UNPLANNED STOPOVER AT NORFOLK ISLAND After sailing what seemed like half way to Australia we finally got the wind shift to take us to NZ ... but unfortunately there not enough strength in it to get us there prior to the inclement weather coming to North Cape later in the week. SO ... we made the decision to stopover at Norfolk Island and let it go through. We are anchored at beautiful Cascade Bay next to Berserker 11, and will transfer some fuel to them later today. The anchorage is calm, though slightly rolly, and there is enough (albeit spasmodic) activity on the shore to keep us entertained (mostly guessing what they are doing!) The tourist buses and rental cars come in, the tourists spill out and take photos ... then they are off again! Babe and Libertalia are expected to join us later today. Unfortunately we can not go ashore or on other boats without checking in ... so we are making do with chats on the radio!
ABOUT TO LEAVE NOUMEA
Our time in New Caledonia is rapidly drawing to a close, so we are again enjoying being at Port Du Sud Marina. We are ready to depart today: Sail repaired and back up TICK; Hull cleaned ready to meet MPI’s requirements TICK; Currance arrived to crew back with us (and to share Ben’s birthday) TICK; Noumea’s supermarket visited for essential provisions for the passage (such as French cheese and pastries) TICK; passage meals made and in freezer TICK; final visit to nearby islands to swim with turtles TICK; farewells to some of our Rally members who are departing earlier or by plane TICK; customs and immigration formalities completed TICK; and duty free fuel purchased TICK.
We are leaving Noumea as I type! You can follow us at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/PantheraNZ as we head home, or the whole fleet at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/rally/ICNZ_2019-PCR/
Apart from the enjoyment of swimming with turtles at Prony Pass, and a great sail with the code zero to Noumea, one of the highlights of Baie De Prony was meeting Mike, Danica and baby Arlo on Mirabilis - Mike is the guy behind YIT - this amazing site that enables us to share our adventures with you! Thanks, Mike, for a fantastic service!
SOUTH EAST GRANDE TERRE - ILE NEMOU & CAP TONNEDU
Talk about a dream sail from Lifou to Ile Nemou - perfect conditions for the Code Zero! We were SO glad that we waited the extra day in Lifou. We were reunited with Calypso (who sailed from Ouvea on Tuesday) and 3 Rally boats at Ile Nemou, Port Bouquet, so stories of “dream” sails vs “wet and lively” sails were shared over sundowners on Panthera!
Ile Nemou is a “special reserve” - both marine and park. It is uninhabited, but has a ranger who comes by boat each day to tend his ducks and garden .. and look after the reserve and camping ground. He was extremely welcoming - he took us to the beginning of the walking track to the “peaks” on the island, and had the kettle boiling on the fire when we returned an hour or so later. We shared coffee and chat - his in French, and ours in Franglish ... but we managed to learn lots about the reserve environment. He also took us to the camping ground shower, and told us we were welcome to use it. I don’t think he could conceive that we could have a nice hot shower on Panthera to rid ourselves of the red dust! As we returned to the dinghy with jackfruit (which he had taught us to eat) and lemons, he told us we are now “mes amis”.
The Rocket Guide had highlighted the island for snorkelling, and the ranger told us to look for the clams ... and we didn’t have to look far! We have never seen so many, or such beautiful clams ... just stunning! Lots and lots of colourful reef fish as well.
Cap Tonnedu will be remembered for snorkelling too. (Might add we are now wearing wet suits - the water temperature is much lower in New Caledonia!) The coral gardens were just stunning ... as were the little fish living within them. We spent an hour or so each day exploring the inner and outer reefs.
As we were leaving the anchorage an empty nautilus shell bobbed by us ... and with a great deal of manoeuvring by Ben on the helm, I finally managed to net it!
Next stop Baie de Prony
PASSAGE TO LIFOU ... and A WEEK IN LIFOU
The passage to Lifou was, in nautical terms, “pretty rubbish”! The winds and seas were higher than expected, and the sea state extremely lumpy. This all led to a longer passage, and we were very happy to put down the anchor in Lifou at 1.15am ... after 40 hours.
Clearly the stitching on our genoa has passed its “best by” date, as it all came away at the clew on passage - leaving our sheets and the sail flapping like crazy ... but independently!! Bit of drama on the foredeck as we got it down and stowed away. Certainly got myself completely drenched as the big waves came hurtling through the trampoline where I was sitting on the sail to stop the wind getting under it as Ben was shoving it into the locker ... in 20+knots! (Both securely tethered on I might say!) We will have to find a sail maker in Noumea to mend it. We left the spare gib in the garage at home, so will use either the storm gib and code zero to get us to Noumea. Calypso kindly offered us their spare genoa, but unfortunately its bolt-rope was too thick to go up our slider.
The strong winds kept us in Lifou, but that has been no hardship. It is so beautiful here - fine, white sand; beautiful blue water; sun (and rain!); lots of social activity; yummy french brie .. and a bakery with wood-fired, fresh, warm bread to die for!
Using my schoolgirl French I arranged for Dulcinea, Changes of Latitude and ourselves to take a minibus from the anchorage and go to Chepenhe to do the Medehu Guided Nature Walk. It all came together (after a stressful wait for the mini-bus, which was 15 minutes late!) and was a really fun outing. Our guide, Antoine, was a real character, and passionate about plants and his culture and obviously loved sharing his knowledge ... albeit in French! Fortunately I had become “best friends” with his wife, Emma, during our numerous phone calls arranging the tour, so she came along as interpreter. She was delightful too. We not only learnt about the plants and their traditional uses, but also their hunting techniques. We also explored some grottos with stalagmites and stalactites ... and Ben & Lian took part in a ritual that we never really understood, but it involved leaving handprints on the rocks and Antoine’s black spittle! We’re sure he has given future anthropologists something to puzzle over, as there are numerous handprints in that particular grotto! After the tour we visited Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes at the promontory, before having a picnic at the nearby Baie de Jinek. The minibus driver then took us via the scenic route back to the anchorage at Drueulu. A great day!
While most of the fleet left on Monday, we chose to stay an extra day to avoid the big seas. Next post from the Grande Terre.
LEAVING PORT VILA FOR NEW CALEDONIA
We are have cleared out of Port Vila, and sit on anchor awaiting an early morning departure for Lifou, New Caledonia. Part of getting ready has been emptying the fridge and freezer of any food that will otherwise be seized on arrival ... and destroyed at the boat owner’s (vast!) expense. It seemed such sacrilege to visit the buzzing Port Vila Market, and by-pass the beautiful fruit and vegetables on offer! Instead I have been squeezing our excess pomplemousse ready to enjoy cocktails on arrival (and before clearance into Lifou!) Port Vila encapsulates the true spirit of duty free alcohol, so we have all the other ingredients on hand as well!
Our trip down from Banks Islands was notable for the unexpected - unexpected wind strength and direction; an unexpected night at the beautiful anchorage of Bushman’s Bay, Gaua Is, where we not only donated more alcohol removed wine for communion, but also our cream tablecloth as an altar cloth; the genoa unexpectedly falling down; and an unexpected extra night at Lonnoc Bay to fix the genoa ... all followed by an overnight sail to Mele Bay, where we received a lovely welcome from our Rally friends - some of whom we hadn’t seen since we went off in different directions in the Lau Group in Fiji.
It has been pouring with rain for the last 36 hours, so we are sharing our best rainbow shots from the Banks Islands
WE ARE AT SOLA!
Today we have collected our new Cruising Permit that will allow us to visit islands on the way to Port Vila. Richie, the Customs Officer was kind enough to allow me to take his photo as he went “stamp, stamp ... good to go”!
We have truly experienced remote Vanuatu over the last week, as we visited Dolov Village and Losalava on Gau Island; Waterfall Bay in Western Vanua Lava; and Lesereplag at Ureparapara Island ... before coming to Sola.
We were made to feel so welcome at each of the villages and had formal welcome ceremonies with flowers, leis, speeches and (in one instance) song ... followed by refreshments. These were held in individual family’s homes at Dolov and Waterfall Bay ... and included gifts of fresh fruit and vegetables. I can’t adequately express how honoured we felt to be invited into their lives in this way. In Ureparapara we were welcomed, along with Gail and Dean from “Local Talent”, by Chief Nicholson and his family and Chief John. This was followed by a village tour led by Melody, Chief Nicholson’s wife. Her lively sense of humour gave an added dimension to the tour!
Trading is “alive and well” in this Province ... and people’s needs were for the basics in life. In exchange for beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables ... and lobster, we were able to help with needles and thread; batteries; torches; clothes; towels; a file for sharpening tools (wish we’d had more of these); ointment for ringworm; playing cards; fishing lures; a hand saw ... and wait for it ... communion wine! In fact two villages were unable to offer parishioners communion as they had no wine ... so that was an easy fix, and it didn’t matter that it was alcohol removed! The people of Ureparapara are reliant on the supply boat for all their staples ... and the Co-op shop had run out of soap, rice, sugar, batteries and salt. They were thus very grateful for any donations from us and “Local Talent”.
Before leaving NZ I also bought lots of books to donate to schools ... mostly relating to sea life - whales, dolphins, sharks etc etc. Local politics at some of the villages suggests that it is good to take these to the school in person, and we always enjoy our visits to the schools. The schools are often located outside of the village ... apparently to avoid distraction ... and, the the case of Waterfall Bay, the school was said to be at the “Big Village”. Given that the children walk there every day, I figured that, despite varying accounts as to how far it was away, it couldn’t be TOO far. How wrong I was! It took us 1 1/2 hours each way over somewhat intrepid terrain. (Ben says it was a typical inter village track!) It took us across the bottom of the Twin Waterfall, through rivers, up and down decent hills as well as along beach fronts to get there. And to think that 5 year olds do that every day!! We were wiser at Ureparapara - when told the school was “maybe half an hour, maybe an hour’s walk” we checked if we could we go in the dinghy! That reduced the walk significantly!
