Here we are back in Raiatea, French Polynesia January 2008
15/01/2008 Here we are back in Raiatea
When we left here last October my dear wife said what we are going to do for three months back in Oz without a house and without the boat, we are going to be bored. Wrong again sweetheart.
I suppose we cover 6000 kms by car and flew to the Alice in that time, besides wedding, baby naming, baby birthday, christening, and catching up with family and friends we could have spent longer, but we did miss our sea going home.
A personal thanks to daughter Angela that housed us most of our time and gave us the use of her vehicle for the whole time, love ya babe. Ange is getting into the sailing at Manly, keep it up Ange.
Thanks to all the other relatives and friends that put us up over our stay.
We did have a great time unfortunately we did not catch up with everyone, our apologies for that we did our best.
Packing to come back was fun, I bought a larger bag to fit boat parts in, I had two bags they were both full of parts and very little clothing, just to list a few here as follows:
- Compressor and drier for fridge,
- New CD/MP3/AM.FM radio
- New VHF Radio
- Numerous LED Lights to reduce power usage
- Electrical switches
- Misc fittings
- New toilet pump housing
All went well with the exception of a little scare at Brisbane when we were getting our boarding passes, when the assistant realised we did not have a return ticket she called the supervisor, I explained we would be leaving by boat, she said they may make us return to Oz. This made it a relaxing trip, seven odd hours to think about it. However, when we got to Tahiti there was not a problem. Although we were concerned about our being able to stay after the bad time we had with the gendarmes when we first arrived at Raiatea, when arriving in Tahiti the gendarme welcomed us and stamped our passports, I asked how long can we stay he replied 90 days. We arrived at 0105 hours and our flight to Raiatea was at 0700 hours. We went to the only place open at the airport had a refreshing fruit juice followed by two small bottles of white wine each and a coffee, that got us through the night.
Checking in for flight to Raiatea was interesting, we were allowed 20 kg each for loaded baggage we totalled 85 kg between us, excess baggage was allowed at a cost of 6000 xpf (AU$84). Then we had to load the baggage through the scanner, next problem, the compressor, this showed like a black box on the x-ray. Panic alarm bells rang out the conveyor came to a sudden halt, what is in your bag they asked I said a refrigeration compressor, is it full of oil if it is it cannot fly, I told them it is a new compressor, it has just flown half way across the world it’s a sealed unit. It’s like take the engines off the plane they have lubricating oil in them and they are not sealed. Anyway the boss came out and spoke with me she was very pleasant and accepted the baggage.
We arrived at Raiatea with our taxi waiting for us that the lovely Amandine had organised for us, we got back to CNI where Alana Rose was waiting for us. We had a bit of work to do before we could bring our bags or ourselves on board. Unload the bikes that were stowed in the saloon, get ropes out to drop them below; Alana Rose is a few metres above the ground. Lift the bags up by rope. The boat smells a little from mildew, the boat is a little low in the bow and has allowed water to penetrate. The day was spent loading and unloading and some cleaning. Put the bimini back up for some shade.
(This is the lovely Amandine (pronounced Amadeena) She is French sailed here with her now ex-boyfriend and has started a life here)
All in all we were pleased to be home with the boat.
Boat work Raiatea 16/01/2008
After getting back on board and settling down a little it was time to get started into the work. Nancy started by cleaning all the inside, removing the mildew that had built up on the deck head and washing all the stored clothes that had that musty smell. I started on the hulls, but before we got right into it I asked Amandine if something could be done about making the boat level. She got the boys to come over and re-lift us up and relocates us on the stands, it was a full afternoon’s work for them. I thanked Amandine and the boys and said I had better buy them a beer. Amandine suggested Friday afternoon at 1530 hours, that’s when the boys generally pull up for a beer, she added that we should join them for a beer. So I mentioned it to Taputu the supervisor that I would buy the beer on Friday.
(The boys re-lifting and leveling Alana Rose)
(The problem was that we were not here when they hauled out and they levelled the boat using the deck as the guide not the waterline of the boat, the deck slopes down at the stern)
(All good, you can see how high off the ground we are that is because of the type of lift platform)
(They pack the boats in quite well)
After all was finished I went on board to do a few things and when I went on the ground again the boys had brought over work stands for me to do the hull work.
I cleaned and polished the props and changed the anodes then got into the dirty stuff of wet sanding the hull. The work has to be done in between the pouring down rain times.
Friday came around quite fast I got in the dinghy and went a bought a crate of Hinano Tahiti beer and some coke for the non-drinkers, Nancy did up a couple of dips and trays of cheese and biscuits and away we went over to the workshop. The boys were a little surprised that we brought food and they ran around getting drums and planks to make a table. It was a good night and we ran out of beer, one of the boys was collecting money to go and get more beer, I gave him some more money to go with what he had. A little later Amandine came over to me and said the boys say you are now family. We had a very good night we came back on board around 2030 hours and the boys continued for another couple of hours.
(Friday night drinks)
Saturday we went into town and did a little shopping, it is very hard here to get what you want, because everything is so expensive stores do not stock gear that only moves occasionally. This is one of the reasons our fridge is still not working, we need two new brass fittings with nuts, and olives and they have to come from Tahiti.
Another interesting point the anodes on the props had to be ordered, the ones they had in stock were too small but I noticed that the two in stock had two different prices one was 450xpf the other was 1001xpf (francs). I asked why the difference the answer was that the cheaper one came direct from France the other from Papeete Tahiti. Tahiti add on a tax on all stuff that goes out to the other islands.
On Monday morning when the boys returned to work they all made a point of coming over and say bonjour and showed me their local handshake, then they rushed of and brought over more planks and stands to go the full length of the boat so I do not have to move them to do the whole side.
Another week of work in Raiatea
We had another week of working on the hulls getting it rubbed back for the new coat of anti-foul paint, this will be done during this coming week, and we will probably go back into the water the following week.
It felt good on Friday when I had finished the dirty job of wet sanding the hulls, the new paint will be black not blue as before. This is due to the fact that they only have black in stock. It isn’t a bad idea of having a different colour as I will be able to see easily if the anti-foul is damaged in any way as the blue will show through. I have painted a test patch nearly a week ago to ensure the two different paints will not cause any problems.
(Me sanding fast)
(Starting the antifouling)
We still do not have the refrigeration operational, after getting all the parts we needed and Christian fitting and recharging the unit the next morning Christian was coming back to fully charge the refrigerant gas but during the night the fan that cools the compressor failed and now we are waiting for a new fan, should be fitted on Monday and lets hope all will be well.
We celebrated two Australia days, as the time zone is twenty hours different, (we are behind), we celebrated Oz Day when it was the 26 in Oz on Friday here and we celebrated again yesterday when it was the 26th here. We flew the Aussie Flag and the Boxing Kangaroo Flag.
We were careful not to upset any locals as they were flying lots of flags yesterday as it was there Government election day, they take it very seriously here, we had a relax day and went into town, town was packed with cars flying the flags of their political party. We caught a taxi into town and back, Trucky Tours is the name of the taxi. On the way back the young lady driving said here is my party and coming towards us was a procession of cars about 2 kms long.
I asked her what party it was she answered that it is the party that does not want independence. She said we do not want the French or Chinese to leave.
There election yesterday was very important. The outgoing President has been the President for the past 25 years and he is retiring. Apparently the only man that is of the same standard was going to declare independence if he took power, this would mean the French and Chinese would be out and would probably have to leave. This was a main concern for all French and Chinese in the country. If this occurred it could have a snowball affect through the pacific islands when you come to think of it. I was quite surprised to see the support from the local Polynesians for the party against independence. But again that is here, there are many islands and Tahiti being the main island the most population.
According to our driver if they had independence French Polynesia would be a poorer country as they rely on the French and Chinese to provide businesses that create employment. I have not heard of any results at this stage.
Being Sunday we are having another relax day today, we are going for a BBQ lunch with some Americans, Charlie and Sony, Charlie is a retired Captain of the LA Fire Department. Can’t get away from the firies, we have met quite a few and most from the LA area.
Well not much news at this stage, we still having regular storms, the wind picks up and you can see the dark grey sky coming towards us then down she comes for a short time then clears for a while. That’s
Monday Another day in paradise.
Well the day was quite good did not achieve a great deal, did a small amount of touch up painting where the anti-foul paint had bared the gel coat and touched it up with primer in preparation to start anti-fouling. Checked all the through hull valves and gave them a good spray of WD40. Had Pascal the electrician come and put in a circuit breaker on my battery charger shore power line. But still waiting on the fan for the fridge.
I did work on our mode of transport the bikes, Nancy had a flat tyre the other day unfortunately it needs a new tube.
The other item I went in the dinghy to get ice due to the situation with the fridge, carrying the bags of ice to the boat one bag decided to come apart at the base 20m short of the boat. I yelled to Nancy throw down the buckets. I retrieved what ice I could off the road into the bucket. Bugger. It’s not all beer and skittles out here you know.
Update on the election here, the party got in that the people that did not want independence, however, he did not get the majority so now the groups that have got in have to vote in two weeks time for a President. Crazy system. But the old guy that had been in power previously that is corrupt and wanted to go for independence lost miserably so he is no threat.
We also had a lot of activity near us at a community area and we could not work out what was going on, we thought they were organising a big party, chopping firewood, getting half 44 gal drums etc. Apparently there is a certain time of year that they harvest a certain type of sea shell, I think for ornaments to sell at the markets as they make different items such as headdresses, necklaces, bracelets etc. Some of the shell inhabitants were also a food source, as they were all having a good feed as they pulled the shells from the pots.
Some of the photos show people cleaning the shells whilst the kids have fun in the water.
01/02/2008 Alana Rose has a black bottom.
Today the final coat was completed on both hulls, the antifoul is three coats deep. It has been three days full on painting , moving scaffolds more painting and moving scaffolds. I finished the painting just before lunchtime and there was just enough time for the paint to go off when the rain came. Good timing.
(From blue to black)
The fridge appears to be working, it takes a couple of days to have it to top efficiency so by tomorrow we should see it back to normal, lets hope anyway. Not sure what the bill is going to be for that at this stage.
Other than this there is not much news as all we have been doing is working on the boat.
The locals are still cleaning the shells, they go late into the night, apparently they sell them to the Japanese at 300 francs for 2 kgs. Does not sound much to me for the work they put into it, but it may be good for them.
They have an ice cream vehicle come around in the afternoons, it is called TAXI GLACES, glaces is French for ice. I know that one we have been buying bags of glace since the fridge broke down. This is a unique setup.
On the water again Raiatea 12/02/2008
Well yes you could say I have been slack and have not got around to updating the blog. Well you could be right.
Tuesday last week was the big day of going back on the water. The day was spent getting everything checked out making sure we had not forgotten anything that we needed to do whilst out of the water. There were some things that we could not check until we hit the water, like the engines, will the bloody things start to get us from the launch to the marina dock.
After lunch the boys came over to get things ready, they removed all the scaffolding and planks that they had loaned me and brought the tractor and lifting frame and heaps of timber to ensure it was lifted evenly.
When they lifted us clear I had to get in and antifouling paint under the keels as many times as I could prior to the girl going in the water. I did get three coats on her. Once all finished Nancy and I climbed the dry land ladder for the last time for a very nervous ride back to the water. It took a bit of maneuvering to get us on the downward slope into the water because of our width (6.7 metres).
(All ready to go back in the water)
(Augustine getting timbers in place)
(This a a hydraulic platform that will lift the boat and put her back in the water)
(Removing the stands)
(Taputu the supervisor, Augustine and Wilfred )
(We are on the boat as they move out, funny feeling)
(Amandine making sure the boys do the right thing)
(Back in the water all good)
Once we hit the water we lifted all the deck boards to ensure we had no leaks, that all being well the next step is to start the engines, fingers crossed, I hit the first button and away the stbd engine went, next the port engine and all good, checked cooling water flow dirty but good. Two of the boys in the water made sure we were clear and pushed the boat backwards, Taputu the foreman then gave me the signal to use the engines, and I went astern for a short distance then manoeuvred into a berth between two other yachts. There are no floating fingers or jetties. There are mooring buoys on the seaward side and the dock on the other. This time we chose to go bow to the dock because of the storm winds. Nancy and Taputu looked after the forward lines, I with the help of Augustus and Wilfred who were still in the water, tied two lines one to each mooring buoy. Once secure I left the engines run for an hour to ensure all was well.
With the bows being to the dock it makes it difficult to get on and off due to the height. I went to get a plank and step timber to assist in this matter. Taputu told me to get the better timber and actually drilled holes in it for me to tie to the boat. I said to him that I will buy the boys a beer this Friday for doing such a good job and taking the extra care that they did and extra assistance they have given us.
The boys did not finish until after 1800 hours that night so it shows the extra time they put into us. They actually started to get us ready at 1300 hours. They do not take that long with other boats. I went around after everything had settled down and checked water connections toilets and sump pumps. Out of the four heads/showers only one sump pump for the shower was working. As I had been warned by our friend Rick in Oz that some of these things will not work due to corrosion in the switches from condensation. So those went onto the job list. The main thing I wanted to do was clean the upper decks, they have suffered badly from being on the hard. With the rain and weather and the fact that even though we took our thongs off on the transom step after climbing the ladder the grime still got around the decks.
So Wednesday was scrub decks day, I got my environmentally friendly boat soap, some vinegar and a dash or two of chloride in a bucket filled it with water and got on the hands and knees and commenced the scrubbing. I may add that this sounds as though it is not the best job to do, let me tell you this is the easy part. This job has to be followed by polishing, now that is a s—t job. May I say that will be done over a long period doing a little each day.
Thursday it was hot and wet, so I spent the day working on the head vanity cabinet mirrors that were loose in the brackets and this also made it able for me to get to the sump pump switches behind them. The stbd aft pump switch decided to work as soon as I touched the back so I cleaned it and gave it a good dose of electrical protection. Spray.
The stbd fwd pump was frozen, a little corrosion in the motor shaft again this was freed and given a dose of spray. Port aft pump was working but I gave it a good spray also. The Port fwd that had actually failed at sea some time before has a fault in the motor. As this is the shower that I use I pinched the motor from the stbd aft shower as we do not use this one. The stbd aft head/shower is our laundry and we will fit a small washing machine in there one day, the stbd aft cabin is the workshop and spare parts a tools room.
We finished this work by late lunchtime and my back was a little sore from leaning over working on the pumps through the deck plates using both hands to work and not being able to support the back. So I had an easy afternoon and Nancy had a nana nap.
I went and bought the beer at 1500 from the supermarket and a couple of other things whilst Nancy made some dip a biscuits and off to the workshop for drinks, we had an enjoyable time. Some of the conversation is sign language with some of the boys because we do not speak French of Polynesian and they do not speak English. We have been accepted into their fold, we know hello is yurana (your honour) and goodbye is hanana. We are also welcomed by the Polynesian workers with their hand shake which is slap each others open hand followed by touching fists.
I have found out by talking to some people that have been around here for near four years the reason that we do not get charged for every service provided. Amandine has done a lot for us that we have not paid for, faxes to Oz, ordering parts from Papeete picking them up after getting them through Customs at no charge, telephone calls to business in town for us. Amandine says it is part of the service we provide in the cost of you paying to stay here. The truth is that if you appreciate what the staff do for you and you show it in some small way, and this does not mean you have to buy them a beer, the service will be provided at no cost. But if you are demanding, or expect the service and show no appreciation then you pay for all services provided. Some people are their own worst enemy.
Friday went well, better than Saturday morning with a little suffering of the night before. We soon fixed that with a bike ride (6kms) into town to do some shopping. Early that morning a merchant barge had run aground on the reef at Uturoa, not sure what happened, locals say that quite a few ships have done the same, they set auto pilot controlled by GPS and go to sleep. It looks like it will be there for a while. Biking back with stores it started to rain near Apooiti Marina so we called in to stay out of the rain and had lunch and a drink. Then we headed back to our boat. We had an easy afternoon and evening.
Today Sunday, we went into town again on our bikes, I wanted to get a photo of the barge aground, and to our surprise the Paul Gauguin passenger liner was entering port so we sat and watched it berth. We have seen this ship a few times it was in an earlier photo at Rangiroa.
(This is the very large delivery barge from Tahiti, high and dry, the fellow on watch said he went to the toilet and then it happened. I don’t think so, you do not go anywhere when approaching reefs, I think he fell asleep on watch. They have brought big tugs and they cannot budge it so they will remove the new engines and cut the ship up)
(The Paul Gauguin)
We then cycled back to the boat in time to prepare for the usual Sunday BBQ near Pascal’s yacht. He has a BBQ he loads with wood and gets it ready for around midday anyone that wants to front up brings food and their drink and we sit around having a talk. Last week there was five of us this week there was eleven of us, sometimes there can be up to twenty five Pascal tells us. It was another pleasant afternoon.
(Pascal puts up the shade protection from the sun and rain)
(Pascal’s BBQ made from an old water heater)
(People from all different countries come along the people here are Eaves (Bulgarian), Mary-beth, Lee, Alex and Barbara (Americans)
We are still having problems with the fridge/freezer, it appears now that the pressure valve has failed and is the possible cause for the compressor and fan failing because they could have been running 24/7. When I get the new valve just about everything in the unit will be new. The joys of it, not sure if this refrigeration mechanic is a good one.
Well we just have to roll with the punches.
Life in paradise. We have had a good week work, resting and socialising. We have replaced a lot of rope this week, renewed the Genoa halyard, main sheet, out-haul and second reef line. Other good things have been washing the boats hulls above waterline and have actually started to polish. I have to do it in certain times of the day, when it’s not too bloody hot in the sun. This gives a small window of opportunity to do the job, at this stage I am about 20% completed.
We have cycled into town nearly every day which is good exercise, 6 kms each way, it was fun carting 150 metres of 14mm rope on a pushbike.
The other day we saw a beautiful sailing vessel enter port, approximately 100 metres, it is owned by Swiss bloke the second richest in Sweden, and apparently he is a very nice bloke and does not flaunt his wealth. He owns two of these sailing ships, they are tourist vessels and travel this way once a year. The picture shows what type of ships they are. This one is the Star Flyer and the other some 47 metres longer is Moon Maker.
They brought a large tug boat in this week to try and pull the ship/landing barge off the reef, I think all they were able to do was lift wanted stores off it, the tug has left, and the ship is still on the reef.
The locals are still working on the shells in the yard, I think I mentioned before they have this two week period to harvest the special shells, well we found out that this period only happens every five years. They are still working cleaning the shells although the harvest period ended last weekend. They have collected 6 tonne of shells. When the buyers arrive they are expected to get 300 to 400 francs per kilogram. In Oz terms that about $3:50 a kg.
(They sit in the water cleaning the shells and removing what is inside)
(The children well they just have fun and perform for the camera)
(The shells drying)
Friday came around rather quickly, the boys in the yard had just finished putting a Belgium yacht in the water belonging to a young Belgium couple, and their yacht has been on the hard for six months. They also now have fridge problems and the engine when started did not get cooling water pumping, so their sea water pump impeller is also gone. They have to be home by September so they are looking at sailing to Oz and then putting their yacht on the yacht transport ship and fly home from Oz.
As the boys were swimming back after attaching the yachts lines to the mooring buoy I waved out to them as I was walking back to our boat, although Augustus cannot speak much English his actions spoke for him. He pointed to the workshop then me a gave a signal like downing a beer. I got back on board and said to Nancy I have just been directed by Augustus to go and have a beer. Next thing there is a knock on the bow of our boat and it is the lovely Amandine she also came to invite us for a beer at the workshop with them. We had a good night with drinking a few 500 ml stubbies, Nancy had a couple of them, she wasn’t too bad this morning, but she wasn’t a 100% either. The photos tell the story. At the end of the session I thanked the boys for the invite, Augustus said through someone who interpreted, thank you for coming and thank you for buying all of us a beer last Friday. As Amandine says we are part of the family now. I wouldn’t be dead for quids.
(Augustine, Jacque and Amandine)
(Taputu, Eaves, Muriel and Amandine)
Today was an easy day we biked into the store near the airport and I bought some plastic containers then returned and started to tidy up my workshop and have things in their place and labelled.
