Where are we

Friday 25 August 2023

Port Vila to Espiritu Santo - Part 2


The island of Epi, our next stop, was a full days sail from Efata. They day promised good winds but once we had left the bay, where the winds were gusting 25 knots, we lost the wind completely and despite our best efforts motored for first two hours. Eventually we left the island’s wind shadow and in the blink of an eye we were hustling to get reefed down.  

This was very like sailing from Guadeloupe to Antigua in the Caribbean. No wind, no wind, no wind, and suddenly gusting 25 knots as you cleared the island. The jump in speed makes any lure you are trailing much more alluring and all at once you have a fish in the line with the boat heeled over on her ear.  Larus likes to heel and sails well in lots of wind but it does make reeling in, landing and filleting challenging. We learned not to fish heading north from Guadeloupe. 

We anchored in Lameh, Bay. Rachel had warned us we’d probably need a stern anchor to keep our stern into the swell. When we arrived there wasn’t any swell and the bay seemed reasonably protected. The wind was blowing offshore and keeping us in a good position to meet any swell that bent around the headland.  It was good until the wind dropped in the middle of the night, we were turned broad side to the swell and then the rolling was terrible. We left as soon as we could the next morning for Malekula. 


We had a fast sail with crazy currents and strong wind combination. This does makes for an exhilarating sail. It’s the sort of passage where you wish you’d made the sandwiches for lunch before you left. Luckily, we had tuna salad made up already and I just had to slap it between two slices of bread.

Our destination was the anchorage tucked in behind Awei Island, part of the Maskelyne Islands.

Awei Island in marked by the anchor symbol on the bottom left corner of the chart. Once again we were expecting rain and strong winds and it was a wonderfully protected spot.

That triangle of sail in the distance is Burmese Breeze. We are looking at them over an impassible reef, which keeps the waves and swell out of the anchorage, making it very well protected from pretty much any direction.

It rained the whole time we were there, which really was too bad as there is the headman’s house on the island and nice walks. Our only interaction with the locals was when a canoe paddled up with fruit and veg to trade for something they need.  The most popular item requested was a length of rope to tether a cow.

The headman got his rope in exchange for our using his bay but he also asked boats in the anchorage to use their own dinghy to take the kids from the island to school. This was often on a particularly rainy day or when the tide was out, but it is hard to say, ‘no’, the the village headman, particularly when he shows you his machete accident, the resulted being a thickly bandaged shin.

Honestly, nearly everyone has a machete. 

And not just a machete, maybe a hammer too. This was a disreputable looking group was from our next anchorage. I do not think the headman’s children here would be allowed roam Awei Island with a machete or a hammer.

The school for Awei Island was on the far side of the bay, protected by a reef. They had the common sturdy all weather watercraft, but they didn’t alway use it and asked for assistance dropping off or collecting the kids. Maybe they didn’t have petrol? Maybe the tides were particularly low and their normal transport - it’s the orange lump by the shore - couldn’t get over the reef? 

Tim took three of the little ones who tested the how bouncy our dinghy was compared to their very safe and utilitarian launch. They enjoyed the ride VERY much.  This was as close as Tim could get to the shore because of the reef in front of the school.

We had hope to have a tour around Awei Island but the wind and rain was unrelenting. The bay was getting quite full with new arrivals and, after 3 days stuck onboard, we decided to head further north to the next big bay on Maskelyne Island.

Port Stanley and Port Sandwich

Both the British and Americans had bases in Vanuatu during the World War 2 and the names and many concrete constructions still remain.

We anchored far up the bay next to an island across from the bay ferry dock. The island appeared to be inhabited by loads of chicken. In the morning they would wander down to the beach to scratch in the sand.  

At the weekend, a group women and children came to the island to do a little maintenance, some chicken wrangling and to play. I see quite a lot of different things during early morning my yoga sessions.

Like this school of fish, just doing their thing.

We anchored here in the hope of finding the Port Stanley Village Market and hopefully to see a Dugong, which is a type of sea cow. We found the market but not a dugong. I swam to the beach to ask the ladies if there were any in the bay. The conversation was difficult as, I think they spoke more French than English, and my going on about ‘a big thing swimming in your bay’, made them strongly assert that there were no big things swimming in the bay.  We later learned that many years ago at Port Sandwich, a nearby community, there was a shark attack due to fish being cleaned on the jetty.

