Monday, 31 August 2015

Luganville to Bundaberg

Departure for Australia

Friday 7th August. Distance to go 1008nm (1800km)

We finally dropped the mooring at Aore resort at 0930 and sped down the channel with the outgoing tide. Once outside we settled down to a close reach with 2 reefs and No.3 headsail in fairly bumpy seas of 2-4 metres with a SSE of 20 to 25 knots

Saturday 8th August. (0930 distance to go 830nm) During the night we reduced sail to 3 reefs in the main. About midnight Pacific Dream (a 47ft cat) called us on the VHF. They could see us on their AIS receiver and were 8 miles in front. By dawn they were abeam and we sailed all day in sight of one another. The day turned out sunny with much smoother seas and we managed to shake out all of the reefs and spent the day on a close reach. Very pleasant sailing.

Not long after nightfall Pacific Dream called again to say they had a mainsail problem and were continuing on under headsails alone at about 5 knots. As we were doing 7 to 8 knots we soon lost reception with their VHF.

Sunday 9th August. (0930 Distance to go 678nm) During the night the wind picked up again to 25 knots at times. We reduced sail to 3 reefs again and the boat trundled along happily all night without any sail adjustments necessary. Di managed to sleep all night and I did a check every few hours then retired again. This part of the ocean is empty of all commercial shipping and in the first 3 days we only saw one fishing boat on the AIS. The wind dropped again for a while after dawn then puffed in whenever the rain showers were close. After about 3 reef changes we settled for 2 reefs for the rest of the morning. The rain clouds disappeared during the afternoon and we had a steady sail with only one reef in and mostly smooth seas. Motored for a while in a 2 hour lull to pull the fridge down and to make hot water for showers. All good on board!


Monday 10th August. (0930 Distance to go 508nm) Allusive sailed all night in a steady 15-20 knot SSE with 2 reefs and half No3. Very comfortable with plenty of sleep.

 We were planning to stop at the Chesterfield reef group but we now have a forecast for SW winds (headwinds!) developing early Thursday and if we stop at the Chesterfields we will be there for 4 days in a constantly changing wind direction. We have decided to press on and if we can average 7 knots for the rest of the trip we should arrive at Bundaberg about the time the SW is due.

We are staying in touch on the SSB radio (4483) with another yacht, Argonaut who left a day behind us and is tracking to Gladstone. Haven 111 is leaving tomorrow and will track to Bundaberg.

During the day the SSE winds continued with near calm seas. Only 1 reef and full no3 required to keep our speed between 7 and 8 knots

Tuesday 11th August (0930 Distance to go 311nm). During the night the wind slowly died and we have now been motoring since midnight.

The 5 knot breeze is slowly backing into the East and is due to go into the North before freshening then moving into the NW 25-30 knots by Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday it is forecast to move into the SW. In the meantime we are enjoying the quiet conditions with full main and No.3. We are enjoying the cloudless skies while they last and Di has done the food prep for the next day or so. We won’t be hungry!

Wednesday 11th August.( 0930 Distance to go 140nm)

The wind did as forecast, backing through North to West and increased during the day with an extra reef going into the main every 3 to 4 hours. About 100nm from the coast there is a North/South traffic separation area for the commercial shipping and at times we had up to 6 ships on the AIS. We had better keep a good lookout from here to Bundaberg.

Thursday 12th August.

The 30+ knot SW front got us just as we were between Breaksea Spit and the reefs to the North. We had some very heavy rain with it plus some thunder and lightning. Not very pleasant for the guy on deck.  As we passed into the shallow waters of Hervey Bay the wind waves became very short and steep due partly to the wind over tide effect. We had to tack for the last 40 miles into the SW and slow the boat down as the pounding was horrific at times. The skies cleared by 0900 and the local VMR issued a cancellation of the gale warning……. Just as we were experiencing some 40+ knot gusts. It’s a good thing he couldn’t hear what I was saying!!!

We finally arrived at the Port Bundaberg marina at 11.30am and had cleared customs and quarantine (BORDER FORCE) by 2.30pm. This was very quick and efficient BUT t there was a lot of confusion about the way we were to pay the GST on the items we reimported. The GST on these new items had been claimed under the TRS scheme on the way out of Australia. The local Bundaberg Customs officer informed us we would need to employ the services of a Customs Agent in Brisbane to complete the necessary paperwork. It took two days to sort this out and Customs finally worked out it was their job to calculate the GST! In the meantime Allusive was restricted to port. No doubt in the old days we would have had a notice nailed to the mast! A stupid fiasco caused, I suspect, by a lack of training in the TRS area for relatively new staff which caused us a great deal of consternation for 24 hours.
After a pleasant 4 days in and around Bundaberg we finally flew home for 3 weeks to catch up with family and house/ work commitments

Luganville July 23rd until August 8th

Luganville July 23rd until August 8th.

