We are anchored with Phil from Parotia off the beach at Somosomo town on Taveuni island. First go is a taxi ride to the gas depot to see if we can get Spill the Wine’s propane tanks filled. Can’t do. This location does not have fittings for my tanks. And they have butane only on which my outboard does not run well at all. They recommend I check Savusavu. But I’ve been there. They had the fittings but still butane only. Have to wait until Vuda point on the South island, Viti Levu. We have enough fuel to get by.

Back to town to get supplies. Some groceries, some veggies, some beer. Taxi back to the beach and load the dinghy.

Spill The Wine’s next leg is into the Lau Group. Nancy thinks that sounds like too much sailing for her taste and would prefer to relax on Taveuni island for a bit and meet us in Vuda Point after the Lau leg. I will miss her but she’s right, the Lau leg is a lot of sailing. She’s happy that Kat is on board to share in the deck work and watches.

Nancy and I taxi up the coast and check into a really cool placeimg_20180604_122045568_hdr

But they have coconut issues.  There a dozen bungalows on a hill looking over the Somosomo channel between Taveuni and Vanua Levu. Nice pool. Nice fellow guests. We met Seamus and Sarah. A lot Irish in a fun way.

The next morning I return to STW and we get ready to make our way to the Lau group. img_20180606_172635818-effectsPhil will be traveling with us on his boat Parotia. We make it to the other side of Taviuni. Anchored in a quiet cove that turned out to be fairly well influenced by ocean swell. That’s Rock and Roll people! The next day we go ashore and Rajan is waiting for us.       “So and so told me you wanted a ride to the waterfalls.” Well we do. And we are in the middle of a sparsely populated zone. It’s like we rubbed a magic lamp or something. He tells us he was born on Taviuni and lived all of his 58 years here. Why not? It’s called the Garden island. So named for it’s lush foliage fueled by plenty of rain.img_20180609_152513366_hdr

Rajan is ready to haul us off to the Tavoro Falls in Bouma Park. Decent dirt road.

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The path to the first fall is practically lawn.

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The first falls are a short hike in. Great to swim in but we passed for the moment.  There are some cruise ship leftovers from the small cruise ship nearby. We had passed quite a few of their passengers on the trail hiking back down to their transport. Some were quite ancient and still doing it. We were impressed. The second falls are further on and the path more challenging. IMG_20180609_114513138

Ford river on slippery rocks with dodgy rope to help you. After the second falls Ford again.

AAA Falls CB Phil

Third falls had the best swimming hole but all were awesome.  Falls number two and three require quite a bit of elevation gain but we’re certainly worth it.

Phil is a bird watching guy. There was one sort of bird he came to Taveuni to see. A Silktail. Only on Taveuni. AAA Silktale

Stop squinting.  The photo really is blurry.  On the hike we saw two pairs and noted a nest as well. Phil got photos and video of them and their nest. He was in birder heaven.

After a few hours of that we came down and there was Rajan. Thanks for waiting man! If you ever need a ride to Tavoro falls ask for Rajan. Tell him 2 meter Chris from Spill the Wine sent you.

Rajan takes us back to our boats and after dinner we napped until midnight. Then we got up and headed out the channel making our way towards the Lau group. Goal was to time our departure so that we would arrive Lao  decently before dark. Wind was pretty good but not quite in the right direction the whole trip so we motored a bit as well.

We investigated a small island on the way pretty close to our destination. Cool reef, nice beach, no people. But the pass was marginally deep. I need 2 meters and it was barely there. I’ll come back some lonesome day at high tide when I’ve had more sleep.


We carry on to the anchorage at Bay of Islands.  Phil captures Spill The Wine at anchor with his drone camera.  The setting was magazine cover spectacular.


In fact I spotted our anchor spot on a Fiji Magazine back cover.  Very interesting topography here. Like the moon with water.AAA hats.JPG

Kat and I put on silly hats and set off to frighten the neighbors. Unsuccessful. A couple invited us to movie night on the foredeck of their catamaran. Fun. We met Hugh and Olga there and toured their catamaran after the movie.  More fun people.

The following day we note a number of new boats in the anchorage. A rally called the WorldARC has arrived. We joined a group of about 25 of them to go visit a half submerged cave with bats. Pretty cool but I have to say I have become quite unfamiliar with crowds like this. Claustrophobic. Not a big deal but I noticed.

Phil and I dinghy over to the village of Daliconi to pay our respects. This is important. If I have not mentioned it before if you visit an inhabited peripheral island a gift of kava root is traditional and we bring some. We offer the chief the amazing opportunity to have a goofy eye Dr and crew take a look at his population to see if they need spex. I think there are 130 people living in the village. They won’t all show up. Which is fine. We don’t have a big enough team to see them all in one day. We only have reading glasses but that is the most frequent problem that causes people to be interested in an exam.

He thinks that’s a fine idea. Phil and I dinghy back to our boats. His outboard’s gear shifting lever breaks. Making it hard to…., well…., shift! Into fwd, reverse, and back. The process is: start the motor in neutral, then shift into gear. If you can’t shift, its a long walk back to the anchorage. As it happens this failed in a very narrow shallow pass. So we really could have walked home. We figure out a way to make a lever out of a bailer. It won’t last long but it gets us home.

That night after fabulous chicken burritos and some libations I was able to recruit an eye team. Phil, Katarina, Hugh, and Olga will head to the village tomorrow for the Eye-Invasion.

Lazy morning. AAA Paddle1.JPG

Olga convinced me to try stand up paddle boarding. A brilliant way to see the anchorage. And my legs were only a little sore afterwards. Let’s just say this is a skill I am still acquiring.

Then to work. Hugh’s dinghy is large enough for all of us and gear to make the 5 miles to the village.AAA Israel

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I’ll interview and examine, even though I have really bad dinghy hair.


Phil and Kat work dispensing readers.



Olga and Hugh are photographers and and prove to be quite capable of entertaining the crowd.


Phil did some juggling which fired up the small ones.


Then Hugh started to juggle the children. One at a time granted but this was very popular.

The clinic went well. Lovely people. Mostly glasses related concerns and one foreign body removal. “My eye is sore and red for two months now doc!”. Well there was a reason.

AAA Israel

One of the village elders, Israel, invited us back the next day for dinner. Kat and I brought Spill the Wine over in the afternoon. Extracting ourselves from the anchorage proves interesting. Another friendly reef caresses the keel. Not on my chart. Even Google Earth doesn’t show much there. There was a recommended course line that Kat had loaded. It’s hard to follow those precisely by hand and I was close but not close enough. Too soon old too late smart. No damage as we were going slow.


We anchor off the village and go ashore to Israel’s house. Lobster with spinach and kasava greet us. Israel’s cousin attends. She lived in the US for much of her life. She is moving back to the village now. She was born here. As her English is flawless she is able to tell us quite a bit about the mechanics of life in Fiji. Tomorrow a truck will come and take people to the larger village of Lomolomo for supplies. We sign up to go and head back to the boat. Many thanks to our very generous hosts! Besides being tired from too much sun today, the invisible mosquitoes get about half a pint. Time to retire.


Through the Lau Group

This morning we dinghy’d in to the same village where we had dinner yesterday.


Plenty of time to relax with the rest of the folks waiting for the truck. It will be here sooner. Or later. But right on Fiji Time. Time has a different meaning here. Quite a few villagers are going. The chief (on my left napping) and Israel among them. Maybe the truck holds 20.


And off we go. The road is mostly dirt. Steeper bits are paved with two strips of concrete, one for each tire. You could say lumpy ride, but the scenery was very interesting. There were forests of some sort of strait tall evergreen tree. Until cyclone Winston.


Now the ones that remain vertical are dead and branchless. I have to think these were an introduced species. They seem quite unsuited to the cyclone zone.

When we get to town the post shop is the first stop. Supposedly where you can get cash from a debit card. But not today. The cash is supposed to arrive from somewhere by noon. Hmm. Noon. Fiji noon… Could be awhile. Anyway I’m not out of cash yet so we get some eggs and milk and carry on. This becomes an inconvenience later.

We catch the next truck and head back to the boat. Say goodbye to Israel and company and dinghy back to Spill the Wine. We expect winds close to 20 knots. So Kat thoroughly ties down the kayak on the foredeck. I deflate the dinghy, bag it and it gets tied down to the foredeck.

We had thought to go to Falanga. But it’s quite far, upwind, and probably populated with WorldARC boats. That was enough zoo at our anchorage yesterday. There is an island called Namuka nearby that we can reach in daylight hours that looks like it might have a passage through its reef. But it is hard to find out for sure. We’ll look.

Passage went well. We had to motor a bit as our destination is quite directly up wind. But we arrive to what appears to be an uninhabited island. Reef pass worked. Cove with dramatic limestone shoreline. A couple of beaches. Sand bottom 12 feet under Spill the Wine. After we anchor and start to unwind a fishing boat shows up. Not a lot of English happening here but they gave us some kind of fish.


A Salala and a Kasika.  Of Course!  Whatever.  They were quite tasty.


We cooked one on the Egg and one became sushi. We had gifts for the fishing guys too.

The next morning we met Atu. He motored through the cove with one of his daughters. He offers to take us around the corner to the village and introduce us to the chief. Turns out Chief died as of the beginning of the year. Voice of Chief is still with us. Kind of like a vice president. He welcome us and tells us we are the first Yacht to come this season. We present him with the kava and offer to do some eye work at his village. Seems quite open to our project. We head back to Atu’s house for some bread they bake in an Earth oven.


We meet his wife and daughters. And just visit for a bit.

The Methodist Church next door is having services. Lots of singing. Beautiful. Atu is 7th day Adventist. They worship in a different building on a different day. Religion is a bigger part of life in Fiji than I am used to seeing.

Then Atu takes us for a tour of the village. There are about 300 people here.

AAA School

We stop at the local school to use their internet. Thank you! We made a donation to their children’s school uniform fund. They have English words painted in the rafters and elsewhere. It will become their second language. Schools where I come from use bells for lunch etc. Here it’s drums. A traditional large tree trunk carved into a drum. Way more fun than a bell.  I should have taken photos of the students darn it!  Awesome uniforms!

AAA Dog school

Even dogs go to school here.  Their English needs work too.

There are a couple of very limited inventory shops.  A nurse’s office.

AAA Tapa still

We encounter some women making Tapa. It’s between cloth and paper. Made by hammering wood fibers pulled from just under the bark of a particular tree.  Very traditional.