Tomorrow is Sunday here, if the weather is fine it is BBQ at Pascal’s area as usual and it appears that there will be a lot more people there this week, must take the camera.
The weather this week has been less rain and a lot of sun and bloody hot. A few days we did as the locals do, siesta time, have a nap after lunch and work when it is cooler.
Raiatea 24 February
Haven’t much to report, we are still doing maintenance on Alana Rose did a full service on the port engine the other day and will do the Stbd engine on Monday. I have also completed some electrical work. Have put in key isolation switches inside the saloon at the navigation desk for the engines. These boats are design with key less ignition not the ideal situation in some places. I think I had already mentioned that we put the new CD/MP3 player in. We have been converting the music on the computer to MP3 from WMA, this way by cutting a disc with MP3 music gives approximately seven hours playing without having to change a disc.
I have also installed a permanent night light (Red LED), this is above the nav desk and gives enough light to move around in the saloon during the night without upsetting ones night vision. Also installed a new white light above the nav desk this is also LED light. The LED lights save on battery power. Also changing a few other lights that need replacing.
The good news is that our refrigeration is now working again after changing nearly everything. The system is a simple system, but unfortunately someone prior to us picking up the boat had worked on the pressure valve and possibly done damage to it, it was probably this that caused the compressor to fail as it was running 24/7. Christian the fridge mech will be back on Monday to check everything but so far so good. I had to get the valve from USA it cost US$75 and US$215 to get it here and that was not express.
Being Sunday today it is the group BBQ if the rain goes away, we had some heavy rain in the last 24 hours. We had a good BBQ last week, we had the League of Nations there, six Americans, one Italian come Frenchman, four French persons, two from Belgium and us two Aussie, so you can see we out numbered them.
The new Americans there are travelling around the same time as us and to the same places. One couple both doctors have two children with them, they have to return to work in September so they are putting their boat up for sale in Oz, it is a 47 ft Benateau 2003 model. The other couples plans are the full circumnavigation around the world.
The other good news is that we went to see immigration on Friday, we thought we had better, we acted dumb which many people may say that would not be hard. Immigration said not to worry we have until April 13 before we have to leave or go and see them for an extension of visa. They said we had to go and see the Gendarmes and get the passport stamped each month, Dianne who assisted us took us to the Gendarmes because she said they do not speak English. She told them what was required and left us there to wait our turn, when we went in, we went through the same routine we went through last year. The officer that Dianne spoke with did not come forward, in the end I said I will go and get Dianne to explain with this the officer attending to us said no worries you have until April 13 you do not need a stamp unless you extend past that date. I think he really put it in the too hard basket and got rid of us.
So we are alright to stay, they did not want to worry about the time we had last year. When we got back to the boat we had Customs waiting to see us. We went through the normal as we did last year, they inspected the boat and filled out paperwork then left.
They did ask if I had anything to declare, I said no, he then pointed to the alcohol I declared in Hiv Oa when clearing into French Polynesia, I said that’s all gone, he smiled, I said there has been a few sundowners since then.
(We called in to the markets and said hello to some of the people that we had met last year)
(This bloke makes these instruments and plays them whilst selling them)
Now 26 February – We had a good day Sunday
At last weeks BBQ a French couple Gilles and Christine arrived back on their yacht from a week trip away. Gilles was dressed in a males sarong some material around his head for the sun. After we helped dock the yacht Gilles brought ashore this huge coconut crab, shown below. He was the star attraction and the crab still alive was getting photos taken. You wouldn’t want to get your finger caught in those claws.
(Giles with the coconut crab)
At Sundays BBQ this week Charlie took the rinse out of Gilles and dressed up in a similar fashion and did a comic re-enactment of Gilles with the crab. It gave everyone a laugh including Gilles and his wife Christine.
(Charlie clowning around)
There was plenty of food as always, Pascal’s dog Plomb decided to pinch the cream off Pascal’s desert. Pascal takes his dog everywhere with him even when he goes to work. The name Plomb is French for plumb line weight, sinker, (that’s if I have spelled it correctly). He gave him this name because Plomb cannot swim, he sinks. After Plomb has eaten he jumps up in Pascal’s lap and commences to suck on his arm, it’s a thing he started as a very young pup and continues to do it.
(Plomb pinching the cream, then sucking on his arm)
(Christine, Giles’s wife on the right)
(Last standing, Pascal always gets coffee for Suni and Nancy at the end of the BBQ)
(After the BBQ Plomb has a bath)
Pascal is a character, he is funny and always makes with the jokes and he is very talented. He is Italian but speaks French, he joined the French Navy at the age of 15 years and became a diver. He was doing a job at Bora Bora with the navy when the gas mix was wrong and he got the bends and nearly died. After this he retrained as an electrician as they would not let him dive again, and had to do extra service time after getting his qualifications. He spent 24 years in the navy. He is a nice bloke and one you don’t forget.
This is the one thing about this voyage we have been on is that we have met so many nice people sailing and non sailing. Some of them we communicate through translators or sign language because we do not speak the same tongue.
After everyone had finished eating on Sunday a massive storm hit, we got a little wet but we stayed under the tarp and continued our social time.
I got talking to Lee and Mary-Beth, they are both American Doctors, Lee has problems with his electrical system and said the yard next door has been working on it but things appear to be getting worse not better. I went over to have a look after grabbing the multi meter and a few tools. After going through his electrical (12v DC) system I found that his shower sump pump was leaking current to four other systems, I located the area that it was leaking but could not find the leak itself, I did get his fridge working again which was a plus, but I think that also needs some work which I told him. I told Lee I could not do much more and that he should get Pascal to have a look at it, I had at least found the area that was causing the problem. Lee said that I had conducted a larger diagnostic investigation than the yard next door had done over two days.
By the time I had finished it was time to go back to our yacht and have tea, we sat and finished the day with a nice wine and listening to music.
Monday a work day, I serviced the starboard engine, flushed the coolant water system and changed the coolant, oil, oil filter, fuel filters and stripped and cleaned the separator filter. Checked all the systems and ran the engine for a short time. Finished by late lunch time and then took it easy for the rest of the day.
Today Tuesday 26, it poured rain all night and this morning, some very heavy rain so we are having an easy day.
5 March Raiatea
Well we are getting things done and getting ready to head off at the end of the month, the fridge/freezer is finally doing its job. We have changed all the ropes, halyards sheets, and control lines including the lazy jacks. A few days ago I pulled out the mainsail fitted the batons and checked the cars etc. As soon as that was complete the winds came in and I had to tie the sail down on the fwd deck area. After checking the weather I thought the sail may be laying there for the next week, we have high winds and storms predicted. However, this morning at around 6am both Nancy and I looked out and the sea was like glass. I said we should get the main up whilst it is calm, Nancy said she was thinking the same thing. So we got stuck into it, I tell you what this is a good way to do morning exercises. The sail rolled up I can just lift but not for long, when its laid out with the batons fitted and having to drag it into place adjacent to the boom is tough going after this hoisting whilst putting the cars on the track is bloody hard work. It took one hour and fifteen minutes from start to finish that was doing everything. Nancy helped but I had to do all the heavy stuff. I ensured that all D shackles were wired so no vibrating loose, tied off the reefing lines on the boom and the outhaul. After this we lowered the main into the sail bag, zipped her shut and then the wind picked up. We had finished just in time, we were both a pool of sweat so we just used the transom shower to cool off.
Today was a public holiday here, not sure what for. It was also the German couple next doors 37th wedding anniversary and they invited us for a Champaign breakfast to help celebrate. I made a card on the computer and we gave them a bottle of wine. Ingrid and Ernst, they are such a lovely couple, they work as a team all the time they work together on every job that has to be done and they still act like newlyweds, they tease each other, it is great to watch them.
It was also Charlie’s 66th birthday today so we made a card for him, it said, Happy 30 birthday Charlie on the front and inside said is this the second or third time. It gave him a laugh anyway.
Since my last blog they have launched a barge that was built here in the yard, they built it in a shed then had to take out the end wall to get it out. The pictures tell the story.
Other than that there is not much to report, we had the usual BBQ on Sunday which was again a lot of fun and laughs, there are more boaties returning to their boats to get them ready for sailing in April so there are more people attending the BBQ. It is a league of nations, people from everywhere.
(New barge being launched, one of the workers pretending to pull the barge out of the shed)
15 March Raiatea
Not much news at the moment, we are still getting things ready for the day we sail, there is always some maintenance to do or help someone with things. That is the good thing about the yachting fraternity, everyone helps each other, got a problem talk about it and you will find the answer from one of them.
An American couple was having computer problems and I was able to sort that out very easily. Someone had removed information that they said was not needed but some of the data removed stopped other programs from working. By going on line and updating the programs fixed that, and then they run out of hard drive space, some friend had downloaded 36.8GB of music on a 55GB hard drive.
Had a funny incident yesterday, we did a bit of moving yachts in the marina, they wanted us to move where Cosmos an American boat was berthed as that is normally where the catamarans are berthed so first we moved Charlie and Suni on Cosmos. We got most of the lines off, just keeping one forward line and the aft line on until Charlie was ready. This marina does not have fingers, you tie off to the dock, and your stern lines loop round mooring buoys. Charlie let go of the last stern line then yelled out let go forward as he jumped in the cockpit to take control, and then he screamed put the forward line back on fast.
The problem was that Cosmos has been alongside for quite some time and to make it easy to move around the cockpit they removed the steering helm, Charlie had forgotten to put it back on before moving. It took a second to put it back on. Poor Charlie won’t live that down for a while, we won’t let him.
As soon as he was secured in his new location I said to Charlie I can fix this problem, I went on board our boat got the masking tape and a marker , wrote on the tape “FIT HELM BEFORE REMOVING” and wrapped it around the windward forward line. We all had a big laugh. Fortunately Charlie can take it probably because he was a fireman and they are always making fun of each other.
After this it was our turn to move, we got in the berth easily but we had some trouble getting blown around by the wind whilst we got the lines on. Normally when you tie up at the marina a couple of the fella’s in the yard jump in the water and feed the lines through the mooring buoys for you and it makes it a fast operation. Yesterday I did Charlie’s mooring lines for him and he did them for me from a dinghy. This is a slower operation and with strong winds on the starboard quarter it makes it a little difficult.
I made sure everything was secure regularly during low and high tide and I am pleased that I did, around midnight last night a massive squall hit us, high wind and poured rain. The only casualty was Nancy’s thongs (the ones you put on your feet, thought I best clear that up), they were sitting on the trampoline where we get on and off the boat. I found one this morning wedged between the steps at the fwd saloon windows, the other one will probably get to Oz before we do.
Some local kids were having fun yesterday they had this small ramp they were jumping their bicycles over, they got bored with this after a short while so the next was to relocate the jump so that when they came down they landed in the sea. What made me smile was the first thing they had to find material for the jump, this became a young girl’s job, who found it and carried it all by herself for about a hundred metres whilst the boys sat on their bikes and watched. The young girl did not have a bike and only watched the boys jump. She did jump in the sea a few times to help the boys retrieve their bikes.
Charlie and Pascal have been diving this week repairing the moorings for CNI, the strange part is that they are doing it for free, CNI do not want to spend money on them, but Charlie and Pascal see them as an asset to the yachting community and feel they should be fixed. Pascal is a very generous man he works for himself as an electrician and is losing paid work hours to fix these moorings. He is a very nice gentleman and kind to everyone. He loans the car to Suni to take us into town with her and Charlie and will not accept anything for it. He makes sure the car is full of fuel before we go so that we cannot put any fuel in it. He says he knows what it is like when you get to a foreign port and have no transport.
Pascal went into town yesterday and asked if we needed anything, when he returned he had bought a pair of heavy work gloves for Charlie for when they dive on the moorings. He said to Suni, gives these to Charlie to use when diving the ones he has are girl’s gloves. Then he laughs but he will not accept payment for them. We meet a lot of interesting people on this journey.
18 March Raiatea and still having fun.
We are still doing what yachties do, cleaning, maintaining, repairing, and polishing the boat. At the moment we are going to get some covers made to give us a little more weather protection during mooring or anchoring. There is more action going on with other people arriving and getting their boats back in the water. They, like us are waiting to see what happens with the weather, the MJO (which is a computer tool to monitor the low pressure system that comes from Africa through the top end and into the Pacific), may go through its eighth phase mid to late March, this will be the system that can create cyclones. So we sit and wait.
We have had a good week doing different things, I helped Charlie and Pascal by being the boat guy whilst they dived, set up three more moorings that had broken and disappeared. We had our usual BBQ on Sunday although it was quieter this Sunday with some people sailing around the island, the Belgium couple Eaves and Muriel have gone over to Tahiti, Eaves has to have some medical check up. Last year he found out that his body was host to a parasite that he picked up in Africa. Fortunately a smart doctor picked it up where others had failed, he lost part of his liver, his lung, and I cannot remember what else. He is going for a check up as he feels that he has a swelling in the side. Sunday BBQ’s are great we have some good laughs and it is the day off.
I think once the weather looks promising there will be a few boats leaving in roughly the same direction at the same time most are heading to some part of Australia some are not because they have heard that Customs is too tough. They may be tough but it is good that they are in many ways. Many countries have very simple processes and don’t even look at the boat, you fill a form in at an office, and that is it. We were in Raiatea near a month before Customs approached us in a dinghy, filled out the form every country has and they looked through the yacht, opened cupboards etc. They have been back and done the same a couple of weeks ago.
Naturally yachties expect it to be the same all over and Oz is not that simple, you have to give a minimum of 96 hours notice prior to entering Australia or there are very big fines, all the countries we have been to you just arrive go to the authorities and clear in. Some yachties do not even bother to clear in at some places.
On another note things we do to pass the time is play on our computers. The other week everyone was coming back to there boats and some people are very demanding and poor Amandine was getting a little upset with people and was upset herself. To try and cheer her up I made up a couple of photos, they are as follows.
When I gave these to Amandine she had a big smile and she said John this morning I was in a bad mood but you have now made me feel better.
(Amandine often helps the boys with boats if someone is off sick)
We have had some good times and I am sure we will have more before we leave, we have met some great people some we may never see again some we may but we will always have those memories, but we both want to get going again.
24 March 08 Last week in Raiatea, I think.
Well we are just about ready to sail just a couple of small jobs to do. Suni and Charlie have just asked us to join them to celebrate Suni’s birthday at Bloody Mary’s at Bora Bora on the 1 April so that will be the starting point for us to begin the final stages of our voyage.
It is going to be hard for us to say goodbye to some of the friends that we have made, but I think it may be a little harder on Pascal when it comes to the Sunday BBQ everyone will be vacating at the same time. Although he may have experienced it many times in his three years here and there will be the next lot of sailors returning to their boats here and new ones arriving from the east he has become very close to some of the crowd.
We now have our new covers and it is great being able to sit in the cockpit when it is pouring of rain and staying dry and also have the cockpit cooler with the additional light coloured covers. We had a two hour rain storm last night with strong winds and only the fine spray penetrated into the cockpit.
The rear cockpit covers still have to be secured in place; they stop the afternoon sun from entering the cockpit and the saloon as well as any rain that may come from the rear. The fact is with the catamaran and the easterly winds when anchored the stern faces the setting sun and it heats the cockpit and the saloon. The difference is unbelievable.
Easter weekend, happy Easter everyone, bit late eh. We had a good Easter weekend, Friday I helped Charlie and Pascal with some more moorings, they dived and I kept an eye on them from the boat, we fitted the new top covers and checked for any other adjustments. Saturday I did some adjustments to the securing of the covers to make it easy to release in bad weather and did some repairs to the boat. Sunday we went to church, WHAT!!!! You say, no the roof did not cave in either. We had Suni, Charlie, Magi and Chris over for dinner on Saturday night and Chris mentioned that the French Polynesian church services are great, the singing is wonderful. So we all thought it would be a good idea to go, so we went, could not understand a word they said it was in the local tongue. The singing was beautiful, I enjoyed it.
We got back from church just in time for the Sunday BBQ, as usual it was a good day, we had some new people join us, having the league of nations once again with Italian, French, Columbian, American and us Aussies. We had more than enough food, and the deserts, Nancy baked a banana cake, Suni had a cheese cake, Pascal made an almond pie with a large chocolate fish on top, Magi had a fruit crumble, Claudia had chocolate brownies individually wrapped and handed them out to everyone for Easter. Nancy made little paper Easter baskets filled with chocolates for everyone. The general meals there was chicken, sausages, steak, chicken kebabs, tuna, salads, and potato bake everyone brings more food than they need themselves us included. We really need to get back to sea to lose some weight. As they say a good day was spent by all.
(Easter BBQ, Claudette, Charlie and Suni)
Me talking to Michael and Barbara American friends)
(Nancy giving out chocolates in home made paper baskets)
(Pascal acting up with the little box on chocolates Nancy made for everyone)
(Pascal, Claudette and husband Paul. They used to run a charter boat around the islands one day they were by themselves when they hit something and started to sink, they put out a Mayday but the authorities said it was too far to go, they bailed water for three days keeping afloat. It was when one officer came on duty and recognised Paul’s name, Paul was a French war hero so they decided to rescue them).
(Sunday BBQ’s and Pascal knocks out a few tunes)
(Plomb on guard duty)
(Suni has desert a chocolate fish
(Pascal getting coffee for the ladies)
Today Monday we had a quiet day, I installed a new 12 volt cigarette type plug in the cockpit at the helm station, the only one we had was at the nav-station in the saloon and we were running wires out the door, now we will not have to. Then I have started checking the running gear for sea, navigation lights etc. Looks like I have to go up the mast tomorrow, the steaming light looks as though it has come lose.Well that’s about all the news, this time next week we should be in Bora Bora.
28/03/08 Raiatea Goodbye
Today we prepared to sail out of here, we went to the Gendarmerie and cleared out, and we did our last minute shopping. We bought the beers with a few other yachties for a farewell with the CNI staff.
The CNI Carenage had a large exodus of sailors over the last few days the marina was nearly empty when we left yesterday. The next wave of sailors will move in over the next few weeks. We heard that there was sixty yachts waiting to go through the Panama a couple of weeks ago and the waiting list was four weeks to get through from booking date.
(The two Italian boats are first to leave)
We had farewell drinks Friday night with the CNI team; it was a good night and a chance to say thanks to each of them. This was followed by the Sunday BBQ. I felt a little for Pascal as he had made good friends with us all and we were all leaving at the same time. But that gap will be filled with others. There were two newcomers on Sunday Tom and Linda, they are not a couple they both are skippers of their own yachts. Linda will be selling here yacht in Australia it is a 1983 monohull but to go inside it looks like it was built yesterday. It is very well looked after and has everything. When you are going down the steps in the companionway to the saloon it has a wow factor. It is full teak and red velveteen upholstery, water maker, generator and many extras. She hopes to move it quickly and will not be greedy with the price.
(Linda, Nancy, Suni, Charlie and Marybeth)
(Lee, Chris, me and Tom)
(Inga playing up to Sylvain)
(Sylvain and Nancy)
(Jacque showing me where he put all the photos I had taken of the CNI crew)
(Some of the CNI staff)
There are a few Americans selling their yachts in Oz they feel it’s a good market and it is too hard to sail back the way they came so the only other choice is to keep going around the world and that takes time.
Charlie and Suni had been around French Polynesia for the past three years and had been long time friends of Pascal, Charlie did a lot of diving with Pascal. Pascal had been a diver in the French Navy for 24 years, he had active service in Desert Storm. On Sunday he gave Charlie a metal French Navy divers insignia, it was two dolphins encircling an anchor, this I know by being an ex-navy man myself, that this was a special gift.
During the weekend we also had dinner on “Atlantis” Ernest and Inge (Inga) yacht, what a night that was, Inge served a German style dinner, and it was very nice. They also served beer, many wines, and then apariti it is an aniseed liqueur and Inge kept topping up the glasses saying it will help you sleep, she was right there.
