We took a 1-week trip up to the Canadian Gulf Islands earlier this summer. An early morning (4am) departure from Kingston marina put us at Admiralty Inlet at max ebb under motor, so we were getting a 5 knot boost from the current and moving at 10-12 knots. That was great until we entered the straits, where the wind picked up to about 10 knots out of the north. Even a light wind blowing against a 5 knot current can create short-period, extremely steep waves. We went from a smooth 10 knots to a very uncomfortable 5 knots bucking into 10′ waves. After about 30 minutes of this (enough time for some crew seasickness to set it), we got far enough into the Strait of Juan de Fuca (living up to it’s nickname Strait of Wanna Puke-up) for the ebb current to subside and the wind shifted enough to the west that we sailed most of the way to Victoria.
Clearing into Victoria was easier than last time we were here (over 5 years ago). The new customs dock is located in a nice area away from the busy east bay where it used to be. The dock is now much bigger and has enough room for several big boats to tie up. The phone check-in took 15 minutes, then we were on our way to tie up to the outer side of a long dock just north of the Empress Hotel. Our 2 days in Victoria were spent visiting our friends and fellow Hans Christian owners Lance and Carol, having afternoon tea at the Empress, and eating at some nice waterfront restaurants. Top on our list was a Fish -n Chips stand next to the marina that seemed to have an hour-long line any time of day, and it was well worth the wait.
Our next stop was a short 3 hour sail north to Piers Island to visit the crew of Seahorse V, a cruising family we first met during the Baja-Haha rally in 2015, and shared a few anchorages with in various Mexico harbors. We tied Apropos up to their private dock with a nice aluminum ramp leading to their waterfront house. Jacintha was happy to see Billy and Gracie, and it was great to catch up with Cap’n Steve and Tina, whose boat is currently in the Caribbean (just outside the hurricane belt, thankfully).
Our next stop was another short sail north to Saltspring Island and the harbor of Ganges. This was our 3rd visit to Ganges and is one of our favorite Gulf islands. We spent a relaxing 2 days there reading, playing ukulele, and visiting coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, etc. I also managed to tear into the dinghy engine that was having problems starting. The last time I took apart and cleaned the carburetor was in French Polynesia, so lots of varnish from gas had built up in the float bowl and clogged the small openings inside the throttle body.
We cleared back into the US at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, and anchored overnight in the bay. This was the first real need for the dingy and the engine started right up, but ran poorly at higher rpms, so I suspect the inline fuel filter needs replaced. It worked well enough to get us back and forth from the anchorage, so that was good. The highlights were visiting the outdoor sculpture park a short walk from the marina, and having bloody mary’s and french dip at our favorite cafe. Jacintha talked us into spending a few hours at the outdoor pool with Karen, while Champ (more on him later) and I relaxed under a shade tree near the pool.
The trip back to Seattle went well as far as timing the tides. We sailed the entire way from Roche Harbor to Kingston, getting in just after dark and anchoring near the ferry landing outside the marina. We made it back to Lake Union the following day to complete an 8-day cruise that covered about 200 nm.
Champ (our newest crew)
Champ is our dog we’ve had for almost a year now. He’s a mixed breed (mini poodle & terrier) rescue dog who came to the the US from Tijuana, MX. This was Champ’s first sailing trip so he deserves his own section in this post. He did extremely well and makes a great boat dog. The biggest challenge was to figure out how and when to get him off the boat for potty breaks. Before we departed Kingston marina at 4am, we took him for a quick walk. Good thing he peed because we wouldn’t be on land again for 12 hours. After we were in Canadian waters, the passages were shorter and it wasn’t a problem. He had a lot of fun running around Piers Island with another dog and when he returned he was a black dog. We hosed him down before getting back on the boat. He’s quite comfortable on the boat and likes to be in the sun sitting in the cockpit. The trip from San Juan Island to Kingston took about 12 hours, then we dropped anchor and spent the night. We tried to get him to use a 2’x2′ square turf that’s made for dogs, but he just wanted to sit on it. In the morning, we motored into the marina to fuel up and let Champ go to the bathroom. Yes, Champ has great control of his bladder (although he seems to eat/drink less while we are sailing underway)!
