Sat Nov 9 20:21 2019 NZDT
GPS: 41 6.0666S 174 52.0704E
Run: 0.4nm (0.7km)

Position report sent via Iridium GO

Sat Nov 9 17:05 2019 NZDT
GPS: 41 5.77171S 174 46.63512E

That's a wrap folks. We have made it home after a rather slow but pleasant sail (mostly motor sailing for the want of another 5 knots of wind). Enjoying the sounds of the birds on Mana island busily going about their evening business while we wait for the tide to rise so we can safely cross over the bar. We have one week to ease ourselves back into society before resuming the 9-5 routine. I can feel our tans fading already.

Moored at Mana Island
Sunset scenes last night - east
And west
Tue Nov 5 10:44 2019 NZDT
GPS: 35 11.77526S 174 1.60280E

After an all to brief pitstop in the Bay of Islands we are about to set sail again, likely for the last time this trip. To catch you up, we had a fantastic final week in New Caledonia with a friend popping over from Hawaii to spend it with us. We drank cocktails on the beach with waves lapping our feet, partied like locals on the islands just outside Noumea, hiked the red hills of the southern mainland, paddle boarded, kayaked, snorkelled, strolled etc. etc. And then just like that, it was all over. Mike's brother flew in and Arlo and I flew out, expecting to be reunited again in Picton. However after encountering a rather belligerent wind, Mirabilis rerouted to Bay of Islands. So we find ourselves a cruising family again for just a weensy bit longer. We have now had a gorgeous few days with friends here in Kerikeri but sadly the weather window already looks too good to pass up and we are setting off for a race down the west coast chased by a good northerly wind. But first a slow wee motor north to clear the cape. Fingers crossed for a comfortable passage with no seasick baby.

Sun Oct 27 18:03 2019 NZDT
GPS: 28 35.947s 165 21.905e
Run: 2.1nm (3.8km)
Avg: 5.3knts
24hr: 126nm
Weather: 8knts ne flat seas 5-10%cc

Seeing as the wind was favourable we thought we would stop in Brisbane and go-to Australia zoo as I haven't been there since Steve Erwin passed. The crocodile shows are truly spectacular. We gave up in the end s it was going to blow or schedule out so headed for Norfolk instead but then decided there were probably to many Australians there as well so now we are heading for fiordland for a spot of wild life sight seeing because there is none out here in the deep blue. The ocean is nearly totally dead.

We'll get home eventually! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Thu Oct 24 13:54 2019 NZDT
GPS: 22 16.64132S 166 26.41685E
Weather: Hopefully ok

We are off. Heading home straight into Picton. 1200 miles ( 2160 kms)

Someone email me the ab vs England game updates :-)

Tue Oct 1 12:09 2019 NZDT
GPS: 22 28.511S 166 27.858E
Run: 25.5nm (46.2km)

Stopped in at New Caledonia’s iconic lighthouse island Phare Amedee on our way back to Noumea. To my delight, despite being highly touristy, this wee island is riddled with sea snakes and even has an out of bounds area where terns and puffins nest. The lighthouse here is beautiful and reportedly has a fantastic view over the lagoon though we will have to wait before confirming that part as it was closed for lunch… it’s a French thing.

Tue Oct 1 0:00 2019 NZDT
GPS: 22 21.412S 166 50.540E
Run: 4.9nm (8.9km)

We spent a lovely day exploring Casey Island with Kaia, a Kiwi/Hawaiian couple (who we first met in Tonga in 2012) and their gorgeous wee 3 year old who non-stop tells you stories of all his adventures and LOVES to explore rockpools - love that kid!

Mon Sep 30 0:00 2019 NZDT
GPS: 22 22.880S 166 54.848E

After passing by here a couple of times already, we finally entered Baie de Prony. First stop was Anse Majic where we were smartly greeted by the crew of Ranginui, a YIT boat. There is nothing like arriving in a new place and instantly making new friends (this time the crews of Ranginui and Panthera - both fellow YIT boats). We have found cruising this year to be even more social than our first season. I think due to a combination of us being more seasoned cruisers (who no longer shy away from bowling up to other boats and introducing ourselves), the new YIT logo on Mirabilis attracting YITsters (most of whom want to thank Mike for the site and help he has given them), and our wee magnet Arlo charming all who meet him. We came to Anse Majic for the walk on offer up the hill to the top of Cap N’Dua for promised spectacular views over the bay and out across the southern lagoon. It delivered! It was a decent climb up a very steep road (we missed the turn off to the walking track despite being warned not to take the steep road - oops) and Nana did herself proud making it all the way to the top despite a dodgy knee. The views really were supberb with the red mineral-rich earth of the mainland contrasting against the blue of the lagoon and sky, dissected by bright green foliage creating vividly coloured scenes. The water in this bay is also incredibly clear despite being a mainland anchorage. In the still of the morning with no surface ripples, we were able to clearly see the coral forest below us (we were on one of the many free moorings supplied in popular NC anchorages).

Sat Sep 28 0:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 22 20.61681S 166 45.25803E
Run: 22.2nm (40.2km)

We spent the night in Baie Ue after being stopped in our tracks heading to Base de Prony by a 25kt headwind and 4kt current coming out of Havannah Passage against us. Before moving on we jumped in the dinghy and putted up the river at the head of the bay. These river trips are always magical experiences, especially when you cut the engine to enjoy the stillness penetrated only by birdsong.

Fri Sep 27 0:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 22 19.94535S 166 24.42243E

Ilot Maitre is a lovely wee island close to Noumea with free moorings so is a perfect first stop once you finally escape the shackles of port life. The island is popular with the kite surfers with a large shallow area with a sand and seagrass bottom. We spent a bit of time watching the kites and think we might be hooked. It really seems to be the thing to do if you are a cruiser, a great way to make the most of windy days. Better still, there is a popular kite surfing spot just outside the entrance to the marina where we live. The rest of our time here we spent lazing on the beach (while being serenaded by two Tahitian girls and their ukelele), paddling in the shallows with Arlo, stalking sea snakes, and sneaking into the resort pool.

Wed Sep 25 0:02 2019 NZST
GPS: 22 16.62459S 166 26.42108E

Picked up a very special guest, Mike’s mum (and more importantly Arlo’s nana) and spent a lovely day in Noumea enjoying the tourist attractions. Mike was also able to fix our anchor windlass. Yay, no manually hauling the anchor we thought. Except straight after fixing the windlass, the alternator (which we need to charge the battery that drives the windlass) gave out. It really is one thing after another with Mirabilis this season. Luckily our trusty Captain and Chief Engineer was able to diagnose the problem - a plug had burned out on the external regulator. A quick rewiring job and we were back in action and ready to venture south.

