We made our escape from the Bay of Islands catching a lucky weather window out.There were a lot of anxious cruisers looking intensely for a decent weather window to sail up to the tropics of Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu… Quite a number of boats attempted to sail out & got hammered by fierce winds & raging seas, some boats returning without their masts, severally damaged boats & shredded sails; for some it was a cruise ending failed passage as they re-evaluated their life’s priorities.I had been watching the weather twice a day for nearly two months before we departed, it was clear to me that a rough passage was certainly in store for most of the boats that departed before us with a few lucky exceptions that were capable of taking the rough passage in stride.A week before we departed I was seeing a reasonable weather window opening with down wind conditions for the first few days followed by light & variable winds for two or three days then winds about 45degs off our starboard bow then somewhere around 30deg south we may encounter a weak low front with rain but the winds predicted would be less than 30 knots. It has been said many times by many experienced weather routers others that have sailed between New Zealand & the tropics that the passage is too long to forecast a perfect passage the whole way, low fronts or storms pass thru this area every 3 to 6 days & the passage typically takes 7 to 14 days; so it’s best to hit the low front at around latitude 30deg south which is what the forecasts were revealing.By this time the cruisers that were awaiting the ‘perfect’ weather window were getting a bit nervous, when we announced our departure date for the next day we were besieged with dire warnings of a doomed passage; there where quite a lot of ‘chicken littles’, but then even the day before we departed New Zealand weather guru Bob McDavitt was warning against leaving the next day.By this time in the season the period of time when one could possibly hope for a decent weather window was quickly coming to an end, the notorious New Zealand winter storms were due to start any day now, the only hope of departing any later will only give one a few days before heavy storm fronts will be marching thru every 3 to 4 days.On our day of departure Bob McDavitt changed his outlook & proclaimed that it has turned out to be a good time to sail north.
Along with our new hard dodger we also took on a very good kiwi friend we met when we first arrived in the Bay of Islands.Stu McCreadie was the first mate on the brand new 150 power cat that tours the Bay of Island, previous to that he worked on huge tour boats that ply the fiords of New Zealand’s south island.He’s made heaps of sailing passages & last year he was aboard the ill fated sail boat that ended up sinking at sea & was lucky to have been rescued by a freighter ship.When one crews on someone else’s boat you’re pretty much at the mercy & wims of the captain, in this case the captain insisted on anchoring in a nearly imposible spot in Vanuatu.Against Stu’s recommendations the captain refused to re anchor in a safer place for the night, in the middle of the night the wind came up& put the boat hard on the reefs.This constant banging must have separated the keel a bit from the hull.Again the captain refused to take Stu’s advise to go at once to a haul out facility to have it inspected & repaired so they sailed off to New Calidonia where Stu was planning to depart the boat with Captain Biegh…they never made it.When the seas got big & rough a crack in the keel to hull & water began to flood the boat.They were able to We ended up having pretty much the exact weather that had been predicted all week before our departure & the rain we got turned out to be just a light drizzle which didn’t affect our mood at all while we sat under our new hard dodger.We did end up motoring those few days when the wind went light as predicted so we motored more than on any other passage; we wanted to just get to Tonga before the weather changed its peaceful ways.When the wind did return we had the most pleasant sailing one could ever hope for, the seas were quite calm after three days of no wind & we arrived in Nuku’alofa.The first ominous sight was a dismasted sail boat call Oasis which encounter a rough ride from New Zealand & next to them was another boat that had such a rough ride their fuel tanks disgorged age old bottom crude that took down their fuel injectors.We anchored near a small motu where ‘Big Momma’s’ Polynesian thatched roof beach bar is located.This bar is quite possibly the best authentic native beach bar we’ve been to in the nearly three years we’ve been out cruising with Tesa’s beach bar in American Samoa being another must see place; Tesa’s beach bar did in fact put on the absolutely best Polynesian Umu we’ve ever experienced where they dig a pit, line it with special rocks, place heaps of great food & cover it with banana leaves.
We left New Zealand behind with the cold temps & getting stormy & colder, we arrived in Tonga with pleasantly warm breezes & delightfully warm waters to swim, snorkel & kayak in.We arrived on a Saturday so customs were not open to check us in, of course they are closed on Sundays & Monday was a major Tongan holiday so we were able to just kick back & relax until Tuesday before going thru the clearing in procedures.On Wednesday we took a van tour of the whole island which lasted about 5 hours, we often don’t get past the waterfront of many of the places we have sailed to so this time we were determined to get a good look around the island of Tongatapu.There is quite a lot of history here on the administration capital for all of Tonga & of course the King resides here.We were shown the trees of which hundreds if not thousands of fruit bats sleep during the day.Later I read that it’s tabu to hunt them while they sleep in these ‘sacred trees’, it is said to be very bad luck, but once they are in flight or off to some other place it’s ‘game on’.At first sight these are somewhat terrifying creatures which invoke scenes from old vampire movies, they are really flying rats which feed on fruit which they gorge themselves on an expensive amount of the natives food supply until Tonga found out that the Japanese hotel owners in Guam consider the ‘flying fox’ a pricy gourmet treat which soon where bringing in a good source of revenue along with keeping their fruit crop damage to a minimum.Although there were perhaps 100’s to be seen on this tour, I’ve seen 1000’s while kayaking around the small islands in Vava’u Tonga.
So off we went to the next attraction which was the amazing blow holes on the windward side of the island, these were by all accounts the most amazing blow holes we’ve ever encountered.In all of years of ocean travel we have seen quite a number of these, one here another there but never like this.They were ranging up & down the coast as far as the eye can see in both directions.Blow holes are typically formed by vertical or near vertical round volcanic vent tubes where the high pressure volcanic gasses would blast out releasing vast pressures from the inner earth during the volcano’s active years, now when an ocean swell crashes to the shore the water is blasted up & out of the blow holes with an amazing display of spray, often forming rainbows when the sun is in the right place.Near this viewing area we saw what once was a grand hotel with glorious views of these awesome blow holes, unfortunately the tour guide didn’t know much about the sights, he’d just point & say ‘look’.Perhaps he just didn’t know enough English & we didn’t know enough Tongan, so later I read a book on Tongan history & found out that in an attempt at tourism this fine hotel was built but had limited success on the account that an airport had not yet been built & there wasn’t many boats coming in as there wasn’t any wharfs big enough to allow the cruise ships to land.But now it strange to see the place languishing in despair when there are now both an international airport & huge cruise ship wharfs.Tonga is a vast collection of tropical island paradises & what keeps it that way is the fact that it’s not over run with over priced touristy hotel & ‘parrot headed’ tourist. Tongans are proud of their heritage & not all together enthused to have their paradise invaded by huge masses of tourists so Tonga is slow to promote this industry.As I see it the simple ways of Tonga & it’s people live will always have a food supply since their crops grow well in the highly fertile soil & there seems to be steady supply fish for them as long as other countries don’t come in & fish them out as they’ve done before in so many other places.If too much tourism comes in it could result in over pricing of common good which would in turn bring grief to the average Tongan while the non native hotel owners get rich.Something has to give because for better or worse change is unavoidable, they will always need hospitals, schools & large ships to delver supplies so only time will tell.
Next on our tour was Captain Cooks landing place.He had such a great time here enjoying the friendly hospitalities of the locals that he named these islands the ‘friendly islands’.The chiefs put on great feasts for the Captain & crew with dancing girls, kava ceremonies & heaps of other extravaganzas but while the good Captain was enjoying the fests the chiefs were busy planning how they were going to do away with the foreign palangi & take their valuable stuff.The story is that the chiefs could not agree on where or when to attack, some wanted a daylight attack while others wanted a surprise night attack, then there could have been the arguments of who got which body part to eat & weather they should be BBQ’d umu style, deep fried or baked.Just before the chiefs could agree with the attack plans & meal time celebrations Captain Cook looked at his watch & said, ‘wow, look at the time, there’s a world of discovering to do’.So off he went & from then on Tonga has been known to the world as the ‘Friendly Islands’ J
Next on our tour was the famous Trilithon of Haamonga village, built in the late 1100’s by the great maritime king of that era.Its Tonga’s version of Stonehenge with huge rectangular pillars that weigh 30 to 40 tons each, two pillars on each side hold up the cross section which is laid in place in a slot carved on top of the two vertical pillars.It’s function has been a mystery for ages but the previous king of Tonga has put forth a theory that scientist believe explains it’s main purpose.He noticed a ‘V’ shaped notch on the top cross piece that casts a shadow on a certain place on the ground in front of the Trilithon which marks the best time to plant crops, then again it aligns to the time when the harvest should be done.Also these times corilate with the cyclone season & dictates when the great war canoes should go out & kick ass over seas.The other function was the obvious entrance way to that particular king’s residence.The caretaker of the place said there was no mystery of how they built it, the area was filled with sand & dirt & the pieces rolled up the sloping ramps on coconut tree log & the sand was then removed.The mystery is how they brought these huge coral stones to the site.Although they could have quarried them on the island they still had to move them at least a few miles & up the hill.Some geologist say they had to come from WallisIsland hundreds of miles away since that’s the only place the coral type has a match.Back during this time Tonga was the central ruling power of the south pacific ranging as far as Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji & beyond.Their mighty war canoes were big enough for over 80 warriors, enough food for the round trip plus two smaller sailing outriggers, so it’s feasible that one off these mammoth canoes could carry one of the three massive blocks.This over seas war canoe ass kicking peaked around 1200 to 1300 & by the 1400’s they were content to just kick ass in their local waters.Although they were named ‘ the friendly islands’ they were fierce warriors & even the kids knew how to inflict torture on wounded prisoners, a skill they learned from the Fijian neighbors.The Tongans have a strong warrior heritage & the men grow big & strong, while at Trilithon in Haamonga, the care taker was happy to hear I had come from California because his son now lives there going to collage at USC playing football on a full ride scholarship; he was very proud.His son is known on the field as ‘the Rock’ for he’s built like a rock like the huge rocks that form the Trilithon.
