Auckland to Wellington by Train

1/2/2018 In a vertical country it is easier to build a railway. Like a spine! We sleep well, if all too briefly, after arriving from Seattle last night. Catching the train for Wellington at 0745.\n Takes all day. And will be a peaceful ride through the backyards and back roads of New Zealand. And we are ready for peaceful. Train runs through some mountains. At one point there is a spiral tunnel carved into a cliff to gain altitude more gradually than the terrain would otherwise allow. They are telling us that each foot of altitude gain can be accomplished in no less than 50 feet of track. Steeper than that and engine loses traction. Maybe with more locomotives steeper might work.

Views are fantastic. And the pace is a big relax. Really like train travel. We chat with our neighbor about the area. She is very local. Her dad worked on the railway. Finally we arrive in Wellington. Big old time train station from the golden age of rail. Awesome. Wellington proves to be a delightful city.

They have a botanical garden worthy of the name. You ride an ancient cable car up the hill and walk down thru the garden. And it’s a beautiful day!

Somehow they must have heard that my wife Nancy Patterson was coming to town. And they reserved a parking spot. Nice folks. We should have rented a car! Or maybe it’s a no parking zone… Other countries are so confusing!

Their waterfront was awesome. Lots of cool brass stuff like Mexico has on their Malecons. But it’s a bit spookily underpopulated. Turns out this is the capitol of NZ. And it’s a holiday weekend. So they are all off in the bush enjoying their countryside! Leaving the town to the few that remain behind. Works out.

Around town and in the airport there are creations from WETA. Movie prop making group here in Wellington. Awesome work.

After a couple Wellington days we fly to Queensland on the South island. Very interesting experience. Hit the airport. Go through security. They did not ask for any ID other than our boarding pass. We told them who we were, and they took us where we needed to go. Very refreshing. This was the pattern through all of our travels in New Zealand. We rented a van to facilitate touring.

Queensland is a nice enough tourist town but it’s definitely a tourist town. This is their industry. After picking up the van we drove up the Central Otego valley to do some wine tasting. The have lovely wine here but great Pinot Noir for sure. We stop at the first bungee jumping place ever. Maybe. But it is spectacular. They toss customers off a bridge and they are recovered by a raft in the river below. Unrivaled setting.

Queensland is on beautiful lake Wakatipu. If you look you might see some rain across the lake.

There is an old steamship TSS Earnslaw. Built 1921 and ferrying people up and down this lake for 97 years. We did not ride but just watching it depart was stunning.


Here is a photo across the lake. Grey cloudy day. Then hole in clouds spotlights the opposite shore. I hope the photo does this Justice.

We don’t spend much time in Queensland as we are on our way to Glenorchy at the North end of the lake. From age 9 to 15 I lived in Olympia Washington. One of my buddies had a sister Kathy and her life found her living with husband John in Glenorchy. They have invited us to spend a few days in their home. About 450 people live in Glenorchy. So small town for real. One of the towns amenities is the campground that Kathy is involved with.

https://www.theheadwaters.co.nz/about-us/whats-coming/camp-glenorchy-construction/

Now campgrounds kinda don’t do well anytime but summer. This one too. So there have been serial owners and serial failures to really make it work. The group is financing/organizing the campground and associated general store rebuild is making changes to expand their functional seasons beyond summer. They turned some of the land into hotel-ish housing. But different. They have a large solar panel array. Sewage is composted. Wastewater is handled on site and becomes irrigation for the landscaping. Building materials are recycled and/or locally sourced. Artists working on site drive the esthetics of design. The financial backers are putting all profits back into the Glenorchy community. Really impressive. This place is at high risk of serving as a model for beyond sustainable environmental and community development. Grand opening March 2018 and long may they run.

Apart from spending some delightful evenings with Kathy and John, we toured the Dart River valley.

This would be the setting for Isengard in the Lord of the Rings series. Beautiful countryside.

Nancy and I did a hike (a “Tramp” in local parlance) up to Sylvan lake. Trails very well maintained.

On our way we met a Bush Robin. Very curious little bird. Not so interested in our food, just inquisitive. Made us want to do more hiking.

But dirt roads are hard on the equipment. We ended up getting a flat tire. We put the micro spare (labeled “don’t drive on me very far!”) on and got back to Kathy and John’s.

It’s later on a Friday afternoon. We have some driving to do to get to other parts of the South island. Tire was destroyed. Need to be replaced. Nothing like that can happen in Glenorchy. And too late to get to Queenstown before things close for the weekend. And we need to travel did I mention? John suggests we call the car rental company and enquire about options. He does this for us and they say no problem. We will swap your van for another and look after the tire fix on Monday. They really made it possible for us to keep up with our previously scheduled stuff.

Kudos to the staff at Scotties rentals for taking care of us when things got complicated. 🙂 1/7/2018 We take our leave from Kathy and John. Brilliant hosts and fun to peek at the interesting projects they have become involved with in New Zealand.

It’s Sunday and we are headed for Te Anau. It’s a few hours drive through some great mountains. We find our hotel and scout the town so we know where to be the next morning. We will catch a bus and a guide will take us to Milford sound and on a few hikes on the way there and back.

After getting the lay of the land and dinner we return to our hotel to relax. We spot a couple in the hotel courtyard and join them. Chris and Elaine from UK. We enjoy a lovely evening as the sun sets. Sharing some wine, nice conversation and some guitar. The next day we head for the bus to Milford sound.

We are about to discover this Fjiording is wet work!

The guide has a lot to say about the area. The route passes through progressively more rainforest area. Lots of rain here on an annual reckoning. To include today off and on. But that is what fuels waterfalls after all.

We reach the tour boat dock. That and a parking lot. There is no town here.

There is a reason nearly everyone comes here by bus. And we get on the boat. Milford Sound is a fjord. Very deep with steep walls. Lots of waterfalls dumping the night’s rain into the sea. This place is alive with seals, penguins, dolphins, wow! And rain off and on.

More short hikes on the way back to Te Anau. Crazy New Zealand birds and more waterfalls.

We get back to town in time for dinner. Next day we pack up the van to travel further south.

On the way across the south end we saw evidence of chronic severe winter winds from Antarctica. Impressive!

The town of Bluff is the gateway to Stewart island. We check in to this funky art deco Foveau Hotel across from the ferry dock. Much of the waterfront is a hundred years old or more with lots of deco buildings. Interesting neighborhood flavor.

Ferry the next day to Stewart island. Not too many people. Tourism is probably their biggest industry but is far from over done. We did a short bus tour then did a hike across the island. Watched cormorants fishing. Met some crazy guy with no shoes on the beach that lives on his boat. Who would do such a thing!

Return ferry later that afternoon and it’s time for dinner at Bluff’s excellent Oyster Cove restaurant. We enjoyed breakfast at the Foveau with the owner. Interesting expatriot woman from the US. Hotel is for sale if you are in the market for one.

Driving back North to fly back to the boat via Auckland. We stay one night at Queenstown. Unpacking the van I note that my guitar is missing. Maybe I should not have leaned it up against the wall where it could hide behind the door… So I phoned the hotel owner and she mailed the guitar to us NZ Post at the marina. Problem solved.

In Queenstown we had a delicious dinner at Vknow. The sommelier was very informative and personable. Then airport again the next day and off for Auckland and back to the boat in the Bay of Islands. With my trusty box of boat parts. That sucker is well traveled. It flew from Seattle to Auckland. It rode the train Auckland to Wellington. The box began to fail so I had to reinforce it in Wellington. Then it flew to Queenstown. Traveled around the South island in a van. Then flew Queenstown to Auckland to Bay of Islands. And everything arrived intact. A miracle!

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Fixing Odd Bits

11/15/2017 (continued)

Licking our wounds after our 8.5 day crossing of 1100 miles. Which is to say time to dig into my diesel leak. Nancy arrives tomorrow and need to get the boat in habitable shape.