One item I missed of interest, on occasions the boats have this cat visit looking for food, it’s a stray lives in the boat yard, she became pregnant and a couple of weeks ago she had her kittens but no one had seen where she had them. We all assumed that she had them in one of the old boats. After Sunday BBQ we are sitting around and the cat is visiting our boat so I tried to chase her away which made her run and hide in the main sail bag, I opened the zip on the bag and out she jumped, when I looked in there were three little kittens. She must have moved them there after I had fitted the sail bag and mainsail. We relocated the kittens, but the next morning when I was getting everything ready I her something and opened the sail bag again to find two kittens. I don’t know whether she had brought them back or if they were two additions.
Raiatea to Bora Bora
01/04/2008 Bora Bora
Today the rest of us sail it is a sad day in one way because we are saying goodbye to the friends we have made and had for more than three to five months and we know that we will not meet again, it was also a little obvious that those friends felt the same way. We went to see Amandine was a little saddened with everyone leaving but she was good. I said where are the boys and she said they have found some work to do away from here, they don’t want to see you leaving. We had to pay our bill. Amandine she gave us a weeks discount on our marina fees because I had helped her a few times. She will also be missed.
We then cast off with the help of Ernest and Inge and we followed Charlie and Suni on “Cosmos” out of Raiatea and over to Bora Bora. It was good to be underway again and the short distance will give us a chance to make sure all is well before heading off into the wider Pacific. Looking back though was tough still, but we have good memories forever. We had a good sail across about 35Nms.
(Cosmos leads the way. Looking back as we go through the reef passage and
reef with waves breaking. )
(One of the resorts that we pass as we head down to Bloody Mary’s)
We arrived mid afternoon got a mooring at Bloody Mary’s, the deal is if you go there for a meal you can stay on the mooring for free for the entire time you’re here we will be having lunch there tomorrow. So once all was squared away we went ashore and into the township for dinner. Bora Bora looks like a beautiful island but I must say I was a little disappointed in the township, it was dirty and there was dog crap everywhere you walked. The many areas where there are resorts are clean and beautiful, a Frenchman back at Raiatea said when we told him we were coming here called it dog shit island, now I know why.
Bloody Mary’s is a top place, beautiful inside and the American owner is very nice and makes us very welcome.
Today we have Suni’s birthday lunch at Bloody Mary’s and a few boats will be arriving for that. So I think it is going to be a fun time.
There we quite a few yachts and crews turned up for Suni’s birthday lunch at Bloody Mary’s, we had a great time, lots of fun, we had the lunch and a few drinks then returned on board for a siesta then returned ashore for sundowners and a game of boules.
We had a fantastic time in Bora Bora and again it was sad to say farewell to new found friends, but we are hopeful in catching up one day. We also did a bit of work on the boat, I was still unhappy with the stbd gearbox and shaft, there appeared to be too much vibration when we came over from Raiatea. When I checked the shaft it appeared to be slightly bent, then I thought about the coupling clutch pack that had been fitted before being hauled out. I removed them and found that the teeth on two of the clutch pads had picked up on the gear causing incorrect alignment, I cleaned the teeth and refitted the coupling, and all was again well. The engine, gearbox and shaft was again in full operation, the only concern I have with the gearbox is that we could not replace all the seals and had to use the old ones this did pose a problem later down the track.
(Locals on the reef fishing)
(The big girls, Sky Flier, Paul Guaguin and a research vessel)
(All having a shot at boules)
(Cosmos and Alana Rose on the moorings)
We had an interesting last day, we caught a taxi with Chris and Magi to go to the Gendarmes to clear out and do some last minute shopping. We had to wait at the Gendarmes for a while as there was only one Gendarme there and he did not know the procedure, once the other officers arrived it was quick and pleasant.
On the way back the taxi driver was quite a character, he asked the girls if they could guess his age, he was 75 and did not look a day over 65. He said his secret was looking at women, it makes him happy, and that keeps him young. Didn’t work for me. This fella had been in the movies, he appeared in Hurricane as the chauffeur and a diver in another movie South Pacific, and he admits it was a long time ago.
We had lunch with the crews of Contigo and Cosmos and then left them and returned on board and prepared to sail. Suni and Charlie on Cosmos are going to run the radio sched as they are staying in the area for a while, this will give us weather reports like I supplied to other yachts before. We slipped the mooring and waved goodbye.
Bora Bora to Rarotong 2008
Sailing to Rarotonga and at Rarotonga
By 1400 hours 04/04/2008, we were ready to let go of the mooring and head out, we said farewell to the other boats and away we went. We were supposed to have a weather window that gave us three days of 15 – 20 knot winds followed by calm. Well the calm came early. When we were at the moorings at Bora Bora the wind was howling, when we got out to sea it was calm and a tail wind when we had it. The first two days we had the sails working, we weren’t doing any record speeds, but we did not care as we have plenty of time. The last three days we had glassy seas and no wind any short lived wind was right on the nose so we motored on.
Getting back in the routine of 4 hours on 4 hours off (maybe), takes about three days to get used to it as I have said before, this voyage is only 4 to 5 days so it will knock us about a bit. We did OK but we did suffer sleep degradation and that is a common problem in blue water sailing.
We had our daily radio scheds with Cosmos, Promise, and Contigo. Charlie and Suni passed on some helpful weather information but they could not find any wind for us. As Suni said calm is better than a gale.
As we sailed or motored toward Rarotonga we took pictures of the way Mother Nature had presented her own art in sea and skies, there were so many to choose from for the blog that I put them in groups.
Picture the sea above it the two sets of photos, then picture the clouds gone and night time with all the stars out, the sea has the same glaze and the stars are reflecting on the sea. It was not possible to take a photo of this. The stars reflect so much that it is impossible to see where the horizon is, the sea and sky becomes one. May I say it is daunting when keeping watch, if a ship should appear it would be hard to distinguish its lights from the stars or the reflection of the stars.
Nancy first spotted the Rarotonga just before dark, I slowed the engine down so that we would arrive closer to daylight, and I have the morning shift so I was going to arrive at the island during this shift. As we motored I did my usual checks of the bilges and noticed clean oil in the stbd engine bilge, I did not think it was too much but enough to add some concern. I could not see any leaks. I decided to start the port engine which would unfortunately wake Nancy from her sleep as she was in the port aft cabin, (our sea cabin, we use this one because it is more comfortable at sea and it is close to the person on watch if they need help.). After starting the port engine I shutdown the stbd engine and checked it out. I found that the gearbox had lost oil but I could not find a leak, it could be the driveshaft seal between the engine and gearbox will check it out when we arrive in port.
(Rarotonga at first light)
At first light Rarotonga was in full view, I had been watching the lights for quite some time, the lighter it came the more beautiful the island looked. I had to wake Nancy at 0630 hours just so she could see the view before we got too close. As we got closer I started to prepare the boat for entering port, Nancy was cooking breakfast, I thought I would start the stbd engine and check all was well after filling the gearbox with oil, the engine just slowly turned over but it looks like the battery has decided to pack in. Never a dull moment. Fortunately I had a roll of wire so I made up a jumper lead to go from the house batteries to the stbd engine battery; she fired up, and looks like we buy new engine batteries when in Rarotonga.
It was too early to call the port harbour master so we continued to motor along the coast whilst still preparing the boat for port entry. We used information from the guide books and as I have mentioned before guide books are great but they are out of date by the time they go to print. The book stated that first we go alongside the wharf and will be boarded by officials, we would then clear in. So we got out the fenders and set up to go alongside starboard to. (Stbd side to wharf). After having breakfast and a shower to make myself a bit presentable for the officials we called the harbour master, John Fallon an Aussie himself.
We requested permission to enter his port, he asked what type of vessel we had I told him a 12.6 metre cat, and he jokingly said he didn’t like cats they take up too much room. He said to enter and drop anchor and secure stern-to the south wall. This is a first for us. On commencing our entry into port following the leads one could not help being a little nervous as at the entrance to the port on the breakwater there is a large ship run aground partially on her side. We went through the breakwater headed toward the south wall that was dead ahead, when I was about three boat lengths off the wall I put stbd engine ahead and port engine astern, this turned us around within the length of the boat, this is the benefit of having a cat with two engines. Nancy was operating the anchor we had gone through the routine before we entered on how we would do this stern-to which I believe is described as the Mediterranean Style berthing. Pleased to say it went like clockwork, Nancy got the anchor on the bottom and slowly lowered more cable as I moved the boat astern checking regularly that the anchor has taken hold. It went well, the main concern is if you go too hard that wall behind you is concrete, very unforgiving on fibreglass boats.
(Entering the port and there is this ship high and dry on the rocks of the breakwall)
(Berthed stern to anchor holding the bows in place)
(Cameron’s Timella, there isn’t a haul out yard here but Cameron as usual used people to organise a lift out for himself)
There was no one on the dockside to assist other than one passer-bye who tied one line on for us; I climbed ashore to secure the other lines. Once secure I went ashore to the harbour masters office to clear in. The ladies in the office were very nice and helpful, the harbour master deals with immigration and customs. They gave us a key for the toilets and showers ashore.
We had a visit from the Health Department, a young man name of Charles, he went through the boat with a pressure pack spray can, filled out some paperwork and had a chat. He advised that I could now pull the quarantine flag down. We will also get a visit from Department of Agriculture but as yet they have not arrived.
We got ready and went into town to get some NZ dollars and have lunch. The town is not that big but it is nice, the people are friendly, prices are a lot better here than French Polynesia fuel is NZ$2.26 around AU$1.70 per litre, Raiatea was AU$2.30 per litre.
We picked up the chart that we required from the Post Office, we purchased charts from Oz whilst in Raiatea one chart was incorrect and they mailed this one priority to here.
(The coast line as we walked into town)
(In the main street)
By the time we had got back to the boat the tide was out and it was a fair way down to the boat, we managed all right, I have used a fender as a step to get up and down. We had a rest, Nancy slept for a while but I could not settle probably over tired. I had a couple of beers after the 1700 hour radio sched with the group to help me sleep when I went to bed. I still had disturbed sleep with checking the boat now and again as this harbour is not that comfortable we bounce around with the swell.
Well I had the best sleep last night after a full day, we had originally planned the day to step ashore hire a car and start doing some essential shopping fuel, parts, and water. As we were looking at getting ready John Fallon came over and warned us about the weather change that might come through, suggested we drop a second anchor and move further away from the back wall. So much for plan ‘A’ and that is a common trend with sailing. So next we pulled the 55kg Bruce anchor out of the forward locker moved it to the bow, pulled out the attached chain and rope. I then got in the dinghy and we lowered the anchor into the dinghy flaked the chain alongside the anchor then Nancy fed the rope out as I backed the dinghy out 30 metres from the bow on a 30 degree angle because that is where the wind change might come from and dropped her into the water.
(Taking the second anchor out in the dinghy and setting it)
(The main anchor and chain is below the centre point and this rope is the second anchor, there is 10m of chain at the anchor then rope)
I then went back on board and we moved the boat forward letting the stern lines and springs out until a good safe distance from the concrete wall. After deciding the boat was safe we then went into town, first stop Police Station and apply for a driver’s license, then we hired a car, NZ$50 per day for 2 days. The day was buggered as far as getting the things done that we had planned but the important thing was to get the new batteries for the engines, one had failed but I decided to replace both. All batteries have been renewed now. We then said lets go for lunch. There is a Bar/Restaurant called Trader Jacks on the waterfront we called in there and had a very nice lunch and pale ale.
We then went for a drive and did the round island tour checked out where everything is and then returned to the boat unload the batteries into the dinghy then the boat. Yep start time, I then changed the batteries and checked out the engines to ensure there was nothing else we needed.
(The little car we hired, I had to go to the Police station and get a drivers licence)
(Having a well earned beer)
(The wrecked ship, they will be cutting this one up after removing the engines)
The NW strong winds and storms did not turn out to be a big deal; however, we found that we were more comfortable away from the wall so stayed put. After all the work I went and got cleaned up got on the computer had a beer. Nancy cooked a good steak for tea not long after I was dead tired and was in bed before 2000 hours and I slept through until 0600 hours. That’s an hour’s sleep in for me.
Today we organised the fuel, went to the depot and was able to get fuel delivered and duty free NZ$1.70 per litre. We took on 303 litres that was topping the tanks and filling jerry cans. We then organised a delivery of drinking water for our tanks 400 litres to be delivered in the morning.
(The initial idea was to take the jerry’s to get filled, trouble with that idea was that we could only fit two in the boot )
Tonight we are going out to dinner where they have the local dancers and floor show, tell you more about it tomorrow.
Last night was a great night, dinner was a platter of different local foods and the floor show went for quite a long time all for NZ$35:00 per person. The compare was a riot he had the gift of humour and was very cheeky. The drummers had travelled the world competing against other drumming groups. The youngest was 13 years old. The dancers were great, these people are local people, they are not the hand picked professional dancers that you see on the postcards, but they are equally talented as the professionals. The dancers and drummers are from their local church group that are trying to promote the heritage of their people and maintain the traditions with the young people. I think the pictures will show how good they are.
(They hold these nights to raise funds to travel and compete in other islands)
(As you can see it was a good show and kind to the eyes)
(The girls dragged some of the blokes in the audience to try their dance moves)
11/04/08 – On the move again
Well we sail tomorrow all going well. We are fueled watered and stored, tomorrow morning we will prepare the boat for sailing, then go to the local markets and set sail sometime after lunch. We have found that it is better to sail after lunch; the first day is the longest, so by leaving late is better to get in the routine.
(No helmets, and the little one is strapped to his dad by a belt)
(Nancy finds a necklace to buy)
(The markets have food clothing jewellery, art work and many other items)
Rarotonga is a beautiful place the people are very nice and friendly it would be nice to spend more time here it is only the fact that the harbour is not that comfortable and may be it concerns me that ship wreck on the entrance that tried to get out during a storm and failed.
(Tourist ship arrives and anchors out)
Prices here are not that bad, a lot cheaper than French Polynesia. To put it as any Aussie bloke would understand I bought a couple of cartons of XXXX Gold here NZ $38:00 per carton. We had a night out last night as you would have already seen on the last entry, NZ $35:00 per head included dinner and floor show.
Clearing in and out of port would be the easiest I have come across; the harbour masters office does everything for you. We cleared out today as the office is closed on weekends unless you want to pay the overtime it took just a few minutes to clear out.
Well the weather looks favourable for sailing although we may get some rain and we hope to get some wind in the sails and cruise without having to use the engines other than charging the batteries. We have done well so far let’s hope that keeps up. I know one thing it is great being back at sea.
12/04/08 – Getting ready to go
It is 05:30 hours at the moment and I am waiting for daylight to start the chores, the first job on the list will be to pull up the second anchor, this may have to be completed by hand from the dinghy, it may be a little tough going the sea bottom is mud very good holding which means it is not going to want to let go. We used the anchor winch to slowly bring up the main anchor which moved the boat towards it at the same time we hauled in the rope of the second anchor after the main anchor was up we then pulled the boat towards the second anchor tied the rope off when we could not move the anchor and used the boat driving it forward to pull the anchor out of the mud, no need for the dinghy. Time to sail.
Sailing from Rarotonga, Cook Islands to Tonga
Rarotonga to Neiafu at the Vavau Group Tonga
Hi all, we have been at sea for a few days now and we have had a few tough times.
We left Rarotonga at around 1330 hours on Saturday 12 April 08, as we were preparing to leave we had people that wanted to stop and talk including a young Aussie couple who has plans to do what we are doing, they work overseas and are working in the Cook Islands at the moment saving for their dream. Good luck to them they will not be disappointed. Wish I could have done this earlier. We had been the attraction all week locals were driving or walking down to see us in the harbour.
I think I forgot to mention two other nice blokes that we met, Alberto and Cameron, they are partners in business they have a multihull that they run charters and was attracted to our yacht as they would like to upgrade. Alberto is Swiss was sailing and intended to go to Queensland, that was 16 years ago and he has been in the Cooks all that time. Cameron is from Scotland another nice bloke, thanks for the avocados Cameron. He bought a large bag down for us before we sailed. Thanks to Alberto for the help loading the water and the weather information.
We finally got underway following the leads out of the harbour and passed the Tahitian Princess Passenger liner turned west and rolled out the Genoa, yes the wind was going to be in its usual place right behind us so it will probably be Genoa all the way. Once we were out of the protection of the island we were hit by the 3 metre swell and winds of around 15 knots yes from behind. We picked up the wind and were sailing 5 – 6 knots. We are pretty well loaded so I do not expect great speed. We loaded up with spare fuel an extra 300 litres, water and stores. We are now carrying an extra 70 metres of anchor chain since Raiatea, it is very deep anchoring from now on.
(Goodbye Cook Islands)
Getting back into watch keeping 4 on 4 off will take some settling in after the short break we will suffer sleep degradation for the first few days, the body has to get used to going to sleep on demand this is the tough part only having the 2 crew.
The first night was slow, sea was choppy and we were down to 3 knots, we could be sailing against the current we should be moving faster across the ground with the wind that we have. Sunday (13/04) we noticed it was getting a little cool. We did the radio sched with the group and Suni informs us that we have headed into a cold front that is due over the next 3 days. The day was quite good not a great deal of speed but we did cover 129 Nms for the 24 hours.
Monday 14/04/08 – Around 0100 hours the wind had dropped right off then in the next few hours it started to change all over the place good sign of something going to happen. I came on shift at 0400 hours everything was quiet we are doing about 5 knots, I looked down the starboard side and saw this glow at first I thought I was seeing things then I saw a few more, I think it was those large squid they glow as a warning or to attract a mate. I’ll take it that it was a warning.
The 0800 hour radio sched brought bad news, Suni told us that Charlie was suffering from the bends from diving and had lost the feelings in his legs and has to be flown to Papeete to be treated in the re-compression chamber. Charlie and Suni on Cosmos are still in Bora Bora and Charlie has been doing a lot of diving repairing the moorings. We hoped that it was not too serious.
The group is pretty well spread at the moment they being at Bora Bora, ‘Contigo’ at Morpelie, ‘Promise’ is at Aitutaki along with other Aussie boat ‘Blessed B’ and ‘Nataphe’ is sailing from Bora Bora. I went to bed after the sched and breakfast. Nancy called out at 1010 hours we were being hit by a storm, she had not noticed the warning signs, and it was on us fast. The wind was howling in the rigging and I had too much sail out. I turned the boat down wind and got the wind out of the sail, I was barking orders at poor Nancy, and we got the Genoa rolled so it was only about an eighth rolled out and I started riding the massive swell. The small amount of Genoa we had out kept the bows in the right direction as the waves were trying to turn us to the side.
(Unfortunately photo’s do not show the true waves as they are two dimensional, but this photo gives some idea.)
Nancy was now in the saloon watching as I steered at the helm getting soaked by the rain the waves were around 4 to 5 metres, they looked a lot larger, and I don’t really want to know if they were. There was this one wave and as it came up from behind lifting us we then surfed down it, Nancy’s eyes were fixed looking at the water spraying from the bows through the saloon port holes, she turned to me as we hit the bottom ,I looked at her and said you don’t want to know. We were going down that wave at 16.6 knots. We rode the storm for nearly 4 hours. I don’t mind admitting that I was rather scared through the whole ordeal. However, it did give me additional confidence in the boat and our capabilities in tackling such conditions.
We remained sailing with just the quarter of Genoa as squalls became frequent this still kept us moving along at 5 to 10 knots the squalls continued into the night hours but no where near the force of the earlier storm. The seas were still quite large and the occasional monster would lift us up in the air and we would speed up going down it and then it would pass underneath us and we would slow right down on the back of the wave bows pointing to the sky.
Nancy’s first comment in the log was big seas high winds, we are on the edge of a low, and a trough, the low pressure is forming to the NE of us. This pressure system will make it uncomfortable for a couple of days.
At 1000 hours I was just about waking from an hours rest when Nancy called out storm coming, I tried to move as fast as I could to get up there and it is not that fast these days, the leg joints and arms need to wake a little slower creaks and groans from the joints. Once they got in order I got to the cockpit and took the helm turned the boat downwind to ride out another one of Mother Natures wonders. This one was not as bad as yesterdays and not as long, winds were in the high 30’s seas were still very rough and we gauged the wave height up to 5 metres at times that was measured on the elevation on the GPS.
