Saturday, June 28, 2014

Malakula Island

Latitude: S 16 degrees 26.35 minutes
Longitude: E 167 degrees 47.03 minutes

After our time on the Black Magic Island of Ambrym and saying farewell to our old friends who were heading to Pentecost for the last Land Diving event, we decided to sail to Malakula Island about 30 miles away. Once out of the wind shadow of Ambrym Island, we had a great and speedy sail across to Makakula. Two fishing lines out – but no fish. We were quite hopeful with our good speed and our friends having caught several fish on their passage a few days prior. At least we got to eat some of their catch!

Malakula was named by Captain Cook as Mallicullo Island – a play on the french words "mal a cul" which roughly translates as "pain in the ass." It seems Captain Cook's experience on this island was less than ideal – he and his crew were unwelcomed by the natives (but luckily not consumed) and they ate fish from here that made them violently ill. Perhaps that's why he named the place what he did. Since Independence though, it is surprising that the name didn't change except in spelling.

This island is known for one thing in particular. Cannibalism. It seems the last recorded act of traditional village cannibalism was recorded on this island in 1969. Heck, that was in our lifetime! It seems there are still people alive who experienced this strange and unsavory (excuse the pun) act. Throughout the history of Vanuatu (then New Hebrides), villages were constantly at war with each other. Each village has its own language and customs. There were the constant battles between "Big Namba" and "Small Namba" villages. And in a battle, a man or two would be taken and served up for dinner. Of course, those men would be avenged and the battles and taking of other men would continue. This was a time that for once, it was good to be a woman. Women were not taken as dinner or even allowed to participate in the eating of "the man."

We are glad that is the past (or so we hope) and now the islands raise cattle and pigs! Malakula is also known to have many sharks and shark attacks. So we won't be in the water here – except up the rivers. The guide books tell you not to even get in the water to check your anchor in certain bays! These are aggressive sharks so we will heed that warning and stay aboard or ashore!

With those descriptions, it doesn't seem like Malakula is an island worthy of a visit – but it is the second largest island in Vanuatu and is very lush and green. Plus, the nice thing about cruising these islands is that you can pretty much make day trips through the chain and this was a stop to allow us to do just that.

We are nestled in a very protected inlet in a place called Port Sandwich. Don't have the story on the name yet – but with a name like that, we're hoping to be able get some bread ashore! Malakula is mostly a francophile island – where along with the village language and Bislama, almost everyone here speaks French rather than English. That is probably why there are three French boats in the anchorage with us. We're hoping they can speak a bit of English as well – as our French and Bislama aren't quite up to speed.

The winds are supposed to get quite strong mid-week, so we'll probably stick here until they lighten up again. This is very protected from almost every direction.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Black Magic Island

Magic in Vanuatu is strongest on islands where there are active volcanoes. We are now anchored off Ambrym Island which is considered the country's sorcery center. That's because of the twin volcanoes Mt. Marum and Mt. Benbow. These were the volcanic glows we saw while we were anchored off Pentecost Island. Though often shrouded in the clouds, when it is clear they are quite a sight. We are anchored in North Ambryn quite close to the volcanoes near the villages of Ranvetlam and Ranon. The island's beaches are all black sand – thanks to the active volcanoes. It is a very fine sand and very black. The water is clear – but because of the black sand, it isn't that turquoise blue you often see in the Pacific islands.

We came here from Pentecost after a nice 13 mile sail. The passage between these two islands can sometimes be fierce as wind funnels between the islands and the currents and tides can cause big waves. But the "magic" was working – and we had a great sail across – at least until we got into the wind shadow of Ambryn where the wind died completely. We anchored in 30 feet of water in what is supposed to be good holding.

