Home, Sweet Home, Sydney Australia!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

WOW - it's been a long time since we last updated our blog. Everything after our last port of New Caledonia is a bit of a blur. Here's a quick update on what we've been doing and where we've settled.

After setting off from Isle de Pines in New Caledonia, we pushed through some challenging weather and sea conditions to arrive in Brisbane 6 days later on the eve of Halloween. After completing a relatively painless quarantine and customs exercise, we had minimal time to get Lazy Bones spruced  up as we had several interested buyers wanting to view her immediately - great news for us!

A thorough clean-up had her looking as good as new, which the prospective buyers also thought as it only took 4 weeks from the date we arrived to signing the 'bill of sale'.

It was bitter sweet for us. We had poured everything we had into the past 12 months and loved our time aboard but the lure of life on land called and we were pretty excited about the adventure ahead.

What we're up to now:

Megan is back at work for Cisco in their marketing team and is really enjoying it. She's also back enjoying yoga at her favourite studio and has a renewed love for walking!

Mike has bought another Laser and is back dinghy sailing at the Double Bay Sailing Club, as well as crewing on some 'big boats'.

We have rented a great apartment in our old stomping ground of North Bondi, a 5 minute walk to the beach has us looking at the view above. We feel really lucky to live here. After all of the traveling we've done and all of the places we've visited along the way, we both agree that Sydney offers a truly incredible balance of beach/lifestyle/big city like nowhere else.

Though ... we do already miss our time on Lazy Bones!

New Caledonia - Tres Bon!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

After what was arguably one of our worst passages to date with 35 knot winds on the nose and short steep seas, we finally arrived in Ouvea, a commune in the Loyalty Islands Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France. It lies about 110nm east of the mainland and was reported to have the nicest beaches in all of the Pacific - we'll be the judges of that!
On our 2 night passage Megan didn't have much enthusiasm for fishing given the winds and sea state but unable to resist the lure, Mike oddly reeled in this squid at dawn.
Our on-board cookbook suggested slicing it into rings, battering it with flour, eggs and seasoning it with sea salt and frying it. We whipped up a quick side of aioli for dipping and served it with fresh lemon for lunch. The result was a bit chewy and could have used a bit more tenderising. We'll know for next time but full points for effort!

Ouvea is not an 'official' port of entry into New Caledonia but since it was 'on the way' to the capital of Noumea we couldn't resist stopping off to enjoy this amazing atoll. We took our chances that the officials wouldn't notice us and anchored here for 4 excellent days of rest and relaxation. Worth every bit of risk. It was AMAZING!
25 kms of uninterrupted, white sand beach. Out of all the beaches we've seen on this trip - Ouvea takes the cake as number 1 for beauty!

  We only saw 3 other boats during our time in Ouvea. A cruiser's paradise.

Ouveau is a very traditional Melanesian island, which is occupied by the indigenous group known as the 'Kanaks'. They are quite insular and are resistant to any exterior influences or change. There is only 1 hotel on the entire island and all water activities are regulated - jet skis and kiteboarding are not permitted anywhere. They want to maintain a peaceful and traditional existence.

Wishing we could stay in the Loyalty Islands for at least another week or two, we had to press on to meet our friends Rob and Nicola who were joining us in Noumea for a week of sailing in the southern islands, followed by our final passage to Brisbane.

Rob Fynn was our private safari guide in Zimbabwe when we hired a catamaran and sailed on Lake Kariba back in July of 2012. View our blog post of Zimbabwe here. Being such a wonderful guy who has lived an incredible life and is a fabulous story teller, we invited him to join us for a portion of our trip.
We began with a fast sail to the Baie of Prony in the far south of Grande Terre. It was an old penal colony with crumbling buildings and evidence of the areas dark past is still present.

Another random solar powered phone booth in the middle of nowhere!

 The old prison.
 The trees were literally growing over the buildings.
 Even the dogs were a little depressed at their surroundings

 The building where convicts were sent for solitary confinement.
We continued to an uninhabited island in the Baie of Prony called Isle Casy. A very small but beautiful island with interesting topography and great walking trails.

The resident dog 'Moose' escorted us on our first walk around the island. After we knew our way he left us to take care of new arrivals. What a host!

 Views out over the Baie de Prony.
Outdoor Jenga!

 We enjoyed sundowners with a beachside fire and new friends on s/v Al Fresco!
 What a boy scout!
Nicola and Rob were wonderful guests and really helped with their share of the cooking and cleaning up. We had great meals and great conversation!
We then sailed to the southern island of Isle de Pines for 4 days of exploring. We anchored in picture perfect Kuto Bay.

