Our Next 30 Years

19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Lavuka, Ovalua, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
26 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji
24 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji
09 August 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
09 August 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
04 July 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo Lailia Island, Fiji
28 June 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo Lailia Island, Fiji
26 June 2017 | Musket Cove, Malolo LaiLai Island, Fiji
23 June 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
16 June 2017 | Robinson Crusoe Resort anchorage, Likuri Island, Viti Levu, Fiji
15 June 2017 | Nabouwalu Bay, Ono Island, Kadavu, Fiji
06 June 2017 | Beqa Lagoon Anchorage, Beqa Island
30 May 2017 | 18 07.3'S:178 25.4'E, Royal Suva Yacht Club Anchorage, Suva, Fiji
28 May 2017 | 20 29.9'S:177 18.2'E,
28 May 2017 | 22 09.9'S:176 41.8'E, Lost
27 May 2017 | 23 43.9'S:175 53.6'E,
25 May 2017 | 25 34.7'S:175 51.4'E,
24 May 2017 | 29 09.3'S:175 31.2'E, Halfway Point

Degrees of Freedom

19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
Our passage from Qamea to Vanua Balavu was about 60nm, which (if you are being conservative) is too long to try and do as a day sail, given the reefs and passes that need to be traversed. So, most people choose to do the passage as an overnight. The only problem with this is that from reef exit in Qamea to reef entrance in Vanua Balavu is only about 48nm. Assuming that we wanted to enter the pass around 9AM, with the sun high enough in the sky so we weren’t blinded and could actually see under the water, would mean that we were going to have to go average less than 4kts.

Normally when you sail, you have choices that can be made to increase or decrease your boat speed. You can point higher into the wind and slow down, or you can point more dead-downwind and slow down. As the wind moves to your beam, you usually find your boat speed gets faster. Obviously, as you are changing your direction to the wind, you are changing your course being sailed. You also can choose sail combinations to speed the boat up or slow down. That could also mean using only the mainsail with no jib, or only the jib with no main, etc for a given wind speed to control your boat speed. You can also use sail trim to speed the boat up or slow down, although maybe not as much. By over trimming the sails the boat will usually slow down vs trimming them for optimal speed. We also have the option of using no sails and turning on the motors - but why motor when you can sail?

When we are cruising, we begin to loose degrees of freedom, as to how we apply the above to control our boat speed. The wind strength and direction over the time of your passage, along with the course you must travel defines your point of sail. When there are islands, reefs, etc that must be avoided with contingency to allow for chart inaccuracy, etc, you are limited as to how much you can deviate from the course you are sailing. Under normal situations, your boat speed would vary depending upon the above and you would try and optimize your trim to go as fast as possible (because fast is fun, etc.). But on this passage we now had another constraint - we had to average less than 4 kts over about 14hrs!

It was an interesting challenge to figure out how to slow down vs trying to speed up. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had I done nothing and let the boat speed vary between the 2.5kts and over 5kts that we saw during the passage. In the end, we had to give up and drop the mainsail and motor at 2kts for a couple of hours. The good news was that we got to see a spectacular sunrise and a lot of porpoises feeding. Luckily, most passages don’t put this kind of constraint on you!

Taveuni Island and Beyond

19 September 2017 | Lavuka, Ovalua, Fiji
Last year we watched cruisers come and go from Savusavu as they cruised the area to the east. If they were going other directions they seldom returned, but they often did return after going east to re-provision before heading south or west. And, we got to hear their stories of the anchorages they visited. Finally, we were getting to go in that direction and experience things we heard about all of last year!

As we left Cousteau Resort, we realized that the winds were from the SW, which would allow us to sail direct to the southern end of Taveuni, where the Paradise Resort is located. Paradise maintains three moorings for cruisers who wish to anchor off the resort, and it makes for a great stop from which to move further northeast in the predominant SE breeze. Unfortunately, while the wind direction was in our favor, the wind speed was a bit more than forecast. Instead of 8-12kts, we got 20kts, which meant that we were seeing 25-30kts apparent as we drove to windward with a single reef at 7+ kts. The sea-state didn’t help matters, nor did the fact that we had spitting rain. So while we had a quick trip covering the 42 nm, it was not what you would call “pleasant”.

