hello in return. Fortunately the rural areas of Oz still have the friendliness about the place but as the town becomes a city and the places get bigger we tend to lose the friendliness shame really.

A few days ago I sent an email to three businesses in Oz asking prices of items and prices of some work to be done to the boat. One reply was they could not give me prices until I visit and they see the boat.  I sent an email back thanking them for the email although I thought they could supply prices of new items without seeing the boat, I could understand them saying they needed to see the boat before quoting on work. Obviously they don’t need the work. At least this person did reply the other two companies have not replied to date.

As Derrin Hinch used to say “That’s Life”.

24/06/2008 Leaving Port Villa 

Dusty Millar arrived on the plane Saturday the 21/06/08 at midnight, I went out in a taxi to meet him and bring him back to the boat, we got back around 0130 hours after going through customs and immigration at the airport.
(Dusty (John) Millar, we are having coffee)

Sunday we had a walk around town but it was very quiet as shops etc were closed. Sunday night we had dinner at Nambawan (number one) Café, owned by an Aussie, they hold free movies on Sunday and Wednesday nights. We watched ‘Bucket List’, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I recommend it, it can make you laugh and it can make you cry.
 (Children help dad to fish)
 (Port Villa Harbour)
 (Port Villa Harbour Iririki Island left of centre)
 (Nambawan Cafe left and clothing stalls right)
 (Around Iririki Island swimming race)
 (The harbour)
(From our mooring at dusk)

Monday we went and cleared out and got our paperwork from Customs to get duty free goods and fuel. We then went duty free shopping, had to stock up on the booze. We then went back on board and checked the boat ready for sailing the next day and in the evening had a dinner at the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant said our goodbyes to friends and staff.

(Nancy said I can't take her with us)

Tuesday morning was wet and rather cold, we went and filled the gas bottle picked up the jerry cans of fuel, topped up the water tanks and then got underway around 1100 hours. 
 (Tourists on sunset cruise)
(Our view at dusk)
 (We are underway leaving the harbour)
 (HMAS Melbourne in Port Vila)
(This may not be a good sign this yacht was heading to Oz and left before us and it is returning to port)

Next stop being the last before we get back to Australia.

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