Cruising is traveling to Paradise to fix the boat

Trip Start Jan 15, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Island Prism
What I did
Iririki Island, WW1 memorial

Flag of Vanuatu  ,
Thursday, May 31, 2012

It was late afternoon when we hauled in the anchor and set sail for Tanna.  The great advantage of a sailboat is that we still had sails for power.  The strong reinforced trade winds had died down and the weather was looking perfect for an overnight passage.  The plan was to sail to Port Resolution, spend a few nights there and then rent accommodation on land to let us visit Yasur, an active volcano.  It was going to be one of the highlights of our trip and was one of the main reasons for us selecting Vanuatu as our first cruising destination.  Then we received the weather reports for the next few days.  A nasty low pressure was predicted to appear above Fiji.  Murphy's Law struck again- the low would give us northerly winds, which would make it almost impossible to leave Port Resolution, and would blow Island Prism towards the shore- it would be an uncomfortable and potentially unsafe position to be in.  So at 4am, two hours away from our goal, we had to make the decision to carry on up to Port Vila where we could repair the engine that would keep us out of sticky situations.  Miles away, Yasur threw fireworks into the sky, casting an orange glow over the island to torment us with what we were missing.

The next day we sailed on, past Erromango where the cannibals of days past carved poor Mr Dillon's outline in stone before they cooked and ate their first missionary.  We arrived at Port Vila in the early morning, riding a gentle breath of wind into the flat waters of the harbour.  We dropped the sails and tied the dinghy tightly to the boat, using its outboard motor to steer us through the busy mooring field.  A gentleman boated out to meet us and handed us the rope to the mooring buoy, a much-appreciated courtesy that robbed Jimmie of the chance to lose yet another boathook in the effort to snare the line.  On land, we enjoyed showers with unlimited hot water for the first time in over three weeks.  The pleasure was not even spoiled by the enormous spider who decided to come share my bathroom.  We explored part of the town.  It was a bustling community with a mix of modern and colonial buildings.  We were impressed with the well-stocked supermarkets, and loved the outdoor market.  Under a large roof were dozens of fruit and vegetable stalls, staffed by ladies in vibrant-hued dresses trimmed with flounces and ruffles.  It was a bustling riot of colour, with excellent prices.  We met Miryam, who ran a little store serving rice with fish or beef; she told us that it has been two years since Vanuatu has been hit by a cyclone, and crops are flourishing.  The stacks of grapefruit, bags of limes, piles of papaya and heaps of taro, chilli, ginger, kumera and plants too exotic for me to identify stood testament to the excellent growing conditions.  Jim, with his love of fresh fruit, was in heaven, and soon our bags were full of peppers, aubergine, pineapple and bananas, which he instantly began demolishing.  We located a hardware store which had the tools Jim needed to remove the troublesome adapter from the engine, and I was delighted to discover a supermarket with a stock of Bordeaux at good prices.  We fired up the barbeque and chilled the bubbles we had been given as a wedding gift, and sat in the cockpit as the sun set and the local dogs and roosters carried on as if they were the Musicians of Bremin. 

We pulled the engine, and Jim examined the seal whilst I went to town to visit the market.  The seal was bust, no hope for it.  We placed an order for a new one back in New Zealand, and were told it would take from 3- 10 days to arrive.  We consoled ourselves by dressing up and taking the dinghy to the nearby island of Iririki,  which boasted a rather swish resort with a decent happy hour.  A margarita took away some of the pain of the misbehaving engine.  However, Jim's whisky interfered with his ability to operate the dinghy.  As I began my usual cautious descent into the zodiac, Jim declared 'this is how I do it', and confidently stepped in to the craft.  He didn't fall in, but he did take the line with him.  He had no oars, was not tied to the shore, and the key to the outboard was in my bag.  As he drifted helplessly away towards the Pacific Ocean he threw me a line.  Being newly-weds, and as it was his turn to cook dinner, I managed to grab it and pull him back to the dock.  I am sure the crabs on the dock were laughing at him.  I know I was.     

Exploring Port Vila was a lot of fun.  We wandered through markets, enjoyed a cup of delicious Tannanese coffee, strolled round the cathedral grounds and found the Madonna nestled amongst tropical blooms.  Climbing a hill, we enjoyed stunning views cross Vila Bay from the war memorial, and were greeted by students at play as we passed a multitude of schools.  Architecture ranged from attractively shabby colonial, through tin sheds to sleek modern constructions.  We finished off at the supermarket.  Vanuatu was jointly colonised by the French and the British, and this is evident in many of the shops.  The shelves are stoked with Bordeaux, Saint-Emillion and Sancerre, usually at a much lower cost than the Australian imports.  Baguettes are cheap and delicious, and the French cheeses are fantastic.  A typical and inexpensive lunch is fast becoming a crusty baguette with a slab of brie or Roquefort and a glass of vin de Pays d'Oc.  It's like being back in Provence- but with more coral and frangipani.  Local organic beef is delicious, but fresh fish is almost impossible to come by in the shops.  When we have the engine fixed we shall have to try to catch some of our own!
Jim is off raiding the fruit market again, having consumed all the bananas and papaya on the boat.  Afterwards, we shall don snorkeling gear and explore the warm blue waters around the boat, whilst hoping that NZ post can reach us swiftly.  It's not that I'm desperate to get away from this lovely town, but we could do with  a nice wahoo for the barbie, just in case I get bored with scotch fillet...

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