Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

Pacific Islands 2003

From New Zealand to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia

The Great Astrolabe Rally took us from New Zealand to Fiji and allowed us to spend a few days in Kandavu and within the Great Astrolabe Reef before continuing on to Suva. Musket Cove was re-visited and we again left the boat in Vuda Point for a trip back to the UK.  Once again the gremlins wanted Sea Bunny to stay there longer but this time it only involved and extra haul-out for one night.  The Musket Cove regatta week was fun and we succeeded in taking pain the rally to Port Vila.  We enjoyed Vanuatu, although our stay was somewhat different to what we expected.  A brief visit to New Caledonia was mainly restricted to Noumea, waiting for a weather window for the trip back to NZ.

The Great Astrolabe Rally 2003 - June 2003

The Great Astrolabe Rally 2003 - June 2003

Leaving from Tauranga, we sail up to the island of Kadavu, Fiji to join up with a group of other boats to a specially arranged check in and a week of organised events.

It was a fairly rough and wet passage with the wind up to about 40 knots and seldom below 25. We were seldom out of full foul weather gear - which gets warm in the tropics! After the first few days the wind was on the beam so a fast passage was made.

Susan got thrown across the cockpit by a particularly large wave and broke her nose, crying down from the cockpit at 2am for some ice.

Check-in to Fiji was at the resort of Dive Kandavu, with anchorage inside the reef, a bit exposed to the wind and with a few bommies in the anchorage. The resort was dedicated to the rally for a week.

Richard got a bit of diving in, Susan abstained because of her nose. We went to church, on a village visit and hosted a visit by the children from the local school to the boat .

There was also a full program of rally events.

Nabouwalu, Ono

Nabouwalu, Ono

One of the last boats to leave the Dive Kandavu resort, Sea Bunny has a fairly hard slog to windward to Nabouwalu on the island of Ono, inside the Astrolabe Reef. Most of the rally boats are there, but we manage to find an anchoring slot fairly close in. Many of the boats leave the next morning while we go ashore to do our sevusevu with the chief. In fact he is not there, so we present our yaqona to his wife (not quite what the book says!).

We are made very welcome in the village. One of the village girls invites us to a feast, celebrating the life of her grandfather who had died 60 days previously. As we do not want to intrude on what appears to be a family affair we check the protocol with the chief who says "if you have been invited, you are invited". The activities at the feast are divided on gender lines. Richard and Cato (from Augusta) join the yaqona drinkers while Susan and Christine join the women. After the meal Richard and Cato are taken by the chief to his house, given pillows, and invited to rest on the floor of the living room before joining the rest of the men for more yaqona. Susan and Christine join the women clearing up, and wonder where the men have got to (sleeping with the chief!). At least the cake we have brought is shared out to everyone and goes down well.

The next day Richard and Cato are asked if they can fix the village rotary mower. After some examination the conclusion is that the whole fuel system is past repair. At this stage another mower is produced, in somewhat better condition. However, although it has fuel, compression and a spark it still doesn't work. Mowers: 2, yachties:0.

After a visit by the chief and his family to Sea Bunny it is time to move on.


The next stop is Dravuni, some 5 miles north of Ono, to do another sevusevu and get permission to visit Yaukevulevu Island, which comes under the Dravuni chief. We anchor off the village and go ashore. Children take us to the village hall where another feast is in progress. We make our sevusevu to a deputy chief, as the chief is away, and are then invited to join the feast, which is to celebrate the amount of money they have collected for the local school. It's a pity we'd just had lunch! After eating we are invited to contribute to the school funds, which we do with pleasure, although we hadn't brought much money ashore.

The village on Dravuni is clearly much more prosperous than the one on Ono. Apparently small cruise ships stop here.

We do not stay overnight, having got our permission. In common with several places in Fiji the permission we get excludes SCUBA diving, as the village has negotiated an exclusive agreement with one of the dive operators.

Yaukevulevu is an uninhabited island with a good west-facing beach and anchorage. We anchor with a few other boats and go snorkelling. The next day the weather looks threatening and the forecast is unencouraging with southerly winds expected, to which the anchorage is rather exposed. We decide to move back to Ono, this time to the village of Naqara on the north of the island, which has a large enclosed bay, well sheltered.

Naqara, Ono

Naqara, Ono

By the time we arrive at Naqara the weather has deteriorated significantly, with wind and rain.The next day the weather is still bad so we do not go ashore, hoping the chief will not object.

When we finally get ashore and are taken to the chief by a relative, all is well and we are welcome to stay. We are taken on a village tour, including the school where children from the other villages come on a weekly boarding basis, with their families in turn walking over with food each day. As it is Richard's birthday the next day Susan enquires whether there are any handicrafts she can buy, at which a lady from the weaving hut goes back to her hut and returns with a pandanus wall hanging.

