1830 hrs 16 November 2018. We finally made it to our home port here at Gulf Harbour Marina at 1600 hrs today. Had a comfortable 9.5 hrs motor. Where is the wind when we are out there?? The main event of the day was Lonely Fred spent almost 30 minutes frolicking while riding our bow wake. Fred is a lone dolphin. I call him Lonely because there were no other dolphins. Being animals that usually travel in pods, I can only surmise Fred is alone because fishermen have gotten his family. Really sad, but at same time it was joyous watching him play. I am convinced he saw me on the bow sprit because he would be riding the wake and turn sideways and his big eye faced straight up. No way he could have missed me. As a fellow mammal, I think we bonded. Other than Fred, it was an uneventful trip, which is not necessarily bad. Now that we're home, I'll probably not being making entries on this site until next May when we prepare to go back to Fiji. Until then, you can keep up with us on Leilani's Facebook.
John & Leilani
At 0800 13 November 2018 WE ARRIVED at Marsden Cove Marina. Weatherwise it was one of our better passages. Knowing you are waiting breathlessly for trip statistics, here they are: Total miles: 1137 Total time: 189 hrs - 7 days, 21 hrs Average Sailing time: 112 hrs Engine time: 77 hrs Dolphines spotted: 0 Flying fis Our plan is to stay at this marina a few days to clean up and decompress. Then head to home port, Gulf Harbour. From there we will begin process to fix several items on the boat, including depth sounder, leaking shaft seal, a engine vibration which may be due to propellor and/or drive shaft. After that, we expect to do some cruising around NZ before heading back to Fiji in May 2019. Will let you know when you can communicate with us via land based internet. Waiting for customs to show up to check us into NZ. That is all.
Cheers John & Leilani
1900 hrs 12 November 2018. This is coming to you 75 nm from our destination, and our last night at sea. We are still motoring, and otherwise it has been a glorious final day before landfall. The sun came out,, wind dropped, and sea is flat calm. We're still a bit too far off shore to be able to shout, Land Ho. We'll probably see shore lights after the sun goes down. This has been one of our better crossing from the islands to NZ, weatherwise. That makes everyone on board happy. Have a good evening, and good night.
Cheers John & Leilani
0600 hrs 12 November. Without looking at the chart plotter I know I'm finally in NZ waters. How? No sun. 100% cloud cover. Water is more greenish than blue. But the real telltale - it's cold. No more naked sailing. Bring out the woolies - whatever they are. Had to get out an instruction manual to figure out which way to put on socks I didn't know there was a left one and a right one. I pulled out a t-shirt that had been buried deep in a cabinet for months and couldn't remember what the two long things on each side were for. I miss the tropics already. Time to crawl under the duvet to do my watch. What is a duvet? Cheers John & Leilani
1900 hrs 11 November 2018. Another day of motor sailing. Motoring, with little sailing. While the wind is a light E -ENE 5-7 kts, there has been a SE swell that makes the boat hobbie horse. This morning a 60 mtr superyacht, Dream, which was berthed with us at Denarau Marina, zoomed by traveling at 13.2 kts. I could have waterskiied behind it. This compares to our stately (read, slow) 6 kts. At our speed, we are hoping to make it to Whangarei in 8 days. Dream is going to Auckland, and at her speed she will take only 3.5 days. She was just showing off. Still can't believe how warm it is. Being only 200 miles from NZ, I was expecting to be wearing long johns, long pants, long sleeve t-shirt, and a jacket. Instead, I'm still relaxing below decks in my underwear and no shirt. On deck I put on a t-shirt. Wait, am I actually heading to NZ??? Cheers John & Leilani
0745 hrs 11 November. Continue to motor. Yesterday sea was glassy. Today a bit choppy surface. Not much to report other than getting anxious to arrive, properly clean ourselves and boat, and get full night sleep.
Cheers John & Leilani
1730 hrs 10 November 2018. Another glorious day at sea. Sunny, warm, flat seas, however no wind. We continue to motor, and will do so probably until arriving at Whangarei on Tuesday. Only good thing about motoring is I don't have to do sail changes in the middle of the night. I'm surprised how (relatively) warm it is. Not Fiji warm, but I haven't started shiveriing yet. I'm still wearing only shorts - no shirt- below deck. On deck I put on a t-shirt. And with the sunshine that has followed us south, my tan hasn't started fading yet. Leilani's getting dinner ready - sloppy Joe over mashed potatoe- so have to go. Cheers John & Leilani
0800 hrs 10 November 2018. All good things usually come to an end. For us the perfect sailing day ended at 0310 this morning when the wind died to 7 kts and we turned on the motor. So much for wind whooshing past my face and the sound of water running by the boat like a cascading waterfall. All we hear now is the drone of a diesel engine. Of course, in these conditions, that is a sound to cherish. It's the sound of silence that would send chills through our bones. Three days to go. Yee haw.
Cheers John & Leilani
2000 hrs 9 November 2018. Some people are fortunate to experience a day when everything goes perfect in whatever they are doing. Take the bowler who bowls a perfect 300 game, not once but every time during an evening's tourney while munching a double delux bacon cheeseburger with extra mustard during each bowl of the ball. Or the golfer who hits not one hole-in-one during a round, but two and then birdies every other hole even though he's wearing turquoise and pink plaid pants matched with a green, orange, and blue striped shirt. Or winning the grueling Indiannapolis 500 at the age of 12 driving her father's borrowed Prius. In each of these endeavours, those people felt an exhilaration and satisfaction knowing everything went perfect even if it was the one and only time. Today was one of those days for us. Sailing conditions were . . . well, perfect. The day was sunny with huge white billowy clouds spread over a calm blue sea. Wind was a steady 12-14kts. It was still warm enough to be wearing only underpants and a T-shirt. All three sails were up, heading 60 degrees into the wind. In these ideal conditions, Amazing Grace glided across the water at 7.5 - 8.0 kts. Down below I had to keep watching the chart plotter speed indicator to make sure we were actually moving, it was so quiet and smooth. On deck, however, is where the exhilaration of the sailing came to the fore. The wind whooshed across my face. The water rushed by the hull making a sound like a cascading water fall. This continued hour and hour throughout the day. This is the kind of day sailing in the fabled South Pacific poems are written about. Or descriptive, pithy blog entries. The perfect sailing continues as I write. So I have to get back to listening to quiet down below, and the cascading water on deck.
0700 hrs 9 November 2018. Yesterday and most of last night we were finally sailing in the right direction. Up to the time, because of the SE winds, we were on a rhumbline for Sydney, Australia. Then early this morning, the wind went from E to SE again, and we are sailing off the rhumbline once more. But the wind has dropped from 20 kts to 12-13 kts, and the seas are down, too. So it is the most comfortable sailing we've had. So far averaging 6 kts for the trip. Still ETA on Tuesday. While it's a bit chillier, I'm still in shorts, but now have to wear a T-shirt. Not yet the full NZ weather requiring long pants and jacket. Began eating yesterday, so feeling more alive. Filet mignon, baked potatoe, Waldorf salad, and creme burlee on the menu today. Not.
0800 hrs 8 November 2018. Last 24 hrs wind has progressively dropped from low 20's to currently 13-15 kts. In last couple of hours the wind has backed a few degrees from SE to ESE, but still unable to lay a rhumbline to Whangarei. We may change our destination to Opua. Will give another day or so to make decision. Currently sailing in nice conditions of 13-15 kts, 1 mtr SE swell, making 6.5 kts in sunny 0% cloud cover. Per weather forecast, the wind should continue to back over next 3 days, but will drop in speed, so that we will probably be motoring for some of that. Still not eating right. Too tired to bother. Time to go on watch and catch up on my sleep.
0800 hrs 7 November 2018. Had a fast ride last night in 20-22 kt SE winds. But this morning felt we were a bit over powered, so we took in some sail. Speeds down from 7's to 5's. Still same wind but a smoother, albeit slower, ride. Seas down a bit to SE 2 mtr. Still warm enough to be in shorts. With all the SE winds, we have not been able to make our route. We are now 59 nm west of the rhumbline. Per weather forecast, SE winds all day today, and then finally tomorrow they go E. Will start to make up ground then. My ETA calculation of Tuesday is in doubt. Could be the next day. Will wait and see as time goes on. Otherwise all good on board, except not eating. With my round shape, that's not a bad thing. Cheers John & Leilani
0800 hrs 6 November 2018. Been at sea for 21 hrs. Departed at 1100hrs. Had a blustery start with SE 25-29kt winds, 3+ mtr seas. Only good thing was it was sunny. It was uncomfortable and wet. After dark winds came down to 20kts and sea moderated. Still SE, so our direction has not been good as we want to go due S. Last few hours winds have backed at bit to ESE, so we're now running almost parallel to our rhumbline which is 25nm east of us. I will be looking at a weather fax soon, and will then know when the wind will go E which will help us get east of the rhumbline. Speed has averaged 6 kts which is good for us. There are 3 other yachts just behind us which left at same time - Mazu 2, Soteria, and Anahata. Two 90' luxury yactht, one a cat, zoomed by us last night traveling at 9kts. Many yachts which checked out with us yesterday never left. Don't know what happened to them. That's all. Time to climb back into my watch bunk and stare at the nav station instruments to make sure all is well.
sadly tomorrow we depart Fiji for New Zealand. Our plans to spend cyclone season in the Marshall Islands is put on hold. We have a couple of boat issues that need attention that can only be done in NZ. The weather window looks about as good as it gets. There are some eight boats that will depart tomorrow. If you want to contact us from tomorrow until we arrive (in about 8 days) please do so on following email: email@example.com
John & Leilani
Yesterday we moved from Vuda Point Marina to Denarau Marina.
