After spending a week cruising around the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, Infinity and its crew set sail for Vanuatu. The passage took only four days and we anchored beside the country’s most southern island, Aneityum.
The passage was much more fun than our experiences from New Zealand to Tonga and Tonga to Fiji. With a diverse group of 23 peeps on board and a huge assortment of costumes to choose from, there was always fun to be had. Rachel, the energetic Brazilian, let the crew in an aerobic session turned dance party on the back deck of the boat … costumes were mandatory. Unlike previous passages, I was never bored.
Sailing a 120 ft yacht is hard work. It took a team effort in raising the sails and someone always had to be on the wheel to steer. We were assigned to teams of three for cooking, cleaning, watch, and steering shifts. It was likely that at least one person per team was seasick at all times, thankfully I was again totally fine.
I was very surprised that the boat did not have auto steering, as did the smaller boats I crewed upon. Steering 150 tons is not an easy job. It was a constant battle with the large wooden wheel to keep the boat on course. You also had to be mindful of changing wind direction to avoid “jibing” when the sails are up which can damage a sail. I had a crazy experience during my 4 am steering shift when the wind was constantly changing directions. I watched in horror as the front sail ripped horizontally in slow motion. I awoke the captain and the rest of the crew had to wake up and help take down the sail and raise a new one.
I also had a challenging cooking shift when the boat was rocking hard from side to side. Not the best time to make pancakes!
On the overnight passage between Tanna and Erramango my team was on watch when the captain decided it was time to jibe. Jibing is changing your direction while sailing downwind. To do this we had to pull down the jib sail and raise the sail on the opposite side of the boat. This job is always challenging but at 4 am in the middle of a thunder & lightning storm and huge swells we had an even harder time than usual. Four of us spent over an hour on the foredeck struggling to hold our balance, blinded by the pouring rain and darkness as we struggled to tame the unruly beast of a sail that flapped wildly in the wind.
As much fun as sailing can be I am always eager to reach our next destination, set anchor and explore the land. The priority was to work on the project, In Fifty Years, which involved going on shore and spending time getting to know and interviewing the locals. I have many awesome experiences to report in more detail soon … standing at the rim of an active volcano as flaming fire balls shot into the air, visiting the village home to the legendary cargo cult, scuba diving and snorkeling among unspoiled reef, kitesurifng the trade winds, and spending time in the villages with the locals. I felt the genuine warmth and happiness of the people in their big smiles, generous offerings, and guidance through the forests.
While in Vanuatu I have visited the islands of Aneityum, Tanna, Erromango, and Efate. I wish I could stay on the boat longer to continue the journey further north. I would love to witness the ancient ceremony neghol (land diving) on Pentecost, scuba dive through the WWII shipwreck SS President Coolidge on Espiritu Santo. This unspoiled country is home to the most interesting customs and traditions that have are still alive and I hope to have the opportunity to visit again one day.
To see photos of the passage from Fiji to Vanuatu CLICK HERE.
Read about my other sailing passages: