Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Americans certainly left their mark around here

In WW2, Espiritu Sano became a huge American military base with shore-side gun emplacements, four air strips, new roads and an entirely new town, Luganville, being constructed in what was malarial swamp next to the river. At the end of the war many of the buildings were bulldozed but there are still relics (of what must have felt like an occupation to the Ni-Vans) everywhere.

Luganville's main street, with many of the WW2 concrete buildings still in use; the fire hydrants are still there but clearly no longer working

Maintenance is sadly lacking so there are traps for the unwary pedestrian everywhere, from potholes to rusted drain covers
Another ankle trap

Since the departure of the US troops, dominance of everything commercial has been assumed by the Chinese - they own all the food stores including the only vaguely-modern LCM and are increasingly buying up tourist resorts and farms. They are not popular with the Ni-Vans

One of the most bizarre relics of the American military is Million Dollar Point. At the end of the war, they had huge stocks of vehicles, construction machinery and materials which they didn't want to ship back to the States. A deal to purchase this war surplus was struck with the British and French governments (who shared the management of The New Hebrides as Vanuatu was then called) until the latter pulled out of the deal, assuming the kit would just be abandoned here anyway.

The US top brass took exception to this so the last job of the cee-bees was to build a ramp into the sea and drive Jeeps, trucks, cranes and bulldozers into the water. Millions of dollars worth of kit that would have be so valuable to the locals was systematically dumped, presumably with a slick of pollution, and it's said that many of the American soldiers wept at the sight of it. 

Today Million Dollar Point is a popular dive and snorkel site and remains a monument to stupidity and pig-headedness. Graham jumped off Maunie as we motored past it yesterday and took these photos:

Caterpillar-tracked crane
A huge fork-lift truck

Trailer and huge bundle of roofing iron

Coral is slowly colonising the kit

On to the more pressing need of our voyage, the laundry has been dropped off at the local, very yacht-friendly resort and we've refuelled the boat. This involved a dinghy ride, jerry cans and a borrowed wheelbarrow but was completed successfully. Tomorrow morning we'll do a last re-stock of food for the voyage then go around to a quiet anchorage at Ratua Island to get ourselves ready for the voyage.

Arriving with fuel cans in a wheelbarrow was a source of amusement for the pump attendant

Graham takes the first load. Note the little taxi - their drivers seem to always run these things on fumes, so as we filled up 112 litres we watched one after another come in for 1.5 to 2 litres in to their tanks at a time

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Blue water and light breezes

In the settled conditions of the past week, Port Olry is the most beautiful place.. The water cleared so that when we were anchored in 10m, we could see the bottom as though it was only a couple of metres deep; the white sand beaches were beautiful.

A Clarke's Anemone Fish in the usual cover of the waving tentacles of an anemone....

...and out in the open

No wet-suit required!
We had some great times with the Salty Lemons, Kerry & Damian on Sel Citron, spending time in the village watching the Sanma Day sports and celebrations, exploring the island and sharing great meals on both boats.

Free-range organic beef - delicious, we discovered, from the local butcher

Di & Kerry posing 

Sorry, a bit of a cliche shot but I couldn't resist it!

Graham making a new friend
Sel Citron brightens up any anchorage!

Farewell to the Lemons - we hope our wakes will cross again.
So we are now back in Luganville to get ready for the next adventure - the passage to Australia...

World Premiere

We were there to film the World Premiere performance of 'The Spirit of Santo', performed by the wonderful Banban Bamboo Band, the Water Music Ladies and a local youth group. Here's the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCrPYUK-yBY

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

What, not another dolphin video?!

As we motorsailed south from Port Orly today we passed a cell tower delivering 3G internet – a novelty after the past week. So we have managed to upload a short video of the Spinner Dolphins playing in our bow wave. Have a look at this link: https://youtu.be/x4X0KSiPMz8
We are now anchored in Surundu Bay, just north of Luganville, in blue water under a blue sky and in about 30 degrees C. The light winds that have made our anchorages so pleasant over the past week are due to be replaced by the more normal Trades this weekend so we'll head back to Luganville tomorrow to refuel and get Maunie ready to sail to Australia – we're aiming to leave on Monday but you all know that our departure dates rarely go to plan!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

This is what the brochures promised!