The remoteness of the villages we visited underlined how we take transport for granted. Apart from Losalava, boats are the only way in and out of the villages we visited - unless you count walking a mighty long way! Each village has a Community Boat, but the cost of using it to get any distance precludes most people using it - except when a group get together to cover the cost. John, in Dolov, asked if we could take him to Losalava as he was heading to NZ to work in the orchards near Te Puke. After chatting to him, Ben agreed, and we really enjoyed his company for the 4 hour journey. He shared lots of stories and information about life in Western Gaua, and told us about the bays and villages we passed along the way. He also broke our drought on fishing and caught a small tuna which he took to his friends in Losalava. The Community Boat in Ureparapara is absolutely essential - there is no airport. It did a trip to and from Sola while we there, despite three significant holes in the fibreglass, and it was agreed that it was no longer safe to do the journey. So when Chief John asked if Ben could possibly mend the holes, Ben set to work - his time fixing cutters at Te Puru Sea Scouts holding him in good stead! Working with a wet and dirty surface didn’t make it easy ... or the mend perfect ... but we left them with a patched up boat that, we hope, will see them through for some time.
The magnificence of the geography in these Islands has to be seen to be believed. The twin waterfall just falling out of the rock cliff that can be seen from miles out at sea; similarly the single one in the next bay along; imposing, densely bush covered volcanic cones (the tops seemingly perpetually covered in cloud); the tiny, flat Reef Islands that look like trees growing on the water; and rugged coastal reefs (which we hope to steer clear of). And to anchor in a cauldera at Ureparapara, with the steep bush-clad sides towering over us, just encapsulated it perfectly!
Tomorrow we start making our way south again.
ESPIRITO SANTOS (SANTO), VANUATU
Three standouts from our week in Santo:
First the easy (when you know how to do it!) but protracted “Clearing In” process.
Step 1: Email in “Advance Notice of Arrival” to Customs in Vanuatu.
Response: “Received, thank you. Anchor at Beachfront Resort Anchorage or Aore Resort on arrival, then radio Customs or Port Control in Luganville. On no account leave your vessel.”
Step 2: Arrive, anchor and radio ... numerous times
Step 3: Find the telephone number in a Cruising Guide, and ring Customs.
Response: “Number unobtainable” signal
Step 4: Phone Customs in Port Vila and get correct number. Ring it.
Response: “Number unobtainable” signal
Step 5: (Unofficial) Get in dinghy and ask advice from people at neighbouring yacht.
Response: “Sorry, don’t know - we cleared in at Port Vila. Maybe ask at the Resort”
Step 6: (Very unofficial) Go into the Resort and ask advice
Response: “Oh you have to take a taxi or a bus into town and go first to Immigration, then Customs”.
Step 7: (Sort of Official) Take a bus to town
Response: Bus Driver tells us that the Immigration Office will be closed for lunch until 1.30pm
Step 8: Present at Immigration
Response: “Sorry - please come back tomorrow. We need to be at the Airport this afternoon ... and so will the Customs Officials.” (One international flight per week). “In the meantime, go to Customs and give them your paperwork, then go to Government Cashier and pay your fees”.
Step 9: Present at Security Main Wharf
Response: Sign in and lengthy discussion about Health Services in NZ and Seasonal Work Permits for Fruit Pickers from Vanuatu. (The Security Officer had had a child in Starship Hospital and had stayed at Ronald McDonald House while she was being treated).
Step 10: Present at Customs
Response: Took our papers but “Come back tomorrow, as we have to go to the Airport now.”
Step 11: Find Government Cashier and pay fees
Response: First success of the day!
Step 12: (Unofficial) Visit cafe and market before returning to Panthera.
Step 13: (DAY 2) Repeat Steps 7 - 10
Response: Stamp, stamp ... good to go! BUT ... come back for your Cruising Permit on Friday!
Step 14: (FRIDAY while Ben is diving on the President Coolidge) Present at Customs and ask for Cruising Permit.
Response: “Please fill in these forms”
My response: “Um ... didn’t we give you these on Tuesday?
Response: “No ... same information but different form”
My Response: “OK ... can I have the other form, so that I can just copy it?”
Response: “Sure ... but we also need your proposed itinerary”
My Response: Completed form - with itinerary of island stops for our stay in Vanuatu
Response: Stamp, stamp on the form, which was placed in envelope with an official seal on it, and handed back to me with the instruction to hand it in at Sola and get another Cruising Permit to Port Vila.
My Response: “But I’m not sure we will go to Sola, as the anchorage seems very exposed to the SE winds.”
Response: You MUST go to Sola ... this Cruising Permit will only take you to Banks - you will need a new one to go to Port Vila
My Response: “But ...” ... Took the Cruising Permit and repeated Step 12 above!
The second standout was for Ben to dive on the President Coolidge 40 years after he last did so. As you can imagine the deterioration of the wreck over that period was huge. An unexpected bonus was the fish life at the recovery points on the way up - the clownfish were particularly prolific.
Last, but not least, was Hog Harbour and the adjacent Champagne Beach - crystal clear blue water and fine white sand - pure picture postcard stuff!
Next report from the Banks Group (which WILL include a stop at Sola!)
OVALAU AND YADUA ISLANDS
.... AND WHISTLE STOPS AT KORO & MAKOGAI ISLANDS, VOLIVOLI, BLUE LAGOON, MANTARAY PASS & DENARAU
We made a conscious decision to spend longer at fewer anchorages this trip ... and these included spending time at Rukuruku Bay on Ovalau Island and at Yadua Island.
We loved Rukuruku Bay where we were welcomed by the village children, the chief and another lovely family who put us on to David, who literally drove us all around the island telling us all the history on the way. Our “tour guide” was a retired lawyer from UK who has lived in Fiji 30+ years, and was not only really knowledgeable, but also a great story teller. Obviously he isn’t really a guide, but just took us around because the Rukuruku community like to make guests welcome! It all came about after the chief told us about a truck that would take us to Levuka ... but when we turned up at the appointed time ... whoops he’d forgotten it only goes Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (and it was Wednesday!) Hence “our family” called David to see if he would transport us, and he agreed to do so. Amazing really.
Levuka was the first capital of Fiji and David showed us all the other “firsts” and “oldest” in Fiji, including the first formal school and oldest hotel. The burnt out shell of the first Masonic Lodge in the South Pacific was interesting too - torched by god-fearing villagers in 2000, believing that Masons were in league with the devil, and that there were tunnels linking it through the centre of the earth to Scotland! We also saw the devastation brought to Ovalau by Cyclone Winston in 2016.
As part of our circumnavigation of Ovalau we stopped at the Airstrip to pick up Marilyn & Ken from the tiny plane that flies in each day. It was great to have them on board for their next 12 days.
After leaving Ovalau we picked our way through the coral to Volivoli before heading across to a beautiful anchorage at Yadua Island. When the torrential rain cleared we enjoyed amazing snorkelling ... exploring four different reefs in the bay, each of which was great in its own way. We left the best til last, going on the outer reef at the pass entrance. It was possibly the best snorkelling we have ever done - the beautiful soft and hard corals; amazing variety of colour and species of fish; deep drop off in beautiful blue water ... and both white and black tipped sharks gliding around with us.
The Yasawas called from there, where it was lovely to catch up with Grant and Bronny from Fairway Bay Marina at Blue Lagoon. Ben, along with Anne & Jeremy from Athair, also provided us with entertainment as they performed a tricky and skilled manoeuvre which involved transferring an Iridium Unit from Panthera to Athair at sea. With the unit (quadruple wrapped in plastic bags) on the end of Ben’s boat hook and Anne with a net on Athair’s bow, Jeremy brought Athair alongside us ... and with a flick of the boat hook, it was safely in Anne’s net! We were all suitably impressed!
We were also very happy to catch up with the Sea Angels (from Beachlands) at Mantaray Pass - and to eat pizza, drink sangria and seek the mantarays with them ... not the amazing numbers that we swam with in 2017, but they are as magnificent as ever! Olivia and Robbie’s muffins and cupcakes were arguably equally good!
We left Denarau on Friday - sad to miss my cousin Derek & Viv by such a small margin - next stop is Luganville in Vanuatu.
TAVEUNI AND BEYOND!
After two nights at the stunning anchorage on Matangi Island we went on to Taveuni, in theory for a short provisioning stop … but it became one that lasted 3 days! This enabled Ben and Owen (from Dulcinea) to dive on the Great White Wall and Rainbow Reef. Great dives!
Meanwhile Emma, Lachlan, Bruce and I took a taxi to Bouma National Park to visit the Tavoro Waterfalls. The guy in the dive shop deemed Bruce and I “too old” to make it to the 3rd of 3 stunning waterfalls … and he was right, certainly as far as I was concerned! It was worth the effort to get to the second one though – Emma’s app told us we had climbed the equivalent on 60 flights of stairs … and she did that with Lachlan in a front pack!
We loved our weekend at Catherine Bay on Rabi Island. Such an interesting history – the inhabitants were relocated there by the British Government in 1945 after ravaging their home island “Ocean Island” in Kiribati through phosphate mining. Although the people were granted Fijian citizenship, our guide book told us that the only things the people have in common with Fijians are their “monetary, postal, and educational systems, kava drinking (a Fijian implant), and Methodism.” We found that they also share friendliness and the welcoming attitude we have found everywhere in Fiji.
The local language is Gilbertese, and one of the villagers told us that their original Banaban Language was lost on the 1800s when the missionaries came to Ocean Island with the bible translated only into Gilbertese. There is no-one left who knows the old language.
They don’t do sevusevu in Rabi, but you must report to the chairperson of the Village Council to seek permission to visit. The chairperson at Buakonikai, the village we visited, is a woman, and she told us we were welcome as long as we didn’t bring drugs! I have to say that two less likely looking drug running boats than Dulcinea and Panthera, I have yet to see!
On Sunday we went to the huge (and in need of even huger repairs!) Methodist Church – arriving promptly at 11am as advised by the children who had guided us through the village on Saturday. Whoops … it had started at 10! Next whoops was not noticing that there was a male side and a female side of the church as we quickly took our seats! Despite our faux pas, the community was clearly very pleased to see us there. The preacher was a woman, and while she preached in Gilbertese, her tone was clearly full of “fire and brimstone”.
