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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Moved here, my God it's hot today
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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?
Arrived and anchored. Crew managed first food since departure ( chicken pie yum).
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!!
On our way. Sea sickness plagued our first few hours but most coming right now and just had our first dolphin sighting.
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...
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...
Mirabilis - Vava'u has kidnapped us!
So we reluctantly left the beautiful and deserted Haapai islands and arrived in Vavau about a month ago and arent showing any signs of budging. Vavau seems to have taken hold of us and Mike is threatening to apply for residency.
This place is completely different from the Haapai 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...
Vavau 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, Swallows Cave and Mariners Cave are particularly amazing for snorkelers.
Swallows 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.
Mariners is a trippy experience and quite magical. Once you find the cave that is... We found ourselves searching for Mariners Cave one day in our dinghy laden with us and three young trainee doctors who we had met a week earlier at Tonga Bobs (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...hadnt 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. Mariners Cave was immediately placed at the top of our list of places to take any visitors to.
If you ever come to Vavau make SURE you dont miss Mariners 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 Vavau 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 its one of the quieter anchorages in Vavau with most cruisers sticking to the western side of the cut so we had it all to ourselves.
Right, time to sign out as were off to pick up my uncle who is visiting for a week. Then its 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!