Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moving North in Vanuatu

May 12, 2010-We left Port Vila on Saturday, May 8, and motor sailed to the northwestern side of the island. We decided to anchor in Eseme Bay in Havannah Harbor. This harbor is where the U.S. Navy fleet, including the carriers Lexington and Yorktown, anchored before leaving to fight the Battle of the Coral Sea, in which the Lexington was lost. Scarlett O'Hara and Po'onio Roa followed about an hour behind us.

Very shortly after anchoring a local named Talo rowed his outrigger canoe up to our boat and asked if we would like some bananas and pomplemousse (I don't know the correct spelling), which are very large grapefruits and very delicious. We, of course, said yes, so he paddled off. We did not expect him until the next day; however, about an hour later, he returned, along with three small children, to deliver our fruit. He brought us a very large stock of bananas and two grapefruit. We agreed on a price of $250 VAT, which amounts to $2.50 U.S. We spent the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

On Sunday Po'onio Road left; however, we decided to stay for two more days in order to allow the weather to improve. In the morning a young man named Kenneth rowed up to the boat and offered us more grapefruit. Now, we already had five grapefruits; however, we like to help out the locals by buying goods from them so we agreed to buy two grapefruit. Ken gave us two and threw in two more. He asked for fishing line in payment, and, luckily, Steve had some that he had purchased for just such a purpose. Ken seemed very happy with the trade when he left, but Steve and I sat and looked at our nine grapefruits. We immediately ate two of them in order to reduce the number that we had to store on board. We were certainly not lacking in our daily allowance of Vitamin C. All the locals that went by in their boats whistled at us and waved, and we are always amazed at how many people they put on one boat.

On Monday John and Renee from Scarlett joined us on a trip to shore to see the remnants of a U.S. base that was on shore. We took our dinghies to the beach and tied them to a stick in the water since the tide was still coming up. We spoke with some kids who were on shore, but they did not know the spot we were asking about. We decided to walk north, and within one kilometer, we saw a sign that said, "American Pool." This is where the U.S. dammed up a small river to create a pool of fresh water for the ships. There were about eight young men swimming in the pool, and they looked as though they were enjoying the cool water.

A little further down the road, we did see a military half track that was rusting away on the side of the road, and across the street was a village that had been built using the remnants of the military base. We did not go into the village, but Steve was able to take a few pictures. After taking some more pictures, we returned to our dinghies and went back to the boats. Steve needed to work on navigation, and I needed to wash out some clothes.

At dawn on Tuesday morning, our two boats left the anchorage and headed north to Epi Island. We had to go through a pass, which was not a problem at all. The seas were pretty confused, and even though I had taken my medicine, I still got a bit seasick. The winds were light so we had to motor sail, but we needed to recharge the batteries after several days of overcast skies and very light wind so we didn't mind. After about two hours, the wind picked up, and we were able to sail for the next six hours. The last two hours we were back to motor sailing, and we used that time to make water. We pulled into Révolieu Bay, which was not much of a bay, and dropped our anchor. The waves were rolling into the anchorage, so we spent an uncomfortable night on the settees instead of the berth.

In the morning, John and Renee left to cross over to Malakula Island; however, we decided to move 12 miles north to Lamen Bay. The wind was again very light, so we turned on the engine and headed out. It was a quick run and provided us with another opportunity to make water. We arrived two hours later and slowly moved up into the bay and dropped our anchor in 18 feet of water.

On shore, the inter-island ferry had just pulled up to the shore and a large group of people were gathered around. After putting the boat in order, we launched the dinghy and went ashore. As we walked up to the ferry, we saw that the men were unloading wood planks onto a skiff, which was then brought to shore and unloaded onto the sand. There were people waiting to get on the ferry, and their belongings were packed in a woven palm frond basket. It was wonderful to watch.
We walked along the beach and then up to the village. One older woman named Winnie spoke to us for several minutes. We took her picture and promised to send her a print. Another man stopped us to talk for a few minutes and gave us two oranges before we left. Everyone was friendly. Most of the villagers were at the community market, where they were serving rice and fish as a fund raiser for the primary school. We spoke to Tasso, the man who runs the resort on shore, and he was very friendly and helpful, and before we left, we made a donation to the school.

We returned to the boat and sat in the cockpit watching spinner dolphins that were swimming and performing acrobatics in the bay, and we also saw numerous turtles swimming around the boat. We had hoped to see the "dugong" swimming by, but she never did appear. A dugong is very much like a manatee, and this one is friendly enough to let you swim with her. Probably all the boat props in the bay today scared her away--and with good reason.

Tomorrow we will move over to Malakula Island for several days, where we hope to enjoy some snorkeling. Sharks are more prevalent here in Vanuatu, and one is supposed to ask the locals if swimming is safe. Malakula is safe and has some good reefs for snorkeling.

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