10/14/2011, Into Fijian waters
Sorry about not posting yesterday. We were in search of wind of any kind. I know I have been writing about keeping Zephyrs speed in check so we get into Lautoka on Monday morning and yesterday, Mother Nature obliged us by shutting off just about all the wind there was. Friday morning, we were hit by rain squalls with so much rain, that the water came right through the canvas top of the dodger. I'd applied more sealant while we were in Tonga, but the rain was so intense that it went right past the "sealed" fibers and into the cockpit. Not everywhere, but in enough places that I sat out there with a towel over my legs in the only available spot that wasn't getting poured on. I could have put on my foul weather but I would have had to go below to get it and with the wind and rain being what it was, there was no chance of that. We were still running under reduced sails so Zephyr had no problems. Tracy got her first good night sleep since we left Tonga and slept right through it. Good for her as sleep is one of the things that you snatch as much of as you can as you only get it in a maximum of 4 hour shifts. As the storm raged, the winds just about died and then shifted directions so that we ended up doing a 360 degree spin in the water as what wind we had just kept shifting it's direction. It was like doing a "doughnut" in a race car only a lot slower. As dawn broke, the winds died to less than 3 knots so we just sat and rocked back and forth in the swells. We added more sails all to little or no effect. We were stuck and that was just fine. It's not like we are in a race to get there early. We finally started the engine to motor for a while as the Sun was setting as we were just North of a set of "uncharted" reefs. We had gotten a list of 60 "uncharted" reefs before we left Tonga and I'd entered their position into our chart plotter. We knew where to avoid. Once we were safely past them(a couple of hours later) we shut off the engine just as the wind was beginning to come back and we sailed through the night.
Just after 0000 hours, we officially crossed the 180 degree mark and we are now "East" instead of "West" on our longitude reports. It's like crossing the Equator all over again. Now that we are in Fijian waters, we had to move our clocks back another hour so we are now -12 on the UTC clock. We're currently at 19 17.627S 179 31.891E for all you Google Earth fans. I have my computer set up to automatically report our position every time I log into my sailmail account so it's not hard to see where we are.
We now have about 180 miles to go to Lautoka and are still gauging our speed for a good time of arrival. We don't want to even enter the pass to the islands until sunlight so we are checking the speed and time we need numerous times during the day. The last thing we want to do is upset the Customs officials.
We heard on one of the SSB radio nets we monitor that Bill and Susan on Dilligaf might be looking for a delivery skipper to take their boat the rest of the way to New Zealand. Bill was hit by a high(105) fever just after leaving Tonga. Susan got Dilligaf into Nukalofa, Tonga all by herself. Because of the net, there were doctors and other cruisers waiting for them when they got in. Bills been under a doctors care ever since. It's things like that that you can never foresee when you come out here. We have an extensive medical kit on board but would still be hard pressed to remedy a fever like that out here. At least one of the other cruisers that met them is a doctor.
Yesterday, we saw our fist dolphins in a long time. A group of about 8 came along side and stayed with us for about 10 minutes before taking off as we were not doing the speed they like to play in. We also saw our first boat(fishing) we have seen since leaving Tonga. All this while pretty much sitting still in the water. Today, at least we are moving again.
It's been cloud for the last day or so but so far hasn't dropped hardly a drip but we just keep on waiting. It's raining in Neiafu, Tonga(where we left from) this morning.
Stay tuned for more a the day progresses.
10/12/2011, Open ocean west of Tonga
Well, we're moving right along on our way to Fiji but we're going to fast. We don't want to be there till Monday so we set about slowing Zephyr down. It's a rarity that we have had to slow her down but today we took the extreme measure of putting a triple reef in the main sail and still ran with the storm sail up at the bow. With the main up with one reef, we were still doing over 5 knots and that's too fast. Now with three reefs in, it ha slowed us down to 2.5 to 4 knots. Normally when we are out, we are doing everything we can do to get as much speed out of Zephyr as we can but we knew when we left Tonga that we were setting off on the wrong day to get in at the proper time. The first day, we did 136 miles and yesterday, even with smaller sails out, and a bit less wind, we still did 118. The distance to our destination is just shy of 600 so we have got to get it down to about 100 or less a day. With what we have up now, that should work out about right. We don't want to get in early and have to sit off shore waiting for the Sun to come up on Monday. When we were doing 6+ knots, we would have gotten in early Saturday morning.
