Saturday, 28 July 2012

Cave diving, tight lagoon entrance, rough night and more racing

Another week has passed in paradise and we’re still loving it (why wouldn’t you…). This last week has been spent being social (Port Maurelle, a lovely anchorage, only downside is it’s usually pretty crowded, with the upside it being easy to socialise with friends), exploring Mariner’s Cave and checking out the lagoon by Hunga.

Mariner’s Cave is similar to Swallows Cave, though the cool bit is that the only entrance is under water through a big hole which lets in enough light to lit up the cave. It’s also not as big as Swallows, but still pretty decent! To get in you have to snorkel through the hole which is about 1-2 meter deep (depending on tide) and maybe 3 meters long, so not hard, but very exciting. The pressure of the waves/swell makes the cave fog up and clear, then fog up again, pretty cool. Visibility was great, but unlike Swallows Cave, there were no big schools of fish, just a few odd ones. We have really been looking forward to going there, but as you can’t anchor outside, we needed to go with another boat, so we could take turns motoring around outside in the boat, while others go in and then swap. Sala (the little fast 29 footer) and us we lucky to go with a 50 footer Carillon (google them to find the website, sorry, forgot their boat card on Sophia, they have cruised many years in Asia and have written all about it on their website, and they gave us some good advice).  I have uploaded a few more photos to facebook, so check out Mariner's cave there.
Hunga lagoon is a big lagoon almost fully enclosed, with three entrances, only one big enough to sail through and that gap is only 35 meters wide. Phil’s parents were here many years ago and they sailed though and showed us a video of them doing it, so it was pretty cool that we have now done it too (and also got it on video, but that and many other videos have to wait till better internet). Inside the lagoon it was obviously very sheltered, but the anchorages a bit deep, so not our favourite place. The snorkelling outside the entrance was really good though, super clear water, cool rock and coral formations and a black tipped reef shark that kept us company.

One night we woke up being rained on (through the open hatch), so we scrambled out to hook up the hoses to the rain catcher on the bimini. A few minutes later the wind kicked up out of nowhere. We had anchored at 15 meters, but the direction changed and we were now pointing right into the beach (10-15 meters away!) and had only 3-4 meters under us and the wind gusting up to 27 knots, a bit scary. We took in a bit of chain to sit slightly deeper and ran the engine for three hours while keeping a close eye on our position, being ready to motor out of trouble. It had caught everyone unaware and hadn’t been forecasted anywhere (it was a through that was supposed to have gone much further south), but it only lasted 4-5 hours then it eased off a bit. Nights like that is when it’s not all fun and tropical and I was actually even envious of people living peacefully in houses on land that doesn’t move. My envy only lasted those few hours though… I’m also sure it won’t be our last time the weather plays tricks on us and gives us surprises and uncomfort, but it’s all part of the cruising life.

We haven’t had any luck catching fish yet, but we have been given some tuna and marlin (a 150 kg monster that was caught by a fishing charter from a resort in Hunga) and they kindly gave us a a wee chunk of it, which was massive, so we were able to give Sala some too.  We’ll keep trying dragging our lures, and hopefully some day we’ll get lucky.

We raced again last night and came second behind Tuxedo Junction, a Wright 11 from NZ. They raced first time last week and had a bad start but came really close to us, so we were expecting tight racing this time and got it.

We’re going to head down to Hapa’ai next week, and maybe leave to Vanuatu from there, if we can check out (some people haven’t been able to get hold of/find the official(s?) down there. The second hand water maker we got not long before leaving is making us good water, but the ppm (I think) readings are a bit on the high side and can take up to an hour before it’s even OK, so we have ordered a new membrane from West Marine (US, much cheaper than from NZ) and will either wait for it here, or come back and get it. We tried to order it last week, but internet was playing up and we actually didn’t think our order had gone through, but it had, we just found out. 

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