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Archives for June 2008

 

Million Lira Point

Luganville has a famous atraction called "Million Dolar Point" where at the end of WWII the americans drove all their surplus equipment into the sea. Unvortunatly there's not much of it left. Either that or I was snorkeling in the wrong place. The rusted metal moulded into the coral was quite cool however. It now looks like million Lira point where the Italian army of WWII threw one small fiat into the sea after surrendering to the Luganville High School under 16 football team.

millionLira.jpg
Milion Dollar Point

The whole area is littered with broken coke bottles. We found several, I say we. I search and snorleled till I got hypothermia. I found none. Christian and Jackie got loads. Rather nattily coke used to put hte manufacture date on the bottles. Mine nabbed of Christain is from 1941. Cool.

I'm not entirely certain why I'm blogging this, since my server apears to be down. Its at Dave's house, who's mains electrisity is supplied by a generator parked in a layby down the road rather than propper mains. Maybe he's had another power cut.

My site may be down but Matthew, and auzzie who's bought a sizable estate at the end of Aore isalnd's wifi network now works fine. Thanks to my intervention. Numerious telephone calls, maniacal pinging to locate ip addresses and a new BTU, what ever that is, for his rather cool 3m satelight dish and its all working much better. To the point he actually has a phone now. Digicel, sans Shaggy this time, thank god, is launching a mobile net in Vanuatu. Aore isalnd is across the channel from Luganville, possesing non of the folowing:

Electrisity
Water
Telephone Lines
Mobile Phone coverage (before saturday)

At the time I arrived his old mobile only worked on a small portion of the veranda, and the dodgy satelight multi natted wifi link across a field of steak (still with horns on) and a coconut tree plantation needed tweeking before his voce over IP had a hope.

Using his internet was pure vanilla. Once we'd illimanated the packet loss from the satelite link. 512k of pure REAL broadband. Morse code exceeds most internet connections round here. Granted cos the sat provider's in Hong Kong it diverts you to the Chinese hompage of yahoo, google etc. which is irritating. Bloody bbc, I get the chance to listen to "the Now show", and their websites not making it available, bastards.

In the end the "tech Support" asked me if I could drop in on him on my way back through villa and talk to him about some stuff. Me best WiFi guru in Vanuatu or wot?

Non members of PierToPier.net should probably not have read the previous few paragraphs.

Position: 15° 32.5' S, 161° 58.2' E | Posted: Sat 28th June 2008

 

The Great beer Mission

Actually not a serious mission, compared to northern Pentecost. Where me Al and Jackie march about half a mile through the village to find "the store". The Store was security concious. It had corigated iron walls. As a posed to woven palm leaves as every other building in the village. It was also dark. Dark is dark in these islands. No electrisity, small children, one of the dragging a tree, loomed out of the dark on eaither side. Houses lit by hurrciane lights flickered between trees. An Englisman's home is his castle. I call them "Houses" beacause people live in them. Huts would be a less charitable but maybe more acurate description. The stars were out overhead, and fireflies flickererd amucst the trees. You really had to be there. The child dragging a tree branch added to the surreality, it sounded as if the forest was folloing us.

beerMission.jpg
Pixelated finger for sensative viewer

The beer quest, in this island was for cold beer. The presence of a hospital presumably requiring electricery. We walked to the bar. Following the locals directions. They were, as usuall, wildly optomistic. "Island Time" is something we are used too. Everyones always late. This is not a problem. Now I have a theory as to why they are late. Its cos they wildy underestimate the time it takes to get places.

Guide to Island Distance Units

Not Far = brisk half hour walk.

10 Minutes = the other side of the damn island.

Maybe 1km = Go back to the boat for knapsack and hiking boots.

However there was a bar, and it did have cold beer. Which tased v good. We stopped to buy M & M's on the way back. And balloon's for the kids. We had been sharing the ships supply of lollies with the kids. But realised there is no dental care nearerr than Port Villa, which might as well be on mars to the outer islanders. Ballons however don't damage dental enamal. Probably safer too, most toddlers round here have machettes to play with. The ammericans are impressed by George Washington's one little cherry tree. Round here todlers have tree felling as a daily chore.

