23 May 2023
Johan & Francina Botha
We arrived at 9h30 and went to customs, immigration and bio-security. After we had been cleared for roaming around on the island, we went for a tour around the area on our dinghy. We visited the waterfront café where we left our dinghy and took a short walk down the street. We wanted to compare prices at the cafe, so decided to use beer. We found a shop selling beer that costs 240vt for a dumpy, compared to 600 vt at the café. My head does not want to make these calculations to hundreds and thousands for shopping. I use the calculator in the shop to work out what is affordable and what is expensive compared to what we paid for food in Fiji. The phone data is very expensive and the maximum per month is 8 gig. We were used to 75 gig at FJ$15 per month. Although NZ was just as expensive with phone data. We stowed away most of the sailing gear before retiring to bed, even before sailors’ midnight.
We are at anchor very close to town. Shore is about a kilo away. We are also close to the fresh produce market and small supermarket. Unfortunately, the closest building to us is the hotel. The music was extremely loud last night and people were loud a swell. Luckily our main cabin is insulated with the stuff they use in New Zealand to insulate and sound proof the classrooms at school. It really helps because we were able to crawl into bed and enjoy a good night’s rest. Not sure how our friend on Intruder managed the noise. It was very interesting to sail with someone else. We were within 10 miles of each other all the time. We also arrived within minutes apart.
We explored the town of Port Vila. We found a few supermarkets and butchery inside
Captain bought meat and he is satisfied with the quality. It is tender with fat and juicy. The one supermarket is very big like a Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket in SA that stocks everything. They even have tofu and other vegan food. The buses in Vanuatu is minbus taxi. We used one to take us to the French butcher. The money is very funny because you pay with hundreds or thousands and it is called Vatu. 71 Vatu is equal to 1 New Zealand dollar, which is about 10 South African Rand. I saw a museum and will most probably visit it next week. I found a church close by that I will attend on Sabbath. We will explore a bit more every day.
We end up only walking up the hill to the big supermarket to buy a few things. We ate at a small takeaway at the waterfront. Captain enjoyed chicken and chips but the chicken was still a bit raw. Crew enjoyed a garden salad with chips. The salad was delicious with cherry tomatoes, red peppers, etc. All very expensive ingredients in the shops. At the boat, we corrected one of the ropes that pull in and release the headsail. Crew also measured the one reefing line because it chafed and needs replacing. It is 18 meters long and be costly to replace. The reefing lines are important lines that you use to make the sail smaller. We make the sails smaller when the wind is strong. Our mainsail therefore have 4 sizes. The full sail, and then 3 different smaller sizzed (reefs) that we managed through lowering the sail and tie it down with the reefing lines.
Crew went to Church on Sabbath. They have two services, The first service is in English and the second service is in Pigeon English (Bislama). The Sabbath School Bible study took place after the church service and we enjoyed potluck afterwards. There was also a lady from South Africa. Her Father came to work on the island when she was only 2 years old. The family went back to South Africa when she was 18, but she decided to return to the island. Her son and his wife brought me back to town. On Sunday, we searched through our rope locker for something suitable as reefing line. We found one that was the perfect length and started the job of stringing it through. We fixed some of the ropes that were twisted over each other out at the same time. When crew tried to sip the sailpack close, the hinge of the zip handle broke off. Captain is a real MacGuivar, drillin a millimeter hole in the zip casing, put a small hook from the fishing tackle box through the hole and tied the thin rope to it. Crew used the thin rope as usual to close the stackpack. That protects the sail against the rain and uv from the sun.
We went for our daily exercise walking up the hill to the supermarket. We also found a hardware shop and a laundromat. Will visit them again when they are open tomorrow. Most shops were closed because of Sunday. Hopefully the laundromat is not too expensive so that we can use their services instead of making water for our twin tub washing machine. It uses quite a lot of water, especially rinsing Our friend came over to end the day with a bbq. Captain enjoyed his rump steak, says it is even better than New Zealand meat. We bought airtime for the phone, but the package was more expensive, so we need to get another voucher before it is activated. Hope all the mothers were spoilt on this Mothersday.
It has been overcast with frequent rain showers the last couple of days. We do not have electricity on the boat, but use batteries. The batteries are charged by solar panels and a small wind charger. The power in our house batteries were a bit low this morning. Captain ran the boat engine for two hours because he used the engine to put power into the batteries. Afterwards we went to town, walkng up the hill for some exercise. We also visited interesting the Hardware shop. They have a huge variety o different things, from paint to fishing stuff. It was to look through the different things and to compare prices to what we were used to in New Zealand. Must admit, they are quite expensive so we did not buy anything. On our way back to the dinghy, we stopped at the market and I bought a big, fat cucumber for 300 vatu. We also bought a jam which looks like a very big root of a plant and it tastes like potato. Captain ate it the first time in Nigeria and crew tasted it at Church on Sabbath. Will try it tomorrow night and let you know how it tastes and maybe a picture or two.
I forgot to mention the duty free shop we visited yesterday. They have small toy sets with eg. A train or a carthat is driving in a small circle. They have lots of different themes. I will send videos of it once I go to the café in town. Today was raining off and on, and the wind gusted to 35 knots. We decided to stay on the boat to continue with maintenance word. I was dong some sewing, but by hand. I am unable to use the sewing machine when the batteries are not sufficiently charged due to the lack of sunshine. I was able to mend a ew seams of my pats, as well as one of my dress type tops. I am still busy with my blue top. Captain ran the water maker for half an hour to make some water. He replaced the electrical cord on the watermaker motor with something that can withstand more power. We saw a magnificent rainbow that started and ended not to far from our yacht. I will wnd a phot too. It reminded me of Noah in the Bible. God gave us the rainbow to remind us that He will never destroy the earth again with a flood.
We have not done much for the day apart from going ashore to explore a bit of the island. Captain was MacGuivar once again. He used some parts of a GoPro bracket to modified it and fitted it onto the broken tablet bracket. It will now work to use it at the steering wheel when we enter harbours. Our chart plotter is a bit far from the steering wheel.
Today was a different day with different chores. We loaded 2 empty 20 liter jerry cans onto the dinghy and motored to the wharf. We walked to the petrol station, filled the jerry cans with diesel and took it back to the dinghy. We motored back to Ntombi and stowed the jerry cans away. We took again 2 empty cans and repeated the process twice more. So in total 6 jerry cans of diesel. We also went to the laundromat and washed all the clothes, sheets, towels and even the boat curtains. We got our daily exercise by walking up the hill to the supermarket too.
On Friday we walked a different direction from town to find ‘Computer World’. I went there to buy a micro sd card. It was cheaper than what I paid in New Zealand. The rest of the day was spent cleaning and cooking and downloading charts onto the sd card for use on the tablet.
The South African lady brought me a big jam as a present because I liked the jam they served so much the previous Sabbath. She and the two grandsons brought me back to the market place, seeing me off at the dinghy.
Today crew made a bright band to cover our Danbuoy where the yellow stipe disintegrated from uv. The danbuoy are thrown into the water when somebody fall into the water (man overboard) to help identify the position. There is a red flag at the top as well. The best is however to clip your harness onto the jack lines to ensure you stay onboard the ship. We also went for the usual exercise walk up the hill to the supermarket. Most other shops were closed because it is Sunday. Even the public toilets were locked. It rained most of the day, so could not do much outside on the boat. Thought of leaving on Wednesday but the weather does not look that great anymore.
Today we went to Vila Marine and we are pleasantly surprised by the amount of items in stocj. We suspect there were a bigger variety than een the big marine shops like Burnsco in New Zealand. It was raining the whole day, so we were walking in the rain. We decided to visit the Vanuatu museum. It was an interesting experience. The tour guide, Edgar, told us stories about Vanuatu whilst drawing in sand, sign the picture and the destroy it to start the next. He also demonstrated their version of the flute as well as their version of a ‘piano’. We watched a documentary on Vanuatu and their independence when they started ruling themselves. Afterwards we walked past the convention centre on our way back to the wharf and our dinghy. We use the dinghy – small inflatable boat – to go to land from our yacht.
Big excitement in Vanuatu today, because a big cruise ship visited Port Vila. There were many stalls where people were selling art and handcraft. It was raining the whole day, so we only went ashore for a very quick stroll through the stalls. More out of interest to see what they are selling to the tourists. I managed to finish mending my blue top and then went on to put string around the round steps of our swimming ladder at the back of Ntombi. Captain is concerned that I might slip and injure myself on the slippery steps. He coated the string with epoxy to protect it from uv and the elements.
Fiji to Vanuatu 2023
11 May 2023 | Port Vila Vanuatu
Johan & Francina Botha
Fiji to Vanuatu
What a surprise when we visited Customs at Port Denerau on Wednesday to arrange for our clearance on Thursday morning. They do not have a Q dock to use for clearance, but have to pay for half a day in a marina berth. And the marina berth is not cheap either. There is no way that we would be able to afford to spend one night in this marina. After all the clearance procedures were completed, we started our slow voyage towards Vanuatu in low winds. As we got close to the Navula Passage, a big tanker overtook us. It was nice to be ‘escorted’ out by such a big ship.