The day continued to have squall after squall and again continued into the night, we were being pushed well off our planned course, we were 12 nms north of our line, we were not concerned the only consequence is that we will eventually pass Niue island on the north tip rather than the southern tip and by going north we could run into calm areas where there won’t be any wind.
(Storms come and go)
During the radio sched we learned that Charlie was in good health and was flying back to Bora Bora tonight to rejoin Suni on their yacht. ‘Nataphe’ was drifting at a rate of 0.2 knots with no wind whatsoever. Some sailors choose not to motor sail this can be to conserve fuel for the long trip ahead so they will not use it at the beginning of the trip, in some cases some prefer to use the wind only and use engines for entering and leaving port and in some cases it depends on the budget fuel is not cheap. ‘Nataphe’ I believe prefer to use the natural elements of the wind and are in no rush to get places.
“Nataphe’ and us are the only ones on the move at the moment so our friends that are at anchor at the different locations are keeping an eye on us to ensure we are safe, they are also providing vital weather information each radio sched to assist us in our decision making of which course to take. Thank you people, special thanks to Chris and Suni; they have done a good job. I did the weather for a few boats last year whilst I sat at Raiatea, I now know how they appreciated the help, and it is great having not only the weather map but the interpretation of what they see.
The evening hours remained the same with rough seas and squalls but we were still moving along quite well under half the Genoa.
Today we changed the time back one hour the next time change will be the date line where we lose a full day. Suni gave us the bad weather news on the sched this morning and said keep moving north there is a gale south of you. We did just that heading now for the northern tip of Niue, the seas continued to make it uncomfortable but that’s life we have wind that is moving us in roughly the right direction.
The day was a normal day at sea nothing happened, we are now in the sea routine and getting some sleep. ‘Nataphe’ has increased speed they are now drifting at 0.5 knots but they are going in the right direction not backwards.
The guys at the different anchorages got it quite rough over the last night period and it is still rough this morning. Suni warns us that there is a gale warning to the south of us but we are well away from that. ‘Nataphe’ informs us that they are now sailing at 5 knots and should be at their destination by Saturday 200 Nms to go. ‘Contigo’ is going to try and sail today at the moment the pass is too rough and they cannot get out, ‘Promise’ hopes to be sailing tomorrow, ‘Traveler’ hopes to be sailing from Raiatea on Sunday. ‘Cosmos’ is staying at Bora Bora whilst Charlie gets well after the bends.
Today we have very little wind and we are motoring and have been since 0600 hours this morning, we have passed Niue, it was daylight before we could see it, it is not a spectacular sight like Rarotonga the shape of the island is rounded and not very high. We slowly passed the island without visiting, there isn’t a harbour at this island, they have set up some moorings for visitors, but it is very uncomfortable with the rocking and rolling of the sea. The dinghy dock there has an electric crane so that you can lift your dinghy out of the water when going ashore to stop it bashing against the dock with the swell.
We rang my dear mother Joan for her birthday 87 years young, I told her if she was with us she could miss out on this one as today is 17th her and 18th in Oz, tomorrow we cross the date line and go straight to the 19th missing the 18th completely. Love ya Mum.
Had a couple of messages on the satellite phone they were from Dusty, the House House and Rick. We did have the phone on but with the noise of the sea we did not hear it ring, we will catch up with you when we get to port.
(Seas calmer and little wind)
(Nancy taking advantage of the better conditions)
(Good helps hard to find)
We have motored all day hardly any wind but the seas were calm a good day to catch up on rest. On the afternoon sched we heard ‘Nataphe’ had lost the wind again and was drifting 0.5knots after a day of doing 5 knots under 10 knots of wind. ‘Contigo’ did not sail so they will not leave until Saturday now, we do not start passages on Fridays old superstition however, we did once and copped a hiding at sea many a story from other sailors tell the same. Why push your luck.
18/04/08 no it’s 19/04/08 whichever!
We do cross the dateline today but we are not there yet we probably will not change our time until Tonga tomorrow. That will be plus 13 hours on GMT/UTC at the moment we are minus 11 hours GMT/UTC.
I got up for the morning shift 0400 hours it was nearly a full moon dead ahead of us it made for great photos if we had not been on a moving platform, I took some photos and I will see what I can produce out of them.
Looking at the GPS we have now completed 6,500 Nms since the Panama and 7,920 Nms since the start of this voyage in St Lucia. It also shows that the average speed over the whole voyage was 4.5 knots, the highest speed that we have reached is 21.2 knots that must have happened in the storm the other day when I was not looking at the GPS, it may have been one of those moments I closed my eyes saying OH SH—T!!! I do remember seeing the 16.6 knots I think I said the same thing.
It’s incredible what we do to stay awake on shift I have resorted to statistics, boring.
We have just found out that we do not have a Tongan courtesy flag and we have no photo to make one up, will have to buy one as soon as we land. When entering a country the protocol is to show that countries flag set higher than the ships flag, our Australian red ensign is flown from the HF antenna on the transom, we usually put the courtesy flag up the mast.
We are motoring again today, we have some wind but with the roll of the sea it knocks the wind out of the sails and we move very slowly. We believe it is at our advantage to get moving with the weather that’s predicted. Suni gave us the weather and surprisingly the cyclone season is still active with a cyclone being near Vanuatu (north), the Madden Julian Oscillation index shows that it should be over as far as cyclones. Just goes to show that Mother Nature has the last word, just when you think you worked her out she throws a curve ball. The cyclone will not affect us but there are other low pressure systems and troughs that will.
Well the last 24 hours has been a bit of the same no bloody wind, we had a bit of sail up just for the odd gust that lifted the speed a little, and we did average 4.5 knots on a tail wind. I had the one engine at around 2000 rpm just plodding along. At around 0630 hours this morning we saw landfall, Tonga, Vavau Group, we needed to enter in daylight so when we had 20 Nms to go I started the second engine put them both on 2500 rpm cruising speed 7.5 knots, I left the Genoa out a little just in case we got a little wind and at times we did and it boosted us to 9 knots, that was until we started the inlets to Neiafu Harbour and lost wind or got head on wind, I rolled the Genoa in.
(Nearing Tonga, Vava’u Group of Islands)
(Nancy enjoying the view)
(There are many islands in this group)
When we neared the harbour we called the officials on radio, no response and we did not expect any, it’s Sunday and no one works on Sunday, this is a very religious place, you could hear the church bells as we arrived. Nancy then called one of the local yacht services on the radio still no answer. Next thing the radio squawked it was an American named Baker has a boat named ‘Lighten Up’, he asked if he could assist. We explained we were entering the harbour and he said to come alongside and wait for the officials in the morning, he also mentioned that we would not be able to go ashore until we had cleared in, we already new that was the case and had no problem. Fact of the matter is that all I need is a cold beer and a good sleep.
We entered the harbour and Baker was there to assist us we had to tie up port side to which meant that I had to approach the wharf and spin the yacht around and reverse in, easy only the wind is pushing the stern out. Bugger! Well it was not an approach that I would brag about, but with the aid of Baker on the ropes we got there.
(Alongside and putting sails to bed)
(Yachts moored in the harbour, it is not safe to anchor there, the only place is way over the other side of the harbour well away from the town)
(People came to talk to us, they told us that these boats are the school children from the islands, they stay at the school housing during the week and go home weekends)
(Some of Alana Rose’s sisters at the Moorings charter company)
Baker also informed us that they have passed a law that the authorities require 24 hours notice prior to arrival. OOPS! He said it will be OK no one is aware of it at the moment. We will find out tomorrow. Baker did go and inform the Police that we were here.
Tonight we have a full night sleep, (Together), that wont make much difference we are both too tired. Never thought I would ever have said that.
Neiafu – Vavau, Tonga
21/04/2008 Neiafu – Tonga
We tidied the boat prior to the officials coming on board, and at around 0845 hours I went ashore to the Customs Office and introduced myself, the Customs Officer was very polite and said that he would organise with quarantine and immigration to meet me on board. Baker called by and gave us some local money to pay our clearing in fees, he said it would save us time of running to the bank. He said to call in and pay him back in the pub later. Some 20 minutes later the Customs Officer came aboard and we sat in the saloon I gave him the usual paperwork and he gave me 2 forms to fill out, then the Quarantine Officer came aboard and joined us in the saloon he waited whilst I finished filling out the forms, we all chatted whilst going through the process, as they asked about what we were doing so we talked about our trip and what we were doing, talked about families theirs and ours. Then the Immigration Officer joined us and gave me another form to fill out. Nancy offered refreshments tea, coffee or cold water and introduced the biscuits choc chip and a savoury biscuit with an avocado spread that Nancy had made, and they were very popular with our guests. They asked Nancy what was the ingredients, she explained that she had mixed the avocado with a little mayonnaise, chilli, pepper, and lemon, dash of garlic and salt. They said they had used avocado in a similar way but it was not as good as this.
We sat around and chatted some more, these islanders are a very religious group and they are trying very hard to promote the young people and play sports. They are introducing cricket but find it hard to buy cricket gear, they have started a competition amongst the different island groups, and at the moment they are using bits of wood for bats and sticks for stumps. I think what is making it hard for them is not being able to buy the gear locally and they cannot afford the freight to bring them in. The average wage here is 15 Pa’anga Tongan per day one Pa’anga is approximately AU$1:50.
So anyone out there that would like to donate any cricket gear it can be sent to the Quarantine Officer at Neiafu, Tonga. We are going to see what we can do to get some gear to them.
After quite a time we all finished up and the officials left, as the Quarantine Officer stood up he must have noticed Nancy’s sign in the saloon and said sit long talk much we have done that. As far as taking any food stuff the quarantine officer said we can keep what we have the only thing he removed was our bag of garbage.
We then had a visit from a local con man Lofi, he sells flags, which we needed, necklaces, fruit, veg, bread, and he try’s to get you to go to his home for a Tongan feast all at a price naturally. Once he was dealt with we prepared to go to a mooring.
We left the dock and picked up one mooring belonging to Beluga Diving, we could not raise anyone on the radio so we dropped the dinghy and I went ashore. I found someone at the Mermaid Bar and he said we could use one of the Sailing Safari’s moorings out front of the bar, so we left the first mooring and picked up a mooring in front of the bar.
(Mermaid Bar and Grill, home of the Vava’u Yacht Club)
(The waterfront view that we have from our boat)
Once secure we got the covers on for shade then got cleaned and dressed to go ashore, we had lunch at the Mango Restaurant then ventured into town. The place is quite small so we kept bumping into Baker the bloke that helped us on our arrival and Craig a South African who we also met on the first day. As we were walking back to the boat the new publican of the Bounty Bar introduced himself as we were passing and we had a bit of a chat, we thought whilst we are here we may as well quench the thirst and went in for a beer and pay Baker his money.
(Previous islands had chooks roaming the streets here we have pigs)
(Alana Rose on the mooring)
(Distances from different places)
(This is the main street)
(The Bounty Bar)
We got back on board for the radio sched at 1600 hours, unfortunately we can’t make contact due to the interference, and it may be our location as we are tucked away in the centre of the island.
We were in relaxing mode so I said to Nancy we may go ashore for dinner and we went to the Mermaid Bar and who was there Craig. Two other blokes who were there were Kiwi’s, I can’t remember their names. They said on behalf of the Vava’u Yacht Club your first beer is free. We had a good chat then an Aussie couple came and joined us Bruce and Julianne, they have started a business here, and Julianne is still running a business in Brisbane from here. They said they left Australia because they were unhappy with the way society was heading, things like neighbours not talking to each other and people not caring about one another. Unfortunately that is the way it is in the cities, probably not so much in the rural areas.
After the people left to go home we sat down and had a steak for dinner and very nice to. Then we jumped into the dinghy and went home ourselves.
The day started with writing notes for the blog and then I had to get to check the starboard gearbox, we had been losing oil and it was probably due to the fact that when it was repaired in Raiatea the mechanic had to use some old seals because we could not get the new ones or they have been put in incorrectly. I pulled the gearbox out and could not find where it was leaking, all the seals looked dry. The disappointing part was the new clutch discs that I had trouble with before have worn considerably and they will need replacing. I cannot understand why they have worn so much in so little time, I will have to contact Yanmar and see what they say.
I spoke with the local Moorings manager who has the same models of Leopards in his fleet to see if he had experienced this before but he was unable to help.
The other problem we will have is getting parts sent to here, it may be better to wait until Fiji. Well that’s one problem to be sorted out.
After putting everything back I had a shower and we went ashore mid afternoon to buy some internet time so we use Wifi from the boat. We then went to the mermaid bar and used their free internet whilst having a coldie. Patrons can take their laptops to the Mermaid Bar and use their Wifi free, it is very slow, but it’s free.
We then went back on board for a while and tidied up a little then around 1730 hours we went ashore again o the Mermaid Bar to help celebrate one of the local’s birthdays.
Whilst there we met Jeff and Terese of ‘Habsolu’, they are friends of Barbara and Michael on ‘Traveler’. We sat down and talked had dinner and came back on board around 2130 hours.
The Tongan people are shy but very nice. Tonga is made up of many islands with different island communities. Tonga is split up in eight island groups; each group of islands has a main centre. Neiafu is the main centre for the Vava’u island group. The children have to come to Neiafu for secondary school as the island communities only have primary schools. When we arrived on Sunday boats were arriving packed with people mainly the school children. They have large houses each for the different island communities. Each community provides adults to look after the children in the house. They come in Sunday evenings and go home to their islands on Friday afternoon. There must have been around ten boats that arrived whilst we were at the dockside.
Many Tongans wear their traditional dress as seen in the picture, it does differ between communities. However, they do have high standards, men and women do not bare tops only allowed at the beach, shorts are not short shorts they are knee length. So we visitors to mix with the locals must dress accordingly or the locals will be embarrassed and will avoid you.
(Traditional dress on a male)
(Traditional dress female)
Neiafu is a small town, the main street is very small, the waterfront has a number of facilities, Mermaid Bar, Mango Restaurant, Mamaia Bar and Restaurant, Aquarium Café, Beluga Diving, Sailing Safaris and The Moorings charters, there is many other restaurants and bars in the town. Bounty Bar (owned by English bloke), Tonga Bob’s (Aussie) are ones that we are aware of so far. Each place has a dinghy dock that one can just dinghy across and tie up.
These are local Police Officers, they are stopping cars and checking they are registered)
(This is OK though)
(This car has the back door held on with string)
We are one of the attractions as we are the forth yacht to arrive for this season, many yachts will arrive around May to July and they say the place is packed. They have backpackers in town and they have a number of large resorts which also get filled in the season.
24/04/08 Neiafu – Tonga
Yesterday we went into town for a bit of a look around and get a few items, I sold the additional 30 metres of anchor chain which upset one person that missed out on it, but that’s life first in first serve.
We went down to Tonga Bobs Hotel that is owned by an Aussie by the name of Matthew and we booked a seat for dinner, they had a Les Girls show there thought it would be good for a laugh. The crew of ‘Haapsalu’ joined us for the night out. The show consisted of two Les Girls, one just danced to music, the arms and shoulders on it could hold a bull out to pee. The other one although not that much more feminine mimed to songs and carried the performance out quite well. Because we had dinner there we did not pay for the show. Tonga Bobs Hotel is a Mexican Restaurant and the food is very good. Matthew the owner usually holds an Anzac Day service but unfortunately he is away on business for this one. We will hold a service ourselves on board Alana Rose. Anzac day is recognized in Tonga and it is also the Kings birthday and therefore a public holiday. However, the Anzac service is only held in the capital Nuku’alofa the returned service men only being one here from the Second World War will be flown to the capital for the service.
We will wake the harbour at sunrise with the bugle call that I recorded off the net and hold a little service in remembrance.
This morning after cleaning the stern of the boat we joined Haapsalu crew in a buggy safari, with guide we went around the island through roads and dirt tracks to see some of the sights, we left at 1030 and returned at 1400 hours. The buggy’s were fun we went through quite a bit of dirt and mud we were covered in dirt by the time we got back so we just jumped in the sea. It was a great time.
(Do we look the part)
(Some of the views on the trip)
(Heading home and locals wave)
At 1700 hours we went over to the Mermaid Bar, Sandy and Terry from the Moorings was there (Kiwi’s), Sandy has a terrible sense of humour, I like it. We were there for a few drinks and come back on board for dinner, that was the plan, that went to the way side as we decided to have a few more drinks and then we ordered dinner. We finally got home around 2130 hours and had a coffee before going to bed.
(Inside the Mermaid Bar looking out)
(Each yacht that visits hang a T Shirt with crews names)
(Some of the lovely staff at the Mermaid Bar)
25/04/08 Lest We Forget – ANZAC DAY
Today I am a little homesick, I am missing the Anzac Day march with my mates. We held a small service on board at sunrise this morning and raised the Australian flag in proper fashion.
Usually today we get together as mates say a silent prayer to the mates we lost in conflict or through other incidents during our service life and we celebrate theirs and our lives with a number of beers which we do not count and we talk about the fun times we all had, have a few jokes and generally bullshit each other. Have a beer for me mates and I will have one for you.
Anzac Day is a special day and this below is what we had in our service this morning.
‘Lest We Forget‘ – by the Runner
They died that we might live. Shall we forget the sacrifice they made to keep us free?They gave their all for us, and shall we let their brave deeds fade from out our memory?
Shall we who live in peace, forget the slain,who died to keep the nation’s honour bright?Shall we, who live in comfort bought by pain, forget the souls who fought and died for right?
Shall we for whom they gladly laid life down; Shall we who benefit by their decease, forget the brave who laughed at death’s dark frown?Forget the wooden crosses overseas?
God grant that we to each departed soul, May give a reverence time will not decrease, God help us keep our hard-won freedom whole, That they who fell for us, may “sleep in peace.”
(Written by Private Benjamin P McCormack, C.E.F.)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We shall remember them.
(Sitting with Terry and Sandy of the Moorings)
(Some of the staff enjoying the night)
(Tiny giving us a tune)
(Very pretty bar staff)
(Onga on the right with his daughter, he is part owner in the Mermaid Bar and Sailing Safari’s)
(Tiny showing his dancing talents with one of the staff)
(Tiny with his fiance and his crew)
26/04/08 the day after.
Well I may not have had a few beers with the ex-service mates yesterday but I certainly had a few beers with new mates here. Friday night is music night at the Mermaid Bar; we went in for a bite of lunch originally and returned back on board 12 hours later.
By the time the sunset came we decided we may as well have dinner there as well. So we sat with a group having a few drinks and people started to arrive, the place that I was sitting was within a ‘U’ shaped bar area but it is not actually the bar itself. This lady comes up to me introduces herself as Linda and asked if I served a certain beer in a glass bottle. I said hello I am John no I don’t but the bar is behind me might, she apologised and went around to the bar to get a drink with her two friends. She came over for a talk and she looked familiar to me but I was not sure.
When we got talking she told me who she was and she is a Minister in the NSW State Government the Honorable Linda Burney and I had met her before when she had visited my Fire Control Centre at Dubbo. We all had a good night some of the people got involved with karaoke, especially Tiny who had just arrived from NZ with a Moorings charter boat. We all danced the night away it was a good night.
(The Honorable Linda Burney on the left)
There was this one weasel of a guy called himself the dance man who continually dragged the women up dancing continually picked on our table, best part about it, it saved my legs.
I was a little rough around the edges this morning, I did a few chores before Nancy had to go ashore for a hairdressing appointment. When we got ashore we could not find a taxi driver that new where the place was, we called into see the young girl who did our laundry and asked her. After a small giggle with her friends she drew a mud map where to go. We followed the directions but the mud map was one street out and we had walked a fair distance. We called into a shop to ask directions, the young girl asked her mother and her mother acted as though she did not want to help and did not want the daughter to help.
We started walking back and bumped into a gentleman that we had met on the first day of arrival we explained what we were looking for and he said follow me. We did and by the time we arrived we were half an hour late and the shop was closed.
