This is our cruising area in Vanuatu. Due to the prevailing winds from the southeast and that the country runs from northwest to southeast, it is very easy to go north, but it is a lot harder to go south.
I find the shapes of the Vanuatu islands a little odd - not like any combination I’ve noticed before. Roundish volcanic islands and the odd long and thin islands shaped by who knows what forces - maybe a convergence zone for oceanic plates?
Before we arrived, we heard Gulf Harbour Radio advise other yachts to expect lumpy seas around the islands as the norm. They were not wrong. The sea state is almost always bigger and rougher than the conditions seem to indicate. Currents, their direction and strength affected by unseen valleys and ridges along the relatively shallow depths between islands, can kick up a short tall sea in the blink of an eye.
‘Short’ refers to the time interval between peaks. For example - Seven seconds between peak to peak is quite a short interval. The shorter interval, the more vertical the wave face, the stronger the effect of the wave when it catches you up. With waves from behind, you can get a lot of rolling and some surfing. With waves on the beam, they may be approaching from an angle that lets you sail along them in reasonable comfort across them on the diagonal. In any wind direction, one is never surprised prepared for the rogue wave possibly coming from a different direction or Ben taller than most.
On the short passage from Epi to Malekula, I’m pretty sure Larus had a personal best in horizontality. A box of reading glasses bits and pieces was flung from the port bookshelf to the starboard berth and that hasn’t happened before. On the same passage, the currents swung round from west to south to east to north. You only notice when your speed drops and the seas get rougher and rougher as the wind blows the surface in the opposite direction the current is the taking.
Erromanga, the next island up from Tanna. We left with Capall Mara - well, we left first and they cruised passed us just over halfway there - and anchor together in Dillon’s Bay. Erromanga, like Tanna was badly damaged by cyclones in 2023.
Tim, John and Sal went ashore the next day to visit the ‘yacht club’ and have a tour with the village with the yacht club owner. It’s more of a meeting place than a club. He also took them up to house and pointed out areas and flora of special interest.
It was a baking day for me as we’d run out of bread, granola and muffins so I stayed onboard; I like to make best use of a hot oven. I planned to go the next day as it sounded like a lovely walk.
A local in a dugout canoe came by to chat and ask for any spare rice, flour, oil and yeast that we might have. I was able to supply a little of everything expect the oil. Our visitor also went away with a little bag of sweet potato bhajis that we were nibbling in the cockpit.
The next morning, we woke at about 0200 when the wind direction changed and started blowing into the bay. Larus rolling from side to side made sleep near impossible. We waited till morning and then upped anchor, headed to the island of Efata and the bustling capital city of Port Vila.
We arrived after dark to Efata but we were advised that navigation to the anchorage off Port Vila was very easy, and it was. The only incident of note on the whole passage was motoring past a sleeping whale. We became aware of the long black shape in the water on our port side when it cleared its blow hole twice. We were just outside the bay and very close to land so it was unexpected.
We picked up a marina mooring ball in the inner basin. It was very sheltered with a dinghy dock and restaurant with really good live music.
Port Vila was a shock compared to simple way of life for many in Port Resolution. Dusty, dirty and full of cars. The roads, particularly along the sides were deeply potholed and full of rain water.
It is so strange when you can distinctly remember taking photos but they are just not there. *sigh*
We had plans to head further north but with several days of strong winds and rain expected moved from Port Vila to Matapu Bay. We anchored near a young Kiwi/Aussie couple, Rachel and Dion, who have been in Vanuatu for much long than we have. They had just come down from the northern islands and were an enthusiastic wealth of information.
Tim and I walked to Port Havannah which is the next anchorage along. It has a jetty and a small settlement.