Musket Cove

9/17/2017

Today is Hobie cat day at 2pm. Kat and I decide to participate. There is a lot of wind. 15-20 kts. 4 Hobie cats. Raced in pairs throughout the afternoon. We watch a bunch of heats before our turn. Many capsized boats due to high wind. I decide I will call it a success if we don’t capsize. And we don’t. But we were eliminated. Sigh!

Friends brought Mahi Mahi and we toasted it on the Egg for dinner.

9/18/2017

Willow departs today. Taking the ferry back to the big Island then Taxi to the airport. Wave!

Tonight was briefing for tomorrow’s Race. Will we be ready? Huub and Kat cleaned the hull so we will go faster. Might work! Then costume like party at the beach bar.

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This photo was from the opening night party.  all the nation’s represented had the amazing opportunity to sing their national anthem.  Naturally Nancy knew all the words.

 

 

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Eye work at Soso Village

More 9/13/2017

We arrive in our chosen cove shortly before sunset. Assemble the dingy and lo! The outboard likes the propane! I take the dinghy to Soso village and ask permission from the chief to anchor in their bay. His English is limited and there is a woman translating into the native tongue. He says fine, anchor away. I gift him with a quantity of Kava. I don’t know much about this but I read that it is very traditional to introduce yourself to the village this way. It is a root that is made into a beverage. Kinda like a tea. Additionally I tell the chief that I will be back at 11am the following day to distribute reading glasses.

Back on Spill The Wine we roast a chicken and some veges. It’s great to be out of the marina again.

9/14/2017

So this morning we went back in to Soso village. We had our personal videographer Huub. Kat and Nancy worked our supply of glasses and kept the flow moving. Dr. Willow and I evaluated patients and recommended prescription strength. We saw about 30 patients. The youngest was 48. We fixed them all up with reading glasses. Nicer gentler people I have not met. Loving Fiji. I am recommending Fiji to you.

In the afternoon we went around the corner and did a drift snorkel in a narrow pass. Mucho fish!

Then we came back to Soso and saw a few more patients. Then a nice gentleman took us for a tour of Soso and we had tea and biscuits with the first lady of the village. Then we retired to Spill The Wine before the sun went down. There were many children on the beach to see us off. And I happened to notice that there was a great deal of sand in the dinghy that unknown agents had tracked in. Unknown agents with very small feet I’m thinking… 🙂

9/15/201

Yay! Happy aniversary to Nancy and me! Fiji is a great place to be happy together.

Kat and Huub and I get up at 6 and hoist the anchor. Huub documents everything with video. The anchor, deploying the sails, all kinds of angles. We have 28 miles to go and the wind cooperates for a time. Kat and I clean the heck out of the cockpit with salt water. Fun because when it dries it leaves salt crystals that catch the sun and shine like so many diamonds. Then Kat makes German pancakes with fried plantains for everybody.

We find our way to Musket Cove Yacht Club and anchor. Register for the regatta. Opening bash was interesting. They had all the different nationalities present sing their respective national anthems. Germany Canada US Australia New Zealand Fiji and who knows who else. Good crowd.

9/16/2017

Race to Treasure Island for lunch and back today. Wind is ok then gone. It was reading 0.1 knots at one point. Not sure if I’ve ever seen it that low. Ok some Motoring called for. Restaurant is about all the island can hold. We pick up another couple sailors that had stayed too long and missed their ride. Fun couple 70 year old blokes (being English). We closed the night on one of their boats.

Fijian Welcome

9/11/2017

Envionmental inspection comes on board at 1130. We spent the morning cleaning the b’jesus out of the interior. Little bits of mold in many places. Debris in too many odd spots. So it was a good thing the customs process started so late.

Environmental guy, Wilson, was very nice and our foodstuffs passed his scrutiny. He nuked the boat interior with anti mosquito stuff. As I was speaking to Wilson in the cockpit, I noted one of the flying ants on the floor. Hmmm bummer. Without drawing attention I crushed him with my toe. Don’t want to be having a flying ant discussion with an environmental inspector. Then to shore. A crew of Fijians came to the dock to sing us a welcome. We are only one boat! Over the top welcome. Then on to customs. A woman behind the counter there asks if we have any fresh fruit or eggs. We do I tell her. Wison gave these things a pass, but I don’t mention that. She is not pleased with her coworkers! “Now I have to board your boat!” Off she stomps and the eggs and bananas do not pass. We also lose canned meat of all things. My beloved Spam goes. Canned chicken goes.

After I make it through customs I check in to the marina and apply for a Cruising Permit. We should have that in hand by tomorrow.

