Amazing Grace

Tue Nov 26 18:32 2019 NZDT
GPS: 36 37.397S 174 47.298E
Run: 57.2nm (103.5km)

Six months, 18 days, and 10.5 hours after untying the dock lines at Gulf Harbour to sail to Fiji, we arrived back today. Another motoring day, but beautifully sunny, so can't complain. Well, we do have one complaint. Found our car had two rear flat tires. Looks like the valve stems were intentionally broken, letting out all the air. Since the tires sat flat for who knows how long, they are probably beyond repair. So tomorrow I go to get them replaced. Welcome back to civilization.

This is my last post. If you want to know what's going on with us, you can check Leilani's Facebook.

Hope you all have wonderful weather and fun times wherever you are or are going.

Cheers, John

Thu Nov 21 11:57 2019 NZDT
GPS: 35 50.219s 174 28.107e

As at 1000 hrs 21/11/19. There is one subject that encompasses every fibre of your being when you prepare to go cruising, while you're cruising, and after you arrive safely. It's the first subject discussed at every cruiser bar. It's the most opinionated subject with the least definitive answers. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're not a cruiser. For my landlubber friends who spend most of their time encapsolated within four walls and only look out windows at it, the subject I'm talkiing about is - drum roll here - the weather. As in, whether the weather today will be kind or cruel. If the former, then it will be a nice day. If the latter, well the saying, the worst day on the water is better than the best day in the office, does not apply. A bad weather day on the water is never better than being somewhere safe, warm, and dry. All cruisers want to know what the weather is going to be. Partly so they can avoid the bad stuff, but also, and just as important, so they can prepare themselves and their vessels if and when the bad stuff arrives. To that end, cruisers are constantly searching out the most knoweldgeable sources. At this time I would like to acknowledge the source that helped us the most, and I know is a major source of weather information for many, many South Pacific cruisers. And that is none other than Gulf Harbour Radio.

Every morning, 5-days per week from 1 May to late November, David and Patricia on GHR broadcast on SSB and live streaming on YouTube. Patricia does roll call to track as many boats sailing around the Pacific to make sure all is well. She also broadcasts news items of interest to give a sense of connection to the "real" world that we cruisers have left behind. Then David comes on to give a knowledgeable and informative weather synopsis and forecast. We on Amazing Grace listen as often as we can with rapt, undivided attention. David often says, one of the things he hopes his broadcasts do is enhance our abilities to "read" weather information so we can make our own more informed decisions of whether to "go or no go". Over the years he has certainly been succeeding in my case. Not that I'm an accomplished meteorologist, but my level of how to read weather maps has increased many-fold. I'm now at Kindergarden level. However, I still rely on David to make sense of all those lines, and numbers, and other information from professional weather sources. And if this is not enough, David & Patricia do all this work for free. That's right, no charge. However, they have expenses to run their very professional operation. Patricia does not do a very good job of this, so I will help her out - I think she's just too shy to ask. GIVE A DONATION ON A REGULAR BASIS. If you cruise every season, give a donation every season. Go to their website - GHRADIO@XTRA.CO.NZ - and you will find how you can give to help them stay on the air. Don't encourage the view that cruisers are cheap. Give generously. From Leilani and John on Amazing Grace, we thank David & Patricia very much for all their hard work and valuable help.

In preparation for and during our trip to NZ we met and communicated with other boats to get any weather information they could help with. If for no other purpose than to be comforted in knowing that we were not the only ones getting hammered with lousy weather. It's true - misery does love company. These included, in no particular order, Scoots, Velic, Panache, Aghavni, and Andiamo. Thanks to all, and we wish you safe sailing wherever you go.

Finally, there is always the safe haven of a welcoming marina at the end of a long and tiring trip. Marsden Cove Marina is such a place. And llike any "place", it's only as good as the people running it. For us Leanne could not have been more helpful with providing us with accommodations, particularly after we kept changing our plans on almost an hourly basis as we approached NZ. Yes, we're coming to Marsden. No, weather forces us to go to Opua. Weather changed, we're coming to Marsden after all. No, wait . . . Through it all Leanne displayed the patience of Job, understanding of our predicament from being a cruiser herself, and good cheer because she is a very nice lady. Thank you Leanne.

To all those who sail from shore, AG wishes you fair winds and following seas.

Cheers, John & Leilani

Wed Nov 20 13:45 2019 NZDT
6.2kts (our personal best)
GPS: 35 50.219s 174 28.107e
Run: 86.9nm (157.3km)
Avg: 4.8knts
24hr: 115.9nm

as at 1230 hrs 20/11/19. We made it! At 0930 dock lines were tied up to the customs dock at Marsden Cove Marina for formal check-in. Right after, we moved into a marina berth to await a weather window for the day sail to Gulf Harbour Marina, our home port. The best part of arriving is knowing that tonight, and countless nights hereafter, we don't have to get up in the middle of the night to do watches. All of you who were vicariously suffering sleep deprivation with us can breathe a sigh of relief that you'll get a good night's sleep tonight.

And now for the all important trip statistics.

Total Trip Time: 8 days, 30 minutes - 192.5 hours

Total Miles Traveled: 1189nm

Average Speed:  6.2 kts - a personal best.

Average Total Engine Run Time: 109.3 hrs (57% of trip - 4.6 days) - another personal best if you can call it that. As I said in a previous post, we are a motor boat with auxillary sails.

Total Sailing: 83.2 hrs - 43% of trip.

All up Amazing Grace performed amazing for the entire season. In no small part due to pouring unlimited amounts of money into her before heading to sea. Those that don't should stay at home and watch TV. She had no major systems breakdowns, aside from having to replace the 8-year old house batteries. No one we spoke to about this could believe the batteries lasted so long. So I don't consider that a systems breakdown. That was just my cheapness to try and stretch another year out of them. Does that mean I should have stayed home watching TV? Two systems require special mention. The most important crew member, Mr Auto, performed flawlessly. The only time I touched the wheel to drive was when I was anchoring or going into or out of a marina berth. As I always say, If God had meant us to steer a boat, He would not have invented the auto pilot. Mr Auto doesn't require sleep, food, or toilet breaks. All he asks for is a kind word once in a while. How can you not love such a crew member.

The other system is Mr Yanmar. Some say our engine is past its use-by date with 8612 hours. My mechanic begs to differ. I say Mr Yanmar is gracefully mature. The mechanic points out that these small diesel engines should provide at least 15,000 hrs, and more, if properly pampered. Regular servicing is a must. The engine being 32 years old, means I won't have to worry about replacing him until I'm about 102. I can live with that. I know yachties who replace their engines after 3000 hours. Either they didn't take care of them, or they have way more money to burn than we do. Mr Yanmar never had a hiccup, burp, belch, or fart during the entire season, including the virtual non-stop use on the way to NZ. He got a big hug from me after we arrived, that's for sure.

And that brings an end to another exciting year sailing the fabled South Pacific. A continuing dream come true that we've been experiencing for the past 25 years. Now I'm going to sleep.

Cheers, John

Tue Nov 19 19:45 2019 NZDT
GPS: 34 36.052s 174 11.034e
Run: 35.4nm (64.1km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 161.8nm
Weather: as at 1915 hrs 19/11/19. Wow, what a difference several hours make. All the horrible weather discussed in my last post lasted about 6 hrs. Then early this afternoon we punched through the front. It was like going through the looking glass. One side was dark, windy, uncomfortable bumpy seas. On the other side conditions could not be more different. Wind shifted from SE to now being SSW, all under 10 kts, even as low as 5 kts. Sea has become flat with 1 mtr SE long period rolling swell. There is 50% cloud cover, with patches of blue between, and the sun is out. COG 165T. SOG 6.2 kts.

as of 1915 hrs 19/11/19. Now, the real reason for this second post of the day. In my last I said we were headed for Opua to check in. Things have again changed. Hey, it's cruising. We're now headed for Marsden Cove, our original destination, because of the favourable change of weather conditions. From Marsden it is an easy day sail to our home port at Gulf Harbour Marina. Due to lack of wind we continue to motor - with a sail up that doesn't do much except keep the boat from rolling. With 85 nm to go, our expected ETA at Marsden is 1030-1130 tomorrow morning. Leilani and I are looking forward to watchless nights of sleep.

Cheers, John

Tue Nov 19 14:30 2019 NZDT
GPS: 34 07.030s 173 58.876e
Run: 171nm (309.5km)
Avg: 6.8knts
24hr: 162.9nm
Weather: as at 1345 hrs 19/11/19. In a word, HORRIBLE. Up to yesterday we enjoyed motoring in light winds and calm seas. Last night we hit the front, or I should say it hit us like a brick wall - that's accepted meteorological terminology. Winds SE 18-25 kts. Swell SE 2 mtr, but somewhat confused, lumpy & bumpy. 100% cloud cover. Baro plummeted to 1010 from 1015 24 hrs ago. Temperature has dropped to point I can't sunbathe in the cockpit anymore. Welcome to NZ.

as at 1345 hrs 19/11/19. As you can see from the weather report, we are getting some uncomfortable weather. Nothing we, and the boat, can't handle. But after so many calm days, it is a bit of a culture shock to be bounced around as if we are in wash cycle. Our plans to enter NZ at Marsden Cove Marina have been dashed. The wind is pushing us away from there and if we tried to make it we couldn't arrive tomorrow. So, as happens in cruising, plans changed solely due to weather considerations. We are headed for Opua., only 72.6nm away. We will be banging into this weather front most of the way, and based upon our current speed and course, our GPS has miraculously calculated arrival at the check-in dock at 0630 tomorrow morning. That time could slip, but it shouldn't be by much. That means breakfast at the dock. Once checked in we will go out to an anchorage at one of the islands in the Bay of Islands and wait for a good window to head south to home port. I did end up bringing a Fiji souvenior with me - a head cold. I haven't had one in years. I'm convinced the Customs lady gave it to me. I went to the customs office at the marina, which is a small temporary building. Throughout the check-out procedure she coughed, hacked, sneeezed, and spewed constantly into a hankerchief. Now I'm coughing, hacking, sneezing, and spewing constantly into my shirt sleeve. Okay, I know, TMI.

Next post from land. Yeeee Ha.


Mon Nov 18 13:18 2019 NZDT
GPS: 31 38.641s 174 02.187e
Run: 173.1nm (313.3km)
Avg: 7.3knts
24hr: 176nm
Weather: as at 1200 hrs 18/11/19. Wind N 10kts. Swell SW 1.5 mts long periods. Bright sunny day with 0% cloud cover with exception of a very few wisps of cirrus cloud. Baro 1015 down from 1020 yesterday. COG 180T. SOG 6 kts

as at 1200 hrs 18/11/19. It's official. Or at least it feels like it. When we left Fiji our boat was a sailboat with an auxillary motor. It's now a motor boat with auxillary sails. Of the 147 hrs at sea so far, we have motored 65 hrs. Based on the latest weather forecasts, there is still more diesel burning to come. We're not making a carbon footprint. We're a carbon stampede.

Many of you are waiting with suspensefull anticipation to learn the outcome of the night watch resolution. Or not. You may recall, I thought it unfair that Leilani got the first night watch when it was still daylight. With a magnanimous jesture to stilling the turbulent waters, Leilani agreed to trade night watches with me - after I threw a temper tantrum. This morning, Leilani felt the same sleep deprivation I have been feeling the whole trip because of having to do in effect, two night watch shifts to one. So she asked to go back to the original schedule. I sat her down, and using the most logical and persuasive arguments I could muster, I said: "Nani-nani pooh pooh. I'm not changing back, and you can't make me." With a deep contemplative look, she rubbed her chin while nodding understandingly, responded, "Gee, I never thought of it that way. Sure, you can keep my watch." Being the skipper and having to deal with many crrew issues in order to maintain a happy ship is a difficult and thankless job. I don't know how she does it. I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw a whale. Actually we saw it spouting twice, and its backside once. No wonder I forgot to mention it. Of equal mention I found a very small dead flying fish on the deck several days ago. As you can tell, we've been at sea too long if this is all we have to write about.

You guessed it. Time to go back to sleep.

Cheers, John

Sun Nov 17 13:42 2019 NZDT
GPS: 29 08.382s 173 57.556e
Run: 172.7nm (312.6km)
Avg: 6.9knts
24hr: 165.5nm
Weather: As at 1230hrs 17/11/19. Wind variable 0-4kts. Swell SW 1mtr with long rolling periods. Sea state silky smooth. Bright sunny sky 0% cloud cover. Baro 1020. COG 167T. SOG 6.25kts.

As at 1230hrs 17/11/19. Another 24 hrs of glorious weather. Still warm enough to lay in the cockpit to work on maintaining my George Hamilton bronzeness. The only issue is lack of wind. But getting lots of exercise turning on motor when wind dies, then turning off motor when enough wind comes along to sail. Then there are the attendant sail changes for each of the conditions. Coupling all the excerise with my lack of appetite, I should be buff when I arrive in NZ. Or not.

This morning was an extra workout. We transferred 98 litres (25 gallons for my metric challenged American readers) from deck jerry cans into the main ship's tank. That topped up the main tank. This represented 40hrs engine run time since leaving Fiji. We carry 100 gallons in the main ship tank, and 45 gallons in deck jerry cans. Based on years of my religious fuel consumption calculations, we burn about 0.64 gallons per hour. So we can almost motor the whole way from Fiji to NZ. After what we've consumed so far on this trip, we have about 6.5 days of fuel left. With only 2.5 - 3 days left to go, we are fuel happy. And with the way the winds are going, we may have to motor much of that time.

Now for the latest trip statistics. We have 411nm to go to Marsden Cove Marina. Our average speed since leaving Fiji has been 6.25 kts. For us this is ahead of all previous years of 6 kts. Using 6 kts, our ETA is 0900 hrs on Wednesday 20/11/19. If that time holds, we will match last year's trip of exactly, and I mean exactly, 8 days & 0 hours. With sun setting at around 2030, it has screwed up our watch schedule, Up to now, for night watches we do 3-hr watches starting at 1800 and ending at 0600. Day watches are 4-hrs. Leillani has been doing the first night watch which means she'd be up in any event because it's still light. The result is she is really doing only one night watch, and I have to do two. As the captain, I find that wholly unacceptable. I offered to do all the day watches and she could do the night. That's fair. Every one of my watches would be 4-hrs, and her's would only be 3-hrs. Somehow I couldn't get her to go along. I'm sure we'll work out something mutually agreeable as soon as I issue the order. Or not.

Now for my favourite passage pasttime - sleeping. Cheers, John

Sat Nov 16 12:39 2019 NZDT
GPS: 26 41.189s 173 25.392e
Run: 167.7nm (303.5km)
Avg: 7.1knts
24hr: 170.5nm
Weather: As at 1200hrs 16/11/19. Wind negligible, and what there is is variable. Sea state is silky smooth with long rolling periods of SW 2mt swells. Bright sunny day with 50% cloud cover of mostly cumulus, some cirrocumulus, and a few cirrus clouds. COG 174T. SOG 6.2kts average. Baro 1019, having risen last 24hrs. Believe we are in middle of the high. Don't have therometer but still warm enough to sun bath iin the cockpit.

