Friday, June 27, 2008

Farewell to Vanuatu

We made our final stop in Vanuatu one of the Torres islands - Hayter Bay, Tegua island. With 50 miles between Ureparapara and Tegua we made another early start to ensure we arrived before nightfall. Initially the wind didn't help us, blowing only fitfully, but once well clear of the Ureparapara we made steady progress under full-main and polled out genoa, arriving with just enough light to pick out a sandy-patch between the coral to drop our anchor. The water in Hayter Bay had some of best visibility we'd seen in Vanuatu - we dropped the anchor in 14m and could easily see to the bottom. There were plenty of large edible fish; large groupers, parrot fish and giant trevally, but we kept the spear gun in the boat as the fridge was full with the lobster and crab we'd caught in Ureparpara and into which we added a small tuna which we landed on the journey to Tegua.

Hayter bay was perfect image of a South Pacific anchorage; sandy beach at the head of the small bay covered in coconut palms, surrounded by lush diverse vegetation with tall cliffs enclosing the bay on the south side. We swam ashore and met a few members of two families living in the bay. We still had some items to trade so gave away some of our t-shirts and fish hooks for the offer of a couple of crabs - enforcing our exclusively seafood diet in an concerted effort to free up some fridge space.
I'm constantly amazed what is possible to trade, in Santa, Charlotta managed to swap a lipstick for a huge bunch of bananas, all the more surprising as I've yet to see any Ni-Vanuatu using any form of cosmetics. She also managed to swap a dress for a couple of phones cards in Gaua. I wish we'd brought more staples in Luganville - all the islands further north seemed to be in need of flour, sugar and rice. Also I'd try to find some old masks and wind-up/shakable torches if I come again. Apart from enjoying the fantastic visibility, we've been busy preparing the boat for the passage to Australia - scrubbing the hull, cleaning the cabins, checking the engine, painting an Australia courtesy flag and washing clothes.I also sorted through the charts we keep handy and searched for those of use on the trip to Darwin. With some sadness I finally put away my NZ charts and pilot guides. I was unusually superstitious about this, keeping them accessible until we were well clear of New Zealand. Somehow I thought that if I stowed them too soon, some calamity would occur forcing us to return. This seems to happen with annoying regularity with tools and spare parts; I think I'm not going to need it, then soon after, I spent half a day unpacking lockers to retrieve the recently stowed part.

I guess it's always best to leave wanting to spend longer, although this feeling is particularly strong with Vanuatu. The sailing has been great, with the next island within sight and a day sail from the current, but it's the humblingly generous, inquisitive, friendly people that set Vanuatu apart from other places I've visited. Sometimes their curiosity results in unanticipated turns in the conversation. A friend related a discussion about the climate and agriculture of northern Europe he'd had with a villager, the response was incredulous, "you mean you don't have coconuts and papaya growing there". Hard to imagine life without fresh coconuts and papaya...

Still we have lots to remind us of our time here, with bananas hanging from the bimini and lockers full of papaya, pamplemoose, lemons, limes, and assorted root vegetables. We've set ourselves the task of finishing them off before Australian quarantine confiscates the remainder.

Our bislama still isn't great, but as usual knowing some of the basics can go a long way. A few more words we've had some fun with:
mountain - bigfala hill
sunny - bigsan
mentally retarded, hafmad
centipede, handredleg
recover, kamgud
swallow, salemdaon
child - pikinini
womb - basket blong pikinini

Seems a little "Newspeak" like, but without the sinister intent. It also seems to be a great language for dyslexics:
tree, tri
taxi, taksi
teacher, tija
water, wota
who, hu
yesterday, yestedei

We've made a slow start, in light winds, but fortunately just enough wind to keep the sails full as the boat rolls on the swell. Although it's approx 2100 miles to Darwin, there are plenty of obstacles/places to stop on-route. Our first waypoint takes us south of the intriguingly named "Indispensable Reef", then we head south of the Louisiade Islands before heading to the Great Barrier Reef and our first planned Australian stop at Thursday Island in the Torres Straights.

Position @ 12:06 (GMT +11) S13deg 15.0' E166deg 13.4'
Distance to Indispensable Reef": 332

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