Nguna

En route from Nawora Matua Bay, Nguna Island, to Mele Bay, Efate Island, Vanuatu

June 25, 2004

We spent nearly 10 days in Port Vila, the capitol of Vanuatu. It was much too long to spend there, but we were up against the realities of trying to do first world business in a third world country. The issue was securing insurance for Sequoia’s trip home on the Dockwise freighter.

Children of Utanlangi Village on Nguna Island with the stickers we brought as small gifts.

Our regular boat insurance doesn’t cover the shipment, and we elected to deal with an insurance company in the Netherlands. Our bank is in Indiana. We’re in Vanuatu. These three places are spaced out about 8 hours apart around the globe. The Vanuatu internet café (which also does faxes) is only open 8:30 to 5:00, which doesn’t have much – if any – overlap with the business hours for the bank or the insurance company. So every communication took 24 hours to get a reply. Then the weekend intervened, and of course we’re on the wrong side of the dateline, so OUR weekend doesn’t coincide with the weekend in Indiana OR the Netherlands.  
While we were waiting for communications in Port Vila, we explored the shops and the public market, became regulars at the internet café, made friends with Lemara who runs Yachting World and does laundry, ate at several excellent restaurants, and got to know some of the other cruisers who were moored in the same area. We became special friends with Harry and Jane on Cormorant. Although originally from North Carolina, they have secured residency in New Zealand, and they’re spending this entire cruising season (four months) in Vanuatu before returning to New Zealand. Thus their pace is a lot more leisurely than ours.

The public market is full of interesting produce and handicrafts. We saw small live crabs strung together on a stick, live chickens in baskets, and dead flying foxes (fruit bats). There were cooked fast foods (especially fish and bread), and everyone was selling sweet mandarin oranges.

 

Although most people speak English to some extent, the language most often heard or seen on posters and billboards is Bislama. This is a form of pidgin English – to some extent, English as it might be spelled if written entirely phonetically. Downtown was plastered with political posters in Bislama for the upcoming election (Example: "Vot Ripabliken Pati").
We finally got the insurance secured, the wire transfer made, and we were free to go on to all of the many enticing and remote spots we have read about in Vanuatu’s outer islands. Unfortunately we are just about of time here, and thus we had to choose only one or two spots. Our first choice was Havannah Harbor, a large protected anchorage on the north side of Efate. This harbor protected large American fleets during the Second World War, and there are some interesting ruins and wrecks left behind from that period. Craig was particularly looking forward to seeing those. When we reached the mouth of the harbor, there were a number of small boats coming out, gesturing wildly that we should not go in. We wondered if there was some sort of natural disaster occurring, (Vanuatu is home to a number of active volcanoes.) Everything looked fine on the chart. We had told the customs official we planned to go there, and he hadn’t said anything that indicated we shouldn’t.

The answer came soon enough. A small motorboat approached, and motioned us to slow down. On board were two soldiers, who explained that some movie or television company had rented the entire harbor for nine weeks, and non-residents were not allowed in. They showed us some official-looking notices laminated in plastic. Obviously we weren’t going in there. Perhaps this is "Survivor, Vanuatu"??? [Later:  Yes indeed, Survivor Vanuatu.  It was being heavily hyped on television about the time we got back to Oregon.]

It was getting somewhat late in the day, and the only other anchorages – only marginally protected – were at least 15 miles away. The other choice was to return to Port Vila, but that was even further.

We decided to go to Nawora Matua Bay, on the northwest corner of Nguna Island. We arrived just as it was getting dark, and put our anchor down in 50 feet of water. There was quite a bit of swell coming into the bay, and quite a lot of current flowing, so Sequoia rocked and rolled quite a bit throughout the night. We had to put down sticky mats to keep our dinner on the table, and in the middle of the night the vase holding my anniversary bouquet of flowers fell off the counter into the sink.

 
The cruising guides say that when you anchor off a village, you must go ashore and find the chief, and ask permission to anchor, fish, swim or walk ashore. Of course it’s also an opportunity to meet the local people. So in the morning, we launched the dinghy and picked our way through the reef and onto the white coral sand beach of Utanlangi. Little kids came running from every direction with grins on their faces, and we were greeted by Dorothy, the mother of three of the children. She said there was no chief there (we later learned that there are two rivals for the post, and the village is divided into factions), but of course we could walk around. She would be glad to show us.

Nguna, Part II