Dear Family & Friends,
Our passage from Fiji to Vanuatu was mostly uneventful through the 600
miles. It was a fast passage with mostly down wind sailing, winds 20 to 40
knots with a high speed of 13.5 knots. We spent a good deal of time under
reduced sail trying to slow things down since we had to go in thru the reefs
during daylight. We left with the Island Cruising Assoc. rally with approx.
23 other boats. We enjoyed having our additional crew mate Jayson from
Plantation Island resort. It was neat seeing this lifestyle through a new
person's eyes. We arrived at Oyster Island resort fours days later. One of
the special things about Oyster Island is that it is owned by a fellow
yachty from New Zealand. Which always insures a warm welcome to fellow
cruisers. This also included an extremely easy and hassle free check in
from the Customs and Immigration officers which is always a nice way to
start off your time in a new country. It doesn't always work out that easy.
It's wonderful being out cruising again. EVERYTHING is new and exciting.
The staff at Oyster has kept us very busy with tours every day to some where
new and exotic. We did touring for days, everyone of them being a "10" on
the fun factor, new experiences, and the "BIG WOW". Our first day was going
up into the very unpopulated area to experience a typical village. We where
met by the "tricky man" or witch doctor of the village. He welcomed us into
his village. I can't wait to send you all pictures. They will speak for
themselves in regards to describing this "typical" village. (That will be in
about two more weeks when we get internet service.) I just couldn't wait to
share these new experiences with you all:) The second day's tour was
floating down a very narrow river covered by a tree canopy, cave like walls
on either side, rapids, and us all wearing backed-water ski type life
jackets since we where the "raft". It was truly another first on the new
experience meter! Day three was diving the SS President Coolidge and Million
Dollar Point, the location where the US dumped all the equipment after
WWII-(that's another history lesson.) Unfortunately for us, Alan Powers the
long term diver/expert of both of these historical dive site was not in the
best of moods on our day. No stories shared, actually no communication
towards the divers at all, and only 30 minutes dives done on a great diving
condition day:( Oh well, you can't have it all. The dives where
interesting from what we did get to see:) Day four was exploring what the
locals call in Vanuatu, "blue holes". This is what we Floridians call a
river from a fresh water spring. They where beautiful. It was such a treat
to be in fresh spring water!!! Our outboard motor really liked it too! The
final day of touring we rented a van with driver, did a land tour of the
island stopping in a coastal village, another blue hole to cool off and play
ball, and completed the afternoon on Champagne beach. Oh course we had a
picnic with champagne,compliments of S/V Innovation-thank you Viv and Rod!!
The sand at this beach was the closest to a Destin, Florida's beach sand
quality that I have ever seen.
After all the fun and touring it was time to head to Asanvari. The ICA
group was hosted by chief Nelson and son Nixon for another three days of
events. Here we where anchored in a protected anchorage by huge mountainous
cliffs, crystal clear deep blue water, reefs for snorkeling, and a flowing
waterfall. You just can't beat that! We did a walking tour of the local
villages. They demonstrated how they cook their meals. I guess I should let
you know they have no stoves here in the village. They have a thatched hut
for the sole purpose of cooking for the village. Inside they have a fire
circle with stones etc. It's very basic. I keep having visions of my Girl
Scout days during primitive camping training. Most of the buildings in the
"typical" village are made solely of bamboo and thatching from one of the
local trees. These same frons/leaves are use to make their basket for
carrying items and mats for flooring in the huts. You very seldom see in
product which are "man made items". Only a few metal pots and plastic bowls
for cooking. The villages are simple, clean, and very orderly. They take
lots of pride in their homes and the surrounding landscaping. This overall
organization is extraordinary compared to many cultures we have visited
along our travels. Among the village huts is one specifically for the men.
This is their "nakamak". This is where the men of the village gather and
drink kava. For those of you who have visited Fiji. You know all about
kava, the local drink made from the pepper plant. For those never
experiencing kava. It's the white man's lite adult beverage. But, this is
Vanuatu "kava". Much stronger than Fiji's. As guests of the island, women
and men where invited to try the kava. But, women where still not allowed
in the "nakamak":)
While in Asanvari, the guys-fellow cruisers, spent the day helping Chief
Nelson fix their small hydro generator. This was previously given to them by
other cruisers. This is their only means of generating electricity. Chief
Nelson uses it to generate income by charging the other villages to charge
their cell phones!!(the only thing they have that uses electric). Part of
our welcome ceremony, each boat was adopted by a family in the village which
brought us gifts of baskets and local fruits and vegetables. To this, we
gave them clothing, rice, flour, sugar, etc. Our final night was a pig roast
and a native dance preformed by the men of the local villages. There was a
pig killing ceremony that morning, to celebrate the killing of the pig for
our dinner. We did skip that and snorkeled a really cool lava tube
Next it was time to head south to the island of Amrym which has two active
volcanos. We could see the red glow from the lava at night from our
anchorage. We stopped here to attend the "Back to our Roots" festival. I
can't wait to send you these pictures too. Words just cannot describe this
event. It was three days of watching and experiencing their traditional
culture. The speciality of this island is the "Rom dance". Male dancers
disguised themselves with layers and layers of dried banana leaves and wear
elaborate tall masks or head dresses. The other male dancers wear only
"nambas", a woven sheath that covers only the penis and is attached to a
wide bark belt holding it straight out or erect. I know the women reading
this are trying to visualize this. No worries, I'll send a picture. I
decided not to send the postcards though through the US mail system. While
most of the men are dancing, a couple are pounding 4 to 10 foot tall carved
"tam-tams" which are tall hollowed out tree trunks making drums. The
dancers all sang, chanted, and stamped their feet in a shuffle like movement
making the ground feel as if it was vibrating. When the women join the men.
