Saturday, 24 June 2017

Luganville and long awaited rendez-vous with HONEY!!


We have now spent just over three weeks in Vanuatu - we arrived the day before our 19th anniversary, which suited Victoria well because it meant that we could stock up on groceries before she and Johnathan created our (now annual) Anniversary Feast :) I have given up on telling you about all our adventures so far in one email, so you will perhaps be glad to know that I will be sending a few short(er) notes.

We spent a few days in Luganville, where Max was able to dive on the SS President Coolidge (one of the top ten wreck dives in the world) and he took the big kids to visit the Millennium Caves (a hike/swim that involved scrambling through the jungle and floating down a river - their report at the end of the day confirmed that Benjamin and I were wise to remain aboard Fluenta). There were happy reports all around from both expeditions, and once we have Internet access, Max will post photos to share more about their adventures.

Clearing into Vanauatu in Luganville is pretty easy if a person knows where to go. Thankfully one of the cruising guides provided photos and directions to the buildings, because Customs is within a commercial wharf, Immigration is completely unmarked, and Quarantine is at the other end of town! When we arrived, we anchored off the main town while Max did the clearances, and then a few days later, I took trekked back to obtain our cruising permit, extended visas, and permission letter to return from Canada on a 'one-way' ticket. We got our exercise, as both excursions involved walking several times up and down the length of the main street (not to mention five editions of a multi-page form, two passport photos each, and a letter requesting our one-way return from Canada). I was glad that, for once, I hadn't left all this admin until the last minute! [Aside - another boat got an unfortunate reminder to keep the boat occupied and/or locked when anchored off the main town of Luganville: their boat was entered through a hatch and a laptop was stolen and another had their dingy stolen and "ransomed back"]

After clearing in, we spent most of the week anchored off the Beachfront resort, which offered yachties the services we have come to treasure - a beach where we could leave our dinghy (under the watchful eye of their 24/7 security guard, but emptied of anything valuable at his suggestion), a bar/restaurant with wifi (free for slowspeed and 1000 vatu/week/device (about $12 Cdn) for highspeed), and a pool where all three kids burned off some steam while we caught up on admin. Wearing the floatation belt from his Auntie Marilyn, Benjamin became confident and independent in the water to the point that every time we have anchored since, he has asked if we are back on the "Pool Island".

Given that our anniversary was the following day, Victoria and I headed for the market, the bakery, and the butcher for some (somewhat famous) fruit and veg, baguettes, and meat. Victoria also added a few ingredients to the shopping list without telling me precisely what they were for (including a two-pound block of cream cheese!) She is always in charge of the menu for our anniversary. To telescope our visit, we also booked the expedition to the Millennium Caves for the next day, with no idea how much exertion would be involved...

The Millennium Caves visit ended quite late in the afternoon and left everyone totally spent, but this did not faze the kids - as soon as they got back, Max and I were packed off (sans Benjamin) for a drink and starter ashore while the three kids set to work to create our Anniversary feast. It is a rare treat to have a conversation without a little voice asking from another room that we repeat or explain something that we have just said! Before long, we received the call on the VHF that our chauffeur was enroute to take us back to Fluenta: everything was ready for dinner, and even Benjamin had been recruited as the 'naked waiter guy' :) Vanuatu is known for its beef (something about grazing on mostly volcanic soil) so on the menu were steaks, potatoes, Caesar salad with home-made dressing, and home-made cheese cake for dessert. As usual, I sent a silent message of thanks to Julie on SV Nirvana for the Caesar dressing recipe!!

Luganville is a busy and colourful town, with one main street that runs from the Customs dock to the Beachfront and beyond into the country. After months in atolls, where nothing much grows but coconuts and pandanus, we especially enjoyed the huge, juicy, and sweet local Pamplemousse (pomelo) from the market. It was easy to either walk into town or flag down a taxi on the road, and there were plenty of taxis in town to take us home. Unlike Majuro, where the fare was on a per-person basis (and strangers shared each cab, getting on and off like a private bus service), the fare in Luganville was per-cab, and it was 100 vatu within the town and 200 vatu to go 'beyond the river' to the Beachfront.

With the kids chomping at the bit to see their friends on Honey, we left Luganville as soon as our admin was finished and sailed to Maewo Island to meet them at Asanvari Bay. For the first time in memory, we tried a middle-of-the-night departure, where all the upper deck preparations were completed in the daylight, Max went 'off watch' immediately after dinner, and I spent the evening preparing the saloon and galley (and watching the clock). Shortly after midnight, I woke Max, we weighed anchor, and I went to sleep as soon as we had all the getting underway chores completed. I had a particularly long off-watch, as Victoria took the dawn watch and the first I knew it was almost 9am!! We sailed the rest of the way to Asanvari together, and then Max was able to sleep after we set the anchor. The Bay was completely socked in with a trough sitting over us, so we didn't venture very far that first afternoon!

The following morning, there was great hooting and hollering and blowing of fog horns when Honey sailed into the anchorage just as I was putting Sunday pancakes on the table. We had been watching them on AIS as they came tantalizingly close and then tacked away again to enter the bay under sail. I had doubled the recipe on the assumption that we would not be alone to eat them, and this began a marvelous week of shared food and company. After an entire season in different countries, we all had so much catching up to do!!

Over the next ten days, I generally knew that I would find two, or three, or five (or even zero) children onboard, but I didn't always know which ones they would be :) Amongst themselves, Victoria, Johnathan, Ella, and Samuel worked out a daily plan of who would sleep and play on each boat, generally including Benjamin, and simply kept the moms informed. They even washed dishes!

I will leave our adventure there for a moment - news to follow of our ten days with Honey, where we saw what seemed like a month's worth of anchorages together. After such a long absence, it was so good to buddy-boat together !

Much love to all,
At 2017-06-18 11:41 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 16°34.10'S 168°10.37'E
At 2017-06-18 11:41 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 16°34.10'S 168°10.37'E

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