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November 2017: Shamal is on the hard in Guatemala.Mum and Dad are home in New Zealand till Jan. 2018. *ATTENTION PLEASE* if you are still interested in receiving the posts, could you please subscribe to the Blog following the two step process in the right hand column, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox. As of next year the reminder emails that are being sent out will cease. Thanks to all of you for following our Adventures.

13 July 2009

Vanuatu (Luganville) to Mackay (Australia)

Hello Again

As I start this email to you we are on day three of our crossing from Luganville on the Island of Santo – Vanuatu, to Mackay in Oz. We have only covered a total of 267nm. A very slow trip so far but the winds are so light we are having to motor sail. The charges for arriving in Oz are horrendous. Customs and Immigration have quoted us $400 and it is more if we arrive in the weekend, so we have seen a reef marked on the map we pass quite close by and we may stop here to pass the time if it looks like our arrival time is going to be over a weekend.
It was a sad departure from Luganville. We had not really even touched the Vanuatu group which is made up of 83 Islands and yet those that we did, we met the most amazing people. I am not sure if I am ready to face the rat race of a so called 1st world culture and all its sophistication. We have left behind a beautiful people who are not all yet touched by our western ways which was so refreshing. Obesity was nearly unseen. They are anxious to please you and greet you with warm smiles and there is a lot of waving. Even the teenagers want to talk to you. Doesn’t that make a change! They don’t ask you for anything but if you do hand over a second hand T-shirt or pair of your old shoes they seemed overwhelmed at your generosity. They will then run off and bring you back a pawpaw or some other tropical fruit or vege from their gardens. You just wish you could carry more with you. As in the tropics there is not much twilight and so darkness falls quickly. Electricity is mainly only found in the main centres so their way of life is very simple. You go to bed and rise with the sun. In town the other day Kathy and I saw an outer village man sitting on the back of a Ute dressed only in a beanie, sunglasses and a penis wrapper. I was too slow with my camera.

We also left behind new friends – Bridget and ken from NZ who have built a Lockwood home on the Island of Aore – just across from Luganville. They were so kind and made our stay so warm and welcoming.

Leaving and clearing Customs and Immigration was fraught with the usual difficulties which we are now getting use to. We decided the weather was right to leave first light on Thursday 2nd July so went to clear out on the Wednesday. Customs took longer than we had expected – and we did allow time – so by the time we arrived at Immigration it was early afternoon and there was a note on the door to say ‘This Office Closed Wednesday Afternoon For Sports’. I tell you one does learn patience!!!! So it was back the next morning, a job that was completed in 10 minutes but as we had to use the tender that took time to stow away and make SHAMAL ready for our ocean crossing. Then there was the last swim we had to have. We used this time to also give SHAMAL’S hulls a good clean to pass the Oz Quarantine clearance. They will have your boat lifted out at your expense if they are not happy with it. So it was not until 11.00am when we finally sailed on out leaving Santo behind. We will return one day when we are back in the Pacific and visit more of this amazing Island Archipelago.

Well here we are on the morning day 6. We have covered 670nm with an average speed of 5.6kts. Just over half way. It is an 1,100nm trip. As you can see this is a very slow trip but also very comfortable as we have been on a broad reach or running down wind. Weather wise we could do with a bit more wind. As for the rain the weather charts told us we would get this morning well, at 9.00 we had a big black cloud looming down on us from the Port beam so we put in a reef only to take it out 2 hours later with not even the hint of rain or more wind. It is overcast today with the sun trying very hard to come through but apart from that I have been fishing in the sun the other days. Caught a barracuda on Saturday which I put back. We also saw a pod of whales that afternoon playing in the sun. A couple of nights ago two boobys landed for the night and we thought that was so neat. One on the solar panel and the other on the bow rail. Well Alec soon changed his mind about that being 'so neat' when they flew off in the morning and the one on the solar panel had droppings all over it and all down the tender cover, and the one up front had sicked up tiny fish and shit all over the tramp!!

