Day 143, Year 2: Happy Birthday to Justin

Day 143, Year 2: Happy Birthday to Justin
Date: Friday, September 14, 2007
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day
Location: Port Vila, Efate

Today was just a gorgeous day here and we are hoping that September 14 in Albuquerque is an equally beautiful day. Our “baby” boy, now living in Albuquerque, turns 30 years old today. He has always been a ray of sunshine in our lives and he deserves a beautiful day for this special occasion. We really can’t believe our youngest child is 30, but once again, the calendar doesn’t lie. Justin, we love you so much and hope that you and Jo are having a wonderful day. Our September 14th is ending,
but yours is just beginning, so have a great one. We are thinking of you.

Our day today was “interesting.” Mark was up until after midnight last night working with the refrigeration system. He has always used very small canisters of refrigerant and knows just how to top up the system with those. But when we got home from going out to dinner last night, he decided to try topping up with the large tank of R134a we bought yesterday. He either had too much or too little refrigerant in the system and had to stay up and keeping toying with it. By morning the whole system
was not working very well. Our first task this morning was to get on a bus and go across town to Vila Refrigeration to see if they could come out with their gauges and help us balance our system. A young man named Adrian who is in charge of repairs was willing to fit us into an already booked day. He said he would meet us on the dock at 1:30 PM. We were very relieved that he was willing to come and hopefully save the day for us. Once that was settled, we hopped back on a bus (a little minivan
that costs about $1.00 US no matter where you need to go) and went back to the internet cafe to to finish uploading the very last of the picture folders and to continue exploring airline ticket costs for a trip home this winter. Flying home from Australia is going to cost somewhere between $1,600 and $2,000 each. That’s a lot of money. But we keep hoping for a miracle. Last year we were able to buy tickets from New Zealand to Boston for only $800 each, so we’re hoping for a similar deal. It
is not working, but we can be hopeful.

Our next adventure for the day was to go to the Vanuatu National Museum. We had tried to visit the museum when we were in Vila the first time, but it was a holiday and the museum was closed. Today it was open and it was just delightful. Both the museum in Suva, Fiji, and this one are real jems in the South Pacific. They are both small and done in a very simple manner, but both have wonderful displays of artifacts from their respective cultures. We had limited time today since we had to meet
Adrian at 1:30, but we hope to return before we leave here. I was absolutely fascinated with a museum employee who demonstrated sand drawings and played the bamboo flute and panpipes as I have never heard them played before. Paul and Marie of Ranger went with us and they were able to stay longer. It was so special to see so many of the things that we have seen and experienced out in the islands and to get to read the descriptions of those things.

We met Adrian at 1:30 and it took about an hour for him to get things back in balance. The refrigerator and freezer both seem to be running fine now, but we’ll have to watch for a day or so to make sure. When we took Adrian back to shore, we then started our quest to find heavy duty battery cable to make a direct run from our alternator to our batteries. Right now we have a complicated system that might be losing some power. But after going to every possible source of heavy duty battery cable,
we came up empty handed. We were also searching for a new light bulb for our speader light, but that is no where to be found either. So we did lots of running around and saw new parts of town that we had not seen before, but we didn’t find the things we were after. Neither is essential, so we will try again in New Caledonia, and if there is nothing there, we will hope that we can get what we need in Australia.

Tomorrow we hope to talk with our kids on Skype and do some boat maintenance. We are starting to watch the weather for that weather window that will take us to New Caledonia. Right now it looks like we could have a bit of a wait, so we will get to see more of Port Vila.

