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Saturday, September 30, 2000

October 1, 2000-Fun in Port Vila

Port Vila

We came back to Port Vila to make our preparations for departure from Vanuatu. Even though we haven't seen much of this country, our season is winding down and we need to head to Noumea, New Caledonia. So we'll leave Vanuatu for this year and come back for a longer stay next time.

Meanwhile, we have been having fun in Vila. We went to a local restaurant and found ourselves right in the middle of a big squabble between the French owner, his much aggrieved and apparently long suffering wife, a waitress who was probably his mistress and a third woman, who by looks and reputation, is the town prostitute. No one but the prostitute was talking to anyone else, and she wasn't saying much, but there was plenty of huffing and sighing and slamming of plates and things. The owner was doing a lot of dancing around trying to placate the women and make all guests think everything was normal, and meanwhile the guests didn't know whether to laugh or be embarrassed. On top of it all, several cats were wandering around and they kept getting into catfights under the unoccupied tables, which just added to the commotion. We don't know exactly what the fight was all about, although we had fun imagining, but the food and wine were good.

Then we went to the Waterfront Bar & Grill and danced ourselves silly to an excellent local band playing a combination of reggae, blues and Vanuatuan music. There is lots of good rock music in New Zealand but it is hard to find in the Pacific Island countries, and we've been looking. This band however was exactly what we wanted; they played loud, fast, and hard. We were still suffering from bad case of sore toe, but with plenty of rum aboard we didn't feel a thing. Like the locals say, "I straight no mo" meaning: "no problem". After we closed the place down we wound up on the yacht SENARAND, having rum and ice with Mark and his crew, which sort of took us over the top, alcohol wise (or unwise). Good thing we left the light on for ourselves back on WINGS, or we might not have found our way home. The next morning we were a bit shakey as we went about getting WINGS underway for an early appointment at the fuel dock, but, like they say, "I straight no mo."

We also would like to report, for those of you familiar with the Seattle sailboat racing scene back in the 70's, that WARRIOR, the great Chance 50 once owned and raced very successfully by the Hedrick family in Portland and Seattle, is out here cruising and still looking exactly the same as she always did except maybe slightly older. We haven't met the family aboard her yet but we are going to if we can just catch up with them.

So all is well on WINGS in Port Vila, and we're out of here. We'll get this off to you today, and we expect to be sailing towards Noumea by Monday, October 9, if the weather isn't too forbidding. We'll write from there.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Port Vila

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Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Sept 21, 2000-Racing In Port Vila

Port Villa, Vanuatu

WINGS has been tied up on the sea wall near these boats in the town of Port Vila for two weeks now, side by side with about 20 other cruisers, and there are about 80 boats anchored or moored in the snug harbor. Port Vila is a full this season with a lot of boats here that skipped Fiji because of the problems there, but it seems like there is plenty of room for us all. The seawall is concrete and the water is about 5 feet deep at low tide so when we tie stern-to with our six foot rudder we have to be well off, about 10 feet away. We have a long plank (about 10 feet long, did you guess?) from the stern to the wall and to get ashore or back we walk the plank, so to speak. Its a little tippy too, so walking it is sort of daunting. Guests who want to come aboard have to face this little jaunt and we tend to get fewer guests than we might otherwise. Knowing that they have to go back the same way they drink less while here too. In some ports where stern-to mooring is required the fancier yachts have aluminium gang-planks called passerelles but nobody here seems to have one. Maybe the ones they have are not long enough, so all the boats use the 8" wide tippy planks.

Like we'd heard, Port Vila is a nice town, very cosmopoliton. It has one main street and a few side streets, several restraunts and clothing shops, and everything is within walking distance of the sea wall. Prices are high compared to Fiji or New Zealand, but not too bad. They have TV here too and we've been watching non-stop Olympics, with French commentary. We see every odd event that has a French competitor in it. The people of Vanuatu are Melanesian, very happy and pleasant people and they all seem to be tri-lingual, with English, French, and Bislama, a funny sounding pidgeon English. "Youfella go blue boat blong salwater?" (Translation: Are you people going to the blue ocean going boat?, maybe). The food is good here, if less exotic than Fiji, and the beer is great. Tuskers, the local brewery makes some good lagers. One aspect of Vanuatu which we were not expecting is the industriousness of the people here. Not since Mexico have we had so many offers to do boat work for such low prices. We've been hiring guys to do things like wax the hull for $US1.50/hr, and they work hard.
Racing Fun