The reason we feel that some people appeared not to be too eager to help is that the hairdresser is a transvestite, this being a very religious community looks down on that sort of thing. We knew the person was a transvestite because we had met him/her at the Mermaid bar and made the appointment. Apparently a very good hairdresser.
We then did a little shopping came back on board and had a quiet day, I had an afternoon nap, we went and had sundowners at the bar then left early and had dinner on board.
02/05/08 Neiafu and enjoying it.
We are enjoying ourselves in Neiafu Kingdom of Tonga, it has been a bit of a party time with the locals and kiwi’s. We have done some work on the boat, general maintenance etc. I ordered some parts to be sent to Fiji and they will not be there for 2 -3 weeks so we decided we would stay here a little longer rather than busy Suva.
The yacht ‘Promise’ arrived Tuesday morning, that’s the two doctors Lee, Mary-Beth and children Alex and Lara. We have had a couple of nights out with them. The first night we went to the Mermaid bar and last night we went to Mamaia’s which is a Pizza place, they hold a movie night so after dinner everyone moves to comfortable lounge chairs to watch a movie.
(A boat pulls up throws the fish on the deck and the kids go down to pick them up and take them to the kitchen)
(Donated our Red Ensign flag we signed it and Nuafa put it up behind the bar)
We had some shirts made with our boats name and logo from the local T Shirt Shop, they look quite good. Other than that we have walked around looking at the place and I have done a series of photos for the Mermaid Bar they may use them on their website and for advertising. This all started from me taking a photo of a pretty staff member and presenting it to her, she loved it and so did the others. These people do not have cameras and it was a novelty to have their photo taken. I will be going in this morning to take a series of photos of the staff.
We are also moving to Mala Island today and tonight we are having a Tongan feast and watching children dance and the fire dancers. We will also go around a few of the other islands over the next few days. We will be away from internet until we come back Monday or Tuesday.
03/05/08 Mala and Nuapapu Islands
Yesterday morning we got ready to make a move out to see some islands for the weekend, I had a 1000 hour appointment I was taking photos of the Mermaid Bar staff. These people do not have the resources to do this type of thing. I did this work for free as I did with the advertising picture that they are also going to see if they can get postcards made. I did get some benefit the main was helping people who appreciate it and because I did this work I got a large reduction in mooring fees.
(Inside the Mermaid Bar, our flag hold pride and place behind the bar)
(This young lady was the start of the photo shoot, there are too many photos to put on the page so I will do the collages and group)
After I had finished taking the staff photos a few of the individual staff asked if I could take their photo, these are normally shy people, but they soon got used to having a bit of fun with photos. When we go back to Neiafu on Monday I have to teach Naki how I do the photos on the computer.
Once we got all the photos finished we got the boat organised went alongside and filled up with water then set off for Mala Island, we followed ‘Promise’ out and we anchored a little away from them when we arrived at Mala. Later the English catamaran arrived ‘Rumpoleteazer’ it’s about a 47’ Cantana, they had five on board.
Not long after we arrived we went to see the resort that we had booked the dinner and fire dancing at when it poured of rain, we filled a few buckets for drinking water.
Just before 1900 hours we went in by dinghy to the island all three crews turned up for the Tongan Feast and Tongan dancing that included Fire Dancing. This resort was run by an Aussie and he had left it run down somewhat. New owners have employed managers to get it going again Aussie girl married to a Kiwi. The night was very good, the children that danced were great, and the fire dancing was very good, the meal was also very good. We arrived back on board around 2130 hours relaxed a little while before turning in for the night.
When we got up this morning the place was still, the water was like glass and you could see the seabed as clear as clear. The unnerving part was looking over the port bow and straight below was our anchor. We had moved around with the current overnight and the anchor chain had wound itself around three rock formations bringing the boat back directly over the top of the anchor. We had about 30 metres of chain out in 5 metres of water at low tide.
(Fire dancing and
young man joins his father in the fire dance )
(Promise anchored behind us)
(Calm among the many islands)
Once we had breakfast we raised the anchor and set off for Nuapapu Island about 4 miles away being calm we motored all the way. When we arrived ‘Haapsalu’ was just leaving and there was a kiwi yacht anchored. We found a quiet spot to drop anchor and made sure all was secure before heading ashore.
Our guide book which is around 5 years old indicates a resort and shows where the path is to get to it so we thought we would investigate. Unfortunately the resort had finished all that was left was ruins. Not sure what happened but I would say it may have suffered a storm before or after the owners had abandoned the idea. The sad part is that these islands are beautiful but they have the difficulty in getting clients to visit. Even an established business like the Mermaid Bar in the main centre states that there main income comes from the whale watching season and the whale watching charters that they run.
(Heading to Nuapapu Island)
(Alana Rose anchored at Nuapapu Island)
(Nancy walking the track)
(Remains of the resort)
Land here is cheap, land is on lease for 30 or 50 years, because it is beautiful place people get the idea of getting the land build a resort and make money, its not that easy. The whole town relies on supply ships coming from their capital Nuku’alofa or NZ in between these shipments stores often run out of items it does not make it easy for resorts when they cannot buy goods to feed there clientele.
(Nancy standing where the sea has gouged the land)
(Hermit crab has a shell with a jagged part that is leaving a track)
(The hermit crab just grabs any shell for protection)
(Sunset from the anchorage)
Well we are going over to ‘Promise’ for dinner tonight; Mary-Beth said she has lots of Champagne to drink she said she has been saving it up for an occasion like this one. We will see how things go tonight.
We had a good night last night we met a kiwi by the name of Richard has sailed these areas for ten years so had lots of info regarding the crossing to Fiji. Mary-Beth served a nice dinner and we had lots of chatting, drank champers and white wine and poured ourselves home around 2130 hours.
We were woken up a few times through the night due to anchor cable noises, the wind had picked up and the boat was rocking a little but we were quite sound nothing had moved, we fed out another 10 metres of chain for security and went back to bed.
Richard came over with some charts of where we are going so I photographed them and spent the morning putting them together electronically and gave a copy to ‘Promise’ we figure we will be sailing out of here together either Thursday or Saturday. We will leave late afternoon so that we arrive at dawn on the third day at the beginning of the reef areas, we will look at the weather and get a good weather window before we leave. We have changed our plans and are heading for Savusavu instead of the hustle and bustle of Suva. Savusavu is on the north main island, from there we will sail through more reefs to the west of the southern island Lautoka where the Yanmar dealer is and pick up the parts I require. Then we will sail for Vanuatu.
After working on charts we went over to the island in the dinghy and had a walk around looking at the different things, part of the area was covered in sea slugs, the coral was pretty. On the way back I saw this track in the sand that looked like a snake track, these island do not have snakes, when I followed down near the waters edge was a hermit crab in a shell that had a piece sticking downwards digging into the sand. It had made the track with the shell.
The ‘Promise’ crew came over for a BBQ around 1730 hours, we discussed our sailing plans checked the charts before settling down to a couple of beers wines and dinner.
Tomorrow we sail back to Neiafu, get provisions and do some work for the Mermaid crew, I have to teach Naki how to do some things on the computer and deliver the staff photos that I have put together. It feels good helping these people, we do not realise how lucky we are at times.
These people do not have the opportunity to get ahead because the place is poor, the government get money from other countries to assist but like most it is mismanaged or used in areas it was not meant for. Those that are fortunate to have a job get around 80 cents Aust per hour. The Mermaid pay top dollar to their staff and that is Aust $1:10 per hour. Items are not that cheap here as everything has to be brought in. Many people survive by growing their own food, some sell their produce at a local market but there is not a large range to choose from.
The people have their religious faith and that keeps them going.
05/05/08 Back to Neiafu
We got out of bed fairly early and prepared to sail back to Neiafu, we pulled down the covers, checked the engines, had breakfast and then weighed anchor. We motored through the shallows and through the islands. As we were leaving a large motor cruiser that had anchored nearby moved away at the same times as us. Once we had some wind away from the nose we rolled out the Genoa, we knew it would not last long as we had to turn into the wind again so we did not worry about the mainsail, we were going along at 5.5 knots until we had to change course back into the wind, we motored the rest of the way. When we arrived in the harbour of Neiafu we picked up the same mooring as before. I then went into the Mermaid Bar to let them know we were on their mooring but Aunofa had already seen us arrive.
We showered then went into town and to the market for shopping then had a quiet afternoon getting items for this blog.
(Some of the markets in town)
(A view from outside the laundry shop)
11/05/08 Weather watch.
We were originally going to sail last Thursday or yesterday, however, the MJO became active again and indicated it had created a trough and convergence zone between here and north of Vanuatu so we have waited for it to move north away from us and Fiji. We will now sail tomorrow around lunch time.
It is shame we could not sail Thursday it would have saved me a hangover yesterday, Friday night we went for a few quiet drinks with newly made local friends and at times I do not know where the beers were coming from but there was two stubbies in front of me at times. The result was I had wobbly boots on and when I went to bend down to untie the dinghy on a rocky floating dinghy dock I kept going and fell into the water. A couple of the local lads helped me out but other than those guys who were sitting on the dinghy dock no one noticed. Nancy had stopped on the way talking and she came down wondering why I was sitting on the end of the dock, then she noticed I was dripping wet. We then got into the dinghy and motored home.
Friday I carted water and filled the yachts tanks and started to get things ready for leaving, also topped up the fuel tanks and filled spare cans. When we sail Monday it is likely that we will have to do some motor sailing. Once the stormy weather has passed it usually leaves calm or light winds behind.
This next leg of the trip can be the trickiest, Fiji is surrounded by reefs, and we have to time it so that we arrive at the first reef at dawn as it will take us all day to pass through them back into open water before reaching Savusavu, it will be about a three day voyage. There are three yachts heading in this direction, ‘Promise’, ‘Blessed B’ and ourselves on ‘Alana Rose’ so we will have company all the way. One NZ yacht did leave yesterday but they were heading south to Suva, they basically had to leave because they had already cleared out with Customs. Another yacht will leave today, ‘Haapsalu’ Americans, they are sailing direct to Noumea and are hoping to sell their yacht there before flying home to America.
We have received emails from Suni on ‘Cosmos’ they are still in Bora Bora hoping to set sail next week. She said the around the world yacht race ‘The Ark’ has started to arrive in Bora Bora, there are approximately forty yachts racing. They have stopovers at different places so they will be behind us all the way.
The radio schedule has not been good as all the yachts here cannot get out on the airways due to our location. We may be able to pick them up again tomorrow afternoon once we have left the coastline.
The weather forecast is for low winds so it will be motoring for sure if they are right with the forecast this could last for days so we will still sail tomorrow.
(The last evening here, we will miss this place and the new friends we have made)
Last night we had Sandy and Terry over for a BBQ they run The Moorings Charter Company here, we said are farewells and there is a chance we may meet again in Oz when they go sailing next year.
This morning I will check everything is ready to go and then we will go and clear out with the authorities and set sail for Savusavu, Fiji. The weather this morning does not look promising, the sea is like glass and there is not a breath of air. It may change once we get out there.
We have gone through Customs, Immigration and the Port Captain we are ready to go. Some bad news ‘Promise’ will not be going with us they have to fly back home for a short time due to unforeseen circumstances. We hope all goes well and we see them in Oz when they get back sailing.
Neiafu Tonga to Savusavu Fiji 2008
12/05/2008 Leaving Neiafu.
As we left the harbour of Neiafu, Tonga I put the main sail up as we were heading directly into the wind before going out to sea and as we turned to go out of the inlet and turned to sea the sail filled with wind and we picked up speed. We still had the port engine running at this stage. We rolled out the genoa and as soon as we cleared the entrance we shut down the engine and we were sailing around 6.5 knots. This was a surprise as we thought we would be motoring all the way.
Originally we were going to be in the company of two other boats, ‘Promise’ and ‘Blessed B’, but unfortunately through a medical condition the crew of ‘Promise’ had to fly back to America to have things checked out, they may return in a few days if everything turns out OK. ‘Blessed B’ was having some repairs made and was going to be delayed, so we do it alone as we have most the way.
As we got further out to sea we had a few rain squalls some of them hit us and we had to shorten sail then when it cleared up no wind back to motoring. Fortunately before leaving I dived down and cleaned the props so we were moving around 5.5 knots on one engine. Around 1900 hours Nancy spotted a white light behind us on the port side she called me to check it out. It was another sailing vessel he was using his anchor light as a steaming light and no other nav lights on. He called us on the radio, it was Phil we had met a couple of days before, and he came over to see us regarding weather conditions for sailing to Suva, Fiji. He was motoring at 7 knots, I said to him that this is what we had expected was to motor the first two days before we had wind. We wished each other well and said we may catch up in Lautoka. We watched his light ahead all night and it disappeared over the horizon just before dawn.
Today was a slow day we had rain we had wind changing, we had no wind at times, and late at night we had rain squalls. Not a good sailing day we motor sailed, the sea was calm with a SW swell of up to 2 metres, but it was a rolling swell and not uncomfortable. Nancy had good sleep in her time off, she had forgotten to take her anti-histamine tablets before we sailed from Tonga, if she doesn’t take the tablets before sailing she gets a little seasick and headaches. She took them after she realised she had forgotten but it was a little late then, however, she is now back on track.
We still had rain most of the time, the wind was changing direction constantly, and we still had sails up to catch whatever wind was available to get a bit more speed. We had reefed down for the night and this also helped in changing side to side when the wind changed. It is quite heavy going for Nancy changing sails so we go for the easy way which makes us a little slower in speed but what’s the hurry?
Nancy woke me up at 0300 hours she said we have a storm, I now think that was an understatement. Its pitch black I was having trouble with the helm steering the right direction we did a 360 a couple of times, I had already rolled in the genoa but still had the reefed main up and that was causing problems. We had winds above 50 knots, sometimes the gauge flicking on 60 knots but those speeds not sure how accurate the gauge is, the waves sounding like steam trains coming through. I struggled to get the nose into the wind once I had it settled I put Nancy on the helm made sure she was OK then I had to get out to the mast and get the main sail down. Fortunately all went well, the rain was pouring down. I was in my jocks, T shirt, harness, and raincoat. And drenched to the skin. I got back on the helm feeling the boat wanted to go with the storm so I turned the yacht down wind and rode the waves this was pushing us north as the wind was coming from the south; this was pushing us well off course we wanted to go west. I remembered the rule if the wind is right on your back then the low pressure is to your right therefore I need to head slightly to the left to distance myself from it. I started to ride the waves at a safe angle to try and get away from this monster, you probably would not do this in a monohull but a cat can ride this direction well but this boat felt comfortable in doing what we were. I know I was thinking to myself, I hope I am doing this right? Nancy was scared but she wasn’t alone in that, I was crapping myself. As daybreak came I looked for signs of the storm clearing, no such bloody luck it was here to stay. We still had winds between 40 and 50 knots and waves I would have trouble guessing but I would say well above 4 metres you could barely see the tops of the waves just the rolling white water. I had said to Nancy to go and get some rest as I don’t know how long this will be on for and once we get better conditions when she can take the wheel I would have to stay there until we are safe this turned out to be 1330 hours, I had been going since 0300 hours, I was soaking wet cold. Nancy kept coming to see how I was going and feeding me and making cups of tea and giving me drinking water. This gives the next problem what goes in must come out, when you got to go you got to go. I just had to pee outside the cockpit whilst at the helm, (is that where it got its name); there was enough rain and sea water to wash everything over the side. Nancy was a little nervous about taking the helm in the conditions we had, but the conditions were better now, we still had a paddock full of white horses white wave caps everywhere but the winds had come down to 20-25 knots with an occasional burst in the high 20’s to 30 knots. I got 2 hours sleep on and off. I went back up to see how things were going and looked at our plan of action.
We had both engines running at low speed to keep in time with the waves, bare-poled all sails stowed away and we made 161 miles in the day shows you what the wind was doing to us without any sails it just pushed us along, any sailor on a normal sailing day would be pleased with that distance in a day.
There was no way we could make it across to the pass in the Lau Group of Islands we were heading for because we would have had to put these monster waves on our beam and catamarans don’t right themselves if you tip over like monohulls do. So we set plan ‘B’ we will try and move across to the next pass a little further north. Something was starting to help as we had been steering to the northwest trying to get further away from the lower pressure we were now getting SE winds and the waves followed that same direction so we were able to steer further to a westerly direction but unfortunately not enough to get to the next pass through the Lau Group above Vanua, so next for plan ‘C’ keep heading NW and steer across the top of the Lau Group cut across the top of Duff Reef and Welangilala into Nanuku Passage and get some shelter from the reefs and islands off the Lau Group.
(This chart shows the final track we took in red, the blue was the original plan and then plan B the yellow track)
(Me at the helm when things had calmed down a little)
At around 1700 hours we were turning and going passed Jefferys Bank and Alacrity Bank north of the Lau Group and we started to see some settling of the seas just after. It was enough for me to put two jerry cans of fuel into the port fuel tank as I don’t like running the fuel down passed halfway. Shortly after Nancy made dinner and went for a sleep. I rolled out the genoa as the wind now was coming from the east and we had started sailing west we started to see the moon through the clouds and then some stars, the wind picked up slightly and I was able to shut the engine down. We were under sail again in fairly good conditions, we passed Duff Reef and looked for the light on Welangilala, no light which is not unusual in this area. Once passed this point we entered Nanuku Passage and turned SW direction towards Taveuni’s South Cape. By the morning around 0800 hours the wind disappeared and we started both engines to get into Savusavu before having to pay the overtime for officials working after 1600 hours.
(Fijian Vanua Levu coastline just after first light)
(A squall behind us)
(Adjusting the ropes)
(On auto pilot Nancy’s on watch and I am resting)
(Reef entrance to Savusavu)
(A resort at the mouth of Savusavu)
15/05/2008 Savuuavu, Fiji
We entered Savusavu at 1530 hours and were lead to a mooring by one of the Waitui Marina staff, they also organised the officials and brought them out to us individually, first we had Health Officer, then Customs Officer and finally the Quarantine Officer, they were all very nice people and liked to have a chat and although they all came after 1600 hours they did not charge any overtime rates.
Once cleared in we went ashore and went to the bank to get local money and headed for the sailing club for a coldie, (Beer), well two coldies each, went to the restaurant and had a meal and some wine, then went back on board and went to bed and that was 1930 hours and I did not get up until 0600 hours in the morning.
(The moorings at Savusavu)
Today we had a walk around town which did not take long and called into a café for lunch, we met Mirri who works at the café and she told us about a night there where they cook underground like the Kiwi’s do so we may go to that if we are still here.
(The main street shopping is not large but quite busy)
(The friendly Cafe that we went to for lunch)
(Mirri asked if we could take a photo of her and email it to her as she does not have a camera)
Our friends Blessed B arrived today, they also got caught in the storm it was still happening the day after we were caught in it. They got onto a mooring owned by Curly who has a internet cafe Curly’s Cruising Bosuns Locker. He gives talks on sailing around Fiji at $12 per boat and they have a BBQ at the end of the talk.
(Curly’s shop and staff member)
The talk Curly gives is titled “Why do yachts sink in Fiji”, it relates to the many reef systems around these islands and Curly supplies charts to assist sailor he also holds another night on how you should treat the Chiefs of the tribes when you visit the different islands.
One major thing that visiting yachts should be aware of is that you have to give a minimum of 48 hours notice to Customs prior to entering Fiji and you have to state all the places you wish to visit. There are heavy penalties if you don’t and could also mean the confiscation of your boat. It can all be done via the internet if you look up the Fiji Government site on visiting yachts the information is there and forms to be filled out. You can then email them to the authorities in plenty of time prior to arrival. You do not anchor anywhere until you have cleared in, Customs has a network with all the islands and chiefs, if you anchor somewhere it is likely you will be spotted.
Fiji is also split up into three regions and if you sail into another region you have to clear in again.
(Savusavu, lovely place)
We met an Aussie ex-pat at the Yacht Club Geoff Taylor, he offered to take us all on a bit of a tour although some of us will have to travel in the back of the ute. So away we went.