The 60nm passage from Port Angeles to Seattle began with a careful study of the tides and currents. Timing is important and can shave hours off this passage if done right. In the summer, this passage almost always requires motoring, and after 20 days of mostly sailing from Hawaii, I looked forward to relaxing with the autopilot doing the steering. We departed at 09:30 so that we would hit Dungeness Spit around slack, and Admiralty Inlet at mid-flood. This meant departing against an ebb tide, but by staying close to shore between Port Angeles and Dungeness, we actually had a slight positive current from back-eddies. We were also helped by a light westerly wind that gave us an extra half-knot by motor sailing with the Genoa. We passed Dungeness Spit moving at 8 knots, and were going 8-10 knots through Admiralty Inlet.
It had been 2 years since Apropos was in the Salish Sea. As we motored-sailed south towards Seattle, it was great seeing all the familiar landmarks–Dungeness Lighthouse, Port Townsend, Point No Point Lighthouse, the Edmonds-Kingston ferries, the cruise ships headed to Alaska, and finally, the Seattle skyline and Shilshole marina. Our trip to the South Pacific was amazing, but some of the best cruising grounds anywhere are in the Pacific Northwest.
Anna Maria, who we hung out with when we were in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, joined us in Port Angeles for the final passage to Seattle. We reached Seattle by 7pm and pulled into Shilshole marina to pick up some of the crew from the Fiji, Samoa, and Christmas Island passages for the final 3 miles to Lake Union. Doug, Dave, Denise, Justin, and Adrea came aboard and we motored to the Ballard Locks, then through the canal to Lake Union. This completed a nearly 2-year, 16,000 nautical mile Pacific Ocean voyage with stops in 8 countries–Mexico, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Nuie, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, and Kiribati.
We spent 10 days of Christmas Island (Kiritimati Island) while waiting for new crew to fly in. We arrived on a Monday and flights only come in once a week on Wednesdays, but we had to wait for the following week for the crew exchange (Doug and Adam flew out the same day Andi and Justin flew in). London is the main village on the island and consists of a few small grocery stores (with very limited food), 2 gas stations, a bank, a school, and not much more. At 2 degrees north of the equator, it was very hot and mostly dry. Here are some pictures taken during our stay:
The sail from Fiji to Samoa took us 5 days, 21 hours. We were able to sail the entire way and motored for only 10 hours, mostly after rounding the NW corner of Upolu Island in the shadow of the SE trades. This was an unusually fast passage for this route and we were helped by a southerly component to the trade winds. We docked at a mostly empty marina in Apia and celebrated with coconut drinks and Samoan beer. Dave and Denise are now blue-water cruisers and hope to continue sailing on their own someday to Alaska.
Apia is a great little town and Samoans are very friendly. My new crew (Doug and Adam) for the next leg to Christmas Island flew in and joined me on the boat as Dave and Denise went to a hotel and prepared to fly back to Seattle. We spent the next several days getting ready for another departure–provisioning, re-fueling, and fixing things. We also did some fun things like going to church and taking a tour around the island to experience some Samoan culture.
The church service in Apia was outstanding! We walked about a mile to the biggest Catholic church in Samoa. Out of respect for Samoan culture, we all wore sulus to the service. The church architecture was amazing with the detailed paintings, marbled floors, colorful stained-glass windows, and high ceilings with wood carvings. The sermon was mostly in Samoan and lasted about 90 minutes. What made the service so special was the singing and how the interior acoustics amplified the voices.
We took a half-day tour around the eastern side of Upolu. Our guide Junior told us lots of interesting facts and stories as we stopped at waterfalls, beaches, and historical sights along the way. One of the most fascinating places we stopped at was a swimming hole called Sua Ocean Trench. It’s a huge hole about 200 feet deep with 10 feet of seawater in the bottom and an underground trench connecting to the ocean. We climbed down the ladder and swam in the water with our snorkeling masks. The ocean surge forced seawater in and out of the trench and changed the depth of the water by a few feet. We also had a traditional Samoan feast at the Taufua Beach Restaurant & Fales consisting of pig, raw marinated fish (ceviche), taro root, chop suey with chicken, taro leaves with beef, and octopus in coconut milk.
