We have arrived in Vanuatu!
The passage ended up being a very tiring one. After the frontal passage that we were going through in my last post the wind never really settled as it was expected to. We officially entered the tropics the next day when we passed 25 degrees latitude. To mark this occasion the skies clouded over and we entered a period of squalls and rain that lasted for the next five days. It’s a good thing we are using GPS for navigation; if we had to rely on celestial sights we’d have been pretty unsure of our position! Bob is a temperamental old lady and does not tolerate either too little or too much sail for the conditions, so we were tired out with reefing, unreefing, rolling in and rolling out sails. The wind direction was never steady for more than 5 minutes either so we were constantly adjusting David, the wind vane, and trimming the sails to match. Often we found ourselves with no wind at all in the lulls, or light tail-winds accompanied by a lumpy cross-sea, in which case our only option to keep moving and try to settle things down a bit was to start the engine and motor for a bit. In fact, we went through almost our entire 40-gallon tank of diesel, which I think is more than we used in the whole of last year!
The weather broke on the morning of our final full day at sea. The seas calmed considerably and we were given a light breeze on the beam, so we set the spinnaker and spent a very enjoyable day gliding along in fine conditions, making miles while working on re-developing something resembling a sun tan to protect us from the tropical sun.
We arrived in Port Vila at 0330 the following morning and cleared customs just before mid-day. Sarah’s parents are here to visit so we had a lovely lunch with them and went to bed very early for a much-needed rest.
On first impressions Port Vila is much busier than I expected. Tourism is big here and all day there were people whizzing around on jet-ski tours, taking sight-seeing helicopter rides from the air pad next to where we were anchored or lounging in bars and restaurants. It has a very Caribbean feeling about it, except that the people are much friendlier and the atmosphere is somehow lighter and nicer. Apparently one doesn’t have to go far to get beyond the commercialism and into the real heart of Vanuatuan culture, where Prince Philip is a deity, bungy-jumping is done using jungle vines to ensure a good harvest and cannibalistic ceremonies are performed by shamans (using pigs these days…….. or so they say!). We don’t have long here before we must be moving on, but I think we’ll get a chance to see some of that side of things too.