We had arrived in the early morning hours on Sunday. The customs official, Colin, doesn’t work on Sunday, so we had to stay on our boat and wait for him until Monday. He came out to talk to the third boat in the anchorage – s/v Australia 31 (which was leaving the next day) in the evening and Colin mentioned that he would come by Tahina at 9 AM Monday. We spent the day Sunday catching up on sleep, and cleaning up the huge mess left by the rough passage. We reached a new level of things being tossed about on the boat and there were books, clothing, dishes, and other things all over the place on the boat.
Early Monday morning, while Karen slept, I finished tidying up the boat and preparing for our guest Colin. I lowered the dinghy so it would be easier for him to board as well. Colin uses an old carved out traditional wooden canoe with a pontoon. But, although I kept checking there was no sign of him. By lunch time we were getting restless, since we still couldn’t go ashore and the official doesn’t have a radio. We called s/v Stray Kitty and they offered to go ashore after lunch to look for him.
Finally, we saw the canoe around 1 PM. Colin showed up and apologized. During the night a village elder passed away. He was a relative of nearly everyone in the area. They even closed the school for the day. We told him we were sorry to hear that! We spent about an hour filling out the paperwork, and then Colin did an inspection of the boat. There is a cruise ship that arrives here each week. The other officials (immigration and quarantine) were beeing flown in tomorrow and could complete our entry. He said we were now free to go ashore – so we thanked him and saw him off.The weather was pretty nice during the rest of the afternoon. There is a beautiful island just offshore that has a runway (built originally during WWII). The island is called “Mystery Island” and is the prime stopping point for the cruise ship. The locals have fixed up the island with little shops, picnic tables, and cultivated the island with plants and flowers. The island is surrounded with beautiful turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and coral reefs. The island is a marine protected area so it has become a refuge for fish and sea turtles.
We met up with Stray Kitty and went over on our dinghies. We also brought the kite aerial photography equipment as the conditions were mostly right. The only problem is that it was mid-afternoon and the sun was going down. I suggested to the kids on Stray Kitty that we would do something special for them. We got the kite flying and attached the camera and began taking photos. Then, I told the kids to draw their boat name in the sand. We then had the entire crew/family of Stray Kitty to lay in the sand under their name and we flew the camera over them and took photos. The photos turned out well, but because of the waning light, we weren’t able to get much of the rest of the island. We will share examples of the photos on our web site when we get an Internet connection.
We had invited the Stray Kitty family over for dinner and games. The kids were keen to come play on the Wii again. We had a very pleasant evening, as always, with them. They brought over some fresh fish they had caught on the way in. Including some blue fin tuna! We had sashimi as well as some cooked with a special recipe they shared with us. Yum! And, we all ended up playing some Just Dance 2 on the Wii.
On Tuesday, I spent part of the morning looking at our engine on the starboard side. Chris on Kitty came over and helped me with diagnosis. We ended up concluding the starter motor is the problem and will need servicing when we get to Port Villa. The rest of the day was first spent with doing some water exploration by dinghy. The water was very clear and it was fun checking out the reefs. But, the coral is not nearly as colorful as in Fiji. I did find 4 turtles in just a few minutes by Mystery Island. Later both we went out with snorkel gear and tried looking for the turtles. No luck in the afternoon with the turtles though. We did see a bunch of other fish and enjoyed the cool water (also cooler than Fiji since we are further south).
In the afternoon, we went ashore and Colin told us where to find the officials who had flown in during the morning. They met with us briefly and we completed the immigration part and paid the officials. The quarantine official only had one copy of his form, so we offered to make some additional copies on our boat and then brought the forms back. Then Colin brought us our cruising permits and our clearance was complete.
Looking at the weather, we decided we would leave on Wednesday morning and head for the next island of Tanna and arrive at Port Resolution. We heard from the officials that the volcano is not too violent now, so we should be able to visit the caldera and actually see the lava up close! The typical tour is done at night and is supposed to be spectacular. Several other boaters we know came here in the last month and said it was one of the best sights they have ever seen.