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Day 2,921 - Port Vila, Vanuatu (16° 44S 168° 18E)
18:53hrs - May 30th 2015

We're in Vanuatu, an ancient and magical land of bubbling volcanoes, shorelines littered with WWII wrecks waiting to be explored in crystal clear waters, giant banyan trees, tropical forests dripping with foliage and cascading waterfalls, and primitive villages where locals throw themselves from rickety 100 foot towers each year, with nothing but jungle vines attached to their ankles, in an effort to ensure a successful yam harvest.

We sailed 1,320 nautical miles in nine days to get here, dodging a nasty low pressure system in Norfolk Island on the way, and we had some of the fastest sailing in Dream Time's history - leaving Norfolk Island on the tail side of the low (we had to move because the backing wind quickly made all anchorages too dangerous). With 35-40 knots on the stern and flying only a double-reefed mainsail, we clocked 168 miles in 24 hours - hey, that's pretty good going for us!

I think we had a good passage - fast and safe. Catherine doesn't agree. We make entries in our logbook every six hours: position, heading, speed, the conditions (wind, sky, sea, barometric pressure etc.) along with a short remark, Catherine's entries don't leave a great deal of room for misinterpretation. Here are a few of her highlights:

May 17th:   Gusts to 28, a bit rolly.
May 18th:   Dark rolly wet waves
May 23rd:   Rolly.
May 24th:   And more Rolly.
May 25th:   Partly rolly but warmer :-)
May 28th:   Squally & rolly. Almost done!

I guess she thinks it was a little rolly? We're now resting in Port Vila, much to Catherine's relief, in a flat calm anchorage. Time for bed.



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Day 2,914 - Norfolk Island (29° 03S 167° 59E)
10:32hrs - May 23rd 2015
A Rare Treat

Shark warnings from local officials. A rocky, surf-whipped coastline from the land of Kong, ninety percent of which is unsurveyed and marked 'hazardous' on navigational charts. And only three anchorages, dimples really, along the face of an exposed shore that's ravaged by the Tasman Sea and frequent low pressure systems. To the cautious marina, Norfolk Island may not be an ideal landfall, but for us it was a welcome break.

Just thirty sailboats visit Norfolk Island a year - you only have to look at the charts to understand why. It seems like a lonely and desolate place, a tiny rock no more than four miles wide sitting alone in the wastelands of the South Pacific, in a grim area of ocean no mariner really wants to dawdle, somewhere along the margins of the Coral and Tasman Sea.

But we've been here for 48 hours and loved every sheltered, calm, peaceful, relaxed, good-companied second of it. With the wind howling on the western side of the island, Dream Time is tucked-in and sitting pretty in Ball Bay on the eastern shoreline (we were in Cascade Bay on the north shore until conditions forced us to move).

We're sharing the anchorage with one other sailboat, Morning Star VII, sailed by an intrepid kiwi couple, Eric and Yvonne, who are on their final passage back to New Zealand after eight years and 20,000 nautical miles of cruising. We first joined them in Cascade Bay, the most 'protected' stretch of coastline at the time, yet their boat was rolling and pitching so violently, at anchor, it seemed an impossible refuge (we later learned that they had been sleeping on the floor).

But I'm happy to report that Ball Bay, while far from a tranquil retreat, is relatively calm, enough for all its occupants to benefit from a proper bed. Alan, the friendly Norfolk Island Customs agent, told us on VHF 28 to 'enjoy our stay, mates', but as we haven't officially cleared-in, we're stuck on the boat with the quarantine flag snapping in the wind, and for the first time ever for us, an Australian courtesy flag!

Alan did allow me to kayak over and meet our neighbors on Morning Star VII, a 39 foot Mason hull, but he also warned me to 'watch out for them kayaks with fins on 'em'. Over coffee, Eric and Yvonne shared their cruising stories with me, and even a stalk of some homegrown Norfolk Island bananas - a real treat considering our fresh supplies have been reduced to compost.

Tomorrow the wind will continue to build in strength and swing from the west to the south-southeast, forcing us to evacuate Ball Bay that will very quickly become breaking surf. It means Norfolk Island will be shut down to us - no safe refuge, but with the wind from the southeast, even 30-40 knots of it, means a fast downhill run, in the right direction, to Vanuatu.

Thanks Norfolk Island for your hospitality, and bananas, and a special thank you to Morning Star VII - safe travels, mates.


Quick Fix: 29° 27.2 S / 168° 26.8 E
May 20th, 2015 (day 2,911)
Conditions:  Wind: 5/variable  Sky: Clear.

Mystery Island
The first two days out of NZ delivered 30 knot winds which carried us over 300 nautical miles in 2 days. But a high pressure system has stolen the breeze and left us motor-sailing, accompanied by rolling swell - giant ripples traveling slowly north destined to become surf on distant shores. Our weather GRIBs are alerting us to a trough later this week which is expected to turn our tranquil world into foaming seas with near gale-force winds. So we're heading to an island, a mere spec on the charts, more of a navigational hazard, really, than a safe harbor, but a lump of rock that sits alone between the Tasman Sea, the Coral Sea and the South Pacific. It measures just 3.5 miles in width, and is part of a country I have not visited in over 21 years. More to follow...


