Viti Levu

We’re in Musket Cove! Such a famous watering hole and it lives up to expectation. The resort is yachtie friendly, a rare treat! There is also a yacht club and we are on a mooring just outside the resort and allowed to use the swimming pools, beach and all its facilities. The kids are ecstatic and a few days of fun and relaxation are well deserved.

It took us a three days to sail all the way from Naigani island on the north-east side of the main island (Viti Levu) to the west side. We weaved our way through the numerous reefs and enjoyed some flat water sailing. Heavenly.

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Sailing along the north-side of Viti Levu, weaving our way through the reefs

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Anchored for the night in Vitogo bay, Viti Levu

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Back to school!

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Wahoo for dinner! Yum!

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After three failed attempts, I got the bread making process right! It takes practice…

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Rehua’s tropical fruit basket

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Happy locals

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As we get more west, beautiful sandy islands start appearing everywhere…

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…some are exclusive island resorts

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approaching Malololailai island

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Musket cove, Malololailai island

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Kids can’t get enough of the pool …

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Fiji, first impressions

After completing the entry formalities on Thursday we went ashore for some pizza and beers and then had an early night. The next morning we were woken up very early by someone knocking on the hull. Seathan got out of bed and mumbled, “If this is someone trying to sell necklaces it won’t be his best day! There better be a good reason!” And there was. Our neighbour was stern to and parallel to our boat and close to hitting us. We were both on mooring buoys but because it was dead calm, the boats had started drifting in irregular patterns. Disaster averted. We moved the boat and got on with our day. There was a bit more paperwork to complete on Friday; we applied for a cruising permit that will allow us to explore all areas including the outer islands. Fiji has more than 300 islands of which about half are inhabited and we wanted to get permission to visit all of it.

The turnaround was pretty fast and we got our cruising permit the same afternoon. We decided three nights in Savusavu would be enough and it was time to go and find some turquoise water. Seathan and I went to the local market to stock up on fruit and vegetables while the boys joined the local children for Saturday Optimist sailing class in the bay.

Savusavu is a small town with one main street, a couple of supermarkets, a hardware store, a fruit and vegetable market, a petrol station, several restaurants, etc. The atmosphere on Saturday morning was buzzing. Busloads of people from nearby villages were dropped off to do their weekly shopping. The market was a joy to shop at. No haggling, no pushy sales techniques, all the prices nicely advertised (and very cheap) and such friendly locals. Especially the native Fijians are such smiley and happy people. About half of the population in Fiji is ethnic Fijian and around 40% are of Indian descent. They were brought here by the British to work on the sugar cane plantations and their cultural influence is very noticeable.

We also bought some kava root. Even though we have a cruising permit, every time we anchor near a village we have to offer the local chief some kava root and ask his permission to stay. A welcome ceremony called “sevusevu” then follows whereby the kava root is prepared into a drink and shared around. We have yet to experience this!

After a lovely meal out on Saturday night to celebrate our friend Bruce’s birthday, we left early on Sunday morning to sail to a nearby island. There was a lovely breeze and we dropped anchor in some turquoise water a couple of hours later near Namena island. This lagoon inside a reef is a nature reserve with a small resort. Everything was destroyed by cyclone Winston and the island was left looking rough and ravaged. We enjoyed a lovely swim and snorkel and the next day continued to Naigani Island where yet again we anchored inside a reef and enjoyed some turquoise water. Same destruction and not much left of the palm trees and banana trees that once stood here. It’s pretty horrible to imagine what it must have been like when the cyclone raged over. The corals seem pretty much intact though and we saw some beautiful fishes when we went snorkeling.

After two nights we are ready to weigh anchor again and continue south to Viti Levu, which is the main island.

goodmorning Savusavu!

kids enjoying being on land again

Saturday sailing class

the local market, great fruit and veg

stocking up on kava root

essentials sorted: beer, gas and kava root

Bruce’s birthday dinner

Namena island, ravaged by Winston

Naigani island, or what’s left of it

sundowners on the beach

not a bad view!