The day we moved back up the bay to Port Sandwich, where we did not swim. We did have along interesting walk and found the village centre where I bought the best grapefruits we have eaten here for a 10th the price we pay for them in Port Vila. They were 30 VT, about 20 pence each.

The village was similar to only one other place we’ve visited in Vanuatu. It is quite a affluent area as was the village of Mele, near Port Vila. Lots of well maintained gardens and animals and many of the plots of land were fenced. The fences were varied. 

Sometimes they were a narrow yet impenetrable line of living trees.

Sometimes they were the mere a suggestion of a fence.

Sometimes they were a bit of both.

A delivery from the local butcher waiting to be collected - keeping cool in the shade and safely out of the reach of an opportunistic pooch.

And sometimes, when you most expect them, there are no fences at all.

We passed these gentlemen on our way to the village and I wish I’d taken a photo then. I did not appreciate that they would cut from that coconut stump the planks to make a crate for a pig in just a few hours. Impressive.

As we weren’t swimming here, we went with Colin and Thant Zin to investigate a mangrove river.

Three men in a boat heading that way.

Thant Zin looking for mud crabs along the river bank.

It was a lovely river but in light of the rivers to come, I’m moving on.

We now needed to do some serious shopping in Luganville, Espiritu Santo Island, but stopped to overnight at Wala Island.

It was another baking day for me so I stayed onboard while Tim, Colin and Thant Zin went ashore.

While there, the headman asked it they could fix his broken solar light. Of course! Tim was back and forth to Larus for tools and crimps in the hopes of cleaning up or replacing any corroded bits.  

As it was late in the day and we left first thing in the morning, we don’t know if Tim’s was successful or the light was past repairing.

Luganville, Espiritu Santo

We anchored by the Beach Front Resort, which was a long walk or a short taxi ride from the town centre. We would leave our dinghy on their beach, walk through the resort to the road or a taxi. They were very kind and not very busy.

Luganville was a US military base in WW2.

The main road - the only road not so badly pot-holed by the logging trucks that cars regularly drive on the wrong side of the road to get around them - was the base’s runway and is in far better shape than any road  built recently.

The town is very spread out and it took 3 days to locate everything we needed and get our gas bottles filled.  It was hot and humid, and both of us ended each day foot-sore.

There were some things over the 3 days that did make me smile.

1) Check out the yellow bag. I spoke to the lady carrying it, and the disgruntled rooster will be very pleased when he gets to his new home.

2) I managed to find a public toilet in the park at the centre of the town. Public toilets in the Fiji and here are run differently than those from the global north expect.  There is a attendant who takes the fee and gives you a tiny hand-rolled roll of toilet paper.  

In Luganville, it was a little different. When I arrived I asked the lady on the door what the fee was. She asked, ‘Do you have to pee?’  I said, ‘Yes’. Then she put down the toilet paper and said 30 VT (FYI if I’d said ‘No’ it would have been 50 and she would have handed over the toilet paper). 

Once in the cubical there was no seat. Fair enough.  As I was getting some tissue out of my bag a glanced up and there, on the wall between the cubicles, were balanced two toilet seats. I left smiling.

3) The first time we went to town we walked - hot, dusty and farther than expected, but as we left the resort there was a private house that shared the road. There were two little girls with their Dad and I think I must have talked to them as we went by.

Ladened down with groceries we got a taxi back. As we drove past their yard, the girls looked up squealed with excitement and waved furiously as we went by. I waved and laughed out too.

4) The last day of shopping we bought all the really heavy stuff, got a taxi back, but still had to get everything through the resort, down the beach and into the dinghy. Tim made two trips and I made one.  While I was waiting by the dinghy for him, two boys walked by eating cookies from a packet.  We said ‘Hi,’ and they carried on.  A minute later one boy ran back and offered me two cookies. I laughed and took them.  Nibbling the cookie, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t take a photo, so I shouted, held up the remains of my cookie (the other was for Tim) and took the photo.

So on that happy note I will post this and get to work on Part 3 because I didn’t know how good the coming days were going to be. :)


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