Monday, August 23, 2010

Hi Everyone,
Ann's modem is out of commission at the moment so she called and let us know that they have arrived in Vanuatu and all is well. They plan to go up a volcano tonight and I am sure we will get to enjoy some photos when she had a good internet connection.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ann phoned. Currently their modem is not working so they are unable to send their location to Yotreps.
at 2240 GMT they were at 19 degrees 20 min South, 170 degrees 43 min East. Winds have dropped and they are moving slowly.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

AT SEA, 18, 37`South, 174, 13`East

Wedged into the corner of the cockpit, I realize why I love sailing. A feeling of contentment and bliss comes over me as I watch the water rush by. The boat swooshes along; the sound of the waves breaking around the hull is calming, lulling me into a sense of peace. The moon is almost full and I watch as it peeps in and out of the clouds. A tendril of wispy white floats across the moon, I think it will dim the moonlight but the shimmering light breaks through. The sail casts a dark shadow and as the boat yaws and rolls it flits back and forth across the cockpit. The rest of the world sleeps and we sail on, rushing headlong into the night.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We are on our way to Vanuatu. We left yesterday, leaving the safety of protected waters at 1730. It was Barry's birthday so for a present I said I would give him a whole day on non-argument about sail set. I think I did pretty well; there may have been one or two half-hearted protests, particularly when he wanted me to put up the staysail after sunset in rolly seas with the wind blowing 15-20 knots. Up it went without a problem, I was pretty leery about going up on deck but once I was up there it was a piece of cake. Speaking of sunset I saw a green flash again, it was beautiful, Barry was busy and missed it, too bad, I think that was nature's birthday present to him.
I had bought a cake to cook for him, but when he said that I should save it for 2 birthdays at the end of the month I decided that was a good idea. I think Mike on Argonaut has his birthday only 4 days after mine, besides there would only have been the two of us to eat it and making it when the boat was healed over and all shut up to keep the spray out was not my idea of a good time. I also gave Barry a pedicure as we were sailing towards the pass, he really enjoys those, so now his feet don't stink and his toenails are clean!!
At the moment we are enjoying terrific sailing conditions. Wind is on our beam at about 12-15 knots and we are making 7 knots and our faithful windvane, Bob, is doing all the work without a word of complaint. We have 357 nm to go, at this rate we will arrive on Aug. 21 but more likely will have to slow down and have another night at see because it would be amazing if we maintained this speed the entire way.

Ann has indicated she will do a position report, Check it out:

Monday, August 16, 2010

I wanted to do a blog on the island of Makogai. It was one of the highlights of our stay in Fiji. The island was a former leper colony. It was opened in 1911 and closed in about 1960. There were about 5000 lepers on the island at one time. Apparently lepers from all over the Pacific were sent here. One fellow told us that the patients would choose areas to live according to where they were from; the Fijians, the Samoans, the Tongans, etc. would have a separate area on the island where they would stay. A lot of the structures on the island are made out of cement, they must have had good sand on the island because we saw cement jails, cement hospitals, cement houses, cement bridges as well as a cement cinema with
matching cement screen, even the crosses in the graveyard were made out of cement. The names I could read in the graveyard were mostly of the French nuns and priests who cared for the lepers. There are a lot of houses still standing on the island, so in the 1980's, I think, the government opened up the island for people to come and live there. It was explained to us that the village that existed there is quite different than most villages as the people are from all over Fiji, rather than the usual traditional village where people have lived for generations.
The first day we went ashore and walked the 5 km to the village. We were greeted very warmly, we did sevusevu and got to meet the school teachers, husband and wife, as well as their daughter. It was lunch time and they invited us in for a cup of lemon tea, the leaves are picked from the tree and then just steeped, delicious. The teacher explained that the next day there was going to be a big feast because the students would be writing the class 8 exams, they wanted us to come back. It was quite a trek over there but we decided that we would go to the feast because this was an opportunity few would have, to be included in a real Fijian event.
The next day I went snorkeling in the morning and found some of the best snorkeling we experienced in Fiji.
Then we set off over the hills to the village. We thought we were going to be late so we set a brisk pace and boogied the 5 km in 50 minutes. If there was ever proof that Barry is back in shape that walk was it, he made sure to let me know that he carried a 15 pound pack as well, that is about 7.3 kg for you younguns. We had an absolutely wonderful time. We were treated like honoured guests and the school master said to let you know that we were at the very last writing of standardized exams for year 8 in the Republic of Fiji. If they pass the four children that were writing the exams would have to leave the village and attend school in a city of their choice, some stay with extended family and some board at the schools. It must be a big step for those children. The feast was really spectacular, the students, guests, the men and the elders all ate first. The women who prepared the feast fed their children if they had little ones but they did not eat until all the men were done. You sat on a woven mat on the floor and the tablecloth was laid down the middle of the mat and everyone sat and ate with their fingers, using taro and casava to sop up the good stuff. There were curries, a venison dish, roast pork, crab, chop suey and some traditional Fijian vegetables cooked in coconut. We ate to our hearts content and then had a nice visit. Then the village pastor, a Methodist, walked back with us, he strode along the path through the jungle with bare feet. I told him I wanted to have Fiji Feet and asked how long it would take me to develop them. He said if I walked that path everyday for an hour it probably would take me a month.
Another use for the island is to raise giant clams. They were amazing, we gave the fellow in charge, 20 liters of diesel because the gov't had made a mistake and sent 2 barrels of gasoline instead of one of gas and one of diesel and so the poor huge giant clams were going to suffer because they could not pump the water to change it so they would have the nutrients they needed. We were happy to contribute to such a worthy cause.

