Admin in paradise

It’s going to kill us, you know, the admin involved with this trip. You may have romantic notions that we’re out here free as birds, sailing where the wind takes us, drifting aimlessly from anchorage to anchorage whiling away our days pulling ripe bananas from trees, dripping coconut milk from the shell into each other mouths, swimming casually over untouched coral reefs and conversing on the downside of developed civilisations. Well, OK, some of that is true. We are pulling bananas off our enormous bunch that we bought in Luganville, once again all ripening at the same time ensuring a banana glut that would test the intestinal fortitude of your most avid banana-lover (which is me, incidentally). And some of the reefs are quite amazing. But there’s still boring stuff to do.

For example, Luganville (effective capital of Northern Vanuatu, small dusty town with 2 banks, 2 petrol stations and a few stores), was a short pitstop made necessary by our pending visas expiring. So we dropped anchor near the main wharf, as it turned out immediately downwind from a copra factory that burned dried coconut husks 24/7, filling the boat with the smell like a candy shop on fire. Our challenge was to re-provision and resolve immigration issues within 48 hours. This involved carrying 25 litre containers of diesel (100 litres), petrol (50 litres), and water (600 litres) from the shore in our dinghy to the yacht, completing a 2-month supermarket stock-up on anything available (also ferried via dinghy), refilling 10kg gas bottles and chasing down immigration and customs officials around town. No doubt you’ll be fascinated by these numbers, but I mention them to illustrate what paradise costs – sore backs!

On top of provisioning, we have been dogged with issues with insurance, and the painful process of applying for an Indonesian cruising permit, both quite tricky without regular broadband access, but hopefully to be resolved soon. And on top of that, our route needs careful planning to clear us in and out of friendly ports, whilst minimising individual ocean passage-times. There’s a lot to think about (beyond the dripping coconut milk etc).

Anyway, we achieved our goal, and sailed off for our next, and probably last decent stop in Vanuatu before heading North to the Solomons. We arrived yesterday after a long and tiring sail that started at 3am, with an early departure through the reef unfortunately delayed by poor visibility and rain, so eventually made a safe departure closer to 5am. Reached our destination island (Gaua Island) mid-afternoon, and spent an anxious couple of hours negotiating a literally uncharted coastline, eyes leaving the depthsounder for only nanoseconds at a time to check wind etc! Arrived at the remote village of Losalava, having made a successful entry through their coral reef following coordinates and advice provided by a previous cruiser. Sailing around these islands requires constant vigilance given the poorly charted, or at best inaccurate charts, and the many reefs that surround islands (and occasionally stick up out of nowhere mid-ocean). Landfall needs to be made in good daylight with the sun overhead in order to negotiate coral, so passages need to be planned carefully with arrival times in mind. This one was touch and go, as we arrived around 5pm which is definitely getting late for good visibility, but all ended well. here we are, anchored off the village for only a day and already making friends onshore. Our cautious arrival yesterday drew quite abit of interest from the village, and by the time we’d dropped anchor, lowered the dinghy and gone ashore to pay our respects to the chief they had already pulled together something of a welcoming committee, Chief Astin standing proudly there to greet us surrounding by several adults and hordes of whooping and laughing kids. A chat this morning with a passing canoe led to a spearfishing trip with two locals on the outer reef, which was followed by the inevitable kava invitation, and Rebecca has already made friends with the school headmistress with a likely school attendance for the boys next week. And so it begins. These Ni-Vans are shy but so friendly, immediately ready with a smile, and many of them intrigued by us. It’s a mutual fascination. And fortunately the few yachties who have previously visited (for this is probably the only contact most of the village would have with non-Vanuatuans), seem to have done so with good grace, generosity and lots of respect, meaning that we seem to be generally welcomed. More soon.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andra Smith
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 19:23:13

    Fascinating tales of your journey, keep them coming. Andra Smith (Jason’s Mum)


    • Kate R
      Jan 18, 2012 @ 03:41:40

      Hey guys, I thought I couldn’t feel any more envious…until I saw the photos….ARRRG!
      HAPPY 2012!! Much love from the Robos xoxoxoxoxoxoxo


  2. saffron
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 21:38:18

    oh don’t you try and pull the admin sob story on us!!!!


  3. saffron
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 21:41:16

    do they have lots a lava in losalava ? Couldn’t miss the opportunity for a ‘dad’ joke.


  4. Kate Robinson
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 06:32:27

    Hey guys!
    I was just looking for a way to contact you…. I wonder if this will work. I LOVE reading your blogs. What a fabulous thing to do with your young family.
    Life goes on here.. Sam seems happy doing his carpentry apprenticeship. He has the odd wobble but generally he’s happy and in good spirits.
    Kim is searching Art Unis in London… She wants to do a year’s travelling before she starts…!
    Harry is busy making music… In fact we are off to watch him singing in the local winebar tonight – playing piano and yukeleli (Sp!)
    I have resigned from my 29 year teaching career…. SO pissed off with the whole thing! I am now growing salads. I will sell bags of mixed salad leaves with herbs to pubs, restaurants, hotels etc etc. I have a polytunnel so can grow all year – or that’s the plan anyway…
    Pete’s on fine form. working hard and going off on his bike in v tight shorts – marvellous!
    KEEP IT COMING! It does remind me of my year on the Samoan islands (1989 – 1990)
    Hige love,
    Kate (Robinson) in case you haven’t worked that one out by now!!


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