Where are we

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Tanna Part 1 - Mount Vasur and Lenekel

It took a number days to figure out how life is lived by those living around Port Resolution on the southeast corner of the island of  Tanna.

There should be pots of gold all over the bay.

We arrived shortly after the arrival of over a dozen World ARC Rally boats.  

ARC Rallies are a big deal for islands they visit. They are a well organised events and, it seemed to me, that they work to the same formula everywhere they visit. Clearance into the country is organised as well as tours and cultural events. They bring a lot of money into often very poor countries.  Another aspect of the ARC is giving gifts to the local communities, which Tim saw the day we cleared in and I mentioned previously, so kudos to them.

Tanna is the most underdeveloped and possibly most underfunded place we have visited ever.

As Customs and Immigration took almost all the Vatu (Vanuatan currency) Tim had been able to borrow from Burmese Breeze before leaving Fiji, a trip to the main town of Lenekel was needed to top up the coffers.

Transportation from Port Resolution anywhere is by privately owned 4x4’s. When a trip is necessary it is arranged to benefit the maximum number of people.  No space is wasted.

Few people have cars and petrol/gas is very expensive. When a trip is requested by a visitor, word goes out amongst the local population and the remaining seats are filled. Tim was a bit blindsided to discover that, though the locals were charged 200 VT for the journey, he and the other visitors were charged 2000. 

One get used to being overcharged, if not ripped-off as a tourist, but I don’t think that way of thinking applies here.  The people here are really poor and have even less this year due to the destruction caused by direct hits by 2 cyclones last year. Banana and papaya/pawpaw trees, main staples, were almost totally destroyed across this island and the island of Erromango, Tanna’s northern neighbour. This is a terrible loss to the their sustainability and the local economy. Mango trees survived but they are the ‘Christmas’ fruit as they ripen in December.

I’m sure 200 VT for them and 2000 VT for us is fair.

Much of the island has no electricity, though Lenekel has some lighting thanks to some sort of generator. There is no electricity in the area around Port Resolution. They have mobile phones and these are charged by running the engine of the few vehicles in the area. I expect there is a fee to help cover the cost of the petrol.

Using your phone entails a walk to the top of a cliff over looking the bay for the best reception. Not everyone has a phone.

One has to laugh sometimes. Stanley, a local contact and ‘go to guy, for the ARC, seldom answered his hand-held VHF radio, so they gave him was given a brand new one.  Problem solved?  Not really. It could be that they now have 2 radios they aren’t able to charge rather than 1. Stanley asked Tim if he would charge the new radio on Larus, which we did, but will there be a boat around when next it needs charging? I expect the first boat into the anchorage will be asked to help out.

Wouldn’t this be a great place for a solar array? At the very least some Luci Lights. As it is dark for, give or take, 12 hours a day one could cook, read, sew, repair, play games or study after 6 in the evening. 

Honestly, I wish I’d done more research on Vanuatu before leaving NZ. Friends on Capall Mara brought a chainsaw for Stanley that he had requested on their previous visit last year.

Where were we? Ah yes, Tim going to Lenekel for cash. 

I didn’t go to Lenekel as there was some confusion over what I was being asked to do. I thought I was being asked as per an earlier conversation if I wanted to go on the tour to the most accessible active volcano in the world to which I replied firmly, ‘No.’  By the time I got the right end of the stick and said, ‘Yes, please,’ the car was full.

Most of the journey was on dirt roads often eroded to odd angles and shapes that only a 4x4 could manage. 

Not far the from Port Resolution, the dirt road turned into a wind ruffled black sand plain. Tim said, ‘The road just vanished,’ and that he had no idea how they knew where to go to meet up with the road on the other side.  The wind quickly swept away the vehicle’s tracks.

A close up of a past lava flow.

Not far from Port Resolution is Mount Yasur - tourism link, the world’s most accessible active volcano. The Volcanism nerds amongst us might want to check out this site on  Mount Yasur - scientific report at the Smithsonian Institute, Global Volcanism Program.

Mount Yasur has been at Activity Level 2 for quite a long time. Interestingly, or suspiciously depending on how you look at this sort of thing, the local scale goes from 0 to 6, while the Global Volcanism Program scale goes from 0 to 4.  

It took about 2 and a half hours over rough roads with only the last few miles being paved.

What a gorgeous market in the shade of a Banyan tree. Look at those lettuces! And a way I have never seen of displaying carrots in little teepees.

Banyan trees are impressive.

