Passage to Vanuatu

After finally clearing out of Vuda with Fijian Customs officials, who were four hours late, Phil, my friend visiting from Los Angeles, Travis, and I readied the boat for departure to Vanuatu. Just as we were about to cast off the lines, the marina staff appeared in front of our boat and serenaded us in their native language, which was most touching. Everyone was incredibly kind and accommodating during our week’s stay at their marina, and while we were anxious to resume our cruising, now that our boat was 100% operational, it was sad to leave such a lovely, friendly place.

Vuda Marina staff farewell ceremony

We had hoped to leave well before noon, which would have fit nicely with our passage plan to arrive Vanuatu, 560 NM distant, by mid-day the following Monday, enabling us to clear customs upon arrival. Alas, Fiji Customs had other plans, so we sailed at 1600. While the weather report was not great, showing some low pressure zones in our path and perhaps 25 knot southeast winds, we figured on having a fast, albeit lumpy, passage. Phil is an avid sailor and owns a Swan 44 like mine, but he limits his sailing to coastal jaunts in relatively benign Southern California weather. With that in mind, I suggested he apply a Scopolamine anti-seasick patch a few hours before departure, rather than risk becoming seasick and staying that way for the three-day passage.

While we were right about the weather, our prophylactic measure for Phil backfired, as he felt horrible almost immediately, in spite of initially moderate seas, and confined himself to the port side berth early on. As wind and seas built, as predicted, he felt no better, but no worse, even with steady 30-40 knot winds and breaking seas around 4.5 – 5 meters high for the next 48 hours. As for Travis and me, we are accustomed to this sort of abuse, but I had picked up some food-borne illness in Fiji two weeks previously, and felt somewhat nauseous whether on land or sea. Phil and I subsisted on oatmeal, soup, and an occasional apple or orange. Travis and I took 3-hour watches, so nobody ever got more than 1.5 hours of sleep at a time. It was not pleasant, but not horrible, either. Driving was fun in those seas, and there were no “rogue” waves this time, just the occasional greybeard that would smack into our hull and dump a lot of spray into the cockpit.

When the weather finally moderated Monday morning, the boat was covered with salt from being continuously inundated by big waves, my forward cabin bunk had a damp spot from a leaking hatch gasket, but otherwise nothing was broken or damaged. Phil ripped off is Scopolamine patch, immediately felt human again and began taking serious nourishment. While he was confined to his bunk for the first 48 hours, his sunny disposition never flagged, and he was a great shipmate. At least he enjoyed the last 8 hours sailing before we arrived at Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Upon arrival, we anchored at the “quarantine” area, and the Customs launch appeared almost immediately. Forms were processed, money changed hands, and we were free to lower our yellow quarantine flag and fly the Vanuatu pennant. We proceeded to a mooring at Yachting World Marina, which is owned by the eponymous company. The Waterfront Restaurant at the marina is superb, and we enjoyed many meals there before Phil had to fly home. After starving ourselves during the three day passage, we were ready to indulge.

View from our mooring at Port Vila: Hurricane Pam carnage from 2015
Phil and George happy to enjoy fine dining at last!

Travis left us the day after we arrived, met up with his friend Pauline , and flew to Luganville, Vanuatu’s northern island, where they were taking a free diving course and going to just travel for a week “or so.” Phil and I had two days together, during which we enjoyed numerous restaurants, saw a bit of the island, and relaxed and read books on board. My Fijian stomach ailment was slowly improving, so I actually appreciated those amazingly good meals. Vanuatu beef is grass-fed, free range, and delicious. I eat it almost daily, along with Thai food, fresh local snapper, mahi-mahi, and the ubiquitous “fish and chips.”

Nor’easter and George in a happy place at Waterfront Restaurant

Once Phil left, a slip became available in front of the Waterfront Restaurant, so I moved in and, after a week, still haven’t left. Finally kicking my Fiji bug, I badly needed time to relax and gain some weight, but did spend one day cleaning the salt off the hull and deck and polishing the stainless. Nor’easter looks like she’s ready for a boat show. I have fun sitting in the cockpit and meeting various restaurant patrons, who are curious about the boat and how someone as old as me can be sailing around the world. When I step off the boat into the restaurant, the wait-staff always asks, “would you like your usual table?” That’s fun. I feel like a character in a Jimmy Buffet song, either Banana Republic or A Pirate Looks at 40, not sure which.

There are a lot of great places to which I could sail nearby, but I’m happy to stay put for now. Today I played 18 holes at Port Vila Country Club, which has been around for 50 years and is an excellent track. After a delicious lunch at the Club’s grill room, I caught one of the many vans that ply the roads ($1.50 gets you anywhere you want to go), got back to the boat by 1430, took a 3-hour nap, got up and had fresh mahi-mahi at the Waterfront. I met a nice couple from Aukland who joined me for dinner and later some Mount Gay and pineapple juice on Nor’easter. Yesterday I did 2 exceptional scuba dives in the morning, then got a massage. This is my idea of world cruising!

