Cavalier 36 Yachts
The home site for Cav36 class yachts
Publications and Reviews
Here is an update from William Horne of Windarra, who recently made us all proud with his excellent result in the Round the North Island race:

May 2011

Just thought I'd update you on our Round North Island race.
It was a pretty full on affair with headwinds for most of the West Coast between 25 and 40 knots, we got up to 70 knots in the Cook Straight and had some huge swells following us back up the East Coast. We hit a top speed of nearly 16 knots (under double reefed main only) traveled some 1600 miles and ended up 3rd in our Division with our best result 2nd on the last leg.
Of the 42 starters only 18 finished there were three dis-mastings and  three boats retired with keel and/or rudder damage. Windarra suffered very little problems a wave took out the dodger which had to be restitched and we blew out one spinnaker and lost another over the side. We are pretty keen to do the next one in three years time but we'll see.

The changes we made by lengthening the boom has not caused any problems apart from having to reef slightly earlier which is far outweighed the the performance improvement reaching and running. Thanks for keeping the site up and running I always pop back from time to time for a read.
 
Regards William Horne

The Napier start of the RNI race

The Wellington start of the RNI race

****************************************************************

The following is the unedited copy of an article in BoatingNZ August 2009 issue:

Late night knockdown

Sunday 21 June 2009, 9.40pm

On Sunday 21 June, long time sailing friends John Ball (JB), skipper, and Doug Kemp were delivering John’s Cavalier 36 Camellia to Fiji, a trip John and the boat had done many times before.

Doug: The day started with SE 40kts and big seas. JB found water in the bow compartment. Shit. Full-on bailing with hand bilge pump in trying conditions: 100% effort. We found the water had been spurting in under pressure through a tiny wire hole from the anchor well.

Seas were now huge. We were broad-reaching towards Suva, down and across the waves: awe inspiring. Wind 50 to 60 knots; it was blowing the tops off the water. We dropped the double-reefed main then the tiny outer spitfire jib. We had just a little bit of roller furler out but when I was grinding the furler line in I hadn’t realised the line had come off the pulley and wedged in the cheek block, so the sail is baggy about two-thirds of the way up. It had been flogging the rig but now it has disintegrated. The rig’s well supported. The inner forestay and runners, winched on tight, all meet at the same point on the mast so the rig was triangulated really firmly.

We went into the night with only a storm jib on the inner forestay. We were getting green water over the boat with some filling the cockpit: big, breaking seas that we can hear and feel but only see when we’re surfing in foam. The storm shutters are in place and the hatches are clipped down.

At 0930pm it was pitch black, JB was off watch. I am on a short harness clipped to a low point in the cockpit. I could feel I was going down a huge wave which made us heel to about 45 degrees and I could hear the breaking seas. The huge weight of water came down on top of me.

The boat kept going in slow motion. I was standing on the side of the cockpit coaming which was supposed to be vertical. The lights from the cockpit instruments glowed under the water. Then the boat kept going over. There was no panic, just: ‘Here we go. This is going to be interesting.’

Underwater it was surprisingly warm. And silent.

John: I am just getting up to relieve Doug. Camellia is sliding sideways then quite gently rolls over to port onto her side, then onto her cabin top. There’s a huge noise inside as the contents of the fridge, books and floorboards all dance around the cabin. I have time to slowly move onto the cabin sides then onto the ceiling. Small pause, then all the crashing and creaking sounds as she rights herself, swings to about 60 degrees to starboard then whiplashes back to upright.

I call out for Doug and he says he is fine. We have a few buckets of water through roof vents and clothes, plates, books, food and bedding are sloshing in the bilge. I check the water to make sure it isn’t increasing, then go up deck.

Went for the torch, but all horizontal surfaces were cleared clean, and even the places where things drop into, such as glasses and torches, were all empty.

Doug: Then she snapped back. I was in mid-air, being pulled backwards. I landed on my back on the cockpit seat but the boat kept going and I nearly went over the side the other way, then fell back into the cockpit as she came upright.

I was clipped on and my right hand was holding a coil of rope around the starboard primary winch. I never let go. I got to my feet and pushed the mangled dodger out clear of the hatch to see if John was alright. He was fine and only worried about me. Just as well we had the washboards in and the hatch closed.

I grabbed the helm and got us on course straight downwind. JB clipped on and came up on deck. He asked me to head downwind while he did a damage assessment. The storm jib was snaking in the wind, ripped off its hanks and only held by the halyard and jib sheets. One stanchion was snapped and the lee cloth was flapping loose. The solar panel was gone but we still had a mast.

I looked back at the eerie sight of one of the horseshoe liferings, its danlight illuminating the water around it, slowly moving away. The other one was dragging behind the boat but its lanyard has wrapped around the radar arch.

We got the shattered storm jib down and had a bit of tidy up. The wind was still screaming at 50 to 60 knots and we were flying down huge waves in surf. After taking stock, we got the storm trysail up on deck and hoisted it, which gave us boat speed and control and got us back on course. It was now 11pm. We had a long, cold night on deck, giving each other short spells on the helm, and I was grateful for my Gill wet weather gear. We had no engine and therefore no autopilot as waves flooded the exhaust the day before.

The wind eased at dawn so we dropped the trysail and went to double-reefed main then a single reef then full main by midday. Rounding up into the wind to get the main up each time was pretty interesting in those swells.

We sailed the rest of the day in sunshine, 25 knots and swells that were still huge but not breaking. Early afternoon we spotted Kandavu and a couple of hours later pulled into the shelter of a bay to try and get the headsail sorted out. JB went up the mast but he couldn’t get the sail off so we unfurled it and sailed with the top half flapping in the breeze and the bottom half working. We radio’d ahead to book a berth in Vuda Point Marina near Lautoka, as JB thought it would be easier to get repairs done there than in Suva. We sailed on through the night looking at the stars and listening to the amazing voices that sleep deprivation brings. This really blew me away as they were so real. We reached Navula Passage at 6am and tacked through the reef against the tide with our broken jib.

At 10am we got a tow into the marina. A bunch of yachties were standing around as word had got spread that we’d been rolled. They organised a few beers for us, once we got the formalities out of the way.

________________________________________________________

This review appeared in Sea Spray - publication date unknown.
For clarity, the text is reproduced below:


  The Cavalier 36 was designed as a pure blooded offshore racer.  Its swept-deck profile is clean, simple, sleek and uncluttered, showing influence of an ultimate racing machine.
  The performance of the 36 is well known, especially downwind but with also excellent reaching and on-the-wind characteristics.  The yacht is designed as an uncomplicated machine to be easily sailed and handled without the necessity of expensive and complicated gear.
  This Doug Peterson design swept the field in the 1974 One Ton Cup taking 1st, 3rd and 5th placings in a competitive and world class entry of 30 boats.
  Although the yacht is world renowned as a racing machine it is also within the reach of a cruising man with no comfort sacrificed for performance.
  Construction is GRP with balsa sandwich core which is very strong in its makeup to withstand the rigours of ocean racing or cruising.  Even the keel is held in place with seven high tensile monel keel bolts.  The stainless steel chainplates are integrally moulded into the hull and deck.

The window surrounds, water tanks, pushpit, pulpit and chainplates are all fabricated from marine grade stainless steel.  Skin fittings, gate valves, Wilkie 2 speed winches, cleats, bollard and fairlead are all bronze.
  The Cavalier 36 has a sloop rig and comes complete with a full set of Hood competition sails.
Ten point nine metres overall in length the 36 has a waterline length of 9.1 metres and a maximum beam of 3.5 metres, making it a very spacoius 36 footer, without inhibiting the hulls excellent performance. Perhaps the most popular of all the Cavalier range the 36 is well equipped as a cruising yacht and a racer.  There are seven berths, including a navagators quarter berth.  The twin forward berths provide sleeping for two crew and there is storage shelves above as well as below the covered squabs.

A head and basin are on the port side in a separate compartment, with a hanging locker to Starboard. Two pilot berths and two settees berths take up the main saloon, with a removable fold away dining table.  A chart table to starboard is well placed for passing necessary directional instructions to the skipper up top-side in the cockpit.  Opposite is the well equipped galley.  Throughout the aft area of the main saloon there is full headroom.  All interior woodwork is either teak or mahogany and finish is excellent.
For an auxiliary the Cavalier 36 comes fitted with a 20hp marine diesel engine with flexible mountings, folding two-blade propeller and remote controls.

The 36 is one of the nicest looking keel yachts on the harbour and the popularity of sales is partially evident to that.

IN DEPTH

HULL
Make/model              Cavalier 36
Classification              Cruiser/racer - 1 tonner
Designer                    Doug Peterson
Builder                       Cavalier Yachts
Construction                Solid FRP and balsa core
Information                  Cavalier Yachts Ltd, PO Box 40205 Auckland

DIMENSIONS
Length Overall         36ft (11m)
Beam                        12ft (3.6m)
Length on waterline    30ft (9.1m)
Ballast (weight)         7500lbs (3405kg)
Draught                    6ft 3ins (1.9m)
Displacement            14,500lbs (6583kg)
(Placement)              fin keel

SAILS AND RIGGING
Total Working Sail Area 860 sq ft (79.8m2)
Main 264 (24.5m2);  Headsail  384 (35m2)
Extra sails available - complete range
Type of rig  -  sloop
Boom length  12ft (3.6m)  Mast height 48ft (14.6m)  spinnaker pole length 16ft (4.8m)

INTERIOR
Accommodation            sleeps up to eight
Standing headroom        7ft (5.1m)  Sitting headroom  -  full
Head (type) overboard flush;   (placement)  -  private shower moulding
Galley (equipment)  Large galley, Gimballed stove and oven, Stainless steel sink, Deep freeze
Ventilation (type)  Dorade
Lighting (type)      12 volt

COCKPIT
Length  8ft (2.4m); Beam  5ft (1.5m); Seating 10; Self draining - yes.

AUXILIARY
Type 20-40 Diesel;  Power range  20-40 HP

PRICE
Sailaway boat with the following running gear fitted:  on application

OPTIONS
  (ends)



The following report was received from Dennis of "UNICORN" in July 08 and is published with his kind permission:

Hey John- I know it's been awhile, and I promised to report in once Unicorn's safe and sound in her berth in Haverstraw, NY. Obviously, a long story, but beginning with trying to have Unicorn delivered by a professional captain, through attempted transportation by what I came to discover was a "discount" trucker who left me in the lurch, to my flying to Marathon Florida, (actually, Fort Pierce, FL) and sailing Unicorn north myself, never having seen her in the water, much less had any sailing experience with her. The next two weeks began with 2 friends and 3 days in the Gulf Stream, making 9 knots VMG, confirmed by GPS. Of course, one of those nights had to be a 9 hour squall, complete with consistent 35-40 knot winds and 10-12 ft seas from all quarters. Have to state emphatically that the Cavalier 36 went to weather with double-reefed main and a napkin-sized jib and still made 6-7 knots over the bottom. Dipped the rail just once on a quick gust, and only took blue water over the submerged bow just one time. Dawn brought light and warmth to a night that taught me never to hesitate buying the best foul weather gear possible, and never, ever, ever go on deck without life vest and harness. Once spent, the storm and Unicorn parted company with a display of squadrons of flying fish, and an encore of pods of 6-10 porpoises...all day long. That day led to the inlet at Cape Hattaras, North Carolina, where I put in for a minor rigging repair and some fresh provisions. A 4-day layover and the departure of my friendly crew led me to go solo. The next 3 days on the Intracoastal Waterway brought me to Norfolk, Virginia, where I greeted the incoming fleet of Tall Ships, and made the decision to make my first solo offshore trip. I finished the journey single-handing Unicorn with Igor, my very faithful and reliable Autohelm 4000. With that decision, I went easting out of Norfolk Harbor the next morning, eventually turning 90 degrees to port when I hit my waypoint 12 miles offshore. For the next 3.5 days, I developed my routine for meals, watches, naps, navigating, and thinking. Lots of thinking...and an amazing amount of pleasure, excitement, and determination as I realized that, for as long as I have been sailing (now some 40+ years) I have never failed to find another part of myself on the water. The part of me I found on this trip has radically changed my sailing and lifestyle perspectives. There is no question that those 2 weeks have become one of the most unique and gratifying experiences of my life. I want to express much of that gratitude to Unicorn, my "new" Cavalier 36 for her splendid performance on our debut sea trial. The Cavalier 36 is Doug Petersen's design, kudos to Doug, and to Lorry Davison for the ultra-safe redraw of the deck design. And to you, John, for your making the time to produce the Cav 36 home site that provided me with the information and incentive to take a chance on an eBay auction bid for a boat built 30 years ago, in, of all places, New Zealand, and by a manufacturer that I had never heard of. I can only say it was the right thing to do! There will be more from Unicorn and me in the future. Dennis Dennis Kleinman
Before the Wind - a New Zealand Yachting Anthology (Reed Publishing)
Compiled by Loris Chilwell


On page 116 is the story "It's All Done for Fun", about Peter Smith and Murray Ross (?) sailing Warchild in the inaugural Two-Man Round the North Island Race in February 1977, in which they came second behind Gerontius. The following is an extract from that story:

"By dawn the next morning we were off Palliser, an evil sinister looking headland marking the southern extremity of the Wairarapa coast. All that day we slogged into a light 5 to 10 knot south-easterly wind with few complaints. Despite the slow progress, we knew that the Cavalier36's excell in these conditions.
Our confidence was reinforced after the evening sched by the realisation that we had worked ourselves into second position behind Gerontius.
Dawn the following morning brought a southerly change which freshened throughout the day. The 130 remaining miles to Gisbourne involved a long hard run in 30 to 40 knots of breeze. This was an interesting sail because despite the prevailing fresh conditions, and the Cavalier 36 reputation for spastic downwind behaviour, we were able to maintain perfect control over the entire distance by setting the flanker on the end of a penalty pole and strapping the clew hard down"
_________________________________________________________________________


      SUMMER,AUTUMN,SUMMER,SPRING

                     By Neil Adams

The following is a self published book relating the South Pacific travels of Neil and his family in the Cav36 "RUBEN JANE" in 1998.  The text is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Author.


Contents

 

 

Acknowledgments                        2                

 

Introduction          3                                                                    

 

1    Karangi                                                4


2    Ruben Jane                                         15

3    Tauranga to Atata Island                      17

4    Tonga                                                26

5    Tonga to Fiji                                       60

6    Fiji                                                    65

7     Fiji to New Caledonia                        106

8    Noumea                                           112

9    Home                                              117

                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

 

 

I would like to thank Bob and Carol (Elyxir) for their help and encouragement: Bob and Ngaere (Taisia) for the loan of their trysail: Tony Thornburrow for help regarding sails and other assistance. I recommend his workmanship. There were the many people who helped in various and divers ways to make this trip a memory for a lifetime: Wendy Burke for copying the photos: Noel Honey for his special type of seamanship and input: Dyson and Del Gilliver for their encouragement: and the many precious cruisers we met, who became friends out there. I wish especially to express my gratitude to the folk who waited on the dock to wish me well as we left, and the loving folk who were there on the dock to see me return safely. Also thanks to the Tauranga Coastguard for their radio watches. These people don’t realise the impact they have on lives out of sight of land. I also wish to thank my delivery crews NZ to Tonga, Fiji to New Caledonia and New Caledonia to home.

 

A special thanks to John Goater (Auckland Cruising Radio) who became a real friend. It was only after the trip that I met him face to face and he was nothing like my mental picture of him. John was the most important contact throughout the trip. Thanks, too, to Corina, my daughter, for being the 'Girl Friday' at home - every cruiser needs one.

 

To my other children - Rebecca, Susannah and Laura, I owe a tremendous debt for your tolerance in living for 12 months in confined quarters and for facing the unknown with fortitude. I trust we have forged many happy memories. I still remember the family singing 'Happy Birthday' to me in miserable conditions at sea. I also remember the foot in the bucket that night after everyone had been violently seasick. Whose foot I won't disclose here.

 

There are many people who remain nameless but who nonetheless contributed to this venture - God bless you all.

 

Finally my love, respect and gratitude go to Joy, my wife, for her tolerance in permitting a 40 year dream to see the light of day, for venturing beyond her comfort zones (plural) to involve herself in the trip and for assisting with the computer work and publishing of this book.

 

Despite all this, I acknowledge that all mistakes and omissions are mine.

One disclaimer is the foot mentioned above was not mine.

 

Introduction

 

 

 

 

It's over now. She's lying still at last. All that remains are the memories - happy memories, sad memories, some memories are funny, others fearful. To her, RUBEN JANE, we owe a debt. Yet within her, and I believe in all of us there is a stirring. Somewhere there is another place beyond the horizon, beyond the sunrise, beyond the sunset. Still she lies, but she deserves her rest. We are going home now for some much needed sleep also. It is only just dawning on me what pressure I have been under for the past 6 months. Is it only that long? Throughout that time I have been responsible for peoples' lives for 24 hours a day out on the restless ocean. That responsibility is now over. It is the price of following a dream. But it is worth it!

In the words of Martin Luther King 'I have a dream'. The scary thing - I tell my wife, is that 'I have another dream!!'

How did it all begin?

Well I was a country boy through and through, living about as far from the sea as it is possible to be in New Zealand. However from about 6 years old I had an old apple box on the back lawn with a large stick for a mast and a single sail. I sailed that boat across the harbour and across the world many times in my fertile imagination. I remember that the boom was a piece of dowel. I remember it was worth half a crown which in my terms was two and a half week's pocket money. I wish that a boom only cost that much nowadays. The next 20 years were only punctuated by two sailing trips - one on Hamilton Lake and the other in a keeler for an afternoon around Tauranga.

My wife didn't know when she married me that I had this dream burning in my bones. Although my parents took me on numerous fishing trips in the 1960's on the Firth of Thames it did not constitute sailing. It did instil in me a healthy respect for the sea, a respect that remains with me to this day. I have no real apprehension of losing my life at sea but I do have an abhorrence of throwing my life away. I did own a Sunburst sailing dinghy for about 7 years before graduating to a trailer-sailer for another 12 so I had a reasonable amount of experience before we ventured into the deep blue yonder.

I have concluded that only dreamers achieve anything in life because unless you have a dream how can you have a dream come true. One of the joys of Blue Water Sailing is the opportunity to think uninterrupted for hours on end. This enables one to transcend the thinking which society imposes. In
preparation for our voyage I signed on as crew on the good vessel KARANGI.
 

 

 

 

  1

   KARANGI

 

 

 

 

Auckland-Fiji 1/6/96-11/6/96

 

'We who adventure upon the sea, however humbly, cannot but feel that we are more fortunate than ordinary people and that we have something which we could not tell nor they understand.'

Claud Worth.

Or more simply 'sometimes a man’s got to do what a man's got to do'

Me.

 

Farewells

Started 5 days before departure with a farewell hug from Pauline Boocock (Don’t they ever expect to see me alive again)?

The day before, a hug from Annette Massey along with 'Godspeed' and an offer of her St Christopher medal - declined because I already have Jesus with me. A hug and 'Godspeed' and 'safe sailing' from Marlene  Partridge. Farewell from family including 'Goodbye' from Father-in-law along with a firm handshake. Reciprocal promises of prayer support. Went to Auckland's West harbour marina arriving 4 minutes before ETA despite heavy holiday weekend traffic. Transport courtesy of Linda Inglis. 2 hugs from her.

Geoff Bendall had phoned after the briefing the previous night to say that departure had been postponed 24 hours due to weather. A front with winds to 50 knots expected Saturday morning 0300-0700 over Auckland according to Bob McDavitt (top meteorologist). Visited by John & Lynne off WINDFLOWER, then went to bed. Slept until 0800 hours although did hear high wind during the night. Geoff phoned his brother who urged him to leave on the 1st as originally planned. Asked him if we should leave under bare poles streaming a drogue!!!

A yacht carrying a German couple was rescued off North Cape yesterday in Force 9. Apparently they had some firearms amongst their possessions although they had not declared them when they left New Zealand. Fatigue and being rolled twice were the reasons for activating their EPIRB. The first roll had taken him overboard.

Although the front has gone it will be some hours before the sea settles so think we are making the correct decision. Spent the day doing small jobs.

Owners & Skipper: Geoff and Jane Bendall.

Crew: Patrick Peritore, Simon Jantke and me.

The vessel is KARANGI,  ZMA 7325 a 38' John Brookes design built 38 years ago by Salthouse and Wild (Col Wild) before the firm became Salthouse Brothers. John Brookes' son, Don, was the inspector of KARANGI for category 1 certificate.

Gratitude to Annette Green, Lee Allsop, Geoffrey Hambling, Ed Pahl and the Inglis family for the loan of equipment. Thanks for their confidence that they expect me to return the equipment personally. Ed also said he may be in touch. John Billinghurst is also going to listen in. Rang Joy and heard that Susannah had won 'player of the day' at netball. Who needs an excuse to phone a nice lady like Joy? Went to bed and slept well.

 

Departure date: 2nd June.

Had to call at Westhaven to pick up some chain from Geoff's brother Gary. He accompanied us past Rangitoto in his 42'  DREAMCHASER. Well named (built by Geoff). Left Westhaven at 1230 hours and passed numerous yachts heading into the harbour. One had a broken mast and another had a flying halyard. We could laugh because it had happened to us all at some stage or other. The wind at Tiri was 32 knots gusting 39 in the early afternoon. Later it was 40 gusting 47 knots. (Tailend) Charlie (the Aries wind vane) has been functioning well with the wind virtually dead astern. We have one reef in the main and although we initially tried the jib it was more trouble than it was worth. We put in a gybe off Rangitoto but apart from that we have not looked like adjusting the sails. G and P put a preventer on the boom. G and I have also just had a discussion about when a chop becomes a swell.  Just past the Tiri channel I reckon it became a swell (currently 1.5-2 metres) from astern. P has been feeling seedy. The boat's motion makes writing difficult. We have been averaging just under 6 knots. Bitterly cold on deck. Simon's mother who was staying in Karori said there was snow there last night and the Desert Road is closed by snow for the second weekend in a row. I signed on for a tropical cruise not a frozen jaunt. G just asked P what he thought of the trip so far - 'Pretty cool' was the cryptic reply.

 

4th June: Yes, that's correct.

Yesterday was a write off day. On the 2nd the sea was green; yesterday the sea turned blue and the crew was green; today the bread is expected to turn green, the sky is blue (although largely covered in clouds) and the sea is grey.

On the first evening I asked G where we were going to anchor for the night because Joy said I had to have a good night's sleep each night. For a moment he didn't realise that I was joking.

At the end of my watch yesterday morning a front came through raising a nasty cross chop and a confused sea. I finished my watch but only just before mal de mer took over. I tried drinking salt water but after little improvement over 12 hours I finally used a stemetil suppository with good effect. I came off my afternoon watch 10 minutes early. Slept soundly after that and had 3 mouthfuls of a nice rice dish cooked by J but I thought better than to try the chicken.

By midnight (actually 1/4 past) when I woke I was feeling good. The other guys had decided to stand my watch for me so P was surprised when I showed up. I didn't know of their arrangement. We have been motoring since 1800 hours yesterday and overnight the swell of 1.5 metres had set in from the SE. The confused sea is now more orderly. Due to a misunderstanding (American accent  315 degrees vs. NZ 350 degrees) I initiated a heading more westerly than desired instead of North. This was then transferred through the watches of S and J before the error was discovered by G. at the start of his watch. Probably lost us 35 miles overnight. Over a 2 hour period yesterday the sea changed from a pea-green to a deep blue - quite a remarkable transformation.

The other noteworthy event yesterday morning was as we were shaking the reef out of the main S got clouted by the winch handle down his forehead. Fortunately he was only dazed but there is a lot of force in the machinery.

I had a thorough wash this morning. There is no wind so we have continued to motor. As the sails are furled Charlie has gone on strike so it is tiresome to have to steer all the watch. The position of the wheel means that one is either leaning right forward off the park bench at the stern or twisting around from the cockpit. Both positions are quite awkward. Still I guess the old-timers had to steer by hand too. P just made us some chilli for afternoon tea - not too hot (my request) but still very enjoyable. I think it reminds him of Corinna, his wife - a Mexican.  Cooked steak and tomatoes, potatoes and cabbage for tea - delicious, we'll keep him on. Some phosphorescence tonight. At 1/4 to midnight the motor stopped - a fuel blockage of some type. We raised both sails but the best course we could steer was 270-300 M so we lowered them again and resorted to the motor again on a different tank. Somehow the fuel is not balancing between the tanks as it should. It occupied an interesting part of my watch. Visited during my watch by G just after my 2am fix and the boat was 50 degrees off course, and by P who was still too hot after the earlier sail work. Course is still 350 degrees magnetic. We still have too much cloud cover for a sight and little sign of it improving. G has just told us that an old skipper once told him that the sun will shine through for a short time EVERY day. I have figured out that it is easy to find Fiji - exit Auckland harbour and take the first turn left.

 

5th June.

Another thorough ablution this morning - it's becoming a habit. Still no sea life that we can see: some bird life. G saw a light a couple of nights ago and I thought I saw one astern just before that. This bit of the ocean looks just like that bit did yesterday or was it the day before.  Apart from the radio the rest of the world might not exist. There is a barge floating semi-submerged we passed a couple of nights ago without sighting. It is making one knot NE. It was 60 miles E of us with 10 metres showing above water. We also heard last night that there is a rogue iceberg somewhere (but not near us). There is also a yacht in distress somewhere off the Marquises. All the other boats in the fleet are motoring. EILEAN - a 52 footer is doing 7.9 knots. They had to put in to the Bay of Islands for repairs. WINDEMERE  II has been motoring for 2 days. Yesterday the land was 3914 metres away - straight down. This afternoon the breeze came in SW for several hours so we raised the genoa and engaged Charlie. Also the cloud cover broke but when the breeze died and we started motoring again, the sky looked ominous. The ominous sky came to nothing. Apparently we are in the middle of a ginormous high with very widely spaced isobars. It is virtually stationary. The water is a cobalt blue and the swell fluctuates between 0.5 and 3 metres SE. Were visited at dusk by 2 tiny (3 inch) red breasted land birds. They stayed in the rigging long enough for S to get a photo but his flash scared them away. They looked tired, as well they might. They were 120 miles from the nearest land which is the Kermadecs 300 miles from North Cape. Hope they find a ship to rest on before they make landfall. The early part of the night was very dark with heavy cloud cover. Were contacted after the evening sked by Ed Pahl on 'Trident'. That was a relief seeing I had missed my sked with Sueann yesterday. All is well at home and he said he would pass on my love to Joy.

I heard on my return that he had been listening in each night and then passing my co-ordinates to Joy. Noeleen, his wife, said after a few nights that Joy would not know what he was talking about but she was pleasantly surprised when Joy told her that she was plotting our progress on an atlas.

The radio contacts are a real source of comfort whilst at sea. Land dwellers cannot know the incredible conflict of emotions which occur with contact with land. The 2 main emotions are joy that someone 'out there' knows where I am and cares, coupled with a feeling of tremendous loneliness that one is so far from loved ones. After many months away from New Zealand I can still sense very deeply the intense loneliness when the SSB is turned off for the night. A very special tribute is paid to John Goater (Auckland Cruising Radio) who night after night is faithfully there to pass on messages and plot courses. Without people like him, cruising would be greatly impoverished. Later when we went cruising he became a real friend. Whenever we are cruising the family really enjoy listening to the evening sked. When it is over, the day ends. I think the radio builds a real sense of camaraderie amongst the cruising fraternity. Another enjoyable aspect is hearing people on the air over a period of time before meeting them. The mental picture one builds is almost always entirely different. One is able to share the highs and lows, the joys and the sorrows, the laughter and embarrassments of a friendly generous group. The idiosyncrasies of different people are also imitated by the children as well.

 

6th June.

Good sunrise. I didn't see it because I was asleep. I really enjoyed my night watch, singing right through it. P had found that the boat wandered all over the ocean on his watch but when I took over I adjusted the steering for 1/4 hour then didn't touch it for 1/2 hour (echoes of Slocum).

We had a choice for breakfast this morning - take it or leave it - I cooked. We had fried eggs and tomatoes on toast. They were amused by the way I cooked the toast - on the element rather than under the grill. There were fried onions for the later ones. Everyone was complimentary including S although he insisted in cooking his own (to get out of doing the dishes I suspect).

Ablutions are less onerous as the days go by. I am not saying the sea water is hot yet but it certainly doesn't make me shiver anymore. I am wearing shorts today for the first time although when the breeze came in at lunchtime I put on a jersey.

Shot my first sun sight today - pretty good - only 57 miles out. At least I'm in the right ocean. This afternoon on my watch we put up the genoa and poled it out. Some of the swells appear to be about 5 metres high but because they are not steep it is very hard to assess. When everyone was below I tried to engage Charlie (they call him Dr Floppy now) but the wind was so light that I almost back winded the genoa (65 degrees off course). Put it down to experience. Took a photo this morning trying to show how big the swell was but I think the rolling of the boat will be more spectacular. Later S took a photo of me under the poled out genoa just to prove that we did sail some of the way. We also saw an albatross this afternoon (could have been a petrel) but it distanced itself from us before I had time for a photo. What do you photograph out here? Auckland over the horizon? Palm trees yet to come into view? A picture of a whale down deep?

Doused the genoa just after dark. Very starry night. Everyone remarked how many stars there were. I thought it was like a good clear night in Tauranga but was assured that it was clearer than in Auckland. Heard from PACIFIC PROPHECY who left West Harbour 1/2 hour before us bound for New Caledonia. They had motored for 4 days and had called at Norfolk Island today to buy some more fuel. They had no wind, no swell, no clouds, glassy evening sea. P bumped the throttle TWICE on his watch causing the motor to almost stall both times. He had been writing over the top of it and leaned/fell against it. G both times bounded out of bed to see what the problem was. Very rolly overnight.  It had been fun cooking eggs until they solidified a little. It would pay to either use glue instead of cooking oil or to use a stick fry pan (different from a non-stick variety).

 

7th June.

Annoyed during my night watch because I could not remember the Morse letter for 'Do you require assistance?' This is just in case a super tanker or a Royal Naval destroyer or US aircraft carrier should come over the horizon.

Saw two jet trails this morning so they are on the right course. I wish we could tell them because it would be of tremendous comfort to them I'm sure. J actually saw the planes. If we run out of fuel we can sail but if they run out of fuel they will require our assistance. Yesterday S ate the last banana and now he's worried about scurvy. I told him to eat the mould off the bread. Our first piece of mould appeared today - not bad for 5 days out. Had the genoa up until the wind died at lunchtime. Put both sails up at 1500 hours. They are both slatting a bit in the chop but we are persevering. No we are not. We are motor sailing with the genoa. We had a preventer on the main but it still slatted. As soon as we doused the main the whitecaps returned and we are making good speed. Should reach the tropics tomorrow. S gave me his copy of Ebbco sextant use and adjustment booklet tonight.

 

8th June.

Someone must keep going South over the last couple of nights because the morning wash, with a bucket of seawater is cool. It's Saturday today so that means having to do the chores such as the washing. It's in the bucket of seawater at present. I'll rinse it after the agitator has done a thorough job. EILEAN passed us during the night. They are 4 miles ahead and 5 miles E. Last night they were 5 miles directly behind us. We didn't see them. TE ANAU (from Blenheim) is 100 miles E sailing in 20 knots. They should get to Fiji early Monday.

Sailing should be a freedom experience but we still put on safety harnesses every time we go outside unless it is very calm and we are in the cockpit with somebody else. (Is my Mum reading this?). It's not calm at present with small 0.5 - 1 metre swell but choppy. P is still having difficulty keeping his feet. He just came lurching across the cabin towards me with his arms out. I don’t think it was with amorous intent. Sometimes he reminds me of my friend Glenn Cue with his American ways. He is an undergraduate lecturer at Auckland University. His speciality is genetics. We had an interesting discussion about genetics. I felt it was very fatalistic as, according to him, every decision we make has been genetically determined.

We're sailing - at last - 2 sail reaching with no motor. The sound of no motor is deafening after the past few days and nights. 10 knots from the E. Just after raising the sail I looked out for whales but instead saw my first flying fish of the trip - only about 5 inches long. Then I spotted an orange buoy (pronounced booee by P) 100 metres off the starboard beam. The place now looks like a boat belonging to people of Vietnamese parentage with my washing drying on the lee lines.

Clothes dry now. We have been averaging 6 knots under sail for the last 8 hours. We are in the SE trades at last. G has said we'll shorten the foresail overnight. If this breeze keeps up we may be at the Navula Passage by late Monday. Took some photos of the boat sailing well in 18 knots. When I was up at the bow I was almost lifted off my feet. Glad I was holding on firmly. G lost a bucket overboard. We put a big furl in the jib overnight but are still doing 4.9 -5.7 knots. Just before the reef went in we took several big waves over the coaming. It's more manageable now. The masthead light hasn't been working for several nights so if a ship comes over the horizon we will turn on the anchor light.  Still with the port/starboard lights on the bow it makes a spectacular sight with the spray coming on deck. Entered the tropics at 2020 hours.

 

    9th June.

Came on deck at midnight for my midnight/0230 watch to find a ship's light 2 points off the starboard bow. Probably EILEAN. She had been visible since 2100 hours but disappeared about 0200 hours. About 1/4 past midnight I was looking out over the port beam at the small amount of phosphorescence in the bow wave, then when I looked over the starboard beam several minutes later there was what appeared to be a cruise ship dead abeam, all lit up. It gave me a big fright until I realised that it was the moon rising - the upper limb was entirely flat and the lower limb was still below the horizon.

Made some breakfast and took some porridge to the cabin boy, S who was sleeping again. He didn't know that I had cooked it so he later complimented J on her cooking. He did make disparaging remarks about sticky spoons until I pointed out that he had done last night's tea dishes. P had assisted with very helpful? hints on cooking porridge. I'm worried about him. He spends a lot of time in the saloon. Is he an alcoholic?  He even sleeps there. Mind you, so do I. This morning it looks as though rats have been into the chilli-bin (actually I think P put a hole in it last night with his foot on one of his out-of-control forays across the saloon). Last night being Saturday night we had a concert. There was only one item. After I had sung the second verse I had the audience screaming - for me to stop.

This afternoon we all had a very enjoyable chat in the cockpit for several hours. There are a few more flying fish around but I still want to see a whale. I was hit by a flying fish this afternoon during my watch - it was dead - S threw it at me. Now I know what it's like to be slapped in the face by a wet fish. Had to rush the radio sked tonight as we had too much sail on. We reefed the main. It went well with S calling the shots. The spreader lights greatly assist. I must get some candles for my trailer-sailer, they'll be cheaper. Then we rolled the jib almost right away. It certainly made the motion much easier. When I went out to do the sail change I went flying across the cockpit before I was hooked on. Fortunately I landed on top of  portly P - he does have his uses. G cautioned us sternly to be safe. It wasn't until after completing the sail change that he confessed that although he was on the helm, he had not been harnessed on throughout. P cooked tea and I cleaned up afterwards - spaghetti and sauce everywhere - he's certainly messy. He's been talking to himself more over the last few days. At least he's found someone of equal intellect - still he is only a junior professor. I'm not convinced that he is really enjoying this trip.

 

 

 

10th June.

P had winds of 25-0-25 knots.  I had 5-20 knots. In the first 1/2 hour of my watch I raised 2 lights - one 2 points off the starboard bow and the other 4 points off the starboard bow. Methinks I saw one off the port bow and one off the starboard beam too but not entirely convinced. THIS OCEAN IS GETTING CROWDED. Yesterday we heard a conversation on the VHF as CHANTICLEER came up behind EILEAN. She was complaining that CHANTICLEER (Big wave) was going to steal her wind so CHANTICLEER went right around EILEAN. We suggested that EILEAN should lee bow her. In all the miles of ocean, it comes down to this.

When S took over from me a heavy rain squall came through with wind up to 35 knots so S and G took off all sail and we have been motoring since.

RORY MOHR (Big red - her original owner had been a big red headed man) raced past us over the Western horizon during the night doing 9 knots. On this morning's sked they had slowed to 7.5 knots. At 0830 hours we had 110 miles to go to Navula Passage so should make it at about daybreak tomorrow. It looks as though there should be 4 other boats there about the same time. TE ANAU is through Navula Passage now.

During my early watch I reminisced on my purposes, aims and aspirations for the voyage including the scripture I had been given by God (Psalm 107:23-30 ). Only the last line to be fulfilled now. God is faithful.

I've just calculated that over the 9 day voyage with one wave every 5 seconds on average, we have encountered approximately 155,520 waves, give or take a few.

SALUSA and WINDEMERE II are behind us. WINDEMERE II only just now entering the trades. They tried sailing when the rest of us motored.

The morning wash was delightful with 2 nozzles on the shower (2 buckets) - warm but still no steam coming off the water yet.

We're motor sailing with 1/2 the jib out at present. The name KARANGI means 'Far Horizon' or 'Food God' depending on which tribe one asks. There was a Karangi, a boom tender, which was one of the vessels to go to the assistance of the SS 'Runic' when she ran up on Middleton Reef in the 1950's. I have just come off watch. The island of Kandavu lies off the starboard beam 55 miles away so we cannot see it. Another flying fish came aboard earlier. This one was about a foot long. The water is getting pretty shallow now - it's only 1280 metres deep. I think the deepest water we crossed was 4900 metres. I've been emotionally fragile today. Probably looking towards the end of the voyage and leaving friends. Also eager to get home to Joy. She's wonderful, never stopping me from having dreams and she allows me (nay encourages me) to fulfil the important ones. I do really appreciate her love, wisdom and counsel. And the sacrifices she makes to enable the fulfilment of my dreams. Thanks also to the girls for putting lollipops all through my luggage. I enjoyed one every night-watch. When S took over the watch he brought me a mini moro bar every night so on the last night I gave him a lollipop for which he may be forever grateful. (He had eaten my oddfellows earlier).

Late in the evening on P's watch the wind had increased, swung 100 degrees, and stopped completely, all in 10 minutes. At the time manoeuvring with CHANTICLEER was underway. G dropped all sail and we have been motoring since then. CHANTICLEER had a red stern light (just like a car, I suppose). As well they were zigzagging all over the ocean - as a result of excessive brown liquid intake they said over the VHF. Anyway by the time I came on watch they were off the starboard quarter and there they stayed. 

 

11th June.

My watch was relatively quiet with hand steering on a compass heading of 340 degrees. After my watch I was awoken at my request as we entered the Navula Passage. We passed Navula light at 0705 hours. Officially this is the end of the voyage. Our ETA had been 1000 hours on 11/6 when we left New Zealand. Still when we anchored just off the leading lights of Navula Passage we were .01 mile out on our waypoint. This is 17.6 yards so I told G that the reading was from the wheelhouse and the anchor was on the other side of the waypoint. G took one look at the saloon this morning (where P and I slept) and said that it looked like the inside of a cheap Greek brothel. I said I couldn't comment!!

Well, here we are tied up at Lautoka wharf after a 3 hour motor of only moderate interest. Beautiful islands to the W and interesting boats heading out to them. When we arrived off the wharf we were told to anchor 1/2 mile off the wharf by a harbour board official. The other boats; RORY MOHR, CHANTICLEER and EILEAN all complied. We were circling preparing to comply when we were instructed to pull alongside the wharf, so we did.

When we had been anchored inside the Navula Passage we had been visited by a courtesy boat from Vuda Point Marina. They gave us all the documentation to fill in as we motored to the wharf. They also gave us a big chilli bin filled with sponsor’s products including fruit and drinks.

Anyway here we are still at the wharf. We have been through agriculture with my camel-hide hat. Then G went to customs. He had been only about 5 minutes from finishing the documentation when the official told him it was lunchtime so come back in an hour or so. That has been done and we are waiting for them to come to inspect the boat. Then it's off to immigration. Just for the record, I think it was June when we arrived.