A market garden outside the town.

Tim arrived back to Port Resolution about 5 hours later than expected with a pocket full of cash and a bag of sugar, which is exactly what I had asked for.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Anchored in Port Resolution on the Island of Tanna

We arrived this morning as planned around 0900. 

Tim putting up our Q flag, which lets the authorities know we haven’t cleared in.

First mate with the island of Tanna in the distance.  

It was quite a lumpy sea on our approach but on the whole a very good passage. Last night was the worst with squally winds without even having the decency to give us any rain to wash the salt off. 

Of note is the fact that we broke our record for miles covered in a 24 hours period with the whopping great number of 168.  Really for us this is outstanding and will probably never be repeated. It does make for a very bright moment in one’s day.

We dropped anchor in the huge bay amongst the numerous Arc World Rally boats and right next to John and Sal on Cappall Mara who we last saw in Whangarei.

Capall Mara

We didn’t take our phones ashore as there are no SIM cards to buy here but I should have in case of photo ops. There were small outrigger canoes on the beach where we landed the dingy to clear in. Each one made from the hollowed out trunk of a tree.  We saw the local men fishing when we arrived. When Tim went ashore the second time to see if there was any info about clearing in, he said that 6 or 7 local children helped him launch it from the beach.

It’s early days yet and I’m sure there will be many more chances.

We seem to be out of luck getting cleared in today. Tim read that Wednesday’s are a half day here and we might have arrived too late. Stanley, who helps with the clearing in process and probably arranges tours and the like will tell the authorities at Port Vila, the capital, two islands up, and maybe we can clear in there. Or maybe someone will come on the weekend.  It is a tough car ride over rough mountain roads to get here, and having cleared in nearly 20 Arc boats yesterday they might not fancy doing the whole trip over again for one boat.

We aren’t used to such a relaxed attitude to clearing in. 

We have 3 or 4 days of strong winds expected over the weekend and will stay here till that passes. John and Sal like playing Mexican Train Dominos as much, if not more, than I do.  We’ll find some way of keeping occupied I’m sure.

Monday 10 July 2023

Day 2 of 3, not 4, to Vanuatu

For a second time since leaving NZ, we are proving to be faster than expected. We made 152  miles in the last 24 hours and we continue to eat up the miles in an astonishing way. We seldom see our speed less than 6 knots and often it is over 7 and occasionally over 8.

There is a current that helps more often than it hinders so we can’t take all the credit. We can have a boat speed of 6.6 knots but our speed over the ground is 7.2 with the an extra 0.6 knots of current. It’s great!

The wind is generally 12 to 19 knots from the SSE and is expected to inch up to the low 20’s Tuesday night and back to the East.

With little chance of us going any slower than we have thus far, I’m reasonably confident that we will probably arrive early Wednesday morning. :)

All is well on board.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Leaving Fiji and Vanuatu bound


It was a little short notice, our deciding to leave Fiji today, but if we leave today we have a very good weather window for our 4 day passage. We enjoyed our time in Fiji but were plagued with nasty colds for both of us and a sore foot for Tim. We’ve been busy with friends and four days at sea will be a chance to put our feet up.

The marina staff bid us a fair voyage with song; the same way we were welcomed on our arrival. They tied a wreath of flowers on the bow, sang their song and cast us off.

Zoe from ‘Into the Blue’ took this photo May we motored out of the marina. Colin from ‘Burmese Breeze’ took our rubbish. Both acts equally appreciated.

(I’m scurrying to get a couple photos up while the Starlink we are using is still land-based and free.  Once Elon has decided we are offshore it changes to $3 NZ a gigabit.)

We currently inside the reef and are heading for the ‘pass’ closest to Vanuatu, which is directly to the east of Fiji. 

You can just see the flower on our bow and a the island where the Musket Cove Resort I’d located. Leased to the coach roof is our year old staysail. This is only its second outing. We used it all the way from NZ to Fiji in May, 2022. 

It’s is smaller sail and good for going up wind and sailing in stronger winds.  We are doing neither on this trip but one can’t choose exactly when you leave. You book Customs and Immigration to come to the marina; they check you out; you leave within the next hour.

We want to arrive in Vanuatu in daylight and leaving late afternoon would have been better for a 3 day passage.  Leaving at noon means that if we are too fast, based on our average boat speed of 5.8 knots, we’ll arrive after dark on the third day. Instead we are slowing it down a little, planing to arriving on the fourth day as well as showing our staysail some love.


Nancy and Tim