The tour also included a stop at small plantation the tour guide shared with a relative; there we were given a huge stalk of bananas, a number bread fruit, papayas & yams…yummy.
With the tour done our adventures on the main administration capital island are complete & we are looking forward to spending a few more days out at the lovely Pangaimotu where the Big Mommas beach bar is located.There on the walls are the flags & names of many other cruiser boats that have visited before; we were delighted to recognize quite a large number of boats that we know well.We also got the chance to play our music there.After our beach bar concert we were told that the king would love to be an audience to our music, quite an awesome proposition but as we were leaving soon towards Vava’u to earn a bit of cruising funds we passed up the once in a life time chance.
Two days later the winds finally picked up & we set sail north for a week or so in the Ha-Apia group which is notorious for sailing amoung the numerous reefs & the occasional active volcanoes.We have heard many reports from other cruisers that have sailed near new islands erupting from the ocean floor.There often one going off somewhere in this area & small earth quakes are often rumbling around the ever percolating lava field below the seas.But no such drama was encountered & the reefs were never an issue thanks the modern GPS navigation instruments we all carry these days.Our time in the Ha-Apia group was what are dreams of the south pacific where all about.The water is clear & warm; the coral formations are still alive & healthy abounding with countless varieties of tropical fish.While anchored near an un-inhabited island we were enjoying a pristine sandy beach when a family from another island village came along on their small motor boat.They were there to collect various shell fish, sea cucumbers & the occasional octopus found in the shallows at low tide.Their kids played catch with Robin & his football while we talked with the father & his 18 year daughter.He asked if we liked to drink coconuts, we said yes very much so he had one of his sons scamper up the nearest coconut tree & retrieve several good coconuts & he used his machete to open up a drinking hole; they were the sweetest we’ve ever tasted.A short while later one of his sons calls out to his father; he had located a giant clam.The father walked out & wrenched it from its hiding place returned & asked if we liked clam.We said yes but said we didn’t know how to ‘gut’ the thing, I didn’t know which slimy part was the edible part so he opened up the clam with his machete & showed me which parts to cut out which he did & then cut out the main scallop like white muscle & we all sheared it raw right there; again it was amazingly good, the rest I put in an empty coconut shell to cook later.Soon again another son calls out to his dad & this time the father comes back with a live squiggling octopus which again he showed me which parts to cut off & that too made it into our pot for dinner that night.The next day on our invitation came along our boat, they were bearing much food gifts including a yam that was about three feet long, a number of bread fruits (our favorite) & a number of husked drinking coconuts which once they are drank the meat inside is delicious.We gave them a couple of older under water goggles & snorkels, a number of school books that Robin was finished with some paper & pencils, it was a another great day in paradise.
After a few days there we sailed to another un-inhabited island with a great sandy beach, great snorkeling & kayaking.One night Robin suggested we have a cook out on the beach & had a dream like time again there.A few mores day went by & it was time to sail up to Vava’u to expecting to earn some more cruising funds with all of the promised income thru the fun of water sports & our music.The sail up to Vava’u was again most pleasant, we were expecting fairly light winds but we ended up racing along at our top speed; we made such good time that we ended up arriving there at midnight instead of first light, but since we have been there before we easily made our way to an easy anchorage & had a great nights sleep.
In the morning we motored the mile or so to a special uninhabited island that we had visited last year called Vaka’eitu.This is the place where we planted a coconut that we had carried all the way from the Marquises last year.We had been saving this coconut for such a long time that it had sprouted palm fronts over a foot high.We found a nice place just inside from the beach near a huge tree.We dug a shallow hole, set our Marquisian coconut in, surrounded it with nice coral pieces & sea shells then placed a special gnome figure that wanted to stay & go native on this island while keep a good watch over our coconut.Well I kayaked to this beach now nearly a year later & two cyclones & searched & searched.Much had changed, there were fallen trees, vast overgrowth here & there, some sand accumulation here & erosion there…but finally there it was complete with our ever watchful gnome & the ring of coral & shells, in the middle of the circle stood our coconut tree now standing over 5 feet tall!
We spent a few nice & relaxing days here doing some snorkeling & kayaking before up anchoring & sailing into the main village of Neiafu where all the action is.There is now over 26 bars & very few hotel beds so there must be a lot of partiers just partying’ all night.We came ashore & had a nice visit with Mike & Lori the owners of the Aquarium Café’; man, cold beer tastes great after one runs out for a couple of weeks.We made arrangements to play on Saturday nights with occasional special events on other nights.We had a great first gig there where they promoted a ‘Welcome back Hipnautical’ night.The place was absolutely packed as there were at least two groups of sailing rally organizations with their fleets of sailboat, it was really fun to be back in the groove at the Aquarium Café’ in Vava’u Tonga.One of the rallies was the around the world from the Gibraltar to Gibraltar, another one or two from New Zealand & Australia.
Robin was not looking forward to leaving New Zealand where had made many friends, perhaps the most friends he’s ever made since leaving.He’s always had a few cool friends to play with the whole trip so far but in Nz where we stayed put for 6 months he had dozens of great friends to play with.He was dreading coming to Tonga because the local palangi twins that we here last year had moved back to the states along with another local palangi friend.But much to his delight he met up with the twins just 5 minuets after going ashore.They have been inseparable ever since we got here two weeks ago.Robin is ether spending the nights over at their house or the twins are spending the nights on our boat & we even took them all out for 5 days of island cruising.
We make our plans in the sand at low tide & when the tide comes in it often brings with it better insights to more intriguing opportunities.Although we have heard that Australia could have many opportunities for music work we are drawn to the small town feeling of New Zealand.Although we didn’t get a chance to visit the south island of New Zealand while we were there we have heard heaps of great raves about it’s awesome beauty.We have made connections with folks that have connections…that could lead to some promising employment opportunities which in turn will open doors to smooth immigration possibilities, so when we return to Nz we’ll be exploring these new horizons.By the end of August or early September we will be sailing for Fiji, we’re hearing great things about Fiji:-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We have now been out to a few new anchorages that we did get a chance to go to last year, I’ve had the chance to ride my bike & do a lot of snorkeling & kayaking.Robin has met up again with a palangi family from New Mexico that has moved here permanently, so he’s in hog heaven with the twin boys two years his senior. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well another six weeks have gone by & so much has come & go… As the days pass by one at a time things don’t seem to change much but now as I sit here about to set it all to text it seems like mountains of incredible experiences we’ve been a part of, which didn’t seem possible for being in basically one area for so long.As I write this I’m transferring nearly 3 gigs of pix taken just in the last week or so, so apparently we’ve been seeing a lot & having a good time here in Tonga.Although we’ve been here last year it seems that we hardly saw nearly as much as we have this time around. As I’ve noted on the last entry we took Robin’s twin friends out for a number fun days which they really enjoyed, came back & played another great gig at the Aquarium Café’, then headed out for some more out island fun, but just a few days out Robin experienced some very sever tooth pain & we had to return to the main harbor for some quick dental work.Out here in Tonga they don’t mess around with those pesky & expensive fillings…they just rip out the offending tooth.So after a full diagnostic evaluation by the local bush Dr, which took all of two seconds, she announces that the offending tooth must be ripped out.So with a very modest amount of Novocain & a few seconds for it deaden a very very small amount of the pain, the tooth pliers began their violently wretched action & a short eternity later Robin has a huge molar for the tooth fairy, complete with long dangling roots.There were no complications & he soon felt better than with the painful tooth; he just has a huge hole in his mouth. If we hadn’t of come back in a hurry for Robin’s tooth we would not have gotten the very dreadful news by email that Bobbie’s not so older brother had just passed away, he had had a heart attack while up on his roof & then fell head first to his immediate death.Well at least he didn’t suffer long or live through a slow & dreadful pain filled degraded life…we come up with these rationalizations to some how make sense of an un timely death but Reiner leaves behind so many that miss him dearly…life is not about the ‘what ifs’…we can only celebrate the many good things that was his reality.So if we hadn’t unexpectedly returned for Robin’s tooth drama we would not have gotten the news in time for Bobbie to scramble on the ‘oh so many planes & connection flights’ to get halfway around the world for her brothers funeral.Bobbie & her woman’s instincts have been worried for the last few years while we’ve be away from it all, that one of her brothers might have heart issues before she could see them again; her father died of a heart issue. Bobbie was able to start her long series of flights from Tonga to Salt Lake CityUtah at sunrise the following morning.A cab ride to the small propeller airplanes that flies from Vava’u Tonga to Nuku’alofa Tonga.An over night layover with a slightly larger plane to Fiji, then a jumbo 747 with little tiny ‘unjumbo’ seats all the way to Los Angeles, then again a smaller plane to Salt Lake city.With the date line & time changes she got there the same time she departed, of course on her return flight it took a two days :-O The time with her family was bittersweet under the sad circumstances but the reunions were very heart felt.After the funeral she flew back to Los Angeles & had visited with her daughter Aubrey & her dearest friends, she even got to play a couple harp gigs while there. Bobbie returned with heaps of items that can’t be found in this part of the world including many food items from Trader Joes market, trendy tee shirts for Robin, a new djembe drum & my other electric guitar.Life on a boat is rough on musical instruments as we’ve had to do two major harp repairs in the last few years, our African djembe’s natural animal skin head had developed holes; a djembe is something between a bongo drum & a conga.The electric guitar I had on board had a catastrophic failure in that the string bridge collapsed in, so Bobbie was able to retrieve my other electric guitar from my friend that taking care of it. While Bobbie was gone Robin had the opportunity to stay with his twin friends at their house.Quite a relief for both of us since he doesn’t like my cooking, so he dinned on top Ramon, instant noodles & take out food while I had to get by on beef, chicken, pork, native taro, yams & many other great foods fit for a king :-)Often when Robin wanted to get back to the boat for more kids supplies he would yell “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, then I’d go out & get him with our dingy.Then periodically I would often keep hearing what sounded just him yelling “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, I would scan the shores & see no sign of him.Then I hear “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll” again & again with no sign of Robin.It turns out that we have a huge base of fans that gather in the jungles near our boat where ever we go & constantly yell to us “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”!!Turns out our biggest fans are the local chickens, the roosters are constantly screaming to us “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”!!As it goes, most roosters announce the sunrise with a boisterous “Cock-a-doodle-doo”, some uh ‘alternative life style gay roosters may call out “Any-Cock-will-doo.But here in Tonga they, our most vocal of fans yell out our boat name, which also our musical duet’s name Hipnautical…“Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”,which sort of makes their quite annoying cackling a bit humerous & ego inflating.It gets a bit annoying in that they are screatching this at all hours of the day & night, not just at sunrise like they’re supposed to. “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”, “Yo-Hip-Nau-Tic-allll”…………. Each day I was able to concentrate on a bit soul searching, future plans & my music productions.I learned a lot about my new music software, which like any complex computer software takes large amounts of time with the learning curve, unfortunately what I learned the most was that my Dell PC, which seems fine for normal emails, ship’s navigation…is almost worthless for music production.I did get to learn a lot about PCs though, a lot more than I ever wanted to but the main thing I learned is that I’ll need to get a Mac :-O Our plans are indeed written in the sand at low tide with the hopes that when the tide comes in it will bring new inspirations.It seems like every few months when I update our Ship’s Log we have a new direction for where to go.We were hoping to immigrate to Nz since we really felt at home with the small town friendly country & the people there are quite nice to be around, but the huge hassle of immigrating there has turned us away. We will instead spend nearly a year & a half there, mostly in the north part of the south island in the Nelson area. We plan to get a boat slip there, playing gigs there to cover our cost of living there. We'll use our time there to fine tune our music act, create some interesting productions with my new music software, along with recording 'heaps' of new music. In mid March of 2012 we'll sail east along the roaring 40s departing from Nelson Nz. We will get a dependable crew member, hopefully our good crew Stu that sailed with us from Nz here to Tonga, to sail with us & let Robin fly to Hawaii, as it will be a very long, cold & challenging sail. It's about 5000 miles from Nz to Hawaii. We'd sail about 2500 miles from Nelson to the Gambeirs, which is starting at about 40S to 23S. Then about 1000 miles up to the Marquises & another 1500 or so miles to Hawaii. While in Hawaii the plan will be to spend about 9 months gigging where we can & checking out places to perhaps come back to live & work our music. Getting a permanent boat slip there is nearly impossible but we can get slips for 4 months here or there. Anchoring is a big challenge in that they require you to move every 72 hours. The ocean channels between the islands are notorious, with waves, tides & winds funneling between the 10,000 to 14,000 foot mountain peaks :-O We should arrive there May-ish & depart the following Aug, which are the best times for arrival & then departure for San Francisco. We may try to sell the boat while in Hawaii if the music work looks promising enough, if not we will sail the boat to San Fran to settle into a boat slip there with hopes to earn our cost of living playing our music while we sell our boat. After that we may move to Hawaii since it seems like at this point to be a great place to work our music, unless we find a better place to live & work while we are in the San Francisco area. This will be about three years from now so lots can change but at least we have a basic plan. While Bobbie was away I had made it a point to ether ride my bike or kayak for hours each day.I rode on just about every paved road at first, and then explored every dirt road that branched off the paved roads.Some dirt roads hit dead ends just a few minuets into the ride while others went on for hours.Through these many long bike rides I really got to see the real Tonga.The men of Tonga at age 18 are entitled to about 8 acres of farm land they call ‘plantations’.These are nothing like the grand plantations of the American south.They given these plots in the deep jungle, thick with jungle plants, coconut trees & over grown with impenetrable jungle vines & such.The young enterprising man has to clear away this over growth to gain access to the ground & then the tall trees & most of the coconut trees are also removed so the sun can reach his crops.This is a very labor some task as there are fee motorized tractors or machinery; all he usually has to work with is a machete, a shovel & a hoe.First to do is to whack away what he can with the machete & leave this to die & dry.He’ll come back later to burn this, usually at the base of a tree he wants to remove; the burnt plants seem to make a nice compost.He’ll repeat this process until he has a workable ground area to plant his crops. Taro root, giant yams & even bananas take about 2 years to mature so the farmer usually has a number of different crops going on so harvest is nearly continual; the growing season here in Tonga is basically year round.Most of these ‘plantations’ grow food for their own consumption with a little sold in the markets to buy items they can’t get like flour for bread.Very few have their own cars or trucks but those that do are motivated to grow enough extra to buy fuel & vehicle maintenance.The soil is very fertile & many other food crops abound here.The coconut ‘heydays’ have peaked decades ago, they don’t seem to be exported much these days, they used just for a nice drink or to make food products for local use.The once vast coconut growing areas are being thinned out for more traditional food growing & now it seems like a lot of the food growing areas that were farmed for extra market money is instead used to raise cattle.Seems like it would be less work, more money & they get to eat big when they slaughter to cow. On one of my bike rides I got a flat tire but was picked up within minuets by a Tongan cowboy ;-)We stopped by his field on the way back to town to check on his cows.Typically the bulls are tied to tree with 30 to 60 foot ropes so they can’t run around causing trouble with their huge horns :-OSo the Tongan cowboy’s biggest job is to untangle their ropes & move them to ‘greener pastures’, which the cows do a great job at keeping the grass mowed.This particular Tongan cowboy had bulls I’ve never seen before, they were Brahma bulls from India, they had very long & pointy horns that pointed just about straight up, or if they put their heads down a bit they presented a very hazardous dilemma…which was evident by the nervous & serious concentration of the younger Tongan cowboy. On some of these back road rides the dirt road was more like twin single track bike paths, often over grown with head high grasses & jungley plants.I would ride under a canopy of trees, vines, palms other jungley over head plant life.These rides deep in the jungle bush are quite cool compared to the tropical heat of the paved road & city.On these rides I would come across deep thick jungle bush seemingly from a long forgotten ancient past with absolutely no signs of ever being farmed or settled.In some of these places it was apparent that at one time a great plantation was cultivated there as amongst the vast overgrowth of jungle there were neatly spaced coconut trees complete with foot holds whacked into them for easier climbing for harvesting the nuts.Breadfruit trees abounding supplying their marvelous bounty for seemingly no one.However most of these breadfruit trees are still months away from fully producing & I’m told that all the land is owned by ‘someone’ so I’m sure that when harvest time comes ‘someone’ will take their horse or borrow a truck to pluck the easy to access breadfruits. Wild orange trees are fairly plentiful.A number of times I have come across these trees in wild overgrown areas that not even a truck would traverse.With my bike only holding one water bottle I sort of depended on finding these wild oranges.Despite their many seeds they were very helpful in keeping my energy up in the hot & humid tropical airs here. The ‘bush people’, as they call themselves are very friendly.They will often call me over as I ride by while riding near a major dirt road; I rarely see anyone as I go deeper into the bush.Once while out these friendly bush farmer asked if I would like a drinking coconut, yes of course I’m usually very thirsty with only the one water bottle, so one of them scampers up a coconut tree & tosses down a few & we all have one.Shortly after another young farmer states that ‘his’ coconuts are even better, a different variety so he scampers up & gets a few.Then I’m asked if I like ‘oto’, I have no idea what that is so another farmer dude walks a short distance away & comes back with a coconut that has sprouted roots & leaves that were about foot or so tall.The husk was fairly easy to remove from this older coconut & with the traditional tapping of the hard shell with a blunt stone or back of a machete, the inside is revealed.The life of a coconut starts with a drinking coconut, the inside is mostly sweet water with a thin layer of coconut meat about ¼” to ½” thick which by the way is fabulous; it’s absolutely nothing like what we non islanders think of coconut which is that shredded, fiberey, stick in between your teeth nasty stuff they put candy bars…As the coconut matures the ‘meat’ part gets thicker & by the time roots & leaves sprout there is not liquid left & the meat part has