October 4, 2002-Playing in The Surf
The Surf at Lanakal
A beautiful surf pounding on the reef just outside the anchorage at Lanakal called to me that day and it still does even after the disaster.
Maybe it is what draws surfers: the blue sky, the blue ocean, the swells rising to form a wave, then the wave becoming a wall, then the wall curling over and breaking onto the reef in a pounding white fury of foaming thunder. And behind this breaker another swell rises, into an even higher blue wall. It is endless.
I couldn't keep my eyes off of them when we were anchored there and one day when I was in the dingy alone I felt compelled to motor in the direction of these beautiful waves.
I don’t know why; they just pulled me.
Maybe I just meant to go closer; to get a feel of the power by being near to its thunder.
There was a safe place where the reef ended and the breakers stopped. It was calm there and I stopped the dingy and watched. Then I wanted to feel the rise of the swell. I moved forward a little. Can you predict what happened? A big wave formed, and I was inside it, in its path, it was close and it turned into a wall. No time to turn and run, I hesitated, should I go straight over it? The hesitation was a mistake. I was sideways to it when it reached me, and then I saw it curl and begin to break. And that breaking curl flipped me as neatly as a surgical procedure. No drama, no splashing; just a quick toss and I was upside down.
The curl of the wave, the pouring white water, threw me and my dingy over in an instant. The next thing I knew I was swimming and the dingy was upside down about 50 feet away. I looked behind me to see if any more waves were coming. No…good! I looked back to the dingy and I expected to see the propeller sticking up into the air, but I couldn't see it. Right then I was just worried about the boat and the motor and getting it all right again. I reached the dingy quickly, the motor was there, just tilted, but it had been submerged of course. I righted the dingy, motor and all, like a Hobie sailor by pulling on a line from one side while standing on the other. It was all intact except one oar, which I saw floating in the surf. I decide to leave the boat and swim to retrieve the oar, which I did, but in the meanwhile the dingy started to drift downwind and then I got about thirty minutes of good but fruitless exercise trying to catch up to it, pushing my oar ahead of me, and finally tucking the end of the oar in my pants to keep it under me, thankful for its meager but welcome support as I grew tired and started thinking about how I'd like some help.
As I was swimming Judy noticed my plight: I could see her standing on Wings shielding her eyes against the glare of the sun, trying to see what I was up to. Soon she had started the motor and was pulling up the anchor. I wanted her to hurry. Meanwhile some local youths had also noticed and they swam out from the shore to the dingy and then paddled it to where I was feebly swimming. Ten minutes later we were all back on Wings and re-anchoring, and I was squirming under Judy's angry glare. But she was right, it was dumb, and I swear, I'll never play in the surf again, at least not with the dingy.
wingssail image-fredrick roswold
On the west side of the island of Tanna in Vanuatu in the South Pacific there is a small village called Lanakal. When we came to Tanna we had to check in at Lanakal. Some boats anchor at Port Resolution on the east side of Tanna and come over by truck, but that costs and we were cheap.
So we anhored at Lanakal and walked to the customs office.
Tying up the Copra Boat
wingssail image-fredrick roswold
There wasn’t much at Lanakal; a few houses and a few Vanuatu people around. But there is a pier build by the Japanese as a gift to Tanna and a copra boat comes to Lanakal. I wandered down to the pier to for a look. Otherwise we didn’t do much at Lanakal, except go for a little fun in the surf.
Click here for a few more photos
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Lanakal, Vanuatu