September 5, 2008

We anchored in Southwest(Metenovor) Bay, Malekula for almost three days now. We left Malua Bay on Tuesday (September 2) intending to go to Dixon Reefs. The passage was pleasant enough to start but then the seas starting to build and it got wet and wild. We knew that Dixon Reefs would not offer reasonable protection from the large seas so we kept on going to Southwest Bay, where Sabbatical III lies quite comfortably.

We have had a few visits from Solomon and Rita, and their two small children, who come out from the village in their dugout outrigger canoe. We met Solomon when we were here last month when gave him a bag of rice as a gift. This time he came to us and brought us a load of pamplemousse, some papaya, and coconuts. We have provided some new gifts to them as well. We have enjoyed their visits.

We have been plagued with a series of repair issues for the past few days that have taken most of our time to address. The heat exchanger on the generator sprung a leak and sprayed salt water over half the engine room. I was able to fix the leak. However, equipment in the engine room will corrode if exposed to salt water, so I had to clean it all with fresh water and then apply Lanacote anti-corrosion spray to everything.

Even more annoying is the failure of our outboard engine. It sputtered in Espritu Santo and failed entirely when I tried it here. It would start fine but die within a minute or two. I replaced the spark plugs, the fuel filter and the fuel hose but nothing worked. It turns out that the likely culprit is the gasoline that we bought in Musket Bay, Fiji and stored in a large jerry can — it seems to be bad. Since that is the only gasoline that we have left, we are stuck on the boat. I hope that I will be able to get the outboard engine working again once we get to Port Vila.

Our Plans

We have been waiting for a weather system to pass by. It should be gone by tomorrow and we plan to leave for Port Vila (Efate Island) tomorrow (Saturday, September 6) around 3 pm . With the wind and waves on the nose, it may take 18 to 20 hours to make the passage.

On September 13, we will leave Vanautu for Ouvea Island in the Loyalty Islands. The Loyalty Islands are administered by France as part of New Caledonia. Ordinarily, it is very hard to visit the Loyalty Islands on a private boat, especially Ouvea Island. There is no Port of Entry in the Loyaltys and the French are strict about these things. Boats are allowed to stop in Lifou Island for a few days before either sailing to Noumea, the capital city of New Caledonia, for check-in, or paying for a Customs oficer and an Immigration officer to fly to Lifou and do the check-in. To get around this, we have joined with a set of boats organized by the Island Cruising Association of New Zealand. They have organized a “rally” to Ouvea. The boats in the rally essentially share the cost of flying officials out to the seldom visited island of Ouvea for a check-in on Sep 16.

More on all of this later. We just wanted to provide a heads up on our plans.


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