Within an hour of being anchored, Chief Joseph from the village of Ranvetlam came rowing his canoe over and came aboard. He was an interesting character. He is also one of the area's wood carvers. Ambrym is renowned for its wood carving skills. The giant "tam tam" drums (as well as smaller versions) are carved here. These are a totem pole like carving. They carve a slit under the faces and hollow out around the slit(thus called slit drums). These carvings make a magnificent drum sound when beat upon. They also carve masks and various ceremonial spears and clubs (not of the golfing variety).

The best news was that this was the location where we met up with old friends that we haven't seen in more than nine months. These are friends we crossed the Pacific with in 2012 and they spent cyclone season this year in New Zealand. They came up to Vanuatu from NZ. We met at this anchorage and they luckily caught fish on their trip here so we enjoyed a feast of freshly caught mahi and waloo (similar to wahoo – but with a different mouth shape). It was a feast and a great time seeing Sandy and Rankin from "Gypsea Heart," Ann and Mark from "Blue Rodeo," and Heather and Jon from "Evergreen." They are heading to northern Vanuatu islands and we are slowly making our way south. We should meet again in New Caledonia or NZ.

We went up to Chief Joseph's village the next morning "en masse." It was a short walk to the village and it is always fun entering a village. The kids are the first to come running up to you and you become the pied pipers as they follow you around. Chief Joseph is a wood carver and arranges the tour to the volcanoes and four of the folks in the group were interested in hiking up to the crater. He showed us his wood carvings (which were quite beautiful) and the guys worked on fixing his portable generator.

Today (Thursday), together with the "Gypsea Heart" crew, we walked into the villages of Ranon and Lonbate. Sandy on GH had put some stuff on a hard-drive for one of the men from the village and we were owed some fresh fruit from Obed who we gave a few batteries to for his camera. The villages were the location where a marriage ceremony was taking place. This is a multiple day affair – and it turns out there will be two weddings taking place. Many pigs are killed for the feast and the two villages (one is for the grooms' and the other for the brides) each prepare and cook many traditional dishes for the feast. We were invited to the actual weddings on Friday morning. It would be something to see and very traditional – not designed for the tourists. But we also feel that sometimes these people are simply polite and invite you out of courtesy. Plus what do you give a few brides and grooms in Vanuatu for wedding gifts.

This is another lovely place and the people continue to be remarkable.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pentecost – Part 2

After the thrill of watching the land-diving, we headed back to Londot village and picked up the coconut bread we had ordered. We sat and ate much of the still warm rolls under a tree and talked with Luke and Noel about the event. Then we went back to the boat and enjoyed watching dugongs (manatee-like sea animals) playing around the boat. Of course, they would never stay up long enough to be photographed! Shy perhaps. But it was fun to see them frolic.

We went back to shore around 1600 (4 pm), so Barbara could interview a few people about he land-diving. There was also some kava drinking involved! They actually opened the kava bar early for us and made up a batch of the special Vanuatu brew. It is quite different from the Fiji kava – a stronger, spicy, peppery taste. The intoxicating effect was felt immediately in the mouth – which is good because it doesn't taste all that great!

After a few bowls of kava and chatting with the locals, we headed back to Astarte. We had been rowing ashore because it is easier to lift the dinghy up on the beach without an outboard. We did manage to get safely back!
That evening, sitting in the cockpit, reliving the wonderful day of seeing land-diving and dugongs, plus some kava drinking we watched a red glow of the volcano from Ambrym – the next island over. The sky was very dark and clear and the red glow was quite intense. It seemed to be the perfect end of a very magical day.

We stayed on Pentecost a few more days and on Sunday took a very long walk down the main road towards the north. We passed over several small creeks and larger river. We met Joseph along the way and he wanted to practice his English, so he walked with us for more than three hours. He was from the French Catholic village – which is quite large. The island is divided, much like the country was during the French/British condominium (shared) government. His village school is taught in Bislama (the national Vanuatu language) as well as French and the local village language "Saa."