Some other interesting facts about Rabi are that alcoholic beverages are not allowed on the island, and that adultery is legally punishable offense!
After buddy-boating with Dulcinea since the Bay of Islands, we ventured to the Ringgold Islands alone. We felt very adventurous as it is not a common destination for yachts. In fact we were the only boat in the island group when we arrived. (One more arrived the next evening). We then discovered that a group of 6 young women from Canada left the day we arrived after staying at an Air BnB for 3 days!!! Now that is really adventurous, especially as they came by longboat from Taveuni! There are only 59 people living on the island; 16 pupils at the school (4 teachers!!); and it is the only populated island in the group. Things are very basic in the village, and I just couldn’t believe there could be an Air BnB there - the power of the internet! (Actually there is no reception at the village, so the owner, Willie, goes up the hill with his cellphone to run the Air BnB. He told us that it took 3 years to meet the requirements to set up with “Homestay.com” but he persevered … and was finally rewarded. He then learned about Air BnB and has found that much more successful in attracting guests.
Willie took us out in his longboat to explore the Cikobia crater … an amazing lagoon formed by the collapse of one segment of the volcanic island. We disturbed hundreds of beautiful bats sleeping in the trees by the water’s edge – they looked amazing flying above us. He then took us snorkelling in the reef off Cobia Island where we saw beautiful bright blue lipped clams. In the evening Willie arrived at Panthera with a gift of an octopus … and instructions on how best to cook it!
Our next planned destination was Albert Cove at the top of Rabi Island but beautiful sailing conditions had us sail right on by and anchor at Catherine Bay again. We negotiated two pretty narrow passes through the reefs on our way … a bit stressful seeing coral on both sides of Panthera, and the depth decrease from 300+ metres to 7 … but who needs more than 7 metres??
Paradise Taveuni, a resort that welcomes cruisers with free mooring balls and use of the resort facilities, beckoned us next. Like Yanuca Island we were able to snorkel in beautiful coral off the back of the boat – the clarity of the water and huge numbers of colourful fish were fabulous. We left this morning with a box of vegetables and fruit from the resort’s organic garden, eggs from their hens and 2 loaves of crusty bread – what a bonus!
FIJI: THE LAU GROUP
After a relatively easy 2 night passage from Tonga we cleared into Fiji at Lomolomo in Vanua Balavu … another bonus of being part of the ICNZ Rally.
We were possibly the last Rally boat to leave Neiafu, so despite overtaking several (not that we actually saw them) there were plenty of yachts in before us, so we didn’t get cleared for 24 hours. Lomolomo is exposed to the trades, so was a pretty uncomfortable spot to be waiting in … we were pleased to leave and head for the beautiful Bay of Islands to “hide out” from the predicted big blow that was coming - we couldn’t think of a more beautiful spot to be hiding out! The forecast was correct - the rain was torrential and there was plenty of wind - even in our sheltered little nook.
Most of the Rally boats had chosen to go to the closer (and very sheltered) Mbavatu Harbour, so when we arrived there were only 5 boats in BoI, and only 1 other Rally boat ... how different to 2017! A few more arrived over the next 3 days, and we enjoyed “raindowners” together, both on Panthera and on an Australian boat, Mari. We enjoyed a day at Horse Bay as we made our way to Mbavatu Harbour – where there is plenty to do, including a walk to the lookout over the Bay of Islands.
The Rally reassembled at Susui last Wednesday for an afternoon and evening of entertainment by the 19 children at Susui School and feasting. A visit to the Hidden Lagoon where I had acquired my Hiawatha reputation in 2017 reinforced how important tides and daylight are when there is coral to be negotiated in your dinghy – this year the only boat to hit coral was, in fact, the long boat which was guiding us through it!
I have greatly developed my dinghy driving skills since being away … and food has been a great motivator for this! Taking myself off to the market and deli in Neiafu was a major breakthrough … and being “boat-woman” while Ben scoured the walls of Mbavatu Harbour for crayfish took my skills to a new level! Sadly he had no success, but we are ever hopeful!
Breadmaking has been another skill I have honed … who knew how large a loaf would become if you left it to prove overnight?!!! The challenge then becomes fitting it in the small oven to bake a) without burning the bottom and b) without it hitting the grill. Both are works in progress!
Surprisingly we have now left the Lau Group … without going south to Fulaga. I say that because it never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t! I loved that experience and the beauty of the area and had looked forward to visiting other islands in the southern Lau as well. However when it looked as if the weather would preclude our leaving before the weekend we’ve just had, we looked at our other options ... and the upshot is that we are headed towards the Taveuni area, Rabi and on to Savusavu. We are both happy with our decision as it means we can explore areas we have not been to before.
Travelling with Dulcinea and Equinox 2, our first stop on leaving The Lau Group was Wailagilala Island – a small uninhabited island, with a lagoon inside a reef to anchor in. In some ways it reminded us of being in Minerva Reef. We had a lovely walk around the island - there were boobies nesting and beautiful chicks popping their heads out of the nests. Four men from Taveuni were camping on the island … if we understood correctly, working to create a resort there. If that is correct, it is a long way off! They helped us get some papaya and bananas so we were very happy – fresh fruit is always welcomed! However it was an EXTREMELY lumpy night and we were very happy to lift the anchor and head to Matangi Island.
More from Matangi and Taveuni soon!
As we prepare to leave Tonga, we’ve reflected on some of the things that have made our time here special.
First the actual Rally … the shared experiences, support, fun and friendships that develop. It’s great to have Fairway Bay friends here aboard Calypso and Victoria … and regular visits (including a sleepover on Panthera) from George and Elizabeth aboard “Albatross”, their little kayak. Remarkably there are three families from Beachlands on the Rally too – Phil, Toni,Robbie & Olivia aboard Sea Angel and Sharyn & Ray aboard Jasper 2.
As with the 2017 Rally we love that people are always willing to lend a hand, share their “spares”, as well as advice, when things don’t go to plan! Sadly despite all the advice given and fixes tried, we had to get new wind instruments flown up from NZ. This, however, gave us the opportunity to learn how the courier service works in Tonga!!! Let’s just say it was a bit stressful, especially when our tracking notice said “Delivered – signed for by Ben in Nuku’alofa” … when we were, in fact, in Vava’u, and had yet to sight, let alone sign for, anything! We were so pleased to pick the box up yesterday … and for Ben (assisted by Glen) to get it installed and working in time to leave for Fiji today.
Getting things working again is a way of life when sailing … and the causes of malfunctions can be hilarious. The genset stopped a couple of evenings ago … the reason – jelly fish in the water intake! The number of jellyfish in Neiafu Harbour has to be seen to be believed – literally hundreds surround our boat.
While fixing things may be our way of life, boarding school is the way of life for a huge number of children in the Pacific … and Monday morning and Friday afternoon see numerous “school bus” boats ferrying children to and from their island homes to the nearest school. While we were at Vaka’Eitu Ben ended up being the substitute “school bus driver”! The three girls who live on the island board from Monday to Friday, but didn’t appear home from school on Friday. Their somewhat worried parents borrowed our phone to try to find out what had happened, but couldn’t raise anyone. On Saturday morning they paddled out to us and borrowed the phone again and this time located the children. It seemed the boat that was supposed to bring them home went fishing instead! So Ben and David (the father) took our dinghy to collect them while their mother sat on Panthera with me and talked. The family has 11 children ranging from 5-22, and pays for the children’s school fees by hosting feasts for visiting yachts. (Primary school is free, but secondary school is not.) With one such feast planned for the Saturday evening, Ben & David also picked up the octopus, fish and various other supplies for the feast. Ben said they were supposed to transport the pig back too, but the guys at the village couldn’t catch it! We later saw a boat arrive at the shore, so assume it had the said pig aboard, as there was one roasting when we got to the feast, which then went onto the table! The feast was the very best we have had anywhere in the Pacific.
Which leads me to “eating out in Neifu”. As you can imagine, opportunities for eating out can be few and far between … so the chance to do so is welcomed by the chief cook on board! To be able to share these evenings in Neifu with Jillian and Glen from Malakite was an added bonus! These included an evening at Mangos over candlelight (due to the power cut) which included a very random quiz night; a walk for Jillian and I to the Hepi Pizza place (supposed to be 500 metres, but was actually 1 km) for takeaway pizzas ... having a drink on their deck with its stunning views over the Harbour … then being driven by the owner back to the yachts because he wanted us to be able to enjoy his pizzas as while they were hot!; and fish and chips at a cute little barge in the harbour which can cope with 4 orders at a time – and serves margueritas and cold beers while you wait for your turn!
The not so good news from the Rally is that one of the boats, Squander, had to be abandoned, and the crew lifted by helicopter and taken to NZ. We are all delighted that not only were the crew safely rescued, but that Squander has since been successfully salvaged.
WE HAVE ARRIVED IN TONGA
We arrived in Tonga on Monday - 6 days and 5 hours after leaving Opua. We made very good time, and were amongst the first group to arrive (maybe 6th boat here I think). We got in just on dark and had to wait on our boat until we were able to clear customs etc ... which finally happened 22 hours later!! It is certainly Tonga time here!
The Passage up was not my favourite one (this year’s understatement!) ... and sadly, with a big front coming through, stopping at Minerva Reef was not an option this time. Several boats got stuck there for a week recently, and in pretty rough conditions ... so we didn’t fancy that! (No crayfish is worth it!)
That forecasted front was the factor pushing the decision to leave when we did. The first 18 hours was pretty rugged, and I experienced really bad seasickness ... such that Ben and Jens had to do my watches on the first night - I couldn’t move without throwing up! They were just great and just let me lie on the bed with my bucket! Ben slept in the saloon. As you can imagine, I was thinking that FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) was looking like a good future option ... and that this was my very last passage. However I think it is correct to say that four boats turned back with various issues ranging from a blown out mainsail to taking on water, so possibly seasickness was nothing in comparison to that!
After a reprieve of a day or so to recover, it was unpleasant again for a day and a night. Both high winds and horrible seas. Jens really thought Panthera was going to fall to pieces with some of the bashing and crashing! The rough seas brought back the seasickness, so I succumbed to taking “sealegs”. Either that or 5 hours sleep put an end to it, and I was then fine.