As at 1200hrs. Hallelujah! It's a miracle! Praise be to the satellite gods, EGNOS & GLOSNOSS. After two days laying in what I thought was a condition called, "dead", Mr Garmin rose up today and began navigating. For chuckles, this morning I turned it on, and through modern technology known as, "I haven't got a clue", it worked. So now I don't have to interrupt my sleep during my watch to trapse to the cockpit to confirm we're going in the right direction. I can go back to opening one eye every so often, but not too often, and glance at Mr Garmin at the Nav Station. That's a relief. As the weather report above says, there's no wind, no waves, and silky smooth sea condition. That means we've been motoring for past 24 hrs. A trough that showed up on our weather grib yesterday that showed ugly weather in our path on Sunday / Monday, has broken up. That's good. I really don't like big wind and seas and rain. Especially while I'm out in it in a small boat in the middle of the ocean.

We stay in email contact with several other boats, including Panache, Andiamo, Bright Moments, and Aghavni. All of us left Fiji together, except Panache, who left a day after. We're too far apart to see each other or talk on VHF. But with Iridium Go, you can reach out and touch anyone anytime. Say, I should copyright that and sell it as a marketing jingle to Iridium Go. Or not.

Yesterday I found two small pumice stones on deck. They're probably from the pumice island that is making its way to Australia from the Tongan volcanoe a few months back. It was Leilani's impetus to get us back on the rhumbline to NZ.

I'll end with some trip statistics so far. We are averaging 6.25 kts for the overall trip so far. As 6kts is our target, that's good. With no wind for the time being, we are able to sail, or I should say motor, a rhumbline to Marsden Cove. Barring any surprise weather coming up, our ETA is Wednesday, 20 November.

Okay, I'm on watch, so back to sleep.

Cheers, John

Fri Nov 15 13:03 2019 NZDT
GPS: 24 15.897s 173 35.060e
Run: 174.4nm (315.7km)
Avg: 7.1knts
24hr: 169.8nm
Weather: as at 1200hrs 15/11/19. Wind SSE (157T) 10-13kts. Swell SE 1mtr and less. Bright clear sunny sky. Baro 1015 rising since yesterday from 1012. COG 202T since about 1 hrs ago. Before that 220T. Function of wind back some. SOG 6.2 kts.

as at 1200 hrs 15/11/19. Had wonderful, fast sailing yesterday afternoon to this morning. Today continues with very nice conditions - see weather above. Only issue is wind direction is not ESE or even SE. Wind has been SSE to S since we started. Not what GFS gribs show. Result is we have been pushed farther west than anticipated. This isn't bad if we get the E to NE to N to NW winds as we approach NZ that have been forecast. However, the wind direction forecasts to date have not been that accurate. There's nothing we can do about it but continue on and hope we don't miss NZ. Australia destination is worst cast scenario. Almost forgot. We had a death at sea last eveniing. Although I haven't yet done the burial as I'm hoping for a revival after I get to NZ. Our Garmin GPS chart plotter at the Nav Station stopped all navigation functions. It still turns on, and I can move through the different windows. It could be the built-in antenna died. I'll bring it to my electonic expert in Auckland, who has resusitated a number of my other electronic instruments when the manufacturer said only cure was to buy a new one. Of course. There's no money in it for them to fix anything. Fortunately my new Garmin at the cockpit pedestal is working. But now I can't lay in my sea bunk and merely open one eye to check all is okay with our course. Now I have to actually completely wake up during my watch, go out into the cockpit, and look at the GPS there. It really interferes with my sleep during watches. Cheers John

Thu Nov 14 12:24 2019 NZDT
GPS: 21 51.090s 174 23.085e
Run: 163.2nm (295.4km)
Avg: 7.4knts
24hr: 177.6nm
Weather: As of 1200 hrs 14/11/19. Wind SSE 14-16 kts. Swell less than 1.5 mts SE. Clear blue sky. COG 212T. SOG 6.5 - 7 kts. Baro 1012.

For past 24 hrs, sailing has been fast (for us) with winds 18-22 kts late yessterday into last night. This morning winds eased to 14-16 kts. Still SSE which explains our continuing to sail SW. Now 73nm west of rhumblline. Looking at our paper chart (yes we actually still use them), I noted we are only 45nm west of our position at the same time into the passage on our 2018 NZ passage. Since we got to NZ then, I'm confident we'll the same this tiime. After tomorrow, the winds start to back eastward, so we can follow them. Then they continue to NE & N, and we'll be able to do a rhumbline into NZ at that time. But the last few days look to be light and we'll be motoring. In meantime, we're enjoying some outstanding sailing conditions.

Cheers John

Wed Nov 13 14:21 2019 NZDT
GPS: 19 44.200s 175 30.600e
Run: 111.2nm (201.3km)
Avg: 6.8knts
24hr: 163.2nm
Weather: as of 1400 hrs 13 November 2019. Beautiful clear blue sky. Wind SSE 14-18 kts. Swell SE 1.5 mts long rolling period. COG 212T. SOG 6.5 - 7.5 kts. Baro 1011 steady.

What a difference a day makes. Great sailing. Took down the staysail and put up the headsail. AG took off from a meandering 5.3 kts, to a galloping 6.5 to 7.5 kts, even touching 8. Seas are way down with long periods making for pretty smooth sailling. Only problem is direction. Wind has been virtually S until late this morning when it began backing slightly to SSE. Until then our course kept moving west until we were going 335T, and currently we're about 50nm west of our rhumbline. I'm confident we'll make that up over the next couple of days as wind continues to back E. Later in trip wind will die and we'll be motoring, and then will go north. At least that's the prognosis. With weather, one can never be 100% certain what tomorrow will bring. Otherwise, all good on board.

Cheers John

Tue Nov 12 22:00 2019 NZDT
GPS: 18 36.981s 176 43.967e
Run: 72.2nm (130.7km)
Avg: 2.5knts
24hr: 60.6nm
Weather: as of 2130 11 Nov 2019. Wind SSE 20kt. Swell SE 1.5 - 2 mts long period. 100% cloud cover. Baro 1011. No rain since leaving Denarau this morning. COG has been ranging 215 - 225T. SOG 5.7kts

2130 hrs 11 Nov 2019. Left Denarau at 0930. Has been a lumpy start. Wind is more sse than se so our course has been more ssw. A number of boats have zoomed by us throughout the day. As is our habit we under sail the boat, so our speed is not great. Trying to get used to being at sea again, but I much prefer anchorages and marinas. Just started my first night watch. I'm already looking forward to its end. Sailing would be great if there wasn't so much sailing. Time to sign off and get some sleep. I mean, tiime to look around. I'm on watch, remember.

Cheers, John

Mon Nov 11 17:25 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E
Weather: 100% cloud cover. Raining off and on all day. Wind N-NNW 0-5kts. Baro 1010

We've said this before - twice. So I won't blame you if you don't believe it this time. So here goes. We're leaving for NZ tomorrow. Us and a gaggle of others. Denarau Marina will be almost empty after everyone unties their dock-lines. Not a bad weather window forecast. A bit bumpy on the start. Will keep you appraised as we sail south. As always before a passage, I'm anxious to get on with it, and at same time would rather stay put. Since we've had two false starts within past week, we're not running around getting this and that done like some of the other boats. Leilani is finishing up making a couple of passage meals to replace ones we ate waiting to leave. I'm busy getting psyched up to take a shower. If that doesn't impress you, I'm at least writing this post. Okay, I'm psyched. Off to take a shower.

Sototale, John

Sat Nov 9 11:11 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E
Weather: 50% cloud cover. Winds N 10-15 kts. Last night had a short thunder / rain storm. But sunny today.

Yesterday was a double News Flash. Today - News Flash, News Flash, News Flash. At this rate my posts will be easy to write. They'll consist of ever increasing numbers of "News Flashes".

Another delay. Yesterday I made reservation with Customs & Immigration to check out at 0900 today. Being a weekend, we were to pay F$185 after hours fee. This being a 3-day weekend, Monday is Mohammed's B-day holiday, the C & I ladies didn't look too happy about coming in this morning. Well, in typical government employee fashion, they simply decided not to come in. Civil servants (there's an oxymoron) are the same the world over in their efforts to "serve" the public.

Not all is bad. Who wants to leave warm, balmy Fiji to return to cold, wet NZ. Not us. So we are watching another potential window on Tuesday to leave. Will be more certain as time approaches. Right after us, you'll be the next to know when we leave. Or there could be a quadruple News Flash. Who knows. That's cruising.

Sototale, John

Fri Nov 8 10:41 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E

News Flash! News Flash! Departure delayed 24 hrs. Now leaving on 9 November. Today's departure winds are a bit blustery. Tomorrow nice and calm. Anticipated ETA is 17 - 18 November. Will post regularly on our passage so you can vicariously enjoy the same sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, and constant stress about weather we so relish about ocean travel.



Fri Nov 8 9:04 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E

Today is departure day. We leave Fiji this morning bound for NZ. I will keep you up to date on our journey.



Tue Nov 5 8:28 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E

Good morning. Still in Denarau. Still waiting for a weather window. The boats which left last Friday in what we'd call snotty conditions are finally getting comfortable conditions. Very happy for them. There is no window to leave this week. Listening to Gulf Harbour Radio this morning, David mentioned a possible good arrival time in NZ would be 19 November. Working backward 8 days (our usual travel time to NZ) would mean a possible departure on 11 November. We'll just have to see as the week progresses and the forecasts firm up.

The super yachts have been steadily leaving. When you're 40, 50, 60, 70 meters long, you don't have to wait for the same weather windows that 13 meter yachts do.

As always, we keep you informed. In the meantime we wait for David on Gulf Harbour Radio to come up with the perfect weather window. Are you listening, David?

Sototale, John

Tue Oct 29 13:24 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E

Bula from Denarau. Yes, still here waiting for weather window. Will bring you up to date on latest from the marina. Remember when I told you our windlass broke. Exercising superior engineering skills that even surprised me, I fixed it. Won't bore you with details, but suffice to say it was because I was looking for something to do when I decided, just for chuckles, to dismantle the above deck portion of the windlass. Turned out to be nothing more than a key in the shaft fell out and was jamming the gypsy. Am I good, or what? The answer is: or what.

As is usual there are several super yachts, both power and sail, berthed here. I'll mention just two as they are fairly interesting. The first is Hemisphere. At 44 mtrs it's the largest sailing catamaran in the world. For those of you who'd like to do a S. Pacific charter, it's yours for just US$280,000 per week plus extras. For those of us living on the NZ peso, that converts to NZ$8,000,000,000. The extras aren't detailed, but usually include fuel, booze, and crew gratuities. It comes with a 45' fishing boat if you want to catch your own dinner. You can find out more details by googling SVhemisphere.

The other yacht is really two. One is the ultra luxury 50 mtr motor yacht, named Legacy. It is not for charter. Owner doesn't want riff-raff on board. Because Legacy is pure opulence, there's no room for toys, like a very large 30' RIB, 35' fishing boat, or even a helicopter, just to name a few of the not so insignificant.. So the owner has, as you'd expect, a 52 mtr companion super yacht, named Pursuit, to carry all those toys. Both are currently berthed in the marina. Hey, when you can afford a luxurious 50 mtr yacht, why not have another 52 mtr yacht. Again, you can google these yachts for more jaw dropping info.

As I write this, there is a crew of 5 washing, waxing and polishing our entire yacht. I feel like a super yacht owner with a full crew to do all the work. I just wish Amazing Grace was 50 mtrs.

Sototale, John

Fri Oct 25 18:22 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 46.370S 177 22.952E
Run: 12.5nm (22.6km)

Denarau, we have arrived. For about an hour as we approached, a large rain cloud moved over the marina. Just as we arrived the cloud passed. We were able to berth the boat in dry conditions. Once tied up, another rain system closed over us and hasn't left. Welcome to the dry side Fiji. At least we're catching lots of tasty, pure rain water.

Leaving Momi Bay this morning we experienced our first major system failure. The anchor windlass jammed. I think I know how to fix it, but need to remove the entire windlass and reinstall. That's not going to happen until NZ. No problem as that was our last anchoring for the season. To raise the anchor and 35mts of chain, I got out for the first time the manual handle that fits into the windlass. The idea was to simply use the handle to turn the chain gypsy. Why doesn't anything work the way it's supposed to when I try it for the first time in the 10 years I've owned the boat? It's probably the only system I've never tested. The handle fit perfect onto the gypsy. However, the handle was made for the windlass, not the boat. The staysail stay blocked the handle from rotating 360 degrees - too close to the windlass. So I cut off a section of the handle arm and it worked pretty good. Glad I didn't have the whole 100mts of chain out, though. When I get back to NZ, I'll have the handle end welded onto a shorten handle arm, and everything will be as it's supposed to be.

Cruising is sailing from port to port to pick up parts, or improvising until it works. From a maintenance standpoint, this has been an exceptionally good season. Although I better not speak too soon as we still have a 1200nm sail back to NZ.

Don't know how long we'll be here until the next good weather window. But there are several good burger joints, so all is not lost. I can recharge my body fat content after all the wholesome veggies and canned goods we ate in Fulaga.

Sototale, John

Wed Oct 23 18:37 2019 NZDT
GPS: 17 54.931S 177 15.985E
Run: 46.2nm (83.6km)

After 10 hrs and 54.5nm we arrived at Momi Bay. This is the side of Viti Levu that is hot, humid, and hot. Right now it's 100% cloud cover, no wind, and humidity weighs on you like ton or bricks. Trade winds are a rarity on this side of Viti Levu. In fact it's rare to get any wind. That's because it's on the lee side of island. Trades coming from the east are blocked on this western side. Cabin fans are working overtime. Cold showers are a must. Sweat rags a required fashion accessory. And it's still winter in Fiji. We'll stay here until Firday, and then move a few miles up the coast to Denarau and into a berth. There we'll wait for a weather window to sail back to cold, wet NZ. Sweat rags won't be required. After the long sail, I'm ready for the bunk.

Sototale, John

Tue Oct 22 17:38 2019 NZDT
GPS: 18 15.700S 177 52.108E
Run: 13.1nm (23.7km)

This morning we finally cut away the growth anchoring us inside Pacific Harbour Marina. Following a long and exhausting 17nm, 3-hour trip we are safely anchored in Vunaniu Bay. A large open bay that would be disastrous in southerly winds. But we had 15-20 kts easterlies - right up the bum- the whole trip. Easterlies continue tonight and throughout tomorrow. Tomorrow we are getting up extra early, 0600 - ugh, to do an all day sail to Momi Bay, about 55 nm. Will be there tomorrow afternoon. Then stay 2-days until Friday, when our berth at Denarau becomes available. That's it. I'm beat after our long sail today.