1200 nautical miles later

Seathan did a final weather check early on Tuesday morning and decided the window looked better than initially hoped so we all got into action and started preparing our departure for midday. We rang Customs (who also handle immigration on departure) and they offered to come to see us in Orakei marina which made everything much easier for us. The whole process was fast and efficient and the Customs officer very friendly and professional. We had one form and four departure cards (similar to the ones used in the airport) to fill out and received our clearance document. We were free to go! Karen, the Customs officer, also mentioned that five other boats were getting ready to depart today too and she would pass us their names and details so we could stay in touch once we were out there. Eventually it was mid afternoon by the time we left and we had crammed a lot of final prep into one morning: stowing, another trip to the supermarket and the ships chandlery, filling up with diesel, …

We were happy to throw the lines and say goodbye to Auckland for a second time. It was a beautiful calm afternoon and stayed that way as we sailed into the night. As we headed further north and lost the protection and cover provided by the mainland, the wind grew stronger and day 1 was spent in a heavy sea with winds forward of the beam which translated into a lot of banging and slamming. Even though the kids and I had taken preventive anti-seasickness tablets I didn’t feel so well and neither did Tyrii. Aeneas seemed fine and was happy playing with Lego. Seathan did most of the sailing, cooking and looking after everyone. I managed to do one shift at night so at least Seathan got a few hours sleep.

Day 2 was even heavier and the wind kept building. At one point (and Seathan only told me this afterwards) we measured 45 knots. The waves were steap and high as walls. We knew there would be some heavy weather for a couple of days but this was much worse than expected. Several big waves crashed over the top of the cockpit and slammed in the windscreen. Once it started raining it came down like a waterfall. The kids and I huddled together inside the cockpit which was still protected on one side from the rain by the plastic clears we had put up. Not a happy morning and I have to admit I felt a bit scared. This was probably as heavy a storm as we ever had in our two years away.

In the midst of all this crazy weather we saw a pod of hunting dolphins, six or seven of them jumping in and out of the huge waves in perfect synchronisation. They didn’t seem bothered by the storm at all. A bit later a very gracious big bird came to check us out and we soon realised it was an albatross. Such a beautiful sight to see it gliding past us using its massive wingspan so effortlessly and elegantly. I remembered that the sight of an albatross is meant to be a good omen and although I’m normally not a superstitious person, one is happy to believe anything if it can help getting out of a horrible situation. Sure enough, soon after we experienced a very sudden and significant wind shift of about 120 degrees which meant we could start running with this heavy weather rather than beating into it. What a relief. And although the wind continued to be strong and the sea state remained extremely confused for the rest of the day, we all understood that the worst weather was over and the promised southerly winds had arrived as per the forecast.

Another heavy night followed and again Seathan did most of the sailing. I took over around 2 am and stayed on watch until sunrise to give him some much needed rest. Day 3 followed and things started looking up. The wind was still in the high twenties to mid thirties and the waves very big but at least we were in a following sea. I managed to cook a hot meal for the first time since we left that night. So far we had managed with rice cakes, snacks and pasta and it felt good to get back to normal routines. The kids even got to watch a movie that evening!

And so the next few days got better and better, the wind calmed down, the temperature kept rising and everyone settled into our usual happy routine at sea we hadn’t experienced for a long time. Not that bad after all. I was no longer enviously thinking of that short 3 hour flight from Auckland to Fiji and happily chilled at last. We got used to the night shifts and routine of sleeping 3 hours on and off. During the day Seathan got on with polishing and other maintenance jobs whereas I preferred to nap or read my book. The kids spent most of the day playing with Lego and the evening watching a movie and then making up crazy stories for their cuddly toys once in bed.  We were in perfect harmony and nobody minded that the wind was now quite light and it would take us at least one extra day to get there. How things can change in just a few days.

Rehua had handled the heavy weather really well and we were happy to have chosen this boat to take us around the world. As the weather calmed down we realised we had not incurred any breakages and counted ourselves very lucky. The only problem that propped up in the following few days was some sort of autopilot failure whereby all of a sudden the boat would wander off course and head into the wind, sails flapping loudly. Usually, when there is a big windshift or any other change in circumstance, the autopilot will sound an alarm but not this time. It still appeared as if it was working only it wasn’t. That was scary, and it always happened when I was at the helm and Seathan was inside. Several theories and manuals later we discovered it wasn’t a bad connection or electronics failure but quite simply due to interference of the SSB (single side band) radio we use to send emails and get weather reports and to join a daily weather call with Gulf harbour radio. The fact that it kept happening every time Seathan was using the HF soon made that obvious. Simply using a different frequency solved the problem. Phew. I was happy no to have to repeat our last episode of manually steering across the Atlantic with an emergency helmstick.