The folks at Paradise were very welcoming, from Charlie who paddled out to show us to our mooring, to the staff that all introduced themselves to us, to Alan (the owner) and Terry (the dive master). After talking a while with Alan (the owner) we realized that he set the example for all the staff. It was great to hear how much Alan did for the staff and see the respect they had for him. The resort had been badly damaged in the cyclone and much of it had to be re-built from the ground up. We toured the gardens and saw how much the area had recovered. It is great to see the resorts using local gardens and farms for their produce, eggs, etc. While there seemed to be a bit of a rain cloud that hung over the area much of the day, we decided to join one of their land tours around the island, and went off exploring the waterfalls at Tavoro, in the Bouma Heritage Park, the international Date Line, the Holy Cross Catholic Mission in Wairiki, a nice lunch on the beach, and the Waitavala natural waterslide. The weather cooperated and we had a wonderful day, made even better by Ionnie, our guide and the company of Bob and Fran (guests at the resort). While Cindy is always surprising me at the things she is willing to try, her trips down the natural waterslide rank high on the list, and she can wear the bruises on her bottom with pride! Once again, we were reminded to look beyond the anchorages along the coastline as we visit places! Last year people said they were disappointed in the food at the resort, but we found the food to be excellent. The resort is also a dive center for the Rainbow reef, so we would place it on the not to be missed list for the area.

Across the Somosomo Strait, north of Viani Bay is Nasau Bay (Sau Bay). Our friends from SV Toucan and SV Escape Velocity encouraged us to visit their friends at the Sau Bay Resort. The bay itself is quite deep and anchoring on the shelf off the resort can be a bit challenging. There is however a private mooring up in the bay that we were directed to since the owners were off cruising. Sau Bay is a lovely resort, primarily for diving in the Rainbow reef area. We were warmly welcomed by Carol (the owner) and the staff. The main room of the resort was really nice and inviting. The chef did a wonderful job for the dinner and lunch we had while we were there. After the guests heard of our adventures at the waterfalls and natural waterslide, they decided to skip the next day of diving and go do the land touring. As a result, we had Carl (boat captain and dive master) and John (mate) to ourselves for a day of snorkeling. Because the moon was full and the tides strong (bringing in plenty of plankton), they recommended that we go up to Rabi to snorkel with the manta rays. This was a great choice because it allowed us to see both Rabi and Kioa Islands, while having a fabulous swim with the mantas. These mantas were much larger than the ones we had seen in the Yasawas. Some were well over 2m across. And there were often 6-8 of them together at any one time. It was phenomenal watching them on the surface and have them swim straight at you, and then slowly dive or turn. Once again I was reminded that you are in their world as they effortlessly swam through the current, feeding with their mouth open, while you tried with all your might to keep up with them. So far, Cindy and I have not been disappointed with the tours we have done with the resorts, and have always felt that we have gotten our money’s worth for what we pay.

While there were many additional anchorages that we could spend time at, a weather window opened that would allow us to get out to Vanua Balavu in the Northern Lau group of islands. To position ourselves for this passage, we crossed back over the Somosomo Strait over the top of Taveuni and through the Tasman Strait to Naiviivi Bay on Qamea Island. We had calm conditions motoring the entire 24nm. It was strange to look back and see our wake stretch as far as you could see! As we came into the bay, the village kids were all out playing in the water (it was a Saturday). My attentions were elsewhere as there are several reefs at the mouth of the bay and the numerous bommies to navigate around on the way to the anchorage. On top of that the current was pushing us around a bit. That said the way-points we had were spot on and we had no problems. By the time we went ashore to do sevusevu, only a few boys were out playing on the beach. They were there to help us come ashore. We were directed down the beach to the village and the chief (Moses) and his wife (Oona). Oona toured us around the village showing us the primary school and teachers quarters, and telling us about the mud slides they had in April that had taken out their community center, and the hail storm they had in July - something they had never seen before in the village. She commented that the weather has been very different than normal. She also showed us the Catholic Church and invited us to attend the mass being said by the priest from the Holy Cross Catholic Mission in Taveuni. As we walked back to the dinghy the little boys playing on the beach were replaced by the big boys playing vollyball - everyone was enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, after going ashore for church, it was time to prepare for our passage to Vanua Balavu. The weather window looked as though it would hold out and provide us with light NE winds for our overnight passage.