View of the outer islands from the look out Pic Nga. Only a 45 minute climb to the top but amazing views of the surrounding lagoon!

This is our final stop before we head off on our 6 day passage to Brisbane, Australia where our sailing trip will come to an end...

Kabooommmm - Volcanic Explosion in Vanuatu!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We had another long passage to tackle – this time on our way to the island of Tanna in southern Vanuatu. 460nm should have seemed like a breeze after all of the miles we’ve clocked up but with inconsistent winds it took 3 long days and 4 nights before we spotted Mt Yasur – the forever erupting volcano offshore just as the sun rose.
Enjoying the beautiful sunrise as we wait for more light to enter Port Resolution.

Shortly after arriving we were greeted by Stanley who works on behalf of the Port Resolution Yacht Club. He greets all of the incoming boats and provides information on what to see and do in the area. Most importantly he arranges transport to Mt. Yasur – the world’s most accessible active volcano, where visitors can get as close to 150m to the rim of the crater. With no safety lines or gates we were super excited to get up close and personal with Mt. Yasur.
We were collected at 3:30pm along with our friends from Lateral Thinking and made the 1 hour drive to the base of the volcano. 
For some bizarre reason, there is a working letterbox at the top of the volcano, Megan couldn’t resist – this one’s for you Julieanne!

As the sun started to set, we made our way up the path to the crater’s rim and immediately heard, felt and saw the amazing power of Yasur.

We were a few days late but the original idea was to celebrate Megan’s 35th b-day on top of the volcano – memorable!
We were prompted to climb even higher for a better look into the smoky cauldron. 
After another 20 minute vertical climb we were literally looking down into two vents that were taking turns spitting rockets of red molten rock and smoke up into the air before us. We could feel the ground shaking every few minutes and then bright red boulders as big as trucks were launched into the air in front of us. The only way to describe it was a natural firework display and it was awesome!!!! 

Here's a quick video while it's still light out to show you how close we were to the rim of the crater

A quick video showing the spectacle at night with sound and everything!

After ticking off a major bucket list activity, we were free to explore the east side of Tanna for a few days, including the village of Port Resolution where time has literally stood still.  There are no stores, no Internet and the village functions as it has for hundreds of years. 

Trading and sharing information with the visiting yachts has become an important part of the social dynamic here and so Stanley was quick to offer some fresh bananas, papayas and breadfruit in exchange for some rice, fishing lures and canned vegetables we had on board.

Looking at photos in a geography book with Stanley and his family.

We were also given permission to walk freely around the village and to observe daily life. These are subsistence farmers who live completely off of the land so most of their time is spent managing their pigs and tending to their root vegetable crops.

Stanley's sister Miriam preparing the evening meal of root vegetables and suckling pig - all which were steamed in an earth oven for the afternoon.
And once the day's chores were done the children would spend time at the beach, learning to surf on whatever the ocean had dragged in or what visitors had left. We spent two great afternoons watching the fun!

Or they would play with whatever they could make, like this boy who used two old fish cans, a nail and a long piece of wood to create a fun toy he drove up and down the beach!

And for the adults, as we’ve seen almost everywhere in our travels – soccer still proves to be the sport of the world.
We wanted to support the local community's efforts so we made a reservation at Leah’s restaurant for a lunch of local fare. This is the only ‘restaurant’ in the village and it caters solely to the yachting community. Leah established the restaurant to help fund her children’s school fees.

We invited Leah to join us for the meal so we could gain a better understanding of life on Tanna. She was very forthcoming about village life and her food was delicious.
On the menu - omelets served with papaya salsa, 3 root vegetables dressed with homemade coconut milk, snake beans and bananas for desert.
Lunch was served on homemade plates made out of banana leaf - talk about sustainable practices!
After stuffing ourselves at Leah's, we set off on a 10km return walk to the next village which had great views over the ocean, including a bay of resident yellow reef sharks.
It's difficult to see but there are a dozen sharks swimming in the shallows in the picture above.
Mike taking Stanley's canoe out for a spin. These canoes are handmade and can last up to 10 years if taken care of properly.
While our time in Tanna was short and we only saw a fraction of the island, we were absolutely taken with the locals - their warmth and hospitality was a highlight. This was by far the closest we've come to interacting with locals in an authentic setting.

Up next - New Caledonia and our last country before we land in Australia in early November.