Monday, 31 August 2015

Luganville to Bundaberg

Departure for Australia

Friday 7th August. Distance to go 1008nm (1800km)

We finally dropped the mooring at Aore resort at 0930 and sped down the channel with the outgoing tide. Once outside we settled down to a close reach with 2 reefs and No.3 headsail in fairly bumpy seas of 2-4 metres with a SSE of 20 to 25 knots

Saturday 8th August. (0930 distance to go 830nm) During the night we reduced sail to 3 reefs in the main. About midnight Pacific Dream (a 47ft cat) called us on the VHF. They could see us on their AIS receiver and were 8 miles in front. By dawn they were abeam and we sailed all day in sight of one another. The day turned out sunny with much smoother seas and we managed to shake out all of the reefs and spent the day on a close reach. Very pleasant sailing.

Not long after nightfall Pacific Dream called again to say they had a mainsail problem and were continuing on under headsails alone at about 5 knots. As we were doing 7 to 8 knots we soon lost reception with their VHF.

Sunday 9th August. (0930 Distance to go 678nm) During the night the wind picked up again to 25 knots at times. We reduced sail to 3 reefs again and the boat trundled along happily all night without any sail adjustments necessary. Di managed to sleep all night and I did a check every few hours then retired again. This part of the ocean is empty of all commercial shipping and in the first 3 days we only saw one fishing boat on the AIS. The wind dropped again for a while after dawn then puffed in whenever the rain showers were close. After about 3 reef changes we settled for 2 reefs for the rest of the morning. The rain clouds disappeared during the afternoon and we had a steady sail with only one reef in and mostly smooth seas. Motored for a while in a 2 hour lull to pull the fridge down and to make hot water for showers. All good on board!


Monday 10th August. (0930 Distance to go 508nm) Allusive sailed all night in a steady 15-20 knot SSE with 2 reefs and half No3. Very comfortable with plenty of sleep.

 We were planning to stop at the Chesterfield reef group but we now have a forecast for SW winds (headwinds!) developing early Thursday and if we stop at the Chesterfields we will be there for 4 days in a constantly changing wind direction. We have decided to press on and if we can average 7 knots for the rest of the trip we should arrive at Bundaberg about the time the SW is due.

We are staying in touch on the SSB radio (4483) with another yacht, Argonaut who left a day behind us and is tracking to Gladstone. Haven 111 is leaving tomorrow and will track to Bundaberg.

During the day the SSE winds continued with near calm seas. Only 1 reef and full no3 required to keep our speed between 7 and 8 knots

Tuesday 11th August (0930 Distance to go 311nm). During the night the wind slowly died and we have now been motoring since midnight.

The 5 knot breeze is slowly backing into the East and is due to go into the North before freshening then moving into the NW 25-30 knots by Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday it is forecast to move into the SW. In the meantime we are enjoying the quiet conditions with full main and No.3. We are enjoying the cloudless skies while they last and Di has done the food prep for the next day or so. We won’t be hungry!

Wednesday 11th August.( 0930 Distance to go 140nm)

The wind did as forecast, backing through North to West and increased during the day with an extra reef going into the main every 3 to 4 hours. About 100nm from the coast there is a North/South traffic separation area for the commercial shipping and at times we had up to 6 ships on the AIS. We had better keep a good lookout from here to Bundaberg.

Thursday 12th August.

The 30+ knot SW front got us just as we were between Breaksea Spit and the reefs to the North. We had some very heavy rain with it plus some thunder and lightning. Not very pleasant for the guy on deck.  As we passed into the shallow waters of Hervey Bay the wind waves became very short and steep due partly to the wind over tide effect. We had to tack for the last 40 miles into the SW and slow the boat down as the pounding was horrific at times. The skies cleared by 0900 and the local VMR issued a cancellation of the gale warning……. Just as we were experiencing some 40+ knot gusts. It’s a good thing he couldn’t hear what I was saying!!!

