Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 13, 2008 - Asanvari, Maewo Island, Vanuatu

After a rough night's sleep in Waterfall Bay, we made an early departure for our next anchorage on the next island to the north. We had a fast sail in the flat water behind Pentecost. The crossing between the islands of Pentecost and Maewo was rough and wet, but blessedly short. Coming around the rocks that protect the south west corner of Asanvari from the swell was like unwrapping a present. As the bay unfolded before us we saw the lush green hills surrounding it, then the waterfall emptying into it, and finally a neat little village hugging its southern shores. It looked like paradise.

Our first day and a half here we were surrounded by the boats from a rally out of Australia. We were most impressed by a couple in their mid-seventies who had sailed here on their 24 foot catamaran. It was the smallest boat in the bay. And they had just recently taken up sailing. We were amazed by their pluck and fitness. We hope to have half as much energy and to be half as fearless at their age.
Our first night in Asanvari, I put the C-MAP cartridge for the Australia/ PNG region in our chartplotter, to start to plot our route to Darwin. It didn't work at all. This passage will take us through the Torres Strait, which may be the trickiest bit of navigation we will face on our circumnavigation. The thought that we may not have use of our primary navigation tool was a bit daunting. The possibility that Chief Sham had worked some black magic on us came to mind. But rather than relying on the local witch doctor to lift the curse, we got in touch with Defender, from whom we purchased the card, right away. Defender worked some black magic of their own and arranged for C-MAP to ship us a free replacement at no cost to us. The service we've gotten from Defender and C-MAP have been terrific. Hopefully, the package won't take too long to get to us.

When Serannity had to cut their cruising season short back on Epi, they asked us to take a pair of windsurfers off their hands to give to a village along our way. When they first asked us, I shot Sten a look that said "No. No way. I don't want that shit cluttering up my foredeck." He shot me a look right back that said "I completely agree." But Lew is a silver-tongued devil, and we wound up agreeing to take them. As it turned out, we wound up having a ton a fun paddling around on them in Epi. Sten roasted his back one afternoon as he spent hours exploring the rock formations, coral and fish in the shallows on one of the boards. He even got some surfing in on it. He's might be the only guy to have ever had a session in Lamen Bay. That's my husband, king of the 4 inch tube. We probably wouldn't have ever bothered to rig up the mast and sail, but after the land diving last Saturday, Patty on Phoenix came over and asked to have a go. It took some scavenging, but between the two sets of equipment, Patty and Sten cobbled together a workable set up.

When we told Nixon, the chief of Asanvari's son, that we wanted to donate the windsurfers to the village, he was stoked. He told us that he'd been wanting to try windsurfing for a while. So he and Sten loaded the equipment onto the dinghy and took it to the beach. For the next hour, the whole village watched as Sten recreated the full set-up that he and Patty had achieved in Pentecost. When it was finally complete, he towed the board and Nixon out to the windline at the edge of the sheltered bay, so that Nixon could have a go. In the end, we enjoyed having the windsurfers on board Mata'irea for a few weeks and were glad to be able to pass them on for Serannity. But I'm really happy to have my uncluttered foredeck back.

The next morning, the fleet of rally boats left and we were alone in the anchorage with one other boat, a big Catana catamaran called Chaotic Harmony. Gavin and his youngest son, Fletcher, stopped by to say hello. We talked about the possibility of going to see some caves up the coast. Gavin offered to check with Nixon, and within a few minutes we were packing up our snorkeling gear and flip flops and clambering aboard Chaotic Harmony for a daytrip up the coast. It was such a nice change to spend a day hanging out on a boat that wasn't ours. We didn't have a thing to worry about. Even better, Catherine, Gavin's wife, served up a round of coffees and a lunch worthy of a chef on a Caribbean charter boat.

Once we were anchored, we visited the Hole of the Moon Cave via dinghy. Legend has it that the god Tagaro tore out a piece of rock from the roof of the cave and hurled it into the sky, creating the moon. The roof of the cave has a large circular indentation in the ceiling, roughly the shape of a full moon. There are two entrances to the cave, and we rode the dinghy right through it. We pulled the dinghy up on a stone beach and walked inland a few yards to an overhanging rock wall, covered in petroglyphs. We were fascinated by the drawings, particularly the depictions of early European ships. We could only imagine how significant an event the first sighting of white men and their ship was for the residents of these islands. It would be similar to us seeing a space ship land and meeting its occupants. Just down the way from the petroglyphs, Nixon pointed out the local birthing cave. Looking at the water dripping from the ceiling into the mud floor of the cave, I decided to stick with Brigham & Women's, if I ever need to avail myself of a birthing facility.

Back on Pentecost, we ran out of fresh eggs. It was just the motivation I needed to try my hand at making yogurt. The first round I made with a packet of dried yogurt mix and box of UHT milk. I heated the milk to 115F, poured it into a thermos, stirred in the dried yogurt powder, and left it on the counter for 12 hours to cure. For the next few batches I used the last few spoonfuls of the prior batch of yogurt as the starter. The first two times this worked a treat, but the last one resulted in a grainy mix that tasted fine, but I couldn't choke it down. The texture was all wrong. We've long been out of fresh vegetables and fruit, other than the bananas and papayas we've traded for with locals. It is an awfully sad thing to have loads of fresh bananas for banana bread and banana walnut pancakes, but no eggs to make them with. Catherine on Chaotic Harmony graciously donated a few eggs to our cause.

The other night, as I was pouring the dregs of a week old bottle of non-vintage Hardy's Riesling into a glass, Sten looked up from his book and commented, "I used to know a girl who would have poured that down the sink. She looked a lot like you - only really stressed out." I sniffed the wine, took a sip to confirm that it wasn't corked (a neat trick for a screw cap) and responded, "That girl wouldn't have touched this stuff with a ten foot pole. But luckily for you, I'd rather drink plonk in paradise than Bordeaux in Boston."

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