We were at 19 27.961S 178 02.624W with winds out of the east and swells that match. We're just slowly gliding along. The kids don't seem to mind as Blue is sitting on one of the cushions in the cockpit while Snowshoe lays on the floor of the stern head where it is nice and cool. With a lattice floor, air can circulate all around his furry body.
As I have said in an earlier post, I told you about Fiji's restrictions on what you can bring into the country. We we spent about a half hour this afternoon shredding my last Playboy magazine. "Pornography" isn't allowed into the country and so it got torn into little tiny pieces and cast adrift in the ocean. Now we might not consider a Playboy magazine porno, but we were not about to take the chance of the inspectors thinking that it was. Those kinds of problems we don't need. It was sad to see it go, but some sacrifices have to be made for the "greater good"(Tracy and myself being the "greater".
We had a nice salad today for lunch with the last of our lettuce. It doesn't keep long out here and normally needs to be eaten within a few days of purchase. It was one of the last things we bought before we left. At the urging of Paul off Gigi, I bought some chicken flavored potato chips. There are a few flavors to choose from out here--Chicken, Vinegar and salt, regular, barbecue and an occasional cheese bag or tube. You can find Pringles and Lays in tubes out here but you have to search for them. Some of the stores carry ETA brand from New Zealand. They are like Ruffles but not quite as good(in my humble opinion). One thing that is a real rarity is candy bars with chocolate. The last ones we saw were in Tahiti and they were in their own refrigerated room. Left out, it's so hot out here(many stores have no air conditioning) that the chocolate would melt on the shelves and never get home in one piece. Well, maybe a solid chunk of melted stuff in the bottom of the wrapper. So if you like chocolate and who doesn't, don't bother to come out here. There just isn't much(if any) to choose from.
I remarked about fixing the stern head in out boat the other day. I'm proud to report that it is still working just fine. We're not alone in the battle of the heads out here. Paul and Karen on Gigi have been facing the same battle we have and are probably still working on it. They have a more advanced toilet(vacuum style) than ours and they have been working on it for several days. One day, Karen thinks it's fixed and the next day, it stops up again. Out here, you have to be prepared to face what ever comes your way. The morning we left, just as we were about to pull up the anchor, our electric gauge that monitors our electrical system went haywire and said we were using between 100 and 500 amps!!! There is nothing, even with everything turned on that would use that much amps aboard Zephyr. It looked like it was going to wipe out our batteries in a couple of minutes or less. As it turns out, Tracy had been working in the spice cabinet(doubles as the place all the wires reside for the monitor) and a wire had come loose. We checked all the wires and found the loose one and tightened it up and we were back in business. Since we were motoring out of the harbor, the alternators put much of what we needed back into the batteries and we were all set to go. Who says cruising isn't fun?
So that's about it for now. We're slowing gliding along doing little speed but getting where we want to go. Squalls build, drop a few drops and move on. At least if one of the really nasty ones comes up, we already have the right sails up.
10/11/2011, Open ocean west of Tonga
We upped the anchor yesterday and headed out for Fiji. Our weather router(Bob McDavitt) had finally given us the go ahead for the trip though he did warn us of some higher winds for the first two days or so. So a 1015, we said goodbye to Paul and Karen on Gigi and headed out. We motored through the pass till we were safe to roll out the genoa sail at the bow and let it take over. We were moving right along at over 5 knots with just the one sail out. Once clear of the island, we turned off the engine and just kep on going. I'd plotted in a course so we knew where we needed to be to avoid any reefs that might come our way. Our one encounter with a reef clear back in Nanaimo, BC had taught us to avoid them at all costs.
So here it is, 24 hours later and we made 136 miles in our first day out here. That's too fast. Leaving on Tuesday, we don't want to arrive at Fiji till Monday. The trip should be a bit over 600 miles and with that speed, we will be there on Saturday or Sunday. Coming into Fiji on a weekend can really rack up some hefty fines as they don't like it and make you pay dearly if you do. So we are taking advantage of the winds we have now--14-16 knots and making time. We will slow down later once past all the reefs that are along the way. One thing that will slow us down, is that as always, the wind direction is such that we have to do boomerangs for a course. We can't just go straight there. Instead, we go north of the course for a while and then change direction and go south of a while intersecting the route. It's slower but does get us where we need to be. We have plenty of time till we arrive at landfall in Lautoka on the west side of the island. Lautoka is just north of Vuta Point Marina where we expect to be spending cyclone season. Lautoka is the second largest city in Fiji so many things that were not available in Tonga should be. Plus there are busses to Suva, the capital.