WE WUZ ROBBED. The  customs official didn't even come on board. He stood on the wharf for several minutes not saying anything as we all stood on deck and glared back at him. Then he told us we were cleared. We hopped on foreign soil (actually a concrete wharf) while G finished clearing with immigration to sign us, the crew, off the ship. Then we motored to Vuda Point Marina. What a fiasco docking was. We initially had a bow line to a buoy lying off but as I paid out the bow line P tried throwing a stern line ashore - 4 times!!! Then in exasperation from everybody watching including the dozen or so Fijian workmen (a contradiction in terms). J picked up the line and easily lobbed it the 20 feet to the jetty. Then as I continued paying out the bow line I ran out of scope but that was after we ran backwards into the only culvert in the marina so we still couldn't reach the shore. Finally we turned the boat around and went bow to shore on the next berth. G got heaps from the crew because he was fending off EILEAN assisted by the well endowed bikini clad American lady from that vessel as she fended us off too. Finally we tied up. 4 hours for clearance preceded by a 3 hour motor from Momi Bay and a 1 hour motor to Vuda Point made for a full day. We dined until late at the adjacent ‘First Landing’ restaurant. Along with the marina, the restaurant had only been open 3 months. Nevertheless the building looked old with holes in the walls of the toilet block etc. However the cuisine was lovely. I had a Walo steak which I couldn't finish. It cost $14-95.

 

So why did we do the trip?

G made no bones about the fact that it was a means to an end. His holiday starts now.

J enjoyed it in a quiet way, although her maternal instincts longed to see her 12 year old daughter, Kimberley, again. She's flying up on the 15th. She was the quiet one of the trip. J probably did about 1/2 of the cooking - always pleasant and unassuming.

S injected youthful enthusiasm into the whole situation. He also had a great attitude when the pressure was on. He is now experienced enough to qualify for Yachtmaster Ocean. He, along with girlfriend, Stacey, is off in 2 weeks time for 2 years OE in Europe - hopefully getting involved in boating management for rich guys in the Mediterranean.
P didn't really enjoy the trip. He wanted to do the ultimate trip and now he has done it he can cross it off his list. His history is sailing his 15 footer on lakes in Missouri. I suspect his CV said that his experience was in sailing boats overseas as opposed to sailing over seas. He was the odd man out on the trip, often being nauseated and nauseous. In fact it happened so often I accused him of being pregnant with his morning sickness. His description of all people, including Americans (of which he's one) was 'jerks' - I rest my case. He was largely incompetent and this showed increasingly throughout, culminating in his throwing the line short 4 times. I guess it takes skill to do that.

Me-I always did it to gain experience for 2 years time. There were times that I hated it especially seasickness and motoring with the noise and the fumes but there were times when it compared favourably with almost any other physical endeavour including work. The one regret I have is that I didn't get to see any whales. In fact there was a lot less sea life than I had expected. S said he saw a dolphin one day but nobody else did. The overriding sentiment is one of intense satisfaction with a big smile on my face.

 

 

12th June.

Woke early and caught windowless bus to Lautoka (65 cents) and after several hours’ taxi back ($9). Then to airport and home. Arrived at airport in shorts, jandals and hat. Every hour of the flight I put on one more article of clothing to find that when I arrived in Auckland that it had been snowing during the day on the Kaimais.

 

Some quotes used during the trip.

Me to S. 'Stick by me kid and you won't go wrong' and 'I'm tough - very tough' (just in case he wasn't sure)..

'There is a very large possibility of something going wrong on the voyage but there is a very small possibility of anything serious going wrong.'--Geoff. (Our sumlog stopped working as did our masthead light and we lost one bucket overboard - nothing serious).

'There are no experts on ocean voyaging in small vessels; just wise survivors'- Tim Findley.

 

'He brought them to their desired haven' Psalm 107:30.

 

 

 

2

 RUBEN JANE

 

As part of the plan to travel overseas for 6 months we needed to buy a boat capable of making the trip.

Five years earlier I had instigated the plan of fulfilling a 40 year dream. One of the first steps after discussing it with Joy was to break the news to our parents. I made sure that I had my mother’s full attention then I told her that in 5 years time we intended sailing around the South Pacific. ‘That’s very nice dear’ she said quickly. ‘Have another piece of cake’.

The rest of the family didn’t express any reservations immediately although I heard subsequently that some members, who shall remain nameless, tried to find some way of stopping this madness with only 3 months before departure. Thus, according to plan I started looking for a suitable vessel in August of 1997. Around Tauranga I didn't find much credence from the boat brokers. One who was recommended by a workmate as being honest blotted his copybook when I told him that he was purported to be honest. He said 'He obviously doesn't know me very well.' Another who I visited on a rainy day pointed from his office vaguely towards the marina and said 'There's one over there you might be interested in' and left me to it.

Partly in disgust and partly to check out a bigger slice of the market I telephoned an agent in Auckland and explained in detail what my needs were and when I would be arriving in Auckland to view the selection. I have found that this is the best way to do business.

Robin Brown, who was working for Busfields, got the task of showing us around. On the first trip I took my oldest daughter, Corina, who was also busy planning her wedding. Unfortunately she would not be on the trip with us. I say unfortunately because she is a good crew member. Anyway she had her priorities right and was a great help. On the first day, a wet Friday, we had a look at 15 boats. Almost all of them were almost suitable although several of the less suitable literally stank. How the owners had the gall to put them on the market in that condition beat me. Robin had done his homework well and was not pushy. The only scary part was being driven in his car which badly needed a new wheel-bearing. It made a terrible noise when we went around left turns. In order not to waste time we did not dally over unsuitable craft. The first one we saw was on the hardstand. I did not like it initially but as it filled the criteria I placed it on the possibles list along with three others.

The following week I took Joy back with me to look at the four. One of them had sold so another possible one was viewed. Eventually it came down to a Herreshoff and the Cavalier 36’ that I had seen first. The Cav was in the water by then and as the Herroshoff required some maintenance we made an offer on the Cavalier. After some bargaining all that remained was a test sail. I will not bore the reader with all the details of hull survey etc. On the 31st October Joy and I went for a test sail on the Waitemata harbour. We arrived late because I took a detour via Kawakawa Bay. On board was John Miller (owner), Robin Brown (agent), Mr Donaldson (diesel mechanic), Joy and I. It was a nice sunny spring day with only 8 knots of breeze and at one stage we climbed to 6 knots with full main and No.3 up.

We arrived home after finalising the purchase of 'Ruben Jane' again 1/2 an hour late to meet a very pleasant retired couple who were interested in buying 'For Sail' our Kestral (18 foot trailer-sailer) which we had owned for a dozen years. I took Bill and Miriam Broad and their friend out for a sail on Tauranga Harbour. Upon our return Bill and I bargained for 15 seconds to arrive at a price satisfactory to us both. A week later it was a morose couple who watched their friend being towed down the road for the final time. We wish them many happy times with her too. Many happy memories remain though.

Over the months of preparation, especially the last month, I became increasingly amazed at how many people wanted to come on board the dream - not to make the trip themselves but to encourage me to hold the dream tightly, or maybe it was for a multitude of other reasons.

Therefore I would like to thank Bob and Carol (Elyxir) for their encouragement, advice and help; Ken and Tiffany (Copout) for friendship and trysail; Bob and Ngaire (Taisia ) for their trysail which we eventually took; Mike McCormick for the safety inspection; Tony Thornburrow for help regarding sails and other smaller matters; the staff at Burnsco for their help.

There were many others such as family and friends who in many and divers ways helped to make the dream a reality. The three children deserve a big mention. They endured the loss of privacy in a confined area for 6 months before departure time to get used to the limitations of their personal space especially Susannah who's bed became the communal sofa during the day. The lack of privacy was an issue. To have 3 daughters on board during the trip, did involve some adjustments. We all had to consider others more than usual including when we had our feet on the table and someone wished to go past, we all had to sit up straight until they were past us. Surprisingly we all adjusted well and were fairly harmonious. Having a TV on board before we departed certainly helped.

Last of all I would like to thank Joy, my wife, for the many sacrifices both great and small and the trials of living in confined quarters, not only with a dreamer, but also coping with extended family pressures; for doing all the seemingly insignificant tasks; for growing in confidence through all the preparations. I hope in some small way to repay all the time, effort and expense by giving the family the trip of a lifetime.

 

3

TAURANGA to ATATA ISLAND

 

IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1998 MAY 2ND.

I would like to say that the departure day dawned fine, warm and sunny but it didn't. It was reasonably warm but overcast. Departure time had been set at 1000 hours but this was delayed for an hour due to the primary winch malfunctioning. I had taken it apart the previous night in the dark to grease it but found that 2 tiny pawl springs were damaged and needed to be replaced. I met my final crew member for the first time only an hour before departure - not a recommended procedure. Joy and the girls were flying up to Tonga on the 12th May so I had 3 men join me. Bennet Williams, Andrew Lawrence and Warren Brown signed on for the trip to Atata Island, Kingdom of Tonga. Over the years I have seen a number of boats depart for overseas and most have about half a dozen folk to wave them farewell. I had over 40. It was a real blessing. My family were accompanying us out of the harbour on the large launch RAGNAROK who had been moored next to us for the past six months.

I reversed very carefully out of the berth and had everything, including my emotions, under control, when Raewyn Stokes blew on her conch shell. RAGNAROK blew her horn followed by Tony blowing his horn at the marina office and several other yachts moored in the marina followed suit. Such a fine salute, but all of a sudden the emotional significance struck me and tears flowed as I exited the marina. Dirk and Angela were on the marina wall and I called to them 'The end of a dream; the beginning of the reality'. These few minutes alone made the entire trip worthwhile. It wasn't really the end of the dream but rather the middle of it. I had dreamed of this day for 40 years; planned for it for five years; lived it for 6 months and will savour the emotion for the rest of my life. I wish I could express my feelings at this point but suffice to say that when I am typing this over a year later there come again tears to my eyes; tears of happiness, not sorrow.

We raised the sails and motor sailed down the harbour and out the entrance. By the port marker on the No.1 reach the family waved their final farewells and RAGNAROK executed a sweeping turn and with a final toot from them we were suddenly alone. Thanks for bringing the family, David (Holland).

We were part of the Island Cruising Regatta. Sixteen other boats left Opua at 1400 hours and EPISODE had left Tauranga 3 days earlier.

We stopped the motor and continued under sails. Somewhere between Karewa and Mayor we lost the man-overboard-light overboard. I had only attached it several hours earlier. I suspect somebody knocked it without realising. Off Mayor Island we executed a terrible gybe when we decided to show Warren and Bennet SE Bay. We motor sailed in and gybed again just inside the entrance. When we left Mayor Island behind the wind gusted to 25 knots so we put 2 reefs in the main and the No.4 jib in place overnight. Joy got a fright when she went down to the Coastguard to listen in to the evening sked because there was a yacht taking in water at Mayor Island. They were wanting to make a dash back to Tauranga but were advised against it so they beached it in SE bay. Initially Joy thought it may have been us. Just after nightfall Andy smelt something bad - he thinks it might have been whale breath. It was a clear night with lots of stars. The wind was gusty. On my watch midnight to 0200 hours I saw the loom of a light off the starboard bow which we progressively overhauled. Later on my watch I saw the lights of a vessel; port and one white light ?stern ?steaming.  It was very cold out on watch. The cloud cover increased to 80%.

 

3rd May

DISASTER DAY.

Bennet and I were struck by mal de mer. Changed up to No.2 jib which we poled out as we had a following wind and sea. The swell varied between 1.5 and 2 metres from the SW which made it quite uncomfortable. The wind was reasonably constant at 15 knots increasing after dark to 20 knots. The barometer was reasonably steady.

During my watch in the morning we had a strike but lost it. However on Warren's watch we hooked and landed two big-eyed tuna - yum. We lost one more on Andy's watch. It is also getting expensive on lures. Where can we buy some more?

When we were gutting one of the fish we cut its head off and discarded it overboard. By the time the fillets were off and the tail went overboard 10 minutes had elapsed. As we were doing 6 knots at the time I can assure the reader that the fish was at least one mile from its head to its tail. This may be the longest true fish story in history without a shadow of a lie.

Late in the afternoon we tacked onto starboard and made better progress. The day continued overcast and gusty. On the 1730 sked with Tauranga Coastguard I asked if there were any messages. 'No' was the reply which made me pretty sad as I was expecting one from Joy. 'However, there is someone here to talk to you' continued the operator. Joy came up and we had a chat. She sounded pretty perky which cheered me up as I wasn't feeling very well. When she asked if anyone was sick I just replied 'Family'.

Following the sked with John Goater I heard ELYXIR come up so we went to 4417 and had a good chat with Carol. I find that talking to people by radio makes me quite emotional and almost tearful - a taste of loneliness after the radio is turned off.  I forgot to arrange a further sked with her which I regretted deeply.

The big disaster of the trip occurred at 10 minutes to midnight. The swell was up to 3 metres and with Bennet at the helm we did one gybe too many. The main ripped 2.5 metres along the seam just below the 3rd reef point. There aren't any repair shops handy so we'll have to fix it ourselves in the morning. This is one danger of taking inexperienced crew. I don’t blame him though as in the conditions all of us have been having difficulty maintaining the course in choppy conditions. We have taken the main off and are heading towards Atata Island at 4.5 knots. This is a blow though because it means we won’t have enough speed to go to Minerva Reef on the way. It probably means I will never get there now.

During the afternoon we had also had a problem when I ran the motor to top up the batteries. Because of the following seas we had turned off the seacock. Warren checked that it was turned on - it wasn't. When the motor was started it blew the hose off the antisiphon device. I noticed water covering the cabin floor so took the engine cover off and saw the water pouring in through the joint. In order to reconnect the hose it was necessary to empty the aft cockpit locker (which was very full) and to climb down into it and around the back of the motor. Connecting it was easy. I must admit the crew required no great encouragement to man the pumps. The water was quickly cleared from the inside of the vessel and order restored.

 

4th May.

90% cloud cover still. 3 - 4 metre swell from astern. During the night Andy said phosphorescence was like lightning but under water. When we left Tauranga the water temperature was 19°C. It is now 22°C. The air temperature is slowly rising too. During the day the swell built but calmed down again in the evening. Only storm jib up but we hit 5.7 knots at times.

After the morning sked I sought advice from the rest of the fleet on sail repairs. It is sobering to find only one person - Lynda off SUNSET QUEST was able to advise. We have the materials but lack the expertise.

I have been a little perturbed that when I give an order Warren turns it into a suggestion or he introduces alternatives. He is also making comments which sound like commands. I sense the others are losing patience with him. Last night when I called all hands on deck to take in the main he took 15 minutes to arrive on deck. When on deck he seems reluctant to go forward and participate in sail changes. I must speak to him about this. Still today he is mending the sail so has been exempted from other duties. He is a very good cook though. For someone who is building his own 38' catamaran I would expect him to have more confidence in boatmanship.

The others are fitting in well despite Bennet's continued seasickness. I hope he gets over it soon so he can enjoy the trip fully. I am feeling a lot better now - all better in fact. This afternoon we caught a fish but returned it to the sea. After dark the air was so warm we could almost feel the tropics.

 

5th May.

The breeze freshened to 20 knots and turned E. There was a showery start to the day. I'm concerned that we are waiting till all crew are awake in the morning before changing up the foresail. We usually put up the storm jib overnight and it is 1030 hours before the No.2 goes up. We are losing 4 hours of good sailing. This reflects on my leadership and shows that I am too kind on the crew. I will amend this.

Andy is showing a leading role and is keen to learn so I am enjoying teaching him. I came on deck during the night to see him steering by the compass so I showed him how to steer by the stars. I would hate him to arrive in Tonga and only have seen a compass at night. He is really enjoying steering by a star now.

I have told the crew to hand steer at night for 2 reasons:

1. My bunk is right by the autohelm and it's grinding is not conducive to a good night's sleep and

2. It cultivates their pleasure in sailing. By the end of the trip they all agreed with me. What did they come on the trip for - wasn't it to experience the full enjoyment of sailing not merely operating machinery?

Tonight we heard on John Goater's sked that Warren's father-in-law had died. Warren said he wasn't close to him anyway. There was no chance of returning in time for the funeral anyway so we continued on. However Warren tried to contact his wife, Rosita, through John but she wasn't at the phone number she had given. John was very helpful. It was certainly an insight into how being married to an Islander complicates family life. Warren, being European, was expected to put up a grossly disproportionate amount of money for the funeral. Rosita's brothers would put up very little between them.

We have put up the main again - initially full but I got nervous with all the creaking in the stitching so we are now trucking along with 3 reefs in the main until we can get it properly repaired in Tonga. Warren has worked hard on it. I am probably being neurotic but I don’t want it tearing asunder this early in the trip. We have been doing 6 knots most of the afternoon. Also when we raised the No.2 we discovered a tear in the luff which Andy has mended and it's up again. We flew the No.4 while it was being repaired.

At midnight we were contacted on VHF by a Swedish boat off our starboard beam and I had a chat to the nice lady on Ch 8 for a few minutes. We normally listen on Ch16. They had left Whangarei 3 days ago heading for Tonga. Bennet, who is finally feeling well, saw their lights on his watch. We are travelling faster than they are.

 

6th May.

At daybreak I tried calling our friends from last night but there was no response.

The barometer is slowly climbing to 1023. There is a SE swell of 1 metre and the wind varies between 12 and 24 knots E. Altogether a pleasant day. The water temperature has climbed to a pleasant 24°C. We are certainly wearing fewer clothes than at the outset.

However there is a sour milk smell developing downstairs. We had made the mistake of stowing our long life milk under the cabin floor and as a result of the earlier flooding the combination of saltwater and movement had destroyed the cardboard containers. I called for a volunteer to clean it up. I have been blessed with a poor sense of smell so I was given the task. It took hours – the bilge under the sink was the hardest. We hove to for a short time while I sponged the last of it up. I rinsed it with copious quantities of sea water. The remainder will have to wait until Atata. Had a chat to Warren about leadership concerns and things have been better wince then. Gary’s deer steaks for tea. They went down a treat. Receiving excellent help from John Goater regarding Warren’s father-in-law's funeral arrangements. Heard from Joy at 1730. Good.

Clear night with warm winds.

 

7th May.

The winds were steady all night and we did 6.7 - 7.2 knots all night. I enjoyed my watch so much I stayed on longer before calling Andy. When he came on watch I stayed on and showed him a few more stars and the Black Holes. He is certainly an eager learner. There is a NE change predicted so we are creeping E as much as we can. At 1800hours last night the nearest boat was only 55 miles ahead. At our current speed we should overhaul them today or tomorrow. If only we had a full main. Initially on course for a 150 mile day (noon-noon) but eventually only did 138 miles as the wind died mid-morning.

Saw 2 interesting sights today; this morning I saw the sun rise on yesterday and this evening I saw the sunset on yesterday (7 times because of the swell). There is only one place in the world where this happens. Played mind games/lateral thinking in the afternoon. Bennet did not have a good day. He did not warn us of the bump as we crossed the International Date Line even though he was on the helm. Heard from Black Velvet (Ed Pahl) tonight after John's sked. Also late in the night Bennet fell against the switchboard turning off the power and losing all the statistics from the GPS. We're not going to let him take the helm as we cross into the tropics because he might get us tangled in the Tropic of Capricorn.!!

 

8th May.

Wind very fickle and sloppy seas so when Andy came on watch we lowered the sails and have been motoring since. There is 'discoloured water' on the chart (probably someone's coffee stain) so we have altered course to 060°T until morning to avoid it. Turned off the motor for the morning sked and found that we had lost 20 miles overnight on the others. Very poor radio reception this morning (is that coffee now in the radio?) Raised the sails after the sked but making very slow progress as the wind is on the nose. When we were becalmed mid-morning we all had a swim. The water is over one mile deep!  It is a truly awesome experience. With a mask on, the visibility appeared endless but of course there was no way of telling how far one could see as there were no reference points - the keel being the last point before the bottom of the ocean. We only went over one at a time and were harnessed on as with the sails still up and a boat speed of about 2.5 knots it would be foolish to have the boat sail on without us. I must also hasten to add that the skipper was the last one to abandon ship, maintaining his honour till the end. Was it scary?  I suppose it was at first but once in it would have been easy to see any sharks well before they came near enough to have a tête-à-tête.

We have put in a long tack to the E hoping the breeze will increase by 10 knots and turn to the E giving us a straight run of 320 miles to Ata Island.

I won the guessing game of distance travelled today. I guessed 90 miles (87 miles correct). Had a discussion about Christianity then played more mind games. Weather is brilliant with water 26°C. We have been sunbathing most of the morning.

We are eating well with bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast and venison sausages for tea.

At nightfall the breeze came back in again - from the NW!  Still our speed increased with a top speed of 6.8 knots overnight. I was called on deck during Andy's watch to check on what appeared to be an approaching boat light. It turned out to be a star but it was a very convincing scenario for a masthead light.

PERICON has a broken stay so they are unable to sail. They may require more fuel but SUNSET QUEST is offering some of theirs. Unfortunately PERICON is motoring faster than SUNSET QUEST is sailing so if they run out they may wallow for a while before the cavalry arrives.

Heard from Noeline Pahl (BLACK VELVET) tonight but the reception is very poor around here. Also, finally made contact with Carol from ELYXIR. Have arranged another sked with her tomorrow night.

 

9th May.

I spent quite a bit of my night watch composing my fishy story for Atata Island.

Found this morning that we are only 20 miles behind DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON. Most of the fleet is motoring including DELPHIS. REALM is already at Atata Island (try saying that quickly). Poor Kelso, he has been seasick all the way. Three boats are at South Minerva Reef and BARNSTORM is leaving South Minerva and heading for North Minerva today. After the morning sked I heard on the chat show that we are at South Minerva..........I wish.

According to Taupo Maritime Radio this morning there is a single handed sailor missing somewhere E of Ata Island possibly capsized (How do they know?)  He has not activated his Epirb. We should be there or thereabouts the day after tomorrow.

This afternoon we were all sitting up on the rail - relaxing - not racing, when we hooked a 1.5 metre mahi-mahi. However it broke off after a short struggle. It was amusing watching everyone hurrying aft trying hard not to spill their cans then becoming a well oiled machine preparing to land a good sized fish.

Two flying fish on board this morning.

There has been a consistent breeze from the NW all day, giving good sailing conditions.

 

10th May.

Today is Sunday so I officially declared it a day of no work.

Sometime during the night the reel screamed into action waking Andy and I. There was a mad dash for the cockpit after donning our harnesses. Bennet was on watch and Warren took his time to arrive. Bennet took the rod and in the middle of the darkness fought what appeared to be a very big fish. It must have looked comical to see 4 grown men very lightly clad, fighting leviathan under a beautiful starry sky. Everything went well and after an epic battle still sailing at 6 plus knots we landed a foul hooked barracouta of only moderate proportions. Because it was bent double it had caused considerable drag. It was quickly released dead after photographs. It was probably due to the adrenaline overload that we all stayed in the cockpit for a while enjoying the warmth of the night. We also saw the lights of a southbound plane so I tried to contact them on the radio but there was no reply. They were probably jealous of our lifestyle. The entire episode was declared fun so as not to contravene Sunday observance.

On the morning sked DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON was only 2 miles away but was not visible to us as they were NE which is directly into the sun. The plunger has broken on the head (marine toilet) so Bennet is fixing it. At times like this you find who is dedicated to the task. So far Andy and Bennet are up there with the best. Warren is a competent cook. I did an hour or so of cleaning and dishes this morning. After lunch the wind died again so the crew and the skipper - first in this time - had a swim. Have been playing mind games this afternoon. We have replaced the No.2 with the drifter as the breeze continues to veer W. Also late in the afternoon we (read I) sighted DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON bearing 305°M hull down on the horizon. The others (read crew) ridiculed me but sometime later I called them on the VHF and they confirmed the sighting. More respect is now coming from the crew. The drifter has been replaced by the No.2 not due to lack of wind but because it was too efficient - the cook couldn't keep his feet. We have had some good discussions throughout the trip but today we had a big discussion about whether Steinlager (Andy, Warren) or   Tui beer (Bennet) is better. I sided with Bennet because he was outnumbered and put forward a very good argument which is not bad seeing I am a teetotaller. Consensus was not achieved.

Tonight I have a sked with Tauranga Coastguard. Hope Joy is there - I'm missing her. Looking forward to seeing her on Tuesday.

Joy came through after the coastguard said there were no messages!!

Just on dark we got rid of our burnable rubbish by setting it adrift after setting it alight. We used the Steinlager beer tray for a boat. The sea was so calm that it was visible for quite a while. There was no wind so we motored for 4 hours. DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON caught a breeze and disappeared over the horizon.

 

11th May.

Big day.

Andy almost called me again during his watch about a boat's light. It's the 5th time he's been tricked by the star. I've seen it too and it is very realistic.

At 1000 hrs we dropped the drifter replacing it with the No.4 as the wind is up to 23 knots. At 1030 hrs we crossed into the tropics. Andy was on the helm. We wouldn't let B steer as we were afraid he would get us tangled in the Tropic of Capricorn line. At 1400 hrs we sighted a large sperm whale leaping out of the water 6-7 times about half a mile away. It was very spectacular. Apparently they leap out of the water to dislodge their barnacles. When you realise how much power is involved in a 45 foot cetacean leaping high you develop a great respect for their strength.

YEE HAAAAAAH!!  LAND HO!!  Yippee and etc. At 1630 we (read Bennet) sighted Ata Island where and when expected at 30 miles distant. For me it was one of the momentous experiences of my life. Words cannot describe how I felt.  In 1963 I had read the book Minerva Reef by Olaf Ruhen about a Tongan cutter TUAIKAEPAU which was wrecked on South Minerva Reef on 7th July 1962.  Their last land fall before that fateful night had been Ata Island. For me sighting Fiji two years previously had not had the same effect. Somewhere in my subconscious I had always known that one day I would see Ata Island. I danced around the deck yahooing and cheering for some minutes. (When we arrived in Tonga the crew asked Joy whether I was mentally unstable because of my antics at this time).  Just on dark the full moon rose almost behind the island silhouetting its biconical peaks. Bennet vomited just after dark (obviously some tropical malaise) so I stood his watch for him. I was too excited to sleep anyway. Straight afterwards I stood my watch and at the end of that Ata Island was just sinking below the horizon behind. We'd had a beam wind all afternoon and it continued during Andy's watch. However there must have been a strong ocean current because he made more leeway then headway.

 

12th May

B abandoned ship.

Well actually because I was putting up all the flags and happened to drop the yellow peril in the water Bennet who had been on the helm leapt overboard and retrieved it. Very fortunate, because otherwise we might not have been cleared by the authorities in Tonga. It was a silly thing to try to carry so many flags on deck at once anyway.

It must have been Bennet's day because shortly afterwards he sighted land again - the island of Eua, then shortly after that the reel screamed and Bennet took the rod. We remained sailing at 6 knots. After a quarter hour fight Warren put the gaff in and ushered a 3 foot long mahi-mahi on board, straight into the freezer for half an hour, before pulling it out and gutting it.

After all the excitement I looked at the chart of Approaches to Tongatapu and saw Caution 2 said 'reefs are noted up to 4 miles off the south coast.'  At this stage we were 3 3/4 miles off the coast so we quickly retraced our steps with a good watch out. At this stage we were headed by the wind so resorted to motor.  Unfortunately, because we had made so much leeway we had to motor along the entire southern coast. The positive side was we could see the blowholes all along that coast. The island of Tongatapu is so flat that the first thing one sees when approaching from the south is the spray from the blowholes which today was being flung 50 feet into the air from a 1.5 metre swell. Once around the point it was a straight run passed several reefs to the lighthouse where I called Royal Sunset Resort on VHF Ch6. We requested entrance to the resort but as it was late in the day they would send the longboat out to meet us to bring us through the reef. They told us to pull out all stops as the light was fading. From this point on we found it very difficult to read the chart and the pencil sketch from the ICA as nothing seemed to relate. We were looking for islands but eventually realised that they were reefs after being confronted with 2 of them in fading light. We saw the lights of a vessel come out from behind what we thought was Atata Island (it was) and head W. Then the VHF call came from the longboat in the gloom. When he said to follow him I replied that I was. He said I wasn't!!  It gave us a fright because he was only 100 metres off our starboard beam. We had so focused on the other vessel we had not seen him approach. He had no lights. Again we were urged to hurry and he sped off into the gloom at 15 knots. We followed as fast as we could at 6.7 knots with the motor revving at 4000+. We maintained our direction by compass bearing and found him waiting impatiently at the turn. How he knew where to go I don’t know but it was scary. At one stage we almost ran him down as he waited for us. If he had been an Islander we could have followed his teeth in the darkness but he was a European, Sandy, by name, we could have guessed by his hair. After several turns he waited while we anchored then sped away into the night, again at full speed. We were anchored half a mile away from the other boats but a full circumnavigation of the island away. We got a warm welcome to 'Almost Atata' from SUNSET QUEST. We cooked tea in a tropical downpour in very humid conditions. During the downpour we heard a commotion on the radio as DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON dragged her anchor. They ended up rafted up to EPISODE for the night.

Joy and the girls were forced to stay the night in Nuku'alofa because their plane had been delayed in Auckland by a political refugee. Rodney on SATISFACTION  PLUS called us up to see whether he should come in through the reef for the night. I told him not to unless he was very brave, very foolish, very old and very well insured. We went to bed straight after tea.

 

4

TONGA

13th May.

Sandy greeted us early in the morning. He told us to go onto a certain heading and then he headed out to meet 5 other boats which had arrived overnight outside the reef. We thought he had forgotten us but all of a sudden he told us to go onto a different bearing (a good lesson in faith). We eventually ended up in the middle of the convoy. The last part of the circumnavigation was a very tricky dogleg. Sandy only guided 2 boats through at a time. As soon as we arrived the customs guys came on board. Warren plied them with Steinlager and they only charged us T$18 ($20NZ) but if you calculate the cost of the beer it would have been cheaper to pay full price. The Immigration/Agriculture people had been confiscating all fresh(?) fruit and vegetables so we had ours out ready. He looked at the potatoes and asked if we were intending to eat them on board. When we affirmed it he said 'well, you'll have to peel them and put the peelings in a plastic bag and then.....Well you'll have to peel them and put the peelings in a plastic bag and then...'. He had dug a hole for himself. If he said anymore he would have to take some responsibility and action as well. The potatoes tasted delicious. He did take 2 bags of garbage away with him.

We've got our own resident bommie (coral outcrop) - 2 feet under the keel.

The family were waiting on the shore for me. They had had a hair-raising trip out from Nuku'alofa on the motorboat with the customs guys smoking directly over the outboard fuel.

We ate at the restaurant $18 per head. Laura ordered then fell asleep so I had to help her out. Even in paradise some people require assistance.

 

14th May.

Went for early morning swim and snorkel. The fleet has assembled so we all went for a walk through the local village and plantation. The gongs in the village are made from old oxyacetylene bottles. I hope they're empty because some are quite rusty. In the afternoon a group of us organised to go for a snorkel over the giant-clam beds. The longboat took off in the wrong direction so I asked Shaun, the boatman if we were going to the clams. 'Yes' he replied (meaning yes I'm listening, not yes, we're going to the clam beds). When we arrived at the reef he mumbled something about no anchor so he stepped barefoot onto the reef with a mooring line. Also muttered something about tide too low to go to the clams anyway. Still visibility underwater was awesome at 50-60 feet. I think I got some good photos. There was lots of staghorn coral.

There was a buffet dinner at the restaurant of traditional fare. I enjoyed the raw fish dish and cheesecake as well as ice-cream and sauce. The evening wound up with traditional dancing by the natives. I was too tired to really enjoy it though. Laura and Susannah were given some leis afterwards. The dancers cover themselves with oil so that the tourists can stick money to them while they dance. I found it goes against the grain of most Europeans who regard it as a form of begging. When you realise they only get about 68 cents an hour working in the restaurant though you realise they do need help. A good union negotiator might help raise their standard of living but they seem contented - or is that just resignation.

 

15th May.

ICA Sports day. Joy, Laura and I played 9 holes of golf; 5 holes chipping up through the coconut palms and 4 coming back. Joy and I played tennis against our crew which we won comfortably then because it was so hot Joy threw the next game. We won 2 games of coconut bowls before bowing out. S and R won through to the finals..

We had the protests tonight. I got protested for keeping my riding light on when we came around the island in convoy. We protested DELPHIS OF WELLINGTON for contravening the spirit of the ICA by calling on the elephants (elements) when we sighted them and then we were becalmed while they sailed off into the sunset.

We also had the poems and stories incorporating all the boat names. Don and Sue, the crew off EPISODE won that. Their entry also had burnt edges around it along with the best story. I composed mine on the bottom of a Steinlager tray which should have won me some points.

 

16th May.

Today Susannah, Warren and I finally got to the clam beds with 10 other folk. The weather was overcast and blustery. Shaun took us again. We enjoyed it for a few minutes but after looking at a giant clam from 6 different directions the next one looks somewhat similar. At teatime we had the pirate/shipwreck night along with prize giving. We got a large plastic platter, a wicker tray, and a hat along with the blue water certificates.

The finals for the coconut bowls was held and although our girls won the first 2 ends, unfortunately they went down 3 - 2. Many people said that they wished our girls had won because they were nicer.

 

17th May.

Went to church. The Wesleyan church. The first church in the village was full so we went to the other one. All the service was in Tongan. One could almost understand the sermon because of the gestures and intonations. There was a long prayer with congregational responses which enabled the preacher to take a breath. There were two men up the front of the church, a little to the side - possibly elders. They must have been bad because a lot of the gestures during the service were aimed in their general direction. At the end of the prayer the congregation suddenly burst into song which gave me a fright.

Some of the crews were sporting hangovers and the loud singing was hard for them to take. The singing is almost shouting but their enthusiasm is infectious.

In the afternoon Susannah and Warren went for a snorkel. REALM was leaving for Nuku'alofa and was heading straight for them. Fortunately for Susannah and Warren it stopped before it reached them; unfortunately for REALM she stopped because she hit a bommie; fortunately for them I took a line from them to MATANGI who pulled them off Warren and Susannah dived down and saw that half the keel was firmly on the reef before she was pulled off. It was fun playing tugboat, rescuing the realm from the clutches of a small island. REALM backed off and were taking an alternative route which also led towards a bommie so we again redirected them to a safer passage.

I played Bennet at tennis until darkness overtook us.

We get the feeling that it's time we moved on.

 

18th May.

Motored from Atata Island at 0930 hours. We were led through the reef by Sandy, this time on IMPETUOUS. OMEGA of WELLINGTON followed him and we were next. There is quite a dogleg in the middle of the channel and SEA SALTER who followed us cut the corner and ran onto the reef. Because the channel is so narrow we were unable to turn about to assist. Instead we radioed to Atata Island and they were sending out longboats to help. DELPHIS of WELLINGTON (hereinafter called DELPHIS) who were close behind SEA SALTER were also unable to assist. Fortunately they were able to reverse off under their own power with no apparent damage.

On arrival at Nuku'alofa we all moored stern to the embankment - Mediterranean style. All the crews assisted each other as there was a crosswind which made it difficult. We still needed a dinghy to get to the embankment which was made of rocks with concrete steps in it. Most of the boats rigged up a continuous pulley system. We just commandeered a dinghy which was across our stern. Its owners are taking the adjacent yacht to Auckland to sell. They are the European Union ambassadors to Tonga.

After lunch Joy, Laura and I took a taxi to town where we had a look around. Joy had given the taxi driver her ballpoint pen. I went to the New Zealand High Commissioners office to seek out an old family friend, Ian Hill, who is New Zealand's ambassador to Tonga. His secretary said he was unavailable but when I went outside I saw his car NZ1 parked there.

We did some grocery shopping on the way back to the boat. With heaps of groceries I took one big load and left it by REALM before returning to collect the remainder. Then I walked around the small boat harbour to our boat before returning in Plain Jane to pick up the groceries on the first trip and Joy and Laura on the second. I then took the main and the genoa over to the motor catamaran HAKULA. Her skipper is a sail maker - a New Zealander gone troppo.

The girls tried to shower in the toilet block   Only one shower worked at a time so when the men's shower finally got going the girls all showered there - no nozzle, just a dribble from the pipe. Pretty primitive and filthy. The men's toilet didn't have a seat but at least there was toilet paper. Also the water seems to be turned off at irregular intervals for no apparent reason for indeterminate times. They charge us for the facilities too!!!

There was finger food and free drinks for the regatta personnel at the Billfish Bar, which is 400 metres from the boats. This is put on by the Tonga Visitors Bureau.. Around the walls are many bills from the piscatorial conquests around Tongatapu over many years - quite impressive. When I arrived there was a fax from my brother, Geoffrey.

A very full day but given the events of the next few days I should have eaten heaps more and drunk lots too.

 

19th May.

We were going to have another day looking around the town but Joy met Edward the Tongan taxi driver who had brought them into Nuku'alofa from the airport so we hired him for a trip around the island of Tongatapu.

Edward is mentioned twice in the Lonely Planet book on Tonga.

We saw the Crown Prince's residence - a huge mansion with extensive grounds and an impressive driveway leading up to the house. A rather large ostentatious abode for a confirmed bachelor - with an eye for the ladies. He went to Kings College of Auckland with David Holland, owner of RAGNAROK moored next to us in Tauranga.

Across the road from this Stately Home is the less grand abode of the Princess. It is probably equivalent to a middle class home in Auckland. However it had big stone tigers guarding the padlocked gate. About 30 metres further along the road there is an open farm gate leading back to the house.

About a mile further along the road out of town was a humble house even by Tongan standards with a cannon in the front yard.

We visited Cook's landing, the burial mounds of the ancient kings with its massive stones brought by canoe 800 miles across the ocean; Ha'amonga the Tongan version of Stonehenge was next. Here Joy bought a necklace and bracelet T$5. They take a week to make according to the vendor. We then went to Edward's house so he could collect a torch. His home is about the size of the average NZ garage. He shares it with his wife and five children. With his torch and our two we visited some caves. Bennet, Andy (SANITY) and I had a swim in the deep clear fresh water at the back of the cave. The water was cool but not cold. We then travelled to the Southern coast where we saw one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen. All along the 12 miles of coastline are blowholes. The tide was full and the swell was 1.5-2 metres high. The spray was being flung 70 feet into the air. Apparently in a really big surge the view is nowhere near as spectacular as the water goes up to the next level of rocks on the shore.

The final site was the South Western peninsular which we had sailed around the previous week. Here the sight we were shown was the bats or flying foxes in the tops of the trees. Rebecca took a photograph of 3 young schoolgirls and they ran away giggling. On the way back to town we were shown a very rare sight - supposedly unique - a coconut palm which branched near the top. Back in town we drove past the Royal Palace with the flag flying. Joy, Laura and I had seen the King and Queen arrive yesterday with police escort and sirens and lights. The King's Palace has a small retaining wall cum fence out the back made of rusting corrugated iron. Then we drove past the Prime Minister's residence just as he was arriving home.

Total cost of the day - long trip was T$100 ($20 per adult)

When we arrived back at the boat we found the other yachties in an angry mood. In order to extend our visas it was going to cost T$26 per person and take one week. We felt aggrieved because three weeks visa had cost us nothing and we had not been told of the wait or the cost when we arrived at Atata Island. This is the first year that 3 month visas hadn't been issued to the members of the ICA on arrival in Tonga. There was certainly an awareness of deceit.

 

20th May.

Bennet and Warren had spent the night in a motel prior to catching their flight home. As today is Bennet's birthday we all got up early to wish him a Happy 21st.

Joy had bought a bone carving off the taxi driver who had asked for the ball-point so we gave that to him. After farewelling all the returning crews we returned to the boat.

Late in the morning I started walking  to town but a nice taxi driver came by and it was hot so I took a taxi ride instead -$2. I saw Ian Hill at his office and he said he would send his man around in the afternoon to arrange for us to go to his place for drinks. I then went to the Immigration Department underneath the Central Police Station. Only 1 out of 6 fluorescent lights in the corridor was working. Typical.

