Thanks to Axel and Gudren V Slick now has 215 watts of solar and so far it has exceed expectations. I really should have put this on sooner. Soon after the installation though, we left Fiji for Vanuatu. It was sad to leave Baten Anna behind, but that is the nature or traveling, you make good friends and eventually you part ways.

We landed in Port Resolution on Tanna after a slow sail from Fiji. There was a constant squall line that moved about the same speed as we did, so we got it everyday. The first day we could see water spouts and did our best to avoid getting into the weather. My new crew, Joep, was also properly initiated by puking his first day out, but now he is better. The sailing was slow and boring and there was too much wave action to put up the kite and so it took a day longer than I would have liked. In one of the run-ins with the squalls though, we did get a refreshing 38 knots, instantly up from about 5, luckily we were motoring so there wasn’t too much canvas up.

Vanuatu is, so far, quite an incredible place. The village in Port Resolution was beautiful and relaxed. You could see the eruption clouds and steam vents on the opposite side of the bay, adding to the mystery. Fishermen in very authentic dugout canoes gathered everyday to fish, although we never saw them catch a thing. They would bring out their phones and DVD players for us to charge as electricity in the village has been absent for years. It is interesting to watch traditional villagers interact with modern technology, one could probably write an anthropology thesis on just this. Whoever installed the power producing technology, such as solar panels, failed to teach the locals anything about it, so now it is all broken. In one instance, the panels were mounted directly behind the football goal and had cracks in them from too many shots. We were asked to take a look at them and found the obvious right away, but the villagers really didn’t believe the modern marvel of electricity could be defeated by a simple soccer ball.

The people of Vanuatu so far have been very kind, although a bit daft. Sometimes when you talk to them, they run out of words or even worse, don’t have a response and so just say yes to everything, meaning you have no idea what you just negotiated. This isn’t due to not speaking English either, as they do. They also speak a local dialect similar to a pigdin English, called Bislama, that is quite humorous, but in a good way. Once you understand what the changes are, you can read it and understand most of it just fine. While in Port Resolution, we also toured the school, where the children seemed excited to learn but kept the classroom in a chaotic state. We gave them paper and pencils as they had very little supplies.

To clear into the country we had to take a truck ride across the island. This was similar to what you see in Baja style racing, except we were standing in the back, holding on to a welded rack/cage. This was a great way to see the island too. We were taken first to a festival that happens only once every 3-4 years and saw some very traditional dancing. This was unlike any other dancing we had seen and it seemed part of the object was to kick up as much dust as possible. It was fantastic though and not a tourist attraction at all. It took place far from town at the intersection of two roads under a giant banyan tree. Any given dance troupe had as many as 300 people in it, stomping there feet in unison making the ground shutter. They also spent the days catching and tying pigs that would be killed later. They slaughter about 200 pigs for the ceremonies. The purpose of the festival was to celebrate good relations with another village that also hosts the festival. After seeing this, clearing into the country was uneventful and we returned to port resolution.

The main reason we came to Tanna though was to see the very active volcano Yasur. The truck ride up to the volcano was as eventful as the one crossing the island, but the volcano was absolutely amazing. I have been trying to see live lava for a very long time, and now I finally have, in the form of explosive Strombolian styled eruptions. The volcano has two active vents inside of the scoria cone and you can stand on the rim and look down in. Since there is a lot of water in the pressurized lava, when it gets near the surface it becomes much more volatile creating a smaller explosive eruption (think the volcanic equivalent of soda fizzing) instead of the massive mountain top destroying sort of event that makes the news. This doesn’t mean it is safe though as there were a few times when an explosion was large enough to send large “bread bombs” landing within a few meters of us. When an eruption would occur, if it was large enough, you could see it, then hear the blast and feel the concussion, and then the heat. This was truly an incredible site, and of course, I made tons of video that I will post later.

We left the next day and had a fairly straight forward sail to Port Villa. At one point we flew the chute and hit 9.5 knots, an exciting speed on Slick. But then as night fell we put the big guns away and sailed on the jib, only to encounter a heavy counter current between the islands and little wind. No worries, we arrived without trouble and are staying at the Yachting World Moorings. Port Villa is amazingly well equipped for being in such a backwards little country. The food is great and provisions are reasonably priced and there is the best vegetable market we have seen since, well, ever. We even had an evening in a casino, something I never do. But the only problem with this place is that it seems a cheap vacation alternative for Australians. This past of Vanuatu is lousy with them.

In a few days we will sail north to some more volcanoes and waterfalls and the wild part of Vanuatu. The southern islands are the “richer” ones and the north is where it gets even more backwards. This will be very interesting I think and I am looking forward to it. Also, please don’t get me wrong, I really like it here, the scenery, the people, and the weather are beautiful, but it really is daft and backwards more than anywhere we have seen yet. After the north islands, I will have to say good-bye to Obelisk, with whom we have sailed for 3500 miles. We part ways as they head to New Zealand, like everyone else, and we go to the Solomons, Palau and the Philippines, like no one else.