The fuel tanks live under the bed in the aft stateroom. So tear that up. There are fittings on the top of the tanks that allow fuel to be extracted for the motor, moved from tank to tank, and fuel gauge. At least two leak. So seal them all I will!

As mentioned before these fittings were sealed with silicon caulk and fastened with wood screws. Polypropylene plastic is notoriously difficult for anything to stick to durably. Especially in the presence of diesel fuel. The wood screws stripping out of the poly are not helpful either.

Some research shows me that there are darn few sealants that might stand up to fuel/poly applications. But one is Permatex form-a-gasket #2. Which I can buy across the parking lot at the boat store. Did I mention that this is an awesome marina for getting things done?

In addition to changing sealants I will replace the wood screws with nuts and bolts so I can tighten things up for real without stripping out the poly. And nice rubber gaskets to boot.

During this process I have removed the fitting that carries the fuel dip tube. Remember the one that keeps getting clogged and killing my motor?

As you can see, this is not going to pass much fuel without a fight. I removed the offending screen. I have filters to take care of fuel contaminants. Without that screen in the way the filters will be allowed to do their job.

Sounds easy enough, it just takes all day. Then reassemble the bed.

11/16/2017

Part of the organizing includes rebuilding the port settee. That’s Boat Speak for couch. I hit a rock back on Mexico which “rocked” the settee from it’s moorings you might say. And the repair required removing the settee completely. And after my subsequent reassembly I found I had a few spare fasteners. In retrospect I should have been more concerned about that. A fine Pacific crossing really does a number on things poorly anchored. Like my settee. No fasteners left behind on the reassembly this time.

After a crossing things in a boat are in a state of relative chaos. Now time to organize the debris. Frantically. Nancy arrives this afternoon! Aggghh!

Our friend John collects Nancy at KeriKeri airport while we clean up the last details. I even cleaned off the nav station. Well, Kat made me…

Nancy arrives to a clean boat. A miracle. She failed to comment on the miraculously clean nav station however…

11/17-12/5/2017

We enjoy marina life for a couple weeks. Plenty of people we know. And people we should. Some nights musicians would have jam night in the cruiser’s lounge. Big Green Egg gets plenty of exercise. Found a shop nearby that sells proper charcoal and smoking chips! Yay! And a butcher. NZ takes their meat seriously.

We attended a Princess party at the Opua cruisers club. Free but you have to dress like a Princess. Men and women alike. Our friend Josh won for best costume. Deservedly.

We have been traveling with our friend John and his boat Danika off and on since Moorea. He’s here at Opua and bought a van. When he went back to Seattle he rented it to us. So we drove to Cape Reinga. The northernmost bit of NZ. Beautiful drive. But none of the road was strait. And I couldn’t see a geographical reason why. Having driven a bit on the North and South islands my conclusion is that kiwis don’t like strait roads. So they don’t make them! Clever lot.

We spent the night at an air B&B near Mangonui and the Kariakari peninsula. Beautiful area. Nice Dutch retired couple. He showed us his Daimler. Maybe 1955. The wood dash rotted out so he built a new one out of a piece of 40,000 year old Kauri wood. I’m not making this up. A forest was buried in ancient times in an earthquake. And sometimes they harvest bits of it. Crazy stuff. We took a side trip to Mangonui for famous fish and chips at a place where the seagulls bussed the tables. They work for chips…

99 mile beach was so large you could walk forever and feel like you haven’t gone anywhere. That’s Nancy out there in case you couldn’t tell. You can drive on the beach but where the road meets the beach the sand gets soft. And swallows up vehicles. These people caught me taking their photo so I was Shamed! into helping push them out.

Minor flashback. The last time I pushed a vehicle stuck in the sand it was our bus in Uganda and a hundred cape buffalo 🐃 were watching us. Warily…

As we get closer to cape Reinga we are low on fuel. And the neighborhood is low on population. So I’m following the signs to the last gas on the Road to Reinga. We get there and it’s an automated station. I chat with a couple motorcyclists as I wait my turn. Then I discover that my credit and debit cards don’t work. NZ and OZ cards only. Biker has an extra 4 liters and offers them as a gift. Nice guy! Then we figure out that it would be more productive to have him buy me a tank and I pay him cash. The people you meet at lands end.

On to the Cape! Particularly beautiful example of a lands end event. The Mauri were here before the Europeans arrived. Their legend has it that Cape Reinga was where the dead would depart the world and enter the underworld (the sea eh?)

Next up is return to the US. Christmas etc.

12/6/2017

When you are doing something that you’d really rather not, your subconscious is your Ally in keeping you aware. My own has delayed my departure from Mexico twice when I really did not want to leave. Arriving at the airport without a passport (“forgotten” and still on the boat 😀). That worked twice. This time I “forgot” my USA phone. I mean it was about to become useful again back in the USA. And this time leaving things behind did not work. Our friend Kat attempted to return to the boat, pick up phone, and get it to the airport in time. She watched our plane take off. Valiant Effort Kat!

Mixed feelings about returning. NZ is lovely this time of year. Seattle… Well it’ll be nice to visit with friends. And drive my car. On the familiar side of the road even! We had rented our Tesla to some friends. And they gave it back to us for this visit. Thanks Art and Sharon! I forgot how fun that thing is to drive.

We stayed with our friend Willow’s for a week. That was fun. We got to drive her Jeep. For just a moment I was Sarah Conner (Terminator reference). Then Nancy’s mom Cathie. Nice to spend some time with her. Then friends Tom and Karen. Really nice to catch up with them. Looking forward to seeing them in Mexico in February.

Party time once at Willow’s and again later at Sally and Peter’s house. Great to see people. But you can never do it all. Trying was hard work!

There are boat parts to round up. Dr visits to take care of. Collect our mail. Lots of odd things. We got haircuts from Sylvia. She’s been cutting mine for decades. And I had not been trimmed since July in Moorea. Definitely due.

It was fun to be back at Overlake Eyecare again. Their remodel was done and looked great. Some staff changes but the new lot were very nice to work with. Nearly all my patients those four days were long timers. A few from 1993. Seems like a lifetime ago. I guess it was. And a good one at that.

Then Art and Sharon came by to Tom and Karen’s for dinner and to take the Tesla back home. I had it in for service a couple days ago which includes a pretty thorough cleaning. This way I could turn it back over to Art and Sharon as clean as when they gave it to me. I’m sneaky that way.

But now without wheels it’s time to go. RUN! Uber to airport at the crack of dawn on the 30th. Arrive Auckland the 31st at 1030pm. And New Zealand begins again!

Crossing from Fiji to NZ

11/6/20

Paid the marina bill and moved on to Customs/Immigration. Got a little interesting. We were leaving with different crew than we arrived with. Huub arrived with us and departed on another boat last week. We had not told them about this before our departure. They don’t want anyone staying behind unofficially, that’s the issue. I had to have Huub email me copies of his passport showing that he had cleared out of Fiji and into New Zealand on another boat. They weren’t happy but took care of us despite our running afoul of the Proper Path. They did give us time for lunch. Customs wants us gone in two hours. Nancy catches a cab to her hotel. She flies to meet us in New Zealand about midmonth.

We depart the marina with some help from our friend Tony Masters and the marina crew. Here’s Tony. He bears a striking resemblance to the proprieter of FijiMeats.

We don’t run down any lines in the marina this time. Yay! We motor out to the reef. Plan is to anchor and clean the bottom to make sure New Zealand welcomes us. They worry about invasive species.

We drop anchor and get to work. An hour of scrubbing later and we are nearly done. And there is weather coming. Time to quit the scrubbing and go aboard to close the windows. As we do that the weather arrives and includes a large wind shift. Now instead of being in the calm downwind of an island, we are in a rapidly building sea with an island downwind of us.

This is no good. We were going to depart tomorrow but better go now. The wind can work for us. Up anchor and off we sail through the night.

