Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sailing in Vava'u

Vava'u is a group of more than 20 islands and dozens of reefs. The main island lies to the north and has a well protected bay on which the capitol, Nieafu is situated. This is where the charter yacht companies, sports fishing, and whale watchers are also located. 'Moorings', a large charter yacht operation publishes a very useful guide and map to the islands that shows the location of 42 anchorages of which about half are day stops and the remainder suitable for overnight use. The anchorages are numbered, which certainly makes it easier to describe where one is going to, but does remove some of the romance. For example, we are in day anchorage 40 now, more properly described as 'off the white sand beach on the east side of Avalau island'.

Sailing between the islands is a treat because the reefs and islands block the open ocean swell, but the trade winds blow for much of the sailing season. It is a bit like sailing on an island studded lake. While you do get some fetch across the larger reaches, the sailing during the week or so we have been here has been superb - steady 10-15 knot winds and only an hour or two between anchorages. Many boats only roll out their jib, not bothering to hoist the main, and we have taken to doing this for most passages.

When you arrive at an anchorage, there is usually a white sand beach to explore and nearby snorkeling opportunities. The current island we are anchored off has both and, unlike some anchorages, you can reach some great corals without having to wait for high tide to swim across a reef. This anchorage and the one we stayed in the night before are both marked as day stops, probably because they are more rolly than the overnight ones, but the holding is good in sand and the rolling goes down when the tide drops and the reef begins to block any fetch.

We went on a ramble this morning following the goat trails between palm, pandanus and pine trees on Avalau Island and it reminded me of the deer trails in the forests of Vancouver Island. We counted 14 goats and kids sitting under a large tree off the beach. It would have made an idyllic pastoral painting. One of the kids was suckling on his mamma's teats and it was tempting to get some goat milk for cheese but Chris was not fast enough!

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