Friday 23rd August 2013

Up early for the 60Nm sail to Epi. Motored out through the pass to clear Havannah Passage. The breeze picked up and we had a great sail under full Main and Screecher. As the breeze freshened we dropped back to Genoa but still raced along averaging 9-10 knots. Reefed the main around lunchtime but still doing 8-10knots. Had planed to stop in Revolieu Bay but we were going so well we continued up to Lamen Bay hoping to see the resident Dugong.

Arrived early afternoon to find “Periclees” and “Brickhouse” already at anchor. Went over to “Periclees” to catch up and met Patrick and Rebecca from “Brickhouse” cruising from Rhode Island, USA. This turned into sundowners, very pleasant after an exhilarating sail.

Saturday 24th August 2013

Up early to find the Dugong but the breeze was up rippling the water making it difficult to spot, so we all lucked out there. Had a nice walk ashore through the village and up the road to a high pass. David from “Periclees” kept us company and entertained us with stories from his travelling days around Eatern Europe and South America.

Sunday 25th August 2013

The SE was supposed to be increasing over the next few days so we decided to move on with “Periclees” to the Maskelene Islands. We had just the Screecher out and were wafting along about 5Nm out. Deep in the bottom of the fishing tackle box we had found an old lure Reg Biggs had lent me 12 years ago for my first trip on “Christmas Beetle”. It had a long beak which makes it dive deep and is only suitable for low speed trolling. Anway we were going slow so Lea puts it out. I was on the radio to “Periclees” when we had a big strike and the line began peeling off rapidly and the reel was screaming.

I dropped the radio and grabbed the rod tightening up the drag to slow the fish down. I then wrestled for hour with this fish to get it without breaking our relatively light line and losing another lure. Far out the fish pulled, tail danced and weaves from left to right. I slowly gained back some line and we could see the flash of bright yellow. Closer to the boat we identified it as a dolphin fish or Mahi Mahi one of the best table fish there are.

Sensing the boats presence the fish renewed its efforts and peeled off line again. I struggled to retrieve the lost line and by this stage the end of the rod was digging into my midriff quite painfully. Finally we had it close by and it flashed bright yellow with iridescent blue pectoral fins. it was a beautiful looking fish. Lea had a go at gaffing it but ended up losing the gaff overboard. Fortunately the fish darted the right way and the line pushed the floating gaff back to us. We swapped places and Lea took over the rod while I got ready with the gaff. ( Neither of us had ever used a gaff before). Success! We landed it.

We killed and bled it then tried to get it into the fridge but it was far too big. The wind had come in so we left it on the deck and concentrated on sailing again as the adrenaline settled. Slowly the wonderful colouring of the fish faded to a dull grey.

Little Larnie from “Periclees” was soon on the radio to see how we went with the fish. We invited them all over for a fish dinner once safely anchored behind Awei Island.

As soon as we had both anchored Larnie and Yara put on their life jackets jumped overboard and swam across to us to check out the fish. They watched as I gutted and filleted it.

“Tara Mona” was already at the anchorage and the skipper, Colin, was an old friend of David and Isabelle's so while they caught up we went ashore with the girls and talked to the local villagers and the girls played hopscotch.

Met Sovren the chief of the small village on Awei. Chief Kasi from nearby larger village on Avokh Island paddled his canoe across to us to ask if we wanted to see some Small Namba custom dancing tomorrow. Colin had been here before and recommended it as the best and most authentic he had seen so it was all arranged.

Sundowners onboard GL then BBQ fish steaks.

Monday 26th August 2013

No Roosters near this anchorage much to Lea's delight so she slept in.

The SE was piping in at 25knots so the dinghy ride across to Avokh Island was a drenching, bouncy ride. At least the water was nice and warm. Thank goodness for quick drying clothes.

The villiage on Avokh was quite large and extensive and maintained the traditional ways. We had an official welcome complete with lei's.

Chief Kasi gave us a good tour of the village including the latest canoe building.

The dancing was very good, all men in body paint and penis sheaths. They performed 2 energetic dances to the sound of the Tom Tom, singing and chanting.

After the dance we were served refreshments of tradition village food. Taro, drinking coconuts, pomplemoose, bananas and a nut that I can never remember the name of.

We got soaked again going back to the boats and spent the rest of the day making water, washing, sewing back clear views and reprogramming battery charge parameters for the higher temperatures we were experiencing. For the last few weeks it has been around 28 degrees during the day and 25 at night. Very pleasant!

Tuesday 27th August 2013.

Dinghied across to the mainland and had a lovely walk through the forest and coconut plantations to the beach on the SE corner of Malakula.

Enjoyed a BBQ ashore with David, Isabel and the girls. While David and I found firewood and set the fire, the girls went off across the island, into the little village, to donate some clothes and other goodies. With a great fire, a good feed and finished off with toasted marshmallows we had a very pleasant evening.

Wednesday 28th August 2013

Relaxing morning while we waited for the tide to turn before heading up the Chanel to Gaspard Bay in search of Dugongs. It was a scenic 5 Nm motor up the Chanel with the sun out giving good visibility to the submerged coral reefs and shallows.

As we entered and anchored in Gaspards Bay we saw about 8 Dugongs. We dinghied around but they were very shy. The best place to view them was on the boat which gave a bit of height above the water to see them but we had no close encounters

Had a call from our friend Heather who is cruising on “P'zazz” a 46 foot Shaun Arbour cat. We agreed to rendezvous back at Awei the next morning.

Said our goodbyes to “Periclees” as we planned and early start.