Motoring clockwise around Viti Levu and beating into the wind, we took 3 days to get to Makogai. The destruction was obvious as we approached the anchorage–most of the coconut trees were just sticks, the wharf was destroyed, and only a few structures remained. We went ashore and joined the men there who had just started drinking kava. Most were from Na Sau village on the south end of the island and were there helping to rebuild the government’s Fisheries program. At the kava ceremony we heard fascinating stories about how they survived a category 5 cyclone by running from houses as the winds ripped the roofs off. After most of the houses were destroyed, they ran up into the hillside to get some shelter from flying debris. Amazingly, there were no deaths or serious injuries on the island. Most of the people at Na Sau ended up under the foundation of their houses, which was all that remained after the cyclone passed through. It was dark by the time we left the kava ceremony and we made plans for them to pick us up the next morning in their long boat to deliver the aid supplies to Na Sau. The half hour boat ride to Na Sau was rainy and windy. They tied up the longboat and we carried the supplies along a muddy trail to the village. There were lots of women and children at what remained of the village, some of whom I recognized from my visit last year. The school was completely destroyed and the 20 families shared what was left of their houses. The youngest there was a 10 month old girl, and the oldest was an 82 year old woman. Some of the kids that Karen, Jacintha, and I played frisbee, volleyball, and rugby with last year remembered us when I showed pictures of them on my camera. One of the village elders showed us around as the women divided our supplies up into 20 neat piles, starting with the food, then clothing, then toys. A prior Sea Mercy delivery vessel brought a portable Spectre watermaker unit (desalinator) which he turned on while we were there. It took about 2 hours to divide up the supplies, and by the time we left, some of the kids were running around wearing probably their first pair of Nike sneakers. There were lots of questions about some of the food we brought since they werent familiar with much of the canned food. The living conditions there are harsh, especially during the rainy season while they are still rebuilding their houses. We asked what they were most in need of so we could report back to Sea Mercy. A chain saw, more food, re-building the school (their makeshift school was a dozen or so desks under a torn tarp, making it difficult to have class during the rainy season) and more kids clothing were at the top of their list. We also left them with 8 LuminAid solar lights that we brought from Seattle. We took lots of pictures and heard stories about the cyclone during the 3 hours we spent there. They were very appreciative of Sea Mercy and thanked us for bringing the supplies.
We ended our year-long cruise with a nice relaxing stay at Musket Cove on Malolo Laila Island. Only 20 miles from Lautoka, we found the anchorage and marina full of yachts waiting for the big regatta coming up in a week. We spent 3 days there enjoying the resort pool and restaurants and for $5, became life-time members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club–the requirement to join is that you must have sailed here from a foreign port!
Vuda Point Marina
We hauled out Apropos at Vuda Point Marina on September 4, 2015, a little over a year from when we left Seattle. The travel lift took us to the wash-down area and the bottom paint looked better after a good pressure washing (we’ll re-paint the bottom in 6 months before departing Fiji). Next was the drive to pit #40, where Apropos will remain for the cyclone season. The workers were very meticulous with adjusting the tires to keep the boat upright and level. It was a bittersweet moment–on one hand we realize a direct hit from a big cyclone could severely damage Apropos, but on the other hand we are ready for a break from living on a boat and looking forward to visiting Sydney and returning home to Seattle.
Vuda Point Marina
But first, there is a lot of work to do! Not that sailing and maintaining a boat for 10,000 miles is all play, but we did get used to a slower pace of life while visiting lots of cool places and meeting lots of nice people. Now we had a long list of things that needed to get done in a short amount of time. I decided to spend an extra week after Karen and Jacintha fly to Sydney so I could get everything done before leaving Apropos for 6-1/2 months. Here’s the task list (strikethrough denotes completed):
Sort through a year’s worth of stuff that was added on the boat and decide what to keep.
Remove all 4 sails, fold, and STORE BELOW.
Clean, deflate, pack up the dinghy, and STORE BELOW.
Change engine oil and filter.
Empty and clean Racor diesel filter bowls, replace filters.
A common theme in the above tasks is STORE BELOW, the problem is, there is only so much room for storing things below! With the rainy summer season in Fiji approaching, humidity and moisture become an issue. If things are packed too tightly, air flow gets reduced and mold could grow on things. We ended up donating a lot of things (clothing, food, toys, etc) to different people working at the marina. We also filled up 6 duffel bags to carry and check in on our flights out.
With 4 days left before I fly to Sydney to join Karen and Jacintha, 16 of the above tasks are completed. Should be a fun 4 days!