Joseph gave us a wonderful tour of the island pointing out trees,birds and flowers. He then walked us through his village which has all traditionally built homes. These are homes built entirely of natural products grown in the area. The walls are woven palm strips and they are very pretty homes. We got taken into the "nakamals"- the community room of the village. This village is so large – there are actually three different nakamals. These long narrow buildings are where meetings are held to discuss village business; where kava is made and shared nightly along with stories; and, where people relax. In one of the "nakamals" some men were playing cards. In another some roofing material that had been made was being "dried" and stored. We got shown a traditional homes "kitchen" hut which has two stone cooking areas plus lots of baskets for collecting food from the gardens. Then, Joseph took us to the primary school and we saw the classrooms and the small library. Because it was Sunday, it was pretty quiet in the village.
We returned the following day to bring some pictures we had printed up for Joseph (of his family) and then we went to the river right next to the village and did some water-filter cleaning and laundry in the beautifully clear river. It was a busy day but it was nice to take a fresh water bath!

After returning to the boat, we got the boat ready for a trip to the next island – leave time would be bright and early in the morning.

Our stay on Pentecost Island was memorable.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Unbelievable Day on Pentecost Island

It was a once in a lifetime experience to watch the "Land Divers of Pentecost Island" on Saturday in Londot village. Michael remembers watching a National Geographic special on television as a wee lad where he saw this event. It stuck with him. On Saturday, we saw it in person and it was an unbelievable experience of sights and sounds.
The day was perfect – sunny with a bright blue sky and scattered white puffy clouds. A steady easterly trade wind kept the day comfortable and the mosquitoes at bay. We were joined by one other boat with Steve and Claire aboard from the UK. The four of us met on shore at 0930 and were met by Noel and Luke – our guides. We were taken to a small hut and greeted with flowers and a refreshments of juice, fresh fruit and coconut bread. Then we hiked up a hill to the tower. The tower is a 35 meter high structure of wood and vines. It looks like it will tumble in a big wind – but it is quite sturdy. It was built in March for the diving that takes place every Saturday in April, May and June. We saw the next to last event for the year. The tower starts to get a little more shaky as the season progresses and the vines holding it together get too weak in July to continue. The tower has five platforms off of it. Because it was late in the season, they could no longer use the top platform because it was too weak.

The landing zone is simply a dirt patch that has been cleared of rocks and growth and tilled a bit. But it is hard ground they aim for!

We got to climb up to get a close look at the tower and watch the first few divers from that vantage point – then we went down the hill to watch the last three. There are dancers in native "kustom" dress that "encourage" the divers with song and dance. "Kustom" dress is the very traditional costumes (or lack of!) that is worn in many "kustom" villages to this day. The women are in grass skirts and nothing else and the men wear "nambas." A penis sheath – a leaf wrapped around the penis...and nothing else. The dancing and singing is very choreographed though simple. Each diver has a song they request that they like to "dive" to. It is their special song to awaken their spirit and get in touch with their inner being.

The men climb the tower and have vines tied to their ankles – one on each ankle. There is a man who cuts the vine to the right length – with no tape measure or ruler. He looks at the height of the diver and what platform he is going to dive off of and then just whacks the vine at the appropriate length. Then they shred the bottom of the vine into long strings that are what they use to knot around the divers ankles. Then the man stands out on the narrow platform and does his own personal routine of getting relaxed and in touch with his own spirit. He claps, raises his arms and one even rubbed his shoulders with a special leaf (it is a poison leaf). The man who dived from the second lowest platform was the youngest and this was only his second dive. They sometimes say a few words to the crowd and then arch their back and fall forward off the platform. They land within millimeters (inches) from the slightly softened dirt. The vine cutter – if he did his job right – has correctly assessed the length – so only the hair of the diver hits the dirt. Two other men are below to grab the diver as he lands. Sometimes the vines break at this point – which is supposed to happen – but it can drop the diver pretty hard into the dirt if he hasn't yet been grabbed.
We saw five divers – each one coming from the next higher platform. The higher the dive the more frightening to watch and the more spectacular to see. The singers and dancers at the bottom of the wooden structure continue throughout the event. In fact one woman was nursing her infant while dancing! The baby seemed quite content with the dancing and simultaneous feeding!

