It was almost the perfect passage from Efate Island to Epi Island: A southeasterly breeze filled in early and soon all of Rutea's working sails (genoa, staysail, main and mizzen) where pulling like a team of mules. The seas were calm and although we could see squalls not too far away, none of them hit us. Just as we reached the south end of Epi Island the wind dropped (as we expected it to) and a 30-pound wahoo hit the brand new lure that we had been dragging the entire 60 miles. We dropped our anchor in Lamen Bay near the north end of the island, a wide, sandy-bottomed anchorage that gives excellent protection from the prevailing winds. Our friends on Sarah Jean II offered to be the host boat for dinner and the crews from Riada II and Merkava enjoyed a fabulous dinner of barbequed wahoo with all the fixings. Corie found a recipe for making pickled ginger (a must for sushi and sashimi) and I don't think we'll ever be able to enjoy the store-bought kind again.
As we made our way back to Rutea (way past Cruiser Midnight - about 9pm), we saw an orange glow in the northeastern sky. At first we thought it was the moon rising but later realized that it was the glow from the erupting volcano on Ambrym Island, less than 20 miles away. That's probably going to be our next stop but it remains to be seen whether we'll climb the volcano - our guide book says it's a six-hour hike through the jungle, each way.
Yesterday we went in pursuit of finding a dugong, also known as a sea cow, a mammal that is know to frequent these parts. We tried snorkeling in several different parts of the island, even traversing the pass in our dinghy to Lamen Island but with no luck. Beth from Sarah Jean II was back in the water with her snorkel gear on once we got back to where our boats are anchored and suddenly started to shout, "Dugong! Dugong!" Within seconds, all of us had our snorkel gear donned and were in the clear water, watching this 15-foot, one-ton, torpedo-shaped whale (we're not sure if it's a whale or not - can someone with internet access fill us in, please?) feed along the bottom, right under out boats. It was moving slowly, a wake of stirred-up sand flowing from it's head, as it vacuums the sea bed. It seemed to ignore our presence but definitely moved out of our range once I used my underwater camera's flash. Corie did get some great shots of it and even a spectacular video.
Corie also got some great shots of the sea turtles that frequent the bay. Some of these guys must be almost four-feet in diameter and they swim lazily all around our boats, occasionally sticking their noses out of the water and appear to be checking us out. For some reason they seem to like hanging around Rutea's anchor and chain. We're not sure if that's a compliment but we're delighted to have so many of them so close.
I'll try to post some pictures once we get to Luganville but I'm not optimistic that we'll have enough bandwidth there to do so. We should be there by the 18th or 19th.
At 10/9/2012 9:06 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°35.74'S 168°09.81'E
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