back to Fiji Log 07/13/2001-07/19/2001

Vanuatu Log

Friday July 20th, 2001

Checked engine fluid levels - everything looks good. Checked water in starboard batteries - added some water to one of the batteries. Checked EPIRB battery - tested OK.

Anchor is up at noon and we are off. The route to Vanuatu is very clear except for one tight pass, Beqa Pass, just 25 miles from Suva. Since we will not reach that until almost dark, we have decided to go the long way around, going south of Mbengga and Vatulete Islands, to stay in open water.

1:15pm We are motoring through a fish and bird feeding frenzy. There are birds and fish jumping all around us. I've got the "Buck Weber Special" out, and Stacy just added the "Girl Lure". -DWH

5pm Time to pull in my fishing line. I always wonder what would happen if a fish hit while I was bringing in my line, tonight I found! A small yellow fin Tuna (about 1.5 feet) hit when I had the line half way in. I was surprised but I managed to land it with little effort. Dave removed the hook and we tossed it back. We were all tired and not up to preparing the fish. Even though we did not eat the fish, it was still fun doing a catch and release. How will I ever fish in Wisconsin again, now that I consider an 18' to 20' fish as small? -SLC

Saturday July 21st, 2001

2AM We are making very slow progress so far. We have been motoring for the last few hours. Right now we have variable wind, both in direction and strength, but it's generally light and on the nose.

9AM Finally some decent wind. It's not a lot, but enough to sail.

Noon: Our position is 18:36 S, 177:29 E. We have 539 nm to go to Vanuatu. -DWH

Sunday July 22nd, 2001

Noon: Our position is 18:24 S, 175:38 E. We have 433 nm to go to Vanuatu. It is a beautiful, sunny day. We are moving along at about 5 knots with wind out of the south. There is also a huge swell coming out of the south west. It is so cool as these mountains of water lift and pass under Ladybug. -DWH

12:40 Stacy and I had our lures out hoping to catch something for dinner. I looked back and saw a fin in the water back by the lures. It wasn't a shark or a dolphin or a tuna, and it was definitely following the boat. I saw the fin break the surface three or four times, and then it hit. Stacy's hand line went tight. Then I saw the head and back come out of the water. It looked like a blue marlin, but may have been some other large billfish. And just that fast the 80lb leader was snapped and the line went slack. How exciting! I was glad I at least saw it. It would have been fun to fight it for awhile, but let's get serious. We've seen how much chaos a 4 foot Dorado can cause in the cockpit. Even if we could, there is no way we would bring that fish on board. -DWH

midnight... average for the last 12 hours is 6.2 miles/hour!! not bad. Great bioluminescence tonight. The sky is very black, no stars. I had a few rain drops, but not enough to get my glasses wet. -SLC

Monday July 23rd, 2001

Fish, cake and beer!! 30 min. later: Who ate all the cake??

Happy Birthday Guy! Guy is 35 today!

I got up at just before 7am this morning. Stacy was on watch. She was doing the dishes and already had the fishing lines out. I checked in with the Coconut Milk Run SSB net and then settled down to read until my 8am shift ("The Bridges of Madison County", a real tear jerker). We were hoping to score a tuna for Guy's birthday dinner, and about 7:30 I heard the whir of the drag on our heavy pole, "the Provider". I was using a "Buck Weber Special", and this morning it finally came through. I soon had a small skipjack tuna on board. It wasn't big, but it looked tasty. I had just finished filleting it when Guy poked his head out of the saloon and pointed out that we had a second fish on the hand line. The boat was doing 7 knots and this one was bigger, so it was quite a job for Stacy to pull it in. A few minutes later it had also been filleted. We turned on the fridge and loaded it with the fish and a few beers. I made ceviche from some of the fish, and Stacy made a cake. It looks like everything is falling in place for Guy's birthday party. -DWH

Noon: Our position is 18:15 S, 173:14E. We have 296 nm to go to Vanuatu. -DWH

We had ceviche and cake for lunch. The cake was chocolate, which Stacy doesn't eat. It took Guy, Jo, and I about 30 minutes to eat the whole thing, four pieces each. It was that good.

In the afternoon we dropped the main and jib and set the spinnaker - excellent sailing. Just before sunset we went back to the main (1 reef) and jib. We adjusted our course about 20 degrees to the south to take better advantage of the new sail configuration. We are still making excellent progress.