Jacintha’s friend Polly from a liveaboard boat at Vuda Marina
A long 1-day sail took us to Namea Island, a small island with a surrounding barrier reef and a small resort. Namea is a protected marine reserve and is one of the top dive sites in Fiji. Only one other boat was anchored off the sheltered west coast of the island when we arrived. We dinghy’d to the wharf and climbed the steps leading to the resort. A fee is collected from all cruisers and goes to the village that owns the island as compensation for not fishing inside the barrier reef. The island is also a bird sanctuary with a huge population of red-footed boobies, who gracefully soared a few feet overhead our dinghy as we went ashore. There was only one couple staying at the resort that day, so they told us we could use the resort beach for a few hours. It was the ideal beach setting, what one dreams about when thinking about the South Pacific—soft-fine sand, warm-clear water, hammocks hung between palm trees, and not a sole in sight! We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there.
Namea Diving has a hut near the wharf, so we booked some dives for the following day. We joined the couple staying on the island who were honeymooning from the states for two reef dives. I went on the first one while Karen stayed with Jacintha on the boat, then we swapped for the second dive. Namea is well known for it’s soft coral and healthy reefs. They have over a dozen dive sites around the barrier reef. The first dive went to Manta Mount off the south end of the island. A Manta Ray cleaning station (where they go to get cleaned by reef fish) is located on the outside of the reef. It was a great dive even though we didn’t spot any Manta Rays. Went down to 80’ along the wall and saw spanish mackerel (Whaloo), white-tipped sharks, and lots of soft coral fans. The dive boat dropped me off at Apropos and picked up Karen for the second dive at Neptune Mount off the west side of the island. She also enjoyed the dive and saw lots of soft coral and reef fish.
Makogai—A Former Leper Colony
The passage to Makogai Island was a 25 mile beat into 20 knot winds. We motor-sailed the entire way to keep a better heading and made it there in one tack. The bay is well protected from SE winds so the anchorage was nice and calm. In the morning, we did a quick sevusevu ceremony—the spokesman for the tribe accepted our waka, said a few words in Fijian, and it was over in less than 5 minutes. This is a more typical sevusevu in villages where lots of yachts visit.
The sevusevu offering granted us access to the island, which has a very unique history—Makogai is a former leper colony. Lepers throughout the South Pacific were brought here for treatment and to get away from the social stigma they faced at home. A young, educated Indian marine scientist who does research on giant clams gave us a tour of the former colony. The island was divided into wards to segregate people of different nationalities. If you were not too sick, you would live in one of these wards. Otherwise, you were admitted to one of several hospitals for treatment. We saw the remains of an outdoor movie theater, a hospital, a surgery building (where they performed amputations), a jail, and a large cemetery of mostly unmarked graves. Leprocy is a bacteria-infected disease that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. The nerve damage blocked pain so injuries were often not treated and got infected, which would result in amputations. In the 1950’s when leprosy cures were finding their way to Makogai, the survival rate improved. Eventually the lepers were moved to a bigger hospital in Suva on the main island of Fiji, and the colony was disbanded in the 1970’s. There are still a few survivors from the Makogai leper colony who return to visit this small island.
The other thing Makogai Island is known for is the research on giant clams. They have concrete tanks where the small clams grow for a few years before they can be transplanted elsewhere. We snorkeled around some mature giant clams next to the wharf in 10 feet of water. The color of the lips are from different types of algae. They also have a turtle rescue program for injured sea turtles. One of the large ones being treated was shot through the head with a spear gun, and lists to one side as he swims around the concrete tank.
During our stay on Makogai, we also had a great time with the children. They were shy at first but it didn’t take long before we were having fun on their rope swing, throwing frisbee, playing touch-rugby, and volleyball. Jacintha handed out a large bag of colored pencils and when she finished, they traded among each other for their favorite colors. We also left them with a nerf football and a frisbee. We traded some cans of meat, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for coconuts and bananas.
Transiting the Reef
The north coast of Viti Levu is full of dangerous reefs and narrow passes. We covered 90 miles over 2 days to go from Naingani Island to Nananu-I-Ra to Lautoka, the majority of it under sail. This type of sailing is quite opposite from blue-water passages, where you go hours or days without changing course. We used multiple electronic charts (Garmin, OpenCPN, and Navionics), known waypoints, and a good bow watch to get through safely. Having the sun behind you makes it much easier to see the color changes for spotting reefs. Each day we planned to leave a few hours after sunrise and arrive at our destination by 4pm. We also had a backup destination we could anchor at in case we couldn’t make it to our planned stop. Most of the maneuvering around the reefs was uneventful, but a few places provided more excitement than wanted! Along the way we caught 2 small fish, keeping one for dinner and throwing the other back in. As we moved around the top of Viti Levu, a change in climate and landscape was noticeable. Lautoka, on the west coast of Viti Levu, is warmer, dryer, and sunnier that the windward east side.