The time just slipped away during these two weeks. We were on a mooring at Aore resort and spent much of our time enjoying the touristy things on Santo, boat maintenance and generally socialising with resort guests and other yachties.

Highlights included the Santo Rodeo with local plantation stockmen competing against one another. The European plantation owners had good horses with saddles but the stockmen rode bareback on their ponies with hessian sacks for saddles. These sacks usually slipped out from under their bums before their event was finished. This was a free event and the local people flocked to the event to enjoy the fun.

International Children’s Day was on Friday July 24 and this was a public holiday with lots happening for the kids throughout the nation. The Vanuatu people are very loving towards their offspring, particularly when they are infants and the local park was decorated in their honour with lots of stalls and games. Some shops open for kids only to shop!

Independence Day was to celebrate 35 years of self-government and the day was celebrated in every town and little village throughout the nation.

In Luganville the local police and army were on parade to the tune of a brass band and the local politicians were in their element making speeches to the assembled throng. We watched for a while then wandered off and missed the police playing with their AK47’s but we certainly heard the noise!

Di spent quite some time snorkelling with new friend Sue (off S V Mawari), off the resort beach. Sue is a fantastic photographer and she showed Di many interesting underwater fish and other creatures including large cuttle fish. It is so nice snorkelling in water that is crystal clear and 27 degrees and the varieties of fish were never ending. 

The main highlight for us during this period was the day trip to the Millennium Cave.

After a 45 minute ride over 10 million pot holes we arrived at a small village where our bus managed to get stuck in the greasy conditions, so we walked the next 2 km to the main village where we were met by 4 guides. Our party was probably 20 people and to get to the cave we walked for another 2 hours over a very slippery, muddy track which was very steep at times.

However the walk was worth it as the Millennium Cave is a very spectacular 400m long limestone cavern, about 10m wide and up to 50 metres high inside with a small river running through the full length. Our party waded through the cavern in water about waist deep in places with torches for illumination and bats for company. Quite an eerie experience.

Once we emerged from the cave we found the cavern river joined a much larger river. We stopped at this point for lunch. We had left our backpacks with some of the villagers at the top of the gorge before the climb down into the cave and they had lowered them down into the gorge on ropes.

Once we had finished lunch they hauled them back up and carried them back to the village.

Our group then enjoyed another 2 hours canyoning (clambering over rocks) and swimming downstream through some spectacularly steep gorges with numerous waterfalls flowing into the river.

We finally emerged from the river at a point below the village. The trip back to the top of the gorge consisted of a climb up a waterfall then a series of bush ladders. A lot of very tired but exhilarated people finally re-entered the village where we were given hot drinks and fruit to restore our energy.

One of our group slipped early on and fractured his wrist but, with the assistance of some guides managed to complete the walk. Luckily one of our party was an Orthopaedic Surgeon and he strapped the wrist then accompanied the patient to the hospital after the event.

Di and I were very stiff the next day, but a day round the pool and some liquid therapy soon restored us to normal.

We were now into departure planning mode and spent a couple of days refuelling (carting 20 litre drums in the dinghy across the channel to the local service station), then restocking food from the local stores.

Clearing out of Vanuatu consisted of a trip to immigration, on to customs, on to the payment office, back to customs and back to immigration for the final (handwritten) paperwork. A full morning’s work!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Ambae and Maewo and a return to Pentacost Is.

Sunday 19th July Ambae and Maewo Islands

An end to the light winds is forecast on Tuesday so we decided to make the most of the light conditions and head East over to Ambae and Maewo Islands. We could then run back to Luganville later next week in the stronger ESE Trades that were forecast. This proved to be a good move with a fantastic 50 mile windward leg with full main and No.3 on relatively flat water to the eastern tip of Ambae, where we shared the spectacular anchorage at Loloru Bay with one of the Island trading boats.

Monday 20th July
Our intention was to go ashore here at Loloru Bay and but a sleepless night for the skipper due to a stomach upset plus a noisy anchor chain dragging over the rocky bottom convinced us to leave early  to beat the strong headwinds forecast for today. It’s only a short 10 mile hop to the little village of Asanvari at the Southern end of Maewo and we motored across in a couple of hours which gave the refrigeration a big boost for the day.