Thoughts on customs. The process here is circuitous and not always logical as in most countries. But the attitude of the staff is universally friendly and helpful. So I’d have to say best customs experience since leaving Mexico.

Next is Propane. The fuel depot is about a block away. I carry the fuel tanks over and discover they have butane primarily but propane too in tanks that are not set up for filling mine. I explain that propane is for my outboard motor and that butane does not work. They tell me they can do it. Just come by tomorrow am to pick up.

9/12/2017

I am at the gas depot at 8 am and there was a problem. Tanks not filled. But come back at noon. Ok. Back at noon. Before i can tell him why I’m here the gate attendant says “oh, well. You’re the propane guy.” And the clock ticks on my 15 minutes of “propane guy” fame. And the tanks are ready. I was beginning to doubt! Deliver the propane tanks back to SpilltheWine. Collect boat papers. Taxi to the customs office at the wharf in Lautoka. My Cruising Permit is properly authorized and stamped. Stamps are very important in the world of customs. Stickers sometimes too.

While I have been fooling around with gas and customs Nancy, Willow and Kat go to town to round up food. Also mission critical! We get it all together and fund that our plans to depart today are void. Too late to sail. Too soon dark. Ok, one more night in Vuda Marina.

Which is an odd marina. It is round. The boats tie bow or stern to the stone perimeter wall. Then you tie to an anchor towards the center of the basin. And the boats are quite close to one another. There are no finger piers. Makes getting on and off the boats rather exciting. Leap of death off the bow is what it amounts to. In any case the staff is awesome but apart from them I’d rather not spend too much time here.

9/13/2017

We get ready to go. I pay the bill at the marina office. Then off we go. Me, Nancy, Willow, Kat and Huub. We start out with main and jib at 10 kts. Later we stow the jib and fly the asymmetric spinnaker. Things go great until the wind takes a lunch break. And we motor for a bit. Gotta get shelter before dark. Too many reefs here for night sailing.

Closing on Fiji

9/9/2017

Nice morning.  We motored through a windless night and deploy the jib as the wind builds.  We make 3 to 4kts.  This will have us arriving at the right time to avoid triple customs fees (weekend arrival is more costly).

Huub has been closeted away working on a video tutorial on how to hitch boat rides across the Pacific Ocean.  He shows me the finished product.  Nice work.  Look for “The Dutch Seaman on YouTube.

After breakfast the fresh Walter pump blows a fuse.  Hmm.  Never did that before…   so I reset it.  Then it blew again.  Now I know what I’ll be up to this morning.

I put an amp meter on the pump which is rated to draw 11 amps max.  I measure it drawing up to 50.  And also it reads OL on the meter at times.  I take this to mean over limit.  I think something is shorting.  I set about pulling the pump.  I note the wire terminals show signs of overheating.  50 amps will do that to 16 gauge wire…   It happens I have a spare water pump.  I install that and it works fine.

Kat asks me how water pumps work.  I try to explain and fail.  Nothing like taking bum gear apart as a teaching tool.  The motor is tricky but it looks like the contact plates in the rotor might be shorting out with dust from aged brushes.  We clean the narrow space between the plates with an old guitar string and reassemble.  Then inspect the pump mechanism.  That part doesn’t look suspicious.  Reinstall that pump and still draws too much power.  One or more rotor coils shorted?  Maybe I’ll look at this pump motor again some old lonesome day but for now we run on the spare.  Anybody have electrical advice or do I have to open (gasp!) a book?

The wind poops out during this project and it is again diesel time again.  Later in the afternoon wind returns and we run nicely on the spinnaker.  We’ve been fishing but no fish.  Pasta with zucchini and cream sauce for dinner is a great plan B.

9/10/2017

We motored through most of last night.  Then during Kat’s watch some wind returns.   I’m sleeping and wake to the sound of her deploying the jib.  I consider going up to help.  But it’s an easy one sailor task.  And she will realize more satisfaction if she does it all herself.  She agreed when I spoke to her later.

Shortly after dawn we furl the jib and deploy the spinnaker.  Not a one sailor job!  Flies nicely for a few hours, then wind dies again.  We are 30 miles from our marina destination.  We are due at 6pm earliest.  Its 9:45 am and we have time.

Passage to Fiji

9/6/2017

The sea is endless and we are enjoying nights with a full to nearly full moon.  It’s never dark.  We have a lot of lentils on board.  Legacy from previous crew Lynn Ringseis.  Kat makes good things happen to them and we feast.