John & Leilani
1615 hrs 8 October 2018. Arrived Vuda Point Marina this afternoon at 1300. The entire 6-hrs motor trip was in hosing down rain. Still overcast, and more rain expected tomorrow. Welcome to the dry side of Fiji. Now about Vuda Point Marina. It's a big circle. Boats are crammed up against each other - similar to Mediterranean style. A marina tender comes out to tie two stern lines from our boat to permanently anchored mooring balls. Then you drive toward a tiny wooden finger sticking out from a concrete wall. Two fellows are there to take port and starboard bow lines to tie to the wall. In our case our bow sprit came up next to the tiny finger. Whenever you want to get on or off, you have to pull a separate line I call the get on/off line from the bow to the finger to bring the bow close enough to climb on and off. At low tide our sprit lines up with the finger. However at high tide you have to be a trapeze artist to get on and off. Leilani simply couldn't do it. She had to get one of the workers to bring not one, not two, not three, but four stepping blocks to stack up so she could climb up on and hoist herself onto the boat. We'll be here for one week to get some repairs done, including our watermaker. Then we're outta here. I have to start my upper body exercise routine now to be able to get off the boat - high tide is coming up.
John & Leilani
1399 Hrs 7 October 2018. Just arrived at Vatia Wharf - actually the bay next to the wharf. Been motoring all morning. While it is easy going through the Viti Levu northern inner reef passage, the countryside is very dry, and not tropical at all. Water is greenish. Anchoring sites are a soft, gooey mud that required lots of chain rinsing while raising the anchor. In fact the water itself leaves a muddy silt to anything submerged. In all honesty, the north side of Viti Levu is the least attractive part of Fiji. Will be at Vuda Point marina tomorrow. Then will have to pull the water maker pump for repair. Hope the spend one a few days there. Then get out into some clean water and good anchorages.
John & Leilani
1500 hrs 6 October 2018. After a delightful trip of half motoring and half sailing across the channel between the two main Fiji Islands, we are anchored at Rakiraki Bay on the north side of Viti Levu. The bay is large, but not particularly noteworthy otherwise. In the background is a mountain chain that looks exactly like the Koolau range on Oahu. We're both a bit tired since we've been going since 0600 for nine hours. So time for a nap. Tomorrow we will work our way across the top of Viti Levu inside the barrier reef to the west, home of the sunburned tourists.
Cheers John & Leilani
1430hrs 5 October 2018. Departed Savusavu this morning at 0730. Weather charts showed winds SE 4-6 kts. However the winds were WSW 4-6 kts, right in our face. But no matter. With such light winds, and glassy seas, we motored, which we had planned to do even if they were SE. A mile out of Nasonisoni Pass we caught a beautiful 1.4 mtr wahoo. You can see pictures on Leilani's Facebook. No sooner than we had the fish on board the winds instaneously shot up to 25 kts right in our face. Query: did catching the fish anger King Neptune? Glassy seas became white capped, short period, choppy 1.5 mtr rollers. We punched into the mess with the bow plunging downward, and then rising skyward with walls of water rushing down the decks. Our wahoo just laid on the starboard side getting a good cleaning. The massive weather change was not forecasted on any of 3 different weather sources we use. We made it to Nadi Bay on the western side of Venua Levu, in the lee of the weather. The bay is dead calm with smooth water. Very comfortable after a bumpy & wet ride the last half of today's trip. Tomorrow has SE 9-11 kts forecast. Hope it stays that way because we cross the channel between the two main Fiji islands. That is not a place we want to encounted 25 kts winds from any direction. Have to help Leilani dress all the fish. Hope it fits in the freezer.
Cheers John & Leilani
1700hrs 4 October 2018. Tomorrow we leave Savusavu headed for Vuda Point on the western side of Viti Levu. We'll take 3-days to work our way over the north side of Viti Levu. There we'll have our watermaker repaired. After that we'll do some final cruising before looking for a weather window to return to New Zealand. We have decided to give the Marshall Islands a miss this year. A faulty depth sounder is the primary reason. Can't get it repaired in Fiji. No problem as we'll do some NZ cruising we haven't done before. I hope to stretch our stay in Fiji into November before beginning the NZ return leg. I'll post from the several stops we make going to Vuda Point so you can follow our progress. Cheers John & Leilani
1350 hrs 26 September 2018. Bula from Savusavu. Arrived this morning at 0930 after a 26hrs trip. Left Matuku at 0730 yesterday (25 September). Sailing throughout the day and the night until about 0230 was what people dream of when thinking of sailing in the South Pacific. Had 12-14 kts of wind on the beam the whole way. Amazing Grace was galloping through the water at max hull speed. After dark, a bright full moon appeared making the water sparkle like diamonds. Weather forecasts said we would have such wind conditions until reaching Savusavu. Well, the weather gods just weren't going to make the forecasters look like they knew what they were talking about. At 0230 the winds decided to leave the scene, sea turned glassy, and we were left to motor the rest of the way. Better than if the winds piped up to a gale.
Savusavu is about 3 degrees higher in latitude than Falaga; 16 versus 19 degrees. The temperature and humidity are makedly higher here. I don't think I sweated during the 3.5 months in Falaga,even when there was little wind. I haven't stopped sweating since arriving today. It's been nice seeing the people at the Copra Shed Marina. All remembered us. Went out to Lias Restaurant for lunch. Will be going out for dinner tonight. Treating ourselves to non-Fijian food off the boat for first time since leaving Savusavu back in early June. Also, looking forward to a good night sleep. But will have to leave the fans on. It's hot, real hot, but mostly hot.
Cheers John & Leilani
1100 hrs 24 September 2018. After a wonderful 18 hrs sail from Falaga, we arrived in Matuku at 1030. No sooner was our anchor down, when Chico, the village chief, came out in his long boat to greet us. Too bad we can only stay overnight here. While the weather is overcast, the island is beautiful. The anchorage is safe in all wind directions, with good holding in mud, but a bit deep. In Falaga we usually anchored in not more that 3-4 mtrs. Here it's about 15 mtr. I'm estimating because our depth sounder, which has been broken since NZ, only reads down to 6-7 mtrs. Okay for Falaga, but no where else in Fiji. That's one of the new parts we are picking up in Savusavu - a new transducer. Will leave for Savusavu around 0800 tomorrow morning, and will be in Savusavu about 25 hrs later. It's 150nm. The weather looks good for the trip.
Now to catch up on the sleep we missed last night.
Cheers John & Leilani
0630 hrs 23 September 2018. With great reluctance, and a heavy heart, we leave Falaga today. After 15 weeks and 1-day, we must return to "civilisation". Our watermaker stopped working on 8 September, and we just can't go any longer without it. So off we go to Savusavu to pick up parts, and then on to Denarau to have the repair made. We leave today at 1700 due to tide to get out of the channel and so we arrive in daylight. Will do an overnight trip to Matuku Island 105 miles away (Google Earth it). Due to weather issues, we can stay at Matuku only one night and then leave for Savusavu on Tuesday. Again, an overnight trip of 125 miles, arriving in Savusavu Wednesday mid-day. Had it not been for the watermaker problem, we would not be leaving. After Falaga, with its easy-going life, clean air, clear waters, no vehicles, no internet, returning to Savusavu, with all the people, traffic, noise, exhaust polution, and trump news, will be a culture shock, and not in a positive way. That's why I put civilisation in quotation marks. We have come to see Falaga as the real civilisation.
Have to now get the boat ready to set sail after 3 months laying at anchor in the most beautiful lagoon in Fiji. Also, have to review my how-to-sail books to refresh my memory on how to do it.
Our next post will be from the "other side".
Cheers John & Leilani
0640 hrs 9 September 2018. First, I thank all of you who sent Leilani B-day wishes. She really appreciated them.
Two days ago the main village threw an island-wide (encompassing all three villages) food and dancing extravaganza. A 79' luxury yacht arrived last week and brought the village a new generator for the school, and donated $5000 to the school. In appreciation the villages put on a great feast, including roasted whole pig, lobster, fish, clams, root and green veggies. A formal sevusevu ceremony was held for the yacht owner and his crew. All topped off with traditional female dancing, and even male warrior dancing. The fly in the ointment was it poured down rain - the first time in our 3+ months in Falaga. No one seemed to mind. That's just the island way. Rain or shine, everyone has fun. It was one of the top festivities I've attended either last year or this in Falaga. However, I did note we did not get the same royal treatment for delivering 1000 bras and 700 sunglasses. Yesterday, as you know, was Leilani's B-day. It was dampened by our watermaker going on the fritz. There are various systems that can go down, and we can soldier on without. But the watermaker is not one of them. We carry 570 ltrs (150 gal) in our tanks, which are full. Our Dutch friend who is traveling with his 92-year old mother has offered to give us 20 lts per day to keep us going. At that rate, based on our consumption, we could conceivably last about 30-days. I doubt we'll wait that long before returning to Savusavu. In the meantime, I'll be communicating with my watermaker mechanic in NZ to determine just what is wrong with the watermaker, and whether it can be fixed in Fiji. I think I know the problem, and there is a place in Fiji which advertises it deals in my matermaker brand, so there is hope. I'll keep you posted. However, I'm already not looking forward to leaving.
