Oh so close …

Wednesday 13 May, 5.05am (7 miles from Tanna)

If you’ve read the last few Ships Log postings you’d be forgiven for thinking that this place Tanna will never come. They’re close, they’re near, they’re almost there … Well after deciding about 24 hours ago that we were not going to arrive in daylight, we’ve reduced sail to slow down, and for the past 12 hours have been doing a mammoth 1.5-2.5 knots, mostly with just the tiny staysail up. The motion has been pretty kind, as we ride up and down the swells, with the wind at about 15 knots coming in over the right side (starboard)

We saw Tanna in the distance yesterday, maybe 40-50 miles out. It’s high, with several peaks, one over 3000 feet. Now it’s 4:30am, (ie 3:30am Melbourne/Sydney time), the moon is still high in the sky and bright, as it illuminates the cover of grey cloud. The island of Tanna dominates the skyline in front of us with its dark grey outline silhouetted against the sky. At just 7 miles you can almost reach out and touch it. Still, 7 miles, at our current speed, is about 3 hours, which will coincide with the morning sun and the much needed light to pick our way into the small Lenakel ‘harbour’ in order to find a suitable anchorage.

Everything we’ve read about this anchorage suggests it’s not the most ideal, but the conditions are reasonably settled and there are no immanent weather warnings, so we’ll check it out before making a final judgment.

Once we arrive and drop anchor, we’ll need to dig out our Yellow flag and hoist it high on the starboard side. This is the flag for the letter “Q”, which is used to request quarantine and customs. Each country seems to have different rules in this regard, since we’ve started our “war on terror”, but Vanuatu still holds to the time honoured method – simply turn up, hoist your Q flag and either wait for the officials to come aboard, or initially limit your travel ashore to seeking the relevant authorities. Customs and Quarantine will stamp passports, get you to fill out immigration forms – just like if you’d flown in through the airport. They’ll inspect the departure paper issued by the Australia Customs (11 day ago in Sydney) and ask a lot of questions about what we have on board, anything requiring duty etc. No doubt they’ll have a good look through everything just to be sure, to be sure.

Once cleared of customs I’m hoping to meet with the local health official, Morrison Toares, who will be coming with us as we travel around. Morrison is based here at the Lenakel hospital and is responsible for several islands in this region.

There are a few jobs we need to do on board, before the medical team arrives on Friday, chief amongst these will be cleaning up. Not that we’ve a dirty bunch, but stuff does accumulate, and as Bob says … “a place for everything and everything in it’s place”. Now where have I heard that before? We will also need to fill up one of our water tanks, which ran out a few days back and install a water filter which we acquired just before we left Sydney. The list goes on.

Yesterday we fired up the radar, which we really haven’t had a need for up until now, and really don’t now, however, it’s here and is just another confirmation of our position. It should also show the presence of any other craft, of which there are none. The green screen is just in front of me and clearly shows the outline of the Tanna coast and the indentation which is the town and harbour of Lenakel.

I’ve just been up on deck and the morning sky is beginning to lighten. I’ve read that the active volcano at the southern end of the island is generally visible on approach from sea – it was reportedly the reason for Capt Cook entering and naming Port Resolution – but we are approaching the western side of the island and all I can see are several high peaks, with the top of the highest cut short by the cover of thick cloud.

There are no lights visible ashore and at this stage I can’t make out the harbour navigation light. It’s supposed to be visible at 8 miles, so I’ll have to look a bit harder for that one.

In using the chart plotter, it makes everything so clear, and in a lot of places you can almost drive by instruments alone. However, things can get a bit tricky when you overlay an exact, satellite gps positioning system on charts which invariable have written on them, derived from the survey of 1889, or 1856, by Cpt So-n-So RN. These charts aren’t so exact, meaning that if you follow the chart plotter and gps alone in the dark, you might find yourself 2 miles inland. And we’re not equipped for that.

Hopefully, once ashore I can email some photos for inclusion on the website.

See Delivery voyage photos

Thank you again to all our many supporters and followers. Feel free to make comments on the website. And to Mike Clarke the man in the backroom, a special thank you

Smooth sea, fair breeze and hope I can walk straight once onshore.


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