11/7/2017

Need to be clear on something. Kat is building her boat resume. Needs to document a crossing as Captain, not just crew. Accordingly she is the Captain on this crossing. I am merely the crew/annoying boat owner. 🙂

We are sailing on to the South to exit Fiji zone. About 150 miles to international waters. Customs was quite clear on something. No stops after you are cleared out. Fine with us! We want to get going.

But then about noon Kat was napping in the salon. She happened to look up and noted more wiggle near the top of the mast than she would expect. I took a look and had to agree. Risk of metal fatigue on a 1000+ mile crossing. Conditions are quite boisterous. Winds 20-25 on a close reach.

Further study shows two diagonal stays between the upper and lower spreaders that seem loose. But to fix that we’d have to go up the mast to the top spreaders. Not going to happen in these conditions. We turn east and motor to the last available bit of Fiji. The beautiful Kadavu island.

We arrive just at sunset. Anchor down. Leftover pasta and sweet sleep. We did not get much sleep last night trading watches with just two people. Some concern… We are supposed to be gone. Hopefully the immigration man isn’t on our trail.

11/8/2017

We get up and study the weather report. Seems like the routing program predicts more progress than we expect from Spill The Wine per day. Hmmm. Something to think about. Over breakfast of toast, eggs and coffee.

And by the way, asks Kat, why is there diesel in the bilge. Good question. But I’d rather think about the stay adjustment we came here for. Kat sends me up the mast and we get the suspect “intermediate stays” tightened up. They were barely hand tight.

There’s that out of the way. Let’s go! But sometimes I hear voices. This time it’s Kat asking “What about that diesel?” That darn Kat. What about it indeed. Really shouldn’t ignore that. This entails tearing the aft berth apart to access the diesel tanks. There are two. Nevermind the details of getting that done, when we get the tanks exposed it is quite clear what the problem is. Both tanks are leaking. Bummer. The good news is not much. The bad news is it’s enough to be a mess.

There are ports on top of the tanks for gauges, fuel removal and fuel transfer between tanks. They are sealed with something that looks like silicone RTV caulking. Maybe fuel eats the caulk. There are special caulks that diesel doesn’t eat. I don’t have any. Special gasket material exists as well. And no I don’t have any of that either. Maybe if I tighten up the screws… Hmmm. Some tighten, and some don’t. Stripped. Another possible diagnosis. But none of these things is getting done today. These are slow leaks. Some extra rags to soak up some drips will do the job until we get to New Zealand. Berth reassembled and we get to work chasing the diesel out of the bilge. We made a good dent.

On deck we set up the storm jib. Have not used this yet but we expect plenty of wind on our trip south so smaller jib will be a good idea. With that ready we realize there are better ways to enjoy Kadavu.

Maybe swimming in the last Fiji cove we will see for some time? And it will get the diesel off of us. Kadavu is another island that needs a return visit.

We sail a bit east along the south coast of Kadavu. Plan is to get a last detailed weather report off the cellular network. Find signal, get data. Looking spooky at the north bit of New Zealand in a week or so when Spill The Wine might arrive. Bummer. Will have to watch and see how that develops.

We say goodbye to Fiji. Set sail south for Minerva Reef about noon. This is on the way to New Zealand. Here is why we want to go.

That is not a bacterium. It is a reef hundreds of miles from anywhere.

New storm jib with a partially reefed main seems to work well in 20-25 kts of wind. 15 degrees of heel.

Man it’s been a long time since I did much upwind sailing. More heeling, Spill The Wine climbing the front of the waves and sometimes landing hard as she charges off the top of them. I forgot what it was like. Downwind sailing is how we got this far. Very different. More relaxed.

Kat naps from 3 to 6pm. Then I nap from 6 to 9. We adjust the sailplan a bit as the wind had built to 25-30 gusting to 35. Kat puts dinner together. We dine in the cockpit. It’s spicy and has potatoes and some relative of a mango whose name is strange to me and whose name is now quite gone from me. And it was dark. I couldn’t see a thing. But it was delicious.

My midnight watch begins. Mostly cloudy with intermittent rain. Wind is erratic in direction and strength. I experiment with the autopilot. It has a mode where instead of maintaining a heading, it maintains an angle to the wind. Maybe this is just the thing for these conditions. It was. Still tricky but performance is improved.

Moonless, so quite dark. For the best. Given this wind maybe I don’t want to be able to see the associated waves…

Soon the clouds yield to the stars. Welcome star buddies! Which one of you is “Lucky”? No reply. Stars have no sense of humor. Or I’m not funny…? Welcome Orion! And the Southern Cross! I get a little silly after midnight.

Moon is next. The major stars persist, but I lose the less brilliant ones. But I’ve gained a big moon to light up those scary waves. Hmm mixed blessing.

Another interesting development today. I am using a program to let me know what sort of weather we’re going to be dealing with over the next week or so. Naturally it’s less accurate the further out I look into the future. Then it tells me with so and so wind it will take you X number of days to get where we’re going. And it lets me know about storms and their associated high winds. Pretty handy. But unfortunately some of these predictions are based on the capabilities of my boat. We checked the website and sure enough, my boat details had not been dialed in correctly. Fixed that. So going forward we should get more accurate predictions.

11/9/2017

We download more weather data via the satellite device. It takes 40 minutes. At a dollar a minute that is unfortunate and way longer than normal. I reboot and maybe it will work better another day. Also unfortunate for content. Big storm systems are predicted to cross northern NZ. And if our timing is wrong we might see 50 kts. Now I expect conditions like that might come in my sailing career, but I would certainly not seek them out. And I would work to avoid those 50 kts as well. So Minerva is out, sadly. A circular reef with no protection from wind. 40 kts predicted there. Our best choice is to make strait for NZ and see if we can get there before the low pressure system that creates all the wind arrives.

Sailing today was fantastic. If this keeps up that low won’t catch us. Smooth off the wind cruising. 6 kts plus all day and all night. We did steaks, ears of corn and veggies on the big green egg. Corn was unusual. More firm texture than I’m used to. More chewy. And a different flavor. A bit like popcorn maybe. But it still gets stuck in your teeth. Good stuff.

Kat takes 9 to 12, I’m captain midnight to whenever. With my friends the stars and the moon. I slept well during the day today as Spill The Wine’s motion was so much smoother. 800 miles to NZ. Low swell barely rocks the boat coming in just aft of the port beam.

11/10/2017

Kat came back on at 5am. We are running the motor to top up the batteries. I got up at 8 and Kat has the spinnaker rigged. We run on that for 6 kts.

Wind dies at 2pm and motoring again. Grey skies and mildly lumpy seas. Water temp has dropped 10 degrees from Fiji. Air temp moderated too. Bikini weather is over. I don’t have a proper bikini body anyway. No photo for you! 320 miles from Vuda Point Marina and 750 to go. 6 days? Hope so. Watching weather at our destination in NZ closely.

Later in the day the wind quit. Diesel time. Then the rain began. That was 8 hrs ago. I think rainy season is here. But without any mosquitos!

Speaking of rain. The good news is my boat is no longer salty. The bad news is the cockpit is totally swamped. The canvas on my 10 year old dodger leaks a little. Ok it’s 10 years old. The two year old bimini cover leaks terribly. Hmm. Have to look into why that might be.

Excitement! The diesel quit. Same problem as a few months ago. Something in the tank blocking the fuel pickup tube. So fix opportunity. I need to remove the fuel pick up tube to reseal it because it leaks. So looks like I’ll be replacing it with a larger diameter tube. Strangely enough I want that tube to pass debris so the filters can do the filtering instead of the tube diameter. I blew out the blockage just like I have for similar episodes. Worked again. I napped all afternoon. Dinner was assorted leftovers. Bad night for a bbq.

