This is a quick recap from our passage between New Caledonia and Chesterfield reef… these are a collection of the satellite emails we sent home daily to our family back home… The crew for this passage was Wade (American, Captain); Etienne (New Caledonia, Head Chef) , Paul (New Zealand, Happiness officer). Our head chef was an exquisite french trained cook who loved cooking so much he often told others to get out of our kitchen. However this did not impact either of the other crew for our happiness officer was always with a smile and a pro at bringing joy to the rest of the ship no matter what was going on.

Crew making final preparations!
Boys training on spinnaker maneuvers… They must be quick learners since Wade has time to take photos!

Oct 31: First day at sea!  Hello family! Well our first day went well… it wasn’t exactly “uneventful” but all the events were positive ones.  After some last minute running around the dock, a last shore bathroom stop, and quick shore showers, we said goodbye to our good friend Chloe around 9am and took off!   We put away our docklines and fenders since we won’t be needing those for a while and focused on the sails.  Right on target the wind was blowing 15 knots from the South East.  Etienne took the drivers seat and put the bow of the boat into the wind while Paul and Wade hoisted the main sail.  We went ahead and put a reef in the main expecting the winds to come up later and being willing to sacrifice speed for safety on our first night out together.  Sails up we pointed the bow for the edge of the reef and sailed for the pass out of New Caledonia a good 3 hours away.  While we were going over some safety information, Etienne spotted a pod of dolphins which swam over and played on our bow for a while!  A sign of good luck.  Just after they left we sailed through the pass into the open ocean.  Luckily the sea state was not too bad out there and we all managed to stay free of sea sickness. We did have a few nibbles on our fishing lines… most notably a gigantic marlin grabbed our bait and took off with it.  Not having wire leader he snapped our line but he was not happy about the hook and did some spectacular jumps right near the back of the boat.  A huge fish maybe 6 feet or a meter and a half not including his bill.  It’s always the one that got away! Anyhow, we are sailing now with spinnaker and single reef mainsail in 20 knots of wind.  All is good.  We just checked the weather again and the conditions are projected to remain good as planned. -Lots of love from the men of Coco De Mer,Wade, Paul, Etienne.

Looking for marlin… or anything that might bite!

Nov 1: We are sailing quite nicely.  The weather gods and Neptune have been good to us.  We have 20 knots of wind directly behind the boat and very calm seas for that wind level.  So it’s a fast comfortable ride we are enjoying.  We have our spinnaker set and she is dragging us along. We did a little more reading about the Chesterfield reef and turns out the best spot for anchoring is about 60 miles further than we expected to we’ll head there but won’t arrive until tomorrow morning. Our weather pattern looks to be the same until we get there so that’s great.  However the latest model shows a storm system building in Brisbane area in about a week around when we are thinking of heading there… we will keep a close eye on that and adjust plans accordingly. Paul was our chef yesterday and he cooked up a nice sausage, mashed potatoes and fresh veggie salad dinner.  Hit the spot.  Otherwise we had a little drama with our spinnaker sail getting itself wrapped up in knot around the Jib but we luckily got it untangled easily thanks to Paul’s clever idea of unfurling the jib a bit.  Spinnaker also got dropped in the ocean briefly but we got it back on board quickly and without much fuss.  So all good! Spirits are high and we are looking forward to finding some coconuts on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean tomorrow!

Etienne attracting dolphins and pretty sunsets… definitely not attracting girls way out here.

Nov 2: We are darn close to arriving at chesterfield reef… we should enter the lagoon in about an hour and then need to motor 2 hours to our anchor spot behind a tiny little island in the middle of no where Pacific Ocean! Yesterday was relatively uneventful other than our spinnaker take down skills have improved dramatically.  We are pros now.  Our first test occurred when we snagged a fish, Paul grabbed the rod, Wade steered the boat and got the engines on and Etienne was chief of bagging the sail along with Wade’s assistance… having two people bag the sail seems to make a huge difference in how easy it is.  Unfortunately we were greeted with a big toothed barracuda at the end of our line.  We threw him back, re-deployed the lines, set the sails, turned off the motors and almost immediately got another hit on our line!  Sails dropped, motor on, Etienne reeled this one in, another set of big jaws on a cuda.   Around 10pm the winds built and Etienne was on watch, he went down and woke wade about the change in conditions… just as wade came up the boat caught a wave and surfed at 16 knots for about 30 seconds in 27 knot breeze under spinnaker.  Wade woke Paul and the spinnaker came down among a well practiced system and a crew working well as a team.  We traded for a more conservative sail plan for the rest of the night. This morning the spinnaker is back up and we are closing in on our first goal. Lots of love from the men of Coco!!!