STUPID PALANGI. Anyone but a palangi would know that the Immigration Department closes for the day at 1230 on Wednesdays. For future reference they are also closed on Friday afternoons.

Ian himself arrived at the boat and invited us to a barbeque at their place. He would send a car for us at 7pm.

All the ICA had a council of war on EMOTION late afternoon to discuss visas. Some hot heads and some cool ones. Someone suggested calling David Hunt (Atata Island) who had offered to help if we ever got in trouble. He said he would contact immigration in the morning.

Ian himself arrived in NZ1 to pick us up. His surname is Hill and he lives on the only hill on Tongatapu. He said that he has had Tongans who have lived all their lives on the island who, when they ascend his hill, have been scared of falling off. We met Barbara, his wife, and their children. Laura played with Emma, their daughter. It was an enjoyable evening with some good experiences of Ian's to enjoy. At the conclusion of the evening he delivered us back to the boat. He said he would contact the Tonga Tourist Bureau regarding our visas.

 

21st May.

Arrived at Immigration Department at 0930 hours when they opened. I was immediately sent to another counter where there was a man sitting behind a desk doing nothing. After a few minutes he gestured me to another counter where after several minutes a girl gave me 5 forms to be filled out by each crew member. I told her that all the crew were back at the boat harbour (2 miles away) and anyway some were too young to fill out forms. She reluctantly said I could fill them out. I asked if I could borrow a pen. She said 'NO'. So I went to a stationary shop where ball-points were T$1-50. I was charged only 40 cents, why I'm not sure. I filled out the forms and took them back to the girl. She charged me T$130 and when I proffered my bankcard she looked at me blankly... I went off to the bank to get the money. Upon eventual payment she gave me 5 receipts. I returned to the first counter where they took our passports and told me to come back on Monday morning. I told them I was leaving at first light tomorrow. 'When is that?' was the response. 'At dawn' I said... After a long pause I was told to return at 3pm today. At 2.55pm I was back to pick up our passports. I had asked for 6 month visas (because it costs so much to renew), I was given 5 months - but I won because we only need 2 1/2 months.

It is worthy to note that if you are changing money at the Bank of Tonga they convert it into Australian dollars then into Tongan so you pay 2 lots of conversion. However the ANZ bank converts it straight from NZ to Tongan dollars. The T$6 charge seems uniform.

This belligerent attitude continued amongst the bureaucrats throughout Tonga and does little to perpetuate the myth of 'The Friendly Isles'. Only one bureaucrat in the whole of Tonga was found to smile. The other feature which took some adjusting to was the shopkeepers' habit of glaring at you when there was change to be given. They would then slap the change down on their side of the counter. Again, in Tonga this was almost universal. The exceptions were refreshing.  Obviously public relations do not feature highly within their tourist industry.

 

22nd May.

Spent the morning trying to find the Customs Clearing Officer on Queen Salote Wharf. When departing for one of the other groups of islands which comprise the Tongan group one must clear out and clear in at the next group - more on this later. The office at the gate sent me way down the end by the containers. The only office there appeared to be the Quarantine Office and as I didn't need to clear out from them I returned to the gate thinking they had misunderstood. They again sent me way down the back so I played their little game and asked at the Quarantine Office. They directed me behind some yellow containers to a tiny office. I could have spent all day looking for it. After clearing we had to leave within the hour. I had paid my port dues $30 the day before so all that remained was to fill up with water. Had also refuelled with diesel from a truck on the embankment. Took 60 litres. We kedged out on the anchor and adjacent buoys with the help of Andy (SANITY) and motored to the other side of the boat harbour where we tied alongside a fishing boat. We made a good approach second time. T$5 for as much water as we needed. Then we motored to Pangimotu Resort, several miles off the coast. Had a swim and lunch. There is a wreck on the SE corner of the island but no-one was game to go into it because it looked very dark inside. About 1500 hours we weighed anchor and motored along the shipping channel followed by DELPHIS. We found the channel markers confusing as did everyone else: some are not working, some are in the wrong place and some are non-existent. We deliberately left mid-afternoon so as to ensure arriving at our destination in daylight hours. We were heading towards a light on an island when DELPHIS went off on a different angle. Then a ship came from Nuku'alofa and followed them. Then a reef appeared between DELPHIS and us so I contacted them on Ch 6. They said they were about to contact us because they thought we were headed for a reefy area. I checked the chart and the GPS and found I was several miles from where I thought I was so we retraced our steps and put the sail up to give us maximum speed in order to be clear of the reef by dark. I think the error came by taking a misplaced channel marker as being correct.

Once clear of the reef we took the middle course to the Ha'apais. DELPHIS took the right hand lay line and SEA SALTER followed us. There was a NE change in the weather forecast but I thought it would not come for 20 hours by which time we should be there. It is only 60 miles so should only take 12 hours. The problem would be to slow down as we get closer to arrive in daylight. Under No.4 jib alone we made very good speed into the night. The wind speed increased from 18 to 26 knots. Our boat speed was 6.2 knots and we overhauled DELPHIS. SEA SALTER slipped behind. Once abeam DELPHIS and only 200 yards from them I decided to change down to the storm jib as the wind was 27 knots from dead ahead in the direction we wanted to go. All the family except Laura was seasick and miserable. I had made a bad call with the weather and they let me know. DELPHIS had been wandering all over the ocean with her wind vane steering and when we came abeam Steve adjusted the bungee cord on the wind vane. By the time Rebecca and I had changed to the storm jib DELPHIS was 1 1/2 miles ahead. He thought it was because he had altered his bungee. Our speed dropped from 6.2 to 2.6 knots.

During the night I had catnaps on the cockpit sole. Rebecca was too worried and sick to sleep but tended the others well by keeping their buckets empty. At one stage the boat lurched and she ended up with her foot in a bucket and it wasn't empty. I was not worried, just uncomfortable. She thought she was going to die but was determined not to die a wimp.

In the middle of the night we came across a boat going around in circles. It                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                gave us an average speed of 2 knots. Although the wind had just gone over 30 knots the seas were 2 metres and quite close together. The wind had pushed us further W than we had wanted. We resorted to motor. We had hoped to pick up the light which is visible from 10 miles at night but it was not to be. Our destination was a volcano and the volcanoes I know are Mayor, White and Rangitoto. They rise hundreds of feet into the air and are visible from a  considerable distance. When we were 8 miles from Nomuka Iki, Rebecca said to me  'Dad, what happens if when we get there it isn't really there?' Oh the insecurity of trusting in GPS. It makes one look over one's shoulder in case the island is there.

With 7 miles to go I sighted it right where it should be. With a swell now up to 3 metres on the nose it took a few hours to approach the island. The light stands on a small island which looks like a battleship from the seaward side. Just off the light we caught up with DELPHIS. I went up the rigging and guided us into an anchorage at the prison island. A marvellous place for a prison. Who wants to escape from paradise? We dropped anchor at midday in sheltered waters which were a beautiful turquoise, beckoning us to snorkel. However after 21 hours at sea we all had a sleep. It was for anchorages like this that I had wanted to come to these isles. When we went for a walk to stretch our legs in the evening there was the ubiquitous rubbish littering the shore and the clearing where there were several huts. An early night was on the cards as we still weren't feeling wonderful.

 

24th May.

Went for a snorkel early in the morning. Joy was first in. DELPHIS and SEA SALTER were also in the bay. Jim, off SEA SALTER caught a crayfish. After breakfast we all went ashore to explore. There is only one track leading from the clearing so we followed it for several hundred metres. We came upon a plantation so we borrowed some coconuts, papayas (paw-paw is a rude word in Tonga) and some bananas. Stealing food is a very serious crime in Tonga so we only borrowed it. This was on a Sunday when people were in church back home.

We then walked along the beach to a wreck lying on the shore. It is also anchored to the shore. This is apparently to fulfil the law that says all wrecks must be secured. Jim told Laura he would give her 50 cents if she could catch one of the crabs running up the beach. Within 5 minutes she had caught one. She caught a few more to show how easy it was. They did look hard to catch though.

 

25th May.

Today we spent doing the things I do best - viz. swim, snorkel, eat, sleep, snorkel....The fish are so colourful. I like the electric blue ones best.

Another full day in paradise.

 

26th May.

Most of the fleet are here now. Today was a day like yesterday - really busy and full of tiring activities. There was a BBQ ashore tonight but a bit of a surge made going home a wet experience for me. It was tricky navigating through the reef by using masthead lights on the anchored boats alone as the sky was overcast.

 

 

27th May

A lazy morning on the boat. In the afternoon a few of us circumnavigated the island on foot. It probably took a couple of hours. It is amazing how many boat parts are just lying on the beaches and amongst the rocks.

Rebecca went for a sail on PERICON in the afternoon, arriving back just on sundown.

 

28th May.

After breakfast we set off for Ha'afeva Island some 20 miles to windward (NNE). We took a long board out towards the volcanic cone of Kao and her squat neighbour, Tofua. It was around these parts that the mutiny of the BOUNTY took place. DELPHIS with her steel hull went close to Hakaufisi Reef but we stayed a more cautious 3/4 mile off. Just after we tacked in 13 knots towards Ha'afeva Island Steve came on the radio to alert us to whales leaping off our port quarter. We saw one tail waving in the air for a while then one whale leapt right out of the water.

Apart from that, the only noteworthy points were that we went on the E side of Teauba Island and Fetoa Island while the rest of the fleet went to the W. and just as we passed N of Russel Reef the fishing reel went off and Rebecca got very excited but unfortunately there was nothing on it by the time I got to the rod. We anchored to the E of Ha'afeva in 60 feet on a sandy bottom. This is our deepest anchorage so far. We had covered 29 miles on a 20 mile journey. It had been an enjoyable sail but a trifle long as the breeze was just under a good sailing strength.

Most of the people who live here are in dept to the storekeeper. If they have benzene they can go fishing and earn some money: no benzene; no fish; no money. I have the feeling that if you got them out of debt within a month they would all be back in debt again.

One of the potentially most dangerous incidents of the trip happened this evening when Laura who had been playing on the jib on the deck fell through the for'ard hatch. The good Lord was watching over her because Rebecca just happened to be walking underneath the hatch and Laura fell on top of her. Laura sported a sore knee for several days but her injuries could have been far worse.

 

29th May.

Sandy (MATANGI) warned us of the islanders' nocturnal antics. The supply ship was due in tonight and there were outboards and shouting in abundance. I slept through it all. Apparently the supplies took about 3/4 hour to unload. They must have worked fast because there are 300 people on the island.

This island appears to be a Mormon stronghold and at 4am the bells (oxy-acetylene tanks) started ringing with the usual island vigour. As soon as one bell at one end of the village stopped being beaten to death another one at the other end of the village would start complaining. Sometimes 2 or more would be beaten at the same time. They obviously haven't read Proverbs 27:14. A most unholy din. The Mormons have got a lot to answer for. Also the incongruity of the splendour of their white floodlit buildings contrasted with the squalor of the native structures. I noticed the other church building was more equitable. Why do the Mormons always have the tennis court on their compound?

Rebecca's hormones are coming into play. There are 5 eligible young men and only 2 eligible girls in the fleet. The young lad in the picture is Andy Marshall(SANITY)

We all went ashore and had a walk through the village. The inhabitants include horses, goats, chooks, dogs and pigs. Someone had booked us to visit the local school but when we arrived they weren't ready so we walked across the island to where they are building a new wharf. No safety helmets or safety goggles but they all had steel-capped boots. The welder did have a welding visor though. We returned to the school where we were entertained by songs, some with actions and some without. In reply we sang our National Anthem and Old McDonald had a farm. Yvonne (SANITY) then sang them a song about a wiggly fish. Sandy (MATANGI) recited a poem and made the greetings and farewell speeches.

After lunch we all shifted our boats to the other side of the island for better protection. The anchorage was in 15-20 feet. There was a bit of a roll though.

I was expecting ELYXIR any day, so when I sighted a sail on the horizon I called them up on the VHF. However it was Sandy from Atata on IMPETUOUS. He had a boatload of beauties including Elle Macpherson on the way to a photo shoot up north. He is normally fairly taciturn but must have been starved for male company because he kept starting up the conversation again every time I signed off.

The guys practised the haka before walking back to the village to take up the challenge of a game of touch. Rebecca played too and it was comical to watch the locals' reaction to her. They didn't know where to touch her so just ran alongside waving to her. I played a little too. Not sure who won but it was fun. Laura and I walked back across the island and were given some citrus fruit by a lady and a young girl. We were both startled by a horse hidden behind some tall grass.

 

30th May.

The boys from PERICON took me out to the wreck of the EKIAKI  to snorkel. Every reef seems to have its resident wreck. It certainly cautions one in respect for the sea. This dive was very disappointing with very little in the way of fish life. We all returned to RUBEN JANE for morning tea while a squall went over. We then raised anchor along with PERICON and SANITY and motored S out of the bay in 18-20 knots which quickly became 25-30 knots SE. BARNSTORM went N through a gap in the reef. We were all bound for Uoleva Island which The Lonely Planet describes as the best beach in Tonga.

The main hazard to avoid is Lord Shoal and we motored into the SE chop. Once around that it would have been plain sailing on 045°M apart from being one crewmember short as Rebecca had gone on SANITY. We had the drifter hanked on which would not tolerate 30 knots. It was an uncomfortable 2 1/2 hours motoring with frequent squalls whipping up a 4 foot short sea on the starboard quarter. Finally the wind dropped to 20 knots so I hauled up the drifter and our speed rose to 7 knots (7.6 max). We were quickly overhauling SANITY but eventually ran out of time. PERICON with full main and No.3 up got to 11.8 knots. We anchored in the SW bay on Uoleva and found that it certainly is a beautiful bay with good anchorage on sand sheltered from N through to SE. As we arrived we heard the cheers of the Canterbury supporters (mainly SANITY) as they beat Auckland in the Super 12 final.

The Lonely Planet says that there are wild pigs ashore and Steve (DELPHIS) is keen to get some pork with his crossbow.

 

31st May.

Joy, Laura and I went for a walk along the beach then back through the undergrowth looking for the well. We found it at the back of the backpacker’s hostel. Sonny, the custodian, was giving water to the pigs when we arrived. We asked if we could have water for our boat and he said yes. He also said all the pigs on the island belonged to him so we told Steve before he went hunting.

The young folk played the first half of a game of touch on the soft sand. At half time they all jumped in the sea to cool off (26°C). They stayed in so long they forgot to play the second half.

We spent the day on the beach then went to OMEGA OF WELLINGTON for a bread party. Grant had cooked a loaf so we helped him eat it.

I interrupted John's sked tonight when I heard PACIFIC PROPHECY trying to contact him. There seemed quite a bit of tension in the lady's voice. I needed a relay from SUNSET QUEST to make myself understood and then another relay was needed to get their message to John. They were returning to Cape Brett with a broken boom vang. Also 5 of the 6 crew were seasick so I felt the interruption was warranted.

 

1st June.

Got up. Spent the day on the beach. Went to bed. Well we all had a BBQ on the beach with a beautiful sunset silhouetting the boats. Raced back to the boats when a rain shower came through. It was only short-lived.

It was about this stage that some of the skippers started to make moving-on noises because the good weather was going to come to an end sometime. For crying out loud - here we are in paradise and already people are discontented.

 

2nd June.

Spent a lazy morning on the boat catching up with writing letters and diaries. Also repaired the GPS by taking the batteries out and spraying the terminals and the buttons on the face with electronic CRC which I borrowed from Grant (OMEGA OF WELLINGTON).

In the afternoon Laura and I went to Jackson's 4th birthday party on OMEGA OF WELLINGTON. Late in the afternoon Joy, Laura and I went for a swim off the boat but didn't stay in long as it was so cold (26°C) Otherwise it was a relaxing day.

Tonight, on John's sked we heard a boat half way from New Zealand to Fiji with a very frightened crew. They had been followed all day by a (? ) fishing boat which would not respond to radio calls. Every time they turned one way the other boat would do likewise; when they turned the other way the other boat would follow. The yacht was obviously afraid of pirates. They asked for an hourly sked but after several hours cancelled it as the other vessel had turned and disappeared over the horizon. We realise there are pirates over near Indonesia but this is a little close to home. It is scary when the nearest vessel is over 70 miles away.

 

3rd June.

Motored to Pangai which is the main town in the Ha'apai group. It was about 5 miles. We had as passengers: Steve and Claire (DELPHIS), Debbie (OMEGA OF WELLINGTON), and Wendy (ADVENTURER).

We had some discussion on the way as to which marker was the correct one to go around on the entrance to Pangai Harbour. There was a cube of concrete on the end of one reef and a green light with a red piece of paint about the same size underneath it on the other side of the channel. We went around the green one keeping it to starboard. The entrance is very narrow but the harbour is relatively wide. Anchored in a squall - guess who was on the foredeck?BARNSTORM, EMOTION and SANITY had preceded us. They continued N at the end of the day.

Spent a few hours in and around the town. It is a very dirty place - more so than Nuku'alofa. There are plenty of rubbish bins but there is only minimal rubbish in them and heaps of litter within 3 metres of them. Obviously their motto is 'at it not in it'. The locals have everything they need.

We all went to the Police Station to clear in. It is just like a 10 minute form. Steve threatened to put Laura in jail and the policeman grinned. He is the first official I have seen in Tonga who looked happy. For a population of 8000 people there are at least 4 policemen, one car, one motorbike and one launch. Most people who are in prison are there for driving too fast and killing pigs that wander on the road. They are not allowed to escape but they are permitted to have visitors so almost every night there is a party in the prison.

We also went to the post office to send letters home. I then went a country mile down the road to the hospital to check it out. Spoke to the senior medical man for a few minutes. Their emergency department is a name only. In it they have oxygen. I forgot to ask whether it is bottled or piped. They have a female ward, an obstetric ward and a male ward. I also forgot to ask about paediatrics. On the way back to town I was overtaken by 2 Tongans also on foot. I have slowed down to their pace.

Just as I was hopping into PLAIN JANE to return to the mother ship a young lady from the wharf asked me to fill in a form with one line, giving boat details. The preceding page had ELYXIR on it. I thought we were getting close to their trail until I read the date - 31/10/97. According to the book, only 6 yachts have called here since October. I think that it is more likely to be sloppy bookkeeping especially seeing there didn't appear to be many entries before that.

On the return trip to Uoleva after exiting the reef we raised the drifter and in 20 knots from the starboard quarter we made good time until we rounded the reef off the mouth of the bay. We were accompanied by dolphins for part of the way. These are the first we have seen on the voyage so far. Also we heard Roy (BARNSTORM) on the VHF advising Tony (SANITY) how to trim his sails so for the next few days we all asked one another how we should trim our sails. It is a little surprising to hear someone telling another boat how to sail. It is made more poignant when you realise that BARNSTORM had hit a bommie whilst leaving the anchorage this morning.

Steve and Claire came for tea and we spent a pleasant evening.

 

4th June.

The outboard hasn't been working since Pangai so Laura and I rowed ashore, burnt the rubbish and repaired the outboard. I think it was the float in the carburettor sticking. I took the cover off it, hit the barrel hard, shook the whole motor and put it back together losing 2 spring washers in the sand in the process.

After lunch Rebecca had a sleep, Laura came and played on the sand while Joy, Susannah and I went snorkelling with Murray and Donna (EPISODE) and Steve and Claire. Saw some amazingly coloured fish but the coral was disappointing. Joy found a big anchor in the sand but it was too big for our use so we just photographed it.

I cooked tea (pancakes). After tea Rebecca, Susannah and I went over to DELPHIS and saw a promotional video of Steve's car racing career as well as 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'. It's bizarre to have modcons like videos in a setting like this.

 

5th June.

Rebecca and I went to the backpackers resort to do the washing. It involved drawing water from the well, then washing and rinsing the clothes in tubs. Flies around the feet made it uncomfortable. George, a Czech refugee domiciled in Canada, came for a long chat. He was a retired engineer. If he can't get a ride with Sonny I offered him a ride to Pangai with us tomorrow. Mid-afternoon Joy and I went for a walk along the beach. We startled some large calves. I went back and picked up the girls and we all went snorkelling. All went well until a local boat came along and dropped some of the crew from ORKA (another boat anchored in the bay) on the beach.  Laura thought it was a shark so she swam quickly towards shore. We were all pretty cold by this time so we headed back to the boat where we had a quiet evening.

EPISODE and DELPHIS left this morning for Foa Island. On the way Donna (EPISODE) asked Kevan (ADVENTURER) if it was all right if they pulled in their main.

 

6th June.

The wind got up in the night and this morning HORNPIPE, an American boat which had summered over in Tauranga Bridge Marina came into the bay. Laura and I went ashore to burn the rubbish then we went to see them. They had had 35 knots gusting 38 overnight.

George must have got a ride because he wasn't on the beach at 1000 hours when we departed. In blustery conditions we motored to Pangai taking 2 hours to make the 5 mile trip. No dolphins appeared like they had on the previous trip.

Laura and I went into town to see if Ian and Barbara Hill were there but apparently they were at Foa Island which is connected to the northern part of the island that Pangai is on by a narrow sandy isthmus. They were at the Sandy Bay Resort.

We did look up Ofa Fakahau, chief fisheries inspector for the Ha'apais. His name had been given to us by Bob Ealam (TAISIA). I have Bob's trysail. Bob and Ngaire, his wife had met him in the Vava'u’s last October. Ofa is an adopted son of Ian and Edna Graham (NZ). He chatted to us for an hour or so while his wife went and bought us all a bottle of coke each. He is looking for a second hand SSB. I must contact John Billinghurst about it when we reach the Vava'u's. We then went to visit the Reverend Shirley Baker's grave. He was an early missionary and political figure in Tonga including being their first Prime Minister. I took a photo of his statue which probably pleased him very much. In preparation for this trip I had done some extensive reading but only recently did I realise that he was a male.

When we eventually returned to the boat Rebecca and I went back to the wharf in choppy seas to get rid of some rubbish and to get some water from the unlocked tank on the wharf. Joy was baking her second lot of bread in 2 days. We found an Australian yachtie on the wharf and chatted for a while. He is awaiting boat parts from New Zealand. Earlier, on the way in to shore Laura and I had spoken to an American skipper and his wife. He had seen RUBEN JANE in Auckland. He said we could stay inside the breakwater but as our anchor was down firmly and holding and we are only staying overnight we stayed put. Besides which even where we were anchored we could smell the town and it was not very pleasant.

During the evening sked I was talking to DELPHIS on the VHF who are at Foa Island when OMEGA came on the SSB to say that they had arrived in the Vava’u’s after a terrible trip with confused seas and winds to 35 knots. Apparently everyone else so far has had a rough trip from the Ha'apais to the Vava’u’s. We had a very uncomfortable night with the wind blowing strongly and the warp creaking on the bollard. During the evening I played with the GPS putting in waypoints. At about this stage Joy started getting worried about the next stage of our trip after hearing of others experiences.

 

7th June.

Motored from Pangai to Foa Island in very gusty conditions. Again the wind was on the nose most of the way 18-28 knots. It is quite a long trek out of Pangai Harbour heading N and navigation was not helped by one of the channel markers being AWOL!  I was up the mast and we had deep water all through the channel which was fairly obvious. Off the causeway between Lifuka Island and Foa Island the depth sounder started giving bizarre readings. We eventually concluded that it was caused by water turbulence as our charted position gave us deep water. Coming in the entrance by the village of Faleloa the rain came in again. Fortunately I saw it coming so I had my rain gear on but with wind and driving rain in the face it certainly made it difficult to see bommies with the Polaroid’s on. We anchored in a very sandy area but when we came to rest we had the anchor of DELPHIS under our keel. Later Murray (EPISODE) dived and checked all the anchors (he had dragged last night). Ours was firmly embedded but he made it more so. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on board.

 

8th June.

Spent another lazy morning on the boat then collected everyone's rubbish and went ashore to burn it. DELPHIS and EPISODE are here too. Then Joy, Susannah and I went for a snorkel. I spied a blue, black and white fish. Rebecca brought me the camera so I could photograph it. Very difficult because it was very flat and whenever I approached it would turn to face me and instead of brilliant colours I would get a thin blue strip. Hope a good shot eventuates. Also photographed 3 mushroom shaped pieces of coral-blue, yellow and pink, in the same shot.

Andy called from BARNSTORM (in Vava'u's) on the evening sked. They were visiting from SANITY.

 

9th June.

Joy and I walked around the N tip of Foa Island to check on the swell. The sea and the wind appear to be decreasing. There is still a wind warning out for all of Tonga. We all went aboard EPISODE for morning tea with Murray and Donna.

I snorkelled over several bommies this afternoon but found them fairly boring; even one I had previously investigated but it didn't have the exciting colours of coral or the abundance of fish life it had 2 days ago. The sky has been overcast and the weather is not conducive to doing much outdoors.

Some natives in a boat stopped by on their way to Ha'ano Island and gave us some mangoes and limes. We had been laughing at the way they go to town with the pigs in a cage on their boats. We took a photo of them before they came to us. We were a little embarrassed at their kindness and we felt a little guilty about our earlier mirth.

 

10th June.

Well its 10am NZ time (11am Tonga). The sea temperature is 26°C and my fingers are all wrinkled from being so long in the water. No, that's not sea water; it's dishwater. I have just done a ginormous load of dishes and cleaned the stove. Joy baked some more bread yesterday using a new recipe she got from Donna. Rebecca cooked tea so there were a lot of dishes from that. Then they had the gall to say I hadn't cleaned them properly. I only dirtied a few.

Motored off our anchorage heading for Ha'ano Island just a bull's roar N.

Joy did a good job on the helm as we had only limited turning room with DELPHIS, EPISODE, a bommie and a reef as well as an awkward wind to contend with. Motoring S parallel with the shore inside the reef was no problem but going out through the marked channel was difficult with the glare of the sun on the water. I was up in the rigging. The girls gave Joy a scare when they said we were heading for rocks close to the surface in the channel. The clarity of the water made 50 feet look very shallow - AWESOME!

Our GPS sailplane is up and running so after the first waypoint we raised the main to test the conditions for the night. In 18 knots NE with a sharp chop we made 4 knots towards Ha'ano Island. The purpose of going to Ha'ano is to give us an anchorage we can leave in the dark as we intend leaving for the Vava’u’s tonight and trying to get out through the reef passage at Foa in the dark would be folly.

Dropped the main and motored in to our anchorage off the mushroom rock. The cruising guide is particularly unhelpful at this anchorage. The narrow channel in by the mushroom rock is particularly narrow; the off-lying rocks to the S don't appear to exist; There is a reef on the N side which is poorly charted.

Our final approach was done with me up in the rigging again. I see a pattern forming here. When I called for volunteers nobody else seemed keen to go aloft. In the sunlight all the salient features were readily identified. We anchored after the water shallowed to 26 feet, then went to 36 feet and we came to rest in 30 feet. However our chain snagged a bommie. This made the anchorage secure but as we were leaving in darkness I did not relish the prospect of going down for a nocturnal sortie to free it. Our second attempt was more successful.

Joy and I took PLAIN JANE ashore and snorkelled off the beach. It was very shallow for some distance offshore. I was concerned that I would graze my chest. Don’t know how Joy managed. The snorkelling was the best I'd seen with some big drop-offs. I was impressed by some fish which could swim along and then hang motionless. By the time we got cold the tide had come in a few inches so it was easier getting back to the beach.

Contacted John Goater to advise him of our plans. Had an early night. Slept soundly for 3 hours although apparently the chain was rubbing over coral on the seabed.

When I awoke at 2230 hours the full moon was coming up behind the palm trees. It made a beautiful sight and we should have taken a photo of it. It's a long way to go back for another shot. We could see the bottom clearly in the moonlight at 35-40 feet. Kept a good lookout as we motored out on a compass course of 200°M. Once we were in deep water it was quite eerie almost expecting to see some bommies although the chart said there were no dangers. Joy says that if we have another rough trip she's flying home, so the pressure is on to make a good call. EPISODE and DELPHIS are going to follow us tomorrow. After 5 minutes we were clear of the reef but I motored for another 10 minutes on the same course for safety's sake. Raised the sails and turned on to our next waypoint off the N tip of Ha'ano Island. When we were abeam the light I called  DELPHIS as arranged to inform them of the sea conditions. There was a metre NE swell and the breeze was 14-18 knots also NE. We passed our waypoint and turned to 358°C for our next waypoint over 50 miles away just S of the Vava’u’s. The plan was for Rebecca to take the helm for a couple of hours. However we came out from behind the protection of the reef which extends 1/2 mile N of the island. The wind increased to 22 knots and the swell got up to a full 2 metres with a short distance between peaks. For the next 1/2 hour it was uncomfortable. I had one reef in the main and the No.4 up. I shook the reef out of the main because the boom was banging on the bimini. By this time Rebecca had gone below and Susannah was in the cockpit. We had the auto helm on. Joy asked to go back but it was too dangerous to navigate around the reefs in the dark so we continued.

 

11th June.

The wind decreased and stayed 14-20 knots for the remainder of the trip. Also the swell, which was just forward of the beam, became more regular and comfortable. After several hours Joy went below to sleep and I stayed in the cockpit enjoying the sailing. The full moon lent a sparkle to the sea. It looked good to see the swells marching off in the moonlight. I sang. The rest of the family told me later that they had heard me. All my family say that I'm so good at singing that I should be on TV - then they could turn me off. About 0400 hours I called Rebecca on watch and went below for a sleep after giving instructions to call me in an hour or earlier if necessary. When I emerged 1 1/2 hours later Joy was at the helm and Rebecca was dozing below. Our speed was constantly over 6 knots. Susannah joined me as Joy retired and we watched the sunrise which was only moderately spectacular. An hour later Susannah said she thought she could see land. I deliberately had not looked so that she would be the first to see it and when I did look it was plain on the horizon. She said it reminded her of McDonalds because the twin peaks looked like the Golden Arches. The  waypoint was passed at 0900 hours. The next one was at the N end of the Pulepulekai Passage but as we approached it an island got in the way. We have cross-referenced our position and the island is S of its charted position. We altered course towards our next waypoint and were then hailed by ADVENTURER who led us to our destination at Anchorage 8. In the Vava’u’s they have a lovely system of identifying most of the anchorages - by numbering them. I think this is to avoid any confusion with local names by the charter boat fleets. The voyage had taken a shade over 11 hours (I had predicted 10). We had also chosen the best weather window of the ICA boats - the boats from Foa Island got hammered the next day with 35-40 knot winds. The purpose of leaving during the night is to ensure ease of landfall in a strange place during daylight hours. We arrived before midday. Rebecca immediately swam over to SANITY. Tony and Yvonne invited Susannah and Laura to accompany them to an adjacent island where a lot of the fleet were having a lesson on sextant use given by Grant (OMEGA). Joy and I had some time to ourselves as we hadn't had much sleep during the night. When the children came back I was fast asleep. They said a film crew had arrived with some models to have a photo session. One of the models was topless and apparently flaunted herself near the sextant class. So much for searching for heavenly bodies. Late in the afternoon ROYAL EAGLE, a private cruise ship arrived in the anchorage for the night. It looked magnificent all lit up. I hear that people are often judged by the company they keep. Another early night disturbed only by Rebecca arriving home at 2300 hours.

 

12th June.

A lazy morning awaiting the arrival of DELPHIS and EPISODE from Foa Island. They arrived just before we departed for Neiafu. They had been hammered by the weather with winds of 35-40 knots. They were all tired and in need of a rest.

We motored to Neiafu. On the way I contacted Mark at Sunsail Charters (Ch 71) to ask for some water and a mooring. He said to get water we would have to arrive by 1300 hours. We got there with 5 minutes to spare. Water cost $5 and an overnight mooring cost $5. The system seems to be that both Sunsail and The Moorings moorings are free until 1600 hours when one must arrange for an overnight tenure, or anchor in the harbour which is very deep. The mooring we were directed to was for a catamaran so it had 2 mooring lines. ROYAL EAGLE came and anchored beside us. We took a photo of her flanked by 2 square riggers. The one by her stern was the SOREN LARSEN. The other is an American flagged vessel.

We hastened in to town where I changed some money at the ANZ bank. I bought some groceries then we went to the Bounty Bar for a hamburger $5 and coke. Laura had an ice cream and drink. Amesia (the office girl from Atata Island) is now managing it. We also met 2 girls from ROYAL EAGLE. They told us they had out about 500 feet of chain so to beware in case they swung and hit us during the night. I said it would be no problem as I would sue the owner for everything he had as I was on a mooring so I had the law on my side.

I told Amesia that I had been into 5 shops looking for a machete and had even described it in words and actions. I had been surprised that no-one had any. She said I should ask for a hele (long knife). We then wandered back to Ana's Cafe. This place has jetties around it and is the local watering hole for the cruising community. Joy and Laura stayed here while I took Susannah back to the yacht along with the groceries. While we were there the weekly Friday night fun yacht race got under way just along from us. PERICON just missed us. They later touched BARNSTORM knocking off their $450 barbeque. BARNSTORM also ripped their kevlar mainsail so it was a fairly expensive time. It reinforced my reluctance to race. The winner gets a $20 prize with 2-3 other prizes being drawn from a hat. PERICON with Rebecca on board, won the race which is up and down the harbour. By the time I returned to Ana's, Gordon (SEASALTER) was getting ready to blow the finish hooter. This is a trumpet-like contraption. He has less breath than anyone else in the fleet. He can only walk 100 metres at a stretch. We had a drink then went back to the boat. Andy (SANITY) came over and we all chatted for several hours.

 

13th June.

True to the Lonely Planet book, Neiafu is a noisy place. Until 2am there was a noise from ROYAL EAGLE, Ana's cafe and a 1000 voice choir who are practising for the king's birthday (July 4th, in Tongatapu). Dogs added accompaniment. When the singing stopped the roosters started. There is a market from midnight till 1100 hours in Neiafu on Saturdays. Apparently one needs to be early for bargains so at daybreak we all went ashore to check out the markets. We bought some fruit and vegetables. Greens are scarce in Tonga. I then asked at several shops for a hele. The second shop was the supermarket where I asked the same girl I had asked yesterday. 'Over there' she pointed to a bin 20 feet from her. There were half a dozen machetes. Five had $10.50 on them and 1 had $11. Won't tell you which one I bought. We also purchased $125 worth of groceries. The store owner offered us a lift back to Ana's with the groceries. We now feel like genuine Tongans because we all sat on the back of the ute. Susannah, Rebecca and I took the groceries out to the mother ship. Then we all had showers. Sailed off the mooring under the drifter and returned to Anchorage No 8 making good time with just the drifter up - 6.2 knots in 22 knots of breeze. Motored the last half mile directly upwind. Joy and I were invited for drinks at SANITY where we were joined by the crews from EMOTION and BARNSTORM. When we returned Steve and Claire were on board so we had some more fun. Very calm night.

 

14th June.

A quiet morning but after lunch we took the crews of EMOTION, BARNSTORM, DELPHIS and SANITY to Swallows Cave. Absolutely awesome colours - I hope the photos turn out. At the entrance to the cave the cliff disappears straight down for 200 feet. Inside the cave the bottom is visible in 60-70 feet. I dived down 30 or so feet and the bottom appeared just as far away as when I was on the surface. From the surface the bottom looked close enough to touch. We clambered up a narrow chute to an overhead entrance. The view from there was fantastic with the turquoise water and yellow, cream and white coloured limestone walls. Probably the best sight since the blowholes on Tongatapu. There have been many good sights including the bay in Nomuka Iki, and the beach at Uoleva but this is wonderful. At the entrance there is a rock which when struck by an oar sounds like a drum but we didn't know that so didn't hit it. When we returned to Anchorage 8 the SOREN LARSEN was anchored there so we went aboard and were given a guided tour by the skipper. There was a barbeque tea on EMOTION and everyone attended except Joy, who isn't feeling well.

 

 

 

15th June.

Ordered some meat from the Bounty Bar over the local morning sked. It's due from Nuku'alofa on Wednesday (when is Wednesday?). Motored over to Anchorage 11 towing a lure without success. The PERICON boys went out to the open sea and hooked a mahi-mahi, a marlin and landed a yellow fin tuna. The mahi-mahi was lost at the boat and the marlin was lost 10 metres from the boat after an hour and a half fight. Apparently it was BIG.

The rest of the family went to see an abandoned Spanish restaurant. It was abandoned 2 years ago. The tables are still set. Apparently there was a dispute over the rent rise.

I tried to install the fan but found the wire too short. Another still night with a starry sky.

 

 

16th June.

Susannah's birthday. She's a teenager now. Birthday greetings came on the morning sked from Claire on DELPHIS. There is a letter for us at Sunsail which they are going to collect. Birthday greetings also from BARNSTORM; a card from SANITY and one from Andy. PERICON also radioed birthday greetings then later fronted up with some freshly baked scones. I spent most of the day installing the fan with some wire from EMOTION. I misunderstood and used more wire than I should have. Sorry, Brian. The fan works which has won me some Brownie points from Joy. At night we went to Ana's Beach for the Tongan feast - $20 per person. No pork but some New Zealand lamb. Very traditional! The food was very tasty and very plentiful. I started at one end and the family, and Andy, started at the other end. I won! Their teamwork let them down. They didn't eat all at their end. Still, I did my best. The Tongan dancing that followed was tolerable. I still find that sticking paper money to oiled bodies is akin to participating in and encouraging begging. The cutest children are pushed to the front and once money is placed on them they are quickly whisked out the back, the money removed and the trap reset. The people in Vava'u are much happier than those in the rest of Tonga. This is definitely the Friendly Isles. This is unusual as it is also a more highly developed tourist destination. On the way back to Anchorage 11 in PLAIN JANE we saw some phosphorescence. The anchorage is very well protected.

The snorkelling at Anchorage 11 is not worth seeing. The noteworthy feature was a yellow fish with black stripes which has taken up residence under our stern. When I go swimming it stays about 2 metres away but when Joy gets in it swims along quite happily about 6 inches from her chest. The sexual discrimination in Tonga exists amongst the fish. The water is only 26°C. Back home only the bath water gets this warm but up here it raises goose bumps sometimes.

 

 

 

17th June.

Laura took me to  the Tapana Island Restaurant and Resort where the family had been 2 days ago. Apparently the father had died and the son had lost interest in it. There are several stories floating around and all avenues are being extended. The whole setup is quite remarkable really, like a time warp with dishes still in the draining rack and magazines waiting to be read. We had a swim with Laura swimming to ADVENTURER and then snorkelling back.

We motor sailed to Anchorage 16. On the way we found our GPS is malfunctioning again. It is about 6 miles so we followed SANITY which made it easier dodging reefs. Again no success with the trolling line. As we turned the last corner into the anchorage we saw the shape of a (rock) dragon silhouetted on an islet. We sailed past Glen and Maryanne on HORNPIPE. They had only arrived there a short time beforehand. Took 2 attempts at anchoring. The anchor wouldn't hold with the first one and with the second we were a little closer to the rocks than I feel really comfortable with but we are holding really well. We have tried reversing on the anchor as we normally do but this time we have done it three times and the anchor is not budging. I dived on the anchor but the visibility is very poor here - the worst we've seen since Pangai. There is a slight roll coming into the bay.

I went ashore (very shallow from the end of the jetty) to buy some bread. It was a 10 minute walk up through the trees to the bakery and restaurant. Had a chat to the bakery owner before Kevan and Wendy arrived followed 5 minutes later by Tony and Yvonne. The view through the trees (with large spiders in their webs) out over the water was worth the walk. An interesting phenomenon is watching the swells roll in every 20 seconds or so and swells (technically seas) every 3-4 seconds coming from the island beneath us. There was only a little wind so there must be some unseen current generating them. In another month the whales will be frolicking out there close to land. I ordered some bread, to be picked up in the morning.

