A voyage of self discovery

Well known Mele couple Tiffany and Matt Grimley have forsaken life on terra firma and opted for a new life at sea. Matt has spent a year painstakingly repairing and renovating their French-made super yacht, for the big adventure.

Together with their four children they left Port Vila in December aboard SV Skye, a 23-metre catamaran, to escape the cyclone season. But as one of their daughters and budding writer Shamma explained, they almost were caught in trouble before their voyage was a month old.

Shamma Grimley will write occasional pieces for The Independent Online about their odyssey.

Shamma_1AS beams of sunlight sprayed from the horizon, the warmth and familiar sound of the steady vibration of the engines awoke me from my deep slumber.

Today was the day, the day my family had been talking about for over a year.

A day of sadness and a day of new beginnings.

On the port deck I took in Port Vila’s early morning peacefulness.

I remember looking around and viewing all of the familiar landmarks. I could feel how dense my heart was, as well as the lump inside of my throat increasing in size.

I thought of how I had spent more than eight years of my childhood and my life here, but I remember a voice inside my head saying that this is going to be one hell of an adventure.

I took one last glance and never, ever looked back. Once out in the open water we let out both the main and the genoa, the wind harnessed the sails, reaching a steady seven knots.

Looking over the decks I saw the vast shadow on the deck from the sails and the ropes laid like snakes across it.

We were heading towards a horizon filled with the unknown.

Shamma_2One hundred and fifty nautical miles later, we dropped our anchor in Turtle Bay, Santo.

Most of us were relieved that it was over, we were finally still.

Turtle Bay has an excellent mud holding for anchors and is very protected by numerous reefs and islands. We stayed in Santo for a week or so, allowing us to enjoy Santo, as well as prepare ourselves for the other stops to come and the large passage for Tarawa, Kiribati.

While watching the system that would soon become Cyclone Mona come towards Fiji, at the time, we decided it was time to head up to Gaua, also known as Santa Maria, before heading to our last stop in Vanuatu – Vanua Lava.

The passage up to Gaua was absolutely fantastic, a moderate breeze and a beautiful blue sky lay above us. We left on Christmas morning and arrived that afternoon.

Gaua was stunning, a beautiful volcanic cliff-like coastline surrounded the island, with a black sand bottom and shore, perfect holding for the anchor. The water visibility was the best I had ever seen, for the three days we stayed there we explored a pristine coral garden with a large variety of animals – manta rays and sea snakes are some examples.

We visited the local village called Kwetevut, we played football with them and traded things for freshwater prawns and local fruit and vegetables.

Shamma_3We then travelled further up to Vanua Lava were we were met by continuous squalls and patches of unpleasant weather. When we reached Port Patterson we were met by a large swell before entering in the protection of the island.

We only stayed a few nights in Port Patterson as we found that it wasn’t quite as protected as we’d believed it to be. Our previous plan was to head up to the twin waterfalls, which was situated on the other side of the island, but due to the system that was developing we were forced to find protected waters in Port Patterson. After a few nights there we decided it was time to head to Tarawa and do the long, 1000 nautical mile stretch up there.

Early in the morning, we picked up anchor and crept out of the bay, leaving Vanuatu behind. From day one we had a large swell reaching up to six and seven metres and a constant 20 knots from the west.

We began shifts of three hours on and off, which ran all the way to day seven. Our average speed was 6.5 knots; we could have gone faster but the swell was large.

We peaked at around 9 to 9.5 knots when the swell subsided, that is, occasionally. We were met by some pretty ferocious squalls that reached 50 knots.

The passage was tough but definitely worth the time and effort. I learnt another aspect to sailing that I never knew before. Sailing, by its nature, is slightly enigmatic and because of this, it requires abstract thinking. You can’t just press a button and expect to go wherever and whenever. It takes a lot of effort. This in turn necessitated a certain amount of involvement from my family. This trip built my character and pushed me to my limits, helping me learn myself just a bit further.

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.