Sototale John & Leilani
0640 hrs 7 September 2018. Tomorrow (8 September) is Leilani's birthday. In lieu of inviting all of you who subscribe to this post to a b-day party, I ask that you please send Leilani birthday greetings. You may use the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org Interestingly, Leilani was in Falaga for her last birthday. Who knows. she may be here for her next.
Many thanks for helping me celebrate Leilani's birthday.
0620 hrs 6 September 2018. Today is a gloomy, overcast, rainy-drizzly, day. Remencent of Auckland, but a lot warmer. It's a change from day after day of gloriously sunny, warm, balmy, tradewind, days. In fact, I took advantage of those sunny days on Monday and Tuesday to lay two coats of varnish on the deck caprail. While it was a bit of work, I was able to improve on my suntan at the same tiime.
We were told a Fiji navy ship is due to arrive next week for several reasons: (1) To pick up the cocaine brick I told you about in my last post; (2) to check yachts that they have requisite cruising permits; and most importantly (3) to deliver yacht food orders. That's right. The Fiji navy is being used as a food delivery service to yachts in remote islands. The village headman told us if we placed orders, he would arrange for the ship to deliver. So we ordered much needed essentials like tomatoes, cabbage, pineapples, flour, vodka mix, peanuts, and popcorn. You know, foodstuffs for a well-balanced diet. And what safer delivery service; no one's going to hijack a navy ship.
Several days ago a 79' luxury yacht arrived. Yesterday the owners arrived via seaplane. I think they were just showing off because they could afford to.
The yacht population is down to a long time low of only 9 boats. It's quite nice to again have an anchorage to ourselves.
Leilani is now going to work on recipes for our anticipated food delivery. The choices are limitless. I'm going to work on preserving my suntan through this overcast day.
Sototale John & Leilani
0700 hrs 1 September 2018. On the day of our third month in Falaga, greetings from the cocaine capital of the South Pacific. That's right. Today we have been in Falaga 3-months. Food, water, and cooking gas are holding out. Boat is in great shape. Villagers friendly as ever. In fact, our longevity here is now known on the neighbouring island of Ogea. Everything is going well. I know. You're thinking, enough of that insignificate drivel. What's this about cocaine. You may remember my telling you a couple of months ago about the discovery of more than 30 kilos of cocaine semi-buried in the sand on one of the motus in the lagoon. Two days ago a yachty couple, friends of ours, were beachcombing just down from the main village. Instead of beautiful shells laying on the beach for easy picking, they find a water-proof packaged one-kilo brick of cocaine laying in some washed up seaweed. Shells, schmells. Who needs them when cocaine is easier to find. It's the new buried treasure of the 21st century. Arrrgh, ye ole mateys. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum. At this rate, the villagers may soon abandon kava for another drug of choice. At the frequency and amount cocaine is washing up on the beach, it will be a heck of a lot cheaper than kava, which has gotten outrageously expensive ever since cyclone Winston in 2015. Alas, I think the only thing that will come of this latest find is another helicopter visit from Suva. But that is a village-wide fun event, so all is still good.
Signing off now. It's time to go beachcombing.
Sototale John & Leilani
0730 hrs 25 August 2018. Today is our 11-week-aversary in Falaga. No other boat comes close to our tenure. Speaking of other boats. There are some 20 here. With this crowd, Falaga has lost a bit of its sparkle as a quiet, private destination. Many of the boats are remnants of the Island Cruising Association (ICA) rally that originally went to Tonga where the official rally ended. Usually rally groups move on quickly so as to stop in as many places as possible. Shortly after we arrived a number of World Arc rally boats came, but left after less than a week. As this season progresses, I believe less boats will be arriving because most of the fleet will already have moved westward. Two days ago our friend who travels with his 92-years mother arrived. Met them last year here, so it was very nice seeing him again. Haven't seen the mother. She's more disabled than last year, and stays mostly inside the boat resting. I'm a lot younger than she is, and that's what I do mostly.
I sustained a serious and debilitating sports injury. As a result of playing the board-card game, Sequence, for about 6-hours over two days earlier this week, I suffered OOS in my left thumb & forefinger due to holding playing cards. Laugh if you must. It's a real injury and I've been in great pain, not to mention having difficulty buttoning my shirt and zipping up my shorts. Try doing that using only your middle, ring, and little fingers on one hand. And to make matters worse, my partner and I lost the tourneys both nights. I really hate contact sports.
The cargo boat from Suva came two days ago. Fruits & veggies we ordered arrived, so it was almost like Christmas. I say almost, because one item we anxiously awaited wasn't exactly what we ordered. We ordered five packets of stove-top popcorn. We received microwave popcorn instead. Buttered flavoured. Nonetheless, we cut open a packet, and scraped out the kernals that were drowned iin a yellow-orange, gooey mess, that was no doubt the butter flavouring, and cooked it in a pot with some oil. It actually turned out okay; if you don't mind your fingers afterwards dripping more than had we eaten a juicy T-bone steak with our hands. Cooking tip - if cooking microwave buttered popcorn on the stovetop, do not add oil. Living on a sparsely inhabited South Pacific Island visited by a supply boat once a month, you have to make do with what you get. Particularly when relying on a Fijian living in Suva to buy popcorn for you, which, if you don't already know, is not a staple Fijian foodstuff.
After almost a week of calm, clear, windless days, today is overcast and the wind is up to 12-14 kts. The breeze feels good. Just waiting for the sun to appear. As we do that, I'll sign off.
Sototale John & leilani
0730 12 August 2018. As expected, the pig-feast was delicious and fun. The table of food accompanying the roasted pig looked like a 5-star hotel restaurant all-you-can-eat smorgusborg. I'm always amazed by the array of delicacies villagers can come up with using what we would call "basic" foods. But I also know that the banquet put on last night was special and did not represent what they usually ate. The whole evening was another example of the generous giving nature of the villagers. And you ask why we've stay so long.
Wind is predicted to be light and westerley today until tomorrow. It's a perfect weather window to come from virtually anywhere in Fiji to Falaga. Truely a rare occurrance.
Sototali John & Leilani
0630 hrs 11 August 2018. Today is our 9 week-aversary. We've been in Falaga longer than any other yacht this season - by several weeks. We're applying for citizenship and passports. Still enjoying it and so long as our food holds out we'll stay. Of course, we've forgotten what fresh veggies look like - are they still green things? However we can get potatoes and onions from the one-room village supermarket. Are they considered veggies even though they're not green? Yesterday two super yachts arrived: Mystere and Dardanella. At 40 and 43 metres, they're about as big as can negotiate the narrow entry pass into the lagoon. Guess they're buddy-boating. Just to show off, they flew in customs officials by helicopter from Suva to check themselves into the country. Today our village host is hosting a farwell pig-fest. They are leaving next week for a month in Suva for their annual Jehova Witness country-wide convention. Alifretti (that's his name - I guess there was an Italian somewhere in his past) is doing it now in case we leave Falaga before he and his wife, Bali, return. At the rate we're going, that may be questionable. We, along with another yacht, and a bunch of close village friends and relatives, are invited. There'll be lots of local food to go with the roasted pig, kava, and music. Should be a fun night.
As farewell gifts, Alifretti gave us three beautiful kava bowels, and 6 small wooden dophines decorate our boat with, all of which he carved. Bali gave us two hand-woven mates. Their generousity is overwhelming. We're giving them money to help defray their Suva trip.
Sototali John & Leilani
0700 hrs 22 July 2018. News flash. Invasion mystery revealed. In last post I told of the NZ Navy invasion of Fulaga. After discussing the matter with a villager in the know, we have discovered the reason a heavily armed warship would brave an amphibious landing against a completely undefended S. Pacific island: to counsel residents to forego catching and eating turtles. Causalties were heavy in the landing. The success of the invasion is still very much in doubt. In doubt the villagers will heed the warnings not to eat turtles. The black clad, ninja looking invaders, were actually representatives of the Fiji and NZ fisheries departments. Their message was catching and eating turtles were subject to a multi-year moratoium. Am told the villagers smiled, nodded their understanding of the moratorium, and went back to drinking kava. As a full-fledged NZ taxpayer, I am proud how NZ is spending my tax dollar. Telling subsistence farming & fishing villagers on a remote S. Pacific island not to eat turtle is like telling Eskimos not to eat whale. Sure, we city inhabitants cringe at the thought of eating such things, but the villagers cringe at the thought Americans could be so stupid as to elect a dangerously incompetent dim-wit to lead their country. I guess the score is tied.
We've been here for 6-weeks. Pretty soon we can apply for a Fulaga passport.
