Port Vila Time

September – October 2023

We did beat the bad weather back to Port Vila, but I was now going to be on my own for a few weeks as Peter had to fly back to Australia for a family funeral [One of the other reasons we had decided to head back to Port Vila early – just in case as one of our extended family was very ill, and unfortunately it turned out to be the case].  He was very relieved when Roslyn from Yachting World Marina said she would make room for us along the seawall so that I didn’t have to spend time alone anchored out in the bay, in what looked to be turning into some iffy weather (again). We did wonder what she meant about making room for “you good people”.  She knew we’d been out distributing books, so we knew what the good people reference was about, but we did appear to be the only ones there…

Until the next day when the World ARC Rally boats started turning up.

This is the Pacific fleet that had just come in from Fiji on their way to their finish in Mackay Australia; they’d started in the Caribbean.  This big rather jolly group were only scheduled to spend 4 days in Port Vila and then on to Australia, but we overheard some funny ‘NO’ conversations between some of the boats and the organisers (they’d had a bit of bad weather already).

Peter booked his flights with Air Vanuatu (the QANTAS affiliates) and then headed off to the Immigration office to get a ‘One Way Authorisation’ document, without which he wouldn’t be allowed to board the flight back from Australia. 

 [Crew includes visitors, family and Peter once he’s left the boat, aren’t allowed to board a flight into a foreign (for them) country, if they don’t have a return ticket.  The authorisation lets the airline know that the person is joining a boat and that is effectively their ticket out of the country, so all is ok.  I have heard of people getting around this (especially when they haven’t allowed the time for processing) by buying flexible return tickets and just using half.  Just another of the things you need to think about when travelling by boat.]

Then we went down-town for some coffee and cake.

Well, he did ask for a large coffee.  The mug is so big Peter managed to lose the teaspoon in there.  This is the recently opened ‘Graces’ (at the northern end of the main road) and it has the best coffee we have come across in Port Vila (the Matcha Sponge Cake is also deserving of a mention). 

Taz had his F3 vaccination and first parasite treatment – now he has 1 month to leave the country.  The parasite treatments are pretty much the same, but the timing differs between countries.  Only a Vet can do the treatments as Taz must be scanned for his microchip each time and it needs to be recorded on an official export document.  For New Caledonia, the first parasite treatment must be within 1 month of leaving and the second treatment more than 2 weeks after the first and within 7 days of leaving (got that?).  The problem with boat travel is that even if we estimate a date well, it might still vary by a week or so. And after applying for Taz’ Import Permit, I found out that New Caledonian quarantine works on a batch system, with set intake days (not sure how I missed that incredibly important piece of information).  So, Taz had to arrive on a particular day; this was definitely not going to work for us.  The Manky Moggie is now flying to New Caledonia and we will meet him on the other side of quarantine. [Sooo much more about this later]

These Angel’s Trumpet bushes were flowering at the marina, and there was a lovely smell around them.  As well as being very spectacular (and poisonous) they must be quite hardy too.  We had driving rain the night before and yet none of the flowers came off the bush.  We had so much rain that a lovely fishing runabout sunk at the dinghy dock.  It’s bilge pump failed and it filled with rainwater; it looked very sad being dragged up the beach. 

The weather had been interesting over the weekend.  A big swell was hooking around from outside the harbour and into the marina area which saw us doing some Rock N Rolling despite being tied up with double lines (I used all our line covers to stop dthe lines from rubbing away).  Oz, our friend on ‘Shebeen’, had just arrived from Fiji and was anchored out in the middle of the bay waiting for some crew to arrive for his return leg to Australia.  He’d had to help out a boat or two that had started dragging out there due to the conditions.

We thought we’d best do some tourist-ing, so hired a car and spent a day driving around the island of Efate.  It was a bit wild out on the seas. 

Peter and Oz looking at the view from Top Rock (a newly opened tourist stop).  It would have been a good place for lunch, but we’d already stopped at a previous resort. 

We did the little walk around there, bought a loaf of bread from a road-side stall and headed home via a stop at Mele Bay for a drinkies.

Sunset at Mele Bay. This is the alternative location to anchor at, if you don’t want to go into the marina.  It is a taxi drive to the middle of town, but it has a nice bar.

Peter was all booked for Australia and then his flight was cancelled at 5:30pm the night before a 7am flight – that is quite annoying (but apparently not unusual here).  He went in early the next morning and sorted out an alternative with the very helpful Air Vanuatu person (let the desk person know you’re not going to shout at them and work with what can be done).  He flew out the following night instead and had to go via another city or two, but he got back to Australia in time.

I am feeling a little dwarfed here.  This is ‘Plan B’, owned by Matt Damon I believe.  You would never guess she was built 50 years ago by the Australian Navy.

Technology can have some incredibly positive uses.  I am ‘attending’ the funeral of Peter’s Brother-in-law, with my Mother-In-Law, virtually.  Neither of us can get there, so we are watching it on our iPads and discussing it on WhatsApp – technology is grand when it’s used right (and then someone comes along to take it to the dark side – ain’t that always the way).

I took the opportunity of Peter not being aboard to wage war on the mould again.  Every drawer cupboard, locker and hull access point is open and airing.  The boat smells of eucalyptus and tea tree.

Some of us were not pulling our weight in the war on mould.  Apparently, I won’t be putting this drawer back under the bed yet.  But what about this says comfortable?

I’ll leave him to it as I have a water pump to fix if I want a warm shower tonight (another micro switch to replace).  AND while clearing out drawers during the mould wars, I noticed a leak from the starboard stabiliser arm – SERIOUSLY???

