Day 105, Year 2: Arrival in Vanuatu–Rough but Safe
Date and Time: Tuesday, August 7, 2007; 1900 Fiji Time
Weather: Winds SE 20 Knots; Rainy, Squally Morning; Some Sun in the PM
Latitude: S 19 degrees 31.564 minutes
Longitude: E 160 degrees 29.728 minutes
Location: Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Friday–Leaving Fiji with Hefty Winds and Rough Seas
Saturday–Great Downwind Sail, Wing and Wing
Sunday–Another Great Sailing Day with Unexpected Moderate Winds and Moderating Seas
Monday–No Wind; Motored All Day on Flat Seas
Tuesday Morning Beginning at 5 AM–25 to 30 Knot Winds on the Nose, Seas Building, Very Little Visibility, Basically Yucky
That’s the run-down on our passage from Fiji to Vanuatu. We had a bit of everything, but talking with those who left two days before us and those who left the day after we did, we definitely had the middle ground and the best sailing conditions. La Vie left two days before us and had the roughest conditions on their first day that they have ever experienced. Maggie Drum and White Swan left 18 hours after we did, but they were hit with the front this morning and are having to endure it all day
today and through the night tonight. So maybe leaving on a passage on a Friday wasn’t such a bad idea. A squash zone is developing out there right now, so the next few days will not be good for a passage. Short of waiting for another week or two, I think we picked the right time to leave Fiji. The challenge of sailing is getting it right with the weather, and that is not an exact science by any means. Enduring a bit of “yuckiness” just goes with the territory, but a splendid territory it is.
As we approached Tanna Island this morning at sunrise, you could hardly see the island–but you could smell the volcano. I felt like I was sailing in Maine in a good fog. No visibility in reef country is never a nice thing, but we did have tested waypoints and a track into Tanna sent to us by Dave on La Vie. So as long as we could keep the boat on the track we would be fine. But before entering the pass, we had to lower the mainsail, and that is when I go into panic mode. What if the engine
should fail? Would we be able to raise a sail in such strong winds fast enough to keep us off the reef? I was sharing my panic with Ranger on the VHF when Jan on Christina called from inside the anchorage. I think he could hear the near panic in my voice and he assured us that it was an easy in and that it was much calmer inside. We have only met Jan and Christina of Christina recently, but more than once they have been there to help guide us into questionable anchorages. That’s what the cruising
community is all about–people from all over the world pitching in to help each other when needed. I love it.
About an hour out of Tanna, we could smell the volcano. It was pouring rain and the wind was blowing directly over the island and in our direction. Wet volcano smell is sort of like wet dog smell–not pleasant. Once we were in the anchorage, however, the smell went away completely. We couldn’t see anything beyond the shore until mid-afternoon, but as evening approached, we could see mountains to our west. We think one of those might be Mt. Yasur, the active volcano. Anchoring here was fairly
easy. Port Resolution has gotten shallower and shallower over the years as it has been uplifted from the sea. Such is life when you live where two major tectonic plates are competing under you. We anchored between Christina and La Vie, with Blue Marlin slightly in front of us. Christina is a boat from Sweden and Blue Marlin is a boat from Norway with Idunne, Runae, and their twins, Marita and Hedda aboard. We haven’t seen them since New Zealand, so I look forward to getting together with them.
Late in the afternoon, we put the dinghy in the water and Mark went to shore to check out the situation here. He followed Jan and Christina of Christina in and shortly afterward, I saw the Runae and Idunne on Blue Marlin head in with their two girls. I kept thinking that Mark should be back, but I was working on naming pictures and didn’t poke my head out of the boat. Finally, I went up into the cockpit to see if he might be returning. What I saw was Mark furiously trying to row our dinghy against
the 20 plus knots winds. I feared that he could be swept out to sea, but then I saw that Dave and Kathy on La Vie were putting their dinghy motor on so they could assist. Mark was holding his own, but thank goodness that Dave was able to tow him in. He worked on the dinghy motor once he returned, but he is not sure what the problem might be. We had planned to go over to Ranger this evening to talk about plans, but we will have to do that another time. Mark did return with new information. Ten
of us will be meeting on the beach in the morning at 7:30 AM to ride across the island to Lenakel to check-in. It is a grueling two-hour ride in the back of a pick-up truck, but we will take boat cushions that will help insulate us from the bumpy ride. While we are doing this, Maggie Drum and White Swan will be coming in here. The winds are supposed to stay strong and turn to the East. If that really happens, we might all have to vacate to Port Vila on Efate Island, an overnight sail from here.
Evidently this anchorage can get a little rough with East winds. I’m really hoping we don’t have to leave before we get to go to the volcano. Right now we are slated to visit the volcano on Friday. Samuel, the village chief’s son, met with Mark and gang and made the arrangements for tomorrow and for Friday. On Friday we can go to a kastom village (the naked people as Samuel calls them), go to the volcano around 4 PM and stay until sunset to see the fireworks, and then go to a Jon Frum (the cargo
cult) village to witness the Friday night dancing. Sounds like a great day, so I sure hope the weather allows us to stay here.
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