What to do on a rainy night on Spill The Wine when the cockpit is swamped? I play some guitar and Kat some ukelele in the salon. Diesel playing rhythm in the background. Ok, the diesel is not so musical…

Now it’s my watch. 8 til one probably. No stars. No moon. Not much wind. Free fresh water and plenty of it as the rain carries on. That, is it’s own music.

11/11/2017

The wind has been coming from the west since we left. This morning’s wind has clocked around to the NW. Not much of it, but we have hopes. Still pretty lumpy.

At 0830am the wind gets serious. We are now sailing nicely under partially reefed main and jib. The motor will enjoy it’s off watch.

I keep looking at the distance remaining and thinking we can arrive on so and so date. But I don’t think so. There appears to be a current against us. Maybe 2 kts. So we are pushing the boat for max speed through the water in hopes of making best possible speed over the ground. For example 5 kts boat through the water speed is 3.5 kts speed over the ground Water temp has dropped 18 degrees Since we left Fiji. Now 70. Humidity down. Temp moderate.

Kat thinks it’s a good night for pizza. She was right. Never argue with a woman that wants to make pizza.

11/12/2012

Tonight Kat was on watch until 0100. Then she wakes me. Wind continues in upper teens. And we need that much to beat the counter current. I’m wearing full foul weather gear. To stay warm. It’s chilly in the wind. Tomorrow I might wear shoes.

As I settle into the cockpit the bioluminescence of the sea gets my attention. There is more of it tonight. There are as many stars in my bow wave as there are in the sky. Playing guitar in the dark is hard. But soon there will be about a half a moon if the sky stays clear.

11/13/2017

Today it’s time to clean the bilge again. Kat tells me NZ will be inspecting the bilge and woe unto those that have diesel in their bilge. NZ will cast a spell on you and your whole family. Or something like that.

I did a work around that may help. I put a cork in a bilge space that should sequester any fuel leakage in that space before it gets broadcast to myriad other compartments. Making any clean up a lot easier. I’d rather only have one to clean. Anyway the tanks are no longer full. And the leaky bits were on top of the tanks. Hence they should leak a lot less or maybe not at all. I looked at the leakys this morning and one was dry and the other still weeping a bit. Could be we are done with this problem until the next fill up? Need to get it sealed up before then and that should be no problem.

It was a beautiful day. Cooler as we make southing. Water is down to 68 degrees. There was nice wind this morning. Kat and I discussed whether to take the wind on our starboard or on our port side. She mentioned that wind on the port side leans the boat to starboard. And the galley works better. That’s really all I needed to hear. It’s time for breakfast.

Wind goes away at 1030 this morning. So we motor all day. Oh well, good conditions for the afore mentioned bilge doings. No wind settles the sea. Wind waves are nearly gone. What is left is long swell. Imagine you are at a stadium and there are whales under the astroturf. And they are rolling towards you. And you get to sail up and over these rolling hills. Beautiful.

Tonight we have leftover pizza, coconut and popcorn. After dinner I was playing some guitar. Practicing a song that I once knew but that has gotten away from me. Next thing you know Kat is asleep on the couch. Am I that bad? Or does sailing make sleep easier? A PhD thesis in here somewhere… And we’d had such plans. Movie, popcorn, sigh.

Looks like I’m on first watch. No wind so still dieseling along. Guitar practice. Harder in the dark and no point in waking Kat. I put headphones on the electric guitar to keep the noise to myself. Add distortion, reverb, and delay. Very different sound than the backpacker acoustic guitar. And the sound is contained. The off watch needs sleep and my time will come.

I’m running out of electronic books. But I found some short stories by Bram Stoker from 1914. He is better known for his Dracula. This stuff should make for some sweet dreams. But no dreams of any sort are noticed.

Kat wakes at 0130 for her watch. She wants the previously promised popcorn! Works for me. Afterwards so does

sleep.

11/14/2017

I’m sleeping and just after dawn Kat knocks on my door to let me know she hooked a fish. “Chris! I’ve captured a fish!” And she was right. We hauled in maybe a 15 lbs Tuna or something similar anyway. Filet away and we won’t be doing vegeterian for the next day or two. Nice fishing! We are using a simple “handline”. It is tied to a cleat and has a bungie to absorb shock. Heavy nylon monofilament leads out to a cedar plug with a mean looking hook on it. We did not use bait. Probably not the most efficient rig but given enough time some damn fool of a fish is bound to bite. And we returned the favor.

We are absolutely smoking down the bounding main. Making 180 mile days. This is the best sailing Spill The wine has ever done. Outstanding for a big fat comfy boat like this one.

We expect to arrive tomorrow and I’m cleaning and recleaning the bilge. Don’t want NZ officials to find any diesel remnants there. It might not go well. And I’m happier with a clean bilge anyway. We have a big jug of fuel extracted from the bilge for shore disposal. Sea state continues manageable. A low is approaching from the West. But we are still ahead of it. Really glad we did not stop at Minerva reef. We would have been exposed with nowhere to hide. Expecting arrival tomorrow at the Bay of Islands.

11/15/2017

Dawn shows us New Zealand on the horizon. Beautiful hills. Beautiful bay. Low mountains. Great wind. This is a dramatic landfall. But after a week or more any landfall will be dramatic!

I am flying the fabulous Rainier Yacht Club burgee as we enter the Bay of Islands. Probably the furthest south that burgee has ever flown. We have one last go at cleaning the bilge. Captain Kat pilots us in for our landing on the quarantine dock. Nice work Captain!

The Q dock is where you have to hang out until clearing in paperwork is taken care of. It’s isolated from land.

After a bit the biosecurity folks come along. They chase some of the suspect food items out of our pantry. Spam is a suspect item, who knew? We tried to eat all the forbidden stuff as we came down the track, so not too much to lose.

Next came immigration. That was simple and finally we park Spill the Wine in her new slip home at last.

Nobody ever looked in the bilge… But it’s clean by crackie!

Goodbye Fiji.

11/5/2017

We met Kat as planned in Auckland airport 11/1 and then the three of us flew to Fiji. It is great to be back. Huub left the boat well put away. That was a big chore, thank you Huub! He sailed down to NZ in a different boat last week and that went well.

Team Spill the Wine spent the past few days getting ready to go. Boat chores day by day. Nancy and I dismantled and greased two of four winches. That was messy. Thanks Nancy! Today we send Kat up the mast to inspect the rig and modify slightly. Thanks Kat! We have a great team.

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A view of a naked winch.

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A fully greased and clothed winch…

Scheduled to clear the marina bill tomorrow. Then to customs to clear out. Then we have to leave the marina. We will sneak off and anchor a couple hours South of here. Kat and I will be scrubbing the hull. New Zealand has no tolerance for dirty boats coming into their country. They are working hard to avoid invasive species problems.

Our friend Tony is still here. He’s a good Australian sort. It would be good to cross him again down the road. And we might. He heads for NZ the day after we do. Kat and I and Tony did significant provisioning today in Lautoka. We hit the fresh market and two grocery stores.

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The menu should be colorful as we head south.

Interestingly, there is lots of chicken, pork, lamb in the grocery. But little beef. That’s why we hit two grocers. The second one has a little bit of beef. I think Fiji us 90% Hindu. And they like cows. Sacred in fact. So eating them is frowned upon. Just like Nepal. But if you’re a water buffalo you are on the menu. You’d think this would be a popular place for cow tourists. Not seeing it tho…

Time to.mount the Solent Stay. This means a trip up the mast. Nancy cranks me up with the Milwaukee 28v Angle Drill of Power. Using the winch she just greased. It’s a pain going up mostly due to the fooling around factor getting ready. But it’s a bitchin’ view!

If you look closely you can see Nancy down in the cockpit. She runs the winch from there and we communicate with these clever headphone walkie talkie gizmos

This is a shorter forestay set up to carry a storm jib. Storm jib is pretty small. This means less powerful. In big wind you want less power. We’ll see if that proves necessary. We have been watching the weather. Predictions are mostly favorable. Maybe a day or two of headwinds. That happens. Situation norma

Rainy season is here. So we are getting rain for an hour or less daily. Mostly in the afternoon. That means the mosquitos are having a blast. And some of them are so small they are invisible. I will not miss them as we head south. But I must come back to Fiji. It is awesome.