On Richard's birthday children come out to the boat to sing Happy Birthday and then we are invited to a meal in the house of our guide. Adrianne has been up early collecting coconut crabs and fishing. Our host sits at the end of the cloth laid on the floor with a fly whisk while we eat. At first it appears that we will eat the delicacies while the family will eat something else later, but in fact they are only waiting for guests to eat first, as is the custom.

Planning to leave the next day we have got the dinghy aboard as soon as we returned to Sea Bunny. At about 2230 there is a knock on the hull. Alongside is one of the village longboats with the son-in-law of our host for the evening, who we had met, with his child, at the meal. His wife has returned from a youth festival on Dravuni and has been "beating him up". He wants us to take him to Suva with us.

We tell him that, if he gets out to the boat by 0700 we will take him. This is clearly going to be difficult, as he eventually says he will swim out! After he has left we consider the ramifications and potential complications, not to mention what would probably be seen in the village as an abuse of hospitality. We decide that, if he does turn up, we will tell him that we have decided to go back to Nabuwalu to do some work on the boat. In the event he does not appear and we leave for Suva at 0700 as planned.

Suva to Vuda Point

Suva to Vuda Point

As we had not fully decided on our cruising in Fiji when we checked in to the country we had to go to Suva to check out for the next port.

After a couple of days we leave, heading for Levuka, the original capital, on the island of Ovalau. Rounding the SE corner of Viti Levu we are faced with 30-35 knot headwinds. We shelter overnight inside Nasilai Reef. The next morning the wind has not moderated much and after about an hour we turn round and run back to Suva.

Meanwhile, our friends Keith and Carol (Kirsten Jayne) arrive. We leave Sea Bunny under their watchful eyes and fly to Levuka - about 15 minutes in a light aircraft.

Staying in the oldest hotel in Fiji we spend a couple of days exploring the much run-down town, visiting the site of the cession of Fiji to Britain in the 19th century.

After a few more days in Suva we head west in loose company with David and Sheila (Catenza), who were with us on the Astrolabe Rally.

We day-sail, stopping overnight in Vaga Bay on Beqa island and in Somosomo Bay. Our destination is Vuda Point marina, where we plan to leave the boat while we fly back to the UK.

The Fiji Regatta Week - September 2003

The Fiji Regatta Week - September 2003

After our return from the UK we have an abortive attempt to leave Vuda Point for Musket Cove, having to return after about an hour for an urgent haul-out as water is rapidly coming in through the shaft seal.

As we have a spare mounted on the shaft it is a fairly short job to replace it. We give the hull and propellor a quick scrub and are ready to go back into the water the next morning to resume our trip to Musket Cove.

We have a mooring at Musket Cove for the regatta week where we meet up with many friends. Sea Bunny takes part in the Round Malolo Race and the fun race before the barbeque on a sand bar. We win the booby prize for the fun race as we are last to cross both the start and finishing lines!

Susan takes the opportunity to spend a day with some woodcarvers, honing her skills.

At the end of the week we leave Musket Cove on the Port Vila "Race".

Port Vila, Vanuatu - September 2003

Port Vila, Vanuatu - September 2003

We arrive to a warm welcome from the yacht club in Port Vila with a food basket being presented on the way into the harbour before the quarantine officer has boarded!

At the prizegiving, where everyone gets a prize, we get a voucher for 50 litres of free diesel and a 50% off voucher for one of the better restaurants.

We go to a tour agent to arrange a village tour. Susan asks the agent (Sereili) which island she comes from and we are invited to join her and her family for church and laplap (local food) on Sunday.

Sunday comes and we are waiting outside the bar when Sereili arrives in a minibus taxi containing her father and extended family. It transpires that the father, Pastor Douglas, has a church in a run-down area near Port Vila, and is building a new church there.

After church we take another minibus and a rope ferry across to their island and are treated to an excellent feast, at which most of the village are present.

During the afternoon we are invited to the wedding of Sereili's cousin, which is to take place on the island the following week.

This keeps us in Port Vila for longer than intended.

Vanuatu wedding, September 2003

Vanuatu wedding, September 2003

The day before the wedding we take Sea Bunny over to the island and dress overall. In the evening we go to Pastor Douglas' house and to the bride's feast, where we present the gift of a watch.

The next morning we are again at Pastor Douglas' house early, having passed the young men who have been up all night preparing 26 pigs for the feast and as gifts. From the looks of a few cans and bottles they have been having a bit of a party while doing it.

The wedding is in the Pentecostal church and is crowded, with many more outside trying to look in through the windows. We have seats with Pastor Douglas until he suggests that Susan goes up behind the altar to take photographs!

