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Friday, September 25, 2009

September 3 – 10 Making our way down Malekula Island

We arrived at Banam Bay happy to have gotten out of the rough sea state to find another beautiful, crystal clear blue water anchorage.  As with other anchorages here, the locals came out in their outrigger canoes to have a look at us.  Some of them wanted to trade fruits and vegetables and others would just come up really, really close to our boat and just sit and stare at us.  It gets a bit creepy after a while, but this is their world and we are the intruders therein, so it is not for us to get indignant or annoyed.  We did some trading, walked the shores and trekked inland with "Free Spirit", "Baraka" & " Morning Light "(ML).  We generally just killed time waiting for the weather to calm down so that we could continue southward.  Our original plan was to hop over to the island of Epi and to swim with the dugongs, however, we kept hearing other yachts on the VHF reporting that they were getting beat up out there in 30+ kt winds and confused seas.  We sat for three days and then stuck our nose out on the 4th. 

Yep – not nice out there, so instead of a rough 4-5 hour trip to Epi, we make a 2-hour, 12-mile jump down to Port Sandwich, on Malekula.  It wasn't as pretty there but sure was calm inside the anchorage.  What a funny name for an anchorage anyway, especially since it is known for its high concentration of sharks.  This is the former site of a meat packing plant, where the companies would toss meat scraps and entrails into the water.  Smart, since there are several villages about.  I guess they don't do much swimming.  Our cruising guides warned against that and even kayaking.  We did not see any sharks while at anchor there but didn't want to temp fate by jumping in to bait them.  We did venture into shore and walked through several villages and combed the beaches for shells.  I found some of my most unusual shells there. We passed a couple of nights playing "Oh Shit" on Val and Bill's yacht, "Ivory Quays".  And then another night playing Mexican Train on "Baraka".  Isn't this what we come to paradise for anyway?

Finally feeling safe to sail, we at last made for Aiwa Bay in the Maskelyns (islands) at the southernmost end of Malekula.  It was a lovely anchorage.  We ran into Morning Light and several other friends there.  It was kind of a ditto deal – absolutely beautiful.  Lots of outriggers coming by to have a look at us.  A lot.  We walked beaches, picking up what the locals call "sparking" rocks.  One beach was littered with these beautiful quartz treasures.  If you struck them together they created sparks.  The locals probably think it is some kind of magic.  We enjoyed the tranquility and beauty of this anchorage very much and would have spent more time there exploring, except that on the 4th day, 5 other huge boats squeezed in on us making it very uncomfortable.  There had been barely enough room in there for those of us already in the there and we knew that anchor chains were undoubtedly tangled up underneath us all, but with the weather that had been kicking around such that safe anchorages were getting jammed with yachts.  Our goal was to get up very early for the 12-hour sail over to Efate's Havannah Harbour.  We made plans with "Morning Light", "Free Spirit", "Priscilla", "Baraka" and "Ivory Quays" to head out in the wee hours. 


So, at 4:00 AM, we raised the hook, nearly kissing a large French motor yacht that was hovering very near to where our anchor lay, and picked our way out of there.  The winds and seas had clamed considerably and we spend a lovely morning sailing down to Efate.  Havannah Harbour was loaded with lovely clear, calm anchorages.  We chose to stay just one overnight and then head into Pt. Vila for two major reasons.  The most critical was that our batteries were going.  We were needing to turn on the generator every three hours or so, getting up in the middle of the night several times to charge them.  At first we had thought that it was just the intense heat of the day causing the fridge and freezer to work overtime, but then it seemed that just turning on the coffee pot or microwave anymore is causing the breakers to trip.  We knew that we had to get to a professional soon before our systems began to go caput!  These batteries are the top of the line (maintenance free AGM's), yet have given us only 2 ½ years of life.  We were real worried about the fact that they would not hold a charge and knew that we would not make it beyond Vanuatu if we didn't get something done real soon.  The other major reason was that Barbara (me) was craving civilization – laundry facilities, internet and shopping.  I was going mad.  

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