By then we had managed to go fast enough to be ahead of the next front, and we had two days and nights of really beautiful sailing. We then motor-sailed the last day to get here by nightfall ... making it with less than 30 minutes to spare! Jens saw a pod of whales in the early light on Monday ... hopefully the first of many that we’ll get to sail with over the next 5 months.
We are now at Pangaimotu Island, about a mile across the Lagoon from Nuku’alofa, and enjoying the camaraderie of other members of the Rally at Big Mama’s Yacht Club. Ben was up the mast today, with Jens assistance, tightening up a few nuts and bolts and trying to get our wind instruments working again (fairly essential when you are sailing a boat!) As the only member of the crew to hop into the beautiful blue, warm water for a swim, my task was to check what was wrapped around the prop ... one of our engines stopped half way here, and the problem was identified as something ... maybe a fishing net ... being wrapped around the prop. Unbelievably there was nothing ... and the engine is running beautifully! We assume that whatever it was disentangled itself! We wish every problem was as easily solved!
A trip to the market yesterday had us enjoy mud crab, followed by papaya for dinner tonight ... we are one happy crew!!!
RE-RUN OF A MOVIE WE SAW IN 2017!
Here are the ICNZ Rally Members ready and waiting in Opua ... the emphasis being on waiting, waiting! A tropical low in the Pacific has delayed our departure for Tonga, and it looks as if we will be here for at least another week. Watch this space!
HELEN & BEN SAFE ... FELIX INJURED! Bundaberg was hit by a terrible storm on Tuesday night - winds of up to 72 knots! Unfortunately Felix was a casualty of this storm when we broke away from our marina berth along with Wind of Change. As we attempted to get to safety we hit a pontoon pole, which created a hole in Felix's starboard side just below the water line. As we took on more and more water it was obvious we were sinking. Thanks to the efforts of Geoff from Bundaberg Marina and yachties on two dinghies Felix was towed towards a little beach while 80% submerged. Efforts by countless kind and supportive people over the ensuing 24 hours meant that she was secured on the beach; a temporary repair made to the hole; and much water pumped out. Today she was refloated and an attempt was made to lift her out of the water with a crane. Unfortunately there was too much water still inside, making her too heavy for the cranes to lift out. We will try again tomorrow. In the meantime Ben and I have received the most amazing care, support and help from the most wonderful cruising, Bundaberg Marina and Burnett Heads communities. We feel very very humbled and grateful to them all. Sent from my iPad
DAY 6 PASSAGE FROM NEW CALEDONIA TO BUNDABERG We are safely anchored in the Burnett River in Bundaberg ... arriving in the dark and too late to either clear in or go to our Marina berth. It was somewhat of a boisterous sail at times last night with 20+ knots of wind and a very confused sea. Fortunately no height in the waves to speak of. The auto pilot decided to play up in the latter part of the journey so we hand steered for the last 8 hours - mostly into the wind on a fairly flat sea ... so no big drama. (Apart from the $$$ signs we both see).
We were welcomed to the Australian coast by a dolphin escort ..and look forward to an unbroken nights sleep!
DAY 5 PASSAGE FROM NEW CALEDONIA TO BUNDABERG Hurray we have some wind and have been able to turn off the motors and sail for most of the day! While I slept this afternoon Ben and Currance spent several hours dealing to the calcified head in the guest bathroom - what a mission! I am happy to report that it is now fully functional again! Our meals are getting bigger as I try to get Ben and Currance to eat up all the food we are not allowed to take into Australia. They would rather eat the baking! We are not allowed to take any fresh vegetables or fruit; chicken or pork; and only dairy beef and lamb from countries that are free of foot and mouth. I'm at the stage of wondering if Back Country Meals with chicken in them count! I bought two huge green papaya at the market in Noumea, in the expectation that they would ripen pretty quickly ...sadly it looks as if at least one will go into the quarantine bin!
DAY 4 PASSAGE FROM NEW CALEDONIA TO BUNDABERG Our hitchhiker left us at 6.00am (leaving a rather large and smelly calling card!) after spending all night with his head tucked under his wing - didn't even stir when Ben put out the headsail in the night! Not that the headsail was out for long - we're still awaiting the wind! At least the current slowing us down has disappeared and we're trucking along at about 6 knots again. Ben and Currance refuelled from the jerry cans this afternoon - so easy when the sea is so flat! Bets are now on as to whether we'll reach Bundaberg by COB on Tuesday or if we'll have to anchor in the Q area and clear in on Wednesday morning.
DAY 3 PASSAGE FROM NEW CALEDONIA TO BUNDABERG The wind continues to elude us and we've been motorsailing on a silk-like sea all day. We are motoring almost directly into what little wind there is, so if we do have to motor, at least these are perfect motoring conditions! A red footed booby is currently hitching a ride with us - sitting cleaning and preening on the bow. (Ben is muttering about guano on the deck ...but I don't see him chasing it away!) Sorry about the incorrect lat / long yesterday ..hopefully today's will put us in the ocean rather than in the middle of Australia (Thanks for the alert, Margaret!) The night sky was amazing last night - lovely moonlight and starry sky with satellites and meteorites to add extra interest. Our plans to use the SSB have been thwarted - the SSB has decided to give up the ghost. Fortunately we still have the satellite phone to fall back on.
DAY 2 PASSAGE FROM NEW CALEDONIA TO BUNDABERG The wind dropped overnight and its been motorsailing on a beautiful flat sea ever since. Perfect whale watching conditions if not sailing conditions! Unfortunately we are yet to see any whales or increase in wind! A few seabirds and flying fish to keep us company though. We loved seeing Kena's sails by day and lights by night and having radio contact with them ... but today we have gone ahead and have now lost sight of them. All is not lost though - we have set up daily SSB scheds with them from here to Bundaberg.
DAY 1 PASSAGE FROM NEW CALEDONIA TO BUNDABERG In company with Kena we've had a perfect day's sail to start our passage - beam reach all the way averaging between 6 and 7 knots with waves of 1.5 metres. Long may it continue! Our watch system is sorted ... at least for tonight with 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 +2 + 2. Let's see how that goes! The sun is about to pass the yardarm but our passages are dry, so the drinks will have to wait until Bundaberg.
PORT DU SUD (NOUMEA) We were so fortunate to get a marina berth at Port du Sud - we really appreciated the efforts the Capitainerie, Marc, went to to try and accommodate as many boats as possible. Never mind that we had to move Felix 4 times to different spots on the Visitor's Pier over our nine days! Fortunately we had lots of help from other Rally participants who were able to take our lines in the strong wind conditions! We enjoyed lots of social time with our ICA Rally Fleet friends before most of them departed for NZ last Friday. Yvonne flew out the same day. It was good to have Kena, Lettin Go, Skylark, Alexandra and Pixie stay on with us. We made good use of the local buses to explore a little of Noumea and as we provisioned for our passage to Bundaberg. The Aquarium, Maritime Museum and Parc Forestier et Zoologique were all fantastic. Shopping in both the Port Moselle Market and in "a real supermarket" made provisioning a breeze! Most grocery items were expensive by NZ standards, the exception being cheese and to say we have over indulged in French cheese is probably an understatement! Yesterday we completed all the customs and immigration requirements to leave New Caledonia. This involved visiting 3 different offices some 30 minutes walk apart from each other ... so Ben & Currance did that with 'Kena', 'Alexandra' and 'Be and Be' while I did the last minute market stuff. Today we left Port du Sud heading for the historic Amedee Lighthouse where we will overnight before setting off with Kena tomorrow morning as part of the Go West Rally to Bundaberg. Sent from my iPad
BAIE DE LA TORTUE (ILE OUEN) I am delighted to report that dugongs are not a myth! Despite this Bay being named Turtle Bay, we saw as many dugongs as we did turtles ... so there was great excitement aboard Felix! Having been looking for them unsuccessfully in Vanuatu and New Caledonia we had been beginning to believe that they fell into the mermaid category!
ILOT CASY Ilot Casy is most famous for its caretaker - a dog called Mouss. Mouss has lived alone on the island for ten years supported by S/V Impi, Guy Kane (vet) and the yachting community who feed him (or leave food) when visiting the island. Mouss apparently rejected attempts to take him off the island when the resort where he lived closed down - jumping overboard and swimming back three times! He enjoyed the meat we took ashore for him, then started us out on our walk around the island. Sadly his age and "creaky" body precluded him guiding us the whole way around the island (as he has guided visiting yachties for years), but he was waiting for us when we returned from our walk. Mouss even has his own facebook account! We loved being on a mooring - no worries about dragging anchors! However the moorings were pretty close together and with a big motor launch on the adjacent mooring, Ben did get up in the night when we went stern to stern ... as did the skipper of the other boat ..but all was well! There was no internet in the bay with the moorings but good coverage on the other side of the island. So each evening we took our devises for a walk and sat on the very windy "weather side" of the island to get weather forecasts and emails!
ILE DES PINS (ISLE OF PINES) We spent a week at different anchorages in the beautiful Ile des Pins - like Ouvea, true picture postcard stuff! The blue skies that eluded us in Ile Mare returned, and we were back in the water to cool off! Yvonne and Currance from Christchurch joined us at Baie de Uamaeo ... and Currance will stay on to crew with us on our journey to Australia next week. We loved the azure waters and white beaches; the walks around a couple of the smaller islands and up Pic Nga - the highest point in Ile des Pins; the view from the top!; the huge cave - Grotto de Hortense; the friendly people at the small, twice weekly market; the chocolate filled donuts and the baby carrots at the market; and lunch at the beach side restaurant near Baie d'Oro. We saw lots of sea snakes, especially at Ilot Brosse - you really had to watch where you put your feet when walking on the beach! We also negotiated coral ridden passes from one Baie to the next - with two metres of water under us at times! Just as well we could follow Malakite at times as they had the track in their chart plotter from their trip 2 years ago! A truly beautiful place we'd love to return to in the future! Sent from my iPad
ILE MARE Two long days of motoring from Ouvea, including a 3.00am start from Lifou on the second day, had us at Ile Mare sitting alongside a huge Carinival Cruise ship at Port du Tadine. We discovered over the next three days that Tadine is a busy Port as we watched the Betico (a very fast catamaran passenger ferry); a vehicle ferry and several supply boats come in and out of the Port. We took a tour around the island with an eclectic mix of 5 other tourists from France and Japan. Fortunately they were able to help out with translation when the tour guide didn't know the English words! We visited all the "must see" sights apart from the Cultural Centre which was closed while they build a new one! While lovely, with very friendly locals, we both saw Ile Mare as the Loyalties Island that we were least likely to return to. We did, however, enjoy the market - and our first papaya since arriving in New Caledonia. We had another 3.00am start when we left and a great sail ... arriving at Ile des Pins around midday. It was lovely to anchor in a bay with Malakite and Morepork and to enjoy sundowners with them aboard Northstar 11 - a beautiful motor launch from Auckland.