Shark bitten!

Nov 3: We are safely anchored inside the chesterfield reef.   As we were sailing in we got three good bites on our lines.  The first fish we pulled in was a small frigate mackerel, listed as poor on the food quality chart, so he got to swim off and rejoin his friends.  Our second bite was a massive fish, the rod was bent way over as we struggled to bring him in.  He took nearly all the line on the reel as he ran out as well.  And he want deep, sure signs of a big tuna…   however that second bite turned into an unpleasant third as an unwelcome visitor, a shark, took our tuna as we were bringing him in.  We arrived yesterday around 1pm and promptly dropped the dingy to dig our feet into the sandy spit of an island we are tucked behind.  Wade went for a kite surf in a perfect small bay, Etienne located a nautilus on the beach for his keepsake, and Paul took to the water for a snorkel among massive amounts of sea cucumbers. We headed back to the boat for an afternoon bottle of wine, cheese and meats, hey, chesterfield is still considered French. When we pulled in there was another small monohull maybe 35 feet long in the anchorage.  Then just before sunset another boat, friends we had met before, Dan and Christy, from California. There is a lot more to chesterfield then we expected.  From where we are now, we can see at least 10 sandy islands and a strong reef.  The winds are strong, 20 knots but the sea is well broken by the reef so it’s quite comfortable. We’ll check the weather and formulate a plan for how long we will stay based on that.

There are way more birds than humans in Chesterfield… its easy to count the humans, 3 boats and 7 people… thousands of birds
Kiteboarding literally in the middle of the ocean.

Nov 4 : Yesterday was a great day in Chesterfield.  We started our day with the last of our french croissant egg sandwiches on the back patio.  Then we headed off and introduced ourselves to our neighbors and set up a sundowner party for later on in the day.  Time to explore!  So we grabbed snorkel gear and started to check things out.  We dropped the dingy anchor near a bommie and hoped in to find an amazing coral garden.  It was filled with big brown sea snakes, reef sharks, all sorts of fish, sharks and other marine life.  The sights on our spear gun must need calibration as we missed all our shots at parrot fish circling the reef.  Luckily we have a well provisioned boat or we would starve to death. After an afternoon glass of wine, wade popped out for a kite session and Etienne and Paul went to work in the galley preparing a hell of a spread for our upcoming party.  As the sun produced another perfect sunset, wade wrapped up his kite session with a good landing back at Coco and our neighbor friends arrived. 9pm is commonly referred to as sailors midnight as we all get tired from long days in the sun and go to bed early.  However this particular party lasted until real midnight.  Etienne played host making drinks preparing plates and strumming his ukulele.  Wade and Paul just focused on consuming the Ti Punch he made and stimulating the conversation, slackers!  Anyhow, we had a great night here in the middle of no where with our friends a couple from Norway and California. We have been studying the weather and have decided to depart this afternoon to arrive before this storm that is building off the coast of Oz next week.  Leaving at that time affords us an extra half day breathing room at sea before the winds shift and build. Also since we have time to spare before Paul departs we are going to head for Bundaberg rather than Brisbane.  Then as the weather allows we will work the coast down to Brisbane, should be a nice cruise.

We didn’t have to worry about the neighbors complaining about our noise.

Nov 5: Hello from the ocean! We had a great last day in Chesterfield yesterday.  Snorkeling, Diving, Kiteboarding, and walking on the beach.  We bid farewell to our friends and everyone left the anchorage within a few hours of each other.  We still saw the Norwegians this morning but don’t see them right now.   Upon leaving Chesterfield reef, Etienne and Paul rigged and launched the spinnaker completely unassisted… so they are feeling pretty confident as sailors at the moment. We had good winds through the night and they just died out this morning so we are using the iron wind now to propel us along. Conditions all appear as we expect with us arriving at least 12 hours in Bundaberg before the winds pick up… so plenty of extra time. Calm seas and just puttering along so far today. Lots of Love from Coco.

