Aradonna

Aradonna

Sat Oct 21 11:36 2017 NZDT

Another sunny day in paradise here at the Isle of Pines. The skipper is doing some maintenance jobs today before we head out for a snorkel later. So I decided to write a blog about what we have been up to for the last couple of weeks in the Isle of Pines. Have a read of the blog and you will understand why this place is so special.

Sat Oct 21 8:12 2017 NZDT
Weather: 10E, 10pct cloud, 1016 baro

Kuto Bay, Isle of Pines. Waved goodbye to our friends on Wind Star and Master Plan yesterday morning and the bay emptied out a little. More boats arrived later in the day. We have been here two weeks now and it is hard to leave. Just a lovely place to be. Caught up with Pacific Star last night, good fun.

Wed Oct 18 8:33 2017 NZDT
Weather: 15-20 with higher gusts ESE, 95pct cloud, 1017 baro

Kuto Bay. Enjoyed walking up Pic Nga yesterday. This is the highest point in the Isle of Pines, about 260m high. Nice views. Grey skies today, but at least we are not too far from the bakery!

Mon Oct 16 8:18 2017 NZDT
Run: 8.8nm (15.9km)
Weather: 15 knots E, 70pct cloud, 1015 baro

Back in Kuto Bay. Really enjoyed our couple of days at Gadji, especially the snorkelling at Ilot Ngie, where we saw several large adult yellow boxfish. Outstanding! Along with a clown triggerfish, a group of large Smooth Flutemouth and several varieties of large parrot fish including some in shades of purple velvet. Windstar joined us last night on Aradonna for dinner, a lovely evening - especially Margie's lemon meringue pie!

Sat Oct 14 8:03 2017 NZDT
Run: 9.1nm (16.5km)
Weather: 11 knots E, 10pct cloud, 1015 baro

At Gadji Bay, Isle of Pines. Had a lovely sail from Kuto yesterday with dolphins joining us for a while. In the afternoon we snorkelled the drop off on the reef outside Ilot Nene. Teeming with fish and a vast coral garden. Nice clear water. The magic continues! Four other boats in the outer bay with us and four more in the inner anchorage.

Fri Oct 13 8:24 2017 NZDT
Run: 0.5nm (0.9km)
Avg: 3.2knts
24hr: 77nm
Weather: 10 knots E, 10 pct cloud, 1017 baro

Kuto, Isle of Pines. Will head around to Gadji today for a couple of days.

Fri Oct 13 8:15 2017 NZDT
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 10 knots E, 10 pct cloud, 1017 baro

Kuto, Isle of Pines. Will head around to Gadji today for a couple of days.

Thu Oct 12 16:27 2017 NZDT
Weather: 15-20 knots ESE, 5pct cloud, 1015 baro

Back in Kuto Bay, Isle of Pines. Took Pieter and Sarah around to Vao on Tuesday afternoon and visited the produce market at Vao on Wednesday morning. A nice walk through the village. Returned to Kuto yesterday where Pieter and Sarah had one more snorkel with hundreds of fish at Kanumera Bay and enjoyed more Dugong sightings in Kuto Bay before catching their flight to Noumea last night. They were with us for 11 days and the time just flew by! So good to spend time with them showing them some of our favourite spots. Kuto bay is very popular right now, plenty of other yachts enjoying this special place. Enjoyed the company of Windstar and Koolsid last night on Aradonna.

Tue Oct 10 8:15 2017 NZDT
Weather: 50 pic cloud, 5 knot E, 1014 baro

We were very lucky yesterday! A dugong came to play in the bay, just behind our boat. Amazing to see this creature so close. A real treat for us and for Pieter and Sarah.

Sorry to miss you guys we arrived here at Kuto this afternoon (10th) Fair winds :-)
Sun Oct 8 16:50 2017 NZDT
Run: 38.7nm (70km)

Absolutely loving Isle of Pines. Snorkel with Pieter and Sarah this morning. White sand, blue sky, blue water. Paradise.

Fri Oct 6 7:57 2017 NZDT
Run: 31.1nm (56.3km)
Weather: 10 knots E, 50pct cloud, 1019 baro

We left Noumea on Wednesday morning, bound for Casy island in Baie de Prony. Head winds all the way but a fairly smooth ride. Arrived at Casy in time for lunch. A few boats we knew were already there and a couple more turned up from the ICA rally fleet. That evening we all went ashore for drinks and nibbles. Had fun with yachties from Malakite, Morepork, Bonnie Lass, Udder Life, Zest and Caprice. Yesterday morning the four of us from Aradonna (we have our friends Pieter and Sarah visiting until 12th Oct) went ashore again to feed the dog, Moose, and went for a very pleasant 1.5 hour walk around the island. The wind turned so we decided to leave Casy and headed down to Anse Majic. Another Gulf Harbour boat, JAMS is next to us and we enjoyed a fun evening with Murray and Carol on Aradonna last night. Will probably stay here at Anse Majic today and then head for Isle of Pines tomorrow. Beautiful full moon last night.

Tue Oct 3 7:58 2017 NZDT
Weather: 10 knots ENE, clear blue sky, 1021 baro

Had a very windy day yesterday, but it did not matter as we hired a car and did a road trip with Pieter and Sarah. Heading off to the market soon and then the Aquarium, so more land based activities today. Will sail out into the southern lagoon on Wednesday probably.

Sat Sep 30 23:45 2017 NZDT
Run: 3.4nm (6.2km)

Enjoyed a lovely sunny day, only 5 knots of breeze, just beautiful in the bay. Have now shifted into the marina. Picking up a hire car in the morning so will be driving on the right hand side of the road again! Will do some shopping and pick up our good friends from the airport tomorrow.

Sat Sep 30 7:55 2017 NZDT
Run: 4.6nm (8.3km)
Weather: 3 knots N, 5 pct cloud, 1016 baro

Had SW wind yesterday so shifted to Uere island. No wind this morning, flat calm. Heading into Marina today so we are ready to collect our visitors on Sunday. Looking forward to spending time with Pieter and Sarah.

Thu Sep 28 21:48 2017 NZDT
Run: 27.9nm (50.5km)
Weather: 14-17 knots SE, 10pct cloud, 1016 baro

We enjoyed the last few days and nights at Casy island, in the company of good friends. We are now at Ilot Maitre, a lovely stop very close to Noumea. Had a close encounter with a turtle here while snorkelling and surprised to see Pukeko and Rail birds on shore!

Tue Sep 26 16:36 2017 NZDT
Run: 14nm (25.3km)
Weather: 14-17 knots NE, 10pct cloud, 1013 baro

Moved to Casy island yesterday, a small islet in the middle of Baie de Prony. Very tranquil here, even though it is blowing a bit more outside. Having fun with friends from Distracted and other yachties we know in the bay.

Sun Sep 24 17:27 2017 NZDT
Run: 10.5nm (19km)
Weather: 17-20 knots ESE, 20pct cloud, 1016 baro

Anchored at Mato island. A very pretty spot surrounded by reefs on all sides. It is a bit windy for snorkelling today but we will come back here to explore. The last few days we have been treated to one of the best places ever at the little island of Ua. We have been snorkelling and diving each day - just beautiful. Clear water, corals in pinks and blues and greens, colourful fish, a painted crayfish, turtles. Very special. We walked around the little island on the fine powdery white sand beach. Remains of turtle nests here from the summer, and currently some kind of hawkes sitting on nests built in the trees and driftwood on shore. Have enjoyed the company of Wind Star and KaijaSong. Wind Star and Second Wind now at Mato with us.

Fri Sep 22 7:03 2017 NZST
Run: 18.5nm (33.5km)
Weather: Variable 2 knots, 30pct cloud, 1019 baro

Anchored at the beautiful little islet of Ua, in the southern lagoon of New Caledonia. Enjoyed snorkelling the reef here yesterday, stunning coral in pretty blues and greens. Going for a dive here today. Conditions are perfect. No wind, glassy sea, great visibility. Wind Star and KaijaSong came over to Aradonna for drinks last night. Good fun. We can see why this place is a favourite for David and Patricia!

Thu Sep 21 7:30 2017 NZST
Run: 19.6nm (35.5km)
Weather: 3S, 70%cc, 1016

Wed Sep 20 7:09 2017 NZST
Weather: 3 knotsNE, 50 pct cloud, 1018 baro

Enjoyed being in Noumea the last 2 days. Cast our votes yesterday at the NZ Consulate. Now that the boat is full of groceries again we will head out to the southern lagoon today.

Mon Sep 18 12:43 2017 NZST
Run: 27.2nm (49.2km)
Weather: Blue sky, nice cooling breeze.

Now in Port Moselle Marina. Lovely to be back here again. Could not resist the patisserie on the walk back from checking in to immigration. Feels like heaven...Will restock with goodies over the next couple of days in Noumea before heading out to play in the southern lagoon.

Fri Sep 15 15:51 2017 NZST
Run: 122.1nm (221km)
Avg: 2.9knts
24hr: 68.5nm
Weather: 8 knots west right now, but variable all day, 20 pct cloud, 1015 baro

A NE breeze developed after lunch yesterday, so we set off for a lovely sail, overnight to Grande Terre. Had 12 hours of great sailing, the wind died to variable 8 knots about 4am so we motored the rest. Along the way, at 1.30am we were called on the VHF radio by a French Navy vessel who saw us approaching New Caledonia. They asked all sorts of questions to gather info about our vessel, which managed to keep us both awake. Looking forward to a good sleep tonight. Sitting in Bay de Prony, will move closer to Noumea tomorrow.

Wed Sep 13 21:03 2017 NZST
Run: 51.8nm (93.8km)
Weather: 15-20 knots SE, 20 pct cloud

In Ouvea island, Loyalties. 25 km of white sand beach. 25 km of road on this this sliver of an island, which is shaped like a crescent moon. Amazing number of cars running up and down the strip! Very pretty anchorage.

Mon Sep 11 17:30 2017 NZST
Run: 16.6nm (30km)
Weather: After a sunny morning and a partly cloudy afternoon we have 95 pct cloud now. SE8 gusting 18 knots, 1015 baro

We are now in We Marina at Lifou. All we really achieved today was clearance with Biosecurity. This is great, as now we have been able to buy some fresh vegetables and eggs and they will not be taken off us when we reach Noumea. But we have been advised that we cannot clear Customs or Immigration here. We have two options. The captain can fly to Noumea with both of our passports and do the paperwork and fly back. This can be done in one day, but the cost of flights would be around US$300. The other option is that we have to sail to Noumea as soon as the weather permits. The Biosecurity man telephoned Noumea Immigration and we have permission to stay in the Loyalties until Thursday before sailing to the mainland. We wanted to buy a local SIM card so we could have telephone and internet, but, by the time we finished all the paperwork with Biosecurity it was 3pm. The Post Office closes at 3pm and this is the only place we can buy the SIM card. Oh well, at least we have fresh baguettes and pate!

Sun Sep 10 16:21 2017 NZST
Weather: 10 knots SSE, 30 pct cloud, 1013 baro

As soon as I had finished sending the yit update yesterday, the clouds vanished and the sun came out. We were treated to a glorious sunset! The days are warm, but the nights are a bit cooler than we are used to, so today the duvet is back on the bed! We had a blissful nights sleep last night. The first night after doing a passage always feels like a treat! Not having to wake up after four hours and go on watch - we can sleep the whole night. Yay! Today we caught up on many maintenance and cleaning jobs. Our last few days in Fiji were in the Lautoka area, near the sugar processing plant. This factory pumps out clouds of smoke and soot. We try to anchor upwind from it but the wind changes and soon the boat is covered in soot. Being in that position also meant we could not do our washing! So today, with sunny skies, clean air and a nice breeze, the washing got washed and dried and the boat got a good scrubbing. While we were on passage from Fiji, some birds known as Boobies, about the size of the Gannets we have in NZ, decided to sit on our solar panels during the night. They seemed to think it was a nice place for a rest from flying around the whole day. Unfortunately they made a large mess on the solar panels while they were there! Karl did clean the panels a bit each day while we were on passage, but now they have had a thorough washing as well. The island of Lifou has an interesting landscape. Close to the island in most places the water is 500m deep or more. Not very far from the island the water is 6000m deep. Yes 6km deep! The island itself is about 50-70m high and almost a plateau, with cliffs rising straight up from the ocean for much of the coastline. It is apparently a raised coral bed, an ancient reef that uplifted from the sea floor. The limestone deposits formed by all that coral years ago is now weathering into fascinating shapes. Caves have been eroded into the cliffs, with great stalactites hanging down inside the caves. Very scenic and quite unusual. The top of the plateau is covered by a mixture of vegetation and many birds can be heard singing sweetly from where we sit in the bay. There are only a few bays where the water is shallow enough to anchor and the one we are in, Donkin Bay, is well protected from the southerly winds. A very pretty spot.

Sat Sep 9 16:57 2017 NZST
Run: 124.4nm (225.2km)
Avg: 5knts
24hr: 119.9nm
Weather: SSE 12 knots, 90% cloud, 1013 baro

As were arriving at Lifou island this morning we heard about a tsunami warning, from the earthquake in Mexico. New Caledonia was expecting a tsunami at 7am local time. So we waiting out of the bay for a while until well after that time to make sure we were not near land if there was a surge. Nothing happened, so we went in to anchor. New Caledonia is one hour behind NZ time. We went ashore by the marina. A fairly new facility, we were amazed that the water is so clear, you can see the sandy bottom under the boats and down the fairway. We have never seen water that clean in any marina anywhere before. The marina office was closed as it is only open Monday-Friday, so we proceeded to the Police Station. We found a sliding gate, slid it back and went up to the building, which was locked, but a friendly young Policeman saw us peering through the door trying to read the opening hours and unlocked the door with a smile. After we stumbled through some very poor French sentences, the Policeman switched to English, which was much better! As we were trying to explain to this fresh faced, helpful young officer, exactly what it was we wanted, another man came out, slightly older and clearly in charge. The man in charge asked "Where do you come from?", to which, Karl immediately said New Zealand and Heather immediately said Fiji. The man shook his head as if to shake off our answers and said "I mean just now. Where did you come from just now?" To which we both replied "Fiji". He shook his head again and asked. "I mean, how did you get in here? The gate is locked!" We pointed to the sliding gate that we came through and said that it was not locked. "Oh, said the man, that gate is only for us. Visitors must use the other gate, which is locked. You have to ring the bell and then we come out and unlock it and let you in." He pointed to a gate further on up the road, that we had not seen. We quickly apologised and then he asked what we wanted. We explained that we are on our way to Noumea but would like to look around in the Loyalty islands on the way and we showed him our passports and customs papers from Fiji. The young man took these papers and started to study them like they were something from another planet. The man in charge said "You want to look around by car? You need to rent a car, or do you want to look around by boat?" We answered by boat, and he looked puzzled. "But you already have a boat?" he said. We nodded and he shrugged, as if to say, then what is the problem! The man in charge seemed to have nothing more to say, and, seemingly satisfied that he had given us an education about the gate, he said, "I have only been here one month" shrugged with upturned hands, turned on his heel and left the room. This left us with our now slightly amused and very bewildered young officer. After several more attempts at explaining ourselves, and showing him the email (all in French) we had from customs in Noumea, the young man held up the Fijian customs papers and said, "Oh, I see, you need to get this paper to Noumea." At which point Heather said Yes and Karl said No, each of us interpreting his message differently. Then we clarified again and finally he understood that we wanted to do the right paperwork to give us permission to stay in the Loyalties before moving on to Noumea. He tapped away on his computer for a while and then read the instructions out loud, in French, looked up at us, and seeing out bewilderment, he smiled and translated for us. There is no paperwork the Police can do, the paperwork must be done in Noumea, but yes we can stay at each of the islands in the Loyalties for 2 days. We questioned him on this to make sure and he said, we can stay two days in Lifou, then 2 days in Ouvea and so on, the same for each island. It is no problem. After apologies all round from us, for not speaking French very well, and from him, for the gaps in his English and for his lack of knowledge about boats, we thanked him profusely and said out goodbyes. He then took out his keys and lead us to the locked gate, unlocked it, let us out and locked it again behind us. We tried not to giggle as we walked past the other, unlocked gate on the way back to the boat. The swell was coming in to the bay of the friendly Policemen, so we moved around to the top of Lifou, Donkin Bay. A pod of dolphins came and played with the boat on the way. The water is nice and clear here, anchored in 15m and we can see the anchor dug in well on the sandy bottom. Coral reefs dotted around make nice snorkelling and the water is 25 degrees, so still bearable!

Fri Sep 8 16:03 2017 NZST
Speed: 4.8 sailingknts
Run: 61.4nm (111.1km)
Avg: 7.3knts
24hr: 174.6nm
Weather: E18knots, 100% cloud, swell 0.5m SE, 1013 baro

All well on board. Calm conditions, wind from behind so just a gentle sail. 105nm to go to Lifou island, the main island in the Loyalty Island group of New Caledonia. Looking forward to croissants and coffee, maybe followed by some baguettes and bordeaux. Will arrive tomorrow :-)

Fri Sep 8 7:36 2017 NZST
Speed: 6.2knts
Run: 108nm (195.5km)
Avg: 7knts
24hr: 168.2nm
Weather: 18ESE, 0.5m swell, 100%cc, 1016

This position is 6nm north of Aneityum. They have 160m to Lifou.

Thu Sep 7 16:12 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.4 sailingknts
Run: 64.3nm (116.4km)
Avg: 7.4knts
24hr: 178.5nm
Weather: SE15knots, 100% cloud, swell 0.5m SE, 1013 baro

All well on board. Enjoying the moonlit nights, even in cloudy conditions the moon lights up the sky as clear as day. Sea very calm now. Had only 8-10 knots of wind from behind for a while today so motored for a few hours. Sailing again now with a nice beam reach. Had a mainly sunny day, but high cloud has rolled in now.

Thu Sep 7 7:33 2017 NZST
Speed: 5knts
Run: 93.4nm (169.1km)
Avg: 5.9knts
24hr: 140.5nm
Weather: 15e,, 0.5m swell, 60%cc, 1016

better seas today. 310 to go so eta depends on winds (which will be light), so likely sunday am

Wed Sep 6 15:36 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.4 sailingknts
Run: 43.5nm (78.7km)
Avg: 5.4knts
24hr: 129.3nm
Weather: E18-20 knots, 40% cloud, swell 1.5- 2m SE, 1013 baro

All well on board. Sea still confused but less wave height. Yesterday we had the boom dipping in the water as we rolled of the big waves, but easier going today.

Wed Sep 6 7:31 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.8knts
Run: 112.2nm (203.1km)
Avg: 7.9knts
24hr: 190nm
Weather: 20-25E, 10%cc, 1017, choppy confused swell

making progress to Loyalties. Had wind yesterday guting 30

Tue Sep 5 17:21 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.8 sailingknts
Run: 94.5nm (171km)
Avg: 2.7knts
24hr: 65.1nm
Weather: SE25-30+ knots, 100% cloud, swell 2m SE

All well on board. Sluggish start yesterday but good run today. Getting used to being in a wobbly world again.

Mon Sep 4 6:31 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 11 knot S, 20 pct cloud, 1015 baro

Beautiful sunrise in Saweni Bay. This afternoon we set sail for New Caledonia. Full moon, starry nights and hopefully a steady breeze. We should arrive in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia on Saturday.

Hey guys, long time no see since Tonga! We're just clearing out now at Vuda, heading for New Cal!
Sun Sep 3 16:30 2017 NZST
Weather: We have had partly cloudy but warm sunny days yesterday and today, though it did rain overnight. Currently 15 knots S, 80 pct cloud, 1010 baro

In Saweni Bay, doing last preparations for passage to New Caledonia. Have spent the last few days catching up with our good friends on Silver Fox. So good to see them here. We met them on the offshore medical course 3.5 years ago and they have had more than their fair share of trials and tribulations since that time. But they are finally here and enjoying the cruising lifestyle. There are 15 boats in Saweni Bay, a few more from Gulf Harbour that we recognise.
It seems hard to believe that we will be leaving Fiji tomorrow (weather permitting). Time has gone by so fast! Next time we will spend more time in Fiji.
Our trip to Fiji this year was mainly focused on seeing the Lau Group, part of Fiji we had not been to before. We certainly saw many islands in the group, but there are still more to see. We also revisited some places we had been to three years ago and renewed our friendships with people in those villages. Along the way we have discovered new places that we love and we certainly wish to return to those places in the future. A big part of what makes a place great for us, is the people we meet. Some of the villagers we have met along the way have been absolutely wonderful, generous people and we look forward to seeing them again.
The weather has been kind to us and the water has been warm to swim in. Water temperature is 28 degrees where we are now and has been 27 or 26 for most of the trip. As you go towards the southern part of Fiji it does get cooler. But strangely, we still had 26 degrees at the most southern places we went apart from Fulaga where the water was only 24 degrees! Brrrr! The coral reefs and the marine life here are incredible. We have been privileged to see dolphins, whales, turtles, manta rays, sharks, sea snakes and crayfish, along with all the colourful little tropical fish. In this trip we have seen more soft corals and more colourful reef areas than anywhere else we have been. Good food for the soul.
So we get ready to depart, with a tinge of sadness to leave this place, but with much anticipation for the next part of our journey. We plan to sail to the Loyalty islands which will take about 5.5 days. We have not been to this part of New Caledonia before so this will be another new experience for us. Then, at the beginning of October we have some very special friends from NZ coming to join us on Aradonna for a holiday - we are looking forward to seeing them again and showing them some of the places we love in New Caledonia.
We are very lucky people to have these experiences. Life is good!

Sat Sep 2 15:06 2017 NZST
Run: 4.7nm (8.5km)
Weather: 70 pct cloud, 19 knots SW

Shopping trip to Lautoka today with friends from Silver Fox. Now in Saweni Bay, making meals for passage to New Caledonia. Probably departing Monday.

Fri Sep 1 14:21 2017 NZST
Run: 33.6nm (60.8km)
Avg: 4.2knts
24hr: 100.9nm
Weather: 16 knot N, 20 pct cloud. Warm sunny day 29 degrees

North wind coming in to Saweni bay, so anchored behind Bekana Island, near Lautoka. Next to Silver Fox! We have not seen them since we left NZ, so lots of news to catch up on tonight!

Fri Sep 1 6:21 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 6 knots ENE, 30 pct cloud, 1012 baro

Quiet night at Likuri island, departing soon for Saweni Bay

Thu Aug 31 20:45 2017 NZST
Run: 54.1nm (97.9km)
Avg: 4.2knts
24hr: 101.6nm
Weather: Vary calm in the anchorage, tidal current strong. Starry night and very warm with wind from northerly quarter.

At Likuri island for the night. Motor sailed all day. In reality we motored, the sails were up just to give us the illusion of sailing. Very light winds all day. Caught a 105cm mahimahi on the way so have fresh fish again. Yum! Heading to Saweni bay tomorrow and will catch up with our good friends on Silver Fox before we leave Fiji.

Thu Aug 31 7:58 2017 NZST
Run: 3.8nm (6.9km)
Weather: 8-12ene, 80%cc, 1014

heading to lautoka to prep for going to the Loyalties early next week

Wed Aug 30 17:18 2017 NZST
Run: 21.6nm (39.1km)
Weather: 20-25 NE, 50 pct cloud

Got the shopping done and left Suva after lunch. Now at Rovodrau Bay for the night, will continue west tomorrow to head toward Lautoka area. Hope to catch up with some friends there before we head to New Caledonia :-)

Wed Aug 30 6:58 2017 NZST
Weather: 1 knot N wind, 10 pct cloud, 1016 baro

A beautiful sunny morning in Suva. Managed to get our diesel, petrol and LPG filled yesterday. A bit tricky as the fuel dock is so shallow we can only be there 1 hour either side of high tide. All done. Today is shopping in Suva.

Tue Aug 29 7:15 2017 NZST
Weather: 3 knots ENE, 30 pct cloud, 1015 baro

Lami Bay, Suva. Will fill up with diesel today and get more supplies. Waiting for weather window to sail to New Caledonia in the next week, hopefully.

Mon Aug 28 22:36 2017 NZST
Run: 50.8nm (91.9km)
Weather: 1 knot NE, 70pct cloud, rain showers. 1015 baro. Waiting for the right weather to sail to New Caledonia now. Suva to the Loyalties, about 5 days.

Now in Suva! On Saturday the sun came out and we had a brilliant day. On the way to the Great Astrolabe reef (the 4th largest reef in the world) we had a large pod of small dolphins come to play. The jumped and leaped and played with the boat for quite a while. Our snorkel at the great reef was beautiful. The corals were so many and varied in shapes and colours, it looks like a terraced field of wildflowers! Energised by that encounter, we went back to Vurolevu to see if the manta rays were home. We were in luck! We snorkelled with two manata rays, for ages. The place we went to is known as a cleaning station. The Manta rays hang around while tiny cleaner fish nibble away, cleaning any parasites from the rays. It was amazing to see them, to swim all around them, to watch the cleaner fish pecking away, inside the mouth of the manta rays too! Manta rays are large creatures. These ones were 2-2.5m across, but they are harmless plankton feeders. We got close enough to touch their wings, they feel like black velvet! All of this was before lunch! We still had unfinished business at the village of Naboulwalu, so off we went, back to see the chief. Three years ago he had asked us for some specific things and he was amazed when we delivered them, along with the note his wife had written three years ago. She looked astonished to see her own handwriting! We also told them that we had found a large population of Crown of Thorns Starfish in their bay. They were unaware of this and did not understand the danger. The chiefs wife had some old wet shoes that were falling apart and asked if we could fix them. So back to the boat we went. Karl jumped in the water and grabbed a Crown of Thorns starfish to show the village, while Heather write out instructions on how to kill the beasts and why they should be killed - they are destroying the coral and if the coral dies, the village will have no fish! Luckily, the chiefs wife has the same sized feet as Heather and she happened to have a spare pair or wet shoes on the boat. So back to the village again, to deliver the shoes and the Crown of Thorns speciman and the educational sheet of paper so the chief could teach the rest of the people in the village about this menace. They weer amazed that we could produce a new pair of shoes, the right size, like magic! An promised to gather the village people together that evening to tell them about the Crown of Thorns starfish.
Yesterday, we decide to take advantage of the great weather and sailed to Beqa. The Fijian language sounds different to English, so Beqa, is pronounced Mbengga. We had an amazing sail, 12-14 knots on the beam in flat sea and sunny skies. Scooted along nicely and covered the 45 nm in 7 hours. A wonderful sailing day. Went ashore at the resort for the G&T and listened to the church choir sing for a while. The resort was fully booked, so no room for us for dinner.
Today we scrubbed the bottom of the boat, in preparation for our next passage, to New Caledonia. We then headed out of Beqa and motored all the way to Suva in a head wind. Oh well, we made water on the way and the freezer had a good run - not that there is much left in there! We had run very short of some supplies, especially tonic, which was the biggest crisis! So this afternoon we started off in a taxi, that got stuck in a traffic jam so walked the long trek into Suva, had an enormously long wait at Digicel to get out phone/email working again, shopped for many things, as much as we could carry and got the taxi back, laden with goodies. The nun that shared the first taxi with us told us there was an earthquake in Kadavu a couple of days ago and ever since then Suva has been very warm with north easterlies which is very unusual and must have been something to do with the earthquake. The taxi driver on the way back told us that the western part of Fiji was colder than usual and had hail stones for the first time ever, and he blamed this on global warming! Meanwhile we heard that the King of Tonga had sacked the Government in Tonga. And in breaking news, in fact headline news in Fiji, we heard that a 23 year old man has been arrested and held in prison awaiting a trial for corruption charges because he was caught driving while intoxicated and offered the policeman a $10 bribe. It all feels quite surreal, really. Tonight we treated oursleves to a meal at the Novotel Lami. This has become a bit of a tradition now. This is the third time we have sailed to Fiji and each time we have come here and had dinner at the same spot. It really is the best place to be, if you have to be in Suva that is. We look forward to leaving the traffic jams and the throng of people behind again soon!

Sat Aug 26 7:11 2017 NZST
Weather: 8 knots E, 60 pct cloud, 1015 baro. We finally have some blue sky!

Still at Buliya. After 4 days of grey skies and rain showers, we finally got some sun after lunch yesterday. Had a nice snorkel. It felt good to be outside for a change. Today has a bit more blue and calm, so maybe we will get to dive the Great Astrolabe Reef.

Thu Aug 24 10:30 2017 NZST
Weather: 10-15 knots ESE, gusting 20 at times, 100pct cloud, rain. 1015 baro

Sitting in the rain today, so catching up on emails. We are at Buliya island. There is only one village here, with 120 people plus 60 children (that is how the villagers say it, as if the children are not people!) So you might be surprised that we have internet here. So are we! The internet does not come from Buliya though, but a nearby island called Yaukuve Levu. This uninhabited island has been leased by Australian billionaire Lang Walker and he has built a resort on the island. We are talking 6 star luxury. Private villas, each with their own private deck and their own swimming pool. The one bedroom villa is US$1995 per night, for two people. The 3 bedroom villa is US$4950 per night, for up to 6 people. But if you want real luxury, you book a 3 bedroom luxury residence for US$6950 per night. There are 4, 5 and 6 bedroom luxury residences as well, up to US$12950 per night. If you would like a beachfront luxury residence of 6 bedrooms, it is a mere US$18,000 per night. Of course, on top of this you need to pay for transfer from the airport in Nadi, which is US$295 each way. There are 64 bedrooms in total at the resort, so if you have a big party and wish to book out the whole island, they will do you a special deal - you can book the whole resort for US$120,000 per night! A real bargain for up to 150 guests. The resort is called Kokomo and now the island is referred to as Kokomo island as well. Presumably Lang Walker was a Beach Boys fan. When we were here 3 years ago they were building the resort and about 60 men from Buliya and nearby islands were helping with construction. The resort is now open, with the first half of the plan, and building work has started on stage two. Some of the local ladies have jobs working at the resort now as well, as nannies for the guests with children as well as doing landscaping, cleaning and various jobs in the restaurants. According to the locals here, most of the guests at the resort seem to be from the USA. Movie stars, super models, big business rich list people. Naturally, all of these guests at Kokomo expect to have wifi during their holiday, so the resort has large cell ph towers and we are anchored just a few km away at Buliya :-) This kind of resort is so far removed from how the local people live here that it seems like a different planet. For the last 2 months we have been in the Lau group of Fiji and there are no resorts there at all. Although, we were surprised that most of the villages in the Lau had solar panels, generators and some even had cars. The Lau is not as remote or primitive as we expected. Supply ships from Suva or from Savusavu visit the Lau about twice per month, so they are not cut off from mainland supplies. But village life is basic. Fishing, growing veges, drinking kava. A slow pace and a peaceful life, without stress. Most villagers only need money to buy petrol for the outboard motor. $20 will last them a week or two. So they sell some fish, or kava or mats or tapas or twine or copra to the mainland and get enough cash for the next month or two. Life is simple. In the Kadavu region where we are now, they are a bit closer to Suva and have more regular trips to the mainland and the city, but still life is simple. We can only imagine what the local people here think about the guests that stay in the luxury resort on the next island. They are glad of the job opportunities, but life at this resort would be a culture shock even for us!!

Thu Aug 24 7:07 2017 NZST
Weather: 10-20 ESE, 100pct cloud, rain, 1015 baro

Grey, wet and wobbly, but all is well at Buliya island

Wed Aug 23 16:18 2017 NZST
Run: 3.6nm (6.5km)
Weather: 25-30 knots SE, 90pct cloud, 1014 baro

Now at Buliya Island. It has been fun visiting villages in Ono and Buliya. We were here 3 years ago, so it brings back many memories. The people in the village are so happy to know that we liked it here so much that we wanted to come back. We gave the chief of Buliya a small Tuna that we caught on the way from Ono. He was very happy and gave us a huge bunch of bananas. Other people in the village gave us paw paws. We managed to buy a pumpkin and some paw paw in Ono this morning, so we have food again for a few days. Tonight we will have some more of the 50cm trevally we caught yesterday. The group of islands we are in right now is the Kadavu region, named after the biggest island of the group, Kadavu. The people in Ono island, which has 6 villages (Ono means 6) is only about a tenth of the size of Kadavu, refer to Kadavu as the mainland. Buliya island is less than a tenth of the size of Ono and they only have one village. When people in Buliya say the mainland, they mean Ono, which is where their primary school children go to boarding school. The people on the large island of Kadavu, when they say the mainland, they mean Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, where Suva is. So it can get a little confusing! The people in this part of Fiji are warm, welcoming and generous. The kids are great fun and love to hold your hand as you walk through the village. They also love to play, and try to talk a little bit of English. The adults, in general, speak English very well, even though they never use it in village life.

Wed Aug 23 7:32 2017 NZST
No position sent.
Weather: 10e, g25 from time to time. 1005cc, 1016

Stilll at Makari Bay Ono. Good signal today

Tue Aug 22 7:52 2017 NZST
Run: 1.9nm (3.4km)
Weather: 5-10s, 90%cc, 1016

Mon Aug 21 7:18 2017 NZST
Weather: 3 knots S, 100pct cloud, 1012 baro. need clarification on 500mb charts, which way up is the u for trough or ridge?

Very calm morning, but grey and gloomy. Might be a good day for baking bread.

Sun Aug 20 21:57 2017 NZST
Weather: 1-5 knots variable. 100 pct cloud. 1012 baro. Had a dry morning, light rain in the afternoon and dry again in the evening. A very calm day.

Anchored at Vurolevu Island, just north east of Ono Island in the Kadavu group of Fiji. Today we snorkelled for 1.5 hours, did a complete circumnavigation of Vurolevu, about 3km. Amazing corals in shades of jade, lime, lemon, honey, lilac, purple, burgandy, forget-me-not blue, dusky pink, wedgewood, turquoise, and soft browns. We saw a barracuda, 2 eagle rays, a manta ray and Karl grabbed 2 baby lobsters, but let them go again as they were so small! Fabulous spot. We had no wind today, the sea was flat calm. Almost as flat as Holland! We felt like we were in a giant aquarium. Acres of corals and thousands of brightly coloured fish in clear calm water. Magic. For more about our fun and adventures in Matuku and Ono in the last few days, please read the blog. Today we have internet for the first time in 3 weeks, so catching up on emails etc.

Sun Aug 20 21:57 2017 NZST
Run: 12.4nm (22.4km)
Weather: 1-5 knots variable. 100 pct cloud. 1012 baro. Had a dry morning, light rain in the afternoon and dry again in the evening. A very calm day.

Anchored at Vurolevu Island, just north east of Ono Island in the Kadavu group of Fiji. Today we snorkelled for 1.5 hours, did a complete circumnavigation of Vurolevu, about 3km. Amazing corals in shades of jade, lime, lemon, honey, lilac, purple, burgandy, forget-me-not blue, dusky pink, wedgewood, turquoise, and soft browns. We saw a barracuda, 2 eagle rays, a manta ray and Karl grabbed 2 baby lobsters, but let them go again as they were so small! Fabulous spot. We had no wind today, the sea was flat calm. Almost as flat as Holland! We felt like we were in a giant aquarium. Acres of corals and thousands of brightly coloured fish in clear calm water. Magic. For more about our fun and adventures in Matuku and Ono in the last few days, please read the blog. Today we have internet for the first time in 3 weeks, so catching up on emails etc.

Fri Aug 18 7:36 2017 NZST
Run: 85.2nm (154.2km)
Weather: 15SE, 60%cc, 1015, lumpy seas 2-3m

About 3hours from anchorage at Ono. Are in d'Urville channel now

Mon Aug 14 18:18 2017 NZST
Run: 16.4nm (29.7km)
Weather: 10 knots E, 80 pct cloud, 1012 baro

Plans are made to be changed and the main driver for change when we are sailing is the weather. With a front and a trough coming together and maybe colliding on Wednesday, we decided to head for a sheltered spot to sit out the wet weather and changing wind direction expected in the next couple of days. So, instead of exploring Totoya island, which has a 6km diameter crater in the middle and a thin rim of land around the outside which does not give much shelter, we sailed to Matuku. We are now anchored in the Matuku harbour. Matuku is also a volcano but inside is a small harbour that is sheltered from almost every wind direction. Many islands in Fiji give good shelter from the usual trade winds, South Easterlies dominate, sometimes a bit more South and sometimes a bit more East. Only a few places have shelter from North and West winds. Matuku is a pretty place, with a multitude of high peaks, 300-390m high rising up all around the tiny harbour. The vegetation is lush and green and the abundant bird life provides a constant song in the bay. Usually we are not great fans of these tiny harbour anchorages as there is no wave action and therefore little aeration or nutrients for coral growth. The constantly calm water in the harbour means these anchorages clog up with run off from the land and this produces the 3 M's. Mud, Mangroves and Mosquitoes. More mud in the water means less light gets through the water, this reduces the visibility for snorkelling and reduces coral growth because most corals thrive in clear water with plenty of sun. The benefit though, is flat calm water and shelter from changing winds. We will stay here for the next couple of days before moving on to the next snorkelling spot! Tonight as the sun drifts below the horizon we have a bay full of large bats flying around. Hopefully they will eat all the mosquitoes! After a very sunny day, and a lovely gentle sail, we now have cloud rolling in, but otherwise, all is calm in the bay.

Mon Aug 14 8:07 2017 NZST
Run: 15.7nm (28.4km)
Weather: 12SE, 1016, 50%cc

Notoya and will be moving by wed to avoid the weather coming

Sun Aug 13 18:18 2017 NZST
Run: 59.4nm (107.5km)
Avg: 2.7knts
24hr: 64.5nm
Weather: 20 knots E, 30 pct cloud, 1015

We are now at Totoya island, one of the three islands in the western Lau group. We have had a fabulous day getting here. We had to make 63nm today from Kabara to Totoya, there are no other islands in between. So we left Kabara at 6am, when it was just getting light. We got the anchor up and as we turned to head out of the bay, we noticed a very shallow patch with water breaking on it very near to us! What? We did not notice that reef yesterday! Then the shallow patch moved. And blew a fountain of water! Whales. Three whales meandering by, seemingly unaware that we were even there. Possibly Fin Whales, but not 100 percent sure. Very different to the pod of Pilot whales we had seen the day before. So nice to see these magnificent creatures. Many other yachties are reporting whale sightings this year, so it seems like a great year for whales. Then we were off on our fast sailing journey. With 25 knots plus from almost behind, and waves pushing us along, we scooted along and had a wonderful ride. 8-9 knots surfing down waves on a broad reach. Aradonna just loves these conditions. Winds moderated after lunch to around 20 knots. After passing the southern tip of Totoya we had another lovely sail up the west side of the island. We covered the 63nm in just 9 hours. That is very quick for us with an average of 7 knots over the day, so we were very happy. The only mishap on the way was around lunchtime. Yesterday, Heather had made bacon, spinach and feta fritattas, so we would have something quick and easy to eat on our day trip. So at lunch time today, Heather carefully heated up some fritatta, wrapped it in a paper towel and handed it out to Karl in the cockpit. Yum! Karl had not noticed that Heather was getting lunch ready, grabbed the paper towel bundle and threw it overboard, thinking Heather wanted him to get rid of some rubbish!! Oh dear. After a bit of a laugh, and some more heating of the remaining fritatta, we managed to eat our yummy lunch. With such a fast trip we arrived in plenty of time for a swim and a snorkel. The water is not crystal clear here - but better than Fulaga and certainly plenty of coral. Tomorrow we plan to go ashore and explore our surroundings. Totoya is an interesting island. It is in the shape of a horseshoe and is actually an old volcano with the middle blown out. Sea water now fills the crater. There are coral reefs around the outside, enclosing the island in a coral rim. The island is about 6nm (about 10km) across, although the ring of land is only 1km wide in many places as it forms the horseshoe with no land in the middle. The coral reefs are extensive, coming out another 4km from the edge of the land in places. So the diameter of the whole island, including reef is more like 11nm or 20km at the widest point. There is almost more coral than land! Most of the villages are positioned on the inside of the horseshoe, facing into the crater. We are anchored on the outside, but in the bay we are in, there is only a small strip of land, about 250m wide, so we can walk over to look in the crater tomorrow and see where we go from there.

Sat Aug 12 20:12 2017 NZST
Run: 30.6nm (55.4km)
Weather: 20 knots SE, 50% cloud, 1016 baro.

We started the day with drizzle and cloud, but this cleared up by 9am and we got underway. We have had sunshine for the rest of the day until a brief shower around dinnertime. Sailed to Kabara (pronounced Kambara) Island, about 16nm west of Namuka-I-Lau. It was a lively sail, the sea was a bit lumpy and we had 25knots to 30 knots at times from the SE, but we whizzed along nicely and got to Kabara in time for a snorkel before lunch. What a magnificent under water world! Gigantic coral formations, rising 10m high straight up from the sand. A wide variety of corals in shades of blue, lilac and pink. So pretty. The water is so clear here that we can see the anchor and the chain sitting on the bottom in 16m of water. Going ashore was fabulous. We were greeted by a handful of children who helped us to drag our dinghy up the beach and then showed us the way to the village shop. We needed onions and eggs and we were in luck! A very small boy cried in terror when he saw us. Apparently they are not used to seeing white people around here! We had fun giving balloons away to the children and soon felt like the whole village was following us around. More than 15 kids became instant friends, all laughing and playing with balloons. It was such a nice feeling to be in this lovely village with so many happy children. All 15 of them helped us to launch the dinghy again, which caused a bit of confusion and loads of laughter. We learned from one of the fishing men that they have had a very dry season here and have today just received emergency supplies of water via supply ship from Suva. Wow. These people have not been able to grow anything and were desperately short of water, but seemed so full of fun and friendship. Beautiful people.