Sototale, John

Tue Oct 15 12:24 2019 NZDT
GPS: 18 15.336S 178 04.036E

Yesterday we visited Suva for the first time since 2003. My goal was to take the modern bus with windows and air con for the 1-hour ride. I got half my goal: windows, all of which were open, which I guess acted like air con. Actually it was more like being in a NASA wind tunnel experiment. Upon arrival my hair was standing straight up in a Don King look-alike. Because the bus had absolutely no suspension system, my internal organs turned to jello. Sitting towards the back, everyone in front looked like bobbleheads as we bounced along. The other feature that helped turn the trip into a nightmare was music. It's piped through speakers at an ear drum piercing level that makes standing behind a fully revving Boeing 747 sound like a muffled whisper. There's nothing more challenging than riding buses in 3rd world countries. And we were on the upgraded model. For the return trip I was bound and determined to ride a fully enclosed, air conditioned model. And so we did. At least my hair was manageable upon arrival. But music was still played. Huh, did you say something?

I guess there were changes to the city. There were some new buildings. Cars were newer. Yes, traffic congestion was definitely 1st world, but then you have to remember we'd just spent 3 months where the only wheeled vehicles are wheelbarrows.

One store Leilani simply had to visit was Cost-U-Less. Think Costco after being on the Jennie Craig Diet - assuming it actually worked, unlike it does for you and me. Looking at it from the other side, Costco is Cost-U-Less on massive steroids. Arnold Schwartzeneggar versus the 95lb weakling. Although, compared to regular markets in Fiji, C-U-L is what Countdown (Safeway for my US readers) is to 7-11. So it was pretty awe inspiring to us Two items at C-U-L that made me believe it is part of the Costco chain were Smuckers jam in the family size jar so long as your family is at least 10 strong, and artichoke hearts in jars big enough to swim in. Both of us were blown away by the choices of food and non-food items. Clearly we have been in the bush waaaay too long.

But the attraction that has not changed, and is still a reason to visit Suva, is the veggie market. It covers a city block selling every conceivable fruit and veggie grown in Fiji. There's also a fish section. The second floor is nothing but kava from every corner of the country, and Indian spices over flowing from large gunny sacks that make you wish you knew how to use them. It's sensory overload. All in all it was a fun cultural change.

Here's an example of how I've coped with being back in internet-land. During the 3-months in Fulaga, I had accumulated 450 unread emails. I know some of you get that many everyday. But I don't have that many friends - which is good because I'd kill myself if I got 450 emails more frequently than every 3-months. Anyway, after scrolling through the list, and keeping only 2 that had important information, I deleted all the others without opening, let alone reading, any. It was orgasmic hitting that delete key.

Another way I've coped with internet is not reading one news story of what's happening in the world. For a devoted and devouring news junkie, that's like the Kardashians forgoing being a poster family for all that is wrong with the US.

On that note, I'm signing off to read about the next sports car I want to buy should we decide not to continue cruising.

Sototale, John

Sun Oct 13 12:02 2019 NZDT
GPS: 18 15.336s 178 04.036E
Run: 117.7nm (213km)

0945 hrs 13 October 2019. Some are probably worried we didn't make it to our destination since I didn't send confirmation yesterday. Others didn't care. Well, to all, we made it into the Pearl Resort Marina throwing dock lines to shore help at exactly 0600 yesterday morning. Our timing was so accurate that the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which operates the atomic clock, contacted us to verify its clock was on time. We needed to make the river entrance within 30 minutes of high tide, which was at 0530, and after sunrise so we could see, which was at 0540. After 36 hours, and 200 miles, am I good, or what? Don't answer that, my ego won't take it.

The resort is very upscale, and sits on a beautiful property overlooking Beqa (remember the pronunciation from last post?), about 8 miles away. The 12-berth marina is first class, built about 5-years ago by Bellingham Marine Industries, on of the best known international marina pier construction companies. There are two other cruising yachts here - Double Trouble, and Blue Whale. The other berths are occupied by fishing and diving boats, and one large booze-cruise barge, run primarily for the hotel guests,.

The second half of our trip was somewhat a continuation of the first half; gentle wind and sea right up the bum. As we approached Suva, in the middle of the night, we had to dodge an inter-island ferry and 3 more fishing vessels. I even saw them. I think it was when I awoke to use the head. But the most thrilling part (read, stressful) was negotiating through reefs when we turned north from the Beqa Pass (which is easy to navigate) into the large bay fronting the actual entrance to the river to reach the resort - in dead blackness. The bay has a series of reefs bordering it from Beqa Pass. Then there are several large and small reefs in the bay. Thank goodness for GPS. But to be sure it was accurate, I looked on the GPS accuracy screen and saw my boat position was accurate to within 4.97 mtrs. I'll let my metric challenged American audience look up the conversion themselves - it will be good education for them. Since the reef gaps were anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 mile wide, I felt pretty confident I wouldn't have to activate an SOS. The moon had set, the sun hadn't risen, so it was the blackest part of the early morning. I couldn't see the boat's bow. Even with the aide of GPS it was still a bit thrilling.

Once tied up, and after washing the boat inside and out, and washing ourselves with showers, the first phenomena of being in civilisation immediately set in: spending huge amounts of money. We were in Fulaga so long I forgot what Fiji money looked like. We had to pay boat berthing deposit, cab fares to drop off and pickup laundry, laundry, and lunch out. Phew, our wallet gushed money like a broken water main. Speaking of not remembering what Fiji money looks like, Leilani tried to use NZ money for cab fare. The cabbie pointed out her mistake. But really he didn't want a currency that has fallen to comparable spending value of 3rd world countries. Yes, we miss Fulaga where you can survive on a small fixed income - or no income.

Tomorrow we're going to take the bus (the one with windows and air conditioning) to Suva. The buses without windows and air conditioning are just too traditional for us. We're told it takes about 45 minutes. That being Fiji time, it could take anywhere up to 8 eight hours. Looking forward to seeing the place again. Our first visit was in 1995, and last time was in 2003 when we were crewing an Oyster yacht. It's one place we have assiduously missed on all our other Fiji trips.

Today is church day. Speaking of church, Leilani went for a walk this morning and as she's inclined to do put her foot in her mouth. A couple stopped her and inquired if she was from Amazing Grace. They asked, with such a boat name, if she was part of a religious sect sailing around spreading the gospel. If they had seen me they never would have asked such a question. Anyway, Leilani said, "No, we just liked the name when we bought the boat and kept it." Continuing, she said, "We're not Bible thumpers." That's a direct quote. Then she asked what they did. The man said, "I'm a pastor." Open mouth, insert foot. Just shows, I can't let Leilani speak to anyone without my intuitive presence. Right.

Okay, time to meet on the fantail to sing a spiritual rendition of, what else, Amazing Grace. Not

Sototale, John

Fri Oct 11 12:45 2019 NZDT
GPS: 18 43.775s 179 47.500e
Run: 110.4nm (199.8km)
Avg: 4.2knts
24hr: 101.3nm
Weather: 1130 hrs 11 October 2019. COG 286. SOG 5.7 kts. Wind E 7-10kts. Sea E 1.5 mtr. 50% Cloud cover. Baro 1012. Sunny.

1130 hrs 11 October 2019. We passed two milestones: Half-way to destination. Moved from W longitude to E. Does that mean today is yesterday? Or is it the other way? Why should I care when I'm laying in the cockpit wearing only shorts and vigorously working on my tan. We also just passed between Moala and Matuku, the last of the southern Lau group. Nothing in front except Beqa (pronounced "Bengga", just the way it's spelled".). Sailing conditions, or I should say motoring conditions since departing last evening have been uncomfortably rolly. With the wind and seas right up the bum, it's to be expected. We altered our course to try to sail, but there just wasn't enough wind to keep the sails full. Plus our speed fell so much we would not make destination in time for high tide. Within the past hour the wind and sea state have dropped even more so that we are not rolling from rail to rail as much. No more being thrown about like clothes in wash cycle.

Leilani saw a 160 mtr ship loast night. She always sees them. I don't because I'm usually fast asleep during my watch. That's why I'm much more refreshed than Leilani whenever we arrive at our destination.

Okay, I'm on watch, so I'll sign off, climb into my bunk, and will let you know when we arrive.

Sototale, John .

Thu Oct 10 10:36 2019 NZDT
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w

0900 hrs 10 October 2019. Well, folks, after 3 months, 2 days it's finally time to move on. Today we depart Fulaga. Believe me when I say both of us are not looking forward to it. We absolutely love it here. Is it our last visit? The answer is: "?". We won't the be able to answer until well after we return to NZ. Two big ifs will have a direct affect on the answer: If my back comes completely right? If we want to continue cruising? We'll get back to you on those life altering questions. In the meantime, sufficit it to say, we had a wonderful time these past 3-seasons in Fulaga. From the chief to all the villagers, they sincerely want us to return. Of course they do. They want more sunglasses and bras. We said our goodbys yesterday, and will depart at 1700 this afternoon. The reason for that departure time is to arrive at the destination in daylight, and at high tide to make it across a bar at the entrance to the river we have to navigate. Our destination is the Pearl Resort Marina. You can google it for more information. It's on the main island of Viti Levu on the south side, just west of Suva. There are just 12 berths which are part of the Pearl Resort - google that, too. Reports we've gotten from a fellow cruiser have been excellent. Not sure how I'll make the transition from relaxing village life to glarmous South Pacific resort. I think Leilani is looking forward to it. At least we can again eat meat that doesn't come out of a can.

Since my last post, the yacht population exploded to 4, with a 5th arriving two days ago. Today one left, and we leave this afternoon. If want Fulaga to yourself, come late in the season. Three events dominated these past couple of weeks. First was the second visit this season of a cruise ship. Yikes, is tourisim featuring sunburned, pink tourists going to take over from yachties? At 93 meters, the ship was too big to make the pass. Tourists were ferried in by several ship's tenders, about 80 of them. The village put on a traditional sevusevu (chief accepts them into the village), a meke (dancing), lots of kava drinking, and a $5,000 visitor fee. When you consider yachts are charged $50, that's considerably cheaper per capita than what we poor yachties pay. And we don't get any of the welcoming festivities except sevusevu. While I understand the village wanting the cruise ships because of the money they bring, I see it as another encroachment of civilization. Oh well, can't stop progress, if that's what it is.

The next event was another picnic. Only two of us yachts attended. But we still had a wonderful time with the villagers. However it was a pigless picnic. Instead the villagers provided boiled land crabs as the featured dish. Much smaller than mud crab. The benefit to struggle-to-eat ratio didn't make it my favourite species of edible crab.

Yesterday we attended the funeral of one of the villagers. Actually we attended the wake after burial. The men sat on a huge tarp spread on the ground with a temporary cover drinking kava all day. The women sat elsewhere serving the wake lunch which consisted of dahl soup over rice. Not a casserole in sight.

Our trip is 201nm, with winds expected to be right behind us at about 10-13 kts. I think we'll have the motor on much of the way. Wind up the bum is not the best point of sail. At least the conditions will be gentle. We expect the trip to take 33-36 hrs, depending on speed. I'm sure other yachties will think we are sailling a tank. I guess we are.

Leilani is making passage food, including chile & rice, salmon spread, banana bread, and white bread. Rice and two kinds of bread. No one has ever accused us of going light on starch in our diet.

This is it from Fulaga. Next post will be from civilization (civilisation for our Kiwi friends).

Stototale, John

Mon Sep 30 15:09 2019 NZDT
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w

1000 hrs 30 September 2019. I?m sure you?re all anxious to hear about my B-day party in the village. Or not. The school headmaster and his wife, mainly his wife, hosted a nice tea & cake get-together on Saturday afternoon. Their main room and dining room are in a ?L? shape, the main room occupying one leg, and the dining room the other. When we arrived at 1400, there were 10 men in the main room drinking Kava since that morning. The dining room was occupied by 5 ladies and a gaggle of children. Leilani brought my chocolate B-day cake and a freshly baked banana bread. The headmaster?s wife had prepared a couple of different cakes. As the only partial invalid and oldest one there, I was offered the sole chair to sit on. In fact, the chair was the only piece of furniture in sight except a dining table where all the cakes and tea cups sat. Everyone else, Fiji style, sat cross legged on the floor. It always amazes me to see old, overweight villagers being able to sit for hours in the lotus position. If I tried it for more than 30 seconds, I?d be unable to unfold my legs. I?d have to walk around on my knees forever thereafter. Anyway, throughout the next 2 hours the men continued to drink kava nonstop, while the women, children, Leilani and I ate cake and drank tea. When men drink Kava, they never, and I mean never, eat. Don?t want food to interfere with the Kava effects. Unlike a cocktail party atmosphere where there is constant noise from talking and laughing, nibbling on food, and moving around from one group to another, a Kava party is absolutely quiet with no eating or moving around at all. You?ve heard of a bar-room brawl. You?ll never hear of a Kava-room brawl. I was in a bit of a stupor because of strong pain pills I took to fortify my walk to the village. So my general demeanour and state of mind fit right in with the Kava drinkers - quiet, mushy brained, and unable to get up out of the chair. After setting up the cakes, and putting a single candle on my cake (72 would have burned down the house), the ladies and kids sang the irritating diddy. The men were physically unable to sing. I didn?t realise Happy Birthday had so many verses until I heard the Fijian version. It seemed to go on forever. All of us then had cake. A couple of the men even had a piece. The rest of the men looked at them like outcasts. I even got gifts: a wood-carved turtle, and a huge pandamus mat larger than the inside of our boat. Not sure what I?m going to do with it, but the thought and work that went into it were over the top. All told, it was a great way to spend a B-day - in a remote, faraway village with very generous and nice people. Because we got back so late from the party, Leilani and I agreed to forego a B-day dinner until last night. As it turned out, Leilani had been holding out. We left NZ 5 months ago, we?ve been in Fulaga 3 months, our frozen meats are virtually gone, or so I thought. Yesterday, Leilani disclosed she had not one, not two, not even three, but six scotch fillet steaks from NZ in the freezer. I asked, so why have we been eating pumpkin curry so often? Anyway, we had a treat for dinner: pan fried steak in butter, smothered with sautéed onions and re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms, and fried potatoes. I felt like we were at a fancy restaurant. Leilani really out-did herself. But I did check out the freezer to see if there were any other hidden treasures. Have the massages worked; you ask? Or not. Yes, is the simple answer. My right-side pain is virtually gone. My left-side pain is minimal. That pain had been unabated for almost a week. The day after the massages the pain subsided considerably overnight. I still wake up a bit stiff. Like a rusty machine, I move back and forth while applying generous amounts of WD40, and voila, I?m moving without any squeaks. Well, almost no squeaks. Until next post, which I know you look forward to. Or not. Sototale, John