Sototale John & Leilani
0730 hrs 20 July 2018. Two days ago a couple of Fiji policemen arrived from one of the other Lau group islands. It appears 3 one-kilo bricks didn't make the trip when the helicopter came to retrieve the cache a week or so ago. One of the villagers says he "discovered" the oversight after the helo left. As you can imagine, eyebrows were raised to the hairline over that excuse. Supposedly, Fulaga is once again drug free. If that wasn't enought, yesterday we were invaded. A NZ warship arrived outside the lagoon (too big to enter). The yachts were abuzz with rumours, ideas, opinions, but mostly cluelessness as to reason for the visit. The ship launched a large, black, stealthy RIB packed with ninja looking seaman dressed in black, wearing helmuts - presumably to protect them from falling coconuts. Think, Seal Team 6. While not in obvious view, I'm sure they were armed to the hilt for their iinvasion of Fulaga. The RIB sped past the anchorage where we were, and then went into the village anchorage. Fortunately they didn't stay long enough to take prisoners. Thinking about it, it was pretty keystone cop-like. Here comes a boat load of warriors dressed to kill, cruising past six yachts with us sitting on deck in shorts, tank-tops or shirtless, suntanned, and just finishing breakfast in a gorgeous S. Pacific island lagoon of sun-soaked, clear azure water. When we waved, instead of opening up with their machine gun, they waved back. Pretty surreal. Some thought they were there at the invitation of the Fiji authorities because of the huge cocaine cache found about a week ago that I wrote about. No one was boarded. No one was questioned. The RIB never landed on the beach. My own, clueless belief is they were enjoying the beautiful setting just like us. We might get more info when we go into the village over the next few days. If I discover more, I'll report.
More examples of "never a dull moment" in paradise.
For a time over the past two days, the yacht population surged to 15. It's getting to make Hong Kong look deserted. Two yachts left yesterday, so that was a minor relief to the over population. Let's face it, a 5-mile wide lagoon can hold only so many.
Sototale John & Leilani
0815 hrs 18 July2018. While the call of roasted pig certainly created a big pull, in the end it wasn't enough to draw us to the village yesterday for the chief's post burial feast. I decided instead to finish polishing all the bronze and brass, and even taped and sanded the cabin-top eyebrow teak strip for varnishing. Leilani baked banana bread. And then our friends Rick & Sarah off Halo came over for a tournament of Sequence (our new game of choice). Today we go to the village so Leilani can collect a gift from one of the villagers as a thank-you for bringing bras.
By my latest count, there are now 12 yachts here. Phew, this place is drowning in yachties.
Sototale John & Leilani
0700 hrs 15 July 2018. Yesterday my sugar level went through the top of my head. We attended a birthday party of a close village friend. Her husband is the school principal. Including us, there were 3 yachty couples. She prepared enough different cakes, scones, and breads to feed the whole village, or so it seemed. The eight-place dinning table was completely covered with fresh baked goodies. No one-cake birthday for this birthday lady. I counted 7. Lucky we didn't have candles for each of them, or we would have burned down the hut and started a forest fire outside. There were enough sweets to kill off an entire diabetes hospital wing. To top that off, we brought a cake. That was needed as much as another Trump tweet. And what sugar fueled extravaganza is complete without kava. Afterwards, four villagers joined us yachties and our hosts to embibe. Leilani and I don't drink kava.. However, Leilani handed out Fiji tobacco to the villagers, which went nicely with the kava cocktails. It was a most enjoyable afternoon.
Tuesday is scheduled a Falaga-wide feast as part of the post chief funeral. Apparently the main course will be several pigs. If it's anything like the feast we attended last year for the church minister's daughter's first year old party, then I'm looking forward to it. The pigs were cooked and roasted several different ways, and each one was delicious. Can't wait.
Yesterday 2 more yachts arrived. This place is getting "Grand Central Station" crowded with 8 boats.
Today is Sunday. Lots of chores. leilani is doing laundry. I'm changing the watermaker filter and will begin the multi-day polishing of the 13 bronze ports, two brass clocks and one barometer, 7 brass reading lamps, and 7 stainless overhead lights. Yes, cruising is work, work, work.
Sototale John & Leilani
0730 hrs 13 July 2018. Yesterday we attended the chief's funeral. It was similar in many respects to a funeral one would attend back home, except I wore a sulu. Since my own funeral sulu was at the cleaners, and my host thought my work-out shorts, though black, were a bit too casual, he loaned me one of his sulus. I looked quite smart, in an island sort of way. All the men wore dark colouired sulus and shirts. Women wore black chumsas, a two piece outfit that covers from neck to ankle, but are short sleeve. Around their waist was worn a wide woven belt that went from under their breasts to below their waists made from pandamous leaves. Men gathered separately from the women around the ubiquitous kava bowl drinking kava mostly provided by us yachties. Leilani joined a group of women picking small leaves from vines. At first I thought the leaves were going to be thrown in the path of the funeral procession in place of rose petals, No, they were part of the post funeral menu. I watched the men prepare a take-home gift for each funeral attendee. These gifts were made from a mixture from 50kg of flour, hand ground cocount meat, sugar, salt, and water in a 2mtr hollowed out tree trunk that looked like a hull from a native outrigger canoe. It had the consistency of glue, and looked like plaster used to mend broken limbs. Taking a handfull of the mixture the size of a grapefruit, it was wrapped in palm leaves and put into a lovo (undground oven), and smoldered for 2-hours. The result was a hardened, mishapened lump of bread-like substance that tasted like plaster used to mend broken limbs, but more coconutty. I was given permission to enter the chief's hut to take photos of the solemn ring of mourners sitting on the floor facing the casket draped in a lovely white embroidered linen cover. While Leilani attended the church service I visited the grave site with 3 women who were laying out a beautiful, large pandamous woven mat upon which the casket was to be placed before putting it into the ground. Then I heard the furneral procession. It was announced by two counch-shell blowers blowing a melancholy tune of one note. I hurried back from the cemetary to see the march of the casket lead by village and church elders, followed by the casket carried on the shoulders of 6 men flanked by two fierce Fijian warrior honour guards dressed in traditional grass skirts, painted faces, and carryiing deadly war clubs. Next came the village men, followed, as usual, by the women, and bringing up the rear were school children. The funeral path from the church to the cemetary, several hunderd metres long, was lined by other school children on both sides standing at military straight attention, with some even saluting as the casket passed by. All in all, it was an event not often seen by yachties. A rare and enjoyable (if I may say that) event. Afterwards we were invited to a village hut to partake in a modest post funeral lunch of dahl soup, which was delicious, and casava, which was like a boiled potatoe, but with less taste. When we left we were given two of the lovo cooked mishapened breads to take with us. And so ended the funeral of a Fijian village chief.
We have been invited by the school principal's wife to attend her birthday party luncheon tomorrow. Leilani has been obsessing about what to give her for a gift. It's hard when you can't just pop down to the closest shopping mall. She ended up deciding on a crochet headband she made and an artifical plumeria flower she can wear in her hair, and a hand-made birthday card.. Another yacht came in yesterday, making 6 of us here. With some good weather coming over the next week to make the sail to Falaga in, I'm afraid it will get crowded. But it does mean more kava for the village.
Sototale John & Leilani
0815 hrs 12 July 2018. Sad day in Falaga. Yesterday the 92 year old chief died. Today is the funeral. On a remote tropical isle without refrideration, bodies are quickly put into the ground. There are 5 yachts here and all have been invited, mainly to bring kava as the village is virtually out. With all three villages on the island attending, it will be a massive gatherinig - even bigger than when the helicopter landed to pick up 42 bricks of cocaine. While the death was not unexpected (the chief, aside from being 92 and way past the average Fijian male life span) had been bedridden for some time. The villages did not have time to collect enough fish to have a big send-off feast. That has been postponed for a short time while sufficient food is collected. We are wearing our only black clothes - Leilani a black shirt with a black patterned skirt; me black work-out shorts and a dark grey shirt. We've been given permission to take photos, but asked not to post on Facebook. So you'll have to personally visit us to see them. We're off to the village. Sototale John & Leilani
0730hrs 9 July 2018. As of today, we've been in Falaga for one month, the longest of any boat this season, so far. The yachtie fleet is down to 4 boats, including us, from a high of 14. Due to strong, persistent SE-SSE 17-24kt winds no boats have arrived in the past 2-weeks. That's fine with us. The less the merrier. Our whole object visiting remote locations is the remoteness. For the past 2 days I have been crafting a jury-rig repair on our host's water tank. It's a large plastic tank given by the government as part of a program to change over villagers' tanks from old concrete ones. Our hosts got their tank about a year ago along with the rest of the villagers. There is only one mechanical part to the tank - the faucet valve. Guess what broke? All that is required is to tighten a plastic nut on the inside of the tank and a plastic nut at the same time on the outside of the tank to secure the plastic through-pipe. Well, they overtightened the inside nut and broke it. We truly love the villagers. They're wonderfully friendly and generous people. But giving them something mechanical to take care of and last is as likely as Trump being a great president, or even a mediocre one.. I think my fix will be good. But we now have to wait for sufficient rain to fill the tank to the level of the valve to see if it doesn't leak. This being the dry season, and Falaga not known for copious rain during any part of the year, it may be a long wait.