It’s impossible to predict exact arrival time on a longer crossing so we basically had a 50/50 chance of arriving in daylight. As the winds got lighter we tried several alternative sail combinations: normal genoa and mainsail set up, goose winged,  spinnaker, … Eventually we settled for our new code zero sail which worked beautifully for downwind sailing. It gave us maximum output with light winds and is a a great addition to our wardrobe. We relaxed and enjoyed those perfect few days sailing downwind on a flat sea. We slowed down to avoid arriving during the night (too many reefs) and frankly were enjoying the journey itself too much to hurry. The last days of the trip were so pleasant, I almost didn’t want the trip to end. We still experienced a few nasty squalls but overall the weather was perfect and the nights were lit up by the full moon, which makes nighttime sailing so much easier. And as we sailed back into the tropics, the warm tropical temperatures made a welcome return to our lives!

After nearly 8 days at sea, on Wednesday morning, we sighted land. Luscious green mountainous islands started popping up around us, as did many reefs and lower lying atolls. We still had a fair distance to go to Savusavu, where we planned to clear in, and worked our way past many islands for the rest of the afternoon and the evening. In the early hours of Thursday morning, exactly 8.5 days after leaving Auckland we  dropped the anchor just outside Savusavu next to Toucan. Our friends had left their AIS on so we could see where they were on our chart plotter as we approached and anchor safely in the dark. We had sailed 1,200 nautical miles (as the crow flies) and this was probably one of our toughest crossings so a a quick celebratory beer was in order before we caught up on some much needed sleep. The next morning we were very happy to see Bruce and Di and then proceeded to Savusavu, a few miles up a creek, to clear in. On the radio, on our way in, we were asked some very strange (but apparently standard official) questions: Did we have mice or rats on board? Did anyone die? Did anyone have fever? Or an infectious disease?

Clearing in was easy enough. Firstly, we were visited onboard by two officials of the Department of Health. Once they were satisfied all was in order, we were allowed to take the yellow Q-flag down and hoist the Fiji flag. A little later followed officials from Immigration, Customs and Biosecurity. A lot of form-filling and then we were free to go ashore. First stop: beer and pizza at the local yacht club!

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We had three days of very rough weather … unfortunately I didn’t take many photos


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Happy boys, after the storm had passed


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Our new code zero sail did great in the lighter winds


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A stunning sunrise during my early morning watch


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And another one…


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And one more!


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Last one, I promise!


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Four happy cruisers!


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Sunset over Fiji as we approach our destination


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Great to see Toucan again!


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Sailing up the creek to Savusavu to clear in


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Savusavu town


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We’re cleared in and flying the Fijian flag


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Rehua on a mooring in Savusavu


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Pizza anyone?

 

 

 

Downhill to Fiji

Position 20 19S 178 48E
SOG 5+knts
COG 000T
Wind SE 13knts
Sea state 2 1/2mtrs SW
Pressure 1018mb stable
All good out here, slowed down for a Thursday arrival into Savu Savu, the sun has made a cameo, the sea is aft and most important the crew are all happy. Rehua.

Home Run.

Date 20-07-16 NZST
Position 18 45S 179 04E
SOG 8+ knts
COG 000T
Wind S 10-14knts T
Sea state 1m on the beam mtrs
Pressure 1018mb stable
Last night was pretty variable, wind backed round to the ESE and the new seaway kept the boat rocking and rolling, coupled with some rather large and aggresive squalls it was a busy evening, the moon was full and while we weren’t in the rain the sea was beautiful as the moon set this morning darkness descended and low and behold in the West a rainbow, incredible a silver rainbow from the moonlight stunning and something I have never seen before. I know I know photos or it never happened, truth, there was no way to stabilize the camera for that length of exposure, I’ll paint you a picture.
We have decided on a night approach and the numbers say sometime around 0100hrs we should be dropping the hook, lets hope the Fijians have paid their electricity bill!! We are romping along 8knts + with 120nm to cover.
Till then.
Rehua out.

Downhill to Fiji

Position 22 56S 179 23E
SOG 6+knts
COG 000T
Wind SW 13knts
Sea state 3mtrs SW
Pressure 1019mb stable
Theoretically after the halfway it’s downhill on the home run so to speak but the wind isn’t playing ball, our course is good but the speed is leaving something to be desired.
All aboard on good form and we have an almost full moon to sail by at night, after it sets, a fantastic light show from the stars. Our ETA is Thursday am.
Rehua standing by.

Tranquility base.