turned into a sweet ‘angel food cake’ like nourishing treat. The bush farmers were cool & delighted that I was so impressed with the ‘oto’, they husked a few more until I couldn’t eat any more & got even more for me to take back with me.I explained that I couldn’t carry any with me because I was on my bike but they said no problem, we’ll make a Tongan basket for you.So in just a few minuets Sam used his machete to cut & strip a palm frond the wove it into a little basket that hooked onto my bike bumps off my seat & rode home to eat more oto. Some of my rides led me to the highest peaks of the islands, offering stunning views of the surrounding islands & reefs.Some ride took me to dramatic vertical cliffs with 400 feet straight down drop offs; the highest peak here in Vava’u is only 420 feet so one will never face the daunting 5000 foot hills like back home in S. Ca. Yesterday was my last bike ride here in Tonga & today will be my last kayak ride.I have gone on even more kayak rides than bike rides while here, since no matter where we sail the boat, a kayak ride is always convenient.Two to three hours is about the average time out but the more amazing trips were twice that long.I kayaked out to the furthest speck of an island called Fonua Unga, which means ‘island way flip out there’ :-OI had to kayak over two off shore reefs which are a treacherous thing to do, I was lucky that in numerous ways, the wind & seas were ‘fairly’ calm & the tides were high enough for me to pass over the reef without scrapping the reef; if the kayak touches the reef it is very possible the wave one is riding will roll the kayak over & a very painful bloody mess will surely be expected.Finally threes hours after leaving our anchored boat I made my approach, as I got nearer I noticed that this island with it’s back to the big open ocean with all it’s huge ocean swells had these huge ocean swells rising up to mountainous crashing waves breaking on ether side of this tiny island.These crashing waves formed a sort of triangle forming a tight vee closer to the island; so it was fairly safe to enter the wide part but the closer to the island the closer these breaking waves came at me.As long as I was in deep enough water so that if I were rolled by a wave I would not get scrapped over the sharp coral so the risks of injury would be acceptable.I kept studying the water in front of me as I cautiously proceeded, making sure that the reefs were not exposed in the crashing surf area on the way into the beach.From my angle it looks like there was plenty of depth as to not hit bottom on my way in, although it was obviously shallow.I paused again just before the point of no return, at this point I could if deemed it too unsafe, I could turn around & paddle for nearly three hours back to the boat.Again although it looked like a rough ride, I felt fairly sure I’d be able to ride the converging waves & safely make it to the beach so I paddle in.The moment I pass the point of no return I discover that when the bigger waves rise up the sharp coral is exposed just in front of the wave, a very dangerous revelation…but of course by this time I have passed the point of no return.I paddled my self in the best direction to ride these converging waves, wow what a ride but the fun of it quickly turned to dread as I not only scrap the coral reef, but I’ve become stuck on it; high & dry, which is like a sitting duck to disaster.I turn to see the next expected wave & do my best to stay on top of the kayak & not get rolled over; with luck I managed to keep on top & ride the next 40 yards over thin water & sharp coral to land on the beach.Just as I’m approaching the beach two very large reef sharks follow me in with hungry looking attitudes :-ONo drama here as I land a moment later.As I hop off & pull the kayak up the beach I gaze out at the two sharks & the vee shaped breaking wave which I barely made through & was amazed at how treacherous this place is.It was then at that moment I glance 10 feet to my side & spot the largest sea snake I’ve ever seen.It was nearly as long as my kayak.Most of these are bout 1.5 to 2.5 feet long & they one of the most deadly sea snakes in the world.Some people like to impress me with their knowledge of even more deadly snakes somewhere on the other side of the planet; that’s great to be so smart I suppose but these smart asses don’t consider is that these snakes are right here right now & not in some book.Besides when it comes to deadly sea snakes what does it matter another snake is more deadly when I’m told that if one is bitten by this snake, say 15 feet under water, the person would be dead before he could swim to the surface.Ok, the reality here is that they have real tiny mouths & their fangs are way back so I’m told they’d have to bit you on your pinky finger for a killing bite.Wow, how rare would that have to be?Well, while kayaking once in a sea cave I climb out of the water up into the cave part, I put my hand in crevice for a hand hold, once I climb high enough I spot sea snake inches from my finger :-OOh yea, snakes really give me the willies. So wow, I’m in another amazing place that I could have never gotten to by my own boat & I’d never kayak here again for quite a few reasons just stated :-Oso I get the once in a lifetime chance to explore this tiny island full of a few wind battered trees, one or two coconut trees, some scrub bush/trees, herds of hermit crabs & the most other worldly volcanic rock formations to be seen.There were lava flows that rose thirty feet above the water & were as level as table tops.Each massive open ocean wave would swell up over & crash against it instantly causing dozens of water falls to drain off in various directions.It was really the land time forgot.After walking around the island which in a slow & meander way took me only a half an hour.Now I gaze out that the gauntlet of huge crashing waves funneling toward me in the viscous vee shape :-O Ok, enough drama, the kayak out through those crashing waves was way less threatening than the ride in; sort of like it’s easier to climb up a tree than to climb down the tree…just ask a cat ;-)I was again lucky with two off shore reefs on the way back to the boat, it pays to time these activity with the tides. Another long haul kayak ride had me paddling out the back of the main harbor & thru a small aqueduct which I’ve done plenty of times, or course it’s much more fun to do at higher tide but since I was going to be out for such a long time I choose to deal with low tide here on the way out & have the easier time at dark on the way in.At low tide I had to pull my kayak thru it 30 yard long tunnel, hunching over.I was then able to paddle about 100 yards before I had to walk over the exposed tidal flats for a ¼ mile to get to the deep water.There’s plenty of icky things living in the water here, of course the pointy sea urchins require their space, I’ve already mentioned the sea snakes & the waters are teaming with heaps of other sea snake looking critters, some are even marked like rattle snakes.Of course I’m referring the sea slug like critters which grow over 10 feet long but are as harmless as tissue.After a ¼ miles of these icky critters & all of the slimy things underfoot I make it out to the reef at the deep water’s edge.Then after a two hour paddle against the wind & waves, passing several small islands I come to Umuna island on the far eastern edge of Vava’u.I hike to the top & gain a stunning view of the vast open pacific with it’s huge waves crashing against the vertical cliffs with it’s awesome beauty; it’s hard to imagine that soon we’ll be sailing amongst those relentless waves, experiencing their awesome beauty on a more up close personal level….but that’s an adventure for later. While being so far out my hunger & energy level was needing a boost.With my new found knowledge of the old coconut ‘oto’ I learned from the bush farmers, I thought ahead & brought my heavy duty dive knife & found a nice sprouting coconut which made a very satisfying meal for energize me for the long paddle back.This time the wind & waves were at my back but still the reefs near the tunnel bridge were exiting to traverse in the twilight after sunset. For many years I had dreamed of buying a large catamaran but we could only afford half the dream so we bought our good ‘ol battle ship, a 1976 51 foot MorganOutIsland, a cutter rigged ketch.Which turns out to really be the best boat we could have ended up with for our long term world cruising.But along the way over the last few years I’ve oogalling the very nice catamarans that I’ve seen along the way.Some cats are big & heavy & not very effective sailing boat but with heaps of comfort & luxury; note that a slow cruising cat is about as fast as a fast cruising monohull.The fast cats are usually so primed for speed that they have no room for any comfy stuff, plus once one out fits it for cruising it’s loaded down so much that they can’t sail very efficiently any more.When a cat does have the perfect balance of efficient catamaran performance & a bit of comfy, their price becomes astronomical.When we met our friends on Sunbow, a Chris White Atlantic 48 foot cat I realized I found my dream cat & the price although many magnitudes more than our boat was a very good deal.When I came aboard I must have been leaving pools of drool all over the boat.It looked like a brand new boat inside & out, even though it was around 15 years old.Then we met Zen, a brand new Chris White Atlantic 48 foot cat & thought wow, what could be better than this?Well last year while we were in Apia Samoa we got the chance to see a Chris White Atlantic 57 foot cat!Wow, that was amazing & there was a constant pool of drool on the docks around this magnificent boat.Even other cat owners with their own dream cats were all googally over this boat.Now a lot of mono hull boaters poo poo cats for their fears they might flip over & stay that way, but big cats are very stable, they don’t heel over like mono hull boats do all the time, they are inherently stable.But once they do flip over, nothing short of a huge crane will flip ‘em back over.I always thought this was the bad reputation the little beach cats have, but there is fairly no drama in getting them back up.Also it seemed that the bigger the cat the less chance of flipping it would be.So there my dream cat would be safe with those thoughts… Until about a month ago. It was about a month ago while Bobbie was back in the states & I was on the boat.Like I’ve mentioned about every other day I’ll go out to kayak for 2 to 6 hours.At this time there had been very little wind with over cast skys; hot, sticky & muggy; just fine for kayaking with the occasional dip in the water to cool off.I had been working on my music a bit longer in the day & was just finishing a meal, other wise I’d of been hours out & down wind of what blew in that day.I put down the book I was reading & was about to set out on my kayak ride when I looked up & saw what looked like the typical tropical stormy rain squall, a wall of thick rain being pushed by 40+ knot winds; which was very odd since there was no wind on the boat at the time.But sure enough this wall of doom came all at once; the wind went from 0 to 40+ knots in just seconds along with a deluge of rain.The rain would fill my 6 gallon rain collecting bucket in minuets.The wind was flipping