Vanuatu, part 2
From Port Vila to Espiritu Santo

Navigate the Reports


native shower
Native shower, Malekula island
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)

After almost cosmopolitan Port Vila we are back in the bush again, sailing north through the islands of Vanuatu.
People have often asked us which places we have liked the most (of the 78 countries we have visited aboard Scorpio),
and I must say that Vanuatu comes very high on the list.

Our track in Vanuatu
Typical home

An unbeliavle scenery of high, fertile islands with few people - and all of them extremely friendly, but in a pleasant, shy way. This is a very different world compared to the West Indies, where we allways felt we were looked at merely as a source of income for the locals (which was not the case in the Western Caribbean, I have to add).

We are often approached by locals passing by in dugout canoes (as recorded on many photos of this and previous report) and, when possible, barter some small items for fruit or vegetables. Nobody ever tries to force upon us goods or services we do not need. One polite "no thank you" is always enough.

Disposable sails - guaranted organic!
Takin' the old lady back home
Quiet sail back to the island home

Look at the three photos above (click on them): a husband and wife returning in the evening from the market at "main land" Epi island to their home on Lamen island (two miles out) after selling fruit and vegetables. In the evenings there is usually a reliable breeze helping them to travel home, and the sails are ready - no dacron or kevlar is needed here!

Sam brought us paw-paw at Lamen bay, Epi island.
You don't need a boat to lay a net

The people on the islands live in a complete subsistence economy; what you need, you either produce yourself or barter for with your neighbour. This applies not only to what one eats or the cloths you wear, but also to building materials - a canoe is manufactured from a bread fruit log by hand with the use of only an axe, and when it has rottened trough, you build a new one.

In the meantime, you can rebuild your home using bamboo sticks and palm leaves. When you get thirsty, open a coconut.

Welcome to Paradise!
Katie, Jeff and little Jack - s/y Kaparangi

Soon after our departure from Port Vila we happened to spend some nights in the same anchorages as the crews of three Aussie yachts: Indali, Mendana and Cartref.

They are all wonderful people who have been sailing more or less tightly together for a while apparently, and they readily accepted the strange Finnish Scorpio vessel as a member of the bunch. After a while we started to call ourselves "The Fleet" and stayed together all the way to Espiritu Santo (and maybe all the way to Australia).

Angela and Robert - s/y Indali
Lorraine and Peter - s/y Mendana
Mary and Doug - s/y Cartref

After Port Vila we visited a couple of other anchorages at Efate island and stayed for several days in a big bay on it's north coast, called Havannah harbour. Then we hopped over to Emae, where we anchored behind it's lee in a beautiful but wide open bay over night. The weather was fine, however, and we had a comfortable night before heading up to Lamden bay on Epi island.

Trying to sail on a dead run ..
.. with little wind ..
.. big swell on your quarter ..
.. going wing-on-wing

Sailing between the larger islands is sometimes a struggle when there is a confused sea caused by tidal currents crossing the swell and opposing the wind direction. The wind can be strong in the straits when the trade winds funnel between the high islands. Behind the islands, however, there may be very light winds and especially if running down wind the apparent wind accross the deck may not be strong enough to keep the sails filled, with a lot of rolling in the swell as a result. I was a bit worried how our problematic main boom fitting would take the impacts of the constantly slamming, fully battened main.

Rush hour at Aiwa bay.
This family has been to their island garden.
Seres Tupak brought us bananas.

Lamen bay is home to some dugongs (sea cows), which are quite tame and will often swim with snorkelers. They are about 2 metres long and look much the same as the manatees of Florida. Unfortunately we didn't get any photos good enough to display here. This bay also had several big turtles.

From Lamen bay we crossed over to Aiwa bay on the south coast of Malakula, Vanuatu's second largest island. It is said to be the most diverse area of Vanuatu culturally and is famous for the complex ceremonies and rituals preserved by two of its remarkable tribes - the Big Nambas and the Small Nambas.

James at Lamango farm
James took us to a lookout ...
.. over Tisiri lagoon
Robert looking for cockroaches
Dr Robert operating on James's thumb
Doctor Henrik's clinic
Thumb's up and well bandaged.
James with his family.

After Aiwa bay we sailed around the south west point of Malakula and anchored in South West Bay. On the shore we met James, who is the caretaker of Lamango farm, own by a kiwi by the name of Kevin. The owner was not present, but James was very friendly and showed us around. They have cows, goats, sheep and chicken and produce meat for export. We had already found out in Vila that the beef in Vanuatu is exellent.

James had recently cut his thumb, which was hurting and we did our best to help him by cleaning the wound and improving the bandaging as may be seen on some photos above.

There's plenty of cool drink in a coconut!
Dance at Labo village, Malakula.
(see slide show from this link)
Labo village kids

There are three villages on the shores of Soth West Bay. Two of them speak the same language, but the third on has a completely different one and when they speak their own languages they are unable to understand each other. Thats where Bislama comes in. Many people also speak English - but certainly not all.

During our visit in the bay there were only our Fleet of four sailing vessels, but the men of Labo village offered to arrange a "kastom" dannce for us. One morning we gathered on Fire Beach and enjoyed a magnificent performance after which we walked around the village, which is scattered on a steep hillside with great views of the bay.

View of our anchorage from Labo village
Labo village is built on a hillside
Locals passing by Scorpio, South West bay.

The people of Labo village live a very traditional life. There are no cars and no electricity in the village, all lights run on kerosene. Everybody was extremely friendly and appeared very happy with their lives. Not once did anybody ask us for any hand outs. The dance was not free of course, but it only cost us the equivalent of 10 USD per boat!

See a photo gallery of the dancing at this LINK. (It will open in a new window)

Don claims to be the chief of Malua village
Mendana has visitors.
Persistent boat boys at Malua bay, Malakula.
Barbeque in Luganville, Espiritu Santo,
Lorraine, Malla, Angela.

Our next stop on our way north was in a small bay on the north west coast of Malakula, named Malua Bay. There, for the first and only time in Vanuatu, we were met by inquisitive locals asking for gifts while persistently hanging for hours at our toe rails. Although the people were friendly it is sad they do not understand that cruisers do not appreciate this kind of attention. Word will spread and many boats will probably pass by without in the future without stopping. Instead of just passing out out hand-outs we insisted on trading and got ourselves some fruit in exchange.

Because of the indiscrete inhabitants of Malua Bay, we stayed only one night and then continued on our way accross Bougainville Strait to Luganville on Espiritu Santo, 30 nautical miles to the north.