LETTER from Eivind & Heidi ________VANUATU, Pacific Ocean June - July 2008

Yasur, Tanna
Eivind and Heidi
Port Resolution, Tanna
The Skriden family, Vanuatu
Port Resolution, Tanna

The sail from Fiji to Vanuatu turned out to be a quick voyage at a little more than three days. 525nm with seven knots in average. Nathaniel had now sailed with us for six weeks, and he was getting in to “Pacific voyaging”.
The people living in Vanuatu are mainly from Melanesia, and are called “Ni Vanuatu”, which means “from Vanuatu”. Vanuatu consists of 83 islands, 69 of the inhabited. Most people are living near the shoreline, and the rest of the land is more or less uninhabited. Each island has its own characteristic cultur. The nature is playing an important role for the Ni Vanuatus, there they find power, magic and spirits.

Havannah Harbour is a well protected area on the west side of the main island Efate. Many small islands is protecting the area from the ocean. Short time after we anchored in Matapu Bay inside Havannah Harbour, Kalo (15) and other villagers came visiting alongside Empire in their well built small outrigger canoes. Kalo told us that he was a gardener and a boat builder. He had built his own canoe from an old tree. As the most daring boat builder in the bay, Kalo also mounted a small sailing rig on his boat. Josh (Bahati), who was visiting us on his way back to the USA, Nathaniel and Eivind later got a “guided tour” iaround Kalo’s village. Heidi stayed onboard Empire, due to a troubling diarrhoea, that we later found she had to be medicined to get rid of.

Josh managed to stay onboard for a week, before both he and Nathaniel had to head back to the States, where work and girls waited. When our American friends had got on the plane, we had Empire to our selves for a short week, before friends from Norway were embarking. We enjoyed the “lonely” days “waiting” at the island of Lelepa in Mallao Bay, just a few nautical miles from Port Vila.
When the Skridenf amily were safely onboard in Port Vila, we also sailed back to the beautiful Lelepa Island. It was a long time since we had seen friends from Norway onboard, and it was lovely to see Mona, Odd, Marte (10) and Martin (8) again. Odd was crewing onboard Empire when we sailed in the racing class in the ARC in 2005. This time he brought his whole family to the adventure.

In Mallao Bay we found crystal clear water, colourful fish, white sandy beaches and palm trees. Dark caves with spiders, cockroaches, and cave-paintings were for the adventurous waiting ashore. The cave entrance was enormous, but the cave soon got smaller as we entered. In the roof we spotted several bats, and a few of them started flying around as they got scared of our torch-lights.

Next stop was the island of Tanna, with its active volcano Yasur. Yasur is said to be one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world. The wind almost changed into our favour, so we motor-sailed some of the 150nm towards Tanna, not to give our new crew a too rough start. As we sailed closer, we could clearly see Yasur sending out smoke signals.
The villagers in Port Resolution are still living their lives in the traditional way. They are proud of their characteristic culture. It was very interesting to both us and our crew to meet chief Ronic.

Ronic’s daughters showed us around the village. Later his son Stanly took us to the volcano. In a pick-up we were driven almost to the “top” of Yasur, together with other sailors. Many places along the narrow and muddy road steam was coming out of the ground. After about one our sitting in the back of the pick-up, some of the time covered by a tarpaulin to keep us sort of dry due to the heavy showers, we parked near the crater-edge. The previous evening from the anchorage we saw the red sky caused by Yasur…

The sound that met us from the crater was enormous and violent. Sadly the day had been rainy, and there was a thick fog all over the area. Even though we now and then were able to see glowing rocks and lava be thrown up in the air. The fog made the experience even more spectacular, as we weren’t able to see eventually dangerous falling rocks.

The departure day we woke up to Empire covered in ash. During the night the wind had come from the “wrong” direction – from the volcano towards us. There was ash everywhere, even inside the boat. Luckily it was easy to rinse the ash off, at least on deck.
The same day as we decided to leave Port Resolution and Tanna, one of the villagers rowed out to Empire in his little canoe. He invited us to a “lap-lap”, a traditional Vanuatu-course prepared in an earth oven. Sadly the wind was blowing in “the right” direction and the Skriden family had a plane to catch from Noumea – so we had to hoist the anchor and set sails.

The little taste we got of Vanuatu made us want more. We would have loved to spent more time among this fantastic islands and this exciting people. Hopefully will we one day sail back to Vanuatu…

Mallao Bay. Havannah Harbour. Port Resolution, Tanna.
You can see more pictures from Vanuatu >>> PICTURES 2008 - VANUATU
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