This little village of 170 people boasted a “yacht Club”  built with Aus Aid but little remains of the building. I suspect it was ratted by the locals for the timber for use in their own houses. This has been a popular stop for cruising yachts in the past but we were only the 20th to visit since the cyclone, according to Alex, the custodian of the little waterfall that tumbles into the Bay. We haven’t seen another yacht since leaving Santo and even then there would have only seen about 20 other boats at any one time in the Santo area.

Our guide for today was Nisha, an 11 year old girl who is the niece of the chief. There is a little primary school here with 3 teachers for the 97 students, (once again children under 12 outnumber the adults by 50%) but her teacher had gone away for the day so she was free to roam. We met chief Richard who gave us permission to roam at will. Under nishas guidance we wandered the village and ended up at Alex’s waterfall complex for a swim.

He is a remarkable guy who used to be a radio announcer in Port Vila but decided to leave the rat race and moved here to be with his brother leaving his wife and sons behind in Port Vila as they didn’t want to move.

Alex has reclaimed the bush on the foreshore where the little creek runs onto the beach and built a small hut and level area where he can entertain (and charge) visiting yachties. All up through the waterfall area he has planted many exotic plants and lives on site all alone waiting for the boats to come in. Sometimes it’s a long wait between boats!

However he turned out to be an excellent guide as he walked us through some of the highland villages above the anchorage. This part of southern Maewo is very isolated with no airstrip or roads connecting it to the rest of the island.

The early people here wiped each other out due to inter village rivalries and the area was unpopulated for a long time until a group of familys from Northern Pentacost resettled the area in the 1940’s Today they live a very subsistence lifestyle and have little contact with the outside world. Any medical emergency involves a long boat ride to either Pentacost or Loloru on Ambae. Another family we met was Erica and her husband who are building a 3 room guest house (with a hammer and bush knife as tools!)so they can cater for visitors. I admire the effort they are putting in but suspect there won’t be many visitors wanting to do the long ride to the village in a long boat!

We dropped off the last of the Coles Bay baby clothes to Olivette, the local nurse/midwife who looks after the 450 people living in this village and the surrounding hill people.

As with most of the islands we have seen the jungle on this island is covered in a very fast growing creeper which apparently was airdropped as seeds by the Americans during the Second World war to hide their installations from the Japanese. This makes many areas impenetrable and the gardens hard to keep clear.

Wednesday 22nd July

We had heard of Loltong Bay at North Pentecost Island and as it was only about 10 miles further south across the 3 mile wide passage between the two islands we decided to take the opportunity to check this area out.

The village anchorage is behind an extensive reef with a narrow passage marked by a set of leads. We anchored in a sandy patch in about 4 metres of water close to the main beach. This is a very busy little village and once ashore we were greeted by Mathew, the brother of the chief. Mathew and his wife Mary have built a “yacht club” and restaurant catering to visiting yachts. Once again very few yachts have visited since the cyclone and they were keen to cook a local meal for us, which we agreed to. This turned out to be a 9 course meal, and covered most of their root vegetables and local fruits with a tuna salad the main feature. Quite tasty.

We were delighted to hear the village drums start up just before dark and went ashore to watch the spectacle. All of the drums are hollowed out logs of various sizes played by the men and boys of the village. There had been a death in the village recently and the drums sound out just before dark and early after dawn as a mark of respect.

This village has a huge nackemal which is the “men’s club” where they get together late in the day to make and drink their kava (a local drink made from the roots of the kava plant that makes the drinker verrrry relaxed!) and to discuss the business of the village. Every village in Vanuatu has its nackemal and it is the centre of village life.

We also spent some time with Mary in her garden and touring the village which is on the foreshore at the base of some very steep terrain with only one very rough 4wd track out

As our 30 day visitor’s visa is due for renewal on the 26th we had to cut our visit short after one night and make the 50 mile sail back to Luganville on Thursday to catch the immigration office on Friday 24th. We picked up a mooring at Aore Resort again and renewed our acquaintance with Anne and her very friendly staff. Apparently Friday is International Children’s Day and it’s a public holiday so we won’t be talking to immigration until Monday!

Espiritu Santo

Monday 13th July Espiritu Santo

This proved to be a very quiet day to make the crossing to Espiritu Santo Island with the motor running for most of the trip. As usual we had the fishing lines out but nothing…again. This is becoming very frustrating but fairly typical at present with no fresh fish available to buy in the supermarkets and only a few parrot fish in eskies at the local markets which we avoid as they looked fairly old.

Good beef however is plentiful and about half the price we pay in Australia, and the veges are excellent and very cheap. Santo was spared by the cyclone so bananas are back on the menu! I overindulged a bit on the first lot and paid the price during the night!