Once outside the pass, the reality of sailing and discomfort of the open ocean hit crew. She had to take a seasick tablet to ease the stomach, lying down in the cockpit most of the day and night. Luckily the weather was warm and the wind too low to cause water to splash over the sides.
The wind were low, but the waves were low too, which made for a not so uncomfortable sail. Ntombi was however like a duck, wagging from side to side. On Friday the wind picked up slightly which made for an easier sail with less movement from side to side.
We spotted a fishing boat on the shallow (446 meter) patch of water during the second night. In the morning a big ship passed about 3 miles from us. We put our trawling line out but was not successful to land any fish on this trip.
The wind changed to be from behind and we used the whisker pole to keep the headsail open. It worked very well when the wind was still with us. At times there were no wind and the flapping of the sail was soil destroying.
One morning, whilst busy with shaking out the reef that we normally put in overnight, the Captain identified a potential disaster and moved to the cockpit as fast as he could. He was just in time to catch the mainsheet and block when the shackle connecting it to the traveler bend open and came loose. Crew ran for the spares, and he was able to replace it in a jiffy. He also fixed the original shackle so that it could be used as a spare incase it is needed in future.
One morning at 3:30 am heavy rain caused Captain to change sails. He had a nice warm free shower in the rain as reward. As usual, the rain cause no wind and he started the motor to get some speed. When the wind came through, we sailed at a nice speed with comfortable waves. It is a real joy to sail in these conditions where the wind and waves are from the same direction.
At 100 miles from our destination, we realized that we will arrive in Port Villa at night. We decided to go as slow as possible to enter in the morning. During one of the no-wind spells, we started the watermaker and filled our tanks. On Tuesday the wind filled in and we had such a nice sail that we could continue sailing without stopping. Reality is that we cannot continue and that the weather does not always stay like this. The weather forecast is not good at all from Wednesday evening. Very strong winds with lots of clouds are forecasted. We hope that the anchorage will be well protected against any high winds. We are now back to normal sailing life and the challenges of strong winds at anchor, unlike the comfortable marina in Fiji.
We were getting close to the island and decided to continue sailing until just before sunset. The plan is to heave to, get some sleep and then continue at 4 in the morning for arrival around 10 in the morning. When you heave to, the boat drifts at .1 to .2 of a mile and it will be dead calm inside the boat even if the waves are big outside. Nothing however works to plan, and we ended up drifting too fast in the wrong direction – towards land. We took turns to sail away from land and then drift towards land, until Captain eventually gave up and started sailing slowly towards the anchorage in Port Vila. We read in some material that the leading light into the harbour is not working. To our surprise, the leading light was working. During daylight hours you can see it under the building with the blue roof. Captain demonstrated to crew how the light works. You aim at the white light and when you venture too much to the left, the light will turn red and you need to steer towards starboard (right side) until the light is white again. The same happens when you sail too much towards the right. The light will turn green and you need to move more to the left (port side) until the light is white. We followed the leading light until we came to the yellow bouy/lateral mark indicated quarantine area where we released our anchor.
Quite to our surprise, the officials did not come to our boat. We had to launch our dinghy and drive to the customs building at the main wharf. It was a very pleasant experience with helpful staff directing us to the various offices. We visited customs, then immigration and lastly bio-security. There is an ATM onsite where we draw money – Vatu – to pay for our visas and bio security fees. We paid the necessary fees of 4500 and 3000 vatu respectively.
Total hours of the voyage was 141
Total miles covered 532
Average speed was 3.77, but excluding the last night heave to, the average is 4
The negative of the passage is that we motored for 56.6 hours, but the positive is that the 84.4 hours of sailing was very enjoyable.
Another positive is the fact that we were able to stay within 10 miles of Intruder for the whole trip. It was the first time that we were in such close proximity to another boat the whole time. In 2012 we were able to stay close to two other boats on our trip from Tonga to New Zealand. It was however only for 5 or 6 days of the 11 day passage.
End in sight updated 6-11-19
04 October 2019
Johan & Francina Botha
My visitors visa is only valid for 4 months. Before Francina left for China we enquired at Immigration regarding the process to be followed. They told us that Francina is in the fortunate position that she is flying out and back and do not need to do anything. I was advised to come back on the 28th, but fellow cruisers extension took 4 days to process. I therefore decided to tackle the beast on the 24th to be on the safe side.
When I arrived with the application form supplied earlier, I was told that they also need certified copies of my passport, boat papers, entrance stamp in passport and a bank statement as proof that I can support myself for a further 2 months. It was a mission to find a lawyer to certify the copies. But what drained all my energy was trying to get a balance of my bank account in a foreign country. Requesting a balance at the ATM charged me $1, but the balance returned is a round zero. Eventually I found an ANZ bank where I have a savings account in New Zealand. I was able to get a balance whilst drawing money. I went to town on the 8:30 bus and all the running around saw me returning on the 12:10 bus. The whole day spend with Immigration, and I have to go back for them to stamp my passport next week.
In the meanwhile Francina had challenges boarding her plane in China. She was able to board the plane from Beijing to Hong Kong, but they refused to issue her boarding ticket from Hong Kong to Nadi, Fiji. Arriving in Hong Kong, the transfer desk staff member did not want to issue the boarding ticket without an onward flight to New Zealand. It did not help explaining that she is only returning to her own yacht, showing the departing ticket and previous trips. After a lot of discussions and sadly, some tears, she was allowed on the plane. The saga did not end there. In Nadi she was taken into the customs office where she was questioned on the reason for the "one way" ticket. It is not allowed and everybody coming to Fiji should have a return ticket. Needless to say, she eventually got through the gate with the instruction to report to Immigration to sign her back onto the yacht.
On Monday morning we took the bus to Lautoka and the waiting Q at Immigration. Whilst we were at the officer we also requested him to process the permission letters for our crew that will be joining us. This process was also different to the process explained by the previous officer. We had to supply copies of the joining crews passports and other personal information that they need for security clearance. In the end of the day, Francina was legally part of Ntombi crew and we were told to come back for the letters for the joining crew, as well as the stamp in my passport. They are still processing my extension application. The wind was again strong, gusting 28. Three yachts with plough anchors started dragging. We were busy inside the yacht and when Francina got up and looked out the window, she saw the one yacht a metre or so from our bow. Luckily the owner was at the steer and his partner started the engine for them to move away. God kept us safe from any damage that could have been severe. It was Francina's Mother 83 birthday on the third. We are so greatful for technology that allowed her to talk with her to celebrate the milestone.
We went back to Immigration on Wednesday to collect the letters for the new crew, but my visa extension was still not approved. We had to go back today, Friday to collect the extension. We are now eagerly watching for a weather window to depart on our voyage back to New Zealand. At first it looked good for the beginning of the month. The weather changed and it looked promising for a departure on the 8 th, but in the blink of the eye, the weather changed again. We are now looking at the 15 th as a possible departure date. But anything can change and we might be sailing either earlier or later. This is the period in the cruisers live where you are tested on your patience.
The wind forecast was for yet another blast of northerly winds. We decided to move to Lomolomo beach in Nadi bay for protection. On our way, we anchored off Vuda Point Marina to visit some of our friends, but they had left the marina already. The yachtie special is also not offered at the Boatshed on a weekend. We therefore took a nice hot shower and left for Lomolomo beach. It is a beautiful beach where they are busy with the development of a very big hotel and marina by the Chinese. The caretaker informed us that we are the first yacht to anchor off this beach. It was also very convenient to catch the bus which passes every 10 - 15 minutes to either Lautoka or Nadi. We spend a couple of days in this anchorage until the winds changed to south easterlies and we decided to go back to Saweni beach.
Fiji is in the trade wind belt, the wind is mostly from the east or south east. The high mountains divert the wind to the outside instead of going over the mountains. The western side of the main island is therefore in the lee. Because of the lee, the wind forms a vacuum and therefore the winds divert completely and come in from the west, northwest, south west or south. It is very unpleasant to be caught in a storm due to the shallow water. Most of the yachties keep an eye on the weather and find hiding places from the different wind directions.
When we arrived back at Saweni beach, I serviced the engine in preparation of the journey back to New Zealand. I drained and refill the engine oil, replaced the oil filter and changed the gearbox oil. I found that one of the screws keeping the alternator bracket in place has been broken off. I knew this is a possible weak point in future and had to devise a different way of tensioning the fanbelt. I spent an afternoon taking out the broken off screw and manufacturing and fitting the new bracket with limited materials. We tested the new system and it worked perfectly.
It is funny how parts that works for years, suddenly decides to give up the ghost. The on/off switch for the drinking water pump has corroded through and stopped working. Although the water tanks were full, we were unable to get to the drinking water. I went back to my magic electrical box and the only possible alternative was a push button switch that will sort of fit in the position of the previous on/off switch. After a few modifications and soldering, we were able to pump the precious drinking water into our glasses. The new switch is working a lot better than the previous, because you do not waste as much water when you switch the pump on. By pressing the button, you can release less water at a time and have better control of the amount of water you let through.