For dinner tonight we had Jo's famous rice and beans. We also had sashimi. We learned something from our friend Aussie Dave back in Tonga. Usually we eat sashimi immediately after catching the fish, but he told us it is better to refrigerate it for a day our two, so we left the fillets in the fridge for 10 hours before trying it tonight. It was fantastic, much better than when it first comes out of the water. We are keeping the fridge on tonight. Tomorrow we will have more sashimi and then cook whatever is left. -DWH

Tuesday July 24th, 2001

2:30am The good wind has continued. I don't like making predictions about when we will make landfall, but with any luck we will arrive and have time to find a romantic place for Stacy and I to spend out fourth anniversary on Thursday.

Noon: Our position is 18:10 S, 170:33 E. We have 143 nm to go to Vanuatu. We've done 153 nm in the last 24 hours and 15 nm in the last 2 hours (spinnaker went up at 10am). -DWH

Stacy made sushi for lunch. Fantastic.

We were really moving with the spinnaker this afternoon. Then the webbing that holds the head of the spinnaker to the sock gave out and the spinnaker ended up in the water under the boat. It was a little exciting, but no damage was done to the sail. -DWH

Wednesday July 25th, 2001

Land in sight this morning! I am now willing to predict that we will make it to Vanuatu on Wednesday!

9:30am (Vanuatu time, -1hr from Fiji): Anchor is down in quarantine area, and we are waiting to clear in. -DWH

Later: Checked in. Explored Port Villa. Stacy and I made plans for tomorrow. Met lot's of cool people and had a few beers. Included in the people met is the "master brewer" for the Vanuatu Brewery. Jo and Guy will be taking a tour tomorrow. -DWH

Thursday July 26th, 2001

Today is Stacy and my forth wedding anniversary! We started with breakfast in bed. The we went into town to poke around, eat snacks, and take in some sights. One of the random stops was at the French Cultural Center where there was a show of work by local artists. We made one trip around the gallery enjoying the art. There were several things we really liked, especially a very large carved wood dish and carved napkin rings. Then we noticed that there was a price list. We were feeling especially free spirited since we were celebrating. We really wanted the dish. I also loved the napkin rings, but there were only three. That's no good. Anyhow, we got talking to a couple of the guys who seemed to be working/hanging out and found out that they were all artists. One very nice man started introducing us and then showed us the the work that each had done. When he finally got to his own work we found out that he was the carver of the napkin rings, and he said it was no problem to do a couple more and asked us what design we wanted. He could have then tomorrow afternoon. We decided to purchase six along with the bowl and agreed to stop back the next day to pay and pick up our treasures. As we left the gallery we really felt good. We poked around and snacked a little more and then went to the market. Here was our plan: We had arranged to catch a cheap ride to the north side of the island with a truck that hauls people to and from the market (taxis are very expensive and buses are only slightly less). We were supposed to meet the driver at 2:30. We had reservations at a resort on the north side of the island where we planned to have dinner and spend the night. We showed up at 2:30 and waited until about 3:15 before we started getting concerned. We really wanted to be able to see the island on the way to the resort. While we waited we had a good time talking with the people in the market, even though we had serious trouble understanding each other. The driver showed up at 3:30 but said that he would not be leaving until 4:00. At 4:00 he said maybe 4:30, but he wasn't sure. We bit the bullet and got a bus that we shared with one other person. It was more expensive, and we had hoped to meet a lot of people in the big "pack lots of people in the back of a truck" shared ride, but it was still nice. There is only one road around the island and soon after leaving town it became gravel or worse. It was very scenic and we had a nice conversation with the driver and the other passenger who is a teacher a school near the resort. We got to the resort just before dark. It turned out to be a fun place. It included a small indoor pool that was very warm. The hot water comes straight out of the ground (lots of volcanic activity here). We had a nice dinner with a bottle of wine from the head table at our reception (thanks Dean!), had a nice conversation with an Italian couple on their honeymoon (they just spent a couple weeks in Papua New Guinea, very wild), and then had desert and champagne. It was an excellent night! -DWH

