Sun 14 Sep 2008 11:18
Sunday evening, 14th September
Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuata
17:45.0S 168:18.65E
Well, Fleck arrived here safely several days ago. It's a fact that as soon as you put down an anchor anywhere the speed of time doubles; and when you are being tossed about at sea things slow down quite a bit! The trip was not at all bad, we ran out of wind halfway accross, and I had to motor overnight to keep my sanity in a rotten swell. Next day a decent breeze sprang up, with the usual rain and cloud cover, but we got in here on schedule. Not really what I had expected from the Pilot books: this is a busy well developed place, many yachts from NZ and OZ, thirty of which are taking part in a rally along my intended course: hope they all keep a good lookout! Ashore there are French Supermarkets, but the former British seat of Government is now a holiday resort. So deadlocked were the British and French Colonialists over this place that it ended up with two governments, two imposed official languages, and two sets of laws. In the end France ran out on top, but subsequent full independance was a recent and bloody affair.The native Melanesians are quite distinctive: especially the ladies with their big tightly curled hair, and their necessarily big colourful dresses.
This place has malaria, and nearly as many poisonous sea creatures as Australia; sharks too: three days out from here I was peeing over the back of the boat (something you should never do: many many sailors have been lost overboard in this way, there is even a seaside pathologists' acronym: DYFU - drowned yachtie, flies undone). Anyway, this shark appeared from nowhere, swam about looking for the source of the smell, and finding nothing swam off, all before I could get my camera on him, of course. Don't suppose that they get too many DYFUs in the south Pacific!!
Next week I hope to go south to New Caledonia, but there is quite a bit of south in the wind, and if this doesn't swing round to the east a bit more I may have to give this place a miss and head straight for Australia. Likely final destination is now Bundaberg which is a bit to the north of Brisbane, for those poor souls amongst us who never had a gap year on the Queensland coast. In anticipation of more changeable weather I have spent the day practising with my sea anchor: this is a parachute that is deployed over the bows in stormy conditions. The theory is that the boat rides out the storm tethered to the parachute whilst the crew sleeps soundly down below. In practice I gather the sensation is a bit like abseiling down the Victoria Falls, even if the parachute does open! Another case for keeping ones fingers crossed whilst touching wood etc etc.
I'll keep you posted