Yesterday Leilani got to do what she likes best. Shopping. That's right, she went to the shopping mall at two of the three villages on Falaga. She was happy as a pig in mud. Both stores are spacious huts the size of a walk-in closet stocked with all the latest onions, potatoes, flour, vegie oil, rice, sandpaper, matches, and socks. She didn't know where to start. So she bought essentials - oil, rice, flour - to give as presents to our hosts. We kept the onions and potatoes. She thought about getting them socks, but didn't know their size.
After all the repair work and shopping, we're glad it's Sunday, a day of rest. We really need it. Until next time.
Sototale John & Leilani
1000 hrs 5 July 2018. Lest you think visiting a remote S. Pacific island is all about lounging in a lagoon-side hammock gazing at the sea while sipping from coconuts, attending village picnics, and being invited to mekes, you are wrong. Fulaga is also an island of intrigue, mystery, and drugs. Drugs you say. Well, that's been the intrigue and mystery. About a week ago 42 kilos of neatly packaged white powdery substance was found on one of the motus (islets) in the lagoon by fishermen. It had been buried in the sand but became partially uncovered at low tide when the cache was found. Intrigue - what was the white powdery substance? Mystery - who left it and who did it belong to. The village headman tried to keep the find quite, but word got out and it became the talk of the village and the 8 yachts. Yesterday a helicopter from Suva landed in the village with customs officials on board. As you can imagine, the helicopter landing was a major event. We happened to be in the village at the time repairing our host's water tank. Hearing it overhead coming in for a landing in the village square was a siren song that called every villager, young and old, man and woman. The customs officials were taken to the headman's hut, along with some testing equipment. Soon the hut was surrounded by villagers, all anxious to see what went on. The powder was tested, and we learned from those in the know that it was cocaine. After about an hour of the ground, two village men exited the hut carrying two bundles of 1-kilo bricks to the helicopter, followed by the customs officials. The helicopter took off, villagers waved, and everyone sauntered back to their huts to look at the pictures they all took on their smart phones. We've been told this is not the first time drugs have been found on a Lau Group island. Because of their remoteness, and the fact some are unihabited, they are attractive transfer points for international drug smugglers moving their product across the Pacific. At least one of the yachties voiced a concern that if yachties are found to be involved it could result in the Lau Group being closed to yachts as it was until about 5-years ago. Today island life is back to normal. For me normal was doing an oil change on the boat. Work never ceases. And intrigue and mystery continues.
Sototali John & Leilani
0745 hrs 2 July 2018. Luncheon with our hosts was fun. Both Alifretti and Bali have great senses of humour. We really enjoy their company. And we learned more village politics. Being here has taught me that no matter how big or small the community there are always power struggles, shifting alliances, with the economy an overriding concern. The only difference between Falaga and the US, for example, is scale. Also, Falaga doesn't have a completely incompetent leader. The 91 year old chief is very ill. Interestingly the choice of chief is through a combination of hereditary and representative democracy. In this village, the nominal first choice for the next chief would be the current chief's eldest brother. However, he is head of the Fiji Development Bank in Suva and does not appear to want to give up his position. So it will fall to the next brother. But theoritically, he's not a shoe-in. There is a council of elders who have the final say. And the council's say can be dictated by the villagers' say-so. If the villagers express a resounding no, then another person would have to be chosen. However, it would be from the current chief's family, direct or extended. And the ladies will appreciate this. A female could be chief. In fact there are female chiefs in Fiji. However, there are no current female contenders on Falaga. Stay tuned for the next episode of House of Cards.
For the past 36 hours we have been pummled with strong trade winds SE 25+ knots. Last night had a few gusts over 30 knots. The latest forecast shows it continuing for another 24 hrs, and then dropping to SE 20+ knots. Not a big improvement. That's to last a day or two, then a further reduction to SE 17 nots for a few days after that. Rain is forecast for Friday. Light, balmy trade winds are not on the foreseeable horizon for the 7-days that my forecast goes out. There are worst places to be hold up - like New Zealand in the dead of winter. At least it's warm and sunny here.
Sototali John & Leilani
0715 hrs 1 July 2018. Yesterday the big winds started. Been blowing SE 25kts steady. Expected to last for another 2 days, and may increase to +25kts during that time. Some weather forecasts go to 30kts. Then will moderate to SE 15-20kts through at least next Friday. Anchor holding has been excellent, but it does not keep me from frequently going to check the anchor line, and triangulate our position against landmarks around us to make sure we're not moving - like closer to land where we could crash, sink, and die. Yes, cruising is exciting. There are two other boats in the anchorage. We're all bobbing in small wind created wavelets. The anchorage is surrounded almost 360 degrees with islands that keep large waves from developing. Dispite the strong winds, it's still pretty comfortable on board because the wavelets are too small to bounce the boat around. One thing about the strong winds is our wind generator is pumping out copious amounts of electricty to the batteries all night long. During the day it slows down when our 5 solar panels are working with it. No electricity shortage on AG.
At 1230 hrs I go into the village landing to pickup our hosts, Alifretti and his wife, Bali, for Sunday lunch on the boat. Menu includes mud crab dip on Leilani's homemade bread for starter. Thai chicken curry for main. Finishing with orange drizzle cake for dessert. Just your typical South Pacific island luncheon. Until next time.
Sototali (see you later) John & Leilani
0700 hrs 30 June 2018. Yesterday was meke day. Fijian dancing. Dancing is a bit of overstatement. When thinking of Pacific island dancing, most of us envision the wild, sexual Tahitian style, or the beautiful, graceful Hawaiian version. Hips jiggling and swaying suggestively, feet moving, hands and arms swarying serpentine-like, all to the throbbing beat of traditional gords being rthymically pounded. Fijian dancing is not this. Fijian dancers, women only, sit cross-legged and move only their hands in minute, stop-go gestures while turning their heads ever so slightly from left to right, and then right to left. This they do repeatedly to the accompanyment of a chorus singing what sounds to my foreign ear the same refain over and over again. All of this is in time to several people beating traditional Fijian drums that include an empty 20 litre plastic petrol container, cardboard box, and empty water bottle. Okay, we're not at some Waikiki hotel viewing a Polynesian extravaganza with a large back-up band, but plastic petrol containers? Come on. These people are master wood carvers. They could at least have used Fijian wooden drums. Four villages each supplied groups of 8 dancers with a chorus of half the villagers. During each village's routine, villagers from rival villages would try to distract the performers by dumping baby powder on their heads, rubbing their faces with the powder, or jumping around them. While the audience roared with laughter, the performers did not look amused whatsoever. I consider myself culturally sensitive. But sitting on the ground for 5-hours watching this, I both failed to see the humour in the performances, and feel my legs once the blood stopped flowing to them. But there was a bright time of the day - lunch. And this was traditional remote Fijian island style. The ladies set out a true feast enjoyed by the children, ladies, and us yachties from 7 boats. Notice I did not mention the men. Men do not eat. They drink kava. And drink kava they did. They were at it at 10am when we arrived, and were at it at 4pm when we left, and based on the amount of kava still left to drink, they were at it until the wee hours of the night. Eating anything dilutes the effects of kava. Or so the men think. Anyway, lunch consisted of grilled fish covered with a thick coconut cream; boiled fish heads in coconut milk; shredded casava cooked in coconut milk; a fish and something green vegetable-like substance they call cabbage, but I call something green vegetable-like substance, stewed in coconut milk; and casava dough formed into irregular shaped balls and wrapped in coconut fronds and cooked in a lovo (underground oven covered in hot stones and sand). To drink was fresh coconut milk straight from the nut. You might ask if all the coconut milk/cream had an effect on us. I call the effect, colon blow. I'll leave it to your imaginations what that is.
Today, and for next two days, strong 20-25kt winds are expected. So there won't be alot of off the boat activities. Just watching that we don't drag our anchors. However, tomorrow we are having our hosts to the boat for lunch. We're planning Thai chicken currey made in, you guessed it, coconut cream. Only difference is our cocount cream will come out of a can - not a nut.
Cheers John & Leilani
0745 hrs 27 June 2018. Our social life is never ending. Last night we attended a post-dinner cocktail party where the cocktail of choice and exclusivity was kava. Another yachie couple and us brought the kava, which was transformed from ugly long roots to finely ground ugly powder. It was at our host family's bure attended by a select few family and friends. Lest you think kava parties are free flowing boozy affairs, think again. There is much protocol and formaility. First, we yachties sat on the floor facing our hosts and his guests, and, most importantly, the kava bowl. Fijian music played from a boom box powered by an inverter that had been hooked up to a solar panel all day, A handful (Fijians have huge hands) of kava powder is dumped into a square of cheese cloth. Water is added to a large kava bowl. And then the cheese cloth is sunk into the bowl and massaged by the designated kava server until the water turns a just right hue of muddy looking water with a bouquet of wet hay. A half coconut shell is used as the communal gulping vessel. That's right. Kava is not sipped. It's gulped down. And you hope no one has any communicable disease spread by sharing the half coconut shell. The drinker chooses "half' tide" (half a cup) or "tsunami" (full cup). Few Fijian would be so delicate as to order anything than a tsunami. The person tending the kava bowl, before serving, must await the formal cry from the person chosen for this auspicious job. And that job fell to me - probably because I was not driinking the kava - which was just fine with the guests as it meant more for them. Everyone sits around with unreserved anticipation until I cry out, in a loud, bold voice the magic word - Takei! Then, like turning on a light bulb, the crowd comes alive waiting their turn for a tsunami. Once the cup has made the round of all guests, everyone falls back into quiet anticipation until the cryer boldly yells out the magic word agasin. The problem relying on me, a non-drinker, was I would forget to regularly belt out, Takei. After awhile I would note a quiet falling over the gathering, and see everyone looking at me as a starving child would look for a bite to eat. Then it dawned on me. Takei!!! Laughter would resume, talking reverberated through the bure, guests would sway with the music, and the cup would make its rounds. Then all would slide back into anticipation mood for me to remember the next magic cry. The party went on for about 3 hours until all the kava was gone. By that time my legs were permanently bent into pretzels from sitting cross-legged on the floor. Leilani lifted me up and it took several mintues before I could stand on my own. And several more minutes before I could take a step. Once I could walk we started our 20-minute hike back to the dingy landing through the quiet village, over a footpath lighted by a beautiful almost full moon shining through palm trees on a remote Fiji island. It doesn't get any nicer than that.