Them wear only grass skirts, this adds a whole new image to the bare
breasted South Pacific babe, none of which would ever be a "Cross Your
Heart" model. The whole experience gave a quite tribal and primitive feel.
We are currently in Leman Bay, on the island of Epi. The water again, very
clear, black sand, with the warm welcome of the local large sea turtles and
dugongs, similar to Florida's manatee. We where very surprised when the
dugong submerged. His tail was not rounded like the Florida version. But,
a much smaller "whale or dolphin" shaped tail. They are also smaller in
size. After snorkeling the surrounding area, we think they might be smaller
since we saw no sea grass or very little to eat. Some who read this. (Penny)
will appreciate that Rick finally has a place where he can swim and snorkel
with his favorite marine mammal:) We have done lots of long, long hikes up
and down the mountains. Trying to keep up with all the great exercise we
accomplished while living at Musket Cove!
The forecast is for lots of breeze from the south, our next destination.
This is okay, it gave me the time to be able to catch up on emails and this
LOG:) As you all probably have noticed. I'm have been very bad about
email:( So sorry! We plan to be in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu by
September 13. It's only about 65 miles to our south. Once in Port Vila, we
will have internet service, the first time since leaving Fiji. I will send
you all some pictures then.
I will conclude by saying Vanuatu is a truly special place. It has a
mystical feeling, very primal. You feel you are living "in" a National
Geographic television special. You are going back in time. The people are
so kind and uninhibited. They seem to be truly happy and content in their
way of life. Some might think they are poor here. But, in reality, they are
very rich with the things that are really important in life!
We would love to hear from you all. To hear what's new in your lives. BUT,
PLEASE do not hit the reply key. START a NEW email to this address. THIS IS
VERY IMPORTANT. Without internet service, we receive our emails daily
through the SSB radio. It's a much more lengthy process. We look forward
to hearing from you all.
Lots of love,
Robin and Rick
S/V Endangered Species
Dear Family & Friends,
We have made the big leap to the new country of the season. We are currently in Savusavu, Fiji, GPS coordinates 16:46:626S and 179:20:233E. We had a very uneventful motor sail the whole way here from Tonga. We traveled 470 miles in 55 hours. We where so thankful for our new whisker pole which allowed us to motor sail died down wind, wing & wing maximizing our speed. The "auto prop" style of props we have on both engines pay for themselves again. For those of you who are not familiar with them. They are self pitching props which are wonderful on catamarans, especially while motor sailing.
Before we left Tonga we had the extra ordinary experience of being able to swim with the humpback whales. We where anchored in the outer islands in the VaVa'u Group on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We heard another cruising boat calling friends of ours on the VHF. As good cruisers, we switched channels on the VHF "to monitor their conversation for safety purposes". Lucky for us that we did. The first boat had spotted two humpback whales at the main pass. Several boats who where also monitoring for "safety purposes" jumped in their dinghies and headed for the pass. We where all able to observe the two whales for over an hour. They would come to the surface for 4-5 minutes then dive for 10 minutes. At first we tied the other three dinghies to the big boat and watched from the deck. After about an hour of watching the whales we decided to get in the dinghies and get a closer look. After about thirty minutes at this distance we where getting very comfortable around the two whales. And they seemed to be comfortable with us. They where over 40 feet long and seems to be in a courting behavior. One of the whales came up within less than one foot of the dinghy. We had been 20-40 feet away observing them. Then when they broke the surface this time. They where right there. Rick had his mask and fins on and jumped in the water. The whale was right there! It's was quite the experiences. They seems not to be bother with us at all. The next time they breached I was also able to get in the water and snorkel along side. I approached from the rear looking at their huge tail. I made sure to stay to the side of the tail and swim along side the whale all the way to his head. I was able to look right into his eye. It was such an exhilarating experience, to be within six feet away from these incredible creature. It's moments like this that make all the bad passages and equipment failures all worth while. You just don't get these types of experience on the normal cruise. It's so hard describing the feeling you get when you are right next to a 40 foot whale and looking into their eye, truly magical.
I must say that our time in Tonga was truly special. I would highly recommend chartering a boat there if you are looking for the special experience. The Mooring have a small fleet of mono hulls and catamaran's. The whole VaVa'u Group is so special, pristine, and untouched. It is truly the South Pacific with a few modern restaurants and sailor bars to wet your whistle. The people of Tonga are also very special. They hard working, kind people who enjoy a simple way of life. We felt very comfortable and welcomed while living in their country.
We had mixed emotions on the outcome of the America's Cup. We where very happy for Ed Baird, the helmens from SPYC. But, sad for Team New Zealand. We had hope to stay around in this part of world to see the next Cup in New Zealand. Oh well, it just wasn't meant to be.
Now we are getting settled into life in Fiji for the next four months. We are blessed to have three sets of friends coming to share this wonderful country with us. There are over 300 islands in Fiji, so many opportunities for exploration.
We will keep you all posted of our adventures!! We miss you all and are thankful for all your correspondences you send us. It's always nice to get an email to hear what is happening back home. Especially since we are half way around the world. Keep them coming.
All the best,
Robin & Rick