Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We visit a Volcano

We've been a week in Vanuatu. After clearing in at Lenakel, we moved a few miles north and picked up a mooring owned by Tanna Evergreen Bungalows. The bay we are in has great diving and we have been diving every day. We haven't been able to get ashore because the tide has been low during the day exposing large expanses of reef.

On Sunday, we spoke with two local fishermen who were taking some tourists snorkeling. We arranged with them to pick us up Monday morning. They took us ashore, and arranged for a truck to take us to the volcano. Mt Yasur is on the other side of Tanna and we had a bumpy ride over the island on dirt roads. It was worth it however! Mt Yasur is active and we climbed up to where we could see into the crater. Every minute or so there was a loud bang and smoke, ash and molten rock flew up out of the crater to fall gracefully back to earth. It was literally awesome, and a bit scary.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Arrived in Vanuatu

It's taken us just two nights to get to the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, the southernmost check-in port.

We had little or no wind for much of the first 24 hours and, when we did get wind, it was out of the north! So, in order to gain in wind angle we started to motor east in the calm. However, it eventually became apparent that we might be able to make Tanna which is due east from Hienghene instead of Luganville which is north-northeast. The last 12 hours were a heavier beat to windward but by then we could see the island so were motivated to stick with it.

This is a great development as now we'll be able to sail northwest (downwind) to the rest of the Vanuatu group instead of having to beat upwind island-by-island to see the southern islands.

The anchorage at Lenakel is pretty rolly from swell, but we managed to get ashore to visit Customs, Immigration and Quarantine and to go shopping in the vegetable market.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Leaving New Caledonia

We're still at Hienghene, but tomorrow we leave for Vanuatu.

We've finally found some good diving in New Caledonia - by an island a few miles offshore - and we've been out there everyday the lagoon has been calm enough. It's a beautiful unspoiled reef and today, for example, the visibility was probably 70 feet! On rougher days we've dived just outside the bay - similar coral and fishes, but hard to see in the gloom. We've been 18 days in Hieghene and we've made 8 dives.

We've enjoyed our stay here, but tomorrow we set off for Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu - site of the famous wreck USS President Coolidge.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ferry Boat Ride

We rented a car to visit Noumea and also used it to tour this region. North of Hienghene is an area where waterfalls pour off the hills and run down into the sea. The only road (on most of New Caledonia) follows the coast and crosses many creeks and rivers - small and large. All but one of these rivers are bridged. But there is one in this area that is still crossed by cable ferry - the last one in the country. We had to cross on it, of course. But we were back for the return trip half an hour later!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Podcast 26 posted

I have posted a new podcast, recorded during our passage from Bundaberg to New Caledonia. Only now, on a day trip to Noumea, have I found the bandwidth to upload it. It may be downloaded from my podcast page.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


We've come to Hienghene on the northeast coast of New Caledonia.

We stopped at Pouebo for two nights but the weather was forecast to deteriorate and the anchorage behind the reef at Pouebo didn't seem good enough. We did manage to get some fresh bread by dinghying two miles up the river - periodically running aground - and then walking a further mile. It was worth it for fresh baguettes!

Hienghene is a beautiful anchorage - a large bay with two interesting rock formations framing the opening. One is nicknamed 'The Brooding Hen' and the other 'The Sphinx'. In both cases you can see the resemblance. We're anchored in the lee of the Brooding Hen (see above).

The village of Hienghene is a short way up a river. The river mouth is shallow but well marked and passable with our draft. We intend to go up there if the weather deteriorates further. It has been overcast, windy and rainy the past few days. Yesterday it rained all day. The village has a small marina, a supermarket and a laundry. We have made use of all three - more baguettes, a little fresh veg, and clean clothes!

Today we tried our first dive as the weather was a little clearer and the seas outside the bay a bit more settled. The reef was beautiful but the visibility was poor - as it has been everywhere in New Caledonia.

Tomorrow, we pick up a rental car and are planning to drive to Noumea for the day. Following that, we'll clear out from here for Vanuatu just as soon as the weather settles, in search of better diving.