Return to Kathmandu

10/25/2017

Yesterday we explored Guar and relaxed. Today we depart for our next stop. Chitwan park with elephants. All will be revealed. The last drive was through serious mountains. Today we are traversing a river delta. Seriously flat. A great deal of rice production and other agriculture. Goats chickens water buffalo cows chickens and more goats of course. The road is on top of an elevated berm to keep it above the flooded rice fields. And in the first hour I must have seen a hundred smoke stacks standing all by themselves in the fields. As they are surrounded by brick piles I figure they are brick kilns. Fired by? There is not much wood here. But there is a bit of rice straw. Natural gas? Dunno. Maybe the wood has been consumed….

Later on we enter the forest. And the smokestacks go away. Coincidence? After awhile we stop for a bathroom break. I walk into the forest. Sadly it is paved with trash. I notice where I stand I’m surrounded by hundreds of something. Unopened condom packages. We had no idea we stopped in the Condom Forest. You can’t make this stuff up.

I don’t think there is any management of trash in Nepal. People seem to burn it in their yards and in the street. Institutions seem to hire removal services but then it is burned or dumped in random places like the forest. Too bad about that.

Our hotel in Guar was the best in town, but Hotel Parkland in Sauraha outside Chitwan park is a huge step up. The tours they put together for us were excellent. Great to relax after 5 hours on the bus.

10/26/2017

We get up early and head for the elephant station. The conductor loads 4 of us on each elephant and we head off into the forest of Chitwan park. The floor of which is not paved with trash or anything else.

Notice that the park ticket office is up high. So you can buy tix without getting off your elephant. We are hunting beasts. And discover deer eagles peacocks and… leeches. Seeing these from the back of an elephant is unique. But she’s moving. Makes a poor platform for photography, unless blur is a feature. The leeches got attached to the elephants trunk. She complained and the driver chased them off. After we are deposited back at the station we feed bananas to our mount. Seemed to be happy about that. But the leeches the elephant got on her truck left a mark. We fed her extra bananas. Ouch.

One of our team got leeched as well. She noticed something on her chest dinner and removed it.

The leech is that small dark slug looking thing on the plate by the res spot. Spooky. No ill effects beyond the obvious however.

10/27/2017

The next morning the tour is canoeing down the river. Crocodiles and peacocks and kingfishers. No leeches. I love canoeing.

There are about 80 elephants living in Sauraha to serve the tourists. They work until age 60 then they retire and they are allowed to live in the park. We visited some of their stables. Interestingly these beasts are nearly odorless. Dogs smell like dogs. Horses smell like horses. And elephants don’t smell much at all. Which is good. As big as they are, if they had an odor it would be huge.

At the end of the morning we went to the river for an elephant shower. The elephant stands in the river, you sit on their back and they hose you with their trunk. A very interesting experience. All the while the river flows by laden with large loaves of elephant dung. I would not recommend this on your first day in Nepal. But after you’ve been here for awhile it starts to feel normal. (Photo credit Michele Bayle)

After lunch we take a walking tour down to a different river. Our guide spots a large black rhino. We watch him wade his 4000 lb self into the river and lay down in a pool. He’s blowing bubbles out his nose and out the other end too. That’s what makes me think it’s a male…

We see lots if birds too. Guide Bishnu is awesome. Really good eye for finding critters and he knows a lot about them.

10/28/2017

Time to return to Kathmandu. We depart after breakfast. We will be climbing more than 4000 feet today to reach Kathmandu. As the road starts to climb the road gets Bad. Really Bad.

You can see rhe road chisled into the slope on the right side of the gorge. We pass a spot where a bus went over the side into the river just a few hours ago. They are still trying to hoist it out of the river. 31 people died. Our driver tells us they lose 2000 people a year on this road. The road we took as we departed Kathmandu had crazy switchbacks and was exciting, interesting and not without risk either. There was that rice truck that failed to negotiate a turn. Folks were busy salvaging the bags of rice as we went by. But that road’s condition was ok. Paved and stuff. The road taking us back to Kathmandu today is short on pavement. This makes for a seriously dusty road. The surrounding foliage and landscape is way grey. The road snakes up a serious river gorge. Lots of road construction. Traffic heavy with many many trucks and buses and motorcycles. A few cars. There are baskets that carry people across the river. Sometimes there are footbridges too. The first one here is pretty obvious. The second more subtle, look closely… (Photo credit Nancy Patterson)

There were even two regular bridges. The other side of the gorge is mostly too steep to build anything like a road. That’s why the baskets and footbridges. On our side the road surface is really lumpy and all dirt. At one point traffic was stopped completely for a half hour as the workers went at the project with heavy equipment. Removing lots of rock debris that was piling up in their workspace. But still it was certainly an interesting and exciting ride. All 8 hours of it. Some day all this bus riding is gonna end!

At our Kathmandu hotel we settle a bit, then off to get pizza. And Lo! They had a Denver IPA on the menu. I have not seen an IPA worthy of the name since I left Seattle in March! And the pizza was also worthy. On the walk to the pizza place I bought a tire tube for my bicycle.

Maybe Fiji had one but I could not find it and I tried. Great finish for a great day.

10/29/2017

This morning we head off in the bus to see the Monkey Temple. It has another name that is harder to spell and remember but… Oh well. There are probably two hundred monkeys living on the hill.

There was some damage from the 2015 earthquake. Some structures completely leveled. Some damaged such that they were still standing but you wondered how. Very significant Buddhist site. Our tour guide told us a lot about Nepal politics as well as the archeological sites. Very interesting. And sadly dysfunctional. It’s going around.

We next visited a mideval era town. Lots of temples and palace structures. Many destroyed by that earthquake. Some barely damaged. Some severely again. Why don’t they fall over??? “Wall looks weak over here Bob! Bunch of cracks. Bring me some 2×6 boards and left hope for the best…”

We get a nap after lunch. Then the hotel owner treats us to dinner at a restaurant he owns. Pretty cool. Nepalese food and dancing. Also music. Kathmandu traffic was bad. It took 45 minutes to get to the restaurant and 5 minutes to get back to the hotel later in the evening. You get the idea.

When the clinic’s over, turn out the lights.

10/22/2017 We arrive to a zoo at the worksite. There are 250 people In the schoolyard. Why all came on the last day? Humans are unpredictable. It’s predictable. And they are larcenous. Several hundred sunglasses have disappeared from the locked room in which they were stored. Sigh. They weren’t the prettiest… 🙂 We see about 300 people that day. Nancy worked the automatic refractor and I did the eye health evaluation. In the afternoon i worked in the dispensary to match patients with glasses. That is always an interesting puzzle to solve. And doing it to the sound of bleating goats is quite odd. Days end and we break down the clinic. The bus is normal size but still too big to get through the village to the worksite. So we have to schlep all the leftover glasses a half mile to the bus. Oof! The town is interesting. The residents are busy with farming rice and vegetables. Goats roam all over the place. They have plenty of hogs running around. Water buffalo are tied up by the houses and are busy eating all day. These people live with their livestock. Their immune systems must be monstrously potent. The houses are constructed variously. A few are concrete slab with concrete pillars if there is a second floor. Many are dirt floor with woven sticks filled in with mud to make sort of clay walls. Some have walls of woven sticks. It’s one of the poorest places I’ve ever been. The children are as happy as any I’ve ever seen. As our bus crawled out of the village there was a naked boy dancing in the street and dozens of other smiling waving children to bid us adieu. The water buffalos did not wave.

Clinic in Guar Nepal

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Day 3. All I can say is they came out of the woodwork today. Way busier than yesterday. But another good day. I ate lunch in the schoolyard with the goats. They like banana peels pretty well. Apple core were rejected? Who knew.

