Welcome to our blog. Here you’ll find stories, pictures and hopefully a little helpful information about traveling around on a small sailboat.
To some, our blog may seem chronologically challenged, but it’s really not. You see, our resident Capricorn, Cyndi, posts everything in the exact order in which it occurred. Rich, with his short attention span, posts stuff the moment it occurs to him. While we’re now in Australia, Cyndi just finished her posts about the New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. Rich has already lost interest in last Monday. To sum it up:
Cyndi is writing about a few miscellaneous things from both the here and now and our past season before picking up where she left off in Fiji.
Rich is writing about the here and now, in Vanuatu.
As I mentioned before, Port Davey is considered the jewel in the crown of cruising Tasmania. Its remote location is considered really difficult to get to. Aussies in general consider Tasmania a wild and dangerous place for a boat, while Tasmanians themselves consider the trip to Port Davey a wild and dangerous place for a boat. Thus, making the trip to Port Davey is considered, danger-wise, like doing a great white shark dive without a cage.
The reality: this can be a nasty piece of ocean, but if you make the trip in the dead of summer and wait for a good weather window, even the Little Girls on Legacy can manage it. We motored to Port Davey in calm seas, little to no wind, on a warm sunny day.
My initial expectations about Port Davey had been formed by the remarks of other people, saying it’s a wild and remote place. I pictured giant trees and thick rainforests, but I was wrong. Although it does have forests, much of it is rather tundra-esque.
It’s definitely an exotic place, featuring a 7-mile long channel that runs, fjord-like, amid hills and mountains. The far end of the channel opens up into a large body of water called Bathurst Harbour which is much like a lake. Off this lake is another very narrow channel, about 3 miles long, which leads to Melaleuca, a large flat area of land with an old homestead, a small airstrip, and rare Orange-bellied parrots. Below, an interactive map of the area.
This area is ruggedly beautiful, but what makes it most special is the water: very clear and very dark–black where it’s deep and amber in the shallows because of the high tannin content (which leaches into the water from the area’s vegetation).
The dark tannic fresh water sits over a layer of clear saltwater. Some marine species that normally live deep in the ocean are also able to live here because of the layer of black water above. This is the only place in the world like this. The other thing the dark water does is beautifully reflect the mountains above it. When it’s still it creates a remarkable mirror image.
I will mention I wasn’t completely convinced ahead of time that we’d love this place as photos don’t really capture the feeling of it. It looked very rugged and remote, almost barren in some areas. Being here, though, has a feeling peace and beauty that doesn’t come through in photos. We spent about a week there, and it definitely lived up to the hype.
While being here on a boat is fantastic, it’s also possible to take a package tour, flying in by small plane, then getting to ride in one of the small boats they use to show visitors the area. They also offer dive trips that go under the black water layer to see the very strange marine life. Or, after you fly in, they can drop you at one of the hiking trails. Bottom line: you don’t need to have your own boat to experience Port Davey. Below, a few photos from our time here (click to enlarge/scroll).–Cyndi
Today’s hardship: Having to wait in the VIP lounge for the movie to start…
And having to choose from all the available recliners!…
At least we had wine to help us through the indignities…
All kidding aside, we really like the theaters we’ve found in the South Pacific with VIP seating. This one was kind of expensive (about $37 US for the two of us) but it’s a well-worth-it break from real life.
We saw the new Mummy movie with Tom Cruise. It was good entertainment, especially with a glass of wine! -Rich
Someday we’ll do in-depth blog posts about Tasmania, but for now I just wanted to do a few general posts for anyone who’s interested, to give an idea of what cruising Tasmania’s like and why we loved it. I’ve done one post so far touching on some of the east and south coasts, and a bit of Hobart (here). Now, finally, here’s the next one (two or three more will follow).
After three wonderful weeks spent sightseeing and eating our way through Hobart–the pizza! the burgers! the seafood (damn)! the bread (that good)! the cheese (France has nothing on Tasmania)! the beer (Moo Brew and Denzel Frothington are big faves)! the wine (Tassie makes excellent ones)! the produce (including eating fresh wild blackberries picked from bushes that grew alongside sidewalks)!, the Asian noodles!, and other foods to numerous to mention–we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from this beautiful, historic city and garden of culinary delights.
Sightseeing highlights in and around Hobart were many, including touring wineries in Coal Valley, visiting beautiful Mount Field national park, going to the top of impressively-high Mount Wellington overlooking Hobart, and seeing the MONA museum which exceeded our expectations (and is one of maybe two museums in the world that hasn’t bored the heck out of Rich).