Further on they are processing copra. I’d heard of this many times but never quite understood what it was about. It’s about coconut oil. They dry the coconuts and extract the oil from the coconut meat.  This is a large industry.  Coconut oil is sold in every Fiji market and shop it seems.

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This is a poor photo but you can see how water is collected from the roofs and diverted into a cistern beyond the tree.  Water is precious. No fresh ground water on this island.  There are no land vehicles of any kind here and if there were, washing them would not be popular.


Cyclone zone.  A building with round ends is less likely to blow away in a cyclone.  This building is built like that and is one of the older structures in the village.  Strange thing is they don’t make the round ended ones anymore.  Recent buildings are square.

AAA Cave.jpg

If you would like to bathe there are two choices. Two caves. One on either end of the village. Which contain pools that are a bit salty but less than the sea. They have been in use as long as people have lived on this island. No one was able to tell me just how long that might have been.

There is electricity from a diesel generator from 6 to 10 pm. But we pass a house that has its own generator. They have a freezer. The fishermen store their fish here and when the supply ship comes the fish enter the supply chain for the main island. 4 hrs a day of power is not enough to keep a freezer happy, hence a dedicated generator.


Atu guided us down the trail to the cove where we anchored. Along the way is his garden. Sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant. Further on is the coconut grove planted by his grandfather. He tells me that all the coconut trees on the island were planted. He shows us how to knock the fresh ones out of the tree.

AAA Atu coco.jpg

He whacks one and we drink it. It’s been a long walk.

He shows us a trick for tying coconuts together in pairs to make them easier to carry. Spill the Wine needs a coconut machete.

Next day Atu comes to pick us up for the eye clinic at 0815. We head for the village against the wind and waves. And there is plenty of both even inside the reef. But there is no hurry.


My hair still looks weird.  We set up in Atu’s house. It wouldn’t be a Fiji thing to do counting patients. So we don’t. But there were probably 50 patients like at the last village. There usually are not many nearsighted ones, but maybe a few more than usual in this village. I did not bring many nearsighted spex but was able to give a few of what I had out.


We spent the afternoon snorkeling.  Atu took us to their Clam Garden.  The villagers have collected 120 giant clams outside the reef and brought them into the lagoon.  And they are as big as good sized dogs.  Without legs I suppose.  And they have begun a program of propagation.

After clinic we Atu takes us back to Spill the Wine. I sat on my transom to remove the husk from one of the coconuts with a cleaver. Success there leaves me with fresh husk debris all over the swim step. I learn that the juice from the husk leaves brown stains on my fiberglass, aieee! There will be some boat polishing in my near future.

It’s “No Schedule Wednesday.”

AAA Dinghy.jpg

Check the reef under the dinghy!  Photo credit Kat.  A good day for a dinghy ride up the north shore of the island and look for caves.

AAA Terrain.jpg

The NW shoreline is dramatically vertical rising to perhaps 600 feet. You’ll see isolated coconut groves about 75 feet up where there are flat spots. Those coconuts did not get put there by the sea.  Some ambitious hoser planted them.

AAA Beach.jpg

There is a beach protected by isolated rocks whose strange erosion patterns make it possible to imagine that they might be lots of different things. It’s kind of like looking at clouds.  Notice the shoreline and lots of the rocks are undercut by the water.

AAA Temple of Doom.jpg

The root patterns on these trees are amazing!  And apparently need climbing.  I hope Kat never grows up.  We are thinking of our friend Oceana just here.  She is a climber too.

Kat snorkels and declared our own anchorage to have superior snorkeling. We round up some plastic beach trash and a machete I found as well. Just when I was thinking STW needed a machete. I should have asked for a not so rusty one… Our ride north was against the wind and waves. The ride back to STW is much smoother!

As we approach the anchorage we spot Atu. He was planning to join us and take us ashore to hunt for coconut crabs. We find a couple. Odd critters. And yes they do make their living eating coconuts. Atu tells us they get as large as 5lbs. Rare though. They get hunted. Smaller ones are more common.  but they are quick.

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Here is the best photo I got of one of those coconut crabs.

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Here is a photo of a not-coconut crab that actually sat still for the photo.

The life cycle is such that hunting coconut crabs is not terribly sustainable. Their habitat is a small fraction of this 6 x 2 mile island. And there are 300 people. If they start exporting them it’s over. Many South Pacific islands no longer have coconut crabs. This is obviously short sighted but I’m not convinced people on mainlands behave anymore thoughtfully. Overfishing, overforesting, over consuming, overpopulating. Color us all a problem.

AAA Sanding bread.jpg

Thursday we have invited Atu to bring his family on board and Kat will make pizza for them all. That will be Atu, his wife and her sister, and 5 children.

AAA Atu Crew

We planned a three hour tour but there is no wind. And I forgot how it goes with children. A little bit of swell goes a long, wrong, way. It was not too messy but it was time to head back shortly after we started.

AAA Chair.jpg

Putting this one in the hanging chair proved to be a less than good idea…   🙂

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This is the only daughter that did not get seasick.  Maybe she will grow up and be my crew.

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We had a picnic on the beach and then did the pizzas at anchor.

AAA FijiGum.jpg

The kids introduced me to “Fiji gum”. This is a berry as big as my thumb. You peel it and chew. It seems unlikely that this stringy mass will turn into gum but it does. And it sticks to your teeth. And everything else. Beware Fiji gum!

AAA Ball crop

Kat has a trick ball that bounces on the water.  The kid on the right had the best attitude on the planet.


And Kat’s kayak is very popular.


Atu gives us a parting gift of some fruit and priceless leafy greens. It’s been awhile. He gets to take some leftover pizza back home.  I call this a Fiji briefcase.  A woven bag from palm leaves.  Its what they used before those wonderful plastic bags that are choking the Earth were invented.


Looks like the Captain has some sort of rash?  Or is that a mysterious tuber Atu gave us?  We’ll see about this…

We sat down with Atu to review our week. The village would like to attract more yachts. They currently export coconuts (copra), coconut oil and frozen fish. They just launched a program to create a clam garden of giant clams. There are now about 120 of them in rows in one part of their lagoon. For $25 they will take you there for a snorkel. It’s pretty cool. But really, a nice reef with giant clams as a natural part of it would be more fun.

When we arranged to have Atu tour us around I explained that we were short of cash. My next adventure on the big island will be to send him some Fiji dollars via the post office. Like Western Union, just local.  This proves to be pretty easy.

They are puzzling over what sort of handicrafts might appeal to yachts that might provide income for the island. Some of the inhabitants have worked away from this island in the tourism industry and have seen this sort of trade in action.

Cruise ship passengers are more likely to buy things to take home. Yacht dwellers try to avoid collecting things.  Boat gets full soon enough.  So shelf stuff is not what will bring them or impress them.

We recommended they provide opportunities for experiences. Maybe a dinner at the village cooked in their Polynesian earth oven. Maybe the clam garden. Although it kind of did look like a clam parking lot. Reef snorkel tour. Also groceries. This is Big Deal. If they fatten up their gardens so they have veggies to spare they will be the most popular island in Fiji. Off the main islands veggies are home grown. So for traveling yachts there is no access to that. And we miss our veggies. But number one asset is really the communal culture of the village. And the friendly nature of all the citizens that live there. Turning Namuka I-Lao into a theme park and a casino would be the end of all that. It would no longer be a unique place to visit. But I suppose you could hire a advertising firm to promote the world’s largest giant clam parking lot.

After Atu said adieu Kat and I got busy putting Spill the Wine in order for passage. Tie the kayak to the rail. Drop the fishing spear point. Dive for it. Fail to find it. Clean the dinghy hull of growth. Remove/stow the outboard. Hoist dinghy onto foredeck. Deflate. Put into storage bag. Tie down. The handheld depth sounder got water into it. Again.  This is my second one of these.  The first one died of water ingress too.  Tear that up and dehydrate it with fingers crossed. Check weather. Make waypoints and route. Load same into chart plotter. Man it’s a bit of a job to get ready.

Depth sounder proves to be unrecoverable this time.


I finally find its special purpose.  Handy popcorn container/shaker for musical moments.

After a nap we are up at midnight and weighing anchor. This should have us arriving at our Kadavu island destination about noon in a day and a half. Always best to have light to navigate a new destination.

Making your way through a reef pass, precise navigation is critical. Especially at midnight. And as we approach the chart plotter loses its fix and does not know where we are. No GPS data. And so it is not able to guide us through the pass with the precision necessary to avoid the big crunch in this case.

Hold on. Before you deploy the liferaft I should tell you that Kat has spent quite a bit of time getting acquainted with OpenCPN.  (OpenCPN.org)  This is an open source chart plotter program for your computer. She brings her laptop to the cockpit and we carry on through the pass.

Our course is plotted for Kadavu island. Should take 36 hrs. Kat takes the first watch and I take over at 0415. She takes over shortly after dawn.

The chart plotter has been misbehaving for quite awhile. Raymarine E120 vintage 2006 for all you marine electronics geeks out there. Infrequent loss of GPS position. It’s been an annoyance mostly. Until it craps out in the pass. Really need to do something about this. Of interest I was talking to some friends recently who have the same equipment on their boat that I do. And theirs is failing exactly like mine. There is something going on here…

I’ve spent a bit of time trying to figure this out. Checking connections, rearranging the connections, updating operating software for the various components in the system. No help. Problem slowly becoming more frequent. Grrr….

Maybe I should interrogate some industry people that have more experience with the equipment in question. So I did. They all seemed to lean towards the data networks, there are four, as being the most likely source of trouble. Good place to start. And it’s a difficult question given that these experts did not have the luxury of examining my navigation system in person.

There is nothing more challenging than tracking down a problem that occurs monthly. But this one started monthly and got worse to the point that it pretty reliably reboots the chart plotter every 3 minutes. Now maybe we can figure it out.

Kat and I review the behavior and what to investigate. How to sort out device problem vs network related problem? I disconnected the different networks one by one. Until the only wires attached to the device were positive/negative 12 volts. And it still crashed. Houston, I think we have a device problem.

Kat has a strong software background and starts poking into the submenus of the device. Diagnostics menu shows the hard drive is 99% full. That might be a problem.

Execute factory reset, delete all data, and the old bugger performs normally. No more crash. Couldn’t be happier about the outcome here. This means the device doesn’t need replacement. Immediately anyway, I know better. 12 years is certainly living on borrowed time for a bit of marine electronics. Even better, I’ve a spare for this one for when it eventually meets its destiny.


