Day 137, Year 2: Overnight Passage Back to Efate Island
Date: Saturday, September 8, 2007
Weather: Sunny Morning; Overcast, Rainy Afternoon; Sunny Evening with South-South-West Winds 5 Knots
Latitude: 16 degrees 33.626 minutes
Longitude: 167 degrees 53.269 minutes
Location: Enroute from Malekula to Port Havannah, Efate
A couple of days ago I wrote a log describing the struggle we are having between continuing our circumnavigation and the lack of funds to do so. We received a number of encouraging emails and gracious offers of places to stay when we come home this winter. I guess those offers reminded me just how wonderful and gracious friends and family can be, and led me to the realization that I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know that we will continue. I think just writing about the struggle helped
me to clarify the situation. As I live each day out here, I know I could not NOT continue. That’s a double negative, which must make the statement very postive. Voyaging around the world is almost like living in a dream world, and even if I return to the US deeply in debt, it will just have to be. I must continue the dream. We’ve been in debt before, and we’ll figure it out this time. Albeit, we were a bit younger when we climbed our way out before, but I know we will figure some way to do
it, even with gray hair!
We are headed back to the island of Efate. We will travel overnight tonight and arrive in the bay on the northwest corner of the island early in the morning. Havannah Bay is our destination. Unfortunately, we will be motoring all night. There is virtually no wind out here, but at least the seas are fairly flat and we have a bit of a favorable current going our way. Havannah Harbor has a lot of World War II history, none of which I know. But tonight while on watch, I will read about the area
and report on that in tomorrow’s log.
We spent the day at anchor in Gaspard Bay today, and I had so hoped to be able to travel by dinghy to the reef near Sakao to snorkel there one more time. It is a very shallow reef, so we knew we needed to wait until at least half-tide. The morning was beautiful, but low-tide was mid-morning. So we thought we would wait until about 1:30 PM and go then. At 1:00 PM it was still beautiful, but as we prepared to go, dark gray clouds loomed over us. I couldn’t believe it. I had washed sheets and
other clothes in the morning and had hoped to leave them out to dry until we left for our overnight passage. If we left to go snorkeling with the gray clouds overhead, I knew I would have to take the clothes in and that would mean leaving on an passage with lots of damp clothes hanging aorund the boat. So we opted to skip the snorkeling and stay to watch the clothes dry. At least this way, we could pull them off the lines at the first sign of rain. It was not long before the sprinkles started,
so I had to take the clothes in anyway. All I could say is that the weather was spoiling my party. Mark’s only remark to that was that I have way too many parties and that I shouldn’t be upset. I guess I’ll just have to live with that.
We left Gaspard Bay at 4 PM, just after a downpour. We waited for the rain to stop before pulling up anchor and as we motored out of the bay, there was a beautiful rainbow guiding us out. As I looked back to the bay, there were low-lying clouds between the hills in the bay and on the reef beyond. There was bright sunshine glistening off the green trees with frothy white surf rolling over the reef. It was beautiful. It was then that I realized that I didn’t know what day it is. Days of the week
have little meaning out here and if I didn’t write this log everyday, I would have no idea of date and time. But I do write this log, so now I know this is Saturday. But Saturdays out here are just like any other day. Before we retired, Saturdays had a whole different feel. We will arrive in Havanna Harbor on Sunday morning, and if we are very, very lucky, our friends on White Swan and Maggie Drum will still be there. We have been trying to catch up with them since we arrived in Vanuatu at Tanna Island. They are heading north while we are heading south, so we might not rendezvous until Australia. I’ll keep you posted on that one.
