20 October 2006

Port Vila, Vanuatu

Hey All!

Hope this finds all well. First, a Happy Belated Birthday to my sister Shannon! Second, to all my family in Buffalo, New York. I hope you have found your way out of all the snow and are warming up.

A little about our stay here in Port Vila. We have been here about 10 days thus far and it has rained every single day! We actually haven'’t done much as far as touring the island. We'’ve just been relaxing, catching up on sleep, and eating lots of good food.

The market here is really crazy. It is open 24 hours a day. I'’m almost positive that these folks just sleep on the floor Monday through Saturday. Then on Sunday they go to church, or get together with their families outside the market. The food at the market is so cheap. You can get 2 punds of tomatoes for $1, 10 heads of butter lettuce for $1, 5 coconuts for $1, and the longest bunch of green onions I have ever seen for $1. And the best part is that the produce is organic!

We found this great restaurant called "“Jill'’s, the American Cafe"”. So we have been piggin'’ out on milkshakes, burgers, and fries. Jill is from Redondo Beach, California. So she knows what she is doing.

Also, Edward on S/V ‘Blue Sky’ found an article in the paper, before he joined the crew, about eating in Vanuatu. He has been showing us some of the great French restaurants around town. Because we are so close to New Caledonia, there is a strong French influence here.

Last Thursday we went to a '‘Village'’ and participated in a village ceremony. We drank kava, ate food cooked in the ground, and watched the local dance and customs. It was a wonderful experience. We will post photos as soon as we can when we get to Australia.

Did we mention that our auto pilot finally broke? Well, it is probably 20 years old, so we knew it was living on borrowed time. My mom brought us a new motor for it while in Mexico. Tom then swapped it out on our crossing, minus some gears, and found that it actually worked better. Go figure.

Towards the end, we had a bungie cord holding it together. Then finally, it busted. I had to hand steer for last 6 hours of our voyage into Port Vila.

A few days ago Tom started putting our new autopilot in. Now just like that, we have a brand spanking new auto pilot. Tom did a fantastic job. We took the boat out yesterday and programmed the new pilot. Wow! It is so quiet and smooth. What a difference!

This morning Tom and I are getting the boat ship-shape for our 10 day voyage to Australia, and for our boat guest Ron, who arrives tomorrow. I have been to the grocery store several times and still have one more stop to make today to get us topped off.

When we arrive in Australia, the Quarantine Service will come aboard to look for and remove any canned meat products, fresh meat, vegetables, eggs, milk, milk products not from Australia or New Zealand, shells, and wood carvings that may be infested with pests. We still has a few cans of chicken mol'e and lots of canned tuna. We hope you like tuna Ron.

We will also officially check out Vanuatu today so we can take advantage of the duty-free booze and load up before taking off. From what we hear, spirits are quite pricey in Australia. So it is a good idea to stock up here.

Sunday afternoon is our official first day of the rally, starting with a free Bar-B-Q at the Yacht Club here in Port Vila. There we will receive our packet of information about the daily events that will take place on the rally. I'’ve heard they have games planned that will coincide with our radio nets. There are all sorts of things happening when we get to Bundaberg. On 01-November there will be an awards breakfast. There are bar-b-ques every night. One day is a swap meet . Another day is a tour of the local rum factory. I think we will be quite busy upon arrival.

When we first signed up, there were only 14 boats entered in the rally. I think it i’s up to 30 now, so should be a good party. We also found out there are 3 "Sandpiper’s"’ in the rally. So we call them "Sandpiper US" (us), "Sandpiper UK", and "Sandpiper Catameran".

I think everyone knows that Ron posts our blog entries for us. He assures us that he has found someone to take over for him while he joins “Team Sandpiper” on our final South Pacific voyage. So keep checking the blog, as we will keep up with the postings.

Love to All

Amy and Tom

Note From Ron: I won't be able to update the Google Earth map, or augment the posts with interesting links. So I will catch up on all of that when I get back. In the meantime you will have to plot the voyage the old fashioned way... by hand on a map.

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