Um, Kat?  I think we are a little over powered here…  We are having great wind today. 15 to 20 on the port beam. Same tack all day at 7 knots, reefed main and jib. Never mind noon arrival. Could be more like dawn. Earlier even. We reduce sail further to cut more speed and control the degree of heel.  Finally got it down to less than 6 kts.

Shortly after 2am my watch was done and Kat took over. I got 15 minutes of sleep and she wakes me up because there is a strange navigation bouy off our starboard. Flashing white and red. No bow or stern lights.

I am totally not in love with this development. The last time I had a reef to my port and left a lighted marker to starboard I ran into the reef. Don’t wanna repeat.

Reverse. Boat is stopped. Go around the mystery mark leaving it on my port side. Almost certainly we are not close to the reef. Boat’s chart says no. My phone chart plotter says no. Atlas for Fiji Mariners app says no. But we leave the mark to Port just to be sure.

A few miles later we see another white and red flashing mark just like the first. In my coursework for my Coast Guard boat captain license, I recall flashing to be reserved for navigation marks. Channels. Rocks. Anchorages. Headlands. But this we are almost certain is not those things. What is it? Later we discover that the most likely thing is a drift fishing apparatus of some kind.

We leave the second one to starboard. Nothing bad happens. It’s 4am and we are back on our track. Kat takes over and I get some sleep. After a few hours I get up and the wind is allowing STW to sail. Awesome. Great wind.

I take over watch and Kat is due for a nap. I work us towards the pass we need and we tool into a cove where there is a village. We think it’s the one we need to visit to ask permission to tour their neighborhood.

We anchor. Relax. And a guy shows up driving the school boat. This is Fiji world’s version of a school bus. We invite Issac on board for a beverage and he ties alongside. He tells us many things. Number one being that his village is not the one to ask for permission to tour the manta spot. Draviuni is. We head for there.

We look over at Draviuni and there is a cruise ship there. The idea of going there is totally not appealing. Crawling with people. On the way we stopped at a place where we had planned to anchor. There is a lot of wind there and the seas are rough. We will not be anchoring there.

What to do? I ask Kat to check the cruising schedule of the cruise ship on the internet. She does and it says they sail at 6 pm. We can live with that.

We sail up and anchor. The last cruise ship shuttle is loading and gone. I go ashore to seek the chief’s permission to tour their waters a bring the traditional gift of Kava root.


They have a helpful sign to keep the tourists in line.

This village has a proper floating dock on their beach so the cruise ship shuttle can land. Makes it easy for me.  I walk up from the dock and a lot of the village is under a palapa singing and drinking Kava. I’m not sure they are happy to see me. They just kissed a cruise ship load of tourists good bye and are relaxing and here comes one more. I find the chief, give him the Kava root I brought and ask permission to tour and anchor. He says sure, welcome and show me your cruising permit. I’m kinda surprised. Nobody asks for that. But ok I’ll bring it in tomorrow. Back to Spill the Wine.

The next morning Kat and I both dinghy in. Find the chief and give him papers. He’s happy.


They have good dogs here.

This island has some pretty good vertical.  We ask some folks about a path to the top.


They are in the middle of making an earth oven to cook some chicken but set us on the right path.  We hike up to the top of the island. Early on the trail we meet Sailasa and Sefania.  Sailasa lives here and Sefania is visiting from the central mainland.


We tag along with them for a bit and they tell us about the island.

There is ground water here. Not so for many of the islands. And they have a well and a pump to bring the water to a central water tank.


Powered by a large solar array.  But something is not working.


They power on the unit and it sounds like the pump is choking on debris. I really want to tear it apart but we leave tomorrow. No time for that.

Next we walk down to the beach. Large recycle collection from the village. The neighboring island’s resort picks it up periodically and transports it to the mainland.  That resort leased the neighbor island they are built on from this village for 99 years.  Helicopter pads etc.  Oh My.

Kat and I resume our hike up to the top of the island.


The view is predictably awesome.  You can see the reef behind Kat.  Back down we come on the steep trail.

We meet Sailasa and Sefania again. Talk a bit more then invite them on to Spill the Wine for a snorkel this afternoon where the manta rays might be feeding. I’ll pick them up at 1:30.


I come ashore and they are ready. Another fellow Tomasi wants to join. Why not?


We load our new crew and sail off to the next island.

Anchor in the tidal current and head off in the dinghy. Every body in the water. It’s a cloudy day so the reef colors don’t pop but this is a healthy ref. Lots of soft coral.


Sailasa finds a couple large conch like mollusks.

I’m watching Sefania. He did not promote himself as an experienced snorkeler. And he isn’t. Never done it in fact. So skills he needs to work on. But he keeps his cool amid the challenges. Sucking salt water through his snorkel. Leaky mask. Moderately choppy sea. Really inefficient fin technique. He takes advice well and none of this gets to him. Nice. Later I learn he has never been on a sailboat before. Big Day Sefania!


Sailasa and Tomasi got busy with the mollusks. Hammering them out and hammer tenderizing.


Then slicing, seasoning with lime and chili pepper. Turned out quite tasty!

No molusks complained about being harmed in the making of this hors d’oeuvre.

Back at the village I dinghy to shore to deliver our guests home.


They invite us to come drink Kava with them.

Kava session was fun. There were 14 men there. I brought my guitar, Kat her ukelele. The instruments got passed around a lot.  Ricky has mine in the second photo. But we play very quietly. It’s Sunday. No work allowed. Making music somehow is considered work and forbidden. But drinking Kava is ok. 🙂

The next morning we go ashore to get a chicken and some eggs. I bring some tools to look at the chief’s generator.  Tomasi meets us and we get 30 eggs. Then to Chief’s house to see about the generator.

I don’t know a lot about generators. But the wire connections really look corroded. I disassemble them and clean them. Kat looks it over and wonders if the alternator coils need to be wound with new copper wire. Next start the motor and check the terminals for voltage, amp flow. As I prepare to do this, the coils start to arc to the case. Nice lightening bolts. Conclusion is alternator is dead and maybe rewinding it with new copper really would help it. Wish I’d thought of that!

As we are moving through town a woman approaches us and invited us to tea. That sounds nice.


We follow her and she and her friend Unaisi treat us to tea and biscuits with butter and jam. We invite them back to Spill the Wine for a tour and eggs. We have plenty of eggs now. We pick up a frozen chicken on the way.

I row everybody out to Spill the Wine. Dinghy was full. The girls were having a blast. They had never been on board a yacht before. Unaisi’s husband Anasa comes along in his fishing boat and joins us. Then a guy, Pete, I recognize from last night’s Kava session is paddle boarding out from to beach and he joins us too.

The night before I had mentioned to the group that I could take a rider to Vuda Point marina the following day. Now Anasa and Pete are on board and both want to go.


Ok then, they are both going. Pete brings a small bag and Anasa brings nothing but the clothes in his back. Life is simple in Fiji.

On the horizon I see a large catamaran approaching our anchorage. Hey it’s Hugh and Olga on Wayfinder. We met them in Bay of Islands Lau group.  Unfortunately after a brief Hello, Spill The Wine has to get moving.  We want to catch up with Nancy in Vuda Point.  It’s a 24 hour run.  Our new crew has a lot of boat experience.  Sailboat experience not so much.  But they learn fast.

Minutes after we depart we see a fishing boat chasing after us. It’s Anasa’s wife Unaisi. She left her flip-flops on Spill the Wine and has nicked out to recover them. And I’m not sure she is too pleased about us hauling off her husband Anasa.

We navigate the lagoon with our new crew providing local knowledge. There are rocks out there waiting to kiss the odd keel going by.  Exit the pass and head North for the West side of the biggest island, Viti Levu. Destination is the marina at Vuda Point.

The wind is weak for the first 10 hours of the trip so we motor. Then the wind picks up and we sail so fast that we have to slow down to avoid navigating shallow water in the dark. Successful. No friendly reefs make contact.

New crew turns out to be great crew. Experienced boat people but no sailing experience. They are eager and interested students and Kat and I do our best to make sure they go home with more sailing mojo than they had when they arrived.

Docking at the marina about 11am. Plenty of cleaning up to do and we get to it. Nancy arrives about an hour later. Hello Nancy! It’s been too long. And now you are here and it is good. I am in love with this woman.


Cheers Mate!

Nancy has brought Bas with her.  She met him in Taveuni and he wants to sail to Vanuatu.  No sailing experience?  Gonna get some!

We take our empty propane tanks to get filled. No propane readily available but the gas Depot staff offer to make a fitting that will make a propane fill possible. They are set up for butane, that is the common liquid petroleum gas in the South Pacific. But my outboard needs propane. Mike McCaughan told me it was a bad idea to take a weird propane motor out of the US and he was right. Much more useful in the US where propane is the most common LP fuel.

Pete and Anasa do a fantastic job cleaning the deck and then set to on polishing the stainless. Another amazing result, thanks gentlemen!

The next day Pete and Anasa depart for their island. Kat leaves to visit fellow La Cruz boat Me Too for a few days. And it’s just Nancy and I. We are ready to have some quiet time together on Spill the Wine.

AAA Pfew

Whew!  That was one long winded post.

Return to Fiji

We are wrapping up a three day crossing from Minerva to Fiji. The wind has been generous. The sea state was building across the days but that is what happens when the wind blows! Closing in on Midnight as we work our way through some of the many Fijian islands on our way to Vuda Point marina. We should arrive tomorrow morning, Thursday the 10th.

We pull up to Vuda Point at the appointed hour. We tie up to a mooring and radio in.

Biological Security comes on board first. They primarily are concerned about whether we are healthy enough to be allowed to enter Fiji. We Pass.

I recognized one of the women from last year when she confiscated our contraband bananas! She remembered me and seemed to be in a better humor than last year. I assured her that I had no bananas this year and she was amused.

Next was customs and the details of officially “debarking” Brad, Grant, and Roddy so they can fly out.

I had an interesting conversation with the woman working me through the customs process. She told me that she was trying to get a visa to visit the US for a family wedding. And that the fee for a visa application was $600 US. That is a lot of money for a Fijian. And is you are not approved it is not refundable. Keep that in mind next time you get hassled by a customs official in your travels. The US customs process does not treat people so well that wish to visit. Especially if they are from a non-white country. She was being so kind to us and I was ashamed that my country was not showing her the same respect.

Last step in our process was applying for a “cruising permit” so that we can sail about in Fiji waters. It’s Thursday. We are told we might get that permit Friday. This matters as we want to visit a few islands before B, G, and R fly out on Tuesday. Well we did not get a permit. And now won’t until Monday at the earliest.

Permit? We don’t need no stinking permit! We go anyway. Risk is life.

