Shellette in Australia

Hi All.  Just an update to let you know what is going on.  I am currently in Denver taking care of the parasite I picked up.  Glad to say I am finally starting to feel better.  Thanks for all the well wishes. 

After sailing to Australia, Mike and Shellette made their way down to Brisbane where they remain in the boat yard.  Shellette was hauled out and sits on the hard (pics in Gallery).  She has some structural issues that stem from her not being properly repaired and painted three years ago.  This is what happens when you are not able to manage the work done on your own boat firsthand.  Anyway, Mike is working very hard but it will take time.  She is getting a brand new paint job, which is costly but worth doing right.    She will literally be good as new when she is done!  We will spend some time with family for the holidays and return to Australia to finish working on Shellette.  Then we will spend some time touring Australia, finally. 

Best wishes to all for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving….Life is Good…..Stay tuned…

New Pictures Have Been Updated in the Gallery

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.

Off To OZ….

Off to OZ

Our friend Roger is returning to Vanuatu to sail to Australia with Mike. I am returning to the states to get to the Dr. as I’ve picked up a bug along the way…nothing serious…..besides, I’m also over the passages….

Mike and Roger have a 1,050 sail ahead of them from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Bundeburg, Australia. Although we had planned to sail to New Caledonia from Vanuatu we have found that they are not able to haul our boat our and to the necessary repairs as they previously stated they could….as it goes in the islands……


We sailed to the island of Malakula and anchored in a bay known as Port Sandwich.
Luckily we had a good cruising guide book because as tempting as this bay was to take a swim….it is known as quite the shark haven. Years ago they started to discard cattle carcass’ here and all the sharks came. Several people (yachties) have been killed here…only a few years ago, sadly a 9 year old girl…. The locals tease that the sharks only like the white people…they are sweeter!

While in Port Sandwich, we were invited to a very small village of only 20 people. They showed us there beautiful garden on the mountainside and enjoyed laughing at us as we broke out into a sweat climbing said mountainside! They shared their many fruits and veggies with us and even cracked open the coconuts and passed them around….and I wonder why I’m having intestinal issues?:)

The children played with and braided my hair as we sat in one of the huts…the blonde things is unique to them. We gave them some clothing, a cooking pot, fish hooks etc…boy were they excited. They have no electricity but when we returned to the main land Mike donated a solar panel and batteries to them….

We also made friends with a women named Mary. Mary came for tea on the boat one day. She traded fruits, veggies and mud crabs for 500 vatus ($5) and some drinking cups…they didn’t have anything to drink from.


As we traveled around Vanuatu we encountered wonderful people, rough seas and once in a life time experiences.

While anchored off of the Meskalyn Islands, we were approached again by a local dugout canoe. We were told the Chief extended an invitation to us to visit the village that afternoon. At the time were were buddy boating with our friends on “Northfork”…Mark and Roberta.

We were anchored a good distance from the village and the seas were very rough as the winds were picking up. It was tough navigating the very shallow waters to get to the island of Avokh. One of the local men came out in his canoe to lead us through the waters. Were were greeted by the entire village…men, women, children. They played music for us and presented us with homemade leis. They were beautiful! As we took pictures Mike would show the children a picture of themselves on the camera screen. Well, they just loved to see themselves as they don’t come across any mirrors very often. Mike was surrounded by kids.

We toured the village and then walked further into the jungle….Mike joked that perhaps we were going to be dinner…not just guests. We all sat on a log and were entertained with a customary “small namabas” dance. When I tell you that these men wore only leaves….I kid you not! It truly was something straight out of Nat’l Geographic Magazine! Their bodies were painted with mud and pigs blood. There private parts were wrapped in a leaf attached to a piece of straw that wrapped around their hips. In Vanuatu they have different tribes…”The Big Nambas and The Small Nambas”. The size of the piece of straw is how they determine…get your minds out of the gutter!

As funny as this may sound, it was actually quite moving, spiritual and emotional to watch these men perform. We really were taken back in time. The people of Vanuatu still believe in Black Magic. They still rely on “rain dancing” etc….