Luganville is the capital of Santo and it’s basically one long street with little shops, lots of little taxis and plenty of dust and heat and not much more. The main anchorage is polluted and rolly with nothing going for it.

We chose to pay for a mooring on the other side of the mile wide channel at Aore resort on Aore Island and loved every minute of our time here. The resort is run by an Aussie lady (Anne) and has good food, friendly staff,  a free pool and a regular ferry service to Luganville.

As a result we decided to base ourselves here while we explored the sights of Santo.

Tuesday 14th July

Today we spent some time enjoying the resort and planning a full day touring Santo. One of John Poynters friends brings diving groups here every year and stays at this resort. He is well known and liked and the staff couldn’t do enough for us.

Wednesday 15th July

The “must do” points of interest include the Million Dollar Point dive, Champagne Beach and Blue Hole swim, so we had booked a driver (Stephen) and his mini bus for the day to take us around the sights. I also wanted to check out a small anchorage at Oyster Bay before we took the boat up the East Coast. Million Dollar Point is an underwater graveyard of equipment which the Americans dumped at the end of WW11 and consists of trucks, bulldozers, field guns, truckloads of Coca Cola, you name it and you can see it laying in 10 metres of water. A very interesting snorkelling spot.

The rest of the day went quickly as we played the tourist for a day. We finished this very pleasant day with a farewell dinner at the resort for our visiting crew.

Thursday 16th July

A leisurely morning including a walk to find some WW11 bunkers then a beach walk to check out the beach houses built by Aussie and NZ expats who spend their winters in Vanuatu. After lunch we saw our visitors off then did some shopping.

The resort put on a great night this evening with people from the Banks Group of islands providing the entertainment with a Bamboo band and women making “water music” by slapping the seawater in unison. A pity the crew missed this.

Friday 17th July

Chores day- spent most of the day making water and a few other boat maintenance jobs.

Saturday 18th July
A change of scene was in order so we motored 8 miles to the Southern side of Aore Is and picked up another mooring off Ratua Island resort. We had heard of a “blue hole” on the adjoining island of Malo so we took the dinghy across the channel and up the little river which eventually led us to this very secluded spot. The river became a fast flowing creek in spots and was just wider than the dinghy in places which made for a lot of fun on the return journey as we sped downstream with the current trying not to get snagged by the overhanging branches. After a late lunch we wandered around this old style Indonesian resort where most of the 200 year old bungalows had been transported from Bali!

Pentacost Island

Sunday 12th July Pentacost Island

After a quick run ashore to drop off a few bits we set sail for Pentacost Island. This island is world famous for the land diving which happens in April, May and June and is done to ensure the yam harvest is successful. We were sorry we were too late to see this but the people and the magnificent waterfall at Betara (waterfall Bay) were worth the stop. A local lady (Jessie) looked after us and took us up to the waterfall and to the local laundry pool. A very picturesque village with lots of rules for visiting whites as the tourists fly in here to watch the land diving and the locals don’t like you straying off the approved tracks until they work you out. By the afternoon we must have received the tick of approval because Jessie told us we were free to move about on our own…

Ambrym Island

Saturday 11th July Ambrym Island

A full days run to Ambrym Island Is with a good trade wind breeze and sheltered run along the North coast of Ambrym. We looked in at the anchorage at Craig Cove on the North West corner but decided there was too much swell for comfort so continued on to the villages of Ranon and Ranvetlam. This was a good decision as the villagers were very friendly and welcoming.

 They stocked us up with fresh fruit and veges and we were able to help a few with bits and pieces, especially rope for tethering the family cattle in the bush.

some reading glasses and a "cow" rope for the local chief. He was delighted!

We bought bread from a little “bakery” which one enterprising lady had set up in her hut. It was very good!

 The local kids walked with us wherever we went and were keen on the hairclips and ballons Di and Aileen were handing out.

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We picked up a few souvenirs including this stone statue being held by the carver


About to go for a bath - in the sea!


Epi Island

Thursday 9th July Epi Island

After the anchor exercise we had a great sail to Epi Island (Lamen Bay) which took most of the day--all downwind for a change.

Friday 10th July
After a look around at the local village and airstrip in the morning we spent most of the afternoon walking to the top of the island to take in the view and lush tropical gardens the locals were tending. Another friendly village with many locals commuting in small (overloaded!) boats to Lamen Island after school had finished for the week.

Photo by Sue Dall
This is a well known dugong grazing area, but we didn't spot any this trip

The main jetty here is a wreck so all cargo has to be unloaded by hand onto the beach in front of the village
The airport "terminal"

Its a long walk to the top of the Island