Our small generator that we use for the sewing machine and small hand tools was running fine. The next moment it stopped working. When I pulled the rope to start the engine, the recoil system stopped working. It took the best part of the day to try and fix the generator, but I had no success. Will I be able to fix it? I do not know. It is a Chinese generator and I do not know where to get another recoil starting unit.
The weather is looking good for a departure on 16 or 17 October and we advised the crew to book their flights. Whilst waiting for the crew to arrive we wanted to go ashore to get some food. Before we lowered the dinghy we discovered that the plug keeping the water out is gone. What now?
We cannot use the dinghy without the plug. Francina went looking in the dinghy spare locker for a spare plug, but found none. My eye caught the sp60 sunblock stick that I use on my face. Luckily the cover of the sunblock fitted in the hole. Vula! I found a new plug for the dinghy! We were able to visit West meats in Lautoka to buy some meat to prepare for the crew.
We went to the airport on Sunday to collect Lee Ann and Jeff. On Monday we had to visit Immigration to sign them on as crew on Ntombi. We bought a few items and visited the market in Lautoka for the last time. The wind was a bit stronger on Tuesday and we decided to stay on the yacht. We fitted the jacklines, sorted out safety harnasses and other tasks to ensure Ntombi is ready for the sail back to New Zealand. Francina was particularly concerned about the loose items in the saloon, but she found spaces to stow away all items. Lee Ann found a gecko in the heads. When we were on the hard in Vuda Point, the bow was buried in the trees. I sawed away the branches, but this little guy must have found his way into our yacht. Jeff caught the gecko and we called him Andy. They contacted their son who has his doctorate in conservation and expert on New Zealand geckos for advise. He confirmed that it is a gecko from Fiji, and not New Zealand as we suspected in the beginning. Jeff and Lee Ann took Andy to shore and released him at a prominent tree on the beach. Hope he finds a mate to keep him company.
We motored to Port Denerau and anchored out with all the yachts waiting for a weather window to sail back to New Zealand or Australia. In the morning I dropped Lee Ann and Jeff at the jetty, filled the jerry cans with diesel and went back to the yacht to deliver the diesel and pick up Francina. We went to customs to inquire about the process for clearing out. They are very friendly and suggested that we fist do our last shopping in Nadi before we do the final visit to them. We also dropped the gas bottle at the Marina Office for a refill. We went to Nadi to buy the last few items on the list and enjoyed a meal at our favorite eatery. Where can you buy 2 pieces of chicken with chips for Fiji $6? Francina enjoyed a curry dish and she bought a few samosas which she enjoyed the next day as well.
On our return from Nadi, we went to the customs office for clearing out of the country. They requested us to bring Ntombi into the marina's A dock for inspection. Lee Ann waited at the customs office whilst Jeff and Francina came along to assist me to pull up the anchor and bring Ntombi to the dock. The customs officer boarded and spend an hour talking to us before he left. The gas bottle was however still at the Marina office and Francina and I went with the officer to collect the bottle, buy something from the supermarket and returned to the yacht to leave. At this time our dear friends from Gigi spotted us and came aboard for a chat and a drink. We left the marina and anchored outside to enjoy the last sunset in Fiji.
At 6:30 am on 17 Octobr 2019, we left the anchorage, motoring to the pass to exit Western Fiji. A very big cargo carrier passed us as we approached the pass and we followed behind them.
At 9:30 a. we were outside and started sailing in very strong winds of 28 - 32 knots, gusting mostly above 30 with a few into the fourties. We reefed down to second reef. The wind kept on gusting to 35 knots during the night and it felt like we were inside a washing machine. Luckily, we have the experience of rough seas and did not get seasick. Our crew was however seasick, whilst Francina took medication as a prevention. In the morning we saw two other yachts, Trixtr and Northland passing by. Northland was on a more western bearing whilst Trixtr was sailing parallel to us. On Sabbath morning the strong winds subsided and we were able to let the full sails out. The sea state was however still not pleasant after the strong winds.
The wind died down shortly after midnight on Saturday and we started the engine in 6 knot winds. On Monday morning the engine died from fuel starvation. I replaced the diesel filters which was blocked terribly. I also checked each tank to see how much diesel we have for the remainder of the journey. Whilst I was busy, the crew took turns to swim in the middle of the ocean. It was Jeff's birthday and we tried to make it a special day for him. He was still a bit off the weather and did not want Lee Ann to bake a birthday cake. He agreed to enjoy a cake when he is back in Whangarei. He got his birthday present from Lee Ann, and I gave him a piece of biltong (South African dried meat), which is very precious almost 600 miles from New Zealand.
We were able to sail for most of the morning on Tuesday before the wind died down again. The sea was beautiful and the waves not too high. Shortly after midnight the wind came through very strong with gusts into the 40's. Trixtr notified us that his engine does not want to start and advised us not to wait for him, but to continue to Whangarei. It was sad to leave Trixtr behind, because we got used to regular weather discussions with him. The low was supposed to move away from New Zealand and we would be able to sail straight to Whangarei. Unfortunately there was a blocking high stopping the low to move out of the way, which caused very high southerly winds. We were not able to stay above 30 degrees any longer because we could also see there was a very short gap of 2 to 3 days to get into New Zealand before the next low will hit. We passed the 30 degree longitude on Thursday, still waiting for the wind to change direction.
The waves were unpleasant, high and the wind gusted into the late thirties for most of the time. Day 10 and we were looking anxiously at the horizon to see who can spot New Zealand. The skyline was very murky and it was difficult to spot the land. We made contact with Trixtr and informed him that we are getting low on diesel. He offered to transfer 2 x 20 liter jerry cans to us incase we run out of diesel. We agreed and got alongside him. He through me a rope and then he let the jerrycan into the water for us to pull it onto our deck. We repeated the process twice and he sailed away towards Opua. We also made the decision earlier in the day to change course to Opua because I was worried that the diesel might not last to take us to Whangarei.
Lee Ann had Whales on her bucket list and Francina was very skeptical on this item. She also stated that she would prefer not to see them because they might cause harm to the yacht. Well, to our surprise, we saw Whales and Lee Ann could tick off the last item on her expectations for the trip. Francina had dolphins on her list and we got to see some as the sun was setting close to the entrance into the Bay of Islands. Whilst navigating the unfamiliar sailing grounds of the Bay of Islands, we got a radio call from Trixtr asking for a tow to Opua. The wind died down and the water was like glass. He waited until he was able to see us passing him before he made contact. I agreed and we circled his boat. We started the towing process to Opua and let the line go for him to put out his anchor before we moved onto the Quarantine dock at 01:00 am on Monday morning. Bio-security used a GoPro camera to take photos of the haul to ensure we do not have any growth. Customs and immigration came aboard, as well as bio-security. They also brought a very nice dog on board, wearing very interesting socks. She was there to sniff through the boat to find illegal drugs. Luckily our yacht was clear and bio-security could do the last collection of items that is not allowed in New Zealand. We handed over beans, honey, fresh vegetables, etc. After we were cleared, we moved to a spot close to Trixtr to drop our anchor. Francina took Lee Ann and Jeff ashore to meet up with family to take them home to Whangarei. Whilst she was away, I checked the latest weather update for a window to sail back to Whangarei. I decided that it was actually a good enough window to sail back immediately and Francina agreed on her return. She however went ashore to fill the diesel jerry cans and returned Patrick's still unused jerry cans to Trixtr.
We enjoyed such a beautiful sail back to Whangarei. At first we wanted to anchor out at one of the beautiful bays on the way, but we enjoyed the very pleasant sail with mild wind and low waves that we could not get it over our hearts to interrupt the sail. At last we decided to drop the anchor in Tutukaka if it is not too dark when we get there. It was however about half an hour after sunset and we felt not confident enough to go through the pass with water flowing out of the pass, so we decided to continue to Whangarei harbour. There was a number of very big ships at anchor outside the harbour entrance. Two other yachts were also on their way to the entrance. As we got to the entrance, the one yacht passed us and we could spot their whereabouts in the dark. The other yacht, Loki, seems to be slowing down to follow behind us. We continued to Perua Bay and dropped our anchor at 02h00 am on Tuesday morning. At 7:30 am I woke up and saw that Loki has dropped anchor very close to us. They have a draft of 3 meters and got stuck in the mud in the entrance to Marsden Cove marina to get to the quarantine dock. They were therefore forced to put anchor out in the bay. We motored to our berth in Whangarei Marina in rain and cold weather conditions. Renate from Renahara, handled our lines when we got the the dock. It was very nice to be back home, especially to see her familiar face. We started the heater shortly after arrival to heat up the yacht and our tired bodies. We only had appetite for a very good bean soup, prepared with the last beans that we brought over from Fiji. We will be in the marina for a while whilst Francina travels to China, and I will join her in Guangzhou in December.
What's on the menu
09 September 2019
Johan & Francina Botha
Although the bread from our favourite Hot Bread Shop is very good, it is not the same as home made bread. So, I decided to try my luck with the pressure cooker again. When we sailed to New Zealand, I used the pressure cooker to bake bread. The pressure cooker that I have now is bigger and also quite different from the previous small one. I had to adjust the recipe and the cooking times.
