Fiji to Vanuatu… Out of the water and into the Volcano

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We had been pretty keen to get to Fiji for some time. It’s warm waters are a welcome change from the colder waters of Tonga. Fiji also provides the perfect place for surfing, kiting and diving… not to forget the best beer goin, Fiji Gold.

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Suva Market is incredible. Lots of fresh produce with most of it the cheapest we have seen along the trip. We spent a few days in Suva to do some clothes shopping, provision, drink and dine at our favourite family establishment… McDonalds.

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Jono had to fly home for a few days, so me and the girls took the boat 20 miles to Beqa Lagoon to do some diving and surfing.

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We had a rare glassy day, so me and Bucko put the tanks on and went diving near the boat

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The water was crystal clear and the corals in the area in good health

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The surf camp here was operational last time I was here 3 years ago. With Frigates pass only a few miles away. This place has it made.

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The land is leased off the locals, but the owners hadn’t paid their lease money for 10 years so they have since been ejected… leaving this awesome surf camp left to rot. How much to lease the land? about $5000 a year.

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The locals have been looking after the place while the argument is sorted out within the Fijian courts. I’ve made some calls to the Lands Trust Board who said they will keep me updated of the progress and when it gets put up for tender… Watch this space.

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The next day we got up at first light and took Cowabunga down to Frigates. Sure enough it was a glorious day. There were only a handful of guys out which means plenty of good waves go through unridden.

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By the afternoon, it was only me above and two guys from New Caledonia in the water, making the most of the shoulder high walls. Frigates rivals Cloudbreak on any given day, but it is twice as consistent and doesn’t have 40 well-heeled surfers in the lineup

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I could of spent a few days surfing there, but we had to make a move to Musket Cove because Jono was flying back in, and the Musket Cove Regetta was due to start

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The Regatta is a social event, which has been going on for the last few decades. We managed to squeeze in on the ferry dock for the week of partying.

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We ran into old friends Jaz and Tolly from Le Mistral who we met back at the start in Trinidad and hadn’t seen since. We invited ourselves onto their much faster catamaran for the social racing.

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The first race is a pirates day race to Beachcombers resort. Basically a pissup for the adults and a waterbomb fight… also mainly for the adults.

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Water bombs poised, ready to smash some kid in the face

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This kid just asking for it

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Captain Tolly at the helm.

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Le Mistral Crew. Chris, Sara, Jas, Tolly, me, Bucko, Jono and Hannah behind the camera

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The girls always keen to peruse the cocktail list

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The other main event for the regatta is the Hobie Cat challenge. Me and Jono teamed up to take on the other boats in the regatta.

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It’s a knockout match race, starting with 36 boats. They widdle it down over a few days to the final 4.

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Unfortunately we came across Tolly and Chris in the 3rd round. There is one rule for the racing, there are no rules, so Tolly resorted to dirty tactics trying to take out our rudder. Fighting fire with fire, we won the race and progressed to the finals

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These beat up resort cats were pretty docile, but when the wind picked up there was plenty of carnage

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After making it through unscathed to the finals, we came unstuck in the final few races to finish an equal 3rd. Much to the disgust of our fans

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The sandbank party featured beer drinking comps, tug of wars, and a wet T Shirt competition I was petrified of watching. Keep in mind the cruising crowd is averaging at about 50 years of age

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We headed back out on Le Mistral for another days racing. This time the big Round the Island Race. With the A Team above on board, things were taken pretty seriously… Until the steering cable of a competing 50 foot cat snapped, which ended up T boning us crushing the stern section of poor Le Mistral.

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They had a letter “M” theme dressup party one night at the bar. Everyone was taking this very seriously, leaving us no choice. Mary Poppins, Michael Hutchence (choking himself), Miss Musket and a Mechanic.

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Michael Hutchence and Miss Musket made it to the final 10 but didn’t take out the big prize

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The crew of Le Mistral at the closing ceremony dinner…

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Pig on the spit, Fijian style

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After the regatta had whined down, Caitlins parents Robin and Deborah had flown in from Brisbane for a week staying at the Resort. So we took them and Cowabunga out to Cloud 9 for the day.

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Cloud 9 a is a floating bar/pizza restaurant conveniently located a few miles from Musket Cove. We parked Cowabunga nearby and went on board for a beer.

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Caitlin a happy little kid being reunited with her parents a year after leaving home.

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The bar is such a great idea and would be an awesome addition somewhere in Southern Qld if the fun police would allow it

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On the way back to Musket, the wind was pumping and the tide was low, so we stopped off at the Sandbank with Zissou for a bit of an expression session. Kim showing us how its done

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Jono getting some great shots standing in the shallows or in the tender

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Bucko got in on the action.

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The resort toys kept the Buckner family busy each day. Bucko taking Trev for a paddle with the parentals

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Robin and Deborah enjoying a coconut de-husking demonstration

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We wanted to do some surfing, however the wind was strong every day, so instead we opted for kiting every afternoon at low tide.

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The wind was pumping so the 7m kite was out for some kite loop fun

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Kim airborne

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Reaching for the camera

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Hannah enjoying a paddle around the Island bar

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Jono and I ventured out to the surf breaks a couple times. Once the wind came in as we arrived, and once the outboard played up when we got all the way out to Cloudbreak… only to be greeted by 50 people in the lineup. After getting a couple waves in, it was back to Musket cove.

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After an action pack week, we said goodbye to Caitlin’s parents, heading back to Brisbane. We hope you enjoyed yourselves and that it was worth the trip to come visit us.