This tradition has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. Young boys are taught to dive by their fathers. Some continue to dive as late as 60 years old – though most seem to be in their 20 and 30s. The youngest are seven and they dive only from the lowest platform. We did not see anyone that young dive.

The story of how it all began is a wonderful legend. Though our "Lonely Planet" guide gives a different story. We were told the story by our host Luke Fargo. It started as early as the creation of the island. In ancient times, men and women lived in separate places. Boys as young as eight would join the men in their house and live with their fathers. The women and their daughters would live together in different buildings. They would have no contact except on special days. Marriages would be arranged amongst the fathers of the young men and young women. But because the two sexes had no real knowledge of how to deal with each other – the wedding night could be a bit awkward and even frightening for the women. After a few nights with her new husband, a young women decided to run away from her new husband – not liking the situation. She ran through the bush and ended up climbing a tall palm tree. Her new husband tracked her and found her up the tree. He climbed up to get her. She kept climbing, all the way to a young vertical palm frond and it bent under her weight. She ended up tearing the frond into strings and tied it around her ankles. As her husband approached, she dove out of the tree. He dove after her not knowing she was tied – and he wasn't. He dove to his death but she survived and was still hanging from the tree. The elders found the young man dead at the bottom of the tree and the young woman hanging from the tree. They retrieved the body and the girl. She went back to live in the women's home and he was buried. That then became a ceremony – the women diving from the trees and the men below singing and dancing. However, at one point, the high priests, chiefs and elders found it offensive to see the woman's private parts (as Luke said, "this was before there were panties") as the grass skirts would come over their heads as they dove. So there was a switch. The men would dive and the women would sing and dance. It then progressed from trees to the wooden structure built from the trees and yam vines. It is only done in April, May and June because that is when the yam vines are the strongest. As yam harvest in June and July the vines start to weaken and it is no longer safe. Nobody knows when it started...but Luke dived and told us, that several generations of his fathers, grandfathers and ancestors also dived. The skills of building the platform, cutting the vines the right length for the divers, tying the right knots and the diving itself are passed on from master to apprentice.

We built tree-houses and "forts" in the woods. On Pentecost, young boys build platforms and practice diving. Or they dive off their fathers shoulders or from trees over the many rivers. It is a tradition that is only on this particular island.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was thrilling to see.

The day just continued to be fun and interesting with dugongs, kava, and a glowing volcano. More later!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Latitude: 15 degrees 54.83 minutes
Longitude: 168 degrees 11.26
We departed Santo after some time in Peterson Bat (Oyster island) and then anchored off another little island in Diamond Passage for a few nights. We made it out of the tricky reef and bommie pass to get out of Peterson – but had a higher tide then we went in so it was all okay. We left at 1700 (5pm) on Wednesday evening for an overnight passage to Pentecost. The wind was, as usual,right on the nose, so we had to tack to get here. That ended up taking us a lot longer than we had anticipated (should have left earlier) and we ended up doing more motoring than we had hoped, to get here before dark. We are anchored off the village of Londot where tomorrow we will go in to watch the Land Diving. More on that after we see it!

The anchorage here is in quite deep water – 14 meters (46 feet) with a steep drop off. We had to get relatively close to shore for the shallow water and to get a bit of protection from the wind. The holding is supposed to be solid– which is good news because you don't get into the water here to check your anchor. These black sand beaches are known to be areas where there are plenty of sharks. And these aren't the small reef or black-tipped sharks we are used to seeing. These are supposedly very large and mean tiger sharks, bull sharks and other scary ones. Nobody swims here – they go to the rivers which are plentiful for their water activity. The men who go out fishing in these tiny dugout canoe outriggers are exceedingly brave in our mind!

