Tuesday 26 September 2017
At anchor, Port Olry, North Santo
The 80 mile overnight sail from Sola ended up being far smoother than I’d anticipated. The seas were calmer, our speed faster and around 12:30 this morning we actually had to cut things back to around 4 knots so as NOT to arrive at the narrow harbour entrance (between two islands) ‘too early’ and in the dark. The ride was also quiet, with the engine being given a rest for much of the time.
It seemed unfair. All the time we are trying to make the boat go as fast as possible, then occasionally there are times when going slow is the prudent, most appropriate thing to do.
It was therefore around 6:00am, as the sun was rising, that we arrived, making our way through what looked like a narrow gap between two islands, but which was, as Matt pointed out, wider than the entrance to Sydney Harbour. In the end it was a good thing we arrived in daylight because the chart plotter eventually showed us tracking through the headland on end of the smaller island, rather than through the middle of the entrance; which was clearly made of seawater. This inaccuracy is not unusual in the more remote areas – in fact most places out of the major towns and where cruise ships tend to drop anchor
As the morning sky grew lighter, in anticipation of the sun’s appearance, so the five Ni-Vans began to make an appearance from their various bunks and sleeping spots. Laughter, joking and chatter increased with the excitement of arrival and the satisfaction of having made it through the night, mostly asleep.
Jay took a turn at the helm and having grown up with canoes in a remote village on the north coast of Ureparapara, he quickly gained a feel for Chimere’s ways and in holding a straight course.
Around 7:30 we finally dropped anchor in the quiet, turquoise waters of Port Olry. Calling it a “port” probably makes it sound a little grander that it really is. Certainly there’s a road, back to the main town of Luganville further south and past the very popular tourist stop-off point “Champagne Beach” and you can buy baked bread after about 4:00pm most days, but it’s still a sleepy kind of place centred around a glorious curving white-sand beach and amazingly coloured water.
There are beach bungalows for hire. Some built into the large trees which are surrounded by manicured lawn just above the beach sand-line, making this part of town look like a film-set for a Lord of The Rings sequel, “Hobbit Town by The Beach”. To top it all off there is a restaurant and bar named “Serenity Restaurant” serving cold drinks – yes, even Tusker beer … apparently – overlooking the waves, the sea and the sand in the far distance Chimere at anchor; and by late afternoon four other yachts – as I say it’s a popular place.
A woman called Angelique seems to run this place and from my observations did everything but rake the leaves on the lawn. She even had her two gorgeous kids, around age 4 or 5, collect plates and glasses from the tables.
We are now down to five people rattling around aboard Chimere – Barry Crouch (co-owner of Chimere) who arrived just yesterday by plane into Sola, Annette, Cathy, Matt (the older) and myself. The bulka-bags remain silent – lashed to the foredeck, along with the diminished supply of medical, dental and optical consumables and “tooth brush giveaway kits”. There are no teams to transport ashore, no large meals to prepare and no more controlled but slightly frenetic activity. Idly sitting here in this quiet and picturesque anchorage, with time even to go snorkelling, there’s almost a sense of guilt about it all… I said almost.
In heading back to Port Vila, we were a bit unsure which way to go. As it turns out, the breaking of a high pressure line in the water maker, at the very same time that all water tanks are empty, kind of sealed things. We will head directly to Luganville – around 35 miles – tomorrow in order to fill the tanks at the public wharf. The alternatives are – run water drums from a beach somewhere, or wait for a heavy downpour of rain?! A hose from a wharf kind of won the day.
In terms of timing, we’re just glad it happened now, not 2 weeks ago with 15 people aboard, all wanting showers, cups of tea and needing to wash clothes !!
Whilst I have around 40 litres of drinking water in spare drums on deck – that will cover tomorrow’s needs, I didn’t have the two required high pressure hose in “spares”. A bit of an oversight there. We had two short high pressure hoses, but not the long ones. We’ll have to get them sent across
While lounging around on the white sand feeling guilty for not working, we met a German couple in their late 60s, Volker and Dorothea, who were renting one of the treehouse bungalows. They appeared well tanned and after a brief discussion we discovered they were both doctors and had devoted much of their life to travel. This latest trip was taking them on an island hopping tour of the Torres islands (further north) Motalava, Vanualava, Santo, Gaua and Ambrym – most unusual for the average tourist. But these were not your average tourists. They spoke passionately about the 20 years in which they owned a yacht, travelling from their home in Hamburg to the Caribbean and around Europe and Scandinavia.
They jumped at the chance to come out to Chimere for lunch and over dinner, at the “Serenity Restaurant” ashore they spoke about the places they had been and the people they had met over they years. “I have been to all but 7 countries in the world, and all the states in the USA” said Dorothea quietly. “We drove for 5 months around Australia, and Tasmania is beautiful”. And their powers of recall were amazing … the salmon catching bears of Kamchatka Peninsular, the tribes people of Angola, markets of Saana in Yemen … even getting around the need to be married to enter Saudi Arabia by getting a letter drawn up by the authorities in Jordan to say they were but the papers hadn’t arrived yet. The discussion was like having a talking Wikipedia of Travel at our table and as Dorothea explained, at the age of 9 she started her travels on a bicycle, which led to hitchhiking at 15 (because you could go further) and no doubt aeroplanes soon after. As we left them their next dream was the possibility of buying a yacht in Australia or New Zealand, partly to visit some of the remaining countries on their list including Nauru; although as Aussies we had our suggestions as to how they might get there?!
They say the most dangerous part of flying is the take-off and landing. It’s much the same with dinghies. Particularly when boarding off a beach, through the waves, in the dark. What could possibly go wrong? All five of us got wet, but none more so than Annette and Matt who were on the other side of the dinghy from me. To give you an idea of just how wet they got … well at one point in that critical sand–wave-boarding “transition stage”, as the depth of the water increases beyond the knees and the dinghy is pushed forward over the next advancing wave (to avoid it breaking over the bow) and everyone is supposed to jump aboard, all I could see of Matt and Annette was their head and shoulders…. oh, I could also see their hands and forearms as they clung to the rope around the side of the dinghy.
“Wait, not everyone’s aboard!!” came the cry … “tell me something I don’t know” thought Matt and Annette!!!
Once aboard, and the laughter had subsided we agreed that if you are going to get wet at 8:30 in the evening you want to do it when the water temperature is 29 degrees and the air temperature about the same.
Back on Chimere we each dried off, had a hot drink, soaked in the beauty of the surroundings and retired to our bunks early.
Tomorrow we head south to Luganville and the big smoke
Smooth saes, fair breeze and beautiful Port Olry
FURTHER MISSION NEWS
Just a reminder that Graeme’s (unauthorized) mission blog and news about Vanuatu activities can be found here …
And team member, Annette Vincent, has a blog running here …