Month: October 2011

Tanna Island Volcano Trip…..

October 31, 2011

Dear F&F, October 5th-6th, 2011 (Eastern Hemisphere)

I’d made arrangements for Kay and I to fly to Tanna Island, about an hour flight. Despite assurances that the drive upon arrival would be fairly easy, it was anything but! I would have to say that the 20 minute drive to our hotel was exciting, but nothing prepared us for the immediate check in and off we went for the 2 hour drive to the volcano. The idea was to get there just before sunset to see it during the day and then watch the sunset and see the volcano at night.

The drive was second in wildness only to when Cindy and I did Copper Canyon in Mexico. We finally arrived at the base of the volcano just as the sun was setting, the view was a beautiful moonscape. Mt. Yasur isn’t very tall, but it is one of the most active volcanos in the world. First, we had to check in with the park rangers who would tell our guide which of the view spots would be safe. You view this volcano based on two things. First, it’s activity level (rated 1-6) and second, where the wind is blowing!

We were told which viewing area to park at. Unfortunately we missed the sunset experience, but the excitement was about to begin!

I thought we’d see a bit of a glowing caldron, a few bubbles and a bit of “boil”. However, half way up the walkway, I heard what I only could describe as a jet airplane engine. Then an explosion followed by fairly intense heat. It was actually quite cold despite our elevation of less than a 1000 feet (300 meters). Of course, not knowing how often this explosive experience occurred gave me pause. Either it was going to be really exciting or “you missed it, should have been here yesterday” sort of experience.

Once we arrived at the viewing area, our guide explained that the volcano was at level 1-2 out of 6. He then gave us a safety briefing. “IF”, he said, “you see lava shooting up over your heads, do not run. Just keep your eye on it and you’ll easily be able to move out of the way as it approaches”. NOT KIDDING!

Apparently, if the wind were to shift or the volcano goes to level 3-4, this is a common experience. Though they do not like to talk about it. People have been killed here. Fortunately, not many and not for several years. If the level goes to 5-6, no one is allowed inside the crater area. They say that happens about one week per year. It had happened about six months prior to our visit. This volcano has been in a constant state of eruption for over 25 years.

Trust me, you didn’t miss anything if you were there at level 1-2. Amazing is not an understatement. I took lots of photos (see Vanuatu Gallery) and about 30 minutes of HD video which I hope to edit and post once back in the USA. I’ll do about a three minute highlight show. It IS something to see.

After watching “the show” for 45 minutes and feeling wave after wave of heat from the explosions (which happened about every 2 minutes!), we got so cold we had to retreat to the car. The two hour ride back was just as painful as the ride there…and, in the dark. The experience was well worth it.

The next day, we took advantage of our very nice hotel, chilled out and relaxed. After the previous nights explosions, it was necessary!

Next, getting ready to go to New Caledonia, the last and most Western vestige of French Polynesia in the Pacific.

KIT, Scott with Kay

Port Vila….Goodbye Anja, Hello Kay!….

October 31, 2011

Dear F&F, October 3rd, 2011 (Eastern Hemisphere)

As lovely as our time together was, Anja had met “someone” while we were in Fiji. They decided on a rendezvous in Brisbane, Australia and far be it from me to hold back young love…:-)) I don’t want to embarrass Anja, so I’ll just leave the details for her to tell. After all, this blog is PG!..

So, on October 3rd, Anja left for Brisbane but had time to meet our newest arrival, Kay McNamara from Brisbane, Australia. Kay was keen to see what the “cruising life” was about. We connected on one of the websites for finding crew and we did so on fairly short notice. Kay arrived on the two and half hour flight from Brisbane to Port Vila, she would be my final crew and help me escort “Beach House” back to Brisbane via New Caledonia. (See photos in the Vanuatu Gallery).

Anja and I gave a big hug to each other and she promised to KIT (keep in touch). Anja you were terrific and I know you’ll have a wonderful finish to your year long sojourn around the world before heading back to Germany.

Kay teaches English as a second language and was taking some time off herself. A sort of mid career break. As you can imagine, for a single gal to come aboard the boat without much knowledge of not only the boat, but her skipper (me!), is a pretty big act of faith. Both Kay’s “Mum” and her beau in Holland wanted some re-assurance. Anja even sent a letter of recommendation which made the family at home feel better. Jan, Kay’s BF even emailed me; sort of guy to guy.

Right after Kay’s arrival, we prepared for our next adventure…..visiting a real live ACTIVE volcano. Lava shooting fireworks an all. But this time….it would be by a quick airplane trip to Tanna Island about 150 miles south of Efate Island (Port Vila).

More soon! Scott and now with Kay!

Santo to Port Vila……

October 31, 2011

Dear F&F, September 30 – October 1st, 2011 (Eastern Hemisphere)

We left our mooring at Aore Island with a favorable weather report to motor south against the dormant trade winds. We weren’t sure how far we’d get, but wanted to try and keep the trip to two days. As such, we ended up going down the East side of Malakula Island. En route we passed the final resting place of USS Tucker. Having read the story of the vessel and watched a lovely presentation by a local hotelier, I could really get a sense of the day she was lost. The currents in the channel were so strong, a 3-4 foot standing wave was created which must have aided in guiding Tucker to her final resting place. Though there is not much left of the wreck after nearly 60 years, it is dive-able in only 30-60 feet of water.

Malakula Island – just south of “Santo” has several items of note.

First, it’s home to the “Big and Little Nambas”. This refers to the size of their cod pieces and I’ll just leave it at that! Though now done mostly as tourist shows, the “Nambas” dress in their traditional outfits of “not so much”. As we would be moving along to get to Port Vila; we unfortunately didn’t have the time to explore this most interesting aspect of Vanuatuan culture. Also along the way was Port Sandwich. This spot has a bit of a checkered history for cruisers. The main pier has a warning about shark attacks. Do not swim here! There seems to be a semi-resident Tiger Shark that has attacked swimmers and a few cruisers. At least one life has been lost. It seems that there used to be a meat packing plant here which has been closed for years. Unfortunately, no one seems to have sent the memo to the Tiger Shark! Lastly, we anchored after a long day at Gaspard Bay. It is a lovely spot in a well protected bay; immediately adjacent to the Maskerene Islands on Malakula’s southern tip. There is reported to be a family of Dugongs that live here amongst the mangroves. Alas we did not see them. Dugongs are related to the Manatee’s of South Florida. They are very friendly and quite endangered. These are the creatures that early sailors mistook for Mermaids. They can get over 7 feet long and look a bit like a cuddly walrus.

After a calm evening at Gaspard Bay we again took advantage of a nice weather opportunity to make Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital. Coming into Port Vila was pretty exciting, the city appeared to be fairly modern. The inner bay was extremely well protected and offered great moorings. We waved to several old friends already tied up here ahead of us.

The next day, Anja and I went exploring and had a nice lunch at the Cafe “Nambwan”. (Number One). The local language, “Bislam” is a combination of many of the dozens of Vanuatuan dialects, English and a bit of French. “Beach House” blong me. Blong being the Bislam for “belong”. And so it goes.  To see a condensed history, about the geography and  culture of Vanuatu, click this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanuatu

Stay tuned… Scott and soon to leave Anja:-(