Sometimes I wonder if that cat was also a mechanic in a previous incarnation.  Here he is confirming that there is indeed an oil leak from the stabiliser ram.

We do live in interesting times.  I just phoned Jill, my Mother-in-Law, to check about the bushfires down there in Gippsland.  They are not too near her yet and … they should be sorted on Thursday as there has been a flood warning issued!  That just doesn’t sound right. [Update: After packing a case to be ready for a fire evacuation, Jill’s village ended up being cut off when their access bridge was covered in the flood waters.  There is a lot of grey mud flowing by as the rain has washed away the ash from the fires – it’s getting weird people.] [Updated Update: The following week they were rocked by an earthquake – that’s the trifecta.  It was only a 3.1, but it was unusual for it to be that far south.  (There is movement along the whole east coast, but most people who aren’t seismologist don’t notice it)]. [Further Updated Update: A month later there was a bigger earthquake even further south along the Great South Coast Road near Apollo Bay where we stayed for Christmas in 2021].

The Taz Saga:

More interesting times.  This is as close as Taz got to getting to New Caledonia today.  His 6am flight was cancelled (we only picked up on that when we arrived at the airport with the Govt Vet and there was no one there!).  He can’t take the flight two days later as New Cal quarantine won’t accept him late.  We are now looking into going directly to New Zealand!  NZ quarantine intakes are flexible. 

We knew it wasn’t going to be easy with a boat cat; but without him, one of us would probably end up going overboard.  So, I’ll get back to working on that stomach-ulcer-inducing paperwork.  Mind you cancelled flights are awkward for me, but career enders for the Prime Ministers here.  Vanuatu has just had it’s 3rd PM elected in the last month!  There is no fear of violence in the streets, but the Taxi drivers and tourist operators I’ve spoken with are not happy about the instability (The last guy should have gone to the Pacific Leaders Conference in the US and didn’t so out with him apparently.  And his predecessor was thrown out because VanAir kept cancelling the flights to and from Australia!) 

Back to the Cat.

The following week, while I was sorting a New Zealand import permit, the lovely people at New Caledonian Quarantine found a place for Taz in the next intake– aaahaah!  The totally lovely Vet here (Keren) and Sebastien at CalinAir (not VanAir) are all helping to get Taz on the Saturday week flight, with Monday as the backup and he goes into quarantine on Wednesday.  Noumea quarantine offered to board him for the extra days.  “Vite vite”, but it’s coming together.  Even the Vanuatu Cargo handlers have been helpful and have transferred the fees I paid for the cancelled flight to this new one – yay.  Taz remains unimpressed as he has to have another worming tablet, because his last one is now out of the 7 days before rule (if he wasn’t before, that poor cat is now sterile).  I’m not sure where the place in quarantine came from.  There is another boat cat in boarding here until January, when we thought the next position became available (like us his owners were running out of VISA and couldn’t stay). Mine is not to question why, but to say ‘Merci beaucoup’.

A condition of entry is that Taz has to have a Chlamydia test, because we couldn’t get hold of the F5 vaccine. It has to go to Australia for checking and the results need to be back within 2 weeks.  Unsurprisingly for a cat that has been fully vaccinated up until one month ago, lives alone, and hasn’t left the boat for 8 months, he is clear of Chlamydia.  A hideously expensive exercise (test and couriering $500 – Taz has his own line in the boat budget), but at least he is clear to fly out on the 4th.

We had to do two visits to the AirCalin offices (but they are just in town).  Taz enjoyed looking out the cat carrier while we walked him down town to the office for the second visit – it has to be face to fur.  I’m now trying to work out how to fit all the required flight stickers onto his rather small cage.

4th December – The Taz has landed in Noumea and will be spending 2 weeks learning the French for “more hugs and food please”.

So, after a quick bus trip around to the Immigration Office for some document stamping, we are ready to head off on Tuesday 5thDecember.  It’s a bit orange to start with, but we should be choogling into beautiful blue (the colours represent different wind speeds on PredictWind.  I think the Mothers’ do a colour check every day and complain if it starts looking too warm coloured).

Boat Bits:

Disconnect and cap oil hoses to the Stbd stabiliser (again!), and refill hydraulic oil tank (fortunately we carry an assortment of high-pressure end plugs and spare oil else we’d have to get it ordered into Port Vila).

Replace the micro pressure sensor on the water pump (again)

Banner Photo: Sunset over Mele Bay, Vanuatu.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. I can guarantee the is a lot more to the “good people” comment than you just handing out books!

    They really do not make it easy to move animals around the world. Someone really needs to streamline the system. The amount of hoo ha people go through coming in and out of Norway, even worse for those heading back to Aus!

    1. Indeed Alana, moving pets around the world could fill an entire blog in itself. Even when the process is straight forward (and reasonable), the unpredictability of travelling on a boat just adds another level of complication. Fortunately, we have found the people we have dealt with thus far are very helpful, once they know that we’re trying to do the right thing. I won’t pass on what Taz has said about spending time in quarantine (such language!) Suz

  2. Loving the blog guys.

  3. I think Taz needs his own blog ❤️ (and bank account!)

    1. Taz already thinks my writing is just to support his blog photos Lisa!

  4. Suze and Pete thanks for sharing your adventures we love it! Can’t wait for the next leg blog and all of the photos!

    1. Greetings Jackie, Thanks for reading. You will really love the photos in the entry about cruising the New Cal Lagoon – stay tuned. Suz

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