Sat Sep 28 20:24 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w

0700 hrs 28 September 2019. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear John, happy birthday to me. There, I got that out of the way. The 72nd time I?ve heard that most irritating diddy. Since my last post where I said we were leaving Fulaga on Monday, 30 September, we?ve changed our minds. As a septuagenarian I can do that. Septuagenarian? I used to think only mummies were referred to as that. As in, ? I believe this mummy is from the late septuagenarian epoch.? With all the back pain I?ve been suffering these past couple of months, I feel as spry as a mummy. Speaking of back pain, Leilani and I, after detailed study of chapter 23 of our onboard First Aid book titled ? DIY Vertebrae Surgery ?, have definitely, positively, maybe diagnosed my low back pain as...well, low back pain, and not kidney stones. Although we may be wrong. Anyway, we decided to stay here. I can rest and recuperate much better in Fulaga than in noisy, hustle-bustle, megalopolis Savusavu. We still need to be in Denarau on 25 October to await a weather window to jump off to NZ. But that?s only 280nm away, and we can sail that in a few hours. So we?ll stretch it out here as long as possible. Can?t think of a more relaxing, therapeutic location. On Monday our lone existence will end. Our Dutch friend, Humberto, is arriving. I may have told you a bit about him last year. He sailed for several years on his catamaran with his invalid mother. She also developed dementia about a year ago. Humberto, who has been a cruiser for many, many years, and clearly a devoted son, took on the awesome responsibility of caring for his mother. His is, without a doubt, one of the most unusual and heart rendering cruiser stories we?ve run across. She died earlier this year at the ripe old age of 93 and is buried in Savusavu. She was much loved in Fulaga, and the villagers were very disappointed that she could not be buried here. In any event, it will be great seeing Humberto again. He was in Fulaga when we arrived, but left shortly thereafter to Suva. He stayed in Fulaga throughout cyclone season last year. Lucky one didn?t hit as there is really no safe cyclone hole here. Yesterday I was finally talked into getting a back massage from the village masseuse. Everyone kept telling me he could greatly improve my back problem. I had two sessions yesterday, and I?ll have two more today. Then I?ll see what improvement occurs. He learned massaging from his father, who learned it from his, back several generations when the art was primarily limited to massaging captured enemies to soften them up before putting them in the cooking pot. After yesterday?s sessions, I can imagine those ancient enemies probably came out like tender grade-A Angus beef steaks. Got to sign off now to attend my third session. If you don?t hear from me again, think of me whenever you sit down to a steak dinner. Sototale, John

Thu Sep 26 16:42 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w
Run: 2.2nm (4km)

1530 hrs 26 September 2019. At this moment we are enjoying Fulaga like few other yachts since the Lau group was opened to yacht visits in 2012. Up to today, about 90 yachts visited here this season. For the past 2 weeks there have been only 5 of us. About an hour ago that changed when the last of the 4 others left. We are the only yacht in all of Fulaga. To have the entire place to ourselves is eerie, exciting, and absolutely wonderful. Of course, the villagers are still here. We plan to leave on Monday 30 September, returning to Savusavu. With the weather as it is, we?ll probably have the place to ourselves until then. When we leave, we?ll have been here a few days shy of 3-months. Last year we left Fulaga sooner than we wanted, and again this year it?s the same. Last year it was our water-maker breaking down. This year it?s my old body breaking down. As you know from prior posts, I fell and injured my back just over 8-weeks ago. I suffered right low back pain with some sciatica. About a week ago my right low back finally came right to the point of being essentially pain free. The next day, for no apparent reason, I developed sharp pain in my left low back and side. So, we?re headed to ?civilisation? to get some x-rays and ultra sounds to determine if I have kidney stones. If so, I may have to fly to NZ to have them removed and return to wait for a weather window to sail back to NZ. If no stones, and just a continuation of my back injury, then I?ll continue to take pain meds and get my prescriptions refilled when I get back. Not much I can do other than that. On 25 October we have reservations at Denarau Marina on the west side of Viti Levu. We?ll make our way there from Savusavu to await a window to go to NZ as we did last year. Last year we had to wait a couple of weeks. Going to Denarau from Fulaga is like moving from the garden of Eden into surburbia. Ugh. There?s internet in Savusavu and Denarau, so I?ll be able to catch up on all the news. Actually, not looking forward to that. Can?t believe I just said that - being a news junkie I?ve always been. That?s what living in the garden of Eden does to you. Sototale, John

Fri Sep 20 14:33 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 06.483s 178 34.809w

1400 hrs 20 September 2019. Today we moved to what we call the ?big wind? anchorage on the NW corner of Fulaga. Starting tomorrow evening and through the following couple of days we?re expecting SE 25+ knot winds. All next week it is expected to be a bit blustery averaging SE-E 20 knots. This anchorage is a very good all wind anchorage except for S - SW. With only 5 boats in Fulaga, including us, it will be interesting if anyone else joins us. There are some other anchorages that would be suitable, but I don?t think they are as good as here. Late yesterday afternoon the monthly (sometimes less frequently) supply boat arrived. It was the third different one I?ve seen in all our time here. It was about 100? long and had a 3-deck bridge-cabin structure in the aft half, with the front being an open cargo deck. The bow dropped down like a WWII landing craft. Visits by the supply boat are always a hustle-bustle affair for the three villages. Village long boats hover around the supply vessel like worker bees around a queen. They load cargo from the village bound for Suva, and take off arriving cargo. Also, a few passengers disembarked, and a few embarked. Leilani has been anxiously awaiting the cargo boat for replenishments of some staples. Today Leilani went ashore and saw her contact who loaded her up with all kinds of goodies, including: papaya, eggs, flour, apples, a couple of first-of-the-season mangoes, onions, sweet potatoes, and an entire stock of bananas - still on the stock. Unfortunately the sirloin steaks somehow missed the boat. Heaven forbid, I?m turning into a vegetarian. I haven?t looked at my email since arriving in Fulaga 2.5 months ago. Not knowing what?s happening in the world, and particularly the US, has calmed my nerves, lowered my blood pressure, and generally made me a nice guy again. Okay, the last one may be a bit of an overstatement. But it has been nice ?living in a cave? without any outside news. Okay, time to bury my head in my kindle where I?m reading a couple of books on the secret CIA wars in Afghanistan. That?s history, not news, okay. Sototale, John

Fri Sep 20 14:33 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 06.483s 178 34.809w
Run: 2.2nm (4km)

1400 hrs 20 September 2019. Today we moved to what we call the ?big wind? anchorage on the NW corner of Fulaga. Starting tomorrow evening and through the following couple of days we?re expecting SE 25+ knot winds. All next week it is expected to be a bit blustery averaging SE-E 20 knots. This anchorage is a very good all wind anchorage except for S - SW. With only 5 boats in Fulaga, including us, it will be interesting if anyone else joins us. There are some other anchorages that would be suitable, but I don?t think they are as good as here. Late yesterday afternoon the monthly (sometimes less frequently) supply boat arrived. It was the third different one I?ve seen in all our time here. It was about 100? long and had a 3-deck bridge-cabin structure in the aft half, with the front being an open cargo deck. The bow dropped down like a WWII landing craft. Visits by the supply boat are always a hustle-bustle affair for the three villages. Village long boats hover around the supply vessel like worker bees around a queen. They load cargo from the village bound for Suva, and take off arriving cargo. Also, a few passengers disembarked, and a few embarked. Leilani has been anxiously awaiting the cargo boat for replenishments of some staples. Today Leilani went ashore and saw her contact who loaded her up with all kinds of goodies, including: papaya, eggs, flour, apples, a couple of first-of-the-season mangoes, onions, sweet potatoes, and an entire stock of bananas - still on the stock. Unfortunately the sirloin steaks somehow missed the boat. Heaven forbid, I?m turning into a vegetarian. I haven?t looked at my email since arriving in Fulaga 2.5 months ago. Not knowing what?s happening in the world, and particularly the US, has calmed my nerves, lowered my blood pressure, and generally made me a nice guy again. Okay, the last one may be a bit of an overstatement. But it has been nice ?living in a cave? without any outside news. Okay, time to bury my head in my kindle where I?m reading a couple of books on the secret CIA wars in Afghanistan. That?s history, not news, okay. Sototale, John

Sat Sep 14 8:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w

0730 hrs 14 September 2019. Pumice update. As regular readers of my posts will recall, about 2 weeks ago Fulaga lagoon was flooded with pumice from the Tongan volcano. Since that time much is no longer floating in the water. No more islands of the stuff. Instead there are small isolated bunches of it still bobbing around. That?s the good news. Now the bad. Since the pumice has not actually left the lagoon, it has accumulated on most every beach. Some have only a ribbon of pumice deposited at the high water limit. On others the once pristine sand has been completely covered with it. While not environmentally damaging, at least the villagers don?t think so, it certainly has changed the aesthetics of beaches. It will be several years before the pumice becomes one with the land and things return to what was. In any event, it still gives me pause when I bump into small pebbles while swimming because I can?t get the ?turd? vision out of my mind. Sototale, John

Wed Sep 11 10:06 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w
Weather: 0900 hrs 11 Sept 2019. Wind 3-5 kts W. 100% cloud cover, Drizzly. Baro 1012. Expect wind to clock today to S - SE with speed increase.

0900 hrs 11 Sept 2019. Have you ever had a day when you didn't want to get up because you were facing a potential catastrophy? You know you have to face it, so you hope it will pass quickly and be as painless as possible. For the first time in 39 years of marriage I was facing such a day. For the first time in her life, Leilani was going to do something she'd never done. It was a day I had been mentally preparing for and agonizing over for a long time. A day Leilani had done absolutely nothing to prepare for. Yesterday was that day. It was the day Leilani cut my hair. It'd been 5 months since my last cut. I was looking shaggy, and had too much grey showing. Fulaga has a dearth of hair stylists. So I bit the bullet and let Leilani cut it. I was expecting to look like a chemotherapy patient afterwards; tufts of long and short hair sprouting about my head. But I must grudgingly admit it turned out pretty good. And this was improvising by using a teasing brush because we had no comb, and scissors that I had used exclusively for years to trim nose hairs, and Leilani to trim . . . well I won't go there. Not wanting to get hair all over the deck, we went into the village. Our host brought out a chair and I sat behind his kitchen under a breadfruit tree, next to a pile of coconut husks, and an open fire pit used for cooking. Very tropical setting. I look 10 years younger, and well groomed once again. Right.

Sototale, John

Sun Sep 8 8:57 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w
Run: 2.2nm (4km)

0800 hrs 8 Sept 2019. You may have noticed that we moved from the eastern side of the lagoon to the western and back. That's because there was a front that moved through several days ago bringing strong westernlies. Our usual anchorage is good for all wind directions except westerlies. Lucky we moved. When the front come through, we had winds that spiked to 40 kts. Luckily the excitement was over in less than 5 minutes. Then it was like we were in the eye. No more big winds came through. Yesterday everything returned to SE trades and we moved back. Speaking of our anchorage. We have had this particular anchorage to ourselves since we arrived in Fulaga more than 2-month ago. It's a bit west of the places yachts traditionally go to. We feel like we have the whole island to ourselves since we don't see other yachts. There's even a separate trail to the village right from the anchorage. However, it's much more primitive and requires some climbing up and down rocks. I'm not comfortable trying that path yet, although we used it regularly before my injury. Not a smooth pathway like the main village path where ironically I slipped. Our anchorage (we think of it as ours since no one else uses it) is about a mile from the main village landing, so we can easily dingy to it. Speaking of the village path, yesterday I walked to and from the village for the first time completely drug free. Wasn't too bad, pain-wise. Last week a yacht arrived and for first time I heard there had been a volcano eruption in Tonga. Pumice has inundated the lagoon. It floats around individually and in small islands. Size ranges from marbles to fist. They're grey in colour, almost weightless, and can be crushed by squeezing it in your hand. The first time I saw it last week my initial thought was, "Where are all these turds coming from?" Then I heard another yacht on VHF radio talking about the volcano and how they had sailed through islands of it on the way to Fulaga. Said it sounded like the boat was sailing though rocks, but it cleaned the waterline. Speaking to villagers, they say this has happened before, and can take 1-2 years for the pumice to fully wash ashore. Because the lagoon is virtually fully enclosed, except for the small entrance through the reef, once the pumice gets inside it doesn't leave. The upside is it's good fertilizer - according to one villager I spoke with. Can be crushed and sprinkled throughout their small veggie gardens.

Today is Leilani's B-day. I'm not supposed to tell anyone, so don't say you heard it from me. To celebrate we're having our host for lunch. He is home alone as his wife is in Suva. Speaking of our host, in early August he went to Suva for his annual Jehova Wittness convention. Before leaving he threw us a party featuring a whole pig roasted in a lovo (underground oven). A number of our close village friends, along with couples from 4 other yachts, attended. It took place at a beautiful idyllic beach on one of the islands in the lagoon that could be a motion picture setting of what a South Pacific beach should look like. He did this for us last year, too. Because he was going to be gone one month, he didn't know if we would still be here when he returned. So he considered it a farewell party. We're still here, so I think we're going to get another pig feast when we actually do leave. I know one of his remaining pigs is not too happy we're still here.

Thank you to those who sent get-well wishes. I appreciate your kind thoughts. Sototale, John

Thu Sep 5 9:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 06.483s 178 34.809w
Run: 2.2nm (4km)

0800 hrs 5 September 2019. I'm back. I hear your groans all the way in remote Fulaga. Did you miss me? Maybe not. The reason for my absence is for the past 6-weeks I've been recovering from a Fulaga war wound. After I describe my terrible injury and painful recovery, you'll forgive me for not writing sooner. Maybe not. In the last week of July (I don't remember exact date), Leilani and I were walking the foot path from the dingy landing to the village. The path gradually rises up from the landing and about half way to the village you reach the summit. Then there is a gradual downhill to a flat that leads into the village. The path is tramped down sand & dirt wide enough for walking single file. Under normal conditions the village walk takes about 20 minutes. It had lightly rained the day before so the path was a bit damp. Just as we crossed over the summit, I slipped on the damp, slick path. My left foot shot out in front, my right leg crumpled under me so I initially fell in a squating position on top of my bent knee and then tumbled and rolled down the path calling out the whole way, "Oh sh-t, oh sh-t, oh sh-t." I knew right away I hurt my back. Once I came to a stop, Leilani had to help me stand. The pain in my low back was immediate and intense. It felt like someone stabbed me with a 12" butcher knife and it was still sticking in me. I was having a hard time breathing because of the pain. My right knee felt like it'd been clubbed with a baseball bat. In short I was in bad shape - to go along with being old and out of shape. Being the trooper I am, I hobbled bent over to the village. The first hut arriviing in the village is the nurse's aid station. Outside is a wooden bench - the waiting room. I sat, and the nurse immediately noticed something was wrong. I think it was the mud all over my clothes and body, and me continuing to mumble, "Oh sh-t, oh sh-t, oh sh-t." After describing my injury, she went into the hut and came back with some paracetamol tablets. I thought, bring me some real drugs. Like, is there any of the 38 kilos of cocaine found on the beach last year left over? Anyway, I took the paracetamol, shuffled back to the dingy taking twice as long as normal, returned to the boat, and starting downing codeine like it was candy. For the next 4-weeks I laid in bed or on the settee, popping codeine, applying ice packs, and rubbing voltaren cream on my back. During my entire recovery period Leilani took care of me by doing all the cooking, laundry, and cabin cleaning. This is compared to before my injury when she did all the cooking, laundry, and cabin cleaning. Hey, I did an oil change while recovering. I'm now on the mend. The last couple of weeks I've been swimming around the boat which is great therapy. I expect being able to make more regular posts in the future now that I'm off codeine. Maybe not.

