Fishing at Great Barrier Island
After a couple of days at Great Barrier, Michael and I still hadn't caught the amazing Red Snapper that Dave, our friend of Riada II, had been telling us existed somewhere in the murky depths. But, Dave continued to assure us that they were in fact swimming around down there, so I asked him to teach me how to hook them - in other words, put his money where his mouth was!
I'm an early riser and so is Dave, so we agreed to head out around 6 am. The morning started out sunny and almost warm. We dingied to a mussel farms not too far from the anchorage and tied up to one of the many buoys. Mussels here are grown on rows and rows of large barrel-like buoys strung together and held in place with horizontal ropes. From these buoys, vertical lines hang down into the water, on which the mussels grow. The mussels that grow on the buoys and on the lines that hold the buoys together, are free for the taking.
While we were tying up, Dave pulled off a cluster of mussels to use as bait and as 'burly'. Burly is a local word for bait that is thrown into the water to attract fish. Dave told me, that the key to success when fishing is the 'burly'. The whole time we were fishing, Dave was throwing bits of tuna; preserved in salt, mussels, shells and bits and pieces of raw fish into the water around the dingy. This paid off!
Now, I have to say that I'd never really fished before. Maybe, I'd cast a line or held a rod with some bait dangling in the water off the side of Gromit. I'd last about 5 minutes and then give up bored. But this was different, this was the real deal!
In the beginning, Dave baited my hook and he cast my line and I sat holding the rod. I didn't feel like I was really fishing. I told him that I'd cast the next one and he asked me if I knew how to and I said yes, because I had cast the fishing rods we have aboard Gromit. Well, it was all in the wording! If he had included the words 'this kind of reel' when he asked if I knew how to cast, I would have asked what the difference was and avoided the rats nest of fishing line bunched up on the reel. Feeling rather silly and apologizing sheepishly, I tried to untangle the mess, to no avail. We ended up cutting it off and I tried again, this time keeping my thumb on the reel so it wouldn't spin out of control. Success!
Next was the whole bait issue. Now that I was at least casting my rod and feeling a little more like a fisher-person, I thought I'd better take the next step and bait my own hook. I'm not usually 'ick' about things, but mussels and raw fish...... And it's not even the feel of these things, but rather the smell on my hands. Well, I bit the bullet, so to speak, and had Dave teach me how to securely attach a chunk of tuna and very gloopy mussels. Success again! I had my first bite.
I began reeling in and I was surprised that this wasn't so easy. I thought I must have a hundred-pounder on my line! I knew to pull up on the rod and then reel in as I lowered it toward the water. I'd seen it done so many times, but seeing and doing are two different things! I was finally kind of getting it, but concentrating so hard, that I misjudged how close the fish was to the surface and gave another mighty pull upward, yanking the fish right out of the water and giving him the advantage he needed to spit the hook out of his mouth and disappear, right before my eyes, down into the depths, probably with a smug smile on his fishy little lips!
Dang, I yelled as I wacked the dingy seat with my hand. I knew not to pull the fish out of the water like that, but it all happened so fast! Another piece of bait and couple more minutes and again I had a bite, but this time it felt like a two hundred-pounder. I did it right, though and brought a really nice sized Red Snapper to just under the surface. Yahoo!! I kept it just under the water until Dave got it into the net and we pulled it into the dingy - all amid squeals of delight coming from me! I was so excited. I'd baited, cast and reeled in my first fish!
I caught another one, a bit smaller than my first, and then Dave pulled in two. I got one more and we called it a day. It was now 9:30 am and we headed back to the Gromit. I showed my catch to the 'mouths-hanging-open' crew of Gromit and Michael and I headed into shore to begin preparing the fish for the smoke house.
Dave had generously given us the fish he'd caught, and Michael and I gutted and butterflied them while Dave prepared the fire in the smoker. I sprinkled them with salt and sugar, put the hooks through their top edges and hung them in the smoker. Six hours later, with a little tending of the fire, we took out our golden brown, tender, succulent fish.