Starting him young
Petrol head like his dad it seems
Sun Sep 22 10:26 2019 NZST
GPS: 22 16.62323S 166 26.41316E

Back in Noumea after a gorgeous sail from Ilot Mato enjoying town comforts and awaiting our next guest and delivery of boat parts - this time Mike’s mum and parts for our windlass which has just carked it. We are also coming to terms with the idea that 6 weeks in the French territory of Nouvelle Caledonie means we will very likely come back with considerably more padding around our middles as we delight in devouring our way through small mountains of French bread and pastries, while at the same time recoiling at the astronomical prices of local produce. The papaya and bananas that had become staples in our diets in Vanuatu (largely freely gifted to us by locals as they are so abundant) are now pricey treats and of inferior quality. Tant pis - bread, cheese and cured meats it is!

Fri Sep 20 7:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 22 33.19417S 166 47.76613E

We have spent the last week scooting down to Ile des Pins (named for the tall narrow pine trees that dominate the coastal landscape) to pick up friends and then working our way back. We stayed in Kuto Bay, a large horse shoe shaped bay with luxurious fine white sand making it a fabulous swimming beach and popular destination for the cruise ships (though fortunately not while we were there). We did not spend long at Ile des Pins as the local chief has declared the anchorages around all but the southern part of the island to be closed to yachts. Those that have anchored anyway have either been told to leave or in some cases boarded in the night. This seems to have arisen out of unrest following the independence referendum last year. While the overall vote swung in favour of remaining with France, the numbers in the less populous outer islands were much further in favour of independence. With this in mind, we decided to head instead to the uninhabited Ilot Mato in the southern lagoon and get in some sailing time with our friends. Our decision paid off with Mato delivering spectacular views, good snorkelling and stars of the show - ospreys, sea snakes and black tip reef sharks. Though the combination of the sharks circling Mirabilis and the 8 large shark suckers (remora) we managed to pick up in Kuto Bay meant none of us were game for swimming off the mother ship. Even sitting in the cockpit got a bit hairy when a rather large shark actually leapt out of the water behind Jase (one of our VIPs) so close that it actually thudded against the hull when it landed. Reef sharks are actually about as harmless as they come but even I would have thought twice about popping in at that moment - though the fear of a shark sucker selecting me as its new host was far greater. We did all snorkel by dinghy though and while the viz was rather rubbish by the time I got in (delayed by a head cold), the corals were the healthiest I’ve seen in a good while.

Ile des Pins
Kuto Bay
A slice of New Caledonia's World Heritage lagoon and extensive reef system
Not a bad spot to watch ospreys soaring above the reef
Watching black tip reef sharks cruise the shallows
Tricot raye
Black tip reef sharks
Sun Sep 8 8:20 2019 NZST
GPS: 20 24.31210S 166 8.71036E
Run: 217.8nm (394.2km)
Avg: 6.2knts
24hr: 148.7nm

We are back on the grid for better or worse. We had a dream run on our crossing (Arlo's first open ocean passage) from Vanuatu to New Caledonia sailing the whole way with no pesky engine and smooth enough conditions that Arlo was able to join us in the cockpit a bit - much better than being stuck lying on the saloon floor with him trying to keep his stomach contents contained. After about 36 hours we glided in to a wee uninhabited island on an atoll at the top of the Loyalty Group (Beautemps-Beaupre) that oozed with serenity. The island is largely bordered by short but sheer rock faces and hosts a small brown booby colony. A few boobies would regularly fly over to check us out with the intense colour of the lagoon reflecting on the white feathers of their undersides making them appear blue. On closer inspection by kayak, the rocks also came alive with a multitude of large rock crabs which would scramble over each other in their frantic dash for cover in response to my rude intrusion as I paddled by. We had the atoll to ourselves and passed the day swimming and endlessly marvelling at the breathtaking colours and vistas around us. We topped it all off with cocktails as the sun seemingly melted into the ocean. Pleasure sensors overload.

We inadvertently smuggled in this illegal immigrant
Sun melting into the ocean
Training up the new crew
Fri Sep 6 21:10 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 53.20S 168 09.05E
Run: 14.3nm (25.9km)

Off into the night we go. We have spent a fabulous two months exploring Vanuatu which has exceeded expectations which were high to begin. We will be back as there is so much more to see. New shores beckon though, as do promises of crusty bread, gooey cheese and voluptuous wines.

Sun Sep 1 20:38 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 44.97844S 168 18.76753E
Run: 104.5nm (189.1km)

Back in Vila after a rather boisterous overnight sail from Malekula. The forecast 18kt NE revealed itself to in fact be a 25kt E for a good while there. Strong wind and very rough sea the entire way but otherwise relatively uneventful. Mike was not too pleased when he had to go and drain a flooded sail locker at 3am though. Walking up to the bow in those conditions is gnarly enough as it is let alone when you are carrying a car battery and bilge pump with you. Arlo did great for the most part, seems to do well on the saloon floor - the most stable part of the boat. Hoping to head to New Cal next weekend.

Fri Aug 30 1:39 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 29.64172S 167 25.82574E
Run: 15.7nm (28.4km)
Avg: 3.9knts
24hr: 94.6nm

Finally got in around midnight. Had good wind, no wind, wind with big waves, no wind with big waves ( that one sucked ) and right when the finish line was in sight, ie the Anchorage, strong winds roaring out of it further delaying bed time grrrr

Thu Aug 29 21:40 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 17.470S 167 19.345E
Run: 55.7nm (100.8km)
Avg: 4.7knts
24hr: 112.9nm

Beautiful day for sailing today. We had planned on just a day sail but the going was too good so we are pushing on. Will pull in at Southwest of Malakula tonight and await the promised northerly to jump down to Efate and ready ourselves for the sail across to New Caledonia.

Thu Aug 29 9:49 2019 NZST
GPS: 15 29.33485S 167 14.98352E
Run: 25.5nm (46.2km)
Weather: 20knt se 100% overcast, 1-2m se swell.

HOMEWARD BOUND!!! We are heading home at long last. It's just that home is a bloody long way away.

Stopped here for the night, very calm non rolling Anchorage even in a decent se blow. Just sailing past the president coolidge ww2 wreck and million dollar point ww2 dumping grounds. Will blaze through luganville and down West coast of Malakula heading back to Vila. Some NE winds have our name written all over them. Arlo is still getting Sea sick, so it looks like I'll be sailing back to NZ by myself!

Fri Aug 23 20:33 2019 NZST
GPS: 15 8.60094S 167 6.95396E
Run: 17.1nm (31km)

We've arrived at pretty much or northern most point of the trip. We were meant to head across past the Amabe volcano ( ACTIVE ) but it would have been a night sail in a strongish southerly with a sw swell so not ideal. With that passing through, we will have pretty much missed our opportunity to get to Pentecost. We will have to head against the trade winds to get back down to Port Vila ready to head to New Caledonia shortly. But first we will wait out some weather and chilax abit, although that might be a bit hard now the COT warrior ( crown of thorns ) has arrived and got Dani all rarked up with talk of diving walls etc. There goes my lounging on the beach with the book!