We round up some last supplies. Saturday we depart. Mana island is our first stop. It has a good reef and a well protected lagoon. The pass into the lagoon is a little twisty but not bad.

The island is kinda closed. This is one of the primary places where Survivor is being filmed. So the resorts and restaurants have all been shut. No guests. Makes for a peaceful lagoon. Which now contains yet another pair of my sunglasses. Another sacrifice to Neptune.

We next head for Musket Cove on Round island. No “Survivor” nonsense here. Restaurant and grocery open.

We’d been here last year for an event. Lots of people! This year very different. More staff than guests. But it is early in the season. Grant takes us out to dinner as B,G and R leave tomorrow. Ferry to mainland then shuttle to airport. After they depart Nancy Kat and I just chill at anchor for the day on Monday. Nice to have more space on the boat. But that lot gets invited back. Great crew.

The next day (Tuesday) we head back to the mainland to pick up our cruising permit. It just came in, thank you! And we are off to Port Denarau, a nearby marina that has more vendors. I need something welded and we can get more supplies and fuel.

We need some Kava. This is a root used ceremonially in the peripheral islands. We met a woman named Katherine in a Fijian restaurant who tells us her dad sells kava. And he is from one of the little islands we will be visiting. She fixes us up. We need to keep in touch with this one, she might make good crew..

Welding gets done, dive gear gets sorted out, other supplies acquired. Successful mission!

We want to go to the Lao islands in eastern Fiji. A few folks have told us the way to take best advantage of the wind is to go clockwise through the northern Fiji islands ending up in the Lao.

So off we go winding our way North for Sawani bay where we will stop for the night. Just before sunset as we get ready to turn into the bay… Bonk! Another one of those friendly reefs reaches out and spanks my newly painted keel. As the kiwis would say, Bugger! We reviewed our myriad navigational aides and none of them really shows the rocks we met in such a way as to call them a hazard. Bugger again! I just need to be more paranoid.

But we move on and get anchored. We are meeting folks for dinner. Shanise and Stuart. We dinghy to shore (not hitting anything else on the way) and they carry us off to a restaurant in their truck. Shanise might join Spill the Wine for a bit. We’ll see about schedules.

This morning (Saturday the 19th) I went under the boat to see if there was any real damage from that rock. Bottom paint on the keel took a whack but otherwise is all looks ok. Inside shows a tiny crack in a frame. So nothing needs doing immediately. The frame will be an easy repair. Even for me. The paint whack will have to wait until the next haul out. At least a year. Time for breakfast.

And we continue to wind our way up the coast dodging numerous huge reefs successfully. Kat sends the day sorting out a navigation program called Open CPN. And she makes way more progress than I ever did. Damn youts! (That’s “youths” in Jersey speak). We anchored about 4pm on Saturday by Volivoli point. Time to roast a chicken. Tomorrow we exit the reef through Nananu pass and cross to Vanua Levu island. It’s about 35 miles. We should get there before dark.

Unless we decide to stay put for a couple more days. It’s a beautiful bay!

Nancy and I go ashore to see about some supplies. Mangroves on the shore. So where to access shore is not obvious. We pick a spot. It was pretty shallow for the last 100 yards. That should have gotten my attention. More on that later.

We wandered up the hill through some sugar cane fields, dodging the odd cow grazing along, a couple goats. We met the woman in charge of the land and she very graciously directed us to the path that led to the road.

We followed The Google’s directions to the grocery. It was described as opening at 8am. Well I’m thinking it has not opened at 8 in quite some time.


We look up the road and spy a little vendor. And smells like smoke. Best go look.

They have lamb BBQ with cucumber, kasava, rice, and a hot dog. I’m in. The proprietor gets my a glass of water and a chair in the shade. I’m really in Fiji now. Super nice people. First there was the woman running the stand. Then her man came along. Then a small girl and a grandmother gravitated over from the house. This was a happening. Two people from the US just wandered into our BBQ stand! Inconceivable! Fun.

They tell us there is a bit of a store just down the road. Just keep walking. Nancy did. I sat down to enjoy the BBQ. But I did catch up to her as she bought some eggs and a liter of milk from the little store.

The owner invited us to relax for a few. A small girl with a beautiful smile (that she won’t share with a camera) comes along.

Then the proprietor wants in. Why not?

Then a little boy jumps in and you can see a local fisherman behind us. He tells me he is heading to Alaska to do some cold water fishing. Get ready for cold my young friend!

We walk back towards the bay. Get some more BBQ to take to STW for Kat who continues to work on the Open CPN project. Then there was a horse… Of course.

“What do you mean you mean you went to the store and didn’t bring me a carrot???”. Honest dude! They did not have any veggies. Cans only! Horse unimpressed.

We find our way to the same path through the canefields as before. The woman who guided us previously is not about but we left her a couple of eggs for her kindness. Navigate the goats, the cows, the bushes, and there is the dinghy.

And the tide is out. And we are 100 yards from the water line. And the dinghy + motor + fuel is a bit too heavy to drag 100 yards. Learning. Beachest thou not thy dinghy after crossing 100 yards of shallow water on a falling tide. So we strip the dinghy.

Stack the bits on a rock at the water line. And carry the empty dinghy to the water.

C’mon Nancy! Try to get more excited about portaging the dinghy! Actually Nancy was a great sport throughout. And hoist the dinghy we did. Remounted the motor and returned to STW.

That was a lot of work. Time for a nap. I love not having a tight schedule. My blood pressure just went down.

Nancy suggests we visit Volivoli Beach Resort for dinner. Why not? It’s Sunday. Everything else is closed.

Great idea. Super sunset on their beach. We had smoked pork, spring rolls, and sushi. All awesome. Staff was awesome. They were Fijian after all!

Monday comes and we dinghy ashore to a different part of the bay. The Fijians on shore are happy to help us land. We explain that we have come for groceries. Hmmm… Groceries. Several miles to to go to Rakiraki town. One of the guys asks if we want him to call us a cab. Before that happens a guy pipes up and says our cab is here, and he is it.

So we walk to Lau’s car at the foot of the jetty. He unlocks it and pulls some wires out from under the dash which he twists into the doors to roll down the windows. On the road to Rakiraki town!

Where there are several grocery stores. We round up some supplies in one store. Then our crew went in several directions. And I did not know where my crew was. Neither did Lau. How hard can it be to find the only two Caucasian women in Rakiraki town? Finally did of course. Then it was time to go… Or was it? Lau wants to make one more pass through the market. Not sure why, but he’s driving.

They have everything green here. Grocery stores not so much it turns out. He introduced me to some Fijians he knows here. They ask me if I want to drink some Kava. How to respond? Are they being polite? Is it impolite to decline? It’s not like I have to drive… Sure. Next thing you know my tongue is numb. It’s what Kava does. But I’m honored they wanted to share numb tongues with me.

We round up lunch to go and head back to the wharf. The locals help us launch the dinghy and we head back to STW. Stow the groceries and trot out lunch. Tomorrow we depart for Vanua Levi, Fiji’s other major island. But first we must pass through the many reefs…

Vanua Levu’s Dolphins

We weigh Anchor at 0715 and begin our crossing. Miles of open water as far as the eye can see. But there is a deception at hand. All that water is not so deep as Spill The Wine. Most of it is 3 feet deep. Study the chart we did. Verified the chart with Google Earth yes we did.

We were anchored by my finger there at the bottom of this photo. You can see our planned path through the reefs. Plenty of them Mon! Following this route I get a vague view of the reefs only. The sun is rising on the bow. But we sneak out unscathed.

Nice south easterly coming up Vatu-I-Ra Channel on our beam at about 12 kts. We are motorsailing because we need to charge batteries and make fresh water. The sails stabilize our roll. Sea state is pretty smooth today.

About halfway across we meet a school of dolphins.

A dozen or so decide to play at our bow. Mind the anchor mates!

We enter the reef and anchor by Nabouwalu Jetty. The Ferry stops by here daily and freight carriers too. Which makes it maybe not the best place to anchor.


EASY big fella! It was interesting watching the docking process. Ship approaches the jetty. Drops an anchor while still making forward progress. Then the anchor grabs and the ship pivots on it ending up stern to the jetty. Then they tie up and load/unload. On shore there is a small grocery and a post office. Its enough, we don’t need much yet. But we did buy a couple lobsters on the jetty one morning when the fishing boats came in.


Nancy butter poaches them. And we had lobster rolls. Then we get moving. There is a nice cove up the coast a few miles. Looks good and our chart says “Anchorage”. We pull in and find the cove quite populated with buoys. Kinda weird. Oh well. We find room to anchor between the buoy pile and the reef. And it was a great reef. Lots of fish and tricky lobsters that we could not catch. There were some little squid off the swim step.


These things are bizarre to watch. Regular fish only go forward. These things have a reverse as well. So they will swim along and then reverse direction for whatever reason and go back the way they came without turning their bodies. You might have seen these on a plate. At which point they are called calamari. There was also a crab trying to stow away.


We are the only boat in this anchorage. Kinda nice! But then there are not a lot of boats like ours on this coast anyway. The next morning Kat and I go out to look at the reef some more and maybe catch one of those sneaky lobsters. A couple guys in a panga come along and explain to us that indeed, this is a pearl farm. Hence the many buoys. And the reef is closed to snorkeling. Not quite an “anchorage” after all. Darn that chart!

Ok. Lets go to Namena Island. It is also a marine preserve, no fishing. But snorkeling is allowed and so is anchoring.

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Cute little island surrounded by a reef. Waves wont be too big for our visit. We cruised by the Dive Resort on the island. In ruins. Cyclone Winston crushed this area a few years ago. The wind is coming from the SE so we anchor on the NW shore out of the wind. No fishing here so the reef is fairly healthy and there are a lot of fish. We spent a couple very nice days here. And strangely enough we had cell coverage here in the middle of nowhere. Which we used to watch the weather. And that proved to be a good idea. A low is passing through and our 10-15 knot SE wind is predicted to clock around to the North about midnight and crank up to 20 knots. The midnight part of this is the problem. All we would need to do would be to weigh anchor and re-anchor on the south side of the island. In the dark. Bummer.

Or we could leave today for Savusavu. Kind of a late start, but off we went. And as soon as we got out of the reef the seas were kinda big. Gusting to 30 knots. Definitely not the 10-15 knots predicted. We are towing the dinghy because, late start, did not want to take the time to deflate/stow it on deck. Good day for Nancy to use seasickness meds…


We finally get behind the reef close to Savusavu about sundown. Seas get smooth and wind becomes much milder. I try to avoid night approaches to anchorages but today weather has forced our hand. As it turns out Savusavu is a pretty easy mooring field to get into in the dark. Narrow channel and mooring balls on both sides of the river. Streetlights make it not so dark.