(Aundi, Geoff’s partner, Geoff and Charles)
(Bruce, Me and Charles at Geoff’s house)
(Bruce, Geoff’s sister, Charles, Geoff, Aundi and Nancy)
(Nancy and Aundi)
(View from Geoff’s veranda)
(Me and Nancy)
(View from a lookout)
(George the barman at the Yacht Club, lovely bloke)
(George brings the food out we ordered, with Bruce and Matt)
(Me, Charles, Bruce and Matt with plenty of food)
20/05/2008. Back to weather watch at Savusavu
It was our initial plan to leave today for Lautoka west coast of the southern main island, then we saw the weather report an it was not good. According to weather charts we should have been under massive rain at 0200 hours this morning, we got rain but not very much. I don’t know if it is still coming or went to the south, I will have to check it out when I can get on the net this morning.
We are supposed to have thunderstorms and high winds, not good for sailing, at this stage the plan is now to sail on Thursday the weather should be favourable and we hope there is some wind left to sail and not use engines.
The ‘Blessed B’ crew fly’s out today, they are heading back to Australia for five weeks to deal with business so we will be sailing solo all the way again, which we have done basically from the start. We have a good couple of days in their company.Bruce owner/skipper is a farmer from Inverell, he buys old boats and fixes them up as a bit of a hobby, Charles crew member, he is a really nice bloke, and he is a bachelor and owns a few businesses. He owned one of the largest helicopter businesses in NSW on the east coast, he does a lot of voluntary work including CMF training kids, and he organises trips away for disadvantaged kids. Then the young bloke in the crew is Matt, he is a Frenchman, very nice young bloke, his plan is to go over to Paris when he gets back to Sydney and pick up his French girlfriend that he met in Tahiti and return to Tahiti, and then get married.
(The crew on Blessed B packing the boat up, Matt, Charles and Bruce)
(I have just taken them ashore to catch their plane, they thought they were leaving later and found out they had to get going by 0745 hours).
(Me taking the crew ashore, Curly is taking them to the airport and will be looking after Blessed B whilst they are away)
Talking to local Fijians here I have not met one that agrees with the political upsets that have occurred here, they believe that the Coups are ruining the country. One gent was telling us he has told his children that are attending university to study hard and go to NZ or Australia to work, there is no future for them now in Fiji. That is a sad statement to make when we are all generally proud of our country.
Savusavu is a quiet small town in a perfect setting with the creek that opens up to the bay and then the sea. The population is made up from Fijians, Indian, a few Chinese, and ex-patriots from NZ, Canada, Oz, and USA.
(Low tide looking in to harbour)
(Locals watch us on the boat)
(There are quite a few local yachts here)
(A women going home on a punt with the little child waving to me)
Most of the ex-patriots have escaped the place back home for the easy carefree lifestyle and to make money in business. Wages in these islands are low and therefore you can employ more staff, housemaids, gardeners, or caretakers.
An example is Geoff, he still works, and travels doing geology work, he also is a partner with a friend in the Copra Shed complex and runs his business from there. He converted a garage on his property to granny flat so to speak and has a caretaker and his wife that lives there, looks after the gardens and lawns and the property when Geoff is away for F$30 per week, the caretaker also looks after two other properties next door to Geoff’s that brings his wage up to F$100 per week.
The way these people survive on such a low wage is they grow their own vegetables and make what they can themselves.
Geoff also donates a lot of his time to the kids, they have a sailing cadet school here, Geoff’s friend teaches the kids how to build there own small sail boat and Geoff teaches them to sail. He goes out every weekend with them and spends nearly all day Saturday with them. I think I mentioned before that Geoff has six children although now divorced, all his children sail and one of his son’s is in the Olympics racing a skiff.
Another local character is our friend now Curly, he owns a yacht here, and has a business called the Bosun’s Locker. His business sells anything from fishing lures, mooring hire, travel and also has internet service for sailors use. He is a Kiwi been here about 30 years. He runs seminars, one of which we are attending today. He also runs the local radio net each day at 0830 hours and it starts with, “Good morning Savusavu!!!”
(Curly on his yacht)
There is also a local business that uses a local village group to manufacture LED lights, they only use Japanese LED’s, and they run mail orders. The prices are very reasonable. The business is Bebe Lighting (pronounced Bambi), they have a web site. I purchased a cockpit/anchor light F$59, they are the best quality that I have seen and that includes back home.
21/05/08 – Getting ready to sail.
Today we have to fuel, water, and shop and clear out with the officials so that we can set sail first light on Thursday. So it is going to be a busy day.
Yesterday we went into town and had a walk around the shops to see what they had. Each shop is like a jumble sale, gear everywhere and some shops will sell groceries, clothing, hardware and goodness knows what else. There are only a couple of shops that are modern and tidy.
I think I told the story about our American friend Charlie when he was in a South American country he learnt that you must ask the right questions. If I didn’t here is how it goes.
Our friend Charlie was telling us about when he visited a South American country how the locals can have a bit of a laugh at our expense because to them we are just another gringo. He took his dinghy over to a dock and asked, “Is this where I bring my yacht to get fuel”; the answer was “yes”, and then he asked “can I bring my yacht over now?” The answer was “yes”. Charlie went and brought his yacht from being anchored to the dock and tied up, no one helped the guys on the dock just sat there watching. Charlie was ready to take fuel but no one was moving so he went over to them and said can I get fuel now? The head guy said “no we do not have any fuel we are waiting for a delivery.”
A few days later Charlie goes over and asks “do you have fuel” the guy said “yes”, Charlie asks “is it alright if I bring the yacht over now?” They guy said “yes”. Charlie brings the yacht over again and still no action, he approaches them again and asks “can I get fuel now?’ The guy said “no, there is a power failure.” Charlie said he learnt that you must ask the right questions to obtain all the information and he did the next time and got his fuel. The guys on the dock probably went into great laughter each time Charlie left the dock.
Yesterday Nancy learnt the same lesson. When we ordered lunch we ordered a drink each, Nancy asked the young lady Mirri if they could make an iced coffee because it was not on the menu, Nancy had to explain the it was coffee but cold, the young lady said yes eager to please. Nancy got her iced coffee it resembled that of iced tea. I could not resist I had to take the photo which after Nancy said you are going to say something on your blog aren’t you. You bet.
(Nancy with her iced coffee, cold black coffee)
Last night we went to one of Curly’s seminars on sailing around Fiji islands, these islands are the most dangerous in the world due to the amount of reefs, some of the waterways between them can be quite treacherous with narrow passages that can cause a venturi effect and spit you out the opposite side. This has put our plans on hold until we meet Curly at 1000 hours today and look at the best way to go. Although I think he did cover it last night, there is only one quick way to Lautoka and that is sail around the bottom of Suva. He said don’t go Bligh Water, the narrow passage is treacherous. This is why we went to the seminar to find out these things.
After we had done our chores getting ready to leave for tomorrow and we had our meeting with Curly to talk about the waters that we were to tackle. This man knows all the waters of Fiji. He also has a very interest yacht, it weighs 40 tonnes, it has solid slate floors, its hull is production built ferro-cement, and it must be a good one as someone said to me once all the bad ones have sunk by now. He is renovating the boat himself. The main cabin is something else see photo. We had lunch with him at the yacht club and then went back there at 1700 hours to say farewell to those we had met then we went to dinner at the Bula-Re Café that has Lovo on Wednesday nights, this is the traditional in the ground cooking similar to the Maori Hungi. It was a great quiet night, early back on board before the sail the next day.
(Having lunch with Curly at the Yacht Club)
We are hoping to leave early tomorrow morning weather permitted. This means this is the last blog entry until we get to Lautoka in a few days time.
(Our last night out at the Cafe for the hangi type cooked meal)
(We say goodbye to Mirri)
Savusavu to Vuda Point
22/05/2008 – Set sail from Savusavu for Laatoka
We got out of bed at 0450 hours still dark and we started to get ready to set sail. I got on the upper deck and started removing the covers and opened up the main sail bag and untied the lanyard on the mains halyard that stops it bashing against the mast in windy conditions. I made sure everything was secure stowed extra fuel and water containers and the portable generator. Then did the final check on engines and hoisted the dinghy. Nancy made a cuppa and some toast and vegemite.
We both checked the sail plan and put the waypoints into the GPS and we were ready by first light, we let go of the mooring ropes at 0610 hours and motored away. Curly came up on his upper deck to wave us goodbye and wish us luck. A few other yachties stuck their heads out to wave and we were off.
As we motored out of the harbour there was little wind what there was, was right on the nose, we knew we were going to have west winds in the day but this area is a little protected, we were following a freighter out of the harbour and as it got near the bay access I noticed the smoke from its exhaust changed direction, the westerly was there. I took the opportunity whilst the wind was on the nose to hoist the main sail, I put it at first reef as I did not know what the wind speed was going to be, and I rather play safe. We had a bit of a scare as we were going out of the access we took it a little wider than when we came in, I suddenly saw the ripples on the water and pulled up as the depth gauge went down to 4 metres from 98 metres, a little reef we went around it just to make sure.
Once out we set the course for George the autopilot we motor sailed for a short distance then we were out of the protection of the islands and we were off and the engines were shut down. We still had the main at first reef and the genoa was not all the way out still had four turns on the furler and we were sailing between 7 and 10 knots, that was fast enough for comfort so we left the sail pattern as such. This continued until sunset then the wind disappeared, we had started to get some swell after passing through a pass between Wakaya and Batiki Islands. Just before that time we were passed by a small freighter that had come out of Koro Island. The Captain called me on the radio and wished us a good passage and informed me he would be passing us and crossing our bow at a safe distance and asked if I would maintain course and not swing across his stern as he had fishing lines out. We wished him well and off he went, I had a look as they went passed they had lines out everywhere.
(The freighter had blokes on the quarterdeck and numerous fishing lines out the stern)
We were probably lucky that we had lost the wind as we approached the south east area of Viti Levu (Fiji southern large island), the waves came from different directions, and we were warned by Curly that this is one of the most uncomfortable places to be. I would have hated to be there with some reasonable wind so we were quite happy to motor. We were also in shipping lanes once again and we had not seen it this busy as far as shipping since Caribbean, Panama and some around Galapagos. So micro sleeps were a no no in these areas when on watch, shame that I think I survive on those when at sea. We try and give the shipping lanes a wide berth and we stay a little further out from the coast line but you never know what path they will take.
(Ship going into Suva)
(The bows cutting through the water)
(Going through Beqa Passage)
(This fishing boat passed us very close obviously just wanted to check us out)
We had to be off Suva by first light and we made that, this was so that we would sail through Beqa Passage which is very narrow, it was very pretty going through there even if the wind was right on the nose and we had to motor all the way, in fact it remained that way all the way to Vuda Point near Lautoka. I rolled out the sails a couple of times but had to motor sail.
We arrived at Navula Passage entrance just before 0400 hour this morning (24/05/08), Nancy sailed passed it until it was my time to come on watch (0400 hrs). Naturally it is dark at this time and I looked at the charts for the lights, the passage had lead lights both flashing fast, I had trouble finding the lower one but was able to identify it. Then I looked for the cardinal markers on the reefs either side of the passage, I found the port side light, flashes orange 5 second intervals, the starboard one was not working. I knew CMap was correct for this passage and I had the waypoints in the GPS that also agreed with CMap. We had CMap on the laptop so that I could see it from the helm, I made the first approach and all of a sudden I lost the port cardinal light, I aborted and turned around in a 360, looked again, no it’s gone out. It had probably run out of battery, common thing up here is either the lights are not working at all or the batteries run out of life half way through the night.
I checked the leads with the GPS and the CMap for lining up and they did and we made the approach for entry, Nancy stayed up made me a cuppa whilst I concentrated on the job, she was also checking the CMap track and keeping me informed on depths that I should experience on entry. I said to her, this is our first night port entry and we had to pick Fiji the country with the most dangerous reefs in the world. We entered and I saw the dark sticks as we passed that should have had lights working on them. We still had a few hours before reaching the marina at Vuda Point, an interesting marina it is, a round marina with yachts stern to the wall, it has a narrow passage into the marina which all has been man made. The entrance is marked incorrectly on CMap and on the latest chart.
(Chart showing Navula Passage)
(Sunrise heading for Vuda Point)
(We need that sun for some warmth)
On arrival we called the marina on the radio CH16, they said to enter, and their security staff would meet us at the yellow buoy and assist us in berthing. This is the only tricky part is missing the stem or stern lines anchored to a centre point in the middle of the water that eventually secures the yachts. Once secured we tidied up went for a shower and then to the yacht club for lunch and the usual well deserved coldie. We sat there and relaxed for sometime had a nice lunch then came back on board and had a nanny nap.
(Entrance to the marina between those post markers)
(It looks narrow)
(Entrance at low tide)
(Inside the marina passage)
(Fire in the sky from the sunset)
(Sunset from the Yacht Club)
Nancy cooked a nice dinner, we cracked a bottle of red, and I think very soon we will hit the sack and die until six in the morning.
27/05/08 Vuda (Vunda) Point Marina
(Sunrise in the marina)
After having a rather easy relaxing weekend yesterday we got down to business. First we had to catch a taxi to Lautoka to clear in with Customs, by rights we should have sailed there on Saturday and cleared in with Customs before coming here. Some said we would be in trouble some said everything will be alright. The latter won. However, it can depend on who the customs officer is. I believe there is one officer that is not so nice. The officers we dealt with were most obliging, we did tell them that we had mechanical problems which helped and I had the receipt of the spares that I purchased at the marina, we will have to sail up there to clear out they told us sternly.
Yachts clearing in and out of Fiji are being watched all the time, when clearing in details of the yacht are taken down even to colours of all parts of the yacht. Each island has a radio network that reports back to customs within their region. There are three regions they are Lautoka, Suva, and Savusavu. We have found out recently that if you are passing one of these ports in your voyage you are supposed to go in and report to customs a thing we did not do passing Suva, if you enter one of the three regions you are to sail in to the appropriate port before going elsewhere.
It definitely pays to research each place before leaving the previous port, we do this but sometimes the information is not available or it is out of date.
Next thing on the agenda was to check on the parts for the stbd shaft clutch assembly, unfortunately Melbourne has sent some wrong parts, the part number ends in 90 and the parts they have sent end in 80 although the invoice indicates the correct part number. Brian Smith is trying to get the parts flown up by Wednesday which will be OK we hope to sail on Thursday. The weather looks alright to go then but we will watch over the next few days for changes that may hold us up. There is a storm north of New Caledonia that appears to be moving down the east coast of Australia over the next week, but it indicates around 14 knots SE winds for us between here and Vanuatu.
After this it was cleaning duties, I scrubbed the upper decks, cockpit, and transom and Nancy cleaned all the inside, heads, showers, and cabins after we had a little rest and then got cleaned up and went to the yacht club for dinner.
We have a few other Aussie yachts here, next door we have a couple in their mid 40’s, Neil is an Australian with a very strong Scot accent, Weighing is of Asian decent but a Sydney girl, they never had children and they invested wisely and are retired, they are building a house on the Fijian Koro Island, one we passed on the way here.
Another Aussie catamaran pulled in yesterday “Chaotic Harmony” they have been sailing around here for many months and have to leave soon or pay tax on the boat.
There is also a large motor sailing boat that has three Aussie crew aboard, they brought the yacht over sometime ago for the owner and are now taking it back to Brisbane.
We caught the bus into Lautoka this morning, what an adventure, we waited at the bus stop just outside the marina at the ‘T’ intersection, a local Fijian woman joined us and introduced herself, Lilette, we asked her what the bus fare was and she said it is F$1 for locals they charge more for you, but she said give me F$2 and I pay for you which she did. She works at the marina cleaning the inside of yachts when she can get the work. She said she had sailed herself between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand on her husbands yacht. He was a Kiwi, she said it was sad they married in 1992 and he died in 1996.
Once on the bus it travels down the road passing the marina and onto a dirt road, it travels for about 2 kms before turning around. The bus is an old Leyland with a crash gearbox and probably would not pass the mildest roadworthy inspection. The turn around point is at the end of a housing area mainly of Indian decent. The people are not very well off I would say boarding on being poor. The houses are not very good condition.
On the way back towards the marina the bus suddenly comes to a halt and leaning towards the left. The dirt road had some recent works and they had not compacted the dirt at the edge of the road very well and we had dry bogged, both wheels well down. The driver tried to get the bus out with no result. We all get off the bus for a look and the driver approaches a farmer with a tractor to pull him out. The farmer obviously wanted too much money as he came back without a tractor. He hopped in the bus and gave it a good rev up and went for it and the bus came out of the bog, probably because everyone was off the bus with the exception of a few who happened to be the Indian decent people that had just got on the bus. The buses here do not have side windows they have openings all along and if it rains they pull down covers.
(The bus dry bogged)
(These are the people that would not get off the bus)
Lautoka city, they call the Sugar City as this area produces sugar cane and has a sugar mill. Lautoka is also a major fuel depot for Mobil, Total and BP fuel. The other produce they have is wood chips, there is a large storage area, and a bulldozer works there constantly pushing the wood chips in a high pile whilst the trucks come and go unloading. The wood chips are exported to Japan.
We walked around town and had a look at the shops then we had lunch. After lunch we did the big supermarket shopping and then caught a taxi back to the marina after unloading the shopping Nancy put the stores away and started cooking meals to be frozen preparing them for when we are at sea whilst she did that I went over the side in the dinghy and washed the hulls of the boat. Once we had both finished we declared it beer-O clock time and went to the Yacht Club for a short time, had a couple of coldies watched the sunset and came back on board for dinner.
(Lautoka markets and bus depot)
Thursday 29/05/08 – The morning was a little trying as we were told the parts we were awaiting would be there by 0900 hours and we were ready to sail straight away. Well they did not arrive until 1100 hours; we left the dockside at 1130 hours not without a little drama. I had singled up the stern lines so that I could let go quite easily and we had to get one of the staff to release the forward lines that were connected in the water to common buoys that the neighbouring yachts also use. Timing is crucial as we had a stiff wind on the stbd beam. We let one fwd line go first then I released the stern lines and motored forward whilst the helper released the second fwd line. I had motored clear of the neighbouring yachts but we had a problem with the helper releasing the last line, the wind pushing us toward the securing lines of the catamaran next door, he finally got the line free then had to push me away from the lines with his dinghy as I could not use the props in case of catching the lines in the water. Once that little drama was over we motored out of the marina and headed for Lautoka which is around 5 Nms north.
(Yachts are left for the cyclone season, they dig a pit to fit the keel in use tyres to hold the yacht snug in the hole and tie it down using stakes)
(The yacht club at the entrance of the marina)
(Alana Rose in the marina)
(How would you like to sail the world by yourself in this little yacht, one man from Europe is doing just that).
(Don’t think this one will fit in the entrance, it turned to go to a fuel installation)
We arrived at the entrance of Lautoka Port around 1300 hours called the port authority for permission to enter and were directed to anchor north of the wharf. When we reached there ‘Chaotic Harmony’ Cantana catamaran owned by Gavin and Catherine LeSueur was anchored there and Catherine gave us a big wave as we arrived. Once anchored I lowered the dinghy to go ashore and clear out with the authorities. I had just got in the dinghy when Gavin pulled up in his, he told me that the office was closed for lunch and would re-open at 1400 hours and not to rush in. He said they had decided to sail to Musket Cove for the night and leave the following morning for Santos Island one of the Vanuatu’s northern islands we made a times and frequencies for radio schedules as we both crossed the sea. It is always nice to have a contact in case anything goes wrong.
(Sailing to Lautoka from Vuda Point)
(Arriving at Lautoka)
(Gavin and Catherine Lesueur’s catamaran)
The LeSueur’s seem to be very nice family we only got to talk to them for a short time but they gave that feeling that you could become friends with them very easily. It wasn’t until they gave me their card that I realised who they were. Gavin and Catherine would be the most experienced catamaran sailors in Oz. Gavin wrote a book on multihull sailing and has written many articles for Multihull magazine. I have a copy of his book back in Oz, one of the first books I purchased when we had decided to buy a cat. They also had a nasty experience of hitting a whale sailing from NZ to Oz destroying the catamaran they were sailing. Gavin is a doctor but he does not mention that but talking to other sailors if someone is ill he soon pulls out his doc’s bag to assist.