Wed Aug 21 14:55 2019 NZST
GPS: 15 22.75314S 167 11.69244E
Run: 16.1nm (29.1km)

Sailing Vanuatu is continuous shifting baselines of my definition of paradise. We are now on the east coast of Santo Island tucked in between two islets inside a reef happily sheltered from the whitecaps outside it. We had a barbeque ashore on the first night we were here with another boat with fireflies in the trees above us. We are here for Vanuatu's famous blue holes. Yesterday we visited Riri and today, Matevulu. What an experience. We went by dinghy (paddling would be amazing but we didn't think Arlo's tolerance for our indulgence would last that long). After entering the river mouth you make your way up through the increasingly narrow and verdant river banks keeping an eye out for rocks and logs which gets easier as the water changes from murky and brackish to so incredibly pure that you feel like you are flying. After a kilometre or two of this magic carpet ride, the river opens up again to reveal an intense blue at the source of this clear spring water. And they have rope swings!

Anchored in paradise
Wheeee! Matevulu
No need for oars to cross the shallows
Crystal clear
Wheee! Riri.
Fri Aug 16 13:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 15 36.72833S 167 10.59298E
Run: 34.4nm (62.3km)
Weather: 20-25knt SE 2-4m steep waves.

Well that was a rather interesting sail up the coast. Total downwind sailing with the boat hitting 9knts with the help of a wave! We were constantly surfing between 7.5 and 8.5 knts, while I was standing on the duckboard rinsing nappies. A couple of times I had to hand on as water rose to just under my knees as the back of the boat was hit by the next wave. I did notice the top of the mast bending quite a lot between the top stays and the lowers, might have to google how to re-adjust the stays to prevent that. It was a bit harder than the day before due to Arlo not being able to sleep in a bed due to the boat lurching as our course was not directly as the waves were going but rather 15 degrees to starboard which caused us to wander a fair bit. I had to hand steer for quite a bit as we were running close to the point where the main would back wind and try to jibe. (which the auto pilot liked to do often). At 7-9knts the miles disappeared quickly, so it wasn't all bad. We headed down the channel and tucked in behind a resort island and picked up a mooring. We will head round to Luganville tomorrow morning and hopefully go to a resort for the day swimming with Arlo as windyty says it will be as windy again, and that's really only fun for the wind generators!

Thu Aug 15 19:12 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 3.54541S 167 24.33455E
Run: 30.2nm (54.7km)
Weather: 20knt SE Squally 2-3m steep chop.

Almost decided to continue on to Santo yesterday and arrive in the dark but decided against it and instead Anchor behind this little island to get out of the building wind and waves. A bit of a roll but nothing the stern anchor didn't fix. It was just a pit stop nothing more nothing less, didn't even leave the boat/swim incase the sharks from port sandwhich were still peeved we didnt stop there and followed us up the coast!

Wed Aug 14 21:15 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 20.12047S 167 45.47352E
Run: 32.4nm (58.6km)
Avg: 8.5knts
24hr: 203nm
Weather: 15kt SE, buckets of sunshine

Lovely day sail to Banam Bay on the east coast of Malekula Island today. Just a short pitstop as we continue to push north tomorrow. It's Mike's birthday tomorrow so by god we better have good sailing conditions or I (and no doubt you all) will be hearing about it for sure.

It's hard to breed good crew
Captain & First Mate
Don't look grandmas!
Wed Aug 14 17:25 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 35.756S 168 09.882E
Run: 9.3nm (16.8km)
Weather: Roasting hot

Don’t listen to anyone who says to skip Lamen Bay! This bay is the ultimate turtle experience. The bay is full of large turtles feeding on the seagrass. We were not lucky enough to snorkel with the dugong that was here, though Mike did spot it a couple of times form the surface. The turtle action more than made up for it though. While they are generally lovely placid lumbering things, they are not averse to a little play it seems - I saw one grab hold of an anchor chain and ride it as it moved with the gentle swell. I even got a video of the action. We departed this morning for the east coast of Malakula after a family paddle outing. Arlo seemed quite happy wit the view from his throne with the added bonus of being able to keep a dry tush now as he rides in comfort and style.

Baby on board!
Turtles dominate at Lamen Bay
Evening stroll
Stingray friend
Morning paddle
This way please driver.
Mon Aug 12 17:14 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 43.726S 168 08.537E
Run: 0.2nm (0.4km)
Weather: Glorious

LOTS of nudis! Revolieu Bay for the win! We tucked in inside the reef in this beautiful bay and met the lovely people of the yachts Pilgrim and Kupere (both YITster boats). We introduced our selves and were very glad we did. Ron off Pilgrim is my dream man - sorry Mike. He opened my eyes to the oodles of nudibranchs on the reef here and is a one man COT killing machine. In three days he killed around 400 of these starfish which while fabulous looking, are an absolute menace to the reefs now their populations have exploded unchecked due to few of their natural predators remaining. He also made for the perfect dive buddy being just as engrossed in all the invert life as I was. When I hit my 70s, I want to be Ron! I was sad to leave as would very happily continued diving this spot for a week if I could. Especially given how lucky we were to have Brazil off Kupere offer to hang out with Arlo while we were gone. Arlo loved his time with Brazil and we returned to an extremely happy wee boy having had two solid hours of play with his new buddy - he didn’t miss us one bit the little toad!

Anthias and great viz
My fav nudi find of the dive
Coral fan
Ron the COT Warrior
Holothurian? Anemone?
Gorgonian fan
Crinoid twinsies
Sat Aug 10 16:42 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 43.79783S 168 8.73294E
Run: 26.7nm (48.3km)

Moved here, my God it's hot today

Sat Aug 10 6:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 02.973s 168 22.280e

Nudibranchs! I saw my first nudi of the season while snorkelling at Sulua Bay, Emae Island. Emae was a delightful unscheduled stop. Nudis alone would have done it for me of course but this spot had much more to offer. After the obligatory snorkel we all jumped on the paddleboard for a sunset stroll along the beach, weaving between jet black volcanic rocks, sending crabs scuttling for cover as we went - though it was the shells that needed protecting from me. I was in shell heaven. I promised myself a while back I would stop collecting shells - not really practical things to have floating around a boat. I have found though that 'They're toys for Arlo' is a rather convenient excuse to continue my beach combing. We ended the day drinks aboard Tutkum with a lovely couple of longterm cruisers originally from Turkey and departed early the next morning as dolphins moseyed through the bay. Emae, you are a bit of alright.

Fri Aug 9 21:12 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 2.986S 168 22.268E
Run: 48.1nm (87.1km)
Weather: nice sunny day

It took us a little longer to get to the turtles and duegongs so we stopped on the way and had a little stroll along the beach. All three of us jumped on the paddle board and paddled ashore and even caught a wave but I had to throw up the handbrake as a rock popped up right in our path while we surfing. Will have to try this surfing on the paddleboard some more, it was pretty fun but maybe not with Arlo and Dani in the backseat hanging of for dear life. (Actually I think Arlo was nodding off)

24 mile sail tomorrow to the next reef that needs snorkelling.