One last visit with the birds before heading off

Nov 6: Motoring… Well, over here at 22 24.665S by 154 38.135E there is not much action happening.  We have been under the power of diesel fuel for 24 hours now and that means laziness.  Well not entire laziness… the reason my update is a bit delayed is we have been in deep religious discussion this morning.  Good debates and no clear answers have yet been discovered. Anyhow, we are motoring along and should jump on the free ride of the Eastern Australia Current later this afternoon.  Similar to the Gulf Stream it flows south and should help us pick up some speed. We are looking hopeful at the weather forecast and might get some good wind tonight to help us finish our trip.  Everything still looks good for arrival well before the weather changes. Lots of love from the sea! -Wade, Etienne, Paul.

Tattered flag is proof of how much we have loved french countries during our years at sea, and where we spent the most time

Nov 7: Hello from Australian waters.  We have about 50 miles to go to Bundaberg.  We are starting to see some shipping traffic and cargo boats.  I think we had about 20 boats on the AIS system showing up on our radar last night, but none closer than 30 miles.   We spent the day yesterday wondering if there are any more fish in the ocean since none are biting our lines.  We played some video games, a card game, watched some TV, read some books, chatted about life, philosophy, education, politics and that type thing.  Etienne fixed us a really nice dinner of “Boudin” which is a black sausage filled with animal blood and apples… so we are still enjoying French cuisine and the benefits of a French man who loves to cook on board!  Yesterday he explained why a microwave is the devil and should never be used to prepare food for human consumption, such high standards. Anyhow, spirits are high and we are excited for our arrival hopefully before the customs office closes this afternoon!   Lots of love from the Men of Coco.

Nov 7: Anchor’s down. We have safely arrived in Bundaberg but the customs office was already full, so we dropped anchor and celebrated on board the boat with wine, cheese, champagne, and hot showers!

Anchored! Celebrating our arrival with a nice bottle of Champagne! And Wade’s completion of crossing the Pacific ocean… finally!
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A year ago I could not have told you where New Caledonia is on a map so naturally my expectations for this stop were pretty low. Many west bound sailors just breeze through this French country in an rush to finish their Pacific crossing, often running out of time before pacific cyclone season attacks the islands. Luckily our good friends Andreas and Maggie had been through New Cal a year ago and encouraged us to allocate some time for it.  I’m glad we did, we ended up maxing out our visas, staying 3 months, and leaving at the last possible moment just before the french customs officials had to throw us out of the country.

Whoa! We haven’t been to a marina this big since America! We had some great dock parties with the crews off some of these super yachts.

 

The sunsets and “magic hours” were some of the best of the pacific

In many ways, New Cal is the prefect book end to our adventure on the boat. We started our long multi year journey in the BVI, a cruisers paradise, with easy day sails, lots to do, good internet, fun bars, first world restaurants, and beautiful scenery. As we arrived in the capital of Noumea, New Caladonia, it was clear by the sheer number of boats that this is a sailors paradise, just like the BVI.  During our stay we explored many of her islands, visited tribal chiefs, indulged in cultural events, but most importantly formed life long friendships.

There is some tension in the county between Kanak indigenous culture and the French folks but we found great friends on both sides of the aisle.  This Chief’s wife gave us a hand made basket and proceeded to fill it with spoils from her garden.

 

New Caledonia is known for its Nautilus… We spent many days pursuing these rare shells by combing endless beaches, not finding much, until finally…  JACKPOT! 14 of em, on a remote sand island

 

Cooking up mud crabs with Chloe our BFF

Who ever said that French people are rude and unfriendly haven’t met the French people of New Caledonia. Perhaps it is the variety of outdoor activities, the combination of mountains and sea, the free spirit of sailors, or maybe it’s due to the crystal blue lagoons. But everywhere we went we were constantly meeting new friends! We could barely tie off of Coco to the cleats before we were being invited to lunch and enjoying charcuterie and a mid-day glass of wine (French lifestyle is great) with Bryce and his pals. There was a real sense of community among the sailors, many of whom live and work on land during the week and take off for the south lagoon each weekend, and we instantly were welcomed into the circle.