Quick Fix: 35° 18.8 S / 174° 07.3 E
May 16th, 2015 (day 2,907)
Conditions:  Wind: 30-35/SW  Sky: Clear.

A Blessing
He was born at sea, he served in the navy, and can trace his Māori ancestors all the way back to the Cook Islands. He's a skilled artist, sculpting pretty much anything that washes up along NZ's tumultuous western shoreline. Pete Wood, or Woodsy as he is know to friends, is also the father of the proud new owner of our trusty Subaru Wagon, which we sold two days ago. Woodsy spent a little time with us and shared a few of his Māori carving secrets with me, he even brought treasured gifts from his workshop, including petrified black coral and an Orca's tooth. Before Woodsy left, he asked if he could bless our boat. And so holding hands, gathered at Dream Time's bow, he spoke solemnly, in Māori, blessing our voyage and wishing us safe travels across the sea. Kia ora, Woodsy, and e noho rā.


Quick Fix: 35° 18.8 S / 174° 07.3 E
May 14th, 2015 (day 2,905)
Conditions:  Wind: 10/N  Sky: Mostly Clear.

Sweet Dreams
In 3 days we will be sailing offshore on a 1,000 nautical mile passage north - 'excited' doesn't even begin to cover how we feel about our return to the tropics. To prepare I was instructed to complete just one final pre-passage project: locate and destroy a mysterious knocking sound. A frustratingly random, tortuously persistent 'THONK', which would only be heard on port tacks, in certain conditions. A noise from behind a cabinet, which, located so close to Catherine's sea berth tormented her sleep and invaded her dreams. But a happy wife makes a happy passage and all that... so today, after removing a bookshelf, stereo speakers and brackets, I located the offender - a loose bonding wire, which, to Catherine's great relief, is now firmly secured with a cable tie. Sleep tight honey.


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Day 2,902 - Opua (35° 18S 174° 07E)
18:45hrs - May 11th 2015

It's not of this country, it has the ability to release 50,000 eggs in a single spawning session, it's capable of regenerating damaged body parts, and the scariest thing, it's got acid for blood. Well, technically it biotransforms arsenic into toxic levels of dimethylarsinic acid to deter predators, but one thing's for sure, it's one mean biosecurity hazard, and sadly it's colonizing itself right here in New Zealand.

I'm talking about the Mediterranean fanworm, or Sabella Spallanzanii for all the marine biologists out there, and somehow, in 2008, this nasty little stowaway found its way into these pristine waters.

We're in Opua, New Zealand's most northerly launching pad for the tropics, and were alarmed when Dream Time was flagged as a 'high risk' vessel. Apparently these little buggers are blooming down south, around Auckland, Gulf Harbour Marina and the Hauraki Gulf - where Dream Time has spent the last year in the water, and that it's quite possible we may inadvertently be a host.

Apparently the fanworm is causing havoc to the indigenous marine life here, but Auckland, we've been told, has 'given up' on the fight to contain them - there's just too many, and with no natural predators in these parts, their numbers are expected to increase.

Northland, however, the tip of New Zealand's north island, is rightfully doing everything it can to keep these toxic critters out of their waters. Unfortunately it seems like a losing battle as local boats regularly plow coastal waters south to north, and with a country devoted to boating and fishing, monitoring and inspecting such a high volume of traffic seems daunting, if not hopeless.

We've spoken to New Zealand's BioSecurity department and have offered to do everything we can to assist, even diving on our vessel, but unfortunately due to all the rain we've been having, Opua is a giant muddy river with about as much visibility as a kava bowl, so professional divers may scan our hull later this week.

We're confident Dream Time is clean, we were hauled nine months ago and when I last inspected the hull, in Kawau Island, our bottom appeared fanworm free. But under the keel, where no one can hear the local marine life scream, it's better to be safe than sorry.


Quick Fix: 35° 12.1 S / 174° 12.5 E
May 5th, 2015 (day 2,896)
Conditions:  Wind: 15/NE  Sky: Clear.

With the leaves falling, along with the temperature, it's time to migrate north, back to the sun drenched tropics. So for the past five days we've been skipping up New Zealand's coast towards Opua, the most northerly port of departure, revisiting one pristine, picturesque anchorage after the next, along a coastline that appears both perfectly manicured, while at the same time, for the most part, wild and desolate. We'll miss New Zealand, this middle earth - this will more than likely be our last visit here. In fact, so confident are we that we'll be sailing to new regions this year, we've changed the radar chart on our home page to include Australia and even Asia. But as Dream Time's migratory patterns have a record of being a little random, we'll going to focus on one passage at a time.