Getting in and out of the bay was scary. The reef has been blasted, to allow a narrow passage. We used our time honoured navigational system, of measuring our distance off using the radar and comparing how far out the chart was. Note I said how far out not whether it was out. All the charts bar ocational hourbour plan inserts are out here. If you look at the inserts, their edges oftern miss the edges of the main charts by half a mile. Given the dynamited pass was probably (it wasn'y actually marked on our chart) only a couple of boat lenghts wide. We just had to follow the transits in, which gave us 2.3m on the echo sounder display. We go aground at 1.8m.

anchor.jpg
At anchor in the bay

Alan decided we were 1.5 miles off the corner of the island with its 1/2 mile of reef. I looked at the shore looked at him. Looked at the shore. decided we weren't 1.5 miles away. Radar came up with 0.7. Which given many of these charts might as well have "there be dragons here" writern on them was a little close. I think the authors just draw a green reefy area arround the edges as a sort of pictographic discalimer.

All in all I needed that beer, and the hike probably did me good. The bar was playing a Jean Claude Van god damn movie. Which one doesn't matter they're all pretty much alike. So we sat outside. Bootleg DVD's obviously.

Thank god for 'em I say. The boat had a European DVD player, replaced in Suva with I suspect and Ausie or possibly Asian DVD player. Thanks to the DVD regeion code system you can't swap DVD's with other boats unless they mach your DVD players region. Bollocks I say, I have no sympathy for "bootleg DVD's are bad" when the legal ones are no use. We've got hulk hogan's Suburban Commando. Legal copy can we watch it? No its yankee region, can we bollocks. Not that in this case I'm that bothered. I though I was fianlly going to get to see ET. Nope worng region. I'm (obviously) a geek. Breaking region codes on my laptop probably woundn't be too tricky. However my laptop is the only one of 4 on board with no DVD drive.

Position: 15° 16.9' S, 167° 58.9' E | Posted: Wed 25th June 2008

 

Bath Time

In Asanvari Maewo, never made it to the village, though we did sort of go spear fishing with some conservationists and the Chief's son.

We did however bathe in the waterfall. Which was loverly. Washed in the waterfall and I did my laundry in their hydroelectric thingy's outflow.

The waterfall was fabulous. See Photo gallery.

The spear fishing was to get food for a feast, the village was comming out of mourning. 7 villagers had been lost a month before going out to the next island in an open boat.

Position: 15° 22.1' S, 167° 78.6' E | Posted: Mon 23rd June 2008

 

Pamplemoose

pamplemoose.jpg
Pamplemoose

Is the local word for Grapefruit. Here endeth the lesson.

Hmmm thats gotta be a good google search term. I'm proably the only website with the word "pamplemoose" on it.

We're in Loltong, northern Pentecost. Went to the local tourist attraction this morning. A cave. A small cave. We're the 9th yacht to come in this year. So its a big toursist attraction. I thought it quite cool. They danced, sang. All 5 million of their kids turned out. In the cave we're local ojects that they explained in broken english. Currency used to be large mats. They have a stone, that if they want rain they put in water. As an Englishman I oviously asked if they had one to stop the rain. They didn't.

Of to the next island north, no I don't know the name. But its got a waterfall. Remember Balli Hi? No nor do I. Think I'm too young. I'm (un)reliably informed that its about female POW's of the Japanese in WWII. But the island they based it on or used or something is off to our left.

Vanuatu is great. Volcanoes. Home of the Cargo Cult. TV shows. The very famous land jumping. As seen by Queen Lizzie II in 1974, it is, thankfull, not recorded what Prince Philip said about penis sheaths. Though, when the revolution comes, and the Monachys up against the wall. Thats what I'll have Philip wearing.