We changed our sail configuration late yesterday afternoon. Knowing that storms can come up here unexpectedly, we changed out our forstaysail sail for a storm jib. Now if a big blow comes up, we will be ready for it. We currently have the main up with one reef and the storm sail up and are still moving along at over 6 knows. Zephyr can move well given the right winds. James(our Hydrovane) is steering Zephyr on a nice even course and taking all the abuse so we don't have to. As the wind shifts, James corrects and we still head where we want to go. We had a quick shower earlier this morning. Tracy was catching a few Zs making up for what she lost the previous night, so I tightened down the hatches and closed up the side of the cockpit. It started raining about 45 minutes later. Not a lot, but we were nice and dry in the cockpit.
For those that are interested, we're currently at 19 02.353S 176 34,806W. During this trip, we will officially cross the 180th parallel and be east instead of west for the first time in our longitude. Another mile stone for us and Zephyr. It's like crossing the Equator all over again.
So, the kids are adjusting to being out again with Blue spending most of her time with Tracy and Snowshoe hold up in the stern cabin meowing feeling he is being ignored. During the passage, Tracy normally sleeps in the main cabin on one of the settees while I still bunk out in the stern.
We have a few more reefs to find our way through, but most of those will be tomorrow in the morning. After that, it's quite a while before we see any again during this voyage.
One thing we did before leaving Tonga was email the Fiji Immigration our arrival plans so we should have little problems when we arrive. There are still a few more forms that need to be filled in plus a bond paid for the cats but all will be revealed in good time upon our arrival. I'm sure they will go through our storage cabinets or want to know what we have on board that might be confiscated. Just about every nation has a list of what is allowed and what is not allowed to enter their country. It' s all part of the life of cruising out here from country to country. Always the adventure.
10/03/2011, back in Neiafu harbor.
Well, we're back in Nieafu to get checked out of Tonga after four days out at anchor and thirty days in Tonga. The first two were at Nuapapu Island waiting out a two day "norther". Actually, the winds came out of the northwest so we say and waited for them to return to their normal southeast winds. There are lots of places to anchor where you are protected from southeast winds but few that protect you from the north. Meanwhile we took Puff over to a great snorkeling place just west of Langito'o Island, south of Nuapapu. It was a great snorkel trip seeing lots of coral we have never seen before. The water was strange in that you would run into warm water and then an area of much colder water a few feet away.
Once the winds changed, we headed over to Ovalau Island(about 2.5 miles south of Nuapapu Island) and found paradise. It's what we had always dreamed a South Pacific island would be like. Deserted with lots of beautiful coral to dive on and palm trees to sit under. The beach was pristine sand with numerous small shells ripe for the picking. We even heard whales calling out in the distance as we were snorkeling. The only draw back was that there were other boats there with us. Most came and went in a few hours)the charter boats) and other spend a day or so there. We did have the place to ourselves for about an hour between the boats coming and going. Once came so close(a charter) we thought they were going to raft up with us. At 45 feet, they finally pulled up their anchor and found another place to drop it. It was truly Paradise found!!!
We upped the anchor on Monday(Sunday to you folks back in the US) and headed back to Neiafu to get checked out today(Tuesday). We'll be heading off for Fiji shortly where we will stay for the cyclone season.
09/29/2011, Nuapapu Island, Vava'u, Tonga
We dropped the line to our mooring buoy yesterday afternoon after getting a few more errands done in town. I'd stopped by the Tropicana Cafe to have them email Fiji a form about our intended arrival in a couple of weeks. We'd had the folks at the Aquarium Cafe email it two days before and had never gotten a confirmation that it was received. You really want to make sure that they have your information long before you arrive because if they don't have it, they will tear your boat apart looking for anything that they consider illegal and there is a lot that they think is illegal. We didn't want to leave the harbor and head back out to the islands till we had the confirmation as the next time we will be coming back to Neiafu will be to clear out of the country and head west for Fiji. The email went out about 1000 and we had the confirmation of receipt by 1230 so we dropped the line and headed out.
The winds have shifted to be from the northwest so many of the anchorages that are normally occupied are unsafe for boats to anchor in as the wind could blow you ashore if your anchor drags. We looked in our guide book and settled on an island called Nuapapu(18 42.567S 174 04.159W) as the best spot for us. We headed out of the harbor under engine(still working fine) and once clear of the channel we rolled out the Genoa sail at the bow and took off under wind power. It was great to be out there moving with no engine noise to disturb the quiet. Most of the islands in Tonga are so close that many of the boat just motor between them. It's faster but not as much fun as doing it the way sailors are supposed to.