2 cups wholewheat flour
2 cups white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp yeast
2 cups luke warm water
2 tsp flour for yeast mixture
Mix the sugar, yeast, luke warm water and 2 tsp flour and let it stand for 15 minutes.
Mix the flour and salt together and then stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture.
Once it is all mixed together, start kneading until the dough stops sticking to your hands.
Put rack and water in the pressure cooker. Put the dough into the pan and let the pan rest on the rack in the pressure cooker. Cover with a cloth and let it rise almost to the top of the pan.
Switch on the gas and bring to pressure. Once it reach pressure, turn down the gas and let it steam for 45 minutes.
Let the bread cool down and enjoy.
New experiences in the West updated 16/9/19
29 June 2019 | Denerau harbour Anchorage/Wailoaloa beach/Vuda Marina
Johan Botha | Various conditions
On Friday, we decided to move closer to civilization. There were no wind so we motored the 7 miles to the entrance of port Denerau. We put out the anchor in 4 meter water and heard on the radio a "mayday" call. A yacht was busy taking on water and requested help. The way it was handled by the local marina had us worried. They sent out two staff members to the yacht, but did not take water pump with.
This happened after another marina asked them explicitly several times if they were sending somebody to the yacht for help, and if they are taking a pump with. The crew on the marina boat stayed with the sinking yacht to help them to bail the water. We followed the progress of the yacht until they reached the marina closes to them. They were going to the travel lift to be hauled out of the water to attend to the problem. We then went ashore to feel the earth under our feet. First shore visit since Monday.
The shoreline of Denerau island is lined with lots and lots of hotels for people with very deep pockets. There is also gated communities on this island. If you are a golfer, you can enjoy the Denerau 18 hole golf course.
The harbour is built for tourists with super yachts. One of the superyachts currently in the Marina has its own helicopter on deck. The Marina office staff is very friendly. We are allowed to use the shore facilities like showers and laundromat, even though we are at anchor outside the marina. There are two dinghy docks.
The Port Denerau Retail Centre hosts a great variety of shops and restaurants. We would definitely safe a lot of money with our own cooking on the yacht. Every hamburger/veggie burger will safe us $35 and every toast with 2 eggs will add another $15 to our wallet. A friend from Church is on a cruise ship from New Zealand to Vanuatu via Fiji. She contacted us whilst we were at the shopping centre to arrange a quick chat. We waited for her and spend a few minutes before she had to depart back to the Cruise ship. We bought a few items at the grocery store and headed back to the yacht for a peaceful Sabbath. It started raining mid morning and continued the whole day. Sometimes it rained hard and other times it was a drizzle.
Just after dark the wind picked up to 20 - 27 knots. When we sat anchor on Friday, there was a gentle breeze from the North West and we put out 30 meter scope in 4 meter water. This is supposed to be a sand bottom. I backed up at full rpm and the boat did not move at all. We felt secure and left for the shops on Friday. The wind was however now blowing from the south east. I started watching the boats around us to ensure we are not moving, and they are not moving into us either. I observed that the wind direction kept on changing, especially through the 30 knot plus gusts. I told the crew something is wrong because it seems as if we are moving backwards. I asked crew to bring out the anchor rope for the second anchor.
I was sorting out the shackle for the spare anchor when somebody was calling out. I saw that we were moving towards an unlit boat at a very high speed. The guy was standing on the deck with a fender ready to prevent damage to his boat. We were heading straight at him. I jumped outside, dropped the spanner to loosen the anchor and called to crew to start the engine, but is was already running. I rammed the yacht into front gear. Luckily the Perkins is a trustworthy engine and it started immediately when the button was pushed. I was so close to the other boat that I could see the white of the scared sailors eyes.
I kept the nose of the boat into the wind, and manoeuvered past other boats at anchor. I thought the anchor was lost because it was dragging behind the boat without setting, or hooking onto anything else like other boat anchor lines. Crew fitted the shackle and rope to the aspare anchor and loosened it from storage at the bow. She is however not strong enough to release it into the water. At that moment the primary anchor got stuck, but I thought the keel was stuck in the mud. With the movement of the boat, I realized that it is not the keel but the anchor that was stuck. There is a difference between a sandy bottom and a muddy bottom. And this is muddy. It set itself after being pulled approximately 200 meters. Crew took over the wheel to keep the nose into the wind whilst I went forward to drop the spare anchor. When I dropped the anchor, I made sure there was enough rope and that I was not tangled in the rope. Not a good idea to be strangled in the rope and being pulled overboard with the dropping anchor. By splashing the anchor it went fast and I kept the rope in my hands. I know it is not safe, but I had to know when the anchor hit the ground and this was the only way I could think of in the dark. The wind forced the nose to starboard, but Immediately when the anchor touch the ground, the starboard movement stopped. I knew the anchor was set and I fed the rope whilst keeping it under tension. I put out approx 50 meter of rope. The scope on the new anchor was about 11 to 1. Crew came to help to tie the rope off, and I could let it go. The boat moved a meter or two to take up the slack, but the anchor was set. I was very proud of my crew member who kept calm, followed orders to the T without making any mistakes.
When back inside she made a hot drink to celebrate teamwork and the avoidance of a collision.
We continued to watch the boat movement on the chart plotter till after midnight. By that time the wind and rain disappeared into thin air.
Note from crew: I contacted a friend with a prayer request when I started getting nervous and prayed myself to be at peace and for guidance. Praise God for answered prayers
Sleeping was very difficult, even though we were exhausted.
We took turns to get up and check the movement of the yacht on the chart plotter. We went through the eye of the storm. On Sunday we pulled the Delta anchor (spare) in and reset is at an 45 degree angle to the Monson Supreme (main) anchor. The wind started building later in the day and by 4 o clock it was again blowing at a steady 35 knots. By 5 o clock it was gusting 45 knots. The waves at anchor was about 2 meters and the bow kept on dipping under the water. I was concerned that the anchor might be lifting due to the severe up and down movement of the yacht. I started the engine to release some of the pressure off the anchor, and also to be ready to motor out to safety in the event of a repetition of the previous night. We also increased the length of the chain and rope on both the anchors to 70 meters. Both anchors held and by 6:30 pm the wind eased to 16 knots.
On Monday we took the anchors in and replaced the main anchor with the biggest anchor we have onboard. It is a 80 pound Mantis. It is so heavy that we had to use the halyard to lift it over the lifelines and put it over the bow roller in the pullpit. We released this anchor into the water and let the chain out again. Hopefully this anchor will be able to hold this yacht in these heavy winds. The Manson Supreme is now the second anchor with the Delta the last option. Nobody told me that the wind was so unpredictable in Fiji but this is the way we learn.
Whilst we were working on the anchor, we serviced the windlass switches to ensure that it will not fail on us in an emergency.
On Tuesday we decided to visit the market in Nadi to stock up on much needed fresh produce. It was a week since we left Suva and we were getting low on fresh stuff. The market is much smaller than Suva and it does not stock everything that we were able to get in Suva. The prices are however the same and some products was even cheaper. We were told that some of the products are grown in this area which explains the cheaper prices.
On another day we took the local buses to Vuda Marina to see the haulout facilities. We also made a booking for September in preparation for the sail back to New Zealand. The evening was enjoyed with very good curry and very good company. On Sunday we explored Denerau Island in our dinghy. We found a very good supermarket whilst motoring down one of the rivers. It is hidden away in the commercial area, out of sight of the tourists. The prices was similar to other supermarkets, except the imported products aimed at the expats.
On Monday we took local buses to Lautoka. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of the city. The city centre was bigger than Suva and I found a very nice butcher. That is something that I really miss in Denerau and Nadi. I bought beef ribs that I struggled to find in Whangarei. When I prepared the ribs, it took me back memory lane to the dinners at Haruru Falls with Richard, also ex South African. We came back on the local bus without windows. What a pleasant ride with the hot air blowing through your hair and face cooling you down.
On another day we decided to explore the island from the land, going back to Suva. This round trip took 8 hours, but the trip was done in an air conditioned luxury bus. The trip was only Fj$14.80 one way. The bus to Suva screened two movies but we did not take much notice of it. We were enjoying the landscape, local villages, rivers, bays and a lot more.
When we sailed from Suva to Denerau, we saw that the island was surrounded by coral reefs. With high tide it was covered and uncovered during low tide. There was high breakers which made it impossible to see beyond the Reef. Riding in the bus, we could see all the coral from the land. As we passed the many bays, we saw that they had entrances. The water however looked too shallow for yachts to hide against strong winds. We were greatful for the decision to sail past Sovi bay. The bus stopped for 10 minutes in Sigatoka on the coral coast, also a big city. There was a lot of tourists from the surrounding resorts.
We are spending more time on Ntombi doing maintenance work. We are very fortunate to have a washing machine on board to save on the laundry costs. Because the West is in the Lee of the island, we enjoyed some of the best evenings in Fiji.
We found two Fijian ladies selling home made food in the parking area of Denerau shopping centre. The food is very cheap compared to the shops in the centre and very tasty. The locals eating there appreciate the fact that we are not attracted to the expensive Western food, but prefer to support the locals.