Position: 15° 33' S, 168° 79.8' E | Posted: Sat 21st June 2008

 

Testicles swinging in the breeze

nutter
that's gonna hurt come morning

They call it land diving. Alexander lemming eat your heart out, plummet to certian pain (noody actually died).

You may have heard of the South Pacfic Islanders who tie vines to their feet and leap off a rickety wooden scafold. The forerunner of bungee (the b key now requires thunping to work, hmm so does m). Bungee jumping has ounce. ounce? bounce. bloody keyboard. There is little or no bounce in the vines they use here. The vine is attached to the scafold by a springy green stick which breaks helping to decellerate the nutters who do this.

The deceleration isn't much fun. And then they go splat face first into the dirt. The dig the dirt over to make it nice and soft first.

No there's no saftey equipment, no amulance or hospital on the island. If they wore a saftey harness it would actually be less revealing than the penis sheath they do wear. This is a willi warmer with a belt. The belt makes it point up in the air. Testicles swinging in the breeze.......

I'm colating the video's and photos now, the'll go up soon. Possily before this gets published.

 

Position: 15° 57.6' S, 168° 11' E | Posted: Fri 20th June 2008

 

Still no Tanna write up

Wer'e in Port Vila, Vanuatu. its much posher than I remember. Its also spelt "Vila", ive been spelling it "Villa". No there's nothing wrong with me, I've not seriously started worrying about spelling mistakes.

As designated englishman, I'm making a fry up in a minute. Listening to the news quiz. God bless the BBC website. Next stop is pentacost. Where they invented bungee jumping. The old skool bungee jumping with a trellis of sticks a bit of vine and a penis sheath. Theorecally their jumping on saturday. We're not going to miss that.

Chris wants to dive the Coolage, a WWII wreck. Santo another Vanuatu island was the American jump of point for the solomons. So the'res million dollar point to see too. Where the americans dumped a million dollars of WWII vehices in the sea.

Still hoping to meet Matt when I get to OZ, as I get nearer I get the more things on his boat he tell me need fixing. He tells me:

  1. The anti fouling needs doing.
  2. The batteries aren't charging (not that this matters see 3)
  3. He's run the engine out of diesel so it needs the fuel repressurising.

Knowing boats thats the tip of the iceberg, just offered to help Al with his boat. If any more marine maintance get sceduled, I'll have to get a Ausie work permit.

Oh and it seems that the hobie 16 fleet at Brighton isn't happy with Matts new boat. Since he keeps winning. If the handicap commitee of BSC is listening, please remember. He used to win in his last cat, frequently, and that was with a handicap, I.E. me on the sharp end of it. Sometimes lapping other F18's in the process. I used to beat members of the Hobie 16 fleet on the water in a single handed monohull, they just didn't notice cos I was in the mono fleet. Back when the fleets were merged Paul, Simon and the other good mono sailors used to beat them even in strong winds. I just wondering, how many classes have the wrong handicap? All bar the H16? Also the H16 is only good enough for a season of racing afore it getts too floppy. Most of the BSC 16 fleet served with Neslon at Trafalgar. Maybe its not the boat? Maybe its the former RYA youth squad, professionaly trained, fearless idiot in it.

Position: 16° 16' S, 167° 55' E | Posted: Mon 16th June 2008

 

Where do I start?

Tanna, Vanuatu. South Pacific.

Damn.

I'm sitting here wondering how to put this down. I knew I wanted to come here. Really wanted to come here. Al said when I stepped on board back in St Georges "if there's any where you want to go just say and it goes on the itinnerary" I replied "Tanna, in Vanuatu" Which for me is exeptionaly terse. Most of the amazing things you see on BBC2 with Attenburrra or whatever never quite match up to reality or you never get to see anything that special. I saw Tanna on BBC2, and its better than you can possibly imagine.

