Epi Island

There’s something untamed about Vanuatu. Ni Van Mother Nature doesn’t hold back—she's as likely to wow with her majesty as she is wound with her might.

Our cruise north from Havannah Harbor fell into the majestic category: an easy 15 knots over our stern quarter and calm enough seas that I took a turn steering by hand for the last hour of the ride just for the fun of it. The anchorage, Lamen Bay, is beautiful, a shallow bite on the northwestern end of Epi Island with jungle vines cascading into the water and perfect mermaid grottos carved out of the rocks. The beach has dark sand, so the water is a tranquil, deep turquoise.

The bay is filled with the largest turtles we’ve seen. Any dip in the water was a swim with the amphibious locals, and they were continuously surfacing around Helios to breathe. Snorkeling, we could watch as they swam in pairs, or startled each other, or swam through schools of fish, and we started to recognize individuals by their physical markings.

I was also treated to our first dugong encounter. Dugongs are similar to manatees: large, grass-eating aquatic mammals, but with dolphin-shaped tails. I was out for an afternoon paddle and admiring a circling hawk, when I saw what seemed to be a small pink whale in the water directly ahead. Dugongs are known to be skittish, but this one was curious about the paddle board, breathing slowly and circling twice.

We lingered in the bay for three nights to wait out a patch of foul weather in the forecast. Foul it was—though punctuated by gloriously clear mornings, we spent two afternoons being pelted by rain drops the size of bullets. Dominic took a deck shower as the wind piped up to 30 knots and described the experience as “painful...but effective.”

There were three active volcanoes in view, and we spent the night after the deluge watching two calderas smolder an angry red as the third fall victim to a violent and continuous lightning storm.

Then an unforecasted swell picked up from the southwest, Lamen Bay’s only exposed angle. We spent the night rocking and rolling like we were underway in heavy conditions. Dominic tossed out the stern anchor to keep the bow of the boat pointed into the swell, which was helpful, but after a restless night we upped both anchors to head for more protected waters.

The fishing has also been high drama in Vanuatu: we’ve had one bite that got away and another that snapped the line and broke Dominic’s secondary rod. Cruising north from Epi to Malekula, our flasher got chomped in half and all of the mirrors were ripped off.

She dazzles us with her wildlife, drenches us with her storms, dismisses us with her waves, and destroys a fair amount of our fishing gear—in these waters, Mother Nature is fickle and fierce!