Pentecost Island is beautiful. It has high hills and is incredibly verdant – green everywhere. You can see that it was a volcanic island because of all the valleys and ridges. Just beyond Pentecost, we can see from our anchorage the island of Ambryn. There are two active volcanoes on that island and this morning we could see ash and smoke coming out of one of them. This is a very active area for volcanoes and earthquakes. We did hear an earthquake the other day while aboard Astarte in Peterson Bay. There was this loud "rumble in he jungle." Didn't feel it aboard – but sure heard it!

We rowed ashore amongst the "bullets of wind." These are what we used to call "willy waws" in Colombia – big gusts of wind that come up suddenly off the hills and can be pretty intense – though short-lived. We were met on shore by Franklin, a young man who spoke very good English. He then took us on a tour of the several villages along the bay where we are anchored. He speaks four languages. Each village has their own language even though they are relatively close. Some words are the same – but the cadence and pronunciation may be different. So he speaks his village language, Bislama (Vanuatu's national language), English and some French. Vanuatu (New Hebrides at the time) was run by both the French and British in a rare moment of cooperation (well sort of). So there are schools in various villages that are either French or English. Franklin pointed out that on one side of a river the schools are English and on the other side they are French.

Franklin was a great tour guide and enjoyed practicing his English language skills while teaching us some Bislama. He is a student at a technical school on another island (Ambae) and is home for a month before he returns to the school in July. He is studying to become a mechanic/machinist. He took us to see some kava growing and showed us one of the several local kava bars – a lovely structure. He told us some interesting stories about various ancient legends and even some funny local happenings (the story about a white guy in a namba! - the whole namba thing will be explained in a future entry).

For all you World Cup fans, Franklin also told us that he and about 100 villagers climbed a high hill at night with tent, television and generator to be able to watch the matches. They watched at 3:30 in the morning – and the hill is the only place to get reception...that's dedication to football (soccer). He was all excited about having watched several matches as he enjoys playing the game himself.

We were on shore looking for a guy to confirm our attendance at the "land diving" event tomorrow. We may have to go back this afternoon to see him – as he was not at his home earlier.

So far, we are really liking Vanuatu and looking forward to watching the land diving tomorrow.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Search of the Sunken Plane

We swam. And swam. And swam. On our Sunday adventure off of Oyster Island, we did see lots of Picasso Triggerfish, Yellow-spotted Box fish and even a large octopus. But we never found the plane. There is a plane off a beach called "Plane Wreck Beach" (clever eh?) but we could never find it. We believe it is an old World War II plane (though that is yet to be confirmed). It was a good excuse for a good swim and snorkel. The visibility wasn't terrific and the corals were a bit algae-covered, but we did see some interesting structure and some colorful fish.

We made a trip into town on Monday – in the back of pick-up trucks with lots of ni-Vans (native Vanuatuans). We had to pick up the back-up repaired raw water pump. While in town we also picked up more delicious citrus (it is the season for tangerines and oranges), some avocados for us and a neighboring Dutch boat, some root vegetable/starch (manioc), and some freshly roasted peanuts. They grow peanuts here and the market is filled with peanuts that are raw, sun-dried or cooked. We also saw a new sight – flying foxes for sale. The dead bats were quite smelly and sold for 300 to 400 Vatu per bat – depending on size. That was a new sight! We chose not to try them! We had a tasty lunch at "mama's" near the veggie market (not bat) for 300 Vatu each (that's just over $3 US).
We caught another pick-up on the way back and met a very nice woman in the back of the truck. She lived and farmed on the island growing plants and flowers and spoke very good English. She made the driver pull off the road, down a street and stopped at another small veggie stand and bought us some fresh corn-on-the cob. She said, "it is tradition when you meet someone new to give them a gift. The corn is my gift to you." Now, we have to figure out something we can easily carry to also "gift" folks!