After Hobart, the next phase of our trip began when we traveled down the 25-mile long D’Entrecasteaux Channel. It’s a waterway that lies between the southeast coast of Tasmania and a long, hilly island called Bruny Island.
For those who live in Hobart, this well-loved cruising ground is the go-to place for boating trips. It’s well protected from sea conditions, has lots of anchorages, pretty towns, the lovely Huon River, and it benefits from Hobart’s pleasant summer climate: warm, sunny and rather dry. Between the green and mountainous west side of the channel and drier, hilly and grassy Bruny Island, there’s something for everyone.
We’d planned to spend about 12 days in the area, but along came a weather window to Port Davey (our next destination) that we couldn’t refuse. Our 12 days became five, but we made the most of them, enjoying warm sunny afternoons sampling the incredible oysters, cheese, sourdough bread (even better than Hobart–which is saying a lot), and beer on golden-grassy Bruny Island, going up the Huon River to pretty Port Cygnet, wine tasting in the charming and pretty little seaside town of Dover, and taking in the remote beauty of Southport. Finally, we spent a day in the beautiful and remote Recherche Bay before making the jump to the west coast of Tasmania. Above, a map showing our stops, some of which were just for an hour or two.
Below, a photo gallery of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel area, Dover, Southport, and Recherche Bay. (Click to enlarge and scroll through photos.)
It was a shame to have to blow through this area so quickly, but the clock was ticking, not only on our visa but also for summer weather on the west coast, notorious for its potentially windy winter (including late fall and spring) conditions. We looked forward to seeing the jewel in the crown of cruising Tasmania: Port Davy, accessible only by boat or small plane.
And so we set out from Recherche Bay, down around the SW end of Tasmania and up a portion of the west coast. One local guy, hearing our plans, said, “Wow, that’s a dangerous trip!” Many others had seemed to wince at the idea of our going up the wild and wooly west coast. It seems a long history of boats ignoring or not knowing weather forecasts (and needing to be rescued as a result) has permeated the consciousness here–so many people seem terrified of this area of the ocean. As you can see from the photos below, being willing to wait for an appropriate weather window can result in a long day of motoring in calm seas, much preferable to sailing in gale conditions. Our main concern was having enough sunscreen.
Here, a photo from rounding the dreaded Southwest Cape of Tasmania.–Cyndi
We’ve heard over and over that there’s very little or no cell phone service and internet in Vanuatu until you get to Port Vila. That’s not what we’ve found. We had really good service starting at Aneityum, while at Tanna, OK service at Erromango and really pretty good here in Port Vila. I think the problem is that no one tells you what you have to do to get your phone to work, so I’ll try, step by step.
1. Buy a SIM card for your phone. There are two companies: TVL and Digicel. The general wisdom that’s getting passed around is to go with Digicel, but I don’t necessarily agree. Locals have told us TVL is better so that’s what we went with and it’s really been pretty good. A sim card is about 500 Vatu or about $5 US.
I’ll detail the steps for TVL since that’s what I have, but Digicel will be similar.
2. Install the SIM card. This shouldn’t have been too hard but it was. When I put the SIM card in my phone, it prompted me for a code. I finally figured out that it was asking for the “PUK” code that was printed on the card the SIM came with.
Each time I entered this number, it said it was wrong. It only gave me three chances to enter the correct number and said after that, the SIM would be inactive and I would have to contact TVL to resolve the issue. I tried three times with no luck. Then I turned my phone off and back on and tried again. It worked. But it also set my SIM password (PIN) to the PUK code so now, if I reboot, I have to enter this number again, but heck, it works!
3. Buy recharge cards. You have to put some money in your account. The way to do this is with recharge cards that you can buy almost anywhere. Even tiny shops on Aneityum had them. There, I bought 500 Vatu cards. In Port Vila, at the big grocery store, I found 2000 Vatu cards.
Scratch off the scratch-and-sniff stuff on the back of the card (don’t sniff!) and that’s your recharge number.
Call 171 on your phone (with the new SIM card installed) and select option number one. It’ll ask you to enter the 14 digit number from your card. That’s all there is to that step.
4. Buy an internet package. You’re not done until you buy an internet package. If you don’t do this, they’ll charge you a ton of money for each megabyte you use, and your account will be drained after reading three emails!
To buy an internet package, dial *183# and follow the prompts. You’ll want option 3 – buy WAO internet package (whatever WAO means!?) From there, you can select daily, weekly or monthly packages. I buy the 600 MB weekly package. Here are the different package options…
If you were to use your “Extra” data (midnight to 6 AM), you can get the cost down to $4.44 US per Gigabyte. Not bad. Here are Digicel’s plans below. Quite a bit more expensive!
