We provisioned the boat & soon we were motoring towards our first night on the week long trip to Vuda Point.We had been given some amazing navigation computer files from a fellow cruiser, with this we were able upload & over lay the tracks & waypoints of sever previous boats.This came to be quite helpful all throughout our Fiji cruising.With no wind we ran the motor so we made if faster than we expected.Seeing the previous tracks to an anchorage further out, we made our way there to a bay called Solevu.This place rarely gets a few boats a year, so we were highly curious to them with our strange boat; pale skin aliens from a far different world & life style.
The first day despite a smattering of rain & set out on a kayak ride to explore the area.The bay we were in is on the rainy side of Fiji & the abundance of tropical plant life was lush, so much so that it easily hid most of the dwellings for housing.In good views were the one huge church in grand architecture form & a large complex of building for school kids of all ages including a college prep school for selected students from all around Fiji. Unseen from the bay were the several small villages just behind the trees.The land & conditions are good for farming so this bay supports a good number of farming villages.
Before even paddling out of the bay, all views of any dwellings fade into the vegetation.The point leading out of the bay is very picturesque, white sand beaches with lonely swaying palms.After passing a few totally pristine beaches I paddled up to a particularly intriguing beach with a babbling brook flowing out to sea from underneath a canopy of jungle foliage. These were among the most enthralling experiences, one’s of being so far out in paradise; it’s been places like this that has helped me realized I have realized my life’s sailing adventures ;-) Standing there in a place 1000’s of meditaters would love to call their “happy place”, inspires a oneness with life’s path; a chance to reflect on past adventures & life’s new adventures ahead.
After a quick but serene break at the babbling brook I continue on along the coast until I came across a few islands gals hand fishing for a small silvery fish.Within a few seconds of casting the thin fishing string with a baited hook, they would be pulling these tiny silver dollar sized fish & stuff them into their hand woven palm frond baskets they had hanging from their shoulders.They would catch perhaps hundreds of these tiny morsels to be a part of their evening meal, no doubt along with their plentiful food crops.I asked them about the long & extensive rock fences I’ve seen all around their village out in the water just off the beach but before the coral reefs.I was told that these are the fish catching stone arrangements that trap the fish that have easily swam over them at high tide but are caught high & dry when the tides goes out. These stone fish trap arrangements have been in use for hundreds of years at this remote village on the south end Fiji’s second largest island by a long line of their relatives.
With the misty drizzle increasing to a light but steady rain, I bid moce (pronounced ‘mothey’ – Good by) & paddle back towards the boat; the gals don’t seem to notice the rain.Most places in the world, rain causes people to panic & find shelter; here in the perfectly warm tropics it’s just another day in paradise.
Later the next day, a lone paddler makes his way out to our boat on his bamboo raft, sits & has a far away look toward the beach.After about a half an hour, a handful of kids begin making their way out to our boat on their own bamboo raft, soon followed by wave after wave of curious school kids of all ages wading the few hundred feet to the reefs edge & then swimming out to the boat.Before we knew it we had a constant stream of 30 to 40 kids aboard.Snacks were passed around & quickly gobbled up then Bobbie brought out her harp & mesmerized them with this unique instrument.Soon they were singing along to Bob Marley tunes & having a great time.Robin showed the kids around the topsides of the boat, he was constantly swarmed with gushy & giggling girls trying to squeeze in & get their picture with Robin :-OBy a few hours the sun had set & the kids were making their way back to shore.
We set sail just after the sun rose the next morning, it didn’t take long to make our way out of the reefs & soon we were sailing along on gentle breezes which held steady for a gentle ride all the way across the notorious Bligh Waters.Along the way we hooked up four great fish, the first was a tuna that quickly became sashimi, no sooner that I had all the blood, gore & guts washed off & sat down to rest we’d get another hit; this went on until we caught a very long & tasty barracuda, then I brought in the fishing lines for the day.Our third catch happened to be a huge ‘ol granddaddy Dorado, or Mahi Mahi, it must have been trolling these waters for a real long time, it had scars from previous battle; we ate off of that fish for days :-)
We made land fall on the leeward side of Viti Levu after a very smooth day sail, it is noticeably dryer & dry.
