Vanuatu to Australia
23rd May to 2nd June 2011
Feeling much as we did when leaving the Galapagos and New Zealand, we are
leaving Vanuatu but wish we weren't – another month would only just be enough,
With passports stamped and clearance papers finalised, Chris made a last
sortie ashore to fill the fuel jerry cans that we store on deck. A young lad
passing helped him with the carrying back to the dinghy. This is typical of
Vanuatu, he expected no reward and was surprised and very pleased when Chris
off-loaded the last of our local currency into his pocket. Having done all the
preparation of filling up water tanks, stowing the fresh produce, fitting the
water powered generator, deflating and stowing the dinghy and the usual
departure checks, we were ready to leave at 13:00 p.m.
is almost a straight line from Luganville to Cairns so we can follow the rhumb
line apart from a massive area of reefs, cays and banks sprawled over 39,000
square miles of ocean which lie on the track. We shall be taking a gentle dog
leg route through the middle via a passage some 13 miles wide between Magdelaine
Cays and Willis Islets on the Diane Bank. We hope that we go through partly in
daylight in case we can see something of them; we are after all, in the Coral
Sea but with the clearances we are leaving its unlikely we shall see anything
but beacon lights at night.
Fishing continues, but our last 3 catches have been barracuda, which we
dare not eat so we have unhooked them at some peril from the vicious teeth and
returned them hopefully to live on in the watery wastes. This is our
3rd longest passage, we see very little indeed apart from our ongoing
companions: the wonderful military like gannets constantly soaring over the boat
to take a good look at us, the graceful and delicate petrels arrowing across the
sky and the never resting prions which feed on plankton, dipping into the sea
and sieving the water through their clever bills.
caught a Mahi Mahi, the beautiful fish, two days after the tuna ran out so our
freezer is full again. We have also passed through two shipping lanes, 20 miles
apart. Two ships were in the North to South lane about 8 and 10 miles away from
us but we saw nothing in the Northwards lane either by eye or radar. Our next
sea-mark will be the reefs, cays and islets which we will be entering in about
50 miles time. It may be that we shall have a stop there during the day as we
hope to enter the Great Barrier Reef to arrive at Cairns on the morning of
Thursday 2nd June but have been making over 7knots for some days now
which would give us an arrival on Wednesday at about 17:30 p.m. If this had been
in the morning it would have been a great birthday present but we don't want to
arrive in the evening so it will be a birthday at sea. Last year we arrived in
the Marquesas on my birthday after our 3,000 miles from the Galapagos, this year
we shall be just a day out.
is 03.40 a.m. and pitch black apart from a Pacific display of stars, the birds
are squawking to each other, quite loud. The start of the pass through the big
reef area is about 5 miles ahead now. It would have been nice to start this in
daylight but there should be light beacons which will be useful, the nearest one
which has a range of 18 miles is just over 20 miles away so can't see anything
light beacons operational although the islets did show up on radar! This is such
a dangerous place, without good charts it would be impossible, depths suddenly
rise from 500 metres to 16 metres then on into coral, all unseen apart from the
tiny islets which we can't see anyway. The sea remains uniformly dark blue, I
suppose because the water surrounding these reefs and cays is so deep that the
water colour doesn't change until right on top of them. We are now debating what
to do as we are due to arrive around midnight and we don't want to pay swinging
overtime rates for Quarantine, Customs and Immigration but the rule is that you
contact harbour control immediately you arrive day or night. We have looked
closely at one group of reefs on our electronic charts and reckon we could get
in but there is no anchorage marked as there is on some we have passed but there
are wreck symbols so we probably won't attempt to rest there. We shall probably
heave to until morning and wander up to Cairns in time for daily office hours,
the timing is just annoying and despite various sail plans the winds are the
winds and they will take us at their speed.
01/06/11 'Land Ahoy'
on my birthday (L'raine)!
Mount Frere, south of Cairns was spotted at about 17:10 p.m., it must be
huge as it is about 71 miles away. There are lots of products we cannot take
into Australia including eggs and honey so to use up the last of these we had a
honey cake for the birthday celebration. All fresh veg will be finished off
tonight and we just have one grapefruit left for the morning.
are having really eccentric winds, for half an hour we will be wondering if we
should reef down as we speed along at 7.5 knots then suddenly the wind drops off
to leave us with 4.5 knots for half an hour then its up to 6.3 knots, down to 5
then up to 7 again. We haven't experienced these rapid shifts before, it feels
very odd. The good news is that these fluky winds have meant that we should
arrive just after office opening hours in the morning. More peaks of land are
coming into view as the sun has dropped and is back-lighting the horizon with a
fabulous warm glow. This is rather good because although we are only 1,000 miles
below the equator, the wind is really cold – Chris has been wearing trousers
Gryphon II is currently being routed through the Great Barrier Reef via
Grafton Passage which takes several turns through the banks of reef, boulders
and sand. It is exciting and a little nerve racking going through in the dark,
it needs great trust in charts and beacons. It will take 6 – 7 hours to get
through to Cairns and we are looking forward to a flat sea inside the reef.
Arrived Cairns 08:00 a.m. Now berthed in Marlin Marina, cleared Customs
and Immigration who came to the boat followed by Quarantine inspection which
took 2 hours, they are very anxious about potential dry termite infestation
which can come in on foreign yachts. The only fresh produce we had left was some
heads of garlic which were taken along with an unopened packet of popping corn
from New Zealand and some unopened dry wild thyme from Tescos which seemed odd.
Anyway, yet again we have our clean bill of health and cruising permit so now
its some shut eye as we have been invited to a cruisers pot luck supper tonight.