070914 Day 143 Efate, Vanuatu-
Vanuatu National Museum

Day 142, Year 2: Vanuatu Photos Are Posted

Day 142, Year 2: Vanuatu Photos Are Posted
Date: Thursday, September 13, 2007
Weather: Sunny Morning; Rainy Afternoon
Location: Port Vila, Efate

Today was a work day. Laundry was on the line by 8:30 AM. About that time, Max from the German yacht Safina come over to see if the “rumor” he heard we had been spreading was true. We had been sited as the source of information about the new law in Indonesia that is resulting in exhorbitant entry fees for yachts. He was absolutely sure we couldn’t be right about that, but I pulled up the article we had downloaded just yesterday explaining the new law and the confusion it is causing. As he so
readily stated, this is an insane law and it means that no cruisers can go that way. But until this gets sorted out, we all have to make alternate plans. As soon as Max left, we were on our way to Cafe Connect to upload more photos and do a little internet research. I downloaded information on all the countries we might be visiting next season while Mark started the photo uploading process. The photo uploading continued throughout the day with one of us baby sitting the computer while the other
ran errands. I tramped about town in the afternoon pouring rain looking for computer printer ink, taking Mark’s glasses in to be repaired, looking for R134a refrigerant gas, and looking for a replacement for our spreader light bulb. We’re still looking for a spreader light bulb replacement, but we were successful on the other counts. We can now have fun tomorrow visiting the Vanuatu Museum. There is still a great deal of boat maintenance to be done before we can leave here, but we will fit that
in between other activities.

The great news of the day is that all of our Vanuatu photos are posted on the website. If you want to view those, you go to a travel log and double click on the picture at the end of the post. If there are underwater photos, they are in a second folder at the end of post. We’ve done the best we could to accurately name the fish in the underwater photos, but we have limited resources aboard and know that we are not on target with all of our captions. If you have corrections, we’d love to hear
from you. There are SO many variations of every fish depending on sex and stage of development. Snorkeling with an underwater camera and then naming the photos could become a full time job!

Tonight we went to Le Rendez Vous, our favorite restaurant from our first visit to Vila. Thursday night is Sri Lankan curry night. It was very good, but I know that I ate way too much. I’m going to need to do a lot of running around town tomorrow to work it off.

Day 141, Year 2: The Drizzles Continue

Day 141, Year 2: The Drizzles Continue
Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Weather: Overcast and Drizzly
Location: Port Vila, Efate

We continue to be dominated by a trough that leaves us without sunshine and with drizzles pretty much all day long. But at least it is not pouring rain. Mark and Paul on Ranger went to Customs early this morning to check-in and then Mark and I spent the better part of the morning doing various computer jobs. I also spent time getting the very last photograph named and giving all of the photo folders to Mark to caption in Picasa so he could start the uploading process today.

Just after noon, we went to shore and Mark made himself at home at the Connect Cafe while I walked to town to send the CD for Maureen’s retirement, to get money from the ATM, and to pick up some bread and lettuce from the market. I have to admit that I spent a bit of time just browsing through the downtown shops after accomplishing my goals, and then I headed back to the Connect Cafe which is right next door to the Waterfront Bar & Grill.

For those of you who are waiting for new photos, you’ll have to wait at least another day or two. The connection was slow today and Mark only got a few folders uploaded. Hopefully tomorrow’s connection will be faster and he will get them all uploaded. I’ll fill you in on that tomorrow night.

When I returned from town, I spent some time checking our website and reading some of the comments that have been posted there over the past month. There are a couple of people who seem to follow our adventures pretty closely and then there are many friend who reconnect with us after long lapses through the website. And then there are totally random people who find our website and with whom we often find we have other connections.

We are probably here for a few days while we wait for the right weather window for heading to New Caledonia. Mark has been following the weather and he thinks the window might come as soon as Sunday. Not sure we’ll be ready to leave by then, but we will continue working in that direction. Next stop–New Caledonia.