Hodges and Hugh’s balls had a magnetic attraction always landing together, not too far down the course but always together…

 

One of the sea snakes on Mato finding a warm place to sleep for the night

 

Hiking around Isle de Pins (careful how you say Pins in french, it also means penis) We asked several locals how to get to the island of penis’ before we learned this important fact!

Once we had our boat projects completed (Thanks for the help Chloe!) we sailed out to an island called Mato and dropped anchor beside our buddy Hugh’s boat, Wayfinder. This tiny little island provided so much wonder. We were warned to keep an eye out for the sea snakes but I was still unprepared for the vast amount of snakes when I first stepped foot in land.  They are so quiet and abundant, you can’t help but be startled each time one slithers past you un-phased by your presence. These snakes, the yellow lipped sea krait, are indigenous to New Caledonia, and while they are highly venomous, never fear, they are also quite docile around humans. Once we got over the fact that there are freakin snakes everywhere, we really came to appreciate and enjoy them, they are an elegant creature, especially swimming.

Checking out the endless reefs on a perfectly clear morning

 

Guess how many sea snakes showed up to this french orgy? Hint: its more than a menage twas. (Click photo for Answer)

 

There is always time for a glass of wine!  It’s the french way!

There are hundreds of small islands in the South Lagoon hosting white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, healthy coral reefs, and plentiful shells. Most days we set out on a race around the islands with Hugh in search of the hard to find Nautilus shells.  One calm day we dropped anchor in 100 feet of water, I was ashore and Wade went for a swim and found himself facing off with a 200lb Goliath Grouper. This grouper did not appreciate Wade being close to his home and gave him a pretty swift scare into the shallows. Meanwhile I was getting more and more comfortable around the snakes. So comfortable, in fact, that one snake decided to pay us a visit on Coco. We woke up and found this little guy looking for a warm place to curl up and sleep on deck. Considering we never close the doors on out boat we are lucky this little guy didn’t make it all the way into our bedroom!

Its great to have pals that enjoy games as much as we do! Our typical sundown when Hugh is around beers and gaming.

 

Wayfinder brings more than deep conversations, lots of toys!

While buddy boating with Hugh we spent most evenings having dinner and playing board games on each others boats. Wade and Hugh made it a mission to beat the board game Pandemic and they pretty much mastered it through night after night of practice, well, they would call it skill and intelligent strategy. One night when Hugh and Olga, Hugh’s crew-mate, headed back we could hear a football field size of fish jumping out of the water. Hugh immediately came and picked us up to ride through the school. Hundreds of thousands of sardines jumped out of the water like popcorn as we rode around, lighting the water up with bio luminescence and often flopping right inside out boat.

Coco and Wayfinder palling around New Caledonia

 

Hugh and Olga setting sail for Australia, guess we’ll have to entertain ourselves now… or wait, Hey Chloe, wanna play?

Once Hugh and Olga sailed to Australia we were back to being solo sailors. But being in this friendly French county our social schedule was kept full. Taking advantage of the well organized tourism promotions we rented a car and drove into the mountains to attend the Borail rodeo. Who knew that this South Pacific island also hosts a serious cattle farming production. There were times you would have thought we were in Texas with the log cutting competition, archery practice, quad riding demos, fair rides, cattle branding, bronco and bull riding. They even played American County music on the radio.

Might as well be in Texas

 

Not your typical french couple

Easily the closest friend we made in New Caledonia is Chloe Morin. Chloe runs a business helping Super Yachts traveling through New Caledonia. She is a Super Woman with an answer to every question! She is also a bright light to any day, and it is no surprise that we wanted to hang out as much as possible. We must be pretty cool because she has the option of hanging out on super yachts yet she was always on our boat instead! We did several overnights with her at some little islands as she showed off her wonderful country.

Hiking with Chloe we found this huge Banyon tree, locals know they are full of wisdom

 

Proof that New Caledonia has a little bit of everything, especially for such a small island

Chloe also brought us right into the local community. She took us go karting, to a local fair, hiking, and most importantly FLYING! Yea this bad ass chick is a pilot too… she had been wanting to take us up and just a day before I was going to fly home she surprised us with a ride in a small plane around the islands we had been sailing around the last few months a good way to re-live our journey.

Flying over the islands with our best buddy!

