Friday, October 14, 2011

Banks Islands, Vanuatu

Mowing the airport

Long House

Long House

Rainy day in a small village

Village water supply

Village gathering area under the mango tree

Waterfall anchorage Gaua

Waterfall anchorage

Sea cave

Local kid surfing a lil break in a homebuilt canoe

Village buried by volcanic ashfall last year


Dance in honor of a french captain who rescued some villagers

Dance in honor of a french captain who rescued some villagers

In the Ureparapara cauldera

Ureparapara cauldera

The entrance to Ureparapara anchorage
Left Port Orly at dawn for Gaua in near perfect calm, motoring.  Had waited 1 day for wind but no luck.  Just out of harbor something bit the line.  Thought it was nothing, no weight.  Then Cpt started reeling in and I saw it jump out far - big swordfish!!!  Thought no way we’d get it in on lil 25 test line (squid lure, #14 hook).  Fought it a lil, it jumps at times, swims down or sideways, had to turn boat a few times, worried it would break line or cut it with sword.  Cpt had never gotten one of these unless out on a fishing trip specifically for them, great meat and fighting fish.  After about ½ hr it’s close, beaut rainbow fish.  Up next to boat, gaff it, and about 5 seconds later the line breaks!  Get the rope over its tail and I hold it out of water so it’ll start to die.  Takes a long time- mbe ½ hr.  It measures 8’2”!!!!
Wind picks up and we have to make course change so we don’t make anchorage by night.  Go to south one marked on chart plotter.  Give sailfish meat to village, get some coconuts and peppers back haha.  And kava.  Spend nice eve sitting and talking to them, pretty village, huts mostly new looking, was evacuated last year for the volcanic eruption, they only came back 9 months ago.  Lost just one house in eruption,. Most pigs and chickens were lost (don’t know if killed/starved/feral).  People seem happy, red cross guy says it hasn’t been too hard on kids.  He’s here f E side for a week doing training.  He says they only have one small fiberglass boat for evacuation- how did they do it?  It’s really rugged terrain here.  Lots of Banks Islands people go to Luganville for work.  One girl in village went to Aus to play water music.
Kayaked out to waterfalls falling right into the sea- small now, big yesterday in rain.  Lil cave with swallows, red ants, lots of green stuff growing in it.  Landed on rocks in some swell.  Big hole excavated by waterfall, nice shower.  Go to village to say goodbye and they thank us for the fish and double check to see if we also have some batteries-panadol-potatoes-sunglasses-etc hahaha.
It’s 12 miles to the north anchorage, Losalaya Bay.  The going’s good iin light wind on W side of Gaua, but when we came around to the N side suddenly it’s blowing 20 from where we wanna go.  We don‘t make it do the passage until sunset, and the light is awful. The chart marks passage about a mile south of where it really is, we feel our way into the shallow passage in big swells, have to pull out twice before we find the right route.  A bit ugly.  We anchor safely as the sun slips below the horizon.
I read up on our equatorial destinations.  The ITCZ- the InterTropical Convergence Zone- lies just north of the equator and the SPCZ- South Pacific Convergence Zone- extends from near the Solomon Islands to Samoa and beyond.   Convergence zone are areas of low pressure where converging, rising air produces clouds and rainfall.  The SE trades associated with the SPCZ are weaker than their NE counterparts, but they are extremely steady such that completely calm conditions under the SPCZ are encountered not more than 30% of the time and the region is one of the most persistently cloudy on earth.

Our next stop is Waterfall Bay.  What a friendly place!  The family who lives here greets us with a little formal ceremony and a song about their home.  The bay has a black sand beach, springs, and nice high cliff caves.  We land kayaks on coral shelves and walk in, shoeless, on waxy black basalt rocks.  Each cave had a dif pool, some with green algae scum, some smelling of swallow droppings, some clear and clean, some w lots crabs, lil fishes, even saw one fish that looked like a lil trigger!  Water salty, even in caves 30’ above sea level.  The coral in the bay had big drop offs in clear water, almost like floating islands of coral.  Swam in shallows.  Waterfall nice, twin falls into big pool.  Lower pool for washing, upper pool for bathing… some political stuff going on between families on either side of waterfall, as usual in the islands.

Sailed f waterfall and saw another very tall  waterfall 80’ mbe, and tried to go to it. Anchored temporarily in deep calm water and kayaked in onto some very evil cheesegrater limestone over black volcanic rocks.  Waterfall fell into a sort of deep cup of slick black thickly vegetated rock so we didn’t have time to go up to it, strong rapids coming down to sea.  Very cool to just stumble upon a big waterfall like that.
Sailed in 10-20 knots SE, watching thunderstorms over Ureparapara the whole way, then sailed into them, we went below for one good shower.  Beaut island, big blown-out cauldera with high cliffy walls surrounding big bay open to east.
Village fairly friendly, walked around, beaut houses, some places like a resort, small, all thatch, palm thatch and bamboo sides, some with colored sides.  Big village with central area with boys house, church, meeting hall, etc.  Few pigs, lots chickens.  Not many pigs in Banks Islands.  There is a catamaran in the anchorage that saved the lives of several villagers here last year, when their boat ran out of fuel and they went adrift.  They put on a cute welcoming dance for him, telling the story with hats that looked like fish and catamarans.  Later we climbed up to the cauldera rim.  Given the steepness of the hill, the path was surprisingly negotiable.  Glad we did it.  Cleared area on top with nice view and reassurance that the trades were blowing out of SE and not north (which was what we felt inside cauldera).  Always cloudy and gloomy inside the cauldera.

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