The big day finally arrived. We got the new cushions. They are a hit, we both think they did a great job and we are happy with the colours we have chosen. It makes the boat look so much better.
We are back a Vuda Point Marina, we had a fairly uneventful trip back, just a couple of minor, gut wrenching moments. One of them came making our way through a pass and I almost had us going through the middle of a reef. Barry was smart enough to say that it didn't look good and we got turned around without any damage. The other time we were going to stop at a resort and do one last dive in Fiji. Barry wasn't too keen on the idea because it was really windy. As I was pulling down the main sail as we were close to dropping the anchor Barry said, you know there is no water coming out of the engine. I asked what I was supposed to do about it and the reply was, just so you know. A moment later Barry yelled to roll out the jib, the engine temp was climbing, so we turned around and sailed off into the sun. Barry thought it was an impeller problem and sure enough when he checked it had chaffed in half. He popped it out and put one of the 6 or 7 spares we have on board in and then turned on the engine to make sure the repair worked. It did, by this time we were a couple of nautical miles away and I didn't even ask it we could turn around and beat back into the 30 knot wind to make a last Fijian dive. That night we anchored in a spot we had been in before and I thought we were far enough to one side, it was a small anchorage. Barry put out a lot of chain for the 3 meters of water we were in and just before we retired for the night we heard a grating sound, yup we scrapping the bottom, we upped anchor and set it again and I actually slept pretty well that night, although I am not so sure about Barry, he was in a big hurry to leave in the morning.
We have been working really hard making repairs before we set off for Vanuatu. The weather looks good to leave this week and we are hoping to get away on Wed. Today we got the new cushions, re caulked the toe rail, went up the mast to see if we could fix the non-functioning, expensive new wireless wind instrument, Barry installed a new fresh water pump for the galley, we topped up our diesel in the boat and bought more, and we filled up a propane tank. Tomorrow we head to Latoka to check out of the country, provision, hopefully fill my prescription and check out malaria medication, oh yeah, I also need to repaint the anchor chain so we can tell how much chain we have out, the paint we put on in NZ in wearing off and Barry needs to make a new snubber line for the anchor. The snubber line takes all the weight of the anchor and distributes the weight evenly on both sides of the boat instead of just one spot.
We are planning on crossing with Mike and Liz on Argonaut, the same couple that we went to the Yasawas with. Mike really knows his weather so it will great to have him close by. Also it will be nice to have another boat to talk with on and off during the day to compare notes and give a hand to if help is needed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Having tea with the ladies.

Trying very unsuccessfully to straighten out a pandana leaf.

Anchorage at Viani Bay where we anchored at 25 meters.

A flower we found on the beach, interesting effect with sand ripples underneath.

Searching for shells at low tide amongst the mangroves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bobbing gently at anchor at Makogai Island in the middle of the night, I can't sleep. It has been a pattern the last couple of days, we are moving almost every day and I know it is a combination of worry and going to bed early that finds me tossing and turning about 0300. As a consequence of my lack of sleep I am crabby and find the stress of finding our way through reefs just makes me worse, today coming in here my stomach began to act up, it is so tied in knots it objected. Poor Barry, I did apologize and we are going to stay here 2 nights, so although we are grating on coral hopefully we will be able to pull the anchor up when we leave without too much trouble and we can relax and enjoy our stay here.
We headed east from Savusavu and made it to a bay in Somosomo Straight just opposite Taveuni Island. The entrance into that bay was pretty easy, we had way points but we anchored in 25 meters of water, which is too much and Barry was worried about snagging on coral and/or dragging. Fortunately it was a very protected spot and there was little wind so Barry's worries came to naught. We went ashore and did sevusevu at a village and then the village chief, Thomas, led us up the hill we wanted to climb. When we got back to the village the ladies had arranged tea and scones for us. It was very pleasant sitting in the shade drinking tea and chatting with them. Barry had told Thomas that he would take some pictures and have them printed and sent to him. Everyone wanted in on the action.
The ladies were straightening out the pandana leaves to make them ready for weaving mats. The leaves are picked when they are green and then boiled to make them soft and then hung to dry outside on a wooden rack, much like people in the NWT hang fish to dry. The foliage is about a meter long and once it has been dried the ladies use a shell (it looked like a big oyster shell, it had mother of pearl on the inside) to flatten it. They run the shell up and down the leaves until they are flat and then they roll them on two fingers into a tight bundle, first rolling one way and then switching hands and directions until it the bundle is tight and flat. I have a woven fan that has black pieces in it so I asked how they dyed the leaves. I think they said they use soil to colour them and then when they boil them they add a leaf which would stain them black. I had a go at making a frond flat but was not much good at it. I would have liked to try rolling it up once it was flat because I think I may have been better at that, it looked rather like winding wool.
Later on this morning, hopefully after I have gone back to sleep, we are going to explore this island. It is the location of a former leper colony, which has been converted to an aquaculture station. Maybe I will stop here and add more after we have been ashore.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