The natural world of New Caledonia is made special by having the worlds largest lagoon.  This is created by a huge barrier reef that circles the huge main island, providing a place for wild life to thrive.  It was time to go have a closer look.  We set sail for a month long circumnavigation of the country of New Caledonia, something few boats have time to do.  We love it when people tell us “not many people ever go there”.  We knew it was a good choice almost immediately for on our way east to the loyalty islands we sailed under full spinnaker though a pod of sperm whales, feeling nervous about possibly hitting one ruining his day and ours.

The bays of Lifou were the kind of beaches and swimming holes we always dreamed about

 

We even found the local animals to be welcoming, this cat loved climbing coconut trees

 

Exploring the coast by dingy

We love local customs and in the remote areas of New Cal, the Kanak culture thrives though a village system where a chief oversees things with a great deal of respect from the locals.  Its customary for visitors to seek out the chief and ask permission to walk on his beaches and swim in his oceans.  We found this to be a great way to get to know the locals, we would arrive on shore toting a gift and ask around in French “Ew Eh La Chef” (Where is the Chief).  Locals were happy to personally escort us to his home or wherever he might be hanging out.

The Chief’s family hanging out on the boat in northern Lifou

 

The family compound has a pretty decent view

They made us feel very welcome and were happy to share their islands with us.  Of course we had to return the favor and invited many of the locals over to Coco for dinner, drinks and some good times.  We made friends with kids who would jump in their canoe’s after school and come over to play video games, have a coke, or perfect their dives off the top of the Bimini.

The Dawa was our favorite fish to spear in the lagoon, so easy to cook, just gut it and throw it straight on the grill, the skin peels right off

 

Some of our local kid pals practicing their flips on the beach

 

We found a remote island in the loyalty group and nicknamed it bird island

We came to love New Caledonia because of its unique combination of first world French amenities with a still strong Kanak indigenous culture.  The French side included things rare on small islands like good fast internet so we could stay connected to friends and family back home, well built infrastructure in marinas and bike paths, and excellent food options.  The Kanak side offered pristine remote islands, a welcoming and friendly culture, and interesting local rituals.  While the old Kanak culture and new French culture find themselves in disagreement on some political issues, we all can agree that their country is a very special and unique place.

Wade managed to launch the kite from Coco a major life goal checked off the list.

 

Visas are nearly expired! Time to set sail for the land down under

 

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Vanuatu has been ranked one of the happiest countries on earth.  Their simple way of living combined with a wealth of natural resources allows for a certain tranquility that surprisingly remains off the map for many tourists (including us until now!).

Kids on the island Tanna celebrating the supply ship (Coco De Mer) making a stop at their island!

Willie showed us how many colors of soil occur naturally near the volcano.  Perfect for face painting during ceremonies.

Our first stop was on the island of Tanna. Before we left New Zealand our sailing friends told us about Willie, A man who’s family was working to open a restaurant to feed tourists visiting the volcano.  We loaded the boat with supplies to help get them up and running and were rewarded with being the first ever guests at the new establishment.

Our friends presenting their first prepared meal at the new restaurant! How about that view?!!!

 

Fishermen circled our boat daily rounding up the mackerel that were also visiting the anchorage.

After a week of exploration and a trip to see the erupting volcano it was time to head on.  Willie’s whole village threw us a big send off dinner complete with a bon-fire on the beach.  But why wasn’t Willie, our good pal, around for the event? No one knew.  After an incredible meal of local fish, chicken, greens and potatoes, Willie finally showed up. He apologized explaining that after playing football (soccer) all afternoon he got drunk with the guys on Kava (local brew made from roots of a pepper plant) and lost track of time.  Proof all guys around the world are basically the same, Wade and Matt were both jealous.

Matt and Vicki our pals we met on the trail in New Zealand were a blast to have on board.

Matt and Vicki, British friends (well actually Guernsey) we met in New Zealand helped sail Coco from NZ to Vanuatu. They’d taken a 6-month honeymoon and allocated a month of it to spend with us. With so much to do we quickly headed north to try and catch the year’s last land diving ceremony.  But not before we put the kettle on and shared a tea.  Our British pals lived up to their reputation of drinking lots of tea.  After diving, lets put the kettle on, put up the sails, put the kettle on, after dinner, hey guys, kettles on, workout, kettle, card game, kettle, fishing, kettle… you get the point, we were all well hydrated.