Last I mentioned our future plans we expected to living on the boat in Hawaii.Turns out that there is many issues with that, the waiting list to get a permanent slip there is years to infinity long & they only allow two people to live on the boat & even if they did let all three of us live on the boat the cost would be much more than a nice apartment across the beach in Lahaina Maui with a pool & Jacuzzi… So it looks like the time to sell the boat be upon us after we cruise New Zealand this year.I’ve spent three decades dreaming, planning & working hard to save for this sailing adventure. I’ve never worked so physically hard at any one project, so now as I ponder life without the dream of sailing away & sailing on I feel sort of like a fish out of water, but by next year we should be getting Robin plugged back into a regular land school & all the benefits of staying put in one place & growing up in Maui seems like a great way to continue the dream we’ve been living the last few years.We love tropical islands & we’ll be able to continue to enjoy the islands of Hawaii.We figure that the year around tourist flow should allow us to earn our cost of living playing music.Bobbie has always paid her way with music work, I’ve done a number interesting careers including aerospace, my recording studio & other studios; for the last couple of useful decades of my life I’d like to make a go at just playing music for a living…so Maui here we come.
With heaps of heavy thought & quite a number of considerations, I’ve decided to test the market for selling our wonderful sailboat.It’s not likely to sell there in New Zealand as I’m told most boat buys wont consider buying a boat that is not freshly painted & being lived in; out boat is quite lived in & it’s packed to the gills with…well cruising stuff & we do live here…’pardon the mess, but we live here’ :-OBut if I get an offer I can’t refuse despite the lack of a new paint & all I will have to seriously consider it.Most likely I will be sailing the boat to Australia with a possible stop in Vanuatu & New Caledonia in May of 2011.There I will import the boat, have it completely painted & tidied up then leave her there with a broker to sell.
Our plan is after we make repairs on our steering, sail back down to New Zealand & this time spend all of our time cruising the wonderful places we missed last year & sail the boat down to Nelson, the top part of the south island; we’ve heard so many nice things about Nelson & the south island, it should be a great way to spend the last months of our sailing adventures.By April we will ship off most of our personal belongs to Lahaina Maui, by May Bobbie & Robin will fly to Maui & I will join them if the boat has sold, if not I will be sailing on to Australia then fly to Maui once I’ve got the boat set up for sale.
Back to Fiji, the arrival of the rainy season & ‘La Nina’.The weather guys are calling this a ‘La Nina’ year, this means something different in different parts of the world; it’s the opposite of ‘El Nino’ weather but again depending where you are…in some places one makes the water hotter than normal, in some places it makes the storms more intense, some places it makes it rain more, other it’ll rain less.Well for the south pacific this year it appears that it means the ocean waters are a bit warmer for this time of the year, they predict significantly higher water temp as we reach the southern summer; warmer waters breed cyclones & they predict this year the cyclones will start early.We hope our steering is repaired before the cyclones start rolling in :-O
It is really apparent the vast differences between the windward side of these bigger Fiji islands & the other sides.The windward sides get year ‘round rain where the lush tropical forests explode with life, the other side of the island gets very sparse rain half the year & renders the land hot dry & covered with dead brown vegetation.We sailed about 40 miles from Savu Savu to Salevu where the lush tropical plants were very enticing. We then sailed the 60 miles or so to the top of the big island of Viti Levu, the Lee ward side.It looked a lot like S. California with it’s sparse burnt dry vegetation.The water is very murky as it often is near land but with all the river run offs & mangrove areas & the wind hardly blows at all making it very hot. The whole area on the top of this island is not very appealing compared to Savu Savu & out to the remote areas near the Lau Group.