Its, like the other Pacific Islands, volcanic. The major difference is the volcano is acitive here. It has 25 languages on the 1 island and nearly all the buildings are banboo screens on wooden frames for walls with woven palms for a roofing. If you've ever read "Swalows and Amazons" as a child. This is where the kids in the book imagined they were. The sea is blue the jungle is green, huts and dugout outrigger canoes, fishspears and a machette for every toddler (litteraly). The heath and saftey policy of the island is:

1: Always look at the Vocano.
2: Watch the lumps of lava, if a lump comes your way simply step aside.

You think I'm kidding? I'm not. The guide said "don't stand to near the edge, when the ground shakes" which is every minute or so "sometimes the edge colapses".

Enough words, your thinking bit of steam bit of smoke, smell of rotten eggs. No, this is a real volcano. Big red stuff thrown over your head, ground shakes whole area covered in ash, roar like a thunderstorm in a war zone.

fire.jpg
Long exposure photo of the volcano at night. From the rim, bloody close.


Click to download Low Quality High Quality

Now if your reading this in RSS, stop and go to the web site, you need to see the photo above.

The volcano is awesome. Your right there, with lava in your hair. Jackie took only flip flops off, but wandered around barefoot cos its quite nippy up a volcano at night. Said her feet were loverly and warm.

See the video to the right, might take a bit to load, but its worth waiting for.

This post will probably continue elsewhere later, but right now the autopilot has died again (story of my life) so I'm off to stear by hand for a while.

For "a while" read all bloody night.....

Position: 19° 31' S, 169° 29.2' E | Posted: Fri 13th June 2008

 

Booby on Board - The south pacific welcomes carefull drivers

boobyOnBoard.jpg
Booby on board

We had the sunburn for a couple of days, then had a booby stay for the night again. What I want to know is where do they sleep when they can't get yachts?

They do sleep, they tuck their heads in to their wings. Before they land they circle the boat for ages, before eventually alighting. This one on top of the biminy. Once settled they're paranoid for a bit before going to sleep. In this case that involved leaning over the edge and taking a gander (pun apology) at me an Christian.

Watch this space, dawn the following morning Christian took and epic photo. Dawn is a red smear on the horison, he caught the boat dead flat looking back at it. The booby standing on the curve of the biminy. staring straight at him, with a look like WTF are U staring at?

Well we arived at Tanna sort of, I havn't made it ashore. We dare not get into the shelter of Port Resolution at night.

boobyOnBoard.png
Click for High Quaity version

So we sailed around to the leeward side of the island, in the dark and crep into Lenakel, which was scary. We could hear the waves crashing on the reef, we could see white water but that gives you no idea of distance. When I awoke the following morning I was quite scared by how small the place was. Good bit of navigating to get in.

Al and Jackie went ashore to check in. Took too long. Jackie and Christian set off for Port Resolution. Over land, we set off by sea. Too late. We got to the top of the island and realised we wern't going to make it. We turned round just in time to drop anchor on the leward side 2 1/ 2 miles south of the top of island. Whether we droped where we were aiming for we don't know the edges of Tanna on our chart are vague at best, and the guide didn't include an exact position. This left Chris and Jackie stranded. I hope their OK. The locals all seem friendly, but the might be looking forward to dinner. Though Jackie's been sick for 5 days, probably not worth eating. I hope they found somewhere to stay all right.

Second attempt. We've cleared the north cape of Tanna, beating down the east side. Nose is pointing at Port Resolution. But thanks to the WInd and swell where we're pointing aint where we're going. So we'll have to beat for it. Damn. This boat does not like to go to windward. No really its dreadfull we can't get any speed and we can't tack through even 90 degrees when motor sailing. Much less actual sailing. We're re-evauating our plans for the Ausie coast. A long beat to windward all the way uo the coast from Mackay to about Brisbane against the current doesn't sound like fun.

Position: 19° 17.2' S, 169° 21.1' E | Posted: Wed 11th June 2008

 

Sunburn

parking.jpg
Don't try this at home, you can't see all the small
boats behond the reef, presumably stripping it.

We left Suva yesterday in the tag end of the bad weather. About sunset, as we were passing through the passage south of Pacific Harbour it came up to 35 knots again. Only a little rain. We're out of Fiji.