BEAUTEMP-BEAUPRE Truly the jewel in the crown of Ouvea ... and of New Caledonia! This beautiful uninhabited island, with its characteristic turquoise water and white sand, is both a turtle and a bird sanctuary and we were fortunate enough to be there during what was clearly the turtle mating season. Not so sure about being fortunate to be there during the nesting season for the birds - the noise was incessant from the rookery which we anchored near to on the first night ... and the smell of the guano had us anchor further from the shore than we could have! We explored by kayak the first day, so were able to get close to the land and see that the birds had laid their eggs in the sand and that the hundreds of birds who were not sitting on nests were sharp (and noisy) lookouts! We tried to avoid the nesting areas when we walked in this island the following day .. but on the one occasion when we got it wrong we certainly knew about it! The turtles were, however, the highlight - we have never seen so many ... and lots of them were really huge. We were amazed to see them mating around our boats - but it was even better when Ben and I walked to the other side of the island to see them both swimming and mating near the shore and also resting on the sand. They seemed quite oblivious of us, so we were able to approach them without them so much as blinking an eye! The first night there were only 4 boats in one anchorage and we three (Blue Summit, Letting Go & Felix) in another ...the next day we squeezed about 8 boats all in one anchorage (away from the noisy birds!). We enjoyed drinks on Manuhaea, a bonfire on the beach and morning coffee on Felix with others on the Rally while we were there, but when 7 more Rally boats arrived the next day, we decided it was time to return to Ouvea. Seeing a whale just in front of us in the shallow water of the huge Ouvea Lagoon as we sailed from Ouvea to Beautemp-Beaupris was pretty exciting, but as much as we whale watched as we motored back into the wind, they kept well out of sight!
OUVEA The huge UNESCO World Heritage listed lagoon with its amazing azure water and 25 km white sand beach is just as beautiful as the postcards depict! We enjoyed a looong walk along this with Jillian and Glen, picked up some nice shells and returned to Felix exhausted! We had anchored near Mouli and, with 7 others, hired a couple of cars to explore the island. By chance we hired it on the day of a big cycle race around the island, and, as well as seeing them as they passed through the village where we stopped for coffee, we were able to cheer the cyclists on as they crossed the finishing line at the village of St Joseph! The finishing line was adjacent to St Joseph's Church - which had very old stained glass windows that were as beautiful as any we ever saw in Europe. In St Joseph, we joined Nigel and Amanda to visit the chief's widow to seek permission to go to Beautemp-Beaupris (an island 1/2 day's sail away) which she gave every graciously. The traditional gift to present to the chief is a bolt of fabric with a 1000 franc note tucked inside, and Nigel presented several of these on behalf of the fleet. Our sight seeing included a visit to the port, and to two very deep holes in the limestone that are filled with water and connected to the sea via underground tunnels. The water is almost navy blue, and if you are patient you can see turtles swimming in them. However the highlight of the natural sights was the Grottes d'Hulup - a maze of caves with wonderful stalagmites and stalactites. Lunch at a local restaurant not only gave us a taste of the local prawns, but also an opportunity to experience the local eco-toilet! The political undertones I spoke of in my last post are quite evident in Ouvea - which is not only notable for its Rainbow Warrior connection (absolutely not mentioned at all!), but also as the heart of the pro-independence movement. We visited the impressive memorial to the 19 Kanaks who died in 1988, and the two pro-independence leaders who were assassinated there the following year. We don't know, but suspect there was some of that in our abortive attempts to visit the island opposite a protected lagoon. On Friday morning, after the others had left for Grande Terre, Ben and I went looking Felix (yes, really!), who does walking tours ... but the camp ground where he operates was completely deserted. We went back to the Mouli Bridge and had an amazing time - we saw heaps of fish, turtles and schools of rays - up to 40 in a group! A young man with a little boy pointed out the sharks to us, and we got chatting ( as much as you can when neither speaks the other's language!) He told us that his wife came from the village on the island across the Lagoon and that they were celebrating St Raphael's Day. He explained that the morning was the religious part, but "après midi" we should catch the ferry and go to the island for the fete. He said there would be cultural dancing and other festivities ... so we gave up looking for Felix and decided to do that instead. Well ... easier said than done - the ferryman wouldn't take us! He just said "C'est not possible"!!! So despite my best French negotiating skills we had to get off the ferry. We talked to an old man on the road and he said we could go "tomorrow .. just not today" - we never did understand why!!
CHEPENEHE - LIFOU After leaving our initial anchorage in Baie de Santal, our next stop was across the Baie at Chepenehe, where we used our minimal French to negotiate a ride to visit the beautiful Baie de Doking on the other side of the Island. This was somewhat of a challenge as there was no resort or tourist office to arrange transport through. With the aid of a map and our school days French, Steve, Kate and I ascertained that it was quite a distance to the nearest car rental place, so we waved down a man driving a minibus and, with the help of a passenger (who spoke some English), managed to convince him to take not only the 7 of us, but another group who would be ashore soon, to the place we wanted to go to! Initially he was reluctant - I think because he didn't have a clue what we actually wanted to do! - but at the end of the day he had made two trips with a full minibus, and was about $250 richer, so I'm sure he was a happy chappie then! His English also improved as the day progressed! At the stunning cliff top village of Jokin (Doking) we negotiated the 200 steps down to the bottom of the cliffs, where the intrepid members of our group climbed down further (or jumped) into the water for snorkelling. On the way back we visited the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes - a tiny church way out on a promontory - established in the 1800s to mark the arrival of the Catholics in Lifou. I'm sure it must be the smallest cathedral in the world ...with only one pew! It was, however, just gorgeous. Our final "tour" visit for the day was to Baie de Jinek, where the Department of Conservation has created a snorkelling trail - complete with buoys and explanations of what you will / should see in each spot. A visit to Chez Alice (the local store) was a treat before we went back to the boats - here we found beautiful fresh produce ... and a Kanak flag to fly alongside the French Tricolour courtesy flag as we sail in New Caledonia. With the Independence referendum coming up in 2018, there is a bit of a political undertone everywhere we go, so we hope by flying both flags that we are seen as being neutral!
VANUATU TO NEW CALEDONIA We are safely in Baie du Santal, Lifou after a fairly bumpy passage from Mele Bay. The predicted 15-18 knot beam reach sail turned into a 20+ knot beam reach, with a decent swell to go with it! Fortunately I didn't get seasick this time, but I did get a good drenching when a BIG wave came over! On the passage we were amazed to see absolute clouds of flying fish - clearly we disturbed them at a good feeding ground - there were literally hundreds of them skimming across the water! Later we were welcomed to New Caledonia by a large pod of dolphins, who swam with us for about 15 minutes. It seems they often welcome boats to Lifou. The Loyalty Islands' water is as blue as the picture postcards depict it, and the sand as white - everything looks very beautiful. We were happy to relax on Felix until yesterday when we did our clearance in to New Caledonia - although we arrived on Sunday, until that was done we were confined to our own boat (though we were allowed to swim around it, in fact we didn't!) I must say that the formalities were completed SO efficiently. Ben (as skipper) went to meet the officials and had us complete customs, health and immigration in double quick time .. and when the biosecurity officer came on board, he had a quick chat and look around ...and was off within 5 minutes. Nigel had recommended that we write lists of contents on the front of the freezer, fridge, food cupboards and food lockers ...and it seemed to pay off. He read the lists on the fridge and freezer and didn't even open the doors! Last night the villagers welcomed us with a shared feast ... and today we went by bus to We (on the other side of Lifou) to replenish our fridges and freezers and buy the all important SIM cards! Buying a SIM card here requires a passport and a signature ...and rather than being about $5 (as in Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu), the cost was closer to $75 .... though hopefully that will cover the internet requirements for a month as well! We were disappointed to find that the market for fruit and vegetables had finished at 10.00am, but the supermarket at least had the basics for vegetables as well as a wide range of groceries and lovely French bread and pastries! With the provisions replenished, tomorrow we start exploring!
LUGANVILLE TO PORT VILA After a side trip with Pixie to Ambae, they headed south to Port Vila while we returned to Surunda Bay (Luganville) where we picked Maria up. With predicted SE winds of 25+ knots looming, we reluctantly headed south over three looong days. While we had lovely anchorages at Crab Bay, Revolieu Bay and Mele Bay, the sailing to Port Vila was mostly motorsailing into the wind ...not what we'd planned for Maria's trip! Nor was being anchored in Port Vila for 5 days! However, with her usual positive attitude we've made the most of the time - introducing her to the joys of form filling in the Pacific; boat maintenance; Port Vila shopping; taking a tour around Efate and having fun with other Rally participants! Last night we headed to Mele Bay for our last evening in Vanuatu. After watching an amazing fire dance show we sadly said goodbye to Maria. Today as she returns to New Zealand, we begin the short passage to New Caledonia. New Caledonia does not allow us to bring any fruit or vegetables into the country ... and only commercially labelled meat from New Zealand and Vanuatu, so there has been a big clean out in the freezer. I had my hair trimmed in Port Vila, and the local hairdresser's family was the grateful recipient of all our surplus!! For those of you who are following our track via Predict wind, you will notice that it is updating less frequently ... In installing the exterior aerial to improve our satellite phone transmission, Ben had a small DIY mishap with our Iridium which resulted in some black smoke ...and the battery no longer charges! Fortunately we have been able to charge it on other people's Units when we are with them ...but rather than having it on 24/7, we now turn it on once a day to both update our position and check our messages!