After the dancing we returned to the village for snacks that the women and children prepared…fresh nuts, coconut and some other things we weren’t too sure of. Also to drink Kava…..boy is the Kava in Vanuatu strong….lot’s stronger than Fiji. It was really a special experience.

More on Tanna and Efate in Vanuatu

Island of Tanna….a few stories before we move off Tanna. We had to check in to Vanuatu, as is customary with every country we enter. When we arrived, we anchored at Port Resolution. While this is the preferred and closer anchorage on Tanna, we had to, at some point, make our way to the other side to the capital of Lenekal. This involves the chief arranging for our transportation in an SUV. We were warned it is not an easy or quick ride as all roads here are dirt/lava rock and very bumpy. Well they weren’t kidding. It was a 2.5 hour trip doing hard core four wheel driving. Very bumpy and very steep in places. It was an amazing way to see the island though as we passed many villages and picked up and dropped off many villagers along the way to take them to wherever they had to go.
When we arrived in Lenakal we clearly stuck out like a sore thumb as we were nearly the only white people there. They all seemed to know us and where our boat was anchored. Along the way we saw two schoolgirls, about 8-9 years old walking home, each with a leg of a cow slung over there shoulder. Complete with hoof and dangling flesh and blood. When we tell you that we are in such a remote part of the world…we are not kidding.
Mike sat in the back of the Pickup truck along with other and Stanley (chief). As the chief got to know Mike he asked if he could take a look at one of the local boats as it was on the beach with some leaks in the hull. Well, that turned into Mike fiberglassing, sanding etc… the hull and making it like new! Those of you that know Mike know that no job is left half done and no job is a small job.
We left the island of Tanna and headed for the main island here, Port Vila. We hit some rough seas and high winds as the volcano actually plays a big part in altering the weather when sailing this area. We ended up anchoring at the island of Erromango for the night. A little tough pulling into an unfamiliar anchorage in the dark but we managed and thank goodness for night vision goggles. We rose at 4:30am and headed out for the remaining 80 nm journey to Vila…stil big seas and winds but not as rough as the previous day. There was so much haze and smoke from the volcano in the air that we could not see land until we were only 3nm from it….scary…we had to double check our navigation to be sure we did not head the wrong way in the dark 
Port Vila is on the island of Efate and is also quite lovely. Most of Vanuatu is very lush, thick, green rainforest. Vila is the main city here and offers many stores and supplies along with a 24 hour local open food market. The fruits and vegetables here are amazing. So much better than Fiji offers, and a larger variety. It is a decent size small island city with lots of cars as tourism is high here. You will not find a McDonald’s or the like here though. While Vila has resorts and a city the remainder of Vanuatu remains extremely remote. The few “resorts” they have in the outer islands are nothing more than “bungalows” where you are basically living in a village. The people here are exceptional in that they are genuine, warm and friendly. Vanuatu has actually been voted “The Happiest Place on Earth” in the past.
One thing we have been warned about from the cruising guides and locals are that there are lot’s of sharks in Vanuatu. As we are getting closer to Australia there are now Tiger Sharks and Great Whites….(not to mention the size and variety of spiders here, yikes!) We are going to provision here and sail North to some outer islands….we will keep you posted….stay tuned…Life is Good….

Cruising Vanuatu

Our sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 3 days. We left around 8am on Wednesday morning and arrived at the island of Tanna on Saturday morning. Once we sailed outside the reefs of Fiji the weather, wind and seas were decent. About 10pm the first night the winds picked up to 20+kts out of the NE when they were calling for SE and the seas became rough with 3 meter swells turning to full blown waves right at us. We were pounding into it for a good 24 hours or so. Finally wind and seas slowly calmed down and we had a nice remainder of the trip.