my dingy around like a toy balloon; we often hoist the dink out of the water with the spinnaker halyard to keep thing from growing on the bottom.I had to go out & lower it into the water & tie it to the back of our boat so it would get damaged.Moored boats began swinging back & forth.A couple of boat soon broke thru their mooring lines & went careening thru the mooring field & some anchored boat were dragging their anchors.I watch the madness from the comfort of our new hard dodger as thick rain pelted down in the gale force winds.Many dinghies were swept away along with a few kayaks, mine was safe aboard after I lashed it down; no rides for me that day :-OThe winds on the hill tops peaked over 50 knots, that’s near hurricane force. While this drama was going on in our snug little protected harbor here Vava’u Tonga, my dream cat, the Chris White Atlantic 57 foot cat was about 150 miles away sailing towards Nuie.I can imagine that after nearly a week of sailing in very light winds they must have had a lot of sail out & calmly sailing along, probably at a slow to them speed.Reports say they had a reef in the main sail & the full genoa sail out, which even in low wind reefing the main seems to help point to windward better.Regardless, the wind went from less than 15 knots to over 60 knots, which is hurricane strength, instantly.I’m told by a boat worker that had worked on this boat while in New Zealand & is contact with the owner, reports from the owner that the windward hull quickly rose to a 45 degree angle & before they could sheet out or let go of the sheets the boat slowing went over! At first the two aboard scrambled to sit on top of the up turned hulls.Then their dingy which I’m told was fully secured like it normally would be pops out of the water complete with a VHF radio, water & cover for protection.The owner manages to tie the dingy in between the hulls & settles in for survival in the ever increasing storm driven swells & breaking waves while the other crew dove underwater & found refuge inside the cat.The advantage of a cat is that even if it’s upside down with holes in the hulls, it won’t sink & there will be dry spaces inside.This crew stated that he didn’t know how he found the courage to get inside but didn’t dare try to swim back out until the rescue boat arrived a very long & stormy night later; 18 hours later as I believe. The owner had a bit hypothermia despite the dingy cover, he was still sitting in a dingy full of water.A freighter was diverted to their rescue & responded to their EPIRB distress becon.Now at this point we have a nearly two million dollar dream cat still in near perfect condition.Had the freighter ship used it’s 40 ton crane to lift the 16 ton boat on deck they would have scored a huge salvage reward.If at least they would have flipped the boat back up & pumped the water out, it could have been sailed to safety.The boat was left to drift.After around 150 miles it came to a smashing death on a reef right here in Vava’u.the carbon fiber mast was the first to get ground up, then soon the whole boat was washed up & onto the reef.When the salvage vessel came to pull it off, it took so much force that one of the towing rope sliced thru on of the hulls nearly all the way from the back to 2/3rds towards the front bow like a wire cheese cutter thru soft cheese :-O I’m posting this as we wait for the fuel truck to deliver our much need diesel fuel, they are two hours late; we haven’t put fuel in the boat’s tanks now for over 9 months :-OI guess they are on ‘island time’:-O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I’m writing this after we’ve been in Savusavu Fiji for one week now.Savusavu…it’s so nice, ya gotta say it twice ;-) We ended up waiting until the later afternoon for our fuel to arrive, by the time it did arrive we had the biggest deluge of rain we’ve ever experienced while in Tonga & we were able to collect over 10 gallons of tasty rain water which we prefer to drink.The city water we filled our main water tanks with is the worst water we’ve ever tasted in all of our years of cruising, they charge 1$us per 5 gallon jug or 10$us to fill up the boat…yuk :-OHere in Fiji the city hose water tastes almost as good as freshly caught rain water…& it’s free!By sunset the rain stopped long enough for us to hand pump the two 55 gallon diesel drums into our tanks.The island’s only fuel truck was out of commission so we had to just order the fuel in the large drums & hand pump it in.We were lucky, just the week before they were not selling the fuel at the duty free price & they just delivered the large drums without even a hand pump or a hose, it was slow & yucky goin’ with mouth to hose siphoning :-O The next day on Thursday morning we did our final clear out & said our final good by’s to the American family that now lives in Tonga.Robin sold his surf board to the twins since they fell in love with ‘scurfing’, the tow behind surf board riding we turned them on to while taking the kids out for sail trips to the islands of Vava’u.He’ll have to wait until we get to Hawaii to buy another one but there should be lot’s of boards available in Hawaii. Speaking of Hawaii, here comes yet another change in the ‘tide of inspiration’.At first we wanted to immigrate to New Zealand after falling in love with the people & the country, then we found this process to be nearly impossible.Then we wanted to at least stay for 14 months to enjoy the country while we settled in somewhat & earned our cost of living playing our music there but we found it again nearly impossible to get a work permit to legally get paid music gigs; we didn’t want to be nervous about getting caught working under the table with the threat of getting in heaps of trouble & getting heavily fined & deported.So now we realize that we’ll just have to spend only four months there & then sail the boat to Hawaii this coming March.Bobbie & Robin will fly to Hilo & stay at our friend’s house there while I sail the boat with two hardy crew mates on the long haul to Hawaii.We’ll then spend a few months cruising the big island, then on to Maui where we’ll be checking out music gig situation there.We’ll end up in a slip at the Ala Wai marina in Oahu where we plan to find music work & probably sell the boat & settle into the new phase of our life’s adventures.We are hopeful that we will find our musical nitch there in Hawaii while Robin finishes his last handful of years in school.So far that’s our plan…unless the ‘tide of inspiration’ brings us a better idea. So after our final farewells we sailed the boat out to a nearby anchorage & got the boat ship shape.I used the air supply hookah so I could spend an hour & an half under the boat cleaning the critters that attach themselves to the metal parts under the boat.Our pre passage ritual also consist ofrunning the Honda generator that night to fully charge the batteries & watch a movie.Well rested, in the morning we set sail for Fiji. We departed at a leisurely pace Friday morning after a nice breakfast.They say it’s bad luck to leave on a Friday, but I believe it’s bad luck not to leave on a Friday if the conditions are looking good; besides it’s actually Thursday back in our home port ;-) For the first few hours we were in the lee of the Tongan islands so we had very flat seas.The winds were fairly light at just over 10 knots & quite nearly dead down wind.The common statement other cruisers have for each other is to have ‘fair winds & following seas’.How ever we have learned that this is actually a very un nerving point of sail.When we run our boat dead down wind we typically pole out the jib & prevent the main sail to the other side, affectionately called ‘wing & wing’.It seems innocent enough & allows us to go dead down wind.However it is the most annoying point of sail.If the boat turns a bit too much one way the jib will back wind & if the boat turns slightly too much the other way the main will be back winded; each case is highly unnerving because of the great stresses on the mast & the rigging that keeps it standing up right.Normally when sailing at any other point of sail, the wind pushes on the sail & keeps the boat from wobbling back & forth; it just keeps it leaning over a bit which is quite nice & stable.When going dead down wind in ‘fair winds & following seas’, the boat has the most miserable back & forth rocking motion all while the sails & rigging are constantly on the verge of whacking, smacking & driving us crazy. By the next day the conditions improved.It was still dead down wind but at least now there was enough power in the wind to keep the sails full & not whacking themselves to pieces by luffing with each & every wave.The wind was now a steady 20 knots which kept the sails from damaging themselves & kept the boat running at nearly ‘hull spead’, about 7 to 8 knots.That day we caught the biggest dorado fish we have ever caught.Dorado is what they called it in Mexico, out here & in Hawaii it’s called mahi mahi.This is, so far, the tastiest fish we have ever caught with its light & tender meat; it’s almost as good as lobster.If you ever happen to hear Bobbie & I perform our music, request the song ‘Dead Dorado’, it’s a song ‘I wrote with the Eagles about my love affair with the my favorite fish.They changed my original words to ‘Desparado’ & sold millions, I went cruising & I’m having the time of my life…well I guess everybody can’t have all the fun…they’ll just have to be content with fame & fortune :-OI happen to be eating the leftovers as I write this :-) Just as predicted by the end of the second day the wind crept up to a steady 25 knots with gust over 30.By the third day we had basically 30 knots winds with gusts to nearly 40.All down wind & even better we were able to pull both sails to the port side & sail on a broad reach which even though the wind was 4 times faster, the sails were completely happy while we raced along at 8 to 12 knots.We had our fastest 24 run to date at just over 180 miles & arrived in Savusavu at 8am local time. Arriving in Fiji was the kind of magic that cruising is all about.We were being teased by the many splendid islands we passed along the way but are not allow to stop at along the way.Certain island groups here in Fiji live the same lifestyle they have lived for over a millennia & they don’t care to have the modern world of tourism or even the laid back cruiser spoil their old world life; I feel this is a very cool concept…to protect ‘the land & people that time has forgotten.It’s amazing that there are still places like this on earth.When we arrived it was quite rough out there, the winds were nearly 40 knots & the waves were over 4 meters.It was with great relief to sail into the calm seas near Savusavu & also a relief to have gotten here a day faster than we expected.Two main islands of Fiji have very high volcanic peaks like the grand vistas of the Marquises & Hawaii.The hills are packed with lush tropical vegetation even more diverse & glorious than in Tonga.We saw huge tree ferns like they have in New Zealand along with every other tropical plants exploding with vibrant greens with black volcanic peaks piercing the sky. After settling into the anchorage we met up with some good ‘ol cruiser friends we had met way back in Mexico.We all went to dinner at one of the many cheap & tasty restaurants here.We were happily surprised by the improved quality