Day 136, Year 2: A Sailor’s Delight
Date: Friday, September 7, 2007
Weather: Sunny Day, ENE 15
Latitude: 16 degrees 28.408 minutes
Longitude: 167 degrees 49.215 minutes
Location: Gaspard Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu
If the early bird catches the worm, we caught it this morning. We pulled up anchor from behind tiny Suaro Island and motored between the mainland and Uri Island to the pass that would take us back out to sea. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds on the horizon and wispy white clouds above. And the sun was shinely brightly. Right away we put up the mainsail without any reefs and as soon as we were out of the pass and on course for Gaspard, we rolled out the full Yankee headsail. We were on
a perfect beam reach with fairly calm seas. Our course was 220 degrees and the wind was coming from just east of North at 120 degrees. The difference gave us an almost 90 degree angle to the wind and we enjoyed the ride. We put out the staysail for a couple of hours, but as the wind moved a little more behind us, we had to roll it in. For at least two hours we had the perfect sail. Mark said he thought it was the kind of sailing he had thought we would have been doing on our 3,000 mile trek
from the Galapagos to the Marquesas, but that just didn’t happen. We don’t get many days like this, so we really enjoyed it. We could see Ambrym Island with it’s volcanic cones topped with clouds and Penecost Island off to port. Penecost always seem to have low-lying clouds over it which makes it look a little foreboding. As the day progressed, we could Epi Island, little Emae Island, and even Efate, our final destination here in Vanuatu. It was a beautiful day with the full range of sailing
opportunities–beam reach with a full compliment of sails moving along at six to seven knots; broad reach with headsail and mainsail moving at about six knots; and finally a downwind sail with just the headsail poled out moving along at five knots. We had a favorable current with us the entire day and didn’t have to turn on the engine until we were ready to enter the pass that would take us to Gaspard Bay.
We arrived in Gaspard Bay just before 3 PM, had a very late lunch, and then launched our dinghy. We have had continued problems with the dinghy motor, and Mark had worked on it during the trip today and wanted to try it out. It is running better, but still not at full capacity. This is an old engine and we hope to baby it along for sometime to come, but right now it definitely needs some tender loving care. We took the dinghy out and ran it full tilt. It was certainly better than yesterday,
but not quite back up to speed. I then drove and took Mark out to the shallow reefs nearby. He jumped in to check out the underwater world. There wasn’t much to see, but he found a piece of dead coral he could stand on and washed his hair and bathed in the salt water. We had taken shampoo and soap along in case this was a possibility. When we got back to Windbird, he used the solar shower to rinse off with fresh water. We are doing fine with our water making, but we have been trying to do a
better job of conserving water. Salt water wash-offs conserve water and work fine as long as there is fresh water with which to rinse.
We have spent a lot of time this evening looking at our future cruising schedule. We will arrive in Australia in November, stay there through the cyclone season, and then work our way up the Coral Coast and across the top of Australia to Darwin. In July (2008), we will leave Darwin with the Sail Indonesia Rally. We spent time tonight trying to find the various ports that are part of the rally. We don’t yet have charts of that part of the world, so we were using a world atlas and our electronic
charting. What we discovered is that names are spelled much differently from source to source, so we still have a lot of searching to do to find all of the ports. Once we return to Port Vila on Efate we will be able to search the internet to fill in the blanks.
We plan to spend the day here tomorrow and hope to take the dinghy back up to Sakao to snorkel the reef across from the island. Late in the afternoon, we will take off on an overnight to Port Havannah on the north end of Efate. We can see it from here, but it is almost 80 miles away. Once there, we will spend a few days and then head on around to Port Vila to prepare for our passage to New Caledonia.
News Flash: We don’t get many news flashes out here, but we did get an email from our daughter Heather late today saying that she and Jed are actually going to be able to close today on a home they have been trying to buy. Closing had been put off due to some lack of documentation in paperwork, but it miraculously appeared today and closing happened instantly. So, congratulations to Heather and Jed. Now you just have to figure out how to sell the house, buy a boat, and sail around the world.
It’s the greatest!
Day 135, Year 2: Happy Anniversary to Heather and Jed
Date: Thursday, September 6, 2007
Weather: Rainy, Rainy Day
Location: Suaro Island, Port Stanley, Malekula, Vanuatu
Only four years ago this week, we sailed from Boston, Massachusetts to Boothbay, Maine aboard Windbird with our daughter Heather and her then prospective husband Jed. On September 6, 2003, Windbird sat at anchor just off Spruce Point in Boothbay during the wedding ceremony, and it was at that point that I started to feel as one with our floating home. We had just moved aboard Windbird and being aboard her for the wedding was very special. Family and friends gathered to give Heather and Jed the best possible launch into their new lives together and we were there with our home! Heather and Jed had three wonderful years together, and then a whole new dimension to their lives was added when Sam was born this past January. We are sad not to be with them to celebrate this fourth anniversary, but we are smiling as we call up the rich and wonderful memories of the wedding and reception, the special time with family, and the birth of Samuel Ellery. My understanding is that appliances are the appropriate modern day fourth wedding anniversary gift, but flowers or fruit were the traditional gifts. I’ll anxiously await hearing from Heather to see if she and Jed exchanged gifts this year, or just celebrated making it through another day. Since Heather just returned to work two days ago, I think the best anniversary present in the world would be a happy baby that just might have slept in more than one-hour stints through the night. I’ll report on this one once I hear from Heather and Jed.
