The passage from Potnarvin to Port Vila was pretty straightforward. We left in the late afternoon in order to arrive mid-morning. M and I hand-steered in one hour shifts through the night – which, while manageable, was a bit wearing.
There is always an element of trepidation when we arrive in a place with a lot of infrastructure. In Port Vila you are required to anchor in a quarantine area (with your quarantine flag flying) and then contact authorities on Channel 16 to advise of your arrival.
Somewhere, I had read that if you got no response, then contact Yachting World Marina and they would help you out. They TOTALLY DID. Not only did they have a sea wall berth available, they said to come straight in, sent out a boat to help us with the whole Mediterranean docking scenario, and told us to deal with the authorities the following day. Hooray!
Our cockpit was about a boat length from the bar of the Waterfront Pub, however my main priority was our batteries. Due to quite a few overcast days and a couple of other factors, our batteries were the lowest they had ever been. Our stove is requiring more power than ever to start, because it needs servicing, and each time we need to turn it on, we have to start the generator. Which is exactly the kind of boat situation I do. not. want.
I began googling wind generators and lithium batteries. In an ideal situation our batteries should be hovering around the number 12.50 – for them to drop below 12, all the way down to 11.47 – was dire. Plugging into the power at the sea wall was h-e-a-v-e-n-l-y! I could turn the stove on! I could use the thermomix for cooking! (Which was lucky, because it was too humid to use the stove…)
I invented a dinner involving butter, garlic, rice, tomato, tuna and peas – which was about all there was to cobble together. Some PROVISIONING (i.e. haemorrhaging of funds) is required.
Port Vila! M and I were abuzz as we walked around the town. Shambolically beautiful. The markets were very close to the marina, and because Vanuatu has AWESOMELY banned the use of plastic bags, everything is tied together with strands of pandanus leaves or in woven baskets of the same.
Once I had been to various supermarkets a few times, I had a dawning realisation of how hindsight might’ve benefitted my provisioning. The three major points?
- We should have bought DOUBLE the amount of duty free alcohol in Noumea, because by the time we got to Vila it was gone, and all alcohol here costs way more.
- The cheese. THE CHEESE. The best thing about Noumea was the CHEAP CHEESE. Do you know how much bog-standard tasty cheese sells for here? TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS A KILO. In Australia it’s $6.50 at Coles. Kill me now. We are cheeseless. Except for a chunk of parmesan that was so expensive that no one’s allowed to touch it.
A great asset of Port Vila are the buses. The buses! Pretty much every van you can see has a ‘B’ on the license plate. This means, that you may hail one anywhere, Knight Bus style – and it will drop you off where you need to go. Each trip costs 150 Vatu – about $2.20AU. It was relentlessly humid for a couple of days we were there, and those buses saved my sanity.
The handicraft markets had THE most amazing baskets for sale. Made of super-thin pandanus… the art of the basket has had a real resurgence since the ban on plastic bags. We saw quite a few cool 20-something guys with a pandanus bag thrown over one shoulder.
Outside Port Vila (leaving the sea wall berths is a whole new kind of catastrophe that I can’t write about for fear of reprisal) we went and spent time in Matapu Bay in Havannah Pass. The exact opposite of Vila – flat and peaceful, with a fast flowing freshwater creek. On our first visit we caught up with our friends on Pandion and M and Miles compared sea-ulcers in a manly fashion.
It seems that to travel in Vanuatu you need to have a titanium grade immune system. Stefan on GonYonda also had a sea ulcer – all three guys were knocking back at least one course of antibiotics – but it’s hard to keep wounds on the lower leg dry when you’re anchored out all the time and taking the dinghy to shore.
We went briefly back to Port Vila to pick up some mail (thank you BIG TIME to Sam for being our mail mule and to Geoff Floyd for gifting us a spare autopilot – SO GOOD!!) and fill more provisioning holes. Gluten Weet-Bix were, astonishingly, on sale, so we bought enough to lower our waterline. In retrospect this was a short-sighted provisioning error – yes, it means we (I) don’t have to compose breakfast every morning, but it also means that we (they – I don’t Weet-Bick) go through an unsustainable amount of milk. #fail
Back in Havannah Pass all the kidboat posse gathered and it was excellent! The adults had after-dinner drinks on Gonyonda while the kids all watched a movie on DogStar. It didn’t feel like we really had enough time with GonYonda – but we had spent enough time in Havannah Pass, and they had family to catch up with in Vila…