Day 140, Year 2: . . . and Captain Cook Didn’t Have a GPS

Day 140, Year 2: . . . and Captain Cook Didn’t Have a GPS
Date: Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Weather: Overcast; Winds Variable ESE to E 15-30+
Latitude: 17 degrees 44.859 minutes
Longitude: 168 degrees 18.676 minutes
Location: Port Vila, Efate

It’s always a special feeling to come into an anchorage and meet up with friends you haven’t seen for a very long time. Just after we arrived in Port Vila today, Jamie and Lucy Telfer of Savoir Vivre came over in their dinghy to stay hello. We haven’t seen them since Tonga last year. They are the most upbeat young couple and are always a joy to be around. We agreed to meet at the Waterfront Bar & Grill where we “park” our dinghies for drinks at 5 PM. The title of today’s log came out of that
meeting, but I will get back to that. First, I’ll backtrack to our trip here.

We left Sema Bay in Havannah Harbor at 7:30 this morning and almost immediately put up a reefed mainsail. Winds were predicted in the upper teens, but we know that can mean half that again, and we have learned the hard way that it is always better to start off with a reef that can easily be released rather than trying to reef a mainsail in heavy winds. I protested a little thinking that we should have up the full main, but Mark reminded me of our “better safe than sorry” rule. We knew we were
going through a pass, then around the south side of Efate and further around Devil’s Point which is known to be wicked. So I acquiesced and we headed out of Hillard Channel between Efate and the much smaller island of Lelepa with just the reefed mainsail. Almost immediately, the winds increased from the low teens to the upper twenties. We were getting gusts to 33 knots. Once we got through the pass and turned southeast along the coast, we raised a scrap of headsail. We were on a beam reach and
continued to get winds gusting to 30 knots. We were fine and had a fairly decent ride even though we were heeling at a 20 degree angle. We flew down the coast and then had to make another turn to the East and this put the wind right on our nose. We had to turn on the motor and forge our way from this point on in to Port Vila. Ranger was behind us and little further away from the shore. They had a much rougher ride than we did, but we all reached Port Vila just fine.

Mid-afternoon Ranger called and asked if we would like to go ashore for an “anchoring beer.” This is an offer we just can’t refuse, so we met them at the Waterfront Bar & Grill at 3:00. We all wanted to check land-based email, so we decided to put off the “anchoring beer” for an hour or so while we went to the internet cafe. Mark and I were so anxious to see pictures of Justin and Jo’s new home in Albuquerque, their puppy Alfie, and their three little kittens. And, of course, we were very anxious
to see the latest photos of our grand baby Sam and Heather and Jed’s new home on the Cape in Massachusetts. Both Justin and Heather post their photos on Picasa on the web so we can see them when we have an internet connection. It is not as good as seeing them in person, but it makes us very happy when we come into port to be able to see the latest photos. We also checked email, bank statements, etc. We had finally earned that “anchoring beer” and we settled back and talked about the challenging
sail here today. Jamie and Lucy joined us and we caught up on all the news from friends back in Fiji. Jamie and Lucy are from England and I told them that we have a new daughter-in-law from Haselmere. Jamie explained that this is only about 20 minutes from his home and he and Lucy proceeded to teach us about the geography of England.

We then went on to talk about sailing and our experiences of the past two seasons. What is blue-water sailing really like? Well, it all depends on the boat, how it is equipped, and the way the captain runs the ship. We talked about the fact that our experiences are so very, very different from those who circumnavigated just a few years ago. We all have watermakers, so the value of having a stand alone shower on our boats is highly valued. We all have laptops and use them extensively, whereas
before email and electronic charting, a computer was just not that useful. Before the advent of reliable auto pilot, world cruisers were at the helm steering 24 hours a day. That is just not the case these days as either “auto” or windvane steering does that job for us. The discussion was fascinating and it made us all realize just how much things have changed just in the past ten to fifteen years. Famous world sailors Eric and Susan Hiscock didn’t have an auto pilot or a water maker or refrigeration
when they first circumnavigated. The same was true for Hal and Margaret Roth. Lynn and Larry Pardy continue world cruising with no engine. Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger didn’t have refrigeration or a watermaker when they went around the world in the early 1990’s. The list went on and on, and it was then that Paul said, ” . . . and Captain Cook didn’t have a GPS.” All of us have made this journey, but each in his or her own time and own way, but these days we all have a GPS.