Our day was totally overcast with drizzles in the morning, and a full-out rain in the afternoon. We didn’t let the weather stop us, however. In the morning, we went to the mainland to the wharf in a village called Litslip and walked a mile or so to the village of Lakatoro to the grocery store and market. In the US, you buy fresh veggies and fruit in the grocery store, but in this part of the world, you buy fruits and veggies at the market and everything else at the grocery store. I bought fresh bread, eggs, and chocolate cookies for Mark at the grocery store, and then bought a few fresh veggies at the market. We were given papaya by our friends from Uri village yesterday, and we have enough bananas for at least three boats, so we are all set with fruit for now. Mark did buy a traditional grater like one that we saw yesterday. It is the base of a particular palm frond with very rough ridges that allow you to use it as a grater. It will make a great conversation piece once we are back
in the US. Lakatoro is a small town and a World War II monument stands in the center of town. That’s about it. So we started walking back towards Litslip. Just out of town, I noticed a playground. There was a jungle gym all made out of wood–monkey bars, a little climbing tower, a slide, swings, and a sand box. It was so cute that we just had to stop to take pictures. In doing so, we noticed that there was a little one room building which we thought just had to be a school. We knew that the elementary school in Lakatoro has over a hundred students, so we knew this could not be that. We walked up to the building and saw little name tags on pegs for the children on the outside of the building, and I peered inside, I saw the artwork of kindergartners. As we were looking, a young woman and three of her children came to talk with us. Her name was Litin Morris and she happened to be the kindy teacher. Students are on holiday here, but she lives just next to the kindy. I was amazed at how similar this kindy was to one in the US, despite the fact that everything here, including the building, were constructed in the traditional style, using locally available natural materials. There were no desks, only woven mats on the floor, but there was student artwork hanging all around, a tree branch with alphabet cards hanging from it, another with numbers, and a third with shapes. Litin explained that the government kindergarten in Litslip has had no teacher for a very long time, and she started with private kindy to serve both Litslip and Lakatoro. Parents have to pay 1,000 Vatu per term, or 3,000 Vatu per year. That is the equivalent of $30.00 US–not much to us, but a huge amount for the people here. We walked all the way back to Litslip with Litin and her children. She was going to visit her mother and the walk gave us time to learn more about the education system here. She also helped Marie find some mangoes to buy. And by the time we reached Litslip, we were carrying even more bananas. People here stop you and insist on giving you food. They will often take nothing in return. They just want to share with you what they have. It is so special to receive this kind of welcome.
By the time we got back to the wharf, it was starting to rain pretty hard. It was hard to see our boats from the wharf as everything was in a mist. We went back to our boats, had lunch, and waited for the rain to stop so we could go snorkeling in the marine reserve one more time before leaving here tomorrow morning. We waited until 2:45 and it was still pouring, but both Paul and Marie decided to go with us. All I could think is that we all must be crazy. The rain pelted down so hard it stinged our faces and we dinghied out into the wind. We thought we could find the mooring ball we had used yesterday, but we searched and searched and couldn’t find it. We started to heade back, and then I spotted the little orangish-pink ball. It was much closer than we thought, so we had traveled much further than needed. We tied up to the mooring ball and got in the water. Mark, Paul, and I had on dive skins, but Marie was only in her bathing suit. I was so cold from the rain and I knew Marie must be freezing, but once we got in the water, we warmed up. Visibility was not great, but it was good enough to enjoy the fish life. Yesterday we had focused so totally on the clams that we wanted to return to enjoy the fish. And that we did. We especially enjoyed watching two Moorish Idols, the biggest any of us has ever seen. Even though the water was warm, I think we all got cold sooner than normal because we had gotten chilled on the way out. You just want to stay in the water forever to watch all of the fish, but the chill forced us out of the water and back to our boats. Of course, as soon as we returned, the rain stopped and it started to clear. Such is life.