Michael has solved another of our marine mysteries. Our battery monitor was acting up reading that we were using lots more power than we thought. Ben, on the neighboring Dutch boat, "Gaia" is an electonics' guy and he had a monitor to sell. But Michael first wanted to make sure it wasn't the wiring – so he borrowed a long "twisted pair" from Ben and tested the monitor. Sure enough it is the twisted pair – and not the monitor. So we'll replace the wire for $15 instead of buying the new monitor for $250! Yippee! Ben will be disappointed though.

We are still looking for a confirmed sighting of a dugong. Thanks to Kathryn, we have a better understanding of this animal. "They are related to manatees (both are in the order Sirenia) but are a different family, genus, and species and their mouth is a bit different. Also, they are pretty old, related most closely to aardvarks and elephants of today,not extant marine mammals... And they are essentially seagrass vacuum cleaners." We keep looking – especially in the early morning when we understand they are most active.

We have the location of a few good snorkel spots – so we'll head on and explore more sealife as it is quite calm here over the next few days.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Oyster Island

We continue to explore Santo in Vanuatu and have moved to "Peterson Bay" near the privately-owned Oyster Island. This island houses a lovely resort and a conservation area. The bay is quite large and right now there are twelve boats at anchor here. Three of the boats are long-term residents (one is said to have been here twelve years!).
As the previous entry noted, we had planned on leaving Palikula Bay sooner, but waited for better visibility because of the surrounding reefs and narrow passage into Peterson Bay. When we left, it had cleared for us to get safely out of Palikula, but then unfortunately it really socked in with clouds and rain. We sailed up Diamond Passage and found the navigational aid to get you into Peterson. This is a stick! A long red stick – but a stick. You keep that to port and make your way through a very narrow cut between two reefs. We were at low tide so it was easy to see the reefs. We decided that we could see clearly enough and made our way through the other "sticks" that marked the narrow cut. At one point we saw less than 1.5 feet under the keel and bommies were scattered around as we made our way in and around them. We made it safely to the anchorage and dropped the anchor in 40 feet of water.

This area has a two rivers that feed into the bay. It is very protected and relatively easy to get to Luganville, the main town, from here by bus or taxi. The next day, Michael would test out the transportation and head to town to get the raw water pump hopefully repaired. He took the local bus in (the back of a pick-up with seats) for 200 Vatu (about 2 US dollars). Its a 25 minute ride. He had a few phone numbers of possible repair people. He got his project completed and found out that the one pump was pretty destroyed by a repair shop in Panama. They tried to put the bearings in backwards and badly scored the shaft of the the pump. But. We had bearings and seal for the old pump and that one got repaired so we could get the main engine running again.

A few other stops in town for bread and fresh fruit and vegetables and he made it back by bus again. Meanwhile, Barbara was baking and cleaning aboard!

We have finally done some exploring. We took our dinghy up one of the rivers here – the Matavulu River which has a "blue hole." The "Blue Hole" is the start of the river as it is the spring that feeds the river. Our mission was to gather some fresh water up the river for the laundry so we traveled with every bucket and jug we had. The water near the hole was incredibly clear. After filling up – we drifted/rowed back down the river to listen to the birds and look at the beautiful trees and plants. The river is surrounded by massive mangroves. We swear the elusive Lysepsep people were watching us from the banks of the river and throwing things at us! Perhaps it was our imaginations. The Lysepseps are natives of the Santo mountain area. They are only about four feet tall and grow their hair long as a screen (of course we are thinking of Cousin It of the Addams' Family). We want to go to the Lysepsep Cultural Park to learn about their culture and perhaps if we can arrange a group – see their dances.