We went to Nadi International airport for Francina to make changes to her upcoming flight to China. She booked her flight for Thursday instead of Sunday and only discovered the error when her host asked for the ticket to ensure they collect her from the airport. The lady at Fiji Airways was very helpful and she is now booked on the flight that she thought she booked. On our way back, we stopped in Nadi Town to visit the market. We also went to Digicel for a new SIM card, and got rid of Vodafone. Vodafone was not only more expensive, but extremely slow. We stopped at our favorite lunch bar where good food is at a reasonable price. The star of the show is a liter of ice cold water. If you have not been to Fiji, you will not know the meaning of ice cold water. The samosas feed our memories from home.
On one of the days when the weather was unpleasant to go ashore, we decided to change the stanchions. Some of the stanchion holes had some wear on the inside, so we changed the starboard stanchions with the lifelines to the port side and vica versa. The worn part of the holes is now on the outside and it should last for another 20 odd years.
The waves changed and the dinghy ride back to the yacht changed into a wet bath. We decided to change from the 3HP outboard to our 5HP outboard engine. Obviously with it being out of commission for such a long time, I had to do some maintenance work. Took the carburetor off twice and was not able to find the problem. Eventually I found a hardened rubber, chewed it for a minute or so, put it back and the engine was working like new - it is almost new. It s amazing what a difference the 2 HP difference made to our comfort levels on the dinghy. No more wet rides.
With the frequency of the waves that changed, and the never ending charter boats and fishing vessels entering and leaving the harbour, our comfort levels inside Ntombi became unbearable. We were rocking and rolling worst than following seas whilst sailing. We were unable to stand up inside the boat without falling and that whilst there were no wind. We started looking at alternative places to visit that will be safe for me to be on my own whilst Francina is away.
We saw a yacht approaching from the direction of Nadi airport and he anchored next to us. When he left we followed him through the binoculars to see where he was going. On Friday morning we went ashore for the weekend shopping and lifted the anchor on our return. Crew used the new brush that I manufactured from a broom bought in Nadi to clean the anchor chain. The broom has an U shape and brush the chain from all angles. No more struggling with mud in the chain locker. We started the engine to move to the new anchorage. Long years working as a mechanic taught me to always check the oil pressure and engine water temperature. Crew find it sometimes annoying to keep on checking whilst the engine is running, but that is part of the captains safety precautions on the boat. Friday was no exception and on the second reading, I realised that there was something wrong. When I turned to the back and looked at the water outlet I saw very little water and what seems like steam. I asked crew to switch off the engine and look for a spare impellor. My immediate thought was that the impellor blades were off. She returned with not only one, but two impellers! Whilst I went inside to start the work, crew put the anchor out. We were lucky that it happened at the time and place where we were able to stop, put anchor out and not have to worry about any traffic on the outside. We could focus on the problem at hand without distractions. The last time we had a breakdown was in Tahiti in the busy shipping lane and we were in the way of a big cruise ship.
When I opened the first floor board, I realised that I am in for a steam bath - hot air punched me in the face. Whilst still in Whangarei, I inserted a trap between the raw water pump and the heat exchanger. When I opened the trap I found pieces of the impellor blades in the strainer of the trap. It confirmed my initial diagnoses of the problem. It took me about an hour to open the raw water pump and remove the broken impellor. You have to work flat on your stomach and you cannot see where you are working. You have to use a mirror and a torch to see where you have to work, and then feel your way through memory. If you drop anything it disappears into the bilge and hides under the engine where you will not be able to find it. There is no space to put your hands through and it is too deep also to reach underneath the engine. It is especially difficult when you work with stainless steel where the magnet will not be able to bring it up either. We hope the new impeller we fit is made of neoprene and not nitrile. The advantages of Neoprene is that it is hydraulical better, it is softer, it's easier to fit, it is cheaper and because it is softer, it will have less friction. Nitrile is a harder type of rubber, because it is harder it is more difficult to fit, it has a memory that causes it to crack, it melts at a slightly higher temperature than neoprene, it is ideal for bilge water because it is oil resistant. Nitrile feels cold in your hand whilst neoprene feels hot. One of my 8 mm sockets disappeared into the bilge never to be found again. And I was very sad to find that my Mi band (fitness band) disappeared into the bilge when I fastened the last nut of the raw water pump. Francina and I tried for an hour to recover the missing items. We gave up and decided to rather pull up the anchor and continue our journey to our destination. When we arrived at the anchorage we found the charter yacht from the day before. There are actually two yachts for charter, Fantasea and Gibsea. There was also a couple of yachts with young people and live aboards. We dropped the anchor at Wailoaloa beach in shallow water and very calm seas. The beach looks like a lake without any waves. We enjoyed a very comfortable, quiet Sabbath but the wind gusts close to 30 on Sunday afternoon. Luckily we learned in Fiji, always put out your best anchor and enough scope.
It is the first time that we drove out onto the beach with our dinghy. The wheels at the back worked wonderful and it is not too difficult to pull her out of the water and above the high water mark. There is a gentleman selling green coconuts for juice to the tourists from the various hotels on Wailoaloa beach. He offered to 'look after' the dinghy whilst we explore the area. We walked to Martintar town where we found a supermarket. There is also a few places where you can eat out, as well as 'live entertainment'. We explored the 'live' entertainment and it turned out to be a movie theater. The advertising of the movies that were showing looked like devil possessed people. The Lion King was also showing and Francina recalled reading something about the newly released movie. We have not been to the movies for quite a while and therefore gave it a miss. We discovered a butcher and I bought oxtail. I have not had oxtail since our last visit to South Africa a year ago.
On another day we went to Lautoka to buy fresh (frozen) slices of fish. The Municipal Market in Lautoka is big and we found all the veggies for a hungry vegetarian crew.
The week was also used to ensure that I will be comfortable whilst Francina will be working in China. She arranged for the airport shuttle to pick her up at Bamboo Travellers, the most popular resort with a very busy restaurant. She left at 6 am on Sunday morning and only returned the second weekend of August. Whilst she was away, the wind picked up and the rain started falling for a few days. The boat was very hot and stuffy and sleeping at night became a nightmare. I decided to install the 12 Volt computer fans, bought for this purpose, in our cabin and it made such a difference. It is one more task on the to-do list that I can tick off .
"Francina note: On Sunday, my only leisure day in China, I visited the Beijing Zoo. The Zoo is quite big and we spent approximately 5 hours walking past all the cages and enclosures. There are animals from all over the world. I enjoyed the elephants, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Blesbok, Rhino's, Cheetah, etc. which are the familiar animals from Southern Africa. I somehow missed the Lion's den. The Kangaroo from Australia was the ugliest animal, or maybe the Golden Takin because it also walked very strange. There was however only one Golden Takin, so there was no comparison to see if this one was perhaps sick or lame or disabled. It was also Chinese Valentine's day on the first Wednesday of August. The tradition in China is to give the very special person in your life one blue rose. It is the most expensive rose, and especially on that day. Some of the blue roses are spray painted and covered in glitter. One signifies that the person is the only one, the most important one in your life. So different to the 12 roses that we are familiar with. The alternative is 512 roses, but that is a boot full......"
Francina suffered a bit from jet lag on her return. We went to Nadi on Monday for fresh produce and Fiji manufactured tinned sardines. We found out that the 2 membranes and additional high pressure vessel for the watermaker has arrived at Vuda Marina. We decided to sail to Vuda Point instead of taking the bus. It might be too difficult with the big boxes in a full bus. The waves were also very unpleasant in Nadi Bay because there were no wind. The waves would therefore hit the boat from the side and then she would rock and roll like an elephant. The only comfortable position is on your back, and doing that for too long is definitely not a pleasure.
On Tuesday morning we lifted the anchor and sailed to Vuda Point. We sailed passed the new marina that they are busy building for super yachts. We are wondering how it will affect Denerau and Vuda marina. We also sailed passed the petroleum storage tanks. We saw pipes coming to big moorings with interesting fittings. We suspect that the tankers connect to the fittings on those big mooring blocks to deliver the petroleum to the tanks. The water is too shallow for the tanks to get closer to shore. We went ashore with our dinghy tying it to the dinghy dock in front of the Boatshed restaurant. It is a beautiful place with lots of tables on the lawn under big shady trees. It was nice and cool with a light see breeze. We collected the parcels and found out that there is a gas refill station at the back of the marina. Very convenient because we ran out of gas the previous evening. On Wednesday morning we took the gas bottle for a refill, but we had to wait until lunch time to collect. We went for a walk to First Landing holiday resort. It is a beautiful resort with a small jetty for fishing vessels. We wanted to take pictures but we left both the phones and the camera on the boat. We picked up sugar cane that fell off the sugar cane train. It reminded Francina of the times they visited a family member in Natal. They had several holidays in the timeshare in Margate. On these occasions she chewed sugar cane. On our way back we passed the gas refill station and saw the gas bottle is still not filled. We realized it is Fiji time and decided to go back to the boat. We promised to return to collect the bottle at 4:00 pm 30 minutes before they close.