070911 Day 140 Efate, Vanuatu–Havannah Harbor to Port Villa

Day 139, Year 2: Planning, Planning, and Planning

Day 139, Year 2: Planning, Planning, and Planning
Date: Monday, September 10, 2007
Weather: Mostly Overcast
Location: Sema (Esema) Bay Anchorage, Havannah Harbor, Efate

It was not in the plans, but I got up at 5:30 AM this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I got up and enjoyed the early morning here in Sema Bay. Roosters were crowing, turtles were swimming, and birds of all kinds were singing. And it was only 74 degrees out which made it feel like fall to me. At 6 AM I listened to The Rag radio net to see who is sailing where and to check out the weather. Mary Christine, the French woman out here single handing, sailed out of the anchorage just as the
sun came up. Not long after, Mary and Chris on Aventura pulled up anchor. They are sailing Jimmy Cornell’s original Aventura and they are heading north to the Solomons, on to the Phillipines, and to Hong Kong. I’m not an early morning person, but this early morning was delightfully quiet time here in Sema Bay.

Mark got up earlier than usual, but not as early as I did. Just as he came up into the cockpit, one of the local outriggers came up to the boat. It was a man, his wife, and their six year-old little girl. Roland and Anna were the couple and their daughter’s name was Dellianna. They were sailing from Moso Island to the mainland to their garden. In fact, there are a number of outriggers and a couple of aluminum boats with motors that make this trip most days. Roland, Anna, Dellianna were going
to their garden, and then Anna and Dellianna were going to take the vegetables and ride the bus to Vila to the market there. That market is open round the clock, so they would be spending the night in Vila. They were such a delightful family and so happy to see Americans. Dellianna was named after an American friend, and Roland pointed out to us that the US and Vanuatu flags both have the same motto. Our is “In God We Trust” and theirs is “Blong God Yu Me Stand Upum” (or something like that).
This is the second time we have heard this, so I need to find out the exact Bislama writing on the Vanuatu flag.

Ranger called early this morning to tell us that they had decided to head back to Vila tomorrow morning. I was still hoping to try and find our way into some tricky anchorages nearby where there is supposed to be fantastic snorkeling. But one of the islands requires permission from a village chief in a village that is not easily accessible and all of the anchorages come with risks due to lots of coral heads. I persisted into the afternoon saying we would not head back to Vila but explore some
of the “risky” anchorages, but after rereading the information, I had second thoughts. We have decided to head back to Vila with Ranger tomorrow. I will have many opportunities to snorkel in New Caledonia, and once we made the decision to head straight back to Vila tomorrow, I started getting excited about getting there and being able to check the internet for updated photos on Picasa of our kids. Our son Justin turns 30 on Friday and it will be great to be in port and be able to talk to him on
that special day.

We went to shore today and watched Paul and Marie scrubbing the bottom of their dinghy on the beach, and then went for a short walk. When we got back to Windbird, I worked on naming photos and Mark did some maintenance work. He had to go up the mast to take out a light that is not working, and that requires that I am at the foot of the mast holding on to the rope that assures he won’t fall. After that adventure, the rest of the day was spent planning. I have talked a lot about future planning
in recent logs. That is because when we get back to Vila, we will need to make flight reservations if we are coming home in November. And in order to make the reservations, we need to know when we will fly home. And that depends on where we are going next. So one thing leads to another and requires at least an inkling of what comes next. We know we are leaving in a week or so for New Caledonia. And we know we are leaving New Caledonia during the last week of October for Bundeburg, Australia.
We don’t know exactly where we will be keeping Windbird for the cyclone season, but it will be somewhere between Brisbane and Bundeburg, Australia. And we need to figure that out quickly as places are filling up. We need to make a reservation for Windbird as soon as possible. We know we will start sailing north up the coast of Australia in April or early May of next year and end up in Darwin on the north coast of Australia in early July. Then the fun starts. If Indonesia is a possibility, we
will be sailing to places whose names I have never heard before and end up in Singapore and finally in Thailand by November. Then we wait for a few months for the monsoon season to end and head across the Indian Ocean by way of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Seychilles, Madagascar, and finally South Africa by Christmas of 2009. If Indonesia is not a possibility because of the new law requiring exorbitant fees, then we will sail from Darwin to Bali to Christmas Island and on across to South Africa,
arriving there by Christmas of 2008. So although we have to be super flexible on this, we need to have information now in order to make the decisions. This is why planning, planning, planning, has been a top priority in the past few days. In this process, I’m learning all kinds of things about places in the world that I have never heard of before. It is both exciting and daunting.