 

18th June.

Joy, Rebecca and Susannah went ashore for the bread and while they were gone Glen from HORNPIPE came on board. We spent a pleasant hour before he departed. We then weighed anchor and motored for an hour directly upwind to Port Maurelle, the freezer switch had not been on so we had to run the engine for another hour to freeze the produce.

The evening was spent in enjoyable discourse with Steve and Claire.

 

19th June.

Went snorkelling by myself. The visibility was good and the fish life interesting but the water is still only 26°C. Weighed anchor with Rebecca at the helm and raised the drifter. Passed by an American flagged vessel COEUR DE LION going our way under power just off Swallows Cave. It was a tight reach in gusty conditions all the way up the channel. We dropped the drifter off Port of Refuge. I tried to arrange a mooring but there were none available so we anchored on the shelf just under the Princess' Palace. Even here there are the ubiquitous chooks and pigs. We can also hear either doves or pigeons. The anchorage doesn't feel very secure but nobody drifts very far. The chain rattles on the coral overnight. Steve called on ADVENTURER and forgot to tie his dinghy on  but 1/2 hour later it was still floating by the boat. Even dinghies get lazy in paradise. The shelf slopes so dramatically that although the depth sounder shows 20 feet one day later the rudder just touched a small bommie (probably 2 feet down). The tidal range is only 4 feet.

I ambled into town to get some money and post some letters but when I was almost there I realised that I didn't have my passport. Rather than row back I walked along to the Paradise Hotel and down through their grounds to Beluga Diving where I whistled to RUBEN JANE and Rebecca delivered my passport. I then walked back into town where I withdrew some money from the ANZ bank and posted the letters. The post boxes are in the wall of the post office but they have a board over most of the slot - unpainted, of course. It's unclear whether they are for use or are obsolete and the new ones are around a corner (or two),or there may be no others. It is an insecure feeling posting letters which you think may lie behind a cabinet for years . There are no phone books in Tonga. Why should anyone want a phone book? You know your friends' number, don’t you!!?

I sought directions to the police station for  Immigration and was directed to a blue building. It was the fire station. Next door, connected over the fire engine was the police station; around the back was the Immigration office. The man looked at my passport and then said it was unnecessary to see him until departure time.

I walked the long way back to the main street and on the way was passed by a Tongan schoolboy who beat me to the main street by one whole block. I now walk twice as slowly as a Tongan. Holiday fever has really struck. I inspected several shops including a video shop - little sex, mostly comedy and violence. (Does that constitute black humour?) before arriving back at Ana's Cafe.

Malcolm and Linda (SUNSET QUEST) were looking for crew for the Friday night race. Kevan and Wendy, Steve and Claire and I made up the crew. Just before boarding I helped an American yacht free a cubic metre of bommie from his anchor. The race (15 boats) was the 1st anniversary of the Friday night races so everyone won a prize. We came in about 9th. Kevan and Malcolm went to anchor after the race and I went in our dinghy to pick them up. Earlier Joy had rowed ashore towing 4 other dinghies. However I spent so much time delivering other people ashore that I lost their boat. With the sun setting it really was a SUNSET QUEST. We finally made it back to Ana's in time for a drink before retiring to RUBEN JANE for the night. An adjacent night club kept up the music until well after midnight.

 

20th June.

Joy, Laura and I walked into town for a small number of groceries. At the supermarket the checkout operator is Lolly Sio's cousin. Lolly was Tiffany (COPOUT)'s boyfriend in Tauranga for a while. In the afternoon Laura and I went to ADVENTURER to listen to the rugby test. Then we: Joy, Susannah, Laura and I went to see the practice for the Vava'u contingent who are going to Nuku'alofa for the king's 80th birthday on July 4th. There were 3-400 singers and dancers. The Crown Princess was there watching. Several people were prevented from walking in front of her viewing stand as it was seen to be impolite. Afterwards she got into her car and was driven across the road to her palace. We walked home - well down to the Beluga Diving jetty behind the Paradise Hotel and motored back to the boat. The park where the show was held has a tree capable of sheltering 500 people beneath its branches but we did not see it.

 

21st June.

Joy, Laura and I went to church in Neiafu. Yvonne came with us. The Princess and her husband were there too. The format was more formal than at Atata Island. They had a 10 piece brass band and the singing was better - more tuneful, not as much shouting. A dog came in out of the hot sun and lay down in front of me.

In the afternoon Rebecca, Susannah and Laura went for a swim at the Paradise Hotel, Joy had a sleep and I caught up with correspondence. At night we all joined the SANITY crew on board EMOTION for a barbeque which went until very late but was a lot of fun.

 

22nd June.

Awoken by singing coming from the palace. The rain set in about the same time. It was torrential. Joy went with Rebecca to the Italian clinic (local GP). Yvonne called and offered to look after Susannah and Laura while Tony, Brian and I went to fill the gas bottles. When we arrived at EMOTION we found that their dinghy had disappeared overnight. We went ashore to Sunsail and took a taxi to the gas filling station and back. Then Tony and I went up-harbour looking for Brian's boat. We were nearing the top of the harbour when we saw Mark (Sunsail Charters) towing it back. We went ashore to the Bounty Bar to pick up our meat ordered last Monday, then back to the boat. Collected 4 gallons of water off our roof this morning. Could have collected a lot more but we weren't here. Before I left earlier this morning I had blocked the cockpit drains so we could have a wash as the water was warm. This is the first rain they have had in 3 months. All the water around us is dirty from the land runoff. Had a quiet evening at home.

 

23rd June.

Heard on the morning sked that we had mail so Susannah and Laura went ashore for that. There was a letter for Susannah and one from Joy's mum. We took the rubbish and the laundry ashore then went for a walk to find the ice cream factory. It was on the shore of the Old Harbour. We took a circuitous route but it was interesting to see the backstreets of Neiafu. Our footwear got very muddy and it was hard to clean afterwards. We purchased 4 litres of ice cream plus a small one each. Took a shorter route home. We stopped at SANITY for morning tea and when we departed we left the ice cream in their freezer. I returned to shore to pick up our laundry. Met the couple off WINDFLOWER. Her name is Chelsea but I can't remember his. I was able to help them with information about Neiafu and the Vava'u’s. I picked up EPISODE's  mail too.

Just as I was raising the anchor Joy got in a conversation with Michelle on ROMANA which had to be cut short as we were on a lee shore. Then we motored to Port Maurelle where Joy and I had a snorkel but the water visibility was not good, probably as a result of the rain last night. We joined with ADVENTURER, MAKANI, SANITY, EPISODE, EMOTION and EVERGREEN (Phil and Lorna) for a barbeque ashore. After dark I went back for the lantern so we could see what we were eating. A time of benevolence and fellowship.

A rolly night followed with the wind holding all the boats across the bay and the swell coming directly in.

The children reminded me that the island just outside the bay looks like the top of a McDonald’s bun and the island on the horizon looks like a hash brown. Sometimes I despair! Here they are 5 weeks away from New Zealand and they are still craving McDonalds.

 

24th June.

Borrowed a can of electronic CRC cleaner from Marty (MAKANI) then picked up Brian (EMOTION) so he could take some photos of us and RUBEN JANE so we could give one to John Goater. I then borrowed a siphon off ADVENTURER. Kevan dropped a hose in the water so after they left I retrieved it. Gave it back to him several days later. I siphoned the diesel into the tanks then tried to fix the GPS. Still no success. I will request help over the sked tomorrow morning.

A frustrating day with everybody interfering with any plans that are made. The children enjoyed my story last night about the whales surrounding the plankton then plundering them with cries of 'krill, krill, krill!'

Had another snorkel with Joy around the edge of the bay and saw 4-5 different fish to what we had previously seen including 2 baby-pink starfish 30 cm across. At one stage Joy was trying to show me a blue-and-yellow fish on one side of a bommie and I was trying to show her a blue-and-yellow fish on the other side. Both fish were different. Late in the afternoon we motored around to Anchorage 8 because it gives a better radio reception for the morning.

 

25th June.

I put a plea out on the morning sked for the location of an electronics expert. I was told that the local man at Vava'u Electronics was available Ch 13 after 1000 hours. MAKANI had had dealings with him and had found his work substandard so I didn't contact him. SANITY contacted us about a snorkelling expedition so we motored back to Port Maurelle (about 1/2 mile) where we boarded BARNSTORM and motored out through a 40 metre wide pass between 2 islands on the way to the Coral Gardens. When we rounded the final corner there was quite a swell hitting the reef so initially we were reluctant to dive but Phil (EVERGREEN) brought back a report of awesome water clarity. I went in and found the report true. I could see people 70 metres away. The coral was disappointing as was the fish life but being able to see the bottom in 285 feet was memorable. Apparently the coral bed had been devastated in 1990 during cyclone Kina and hasn't recovered yet. The water felt considerably warmer than the last few days. There was a considerable drop-off but there was a shelf before it plunged again into the depths.

We did a quick head count before leaving but forgot Brian and Eileen (EMOTION). As we were leaving someone spotted them swimming towards the boat so we circled and picked them up.

We retraced our steps to Mariners Cave. When we were almost abreast the cave we came upon a family of dolphins so Rebecca and 3 others jumped in but the dolphins didn't stay around to play. We spied what appeared to be a 4 foot shark as its fin made a straight path through the water. After a few anxious moments for the swimmers in the water it was identified as a baby dolphin. They were left with 150 metres to swim to the cave; the rest of us had 30 metres. I was first into the cave. It had been a big psychological barrier to many people but we had been told that if you can swim under the keel on your boat you would have no trouble getting in to Mariners Cave. The entrance is about 1 metre down and about 3 metres in. When a couple of others had entered I swam out again to show those remaining that we had successfully negotiated the entrance. I then went back in again and photographed people as they entered. Susannah went really deep as she entered. As I waited for Joy I had the camera pointed at 6-8 feet. She finally slithered into sight at about 1 foot shallow. Everyone agreed that the hardest entrance was the first one - the psychological barrier. Inside it was a wonderful experience. Joy's fluorescent coral-pink togs glowed in the subdued light as did the masks and snorkels. Every 20-30 seconds as the water level changed in the cave, due to the swell, a mist would form. Our ears were also affected. From our sitting position at the rear of the cave it became difficult to see the entrance 14 metres away; then it would become crystal clear over 2-3 seconds. It was quite an inspiring experience. The water swirled at our left but otherwise the water rose and fell about 2 feet. It was cooler in the cave but not cold. After about 20 minutes or so and a few photographs I swam out and photographed people as they swam out. Again Joy was one of those who came out near the surface. Several others benefited from the confidence boost of the experience too.

We then motored over to Swallows Cave. Inside, the surface of the water was dirty with leaves and dust and it was too early in the afternoon for the direct sunlight to penetrate. I didn't stay in for long as finally the cold was starting to tell. Even in the tropics one gets goose bumps from the water only being 26°C. At the entrance to the cave I tried to climb onto a ledge but got caught in the surge and cut my right ankle on the coral. Back on our boat I applied janola to the cut and it is healing nicely. Once more in Port Maurelle I rowed over to KAPAIORA and asked for assistance from Jan (pronounced yarn) to fix my GPS. His expertise is in the electronic field. He generously came and had a look at it but without a circuit diagram and an oscilloscope he was unable to identify the problem area. He didn't charge either which was extremely kind as he spent most of an hour working on it.

There was a barbeque ashore tonight but we didn't attend. Instead we made thick shakes out of the melted ice cream we finally retrieved from SANITY's safe keeping. At bedtime I amused the girls by playing tunes on my teeth with my toothbrush. The end of one of the most fulfilling days of the trip so far.

 

26th June.

Went ashore to burn the rubbish. Last night there were 15 boats in Port Maurelle. We motor sailed with the drifter up to Anchorage 41 (Mounu) a delightful tropical island which had beautiful white sand and turquoise water. Picked up a mooring which took 2 attempts as I picked up the wrong buoy on the first attempt. I should have picked up the old oil can with the loop on the top instead of the buoy. The moorings are new. The lady on the island told us they are made from 2 concrete blocks chained together; I think she meant 2 blocks of concrete. The mooring cost us $2 because we didn't eat at the restaurant. Had lunch on SANITY then went ashore. Took some photos from the shore but forgot to take one of the island from the boat. Ashore there is the stern of SCARAMOUCHE, a yacht wrecked on an adjacent island 3 years ago. After a walk around the island we sailed off the mooring and headed for Anchorage 10. The breeze was 15-18 knots ESE so off the island of Katafanga we had to put in a large tack towards Euakafa. DELPHIS was behind us and with all her sails up she still couldn't catch us. In fact we were gaining on SANITY who had all her jib unfurled and her motor going too. We only had our drifter up but when we eased sail through the gap between Kapa and Taunga we made speeds of 6.7 knots with consistent 6.1 knots. Although we were trolling a line still no fish came to visit. Just as we doused the sail we passed over a large patch of jellyfish. Let go the anchor then we snorkelled over it. The water clarity was remarkable. However the anchor was just lying on the bottom. Susannah and I dived on it several times trying to dig it in but the coral was only several inches under the sand so we re-anchored. Even then only 1 fluke was buried. Also discovered that our depth sounder is reading 16 feet deeper than reality.

When John calls a boat on the sked he calls the boat name first then the radio operators' name. After calling RECLUSE for 3 nights then identifying the voice as Bruce, tonight we found that Bruce is not really Bruce but Brian!!!..

I made pancakes for tea using our last egg. Everyone complained when I put the milk powder away without tying the top of the bag. Another early night.

 

 

 

27th June.

A very lazy morning. I dismantled the head again to check the flap valve because it has been slowly filling. Joy, Rebecca, Susannah and Laura had a lot of laughs with Andy in the cockpit. Headed in convoy for Anchorage 30 (Kenutu - the easternmost bar in the world). DELPHIS was initially in  lead but they don't like leading so BARNSTORM took over followed by SANITY, EMOTION, DELPHIS and us. Rebecca and Laura went on SANITY. We were motoring into a SE wind and at times were down to 2.8 knots. There are a couple of doglegs in the course and once we were through the first one we hoisted the drifter and our speed increased to 6 knots. However we were not quite able to point high enough to clear the reef off the S tip of Ofu Island so we lowered the sail and resorted to motor. I was up in the rigging and it was easy to see the route. DELPHIS had raised their jib too but instead of lowering it they put in a big tack towards the S. Just as we were arriving at Kenutu MATANGI sneaked past. Three other boats followed soon afterwards so BARNSTORM would have been happy. The convoy started with 5 boats and ended with 9. We arrived just in time to join SANITY for the broadcast of the rugby test. I cooked sweet and sour chicken for tea -delicious. My ankle is swollen from where I got the coral cut so I have commenced Augmentin tablets. Another early night although Joy was awake a lot during the night.

 

28th June.

Another lazy morning in paradise. I did the dishes then Laura and I motored around the anchorage photographing all the ICA boats. We purported to be representing the CIA (not the ICA). We then joined Steve (DELPHIS), Ethan (6) and Jackson (4) from OMEGA in a walk across the island of Kenutu. On the E side of the island it is exposed to the ocean swells and the surf  beats against the cliffs. The swell was only about 1 1/2 metres but the noise during the night had occasionally been explosive. Unfortunately while we were there Ethan fell over on the sharp volcanic rock and cut his knee. I carried him back while Steve carried Jackson in his arms and Laura on his shoulders. Back on the boat I dressed Ethan's knee and told him to keep it straight for 30 minutes. Every time he asked if he could bend it I added a minute to the time.

After lunch Steve, Claire and I motored over to the adjacent island of Umuma in their deflatable with 2.5 HP Tohatsu motor. They call it a deflatable because it keeps on slowly deflating. We kept on hitting rocks with the outboard but Steve was unconcerned. Once ashore we found the track which led to a huge hole in the ground. Steve clambered down first and by the time Claire and I arrived he was sitting on a long rock jutting out into the saltwater pool. It looked as though he was sitting on a saltwater crocodile. The water was cool and we were hot but there was a slight scum on the water which made it uninviting so we didn't have a swim. Back at the beach we all had a laugh when Steve and I lifted the stern of the deflatable before Claire lifted the bow. This shifted all the water in the boat to the bow making it heavier for her. Back on DELPHIS we pulled the anchor around to the stern and hoisted the spinnaker to try to make a swing but the breeze was not strong enough. I cut my foot on a sidestay so I threatened to sue them. Steve told me not to drip any blood on their deck or he would counter-sue.

Linda (SUNSET QUEST) had a birthday barbeque ashore so we all joined in a pot-luck. It was eaten in the Berlin Bar at the almost abandoned resort. A very enjoyable evening which went quite late.

True to form, the one night I didn't listen to the sked was the one night I got a call.

Hazel Andrew, a workmate was seeking my e-mail address.

 

29th June.

Spent some time this morning with Claire and Steve hoisting their spinnaker on our boat and trying to make a swing of it. Claire and Laura were light enough to get airborne in about 6-7 knots but the rest of us are too heavy. Laura took a mighty tumble into the sea from about 10 feet up. She was wearing her lifejacket and flippers along with her wetsuit so she was all right. Early on Claire had been videoing us from OMEGA. We made some improvements to the arrangement but then the wind died so we had to wait until afternoon.

After lunch I rowed around the fleet picking up rubbish which I then took ashore and burned. On the way I had a chat to Kevan (ADVENTURER). He said he would buy a copy of my book (which I haven't written yet). Then we started playing with the spinnaker again. In fact we had so much fun that we spent all afternoon playing with it. Rebecca was the only other one to get airborne. The wind did get up to 8-9 knots for a short time. Mid afternoon Roy (BARNSTORM) climbed to the top of his mast and lost his screwdriver overboard. They dived for 10 minutes trying to find it. Steve, Susannah and I swam over and I spotted it on my first dive...and my second. On the third sortie I managed to pick it up in about 25 feet. It felt like 40 feet up though after 3 dives in quick succession. Back on our boat it looked really good with the sinking sun behind the spinnaker.

Right on sunset a charter boat got onto and off a reef half a mile out from our anchorage. He was guided towards our anchorage by Glen (HORNPIPE) then he hit another reef just outside our anchorage, then he finally parked very close to BARNSTORM. Moses from Kenutu said that sailors don't have problems on the reef but charter boats do!!! Steve and Claire stayed for tea and Susannah cooked.

On the evening sked we made contact with Carol on ELYXIR. They are in Fiji. We arranged to have a chat after the sked but when we tried later we could not make contact although we tried repeatedly. In the end I went over to MAKANI to try on his set which has a stronger signal but still couldn't get through. When I arrived back everyone was asleep.

During the night the wind got up and would have been sufficient to have flown the heaviest one in the spinnaker, however there were no takers.

 

30th June.

Picked up a torque wrench from HORNPIPE for TRANQUILLO who was in Neiafu then motored out from Kenutu. Off Ofu Island we raised the jib and in a SE breeze to 18 knots sailed W. However we went too far S and got on the wrong side of the reef SW of Ofu. As we couldn't find the gap in the reef we lowered the jib again. When we realised where we should be, we backtracked and once more on the N side of the reef we soon saw the channel markers. Once through the channel, with me up the mast, we raised both sails. 4 other yachts had followed us out of the channel about 1/2 mile astern. The wind dropped to 11-14 knots but we still made reasonable speed. Just past the island of Taunga we passed ROMANA sailing upwind. She looked a pretty picture. On between the islands of Ava and Oto. Just beyond Swallows Cave the wind increased and our speed went up too. BARNSTORM was doing her best to catch us but we held our own. They only took 1/4 mile out of us the whole trip. By the entrance buoys abeam Mt.Talau we headed into the wind and doused the sails. Susannah has got the jib well in hand now. The big red ferry passed us on the way into the harbour. We motored alongside TRANQUILLO and handed over the torque wrench before returning to Sunsail jetty to replenish the water tanks. We anchored back near our old anchorage by the Palace but a little farther off shore than previously. CRIMSON TIDE were just astern but they shifted soon afterwards.

Joy had a shower while I took the laundry to the Vava’u laundry and then went downtown to the bank. I withdrew some money and had a chat to the Australian manager of the ANZ. He told me that there had never been a bank robbery in Tonga but he, personally had been held up twice in Australia. I then managed to squeeze into the supermarket just on closing time where I purchased some bread and milk. The checkout operator told me I would be too late for the Post Office so I didn't even try. I had taken an oar so I slung the bags over each end of it and carried it on my shoulder. It hurt my shoulder so I won't do that again. We also picked up a letter from my mother from Sunsail.

The instant potatoes were too salty tonight and the self-saucing pudding was ready an hour after the first course. Andy came for tea. Joy and I went to bed while Rebecca and Andy did the dishes. A really solid night's sleep. We had intended going to Port Maurelle tonight but the fuel is due tomorrow instead of 2 days time.

 

1st July.

All the family went to town and we shopped at the 2 supermarkets, getting the best deals from each. Then Joy and I went to the Post Office but it was closed (Stupid palangis should know that). Inside there was a child running around with an airmail letter in his hand. No wonder mail gets mislaid. A lady came to the grill and explained that it was closed for stocktaking or something - I think it was the something. The fuel which had been organised for the main wharf was now transferred to the Sunsail jetty. Before we had gone to town a boat hawker had tried to sell us a grass skirt for $12. I said $10. When we returned from town he wanted to sell it for $10 but I said 'no deal'. We had to wait until 1500 hours to take on fuel.

Had some bother raising the anchor again - bommies! As we were motoring towards the jetty SANITY took our place so we picked up a mooring while we considered our options. There was no space on the upwind side of the dock and downwind our way in was largely blocked by the charter catamaran, TIKITI BOO. Still that was the option we took. Once Rebecca took a line off the stern of TIKITI BOO we were out of trouble. A line from our bow went onto the dock and we were kedged into the dock. There was a flurry when we realised there were no fenders on that side of the dock so we hastily put on ours. Filling with 100 litres cost T$71.40. Tony lent us their baja filter and there certainly was some grit in the fuel. A tanker-trailer had been pushed to the landward end of the dock. I released the stern line and then released the bow line and jumped on board. As we were reversing, SANITY also left the other side of the dock. They had to stop while Joy engaged forward gear. We cleared their stern although there was no danger of collision. As there was still plenty of daylight we sailed to Port Maurelle. Out by the channel markers we raised the jib and made good time motor sailing. Abeam Swallows Cave we passed HALLMARK heading towards Neiafu. We lowered the jib and motored in to Port Maurelle. Anchored, but when the boat came to rest we were too close to OMEGA so re-anchored. After tea we went over to SANITY where we played 'Last Chance'. Joy and I won by a country mile. Before tea I spoke to Roger Lindsay (off WINDERMERE II) He lives up our road in Tauranga. He is going to take my GPS back to Corina for repair so I later took it over to him with a covering letter. I had neglected to tell Corina so she got a surprise when several days later a man arrived at her door with a GPS for her. I had only just met him but this is a good example of how the sailing fraternity works on an excellent trusting system. I have never yet heard of this trust being abused. It is one of the real pleasures of cruising. Long before this everyone had ceased to lock their vessels unless at large towns. The locals have no need of our equipment and other cruising boats keep a good watch for any nefarious activity.

Rebecca and Susannah saw a car today with snow ski racks on. Now that is a fashion statement. At least it is winter.

 

2nd July.

Eileen (EMOTION) had her birthday today so we all went over for a late morning tea. It was a squally day and we just lay around most of the time almost planning things but never completing the plans. In the evening there was a barbeque planned ashore for Eileen's birthday but heavy showers caused us to alter our plans and so Rebecca and Susannah went to BARNSTORM and EMOTION which rafted up for a barbeque under sail(??). There was also a barbeque on ON THE DOUBLE - a charter catamaran. The fire got out of control and took some time to bring under control again.

Laura, Joy and I went to DELPHIS to see Steve's promotional video as Joy hadn't seen it. While we were having tea EPISODE called on VHF to say that Tauranga Coastguard was trying to contact us. It was to confirm Rebecca's friends' arrival dates in Fiji. I then relayed a message for EPISODE as they couldn't be heard. They were in anchorage No 10.

 

3rd July.

Steve and Claire joined our crew for a motor sail to Euakafa Island where there is good snorkelling. Joy said there is a romantic story which originated on this island about a chief and his wife but I think it is a terrible story of lust and wife-bashing. We had difficulty anchoring on the NW corner of the island but finally Steve dived down and hooked the anchor chain around a large bommie. In the process he was bitten by some small pencil-like silver fish. The guide book says to anchor in a sandy patch. We did but the chain went around a bommie. The reef to the W of us had some of the best snorkelling we have experienced. BARNSTORM joined us at lunchtime and as an afterthought we roped the sterns together for closer fellowship at lunchtime. After several swims we went ashore just leaving Joy and Susannah on the boat. We gathered some coconuts and then went looking for green coconuts on the ground. It was interesting walking through a tropical forest alone. It is easy to pretend no-one had ever been this way before. Just as we all arrived back at the beach Joy using our trusty, rusty bike horn alerted us to BARNSTORM's plight. She had dragged and the only thing keeping her off the reef 100 metres away was the line attached to our stern. We all motored to the rescue with full cavalry accompaniment. With disaster averted we raised anchors and sailed into the sunset (a little N of W actually and there was still an hour of daylight remaining). As we passed Katafanga Island I saw a rock which looked like a polar bear and Laura saw one resembling a hippopotamus. Steve and Claire stayed for tea - pancakes cooked by me, and then Joy and I joined them on DELPHIS to watch some movies. Halfway through I dashed home to check that the gas was turned off (Rebecca had used it last). Steve's aluminium dinghy was banging on our stern. There was no wind at all so I took their dinghy back. We watched the best of Billy T. James.

 

4th July.

We were going whale watching. Hoisted both sails as we went past Swallows Cave and headed S down the Pulepulekai Passage. We looked for whales; in fact we looked and looked but did not see any. As we rounded the bottom end of Hunga Island we spied SANITY, EMOTION and BARNSTORM anchored in Anchorage No 14. Just past them we were able to see the bottom clearly in 40 feet of water. The rocks looked dangerous. There was a 1-1 1/2 metre swell from the SE. The wind became fickle and finally headed us so we dropped the sails and resorted to motoring in through the entrance to Hunga Lagoon. There is a rock in the centre of the entrance which is supposed to look like a lion and if there is enough water to be up to the lions mouth there is sufficient depth to enter safely. However on this particular day Laura said it looked more like a rooster. We passed safely on the S side of it and once round the buoys we headed for Hunga Resort where we picked up a buoy close to OMEGA OF WELLINGTON. Susannah and Laura went ashore and played on a swinging rope. SANITY, EMOTION and BARNSTORM anchored across the bay and Rebecca and Andy came visiting in their rubber ducky. Susannah cooked sweet and sour chicken for tea.

 

5th July.

I started the day by doing 2 days worth of dishes while everyone else went ashore. It is the Tongan King's birthday today and being Sunday all work is banned so why am I doing dishes. I've just noted His Highness's birthday was yesterday - I don’t even know what day it is.

It has been arranged that when I have finished doing all the work I will summons PLAIN JANE to come and pick me up. I decided instead to throw my jandals and wearing my sunglasses and progressively throwing my jandals I eventually swam, or drifted ashore. In the rafters of Hunga Resort are written the boat names of many visiting yachts. We saw ANN-MARIE (Dave Taylor - Tokoroa) and JOHANNA(Tauranga). There was a visitor’s card from Bob and Carol off ELYXIR. OMEGA were going to write their boat name there but we ran out of time.

We climbed to the summit of the island to see BARNSTORM sailing for Samoa and EMOTION and SANITY depart for Fiji. As we were waiting for them to come into view on our left we saw 2 whales 1/3 mile to our right. The boats motored directly away from the island so they would have missed seeing them.

After lunch we retraced our steps of yesterday. There were a few squalls and we had to motor sail around the S tip because the wind was due E. A Moorings yacht with its sails poorly set took a long time to overhaul us and once past they landed a fish. There was a decent breeze and we made good time along Ave Pulepulekai. By Swallows Cave we contemplated lowering the genoa but by putting in a large tack we were able to make the final 1/2 mile under sail to Port Maurelle where we anchored for the night.

 

6th July.

Spent a quiet day on the boat. Joy and I went to ADVENTURER for a visit to discuss routes to Savusavu.

 

7th July.

Had some unfinished business so we motored to Anchorage 20 and took a photo of the rock which looks like a polar bear and the other one which resembles a hippopotamus, thence to Mounu (Anchorage 41) to photograph the island which looks idyllic. Unfortunately the overcast and sometimes drizzly day detracted from the scenery. The lesson to be learnt here is never look back at paradise: there are greater and better places in the future. Onward towards Anchorage 16 (Vaka'eitu) to photograph a dragon (rock). We anchored by Nuku for several hours. Laura and Joy rowed ashore and I swam. Then I snorkelled with Laura (who protested but we've got to build her confidence again). Joy swam back to the boat and Laura and I played on the beach before rowing back. It started raining. We waited for it to finish but finally motored back to Port Maurelle where we spent a wet rolly night.    

 

8th July.

Went snorkelling. On our return to the boat, whilst still in the water we were met by 2 men from Tauranga who along with 4 other people had hired a Moorings yacht for a week. After a chat I motored ashore with Laura to crack a coconut. Back on the boat once more we decided to head for Port of Refuge so we motored there with Laura doing most of the steering. When we arrived we discovered that it is quite exposed to the SE. The only other boat there was HORNPIPE who several nights before we had heard talking to another boat in Vanuatu also called HORNPIPE. The conversation had ended with :-'HORNPIPE clear; HORNPIPE on the side'

Rebecca, Laura and I went around the point into the next bay, under a rickety vehicular bridge and tied up by a culvert. We then climbed Mt Talau which has a distinctive shape which is on the Port of Refuge Yacht Club burgee. It is the only club that Rebecca and I belong to and we are both life members. The last part of the ascent is reasonably steep but at the summit Laura still had energy to run. We only had to ask directions once on the way. I asked several villagers if they remembered the missionary vessel AMAZING GRACE but each time I drew a blank. Our friend Ed Pahl used to skipper her before a naughty man sailed her to Fiji against instructions and put her on a reef going into Suva Harbour. When we arrived back at the boat I found I had been asking at the wrong village.

We then motored across to Anchorage No5 which is by the Tongan Beach Resort. It was sheltered but it took 2 attempts before we got the anchor to hold.

On John's sked there was a message for CONANDALE who were anchored close by. Yesterday they completed a circumnavigation of the world. They were celebrating on another vessel called SEA D.

 

9th July.

After a quick visit to CONANDALE we motored in to the Sunsail jetty to fill the water tanks - $5. We then went out and picked up a mooring for the day, disposed of the rubbish, took in the laundry, picked up the mail and said goodbye to Mark at Sunsail and Amesia at the Bounty Bar. All that remained was to face officialdom.

The first stop was the Immigration department. The official couldn't get his mind around the fact that I was clearing out of Neiafu today but I was leaving tomorrow from Port Maurelle. He told me that I would have to go back to Neiafu to clear on the morning I was leaving. I said that I didn't want to as it is 8 miles out of my way. Apparently all the other boats just say they are leaving on the day they clear and some stay for up to a week waiting for the right weather window. I decided to test where honesty would get me. Laura was with me and she had never seen me appear so dejected. I wasn't dejected, I just looked that way. I was actually having fun. I didn't leave the counter but continued to look sad until he relented and after signing an indemnity we left with the desired clearance. When SANITY had cleared they hung around in Port Maurelle for a week before leaving. Jacob from CRIMSON TIDE called them on the VHF after a few days but they didn't answer. I told him that a boat called TASWELL might be able to help him (SANITY is a Taswell 43'). He took a while to cotton on.

Next on the list was customs; 'no, not until you pay the port captain light fees'. SUNSET QUEST had paid $7 so I was expecting about the same because their boat was longer and they had stayed longer although we had more people on board. He was at lunch 1200-1400 hours. He wanted to charge me $19-61!!! Some of the lights are not even working either. I told him I did not have that much money left and emptied my pockets. I fished out all my change along with 2 hose clips and a shepherd’s whistle. He settled on $9-61 (I must be getting soft). Then he wanted to know if I would pick him up a VCR player in New Zealand for his kids as $50 is a lot of money in Tonga.(I'll say it is after paying lots of it to officialdom)... Then off to customs.

I hadn't bothered to clear in to Vava'u because it had been too tedious clearing in and out of each group of islands with grumpy sullen officials so after confusing them on that one I guess we got off to a bad start. They found it even more confusing that I should wish to clear in and out of paradise on the same day. We finally reached an amicable resolution and I came away with the necessary documentation. Because the port captain had taken more than expected I couldn't afford a jar of honey so bought 3 loaves of bread instead.. T38 cents left so I gave that to Wendy (ADVENTURER) when she bought me an ice cream.

Within the next hour ADVENTURER, MAKANI, PERICON and CRIMSON

TIDE all got charged more than us by the port captain; all different amounts with no relation to the number of people on board, length of vessel or length of stay. I won that round.

Joy went to Port Maurelle on ADVENTURER so she could baby-sit their yacht while they went into Swallows Cave. We motored to Port Maurelle with Laura at the helm. Apart from reversing once while we were anchoring because she thought it was too shallow, she did well. I then tried fixing the head - even at sea I have head problems. It has been intermittently overflowing. I think it is the fault of the plunger seal moving. I broke one hose clip and had to borrow one from PERICON. I thought I had fixed it but next morning it had overflowed again.

John Goater told us that Corina is sending a fax for us tomorrow to Pete at Club Hunga, so it looks as though we'll have to call there tomorrow on the way out.

 

5

TONGA to FIJI

 

10th July.

Awoke to the sound of ADVENTURER weighing anchor so I beckoned them over. They said they were going to Fiji along with MAKANI, CRIMSON TIDE and PERICON. The weather looked settled so we decided to go as well, stopping off at Hunga Resort for the fax. We said our farewells on the sked then I called Pete and asked him to radio the fax to us as it might not be important enough to keep us in Tonga. We continued motor sailing W until the 2 metre swell from the SE started to hit us then the bolt at the bottom of the mainsheet traveller let go. We usually attach our harnesses to the traveller as we emerge from the cabin. Fortunately no-one was attached there at that time as the boom swung outboard and they may have been carried overboard too. We were all harnessed to the lifelines. I ordered Joy, who was at the helm, to head around into the wind. This would have brought the boom back amidships. She said she couldn't so I repeated the order. She again replied in the negative. This surprised me as in 23 years of marriage I have only ordered her to do about 5 things and I expect the orders to be obeyed. When I asked why she wouldn't comply she replied that there were whales in that direction. They leapt out of the water at least 3 times but only Joy saw them because the rest of us were too busy. I felt like yelling 'Thar she blows' but all I could think of was 'Land ho!' which wasn't very appropriate. Anyway the replacement shackle was too fat so I swapped it for the one on the boom vang. We were up and sailing again in about 15 minutes. Pete called to say the fax was about the non-repairability of the GPS in Tauranga. (We were using our reserve one on this leg).

By this time MAKANI and ADVENTURER were several miles ahead, CRIMSON TIDE was taking a more Northerly route and PERICON had gone fishing. They soon stopped fishing, hoisted their spinnaker and rapidly overhauled CRIMSON TIDE.

The wind stayed 10-20 knots although occasional wind gusts came through slightly stronger. The swell was 1.5-3 metres from the SE. Occasionally it looked as though a big one was going to climb aboard but it was one of the smaller ones which finally drenched Joy. The rest of us were shielded but she got quite moist. We had VHF contact with all except PERICON at 1545 hours.

Mount Talau dropped below the horizon at 1230 hours but we could see the volcanic cone of Kao 60 miles to the SE until dark. By mid-afternoon we had overhauled MAKANI and just after dark we passed ADVENTURER. We arranged to stay in contact with them as we were all going through a 5 mile gap in the Lau Group on the 3rd morning. Also with only one GPS on board it made sense to stay closer to others. There was a beautiful sunset followed by a full moonrise although cloud cover increased shortly afterwards. Throughout the night we continued to draw ahead and at 2200 hours I opened a can of condensed milk -always good for the first night out. Just after midnight Rebecca pulled the No.2 in a tad to slow us down so we could keep the other boats in sight.

Joy noted in the log at 0345 that the seas had calmed considerably since leaving Tonga and so had she. When I came on watch again at 0400 hours I dropped the jib because ADVENTURER was disappearing astern behind the swells. We could only occasionally see her masthead light. Pleasant conditions, warm breeze and moonlight on the water. It was about 0900 hours before ADVENTURER got to within about a mile of us. At 0800 hours I calculated that we had Done 170 miles in 24 hours - not bad for 1 reef in the main and bareheaded for 4 hours. We decided to slow down to reach the Exploring Isles at daybreak tomorrow.

 

11th July.

One day ahead of us the slower boats EPISODE, OMEGA and DELPHIS were making slow progress in bigger seas. We stooged around all day with ADVENTURER about a mile away and MAKANI on the SE horizon. After hours of radio silence he finally drew abeam and with ADVENTURER on our opposite side Marty came up with the words which have amused Joy ever since 'D'you give up; d'you give up'? In the middle of the ocean we were surrounded by other boats. At about this stage Marty said he would lead us through the Exploring Isles  in the darkness using his radar and chart plotter. We all increased speed and with all sails up and drawing it took a while to overhaul ADVENTURER who had drawn about 400 metres ahead. We later learnt that they were motor sailing. When we were 400 metres ahead of them I decided that MAKANI was getting too far ahead of us so we should drop the mainsail, and motor. With the genoa down I got caught in a squall so got wet but in the tropical warmth I quickly dried. By this time it was dark. I decided to lower the main while we continued motoring instead of turning into the wind. Sometimes I wonder how I let my cleverness get me into trouble. The only good thing was the foredeck light was not on so ADVENTURER could not see what a mess I made. We again finished up 400 metres behind them. Under motor we slowly drew ahead but MAKANI was still increasing her lead. With Rebecca at the helm and the engine revving higher than usual MAKANI's light suddenly disappeared from sight. When Rebecca told me I thought that they had just disappeared behind a large swell but after several minutes realised that this was not so. I radioed to them and Noeline said that they had just blown the masthead bulb. They put on their steaming light and it made a spectacular sight. Sometimes we could see the light and sometimes just the jib glowing with its reflected light. This made it shimmer. At other times their main would obscure it giving an eerie elongated shape. They also slowed down. They can motor at 9 knots while our maximum is about 6.8 knots. It was a dark, cloudy night with only 1.5 metre swell.

 

 

12th July.

The breeze was light all night. We approached the Exploring Isles and could just make out some hills on the port side in the darkness. We went between Katafanga Island and Malevuvu Reef without sighting the reef. By this stage ADVENTURER was close astern. With Katafanga Island on radar it was no problem. I knocked the autohelm switch, turning it off and losing the statistics for the trip. By 0520 hours it was starting to get light so we raised both sails. After the mess I had made taking the main down we had to go around 4 times to get it up again. By this time the other boats were a mile in front. We sailed in light winds past Muna Island. The wind was coming from the port quarter. As the other boats approached the island of Mango, Marty reported seeing a marlin leaping and heading our way. We didn't see it but shortly afterwards he alerted us to some whales heading towards us. These we saw. I was pointing to some only about 40-50 metres away and the rest of the family were becoming more excited than I thought the occasion warranted. When I  looked at them I realised they were excited about the whale underneath us!!! They were only 10-15 feet long pilot whales.