Return to Savusavu

19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
Returning to Savusavu was almost like going home for us. We spent almost 4 months there last cruising season - the longest we have spent at any one place on the boat - except for Astoria, Oregon where we launched and commissioned SV FullCircle. It was good to see that the town, marinas and village had continued their recovery from the damage done by cyclone Winston the year before. There were new Nav Aids in place marking the channel all the way back to Savusavu Marina, which was now open for business once again. Ashore it was great to see all the friends we had made the year before at the marina and around town. Curly was still doing the Cruisers net each morning - except Sunday when it’s church, church and more church. Cindy picked up where she left off, attending her yoga classes and going to the Catholic church (even though mass is in Fijian). We were also fortunate to find old cruising friends still in the area that we could catch up with, including SV Del Viento, SV Hotspur, SV Q, SV Liberate, and SV Astarte. We also got to meet some new friends, including families aboard SV Steely Dan and SV La Luna C, as well as SV Macha.

While we were in Savusavu we had to take care of a leech line that had come loose at the head on the jib. Making the repair was quick, but unfortunately the shipping to the sail maker in Vuda Point took far longer than we would have liked, turning our planned one week stay into a two week stay. Since Savusavu is an official Port of Entry, I took advantage of our additional time and renewed my Visa for another two months (you only get 4 months initially), and we took care of obtaining one-way travel letters (to avoid having to buy a round trip ticket and then try to cancel the return leg without penalty) for our friends that will join us for the passage back to NZ. It was nice to have access to the various grocery stores, and a great market for provisioning. We also took advantage of the local restaurants which we enjoyed with friends, whether it was lunch or dinner.

While there is a lot to like about Savusavu - we would say it is our favorite town in Fiji - the heat, humidity and bugs can make it uncomfortable at times. We had a number of still, hot days, and still, rainy, nights, placing a premium on the fans in our berth. Once our jib arrived, we were glad to head out to anchor off of the Jean Michael Cousteau Resort to stage for visits to the islands to the east.

Over the top of Vitu Levu to Vanua Levu

26 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji
Because of Cindy’s trip back to Texas to spend time with our new grandson, and my decision to stay in Musket Cove during that period of time, our routing around Fiji has not been what you would call ideal. After spending time in the west, we made our way east along the northern shore of Viti Levu Island before hopping off to go northeast to Savusavu on Vanua Levu Island.

The first part of the trip was inside the reefs along the commercial shipping route. Before you get the idea that this means a nice pleasant sail without concern for reefs, etc, that is not the case. Yes, there is a well marked route on the charts, but there are reefs and shallow areas all around, and no real Nav Aids to help position yourself. This means that you only travel during daylight and you always are watching where shallow water is suppose to be to help confirm your location. We did have one commercial ship pass us going the other way as we were leaving the major port of Latoka. (That encounter actually reminded us of being on the Columbia River!) Otherwise, it was a lonely passage. Because of a number of factors, we choose to motor-sail most of this section. Our first night was spent in Saweni Bay, along with a number of other boats. Holding was good and we saw winds from most every direction overnight. Each morning we would get an early start (6:30 to 7AM) to give us the best chance of avoiding adverse winds that would arrive in the afternoon and at the same time have enough daylight to see.where we were going. Our second night we anchored in Drautana Bay. Luckily we only had to fight the 25kt headwinds for less than an hour before making it into the bay. We went as deep into the bay as we dared trying to find protection from the wind and seas, anchoring in less than 20ft. Again, the holding was great in mud/sand, and we were glad given the conditions. The next day we made it the 32nm to Volivoli Point, the NE corner of Viti Levu. Once again, the winds greeted us with the bay in the distance, gusting to 40kts. We actually did pretty well anchoring in these conditions as Cindy fought to maintain control and hold the boat into the wind. Luckily within an hour the winds had backed off and we had good holding well up into the bay. That night we got a good rain.