Friday July 27th, 2001

Today turned out to be full of delightful surprises. We met a very interesting English woman at breakfast and then set off for Port Villa. We wanted to check out so we can leave on Sunday. After our trouble with transportation yesterday we were a little anxious to get moving. We started down the gravel road hoping a truck would come buy and give us a ride. After about 5 minutes a big SUV came by and gave us a ride. Two local men were showing a Japanese volunteer (similar to Peace Corp) around the island. We had a fantastic ride. The men gave us lots of good local info, and it was fun talking to the Japanese woman. In the end they not only gave us a ride but also fed us and gave us some extra produce. Once in Port Villa, Stacy took care of customs and immigration - no problems, nice officials. Next we stopped at the art gallery. We caught Jonah Tiriman, who carved the napkin holders, just as he was leaving. He had two carved necklaces that he gave us as gifts. What a pleasant surprise. He was also wearing a University of Wisconsin Basketball cap. Cool. He said it was a gift from one of the Peace Corps volunteers here. In addition to picking up the napkin holders, we also collected our dish. The artist, Eddie Toara, was unfortunately not there. Stacy asked Jonah about how to care for the dish. He suggested that we treat it occasionally with bees wax and escorted us to the store to buy the right stuff. What a nice guy! Next we stopped buy the internet cafe. We had several nice emails including one that told us that we have managed to sell one of the lots on Beaver Creek Road. We will be reinvesting most of the money, but the rest will really help with our cruising budget. It's just been one of those days. Every time we turn around something cool happened. -DWH

Stacy with dish carved by Eddie Toara. The marlin in the background was also by him.

Six carved napkin rings by Jonah Tiriman. On top are the nuts that he starts with.

Jonah with another of his carvings. Notice the UW Basketball cap, a gift from a Peace Corp volunteer.

The boat next to us started dragging towards the reef this morning. The owners were not on board. Jo, Guy and people from another boat got them re-anchored and found the owner. Good job guys! -DWH

I was feeding water to my hangover (as one does in the morning) when Jo called to me from the cockpit. "Guy, come and have a look at this. I think this boat is dragging." I went out and sure enough Aria was dragging in a fairly fresh breeze and there was nobody on board. Behind them was Jackanory and Aria was bearing down on them at a fair speed. Jo and I jumped into the dinghy and raced over just as Aria had stopped dragging and talked to Mike on Jackanory who was starting to look pretty nervous and had his engine running. We then went back to the Bug and I got my mask to take a look at what Aria's anchor had caught on and whether or not that would hold them. As we were coming back Aria started dragging again. Jo and I got on board her and Mike on Jackanory tied a buoy to his anchor and dropped it overboard. We fended Jackanory off Aria and Mike motored out of the way. We then attached a line to the front of Aria and gave it to Emmanuel who cleated it off on Jackanory and the two of them held us in place. Jo and I tried to work out how to start the engine and raise the anchor but the instrumentation panel was incomprehensible and so I set off to look for the owner instead. Half way to the shore I came across the crew from Blue Gum who'd just been with the crew from Aria and they turned around and went off to fetch the bloke from Aria who arrived shortly after. He pulled the anchor and started the engines and we cast off from Jackanory and all was well. And so that's how Mike and Emmanuel from Jackanory and Guy and Jo from Ladybug became heroes of the anchorage and were then treated like demi-Gods for the rest of their stay in Vanuatu. Unfortunately demi-Gods aren't well recognized in Vanuatu and so we treated ourselves as demi-Gods. -Guy

Saturday July 28th, 2001

We were busy getting ready to leave. I sent off info for insurance and fixed the spinnaker. Jo and I changed the oil in both engines (hours = 1688). Stacy filled up our water. Stacy, Jo and Guy all did some shopping. Now it's time to clean up and go in for one last night in Vanuatu. I think we might even drink a little kava.

Went out for Kava with Jonathan, Liz, David, and Fiona from s/v Altaire and also Brian from NZ. It was an interesting, local experience. To start with it tastes like dirty dish water. An entire cup is usually downed in one go to get it over with as quickly as possible. A few minutes after drinking it the mouth, lips and tongue start going a little numb. This spreads to the rest of the body but seems to leave the mind relatively clear. Stacy and I ended up having 2 1/2 cups each which gave us a nice feeling. Jonathan had a few more cups and also chewed some. He got a little more than he bargained for but recovered pretty well within a couple hours. All in all it was a fun night. We've enjoyed meeting the crew of Altaire as they are more our age and lots of fun. They will be heading for Australia in a few days, and we hope to keep in contact with them on the SSB (8104,5pm Vanuatu time)

Once again we are going to be leaving a very interesting place after just a couple days. It's really too bad, but next time................ From what we've read and what people have told us, there are really some interesting groups of people around these islands. One explanation for why some of them were able to maintain their culture is that when missionaries showed up, the locals ate them. While that kind of thing does not seem to go on any more (we heard the last suspected case of cannibalism was in 1994), it is still a fairly wild place. We read about one group here in Vanuatu called the "Big Mambas". The name is associated with the penis wraps that the men wear. (I wonder how that would fit in with the Marquip dress code?) And if that's not funny enough, there is another group called the "Small Mambas". Bummer. -DWH

forward to Australia Log 07/29/2001-