Lautoka and Bekana Island
After a long day of motor-sailing through the remaining reefs along the north-west end of Viti Levu, we anchored off Bekana Island near Lautoka. An outdated cruising report said the resort there was friendly to cruisers, so after taking the dinghy into Lautoka for lunch, we pulled up to the resort, only to find it closed. The new owners, Chris and Ashwin, took over the dilapidated resort 6 months ago and are doing a wonderful job restoring it. They invited us in for tea and to share their vision of what they plan to do with this resort and possibly others throughout Fiji. Instead of 5-star resorts that cater to the rich and famous, they want to build comfortable, green resorts that involve the communities they are near. This one, called Haven at Bekana, will be opening in a few months. I look forward to checking it out when I return for Apropos next year. Two of their children (Dave and Sarah) entertained us with singing and the guitar while Jacintha played with their grandchildren outside.
Village of Nasea
After leaving Savusavu, we headed 45 miles east along Vanua Levu and dropped anchor in Dakuniba Bay. We hopped in SV Javelot’s dinghy, and the 8 of us motored around to the next bay with 2 bundles of Waka (dried kava root). We didn’t know it at the time, but we mistakenly bypassed the main village of Dakuniba, and went ashore at the smaller village of Nasea, which didn’t show up on our charts. As we approached the shore at sunset, the villagers saw us and began gathering along the beach to greet us. The Turaga ni Koro (village spokesman) welcomed us to the village and led us into a house, which also served as the village hall with a room big enough to fit the whole tribe plus the 8 of us. There was no furniture or chairs, and no electricity or running water, and we all sat cross-legged on a woven mat on the floor to begin the sevusevu.
Sevusevu is an ancient ritual of offering Waka to seek acceptance into a Fijian village (it’s considered very rude to show up at a village without the offering). We were also prepared with the appropriate dress—men wear Sulus (a long wrap similar to a sarong), and women are expected to dress conservatively and have their shoulders covered. The ceremony began with a chant by the Turaga ni Koro, followed by the handing over of the Waka to the village chief. The chief coboed 3 times, which in Fijian culture means, “I am about to speak, thank you for listening while I do”. He then began reciting the traditional monologue and ended with a chant and 3 more cobos that indicate they have completed their introduction. Then, in English, he welcomed us to the village and told us that while we were there, “our home is your home and you are always welcome to return”.
Next it was time to make kava! The Waka we brought needed crushed and they had an iron pail and a heavy rod for doing so. We took turns outside in the yard beating the kava root to a course powder, then returned to the room where they placed the crushed kava into a fine mesh bag and stirred it around the large wooden bowl full of water. Over the next 2 hours, we sat around the bowl drinking kava, smoking hand-rolled tobacco, and talking. Even the kids (Jacintha, Ivan, Declan, and Finn) tried a sip of kava. When handed a cup of kava, you clap once, then drink it down, hand the cup back to the server, and clap 3 times (the clap must be a loud, manly palm clap, and it’s embarrassing when it sounds soft!). Some of the women were in the back of the house preparing wild boar over a wood fire for us to eat. They hunted and killed the wild boar earlier that day and had already ate, but insisted that the 8 of us eat. By then it was dark and many of the village children had fallen asleep on the floor. During the conversation, we learned that we were only the 2nd yacht to visit the village in about 7 years! Several times they mentioned how excited and happy they were when they saw our dinghy approaching their beach.
It was a great time to be there since all the kids were on school holiday and normally they would be on another island for school. Our plans were to depart the following day to move further east, but it was too hard to decline their invitation to return and spend a whole day with them. So we dinghy’d back in the dark to the anchorage with a promise to return.