We now await for Friday when the four villages will have a massive party with each village puttiing on mekes (dancing), food, and, of course, kava drinking. Takei!!! Sototalay (see you later - spelled phonetically) John & Leilani
0730 hrs 24 June 2018. It's been 14 days since landing in Falaga. And it's been everything we expected: spectacular scenery, gentle winds and no rain, perfect anchoring conditions, and most of all, warm, inviting, friendly villagers. In our opinion, Falaga is the best place in Fiji. When we arrived on 10 June there were 3 other boats. Since then, the number has swelled to 15. A number of them are drop-outs from the Around-the-World Arc rally. They drop out to take a year off of racing around the world. Racing, as in moving from place to place so fast they hardly savour any one place. If you stay in the rally it's a 15 month trip from St Vincent to St Vincent in the Caribbean. There are about 30 boats that move in a gaggle like ducks. It costs US$27,000 which covers check-in fees and parties along the way. For that kind of money, I hope the parties are memorable. Had a couple of dinners and game nights on Exit Strategy, the $1M catamaran that followed us into Falaga. Yes, it's worth every penny. The nicest cat I've ever seen. Yesterday the village sponsored the first cruiser picnic of the season. Four cruisers went to the village landing to pick-up the villagers, and ferried them around to what is known as the Sand Spit, about 2 miles away, where the picnics are always held. Those of us already at the Spit used our dingies to ferry them ashore. A fun day as always. Our sponsor, Alafretti, took us to see his turtle pond. It's a salt-water fed pond 50 metres in from the shore through some bush. There are 11 good size turtles, all of which he caught by hand from the wild swimming around the lagoon. He now advertises turtle viewing to yachties for F$5 per person. For that price you can come and look at the turtles as many times as you like while in Falaga. Another enterprising villager has started a laundry service. For F$15 per "large" bag, he will pickup the bag from the landing, wash, dry, fold, and return the bag to the landing. No washing machine is involved. Clothes are put into a large metal tub and then hand scrubbed, hand wrung-out, and dryed on a clothes line. At least the clothes are not beat against rocks. Haven't tried the service - yet. Speaking of washing, today is laundry day on Amazing Grace. So I'll sign off now.
Bula Vinaka John & Leilani
1745 hrs 13 May 2018. Question of the day: "Is it possible to get sick of mud crab?" Been here 3-days and we thought today would be the last day of our 2 gi-normous mud crabs given to us upon arrival. (See our last posting.) Wrong. This afternoon Alifretti, our village sponsor, and master mud crab hunter, brought us another. And this one surpassed gi-normous as definition of size. It was prehistoric huuuuge. Even Alifretti confided it was one of the biggest he's ever caught. In some ways it was almost ashame to cook it up - almost. It should last at least two days for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Giving Alifretti a spear gun, Hawaiian sling, and fishing pole has paid seafood dividends beyond our dreams. Who needs to hunt when the hunter delivers right to the boat. Other than the mud crab, it was a beautiful south pacific day in the loveliest lagoon in Fiji - blue sky puntuated by white fluffy clouds over emerald green water so clear it was like looking through a window at the soft sand bottom, accompanied by a gentle breeze just to take the heat off. Leilani and I did some walking over a spectacular sandbar that arises at low tide. Waded and swam in warm 26 degrees C pools. Then went over to say hello to Exit Strategy, a $1m catamaran that is the nicest I've seen. Plus we think the name is great. Other than us there are 4 other boats here. Can only see two of them, The others are in different bays. Got to go now. Leilani says our mud crab dinner is ready. Tonight is mud crab chow mein. Answer to the question: if it's possible to get sick of mud crab, we aren't there yet.
Cheers John & Leilani
1700 hrs 10 June 2018. Arrived in Falaga at 1500 hrs. 34 hrs, and 196nm after leaving Savusavu Dock. It was both a benign trip weather-wise, but tiring. The easterlies never really filled in. Instead we had SE, but light. The first quarter of trip was hobby-horse bumpy with the S swell. Then the wind began to back to E, and early this monring to NE, and in our final couple of hours into Falaga it actually went W. Out of the 34 hrs, we motored 27.5 hrs. I'm beginning to wonder why we have a sailboat. Maybe we should buy a motor yacht. Last night after sailing for a few hours, I went to start the engine and no water came out of the exhaust. Why don't these things happen in the day with no wind and smooth seas. I immedicately thought, air lock in salt water side of engine. Checked the salt water intake. Good there. Then I thought the impellor may have gone bad because we smelled a burnt rubber smell. Opened up impellor casing, and it was good. Didn't surprise me because it was new in March. After fiddling around for about an hour trying to get the O-ring properly installed - one side kept coming out when other side was fitting into slot - I finally had success. Then I decided to simply start the engine and rev it up and hope by pure force of the engine the air lock would blow out. Success. I can only surmise that after heeling over for a few hours sailing caused the lock. Another reason to only motor and not sail. Our arrival weather could not have been better. Absolutely glassy sea, no wind, but it is cloudy. Still as beautiful as we remember from last season. Tomorrow morning we go do sevusevu - give the chief kava and $50 - and we'll be admitted to the whole island to do what we wish. Then it's setting up logistics to give away 700 sunglasses, 700 reading glasses, and most interesting, 1000 bras. No I'm not participating in the latter giveaway. Will let you know how that goes. Now for dinner and an uninterrupted night of sleep.
Sealife sighting Dolphins - 0 Flying Fish - 0 Cheers John & Leillani
1230 hrs 8 June 2018. Been in Savusavu since arriving on 31 May waiting for a weather window to go to Falaga. This weekend is a good one. We plan to leave at 0530 tomorrow. Voyage is 195nm, and we calculate arriving at the Falaga pass by 1500 on Sunday - a 33 hrs trip. It's virtually a straight rhumbline at 142 degrees true (SSE), with the wind being very favourable. Winds predicted to start NE about 12-15kts, and throughout the trip slowly back to N, and NW by arrival, easing in strength the whole way. Will be good sailing in beginning, but probably will have some motoring last half of trip. Better than crashing & bashing. We're told there are currently 5 boats in Falaga. I anticipate several may leave with us as northerly quadrant winds are not usual, so boats take advantage to get south in such conditions. Next post will be from Falaga.
Cheers John & Leilani
1230 hrs 3 June 2018. Those of you who have been waiting breathlessly for our voyage statistics will be releaved your wait is over and you'll soon be able to leave the front of your computer and go to bed and get some well deserved sleep. So, here are the stat NZ to Minerva Reef - 859nm. Time at Sea - 6 days 4.5 hrs. Average speed - 5.78kts Minerva Reef to Savusavu - 444nm. Time at Sea - 3 days 2.5 hrs. Average speed - 6kts Total Trip - 1303nm. Time at Sea - 9 days 7 hrs. Average speed - 5.84kts Total hours at sea - 223 hrs.
Total Engine Run time - 111.5 hrs (you can see we motored exactly half the trip.
Total Fuel consumed - 380 lts / 100 gal.
Average fuel consumption - 3.4 lts/ hr 0.9 gal/hr.
Sealife Sightings Dolphins - 0 (folks this is both amazing, and absolutely disheartening to think after beiing at sea for over 9 days not to see one dolphin.) Flying Fish - only a few - just as disheartening.
These two statistics are examples of how man is destroying animal life at an alarming rate. And this is NOT fake news.
This is the first day since arriving that the sun has been out. It's wonderful. With that I'll get to working on my suntan.
Vinaka Vakalevu John & Leilani
1800 31 May 2018. Bula Vinaka. Welcome to Fiji. We arrived in Savusavu at 1400 today after a thrilling and fast day of sailing. All downwind in 18-20kt ESE breeze. Was surfing down 2.5mtr seas and at one point the thrill meter pinned out at 9.74kts. That's our record. Consistent 7's and 8's was the standard of the day. What an end to an otherwise hard working passage. We're both unwinding at the Copra Shed Marina in our same berth we've gotten for the past two years. Everyone working here came out to say hello. It was a wonderful reunion with wonderful people. Over the next day I'll put together some passage statistics, which I know all of you are breathlessly awaiting. I just want the suspence to linger longer. And I'm too tired to put it together right now. So, good night for now.