By the time we were abeam Mango Island we had caught the others and a mile further W opposite Frost Reef the breeze had decreased to the extent that MAKANI started motoring. We continued sailing and the breeze did come in. The other 2 boats were hooking fish but we weren't. ADVENTURER pulled 2 nice mahi-mahi alongside but lost them both. The wind was taking us towards Vatuvara but then it backed to allow us to lay the light on Nukutotu Island. It was now Laura's turn to knock the autohelm switch accidentally, turning it off. I was on watch and didn't realise that the autohelm was on standby mode. It automatically goes onto standby mode when it is initially turned on. We were only 100 metres abeam of ADVENTURER at the time and we continued parallel for 5 minutes before suddenly turning to port. It was then that I realised that the autohelm was on standby. However it also illustrated how balanced the boat was on this point of sail. As we turned the corner by the light  onto a more northerly course, the wind which had been blowing 9-16 knots SSE all day came  from directly astern and the swell which had died away at dawn increased to 1.5 metres. We persevered with both sails for a while but eventually lowered the main and poled out the genoa. We did discuss running under spinnaker at night but eventually ruled it out as too dangerous. Sometime after dark we hooked a Long Tom - a sort of barracuta. But as it was so slimy none of the family were keen on eating it so it went back over the side albeit in several sections. With the swell the outer end of the  genoa sheet kept jumping out of the jaws of the pole. This occurred spasmodically and randomly. During Joy's watch it only happened once in two hours but on Rebecca's shift it happened 3 times in 30 minutes getting me out of bed each time. Just after midnight the breeze dropped below 8 knots so I doused the sail and resorted to motor. The genoa pole hadn't been used for so long the inboard end required a stern talking to before it would co-operate. I think the hammer and screwdriver helped.

 

 

13th July.

Sometime overnight we lost sight of ADVENTURER way out to starboard. I remembered that my Boatmaster tutor had said that the definition of a passing manoeuvre is when a boat comes over one horizon and disappears over another. Well, given that definition, it has taken 2 1/2 days to pass ADVENTURER. MAKANI had dropped astern at night fall.

Two very interesting things happened after midnight. The first one was shared by ADVENTURER and MAKANI although we did not realise that until we were within Nasavusavu Bay.

Shortly after midnight we picked up what we thought was a masthead light just off the port bow somewhere between 1/2  and 1 mile distant. It stayed at the same elevation for 4 hours so it wasn't a star. Nothing remarkable about that until you realise that ADVENTURER, 2-4 miles to our right also picked it up as did MAKANI, 8 miles astern and over the horizon - same direction, same elevation. The chart says the light on the point at Nasavusavu Bay is visible for 10 miles. We picked it up at 7.2 miles. Between 1 and 2 miles from the Point the light ahead of us disappeared - one moment it was there and the next it was gone. It was as though a bulb had blown.

At the same time as it disappeared I saw a masthead light which I thought was anchored off the coast. It was off the starboard bow. As I contemplated trying to negotiate the entrance to the bay with a boat I couldn't see over to port, I noticed that a green light had suddenly appeared on the boat off the starboard bow on the left side of the white light meaning that it was moving slightly to our right. At this stage I thought it might be heading fairly close to where we were so with ADVENTURER clearly heading our way as well, I checked that our navigation lights were working and stopped making way through the water. After 5 minutes his bearing hadn't changed so we got under way again cautiously. Within a minute the green light disappeared although the masthead light was still clearly visible. It wasn't until we were around the lighthouse and the end of the reef, which extends some distance W of the light (told you I was cautious), that I realised that the masthead light was on a boat anchored inside the reef at Cousteau’s Resort, and the green light was a channel marker several miles up harbour. It had been obscured by the drying reef. When ADVENTURER was coming in I warned him of the danger of the reef extending beyond the light. Marty asked where my white cane was. At this stage he told us about what he had thought to be our masthead light disappearing earlier. We felt our way slowly up the bay. Just before it got light Tony from SANITY called us to tell us they had a mooring for us all. They had heard over the previous night's sked that we would come in early in the morning and had kept their VHF on overnight to assist if necessary. I did appreciate the caring thought although I was a little gruff with him probably because of tiredness and the events of the last couple of hours. We chose to meander slowly up the bay. On daybreak we felt our way into a small bay from which emanated delicious cooking smells - I thought it was baking potatoes; Rebecca thought it was a self saucing pudding with ice cream on the top. She's been at sea too long. How did she know the ice cream was on the top?

In broad daylight we finally let go our anchor a few feet from The Copra Shed, Savusavu, and ADVENTURER tied to us. Linda from SUNSET QUEST rowed across to welcome us then Simon (marina manager) motored over in a dinghy which had the name NERISSA boldly displayed on the outboard. He told us of a mooring for all three of us. An hour and a half later MAKANI tied up on the other side of us. We then raised anchor and ADVENTURER motored us all up to a mooring at the E end of the inlet. Health and Immigration officials came aboard and although very pleasant did not stay very long.

The original plan had been to have some sleep before clearing in but the excitement of arrival and sharing with other cruisers put a stop to that. Susannah had an infected ear which had troubled her during the night, otherwise there were no injuries or illness on board. The authorities made us feel very welcome and they left us with all our food. I had to go to the hospital to pay F$33 (being the health fee). We went ashore and about 10 yachties descended on 3 customs officers 20 minutes before their closing time (1300 hours). They looked aghast until they realised that we had already filled in the forms....lots of them including 12 copies of the crew list. It only took about 5 minutes to process us. Laura and I then caught a taxi to the hospital (F$1). The driver wouldn't wait while we paid our health fee so we could catch a ride back with him. He was a grumpy Indian. The hospital looks old. It only has 2 doctors for 58 beds. I saw one of the doctors walk by - a Sri Lankan - who looked just out of nappies. I wouldn't like to get ill here. The pleasant Fijian lady who took my money was short of change so she reached into her own purse to make up the shortfall. Such service is rarely found these days. I think I'm going to like it here. Only the taxi driver has been unpleasant - even the pedestrians are smiling. We caught a ride back to town with Claire and Steve. Then into Morris Hedstrom's supermarket (commonly called MH's in the Islands). It was then that the culture shock following Tonga became evident. They even had leaf polish for sale on the shelves. Laura and I had an ice cream Magnum for lunch. Then for tea we all had a barbeque ashore at the Copra Shed (F$5 compared to T$18 at Atata Island). I poured a whole lot of sauce over my steak before Simon Ahern (who runs the Savusavu Yacht Club and the Copra Shed) told me it was chilli sauce and not tomato. Marty to the rescue. He was just behind me in the queue. He likes his chilli so we swapped meals. I then covered my steak with tomato sauce. After tea we watched the World Cup Soccer Final on TV. I kept falling asleep during the second half.

 

6

FIJI

14th July.

Felt pretty jaded today, just tired I think. I went ashore and played frisbee with Laura for a while by the Coprashed. There was a dog tied up by the fence and just after we left to come back to the boat it collapsed and died after frothing at the mouth and biting a man who was trying to pacify it. That upset a lot of people. We went to tea on SANITY. Had mahi-mahi. Enjoyed a good discussion with Tony and Steve. Had a very enjoyable shower at the Coprashed.

 

15th July.

Spent the entire day fixing things. There was a bracket on the engine that Steve welded for me. As we were going ashore with the welding gear I told him to tie the boat to the wharf and the wharf to the boat. When he tied up to a large (read shipping grade) steel bollard I told him to tie the bollard to the wharf. On closer inspection it was not bolted down. Talk about laugh!! However it was many times heavier than PLAIN JANE. More than ample to provide good holding.

As we were rafted up to a mooring with ADVENTURER on one side and MAKANI on the other they poked borax at me all day as the repairs continued. They did offer some helpful advice though. The head needed attention - again as it is intermittently filling. Still can't work it out but I have installed a higher inlet hose. Also repaired a floorboard that had become loose. Susannah bought us a pizza for tea (F$16) which was about 2 feet in diameter.

 

16th July.

A quiet day. I wandered down town to get some money from the bank only to discover that they close at 3pm on Thursdays not 4pm (Is this Thursday?) Anyone but a palangi would know that. Otherwise a restful day after the trials of yesterday. Received a letter from my mother. Commencing yesterday I have run a cruisers net for Savusavu on Ch 6 at 0850 hours. Marty and Kevan dared me to so here goes. It is modelled on the one in the Vava’u’s but instead of closing as they did I would finish with a Neil joke. It comprises weather; arrivals; departing cruisers; buy, sell and trade; any news; daily events; anything about anything and my Neil joke. I am prepared to run it for a week with no other input but if the interest is there I shall try to rise to the challenge. It looks as though we may be here for a while although we will try to get up the coast before the regatta here.

 

17th July.

I had to rush the sked a little today. I got a response for the first time this morning. My weather forecasts have consisted in looking out the window and taking an educated guess. Today though Joe from NAVIGATOR (a retired airline pilot) came on with interpretations from 3 different weather faxes, from the convergence zone North of us, to Arnold on Norfolk Island to the South West. These all basically arrived at the conclusions I had so they were readily acceptable. Still, it is reassuring that someone else is listening. Joe continued faithfully in this role for the duration of the network. This participation was a large reason for the success of the venture. Thanks Joe. We are going on a 5 hour ride in the country. ADVENTURER, MAKANI and RUBEN JANE are joining forces on a covered ute trip up into the hills. We visited a technical Institute, a copra mill (very interesting) and a Chinese built hydro station which the guide/driver tried to tell us had its intake downhill from the reservoir. There was a long pipe leading upstream for several miles but the initial pipe led steeply downhill. We also saw a church that was over 100 years old. Inside there was an optical illusion. The walls above the window sills were concave giving the sensation of much improved space in the heavens. We then drove to the top of the range of high hills looking towards Labasa. The ute got a puncture at the top. It had a bald tyre on the other side too. On our return, Joy went to the bank while I went to clear out from customs with the idea of going to Viani Bay. We finished the day with a barbeque on MAKANI. Rebecca left this morning with SANITY.

 

18th July.

We woke up late. Just caught Carol (ELYXIR) on the sked this morning. They are in the Lau group. Went to the market after the sked to buy some cabbages and beans. Sent a fax to work, then back to the boat for lunch. Picked up a visa for the Exploring Isles from Simon at the Copra shed, along with mail for ELYXIR. Then went back for a book exchange just outside the bar. Swapped 2 books for 'Tales of the South Pacific' by James A Michener, and 'Maiden Voyage' by Tania Aebi. It has been another busy day in paradise.

 

19, 20th July.

Just spent the day moping around in port with rough seas out towards the Exploring Isles. There's a slow moving high over New Zealand bringing the isobars close together here. Advised by Carol (ELYXIR) not to venture out. Wasn't going to anyway. Several; boats tried but returned wiser for the experience. This is not why I came to the Islands-sitting in port waiting for bad weather to pass. There is a world out there with good snorkelling. On 20th received a fax from Trevor and Kay so sent one back. Then got a message from John Goater to phone them. Rowed in Gold Jane to the Copra shed and tried to phone. The phone wouldn't take money or a credit card. Tried to make a collect call but only got their fax and answer phone. Rowing ashore had been interesting with Laura in the stern sitting up high and me in the bow. The wind was gusty so we got blown most of the way. Susannah has made a new friend so she is watching TV with her so we took Plain Jane back. Joy then said that one can purchase phone cards from the bar so I returned alone and purchased one. Got Kay on the phone and arranged to have a closer contact nearer their arrival time. Susannah insisted on rowing home so I gave her a head start and when I caught her she was willing to accept a tow.

 

21st July.

Motored to the jetty with Laura to get some fuel and water. Joy and Susannah met us there. Took our time refuelling and were just about going to fill the water tanks (someone else had been washing a truck) when the lady attendant said they had an emergency and we would have to vacate the berth so they could refuel another boat immediately. This was amusing because nobody else had spoken to her for 10 minutes. Anyway she refuelled the other boat which left for Manor Island (wherever that is) at speed. Apparently the boat broke down and was still at Manor Resort the next day. Sorry about that, victim.. Hope it wasn't crook fuel that caused it to break down. We returned to the dock and filled the water tanks. Initially we had planned on going out to Cousteau's Resort for the night but eventually decided to raft up to ADVENTURER again. MAKANI has gone to Suva to get a permit to visit some of Noeline's relatives on Rotuma. Another boat, TAMARERE has taken his place so we went on ADVENTURER's starboard side. He is now 'piggy in the middle'.

 

22nd July.

Paid mooring fees $4/night plus $3 mooring. This was divided by 3 because there were 3 boats on it. Also got charged $14 for 2 loads of laundry. These were paid for at the time so I'll seek a refund. After arranging with Pam (KAPALUA II) to do my sked for the next few days we motored out to Cousteau's where Susannah and Laura went aboard REALM leaving Joy and I alone on RUBEN JANE. Kelso (REALM) then radioed us (and everybody else) to tell us that the girls would be watching a video and also the exact time of their return so JOY AND I WOULD BE ALONE TOGETHER FOR SEVERAL HOURS. It was good for the children to have someone their own ages to play with. It had been 2 months since Laura had been with any peers. When they returned we soon retired. However we spent a restless night with the anchor chain 30 feet below, grating on coral all night

 

23 July.

Spent a quiet day on the boat. We were just going to visit REALM when they weighed anchor and disappeared out to sea. They were heading for Coconut Point. They had the swell with them. It was considerable. The SPIRIT of FREE ENTERPRISE had a 10 wheel truck tip over in its hold in the Koro Sea so it must have been rough. Joy and I motored in PLAIN JANE to the Split Rock which is supposed to be good snorkelling but when we reached it the rain started to fall. It felt quite cold so we headed back, arriving just as the squall ended. Late in the day I went ashore and cracked a couple of coconuts.

 

24th July.

We had contemplated going up to Viani Bay this morning but were glad we hadn't when we saw Dietrich on SALUSA in his usual sailing garb motoring out of the shelter of the bay. He was pitching so badly we could see right back to his keel. WINDERMERE II had arrived from Tonga this morning and Laura had spoken to Joan as they went past. Brian was very tired after the trip.

A French-Canadian asked Laura to go to play with his daughter on their yacht so while she was away Joy, Susannah and I took the opportunity to dive on Split Rock. The fish there swam to meet us. The snorkelling was some of the best we have seen so far. After lunch we were visited by the boys from OMEGA. Later in the afternoon we returned to Savusavu to pick up some mail. As we sailed past the wharf we were greeted by a very relieved Pam who modestly said that she could now relinquish responsibility for the radio sked. We again moored next to ADVENTURER. There was a fax from Geoffrey and one from Trevor and Kay. There was also a letter from my Mom. She numbers her letters and so far we have received every one. A boat called AKA called us to tell us of a message on SSB on a frequency that we don’t have so they relayed for us. It was from Hunga Lagoon telling us that we had an urgent fax. It was from Rebecca's friend Dee talking about her airline ticket.

After tea there was the inaugural Savusavu quiz show. Using VHF,  PICKETTY WITCH asked 6 questions. A point was given for a correct answer and if you didn't know the answer, points were given for the most imaginative alternative.

The teams were organised according to boats. ADVENTURER joined with us for the challenge. A complicating feature was the freedom to interject between questions (5 minutes apart) with jokes - the more jokes the more points. There were some very searching questions such as:- name the 5 Southernmost capes in the world, the 10 longest rivers, the common name for Piper Mythesticum (I was annoyed by this one because I had read about it several weeks previously and couldn't remember-it is kava plant), what are teak leaves used for?(sandpaper). Somehow our boat won with 20 something points.

 

25th-28th July.

Very subdued, disillusioned, discouraged, depressed and frustrated with the possibility of staying in port until after the regatta. Calculated that if I live to be 80 I have approximately 10,000 more days in my life and I'm spending 2/1000th of my life in Savusavu. Joy has strongly expressed her distaste of blue water sailing and wants to spend the rest of the trip in Fiji. I want to complete the odyssey - i.e. Vanuatu and New Caledonia although heading S through the Tasman Sea on the way home scares me a little. Answered Corina's fax sent to Hunga Lagoon. Asked her to send the GPS to West Island for a quote. Spent a lot of time on my bed reading and thinking. Late on the 28th Rebecca arrived back with wonderful stories of what we had been missing and what I had been dreaming about. Laura started sailing lessons with Len (KAPALUA II).

 

29th July.

Overnight, a baddy who was being pursued by the local constabulary (is that a bolt from the blue?) swam out and stole WINDERMERE II's inflatable. He tried starting it and ran over the painter which became entangled in the propeller. Murray (EPISODE) and Malcolm (SUNSET QUEST) assisted in his capture. He was arrested and beaten up and the dinghy was returned with Brian and Joan unaware of the escapade. Laura had another sailing lesson with Len in his dinghy and the wind was somewhat brisker than yesterday. Spent most of the day doing jobs around the boat, and reading. Bob Ely (ELYXIR) contacted us and wants us to arrange a flight to the US for him. We arranged a radio sked in the afternoon and one in the evening in case we missed the afternoon one. He didn't show up at either one. Kevan and Wendy came over after tea and for the second week running we won the quiz on VHF. I had our crew in hysterics when I didn't know the answer to 'what does the word 'MARU' mean on all Japanese vessels (completeness or circle) so I made up a story about how the Japanese had invaded New Zealand  a thousand years ago and left their stamp on our towns with names such as OaMARU and TiMARU and WhakaMARU.

 

30th July.

The start of the Savusavu regatta ($50 per boat). It commenced with sevusevu (kava ceremony). I had some times 2 but Joy deferred. Some say it tastes like dishwater but I can't comment as I'm not in the habit of drinking dishwater. I thought it had a strong nutty taste. It looked like dirt but the kava roots (piper mythesticum) had been ground. After dark there was a cocktail party so we were late arriving home.

 

31st July.

We finally settled the travel arrangements for Bob and were able to pass the information on to him. Yacht race day. The finishing times were calculated by all the skippers estimating everyone's finishing times and then they were averaged. These results were posted after racing began. After the briefing we were joined by Brian (HALLMARK) and Steve and Claire. Steve took our water and diesel containers off as well as our life raft to lighten the boat - going a bit far I thought. At midday the race started. It was a triangular course around Nasavusavu Bay. We left the mooring at 10 minutes to midday and were drifting towards the start line but it was further than I thought so we arrived 3 minutes late. Still I didn't want to be involved in any prestart collisions. At the first turn we were 8th and got up to 6th by the downwind mark. We duelled with a 38 foot Adams designed sloop called MASKI who must have pelted us with 30 water bombs. We got them with our water guns. We sighted the bottom mark and almost shut them out but they eventually got through on the inside. Five minutes after rounding the bottom mark we were in 5th position out of 17 when we pulled out to prevent gear failure. Our port lower spreader was moving too much. We possibly could have come 4th because we point really well upwind (25-30°off the apparent wind). Joy really enjoyed racing. I'll have to watch her. I enjoy watching her anyway. At night there was a barbecue ashore. Andy collected Laura's food for her as she was watching videos on WINDFLOWER. I told him she was a big eater who liked lots of pineapple so he got 2!(TWO!!) <II !!!> pieces....I was expecting at least 5. When she arrived back she had a couple of nibbles then left the rest. Dad again to the rescue. I had seconds as well.

 

1st August.

Inflatable race day. Last year the speed and wake had caused one man to be thrown out so this year the rules stated that the boats had to go backwards. This certainly made the boats more competitive. Laura joined the team from EARLY DART. They won. Unfortunately I was unable to watch because Ed from AKA came across and adjusted the rigging which had been the cause of our exit from the race yesterday. The rubber insert at the mast junction of the spreaders had perished. Over a period of 3 hours with breaks for chats he checked it all. He charged me a can of beer so I gave him 2. That was the last of the Steinlager left by the New Zealand to Tonga crew. I suppose in a way that proves that Steinlager beer does go further than Tui beer.

 

2nd August.

The halfway point of the cruise. I went up the hill to church but when I arrived I was escorted to a house church because the first one was only Fijian speaking. I was ushered into the front row where I met an American dentist and his wife. We were all heartily welcomed during the service. We were also warmly invited to lunch but I had to decline because the family was waiting to go fishing. Kevan was asleep on ADVENTURER so we let go the lines and drifted away before raising the mainsail. We sailed slowly out of the river before raising the jib. All the family started picking on me so I made them sail the boat with no assistance from me. We went about 1/2 mile beyond the reef and lighthouse before returning. Joy made an absolute hash of picking up the mooring so we had to make another attempt. There was a grass fire which got out of control just across the river from our mooring. According to one security guard here the local fire brigade has yet to put out a fire because they've discovered that the fire engine goes faster with no water in it. One of the other yachts - KARENA - caught a marlin which weighed 200 kg. Steve and Claire came for tea - pancakes again.

 

3rd August.

Joy wants to go home. She says she's scared of further passage making - a down day. The bilibili races were held today. Bilibili is the Fijian word for bamboo raft. Susannah got into the final before the wind got up. I also learnt how to husk a coconut properly. Talent quest tonight. Started well but deteriorated with some crude jokes. It started raining so everyone moved into the bar. We left before the end when it was deteriorating. We were almost at the boat when the rain started in earnest.

 

 

4th August.

The weather was indifferent so spent most of the day on the boat reading. In the evening we went to the Prize giving at the Hot Springs Hotel. They drew straws for the winner of the bilibili race and Susannah drew the winning one so they won a dinner for 2. She gave the other members of her team a big hug and they thought she was giving them the prize so they took it from her - disappointing for her but character building. Laura drew a prize for our boat. It was a return trip for one by air Savusavu - Nadi.

 

5th August.

An early start with a trip to Makongai Island in prospect but after filling the water tanks and picking up Rebecca from SANITY we only made it as far as Cousteau's Resort under motor. There was low cloud around the hills and there was doubt as to whether it would lift so that we could see the reefs. We dropped anchor for the day. Lost a plain white lure on the way. That's the first one we've lost since arriving in Tonga. Andy came out by road for the day. We dived on split rock again. When we arrived there we had fed bread to the fish by hand. I got bitten 4 times by zebra fish - nobody else did so I guess I have to admire the fish's taste. Later we saw some large fish feeding out in the bay so I took PLAIN JANE out and trolled a line without success. Rebecca and Andy caught a taxi back to town to SANITY.

 

6th August.

Awoken at 0100 hours by VHF - ELYXIR coming through the entrance having to radio to a ship on collision course. They passed only a boat length apart. Joy guided them in to the anchorage by VHF and torchlight. I tried hard to sleep throughout the whole procedure. Awoke again at 0630 and slowly prepared to depart for Makongai. Rafted alongside ELYXIR for a chat before leaving. Haven't seen them for over 3 months although have spoken via radio. About an hour after leaving we caught a small skipjack tuna which didn't put up much of a fight at this stage but more about that later. We started shortly after FAMILY EXPRESS and NERISSA. The seas were 1 1/2 - 2 metres for the first 5 miles - quite uncomfortable. Susannah and Laura seasick. FAMILY EXPRESS soon had a sizeable lead but we were gaining on NERISSA when we had a big strike. Susannah put the gimbal belt on me while Joy cleared the cockpit of all but my old mismatched jandals which I use to stand on the catch to help subdue it. We were still doing 7 knots and the fish was still taking line so Joy and Susannah had to lower the jib in 2 metre seas. They did well. I was right down to 30 metres line left on the reel before I started to gain. Joy saw it leap and said it was about 3 foot long. Joy helped hold the rod to give my arms a rest. After about 35 minutes we had it alongside. I tried to put a noose around its tail but the rope wouldn't sink. When I lifted its head the rope went past its tail so we flagged that and resorted to the gaff and without too much trouble invited it aboard. While it was flapping around the cockpit it flipped one of my jandals overboard followed shortly afterwards by the other one. Joy was pleased but I was not amused. They were not a matching pair but had proven themselves very useful for clambering over rocks. Some things in life are not sacred anymore. Now I will have to use my new matching pair. The mahi-mahi stood 4 feet tall in his socks. In order to keep it cool we put it under the dinghy on the deck after securing it by a rope around its tail. Joy wouldn't let me put out the line again but I Don’t know if I wanted to as my arms were quite tired.  Mahi-mahi mate for life so there was probably a mate pursuing the boat. I put 2 reefs in the main and we hoisted the genoa again. By this stage we were below the North Save-A-Tack Passage so went around the bottom of the reef. FAMILY EXPRESS was out of sight and NERISSA was several miles distant. Once around the corner the motion eased although Laura still remained below. Arriving off Makongai we found that the chart was 1/2 mile out. This put our waypoint inside the reef instead of outside. We didn't have any difficulty finding the beacons on the reef - there weren't any (beacons that is - there were plenty of reefs). We radioed NERISSA who told us that the beacons were missing. They were about 20 minutes ahead of us. The entrance through the reef was reasonably easy -100 yards before the breaking reef on the W side of the Island turn left onto a bearing of 101°T. However this put us in a short cross-chop for over half an hour. I was up in the rigging and I found that my arms kept cramping after the morning's work. I held on by my elbows. I was harnessed on so was not in grave danger but it was quite uncomfortable. We anchored within 50 yards of a bommie which had a marker on it. The snorkelling was the best yet and after a swim over it I returned and Trevor, Raewyn, their daughter Gaylene and her friend Suzanne came over and Trevor and I cleaned and gutted the fish. The skin peeled off the mahi-mahi very cleanly. The tuna had been lying out in the sunlight but some 9 hours after capture it too was in the freezer. We all watched the sun set over the open sea. The green flash was also the best I had seen. The rest of the crew seem to have difficulty seeing it but tonight it lasted about 3 seconds. We gave some mahi-mahi to NERISSA, FAMILY EXPRESS and TOOLKA T who were also anchored in the bay.

 

7th August.

This morning Susannah, Laura and I went ashore with the crews of several other boats and had a guided tour through the clam farm and the turtle farm. Earlier I had taken the fish heads and skeletons ashore for the locals. This time I had the fish scraps in a bucket for the turtles. They really enjoyed them. It was amazing to witness the strength they possess in their beaks to tear the meat and the skin. The other thing I hadn't realised is that they use their front flippers to guide their food into their mouths. Makongai used to be a leper colony with the sexes segregated into separate bays. In the bay we were anchored there was one lot of barracks and just a short walk over the dividing hill was the other camp. We took a stroll and looked at the ruins. Apparently the roofs had collapsed in the past year. The concrete walls and floors were still intact but the fibrolite from the roofs was scattered on the ground. It must have been devastating to have been shipped to this island with a diagnosis of leprosy knowing that you were never going to leave. We found a couple of coconuts and Trevor (NERISSA) opened them. One that was sprouting had inside tropical candyfloss. Tastes similar but not as sweet as the fairground variety. It is a creamy colour. The buildings were surrounded by geeps (cross between goats and sheep-looked to have the worst qualities of both to me). Back to the boat for lunch then straight into a good book for several hours before continuing to scrub the decks (blood and fish from yesterday). This was followed by a swim over the bommie again. On my return I was preparing to dive under the boat to check the speedo propeller when I spied a lure being jigged on the other side so I desisted. Laura was fishing. We went to NERISSA for sundowners and again were privileged to observe the green flash. TOOLKA T and FAMILY EXPRESS were there too. We borrowed a chart off NERISSA for around Yadua.

 

8th August.

Joy, Laura and I went ashore to show Joy the clams and the turtles. On our way ashore we had stopped at EXCALIBUR and introduced ourselves to Jenny and Mark. We also spoke to EVERGREEN (there are at least 3 boats bearing the name EVERGREEN around the South Pacific at present). Upon our arrival ashore we were greeted by a friendly local lass named Nina. When the clams and turtles are old enough to fend for themselves they are released into the bay. On our arrival back at the boat we saw a turtle swimming near us. I spent the early afternoon fixing the head (again) then Jenny and Mark came for afternoon tea. While they were on board OMEGA, PERICON and EPISODE came in. After our guests left Susannah and I snorkelled over a bommie 50 metres inshore from the boat. We saw some large (2 foot long) leopard fish which are very poisonous. Murray (EPISODE) caught a crayfish which they had for tea. Spoke to MAKANI on the evening sked and he told us that this is a marine reserve so no Cray fishing is permitted so Murray did not catch a crayfish and they did not eat it for tea. There was nothing on the chart to say it is a marine reserve so we're unsure what their diet entailed. We saw the green flash again tonight. It is quite a social event with the crowds gathering in the cockpits around the anchorage about 1/4 hour beforehand. As sunset approaches the tension builds and immediately afterwards there are loud cheers and thumbs up from those who have seen it. Joy is still having difficulty seeing it. The flash occurs as the upper limb of the sun dips below the horizon. Apparently the green sector of the light spectrum is able to bend more than the others. The phenomenon also occurs at sunrise over the open sea but I have never seen it then. It would probably be made easier if I was awake at that time. It does not occur over land.

 

9th August.

Laura and I set off to climb the hill behind the settlement but near the top we found our way blocked by pampas grass. It was a good time together. Laura counted 7 flatmates (squashed toads) on the track. When we arrived back Joy and I snorkelled over the inshore bommie. Joy saw a turtle but it swam away quickly. There were a few fairly large fish around. SANITY and EMOTION arrived this afternoon. Joy radioed them to offer advice on entering the reef as the reef is 1/4 mile further W than the chart. They had a different chart so the call was unnecessary. Saw the green flash again tonight for the 4th time in a row.

 

10th August.

Left Makongai bound for Savusavu. Had a great deal of difficulty exiting the reef in the overcast, choppy conditions. The breaking section was very indistinct. We had to retrace our steps once but eventually found a way out. Heading N the reef only slowly sinks below the surface. Once in deep water we raised both sails and made very good speed. The wind was 20 knots from the E. This time we went through Save-A-tack Passages. I was up the mast when we went through South Save-A-Tack and took a couple of photos from up in the rigging of the different colours of the reef. I wanted to put a couple of reefs in the main but with the wind coming around the island of Namena we had difficulty with it gusting and swirling. Joy wanted to anchor off the resort overnight but we have heard that we are not welcome ashore here so we continued on under genoa only and located the North Save-A-Tack entrance (exit) and sailed through without trouble. The water immediately outside the reef was deeper than our depth sounder could pick up (285 feet). The water inside the reef had definitely been calmer. There was a 1.5 metre swell although the waves were closer together than outside South Save-A-Tack. About an hour later we had a good strike but after 1 long run the fish let go. As we approached the Point light we could see the red and white ANZ ship coming down from Taveuni. Spoke to ADVENTURER as we past Cousteau's Resort. They are heading for Suva tomorrow via Makongai. As we approached Savusavu we were passed by the ANZ ship. It was mooring as we dropped the genoa and motored past. Spoke to the other HORNPIPE about SANITY's fridge. Arrived at 1600 hours. Picked up a mooring on Simon's instructions by the Eco Divers wharf. It is really a motorboat mooring. After we picked it up we drifted maybe 20 metres before it held. It had such a long line on it in the morning PLAIN JANE was bumping into one of the Eco Divers boats. It was good to have a shower. Spoke to Bob and Carol (ELYXIR) and arranged to meet in the afternoon tomorrow.

 

11th August.

Joined the morning sked which is now being run by Carol. Spent most of the day restocking. Got some money from the bank. Bought some more lures. Took the supermarket trolley back to the jetty with a load of groceries then returned it when we picked up the next load. Wrote a letter to my parents and posted a whole lot of mail. Sent faxes to Corina and work (what's work?). Joined ELYXIR on their boat for hamburgers for tea. Had a hot shower again after tea.

 

12th August.

Went ashore to pay mooring fees. Simon (Ahern) seemed genuinely sad to see us go. Filled the water tanks and left with the idea of going to Coconut Point but there was little wind and poor visibility with extensive cloud cover so we again anchored at Cousteau's. Went aboard KAPALUA II (means butterfly) for late morning tea. Enjoyed the company of Len and Pam. They gave us their friendship book to fill in a page. Had a swim off the boat in the afternoon and I swam across to KUPERE and got their children to row me back after a chat. Laura spent the rest of the afternoon playing with them in the boats, having water fights.

 

13th August.

We returned the friendship book to KAPALUA II then left along with GUNSMOKE for Coconut Point. We were under power as there was absolutely no wind and no ripples on the water. Out past the light there was only a slight swell and still no ripples on the water. An hour later the breeze filled in from the SW at 9 knots gradually building throughout the day to 16 knots. We raised both sails and motor sailed towards the Nasonisoni Passage. When we were about a mile off the passage just before we doused the sails we were passed by a lone 10 foot whale heading back the way we had come. We couldn't see the way through the reef and true to what Simon had told us we saw the marker on the far end of the passage before we saw the near one. The pass is 300 metres at its narrowest so it was reasonably easy to negotiate although the starboard side was difficult to see due to the angle of the sun. By this stage GUNSMOKE was over a mile behind. Once through the pass they went into the shallow bay to the N and anchored. The marker on the W end has been replaced at least twice that we could see. We raised both sails again and with the motor we made good speed. We spied The Nole to port as we sailed by. It is the only navigational hazard on that section of the voyage. After crossing a large bay 12 miles wide we came across a typical piece of island comedy. In Fiji they have a practical method of navigational marks. The white triangles point upwards and you keep those on the landward side. The black triangles point downwards and one should keep them to seaward. However if a beacon goes missing it may be several years before it is replaced. The chart shows that off Solevu Point there are 3 markers - 2 pointing upwards and one downwards. We came across only 2 and they were both white and both pointing downwards. They were difficult to see with the sun directly in our eyes late in the day. We approached them slowly and cautiously and found that one had broken a bolt and had turned upside down and the other was white because the birds had been sitting on it!! .From there it was only 3 miles to Coconut Point or more correctly, Nambouwalu. We arrived safely and without mishap which is more than could be said for the JUBILEE, a coastal ship, which had struck a reef 3 months before and had limped into port where she had settled by the stern, tied to the wharf. No lives were lost. Her deck is awash. She is being repaired but in typical island manner they have discovered that she is past her use-by-date so after she is refloated they are going to take her out to the reef and sink her. I went ashore and asked a man where I could get a piece of 4x2 timber for my lookout perch. The rope digs in to my feet when I'm aloft and I often wear my jandals up there to ease the discomfit. A man took me to the landward end of the wharf, which is several hundred metres long, where he introduced me to the market manager. He gave me 4 pieces courtesy of the Fijian Government. It's nice to know that the inefficiencies of bureaucracy and the generosity of the workers transcend international barriers. His kind gesture did a great service to Fijian tourism. I took a photograph of the kind men and some young boys and they were really happy. I tried sawing notches out of the ends of one baulk with my fishing knife but it was pretty hard going.

 

14th August.

Laura and I went ashore to get the notches sawn. There were a number of trucks along the wharf waiting for the OVERLAU II which arrived at speed. A small miscalculation would have caused a lot of damage but it slowed down just in time and was pulled alongside without a bump. We met the market manager but didn't recognise him because he was wearing different clothes. He got another man to saw the timber. It took 2 attempts as the first time he cut it in the wrong places. I met Tim, the 'fisheries inspector' and he showed me an easy transit up the coast. We left Nambouwalu at 1000 hours and motored out to the shipping channel a mile from port. I raised the genoa in 20 knots of breeze but it was very difficult to keep filled as the wind was very shifty from astern. Eventually I conceded defeat and dropped it. Within the channel the water was calm and the transit was clear but I stayed up in the rigging for the length of the Thakau Levu reef. It was easy aloft with my new perch. The channel was well marked with beacons. Off a point bearing the attractive name of Naithombothombo Point we turned W towards Yandua and raised both sails. The sea was just aft of the port beam and quickly got up to 1 1/2 metres once we were outside the shelter of the reef. We deliberately went a bit N to avoid Thakau Mono. We saw that breaking to the S of us. In the lee of that the sea settled slightly. The wind was consistent around 20 knots so we made good speed but it was quite rolly and uncomfortable. On our approach to the island we saw a local fishing boat going around in circles. It appeared to be dragging a net. Along the N side of the island we sailed between some rocks and a shallow midway along the coast but we did not see either of them. Off the NW tip we again encountered some local fishing boats. The island looked pretty dry. Apparently water is being shipped in because of the severity of the drought. On the W side of the island we dropped the sails and motored directly to windward. The wind increased to 28 knots due to the topography and our speed under motor slipped to 2-3 knots. We found the entrance without difficulty and lined up the lighthouse on the skyline with a compass bearing and slipped gently through the gap between 2 reefs. I was in the rigging again and we went closer to the S side as the book said we should as the S side is steep to and the N arm has of flying rocks. In the bay we found ADANA, HALLMARK and DELPHIS. We had lost contact with them for a few weeks. They had been up a river in the bay where GUNSMOKE had anchored on the W side of the Nasonisoni Passage. They had gone as far up the river as they could in their yachts until they ran aground. It was real tropical rainforest and no-one had ever seen a yacht up that river before. In the bay here we were buffeted by the wind with the boats moving around a lot and pulling at their anchors. Late in the afternoon I went across to ADANA to view his weather fax.

 

15th August.

Stayed in bed reading until after midday. We were the only boat in the bay as ADANA, HALLMARK and DELPHIS left at first light for the N end of Yasawa Island by way of the N side of Pascoe reef. Very brave as large portions of the journey are uncharted. Mid-afternoon EPISODE, PERICON and SANITY arrived from Nana-nu-i-ra. The anchorage is windier than out in the open sea. However with the wind coming directly off the land the water is not rough. Saw the green flash again tonight not knowing how close it was to being the sunset on my life as well. Tea was a big event tonight. Joy cooked the tuna we had caught on the way to Makongai. She was hot from cooking so she went out on deck to cool off. The girls toyed with theirs and said they didn't like it so I told them not to be so silly and took a few mouthfuls to show them what to do with food. However when my mouth quickly went numb and I developed a headache I realised that something was wrong. My skin, browned after 3 months in the tropics, looked to have a bad case of acute sunburn. I thought I had ciguatera poisoning so I went to the medical handbook and it said to apply ice as a test. I went to the freezer and applied some frozen goods to my chest. True to the textbook, it felt hot, a weird reversal of temperature sensation. My lips were tingling and my heart was pounding too. It is a serious sometimes fatal disease and I thought, judging by the amount I had eaten, that I probably would die. Fortunately I did not exhibit some of the other symptoms such as abdominal cramps and explosive diarrhoea, hallucinations, temporary blindness and nightmares, muscle twitching and respiratory arrest.

We were 30 miles from the mainland of Viti Levu and there wasn't anything they could do anyway so I went to bed expecting not to wake up in the morning. Joy asked what she could do to help so I told her to call an undertaker. 'No, seriously' she said. 'Call 2 undertakers' I replied and went to sleep.

 

16th August,

I awoke this morning - ALIVE!! Didn't do much in the morning - just celebrated being alive. Susannah and I went ashore after lunch and went for a short walk along the short beach with the SANITY crew. Susannah, Rebecca and Andy had a swim and Susannah caught a tiny fish with her bare hands. We found a large dead crab on the beach but he resisted our attempts to revive him in the water. He must have been very dead. EMOTION came in this afternoon. We saw them sail past. It looked as though they were having some problem with their sails but they eventually arrived. Saw the green flash again. Went to PERICON after dark to check their weather fax for tomorrow but they hadn't got one. Saw the green flash tonight.

 

17th August.

