Safaga,  Egypt


Red Sea Rising

A Trip to Cairo

Safaga to Port Suez

Safaga, Egypt

Red Sea Rising

To Safaga



Arrival in Djibouti


Boat Cooking

 Bear off!, bear off!

"No speak English"

Arabian Sea



Leg to Djibouti

Laguna Beach


Island of Male

More Sri Lanka


Sandra Dale Cook



July 21,1999


Charlie & SaundraHaving guests arriving from the states after such a long time put us into a state of real excitement.  To see our friends was wonderful; to get letters, photos of our grandchildren, and spare parts were added bonuses.  We had prearranged meeting them in Musket Cove, a beautiful resort were all the fleet rendezvoused.  It is always wise to do all the plans ahead of time for communication in the islands is iffy at best.

Their arrival came off without a hitch and we enjoyed our stay at Musket Cove, or "Dick's Place".  Musket Cove was so named because the original purchase was for a musket traded to a chief.  Later Dick Smith made the purchase for "many muskets".  We met Dick Smith and his wife Carol and complimented him on the beautiful place he built in this remote corner of the globe.

Each skipper and crew of a boat that sails into Musket Cove from a foreign port is eligible to join the Musket Cove Yacht Club and the name of the vessel is carved into a beam in the ceiling of the restaurant.  Sea Gem is duly recorded and Charlie and I will proudly carry our lifetime membership cards to the Musket Cove Yacht Club.

We had a flame ceremony at Musket Cove as well as participating in a kava ceremony with instructions on how to keep from fouling up and keep from committing a serious faux pas.  It is unfortunate that our guests did not arrive in time for kava, but our main reaction was that it did not taste as bad as it looks.  It looks like dirty dishwater, and only tastes like tepid water from a mud puddle.

When Barbara and John Koenig and Viki and Fred Leonhardt arrived we took time to get them installed into their quarters and introduced to the Sea Gem, safety precautions and routines before we left on the Fiji to Vanuata leg.  We added a few provisions at the well supplied store at Musket Cove and walked through some of the scenic areas of the island.

John and Barbara have done a good amount of sailing but it was a maiden voyage for Fred and Vicki.  We had a few misgivings about setting out on a four day blue water passage but all were game and short of them flying to the next destination there was no other choice.

As soon as we cleared protection of the reef at Musket Cove it became obvious that this would not be an easy passage.  The winds were strong, peaking in the mid thirty knot range with rough seas.  Each crewmember was game and cheerful but it is hard to be having fun when as Barbara said " I feel like I am in a front loading washing machine strapped to a roller coaster".

Dr. Victor, from Pilar G, had insisted I take some Sturgeron aboard for guests who might suffer from mal de mer, and boy was I glad we had it.  This medication is the preferred one among the yachties, and although not available in the states, can be bought over the counter other countries.  After several doses most of the crew felt better and by the time we entered Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu all were pretty seasoned sailors.  Whether some will ever again step foot on a sailboat remains to be seen.


We come across surprises in life all the time and Port Vila certainly falls into the category of surprises.

Efate is a beautiful island and Port Vila is a very cosmopolitan city with wonderful restaurants and a bus service that should be emulated by cities and towns throughout the world.

The buses are vans designated by a license plate with a "B" incorporated into the number on the front bumper of the vehicle.  When you want a bus you merely step to the curb or the edge of the street and hold up your hand and one with room will stop.  Then you tell the driver where you want to go and he fits your stop into the route he is currently taking.  You may end up on a bit of a scenic tour but you will get to your destination and the fare is one vatu, or less than a dollar, paid as you exit the coach.  If the trip is really a long one it will be two vatu.  We all marveled at the efficiency of this system, the fact that it is used extensively and seems to work for everyone involved.  Taxis are also available but when you become accustomed to the buses they do not seem necessary.


In Port Vila we again tied stern to the wall with our anchor out holding the bow straight.  The rise and fall of the tide was too great for planks or walkways from the boats so we again had to go by dinghy the few feet from the boat to the ladder, climb the wall, climb the fence and then we were ashore.  We were tied in a location they do not usually use for yachts so it was not really set up for us.  We did have water available and all boats filled water tanks during the time we were there.  The wharf fronted on the city park where there was lots of activity, from people having lunch to evening concerts.  The main activity was the local population hanging over the fence watching all of us climb in and out of our boats and scale the wall.  I don't know for sure but I think they were taking bets on who wouldn't make it.  Charlie set up our swim ladder separate from the fixed ladder after the fixed ladder punctured our inflatable.  During high tide the ladder climb was just a challenge, when the one and one half-meter tide was out it was a real stretch.  Of course the wall was covered with barnacles- where we got the second inflatable puncture.  They are now repaired and so far the patches are holding.

Another nice service arranged for us was fuel delivered to the dock by truck, and sold to us duty free.  "Kiwi John" and "Jamaica Tom"  work hard setting up the good services for the fleet.