We were in a good northwest wind getting our speeds up to over 7 knots so we were moving quite well toward our destination. About 90 minutes later, we'd covered the 10 miles to Nuapapu and dropped the hook among 9 other boats. The skies were getting filled in with lots of clouds and we could hear thunder rolling through the islands. It's unusual to hear thunder out here. I think it's the second time we have heard it. The clouds got lower and darker and I put my computer in the oven to keep it safe from any lightening that might make it's way anywhere near us. We fastened down all the hatches and closed all the port lights just incase we got nailed with a big downpour. We even rolled out the side panels for the cockpit. Normally when it rains out here, it pours. About 45 minutes later, Mother Nature didn't fail to come through with her downpour. Two other boats had come into the anchorage after us and just got their anchors down and set before the rains came. It did a nice job washing all the dirt and grime off the boat. As the Sun went down, the clouds parted and the night was full of stars.
The winds are still coming from the northwest so we will probably be here just for tonight and then head out to another island in the morning. It all depends on what Mother Nature has in store for us.
One of the other errands we got accomplished was signing up with another weather router for the trip to Fiji. Bob MacDavitt has built quite a reputation as the man to go to for accurate forecast out here in the south Pacific. We've given him our particulars(size of boat, speed we can do and probable course we will take) so he can put together a forecast for us. It's cheap insurance for cruisers as you don't want to get out there and then get clobbered with a bad storm. It can ruin your day as well as your trip. It's only 590 miles for our next voyage but it's through some of the more reef strewn areas of the Pacific. We plan on heading out as close to the full moon as possible so we can have better night vision while out there. We try to not leave anything to chance.
So here we sit. The Sun is out and the winds are still from the northwest at about 10 knots. Not bad as it keeps the boat temperature sort of comfortable as long as you stay out of the direct sunshine.
We'll let you know where we end up next.
09/28/2011, Neiafu Harbor
Well, we're back in Nieafu having left anchorage 16 on Monday morning. We wanted to check with Westpac Bank and see if we were going to get our money back plus restock our supplies with fresh veggies and snacks.
We started upping the anchor about 0900 on Tuesday. With my foot on the power button on the windlass, and my head looking over the side watching the chain come up, there was a sudden CLUNK on deck and the chain stopped coming on board. I took my foot off the button and looked down to see a big pile of chain on the deck and a jam in the pipe that leads the chain into the anchor locker below decks. Apparently, it had stopped going down the hole and then had gotten jammed when more chain piled up at the hole and filled it with the links. We were stuck with 60 feet of chain out but luckily the anchor was still hooked to the bottom giving us time to try and figure out how to get this solid mass of chain links out of the hole so we could get all the rest of the chain up along with the anchor. We hooked one of our anchor snubber hooks to the chain and led the line aft to one of our winches in the cockpit and tried to pull it out. Tracy cranked while I got a hammer and started pounding on what exposed links I could get at. No luck. Next, we grabbed a big screwdriver and put the end in one of the links and pounded on the end of the screwdriver. It moved a bit but the chain showed no sign of coming free. The sounds of my pounding resounded through the anchorage. About 20 minutes later, Bill off Dilligaf dingies over with what is called a "Spud wrench". It looks like a crescent wrench only the end of the handle comes to a point. I jammed the pointed end into the links and slowly wedged it out of the end of the pipe. Problem solved. All it takes is the right tool. It's now on my list of things to get when I get home in November.
With the chain and anchor up, out we headed for the 9 mile trip back to town. About two miles out, the engine slows down and quits!!!! Yep, it had happened again. We'd been fine since I found the problem of the leaking hose way back in the Marquesas in early May. We had gotten the sails ready just incase something like this happened or we actually had wind in the right direction so we could sail back. So we pulled out the Genoa sail at the bow so we could be under control and down below I went to try and find the problem. I pulled off the doors to the engine compartment and all looked fine. I grabbed one of my wrenches and some rags and headed for the "bleed" screw on the injector pump. With our small auxiliary fuel pump running, I loosened the screw and air(along with diesel fuel) came pouring out of the screw hole. Once all the air had been flushed out, I tightened the screw, turned off the small pump, turned the key and the engine started right up. Problem solved. There are only so many things that will stop a diesel engine but the most common is air in the lines. It stops all the fuel from getting to the injectors. With the engine started, Tracy rolled in the Genoa sail while I stayed below and cleaned up my mess and inspected all the hose connections for leaks. I checked all the hoses and found every connection nice and dry. No leaking fuel anywhere. The only strange thing I found was that the fuel vacuum gauge I had installed a while ago was now reading a different pressure. It had been reading about 3 pounds of pressure. Now it was reading about one pound. No real idea as to why and neither does any of the other cruisers I have talked to. But the engine was up and running and we made it safe and sound into Nieafu about an hour later.