Well back to us, I decided to go straight into the authority’s office and be the first there when they reopen as there were two other yachts waiting to clear in or out. Once cleared out we set sail just behind ‘Chaotic Harmony’ we had decided to make way to the Navula Pass and hope we got there before dark, however, we did not make it before dark. As we sailed across the bay back passed Vuda Point the wind picked up and so did the seas, we had a close reach and was sailing at speeds up to 11 knots this gave us hope in getting to the pass before dark but we had 20 nms to cover and we did not leave the port until 1500 hours.
(The sun sets before we get to the Navula Pass)
Fortunately as we got to the pass it was sheltered from the winds and rough sea, so we decided that we would go through it and out to sea and set a course for Port Vila, Vanuatu. We entered this pass in the dark and I still had the track on the GPS from when we entered, we had the leads behind us and we knew CMap was accurate and this time we had two working lights on the pass that were not working when we came in. The alternative was to anchor in the bay for the night and go through the pass at first light.
We got through the pass no worries and we were off again we figured a 5 day passage to Port Vila, once outside the passage we got the lumpy seas from the southeast around 2 metres winds were between 13 and 20 knots from the east-southeast. Sail pattern for the night was mainsail second reef and genoa first reef which gave us a steady 5 to 6 knots. The weather was cold and out came the tracksuits.
The voyage across was the most uncomfortable that we have had although it resembled the seas we had when we tried to sail from Rangiroa to Tahiti, the only difference was this was coming from behind where the latter was head on.
We had the first radio sched with Gavin the next morning we told him that we had headed off and he was leaving that morning, we kept the radio scheds up and are still doing the same. The first afternoon we tried the old sched with ‘Cosmos’ Suni and Charlie, it was good to talk to them again. They are still in French Polynesia at Mapilia a small atoll.
02/06/08 – Arrived Port Vila – Vanuatu
Arriving Port Vila, as we entered Port Vila the trip was rough all the way but we were making good headway considering most the time the wind was from behind. Gavin made better headway, he had his sails wing to wing, this is where you pole out the foresail one side and pull the mainsail out the other, he was making up to 11 knots. We do not have that capability as we do not have a pole to pole out. In addition to this he has a lot more sailing experience than I and can handle the situation when it goes pear shaped, which I believe it did the night before last when they were hit by a squall, he said on the radio sched that it had them jumping.
(Seas have calmed slightly but still heavy winds)
(Island Efate we have to round that point to start the entry into Port Villa)
(Yes I am smiling, I can have a beer tonight and a good nights sleep)
(Anchored at the Quarantine Buoy had to wait three hours before the official arrived and he took all the meat from the freezer, well his family will eat well tonight)
They arrived last night in Santos and they like us had a very rough trip. We knew it was going to be rough but we had to take the weather window that gave us the wind in the right direction, there was a nasty low to the southeast of Fiji and there was another between New Caledonia and Australia we wanted to get here before any low pressure came our way so we rode the back of a high pressure system. We had a few rain squalls but the winds only increased to around the 28 knots not like previous squalls in the high 30’s and 40’s.
Port Vila – Vanuatu 2008
02/06/2008 Port Vila
Once in Port Vila we anchored at the quarantine buoy and called Sailing World on Ch16 and they brought out the quarantine officer, he was nice young man but he did take all our meat and vegetables he also took our garbage.
By the time we left the quarantine buoy area and took up a mooring with Sailing World it was too late to go to Customs or Immigration but we were told that we could still go ashore as quarantine had cleared us. We took a mooring as the anchorages here are not good holding, we had four tries at anchoring at the quarantine buoy and dragged anchor each time, we finally got hold but I am sure it was wedged behind a rock that held us whilst going through quarantine.
Once we had settled at the mooring and put the covers up we had a shower and went ashore, first stop was the bank to get some local money the second stop was the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant for a cold beer and a meal.
(The Waterfront Bar and Grill)
(Nancy enjoying a drink)
(A Good red)
(Meet Boots the resident cat)
(When Boots wants a feed he rings the bell)
(Boots rang the bell)
I brought Nancy to Vanuatu for her 50th or was it 21st birthday, probably the latter if you ask her, that was nearly three years ago or was that weeks, you know how it goes. We had already started to plan the retirement some years prior to that and had the plan of buying a catamaran to go sailing but our plans were to buy in Australia and sail coastal. At that time sitting at this same bar Nancy said may be one day when we get confident and more competent at sailing we could sail from Oz to here? Who would have thought that we would be doing it the other way around.
03/06/08 Port Vila – Vanuatu
Last night at dinner we met a couple from Switzerland, they moved here about a year ago and they love it here. It is the easy life, they retired early due to good position in Switzerland. We also met up again with Michael an American that we met in Raiatea and again in Tonga a sole sailor. He left Tonga on the Wednesday a week before us from Neiafu, he was by-passing Fiji as he stated the reefs are too dangerous so he was going south of them. He got beat up pretty bad in the storm that hit us, being further south he got the worst of it, it took him 26 days to get here, he said he battled all the way, the winds were that strong that it bent the stay his radar was mounted on. He does not have a very fast boat it is an old Westsail and he does not push her along too fast in the best conditions. In good conditions the trip should have taken around 7 to 10 days. He was pleased to see us and we are going to have dinner with him one night this week. Vanuatu has change a little there appears to be more local young people hanging around the streets during the day, it may be the younger generation from outer islands wanting to live the more European lifestyle as this was a trend when we were last here. There are some new buildings going up and house prices are equal to Oz. The locals are still very nice and friendly and it is still a paradise here it brought back fond memories from our previous visit.
(The view from our mooring which is between Iririki Island and the main island so very well sheltered.
(A Patrol Boat went passed and berthed near Customs Office)
This morning we went to customs cleared in then to immigration it was all painless and the officials were helpful. We then started to look around the shops, stopped at the French Bakery for morning tea, they have some delicious goodies there. I was looking for another handheld GPS, my back-up one has failed for whatever reason and although we are well covered with chart plotter, a GPS and a GPS antenna that works on CMap on the laptop I would still like to replace the other back-up unit. At this stage we have been unsuccessful but will try again tomorrow.
(Walking into town from the dinghy dock at the Waterfront Bar and Grill)
(The local markets)
(You can get the cheapest feed in town at the markets, local women have set up tables and chairs at the back of the market and you can select what you want to eat from the different stalls, a meal hear cost $6.00 AUS go to a hotel same price as in Australia $28 to $35 Aus)
(Flowers at the markets)
(Local blokes playing boules)
(Main shopping area)
(Just what a man needs a good size beer)
06/06/08 – Port Vila
We have walked around Port Vila a number of times looking for a new hand held GPS without any success, it has given us quite a bit of exercise. It is not crucial that I buy one here but I thought it would be good if I could pick one up duty free.
It has rained a fair bit the last few days so we haven’t done much other than walk around the shops and see what good deals we can get. Customs will give us a form 24 hours before we leave to buy the duty free items that we want.
I received an email from a past work colleague the other day with some photos of a sailing vessel he and his father has built, quite a classic yacht they have. He asked me about what I have learnt during our voyage in regard to sailing, it is a question that is hard to answer although I think I have learnt a lot. You can learn a lot whilst you cope with difficult situations at sea, in quiet times during calm days and a hell of a lot from other sailors when in port.
One of the most recent lessons I learnt was from Neil in Vuda Point Marina, we were talking about the storms that we had been in, and how we handled them. He said he took a page out of Chichester’s book. Chichester wrote when you get hit with a storm the first thing you should do is go below and make a cup of tea. This may sound silly to some but it has a lot of merit, you can get into a lot of trouble reacting without thinking. I think what he is actually saying is stop and think before you react. Although I must admit after reading his book, I don’t think he was the perfect sailor. If you have prepared your vessel well for the conditions of sailing, like us we always reef sails before dark so if something does hit us in the dark of the night we are already reefed down. Some old salts may say you just reef down when the storm comes and take things as they come, each to their own I say and short handed sailing it is always best to be safe.
When you think of what Chichester wrote it makes a lot of sense in that statement, however, after reading Chichester’s book I don’t agree with all he did, he took a lot of unnecessary risks, how many boats have been found intact with no one on board or the crew had abandoned the vessel early. Some lives have been perished after abandoning ship and the vessel has been found with little or no damage. Just before we left for this adventure there was a catamaran found of Townsville with a torn foresail up and the main sail intact it had left Airlie Beach some six days prior. There was no one on board when it was found, the engine was running the dinner table was set and the GPS was working. Police tracked back the GPS and found that the vessel had a sudden change of course not long after they had left Airlie Beach this also coincided with a storm that hit that area around that same time. The crew was never found there have been a lot of theories to what happened the owners wife thinks there was foul play because the fenders were over the side, fenders are often left over the side in the excitement of leaving port on a big passage until someone notices them and pulls them in. My theory is that they were ill prepared for the storm the full sails were out when the catamaran was found, only the skipper was experienced the two crewmen had no sailing experience, they obviously were not wearing harnesses for safety in stormy waters. Whichever the case those poor souls were lost and the boat was found intact with little damage.
I think it was in the fatal storm of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart where men perished in a life raft after abandoning a yacht and the yacht was found to be still afloat after.
My belief is that the life raft is the last resort as one sailor said you should not get in a life raft until you have to step up to it. Fortunately with catamarans they do not sink and you can stay with the boat. A capsized boat is easier to find than a small life raft. The life raft can still be used as a dry place to be but stick with the boat if you can. Monohull yachts can be different because they do have that big lead keel that if the hull is damaged the yacht may sink but it is better to stay with that yacht until the sinking is imminent.
I know that the worst storm we faced was that of a few weeks ago. I did not make that cup of tea and may be I should have. I did however react very fast but I did slow down before making any major decisions, I had no choice I had just been woken from a deep sleep and I was trying to get myself together to take control of the boat, that waking up time gave me time to think before diving in and doing something. Once I had planned what to do which was to go bare pole and get rid of the sails, I was able to control the boat and head her into the wind and get the sails down then turn her around and keep in time with the waves with the engines.
Each storm is different, the previous storm out of Rarotonga that was not as bad I left the genoa out about an eighth of the way and used that to keep in time with the waves. I can remember thinking to myself, “I hope I am doing this right”. The main thing is not to panic or make rash decisions, think it out and if it is not working try something else, you can feel it in the boat if things are going good or bad.
I mentioned in one of the earlier blog pages of an article in the Cruising Helmsman magazine where a couple had practised sailing their yacht for four years on the coast and around Moreton Bay, they said when they eventually left for their first blue water sail across to another country they learnt more in the first four months than they did in the four years practising on the coast. One of the main reasons for this is probably (my thoughts only), when you are sailing coastal and the wind and the seas pick up a bit and it starts getting a little uncomfortable you head for shelter because you can. I know we have done it ourselves. When you go out in blue water there is nowhere that you can shelter. You can if you see a squall steer away from it on some occasions but you do not see these on a moonless night.
Another thing is that we are cruisers not racers, cruising does not have to be fast and it is less wear and tear on the boat and crew, we often sail for comfort, we may go away from our rhumb line and do a few extra miles on the crossing for the comfort. In the racing game it’s go fast and to get there the shortest route. This also adds a lot of stress to the boat and its working parts and crew.
One of the other things we have learnt in our travels is that charts are not always right, some charts go back to the 1890’s, and there are still a lot of uncharted waters. We do not always believe the charts when entering ports unless we have proved them to be right. Entering Lautoka was a perfect example we entered and left the pass in the dark. The pass had lead lights and they lined up with the charts and CMap so we had proved them right and could trust them. Where you cannot prove them right it comes to one eye on the sea and one eye on the depth gauge. The depth gauge will show you where you are on the chart with the sea bed contours and your visual will soon see the colours below indicating shallow waters. There is nothing wrong with calling up on Ch16 VHF radio to another yacht that has already made the passage to get vital information, we have done this often if we are not sure.
During our trip and the situations that we have been in we have tested the boat to see what it is capable of. Once battling a situation and you are in control take the boat a little step further to see if the boat can handle it. I did this during the storms, we were being pushed off course by miles so once we were settled I started to change course bit by bit towards our original course and got a feeling of the boats behaviour. You soon learn what the boat is capable of and you get confidence in the boat as well as yourself.
This catamaran like most, does not like tail winds she is quite slow, it would probably improve if we had a pole to pole the genoa out and may be one day we will get one. The other thing with cats is that if you get in a sea that is on the beam and it is a short choppy sea the boat will rock and it will shake the wind out of the sails. In this case it is better to have little sail out, we found that in such seas having the wind on the port aft quarter and the sea on the beam rocking us we have the genoa out about half way and we move along faster this is due to less weight up the mast and the boat does not rock as much leaving the wind in the sails. So sometimes less is best.
On another note I have found that the cruising yacht world is like the movie Pay Forward, many cruisers will help you along the way, and it is quite often that you cannot do anything in return for them. Therefore you ensure that you offer assistance to another cruiser that requires assistance when you are able to and this pays back the favour. The cruising yacht world is a level playing field whether your rich or poor you have the same problems, you have breakdowns at sea even new yachts break down at times and you help each other. We have only come across one yacht so far that has been a user and has not given back in return and unfortunately he was an Aussie.
Talking safety and safety equipment an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is an essential safety device that a person should have on board any vessel, they now manufacture personal units that I believe bush walkers or people travelling the outback should have. There are two types the 121.5/243 MHz and the 406MHz. The 121.5/243 MHz units will cease operation in February 2009, so don’t go buying one of those. The 406MHz are replacing the older model units. The one we have has a GPS contained within and if we did run into trouble where we needed to be rescued we can set that off. The unit we have registered so as soon as it is set off it will identify who we are our boat name and type and our location accurate to be within 5 metres. The 121.5/243 MHz is only accurate to about 5 nms. Personal unit’s retail around the $800 mark, the one we have cost about $1,200, its cheap when you consider it can save your life. How many bush walkers have perished or been lost, if they had one of these they could get help immediately.
Well over the next few days I hope I can give you more on Port Vila, we hope to be taking an island tour on Sunday so we may get some nice pictures for you.
09/06/08 – Port Vila
Yesterday we went on an island tour that was quite interesting, we had done a similar trip three years ago when we visited here but this trip was to different places of interest.
Our first stop was to a cultural village, this cultural village is run by village members that live nearby, and the chief wishes to promote his peoples culture as like many places it is being forgotten.
They are dressed as they were prior to European influence and show how they survived. However, they did not display any cannibalism. The last tribe to practice cannibalism in the Vanuatu Island was in 1969, the main reason this was practised in the earlier days was that the island had around 3 million population and there is very little food source. Europeans came to the island teaching religion and changing the ways of the Vanuatu people and they also bought disease that the local native had no immunity and that reduced the population down to 200,000 – 300,000 as it is today. Europeans have done this to nearly all of the pacific islands.
(They suddenly appeared from behind trees)
(They showed a few different dances for different occasions)
(A coconut stripped down and shaped like a teat, this is what they use to feed a new born if the mother dies or is ill)
They showed how they build their homes out of wood, bamboo and leaves from certain trees to thatch the roof, how they caught fish using spider web rolled up that attracts the fish and another method that they used with a certain vine, when introduced to salt water the poison in the vine removes the oxygen from the water and the fish die and come to the top and float on the water.
(Showing how they use palm leaves to build homes)
They also had fish traps made from vines that I think the Australian crab pots may have taken their design from.
They showed how they make medicine from plants and how they can feed a motherless baby with green coconut juice.
They then demonstrated their dancing and they also had a tribesman from a northern island that is a fire walker that he performed for us.
(This young man is from a northern island where they walk on hot coals and he demonstrated)
The rest of the tour was visiting the different villages and seeing some of the local sites, lunch was served from two places, the first we had a dugout canoe ride and sampled the local cooked food, that was entree then the lunch was at a small tourist place (owned by an Australian), where a selection of local cooked food was served whilst a local band played and sang.
(We were taken to a village via canoe)
(One of the modern villages)
(Bambo Beach String Band played for us as we arrived)
(Lunch was local food which was fish, banana and sweet potatoes and other roots of vegetation)
We then visited where the American airstrips were in the Second World War and then further on where the American Army was housed. An interesting thing is that when the Americans left they offered to sell the trucks and tanks to the Vanuatu Government, the Government could not afford to pay the price so the Americans pushed all the equipment into the sea where it could not be retrieved.
We had a coffee at a place I think Survivor was filmed although one cannot see any evidence of Survivor. We then returned home via visiting other villages and places of interest.
The day was good but the travel between places was rough as many of the roads were in a poor state due to four days of heavy rain some weeks ago. There is an Aussie mob over here that has the contract for the roads and there are survey pegs all around the island.
The average Vanuatu are very poor, there average wage is 5000 vatu per week for a 40 hour week this gives a $65 wage. The prices to shop here are on par with Australia. If you go out for dinner you will pay they same price as a good restaurant in Oz.
They do have locally grown beef here, but I think the cattle farms are European owned and the beef is very good they are in very good condition as there is plenty of vegetation for them and there is plenty of clean fresh water. They have the abattoirs here in Port Vila and the meat is very tender.
An unfortunate incident happened the other night a barge that was carrying cattle from a northern island here to the abattoirs was lost at sea, no one is sure what happened, we believe it was rough sea, all cattle were lost, the crew of seven reached an island safely but the Captain lost his life. It’s believed that the crew is still in hospital suffering shock and at this stage only one them has spoken. The Captain was found and had a puncture wound where he had bled to death. A patrol boat from here went out along with choppers but not much was found until daylight.
14/06/08 Port Vila
Things are quiet at the moment we are just relaxing and waiting for a crew member to join us. Dusty (John) Millar will be flying in on 21 June 08, this is a Saturday, we will then clear out on the Monday and set sail mid morning Tuesday 24 June 08 as we have to give 24 hours notice. The next leg will be about three days to Noumea, we should arrive on the Friday stay the weekend and clear out on the Monday and sail for Bundaberg. The voyage is coming to an end and the questions are already being asked,”What are we going to do next?”
It is a little tough to answer, however, I think for the rest of the year prior to cyclone season we will be getting a few things done to the boat after getting through the process of bringing the boat into the country. So we will be hanging around the east coast away from the cyclone areas.
Next year we will do something, but what we have not decided. Some ideas is to hang around the islands of Queensland or circumnavigate Australia, another is to travel around the coast of Papua New Guinea. We will give some thought about it between now and then.
It is a little hard to think that we only have two steps and we are back in Oz and I think that what some very close friends of ours said to us when we flew home will be true and that was we won’t know what to do with ourselves after this voyage we will not want to settle down.
The fact is that during this voyage we have met a lot of people, other sailors, and the local people in the ports that we have visited. We both like meeting people and seeing how they live or survive.
Last night we had dinner with some new friends that we had met last week, they are originally from Switzerland, a lovely couple with a nice daughter, Paula, Chris and Shelby, and they also have a son that is studying in NZ. They invited us to their home and it is a beautiful home with million dollar views. They employ locals as staff that look after security, housekeeping, and gardening. They pay the locals above the normal wage, they train them and they support them by paying into an aged benefit scheme and they are also going to sponsor the housekeeper’s daughter to go to school. The local Vanuatu children do not all attend school because the parents cannot afford to pay the school fees. Chris and Paula are very nice people and it was nice of them to invite us into their home, we met just by saying hello to them at the Waterfront Restaurant.
We have met quite a few people that have escaped their homeland because of dissatisfaction, some is that they are sick of the red tape, some is because the people they lived by would not talk or say hello. The beauty of these islands that we have visited we see that although the local native is reasonably a shy person they will always give you a big smile and say hello if you smile when passing this is infectious as you make sure that you do the same and in most cases it is you that say hello first. Can you imaging walking down Pitt Street in Sydney and say hello to a perfect stranger, I used to do it all the time when I visited Sydney, some people would look at you very suspiciously and not answer, some would look away and not answer, but it was refreshing on the odd occasion that someone would smile back and say hello in return. Fortunately the rural areas of Oz still have the friendliness about the place but as the town becomes a city and the places get bigger we tend to lose the friendliness shame really.