Tomorrow morning we start our trek back south. We will return to Gaspard Bay at the southern end of this island and then make a decision on the next stop south depending on the weather. Some time in the next week or so, we will be back in Port Vila preparing to leave for New Caledonia. That will be the last country we visit here in the Western Pacific before heading to Australia. Fiji and Vanuatu have been wonderful stops. New Caledonia is French and not as poor as these countries, but it is supposed to be beautiful. So the adventure continues.
Day 134, Year 2: Struggles
Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Weather: Just a Beautiful, Sunny Day with Moderating Winds
Location: Suaro Island, Port Stanley, Malekula, Vanuatu
Today was a truly beautiful day. We spent a fantastic day with the people of Uri village today. Ranger and Windbird motored across the mile wide bay in our dinghies this morning to seek permission from the chief of Uri village to snorkel in the marine sanctuary. We were greeted at the beach by a delightful and very polite young man, Misael, who led us through the mangroves to his village. There we were met by several of the villagers and dozens of their beautiful young children. The village
only has about 100 people living there and we felt that there were almost that many children. We met George and his wife Mothey. George is the principal of the school on the mainland in Lakatoro. Students there are on a two-week vacation, so that is why George was on the island. We then met George’s father, Ericross, who was a delightful man of 65 who has retired from teaching first grade for 26 years. As we stood and talked to villagers, some men returned from fishing, and the new chief, Jackson,
was among them. Exactly thirty days ago, Patrick Willie, the former chief died. Jackson is his son and took over the duties of being a village chief. The former chief, Patrick Willie, was was the brother of Ericross, and also the brother of John Morrison Willie. John Morrison is a politician and has been elected to Parliament on two different occasions. He is presently running for office again and was off island today, attending meetings in Port Vila. We started to become totally enthralled with
the interconnections of all the villagers, but our goal was to gain permission to snorkel in the marine park, so we were sent on our way with Ron and John, our guides. Ron is the young son of Ericross and turned out to be a fantastic guide and new friend. The marine reserve was just fantastic–giant clams of many colors and big, beautiful reef fish. We took Ron back to Windbird with us so we could get on dry clothes before returning to the island for lunch. We copied the pictures we had taken
both in the village and underwater on CD for Ron. The village has a video screen with a DVD player. We wanted to share the pictures we had taken, and Ron was pretty sure a CD would work on the DVD player.
We returned to the village with Ron and had lunch. It was a delicious stir-fry over rice. Since today is the end of the thirty-day mourning period for the deceased Chief Patrick Willie, a big feast was being prepared. We got to see traditional laplap being prepared which was a very special treat. We then spent time with Mark and Paul working on an old bicycle that Ron owns. They actually got the gears working, but the tires need to be inflated and we don’t have the right connection on our hand
pump. We were invited to stay for the special dinner tonight, but we explained that it was a very long dinghy ride home that we didn’t want to tackle in the dark. But we were truly honored to be asked.
one of our struggles is whether or not to stay here one more day. If we do, we will sacrifice good winds heading south, but at this point we think we will stay and have less than perfect winds the next day for our trek south. The other struggles we are having are of a much more personal nature. We have spent so much more money than we had planned on this circumnavigation to this point that we are starting to have doubts that we can afford to continue. But how can we not continue? We have seen
and experienced so much, but there is so much more out there. But can we really afford to fly home to see our children? But if we can’t, can we really continue? For me, continuing on totally depends on being able to fly home to see kids (and the grand kid). These are some the questions that pose our struggle right now. In less than six-weeks we will be headed to Australia, and then our hope was to return to the US to see family and work for a few months. We have tried to find possible job opportunities,
but nothing has come through yet. Right now we are just not sure what we are going to do. We could stay on the boat in Australia but be unhappy because we could not see our children or we could fly home and enjoy our visit, but be constantly worried because we have spent money that we do not have. These are the struggles.