We finally arrived at the Port Bundaberg marina at 11.30am and had cleared customs and quarantine (BORDER FORCE) by 2.30pm. This was very quick and efficient BUT t there was a lot of confusion about the way we were to pay the GST on the items we reimported. The GST on these new items had been claimed under the TRS scheme on the way out of Australia. The local Bundaberg Customs officer informed us we would need to employ the services of a Customs Agent in Brisbane to complete the necessary paperwork. It took two days to sort this out and Customs finally worked out it was their job to calculate the GST! In the meantime Allusive was restricted to port. No doubt in the old days we would have had a notice nailed to the mast! A stupid fiasco caused, I suspect, by a lack of training in the TRS area for relatively new staff which caused us a great deal of consternation for 24 hours.
After a pleasant 4 days in and around Bundaberg we finally flew home for 3 weeks to catch up with family and house/ work commitments

Luganville July 23rd until August 8th

Luganville July 23rd until August 8th.

The time just slipped away during these two weeks. We were on a mooring at Aore resort and spent much of our time enjoying the touristy things on Santo, boat maintenance and generally socialising with resort guests and other yachties.

Highlights included the Santo Rodeo with local plantation stockmen competing against one another. The European plantation owners had good horses with saddles but the stockmen rode bareback on their ponies with hessian sacks for saddles. These sacks usually slipped out from under their bums before their event was finished. This was a free event and the local people flocked to the event to enjoy the fun.

International Children’s Day was on Friday July 24 and this was a public holiday with lots happening for the kids throughout the nation. The Vanuatu people are very loving towards their offspring, particularly when they are infants and the local park was decorated in their honour with lots of stalls and games. Some shops open for kids only to shop!

Independence Day was to celebrate 35 years of self-government and the day was celebrated in every town and little village throughout the nation.

In Luganville the local police and army were on parade to the tune of a brass band and the local politicians were in their element making speeches to the assembled throng. We watched for a while then wandered off and missed the police playing with their AK47’s but we certainly heard the noise!

Di spent quite some time snorkelling with new friend Sue (off S V Mawari), off the resort beach. Sue is a fantastic photographer and she showed Di many interesting underwater fish and other creatures including large cuttle fish. It is so nice snorkelling in water that is crystal clear and 27 degrees and the varieties of fish were never ending. 

The main highlight for us during this period was the day trip to the Millennium Cave.

After a 45 minute ride over 10 million pot holes we arrived at a small village where our bus managed to get stuck in the greasy conditions, so we walked the next 2 km to the main village where we were met by 4 guides. Our party was probably 20 people and to get to the cave we walked for another 2 hours over a very slippery, muddy track which was very steep at times.

However the walk was worth it as the Millennium Cave is a very spectacular 400m long limestone cavern, about 10m wide and up to 50 metres high inside with a small river running through the full length. Our party waded through the cavern in water about waist deep in places with torches for illumination and bats for company. Quite an eerie experience.

Once we emerged from the cave we found the cavern river joined a much larger river. We stopped at this point for lunch. We had left our backpacks with some of the villagers at the top of the gorge before the climb down into the cave and they had lowered them down into the gorge on ropes.

Once we had finished lunch they hauled them back up and carried them back to the village.

Our group then enjoyed another 2 hours canyoning (clambering over rocks) and swimming downstream through some spectacularly steep gorges with numerous waterfalls flowing into the river.

We finally emerged from the river at a point below the village. The trip back to the top of the gorge consisted of a climb up a waterfall then a series of bush ladders. A lot of very tired but exhilarated people finally re-entered the village where we were given hot drinks and fruit to restore our energy.

One of our group slipped early on and fractured his wrist but, with the assistance of some guides managed to complete the walk. Luckily one of our party was an Orthopaedic Surgeon and he strapped the wrist then accompanied the patient to the hospital after the event.

Di and I were very stiff the next day, but a day round the pool and some liquid therapy soon restored us to normal.

We were now into departure planning mode and spent a couple of days refuelling (carting 20 litre drums in the dinghy across the channel to the local service station), then restocking food from the local stores.

Clearing out of Vanuatu consisted of a trip to immigration, on to customs, on to the payment office, back to customs and back to immigration for the final (handwritten) paperwork. A full morning’s work!