Sototale, John

Wed Jul 24 12:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w

0800 hrs 24 July 2019. Yesterday, being Tuesday, was women?s weaving day in the main and adjoining villages. They meet in a community hut in each of the villages and weave with pandamus leaves, mostly large mats for their bures (huts), but decorative items like purses, fans, and turtles to send to Suva for sale. While women were doing that, the men who carve chipped, sawed, plained, and sanded creating their beautiful and intricate wood carvings to sell to the yachties that come to Fulaga, and send to Suva to sell in the tourist shops. We added to those activities by doing a bra, sunglasses, and children clothing giveaway. I know I mentioned in earlier posts that we had about 1000 bras, 6-700 sunglasses, and a large wardrobe of girls clothes donated by our friends, Billie, Kris and Craig. Leilani and our host, Bali, managed the bras and children clothing, and I and our other host Alifretti the sunglasses. It was so much fun seeing all the smiling faces after they took away their items. One of the ladies from the adjoining village invited us to lunch. I always have trepidations about going to lunch because I?m not a big Fiji cuisine fan. The biggest worry is how my digestive system will react. Many times it?s not a good reaction. After sitting on the floor and listening to my knees screaming at me not to fold them too much, and me telling them I couldn?t fold them if my life depended on it, our host put out several dishes that was our lunch. Two plates immediately had my stomach punching me in...well, the stomach, to be careful. One consisted of four very large plantains, bright yellow in colour that made a yellow canary look dull, submerged in water. When I tasted one, I was pleasantly surprised. They had been boiled in sugar water, and had a very nice sweet taste, and the consistency was like a soft banana. It could have been a dessert. The other suspect dish was land crab. Four were presented in their half shell with what looked like curdled coconut cream poured over them. They were smaller in size than my cupped palm. All the meat and body insides were extracted, then diced with onion, and put back in the half shell, smothered in coconut cream, and baked. I told myself to taste a bit, and if it didn?t agree with me, then I?d feign a heart attack or something as an excuse for not being able to finish. But, again, I was pleasantly surprised. The crab was delicious. In fact, I had two. Even Leilani, who is a more finicky eater, enjoyed the dish. The plantains and crab dishes showed you can?t always judge a taste by its looks. The remaining dishes consisted of ubiquitous cassava, which tastes like a boiled potato with no seasoning, and a spinach-like vegetable boiled in coconut milk with bits of fish, which was not bad tasting, but I wouldn?t order it in a restaurant. There were also home baked buns. As if the luncheon wasn?t enough, we were invited into the community hut where the women were weaving, and presented with two large baskets (made of palm leaves) full of papayas, bananas, plantains, sugar cane (which I didn?t know was grown in Fulaga), oranges, husked coconuts, and a large lobster. In addition, Leilani was presented with a beautifully woven basket-purse, and three woven fans. Finally, we received a small replica of a traditional Fijian war club with intricately carved designs. The ladies told us that it was their ?thank you? to us for our ?generous gifts?. I can tell you, we felt their gifts far outweighed in value whatever we gave them. Their gesture brought tears to Leilani?s eyes and a lump in my throat. I?m always sensitive to the fact that all food items have to be caught, collected, grown, and/or harvested before any can be prepared to be eaten. Certainly not as convenient as popping down to the local grocery store and simply buying it. Fulaga is truly a subsistence fishing and farming society. Yesterday was why we love Fulaga and see no reason to leave.

Sototale, John

Mon Jul 15 8:39 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w
Weather: 0700 15 July 2019. Presently 100% cloud cover. Had light rain off & on last night, and it looks threatening right now, but not presently raining. Wind was E-ENE 10-15 last night. Presently ENE 15. Baro 1010 - dropped 5 hpa since yesterday.

0700 15 July 2019. Yesterday's birthday party was a Fijian feast. Vegetarians can skip this next part. A pig was slaughtered and fixed three ways. Fortunately this was done before we arrived. The fact a pig was slaughtered meant the meal was a big event. One part was slow roasted in a lovo (buried underground over hot stones - a method found throughout north and south pacific islands). Another part was slow boiled in a curry sauce. And finally, a part was simmered in a barbecue-like sauce. All were delicious. In addition we had fish in coconut milk (a staple), nama (aka sea grapes - a type of seaweed that are tiny berries), spinach in coconut milk, and two root starches- casava and dalo, both of which taste like cardboard. Leilani made the only palangi (white person) food - macaroni salad with canned tuna, shredded carrot, and canned peas. All this was finished off with a birthday cake. There were 10 of us at the party, with Leilani, me, and one other yachty being the only non-Fijians. The party was for the school prinicipal's wife, her 33rd. An unusual difference from our western birthday custom is "Happy Birthday" is sung before the start of the meal, not when the cake is brought out. In true Fijian generosity, we and the other yachty were given left-over pig to take with us. Guess what tonight's dinner is.

I'm always a bit uncomfortable taking food, whether it be at the table or away. I always take small helpings, and try resisting accepting food to take back to the boat. The latter is not always successful because the villagers can be quite insistent. The people here, as at other isolated areas, are subsistence fishermen and farmers. They work extremely hard to feed themselves. Virtually everyday they go out fishing to put protein on the table, and have very limited veggies and starch items. While their custom is to be extremely generous, this sometimes is misinterpreted by some yachties as an invitation to ask, ask, ask for food items. Not all yachties are like this. But there are enough instances to show some yachties do not understand the subsistence lifestyle and the effort it takes villagers to feed themselves. For instance, some yachties actually put in an order for food items to be delivered, such as coconut crab (which is an endangered species), papaya, sweet potato, eggs like they were going through a McDonalds drive-thru. There is a small store in one of the villages that stocks very basic staples like potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, eggs, all of which come in on the rusty, leaky cargo boat every 4-6 weeks. It's their only source of supplies other than what they can catch and grow. Some yachties land here, find out about the store, and buy out the store supplies as if they're at a supermarket. And this is knowing that in a very short time they will be back someplace that actually has a supermarket. I wish they would show a bit more restraint in taking the villagers' supplies. As a fellow yachty it's embarrassing and disconcerting to see this happen. Okay, that's enough preaching.

Last year, spending almost 4 months here, it rained about two times. This past week it has been drizzling off and on, not quite daily, but almost. In fact it's drizzling right now. Not pouring down rain like in Savusavu. But enough drizzle to make it difficult for leilani to do laundry. I'm running short of underwear. I know, TMI.

Sototale, John

Sun Jul 14 8:18 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w

0700 hrs 14 July 2019. It's been a week since we arrived. The first couple of days were spent cleaning the boat iinside and out, converting the interior from passage making mode to living mode, installing all the cockpit sunshades, putting the dingy in the water, mounting the engine and fuel tank, and generally getting ourselves comfortably enscounced in our little corner of paradise. Although there were heaps of ICA boats in the village landing anchorage, we laid down anchor in a small cove no one else knew about. It has been delightful to be off by ourselves. There's a path from our anchorage to the village that is little used. Of course, it is substantially more difficult to traverse than from the main landing. In fact, we had to ask one of the villagers to mark the path with tape so we didn't get lost in the thick jungle never to be seen again. Today we've been invited by one of our village family friends to the wife's birthday lunch party after church. The operative word is "after". No, we are not attending church. During our first Falaga visit three years ago we attended a church service. That was enough to last me a lifetime. Leilani has made a nice dish of food to bring as our contribution. Last year we attended a couple of lunches hosted by this same family. Based on those, one thing we can expect is about five different dessert dishes. Yes, sugar is one of the main food groups enjoyed by islanders.

The weather has been a bit blustery most of last week. Winds in the high teens to low twenties. Next week the forecast is for much calmer conditions. So, on Tuesday, we're planning to unload our cargo that's taken up the entire aft cabin, including 1000 bras, 700 sunglasses, and a whole wardrobe of beautiful children's clothes donated by our friends Chris, Craig, and Billie Hughes. The clothes are those outgrown by Billie. We also have a sundry of my old clothes (that I, too, have outgrown), pots and pans, plastic food containers, baby clothes Leilani bought from Trademe for a couple of newborns we learned about while in New Zealand, and miscellaneous bits and bobs. For transport to carry everything for the 20 minute hike from the landing to the village we are lining up a caravan of, and drivers for, the only longhaul vehicles in the village: wheelbarrows. I'm estimating about 5 should do it. Whatever doesn't fit, and isn't too heavy, we'll carry in backpacks. Leilani and the wife of our host couple will organise the bra and clothes giveaway. I and the husband of our host couple will do the sunglass giveaway. These are always fun events. Sort of like a Black Friday sale, but much more civilised - no one punches, shoves, scratches, gouges, or shoots anyone trying to get their share.

Now for breakfast and to get ready for the B-day party.

Sototale (see you later), John

Mon Jul 8 19:18 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.375s 178 34.533w
Run: 138.1nm (250km)

1600 hrs 8 July 2019. Finally! We arrived in Falaga this morning at the pass at 0915, and had our anchor down one hour later. All total it was a 24 hr trip, mostly motor sailing because the wind was SE virtually the whole way, with only a few hours of ESE. Fortunatly it was relatively light averaging 15 kts. When we arrived at the village landing there were 12 ICA boats anchored. Looking for more solitude, we are at an anchorage all by ourselves we discovered last year.

Getting to the village was like a homecoming. As we walked the trail from the landing to the village we passed villagers who all remembered us and gave a big welcome hug. Same when we entered the village. They came running out of their bures to greet us in their warm, friendly Fijian way - hugs and bula vinakas all around. After doing sevusevu with the new chief, who remembered us from prior years, we went to see our host. He heard we were coming and collected some oranges, and a delicacy only a few yachties have enjoyed - a humongous mud crab. Leilani will post pictures on facebook when we get internet next. Mud crabs have an unfortunate name. IMHO they are far more delicious than lobster. Because we are too tired today to prepare it for dinner tonight, it will be the main course tomorrow. All in all, we are very happy to be here once again.

Cheer, John

Sat Jul 6 7:27 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 10.986s 179 00.076w
Weather: As at 0700 hrs: 40% cloud cover. Wind E 5kts. Baro 1013. This is inside Nabuvatu Bay. Wind in the bay will be considerably less than outside. Day looks llike it will develop into a fine, clear one.

0700 hrs 6 Julyl 2019. Four ICA boats left yesterday morning, They were replaced in the afternoon with two non-ICA boats, and one ICA boat. One of the boats is Rebell who is a veteran of the Minerva Reef Yacht Club with us. Had sundowners with them on their boat last evening. Still looking for weather window to go to Falaga. Currently there are mixed reports. As of yesterday's forecasts, Gulf Harbour Radio (GHR) and the European model (EC) were saying Monday-Tuesday are going to be NE 10kts. If so, that is perfect. However the US model (GFS) says E to SE, but light about 10 kts. That direction is not as good, but strength would be manageable.. We tend to trust GHR and unless there is a dramatic change today or tomorrow, we will be going Monday morning. Stay tuned.

Cheers John

Thu Jul 4 17:54 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 10.986s 179 00.076w
Weather: All day clear sky with only a couple of passing episodes of light sprinkle. Currently clear skies have yielded to 80% cloud cover. Starting to sprinkle again. Wind 5-8kt E-ESE. Baro 1012. This is weather inside Nabuvatu Bay. Have no idea what it's like outside.

1630 hrs 4 July 2019. After having the bay to ourselves all day, within the last hour, like bad pennies, 4 ICA boats returned. Glad we're not at the Bay of Islands where the vast horde of them are. However, rally boats like to be close to one another. So we moved to another part of the bay. With them congregated on the other side of bay, I feel much safer. Didn't do much except rest and read and rest. In that order. Leilani pressured cooked a whole chicken, and de-boned it so we can several meals from it. Tonight is Tex-Mex night - enchiladas - chicken, of course. Ole! Cheers John

Wed Jul 3 17:27 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 10.986s 179 00.076w
Run: 113.6nm (205.6km)

1630 hrs 3 June 2019. Imagine being anchored is a beautiful fiord-like bay surrounded by 100 mtr high cliffs filled with warm emerald green water that matches the cliff-clinging trees, and all of it sun drenched from a clear blue sky. Now imagine being the only yacht there. Well family and friends and jealous yachties, that's where we are. Woke up this morning around 0700 and found the 4 left-over ICA yachts gone. There we were, sitting in the middle of Nabuvatu Bay all by ourselves. And it's been that way all day. This is exactly what I come to Fiji for. Having a bay all to myself. Okay, there was one other boat. But that belonged to Tony, who owns the planatation that sits atop the cliffs. He also owns the Copra Shed in Savusavu, and Vuda Point Marina on the west side of Viti Levu. He has a small work party of about 3-4 guys from a village several miles away working on the water-side "yacht club" that was destroyed a few years ago in cyclone Winston. Other than that, we have the whole bay to ourselves.

There was one visitor today: the Fiji Navy. The patrol boat roared in hailing us on the radio. They were very polite, wanting to verify we are properly checked into the country. After asking us questions over the radio, and satisfied we have complied with all requirements to visit, they wished us a pleasant stay in Fiji, and left. After putting the dingy in the water, I had to take a nap to recover from the strenuous exercise. Hey, it takes about an hour to lift the dingy off the deck, load the fuel tank, and mount the engine. After the nap, I jumped into the water. It was as pleasurable as a Geisha gently massaging my whole body with the finest first pressed olive oil. Guys, I know you know what I mean. Then I scrubbed the boat's waterline.