(Photo album to follow.....soon!!!)
Our poor flag got completely tattered on our passage.
We thought we should replace it before arriving, so we didn't
look like riff-raff!
Holiday Greetings from the Gromiteers!
As we left Huahine Island in French Polynesia last July, we had a plan to spend the cyclone season, which starts in November, in a country near the equator where cyclones don't go. Some options we were considering were, 1) the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea, 2) the Kiribati and Marshall Island Groups which span the equator north of Fiji, 3) Fiji, even though it is not outside the cyclone belt - it has some fairly secure cyclone holes (safe spots) and 4) the much lobbied for by the kids, New Zealand.
In the beginning, the Solomon Islands were the number one choice, but, of course, we were keeping our options open! Over time and after some research, we decided that the Solomons were not where we wanted to go. Next, we seriously considered the Kiribati and Marshalls, but decided against that direction, too. Fiji posed too great a risk, as many of the cyclones originate in or around Fiji. And New Zealand was too far in the wrong direction for us, who want to sail to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand next spring. What to do??? Well, as usual, we flip-flopped many, many times, but in the end, New Zealand won out. But we only made our decision about 1 week before we left. Yes, just a little last minute! So here we are in the land of the Kiwis! Our last few months reads like a good mystery novel; lots of twists and turns and suspense, but not for the purpose of knowing "who dun it", but rather, to find out where the Gromiteers were going to end up!!!
We left Fiji on Michael's birthday , with the strongest winds we've ever sailed in. In the first 24-36 hours we saw winds up to 52 mph (75-88 km/h), but mostly the winds were in the 35-45 mph (50-70 km/h) range. It was very bumpy and uncomfortable sailing, because we had to sail close hauled, which means the bow of Gromit was pounding up and down into the waves. Most of our sailing so far had been more or less with the wind behind us, not on our bow. The winds eased and the next 5 days of sailing were the most beautiful, 'doesn't get better than this', kind of sailing we've ever done. But, in the end, during the last two days, we got slammed again. I've dubbed this passage the "hearty whole grain peanut butter sandwich" passage; hard and crusty on the outside (beginning and end), and smooth as silk in the middle!
So, we've been in NZ for two weeks now. We arrived in the town of Opua on North Island. Check-in was quick and easy. NZ is very strict about what is brought in, so we lost all our fresh food and any meat in the fridge and freezer. We didn't have much of either. They also took away our popcorn, dried beans and anything that can sprout, as well as our honey.
We left the quarantine dock around 2pm and anchored and tidied the boat a little before going to s/v Riada II for dinner. We had been sailing with Riada II and Solara since Makogai Island in Fiji and we all left Fiji together. Riada II arrived in NZ a day before us and as soon as they were finished checking in, they headed out into the Bay of Islands to go fishing. They had emailed us a dinner invitation while we were still out on the ocean. We marvelled at their energy, because we are usually exhausted after a passage and take a day or so to rest up. Not the crew on Riada II!
What a dinner! Mussels in oil and vinegar, a huge plate of sashimi, mussel fritters, scallops cooked in their shells with garlic and butter, fish soup with scallops and then came the main dish; two pans from the oven! One, with tender, white fillets of fish topped with a breadcrumb-cheese crumble and the other, a whole fish dressed in lemons. Rice. And pumpkin pie (made by Zoe), for dessert. Oh!My!Gosh! Every bit of seafood was fresh from the bay, that day. What a feast! I can't even find the words to describe how delicious everything was. Thank you, Dave and crew!
The next days were spent getting the boat back into order; organizing a surprise belated birthday get together for Michael, with Solara, who arrived a day after us and a bunch of our friends who had also come to NZ; organizing a birthday party for Maia's 11th birthday and going shopping for some FRESH food! The highlights in the 'fresh' department were the strawberries and whipped cream and lettuce. We hadn't had strawberries in years. Boy, were they delicious!!! Not complaining though, because we've had mangoes, papaya and pineapples!