Tuskers also sponsors some yacht races and Sunday we sailed in the Tuskers Regatta, a short "fun" race in the outer harbor. There were thirty boats or so, local and visiting yachts, and there was a proper committee boat, real marks, fair handicaps, and an excellent prize-giving party with tons of barbequed food and good wine and Tuskers beer, all free for all the race participants including crew. The barbeque included ribs, fish, and a whole calf on a spit. But before we could get to the barbeque we had to do the race. With eight excellent crew we picked up off of other crusing yachts, plus the two of us for ten total, WINGS probably had the biggest and I think the best crew, in the race. The wind was in the high 20's and sometimes over 30. The course was a couple of long reaches and one long close hauled fetch. The reaches were too close to the wind for the kite with 30 knots so we planned to use the genoa. Most of our excitement occured before the start. At three minutes to go our genoa blew out. It ripped from leech to luff about half way up. Of course we were (in typical WINGS fashion) in the midst of the fleet going the opposite direction. The crew pulled together marvelously to get the sail changed in under three minutes while we got turned around and positioned as best we could without a jib for the for the start. When the gun went off we had the three up and we made a good start, fourth across the line. The crew work saved us. Then we worked our way past those four boats while one boat passed us and we finished second behind MILANTO, a nice Swan 46 from Cowes, England. They had a little bigger sail which helped them on the reaches and they reefed the main for the close hauled work. I think we might have pulled them in if we'd had more beating, but we were happy to take second.
Back in Business

We want to acknowlege Ed & Julie from CINNABAR, Laura and Randy from POLLEN PATH, Dave and Sue from PERRIGRIN, and Andrew and Deb from RISKY. Not only did they sail WINGS very close to its potential, they danced to Psycho Killer when we toured the harbor after the race. Good sailors and dancers all.

Now we are repairing sails and getting ready to do a little cruising elsewhere in Vanuatu before we take off to Noumea in October. We will come back to Vanautu next season and spend more time here, this is a great place for cruising and racing.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Port Villa

Wing's Crew

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Friday, September 01, 2000

September 1, 2000-Passage to Vanautu

Riding the Windvane to Vanautu

We've arrived in another new country, Vanuatu, or New Hebrides as Cook called it. We've been reading everything we have on the country and looking at charts (scroll down)...its exciting to be in a new place. Port Vila is the capitol and it is reputed to be very cosmopolitan with good European restaurants and shops, and now that we are here we are looking forward to it. Plus we have friends here we want to see.

The passage was easy, if exasperating. We had enough wind to sail for a little more than half of the four and a quarter days it took to get here. We motored the other half of the time. Well, it was not really a problem, just slightly frustrating. We wanted to sail, we tried to sail, and all we got was a lot of sweat and not much forward progress. The spinnaker was up and down about five times. Oh, we had some good sailing, just not enough.

On the plus side, we got a lot of rest and read some books. We also wrote a neat computer program that figures out, given the wind strength, direction, and the direction of your destination, whether it makes sense to try to sail or not, how fast you will go if you do sail, and how much progress you will make towards your objective. It takes all the adding and subtracting of compass headings and calculations of velocity made good, etc, into account. For example, if the wind is 10 knots from 55 degrees, and your next port bears 260 degrees, the computer program tells us that for WINGS, the best we can do is to sail 275 degrees, which will give us 5 knots of boat speed and 4.6 knots toward the objective. Going more directly towards it will slow the boat down too much (reaching gives better boat speed than running) but sailing higher takes us too far away from the mark, although it gives us delightful speed, it is in the wrong direction. This was a fun exercise and it actually helped us on the trip, but it still needs some development and debugging. Oh well, on the next passage maybe.

Now we are here, time to explore and enjoy. We'll write more later about Port Vila and the ni Vanuatu, as the people are called.

Stern Tie in Port Villa

Click Here for a view of Port Villa Harbor

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Port Villa

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