#12 Green Port Vila Country Club

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Passage to Vanuatu

  1. Hardy, I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Jamie told me you’d been under the weather, and that had to have been so hard, what with having to sail the boat, and take watches every three hours. Glad you’re getting some R&R. I was going to make a snide comment about “A Pirate Looks at 40”, ie, “a pirate looks at 40 through the wrong end of a telescope”, or “a pirate looks at 70”, or “you wish”, but I won’t. I used your ticket and accompanied Jamie to the C.P. property owners’ dinner the other night, and at least 4 couples stopped by our table to say how they love your blogs, and admire you for making such an ambitious trip. I miss being in Ohio and not seeing you.
    Love, Dale

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah Dale I miss you too! It was so fun having you around Sandusky. I miss my family and friends. Travis is off with Pauline and I’m feeling lonely, and didn’t get off the boat all day due to problems of my own causing, but I did fix a few things as well. Now I’m at a sushi bar. Tomorrow think I’ll play golf again.

      Pirate looks at 40 was delusional on my part. I keep forgetting I’m almost 70. Feel good, though. Glad the Fiji Crud finally left me alone. I can’t imagine how awful it would be to have a chronic disease. After 3 weeks of that minor malady, my outlook on life was fading fast.

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      1. I’ve been thinking about you and your long-staying stomach bug. Of all illnesses, an unquiet gut is probably the worst, and to have it for THREE WEEKS and not even have the luxury of lolling around on the couch watching TV while nibbling tea and toast… I’m just glad you’re better.

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      2. I didn’t think about my discomfort when I was sailing, just around mealtimes when I thought I should eat but didn’t feel like it. Also, beer was totally unappealing, so you know I was sick! Still not 100% but probably 95% back to normal.

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

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  2. Your experiences are mind boggling !!!!!
    Will keep you in prayer 🙏🏻🙏🏻
    Sounds exhilarating and scary all at the same time
    😘❤️ dixie

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    1. It’s not so bad. You get used to 35 knots and when it drops to 25, it’s like being becalmed. I feel sorry for our guests, who consistently get hit with the worst weather. We have no more visitors scheduled, sadly. I think our blogs scared everyone to death.

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  3. Good to hear from you and happy that you are safe. I was wondering if the “Travis and Pauline Story” might have a second chapter.

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    1. T is hanging out with native families in remote islands with Pauline. He’s abandoned me. Guess he needed a break. I have gotten to know lots of local people, but am happy to sleep on my boat and not in mud huts.

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  4. Homes,
    you need to change the by-line on the top of the story for attribution. We saw Jamie on Saturday at the CPPOA annual meeting. Weather here has improved and the water is gone from the backyard. You are a changed man after your adventure. Wiser, certainly.
    Safe travels!

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    1. Yeah, I accidentally wrote it under Travis’s byline. Glad you are reading my stuff. It’s a fun way to stay in touch with everyone. I’ve spent every night on board since March 1. It’ll be nice to get home again, wet yard notwithstanding.

      This trip has put a lot of things in perspective, but most of all I’m not afraid to tackle any job on board. I’ll never be RK, but at least I know how to fix most diesel and outboard routine problems. Also have new respect for the sea, but it doesn’t scare me, just makes me vigilant as hell.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

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  5. George,

    I love reading your blogs!!

    Sounds like a GREAT way to see some obscure parts of the World. My sailing this summer has been limited to the Delaware River around here in Philadelphia. Keep writing those great blogs! (I’m still having nightmares about your encounter with a rogue wave.) You are making all of us Hobart grads proud!

    Tim Richards

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    1. After just rereading “Fastnet Force 10,” which I first read 30 years ago before I’d experienced any severe offshore weather, my little rogue wave seems like a ripple on a lake. It didn’t even roll us through 360 degrees!

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  6. Hi George, it’s Glen and Sam – the couple from Auckland. You’ve certainly inspired us by showing that pineapple juice and mount gay makes for a great drink….. and by sharing your stories of real adventure by earning the right to explore the world after your career success. We’ll follow your travels home on this blog and please, if you ever decide to visit New Zealand, we would love to have you stay at our place on the water in Auckland. Travel safe.

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    1. This is Dale, George’s landlubber sister. I want to go drink rum and pineapple juice in Auckland, New Zealand with Glen and Sam!

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  7. George, it’s Glen and Sam here, the couple from Auckland. Thank you so much for your hospitality and for inspiring us to rethink life, and put the things we really want to do at the front of the queue.

    We’re now in love with Rum and Pineapple juice, and would love to pay you back with refreshments at our place in Auckland when you one day come to New Zealand, along with a place to rest your head during the stay.

    Your a man physically challenging yourself more than most people half your age, and we inspire to be like you, and have already started saving for our Nor’easter 😊.

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    1. You guys give me way too much credit, but thank you for making me feel so heroic! Certainly will let you know when we are ready for NZ. I have a couple of blog posts coming out soon, so stay tuned.

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