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Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu – summary of West Pacific sailing

October 1, 2017

10 days sailing to Neiafu, Vavau group, Tonga from Bora Bora. After clearing in, we found ourselves a mooring outside the Mango café . The village is small but nice, with shops and farmers market close by. The Bay of Refuge is, as the name suggests, very sheltered. Tonga has many islands, it is very green ( i.e it is raining) and it is famous for the possibility to spot whales. We tested a snorkeling site at Mala Island but were not really impressed. Furthermore the anchor windlass gave up so we had to move to Port Maurelle at a nearby island for the next couple of nights. We managed to buy a brochure in the yacht rental facilities close to Mango bar, it marked all anchorages and moorings in the northern part of Tonga. All were numbered so instead of talking about names you said: -we are going to no. 6 and thereafter to no. 13….

Port Maurelle anchorage was nice: clear water and sheltered. We did some snorkeling and saw some new species we hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately the rain kept on falling. We stayed for 5 night. One day we did a wet walk to a nearby village. In the forest we met two hunters. They were out hunting for the free running pigs we saw everywhere. Interesting; in the eastern islands of Pacific we saw a lot of free running chicken, owned by the community in common, and here it was pigs instead. During our stay at no.6 anchorage we managed to see some whales in a distance. Very impressive!

After 5 days we went back to the main village to fix the anchor and started to prepare for the next passage to Fiji. Among other things we found mature cheese!

Fiji, Suva: the approach was OK and easy to find. The anchorage was however a bit dull, but we got help from the Royal YC to clear in. It took almost a whole day. After that we spent another day in town paying the fees for environment etc. Suva is the capital and is influenced by the Chines compared to Latouka (which we visited on the west coast) which was all Indian. Since the rain was pouring down we took off towards Vuda Point (Vuda Marina) on the west coast, after just a few days. What a difference. The sun was shining, the people friendly and the marina one of the most likable we have found so far. We also managed to meet up with the Swedish boat Atla again after Galapagos. The marina is rather small, but with good facilities and nice surroundings with lot of new birds. On the premises was also a restaurant, with happy hour, music and good food, with prices so OK that we ate most of the nights there. The neighboring town Latouka had a very good farmers market and facilities for buying groceries. Taxi was easy to organize from the marina. During our stay in the marina we made an overhaul of our sails and bought a cover for our new dinghy. During our stay we visited 2 islands west of Vuda Point: Musket Cove and Mano Island. Musket Cove was a big anchorage with a lot of visiting yachts and a few resorts. Mano Island has one big resort that you check in to when you arrive. More artificial, but the anchorage has good holding and is not visited by that many ships, so the space is OK.

Aug 15. we left the marina for Vanuatu. As Peter published on Facebook the marina personnel sang for us when we left. We have never been treated with such a kindness as in Vuda marina.Leaving the reef passage and hoisting the sails, we found some issues with the genoa. Something was wrong with the furling so we went back to Musket Cove for the night. Peter found that the halyard was damaged the wire was almost broken. He also found two damaged shrouds.  After a very bad night with rain and heavy winds we went back to Vuda Marina for help. Two days later we were on the move again. However we did not get far before the halyard was broken again. Furthermore the auto pilot gave up. Hand steering for the next 2 days!

Arrival in Vanuatu, Port Vila on Efate island, was uncomplicated, even though the anchorage was rather bad. Hard coral bottom. The check in was quick and in high tide we moved to a mooring at the marina.  Spending a lot of time fixing the genoa halyard and spare parts to the auto pilot. We also met some nice people so the social life was thriving again. One Saturday-Sunday we moved the boat 5 nm to a neighboring anchorage and did a long uphill walk together with Australians Drew and Jo from the catamaran Lickityslip. We met a village chief that told us about the move they did from a very small island to the mainland some 50 years ago. The island is now a small resort with an underwater postbox.

Due to all the waiting for spare parts we were rather late leaving Port Vila and made therefore the decision to sail directly to Luganville, Espiritu Santo island where we also could check out for the next leg to PNG (Papua New Guinea). It was a night sail with 12 hour sailing and 12 hour engine before we could drop anchor outside the Beachfront Resort. The anchorage had good holding but was a bit choppy. However the Beachfront was a nice place used to support yachts, with shower facilities and a good restaurant. The town was rather small, but we found a good farmers market and a supermarket with the necessary items we needed for the next trip. We have not overstocked with food the last times, since it is rather expensive and we don’t eat that much during our longer sailing legs.

The checking out procedure was a bit more complicated than checking in in Port Vila. We had to walk a couple of times between the different offices, with papers that should be signed and paid for in a specific but not logical (to us) order. Anyway, on Friday the 15:th we set sail for PNG, where we arrived 8 days later after one of our most comfortable and quick sails. We will stay here for 7-10 days before moving on to Indonesia.

Summary of the West Pacific

  • Friendly people: in Fiji we were always met with a Hello and a smile on the streets. We have always felt very safe, both for us and the dinghy
  • Cloudy, rain and green: usually the west side of the islands were less cloudy, or even sunny, however the sun tan did not come back until we sailed over to PNG
  • Many days for boat projects: we have been lucky until now, with few things broken, but this period we got “it all” in one go. Hopefully it is OK for the leg up to Thailand where we should move Tina on the hard for some major work
  • The farmers markets have been fabulous: Lots of produce, reasonable prices, sometimes even cheap
  • Groceries: Wine and beer is expensive, cheese and crème fraiche could be found almost everywhere, bread of the European type is hardly ever found, meet from AUS is available the further west you get.
  • Finally a lot of new birds after some areas with few animals: the black bird with yellow markings round the eyes, was one of our favorite, together with the green fink with red head that was hopping around in the Vuda marina.
  • We have socialized with many yachties, majority being Australians or New Zeelanders, in the different anchorages and marinas, meeting old and new friends and exchanging information and good stories
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