Fiji to Vanuatu
Sun 5 Oct 2014 22:42
We checked out of Fiji on Friday, 26th September. Once checked out you have 24 hours to clear Fijian waters. We left Vuda Marina and anchored behind Musket Cove a good stepping off point for the sail to Vanuatu. The plan was to leave first thing Saturday morning. Syd got down the local weather and it showed a nasty low pressure over Vanuatu with strong winds but it was predicted to head South to pick up strength and batter New Zealand so we decided to postpone our leaving to Sunday. We left Sunday morning 8.30 am and motored out past the famous surf break Cloudbreak off Tavarua Island, it was perfect conditions, sun, blue sky and blue sea. As we got out the wind picked up and was blowing from the North East (not predicted) but perfect for the start of the crossing so we flew on on a beam reach averaging 6 knots. Fishing line out and complete with Curly's famous lure it was'nt long before we caught a good sized Mahe Mahe, then later in the day a second much larger Mahe Mahe. Syd's fishing triumphs are becoming a regular occurence since he parted with $50 for 2 special 'guaranteed to catch' fish lures. Fresh fish and stir fried veg a la Syd for T and end of a perfect sailing day. Of course this good feeling was bound not to last. I noticed clouds building on my watch and about 10.00pm the speed shot up from 6.5 to 7.5 knots, and the wind started to swing round to the South (again not forecasted!) so I woke Syd and we jibed and reduced sail, so it was close hauled and a battle. Seas were building and the sky was ominously getting blacker, the wind howled and on we lurched and banged. Wind was increasing and heading up to 25 knots so 3 reefs in mainsail and a tiny bit of Genoa and we were hurtling along then the rain started, it bucketed it down. Syd knew he was in for a wet cold sleepless night as the temperature had plumetted, so we both huddled up in full oilskins and tried without success to keep warm. I gave up and went to bed leaving poor Syd master of the seas to do battle.
Day 2 was even worse, the seas had built to massive proportions and waves were crashing over the boat proving that there are far to many leaking hatches! We both felt seasick, I don't think I have ever known Syd to be so quiet. On we lurched. The frustrating thing was that even with that strong wind the waves were stopping us and slowing us down. It started to lessen later in the day but it was still very cold and we were both pretty miserable.
Day 3 and the South wind continued but we had managed to get back on course and the ETA was for middayish the following day.
Land Ahoy and the little island of Anatom, Vanuatu started to grow before us, with its angry looking reefs protecting it and preventing the crashing seas from entering. We sailed in through the reef and dropped anchor - all alone, in front of Inyeug Island (known to the cruise ships that visit as Mystery Island). Relieved to have arrived in one piece (other than having lost yet more metal clips that hold the mainsail into the groove of the mast).
First impressions, a bit too green (rain!), much too cold but gorgeous scenery and Inyeug Island a perfect picture postcard desert Island.
Early morning call next day from Jessie the local policeman, he was just there to chill with us for a while and seemed quite happy to sit and drink juice and consume our only packet of chocolate chip cookies! Next visitors Customs and Immigration 2 jolly looking rotund men who again seemed more interested in a social call than formalities. As we had no local money to pay them we headed into the 'one horse Town' (literally they have one horse but he was the most well fed splendid looking horse I have seen in all our travels!) to find the Bank which was a still to be completed impressive brand new stone building that the locals had taken to going to and just hanging around in the porch it was such a novelty to them.
Slight problem the Bank had no card machine and only exchanged cash, so it was back to the boat to scrape together $US. We were still knackered so did not return to Town again and next morning had another visit from Customs and Immigration, this time they both made themselves very comfortable in the cockpit and demanded a beer then proceeded to suggest that if we did not have the money we could pay them in Whisky!!!! Sadly we had no whisky so it had to be $US but we know if we ever visit these remote islands again it is much cheaper to pay your entry fees in alcohol!
Once free of visitors we headed over to Mystery Island to spend an afternoon alone enjoying the crystal clear snorkelling before the influx of 2,000 cruise ship passengers the following day. It is the only income for the locals of the Town and they all head over there with anything they have to sell when the cruise ships arrive. The following morning we went back to Mystery Island to see what it was like with 2,000 extra visitors - definitely NOT good.
Mystery Island got its name from a stop Queen Elizabeth made on her tour to Vanuatu (then New Hebrides) in the 1970's. Britannia stopped for the Queen and Prince Philip to swim off the island and the story goes Prince Philip threw some of the crystal clear water up in the air (no doubt drowning the Queen) and declared it to be a mystery. Probably a tall story but the name intrigued the Cruise Ship companies enough for them to add it to their Itineraries and now Celebrity and P & 0 make regular visits giving their passengers a day on a desert island in the middle of nowhere. It has also meant the entire area is a Marine Reserve.
The strong winds have returned with vengeance but we have decided there is not time to see any more of Vanuatu and its 83 islands (we realise now that to really see each of these groups of islands you need a whole season for each one). So we are leaving for Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, a total contrast to here as it is labelled the most sophisticated City in the South Pacific. A 250 mile sail but we need some East in the wind! It is French governed so we are looking forward to a Carrefour and getting some food treats again. Then it is the final 800 mile leg of this epic year of travel, Brisbane Australia.