A Long Season (late 2016- 2018)

(Another rare, sort-of current post from Cyndi)

As I write this, it’s late in December (2017) and we’re sailing south to arrive in New Zealand after Christmas. Yes, it’s late in the season, but this year’s La Nina conditions have made it much harder to find a suitable weather window for the trip.

Ironically, this cruising period began with another unusually late departure: August 2016 from Opua, New Zealand. Since then we’ve traveled to New Caledonia, Australia and Tasmania, then back to New Caledonia, up to Vanuatu, and once again back to New Caledonia, all pretty much without a break. I’ve written some posts commenting on all of these places except Vanuatu; so here’s a brief Vanuatu overview . I actually started this post awhile ago and will leave it as is, title and all. Here it is:

Two Cindys! (In reality, “Cindi” and “Cyndi”)

We on Legacy have made it a policy not to “buddy-boat,” which to us means traveling in tandem with at least one other boat for an extended period of time. We do sometimes travel for shorter periods with another boat (we’ve had lots of wonderful travels with our friends on Bright Angel, for example) but we tend to roll our eyes at some cruising boats who just can’t go anywhere without each other, traveling in twos, threes, or–don’t get me started–rallies.

And so when we met up with our friends Adam and Cindi on Bravo at Aneityum Island, Vanuatu, it was meant to be a nice reunion. As it turned out, though, we were headed north at the same time and planned to do many of the same things. And so began our season of “not buddy boating” with Bravo in Vanuatu.

We didn’t plan to do so much of the island chain together; it just sort of happened. Because we weren’t tied at the hip, we became a great team, often able to scout things out and book each other into activities (dive trips, cultural shows, restaurants, kava drinking, nice people to meet and other boaters to look out for–Mr. Anchor On Top of Everyone, you know who you are!–etc.) We shared things we learned, commiserated on inevitable boat snafus, and of course spent a lot of social time together having meals, sundowners, etc.

I have no doubt that other boats saw us as buddy boating. When I explained to a mutual friend that we weren’t buddy boating per se but more traveling alongside each other, he asked what the difference was. I thought about it for a second and realized the answer: If one boat felt like going off to do something completely different on a whim, while we’d certainly inform each other, there wouldn’t need to be a summit meeting about it. Feel like leaving tomorrow and going in a completely different direction? Cool, let us know what you find out there! No one was on a leash (if ever there were two boats who would not tolerate a leash, it would be Bravo and Legacy). In fact, we actually made our travel decisions independently, only to get together and find out we’d made the same decisions. Good thing we get along very well!

One of the things I really enjoyed was going ashore as a foursome and introducing ourselves to the locals. We’d say our names: Adam, Rich, Cindi and Cyndi, and we’d always get the same response: a surprised and amazed look and the phrase, “two Cindys!” said with a sort of awe, much like if one heard about the discovery of a live Tasmanian Tiger (most likely extinct since 1936), and not just one but two. Imagine how you’d say Two Tasmanian Tigers! That’s how people would say it: “Two Cindys!”

Now Cindy is not a common name in Vanuatu, but we’d sometimes get this reaction even from the Aussies. It was funny to us, but I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it until we had gone our separate ways. Bravo was going to Australia and had less time in Vanuatu, opting to do the northeast islands while we headed to the far north Banks Islands before doing the same.

Traveling without them, I immediately noticed the difference when we introduced ourselves to locals. I was just Cyndi again, no longer part of the magical “Two Cindys” phenomenon. It felt sad, like I was once a unicorn but now was just a regular horse.

And so, now solo, we traveled down the east side of Vanuatu, completing a kind of circle back to Port Vila before heading to New Caledonia. The Vanuatu verdict? We loved it, but I had one big problem with it.

For me, Vanuatu is a beautiful and dramatic place, definitely going up there into the favorites category. For Rich it’s more: he’s found his locational equivalent of a soulmate. Thus, he’s dreaming about getting a little place there someday and is anxious to get back for more visits. I love it and am looking forward to returning, but there are many other places I want to go. Meanwhile, if not for the summer heat and cyclones, I might have trouble getting Rich out of there at all. Below, a few photos to show how Vanuatu ticks all the boxes:

Agreeable Cities

Beautiful Anchorages

Blue Holes

Dramatic Natural Phenomena

Dugongs and Turtles

Exotic Islands

Friendly Locals

Garden-of-Eden Villages

Gorgeous Scenery

Great Food

Magnificent Beaches

Nifty Resorts

Rich Cultural Traditions

Adventurous River Rides

Waterfalls

Stunning Sunsets

Waterfront Restaurants

World-Class Snorkeling and Diving

Now, I worried about our next destination: New Caledonia. We have loved it there, but our previous visit was spent recovering from travel burnout, and Vanuatu is a very hard act to follow. Thankfully, New Caledonia didn’t fall under Vanuatu’s shadow. We returned, and it felt great to be back. New Caledonia and Vanuatu are so different that you can’t really compare one to the other–it’s the apples-and-oranges thing. And even though we’d come to the end of a long cruising season, we felt pretty energetic and managed to visit some of the places we’d yet to see in New Caledonia’s lagoon.

And for some reason, even with so many people around us anxious to get a weather window to New Zealand, we didn’t feel the same pressure. We, too, we were waiting for a window, but when they’d end up not being satisfactory; we’d happily go out to do some local cruising. We were waiting on the arrival of our new chartplotters from Simrad, and the weather was (with the exception of a couple of days) comfortably warm and not too hot. With nice weather, so many places yet to see, such great food, both eatery-wise and market wise, why would we want to leave? Well, cyclone season was arriving, but it was still early enough we didn’t feel too pressured.

Finally we did get our weather window, but even as we passed Amedee Island by one of the passes out of New Caledonia’s lagoon, I found myself wishing it were May and we were just arriving instead of leaving. It’s surprising to feel this way after such a long season–it seems somewhere along the way my tired soul revived. Rich was feeling good, but he was (and is) very ready to take a break from boating for a few months. New Zealand, hopefully, will provide this break.

Now, weeks later as I finish this post, we celebrated Christmas at sea and spent New Year’s eve in Opua. Champagne glasses filled, we made a toast to 2017 and felt a moment of silence filled with gratitude and wonder at the gifts this year brought, including mainland Australia and Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Middleton Reef, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, New Caledonia yet again, and finally New Zealand. What an amazing year it has been, a standout year in a series of pretty good years. We can only hope that 2018 can be even partly as special.

For now, it will be a relaxed start as we are taking a few months off from cruising. We’ll be working on boat projects, work protects, and some personal care projects such as going to a gym. For the next few months we’ll be living “apartment life.” Now, as I finally finish the post, it’s nearing the end of January. We bought a car, go to the gym three times a week, have reconnected with old friends, completed a few boat projects, gotten our eye exams, and feel settled in. We even have a plant! (OK, it’s just one of those living herb plants they sell at the supermarket—I needed chives and this was the only way I could have them—but still, it’s symbolic.)

The best part is not constantly having to be on top of the weather forecast. Did you hear that wind pick up last night? Impressive! Wow, there’s some thunder; let’s unplug the computer. Torrential rain? Good thing we have new windshield wipers on the car! Heat? The gym has air conditioning—let’s get some exercise. Remnants of a tropical low are due next week; hope the weekly Gourmet Night in the park doesn’t get canceled. Yes, there are plenty of other things worry about, but for the time being, it’s nice to put aside weather concerns. –Cyndi

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