Cruising the South Pacific with Tackless II
Tackless II, along with her two captains, Don and Gwen, cruise from Fiji to Australia
Saturday, September 6, 2008
30 August 2008 – Banan Bay, Malekula
As predicted, by turning back south, we have started paying the piper for all that grand beam-reach sailing we've been enjoying. That said, Tackless II continues to impress us with her performance even in these less than ideal conditions -- too much wind, choppy seas and close hauled...never our favorite point of sail.

However, our reward was pulling into Banan Bay anchorage on the east coast of Malekula (S16*20'.404; E167*45'.293). These places never look like what you picture from the sketch maps in the guide books, and I guess I never looked at the pictures in the Tusker electronic guide for this one, but it is a big round anchorage with wooded shoreline, great protection, and little sign of any villages except plumes of smoke. There was one boat in the anchorage when we pulled in, who turned out to be old friends from several years ago of whom we'd totally lost track. But bless their hearts, they pushed out of here at 5am this morning to bash further south leaving us to wake ALL BY OURSELVES! This is a first for us this year. And depending on the weather forecast I download, we may not mar it by launching the dinghy. The villages in Vanuatu have been wonderful experiences, but it's great to indulge in the feeling that we are all alone!

There is a record high pressure system (1049mb) crossing New Zealand to the south which is generating steady 20knots winds here, doggedly out of the southeast, when what we need are light winds or none from the northeast to enable us to get back easily to Port Vila. Not likely to happen, but, the wind is supposed to ease up a smidge tomorrow, so we will probably take what little we can get and bash onward.

In the meantime we are passing the day contentedly on Tackless II without launching the dinghy or exploring ashore. Every time we make this decision I feel guilty, because every place we stop has interesting stuff to see and people to meet, and we will not likely ever get back to any of them in this lifetime.

But there is only so much you can do right, especially when you have a schedule. If I haven't said it outright, you have surely deduced by reading between the lines, that we are not much liking having the ICA rally schedule over our heads. This is not really the rally's fault, but our own for being so late in the season. We owe the rally a lot for getting us out of Fiji relatively painlessly when our own motivation was about gone. And I believe we will be grateful for the same facilitating the rally will enable in the jump from Vanuatu to New Caledonia's out-of-the-way Loyalty Islands as the year fast counts down to cyclone season. We wouldn't want to miss New Cal in a late season rush to Australia, so it's either a little of each or all and none. The majority of the rally participants are New Zealanders doing their annual seasonal cycle – NZ to Tonga to Fiji to Vanuatu to New Cal and then back to NZ again– so they conceivably can do it over and over again. It's a cycle we could jump on if we had the gumption.

Since we probably don't have that gumption, I am sitting here in Banan Bay reflecting on the things I am not going to get to see in Vanuatu. We are not going to get to Espirito Santo, the island where the US Military was based during World War II. James Michener (along with John F. Kennedy) was based there during the war, and it served as the foundation of his famous Tales of the South Pacific, which, of course, led to the musical and film South Pacific. South Pacific was one of the first movies I ever remember seeing, even before Disney…although, in fact I may not actually have seen it, and just imprinted on the songs that my sister Cecily would have brought home. I remember her singing with me for hours, "Ditez-moi, pourquoi, la vie est belle; ditez-moi, pourquoi, la vie est gaie, ditez-moi, pourquoi, chere mademoiselle? Est-ce-que, parce-que, vous m'aimez?!" (With that kind of start, no wonder I've had a knack for French!)

Actually, the song that has been playing on instant replay in my mind since arriving in Tanna is the one about "coconut palms and banyan trees and coral sands and TONKinese." Between the two of them, I really did expect to see sweeping French plantations on the hillsides and Bali Hai on the horizon. There are certainly still sweeping stands of copra plantations, but I don't know if there are still some that are French-owned or how many of those owners continue to live here in colonial elegance. Maybe I'll find out in Port Vila. But we didn't get to Espirito Santo, and I probably would have been disappointed anyway as Dave and Chrissie report there is little left of the military base left at Luganville. And as for Bali Hai, Lonely Planet says Ambae, the island that was on our Asanvari horizon, is the one that inspired Michener. We didn't get to Ambae either.

And speaking of reflections, I have been reading Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs & Steel, very interesting material for a cruise through this land of dugout outriggers, subsistence gardening, chiefdoms and secretive custom religions all in a balancing act with cellular towers and DVDs, western religion, a bi-partisan colonial heritage (Vanuatu was ruled under a condominium government from 1906-1980 shared by the historically prickly governments of England and France!), and now thirty years of independence during which at least they have not been taken over by resort chains.

By this point in the Pacific, cruisers are frequently pondering about what it is we have learned from our travels, debating over whether places like Vanuatu should get outside help to get up to speed with the rest of the world or whether they should be entirely left alone. No easy answer as they are struggling with the question themselves. It's not so hard to foresee a time when the world will be without this diversity, where we will be largely homogenized into one global state. I'm glad that time is not quite yet here.

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