Thursday 29th August 2013

Arrived back at Awei 7.30am and went aboard “P'zazz”. Met Paul, the skipper, owner, and the crew; Wendy and Grant, Paul's siblings; Tom, Wendy's husband; family friend Gordon,”Gudge”; as well as Heather and new beau Steve. A beautiful boat, the last Shaun Arbor built himself, sleek, wide, fast and equipped with all the goodies. They made us very welcome and served great coffee.

We then headed off along the bottom of Malakula and up to SW Bay. Naturally with 2 boats and 2 boys the race was on. Paul went with Main and Screecher but as we were going to be running we skipped the Main, started with Screecher then popped the kite. We had a great sail in ESE 15-16 knot breeze with a gybe around the SW corner of Malekula. In hindsight we could have carried the Main as well as the angles weren't as deep as I expected. Anyway “P'zazz” beat us by a couple of Nm.

SW Bay is beautiful with a big lagoon behind the bay which we explored by dinghy with Steve and Heather.

Chief Simeon welcomed us and gave us a tour of the village. A wealthy NZ'er has a nice holiday farm here.

Drinks and dinner on “P'zazz completed an excellent day

Friday 30th August 2013

The village maket was cancelled for some reason by chief Simeon kindly paddled out with the dozen eggs we had requested. Paul came over to check out the details of Dixon's reef where we agreed we would go for a couple of days of snorkelling and diving.

In light conditions we again went with spinnaker alone and Although Paul tried gybing downwind he couldn't get passed us. (His spinnaker was destroyed earlier in his cruise).

We anchored at Lamandranga Point while Paul anchored in front of the village to go ashore to ask permission from the chief to dive on the reefs. He then went and anchored close to the reef on what he thought was a good sandy spot. Lea and I both commented that we would not be anchoring there and are happier to put the mother ship in a known good anchorage and access the reef by dinghy. Our thought were to become prescient with the events later in the afternoon.

After a quick lunch we loaded the dinghy with dive and snorkel gear and head out to “P'zazz” and the reef about 1 Nm away.

Lea joined Heather and Steve for a snorkel while I returned to the “P'zazz” to set up for a dive with Paul. Gudge drove Paul and I out to the outer reef and we had a great dive though the coral canyons, working our way inside the reef. Gudge was supposed to stay with us but we later found out he couldn't start the dinghy and was drifting out to sea as the wind had freshened considerably. Fortunately Lea saw him in trouble and she and Steve went to rescue him and get the motor going.

Paul and I surfaced to find no Gudge. We waved flippers and again Lea spotted us first and came in our dinghy to get us. She got to us the same time Gudge did so Paul climbed in his dinghy and I got in ours. While this was happening “P'zazz” had dragged her anchor and was bouncing on the reef. Paul leapt aboard, raced around, slipped and fell, tried to get the anchor up but it was caught. The rudders (lifting type) need to be raised as they were being smashed. Only 1 motor was operational. Wasted a lot of time trying to get Steve and Gudge in the dinghy to get a line onto the Stbd bow to pull. We quietly went up to the port bow and put the nose of our dinghy into the side and pushed to compensate for the lack of port motor. This allowed Paul to motor clear of the reef but the anchor was still stuck. I yelled to Tom on deck for cut the anchor free to no avail. Got the message to Paul to dump the anchor and finally those on deck started to do it. At the end of the chain was a nylon rode so I yelled to them to cut it. But no they frigged around letting out the nylon and putting a buoy on it. The nylon rope in the water promptly got around the prop and Paul had to make another heroic effort to clear the rope from the prop losing more skin in the process. Finally clear of the anchor “P'zazz” moved out to safe water.

Heather was in the water and had located the anchor but couldn't move it as it was jammed in the coral. We took the dinghy across and tried to free it. Steve swan over and his strength soon had the anchor free and we pulled it, the chain, the rode and finally the buoy aboard our dinghy. Quite a lot of weight.

Back near GL we returned the anchor gear to “P'zazz” and she was soon safely anchored. I put my dive gear back on and Steve and I did a full underwater inspection. She had been incredibly lucky. The back edge of the rudder blades were a bit broken up before the wooden dowels of the kick up mechanism broke and they could lift. There were a couple of small abrasions on the hulls and a ding or 2 in the Stbd prop. I should say that “P'zazz” has swing up sail drive legs which probably saved the day. GL in the same situation,with fixed sail drive legs, would have sustained significant damage to legs and props.

After drinks and a debrief Grant and I went over Paul's numerous wounds and bleached and dressed them.

All's well that ends well but it was a horrible experience to hear a beautiful boat grinding on coral.

Saturday 31st August 2013

Paul wanted to move “P'zazz” into shallow water to remove the broken track car that had incapacitated the port motor leg mechanism so we spent the morning doing that. All went well and a jury rig was set up to swing the leg up and down.

In the afternoon Paul and I did another dive on a big isolated bommie. This dive was even better than the first with 2 inquisitive sharks, a large turtle and deep canyons through the bommie with spectacular coral formations.

Sunday 1st September 2013

Calm morning so Lea and I went for a SUP around the bay. Paul joined us in his racing surf ski. Lea and I had a try of this pencil thin boat but neither of us could sit it. We just fell over. Lea did much better than than I did but was still over within 15 seconds.

Too murky for snorkelling so we elected to move up the island to Malua Bay. Elected to use the Main today but ended up on a dead run again with 30 knots up our backside and steep waves due to tide against us. We averaged 8-10 knots but surfed a steep one and touched 17 knots with the nose, a little scarily, well buried. “P'zazz” hit 19 knots. Again there was not much difference between the boats over the 30 Nm run with “P'zazz” just a few minutes ahead.

Big welcoming party of canoes came out to greet us. Later we enjoyed a tour of the school, gardens, springs and kindergarten. We bought some fresh fruit and vegies and the crew from “P'zazz” gave the school a heap of books and pencils.