of the food & the price of food & things here in Fiji is about half of that in Tonga.The local people we have met in all of the countries we have been to have been heartwarming to say the least.We have been told before we arrived that the people in Fiji are even more nice, it was hard to imagine but the people here in Fiji really are the nicest we’ve met.When we met them on the streets we say ‘Bula’ & they reply with a heart felt ‘Bula Bula’ & a huge smile; they really greet you like you’re their new best friend…amazing & really energizes the soul! Every day is filled with exiting things to do & each night there is always fun to be had with great friends we have met before as we talk about the great times we’ve had as we talk about the next exciting places to visit & continue our adventures.I’ve kayaked way into the Savusavu bay & explored deeply into mangrove estuaries; places that not many other have ventured into.I’ve ridden my bike to the far reaches of the island & seeing the splendid sights that are so unspoiled by modern life.I’ve met the nicest people along the way & seen the simple way of life that is so ‘other worldly’ in my own life’s experiences.Today I peddled up the steep mountains with grand views of our boat way down below & over to the other side of the island.Just as I thought the heat of the mid day sun would soon tax my energy reserves, the rain clouds burst from the skies & a cool refreshing rain kept me cool as I peddled back up the steep mountain roads back to where the boat is moored. We met a charming fellow in a wheel chair that sells hand made jewelry.I bought Bobbie the most intriguing golden colored fresh water necklace with matching bracelet & earrings for only 45$US. Johnny fell from a breadfruit tree & was paralyzed from the waist down, then had to have his legs amputated as complications set in. Just before his fall he had gotten married, had one boy with another boy on the way; we met his wife & two his two young sons in his village way out in the tropical bush. We made fast friends with Johnny & he invited us to visit his home in a village out in the bush.He told us that an American organization had built a house for him after he lost his legs.We took a taxis ride for nearly an hour from our boat thru winding mountain roads & densely thick tropical rain forests.The village, typical of island life, takes care of their own by tending to their bush plantations of food crops, shearing their bounties & warm company.Each day the men tend the crops & the women take care of the kids & prepare the food.In the late afternoon they all meet at various houses or communal centers to relax & have share kava, the non alcoholic drink that offers a bit of a buzz. Kava is a bush plant that they dry out the root & branches in the sun. Once it's dry, which takes one to three weeks, it is then cut up or shredded up then pounded into an almost powder. This powder is then added to water like a tea in a large bowl. A coconut shell cut in half is used for the communal cup which is shared with the people in the kava circle. The kava ceremony is a tradition of over 1000 years. Typically the favorite son mixes the kava & the favorite daughter or that son presents the cup to the eldest person or the person who has the most manna or highest ranking. We joined in their village's kava ceremony that day & took our turn in the social order of kava distribution which was at the end of the line; last but certainly not least. Kava is certainly an acquired taste. It has a taste of somewhere between dirty dish water & foul herbal medicine. It leaves the lips slightly numb, sort of like Novocain. After a few cups one gets a relaxing feeling, not very pronounced but still a peaceful feeling. I think we had about 4 or 5 cups that day but it think it would take more than 12 cups to really get a zing out of it. I hear from other cruisers that have had kava ceremonies with the chiefs at remote villages that the chiefs like to drink real strong kava until the sun comes up. Johnny has heard us sing a little back in the main town where our boat is & was very impressed & wanted us to sing accappella, we didn't have our instruments. I always 'hide behind' my guitar when I sing but we were very well received & they encouraged us to sing a few more; they were in awe & it was great. Bobbie did bring her glass flute & absolutely mesmerized the growing audience at Johnny's kava circle. Yesterday we took an island tour with a drive/tour guide that lasted nearly 12 hours.He took us to a village that still had the ancient ruins of the warrior cannibal times.The fellow we met there was the 9th generational desendent of the village’s founder & chief.This chief & village was formally located up the hills but were on the losing end of inter tribal warfare with a larger & more powerful enemy chief.They prayed to their god for inspiration, guidance & a vision of a more peaceful place to relocate to.The were given the vision to move to this sight we were at & made the move, bringing with them the many tons of sacred totem carved rocks that had been in their heritage for time immortal.Their gods were good to them for their inspiration to move & where to move to & when.Soon after they had fled their long time home village in the mountains, a massive flood caused a mountain rock slide & wiped out their old village, also wiping out their arch enemy; so their retreat to this new village was not being followed in deadly pursuit. There were several rows of massive stone work that represented a shrine like area about 12 feet wide & about 50 yards long, one for the gods, one for the chiefs & one for the warriors that died in battle.When a chief died weather in battle or of natural causes his head was buried under a large protruding rock in the ceremonial stone work; the body, it is presumed was consumed by the new chief to carry on his spiritual manna & power.When a warrior dies in battle, only their head is brought back to be buried in a similar manner; the body is left behind & the other warriors are probably too busy fighting for their own lives to carry the full dead body back. Prisoners that are captured during a battle really get the royal treatment.They are placed in a nice comfy pit & fed the sweetest of foods, food fit for a king.The prisoners are treated like honored guest with respect & dignity.The prisoners know their place & their situation & prepare for their destiny in their own way.A prisoner is taken to stone carved out to support his head while it is cracked open & often while the body is still quivering the village chief gets to eat his brains; a process the ensures the mana & strength of the captured warrior is passed onto the concurring chief & village.The body is then laid on a nearby stone for gutting & then the village has a splendid feast. The young man, the ninth descendent of the village’s founding chief who told us the ways of old told us that for a time the village had been abandoned.It was widely noted by others in near by villages that these areas of ancient ceremonial stones were quite haunted.Even in the light of day, passers by would be witness to the haunting voices of spirits of the fallen warriors, chiefs & eaten prisoners.No one even considered settling into the abandoned living sights for at night the spirits were no only heard but clearly seen & anyone that was not a direct descendent to this village’s chief were not made welcome by the spirits.In the early 80’s when the young man’s parents, the eight descendents of the original village chief, began to let outsiders have a look & take pictures with their film cameras, the nature of the film exposure revealed much more than the images that met the eye.Underneath the sacred stones that represented the fallen warrior or past chief, their head is buried.In some pictures, I’m told is a vivid image of that ancient soul; so vivid this image was that the stone was barley visible. We’ll I took dozens of pictures & video in hopes to capture some of these tantalizing images.Of course it is a modern digital camera which doesn’t seem to capture the ‘ol spirits as often as the good ol’ film is reputed to do.I would imagine that if one were to spend the night there amongst the sacred stones that perhaps the spirits would make their presents known…but then again the village clan is fully moved back in to the immediate area with a number of families & laughing children…all direct descendents to the founding chiefs, so the spirits are probably very happy & content…perhaps so content that they may have moved on to the ‘happy hunting grounds’ of the afterlife. Bobbie & I played our percussion instruments along with a local Fijian band a few days ago.We have a large djembe drum, it's a sort of large bongo/Congo like drum; plus we have a few shakers & Tongan log drums to bang around on; it was heaps of fun. The next night, last night, Bobbie & performed our musical concert duet at the Savusavu Yacht club, we were again very well received. We met an old timer there that was very jovial & fun loving guy who bought us a few rounds of beer, he said he does a bit of prospecting way out in the deep tropical jungles. I asked him if he has ever found any gold nuggets for his efforts, he then told us that he found enough to buy the whole modern building that the yacht club is in along with quite a number of other busy businesses. He requested & really enjoyed hearing us play a few Jimmy Buffett songs, songs that really seemed to fit this far out character; he really seemed like a genuine character right out of a Jimmy Buffett song. In a few days we’ll begin our circumnavigation of Vanua Leva, Fiji’s second largest island, along with a number of smaller islands & countless reefs.We will then sail to the Yaswas islands, it will take over a month to reach a town with any modern resemblance. