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29 June 2009

Poindimie to Vanuatu

Hello Again,

Now we are back in civilization (well the closest thing around here to civilization – there is power here in the form of batteries and a generator and some magical internet connection ) I can send you the next update.

Well we motored into Poindimie’ (at this stage we are still in New Caledonia) after doing a night sail up the “unforgotten coast” and aptly named. There are no roads along this bit of coast line, and not much life either. Again one can see on parts of the hillsides where mining has scared the landscape in years past. The Nickel was shipped out. Poindimie’ is in the Northeast Province and that Coast’s largest town – all 4,800 of them spread out along the coast and in among the coconut palms and gardens. It is not a wealthy area but far more interesting and more beautiful ( a wildness type of beauty ) than Noumea. Here we met up with the most wonderful couple whom we had met at the Boat Show on the Gold Coast last year – Colette and Alain Song.

Still not sure about this French numbering system, but I am sure we can’t be at day ‘trois’ yet as there are still places to see!!!
Anyway we sailed into the Bay at 9.15a.m. and dropped the anchor in front of a resort with light rain falling. Don’t think too many yachts call in here but at least we gave the locals something to look at during our stay. We phoned Colette, then took the tender ashore and waited for her to arrive. She took us for a quick tour of her town and to the local supermarket – nothing like we have back home, very basic but quite adequate, where we stocked up on fresh fruit and veges, bread and wine, all for the ‘mega’ sum of $NZ160. And the wine was not the expensive part either!!! Then on up to her home which sits nestled into the hill side overlooking the ocean. Colette and Alain have retired here on land which belonged to Alain’s Grandfather who farmed beef here. Both home and outlook were quite stunning. We met up with Alain then it was back to the boat for lunch and the afternoon. Colette came back in the evening and we went back to their home for dinner. After a fabulous meal of curried prawns, and the great company, Colette arranged to pick us up the next morning for a tour north up the coast to the village of Hienghene which is nestled beneath forested hills and sits on the banks of a river which opens into a beautiful lagoon dotted with coral outcrops. We drove to a lookout where we could look down on the whole area and it was a truly amazing view. About 10km south of this area are the start of black limestone rock formations which finish in the lagoon with the famous ‘brooding hen’ – a huge limestone rock that actually looks like a hen!! We visited a Kanack Culture Village then had our picnic lunch overlooking the lagoon, then made our way back to Poindimie’ stopping to buy fruit along the way from the locals at their wee roadside stalls. The drive was really picturesque following the coast with views out across the turquoise lagoon to the breaking waves out on the reef, then going inland in places driving through forested areas with small villages , crossing tiny streams and rather big rivers on single-lane bridges. Colette dropped us off at the resort and we went back to ‘SHAMAL’ for the evening.

The next morning Dave went ashore to pick up Colette and Alain and we took them out for a ‘Coffee and Cake’ sail inside the lagoon area for an hour. It was a lovely sunny morning and I think Alain would have sailed off to the end of the oceans with us if he could have. He really enjoyed taking the helm. After dropping them off and bringing the tender in, we up anchor, put the sails back up and headed on out through the reef for the sail up to Port Vila – Vanuatu. Leg 2. That was a 39 hour trip of 267nm. Seas very choppy at times with the swells between 1 -2mts. We all felt a little off colour at some stage on that leg but that passed once we arrived in Vila, which is on the Island of Efate, at 5.45am Monday 15th June. It just happened to be Alec’s 60th Birthday so we had a nice dinner out that evening at the ‘Waterfront Restaurant’.

It took us well into the afternoon to clear customs. As is usual in these places each department – e.g. – Quarantine, Customs, Immigration, are not in the same building, in fact not even in the same part of town!! but with that all done – well sort of, we still needed to pick up more paper work over the next few days including getting a cruising permit for the northern group of Islands where we were heading next, we moved SHAMAL over to the sea wall and tied up there for a couple of nights, then moved out and anchored in the bay. Again the weather was not that wonderful but at least it was warm. We explored the town, stocked up at the fruit and vege market and took a little tour of the local area in a cab. SHAMAL got a good fresh water clean down again and we caught up on the washing – a local girl at the Yacht Club does a wonderful job of it for you.

