Ambrym would also provide a stopover on our way to Pentecoste for the land diving ceremony. Land diving in Vanuatu is where the idea of bungee jumping came from. Legend has it that a woman tried to flee her abusive husband, who pursued her up a huge banyan tree. She leapt, supposedly to her death. He leapt after her realizing, too late, that she had tied vines to her ankles. Now the jumps are made in order to insure a good yam harvest, and only males are allowed to make the jumps.
Well, we left the anchorage under reefed main with a full jib with the wind on the beam. What a great sail. Unfortunately, that lasted about an hour and then the wind clocked around on our nose and rose to 20 knots. We fought our way around the northwest point of Ambrym where the current and opposing wind created some nasty chop. When we were about 4 miles from our anchorage, we decided that it was just too rough, and we would be uncomfortable that evening.
We decided to change course to go directly to Pentecoste; however, the winds turned again and were right on our nose. We decided to turn around and return to Banam Bay and then try again in a day or two. Now we thought that we would have a nice downwind sail when we reversed our course. Instead we now had wind out of the southwest—right on our nose for the return trip. We traveled 40 miles and burned 5 gallons of diesel to end up right back where we had started. It was now four o’clock in the afternoon, and we were a bit tired, so we ate dinner and called it a night.
The next day was spent relaxing on the boat. We decided, along with Scarlett, that we would try the crossing on Friday. The grib files, files that we use to see the weather forecast, showed a system moving through that would give us north to northwest winds on Saturday, which was the day of the jump, and also on Sunday when we would be sailing to Luganville. Because of this both boats decided to head directly north to Luganville on Espiritu Santo.
We left on Friday morning and actually had a nice sail up the east coast of Matakula. We sailed the whole way, which has been rare during our time in Vanuatu. We pulled into Port Stanley, which is a large bay with several islands, and anchored behind Uri Island and between two reefs. That gave us good protection from the prevailing winds.
While we were at anchor, a local named Freddie came to the boat and offered to trade us two very nice Nautilus shells for a sheet and a beach towel. Since the towel was new, he also gave us a stalk of bananas that Steve said were ripe and delicious.
That evening the grib files did not look good. If we did not make it to Luganville the next day, we would be stuck at anchor for three or four days in heavy rain, so we all decided to leave at first light, catch the flood tide north, and arrive in Luganville, hopefully, before the weather moved in. We were away by six the next morning and had the wind and seas on our beam, which is a good point of sail for us. The skies were very overcast and after a couple of hours, the rain squalls began to pass over us. Luckily, only a few of them had any increased wind in them. We had our main reefed way down, so we had no problems. At one point, the rain was so heavy that we could not see Scarlett, who was just a mile behind us. By the time we entered a narrow pass into Espiritu Santo, the wind and rain had decreased so we entered with no problems and picked up a mooring ball at Aore Resort, which is just across the channel from Luganville.
Steve went ashore to check us in and arrange for dinner at the resort. We relaxed during the afternoon and tried to get things dried out a bit, but then the rain began again. Actually, it was nice to get the boat rinsed off because she had salt all over her. We were also able to collect rain water in our tanks and have water to wash some clothes in. When it was dinner time, we were lucky that there was just a very light drizzle. John and Renee soon joined us, and we all had steak dinners that were superb because Vanuatu is renowned for its beef. Just as we left, it began to pour so we were soaked by the time we got back to the boat, and then the rain continued all night. We even had thunder and lightning during the night.
The next morning the dinghy was half filled with water so Steve got in with a small bucket to bail her out. I washed some clothes and hung them out on the lines without rinsing them because I figured it would rain and rinse them off. I was right—it rained all day long. Everything on board is damp, and I am wondering if the clothes will ever dry.
On a sad note—we learned that a cruising couple we know, Mike and Cindy on Air We Go, lost their boat on a reef in Samoa. They were sailing back to the United States with Alan and Kristin on sv Charisma. We don’t know all the facts, but the important thing is that they are all right. As we understand it, they were able to salvage quite a bit from the boat, but it was a total loss.
We will spend a few days here getting ready to make the passage to the Louisiades in Papua New Guinea when a good weather window appears. We will go into Luganville today to see the town and get some chores done, hopefully, without any rain!