|Blue Rodeo at anchor-Ambae|
|Curious Anenome Fish|
|Colorful Sea Scallop|
|Crown of Thorns|
|Anne with anchor Aese Island|
|White Tip Reef Shark|
|Gobi & Shrimp|
|Nudibranch Lathu Island|
With weather once again determining when we sailed and where we anchored, we departed Maewo’s Asanvari Bay and headed for the big island of Espiritu Santo making just a quick overnight stop on the island of Ambae. The memorable thing about Ambae, was the nice black sand anchorage in the lee of a tall, tree-covered cliff face. We were able to anchor in shallow water right next to the cliff and got a great view of flying foxes (fruit bats) hanging upside down in the nearby trees. They sleep during the day and, at sunset, become active flying about in search of an evening meal.
Rotua Island, just south of Santo was a favorite spot of ours last year and this year was no exception. The snorkeling off the charming resort is some of the best we have ever experienced. This is because of the variety of coral and reef life that reside in such a small area, all within swimming distance of the anchorages. This year we found cuttle fish, shrimp, and schools of mackerel to mention just a few. New friends Eric and Anne, on the yacht “Reflections”, are avid divers and have been coming to Vanautu for years. They are helping to spearhead an effort to remove the Crown of Thorns Starfish (Cots) that feed on healthy coral by turning their stomachs inside out through their mouths and emitting an enzyme that dissolves coral. The females produce 100 million eggs each season and scientists believe that they have been around for over 10,000 years. They are the largest of the starfish and can grow up to 2’ in diameter. They are covered in sharp thorns with up to 2” spines that have poison sacks in them. Most sea stars have 5 arms, these have up to 23. Yikes! Anyway, during our diving here in Vanuatu this year, we have noticed an abnormal amount of them chowing down on the reefs and felt that we should do our part to help control them. Eradication involves carefully picking them up with a metal probe and placing them in a bag to be brought ashore for disposal. Between “Evergreen” and ourselves we took about one hundred off the small reef at Ratua alone. Amazing!
North, around Ratua Island is Luganville, the biggest town on the island of Santo. It is hot, dusty and lacking in any real charm. While anchored nearby, we did manage to go ashore for a meal or two out, have laundry done, buy groceries and fuel and treat ourselves to hard-to-find Magnum ice cream bars. We often find that discussions of food cravings with our friends turn to how much we miss a few familiar items like broccoli, asparagus and, of course, ice cream. While in remote areas, shopping lists are made but we are usually disappointed and few items get checked-off when we get to a town. Life in the States has sure spoiled us!
We have since made several stops along the east coast of Espiritu Santo. At uninhabited Aese Island, we got lost in the jungle while ashore in search of fresh limes. At Oyster Bay, we squeaked into the inner bay crossing a shallow patch with just one foot of water under our keel. Stops at Hog Harbor and Port Orly provided opportunities for more scuba dives and Crown of Thorns removal.
Decisions, decisions, decisions! Earlier in the season, our plans had been to visit the more northerly Banks and Torres island groups. Doing so would have meant more miles bashing to windward when the time came to head for New Caledonia. So, after a lengthy pow wow while enjoying drinks and hor d’ouvres with the Evergreen and Gypsea Heart crews, we decided to turn back to the southeast and head for Port Vila where we can wait for a good weather window and officially clear-out of Vanuatu. The next week or so will be spent sailing upwind, “paying the piper” so to speak, for all of the pleasant downwind sails we’ve enjoyed over the last two months.