We sailed out of Port Vila on Friday 19th and up the East Coast of Efate’ Island arriving at a beautiful bay on the small Island of Nguna around 3.00pm. One of the locals came out in his dugout canoe to meet us. He was not trying to sell us anything which was nice, just coming out to say hello and welcome. The next morning in rather horrid conditions – winds gusting between 30-40kts and 3-4 mt seas we sailed up to the Island of Emae’ some 21nm away arriving at lunch time. Alec and Dave felt we should move on as our anchorage in Nguna was rather exposed and hence we had at bit of a rolly night. We took the tender closer into the beach and snorkelled along the reef which was quite beautiful. Water temperatures are reading around 30deg.C now. We then went ashore to be greeted by a group of local Children, one of whom gave me a beautiful whole nautilus shell which they had just picked up on the beach, then they took us into their village. Here we met the Chief, handed over gifts and were given a full “Cooks Tour” of the gardens, pigs, chickens and all his family. He also gave us in return for our gifts, a beautiful pawpaw and some root vege which was not too bad. Thank goodness Kathy knew how to cook it up. Next morning it was up anchor again and we made our way north under much better conditions to the big Island of Malakula and into Port Sandwich. Here we anchored in a beautiful bay tucked well in behind a headland which totally protected us from the sea. There were another couple of yachts also tucked up in the bay out of the wind. Unfortunately we could not swim here as unlike the other Islands this coastline is lined with mangroves which also is home to sharks!!! So this was just a land based visit. Again we went ashore with our usual gifts – a small container of sugar, washing powder and clothes from the op shop back home which were duly handed out. This time the recipient was a local couple who loved to meet and greet the yachties , get you to fill in their visitors book with a picture of your boat etc. They also collected books and magazines from boaties and you could swap yours – two of yours for one of his from his library. Really good idea in a place like that as people are often in need of new reading material after a few months at sea. They were a really interesting couple, Rock and his wife Noilar. He even knew what the name SHAMAL meant. We walked up the road to a French cemetery and monument where sailors off a Naval Ship in the 1860’s had been killed by locals. We learnt about the local tribes people – the Big Nambas. The Small Nambas and the Manbush Small Nambas. The Big Nambas ate unwelcome outsiders – the last as recent as 1969!! Another custom was if a woman pleased her husband he would permit her to have her two front teeth knocked out with a rock!! hence I am trying not to please Alec at the moment!!!!

Next morning we did the two mile walk to the local meteorological office where Nigel really told us nothing. His job was to send reports down to Port Vila every three hours or so with wind speeds but his instrument to measure those had not worked for some time, plus local conditions. A number of Islands do this then Vila give out the weather reports for the general area. We looked out to sea and decided it was OK to move on so that is just what we did. We motored out of Port Sandwich – Kathy and I had named it Coconut Bay by this stage as it was totally surrounded by a huge plantation many of which were floating around the Bay, and on up the coast and into Port Stanley. Here we spent a couple of nights. We explored ashore hitching a ride on the back of a Ute into the local village of Lakatoro for a few very basic supplies and also having a simple but tasty lunch at a very simple basic restaurant.

Next morning we are on up the coast heading for Luganville on Espiritu Santo Island. Santo is Vanuatu’s largest Island with a fascinating history. This is where we are at the moment. Sitting on a mooring two and a half kms across the bay from Luganville in the most magical spot just off the Island of Aore. We are moored in around 18mt of water and can see the bottom. Only a few metres swim away is a reef which we swim each day and it is like being in a tropical fish tank. I have met up with Nemo and ALL his friends and family. It is so amazing with all the coloured corals and fish. We were invited up here by a most delightful NZ couple who have a holiday home on the Island - Bridget and Ken. Again we met them at the Auckland Boat Show this year. We arrived here six days ago and this is where Alec and I will leave for Australia from. Sadly Dave and Kathy leave us tomorrow to fly back to NZ. They have been such fun and we have really enjoyed their company and sharing all these wonderful places with them.

Yesterday Ken had to return to NZ to check up on his farm so we took Bridget out for the day. We motored across the Bay to a place called Million Dollar Point. It is an undersea junkyard. In just a couple of metres of clean clear water you snorkel around and can see where the Americans dumped thousands of tons of military equipment like jeeps, bulldozers, cranes trucks etc at the end of the war. Then just a short distance from there is a wonderful dive site where the USS President Coolidge Liner being used as a Troop Ship was sunk by friendly mines during the war. Dave went over and snorkelled around but could not see it as that is as a bit too deep to see from the surface.

We have taken the tender across to Luganville and also hired a van and driver for a day to see a bit more of Santo. We were taken up the east coast through really dense rainforest to a place called Champagne Beach. It was lovely with fine white sands and turquoise waters. On the way up there we were taken to the Matevulu Blue Hole. After a bit of a trek through the jungle we arrived at this really quite unique and amazing place. The water is so-ooo blue and crystal clear. We had a swim and took lots of photos.

Ok this note has turned into a screed!! So I will sign out.

Love to you all

Admiral, Captain and our wonderful Crew .

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