We are about half way there. This trip has been quite different that a usual crossing for us. We have had our motor on for porbably around 30 hours so far! The passage itself has been quite pleasant. Read more
Well, here we are again underway towards New Zealand. I had mentally prepared myself for the worst (huge seas, lots of wind and rain). We could and probably will get that, but for now we are enjoying a very pleasant sail.
Heading to New Zealand now marks a new chapter in our lives – as we will be living and working there for 18 months. I still feel like it is part of our grand adventure. It will be nice to have the little things again, like laundry machines and water that magically comes out of a tap whenever I want.
This trip has given me so many gifts – deep friendships with other adventurers, hospitality and graciousness from other cultures, and the time to reflect on the things in life that I hold dear. They say that great ideas come out of boredom – and I agree. Some of the best ideas I’ve had in the last 5 years were born in long ocean passages.
We are just about to leave Navula passage on our way to New Zealand. This passage is a little earlier than most people go, and our weather is a little less settled than usual. If our passage plan is correct, we should be in Whangarei in about 11 days or so. Read more
Piko will be heading to NZ within the next month. After living in Fiji for what will be 5 months, here are the things I will miss the most:
1. Bula! (Fijian for “hello” and “welcome”) Everyone is so gracious, friendly and hospitable. The Fijians are lovely people.
2. The fruit – it literally falls from the trees. Coconuts, papaya, mangoes, bananas all grow by the roadside. Every time we visited a village or went on a hike with a local, they would find us a fresh coconut, husk it, cut a drinking hole in it and give it to us to drink. Soooooo refreshing and so sweet. Look how happy I am!
3. Inexpensive Indian food – $3-5 US for a plate of curry, rice, dahl, roti (like naan). Our favorite place to is Chili Bites in Lautoka.
4. Village life – (see no. 1) One of the wonderful parts of traveling in a sailboat, is that you get to anchor in front of villages that cruiseships and resorts will never see. These villages welcome you into their community like you are one of their own – dinners, tea, talking, working on projects together…
5. Snorkeling – there is so much sea life, so much beautiful water that it is hard to NOT have a great snorkeling experience. Our two favorite spots were Alacrity Rocks, by Ono Island (off Great Astrolabe Reef) and the pass south of Manta Bay, in the Yasawa islands (right off the beach of the backpacker resort)
Vinaka vakalevu (Thank you very much), Fiji, for being such great hosts. We will be back.
We just realized a few nights ago that we just passed our second anniversary of leaving the dock in Seattle! What a two years it has been. We have met tons of interesting people, sailed a few miles, ate some great food, visited some magical place and look forward to more of all of those. And to think when we left that we originally had planned on being back in Seattle in two years, and now I have a work Visa in New Zealand, and plan to renew the cruising kitty down there and continue on our voyage.
Also, having been on many different boats since we have left out here, I still don’t think I would change my decision on what boat to pick. Sure, you always have 2 foot-itis, or maybe 7 ft, but in the same circumstances I can’t think of a better boat in the price range for being solid, fast, sea-kindly etc. Thanks to Henri for making a great boat!
We had a really nice sail to Musket cove today. There is a regatta going on, and we sailed through the fleet going the opposite direction with the kite up today in crystal clear blue water with the waves of tavarua in the background. I can only remember ‘Old Milwaukee’ commercials where the slogan was ‘It doesn’t get any batter than this!’ And while I don’t have and old swil, I will raise a fiji bitter tonight in agreement…
Before we left for this little adventure of ours, we went through the normal thought process on where money needed to be spent. I also had heard a joke about being able to tell if a boat had spent time offshore by looking at its bow. If the boat had an anchor up there that seemed like it was physically tool large to fit on the boat, there was a good chance that it had spent some time holding its boat in place. I had owned Piko for several years before we left for cruising, and while I spent many hours racing other people’s faster boats (well usually anyway), I did get out and cruise Piko as much as I could. When I bought the boat she came with three anchors, a real 35# CQR, a knockoff 30# CQR and a large Danforth.
Now that I have been gone from the States for a while, I realize that there are many things that I took for granted — like electricity. Ever since I was a little girl, all I had to do was flip a switch if I wanted light. It was magic. It seemed like it was something that was just always there, like trees and birds and Star Trek. It wasn’t until we got to an island in Fiji called Rabi, that I saw what it’s like to truly be off the grid.
We anchored in a small bay on the western side of the island called Albert Cove that was inhabited by one Banaban family : a husband, wife, their 20 year old daughter, her husband and their little boy. They lived off the fish they caught and the vegetables they grew. There was no electricity. None. Which was a pain in the butt when they had stuff to do at night and could only do it by flashlight (that’s when they even had batteries) and the sun set at 5:30pm.
The second day we were there, they invited us to a potluck picnic ashore along with the other boats in the bay. We brought pasta salad and it found a home on the table amongst fresh crab, fish and taro that the family had prepared for us. I saw the daughter weaving palm fronds and took a seat by her to see what she was making. Her name was Paurim. I grabbed a palm frond and Paurim explained to me that I needed to start with one that had 12 leaves on it. “What are we making?” I asked.
“Plates” she said. “In a traditional Banaban picnic, we eat off the plates we make and then throw them away.” She smiled shyly and although I could tell that she was slightly embarrassed, I wished she could know how totally cool I thought that was. She showed me how to weave the palm fronds and we proceeded to eat our food with our fingers on the plates that we just made with our own hands. No dishes, no trash, no problem.
Once we were done eating, Paurim’s husband approached Lauren B and Krister with a big float-looking thing. Apparently it had washed up on shore and they were hoping that it could be useful for something. They were really hoping that the solar panels on it would work and that they could use it for light after dark. Since Lauren has an electrical engineering background, and Krister is a mechanical engineer and both of them have a MacGyver complex, they dove right into the project.