Fri Aug 11 15:48 2017 NZST
Run: 1.1nm (2km)
Weather: 6 knots SE, 20% cloud, 1014 baro. The front that was forecast never showed up. We had cloud this morning that burned off by 8.30am and we have had a mainly sunny/just partly cloudy day.

Have now arrived in Namuka-I-Lau, after a pleasant sail from Fulaga. Yesterday the weather behaved itself and we managed to snorkel near the Fulaga pass. The water is like liquid glass. So clear! Nice corals and fish, but quite a bit of current so we had to be careful not to get sucked out of the pass!! The rest of the Fulaga lagoon has a slightly milky white appearance, similar to the southern lagoon of New Caledonia. This gives an overall impression of turquoise water, which is pretty, but it is not so clear for snorkelling. Today the sea was flat calm and we had 10-12knots easterly breeze as we sailed north, so a perfect gentle beam reach. Beautiful sailing. On the way we sailed through a large pod of Short-finned Pilot whales. It was a family group with adults up to about 5m and babies of about 2m. Following behind this pod of whales there was a pod of dolphins. Apparently bottle nose dolphins often travel together with pods of Pilot Whales. This was a real treat. So nice to see these wonderful creatures. The front that was forecast never showed up. We had cloud this morning that burned off by 8.30am and we have had a mainly sunny day.

Fri Aug 11 7:38 2017 NZST
Run: 1.1nm (2km)
Weather: 10e, 90%cc, 1016

Moving off and north today.

Wed Aug 9 9:30 2017 NZST
Run: 1.1nm (2km)
Weather: 10-18 knots NE, 60% cloud, 1018 baro

Still in Fulaga and the wind is still blowing! It has been very breezy here for the past 3 days, so we have been mainly sitting inside rather than enjoying our surroundings. There are about 50 islands in the Lau group, but only around 15 of these have good anchorages. Fulaga, in the southern Lau, offers more shelter than most anchorages, although the best shelter is found in the northern Lau at the Vanua Balavu group of islands. Most of the islands in the Lau seem to have at least one village. Fulaga has 3 villages. In other parts of the Lau, the villagers go fishing and sell lobsters and other fish to Suva, or they make decorative twine from coconut husks, or they do wood carving, or make tapa, a decorative mat for the wall or table. These villages sell their crafts and their produce to the market in Suva and that is how they earn their money. Some islands offer tourism services for a small fee to yachts, such as land tours or guiding you to a cave or snorkel spot. In Fulaga they have discovered an easy way of making money. They charge each yacht $50 for anchoring in the lagoon! They do not provide any services for yachts, there is no marina or yacht club, there is no water or fuel available, they do not offer snorkelling or diving trips, they do not put on a dance or show or even sing for their money, they just demand it for anchoring. This $50 cash is addition to the $25 bundle of kava that is traditional for sevusevu, the traditional gifting ceremony. We gave them kava, but instead of doing the sevusevu ceremony to welcome us into the village they demanded $50. They said once we gave them the $50, then they would perform the sevusevu ceremony. In other words, they would not welcome us in to the village without the $50. This did not make us feel very welcome at all! If you leave Fulaga to visit another island and come back, they expect you to do sevusevu again, with more kava and another $50! Other villages in Fiji, once you have been welcomed in the first time, you are welcome to come back again in the same season without doing sevusevu again. Fulaga is a pretty place with turquoise water and little mushroom-shaped islets dotted about. It has a sandy bottom, so easy to anchor, but the snorkelling is non existent, unless you like looking at sand. There is a beautiful coral reef around the edge and through the pass, but we need calm weather to venture out of the lagoon to see this coral. Once the weather improves for moving about again, we will visit some of the other islands of the Lau, but it is unlikely we will return here.

Wed Aug 9 7:34 2017 NZST
Weather: 90%cc, 12ene, 1018, 22C

Wind has finally dropped in Fuluga

Tue Aug 8 7:32 2017 NZST
Run: 335.6nm (607.4km)
Avg: 14.3knts
24hr: 343.1nm
Weather: 23DE, 20%cc, 1019

was 30-35 SE yesterday but no swell or surge in the anchorage

Mon Aug 7 8:04 2017 NZST
Run: 336.6nm (609.2km)
Avg: 8.1knts
24hr: 193.4nm
Weather: 25g30 1019

Fuluga but did not hear their exact position

Sat Aug 5 14:18 2017 NZST
Run: 32.8nm (59.4km)
Weather: 10-18 knots SE, 50% cloud, 1013 baro

We have just arrived in Vulaga (pronounced Fulanga), which is in the southern part of the Lau group of Fiji. We enjoyed our trip hopping down through the multitude of islands in this group and gave away more reading glasses and clothes yesterday in the village of Komo island. We had intended to stop at another couple of islands on the way south, but the wind will be getting stronger from tomorrow night, so we decided to seek the shelter of Vulaga. This area is a ring of islands, all connected by a wide reef. There is one very small pass into the lagoon. Once inside the lagoon the ring of islands offer protection from every wind direction and the water is very calm. We will sit here for a while, not sure how long. There does not seem to be internet connection here, so it could be a quiet time for communications! So far in the Lau group we have been the only boat in the bay at every stop. There are other yachts here, we counted 4 as we came in, and maybe more hiding around the various islands scattered throughout the lagoon. So we look forward to catching up with other yachties here!

Fri Aug 4 7:33 2017 NZST
Run: 35.3nm (63.9km)
Weather: 80%cc, 8SE, 1014, calm

Komo Is. Enjoying calm weather

Wed Aug 2 17:33 2017 NZST
Run: 53.7nm (97.2km)
Avg: 5.4knts
24hr: 128.5nm
Weather: 40pct cloud, 10 knots E in the anchorage but it has been 25-30E all day. 1012 baro

We have arrived safely in Lakeba after a sporty sail south! Started at 5am and expected winds to lighten up but they stayed at 25-30 knots most of the day. At least they were from the right direction, Easterly, so perfect for our 60nm sail south. We enjoyed sailing for a change, it has been so long since we have had a full day of sailing we thought we might have forgotten how! We had some higher gusts of wind and at one point Heather heard an ominous sound.....tinkle tinkle clunk! Something metal had dropped off from somewhere - but where?? Quick action by the skipper identified that the new solar panel had lost two of the four fittings that hold it in place and was now flapping in the wind! Another big gust and it would have been gone!! Luckily Karl got a rope around it in time and secured it before it flew away. We really need to find a competent stainless steel maker when we get back to GH, we are certainly not using those other blokes again!! The anchorage in Lakeba is a nice surprise. No information on the charts, but there is a large v shaped gap in the reef here, very sheltered by the large reef. The water is so clear we can see the anchor on the sandy bottom in 22m of water! Stunning coral garden towards the shore, turtles and other lovely creatures. Worth a visit. Tomorrow we head 30nm further south, to the island of Komo.

Wed Aug 2 7:31 2017 NZST
Speed: 7.5knts
Run: 6.4nm (11.6km)
Weather: 25E, 1.5-2m swell, 60%cc

on their way south, rather briskly

Tue Aug 1 21:27 2017 NZST
Weather: Sheltered in the anchorage but some big gusts coming through now and then, wind swirling a bit. 50 pct cloud.

After a wonderful 11 days in Vanua Balavu, we are getting ready to depart. The wind will be turning more to the east tomorrow, so a good chance for us to sail south. We have been out of the passage and back in, making a track to follow that we know is clear of reefs. Tomorrow we will depart in the dark at 5am and sail down to Lakeba Island, about 60nm south of here. We are leaving early so that we will sail past potential hazards during daylight and arrive in good light to find out way in to the anchorage. For the highlights of our time here in Vanua Balavu, check out the blog.

Tue Aug 1 7:35 2017 NZST
Run: 4.9nm (8.9km)
Weather: 8-10S, 20%cc, 1016

heading south today so like the forecast backing winds

Mon Jul 31 6:50 2017 NZST
No position sent.
Weather: 9 knots SSE, 10 pct cloud, baro 1015

Beautiful sunny morning and very calm in Susui

Sun Jul 30 20:10 2017 NZST
Weather: The day started off with a big blow at about 3.30am. Wind built up to 30-35 knots by 4 am, then 40-45 knots by 4.30am. No rain at this time and then the wind calmed down by 5.30am. Very little wind all day but the drizzle started about 9.45am and continued on and off all day..

A drizzly day here, but we enjoyed attending the local church at Susui. Amazing harmony in the singing here, no musical instruments, just powerful, beautiful voices. The church is a tin shed, 8m x 10m, and has been used by the village as a church since the large concrete structure was blown flat during cyclone Winston last year. 70 people crowded in, including more than 20 children. We were invited to a traditional lunch after church and enjoyed local fish, cabbage and cassava with the family.

Sat Jul 29 7:16 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 15 knots SE, 1015 baro, 30 pct cloud, high, thin, scattered cloud

At Susui island, Vanua Balavu. Nice sheltered spot here.

Fri Jul 28 7:13 2017 NZST
Run: 3.8nm (6.9km)
Weather: 12-15 knots SE wind. 10 pct cloud. 1016 baro

Anchored at Susui Island, still in the Vanua Balavu lagoon. Enjoying village visits in this area. We are the only boat in the bay at each spot so far.

Thu Jul 27 6:48 2017 NZST
Run: 7.5nm (13.6km)
Weather: 15knots SE, 5 pct cloud

Windy night but beautiful sunny morning. Doing our bit with reading glasses and sun glasses for Lomaloma and Sawana villages today. Then on to Namalata tomorrow.

Wed Jul 26 7:35 2017 NZST
Run: 134.9nm (244.2km)
Avg: 5.6knts
24hr: 135nm
Weather: 90%cc, 2var, 1015. Rain yesterday

Little Bay

Tue Jul 25 7:36 2017 NZST
Run: 1.1nm (2km)
Weather: 5SE, 90%cc, 1013

Vanua Balavu

Mon Jul 24 7:47 2017 NZST
Run: 129.7nm (234.8km)
Avg: 241.4knts
24hr: 5794.3nm
Weather: Another sunny day in paradise, Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu

Another sunny day in paradise, Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu

Mon Jul 24 7:15 2017 NZST
Weather: Wind 3 knots east, 2 pct cloud, 1014 baro

Another beautiful day in Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu

Sat Jul 22 21:19 2017 NZST
Run: 0.5nm (0.9km)
Weather: No wind, no cloud, starry night!

Great day at the village. We had a fairly orderly line of people trying on reading glasses to find the best strength for them. But when the sun glasses went on the table there was no order at all - it was like a swarm of bees around a honey pot! Everybody was very happy! Motored around into the Bay of Islands area this afternoon. Stunning landscape. A bit scary wriggling through all the little knobs of islands but we made it!

Sat Jul 22 7:34 2017 NZST
Run: 4.1nm (7.4km)
Weather: 3ENE. 5%cc, 1015,

enjoying beautiful Vanua Blavu, N Lau group Fiji

Fri Jul 21 17:03 2017 NZST
Run: 53.7nm (97.2km)
Avg: 6knts
24hr: 143nm
Weather: Sunny skies, 10 pct cloud. Wind 10 knots NE. Baro 1011. The front has not arrived yet!

Have now arrived in Vanua Balavu, in the northern Lau group of Fiji. This morning we left Matagi at 6.15am, as soon as we had enough light to see. All day we had brilliant sunshine, calm seas and not much wind! We started sailing, but without enough wind our speed dropped to 2.5knots! So it was back to motoring for most of the trip. Sometimes we are not sure why we even bother having a mast on the boat! With the help of our trusty motor, we arrived through the pass into Vanua Balavu with the sun still high, giving us good visibility to get through the reefs. The electronic charts here are out by a long way, so the only way to navigate is by seeing the shallow patches. In fact, out track as we came in, looked like we were going over reefs and some of the anchorages are on land! The main village here is Daliconi, where we are anchored now. We have been to visit the Chief, who is 83 years old and looking good! Tomorrow we have arranged to take reading glasses and sunglasses into the village, to give to those who need them.
We do not seem to have internet here, so it is back to the satellite phone for communication.

Fri Jul 21 8:02 2017 NZST
Speed: 4knts
Run: 9.5nm (17.2km)
Weather: 9ENE, 20%cc, 0.5m se swell, 1014

on their way to Vanua Balava and will be there this evening.

Tue Jul 18 12:33 2017 NZST
Weather: Passing showers. One minute it is sunny, next we have a few clouds and fine drizzle, followed by sunshine again a few minutes later.

Still in Matagi Island waiting for the right weather to sail to the Lau Group. Looks like we will be here until early Friday morning. For more about our time in Matagi, check out our blog!

Sat Jul 15 7:37 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 100%cc, no rain, 1016, 5SE

matangi anchorage

Thu Jul 13 18:32 2017 NZST
Run: 1.6nm (2.9km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 161.5nm

Correct position now shown. Back in wi-fi land here!

Thu Jul 13 18:18 2017 NZST
Run: 24.7nm (44.7km)
Weather: 15-20 SE during the day, cloud increased in the afternoon. Calm in the anchroage

Moved to Matagi island today. A horseshoe Bay, tranquil and protected. Will sit here while strong winds pass us by in the next few days and then hop to the Lau group. We loved our time in Albert Cove, swimming with an eagle ray and a huge variety of soft and hard corals. This anchorage is equally beautiful. Lush green hills, white sand beaches. Our snorkelling here revealed more beautiful fish, a resident 2m white tip shark and a ponderous turtle. On shore we have a little black goat and hillsides full of birds. For the last two mornings in Albert Cove we awoke to a resounding morning chorus of birds in the bush. A wonderful way to welcome the new day.

Tue Jul 11 15:36 2017 NZST
Run: 23.4nm (42.4km)
Weather: variable!! Changed from no wind before lunch to 25-30 knots in the afternoon , mainly from the East or ESE. Have had sunny skies but clouding over now. Calm in the anchorage.

Now in Albert Cove on the island of Rabi. Spent last night at Buca Bay sheltering from strong SE winds. This morning we had blue sky and flat calm so we motored up the western side of Kioa island with only 2 knots of breeze and glassy seas. As soon as we were in the gap between the islands, a brisk breeze sprung up and we had a fast sail. We thought the wind might die again once we got in the lee of Rabi island, but it got steadily stronger as the day went on. As we approached Albert Cove we had 25-30 knots with higher gusts! There was another yacht in the bay, Meerbaer, and these kind people jumped in their dinghy and guided us in through the reefs to get inside the cove. It is heavenly here. Totally protected, calm, good snorkeling and a white sandy beach. Life is good.

Sun Jul 9 13:25 2017 NZST
Weather: Almost no wind. 100pct cloud, misty on the hills, some drizzle

Enjoying life in Viani Bay. Eight yachts here, well 3 real yachts and 5 catamarans. Went diving with a few others on Friday. Beach gathering last night with shared food and music session. Locals and yachties with guitars and ukuleles helped to entertain us along with beautiful Fijian singing. Will hang out here for a while and do some more diving in the area.

Thu Jul 6 11:16 2017 NZST
Run: 12.5nm (22.6km)

Now in Viani Bay, in the sunshine. Blue sky and peaceful here, but still blowing like snot outside! As soon as we entered the pass and go to inside the reef it was like a different world. Flat calm and almost no wind.

Wed Jul 5 22:18 2017 NZST
Run: 25.2nm (45.6km)
Weather: SE10 knots in the protected harbour, but it was more like 25 knots outside this afternoon, baro 1016, 100% cloud, rain

Finally departed Savusavu after enjoying a week of "town time". Had a boisterous ride today in 2-3m swells and 22-26knots of SE breeze. Now in Fawn Harbour where we sit in tranquility and rain! For more about our visit to Savusavu, have a look at our blog.

Wed Jul 5 9:42 2017 NZST
Run: 5.4nm (9.8km)

After a busy week in Savusavu we are heading out today, towards Viani Bay and hopefully some diving in the next few days. We have filled up with diesel again, this time by taking 4 loads of 3 jerry cans by dinghy to the shore and a short walk to the service station to fill them up. Solar panel appears to be working again. For now! Heather managed to get a haircut yesterday so the haystack is now under control again. Have enjoyed the company of our new friends on Sequoia and Roundabout ll. we all had a nice dinner out last night.

Sun Jul 2 11:58 2017 NZST
Run: 5.3nm (9.6km)

Watched the All Blacks vs Lions rugby last night at the Savusavu yacht club, along with a groups of Kiwi yachties and a band of Brits. The Brits were young guys in their last year of medical school, doing 2 months work experience in Fiji. The lads were gracious about the win to the Lions and we all had a good night. Today we headed out of the Harbour, for a swim and snorkel at Kasunavunavu Point. Great to be back in the water. 27 degrees! Will be back in Savusavu tonight and hopefully get our solar power issues sorted on Monday.

We were actually pleased that the Lions won as it keeps the series alive. The Brits have been such lovely people to have around.....we've had quite a few here in Russell. It would have been a huge disappointment for them to go home without one test victory under their belt. We're shuddering with the cold here. Not often we have frosts but now we have! Brrrrrrrr! Enjoy the swimming you lucky things? Love Adele & Rodney
Sat Jul 1 8:57 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)

Enjoying life in Savusavu. Some people ask what we do all day, well the days just seem to go! Trips to the supermarket, the butcher, the laundry, the post office, , the ATM, the electronics shop, the marine shop, the ATM, the cafe, the ATM...back to the laundry, the produce market and socialising with other boaties in the bay. Yesterday we walked to the rugby field in the next village to watch the events for National Sport and Wellness Day. They rugby field had been shortened to allow Volley ball games at one end and netball games at the other while touch rugby played on in the middle. Various Government departments had teams. Police, Fire, Water, Bioscurity, Health, Agronomy research and the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation! We did our "wellness" activity by walking the half hour each way to the ground. Various little maintenance jobs kept us busy in the afternoon and before we knew it, it was Gin O'Clock again!

Rotten wind & rain all over NZ but we're snug inside with R's talking books and my new Exercycle! Had a couple of days in Auckland to see the orthopaedic surgeon for R's back. Rodney was in the loo down the hall when he was called to go in. I dashed off to find him being led back between two nurses from the theatre!!!!! He had lost his way. Lions v All Blacks tonight. The ball will be greasy so perhaps the teams will be more evenly matched. SavuSavu ... brings memories back!!! Love Adele
Wed Jun 28 16:14 2017 NZST
Run: 7.4nm (13.4km)

Arrived safely into Savusavu at 9am after a pleasant and fast trip from Tonga. Clearance through customs was quick and painless. Have just got back from town with a new SIM card, so we have internet again, plus bag loads of fresh fruit and veges from the market. What a wonderful market, and all about half the price of Tonga. We will be feasting on pineapple, papaya, bananas and long green beans today! Great to be back in this friendly place and the water is 27.5 degrees, much better than Tonga where it has dropped to 25.8 and cooling fast as winter kicks in. Brrr! Bula Bula!

Wed Jun 28 7:35 2017 NZST
Speed: 6knts
Run: 105.3nm (190.6km)
Avg: 7.4knts
24hr: 178.1nm
Weather: 20SE, 1mS swell, 1014, 100%cc

10nm to Savusavu

Tue Jun 27 17:24 2017 NZST
Speed: 6.0knts
Run: 71.5nm (129.4km)
Avg: 7.1knts
24hr: 170.7nm
Weather: SSE 18-22 knots, baro 1013, 20% cloud, swell 1m S

Perfect conditions today, seas slight, sunny day, good sailing breeze. A pretty day looking at several islands of the Lau group as we sailed by. Looking forward to coming back here to explore once we have checked in to Savusavu, stocked up on supplies again and run a few errands! Many sea birds circling around, a lot more than in Tonga. 95NM to go to Savusavu. Happy day in NZ today, we imagine many parties going on as NZ celebrates winning the Americas Cup yacht race in Bermuda. Congratulations Team New Zealand, you are the best!!! (So glad we don't have to get the cork back in the champagne bottle this year)

Tue Jun 27 7:21 2017 NZST
Speed: 6.0knts
Run: 82.5nm (149.3km)
Avg: 5.7knts
24hr: 136.1nm
Weather: SSE 25 knots, baro 1014, 80% cloud, swell 1-2m S

Very light winds during the night, but picked up at 5am. Now sailing in a good steady breeze. Have just entered Lakeba passage into the Lau group and have the first little islands in sight. All well on board. 170NM to go to Savusavu

Mon Jun 26 16:48 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.5knts
Run: 55.6nm (100.6km)
Avg: 6.1knts
24hr: 145.3nm
Weather: SE 10 knots, baro 1012, 30% cloud, swell 2-3m SW very long slow swell but slight seas

Enjoyed a starry night last night and a sunny day today. Very light winds, so motoring. Pleasant conditions despite the long slow 2-3m swell from SW. Made good progress, now too close to Oneata passage and would arrive during the night. Have changed course to further north, Lakeba passage and will go through this part of the Lau Group during daylight hours en route to Savusavu.

Mon Jun 26 7:37 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.7msknts
Run: 80.5nm (145.7km)
Avg: 5.2knts
24hr: 125.3nm
Weather: 10-12SE, 1m S swell, 10%cc, 1014

going a little north of line to get better speed and get through the Lau islands

Sun Jun 25 16:12 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.8 sailingknts
Run: 61.1nm (110.6km)
Avg: 3knts
24hr: 72.8nm
Weather: SSE22 knots, baro 1010, 30% cloud, swell 1 1/2m S

Nice sailing breeze, all well on board.

Sat Jun 24 20:03 2017 NZST
Run: 18.5nm (33.5km)
Weather: N15 knots, baro 1011, 30% cloud

Now at Haafeva Island, Tonga, ready to set sail in the morning for Savusavu, Fiji, which will take us 4 days and 4 nights of sailing. Looking forward to being in Fiji again. For highlights of our trip so far, please check out our blog.

Fri Jun 23 18:09 2017 NZST
Run: 8.1nm (14.7km)

Now at Tatafa island. Good shelter from NE 30 knots outside and we were lucky to see a whale go sauntering by in the Bay! Caught up with a few of our fellow boaties today. Everyone is thinking of the people on sv Jungle who set off their emergency locator beacon early this morning, just south of the Lau group. We are all eager to hear updates about them. Vessel Vilomee has been tasked with heading for the location of this vessel to see what they can do to help. Best wishes to Vilomee and to the crew of Jungle. Our thoughts are with you.

Thu Jun 22 8:41 2017 NZST
Run: 1.2nm (2.2km)
Weather: E 20, passing cloud, sometimes 50 percent, sometimes 10

Stayed at Holopeka Tuesday night, closest Anchorage to the airport. Just as well we were close by...Lene got a text about 5pm to say the morning flight back to Nuku'alofa had been brought forward by 2 1/2 hours!! We had to go ashore in semi dark at 6.30am to walk to the airport! Waved goodbye to Bjorn and Lene and then started our chores to get ready for departure to Fiji. Scrubbed the bottom of the hull yesterday. Washing day today. Hope to depart for Savusavu on Sunday.

Tue Jun 20 7:15 2017 NZST
Run: 5.1nm (9.2km)
Weather: 18E, 10%cc,

at pangai waiting for wx to Savusavu

Mon Jun 19 15:54 2017 NZST
Run: 10.7nm (19.4km)

Back at Uoleva island. International feeling here with yachts from Norway, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and of course our own Dutch flag flying! We had 35 knots plus form E on way down here, but now only 20 knots in the anchorage.

Mon Jun 19 6:46 2017 NZST
Run: 5.7nm (10.3km)

Have spent the last couple of days at Foa island. Great snorkelling on the reef nearby. A bit windy though, 30 knots from the east now, so will move today to a spot more sheltered from the east. Had a nice walk through the village yesterday with Bjorn and Lene.

Wedding bells for my eldest grandson who wants to get married in our summer house!!! Popped the question in front of the Duke of Marlborough after a romantic dinner. Very thrilled. Stay safe. You sound as if you're having a lovely time with your friends. Love Adele
Sat Jun 17 7:41 2017 NZST
Run: 0.2nm (0.4km)
Weather: 99%cc, 17SE

Fri Jun 16 18:06 2017 NZST
Run: 9.7nm (17.6km)

We had a lovely visit to Ha'ano village yesterday. Met the principal of the school and her husband, plus a volunteer teacher from USA. They gave us bananas and paw paw, then came out to visit us on the boat with their 6 year old son and 9 month old daughter - bringing coconuts for us! We gave them some school supplies and fishing lures, plus milk powder. Today we went for a dive along the reef. Wonderful! So much colour, so many fish. Have now moved down to Pangai again so we can go back to the market in th morning. Bjorn and Lene have decided that this is heaven!

Sounds wonderful! My grandson, Elliot and his girlfriend, Molly, announced their engagement after a romantic dinner at the Duke of Marlborough on Wed. night. They have requested that they marry in our summer house, followed by the reception in our house. As the extended family take up the majority of the guests it should be a lot of fun. Feb is the suggested month. Something to look forward to! Love Adele 😃😃😃😃
Wed Jun 14 16:12 2017 NZST
Run: 14.6nm (26.4km)

Now at Haano Island. This is the northern island of the Ha'apai group. It has been a cloudy day with a few showers, but improving now. Relaxing day.

Tue Jun 13 14:56 2017 NZST
Run: 21.1nm (38.2km)

Enjoying the snorkelling, the sun, the sand and the warm water at Uoleva Island. The fishing has been ok too, with fresh tuna for dinner the last two nights and a meal of jobfish tonight. Yum! Bjorn and Lene are happy to see the Danish flag flying in the rigging :-)

Sun Jun 11 20:18 2017 NZST
Run: 27.1nm (49.1km)
Weather: SW25-35 knots, baro 1010, 30% cloud

Collected good friends Bjorn and Lene on Friday morning. Lovely to have them here. Celebrated our wedding anniversaries together. 54 years for them and 2 years for us! After going to the market in Pangai on Saturday morning for fresh supplies we headed over to Haafeva Is for a wonderful snorkel around Koro Island. Attended to Tongan church service this morning - wonderful powerful singing! Now at Oua Island waiting for SW winds to die down and turn back to SE.

Wonderful, Happy Anniversaries to you all.xx Mum and Dad.
Thu Jun 8 15:41 2017 NZST
Run: 6.3nm (11.4km)

Anchored near the village of Holopeka, beside the island of Lifuka. This is near the airport, ready to meet our VIP visitors tomorrow morning.

Enjoy the visit with Lene & Bjorn. Hope the weather and snorkeling will be fabulous
Wed Jun 7 17:31 2017 NZST
Run: 38.2nm (69.1km)

Had a wonderful sail today from Nomuka Ika. 20 knots SE, calm seas. The SW swell has gone. Caught a Tuna for dinner. Yum! Some socialising with other boaties at Uoleva yacht club. At Uoleva island for the night. Pangai tomorrow.

Mon Jun 5 19:57 2017 NZST
Run: 63.8nm (115.5km)
Avg: 5.2knts
24hr: 124.5nm
Weather: SE10 knots, baro 1013, 100% cloud, rain, W swell 1-2m . Question: hope the W quadrant swell goes soon, please comment David?

Left Pangaimotu island this morning at 7.15am. Had a fabulous sail north, with a 10-15 knot SE pushing us along at 6-7 knots. Got to Kelefesia at 2.30pm but a swell from the west was coming in, so the anchorage was very wavery! Carried on to Nomuka Ika. Dolphins came to play with us along the way. Had to anchor on the east side, even though we have SE winds, because of the swell from the west. Quiet here. Managed to get here in daylight, about 5.30pm and in the dry. Cloudy day but the rain didn't start until almost 8pm. No signal for wi-fi here so back on the satellite communication.

Mon Jun 5 7:38 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: 8-10SE, 99%cc

motoring out of Tongatapu under the trough.

Mon Jun 5 5:18 2017 NZST
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)

After a few days of catching up on chores and catching our breath, we are heading north this morning, to start our journey in the Ha'apai group of Tonga

Sat Jun 3 7:39 2017 NZST
Run: 1.5nm (2.7km)
Weather: hi wispy cloud to east, 4N

anchored at pangiomotu and had dinner last night. a dozen boats there. nice day

Fri Jun 2 11:09 2017 NZST
Run: 1.5nm (2.7km)
Weather: SE10 knots, baro 1014, 20% cloud

Arrived at Nuku'alofa harbour at 8.30am NZ time, 9.30am Tongan time. Great to be here! Beautiful, calm sunny day. Customs clearance, immigration, health, quarantine all completed within 2 hours. Now we just have to wait until after lunch before we can get our permit to cruise in the Ha'apai group. Meanwhile arranging diesel to be delivered. We used plenty on this trip! Looking forward to getting to the markets for some fresh fruit and veges. Will head over to Big Mamas for a meal tonight, yum!

The 1st leg behind you Yeh!!!! ,.Enjoy your adventures and stay on your honeymoon!! We are off tomorrow can you receive our emails?? If so what do we use? Love to you both Sue and Graeme

Well done, looks fab . When at the market ask for soursop, the pulp mixed with milk makes a delicious drink. Fruit is green and spiky with large seeds inside. You probably know all this but it is one of my favourite things in the tropics and I always seek it out at the markets. Enjoy. We are off to Sydney from 8th to 18th June visiting Vivid and some friends.
Fri Jun 2 7:44 2017 NZST
Run: 61.9nm (112km)
Avg: 4.2knts
24hr: 100.4nm
Weather: 10SE, 1015, 10%cc

at the pass to Tongatapu on a glorious morning

Hope it's not breezy when you arrive! Memories are vivid when the regatta arrived when we were there. Yachts in all directions! All's well here. Love Adele & Rodney xxxx
Thu Jun 1 16:57 2017 NZST
Speed: 2 sailingknts
Run: 61.5nm (111.3km)
Avg: 6.1knts
24hr: 146.9nm
Weather: SE17 knots, baro 1014, 20% cloud, swell 1/2m E

All well on board. After light and shifty winds all night we finally got a stable breeze about 8am and started sailing. A beautiful sailing day in calm water. Have made good progress today, in fact now we have reduced sail and slowed right down to avoid arriving in Tonga while it is still dark. We plan to enter the pass into Tongatapu just on daylight. Tonga time is 1 hour ahead of NZ time!

Thu Jun 1 6:54 2017 NZST
Speed: 7.1 motor sailingknts
Run: 103.7nm (187.7km)
Avg: 7.7knts
24hr: 185.7nm
Weather: ESE12 knots, baro 1017, 20% cloud, swell 1m E

Calm seas, starry night, sunny morning, all well on board. Very light winds, so motor sailing.

Wed May 31 17:30 2017 NZST
Speed: 7.6 motor sailingknts
Run: 71.1nm (128.7km)
Avg: 7.2knts
24hr: 171.7nm
Weather: E9 knots, baro 1016, 20% cloud, swell 1/2m NE

Left North Minerva pass at 7.30am, as soon as we cleared the pass we noticed the wind had changed from SE to NE. Wind on the nose again!! Only light wind this time though and very flat sea. We must have a wind magnet attached to our bow...
Motored all day, wind slowly crept further E so now motor sailing.

Wed May 31 7:33 2017 NZST
Run: 1.9nm (3.4km)
Weather: 12SE

Just raised anchor at N Minerva and eta Tongatapu Friday am

Tue May 30 11:45 2017 NZST
Run: 1.9nm (3.4km)
Weather: SE8 knots, baro 1019, 50% cloud, calm water

Enjoying North Minerva, will depart tomorrow for Tongatapu, which is only a two day passage, so we should arrive in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, Friday morning. For more info on what we have been up to in Minerva, please check out our blog.

Tue May 30 7:40 2017 NZST
Weather: 9SE, 50%cc, 24C sunny, 1019

resting in n Minerva and likely leaving tomorrow with light SE winds predicted.

Mon May 29 7:33 2017 NZST
Run: 32.2nm (58.3km)
Weather: clear skies, 20%cc, e to w quad winds

anchored in N Minerva

Sun May 28 7:09 2017 NZST
Speed: 4.0 motoringknts
Run: 78nm (141.2km)
Avg: 5.5knts
24hr: 132.3nm
Weather: N20 knots, baro 1017, 50% cloud, swell 1m N

Have motored all night in 18-20knot head winds. Sea is now fairly calm. We are now only 5 miles from South Minerva. Have slowed down to wait for better daylight to enter through the pass. We have arrived!! The water is 25 degrees C, so the first thing we will be doing once we drop the anchor is having a swim! Good to be here. The trip was uneventful, more headwinds than we anticipated but no dramas. We will visit South Minerva first and then probably go to North Minerva for a time as well. On our previous trip in this direction we only went to North Minerva. Will stay a few days here before resuming our passage to Tonga - it is only another 2 days from here to Tongatapu.

Great to hear that you guys have arrived safely. Enjoy the warmth!
Sat May 27 17:00 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.0 motoringknts
Run: 50.4nm (91.2km)
Avg: 5.4knts
24hr: 129.2nm
Weather: N20 knots, baro 1015, 50% cloud, swell 2m N

After a rainy and blowy night it was nice to see blue sky and sunshine from around 10am today. Motoring most of the day, heading straight for Minerva into headwinds. The sea has calmed down enough for us to head into it, so we have made some progress today rather than tacking back and forth. ETA Minerva tomorrow morning - yay!

Sat May 27 7:38 2017 NZST
Speed: 4.5knts
Run: 59.1nm (107km)
Avg: 4knts
24hr: 96.6nm
Weather: snotty overnight 30-45kts, now 25-30N, 2m N swell, 1017, 100

not enjoying the conditions but only one more day of misery.

Fri May 26 16:57 2017 NZST
Speed: 3.0 sailingknts
Run: 34.6nm (62.6km)
Avg: 3.7knts
24hr: 88.9nm
Weather: N35-40 knots, baro 1015, 100% cloud, swell 3m N

Strong head winds and swells slowing down our speed today. Have just made a tack to the east. We would have arrived in Minerva on Saturday but slow progress means our ETA is now Sunday. The bonus is, it is warm here! For the last two days we have been in shorts and t-shirts and really feel we have left winter behind.

Fri May 26 7:36 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.5knts
Run: 73.3nm (132.7km)
Avg: 5.2knts
24hr: 123.8nm
Weather: 30-35 g40 overnight, 3m swell, 95%cc, 1017

looking forward to the conditions easing

Thu May 25 17:24 2017 NZST
Speed: 6.5 sailingknts
Run: 68.5nm (124km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 159.6nm
Weather: NNE23 knots, baro 1018, 40% cloud, swell 2m E

Better sailing today as we are north of the Kermadecs and away from the current. Good winds and a nice sail apart from a couple of little squalls and a bowl of soup flying through the cabin spreading tomato soup down cupboards, across the floor and over the bed and pillow! Clean up job kept us busy for a while. Apart from that, plan sailing!

Thu May 25 7:06 2017 NZST
Speed: 6.0 sailingknts
Run: 136.1nm (246.3km)
Avg: 5.7knts
24hr: 136.7nm
Weather: NE20 knots, baro 1020, 90% cloud, swell 2m E

Good sailing breeze yesterday but 1 knot of current against us and lumpy sea, so a bit slow on progress. All well on board. Sea has flattened out now, so getting better speed/

Wed May 24 7:12 2017 NZST
Speed: 4.4 sailingknts
Run: 79.4nm (143.7km)
Avg: 5.6knts
24hr: 134.2nm
Weather: NE20 knots, baro 1021, 50% cloud, swell 1-2m E

Good sailing overnight but 1 knot of current against us, so a bit slow on progress. All well on board

Tue May 23 17:00 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.7 sailingknts
Run: 63.2nm (114.4km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 156.4nm
Weather: NE15 knots, baro 1022, 80% cloud, swell 1-2m E correction of baro this morning was 1025 not 1029

Back to motoring for a while this afternoon as we passed through a soft patch. Wind coming up again now, but NE so will need to sail NW for a while.

Tue May 23 7:18 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.7 sailingknts
Run: 38.2nm (69.1km)
Avg: 4.9knts
24hr: 116.8nm
Weather: ESE15 knots, baro 1029, 20% cloud, swell 1m or less E

The wind came up a bit just after midnight, having a lovely sail now.

Great to be able to follow your open water journey Heather. Fascinating. Safe travels. Cheers. Toddy
Mon May 22 23:27 2017 NZST
Speed: 5.7 motoringknts
Run: 118.7nm (214.8km)
Avg: 7.9knts
24hr: 188.6nm
Weather: NE10 knots, baro 1025, 30% cloud

Had some great sailing the first day but motoring today. Both have our sea legs now so feeling good. Starry night and calm seas.

Mon May 22 8:20 2017 NZST
Speed: 6.0mknts
Run: 141.5nm (256.1km)
Avg: 6.4knts
24hr: 154.1nm
Weather: var wind, 1-2m swell, 80%cc, 1029

on passage to Minerva. This via relay from Navire as too close for GHRadio.

Sun May 21 10:18 2017 NZST
Speed: 7 motoringknts
Run: 5.8nm (10.5km)
Weather: SW 5 knots, baro 1025, 30% cloud

Departing Bay of Islands, NZ now, heading for Minerva reef and then on to Tonga. Calm sunny day!

Sat May 20 14:00 2017 NZST
Speed: 0knts
Run: 1.1nm (2km)
Weather: SW 20-30 knots, baro 1014, 80% cloud, passing showers

Preparing to depart tomorrow morning, heading to Minerva reef.

Elas modificam a estrutura capilar, desse modo são as únicas que cobrem 100% os fios brancos. http://www.xinsu360.com/vps/member.asp?action=view&memName=LauraLid1038947567452

Good one Guys. Safe sailing, we'll be watching
Thu May 18 10:33 2017 NZST

It looks like we might be waiting in NZ for a bit longer. Some nasty weather possible en route next week. We will post updates when we know more about our departure date.

Thought I would drop you a happy travels wish but your still in NZ!!!Perhaps we could catch up for lunch in Paihia of Russell on Sunday??
Wed May 17 9:51 2017 NZST
Run: 3.2nm (5.8km)

Celebrated Karl's birthday and Mothers Day with lunch in Paihia on Sunday, then stayed at Urupukapuka Island and had a walk through the bush on Monday. Yesterday we visited the pretty town of Russell, filled up the lpg bottle, got some groceries and did the last of our laundry. We also visited Rodney and Adele, the previous owners of Aradonna. So nice to see them again! Now back in Opua Marina, preparing for departure to Tonga. Maybe we will set sail on Friday 19th May...

Sat May 13 19:48 2017 NZST
Run: 2.3nm (4.2km)

Enjoyed a sunny day today. Waved to our friends on Distracted as they set sail for New Caledonia, Bon Voyage! Went to Russell, laundromat time! Walked to Long Beach on the other side while the wash was drying, stunning view. The wind came up so after grabbing a few groceries we scurried across the bay to anchor in Te Ti Bay, in front of Paihia. Another walk and lunch in Paihia, sitting in the sun watching parasailing in the bay. Staying in Te Ti for the night, peaceful here and another night of free parking while we wait for the weather to come right for sailing to Tonga. Maybe the 18th May looks good for departure, but watch this space!

Wed May 10 11:18 2017 NZST
Run: 6.9nm (12.5km)

We had a lovely day fishing yesterday, then visited Russell to stock up on fresh supplies and treated ourselves to ice creams! It looks like we will be waiting here until at least the 18th May now. Cyclone Donna in New Caledonia is heading this way. Cyclone Ella is heading to Fiji and a depression is coming from the Tasman sea towards NZ over the next few days. Yuck! Meanwhile we will enjoy our holiday in the Bay of Islands.

Sun May 7 19:18 2017 NZST
Run: 3.3nm (6km)

Had a wonderful day in the sunny Bay of Islands. Started cleaning the bottom of the boat and then got distracted by the kelp and the rocks....came up with a crayfish for lunch! Will finish cleaning the hull tomorrow! Anchored in Otaio Bay, on Urupukapuka Island for th night. Very calm. Life is good!

Fri May 5 15:22 2017 NZST
Run: 5.9nm (10.7km)

Happy to be out of the Marina again for a few days. In Opunga Cove, very peaceful here!

Safe travels and Enjoy your time in the sun we will folow your journey xx
Thu May 4 8:20 2017 NZST
Run: 0.7nm (1.3km)
Avg: 30.7knts
24hr: 737.6nm

Thu May 4 8:19 2017 NZST
Run: 0.8nm (1.4km)

Cyclone Donna has formed and is tracking from New Caledonia to Vanuatu and who knows where after that. So we will not go anywhere this week. We will enjoy the Bay of Islands for the next week and wait until Donna is out of the way. A beautiful blue sky, sunny and calm here in Opua. All is well.