But we came here to repair our steering at Vuda Point marina & it’s nice to be done with that with a week to spare before we have to start our big passage south.It was a nice place to be stuck working on the boat despite the heat, no wind & hoards of mosquitoes; we had shore power so Robin could play his Playstaion & the batteries could get a full charge.The area in general has very little wind & just by being tucked inland a bit cut off any sort of breeze there might be.We have screens for all our ports & hatches, in the last three years we never had enough bugs to want to install them; the first night we got absolutely invested with blood sucking mosquitoes that we installed each & every one of the bug screens.It turned out to be the buggiest & the hottest place we’ve kept the boat in the three years of cruising, which includes a summer in the Sea of Cortex Mexico :-O There was however a nice resort next door with a cool pool which saved our over heated souls.Robin had heaps of kids to play with & made many good friends; even making friends with a south American & a French boy doing his best with their languages; although the PlayStation turns out to be the great international translator :-)
The hydraulic steering ram repair turned out to be easier than I had imagined.I planned to have a hydraulic expert take care of the whole job & assumed the ram unit would have to be shipped to the states for a rebuild; this would have cost a lot of money.Turned out that while waiting for the ‘expert’ to show up, I removed the ram unit myself & brought it in to a hydraulic shop in the big town of Lautoka.I told him that I would like this ram unit rebuilt & a specialized rebuild kit would need to be ordered.He said oh it just a bunch of O rings, ‘just let me rip it open & toss in a few o rings’…we do it all the time.After two $25 taxi rides he tells me, ‘your right, it will need a specialized rebuild kit, that will be $60 bucks’.If I has known I’d be finding the kit & doing to rebuild myself I’d have saved a lot of time & money but it turns out I saved a lot of money & it didn’t take all that much time to get the parts in & have it back in order.
Bobbie & I ended up playing a nice music gig at the big market festival event they had at the yacht club, we played over 4 hours of music during a 6 hour event making it the longest gig we’ve played so far; a marathon of music that was nice to see that we could pull it off. We were very well received & quite surprisingly we were more favored than the DJ they hired & was a very good DJ. The very next day with one hour to go, we were offered another gig when the band that was booked to play cancelled an hour before the gig.So we made enough ‘coconuts’ to pay for the cost of being there.
It was a great feeling to be escaping the confines of the marina after two weeks.The marina was a great place to be stuck working on the boat but what a relief it was to have the steering working good after the last 1500 miles of nerve wracking sounds coming from it.We sailed up to a nice quite & well protected anchorage just 5 miles up & hooked up with dear friends MisChief; a fine reunion. MisChief had just discovered they need to replace all four broken motor mounts.
( I’m writing this now in Opua 1200 miles later & MisChief is anchored by us once more, it feels like home :-)
Bobbie & Robin went into Lautoka with the MisChiefs to get heaps of provisions for the passage, Darrel had to get wood to build a leverage system to haul his motor up to replace the broken motor mounts, I got a chance to take a real slow kayak paddle around the bay & surrounding areas.That night we shared a meal & had great times it had been six months since we last saw them in Opua.
11-06-10Today we are picking up our Kiwi crew Stu to join us on our long hard passage back down to New Zealand so we sailed down to the Port Denerau, the schwankest bit of dock glizt in the south pacific.After being in small remote villages, a lot in the last two months, it was quite a shock to the mege ‘Hard Rock Cafés’ & so many choices for grand meals & tons of tourist arriving & taking off to & from other tropical resorts.We plan to spend the next week enjoying the areas the other cruisers rave so much about.So at this point we plan to sail to Lautoka on Monday the 15th, do a bit of provisioning & check out first thing Tuesday morning.We should be underway by Tuesday.
Dec 17, 2010From here I will recall the past wakes…
We pulled into a slip there in Denerau, right next to multi million dollar boats, Tom Cruise is often seen on a huge mega yacht with a helicopter just a few slips away.So for one night we were in a top class marina, taking in the same scene as royalty & we picked up our crew Stu!!! :-)By the crack of late-mid-morning-ish we were sailing towards the famously fun Musket Cove.
Musket Cove was a real fun place for cruisers; it was a gorgeous island with a very sweet looking small boat harbor complete with every thing a cruiser could want.Water, food, beer & a cruiser pot luck BBQ every night & a nice fresh water pool it cool in the shade of palms. We enjoyed all of the above & was looking forward to visiting the Yasawa island group but after two days in Musket Cove a weather window opened up a few days ahead of what was previously forecasted to be the earliest departure for New Zealand; big notorious passages to New Zealand is often like flying stand by:-O
We wanted to spend at least another week cruising thru the enchanting islands of the Yasawa group but with good steady winds for nearly the whole trip to Nz without the threat of a cyclone coming down from our north or a nasty Tasmanian storm from Antarctica we choose an early departure.There were however two meteorology factors to be contended with which was a huge low front/convergence zone that was moving in towards us & the conditions for ‘accelerated trade winds’.If we were to wait, in less than two days there would be endless days of torrential rainfall, high winds & sever tropical depression squalls; these conditions would not clear up to way into the normal period in which cyclones come ragging across these seas.We took the fast track out & hitched a ride on the accelerated trade winds.