This bay is the home to Volivoli Resort, who we found very hospitable to cruisers. We really enjoyed their Fish and Chips! They also made arrangements for us to get a cab for part of the day to do some touring to Raki Raki, the sugar mill that was destroyed in the cyclone (a new one is planned to be built), the tomb of a Fijian chief that ate all of his enemies that he beat in battles, and a Catholic Mission that has a beautiful mural of native Fijians bringing gifts to Jesus. We waited out the weather before moving to Nananu-I-cake Island. Here we took the dinghy around exploring the numerous private homes and resorts in the area. We went ashore with some other cruisers and hiked around a nearby island meeting up with folks that had come from Australia to sailboard there.

We took advantage of a forecast light wind day, hoping that the rain would hold off until the afternoon to move south to a point where we could move outside the reefs. As we arrived in TobaBasaga Bay and got the anchor down a light rain began to fall. Within 30 minutes we had heavy rains, thunder and 30kt gusts pushing us around. I noticed that in the gusts we seemed to be dragging the anchor, so before it got dark we pulled up anchor and re-set. Yes, the winds were blowing and it was raining, but it was good that we brought up the anchor because it was fouled on a large tree limb and red shirt! Once I got over the shock of hauling up what I first thought was a body, we go anchored and could relax. At this point we had almost circumnavigated the island of Viti Levu since arriving in Suva 2-1/2 months ago.

The next day we took off for the island of Makogai, some 35nm away to our east. Finally we were able to sail, but the wind and seas were on our beam, making for a bouncy ride. As we came into the outlying reef, we powered through the pass and approached the anchorage, with winds approaching 25kts. We would have loved to have stayed longer in Makogai, but the weather window was closing for the sail to Savusavu, so unfortunately we left without being able to explore much of the island. The next morning we left for the 52nm passage to Savusavu. We actually had some nice sailing - and some frustrating light spots. We reefed and let the the reef out and then reefed again and let it out again, and then finally put the screecher up. The sea-state had settled and was much more to Cindy’s liking than the day before.

It was fun returning to Savusavu where we had spent almost four months last season. It was great to meet old friends again, and see how the Marinas, town and people continue to move forward after Cyclone Winston.

Addendum

24 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji
Someone reminded me that I had once said that cruising was “fixing your boat in exotic places”. If, as I said our time in the Yasawas was a microcosm of what we like about cruising, the question was then asked what “boat repairs” have we had to deal with this year?

Well, the fact is that we did have a few boat repair issues that we tended to. I have been reminded that there will always be a list. You just hope that they have minimal impact and don’t impact your cruising plans (like happened to us last year). So to make for a more complete accounting here is a quick list of the “issues” we have dealt with this season (so far).

Maretron WSO100 Weather Station. Replaced the Maretron WSO100 Weather Station at the masthead - again. It seems that a component on the PC board was bad on the replacement we brought back with us to NZ. It worked for about a month before failing. The good news is that I had a great excuse to go up the mast and the view is always great from up there. It also reminded me that I don’t really need those Apparent Wind Direction/Wind Speed displays to sail the boat (although it is nice - especially at night!). And as I write this the Apparent WS/WD output has gone offline again!

Water Maker. Replaced the impeller in the boost pump, which would not come on when I commissioned the system this year once we made it to Fiji. Product water quality (fresh water) has dropped off a bit so I worked with the good people at Cruise RO Water to troubleshoot the cause. We have determined that the pressure relief valve on the high pressure pump is bad (reduces the flowrate of water to the membranes) and the membranes themselves likely need to be replaced. These are both things we will do once back in NZ where we can more easily get the parts.

Washing Machine. We have actually been able to make the washing machine work on a pretty regular basis this year to Cindy’s joy. Apparently the Express Cycle setting doesn’t like to work, but the other cycles work ok?.

Outboard. The carburetor got a little gummed up after a few months of use and needed a cleaning. Unfortunately I didn’t have the kit I needed to do it myself, but the good folks at Baobab Marine took care of it for me for $30USD. I’ll order a carb kit to keep on board for the future, and follow the mechanics advice and service it annually.

Jib. We had a bit of a tear develop in the head of our furling jib. And unfortunately after that was fixed the leech line came undone inside the sail. This is our workhorse, so I worked with Alan Marshall with Marshall Sails in Vuda Point to get these issues fixed. They did a great job and worked with us to get it and deliver back to us.

Paddleboard. Cindy’s paddleboard blew out a seam the day we inflated it - she did get to use it once. After talking with Red Paddleboard Company, they acknowledged that they had quality control problems with the series of boards that included hers, and they sent us a replacement. It is great to work with a company that stands behind their product!