Water temp: 26 degrees, Air temp 27 degrees.

Wed Aug 7 21:48 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 44.59435S 168 18.81423E
Run: 4.6nm (8.3km)
Weather: Finally sunny

After a miserable two days of rain we moved into the marina to get the nappies, water and power sorted. We now have full power, full water and clean nappies except one, which was quite spectacular and such a joyful experience to prepare for the washing machine. Arlo we love you but please no more of those in public, especially at the pool while mummy and daddy are trying to drink their cocktails and enjoy the first sunny day in ages.

We left Paddy and Anna out at hideaway Island to effect repairs to the engine, clean some nappies and prepare to sail north but....... the weather turned even more miserable so there was no sun, no wind and only drizzle so no real water either. We made the call to hit the marina, plug in and return to being a liveaboard with full AC power where we could run the washing machine with the dry cycle! (great on the rainy day) I think we washed about 50,000 nappies. Our batteries are still charging at 10amps a day and a half later since they went on shore power, they were obviously pretty depleted.

We stayed an extra day in the marina just to get said washing done and hit the pool - where Arlo unleashed his surprise on the world. Luckily there was an Ausie family with 4 kids there who were more prepared than us with wipes. On the boat, we just have a salt water - water blaster for emergencies such as that - hang surprise from hell out the back from the davits and blast till clean ( both arlo and nappies ) - they love it, no really they do.

Tomorrow we drop our lines around half 6 in the morning and head north into crocodile and malaria/dengue mosquito infested waters. I just found out there are a few sea snakes up that way as well - great! I saw a shark as big as the boat heading away from Hideaway Island the other day, yes as big as the boat - well sideways that is, so there was no paddle boarding in anything deeper than 30cm of water and I didn't even go swimming ( how do you know if it was only bluffing and about to pull a sneaky u-turn!)

Time to pull 5th gear out of Mirabilis tomorrow, we have to get in by dark and have a long way to go!

Sat Aug 3 13:06 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 41.62385S 168 15.95545E
Run: 4.9nm (8.9km)
Weather: Too windy to paddle board

Back out at Hideaway Island. Went to the fire show last night with Paddy and Anna. Was a great show and this time viewed from shore with Arlo enjoying the beginning and end with a little snooze inbetween while Dad confronted the person that boarded our dinghy and nicked our torch. It's a funny feeling standing on shore with your son sleeping on you, next to a group of youths who were clearly shining your torch back out to the pier spotlighting their mates with their new high powered torch, acquired from your dinghy down said pier. Needless to say they were good about returning it when I pointed out that I need the torch to get my sleeping son back to the boat safely. Might go visit the crystal pools today.

Fri Aug 2 9:09 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 44.97798S 168 18.76552E
Run: 13.4nm (24.3km)
Weather: Raining, 0 wind

We spent a cool couple of days back around Havannah harbour. We went to an Independence day celebration with local live music, snorkeled a ww2 plane wreck that non of the cruisers seem to know about and is located right under our noses just a short dingy ride away from the anchorage. The plane is in excellent condition in 4-5m of water so an easy snorkel. Saw an amazing lime stone cave that was so big that naturally I thought it was going to cave in on me every step I took, even though there are cave drawings in there that go back 3000 years.

We stopped in at the famous wahoo bar and had a nice relaxing beer with a couple from a neighbouring boat called Restless whom had been sailing in one form or another around the world for the last 20 years! Naturally his description of devil's point was spot on. I suspect we were a bit too slow in getting round it as true to form it turned into the karori rip with washing machine conditions and thoughts of motorhomes entering my head again. Why does the wind always come from where you want to head to? We are tucked up on a private mooring( merci Anne-Marie ) next to the super yachts in Vila, in the second day of rain since arriving in Vanuatu, waiting for the pasties Paddy and Anna to arrive.

Sun Jul 28 20:24 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 33.59046S 168 16.47158E
Run: 3.5nm (6.3km)
Weather: 5knts SE 20% cc

Moved back to Port Havannah for a non rolly nights sleep. As nice as it was in the other anchorage with the fantastic snorkelling, gorgeous beaches and water the same colour as the blue in Mobil signs (you know, the same place as you buy fuel for motorhomes ), not hearing the diesel sloshing around in the tank all night will be a godsend!

Off to the ww2 museum tomorrow. Turns out before last night, we happened to have been anchored in a "cleared" minefield from ww2!!! On the chart it says any vessels engaged in submarine, anchoring, fishing or underwater activities are at risk of finding the one mine they didn't manage to clear. We were engaged in Anchoring and snorkelling. Lucky I only saw the warning on exiting the mine field after being there for 4 days!

We head to a massive lime stone caves with some old artwork in them and then to Port Vila to await the arrival of my Race engineer who has some replacement race **cough cough** parts for the yacht. Of course the real reason is to hang out, drink beer, swim and dive and watch a wicked fire show!

Every third day is a washing day for us now. We have resorted to using the washing machine as it takes too much time to manually do the 2 million nappies Arlo gets through in three days. We use reusables which is just as well as Vanuatu has banned disposables so everyone is forced to use reusables, which is right up our alley as Dani has used them full time from 7 weeks. Once you get the system going, it is great, saves money and most of all the planet. All those still using disposables, hope you have your tickets to planet B sorted ;-) So running the washing machine uses way more water than I was anticipating. We are having to run the water maker for a day and a bit just to make up the extra usage. The last two times we have gotten away with it on wind and solar all day, but I'm not sure how that will last. No rain as of yet to top the tanks and if it stays like that there maybe shortages. Arlo will just have to wander round starkers.

Fri Jul 26 21:58 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 31.08486S 168 23.79615E
Weather: 18kt SE

We are having a lazy afternoon here in Undine Bay and Arlo is happily playing on the saloon floor so I thought I’d take some time out to reflect on our journey so far.

We have now been here for a month and are well settled in to the cruising lifestyle. It is quite a different experience from our last season back in 2012 pre-baby. Back then we were novice sailors making it up as we went along - we see that all too clearly now with a bit of experience under our belts. We were a bit nuts! But we had some incredible adventures for it.

We are now a little more cautious in the weather we head out in and the anchorages we choose, as being thrown about in a floating steel tub with a 7 month-old on board is not nearly as much fun as you might think. Our pace is also quite a lot slower as it takes so much longer to do things what with naps, feeding, packing the baby bag for every foreseeable circumstance and seemingly entire days dedicated to washing nappies...

And yet, the whole experience has been incredible and better than we could ever have hoped for. And we still have so much to go. Vanuatu is tremendously diverse with every drop of the anchor treating us to some new delight. We have met wonderful people - cruisers and locals (they adore Arlo) alike, seen things that have taken our breath away and left us in awe, swam, floated and dived from boat and shore, strolled along beaches and through villages (including an exceedingly eerie nighttime nakamal faux-pas), climbed a volcano, dived an offshore pinnacle, and bounced along in the back of trucks marvelling at the scenery and serenity of island life as we pass by.