In all the time we’ve been in Fiji (besides our blustery passage from Tonga), we did not see the winds we finally got on our departing sail day.Even in the lee of the trade winds in the sheltered protection of Fiji’s extensive reefs we were rail in the water despite a double reefed main, a reefed mizzen, the rolling jib rolled most of the way in & our stay sail.In the early morning we were on our way to a very rompus start. With our ‘rail in the water’, our ‘house hold items’ were suddenly transported to the starboard side & up the walls a bit :-OOur kitchen sink drains to the sea, providing the sink is above the sea; in this case, the sink’s drain was often lower than the sea & thus water would fill the sink & not want to drain out.At this point the drain plumbing from under the sink took this particular moment to wiggle itself free & create a messy flood of water which quickly soaked all of those house hold items that just moments before began their quest to crawl across & up the starboard side of the interior.I shut off the sea cock & mopped up the mess; soon Fiji’s ‘gate to the offshore ocean’ was approaching.The guardian islands at ‘the gate’ were cute surfing islands, nothing there but waves & a surf resort, but this day the surf was being blasted over by the high winds; just a lone kite sailor was out to harvest the winds…& us, sailing like a bat out of hell ;-)
We were already rail in the water & taking some heavy spray across the decks but as soon as we hit the real ocean each & every wave was blasting across our decks; our hard dodger was coming in real handy.The seas were real lumpy, we kept our speed a bit slower than we could have gone to minimize the pounding of the incessant bow waves, but we kept hard on the wind & was making nearly a rum line towards Nz.The first day was a bit torturous but exhilarating, it was good to be making fast time towards Nz but it was brutal.About three days out with 25 to nearly 40 knot winds on the nose, Bobbie states that it looks like it’s picking up, we should do something.I look around, all seems fine but knowing it’s prudent to heed here ‘intuitions’ I have Stu help be roll the head sail in all the way.While we were rolling in the head sail a ‘rude’ wave reaches out & rips one of our kayaks off the aft railing where it has safely been for nearly 7 years.Luckily it was a fairly clean rip & the 14,000 lb test nylon web straps all let loose, a benefit of living in the tropical sun for a few years; the expensive custom stainless steal rail was left intact & the solar panel was fine despite the trauma of the adjustable legs being ripped out :-OStu suggested that we do a man over board drill & retrive it but I immediately & emphatically declinded; the conditions were fairly rough & all those ‘house hold’ items would be racing towards the other side & perhaps the other kayak would catch a rude wave while on the rescue.Besides, I’ll have to ether give the kayaks away with the boat or sell them for real cheap; I had to just let it go.
The rest of the trip continued to be heaps of wind, clear skies & continues fast runs & we got into a routine of sleeping on our backs but really on our sides…One day the wind just about died, but was ideal for the gennakar sail which we hoisted & soon under finially flat seas we were again racing along with a bone in our teeth, (the white breaking bow wave of our boat or any boat racing along looks like a bone in our boat’s teeth ;-)We ended up sailing to within about 10 miles from the Bay of Islands before the wind died & we motored in, making in just under 8 days.
It appears that all of our friends & hopefully everyone else has made it safely into Nz, although in the weeks after we left a tropical low front developed some rotation cyclonic flows that were quite disturbing to cruisers waiting for their next window; but to the patient, a decent passage prevailed for them as well.
It’s 12-17-10 as I write this & we’ll be sailing out of Opua in a few days.We’ve played two really well received music gigs at the Marina Café’ & tomorrow we play a private party in a nice house in the hills above Pahia over looking the bay.We’ve only been here a month & I’ve hiked, biked & kayaked to many places I had discovered last year, Robin’s re connected with heaps of his old friends from last year; it’s been great & now it’s time to see the rest of Nz.