Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Wet Ride to Port Vila

Current Location: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Current Position: 17°44.72' S 168°18.67' E
Next Destination: Undecided, Vanuatu

When we arrived in Savusavu after our hellacious trip from the Marshall's I thoroughly washed our foul weather gear for long-term storage (cause of course we wouldn't be needing them again, right?). I couldn't believe that barely an hour out of the gate from Fiji (heading to Port Vila, Vanuatu) we were digging out the wet weather gear and settling in for a cold, wet ride. We started the trip extremely fast with 30-35 knots of wind just aft of the beam. Billabong was screaming along, averaging 7 - 7.5 knots (although we can't imagine it is correct, our GPS once reported a max speed of 17.4!). The seas were the biggest we've seen yet, around 12-15 feet, and they were bashing against Billabong hard, sending huge amounts of spray into the cockpit. It was unbelievably wet, rocky and really cold … but hey we were going fast. At our current rate we thought our four day passage would easily be shortened to three.

The first 48 hours or so we flew along under Jib alone, covering 164 nm in our first 24 hour period (Billabong's usual average is around 135nm). Then we had an period of calmer winds and predictions of less to come; it didn't look like we'd make it in before nightfall on the third day, so we'd have to slow down and aim for a morning arrival. We reefed in the jib and waited for the lighter winds … and waited. It seemed they never truly lightened up (after our first day the winds stayed right around 25 kts), but by now we were too far behind, so we just had to continue to try to slow down. Eventually we had up so little sail that I joked to Chris the only way we could get up less was to switch out the sail for some of my granny-style undies! I don't mind going slow, but with so little sail up and the still large seas it was one hell of a rolly ride and very frustrating to be bounced side to side and dropped as though riding a roller-coaster. Even with the rolly conditions Chris managed to bring in a perfect sized Mahi-mahi, although cleaning and cooking it served to be more of a challenge with the boat rocking all over the place! On the morning of our arrival, with land in sight, Chris unleashed the full Jib and it was a terrific ride in.

Another set of cruisers had briefly described Port Vila to us as "a bigger version of Savusavu" … that would be the understatement of the century. Port Vila is huge (okay, maybe not compared to LA or Boston, but still it is really quite large). It is bustling with a sense of energy. Full of shops, cafes, and markets. Traffic screams through the streets and locals & tourists wander along the sidewalks. It feels crowded, alive almost, but not in an overwhelming sense. On our arrival we met with Island Sonata and Freebird (both of whom we hadn't seen since our Majuro departure) and strolled through town before having a delightful lunch at an open-air café. By now we'd heard of the awesome supermarket, so of course we had to pay a visit there … truly it is the largest, cleanest, most excitingly stocked grocery store we've seen in the South Pacific (not counting New Zealand of course). In our opinion it even beats the extra large store in Tahiti (it's not as large, but the variety and brands include both French and AU/NZ selections, whereas in Tahiti it was all French … in addition the pricing is a wee bit better here)! We drooled over the fresh variety of meats and got giddy over the blue cheese. We've found cruiser's heaven! That evening we again ventured out with IS and FB, this time hitting an excellent Chinese Restaurant, where we feasted until I thought I'd have to purge in order to continue to breath.

We woke this morning excited to explore all the shops and museums and begin the learning process of yet another culture and country. Chris energetically reads tidbits aloud from our Lonely Planet guide, and my mind races with anticipation of everything there is to see and do. We couldn't be more thrilled to be in Vanuatu!

No comments:

Post a Comment