Bon Voyage

We've been in Vanuatu for 3 weeks now. It seems like we just got here. Unfortunately, our time here is about to end even though we've only explored 5 of the multitude of islands in this tiny island nation. We made an attempt at the island of Maewo which would have been island number 6, but after we crossed miles of open ocean, we had to turn around with our tail between our legs. When we got to our intended anchorage at Maewo, the wind and weather had shifted around to the south, which turned what would normally be a protected anchorage into a rough and tumble spot that was fully exposed to the wind and swell coming off of the ocean. Since we didn't want to risk the boat in that exposed spot, we headed back to sea and made our way back to Ambae where we spent a couple of more days exploring the island and swimming in crystal clear warm water over the volcanic black sand beaches. It was heavenly.

For the last 3 weeks we've been paying pretty close attention to the weather in the South Pacific for our upcoming passage to Kiribati. From Vanuatu to where we check in at Tarawa, Kiribati, we'll sail about 1,050 miles which will take us roughly 8 days. Since 8 days at sea leaves a fairly good amount of time for things to get nasty, we've been following the weather closely. This coming Tuesday seems to have the best long range forecast we've seen in the past 3 weeks for us to set sail. The forecast shows mostly favorable winds and somewhat favorable seas for the entire 8 days we'll be at sea. The only downside of this passage, is the fact that we have to cross the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ).

The SPCZ is an area that is generally somewhat close to the equator. I say it's generally somewhat close because it has a tendency to move around, which makes it generally somewhat difficult to figure out where to cross the thing. It generally somewhat resides right between the currents of the northern Pacific and southern Pacific Ocean. What makes the SPCZ difficult is that it brings with it thunderstorms, waterspouts, sudden high winds, squalls, and also compete calms. It's hard to sail when it's completely calm out and it's also hard not to cry or wet myself when there is lightning, fierce winds, monster waves, and torrential rain. We have friends that recently sat in the SPCZ for 5 days waiting for wind to come back during their trip across the Pacific. 5 days of bobbing in the middle of the ocean while waiting for wind doesn't sound like much fun to me.

Since we only have a few days left here in Vanuatu, we've been feverishly preparing for our time at sea. We've filled up the fuel tanks with diesel so we can run the engine instead of sitting in the windless SPCZ, we've done some maintenance on the boat, and we've rummaged through the local markets and shops to load up the boat with food and supplies. We're not only trying to load up for the 8 day trip to Kiribati, but also for the time we'll be roaming around the country when we get there. Then we'll need food for the next passage to the Marshall Islands, as well as the time we'll be in the Marshall Islands. That's at least a months worth of food. There is a pretty good chance that when we get to these places, we won't have access to anything because these countries are so remote. We just heard that Kiribati is the 2nd least visited country on the planet. No visitors means no supplies to be had when we get there, so backpacks and armfuls of groceries are being toted and packed away in tiny cubbyholes in the boat. Every available space in the boat now has some sort of food jammed into it.

The local produce markets have the best produce that we've seen anywhere in the world, but the variety changes daily. There is no guarantee that you'll find what you are looking for on any given day. Yesterday seems to be the day that had what we wanted, but today we always seem to find something we either didn't know we wanted or we didn't know existed. Take today for example. We just bought a huge bag of what we were told is “apples”. These things don't resemble any kind of apple that we've ever seen in the states, but they taste pretty darn good. Kind of like a cross between a pear and an apple and a lemon and a mango. We've named them “Pearplemongos”. I think the name is going to catch and take off.

The other thing we've been loading up on is treats. When we are out to sea, we like to munch on quick and easy snacks that come in the form of a cookie. Vanuatu isn't known for cookies, so we are taking what we can get. We've purchased armloads of things that we've never heard of in hopes that a sweet tooth will be satisfied while we run away from thunderstorms and squalls. Most of the prepackaged junk food we are finding comes from either Australia, Fiji, or China, so we don't really know what we're getting ourselves into. However, there is one thing we have found here that could be the best cookie on earth... “Cream-o's”. They are kind of like Oreo's...but better. Yes, better. The only problem we are having is that the stores are in and out of stock of Cream-o's instantly. Just because we found them once, doesn't mean we'll find them again. At least not until another supply boat brings more to the island. And who knows when that will be.

On Monday, we'll work through the bureaucratic process of checking out of a third world country on a sailboat. This will involve 3 different offices, at least 3 different officers, different stamps, different fees, and hopefully not different days. We are hopeful that our checkout process will be quick and painless and be completed on Monday so we can set sail Tuesday morning for distant shores.

And because we'll be out to sea for at least the next 8 days and then in the 2 most remote countries on Earth, my guess is that we'll be out of touch for a little while. I have heard that there may be an internet cafe in Kiribati, but I'm not holding my breath. We've found an internet cafe here in Vanuatu that is extremely sloooooooooow at best, and this is not anywhere near as remote as Kiribati. We'll see what happens and we'll keep you up to date when we can.

But before we go, I just want to make sure that you are fully aware of what an incredible country Vanuatu is. There is more diverse culture than you can shake a stick at, the people are incredible, the landscape and ocean is spectacular, and it's just down right a nice place to spend some time. It's such a great place that we are making plans to come back to explore more of the islands and spend months rather than weeks doing it. If we look back on our lives and recount some of our favorite memories, some of those favorite memories come from Vanuatu. In our few short weeks here, we have experienced more of what it means to be human than we ever did while sitting behind a desk in the States. We have not only met incredible locals, but also other sailors from around the world who are reinforcing the fact that we've made a great choice in leading the lifestyle we live. Until next time Vanuatu.

We crossed paths with this ship off the coast of Ambae.  We ran into it again on Santo when we were getting fuel and got a tour of the boat.  16 men live on the boat 24/7 and work on it for YEARS before they get to go home to visit family.  
This is Brenda checking underneath the boat for sharks before jumping in for a swim.  We read that black sand beaches are dangerous places to swim...and we are anchored above black sand.

This guy is hunting "flying foxes" (bats).  After he took a shot, he scaled the cliff to get his kill while shooting again, then climbing some more, all with bare feet and no ropes.  When he looked back at us, I think he called us weenies.

To get fuel here, we have to order diesel by the barel, and then this guy hand pumps it into the boat.  It took a couple of hours to fill up.


  1. Another FABULOUS post! Trying to imagine what "Pearplemongos" tastes like, and am wondering if they sell "Cream-o's" here in the states? The photos are GREAT! Tell Brenda to keep on the lookout for sharks, and stay out of the water! Looking forward to your next installment ... Have fun in the SPCZ, but stay safe, and keep in touch when you can. Love you both ... xoxo

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