On our return to the yacht we decided to scrape the barnacles from the bottom, that we observed in ? clear water here in Vuda. It took a good 2 to 3 hours to get rid of most of the barnacles and to give the haul a good wipe with 'scotch brite'. Wiping over the anti-fouling will reactivate the chemicals to provide protections against barnacles. It will also remove the slime layer that formed on the haul. I removed a number of bigger barnacles from the prop-shaft and saw a piece of rope around the prop. Francina recognized it as the same rope as the one used to tie the stepladder. She recalled that the rope was different when she tied the ladder some time before. We will know the extend of the damage when we haul Ntombi out in September. We collected the gas bottle and we also supported a local lady next to the road. She was preparing chicken and sausages, served on salad and kasava. Francina asked her to put all the salad in one container and the meat in the other. That way she can be the vegetarian and I can eat all the meat. What a bargain. The waves became very unpleasant and we realized that we will not be able to spend more time than was needed.
On Thursday morning we pulled up the anchor and sailed towards Lautoka. The fresh fish in Lautoka was the main attraction. On our way, Francina recalled that a dear friend mentioned Saweni Bay as a good anchorage. I was sailing past the bay and we could not decide if we should go in or continue. In the end we agreed to enter the bay and if we do not like it, we will turn around and continue to Lautoka. It was still early and there was ample time to reach Lautoka. Francina fell in love with the beach. She wanted sea sand to walk on since we arrived in Fiji. The bay is very deep and the last hundred or so meters have reefs on both sides with a smaller entrance. This makes it a very well covered bay. There were however also too many yachts at anchor in the smaller part of the bay, so we dropped anchor just outside the reef. On Friday morning we took the bus to Lautoka to buy stainless steel fittings for the second high pressure vessel, and the fresh fish. We normally visit West Meats and they had oxtail and beef ribs. I could not decide between the two, and Francina convinced me to buy both. We can always vacuum pack and it will last a few days extra. On our return we installed the membrane in the existing high pressure vessel. The watermaker worked and the TDS reading was just over 100. We filled the water tanks for the first time with our own water made from sea water. Previously we used the watermaker water for washing clothes and for dishes and showering. We were however not comfortable to drink the water with a TDS reading over 500. We also discovered stainless steel fittings in our spares that will work with the new high pressure vessel. We only need two more fittings to install the new vessel. That will hopefully double the volume of water that we can produce per hour. We were happy and exhausted and greatful for the Sabbath to rest from all our works. The wind were blowing in the twenties on Sabbath afternoon and there were hardly any waves. I will definitely stay in this bay when Francina leaves for China in September.
On Sunday morning we set out to fit the new masthead light that Francina bought when she was in China. The price was almost a third of what they are selling in Fiji. I had to explain the procedure to Francina, who was very reluctant to execute the job. She came up with lots of excuses why she will not be able to do the job. She eventually went up the mast three times to complete the dismantling of the old light, installing the new light and securing the cables. She also took pictures of the bay whilst at the top of the mast. I feared that she might drop the phone....
On Monday morning we went to Lautoka to buy the extra fittings to finish the job on the watermaker. We found a beautiful, clean restaurant upstairs from Shop'nSave supermarket, opposite the market. Francina enjoyed curry with rice and 3 rotis, which was actually enough for two people to share. She took a "doggy bag" home to enjoy for dinner. I ordered fish and chips, but the fish was very dry. It however tasted not too bad when I rolled it in the roti. The chips was very good and I believe the best we had in Fiji.
After lunch, we took the bus home and I immediately started assembling the high pressure vessel. The high pressure vessels was dropped somewhere on its way to us and the threat of one fitting was disturbed. I was trying to fit the fitting onto the pressure vessel, but it was mission impossible. I had to use the grinder to cut away the damaged thread, because stainless steel thread is impossible to restore when it is damaged/dented. After grinding away 3 threads on the damaged side, I used a file to clean it out and tried to fit the fitting. I suspect deeper damage than the 3 threads that I grind away. I used some threat sealer tape on the fitting and screwed it in. It went in easily at first but a lot tougher at the end. I also screwed in the inlet fitting and connected the high pressure pipes. We started the feed pump and then the high pressure pump.
We however found that both the inlet and outlet ports was leaking. We called it a day and continued the following morning. During the night, whilst laying in bed, I was thinking how to remove the pressure vessel and taking it down to port Denerau for a technician to do tic welding. Before I fell asleep I thought to myself that I will give it a try myself. The next morning when I woke up, I had something light to eat, got the generator running, took out the welding machine and started to weld it myself. I have stainless steel welding rods on board, so why not give it a go. I welded both the inlet and outlet connections of the high pressure vessel. I was thinking I am not going to die without trying. After welding, I grind it smooth and connected it back into place. I started the low pressure pump and no leaks. When I started the high pressure pump and still no leaks. I increased the pressure to approximately 500 psi and I spotted 3 pinhole leaks on the fitting that had the tread damage. It was leaking about one tiny drop per minute or so. Crew marked the spots where it was leaking for me to reweld it. The leak did not increase when I turned the psi higher to 800. So I decided to leave it as it is until we get to New Zealand and shore power. I am making drinking water out of sea water!!! The amount of water we make, increased with more than double when we added the second high pressure vessel.
On Wednesday I washed some parts of the deck and the cockpit. The fires on land to burn the sugar cane is leaving black soot on the deck. It is moving through thin air, miles on end, to land on your boat 10 - 15 miles from the fire.
Crew was cleaning the inside, focusing on the steps and under sink cupboard where the bottle of dishwashing liquid got damaged and leaked. The Dutch oven got a lot of rust and was glued to the shelf from he dishwashing liquid. All was cleaned and crew is happy. On Wednesday evening we were advised that our packages from Amazon were delivered to Vuda Point Marina.
On Thursday morning we lifted the anchor and motored to Vuda Point Marina. It took only an hour before we dropped the anchor outside the entrance. I ordered a 400 watt wind charger, along with some other stuff. I was feeling very happy when the package was delivered within a week from ordering. Whilst motering back to Saweni Bay, we ran the watermaker and filled the water tanks. When we got back to the bay another yacht took our spot. We anchored somewhere else, which is not a problem in a big bay like this. I was like a child opening a gift and was very satisfied with the contents. I investigated each part in the box and were very satisfied with the workmanship and quality. Accidently, I put all three the blades together and that is were the disappointment started. The one blade is shorter than the other two. We contacted the supplier and will hopefully be able to get some help. If all else fails, I will have to shorten the two longer blades that they are the same size. Thursday evening brought a slight drizzle with no wind. On Friday morning we got up with no wind. The boat was drifting in the same spot as the night before. Crew spotted red skies when the sun came up. She made a remark about it, but the forecast is for strong winds on Saturday. After breakfast, we packed our bag and left the yacht to catch the bus to Lautoka. We did our shopping and saw that we were in time for the early bus back. Francina planned to eat out to celebrate my birthday, but we did not want to hang around for 2 hours until the next bus. We made the decision to go back to the boat. On our way, we observed the white horses on the water in Lautoka harbour. When we reached Saweni Bay, we could see that the wind was very strong. We guessed a windspeed in the mid twenties. The wind was from the North which caused waves to break onto the beach. The dinghy ride was a bit of a challenge going into the waves. Crew was scared that the dinghy might flip over because the inflatable is very light and the wind was blowing the nose into the air. On our way, we saw that the guy next to us was battling with his anchor. It looked like he was trying to lift his anchor with his manual windlass. He was alternating between the steering wheel and pulling up the anchor in the front. He is on his own which makes it very difficult under these conditions. We asked if we could help, but the wind blew his response away from us. We saw his gas bottle blew off the deck and started drifting away. He asked if we could fetch his gas bottle for him, before he motored out of the bay. He gave up trying to get his anchor to set. We let out more scope to counter the wind gusting to 33 knots and the big waves.. The UV took its toll on our bimimi. The high winds caused the one side to tear. We rolled it up to prevent further damage and to eliminate some of the wind resistance during the blow. We kept an eye on the chart plotter to ensure the anchor is not dragging again.
We also kept an eye on the gas bottle floating towards the beach, whilst ensuring that our yacht is safe and secure. When we were comfortable that everything on board is under control, I decided to honour my promise to Zazoo's owner, the lone sailor. It was quite a challenge to put fuel in the little outboard when the waves were rolling in. Our yacht were dipping so low that the bow was almost under water. Crew released the lines and off I went to retrieve the gas bottle. The gas bottle was rolling back and forth on the beach with every new wave. There was a lot of people on the beach but no one touched the gas bottle, knowing that it came from one of the yachts in the bay. I got the bottle in my dinghy and started the fight with the waves. Going to the beach was relatively easy because I was going with the wind and waves. Francina was sitting in the cockpit, following every move. She said it looked at one stage if the dinghy was going to flip backwards. That is how high the bow lifted out of the water. I arrived safely back at the yacht and felt good because I did a good deed to a fellow sailor, and the adventure was enough reward for my 60th birthday.