Being the only one here, do I put on the anchor light? That question reminds me of a similarly perplexing one: "If no one is around, does a tree make a sound when it falls?" Cheers, John

Mon Jul 1 7:52 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 46.698S 179 20.015E

0745 hrs 1 July 2019. Finally! After a month, a weather window to leave Savusavu and head east. We're going to Vanua Balavu, the northernmost Lau island. From there, we have a much better opportunity to sail to Falaga which is due south from there. All we have to do is wait for easterly winds around 15 kts. However, looking at the weather forecast out a week, there will be strong (18-23kt) easterlies, and then SE winds. SE winds are not good because they will be too much in the face. This year has been very difficult wind strength and wind direction-wise to get to Falaga. But we'll carry on and eventually get there. The trip to Vanua Balavu is 110nm and should take around 18 hrs. We'll leave mid-afternoon today, and arrive tomorrow morning. Forecast is for very light winds, so it looks like a motoring trip. That's it for now. Time to get boat ready to untie from the dock. Cheers, John

Tue Jun 11 17:18 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 46.698s 179 20.015e

1500 hrs 11 June 2019. You must be wondering, what the heck are we doing since I last reported our arrival in Savusavu on 2 June. We're doing was cruisers do most: sailing from port to port to buy parts. Since arriving I noticed our house batteries would charge up, but would not hold the charge. As it turned out, I made a calculated mistake by trying to massage another cruising season out of them. They're 8 years old. While that's a good run, the mistake not replacing them in NZ is costing us about 40% more to purchase the batteries here. They've been ordered from Nadi, the western side of Fiji (we're on the eastern side). I expect them to arrive via ferry probably early next week. And that's why we're still in Savusavu. Fortunately the batteries are Trojan T-105's, a model that is available pretty much throughout the world. I need six of them. In order to protect Fiji's own battery production, US made Trojans attract a 30% import duty. So much for free-trade agreements. Other than food shopping, and eating out at the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we haven't been doing too much else. The weather hasn't been exactly flash. Been raining a lot. That makes for hot, humid days and nights. My sweat glands have been working overtime. The hatch and companionway mosquito netting I bought in NZ has been great. Around 5pm every evening we put them up, and don't have to spray the boat with repellent. Can sleep throughout the night without mosquitos buzzing our ears and us slapping ourselves silly while half-asleep. Of all the years I did that, I don't think I ever hit one mosquito. But I woke up looking like I went the distance with Mohammed Ali. If you'd like to communicate with us, we have internet. So you can send us emails to our land email addresses.

Sototale (see you later). John

Mon Jun 3 9:45 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 46.698s 179 20.015e
Run: 42.1nm (76.2km)

0900 hrs 3 June 2019. We're here. Arrived Savusavu 1600 hrs yesterday, 2 June 2019. You can let out that breath you've been holding for the trip statistics. Here they are: OVERALL NZ - FIJI TRIP STATISTICS Distance - 1256nm Time - 220.25 hrs - 9 days 4.25 hrs Engine On - 95.5 hrs - 3 days 23.5 hrs Average Speed - 5.7 kts (including slowing down to arrive Minerva & Savusavu at correct time) NZ - MINERVA LEG STATISTICS Distance - 829nm Time - 142.5 hrs - 5 days 22.5 hrs Engine On - 42.5 hrs - 1 day 18 hrs Average speed - 5.8 kts MINERVA - FIJI LEG STATISTICS Distance - 427nm Time - 77.75 hrs - 3 days 5.75 hrs Engine On - 53 hrs - 2 days 4.8 hrs Average Speed - 5.5 kts SEA LIFE STATISTICS - No dolphins sighted. One flying fish on deck. No fish caught.

The whole trip actually lasted 19 days because of the 10 days spent in Minerva waiting out storms produced by tropical depressions roaming around.

MOST AMAZING STATISTIC OF ALL: Thoughout the entire 1256 nm trip we never once took a wave onto the boat. This was the most benign passage from NZ to Fiji ever. The major factor for this was Gulf Harbour Radio.

In that regard, Leilani and I want to give a big thank-you to David & Patricia of Gulf Harbour Radio. Their comments about the weather (they don't give advice) helped us determine weather windows, and avoid sailing in the tropical depression weather. We encountered several yachts first hand, and heard about others, who did not heed their comments, and they paid the price by being caught out in horrendously awful weather. If you're sailing in the S. Pacific, you should be listening to GHR regularly. And if you're a regular listener, you might want to give a voluntary donation to help defray equipment cost and internet and electic charges incurred by GHR to provide their invaluable service. Go to their website for info on how to make a donation. Again, thank you David & Patricia.

Bula Vinaka John

Sun Jun 2 7:54 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 21.448s 179 31.898e
Run: 84.8nm (153.5km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 160.3nm

0730 hrs 2 June 2019. Good morning to our last day at sea. Last night was exhausting. We actually had to stay awake during each of our 3-hour watches. Since we were in the midst of islands, and potential other traffic, we couldn't even catch catnaps as we do at sea. Additionally we had to constantly monitor our speed to arrive on time. It's actually easier to sail at sea than around land. In any event, we'll be in Savusavu by 1600.

Bonaire trailed us throughout the night and continues to follow. Actually, they've been with us since leaving Minerva. First time we've had another yacht sail along during a passage. Normally we don't see anyone.

Yes, there's still no air. Yes, we continue to motor, and will do so all the way in. At least it's not blowing 30 kts like at Minerva.

Next post will be from the dock - with our all important and always interesting passage statistics. I can hear you holding your breath all the way out here. One statistic to hold you over: no sealife, porpoise or flying fish, spotted. Sad. Cheers, John

Sat Jun 1 19:12 2019 NZST
GPS: 18 34.093s 179 44.341e
Run: 71.2nm (128.9km)
Avg: 6.1knts
24hr: 145.4nm

1800 hrs 1 June 2019. Welcome to our last night at sea. ETA Savusavu is tomorrow afternoon at 1600 hrs. We are keeping the boat at about 5.2 kts so we arrive no sooner and possibly incur overtime charges should the officials wish to come early afternoon. With very light 5-7 kts winds, and motoring, it's relatively easy to control our speed. We've been motoring since 1500 hrs yesterday. Will be glad to get in and turn off the engine.

Dragged two fishing lines through the Koro Sea for 9 hours today. Sadly no fresh sashimi. Will try again tomorrow. For the astute naigators among you, you'll notice we are back in the eastern hemisphere, having crossed the E-W longitude meridan very early this morning. So we're back to today from yesterday, with tomorrow coming soon, which until recently would have been today.

See you in Savusavu. Cheers John

Sat Jun 1 7:27 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 34.347s 179 59.117e
Run: 81.6nm (147.7km)
Avg: 7.3knts
24hr: 174.1nm
Weather: 0700 hrs 1 June 2019. Beautiful sunny morning. Wind, 3-5 kts NE. Sea flat. Cloud cover 30% with big cumulus clouds all around on horizon. Baro 1012 having fallen from 1015 in last 24 hrs.

0700 hrs 1 June 2019. While the weather has been exceedingly calm, we've had an otherwise eventful last six hours. At 0100 this morning, Leilani spotted a vessel that turned out to be a stealth Asian fishing vessel. I say stealth because it didn't have AIS, and wouldn't answer my radio call. I say fishing because it had a large white spot ight swinging around. I say Asian vessel because they are the only ones that would have been that far out of Fiji waters. At 0500 Leilani spotted another fishing boat, but this time someone actually answered my radio call. Definitely Asian. Hardly understandable, but he acknowledged seeing me, and said he would turn starboard to pass port-to-port. I really hate meeting them at night because you never know (and can't see) if they have long nets trailling right across our path. In any event, all went well.

Second event was right after sunrise, at 0630, I got to sing out all mariners' favourite call - Land Ho! I spotted the southern Fiji island of Matuku at 25 miles away on our port bow. It would have been seen sooner, but not in the dark,. The next island we'll see will be Totoya, on our starboard bow.

It's been a long trip, but we're finally in Fiji waters. It feels like we have arrived home. Copra Shed, the marina facitility in Savusavu, has a berth reserved for us. The same one we always get whenever we are there. Leilani over the past years has showered the manager with gifts, so she pretty much gives us what we ask for. And all the workers there know us, and are probably looking forward to the cakes Leilani makes for them. We've asked that Siterie, the laundry lady, put aside all her washing machines because we have heaps of dirty clothes. Peo and Siti, the two dock helpers will be waiting to help us tie up on the berth. Yes, it does feel like homecoming.

Cheers John

Fri May 31 20:12 2019 NZST
GPS: 20 43.050s 179 42.506w
Run: 74.3nm (134.5km)
Avg: 5.9knts
24hr: 141.5nm

1900 hrs 31 May 2019. Today was a mixed bag of sailing and now motoring. Had superlative sailing conditions up to 1500. The wind was slowly melting away and it finally was not enough to maintain speed above 4 kts. We have a 4 kt rule: if boat speed drops below that, the motor comes on. I know there are purists who will sail no matter how slow. But I subscribe to the idea that weather comes in patterns: good is followed by bad is followed by good, etc. While it might seem good to bob around sailing 2-3 kts, but sooner or later, you will get run over by the bad. So when it gets slow going, I put the peddle to the meddle and get going to wherever I'm going before the bad arrives. The downside is not being hypnotised by the sound of water streaming by, and the woosh of air propelling the boat along. Instead it's the deadening drone of the engine. Oh well, at least I'll get in before the storm arrives. Our goal is to arrive in Savusavu between 1600 & 1700 Sunday. Even though that is after hours for official check-in, and would be subject to overtime charges, the check-in officials will not come to the boat at that time. They're not going to interrupt their Sunday evening family time just to fill out papers with some yachtie. So we'll sit on the dock at the Copra Shed until Monday morning when the officials show up. And since that will be during normal check-in time, no overtime charge. Now that the motor is on, it is much easier regulating our speed so we arrive at the correct time. If we arrive too early, the officials could come to the boat, even though it's a Sunday. Arrive too late, and it's dark. So we have to arrive juuuuuust right.

It's definitely warmer. I'm now sailing shirtless and in shorts only. I love the tropics. And with that, I'll send this and get back to my watch. Cheers John

Fri May 31 7:36 2019 NZST
GPS: 21 45.544s 179 25.233w
Run: 79.3nm (143.5km)
Avg: 6.4knts
24hr: 154.7nm

0715 hrs 31 May 2019. Okay, here we go again. We had a perfect night of sailing with beam or slightly aft of beam ESE 10-15 kts winds, and SE 1.5 mtr swell. Yacht Bonaire is abut 3 nm to our starboard, and well in sight. She left about an hour after we did and caught up throughout the night. It's a much fast 16mtr yacht, so that was expected. Another, Anahada is over the horizon headed for Suva. Sunday is our ETA. It's just a matter of what time of the day. Our average speed up to now has been 5.5 kts, so if that continues it will be late Sunday. I'm on my watch, so it's time to catch up on sleep - ha ha ha. Cheers John

Thu May 30 19:18 2019 NZST
GPS: 22 52.445s 179 07.500w
Run: 55.2nm (99.9km)

1900 hrs 30 May 2019. We departed Minerva Reef at 1030 this morning. Since then the weather has been magic S. Pacific tradewind sailing: SE 10-15 kts, seas have decreased steadly from 2 mts to 1 mtr, and we're ghosting along at a stately 5.6 kts average. There is no moon or clouds, so the stars are out in all their glory. When you look up at the uncountable twinklings, you fully understand how insignificant we are. This is the kind of night that poet sailors have waxed on about down through the ages. Not being a poet, and barely a sailor, I am wholly unequipped to adequately describe the existential beauty of it all. To say it is beautiful is an understatement like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground, or the Mona Lisa is a nice picture. To say it's awe inspiring is just too cliche. It transcends awe inspiring as Mt. Everest transcends a child's sand castle at the beach. I feel priviledged to be a witness to it all. I hope we have a couple of more nights like this before we reach Fiji. Cheers John

Wed May 29 10:54 2019 NZST

0830 29 May 2019. This is our last post from N. Minerva Reef. We depart first thing tomorrow morning for Savusavu, Fiji. It's about 425 nm and will take about 72 hr, give or take. Weather is forecast to be light ESE winds, 10-15 kts. when we depart. If so, that's perfect. We're expecting light winds the whole trip, and will probably be doing some motoring. I'll post as we proceed so you can keep up with us.

Today, in fact right now, there is 0.0kts of wind, the entire lagoon looks like a mirror, and the water is so clear we can see our anchor chain laying out in about 13 mts of water almost to the anchor, and we have 70 mts of chain out. What a difference to the several days of 30-34 kts winds, and many other days of 25-28 kts after we first arrived 10 days ago. Where once we had 22 vessels here, over the last 3 days many have left. About half are going to Tonga, and the rest to Fiji. There are 3 boats (including us) leaving tomorrow for Fiji. A couple of Tonga boats left today, and probably the last will leave to tomorrow. Then the reef will be empty awaiting the new arrivals.

Last night we had our last N. Minerva Reef Yacht Club radio trivia game. I hosted the questions on Fiji history and culture. I took the information from the unimpeachable history book titled, Lonely Planet Fiji. Hey, when you're sitting in the middle of the ocean, it's tough getting to a better stocked library. All up we had 4 trivia nights, and they were enjoyed by all. BTW, the most interesting question / answer was: The Guinness Book of World Records names Ratu (Chief) Udreudre as the holder of the record for most people eaten - 872. Don't know how that was confirmed. Maybe Hannibal Leichter and Jeffrey Dahlmer might contest it.