We have moved up the coast of Espiritu Santo to an enchantingly beautiful bay at Port Olry. The sail up was enlivened by a good Parasailor session and about 15 Spinner Dolphins playing in our bow wave for about 20 minutes. We'll post a video of them when we next get some internet.
After several days of rather cloudy conditions we are now experiencing the sort of weather that they promise in the tourist brochures but somehow usually eludes us. The wind has dropped to only a few knots and the sun is really hot in a perfect blue sky; the shallow water of the anchorage is clear and bright turquoise and the beaches are the most perfect, fine sand  and almost blindingly white. Last night we had a beach BBQ with Damian and Kerry and watched the stars appear and the phosphorescence wash up on the beach. Magical.
The windless weather looks set to stay for the next few days, making thoughts of passages to Australia irrelevant, so it looks as though we'll just have to stay here and wait. Some hardship!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Did The Earth Move For You Too, Darling?

Yesterday we had an earthquake. That's actually not particularly surprising news in Vanuatu; they have registered 270 quakes of magnitude of 1.5 or more in the past year. However this was a pretty big one at magnitude 6.0 and its epicentre was near the Malakula town of Norsup, only about 40 miles from us.

We were on board when the quake occurred and it was a genuinely odd feeling. It was as though a heavy, rather out-of-balance engine had been started deep in Maunie's keel and we felt the vibrations for about ten seconds. It was extraordinary that the shock could be transmitted through 12 metres of water. The surface remained calm and were very relieved that the water level didn't suddenly change (a warning sign of an approaching tsunami).

When we went ashore for later that day, the staff at the resort said they had felt the quake but there was no damage and, with our limited internet here, we haven't found any details of damage closer to the epicentre. Hopefully it was deep enough, at 36km, to have been relatively benign.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Welcome Break From Life's Ups and Downs

The long weekend spent anchored off Luganville was great - we restocked our food lockers, found some (relatively) cheap but very drinkable Australian wine to put into the empty drinks cellar and, of course, enjoyed the football. However the downside was that the anchorage is pretty exposed and is on what we sailors call a 'lee shore' - in other words the land is to the lee (down wind) of us so if the anchor dragged we'd find ourselves aground pretty quickly. The good thing was that the anchor was buried deep in very good-holding sand but the wind-driven waves meant that Maunie was never still so it wasn't exactly a restful place to be.

So we decided to move around the corner and head north:

The prevailing wind is south easterly here so we had an entertaining sail, short-tacking eastwards out of the Segond Channel and past the wreck of the Coolidge, and then turned northwards to tuck inside Aesi island, out of the swell, and up towards Oyster Island.

Our electronic charts are not hugely accurate here (according to our Navionics chart, we are currently anchored firmly on shore!) so we downloaded some very detailed Google Earth images to use on the iPad.

The route into Oyster Island - we had detailed waypoints from the cruising guide that we bought this year 
The really scary bit - we had just 40cm under our keel as we went through the pass and it looked even shallower from the deck!
 The minor palpitations were all worth it, though, as we are now anchored in a perfectly protected spot, with not a wave to be seen, just off the very friendly Oyster Island Resort. The calm conditions allowed us to drop our yankee to put a patch on some chafe and to give Maunie a bit of a clean and polish.

Chafe is your enemy! - damage to the blue UV protection strip at the leech-line block

Unlike Sel Citron's sails, Maunie's will fit in the sewing machine so a leather-lined patch was added.
 Ashore at the resort we had an excellent  'cook's night off' meal and went to watch a combined youth choir / bamboo band / water-music team rehearsing a new song that they are entering into a Pacific song contest. We'll see the first official performance on Sunday here so will post some photos and, if possible, a video of the event.

Dianne's sadly unsuccessful audition to join the Bamboo Band
 There are two winding rivers that flow into this lagoon so we joined Sel Citron in their big dinghy to motor up one of them yesterday. It was absolutely stunning and we reached the Blue Hole, where the limestone really does turn the water into a lovely shade of blue, for some great fresh-water swimming.

