Saturday, June 13, 2015

Efate, Vanuatu

We had a great sail from Port Resolution in Tanna to Port Vila on the island of Efate. We sailed almost the entire way with a short lull near the island of Erromango. We turned on the engine for awhile – but after a half hour – it over-heated. So off it went gain, but the wind had nicely filled in so we were able to sail again anyway. Of course, all that happened in the middle of the night – so Michael went through the checklist of all the causes. He checked the impeller on the water pump and that was still good. He saw the level of water/antifreeze was down a lot – so the question became where did it go? He refilled the system and watched – and it seemed to not be leaking out quickly. The good news is that we were able to motor into the very narrow pass into the harbor and settle on a mooring without the overheating problem again. It became his project over the next few days to try to solve the new marine engine mystery. He changed the heat exchanger end caps and perhaps that solved problem.

This is the capitol of Vanuatu and the largest population base in the island group. It was also one of the islands that got slammed with Cyclone Pam in March. We are on a mooring ball at Yachting World. In this very, very protected harbor there were 30 boats when the cyclone hit. Six were left floating after it had passed. Eight yachts are still "unaccounted" for – probably on the bottom. There are a few remnants of boats on the shore and against the docks of the small island in the middle of the harbor. Yachting World however, is back up and running and they did a terrific job getting new moorings down and inspected. We are tied to one with brand new line and feel very secure. The dinghy dock is all in great working shape as is the Waterfront Restaurant, showers, fuel dock and office. There is still a tarp on the roof of the apartment above the office. But you wouldn't guess there was that strong a cyclone ripping through this area – they worked hard to get it in shape again for the yachting season. Lamara in the office is also still here – as helpful, cheerful and friendly as ever. We haven't been to the outskirts of the city yet to any of the outlying areas to see how they fared in the storm – hopefully well do that in the next week or so as we make our way to Havannah Harbor.

We were concerned that the fresh market would have a shortage of fresh vegetables and fruits – but that is not the case. There are fewer sellers and they moved the "t-shirt/basket/necklace" sellers to an area in the market from down in the park. The park really took a big hit with almost all the beautiful big trees gone, the benches and sidewalks destroyed and the petanque courts missing. The selection of vegetables is good – but the prices are a bit higher. Tomatoes are scarce and expensive; bok choy (or white bone as they call it here) plentiful as is the local cabbage, watercress and cukes. The oranges and tangarines (mandarins) are starting to show up as well – but not as many grapefruit (pamplemouse). No bananas, plantains or fresh eggs in the market. Eggs are much higher priced this year in the grocery. The grocery store is well stocked.

We have enjoyed meeting a few new folks and reconnecting with some old friends. We also got our immigration sorted for the next few months and finished the paperwork with customs (which was really easy as the customs boat came by and dropped off the paperwork saving us the trip to the office!) Michael continues to be "the guy" in charge of the Vanuatu radio it will be better when we leave the city with the bad radio interference.

We also got some great news about our Hydrovane wind steering system. It hasn't worked well for us over the last almost seven years of cruising...and frankly, we just stopped using it or even trying to make it work. After talking with another boat that uses a Hydrovane, it turns out they had the same problem, which ended up being their rudder. Hydrovane has stepped up and is taking care of the problem, shipping us a new rudder. Good on them! We should get it in the next week or so and that's why we're sticking around Port Vila. Can't wait to start using a wind steering system again and save some amp hours. Perhaps we'll even have to rename it!

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