Time flies when you are having fun. Local boating people organized a BBQ potluck on the beach. I went on my own because Francina thought it was for the men due to all the single handed sailors around us. It was a very pleasant afternoon and I made new friends. It reminded me of the saying that I once heard - a stranger is a friend that you have not met before. It turns out that the BBQ potluck is a weekly event for everyone with a boat/yacht to attend.
There was also a curry potluck arranged for the Tuesday. The one lady felt like making Indian curry and wanted all the yachties to share in the food. It turned out to be a very pleasant day on the beach. Good company, beautiful surroundings and Francina made friends with this lady. She wants us to buy property from her to come and live in Fiji.
We went to Lautoka for fresh food and I bought meat to make boerewors (SA sausages). I cut the meat in small pieces, spice it, grind it and then put it in the casings. I vacuum pack portions per day and pack them away in the fridge. It is amazing that it lasts for a while when it is vacuum packed like that.
We also started the generator and took out the sewing machine. Francina was able to mend the bimimi where it was torn. She strengthened other areas that were weakened at the same time. It is very nice to have a covering over the cockpit again. You do not realize how valuable the piece of cloth over your head is, until you do not have it.
Another storm came through with gusts up to 35 knots. There is only one wind direction that the bay is not protected and it is the north. Unfortunately the wind were from the north, creating huge waves due to the fetch. The timing of the waves were such that the boat picked up higher after every wave and after a number of waves, the bow lifts completely out of the water and then slam back down where the bow is almost under water. This movement of the bow climbing in the air and slashing down cause a lot of movement on the chain and anchor. It is therefore necessary to put out enough scope to counter the pulling on the chain and prevent the anchor from dragging.
The next BBQ Potluck on the beach was on 1 September which is Fathers day in Fiji (and New Zealand). With boat/yacht owners the topic to discuss will always include weather. This Sunday was no exception. A strong wind was predicted for the Tuesday. Most of the yachties were planning to run away to other islands or rivers to hide from the Northern wind and corresponding waves in the bay. We decided to stay where we are, but to prepare by putting out more scope to counter those waves. The bay became empty with only 6 yachts remaining out of the 18.
We opened all the walling in the main cabin to reach the electrical cabling to install the electrical cables for the wind charger. Francina suggested that we install the new second hand SSB that we received from a fellow yachties just before we left New Zealand. It would be easier because all the wiring is already exposed. Whilst I was busy going through the installation manual for the SSB, I heard the wind speed starting to increase. I got the idea that I need to make a backup snubber line for the anchor chain in the event that the current snubber line shave through. I started splicing the new snubber line. There was already some shave marks on the old line and I forgot that I wanted to replace it after the previous storm. As I installed the backup snubber line, I saw that the snubber line was on its way out. It was just in time. I took off the old snubber line, removed the shaved part and splicing a thumble into the line. I went back to install it as the main snubber line, but kept the other one on the chain as a backup. It turned out to be a very good decision because the main snubber line came loose during the night and the backup was still holding it.
The deck was again full of soot and we cleaned it with Oxalic acid and the expected rain could wash it down. I used Phosphoric acid to clean the rust from the gas bottles. This substance is contained in soda drinks to give it the tangy taste. If you want to clean your toilet, dump 2 liters of coke cola, leave it overnight and it will be clean the next day. These acids are ingredients in the very expensive boat cleaning products that you buy in the marina shop. You can get away with a cheaper option by buying it from the local cleaning suppliers.
We received excellent news from Happybuy that they will send us a new wind charger to make up for the incorrect blades received. When the package arrived at Vuda Point Marina, we decided to walk from Saweni beach to collect the parcel. It is a very nice walk along the sugarcane train track. We walked pass two factory shops that makes and sells Indian delights. There is also a couple of very big houses, built on the hills overlooking the ocean. We saw some new development, but it looked like it is going nowhere soon. We walked over the Draketi river inlet and along lots of sugarcane fields. We picked up some sugarcane that fell off the train and chewed on it. A Ute came past and offered us a lift. What a surprise to find 4 South African men in the Ute. We were able to speak a little bit Afrikaans with them. The driver of the vehicle owns a farm at the entrance to Vuda. We collected the new wind charger from the marina office and waited for the bus. A gentleman from New Zealand who is involved in Sail for Life gave us a lift to Lautoka. We were great full because it meant that we could return to Saweni bay on the 12:15 bus instead of the 15:15 bus. Which means that there will be enough time to install the new blades and test the wind charger. I was very impressed with the wind charger. It kept on loading amps during the night when there were not sun to boost the batteries with the solar panels. There was a bit of vibration and I shortened the post of the wind charger to lessen the vibration. I don't know if this change is working, because the wind is not blowing hard enough at the moment. Today is a public holiday in Fiji. I used the time to make some soft shackles for the main sail reefing. We used metal shackles but it can damage the track on the mast. Whilst I was busy with this, crew dived under the boat to clean the barnacles. She reported that the prop shaft was very dirty again, but it was cleaned. All this in preparation for the haul out tomorrow. The hard work starts tomorrow when we come out of the water. We need to apply anti fouling paint in preparation for our return sail to New Zealand. Hopefully there will be no surprises. The SSB is still standing on the floor, waiting for me to install....
It is so interesting to observe the yachts when they come into the bay. When you come into a mooring area, everybody is looking at you. The anchoring skills vary a lot. Some drop the anchor and all the chain on top of it. Then they stand and watch the bow of the boat for the next hour. The way that we anchor, is to drop the anchor, let out the correct scope whilst going backwards. As soon as you reach the scope, tie down the anchor chain and pull back on the anchor with full rpm to let the anchor dig in. And I know tonight I will have a peaceful sleep. Maybe it is better to drop the chain on top of the anchor because it might hammer the anchor deeper. I have not tried this method yet, but maybe next time... he he.
Note from Francina: "On one of the stormy nights, a single handed yacht anchored very close to us. The wind changed direction and we were with the aft towards this yacht. I was awake the better part of the morning, observing the distance between the two boats. Our chain was not stretched to the full length - there was still 12 meters to go - and the boat behind was getting closer. The yacht moved away from us in the morning, and our yacht moved back the additional 12 meters as soon as he moved away. Proof to me that prayers are answered."
We arrived at Vuda point marina at 8:00 am on Tuesday as per our confirmed booking for the haulout. We made radio contact and they told us to be on standby. After circling at the entrance for half an hour we contacted the marina again to find out if we should anchor. They gave us the green light to enter the marina and told us to pick up the mooring bouy in the centre of the round marina. I tried to hook the bouy, but the wind gusted and the rope slipped out of my hand. I don't know what happened, but I realised that my foot got caught in something. When I got to the steering wheel to manuaver the boat back into position, I saw blood and the foot was very painful. We waited a while before a lady in a longboat came to collect Francina to complete the paperwork. When she got to the office the manager told her that there was a backlog and that the yacht could not be hauled. She explained that the haulout was booked 4 months in advance and reconfirmed the previous week. After some negotiation they agreed to haul the boat out late afternoon and let Ntombi stay in the slings overnight. We launched out inflatable and went ashore. It is extremely hot in the marina because there is hardly any breeze. No wonder that it is a declared safe haven during hurricanes. On our previous visits we looked at the menu at the restaurant and found it a bit pricy. The local lady at the entrance to the marina, did not have any chicken bbq either. We supported her on a previous visit and knew that her food is yummy. When Francina went to the marina office again, she saw an advert for 'Yachtie specials' at the restaurant. That was less pricy and something that we were prepared to pay for a meal. So, we enjoyed a meal at the bar area, sitting in the shade with a cool breeze. They served water with ice which was an unknown luxury. And so we waited for the time to pass. At 4:30pm it was our turn to be lifted. We went into the slings, but the roller furler was in the way. Two of the workers came on board and I had to circle the marina in order to come in stern first. It was quite late by the time we were settled and the workers had to leave. They agreed to do the water last in the morning. Francina and I went around the boat with the scraper to remove all the barnicles that she did not get to whilst diving. The boat was prepared for the following morning. We went to bed exhausted - not necessarily from hard work, but rather due to the excitement of entering the very congested harbour. It was also something else to go backwards into the slings on this old lady who does not like going backwards. Even at anchor, she just want to move forward like an unstoppable slow moving train.
Early on Wednesday morning they started with the water blasting. I used a scotch brite pad to wipe down the anti fouling. The operator of the water blaster was not very impressed with me because it meant that he had to blast the yacht twice. He told me that there was another boat that needs to be hauled, but I told him that it is my turn and we can move the yacht once I am done with wiping it down. This task saved us at least two days of sanding. I complained to the marina manager about the low pressure of the water blaster. He responded that it is set to 3000 psi because else it will remove all the anti fouling. I clicked that it is job creation, because you need to hire laborers to sand down the boat. Once the yacht was safe on the hard, I started sanding the areas that needed some more work. I cleaned the propeller with a wire brush on the grinder to prepare it for the "prop speed" application. I was in two minds about applying anti fouling because the boat was actually still in very good condition. The ablative anti fouling has not worn off yet, and there is still hard anti fouling underneath. She could easily sail back to New Zealand on the anti fouling. But we decided that she is out on the hard already, so we might just as well apply the anti fouling that we bought a few months earlier. Francina opened the locker under our bed and removed the rope of the parachute anchor. The reason for this is to get to the bolts of the earth strap for the SSB Radio. We saw in Whangarei that there was a few drops of water in the locker and made a note to make it watertight. When Francina tried to loosen the one nut, it totally disintegrated. It was just in time else water could have entered the locker whilst sailing back to New Zealand. We regularly inspect under the floor boards for leaks, but never these lockers. It is such a hassle to remove the heavy mattresses and every else that is stored inside these lockers.
