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s/v Sand Dollar
Thursday, October 4, 2007 - New Destination
Don
10/04/2007, En route from Neiafu, Tonga to Savusavu, Fiji

Sand Dollar is now headed to Savusavu instead of Levuka. The wind and seas have continued to pound us and the entrance to Levuka is subject to dangerous swells in high winds. For that reason we have detoured to Savusavu which is the same distance but much more protected. I expect landfall early tomorrow morning.

The past 48 hours has produced the fastest sailing I have experienced in Sand Dollar. At times yesterday we were maintaining an average speed of over 8 knots, surfing over one huge wave after another. The noon-to-noon distance was 139 miles for an average speed of 7.0 kts when the time is adjusted for the 4.25 hours hove to waiting for daylight at the passage through the reefs. Four boats converged on the passage at daybreak so we kept in touch on the VHF radio because visibility was so poor in the rain. Conditions eased for about three hours this afternoon and the sailing was quite pleasant but at dusk the wind and sea picked up again pushing the boat up to 7 kts.

All else is well onboard. Unfortunately, I heard news today on a radio net that the Finnish boat "Marita" hit a reef at the approach to the Fiji capital city of Suva. The boat is badly damaged and may be a complete loss but the crew are fine. I had spent some time with them in Niuatoputapu, Tonga. I hope they recover from their loss.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 - Roller Coaster Ride
Don
10/03/2007, En route from Neiafu, Tonga to Levuka, Fiji

The wind has been between 25 and 30 knots all day and the rain has returned. The sailing has been "boisterous" as we say. At least we are making good time. The noon-to-noon distance was 147 miles for an average speed of 6.1 knots. I would give up some speed for nicer weather. The solar panels are putting out almost nothing so I run the engine a bit each day to charge the batteries.

All else is well onboard except for being hungry, wet, tired and cold. Are we having fun yet?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 - Goodbye Tonga and Rain
Don
10/02/2007, En route from Neiafu, Tonga to Levuka, Fiji

Sand Dollar departed Tonga at 6:50 AM today along with at least seven other boats bound for various ports in Fiji. The rain has stopped and we finally saw some sunshine. The sailing has be brisk with 20 knots of wind almost dead astern. We have two reefs in the mainsail and a poled-out genoa to give about 6.2 kts. of boat speed. There is some rolling but the motion is comfortable.

The new crew, Laure, is working out well so far. She is eager to learn, enjoys working the boat and does not get seasick. We are doing three hours on and three hours off which is quite a luxury for me. I won't know what to do with all the spare time.

All else is well onboard although it is taking me awhile to get used to the cool evenings.

Monday, October 1, 2007 - Back in Neiafu
Don
10/01/2007, Neiafu, Tonga

The weather has been cold and wet the past five days. I have not seen the sun for more than an hour or two and the rain just keeps coming, sometime heavy and sometimes a drizzle. This could be Seattle!

Sand Dollar has checked out of Tonga and is departing early tomorrow morning for Fiji. The passage is 408 miles and crosses the Lau Group of islands which are poorly charted and littered with reefs. This is a difficult passage for a single-hander and, for this reason, Sand Dollar has taken on crew. The new hand is a very experienced and highly recommended young French woman who is crewing her way from Europe to Australia. She will help me take the boat to Fiji and then probably look for another boat going to Oz. There are five other boats leaving about the same time tomorrow and we have set up a radio net to keep in touch and track positions. The passage will take four days unless the wind is very light, which is unlikely.

All else is well onboard. We are all anxious for a return tropical weather.

Saturday, September 29, 2007 - Tongan Feast
Don
09/29/2007, Vava'u Island, Tonga

The wind blew so hard last night and early this morning that I got little sleep. The anchor held just fine but I never sleep well when the wind is over 25 knots. At about 8 AM the other two boats in the anchorage called to report that they were leaving soon to find better protection in another anchorage. The tide was almost high so it was a good time to leave and negotiate the shallow water exit. We all left together in single file to minimize the chance of running aground. The weather has continued to be disagreeable the entire day. It is so cold I find it necessary to put on a jacket.

The new anchorage, Tafana Island, offers much better protection from the wind and was the site of tonight's weekly Tongan feast on the beach. There were about 40 cruisers in attendance and we all ate traditional foods with our hands and watched the local dancers, mostly grade school kids. It was a most enjoyable affair despite the cold and rain.

All else is well onboard. Tomorrow is Sunday so the island will be very quiet.

Friday, September 28, 2007 - Quiet Anchorage
Don
09/28/2007, Vava'u Island, Tonga

There seems to be very little fish life in Tongan waters, probably because of over-harvesting by local subsistence fishermen. I approached and talked to such a fisherman this afternoon who had spent the entire day gathering a couple dozen reef fish the size of my hand. He seemed to be somewhat embarrassed by the size of his catch. I have had no luck whatsoever fishing these islands and have begun to lose interest.

The anchorage, nonetheless, is quiet and beautiful. I'll stay here until tomorrow, then head to Tapana Island for a Tongan feast on Saturday evening.

All else is well onboard.

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Sand Dollar
Who: Don Pratten
Port: Beaux Arts, WA
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