9/7/2017

Kat makes pancakes with banana lime vanilla jam that she also made.  Really glad she moved into the galley.  After breakfast she and I deploy the asymmetric spinnaker.  Wind perfect for this and she flies all day.  Huub gets up and we all nibble on leftovers and enjoy the ride.

Late in the morning I bathe on the swim step while the crew sleeps.  It’s good to be clean and we have full water tanks on board.  Mr. Sulu the wind vane steering system takes over for the electric autopilot.

9/8/2017

Today brings decent wind that decays as the day wears on.  Wind now 4kts.  We are making 2.  Not all bad.  Fat wind early was putting us areas of schedule.  Risk of arriving on wkend.  Which means overtime for the customs people.  Runs up a bill. I was told 500 extra.  So the wind dying saves us money.  Don’t want to get there before Monday anyway.  But we Like going fast.  Kat cheers us up with spicy Flatbread and creamy cucumber salad.  It’s a good day!

Last Tango in Vava’u

9/2/2017

Wake up this morning and the cove is glass and the birds are singing their morning songs. After breakfast itv’s time to snorkel.  More peaceful without wind and waves.  Starfish, fishfish, sea slugs, coral.  A good day to snorkel.  The sea is so still I can watch my shadow glide across the bottom of the anchorage.

Today we are off for anchorage 30.  It’s funny.  All the anchorages have #s.  Beats trying and failing to pronounce the local names!

30 is cool.  With reservations.  You can go ashore and hike a bit.  We crossed over to the Eastern exposure.  Serious surf and cliffs.  Very dramatic.  Then the west side was gentle beach. That is where we anchored.  Shallow bits there.  We kissed the sand gently with the keel.  Keep it gentle shall we?  But good anchorage found very close by.

In the mid afternoon the flies were getting out of hand.  Maybe 100 of them in the boat.  You get the idea.  Crew was ashore so Nancy and I hauled the anchor and we dropped it further from shore.  Maybe 150 yards more seaward.  And that made a big difference.  We went on a fly murdering rampage with the electric swatter.  The fly bodies stacked up on the floor bit we were victorious.  This is the only time we have seen many flies at all on the boat.  Odd.

S/V Danika with our friends John and Oceana were also anchored here but no other boats.  We all had dinner on Spill The Wine.  Still out of charcoal so fueling the Big Green Egg with bits of wood again.  Should have tried this a long time ago.

9/3/2017

Off to anchorage 16.  Good snorkeling nearby.  Sheltered from the prevailing Easterly wind.  Huub and Kat row to shore and scope out a beach and decide to take hammocks ashore and sleep there.  Sounds like a nice idea.  Until after dark after dinner. Then they decided maybe not.  I get that.  This anchorage has no flies.  But they do have flying ants.  Hundreds of them.  We play a bit of guitar in the cockpit but that does not last long.  Too many flying ants.  Maybe locusts tomorrow?  I’ll stay tuned.

In the middle of the night the wind shifts.  Now from the South and we are swinging pretty close to shore as a result.  No Bueno.  Kat and I re-anchor in the very dark and 20-25 kt wind.  But we dropped anchor in the protection on another little island so it all worked.  Except for the seat cushion that the wind sailed out of the cockpit.  So it goes.  Situation normal.

9/4/2017

Today after breakfast we return to Neiafu.  We need to stock up for the crossing and check out with customs as we depart from Tonga for Fiji.  Nancy flies to Fiji tomorrow.  But not before she and Kat take inventory of the galley supplies.  Disposing of things expired and getting a grocery list together.  We have dinner at the home of a Tongan guy we met.  Nice meal and priceless grand children.

9/5/2017

Nancy is off to the airport after breakfast.  Spill The Wine is off to fill her water tanks.  Then off to the customs dock.  Then Kat and Huub go execute the grocery list.  I deal with customs.  Then the fuel truck is scheduled to come to the wharf and fill our tanks with diesel.  We get tax free fuel as we have already cleared customs.  Yay!  By 3:30 in the afternoon we are ready to head west.  Wind predictions are favorable.  We should have enough wind to sail all the way to Fiji without having too much wind.

We stop on the way out to visit a small island that has an abandoned lookout tower from WWII.  It is wooden and a bit rotten.  But has a nice view.  We collect some coconuts for our crossing.  And Kat builds a lee cloth for the couch on the port side.  This is a tarp of sorts that turns that couch into storage.  Gets a lot of happy crap off the floor.  She also finishes moving into the galley.  Here is something I learned on this trip.  Is someone comes on board and wants to move into your galley you let them.  Good things happen if you do.