Wed May 3 16:32 2017 NZST
Run: 18.6nm (33.7km)

A beautiful calm sea and blue sky this morning, motored all the way from Mimiwhangata to Opua. Arrived about 1pm and have been busy catching up with other yachtie friends who will be heading up to Tonga this month. Clouds rolling in now a bit, but still sunny. Rain and cold wind is forecast tonight but we are happy and snug in our floating home.

Tue May 2 18:44 2017 NZST
Run: 72.5nm (131.2km)
Avg: 2.8knts
24hr: 66.5nm

Motored for 10 hours up the coast today. No wind! But beautiful day. Anchored in Mimiwhangata Bay. Will leave early tomorrow bound for Opua! Plans have changed again as you can see. Happy days.

Mon May 1 16:34 2017 NZST
Run: 13.7nm (24.8km)

Left Gulf Harbour late morning. Finally on our way! Enjoying the sunshine at Kawau Island. Will head further north tomorrow. Watching the weather and waiting for better conditions. Maybe a few days before we sail to Minerva reef. At least it feels like we have begun our holiday now that we have left the dock!

Sat Apr 29 9:10 2017 NZST
Run: 0.2nm (0.4km)
Avg: 12.2knts
24hr: 292.9nm

A systems check using the YIT app

Sat Apr 29 9:09 2017 NZST
Run: 16nm (29km)
Weather: 100% cloud, N winds getting stronger so will wait until Sunday to leave Gulf Harbour.

Getting ready to sail away. This update is to check that our communication systems are all working and the crew know what to do!

Sun Feb 26 9:47 2017 NZDT
Run: 41.1nm (74.4km)

A beautiful calm and sunny day in Vivian Bay at Kawau.

Sun Feb 5 9:05 2017 NZDT
Run: 35.1nm (63.5km)

Enjoying the sunshine and the scallops in the Coromandel islands

Sat Jan 14 16:52 2017 NZDT
Run: 72nm (130.3km)

After a few lovely days in Tauranga we are now at Slipper Island on our way north again. A very pretty spot!

Een goede vaart toegewenst van uit Steenwijk! Hartelijke groeten Ine en Bert

Aradonna - We love the Isle of Pines

Picture a long white sandy beach, in a neat curve, forming a bay that protects us from wind in any direction (apart from westerly and that almost never happens). Behind the beach you find long tall skinny pine trees, where the island gets its name - the Isle of Pines. But this island is much more than beach and trees. The bay is home to several turtles, that pop their heads up to say hello off and on all day. We also have a resident dugong that comes up looking like a floating log and then gives Read more...

us a graceful wave of the whale-like tail. Now and then a small ray will flip out of the water to make a splash. There are great snorkelling spots near by, teeming with fish. On shore the scenery is fabulous, with various walks offering different views of this spectacular place. On top of that, just 1km down the road is a little grocery store and a bit further on a bakery that bakes fresh baguettes every day. The bakery opens at 5.30am and has fresh bread baking until about 8am. The morning walk to the bakery has become a pleasant part of our daily routine. There are some resorts on shore, so if we feel like treating ourselves to an ice cream, a coffee or a meal, we can. We have not actually had a meal out yet, but just having the possibility is enticing! Last time we were here, two years ago, we hired a car and explored the island, visiting caves and natural pools and villages.
And because of all of these attractions, it is a popular place for yachties! So it is a very social bay. We meet new people, catch up with yachties we met earlier in our travels. We meet on each others boats for coffee in the morning or drinks in the evening, or dinner together. It is an easy place to form friendships and share experiences such as climbing the mountain, Pic Nga together. About twice a week a cruise ship comes in, delivering Kiwis and Aussies who are trying to get some sun after a long winter. We call them marshmallows. They are white when they arrive and pink when they leave after a day on the beach! When the cruise ship is in, the locals set up craft markets and little food stalls along the shore. The other visitors to the bay are people who have flown in and chartered a catamaran for a week or two. Some of these visitors provide us with entertainment. A boat load of Aussies came in to the bay on a charter cat the other day. We watched them trying to anchor. At first is was funny watching them, but after 9 failed attempts at setting the anchor it was not funny any more and none of us wanted them dragging near our boats. So Karl hopped in the dinghy and went over to them - he suggested they let a bit more anchor chain out, which they did - and the anchor set - finally! Phew. Each morning we wave good bye to some boats who are leaving the bay to go back to Noumea or head off to another country. Every afternoon a few more boats arrive - some old friends and some friends we are yet to meet.
There are other anchorages here - we have visited Vao and Gadji which is very pretty, but somehow, Kuto Bay keeps calling us back. It is just so hard to leave!

Aradonna - Matuku Island and arrival in Ono Island

We sailed to Matuku Island on 14th August because troughs and fronts were on the way, bringing changing wind directions and unpredictable conditions. Matuku harbour is very protected from wind of any direction, so we tucked oursleves in, ready to sit out whatever came. We were in for a very pleasant few days! Early morning on the 15th, we had rain and lightening, with misty cloud hanging over the mountains all around us, but the day became fine by mid-morning. A local boat was on the way out of Read more...

the bay to go fishing when its outboard motor stopped. We watched the man repeatedly try to start the motor and it was clear he was not going anywhere apart from drifting out of the bay. So Karl jumped in our dinghy, motored over and towed the boat back to Aradonna. This is how we met Jese-James, who prefers to be called Jay. Jay came on board and Karl worked on his motor, replaced the spark plugs and got it going again. Jay is 30 years old, he is a fisherman, a lay preacher, a father of three children and is the tour guide for visitors to Matuku. He was born with one leg deformed. From the knee down the leg is half the size it should be and his foot is very small with only three toes. But there is nothing at all about Jay that is disabled in any way. He climbs mountains and coconut trees, goes pig hunting, scuba diving and has even tried surfing. He is fit and strong and he is a very intelligent man. His mother was a school teacher and he speaks very good English, reading everything he can get his hands on to improve his vocabulary. It was very easy to like this man. He asked about the previous islands we had visited, where we had been, how long we had been travelling. As soon as we told him about our journey through the Lau group, he said: "You will be wanting some fresh vegetables!" He knew the places we had been to did not grow vegetables. Matuku is blessed with rich volcanic soil and plenty of rainfall, so things grow well here. Before we knew it, he had loaded us up with Bok Choy, tomatoes, cucumber, paw paw and coconuts. After weeks without fresh vegetables and our freezer now empty of frozen veges, we were thrilled. I never thought I would be so happy to see Bok Choy!! He refused to take money from us, saying he had plenty in his garden! Later we gave his family some canned corned beef and milk powder, which he was embarrassed about, but grateful. We also gave vegetable seeds to him to grow seedlings which would then be distributed to the villagers to grow their own veges. He warned us, however, not to give too much to the village - he said if yachts come in and give many things to the village it will change the culture of the village. He is afraid some people will get greedy if they are given too much. In his mind, gifts should be reciprocal, not expected. A very wise man.
Part of the problem with very sheltered harbours is the mosquitoes that seem to love these wet places. We have mosquito screens on the boat of course and now and then we get one or maybe two mosquitoes on the boat, but we have not really been bothered by them. Staying in bays where the boat is in the wind and anchoring more than 200m from shore also helps as mosquitoes cannot fly very far, especially in the wind. But in Matuku, we were close to shore and protected from wind....At 4am Heather woke up with the sound of mosquitoes buzzing in her ears. Karl, with ever increasing deafness, can no longer hear this high pitched whine, perhaps one of the benefits of getting deaf? But when Heather woke up, it was not just the noise of one or two mosquitoes flying around, it felt to Heather like she had her head in a bag of mosquitoes! Turning on the light revealed a whole squadron of mosquitoes buzzing around in the bedroom. After swatting 7 of them, all fully gorged with blood, and not making a dent in the flying squad, we sprayed the bedroom and retreated to the saloon to have hot chocolate. As you can imagine, Karl spent the next day blocking up every tiny hole he could find with mosquito net and with foam rubber strips, to seal off the boat completely! The next night was more peaceful.
Sitting in Matuku, waiting for bad weather to pass, Heather finally got sick of her long hair. The last cut was in Savusavu, but that was several weeks ago and her hair was flopping in her eyes and irritating the back of her neck. So she holed up in the bathroom with the scissors and had a hacking good time! After the initial cut, the hair was shorter but looked a bit chewed. It was also shorter on one side than the other. It took time to even all of this up, and by the time she was finished, her hair was, well, short! When she emerged from the bathroom Karl gave a startled look, which was quickly covered up by a big grin. "You took a lot off!" he said, still grinning. After Heather hastily reassured Karl that her hair would grow again, he said "It doesn't look TOO bad!" That is true love.
On one of our visits to the village, the chief, Chiko, asked Karl to help him with his boat. The chief used to have a short shaft outboard on his boat, so had cut a piece out of the back of his boat to accommodate it. Now he had a long shaft outboard and needed to fill in the gap. Karl set about getting tools and glue and timber from Aradonna and helping the chief with this project while Heather went for a walk. Ladies were in the community hall weaving mats which they sell in Suva markets. Some men process coconuts to make copra which they sell to get money for fuel. Jay took Heather for a guided walk to the next village where she met the Headmaster of the school. The school services 4 villages, they have 41 children and 6 teachers. There is also a kindergarten for 4-6 year olds. As it is a half hour to one hour walk between villages, the children are boarding at the school - even the 4 year olds only go home at weekends. The Headmaster was collecting coconuts at the beach and children were playing with skipping ropes while ladies prepared pandanas leaves for weaving. A few children were gathered in a little pup tent with a laptop - which looked quite out of place among the palm trees! later, back in the Harbour, the chief was zooming around the bay with his long shaft motor, to try it out, despite Karl asking him to leave it overnight until the glue had set. Hopefully it hangs together.
The people in Matuku were so friendly, we felt at home there. A lovely place to be and we would like to return one day. But the weather came right for moving on, or so we thought, so we set sail on the evening of 17th August, bound for Ono Island. This is a 90nm trip, so we left at 5.30pm, to arrive about 11am the next day. The forecast was for 15 knot wind, from the right direction, so it all sounded good. The wind forecast is an average of the wind. If we had a steady breeze of 15 knots all would have been well, but it was not to be. The first 5 hours we trotted along with 20 knots and made good speed, but then the wind dropped to about 8 knots and shifted to more from behind us. About every 10 or 15 minutes it would change. 18 knots for a while, which pushed us along nicely, then 8 knots for a time, which left our sails flapping uselessly about. We had 2-3m swells from beam on, not too bad if we have wind in the sails, but without enough wind to steady the boat we were tossing about like a cork in the ocean. It was a long night. Neither of us got much sleep at all, maybe 2 hours at the most. We were grateful to drop anchor at Ono Island and go ashore to the village of Nabouwalu. We had visited this village 3 years ago and looked forward to seeing some of the people we had met last time. This time the village was full of people! They were having a big family reunion. A man had left the village 100 years ago and gone to live in the northern part of Fiji, Vanua Levu. He had never come back. Now, 4 generations of his descendants had come to visit the village of their ancestor, for the fist time in 100 years. An extra 40 people had arrived, which doubled the village population. Families from other villages on the island arrived as well, swelling the numbers to almost triple the usual size. When we went to find the chief to do the customary greeting of sevusevu, we found him in a large group of men, all doing sevusevu as part of being welcomed into the village. It was great to be part of this sevusevu, seeing this ceremony used when people from other parts of Fiji visit a village - just the same as we do as visiting yachts in the village. We of course joined in with our own sevusevu and stayed for a couple of bowls of kava before we excused oursleves and left them to enjoy the family reunion.
A man from the village came with us, to show us around. On the walk through the village we noted that all the gardens were well tended and neat and tidy. We asked if the village had any damage from cyclone Winston last year. The man said they did not have any damage from the cyclone, because they prayed very hard....Heather could not help but ask about the people in the northern Lau islands, who also prayed very hard but suffered a lot of damage. His only response was to shrug. Like all of the Lau group, Ono is Methodist. There are no other churches and no other choices. Life is simple. The have services every morning at 5am and three times a day on Sunday. We have been to a few of these services over the last few weeks. They are full of hell fire and brimstone stuff, pretty heavy going. The preacher always looks like he will have a heart attack any moment during the sermon. (Today we slipped quietly out of the bay and had fellowship with fish instead!) Our first night in Ono, after our long sleepless passage, all we craved was sleep. We were in bed asleep by 8pm and didn't move again until 7.15am the next morning when it was time for Gulf Harbour Radio.
Yesterday we did some snorkelling around the mouth of the bay at Ono - sad to see damage from crown-of-thorns starfish here. Bright white blotches on otherwise healthy coral gardens. Near every white blotch we found a crown-of-thorns star fish hiding in the rocks or still feeding on the coral. We counted 10 of them in a quick 15 minute snorkel. Not good. The worst we have seen in Fiji so far. The crown-of-thorns star fish has venomous spikes all over, so difficult to grab. If you spear it, it releases eggs before it dies. It can be gently hooked out and put in a bag, then killed on land and left to dry out before putting back in the water, but this takes vigilance and care from the people in the village to keep on top of the population. We hope to get a chance to ask the village about this before we leave the area. Ono island is at the southern end of the Great Astrolab Reef, one of the largest reef areas in Fiji and probably the most famous. It would be a shame for the coral to have the life sucked out of it by these predators. For us, when we look at coral, we find it very pretty, stunning and beautiful. For the local people, the coral is home to the thousands of fish that they depend on for food. It is a resource that needs to be preserved.

Aradonna - Matuku Island and arrival in Ono Island

We sailed to Matuku Island on 14th August because troughs and fronts were on the way, bringing changing wind directions and unpredictable conditions. Matuku harbour is very protected from wind of any direction, so we tucked oursleves in, ready to sit out whatever came. We were in for a very pleasant few days! Early morning on the 15th, we had rain and lightening, with misty cloud hanging over the mountains all around us, but the day became fine by mid-morning. A local boat was on the way out of Read more...

the bay to go fishing when its outboard motor stopped. We watched the man repeatedly try to start the motor and it was clear he was not going anywhere apart from drifting out of the bay. So Karl jumped in our dinghy, motored over and towed the boat back to Aradonna. This is how we met Jese-James, who prefers to be called Jay. Jay came on board and Karl worked on his motor, replaced the spark plugs and got it going again. Jay is 30 years old, he is a fisherman, a lay preacher, a father of three children and is the tour guide for visitors to Matuku. He was born with one leg deformed. From the knee down the leg is half the size it should be and his foot is very small with only three toes. But there is nothing at all about Jay that is disabled in any way. He climbs mountains and coconut trees, goes pig hunting, scuba diving and has even tried surfing. He is fit and strong and he is a very intelligent man. His mother was a school teacher and he speaks very good English, reading everything he can get his hands on to improve his vocabulary. It was very easy to like this man. He asked about the previous islands we had visited, where we had been, how long we had been travelling. As soon as we told him about our journey through the Lau group, he said: "You will be wanting some fresh vegetables!" He knew the places we had been to did not grow vegetables. Matuku is blessed with rich volcanic soil and plenty of rainfall, so things grow well here. Before we knew it, he had loaded us up with Bok Choy, tomatoes, cucumber, paw paw and coconuts. After weeks without fresh vegetables and our freezer now empty of frozen veges, we were thrilled. I never thought I would be so happy to see Bok Choy!! He refused to take money from us, saying he had plenty in his garden! Later we gave his family some canned corned beef and milk powder, which he was embarrassed about, but grateful. We also gave vegetable seeds to him to grow seedlings which would then be distributed to the villagers to grow their own veges. He warned us, however, not to give too much to the village - he said if yachts come in and give many things to the village it will change the culture of the village. He is afraid some people will get greedy if they are given too much. In his mind, gifts should be reciprocal, not expected. A very wise man.
Part of the problem with very sheltered harbours is the mosquitoes that seem to love these wet places. We have mosquito screens on the boat of course and now and then we get one or maybe two mosquitoes on the boat, but we have not really been bothered by them. Staying in bays where the boat is in the wind and anchoring more than 200m from shore also helps as mosquitoes cannot fly very far, especially in the wind. But in Matuku, we were close to shore and protected from wind....At 4am Heather woke up with the sound of mosquitoes buzzing in her ears. Karl, with ever increasing deafness, can no longer hear this high pitched whine, perhaps one of the benefits of getting deaf? But when Heather woke up, it was not just the noise of one or two mosquitoes flying around, it felt to Heather like she had her head in a bag of mosquitoes! Turning on the light revealed a whole squadron of mosquitoes buzzing around in the bedroom. After swatting 7 of them, all fully gorged with blood, and not making a dent in the flying squad, we sprayed the bedroom and retreated to the saloon to have hot chocolate. As you can imagine, Karl spent the next day blocking up every tiny hole he could find with mosquito net and with foam rubber strips, to seal off the boat completely! The next night was more peaceful.
Sitting in Matuku, waiting for bad weather to pass, Heather finally got sick of her long hair. The last cut was in Savusavu, but that was several weeks ago and her hair was flopping in her eyes and irritating the back of her neck. So she holed up in the bathroom with the scissors and had a hacking good time! After the initial cut, the hair was shorter but looked a bit chewed. It was also shorter on one side than the other. It took time to even all of this up, and by the time she was finished, her hair was, well, short! When she emerged from the bathroom Karl gave a startled look, which was quickly covered up by a big grin. "You took a lot off!" he said, still grinning. After Heather hastily reassured Karl that her hair would grow again, he said "It doesn't look TOO bad!" That is true love.
On one of our visits to the village, the chief, Chiko, asked Karl to help him with his boat. The chief used to have a short shaft outboard on his boat, so had cut a piece out of the back of his boat to accommodate it. Now he had a long shaft outboard and needed to fill in the gap. Karl set about getting tools and glue and timber from Aradonna and helping the chief with this project while Heather went for a walk. Ladies were in the community hall weaving mats which they sell in Suva markets. Some men process coconuts to make copra which they sell to get money for fuel. Jay took Heather for a guided walk to the next village where she met the Headmaster of the school. The school services 4 villages, they have 41 children and 6 teachers. There is also a kindergarten for 4-6 year olds. As it is a half hour to one hour walk between villages, the children are boarding at the school - even the 4 year olds only go home at weekends. The Headmaster was collecting coconuts at the beach and children were playing with skipping ropes while ladies prepared pandanas leaves for weaving. A few children were gathered in a little pup tent with a laptop - which looked quite out of place among the palm trees! later, back in the Harbour, the chief was zooming around the bay with his long shaft motor, to try it out, despite Karl asking him to leave it overnight until the glue had set. Hopefully it hangs together.
The people in Matuku were so friendly, we felt at home there. A lovely place to be and we would like to return one day. But the weather came right for moving on, or so we thought, so we set sail on the evening of 17th August, bound for Ono Island. This is a 90nm trip, so we left at 5.30pm, to arrive about 11am the next day. The forecast was for 15 knot wind, from the right direction, so it all sounded good. The wind forecast is an average of the wind. If we had a steady breeze of 15 knots all would have been well, but it was not to be. The first 5 hours we trotted along with 20 knots and made good speed, but then the wind dropped to about 8 knots and shifted to more from behind us. About every 10 or 15 minutes it would change. 18 knots for a while, which pushed us along nicely, then 8 knots for a time, which left our sails flapping uselessly about. We had 2-3m swells from beam on, not too bad if we have wind in the sails, but without enough wind to steady the boat we were tossing about like a cork in the ocean. It was a long night. Neither of us got much sleep at all, maybe 2 hours at the most. We were grateful to drop anchor at Ono Island and go ashore to the village of Nabouwalu. We had visited this village 3 years ago and looked forward to seeing some of the people we had met last time. This time the village was full of people! They were having a big family reunion. A man had left the village 100 years ago and gone to live in the northern part of Fiji, Vanua Levu. He had never come back. Now, 4 generations of his descendants had come to visit the village of their ancestor, for the fist time in 100 years. An extra 40 people had arrived, which doubled the village population. Families from other villages on the island arrived as well, swelling the numbers to almost triple the usual size. When we went to find the chief to do the customary greeting of sevusevu, we found him in a large group of men, all doing sevusevu as part of being welcomed into the village. It was great to be part of this sevusevu, seeing this ceremony used when people from other parts of Fiji visit a village - just the same as we do as visiting yachts in the village. We of course joined in with our own sevusevu and stayed for a couple of bowls of kava before we excused oursleves and left them to enjoy the family reunion.
A man from the village came with us, to show us around. On the walk through the village we noted that all the gardens were well tended and neat and tidy. We asked if the village had any damage from cyclone Winston last year. The man said they did not have any damage from the cyclone, because they prayed very hard....Heather could not help but ask about the people in the northern Lau islands, who also prayed very hard but suffered a lot of damage. His only response was to shrug. Like all of the Lau group, Ono is Methodist. There are no other churches and no other choices. Life is simple. The have services every morning at 5am and three times a day on Sunday. We have been to a few of these services over the last few weeks. They are full of hell fire and brimstone stuff, pretty heavy going. The preacher always looks like he will have a heart attack any moment during the sermon. (Today we slipped quietly out of the bay and had fellowship with fish instead!) Our first night in Ono, after our long sleepless passage, all we craved was sleep. We were in bed asleep by 8pm and didn't move again until 7.15am the next morning when it was time for Gulf Harbour Radio.
Yesterday we did some snorkelling around the mouth of the bay at Ono - sad to see damage from crown-of-thorns starfish here. Bright white blotches on otherwise healthy coral gardens. Near every white blotch we found a crown-of-thorns star fish hiding in the rocks or still feeding on the coral. We counted 10 of them in a quick 15 minute snorkel. Not good. The worst we have seen in Fiji so far. The crown-of-thorns star fish has venomous spikes all over, so difficult to grab. If you spear it, it releases eggs before it dies. It can be gently hooked out and put in a bag, then killed on land and left to dry out before putting back in the water, but this takes vigilance and care from the people in the village to keep on top of the population. We hope to get a chance to ask the village about this before we leave the area. Ono island is at the southern end of the Great Astrolab Reef, one of the largest reef areas in Fiji and probably the most famous. It would be a shame for the coral to have the life sucked out of it by these predators. For us, when we look at coral, we find it very pretty, stunning and beautiful. For the local people, the coral is home to the thousands of fish that they depend on for food. It is a resource that needs to be preserved.

Aradonna - Highlights of Vanua Balavu

We have been in Vanua Balavu for 11 days. What a wonderful time we have had! The first thing we had to do on arrival is a gift ceremony, called sevusevu. When a yacht comes into a bay here, that bay is owned by a village. So before we swim, snorkel or fish in the bay and before we can walk around the village or walking tracks over the island, we must meet the chief for sevusevu. The gift we must deliver is a 250g bunch of kava. Kava is the root of a pepper tree and the locals here beat it and Read more...

grind it and mix it with water to make a murky looking drink. The drink tastes like muddy socks and numbs your mouth. We do not like it, but the locals say it is relaxing! Once we give our kava to the chief, he welcomes us to the village in a ceremonial speech with claps to punctuate the speech here and there. Then we are treated like family. We have become part of the village and we are allowed to do anything we like! At four of the villages we visited, we arranged for the local people to get together and try on reading glasses. We got them to approach one by one, starting with the lowest strength glasses and slowly moving up as they tried to read their bible. Each person found the right strength and we gave them reading glasses to suit. This was very much appreciated by the locals. We also had sunglasses to give away, but when these came out the line was not orderly at all, it felt like we were in the middle of a scrum! Two of the villages were especially grateful and insisted on giving us arm loads of fruit. We tried to pay for the fruit but they said it was not for sale. Three different men had gone away into their gardens and harvested bags of bananas and pawpaws. It was way too much for the two of us, but it would not be polite to refuse, so we gratefully accepted. Back at the boat when we unpacked the bags we found we had almost 60 bananas!!! As you can imagine, for the past week we have had bananas on toast, banana porridge, banana yoghurt, banana muffins, banana pancakes, banana cake, fish and banana curry, beef and banana curry, pork and banana curry and more! It is very nice to have fresh fruit and we do enjoy bananas, but it is a challenge to keep up with ever ripening bunches! We now have a freezer well stocked with banana cake.
The people in these villages are very friendly. Everywhere you walk there is a smiling face, a wave and a shout of ?bula!? We feel very welcome here. We walked through Lomaloma village, this village has the secondary school for the whole group of villages in Vanu Balavu. Each village has a primary school, but the children go to Lomaloma for secondary school. Some staying with family and some boarding. NZ is helping to build a new secondary school here as the previous one was severely damaged by cyclone Winston last year. When the locals heard we were from NZ they immediately thanked us for the new school. They really appreciate the help from NZ. The islands of Vanua Balavu are all inside a large ring of reef, so there is a huge lagoon around the island group here. This protects the land from the worst of the ocean swell, though not from the wind. We saw many damaged buildings, toppled trees and coconut palms without heads due to cyclone Winston. The large concrete church at Susui village was flattened by the cyclone. Services are now held in a 6x10m tin shed.
It is interesting to note than in the past, after a cyclone, materials would be sent here from Suva, along with a government appointed carpenter. The locals did not like this arrangement as the carpenter often did a poor job of the building work, but historically the governments insisted on this control. Prime Minister Bainimarama has changed this. Now the people in the village have been taught how to build their own buildings and they do it themselves. They are very happy with this! Because the outer reef protects this area from the worst of the ocean waves, the coral reefs here are amazing. Most islands in the pacific get regular damage from storms and cyclones and this hammers the coral into tiny pieces where the waves are pounding. But inside the protected lagoon of Vanua Balavu, the coral is thriving. Soft coral forests, hard coral gardens. Pinks and greens and blues and purples and yellows and orange. Staghorn, brain, lettuce leaf, pumpkin, fire, fan, and so many more corals that I don?t know the name of. The reefs are teaming with fish. The full range of brightly coloured tropical fish, plus larger species of tuna, giant trevally, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, snappers and more. Turtles swim by popping their heads up to look at us when we are on the boat and we enjoy seeing them swimming around when we are snorkelling too.
We have done a bit of kayaking here. Around the clusters of mushroom shaped rocks in the Bay of Islands and up the inlet from Little Bay. Spectacular scenery at every turn. The bird life is abundant here too. One that had us puzzled for a while was the Barking Imperial Pigeon. It sounds like a dog barking, woof, woof ? until you listen some more and it is really a deep whooh whooh! There are many herons here, one came to visit us for a while, but we did not want to encourage it to sit on our railing. They make a huge mess!! One evening we had some very unwelcome visitors. Flying beetles! They came in their hundreds as night fell. We scurried inside and closed up all the hatches with insect screens. Thinking they would all fly away again by the morning we went to bed quite happy. But in the morning when we ventured outside, they were still all over our boat! They had taken up residence inside the boom, under the shade tent, inside the pockets of the bimini, under the dodger and crawled behind some of the woodwork outside. Hundreds and hundreds of the little critters! We closed up the boat again, but this time we were outside ? and turned on the wash down hose. Spent the morning squirting these critters away and scrubbing everywhere they had sat ? they had been busy pooing everywhere all night! Yuck!! So the boat got a good scrub down that day and we moved to a different anchorage.
At Batavu Harbour we went ashore for a walk and had a very pleasant stroll through a beef cattle farm. Only a small amount of cattle here, and just as well. The locals told us that no big boats come in here, only small ones, so they can only ship one cow at a time to the mainland! On this walk we also went over to the other side of the island, with fabulous views over the Bay of Islands area. Spectacular turquoise water, so clear you can see the reef areas easily from up on the hill.
The village of Sawana was interesting. It is a Tongan village! Back in 1847 the King of Tonga and his cousin Ma?afu arrived in Vanua Balavu in Fiji and set about trying to conquer Fiji for Tonga. Ma?afu was involved in suppressing religious wars here and apparently got control of Vanua Balavu in return for a canoe that he had given to the previous chief of the Lau. He did manage to conquer some other islands in the Lau group but the British arrived in 1874 and took control of the whole of Fiji, including the Lau. Ma?afu stayed here, and today, the village of Sawana still speaks Tongan as well as Fijian. Apparently it is common for locals from Sawana to go to Tonga to choose a wife and bring her back to Sawana. The minister of the local Methodist church here also comes from Tonga. We visited the primary school at Susui and got there in time for the morning flag raising and singing of the national anthem. The anthem is sung in English, Fijian and Hindu. These are the official languages of Fiji. It was a sports day at the school and the children had running races and tug-of-war competitions among other things. Karl had fun trying to keep up with the little ones in the running and he helped one of the teams to win the tug of war! The long suffering teacher just grinned at his antics and the kids thought it was hilarious. We have been the only boat in the bay at each stop while we have been here, so it has been very quiet. The weather has been sunny for 10 of the 11 days we have been here, the water is warm and very clear. A wonderful place to just be.

Aradonna - Highlights of Matagi

This is a beautiful island, in the shape of a horse shoe. We are anchored inside the horse shoe and it is very protected from the strong winds and lumpy seas that are evident on the outside of the island. Nobody lives on the inside, but there is a resort on the other side of the island and they have a little "day stay" cabin on the inside. So every day, the resort boat comes at 9am and drops off a lady who prepares this little open cabin (open on 3 sides). Fresh hibiscus flowers are laid on the Read more...

floor in the shape of a heart, fresh towels are arranged on the bed and on the sun loungers. The cabin is at the head of the bay and has its own white sand beach. There are kayaks and paddle boards for guests to use, plus good snorkelling in the protected bay.
At 10am, the resort boat comes back with guests. Always a couple. The resort is adults only and specialises in weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries etc. A romantic get-away for two! The boat drops off the couple and collects the lady who has been preparing the cabin. At 12 noon, the boat comes back again to deliver lunch and zips away again. There is a small table and chairs in the cabin. Then at 2pm, the resort boat comes back to collect the couple, refreshed from their day of peace and quiet on their own private beach.
By now we are quite used to this routine as we have been here for the past 5 days.
We usually go snorklelling at least once a day, and to give the young couples some privacy we often swim a long way from the boat, out towards the mouth of the bay or over the other side of the bay. We do not like to go closer in to where they have their own private beach! A couple of days ago, we had a bit of a surprise! We were snorkelling over on the other side of the bay, about 500m from the boat. We always look back at the boat now and then - and to our surprise, we saw a kayak complete with young couple, paddle over and tie up to Aradonna. We thought they might call out to see if someone was home and then be on their way - but, as we watched from across the bay - they boarded our boat!! We swam the fastest 500m we have ever managed, fins flying through the water, back to the boat. And here they were, this young asian couple had boarded our boat, and with sandy feet had tramped all around the boat and gone down below. They had taken off their life jackets and left them lying in the saloon. They left puddles of water and lumps of sand everywhere. The girl had even used my towel!!! I might have yelled a bit. I was angry. I could not believe that people would think it was OK just to wander through our home without being invited! I made them turn out their pockets so I could check they did not take anything and we sent them on their way. The only English they could produce to explain themselves was "Sorry, sorry, didn't know!" Now this resort they are staying at is quite an exclusive resort. You need to have $8300 to stay for a seven night deal and that does NOT include airfares or transfers. So we would have thought that these guests were familiar with common courtesy and polite etiquette - but not so in this case! Grrrr.
Another night, we had a work boat that delivers cement to building sites, they come in to shelter in the bay. One of the lads didn't tie the anchor rope on properly and their anchor came off. We were quite puzzled to see them tied up to the rocks at the side of the bay in the morning. Later in the day they came back and asked to borrow a mask and snorkel so they could look for the lost anchor. We watched as a very fit lad went snorkelling and free diving to more than 10m and amazingly he found the anchor! He also managed to free dive down and tie a rope onto it so the rest of the men could haul it back on board again. We had a spare mask and snorkel so we made this a gift to the young man who was grinning from ear to ear with delight! Today, one of the couples staying at the resort went water skiing in the bay. He was very good at it and kept us entertained for a while. So, although we are the only boat anchored in the bay, there is something to look at each day. While snorkelling we have enjoyed seeing a couple of sharks, a turtle, an eagle ray and a multitude of fish and coral - so pretty!

Aradonna - Highlights of Savusavu

Savusavu is a very convenient harbour town for yachties. It is not a tourist town as such. So it is not full of resorts and people trying to sell you something. It is a town full of normal everyday people going to work and school and doing their shopping. It also has a very protected harbour, so popular with yachties. We were kept company by a few other boats from NZ, plus a few Dutch boats, a Japanese, a couple from Germany, a few Canadian boats and several from the USA. The result is, that everybody Read more...

in town knows, when they see us walking around, that we are from a yacht. They don't seem to get many other visitors. And they make us feel very welcome, with big smiles and "Bula!" The produce market, supermarkets, hardware stores and fuel stations are an short walk from the dinghy dock, making it easy to stock up on supplies. Most grocery items are about half the price or less of what we paid in Tonga and many items are cheaper than we can get in NZ. So for a few days we could be seen making trip after trip into town, coming back each time laden with provisions in back packs and carry bags - as much as we could carry without causing our arms to fall off or our knuckles to drag on the ground. It is not that we had run out of everything, we were well provisioned when we left NZ. But our next shopping stop will be in New Caledonia, where we will pay more than twice the price! This is where the combination of Dutch and Scottish heritage kicks in - we decided to stock up here rather that wait until later in the trip! We did manage to get most of the things on our list, but this is, after all still small island country. The total population of Fiji is less than 1 million and Savusavu is quite a small town. So there were a few things that went awry. We wanted cabbages - but were told that was last week - not this week! We wanted a bush knife, but all 6 hardware stores are out of stock until who knows when. Nobody knows. We wanted to get an extra solar panel, but the solar shop is out of stock until the end of the month. On Tuesday we decided to treat ourselves to an icecream and were dismayed to learn that the icecream shop was out of stock until Friday! Ahh well, we can't have it all. We have clean laundry, full LPG and diesel tanks, a full freezer and full food lockers, we are well rested and ready to carry on to our next adventure. We are enjoying fresh papayas, passionfruit and bananas - all three mixed together with a bit of yoghurt makes a fabulous dessert! The days are warm but not too hot, the nights cool off a little which is nice for sleeping but still warm enough that no blankets required.
During our week in Savusavu we also enjoyed the social interaction with fellow boaties. Sundowners together, chatting on the dock, sharing a meal and sharing stories of places we have been and places yet to see. So you see, it gets hard to leave Savusavu, where life is easy and the people are friendly. We have done our share of walking on land in the last week, which makes a nice change from sitting on our behinds while at sea. But now we are looking forward to swimming and snorkelling and diving and exploring new places. So we have dragged ourselves away - before we forget how to put up our sails!

Aradonna - Highlights of our trip to Tonga

The first thing that stands out was the snorkelling in the NE part of north Minerva. Stunning! Large crayfish, I mean really huge! Wow. And just the fact that here we were again, enjoying this tranquil lake in the middle of the ocean. We are so lucky.
Then our good friends, Bjorn and Lene arrived in the Ha'apai group to share 12 days with us. To live in our wobbly wavery world and to enjoy our glimpse of paradise. Lene loved the snorkelling and the fish the sun and the scenery. Bjorn loved Read more...

meeting the local villagers, other boaties, resort owners and watching for various birds of the feathered variety. He also enjoyed fishing, even though we only caught a few small tuna and a jobfish while he was with us. Bjorn - keep reading this blog, there is more fishing news to come! A personal highlight for me (Heather) was swimming with a Spotted Eagle Ray. This curious creature swam towards me, with a clam shell in his mouth. He circled me and got a bit too close for comfort. I was glad his mouth was already full! For 10 minutes or so he was content to observe me up close and I could study him at less than arms length. Then he began to eat. His powerful jaws crunching through the clam shell. Tiny fish appeared and fed on the bits that escaped his large mouth. The crunching was so loud under water that I was glad I had kept my distance a little! We had many sunny days and a variety of great snorkelling spots. Pretty corals and hundreds of different fish in so many sizes, shapes, colours and patterns. It is mind boggling to take in all that we have seen.
We enjoyed our diving at Ha'ano, with wonderful caves and tunnels and swim throughs.
We have also been luck to see a whale, swimming north to the breeding grounds in Tonga.
We have met several very friendly people in villages. Notably in Haafeva and in Haano. Luckily these locals gave us papayas, coconuts, spring onions and bananas so we could enjoy the local produce. The market in Pangai was a disappointment, with little to offer apart from Taro leaves and Cassava, so we were very grateful of the produce from the villagers.
As always, we continue to be impressed by the yachting community. When a fellow yachtie is in trouble, there are always many others who are keen to help. The people we have met on our sailing adventures are genuine, friendly and warm people, who care about the environment we sail in and care about each other. We care when somebody ends up on a reef and we were very glad to learn that the 3 crew of vessel "Jungle" are all safe, having ended up on a tiny island that is inhabited by just three people!! Another yachtie, Villomee, was en route to assist and then the Fijian Navy came to help. Not sure why the NZ Navy did not go to the rescue as they were sitting in Fiji checking on cruising permits of yachts. Sometimes the paperwork gets in the way! In any case, we are just glad that the crew of Jungle are safe. We will all take heed of the lessons learned from the demise of their vessel, a 61 ft Oyster.
The last highlight we have to report from Tonga came today as we were sailing to Haafeva. We hooked up a Wahoo! It was quite a battle but we managed to land this 120cm fish. It took two of us to hold it down as it bucked on the deck! We were worried it would hurl itself overboard again like the tuna we landed the other day! This is our first ever Wahoo, so quite a thrill. Sorry that we could not catch one while Bjorn was with us, it would have been such a happy day for him! We enjoyed fresh Wahoo steaks for dinner tonight and have another 10 dinners in the freezer from this huge fish. So we have filled up our freezer again and have plenty of meals to look forward to. So many happy days in the last month since we left NZ. Tomorrow we sail away from Tonga and head to Fiji. New adventures will begin. Life is good.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 3003 May 2017

After one week at sea we were thrilled to arrive at South Minerva early on Sunday morning. South Minerva is a reef shaped like a figure 8, but you can only get the yacht into one of the loops, the other is cut off completely. When we arrived, 4 boats had just left and the two remaining boats were getting ready to depart. It was high tide and the water inside the reef was very choppy. It seems that South Minerva does not offer the same protection from the chop as North Minerva. So after a tour Read more...

around, we decideed to carry on to North Minerva, some 20 miles north. We hooked up a Mahimahi on the way, but it managed to slip itself off the hook, so no fish for dinner this time. We arrived in North Minerva at lunch time. The water was peaceful and calm and 26 degrees. We were in having a swim about 2 minutes after we dropped the anchor! Bliss. As we approached North Minerva we saw our friends on Fusio and Liberation leaving for Fiji and had a chat to them on the radio. A few other boats also headed out to Fiji the same day. That left 11 boats sitting in North Minerva. A few left yesterday and some today, so now there are only three of us here. At least two of us are departing tomorrow for Tonga, so the place will be empty by the time the next wave of boats arrive at the end of this week or in the weekend. Over the past couple of days we have a done a bit of socialising with other yachties and caught up on a few chores. Got the washing done and cleaned up the last bits of tomato soup from the "dinner's on the floor" incident the other day. Also discovered another cleaning job - a cupboard that was swimming with the contents of a bottle of sesame oil. Ah well, if that is the worst damage we suffered, we cannot complain! Karl has been doing the usual mechanical and deck checks to ensure all things are in ship shape for the next leg of our journey. Everything is set for our departure to Tonga in the morning. It is warm here, about 25 degrees right now and getting warmer as the day goes on. We aired out blankets and sleeping bags and duvets in the sunshine, and as I was folding them up to stow away, it seemed hard to imagine that just a week ago we were very glad of all these layers to keep warm! We had an amazing snorkel in the NE part of the reef yesterday. This area has more coral bommies and rocks than the SE part of the reef and also a wreck which has turned into a home for hundreds of colourful fish. Very large tropical fish here, plus a couple of gigantic painted crayfish. We watched the crays for ages, willing them to come further out of their shelter, but they stayed safely tucked away from our reach. The bottom is populated by a multitude of colourful clams. So beautiful! It would be easy to stay for a week or more here, exploring different parts of the reef. For those of you who cannot imagine what we are talking about, Minerva reef forms a rim in the shape of an oval. This oval about 5.5km across at the widest part and 4.5km across at the narrowest part. There is one small opening in the oval, with enough room for yachts to pass through. Inside the oval reef, it is like a lake in the middle of the ocean! The reef has a wide rim, between 500 meters and 900 meters wide, all the way around. This provides protection from the ocean waves. At low tide you can walk on the reef, as it is well up out of the water, like a very wide road running all the way around the lake! Outside the reef, the water is over 500 meters deep and quickly drops away to much deeper than this. Inside the oval reef is a sandy bottom and only 10-20 meters deep. We are anchored in 12 meters of water and the water is so clear we can easily see the bottom. Waves can be crashing on the rim of the reef on the outide, while the lake on the inside is like a millpond, absolutely calm. It is a very special place and we are glad we have come here again. Time for another swim now!