The boys got their tools off the boats and we all sat in the shade drinking kava with the family as Lauren B and Krister worked on the mystery device. It appeared to have been some meteorological buoy at some point and was probably very expensive to lose.
After hours of tinkering, Lauren B and Krister managed to get it to be a charging station via the solar panels that were on the top of it. Britannia donated an extra string of LED Christmas lights they had on the boat that could be charged by the buoy. The family was very happy and it felt good to do fix something that we knew would make a difference in their everyday life.
That night as we sat on our boats, we looked ashore and saw the Christmas lights on. I don’t take electricity for granted anymore. Maybe it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch, but to them I bet it still felt like magic.
Piko and our friends have been anchored in Viani Bay for a couple days. It is a large and deep bay that is inside the reef and surrounded by local homes. Jack – a large friendly Fijian who always wore a smile and a brimmed hat – rowed over and asked if we would like to go snorkel the reef the following morning. Of course it was an offer that we could not refuse, so we gladly told him yes.
The next morning we woke up to a clear sky. It was 8:00 and already the sun was burning hot. “Sun seems extra hot today.” I said. My shirt had already begun to stick to my back even though I had just put it on 5 minutes before. I wiped my brow.
Lauren B. looked up. “The sun hasn’t changed. It is just like it is every other day” he said. “Maybe if there are some solar flares.” Why I expected a reaction that was not technical and literal, I do not know.
Jack rowed to our boat from across the bay and brought us fresh papaya and bananas his family had picked that morning. “You like papaya?” he asked. If there was an answer other than a resounding YES, it did not belong in my universe. We all dinghied over to a catamaran named Resolute who had kindly agreed to tow our dinghies out to the reef pass so that we only had to motor back. Resolute was a huge boat, and shall henceforth be referred to as “the mothership”.
After anchoring the mothership near the reef we put on our gear and got in our dinghies. My gear included my mask, snorkel and a wetsuit. Even when the water is warm, it can still get cold if you are in for a long time and I didn’t want to miss out on anything if I got cold. Lauren B.’s gear consisted of snorkel, mask, shorts and that’s it. He never gets cold. Ever. Jack led the way in the front dinghy while towing the rest of us behind in our dinghies. He motored until we were outside the reef pass in the ocean part.
“Are you ready?” Jack asked. “Once you get out, you swim to the shallow side of the reef.” He pointed about 50 feet from where we were. “Then you will swim and go back and forth. You follow the bommies.”
We were excited and ready. The overhead sun was even hotter (I don’t care what Lauren B says!). I was fully zipped up in my 3 mil wetsuit and was quite certain that if I didn’t get in soon, I might pass out.
“Ok, go. Go!” Jack said. He was smiling big and I could tell that he was enjoying himself too. We got in the water and I could tell we were in about 50 or 60 feet of water. Jack had timed the snorkel so there was a gentle current that carried us through the pass (called a drift dive or drift snorkel). Drift snorkels are great because you conserve energy – letting the water do all the work. I could make out coral and fish but it was still a bit deep, so we continued to swim to where Jack had pointed.
When we reached the shallow part of the reef, I saw what all the fuss was about. The sea life was rockin’ and rollin’, with coral and fish abuzz everywhere. It was the most colorful reef I had seen in the South Pacific. The artist in me was going nuts. There were turquoise fish swimming in front of orange coral, and yellow fish swimming in front of purple coral. There were green fish with black and white stripes, and pink fish with yellow and orange spots.
I stopped to take a look at a beautiful coral bed that had pieces shaped like large cabbages and mushrooms. Not the mushrooms you put in your stir-fry, but the big, wide, flat mushroom that the caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland laid on and smoked his pipe. A beautiful regal angelfish caught my shadow and swam underneath the lip of the mushroom coral. It was so cool – Lauren B. had to see!
The incoming current finally placed us inside the reef and although there was more snorkeling to be done, my ankles were tired from my crummy fins. I hoisted myself up into our dinghy and removed the wetsuit. The sun was still beating hard, and it felt good. I leaned back in my bathing suit across the dinghy – soaking up the rays and thinking about how good life is. I felt someone tap my shoulder – it was Jack. “You are soaking up all the sun. Did you have a good snorkel?” he asked.
“I had a great snorkel. Fiji is beautiful.”
We are currently awaiting clearance to leave the boat and hopefully eat dinner with Dilligaf tonight, but we are here safe and sound. Sadly, Britannia did not clear custom today and they are boat bound so we will have to wait another night for them to join us. Savusavu is a lovely place.
We had a great last night on Piko. The air is warm, the wind is from behind us, the swell is down. Taking a nap in the cockpit under a sky full of stars is something I have really missed since last season. The wind has continued to be light, and basically from dead behind us so we are having to gybe our way up into Fiji.
It is also amazing how much energy we have without a fridge to run! We added two more small panels to Piko while in Auckland, ones that we actually bought in Mexico before we built the arch, but have been carrying with us since in our sail locker. Between that, and the new batteries which charge more efficiently than the old ones, we literally could be selling energy to other nearby boats. Note, we will trade watt hours for cold beer right now!m
Also, thanks to John and David with the Fiji Rally and Mike at Cater Marine in Opua. They have all be extremely helpful getting the part we suspect is causing the problem shipped to us in Fiji. I think that should be shipped out on monday hopefully and if all goes well, we will have ice again by the end of the week!
Time to gybe and put the kite up, we really should have last night as well, but sometime you sacrifice a little boat speed to sleep without worries in the cockpit. Yea, you heard me, I may have some regret, but we decided NOT to go fast last night.