THE MASKELYNE AND MALEKULA ISLANDS TO LUGANVILLE Three nights was just not long enough to do justice to this area. We took the west coast route with Pixie, spending the first night tucked in behind Awei Ialand where we were welcomed by the family who live on the island and were not only able to trade papaya, but also promised crayfish should they catch any during the night - unfortunately they were not successful! We had a beautiful sail to South West Bay (Metenovor Bay) the next day, and an equally good one to Malua Bay the following one. We were welcomed by Kevan, the chief's son, in his dugout canoe, and Vivienne in hers - bearing papaya & pablomousse ... and by the time Pixie arrived there was such a welcoming committee in dugouts that they could hardly anchor! Kevan and his family later gave us a tour of their village where we shared birthday cake with his sister (the kindy teacher) and corn with Vivienne's family. The village's greatest need seemed to be ropes for their cows, so both Peter (from Pixie) and Ben were able to find suitable ropes they could spare ... which we took ashore along with some clothes, books for the school and paper for the kindy. Everyone was so welcoming and generous to us - we returned to our yachts laden with pablomousse and yet again were blown away by the willingness of the villagers to share their lives and goods with us with no expectation of payment - Vivienne said to me that by sharing we become friends! We had some fishing success on the way to Surunda Bay, and on our arrival there I gave the fish to a local woman who had brought out a beautiful bouquet of flowers to give us. Maybe she had seen the stress on board as we became members of the Coral Club ... yes, we managed to get stuck on some coral. Fortunately Rick from Oscar came and helped us off using his dinghy ... for which we were very grateful. Along with Pixie, we caught up with Zest, Amici & Oscar for sundowners on Felix. Next day we had a welcome visit to the market and supermarket in Luganville, where we were delighted to meet up with Jillian & Glen from Malekite. Lunch at a restaurant which also housed some really interesting WW11 memorabilia topped off the outing.
EPI AND AMBRYM ISLANDS A whistle stop at Havannah Harbour, where we met up with Blue Summmit, Zest, Lettin Go and Pixie, had us make the decision to join them on their voyage north to attend the Back To Our Roots Festival at Ambrym, which includes the famous Rom Dance as its finale. We had a great sail to Lamen Bay at Epi where we celebrated the second birthday in two days - and saw the hugest turtle we've ever seen. Zest were up and away at 6.00am the next day in an attempt to get an extra half day in at the Festival, while the rest of us left a couple of hours later. To our dismay they relayed to us that the Rom Dance was taking place on Friday rather than Saturday ... and we knew there was no way we could make it. Great fishing success on both Blue Summit and Lettin Go, and a beautiful anchorage at Nopul Bay, went some way to compensating and we all enjoyed beautiful wahoo that evening. One of the special things about the anchorage is seeing the strong glow from the volcano reflecting in the clouds - the molten lava lake up there must be ginormous to reflect so much light! Saturday had us on the beach at 8.30am ready for our truck ride to the Festival (some 50 minute walk from the anchorage). The Back to Our Roots Festival has two aims - one to teach the young and keep their customs alive ... and the other is to raise funds to allow their children to attend secondary school. At the moment the government only funds primary school education, though apparently legislation is in the pipeline to extend the funding. Perhaps it is as well because few of the young took part in the dancing - maybe the young men feel too self conscious to dance wearing nothing but a penis sheath, a belt and a bit of vegetation in the back of the belt.
When so many of us turned up ( maybe 25 Palangi) the elders agreed to do the Rom dance on again as well as a cooking demonstration (bread fruit and coconut cream) and lunch. It was another amazing experience - the combination of costumes, rhythmic chanting and dancing and a story that we couldn't actually follow ... all of which are part of a chief's progression through the various levels of chiefdomship. The main dancers were definitely the men - the women had a very peripheral role. The lunch was possibly the nicest we have had at any village activity. It did, however, seem somewhat of a contradiction to have the women serving lunch wearing plastic gloves and hair covers serving food on banana leaves as plates! A kava drinking session at the chief's house followed ... it was a lot blacker and more potent than the Fijian kava, but no more palatable! A lay day (i.e. boat jobs day) followed and last evening we all went in another local taxi (ie on the back of a ute) to a local restaurant. We were treated to a smorgasbord of dishes ranging from pizza to flying fox (fruit bat)!! Zest, Lettin Go and Blue Summit were up before dawn to head to Santo, but the Pixies and ourselves stayed another day. Tomorrow we will head to Malakula together, where we will hopefully see some dugongs.
TANNA & ERROMANGO ISLANDS Needless to say our trip to Mt Yassur was the highlight of Tanna Island - much more set up for tourists since our visit two years ago, but still a health and safety officer's nightmare as we stood on the rim of an exploding volcano! It was difficult to believe that we weren't at a HUGH fireworks display, complete with sound effects, rather than a spectacle put on by nature! The down side was the ash that covered Felix - despite having had a good wash down, there is still grit everywhere! It was worth it though! We also found the people in Tanna to be as friendly and as generous as in our last visit - we went with Kena & Vivacious to one of the coffee shops in Port Resolution, and were given little donuts with our coffee and a bag with fresh vegetables for each boat. Our bill for Felix was 600vt (about $8). The Tanna coffee was as good as ever too! Enroute to the east side of Erromango Is we encountered more whales than we have ever seen ... at least 20 all up. Quite a few were mothers with calves. I was beside myself on the bow of the boat as two swam ahead of us and two right beside us for about 5 minutes. Their song was clear and haunting and they seemed to enjoy being with us. We anchored at Port Anarvin where we were welcomed individually by Chief Joe, who paddled out in his dugout canoe to introduce himself to each of the 10 boats. We enjoyed a tour of the beautifully tidy village with him, dropping books to the school and medical kits to the health centre. We enjoyed talking with the principal and nurse ... and watching the children play. Some of the villagers arrived back from fishing with lots of crayfish, so we contributed to the local economy by buying two! They were delicious! The next morning a mother and baby whale joined us in the bay while we were having breakfast, and again, seemed to enjoy showing off! As we headed up the side of Erromango we encountered more - these ones leaping right out of the water! We spent most of the day in a small bay getting prepared for an overnighter to Havanna Harbour. Just when we thought it couldn't get better two whales appeared at Felix's bow - Ben got wonderful footage of them waving goodbye to us with their tails! We had quite a fast and somewhat bumpy trip to Havanna Harbour - fortunately no seasickness this time! Nice to hit 10 knots!!
ANATOM (ANEITYMN) Our four days at this island were filled with learning about Vanuatu culture - we were incredibly fortunate that our visit co-incided with a local wedding and that "the wedding committee" chose to invite the Rally participants to attend it. The wedding was held on the beach, which was beautifully decorated for the occasion. It was a double wedding for 2 brothers - one was an arranged marriage and the other the couple's choice. The ceremony was a Christian Service with lots of instructions from the priest as to what makes a good marriage! The ceremony was followed by a blessing for the families (both couples already had children) and very moving acknowledgement at the water's edge to honour the father of the brothers who drowned 6 years ago on that particular beach. After cutting the wedding cake, the bridal parties greeted each of the guests. Traditionally the gifts are given after the feast, but they allowed us to give our gifts prior to the feast. (It was suggested to us that we give 2 "shirts" per boat.) Dancing and the feast followed - goat, rice, cassava, taro and vegetables served in polystyrene trays, which we were asked to return so that there was no litter left behind! The Rally participants left after the feast, but we could hear them partying well into the night! Perhaps the most different aspect to a New Zealand wedding was the demeanour of the couples - neither smiled throughout the ceremony or the greeting of guests, and, in fact, one of the brides cried a lot during the greeting. We were told that it was because with her marriage she leaves her family and becomes a member of her husband's family and village. The following day we were treated to the most interesting village tour where we were shown many aspects of traditional life, including food preservation, fishing with netting made from coconut fronds , fire lighting without matches, custom dress, traditional cooking methods etc. This was followed by a "festival" on Mystery Island where we watched (and then joined in) the local dancing, and shared another lovely meal. We found it much cooler here - and while the snorkelling was apparently excellent, everyone commented on feeling cold when they got out of the water. We didn't actually feel the need to try it! Early next morning half of the Fleet departed for Tanna Island, and the other half (including us) left at the more respectable hour of 7.00am to an anchorage at the top of Anatom. It was another idyllic spot and we paddled ashore in the kayak to walk on the beach and meet some of the local villagers. They gave us lots of pomelos (or pablemousse as they call them here).
It was sundowners on Felix for the "Fleetlet" last night and Lyn and John arrived with pablemousse slings (a take on Singapore Slings), which were just amazing! Today our "Fleetlet" is off to Tanna Island.
FIJI TO VANUATU This adventure has been full of new experiences, and our passage from Fiji to Vanuatu was no exception - I was seasick! Immigration officials in Fiji insisted we all leave as one fleet, so 25 boats left Musket Cove and negotiated the reefs together in 25 knot winds ... and out into the sea. Ben kindly triple reefed the main sail and wound in the headsail to make the journey more comfortable while I established my sea legs. So while others sped along, we travelled more sedately, despite the very favourable sailing conditions. The wind dropped during our final night, and then the swell followed suite which meant we motor sailed the final part of the passage. We each did three hours on and three hours off during the night, but it was the third day before I did much during the day! We were delighted to be greeted by a whale as we reached Anatom at 2pm on Monday - it was our first sighting of a whale in 3 months at sea. Anatom has a beautiful lagoon in which to anchor, and is frequented by Cruise Ships as well as more intrepid cruisers like ourselves! There was a huge P&O Cruise Ship here when we arrived but it headed off to its next destination in the early evening.