The sense of community and simple living here just make so much sense and once again have us questioning the madness we have created for ourselves in modern developed societies. For all our technical and political advances, we really don’t leave ourselves a lot of time to just stop and enjoy life. I digress though.

Where was I, dolphins, turtles, dazzling arrays of fish, gorging on tropical fruit, cocktails at sunset yadda yadda. You get the picture. It’s pretty epic. And best of all is experiencing every part of it with the sweetest little boy we waited so long for. Everything just works. And seeing him drink it all in and grow so quickly - every day, together as a family, is such a gift. And completely makes up for the stress and exhaustion in the lead up to get here. 100% worth it.

Before Arlo was born and we talked of our plans, we encountered numerous well-meaning people who would raise their eyebrows, tell us we were mad. We couldn’t. Shouldn’t. Well we are, and it is wonderful and wouldn’t give this up for the world. I hope this will help them better see the positives and opportunities that surround us all in our lives.

I know Arlo won’t remember this, but I feel this has got to be setting him up for a an incredible future. Shooting across the bay in the dinghy together this morning with dolphins bow-riding and leaping all around certainly can’t be bad for him anyway.

Thu Jul 18 20:25 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 34.67509S 168 12.85246E
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 29.3knts last night with a 2.3 mile fetch. water over the bow on anchor!

well that was fun! water over the bow on anchor in 29.3knts of wind with a 2.4 mile fetch! We thought about moving but couldnt as the windless would not work at all. Turns out all the bad weather we had intially on the way up, which caused our front hold to be flooded had caused some bad connections, which just happened to present themselves last night. It wasnt that bad, we've had much worse back home in windy welly/Marlborough sounds ( 66 knots on anchor springs to mind) so we were pretty ok with the surf going past the cockpit. I did close Arlo's window as the waves were starting to reach it along the side of the boat.

Anyway, we awoke to paradise this morning and spent the day enjoying it. Swimming in near 28 degree water with unlimited visibility ( great for spotting those nasty sharks a mile away ) and perfect beaches. An unexpected bonus was I got to see a WW2 crashed aircraft.

Where we are anchored was a big strategic US Navy port during the war, which is great for me but blah blah blah ZZZzzzZZZZzzzzZz for Dani. So I get to see the odd occasional leftover piece of WW2 awesomeness , and she gets to see a couple of sea shells and a crab.

So far the boat is holding together - just. We haven't needed to run the motor for power yet, so the extra solar is doing great even with the washing machine having to be used for nappies more than we realised. In fact, we had so much power left over from yesterday (after running the water maker all day on solar alone) that we turned off the wind gennies. The twin wind gennies are making a huge difference over night. We even had a move night on the 43" tv and were still charging (with fridge and freezer going, plus lappie, plus Dani's smoothie maker, plus the baby intercom).

Depth sounder in the dinghy is the bees knees! If you don't have one GET ONE! So much better for finding cool snorkelling/dive spots, anchorages to sneak big bertha in and general recon. Ours was $99 and is mounted permanently but just unclips, and the battery is a $39 burnsco 12v jobbie that never seems to need charging.

Highlight of the trip so far was today's swim. It rivalled the mid ocean swim when the crew (Reece and Andre) jumped overboard and a gigantuan (probably a megaladon) shark was just beneath us. (later turned out to be the shadow of the boat - but you can never be too careful!). Still both epic swims. It's taken this long to have another one.

We have 2-3 more nights in this harbour and then we head north to pele/kakula island where we will never leave as it is paradise (unless there is a shark around, then I'm gone burgers)

Havannah harbour, Main US WW2 harbour for fight for the Solomons.
Arlo staring to love the water
Our current anchorage. The water is actually that blue!
Wed Jul 17 16:30 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 34.62980S 168 12.86992E
Run: 6.5nm (11.8km)
Weather: Got up to 25kt earlier but easing now. Good laundry day.

Arrived in Port Havannah. Spent a lovely lazy afternoon swimming and hanging on the beach yesterday with new friends. We will stay around here until the weekend at least when we will catch up with old friends again.

Mon Jul 15 14:06 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 40.0404S 168 11.1636E

Diving!!! Mike found this magic anchorage on a stunning bit of coastline with a reef 300m offshore rising up to 1m depth. We revved up the compressor, filled the tanks and took turns diving while the other hung out with Arlo in the dinghy. It worked brilliantly. Proof of concept - you can have a baby and still go cruising and diving. Yippeee!!! Result: one VERY happy Dani.

Perfect anchor location - until we heard waves crashing on the shore at 4am.
Handsome and very chilled turtle
Diving Paul's Rock
Happy Dani! Arlo happy as hanging in the dinghy
Watching the sunset after a perfect day
Fri Jul 12 18:06 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 41.62142S 168 15.89945E
Run: 4.4nm (8km)
Weather: Cloudy c. 15kt and perpetually warm

Finally dragged ourselves away from Vila where we were spoiled rotten by friends Adham, Anne and Nils who live there. Have now ducked around the corner for some snorkeling and a reportedly fabulous fire show. Nice to join some other boats we know too.

Sun Jul 7 23:22 2019 NZST
GPS: 18 43.696S 168 56.453E
Run: 4.5nm (8.1km)
Avg: 10.7knts
24hr: 257.1nm
Weather: 15kt breeze, slightly overcast

Leaving Erromango after three lovely lazy days. No other boats here despite the attraction of a superb freshwater swimming hole and caves...albeit with human remains. Perhaps the island's reputation for cannibalism is keeping others away. Mike was able to make himself useful fixing one of the locals' freezer. That's 2/2 for my hire a hubby business as he also fixed the generator at our last stop. Will keep him around I think. First sail through the night with just the 2.5 of us. Happily it's a balmy one with a nice breeze and gentle swell...so far anyway. Next stop is Port Vila.

Matchy matchy
Dillon's Bay
Ready for bed in his sea berth for our overnight sail
Mon Jul 1 12:09 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 31.61074S 169 29.71475E
Weather: Fine but for the ash rain...

Still in Port Resolution of the stunning Tanna Island. Today we said goodbye to Dre and Reece, our epic crew who helped us get here. What a phenomenal start to our cruising season. We have only been here five days and already had some out of this world experiences. Highlights have been walking through the eerily quiet village nakamal at night (mid-kava session) to the local 'restaurant' for the most exquisite island cuisine, and the feeling of absolute awe as we stared into the belly of Mount Yasur volcano as it was erupting. We have also met some wonderful people already - both fellow cruisers and locals a like. Today we take it easy and catch up on chores - key being installing a washdown pump to clear the thick layer of gritty ash that is continuously accumulating all over Mirabilis. Will likely start heading north in the next couple of days. Side note for MCC friends - such a crazy small world, we joined the tourists yesterday to go up the volcano and among them were fellow MCC club peeps including Ross Fenton and Helena, our favourite sometimes bar lady.

