The long beat south

Saturday 31 July 2010 Revolieu Bay, Epi 16  43.75S,  168 08.66E

In talking with other yachties it’s clear, everyone loves sailing north, but no one likes sailing south.  Little wonder the northern Vanuatu islands of the Banks and Torres are so rarely visited.

Boats arrive in Pt Vila, start heading north with a beautiful breeze over their right shoulder then finally realise half way up the country that this wind will be on the nose when it finally comes time to turn around and head home.  Occasionally the wind comes from other directions, and sometimes near islands or in the gaps between islands the wind will behave in funny ways, but mostly at this time of year it’s the south east trade winds that blow.

So it was with an air of trepidation that we headed off from Pentecost this morning around 3:30am.  The wind had been blowing strong at around 25 knots from the south east for the past few days so we knew we’d be in for some uncomfortable moments.  But the first stretch to the western tip of Ambrym Island was something of a dream run, however, as we set a course south west from Pentecost.  Speeds regularly tipped 8 knots as we raced over flat seas with the wind on the port beam.  The tricky bit was taking a left turn around the corner of Ambryn and setting a course south east for Epi; a leg we reserved for daylight, hence the early start.

Our initial expectation was for big seas and the need to tack a several times, but as things turned out the further south we headed the more the wind shifted east enabling us in the end to lay a course pretty much south east, roughly in the direction of Epi, our final destination. The seas were still quite big, but more than that, they seemed very confused with tidal runs in certain spots combining with the wind to create waves from all directions.  In the end we hand-steered the whole 12 hours to Epi and remarkably Matt managed to stay in his forward bunk through some of the worst of this, nearly bouncing off the ceiling at times.

Here at Revolieu Bay it’s calmer than a marina berth with the stars now filling the sky and the wind gusting down the lush valley ashore making our wind generator earn its keep as it spins into a frenzy every now and then.

We said our good-byes to the yacht Bob last night, but as we parted Bruce related a story of having been in the local village of Loltong on children’s day (24/7).  Apparently it was “games time” in the afternoon’s proceedings and this particular game seemed to be a cross between Pin The Tail On The Donkey and the one where the kids use a stick to beat lollies from a suspended paper donkey.

In this local Vanuatu game a child is blindfolded, given a pair of long pointy scissors and aimed in the direction of lollies hanging on strings from a nearby tree.  The object being for the child to use the scissors two-handed to cut the lollie-strings in order to score some treats.  As Bruce related, with a touch of humour and disbelief – disbelief that no one seemed to be injured or maimed – the child with the scissors never seemed to be in any danger.  It was all the other children gathered excitedly around, directing the blindfolded child, and just inches away from being stabbed, who seemed at greatest risk while the operator of the scissors wildly attacked the air like you would trim a hedge.  If it wasn’t for the children’s familiarity with knives, basically from the day they are weaned, and their ability to (mostly) avoid danger, the casualty rate from this game would no doubt be too high.

So once again, it’s time for bed.  It’ll be another early morning tomorrow as we take another hop south – to Havannah Harbour on Efate island and just around the corner from Port Vila.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and nearly “home”.

Rob Latimer

Copy from Chimere Ships Log
Saturday 31 July 2010
Waterfall Bay (Pentecost Island) to Revolieu Bay (Epi Island) – 75 nautical miles.


Estimated Course Steered

Vessel Speed

Wind Direction

Wind Speed






3.30 15.47.197S 168.09.70E Weighed Anchor at Waterfall Bay after rising at 03:00
4.00 200 6.0 SSE Calm Passing Showers Cloudy 15.448.64S 168.08.16E Port tack, engine running in neutral (charging batteries), 1st reef main, ½ jib, Lanie at helm.
6.20 198 8.1 SSE 20-25 1-1.5m Overcast Clear 16.02.02S 167.58.96E Port tack continues. Rob and Lanie up.
9.00 160 6.5 ESE 20-25 2m Choppy Clearing sky Clear 16.17.61S 167.53.44E Port tack. Motorsail 1100rpm. Main, ½ jib. Lanie at helm. Mike & Rob on deck
11.20 140 6.8 ESE 20-25 2m Choppy Sunny Clear 16.30.97S 167.56.01E Port tack. Motorsail 1100rpm. Main, ½ jib. Rob at helm. Matt and Lanie on deck
12.30 130 7.2 E 15-20 1-2m lumpy Sunny Clear 16.38.08S 167.58.82E Port tack. Motorsail 1100rpm. Main, Full jib. Rob at helm. Mike and Lanie on deck
12.50 140 5.0 NE 10-15 ½ – 1m Sunny Clear 16.39.00S 167.59.82E Starboard tack – wind shift – back to Port tack. Strong tidal flow against us. Decide
to continue past Laman Bay to Revolieu Bay
14.00 80 5-6 SE 15-20 1-2M Sunny Clear 16.43.97S 168.01.90E Change to Port tack. Rob at helm to enable closer haul to Revioleu Bay. Motorsail – all crew on deck.
15.30 214 5-6 ESE 10-15 1-2M Sunny Clear 16.43.97S 168.08.66E 2 yachts off port bow, heading nth. possibly going to Laman Bay.
15.30 16.43.97S 168.08.66E Dropped anchor at Revolieu Bay centre anchorage. 7.9M, black sand bottom. 40M chain.

Flat calm, peaceful, picturesque anchorage. Fishing platform and reef to starboard.
“Bumpy sail” Good Progress towards Vila – 12 hrs.
Early start – no need to launch the dinghy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.