Finally the weather was suitable to leave Fiji although we wished we had had more time there as it proved so much nicer than our very low expectations .The inside passage had been a very pleasant surprise with so many deserted anchorages and such flat water.
But we left Vudu Marina on Friday 19th but only to anchor in just before the Malalo pass as it was heavy rain again and it was Friday. It was a dawn departure the next day which was much brighter and it was back into the Pacific ocean. The lee of Fiji lasted the morning but by afternoon it was marred by a squall but luckily only short lived. All continued smoothly with the usual 25 knot wind from the SSE until Sunday 21st august when Poppy ( the autohelm ) suddenly switched off and we accidentally jibed, luckily no damage but rather unnerving as we are so dependent on her. That evening the squalls started in earnest and lasted for 15 hours so we were up all night and ended up with only a fully reefed main and that only partially as it was really too rough to go to the mast and complete the reefing . We were blown off course and got very wet. As with all storms it passed and the trade wind resumed and we caught up on our sleep and arrived in Port Vila, Vanuatu at 01.40 Wednesday 24th August . We made a night entry very cautiously and were surprised to find about 4 yachts anchored near the quarantine buoy, they were surprisingly difficult to see until we were rather too close ! Anchoring was tricky because the depth varied widely within a small area but we managed in the end and had a welcome sheltered night’s sleep. Bob and Sandie Llewellin were already in Port Vila waiting for us when we came through into the inner harbour onto a Yachting World mooring buoy and had cleared quarantine.
Vanuatu 24th August – 29th August 2016 h
We had a joyous meeting the next day and a very long lunch with several cold Tuskers. Port Vila is not the nicest capital we have sailed into so after checking ourselves in and out and provisioning we set sail on 25th august to do an overnight sail to Erromango and island to the south. We had the usual swell and wind but with the extra crew on board it was much less tiring. We anchored in Dillon’s bay at 09.45 the next morning and had the place to ourselves. We swam, so wonderfully refreshing after a passage. Later David the commodore of the Erromango yacht club came with bananas and paw paw in exchange for rice and powdered milk and an invitation to the club and a guided tour of the village . So we went ashore after lunch and had a beautiful walk to the swimming pool and visited the Yacht Club. It was a very tranquil rural scene along the river with cattle grazing. David was charming and very enterprising creating the club for visiting yachts.
It was a 05.30 start the next day to reach Tanna the next island in the chain where an erupting volcano can be visited . The passage was the usual 30kts and a big swell but we anchored in Port Resolution following in Captain Cook’s wake, another picturesque bay on a seemingly deserted island but we could see the smoking volcano and several steam vents around the edge of the bay. The surprise visit that morning in what we thought was a remote pacific island was a man in his dug out canoe asking if we could charge his mobile phone! We swam, relaxed and had a quiet night anticipating the volcano visit the next day not really knowing what to expect. We went ashore the next morning to find out and found a large village hidden by trees and Stanley there to organise our trip later that afternoon.
We had thought it would be just us and the driver to the volcano but no there were at least 80 tourists at the volcano visitor centre and a welcome party who gave us a board with England on it and we joined the group for another drive in several trucks to the crater rim.
An Australian in the truck in front of our fell out on an uphill slope when the back gave way !!! He took it in true Australian good spirit and will dine out on it for several months I think. The volcano was roaring as we walked up to the crater and large bits were being thrown into the air and the ground shook with each explosion all quite scary! Once at the top we could see large red hot larva rocks thrown up very high every few minutes accompanied by a primeval roar, a veritable firework display that never ended and quite mesmerising. The red glow became more intense as the light fell and the roar and vibrations more alarming! I think it is the only place in the world where such an active volcano can be viewed so closely, certainly health and safety would not be happy in the UK ! We returned to the boat in the dark all rather stunned by the experience.
It was a dawn start the next day 29th August to go to the Loyaute islands off the east coast of New Caledonia but we were delayed because Baringo was covered in volcanic ash! All part of the volcanic show !!