We are still in Savusavu in Fiji. Savusavu is on the windward side of the island and we have been experiencing tropical rain everyday since our arrival. This is not like Canadian rain, well prairie rain; it is more like heavy mist. The clouds come up over the mountains and then the wind blows and the skies open, and this fine warm moisture falls out. Sometimes it only last for a few minutes and if you get caught in it, you get slightly damp, but it is not cold, so not to worry. At other times the wind just howls and the mist becomes sheets of rain, the drops are still not very big but you get wet in a hurry. We have felt quite boat bound, you don’t open the hatches or portholes and we have been down below quite a bit and we still don’t have our cushions.
We did find project here, a company manufactures LED light fixtures for boats, so we have converted most of the lights on board to LED, they will use a lot less amperage than the ones we had before, so I am hoping I will be able to read using boat electricity after dark instead of a headlamp. We should use a lot less triple A batteries that way!

Yesterday we arranged with two other boats to do a road trip to the sunny side of the island. We rented a van with a driver,one of the couples were Dutch and the other was an Australian family from Tasmania. I was a little worried about travelling with children in a small vehicle for most of the day but the kids, Zeke, 11 and Nina, 8 were marvelous. It was a pleasure to make their acquaintance and we all had a great time. We went over the mountains, about 570 meters in elevation according to Barry’s fancy new watch. We saw a sugar mill, visiting the town of Labaso,(pronounced Lambaso, apparently here in Fiji when there is a b you say mb, just as when there is a d you say nd, so Vuda Point is pronounced Vunda Point and when there is a g you pronounce ng so Sigatoka would be pronounced Singatoka), saw a Hindu shrine and stopped at a resort that was built by 2 former cruisers.
The most impressive thing was the scenery and the difference between the windward and the leeward side of the islands. Here in Savusavu, it is very green, with climbing vines everywhere and lush undergrowth. On the leeward side the hills are brown, and the vegetation is a lot sparser. There is more sugar cane grown over there as well as forestry operations as indicated by the straight rows of tall pine trees.
The hindu shrine was a bit of an eye opener. There is a big rock that is shaped like a cobra and it is holy to the Hindus. While we were there, a group was worshipping, they offered bananas and apples as well as flowers and they poured milk on a stone that they had covered with leaves, incense was burning, the priest was chanting, someone was playing a drum and they would walk around the 5 meter high rock ringing a bell as they went by it. Apparently they believe that the rock is growing, I don’t know much about the Hindu religion but it was all rather strange to my western eyes. They had a staircase that was 108 steps, no doubt a very significant number, to the top. The steps had a very small rise to them, to fit all 108 in the distance to the top, so to be comfortable you would step 2 at a time. I guess I should have asked more question in order to understand but our driver was a Muslim so I am not sure how far that would have got me. The driver did tell us about his prayer schedule, 5 times a day, in the morning, at noon, at 4 in the afternoon, just at sunset and at 7:30 P.M. that is a lot of prayers.
The sugar pipeline
We saw a factory where they refine the sugar, apparently the sugar is shipped from the vats it is stored in tubes which ran under the road and then just poured into the ships when they load it. One of the vats announced it could hold 10,000 tons of molasses that is a whole lot of sticky gooey black stuff. Imagine all the gingerbread houses you could make out of that many tons of molasses. There were a couple of very aptly named hills, one was the sleeping giant, and the other was the panther. The driver spotted several birds I would never have noticed, a kingfisher and a hawk. They were perched on the telephone wires, he said at night he often see owls there. When we came back over the mountains the sun disappeared and the clouds began to close in, as we got back in our dinghy it began to sprinkle once again.
Everyone is waiting for the winds to become more favourable before leaving so there are over 50 boats here at the moment. The weather is supposed to lift on Thursday, so we will head a little further east and then sail back to the Latoka area to get our cushions and prepare for our passage to Vanuatu.

The Sleeping Giant