Left Yandua at 0630 hours which was as soon as we could see the reef at the entrance to the bay. The only one awake was Brian on EMOTION to see us off. It was good to know someone on earth (water) was watching out for us although we were aware that God was also watching over us. We are finally en route for the Yasawas. Graham Shepherd would be envious. The short term forecast is not brilliant. There is a wind warning out for the Northern Yasawas with winds of 20-25 knots SE and moderate to rough seas. However the long term forecast gave no sign of any improvement. We were to learn over the next couple of months that there always seems to be a wind warning out for the Northern Yasawas. I put 3 reefs in the main but left the genoa on deck as we motored into the wind. We spotted the sand cay which was obvious by the waves breaking across it. The water shallowed as we passed it and it was slightly nerve-wracking to see the depth gauge rising. However we were 400 metres from the cay and eventually the depth increased. When we turned from 210°T to 265°T, I raised the genoa. The breeze was again consistent around 20 knots. The seas were fairly steep and close together and about 1 1/2 - 2 metres high. For the first half of the journey we made well over 6.5 knots but after that the wind became more variable going between 13 and 28 knots. Mid-morning I had a very big strike but just as Joy and Susannah were handing the genoa I lost it. It had been much more powerful than the mahi-mahi we had caught on the way to Makongai. I had 2 other strikes of lesser intensity during the middle part of the day but lost them both. When Rebecca called on the evening sked I told her I'd been playing baseball - 3 strikes and still out of fish. There were a few times when the autopilot was unable to cope with a following sea and we veered 60° off course. After 30 long seconds we would come back on course but being beam on to the intervening swells was quite uncomfortable. As we approached the reef it was disconcerting to discover that the reef was very difficult to see. Bligh Water was certainly living up to its reputation. Up in the rigging I could only make out some parts of the reef. We had deliberately gone far enough S to be sure to turn N when we came up to the reef. In navigation it's not so important to know where you are as where you are not. The plan was to head N alongside the reef until we encountered the protruding reef of Tivolei. Because of the difficulty of seeing the N-S reef it was difficult to keep a safe distance off. We erred on the side of caution. Hereabouts the GPS may be as much as 1/4 mile out compared to the chart. Travelling N was very uncomfortable in the 2 metre swell in a beam sea. It was only for a couple of miles, but they were slow suspenseful miles. Up in the rigging it was very hard to hold on so I made sure I was harnessed securely each step of the way. Also I got Laura to put on her lifejacket as a precaution. Bligh Water is 200 metres deep and the approach to Tivolei reef is 20 metres deep so by using the depth sounder and GPS we crept slowly forward. We couldn't see Tivolei Reef at all so with both sails down we eased NW. It was like a blind man feeling with his white cane. Joy and Susannah kept their eyes peeled and I alternated from keeping a lookout up in the rigging to standing at the chart table checking the chart and GPS. Joy also called any changes in the depth. It was the tensest time of the entire trip and it seemed to go on forever. Our view forwards was made more difficult by the afternoon sun shining on the choppy water. There was a lot of white water around and every piece of it was suspected of having coral underneath. When we were in the channel the only identifiable marker was Sawa-I-Lau Island which we kept dead ahead. When we were a mile through the Qio Passage the tension eased and we followed the transits given in Michael Calder's book and found no problem avoiding the rocks. We came into the bay off Nabekeru village. There we found the yacht POLLUX with Paul (an Irish New Zealander) and his son Kian on board. The approach to the anchorage was made more difficult by the wind rising to 35 knots and the markers of a reef in the middle of the bay not being very visible until we were only 30 metres away from them. We took 2 attempts to anchor as we dragged too close to POLLUX on the first try. The second time we got a good purchase. Relationships were strained for a few hours as we came down from the tension of the afternoon. At times like this even I wonder why I do it. Paul came over for a cup of tea. We were all early to bed.

 

18th August.

Communication difficult with Carol on the morning sked. I went ashore and walked across a sandy beach and around a rocky shore to the village of Tamasua where I met Atecia Neisua. She only had I tooth in her upper jaw. She took the $2 per head off me for visiting the caves of Sawa-I-Lau then she spied the kava roots and requested them. The headman of the village is apparently away on the mainland. I retraced my steps, and then we all went in conjunction with Paul and Kian to the caves. The instructions were pretty vague but once the concrete steps are sighted everything falls into place. The cruise boats no longer visit them because the village chief suddenly put the price way up. Susannah and I had a swim in the cave. It is saltwater. I hadn't brought the underwater camera so I dropped the family at an adjacent beach where Laura had a swim in the warm clear water and Susannah walked with Kian across an isthmus back to the beach opposite the boat. Then she swam out to the boat. I motored back for the underwater camera then picked Joy and Laura up from the beach before returning to the cave where I again swam out and took some photos. I also got attacked by sea lice this time so I didn't stay in long. Since we have been in Fiji everyone was recommending we should visit the caves but no-one could tell us why. Overall I was disappointed. We were invited to POLLUX for a drink but instead we decided to sail around the point to Land Harbour for the night. It is in Nadala bay. Navigated successfully out into the open sea on the W side of Yasawa Island but after several miles realised that the anchorage would be exposed to the NE wind. The swell was also coming from the N. This is the first time since our arrival in Fiji that the wind has gone further N than ENE. We decided to return to our starting point so retraced our path, dropping our sails and motoring into the bay just ahead of EPISODE and SANITY who had motored most of the way from Yandua and had seen the reefs clearly. EPISODE pulled in a fish just before turning into the bay just to add salt to the wound. The wind had peaked at 8 knots for them. EPISODE had caught 3 fish from 3 strikes and SANITY had caught 3 from 8 strikes. SANITY had also lost 2 lures and a bucket. After tea Joy went across to SANITY for a cup of coffee. We were sound asleep when she returned.

 

19th August.

Went to the beach where Laura and Joy had a swim yesterday. Went snorkelling but it was somewhat disappointing. I went ashore to the village with Paul (POLLUX) and dressed a boil on a man's leg. It had burst a week ago but it had a large suppurating crater which had flies all over it. I cleaned and disinfected it before applying antibiotic cream and a dressing followed by a bandage to keep the flies off it. I left him with some antibiotic cream and dressings. He said the village nurse had no equipment but she can't have educated him in basic hygiene either. I guess their poor diet has an immense bearing on their general health too. Weighed anchor late in the morning and Rebecca took a photo of RUBEN JANE with the jib up as we ghosted out of the bay. We were still within sight of the anchorage when our best lure got snagged on the bottom because we were going so slowly. Laura freaked and thought we were going aground. I tried sailing back but as we couldn't position the boat properly we pulled down the sails which caused Rebecca to radio us to find the problem. We started the motor and got right above the snag. It was only 30 feet deep and I should have dived on it but instead I pulled the line until the trace broke. We then sailed down the W coast of Nacula Island. When we were off the Island of Tavewa the instruction book told us to take a bearing on the trig on its summit. There was no trig in evidence. We figured that with all their fires the trig had succumbed. We were also told to turn to port when the island was 0.9 miles away. I was trying to find a height on the chart of the island so I could calculate distance off using VSA but eventually gave up and resorted to Mark 1 eyeball method to negotiate our way around the reef. I stayed in the rigging as we passed to the N of Tavewa Island and was dismayed to see us passing over the top of a reef only 19 feet down. It is not found on the chart. Fortunately visibility was good with the sun high in the sky behind us. The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We doused the sails as we were heading directly into the wind. All the remaining marks were present and after going around a reef we finally anchored in Blue Lagoon. We went ashore and had a swim and a snorkel in clear water. When we arrived back at the boat a Fijian man came out in his boat. After exchanging greetings he fell silent so I did too. He eventually requested sevusevu. I told him I would present it after talking to David and Janet on CHANTICLEER. I had heard too many stories of people inveigling some only to have the chief approach the victims and demand his portion. David and Janet said to give it to Va so I went ashore after dark. Va was out fishing but her brother and a few others were already drinking kava. Wukiwuki came along and said she was the Public Relations Officer. I gave the sevusevu and stayed with the kava ceremony for several rounds. They seemed fairly decent people. I excused myself while I could still stand and returned to the boat for tea.

 

20th August.

A disastrous day. Susannah put the boat up on the reef.

We were all heading to shore in Plain Jane and Laura refused to be reef spotter so Joy and I were doing her job. We saw the reef just below the surface and told Susannah to reverse. We were still travelling at walking pace when we hit the coral. There was a lot of staghorn coral. BEDLAM!! Laura started advising us and I jumped out onto the coral hurting my left stay at home little piggy. There was no puncture wound or bruise but it hurt for several days. I thought, given the speed of impact, that the inflatable was probably punctured so we raced back to RUBEN JANE and I took the outboard off and put the dinghy on deck. By some miracle or good design it was virtually unscathed. However I got very angry at Susannah's carelessness and spoilt the day for me with anger. I was very angry!! The rest of the family went ashore for a while then Joy and I dived on a bommie with a navigation stake on it. Towards sundown Claire gave me a haircut. Then after tea we went over to CHANTICLEER for drinks as it was Janet's birthday.

 

21st August.

I found out that the underwater camera had not been winding on so I went back to the bommie visited yesterday and took some more photos. I have missed out on photos of the caves at Sawa-i-Lau. Joy and I went and dived on the white channel marker we had passed on the way in to the anchorage. Laura had a walk with me along the beach where the Blue Lagoon Cruise ships land. On the way back we had a chat to an English backpacker as her friend sunbathed topless further along the beach. Just before we returned to the mother ship Laura had a swim and while we played in the water I lost $8 out of my pocket. Back on board I realised what had happened so Laura and I went back to shore and I snorkelled over the area until I found it. It only took a few minutes. Who says being able to calculate leeway doesn't pay. Then Laura and I went and bounced on a fallen coconut palm that hung over the water. As darkness fell the wind got up but by morning it had dropped again.

 

22nd August.

Tony and Yvonne picked me up and we went to EPISODE to plan today's trip to Somosomo Bay. When I arrived back Joy was talking to a French couple whose ketch we had seen coming through the Man o' War Passage, Great Barrier Island back in February. Their steel blue boat has a white whale painted just above the waterline where they were hit by a whale some time ago. We motored out of Blue Lagoon with me up the mast reef-spotting. Susannah went on board SANITY. I must consider myself a failure because I couldn't spot the rock off Matacawalevu. I must consider myself a success because we didn't hit it either. There were only light E winds and as there was excellent visibility and an extremely low tide there was no difficulty identifying the 2 small reefs abeam the N end of Yaqeta Island. Episode passed through, followed by SANITY and we came along in the rear. There is several hundred metres between them and it was noted that it was shallower towards the W reef. The reef at the entrance to Somosomo Bay was also readily identifiable and we let go the anchor in the bay N of Narewa Point. We all went ashore and found the beach covered in sand dollars. There was a solar eclipse at about 1500 hours. The sky was overcast but it got quite gloomy for about 20 minutes. All the adults played petanque. I must be very skilled because I lost both best of three games in two ends. We all had a swim before returning to the boat for the evening. We were hoping to go across the isthmus and dive on a W.W.II spitfire which crashed in 10 feet of water. However according to a native it is now covered in sand. Both EPISODE and SANITY put out a second anchor. The wind blew from off the land at 20 knots and they discussed keeping an anchor watch overnight. I wasn't too excited about the idea but said we would do our share. If my anchor can't stand up to at least 40 knots I should not be here. I think they got scared by stories over the radio about how bad it was in Yandua tonight. BLADE had their dinghy flip whilst moored to the mother ship. CHANTICLEER is anchored just around the corner off Somosomo village. Janet contacted me asking advice for a baby with cradle cap. The other boats said they would instigate an anchor watch if the wind got up. It didn't and I had a good sleep.

 

23rd August.

Awoke with the intention of continuing down to Waya Island and we were motoring out of the bay when we heard the weather forecast which was for high winds and rough seas-35 knots gusting from S to SE which was almost dead on the nose so we turned and headed back to Somosomo village. Late in the afternoon we went ashore and I was able to tend to several medical problems in the house of Bill and Luciana (Lucy for short).  We also met Sovaia, Bari I and Bari II, Sami, Sikeli, Osea, Kore, Bill, Aluma, Kiti, Peno, Jale, Sunia, Ameli and Evi. There is a high tide mark about a metre up the walls where the last cyclone came to. In this 2 room establishment Bill and Lucy care for 4 children of their own and a further 3 nephews from Lautoka. It is comforting to see them open up their hearts to try to raise decent kids on his fishing income. It is also interesting that the kids prefer living in a remote village to the alternative of Lautoka. One medical case was an infected eye and the other was a gent with a month long history of a stingray barb in his foot which kept erupting. I explored the wound using EMLA and a needle but couldn't find any foreign body. We then went to the chief to give sevusevu (fish heads actually courtesy of SANITY). When the Blue Lagoon Cruises come in they pay the chief $60 per visit. This money supposedly is distributed amongst the villagers for putting on a display. There is little or no tangible evidence of this money being shared. The chief who is a female about 70 years old certainly has a very expensive gold watch with diamonds surrounding the face. This week the US president admitted corruption in sexual conduct. Thus corruption is found from one end of the power spectrum to the other. The villagers themselves appear very poor, but they are happy. They are experiencing a severe drought with the last rain 10 months ago. The last three kasava crops have failed and they are experiencing some vitamin deficiencies. The Fijian Government is giving them 24 sacks of rice every 2 months. Not much for 150 people. After I had been asleep for several hours David from CHANTICLEER woke me because he had seen a large fire ashore and wanted to offer assistance. He took me along for medical support. Once ashore we found that it was a grass fire (high winds and drought conditions). One of the men who met me on the beach had a sore eye so I put some chloromycetin ointment in it and told him I'd return in the morning light when I'd take a good look in it.

 

24th August.

Went ashore with some outboard fuel - all my reserves and a lot from CHANTICLEER - for Bill. I also had some interesting medical conditions to deal with.:-1. The man I had seen last night who had a 2 week history of conjunctivitis; couldn't find a foreign body so applied some more ointment.

2. Two men with swollen tongues and gums-? allergy so piriton tablets but then realised that it was more likely to be scurvy-how does one see black spots on dark Fijian skin?-encouraged them to eat plenty of seaweed as I couldn't think of anything else that they had which contained vitamin C. With the drought, it's about the only greens they have at present; (not many people have seen scurvy so I felt quite honoured);

3.A man who was numb down the fronts of his legs following diving using compressed air one month ago - I suspected a spinal embolism from air or nitrogen. He asked how long before he could dive again so I said to see a doctor in three weeks time and not to snorkel until then. How do you tell a man he can never dive again when this is the only way he knows to feed his family? I later found that there is a decompression chamber in Suva which may have been able to help.

We were preparing to depart when the German skipper of SKORPION came by and told us that the forecast was again for strong winds. Anyway, at 1100 hours we decided to sail for Natavalu Bay and check the weather on the way. SANITY and EPISODE came too. Laura went on SANITY. At the entrance to Somosomo Bay I radioed CHANTICLEER with the weather and sea conditions. Once around Vakaweitaci Point we hoisted sail. SANITY stayed outside the reefs while EPISODE and RUBEN JANE went in to Natavalu Bay. It is a beautiful bay evidenced by EPISODE and CHANTICLEER staying for a week. We had to continue on because Laura had been kidnapped. Although we had a good sailing breeze we failed to make any inroads in SANITY's lead. It was only when Laura came back on board at the end of the day that she told us that they had been motor sailing! This day had some of the most spectacular scenery I saw on the entire trip. The sandy beaches on the W coast of Naviti are where I would return to; mile upon mile of beaches only several hundred metres long with rocky promontories either end; I would start at one end and stay a couple of days at each before moving on to the next. Apart from Natavalu Bay, they are all uninhabited and pristine. At about this time I wrote a letter to a friend of mine who wanted to come but was prevented by family commitments. I gave our address as 'up where the butter melts' and for the date I inscribed 'August - I think!' He probably hates me now. We exited the reef between Cakau Balolo and Nankacuvu Island. The mountainous terrain of Waya Island reminded me of the mythical Bali Hai from the film 'South Pacific' We were warned by SANITY that there was an outlying reef but we were only !/4 mile offshore so it didn't concern us. We gave the SW point of Waya a good offing and headed into Yalobi Bay. On the way in we saw a fairly large turtle. Laura, Susannah and Rebecca went ashore to offer medical assistance (mine). The locals wanted that as well as sevusevu so they can't have been very desperate. We spent a very rolly night at anchor with no wind but the swell caused the boat to swing all over the place, quite uncomfortable.

 

25th August.

Left Yalobi Bay at 0800 hours after I swam to shore and back for exercise and a wash. Raised the sails but the wind didn't co-operate so finally doused them and headed into a small swell. We motored to Vuda Point. There was no wind until late in the day. About 2/3 of the way the SE swell stopped and a NW swell developed. Where they came from, I don’t know, because there hadn't been any weather systems around that we knew about. We had plenty of mail. Contacted Trevor Troughton at Club Fiji and arranged for them to come on board in 2 days time.

 

26th August.

Caught the 0700 bus to Lautoka. $1-80 for Joy, Susannah, Laura and me. Looked around for a chart of the Mamanucas. Asked in one bookshop if they had one. 'No'. 'Know where I can get one?'  'Don’t know'. 'Is there a hydrographic office in town?' 'Don’t know'. 'Is there any way of finding out?' 'Don’t know'. Felt like asking him if he minded me asking him questions but I refrained.

Was accosted by a friendly street hawker who gave us some wooden souvenirs and even carved our names on them. When we were about to leave he said he would take a Donation so I gave the souvenirs back to him. I was looking for a part for my Coleman's lantern and found it. They wanted to charge me $42 for the generator. A new lantern beside it was $38. I had broken a filling a week previously (despite having a dental check-up especially before leaving Tauranga) so I went to the dental department of the hospital. It cost me $1 and 2 hours to get a temporary dressing on it. Just outside the hospital gates the Crippled Children's office is advertising coffins for sale - confidence inspiring!! I then went to the other side of town to the Last Stop Restaurant (does that mean you eat and die?). It took 3 visits before I was able to use their e-mail facility. $0-44c/minute. Sent 4 e-mails-$13. Called in at the Western Districts Medical Offices and told them about the scurvy in Somosomo village. The doctor from the Yasawas was visiting Lautoka so he was notified. When I visited Yalobi Bay I was told that he lives in Somosomo village but no-one mentioned it when I was there. I thought maybe he charged too much for the villagers to be able to afford to see him. I subsequently found he lives in another village on Naviti Island. He is provided free by the Government but the stumbling block is that one must give sevusevu to the chief of his village before one can see the doctor. It makes me angry that their selfish culture is killing them. We then did the grocery shopping and with Tony and Yvonne caught a mini-van back to Vuda Point. He charged $10. The going rate for a car is $8. Back at the marina I met an American lass who was looking for the boats TWEED and MARANATHA. We put a call on the evening sked for information on their whereabouts but drew a blank. I visited POLLUX and SANITY and returned some charts I had had photocopied earlier. They were charts of the Mamanucas.

 

27th August.

I finished filling the water tanks and took the washing off the lines before the American lass arrived back so I put out a call on the morning sked again with no response. Trevor and Kay Troughton arrived so after they had met Rebecca and Andy we got underway. We had intended going back to Waya but just after exiting the marina the forecast said 20-25 knots gusting 30 for the Yasawas so we altered course for Malololailai. The wind was beam on but turned more W so just before the Black Rocks we dropped the sails and motored via the channel to Musket Cove. The marker on the end of the reef by the Black Rocks is an aircraft beacon, not a marine one so care must be taken to ignore it or you will go on the rocks. The marine one is only several feet above the water and is very difficult to see. It is also several hundred metres further W. After inspecting the whale painted on the hull of the French boat we all went ashore. All the ladies had a swim while Trevor and I went for a walk. In the rafters of the Yacht Club are carved and written the names of many visiting yachts. We towed GOLD JANE back to RUBEN JANE just before sunset. Looked for the green flash but didn't see it. We put GOLD JANE up on deck and were just about to raise PLAIN JANE when we were called from SIR FRANCIS. His dinghy had broken free so Trevor and I launched a rescue mission. We caught it half way to the reef. It does the soul good to do something heroic and dangerous (it was neither but I can pretend). We were in bed just after 1900 hours.

 

28th August.

Spoke to Rebecca and BARNSTORM on the morning sked. BARNSTORM is only just around the corner in Lokomai resort so we sailed around there in light airs to say 'Hi' as we headed N. We were forced to motor sail as the wind grew progressively lighter. We went between Castaway Island and Malolo Island. Tried going over the reef to the W of Mociu (Honeymoon Island) in 25 feet of water but the crew got scared just as we were about to emerge into deeper water so we retraced our steps and went via the channel. With no wind and bright sunlight it had been easy to see the reef. An hour after leaving Lokomai the wind disappeared completely so we took the sails down. Just E of Mana Island is a sand cay I must visit sometime. As we motored past there was only one person visible on it..then 2.....3......4. The crowds always ruin things for me. We were heading to the E of Tavua Island when we sighted CHANTICLEER and EPISODE on a reciprocal heading. We swapped addresses with CHANTICLEER as they are moving on soon. From there it was a straight run through to Yalobi Bay, Waya Island, Southernmost of the Yasawa Group. The only other noteworthy feature was sighting a hammerhead shark about an hour from our destination. Once at anchor Trevor, Kay and I went snorkelling with some of the most vivid colours of coral I have yet seen. Some different coloured cubes looked just like pipe cleaners on one rock. The three of us then went to the house of the Tui Waya (chief) and gave sevusevu. He seemed more interested in the yaqona root than in us but his wife was more accommodating. Still he did give us the freedom of the village which subsequent events showed not to be true. We returned to the boat and had a bit of a rolly night. Still it was quieter than last time we were here. During the night we again heard considerable fish activity. Once when I was awake I took a line in PLAIN JANE and rowed around the bay. The awesome skyline looked impressive at night too. Again, no fish took my line.

 

29th August.

Trevor and I joined Russell from PERICON for a walk along the beach to inspect a bure that the islanders had been building yesterday. While we were viewing it a large lady in her fifties came and invited us to a display/performance at 4pm when the Captain Cook Cruise ship comes in. We asked her if there was any charge and she said 'No'. Brian from WINDERMERE II came on board in the afternoon and gave us our monthly ICA newsletter, the rope clutch he had taken to Auckland and some photos of the Savusavu regatta. When the square rigger bringing the tourists arrived we all went ashore and walked to the bure. When we arrived we were told by a native man dressed in traditional dress that there would be a $10 per person charge. We told him that we had been told that there would be no charge but he insisted. We slowly moved away resolving not to pay but to go snorkelling instead. Brian and Joan were rowing ashore to the bure so I called to them (loudly) and told them that the islanders were not honourable. To my satisfaction he called back seeking clarification so I was able to explain at length, loudly, our intense displeasure at the insult. We went snorkelling instead but the sun was disappearing behind the hills so the light wasn't as good as previously. We only stayed in about 10 minutes and when we emerged the square rigger was well out in the bay, leaving after the performance. We were glad we hadn't forked out $10 each for a performance that only lasted such a short time. On the evening sked Rebecca told us she had picked up the mail from Vuda Point for us.

 

30th August.

Trevor and I went for a snorkel. I took the camera and took several underwater photos but the light was from the wrong direction. Then we sailed up the W coast of Waya to show our guests the stark skyline. Opposite the Octopus Club we turned upwind towards Navandra Island. The breeze got up to 13-20 knots but in spite of several large tacks we made only slow progress. There appeared to be a contrary current so when we were still a mile short of Eori Island we lowered the sails and motored. I was up in the rigging as we went past Eori Island and was alarmed to see coral bommies just under our keel. I urgently asked Joy how deep it was. 114 feet she replied!!! The water clarity is amazing. With clarity like that we had no difficulty getting into the lee of Navandra Island. Getting ashore was a problem as it is shallow for 50 metres offshore. The snorkelling was awesome with great water clarity and big drop-offs. The fish were almost all similar to others we had seen before but were about twice as big. Joy, Susannah and I swam back to the boat and Kay, Trevor and Laura came back in PLAIN JANE. Spoke to Marty on MAKANI. Marty and Noelene are in Rotuma visiting relatives. That is a few hundred miles N of here.

 

31st August.

Late in the morning we took both dinghies over to the island of Navandra (we had been snorkelling on the island of Vanua Levu - yes another one). Trevor was incensed at how the coral was being destroyed. A lot of it is covered in fine coral dust. We also saw some Crown-of-thorns starfish. These are the first specimens we have seen.  They too are destroying coral. Jan from PACIFIC FLYER came on board. She and her husband are Australians who are just finishing a circumnavigation after 9 years travelling. She arrived on a surf ski so the girls played with that while the adults chatted. Mid afternoon Joy and I rowed ashore. We arrived on the isthmus in a hurry as there was 1/2 metre swell running. Trevor and Kay arrived shortly afterwards in PLAIN JANE. We saw BARNSTORM and PRELUDE II come into the bay and then Roy and Margrit came ashore too. Again there was a beautiful sunset.

 

1st September.

We were originally planning to have another snorkel before leaving but the weather was overcast and blustery so we deferred the swim. The wind was coming from the S, on the nose again. We tried sailing but the wind strength was 15-20 knots so we resorted to motor for the comfort of everyone on board. Decreasing the speed (motor Vs sailing) also decreased the fishing potential. We went to the W of Yavumba Island and were able to see the reef around it. We also went close to the 9 metre shallow to the E of Tokoriki Island - intentionally because that kept us away from the reef SE of the shallow. From there it was a straight run through to the beach on the N side of Mana Island with the reef NE of the beach being clearly sighted 100 metres to port. We arrived mid afternoon. I took PLAIN JANE ashore while the children took GOLD JANE. The other adults snorkelled ashore. Just up from where I beached the boat was a well endowed woman sunbathing topless. I took a bit of flak from the rest of the crew for landing at that spot. I snorkelled out to the reef. The reef itself is in poor shape but the aquatic life is not bad. We then returned to the beach where we stayed until just before sunset when we returned to the boat to watch for the green flash. The conditions were ideal but only Laura saw it. Still the sunset was very pleasant. We have SANITY on one side of us and DELPHIS on the other. Steve and Claire were visiting Tony and Yvonne until late.

 

2nd September.

Susannah swam over to DELPHIS before they woke and swam their dinghy back to SANITY before they woke. There was much merriment when Claire finally emerged.

Everyone except me took the old mouldy water crackers which are only 12 years old and fed them underwater to the fish. I have developed chest wall pain which is debilitating. Late in the morning the adults went for a walk around the island. When we came back I swam out to the boat and moped. This sore chest/cough is knocking the stuffing out of me. Late in the afternoon Trevor, Kay and I climbed the small hill at the centre of the island. It is only about 150 feet high but some Japanese girls came up after us panting as though they were about to breathe their last - and I'm the one with the sore chest!  Late in the afternoon the wind backed so tonight we are on a lee shore. The change occurred too late in the day for us to gain the shelter of the S side of the island so we had a bit of a rolly night.

 

3rd September.

After a very slow start the conditions didn't appeal for swimming so we motored out to the sand cay E of Mana. To get there we went between the island and the reef. We approached it from the E side. Trevor and I went ashore and took some photos. We then rejoined the ship and raised the sails following SANITY towards Vuda Point. However we found a reef in the way so decided to retrace our steps and take the passage on the N side of Malolo. We were hard pressed to make it around the marker without tacking. We were about halfway along the N side of Malolo and I was in the rigging, when I lost my reef spotting glasses overboard. Unfortunately I was not quick enough to decide whether or not to jump in after them and by the time I had made up my mind they were 20 metres astern and slowly sinking. Further along there was no evidence of the beacon which was on the chart so again we retraced our steps under motor and sailed to the W of Malolo. As we passed Musket Cove, Carol (ELYXIR) called us. She was staying on a boat called WINGS at the Musket Cove marina. She could not see us so it was fortuitous that we were in VHF range at that particular time. Once we got past the Black Rocks the wind dropped so we motor sailed. Five miles out we were called by CRIMSON TIDE who had picked up some mail from Vuda Point for us. We hove to and they posted the mail over in a landing net. We gave them some photos we had taken of them in Savusavu. Just as we were entering Vuda Point Marina, Rebecca called to say that SANITY was in Denerau. Trevor and Kay left us when we tied up. We tied up stern to but it was not good as the stern is lower than the bow so it was much more difficult to get off when the tide was out. Also the concern was for the rudder hitting the sloping wall. It would be marvellously safe in a cyclone with the surge barrier across the entrance but the small stones would become a real hazard when the wind got up. I think I would be tempted to imitate the locals and take my boat up one of the rivers. Admittedly there would be the hazard of floating logs. The best solution is to stay away during the cyclone season. On land they sink the hulls of the boats into graves. In the water all the boats are moored to a central buoy. If one boat let go there could be a domino effect.

 

4th September.

I caught the 0730 bus to Lautoka to buy Joy's birthday present. On the trip I enjoyed chatting to Debbie off GUNGHA. She and her husband and daughters, Alex and Amesia were also on their way to Lautoka. After shopping for an hour I was ready to take a bus to Nadi where I met the rest of the crew in Jack's Handicraft Store. I got some money from the bank then went to buy some stamps and post some letters. On the way I was accosted by a man who insisted that I dine at a certain spot. On the way back from the Post Office he again tried to encourage me to sample the food. He was so insistent that he almost fell asleep with a sore jaw. Being a Christian sometimes leads to rewards and blessings for others that they won't know about until eternity. I then joined the family for a bus ride out to the McDonald's Restaurant. The children had been hanging out for a big Mac for 4 months. It certainly hasn't done them any harm. After lunch I bargained with a taxi driver for a fare to Morris Hedstrom’s. I heard it was only 10 minutes walk but it was at least 2 miles. He took us instead to Cost-U-Less. We saw some cakes from Melba Foods there. Our neighbour back in Tauranga is part owner of Melba Foods. We then returned to the marina and I went to get the gas cylinder topped up. After dark I went to HALLMARK to get my drill battery charged. My connection won't fit the plug on our berth. I then had a shower before bed.

 

5th September.

Spent all morning getting fresh water etc. onto the boat. Trotted over to BLIZZARD and had a chat to John Miller, the previous owner of RUBEN JANE. Ordered the longboat to help us get out of our berth and when it arrived Joy and Laura were not on board so Susannah and I took it out and the longboat then dropped Joy and Laura on board. Our intention had been to go to Musket Cove but Rebecca had radioed asking to be picked up from Denerau so we motored directly over there-head winds again. There is a small sand cay and also a reef on the rhumb line and one white triangle marker was ambiguous; was it to be kept between the boat and the sand cay; the boat and the island off Denerau; the boat and the mainland? We decided on the last option and crept past using the Braille system. We anchored near low tide in 14 feet but there was no hope of seeing the bottom. Visibility is only about 5 feet here. By then it was too late in the day to venture further. Susannah and I went for a blat in the rubber ducky but the float in the carburettor jammed again so we dropped by SANITY and Andy towed us home (50 metres). Susannah and I then went ashore with Tony and Yvonne. The Sheraton is certainly an upmarket resort. The shopping complexes and beach are nice but the water is yucky. Back on the boat we saw a seaplane land in choppy seas - it looked quite dangerous but when it took off 1/4 hour later it looked even worse. Andy and Rebecca were on their way to rescue a capsized catamaran and tourist but the longboat beat them. The difference between a tourist and a terrorist is the tourist may endanger himself as well.

 

6th September.

This morning as I was looking over the side I spied a large fish so we got some bread and started dropping it on the water in nibble sized portions. It appeared to enjoy them so the next one had a hook in it. I don’t think it enjoyed that but it didn't put up much of a fight. It only just fitted into the landing net if it was folded slightly. It was about 400mm square but only 150mm thick. As it appeared to be a brown and white striped butterfly (?bat) fish, which is of dubious eating value, I let it go. As it had come to the surface the brown stripes had faded almost totally. We then took Rebecca on board and sailed out to the Black Rocks with the wind almost on the nose again 10-15 knots. Very frustrating all these head winds. By the Black Rocks we again lowered the sails and motored several miles to anchor off Musket Cove. Being Fathers' Day I got a new T shirt and in the afternoon my old one tore through. My mother had bought it for me in Hawaii and it said 'I Don’t just stand around and let life pass me by...I sit, its more comfortable'  My new one says 'I'm on Fiji time'. Joy has the flu so the rest of us went ashore for a barbeque and she had an early night.

 

7th September.

Our wedding anniversary. Joy still not feeling well. She went and spent the day at the pool and Laura spent the day in the pool. We had all been invited onto WINGS for the race to Castaway Island. Susannah and I went .I got the job of spinnaker trimmer and with my limited experience we still came 4th. Fred and Judy were excellent hosts. He is so positive - always encouraging - even when the crew fouled up he ALWAYS looked for the positives in what was done. After the race he shook hands with all the guys and hugged all the ladies then we meandered through the rest of the fleet as he thanked all the other yachts for a good race. (We were actually beaten by an ex Steinlager boat EMOTIONAL RESCUE which used its motor for the first 10 minutes of the race). He and Judy shouted lunch for all the crew ($14/head for 10 people). After lunch there was the beer drinking race NZ Vs The Rest of the World and of course NZ won. Then the hairiest chest and wet T shirt contests so I went snorkelling. Afterwards we continued on around Malolo Island checking out all the shallows and hazards for the race in 2 days time.

 

8th September.

The Malololailai Olympics. The Hobie cat challenge was exciting with Grant and Debbie (OMEGA OF WELLINGTON) eventually winning. The dinghy races were also held. Laura and I both entered but Laura was taken out by another contestant who kept tangling with her oars. Until then she had been doing well. I was last in my race. Then came the big event of the week. Somebody dropped a cigarette butt on a hilltop and half the island caught fire. They called for volunteers so after Laura brought my jandals from the boat I ventured forth. From the central ridge it was an amazing sight. One side of the island was an island paradise with brownish grass leading to green to blue water with boats peacefully at anchor; the other side was total devastation with grass still burning. One section was eventually controlled by back-burning but the rest was left to burn itself out right across the island. In the afternoon were the golf pitching, coconut putting and the volleyball. The WINGS team (with me included) eventually lost the final to the home team.

 

9th September.

Today was the around Malolo yacht race. I had been invited to crew on WINGS again. Carol from ELYXIR was there too, tailing the lines. This time Susannah stayed home by choice. As soon as I got aboard WINGS I got a radio call from John Miller on board BLIZZARD asking me to crew for him. When Fred and Judy heard that I was in demand from a fast boat like BLIZZARD (Farr 44 with an 11 foot deep keel) they assumed that I was pretty good so I got promoted from being spinnaker trimmer to tactician. Thus I spent the rest of the day with my hands in my pockets telling the owner and boss what to do. We did some useful things like take transits on the start line so we could see our relative position from anywhere along the line. We were first over the line after the start (good) but with little speed on (bad), fifth at the first mark (sad), third at the next corner (better), then everyone ran out of wind. After that it became a lottery and after a windless hour and a half, several boats behind us got the breeze first so we were eventually sixth across the line. We did pass two more boats and didn't get passed by any so we were pleased. Also no smaller boats came in before us and quite a few larger boats were behind us. BLIZZARD only just beat us after having trouble with a jammed spinnaker halyard. I now have experience as a tactician in a major international regatta. I await further offers. On my return to RUBEN JANE I was transferring my gear on board when my sunglasses fell out of my towel. Laura almost caught them on the platform. I jumped into the water but was unable to see them so they sank in 40 feet. I was annoyed because that is the second pair I've lost in a week. At night we went onto SANITY which was moored in the marina and said goodbye to Rebecca and Andy. A late night and a rough trip back to our boat.

10th September.

Joy's birthday. We were woken before 7 by a boat horn. We tried to ignore it but when it sounded for the second time we emerged to wave to Rebecca and Andy. They are flying via USA to London. Joy and Laura tearful all day. Laura and I decorated the dinghy but in the parade of about 10 boats we didn't win a prize. Joy and I still have coughs and Joy still hasn't much energy. At night we went to the pig on a spit night at the restaurant. While we were there we got a phone call from Rebecca to say 'Happy Birthday'. They had got the times on the tickets mixed up and were leaving at 11:30pm not am. We thought that they would be over the sea halfway to Hawaii at that time so were very surprised to hear from her. Then the house band came over and sang 'Happy Birthday and long life' to Joy in English and Fijian. Again I put chilli sauce on my food before reading the label on the far side of the bowl. A nice meal although the lady serving the pork seemed reluctant to part with much of it. Still I finished off everyone else's. Joy and Laura were very tired so we left before the show. Susannah stayed and came back later but we were all sound asleep when she arrived. It was rough again in the dinghy.

 

11th September.

Didn't do much today. Everyone is getting ready to go to Vanuatu tomorrow. I fixed the steering arm on the outboard with help from Steve. We eventually had to apply heat to extract the old bolt.

 

12th September.

We completed our farewells. Only 4 boats from the Tonga fleet are going to Vanuatu: - CRIMSON TIDE, EMOTION, PERICON and MATANGI as well as WINDERMERE II. Still it feels like the end of an era. I'm still very sad we're not going but if Joy's confidence grows it will be well worth it. We went ashore and Laura and I had a swim in the pool. I tried to take a photo of a plane landing over the top of me but it landed from the other end of the runway. Ten minutes later, when I was back at the pool one landed from our end of the runway. We saw the fleet leave. They appeared to be becalmed soon after the start. We then motored around the corner to Lokomai Resort where we picked up a mooring. BARNSTORM and RUBEN JANE were invited aboard WINDFLOWER for drinks. We had a pleasant time before returning home for bacon and eggs.

 

13th September.

Joy, Susannah and I went snorkelling on the adjacent reef. There was no great difference to most other reefs but I did see a box fish. We left Lokomai with the idea of sailing around the N end of Malolo Island on the way back to Vuda Point, but after a heated discussion which I lost, we motored back past Musket Cove and out by the Black Rocks (which are black) where I raised the sails and we headed to Vuda Point on a tight reach. When we were about 2 miles off Vuda Point we put in a long tack out to the W before putting in another one which took us around the point into Saweni Bay about 3 miles N of Vuda Point. The sea was fairly choppy and it was coming directly into the bay but just before sunset it calmed down and became mirror smooth. This is the norm here apparently. MAKANI and ADVENTURER were here too and BARNSTORM arrived later. The bay was used by the Armed Forces during W.W.II - as a Catalina base I think.

 

14th September.

Susannah stayed on the boat while Joy, Laura and I caught the bus ($1.50) in to Lautoka where we restocked and replenished our stores for three weeks more cruising. Our taxi ride back cost $5. When we arrived back at the beach a loud whistle was meant to summon our dinghy but Susannah was listening to a tape so she didn't hear so I rowed out in ADVENTURER's tender. It was again choppy. After loading the stores we motor sailed, with Laura at the helm, to Vuda Point where we tied up alongside WINDFLOWER. DELPHIS and SUNSET QUEST were there too. We filled with water, bought some more outboard fuel and also another New Zealand flag. Old Faithful is losing some stars again. How does one get rid of one's country's flag respectfully? Jan from PACIFIC FLYER had told us several weeks ago that when their Australian flag grew too old and tatty she folded it neatly, placed it in a bag ANDTHENSTUFFEDITINARUBBISHBIN!! Late in the evening we heard loud music that we thought was coming from WINDFLOWER but it was coming from across the other side of the marina. Some people have achieved a certain number of years but are still children as regards consideration of others. We all, except Laura, had showers; Joy had hers in the dark as the lights all went out for some unknown reason.

 

15th September.

Wrote and sent 5 faxes - to Geoffrey (my brother), Corina, Alana (travel agent), Rebecca, and a potential crew member - Glenn Payne. We then left just on midday and headed towards Mana Island by the direct route. The wind was just forward of the starboard beam at only 10-12 knots most of the way. We only averaged 4.7 knots because of some calm patches along the way. Just off Honeymoon Island Joy and I had a discussion as to whether to go to Lokomai Resort or Mana Lagoon for the night. The low sunlight reflecting off the water was making navigation difficult but it eventually went behind the clouds so with the good light available we headed into Mana Lagoon. We had been warned by Brian Hepburn about the white buoy to be taken to port after passing the beacons but we still had some beacons to bisect when we were confronted by a white buoy - and then a creamy yellow one. I was up the rigging so saw that the white one could be kept to port but a dogleg out to starboard of the other one was aborted when I clearly saw the channel so we took that one on our starboard side. We anchored just inside the entrance next to ROMANA. Joy and I went over for a Happy Hour just before sunset. Paul and Michelle had a couple of young ladies staying on board. Just as we were leaving ROMANA after a very pleasant hour a man swam out the two hundred metres from the beach. It was Joy's cousin's husband from back in New Zealand. He knew we were in Fiji but didn't know where, or the name of our boat, so when he had seen the New Zealand flags he had swum out to see whether any other New Zealanders knew of our whereabouts. Raewyn, his wife, was back on the beach so I rowed ashore and picked her up. It was amazing to see her face when I turned around from rowing and she recognised me. We showed them over RUBEN JANE. We went the 1/3 mile journey to the resort in both dinghies. There wasn't much freeboard with five adults and one child but we arrived safely. Then they kindly bought us all tea at the resort. It was most generous of them and greatly appreciated. It was, by far, the best quality meal we have enjoyed since the Barbecue at Ian Hill's residence at Nuku'alofa. Afterwards there was a show of Fijian singing and dancing. We then went to their fale for a short time before returning to the boat for the night. This is their last night here so we offered to take them back to the mainland tomorrow but they declined. This was very fortunate as it transpired. Our journey back to RUBEN JANE was in choppy seas. When we arrived back I tied both dinghies securely to the mother ship as was my habit, before retiring for a sound sleep.