We are trying very hard to eat our way through the freezer and fresh stuff but I can see we are still going to arrive in Oz with it which customs will remove. We still have 4 of coconuts and 4 pawpaw. It is strange but we don’t seem to eat so much when making a passage, but we are not doing as much exercise either.

The afternoon of day 6 sees a change in the weather. The first squalls hit at 9.00pm. Again another booby hitches a ride. He had a very bumpy night holding on very tightly to the life line just beside the helm, not in the least worried about us only being a couple of feet away. We did not have the heart to sent him on his way as he must of needed the rest and there was no land for him to rest on so I said I would clean up his droppings in the morning. Days 7 and 8 the weather changes to overcast, rain squalls, winds between 17 – 25kts, but some of that time the wind was right on the nose with seas breaking over the boat. Short sharp seas getting up to 4mts for a time. But SHAMAL handles those conditions well. We were humming along for a time doing 8kts. We reached Marion Reef, about 100nm out from the Great Barrier Reef at 2.30am on day 8 and Alec decided we would keep going as he calculated we would get to Mackay before the weekend. We reached Hydrographers Passage on the Great Barrier Reef at 6.30pm that night. The first few hours we had the wind and tide in our favour so the ride in for the first few miles was quick, but then things changed and we did not clear through till 5.45am the next morning. It was quite nerve racking passing coral reefs in the dark and not being able to see a thing, just relying on charts and our chart plotter. We chose this passage as it is used by commercial shipping and well marked with lead lights, but that also meant avoiding these huge ships passing in both directions in a rather narrow pass. At times only half a mile away but when it is dark it seems so much closer. In the morning when we were closer in Alec picked up 30 ships anchored off the coast on the AIS (Automatic Identification System which is on our chart plotter) waiting to load coal or sugar. This was confirmed once we arrived. It then took us till 3.30 that afternoon to motor sail the 80nm into Mackay.

WE MADE IT. LEG THREE COMPLETED. All 1,160nm of it in 8 days 5 hours. The Captain and the Admiral have completed their first ‘Blue Water’ on their own. We were exhausted but exhilarated at the same time. Then there was the matter of our clearance into Aussie. Exhilaration turned to exasperation!! We were expecting a bit of a tough time but some of those stories one reads or hears about clearing into Australia are true. Four people march down the ramp (help you would have thought we were a cruise liner coming in) and the first question before they come aboard is, is anyone sick, and, are you carrying animals. The two custom officers were very friendly and their part was completed quickly. They handed Alec a cruising permit which is valid for six months and two post cards asking him to send them one each three months as to our whereabouts!! Very tempted to answer – weather great, having a neat time, guess where we are!!! Then the two Quarantine boys proceeded with their part of the clearance. Armed with big yellow rubbish bags they started with the freezer. They took all remaining NZ export quality meat labelled and marked correctly but told us as we had come via other places and not directly from NZ it would have to be seized. Make sense of that? About $100 worth. Fresh veges, cheese, butter, eggs-only 2 left but they had cost 70cents each in Luganville, popcorn, little steamed puddings - because they contained eggs, and my frozen bread dough as it may contain milk!!, my gluten free bread in the freezer, etc, etc. The Quarantine fee was $AU330 for the privilege!!! At least customs had no charge. We then moved SHAMAL over to a marina berth had a can of sweet corn and were in bed just after 7.00pm We slept through till 9.00 the following morning. Then we started on the big clean up. We were very salt encrusted and found we had blown the starboard trampoline in the heavy seas. Not a major repair, just a bit of PVC and some sewing. We also found that seawater came down the outlet hose on the washing machine and it was about a quarter fill of seawater!! Hence the boat has been drenched with fresh water including the washing machine!!!!

Tomorrow – Monday – we will take the bus into Mackay as the marina is about 10ks outside of the town, and stock up on a few supplies, then on Tuesday if the weather is right we will head on up to The Whitsundays where we will do a couple of repairs so we could be there for a couple of weeks.

OK will sign out for this note. Thank you all for your emails and keeping us posted as to your events as well. Great to hear from you all.

Much love from

The Admiral and The Captain



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