17:31S 169:29E Vanuatu

Conor & Marion Wall
Thu 21 Jun 2012 03:28
Hello from Vanuatu.
Toucan arrived safe and well after another tough but fast passage from Fiji.
We watched as these two outriggers harvested the ‘Macreaw Fish’. Both canoes full.
We not quite sure how the fish was shared out but someone mentioned that every 10th one was special. Everyone happy.
We arrived on the Island of Anatom (Anatieum) which is the most southerly of the chain of islands. What a contrast from Fiji. Vanuatu is rather unique in the world in that it was, I believe, the only country to have been ruled jointly by Britain and France simultaneously. Even down to the fact that there were two police forces and French and English Jails. The mix of cultures is still there today and most people will speak three languages. French, English and their own dialect, of which there are many. A very poor country although that will soon change with the coming of the Cruise ships and hoards of tourists. Most of the islanders live a very simple lifestyle and the arrival of the outboard motor has yet to come to the majority, so fishing for the majority, is still done in dugouts and paddles as it has been for thousands of years. Fruit and vegetables are in abundance in the villages and all seem to be self sufficient. Villages are well kept and the villagers seem to take pride in their homes and gardens.
The first island where we landed was Anatom and there we were able to check in with customs etc. Thanks to the fact that there was a cruise ship in the bay, the P&O Pacific Jewell, all three officials were on hand and formalities completed in record time in a type of market building and later completed and monies handed over at the police station in the village on the island of Anatom very close to where we had anchored.. What a contrast from Fiji.
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The officials fly in from the capital to greet the cruise ships and clear the tourists ashore.
The anchorage was comfortable and the cruise ship passengers were using the small island within the bay area to offload the guests for some snorkelling and swimming and diving. On that small island there was also a grass airstrip and twice a week a small 12 seater plane would come and go.
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We were on our way back to the dinghy after a snorkel on the reef and the air strip was the obvious shortcut. Marion complete with goggles and snorkel. The other photo is what happens to you when you arrive on this island. Cruise Ships commercialise everything.
Weather was reasonable for our time in Anatom and we were waiting for a the opportunity to visit Port Resolution on the next Island in the chain.
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Some photos of the village at Port Resolution, everyone happy.
The construction was to be a house that would built from start to finish in about 3 days, not sure if they had planning permission or not, It was to replace the one just out of picture that was obviously at the end of it’s life.
Port Resolution, on the island of Tanna, is open to the East and is untenable in North East and North winds so we had to wait 5 days for the break in the weather to visit there. We got it just right and arrived on the Tuesday evening at Port Resolution. We immediately went ashore to search out the nephew of the chief of the village. He was the man that would organise our trip to the volcano. We had travelled in company with two other boats from Anatom so a nice little group would visit the volcano whilst the boats were left on anchor.
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Photos do not do justice to show the awesome power of this wonder. Before each explosion, which happened approximately each 10 minutes whilst we were, there was an almighty rumble and the ground would move. Some of the people in the group visiting actually ran away with fright. I have a video and will post it on youtube as soon as I get the opportunity.
Once again the weather was changing and the winds were coming around to the north so two nights was all that we could stay, perhaps just as well as who knows when this little baby might blow.and we were right under it.
From Tanna our next stop was Port Villa, the capital of Vanuatu and two islands away and an overnight passage. First half of the journey was good and as night approached we were passing the island of Erromango the wind seemed to die completely, I even landed a nice yellow fin Tuna, then as if a tap was opened the wind took off and blew at speeds of up to 35 knots.
Had him for dinner and boy was he tasty. Some for the fridge.
Not what we wanted (the wind that is) as we had hoped to time our arrival at Port Villa for the morning when it would be bright enough to see everything. We needed to go more slowly but with two reefs in the main and no headsail we were still doing 7 and 8 knots and some very big waves crashing into the cockpit. By the first light of the morning we had just entered the bay of Port Villa and were just able to pick our way past the dangers and arrived at our mooring knackered. A day of rest followed. We had travel led in company with two boats from the southern island one an Ovni 395, a French couple and another boat that was from Christchurch, that is Christchurch New Zealand.
The market in Port Villa.
The anchorage is just off the town and in deep water but the local club has kindly installed mooring buoys for about 40 boats. We were lucky enough to get one and were thankful that we did as for the next 3 days the winds had backed to westerly and blue straight into the harbour causing huge waves to crash against the town wall. The moorings were in a protected part of the bay hidden behind an island so we were relatively safe and comfortable. Nonetheless a lot of rocking and rolling was endured for the three days until the winds turned back to their usual direction of south east.
Village Life.
Port Villa is a lovely old style town with a lovely mix of shops and restaurants and surprisingly a good mix of industry and workshops. We hired a car with the French couple, Benuit & Dominique and did the tour of the island. Only really one road that took us all around the coast, a total distance of about 150 kilometres. The town of Port Villa is quite large and spread out and appears to have everything that . There is of course the usual squalor and opulence side by side but we have come to expect that in all the towns we have visited in the Pacific Islands.
There was one other thing that we might like to have done during our stay in Vanuatu. It was to see the legendary land diving that took place on the island of Pentecost. Look it up on Google. It could be considered the first bungee jumping. But Pentecost Island was another couple of days sailing away and time was pressing.
Shortly after our arrival in Port Villa there was a boat not unlike this one in the photo above that sank with the loss of several lives. Only 3 people survived as they managed to swim to the shore. Everywhere we go around here there are boats like this one full to overloading with people. This photo was taken in the safety of Port Vila harbour but many travel from Island to Island. I have yet to see a life jacket.
We needed to prepare for the next long sail to Australia.