A week in Esperitu de Santo

250 miles North of Santo. Seven days have passed without incident. We sat on a mooring outside of the Aore resort and scuba club. There are three new balls erected after the previous Typhoons destroyed the mooring field. The ball was easy to pick up but had en enormous amount of line attached. And for some odd reason the owner of the moorings did not want us to pull the line out and put it around the capstone, but asked us to put our own line through the mooring eye making the total even longer. This meant that with the strong currents pulling through the Segond channel in Santo, the mooring ball was often found beside the boat.

Our neighbors were the skipper and crew of Marisol. The German couple of a forty-ish feet Contest that we met in Opua about nine months earlier. We had the couple over for a couple of drinks before they were about to set off for Australia. On their boat they even had the extra long mooring line wrap around the keel.

The Segundo channel is pretty wide and quite deep. Anchoring along the edge would be in deep water close to shore. Our mooring showed 30 meters under the keel and we were only round 50 meters from shore. There are a number of water taxis and other longboats that frequently rip through the channel at full speed. And to make it and interesting crossing to town there is the occasional tree floating around.

The dive club has a brand new jetty as the old one was also, like pretty much everything else in Santo, destroyed by a Typhoon. A couple of times a day, the owner of the moorings, Paul, would barrel through the mooring field at full speed with either his longboat or small dive boat. Not a very social thing to do, but he was always waving friendly as he did so, so we took no offense.

On Monday Ben and I went ashore to find the customs office to hand over the cruising permit envelope. We found the office at the small container and cruise terminal. A grumpy official took our papers and told us to come back when we check out. I asked for the permission to visit the northern islands before we leave, but he was not very cooperative and seemed to be in a hurry to get back to doing nothing.

With our paperwork sorted for the check in at Santo we went about the business of restocking the boat. We had some small repairs to do to the generator as it had refused starting on the last day inbound. It turned out to be a simple disconnected wire. But after connecting the wire and starting her up, a couple of minutes later she shut down again due to overheating. We discovered a collapsed water hose, and as a result of that most likely a broken impeller.

As things do, one leads to another. While recovering the bits of impeller from the trap before the heat exchanger, the cap, a bit of brass, snapped. So now we needed to see how to fix that. Luckily the hardware store in Santo has everything you would need. So we found ourselves some new fittings, a couple of roles of thread tape and got to work replacing bits and pieces. After some colorful language and a couple of tries to get everything waterproof, the old Kobuta engine purred into life again, filling the lithium power bank with lovely clean diesel powered energy.

At at the hardware store Ben ran into an old friend of his, Richard. He had been living on Vanuatu doing construction for many years and knew pretty much everyone you would need to know. We came a across ‘Richards Rock’ on our entry into Tanna, almost a month ago now. This rock in the ocean was the where he built his home many moons ago. But after a couple of typhoons tearing it down, he decided to move to safer shores. Richard picked us up from Ah Ma to show us his house and bring us over to the starfish restaurant across the water from us. There we had a pizza and some beers. A great ambiance but mediocre food.

On our trip from Port Villa to Santo Vanuatu we used round 60 litres of Diesel. Mostly to run the generator. So we topped of the tank and brought the empty jerrycans to shore for a refill at the gas station.

Alma, our new crew member, has joined the boat. She made use of our days in Santo to go couch surfing with locals, playing volleyball and camping. But once it was time to resupply she came to the Jetty to help out. We loaded many bags of groceries and a couple of jerrycans of Diesel into the dinghy. Many hands make light work.

To give ourselves some exercise and escape the boat for a bit, we walked down to the end of Aore island to find a ‘coffee shop’. This turned out to be another small coffee plantation. We were greeted by a very friendly care taker, whom poured us a cup of delicious coffee and made us a lovely late brunch.

Linda had arranged permission for us to visit the Northern Islands. She had written approval from the customs officials in Port Villa. So it was finally time for us to check out and head further North. On Friday the 22nd of June we all went ashore I search for the immigration office. This was easily found near the end of the town and within half an hour we had all forms filled out and were given our exit stamps for Saturday, exactly one month after clearing out of New Zealand.

Next stop,the custom office again. Here we found a friendly lady that helped us process the check out documents. I thought good riddance, this grumpy officer guy we had met a couple of days earlier wasn’t there. But whilst I was waiting for someone to show up to pay the harbor fees, the lady came up to me asking about the stops on the Northern Islands. I showed her the approval email on which her office was copied. She had to run it by her ‘boss’ she said. I thought by myself, here we go. And there it went indeed.

The ‘boss man’ came from behind his desk, not pleased by the fact that his superiors in Port Villa gave us permission to cruise the Northern islands. He became very unpleasant, threatening us that if we would go there without his permission there would be trouble. He proclaimed that only he was in charge of the Northern Territories and the people in Port Villa had no say.

I choose not to further agitate the high strung power hungry ‘officer’ as we were at his mercy to collected our exit papers, straight to the Solomon Islands. What we thought to be island hopping became a 5 day passage, shooting past the northern islands.

This whole episode left me with mixed feelings about Vanuatu. Mostly friendly people, some very crafty and pushy village elders like David on Eromango, and the occasional power hungry ‘official’ that can ruin your plans with a stroke of a pen.

But all considered, I would definitely stop here again on the next time around.

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