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The next day, after nearly 2 weeks in Musket Cove, we left the dock and headed up through the Mamanucas chain. We found a nice empty anchorage surrounded by beautiful coral reefs

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The island next to us, now named Castaway Island, was made famous for being the beach where Tom Hanks filmed his movie Castaway

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For those who remember the movie, this is where Tom set up shop for all those years.

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Zissou and Sea Wolf had followed us up here and built a pizza oven using the flat stones on the beach

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The guys from Sea Wolf had a portable projector on board, so we built a fire as the sun set, readied the pizza and popcorn..

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and watched the movie Castaway on the beach, on the exact same location it was shot, with the fire gently burning next to us with Rum and Coconut in  hand… Doesn’t get much better than that.

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With memories refreshed from watching the movie, Wilson gets a run…

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The next day we said Goodbye to Sea Wolf and Zissou and headed further north to Octopus Resort. Someone had told the girls that espresso Martinis were on the cocktail menu, so that was a good enough excuse for us to go there.

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We left Waya and bashed our way 10 miles upwind to Navadra Island, one of the most protected anchorages in the Mamanucas.

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One afternoon the wind was pumping and a swell was appearing on the point.

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Jono went out to explore and finding some shade above.

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We headed back to the mainland to start getting ready to leave. It was Hannahs last night on board Cowabunga, so a night out was on the cards. Bucko looking very unimpressed at whatever concoction Hannah is mixing up.

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So we went into Nadi and hit the local Crubs. Two photos survived the night, this being the pick of the two, and I have no idea who that bloke next to me is

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Hannah spent a great 2 and a half months on board and now heads home to New Zealand to visit family for a while, before making the move to Brisbane early next year.

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The Sail drives were due for an oil change. There are 2 ways of doing this. Paying $600+ to haul the boat from the water for 20 minutes, or beach the boat and wait for the tide to go out

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The tide went out just far enough to get a container under the gearboxes and pull the drain plug. I gave Cowabunga’s hull a nice little rub down at the same time

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We headed up to Latouka to do a last minute provision, stock up on Fiji Gold and to clear out of the country.

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Friend of a friend, Josh, had flown in from Brisbane for the trip to Vanuatu and on to New Caledonia. We left in calm conditions, checking out the surf breaks on the way out the pass.

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After about an hour of motoring, the wind picked up and the engines were turned off, not to be started for another 3 days. We had a pretty rough trip, leaving Josh a little green behind the ears for the 460nm trip.

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It was a gloomy passage, this blood bath of a Mahi brightening up our day.

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The main spent the last 24 hours in the bag to slow us down for a dawn arrival. The glowing red sky from the Volcano could be seen 20 miles away.

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Cowabunga happy to be in the calm anchorage at Port Resolution. It was a Sunday, and although Port Resolution isn’t an official port of entry for Vanuatu, we were told someone would be here to clear us in. No one was, so we just went ashore anyway.

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Local guy Stanley set up the Port Resolution Yacht Club many years ago to cater for all the yachts passing through the area this time of year. Its rough and ready, but the guys here are keen to please.

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The village at Port Resolution has a few hundred, tight knit inhabitants. This place reminded me a lot of Papua New Guinea.

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Taking a stroll through the village

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The only reason we came here, was to climb the Volcano. In what is described as “The most accessible active Volcano in the world”, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that.

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The volcano is a 45 minutes drive from Port Resolution, then a short walk up around the craters edge

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However things don’t always go to plan, and the weather didn’t really cooperate, meaning visibility was pretty limited. Bucko above sucking in the strong sulphur fumes.

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Every now and then the steam would clear, and we’d see into the belly of the beast, throwing molten Lava several hundred feet away. Quite a few people have been killed from copping a lava facial

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Team Volcano 2014 – Josh, Jono, Bucko, Me

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We purposely went up at sunset, to get the full effect as the sun set

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As day turned into night, it got more and more spectacular the darker it got.

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Looking more like a photo off a movie set rather than from a crater of a Volcano

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Back in Port Resolution, Frisbee golf gets a run to pass the day.

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We donated a heap of clothes and supplies for the local school, who are a little cash poor.

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These boys just been out hunting for the morning with the bow and arrows.

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Tucked in the roof of the Yacht Club, a Port Curtis Sailing Club pennant sits proudly. Not sure who would of placed this one.

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After 3 days of being in Vanuatu, we had still not cleared in. So we decided it best to get moving to New Caledonia to avoid the process altogether, saving us a lot of money. We had the girls at the yacht club cook us dinner the last night, complete with warm beer. The next morning, we left early for the 250NM trip to Noumea, arriving through the pass the following afternoon.

3 comments

  1. Chris Smith says:

    Greetings from Manchester, Blighty.

    I’ve been following your blog since I found your Atlantic crossing vid on YouTube over a year ago.

    It looks like your trip just gets better and better and whenever there’s an update I can’t wait to read what you’ve been up to and take in the photos.

    Hopefully in a few years I’ll be doing something similar…

    Keep living the dream in the meantime guys :-)

  2. Stephen Rolls says:

    You bloody inspiration! I’m taking off to Vanuatu next week to do a yacht delivery to New Zealand. Nothing like sunsets and dolphins, I can’t get enough of them! Enjoy New Caledonia and hope to see you in the South Pacific.

    Fair winds

  3. Robin says:

    Andy – certainly ‘Worth the Trip’ – Deborah and I had a fantastic time spending an action packed week of activities but especially the opportunity to make contact with you and Caitlin whilst on your journey of a lifetime. Welcome back to Brisbane.

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