5. Enter the correct APN. (Here’s the step that very few people know about and if you send me $200 and a case of beer, I’ll tell you how to do it. Just kidding. Beer’s too hard to send 😉 )
This process will vary depending on the phone you have. You can always search Google for something like “setting APN on ___ phone” (fill in whatever phone you have). You could if you had internet that is. Catch 22. (Of course, I guess you’re not reading this without internet!)
On a pure Android phone, you go to settings / wireless and networks / more and select “mobile networks.” From there, select “access point names.” If you have an entry for “SMILE” there, select it and change the APN to TVLWEB.NET.VU (for TVL – Digicel is different). Then make sure you hit save and that this network is selected.
(For Digicel, set the APN to web.digicelpacific.com)
Sometimes there are different settings for iPhones. Not so in Vanuatu. Side note: Sometimes you can use the iPhone APN on an Android phone and get better internet speed.
If you leave the APN as is – usually “default” – you might get internet but it’ll be SLOW, SLOW, SLOW.
You may also have to search for available networks and select SMILE or TVL. Sorry for the lack of details here but every phone is different – even Android phones (Samsung has to change things for the sake of change, and we won’t even talk about iPhones).
Sometimes, when you move from one island to another, you need to get your phone to re-register with the network. The easiest way to do that is to power your phone off and back on.
I really hope I’ve given you enough here for you to have the same good internet results we’ve had in Vanuatu. -Rich
Legacy and her crew are at a mooring in Vanuatu’s capitol city of Port Vila. Our first impressions: This place is a cross of everywhere we’ve ever been in the South Pacific. It’s a lot like Suva, somewhat like Savusavu, it looks like Noumea on approach and the mooring area reminds us of Neifu in Tonga.
Where is this place? Here’s an interactive Google Map…
We’ll probably hang out here a couple of weeks and explore town, pizza, burgers, fish, drinks, beer, and the like. That’ll be convenient as there’s some strong wind coming and this is a nice protected harbor. -Rich
We survived! Despite my history of poor dodgeball skills, we were not hit by lava (though it was very close to us!). Here’s the video (no, we weren’t using a telephoto lens!)…
Everyone we’ve talked to says experiencing Mt. Yassur is a lifetime highlight. I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype. It did. This was an amazing experience!
We got a ride in a truck from the “Yacht Club” in Port Resolution to the volcano center entrance. There, we had a blessing from the chief (helps keep lava from hitting you), a little dance show (that was really great) and a safety briefing. Then it was into more trucks for the ride along steaming roads to the crater rim.
We got to the rim about sunset. Our guides observed the direction the lava was falling to decide with way we’d go to view the action. (He chose well. No one died!)
There were about 30 of us in the group, and all of us took a simultaneous step backwards when the first explosion hit. The force was amazing. It was like something from an atomic blast in the movies. It blew our hair, thumped our chests and popped our ears. It took at least twenty blasts before Cyndi and I stopped jerking backwards and were able to keep the camera mostly steady.
It was surprising just how close they took us to the blasting lava. Obviously there isn’t a lawyer overpopulation in Vanuatu. This kind of thing would never be allowed in the U.S..
Below are some stills from the night – a night I’ll never forget. -Rich
Yesterday, while working with Adam on SV Bravo to try to get satellite images to display on his iPad, he showed me a website called VentureFarther. Wow, I’m impressed!
I’m not a Mac guy, but I’m often asked to help those of the Mac persuasion. I know that an iPad app called SEAiq will display satellite charts (KAP files) as charts, but I didn’t know how to get the KAP files onto the Mac. (I’m really afraid of iTunes! I know Steve Jobs is gone, but I’m pretty sure he still wants to delete all my MP3 files!). After a little setup, VentureFarther will make both creating the charts and getting them onto the iPad as simple as a couple of clicks. Us PC types aren’t left out either. You can very easily create and download satellite images and use them in programs like openCPN.
Some Details: Signing up is free. When you do, you get some credits. Each chart you download costs a credit. You get credits for sharing anchorages, routes, position reports and more. You can also subscribe for about $20 a year, which gives you unlimited credits.
VentureFarther is also a cruising community site where you can share routes, waypoints, your position and much more. Besides satellite images, there is a bunch of very useful information available including world tide tables, weather info and free guide books.
This site is created by members of the cruising family – Jon and Heather on Evergreen and they’ve done a brilliant job! Thanks Jon and Heather. -Rich