Date 17-07-16 NZST
Position 24 51S 179 19E
SOG 5 knts
COG 000T
Wind S 8-10knts
Sea state 3 mtrs
Pressure 1020mb stable
Someone turned the fan off but forgot about the wave machine, crickey who’s running this pool? We are moseying along today, and the boat is quiet, no jolting around, no gremlins hammering away at the bridgedeck, our timing as predicted has gone out of the window and we could be out here for another week or so at this rate, its not all bad, the sun is shining and the sea has warmed to 25C.
The boys have been laid a challenge to build something in Lego using every block, that should keep em busy for a while there are four storage boxes to get through.
The morning has been spent de-salting the decks and stainless, looking out the port-lights I can seed drifts of salt over a centimeter high, must find a way to harvest the stuff, that’s Christmas sorted.
Off to start my nightshift first watch 8-11 then Audrie and I swap every three hours until 0800hrs when the fun starts again numerous breakfasts, clothes changes, toys out, quick scrap over one particular lego or playmobile figure, thenbest mates for the rest of the day……..pure heaven. Rehua Out.

Halfway…..with poetry.

Position 27 59S 179 19E
SOG 8-9 knts
COG 018T
Wind WSW 25-30knts
Sea state 4 mtrs, WSW steep and breaking
Pressure 1020mb stable
600 down 600 to go, “cannons to the left cannons to the right onward rode the 600” not sure about the analogy there but hey some of these waves sound like cannons when they hit us, the sailing today is exhilarating, steady 8-9knts but great surfing into the mid teens. We have Minerva reef directly in our path 250nm up the track and are trying to tighten our course to stay West of it but the sea-state is slapping us around like a matchbox on steroids.
The sun is out and were chomping the miles a quick calc tells me at this rate we will be on the hook in 3 days, Ha Ha best laid plans…we’ll see!
Boys have invented an alarming new game where they jump into midair as we drop off the back of a wave and the cabin sole disappears from under them, someone’s going to get hurt, but daddy its just like floating in space……RIGHT! School with buckets……. NO WAY!
Boat behaving like a thoroughbred long may it last.
The SSB with the pactor modem is firing on eight cylinders this morning the emails are flying out, why did we pay for all that satellite time???? Rehua surfing by.

Bungeed to Nth Cape

Position 30 47S 178 23E
SOG 8-15knts
COG 008T
Wind SW 20-27knts
Sea state 3mtrs SW
Pressure 1020mb stable
Were sailing as fast as we can, almost, but every time I mark our position were still over the top of NZ what gives? I checked the stern for a line or bungee cord but nope were free, I guess its just a long way! The conditions are nigh on perfect today, breeze, sun (albeit still bloody freezing)and the boat is heading in the right direction. Not much to report everybodies back on form after a couple of hiccoughs yesterday, buckets were shipped fore and aft as the afflicted were tended to, today its back to the cookie cupboard like a couple of bears out of hibernation, great to see!
Tonight we will cross the magical (to us) 30 degrees south line, it means more to us than the equator ever did, things change at 30, the sea comes alive again the colours change, and the temperature starts to creep back up, so that means fishing tonight, yeah, we are are hanging out for some $70 a kilo fish, gratis, the wasabi and ginger are waiting.
If you want to send a message use the “ZJL8043@sailmail.com” address as the other is out of order. Standard rules, no piccys, fancy headers or drivel!
Seathan.
Rehua

Jailbreak

Position 33 17S 177 38E
SOG 9-10knts
COG 020T
Wind SW 20-30knts
Sea state 3-4mtrs E and N and SW
Pressure 1015mb stable
JAILBREAK
What a night followed by the morning from hell, we hit the predicted Northerlies early yesterday and sailed the knock until it became to hard to take the course back into Kaitia, at 1500hrs we threw a tack onto port and continued to lift onto a reasonable course 45 degrees off the Fiji rhumb line. (don’t those two words go well together!)
This morning the wind had built to 30-35 as predicted with a shocker of a new swell on top of the old easterly, it then continued to build and finally topped out 4 hours later at 43 knts; going to windward in a cat gets tough at this point, some top mark skills were used as we still had a double reefed main and half a genoa up, feathering was the order of the day, just when it was looking like a “heave to” rather than run off situation, the rain came, like a 43 knt runaway liquid wall, as we drove through it flattened the the rogue sheep and dropped the vis so we couldn’t see the front of the boat, but the shift came with it; backed and backed right into the SW, this was the biggest get of of jail free card we have ever received, to say it was a tense morning would be an understatement, but the SW change came a few hours early thankyou HUEY….
So after a very inauspicious start 140nm day yesterday (Cats to windward Tch Tch) we should start to knock some latitude on the head today.
Today was the first time we have ever shipped solid water from stem to stern…….. the windows held 🙂 Happy days indeed,
Seathan Audrie and the boys
Rehua