We grabbed a mooring buoy and got settled in. Puff was launched and we headed over to the dock and walked over to Westpac Bank. A short time later, I walked out with my $300 Pa'angas. Problem solved. They had gotten all the paperwork straightened out and I got my money back from the double dipping the ATM did to my account. We headed next for the local laundry as we had won wash a dry service for two kilos of laundry and we figured they could do our towels as they are the hardest thing to do with our little washing "machine". We dropped them off and were told to pick them up about the same time on Wednesday. Off we went to a restaurant we wanted to try that had advertised a $5.00 Pa'Anga(about $2.70US) lunch of fish and chips. We placed our order and I walked down the street to one of the markets and bought two cokes as the restaurant doesn't sell drinks of any kind(go figure). I got back just before our order came. We each got four large pieces of breaded fish(bone in) and a nice pile of fried plantains on the side. This fish wasn't filleted, it was just chopped into sections, breaded and fried. We ate slowly and carefully picking out the bones as we went. The fired plantains tasted quite a bit like real potatoes. Neither of us could finish our meals so the wait person wrapped the rest in foil for us and off we went for the veggie market looking for some lettuce. We'd been out for a few days. None was available so Tracy put in an order for a couple of heads so we could pick them up on Wednesday. We walked around for a while hitting some of the markets. We stopped in at one of the local shops that sells hamburger or as they call it "minced beef" and found they were out but expected a shipment on Wednesday. Any more, if you see it, buy it because they will run out and then you have to wait for the next shipment. We then headed up the hill for the Ice Cream store to get a cone for a treat. They had run out of ice cream(they only carry one flavor) so no luck there. They told us to try again tomorrow. Every one was waiting for the ferry boat that brings in supplies. With most of our errands done we headed back to Zephyr for a quiet night.
Wednesday. we headed back to town and picked up the lettuce and revisited the Chinese Restaurant for lunch. Tracy had spring rolls and rice while I had chicken fried rice. We'd had the spring rolls on our first time at the restaurant a few weeks ago and she had really liked them and I was hungry for some fried rice. Including drinks, our bill came to just $20.00 Pa'angas(about $12.00US). We left quite satisfied. Up the hill we went heading for the Ice Cream store. This time we got lucky and we each got a cone of Vanilla that was on the verge of melting. They had just gotten their one tub in and it had not had a chance to get hard in their freezer. We ate it quickly as it melted into the cone. Tracy headed for the bakery for some "brown bread"(bread with small pieces of dried fruit in it). While I continued to shop for other things around town and picked up our laundry, all nice clean and folded. They did a great job. On the way back to Puff, I ran into Lene and Henrik off Dana(friends we originally met in Naniamo Harbor clear back when we were on our way back from Alaska. They invited us over for drinks that evening. Tracy meanwhile could only get one loaf of brown bread(they'd run out). I stopped in and picked up our "minced beef" that had come in on the ferry and we climbed back into Puff and headed back to Zephyr.
Earlier in the day, on our first trip in, we'd stopped at the Aquarium Cafe to have entry documents emailed to Fiji as they require advanced notice when boats are coming to their country. The internet service was down(not uncommon here) and they had not been able to get the emails out. Tracy started defrosting the freezer since it was quite well covered in ice. That's one of the scary things to do on Zephyr as sometimes the compressor won't start after the defrosting is done. We finished out the day with drinks and snacks aboard Dana with Lene and Henrik.
This morning we headed into town early as Tracy had found a store that sold New Zealand apples. We haven't seen an apple in months so she bought a few yesterday and they proved so good that we had to get more. At $5.00 Pa'angas for five apples, that puts it to about .67 cents US. Not a bad price out here. We hit the bakery and got our bread as well as some cinnamon rolls for breakfast. You have to get in early to get those as they sell out by late morning. Back to pay for our mooring and we expect to be out of here in a couple of hours. Since we have to check out of here by October 5th, our time is running out.