Nice little town Savusavu. It is the largest town on Fiji’s second largest island and has a population of about 4500 people. We get some diesel, some groceries, and just relax for a few days. We met a guy from New York. He was formerly employed by Welch-Allyn. They make medical instruments. Many for the eyecare field. He introduced us to Linda, a local Rotarian. The two of them are working on getting some medical equipment together for the local hospital. Which could use an eye clinic among other things…

Soon it is time to move on. We visit the green grocer and head for Viani Bay further up the coast. Nice spot that has some good diving. There is a dive shop where Kat and I want to do a free diving class. Free diving is a three dollar word for snorkeling with more emphasis on spending time below the surface holding your breath.

Nice enough place that we spent a few days. Snorkeling and img_20180604_215429642_ll

drinking Kava on shore in the evenings with the Fijians. Our friends from La Cuz, Sky Blue Eyes, show up. Things got more musical.  img_20180604_134518410

The dive outfit had awesome dogs there that liked to fish in the shallows.


The last night there were a few bugs.  Time to go.  Taviuni, the garden island is calling us from across the channel.

Moving on down a salty road.

April 30 2018. We departed Opua at 2pm. Crew is myself, Kat and her boyfriend Roddy, Brad Tower and Grant Nelson. Yesterday Brad and Kat went to town for provisions. Color matters.

One more trip up the mast. Inspect the cables that strengthen and center the mast. These cables and the mast are collectively spoken of as “the rig”. Brad and Grant took care of the hoisting.

Grant and I sailed out into the bay to put the watermaker back into service. And learned a lesson. Sea state rough and random. Just right for seasickness. And we got a taste.

We have departed Opua after clearing with customs. Today we are using scopolomine patchs to avoid illness. Which is working. We are definitely feeling better than yesterday.

The sea state is still rough and random. Wind 17 to 22 gusting to 25. The moon is full. 3 meter seas try to board us but Spill The Wine foils them. They roll harmlessly under the stern. Our course to Minerva reef puts the wind and swell on our port rear quarter. Sometimes a rather large wave hits our stern and pushes us around and off course. The automatic pilot recovers our course pretty quickly.

Sunrise is the appetizer, and sunset is the dessert of the day.

Kat is running the galley. The meals are fantastic. I’m betting her culinary skills were not picked up in her Yacht Master program.

The first day out the seas were rough. To avoid freaking out our stomacs Kat served an awesome pasta dinner. The next night we were feeling quite comfortable with the seas and took a chance on T bone steaks. Successful.

Today maybe the anti seasick drugs are wearing off. Some discomfort among crew. I hope they don’t mutiny! We did take another chance on a lamb roast. But it worked.

There was about an hour between sunset and moonrise. Oh My was that ever dark!

After moonrise we study the squalls that surround us. One’s bound to get us.

The little black boat looking thing is us. The purple bogey on the radar is the squall. Keep the foul weather gear handy mateys!

May 3. This morning conditions were right for a nice asymetric spinnaker run. Kat and I do foredeck and Brad controls the halyards and sheets. This goes very smoothly. Soon we are smoking down the bounding main at 9 kts.

Afterwards we get most of the crew into a photo. And we are facing the stern with beautiful spinnaker in the background. Brad hoots “Fish On!” And a nice mahimahi joins the crew of Spill the Wine.

Edible hitch hikers are the best!

Roddy is a very experienced fish dude. He identifies the fish and demos filleting on half of it. Kat did the other half. Lunch will be soon!

Great wind until the afternoon of May 1st. Time to do some motoring. In the early morning of the 3rd there is some rain. Dawn brings a fantastic sunrise. And some rain. And squalls on and off all day. Wind varying from 7 to 25 kts as the squalls come and go. Pretty typical for these latitudes.

May 4. We ramble on and the wind builds slowly. The seas build too. Now 4 meter swells are coming from behind. Some breaking but nothing but spray gets into the cockpit. And not much of that. We are making 6 to 8 kts on a storm jib and a bit of main.

My scopolomine patch is exhausted. Good thing. I was having vaguely conscious dreams. And when it was time for me to participate in any dialog I would catch myself doing it out loud. Kinda weird.

We cooked a chicken on the Big Green Egg last night. I was almost surprised it went so well. Boat was being tossed about in the large swell like it was a toy. STW was heeling to 25 degrees in gusts to 33 kts. And the vertical chicken stayed that way throughout. We rejoiced with tacos.

Still 250 miles to Minerva. But we make good speed in spite of the lumpy sea state. You might recall in a previous post I got hit in the eye by a flying fish that tried to jump over the cockpit back on the Pacific crossing. Brad joined the ranks of the “Fish Eye Brotherhood” last night. He says he needs reading glasses as a result but I’m not so sure that’s the cause. He has 45 other problems… 😉

I’m starting to be bothered by a low grade fever, 99.5, and some real headaches. Hmmm. Aspirin not much help. Ibuprophen and Tylenol similarly not helpful. Maybe I’m seasick? I get this so rarely that I don’t recognize the symptoms. I try some anti seasickness stuff and it seems to work. Must have been the perfect sea state to do me in.

Nevermind our crew. We have other stowaways.

Two little stowaways disguised as sparrows or some sort. Proverbial bird in hand!

They liked the interior of Spill the Wine.

One tried steering but the autopilot took it for a ride.

As you can see they are very shy. There are more than a few fearless birds in NZ. I have to assume that’s where these are from as we just left. After about a day they flew away. Hope they know what they are doing.

The sun has been down for a couple hours and the sky has been pretty clear. Great night for a starshow. Just now the moon rises. Welcome back my friend. We are 50 miles from Minerva reef. Strange reef kind of in the middle of nowhere. 300 miles from any land. So of course we want to go. Should arrive at dawn.

Kat and I had intended to see Minerva on our way down from Fiji last November. The weather turned on us and we needed to make for New Zealand with all due haste to avoid trouble. And did. But so far this crossing looks like we will be touring Minerva easily.

May 6. We arrive about 9am. The pass is 75 feet deep. No worries there! Some snorkeling. Napping. Then it’s dinner time.

Kat and Roddy go for a walk on the reef. It is walkable at low tide.

And they recruit three lobsters to join the crew of Spill the Wine!

Here is satellite photo because it’s hard to photo an atoll. It’s all underwater. Most remarkable is the absence of swell after you sail through the pass seen on the photo above at about 10:00. It’s about 3 miles across.

We depart about 1300 hrs on May 7th. Crew notes. Kat and Roddy are both quite experienced. Brad and Grant less so. This is their first time on an ocean crossing. And they are loving it. They may be ruined for life on land forever. They are starting to shop for boats.

Once I was an Island

What is an atoll and how is it formed? Every time I try to explain this I confuse others and myself. So I tried a different approach after our visit to Minerva Reef, which is an atoll.

Once I was an island. And I did things that Islands do. I relaxed in the Sun in the middle of the sea.

Sometimes there were strong winds. And shortly after I came into my volcanic existence the winds brought me birds. And the birds and sea currents brought me vegetation.

After a time I grew weary of the sea errodng my beaches and I decided to grow a reef of coral. It never dawned on me what would happen if I had a reef of coral. Coral is a living thing you see. And it will grow. And erosion will not stop it. I did not have this power.

Many thousands of years passed and erosion from the wind and rain slowly took its toll and I melted into the sea. Do not be sad. I was very old.

My reef that I loved so dearly carried on, as it should. I’m sure it thinks fondly of me sometimes. And now it has a new friend, The lagoon that has come to be in the space I once called my own. I hope they love each other and the sea for a very long time.

Atolls are magical places. Their story deserves telling in prose that is not clinical or scientific. I had a go.

Minerva is a republic. Human population is zero. The land mass above the sea is nothing more than a few rocks.

We passed by Minerva south in the dark of late morning and arrived at Minerva reef North about 9am. The reef was once a complete circle. But now in the NW margin there is a break in the reef. This is called a pass. It is 85 feet deep. This sort of depth is unusual for a pass. But WWII was an unusual time. At that time Minerva was made over into a harbor for ships of war. Which need a deep pass to accommodate their draft. Let’s just say dynamite was involved. In time the ships were taken away. And Minerva was once again a lovely atoll 300 miles south of Fiji. Now with a pass.

Pass matters. Now boats like ours can get into the lagoon. This affords us a tremendous amount of protection from the swells and waves of the southern ocean. It’s like a calm lake in the middle of an active sea. The lagoon is 3 miles across and we are alone here. Surrounded on all sides by waves breaking on the reef that cannot disturb the rest of Spill The Wine and her sleepy crew.

We went snorkeling on a shipwreck. Probably a WWII remnant. Whose demise has created a place for sealife to thrive. Shipwrecks in tropical waters are invariably bejeweled with a dizzying array of fish and chorals of many colors. The ships death creates a lively, cheerful, and beautiful seascape.

When the Tide is low one can walk on the reef. And we did. Kat and Roddy found 3 fat spiney lobsters. Who soon joined the crew of Spill The Wine on the Big Green Egg. Accompanied by a lamb foreleg.

In the morning we moved our boat to the reef pass. Snorkeling in a pass is usually great and we are not disappointed. Grant does a scuba dive.

While we were out the last lobsters pooped in the refrigerator. Bummer. Minor time out to do some clean up.

Finally depart at 2pm. 300 miles to Fiji. It’s getting warmer. The sea is now 75 degrees. The wind is weak. But we need to charge batteries and make water. Perfect timing. Motoring towards Fiji at 330 degrees. Kat makes cucumber salad and we dine on the last 2 lobsters.

Weather predictions are for wind behind us all the way to Fiji. So after dinner we rig the boat for downwind sailing. Pole the jib out to windward. And secure the main out to leeward.

No sooner do we have the sails arranged when we have a fish. A yellowfin tuna joins the crew of Spill The Wine. Let there be sushi! Roddy and Kat fillet the new crew member. I should tell you that this is not how we treat all new crew. Just the ones that are lobsters and fish.

Sails set, dinner over, and for dessert we have the Milky Way. Best star night yet. Late moon rising, and clear. It’s been a fantastic passage. Too soon it will end.

Last Details before Departing NZ

I’m alone on the boat just now. Which makes it easy to get things done.

The dingy has served some rough miles. This is the bow. It appears to have met too many rocks on beach landings. Poor dingy. I’ve some old epoxy resin. Let’s hope it still works.