Sea life sighting Dolphins = 0 Flying fish = 1, actually found on our deck after we tied up to the dock. The first and only one that made it on board. Who knows, it may be the last know one of its species.
Cheers John & Leilani
looking forward to sleeping in tonight. Great wx to end the passage
0545 31 May 2018. Mother nature decided to give us most memorable last night on this voyage. First, she provided perfect 13-16kts tradewinds out of the SE to ESE all night long. This combined with a following SE 2.0mtr swell made for our fastest sailing times, averaging 6.5 kts with lots of 7's and some 8's on the thrill-meter. For a heavy displacement, full-keeled 40' yacht,, she was galloping along in full stride. Lastly, a bright full moon tracked us the whole way. Around 0500 she lowered a veil of clouds giving a glow like through a curtin of gauze. We are in a timing delemma. There is some opportunity for us to arrive at the Q-dock around 1500. If we miss that and come in at 1630, we have to pay after-hours overtime. Based on best speed & distance calculations, we can make it in time..
1700 hrs 30 May 2018. Had a good day sailing in the fabled S. Pacific trade winds. We officially entered Fiji waters at 0830 when I alerted Leilani in the traditional sailors' style for eons of time. I called out in a hardy voice with the wind in my face and pointing N As the dolphin swims (if there were any more dolphins) we have 125nm to go. We're not going to make it to Savusavu in time for regular check-in into the country tomorrow. Refusing to pay (like we did last year) off-hours overtime of more than F$500 instead of less than half that amount for regular check-in, we're going to anchor off Cousteau Resort tomorrow night, and go in Friday morning - like we just arrived. The Resort is about 5nm away from Savusavu town where check-in occurrs.
0545 hrs 30 May 2018. News flash. News flash. News flash. Just after sending last post the wind went enough SE and gained in strength to 13-14kts that we could turn off the motor after 25hrs and put up sails. We are sailing! Can't believe it. I can actually hear myself think.
Another milestone. We passed back over the 180th meridian where tomorrow is today, yesterday never happened, and the future is near.
Cheers John & Leilani
0515 hrs 30 May 2018. Continued to motor throughout the night. Gribs show SE, or at least ESE, winds setting in soon. Hoping to be able to put out sails soon.
1700 hrs 29 May 2018. The sailing frustration continues. Southerly winds persist. This means it is directly behind us as our course is 348T. They are light at 7-10 kts. The 2.5 mtr southerly swells cause us to roll in an arc of up to 50 degrees. Even if we set the sails, there's not enough wind pressure against them to remain full in the constant rolling. We tried and the headsail would go completely limp with the roll to one side, and when the boat rolled to the other it would flap explosively jarring the whole boat. No way we can keep that up and also keep the rig up. We've been waiting for winds to set to the eastern direction. Based on latest weather forecast, it doesn't look like that will happen until sometime tomorrow morning. We've been motoring since 0430 this morning. The rain has subsided and blue sky is threatening to show itself. I guess that is a plus. There are many things Leilani and I do not agree on, but we do on one: ocean passages in a small sailboat suck. Anyone tells you they enjoy them is either lying or a masochist.
Sealife count: Dolphins = 0 Flying fish = 0 That's all for now. I'm going to crawl back iinto my sea bunk and try not to be thrown across the cabin.
Cheers John & Leilani
0545 29 Msy 2018. Had a wet, busy and tiring nigjht. Drizzled much of the night, just enough to keep everything wet. Busy gybbing back and forth across the rhumbline because the wind was directly behind us, and still is. Tiring because the boat rolled heavily making sleep difficult. Don't let anyone tell you having the wind directly behind you is good. Wind is southerly. Most of the night is was 15-18kts which helped keep the sails full and not flopping and snapping in the rolling motion. But around 0430 the wind dropped to 10kts and the headsail couldn't keep full unless we sailed either due west or due east. So it was rolled up and on came the motor. For past hour we have been going the rhumbline for the first time since leaving Minerva Reel.
1700 hrs 28 May 2018. We departed Minerva Reef today at 1130 hrs. A day earlier than originally planned because the weather (at least the wind) was favourable. It was rainy, overcast, dreary, just like NZ in the winter. Winds have been difficult because they are directly behind us; Stherly 12-14 kts. We have to sail off the rhumbline to keep the sails full. But we are doing 6-6.5kts, so can't complain too much. Not much else to report. Cheers John & Leilani
0600 28 May 2018. Weather has been dismal. See below. No sun. Just enough drizzle keep us in our boats, but insufficient to add any meaningful amount of water through the rain catchment to our tanks. Thankfully, the watermaker is working just fine. Spent yesterday watching 3-movies, reading, and eating. Two boats came in raising the Minerval Reef Yacht Club fleet to 8. One, a converted fishing vessel to a crusing power boat had, for an anchor light, a solid red light under a flashing all around white light. Obviousily, the skipper has never taken a basic boating class as that is not a recognised anchor light under the International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. And the anchor drop was typically amateur. It slowly came to a stop while two men went forward to the anchor. Boat stopped, anchor was dropped, and the two men returned to the pilot house without the boat backing down to set the anchor. Fortunately, this boat of knuckleheads parked well behind us. Yes, it's scary how some of these vessels survive.
Weather still looks like we leave tomorrow morning for Fiji.
0700 27 May 2018. Yesterday spanned the wind strength spectrum Woke up yesterday to gentle 5-7 winds, completely flat water within the lagoon. While there was 100% cloud clover, benign wind and water conditions, we knew from weather forecasts, were only the calm before the storm. Throughout the day the winds grew, and were blowing a respectable 15kts by sundown. With those increased winds, and rise in tide, the water became chopping which caused a bit of bouncy boat condition. Last night the wind increased to a high of 22kts, and stayed that way until sunrise today. Winds are back down to 15kts. With the increased winds last night the lagoon became very choppy. Boat was hobby-horsing, but all in all it was not too bad. Forecasts show winds continue in the 15kts range and even drops to 10kts for awhile over the next 24 hrs. Then on Monday they go back up to 20+kts for about half a day. Tuesday looks to be the day we leave and run up to Fiji, 420nm away. Should take us 3-days.
With the lumpy conditions, we'll spend the day reading, playing Sequence, and watching a movie or two. Another tough day at the office.
Cheers John & Leilani
0715 hrs 26 May 2018. Not much to report since last post as all we did was eat dinner and went to bed for a good night's sleep at anchor. Today will be day of rest, and probably a game of Sequence, a game introduced to us by our dear friends, Warwick & Lani. A team game best played boys against the girls. Since there's only two of us, there will be no teams, but still boy and against girl.
1800 hrs 25 May 2018. I know. You're all anxiously awaiting word on my crayfish hunting expedition. When yachties say, all you have to do is reach under rocks and grab them, that is nothing more than a cruiser legend. So the short answer is we did not find cray. What we did get was lots of leg exercise wading against 10kts of streaming, gushing, bubbling water running into the lagoon from the ocean. When I say "we", I did not mean Leilani and me. I went with Graham & his crew, Peter, from Toronui. This afternoon, Minerva got crowded with the arrival of 3 boats. Now there are 6 of us crammed on the SE side of the 3.8 nm diameter lagoon, all awaiting the big blow that is forecast for Sunday - Monday.
0615 hrs 25 May 2018. First night at Minerva Reef. Had more boat movement than at sea. That's the one down side of this place; it's always bouncy at anchor, especially at high tide when the reef is covered and the ocean pours in unabated. And it was calm 7-10 kt winds last night. Can hardly wait until Sunday when the big blow starts and we get up to 20kt winds. We'll have to strap outselves in with safety harnesses to keep from falling overboard. As I mentioned in last post, going crayfish hunting today. Then I will pour our 45 gallons of jerry cans of deck fuel iinto the main tank. Expect to have about 2-days of fuel for the 3-day trip to Fiji. So we should be good on fuel. After that it will be prep the crayfish for dinner, I hope. Yes, days can be hectic at Minerva.
1800 hrs 24 May 2018. Arrived North Minerva Reef today at 1330 hrs. Glorious weather conditions of light 4-6 kt SE winds, clear, sunny sky. Only three boats here, including us; Toronui, and a French yacht, Arbutus. N. Minerva is almost a perfect circle, 3.8nm in diameter. With only 3 of us here, it does have an "end of the earth" feel. Toronui caught 2 yellow fin tunas and came over this evening to share sashimi. Nothing like fresh sashimi a few hours out of the water. Tomorrow we go crayfish (lobster) hunting at low tide. Wish us luck. A minor milestone was passed today. Our engine rolled over 8000 hrs. Some think that is alot. For a diesel well cared for, it really isn't. Sea life sightings for today: Dolphin - 0 Flying Fish - Leilani saw about 20. I guess they all live around Minerva.
It will be nice to sleep a complete night for the first time in 5 nights. Will be back tomorrow.
Cheers John & Leilani
0545 hrs 24 May 2018. Just 45 nm to North Minerva Reef. At current speed, 6.1kts, should be at entrance about 1300. Then 2nm across to the southern end of the lagoon as the prevailing winds will be from SE to SW. There we'll stay until at least Monday, possibly Tuesday, to wait the passing of a low before proceeding to Savusavu to check in. That leg should take about 3 days. As I'm just awakening from my 0300-0600 watch, there isn't much else to report now.