Old lake at base of the volcano which drained around 2009
Ash all over Mirabilis
The belly of Mount Yasur
Another terrible photo of the lava - when it exploded though it was incredible.
Crew photo with Mount Yasur and Port Resolution behind
Popped over to Lenakel to get some cash out of the ATM - this was our ride and the scenery
Wed Jun 26 9:55 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 32.05060S 169 15.93660E
Weather: Warm and muggy. Time for a swim!

The boys finally made it in yesterday at 3 with Dani (me) and Arlo joining shortly after following a brief stay with a lovely local family. Lads now back ashore to clear immigration and stick up on tropical fruit before we head around the other side of the island to escape the roll. Thanks so much for all your love and support for the boys on their adventure. They assure us there were some unforgettable stunning moments out there to balance out the frustrations of weather - curious whales, leaping tuna, dolphins, stunning sun sets and rises, and jumping off the boat into pure blue water in the middle of the ocean.

Sun Jun 23 9:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 24 21.265s 170 26.556e
Run: 1nm (1.8km)
Avg: 4knts
24hr: 96nm
Weather: still no bloody wind!

Still bloody motoring - day 5 of providing karma to mother nature by burning diesel for refusing to give us wind!! Lessons learned from this trip: 1) Don't change your prop to a sailing enhanced one, you won't be sailing end of story. Instead get the biggest prop for burning lots of diesel, because that's all you'll be doing.

2) On that note, convert all your water tanks to diesel tanks so you can carry more of the good stuff.

3) That brings us to water, get a 140l/hr water maker so you can just make water when you need it, as you'll have your engine running anyway.

4) Don't worry about trying to get antique self steering going ever, you won't need it, as those things require wind to work and since you'll be motoring everywhere due, to no wind, dump it or take it to the scrap metal dealers to get some more diesel money. But what about power savings I hear you say, well you'll be motoring and that 200amp alternator will be able to supply a small island nation with enough power to put them into space, let alone cover the needs of the auto pilot and other non sailing systems aboard.

5) Get rid of all solar panels and wind generators. You are not sailing since you are motoring and have all the power you could ever want. Run the microwave, use the bread maker, use the washing machine (remember water on demand) and even run the dry cycle!! And in their place put some deck chairs or recliners, as this is prime relestate with a view. And now those pesky winds generators are gone, relax and crank the stereo right up to max amp draw, which is not actually possible to achieve as you will be motoring with enough power to send a small island into space.

5) Onto the mast, don't replace the rigging it's a waste of money, which would be better used in buying massive amounts of diesel to fill your tanks for three or more seasons, because that's what you'll be using - diesel. Your mast is really just an aerial and radar holder and nothing more. If you think it's a good idea to put sails up on it, don't. While they may look pretty, they achieve absolutely nothing and have the functional equivalent of a painting on the wall. 6) When buying a sailboat don't believe the marketing spiel...ie the word sail in sailboat is a misrepresentation, you will actually be motoring and only ever be able to achieve that feeling of sailing by reading sailing magazines or watching sailing videos on YouTube. Everything else is a lie. 7) Someone else figured this out before me, and using the sage advice above decided to build a boat and called it a launch.

Still motoring, even after writing this novel on a tablet.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Thu Jun 20 20:12 2019 NZST
GPS: 28 48.730s 170 56.570e
Run: 2.3nm (4.2km)
Avg: 5.1knts
24hr: 122.7nm
Weather: flat calm no wind, give me some wind! First too much now not enough!

We have been converting diesel into two parts wind and one part water today. We've filled our tanks, had showers, made washing buckets, filled Jerry containers and anything that will hold water. We've charged camera and laptop batteries, used the 240v drill with hole saws to cut new holes in the boat and anything that requires power as we have a 180amp alternator just sitting there twiddling its thumbs. The crew were in the suicide seat today, bow riding away. Andre thought he was on the Titanic and was pretending to fly, he just needed a strawberry milk in one hand and it would have completed it.

The bean bag made it on to the dodger roof to provide an epic view for whale watching, but alas there were none, the Japanese must have been through this way recently.

A car carrier decided to make a beeline for us, 1st it was 15 miles out heading on an intercept and then it was passing 1.3 miles in front which my may sound far, but given the size of those things had us all a little worried, except Reece who was down stairs snoring away. We would have saved him a spot inter life raft I'm sure. The ocean is a big big big BIG place, so really 1.3 miles away! We were on wind hold at the time in very light winds, and once it crossed into where our wind was coming from, Mirabilis manged to do a 90 degree turn due to turbulence - unless dolphins were messing with our rudder, yeah that's more than likely it. Meant to be an even nicer day tomorrow, perhaps we will stop the boat and go for a swim, well at least I'll go down the boarding ladder for a dip. Those sharks are sneaky bastards and probably have been waiting for us to take a quick dip the whole time, ready to pounce. We actually saw a shark today, well the others think it was a dolphin but I think a shark in disguise. It was alone and I'm pretty shore it's only sharks that are Nigel no mates.

Not even half way.......Are we there yet? Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Wed Jun 19 11:51 2019 NZST
GPS: 31 04.154s 169 47.102e
Weather: 6knt n. 40% cc 1m e swell

It was almost impossible to go east or get some easting all I managed to do was go less West than the mother nature wanted us to go. Maybe we are meant to stop at Norfolk for a muffin! Right now the wind is coming right from where we want to go, so can't go that way.

Just heated and finished the chicken pie, yum. It's only a week old so let's hope it stays down. We made sure only 2 of the 3 crew are it so one could live to tell the tale.

Least night was pretty much hell on Earth in terms of waves, wind, sleep and comfort. We were prepared but it turns out you never are really fully prepared for the fury of mother nature. A motorhome really is a great alternative to being out here! I can tow a 4wd or racecar (517hp Merc :-) ) with a motorhome.

We had sustained 35knts with a gust of 41 while trying to furl the headsail in some more as we had a tad too much rag out. So after that died back to 30 for the next 5 hours or so the waves started to hit. Several flooded out cockpit even though we have full cockpit clears. There was just so much water it was coming in the roof holes as if someone put a hose in every gap and let rip.

That only happened 5 or so times even when we had decided to run off down wind. We broached a couple of times resulting in getting hit. I turned the a Auto pilot onto full power which stopped more of those. We had oodles of power due to the trip wind generators pumping it in.

And now we are motoring, just like motorhomes do. Motorhome Current temps: Air 20 c Water 19.36 c Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Tue Jun 18 10:45 2019 NZST
GPS: 32 54.549s 171 41.949e
Run: 5nm (9.1km)
Avg: 7.1knts
24hr: 171.4nm
Weather: what the hell is that?

Ummm ...... That's not daunting at all! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Riders on the storm
Tue Jun 18 8:18 2019 NZST
GPS: 33 09.545s 171 42.068e
Run: 1.7nm (3.1km)
Avg: 4.9knts
24hr: 116.6nm
Weather: 14knt e. 100% cc flat seas 2m long long s swell

Red sky morning sailors hang on tight! Motored all night and hosted the main about 5am. Nice gentle breeze which will no doubt steadly climb into the ferocious beast that we are usually accustomed to around Wellington. Around midday from what I can tell till tomorrow morning. At least this time there will be no stupid oil rigs jumping out right in your way.