And just today, we heard from our daughter who returned to work for the first time since Sam was born. She is also having her struggles. I hope she won’t kill me for sharing part of her email for today, but I think it perfectly outlines the struggles that young women have, being torn between family and work. Here is what she had to say: “I was confident enough about Sam’s care that I wasn’t a basket case about being away from him. I just felt really disoriented at work … Where am I? What do
I do here? Science articles looked like they were in a foreign language and the idea of doing genome analyses and writing Perl programs was totally beyond me. So it’s going to take some time to ease back in. I told Jed I feel mildly schizophrenic, like I have two personalities, one of which has been in serious hiding for seven months. It’s going to take some time for scientist Heather to re-emerge and find a way to coexist with Sam’s mom. But I’m sure we’ll get there. Practice makes perfect, and
we’ve got lots of time to practice! Sam and I reconnected this afternoon by nursing for a while, going grocery shopping (something I used to hate doing is now one of my favorites … I put Sam in the Baby Bjorn and we check out all the colors,textures, people,sounds, etc.), then taking a nice long nap together.”
Day 133, Year 2: A Little Scare in a Tight Spot
Date: Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Weather: Repeat . . . Still Sunny and Still Windy
Latitude: 16 degrees 06.705 minutes
Longitude: 167 degrees 27.504 minutes
Location: Suaro Island, Port Stanley, Malekula, Vanuatu
Our travels from Banam Bay north to the Port Stanley area were “almost” uneventful, but not quite. We got an early start, pulling up anchor at 6:20 AM. This time were were prepared for the possible rough seas, but actually the rocking and rolling today was not bad. We had a downwind sail all the way. We first motored with a reefed main, but once we turned a corner, we rolled out the headsail and turned off the motor. We tried to sail wing and wing, but that didn’t work, we we lowered the main
and sailed with just the full headsail poled out. By 11 AM we were in the middle of the pass between two islands entering the Port Stanley area. We had lowered all sails and were motoring. The pass was almost a mile wide, but anytime you see turquoise water on both sides of you, it is time to watch very carefully. When we turned the key to start the engine, I was thinking about how reassuring it is to know that every time you turn that key, the engine is going to start. That got me to thinking
about David Laux back in Delaware who encouraged us to install the new Yanmar engine before starting our circumnavigation. Literally, at the very moment that I was thanking David in my mind, the engine just stopped running. I truly couldn’t believe it. I tried to start it, but the engine would just make little puttering sounds. It sounded like it wasn’t getting enough fuel, and we kept trying to start it to no avail. We were being pushed toward the reef on the port side by the current and wind,
so we quickly rolled out the headsail and I took the helm and turned us around to head back out to sea. Ranger was not far behind us, so they called to see what in the world we were doing. We explained that we were heading back out under sail until we could solve the engine/fuel problem. Naturally, the wind filled our headsail more than we certainly needed and we were flying back out to sea. If there is one thing you can count on out here, it is wind that is elusive When you really need it.
But when you are off guard or don’t really want to fly like the wind, it is always there with it’s full force. I stayed at the helm while Mark worked on the problem. The fuel tank we were using today was low, but certainly not empty. But because it was low, we assumed that the “gunk” that accumulates at the bottom of a fuel tank had gotten stirred up with our rocking and rolling and had blocked the fuel line or clogged the filter. Mark changed the filter and had me try to start the engine again,
and again, and again. Still just puttering noises. Mark went back down and used the axillary electric fuel pump to prime the engine and hopefully push out any air that had gotten into the lines when the first tank had been clogged. I tried to start the engine again, and this time with a little coaxing it worked. Whew! Again, we had to send thanks to David Laux. It was he who insisted that we install the axillary fuel pump. We did and hadn’t used it until sometime in Fiji. When we tried to
use it to move fuel from one tank to another, we found it leaked. Just before leaving Fiji we replaced the pump and today we were certainly glad that we had. So once again, thanks to our friend David. We think of you often.