Aradonna - About Gulf Harbour Radio and YIT

Many of you have followed our journey over the last 6 months. Some of you followed us last year as well. This blog is not about our trip, it is about how the whole thing works with YIT and Gulf Harbour Radio, as many of you will not know this.
Patricia and David get up early every morning (well, 6 days per week) and analyse the weather situation over the south pacific. They spend an hour on the SSB radio, talking to all of us yachties and finding out where we are and what help we might Read more...

need to weather advice. David gives a detailed weather bulletin, helps to educate us on how to read the weather and lets us know if our plans for passages are good or if we should wait for better weather. Then, during the day, they answer numerous email enquiries from yachties, seeking weather advice. All of this is done in their own time, for free. What they do actually costs them money. They need specialised equipment to tramsit their radio signal to Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia etc from NZ. They are currently investing in more gear, that will be able to clearly transmit their service to more places, so they can cover us better. They need all sorts of software to interpret the weather data they get and this costs more money. Much of the weather data they get every day is by paid subscription - meaning they pay large sums each month just to get the right info that will help us yachties. But they do not charge anything for their services.
When yachts call in by radio, or email Gulf Harbour radio, Patricia and David plug in all the relevant info onto the YIT website, so that friends and family have the reassurance of knowing where their loved ones are.
The YIT (Yachts In Transit) website, is run by a very knowledgeable and kind computer man, Mike. This clever guy has built the YIT website, specifically for us yachties, again, at no charge. Mike is constantly building new and useful features into the site which allows us yachties to plug in our position and send updates and blogs even while we are at sea. Mike is also very patient with us all, teaching us how to use this new technology! For you at home, this means you can see exactly where we are on the satellite maps, follow our progress and know we are OK. The website is a great tool for Patrica and David too, as it helps them keep track of all the yachts whereabouts and therefore cover the weather for each area the yachts are in.
If a yacht gets in to any trouble, or has not been heard from for a while, Patricia and David use the information on YIT to help Rescue Coordination in NZ to find the yacht and they put the word out to yachts they know are nearby, to help with the search.
Again, all of this is done, just because they love to help.
So this is a tribute to David, Patrica and Mike. Wonderful people who give freely of their time to help others. Thank you so much! If you at home are grateful to have these people providing this service and would like to support their efforts, please go to the website www.yit.co.nz and click on the Donate Now button. These people are truly wonderful.

Aradonna - The last blog of the season

What a beautiful day we had here, blue sky, sunshine, gentle breeze. Snorkel with turtles, walk along the white sandy beach, and around the point to the other side of the bay. Clear water lapping over coral reefs, great swimming in waters of 24.3 degrees. Why are we leaving???? Well it does sound crazy to be leaving here, but we have decided the time has come and we set sail tomorrow.
The bottom of the boat has been scrubbed, again. The dinghy has been deflated and stowed for passage, again. Read more...

We spent our last few francs at the local shop buying fresh baguettes and ready made toast. The gin has run out and the LPG is almost gone, so it is time to go! Don't be alarmed if we seem to be heading for Australia in the first couple of days, we plan to get a bit further west at the start of the journey to give us a better sailing angle to come back to NZ when we pick up southerly winds in a few days time. So our track will look like a bit of a zig zag, but we should still get to Opua in 7 and a half days.
From now on it will be short updates only while we are at sea. We look forward to arriving in Opua and spending the NZ summer in some of our favourite spots - we have a beautiful playground in NZ!

Aradonna - Rugby, Lobsters and Snakes

We have been putting these extra days in paradise to good use. Ilot Brosse for a few days was great, so many nice reefs to snorkel and we went for a dive with Christian from Donella who showed us where the lobsters live! Although we saw several lobsters, they all scuttled away into deep holes before we could catch them, so they avoided our pot. Probably just as well, we need to conserve our LPG. We caught up with Suzie and Steve from Hireath last night. Good to catch up with them again, we had Read more...

spent some time together in Oyster Island, Vanuatu, earlier in the season and they are also waiting for passage to NZ.
This morning was a very early start, the NZ vs South Africa rugby game was on at 2am local time. So we were up, well, we had the computer in bed, watching the match. Much more of a tense game than the France/NZ game last week. So close all the way that we didn't even feel sleepy - glad to see our team make it through to the finals. It was difficult getting back to sleep at 4am, but we did manage to get some sleep before the alarm went off again at 6am so we could listen to the latest weather update from Patricia and David. This sleep pattern is worse than our 4 hour watches when we are at sea! Karl stayed in bed and Heather went back to bed after talking to Gulf Harbour radio, so we caught up on a bit more sleep before we started out day.
Today, like the past few days, was very calm, with hardly any wind. We walked around to the next bay, Kanumera Bay, and snorkeled right around Kanumera Island. A sea snake slithered around in the coral underneath us, saw us, swam up to the surface right next to us and popped his head out to have a look. Then he headed towards us for a bit, looked at us a while longer and swam back down to his coral patch again. Quite a curious creature! About half way around the little island is a cave, inside the cave we were surprised to find a huge cluster of fan corals. Soft lacy fans swaying in the currents, some coloured cream, some orange and some a vibrant deep red. Absolutely beautiful. These large specimens of soft lacy coral are just like we have seen in photographs from great dives around the world, we did not expect to see such a spectacular display sitting so close to shore in shallow water. Further around the coral garden was teaming with fish. Brightly coloured tropical fish thronged around us, happy to swim close while we snorkeled amongst them. The fish we saw diving on the reef yesterday had a very different behaviour. Used to being hunted the fish on the outer reef darted away fast as we came near. But here, in the protected sanctuary of the bay, the fish were very happy to be friendly. After our walk and snorkel we treated ourselves to lunch at the resort on the beach - well, we do need to conserve our on board LPG, so that was a good excuse! This afternoon Kevin and Kathy from Astral Express popped by to have a chat, they are also looking for the right passage window to get back to NZ. There are several others too that we know of, ready to depart as soon as the weather is favourable. So the big question is - When? Maybe Tuesday, maybe Wednesday. Watch this space.

Aradonna - Cooking without gas

Yesterday we decided for a change of scenery and motored around the corner to Ilot Brosse. A long white sandy beach with snow white sand, clear water and reefs in all directions. We navigated our way in between reefs to a large sandy patch and dropped anchor in 5m of water. Soon after, we were joined by Christian and Hanalore on Donella. We had been in Kuto together with Donella and Christian had kindly given us the rundown on places to stop at Norfolk Island, should our passage to NZ require Read more...

us to wait there. As Donella rounded the corner to Ilot Brosse they reeled in a Spanish Mackerel! So it was fresh fish for dinner all round last night. Absolutely superb! Tonight we are joining them on the beach to smoke some more of the fish and have a picnic together for dinner. We are very lucky.
It is great that we are having smoked fish tonight, as we are getting low on LPG. We filled both our tanks before leaving Vanuatu, knowing that we cannot get our cylinders filled in New Caledonia. Usually each tank lasts about 6 weeks. The first one only lasted 4 weeks and we checked the second one this morning, after only 3 weeks of usage it is almost empty! Bugger. The people in Vanuatu must not have filled them up properly. We still have a little gas left in the small BBQ tank but to conserve LPG we are now doing everything we can in the microwave. Hopefully our wait for a passage to NZ will not be too long. We are lucky to have the microwave on board and with so many passage meals already cooked up, we just need to reheat them to serve. Fingers crossed for a good weather window to NZ very soon.

Aradonna - Farewell to Kuto Bay

We have really enjoyed our week here in Kuto. A great anchroage, very pretty, protected and good holding even in the strong winds we had the other day. A popular place too! There were 13 yachts anchored here during the week, some have departed now leaving only 7 in the bay today. This is also a popular cruise ship destination. We have seen 4 different cruise ships come in over the past week and it seems like 4 per week is quite normal here. The ones we have seen include Holland America line, Carnival, Read more...

P&O and Princess line. We have enjoyed the company of fellow yachties, especially Dennis and Pamela from sv Pamela, having sundowners on each others boats and listening to Dennis play the guitar.
A resident turtle hangs around the boat, quite a large one, popping his head up a few times to gulp some air and take a look at us before ducking down again. We have collected a group of Ramora's under the boat, about 8 of them now. They dart out to have a look at anything we throw over the side to see if it is good to eat. They love paw paw skins and meat scraps.
It has been really nice just to sit here for a week and enjoy our surroundings. Good preparation for our upcoming voyage.
Today we will stuff cushions and towels into cupboards to stop things clunking around while at sea and then tonight we will enjoy our last good nights sleep in a real bed before we set sail in the morning. All going well it will take just 7 days to reach Opua. The winds are forecast to be light, so we should have calm seas and will probably need to motor quite a bit through some very light winds on the way. So it looks like a peaceful passage at this stage.

Aradonna - A good day to watch the Rugby

As many of you will know, we do not have a TV on board and have not bothered watching TV for the past two years, but big rugby games, well, they are tempting to watch. Especially the France vs NZ game in the RWC with all the history between these two sides. So, the other day, here in the Isle of Pines, we had a chat to the local resorts to see if one of them might be screening the game. It is a French territory after all...We were met with blank looks. Oh no! So on Friday morning, we walked the Read more...

7km to the Post Office in Vao, a 14km round trip, to buy a top up for our internet connection. It was a nice day for a walk and we enjoyed the morning, stopping for a picnic of iced coffee and freshly baked baguette for morning tea. Heather had a look at options for online streaming of the game during the afternoon, but there are technical difficulties with being in New Caledonia due to who has the rights to screen which games in what territory in a language that you understand. For a while it looked impossible! But that was only due to technical ignorance :-) Yesterday was a little cloudy with a few showers, so it was a good day to explore the wonders of the IT world (not) and tear ones hair out a little more trying to figure it all out. A learning curve to say the least! I am pleased to report that it all worked this morning and we were able to watch the game online, at 6am New Caledonia time, tucked up in bed with a cup of coffee. Perfect! Today the weather is the most miserable of any day in the last 6 months. Constant rain, gusty wind and generally a merky outlook - but our spirits are high from the win this morning and we are spending the day getting ready for passage to NZ.
Heather has baked some more William fruit cake which is great to nibble on when underway. Things that won't be needed for a while have been safely stowed away where they can't rattle and roll during the journey. A good day for inside jobs!

Aradonna - Isle of Pines

We made a break from the mainland and headed south for Isle de Pins on Monday. Nine hours of beating in to strong headwinds meant motoring all the way - topped up our water tanks again and gave the freezer a good burst. All systems working well. Met up with yacht Pamela again after meeting in Vanuatu. Went for a walk ahsore with Pamela and Dennis who showed us around the local haunts and we enjoyed a beer at one of the resorts together. Yesterday we did some maintenance jobs around the boat, scrubbing Read more...

the bottom - again, making passage meals ready for our trip to NZ, greasing winches etc. With loads of things ticked off the list yesterday, today was a day of fun.
We hired a car and traveled around the island which is about 18km long and 14km wide. First stop was the produce market at Vao to buy some paw paws - yum! Then we set off around the island, stopping at Baie de St Maurice where there is a statue to commemorate the first missionaries to the island. The statue is surrounded by totem poles carved in traditional style. For some reason the locals here have a fascination with carving ugly faces with their tongues hanging out, much like our Maori carvings. Next on the anti-clockwise circuit is Baie de St Joseph, where locals sail their Pirogues, or sailing outrigger canoes. Further up the coast to the north-east at Baie d'Oro we trekked through the forest and down a shallow river to Piscine Naturelle. For those who wish to look this up on Google earth, Piscine Naturelle is a small natural swimming hole formed by a tiny inlet through the rocks where waves are pounding on the outside of the reef, but inside is calm as a millpond. GPS position is 22 35.019S 167 31.589E. The water in this swimming hole is so crystal clear you can see your own shadow on the white sand as you snorkel around and even the ripples you make on the surface of the water are reflected off the sandy bottom. There is a coral reef inside, filled with numerous fish and the largest number of clams we have seen anywhere. A truly special place and well worth the 200 franc entry fee (about $3). A great place to go for kids or anyone not so confident in snorkeling as there is no current, no open ocean and tranquil clear waters to view natures own aquarium.
After our walking and snorkeling we were ready for a coffee so treated ourselves to a cappuccino at Le Meridienne Resort. The coffee was excellent, if a little pricey at around $10 per cup, but it came with a couple of little sweet gem cakes and we were served a complimentary thimble full of sparkling water and a thimble full of mango juice. The view from the resort looking over the bay is simply spectacular and we enjoyed sitting in the sun in this idyllic location. A lagoon with many shades of blue, pretty mushroom shaped rocks and islands dotted about. Picture postcard stuff. Glad we were not staying the night though, at around $1000 per night! Next stop was Gadji on the North-west corner of the island. Again, very shallow waters go a long way out from the brilliant white sand beach forming pretty shades of blue that deepen in intensity the further out you look. A row of islands encircle the bay, with the signature pine trees standing tall.
Coming back down the west coast we stopped for a look at Baie de Ouameo before navigating the narrow path through the bush to the underground caves called Grottes de la Troisieme. These limestone caves are full of columns of limestone growing up from the floor of the cave and hanging down from the roof. Stalagmites and stalactite's. If you can't remember which is which just remember that as the mites grow up, their tites come down! There is quite a number of these caves in this small area, with many labyrinths, some going down deeper and deeper underground. The water in the bottom is so clear that it just looks like dry gravel at the bottom, until you throw a rock into it and hear the splash and see the ripples.
We treated ourselves to a wonderful lunch at Oure Tera resort (fresh Mahi mahi - if you can't catch it you have to buy it!)before continuing our journey.
We took the interior road north, stopping at the prison that housed 3000 French convicts during the 1870's and the graveyard where 240 of these souls were laid to rest. Convict labour was used to build the prison, the water tower and the cathedral in the 1870's. These were mainly political prisoners who disagreed with the French government of the day - they were the lucky ones - 20,000 political prisoners were executed by the French at that time but strangely they sent 3,000 of them out to this beautiful island in the Pacific.
We stopped by the airport to have a look at saw a replica of the airport on Wallis island. Both buildings look like they were built from the same set of plans. On the way back south we enjoyed the views coming over the hills, looking down into the turquoise bays. Very tall skinny pine trees dot the landscape especially on the coastline and on exposed ridges and islets. A fascinating day with beautiful vistas around every corner. This is by far the prettiest part of New Caledonia that we have seen so far.

Aradonna - Exploring by land

It has been so windy here that we have been having more fun on land than at sea in the last few days. Our anchorage in Baie de Citron was reasonably sheltered, though not perfect, it had the advantage of being close to the beach and to the main road into town. Friends from Fusio joined us in the bay on Thursday, surprising us with cake for morning tea and we caught up with them again for drinks later that night. Thursday lunch was on shore at a local cafe with friends from Malakite. Each time Read more...

we went ashore we bumped into fellow yachties who were doing the same as us - enjoying the cafes and the chance to provision from the local supermarket.
Yesterday we went walking and I won't cover all the details but after a 4 hour walk into town and up around the ports and to the supermarket we again treated ourselves to lunch at a local cafe - we felt we deserved it! One of our errands was to buy a spare fuel filter and the local garage didn't have one but the kind shop owner phoned around for us to find the one we needed. The place was miles away, so this man, Michel, offered to drive there in the afternoon and pick one up for us. Amazing service - when we called in that afternoon it was there waiting for us. This man is a yachtie himself and owns a local charter boat called Te Fetia. Last night a few more boats joined us in Baie de Citron and one was Te Fetia! Michel came by to say hello and make sure we were happy with the filter! There were ten boats in the bay with us last night and little did we know, but Friday night is not a great time to be there. The local night club was raging on with loud music until after 3am.
So today we decided to find a quieter spot and we have shifted to Isle de Saint Marie. It was only a short journey to get here but we were beating in to strong wind and short choppy waves all the way. It is relatively quiet here, but the wind still funnels around the bay, which helped to dry the washing in a very short time :-) Being the weekend, we have been entertained by locals enjoying the day kite surfing, wind surfing and water skiing. A hobbie cat went flying through the air and capsized in the strong winds at one point and promptly capsized again as soon as they got it right side up. A bit too much wind for some water sports today, but fun to watch.

Aradonna - Escaping from wind

It has taken us a few hops to get back from the Saint Vincent Baie area. Each morning we took advantage of the calm winds from 6am to 9am to make another hop before the winds came up and now we are back in civilisation! This bay is ideal as it is only a short walk to the supermaket and it has a nice sandy beach. Today, after restocking supplies at the supermarket, we went back to shore and did some repairs on our dinghy. While the glue set we snorkeled in the bay amongst pretty corals and then Read more...

lay on the beach soaking up the atmosphere. Many families were having a day at the beach today, playing beach rugby and generally having fun.
Next to us in the bay are friends we met in Vanuatu on Darramy and some other friends we sailed with last season, on Vegas. Great to catch up! The weather forecast is for strong winds for the rest of the week, but at least we have had sunny blue skies each day and it is very pleasant once sheltered from the wind. On the beach today it was just beautiful. The kite surfers and wind surfers further out of the bay are having a ball and it is quite a sight seeing whole flocks of kite surfers flying through the air!

Aradonna - Aquarium, Autopilot and Anchorages

Our visit to the Aquarium the other day was well worth the trip and the entrance fee (about NZ$15 each). This is the first aquarium we have seen where there are live coral reefs and all the typical reef fish you would expect to see in real life. We saw staghorns, parrotfish, lionfish, butterflyfish, chromis, aenenome fish, triggerfish and many more, swimming amongst a pretty selection of corals such as lettuce leaf, blue staghorn, plate corals and soft corals. The huge tanks were amazing and watching Read more...

the coral and the fish was exactly like we see it when we are diving. There were also tanks with larger fish, giant trevalley, sharks, bump heads, large batfish, sweetlips, unicorn fish and blue tangs. Wonderful to see these large species up close. There was also a turtle tank, although these poor creatures had no seagrass or any other natural features in their tank. Many other smaller tanks completed the trip, with too many displays to list here, most of them very well done. Well worth a visit if you are in New Caledonia.
Our autopilot has been giving us plenty of headaches and many of you will be sick of hearing about this recalcitrant crew member. Well, we have good news! The French technician came back to do some more diagnosis on this intermittent issue and discovered that the drive (the little motor that drives the unit)was shot. It was only connecting in the right places every now and then, which is why we kept having on and off issues! We now have a new drive installed and have been putting it through the paces over the last few days. All is working perfectly. We have tried it motoring and sailing, in calm conditions and in high winds. We have tried it for a few hours at a time and it has not missed a beat. So hopefully this is the last you will hear about it! After we waved farewell to our friends Graeme and Sue on Saturday we headed out to explore a few new anchorages. Our stops have been to the north west of Noumea this time, including Baie Maa and the many little bays and islands inside Baie de Saint Vincent. This area is dry and brown. The creamy coloured clay hills are barely covered in pale tussock grass and a few scruffy pale bushes. There are no coconut palms or pine trees here and no greenery. It looks like whatever grows here is struggling to survive. A complete contrast to the lush green slopes inside Baie de Prony to the south of Noumea. We decided to leave this area today as it is completely uninteresting - sandy bottom, clay hills, no coral and nobody lives here - remarkabley unremarkable. But the weather had a different plan! The local weather forecast from the French weather model was for light winds, about 12-14 knots SE. This would have been ideal for the trip south towards the pretty southern lagoon area. In reality, after a calm start to the day, by 11am the wind came up, and continued to rise, up, and up. We headed back into shelter as the wind gusts topped 40 knots! So here we sit, in the sunshine, listening to the wind howl by. But we cannot complain - it is 26 degrees with beautiful blue sky.

Aradonna - Southern Lagoon Paradise

The southern lagoon area of New Caledonia is really a boaties paradise. Together with Graeme and Sue we have explored many bays and little islands. In Baie de Prony we tucked right up in the far reaches at the head of the bay and went by dinghy up the little stream to the tepid baths. A pretty area with a small waterfall/cascade. In the middle of Baie de Prony, we anchored at Isle de Casy and walked right around this island. Beautiful beaches, free camping amongst the trees, nice snorkeling on Read more...

the reef. A superb area and well used by the locals who come to camp here at the weekends.
After being inside Baie de Prony for a few days we headed out into the southern lagoon, down to Amedee Island. This has the tallest lighthouse in New Caledonia, a stunning white sand beach and a coral garden to explore by snorkel. We walked around this island and had a swim. Sue decided to swim out to a smaller lighthouse just offshore and Karl helped her up onto the steps before he saw the sign saying this was strictly forbidden! Another day we anchored in Baie de Citron and enjoyed walking along the waterfront amonst the cafes and restaurants, sitting for a while to enjoy and ice cream. The area is a little like Townsville with a lovely long sandy beach and plenty of people swimming. Last week we thought we had solved our autopilot problems, alas this machine does not want to keep working! We had the technician back on board to fix it again on Wednesday evening, and again it started working. Fantastic - but wait - we had to do a sea trial.
Yesterday was a fine sunny day, no wind and flat calm sea, so we decided the sea trial for Mr Autopilot would be a trip to Isle de Maitre. This time it took 25 minutes before Mr Autopilot stopped working again. Bugger! But the day was spectacular so we carried on to Isle de Maitre. On the way, Heather saw a huge splash in the water about 100m away. We watched and we saw a large whale surface, basking in the sun. We approached very slowly and got fairly close to watch. Beside the huge whale was a baby. So wonderful to see these magnificent creatures up close. As we watched, the mother whale did a dive, lifting her tail high in the air as she plunged below the surface. The next thing, baby whale leaped right out of the water, way up high, and came crashing down with a massive splash! Later, they surfaced again to bask in the sun. We followed them to the next spot and Karl decided to jump over the side to swim with them. As he swam towards them they slowly plunged deeper, out of reach. Onwards to Isle de Maitre and we had a fabulous day in the sun, swimming with turtles, watching all manner of fish swim around the boat in the clear blue water. The snorkeling was lovely and we had a very relaxing day before heading back to the marina last night.
As I write this, the technician is on board, trying to figure out the autopilot, he now thinks it is the motor, so watch this space and see what happens - hopefully we can resolve it before our journey back to NZ.
Today is our last day with friends Graeme and Sue as they fly back to NZ tomorrow morning. We have had a wonderful week together, loads of laughter and good fun. Today we will explore things on land together, perhaps a visit to the aquarium!

Aradonna - Back in Vanuatu

It is hard to believe we have been back for one week now. Day one was spent catching up on sleep after our travels from Tokyo and meeting Nettie for lunch. On Monday we reported our stolen outboard motor to the Police but we are not holding our breath that it will be found. We also picked up our replacement piece of rigging that had arrived while we were away. The Post Office did not want to release it to us unless we engaged the services of a customs clearing agent. So we asked the man at the Read more...

Post Office (which is also the Customs office) where we had to go to find a customs clearing agent. He did not know! After some time he found a telephone number for us, but he could not ring it because the Government phone lines can only ring landlines and he only had a mobile ph number for the agent. We tried calling the number he gave us but it was not a valid number. What to do? The man refused to give us the rigging because he said they had strict procedures to follow and we must have the clearance form from a customs agent. After much discussion and a second visit later in the day, we talked to the boss and explained that this part was requir ed to stop our mast from falling off and it would be a serious safety issue if we could not repair the boat before we set sail to New Caledonia. We showed him a photo of our broken rigging. The boss did not know where to send us to get the part cleared through customs either! At last, he decided to ignore official procedures and let us have the rigging. But he made us promise that next time we would need to follow procedures. Phew! We are pleased to report that this new stay has now been installed and all is fine with the rigging now.
During the week we discovered another issue - the fridge/freezer was no longer working! We had left it empty of course while we were away so it had not been used for 5 weeks and now it refused to get cold. Thursday and Friday we had visits from the local refrigeration people, who thankfully fixed the leak and filled the system up with new oil and new gas - all working well again now. We were pleased that we had purchased our new electric fridge freezer in NZ which came in very handy as a back up while the main system was down.
It has been a rather social week. We returned to Paradise Cove resort, 3 months after our wedding there, and were welcomed like long lost family. Hugs all around from the staff and owners of the resort. We had a delicious lunch and a bottle of wine overlooking Aradonna in the bay - just beautiful and such a romantic setting. Back in Port Vila there are several boats here waiting to sail to New Caledonia and we have been chatting to a few of them with promises to catch up again in New Cal. Had drinks on board Dagon with Tom and Fran, who have recently come from sailing around Japan and also know Karl and Netties Dutch friends who live there. A small world! But it seems Aradonna is still protesting about us being away and leaving her alone for 5 weeks. Now we have autopilot issues again. Different symptoms than previous times and this one is still a mystery to us. If we cannot find the solution in the next few days we may have to hand steer to New Caledonia and see if we can find someone to fix it over there.
Meanwhile, Vanuatu is having problems of it's own. The Government here is quite unstable, we have seen 3 changes of Government since we arrived in May as they keep having votes of 'no confidence' and throwing out the incumbent. Now, 16 members of parliament have been charged with bribery. One of them, the Finance Minister plead guilty! Then he changed his plea the next day to not guilty. All 16 ministers are still in their jobs and refuse to stand down until the outcome of the trial is known, which could take months - this is amazing. Procedings started on Thursday with one minister announcing that he had no idea it was illegal to accept money in return for doing certain favours... Meanwhile they are still earning full salary and still making decisions for the running of the country. It really is a different world here.

Aradonna - Honeymoon Highlights

We have been away from our floating home for 5 weeks, having a ball in Europe! On the way we stopped in Auckland for a couple of nights where Heather's family officially welcomed Karl into the family - even decorating the spare bedroom up into the Honeymoon Suite! On arrival in Holland, Karl's family went the extra mile to welcome Heather into the family. We had many family gatherings with brothers and sisters and in laws and nieces and nephews - with so many laughs and so much warmth. We loved Read more...

life in the camper van, for 2 weeks touring through Holland, Belgium, France and Luxembourg. Heathers friends in France put on a special wedding lunch for the newlyweds! We discovered that France is an esay place to travel in a camper with loads of free parking spots and camper friendly places along the way. Karl introduced Heather to many of his old friends in Holland and we had a fabulous time - Karl caught up on all the news from the last 35 years and Heather got to meet so many wonderful p eople that had been part of Karl's life when he lived in Holland. For the second half of our stay in Europe we shared a house with Karl's sister and brother-in-law who had travelled from Canada to join the family gatherings. It was very special to spend time with the family and to see all of the family together again after so many years. Karl had been a bit worried that he had forgotten how to speak Dutch after such a long time away, but it didn't take long before he was back into the swing of things. Heather has been learning Dutch for the last two years and was finally able to put this to good use, following along with conversations and even managing to speak some Dutch! Heather experienced the true meaning of the Dutch word 'gezellig' which translates to English as 'cosy' but really means so much more. The fun, the laughter, the warmth, the closeness of the family as we chatted around the table - that was gezellig! As Heather was clearly a tourist in Holland, various friends and family members became tour guides on different days, each showing us interesting places and explaining some history and fascinating facts along the way. It was truly a wonderful time, with so many experiences that will last forever in our memories and too many stories to tell here! The one highlight we will share here however is our visit to Amsterdam during "Sail Amsterdam". Every 5 years the old tall ships visit Amsterdam, along with replicas of ancient vessels. We were lucky enough to be there at the right time and our tour on a canal boat through the city ended up in the harbour amongst all the grand old tall ships as they were circling the harbour getting ready to depart! On shore the waterfront was packed with people and here we were on a boat in the harbour with the whole fleet around us! Awesome!! On the way to and from Europe we spent a few days in Tokyo and enjoyed experiencing the vastly different culture, the ultra modern city, intermingled with ancient shrines and temples - and the delicacies of Japanese cuisine. Surprising to see so many rice fields and vegetable crops and mountains and lakes just 45 minutes out of the city centre. We were also very lucky with the weather. In our 5 weeks away we had beautiful weather almost every day - only two rainy days in 5 weeks!! Temperatures ranged from 35 degrees one day in Tokyo down to about 20 degrees one day in Europe, but most of the time we enjoyed very pleasant mid to late twenties which was just about perfect.
On return to our floating home on Saturday, all was well with our yacht, apart from a missing outboard motor. Our new 8hp Yamaha had been padlocked on the the back of the yacht but someone must have been determined to have it. So it appears we have made another donation to the people of Vanuatu, albeit unintended. Last year we lost our 80hp main engine and now this year we have lost our 8hp outboard - so it feels like an improvement on last year's effort!

Hi I saw Aradonna on the mooring in Port Vila on the 2nd September and the outboard was still on the back. We look forward to catching up with you in New Caledonia. Cheers Glen & Jillian

Aradonna - Honeymoon in Europe

On Saturday we will be flying out of Vanuatu, we will briefly touchdown in Auckland before flying to Tokyo for a few days stop over and then on to Amsterdam. We are picking up a campervan and touring through The Netherlands, Belgium and France, meeting up with several friends along the way. Karl will introduce his new bride to his family in The Netherlands. There will be a family reunion as Karl's two brothers plus his sister from Toronto and respective partners will all be getting together. This Read more...

will be the first time that all the siblings have been together in 11 years, so it is a very special occasion. We will have some adjustments to make as we leave our yacht behind for 5 weeks and adapt to life in Europe. We will miss the paw paws and coconuts, but will be quite happy if we don't see any more bok choy for a while. We will trade our tuna meals for salted herring, which Karl is looking forward to. Of course, we might have to remember not to eat with our fingers while we are in Europe - the table manners are a little different in Vanuatu! We are not sure what to wear! After living in swimming togs and sarongs for three months, I guess we will need to find some other clothes now, which will be a bit strange. The landscape will be a little different too. We are used to silver white beaches in Santo, jet black beaches in Ambrym, chocolate brown beaches in Ambae and the golden sands of the Maskelynes - all fringed with palm trees and tropical jungle. Not just that, but after a small area of sand, volcanic mountains rise straight up to 800m, or in some cases 1800m. The landscape in Vanuatu is like a child's picture book of volcanic peaks. We will trade this scenery for the flat low lying fields of the Netherlands - I think the Dutch Alps are only about 8m high? The people will be a little different too. In Vanuatu, most people are small in size. Heather can look over the tops of most heads in a crowd here. Once in The Netherlands with all those tall people, Heather will probably feel like a midget. There will be an adjustment in the language we speak as well. Heather has been learning Dutch, but has picked up more Bislama in the last 3 months. Bislama is the local pidgin English and the national language of Vanuatu. It might help to speak a little French when we are in France, which will be a struggle for both of us! For the next 5 weeks we will leave our watery world behind and be land based. We will have to adjust to driving at more than 6 knots I suppose and get used to traffic again - there are no traffic jams on the ocean! But the world will be less wobbly and we won't need to check the weather forecast every day. We might need to remember not to jump out the back of the campervan to go for a swim! So this will be our last blog for a while. We will return to Vanuatu on 5th September and resume our cruising life - and our blogs. Tomorrow we leave Aradonna in storage in Vanuatu, awaiting our return.

Have been enjoying reading your blog. Have a great time in Europe and catching up with Karl's family and friends. Had hoped we would cross paths in Vanuatu but we are scheduled to leave the day you arrive back! Best wishes for more safe travels from Bob and Heather off Bobcat

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2802 Jul 2015

We left NZ 3 months ago and since then we have visited 24 islands in Vanuatu. In these islands we have visited 66 different villages. We have delivered seeds to most of these, plus we gave seeds to other boats traveling to the 3 Shepherd Islands, 3 islands in the Banks group and 4 islands in the Torres group. Thanks to generous donations from friends, we have also been able to supply clothes, fishing gear and other items to many people, plus educational materials to several schools. Along the Read more...

way we have met so many good people, yachties helping out local villages in all sorts of ways, plus very generous locals who love to share their world with us. It has been a fabulous experience! This year we have spent more time in villages and have had far more interaction with local people than last year. It is a truly rewarding experience to listen to the local stories, learn about some of their customs and understand their way of life.
We have also enjoyed the snorkeling and diving in warm clear waters, deserted islands, turtles, dugongs, and so many many colourful reef fish! We will remember balmy nights under the stars, beautiful sunsets, tranquil bays and some very boisterous sailing between islands. It sure does blow here! There were not as many cruisers in Vanuatu over the last three months as the numbers of yachties we met in Tonga and Fiji last year, but this year we have formed some new friendships with some really excellent people. We have enjoyed the social interaction even more this year, as we are getting to know more about this cruising lifestyle and how it all works! In the first part of our journey we visited islands that had been ravaged by cyclone Pam. Crops had been destroyed, food was in short supply, no fresh fruit or veges to be found. It was sobering to see the damage in some places and we have admired the resilience of the local people who have been getting on with rebuilding, with smiles on their faces. Once we got further north, to Santo, we experienced a different world. Untouched by the cyclone, Santo had produce markets bursting with fruit and vegetables. We have spent the last 4 weeks feasting on paw paws, bananas, pomplemousse, passionfruit, watermelon and many more tropical delights. The fishing gradually improved and two days ago we finally got to use the large fishing chill box we purchased especially for the trip this year. And then there was the wedding! We will always remember our beautiful day at Paradise Cove resort. A special place for us. Today we went back there, 7 weeks after the big day and treated ourselves to a fine lunch of fillet mignon with a glass of red wine. Superb! Tomorrow we have a list of jobs to do in preparation for leaving Vanuatu. It will be strange to be away from Aradonna for 5 weeks. Thursday is a public holiday here and a big festival for Independence Day, so that should be fun. Friday will be out last blog for a while!

Hi Heather and Karl,
You are the 'other' bloggers on this site. I am enjoying your posts. We hope to go to Vanuatu next season after visiting The Marshalls for the hurricane season.
All the best for your honeymoon.
Cheers
Janet
Yacht Navire

Aradonna - Snorkel, snorkel, dive!

What a day we have had today! Started out with an early morning snorkel in Nawora Matua bay at Nguna Island. Dramatic rocky lumps rising up from the sand - we were glad we had anchored off shore a bit and not tried to come in too close to the beach here. Mountains of rocks and coral and fish between us and the shore. Next, we took the dinghy ashore to the village of Utanlangi. Here we met one of the chiefs, Shem and his wife Lesley. Shem took us on a tour of the village and introduced us to the Read more...

president of the disaster management committee, Datu. We gave Datu the last of our watermelon seeds, with instructions to share them with the other 7 villages on Nguna Island - he agreed to distribute the watermelon seeds and was happy because planting time for watermelons is August! There are more than 200 people living in the village we visited and many of these people have been to NZ to work on a 6 month permit, picking apples or other crops. They return from NZ with new ideas for the village and we saw first-hand how they now grow mandarins and oranges by grafting them on to lemon tree stock. They have learned lessons from the cyclone and are now building more concrete houses here and setting traditional houses higher above the sand to survive sea surge during cyclones. Bamboo stalk is used for making furniture, fences, houses, gates, marker posts and various other things. The bamboo leaves are used as mulch to keep the ground moist around crops. They have a communal garden, fenced off from the pigs and chooks and growing very well.
We then sailed into Havannah harbour and anchored at White Cliffs for a lunch stop and another snorkel. Another clear water spot with plenty of coral garden to explore, which was nice, but a near by dive spot was beckoning. Just around the corner was Paul's Rock. This is a pinnacle that rises from a 30m bottom, straight up to about 1m below the surface. We anchored safely near shore and took the dinghy to the little mooring marker on the rock and went for a dive. A glorious spot! Great visibility, with friendly fish and even a crayfish that was happy to pose for photographs. This is a marine reserve and the marine life seem to know it - they are happy to hang around rather than swim or scuttle away. Heather got some fabulous underwater photos here.
When we came up from the dive, the water around us was like a mill pond. Calm, clear, flat - just amazing! We decided to stay in this "day" anchorage over night as it is so calm and we are very close to hop around Devils Point in the morning at slack tide, to head back to Port Vila. Our Vanuatu experience is coming to a close and what a fantastic time we have had here in almost 3 months! We are very lucky people.

Aradonna - Turtles, Lionfish and Tuna!

We enjoyed ourselves at Revolieu Bay in Epi yesterday. We had a nice dive on three bommies and got close up to 2 turtles, a whole family of lionfish, a mantis shrimp, a school of trevalley and a load of other marine life. Ahsore, we delivered more seeds and were able to stock up on watermelon, bok choy and spring onions from Pierre. We shared some Bok Choy with Brian and Sue on Darramy and enjoyed catching up with them for sundowners. We had finally run out of meat however, so Heather had selected Read more...

a vegetable curry from the cookbook to try. The next thing we knew, Sea Whiskers arrived into the bay, called us up on VHF and offered us some tuna! They (Chris and Sally) had caught a Yellowfin Tuna on the way in and happily shared some with us. Wonderful! After shushimi tuna entree and seared tuna steaks for dinner we were replete, rather glad to be saved from cooking a vegetable curry! This morning we set off from Epi at 6.30am, prepared for the long slog south with head winds towards Efate. Within 15 minutes of leaving the bay we had a large fish on the line. Karl tried valiantly to stop the reel from spooling out while Heather turned the boat around to follow the fish. A few days prior, a large fish had spooled the line and we lost it, so we were determined to land this one! After a 20 minute battle, we landed a very nice 80cm Yellowfin Tuna. The largest fish we have caught this year and our first Yellowfin. Such a thrill! But so much meat on it, it is more than we need in the next few days before we fly out...
Our 43 mile passage was just sailable, but pretty much on the nose, so we sailed as much as we could, but motored the last 12 miles when strong headwinds and a large wind chop slowed us down to 2.5 knots under sail. We were very glad to drop anchor in Nguna, in 15m depth we can clearly see the anchor dug in to white sand. Good snorkeling here too. About half an hour after we arrived, another yacht pulled in to the bay. Illusion V anchored nearby, so we called them up and asked if they would like some tuna for dinner. Bob and Cath (who are Kiwis but sailing a boat from Hobart where they now live), along with their visitors Jenny and Mike, jumped for joy! They were about to prepare a vegetarian risotto!! They just arrived in Vanuatu 10 days ago and had not caught any fish so far, so were delighted with our tub of fish. They invited us for drinks on board Illusion V and we enjoyed a great evening together. Nice people. They are heading up to the Banks and Torres Islands, so we gave them the last of our watermelon seeds (we still had 1/2 box of the original 15 boxes of seeds) to take up to the northern groups of islands.
After another fresh tuna meal tonight and more in the freezer, we will have plenty of omega 3 for the last few days of our Vanuatu visit.