Prop is working well both motoring and definitely the best with sailing. I think it has enabled us to break free from NZ :-) Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

sunrise this morning.
Mon Jun 17 13:36 2019 NZST
GPS: 34 38.007s 172 02.169e
Run: 3.5nm (6.3km)
Avg: 5.4knts
24hr: 129.2nm
Weather: 9knt sw. 60% cc 1m sw swell

image: crew posing.

We had quite an off and on night with bursts of high speed and slow patches so we kept 2 reefs in from new Plymouth with squalls coming through with gusts up to 26knts but mostly 17-20knts steady breeze but constantly moving the sweet spot on a course towards the shore. If we tightened up we were then crashing into waves more, so we choose to suck up some of our sea room to the coast in the hope the weather changed and allowed us to track parallel again which it did thankfully.

Seas are slight and the sun is out, the wind is nearly gone. We pulled out our awesome light air sail that was gifted to us and is as old as me! We are now drifting between 4.5 and 6 knots in 9 knots of wind, great for Mirabilis.

1st order of business today figure out why we have pooling water near the companion way hatch in the cockpit, normally it runs out the back. This usually means we are bow down, which means 1\2 ton of water in the front hold which totally is flooded. Bilge pump wire had corroded and broken in the rough weather. I tested it before we left, and quickly checked the connections, but guess not carefully enough. We busted out the emergency bilge pumps and pumped it out, emptied the locker of all the stuff we tried to give away at the marina and no one wanted and repaired the connection.

And the then we noticed we were being covertly shadowed by a medium sized highly camouflaged submersible whale of which Dre wanted to ride it! This guy was truly nosy and surfaced around us 3 times while we were changing to the light air sail. The last time was no further than 5m away. What type of whale was it I hear Dani asking, well it snorted, had fins was large and swam.

It's a low power day today, little wind, sun hiding behind sails and rigging and starting to get cloudy. Determined not to run the engine but might have to give in if wind dies to nothing so then it will be a high power day yay!! Soooo or house has now officially circumnavigated the North island of New Zealand.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Sun Jun 16 19:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 04.920s 173 12.299e
Run: 7nm (12.7km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 160nm

Retry the pic again, did it work this time Dad? Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

today's sailing
Sun Jun 16 14:48 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 32.467s 173 27.771e
Run: 4.8nm (8.7km)
Avg: 5.3knts
24hr: 128nm
Weather: 20knt sw. 35% cc 2.5m sw swell

had to alter the racing sail setup to tighten up into the wind. Not a bad days sailing, still can't believe we haven't even left nz waters yet and had so many different conditions.

I've added a pic of today's sailing conditions. Anyone leaving comments just a note they are being seen and enjoyed by us and it is nice to get them, it's just a little hard to be on the tablet on a rollercoaster and not get queazy.

Sun Jun 16 8:03 2019 NZST
GPS: 37 15.142s 173 34.770e
Run: 2nm (3.6km)
Avg: 13.3knts
24hr: 320nm
Weather: 20knt sw. 30% cc 2m sw swell

We left New Plymouth yesterday about 4pm and headed back out into the deep blue. Our depth sounded stopped working at 450m deep and Waikato is 55 NM off our starboard bow ( we are 99kms out to sea from Waikato for those land lubbers agmonst you).

We had a relatively fast sail last night with 25-30knts the whole night so not much sleep was had. Things are calming down today so a good chance to catch up on sleep, eat and see if anything needs fixing on the boat after what feels like a 16hr rollercoaster ride.

Are we there yet?

Fri Jun 14 3:56 2019 NZST
GPS: 39 3.47918S 174 2.65265E
Run: 7.2nm (13km)
Weather: Calm no wind ..... Yet

Arrived and anchored. Crew managed first food since departure ( chicken pie yum).

Thu Jun 13 23:13 2019 NZST
GPS: 39 5.62780S 173 55.13021E
Run: 6.7nm (12.1km)
Avg: 3.7knts
24hr: 88.4nm
Weather: Now calm thankfully

Heading to New Plymouth for repairs. Self steering gear failed yet again. I swear if it had a quick release pin it would now be 40 leagues below. I'm not sure when it happened but most likely before the two uncontrolled jibes in 30 gusting 40 ,(due to the autopilot freaking out as something else was controlling the boat). The self steering gear has again bent the shaft and now tube and is locked sideways causing a hard turn one way. It was not safe to remove in 4-6m hence new Plymouth here we come. Main needs some new cars as they popped during the jibes eeek!!

Wed Jun 12 10:58 2019 NZST
GPS: 40 58.88566S 174 19.58207E
Run: 29.4nm (53.2km)

On our way. Sea sickness plagued our first few hours but most coming right now and just had our first dolphin sighting.

Sun Jun 9 21:04 2019 NZST
GPS: 41 6.06352S 174 52.07243E

Went out for a quick sail today - sea trials for both Mirabilis (new rig, prop and self-steering gear) and Arlo (our new human). Looking good for a Wednesday departure for Vanuatu. Giddyup!

Mirabilis - New Year at The Anchorage

We are now anchored in the popular “Anchorage” in Torrent Bay next to our old neighbours Dan and Alex from Chaffers in their new yacht Amok on board which we spent New Year’s Eve and watched the impressive fireworks show put on by the local, and very wealthy, Talley’s family. New Year’s Day was a windy one with most of us spending most of the day on board watching the wind speed spike with gusts up to 40 knots. We were pleased to not have ventured ashore when a yacht tried anchoring Read more...

in front of us and instead picked up the anchor of another yacht leaving them tangled and bearing down on Mirabilis for a nerve-racking 15 minutes while they tried to pry themselves apart without colliding into each other, us, or the shore. Mike and another tender had to push the nose round of one of them once they were free but left dangerously close to hitting the shore. It was a huge relief to send them on their way but not 10 minutes later we watched another drama unfold across the anchorage when a solo sailor came unstuck with anchor chain and windlass dramas which had him wrapping around another very nervous yacht. The boys were back in their dinghys ready to run interference if needed and dropping manpower on board to untangle the snubber and manually haul the anchor. Fortunately everyone came off unscathed and that was the last drama of the day; though we did hear that one of the other yachts had their dinghy flip with the outboard on - not the best start to a new year. Luckily our leaky dinghy was tucked in close and had so much sea water in it acting as ballast there was no way it was going to flip. With the wind easing we finally went ashore for the first time at 4 o’clock and went for what was supposed to be a short walk over to Watering Cove but was slightly extended as we inadvertently took a diversion along a considerably less well-kept biodiversity monitoring line track after being lured in by great views across the bay. The next day summer was back and we headed off early for a walk to a waterfall and a very quick dip for me for mandatory under the waterfall photo then back in time to scoff lunch and jump in the kayaks to make the high tide for a trip across the estuary and up to Cleopatra’s pool amongst huge river boulders complete with a rock slide at the base of the Torrent River. Great fun despite a graze or two. Wai Aniwa, another Chaffers yacht, is now here (as is Montego Bay) and we had a quick chat with skipper Roger Foley before retiring to Mirabilis for sundowners which morphed into a great fun party for two of an evening. Today is mercifully a lazy rainy scrabble, reading and odd jobs day - like finally bringing YIT up to date :-).