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I’m catching up with the ship’s log here on a small remote little island in Fiji called Matagi.There seems to be only one plantation farm house over the hill from here in the middle of a huge coconut forest.The vast area of coconut palms are graced with what looks like well manicured grass fields but the abundance of goats that roam the area must be the source of the well manicured lawns as they munch on the grass to keep it looking well mowed.There are many signs of the devastating cyclone that blew thru here last March with winds of nearly 200mph as there are many large palm trees scattered about. There is a very high end resort on the other side of this island which brings snorkelers out to the lovely bay where we have anchored, other than the short time they are here, we have the whole bay to ourselves.The water is crystal clear & the coral reefs are abounding with countless species of coral.There are many varieties of soft coral which fascinate all of us.Robin loves to dive down & touch the soft velvety growth of these rubbery soft corals.I have found many types of coral that I haven’t seen anywhere else in our vast south pacific adventures.One in particular was fascinating in that when gently touched, it’s color changes from a dark brown to a light grey & firms up quite a bit.Then after a few minuets it loosens up & changes it’s color back to a dark brown.It’s so & peaceful here we are staying a bit longer than we had planned; we’ll leave the day after Bobbie’s birthday on Nov 4th. We have enjoyed a number of nice remote anchorages here since sailing out from the main little village of Savu Savu.We first anchored near the light house just a few miles out of Savu Savu just off the beach from a very high end resort.I kayaked out to their private island & felt like I was the chief of my own uninhabited island for a short rest.We are certainly getting our money’s worth out here, for these tourists pay very big for these tropical pleasures. The next morning an hour before the sun rise we’ll set sail to wind ward for our next anchorage in Fawn Harbor; it’s odd they call it a harbor for there is no boat facilities there at all, just an old simple Fiji farm plantation.Keep in mind that a farm or a plantation here in the south pacific is a glorious description of the wild bush farming that is done here, all farming is done with simple machetes & hand tools, there is no electricity except for an occasional solar panel or small generator.There was no other boats there where there could have been a hundred boats crowed in like in the channel islands back home in southern California.We enjoyed long kayaks trips through the many mangrove rivers which give us rear views into the deep mangrove forests.In most places the mangrove trees are just short bushy shrubs, but out here there are ancient mangrove trees that reach incredible heights of over 50 feet.We saw thick jungles which have never been cultivated, cut down or burnt away in all of time. Robin & I took a three hour kayak paddle thru these remote mangrove jungles & then out to tiny little islands to explore. A few days later we sailed to Viani Bay, the home of long time native Jack Fisher.His family has owned the land around this bay since his great grandfather from England settled here in the 1800’s & married a local.Jack is the most jolly fellow, quick with a smile & a hearty laugh.He took us & a few other cruisers out to Rainbow reef on another cruisers small catamaran.We had been told by a long time rally cruiser that Tonga had much better coral & diving conditions, but it seems apparent that the rally cruisers are constantly in such a big hurry to move on with their busy agenda that they must miss a lot of good experiences in the area.Turns out that the visibility & extremely divers coral formations here are world class!Divers from all around the world come here to dive & vast coral fields & even with just a snorkel we saw rear ‘cabbage patches’ of a hard coral that looks like a cabbage.We have seen an occasional ‘cabbage’ here & there, but here Jack showed us, by far, the largest field of ‘cabbage coral’ ever.After snorkeling the area for over an hour, I got to scuba dive with another cruiser which is a rear treat for me as I keep the tank for emergency use in case my anchor gets stuck, but there was a place that would fill my tank the next day I was able to enjoy the dive that day. We had been told by a few other veteran cruisers of Fiji that we should not swim in the water just across from Viani Bay because for many years a meat & fish processing plant disgorged their meat wastes & blood into the waters there on the island just a few miles away.This practice encouraged a huge number of hungry sharks to expect easy meals.Recently a cruiser was dragged under while swimming from his boat to the main town there of Somosomo.He was seen swimming to shore like he had done a few times before but was violently pulled under & never was seen again :-OThese are not the puppy dog like reef sharks that I have experienced before, which seem to have a predictable behavior.They are much larger & do not swim around you several times before they attack, they just come out of no where & wham, you’re gone :-OI asked Jack about this & he said, yup, about 5 to 10 people a year get munched by sharks:-OBut no one has had much problems here at Rainbow reef just a few short miles away :-O I had forgotten all about the shark issues when we went over there to anchor our boat & get provisions.After setting the hook we noticed a big coral patch near the boat so I quickly snorkeled around to check if it would be an issue.It did seem like we would hit it if the unattended boat would swing that way, so we re anchored a bit further out.Later I realized that I just dove in those notoriously shark infested waters :-O After getting my scuba tank re-filled & stocking up on a load of provisions we sailed out to our next anchorage Matei at the north end of TaveuniIsland which is the third largest island in Fiji. This was a great spot for making wind generator power with the full force of the trade winds blowing day & night unobstructed on our boat, this also keeps us cool but the boat seems to have a similar motion to being under way.On the advice of our friends on Nataraja we took a 40 minuet bus ride to a water fall hike near the village of Bouma.We were a bit surprised to pay a fee to walk out to the falls but we were soon very impressed with the splendor of the well manicured hiking path.The 10 minute hike upon freshly cut soft grass was very pleasant; the trail was lined with the most beautiful flowering plants the island has to offer.We soon came to a majestic water fall with a huge flow of water that plummeted over 80 feet down.There was plenty of water that day since it had rained very hard the night before.At the base of the falls was a large natural swimming area which we all enjoyed a nice fresh water swim.It was quite exhilarating to swim against the force of the massive falling waters, just to approach the falling water took amazing effort, then the feeling of being under the tons of falling water nearly took your breath away as it pounded violently as you swam thru it. After we each took several turns at swimming thru the falls we continued on our hike. Another 10 minute hike up a steep climb which again was well constructed with wooden supports, hand rails & adorn with well manicured island plants & flowers; lots of work has been done to create this most magnificent path. We soon reached the summit climb & was rewarded with a most awesome view.You could see over the water fall below to a verdant valley below, across the horizon was the deepest green jungles, forests & palm trees with a splendid view of the ocean a few miles out.We then continued along the well manicured path thru the jungle of giant ferns, giant trees of every imaginable size & shape.Some had ferns growing in the branches, some had long ‘Tarzan’ vines draping down from their heights.Patches of soft moss coated parts of the path where frogs & lizards dashed or hopped about; quite a magical meander thru the island forest.After 20 more minutes we came across the second water fall which was just about as awesome as the first.Again we took turns swimming thru the falling water & was refreshed & cooled by the sweet water.After a packed lunch, we began our return stroll back to the first water fall for yet another refreshing dip in the water fall pools.I must have taken a few hundred pictures, every 10 seconds I discovered another glorious shot. We caught the only bus back to the village where we parked our dingy.The bus ride was like an amusement park ride as we bounced along the dirt & coral filled road.Just like a roller coaster that seems to inch it’s way up the steep inclines, our old bus struggled to gain the small hills along the way; it was a good thing there weren’t many people aboard ‘cause I don’t think a fully loaded bus would have made it. We stayed at this anchorage a few days.I took a couple of nice kayak rides to the small islands near by & Robin & I took the dingy out to a small island to snorkel around it; again the waters were teaming with radiant coral, exploding with color & life. We sailed about 10 miles to our next anchorage at Naiviivi Bay on Qamea Island where once again we were the only boat anchored there in a huge bay that indents about a mile in; again this bay would easily fit a hundred boats.The next day Bobbie & I went into the village by the beach where we were led to the village chief & present him kava in the traditional Savu Savu ceremonially custom.This was quite an exiting experience for us as it was our first Savu Savu ceremony.The chief took the bundle of kava roots we presented him with & began the ceremonial verbiage of welcome blessings.It was all in Fijian but we understood a few words & parts were translated to us.We then took part in a few rounds of kava drinking & then were free to check out the village & anchor in their bay with the blessings of the chief. The village seemed very prosperous as food grows abundantly in the rich fertile soil which gets plenty of rain, pigs & chickens wander about freely & the sea provides plenty of fresh fish; plus the high end resort around the corner provides employment to many which allows them to buy luxury items that the land doesn’t provide like cell phones.It was curious to see bush villagers sitting under a palm tree talking on a cell phone; they pick up a cell network from a tower in the bigger island across the channel. The next day Bobbie brought her harp to the village school & played her music for them.They were completely amazed & awe struck.We made fast friends with the all of the teachers there; it was a real heart warming experience.Later that day I kayaked up a mangrove river & discovered yet another village hidden in the forest at the back of the bay. This village seemed even larger than the one at the beach.I was invited ashore & was greeted by the chief’s 20 year old grandson who led me up to the village center & was invited to join their kava circle.There was a quartet of three guitars, a ukulele & all sang with grand harmony.They were delighted to hear me play a few songs & we all kicked back quite a number kava cups. Later that night Bobbie & I attended a Meki, a native dance rehearsal at yet another village in the bay where the young men complete with spears & shields danced out the stories of their past while the women sang the stories to the rhythms of log drums. I haven’t seen such interesting warrior dances since the Marquieses where the huge & dangerously muscular Marquiesian warriors danced a most frightening dance; there I was glad they gave eating the white palangi foreigners.In Tahiti the men did not dance a warrior dance, they did a lot of knee wobbling, but here in Fiji the young men did a very cool warrior dance complete with spears & shields which I haven’t seen else where in our travels.After the rehearsal we were encouraged to sing a few songs & a have a few cups of kava, which led to a few more songs & a few more cups of kava & …These things have been known to go on all night but we were set to leave the next day after we attended a school presentation in our honor. At 10am the next morning we all went ashore to the school were we where present fresh sweet smelling frangipani flower necklaces. The whole school took part in a huge Meki dance with the boys doing a very impressive warrior dance & the entire school singing the stories & playing the log drums.Then girls did a very impressive Meki in their feminism style with the rest of the school singing the stories with the log drums.It was an honor that touched our souls, we agreed was the highlight of our whole sailing adventure. After the show we went back to our boat & got her ship shape for the short passage to the next anchorage.When