Let the Northing Continue

Sophie is currently underway in Vanuatu from Port Vila, Efate to Lameh Bay, Epi. It’s about an 80 mile run, and we left the dock at 5:00 this morning. The boat is happy, sailing north at 9 knots under full main and jib in a 15 knot easterly with 1 meter seas and sunny skies. 2 lines are in the water, and I saw a marlin go vertical about 100 meters from our starboard side.

We had a very successful visit to Port Vila over the last few days. We reconnected with our travel companions Colin and Mercedes on Segue and spent a day with them in a rental car doing a lap of Efate. Efate is beautiful, clean, and friendly — the Segue crew are seriously considering buying property here. We did our “booze, eggs, and cash” provisioning and also loaded another wheelbarrow full of produce onto Sophie.

Most importantly, we talked with a lot of people here with extensive cruising experience in Southeast Asia, and this helped us firm up our cruising plans for the next couple of months. There was a cruisers potluck at the Internet Cafe here on Monday night, and most of the boats were either heading to Indonesia or had been there multiple times.

We are now planning to explore Vanuatu for another 3 weeks, slowly making our way north. Jenna could spend another 2 months here, but we have cyclone season here and a northwest monsoon up there to deal with, so we can’t stay here as long as we would like. (Note to cruisers following us across the Pacific: please plan to spend 2 days in Vanuatu for every day you spend in Fiji. It’s that much better here, and Fiji is very nice.)

We will leave Vanuatu from the Torres Islands and make a straight run of ~670 miles to Gizo in the Solomon Islands. We’ll clear customs there and hang out at Liapari Island, which is 13 miles away from Gizo and has a secure marina where we will feel safe on the boat. We’re torn about our visit to the Solomons. It’s supposed to be beautiful with incredible diving of sunken WWII wrecks. It also has many dangerous areas, and we’re simply not interested in being in harbors where guys with machetes can climb onto the boat at 4:00 AM. Liapari is right where John F. Kennedy lost his PT boat, and we do plan to do some local touring and diving there.

After a few days in Liapari, we will make another 500 mile passage to Kavieng, Papua New Guinea, sailing to the east of Bougainville and New Ireland islands. We’ll clear customs there and then hang out nearby at Nusa Island Retreat (www.nusaislandretreat.com.pg), which is a secure anchorage across the harbor from the government wharf. It’s a situation similar to Gizo, where we have decided to sacrifice some local connection in order to reduce the risk of being boarded by “raskols”.

At this point, we will be at 2 degrees south latitude, the weather will be hot and sticky, and Sophie will be doing a lot of motoring. After a week or so in Kavieng, we’ll make a 600 mile run west to Jayapura, Indonesia, hopefully getting there around November 15. (We WILL be flexible in our schedule when it comes to weather, though.) We also will most likely use our air conditioners more here than we did in Seattle.

We don’t plan to do much in Jayapura other than clear customs and refuel, because there is some political unrest there. We’ll make another 300 mile jump west to the Padaido Islands, which is supposed to be lovely and tropical. We’ll then do another 300 mile jump west to Raja Ampat, a natural park and world heritage site. We could easily envision spending a month there before crossing the Flores Sea and hitting Flores, Lombok, and Bali.

The best thing about this increasingly clear itinerary? We’ve found yet another boat who plan to follow the same basic route that we will follow, and they have kids the same ages as Leo and Hazel! “Per Ardua” is a cutter from New Zealand with a 9 year old boy and girls aged 6 and 7. They will do the same Vanuatu->Gizo->Kavieng->Jayapura route that we will do, with the same shared goal of reaching the Indonesia border around November 15. We’ve hung out with them for the last couple of days, including a 4 hour play date yesterday on Sophie followed by an evening concert in the park featuring local string bands and an MC discussing the benefits of combining kava with marijuana. We all got along great are quite happy to now have a 3 boat flotilla doing this 2,000 mile passage into Southeast Asia.

We seem to be getting luckier and luckier.

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