LTY UPDATE: Sunday, September 9th, 2012
Uliveo Island, Vanuatu
LTY time: 17:35 (Vanuatu time = UTC +11)
Location: SW bay of Uliveo Island, part of Meskelyne Islands, Vanuatu
Position: 16 31.833 S, 167 49.716 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map)
Wind: 5-12 knots (inside the bay)
Air temp: 86 F 30C
Sea temp: 85 F 29.5 C
LIVING LARGE in ULIVEO
I had a boisterous but fast sail from Port Villa to Uliveo on Tuesday night. Both the wind and seas were quite a bit more than forecast with winds at time over 35 knots and seas up to almost 5 meters at times. The wind was also almost directly behind me which makes it a bit tricky to sail as I’ve described before, but with the winds being so strong and the following seas so large I was able to sail at 6-8 knots with just the main sail up which worked out quite well. The seas were not quite directly behind me so they would roll dear Learnativity all the way from one side to the other, at times well over 45 degrees so it was a very “active” ride but not overly bothersome or problematic.
I did have one nasty problem for a few hours when the outer cover on the main halyard wore through and jammed in the clutch. This is the line that goes up to a pulley at the very top aft side of the mast and pulls the main sail up so it is one of the more critical lines and the boat and takes some of the most stress and strain. In my usual “thrifty” ways I’ve been trying to eek out every last nautical mile from this now six year old line and over 30,000 nm, and I finally succeeded in doing so about midnight on Tuesday. However I’ve been planning on this event for some time and so I’ve had 200 feet of a new high tech halyard in my stores and all ready to go. Most of the lines we use have all their strength in the inner core and then are covered with a different material, usually poly based, woven covers that are better in your hands, protect the inner core from UV and take the wear and tear from the clutches (line holders) and winches. So what happened was that the common spot where the “teeth” of my clutch jaws clamp the halyard when the main sail is in the fully raised position, wore through in the high winds and stress they were experiencing on the sail on Tuesday night. This created two problems; one is that the inner line was now able to slip through the clutch so the main sail slid down the mast a few meters and then the outer cover material bunched up and jammed the clutch jaws. This in turn gave me two problems; a flopping main sail in a full down wind run and no ability to raise or lower it due to the jammed halyard. Both of these conspired to then have the upper part of the flopping main sail to tangle with the shrouds (stainless steel wire line that holds up the mast) and were threatening to tear the main sail.
With no other choice I could see, it was time for me to take a trip up the 70’ mast and free the main sail before it ripped on the shrouds. Fortunately I installed mast steps all the way up the mast shortly after I bought Learnativity for just these type of situations and so I’m used to climbing the mast. However doing so in 30-35 knot winds and with the boat rolling from side to side in the big seas did make it a bit more challenging. It took the better part of an exhausting hour to do so, but I was finally able to get the sail free though not before the batten, a fiberglass rod that slides inside a horizontal pocket on the sail about every 2 meters up the main sail to help keep its shape) snapped in two. Nothing much I could do about that in these conditions and if I could get the sail back under control it wouldn’t likely cut through the sail pocket material. I spent a good while then cutting about 4 meters of the outer cover of the halyard off and managing to tape the ends tightly to the inner core such that this jury rigged line would now be able to feed through the clutches and mast pulleys. With this all done I was then able to reef/drop the main to have less area in these higher winds and then tighten up the luff (edge that goes up the mast) and pull down the boom such that the sail was back to flying properly and we were soon back to sailing along at a good pace. This held just fine all the way into the bay at Uliveo island and the main sail all furled up into the boom just fine to my great delight as we pulled in just after noon time. Best of all, I was greeted by Philip on the VHF and he came out in his dinghy to be show me the way around some of the big bommies and corals here in this lovely little bay.
It has been a salubrious time tucked in here in the small and well protected little bay on the SW corner of Uliveo Island which is one of the small islands that make up the Meskelyne Island group on the SE tip of the large island of Malakula here in Vanuatu. Lots of factors contributing to this welcomed condition, primary amongst those being here with my dear friend Philip and his new mate Teri on their Outreemer catamaran “Blue Bie”. Philip and I first met over four years ago when we both happened to be making our entry into Ecuador at the same time and place and had to wait for several hours before the authorities could process us. We just seemed to hit it off immediately and our friendship has grown more and more with each year as we continue to find ways to meet up as we make our very different ways around the sea.