 

16th September.

We were very slow to emerge this morning and it was about an hour later that I went on deck and noticed that GOLD JANE was missing. The painter had chafed through at the eyebolt. Paul (ROMANA) and I did a quick reconnoitre around the lagoon which was unsuccessful in locating her, then I took RUBEN JANE out to the outer reef some 6-7 miles away. The breeze had been constant in both strength and direction during the night. Visibility was excellent with no wind now and calm seas but again the search was unsuccessful. From up in the rigging I had about 4-5 miles visibility. We trolled lines too but this also was fruitless. With heavy hearts we returned to our anchorage and I took PLAIN JANE ashore to ask for advice. Rachel Yasa (c/- Mana Resort, P.O.Box 610, Lautoka) took up the cause and called all the other resorts seeking information but she too drew a blank. However later in the day she radioed to say that a fisherman from Yanuya Island, some 5 miles NW of Mana had returned to his island with a white dinghy he had found out by the outer reef about the time we had started searching.

 

17th September.

Susannah took the rubbish ashore and I cleaned the bilges. Spoke to DELPHIS. They left Momi Bay yesterday bound for Noumea and after being becalmed most of the day they made 70 miles overnight. They caught 2 tuna yesterday and a big mahi-mahi today. I then spoke to SUNSET QUEST who passed on a fax from my brother, Geoffrey. We then motored out of the reef, passing a turtle just as we exited the channel. There was a native boat up on the reef but he was in no immediate danger with calm seas and an incoming tide. We motored in very calm seas to Yanuya Island. On our approach on the E side the visibility was awesome with absolutely no distortion in 70 feet. I went ashore to retrieve the dinghy while Joy and Susannah had a swim and took photos. A lady said the chief was on the mainland but she led me to a house where they were drinking kava so I presented sevusevu. I went a couple of rounds then 3 men disappeared to get the dinghy. When they hadn't returned after 40 minutes I excused myself and went searching. After 10 minutes of uncertain answers I met Bill who helped me with the search. Within 5 minutes we had located it. There was no evidence of any other searchers. It was on the W side of the island so I invited Bill on board RUBEN JANE as we went around the island. Bill pointed out the course. There were several reefs to avoid but in the clear conditions they were easy to identify and we anchored off the beach outside the reef. Bill and I went ashore and he invited me to his place while the fisherman (who had since returned) had lunch. Bill introduced me to his sisters, Naia and Denise. Then Joe came in. It was a few minutes before I realised that Joe was THE fisherman. I gave him $10 for his trouble and gave Bill $2 for his help. We then retrieved the dinghy and oars (which Joe had hidden), and some local children helped carry everything to the waters edge and I returned to RUBEN JANE. Joy and Susannah had a swim while I had lunch. Then Laura (initially under protest) and I had a snorkel. Laura was eventually happy diving under the dinghies. We then spent the rest of the day relaxing in beautiful surroundings. I spoke to DELPHIS on their evening sked. The water temperature on the W side of the island is 29°C. There are three churches represented in the village of 300 people. Assembly of God and Revival churches don’t encourage smoking or Kava drinking but the Methodist church doesn't disapprove. I am coming to the conclusion that kava drinking is detrimental to a person’s motivation with people becoming indolent and labile through drinking the stuff.

 

18th September.

Motored to just N of Yanuya Island, then raised the sails. The breeze was only 6-8 knots giving a sailing speed of less than 2 knots so once again we were forced to motor. When the breeze filled in it was from NNE so it was almost on the nose. We had several strikes but only landed one tuna which provided us with one meal. Only sighted 2 other yachts all day and just after 1500 hours we dropped anchor just off the village in Soso Bay. I sounded the diesel tank and found that we were down to 25% so I filled up from the reserve tanks on deck. This brought the level up to 70%. I was just washing the spilt bit off the deck when a fisherman paddled out in his canoe made out of a single sheet of corrugated iron. He asked for some diesel - no chance. I must be getting hard in my old age but they do not deserve to become beggars. Traditionally they used to paddle their canoes. He also asked if I would be going ashore so I told him I would - tomorrow. I asked if the villagers were healthy. 'No', he replied. 'They are Methodists!' I think there is a communication problem. His uncle is the chief but he is away in Lautoka (Almost all the chiefs seem to reside away from their islands). His father 'William' is the resident representative. I said I would see any sick people in the morning. I finally got an opportunity to relay for SUNSET QUEST. They have often relayed for me but they have just left Fiji for Luganville, Santo and they couldn't hear DELPHIS. OMEGA is at 30°S and finding it very cold. John Goater had a message to say that Andrew Lawrence was arriving in New Caledonia on 20th October.

19th September.

We all went ashore at 0900 hours. We presented sevusevu powder to William. There was no kava in evidence. Then the sick parade began. It started with a boy with a facial rash - probably fungal but I covered it with antifungal and antibiotic ointment. Gave him some antifungal ointment to continue his treatment; a girl with toothache - on examination she had a gap between her two front teeth with obvious decay all around it. From side on it looked as though the teeth could have substituted for miniature stocks. I gave her oil of cloves till she could see the doctor on Monday; a lady with hypertension - her JVP was 3-4 fingers - advised to see doctor; several children with coughs and rattly chests - taught and demonstrated chest physiotherapy; a boy with eczema - not infected so advised to see the doctor again; a lady with a migraine - digesic; a lady with an acute shoulder pain - digesic again; a lady with epilepsy - advised to be accompanied whilst swimming or near fires, continue medication; and finally, William with poor circulation in lower legs - 1/2 disprin per day. Una, one of the ladies acted as interpreter throughout. I was then taken across the village to a boy who was unable to walk. When I arrived it was obvious that the main cause of his problem was a large abscess around his left groin. He was only 8-10 years old and had been in this state for 5 days. I applied EMLA cream to numb it, then I lanced it. I didn't measure the amount of pus but it was still oozing over an hour later. I had to go back to the boat to get a syringe to irrigate it so I gave a couple of young chaps a ride in PLAIN JANE. Their names were Naaman and Siusiu. They were round-eyed when I showed them where we lived on the boat. They had probably never seen such luxury. The abscess was bigger than my hand (fingers included) and he had gross lymphamegaly. Sometimes one feels very inadequate. I irrigated it with diluted Betadine and covered it with antibiotic ointment and a dressing. He really required urgent hospitalisation and intravenous antibiotics. We didn't have any oral antibiotics left either. Joy had just finished the last one for a gum infection. Retrospectively I should have had him airlifted to hospital. I could have used my radio to call for assistance. The island doctor (who lives 2 villages further N) was back in Lautoka for the weekend. It was at this stage I grew very angry although I didn't show it (I think) when I realised that their culture is killing them. Although the doctor is provided free by the government, in order for someone from another village to see him they must first present sevusevu to the chief of his village. They can't afford it so they don’t go. At this stage I stopped presenting sevusevu and won't again. It is corrupt to allow people to die in such agony. One would not permit one's enemies animals to suffer needlessly like their children are. I could afford the kava at $50 a kilo but they can't. The victim's name was William. While I was tending him Joy, Susannah and Laura had been chatting to the ladies who were making baskets. Before we left the girls had been given a basket, two fans and 5 necklaces. Joy turned down clam shells and a tortoise shell because of import restrictions in New Zealand. Before leaving I prayed for all the patients - those who could be helped by medicine and those who couldn't. We then went to look at the village church which looks like a school building from the outside but inside were ornate carvings. Although the carvings were well done it was interesting to see a couple near the door of King Herod and the Roman soldiers. I admired their craftsmanship but queried their theological standing in glorifying the villains. We returned to PLAIN JANE and four local boys and Susannah carried PLAIN JANE down to the waters edge. It was a quaint gesture. We returned to RUBEN JANE and just after midday raised the anchor and motored in brisk conditions up the E coast of Naviti Island. Two thirds of the way up we came across a reef marked by a buoy which is not on the chart. It pays to keep a lookout. We also found that the GPS waypoints were further N than plotted by about 400 metres. The wind then turned more E so we were able to raise the jib and shortly afterwards the main as we headed across the mouth of Somosomo Bay and up the W coast of Yaqeta Island. The outer reef was clearly visible and as we got closer we could also see the inner reef. We sailed between them. The sea was not as rough as on the E side of the islands and we made good speed. As we approached the top of Matacawa Levu we tangled the fishing lines so that took 10 minutes to untangle. We then lowered the sails and motored into Blue Lagoon anchoring in 68 feet. Again I relayed for SUNSET QUEST in his talk to DELPHIS. They are in radio skip at present. DELPHIS suffered a knockdown last night and damaged their pulpit. However there were no injuries. A nice meal of corn fritters for tea tonight.

 

20th September.

Windy today so we all spent the day on the boat. Still, it was sunny.

 

21st September.

My Mother's birthday so we sang her 'Happy Birthday'. Windier today. Joy spent the morning cleaning. After lunch Laura, Joy and I went ashore with the rubbish. We were just getting back into the dinghy when Bill - one of the locals (are any named anything but Bill) called out to us. He was the one who came out in his boat last time we were here and demanded kava. I followed him to Va's house and finally got to meet Va and her daughter, Rosetta and her mother, Rosetta. Bill then explained the finer points of rubbish disposal ie. 50 cents per bag. The blurb sheet given to us by CHANTICLEER last time said a Donation - now they have made it compulsory. As most of it was burnable I deemed that a bit steep. Anyway I had no money on me so I offered to take it away with me but they said that was unnecessary. There were a lot of flies around in Va's house. Apparently she bakes very nice bread. We then went to visit Tony and Sue Mair on CUMMINS SPINNER a Riviera 33. While we were there a gust picked up their tender and flipped it, immersing the outboard for a few seconds. We left him dismantling the outboard. Still we had a couple of enjoyable hours with them.

 

22nd September.

CUMMINS SPINNER left this morning. BARNSTORM came in at lunchtime so Joy and I went over for an hour. In the afternoon we all went onto the beach for a swim. It was quite protected from the wind and we sunbathed for a while. Just before tea Roy and Margrit (BARNSTORM) came over for a pleasant hour. Spoke to Marty (MAKANI). He's at Yandua with ADVENTURER. KAPAIORA came from Yandua to Sawa-i-Lau in 7 1/2 hours - average over 7 knots. Not bad for a slowish boat. He had williwaws and waterspouts. RAMONA came in mid-afternoon.

 

23rd September.

BARNSTORM left to join SANITY at Somosomo this morning. Michelle from ROMANA came over for a chat and we arranged for her to bring Paul over for a pot luck tea. We saw something today we haven't seen for over three months - since 7th July to be exact. Rain. Still it is winter I suppose so can't complain. It started about 1630 hours and looks like it will continue all night. The wind has dropped to 15-20 knots. Spoke to Malcolm on SUNSET QUEST. He has arrived in Luganville, Santo. I have really enjoyed relaying for him to DELPHIS. Malcolm has often relayed for me so I feel that in some small way I am contributing in a positive way. Also the night we arrived in Tonga he was the one who welcomed us to almost Atata when we were parked behind the reef. Paul and Michelle came for tea and went home at 0145 so we obviously enjoyed ourselves. Don’t know where the time went.

 

24th September.

Slept in this morning and was late for our radio sked with Tony on SANITY. The sea is rough and the rain continued until midmorning. The wind is still very gusty so we'll stay here today. John Goater had a message from Corina to say that Glenn Payne can crew from Fiji to New Caledonia so that's good news. The water temperature has dropped to 25°C. At 2300 hours a front went through so I got up and watched that none of the other boats were dragging their anchors. The wind only got up to 33 knots but it was quite noisy and we veered around at anchor quite a lot making sleeping difficult. The sunshade flapped noisily. After about an hour it subsided quickly so 15 minutes later I returned to bed and slept well.

 

25th September.

Woke this morning to a gloomy squally day. There were frequent thunderstorms throughout the day. I wish that Graham Shepherd was here. Here I am in Blue Lagoon in paradise. I've been cooped up with the family for four days. The sun rarely shines and it's generally unpleasant. All this publicity about white beaches being deserted is true - there is no-one around in this weather. Even the cruise ships look miserable at anchor with nobody venturing ashore although some hardy souls went snorkelling on the reef. Some locals came and borrowed my epoxy resin to repair their boat. On board they had a European passenger who earns more money than me as a hospital administrator but there was no offer of paying for the use of the resin. Some people are either selfish or thoughtless. Paul bought some of Va's bread which we consumed for lunch. Joy made some popcorn which we have likewise devoured. I am surprised and gratified that the girls are playing so contentedly in such confined conditions. Joy and I are still unable to shake off our coughs. A multihull left here for Vila this morning. It had cleared out of Lautoka a week ago. KAPAIORA arrived from Land Harbour in a squall just after lunch. We last saw them in Port Maurelle in the Vava'u's. They came through the NW route into the bay. At the same time another sloop arrived from the E route and has anchored rather close to us. It's name is MENISCUS of GWEEK. Apparently Gweek is a creek in England where the owner hails from. We went over between showers and had supper with them. There are six English folk on board. Mark is the owner/skipper.

 

26th September.

Laura's birthday. The weather is still gusty and showery. We gave her some lollies but are saving the big present for when she goes through duty free in two weeks time. Continued our games and reading. In the afternoon the showers disappeared and the sky cleared for the first time in a week. Susannah and I went ashore and played volleyball with a coupe of locals and Paul (ROMANA) and Jan <pronounced Yarn> (KAPAIORA). We then returned for a party tea of lollies, biscuits, cheerios and self-saucing pudding as a birthday cake. Michelle came and brought another present of various lollies from ROMANA and KAPAIORA.

 

27th September.

Slow to emerge this morning. Then Joy, Laura and I went ashore. We played on the coconut tree that lies out over the water. There were also some seed pods Laura and I threw into the air and they flew like helicopters. One of mine went for over fifty metres. We then had a swim and sunbathed. I picked up the snorkelling gear from the boat and Joy and I went snorkelling. I saw my first sea snake. It was over a metre long and had black and white circumferential stripes. We all went back to the boat for a late lunch and Susannah went ashore. She was having a swim with ROMANA and KAPAIORA so I decided to swim ashore but only got as far as MISCHIEF. I stopped for a rest and a chat (but I didn't get into MISCHIEF). Then as Susannah was coming back in PLAIN JANE I hitched a ride home. Laura and I then went visiting CRUZ CONTROL - a 53 foot Santa Cruz design en route from California to Australia. They had called at Palmyra for several weeks on the way through. Palmyra is a privately owned American island which lies almost on the equator due S of Hawaii. It now has a full-time custodian, a Frenchman who has hauled 50 out of 51 boats off the reef. (1 in 3 boats visiting go on the reef - it is a long way from the island.). Marty called to say that ADVENTURER and MAKANI are heading to Sawa-i-Lau tomorrow.

 

28th September.

Squally day. Sambob III, the backpackers boat, (which I believe sank in 1999 and everybody was forced to swim for 7 hours to safety, no casualties) called into our anchorage to pick up Fastoe off MENISCUS of GWEEK. He is heading back to Lautoka. We left Blue Lagoon in 10 knots E. It is time to start heading back for the family to catch the plane home. Had just hoisted the genoa and put out the fishing lines when we were hit by the first of 6 strikes of the day. It was lost soon afterwards. The wind increased to 20-25 knots as it was influenced by headlands and valleys. We passed the Turtle Island Resort big game boat as he headed N. That's the world class resort next to Blue Lagoon. We had 2 more strikes which we also lost before we were hit by a squall just before we bisected the twin reefs off Devolau Island. We also had another strike just as we were lowering the genoa. Between the reefs (distance apart 200 metres) we passed MANLY FERRY as they motored N towing a dinghy with an outboard on. They were also hauling in a fish. There certainly was a lot of action in a confined space. As we continued under motor Joy neglected to tell me that she had tightened the brake on the reel that had had the strike as we lowered the sail. There was a drowned tuna which was a decent size. It didn't have much fight left after being marinated in sodium chloride and water for a while. Susannah did have some trouble netting it though. All our waypoints seem to be a bit far E in the Yasawas. We motored up to Somosomo village and anchored with a fishing net close behind us. The wind was now fairly constant at 20 knots E. I rowed ashore and checked on my patients. Scurvy was the diagnosis confirmed by the doctor for the 2 men I had seen earlier. All the patients were better except the man with decompression sickness, so I strongly advised him to see the doctor in the next couple of days. I was given some pancakes in one house. I initially declined the offer but they seemed pleased when I accepted. They were quite tasty. I bid goodbye to Bill and Lucy and rowed back to RUBEN JANE. We weighed anchor and quickly raised the No 4 jib. The paddlewheel speedo is not working as we have been at anchor for a week. However the GPS said we were reaching speeds in the high 7's. Out on the W point of Somosomo Bay the outlying reefs were easy to see and once around the Vakaweitaca Point we were out of the sloppy seas. Just off the point we hooked another slightly smaller tuna and Susannah hauled in her first fish. Photo time. Inside Cakau ni kereke we had our last strike. We almost got spooled until I realised that Susannah had taken the lock off the reel. We headed back under motor getting within 50 metres of the reef which comes out from shore before reeling in an empty lure. I went up the rigging as we entered Natuvalu Bay and we anchored alongside MENISCUS of GWEEK. A calm anchorage in 35 feet, a little further S than the guidebook says but free of dangers. Dived in and freed the paddlewheel. Laura and I went ashore. A young man guided us around the reef from the beach. The old man there made big hints about sevusevu (grog, custom etc.). He had no right because this land belongs to a village on the other side of the island. I had brought some fish heads ashore but he still grumbled. They are building some bures for backpackers ($10/night /person). He said he wanted some kava from MENISCUS of GWEEK tonight. I passed this information on to them on my return. As they weren't venturing ashore they deemed it totally unnecessary. Spoke to Marty again tonight. They had arrived in Sawa-i-Lau at 1500 hours after a good trip. Then Jan (KAPAIORA) called to find where we were so I took the opportunity to thank Rita for Laura's birthday present.

 

29th September.

I went ashore and had a chat to the old gent and then filled the water containers from the well. There didn't appear to be many floaties in it. We then sailed down the coast admiring again the unspoilt unpopulated beaches. I could quite easily stay a few days at each beach with Joy alone. Unfortunately development (apart from my boat anchored off) would spoil them. I hope they never get developed. The water is deep right up to the shore so anchoring close in would be possible and seclusion guaranteed. The skyline of Waya to the S only increases the beauty of the area. Several reefs just under a mile offshore would protect from all but the worst swell. Onward almost in a straight line from Natuvalu Bay to Nacilau Point on NW Waya. As we crossed between the 2 islands the swell increased to 1 1/2 metres on the port quarter. We didn't see the shallow patch near Waya this time either although we had a good look in good visibility. Our intention was to stop at Likuliku Bay on the W side of Waya Island but when we got there the anchorage was pretty windy. This is where the Octopus Club is located. The beach looks the cleanest we have seen in the islands so far. Reluctantly we sailed on in 130-140 feet of water to Yalobi Bay (been there; done that). We arrived at the same time as WINGS. Fred and Judy had sailed up from Vuda Point. They later came across and I gave them the last of our kava as we won't be using it because we're heading S. There is an element of sadness as our trip is drawing to a close. John Goater passed on another message from Corina regarding Glenn Payne wanting certification from me for his airfares. Looks like we'll have to seek out a fax machine in a couple of days. After dark I put a lantern on the boarding platform hoping to attract some fish but all it did was attract a black and white sea snake. It had a sting in it's tail because Joy lost the desire to swim here and Laura had a nightmare and spent the latter part of the night in our bed.

 

30th September.

Spent a very restful morning on the boat. Susannah and I went for a snorkel in the afternoon. Unfortunately the sun went behind the clouds and the wind got up a bit. We did take a couple of shots of a blue fish we hadn't seen before but ran out of film before we got a good one of coral. Also missed taking one of some small creatures on a large coral clump that looked as though they were made from different coloured pipe cleaners fashioned into balls. Late in the afternoon it got quite choppy so WINGS went around the N end of Waya. We just moved out into deeper water as we were in fairly shallow water. It was a rolly night until the wind strengthened and changed to a stiff Northerly with accompanying williwaws at 0400 hours. The bay calmed remarkably quickly but it was a tired bunch that emerged to face the day.

 

 

1st October.

Home this month or close to it anyway. With NE winds gusting to 35 knots we decided to head back to Vuda Point. After raising the anchor and avoiding some fishing floats I raised the main and put 2 reefs in it. We were reaching speeds of 7.6 knots on the cockpit speedo which normally reads about one knot slower than the GPS. The wind whistled through the gaps between the islands causing some exciting sailing. Just as we exited the bay we were visited by a pod of dolphins which stayed for about 10 minutes. When they left we passed our first waypoint and turned to 140° towards Vuda Point. Out from behind the shelter of Kuata Island the NE swell increased to 1 1/2 metres until it was shadowed by a reef to the NE of us. The breeze settled down to 16-24 knots so I put up the No 4 as well. On this reach our speed stayed at around 6 knots after dropping down to 3-4 knots for a short time. We averaged 6 knots for over an hour. I put out a line and almost immediately got a strike but that was the last for the day. When Vomo Island was on our port bow the wind decreased to a breeze and when the island was on our beam we were becalmed on a flat sea. By this time the No 1 jib was up. We waited for 10 minutes and a 6-8 knot breeze arose from the SE. so after a few more minutes we started the motor and motor sailed the rest of the way. It appears to be a local phenomenon that the wind blows towards the mainland for 1/2 the trip from the Yasawas and off the mainland when you get closer. In Vuda point marina we tied to the fuel berth and refuelled. Joy also did two loads of washing and we picked up the mail and replenished the water. Laura received a birthday present from our neighbours back home in Tauranga. Joy also learned that her father had been admitted to a rest home. He has not enjoyed good health recently. We then left the marina and raised the jib and motor sailed to Sawene Bay for the night, arriving just after 1700 hours. A very full day with a great variety of wind conditions. The anchorage was very calm with perfect reflections. Joy and I stayed in the cockpit for some hours discussing our options and responsibilities. The cane trains made a racket as they clanked past and the dogs ashore were barking a lot. In the early hours it started raining so I got up to close the hatch. The showers only last a few minutes but necessitate closing the hatch otherwise we get quite wet. Once the rain stops we have to open the hatch again because it gets very warm and stuffy with it closed in the tropics.

 

2nd October.

Susannah and I caught the 0830 bus in to Lautoka. I went to a dentist recommended by CONANDALE. He is 50 metres E of the traffic lights (only one set in town). 20 minutes, 2 fillings, no bib, mouthwash was a wash-your-glass-in-a-basin-in-the-corner-afterwards-trick. Still $45 is very good by New Zealand standards. He was Otago trained and wore gloves so there was hope there was sterile equipment. I returned to Morris Hedstrom's where Susannah had lunch then I went to The Last Stop Cafe where I waited almost an hour to read my e-mail (cost $3.20 this time). Then posted a postcard to my workmates and tried to fax Glenn Payne but kept getting engaged signal. Returned to MH's and completed the grocery shopping Susannah had started, then caught a taxi back to Sawene Bay. After putting the groceries on board I went to the local hotel to try to send the fax but they don’t have a fax machine. A very still night again but a bunch of young people on the beach had a bonfire and fireworks until late.

 

3rd October.

The anchor chain was very dirty when we raised it so I washed it before stowing it. Exiting the reef was easy because of the floating plastic bottles on the horns of the reef. We raised the jib but the wind immediately turned round to the S again - on the nose, so we dropped the jib and motored to Vuda Point. Joy and Susannah stooged around outside the marina while Laura and I motored in PLAIN JANE to send the fax and pick up the mail. Glenn's machine is turned off so I sent it to Corina and asked her to forward it. Back on board the breeze had moved slightly W so we raised the sails and sailed in a slowly building breeze to Denerau. Laura was at the helm for most of the trip. We went outside a Magellan line tanker at anchor and successfully negotiated the beacons on the reef we had difficulty interpreting last time. Susannah lay on the foredeck sunbathing. Off Denerau lies Yakuilau Island. According to the chart it has 2 beacons to the N of it. Last time we noticed it only had 1 beacon there - not unusual for Fiji. We were 1-200 metres off it when Susannah called to say that we were heading towards the reef. I replied that I knew but it was at least 100 metres away. 'NO', she called. 'It's 30 metres!!' I took evasive action and we missed the unmarked reef by less than 20 metres. It was lying about a metre underwater and would have caused some damage if we'd hit it at the speed we were doing - 4.5 knots. Thank God for watchful crew. That has been the closest encounter with a reef while cruising. We had been warned of an unmarked one to the S of Denerau which SUNSET QUEST had almost hit a month ago. Soon the crew were clamouring for me to drop the sails as we were approaching our anchorage - still 400 metres away - when we passed a Hobie cat in irons. I put PLAIN JANE over the side and pushed his bow around. He didn't appear to have many clues. He was last seen heading towards the resort so it might be a lesson well learned. We anchored in 16 feet. In the afternoon Laura and I went ashore and looked at the shops. There was a pushy saleswoman who followed us around almost on our heels. She was very well dressed and groomed but emitted loud popping noises as her bubblegum burst. When we returned Joy and Susannah were on SANITY so we joined them. We returned to RUBEN JANE at sundown so I could take a photograph of the sunset which was the most spectacular of the entire trip. We all went ashore for the Happy Hour - or so we thought but they finished their performance just as we arrived. The nibbles are free during Happy Hour but the drinks cost twice as much as other places. The sunset got better and better but unfortunately the camera was left on the boat. Just when you thought that it couldn't get anymore spectacular, it did. An international passenger aircraft went right through the middle of it. It was so awesome that one felt like applauding the Creator.

 

4th October.

We all went over to SANITY to bid farewell to Tony and Yvonne but after an hour they said that they would see us in Vuda Point before we left. Up anchored with the idea of sailing to Mana Island but when we exited the bay the wind was on the nose again so we pointed the bow towards Malololailai. We avoided all shallows and rocks passing within 200 metres of Curacao rock. Just as the Black Rocks were abeam the wind came around onto the nose so we dropped the sails and motored in to Musket Cove. We anchored behind DEFIANCE II and MOROLD. Joy had a sleep while the rest of us went ashore where Laura and I had a swim in the pool. Back on board Laura took a sunsight and a moonsight.

Tonight there is a star by the moon for several hours but when I looked later it had disappeared so I suspect that it had been eclipsed by the moon.

 

5th October.

I motored over to DEFIANCE II and borrowed a nautical almanac and worked out Laura's sunlight. She was 7 miles out which is very good for her first attempt. Everyone else went ashore. Laura had a swim and Joy had a shower. When they returned I took the almanac back. We sailed slowly out of Musket Cove passing Ron Holland's personal yacht and ARCHANGEL (Sir Peter Blake's boat which is on its delivery voyage to New Zealand). The breeze was very light and we ghosted along. It was not the sort of day for hurrying. The reefs were readily observable and as we were passing Lokomai Resort we saw a turtle and just before Castaway Resort we saw another. At Castaway we almost had our fishing lines run over by a boat towing a 'banana'. The breeze finally left us so we lowered the sails and motored into Mana Lagoon. We anchored in 29°C water beside SEA HAWK with Jonathan and Rogers Ford and their children - Elizabeth, Catherine and Ham (short for Hamilton) on board, from New York. We all swam over and spent a couple of hours in pleasant discourse before swimming back. It was a very lazy sort of day. They invited us back tonight for a movie. I was able to show the girls that as the moon came up over the small hill the sun was setting making a full moon tonight. We went over to SEA HAWK again by boat and watched the movie ‘Captain Ron', home just before midnight.

 

6th October.

We all went snorkelling this morning. The water temperature is down from 29°C yesterday to 28°C today. Rolly anchorage when the tide comes over the reef at both ends of the day. Also the Quickcats carrying tourists are obnoxiously fast within the reefs. They create quite a wake with no consideration for other sailors. The reef close to shore is dead and today we spotted 2 wheelbarrows, several bedsteads and quite a bit of corrugated iron dumped on the seabed. The glossy brochures are correct when they say that you may be surprised by the things you see whilst snorkelling. It is sad that the locals are destroying their habitat when they rely on tourism for their livelihood. Joy, Laura and I went ashore, Joy to do the washing and Laura and I had a swim in the resort pool. We were puzzled several times in Fiji to be asked by the resort staff which boat we were off until we realised that all the tourists had new tans while we had well established suntans. I took a reward ashore for Rachel Yasa for the help she had given me in locating GOLD JANE. I took my chart of the Mamanuca group over to SEAHAWK as we wont be using it again. It is the only chart which shows Malolo and Mana Island in relation to each other. After lunch Susannah, Laura and I went snorkelling on the outer reef but it was largely dead too. Even the fish appear smaller and more frightened. We didn't stay in long although within the shadows of the reef, visibility was excellent. We then all went ashore and had another swim in the resort pool. We were joined by Tony and Yvonne. The choppy water on our return made travel hazardous and for the first time in all our travels we took some serious water on board PLAIN JANE.

 

7th October.

I rowed over to SEAHAWK and had a chat about life in general then went back to RUBEN JANE. Following lunch, on a very low tide we headed out the channel for the last time. In the entrance to Mana Island there were some small overfalls but there was enough clearance for us. In glassy conditions we motored about 1/2 mile behind SANITY back to Vuda Point. They went to Denerau. As the trip progressed the sky became more and more threatening and a slight breeze of 3-4 knots got up from behind. Apart from two strikes which only gave momentary excitement, the trip was inauspicious. This may be the last trip that Susannah and Laura make on RUBEN JANE. Before John's sked I spoke to PERICON and MAKANI. PERICON have some mail for Susannah in Vila. I should meet them in Noumea.

 

8th October.

Morning spent getting boat ready - refuelling, water and attaching cutter rig and tying anchor down etc. After lunch we caught a taxi to Nadi with Tony and Yvonne (7 including driver) to airport to pick up Corina, and Glenn Payne who are crewing to Noumea with me. Then a bus trip to Lautoka where I cleared out from customs and immigration. I had Corina's and Glenn's passports etc. with me so they wandered around Lautoka waiting for me. Got the tape deck repaired too. Then I had difficulty finding Corina and Glenn at the bus depot where I said I'd meet them. Here they were less than 3 hours in a strange place in a strange town in a strange country with no map, no money and no identification. I located them just after the last bus for Vuda Point had departed so we caught an adjacent one and were faced with a 2 km walk but were picked up by a van from First Landing (adjacent to the marina). There was a beautiful sunset tonight. We all went out to First Landing where we had the Yachties Special $9.90. The waitress had double ordered for an adjacent table so we helped her out with eating four more servings between us.


7

FIJI to NEW CALEDONIA

 

9th October.

Joy, Susannah and Laura left for the airport at 0530 hours. We didn't go back to sleep but slowly prepared to leave. Said goodbye to Tony and Yvonne. Rodney (SATISFACTION PLUS) came on board to help get the tape deck working. I had installed it and turned it on at the switchboard but it didn't appear to be working. He turned the volume knob and it worked. I checked the weather fax (nothing sinister), paid my marina fees and at 1100 hours we departed for Noumea. Motored out of the marina and then raised the sails in a light NW breeze to 12 knots. Sailed at 4 knots to Momi Bay where we picked up the transit for going through the Navula Passage which we accomplished without difficulty. Outside the reef there was a short 1 metre swell from the NW and 20 minutes later we were becalmed. Then 10 minutes after that we were hit by a squall or front from the SE which quickly rose to 30-35 knots necessitating rapid sail changing by inexperienced crew. Corina went below suffering from mal de mer and didn't emerge for 2 days. It's called the Jesus factor - on the 3rd day they arise. In rapid order Glenn and I put two reefs in the main, dropped the jib, hoisted the storm jib, dropped the main and hung on tightly. While I was on the foredeck Glenn had tried to head into the wind as instructed using the motor but the boat wouldn't respond. The motor was out of gear!! Then we discovered that when he had raised the jib he had put about 20 turns around the winch which jammed it - I almost had to cut the halyard to get the sail down in a hurry. However somehow I managed to free it in time. I found this exercise exasperating but he was trying his best and I can't ask more of anyone than that. The autohelm now called 'Rod' or 'Slim' (because he's a stick and he doesn't eat much) took over and we averaged 6 knots overnight WSW (the right direction to Noumea) under storm jib alone. I was annoyed with the weather as I had checked the weather fax before leaving and there had been no warning from the sky. By this stage we were all being sick at regular intervals. The trick I have found is to make sure I vomit immediately before the evening sked to try to be able to get through the sked without having to rush on deck or vomit in a bucket with the world listening in. John Goater couldn't see anything ugly on his analysis either. At this stage he said the most loving thing anyone said to me for 1998. He offered to keep a sked for me in the morning if I wanted. He must have realised that things were not very pleasant out here. I declined the offer as I thought that by now things were under control. I think this is the loneliest I have ever felt tonight after switching the radio off. From being in contact with others Pacific wide to a world of just 36 feet is very sobering. One feels so lonely one can taste it. We had left on a Friday which superstitious sailors will not do but I am not superstitious at all. Things were difficult but not dangerous anymore (after undoing the line off the winch). Glenn was quite anxious and required some strong encouragement to remain on watch alone but after a while he calmed down, outwardly anyway, and I managed to catch a bit of sleep. He was harnessed on and all he had to do was to call me if he sighted any lights. It emerged that although he was Commodore of the Wanganui Yacht Club he has only sailed catamarans on sheltered rivers and lakes and when the breeze gets over 20 knots they all go home. He has received a very rude welcome to the world of Blue Water cruising. It was a hard night with Glenn and I doing 1 1/2 hour watches, more or less, as when we got sleepy we would call the other.

 

10th October.

The wind gradually calmed down to 20 knots so by mid-morning I had put the main up with 3 reefs in it. Had a sked with Tony at 0830 but he didn't come up. BARNSTORM and SANITY are leaving Vuda Point for New Zealand today. Marty came up at 0840 as arranged. A pretty miserable day with all of us feeling and being sick. Easy on the food bill though. Glenn seems least affected by the dreaded seasickness. I was my usual cheerful self, despite being sick a few times. Glenn kept the bucket brigade busy. He took a video of Corina trying to eat some tinned fruit and the aftermath - a Technicolor yawn. The sea remained confused all day. Just as life looked to be on the improve we lost our electrical power. When I tried the engine it ran but had burst a water pipe so we had water through the dining area too. We repaired the hose but when we restarted the engine the charging light wouldn't go out so we stopped it again. A lot of our electrical equipment went dead very quickly but we ended up just after dark with just the compass lights on, very faintly. We kept a very good watch all night because we had no navigation lights on. The battery driven lights were available but I decided to keep them ready for an emergency or when we were near shipping lanes closer to New CALEDONIA. We had sprayed CRC liberally around the entire engine before dark to dry the moisture. It was comforting to have a back up GPS available but with 'slim' asleep we had to hand steer.  John's sked we kept short to conserve power but he now knows that if we lose contact it will probably be due to power failure. Glenn and I again did 1 1/2 hour watches more or less. He must be wondering what else can go wrong.  He has fitted in well.  To further conserve power I have introduced him to navigating by the stars. He is enjoying this. It is quite impressive to see how resourceful we are becoming.

 

11th October.

Some of our watches are becoming quite a bit shorter than 1 1/2 hours; in fact I think that some may be shorter than 1/2 an hour. This is not due to shirking but we are becoming quite fatigued. This morning it hit me how tired we have become when I looked down from the cockpit and saw Corina asleep on the bunk and Glenn lying face down on the floor wearing his full wet weather gear and safety harness with its buckle digging into his stomach. He was oblivious to any discomfit. Fortunately Corina arose today and steered for quite a while to give Glenn and I some much needed sleep. We slept for hours and when we awoke the world had taken on a different hue. Today being Sunday, I cleaned the bilges. This afternoon we started the motor and the charging light went out so we tried charging the house batteries. At least the voltmeter reads 0.00 now instead of being blank so we must be winning. We put the fishing line out today for the first time since leaving the Navula Passage. We hooked a mahi-mahi but after a short fight he took our hook but not the lure. I stopped the motor for John's sked but afterwards the charging light stayed on so we stopped it quickly. We again hand steered overnight using the stars to navigate by. Corina is enjoying this as well.

 

12th October.

Becalmed today - what weather!! We started the motor and after 5 minutes of low revs and 1 minute of normal revs the charging light went out so we motored all day. There is a brownish powder in the water and on the surface and we are at a loss to explain it. We are approaching an underwater volcano so we wondered if it was pumice dust. In the afternoon we passed through one patch which looked like a thick scum so we are involved in blue and brown water cruising. Motored until 0400 hours in misty showery conditions. Retrospectively, I think that the discoloration is due to an algal bloom. We are currently about as far as most people get from anyone else on the planet. As far as we know there is nobody else within 250 miles of us. It's kind of a special thought.

 

13th October.

Raised both sails at the start of my watch at 0400 hours when a 9-12 knot breeze came from the SE. From small beginnings it developed 12-17 knots for most of the day. We passed through some more areas of brown sludge. Just on daybreak we passed our first waypoint since Fiji which took us N of an underwater volcano. I turned on the handheld GPS as Corina came up for her watch and it showed we were only 1/2 mile to the side of the waypoint after some 400 miles. Not bad for navigating by the stars during the nights. Spoke to DELPHIS this morning. They are 70 miles S of New CALEDONIA bound for Brisbane. Clare is unwell. Arranged a sked for tomorrow. Also spoke to Marty, Roy and Tony. Corina remarked at how lonely it is when the radio is switched off. A good sailing day although a bit overcast. The swell rose to 4-5 metres but was very gentle. After lunch the forward bolt on the autopilot/tiller sheered so Glenn and I made running repairs with an allen key, some rope and parcel tape. However two hours later the aft bolt broke (our repair held) so we're resigned to hand steering until Noumea. Immediately after this latest in a series of problems on this leg of the voyage I noticed a front ahead so we reduced sail down to storm jib and double reefed main. In reducing sails I fell twice on the foredeck - probably only fallen once on the entire trip to date, got a halyard around the spreaders and tangled my harness around appurtenances about 4 times. I'm beginning to hate this leg of the trip. Then on the evening sked John said the front was stationary - it certainly had me running around in circles. It didn't amount to much but we carried reduced sails for a few hours still doing 5.5 knots. John also queried whether the wind was coming from the SE and not the NE as expected. I told him I was probably going the wrong way! It was interesting to hear the people in Fiji talking about how they had seen the green flash at sunset when for us the sun was still well above the horizon. Glenn got some good video footage of me hoisting the French flag .Whenever I raise a flag I do it with full honours - consisting of loud tuneless humming as a fanfare which lasts as long as it takes to raise the flag. It is good footage because I am silhouetted (good French word) in the setting sun and I always look my best with the light behind me. He appreciated that. Corina not feeling well again -? viral. However she did put the chicken on to cook at teatime. Just before dark we shook all the reefs out but at midnight we dropped all sails and motored in a sloppy sea with little wind.

 

14th October.