After the ceremony the wedding gifts are presented outside the meeting hall, the chief identifying who has given what. We then return to the bride's village for another feast. In the evening Susan has to be kitted out in an island (Mother Hubbard) dress so that we can join in procession taking the bride and her gifts to the groom's village, where another party is going on. This procession is accomplished with much shouting, singing and music. After returning with Pastor Douglas there is yet more feasting but we do not stay too long.

The next morning Pastor Douglas comes out to the boat and invites us to the island again in a fortnight, when he and his wife, Helen, are to be presented with the Vanuatu Order of Merit by the President.

After taking our guest ashore we weigh anchor and head around the west of Efate on our way towards Malekula.

Port Havannah, Epi and Malekula

Port Havannah, Epi and Malekula

The first night of our trip north is spent in Port Havannah, on the west coast of Efate, entered via the Hilliard Channel inside Lelepa Island. There are several boats in the anchorage, which leaves space at a premium, but we find a slot with reasonable depth. We are visited by locals inviting us to Lelepa, but time is now at a premium and we plan to carry on tomorrow.

The next day sees us leaving through the Purumea Channel and heading 55 miles to the next island, Epi where we choose to anchor in Revolieu Bay, rather than a further 5 miles to the more popular Lamen Bay, where people go to swim with the resident dugong.

On again the next day another 20 miles to the Maskelyne Islands off the SE corner of Malekula.

Maskelyne Islands

Maskelyne Islands

In the well-sheltered anchorage behind the uninhabited Awei Island we find several boats, including Tranquility (US) with Dick and Mary, who we met last year and who are active as radio net controllers.

We are woken early next morning by a visitor inviting us to contribute to his children's school fees. We tell him that we will be happy to buy local produce from him but not just to give money to individuals. We ask for bananas, as an easy request, but do not see him again.

We are invited to a "fund raiser" on the nearby Lembong Island to raise funds for the school. While Dick attempts to repair the island's Honda generator, which is used to provide power for the Saturday night video showing (only film "Conan the Barbarian") the rest of us take a tour of the village where we see earth ovens being opened to extract the laplap we can sample later. We are also treated to a rendition of "Island Dress", a song extolling the virtues of the Mother Hubbard dresses, by the children of the kindergarten.

On return to the village centre there seems to be limited success with the Honda - it runs fitfully but Dick does not think that sitting it in the sand when running does it much good and the prognosis is not good!

In the hall there is what can best be described as a jumble sale. Some locally made oars are purchased for a dinghy and most of us partake of laplap. Generally we make a donation.

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

After another day we head north towards Port Stephens, about 40 miles. Arriving in the late afternoon we anchor off the island of Suaro, some distance from the nearest inhabited island. This does not stop us being woken at around 0600 by a fisherman offering to sell us a mud crab.

Today's plan is to anchor off the jetty in the main town, Lakotoro, where Susan's cousin Valerie taught in the late 70s. The anchorage off the town jetty is fairly exposed to the 20 knot trade wind that is blowing across the lagoon but should be OK for a day stop. We dig the anchor in well!

It is a 1/2 km walk up to the start of the town and a cooperative store, which has little stock. A bit further up the hill we find a bigger store - almost a mini-market! In the store we meet Joyce, a VSO agricultural consultant, who tells us where we will find the CUSO volunteers to whom we have to deliver some leaflets from the women's centre in Port Vila. She also suggests we visit her later in her office, so that she can give us details of a festival that is to occur soon.

We find our CUSO contacts by the cultural centre, which consists of a small museum and a library. After eating our lunches we head back to the government offices to meet Joyce. By coincidence her office is next door to the education office, where Valerie's husband used to work. One of the present occupants of the office still remember Valerie and Gerry. He thinks that not much has changed "apart from the height of the trees".

We collect information of the forthcoming festival and promise to pass the word around amongst the cruising yachts.

Continuing on a tour of the town, we come across the school and go in for a look around. The principal greets us and has a short talk with us. He is relatively new and the school is not the same as in Valerie's day.

On return to the boat, we pass on some books for the library and then head back to the anchorage over the lagoon, where there are other boats at anchor.

Here we are invited to snorkel on their giant clam reserve - plenty of medium sized clams but not much else.

Richard is asked if he can help repair leaks in a dugout canoe and in an aluminium fishing boat. He uses epoxy and glass fibre tape but the dugout has quite extensive rot, so success is unlikely. The owner of the fishing boat is advised not to use it for at least 24 hours, to allow the epoxy to cure properly. However, he is off in it the next morning - so that probably wasn't successful.

In the evening we are invited ashore for a village feast, complete with string band.



