It is Tuesday evening, June 23, and we just returned to Port Vila to be sure we were here and ready for Hannah’s arrival on Saturday. The 3 day Government festival in Mele did, indeed, turn out to be a 3 day festival – going on non-stop all night and all day. It did not make for a peaceful setting for the boat with all the amplified music coming from shore throughout the night, but we were kind of stuck there because of the weather. The winds picked up on Friday and Saturday and it rained and blew hard. No matter how hard it rained, or how the wind howled, the party onshore just kept on going – much to my chagrin. We were guessing there must have been a lot of pretty drunk or kava-ed out government officials out there by the third day.
When we finally left on Saturday morning the weather had improved quite a bit and we were able to sail up to Havannah Harbor – about 25 miles away. It is a fairly difficult sail as you have to go around a point of land known to local sailors as “Devils Point”. It is a well deserved name as the wind just pours over the hills there and kicks up turbulent seas and big waves. The wind was gusting up to 35 knots and we had to reef in our sails. Just after we rounded the final nasty portion of water and were heading into the smooth and protected waters of Havannah Harbor, we heard a loud “ka-ching” and saw that we had ripped the genoa (the front sail). There is a large metal ring sewn into the clew of the sail and reinforced by hundreds of stitches that holds the jib sheet. It must have weakened without us knowing it, and the strong gusts must have helped the stitches just rip apart, so the entire metal ring ripped right out of the sail. Unfortunately, while this left the sail itself in pretty decent shape, it was unusable since there was now no place to tie the sheet and thereby harness the sail. We rolled it up and just sailed with the mainsail into the bay.
There are several anchorages in Havannah Harbor and we selected one about 2/3 of the way inside the bay (maybe 5 miles from the mouth of the bay) to be sure we were in a calm place and also because we knew two other boats there. Even though it was still quite windy, it was well protected from swells and after anchoring the boat it was just as peaceful and calm and quiet as possible. The two boats that were there – Betsy and Nat from “Bahati” with their 19 year old crew member Cameron and Jim from “Cardea” – have been friends of ours for some time now and we spent a couple of days there together – taking turns at having pot-luck dinners on our boats. The weather finally cleared and we were even able to do some swimming and snorkeling. There is a cute little town nearby with a brand new road being built through it. The road is sponsered by the U.S. and all the locals were very happy to tell us about it. There are only a few houses, and a school along the road right now – no stores – but maybe things will change once the road is completed (too bad). It is going to be a nicely paved road and will eventually go around most of Efate island.
There was one very interesting little museum on the road – the “Havannah Harbor WWII Museum”. It is just a 10 by 20 foot shack filled with coca cola bottles, beer bottles and some old wreckage from WWII. There is even a wing of an old Corsair fighter plane propped outside the door. The museum is owned and run by a very friendly Vanuatan man, Ernest, who has been collecting and displaying his stuff for the past 34 years. He has coca cola bottles from over 350 different U.S. cities – all dated before 1945. Each one has the name of the city it came from and the year it was manufactured right in the glass on the bottom of the bottle. He managed to pull one out for us from Providence, RI when we told him where we are from. Everything in the museum was left behind by the U.S. navy which used Havannah Harbor as a staging point for the war in the Pacific. There were more than 80 naval vessels in the bay here during the war – starting in 1942 – and it was the major staging point for attacks in the Solomon Islands (Guadalcanal) and New Guinea – both of which are nearby.
To get back to Port Vila (and points beyond), we had to have a jenoa sail up, so Mark and I put up the new large genoa that we had built for us in New Zealand last year. Thank goodness for that! Our sail back to Port Vila was even harder than the sail to Havannah Harbor, with winds and seas at and around Devil’s Point leaping all over the place. A very uncomfortable ride. Luckily the whole sail back here from Havannah Harbor was only 6 hours – with the two hours before Devil’s Point being calm and pleasant. We were glad to reach Port Vila and tie up to a mooring ball in such a nicely protected, calm place once again.
Tomorrow we will try to get the ripped genoa fixed.