First I need a “sterile field”. I hope this old pizza box is sterile. Just so I don’t dribble resin everywhere.

You are looking at three layers of fiberglass cloth saturated with epoxy resin. Which is a funny color. Rust? It was in a steel can that looked rusty… Who cares, it set.

I used a funny cloth that you lay on the surface of your resin before it hardens. You smooth it out by hand. After the resin sets up you peel off the fabric and you are left with a pretty smooth surface. One of the guys in the boatyard told me about this fabric. I was impressed. Made sanding short work. Then paint.

Shadow man says…”Like it never happened!” Next I patched a few leakys on the dinghy tubes. They were not bad but it is annoying to have to reinflate the dingy too often.

The transom has brutal rust stains. Maybe from marginally stainless bolts. So I get new bolts. But the rust… I just painted the bow repair, Paint the transom! Worked great.

The dinghy has stern wheels to facilitate beach landings. They have parts that don’t float. Personal experience. 😁. So I visit the machinist that did some work on the cutless bearing. He made the missing part presto.

And the dinghy goes back in it’s bag for travel.

One of the hatches has a broken handle. I fix that up with a new teak handle I made from a scrap I had on board.

The teak trim on the companionway needs refinished. Got that. The battery on the autopilot remote control expired. Nancy brought a new one of those too. I’ve an eye on the front of the mast. Said eye is undersized for my spinnaker pole. So I ordered a new eye to be welded on.

Here we are looking at the old ring and the new above. The old ring will be removed from the plate and replaced with the new.

Parts ready for welding here. Sunglasses in the frame for scale. Kiss them goodbye. They have joined the legion of boat bits that did not float. Begs the question… How many pairs of sunglasses does it take to tour the South Pacific? Four and counting…

And the finished product courtesy of Chris the welding guru. Back on the mast before I lose the parts!

A friend scavenges an old sail from a dumpster for me. I set about sewing it into a bag for my bicycle. I sailed down here from Seattle with bike hung from the stern arch. Very exposed. Hopefully the bag will protect it from the elements enough to slow down Death by Rust! I think it’s going to work.

Steering wheels run on greased ball bearings. There is a grease seal on each wheel. These seals have failed. And rust begins. And rust bleeds down the steering posts.

That will never do. New seals ordered and in hand. And I dismantle the steering assembly. Remove rust stains. Install new seals, and ready to go.

Other chores. Diesel cabin heater exhaust started to leak. Fumes in cabin. Not acceptable. Local chandlery ordered a replacement presto. Fresh paint on the big green egg shelves. Oil the little bit of teak on the boat. Wash the windows I also sent the liferaft off to Auckland for service. The certificate expires every 3 years. They need to be inspected/certified every 3 years if you want to be able to count on them.

One more trip up the mast to inspect rigging and to install the storm jib stay. Look close and you can spot the ground crew that put me up here. Thanks Brad Tower and Grant Nelson! Seriously excellent crew.

All above is a lot of little things that add up to lots of time consumed. But there is absolutely nothing quite like a boat that is ready to take you anywhere you want to go.

Last NZ Tour

Nancy is coming back from Washington where she was helping her mom sort out her future. Maybe it would be nice if I picked her up at the Auckland airport.

It turned out to be a great idea!

We spent a couple rainy days in Auckland’s awesome museums. Monsoon rainy. With wind that stripped branches off more than a few trees. Then rounded up our rental car and headed for the Coromandel peninsula east of Auckland.

You can’t tour NZ without being struck by how incredibly beautiful this place is. And the Coromandel peninsula is just like that.

It was largely logged off a hundred years ago. But some 600 year old Kauri trees survive.

So we went for a visit. Nice hike on really well maintained trails. NZ takes their natural treasures seriously. Don’t expect they will be selling them off any time soon.

Our friend Lynn Ringseis recommended the B&B of some friends of hers. Steve and Marilyn’s Hush Accommodations just outside Coromandel Town. Good call. Super people in beautiful Coromandel Town. Lynn met them years ago when they were all managing charter sailboats. They have certainly not forgotten how to do hospitality!

It was a beautiful day for a drive across the Coromandel range. You can see forever from this pass.

Another must see is the Hobbit village from The Hobbit movies. Fun! We had a beer at the Green Dragon Inn. But there were no Hobbits about. No doubt they were all abroad having Adventures.

Behind us is the party tree from the movies.

Brad and Grant have just arrived in NZ. Nancy and I head for Opua to meet them. They are having a blast with NZ. Hard not to, it’s a great place.

Nancy has brought a bag of boat parts. Time to get to work on them!

X-Ray Vision

This post is a bit out of order. Pretend we are back in the yard briefly. Then we’ll get back to the water and more.

I looked at my yard bills and decided I’d beaten my deductible to a pulp. It was time to call on Novamar my insurance provider to cover some of the repairs as much of the work here was necessitated by the grounding in Fiji 5 months ago. This was a new experience for me in boat world.

Novamar’s adjuster Scott Labadie seemed to grasp quite quickly what was up. This was not his first grounding case. He referred me to Captain Kristoffer Diel, a marine surveyor in New Orleans. Well sort of from New Orleans. Turns out he spends a good deal of the year bouncing around the globe doing inspection work like this. Kris and I get on the phone and he tells me that he is “not going to be sanguine about the finished repairs” unless he gets his hands on Spill The Wine for his own inspection. Short of that he tells me to organize an infra-red scan of the hull structure. Sure! I know all about that!!

I ask around the yard and called a local boat surveyor. This technology must be a new application in the marine industry. At least this yard was not familiar with it. They all thought this guy was from the moon and had never heard of anyone doing this to assess a hull for damage. So I asked The Google. There is a company in Auckland (3.5 hrs drive) that has this technology. and they have done some marine work. A few days later they are on site at 7:30am.


They have a monster propane burner that they use to warm up the hull. They film in IR as it cools down. Differential rates of cooling tell tales. Hull thicker (near beams it will be) or thinner or delaminated….. ew!


Here you are looking at the IR guy with a ball cap on (face is white) and he is holding a maybe 12″ diameter hose blowing the hot air from the propane burner up at the hull to heat it up. The red spot top center is the front of the keel. I think…

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The right image is the IR image. Lighter is warmer, darker is cooler. The left image is for reference so you know what you are looking at. You can see that the technician has highlighted a few odd results but they are not conclusive. He explained to me that delamination really screams at you with this technique.

Anyway the report comes back as…. might be ok. But further investigation required. Captain Kris makes plans to come to NZ. He is currently in Cartegenia Columbia on a similar project. So I have a few days to Chill. In my own odd way.


This is a winch. Its a handy thing when it comes time to tightening up a line with some serious tension. A lot to it on the inside. You put a handle on it and crank one way with whatever horsepower you’ve got and you can tighten up a line pretty quick. Reverse rotation with that crank and you will tighten up more slowly but with a lot of leverage. And thus control your sails that may well be under a great deal of tension. I have 4 winches. Nancy and I already too care of two of them, already done. And I’m going to tear apart the next two. Notice the roof behind the winch. Yes I really am still up in the air in the dang boat yard. I have really enjoyed working with the people here, but Spill the Wine needs her some Salt Water! Soon I suppose, but first…



So now we are looking at a couple racks of roller bearing racks that need to be cleaned in solvent and regreased. That how it starts.


And that is what she looks like with bearings removed. The Big Green Egg watches closely… But what is that wrench up to??


Oh yeah. This thing comes off too. And there’s more bearings and gears.


Here is the center axle. Do you have any idea how hard it is to clean and grease one of these things and take photos along the way without greasing your phone? If you live right you’ll never need to know.


More stuff is probably going on under the gears in the base.


Yeah there’s greasy bits. Assembly and disassembly take about 30 minutes. The parts cleaning and re greasing…. a couple hours. Probably would have gone faster if I’d skipped the photos.


Here is the lot of the parts. Clean and ready to get together again.


Clean parts are more fun to work with for sure. Can you spot the dental pick? My dad mailed me about 20 of those things about 15 years ago. And damn it those things are handy more often than I had ever imagined. Even the little wooden toothpick is handy sometimes.


The keel got removed after the bottom paint went on. Kinda backwards but sometimes that’s how it goes. So I come along and touch up a few spots that got ding’d on project Keel Removal. And I noticed that the paint is not quite the same color. To I tagged my keel. Can you see the primitive image I made? Next time I need to get Nancy involved and give her a proper contrasting color. She has abilities in this realm that I do not.



A couple other boat yard images. The rainbow speaks for itself. The boat photo above that is probably a work in progress but I think it needs to be clear coated at is. Industrial Art indeed!


Captain Kris gets to New Zealand and I pick him up at the airport. I know his eyes are closed in the photo. And I know that Roddy’s were too in a previous post. Not sure what this means. If I find the hidden message I’ll post it here. I invite Kris to spend his NZ time on board STW and he likes the idea. Boats are boats and hotels are hotels. We all have our preference.

For the next few days he goes over the boat with a fine toothed comb. I always learn quite a bit during a survey. And this survey more than most. Very experienced and informative cat. Good news is the keel repairs pass. Which means STW can go back into the sea. There is no bad news. Kris’s tour of the STW reveals a number of things that could be organized more functionally in general. Nothing like the voice of experience far greater than mine.


One suggestion was that I should have a fair chunk of a sail I can use to bandage a hole in the hull should I ever have that sort of issue. If you ever hit an underwater obstruction above the keel you can sling a hunk of sail over the hole and slow the water ingress way down. On a not so bad day your bilge pump might be able to keep up. And there was our neighbor whacking up an old sail! Perfect opportunity. Bandage acquired. Steve and Julie were awesome neighbors. Only sorry we were both in the yard long enough to meet the neighbors.

And it was a blast spending a few days with Capt. Kris. Thanks for coming aboard and yer invited back mate!

And Spill The Wine Returns to the sea.


We were in Mexico when I told Chris I had to go back to Washington.

Some of you know my mother. She is pretty amazing, especially at 92. She has lived alone for 19 years, since my dad died. She takes care of her house, drives, cooks, shops, gardens, and has a vodka & tonic every evening before dinner. She walks erect without a cane and with no osteoporosis, hasn’t turned all grey yet, and has no major health issues. But she had a bad fall, and I needed to come help her while she healed.

Despite her obvious independence, she needs to move. She has no community and is dependent on my sister & I for her needs. Since I am on the other side of the world, and Linda wants to retire and spend her time with kids & grandkids, I made it my goal to convince her this would be for the best.