It is an overnight trip from Port Stephens to Lolowai on Ambae, where there is to be a cultural festival. On the trip there is an impressive glow in the air from the active volcano on Ambryn, some 40 miles to the south.

We arrive in the early morning, having viewed an excellent sunrise over the islands of Maewo and Pentecote. The entrance to the anchorage is fairly shallow, so we anchor in the next bay to wait for the tide.

The actual anchorage at Lolowai is in the crater of an extinct volcano, which has breached to the sea. The entrance is on leading lines and is down to about 3 metres.

There are several boats already in the anchorage, but plenty of room. We are visited by the local kindergarten teacher who offers to arrange transport to the festival, which is about 17 km away, in the centre of the island. We need to go the next day, so as to be back in Port Vila for the investiture. Most of the other cruisers are not planning to go on the first day.

Ambae Festival

Ambae Festival

We go ashore during the morning but it is not till about 3 that a pick-up truck is available. This turns out not to be a problem as the opening ceremony is still in progress when we arrive. It is very much a local affair and is extremely well attended, with lots of dance groups.

We watch several of the dances, after which the string band competition starts. Susan causes much amusement when she dances.

We had not reckoned it being cold, but the centre of the island is quite high and it cools down rapidly when the sun sets. We come back down the hill at about 7.30.

The next morning we leave for the non-stop trip back to Port Vila.

Ambae to Port Vila

A fairly quiet overnight trip around the west of Ambryn - no fireworks tonight. Then it's down the west of Epi and Efate. It is very rough as we come round the SW corner of Efate, we should have stayed further out.

We get to Port Vila during the afternoon and pick up a mooring. We have a day to spare before the investure, which we will get to by dinghy.

Vanuatu investiture

Vanuatu investiture

In best cruisers' clothes we take the dinghy to the investiture site in the morning, and go to Pastor Douglas' house.

The venue is at the village hall, where a marquee has been erected, with seats for the elite. We get one of them.

There are several parts to the event. Initially there is a flag raising ceremony, complete with buglers and choir. Then the chief makes some local presentations.

The presentation

 The presentation

Eventually the President of Vanuatu and his entourage arrive and the main ceremony gets underway. There are some 20 people being honoured. Following the actual investiture there is a kava ceremony for the chief. The rest of us get apple juice and cake. Gifts, including the obligatory pigs (alive), are presented and speeches made.

Dancing with the President

Dancing with the President

Following this there is a meal for, it appears, the whole island. The queue takes 45 minutes to get served. As foreigners we are ushered to the front, and found seats near to the top table. Including us there are only seven or eight guests who are not ni-Vanuatu.

After the lunch the village string band strikes up and some of the guests dance. Susan asks Helen if the President dances and is encouraged to ask! She does and so he does!

The next day Douglas and Helen, together with some of their grandchildren come to Sea Bunny for dinner. Helen does not like the look of the dinghy and gets one of the water taxis to bring her from the town jetty.

Before leaving Port Vila we take an island tour by taxi, with lunch at the golf club.

Vanuatu to New Caledonia

An uneventful 4-day sail down to New Caledonia, passing through the Loyalty Islands at night and arriving at the Havannah Pass through the barrier reef just after dawn. The leading marks are difficult to make out but we enter OK.

It is some 50 miles from the pass round to Noumea, where we must check in, so we do not arrive there until late afternoon, berthing in a proper marina, with finger pontoons.

The marina arrange for the officials to visit. Quarantine require that we peel all fruit, but can keep the contents, except for papaya seeds.



As we are waiting for a weather window to head for New Zealand Sea Bunny does not leave Noumea, because we would have to come back to clear out.

Noumea is essentially a French city, moved to the South Pacific. Even the drains smell French (actually some smell Algerian, which is worse). There are supermarkets which would not be out of place in Cherbourg, selling French goodies, and an excellent market just down from the marina.

We spend our time visiting some of the museums, including the very futuristic Tjibaou Cultural Centre just outside the town. There is an excellent aquarium, which even has a room which is darkened and lit by ultraviolet light where deep see creatures are displayed, including nautilus, which are seldom seen alive, as they live about 1000 metres down.

Richard spends a day suffering from severe abdominal pains, but seems better the next day.

A visit to the meteorolgical office on the hill above the town and a discussion with helpful forecasters indicates a possible weather window for the trip.

New Caledonia to New Zealand - October 2003

New Caledonia to New Zealand - October 2003

The forecast proves not too bad and we have a fairly good trip, except one spectacular thunderstorm, lasting a whole night.

Once again we end up a bit too far to the east and have to head back into a light headwind to get to Opua, where we once again arrive at night



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Last updated from One15 marina, Singapore on 27 November 2013

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