Lacking chicken bones to decipher the coming weather, we were reduced to trusting the hundreds of tiny animated arrows representing wind and current on a GRIB file from NOAA. We found it strangely tough to leave beautiful Port Resolution Bay even though every moment spent at anchor meant more and more black volcanic grit would have to be hosed off with our salt water wash down pump in an attempt to clean off the decks, solar panels, and truth be told, everything else including us.
Gambol got off at first light but our friends on Pacha decided to stay another day. The passage to Port Vila on the island of Efate is an overnighter so about the only mistake you can make is to arrive in the dark. Light spotty winds and currents that haven’t read the sailing directions can really complicate the timing issue. What I’m trying to say, dear Escapees, is that it was a sail, and a motor-sail kinda day.
Why is it that lately, if the conditions are beautiful, I get a feeling of foreboding like we’re going to pay for this later? We passed Gambol by noon and continued to sail slowly in a dying breeze. We watched the orange orb of the sun drop below the horizon. Mostly motoring now, we were fighting a two knot counter current that was supposed to be aiding us instead of impeding us and Sweet Jesus it was dark. Erromango Island was supposed to be out there somewhere off to our port side where a tiny pinpoint of light could be seen, and Gambol was, well, I had no clue. Profound darkness. Navigation to Port Vila looked pretty straight forward but the only thing on my worry list was something my chart called “tuff rk (9)” which was right on our course line. We had to clear Veluruwa Pt. by Cooks Bay, and an inconvenient islet that was marked “91 MT.” We ran the pros and cons of whether to duck inside of “91 MT” or stay the course outside and around and decided to cut the corner. I’m not normally a cut the corner kind of guy especially around these reefy waters but progress was slow and getting slower as the sun went down and the arrival math was getting ugly. Do we really want to motor for the next 18 hours?
That’s when a call came from out of the black ether. It was for Doug on Gambol. Kindred Spirit could see us struggling up the coast on his AIS set. He suggested stopping at Polennia Bay for the night to wait for better wind tomorrow and he would guide us in. Beats butting our heads into this damn current all night and probably arriving in Port Vila in the dark and out of fuel. First I had to find Gambol. I asked him to flash his masthead light. Turns out that single point of light on shore was, in reality Gambol hugging the shore. We slowly followed the VHF directions from Kindred Spirit looking to anchor between two prominent reefs but there was a small complication of a Polish yacht in the anchorage not displaying any lights. Kindred Spirit flashed a light in that direction so we could avoid them, and we tiptoed toward land, eventually dropping the hook blindly in what Kindred Spirit said was a good spot.
First light in the morning revealed that our courage ran out two hundred meters off a beautiful seaside village. With one third of the passage to Port Vila in the can we had a leisurely breakfast and planned a mid-day departure.
Once again timing our arrival in Port Vila was complicated by the potential of fluky winds and adverse current but we found the breeze to be a little stronger and yesterday’s nasty current was not a factor so we had a pleasant overnight sail into Port Vila and picked up a mooring ball by mid morning.
I still find it disconcerting to enter a harbor and see a dozen wrecked boats of all descriptions beached in an expensive tangled pile on shore. This particular mess on Iririki Island was courtesy of last year’s cyclone Pam. Other than this bone yard it was all very civilized and bustling, as a capital city should be.