Amazingly, she surprised all of us by finding a senior community near my niece and her family in Portland that she says feels “home-y”, and we put her on a waiting list. Although she is a bit overwhelmed, we have assured her we will help her through the process of going through her 4-bedroom house to manage her stuff.

I will return to help facilitate when I am needed. For now, I’ll be heading back to Chris in New Zealand, where he has planned a couple of weeks of fun for the two of us. I’m more than ready to be there!

That’s enough work on the boat already

So it was time to go sailing.  I had made the acquaintance of Todd who works in the yard and did a good bit of STW’s repairs.  He introduced me to Connie and Caleb.  They had very little exposure to sailing.  And they wanted to learn more.

Connie had a free weekend but not much experience.  I told her to watch an introduction to sailing video shot and produced by my friend Huub.  Here it is.  Suggest you watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo2PtgqI8Sc

Here is where it gets fun.  Connie did her homework.  We headed out sailing and from time to time she would say things like… “According to the video we should be doing xyz now”.  It was quite amusing to have Huub’s voice, once removed, back on the boat.

Our first outing was to be a weekend trip up the coast to Whangaroa.

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You can see it has a really small entrance and then opens up quite a bit.  Makes for awesome protection in dodgy weather.  And is just a beautiful place on a nice day.  So off we go and did I mention that this was an actual sailboat race?  It was.  And Connie had never been on a sailboat before.  I was not too worried about that because the forecast was for very little wind.  Everyone was afraid the event would amount to motoring to Whangraroa harbor to the point that some boats declined to go due to lack of wind.

Well actually there was plenty.  We sailed almost all of the 30 miles to Whangaroa.  We motored for 20 minutes to escape the Bay of Islands.  This was allowed by the race rules.IMG_20180324_160047502.jpg

As we head for the entrance our beautiful day is changing.  Rain is moving in.  On arrival we rafted up in a dead calm cove with some of the other participants.  And enjoyed a shower together (rain).  But we had enough shelter and the rain around here is usually brief.  And it was time, and the rafted sailors did dine.

The next morning after breakfast the raft came to an end.  It was Sunday and most of the participants had work the next day.  So off they went.  Connie and I still had food so we stayed anchored and went for a hike.  IMG_20180325_165413570_HDR.jpg

That looks doable.  Lets climb it.  I mean look at it.  There is all that wide open green grass to hike on, not so much bushwhacking.  The best laid plans brothers and sisters!IMG_20180325_104619666_HDR.jpg

The easy grass we had to hike on had about 18 inches of spring to it.  Kinda like walking in 2 ft deep snow.  Interesting and I hope you are not in a hurry.  IMG_20180325_112323108_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg

Water was a cool shade of turquoise in the bay.  IMG_20180325_113556350_HDR.jpg I’ll call this big nose rock.  Because.  It looks to have a nose on the right exposure eh?  And it looks easy to climb too.  Well maybe not as easy as what we just did.  Which kicked our butts.  Think we’ll pass.  IMG_20180325_115415454.jpg

Time to find our way back to the dingy and return to STW.  This has been hungry work.IMG_20180325_121732826_HDR.jpg

Connie thinks we should be collecting oysters.  There appear to be a few in the neighborhood!  I did a quick google search on how to schuck.  I always forget.IMG_20180325_175149662_HDR.jpgAnd I forgot to get a photo before we started munching down on the oysters in question.  But they were tasty.  And fresh.

Successful shakedown for a boat fresh out of the yard, and successful first sailing trip for Connie.  She learns fast and will go far.  Like maybe to Mangonui next weekend.  I told her to see if he boyfriend Caleb could join us.  And he could.

Connie and Caleb showed up with mucho groceries and we headed for Doubtless Bay.Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.25.52 PM

If you look close you’ll see a small notch in the peninsula on the right side of the chart.Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.27.08 PM

Takerua Bay.  That is where we were headed.  We spent the first night in the Cavalli islands.  Lamb burgers were the special of the day.  Not a lot of protection but the wind was mild.  The next day it got better and we sailed off further north.  Arrived Takerua bay in time for a swim and a nap.  Then Caleb our on board marine biologist, went snorkeling for Lobster.  With some success.  Short hike on shore was fun too.IMG_20180402_150720683_HDR.jpgSpill The Wine Abides.IMG_20180402_151131795_HDR.jpgAnd so does the Shadow with his traditional pampas grass stalk.

How to prepare the Lobster?  Caleb and Connie suggested a beach boil.  And off we went.  On the beach there was enough stuff to sit on, that is always a challenge in the wild.  But nothing like a table.  Caleb pulls one out of his hat!

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 8.48.30 PMThen we rounded up firewood and started heating the hot tub for the main course.IMG_20180402_173023140.jpgPlease be patient.  We’ll be with you as soon as the water is ready…   So dinner on the beach was successful.  Except the sun did not set on the water like we’d planned.  Sigh.IMG_20180401_181234761_HDR.jpgSunset from the previous day will have to do.

Anyway we enjoyed dinner and the beach.  I brought my guitar ashore.  On the way back to the boat the surf was up slightly.  Enough that the dinghy took a wave over the bow.  Good day to have your guitar in a water proof case.  I made one the previous summer for a hiking trip.  The key here is not only did I have it, I used it.  I’m a slow learner but given enough time I get by.IMG_20180403_180413347_HDR.jpgI was hunting for something in the boat and I came across this sticker.  Some of you might remember the Flaming Mo episode from the Simpsons.  1991.  I asked Caleb if he knew what the sticker was.  He did!  Bugger was 12 and living in NZ when that first aired.  Talk about cultural penetration!  Or pollution.  Depends on how much you do or don’t like the Simpsons.

Trip back included another night at Whangeroa harbor.  Connie and Caleb took the dingy for a spin.  I had some boat work to get after.  One of my favorite things after all!  🙂IMG_20180328_182013123.jpgAnd it was a good night to roast a chicken.  And feed the bones to the crabs!  Sometimes the crabs feed you.  Sometimes you feed the crabs!IMG_20180326_082841762.jpgThis was breakfast.  Fog did not last too long and we made it back to Opua in time for dinner.  Great to have Connie and Caleb join Spill The Wine.  It was fun to watch them get into the rhythm of the boat.  On the last day I did not have to tell them what to do anymore.  Things just started to happen.  They get invited back.  Or rather they would if I could get ahead of all the boat hoohaa I have to get done before STW heads back to Fiji!  Stay tuned.

Boatyard Tales

There is always plenty to do on a boat. We had her hauled out in February before Nancy and I left for Mexico. You see her here in a TravelLift. Pretty common boatyard tool to move boats in and out of the water.

Katrina and Roddy got busy and removed the prop and drive shaft.

There are a few moving parts in this prop.

And they are carefully machined and balanced to work well together.  Ya gotta love brass!  The purpose of all this engineering is to build a prop that will rotate it’s blades to be parallel with the direction of the boat’s travel when the motor isn’t used. That way there is less drag when you are sailing. A normal prop is fine when you are motoring, but when sailing it provides as much drag as a towing a 5 gallon bucket. A prop that feathers it’s blades can gain you 1/2 a knot. And 10% more speed amounts to a day faster passage on a thousand miles.

Here’s Roddy taking the prop apart. Note the greasy bit still on the shaft.

Anyway the prop can be greased while out of the water. And prop removal was required to allow replacement of the prop shaft cutless bearing.

The cutless bearing lives in the strut. The press rig is set up to remove it.

Next was to remove the prop shaft and send it off to make sure that it was straight. Katrina is victorious! Shaft is removed. And turned out to be strait.

There is a concern. One of my crew bumped a rock in Fiji 5 months ago. Didn’t seem like too hard of a blow at the time.

But it did fail the joint between the forward end of the keel and the hull. Lets water into the joint. Not a big deal I thought at the time. Now the question is whether the keel should be removed to properly be resealed.

If you look closely you can see water seeping out of the joint. Problem is it has been out of the water for three weeks. This should have stopped long ago. Unless the fiberglass itself is saturated with water and gradually letting it go. Oh boy. That doesn’t sound good.

Anyway that answers the question of whether the keel needs to be removed or not. It does.

This was a doing. Todd from the boatyard spent a day chiseling at the joint. It’s bolted and glued. You want to weaken the glue by 80% or so. Then when you release the keelbolts the keel can be separated from the hull without too much drama.


Carl was a lean mean keel removing machine. This guy knows a lot about his work and is quite interested in sharing that knowledge. Great to work with this whole team.

After the keel separated we noted that there were 6 inch deep pockets in the top of the keel. And they were full of water. Hmmmm. So the pieces now fit. Seal failure. Seawater ingress fills pockets. Boat on the hard and joint weeps. Then it rains and fills the pockets again. And on you go. So it was the pockets weeping, not my fiberglass hull. Well that’s good news.

Team dried out the pockets and painted the top of the keel. Boat hangs overnight in the TravelLift to dry the paint.

This is an uncomfortable situation. My mast is 63′ high. Normally there is 7000 lbs of cast iron on the bottom of the boat to make it not so top heavy. Problem is the keel is no longer attached. Spill the Wine is top heavy now. I put a couple lines from high on the mast to the ground to stabilize it. And there wasn’t much wind thank you very much.

The next morning the team applied sealant then lowered the boat back on to the keel. Then the 10 keel bolts, 1 cm each, all need 450 ft lbs of torque. They brought in a 5 foot torque wrench to get that done. I worked with Dave on this project and it was a lot of torqueing. 450 is a large number.

Another bit of business was aligning the motor. There is a flanged bit of steel that bolts to the end of the propshaft. It is then bolted to the transmission. These have to be square with one another. They’re not quite right.

If you look closely you’ll get it. I’ve placed a light source beneath the joint. You can see light on the right side of the joint but not so much on the left. Not square.

So one merely loosens the motor mounts and wiggles the motor around to get right and left edges aligned. Then you adjust the tilt of the motor to align top and bottom and bolt it all back up. No problem! Four cylinder diesel engines are easy to wiggle!

I’ll have to do this again when she’s been back in the water a bit, but I wanted to get it close since it was taken apart.

Then it was time to tighten up the engine mounts.  Three of them tightened up ok.  One wouldn’t.  Turns out the engine mounts are secured with bolts with a washer ad a nut on the inside of the beam the motor rests on.  You did catch that right?  On the INSIDE of the beam.  Now in the case of the three that happened to tighten up anyway, there was access provided so you could get a box wrench on the nut to make prevent it from rotating with the bolt (and not tightening anything).