DENARAU & MUSKET COVE After two nights at the beautiful Navandra Island we headed to Denarau, where we anchored for 3 nights as we began to prepare to leave Fiji. We visited the Garden of the Sleeping Giant - a tropical garden reputed to have 2000 species of orchids, established by Raymond Burr (of Perry Mason fame). It was a such a beautiful tranquil oasis, just out of Nadi, in which to spend a couple of hours. We travelled by local bus, which was an adventure in itself, and combined the visit with a bit of provisioning at the supermarket and butcher! The Nadi markets were again a "must" before we left, and our backpacks were groaning with beautiful fresh produce on our way back to Felix on Monday.
We are now at Musket Cove, where the ICA fleet had re-convened. It has been great to catch up with everyone and their tales of Fiji - no-one has been disappointed! The boring tasks of cleaning, oil changing, laundry etc have been interspersed with social get togethers, which have been great. Being on the marina means that people pass by all day and we're never too busy for a chat! Tomorrow we will start the 3 night passage to Vanuatu.
MANTARAY PASS - DRAWAQA & NANUYA BALAVA ISLANDS (YASAWAS) We had three amazing days swimming with the giant manta rays that cruise the pass at high tide. We just loved the experience on Sunday when we had close encounters such as one turning 2 somersaults directly in front of me, and another swimming up to the surface directly towards me ...in fact it felt a little too close! They are just such majestic creatures to watch ...and we could both watch them all day! Fortunately the winds were favourable enough for us to anchor overnight to enjoy them the next day with Kate & Steve. Not so many that day ...and lots of people ... but still pretty darned good! It was an easy decision to stay for one more day ...and we are so glad that we did. We were in the pass for two hours and saw enormous rays ... two of which swam with the tide, so I was able to swim along with them for some time - mostly they are swimming against it, so impossible to keep up with. Ben was towing the dinghy as he swam, and after we drifted along with the current, we'd hop back in the dinghy ( bit of a euphemism ... Ben hopped in, and I emulated a whale as I did my best to leap up and roll over the side ..with Ben's assistance ... to make it safely in!); motor up the pass about 200 meters ... and then do the same over and over again! As well as the mantarays we were fascinated by the large schools of mid-sized silver fish and smaller blue/green fish. The silver fish were filter feeders and, seemingly on some unknown command, opened their mouths to gaping point and swam through the plankton. We seemed impervious to them, especially if we stayed relatively still, and they would completely surround us ...easily within touching distance as they sparkled in the sun. There were also some good eating sized trevallies lurking below. We noticed other yachties putting out a line when they returned to their boats ...but didn't see any caught! However a village longboat came along side yesterday morning offering to sell crayfish. Ben had bought me one in Somosomo Bay and I had warned him that our cash reserves were dwindling ... however I didn't let that stop me buying 3 for $50! We had one for dinner last night ..it was delicious and I'm sure I'll find an ATM machine in Nadi!
SOMOSOMO BAY, NAVITI ISLAND (YASAWAS) The "must do" of Somosomo Bay is to cross the isthmus to snorkel over a WW2 wrecked plane - the story is that the pilot had to ditch the plane after flying too low and hitting a coconut tree. He walked ashore holding a gun, and was offered a cup of tea by the family that live there. The family have put a buoy on the plane, so that was easy to find ..but finding the path over the isthmus proved to be far more tricky! A search on the internet revealed that many before us had had the same problem, but nowhere could I find directions! The GPS co-ordinates for this update indicate the beginning if the path, should anyone need them! We were with the family aboard "Kena" ... and after following numerous false paths leading nowhere for about 1 1/2 hours (!) we finally found the correct one. This went through a variety of both terrain and vegetation before popping out on the beach some 45 minutes later! Never had the water felt so inviting! The wreck itself is showing its age, but is clearly a plane - now home to a huge lion fish, two big puffer fish, hundreds of tiny zebra fish and the most clown fish we have ever seen in one spot. We were disappointed not to meet Clara, an elderly woman who is reputed to have seen the crash. We'd carried over some rice, milk powder and flour to give her, but her home looked abandoned.
WAYA, WAYASEWA ISLANDS & MOUVA REEF (SOUTHERN YASAWAS) Absolute highlight of our time here was snorkelling with the white tipped reef sharks with Naqalia Lodge. Up at daybreak for the second time in three days(!) we arrived in time to be picked up from Felix in a long boat which took us on the 20 minute trip out to Mouva Reef. It was a wonderful experience to spend an hour amongst lots of reef sharks - mostly they swam around the bottom but occasionally one seemed to take an interest in what was going on above them, and s/he would come up to have a look at us. Our guide from Naqalia was quite affectionate with them, and encouraged me to stroke one ... which I did! Ben loved seeing the magic coral - a soft coral that changes colour when touched. Amazingly we met Daren and Kristine on the reef - they are the new owners of Savanna - our previous catamaran- which they anchored adjacent to the reef.
DENARAU AND NADI We had a lovely sail from Beqa to Natadola Beach (where we spent the night) and then on to Denarau. This was another short stay where we sadly farewelled Marilyn & Ken ... but not before an excursion from our anchorage at Yakiulausewa Island - a small island just outside of Denarau. Part One of the excursion involved taking Felix into the Marina and circling on the spot for some 40 minutes while waiting for a space at the fuel dock! While Ben fuelled up, Ken, Marilyn & I jumped onto the fuel dock with their luggage and bags containing all our recycling since Tonga - it's never boring aboard Felix! We then enjoyed a coffee while Ben took Felix back to the island to anchor ... then dinghy-ed back to join us. He likes being in the dinghy on his own as that's the only time he can get it up on the plane (given our small 6hp outboard!) After a quick visit to Blue Summit for local "intelligence". We caught the "dollar bus" to Nadi - a local bus that trips around all the resorts picking up intrepid passengers who prefer to take the bus rather than a taxi. The bus terminal is right at the market - one of the biggest fruit and vegetable markets I have ever seen. Nadi was teaming with people and vehicles ... and after nearly three months offshore it was quite a culture shock to be amongst such busy-ness. To say I got slightly carried away buying fresh produce would be an understatement ... but I kept reminding my "produce mules" that it will be nearly 3 weeks before we can buy fresh produce again! I also bought a beautiful coral trout at the fish market ... which tasted as good as it looked! After our return bus trip, laden with my purchases, Marilyn and Ken saw us off in the dinghy and headed off to the airport. It was VERY quiet on Felix last night without Marilyn and my constant chatter! Today we have headed to the Yasawas ... more about that soon.
BEQA ISLAND AND LAGOON A short but memorable stay here where Ben, Ken, Kate and Steve (Blue Summit) dived with the sharks - it seems there are no superlatives great enough to describe the experience... and the smiles on their faces when they returned, along with the photos, certainly bear that out! Ben and Ken even had the pleasure of rubbing the belly of a 12 ft Tiger Shark! The tiger sharks always turn up last, and are considered to be "shy" ... not a word one normally associates with sharks of any type - let alone tiger sharks! All the other fish who came for a feed were also amazing ... sometimes so numerous that they obscured the view of the sharks. Meanwhile, back on land, Marilyn & I indulged ourselves with breakfast at the resort and a massage and facial at the spa! Not the unique experience of the shark divers, but pretty darned good! We moved along a couple of bays to join Jim & Linaire on Panthera for dinner at a small local resort they had discovered- a perfect end to a wonderful day!
KADAVU AND THE ASTROLABE REEF Our friends Marilyn and Ken flew into Vanisea and experienced 2 nights of Kadavu village life at Cooksley's Homestay / Guesthouse before we arrived to pick them up. They also visited the market and arrived on board with beautiful lettuce, cucumbers and bokchoy - who knew that Ben would ever exclaim over the sight of a fresh lettuce! After exploring Vanisea village we headed to Kadavu Dive situated at the nearby Matana Resort. Ben & Ken and Kate & Steve from Blue Summit were keen to dive with manta rays but had to be content with an excellent reef dive using their own tanks as the compressor at the resort broke down! Next stop was Naqara Bay on Ono Island- close to where you can snorkel with the manta rays....what a highlight to swim with these beautiful creatures! We also enjoyed time at the local village where we were made very welcome. We were only the fourth boat to visit this year. We were especially interested to see the scouts and guides off to their overnight camp in a longboat. When they knew we were scout leaders we were invited to go to the camp for their campfire but what was a quick trip in a longboat would have been a journey and a half in the dinghy!!! We could see the campfire on Buliya Island and it looked enormous! The scouts are the only children we have seen wearing life jackets- we have regularly seen the children going to school in the school bus-boat but never a life jacket in sight! The village was also preparing for an Australian gold mining company- renovating a house and building toilets and showers. We hope that the village will benefit from their presence without the loss of their unique way of life. Ken, Ben, Steve & Kate enjoyed great diving in the area with Mai Dive.
We were joined by several ICA boats and it was lovely to catch up with them before heading off again with Blue Summit to Beqa Lagoon.
FULAGA ISLAND & LAGOON Quite the most beautiful place we have visited so far with its white sand, palm trees, the bluest of blue water, great variety of both fish and coral to see when snorkeling ... and the most hospitable community! Although this is the largest group of yachts to ever visit Fulaga (the Southern Lau is too remote for Rallies to include in itineraries and this is the first time the ICA has included it), as is traditional each boat was assigned a host family. Quite an undertaking with 18 boats in the Rally and several travelling independently. Our host family comprised 3 generations, and after a group official welcome from the elderly chief and our presentation of sevusevu (kava) to the village, we went for morning tea at our host family's home. The 2 teenagers then took us for a tour of the village which included a visit to the school; the women's weaving club and the men's carving group. We were fortunate enough to be invited to attend the 7 year old's birthday celebrations the following day. The downside of that was that I asked what I should bring and after a bit of polite to-ing and fro-ing the answer was a chocolate cake! As my baking (apart from bread) has been on the less successful side, the pressure was on! However I managed to produce an acceptable cake and off we went. As guests of honour we were first treated to a private kava ceremony and then got to sit on either side of the birthday girl on her birthday mat during tea party. The whole experience was just so humbling and we felt really honoured to be part of it. On Friday the whole village and all the boats in the Lagoon got together for a "pot luck picnic" where we shared cultures through food, singing and dancing. They had various carved and woven items for sale as well. Village life is primarily a subsistence one with the men working in the gardens, fishing, carving and collecting firewood for cooking ... and the women cooking, weaving, cleaning and raising the children. The supply ship comes once a month, there is one public telephone available Monday to Friday at the Post Office - yet many houses have government subsidised solar power and some have satellite TV! All groceries, of course, come on the supply ship and the local store is currently out of sugar, rice, flour and milk powder - the next boat is due in 10 days! As is typical in such communities, a bigger problem facing the village is children going to Suva for secondary school and not returning. Seini (our host family's 16 year old daughter) is the only young woman in the village. On Saturday we said goodbye to our host family with a morning tea aboard Felix. (This meant another cake! ) The dinghy was very full when Ben arrived with them - with 2 extra adults and 2 extra children as well as "our" family. We all enjoyed ourselves though ... and as they left they presented us with the "birthday mat" (which they said George should use as a marriage mat when he marries) and a woven basket for my cell phone! Their generosity knows no bounds. After a 2 night and 1 day sail, our next stop was Kadavu - more about that soon.
