Hog Harbour and Port Olry,
Many of the locals in Luganville told us about how very beautiful the Banks Islands are and how many boaters don’t visit there because they are so far north. As we had just been informed that Taz’ annual vaccination wouldn’t be available until the end of the month, we decided to use the extra time we now had to head up north and see these islands.
After leaving Luganville we overnighted at the unfortunately named Hog Harbour on the eastern side of Espiritu Santo Island. It is the location of the very beautiful beach of Champagne Bay. Tourists are apparently bussed across the island from Luganville to a resort here. The beach is swept to within an inch of its life and positively gleams. As we were moving on the following morning (and there is purportedly a visiting fee for stepping on the beach) we just admired it from our anchorage. We also noticed a great deal of western building going on along the whole beachfront of Hog Harbour, so there are obviously plans for expanding this area as a tourist attraction.
I shouldn’t complain, but just as we were leaving the Harbour, and I am negotiating the currents around an island that Beloved wanted to check out a bit closer, he goes and catches a decent fish.
Peter and his Dogfish Tuna
It got even more exciting when the line broke as Peter was lifting the fish in! It landed on the back marlin board and was intent on flicking itself back into the water when Peter, doing his best Superman impersonation, leapt to grab the tail and throw his now grumpy fish into the cockpit – the things you do for a meal or 10.
This tuna is the perfect size for us. They can grow to 6’ long, but I don’t have that kind of room in the freezer. Tuna is one of the edible big fish in Vanuatu. The islands have a lot of ciguatera in their reef fish, so it’s best to stick to Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo and Mackerel (steer clear of Barracuda).
Taz will be in a fish coma for quite a while; he pigged out like he had never seen fresh fish before. We had sashimi for lunch and bbq tuna steak for tea. The vacuum packer got a good work out getting meal sized portions ready for the freezer. Although our research showed mixed reviews for edibility of the Dogfish Tuna ranging from excellent to poor, we found it to be well towards the excellent end.
The next day found us pulling into delightful Port Olry, and we had the best weather yet for our stay (but not enough of it – I know always complaining).
Peter walking on the Port Olry Beach – it really is postcard pretty.
Port Olry is not fancy but there are a number of basic resorts and bars along the main beach. We were anchored to the north of the main beach, but after getting the tender sorted so she wouldn’t float off with the tide, we walked over the sand spit and into town (the tender is parked on the other side of the trees at the left of the photo).
We went for a walk into town, but the bakery mentioned in the guide was closed.
So, we went back to the beach for a most acceptable steak burger at the bar and according to Peter the coldest beer he had had in Vanuatu, so he had two to celebrate.
The day after we arrived in Port Olry it was warm and sunny, so we did some snorkelling around a little island in our anchorage – totally lovely.
Peter would spend all day watching these little guys.
I was photographing corals. This is plate coral and we came across fields of it here.
Purple was the colour du jour.
Peter got quite excited when he saw this (and not about the fire-engine-red fan coral). Unfortunately, those antennae belong to a baby and not lunch.
And the last one for today is a Cushion Sea Star. It was at least 35cm across.
We spent a few days here as it was a delightful and protected little anchorage. Then on the 20th at 05 dark o’clock we lifted anchor bound for Ambae Island and then The Banks’.
Taz helping lift the anchor.
Getting Taz ready to go to New Caledonia is proving to be a wee bit nightmarish. He is due for his annual vaccination, but his usual F5 has not been available for months (anywhere, not just Vanuatu). New Caledonia requires that he has at least the F4 (includes the Chlamydia vaccine, which is the one that is not available). We just got word from the New Caledonia authorities that they are giving Taz an exemption for the Chlamydia part of his vaccination – so he can have just the F3 (which is available). He will need to have a Chlamydia test (that will cost a small fortune, as it has to be sent to Australia for processing) and the timing for these and his parasite treatments is getting tight.
New Caledonia quarantine works on a batch processing model (two set intake days each month). As we can’t guarantee to have Taz in Noumea on, not near a set date, we have decided to fly the manky moggie to New Caledonia.
But this is all a lot better than last week when we were thinking that we would have to leave him boarding in Vanuatu until the F5 became available. Our VISAs expire in mid-October so we can’t wait, and he doesn’t have a VISA, so he can. I blame the Koalas for the lack of chlamydia vaccine (for those who are unaware – chlamydia is a big disease amongst those terribly popular tourist attractors).
Research Ravings: Absolutely nothing to do with Vanuatu
The Australian Science Week competition this year was to find the most Australian bird-song. Voting was by the online readership of ABC Science and possibly every Australian school student (I always loved Science Week back in my teaching days). The Magpie was announced as the winner this week – Yay (it got my vote). For those of you unfamiliar with the ‘menacing maniac’s melodious carolling (they go full-Hulk during breeding season) check out their song at Marc Anderson’s site https://wildambience.com/wildlife-sounds/australian-magpie/.
The inverter-charger is misbehaving (big blue box in the lazarette that hums a lot and provides power to everything on the boat). It seems to be going through a teenage phase, very unpredictable – likes us one minute and then not the next! The work around is to run the engine to charge the batteries (not really good for the engine, but it works). We do have a replacement unit on board (but that would need programming once installed and isn’t something we are likely to tackle out here. [Update: Fortunately after two days of sulky behaviour Peter kick started the unit again, by fully charging everything to 100%. We’ll change it out in NZ when we are plugged into a secure berth in case the process goes badly].
[This is a record of our experiences and is not intended as a recommendation for others. Phone reception on ‘Opal Lady’ is assisted with the use of a StarLink satellite system. Dates are in standard Australian format DD/MM/YYYY. We measure our depths from the lowest point of the hull (add 1.6m for actual water level depth).]
Anchored Hog Harbour, Epiritu Santo: 16/08/2023, 15 08.747S, 167 06.909E, in 12m water, 50m chain, exit 320o. Winds SSE <18knt. Good holding in sand. Champagne Bay has very clear red and green markers buoys showing entry to the beach. [Rocket Guide to Vanuatu, Chesher, 2023]
Anchored Port Olry, Espiritu Santo: 17/08/2023, 15 02.097S, 167 04.904E, in 9.1m water. Winds SSE <18knt. Good holding in sand. The Rocket guide shows another anchorage to the north, but there was yacht there when we pulled. That anchorage would be preferable in unfavourable conditions. [Rocket Guide to Vanuatu, Chesher, 2023]