June 27

Well it's almost the end of June and things are going pretty well so far. Nothing major has broken since we left Australia, though a couple of things which were broken when we left Oz were fixed! So we feel ahead of the game. Our experiences in New Caledonia were pleasant, though we are glad we stopped there, we are grateful we didn't stay the 3 months we had first planned on. The climate in Vanuatu is so superior, in our view, we are just thrilled to be here. And the climate is not the only nice thing about this country. Of course, few Americans will ever see this country, nor New Caledonia, considering their great distance from the US. Other than cruisers, we did see some Americans in a cafe 2 days ago.

We assume they were off the cruise ship ("Pacific Sky") that was in town that day. Of course, the whole character of the town changes dramatically when a cruise ship is in port. We met a family in the park from Australia also off the ship. A young couple with a 3 year old, they said the ship left Sydney and made stops in Port Vila, Lifou in the Loyalty Islands (part of New Caledonia) and finally Noumea before returning to Sydney.

When we arrived in Vila we decided we wanted to try to find a pair of decent speakers for the cockpit. We saw an advertisement in the cruising guide (a tour guide book for sailors) and it actually said they carry waterproof marine speakers. We went in there and found they were Bose 151s and the price was only $30 more then in the West Marine catalog. Anyway, I went back the next day to buy them and they wouldn't sell them to me because it's a Duty Free shop and they only sell to people who are leaving the country.

Now of course, every cruise ship passenger that walks in the door meets that definition. The town is littered with Duty Free shops. They sell cameras, perfume, booze, other electronics, etc. But me, since I am on a boat, I have to have a clearance (a document from customs saying the vessel has cleared customs and immigration and is free to leave the country, usually within 48hours of issuance). So here's the rub, I can't buy them till I am ready to leave the country, and we won't be leaving the country from Port Vila.

Today I will go to customs and get a "cruising permit" which is officially called an inter-island transport clearance and allows us to spend one month among the other islands of Vanuatu (the ones which do not have customs and immigration offices) before we must return to one of the (2) such offices in the country. One here in Vila, the other in Luganville on Espirito Santo. It is from Luganville that we will eventually leave the country. But of course, in Luganville they do not have the Bose 151 speakers we want.

I will speak with Customs today when I get the cruising permit and ask them if they could find some way to give me a form that will allow me to purchase them anyway. In most countries they allow you to purchase equipment for the vessel tax free and normally this must meet the requirement that the equipment is "installed permanently" on or in the vessel. I can easily make a case that loudspeakers (ahem, for my VHF radio so I can hear it in the cockpit, yeah, that's what they're for) are ship's equipment so perhaps there is a way.

Otherwise we are going to take Jonah to get a haircut today. We need to stock up on a few items at the supermarket (pasta sauce, coke, and a few other misc. items) and then tomorrow we will head out. Our basic plan as it is now coalescing is to spend some time poking about Havannah Harbor on the East side of Efate (the island we are now at) then go up to Emae Island, a small island about 5 miles long with an offshore reef called Cook's Reef about 2 miles away. The plan is to dive Cook's Reef during the day and anchor at night at Emae. Of course, this can only be accomplished in good weather and we are expecting several days of very calm weather coming up.

After Emae we will go another 30 miles North to the island of Epi where we will anchor at Lamen Bay. Then we must head back South again to Port Vila to renew our cruising permit. In fact, we have to get an extension from immigration and then get a new cruising permit from Customs! The deal is immigration will ONLY give you a one month visa upon arrival. Then you can extend you visa for another month, I think up to 3 times for a total of four months. For cruisers this means we have to get to Vila or Luganville every 30 days. Thus our plan is visit some of the islands to our North and then backtrack to Vila for an extension. Then for the second month we can hop over Emae and Epi and make our first stop in Malekula (which lies about 20 miles Northwest of Epi or 65nm from Efate Island) then we will hop over to Ambrym Island which is about 15 miles Northeast of Malekula and from there North to Pentacost then finally due West (about 55 miles) to Espirito Santo where we can get one more month extension. After that we may just hang around Santo for a week or three, perhaps venturing out to one of the anchorages along the East Coast of Santo, then we will leave Vanuatu for Kiribati, probably around mid-September.

Well anyway, that's our plan right now.