SUSUI VILLAGE We have had 2 lovely days at Susui Village They welcomed us at what they referred to as "The Hidden Village" - a beach just around the corner where the villagers created and decorated a fale for the occasion. There was lots of singing and dancing and wonderful food. 80% was an amazing array of seafood plus a little pig and some fruit & vegetables - delicious! Getting back over the coral reef in the dinghies in the dark was a bit of a challenge but we all made it back safely. ..even if I was drenched from head to toe! The skipper encouraged me to hop straight into the warm shower and it felt a huge extravagance to do so as I'd had one before we left! Even with a water maker on board we conserve water as much as possible. Yesterday the children in the village set up a mini market for us - selling papaya, bananas and an unidentifiable citrus fruit being sold as lemons. It was high finance as we bought from 5 different children and they had no change and neither did we! We will head to the Southern Lau Islands today - leaving late morning and we expect to get to Falanga mid-day tomorrow.
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BAVATU HARBOUR We are now anchored in Bavatu Harbour - adjacent to the remnants of Bavatu Plantation, a former copra plantation and beef farm. We climbed the 272 steps followed by a steep climb to get to the village, and then on to the lookout. The views both over the Bay of Islands and over Bavatu Harbour were well worth the effort! The village has 7 residents and a shop with a sign "The Sometimes Shop" ... because sometimes it is open! There is a "Yacht Club" building at the harbour edge which was badly damaged by Cyclone Winston last year and is still being repaired. The people from the village sheltered inside a tree during the cyclone. Most of the Rally boats have gone on a little further today but it's so idyllic we decided to stay put and spend a little time paddling round the Bay exploring. I will be back up the front of the boat on "bommie watch" looking for coral heads as we make our way to Susui tomorrow. The charts are none too accurate so Ben has to be on sharp alert as he negotiates the coral ridden waters. Makes for an interesting time! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
FIJI'S BAY OF ISLANDS After a welcome and feast ... and relaxing at Daliconi Village, we moved on to the nearby Bay of Islands. It is the most beautiful and amazing series of interconnecting little bays, waterways and tiny mushroom shaped islands. Having been to church where we enjoyed the singing, we were one of the last boats to arrive ... following Malakite through the scenic route!! When we got here it was amazing to see all the boats nestled into the numerous interconnecting bays. We're not sure what the two super yachts anchored here thought when their idyllic paradise was invaded by 35 ICA yachts.
The Daliconi Village folk took us for a cave tour yesterday in their long boats. Without such local knowledge you'd never know there were big caves beyond the little openings. We swam into all but one, but once you were inside it was easy to walk around in them. Each was quite different in structure and size ... and quite beautiful. Most had small bat colonies in them. We had some lovely snorkeling as part of the experience too. Today we planned to move to a bay 4nm away but were again beset with a steering issue. Fortunately Ben & Glen put their heads together and resolved it. However we've decided to stay put for another night and get the kayak out for more exploring. Last night all the boats took their dinghies and rafted them together for sundowners - another new experience for me.
5:00am had us glued to our VHF radios as 2 boats were able to get streamed comnentary from the America's Cup and then relay it through the radio to us. It felt like the old days of listening to the ABs playing in the middle of the night! There was a cacophony of boat horns all over the bay as Team NZ crossed the line! With NZ having won; bread in the oven; and fruitcake #2 being brought out of its hide hole, all is well on Felix! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
FORGOT TO UPDATE LOCATION IN LAST POST We are anchored at Daliconi Village at Vanua Balavu in Fiji Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
HAPPY TO BE IN FIJI Our time in Tonga seemed far too short! After posting last time we enjoyed time in Hunga Lagoon before returning to Neiafu to prepare for our passage to Fiji.
We were in awe of Lyn's patience and grace as she arranged the refueling of some 35 boats from one fuel pump! The process lasted all day but was so efficient! After a 9:00am briefing we cleared customs and, as we awaited our fueling spot, we completed all the other errands like a deli and a market refuel too! We left Neiafu on Tuesday morning - and had a good day and night sailing despite what were being referred to as "boisterous" conditions. Then the drama started when our auto helm stopped working. It co-incided with my putting bread in the oven and a big banging wave so Ben was worried we'd lost a rudder. (Pretty sure the bread in the oven was not the problem!) So I had a steep learning curve as I learnt how to steer to a course in rough seas and high winds. ..especially when it got dark! Think up to 30 knots and 4 metre breaking swells and you get the picture! Never too old to learn new skills - luckily Ben realised that I always think north is in front of me and adjusted the chart plotter accordingly, and that helped a lot. However if you notice our track was rather wobbly - especially every second hour - then that's the reason! We did one hour hand steering and one hour sleeping through the night and were both pleased to see the sun rise! We were fortunate to have Pixie and Lettin' Go keep in touch via radio (Lorraine on Pixie even offering Meals on Wheels had it been possible ) so that's the joy of being on a Rally with a such supportive people. We were very happy to arrive at Daliconi Village and drop the anchor! To say we were both suffering from aching limbs and sleep deprivation would be an understatement! Twelve hours of sleep and a good coffee later Ben is investigating the problem. Nothing obvious has come to light so when we clear customs Jens (another Rally participant whose son, co-incidentally, I married a couple of years ago) will come and see if he can see the problem. Watch this space! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
ENJOYING VAVA'U We took an overnight passage to Vava'u after a wonderful few days in the Ha'apai Group. We definitely want to return in the future to explore that area more. We chose an overnighter partly to be able to have more time in the Vava'u area. It was also an opportunity to have our first 2 - handed overnighter without being on a longer passage. We needed it to be leisurely so that we arrived in daylight so we had a pocket hankie headsail up .. and initially dragged a bucket to slow us down! It was good to have 3 other ICA Rally yachts on our AIS and to see their lights close by. After stocking up with fresh fruit and vegetables at the market, and a good sleep, we're now at Vaka'eitu Lagoon ... a little pacific paradise! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
ON OUR WAY TO VAVA'U We are taking an overnight passage to Vava'u after a wonderful few days in the Ha'apai Group. We definitely want to return in the future to explore that area more. We've chosen an overnighter partly to be able to have more time in the Vava'u area. It's also an opportunity to have our first 2 - handed overnighter without being on a longer passage. We need it to be leisurely so that we arrive in daylight so we have a pocket hankie headsail up .. and initially dragged a bucket to slow us down! It is good to have 3 other ICA Rally yachts on our AIS and to see their lights close by. Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
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SAFELY ANCHORED IN TONGA We are now safely anchored at Pa'angai ... too late to clear customs today but we're happy to relax aboard until the morning. Unbelievably it is overcast and raining - but it's lovely and warm. 6 other ICA Rally yachts are already here and we expect to be joined by more soon.
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ON OUR WAY AGAIN After 2 nights at South Minerva Reef and 1 night at North Minerva Reef we are on passage again. Next stop will be Tonga in 2 -3 days. Hopefully in time for Greg to catch his flight home.
We walked and explored on the reef and enjoyed crayfish for dinner last night (traded for fruit cake - please pass on thanks to Averil, Gunilla, for the great recipe! ) A pod of dolphins saw us off this morning. So we've had the perfect Minerva experience! Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
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ANCHORED IN SOUTH MINERVA REEF! We arrived at 2pm and as we approached the reef it was amazing to see about 10 yachts seemingly anchored in the middle of the ocean! It is easy to see why there are so many ship wrecks here! A swim and a snorkel are now on the agenda.
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The sea has been like a beautiful huge glassy lake today - it was an ideal whale watching sea, but unfortunately the whales have not co-operated ... yet! The light winds have persisted so we continue to motor sail. Big shout out to Greg at Opua General Store for his frozen dough and his bread making lesson - fantastic fresh bread today! We cross the date line later tonight and will arrive at Minerva Reef tomorrow ( when we have Wednesday again!) All are happy on board (though a little more wind would make us happier!!) Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
After 3 1/2 days on the water we are now about 525 nm out of Opua. After a lumpy 24 hrs the sea became calm ... and along with that the wind decreased - so much so that we've been motor sailing since. We do have the gennaker up so that's helping our speed a bit. Lovely sunsets and starlit nights. All are happy on board.
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Anchored in Nara Inlet, Whitsundays.
Panthera - Heading Out Of The BoI
We are now an hour out of Opua and it's a beautiful day to start our adventure! Yachts ahead of us and behind us as far as the eye can see. All heading to Cape Brett and beyond. And all motor sailing at this stage in swells of about 2 metres.
Panthera - Watch this space!
Saturday has been confirmed as departure day! So we're off back to Opua to restock the chocolate (and other goodies) consumed during our sojourn in the Bay!
Panthera - Don't Get Excited!
It may look as if we're on the move, but sadly it's only out into the Bay of Islands! Next weekend is our next projected weather window (we've had them before, but they haven't materialised!) So we're enjoying being out on the water again ... as we continue to wait, wait, wait! Lovely sunset followed by sundowners on Malakite. ..if it weren't so cold we could imagine we were in Tonga!
Panthera - Still in Opua
Cyclones Donna and Ella have delayed our departure. . we sit and wait while the weather chaos clears!