By the time we turned around and got back to the pass, Ranger was attempting to anchor. They reported that the anchorage they had chosen was more exposed than they hoped and they didn’t like the close proximity of the coral heads. We decided to try a different anchorage behind an uninhabited island. It is a lovely spot and with a little work, we got the anchor to hold. Actually, Ranger decided to come join us, but after doing so they reported that the protection in their first anchorage was really
better. This one just doesn’t have the threatening coral heads, and that allows one to rest more easily. Scot Free II, Arctic Fox, and the four boats from Australia and New Zealand that sailed here on Sunday are nowhere to be found. We feel safe in the 15 knot winds we are having, but they were having almost 30 knots, so we assume they escaped to somewhere north of here.
As soon as we arrived, a young man and his nine-year old son came by in their outrigger to say hello and see if we wanted any bananas. We have more green bananas than we want, so we declined, but I did take one of his snake beans. This looks like a long striped cucumber, but it is a squash. He wanted “lollies” (lollipops) in trade, but we have none. The closest we could come was a couple of cans of Coke. When I asked the little boy his age, his father responded and then asked how old we are.
We told him and he just stared at us. He said he was twenty-four and I’m sure he thought we were ancient.
The water is warm and inviting here, so I just have to dive in to explore the anchorage underwater. As reported in the cruising guide, the coral is underdeveloped and not great. But I did manage to find my anemonefish family for the day, lots of Picassofish, and tiny little Saddled Butterflyfish. Always when I see baby fish, I think of our grand baby Sam. Hopefully someday I can share my underwater stories with him.
Day 132, Year 2: Bread, Granola, and Fish
Date: Monday, September 3, 2007
Weather: Still Sunny and Windy
Location: Still Here in Banam Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu
The number of boats in Banam Bay is steadily shrinking, and when we leave tomorrow morning only Kathy II of Australia and Galaxie of New Zealand will be left behind. There is one other boat anchored far away from the designated anchorage, but we have no idea who it is. So maybe three boats will be still be here as we head north to the Port Stanley area. We didn’t hear from our friends on Scot Free II or Arctic Fox today, but we did hear from a couple of New Zealand boats that left here yesterday
and spent last night in the Port Stanley area. They said they had 30 plus knots of wind when they arrived there yesterday and the entire anchorage area was unsettled. So they were moving on today. We are hoping things will be a little more settled when we arrive tomorrow afternoon. The winds are supposed to moderate some, but they were still blowing strong this afternoon.
This morning, I made bread and granola. Mark did a little stainless polishing, and in the early afternoon we picked up Paul and Marie and went searching for the snorkeling spot we had been told about by New Dawn and Monkey’s Business. They swore they saw 80 to 90 pound humphead parrotfish and huge groupers, but we were unsuccessful in finding their magic spot. We tried snorkeling in two different places, but then gave up and went back to the area we have been snorkeling for the past couple of
days. Two days ago, Mark and I found the most beautiful lettuce coral we had ever seen. And it was huge. But, of course, the camera battery had just run out of juice, so we didn’t get a picture. Yesterday I searched and searched for the spot, but just couldn’t find it. But today, Mark was successful in finding this treasure and he got some good pictures. This thing was not only beautiful, but it was huge–probably ten to fifteen feet wide and maybe twenty to thirty feet in length. Marie and
I also found some very interesting fish today. I had seen them yesterday and had no idea what they were. They swim in a head-down vertical position and are almost flat with a needle-like nose and a sharp razor-like tail. They look like floating leaves, except that they are almost transparent, not green, with a dark spine running their length. They were just hanging out in the staghorn coral and we found them fascinating. I had to look this one up tonight, and it is called a Razorfish. I also
had fun today playing with the Christmas tree worms. I love approaching them with my finger and watching them pull their frilly little Christmas tree-shaped bodies back into the coral. While doing this, I saw a little worm-like creature peering up at me. He looked like a submarine periscope. Half of the little creature was down in a hole in the coral, and the head was sticking up. I was curious and got closer, and all of a sudden, he shot out of his hole and came directly at me. I diverted
and he slid on past after giving me a good scare. He was only half the size of my little finger, but he was certainly aggressive. He was a garden eel and nothing to be frightened of, but anything that moves that fast underwater certainly gets your attention!
Banam Bay has been a wonderfully relaxing anchorage. The local people are friendly, but they totally leave you alone. We’ve been interested in the fact that there is not one fishing boat or sailing outrigger in this bay. I wish we had asked why. It is so strange not to see local boats. Maybe someone in the next anchorage will be able to explain this to us.