1700 hrs 23 May 2018. Two milestones crossed today: made it to 25th parallel (latitude 25s) so we are now officiallyl in the tradewinds sector of the fabled S. Pacific; and crossed the 180th meridian (dateline) from E to W longitude where yesterday is today, now is tomorrow, and the future is near, Yes, I've been out here too long. Weather-wise, it's been a glorious clear, sunny day. Leilani did lots of chefing. Her philosophy has always been that it's important to provide a variety of good tasting, wholesome dishes in order to prevent being thrown overboard by hungry, disgruntled crew. To that end she has always succeeded.
Been motoring since 0945 this morning as the wind abandoned us. The upside is we will make Minerva Reef tomorrow mid afternoon. Toronui is joining us there. Will wait until at least Monday before sailing to Fiji after an ugly low passes between Minerva & Fiji on Saturday - Sunday. Decided to go to Savusavu to check into Fiji. Then to Denarau to haul out and fix the shaft seal.
New addition to these missives will be daily dolphin & flyiing fish sighting Dolphins - 0 Flying Fish - 4
0700 23 May 2018. Last night is why we cruisers keep ourselves in top shape. Those who know me, know exactly what I'm saying. In my case that shape is round, which a shape. The wind was up and down and up and down which meant engine off on off on; sails out sails in like a yo-yo. Was running up and down the companion way steps so much I felt like Rocky Balboa. All this meant little sleep both on or off watch. Finally at 0130 the motor went off and we have been sailing on a broad reach with gentle 9-11 kts SW winds, with moderate speeds of 5.5 - 6 kts on a course of 021T to Minerva Reef.
Following on my dolphin observation, another hit me like a wet fish in the face (when there were more fish) as I surveyed the deck this morning. Since leaving NZ 5 days ago we have not had one flying fish on the deck. In the past there was always one or more laying on deck in an advanced state of rigor mortis. Just another example that we (i.e. the human race) are quickly depleting the earth of wild life.
With that we sign off.
Cheers John & Leilani
good radio signal from John
1700 hrs 22 May 2018. After being at sea for 4.5 days I must report a depressing observation: we have seen absolutely no dolphins. When Leilani and I first sailed from Hawaii through the S. Pacific, we were greeted daily by sizeable pods. When we sailed on the Oyster yacht we managed in 2002-2003 from NZ to Fiji, New Caledonia, Brisbane, and back to NZ, we saw dolphins almost daily. When we sailed from Hawaii to NZ in 2010, we saw some dolphins. Sailing between NZ and Fiji these past 3 seasons, we saw occasional dolphins in small pods. So far this year none sighted. Do you get the picture? And what do you guess is the reason dolphins are diappearing. In the Pacific it is primarily Asian (mostly Chinese) fishing fleets. They use nets that are miles long which indiscriminsately scoop up everything in their way. Dolphins are considered trash catch. By the time they arrive on board they have effectively drowned, and then are chucked over the side. So next time you sit down at a restaurant to a fancy fish dinner, at least give a moment of silence for the dolphins who didn't make it. That's my enviornmental / political statement. Otherwise all is good here,
0600 22 May 2018. Motor went back on at 0330 this morning. Up to then we were getting sailable llight E winds of 7-10kts. Then we fell into a windless hole. At 0600 we arose out of the hole to light E winds of 7-10kts. Once again we're sliding along at 4-5 kts, which is comfortable, but, yes, a bit slow. Bar has dropped to 1012, lowest since leaving NZ. 100% cloud cover, so no bursting sunrise. We are working out a strategy for the ugly low that is forecast this weekend to pass across our path. Need to study latest gribs today and hope to have something planned later today. Of course, whatever we plan will be subject to change as the low forecast is still 3-4 days away. Whether we actually go into Minerva Reef depends on how far down in latitude the low goes, ie whether the worst of it rolls across Minerva, or whether it stays mostly above Minerva. If the former, we may turn W well before and ride below the low and come up to Fiji behind it. If it just touches Minerva, then we'll ride it out there. Decisions, decisions. And you thought cruising was just sitting on the fantail sipping pina coladas. What the heck is a fantail? All's well on board.
Cheers John & Leilani
Later on air. What about staying in Minerva to wait out the trough?
0600hrs 21 May 2018. Been motoring 14.5 hrs, with more to go. Zero wind, ocean inky smooth, clear, cloudless sky, 1014 on the Bar. Course is 022T on the rhumbline to Minerva. Averaging 5.8kts.
Developed leak in drive shaft "dripless" Blue Water Shaft Seal. Eventually I'll have to go to Denerau to haul boat to replace the lip seal. Fortunately, I'm able to make repair at sea to stop leak, but seal will have to be ultimately replaced. Also fortunate I have spare seal. Trying to decide whether to proceed to Minerva and make repair there and then to Denerau for final fix, or make repair now and proceed direct to Denerau. I'll make decision once I get updated grib to see how soon sailable conditions set in. I don't have fuel to motor all the way to Denerau. But I do have enough to get to Minerva with a couple of days worth to spare. Stay tuned.
Just goes to show that (1) no matter how well you plan you can always miss a problem, and (2) lucky I carry spares for most eventualities, like this one.
Otherwise all is well on board.
Cheers John & Leilani
1700 20 May 2018. The day started with more sterling S. Pacific sailing. W wind 9-13kts, gusting to 15kts, beam reaching. Clear skies, flat seas, 1014 on the Bar. You're probably getting tired of hearing this reptitive story of great sailing. Okay, here's a change. At 1530 the wind died, boat slowed to a standstill, and on came the iron gennie. For landlubbers, I turned on the engine. Based on weather forecast, looks like motoring for next day or so. There might be enough wind tomorrow to put up the cruising spinnaker. We'll see. Not Leilani's favourite sail, but even she has agreed to let me fly it if winds are down enough for her comfort. Notwithstanding having the motor on, it's been fantastic conditions out here.
Learned of a "trivia net" on SSB from Rewa. Came up for it and we were the only two on. He thought Toronui would be up, but wasn't. In any event, Rewa's trivia question was, what is origin of the saying, being black balled? Since you all have Google, I'll let you look it up. My question was, what brand GPS was the first to break the US$1000 price, and when? Hint, it was sold by West Marine. Google may not have answer, so here it i That's all for now.
Cheers John & Leilani
0600 20 May 2018. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. Another night of wonderful sailing. W winds on the beam at 12-15kts, smooth seas with just 0.5mtr swell, clear sky, 1013 on the bar. Course is 015T, and averaged 6.5kts for last 12hrs. For us that is very good. Toronui has been out of VHF range since yesterday. Now Rewa is in range, and sited her a few miles to our west, also heading for Minerva Reef. With the great sailing, needless to say all is well onboard.
Cheers John & Leilani
1800 18 May 2018. Another great sailing day. A bit livelier today than yesterday. Had 15-18kts WNW with gusts to 21kts. Made great headway. Toronui is paralleling us within VHF range, so spoke with them today and gave them info from my morning grib. Winds have dropped within last hour to 10-13kts. That will make tonight comfortable if it holds. Neither of us like boistrous winds at night. But we're reefed down in any event. Just had dinner (chili & salteen crackers - a gourmet delight & easy on the stomach - right). Will check in tomorrow morning.
Cheers John & Leilani
0600 19 May 2018. After benign first day, had a busy first night which included about 7hrs motoring from 1900, and then several sail changes rest of night, from putting up to taking down sails as wind went up and down from 8-10kts WSW to 15-20kts W to WNW. Both of us are ak bit tired from being interrupted from our off-watch sleep time.
Currently, weather is fine, Difficult to determine cloud cover % as it's still dark, but I do see stars. W swell 0.5mtr, wind W 15-17kts apparent. Averaging 6.2kts, heading 024T. Bar is steady last 24 hrs at 1016.
We're running parallel 12nm east of rhumbline in anticipation of NW winds that our grib chart shows for 21 & 22 May.
It's pretty comfortable sailing on a beam reach. Both of us are well.
Cheers John & Leilani
It is 1800hrs 18 May, and we have been out for 9hrs since leaving Gulf Harbour. Could not have asked for a nicer start. Have had 10-13 kts wind from W so have been on beam reach all day with all 3 sails up. Clear sky, following sea, less than 0.5mtr sea. Have traveled 55nm on a course of 021T. Our next waypoint is N. Minerva Reef. All is well aboard. Will check in tomorrow.
Cheers John & Leilani
Hello all. We continue to wait for a weather window to sail to Fiji. Nothing looks flash at this time. Will keep you advised. In meantime, I was interviewed on Hawaii program called Law Across the Sea hosted by a former law partner. Here is link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lPetqSyZnw&list=PLQpkwcNJny6nbbMit_-n62...
The house has been emptied and cleaned to rent out; all our wordly possessions are crammed into a 3.5m x 4m storage box; boat is stuffed to the cabin top with 18-months of supplies, we've moved onto the boat; and now we do what cruisers do alot - wait. There are three things cruisers wait for: (1) good weather; (2) boat parts; and (3) arrival of boat contractors to do work. We're waiting for number 1. It looks like we won't be getting away before next weekend. Expecting northly winds all this coming week. Hopefully the wind will shift around the following week. Will keep you posted. Cheers. John & Leilani