On that yummy note, I will get back to work on my tan, and await lunch. Leg-of-man anyone? Cheers, John

Mon May 27 11:48 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0800 hrs 27 May 2019. Sorry about missing a post yesterday. I tried all day to send using my Winlink program with no success. Also tried this morning with same result. I believe there is something wrong with Winlink. Anyway, I?m sending this via Leilani?s Iridium Go program. Nothing like having backup programs to send/receive emails. Yesterday the wind was up and down between 20 & 26 kts. This morning so far, the wind is the lightest since arriving, around 14 - 17 kts. It?s supposed to come down through the week. Latest weather forecast calls for possible departures on Thursday or Friday. Will confirm that as the week progresses. This morning a single-handing lady on Careena called for help to enter Minerva. She sustained damage in the horrendous weather the last few days coming up from New Zealand. Her headsail curling system is broken so she can?t fully take down her headsail. She also ran out of water as her watermaker broke and couldn?t replace the small water capacity in her tank. She wanted help to come through the pass, and put someone on board with water and help drive the boat while she takes down the headsail so she can anchor. Of course, vessels jumped up to offer assistance as you?d expect. Two vessels are meeting her at the pass, and by dinghy, will put two people on her boat. Fortunately, conditions are ideal for her arrival: light winds, sunny skies, and low water, making the entrance boundary clearly visible. Never a dull moment. For the last two evenings the N Minerva and S Minerva Cruisers Association has held radio Trivial Pursuit games. What happens is a host boat picks a subject, asks the questions then gives multiple choice answers. At the end, answers are given, and kudos given to the winner. The first one was on the history on the Minerva reefs. It was very informative. For instance, after Tonga and Fiji argued over ownership, including blowing up lighthouses each would construct, Tonga finally won ownership recognition through international consensus. Then Tonga, being the ever shrewd bargainer, offered to trade the reefs for the Lau Group. Fiji declined and both countries have since fallen into mutual recognition of their territorial rights. Last night I hosted the Trivial Pursuit game on seamanship trivia. Tonight, another yacht is hosting on the subject of Polynesia. Our stop has not only been relaxing, it?s also been educational. That brings you up to date. Stay tuned for further adventures in paradise. Cheers, John

Mon May 27 11:45 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0800 hrs 27 May 2019. Sorry about missing a post yesterday. I tried all day to send using my Winlink program with no success. Also tried this morning with same result. I believe there is something wrong with Winlink. Anyway, I?m sending this via Leilani?s Iridium Go program. Nothing like having backup programs to send/receive emails. Yesterday the wind was up and down between 20 & 26 kts. This morning so far, the wind is the lightest since arriving, around 14 - 17 kts. It?s supposed to come down through the week. Latest weather forecast calls for possible departures on Thursday or Friday. Will confirm that as the week progresses. This morning a single-handing lady on Careena called for help to enter Minerva. She sustained damage in the horrendous weather the last few days coming up from New Zealand. Her headsail curling system is broken so she can?t fully take down her headsail. She also ran out of water as her watermaker broke and couldn?t replace the small water capacity in her tank. She wanted help to come through the pass, and put someone on board with water and help drive the boat while she takes down the headsail so she can anchor. Of course, vessels jumped up to offer assistance as you?d expect. Two vessels are meeting her at the pass, and by dinghy, will put two people on her boat. Fortunately, conditions are ideal for her arrival: light winds, sunny skies, and low water, making the entrance boundary clearly visible. Never a dull moment. For the last two evenings the N Minerva and S Minerva Cruisers Association has held radio Trivial Pursuit games. What happens is a host boat picks a subject, asks the questions then gives multiple choice answers. At the end, answers are given, and kudos given to the winner. The first one was on the history on the Minerva reefs. It was very informative. For instance, after Tonga and Fiji argued over ownership, including blowing up lighthouses each would construct, Tonga finally won ownership recognition through international consensus. Then Tonga, being the ever shrewd bargainer, offered to trade the reefs for the Lau Group. Fiji declined and both countries have since fallen into mutual recognition of their territorial rights. Last night I hosted the Trivial Pursuit game on seamanship trivia. Tonight, another yacht is hosting on the subject of Polynesia. Our stop has not only been relaxing, it?s also been educational. That brings you up to date. Stay tuned for further adventures in paradise. Cheers, John

Sat May 25 11:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0930 25 May 2019. Boats are like living things. When everything is working, and the boat is moving as it should, the crew will know it and feel at ease. However, it there is a new, strange noise, or the boat moves unnaturally, the crew will immediately know, and jump up from wherever they are and dash around to determine the cause. Of course, problems usually happen in the middle of a black, dark, night, howling wind, pouring rain, and choppy, bouncy seas causing the boat to hobby-horse. That's what happened to us at 0100 last night. Both of us were sound asleep when we heard a loud bang, and the boat started to vibrate. I leaped out of my bunk in my sleeping attire and charged topsides. I immediately made my way to the bow to check the anchor system was holding. Confirming all good there, I returned to the cockpit and noticed horrible vibration. Quickly surveying the wind generator, which was spinning full speed in the wind, it was obvious one of the three blades was missing. I got the generator turned away from the wind, and sure enough one blade was gone. While climbing up on the top of the stern rail to reach the generator with a rope to tie off the the remaining blades, I accidentally hit the Iridium GO antenna, breaking the plastic cover off, exposing the actual antenna inside. Murphy's Law.

Being a well stocked sea-going yacht, I have necessary repair items. For the generator, I have 6 spare blades, so I can make two sets of blade changes (all 3 blades need to be changed simultaneously to remain balanced). Due to the bouncy conditions at Minerva, I will wait until I get to Fiji to make the repair. The blades are the same ones that were on the boat when I bought the boat 10 years ago. So they are over ten years old. Over time the sun and salt enviornment degrades the blade material. Coupling that with all the high winds we have had over these past 4 days, I believe the blade simply broke off. I discount it having been hit by a bird (which can sometimes happen) because I haven't seen any birds here since arriving. Although it could have been a flying fish.

The Iridium GO is our satellite modum used to text, and send & receive email with our computers. So it was essential I repair the antenna. For that repair, I have heaps of a general repair kit no yacht should leave the dock without: duct tape. I taped the cover back on and it works great. Once in Fiji, I may look to make a more permanent fix by using underwater epoxy putty to glue the cover on.

With the boat essentially well again, there is a good chance we will leave for Fiji tomorrow. Virtually all the boats here are of the same mind. We'll wait for a final weather report tomorrow morning just to confirm no negative change.

Now I'm going to catch up on all the sleep I lost last night. Cheers, John

Fri May 24 11:03 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w

1000 hrs 24 May 2019. Throughout yesterday winds were E 26-29 kts. Around 1800 hrs they piped up to sustained 30-34 kts for more than an hour. Then back down to an average of 28 kts throughout the rest of the night. This morning we awoke to (relatively) balmy 22-24 kts. Weather forecast has winds slowly coming down over next couple of days. According to this morning's Gulf Harbour Radio forecast, Sunday may be a do-able time to sail to Fiji. We're keeping an eye on this.

Yesterday afternoon we had another 2 arrivals; one yacht, and a Tongan navy vessel - which could very well be the entire Tongan navy. Interestingly, both left this morning. I could almost understand the navy vessel leaving. But the yacht? It turned out it had arrived from Tonga, stopped here overnight, and is going to S. Minerva today for a few days, and then on to New Zealand. That's right, going the wrong way for this time of year. Glad I'm not on that boat. Had the inaugural N. Minerva Reef cruisers net this morning. It turned out to be very informative. Got some good info on a couple of navigation apps I've never heard of. As soon as we get to Fiiji, and internet, we're going to download them. For our cruiser readers, they are: OVITALMAP, and Atlas of Fiji for Mariners. The former is world-wide cover, and the latter only Fiji. They come highly recommended and endorsed by several members of the NMRCN. What more authoritative source than the NMRCN is there? One other app mentioned was Orbit. It tracks in real time the position of the Iridium Go satellites relative to your location, so you know when they are overhead. That can be valuable to know so you can maximise download effectiveness of your IG.

One yachty on the net asked if anyone wanted to dive the pass today. Another noted in these conditions, and the fact throughout the day the tide is going out, if they dived, they'd probably end up in New Caledonia. I believe there was a re-think on diving the pass.

That's it for today. Stay tuned for further adventures at N. Minerva Reef. Cheers, John

Thu May 23 11:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w

1030 23 May 2019. The dominant issue continues to be weather. Whether and when the weather will moderate. Since yesterday and up to now, and what looks to continue through tomorrow we have 25-29 kts E winds. Has gusted to 33 kts. During low tide, when the reef is exposed and blocks the incoming surf and surge, the boat sits comfortably still, only sailling around on the anchor chain because of the wind. High tide is a different matter. The water surges over the reef causing very choppy conditions and the boat bobs, sways, jolts, and rocks around as if at sea. After 3 days of these conditions, we are used to it. Forecasts don't show much of a break in the weather until after the weekend. I guess there are worse places to be. Give me a moment and I'll come up with a few.

Since yesterday, our community has grown by 4, to a total of 23 yachts. The 3 who came in yesterday and 1 today all got thrashings in the horrible weather conditions. They would have all left 2 - 3 days after we did. At that time the weather forecasts would all have shown conditions to be unfavourable to depart NZ. One has to wonder whether the yachts were actually watching the weather. We know of one more yacht trying to make Minerva. Yesterday at 1600 hrs it was 180 nm S of us and taking a beating. We have been told conditiions were so bad the yacht hove-to (meaning it stopped its progress and is essentially drifting). It's a heavy weather technique to wait out storms at sea, give the crew a rest, and minimise possibility of boat damage. Unfortunately conditions will not be improving until after tomorrow. I really feel sorry for them. As we who go to sea all know, but for the grace of Neptune, there goes us.

Tomorrow one of the yachts is starting the N. Minerva Cruiser's Net. Cruiser's radio nets are popular in many places where yachties congregate. The moderator gives weather, social, and any other kind of announcements that would be of interest to the yachts. On some nets, there is a "buy-sell-trade" section. Leilani realised she hard boiled all our eggs. Now she wishes she had saved a few raw ones to make a cake or brownies. So tomorrow she is going to offer to trade hard boiled eggs for raw ones, but only if they will deliver. I'm hoping to find out where the lobsters are hiding.

Again, with no opportunity to get off the boat, it's reading, movies, and nappiing on our crowded agenda. Cheers John

Wed May 22 9:09 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0830 22 May 2019. Last night can be described in one word: wild. Throughout yesterday winds were SE 18-20kts. Looking back now that was downright calm. Last night sometime before midnight winds went E and blasted up to 30-32kts. The boat rocked and rolled as if still at sea. Wait a minute. We are at sea. With the sun this morning the winds have come down a bit to 25-26 kts. Latest weather report has it this way for next two days. Doesn't look like anyone is leaving until early next week. The weather was so wild last night, and the water in the lagoon so choppy, this morning I found a flying fish on the deck. The first and only one this season to gasp its last breath on our boat. Amazing. We sail 840 miles without one landing on the deck. And then at anchor one jumps aboard. Or maybe it was blown aboard. Another amazing fact, we sailed 840 miles without any water coming onto the deck. Last night the deck became awash with spray from the winds blowing water horizontally across the boat. With everything wet on deck, tt looks like we sailed through a storm.

I'm always amused, intrigued, or downright mystified by names people give their vessels. Today I heard one that has become a favourite. It belongs to a yellow catamaran here named, Banana Split. It makes me chuckle just saying it. I love it. She's owned by a Frenchman who has cruised on her for 45 years. That is not a misprint. He says his girlfriend of 40 years doesn't like doing passages. So she flies home to Paris and returns when he gets to a port. Maybe that's why their relationship has lasted so long. Banana Split - chuckle, chuckle. No reef walking today. Looks like another movie day, some reading, and of course, keeping up my napping muscle memory training. Cheers John

Tue May 21 14:39 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617S 178 53.599W

1100 hrs 21 May 2019. Second day in Minerva. Our little community has grown to 19 yachts, all snugly bobbing in wavelets washing over the reef in 20kts of E breeze. Actually it's quite comfortable. Our boat is moving just enough to remind us we are anchored in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. We've tossed around more at our marina berth. The only down side today is it's clouded over so the weather is a bit dour with no sun. But as the saying goes, the worst day anchored in the middle of the ocean is better than the best day at the office. Of course, that onlyl applies until the worst day actually shows up. Speaking of which, the weather looks like it will keep us here through the weekend. The tropical depression persists in milling around N of Fiji. Weather models differ as to its future track. One shows the TD moving eastward and thus missing our vicinity. Another shows it moving more southward coming close to us. At least forecasters are not as bad as politicians. Forecasters sometimes actually agree.

Because of brisk weather and bumpy sea, no one is putting their dingy in the water to go ashore to play. We've been watching movies, and doing a bit of reading. Later this afternoon, I might attempt the ever popular activity of napping. If I don't keep up with that regularly, I lose muscle memory. Cheers John

Mon May 20 12:51 2019 NZST
GPS: 23 38.617s 178 53.599w
Run: 77.2nm (139.7km)
Avg: 4.9knts
24hr: 118.8nm

Welcome to Minerva Reef. Remember from a post or two and a couple of hundred miles ago wherein I said I wanted to control boat speed so we would arrive at the pass as close to sunrise as possible? Well, we sailed right up to the entrance at 0700 just as the sun broke the horizon. Am I good, or what? Had a beautiful full moon night of sailing with 12-14 kt winds on the beam. As we turned up 30 degrees to head toward the pass, the wind magnamously backed 30 degrees so we could keep our beam reach. Yes, I guess I am good. This is our third trip to Minerva, I guess that makes us Minerva Reef veterans. The weather today was another perfect S. Pacific day of clear blue skies, just as clear blue water, balmy 13 kts wind, and comfortable anchorage. Comfortable for now, at least, until the bad weather hits, if it does. There are 13 boats here so far, but believe more are on the way. With a 2.5 x 3 mile lagoon, there is plenty of room for everyone. After 6 days at sea, we're enjoying our first day of true rest and relaxation without contorting our muscles with isometric energy to get around the vessel. We can actually walk the length of the boat without holding onto something. It's the little things that making landfall enjoyable; even if landfall is a reefed lagoon in the middle of the ocean with no land for hundreds of miles.

Speaking of bad weather, the latest from Gulf Harbour Radio is the tropical depression is still hanging out, but no one knows quite for sure where it will head. GHR suggests to stay in Minerva until further notice. Could be a couple of days, or week. That's cruising.

I know you all are waitiing with anxious anticipation for our trip statistics. So here they are: Arrived at Minerva Reef pass at 0700 hrs.

Anchor down 0830 (with 100 mtr of chain - we don't intend to drag in big winds) Total trip miles - 829 nm Total trip time - 142.5 hours (5 days, 22.5 hrs) Average speed - 5.8 kts (would have been higher except we had to moderate speed for arrival time.

Total engine run time - 42.5 hrs Dolphine sightings - 0 Flying fish sightings - 2 Now's time to catch up on all that lost sleep. Cheers John & Leilani

Sun May 19 21:15 2019 NZST
GPS: 24 32.700s 179 36.913w
Run: 74.5nm (134.8km)
Avg: 5.3knts
24hr: 127.3nm
Weather: 1815hrs 19 May 2019. Wind SE 12-14kts. Swell SSE 2 mtr. Cloud cover 30% cumulus. Baro 1016 steady. COG 026T SOG 6 kts.

This is last post until after we are anchored in North Minerva Reef tomorrow. Today was another superlative sailing day. Beam reaching in 12-14 kts wind, with boat speed consistently in 6-7 range, and even going into 8 kts. AG glided through the water like a curling stone over ice. It's going to be hard giving up that for sitting out a possible gale in Minerva. Latest weather reports are not encouraging. The tropical depression is still above Fiji and moving S slowly. Over next 72 hrs it could go SE and come close to Minerva. I'm sure I speak for everyone out here when I say I hope the weather people get this forecast wrong like they do so many others. I don't relish sitting in Minerva for several days in strong winds.

The more observant of you will notice a couple of things about our current position. First, we are above 25s latitude, so officially in tradewind territory. Second, we crossed the date line and are now in W longitude. Minerva is just over the line. Since we don't plan to be here long, we're not changing our calendar. We'll just pretend it's yesterday. Or is it tomorrow? Who knows, and who cares when you're sailing the salty seas.

With that, I'm going to catch some sleep until it's my turn on watch. Cheers John & Leilani

Sun May 19 7:12 2019 NZST
GPS: 25 30.819s 179 51.692e
Run: 82.5nm (149.3km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 157.1nm
Weather: 0630 hrs 19 May 2019. Wind SE 8-10 kts. Swell SE 1.5 mts. Cloud cover 0% overhead, but cumulus on eastern horizon, and cumulus & cirroculumus on western horizon. Baro 1016 steady. COG 026T SOG 5.5 kts.