We have been watching farmers harvesting rice and rice straw. Today they brought in a machine like a chipper shredder maybe. It separates the rice from the straw then chops up the straw into bits that the water buffalo and oxen can eat. Keep it local!

10/22/2017
Day 4. Even busier clinic today. Crowd control was better. The caste system is still here in Nepal and there was conflict since they all had to wait in the same line. But manageable. Some of us walked back to the hotel from the worksite. Very colorful tour!20171022_164259

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Notice the young man in charge of the hogs.  On our walk we saw several of these kids bringing the hogs home for the night after browsing leftovers from the rice fields.20171022_164934

Sunset while walking down the dike.

Meanwhile, in Nepal

10/16/2017

The flight to China was 12 hrs. Oof! Two hour layover is adequate to make our connection to Kathmandu. Another 4.5 hrs and we are done with plane for a bit. We collect our bags and clear customs. Our fearless leader Ravi meets us with Drs. Willow, Jeff and Randy.

Problem. All the glasses have been sequestered by customs. Ravi has in hand a stack of papers authorizing their importation but somehow they need one more paper. Been here before. Situation normal. But still a drag. After squaring awsy the 20 odd cases of 10000 glasses we have to go to some govt ministry to get our Nepal eye Dr licences.

5 hours later we escape from the airport with all our spex. But it’s 5pm and tomorrow will have to do for the licences.

I think it was a pissing contest. The customs guy probably gets tired of various officials asking for an “exception” for one of their good buddy’s imported whatever. You’d think they would be more sympathetic for stuff to be donated to the poor, but maybe it’s not that simple. Anyway Ravi got it handled. Shows you the value of support on site from a well connected citizen of the country in question. Priceless.

We head off to the hotel in a couple of large vans. Kathmandu is a teeming mass of very colorful people. And lots of them. Motorcycles everywhere. Which is interesting as I have not noted many motorcycles since Rarotonga. We find our hotel down some unlikely alley and it’s dinner thirty. Sleeping in a bed is kinda novel!

10/17/2017

Ok time to get up. It’s 5am! Time to catch another plane. We take a bus through streets that are mildly less crazy than they were yesterday afternoon. Visability at ground level is poor. Kathmandu is a dust bowl. Maybe not always but after their recent earthquake there is rubble everywhere. And reconstruction too. I think there are two seasons here. Dusty, and rainy.

This plane takes all of us on a fly by of the Himalayas to include Mt Everest. We rotate through the cockpit to get photos through the nicer optics of the windshield.

Looking down through the gaps in the cloud ceiling I note that there is a fair frequency of buildings present on the ridgelines. Truth is elusive but me speculating, much more common. The sides of the hills are steep. Maybe the ridge line was as close as it gets to Flatbush ground? Plains at bottom are already taken. Who knows. It’s another planet.

Somehow this experience has made me hungry…

After breakfast we head over to Immigration ministry. They are supposed to give us eye Dr licences remember? So it gets complicated. We all got tourist visas. Dr licences in Nepal converts your visa to working visa. Possible conflict on exit. Our passports say tourist. Their records say working. Start over.

Ravi and Co will work that without us. We will try to catch up with the Vosh folks on the tour. Monkey Temple here we come.

Pretty cool Monkey Temple. If you like Big Golden Buddhas! Then we caught up with the rest of the team and toured some more. There is a spot on the river (which drains into the Ganges, Big Deal locally) where people have been coming to burn their dear departeds for a thousand years. Nice riverside burning platforms. Nice temples adjacent. Multiple cremations in progress. People throwing their empty plastic bottles into the sacred river. Quite the multi faceted scene.

We visited otheir temples. Kathmandu valley was once 5 kingdoms. Then only one. Now is aspiring to be a democracy. Our tour guide gave us some background on this. Sounds like democracy here is challenged by a poorly educated electorate. Must be contageous.

20/18/2017

We get up for 7am breakfast. Depart Kathmandu at 8. Estimated 10 hour drive to Gaur turns into 12. But what a ride! We head south and cross one pass at 6500 ft and another at 8000. That road has Many switchbacks. But everyone survived and we arrived in Gaur in time for dinner.

Our bus driver stuffed our bus down a tight alley. He had an assistant all along on this trip. He whistled to the driver in tight spots. Different whistles. One meant go. One stop. Another go R. Another go L. Probably more. A whole language of whistle talking. Pretty interesting to watch them work together. And then we slept like stones.

2/19/2017

Up for bkfst at 7am. We depart in our bus at 8am. Arrive at work site 830 and set about distributing our kit. Room 1 for registration. 2 for acuities and history. 3 for pathology. 4 for refractive assessment. 5 is dispensary for Rx glasses. 6 is for reading glasses and sunglasses. We are working out of a school and have room for all this. Sort it out and get to work.

We see 185 people day 1. A light load but still pretty good. We started late and the crowd thinned out as celebrations of the Diwali festival got going.

That night we dined at the hotel then took a walk around town. Dodgy that. Lots of things exploding. Fireworks are a significant part of Diwali party. As far as I know nobody lost an eye…

10/20/2017

Same formula today. We roll thru about 100 patients then we are out of patients. It picked up again later but we should have munched lunch in the gap. Hindsight.

We are done by 430 and head back to the hotel. Let’s talk about that. Nicest hotel in Guar for sure. Just the same, power outages are pretty common. There is no hot water. But there is no cold either. Just Luke. And as much as you like. 🙂 The building is tired you could say. We may be the only guests. The staff here is very helpful and very nice. As I write this I am finding the bugs unfortunately drawn to the light of my phone screen. Who knows what kind if bugs they are. Seem friendly enough. Thankfully not very bite prone. I can deal with all this. It is the best in town and we should be happy with even less, as that is what most Guar residents get.

Dinner at the hotel again. Way better than the onion sandwiches served at lunch. (Seriously not kidding).

 

 

 

Separation from Fiji Anxiety Syndrome

10/10/2017

We returned to the village this morning to wrap up a few more exams. Getting pretty low on reading glasses Mon! But we got by ok. Time to move on to Blue Lagoon. It is about 10 miles North. We weigh anchor and get moving. The light is right and we can see the shallow bits nicely. We sail up the West side of the Yasewa group with favorable wind. We are making water now that we are out in the open. Less than good idea to make water unless it is quite clear. That way the filters don’t clog so quickly. Bays usually not ideal. The Pacific crossing was!

Good wind makes wind waves. But the Blue Lagoon zone is protected. The wind might gust to 20 but the sea is flat. We anchor in about 60 feet and it holds nicely.

Quite a few boats here that we are acquainted with. We join them for dinner on shore. Interesting resort. Some kiwis run it and they grow nearly all their food here on island. Good idea, this place is 40 miles over water from the nearest supplies. Impressive garden system. They do some retail so we get some veges for Spill The Wine.

10/11/2017

Relax today. Huub does a solo hike looking for artifacts from the Blue Lagoon movie. Nancy and I go ashore for a hike and then stay ashore for dinner again. Huub joins us, shows up with a bloody hand. Peeling coconuts with a knife appears risky. He’ll survive. Yesterday was Fiji Day and the place was packed. Today it’s pretty quiet. We have it all to ourselves. Nice contrast. We meet some friends of Huub. An Australian woman traveling with her daughter and her Spanish girlfriend. Nice folks. And that’s all the customers tonight!

10/12/2017

We depart for the Octopus Resort. About 20 miles takes about 4 hours. Water got skinny when Huub was piloting. I had told him to follow the track we laid down on our way up the other day to stay in known safe water. He looked at the chart and steered east of our track because that looked safer. Today huub learned that the chart lies. Bonk! I can’t be mad I’ve done the same thing. I need a big rubber nose on the front of my keel! Maybe I’m serious. South Pacific rocks aplenty.