Aradonna - Happy as a Clam

By the end of the day on Tuesday there were 6 yachts in the tiny bay next to Awei Island. Yesterday we left the bay early enough to travel 5 miles and get in through the pass into Uliveo Island at high tide. As the crow flies this island is only 3 miles away but by the time you navigate around numerous reefs, it is about 5 miles. By the way, all the measurements in our blogs that say miles are all nautical miles, 1 nautical mile = 1.850km. The pass is fairly narrow, but we still had 4m of water Read more...

under us at high tide. Once inside, there is a small basin with depths of 14m to anchor in, beside Lutes village. This is another lagoon anchorage and very protected.
There are three villages on the island: Lutes, Peskarus and Pellongk. Combined they have 800 adults. There is a school at Sangalai for the whole island, with 230 children from age 5 to 13, 44 of these are boarding here full time and take turns at doing the cooking for the group. They all do their own washing and other duties. Stuart took us on a tour of the island and introduced us to many people. They had some damage from cyclone Pam here, though most of it is now repaired, but they still have no paw paws. Bananas are just starting to grow again and should be ready soon. Some buildings had been blown over but mostly new ones have already been constructed. We gave seeds to the chief in each village for them to distribute to their community and they were very thankful. We also gave seeds to the headmaster of the school - the school has a vege garden but no seeds, so now the children will be able to learn growing skills as well.
As we walked through the village, a band of curious children started following us. There were mosquitoes everywhere, landing on us, so now and then a child would run up and slap a mosquito they could see sitting on our arm or leg or shoulder. Then they would run back to the following group of children. The daring ones got close and closer and became our body guards fending off the flying beasts and swatting any that landed. Karl started joining in, swatting mosquitoes that landed on Heather's arms and neck, or maybe just swatting for fun? Then Karl swatted Heather on the bum! This sent the children into wails of laughter, they fell around backwards and giggled for the next 10 minutes! Every time the laughing would stop for a second, one would start giggling again and the rest would dissolve into more laughter.
We were very impressed with the whole island. All 3 villages are clean and tidy, everything is well organised. The school grounds are cleaned every day by the children who have litter duty at the school and in surrounding pathways. Gardens are nicely clipped, people are friendly and seem to be working together to make a great life for their families here. There is a rural training centre where youths who are not academically inclined can learn trades like electrical and plumbing, plus agricultural skills. There is a women's resource centre where young mothers can learn to sew and mend clothes, plus support with parenting skills. There is a building construction workshop where young men learn to build with concrete and other non-traditional materials. There is a solar powered desalination plant (Open Ocean from NZ) to give fresh water to the health clinic and 3 locally trained nurses. We met Carlo, a local builder and he showed us some of the concrete buildings he has built. Very professional! He and his co-workers were just finishing off some concrete bungalows and a cafe which will soon open as guest accommodation on the island. Carlo very proudly showed us the flushing toilet, which is a complete novelty here. This will be a nice place to stay for anyone visiting the area.
The day we visited was a special day - they were having a music festival. All the youth groups from the three villages, plus one from nearby Avokh Island were performing in an annual competition. Judges scored them on several aspects, including timing, uniforms, melody, wording etc. All the people in the village were out watching the performance in the afternoon. Performances included string bands, dance groups and choirs. We were well entertained for 3 hours. We were standing near the back of the crowd and it was nice to see the performers, and also watch the reaction of the families to the music and dancing. At the end when everyone was celebrating the winners (Lutes village) some recorded music was playing and it had a catchy beat. We both started jigging away, tapping our toes and wriggling our hips in time to the music. The next thing, we heard squeals of laughter from the crowd and realised that hundreds of people had turned around and everyone was watching us! The children tho ught we were hilarious and the adults looked a little bewildered. Fortunately the music stopped and so did we, before we could get into any trouble! Today we visited the clam sanctuary. Started in 1991, this sanctuary is the result of hard work and dedication by the people in the Maskelynes. Clams are a popular food source here in Vanuatu, but one of the local people, Simon (now deceased) realised that clams would all be eaten if they did not preserve them. His family now carries on caring for the clams and nobody is allowed to take any clams from the protected area. There is a large fenced off area of shallow water north of Pellongk village and in the middle of this is a man made island. We paddled out in an outrigger canoe with Stuart and landed on this island, built up from dead coral. It has a small changing room with a concrete floor and thatched roof and has been really well made. Snorkeling around the clam area was a thrill, to see so many large clams, some 50cm wide! Many of them have lips with bright colours. Some purple velevet, some bright green, others brown with purple splotches, some tan with turquoise spots. We nev er realised that clams came in so many different colours and patterns. A cheeky moray eel was poking out of one coral head and later, back on the man made island, we spotted a sea snake, which thankfully are not poisonous.
Later, we asked to meet the chairman of the youth development group, his name is Carl. We congratulated him on the music festival yesterday and presented him with some of the Burnsco donated fishing gear so that the youth group could use this for their youth fishing activities and competitions. It is so nice to see people actively doing positive things in their communities so we were pleased to help them. A wonderful place to visit - highly recommended to anyone thinking of coming to Vanuatu.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2102 Jul 2015

Happy days in the Maskelynes We were not really impressed with the village of Ranon on Ambrym Island. These people had NOT been hit by the cyclone, but clearly have made no attempt to maintain anything for many years. Buildings sit with guttering half off, rotting timbers hanging loose. Concrete buildings half finished, with reinforcing rods poking out of concrete piles, rusting away. Bags of cement sit on the beach beside rusting lengths of reinforcing rods, steel mesh and twisted lengths of Read more...

timber that were never stacked straight, just left to lie where they fell when unloaded fromt he boat that brought them who knows how long ago. In the school, ripped school books lie on the floor of the classrooms, chairs left lying on their side and desks in haphazard disarray. The resource room at the school was a frightful sight, with school journals and text books strewn on the floor, fallen twisted stacks of books falling off the teachers desk and sliding from crooked piles on shelves. It looks like nobody cares here! In the village, men lie on the beach in the shade of the trees, or sit in the kava bar. Kids play on the beach, fiddling with dinghies that yachties have left as they walk through the village or visit the volcano. Locals approach trying to sell us a tour to the volcano or a viewing of a traditional dance. We declined.
The bay has a dramatic look to it with jet black sand and black rocks. The water is clear but seems inky black with no light reflected back from the sand beneath. We decided not to dive here as first planned, we felt like moving on.
We set sail for our favourite place, the Maskelyne island group, and had a beautiful day in the sunshine, with flat seas and a warm breeze. As a bonus we caught a 42cm Skip Jack Tuna on the way, which will feed us for three nights! Last night we anchored at Awei island, along with 3 other boats. We invited friends Brian and Sue from Darramy over - we had not caught up with them since our wedding, plus we invited the 3 crew of Argonaut over to join us for sundowners as well. Frits and Marian are Dutch and have been sailing for a few years now. Frits son Gerben was visiting for a week or so, taking a break from his usual job as engineer on a superyacht! It was a fun evening, all sharing stories of various adventures and experiences. Today Heather caught up on the laundry and made bread while Karl did some maintenance jobs on Aradonna. Various locals have come by to say hello. One, a 5 year old boy, paddling by himself, was delighted when we gave him some fishing hooks. A couple of sailing canoes came past, with sails made from flour sacks sewn together, these people were from nearby Avokh island. Later, two canoes paddled past with three dogs swimming behind trying to keep up with their owners! Awei island is quite small and all 4 guide books we have tell us it is uninhabited. The update on this, is that 15 people live here now, all part of one extended family group. With our gifts of seeds, the 300 residents of Avokh and the 15 residents of Awei will soon be growing watermelons! Yesterday we spotted a turtle near the boat, it is always nice to see them lift their heads and peak up at us. We are heading off for a snorkel now, to see what we can discover.

Aradonna - Strange traditions and new surprises

Just a short, 10 mile hop south of our last anchorage, getting into Loltong Bay was easy. Reefs on either side, but the triangles on shore were easy to see and once they are lined up, there is no issue with being in the right place. Much better than Ambae where the trees had overgrown the second triangle! This is a busy bay with supply ships and other local vessels coming and going. It is the Government administrative centre for Pentecost Island.
Ashore, we met Matthew and his wife Marie. Read more...

They run the local yacht club and offered us a traditional banquet of 10 local dishes for dinner, only 1200 vatu (about NZ$18) per person and BYO drinks. So we booked in for dinner. Matthew then explained that he is the youngest son of the old chief Luc, who had died leaving 6 sons. The eldest son, Jacob, is now chief. We went to see Jacob and he immediately took us on a tour of the village. He showed us where they dry kava for export and then took us to the Government administration office where they look after banking and kava export to several countries, among other duties. After a look at the school, he told us that today was a special day and we should follow him to see a Kastom dance. We had heard about these dances that are arranged for tourists, but he insisted that this was not for tourists and the dancing was happening right now and we should just follow him.
We went to the neighbouring village just south of Loltong and here we found an elderly man wearing large plumes of leaves from his behind and carrying a stick. He was dancing and chanting around in circles, while stick drums burst out a quick beat and another man presented him with a pig. The pig did not look happy to be part of the event. Next, several other people from the village started dancing around with their arms spread wide, like they were birds flying. They formed a long line and danced up one way and down the other, zig zagging across the field like a long snake of birds. Some of the people were laying mats over the shoulders of other people while they were doing their bird dance. After a speech, another man presented an equally frightened pig, but this one was enormous, and the whole dancing and chanting and beating of drums and laying of mats started all over again. It looked like the whole village and perhaps most of the one next door were camped around the field to wat ch the event.
Most of the people involved were wearing shorts and t-shirts, or dresses - usual island dress rather than traditional grass costumes. They were however adorned with orange painted faces and several of the men had leaves of various descriptions sticking out of their trousers. Now and then one of the men would pass a long palm frond to the elderly man (the chief of that village)and he would dance with it for a while before placing it in a row at the side of the field. This was all very fascinating, but what did it mean? Jacob explained. Once a year, the chief of a village has the chance to improve his rank and become a higher chief. There are 5 steps to becoming the highest rank chief. The first four steps were like the one we were watching. The chief would arrange for 10 different people to give him a pig and the 10 pigs would be presented at the ceremony for him to kill. His sons and daughters and other family members would then dance with the family that had given the pig and give t hem mats as payment for the pig. The 10 pigs would later become part of a big feast, along with taro and yams. The ceremony could only be held once per year and it always has to be held at the time of the yam harvest, because then the village knows it has enough food for the feast. It is not to celebrate the yam harvest, like some other islands do, but it was held at that time just for practical reasons for the feast.
For a chief to get to the highest rank, he needs to go to step 5. This involves getting 10 people to give 10 pigs each to the chief, who then has to kill 100 pigs!!! Not many get to that level.
It was amazing to watch these people carry out this kastom dance, not for us, not for tourists, just a plain old annual event so the chief can get his ranking up. Wow! Later, we kept our appointment with Matthew and Marie for our dinner to start at 5pm. Marie had done a huge amount of preparation and Matthew patiently explained each dish. Tree nuts for a starter, then a plate of green paw paw salad with beans and tuna, next there was paw paw that had been roasted in a fire and then topped with freshly grated coconut. Another plate arrived with manioc chips and next to it a plate of pumpkin stalks and leaves that had been cooked in coconut milk. Neither of us had ever thought of boiling up the stalks and leaves of the pumpkin plant and eating them like you would beans and spinach - but it was delicious! Later came the local lionman banana wrapped in island cabbage leaves, then manioc wrapped in island cabbage leaves, then a plate of taro and a plate of island cabbage cooked in coconut milk with instructions to eat the cabbage and taro together. Quite tasty when combined! Just as we were feeling rather full, out comes a plate with two large omelets. The omelets were filled with onion, spring onion and capsicum and were delicious. We could not face the plate of yams that came out next, but did manage to slurp our way through a juicy pomplemousse. What amazing value and a truly delightful meal. Matthew and Marie were great company too, answering our many questions and laughing with us at our reaction to different dishes we had not tasted before. We asked about the Saturday morning market as we were hoping to buy some fruit in the morning and they immediately asked what we needed. They were happy to supply us with produce from their garden. We gave Marie 500 vatu and asked for a bunch of bananas and 2 paw paws. She returned with 3 bunches of bananas, 3 paw paws, 6 capsicums, a yam, a manioc, some ginger root and another root that they make curry from, but would not take more than the 500 vatu. A fun evening with generous hosts and a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Tonight, back on Aradonna having coffee in the cockpit, we noticed some interesting little lights flitting around in the water. They look like fireflies but they are just below the surface of the water and squiggle back and forth in a swarm that moves around like they are searching for something. If anyone has any idea what these brilliant creatures are, please let us know. They emit a very strong light, like a little LED swimming around! Another fascinating day in paradise.

I have seen the same thing on the Mediterenean sea. I first thought they were fireflies too, but later when I cought one, I discovered they were abanded old
firehouses flying around, especially in the Pacific close to little islands near Vanuatu.. Love your blogs!. Gr. Brother Henk.

Aradonna - An Eel Garden and a Pub with no beer!

Yesterday morning we snorkeled in Vanihe Bay and on the chocolate brown sand in the bay we saw hundreds of what looked like plant stems poking out of the sand and waving in the tide. Interestingly, as you snorkel over these stems, they get shorter, disappearing into the sand only to grow again after you pass by. On closer inspection these are not plant stems at all, but Garden Eels. These eels live in burrows in the sand and poke their heads and most of their bodies up into the current to feed Read more...

on passing plankton, but quickly retreat if anything swims by. A slow careful approach reveals a tiny head on the end of the "stalk" that can grow to 1m long. Further out of the bay around the point, several larger fish were looking for a feed - snappers, grunts, trevallies and scats. Karl spotted a nursery of small stingrays feeding too. An interesting spot! After exploring Vanihe Bay we departed Ambae Island and made the 10 mile hop to Maewo Island. Maewo is a long narrow island running north-south. It is about 30 miles long and only 3 miles wide, but the whole island is a high mountain range, with mountains in the 600m, 700m and 800m range down the spine of the island. It apparently gets more rainfall than other islands in Vanuatu, which is not surprising given the prevailing winds and height of the mountains. Sailing along the coast is a pretty sight, with dense tropical jungle rising straight up from the sea, highlighted by gashes of white water cascading down in massive waterfalls. We anchored in Asanvari Bay, which has a roaring waterfall in the corner, tumbling out into the bay. Ashore, we met the locals. There is a yacht club, or I should say, there was a yacht club. It needs a new roof, and some walls might be handy too! The daughter of the deceased chief is trying to rebuild it, but we are not really sure why. This tiny village of about 100 people also has a restaurant, although there is no menu and no food, but the lady running it said she could probably find us some chicken and some taro if we were hungry. There is nothing to drink at the retaurant, only food, if you give her time to go and catch it. But, she said helpfully, there is a bar at the other end of the bay, if we would like a drink. The other end of the bay requires a 20 minute walk along a goat track through the bush on the side of the hill. Here, we met Alex who has been developing the Sparkling Waters Bar. A fabulous spot, right next to the waterfall, with a patio looking out into the bay. When we asked about beer, he said he could probably go and get some, but it was warm as it was too ex pensive to run the generator. He does not serve food, only drinks, as long as you like warm beer! Alex told us he has been developing his bar for the past 5 years and hopes to have it ready one day for all the yachts that come to visit. We were the 20th yacht so far this year, which is not a lot of customers really. Apparently some aid agency is helping with funding to rebuild the yacht club, but from what we saw they already have far too many businesses running for the number of visitors they get.
We met Justin at the school. Justin is chairman of the board of the school which as 96 children from year 1 to 6. The children come from the 5 villages up the coast and can only get to school by walking through the mountains or by boat. There are no roads or cars as the mountains rise straight up from the shore. Justin is also chief of the council of chiefs for his region and his wife is the principal of the school. We gave him seeds to distribute to the surrounding communities - he was extremely happy and very grateful. We watched some of the local kids playing soccer and Karl joined in the game for a few kicks. Today we explored the bay by dinghy and found a few good snorkeling spots. The coral here is not as colourful as other places, mainly browns, greens and dusky blues, but very pleasant to look at. It is a leafy coral, made up of layer upon layer of leaves forming large rosettes and frills that cling to the side of huge rock faces turning the rocky outcrops into the skirts of Spanish dancers. There were no large fish here, but throngs of tiny ones. Another enjoyable day, swimming in clear warm water and reading books in the sunshine. Ahhh!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1503 Jul 2015

More Rock Hopping! Yesterday we started watching the movement of the tide very carefully as we realised that tide times are different here to the tide tables we have. The nearest tide times we have are from Santo Island, but these are not correct for Ambae. To get back over the reef and out of the lagoon we wanted to time our exit for near to high tide, but while the tide was still rising, in case we ran aground. Karl went over to the large supply vessel about 9am to ask them, but no one on board Read more...

seemed to know. He then asked a local fisherman sitting on the shore and he said high tide was at 10.30 or 11am. We knew this was wrong as the tide was still going out and it was more likely that 10.30am was low tide. So, while Heather baked some bread, Karl put some sticks on the shore in various places and watched the clock as the tide receded - the only sure way of working it out! Sure enough, it looked like 10.30am was low tide, so now it was easy for us to work out that we would need to leave the lagoon a bout 3.30pm. At 10.30am, while we were still watching the sticks to see if the tide would fall any further or start to flood back in again, we noticed that the supply ship started up its engines. We were a little puzzled as to why it would move and watched as it moved out towards us and then turned to go out over the reef. This is a large vessel, about twice the size of Aradonna, with high sides to carry pallets of cargo and enough space to fit 100 or so people. It must have a draft at least as deep as Aradonna, we thought. This vessel comes in and out of this lagoon every week, so we watched its track, thinking maybe they knew a deeper channel than the one we had found. As the vessel steered through the same channel that we had come through,we started to wonder if perhaps this vessel had a flat bottom after all. Then as we watched, the supply ship ran aground! After a while and with engines revving wildly, the vessel moved again, but only for a few seconds before running aground once more. The supply ship became stuck three times on bits of reef, twisting and turning and revving each time, but eventually got out of the lagoon. Quite surprising that they would attempt this pass at low tide, given they have local knowledge, but they did! It made us feel not quite so bad about bumping the reef ourselves on the way in! In the afternoon we went for a long swim, snorkeling further out of the bay. Some larger fish here. There was a 60-70cm Golden Trevally rooting in the sand, digging up food, a couple more groupers, a few large parrot fish and a turtle swimming by. Heather spotted a small crayfish hiding in a hole behind some coral, but it was too far in to reach.
We managed to steer through the pass and out of the reef without hitting anything at all on the way out of the lagoon, glad to be through safely after our previous experience! Last night we were treated to a beautiful sunset, no cloud and no land in the way, just the sun sinking into the sea. later we enjoyed our after dinner coffee on deck under a starry starry sky. A lovely peaceful clear night, just enjoying the world.

Aradonna - Rock Hopping and Whale Watching

We went diving at Elephant Island (Lathu Island) on Saturday, with Sue and Bob from Mawari. We went over in Aradonna together and anchored on a narrow shelf. A quick check of the anchor showed we were perched on the edge of a shelf that dropped straight down to 100m plus! So Heather and Sue went diving together while Karl followed in the dinghy and Bob kept watch on Aradonna. Then we swapped over and Bob and Karl went diving while Sue followed in the dinghy and Heather kept watch on Aradonna and Read more...

made some lunch. All went well with no dramas, but prudent to have been keeping watch as if the anchor had shifted into deeper water we would have drifted out to sea very fast! The visibility was outstanding. Even at 25m depth we could look up and clearly see the dinghy above us. A wonderful view of large coral formations and plenty of sea life. Nice to dive a drop off with such good visibility.
One of the locals needed some rope to tie up his cow, so we gave him some spare rope and he presented us with a sack full of coconuts, pomplemousse, grapefruit and passionfruit. A great exchange! In the afternoon we picked up our laundry from the resort only to find it was still very damp - in fact some of it was still wet! They had our laundry for two days and had hung it out under a large roof to protect it from passing drizzle showers, but it felt like it had been left sitting in the rain. The inside of Aradonna quickly became like a Chinese laundry with limp clothes hanging from every conceivable hooking point. Luckily we were invited to Mawari for dinner so we escaped having to sit amongst the damp clothes all evening! Yesterday we got an early start and motor sailed across to Ambae Island, also known as Aoba Island. Our destination was Lolowai Lagoon, which we knew had a reef in front of it and a tricky entrance, but once inside it is a very protected spot. As we approached the reef we were not entirely sure if we were in the right spot. We could see one triangle marker on the beach but could not find the other one to line up with. We thought we had the coordinates right and so moved in very slowly. Karl was on the bow watching for obstacles and Heather was on the helm watching the depth sounder. The first part of the reef went OK and according to the chart we should be almost through, when suddenly the depth went far to shallow and - bang! We hit the reef! Heather reversed hard - we were stuck at first but with some graunching noises as the motor revved, Aradonna started to move off the reef. Then Bang! We hit another rock! The next thing, the rudder angle instrument stopped transmitting the rudd er angle, so Heather had to guess the position of the wheel as she turned left and right trying to follow the hand signals Karl was giving on the bow. The bow thruster helped, but we were in a tight spot. Next, everytime Aradonna was put into gear, there was an ominous clonking noise on the prop, conjuring up images of all sorts of damage!!! Eventually, with several bumps, knocks and scary scraping sounds, we were once again in deeper water, clear of the reef, but still outside the lagoon. We were just about to head around the corner to another bay when a man in a dinghy approached from the catamaran already anchored inside the lagoon. "Follow me!" said the man, so we did. The channel through the reef into the lagoon was further to the left of where we had tried and once we were lined up we could just see the second triangle peeping out between the trees on the hill - so hard to see! Once safely inside the lagoon and at anchor we snorkeled under and checked for damage. Apart from a couple of new scratches on the keel, all looked in order. We had picked up a small piece of rope from the reef on our prop which was easily cut away (this explained the clonking) and all was well! Phew! A very picturesque spot and some lovely neighbours who had clearly earned the fruit cake we gave them to say thank you.
Today we awoke to blue sky and sunshine, such a welcome sight after a few drizzling days. By 8am Aradonna was festooned with fluttering laundry hanging from every rail and every line we could hang from somewhere outside - at last we could get the washing dry! We went ashore and met Ronan who took us for a walk to the crater lake and showed us where they grow their vegetables. The lake is a bit of a swampy area or wetland, so no good for drinking water but perfect for the gardens. In the village we were able to buy freshly baked bread along with some eggs. There is a hospital here that services all the villages on Ambae as well as people living on the islands of Maewo and Pentecost. To supply clean water to the hospital the Japanese have donated a solar powered desalination plant which was commissioned earlier this year. We gave a few watermelon seeds to some of the locals here as we have so many of these seeds left over.
This afternoon we had a snorkel on the reef, not as clear as Hog Harbour but still plenty of nice things to see. A large carpet of unusual soft corals in dusky pinks and mauves, a huge grouper lurking in the rocks, and a pair of blue fin unicorn fish along with the usual selection of pretty reef fishes. Later as we were drying off on board Aradonna, we spotted a whale cruising by the mouth of the bay. A real surprise to see this large creature blowing and diving - and quite a thrill! Later, a sizable ferry-come-cargo vessel motored in through the reef and over to the village to drop off supplies and people. A busy little bay in a remote island, full of surprises.

Aradonna - Rainbows and Turtles

On the way north yesterday, we were farewelled from our anchorage by turtles popping up their heads and diving down as we passed by. Then as we headed further up the coast, we were in the sunshine but a rain band was chasing us. This created an intense rainbow that seemed to follow us for miles. We have never seen such intense colours in a rainbow before, so close and the full bow right beside us. Awesome! When we arrived into the bay, we went for a snorkel, as usual, to check the anchor. When Read more...

we got to the anchor we discovered a large and very curious turtle was investigating our anchor. He hung around on top of the anchor for quite some time before slowing swimming away. It is so nice to watch these ponderous creatures! We had a look at Champagne Beach with its brilliant white sand. A pretty place to be, with turquoise water and plenty of coral reefs to explore.
Along with Bob and Sue from Mawari, we enjoyed dinner at the resort here last night. Woke up this morning to a dawn chorus from the birds in the jungle. Life is good! Went for a dive today at Malvoror Reef in front of Champagne Beach. Visibility was 25m plus, soooo clear! Plenty of colourful corals - intense blues, pinks, purples, yellows - and pretty fish, including a Clown Triggerfish - these look like a plump fish wearing clown pyjamas!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 802 Jul 2015

On Monday we were collected by the bus at 8am for the Millenium Cave tour. After a long drive over bumpy muddy roads we arrived at the starting point which is a trek through the jungle. Fourteen of us were on this tour, with 5 local guides who were very professional, making sure the group stayed together and no one got left behind. The track through the jungle was very muddy and slippery due the recent rainy days and a couple of people, including Heather, went sliding over during the trek. It Read more...

became fun to be a mud lark! Everyone had mud splatters all up their legs, so you could not tell the ones who had fallen over from the ones who hadn't - we were all covered in mud! We all had to cross a bridge made of bamboo, just bamboo poles all laid together in a pile between vertical bamboo poles supported by some other bamboo cross bars all tied together. It was very strong! After an hour and a half of mud trekking in the tropical jungle, surrounded by jungle birds, frogs and lizards, we reached the cave. The guides issued everyone a torch and off we went into the vast dark cave. Inside, the river was flowing through and we had to clamber over rocks and sometimes wade through water waist deep in the pitch black. Shining our torches high up to the roof of the cave we could see bats hanging and swallows flying. In places the cave was probably 3 stories high. Our guides helped everyone over large boulders, across gaps and through holes in the dark for 30 minutes and then we saw light coming through from the other end. What a beautiful sight! Emerging into the sunlight from the cave, the water we were wading through joined the main river running swiftly across the mouth of the cave. Getting across this fast flowing water was tricky - we formed a human chain and helped each other brace against the force of the water trying to sweep us away. Once on the opposi te bank we were all glad to have a rest and eat lunch which some porters had kindly transported for us.
After lunch we headed down stream though the canyon, clambering over boulders as big as cars and others that were the size of a bus. Water was rushing through the gaps in these slabs of rock as we kept our balance and scrambled over - sometimes having to jump across large gaps between boulders! After half an hour or so of canyoning, it was time for a swim down the rapids! This part of the canyon was the most spectacular. As we floated down the river being swept along at a steady pace, we looked up in amazement at the sheer rock walls of the gorge rising straight up on both sides of the river. Pretty ferns and trees hung down from little ledges above us and several waterfalls thundered down the rocks. It was fun to swim under the waterfalls and feel the jolting force of the water hammering down on your head and back. Several times as we floated down, we came close to rocky outcrops blocking most of the water flow and creating fast flowing tumbling water. We had to scramble to the side and climb around these areas that would have pummeled us if we had been swept over them. It was a thrill ride and it was stunning scenery. Sunlight streaking through the gap between the canyon walls in places, shining on the spray from waterfalls high above. Water glistening and dripping from tree ferns that clung to the sides of sheer rock here and there. Spectacular! We had almost an hour of running the river and we were in awe the whole way. At one point Heather joined a few of the others in the group and climbed high up a rocky ledge to jump off and plunge back down into the river. The force of landing from such a height sent each person down down down deep before popping back up again. What fun! The next part of the journey involved rock climbing to get back up the elevation we started at. Wooden ladders had been nailed to rocks in places to assist. Other parts of the ascent used knotted ropes to abseil up a couple of waterfalls. Looking back down the valley was incredible! Dense, lush, green tropical jungle, with a sheer rock canyon carving through it. It took about half an hour of almost vertical climbing to get to the top, but we made it. Wet, exhausted and exhilarated! After another muddy jungle trek we arrived back in the village to a very welcome sight. The locals had prepared delicious paw paw, lady finger bananas and juicy pompelmousse for us to munch on along with lemon leaf tea and coffee. In the bus on the way back the driver took us past the Vunaspef primary school. This school as well as a local kindergarten is funded from the proceeds of the Millenium Cave tours, which is a community business, run by locals, employing locals and putting money back into communit y projects. A wonderful experience and great to see this community effort. Before they started these tours in the year 2000, there was no primary school here, so children had to travel a long way to go to school and some never did. Now they have a local school to be proud of.
Yesterday we went on an organised dive with Allan Power Divers, to dive the wreck of the Coolidge. The guide was great, very informative and showed us the layout of the wreck before we went under water so we were familiar with what we were about to see. We were certainly aware that we were seeing and touching a piece of history. Some divers are very keen to see wrecks and get very enthusiastic about the historical significance and all that. We met a couple who had been for 6 dives on the Coolidge over the last 3 days and were about to do their seventh dive! It is a large ship, so they were doing more dives to see different rooms and compartments in the vessel. For us through, it was nice, but no matter which way we looked at it, it still looks like a huge lump of grey steel covered in crusty growth. We decided one dive was enough - we would rather dive to look at natural features and marvel at the underwater caves, arches, chimneys and walls that nature makes! Last night we went ashore to the resort to watch the entertainment. Over a glass of red wine we listened to a local string band play, complete with tea chest bass. They were great! Then came a puppet show using live people, but using heads, hands and feet from different put into carefully modeled clothes behind the scenes to make up a very short "person" who danced to the music. Crazy and very funny to watch. Very clever too! Then came the fire dancing. Wow! Dances twirled long sticks, with balls of fire on both ends. As they twirled the sticks to form a rim of fire, they leapt over and under the sticks and through the circles. One lady did a dance with long ropes, a ball of fire on the end of each. The dance was similar to the Maori poi dance, ropes swung in cirlces and criss crossing over and over to make two intertwining circles of fire. The male dances would sometimes breath a fire ball out of their mouths, shooting flames several meters out towards the crowd. They lit a bonfire and then completed the dancing with special flaming balls that sent sparks like fireworks out from the fire. As they spun these flaming balls on a long rope faster and faster and faster, they formed huge katherine wheels. Showers of orange parks flew out from the rim as they spun the rope so fast you could only see the rim of fire and the sparks, framing the dancer in the middle of the circle. Spectacular! We learned that all the performers from the band, puppet show and fire dancing were from the local youth centre which had been set up to help local youth learn new skills and hobbies. The youth centre also has classes in cooking and other useful skills. A fabulous initiative and a very entertaining result. Amazing talent from these young people.
Today we have enjoyed our first day of total sunshine in a while. The last week has had drizzle on and off - not that it made any difference to our activities of swimming in blue holes or floating down rapids! Had a nice dive on a coral garden today, just floated around appreciating what nature gives us. Thousands of tiny fish, a multitude of corals, a small turtle, some curious fish that want to look at us and some shy ones that try to hide. A lovely scene and a nice gentle dive. We had a few more swims today just to cool down and enjoy frolicking in the crystal clear water here. Tomorrow looks like a good day to sail up to Hog Harbour, so we will set off a little further north again in the morning.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 502 Jul 2015

On Friday we took the dinghy and motored up the river, to the Matevulu Blue Hole. A beautiful river that meanders for about 1km through tropical jungle, ending with a swimming hole that is somehow tinted blue even under a grey sky. Nice to have a fresh water swim, but the river trip was gorgeous with the overhanging trees and jungle vines reflecting in the mirror of the river. In the afternoon we walked a few km down the road to look at the Riri river from the bridge. Yesterday we decided to Read more...

go upstream to the Matevulu Blue Hole again, but this time in our kayak. So, after baking some bread and pumping up the kayak, we set off. It was a brisk paddle at times to head upstream through the narrow parts, but restful where the river widened out and slowed down. Nice to take in the sounds of the jungle birds on the way. Coming back was a very easy ride, swept along by the river and pushed back out into the bay. An enjoyable ride. In the afternoon we motored around the island and the reefs in the dinghy to explore and spotted a turtle swimming by. Last night the crew of most of the yachts in the lagoon all met up for Happy Hour at the Oyster Island resort. Lots of stories, fun and laughter - a really good bunch! Based on the excellent reports we heard from fellow yachties we decided to take the dinghy up the Riri river today, to the Riri Blue Hole. We thoght it would be similar to Matevulu but our fellow yachties were right - this one is even better! The river has a sandy bottom and crystal clear water. All the way up the river it looks like you are in 2 inches of water but it is over 1m - it is just so clear! At the end of this river the Blue Hole is bigger, deeper and a more intense shade of blue. We had fun climbing up on the platform perched in a tree and swinging from the rope, across the blue hole and dropping with a splash! A stunning place and a really beautiful river trip. We are so very lucky.
This afternoon we decided to go for a walk to Matevulu village and we took along some seeds in case we found some people who needed seeds for their gardens. The signs we not so clear and we had to guess which way to go at a fork in the road. The road we chose took us to Matevulu College instead of the village, it turns out this was a lucky find! The college is a full boarding school for over 400 students and is set well away from any village and a few km inland, so is quite isolated from the usual community life here. The grounds are neatly groomed and beside the school is the teachers compound. There are 31 teachers and they all have a house next to the school. Children help with cooking duties, do their own laundry and other tasks to help them be self sufficient adults one day. The list of school rules on the notice board is very strict! We got talking to a couple of teachers who were doing some administration work on their day off (Sunday) at the school. The two teachers we happened to bump into, Mr Pong and Mr Issac, were the agriculture teachers. We asked them about their lessons and they explained that the students learning agriculture helped to plant vege gardens to feed all the children at the school. They were planting 1000 seedlings per week but needed more to have enough food for the children. We asked what they were planting and discovered that the only steady supply of seeds they had was for Bok Choy, but they wished they had some other varieties of seeds to grow. When we opened our back pack and produced several packets of watermelon and pumpkin seeds for them, they were astonished! Wow! They could not believe it! With big smiles and many many thank yous they kept shaking our hands and shaking their heads and saying wow! They explained to us that getting seeds was difficult and many times teachers were bu ying seeds from their own money just to keep supply of seeds for their nursery. They were truly very grateful. Mr Pong took us for a tour of the school and showed us the nursery and the gardens planted by the children. He insisted we take some Bok Choy with us by way of thank you, and later as we walked with our bunch of Bok Choy, one of the students proudly told us that he had planted it and helped it grow. A fabulous experience - we were so happy that we took this wrong turn and ended up at the school.
Tomorrow we have made arrangements with Bob and Sue to go on the Millenium Caves tour, which should be a great trip trekking through the jungle, along bamboo bridges, down cascades to a massive cave full of bats followed by a float down the rapids! If we survive this, we have booked to go diving with Bob and Sue on the wreck of the USS President Coolidge on Tuesday. This wreck dates from WWII where the USS President Coolidge was part of a fleet of more than 100 ships stationed here by the Allies. For three years, to September 1945 more than 500,000 military personnel, mainly American, were stationed here. Roads were laid, runways, wharves, jetties, offices, accommodation blocks, military hospitals and workshops built. Much of this infrastructure can still be seen today, though most of it in disrepair! On 26 October 1942 the Coolidge, a 22,000 ton luxury liner, converted to a troopship was bringing 5440 US troops to Santo. Approaching the base trhough the wrong entrance the ship struck two of their own defense mines! The captain attempted to save the ship by running her aground, allowing most of the troops to make it ashore. Only 5 lives were lost. The wreck is now a prime dive site, so we will have a look!

Aradonna - A sheltered lagoon

With a tropical cyclone lingering in the north, this anchorage gives us protection from all sides, just in case we need it! We are watching the progress of the cyclone brewing in the Solomons, it does not seem to be heading our way, but we still might have some strong winds as it passes by. It was s bit tricky getting in to the lagoon, we touched the bottom on the first attempt and had to reverse off the shallow patch in the channel. Had to wait until almost full tide to get enough depth of water Read more...

in the passage, but inside the lagoon there is plenty of room and we are anchored in 12m of water. Sharing the lagoon with Trigger, Mawari and 3 other yachts, but plenty of room for several more. As we anchored a dugong surfaced behind us to welcome us into the bay.
The lagoon is behind Oyster island, which is behind a reef, which in turn is behind another chain of little islands protecting us from the sea. There is almost no wind at all in the anchorage and no swell. The entrance is marked by channel markers and the passage at high tide is clear of obstacles, but nothing like the charts! The track we made on our electronic charts (Navionics) coming in shows us travelling over reefs and land to get in, but the charts do not resemble reality! There is a river running from the lagoon up to the Blue Holes swimming spot which we will explore one day soon, plus there is a resort with a nice restaurant on Oyster Island which will beckon us over for sure. An idyllic spot, with easy access to the main road and buses into town if we happen to run out of paw paws. We do have a wonderful life!

Aradonna - Downtown Luganville to Aese island

We arrived in Espiritu Santo, locally known just as Santo Island, on Sunday afternoon. After a blustery couple of days sailing we were looking forward to dropping anchor in a calm sheltered bay. We poked our nose into the channel towards Luganville Bay, saw the wind funneling through the channel and yachts hobby-horsing around in the chop. Decided instead to opt for Palikulo Bay. Well sheltered from the waves and swell, we still had the wind howling through the bay and shrieking through the rigging, Read more...

but at least we were out of the roll and pitch we had put up with for two days. Monday was town day, a day on land to do some essentials. First, we needed to find Immigration to extend our visas before we became overstayers. By 8.30am we were on shore and walking the 12km towards town. About an hour later we got picked up by a passing ute and had a ride in the tray of the ute the rest of the way. Luckily the driver knew where the Immigration building was. All we knew was it was a blue bui lding, somewhere on the main road. When the ute stopped outside we could see it was a blue building, but there were absolutely no identifying signs on the structure at all! Nothing on the door either, but when we sent inside we saw a fellow wearing an Immigration Officer uniform, so guessed we had come to the right place. After checking all of our forms and photos and passports about three times over, we were then advised that they could not accept our money at this office becasue they had no cashier. We were given a payment slip and instructed to walk 15 minutes down the road to the Government Cashier office to pay the fee (6000 vatu each, approx NZ$90 each), then we would need to get a receipt from the cashier and bring it back to the immigration office as proof of payment. At that time, Immigration would then issue our visa extension. OK, we asked, where exactly is this building and is it signposted? We were told, it is on the main road, about 2 blocks before you get to the supermarket. Very helpful as we had no idea where the supermarket was, but presumably if we got the to supermarket we would know we had gone too far! Thankfully we found said building, paid our fee and returned to Immigration just after 11am. If we hadn't made it before 11.30 we would have had to wait until 1.30pm as they close for lunch for 2 hours. Upon return a second Immigration officer completed yet more paperwork and then asked us why we wanted to stay longer, he said he needed a valid reason why we had to be in Vanuatu for a longer time! Incredulous, Heather replied: "because you have 83 islands and we have only seen 14 of them so far". That seemed to do the trick and our passports were duly returned, allowing us to stay until we fly out in August. At the Immigration office we also met fellow sailors from Dreamtime, who we had met in Gulf Harbour and seen briefly in Port Vila a month ago.
Next it was off into town to complete various errands, including a visit to the produce market. The market in Port Vila had been swimming in bok choy and not much else, due to many crops being destroyed by cyclone Pam. What little fruit they had was extremely expensive and usually wind damaged. Here in Santo, they were not hammered by the cyclone and the produce market had everything you would expect, at reasonable prices. Paw paw for 20 vatu each (about NZ 30 cents), bunches of bananas, bags of tomatoes - it was a pleasure to stock up! By the time we had completed our errands and loaded up our backpacks with fresh fruit and veges, plus some local beef from the butcher and some essentials from the supermarket, we were glad to hop into a taxi and be driven back to Palikulo Bay. The road was built by the Americans who had based themselves in this area during WWII and looks like it has had no maintenance since that time, so it is a little bumpy. Vehicles swerve from one side of the road to the other to drive around the potholes, so it is a little hair raising with oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road, but still faster than walking! By the time we got back to the boat at 4pm we were bushed! Today we listened to the weather forecast, which was for more wind and more wind. These conditions are no good for diving the areas we are keen to dive here and we were growing tired of hearing the wind in the rigging, so decided to explore other anchorages. First stop was Aese Island, much more sheltered than Palikulo and with a pretty bay. A walk over the island to the other side revealed many relics of WWII rusting and overgrown, left abandoned. The island would be a botanists paradise, with so many different trees, grasses, vines and bushes. Wild lemon trees, brambles and many tiny flowering plants producing minute bursts of yellow, pink and purple. Swallows, bats and various other jungle birds swirled around us as we walked. A white sandy beach on the seaward side held some rugged rock pools at low tide. We watched an eel hunting for tiny fish, darting in and out the miniature caves formed in the volcanic rocks. We found plenty of life, but no sign of human habitation on this is land. After a yummy lunch that included paw paw and fresh coconut, we snorkled the bay and discovered a vast coral garden, teeming with fish in a multitude of intense colours. Beautiful! This anchorage, we decided, was much better than Palikulo Bay and we would come back here if our next stop was not suitable. Our next stop was Surundu Bay, with an entrance through a gap in the reef and a wriggle through some shallow patches. Fortunately, once we were through the gap in the reef, the water was calm and clear, so we could clearly see the patches to avoid. We dropped anchor in 5m of water, and looked around us. Flat, calm serenity! No sign of wind here at all and just one other boat in the bay! After a walk through the village and a few donations of seeds and fishing hooks, we returned to Aradonna and invited the French couple from the other yacht over for drinks. It turns out we were in Wallis Island together with them last year! They have recently spent a lot of time in New Caledonia and shared some of their favourite spots with us which will be very helpful for our visit to New Caledonia later this year.
Another wonderful day in paradise. And, at some stage, when the wind stops blowing outside, we will venture out again and do some more diving.

