Vanuatu to Australia….by Mike Dawson

Day one of our journey to OZ land.
First off, the day before I am making ready all the final preparations to get off on time. Roger, my savior of sailing has committed to help me sail Shellette to the OZ land. I am making French Toast. I need to make sure I take extra care of Roger since I was at his mercy and he is a great friend. As I was making ready waiting until 5pm when Roger arrives, doing my stuff, I walk out of the salon and was surprised when I walked into Roger. Some other kind boater brought him out when he arrived hours earlier then thought.
We go to the town by dinghy once Roger was settled to make sure we have all that we need for our 7 day journey. Most of the town is closed because of a government holiday. Surely not much to buy when things are closed. Anyway we have a last supper and head to the boat for rest and the start of the trip.
The next morning at 5am we are off, moorings away with the start of the engines. We get to the way point that was set up earlier with the help of Marine and we are off. The miles begin clicking as we make way with all the sails in the air and the wind blowing kindly for us. As land begins to slowly fade behind us and the open blue sea all around you then know you’re the only one out there seeing the beauty as only one can see from being here on Shellette . Roger and I look at each other and decide it’s time to fly the kite (spinnaker). Not just any kite, THE BIG ONE. We dig her out of the depths of the hole dust her off and send her into the air. She catches the wind and with a loud POP she’s full of wind. Shellette is off to the races doing 10 kts and looking good.
Night time falls and we either have the great stew Marine made or cook outside on the grill. Since its descent weather we choose outside and had a great dinner thereby saving the stew for another night. As we progress west to OZ Roger goes down for a rest and I am at the helm. Since Marine is gone who usually gets the freak storms on her watch I guess I took that place. Not just one squall but two in the same watch. Oh was I blessed for that. Winds from all circling directions, the sails full of air and the see night dark and dreary. The winds seem to be coming from all directions which is not a good thing in case you jibe the sails. That is bad for the rigging!!!. Too late to do much but turn into the wind which is blowing 30 kts . After 20 minutes of the SEA GODS saying we are in charge they choose to let Shellette go and sail on her way. From many other events at sea on this journey I had great respect for these GODS and bid them farewell until next time I need a lesson. That first 24 hours took us 169 miles with only 900 to go.
Day Two.
Another great day at sea. No freak squalls seeking us out . NO images of things gone bad just peace at sea with the wind kindly blowing 15kts to the beam and we steadily cruising 8 kts eating up the mileage with 167 miles more clicked off the passage. We passed our first way point at 3am in the morning heading to the next. Good sailing, good sharing of two people helping each other out in life.
Day Three
Our mornings start off the same just with a different person at the helm each bright new beginning. We rotate shifts with during the day 4 hours each then at night we shift to 3 hour shifts. Thus rotates us at different times as the days pass. Today we just get cereal and toast. Mike got lazy and didn’t make Roger anything special. What the heck he is on board after helping me out and now stuck at sea. Nowhere for him to go. That’s what we mates do!!
As the day goes the winds pick up from a beam reach at 15 to 20 kts. That is GOOOOD stuff. No kite today the winds at a different angle but so good to sail with both the MAIN sail and the Genoa. We are cursing 8 to 10 kts knocking off the miles and just loving the passing sea. The waves with white caps and the rollers passing by with the slight nudge or smacking that they do when the winds are stronger. As the day passes into the dusk the seas slacken and winds subside and we are doing 7 kts slithering through the seas with ease. The Captain/chef prepares a home style meal of barbeque chicken, green beans and baked potatoes. Roger is just loving my cooking and looking forward to Rose doing it for him when he returns home.
As we settle in for the night shift we pick up some fisherman. First only one then his buddies decide what a cool place to hang for the night. So they all perch themselves on the bow pulpit and prune and clean each other as the night passes. By now you realize we have sea birds making Shellette there home for the night resting. We don’t mind sharing the hotel its God’s creatures and they share the sea with us. Who knows maybe we get some fishing tips.
As we ease through the calm seas the winds subside to nil and we have to motor doing 5.5 kts for the rest of the night. As we do this we get to take a break and look at the greatness of the sky and see the stars that are only visible in this part of the world. There are millions of them staring down at you. What a smidgen of a thing we are in the great universe. 166 more miles ticked off!!!
Day Four and Five
As the days pass you begin to lose track of time . Shift after shift you just make do with the rest whenever you can get it. An hour or two here and ther. Sometimes you get a whole three and you feel like new or it’s just that you are so wore out and don’t know any better. I am a stickler on shifts and set an alarm to make sure I am on time . My buddy Roger was pretty good but a few times I had to reprimand him and he had to do dishes. Just kidding he was such a great help. As we passed the days with talking about life and laughing, the miles went slow with very little winds. As a matter of fact, we had to motor a good part of the day. As we approached waypoint three we get a call on the radio VHF “ hey is that Shellette”. It’s our friends from “Paseafique” that left Port Vila the day before us in a monohaul. They are moving at 3.5 kts with no wind and we are, as stated earlier, with the engines pushing forward. After all Roger is a working man and needs to get back to the grind.
Not too many places in the world on the same day can you watch the sun rise and see it set in the dusk as a fire ball and watch the full moon reach for the sky and watch it fall into the darkness as out at sea. It is a sight to behold and put in the memory banks of your mind. Day four we only did 144 miles and day five we did 197 miles as the winds GODS blessed us with a beam reach and 20 kts of wind again allowing Shellette to lunge forward and take off on her path. She is a great boat and handled like a Jaguar in the wild.
Day Six plus two hours.
The race is on. Its only Shellette racing against herself. We can smell the land against the salt breeze and push hard toward our goal. Get there as fast as we can. The wind was being a bit testy and blowing on our nose. That makes it a little difficult to sail and motor fighting the wind against you. After a bit the winds slides more in our favor. Roger being the racer he is begins to readjust the rigging of the sails and does magic by adding new lines and sheathing then to a different wench so we can sail tighter to the wind and Shellette is off again. She seeks her path and allows the wind to freely take her forward cruising 9 plus kts. What a breath of fresh air.
As you watch the electronic charts and the miles left to go and the estimated time it will take, it is agonizing in its own right. As the wind changes with the wind speed higher the hours are less and when she goes down you feel like you’re going backwards. Shift after shift you get more inpatient about getting there. It just seems to take forever and then you see land. It’s a sense of inner joy knowing you are about to make another crossing of a huge ocean and you made it. As many people that do this and live there dream or goal or bucket list it is a huge accomplishment to do what we are doing. It’s no small task by any means.
Day six is over and just two more hours and we are in Port. We line ourselves up on the channel makers and glide our way through flat waters to make our way to the Quarantine area where we will await further orders from Customs to enter Australia. The land of OZ. We are now in Bundaberg Australia with a journey that went as good as they can get. Peace with the sea and wind and safe at land.
Thanks to my great friend Roger this journey was one of my best . He gave up a t a moment’s notice to come and share this adventure because I needed help and he stepped up to the plate and this I will remember for life. Thanks my friend for being so kind. Thank to Rose for sharing her man.

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