Graham doing the Tarzan thing from a huge Banyan tree

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Beautiful Game

Those that know Graham will remember that he's madly keen on football (soccer for American and Australian readers); he just can't stop talking about it. Well, perhaps not... in reality, he's definitely in the 'Rugby's the only game worth watching, those footballers just keep falling over pretending to be hurt' camp.

He admitted that he hadn't actually ever been to a 'proper' football game so when we found out that some of the qualifying matches for the Oceania Under 20 World Cup were being staged here in Luganville, we just had to go. Graham managed to watch two games and said he enjoyed it, though I suspect the whole spectacle of being in a Vanuatu crowd had as much to do with that as the football itself.

Damian (who really IS keen on football) watches the game whilst Kerry, Di and Graham pose for a selfie

The Cook Islands and Tahiti teams stand for the national anthems. 

Spot the white faces in the crowd - at half time.
There was definitely no need to wrap up warm for these matches - if anything, more sun cream was needed. 

For the record, New Zealand and The Solomon Islands drew 0-0 in a pretty dull game but the Cook Islands vs Tahiti game was much more exciting (3-1 to Tahiti and it should have been more).

Don't think Graham has been converted but it was a fun day off the boats!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Amateur Sailmakers

We have mentioned before that one of the great things about this trip is the camaraderie that builds up between the crews of boats. We have made friends with some amazing people and we yachties share help whenever we can.

So last week we were sailing up the coast of Pentecost with Sel Citron when we saw their foresail suddenly come fluttering down. It transpired that the webbing loops at the head of the sail, through which the halyard shackle is connected, had blown out on a sail only two years old. Luckily we'd attended a very informative training session at a sail loft in Opua so had the material and knowledge to help make a repair, so we spent a day and a half aboard Sel Citron helping Damian and Kerry get the sail back into working order (with superb email support from sailmaker Roger Hall in Opua).

Starting the slow process of hand-sewing. Unfortunately the sail and webbing was just too thick for our Sailrite sewing machine

"When I nod my head, you hit it." Every stitch hole had to be made in advance and the needle pushed through with a sailmaker's palm and then pulled through with pliers. The hardwood board we are using to protect the table came from Fulaga, Fiji, during the canoe-building project with Damian and Kerry last year.
The job done!
A glass or two of wine to celebrate the result, looking over to Maunie as the sun set
Thanks to Kerry for these photos (and for all the motivational food & drink!).

The Famous Rice Tossers of Bwatnapne

If you ever wondered about how your food gets delivered...... here's a quick video of the unloading of the supply ship at Bwatnapne. It made us giggle, anyway, and the rustling sound was great!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Now THAT'S a Fish

Caught this lovely 22lb Wahoo yesterday just as we were about to reel in the line as we approached the anchorage of Vanihe Bay, Ambae. 

These fish are pure muscle, speed machines and are very tasty. Fillets vacuum packed and in the freezer.

Pentecost Photos

Here are a few photos from the past week:

Loltong anchorage, with Maunie and Sel Citron
Village Nakamal (meeting house) - this one a mix of traditional materials and some concrete posts
Inside the nakamal - preparing manioc (a starchy root vegetable) for 'lap-lap', the traditional Ni-Van food (ground manioc and coconut milk baked in an earth oven), whilst a bit of butchery goes on

Mary and friend weaving 

Three year old with bush knife - perfectly normal here!
Searching the reef at low tide for clams - fishing, gardening and cooking is a major part of the day for people here

A future meal

A nakamal under construction, utilising old and new timbers

The Loltong 'Yacht Club' set up by the enterprising Mathew and Mary

Mathew inside his Yacht Club

Di buys another bag from Mary

Another 'taster' course at the Yacht Club supper - with Kerry (Sel Citron) and Sarah, Micheal and Elizabeth (Field Trip)
Bwatnapne anchorage

Happy kids who followed us as we walked through the village

A game involving pushing coconut shells on the end of sticks. ????

A traditional Vanuatu building.....

... and a very nontraditional one! We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw this being built in a village that otherwise consists of wooden, thatched buildings. It the the dream of two Ni-Van brothers who own a lending society that now has 22 branches across the country. On the ground floor is a supermarket, just opened (we were the first foreigners to shop there), and there will be hotel rooms, a sports arena and a music venue.
Interesting technique to hold the shuttering in place whilst the concrete is poured to form the next wall..