Aradonna - Prawn fishing and so much more

What an amazing day we had yesterday! After a leisurely bacon and eggs breakfast we were greeted by our first visitor of the day, a turtle surfaced near the boat and popped his head up a few times to gulp some air and say hello before diving down again to graze. Soon after a dug out canoe came by with a young couple, Isabel and John. We asked if they had a garden and promptly gave them some seeds as well as some fishing hooks. They were very grateful and told us they were paddling their way to Read more...

the other side of the channel to go prawn fishing. They invited us to join them and we were delighted! We followed in our dinghy, around the reefs and into a small passage between some mangroves. They helped us clamber up the bank and Isabel explained that this land belongs to Johns Grandfather. Isabel was raised and educated in Efate and her English was excellent, along with a little French and German, and of course the national language of Bislama. John was from Maskelyne Island and speaks hi s native local language as well as Bislama, so they speak Bislama together and Isabel became our guide in English. John went ahead, thwacking his way through the long grass and the bush growing over the track with his 18 inch long bush knife. Isabel pointed things out to us along the way. She showed us where they grow Taro and Manioc (Cassava), plus Island Cabbage and Banana. As we walked through the jungle we saw bright yellow and bright orange pods hanging in some trees, they were about the size of Avocados, but more oval in shape. Isabel explained that these are the seed pods of the Cacao tree. John cut a couple down for us and sliced them in half. This was the first time we had seen the fruit that gives us chocolate! It was nothing like we expected, white inside, with a sweet sticky marshmallow like substance covering the purplish seeds. Sucking the white sticky substance off the seeds was sweet and fruity, like lollies! The seed itself was just like a tasteless wax, we have no idea how anyone decided it could be fermented and made into chocolate. We enjoyed sucking on several of these fruit lollies during the day. When we reached the stream, John began foraging with his bare hands in the rock pools and soon came up with fresh water prawns! After handing a few to us it was clear that we needed something to put them in. No problem, John cut a piece of think bamboo above two segment seams and handed us the hollow tube to pop the prawns into. John went back to hand catching more prawns and Isabel found a few leaves that she folded into a stopper to plug the top of the tube so the prawns could not jump out! Very simple and very clever. We climbed up through the jungle and visited more rock pools, filling our tube as we went. John made it look easy, but you need to be very fast with bare hands to catch these slippery fast movers in the water! On the way back down stream Isabel asked if we had ever eaten Navara. Seeing our blank looks, she explained that when a coconut lying on the ground first starts to spout a leaf, but before it puts down roots, it is called Navara. John split one open and instead of having juice inside, the whole cavity was filled with a white spongy substance. We ate some - yum! It was like coconut sponge cake! Encouraged by our thrill of new experiences, John decided to get us a young coconut to drink. Within a few seconds he had scaled a very tall coconut tree. No ropes, no tools, just bare hands and bare feet and he walked right up to the top! Balancing his feet on the trunk at the top and with one hand holding on to a branch and one hand on a coconut, he turned several coconuts until they dropped. Once back on the ground he sliced the top off a couple of coconuts with his large bush knife, so we could drink the sweet juice. Next he cut open the shell so we could scoop out the soft white flesh with the spoon he had created from a special slice of the outside of the young husk. By the time we had enjoyed our cacao pods, navara, coconut juice and flesh, we were replete - what a way to have lunch! John took 4 of the other young coconuts he had dropped from the tree and took most of the husk off from around the sides, leaving a small peak on the top of each one. Then, stripping a vine from another tree to make a thin strip of string with a hard stick on the end, he then poked the strip through the tops of each coconut, pulled it through and tied the string together so that all four coconuts were tied together and easy to carry by the string. Amazing use of local materials and great to see the skills involved in living in the bush. We can see now why the local people all walk around with their bush knives - they do everything with this one tool! John then cut one of the bunches of vines that were hanging down from the trees and water came out like turning on a slow tap. Isabel plucked a leaf from the vine and in one hand folded it over with a twist and it instantly formed a little cup to be used to collect the water from the vine and drink it. She explained that this was how they quenched their thirst when working in the bush to make their gardens.
Back at the garden patch, Isabel picked some Island Cabbage for us, which is nothing like our cabbage but grows with several leaves from each stalk on a taller plant. To hold the little bunches of leaves together, John cut a banana leaf from a tree and then split the stalk of the large leaf to make a long string. The bunch of leaves were laid into the leaf, folded and tied with the stalk string into a neat packet. So simple.
These generous young people tried to give us more things and wanted to feed us fish for dinner, but we said they had already been very kind and we did not want to take more! So we said our fond farewells, thanked them in English and Bislama and left them to get on with the rest of their day. What a treat we had that day! As we zoomed back to the boat on our dinghy we caught a glimpse of a dugong surfacing, we were very lucky! Back at the boat that afternoon, it was time to go diving. The crystal clear water gave us plenty of light, even at 30m of depth. We found some pretty fan corals, so delicate and lacy in various shades of green and yellow, along with some soft corals in vibrant black, green, white and red. We were astonished to see a very large Lined Butterfly fish. These yellow white and black reef fish are common, but usually we see small ones, about 5 - 10cm. This one was huge! Somewhere between 25-30cm across it was a giant! There were plenty of colourful fish to be seen - mixtures of purple, yellow, blue, white, black, green, some with stripes, some with spots - just beautiful! We also saw a large Spotted Eagle Ray swimming by - a magnificent creature! It was one of those days filled with awe and wonder. New experiences, amazing local people, and yummy treats. We enjoyed our fresh water prawns as an entree and the cabbage became part of our main meal. What lucky people we are! Today we chewed up a few more miles heading north, with the wind building up again as the day went on. Some dolphins popped up beside us for a short visit on the way. Tomorrow we will head off early to make Santo before the winds gather strength in the afternoon.

Extraordinary !!! And yes, you are so lucky to be able to experience a day with people like john and Isabel. Please bring photo's for all to see. Also please some of your wedding day
Besides enjoying yourselves, you are doing fabulous work in making all these deliveries.
Keep up the blogs, we love reading them. With love Jeannette

Aradonna - Special deliveries and high seas

A couple of weeks ago when we visited Moso Island with Pieter and Sarah, one of the villages told us they needed fishing gear. So, during our stay in Havannah Harbour earlier this week, we went back to deliver lures, hooks and line. Although this island is not far from the main island of Efate, it is still fairly isolated and the people were very grateful. They told us about a snorkeling spot where we could see many clams and we had a wonderful time in this area which is teeming with life and Read more...

colour. We spotted some pairs of Rubble Pipefish - these are small thin creatures that look like a sea horse that has been elongated and straightened out. They are always in pairs and camouflage themselves well in the coral rubble. As promised by the locals, we saw hundreds of colourful clams amongst the coral bommies and interesting rock formations.
We left Havannah Harbour on Wednesday. As we came through the pass between Moso Island and Lelepa Island, we caught a 38cm Blue Fin Trevally. Our biggest catch so far this year and a pretty fish. Great eating too! We had a lovely sail in almost perfect conditions for 5 hours, until the last hour, when we had a couple of squally showers pass through. We arrived at Emae Island in time for lunch before going ashore with our special deliveries. We had visited Emae Island on 27th May and dropped off some seeds, but this island stuck in our memories as the one that needed more help than the 14 other islands we have been to. Emae is far away from anywhere. There are 10 villages here, with around 800 people in total. Cyclone damage to trees and houses here is by far the worst we have seen. Most of their income comes from selling copra. Copra is produced from coconuts. The people on the island collect coconuts, take the husks off by hand, crack open the shell and place the flesh on drying racks. Lighting fires under the drying racks helps to dry out the flesh and all remainig shell has to be removed, again by hand. This is quite a labour intensive process, with only hand tools. Once the flesh has been smoked dry, it is packed into sacks - it is now copra. Each person gets 10 vatu per kilo for the copra, this is around 14 cents per kilo in NZ$. While this may not sound like a lot of money (it is not much at all!), the sheer volume of coconuts produced on the island creates a stable income for this tiny economy. Unfortunately, cyclone Pam stripped all the coconuts from the trees and has devastated their harvest. Many coconut trees have been torn down and lie broken on the ground. Others have lost all their leaves and are starting to rot where they stand. From what we saw, they have possibly lost 30% of their coconut t rees. It takes 5 years before a planted coconut grows into a tree that produces coconuts, so it will be a slow recovery. This means that many people here will have no money to buy clothes, or seeds, or any household goods. We had decided to revisit this place and bring more seeds, plus school supplies and fishing gear. Our plans about what to give these people had an unexpected boost, from two very different sources...
When Pieter and Sarah arrived in Vanuatu, they carried in about 10kg of childrens clothing. Sarah had done well, negotiating with Air NZ to accept the excess baggage free of charge as part of the relief effort! Well done Sarah and hoorah to Air NZ! These childrens clothes will now be worn by the pikininis on Emae Island. Pieter and Sarah also donated fishing hooks and line, now safely delivered to Emae as well.
The other boost in supplies came from Jaap and Marijke, a Dutch couple living in Japan! These kind people had sent 20kg of kitchen supplies, clothing and towels to Nettie in Vanuatu, to be given away to cyclone damaged villages. The couple in Japan and Nettie are all mutual Dutch friends of Karl, from many years ago when they were all in NZ. What a coincidence that we were visiting Nettie on the day these boxes arrived from Japan! After a quick discussion with Nettie and a couple of texts to Japan, it was agreed that we should deliver these boxes of goodies to Emae.
So, together with our load of educational materials and more seeds, we loaded up the dinghy with a total of 40kg of supplies to go ashore at Emae. This was far too much for us to carry down the 5km road to the school, so we waited for an hour until a ute came by. Some local lads had waited with us and flagged down the ute, who gladly transported us and all our goods to the school. The Principal, Richard spotted us and said "Welcome back!" He was very very grateful for the parcels we unloaded and promised to distribute everything to the 10 villages. He also gave us an update on our first delivery, proudly telling us that all the villages had been busy planting the seeds and these were now growing! It gave us a great feeling to know we had helped to make a difference here. Many thanks to all who have been part of the donation chain :-) Yesterday we had another early start, departing at 7am for the 45 mile trip to the Maskelyne Islands. We had 20-25 knots from the SE, which was basically from behind, plus a following sea, so good conditions pushing us along at around 6.5 to 7 knots. Great sailing, until the tide changed. About 1pm we noticed that our speed had slowed down to 3.5 to 4knots and the seas were getting lumpy. Wind against tide was producing steep waves, which built to 4-5m. The wind increased to 30knots gusting 35 at times and the sea became very rough, with a cross swell that developed as we got closer to land. The 5m waves pushing us from behind and 2m waves on the beam created a washing machine motion. Everything that was not tied down was flying around the cabin! So the last hour of our journey was more about holding on tight to the boat so we wouldn't get tossed about. Finally, about 3.30pm we entered the northern pass into the reef system around the Maskelyne islands. What a difference! Suddenly we were in calm tranquil waters. Bliss! Back to our favourite anchroage at Sanko Island, we dropped anchor at 4pm and marveled at the crystal clear, calm glassy water around us. In here you would never imagine that the sea is raging outside. We will enjoy the tranquility today, go for a dive and relax. Tomorrow we will continue our journey north.

Aradonna - Tourists in Efate Island

Our adventures with Pieter and Sarah began the minute they stepped off the plane. After a quick hug and hello, Sarah hurried over to get some local currency (Vatu) out of the ATM at the airport. The machine promply ate her card! Being a Sunday, the people at the airport advised us to go to the ANZ in town on Monday morning. It turned out not to be quite that simple! For a start, the bank was busy, with queues heading all the way to the door at every teller. There was a teller for foreign exchange, Read more...

who eventually helped change some NZ$ to Vatu, but this person could not help with lost cards. The next two tellers were for withdrawals only, then there was a teller who only handled deposits. Finally there was the teller who handled lost cards. After already standing in the money exchange queue for quite some time, Sarah had to go to the back of the line at the lost cards queue and wait some more. As it looked like we would be there a while, Karl decided to get some more cash out of the A TM outside the bank. Heather joked "Don't lose your card" and looked up just in time to see the dismay in Karl's face as the machine shut down after swallowing his card too! Fortunately, the security people were able to retrieve Karl's card quickly. Sarah was not so lucky. In all, Sarah made 5 trips to the bank that day, to wait in line to see if her card had been delivered from the airport ATM. The last visit was after the bank had closed - they arranged to let her in the back door to meet the man who had been clearing hungry ATM's full of cards all day long - his full time job apparently! By the time Sarah got her card back, it was definitely time for celebration.
The next day was the wedding of course and then a restful day to recover :-) In the remaining week we were together we played tourists in Efate. Swinging on a rope to drop into the Blue Hole for a swim, a cultural dance, traditional village lunch, a drive around the island including over the WWII airstrip, a coconut demonstration and stops at various lookout points to see little islands and resorts dotted in the twinkling sea below. We visited the Tanna Coffee factory, where we learned that the coffee processed here, in Efate, comes from over 500 growers on Tanna Island. The cyclone has destroyed much of the crop and they are now down to only 10% of usual production. It will take three years to get volumes back to pre-cyclone levels as they have to wait for new plants to grow.
Of course we did some sailing and snorkeling along the coast of Efate as well as at Lelepa Island and Moso Island. We were treated to many displays of flying fish defying gravity, along with a surprise visit from a pod of dolphins and a few turtle encounters. More seeds were distributed, this time to the two villages on Moso Island, along with some children's clothes donated by Sarah. The northern village has just started a turtle hatchery and will soon be offering glass-bottomed boat rides too.
We spent one morning at the Mele Cascades - a spectacular area with more and more cascading waterfalls at every turn along the path. At the top, we were treated to a torrent of water thundering down from the top - quite a sight! Then it was off to Hideaway Island for lunch at the resort and a snorkel in the marine reserve. Bigger fish here as they are not eaten for dinner! Another day we had a trip to the Aelan Chocolate factory. This enterprise, run by a French Vulcanologist, Sandrine, is a fair trade business, designed to get better returns for the 2000 growers of cocoa beans on Epi, Malekula and Santo islands. They had only been operating 1 week before the cyclone hit and when we visited they were still busy doing repairs to get fully operational. We were impressed with Sandrine and the journey she had been on with the growers to get better growing and fermenting practices in place and improve the quality and taste of the chocolate.
If you think it is strange to find a French Vulcanologist running a chocolate factory in Vanuatu, you will think it even more strange to learn about our dinner at Spice, an Indian restaurant. This restaurant is run by Neal, who is an Irishman. Not only is he an Irishman running an Indian restaurant in Vanuatu, he is actually a Geologist by trade! Go figure! Still, the food was delicious and the service was fabulous.
Our last night together with Pieter and Sarah, was spent with Nettie, an old friend of Karl's, who made us a tasty Dutch meal at her place. A fun and memorable evening.
After 12 days together, including our very special wedding day, we said a fond farewell to Pieter and Sarah on Friday. Yesterday we took Nettie and Lynette out for a day of sailing and snorkeling at Pango Point, which was good fun, followed by dinner with Nettie on board Aradonna. Today we rounded Devils Point in calm conditions. After having visitors on board for the last two weeks with so many stories and plenty of laughter - the boat now seems strangely quiet. There is not a breath of wind, the water is like glass - it is almost an eerie stillness. Our snorkeling activity produced the only ripples on the water! Time now to enjoy some music while relaxing and reading.

Great blog, great friends, great adventures, great sight-seeing and great memories to treasure!
Thank you for the wonderful pics. Our love and hugs to you both, Mum and Dad.

This day, Frans Simons was here for my birthday.
We read your blog.
Congratulations with your wedding. I hope you both will be happy together for many, many years!
Hope to see you both in Heino.
Bye bye and have a good trip! Annie

Aradonna - Our Wedding Day 9th June

What a magical day we had at Paradise Cove in Vanuatu for our wedding! The weather forecast was not so good and it was apparently drizzling in Port Vila, but out at Paradise Cove we were very lucky as it stayed dry all day. The sun came out in the afternoon in time for our 3pm wedding and our small gathering of friends enjoyed celebrating with us on the white sand beach.
Our wedding plans had started back in January and we had originally booked a different resort, but it had suffered severe Read more...

damage in the cyclone. Luckily, our Wedding Planner, Virginia, found us an alternative – and we were absolutely delighted with Paradise Cove. The bay is sheltered from the SE trade winds, which meant we could safely park Aradonna right outside the resort. It was so nice to have Aradonna sitting in the background for our wedding day.
The day started with a swim and snorkel in the bay, followed by lunch at the resort before heading to our bungalows to get dressed for the big event. Our good friends Sarah and Pieter were our witnesses and they performed their duties well. Pieter and Karl went ahead and waited on the beach beside the arbour, while Sarah helped Heather “dress”.
Heather wore a simple deep blue dress with a kerchief hemline, topped with an ivory lace cape. On Valentine’s Day, Karl had surprised Heather with a beautiful necklace that he had chosen especially for the wedding day. It looked stunning! Karl and Heather both wore lays made from white frangipani and purple flowers. Sarah and Heather both had white frangipani hair flowers.
Sarah walked with Heather down the path, through the beautiful gardens of the resort as the symphony music of “Canon” played. We were married on the beach, by a local celebrant, with Aradonna sitting in the background. Just perfect! Apart from the usual service, we had each prepared our own words and it was so nice to be able to speak from the heart on our special day.
Pieter performed his task well and produced the wedding ring, which is a perfect match for the engagement ring, right on cue for Karl. As soon as the celebrant had presented Mr and Mrs Landhuis, champagne flowed, glasses clinked and our gathering shared hugs of congratulations all round. It was truly a “pinch me” moment. Good friends, a fabulous setting, sunshine, sea – everything was simply perfect! Dinner at the resort was delicious, with coconut prawns, veal escalope’s, tender eye fillet, fresh tuna steaks and beautifully presented fresh vegetables. We had brought our own wine with us, chosen months ago, and it couldn’t have been better! The Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Shiraz we had selected got the thumbs up from our little group. We finished the meal with wedding cake, coffee and cognac before retiring to our gorgeous bungalow for a night on land! In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the resort before returning to our floating home as husband and wife! We are so very very lucky and very very happy!

A BIG hip-hip-hurrayyyyyyyyyyyy for Mr and Mrs Landhuis! Our fondest congratulations on your wedding. May you enjoy a wonderful life together, and may we look forward to celebrating you back here when you return. Your wedding day sounded amazing.
We have just ejoyed eating the big lobster you brought us before you left NZ. Delicious - thank you.Lots of love to you both.
Bjorn and Lene

Hi Karl and Heather. All the best wishes for a long and happy life together.

Wow, well done you guys - inspirational. Thoroughly enjoy following your good deeds and cruising vicariously via your updates. all the best, David & Grete

Congratulations, many happy and healthy years together and see you soon in Holland. Don't sink the ship! Ria and Henk.

Our congratulations and love to you both! The pics were lovely, can't wait to see more. xx Mum and Dad

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Aradonna - Aradonna - 503 Jun 2015

We had a delightful anchorage in Lelepa island, crystal clear water, white sand beach, snorkeling the reefs. We would have loved to stay longer, but decided to take advantage of the light winds for rounding Devils Point. We were glad we did - it was a dream ride - a complete contrast to our last experience of this notorious headland. Yesterday in Port Vila we spotted some familiar boats from Gulf Harbour. Dreamtime, Red Herring II, Rireana. We are now in Mele Bay for a few days. Swimming, snorkeling Read more...

and relaxing. Caught up with Marc and Constance last night and had dinner at Paradise Cove. A fabulous setting and a wonderful meal! The 71ft yacht they used to have and sold in Gulf Harbour was called Chasse Spleen. They still talk about their 7 years of cruising with a wistful look in their eyes, though they have been land based for two years now.
Over the last month we have really appreciated the various upgrades we attended to during the summer in NZ. Many items were repaired, maintained and improved of course, but three things have made a huge difference to our cruising experience. The first is the water maker. Being able to make our own fresh water has enabled us to go to remote places without having to worry about the quality of local water supplies. We can even wash our dishes and ourselves in fresh water instead of salt water now. Yay! The second thing that has made a real difference is the solar panels. Our need for solar power was highlighted when we had no motor on the way back to NZ, but now that we have solar, we are really noticing a difference to our everyday cruising. We no longer need to run the motor to keep the batteries topped up. The solar power keeps up with running all the usual electrics on board, including the extra electric fridge we installed (which has also been exceptionally useful). The third upgrade that has made a difference to our cruising, is not an upgrade to the boat, but an upgrade to Heather! Last year, Heather struggled to spot marker buoys, small canoes, and various landmarks. Karl would point out reefs and potential hazards long before they came into Heathers field of vision. In February, Heather had a cataract operation which has removed the misty blob in front of her left eye and now she can spot tiny objects from miles away! It is a refreshing change to be able to see where you are going.
The day is warming up again, so time for another swim!

We are so glad your "update" has been such a great success Heather! Karl and Heather, your blogs make us feel we are there "seeing" aii the sights. GREAT. All is well here. Love, Mum and Dad.

Aradonna - Sea Turtles and Dugongs

We really enjoyed our time in the Maskelyne islands, calm clear water, swimming, snorkeling, exploring deserted islands - fabulous. More seeds were delivered, to locals from surrounding islands who came by in dug out canoe to see us. Next we hopped across to Epi island and stayed a couple of nights in Lamen bay. For those who would like to see where this is, the GPS position is: 16 35.754S 168 09.769E Lamen Bay is home to sea turtles and dugongs! We were lucky enough to encounter these amazing Read more...

creatures. We saw a few sea turtles grazing on sea grass while we were snorkeleing and we got reasonably close to them. We were able to dive down while snorkeling and swim along side them - but the turtles made sure we were just out of reach! Later, as we sat in the cockpit soaking up the sun and enjoying the scenery, a couple of dugongs surfaced near the boat. Also known as sea cows, these animals are similar in size and shape to seals, but they have a large snout that they use like a vacuum cleaner to gather sea grass from the ocean floor. In the afternoons they surface with a burst of air and then a lazy loop, to return to the bottom again. Nice to see! Lamen bay is also home to an extended village of over 500 people, plus a full boarding school with 200 teenagers attending high school. The kids come from all over the island of Epi and also from other surrounding islands to attend. We learned that kids who do not get good marks at primary school will often just remain in the village to help with fishing and cooking and farming. Kids who do well at primary school will be sent to high school and those that do well at high school will have the chance to go further. Many of the ones that have the aptitude and attitude to succeed at school will move away from the village and begin a whole new life as they map out a career in Efate or perhaps overseas.
We visited the school and met Judy, the deputy Principal, who was in charge that day, along with key members of staff. They were very excited to get vegetable seeds from us as they have a science program in the school where the children learn to grow vegetables - and they needed seeds for this program. Seeds will also be distributed to the community from here too, so everyone will benefit. Cyclone Pam has caused some damage here, high winds and flooding wiped out fruit and vegetable crops, but the buildings here are more substantial and did not suffer too much. Trying to keep 200 teenagers in line probably creates a bigger challenge! We met Joseph, the local baker, and had a tour of his bakery. Wood fires are used to heat a kiln like structure to form an outdoor oven. Another hut has a bench where the dough is kneaded by hand. Stacks of loaf tins tower precariously beside the ovens. Joseph explained his labour intensive process. He has been making bread every day for the village since 1976. The day we visited he had made 50 loaves, and some days he makes more. Amazingly, for such crude apparatus and no real temperature control, each loaf was perfect! We purchased a couple of loaves, fresh white fluffy bread, still warm from the oven. The outside an even golden brown on all sides - more evenly cooked than what we can make in our gas oven on the boat! We have now been away from NZ for one month - the first month has flown by!! Up until a few days agao, however, we had not caught any fish. Last year in Tonga and Fiji we were feasting on Mahimahi and Tuna 3 or 4 times per week. In fact, we got so used to catching 90cm Mahimahi and 60cm tuna that we purchased a large landing net and a 1m long cool box to put the catch in for this trip. The large cool box has been sitting waiting and the net has been at the ready for the last month, but without fish, they have remained bright and shiny and new. Our luck changed a few days ago and we and our first catch. A small tuna, not much bigger than the lure we had out! It did not need the landing net and would very likely fit into a teapot, so we didn't need the coolbox! (Don't worry Sarah, we didn't actually use the teapot!) But this little tuna did not go to waste - Karl prepared it on the BBQ while Heather fried up some potatoes - fish and chips for dinner! Today we caught two more of these l ittle tuna. A good size for the BBQ and very tasty! We hope to have use for the landing net and the large coolbox in coming days.
Last night we caught up with Paul and Monique, a Dutch couple from a yacht called "Full Circle", aptly named as they plan to circumnavigate the globe. After a few drinks on board Aradonna we invited them to stay for dinner and had a fun evening together. Luckily we were not relying on fish for dinner last night! Tomorrow we will round Devils Point again to get back into Port Vila. In the light winds that are forecast it should be a smooth ride compared to our first experience. Fingers crossed.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2903 May 2015

After seeing the devastation of the island of Emae, it was a stark contrast to see the lush rainforests of Malekula island yesterday, seemingly untouched. Today, we landed on Pentecost, again, there is little evidence of wind damage to trees here. What we did find, was flood damage from the sea surge during cyclone Pam, which damaged houses and wiped out their gardens! They have had no vegetables since the cyclone and were grateful to get seeds for cabbage, watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin and carrot. Read more...

The chief of the village, Don, explained there are about 40 people living here, in two communities. He will make sure the seeds are distributed fairly to the people. One enterprising young lad, Tolly, who is 15 years old, tried his best to do trade with us. He came out to our boat in his dug out canoe and asked for clothing, food, money and dvd's! We declined, but suggested instead that we would come ashore later and see him. When we went ashore, he was ready with coconuts for us to drink and we asked him to be our guide, to show us the land diving tower. He took us for a walk and showed us the tower, but we were not allowed to get too close. The village here sells entry fees to see the land diving for 12,000 vatu per person - equivalent to NZ$180 each!!! We again declined, happy enough just to take photos of the tower itself. We have seen bungee jumping, for free in NZ! Our guide suggested we might buy him a mobile phone, or some kava or give him 5000 vatu for being our guide. A bit cheeky this lad! In the end he was satisfied with 300 vatu we gave him in return for his guidance and coconuts. A dozen or so children helped us bring our dinghy ashore and relaunch it again both time we went ashore. The boys were carrying long bush knives. We learned that boys as young as 4 will have their own bush knife, and at the age of 6 they learn to climb coconut trees to cut coconuts from the top!

Aradonna - Seeds for Emae and Shepherd Islands

After a very peaceful night in the sheltered Havannah Harbour, we had a rather bouncy trip up to Emae. Left Havannah just after 7am and arrived at Emae at 1pm. Beautiful reefs and clear water enticed us for a snorkel and a freshen up before going ashore. We set off walking the 5km to the school but half way we were collected by a local ute who gave us a ride in the tray of the ute, along with dozens of coconuts! There are 10 villages on Emae, with a total of over 800 people. We took our seeds Read more...

to the school and handed them over to the Principal, Richard. He will liaise with their island Disaster Committee and ensure the seeds are divided up fairly to the 10 villages on the island. Emae was hit very hard by cyclone Pam. The mango trees and coconut trees have been stripped of all branches, fruit and foliage. Many large trees have been uprooted and lie on their sides. Skeletons of thousands of trees stand twisted and broken, pointing bare tips skyward like the set of some horror movie. This island depends on copra production for income. There won't be any copra here for a very long time.
We met up with people from the three Sea Mercy boats who are doing wonderful work here in Vanuatu, the good folks on Buffalo Nickel, Darramy and Perspherone (or something like that!)to make arrangements for some of our seeds to be delvilered to the Shepherd Islands. There are several islands in the Shepherd group. The largest, Tongoa, is getting aid from Vila. But smaller islands are missing out. Buninga Island is only 1.5km across, but 90 people live on this tiny island. Next to Buninga is Tongariki, only slightly larger in area but more than double the population of Buninga. These people have had very little help, mainly due to their isolation. There are no safe overnight or strong wind anchorages at these islands - and landing is difficult without vessels being set up especially for the task. Fortunately, Buffalo Nickel has a special tender made for the job and Darramy travels alongside to provide the hands on help required to get things ashore in difficult spots. We delivered a p ortion of our seeds to Darramy this afternoon, they are leaving early in the morning from Emae, to transport them to these two tiny islands who are desperate for seeds.
From Brian and Sue on Darramy we learned about some more needs they had discovered in the islands. Many small fishing boats, both aluminium and traditional dug out canoes, were damaged in the cyclone. Often just small holes, but definitely not sea worthy! These vessels not only provide food for the village, but they also sell fish to the markets to get income. While boats remain damaged, many families cannot fish for food, or income. What they need is fibreglass matting and fibreglass resin to repair their boats - and someone wiht the knowledge to help them do repairs. Water tanks and roofs also have small holes that can be fixed with fibreglass repair. Any boats coming from NZ or from Fiji could bring some supplies and help out - please! Also, any vessels coming this way, please bring roofing nails, screws and fastenings to secure guttering and downpipes back on to roofs so that water tanks can be used to collect water again. Another need is water taps/valves for the base of water t anks. Some aid organisation has delivered loads of water tanks to the islands, but they didn't come with a tap on the bottom! Until they get these valves, the tanks are useless. Please spread the word to any vessels coming this way - these items do not take up too much room on a yacht, but are desperately needed.
Tomorrow we head to the Maskelyne Islands - we are hoping for a better passage than the one we had today!

Aradonna - The amazing cruising community!

Last night we caught up with fellow yachties, one couple each from from ALBA, Cadeceus and Chez Nous. Over a few drinks and plates of fall-off-the-bone-tangy beef ribs, we swapped our boating stories, with focus on the places we had visited in Vanuatu and which villages were in need of what. Between us, a plan was hatched. Much needed large tarpaulins for the school roof in Futuna island are now being organised. Chez Nous is going to make contact with people who have access to helicopters to see Read more...

if aid can be delivered to Green Point in Tanna island, they ares till cut off by road and impossible to reach by sea. The Sea Mercy boats, stationed in Emae are making deliveries of goods to the Shepherd Islands and they need seeds. We will seek them out tomorrow in Emae and distribute seeds to these vessels for transport to the tiny isolated communities of Buninga Island and others in the Shepherd group - they were thumped by the cyclone.
There is a container load of tools, such as crow bars, bush knives etc, about 30 tonne of it, arriving into Efate at the beginning of June. The only way to get these supplies to other islands is to divide up the 30 tonnes amongst as many yachts as possible for transport. We will come back to Efate in a couple of weeks and collect as many tools as we can carry, departing Efate again on the 11th June for islands in the north who are waiting for these items.
Please spread the word to all other boaties that if they have room, they are needed to take tools to the northern islands. If they contact us on Aradonna we will be able to give more details.
We are constantly amazed by all the yachties we meet. Every one of them has been doing as much as they can to help. Clothing, bedding, tools, food, medical supplies - many cruisers have packed their spare cabin space up to the ceiling with supplies to donate to villages here. ALBA delivered a nebuliser to a health clinic in Aneityum after hearing about one of the villagers that died of an asthma attack in the clinic because they did not have one. We understadn that other medical clinics are in need of nebulisers if anyone is able to bring some from NZ. It is wonderful to be part of this amazing community. We are kindred spirits in our love of the sea and our love of sailing, but more importantly we share the same values. We all know that we are very very fortunate to be in a position to enjoy the cruising life and we all love to help. We have special friends in this community! We had another treat today. Our friends from ALBA arrived into the same bay as us later in the day today. They did some fishing on the way to Havannah Harbour and dropped off a large fresh fillet of Tuna for our dinner. It was superb!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2503 May 2015

Last night we celebrated Karl's birthday, only 10 days late, but here in Port Vila is the first real restaurant we have found. Heather treated Karl to dinner at the French restauarant "Cafe du Village". A wonderful cocktail called a Toblerone started the meal, followed by eye fillet steak cooked to perfection (tender and juicy) and hazelnut meringue with fruit and cream for dessert. Heavenly! It was a balmy evening and we enjoyed sitting on the terrace with our fine food and wine, overlooking Read more...

the harbour with Aradonna in view. Karl exclaimed "Life couldn't be much better than this!" Today we explored the large supermarket, called Bon Marche. There is a definite French influence in the goods stocked here and everything you can imagine is on the shelves. A world away from the poor villages in the outer islands. We learned today that this supermarket chain is owned by Chinese investors, who also own large amounts of real estate here and are currently building a huge convention centre in Vila. Many shops have chinese writing on the front as well as English and French. We found some other items we needed for the boat by visiting a local hardware store, computer store and the auto parts store. It seems most things are available if you know who to ask! An interesting observation we have made is that many people in Vanuatu have no idea when their birthday is. It is common for births not to be registered and often parents are a bit hazy about their children's ages. Many adults are not really sure how old they are. Several times when we have been speaking with locals, especially in the outer islands but also in Vila, a local will tell us "I am about, 39, maybe 40 or something like that." When we ask how old their children are, we get answers like "My daughter is maybe 7 or maybe 9 I think". Once we asked a man how many children he had and he said, maybe 3 or maybe 4! For the locals that get a job in Vila, if they want their wages to be put into a bank account, they have to have a birth certificate. Only then do they try to find out a date they were born and get a birth certificate. People that do not work, or get paid in cash, may never get a birth certificate. It must be a nightmare for officials to know how many people there are in this country - it would be a wild guess!! Tonight we are meeting up with some fellow yachties at the Waterfront Bar for happy hour, there are several yachts moored in Vila right now.
Tomorrow morning we will set sail for islands in the north, hopping our way up to Pentecost to see some land diving (weather permitting).

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2103 May 2015

We headed out of our anchorage in Tanna at 7am and had a wonderful sail to Erromango. Flat seas and 20-25 knot wind gave us speeds of 8 and sometimes 9 knots. Arrived in Dillons Bay in time for a swim before lunch and then we set off for the village. David welcomed us on shore and we took our gifts of seeds and fishing gear to the community centre. Everything will be divided up by the committee here for the 500 plus residents of this village. The community council gave us a formal welcome and Read more...

thank you speech, showing appreciation of our gifts. We then asked directions for the school so we could donate some educational supplies. David offered some advice, he said we should follow the road until we came to the big mango tree and then turn up the hill. I should explain at this point that the island is called Erromango, which translates, literally, to "Land of Mangoes". There are hundreds, if not thousands of mango trees to be seen in one sweeping glance. Still, we managed to find the r ight mango tree, and the school. Pens and books and other materials gifted, we turned back to explore the village some more. We met Donald who has a sandalwood nursery here. He explained the process of planting the seeds and transplanting the seedlings into bigger and bigger pots until they were ready to plant in the fields. Donald had met David and Patricia some years before and was excited to learn that we knew these good people. By the time we had had a tour of the nursery and chatted about David and Patricia we were new found friends. We have been invited to lunch tomorrow, which we insisted will be a "pot luck" lunch so we can contribute to it as well.
The community of Dillons Bay has a very pretty setting, with a fresh water river running beside the village and out to sea. They have rich fertile soil, sandalwood, mangoes, plenty of fresh water and an idyllic bay. Unfortunately cyclone Pam conspired against them, with strong winds stripping all the fruit and all the branches off the mango trees, and, torrential rain causing flooding of the river and the village. All of their crops were destroyed. The people here have been very busy however, and have already repaired much of the damage to houses and replanted many gardens. They take pride in their surroundings here and place a huge emphasis on education. After school, we saw children sitting in the fields diligently doing their homework. The school motto is "Nothing without education and labour" and this sums up the culture we saw in the village. As we headed back to our dinghy on shore, David met up with us again and showed us the yacht club he has been building for the last 7 years. What a wonderful setting and a great facility he is creating! He will have it completed in time for the next cruising season and it will be a popular spot for yachties to watch the sunset over a cold beer. Dillons Bay is a "must do" for any cruisers who visit Vanuatu.

Hello Karl and Heather,
What a wonderful thing you are doing !!
Reading your blogs - to me - are very emotional. Keep them coming.
Thank you and the many cruisers and donators who are doing this to help the people of the damaged islands.
Happy sailing. Take care. Jeannette and Wil

Thanks Heather and Karl,
Great blog again. One of the best School mottoes we have seen and should apply to ALL schools everywhere. Keep enjoying, take care, love Mum & Dad

Aradonna - Mission impossible

We had an early start yesterday, ferried two dinghy loads of seeds and other goods to shore by 8am and had everything loaded in the pick up truck shortly after. Karl and Heather squeezed into the front seat next to the driver, it was only a single cab ute. A few local villagers climbed on board the tray of the truck to accompany our load of goodies. More items were added from goods previously left in Port Resolution by other yachties and a dead pig was donated from one local village. We set off Read more...

at 8.30am, headed for what the locals call the 'south island' which means the southern part of Tanna. The road was little more than a narrow dirt track, full of boulders. Cyclone Pam had caused slips in many places and the road had subsided into gullies along the way. Numerous trees had fallen across the road and had been cut to allow us through. The road had been repaired in several places the day before, in preparation for our journey, using hand tools. At one point there was a bridge, with a rusty, fragile structure. As we went across the bridge, the tyres of the truck dipped down into the holes left by missing planks, more revs were needed to get us up onto the next plank and on our way again. I squeezed my eyes shut and waited until we were across the other side before opening my eyes again. For 90% of the journey the truck was in first gear, low ratio. We had a very good driver who was very experienced in driving these local roads, we would not have attempted to do it ourselves. The road wound around the base of Mt Melen, through the undulating folds of the foothills. Every now and again the truck would stop, for a village along the way. Many times there was no sign of a village from the road, but a walk down a bush track revealed a cluster of huts nestled in a valley or on a plateau perched high above the sea. These were very isolated communities! We delivered our parcels to 8 villages, but could not go all the way to Green Point. Our driver informed us that the road was too bad to go any further. Having already travelled over roads we thought were impassable, we did not argue with the driver when he said he could go no further. They needed a bulldozer he said, it was too much to fix by hand. We felt very sorry for the communities further south and around the south western shore of Tanna, they are truly cut off from supplies by road. We spent some time at the southern most village we could get to, we were the first visitors they had seen since cyclone Pam. The chief of these 360 people gave a speech in his local language and presented us with some kava, a woven basket and some coloured feathers to say thank you for our gifts. Our driver translated for us and introduced us to one of the two men in the village that spoke English, a young man by the name of Sam. Sam took us on a tour of the village. He explained that there is no school here and the people in the village have no education at all. (More than half of the village is made up of children) He had been sent to Port Resolution as a child and was the only person in the village with an education. He was now back in the village helping them build houses again after the cyclone. The only other man in the village who spoke English was a very old man who had fought in world war two. He still recalled the names of the soldiers he was serving with, but his English w as very rusty.
Evidence of cyclone damage was everywhere, huts destroyed, trees blown over and gardens stripped. Many new huts had already been built and many more were in the making. For the village, it was the first time they had experienced a cyclone and they had been terrified. The people here have strong beliefs in the spirits. They believe they can make rain for the garden by talking to the gods. To get good crops they rub two leaves together and hold their spiritual stone. A little 6 year old girl had gone missing for two days, lost in the bush, she had just been found the day before we arrived. The village people said it was a punishment. If the people do not obey the rules of the gods the gods will take one of their children away. It is hard for us to imagine, but these are deeply help beliefs! We watched some of the local women checking their children's hair for head lice. They stood in a group, sorting through the mass of frizzy hair on each head. With swift movements the women's hands parted hair, sorted though and then darted into their mouth. Back and forth, from their childs head, to their mouth, eating each louse they found. At some point I managed to drag my eyes away from this unbelievable sight, only then did I realise my mouth was gaping open in horror! They live in a different world.
By the time we arrived back in Port Resolution mid afternoon, we were exhausted from our journey, but pleased to have helped at least some of the villages - and happy our bumpy ride was over.
This morning we sailed around the southern coast of Tanna and could see some of the villages we visited from the shore, perched high above the sea. As we passed Green Point we searched the coastline, hoping for somewhere to anchor, somewhere to go ashore. But is was impossible. This is a very rugged coast, with giant waves crashing into the rocks that lie at the foot of high cliffs. The water is over 100m deep even very close to the rocks, so there is nowhere to anchor it is not safe to get close at all. Any vessel that would attempt it would risk being swept against the rocks and smashed to pieces. We had to abandon our mission here, Green Point was just too difficult to reach.
This afternoon, after a swim in crystal clear water, we went ashore at Lononloma Bay. There is a village, a Bible College and several clusters of family groups scattered along the coast here. OUr guide, Clifford, showed us around. We handed out seeds to several family groups and they were very grateful. The Red Cross had visited last week and given them bean seeds. Today we gave them seeds for cucumber, carrot, watermelon, pumpkin and chinese cabbage. All the village huts here had blown away during the cyclone. Village people sheltered in caves to hide from flying branches, coconuts and other debris picked up by the wind. After the cyclone, the whole community lived together in the two concrete buildings in the village for three weeks until they could start building their huts again. The mango trees were still standing but had lost all of their branches. New growth was sprouting out of the ravaged tree trunks, so the trees will survive, but it will be a couple of years before they ge t mangoes again here. The main source of income for this village is Sandalwood. Trees are ready to harvest in about 7 years. They strip the bark and cut it into pieces and sell it to merchants who then take it for processing into fragrances. Luckliy, many sandalwood trees survived the cyclone. Tomorrow we will continue our journey northwards and stop at Dillons Bay - the island of Erromango.

Aradonna - Impressions of Tanna

The island of Tanna was badly damaged by cyclone Pam. But that was two months ago! The people here have been busy cleaning up, rebuilding houses and getting on with life. While there is plenty of evidence of the destruction, it is also easy to see that the people here are forging ahead. They are certainly not feeling sorry for themselves! They have received a number of supply shipments, including building materials, tarpaulins, tools, rice, cans of food. All of this has been put to good use. Read more...

Our delivery of seeds was the first supply of seeds that had been able to reach them. They would have liked seeds two months ago, straight after the cyclone, so they could start planting again straight away. But no seeds arrived - until now! Stanley is the 'organiser' in the village and collects all supplies donated by yachts. He then coordinates with the 15 surrounding villages to divide up supplies for the wider community. The seeds were very welcome and very much needed by the people here, but most other needs have been taken care of.
Last night we, and two other couples from other yachts, did the trip up to Mt Yasur. First there is a "road" trip by 4WD pick up truck. I use the term "road" but it takes a lot of imagination to see a road here. The dirt track is full of boulders, you cannot even say pot holes, there are no holes, just lumps and bumps. In fact, if water were to flow down the "road" you would have grade 5 rapids! After somewhere between 40 and 50 minutes of lumpity bumping along, we reached the carpark. Time to walk the rest of the way - up ash laden slopes, steep and crumbling. Ahead we could see tiny stick figures on the ridge way up ahead of us. Eventually we joined those people, up on the ridge. The ridge, of course, is the rim of the volcano. Looking down into the crater was an awesome sight. A bubbling couldran gurgled and puffed beneath us. Every now and then it would rumble and shake, sending hot spurts of lava skywards with an explosive force. We were treated to a volcanic fireworks display as showers of molten rock burst from the crater, hanging in the air for a while before tumbling back down. Steam vents hissed, sparks flew and the ground trembled beneath our feet. Spectacular! After an equally bone jarring ride down the mountain, the six of us went to a local "restaurant". We had booked ahead with one of the locals, Leah, who prepared a meal for the six of us. Chicken, yam, taro, cassava, cabbage and rice. Very tasty! Today we did some odd jobs on board including making some bread. In the afternoon we visited the school, taking some school supplies with us and a couple of frisbees to play with the kids. We watched some of the villagers building a new house using branches of trees. Everyone is active here. Boys and young men play soccer, girls play volleyball, some men fish all day using nets they put out from their dug out canoes, ladies weave pandanas leaves into baskets and mats. Everyone we meet looks fit, muscular and healthy. We learned that here they only have a primary school that serves the surrounding 15 villages. There are well over 100 kids at the school. When they get to secondary school age, they need to go to a village that is 6 hours walk from here. The kids walk to school for the school term, stay with family over there and then walk back home again in the school holidays. They don't think anything of these long walks, it is a normal part of life here.
Talking to the village people here, we learned that there are many villages inland from Port Resolution that have had no supplies or aid delivered to them so far as they are difficult to reach. Supply boats stop at Port Resolution on the east coast and and Lenakel on the west coast, but there are many people living in remote villages in the southern part of the island. It is impossible for boats to anchor on the southern and south western coast so these villages have missed out on much needed aid. So, we have arranged some transport, by hiring a driver of a 4WD, who will take us to the southern part of the island tomorrow. Along the way we will pass 15 remote villages inland from Port Resolution, all the way to Green Point in the south. We will travel for a few hours over bumpy rocky dirt "roads". A couple of locals will join us to help push the vehicle out of difficult spots so we don't get stuck! We have packed up supplies of seeds and other donations into 15 different "village par cels" so we can distribute these to each village along the way. One of the other yachts, ALBA has donated bedding, clothes, rice, buckets, ropes, tarpaulins and handsaws to take with us as well. It should be an interesting day. We will depart at 9am and all going to plan we will arrive back in Port Resolution again and be back on board Aradonna in time for dinner. Wish us luck!!