When we got to the cove the resort was in, it was blowing 15 kts and was not protected. Pretty rolly anchorage. So while the snorkeling was reputed to be quite good, not in these conditions. But we were in time for dinner.

There is a shallow across the reef. A young man named Sam (age 7?) Directs us to the deepest spot. Thanks Sam! Lots of young folks on the beach. This makes nervous. Frequently in this situation I might expect to return to the dinghy and find it full of sand. Maybe with some shell gifts too. Boats are magnetic for children I think.

10/13/2017

After breakfast we made for Vuda Point Marina. Nancy and I depart for Nepal early on the 15th and I need to get Spill the Wine tucked in before we go. And the marina is first come first served. No time to not get served! We had to motor most of the way. No wind. Then it filled in for the last couple hours and we sailed nicely.

No more room in the circular basin that comprises the marina. I’ve mentioned before that this marina is unique. So after taking on 64 Liters of fuel we tied to the wharf and came ashore for dinner. Quite a few boats we knew from Mexico were present. Fun reviewing with them.

10/14/2017

This morning we found a spot in the basin next to our friends Thom and Ted on Fathom. Tonight we cook up the refrigerator. Frozen Spanish mackerel will be the star of the plates. And will make great leftovers for Huub.

I gave Spill The Wine a good bath. Overdue but water here is available and free. Drama interrupts my cleaning. Boat next to us is leaving. They get hung up in my and other boat’s stern lines. The marina jockey helping assist their departure tells the captain to engage forward thrust. Cap politely declined as he is concerned he will wrap up his prop in the lines. Soon some maneuvers seem to clear the lines. Engage. Wrapped up for sure. Does this sound familiar? Same thing happened to me last week in this marina. But today it is not my turn to go diving in the soupy water. Yay!

Bad news is one of my stern lines got involved with this mess. Bummer. First it was the afflicted boat’s crew in the water, then the marina diver went at it. They got cut free ok. There were 3 different lines bound around their propshaft. When that was over, where did my line go? The marina folks went fishing for it with a wire hook on a pole. The found a very nice line. But not mine. Oh well. Close enough!

Packing. Not bringing much but it’s always a question as to what will I forget? Oy! I am bringing a jacket. Nepal may require that.

10/15/2017

Today I wear pants and shoes. It has really been awhile!

Huub is staying on board for another day or three. I gave him instructions as to how to close the boat when he leaves. Defrost the fridge, chase out the spoilables. No cyclones while we are gone please! I’ve got another neighbour keeping an eye on her after Huub leaves.

Our taxi comes along at 630am and off to the airport. I could not help but notice that all the controls were in Chinese. I left to wonder… rental cars from China that have second lives as cabs in Fiji? What countries speak Chinese and need right hand drive vehicles? Hong Kong? Who knows. We remembered our passports and things go well. We arrive in Auckland and settle in for our 12 hour layover.  63 degrees.  We’re not in Fiji anymore.

Meet the Chief

10/2/2017

Wind is blowing plenty. 20 plus knots. We depart our protected anchorage and make for musket cove. We are making good time on jib only. Anchoring in all that wind was kinda interesting but we got it done. Whew! Time for a nap. And when I awoke about 4pm the wind was down to very little. That makes the trip to shore more pleasant. 🙂

Dinner ashore and Katharina joins STW again.

10/3/2017

A good day to relax. We are anchored maybe closer to a reef than I like. We pick up a mooring ball and sleep better.

10/4/2017

Our next will be to travel North to the Yasewas. Time to lay in some supplies for traveling North. There is a bit of a store in Musket Cove and we get what we can. Avoid starvation we will!

10/5/2017

Huub joins us thus morning. He came out on the ferry. We leave the anchorage about 1pm and make it up to Navadra island in time for dinner.

10/6/2017

I get up at sunrise and after breakfast it’s time for a hike up the hill that makes this island. This is a landmark day. I’m putting on shoes and socks so my feet will survive the hike. It has been a long time. I’d tell you how long but I’m not sure what day it is. Do maybe I’m not too reliable…

No wind. Very still. And hot. Lots of small goats on the island. They probably think I am stalking them. Not really. I am using their paths. Which is to say there could be a bit more headroom on the path! The goats are unmoved by my discomfort. Nice view at the top. Spill The Wine is bobing comfortably at anchor. Dinghy can be seen still on the beach. That’s always handy. The trip down is pretty easy. I take a different path and it proves to be the recommended route. A rope is set up to help with a steep patch. There are even some tape markers on the trees to mark the path. I definitely missed those on my way up the hill! I should have asked a goat for directions. No one else lives here.

After a hot walk snorkeling is in order. Nancy and I tour the reef. It’s a good one! Kat goes for a snorkel too and Huub decides to get up on the same hill I did. But it’s hotter now… 🙂

We pack up and leave about 11am. No wind as advertised. Good time to make water. But wait! The wind fills in on the last third. Nice.

My Navionics chart database is worth mentioning. Seems a bit light on navigation details. Today we passed by a rocky shoal. Big waves crashing on it. Looked like a few Krakens were having a rumble. Really violent wave action confined to a small area. Would have been nice to have that charted. Plenty of rocks and reefs to do your boat in can be found in Fiji. Heck the rest of the South Pacific Islands as well. Fortunately I have been able to employ Google Earth to fill in the blanks.

We find Thom and his buddy Tim on their boat Fathom in the anchorage. Time to roast a chicken on the Egg!

10/7/2017

There is a pass near the anchorage that is known for manta rays. But they like to feed there shortly after sunrise. So we got moving early. Kat and Thom and Tim and I dinghyed over and did some drift snorkeling. There is current in the pass at the change of tides. So you dinghy up current then get in the water. You and the dinghy will float along with the current. After a bit you do it again. We did get to swim with a manta ray in the pass. They are filter feeders and dine on krill. Odd graceful animal. Remora fish tagging along with it. And us I suppose. Though I’m sure we don’t look much like remora we act like them.

Too much fun. I returned to Spill The Wine to collect Nancy and Huub. They were a bit slow to get moving this morning but I don’t think they should miss this! And they get a chance to see this denizen of the deep too.

Katharina catches the 230pm ferry back to the main island to meet her next boat. They depart for New Zealand soon. She’ll be back in Fiji November 1 to cross with Spill The Wine to New Zealand again. That will make 3 crossings this season. Kid’s putting down some sea miles!

We had dinner at the nearby MantaRay Island Resort. Just another awesome Fiji place to visit! We spoke to some of the staff about where we might do another eye clinic. They suggest Somo Somo village on the North end of the next island. Some of the staff lives there.

10/8/2017

We relax in the morning and weigh anchor in the afternoon. Off to Somo Somo. It’s about 10 miles. We make some water on the way. We pass quite a few reefs. Not all of them charted. You really have to watch your keel in the South Pacific. We arrive late Sunday afternoon and anchor off the village.

We roast a chicken with Thomasi and Ani of Robusta. We crossed them in Moorea and it’s good to see them again.

10/9/2017

Spill The Wine and Robusta crew go ashore at 10am. Some boys on the beach immediately welcome us to Somo Somo. Turns out they are tourists too. Rugby players from another island here for a game and some R&R. Another fellow comes along to take us to visit the Chief of this village.

It is traditional in many of the South Pacific islands to seek out the chief and ask permission to anchor, snorkel, etc. And to honor the chief with a gift of Kava root. Kava is a traditional beverage these people enjoy.

Chief here is a woman who might be 90. She gives us a warm welcome and we are told that we are now members of their village and can come and go as we please. It’s one thing to tell you about this, but to hear this spoken to you, it moves your heart in a way that might surprise you.