The friction hinge on one of our Lewmar hatches broke. Cindy brought back a replacement and that is all back in working order.

One of our Touch Light reading lights quit working. Again, Cindy brought back a replacement and we have light again at the Nav Station.

The Yasawa Islands

09 August 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
While we were provisioning in Port Denarau to go to the Yasawas, we had the good fortune to spend time with friends from S/V Blue Summit, S/V Moonshadow, and S/V Mango Moon. It is always fun to meet up again with cruising friends! We headed out to the Yasawas along with S/V Blue Summit, while S/V Moonshadow was heading to Vanuatu and S/V Mango Moon was heading for Eastern Fiji.

The Yasawa Island chain forms the northwestern edge of Fiji. This is the dry side of Fiji, so the weather was great f(sunny days and cool nights) or the most part (we actually did have a day with rain!). The islands are partially in the wind shadow of Viti Levu, so the wind speed and direction can be a bit different from what you might expect due to these geographical effects. Each of the many islands have associated reefs, making it challenging to move around. We found that for the most part our charts were pretty good, but I always checked our routes against satellite imagery to make sure that our planned routes stayed clear of the reefs. Most of the time we moved on the west side of the islands, which meant that any easterly or southeasterly wind was dampened to some degree until we move between islands. We found that most of the anchorages were not as well protected as you might expect, resulting in rolly conditions when the wind and swell were at odds with each other. It was amazing how the swells would wrap around the islands into the bays! Blue Lagoon (yes, of Brooke Shield movie fame) was by far the most calm and well protected anchorage.

Most of the islands have some form of resort on them, but there are still numerous bays were you can anchor away from the resorts if you desire. We enjoyed mixing it up with some anchorages where we would go to the village and do sevusevu with the chief, and others where we would anchor off of a resort. We had one anchorage to ourselves, several shared with other boats, and several of the more popular destinations (Blue Lagoon and Manta Resort) that were quite crowded (a dozen or so boats).

We enjoyed our time in the Yasawas. The beaches were awesome. These are the long sandy beaches that you associate with Fiji. One day as we walked along a beach in crystal clear ankle deep water we realized that there were star fish everywhere in the sand - you couldn’t take a step without seeing one. The coral was not as colorful as we have seen in other locations, but the fish populations were plentiful and made for great viewing when snorkeling. Snorkeling with the manta rays through Tokatokauna Pass was an amazing experience. Being able to get close to these large graceful creatures is really exciting (we had done it before in the Marquesas). Even without the mantas the snorkeling through the pass was outstanding with phenomenal numbers of schooling fish. Cindy got quite a workout getting in and out of the dinghy as we followed the migrating mantas around, and more than a few mouthfuls of sea-water as she made her way through the chop in the pass from the interaction of the incoming tidal current and swell/wind. We also enjoyed numerous hikes along the ridge-lines of the hilltops on the islands. These walks provided for many panoramic vistas. We also got to snorkel in the caves on Sawa-I-lau Island. Cindy even took the plunge and swam under and into (and back out of) the second dark cave. While she tried to take pictures to document her achievement, since it was dark they didn’t show much! The only “oops” was when she took her mask and snorkel off and they slipped off her arm and sank. Luckily for me this was in the first cave where there was daylight and it wasn’t too deep for me to retrieve them!

We continue to enjoy our interactions with the locals. Whether it’s the kids in the village coming out to help pull our dinghy ashore, the villagers that are always interested in knowing where we are from and how many children we have, or the local staff at the resorts that are so helpful and willing to answer questions about their island. We also found that we enjoyed meeting the vacationers that were at the resorts. It was fun to see them arrive by either float plane or large motor-vessel only to transfer to a small skiff that would bring them and their luggage ashore - sometimes through breaking surf! And of course it was always fun to see old cruising friends and meet new ones in the anchorages. Our trip through the Yasawas was a microcosm of what cruising is all about, and why we have so much fun out here!
Vessel Name: Full Circle
Vessel Make/Model: 50' cruising catamaran designed by Garry Lidgard
Hailing Port: Austin, Texas
Crew: David and Cindy Balfour
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S/V FullCircle

Who: David and Cindy Balfour
Port: Austin, Texas