Mike on the pretty Falls River Track
Cascade falls
A VERY quick dip
Mike and Dan helping another yacht in trouble

Mirabilis - Totaranui & Separation Point

It is lovely and warm over here and as soon as we had set the anchor it was in for a swim followed by a quick trip ashore to explore and a lazy evening enjoying the warmth in the cockpit. The next day we paddled around the estuary and did a short walk in the park including a small loop track right next to the inlet that still has a couple of magnificent towering old trees - ancient relics of the past reminding us of what the forest around here used to be like and eventually will be again. Nikau Read more...

palms added a particularly lush feel to this tiny patch of forest otherwise largely surrounded by the contrasting dry manuka scrub and slowly regenerating bush. Back on board a swell had built up and even with a stern anchor out we were in for a rolly night. Mike was kept awake most of the night with the rolling, I was kept awake half of the night with Mike's grumbling about the rolling. Unhappily for Mike though I was determined to get a decent walk in after finding no decent walks on D'Urville so no sleeping in for us and we set off for a 20km walk to Separation Point. The walk was lovely with the occasional fur seal, pied and spotted shags a plenty, oyster catchers with little fluff ball chicks and a lone gannet soaring above the point - perhaps attracted by the faux gannet models and calls being played out of a huge megaphone where DOC and Project Janszoon are trying to reestablish a colony. Though with the hoards of tourists swarming all over the point at this time of year it might be a hard sell. A great spot for lunch watching a couple of fur seals patrolling the water below us. When we made it back to the anchorage we were delighted to discover that the yacht that we had seen sail past on our walk had indeed been our friends' new yacht Oceanus, which was now anchored next to us. The next morning was my birthday (and New Year's Eve) so I got to sleep in while Mike rustled up a delicious cooked breakfast and even did the dishes straight after as an extra special birthday treat. Then time for a bit of scurfing (like wakeboarding but on a surf board) before we said goodbye to Oceanus for now and headed for the next anchorage (following a bit of a false start and unplanned swim after I managed to wrap the dinghy painter around the prop - an embarrassingly rookie move).

Kayaking around our anchorage
Totaranui inlet
Walk to separation point
A rather stinky fur seal
Oyster catchers guarding their little fluff balls
Headlands Track view over Totaranui
Fur seal swimming around Separation Point
Post swim snooze time
Ahh, Abel
Mike happily scurfing on NYE
Tucked up with Oceanus for the night

Mirabilis - Vava'u has kidnapped us!

So we reluctantly left the beautiful and deserted Ha’apai islands and arrived in Vava’u about a month ago and aren’t showing any signs of budging. Vava’u seems to have taken hold of us and Mike is threatening to apply for residency.
This place is completely different from the Ha’apai group and as Mike puts it, I get homesick for the outer islands or “Neiafu fever” if we stay in town (Neiafu) for too long. That said, we have met so many great and fascinating people and really feel Read more...

a part of the community here so do keep getting tempted back into town fairly regularly and there’s always the excuse of stocking up on fresh fruit and veg from the market.
Vava’u is known as a bit of a sailing mecca as we have discovered as the islands are all very close together and you can find perfectly sheltered anchorages in any conditions. There are some stunning places to visit too, Swallow’s Cave and Mariner’s Cave are particularly amazing for snorkelers.
Swallow’s you swim into to find you are sharing the cave with thousands of small schooling fish which you can then dive under and up through or just watch the beautiful shapes they form. The water is stunningly clear and outside the cave is a steep drop-off into the blue with coral and feather stars clinging to the wall as far as you can see and a myriad of colourful fish working their way between them.
Mariner’s is a trippy experience and quite magical. Once you find the cave that is... We found ourselves searching for Mariner’s Cave one day in our dinghy laden with us and three young trainee doctors who we had met a week earlier at Tonga Bob’s (the local pub) quiz night. We putted a mile across the channel from an anchorage on the eastern side of Kapa Island and started searching for the famous cave. However, this is Tonga so there was no big sign pointing the way, rather about a kilometre long wall of cliff for us to search for some sign of a cave entrance hiding beneath the surface. After a lot of surveying promising looking sites (including one where we surfaced in a cavelet with just enough headroom to take one quick breath!) we finally found a spot that looked like it had to be it...hadn’t it?! After much procrastinating I finally took a deep breath and dived down and in...and in... oh thank goodness, I spied the telltale sign of a large air bubble and surfaced to find myself in a huge cave. As I recovered my breath and started to take it all in, the cave started to rapidly fill with fog, almost completely obscuring the walls from view, then just as quickly it cleared and the air was crystal clear once more.
This pattern is repeated over and over with some episodes more dramatic than others depending on the size of the swell that drives this awesome phenomenon. Pretty freaking cool! Eventually the others joined me one-by-one. Mariner’s Cave was immediately placed at the top of our list of places to take any visitors to.
If you ever come to Vava’u make SURE you don’t miss Mariner’s Cave.
Other things that have been keeping us entertained here over the last month include a visit to a private island to join a three day party (complete with battle hip and poker tournaments), a bit of historic heritage with a visit to the remnants of a 400 year old stone wall for first borns, walks through a few small villages and plantations, snorkeling and diving, island circumnavigation either by kayak or on foot, beach combing, octopus stalking, pig racing (a fund raising event for the local conservation NGO which also included human horse racing, coconut husking and hermit crab racing) and a trip out to Kenutu Island, the eastern most island of Vava’u where you can anchor. The eastern side of the island is completely exposed to the full brunt of the ocean making for dramatic cliffs, blow holes and intertidal waterfalls that come and go with the surge. On the lee side, beautiful snorkeling over seagrass and shallow coral beds, and best of all it’s one of the quieter anchorages in Vava’u with most cruisers sticking to the western side of the cut so we had it all to ourselves.
Right, time to sign out as we’re off to pick up my uncle who is visiting for a week. Then it’s off to the Niuas for us – the smallest and most undeveloped of the Tongan island groups. We will update again in a month or so no doubt. Love Dani & Mike PS, if you want to pay the ransom it is payable in Whittakers chocolate, jars of marmite, cheese in all molds and moulds, vogels bread, good wine, chippies (for Mike of course) and oddly enough cauliflower and broccoli Bizarre the things you miss!

Snorkeling at Swallows Cave
Local kids from Makave village near the historic stone wall
View east from Kenutu Island
View from town out over the anchorage at Neiafu
Friday night social racing
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