At sunset we resume our way West.  Wind is loving us and the seas roll pleasantly.  Ok, a few things go flying but that’s really kinda natural. 🙂  Kat makes an awesome pasta with Veges and spicy sauce.  I told you good things happen!  We rotate through our watches. Our wind continues to deliver 15-20 kts.  We make 140 miles in our first 24 hours.  Pretty good for Spill The Wine.  She is a bit pudgy with all our gear.

 

 

Touring Vava’u

9/1/2017

We move to another anchorage under power.  There is wind to sail by but we need to charge the batteries.  Our solar panels help but really don’t keep up with consumption.

The new anchorage is again protected from the east.  So protected from the wind.  Snorkeling is good.  Huub and I row ashore to collect wood for our first no charcoal fire.  There is plenty.  And it works well in the Big Green Egg.  Stuffed chicken thighs, tuna, and eggplant follow shortly.  Kat makes pasta salad and coleslaw.  It’s a good day.  Thom from Fathom makes it over from  town for dinner. He just finished new bottom paint and is ready to tour his boat.  Likely see him in Fiji too.

 

 

The Woodcutter of Vava’u

8/31/2017

After a few days in town we stock up lightly for a few days out in the island group. First night we anchor at Port Murelle. This is a bay that opens to the west. As the wind is from the east this gives us good protection. I took a walk on shore to round up some wood.  Lemme show ya how that’s done…

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I notice spots where the earth is disturbed. I learn later that this is from wild pigs rooting around. We built a fire at sundown and roasted local sausages served with Kat’s potato salad. Germans are good at that. John and Oceana from Danika joined us and there is guitar and drumming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close Encounters of the Vava’u kind

8/30/2017

Today we do a whale tour. You can swim with humpback here. We spot one early in the tour. We get in the water, which is pretty rough, and try to get a visual of Mr. Whale.  Can’t. But the whale is singing. And when you are underwater it sounds like it is coming from inside your head. Very unusual.

Later in the day we encounter a large male humpback. We get into the water with him and he is just hanging at about 75 feet. It is dark down there so all you can really see is a bit of white margin on the fins and tail. I dive down to about 50 feet a couple to see if he wants to play. He does. He comes up right under me after I have surfaced and I end up laying on him his between pectoral fins (kinda like arms) as he breaks the surface and heads back down. I swear I’m not making this up. Then he proceeds to swim repeatedly through our group of snorkelers. So graceful. Gotta keep in mind that the body is followed by a tail. Bummer. Tail caught me and Nancy
She is sporting a couple of black eyes and needs a new mask/snorkel. I think the whale is ok though. The most amazing thing we have ever done with a snorkel. Close encounters indeed

 

 

 

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This is what it looks like after a nice head massage from a whale tail.

 

 

Vava’u

8/22/2017

So we arrive in Vava’u group about dawn. Notice we thought we’d arrive Monday but it is Tuesday.  International dateline pinched a day from us on the passage. The light is perfect to help us through the reef and into what might be a lagoon, but it’s pretty big.  And full of islands.  Big swells as it shallows up in the pass through the reef.  But no breaking waves.  Then we make our way through the islands and reefs.  Spotting about 5 whales in different parts of the lagoon.  The humpback whales come here seasonally to sing and live their lives.  We are on our way to Neiafu town to check in with customs.  Which is still not my favorite thing but the agents were very nice.

That done we find a mooring ball near town.  Ashore to get some grub and then to visit with some of the neighbors we recognize from earlier ports.  Some as far back as Mexico.

8/24/2017

We decide to sail out to a cove on the Eastern margin of Vava’u.  Wind is good and the day is stunning.  We enter the sea to the east and the swell begins to move us.  Shortly we get to the pass into the cove.  The pass is deepest at high tide.  Noon today.  We cross with 10 ft min depth.  A little tight for STW’s 6’6″ draft.  Beautiful spot.  Small beach.  One of the neighbor cruisers turns 72.  We have been running into him off and on since Mexico.  He went surfing behind his dinghy.  Not acting his age, to his advantage.

8/25/2017

We depart the cove at 1pm.  High tide again to clear the pass.  Excellent sailing up the channel returning to Neiafu town.  We stop at a cave at the base of a cliff.  Cool snorkeling.  Then on to town and pick up a mooring ball in the harbor.  Really close to the landing thank you.  We are nearly out of propane for the outboard.  The butane we have been finding elsewhere works pretty well in the motor but the Tonga butane runs it quite poorly.  Attempts at adjusting have not been effective.  But searching the storage compartments has turned up a few little green propane cans.  They work.  But mostly we row.  Its good for us!