Monday, August 22, 2011

Fiji-Vanuatu Crossing

First sight of land in Vanuatu
Checked out in AM, then headed out thru pass.  Passed Magic Island and another small island with surfers’ hotels, and the famous breaks Dreamkeeper and Cloudbreak.  Big steep swell in passage, but it was wide and the reefs easy to see.  Set the heavy weather vane on the self-steering and set a course for Vanuatu in 15-20 knot S winds, sunny, moderate sized seas.  Cool; laying in sun felt good and warm.
Surprisingly, did this one without getting seasick- just feelin a lil weird, trying 1 Bonine/8hrs now instead of Sturgeron.  Uneventful passage, started on a reach for a day or two, then running.  Real good time throughout, top spped 6.8 kntos, average 6.0 knots.  Mostly a 20 knot wind that we didn’t feel much as it was behind us.  Mostly even broad swells, a lil steep and sometimes mixed up, decks mostly dry though.  Couple days sun, then clouds descended last day, saw Futuna Island around 9am on the 22nd- steep island, vis easy from 12 miles out, top buried in clouds.
Mainland was pretty much enveloped totally in drizzle, and we didn’t see it til we were about 10 miles out- 1.5 hrs away.  Brown ash cliffs dropping down to sea, with a narrow shallow zone in front.  Low point with low bluffs along sea and a rock sticking out called Cooks’ Hat.  Not sure if we could make it into the anchorage, as there was a good swell going, and the charts are never to be trusted in Melanesia.  We had been racing to get here all day, and had arrived about 30-60 min to sunset in this grey dreary weather.  Took down sails and motored in the last bit.  Point sheltered us from the worst of the swells just before we got into the shallower section of the passage-  25-30m at low tide.  Stayed close to the cliff side on way in.  Water murky inside, cove gradually shallowed up and we anchored in 14‘.  Not quite out of swells’ it’s a bit of a rolly anchorage.  B put flopper-stopper out- really helped, tho this AM is rolly again.  Good sleep for first time in a few days last night, lots of dreams.
Cook found this anchorage in 1774, after stopping at Santo and finding Erromango.  Things weren’t too friendly then, but here he found a good place to spent a couple weeks repositioning.  How did he sail in and sail out of here?  Wow- scary to think of going in only under sail power- sure he would have scouted it well beforehand though.  Also scary to think about being in that scout party, back when all these people were cannibals, and there were maybe 1 mil Ni-Vanuatu (pop reduce to 1/20 that size - 45,000 by 1935 by newly introduced European diseases).
Beaut friendly lil cove to come into after the windy sea.  Felt like it was good we got in, like it would get worse, and sure enough, next day there is a gale warning.  No getting out the passage today for us- it’s too narrow to tack, straight into wind and Marquesa won’t power into big seas and 20+knot winds, as has been demonstrated more than once.  She is a sailboat, not a motorboat.
The anchorage is lines by low bluffs and some beach border to the south and west, high to the north.  Behind the north hill is Mt Yasur, and the hill itself is active with 4 or more little hot springs.  Everything is clad in dark green bush, has a moody feel on such a  wet grey day.  I’m in a sweatshirt and long pants drinking hot chocolate.  Mosq nets are up right away since we have to worry about P falciparum malaria now.  A couple of the hot springs are right down at water level, hissing away very actively, and I wonder if there are any such vents below us, underwater.  The ones up the hill send clouds of steam up to hover over the dark green trees.  Its’ great!
You can see all the ash layers in the sea cliffs - from Yasur or something bigger and older? Yasur has only been going for 800 years, so prob something older.  Most all the volcanic islands in the world are surprisingly young- way younger than the dinosaurs.  The cliffs are riddled by intriguing sea caves, which I will kayak later when the surf is less violent.   Vaunuatu has been on a convergent plate margin for a long time (others like Fiji used to be, but are now not active).  The sub ducting plate used to come from the east, now things have reversed and the Australian plate is sub ducting under the Pacific.   It gives the place a complicated, active geology.  There are lots of little and large earthquakes here, and 9 active volcanoes (7 on land).

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