We returned after our river adventure with lots of washing water. The next day, we took a hike and circumambulated 25 hectare Oyster Island. It has nicely marked trails that take you around the entire island which, along with the area waters, is a marine and nature park. There are some grand trees on the island and it was good to move around. We spotted some of the 121 bird species on Vanuatu – of which 55 are on Santo. A pair of brightly colored parrots – were making a rukus in one of the trees, obviously not pleased we were nearby. You could spot their very bright red feathers as they moved about in the overhead tree. There are also a few varieties of a swallow like bird that we saw really working in the river and again on the island. The local version of a kingfisher is smaller but very blue and did a dive bomb on us while on the river! There are 19 native lizards – mostly small skinks and geckos. We saw many of the long blue-tailed skink on the island. The tails are very bright blue. Haven't yet spotted one of the four varieties of flying foxes!

This bay has some dugongs (manatees) and Michael has spotted one or two (unconfirmed sightings!). They seem to be much smaller than the Florida Manatees we are used to seeing. They also seem much shyer (or perhaps the word is smarter) than their Florida breathren. There is also a large turtle that pops up near the boat regularly.
We may snorkel tomorrow, weather permitting, in search of a sunk plane wreck.

It is very pretty here – though we won't be dining out much at the resort as it is quite spendy. We'll wait until town where we can score a 300 Vatu lunch at the veggie market at the stands called "mamas." For about $3 US you get a meal of rice, beef and vegetables and a juice drink.

We will settle here for at least a week or two and do some exploring and perhaps land trips to see Santo. We have to go back to Luganville on Monday (tomorrow) to pick up the back-up pump and have lunch.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Palikula Bay

We are still on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, but have moved around the corner from Luganville to a pretty, secluded anchorage known as Palikula Bay. We are anchored amongst some bommies in about 40 feet of water. When we came into the bay, the visibility wasn't great, so we didn't try to go too far through the reef system. It is very pretty here, surrounded by heavily wooded island land and clear water of various shades of blues.
We are anchored far enough off the land to avoid the mossies (mosquitoes) which are a bit dangerous in Vanuatu carrying either dengue and malaria. We put all our screens in at night to keep the little pests out and so far have not had any issues. We hope to keep it that way!

The beaches are pretty here and lots of locals came on Thursday to play in the water as it was a holiday in Vanuatu. We thought it would have been busier over the weekend, but just a few beach goers were around. Did a bit of cleaning of the water line – displacing all the horse-neck barnacles and checked out the hull. All was good below the water line after the long passage. Did a bit of a swim around the reef nearby as well and saw lots of small colorful tropical fish and one nice patch of what is known as "cabbage patch" coral. It looks like rows and rows of bright green heads of cabbage. It has been pretty overcast the last few days and if it clears we'll do more snorkeling around. It's nice to get back in the water.

We're slowly catching up on boat projects. The marine mystery of the back solar panel not putting out any power has been solved – a blown fuse! So now we have wind and solar from all three panels helping to replenish the batteries. The fridge seems to be running more often so we are using a bit more power. The Link 10 battery meter is acting up though – or at least we are thinking its the meter – as it is telling us we are using much more power than we think we should be. When everything is off – it still reads that we are using 7 amps. We continue to try to figure out that marine mystery as that is an important tool for us. Michael also replaced the antenna wire for the SSB radio. Now we just need some good rain to get the decks totally de-salted and gather some fresh water to get some laundry done. There were no laundromats in town – and the only way to get laundry done was through a hotel and it was quite spendy. So we'll await the rain or a fresh water river.

Yesterday, while safely at anchor in our little bay, we watched two boats sail by in the Diamond Passage headed towards Oyster Island/Patterson Bay. It was awfully late in the day to get there with all these reefs around. And sure enough, around 5 pm, the VHF came alive with "Segura" on a reef, soon followed by "Lark" on a reef. It really shows how dangerous this area is when you don't have good visibility. Luckily, both got off the reefs and we hope both vessels are still okay. It sounded stressful listening to it from afar.

We were planning on heading that way today ourselves, but it is very overcast, so we think we'll wait until tomorrow. Don't want to be a third boat on the reef.

Happy first of June!