Best of all I managed to get here in time for Philip’s birthday on Friday which made the time even more special. We spent part of the day on a nearby beach with them enjoying the kite surfing, Ruby enjoying beach time and me learning the details of kite surfing, catching up with Philip and getting to know Teri. I got some shots of Philip and Teri out kite boarding and one fun thing was the juxtaposition of old and new as some of the locals would paddle over in their dugout outrigger wood canoes and you’d get shots like the one on the right here with this centuries old canoe paddling beside 21st century kite boarding.
Then it was back to Blue Bie to celebrate with champagne and then we joined forces to make a fabulous birthday meal topped off with freshly ground coconut cake with Swiss chocolate icing and complete with a full set of Happy Birthday candles thanks to Teri’s great foresight and caring while they were in some shops in Port Villa a few weeks ago.
Over the past few days together we’ve had more kite surfing, beach walks, a trip with the locals to their giant clam farm and ashore for a Kustom dance and ceremony and mostly just lots of time spent being together. Unfortunately Teri’s time is almost up here in Vanuatu and her flight back to Maui is in a few days out of Port Villa so they sailed off yesterday (Saturday) afternoon heading for Port Villa and to be there in time for Teri’s birthday present to Philip of a scenic flight over the islands in a small sea plane. So we had one last late lunch together with hamburgers grilled on my BBQ a few last licks and cuddles with Ruby and they were off into the late afternoon sun heading south. Vanuatu turns out to have amazingly high quality beef, for reasons I’m not completely sure of and while I’m not a big beef eater the fillet mignon we had for Philip’s birthday (he is a BIG beef lover) and the hamburgers, were truly delicious.
The Vanuatu culture continues to be filled with lots of new learning for me and quite different that others I’ve experienced. For example they prefer to life in very small groups and so even on this small island of Uliveo there are at least four separate small villages rather than one large one. It is also quite common that each village will have its own language or dialect and in some cases these are so different that people on the same island don’t understand each other’s language. However they also all speak Bislama, a form of “pidgin English” as well as English so communicating amongst themselves and with us is not a problem. They are all very proud of their culture and traditions and quite anxious to have “show and tell” events referred to as Kustom ceremonies. “Chief Jim” of the nearby village invited us ashore for their such a ceremony on Thursday night after visiting the giant clams and it was most entertaining. This is the third one I’ve been to and the most informal of them all. The dancing was performed only by the men, which is more traditional but on Aneityum both women and children participated which is quite rare apparently.
The only slightly disappointing aspect of Vanuatu I’ve come across is that they have the most focus on charging fees and seeing us as a source of cash income of any of the places I’ve been so far. All quite understandable and reasonable I might add as they have increasing needs to buy thing such as gas for their outboard motors and their sources of income such as from copra (coconut oil) have dropped off precipitously in the last 20 years. Fiji was notable to me in part because some how they continue to avoid the “wanting” or lust for material goods and the deep contentment with other riches they have such as friends and family. Having been living in this culture for over two years I’d become accustomed to it, though always marveling at it and learning more about it, so the contrast here in Vanuatu no doubt seems stronger to me.
The other nice change is that the clouds have cleared off and I’m back to being spoiled once again by blue skies, sunshine, starry nights and increasingly warmer temperatures. From others I’ve talked to and what I’ve read this is an unseasonably cold and wet year so far and it may also be because I’ve dropped down to almost the limit of my preferred “20/20” living (between the two Tropics) zone. However I’m now headed in the “right” direction for my warm weather body, which is north towards the equator so I’m hoping this warming trend will continue as I go and I’ll soon be back to the heat and humidity I’ve strangely come to prefer these past few years. I don’t expect any “sympathy” from anyone but I have the luxury of living wherever I’d like to and I choose to live where neither sea nor air ever goes below 30 C and where I don’t need to wear socks, pants or much clothes at all thank you very much!
I’ve now got the new halyard reeved up inside the mast and through all the pulleys and clutches so that should be good for at least another six years I hope. I have a piece of new batten material that is too short to fully replace the batten I need but I’ve been able to fashion a repair that will hold me till I can get a new one in Majuro in a few months and so all is good to go for the next journey. I’m not quite decided just where that will be as there are lots of great spots and attractions in the many islands to the north and east of me and so I’ll probably just start doing some short day sails and hop scotch myself up north till I get to Luganville in the big island of Espiritu Santo where I will checkout of Fiji and either head up to Santa Cruz in the Solomon Islands or just start making my way on the long passage north to the Marshall Islands. I’ll keep you posted as the sailing goes and as with life, create the path behind me one nautical smile at a time.