2019 Vanuatu Zoonies good Effort to Efate

Wed 7 Aug 2019 19:23
17:44.59S 168:18.72E

Zoonie’s Good Effort to Efate

During the waiting hours before we set off at 5.00pm we busied our minds on small chores to help the time pass and just before we left I was playing the Wordscapes Game on my phone when are rather worrying set of words started to real themselves. I will let the photo speak for itself but I think it is safe to say that these are the words no yachtsman wants to read just before setting out on a passage. Shall I tell Rob now or when we are safely at anchor or mooring buoy I thought and decided on the latter when it became a source of fun. It reminded me, though, of Donald Campbell who apparently drew the combination of playing cards that denotes Death the night before he took Bluebird on to Coniston Water and hit a tiny wave that lifted the front of the machine high in the air before it disappeared beneath the water of the dark lake.

Zoonie quickly turned what had been an anxiously anticipated passage into a thoroughly enjoyable one and I loved her all over again for it. With a pocket hanky main and a hair ribbon genoa she quickly got into her groove. The main was reefed because of the split seam(s) but the foresail was reefed to keep her speed down to 5 knots so we would arrive in daylight at the waypoint we had placed off the peninsular where we would turn for the harbour of Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital city .

She rolled along nicely at five knots close hauled and just to the right of our desired course and the sea was re-assuringly comfortable suggesting there were only light to moderate winds out there. The night sailing was proving to be a steadier option than daytime when diurnal wind patterns become established around and over the islands to do with the difference in air temperature over the sea coming into contact with the warmer land temperatures.

Zoonie tucked 50 miles under her sailing belt before the wind turned to face her, put up its hand palm facing her and said “No more by that means lady”, so on went the engine and away we furled the jib at 3.30am. There is something wrong with the furler, it furles in ok but furling out is a hard task and we must get it sorted. We rely on the foresail more than any other sail as you know.

Helming was a pleasure under the starlit sky in the cool of the night and dawn started creeping into the sky, as it is now, around 5.30am. The channel is well marked because container ships and cruise liners use this port and nearing the shore I spotted what appeared to be a massive Quarantine buoy. We knew the anchorage was anywhere immediately around it but I hadn’t expected such a big, bright orange buoy at least 27 feet across until we got a little closer and saw it was an all-orange yacht! I don’t know if I could live on a vessel where everywhere you looked was orange. The actual quarantine buoy is a tiny yellow pillar buoy.

We anchored on coral, not a secure holding at the best of times and with the promise of moderate winds in a couple of days Rob was not happy. The alternative was to pick up one of the many substantial Yachting World Marina buoys at £10 per day for total peace of mind.

Just as an aside and by co-incidence Tom Cunliffe writes a Seamanship column in the UK sailing magazine called Yachting World and he is including my account of our sail from Fiji back to New Zealand in the November issue just in case you are interested.

The kind lady on their radio said that Moses would be waiting for us to give us a hand with the mooring so we motored gingerly into the lagoon between pretty Iririki Island and the town, through a little channel over the reef where Zoon’s echo display recorded what to the uninitiated would have been an alarming drop in figures, in metres, 28, 23, 17, 14, 9, 6, 3, 1.9, 1.2, 1.1!!! The depth reads from the keel down which makes sense as that’s the part of her that would touch first, so we really had 2.2 from water level. As we passed over this pale green stretch I was watching the decreasing numbers as I watched our progress to the deeper blue water; that helped.

Rob sorted out the two mooring lines to go through the rope loop Moses held up while I kept Zoonie nosing into the mooring as best as I could see over the inflated dinghy that lay upside down on the foredeck and in moments we were secure, just before the 24 metre high overhead cables and right infront of the Iririki Island Resort entrance jetty and amidst the most lovely birdsong.

Two islands I thought, the big one Efate and the little one Iririki, we’ll motor around one and canoe around the other.

 The Flower Rob is holding is the Banyan Tree Flower and the white filaments are tipped with orange and look just like fibre-optics, as beautiful as the tree itself.

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