Maia had her biggest birthday party ever! There were about 20 people there, all friends we've met since leaving French Polynesia. Zoe baked Maia's birthday cake; chocolate with mocha icing and we had snacks and juice and fun and games. We celebrated at a large picnic table at the marina with lots of room for the kids to run and play and the adults to chat and get caught up on all their adventures. We hadn't seen some of our friends since Suwarrow and American Samoa! It was a great day and one of the few where the sun came out!
Way back in August of 2010, when we sailed into Huahine, we met a family, Phillip, Unilda and their daughter, Mishell, on their boat called Xtazy. Our plan was to sail to NZ with them, but of course, that didn't happen as we decided to stay in Huahine. On one of the evenings we spent together on Gromit, fishing for dinner, Phillip said to us that he had a business plan that he wanted to run by us. So we listened. He wanted to offer cars to cruisers arriving in NZ, with a guaranteed buy back when they sailed away again in April/May. It sounded good to us, so we gave him a 'thumbs up'! We met up with Phillip in the first few days after arriving in NZ to find his business thriving and him exhausted. October, November and December, when most of the cruisers arrive, are his busiest months. He and Unilda invited us to their beautiful home overlooking the rolling green hills of NZ. We ate a fantastic meal and enjoyed hours of 'boat talk' and New Zealand news. It was a great evening! Thanks, Phillip, Unilda and Mishell!
We left Opua last Tuesday with Solara and Mystic, on our way to rendezvous with Riada II at Great Barrier Island. We arranged with Dave on Riada II, who is from Auckland, to meet here on the 17th to do some fishing and mussel and scallop collecting. Dave has been coming to the Barrier, as they call it, for years and he knows 'all the good spots'. Yesterday, we went out on Riada II and did some drift fishing, Michael and Liam speared some fish and Dave dove with scuba tanks and found some crayfish, which are just like lobsters, but without the claws. He also got some scallops and abalone. Can you imagine the feast we had!!!! Oh!My!Gosh! Again!!!!!!
Today we were going to set up 'long lines' to catch fish and fish with bait to see if we could get some snapper. The weather has turned cold and rainy again so we aren't sure if we'll do that today.
After Great Barrier Island, we are going to sail to Auckland - about 80 km away, and celebrate Christmas Eve in our usual way on Gromit, with a chicken or turkey dinner, and all the fixin's. Then we'll open presents and go to bed in hopes that Santa finds us sometime in the night! On Christmas Day, we have a Christmas Day lunch invitation in Auckland from a long-time friend of Michael's, whom he hasn't seen in over 20 years. We are all looking forward to that.
So, that's the update.......cold but happy in New Zealand!
We wish you all a very peaceful and happy holiday season.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!
I just posted a whole bunch of photos (see the photo gallery).
I haven't had time to do much writing.
We've been moving every few days and the
kids have been doing school most days, so
no time for blogging!
Since Savusavu, we've been at Makogai - 5 days,
Levuka - 2 days, Naigini Island - 2 days, Nananu -I -Thake
Bay - 1 night, Vatia Bay - 1 night.
Now we are on the outskirts of Lautoka - Fiji's second largest
city. We'll spend a few days here and then off to some smaller
islands to do some exploring and snorkelling.
We left Savusavu almost a week ago and sailed, well motor-sailed, to the island of Makogai about 45 nautical miles south.
Makogai was a leper colony from 1911 to 1969. There were over 4,500 patients here including many from other Pacific Island groups. In 1948, an effective treatment for leprosy was introduced and then the colony was phased out over the next 20 years.
The day after arriving, we went ashore and did 'sevu sevu', which is presenting Kava root to the chief. He accepted and gave us a tour of what remains of the facilities of the former colony. Today, the island has a clam farm. They raise giant clams and reintroduce them into the wild.
Makogai is truly a beautiful island. Very lush with a protected anchorage. The kids have been doing school in the mornings and then kayaking, snorkeling and exploring the island and beaches with their kid-friends on s/v Solara. Michael and Liam have done a bit of spear-fishing, but haven't had a lot of success. We've all done a good amount of snorkeling and have seen lots of live and stunning coral and fish. The coral here in Fiji is in a much better state than anything we've seen so far - anywhere in the Pacific!