We saw a notice of a 'meet and greet' event at 3:00 at the Boatshed restaurant. It was arranged by Bay of Islands marina in Opua, New Zealand, promoting their marina as a port of entry to New Zealand. When we arrived in 2012, that is where we entered. They have however expanded the marina to a 400 berth state of the art marina. They have lots of facilities and shops where you can buy everything you need for working on your boat. They also have at least 2 or 3 choices for all your needs, e.g. 2 chandlery shops, 3 sailmaker, etc. There was obviously also a talk on the weather and the perfect weather window to sail to New Zealand. John from SailSouthPacific has sailed 44 times between New Zealand and the islands and only had one bad experience. It was his first trip. He has a vast knowledge of the weather patterns and what to look for when you decide to start your sail back to New Zealand. He offered some assistance when you do your planning. It was therefore worth us interrupting the work on Ntombi to attend the session. When we came back Francina put masking tape on the lines so that we could start the painting in the morning.
Thursday morning I started applying the anti fouling until it was time for the shops to open. Francina took over the painting whilst I went to the marine shop in search of stainless steel to strengthen the arm that the wind charger rests on. I got the steel that I needed and came back to do the work. We finished the anti fouling in time to go back to the restaurant for a late afternoon yachtie special. On our return, Francina patched up the top green line. It had patches of the old blue where the stilts were in Whangarei when she changed the colour. Moving around is becoming very difficult due to the injury to my foot. I was therefore doing the washing and filling the water tanks whilst the water is free. We have scheduled the splash for Friday after lunch to give the anti fouling paint time to dry (24 hours). We bought a voucher in Whangarei for this haul out at the 'meet and greet' for yachts sailing to Fiji. We are extremely happy because it saved us FJ$400. The tariff for the hardstand is however extremely pricey compared to the rate that we paid in New Zealand. That is one of the reasons why we pushed ourselves to complete the work in record time. Another reason is the insects biting us. There is a lot of mosquitoes and we expect sand flies. Francina is very sensitive and she is full of lumps where she has been bitten. It is also itching non stop which makes her grumpy. Yet another reason is the heat. You cannot let fresh air flow into the yacht with the wind scoops like we do when at anchor.
On Monday 16/9/2019 I ran the watermaker again. It worked for approximately 4 minutes and then the pressure dropped. I opened up the floor boards for inspection. The pump was working but the pressure was down 50 %. I started following the lines to find the leak. When I finally opened the floorboard at the pressure vessels, I found my leak! The water was streaming out of the pressure vessel into the bilge. The culprit was the newly bought pressure vessel from China. I closed everything down and took it out. When I stripped it down, I found that the o-ring on the outflow side of the pressure vessel came out. I had to go into Lautoka the following day to buy a new o-ring. I went from pillar to post and eventually found the right type and size o-ring at Lautoka Bearing. I had visions of the dismantled pressure vessel with a membrane drying out whilst I have to wait for an overseas order to arrive, but with a sigh of relief the o-ring fitted. To my big surprise the o-rings was only $2 each, so I bought 6' just in case. The wind was blowing hard for the last couple of days. When I got back to the boat the wind was still 22 knots gusting 37 knots. I fitted all back together and 15 minutes later I was making water in the strong wind.
Suva to the Western islands updated 02-07-19
25 June 2019 | Beqa island, Robinson Crusoe island, Noisali island
Johan & Francina Botha | Overcast, Sunny
We woke up this morning (25/6/19) in Suva harbour and it was wet. Raining off and on and we considered postponing our sail westwards. At 9:30 the weather cleared slightly and we let go of the anchor. I am unsure of the type of dirt in the Suva harbour, but I can tell you that a piece of the anchor chain is stained like gold. The anchor chain was very dirty and covered in mud. It was a time consuming process to clean the anchor chain whilst lifting it into the anchor locker. Finding our way out of Suva harbour was fairly easy because we knew what to look for, and we bought charts for the Garmin chart plotter. The wind was very light to start off and we motorsailed all the way to our Anchorage. The wind came up to 15 knots gusting @ 24 whilst inside Beqa lagoon between the coral heads. On our way we passed two wrecks on a Reef. The one is a fairly new and quite big yacht. We were wondering what had happened to them. Did they try to enter the harbour and the wind pushed them into the Reef, engine failure, negligence, or what was the cause?. Was this also their home like Ntombi is to us? The entrance to Beqa lagoon was also quite tricky. I will not trust paper charts to guide me in. The bearing is a conspicuous mango tree on a cliff. One lonely tree that God preserve to lead sailors safely through the pass, like he kept us safe on our journeys. We had to dodge the bommies (suspicious looking poles sticking out of the water) and coral heads once inside the lagoon. Luckily the chart plotter was fairly accurate and we could navigate to our Anchorage in Malumu Bay, a valley of Beqa island. In the valley is a resort and a few new houses that they are still busy building. One of the villagers came to visit us. I suspect he wanted kava, but we did not offer any. The rule is that you do not need to pay the chief with kava if you anchor at a hotel or resort. During our conversation it came to light that his uncle is working at the resort. He is using broken English with a very heavy accent. Maybe my accent is just as strong to him as his was to me. I realised that Fiji still has very remote areas and I wondered if the practices of a few centuries ago was still part of the current day. He eventually sold us 4 green coconuts. We laughed because he took a very long time to deliver them. Suspect that he went to his village, climbed the tree and cut them off for us. He might have spend more on fuel to deliver to us than what we paid for it. He left us all smiles and very happy. I struggled to open it at first, but my skills improved and the last one was fairly easy. The juice is apparently rejuvenating and very healthy. We had a quite night at anchor in the well protected Bay.
Early on the morning 26/6/19 we woke up to a beautiful view of lush green vegetation and some exposed rocks. There might be waterfalls during heavy rain. The wind forecast was for very light winds the first two hours, so we lifted the anchor to get out of the lagoon before the wind stars blowing to strong. We plotted our route out of Beqa lagoon the previous night and it was an fairly easy navigation. We exited into the Beqa channel, which has a very wide entrance.
We started off motoring, but the wind picked up to 18 knots whilst still inside the lagoon. We rolled out the headsail and started sailing. The wind was east south east at 17 to 24 knots gusting to 30. The crew somehow got the main halyard loose and it eventually wrapped itself around the furled headsail. She managed to use the boat hook to get it down. We hoisted the mainsail and when she hoisted the staysail, the boat hook landed in the water. The only casualty thus far and the lesson learned to safely stow away equipment before moving onto the next task. I thoroughly enjoyed the sail today. The wind was strong, but Ntombi sailed like never before, reaching up to 8 knots. When we approached the entrance to Sovi Bay, I did not feel comfortable with the Bay. It is basically a beach surrounded with coral. With the strong wind blowing, we might be blown onto the beach, because there is no space for sufficient scope. We decided to change our plans and continue to the next Anchorage, planned for a visit on Thursday. I am grateful for that decision because Likuri harbour offers a well protected Anchorage in front of the Likuri island. Robinson Crusoe resort on this small island greeted us with two boats with Fijian singing. As the evening progressed, they entertained their guests with folk songs, drums and Western music. The music is very load and can be heard on the yacht a couple of miles away.If you close your eyes and you think of the movie Jumanji, you will know what I am talking about. African drums, etc.
We had a very good nights rest. The water was flat and calm with no movement at all. The sound of the waves breaking on the Reef was very load at high tide in the early hours (2:00 am) of the morning. It reminded me of the sounds we heard from our flat in Richardsbay. After a light breakfast we winched in the anchor. And guess what? The anchor came out clean, no mud, except the golden stain from Suva harbour still on the one section of chain.
Although following my tracking line from entering the harbour was still scary. It was low tide and you realize how little space their is where the water has sufficient depth for Ntombi to pass through safely. The wind was 17 knots with .5 meter waves which made a very pleasant sail. I was even surprised with freshly baked pancakes. We planned to enter through the pass and sailed into the bay at Korobalavu. We however changed our plans and sailed to the next bay closer to Noisali Island. We dropped anchor and enjoyed a lovely afternoon, eating fried bread for dinner. Crew went for a swim in the warm water. She cleaned the rudder of the wind steering. It is unbelievable how much green hair were growing on it after a few weeks in the water. Once the rudder were tied outside of the water, she swam next to the yacht on the starboard side, cleaning some spots above the waterline. Suddenly I heard a very load " help me out" and she was at the back already out of the water. It was a blue jellyfish the size of a dinner plate swimming past her. A spectacular sunset was a very special painting from God to end our day.