It turns out I have a selection of hole saws on board.  Used one of them to put an access hold into the side of the beam.  Sounds easy enough.  Trick was there is almost no room to get this bit done either.  I had to put the drill under the motor.  Very little room to do that.  Then mount the hole saw in the drill chuck.  Then put the battery on the drill.  These three pieces had to go down separately to get them under the engine.  Then I went after the beam and made holes about 1.5 inches across that would let me get a wrench on the nuts.  Next time it will be easier!  And stop laughing at me for packing hole saws!


Biking Northland

A friend of mine, John Larsen, has his boat in a boat yard about 20 kilometers from here. He’s having some interesting work done I wanted to go over and see how his progress was coming along. The trick is he doesn’t have time to give me a ride back so do I hitchhike or maybe I should ride my bike…

The roads here are all 2-lane and the drivers tend to drive… enthusiastically let’s say. As pretty as the country is that’s really not a formula for the most enjoyable ride.

So I ask the Google. I got three choices.

The the top route goes along the two-lane Highway. So does the bottom one. The one in the middle got to go straight and it goes through the Opua Forest. That has to sound attractive. Google has a slick feature that tells you about elevation gained and lost so you’ll know how much up and downhill you have to worry about on your bike.

If if you look at the bottom of this image you’ll see there’s a profile of the trail that I’m about to undertake. Sure there’s some vertical but it doesn’t look evil.

I set out from John’s boat yard. He loans me a helmet because I didn’t bring one from Seattle, and they’re required by law here. I found a little bit of pavement at the beginning and a little bit of pavement at the end but the rest was all gravel road through very rural terrain.

As soon as I left the main highway behind, I saw three cars the rest of the journey.

Now there looks like a lost bike in high weeds. By now you might have noticed that my bicycle is my subject. I’m out here by myself here and it’s hard to take a picture of yourself without it looking kind of selfie.

HitchHiking in New Zealand

Best place to HitchHike ever! Pretty easy. And I’ve met some interesting cats. My trips have been limited to local. It’s been raining frequently through our every day. Accordingly a three hour trip to Auckland is bound to soak you. And there’s bus service to Auckland anyway. But I nick over to Paihia or KeriKeri a couple times a week for groceries or parts. I made up some signs for these destinations as well as Opua for the return trip.

I’ve probably got 50,000 miles HitchHiking over my lifetime and I’ll share with you some tricks I’ve used to help the drivers more quickly decide whether to pick you up or not. You have 10 seconds to make the sale.

Attitude matters. Just about everybody wants to give you a ride. But there are reasons to say no. They don’t know whether their trip will get you closer to your destination. They might think you look scary. Hitchers as a category don’t enjoy the best reputation. Everything about how you approach HitchHiking has to work to defeat that stereotype.

Here’s an attitude sketch for you. Guy picks me up in the US Southwest in 1980. We are chatting and he wants to know what I’m up to. I tell him that I’m on a tour that started in Toledo Ohio then went to Seattle, then south to LA, and now I’m on my way to Atlanta where I’ll head back North for Toledo. He was impressed. I was a bit startled by the journey myself (I was 20).

Then he asked me how long the different legs had taken. When I told him he was astounded at the pace I was making. I was getting rides way more easily than he would have expected.

And why were his expectations so different than my reality? Turns out he’s done some HitchHiking himself. Told me it took him 2 weeks to hitch from Chicago to LA. I went into listen mode and he described the trip. He carried a pistol in his backpack. Because he was afraid of the drivers. One might do him wrong. People can see fear in your body language. And they won’t want you in their car. Living a fearful life really takes the fun out of living.

I’ve had exactly zero times in the many miles when I was worried about what a driver’s intent was. Some maybe didn’t drive well but that’s another issue.

One trick I’ve already mentioned. Have a sign. You have destination. You are not some lost soul that will be burden the driver. And they can sort out very quickly whether their trip would do you any good.

No sunglasses. Eye contact helps the driver connect with you and helps convince them that you are not a loony. Smile! It’s a beautiful day!

Look clean. No weird message T-shirts. One bag would be plenty. Too much gear and you look a burden. I tried hitching with a 6 pack of beer once. If that made any difference I can’t say I noticed. Maybe I shouldn’t have drank all of them… But that was so long ago.

Pick a spot where there is plenty of room for the driver to safely get on the shoulder. The last deal breaker is “I woulda picked ’em up but there was no room to pull over!”

I’d have to add, one of the strangest rides I ever got was at night on the Florida freeway. A woman driving a Pinto (you remember, the ones that were famous for exploding when rear ended) backed it up across a freeway bridge to pick me up. Long story but alcohol was involved on her end.

I hitch alone. I’ve found that my worst luck getting rides was when there were two of us. Two women would probably do well as a pair but it never worked for me.

Remember drivers have very little time to sort you out. Anything you can do to simplify their decision process will get you to your destination sooner.

Once you are on board your function is to make the driver’s day a better one for having picked you up. Sometimes that means you tell stories, sometimes that means you listen. Sometimes you feel like you are hearing a confession. Especially if you are in a car with a driver on a longer leg.

So for my first go I’m off to KeriKeri for supplies and maybe the bank. I get a ride immediately with two women that are on their way to go golf. We chat a bit then our paths diverge at a bottle shop. They need some beer for golfing. Maybe I should have been a golfer…

Another guy on that trip was maybe 30. He was just coming from a farm. He’s a livestock broker. He puts livestock buyers and sellers together. He tells me about some of his farmers being kinda crazy. I get that, as an optometrist I’ve had patients that were kinda crazy. ( You know who you are!)

When I arrived on the plane on Feb 28th I hitched to the marina. First guy was a short hop. On his way to a meeting. But he got me to an intersection where more of the traffic was going my way. That’s progress.

Then a couple Mauri guys took me on. The Mauri were the original inhabitants of NZ before white people came along. They were having a good day. It was a pleasure to share part of it with them.

The next two rides turns out to be sailors. No surprise really, NZ is full of sailors. Extensive experience in and about the South Pacific. You know we got along!

So that was 4 rides from airport to marina. Probably 20 miles. If I rented a car it would have taken longer. Surprised I don’t see more hitchers here.

Yesterday I hitched to Paihia. I had to mail Nancy her computer. It’s maybe four miles. I got a ride with Cindy. Top down Mazda Miata. And a good thing too as I was a tight fit in that little shoe of a car. She does work to help people with body energy. No shortage of energy for her. I definitely went into listen mode. We got along and she offered to take me back to Opua when our mutual shopping was done. She was also a bluewater sailor. And seemed to know everybody in Opua. Ok. Opua is only so big…

Today is Feb 3 and I’m off for Auckland on the bus. An old friend from Ohio State Optometry will be in Auckland with her husband for a few days. I’m going to try to catch them there. If I can’t find them I’ll go find the America’s Cup and prostrate myself or something.

But there is a problem. The bus that normally comes to Opua will not be doing so. There is a mudslide somewhere causing trouble with traffic. Now this has been a problem for weeks. And when I booked the bus yesterday there was no mention of no Opua. Then this morning I get a notification that I have to go to Paihia to catch that bus. So my walk becomes a hitchhike. And I have a Sign and I ain’t askeered a’ nothin!

One ride. Nice fellow who did not talk much. Tobacco took his voicebox away. So I told him a couple stories and we shared a laugh. I was not too sure where the bus stop was but he knew. And I had time for Lunch! Or maybe it was second breakfast… Hobbit zone you know.

Enter the Auckland

Arrived downtown Auckland on the bus. Found my way to the Base Hostel. The young folks that joined Spill The Wine on the way across the Pacific stay at these places. So I thought I’d try it. Base is 10 stories. Maybe 20 rooms per floor. 4 beds per room. Showers/loo down the hall. And they sold them all at 25 bucks per bed.

A high tide of young people had filled the downtown scene. And certainly this hostel. I’m glad chemotherapy made my grey hair go away in 2014. I try to pass as someone way younger than I am. Keep the lights low.

I check in and find my room. Two young women already in residence. I get the bottom bunk. Say hello and go for a walk. It’s interesting how this works. If you have no privacy you ignore each other and pretend you do. Ok then.

A classmate of mine from Ohio State days is here in town for a meeting. Time to go find her. Maybe she found me… Anyway the whole bunch of eye docs is having dinner here in the hotel. I crash the party. What else would a pirate do? It was fun. I had traveled with this group a few times in the past. Great to catch up with Christine and her husband Tim.

They crashed. Had to happen, jet lag did them in.

As I walk about I note security is reasonably visible.

These officers are chatting with a shopkeeper. I note the police here are armed with tasers but that is all.

About 10% of the population is licensed to own guns. But people carrying them about is not customary. So if there are no guns on the street, the cops don’t need them either.

Bruno Mars is playing at the big downtown arena. That might be worth seeing. I walk over. Hmm sold out. And no scalpers. Not even one. So I move on down the road. Find a pub with a good band for awhile and then head back to the hostel.

There is a disco in the hostel basement. Low ceiling. No jumping! The music was unfortunate but the room was having fun so it was a decent space to be in.

Three lads adopted me. Nice of them. After awhile one of them buys the first round of rum/redbull heart attack in a jar drinks. I’m in Rome now!

After awhile we went to another similar spot. Same scene really. It was in a basement too. But the rum/energy drinks were a different color. I guess that’s progress.

Thanks to the meds I’m not out of gas but eventually I decided it was time to find my way to my room anyway. Hope I did not snore.

Remember I was pressed for time to catch the bus to Auckland? Well in my haste I forgot a few things. A toothbrush would have been nice. A towel maybe? And a hairbrush? Some soap? I found the handwashing sink and put a bunch of hand soap on my head. The redbull made me do it!

After my shower I start to look like a scary HitchHiker. And the scary hitcher checked out and wandered down to the waterfront.

Where else, it’s me remember? 🙂 Lots of Volvo ocean racing sleds.

Here’s five of the seven racers. Wow! They shrinkwrap them because… It’s just what you do. Part of their PR program on let’s use less plastic maybe. These boats get hammered in the southern ocean. Auckland rain gonna be a problem?

And don’t bonk that keel on a reef. Certainly run up a bill.

Some of them are getting some damage control. Must have hit a few fish pretty hard!

All these racing boats are identical. One of the exhibits was one boat cut away to reveal the interior. These boats are not generous on space. And they sail with a crew of 7 to 11 adult members. That gets crowded. The exhibit was populated exclusively with children. Lots of them.

This looks like a rack of weasels in the cockpit. Now what the photo is hiding from you is that every one of them is in constant motion, having a blast. :). Made me dizzy just watching.

The way to the bus stop it uphill, but it is time to get moving.