Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
At Sea - New Caledonia to Vanuatu
From Ouvea to Port Vila - 23 to 25 July 2013 - (20.38.70S - 166.32.18E)
While planning our trip to Vanuatu, we realize that timing is tricky. Sailing from the north coast in Ouvea to Port Vila, a 200 miles trip, should take us between 34 to 40 hours. We need good light to go thru a pass out of Ouvea's lagoon into open waters, which means arriving to Port Vila at night. Having been in Port Vila before, we think we can manage to enter and anchor in the quarantine area at any time without much drama. There is a full moon, we know C-Map chart is accurate, the port is well marked and hopefully weather is settled as forecasted.
After buying the last 2 baguettes before leaving French territory, we started crossing the wide lagoon towards Ilots Deguala, a small atoll in the North next to the possible passes out to open sea. It is about 13 miles from the south coast to north coast.
In a great sunny day a dozen dolphins came to swim and play alongside Zenitude while we were happily underway.
Our cruising guide shows it is possible to anchor in light winds in Ilots Deguala, surrounded by crystal blue waters, marine life and coral, the pictures are amazing. We decided to check it out and got to the entrance of the anchorage, definitely a fantastic place to visit, some other time for us, maybe on our way back.
Around that area there are some options to go out. Ouvea map and charts show 2 passes, Passe de la Baleine and Passe du Taureau. Before leaving Fayaoue we asked the local people about conditions in the passes and they said Taureau is better as the other pass has 2 dangerous rocks sometimes hard to see. Our cruising guide does not mention any of these passes but shows that is possible to pass between Ile Jumeaux and Ilots Deguala. The worry is the chart shows this area as 'unsurveyed'. What to do?
On the visual, neither of the 2 passes looked very inviting and we decided to trust our cruising guide as the area between the islands is wide and the reef was very visible at 1:00 PM when we crossed. Crossing really slowly and checking the depth sounder all the time the pass was calm, clear waters showed no danger and we never saw less than 14 meters depth. Anyway, we only relaxed when we were out in chart surveyed waters.
Leaving New Caledonia behind, the start of the trip was a bit bumpy with wind and wind chop from the E, later the wind veered ESE and conditions got better. It was good sailing most of the time, fast and bumpy during the day averaging almost 7 kn but slower at night with the wind calming down. The full moon made the night much more enjoyable.
Approaching Port Vila the second night at around midnight we could see the lights showing the entrance to the port. As predicted the full moon was shinning, the night was clear and calm and with the waypoints up to the Quarantine anchor point by our cruising guide we comfortably got in. Somehow the leading lights to the entrance are not exactly as described in the guide but were clear to understand.
Very slowly we made it to the quarantine anchorage, several boats were already there waiting for next day quarantine clearance. We dropped anchor and relaxed, the night was calm, we were quite tired but happy after a good trip.