Luganville, Espiritu Santo

Sun 4 Oct 2015 21:11
15:31.378S 167:09.84E

Yet another night passage took us up to Luganville on Espiritu Santo, the second biggest town in Vanuatu. We needed to come there to check out. It’s the most Northern port in Vanuatu, so although we’re not done with Vanuatu yet one can check out, get a cruising permit and make a final clearance from Sola on Vanua Lava

I should explain. We don’t choose to sail overnight because we like missing a nights sleep and not being able to see much. It’s because the distances between our stops have been just a little too long for a day sail. When one is sailing you can’t guarantee how long it will take you - it depends on the wind of course. We don’t want to end up arriving in an unknown anchorage after dark, trying to find our way in when we can’t see if the water’s shallowing or where the reefs are.. Apart from in Port Vila, there’s been no lights to guide you in Vanuatu so it’s better to sail overnight, heave to offshore if we get there too early, and come in when the sun’s up and we can see what we’re getting ourselves into. It means we’ve not been having anchor beers. We have been known to have an anchor beer even at 5am after a long passage but generally we don’t feel like one after being up most of the night, more like a cup of tea and a snooze. No problem: there’ll be more for the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea!

But this night’s passage was definitely a good idea. For a few hours between the sun setting and the moon rising the sky to the East of us glowed and flickered over the magical island of Ambryn. There’s an active volcano there where one can actually look over the edge into a bubbling crater full of molten lava (if you’re up to the 8 hours walking it takes to hike there and back). The glow from this was lighting up the underside of the clouds and provided us with a marvellous light show 20 miles away. There were strong winds, but they were behind us so we just flew a reefed mizzen and the staysail and we were flying along comfortably with light apparent wind, watching molten rock that had bubbled up from the depths of the earth light the sky. 

Luganville is a much smaller town than Port Vila, it’s a nice enough place, full of Chinese general stores, with an exceptionally good hardware store. There were a lot of kava bars, more than we’d seen in Port Vila, we thought at first they were there for tourists but there aren’t so many tourists in Espiritu Santo and I think in retrospect they were for the locals. The other change we noticed was the almost complete absence of Mother Hubbard dresses with a lot of the young women wearing shorts and t-shirts. They wore long shorts though, to the knee, which looked rather like they were wearing men’s shorts, we’re used to women generally wearing shorter shorts than men.

We stayed long enough to sort out customs and immigration and fetch diesel, taking jerry cans in the dingy to the shore then a taxi to the petrol station, then moved on to a more sheltered anchorage as some strong winds were forecasted. 

I took no pictures at all in Luganville so instead, randomly, I will share some pictures of an interesting tree. Enjoy:

Remember this seed I photographed in Fiji? We see them all over the place but hadn’t realised which tree they came from.

We find these all over, mostly not as brightly coloured as this one though.

We’d also seen this type of tree on Vanuatu and wondered about the ‘fruit’. It looked a bit like breadfruit though knobblier, but the leaves were all wrong. Close inspection of one of the ‘riper’ fruits shows that they are the source of the seeds we’d been spotting, they are more like cones than fruits. It seems that this is the tree the locals get the leaves from to make the mats they weave.


A close up of the ‘fruit’ shows that they are made up of the seeds clustered together, you can see a gap where one fell out.