Young boy proving himself to be a man… more of a man than Wade and Matt who both admitted fear and contentment with their Man Cards being revoked

The island of Pentecost is known for her ritual of land-diving. Said to have inspired bungee jumping, this rite of passage for young men takes place on a sacred tower built into a cliff-side using ONLY wood and vines from the bush, no nails or ropes. Boys and men must find and cut their own vines for jumping from the rickety platform while their wives, mothers, sisters, and children chant and cheer them on.  Mere spectators, our own bodies shook with nervous anticipation as each jumper peered down from high above.

Men don’t want any loose clothing getting in the way so outfits are the barest of essentials… not even the balls get any coverage. Here the chief is seen wearing his namba (penis sheath).

Men jump from different levels on the bamboo structure depending on age…and bravery.

A few minutes were spent psyching themselves up before the long hopeful fall.  Then the vine’s tiny bit of stretch came taught and a snap broke the wooden platform above adding a fraction of extra elasticity into the system. Some hit the ground harder than others but the man who jumped from the very top no doubt suffered the worst blow. We gifted “Bong”, known as a champion diver in the village, with a bottle of aspirin after the event.

A fellow spectator, we are nominating him for October in the Men of Vanuatu Calendar

Following the ceremony men from the community gather around the nackamal, a local kava drinking hut.  Kava is a ground up root strained through water to produce a muddy liquid. When drunk it relaxes the body and brings a calm.  It numbs the mouth but must be swallowed with the swift consumption of a frat boy bonging a beer because the taste leaves something to be desired. We brought rum and Kan Jams to add to the festivities!

Matt downing a shell of Kava aka Dirt Water, its not a sipping drink

Sailing south to Espirito Santo we hit the strongest winds and tallest seas I’ve seen. What was supposed to be a 25 knot day quickly turned to 38 with gusts to 45. The following waves created a false sense of calm until we found ourselves surfing down a 20ft wave. Wade and I raced to furl the jib so she resembled a cloth napkin.  The anchorage in Santo was calm and protected thus serving as a great tension reliever when we arrived after sundown.  The next day locals raved about the stormiest seas they’d seen in years.

Matt hauling a Wahoo over to the port side to start preparing our first round of sashimi (with OMG sauce of course)

Comfortable on our mooring ball we set out for a bunch of well underrated SCUBA diving. During WWII America used Vanuatu as a station for operations and safe harbor of over 40,000 troops. After the war ended we attempted to sell much of our equipment to France (for pennies on the dollar).  When they denied our offers thinking we would leave them the stuff anyway, we simply pushed 100’s of Jeeps, tanks, artillery, and other war materials into the ocean (so they couldn’t use it). This eerie dive known as Million Dollar Point holds as a reminder of the both recent and long lasting effects of war on our planet.

Exploring the depths of the Coolidge shipwreck, a new record for our deepest dive: 147 feet

Also during WWII a cruise ship turned troop transport ship wrecked in the harbor. Of the 5,000 troops onboard all but two men survived. The 615 foot long (2 football fields) SS Coolidge rests just offshore. Well- preserved this is one of the largest shipwrecks you can dive in the world. We all agreed that this was our favorite dive of all times. Dropping to over 150 feet below the surface, squeezing through tight passage ways and down long wide hallways inside the ship was an adventure.

We swam through a barber shop, saw intact toilet and shower rooms, sealed medicine bottles resting neatly on shelves by rain gear prepared for emergencies, jeeps piled up on the transport deck beside giant, unexploded bombs.  Flashlight fish find safe harbor in dark corridors and electric clams lightning fire when they see our flashlights. Rusted guns lay beside gas masks while the famous “Lady on a Unicorn” carving waits to greet commanders in the former smoking lounge.  Our 6 dives on the Coolidge only scratched the surface.

Cross fit Coco was open for business. Matt planned daily workout circuits involving swims around the boat, fender squats, tuck jumps, plank… no pain, no gain

Hodges (and Wade’s) favorite part of the morning workouts… Recovery Nutella Crepes

On the island of Santo we met Kingsley, our dive instructor and grandson of a well-known island chief. It was his birthday so we invited him to stay with us on the boat a few days. Kingsley took us spear fishing and diving in some lesser-known areas. One night, as we were playing KABU, he looked out and saw what he thought may be a Chinese lantern. No way, that’s Mars! And the brightest Ive ever seen her. We stopped the game, turned off all the lights on the boat, and climbed on top of the Bimini to gaze at the stars. We could see Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter across the night sky, intersecting with the Milky Way. Of all the starry nights we’ve seen this one will always stand out for her strength and stillness.