Aradonna - A very different Birthday!

Yesterday was Karl's birthday. Good news came over the SSB radio from Patricia early in the morning. Ted from Opua was donating an inverter for Port Patrick school and a yacht was collecting it soon, departing NZ in the weekend bound for Vanuatu. The cruising community is wonderful! We went ashore to let Stuart know the good news. He looked astonished, then bewildered and said "How did you do that?". We tried to explain the ships radio to him but he looked at us like we had performed some kind Read more...

of magic. Then he broke into a huge smile and said thank you, thank you, thank you!! We also dropped off some photocopies we had made about NZ - he asked us for information because he is supposed to teach about NZ to his students are part of the curriculum but the only thing he knew about NZ was rugby! Next we were off to Futuna, a 7 hour motor sail into head winds. There are not many details on the chart, so Karl was up on the bow watching carefully. The depth around the island is 1000m plus and quickly rises up to 100m then 40, 30, 20. As soon as we got to 30m depth, Karl could see the bottom! Wow. We are anchored in 15m of water but it is so clear that it looks like 2m. Sheer cliffs surround the bay and no houses or any sign of life can be seen. We were having a snorkel, wearing only a snorkel, when a local arrived in his dug out canoe. The water is so clear that we knew he could see everything!! He glued his eyes to the boat, admiring it while he talked to us :-) When he left we saw him disappear into the cliff somewhere. So later, and with clothes on, we took the dinghy to explore where he had come from. A cave in the cliff has a shelter in it and several men and boys were there. The next thing we knew a large wave came out of nowhere and tipped us out of the dinghy! Capsize! Our new outboard motor hanging upside down in the drink! Some of the men came and helped us right the dinghy, then swam out to retrieve the seat which had fallen out. Heather had managed to grab the petrol tank and luckily neither of us lost our glasses. As we scrambled ashore by the cave to thank the men who had helped us, Heather realised that her wet top was now completely see through and a large hole had been torn out of the bottom of her shorts by the rocks. The men got quite a view! Then they explained to us that the cave was where the boys came to get circumcised. They stayed there to swim in the sea and keep it clean every day to stop infection. Time for us to g o! After rowing back to Aradonna, Karl spent the next two hours getting the water out of the motor and getting it up and running again. More locals came by in their dug out canoes to check on our progress. Finally about 6.30pm we could relax and enjoy a birthday dinner celebration and a late evening swim.
One of the senior men offered to be our guide to go to the village this morning (he is on the community council) and we are glad we had his help. The entrance to the steps up the cliff face is not easy to find. It was described to us as "by the big rock near the big tree", but in a rocky bay full of trees we would have had a difficult job! We climbed and climbed, up and up. Some rock steps, some concrete steps, some wooden steps, more rock. Finally we reached the plateau. What an amazing view! Isia village is perched up high at around 350 - 400m above sea level. No problems with waves coming into the village here during the cyclone! But all the fruit had been blown out of the trees and all the crops had been washed away by the rain. We met the headmaster of the 150 children at the primary school and we met the principal of the 114 children at the secondary school. There are three main villages on the island, with a total of 600-800 people living here. All the children on the island go to school in Isia. They were very grateful of our gifts of seeds, fishing gear, educational supplies and frisbees.
Supply boats only drop off supplies every 2 months to this isolated community and everything that the village needs has to be carted up the steps. They have pigs and chickens, they go fishing and they grow fruit and vegetables. They used to have cows as well but during their jubilee celebrations they ate the last ones! No one has managed to land any more cows onto the island due to the difficult terrain... After lunch on board Aradonna with our guide, he promised to come back at 9pm tonight to go snorkeling with us and show us the local lobsters. Unlike our crayfish, the lobsters here have nippers, so we are a bit reluctant to grab them!

Aradonna - From luxury to basic needs

Today was a day of two halves. This morning we watched the cruise ship come in and boat loads of cruise passengers were ferried out to Mystery Island. Loads of tourists having fun. Snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, boat rides, swimming with turtles, buying souvenirs at the market, having their photo taken in the "Cannibal Soup" pot, having their hair braided, getting a massage. All the things that tourists love to do. This afternoon we moved to the northern tip of Aneityum, to the small Read more...

village of Port Patrick. Here, the people live a simple life. Their crops were destroyed by the cyclone. Waves tore through the village, taking quite a large amount of land with it. Water swamped houses. Massive trees lie on their side, root systems now towering high into the air. But life goes on. Gardens are being replanted, much of the mess has been cleaned up and lawns have been reestablished and are mowed, now neat and tidy again. School children listen and learn. We met Stuart, Headmaster of the 55 children in the primary school. Like many small villages, the school is the hub of the community. We delivered seeds for the village to grow crops, along with school supplies and fishing gear. Stuart and the two other teachers in the school, Vanessa and Rose, were delighted. The school will call a community meeting and share out the seeds and fishing supplies to the people in the village, who are scattered a long way around the coastline. We asked if there was anything specific they needed. Yes! The cyclone wiped out their inverter. They have good solar panels and a bank of batteries, but no inverter. So if anyone is coming to Vanuatu and can bring an inverter, please bring it to Port Patrick. They need it to run the photocopier, printer and scanner for the school and other electrical equipment for the village. We gave a couple of frisbees to the school, and watched the amazed looks on the kids (and adults) faces as Heather threw them to the kids. They had never seen such a thing that hovered and spun! At first the kids all screeched and ran away, but one by one, curiosity took hold and they started to join in the game. The kids and then the adults got the hang of how to throw a frisbee pretty fast and had a great game. As confidence grew, some kids started to play chicken, being brave to stand in the path of the oncoming frisbee, leaving it until the last second before diving for cover! Stuart then took us for a walk along the beach to see a dead whale that had beached about three weeks ago. It was decidedly smelly and half decomposed. Stuart pointed out the oil slick extending from the whale, right along the coastline and right around to near our boat. He advised that the whale "slick" had been attracting sharks, so it might not be the best idea to swim in the bay. Great advice! Tomorrow we will head 43 miles out to the island of Futuna, a very remote island that was badly damaged by cyclone Pam. Hardly anyone ever goes there but there is a school and a few hundred people that live there.

Aradonna - Anelghowhat Village

Customs entry and Quarantine is handled by the local policeman, Richard and his helper, George. Yesterday we were asked to go ashore to the police station to clear in. Richard does all the paperwork and every now and then holds his hand up to George, who runs to the other room and brings back a paperclip for Richard. This happened several times during the process, making us wonder why Richard didn't simply have a jar of paperclips on his desk. But George seemed to take his task very seriously, Read more...

always choosing an appropriate sized paperclip for each bundle of paper that Richard was holding together. Besides, it gave George something to do! As we are bringing seeds into Vanuatu to help people grow crops again after cyclone Pam, we had ticked YES on the Customs declaration about plants and seeds. This made Richard quite agitated. He said "No! We do not accept seeds here! You cannot bring seeds here!" We explained why we were bringing them in, but still he said it was impossible. So we handed him the bundle of paperwork we had gathered from officials including the OK from the National Disaster Management Office, the permits from Plant Protection and Border Control, all the certificates and letters of authority...He studied these papers in awe. It looked like he had never seen anything like it in his life before. But, once he had viewed all the signatures of all the Government officials from Port Vila, he calmed down and said. "No problem!" Phew! Anelghowhat is at the bottom of Aneityum Island and was largely untouched by cyclone Pam. 99% of the trees are still standing and during our walk through the village we only saw one roof slightly buckled. The village huts are made of bamboo frames with sides made out of woven plant material and thatched rooves. All were still standing. The people told us that Port patrick, at the top of Aneityum was hit badly, but most of the damage is on Tanna and Erromango Islands. We will keep our seeds and other supplies for those places.
Just off the coast of the village (only 1 mile away) is a tiny island called Mystery Island. Once or twice a week, a cruise ship anchors between Aneityum and Mystery Island. They are expecting a cruise ship tomorrow, so there will be 2000 people arriving for snorkling trips, fishing trips and perhaps to buy some local crafts or fresh fruit and veges. There is no market here apart from when cruise ships come in, so we are hoping to find something at the produce market ourselves in the morning. It looks like the locals here do pretty well out of the cruise ship visits.
Today Heather spent the morning unpacking towels and cushions from cupboards, doing the washing and having a general sort out. Karl diagnosed the fault with the autopilot - just the relay, which he promptly replaced and all is well again now with "Raymond". Yay! This afternoon we went snorkeling at Mystery Island. Many different types of coral and not too much damage from the cyclone, most of it is intact. The usual display of many coloured reef fish was very pretty too. We had a walk on Mystery Island, which is all set up for the tourists. When we viewed the tiny grass airstrip we were glad that we had arrived by boat! I put our position on the website at Mystery Island, to make it clear where we went today, but we are actually anchored well out of the way of the cruise ship, in Anelgowhat Bay. We enjoyed zooming over to Mystery Island in our dinghy - the new bigger outboard motor we have this year makes such a difference. Now we can plane across the surface of the water in a flash!

Laughed about the checking in! Wait til you get to Africa!!! Or the Carribean. Aradonna will see you through everything. So thrilled you arrived safely and are having a great time. Loved the blog.

Aradonna - Sheer Bliss!

After 9 days at sea, we have finally arrived in Vanuatu. Looking back of the trip, it wasn't a bad passage really. There was one slightly scaring moment the other day when Heather stepped in some wet carpet - in a place that carpet should definitely not be wet! Opening the engine covers revealed water streaming in to the bilges through the shaft. Not ideal. Heather turned on the bilge pumps while Karl tried to figure out what was happening. At first it looked a bit puzzling - how was the water Read more...

getting in? Heather casually enquired "Can you fix it?" and Karl said "No!" Oops! Heather then casually enquired again "Do you think I should make a Pan Pan call?" "Not yet," said Karl, "pass me the screwdrivier and I'll try something". Within 30 seconds Karl had discovered the problem, which turned out to be very minor, just a loose sleeve on the stern gland. A couple of screws to be tightened up and all was well again. It was amazing how calm we both were. Making mental checklists in our min ds of what to do next, but no panic. Panic in a situation like that could be disastrous! So all was well. Now we are here - yay! One of the first things on the agenda was slipping over the side to have a swim! The water is 27.5 degrees and felt silky and beautiful to slide into. It is amazing how different you feel after a swim, not to mention a wash! (It is a little difficult to keep up much of a personal hygiene routine when you are rolling around at sea) Now with clean hair, clean bodies and clean clothes, we are enjoying the sunshine. Just that first swim in the warm water has made the last 9 days seem worthwhile! Sheer bliss!

Very happy to hear you have arrived well. Enjoy!

Congratulations on your safe arrival! All is well here, love, Mum & Dad.

Hi Karl nice hearing about your travels i n the tropics always a great read
Enjoy and safe travels will keep checking in on you both and send some
Details to Wim and Henny
regards Barry and Sue

Aradonna - Sea Sickness and the Jello Brain

Sea sickness seems to manifest itself in different ways with different people. Some barf, others run to the loo for issues at the other end. Heather and Karl both get lethargic for a couple of days but don't have huge problems with body fluids escaping in any violent fashion. Apart from just wanting to sleep when off watch in the first couple of days, I (this is Heather talking now) have noticed some strange things happen to my brain when we go offshore (i've never been sea sick in my life in Read more...

coastal boating). I feel OK for the first 8-10 hours, well, no different to normal. Then things start to slow down. Everything. My brain seems to slowly turn to jello. Within 24 hours of leaving port, my neural pathways feel like they are clogged with molasses. Even the most simple tasks, like putting on my harness the right way around or working out our average speed over the day - become a mammoth effort. I can sit staring at a chart for 10 minutes trying to work something out and discover tha t I am no further ahead - in fact I forget what it was I was trying to figure out in the first place. Nothing makes sense anymore! For a couple of days I seem to be blessed with the data processing powers of road kill. Then, on day 3, i wake up from one of my off watch naps and suddenly find the fug has cleared. Those little neurons are firing on all 2 cylinders again and my data processing speed rockets up to the sub planktonian levels I usually have. If anyone knows the reason why my brain turns to jello for the first couple of days - and if anyone has any suggestions to help, it would be much appreciated. Polite suggestions only please :-)

Aradonna - Departure story

We cleared customs in Opua bright and early Saturday morning, waved goodbye to the ICA fleet and headed out of the marina towards Vanuatu. Within 15 minutes we had discovered two problems! The rev counter was not working. Was it a faulty wire, a fuse, or worse, perhaps the alternator? A quick diagnoses showed that no charge was getting to the batteries. Oh-oh! When Karl went to inspect he noticed a second problem. The circlip that holds the steering together had bent and fallen off! So we turned Read more...

around and went back into the marina. Fortunately the marina office put us in touch with Rob Walley from Marine Electrics. He turned up promptly on Saturday afternoon and advised it was a faulty regulator. He had none in stock but travelled to Kerikeri to collect one that same afternoon and had us up and running again early the next morning. What a star! The circlip was a challenge. Sea Power was closed and Bruce was away on his boat. Cater marine had all sorts of circlips - smaller ones and larger ones - but none the right size! Glen said he could get one in for us by Tuesday...but when I told him we had already cleared customs and Tuesday would mean missing the weather window, he said - let me make a couple of phone calls. He called a previous customer who had purchased two of the size we needed and explained our predicament. Fortunately this customer had not fitted the circlips yet and was happy to wait until Tuesday. The customer went down to his boat, retrieved them and get them back to the shop within the hour. Huge thanks to Glen at Cater Marine and his customer, we now have a new one fitted and a spare. NZ Customs were very understanding too and allowed us to leave on our original clearance rather than having to clear back in and out again. We finally departed Opua on Sunday at 10.30am feeling very grateful to all the people who went the extra mile to get us underway again.

Aradonna - Thank you for helping the people of Vanuatu

We have gathered many donated goods to transport up to Vanuatu and look forward to helping the villagers rebuild their lives after the devastation of cyclone Pam. On board we have thousands of vegetable seeds to help the locals grow crops again. Thanks to Terranova Seeds, South Pacific Seeds, Lefroy Valley Seeds and Sue and Graeme Cremer. We also have fishing gear on board to give away, with thanks to Burnsco, Jackie, Pieter and Sarah. To assist schools rebuild their educational material we have Read more...

donations from Jackie and Patricia. You are all wonderful and we look forward to sending through updates on which villages are being helped with these supplies. Our first port of call is in Aneityum, the southern most island of the Vanuatu chain. These remote islands in the south were hit the hardest by the cyclone and we look forward to seeing what we can do to help. Thanks again to all contributors!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1401 Oct 2014

We had a fine sunny day yesterday, so went for a long walk. First for about an hour to the Suva Yacht club to check out their facilities. They have no berths available and the fuel & water dock only has 2m depth and that is only at high tide. Fantastic. Then we walked another hour or so into town. Along the way we were constantly hooted at by taxi's, hoping for a fare. But being Dutch and Scottish and also enjoying the walk, we waved them all away! Suva has a bustling city feel to it. Dirty Read more...

streets, lots of people, buses, trucks, buses, cars, and did I mention buses? Big, noisly, fume-producing buses, everywhere. There are about a zillion supermarkets, but many of them are short on variety. At one supermarket we wandered around the aisles and could not find one thing we wanted from our list! Eventually after a few different stops to supermarkets and the produce market, we had completed our mission. Loaded down with groceries, we succumbed to the lure of transport and decided to catch the local bus. At the bus terminal, a confusing array of various bus colours assaults the eye. More people than we have seen in the last 5 months are queuing up to catch one of the scores of buses that stand puffing out fumes. It looks like most of the 170,000 Suva citizens are taking the bus at the same time. In the confusion, and trying to find a bus with our destination on it, Karl just about got run over by a bus! Eventually we found the right one and were grateful to sit for a while. It was only 70 cents each for our ride back to Lami. Yippee. Today we motored over to Suva yacht club, and braved the narrow passage to the fuel dock about an hour before high tide. The shallow depth alarms were blaring at us as we entered, which was a little disconcerting. We managed to fill up with fuel - 520 litres in total - wow! By the time we had finished with the very slow and frothy fuel delivery and started on filling up the water, it was almost an hour after high tide and time to go. Fo rget the water - we had to get out before the tide dropped any further. Suva harbour is muddy brown, there is an oil slick on it and rubbish floating everywhere. Plastic bags and bottles, all sorts of nasty things that can get sucked into the water filter. Yuck. In addition to reefs and many moorings for large commercial vessels, there are many other obstacles to avoid. The whole harbour area is littered with ship wrecks. Rusting hulks list lazily on their side, bits of submerged yachts loom up from the murk, partly sunk debris pokes up everywhere you look. A navigation nightmare. We are now back in Lami, in front of the Novotel again. As luck would have it, it is raining - so we are catching rain water for the tanks now. The weather does not look great for a departure to NZ for the next week or so and we don't want to hang around here. So now that we have done our chores, tomorrow we will head to Beqa lagoon (pronounced Mbengga) where we can have a swim in clear water again.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1301 Oct 2014

After a week or so of patchy weather, we have been enjoying the sunshine in the last couple of days. We have explored more of the Great Astrolabe Reef and snorkeled some of the islands. Nurolevu Island is home to the Manta Rays but we didn't see any on our visit. We spent Saturday night behind Dravuni Island, near the top of the Astrolabe Reef area. When we headed out of our bay at 8am we were surprised to see a large P&O cruise ship parked in front of the village. The cruise liner dwarfed Read more...

the island and looked a bit surreal against the landscape of tiny islands. Yesterday we hoped to sail back to Suva and we started motor sailing, waiting for some wind to pick up - but the wind died. With only 5 knots of wind from the south, we were going faster than the wind, so we took the sails away and motored for 6 hours, resigned to using up the last of our diesel. In fact, we did use up the last of our diesel - we ran out in the middle of Levu Passage - the main passage into Suva Harbour at 2 .30pm! Luckily the 5 knots southerly and the southerly swell and the incoming tide helped to gently push us through the channel and into the harbour. Heather steered into the harbour as we limped along at 1.4 knots, while Karl emptied the emergency fuel containers into the tanks and bled the air out of the system. Bleeding the air out took quite a bit of time, so Heather dropped anchor when we got to shallow water and we both concentrated on getting the motor up and running again. Just before 4pm we got her going again - with a high five a hug and a cheer! We cleaned up, motored around the corner to Nubulekaleka Bay and had a gin and tonic in hand by 5pm to celebrate. It tasted great! We are anchored in front of the Novotel Lami and have very fond memories of this place from last year. Last year we arrived in Fiji as crew on the yacht "Champagne". By the time we had waited in Opua for the right weather window and sailed from NZ to Suva, we had spent 17 days living on board the 42 ft "Champagne" with the skipper and another crew member. While we all got along well together, there was a lack of space and no privacy (especially for Heather traveling with 3 men). Our first night off the boat was spent at the Novotel in Lima - and it felt like heaven! Last night, in memory of our last visit to the Novotel, we shouted ourselves to dinner at the hotel restaurant. A lovely evening! The balcony restaurant looks out over the water and we had a great view of Aradonna sitting in the bay. Last year when we were at this restaurant we had no idea we would be here this year gazing at our own floating home. A very special memory for us. So today we will start preparing for the return journey to NZ. A few maintenance jobs, some provisions in Suva town and some serious studies of the upcoming weather.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1101 Oct 2014

Apart from a bit of snorkeling and turtle gazing, we have mainly enjoyed land based activities in the last few days. On Thursday the 30 or so children at the school in Naqara (pronounced Nangara) village put on a special day for the village. We were invited along with everyone from surrounding villages. The festivities were to celebrate Fiji Day, the signing of independent rule from British authorities. The kids performed a reenactment of the signing of the declaration, they gave speeches, sang Read more...

songs and performed traditional dances. The village people watching all laughed and applauded enthusiastically and a good time was had by all, including another kava party and our own sevusevu with the chief. The wind was from the NE and coming stright into the bay, so after lunch we motored over to Buliya Island for more protection. When we did sevusevu with the chief of Buliya he invited us to come back at 4pm to help celebrate his uncle's birthday. As we walked through the village and down the beach, several village children adopted us, hanging on to our hands and chattering away - they were too young to have learned English at school so were chatting in Fijian which we could not understand, but they still chatted and laughed and played with us. A huge crowd was assembled for the birthday party - about 40 adults and 40 children. The man was turning 70 that day, but had suffered a stroke some years earlier so had to be carried in to the party and looked rather frail. We were ordered to sit at the "top table" with the chief, head man, minister and VIP guests. Actually the "top table" was on the floor, but the nearest space on the floor to the birthday man who was propped up in a big chair. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday to you" and then, to the same tune, "Happy long life to you", followed by "We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year". It seemed like they were covering all the bases in one sitting! The birthday dinner was Walu (the local fish), chicken and taro cooked in the lovo oven and of course, birthday cake. Yesterday we motored back to Naqara village on Ono Island, to watch the annual "Fiji Day" rugby match between the various villages in the area. Five teams of men (ten a-side) were assembled in the sunshine, all in smart uniforms, with crowds of supporters on a sidelines. This was serious stuff! They had a professional referee, originally from Buliya Island this man and his brother are both professional referees and he was adorned with official IRB clothing for the event. He was a very good referee too - took no nonsense, was decisive, fair, and alert. Some of our other international referees could learn from this man. The games were 10 minutes each way in duration, with 10 round robin games, 3 semi finals and then the final. Kick off for the first game was at 9am and we watched all day until the final concluded at 4pm. During the day, several local children adopted us once more, coming to sit with us and chat away - the older on es speak excellent English as all classes are in English. The team from Buliya Island won - two of their players have played in the Fiji Sevens team in the past. There was much cheering and dancing about in the Buliya camp! For most people watching it didn't really matter who won, they all had cousins playing in every team! The standard of rugby was excellent, a very enjoyable day. Two of the teams were made up of men who are building the new Kokomo resort on Yaukuvelevu Island. This little Island is jointly owned by Buliya Island and Dravuni Island people but nobody lives there. Lang Walker, the Australian Billionaire, has leased the island from the locals and is building a 5 star (some say 7 star) resort, with 30 large villas and a huge and very flash complex for wealthy guests. Lang Walker, apart from being a property developer with massive projects going on in Australia and Malaysia, also owns 4 super yachts. One of these, Kokomo III, was the largest sailing yacht ever built in NZ (58 meters) when it was built in 2010. The Kokomo resort project is employing around 60 people from nearby villages in all aspects of construction - building, painting,drainlaying, plumbing, electrical and landscaping, plus another 20 people sent in from Suva and Australia for specialist roles in the project. The two rugby teams sponsored by Kokomo got a nice surprise when their flash new rugby uniforms arrived by helicopter the day before, to be in time for the game! Just after we arrived back at the boat, the rain came down and we managed to catch about 30 litres of water for the tanks. Good timing as it had stayed dry all day for the rugby! Life is good.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 801 Oct 2014

On Monday we met the people of Naboulawalu village on Ono Island and did sevusevu with the chief. Like other places we have visited in the Kadavu area, visiting yachts are quite rare - it is quite a novelty for "valagi" to come into the village here (compared to the Yasawas where tourists are common). "Valagi" is pronounced "Parlangi" the same as it is in Tonga, and means the same thing,"foreigner". Heather finds this quite amusing as her maiden name was Parlane and when she was a child, the pacific Read more...

island children at her school used to tease her about her name and call her "Parlangi" but at the time she never knew what it meant! Now as we walk through villages the little children all rush out calling "Valagi, Valagi!" to announce the arrival of visitors to the village. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly here, there is a real warmhearted feel to the place. As we walked through the village, many folk came out of their houses to meet us with a smile and "Bula". They were all k een to find out about us, where we came from and how long we were going to stay. One of the locals, Malina, gave us some papaya and the chief, Miti and his wife Raijieli, invited us for dinner. Yesterday we went for a 4km hike over to the other side of Ono, to visit the school at Naqara (pronounced Nagara). There are 6 villages on Ono Island and all the children travel to the primary school on a Sunday evening and return to their village on Friday afternoon. The trail across the island is sometimes steep and rocky, it crosses several streams and is very pretty. Scores of skinks skittered away from our advancing feet, while numerous colourful butterflies flitted around our shoulders. Part of the trail is in rain forest and part is in pine forest which has been planted to provide timber for their houses. It is a little arduous in places, and the 4km walk took us almost 1 1/2 hours! On the way we met a few local men, one with dogs to hunt for wild pigs and a few with machetes for plant ing or harvesting crops they grow in the mountains, such as Taro and Yam. We got to the school at lunch time and heard the cries of "Valagi, Valagi" go up from the playground. Suddenly we were swamped with children all wanting to hold our hands and talk to us. After a bit of a rest we started the trek back - and quickly realised that we are not as fit as we thought we were! Simultaneously feeling good about getting some exercise and scolding ourselves for being unfit for rugged terrain, we arrived back about 3pm. Malina was waiting for us with some hot buns she had baked in a pot over the fire. They were delicious! Dinner with the chief was an interesting experience. We were asked to arrive at 5.30pm and dinner was already set out on the "table cloth" on the floor. Places were set for us to sit on the floor and eat. Boiled taro, yams and breadfruit took up much of the floor space, along with taro leaves baked in coconut milk and 2 very small but whole barracuda poached in coconut mi lk. We were also treated to a load of small local shrimps in noodles. There would have been enough food for 10 people, far too much for the four of us. We were ordered to eat with the chief, but his wife waited until we were finished before she ate anything. The chief kept right on eating! The floor was covered in hundreds, perhaps thousands of teeny tiny ants and these marched right over the food, crawling amongst everything. We were carefully trying to pick out pieces of food that were in the clear, but our hosts just grabbed large portions of food and ate it, not seeming to even notice all the ants! We were then served tea, which is boiled water poured over a couple of leaves from the lemon tree. We are not tea drinkers at all, but it would not have been polite to refuse. Karl did decline sugar in his tea however, because the ants had got to the sugar bowl first! When we got back to the boat, under cover of darkness and before climbing on board, we stripped off all of our clothes and shook them out, fearing the ants might be trapped in our clothing and infest the boat. It would be terrible to live with ants sharing all our meals. Today so far has been a baking day. More "William" cake has just emerged from the oven. This simple to make fruit cake is superb at any time, and especially great to nibble on when on passage. Two loaves of "Corcaigh" bread have just gone in to the oven, to give us fresh bread for lunch. The weather forecast is still "crappy" as David would say (must be a meteorological term), for the next couple of days. So we won't be venturing far, but we will enjoy more village experiences and continue our passage preparation.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 501 Oct 2014

The lovely people in the village of Gasele adopted us into their family on Friday. There are about 35 houses in Gasele and another dozen or so in the next village. We joined in with their family reunion celebrations and they helped us celebrate the birthday of Heather's Mum and Niece. At the Kava party, Heather had her first ever drink of Kava. This is a root of the Yacona (pepper) tree, which is pound into a mash and squeezed into water. The drink tastes like muddy socks - or at least what you Read more...

might imagine muddy socks to taste like - this has not been verified! There is a whole ceremony that goes with the kava drinking and the whole room shouted "Bula" for Mum's birthday when Heather had her first bowl of Kava. The neighbouring village also joined in the festivities and the chief took us to his house. The neighbouring village can only be reached by boat, or by crossing the "Mogili" bridge. Crossing the bridge was fun - it is straight out of Jungle Book! Trunks of coconut trees lie horizontally across the water, supported underneath by sticks coming up out of the water at opposing angles to form a V. Everything is lashed together with vines so that the tops of the upright supporting sticks come up past the horizontal trunk, to about waist height. More sticks are lashed horizontally between the upright V sticks to form a sort of handrail. It still requires a balancing act to cross it and the handrail is not really a support - it would give way if you put all your weight on it, so it is there just to guide and steady. Good fun! The feast itself was interesting. The men cooked the "lovo" which is like the hangi we have in NZ. Stones are cooked in a fire until hot, then placed in a pit in the ground. Root vegetables such as taro and cassava are placed in baskets woven from coconut leaves. Pieces of pork are wrapped in banana leaves. The food is placed in the pit with the hot stones, covered and cooked for a long time. Meanwhile the ladies in the village prepare yu mmy chicken dishes with onions and garlic and ginger and rosemary that they grow themselves. Karl gave pieces of chocolate to the children and quickly made many friends! The "lunch" we had been invited to lasted the whole day - we didn't need dinner. We were given fresh coconuts and breadfruit to take back to the boat and reminded several times to send best wishes from both villages to Mum for her birthday. A truly wonderful day. It is interesting to watch the children after school - they borrow one of the local boats, complete with 75hp outboard motors and zip around the bay. One boatload of kids stopped near us, threw a concrete block tied to a rope over the side as an anchor and all jumped in for a swim. Yesterday we went for a sail for several hours in a stiff breeze to try out the auto pilot (Raymond). He behaved well on both tacks, even with full sails up and heeling over considerably - so perhaps we have fixed him! It was also a good time to do some "hove-to" practice. During our sailing around we caught a rather large Mahimahi. Enough for 6 nights worth of meals! Dinner was Coconut battered fish and breadfruit chips. We ate like little piglets! Now at Ono Island, have been snorkeling amongst pretty coral and starting to prepare for our return to NZ. A few passage meals now in the freezer and some maintenance jobs done, plus a "to-do list" of other little items that will need our attention in the next couple of weeks before we head back to NZ.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 302 Oct 2014

The island of Kadavu is south of the main island of Fiji and if you keep heading south, this is the last major lump of land on the chart before NZ. Becasue of this, the locals call Kadavu, "little NZ" or "New Zealand Lai lai". The island is covered in lush green tropical rain forest and has some unique bird life, found only in Kadavu. They have their own Kadavu fantail, Kadavu honeyeater, Kadavu musk parrot and the velvet fruit dove. Sitting in the bay, the jungle-like bird calls can be heard Read more...

from time to time - a pretty sound. The Namalata reefs on the northern side of Kadavu are fabulous dive spots and we have had a couple of wonderful dives. Visibility of more than 25m. On one dive we were treated to vast walls of coral, sporting many bright yellow corals. The next dive was a kaleidoscope of colourful soft corals. Brilliant purple, pink, bright yellow, rich reds, deep red-browns - all softly swaying on the rock faces. Throngs of blue and yellow fusiliers, a wide variety of other fish and a turtle kept us entertained. So beautiful. We have also done a bit of walking, through the "town" of Vunisea, the village of Namalata and now the village of Gasele. In Vunisea there is a small hospital, post office, dept of agriculture and 55 houses. There is a small produce market in Vunisea and a few small "supermarkets" like tiny corner dairy/kiosk stores. Apart from locally grown items, like cabbage, papaya and pumpkins, they also sell NZ onions and carrots (Ohakune carrots). Vunisea also has a tiny airport, with a runway that stretches on the only bit of flat land, from the north shore to the south shore. The plane holds a capacity of 19 people, but usually less passengers and lands once per day. This is the way most tourists arrive into Kadavu, by plane from Nadi. From Vunisea, tourists then have to travel about an hour by local boat to one of the 4 resorts on Kadavu, or to one of the two resorts at Ono Island nearby. The drought broke on Sunday night, with a thunder storm. Our first thunderstorm in the whole trip since leaving NZ. This is the first rain here for a couple of months. Since then we have seen misty rain hanging in the tops of the mountains each day, but hardly anything that reaches sea level. Over the last couple of days we have also been trying to fix our Automatic Pilot (we call him Raymond). He started misbehaving a few weeks ago and has been getting worse and worse - especially under sail, though not too bad when motoring. Perhaps he doesn't like heeling over? We think we have followed the instructions correctly to bleed air out of the system and hopefully that works. Yesterday we motor sailed from Namalata bay to Gasele bay and Raymond was working well, so fingers crossed. We will try him out on a more challenging sail tomorrow. Today we did sevusevu in Gasele village, about 64 people live here. There is no cell phone coverage in the village, so we asked for advice on where to find signal so we call Heather's Mum in NZ for her Birthday. They advised us to go out of the bay into open sea to find a signal, which we did - just two bars in a very small spot in the middle of watery nowhere! The locals are having a "lovo" feast today to celebrate a family reunion. When they heard it was Mum's Birthday they said we must join them for the feast and the whole village will celebrate Mum's Birthday too!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2801 Sep 2014

We loved having our visitors, Pieter and Sarah, come and stay with us for 10 days. They were great company and we had enough time (just) to get to the top of the Yasawas and back again, and see the highlights along the way. Heather, who loves getting creative with cooking, especially appreciated the inspiring meals whipped up by Sarah. More recipes have been jotted down in the "Aradonna Cookbook". After we waved them goodbye, we had every intention of heading back up to the Yasawas again for a Read more...

more leisurely look. But having done the trip up and down twice now, we decided instead, to explore some new areas of Fiji. Realising that we might be away from "facilities" for a while we headed back into Nadi for some more provisions, did the last of the laundry and topped up the water tanks again before leaving Denarau just before the marina check out time of midday on Friday. As we had left our departure a little later than planned, we decided only to go as far as Momi Bay that afternoon. M omi Bay is on the western side of Vitu Levu and is the last bay as you head south before you have to get out of the "outer reef" system. Most of Fiji's 333 islands are on a large plateau, in relatively shallow water, surrounded by an outer reef. While the reef is not continuous, it does form a kind of barrier around the outside of the island group. In many places, like at Momi Bay, there are only small gaps in the reef. To venture south of Momi Bay we had to head out of this "outer reef" into deep blue water again. We left Momi Bay at 8.30am on Saturday, sure we would have enough time to head south down the western side of Vitu Levu and around the southern side to a sheltered bay. We were off to a great start as the tide was going out. As we headed between the gap in the reef we got a 1.4 knot push from the tide helping us along. The only problem was, there was no wind. We motored for 4 hours in glassy conditions before the wind came up. Then, our friend the wind decided to play tri cks on us again and was straight on the nose. We seem to have had this problem for the last few weeks - no matter which way we decide to head, the wind is going in the opposite direction! The waves got up with the wind and beating in to the waves slowed down our progress. Eventually we made it to Somosomo Bay in fading light at almost 5pm. Not ideal, but thankfully we still had enough visibility to get through the reef and into the bay. Being on the southern side of Viti Levu was like being in another world. Here the vegetation is lush and green and thriving. A stark contrast to the crisp, brown, bare hills of the northern side. This morning we decided to leave extra early for the 50 N mile crossing, South, to Kadavu, just in case the going was slow again. At 6am and still half asleep, the search for coffee revealed many soggy packets of provisions in the food locker. It seems we had been a little over enthusiastic about getting the water tanks really full and managed to overflow th em into the food locker! Out came packets of coffee, meusli bars, nuts, noodles, milk powder and crackers, forming soggy haphazard piles on the table and the seats. The inside of the boat looked like a corner dairy hit by a storm! We managed to mop up, giggle our way through a quick breakfast and then head out of the bay before 7am. At first it looked like there was no wind again, but to our delight, we had only just motored out of the bay when a whisper of a breeze came up - and it was in the right direction! The sails were up in no time and with smiles on our faces we had a wonderful sail in the sunshine. The island of Kadavu is not on the same plateau as the rest of the Fiji group, so once again we were sailing across deep blue water, over 2000 meters deep. This was the first time we had been really "at sea" since arriving in Fiji. The wind behaved itself for once, strengthening to a light but steady breeze, from the right direction - all day! We made 49 N miles in just 7 hours - a great average of 7 knots. In fact, we were going so well under sail it almost seemed a shame to bring the sails in when it was time to enter the harbour of Namalata Bay. We arrived in plenty of time for a snorkel - with loads of colourful soft coral, hard coral and fish to be seen. Some stunning blue coral caught our eye, standing out from all the rest! Thankfully, Heather was also able to wash her salty, windblown "haystack" and turn it in to something resembling hair again. Life is good!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2502 Sep 2014

After visiting the top of the Yasawas and enjoying stunning white beaches, we headed back south again, doing a couple of big day-hops. On Sunday during our voyage south, Pieter landed two Barracuda. The first one was 70 cm and the second one was about twice that size! We got to Manta ray channel in time for another drift snorkel and all enjoyed the spectacular seam of purple coral and colourful reef fish. We agreed it had to be the prettiest snorkel of any place we had been (apart from Wallis). Read more...

We anchored nest to a rather large cat - in fact the largest sailing cat in the world, called "Hemisphere". She is 44.2m long and very impressive - her tender was lying on the other side of us in the bay and looked to be almost the same size as our boat. If you want to find out more about here have a look at www.sy-hemisphere.com she is quite a vessel. In the second big day-hop on Monday, Karl landed two Tuna, which gave us all a superb meal of tuna steaks on Monday night and another fine feas t of Kokoda on Tuesday night! The wind steadily increased as the day wore on and we gave Pieter and Sarah a taste of 'wet-n-wild sailing' with plenty of spray to keep us cool. We had intended to stop at Musket Cove for the night on Monday but the wind was howling in and the bay was chocka-block full of boats. After a hair-raising passage between dozens of anchored boats with strong winds pushing us around, we escaped and anchored in Liku Liku Bay which was tranquil and surprisingly quiet with only two other boats in the bay. We had a lazy day on Tuesday, swimming reading and content to stay put while the wind blew outside the bay. The resort in the bay is an exclusive 5 1/2 star one - guests pay $2800 per night to stay there! We watched several helicopters and sea planes landing and taking off to deliver and pick up their guests who obviously have cash to splash. We all felt rather lucky to be anchored in this bay as it didn't cost us any more than any other bay (nothing) and we had the same view and the same water! Yesterday we arrived at Denarau and had a lovely farewell meal with Pieter and Sarah at Amalfi's restaurant. On the same pier there is a vessel called DragonFly. She is a 230ft motor boat, owned by a Doctor. They sometimes have a team of doctors and nurses on board and visit some of the remote islands - sort of like a floating health clinic, but not in any official capacity. We had some bags of reading glasses left so we gave them to DragonFly to distribute to those who need them most. Today we waved goodbye to our friends as they flew back to NZ and then took the bus to Nadi to stock up on fresh produce again from the market. A $1 bus ride gets us into town and the local produce is very good value (as opposed to the tourist trap of Denarau where everything is so expensive). So now we have filled up with water again, got the laundry up to date and we are ready to explore some more of Fiji. If the wind cooperates we will begin our way south in the m orning, en route to Kadavu Is, which is below Suva on the southern coast of Viti Levu.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2102 Sep 2014

We really enjoyed visiting Blue Lagoon again on Thursday and Friday. It is a fabulous spot! On Thursday night after cocktails at the resort we were all in the dinghy heading back to Aradonna in the dark when there was a strange clattering noise in the dinghy. Karl thought something had dropped out of the motor, Sarah got a fright and just about jumped overboard. Heather shone the torch around to reveal a Garfish that had jumped into the dinghy and was flapping all about! Pieter was sure it would Read more...

be good eating, but we decided to return the fish to the bay, happy with the entertainment value of the surprise visit. On Friday we went for a half hour walk to the eastern side of Nanuya-Sewa Island. Coming over the top of the island was spectacular, with views over water and reefs to the north, south and east. About 50 shades of blue! On the eastern shore we visited Lo's tea house and enjoyed some of the banana cake she is famous for. After hiking back to the Blue Lagoon we were ready for a swim. We snorkeled at Savuti Point, where the fish are used to being fed by cruise boat loads of tourists. While it wasn't exactly natural behaviour, it was amazing to see all the colourful reef fish thronging around and being so friendly. One even gave Heather a kiss! It was like swimming in an aquarium, a very special swim. That night we joined our friends from Vegas at the resort for dinner and treated ourselves to Banofi (banana toffee cake) and coconut ice cream for dessert. Delicious! Yesterday we made the trip north to the top of the Yasawas. Long white sandy beaches and crystal clear water over the white sand in the bay, creating a "swimming pool blue" bay. So pretty! We did Sevusevu in the village, we presented some gifts for the kindergarten children and the Chief gave us Papaya and bananas. The chief also gave us his phone number and asked us to call if we come back because he would like to come out fishing on our boat - he will take us to all the right spots! Walking b ack along the beach we had to pinch ourselves again - the bay is so beautiful. We had a swim in the clear water, 27.9 degrees in the water and 32 degrees outside - just perfect. Heather and Karl swam back to the boat and left Sarah and Pieter with the dinghy ride. Sarah made us yummy ginger chicken for dinner, a real treat! Every day seems to have its own magic - we are so very very lucky.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1801 Sep 2014

Our friends Pieter and Sarah arrived safely on Monday and we have had fun catching up with them. Tuesday was a special day, flat calm sea for our trip to Waya Is. Stopped at Vomo for a snorkel on the way and soon after we had a pod of dolphins come to play. A great way to welcome our guests to Fiji! We had a guided tour through Yalobi village and met some very friendly locals. We especially liked the school which is extremely well organised and tidy. About 100 children go to the school from year Read more...