Today, we will leave here and sail about 17 miles to the nations former capital: Levuka. It is situated on the island of Ovalau, which sits just to the east of Fiji's biggest island of Viti Levu.
When I have internet again, post some pictures.
Sunday, October 9 - Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Early Sunday morning, before the crack of dawn, Michael and I got up and pulled anchor and watched as the island of Niuafo'ou grew smaller and smaller behind us. In front of us were 300 nautical miles to Fiji.
Not far from Niuafo'ou Island, we noticed that there was quite a swell coming from the south. At anchor, we were on the northwestern side, so we were basically in the lee of the island, protected from swell and the predominant trade winds that come from the east/southeast.
The farther we got away from the island, the brisker the winds became. We were surprised, because our weather information was different from what we were experiencing. We were happy to have the wind, but the seas were confused with the swell and wind driven waves that were hitting each other from different directions. As the hours passed, the wind settled in to a nice breeze of about 6-8 knots and the swell lessened, so we sailed along pleasantly for the next 36 hours.
Late on Monday afternoon, we noticed some menacing clouds behind us and realized that there were squalls on our heels. We checked our radar and it showed that they were heading for us! We battened down hatches and prepared for the rain and changing winds that squalls bring along. Usually, they are relatively short lived and pass quickly. Well, these ones didn't. In fact, they turned from squalls into a storm. The gentle breeze turned into a 25-30 knot wind and whipped up the seas in no time. This was now a problem for us because we were within 50 miles of the Nanuku Pass, which is a safe, reef-less passage from the Pacific into the Koro Sea of Fiji.
Of course, we had no idea how long this storm was going to last. We had reduced our sails to slow down, but still we were moving too fast and as a result we were in danger of arriving at the pass entrance during the night and even though the pass is very wide, we try never to arrive anywhere at night!
We turned from west to north hoping to just hang around in the area, but we soon saw by our speed, that we would get too far from the pass in even a few hours, so we had to do something different. Michael suggested that we turn Gromit about 180 degrees, retrace our route for a while and at the same time, stay at least roughly at the same angle to the pass. As we did this, by luck and good fortune, we found a new way to 'heave to' -- this is the process of setting up the sails and rudder so that forward movement of the boat is minimized. We remained hove-to throughout the night and in the morning, the winds lessened and we turned Gromit back 180 degrees and set our course for the pass.
Again we had wonderful conditions during the day and made good progress. However, around 1 am, Wednesday morning, our wind completely died, so we started the engine and motored the last 12 hours.
As we were approached the town of Suvasuva, we called the Harbour Master on our VHF radio, but got no reply as we were still 4 or 5 hours away. When we radioed again an hour later, to our surprise and great pleasure ,we heard the voice of our dear friend, David, on s/v Rhythm, a Canadian catamaran with David, Peggy and teenagers, Olivia and Joey aboard. Zoe, Maia and Liam were thrilled - - yahoo, Rhythm is in Savusavu!!!!!!
David had heard us hailing and explained that there is no Harbour Master and that the marinas take care of incoming vessels. David gave us instructions on how to get into the anchorage and he let the people at the Copra Shed Marina know that we were on our way.
Upon arrival, around 1 pm, we were led to a mooring ball by one of the marina staff. The marina also arranged for the quarantine officer, customs and immigration and the health officer to come to the boat to get us checked in. By about 5 that afternoon, all formalities were finished and we were free to go ashore.
David and family aboard Rhythm, who were living ashore for a week in a house they'd rented, invited us for dinner that very evening, so after our showers at the marina, we jumped into a taxi and spent a wonderful evening getting caught up on all our adventures since we had said good-bye more than a month before in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
We lost track of time and when I finally asked what time it was, I couldn't believe that it was nearly midnight! We couldn't get a taxi that late, so the very kind owner of the house lent David his truck to drive us back into town. We were all pretty tired and had a great sleep, becalmed and securely moored!