Last night was a bit bumpy as the wind for the first time this trip was forward of the beam. Early this morning the wind has gone more SE and dropped in speed considerably, though it is now again on the beam or slightly aft. Last evening yacht Atla was nearby, but has disappeared off AIS. She said she was headed for Minerva. This morning yacht Rebel has appeared. Haven't spoken with her yet, but she is on a course to Minerva. From radio contact we know Exocit Strike, Loupan, and Mi Corazon are just over the horizon out of AIS range also headed for Minerva. There is a considerable armada converging on Minerva over next 24+ hours. As I'm writing, a cargo ship is passing well astern headed for Brisbane, Australia (I say Australia for benefit of my geographically impaired US readers). Vessel-wise, it's been quite active. In fact, I can't remember another trip where we have seen so many other yachts. It's almost like rush-hour traffic out here. Our speed is down considerably in order to time our arrival at Minerva tomorrow morning after sunrise. That will be our main job throughout the next 24 hrs. Okay, time to get some sleep. Cheers John & Leilani

Sat May 18 18:36 2019 NZST
GPS: 26 35.005s 179 16.422e
Run: 75.4nm (136.5km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 156.7nm
Weather: 1800 hrs 18 May 2019. Although these are current conditions, they prevailed throughout the day. Wind SE 12-14kts. Swell SE 2mtr. Cloud cover 0%. Baro 1017 steady. COG 026T. SOG 6 kts.

I know you are getting tired of me saying what perfect sailing conditions we are having. So I won't. Okay, I lied. Today was another perfect day of S. Pacific sailing we all dream about. Perfect 12-14 kts wind on the beam. Swells on the stern quarter. No water over the rails. Spent the day lying in the cockpit enjoying the sun licking me all over with warm rays greatly iimproving my tropical suntan. All couldn't be better.

But . . . There's always a but in the toilet.

The but in this case is a developing tropical depression over Fiji. TD's are storm ratings just below Cat 1 cyclones. It's predicted to move SE over eastern Fiji on Monday, and continue a SE track that will probably affect Minerva Reef. Predicted packing 30+ kt winds, and big seas. I feel like George Clooney approaching the perfect storm. There are a number of boats, I've heard up to 20, which are headed to Minerva to ride out the storm. That's where we're going. Our ETA is Monday morning. In fact much of today's perfect sailing was trying to keep the boat speed down so we don't arrive before sun-up. Will keep you informed as situation develops.

I want to take this opportunity to thank David & Patricia who run Gulf Harbour Radio. David is a retired meteorologist, and they have sailed around the world on their own yacht. They are well known and respected throughout the cruising community. They broadcast every morning M-F between 1 May and 30 November (the cruising season) giving highly informative weather forecasts. Yachties listen in with rapt attention to get the latest forecast to help them make sailing decisions. Because of the impending TD, David has graciously sent out forecasts via email today and will do so tomorrow (their usual off days). While there's nothing we can about the weather, it is nonetheless immensely helpful to know what is coming. By combining what David publishes with looking at our own weather charts we download, can make better informed decisions about how to best meet different weather conditions. Thank you, David & Patricia.

Cheers John & Leilani Cheers John & Leilani

Sat May 18 7:03 2019 NZST
GPS: 27 33.650s 178 43.668e
Run: 86.4nm (156.4km)
Avg: 6.4knts
24hr: 152.5nm
Weather: 0650 hrs 18 May 2019. Wind SE 12-14 kts. Swell ESE 1 mtr. Cloud cover 90% overcast with intermittent drizzle. COG 030T. SOG 6 kts. Will be slowing down over the day to time arrival at Minerva after sunrise.

Finally cut the engine last night at 2300 after 23 hrs. The quiet has been nice. Had a calm, gentle sail throughout the night with 7-9kts SE winds on a broad reach, and no seas. Wind has come up this morning - see above weather section. Will time our arrival at Minerva as soon after sunrise as possible. Yacht Meerbaer has been sailing with us all last night, but is falling farther behind this morning. Probably headed for Minerva lke all the other yachts out here to avoid that nasty storm over Fiji on Monday / Tuesday. Will be iinteresting to see how may yachts actually turn up. Time to get some sleep. We do more sleeping in the day than at night because we keep a slightly looser watch during the day. Will be good to get to Minerva so I can catch up on all the missed and interrupted sleep since leaviing NZ. Cheers. John & Leilani

Fri May 17 17:27 2019 NZST
GPS: 28 40.237s 178 04.585e
Run: 77.8nm (140.8km)
Avg: 6.6knts
24hr: 158.2nm
Weather: 1700 hrs 17 May 2019. Wind S 12-14kts. Swell S 2.5mts. Cloud cover 30% cumulus. Baro 1016 steady. COG 027T. SOG 5.8 kts

Our fantastic sailing ended last night at 2400. Been motoring since. A combination of too light wind for a while, but mostly today the wind began to move from SW to S where it has stayed. That puts the wind directly behind us, making it as difficult to sail as if the wind was directly in front of us. Waiting for the wind to move more SE which should happen late tonight, early tomorrow morning. Then we can sail all the way into Minerva Reef which we anticipate reaching on Monday morning before lunch. As I mentioned in last post, there is very ugly depression scheduled to hit Fiji on Monday or Tuesday. One could call it a mini cyclone. We'll wait for that to pass before heading to Fiji.

Wild life observed: Dolphins - 0 Flying fish - 0 Ocean birds - 4 (we're 480 miles from NZ!!) Cheers John & Leilani

Fri May 17 5:39 2019 NZST
GPS: 29 39.875s 177 28.312e
Run: 82nm (148.4km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 160nm
Weather: 0515 17 May 2019. Wind SW 7-9kts, swell SW

0515 17 May 2019. Wind dropped off last night so at 2400 hrs the engine went on. Just turned it off, but wind not really up enough. So the engine will go back on when I finish this post. Weather-wise, it was another glorious, clear, starry, moon-lite night. Speaking of weather, there is an ugly depression forecast to hit Fiji the day before, or day of, our arrival. So we made a command decision to head for Minerva and wait it out. We expect to arrive Minerva Monday morning (after sun-up). That's after having to slow down because if we went usual 6kts average speed, we'd arrive around 0200 Monday morning. Speaking of speed, up to now we have been averaging better than 6kts, and had our best last 24 hours of 154nm. Oh, I almost forgot. I am reintroducing a feature of my posts from our last trip. Counting the number of dolphins and flying fish spotted. Unfortunately, the numbers have not improved. So far, the counts are: Dolphins - 0 Fyling fish - 1. PS. None have landed on our deck in these past 413 miles.

One other thing that has not landed on our deck is water. That's right, we have taken absolutely no wave water on deck. Just shows the magnificent sailing conditions we've had.

Cheers John & Leilani

Thu May 16 17:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 30 45.423s 176 56.198e
Run: 90.3nm (163.4km)
Avg: 7.7knts
24hr: 183.7nm
Weather: 1700 hrs 16 May 2019. Wind W 12-15kts, swell SW 2mtr, cloud cover 20% and clear, baro 1015 falling steadly throughout day, SOG 6kt, COG 015T.

Another great sailing day. Still trying to decide whether to stop at Minerva Reef, or carry on to Savusavu. Getting reports of some dicey weather in Fiji around time we would arrive if we carry on. Will give it another day of analysing weather reports before making final decision. This morning we encountered a cargo ship headed our way. The captain kindly altered course so as not run us down and passed safely port-to-port. The catamaran Mi Corazon passed us about the same time as the cargo ship headed to Minerva. That about encompasses all the news today. Cheers John & Leilani.

Thu May 16 5:33 2019 NZST
GPS: 31 57.170s 176 19.243e
Run: 86.5nm (156.6km)
Avg: 7.2knts
24hr: 173.7nm
Weather: 0500 16 May 2019. Wind W 14-16kts. Swell SW 1.5 mtr. Cloud cover 5%. Baro 1017. COG 025T. SOG 6kt

Enjoying some of the best sailing ever. Winds first half of night up to midnight were gentle 9-12 kts. Since midnight they have increased to 14-16kts, Direction perfect at about 100-110 degrees. We averaged 6.25 kts for past 12 hours with speed high 6kts into the 7's steady. For us that is great consistent speed. Really putting the miles under the keel. Seas are gentle from our stern. Boat movement is miinimal. Bright moon all night. Since setting about an hour ago, the stars are out sprinkling the sky like fairy dust. Let's hope it continues. Cheers John & Leilani.

Wed May 15 17:36 2019 NZST
GPS: 33 08.379s 175 51.008e
Run: 78.5nm (142.1km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 155.1nm

1700 hrs 15 May 2019. Today has seen a continuation of very benign sailing conditions. Light SW winds 8-12 kts. Highest we saw was 15 kts. Long period rolling SW swell of 1.5 - 2 mtrs. With wiind and swell behind us, we haven't taken any water on deck. We're averaging about 5.8 kts speed, which, considering the light conditions, that's not bad for our heavy vessel. Sun out all day, but still too cold to disrobe enough to work on my tan. All I can say is I hope Neptune continues to grace us with his kindness.

Saw another yacht this afternoon - "Takata" which left from Opua yesterday. It's headed for Minerva Reef.

Leilani's got dinner ready, so will sign off now. Stay tuned tomorrow.

Cheers John

Wed May 15 5:27 2019 NZST
GPS: 34 15.532s 175 37.362e
Run: 74.2nm (134.3km)
Avg: 7.1knts
24hr: 170.4nm
Weather: 0500 hrs 15 May 2019. Wind SW 8 - 15kts. SW swell 1 - 1.5 mtr. 100% cloud cover. Baro 1010. SOG averaging 6 kts. COG 003T.

0500 hrs. Been sailing since 0215. Boat movement much nicer - not so rolly. Winds have been up and down between 8 & 15 kts SW, but boat speed has averaging 6.1 kts since leaving yesterday. Sleep deprevation already setting in. We're doing 3-hr watches through the night. At my age I miss 10-12 uninterrupted hours sleep. Only 7-8 more nights until I get those kind of hours again. Although I'll be catching up during the day when we do much more relaxed watches. Only 1 more hour until my watch is over. Looking forward to jumping into a nice warm bunk. Cheers John

Tue May 14 19:00 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 14.477s 175 05.737e
Run: 54.2nm (98.1km)
Avg: 5.7knts
24hr: 136.7nm
Weather: 1830 hrs. nil wind. 1-1.5mtr NE swell. 0% cloud cover. 1002 baro. COG 031T. SOG 6kts

It's 1830, and been at sea 8.5 hrs, motoring the whole time in nil wind. Sea a bit rolly. Weather chart shows motoring through tomorrow morning, with wind to fill in by lunch time. It'll be nice to turn off the motor in exchange for the sound of sea and wind. Nights should be bright with the moon waxing to full in a couple of days. Due to the benign weather start, neither of us are seasick, and feel pretty rested. Speaking of rested, I'm off watch so I better get some sleep before going on watch at 2100. Cheers John & Leilani

Tue May 14 9:28 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 50.199S 174 28.089E

Farewell NZ. We just checked out with customs. As soon as I send this post, we will be untying from the dock, and head for Fiji. Weather has come down from 25-30kts last night to 0 this morning. Makes for nice motoring so we can get our sea legs again. Cheers John & Leilani

Mon May 13 10:29 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 50.199S 174 28.089E

Weather window finally. Jumping off tomorrow, 14 May, headed for Savusavu, Fiji. Usual trepidation before any ocean crossing, including whether the weather will actually be as good as forecast; will all boat systems continue working throughout the trip; how seasick will we get; will my tan be filled in by time we arrive. Forecast for first 24 hrs is motoring. That always makes it easier to get used to being at sea. Then, hopefully, comfortable winds from the southern quadrant as we head north. Wouldn't know it from the big storm that came through last night where winds in the marina regularly hit 30kts, with gusts to 40. The storm front continues its march across NZ today. Even in 25-30kt winds now prevailing, there are some hardy souls (using as polite term as possible) still going to brave the conditions by leaving today. Stay tuned as I will be posting regularly throughout the voyage, when I'm not working on my tan.

Cheers, John & Leilani

Thu May 9 10:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 50.199s 174 28.089e

Yesterday (8 May) filed a post which I understand some of you may not have received. Se here it is again.

We officially began our trek northward today (8 May), leaving Gulf Harbour and checking into Marsden Cove Marina, about 60nm away. The purpose is to be ready to leave at moments notice when the next weather window opens. For those who don't know, Marsden is an official checkout port from which to leave NZ. There is some indication that a window may open on Monday or Tuesday. If so, we're now poised to jump off. Will keep you apprised when we actually leave. Cheers, John & Leilani

Wed May 8 17:18 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 50.199S 174 28.089E
Run: 57.2nm (103.5km)

We officially began our trek northward today (8 May), leaving Gulf Harbour and checking into Marsden Cove Marina, about 60nm away. The purpose is to be ready to leave at moments notice when the next weather window opens. For those who don't know, Marsden is an official checkout port from which to leave NZ. There is some indication that a window may open on Monday or Tuesday. If so, we're now poised to jump off. Will keep you apprised when we actually leave. Cheers, John & Leilani

Fri May 3 8:42 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 37.397S 174 47.298E

3 May 2019. Greetings. We have reactivated our iridium satellite system in preparation of departing for Fiji. This email is a test that all is working. If you're so inclined, you can send my an email at following address acknowledging receipt of this one: We're sitting in Gulf Harbour Marina, our home marina, waiting for a weather window. Next week doesn't look good, so hoping for following week. Once we leave, we'll start regular posts of our progress.

Cheers John

Amazing Grace - Amazing Grace - 621 Jun 2019

6 June 2019. 0730 hrs. This begins our 4th day in Savusavu. Got the wind generator fixed by installing 3 new blades. Yesterday refueled with diesel. Still waiting to get our laundry done. Big backup of cruisers with 2-3 weeks of dirty, salty clothes awaiting a run through the washing machine at the Copra Shed Marina. At this rate, the laundry lady can retire soon to a nice apartment overlooking Monaco. While it's still a long way out, mid next week looks like a potential weather window Read more...

to make the Falaga run. Us and a swarm of others. With all the boats saying they plan to visit, I give the place another year at most before it's overrun, and the character and serenity will be lost. I remember first visiting Savusavu in 1995. There were 3 boats here, one was us. Now 50 or more boats can be here at any given time. A couple of years ago, I counted almost 100 before I lost sight of them down the creek. I guess that's progress. And a new super yacht marina is being built here. In a few years Savusavu will have all the character of Denerau - if you think McDonalds brings character to a location. Right now we're enjoying Savusavu like in years past. Sototale (see you later), John

Amazing Grace - Amazing Grace - 403 Jun 2019

  4 June 2019.  This is a test of a new feature on YIT - Blog.  Thank you.

Amazing Grace - Awaiting good weather

At Gulf Harbou Marina; watching weather.

Amazing Grace, Tashiba 40
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