we sailed out of the bay, many of the school kids hooped & waved to us, along with many other villagers we had met; truly a heart warming experience. We had a short & sweet sail to MatagiIsland & anchored in the most scenic bay imaginable.The bay was large enough to fit a dozen boats but again we were the only boat there.The bay looks to have been formed from a volcanic crater with steep sides thick with tropical trees & sweet smelling flowers.The water was crystal clear & the coral formations were astounding.We set the hook in good sand & the boat drifted over magnificent coral formations which we could see from our boat; quite magical.Of course the snorkeling was great, each day we spent over an hour snorkeling a new section of the bay with it’s own unique coral formations.In Fiji we have seen an abundance of the soft coral types & this bay was again a show case of these rubbery soft corals.I found a few types here that when you gently touch it, it changes color & stiffens ups; after a few minuets it returns to its original color & get more flexible. One day I kayaked around the island, which would take only an hour but with a few stops along the way with a few short hikes made for a nice three hour excursion.The nest day Bobbie took a kayak ride while Robin & I dingyed around the island with a trolling fishing pole in hopes of getting dinner.We had a great time blasting off to another island which the Red Bull drink people bought & invested a billions bucks creating a swanky resort, the cheapest villa is reported to be $3500 a night, while the most expensive one is $35,000 a night.One family rented the whole place for a few million for the ten days of lavish living.The next day was Bobbie’s birthday, after birthday cards & well wishes we all took a dingy ride to a beach & did a three hour hike around the island.There is a farm plantation there on the island with hundreds of coconut trees & grassy hills that look well manicured, soon we saw all the little ‘gardeners’, the goats roam around the place & keep the grass looking like a golf course.We took a trail that runs along the top of the rim that circles the bay below.We got spectacular views of our boat anchored in the pristine bay.Matangi Island has been perhaps our most scenic anchorage to date, while the last anchorage must have been our most heart warming experience to date with all of the sweet kids making a special performance just for us & all the kava swilling ceremonies…We then sailed to the islands of Budd Reef for even more astounding cruising experiences. We sailed the 25 or so miles to Yanuca Island in the Budd Reef area & anchored by a cute little school with a sign made out of stones on their sloping grass hill that said something like (our cute little school) “Welcomes U”…cute…& welcoming :-) This island village must have been the smallest island village we’ve been to in Fiji, we have only been to one smaller village in our travels & that was Coyote Island near La Paz Mexico; the big difference was that here they can easily grow all the food they need & it rains plenty to water their crops & provide them with water, at Coyote Island nothing grows & they have to ship in all of their water. We sailed through out that day in the prevailing SE trade winds which gave this anchorage protection from the wind & ocean swells.We all enjoyed a nice swim among the coral near our boat & then later settled into a nice sleep.Sometime in the night the SE winds died out then a raging west wind blew in causing our boat to endure a barrage of crashing thrashing waves, & now we are on a lee shore; if the anchor was to let go or slip we’d be thrashed on the coral banks near the shore.But we had our flopper stopper stabilizers out since we got word that it’s always rolly out here & had a reasonable night’s sleep.It was so rough that the only other boat anchored here pulled anchor & departed before sunrise.When we awoke that morning we soon took off for a calmer spot near the main village where we dingied in & met the chief’s son Will. We presented Will our special gift kava bundle & he made us pancakes.He was a most pleasant man & very friendly in the Fijian way.His wife is about a month away from having their first baby, so she was in Savu Savu where her family lives which is near a very good hospital.Will’s dad, the island chief, was out at the big island Taveuni getting their boat motor repaired & having a meeting of the chiefs.We made plans with Will to go out spear fishing at Cobia Island which is a mostly blown up volcano island having the center blown away; from the outside one side is fairly intact with the cone shape while the other side is reveals a large bay formed by the blown away center of the volcano.At mid tide Will, Robin & I took our dingy into the center of the volcano over a coral reef entrance, the feeling was amazing to be in the center of this blown up volcano, now forming a semi circle bay.We were seeking a special tuna/travail like fish that lives in those waters but after making a snorkeling run coving half the volcano bay we gave up & spear fished the outer reefs.We got a few small fish but I got real lucky & speared a huge lobster!My favorite fish food!It was massive & big enough to feed all four of us for dinner that night. That night Bobbie & I went ashore with my guitar, her flutes & our djembe drum to play music for the villagers & children.The kids were so cute, they quickly assembled a front row in front of us, they looked at us with big eyes of amazement & often reached out to touch our skin as if we were ghosts or some kind of unreal aberration; quite the feeling that we really made it to the far reaches of our world. The next day we took our big boat back out to the blown volcano island, CobiaIsland for a nice hike.Will expertly drove our dingy in through the many coral heads & crashing surf to deliver us safely & dry to the sand beach landing.The island was ‘other worldly’ looking with many coconut trees, a curious blend of volcanic rock formations along with many big trees & tropical ferns & palms.We climbed up the steep sides of this once active volcano until we came to top of the middle section with great views all around including the bay on the other side where we had snorkeled the day before.We then headed up the steep side towards the highest section, along the way, high on a saddle peak, Will pointed out the remains of an ancient structure, complete with stone foundation, clay pot shards & the rounded out indentions in the stone where they had once pounded their kava…very trippy place. The weather out there at the Budd Reef islands are quite…variable.In the first few weeks of being in Fiji the SE trade winds prevailed day & night like clockwork.We had sailed there with these SE trade winds, later that night they shifted to the west & then NW & stayed that way for all the next day; which had us on a dangerous lee shore.The winds died out completely the next night & day, then went back to SE in the mid teens, which again put us on a lee shore while anchored in front of the village.When we left the volcano island we had strong westerlys, so we sailed on the jib sail but within minuets the wind died so we motored to the village anchorage with no wind.We sat & talked to Will for just an hour after arriving & just as we were ready to take him ashore the winds started picking up from the SE, by the time Bobbie dropped off Will & returned with a few groceries from their tiny home store the winds were 20+ & the seas were building.I had promised Robin some rare gas powered play station time, so I ran the generator & we were totally engrossed in racing fancy cars for two hours that we didn’t even notice how big the seas had grown.The big boat was rocking horse pitching in the huge incoming seas & the dingy which we had tied off the back was jerking around like it was about to rip the bow line right off, so I made a gallant effort to bring the dink around the side & haul it up on deck.The large pitching seas made for quite an adventurous mission; if the dink motor had failed or stalled it would not have been likely that I could have rowed it to the boat in those conditions.We had planned to get all ship shape for our long 70 mile passage back to Savu Savu but the wind & seas were too much to do our dingy motor removal & haul the dink upside down under the miz boom operation.We went to bed with the foreboding feeling that we were again on a lee shore in huge wind & sea conditions, but we felt confidant that our huge over sized Rocna anchor was set in perfect holding sand.Some time in the night the wind & seas sub sided to a nice calm. It was still calm in the morning when we did all the proper ship shape routine, so calm that we had to motor the first 4.5 hours; we were then able to sail in perfect mid to high teen SE trade winds the whole rest of the way to the light house near Savu Savu where we anchored in the dark after our 11 hour passage. 10-14-10We are now anchored in a very remote anchorage located at 17deg 00 .104S178 deg 46.161E near a village called Salevu, at the bottom of Vanua Levu. We were lucky to not have much more than a sprinkle of rain on the way here but by the time we began to anchor it has been increasing.There is a nice looking village at the end of the bay, the bay shallows far out into the bay so the village is about a mile away.Two Fijians paddled their bamboo raft way out to see us in the heavy rain to welcome us & give us bananas; wow, how heart warming these people are.We gave them each a beer & two of our music CDs, they invited us to their village for a visit.They said they rarely get any boats like ours to anchor near their village.Our experiences with these remote villages has been wonderful, we have really gotten a chance to experience how people live, in a lifestyle so different from ours.While we have massive super highways jammed with millions of cars, super sky scrapers, cubical jobs in buildings without windows, cities packed with so many people that it’s impossible to really know your neighbor or even have time to care about the strangers that live way across the street, much less around the block or the other millions & millions that live around near by…It was nice to find a place in the world where the people live a simple life.An abundance of tropical foods grow easily in the fertile soils & the rain is plentiful so they don’t have bother with fertilizing the soils & piping in water, they just toss a few seeds or drop in some cuttings from other plants.Between planting & harvesting the work seems minimal to maintain the crops so by early afternoon the village folks often get together for songs, news of the day & a few big bowls of kava; quite a few on the many special occasions.The family is tight, the village shares the load of work & every one more than just knows each other, they are a part of each others lives in ways us outsiders or palangies (howles in Hawaii, gringos in Mexico…) just aren’t blessed with in our modern world of conveniences.
Looks the Fiji’s rainy season has begun, it’s been raining for days & weather forecasts rain for beyond their seven day views.After a few days in Savu Savu for provisions we motored out between rain squalls on our way towards Vuda Point on the big island where we will have our hydraulic steering rebuilt; it makes un-nerving sounds when under heavy wave pressure :-O