I was on 6am watch thismorning. Nobody slept well last night a week in harbour folowed by 30 knots is not conducive to a good nights kip. Think I did better than the others. Poor old Jackie's drugged up to the eyballs and been in bed since we left.

What makes this morning special is it dawned bright and clear. The sun rose out of the ragged remains of cloud hanging over Viti Livu. The rest of the sky is a stunning shade of blue. We've not seen sky's like this since, since, well Niue, more than a month ago. Were headed for Tanna, Southern Vanuatu. Its the former headquarters of the "Cargo Cult". Jesus may have had a cool trick of walking on water, but what you really want for wow factor in the 20th centurary is big silver birds full of chewing gum, spam and (unfortunate side effect) G.I.s. That'll really empress head hunter joe, who's top anechdote was the time 4 years ago when a coconut fell on the shaman's head. Anyway spam's a good sourse of protien. Missionaries are so skinny these days, barllely worth the wood to boil them.

blob.jpg
The Blob

For those who haven't heard, many early missionaries were viewed as a form of free delivery takeaway in this part of the Pacific. The one who converted Viti Livu in Fiji boot's remain in the Suva museam, after a war canoe paddled over from the next island and used him as a picnic. I like to think of a concientious Fijian saving a bit of him in a leaf for the paddle home.

Biologists out there, Anne, Barbara and Robin, will problaby poo poo this. But reportedly some tribe members in the more inacessable parts of P.N.G. have blue eyes. This is cos they ate the missionaries but not their wives.

Anyway the suns shining, then next island has a Volcano, a Cargo Cult, and please, please, please. Some sunshine. Nobody back in England can credit us with Seasonal Affective Dissorder 18° from the equator. I'm seriously worried about sunburn today, I've lost that much tan.

Anyway laptop roulette came out a winner again this morning, its still alive....

[Frantically backs up website database.]

Position: 18° 22' S, 176° 46' E | Posted: Fri 6th June 2008

 

Sunney Suva

Suva, Still. Its been raining worse than an English bank holiday for ever. Well it seems that way. With gusts of 50 knots being forcast outside 2 days ago we remained here. Being rained on.

Al uses a rusty old umbrella. Which keeps him dry and diverts the water onto us. The blue umbrella dinghy is now know through out the drowned rats of Suva YC.

Reports of my laptops demise appear to have been premature. I dismembered it, pulled every last bit of its hardware out, processor, memory, bluetooth, wifi, firewire, screen keyboard, cpu heatsink. Removed every connector, screw and cover. poked and prodded everyting. Cleared the bios. Nothing would get a peep out of it. Yesterday I optomisitcally turned it on. Nothing. This morning nothing. Randomly holding and pressing the power button. Nothing.The suddely it leapt to life. I suspect it said "no boot device" its disk drive having been removed. Its impossible to tell, the screen is so broken that large chunks are invisible. One bios bashing and hard disk insertion later and its alive. Barely. I'm exporting everthing that can be exported.

Well the rain has let up a bit, and hopefully the wind is steady 15 knot trades. Al's gone to clear out, Christian's shopping. I should be helping Jackie but the miracle laptop reserection has distracted me. Gotta blog before it dies again.

Teoretically the next stop is Tanna, Vanuatu. I wanna climb the volcano. Should have told Christian to get some marshmallows. Follow up my eggs boiled in a hot spring with volcano pudding. We're probably gonna skip New Caledonia. Its french. Trade winds being what they are if we go in southern Vanuatu and crusie down wind to the WWII wrecks in Luganville then sail for OZ from htere. Adds 100 miles to the 900 from Noumea to Mackay. But it sort of makes sence.

Suva has been good, the death (premature) of the laptop co-incided with the hishest inernet speed seen since south america. So I've re-configured my server to make updating it easier. When (not if) this laptop finnaly expires, again.

Position: 18° 72.5' S, 178° 25.6' E | Posted: Thu 5th June 2008

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