Julie and Stuart from Stampede directed us to Jill's cafe for lunch and it became our unofficial home away from home for the remainder of our stay.  Jill is a "hand's on" owner, and her husband Greg is present with her much of the time.  They are expatriates from California who moved to Vanuata to raise their boys.  This is an ideal place for young children.  There is almost no crime and the pace of life is slow and gentle.  Education for older children is a problem but addressed by parents in various ways from boarding school in New Zealand to supervised correspondence courses geared to each child.  Jill not only runs a fine restaurant but she gives advice on where to go, places to dine in the evening, (she closes at six), and fills you in on her feelings of the most delightful places imaginable: Japanese, Chinese, and French.  As I said, Vanuatu was a place of surprises and they were really pleasant ones.


waterfallYou would think Charlie and I would have had enough of waterfalls after the Marquesas but the lure is too great and away we went to limb and explore a beautiful fall and swimming place on the island of Efate.  We took a bus out to "The Cascades" and since it was really at the end of the line, so to speak, we made arrangements to have the bus come back for us at a designated time.

By this time Fred and Vicki had left the boat for their hotel to prepare for their continuing trip to Australia so the waterfall adventure was left to Barbara and John, Charlie and me, and Brad and Rosie from Foxy Lady .  It was a great adventure, all of us falling down at least once in the slippery muddy climb up, and dramatic magnificent scenery to remember.  The cascades are beautiful, falling one after another over huge boulders rubbed smooth by the force of the crystal clear water rushing past.  A highlight of the day was a swim in a pool of the crystal clear, cool water.  Another excursion with the same participants was a trip out to Hideaway Island for lunch and snorkeling on probably the best reef with the greatest variety of coral that we have ever seen.  Coral reefs are wonderful and here in this part of the Pacific I have seen fish and coral I have never seen before and vivid blue starfish clinging to the coral like long lady's fingers in blue velvet gloves.

cultural tourAnother great excursion on Efate was to a "cultural village" where a guide explains the old ways of life and how many of the things they have given up, (like cannibalism) and many they have retained (like a chief running each village).  Our guide was excellent and his descriptions, and demonstrations, including displays of human skulls, made the nature of life in Vanuatu come alive.  One thing he told us about that really impressed us was that for they have a poison vine that they can put in the sea to paralyze fish for easy harvest, but this can only be used with permission of the chief and for a special occasion such as a wedding.  To see that the people are concerned with conversation and thoughts of tomorrow rather than making today's harvest easy was very impressive.  Western culture could take some lessons from these people.  Also they gave many demonstrations of herbal medicine and general healthy tips like eat simply, walk more.  Oh these primitive people and their ideas.

We lucked into being on Efate for the big annual charity horse race.  The Kiwanas Club sponsors it and all the proceeds go to local charity.  Everyone turns out for the hat contest, the food and of course the races.  the event is in a large field with the race course set out and some horses run more than one race.  it was so crowded I never really got to see a race but watching the preparation and the crowd was a show itself.  The horses were all local and so were the riders, a community builder as well as a moneymaker.


Charlie and I had the honor of passing the Millennium Flame from our lamp to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu in a ceremony and logbook signing session at the Rossi Hotel in Port Vila.  He was most gracious and we manager to get the new lamp lighted with no mishaps.

Tom William's joined us in Port Villa for a few days between ports and we next sailed to Epi where we spent two delightful days snorkeling on a lovely little shallow reef and exploring the village, visiting the school and meeting one of the two Peace Corp workers on the island.  We met Josh Eaton, who with his wife Kristen, are stationed in Epi.  Kristen was away at a conference so we had Josh alone out to the Sea Gem for dinner.  He gave us his observations on his life in Epi and his Peace Corp work.  We enjoyed his visit and I believe he enjoyed his "taste of home" with a typical American meal, grilled NY strip steaks with the trimmings.  The Koenigs gave Josh new books to take back and we sent a supply of crayons, coloring books, candy, Mickey Mouse pins and balloons.

This morning we left Epi to take John and Barbara and Tom to catch a flight from Pentecote back to Port Vila so that the Koenigs can begin their long journey home and Tom can go back to working on keeping a rally running smoothly.

This morning we have passed Ambryn, an island with two active volcanoes and the view was awesome.  The crowns of the peaks were shrouded in smoke and the cloud formations and sunlight filtering through gave and Old Testament look to the scene.  We had planned to take a trip to Tanna to see " the worlds most active volcano" but they had closed down because it had become too dangerous.  We heard descriptions of "standing on a platform at the edge of the caldron having refrigerator chunks of lava fly over your head".  We also opted against anchoring at Ambryn because of the corrosive ash is so hard on the rigging.

Epi was a picture perfect anchorage and gave us an opportunity to experience the laid back nature of the South Pacific.  Besides visiting the school we went to the local baker and bought two delicious loaves of bread that had been baked in his outdoor stove oven, with oven door made from burlap and heat adjustment done by placing or removing little plugs of burlap from holes in the side of the oven.

this morning we also saw whales not far from the boat another thrill when you are out to sea.

There is much to tell but I better stop now and get this ready to go with John and Barbara back to the US so the web site can get a long overdue update.  We will try to stay more current as we continue but the hours are short and the demands are many.  Best wishes, peace and love, from the Sea Gem on the way to Pentecote.  Until later...