As we got closer to Vanuatu we could see the Volcano “Yasur” from 93 miles away at night, through our night vision goggles. What a site! As the sun came up there was a spectacular rainbow surrounding the volcano, just priceless! Here are a few facts about Vanuatu….
• Vanuatu,formerly called the New Hebrides, is an archipelago of 83 islands in the Western Pacific around 1,750 km east of Australia, lying at the end of a chain of volcanic peaks stretching southeast from Papua New Guinea. Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym and Tanna are the main islands. With a unique blend of Melanesian (Ni-Vanuatu) tribal communities, pristine beaches, stunning active volcanoes and truly memorable diving, Vanuatu has much to entice visitors. There are over 100 different language dialects spoken here but mainly Bislamic. One the main island you can get along with English quite well…thank goodness!
• Left alone by the Europeans for longer than other parts of the Pacific, Vanuatu leapt into the modern age quickly, while remaining a place where the rich Melanesian culture is kept very much alive. It is the chance to experience a little of this fascinating culture that brings most sailors to this country which has been endowed with less cruising attractions than its neighbours.
• One of the greatest attractions of the islands is a visit to the live volcano on Tanna or Ambrym, where one can ascend into the crater, the closest one can get to an active volcano safely anywhere in the world. Even sailing by these islands one can be treated to a spectacular firework display, especially at night.
• Many villages receive little or no contact with the outside world other than through yachts. Trading goods for local carvings and fresh produce is a major source of clothing, school supplies, and currency for these villagers. Carry second-hand clothing, notebooks, pencils and pens, fishing line and hooks, reading glasses, old magazines, etc. for bartering with locals.
When we arrived in Tanna, we entered the Port Resolution Harbor….a large protected anchorage surrounded by mountainous rain forest and a volcano. The anchor did not even hit the bottom before we the locals were approaching our boat in their beautiful wooden dug out canoes. They spoke English which was a relief and were just very interested in the boat and where we had come from. I broke out my supply of lollipops and you can’t imagine how happy they were. From then on we had a train of dug out canoes come to visit looking for lollies during the course of our 3 days in Tanna.
After we anchored we went to shore to speak to the village chief and ask permission to be there, as is custom just like Fiji. Stanley, the chief was very friendly and accommodating. His family offered us fresh eggs and some vegetables, which we thought quite nice. We reciprocated the next day with a Colorado Rockies T-shirt, cigar, some rope, fish hooks etc…. Stanley arranged for us to get a ride to the Volcano the next morning and told us to return in the morning at 7am. Unfortunately for this village, we sailors forgot about the time line we crossed and ended up waking the village at 6am instead of 7am. They were lovely about it.
Off we went on a 50minute 4 wheel drive road to the volcano. From there we hiked a short ways to the rim. OH BOY! They actually let you stand at the rim of this very active volcano as it spews rocks and lave high into the air. You have to be careful and watch where the rocks land as people have been killed here. It was intense, scary, exciting and just unbelievably magnificent to be there! This may be THE most amazing thing we’ve done yet! There truly are no words to describe it. In America, they would have this area and miles around it evacuated. We have many pictures and videos to share but are in the midst of getting our library working proper….stay tuned for the pictures…you’ll not want to miss them.
On our last day in Tanna one boy approached us in his canoe and asked if we had any Bisquick…after several attempts at trying to understand what he was asking for…I just had to laugh at his request. Apparently they had received some Bisquick mix from another American boat along the way and they liked it. Unfortunately, we did not have any but I told him I knew what is was. Stay tuned….Life is Good..

Vanuatu – WOW!!!

Hi All….We arrived in Vanuatau safe and sound. We have a rough sail half the time and beautiful the second half. We checked into the island of Tanna which is the south end of Vanuatu and also home of the world’s most active volcano. They actuall let you walk up to the rim and look down. It is quite amazing. We’ve also survived a few quakes since we’ve arrived but all is well. We have lot’s to say and lot’s of pics to share but internet is very limited here (the most limited area to date). It is Sunday here and the internet cafe is closed but they let us come in for a few minutes to get this email off to you all. We are now in Port Villa and heading to the norther islands. We keep you up to date and write a nice blog about our last week here. It has been absolutely amazing!!!! Love to you all. Stay tuned…Life is good!!!

Vanuatu or Bust….

We are checking out of Fiji today and heading for Vanuatu.
We spent our last night in Fiji with several new friends. Lots of guitar playing and sing along. What a fun night. We have only a 3 day sail in front of us. We have two friends from New Zealand and a friend from Denver joining us for the journey to Vanuatu. We will miss Fiji as we have made many friends here. After Vanuatu we will go to New Caledonia. We don’t know what we will do after that but one option is to return to Fiji…stay tuned….Life is Good….