We spent the following day back in the village where the kids enjoyed climbing trees, playing with their pet piglet, and just hanging our with their new friends. They fed us smoked wild boar, breadfruit, papayas, mandarins, and coconuts. They showed us around the small village of only 3 or 4 houses, and explained how they hike up in the hills to hunt the boar with dogs. I told them how abundant deer are back in Pennsylvania and how we hunt them with rifles and bow & arrows, but only during a certain time of year. Although they go to the main town from time to time to buy things, they mostly depend on trading. Their culture is so opposite from ours back in the states—where our way of life is to “work hard and save”, theirs is a laid-back “if it doesn’t get done today, it’ll get done tomorrow” and “we have food today, so we eat it all”. A 17-year-old boy showed me around the village and said how happy he was to live there because the beach was so nice and there were lots of fish to catch and wild boar to hunt. He said when he is around 23-25 years old, he will go to another village to “get a girl to marry”, and bring her back to Nasea. He’s never been away from the island where he lives or the neighboring island where he goes to school, but said he wants to go to Los Angeles some day (I told him Seattle is better!). They invited us to go lobster hunting with them out on the reef after dark but we had a long ride back to the anchorage so had to decline. When it was time to go, everyone gathered on the steps for a group picture. Then they loaded our 2 dinghies with a dozen coconuts and walked them out over the reef do a deeper part of the bay since it was low tide. We left them with 6 of Jacintha’s dresses, some canned food, toothpaste and toothbrushes. We also promised to put the word out to other cruisers headed their way to bring some fiberglass resin so they could repair the hole in their only fishing boat. Meeting them was an amazing and memorable experience and I hope some day to return.
Viani Bay and Jack
Viani Bay is a few hours motoring from Dakuniba Bay. We took the inside route, which winds its way inside the reef in more protected waters, but has a few very narrow passes. The narrowest pass showed us navigating into the green (indicating land) on our chart plotter, but we knew it was passable from other cruising reports and had known good waypoints to guide us. A good bow watch was still necessary to miss the shallow bommies (rocks) along the way. We learned of a Fijian man named Jack (and of his story-telling) from Curly’s cruising seminar that we went to back in Savusavu. Jack has lived along the bay for over 40 years and makes money by guiding cruisers on snorkeling or diving tours. He doesn’t actually get in the water, but stays on the anchored boat or in the case of drift snorkeling, drives the boat. So we arranged for him to take us snorkeling the following day aboard SV Javelot (a catamaran). We went to the 3 sites recommended by Jack and listened to his interesting stories along the way. Jack knows the area well and needs no chart plotter, he just points and says steer that way! The first site we anchored at was called the Cabbage Patch where we enjoyed the “cabbage” coral and many reef fish. The next site was along a maze of shallow reefs and Jack paddled along in a dinghy to show us the way. We saw a reef shark, lots of healthy coral, and plenty of small reef fish. The third site was a drift snorkel where Jack dropped us off at one location and guided the catamaran to the pickup spot as we drifted effortlessly along the reef. We crossed over lots of deep canyons and drifted over some thermal currents that were much warmer than the surrounding water. We saw some interesting schools of small fish swimming along with their mouths wide open, a sea turtle, and lots of healthy coral. Unlike some places in Bora Bora where they feed the fish in certain areas and take tourists to snorkel there, this was completely natural, non-touristy snorkeling.
Returning to the anchorage, we ended the day with a potluck aboard SV Javelot. The kids watched movies while the adults played 500, a very addicting card game!
Snorkeling around the “Cabbage Patch”
Lots of healthy coral
Crown of Thorns–they bleach and kill the coral
The following day, we arranged for Jack to come with us to Taveuni Island, about 7 miles away. Called the “garden island”, Taveuni gets more rain than other Fijian islands and has lush vegetation. It’s also home to a flower that grows only in the mountains there. For this day-long trip, Jack charged a small fee to show us where to anchor, arranged taxi service to the Tavoro waterfalls, and looked after the boat while we visited the village and falls on the north end of the island. We again took Javelot and left Apropos behind anchored in Viani Bay. Another cruising couple who we met in French Polynesia (Steve and Ange from SV Pannikin) joined us. Along the way we caught a tuna while trolling a rapala lure.
The long taxi ride to the north end of the island was over mostly unpaved roads. We stopped along the way to pick up some fresh coconuts, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes. After a 45 minute drive, we reached the visitor center and the trailhead to Tavoro falls. The first falls, only a half mile away, was the largest of the three, both in height and water flow. The hike to the next falls took about an hour and included a small river-crossing. Since we had to be back at the trailhead by a certain time, we didn’t have enough time for the third falls, so we hiked back down to the large fall for some swimming. Of all the waterfalls we visited in Mexico and French Polynesia, these falls had the highest volume of water flowing. Trying to swim to the base of the falls was exhausting because of the large current generated. We were barely able to get close enough to touch the outer spray before swimming back to shallow water away from the falls.