I ask her if we might do some eye examinations for her village. She likes this idea and it is arranged for 2pm today. We take a photo with the chief and she wants to see it. She approves. 🙂

We did exams for about 40 women and 2 men. The men seem to just want sunglasses. We ran out of those pretty quick! The women actually want to read so reading glasses for them. My money is on these tricky men to be borrowing those readers down the road…. 🙂

After we clean up its time for a Fiji dance show. The Polynesian dances have all impressed me with a common element. These people are having a blast! A maybe 7 year old boy comes along and wants to dance with Nancy. Irresistable. We all end up dancing. There are some students in town for a cultural exchange project. Good energy there too.

Robusta joined us for dinner on Spill The Wine. Grilled Spanish Mackerel. A gift from a friend of Kat’s. Thanks Josh!

 

Small bits of earth in western Fiji

9/30/2017

We wake to gentle swell and almost no wind. Just what is predicted for the next couple days. And we have nowhere we need to be. A good day for reading in the cockpit. One of our neighbors comes along and invites us to a beach fire at 5pm. Ok. Maybe we do have some place to be.

Beach BBQ was fun. 12 really nice people. We brought the grill off the big green egg and toasted pork chops. Some guitar and we dinghy back to Spill The Wine.

10/01/2017

Lazy morning. Almost. When the beams in the hull were repaired in Mexico there were a few less passages to allow bilge water to pass through the beams. Today I restored the missing links. The bilge should drain better going forward. We’ll see about that

We depart our little island around noon. Head south to Mana island. Wind is off and on. But it’s a beautiful day. We sail past the island where Castaway was filmed. No sign of Wilson. We arrive at Mana and the pass is not as it appears on the chart. And all the marks are the same color as they are backlit. This goes not well and we wind up outside the channel. Bonk. Good thing we were going slow. I’m getting over this hitting stuff thing. If you do a lot of boating you will hit stuff. Especially in strange territory. If you are really smart you’ll be going slow. Never been to Mana before. What I did not do and should have was use a little app that takes google earth images and puts you on em. Never mind charts. Navigating on photos isn’t so bad either.

Mana has a restaurant or two and we treat ourselves to a meal on shore. And sleep well.

We were planning on spending a day in the Mana lagoon but the wind comes on. And was predicted to hit 30 through the night. So we move on after lunch. Way easier to navigate the pass with the sun behind us.

We cross south to Qualito island and anchor off a beach on the deserted north side. Good protection from the south wind. We snorkel and then it’s pork chop night.

Of Musket Cove, Denarau and Vuda Point Marinas

9/19/2017

I have 6 crew for race day. Three guys with racing experience, Nancy, Kat, and me. The wind was a dream. Blew about 20 all day. Probably a 20 mile course. We made it in 2 1/4 hours. Fastest time was was a super go fast boat at 1 1/4 hrs. Just a stunning day. First time sailing together with this combination and everybody clicked, worked together, and had a blast. They all get invited back.

The dinner that night to close tge regatta was also great but the sailing was better.

9/20/2017

The next day then went over to Port Denarau in the main island. We took a dock for about an hour so Huub could take some video. He is working on another video. He puts a lot if content out on YouTube. The dock was not available overnight so we went to a mooring ball for the next two nights.

Denarau is a nice place. Staff is super nice. So like Fiji. About 6 restaurants. Some marine services. I had one of my steering wheels rewelded. It has been working hard!

We had planned to boot our hitchhikers off for a bit so Nancy and I could have some time for just us. Huub and Guillaume went off together. But Kat became deadly ill. Fever of 103 plus.
Nancy took her to an urgent care place and that took all day. IV fluids, blood work, antibiotics. Not a great day for Kat. So she sure stayed on the boat. But after a few days she was improved. And our time in Port Denarau expired. They were quite booked. We anchored off shore of the marina on the evening of the 23rd.

1763 hours fill diesel. Takes 117 liters.

9/24/2017

The next morning we headed off to Vuda Point Marina. We pulled in next to our friend Thom on Fathom. And here we can stay as long as we like. Nice feeling. Kat stays with us another couple days but one morning we note that she is cleaning and generally putting the boat in order. We know she is back to herself.

9/26/2017

My dinghy had an old injury that had been repaired. I left the dinghy in the sun on the foredeck. Bad idea. The repair came unglued. My neighbor Thom has some Grade A dinghy glue and repair fabric. I accept this gift and go to town on the patch. First I have to remove the old patch and glue completely. Acetone is our friend! I unfurled the Jib on this wind less day to provide some shade. Mix up the two part glue. Whack it all together according to instructions and cross my fingers.

9/27/2017

Kat departed today to spend some time with some of her boating cadre. And finally it is just Nancy and I. And the rest of the marina… I mean dinner does happen every night. We are running the Big Green Egg with charcoal briquettes. Strait charcoal not seen since Tahiti. Kind of a drag. Briquettes don’t get as hot and there is way more ash. So we are slow cooking our chickens.

9/28/2017

I stop in the boat store in the marina. I note that they have rigging pins of various sizes. Ooooo! Boat project! My forestay was mounted in Mexico. I think they lost track of some parts. The pin on the forestay is not right. Too long and too skinny. Some other parts are not assembled correctly. So I loosen up all the backstays and lean the mast forward to slack the forestay. Swap out the 8mm pin for the 10mm pin and things are improved. Tighten up the rest of the stays and I feel like maybe the boat is ready for NZ!

Best choice is leave tomorrow and tour some more islands to be sure the forestay adjustment is working and to be sure the dinghy patch holds up. All will be revealed!

9/29/2017

We make a last run to town for some fresh veges. Pretty cool sugar train goes by. 12 foot long cars on a narrow gauge rail system from days gone by. Sugar was the economy in the past, and it is still a big part of it.

It gets interesting as soon as you slip your lines. And today was no exception. It is an odd marina where you bow tie to a sloping wall and stern tie to bouys about 75 feet off the wall. Marina staff in a panga boat release the stern ties. Nancy releases the bow. Mild cross wind. Unfortunately this blows me into my neighbors stern lines. Panga driver does not seem to understand that the only way to avoid this would have been to keep the upwind stern line tied until the last minute. But he cut it loose right away. He wants me to give it some forward thrust. I’m concerned that I’m on my neighbor’s stern line but I think he must be aware of that possibility any not think it’s a problem. It’s a problem. The line gets wrapped up in my prop. They don’t have a diver.

“Maybe the Captain can dive on the prop?” Oh dear. This marina is kind of a soup. Not the sort of water you would want to ever get in. I wash my hands after touching anything that has been in it. But there we are. Half in a slip and half out. And not going anywhere.

I get my snorkel gear together. A knife. Nancy passes me the marlinspike (thank you Eduard Martinez.) And down I go. There are no fish. Visibility is poor. And the rope is nicely wound around the prop shaft. I work it with the marlinspike. An ancient tool to untie stubborn knots. Go down, come up and breath. Repeat. It unwinds a bit then will unwind no more forever. Made one with the shaft for all time.

Time for a proper hacking. As I cut the fibers they release quite a bit of tension. With a nice underwater bang! Kinda spooky. Now we are free. I put antibiotic eye drops in my eyes, remake my neighbors stern line and off we go.

The marina basin is kind of in a hole. Not much wind. Nice on a windy day but hot on a day with light wind. As soon as we exit it is blowing 20-25 knots. And it cools.

We have two destinations in mind. One is 16 miles right upwind. One is 24 miles on a beam reach. If we go for the first we will be motoring upwind at 5 knots against the wind waves if we are lucky. It would be rough. If we go for the second we will make 6-7 knots under sail and have seas on the beam. Not ideal either but better than on the nose. And we would arrive sooner even though the distance is further due to better boat speed. Off we go.

Wind is great on jib only. Gets above 20 knots and I reef the jib. Costs a half knot but the boat does not whack over so significantly. Nancy gets Mal de mer in the galley under way so I make lunch.

We arrive about 430pm. Get an anchor down and relax. Bay opens north so great protection from the strong south wind. The water here is 50ft deep and I can see the bottom. Nancy makes spaghetti carbonara. It’s a good day!

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.

20170918_150742

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.

 

 

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.