1 to year 8. School starts at 8.30am and finishes at 3.30pm. Classes end at 3pm and for the last half hour the children do duties, such as beach clean up, picking up rubbish around the school and the village etc. A great idea! Children from two other villages on the island also go to the school - they arrive on Sunday night and board until Friday afternoon to go home to their own village for the weekend. College age children go to the mainland and stay with relatives or attend boarding school . Yesterday we motor sailed in light winds up to Naviti Is, hoping to swim with the Manta rays, but could not see any. Still, the snorkeling was nice in the channel. We took turns at snorkeling while drifting along in the current and getting picked up at the other end in the dinghy. Today on our way to Blue Lagoon we stopped at Spitfire Lagoon. We managed to wiggle our way through the reefs into the lagoon. What a beautiful spot! We snorkeled over the wreck of a small plane which has now become home to puffer fish, anemone fish, blue green chromis and neon blue's. Legend has it that this plane crash landed on the reef many years ago and was then swept into the lagoon by a cyclone. The pilot was missing, presumed dead, until he was discovered a few years later living happily amongst the locals! No one is sure how much of this story is true - but the plane is still in the lagoon for all to see. We are now in the famous Blue lagoon area again and will treat ourselves to a cocktail or t wo at the resort bar tonight. All is well on board - our guests have not stopped smiling since they arrived!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1402 Sep 2014

Had an amazing day on Thursday, a lovely sail from Waya Is towards the mainland. A pod of dolphins joined us for a while near Vomo Island. It is always a thrill to see them and these were large ones! Then the wind died and the sea became glassy smooth, so we motored for a while. The water was so inviting on such a calm sunny day that we anchored beside Nukunicakaunituba reef and went for a snorkel in the middle of the sea. Apart from the usual suspects of coral and reef fish we saw an octopus, Read more...

a crayfish and a grey nurse shark close by. Perfect conditions and a nice reef! We motored the rest of the way to Lautoka and dropped anchor beside Distracted. Enjoyed a yummy roast chicken dinner on board Distracted - what a treat! Friday was shopping day. The Lautoka market is incredibly good value. Four paw paws for $2, a 1kg bag of tomatoes for $1, everything was so cheap - and great quality produce too. We also stocked up on meat from Fiji Meats. A wonderful shop and they vacuum packed all our meal parcels for us too. Moved down to Saweni Bay for the next couple of nights. Caught up with Distracted again last night - great to spend some time with them before they disappear to New Caledonia in a couple of days. Tonight we are back in Lautoka to get an early morning start to the market - time to get some more fresh produce before heading to Denarau to fill up with water and fuel and collect our VIP guests. Fingers crossed for more great weather - the last few days have been warm and sunny - a beautiful 30 degrees.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1002 Sep 2014

Spent a few days in the "Blue Lagoon", an area made famous by the movie of the same name. A very special place, a pretty group of islands, white sandy beaches, coral reefs everywhere and a nice resort on the beach. We could happily just plonk ourselves in that area for a week or so and not go anywhere else! Met up with some friends we had not seen since leaving Gulf Harbour in April. We were thrilled to see Gavin and Bindy from Distracted again - our neighbours from D pier who helped us with so Read more...

much good advice before we set off on this journey. We went diving on a reef known as "The Zoo", an extensive area to explore. There was so much to see that we used a full cylinder each on the dive rather than our usual 1/2 cylinder each. For the first time since arriving in the pacific islands we finally spotted crayfish! They were very shy though and scuttled back into their hole. Not that we would have tried to grab them as they seem so scarce here compared to NZ. We explored several other bays up and down the Yasawa chain of islands, just to get familiar with the area in preparation for coming back here with our VIP guests next week. After a week of lovely settled weather and light winds, we now have a stiff breeze blowing. The forecast does not look great for the next few days. We will head towards the mainland tomorrow to stock up on essential supplies again before picking up our guests, Pieter and Sarah, from Denarau on Monday.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 401 Sep 2014

In our previous blog we mentioned we were going into Denarau to get provisions. It turns out, this was not a great idea! Firstly, the boat got covered in black ash from all the fires around the area. Then, the trip to the supermarket was a nasty surprise. We refused to buy much becasue the prices were outrageous. For example, a pathetic looking lettuce was $11, where we have been paying $1 for a nice fresh one from village markets. Some other prices I recall - $13 for a bar of chocolate (usually Read more...

$4), $105 for 1 litre of Seagars Gin (usually $30), and $4 for a small papaya (we paid $1 for a large one in the market). In desperation we did pay $2 each for a couple of apples as a bit of a treat because apples don't grow locally. Next time we stop for provisions we will go to Nadi or a local village market and avoid Denarau completely! We couldn't wait to get out of the place, so sailed to Musket Cove on Tuesday. Surprisingly, the charts for this area are completely wrong - if we had foll owed the recommended route on the chart we would have ended up on a reef! Good spotting by Karl saved the day and we wriggled in and around reefs that were not on the chart - and anchored in an area that was plenty deep - even though the chart showed that we were on top of a reef! About 70 boats in the bay, many of the ICA fleet were there. Caught up with Fusio and Vegas - we had not seen them since they left Vava'u on 8th July. Joined the Musket Cove Yacht Club - lifetime membership is $5. Going ashore in the dinghy, Karl surprised a striped snake eel while walking in the shallows - it came out of its burrow and followed Karl which is most unusual for these shy creatures and gave Karl a bit of a fright! Went to Dicks Restaurant for a lovely meal - a gorgeous evening, no wind, 22 degrees C, candlelit dinner with a Fijian trio playing the guitar and singing in the background. After dinner, while waiting for our dessert we moved into the lounge to watch and listen to the music. Every couple of songs one of the band would say "It's Kava time!" and they would all drink a bowl of Kava before playing the next song. Some of the other restaurant guests joined the Kava drinking, but we were happy to just sit and watch! After exploring Musket Cove we decided that sitting in a bay with 70 other yachts was not really for us, so we left yesterday and sailed to the northern Mamanucas. We caught a small tuna on the way, so we had tuna steaks for dinner which is a nice change from Mahimahi. After being in busy anchorages the last couple of nights we are glad to be in wide open spaces with clean water around us when we jump over the side! The anchorage we are in has a legend attached - apparently the first Tongans arrived here, rounded up the locals and cooked them in a pot. The islands are considered sacred now and nobody lives here. The gap between the two islands is filled in by one massive coral reef. The whole area is densely covered in layer upon layer of coral formation s. The water here is crystal clear, similar to Tonga clarity - much improved from other snorkeling and diving we have done in Fiji. Until now, although we had pretty dives, the visibility was not as good as Tonga. But then we have been spoiled a little! Visibility in Tonga, epsecially the Ha'apai was around 25m, which is outstanding. So far in Fiji we have only had 10 - 15m visibility and the water has been slightly cloudy (but as we keep reminding ourselves, it is still much better than Waiheke!). The water temperature here is 27.5 degrees, warmer than Tonga and quite acceptable!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 103 Sep 2014

Since we arrived in Fiji two weeks ago we have had pretty steady, strong winds. Today the wind died away! We motor sailed all the way today in very light variable winds and flat calm seas. The whole northern coast of Viti Levu is dry and brown. Many fires burning and several large areas of scorched land. The whole of Malake Island has been burned to a crisp. Last night we anchored near Mt Tuindreke and during the night huge flames we leaping high into the sky at the head of the bay. A vast area Read more...

of vegetation was on fire. Everywhere you look you see large columns of smoke rising from mountainsides. The passage through the reef system looks scary when you see it on the chart, but there is plenty of room between the large patches of reef and the channel is at least 14m deep all the way. Plain sailing! It shows up pretty well on Google Earth if you want to take a look check out the area: 17 21.907S 178 15.905E is the eastern start of the passage and then we navigated out way between the northern shore and inside the banks of reef to 17 35.154S 177 25.609E which brings us out on the western side of the island. We are now anchored in the same bay where we ended our Fiji journey last year. After crewing from NZ to Fiji on the yacht "Champagne" last year we had a few days at a resort here before flying home. At that time we were still looking for the right yacht and still hoping our plans for offshore cruising would all come together. Now we are back here and our dream has come true! We still have to pinch ourselves now and then to make sure it is real. Will stock up on provisions tomorrow at Denarau before exploring the western isles.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 3101 Aug 2014

On Friday we went ashore at Naigani and walked to the village. A simple way of life. Some villagers were making coconut milk and coconut oil which starts by scraping the white flesh out by hand, using a rock fastened to a stick. One lady sat with a huge pile of long leaves from the pandanus plant. These leaves are used for making mats. But first she had to strip all the tiny thorns of both edges. A laborious task. Next the leaves have to be boiled, beaten, then left to dry in the sun. Once cured Read more...

the weaving can begin, to make a mat for the floor. A huge process! Following the protocol required when entering a village, we asked to meet the "Turaga ni Koro" pronounced Tooranga nee koro. This is the spokesman for the village. We then asked him for an introduction to the chief so we could present our bundle of yaqona. Yaqona is the root of a pepper tree and the Fijians pound this and mix it with water to make Kava, their favourite drink. The ceremony, called "sevusevu" is an important pr otocol to observe and officially welcomes you to the village. Once welcomed in to the village we were free to explore and take photos of village life. The people were very friendly, all keen to talk to us. An interesting observation is that after exchanging names with a local, the first question they often ask is "How old are you?" then they tell you how old they are. This seems an important part of their introductions when they meet new people. Groups of women and children were casting nets out on the shallow reef areas and then in a circle, running and splashing to chase fish onto the net before picking up the edges and all walking towards each other to bring the net together, full of tiny fish. It was very nice to see the natural way of life here. Unlike Tonga, we did not see any rubbish, there were no pigs and no church bells. Unfortunately one of the elders of the village came to inform us that we would need to shift our boat. The bay we had anchored in was a sacred fishing ar ea for the village, where they keep their sacred trevally! We were invited to bring Aradonna around to the bay in front of the village, but the wind was blowing 25 - 30 knots and it was not a good spot to stay as Aradonna was being blown back, stern to the reef. The next bay around was on the E side and the wind was coming straight in, with big waves. It would have made a better surf beach than an anchorage! The kind man at the dive resort carried our dive cylinders from the village, through the bush track in a wheel barrow to fill up the cylinders for us. We shifted to the northern bay for the night, which is sheltered in the usual SE winds. The only problem was that we had strong E winds, which whipped around the tip of the bay causing waves to roll in over the reef. After enduring a night of rolling and pitching and very little sleep we were glad to pull up the anchor and venture away. Before we could leave we had to retrieve the dive cylinders, so it was back to the bay by the v illage to meet the dive resort man who had wheel-barrowed the 4 heavy cylinders back through the bush to the beach for us at 7am as promised. We got a nice early start for the next leg of our journey, the 34 N mile passage through the reefs of northern Viti Levu, to Nananau-i-ra Island. The wind is still blowing hard, but now we are in a very calm sheltered spot. Had a good walk around the island yesterday afternoon. This is a resort island with 3 or 4 resorts and some nice houses that look like holiday rentals. A pretty spot with several families on holiday. Kids giggling as they learn to kayak, wake boarders showing off and kite surfers defying gravity.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2821 Aug 2014

We went exploring Makogai Island yesterday. Quite an interesting place. From 1911 to 1969 there was a large leprosy hospital here. Over 4000 people were treated here over the years, with patients arriving from all over the South Pacific. The old hospital building is gone, but many of the outbuildings and ruins of old structures can be seen. Where the hospital used to be there is now a mariculture facility. Essentially they grow turtles and clams here until large enough to have a better survival Read more...

rate and then release them into the sea. Clams are relocated to many of the other islands to help repopulate the clam numbers in Fiji. We saw a large trough of tiny wee clams being grown and another trough of young turtles, about 2 years old - they will be released when they are three. The guide who showed us around suggested we have a dive at Makodroga Island to see some large clams. The dive was fabulous! Many large clams, a friendly turtle that Karl stroked the side of and a very pretty ree f. The coral and fish can only be described as a kaleidoscope of colours. We played with a pair of bright orange and white anemone fish for a while, they were ducking and diving around and kept coming out to look at us and then hiding again - but too curious to stay hidden! When we emerged from the water, Karl summed it up by saying "It doesn't get much better than that!" Later, while we were relaxing in the cockpit a turtle swam along the surface close to the boat, craning his head out and looking at us several times before diving down below again. So wonderful. Today we had a gentle sail over to Naigani Island. About half way we got a fish on the line. Karl got the sails in and Heather battled to reel it in for about 20 minutes as this fish kept peeling out more line everytime it got closer to the boat. It put up a huge fight and was tough to reel in, but eventually, with tired arms, Heather got it to the boat and Karl hooked it with the gaf hook. A 90cm Mahimahi landed. Phew! Fre sh fish for dinner tonight and Heather has made Kokoda for tomorrow night. We are now relaxing in Sova Bay after a refreshing swim and snorkel around the reefs near the bay. This is a spectacular place. Deep green dense bush covering the steep sides of the island, which drop down to a low saddle of land. The head of the bay is in the saddle with a white sandy beach and swaying palm trees. Picture post-card paradise.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2620 Aug 2014

We decided to go for a dive this morning on the reef at the NW tip of Namena Is. As usual we descended at the same time, but as quite often happens, we lost sight of each other on the way down to the bottom and then had to look around for each other again. Heather reached the bottom and couldn't see Karl. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a dark shape and turned around expecting to see Karl behind her, but it wasn't Karl. Heather was face to face with a shark! Hovering beside her at about Read more...

shoulder height and only an arms length away. It was a white tipped reef shark and not terribly big, but enough to get the heart racing! Heather looked around to find Karl and show him this sleek, impressive beast - he was up ahead. As Heather swam towards him another shape appeared from behind her. Swimming past her shoulder was shark number two! When Heather finally caught up to Karl she needed a moment to steady her breathing! The sharks were completely uninterested in us and slowly swam by like we didn't exist. Nice to see them and glad to know we didn't look tasty. Further on, slithering around through the coral was a Giant Moray eel. These things are huge! We have seen plenty of moray eels before when diving in NZ, but this was a massive beast, with a lump of a head and a body as big as the sharks. We managed to get fairly close a few times before he started looking aggressive, poking his head along way out towards us with his big teeth showing. At this point we decided to retreat as his jaw looked big enough to take your hand or even your arm off in one bite. We read later in our reference books that these Giant Morays grow to 280cm and actually eat white tipped reef sharks for dinner! We are very glad we departed before he got hungry - or angry. Quite an exciting dive, and the landscape was very different from other dives. Tall branched coral trees and gigantic lumps of brain coral loomed up from the sandy bottom like an alien landscape. Very dramatic to swim thr ough, with these massive structures towering beside you. Almost like an underwater version of "Valley of the Gods". There was also a drop off, a steep wall encrusted with smaller coral and many pretty reef fish. Great dive! Later in the morning we set sail for Makogai, about 20 N miles south of Namena. We enjoyed a brisk 25-30 knot breeze in slightly choppy seas,a fast and pleasant sail in the sunshine. We arrived in Makogai just in time for a snorkel before the light faded. Delicate lacy corals, teeming with brightly coloured fish - orange, yellow, blue, striking patterns of black and white and orange and yellow on the same fish (male slingjaw wrasse), and a very pretty orange fish with yellow fins and blue eyes. Incredible.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2522 Aug 2014

Had sunny skies and a perfect sailing day with 20knot SE winds. Averaged over 7 knots in the 6 hours sail to Namena. Snorkeld the gorgeous coral reef here, corals of lime green, deep green with dark blue tips, dusky pinks fringed with deep burgandy, cream stalks with "forget-me-not blue" tips. Thronging with fish, loads of very large parrot fish. Some blue with bright pink markings, others blue with purple and yellow and green. Very striking. A large turtle let us swim very close by. So beautiful. Read more...

Our anchorage is beside an area inhabited by large sea birds, they look a bit like gannets, but they have blue beaks. They appear to have nests here. As we sipped on gin and tonics and watched the sun dip down over the horizon, the sea birds flew home, circling above us on invisible air currents, back to their nests for the night. Another special day.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2437 Aug 2014

We had intended to go for a dive yesterday, but the weather turned windy and the seas lumpy, so instead we decided to explore the southern reef of Vanua Levu, from the western entrance to Viani Bay. From a distance, this lump of land could be mistaken for the Coromandel peninsula. Patches of pasture with folded green hills and bushes nestling in the folds, large areas of dense bush-clad mountain range. But from closer up, you can see a rim of reef running along the shore. For almost 10km of this Read more...

shore line the reef is about 1km off the edge of the land. This creates a natural sea wall which protects the southern edge of Vanua Levu over this 10km strip. There is an entrance on the western end and one on the eastern end. Both are narrow passes and the western end pass is very narrow, between sold reef structures. Once inside you can navigate your way along the southern shore in the protected lagoon. It is amazing to see large waves crashing on the reef beside you, but be in completely still calm water. The only trick is, the charts showing where the reefs are do not match reality! So with Karl on bow watch and Heather at the helm, we navigated our way around each rock and reef, though this stretch of beautiful water. We stopped half way and snorkeled the reef, which was pretty - the highlight was swimming with turtles! Eventually we made out way into the Viani Bay area for another snorkel. Then the wind turned to the south so it was coming straight in! It was 3pm, so we made a quick decision to move around the other side of the peninsula. As light was fading we dropped anchor in Nasau Bay which is completely protected from the southerly wind. By morning, the wind had turned to the north and the boat was stern in towards the rocks. After a snorkel along the wonderful coral garden we realised just how close the rocks were to the boat. The yacht itself was still in 14m of water, but the dingy on a line off the back was just inches above the top of the reef! Time to move. As we came out of Viani passage the sea was flat calm and the wind had dropped away. As soon as a little bit of wind came up we decided to have a nice sail towards Fawn Harbour. After getting the sails set the wind got stronger and stronger until we had about 35 knots blowing and big waves slapping against the side of the boat. We reduced sail and continued at a fast clip into the sheltered waters of Fawn Harbour. The rest of the day has been grey and blustery - one of the few bad weather days we have had in the last 3 months. A good time to read books and prepare roast chicken for dinner!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1808 Aug 2014

After a good nights sleep on the northern tip of Taveuni, we had a refreshing snorkel before setting off again. This time it was just a day trip, about 25 N miles, through the passage between Taveuni and Vanua Levu, and around the bottom of Venua Levu to Fawn Harbour. Not much wind, so motored over half the way. The entrance to this harbour is through a 1 N mile long channel in the reef. Inside it is calm as a millpond, completely surrounded by reef and mangroves, you would never guess there was Read more...

a raging surf on the outside. Just after dinner we heard a lot of splashing going on around the boat and looked out to find the whole harbour was alive with jumping fish! These fish, the size of herrings, were leaping 1/2 meter into the air, propelling themselves about 1 meter forward and often skipped along the surface several times like a pebble skimming across the water. There were thousands of these fish, leaping, jumping an skipping in all directions - fun to watch. We laughed as some hi t the side of the boat in their frenzy. What a show! It looked like you could walk across the water on these fish, there were so many of them at the surface. This morning as we came out of the harbour into open water again, we were greeted by a school of around 20 dolphins, gracefully bounding along beside us. Magic! Today we had plenty of wind and enjoyed a swift sail for the last 35 N miles into Savusavu. We arrived at 1.30pm and had cleared customs, health and immigration by 3pm - very easy. Went ashore and explored a little. There is a good fresh produce market, 2 supermarkets, several other useful shops, a few restaurants, cafes and bakeries. Everything we need is very close, just a short walk to all amenities. A handy location. Met up with quite a few boaties we have seen in other spots along the way, plus some new ones. So far it feels like a very friendly, welcoming place, with a smile and "Bula!" from everyone we meet.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1423 Aug 2014

The best snorkeling is on the eastern reef of Nukuatea Island, where turtles graze, Manta rays play and hundreds of different kinds of fish inhabit hundreds of different types of coral. We had to pinch ourselves to see if it was real. It was like watching a fairy tale brought to life. The reef is made up of much larger versions of the coral we saw in Tonga and the reef fish are larger here too. It seems someone took all the fish and coral from the whole of Tonga, enlarged them and plonked them Read more...

all in one reef in Wallis! Wow! On a more practical note, the supermarkets here are like heaven compared to anything in Tonga. Plus we got our first decent rain in 3 months on Tuesday night so managed to fill up our water tanks and do all the washing using the water in the dinghy. A real bonus :-) We live in a wonderful world.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1239 Aug 2014

Around Wallis itself there is mainly sea grass, and it is no good for snorkleing. Further out in the lagoon, the water is clear and there are many coral reefs to explore. We enjoyed snorkeling the reef at the southern end of Faioa Island, at the SE edge of the Wallis lagoon. Pretty coral, teeming with fish, clear warm water. It is very warm here. 30 degrees today and the water is 29 degrees. When swimming or snorkeling it feels like you can stay in the water forever without getting cold. We both Read more...

stayed in for far too long this morning and got sunburned backs! Have now moved to another island in the Wallis lagoon, called Nukuaeta. Manta rays were frolicking about as we came in to the bay. The coral garden here is the most magnificent we have ever seen. About 2km long and 200m wide, it covers the full length of the E side of the island - and then some! We snorkeled (with shirts on this time!)in amazement at the variety of different sorts of coral, some gigantic structures, larger than we have seen anywhere else. Everywhere you look you see purple, pink, yellow, green, blue, white, grey, brown coral in every size and shape you can imagine. While snorkeling we spotted a turtle near by. He swam off in a great hurry once he realised we were close. Last night we enjoyed a balmy night, sitting in the cockpit chatting away until almost midnight. There was a full moon so it seemed almost as light as day. Very nice to sit outside all evening - we totally lost track of time because it was warm and so light. Ended up going for a midnight swim in the moonlight to cool down a bit before going to bed. A very nice way to round off the day!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1026 Aug 2014

Everyone here speaks French. It is difficult to find anyone who can say more than two words of English. So we have pulled out our best recollection of school time French - and that was a long time ago! Between us, we have managed to cobble together enough of the right words to be understood, eventually, with lots of laughs along the way. This 78 sq km island has a "road" running around it, which is approx 35 km in a circuit, plus a few more internal 'secondary roads' that lead to crater lakes Read more...

and plantations. We have seen more banana trees and taro plants than we ever imagined. Not really sure what they do with all the bananas and taros. There are only 9000 people living here but it looks like you could feed the whole of the south pacific with bananas from here. There are no signposts, no roadsigns, or village names. The map has village names on it, but the villages do not. So it is impossible to tell where exactly you are on the island at any time. There is water on one side and ban anas on the other, wherever you go! The buildings here are made of concrete and are far more permanent and substantial than the buildings in Tonga. There are several large Catholic churches, built of stone with white painted pointing's. Some are very elaborate, adorned with towers and balconies and ornaments. There are only a few pigs, and they are kept in pens. Lawns are mowed, gardens trimmed, hedges neatly clipped. Everyone drives around in late model cars. The usual French collection plus a lot of new Ford pickup trucks. These shiny vehicles are everywhere - we are not sure what happens to the old cars, they all look quite new. One of the highlights so far was our visit to Lac Lolololo. This is a large crater lake which has vertical cliff edges dropping a long way down, like a deep canyon but almost perfectly round. The lake at the bottom of the cliff looks deep and dark. Quite stunning. On Friday we managed to find the one and only bank on the island to get some money out. Paci fic Francs are used here, there are 78 Francs to the NZ$. From what we have worked out, prices here for groceries are pretty much the same as NZ. After the limited supplies of basics in Tonga, it was wonderful to go to a real supermarket and buy nice bread, cheese, pate, salmon, pastries and a huge selection of fruit and vegetables. Everything here is imported, quite a bit from NZ such as apples, kiwifruit, Anchor UHT milk, Tip Top ice cream, Mainland and Kapiti cheese, Cerebos salt. Surprising to find all these NZ products amongst the mainly French imports. We have seen several vehicles with All Blacks logos on them, some shops with the logo on the window and some people wearing All Blacks t-shirts. We haven't seen any other rugby team logos, but it looks like Wallisians are keen All Black supporters. The people here are very friendly, they wave as we go by on foot or in the car. Lots of smiles as they say "Bonjour!". Some locals stopped and gave us a lift to the vege market, then came back and took us to the car rental place and helped to translate what we needed. Very helpful! Our little Peugout 206 has a bit of trouble with roads designed for 4 wheel drive vehicles, but it is getting us around! Today we had 33 degrees, so fairly warm. The water is 29 degrees and feels soft and silky. We can stay in the water a long time without getting cold! On Friday we caught fish in the lagoon which fed us for two nights. After visiting the supermarket we now have chicken, pork and NZ lamb in the freezer as well. This was good timing as on Thursday we finished the meat we had in the freezer from NZ. Not bad going - we lasted 3 months before we needed to go shopping!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 342 Aug 2014

We are all set to go to Wallis Island, which is a place not many people get to visit. We had never even heard of Wallis before we started talking to other cruisers. For those of you who wish to look it up on google earth, the GPS coordinates are: 13 degrees 16.987 south, 176 degrees 9.985 west. (13 16.987S 176 9.985W). It is about 340 nautical miles from Vava'u, or approx 630km. It will take us 2 1/2 days to sail there. Also known as Uvea, it is a French administered island, only 78 sq km in Read more...

area, with population of 9000. The island is volcanic, with several crater lakes and is surrounded by an outer reef, approx 2 km from the shore. This ring of reef has a diameter of 15 km by 22 km and the island sits in the middle of that oval - right inside the protected lagoon. There is a narrow gap in the outer reef that provides a passage for boats to enter the lagoon and visit the island. We will need to brush up on speaking French but it will be an interesting experience! For now, w e sit and wait for the right weather. Heather has been baking more "William" bread and fruit cake. Karl has prepared some meals which are now in the freezer ready for the passage. Everything is getting stowed away safely so it won't rattle around during the voyage. We have been in the protected waters of Vava'u for 8 weeks now so we have not had to worry about keeping things battened down. We know that in the open sea, anything that can move, will do so! We will need to stuff cushions and towels into cupboards again to have a peaceful journey :-)

Aradonna - Aradonna - 3001 Jul 2014

What a day we had yesterday! We decided to go for a sail. The waters in the channels around the islands in Vava'u are protected from swell, so are fairly smooth even in the stiff breeze we had, around 25 knots. We were not far out of the harbour when we spotted whales(Humpback)ahead. For almost an hour we watched a mother and her calf playing together on the surface. Gently rolling, turning, shallow diving, breaching, blowing, tail flapping. Just beautiful. A group of snorkelers from one of the Read more...

whale watch charters were in the water with the whales and this didn't seem to worry Mum or baby at all, they looked quite happy to have humans swimming around. We couldn't join them in the water as it is illegal to swim with whales from a private yacht, you need to be with a licensed operator. But it was fantastic to watch them. An hour later, towards the southern end of the channel we spotted two more whales. Heather managed to get some video of them blowing and diving with their sig nature tail flick before they disappeared. We got the sails up again for the third time that day and within half an hour we had a strike on the fishing line. In the stiff breeze we were getting along at around 7 knots and the fish decided to swim the other way! Karl grabbed the rod and Heather turned the boat around, then hauled in the sails again while Karl fought with the line. The fish just about stripped all the line off the reel before Karl could start getting some of it back in again. While Heather kept watch and steered away from land and rocks, Karl played the fish (or perhaps the fish played Karl?) for over half an hour. Slowly Karl got the fish closer to the boat. And then it jumped up out of the water. It was something very large! Eventually Karl managed to land it. It was a Sailfish, which looks just like a Marlin with a long bill nose and stripes, but also has a large fin on its back like a big sail. At 180cm long this was the biggest fish Karl (or Heather) has ever landed. (In May this year, on the way to Minerva, Karl caught a 96cm Mahi mahi and this had been his biggest catch until now.) Wow! What a thrill - and so unexpected because Sailfish are big game fish and are usually much further offshore. We decided to let him go again, so he lives to fight another day. We finished the day with a swim in the clear azure waters around Nuku Island before celebrating with a gin and tonic. Another magical day!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2803 Jul 2014

Did a tour through the coconut oil factory and vanilla production plant the other day. It will be an interesting place if their ambitious vision for the future actually comes together one day. Snorkeled into the famous "Mariners Cave", a little scary going in as the entrance is about 1m under water and you have to stay under for about 3 - 4 meters before coming up inside the cave where it is very very dark! Good fun and much easier going out again because the light coming in from outside shows Read more...

you where you need to go! Yesterday we caught a tuna, so really enjoyed our fresh tuna steak dinner last night. Back to the market today for more fresh fruit. We love the local passionfruit - yellow in colour and a more intense flavour than our purple ones at home. The pineapples here are not acidic - they are the sweetest we have ever had. Living on fresh papaya, coconuts and the local "lady finger' bananas which have a sweeter, more intense flavour than any other bananas we have had. Life is good.

Aradonna - Aradonna - 2116 Jul 2014

Last Monday we had a town day, catching up on emails, laundry, stocking up on fresh fruit and veges, making bread and getting the dive cylinders refilled. Then we set off to explore some of the outer islands - we had very light winds and calm conditions which is the only time it is possible to venture to some of these exposed islands and reefs. We managed a dive on the outer reef north of Faioa Island, nice dive but the current was very strong. A large Turkeyfish was lurking in the rocks. We cut Read more...

the dive short because we were getting exhausted trying to swim against the current. Then we went for an easy dive at "Little Knob" which is a coral mound about 10m deep, surrounded by deep water of over 80m. Beautiful coral structures, some very delicate. A very large Spotted Eagleray was quite close to us before he swam away. Magnificent creature! A couple of hours south of the main island is the tiny island of Maninita. Surrounded by reefs which are not shown on the chart, this was a tricky area to navigate through, with many spots getting suddenly shallow! We finally found a spot to anchor and enjoyed this dive amongst coral ferns, sea fans, coral bushes and branches. We were thrilled to see a Clown Triggerfish, so colourful with orange and white and black spots. He did look like he was wearing a clown suit. Next stop was a snorkel south of Euakafa Island called "Blue Coral" because here you see an amazing array of bright blue, green blue, pale blue and brilliant purple coral along with the pink and green and grey structures. Beautiful. With no wind all day, the water was like glass. So pretty! One night we went to a traditional Tongan feast at Hinakauea Beach. Great group of boaties at the feast, loads of food, plus singing and traditional Tongan dancing. The performers looked like they were really enjoying themselves - good fun! On Saturday we went to Vaka'eitu Island. Only one family lives here. We met David and Hika on the beach - a very friendly Tongan couple. They have eleven children. Four go to primary school on the next island and three stay in Neiafu to attend High School, only coming home at the end of the school year. A very different way of life. We snorkeled the Coral Gardens - it was hard work getting over the reef to the outside across the pounding waves, but it was very pretty and much easier on the way back in! Also snorkeled the reef by Langito'o Island which was just as pretty. We have now identified 178 different kinds of fish in Tonga. Every time we get in the water we see some new variety. Incredible. Later we visited Matamaka village on the island of Nuapapu. Tidy village with grass pathways. Transport is by walking or by horse, there are no cars here. Horses are used to get the sacks of yams from the plantation to the wharf (then the harvest travels to the Neiafu market by boat). On Sunday we attended church in the village, only 20 adults and 16 children. It was impossible to tell who the kids b elonged to as they all floated from adult to adult during the service. Although the group was small the singing was incredibly loud! As we were leaving we were invited to attend a service from a neighbouring church. We joined in and afterwards were treated to a huge feast. Pigs on a spit, fish, octupus, taro, fruit, cakes, tapioca deserts and much more food then we could imagine. It had all been prepared by the local families and was piled up three or four dishes high on the tables. Later we snorkeled into Swallows Cave, a split in the cliff face opens up inside to a large limestone "cathedral". Quite stunning. Snorkeling beside Kapa Island was fantastic. Dramatic drop off with a rock wall plunging down to 50m. Excellent visibility and plenty of fish on the ledges. And that is how another week flew by!

Aradonna - Aradonna - 1436 Jul 2014

Last week we spent a couple of days in Old Harbour and walked through Makave Village en route to Neiafu to go to the market and pick up supplies. Very friendly locals kept stopping to offer us a ride into town, but we were eager to do some walking, much to their amusement! Next we explored some more of the eastern barrier reef islands and reefs. By navigating through some unchartered territory we anchored near Faioa Island. Along the way Karl spotted a large sea turtle swimming by. At first we Read more...

were not impressed with the snorkeling as it was mainly sand and sea grass and algae. Then we took the dinghy over the reef into the "Fork" reef north of Faioa. Wow! Incredible rock formations, abundant with pretty coral and teeming with fish. We will dive this spot next time the wind is right - this reef is very exposed to the prevailing SE winds so we need to wait for a westerly. Next we snorkeled the reef west of Lolo Island - this had a lot of broken coral but still heaps of colourf ul fish. To get some more land based exercise we hiked to the top of Euakafa Island. The trail became unclear and overgrown so we were pushing through tropical jungle and making our own trail half the time. Found some stunning large spiders on the way! Eventually found the ancient tombs at the top. A bit of a let down, just three slabs sticking out of the dirt!! Amazingly we found our way back through the jungle to the beach again somehow. At the NW tip of Euakafa Island there is a reef known as the "Nursery". We went for a dive there and were blown away by the hundreds of coral heads with thousands of teeny tiny fish swimming amongst the coral. It truly is a nursery for baby fish. On Sunday we went diving at "White Patch" which is on the western shore of the main island of Vava'u. Lovely coral garden and dramatic drop off out to deep blue ocean. Excellent visibility and full of colourful coral and fish. A Yellowfin Tuna was lurking around the reef - shame we couldn't grab h im for dinner! In the afternoon we went diving a bit further south, amongst some canyons and rock labyrinths. Great fun swimming through tunnels and caves. To top off the week we spotted a whale. Wow. We live in a wonderful world!

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On Thursday we went for a dive at Split rock and China Gardens, on the northern side of Tu'ungasika Island. At least 25m visibility and an amazing array of coral. So many different species of fish, so many colours, just beautiful. Caught up with friends from Fusio and Vegas for a night of card playing - lots of laughs learning a new game. Friday 4th July was a big celebration in Neiafu for the Kings Birthday. A full military parade with brass band and well timed marching - great display. The Tongan Read more...

Navy patrol boats were in the harbour and had an open day so we went aboard and explored. The day was capped off with the Tui Vava'u festival where a NZ band entertained the crowd. The winner and finalists of the Miss Vava'u contest were on the dance floor along with the Crown Prince (and his body guards). We enjoyed dancing too and the music was great - although it was a little loud!! We spent yesterday snorkeling at Taunga Island and then on to Port Maurelle for the night. About 6 boats in the bay - we all gathered on the beach for a bonfire and BBQ dinner, nice night meeting some more cruisers. Today we went diving at A'a Island, we found a patch of coral with anemones and several anemone fish playing around. Karl filmed a video of them dancing about with the underwater camera Heather gave him for his Birthday. Great footage - Karl was able to get very close to these curious little fish, fabulous!

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The Eastern islands are on the barrier reef that protects Vava'u from the raging ocean waves. To get out there we had to negotiate our way through shallow water, between reefs, which are spectacular! It was worth the effort. From the protected side, we climbed up Lolo, a small island made of sharp lava rock, to see the blow hole. Amazing pounding surf on the outside comes shooting through the rocks giving us a great display. It is possible to walk between Kenutu and Lolo at low tide, which we Read more...

did - but it was a little hair raising as the tide came in and the waves got deeper and deeper over the joining reef. Kenutu has a lovely walk through the tropical jungle to a look out from the top. The best of the three islands was Umumana, which has a very deep well of fresh water and a more extesnive walk to a high lookout point. The first part of the trail is very thoughtfully lined with coconuts, but it gets a little hazy after that. We had to use our bush survival skills to look fo r clues about where the track went next - we left a trail of coconut leaves tied to trees to make sure we could find our way back. We made it! Wow, what a view. The power of the ocean waves crashing against the eastern side of the island is incredible. At the northern tip of Umuna there is a sand spit. We walked out to the end and went snorkelling in a vast coral garden. Angelfish, butterfly fish, lemon peel fish, neon blues, parrot fish, colourful wrass, bright blue starfish, black spiny sea slugs and a myriad of other sea life. A very special place. On the way back through the pass we forgot that we had the fishing line trawling out the back - and just as we got to the most narrow bit with coral reefs all around - we got a strike! Karl wrestled the fish on board while Heather slowly steered through the rocky patches and into clear water. Phew! The Green Jobfish we caught is a member of the snapper family. We sat on a little sandy beach having a cold beer while the fish smo ked in our smoker. A great lunchtime treat! Last night we were back in the harbour again to help Wanda from "Vegas" celebrate her Birthday. A table of 13 of us had dinner at The Beach House - great food and good company. At the next table, the Crown Prince and his body guards were having dinner. After dinner the whole group went on the The Bounty Bar to continue celebrations and surprised Wanda with a Birthday cake. By the time we got back to the boat it was 1am! It will be a quiet day today :-)

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On Saturday we visited the tiny island of Lape with friends Pieter and Sarah. There are 26 people living here from 5 families and the school has 8 children. We were invited to see the school and were amazed to see everything so well laid out and organised. Going to school here would be a special experience! The whole island is very tidy and clean, in fact it is the only one we have seen where the pigs are kept in a pen rather than running through the gardens and digging up the ground. We were Read more...

treated to a traditional Tongan feast on Lape and especially enjoyed the fish dishes, one raw (marinated in coconut milk) and one sweet and sour. The four of us went to a very large church in Neiafu on Sunday. It was packed full, with people sitting on the floor at the back. Everyone was wearing beautiful brightly coloured clothes and the throng of singing voices was amazing. No instrumental back up required, the Tongans sung in perfect harmony and good heart. A wonderful experience. Lat er we visited the island of Tapana where a floating art gallery sits. This is a tiny house boat and is known as the Ark Gallery, featuring art inspired by local scenes. After a week of swimming snorkeling and exploring we had a farewell dinner on Tuesday night at Mango Cafe, to say goodbye to Pieter and Sarah and have an early Birthday celebration for Sarah. Today we visited the village of Toula at the far end of Neiafu harbour to get our LPG bottle filled. After walking for a while with our empty bottle a gas company truck came along and told us to get in the back. So we had a ride to the gas filling station on the back of a flat bed truck amongst the rows of gas bottles! Another new experience and good fun. The village of Toula is the first one we have seen with rubbish bins and recycling bins along the street. This initiative seems to be working as the streets are relatively free of rubbish and the whole place looks cared for. Other villages, including the main town of Ne iafu, seem to be drowning in empty soft drink cans and plastic wrappers from chips and noodle packets. The rubbish in most villages really spoils the scenery, but Toula looks and feels like paradise with clean streets and pretty gardens overlooking the harbour.

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Many of the anchorages in the Vava'u group are in quite deep water but we have found some special places for great snorkeling. One of the outer islands, Avalau has a lovely white sandy beach and a beautiful reef with plenty of colourful fish. We thought this spot was amazing until we went to Kapa Island and went snorkeling at Barnacle Beach. Wow!We were swimming through schools of thousands of fish. Incredible!! It was like being in a snow storm, with tiny sliver fish zipping past everywhere we Read more...

looked. Yesterday we had a look at Fotula Island reef. Not as many fish but the water was as clear as you can imagine. Even in 25m of water you can see the bottom clearly. Just beautiful. On Wednesday we collected our friends Pieter and Sarah from the airport, they have come to stay with us for a week and we have been looking forward to seeing them. Thankfully their flight was only an hour late - earlier in the week some people were delayed by a few days! Tt seems internal flights from Tongatapu to Vava'u are not very reliable. We all went to the Fakaleiti show Wednesday night, which was very entertaining! In Tonga, if a mother has too many sons, she raises one of them as a girl to help with washing and cooking etc. These boy girls are dressed in pretty dresses and are taught to be more feminine than natural girls who run around in shorts and t-shirts. As adults the Fakaleiti (Faka = in the manne