Very difficult motoring during the night with heavy cloud cover and sloppy seas making steering by hand tedious and confusing. No stars to steer by and sometimes we appeared to be going in circles. I hate this leg. Saw Ile Mare at daybreak and when Corina came on deck she sat with her back to it without seeing it. I said 'Land Ho' and she looked all around except where it was. After about 4 other 'Land Ho's' she finally awoke enough to see land. Heard a commotion on Ch16 this morning very clearly but didn't understand a word of it as it was all in French. We both had a laugh about it. Stopped the motor for radio sked with Steve, Roy, Tony and Marty. Sounded the fuel tank and found we have only used 30% so far. Only light winds turning NE late afternoon. John will be pleased. Poled out the jib and had a restrainer on the boom as well. Tried twice to raise the spinnaker but conceded defeat and raised the main and jib. During the night we had lost the retaining pin at the aft end of the outhaul. It is a closed pin with a securing clip so goodness knows why it chose this leg to go swimming. Motor sailed until 1400 hours then motored then sailed until 1600 hours. Motored after dark, picking up a light that flashed 4 seconds at a time and headed towards it. It was a bit N of our track but we had been wandering over the ocean for the past 24 hours. Saw several ships leaving New Caledonia. One passed 1/2 mile to starboard but the other headed NE. Tried calling the first one on VHF Ch16 but got no response. Glassy seas. As we motored towards the light we couldn't reconcile why the cross track error on the GPS was increasing. Because of this and a general unease I was feeling about closing a strange coast at night I decided to heave to until daybreak. There was absolutely no wind and a 1 foot swell which was very long and almost negligible. It is the only night at sea that I have been able to see the stars unmoving in their reflection in the water. It was a feeling of being suspended in the centre of the universe. There were no clouds in the sky to obscure the sensation. With the storm jib backed and the tiller lashed it appeared that we were stationary but the GPS showed we were being swept N by a 0.5-1.7 knot current. It is supposed to mend S in this area. I took the first watch and Corina took the second. Just as the sky began to lighten we got under way again still with no wind.

 

15th October.

In the light of day I discovered that the light was at Point Yate; some 20 miles further up the coast from the Havannah Passage. That light has four flashes every 15 seconds whereas Havannah light has four flashes every 10 seconds. Point Yate light has a range of 24 miles whereas Havannah light has a range of only 12 miles. Why the French, with a reputation for efficiency, would place two lights with similar characteristics, so close together beats me. Also to further complicate matters, the chart I had been using ended just N of Havannah Passage so there was no indication of any confusion. No wonder it had taken so long to reach it. We had been fractionally N of our intended course so had picked up Point Yate light first. I was glad that good navigational skills plus an uneasy feeling had stopped us going on the reef at night, shudder, shudder. I have heard that the calmest night's anchorage is on a reef. Still, the way this leg of the voyage has been going so far why should I be surprised? When I arrived in Noumea I was told that there is a notice on the wall at Vila Yacht Club warning of this very situation. Anyway as a consequence of this deviation from our intended course we had to head down the coast and against the current. It wasn't until 1000 hours NZST that we had Havannah light on our beam and yes it was the worst time of the tide. The passage is certainly wide enough and there were overfalls. Although the tide was supposedly with us our COG (course over ground) did not increase markedly. We saw two ships up on the reef on the port side. These wrecks are a salient reminder of how cruel the sea can be and there is no place for complacency. From the Passage it was a fairly straightforward run past Port Boise to Cape Ndoua making adjustment for the outlying reef off the cape then across the Baie du Prony. By this stage the breeze had come in and we had some good sailing in beautiful scenery under clear skies. The colours of the sea around the reefs leading in to the shallows and the first green trees we had seen for a week certainly were refreshing. Unfortunately the mining has left big scars on the hillsides but even these exposed the red soil adding to the contrast. The lighthouses are very distinctive in New Caledonia and look just like the story book says they should. We took a photo of the one in Baie du Prony. Another yacht was on a converging course from the Isle of Pines and it finally passed astern just before we reached the lighthouse. We were alarmed to see it go to the E of the light. It looked like unbroken reef reaching to the shore 1/2 mile away. However they kept on sailing. Was it local knowledge or were they very brave? As we approached Basse Moziman the wind which had been 15 knots SW began knocking us so as we went through Canal Woodin we lowered the jib. There were no problems entering the canal but the tidal flow when we exited made for a choppy sea. I tried to raise Port Moselle Marina on Ch 67 and customs on Ch 16 but neither answered. SUNSET QUEST came on and said they were heading towards us from Noumea with their spinnaker up. After six days of not seeing anyone, we were in a country none of us had ever been to before and the first people we finally get to see are folk that I know. Isn't life wonderful with it's little surprises. We hove to for a chat with Malcolm and Linda but as they still had some distance to go to the Isle of Pines we only had a short time with them. Malcolm had been the first to welcome us over VHF to 'almost Atata', Tonga. Linda had also been the first to greet us when we arrived in Fiji so there is a pattern starting to evolve. We continued on a tight reach as the breeze had gone WNW towards Porc-Epic. The cruising guide said it is well differentiated from its companions as it is the only island which resembles a porcupine. This is true but we could not see this for a few more miles. Just before we arrived off Porc-Epic we sighted half a windsurfing board floating in the water. Quite eerie - one looks around for the other half, the person and the shark! From Porc-Epic we motor sailed into the sunset to Ile Maitre and thence to Petite Rade. We finally contacted Port Moselle Marina off Ile Maitre. True to form as we entered the bay John's sked had a message for us. By the time he had contacted the boats at sea we were about to enter the marina but instead had to stooge around outside waiting to hear the message. It was from Andy Marshall and Rebecca to say that everything was going well. This was a bit of a worry because hadn't it been going well or was it about to not go well? I made a perfect approach to the dock in front of a small crowd (10 people). Clearance was not until the morning - it was 1900hours NZST. We had to stay on the boat until 1900 hours local time. Then the marina manager came to tell us that the Customs Officers would be back at 0700 hours tomorrow so be sure we were on board at 0600 hours ready for clearance. He didn't say we couldn't go ashore. We borrowed a swipe card from Jim and Annette on EVERGREEN an Australian boat (not to be confused with the New Zealand boat). Corina swapped the magazines with Annette. With the swipe card we were able to have showers. The shower has a button which needs to be pushed every few seconds to maintain the flow of water. It is irregular in its action. After showers we had a chat to EVERGREEN and Graham AIMLIS until late. Too late actually as it was almost midnight NZST when we got to bed. Pancakes for tea and Glenn found that they were not as bad as expected.  I was awake early the next morning.

 

 

8

NOUMEA


16th October.

First Health then Customs (they wear guns) cleared us. They were all very polite and caused us no trouble. Then a grumpy Immigration Officer (doesn't wear a gun) cleared us in. When he found we didn't speak French he was quite obnoxious - I do speak un peu, un petit peu so he should have only been a little obnoxious. We then went down town. Glenn and I did the shopping. I needed some gear to fix the broken parts so I asked several passers-by for directions. One couple was extremely helpful. Marie-Louise needed to go to the hospital for an out patient appointment one month after severing a digital tendon so they took me with them. After 1/2 an hour wait, which is not bad for a hospital, they returned and we went 5 miles out of the centre of town to a boat shop. The shop didn't have the part so they took me a further 2 miles out to a shop which did. Then they delivered me back to the boat. I showed them through the boat. They wouldn't accept anything for their help. Communication was difficult but fun. They didn't speak any English and I only speak schoolboy French. I was never taught how to ask for directions to find a stainless steel bolt when I was at school. They asked when we were departing and I couldn't think of the French word for Thursday so I said Wednesday plus one. (Mercredi et un). This amused them. We exchanged addresses. Christian is an electronics officer in the French Air Force dealing mainly with helicopters. I was very grateful to them both for their kind ministrations. It certainly changed my perception of the French people in general. After they left I tried to sleep but I was continually interrupted so I never did manage to rest. John Goater called me on the sked to ensure I had docked safely but although he could hear me I couldn't hear him so needed a relay. A nice touch from him. The reception is very difficult amongst all the masts. The boats are very close together. The fingers are very thin and move up and down a lot when you walk on them. It is a beautiful marina with apartment buildings close by. From our deck we can see the cathedral. The twin spires are part of the navigational system with a beacon behind them which gives a transit for entering the harbour. Tonight Glenn shouted us tea at the local restaurant - a very nice touch too. I had kangaroo meat which was a bit tough, tougher than the meat we had cooked on the trip. The coffee Corina and Glenn had was astounding - the cups only held about 60 mls each.

 

 

 

17th October.

I have been very impressed with that intangible vitality exuded by the local populace. I suppose it is the Gaelic influence but the ladies fashion sense is amazing. They wear their clothes well; it doesn't matter whether their clothes are tight fitting clothes or flowing, the subtlety of the cut gives a flair. It is not like New Zealand where people try to outdo one another but rather a joint awareness of personal confidence and grace. It also transcends racial barriers. Of course there are those who are scruffy - 7 bodies counted sleeping on the concrete seats at the bus depot one morning but the greatest proportion by far is in the pleasant bracket. This is the most vibrant community I have ever seen. The town is busy but not rushed. There is an air of wealth and affluence about the place but no obvious source. It is very expensive - 60 Pfr (pacific francs) to change money at the bank.(1PFR =56 cents NZ). Fortunately I have brought  French Francs with me and they are free to exchange. It is $30 for a cooked chook; meat - well it's just too expensive. The people appear happy although politically speaking there is a referendum coming up as to whether they cede from France. We checked at the bus depot for the time of the bus departing for the airport and were told it was 0530 hours. The plane leaves at 0755 hours so that should be ample time to make the 40 mile trip on Sunday for Corina and Glenn. This morning Glenn and I caught a bus to the other marina (CNC - Cercle Nautique Caledonie) to pick up more mail for Susannah. Met an elderly man with a fishhook in his finger. I tried to tell him that I could extract it but he spoke no English. Finally an interpreter pointed him in the direction of a doctor - ah well... We did some more window shopping and I bought some more bolts from a chandlery. When we returned to the boat Wayne Troughton and Donn Donnelley and Jan, his wife, were there so we chatted for several hours before Donn and Jan left for their motel. EVERGREEN left this morning and this afternoon PICKETY WITCH arrived with Martin and Chris aboard. I got help from Mike and Sandra on DULCIBELLA to straighten the autohelm frame under the tiller. After tea Martin and Chris came over for supper. Martin had sailed to Mururoa in 1995 with the protest fleet so it made for an interesting evening.

 

18th October.

Corina's first wedding anniversary. I went with Corina and Glenn to the bus stop and saw them off. However instead of the bus leaving at 0530 hours it arrived at the bus depot at 0600 hours. I went and asked the driver what time he left for the airport. He said 0700hours. So I asked how long it took to get to the airport and he replied '40 minutes'. By my calculations this only left them 15 minutes at the airport before departure. I thought it was cutting it a bit fine but the locals must know what they are doing. After their departure I went back to the boat and Wayne and I sailed out to Ile Maitre. We sailed under jib alone but after being a tight reach for several miles and the wind increasing we dropped the jib and motored the rest of the way. We had only just set the anchor when we heard Noumea Radio calling us. They took us to Ch 23, asked where we were then directed us to Ch 6 where we spoke to PICKETTY WITCH. Martin told us they had a very tearful girl on board - Corina. They had missed their flight home. What the bus driver had not told us was that a car going the direct path could get to the airport in 40 minutes but the bus, once it leaves Noumea goes cross-country on minor roads. At 0755 they were still 20 km from the airport. She was obviously upset and I was VERY angry - not at her but at the unfairness of life; when I finally had an opportunity to relax the opportunity was taken from me. C'est la vie (See I can speak French). We immediately returned to Noumea. I raised the storm jib for three reasons; 1. the wind had shifted around to aft of the beam, 2. the wind was still strong, and 3. the storm jib had been lying on that side of the deck. Motor sailing we made it back in 40 minutes to the marina. When I heard Corina's story she said her ticket had been cancelled before she got to the airport anyway so it was not entirely her fault. Her travel agent had not confirmed it. I tried to get Noumea Radio to put a collect call through to Joy in Tauranga but they were unable to do that. They also could not contact Tauranga Coastguard so with advice and radio messages flowing thick and fast I went to PICKETTY WITCH and contacted Taupo Maritime on 12 migs (megaherts). (I haven't got 12 migs on my set and nothing less would reach New Zealand in the middle of the day.) They relayed the message that Corina would arrive in Auckland via Brisbane at 0100 hours tomorrow. Joy had to contact Aaron who was waiting at Auckland Airport for Corina. I had to go out to the airport with Corina to purchase a ticket which a Mrs Johnstone had arranged. We caught the bus at 1600 hours, arriving an hour later. Halfway out I realised that although I had my credit card I had no ID on me. My passport was back on the boat. Fortunately they didn't ask for any ID. The staff was exceedingly helpful. However the ticket cost NZ$1600. If it hadn't been her wedding anniversary I Don’t know if I would have been so generous. I saw her leave and was overcome by homesickness. I want to be with Joy. Corina told her mother that she almost stayed in New Caledonia with me when she realised how I felt. Emotionally I feel depleted after the journey from Fiji with all it's trials. I had to wait an hour for the next bus. It was driven by a Ni Vanuatu man. I sat beside him and we conversed. With the noise of the bus I missed 90% of what he was saying. I arrived back at the boat just on dark and Wayne and Glenn had tea ready. Glenn is staying on board until Thursday. He has been passing some hints about wanting to sail back to New Zealand but I think it may produce conflict halfway home so I have ignored the hints. I do feel sorry for him but don’t think I am strong enough at present to cope with his inexperience at blue water sailing. It would require further vigilance on my behalf. After he has acquired some experience with someone else I would look at taking him.

 

 

 

19th October.                                                                                                 

 Broke the rear port support for the sunroof this morning so took it to get it welded. Spoke to another man studying the weather map. He pointed out various features which were likely to turn bad if not immediately, then as soon as we left for New Zealand. The longer I listened to him the more depressed I became. We were sure to be hit by something VERY big weather-wise. After I left him I realised that I was depressed by him so decided to ignore everything he said and to trust my own judgement. I immediately felt better. Hadn't I been trusting my own judgement for the last 6 months? Then in almost a repeat of yesterday's sail Wayne and I went out to Ile Maitre where we spent a relaxing few hours. Went snorkelling. The underwater visibility was the worst of the trip at only 15 feet but the fish were bigger and more profuse than most other places. It was a long walk out over shallow coral to where we could swim. Walked over the island but got lots of sharp prickly things in bare feet. They don’t show those in the glossy brochures. Also played with a sea snake. Saw a line of tourists lying on the beach, scatter with screams when a sea snake slithered amongst them. Returned to Noumea to pick up the welded bracket (PFr 2000-about NZ$35 !!) They didn't teach me in school to find out the cost of stainless steel welding. We anchored in the Baie de Pecheurs (fishermen) or the Baie de Orphinalat (Orphans) and went to the CNC marina to pick up a fax for SUNSET QUEST. Picked up Glenn there too. The fax to SUNSET QUEST had some sensitive information in it so had some fun getting the message across cryptically so nobody else could understand it over the radio. Had an enjoyable evening engaged in healthy discourse.

20th October.

Rowed over to PACIFIC PROPHESY and introduced myself to Marilyn and her husband. They told me that there is two days free mooring at CNC for visiting boats so motored in and moored stern to. Did some grocery shopping then Wayne and I walked over the hill to Anse Vata (THE beach of Noumea). That and the bay before, Baie de Citroens, are very pleasant and clean. Lots of topless girls sunbathing and swimming with no embarrassment. Had a good look through the aquarium where there is also a good display of luminous corals. We had a swim at Anse Vata but Wayne got some fine coral spines in his foot. They broke off when he was trying to pull them out. I learnt later that the best way to remove them is to apply sticky tape and pull that off with the spines attached. One thing that has amused me in New Caledonia is that at each beach there are a few males who lie along the beach. This contrasts with anything I have seen regularly in New Zealand. They are always by themselves so perhaps that says something. The majority though, still lie up and down the beach. On the beach at the Baie de Citroens (lemons) there is a public shower for rinsing off after swimming. We returned to the boat then I went to Donn Donnelley’s hotel where I left a message for him to meet us at Port Moselle on Thursday morning. Bought some radiator hose; 1 metre Pfr 2350 - about NZ$40-45. Motored back out into the Bay of Orphans. Glenn, who had spent the day organising his air ticket, had been invited to a rugby game but when he arrived at the rendezvous (another French word) found that he had been stood up. Despite this we spent another pleasant evening. After lights out Glenn and I talked until after midnight.

21st October.

We motored around to Port Moselle and refuelled before docking in the marina. Wayne and I then went into town looking for lip screen. It was interesting to note that they were all about Pfr800 but we finally found some for Pfr295 so felt we had achieved something. Did some reprovisioning before returning to the boat for a late lunch. In the afternoon we all visited the Kanak Cultural Centre. The architecture is amazing - no expense spared. All the descriptions are only in French except the walk around the site. Apart from the buildings it all seemed a bit provincial and parochial. Maybe I've seen too many Stone Age baskets at space age prices. We arrived back just before dark and soon afterwards were visited by Mark and Ruth off MENISCUS OF GWEEK. We had pancakes for tea. I contacted John Goater and we're on the sked for tomorrow night. YIPPEE!  I'm heading home. I miss Joy. It's been enjoyable here but not a patch on sharing it with her. I programmed the GPS and there is only 1147 nautical miles to 'A' Buoy, Tauranga Martin, PICKETTY WITCH has lent me his charts of North Cape to Cape Brett for the night so I can study them and miss the Cavallis on the way home. I have a large scale chart but his has the finer points. We are parked between an American yacht WHISPERS and ENERGETIC with Joyce on board. The man on ENERGETIC was not very thrilled with me when I started the motor to chill the freezer just as he was about to start his evening drinkies. Joyce and he had been living de facto and she apparently didn't want a greater commitment so he flew back to the States and brought back a bride. They have all been living on the boat since Tonga but apparently the women don’t talk to each other. Must be very tempting to push the other one overboard during the night watch. Joyce left the boat in Noumea and ENERGETIC was subsequently dismasted just N of New Zealand and ended up at Lord Howe Island. The write up in one of New Zealand's biggest boating magazines made the skipper out to be a bit of a hero but a letter to the editor from Joyce several months later scotched this as she derided his lack of preparation as being the principle cause. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

 

9

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22nd October.

Went to clear customs and what I thought to be a long 10 minute walk turned into about 50 minutes. I had left the map on the boat so when I was almost there I sought directions from a passer-by. He didn't speak English and did not understand 'Douanes'. When I showed him a passport he wanted to send me to a bank so I gave up on him and we parted as friends. I next sought help from a receptionist. After a while spent conversing in my limited French I realised that she spoke English so that helped. However I must have been here too long because all my responses were in French - c'est la vie! Non? I cleared customs, then another 10 minute walk to Immigration (the grumpy man again) and the Port Captain. Did a small amount of shopping (present for Joy), checked the weather map (nothing sinister) and departed for New Zealand after paying Carol at the marina for our berth. She has been helpful in many ways. Mike and Sandra DULCIBELLA were there to see us off. Glenn left the ship and Donn Donnelley joined Wayne Troughton and me. Donn's wife, Jan was also quayside. Glenn took a parting video shot and we motored to the fuel berth. I had decided that with a big high coming off Australia that fuel was more important than spare water so we filled the spare water containers with diesel at NZ$1-40 per litre compared to New Zealand price of $0-47. There's 1147 miles to go to 'A' Buoy at the Tauranga Harbour Entrance. Some of those miles we have to fight for. Until 1100 hours it had been flat calm but as we departed at midday the breeze came up. We exited the Petite Rade then the wind was on the nose all the way to the Amedee Light. We could have gone out through the Dumbea Pass but I'm going to the Amedee lighthouse. It is one more of the goals I have set for this trip. It took over 1 1/2 hours under motor to clear the Ile Maitre light only 3 1/2 miles from Noumea. After 6 miles we were able to raise the storm jib and make faster progress. Another yacht left 1/4 mile in front of us and they tacked all the way out arriving 2 miles ahead of us but it looked hard work. There was a very short sharp sea and the boat pitched horribly. She doesn't sail well in those conditions. It took 4 hours to go 12 miles to the light. We put 3 reefs in the main and raised it as we went out the pass. The transit is very straightforward with both markers being white. The green vegetation behind the front one makes any deviation from the track very obvious. There was quite a tidal influence going out the pass. Also 2 wrecks on the N side of the entrance bear testimony to intemperate navigation. Outside the reef the short sharp seas continued but at least we could sail. I was seasick fairly soon after leaving the light and continued vomiting each end of my watch for the next 30 hours. I was outwardly cheerful though, as usual. Donn also had a touch of the dreaded lurgy. He too remained cheerful. He is really good crew. At 1800 hours we changed up to the No4 but at nightfall we were down again to the storm jib. Still with 3 reefs in the main we made painfully slow progress overnight. The log shows that for the first 24 hours our top speed was 5 knots but the norm was about 2.2 knots.

 

23rd October.

The 1.5 metre swell continued to drop but the chop was still very confused and uncomfortable. We had done the right thing in leaving on the back of a low pressure system but it didn't feel the best yet. Donn was also sick but we're all standing watch still which is good. Spoke to SUNSET QUEST on the morning sked. It is a comfort to have other contacts whilst at sea. John Goater's presence is of great emotional and psychological benefit. He's a real friend to all. At 1500 hours we changed from the storm jib up to the No4 and at 1800hours we shook the reefs out of the main (all times are NZST). When we put the No4 up our speed went from 4.4 to 7.1 knots. Donn got a top speed of 8.7 knots (GPS) and the boat didn't appear stressed. At the start of my night watch I spied a light off the starboard bow on a constant heading which indicates a collision course. I tried calling him but got no response. After an anxious hour he disappeared below the horizon off the starboard quarter. Just before the end of my watch a boat, presumably the same one, appeared from the starboard quarter.  Again he was on a collision course. Called him again but again there was no response. I put on the foredeck light so it lit up the sails and shone the torch directly at him. I even got the flares out but he then veered off to port and disappeared over the horizon.

 

24th October.

The breeze has slowly been dropping but our speed has still been around 6 knots. The sky cleared this morning then became overcast again. In my mental survey of the boat this morning I found myself saying 'This is the day the autohelm broke'. One hour later the nipple under the tiller sheared off! Using good old Kiwi ingenuity, Wayne and I drilled another hole and rigged a makeshift nipple which should last until we get home. Donn was not able to help with the repairs as he was steering. Just after the motor had been run to charge the batteries a squall came through and left us rolling uncomfortably. We motored for a while then it returned at 18-20 knots SE so we have been doing 7-8 knots towards home.  Donn and I are both over our seasickness. Today is the first day we have eaten anything much. I have been sucking from a condensed milk can for the past couple of days which is my usual practice when seasick. We spied a ship on the W horizon heading N but again no response on the radio. I'm homesick and in love. Can't wait to hold Joy again and tell her I love her. Just on dark Wayne caught a 47 inch mahi-mahi (c.f. my 48 inch one on the way to Makongai). His fish wasn't as big and I have been teasing him about this. It is still a very creditable size. He was a little put out when I made him gut it too. Spoke with Tony just before John's sked. On the sked I made enquiries about calling in to Norfolk Island tomorrow. In the end we decided not to visit as someone would have to stay with the boat and by the time clearance in and out had been made the visit would have been too short. Progressively reefed sails. Hit 9.7 knots with double reefed main and No4. Sailed overnight with just a double reefed main. Midday to midday 162 miles. Some spectacular meteorite activity tonight with one landing just over the horizon to the E.

 

25th October.

At 0300 hours we raised the storm jib too then at 0700 hours lowered both sails and raised the No1. Spoke with Malcolm SUNSET QUEST on the morning sked.  Homesick. We make our first turn tomorrow morning - left - then only a right turn and we're home. Midday run 140 miles. 'LAND HO' was the cry. We sighted land about 12-15 miles off the port beam at 1800 hours followed shortly afterwards by 'THAR SHE BLOWS' when I saw the spume from a whale several times about 400 metres away. Didn't see the whale but I finally got to make the time-honoured call. I told John about the whale. He asked if we were calling at Norfolk Island and I said 'No, and the whale isn't either.' I think he liked that one. He also said it's OK to turn right around North Cape if the traffic lights are on our side. We made our left turn at 2020 hours. After dark we picked up the light on Norfolk Island so turned back onto our S course for several hours to ensure clearance around the shoal area S of the island. When we finally turned towards North Cape I decided to abort the waypoint 50 miles S. This caused a cross track error of 118 miles with the waypoints being off Amedee light and North Cape. The traditional course is to head due S from New Caledonia with the SE trades and wait until the SW winds come up the Tasman sea before turning for North Cape. However the winds instead of turning SW were backing to the NE. Who wants cold winds when warm winds are available? The water temperature this afternoon was 22°C. Two hours later it was 20°C. Don’t go to Norfolk Island for hot water. Also by heading due S instead of taking a direct line from New Caledonia to North Cape one look at the chart will show constant depth rather than  grossly variable depth leading to rougher, more turbulent seas. The direct route, for example has a depth of 236 metres followed just a few miles later by 1695 metres whereas the dog-leg route has fairly consistent depths of around 3000 metres. Just before dark we had another strike but we lost the fish. Shortly afterwards the rear starboard support for the sunroof broke so we furled the sunroof around its front support bar. After dark we saw the lights of several planes. There was also some meteorite activity, but not as much as last night.

 

26th October.

Donn took several loads of green water into the cockpit during his watch; I took one. I saw it coming so ducked my head so my wet weather gear took the impact. I was just congratulating myself on dodging it when I realised that my elbows were awash. Cold water drained back down my arms. I have shoes on for warmth. I haven't worn shoes since the 5th May. They feel funny. They're soaking wet because we've just gone from storm jib to No4 and I was on the bow. We still have two tucks in the main. Just on daybreak I watched an albatross for 5 minutes. It flew for the entire time without flapping its wings - really beautiful to watch. Saw a ship hull down on the horizon moving NW. We're humming along at 7-8 knots and its quite uncomfortable with a short chop (Donn calls it a Waitemata chop). I'm looking for speed (safely) as I Don’t like this area of the ocean. I have just told the crew that this next 300 miles is the part of the voyage I have been dreading since I began planning the voyage. They thought I was joking. The swell is only 1 1/2 metres. By this time tomorrow it will have risen to 3 to 5 metres. It was around here that the QUARTERMASTER was lost with all hands in the June '94 storm. The last 300 miles before North Cape has a fearsome reputation. Spoke to Malcolm on the morning sked. He said we've got this high for another day or so. It's good being able to access someone's weather fax. There's a low and a front peeling off Tasmania. I'd like to be around North Cape before they arrive. He's invited Joy and I to his 50th birthday party in Sydney, next March 19. I told the crew that I have 5 aims for this trip: viz

       1.To arrive

       2.Safely.

       3.with crew intact

       4. with boat intact

       5. Harmoniously.

Wayne and I had some mahi-mahi for tea. The weather has turned rough and my fish and corn kept falling off the plate onto the floor so I ate some of it from there. Donn said he wished he had the camera handy so he could have taken a photo. Donn is not keen on eating any of the tuna family as he reacts to it. We past some flotsam this morning and when the line passed near it we got a strike so we dropped the jib and immediately lost the fish. Spoke to Brian on WINDERMERE II tonight. We have 236 miles to go to North Cape and they have 200 so a race is on. In the night during a sail change I noticed that one of our water containers containing diesel is leaking. We'll assess it in the light of day. Going to the toilet in any sort of seaway would be hilarious to watch as removing clothing in a confined space is likely to involve bumping the door open. Once one is settled on the seat with one leg up the wall, one on the floor, and hands widely spaced on the walls, one then endeavours to relax. Just when action is imminent the boat lurches unexpectantly and the body tenses. It is important for the crew to have no problem with bowel habits. If constipation is a problem for one person it can jeopardise the entire voyage. I always tell the crew that if their bowels don’t open for 2 days that is their problem but if they don’t open for 3 days it becomes my problem. As eating habits often change dramatically at sea it is noteworthy for any skipper to be aware of the problems.

 

27th October.

Malcolm was unreadable this morning, probably because he's in Port Moselle. TEMARAIRE relayed for me. Snapped the outhaul but it's repaired now. Our 24 hour run to midday was 177 miles. This is our best ever and that's with double reefed main and the storm jib. An uncomfortable day with several sail changes. The tiller arm connection on the autohelm is bent way out of shape but is still functioning. For how long we don’t know but it's giving its best so I can't ask for more than that. The sky is overcast. The swell this morning is a steep 3-5 metres and we took a few into the cockpit. It's not the 4 metre swell but the 1/2 metre slop on top which gets us. Water temperature is 18°C. Saw a large pod of small dolphins this afternoon but they were heading away from us. There are at least 4 yachts - us, WINDERMERE II, RAMONA and SEA SALTER converging on North Cape from various northern climes, so I've warned the crew to maintain good vigilance. Not that I have any complaints with them. They are very willing to pull their weight and we are still harmonious. Tonight Donn's food lurched over his T-shirt so I took a photo before he recovered. Cooking at sea can be hazardous. Tonight it took three people to cook and dish it up - one to serve the meal, one to hold the server and one to hold the plate. It must look funny but it is real teamwork. We've had the No4 up since 1100 hours. Our speed is consistently over 6 knots. On the evening sked I found that we have taken 60 miles out of WINDERMERE II. I tried contacting them after the sked but I think they knew that so they didn't answer.

 

28th October.

Very disturbed night, very rolly and lumpy seas. Skies have been leaden for the last couple of days. Today we were visited briefly by a small pod of dolphins. Saw 8 gannets together resting on the water which is interesting. I don’t think I've ever seen that many together on the water, they are either on the wing in very small numbers or on land en masse. The autohelm bracket broke at 0300 hours so from here we're hand steering all the way home. We're down to 2 hour watches now to make it easier. At 1000 hours heard a gale warning for the Cape on Far North Radio. Ch16. At midday we passed the first waypoint since Amedee light and 1/2 hour later Donn sighted land. I've been singing 'Land on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow' since then, and I think it's driving the crew crazy. Still we did miss out on our Saturday night concert. 'It's land, Jim, but not as we know it'. Took some photos of distant land. Rippled sky. Not many people get to see North Cape from this angle so we feel quite privileged. Since midday yesterday we've been under No4 alone but still peeled 155 miles off the distance in 24 hours. I think I've won all but one of the distance-run guesses. Guess I know my boat. Contacted Far North Radio to find where the gale is coming from so we can position the boat to best advantage. It's a front with 30-35 knots N-NW winds and 2 metre seas. Pretty much what we've been having for the past 300 miles except for the wind. Still they should help us on our way. We have North Cape abeam at 1500 hours so we're sheltered from W seas. We will put up the storm jib at the first sign of strong winds. I have been trying to contact Tauranga Coastguard since we left Noumea and today I got Far North Radio to relay a message to Joy for me. Tauranga came through a few hours later to say that Joy would call tonight at 1755 hours NZ Daylight saving time. (1655 our time). Wayne wanted to change the clock by an hour but we haven't because that would have shortened his watch by an hour. The barometer is steadily dropping - 4 points in 4 hours so it looks as though we'll get plastered. Well before dark we had everything lashed down securely. The wind was gusting 22 knots which is fairly normal but the seas are becoming very irregular. I have been in bigger seas but I Don’t think I've ever been in rougher seas. The swells seem to be coming from about three different directions. They are all about 2 1/2 metres, but when they meet, the boat may go up 2 1/2 metres or 7 1/2 metres. There is no predicting the motion, and down below it is quite uncomfortable. Must be the influence of the Cape. Early in the evening we heard that a yacht, TOTAL BLISS, was on the rocks at Manganui Heads. They called for assistance which was given by SIMPLY RED and NINE CAT. There is a totally different feel to a rescue when you too are at the mercy of the elements compared to sitting safely at home. After several hours they managed to pull it off with no apparent major damage. My watch was from 1900 to 2100 hours. I had great difficulty staying awake. Although it was well after sundown the sky remained fairly light. I was concerned at my tiredness until I realised that before any big event in my life; be it a big game of basketball in my younger days, or an exam I would always feel sleepy and I could often fall asleep. I used to worry about oversleeping into the event but never have. I realised that I was mentally and physically preparing for the rough night. I was glad when my watch ended. The ships log records the poignant 'cold, wet, miserable, but tomorrow's coming!' There is an air of expectation on board but not of fear. Right at the end of his watch Wayne yelled out 'OH NO!' I had been asleep in my bunk but was immediately alert. The boat lurched one way and then the other. Then there was a loud 'sploosh' as a wave broke over him. I knew that he was safe so I left it a minute to collect himself before looking outside. He had not been splashed....he had been bathed. The water was still well over ankle deep in the cockpit. Again the log states 'Ditto and the last wave always gets ya'. I then slept well, so well that I slept 1/2 an hour into my watch. I have never done that before. Donn was so cold and the rain was so heavy. He said he had been too scared to look at the clock in case only 1/2 hour of his watch had gone by. I was grateful for the rest. It was his job to wake me anyway. I did feel sorry for him suffering at my expense though. I checked our position on the GPS and confirmed that we were 18-20 miles offshore before taking the helm. The exact distance was not important. Suffice to know that we were not going to run ashore. I had just taken over the helm and Donn hadn't had time to get to his bunk in the front cabin when I saw what I initially thought was a village with all its lights on, emerging out of the heavy rain. Then I saw a red light and a green light and realised that it was a ship heading straight towards us from a distance of about 1/3 mile. I yelled for Donn to take the helm. We were moving across its path at about 2 1/2 knots with just our storm jib up. It was probably about 30,000 tonnes bearing down on us at about 27 knots. With Donn at the helm I tried contacting her on Ch16. There was no response. I grabbed the torch and a flare and went back up into the cockpit. Wayne turned on the foredeck light. I shone a torch at the bridge - again with no response. Next I started to unwrap the flare but by this time I realised that she was going to pass just behind us so didn't fire the flare. People have subsequently asked me what the name of the vessel was. I reply that I had other things on my mind at the time. I did not even recall seeing the flag on the stern. All I know was that it was a container ship, that it was bigger than us and that we were still alive. Awakened memories of the Sleaven family being run down several years ago only 20 miles further S. (3 out of 4 people died). Ships set their radar to see other large ships, but not little yachts, then they head for bed. With the rough conditions I doubt they would have picked us up on radar anyway. If they had hit us they probably would not have felt a thing so would have been unaware of our plight. The remainder of the watch passed peacefully apart from the rough sea and the wind which rarely got over 25 knots. It was a nervous skipper who had stood the watch though.

 

29th October.

In the morning we increased the sail area, swapping the storm jib for the No 1 and raising the full main. It seems strange that following a supposed gale and with the trip almost over we finally had all possible canvas aloft. The mist quickly cleared and we saw a ship to seaward and a yacht heading in to the Bay of Islands. The maritime authority had gale warnings out for most of New Zealand. Shortly afterwards we were becalmed off Cape Brett. After breakfast we dropped the sails and resorted to motor until we reached the Hen and Chickens. The swell was 1 ½ metres and easing. Inside the Poor Knights we passed a basking shark but Wayne didn’t want to try catching it. There’s a wind warning out for the outer Hauraki Gulf 25 knots W gusting 35 knots and at 1730 hours it arrived. I tried to raise WINDERMERE 11 to ask them how to tack because when we raised the sails they were on the opposite side to what we have had for the entire leg so far, but they didn’t answer. We had stopped the motor and with all sails up were cruising but we quickly reefed to 2 folds in the main and the No4 jib. We rushed to do it before the radio sked. On the sked we heard that WINDERMERE 11 was 70 miles behind us and motoring in the calm. We really hummed along. It was my last sked with John so I thanked him. Words seem so inadequate to express my gratitude. The wind continued at about 17 knots and our GPS course took us inside Great Barrier missing Horn Rock by 3 miles and The Pigeons by 1 ½ miles.  Navigating after dark was easy with the GPS and the lighthouses but I was awake to help Wayne through the difficult parts. Once out from behind the protection of Little Barrier the swell and the wind increased and we creamed along at 7 plus knots. I took over the helm just past Channel Island light. The wind was coming from the starboard quarter. We had gradually lightening winds and Donn pointed out a ship approaching Channel light from Auckland. Once around the light it headed towards us so I radioed to him but as usual, got no reply. Don't any ships monitor Ch16? Again I put on the foredeck light to show up the sails and shone my torch towards him. This is considered bad etiquette because it takes away the watchman's night vision but if he's not going to talk to me I am not going to be frightened by an insult. He signalled us with a torch so at least he is aware of our presence. There is another ship approaching from the E and the ex-Auckland one passed between us. At the end of my watch I reluctantly woke Donn and we shook out the reefed main and changed the No4 for the No1. Wayne had a difficult time of clawing back 3/4 mile cross-track error in 12 miles to avoid putting in another tack. We had a preventer on the main and the 12 knot breeze was almost from dead astern so it made it hard for him but all credit to him in managing. It was annoying hearing the jib sheet car banging but I managed to sleep well. On Donn's watch he was joined by some dolphins which played around the starboard side before departing.

 

30th October.

I emerged just after daybreak when we were off Old Man Rock. We motor sailed across Mercury Bay as far as Slipper Island. I tried contacting Malcolm on SUNSET QUEST and he tried contacting us. In the end Christine on TEMARAIRE relayed for us. SUNSET QUEST is heading for Sydney via Brisbane today. Five minutes before the sked we had a strike so the others reeled it in while I used the radio. It was a barracuda so they let it go. The breeze came in so we stopped the motor which also helped the radio and reeling in the fish. However the breeze was short-lived so we lowered the sails and motored. I contacted Tauranga Coastguard with our ETA. Off Whangamata the breeze came back again so we raised the sails but had to tack twice before the wind settled into the SW. Tacking was difficult because

a) We had the cutter rig up which involved taking the jib around the long way, and         

b)we hadn't tacked since leaving Noumea, and

c)we had forgotten how.

The breeze only increased gradually to 17-18 knots. I called Coastguard again to update my ETA when we were off Waihi Beach. I also had a bucket shower at this time (on the seaward side of the boat). The water temperature was 15°C. The crew decided to defer their ablutions until they were on land but I did set a good example; a pity they didn't respond. It was certainly refreshing and crazy.

The definition of a good crew is one which doesn't belittle the skipper and is also able to rescue the situation without the skipper suffering undue embarrassment when he does something silly. This crew filled the requirements nobly. It was turning into a grey day and it was only when we passed on the inside of Karewa Island that both Joy and Trevor Troughton were able to spot us from their respective homes. We were the only yacht around. Joy waited at home for the Coastguard to phone her while Trevor and Kay went down to the Mount to see us come through the entrance. The wind increased to over 29 knots giving us a speed of 7.3 knots. At A Buoy I made my final call to the Coastguard requesting Customs, MAF and Immigration clearance. They immediately phoned Joy who came down to the marina to greet us. Tony from the marina also called to welcome us home. Home - it brings a tear to the eye. I had often dreamed about returning through the entrance after my overseas trip. The feeling of fulfilment cannot be described. I have achieved something more than just the trip. It is not a matter of showing others. That is not important to me, but I have led a successful campaign safely to its conclusion. We made very good speed as we came through the entrance and that added to the feelings of pleasure. My parents were with Laura around the Mount track almost to the beacon on NW rock. We waved and they waved. Trevor and Kay were about 100 metres further S. Trevor was videoing our entrance. Unfortunately he only got about 15 seconds before the battery ran out. As we sailed past Pilot Bay we saw them speeding along the waterfront to get to the marina before us. We finally dropped the sails just off the Tauranga wharf and were met by Tony in his inflatable with Joy and Susannah on board. They escorted us into the marina and saw us safely berthed. There to greet us were about 20 people. It was a real blessing to see so many friends and relations welcoming us home.

 

'Home is the hunter, home from the hills,

 And the sailor home from the sea.'

                      Robert Louis Stevenson.

 

 

'We who adventure upon the sea, however humbly, cannot but feel that we are more fortunate than ordinary people and that we have something which we could not tell nor they understand.'

                             Claud Worth.


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