The most equitable spearfishing ever for Wade, Kingsley, and Matt, 3 guys, 3 shots, 3 big fish

From Santo we headed over to Epi in search of shallow lagoons and wildlife.  Our windlass motor had completely given out so we were now dropping and pulling up the ship’s anchor by hand (Cross fit bonus rounds). For reference, the anchor weighs 75 pounds and the chain weighs 2lbs per foot and we often had 100 feet out. So we were avoiding deeper anchorages. Plus, we heard that endangered dugongs live in the shallows of Lamen Bay at Epi island. Along with these gentle giants we found curious sea turtles, dolphins in search of sardines, and pristine coral reef along Epi.

Who needs a grocery bag??? Vanuatu recently outlawed single use plastic bags, but no one uses plastic bags in the market anyways!

Needless to say the fishing in Vanuatu is excellent, this Sailfish was another tasty treat

In Epi we met Bennington and Kenneth, the Pentecostal pastor and his wife who invited us to tour their cacao farm and join them for a traditional dinner. We brought them fresh spearfish and grouper and they gave us coconuts, papaya, cacao, starfruit, nuts, bok choy and fragrant basil… just some of the stuff growing wild in their yard. At dinner they served local chicken (apparently this was a mean rooster everyone was happy to see go), sweet potato, and banana pie. Their family lives happily and bountifully off of this fertile land.

Bennington showing Hodges where her favorite food comes from (Chocolate!)

Slowly sailing back towards the main island of Port Villa we stopped in reef area off of Lelepa Island.  Cliffside, calm, and quiet this anchorage provided our crew with a private place to relax on the boat, cook food, drink beer, play games (morning cross fit) and night dive! Many strange and unusual critters come out from their hiding spots and even up from the depths of the ocean to feed at nighttime. We saw feeding stingrays, and hundreds of reflective shrimp eyes peering back at us. But perhaps my favorite were the cuttlefish, I could have watched for hours!

We are going to miss this place

 

Trekking through a huge cave system along with a river float back out

Back in Port Villa we said a sad goodbye to Matt and Vickie who departed for Guernsey after an extended 6 month honeymoon. Excellent friends and solid crew, they spent their last day with us scrubbing the boat from top to bottom.  Then we photographed, filmed and listed the boat for sale as we intend to move back home next year or sooner if she sells first.

Wade trying to slackline while some beach babe checks him out in the background

Just as we were preparing to leave Vanuatu, our friends Hugh and Olga sailed into the harbor.  And with that we decided to stay a few extra weeks. Indulging in Vanuatu’s mild temperatures, clear waters, local chocolate and coffee, holiday festivals, and smiling faces. We sailed back up to Santo afor more dives on the Coolidge.  We explored a spring-fed blue hole, a brackish river, and a long pitch dark cave covered in mounds of guano (there was no way to avoid it)! We enjoyed relaxing beach days, cooking dinners together, playing games and deep conversations late into the night (well, sailor’s midnight is 9pm).

Hugh piloted his dingy deep into this shallow this river to a lake in the center of the island (photo: Hugh Howey) Note the copra plantation on the right compared to natural bush on the left.

Then, as suddenly as we decided to stay, the winds shifted and presented a rare good window to sail south to New Caledonia. We took off in a hurry with plans to get our anchor windlass fixed and to find more fun activities for when Hugh and Olga arrive.

Swimming in one of the many blue holes around Santo (photo: Hugh Howey)

Two Tenders (photo: Hugh Howey)

In Vanuatu their are many tribal languages, but the main language used is calked Bislama. A Melanesian Creole language with English roots.  A few funny Bislama words/phrases that we were told worth sharing:

  • Basket Blong Titties – Bra
  • Big black box with many teeth, you strike’m teeth e sing – piano
  • Little sister blong big black box, you skratch’em belly e cry – violin
  • Push em pull em tree you fall down – hand saw
  • Mix master blong Jesus Christ – helicopter
  • Boy e not broke yet – virgin boy
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