We took the bumpy taxi ride back to the anchorage, crossed the channel to return to Viani Bay, and once again ended the day with a dinner (fresh tuna) aboard Javelot, followed by another game of 500. We said our goodbyes to Rob and Rachel from Javelot since they planned to cruise further east and our plan was to go west the following day. Jacintha will miss her friend Ivan so mom and dad will have to be her new Uno competitors.
We arrived in Savusavu after a fast 3-1/2 day passage from Tonga. The town is a custom’s check-in point and will be our home for a few days. Since all the mooring buoys were occupied, customs allowed us to raft up to SV Javelot who was tied to the custom’s dock–perfect! The dock is alongside the Copra Shed Marina so hot showers and a good restaurant were within sight of our boat. After processing immigration and agriculture forms and getting the boat interior fumigated since we sailed from Tonga, we walked to town to get some Fijian currency and groceries. The local market was bustling with activity and we picked up some coconuts, veggies, and the all-important kava, which is needed to present to chiefs when you visit small villages.
Some activities that occupied our time over our 4-day stay in Savusave:
Jacintha joined a youth sailing club for a few hours of Optimist sailing in the bay. The wind picked up when it was her turn to sail so she was mainly used for ballast while the boat was sailed by a more experienced local boy.
Misc. Boat Things
We had a few repairs to make after our last passage. Ian, our self steering wind vane, chafed through his control line early in the morning on our last day of passage, so that needed replacing. Our Honda generator got drenched with seawater from a wave and stopped working, but fortunately started right up after drying out. Some of the ratlines needed re-tied as they were sliding down the stays. We ran out of propane in our main tank during our stay in Tonga, so switched over to our smaller reserve bottle. We re-filled the main bottle with butane since they don’t use propane here. We were also running low on gas (petrol) used for the dinghy and generator. A good washdown of the boat removed the thick coating of salt from the rough passage.
While back in the village of Neiafu, we checked out with customs and immigration and topped up the tanks with duty-free diesel. We then headed back to Port Maurelle to wait for a good weather window to depart on the 450 nm passage to Fiji. A strong weather system was still west of Fiji and moving east, creating strong winds and high seas between Fiji and Tonga. A high (counter-clockwise system) north of New Zealand and a low (clockwise system) to the north of Fiji caused what is known as a “squash zone” or “enhanced trades”. Not wanting to sail in 12′ seas with 25-30 knot winds, and since we had a flexible schedule, we decided to wait. We ended up spending 10 days in Port Maurelle as the system moved through slower than expected. Legally, when you clear customs you have to depart within 24 hours. Port Maurelle is an outlying island away from Neiafu, so we (along with 2 other boats who checked out with us) decided to wait there for a better weather window for the passage. While talking on VHF, Apropos became “Green Pirate”, Fanny Fisher became “Fishermen”, and Brahminy became “Blue Moon”–our aliases just in case customs was listening! During those 10 days, we enjoyed potlucks, card and board games, walks to remote villages, and paddling around the bay. Jacintha was happy since Javelot was around for most of that time and she got to hang out with Ivan and have sleepovers. For a change of scenery we up-anchored and sailed to another bay (anchorage 11) for an evening, stopping along the way to snorkel and an unsuccessful search for manta rays. Another day we hopped aboard Javalot and again searched for manta rays but ended up snorkeling around a shallow reef, then sailing back to Mariner’s Cave for another swim into the submerged cave entrance malavoi3.martinique.univ-ag.fr. While motoring back to Port Maurelle, we spotted 3 humpback whales who gave us a nice show. We stopped near Swallow’s Cave to try to catch dinner with a spear-gun but saw only small reef fish. It was the first time I sailed aboard a catamaran and witnessed how fast they sail without healing over! Other fun activities included swinging into the water on a halyard, and Jacintha and the boys from Javelot enjoyed being hoisted up in climbing harnesses and swinging around the mast. One day it rained so hard that our 8-gallon buckets positioned to catch water draining off the bimini filled up withing 30 minutes. During the downpour, we filled up our aft 60-gallon water tank by opening the deck port and using a towel to dam the water and direct it into the tank opening (this was after it rained for a few hours so the water running in the gunwales was clean). After 10 days the weather system moving east finally weakened enough to provide us with a better opportunity to depart to Fiji, and we followed 2 other boats out of Tongan waters just as the sun was dropping below the horizon.