A few days ago I sent an email to three businesses in Oz asking prices of items and prices of some work to be done to the boat. One reply was they could not give me prices until I visit and they see the boat. I sent an email back thanking them for the email although I thought they could supply prices of new items without seeing the boat, I could understand them saying they needed to see the boat before quoting on work. Obviously they don’t need the work. At least this person did reply the other two companies have not replied to date.
As Derrin Hinch used to say “That’s Life”.
24/06/2008 Leaving Port Villa
Dusty Millar arrived on the plane Saturday the 21/06/08 at midnight, I went out in a taxi to meet him and bring him back to the boat, we got back around 0130 hours after going through customs and immigration at the airport.
(Dusty (John) Millar, having coffee)
Sunday we had a walk around town but it was very quiet as shops etc were closed. Sunday night we had dinner at Nambawan (number one) Café, owned by an Aussie, they hold free movies on Sunday and Wednesday nights. We watched ‘Bucket List’, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I recommend it, it can make you laugh and it can make you cry.
(Children help dad to fish)
(Port Villa Harbour)
(Port Villa Harbour Iririki Island left of centre)
(Nambawan Cafe left and clothing stalls right)
(Around Iririki Island swimming race)
(From our mooring at dusk)
Monday we went and cleared out and got our paperwork from Customs to get duty free goods and fuel. We then went duty free shopping, had to stock up on the booze. We then went back on board and checked the boat ready for sailing the next day and in the evening had a dinner at the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant said our goodbyes to friends and staff.
(Nancy said I can’t take her with us)
Tuesday morning was wet and rather cold, we went and filled the gas bottle picked up the jerry cans of fuel, topped up the water tanks and then got underway around 1100 hours.
(Tourists on sunset cruise)
(Our view at dusk)
(We are underway leaving the harbour)
(HMAS Melbourne in Port Vila)
(This may not be a good sign this yacht was heading to Oz and left before us and it is returning to port)
Next stop New Caledonia being the last before we get back to Australia.
Port Vila to Noumea and Noumea
24/06/2008 Leaving Port Vila
Once we had got out of the protection of the island we started to receive the rough stuff, winds were around 20 – 27 knots, seas from the SE around 2 -3 metres. Once we had been out for a short while I asked Nancy and Dusty if they were comfortable with continuing as we were going to get this most of the way. They were happy to continue.
(Seas very uncomfortable)
So the voyage continued with the wind near on the nose we had to motor sail most of the way, we were now going to have three watches with Dusty now part of the crew. I was to do both the 12 to 4’s, Nancy the 4 to 8’s and Dusty the 8 to 12’s. Unfortunately Dusty had a little accident on the first night out as he was stepping up to the bed the boat gave a sudden jerk from a rouge wave and he fell backwards hitting his back against the door jam. He was in some pain and had to lie down and could not get up to tell us what had happened. We thought he may have felt a little off colour and left him to sleep so we continued with the old routine of our shifts. The next morning I went down to see how he was and he told me what had happened, he had to rest for the first two days. We were concerned that he had broken a rib. He is fine now although still a little sore. Once he was up and about he first joined us with our watches then took a place himself in the routine we had planned.
(Dusty resting his back)
We experienced fairly heavy seas and winds of up to 29 knots throughout the voyage which made it a little uncomfortable. As I have mentioned before that it takes three days to get into a routine this voyage was nearly four days so being rough did not help to get sleep patterns. The last day as we turned into Havana Canal and passed the lighthouse the wind was now in the right place to sail, the only problem it decided to be a fine day and the wind dropped to around 15 knots from the east, we continued to motor sail as we need to cover 50 Nms before dark as we had lost our port and stbd navigation lights during the heavy seas. I rigged a D size battery portable navigation lights as a makeshift but the batteries do not last long. This was tricky during the night because we had fishing boats everywhere and we were also experiencing freighters in the shipping lanes. I figured the best thing to do was to light up the genoa with the steaming light as then ships could see what direction we were travelling.
(New Caledonia, heading for Havana Canal)
(Entering Havana Canal)
(When I first saw this I thought it was a sail of another yacht as it is white and we could only see the small top section on the horizon)
(High land structures)
(The Havana Canal)
(Bonne Anse starboard marker)
Entering New Caledonia is a great experience the mountains and waterways are very impressive, following the leads in Havana Canal and then passed islands and then passing through Canal Wooden is rather breath taking. We kept the motors running to keep the speed between 7 and 9 knots and we arrived in Noumea at around 1700 hours, the marina had closed so we dropped anchor outside the breakwater. We were all tired and we had a hot shower after putting the BBQ unit in place, we had a couple of beers good steak dinner and red wine and yes we slept very well.
(Lights of Noumea from our anchorage)
The next morning after breakfast we got ready to enter the marina, I dropped the dinghy and went in to the office to see if they had a berth, fortunately they did so I called Nancy on the radio to start getting things ready, her and Dusty got the ropes out and fenders whilst I had a look at the berth to see where I had to fit Alana Rose. It was going to be tight. I got back on board started engines weighed anchor and in we went, as I was turning into the berth I clipped a wind-vane paddle on an American yacht which I was totally embarrassed about, it was folded up and sticking out and was hard to see, it only caught the edge but made a loud twang noise. I went to see the owners and there was no damage. They said themselves that they understood as it is a tight spot for them and me having a catamaran is even more difficult.
(We got the berth near the walkway)
(Port Moselle Marina)
Once in the berth I had to clear in, I went to the office and filled out the Customs forms and the young lady faxed them to Customs, she informed me that Immigration and Quarantine would visit the boat and if Customs needed to they will if they do not come within two hours we can consider that they are not interested and we can then go ashore. They were not interested we had provided them with enough information on the forms.
We went for a walk into town got some local money, nothing was open after lunch with the exception of restaurants, we decided to go to the restaurant on the waterfront by the marina and have lunch which eventually continued into dinner that night. Well the excuse was that we did not have much on board as quarantine takes meat, fruit, and veggies and the shops are shut. Sounds good to me.
We had our fill and poured ourselves to bed and we slept very well.
The next morning I was on dockside taking a few photos when a car pulled up looking at the boat, the driver then double parked the car and got out and was trying to read the manufacturers name on the side. I said to him, “it’s a Robertson and Caine, Leopard 42”, he replied, “Sorry I cannot speak English”. He then told me to wait one moment. He went and got his wife from the car and parked his car correctly. She came to me and said that her husband cannot speak English so I gave her the details of the boat. They stood there looking so I asked if they would like to go aboard and have a look. They did and was very happy, after Ginette and Nancy talked for a while, Ginette said something to her husband Christian in French, then she asked us if we would like to go site seeing with them so we took up the offer.
(Ginette and Christian)
(The view from Ginette and Christians home)
These people were wonderful and we were just overwhelmed with what they did. First they took us to their home to drop off their groceries from the market, we had a fruit juice, and then we went site seeing. We went everywhere, as it was getting close to lunch time we asked if we could take them to lunch as a thank you for what they had done. They said no you are having lunch at our home, she said that Christian has some nice wine. They drove us back to there place and they served up spring roles, cold meat, and a salad with nice bread rolls. Thinking that was a fine meal we sat and the next thing a main course came out, it was duck and vegetables and that was followed by a very nice desert. We did not know what to say these lovely people had treated us like part of their family. After lunch we left again on more site seeing, the places we were taken through the day you could not visit on a paid tour. What we did not realise was that it was Father’s Day in New Caledonia and the children had cooked the luncheon.
(One of the gun placements)
(The view from the gun placement)
(A very early day gun placement)
(Port Moselle mine and smelter to the right)
(Mine and smelter)
(View from the communication tower hill)
(The end of the trip was at this vantage point at sunset)
We had to say to them that in return we have to take them to dinner as a thank you for what they have done for us. We are doing this tonight
New Caledonia is a beautiful place and has a lot to offer sailing vessels, there are some great areas to sail, and the people are very friendly.
Today we went into town to do a little shopping get navigation light globes and we went to clear out ready for sailing on Wednesday. We have to make a move as we now need to get back for Customs in Oz and to pay the import of the boat and also to get Dusty back for work. We will probably have to motor some as the weather looks as though it is going to be very calm winds. The last leg of the voyage.
(Is that chocolate in your hand Dusty?)
Tomorrow it will be service the port engine and get all items ready for sailing then we may just go out and have a few drinks and a meal. I will post some more pictures tomorrow with details of what they are.
Well last night was very nice, Ginette and Christian booked a place that we could take them and their family for dinner, it was great. The meal was very nice and the company was wonderful. Ginette and Christian have a lovely family and a very good relationship within the family.
There son Gregory age 22, he is off to France to university soon and his girlfriend Sandra will also be going to France to do the practical training for the flight attendants position, they make a very handsome couple. Their daughter Celia is 11 and still going to school naturally. She is a very pretty girl and I think she wraps father and brother around her little finger.
(Ginette, Christian, Celia, Gregory and Sandra)(French always look so serious)
(Ginette and Nancy)
(Gregory and Sandra)
A big thank you to this family for making our stay one to remember.
The night was great and we really could not thank Ginette and Christian for the friendship they had shown us, they are very special people. After dinner they brought us back to the boat and we said our goodbyes but I think we will meet again one day.
This morning being another day and back to the reality of getting things ready to sail tomorrow. I transfered all the jerry cans into the tanks and prepared them for filling we received our voucher for duty free fuel when we cleared out yesterday. I serviced the port engine as that has done most of the work and checked the stbd engine. Cleaned the shower sump strainers checked the sea suction strainers and did a visual check on all systems.
We all went for coffee and then Dusty went back on board to wash and clean the upper deck and cockpit areas whilst Nancy and I went shopping for groceries, I know what a pack horse feels like. After lunch we went over the fuel dock in the dinghy and filled all the jerry cans which was 77 cents Oz a litre.
All that is left to do now is to plot our course for Oz in the GPS and paper charts recheck the weather in the morning and we will be off.
(Our last night before we sail, Ginette and Christian came down to say goodbye and bought gifts)
(Nancy and Dusty having a drink and laptop out checking course and weather)
Well everyone this will be it until we get into Oz, depending on weather it could take anything from 7 to 10 days. The weather is looking a little better with the high pressure changing shape to give us some wind on the second day. We will report in again once we are in Bundaberg.
(Leaving Port Moselle)
(One of the resort islands)
(Shipwreck on the reef)
(Goodbye Noumea )
(Leaving Noumea behind)
(The end of another day)
Noumea to Bundaberg
03/07/2008 Leaving Noumea
We left Noumea and the seas were reasonably calm just a rolling swell from the south-east and very little wind, the sun was shining and it was rather pleasant, Dusty was out on the bow getting a bit of sun. Once we were outside the reef we hoisted the mainsail and rolled out the genoa, however, we still had to run the engine and motor sail for some time as there was little to no wind.
We had a short wind burst at 0100 hours and I cut the engine, this only lasted for 30 minutes and the engine was restarted. Then around 0300 hours the wind came in from the north-east and it was cold and we started to get light rain. We sailed at times and motored at others during the Thursday. Once the wind picked up we went under sail and the engine was only started when the batteries required charging.
Thursday 4 July 2008, today was a special day it is the day I migrated in 1961 and landed in Oz as a 13 year old boy and today we clocked 10,000 nautical miles since the voyage began, the ride was uncomfortable the boat appeared to be getting a pounding more than in the storms we had been in before, this may have been due to the swell coming from the south-southwest and the waves and wind coming from the southeast or east at different times. The nights were black without any moon or stars which made it difficult to see the waves as they hit. Without a moon it’s just black you cannot see a thing and is a problem with not knowing what rouge wave will hit us and where.
My entry in the log for 0100 hours on Friday was Cold, Cold, Cold. The seas were also getting larger and I knew by the weather reports that I had studied before leaving that we were in for more rough times, winds would be in excess of 20 knots and they actually reached around the 35 knots at times. I was hoping to get in to Bundaberg prior to Tuesday as that day was going to be very high winds. Dusty asked me if I had expected this type of weather before we left, I said yes to a certain degree, I did expect winds of around 20 plus knots but not 30 plus knots. I knew we were in for a rough ride and probably fast at times. Dusty said his heart stopped a couple of times when he was on watch and we surfed a wave at around 12 knots.
We had to alter course away from our rhumb line to cater for the wind and the waves, with surfing some of the larger waves it can tend to push the boat around and put you in the situation that the waves will break across the beam. To prevent this we changed course so we surfed straight down the waves. Then when we ran the engine for charging the batteries we corrected the course or over corrected to allow for the deviation when the engine was again shut down and we had to surf straight down the waves again.
Dusty enjoyed his time with us although he admits some of the waves gave him a little fright in particular when a wave broke on the stbd side alongside him and it was higher than him sitting at the helm. It was getting a little wild at that time and I took the shift one hour early as it was not fair to leave Dusty with the responsibility under those conditions he being a new crew member and only just getting used to how the catamaran behaves under such conditions. Weather conditions continued to get a little worse until the last morning out, we had some or partially clear skies and sun now and again.
It was good having another crew member to keep watch it gave us more chance of rest in the uncomfortable conditions. Unfortunately as skipper you do not get to rest all the time when off watch, you have to get up and check that the crew are alright when conditions are rough and waves are at a frightening height. One also listens to the boat for any strange noises, things do break or come loose that have to be fixed.
Each morning we kept the radio sched with Rag of the air, HF 2173 so someone out there knew our location and that we were all safe and well.
It was near midday on Monday that we passed the North cardinal marker at the north end of the shallows of Fraser Island, this is around 22 nms north of the island and you cannot see land. Everyone is looking for the sight of land because we are so near, however, land would not be seen for some hours later. Entering Curtis Channel then into Hervey Bay towards Bundaberg the track takes you through the centre so land is not seen until about 15 nms out from Bundaberg and now it was getting dark. We called VMR Bundaberg on the VHF radio and informed them of our arrival time, they in turn informed quarantine and gave us the coordinates for the quarantine buoy where we had to anchor until the next morning when the Quarantine Officer would contact us, VMR also informed us that they close down at 1800 hours and requested us to log off their books at 0800 hours the following morning. The last 40 nms from the northern marker seemed to take for ever as we got closer we started to push against the out going tide. The wind had dropped and we had been motor sailing for some time, when the tide started to work against us I started the stbd engine to keep our speed around the 7 knots that was when Murphy came aboard, you know Murphy? Murphy’s Law. As I mentioned in previous notes that when we got the parts for the stbd shaft clutch assembly in Fiji we decided that we would not change the parts as the worn clutch was hanging in there. Well it decided it had enough and we lost the stbd engine drive. Fortunately the tide was on the turn so it did not hold us up too much, I had already given our ETA as 2000 hours, and that did not change. It just meant that we had to enter the channel at Bundaberg on one engine and anchor with one engine which is fun with a catamaran because it likes to go in circles when you go astern. We were about 5 nms from the channel we could see the marker lights and the flashing white light on the south head. It was cold and to make things more interesting it decided to rain, (Good onya Murphy).
As we approached the channel I took a good look before turning in, I had the waypoints in the GPS and we had CMap running on the laptop, it looked good so we did another night entry. Fortunately the channel is marked very well, it again seemed to take for ever, we entered on a flood tide, and the tide was now coming in. When we finally got to where the quarantine buoy area we started search with the spot light and could not find it, we disturbed a few boats and Nancy called out to one and he shone a light at its location. It was no wonder we could not see it there was about four catamarans and two monohull anchored around it and they were not there for quarantine. We picked a clear area with ample room and dropped the pick, we checked and double checked that it was secure shut the engine down we had a shower and Nancy prepared dinner and guess what? We are no longer at sea so ‘dry ship’ rule went out the window. Out with a beer followed by a wine which was followed by a bottle of Amarula, this is similar to an Irish cream it has an elephant on the label which has some significance.
(At anchor in Port Bundaberg)
We did not take much rocking to sleep that night, I woke to my watch alarm at 0600 hours the next morning, this is where the elephant becomes significant, he and his mates were stampeding in my head, and I had to get up and change the clutch assembly so we could go alongside when quarantine arrived at 0800 hours. Anchoring with one engine on a catamaran is a pain, going into a marina berth with one engine is very bloody difficult. Three headache tablets, ten litres of water kept the elephants happy and a cup of tea and I was set to work. I finished the job at 0759 hours, a little slow but got there in time.
VMR Bundaberg called us on the radio, the Quarantine Officer wanted to talk to us on CH81. They directed us to go alongside at a quarantine berth, Red 16. We got out the lines and fenders, weighed anchor and went alongside. Quarantine and Customs Officers were there to meet us once we were secured. They came on board and they were very nice and helpful and have assured me that they will offer all the assistance I require to import the boat into Australia.
It is incredible the rumours and accusations that have been made in regard to these authorities, they could not have been nicer. Some of the statements that have been made to us about the Australian authorities are totally unfounded.
They did take some of our food stuff, raw meet, eggs, cheese etc. We expected that and we understand that it is a requirement to keep our country free of exotic diseases. The horse flu last year is a perfect example to what can happen.
We have to import the boat and that means paying 5% import duty and 10% GST, they have given us two weeks to prepare for that, they have the right to make us do it straight away. I think some people that have caused these rumours about these authorities in the past have probably created what problems they had themselves going on what we have experienced so far and I will give further information in regard to the matter as we go through the process.
Well I think it is good to be back in Oz, we are still in a bit of a daze now the voyage is over, and it is a little surreal, it seems like a dream now. It has been a wonderful experience for both of us and I think you all know by what has been in our blogs that we have met some wonderful people along the way.
We have also caught up with Karl and Sandi on ‘Fantasy 1’, you may remember last year in Raiatea I loaned them a GPS for them to get home after a wave had come through their hatch and damaged their computer and GPS connections. Their boat has been here since their return. They went home to Adelaide but have returned to do some work on the boat. It is good catching up again.
First night in we went to dinner at the local restaurant at the marina, very nice to, Dusty was leaving the next day for home, he developed a cold on the voyage and he was very generous he gave it to me before he left, thanks mate. The next day Angela our daughter came up from Brisbane with some of our gear that we had stowed at her place that we were very grateful for. It has been so cold here which we did not expect and she brought the downers for the bed. Ange spent the night with us which was great. The next night we had our mate Rick visit and stay the night, he brought a couple of bottles of wine to welcome us back on Aussie turf.
Well we have 10,473 nautical miles completed on this marvellous voyage. I have more to post on this blog before I finish which I will do soon.
The End of the Voyage 08 July 2008
The idea of this blog was to inform family and friends whilst on our journey, I also hoped it helped some sailors doing the same crossings with helpful information. All these notes have been re-installed to this blog as the original two that I had it on died, fortunately I kept my scribbles after the first mob crashed and was able to get it in order and re-post it.
(Nancy and I in Bonaire)
The original blogs had many comments from people and unfortunately I did not have copies of those and they are lost. I have noticed since I started this new site that there are plenty of people viewing the pages either by accident or intention, whichever it was thank you for stopping by.
Once we got back to Australia we started the East Coast grey nomad sailing, we left Brisbane around April and headed north for the winter as far north as Lizard Island and then late in the year tried to catch the north east winds and sail south as far as Sydney and spend the summer months around that area and Lake Macquarie, information on these can be found on this site on posts Sailing the East Coast of Australia. Can be viewed click on right side of this page.
In 2012 we went north and kept going on a circumnavigation of Australia. That year we sailed to Darwin and spent a very dry wet season in Darwin and once the cyclone season was over 2013 we headed for the Kimberly and then down the west coast of Australia and onto Tasmania, we then circumnavigated Tasmania in 2014 and then sailed back to Brisbane and due to health problems we reluctantly sold a beautiful Alana Rose, the information and is listed on the right side of the page Circumnavigating Australia . We now travel Australia in a motorhome. So all in all we had eight wonderful years living aboard Alana Rose and now four and a half years living in our motorhome.
Thanks again for looking in.