So off to Vila tomorrow. We will be there in the afternoon, head straight to the internet cafe to check out photos of our kids, and then begin the planning for the sail to New Caledonia.

070910 Day 139 Efate, Vanuatu–Life in Sema Bay, Havannah Harbor

Day 138, Year 2: Arrival in Havannah Harbor

Day 138, Year 2: Arrival in Havannah Harbor
Date: Sunday, September 9, 2007
Weather: Mostly Overcast and No Wind
Latitude: 17 degrees 33.156 minutes
Longitude: 168 degrees 16.928 minutes
Location: Sema (Esema) Bay Anchorage, Havannah Harbor, Efate

We arrived in Havannah Harbor this morning at 8 AM after an uneventful overnight passage. We motored all the way as there was virtually no wind. But on a passage south it is much better to have no wind than the normal south or southeast winds on the nose. Port Havannah is on the mainland of Efate Island and there are a number of islands that form an exterior barrier. We are in the water between the mainland and the islands which is referred to as Havannah Harbor. The little bay we are in is
almost like a pond with the low winds we are experiencing and huge sea turtles abound here. People who have been here for a few days say they have seen a number of dugongs as well, so maybe we will we finally see these elusive critters.

We invited Bob and Dianna of White Swan, Joe and Cindy of Maggie Drum, and Paul and Marie of Ranger over for a taco dinner tonight. The soft and hard taco shells traveled here from New Zealand with us. They are not available here, so it was a treat to have Mexican out here in the Pacific. You can get gringo Mexican at restaurants in most major cities, but it was more fun having them onboard with friends. White Swan and Maggie Drum will be leaving tomorrow and heading north. We will probably
stay in this anchorage one more day and then move to one of the other anchorages on the outside of the “pond” where the snorkeling is better. From there we will head back to Port Vila to get ready for our passage south to New Caledonia.

Before dinner, we shared our pictures and a few videos from the festival we attended in Ambrym with White Swan and Maggie Drum. Every time I look at those pictures I am just amazed that I was there. It looks much more like something you read about in National Geographic, not something you actually get to experience. We all talked about where to from here. Joe and Cindy on Maggie Drum are having some the same struggles as we are with financing this circumnavigation. They are still trying to decide
whether or not they can continue or just need to turn around and head back to Hawaii and the West Coast of the US. That is home for them. Ranger and White Swan are both hoping to sell their boats in Australia and head home to start new adventures. We are going on, but Joe threw a kink in our plans today with some news he got while in Port Vila. We are planning on going from Australia through Indonesia with the Sail Indonesia Rally beginning next July. Joe says the Indonesian government just
resurrected an old law that requires boats to pay somewhere between 15 and 50 per cent of the value of the boat as an entry fee. Whoa! There’s no way we can do that, so we’ll have to watch the news and see what happens with this new law. If it sticks, we will have to skip Indonesia and go straight from Australia to the Indian Ocean. That will make the trip shorter for us, but we were so looking forward to seeing those orangutans in Borneo, so we won’t give up yet.