Our Ever-Changing Backyard--Sailing with Scoots

06 May 2019 | Paradise Taveuni Resort
04 March 2019 | Koro Island
05 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
01 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
30 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
29 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
28 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
26 November 2018 | Port Denarau Marina, near Nadi, Fiji
18 November 2018 | Makogai Island, Fiji
27 October 2018 | Rukuruku, Fiji
22 October 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
21 September 2018 | Leleuvia Island, Fiji
23 August 2018 | Levuka, Ovalau Island, Fiji
20 August 2018 | Nukobuco Island, Fiji

Paradise Found

06 May 2019 | Paradise Taveuni Resort
Vandy Shrader
After leaving Koro Island, in early September, we sailed north and found Paradise. Actually, it was pretty easy to find: it was marked on our charts.

Tucked into a nook in the western coastline near the southern end of the island of Taveuni, Paradise Taveuni Resort truly lives up to its name.


Taveuni Island in Fiji


Paradise Taveuni Resort

Severely damaged by the same cyclone that ravaged nearby Koro Island, Paradise Taveuni Resort has rebounded, rebuilt through the hard work and dedication of its owners and staff. (Link to Paradise Resort.)

The first hint that we were really going to like this place was when Alan, one of the resort's co-owners, answered our call on the radio as SCOOTS approached the resort. Things began well and just kept getting better.

"Good afternoon," I said. "Do you have any moorings available?"

"Let me check...." a pause. "I have two."

"Great! We'll take one. How much do you charge for a mooring?"

"They're free."

"Free?! Cool!"

"I'll send someone out with a kayak, to hand you the mooring line. See you soon."

This was the first time - ever - that we had had someone hand us the mooring line. Usually it was just one of us on the bow, hanging over the lifelines, swiping at the loop on the mooring line with a boat hook, and then pulling it up on deck to tie it.

We were going to like this place.

After SCOOTS was secured, we took our dinghy to the small rock-and-cement platform where the resort's dive boats load and unload guests, and which serves as a dinghy dock. Following the footpath up the hill, we emerged onto an expansive grassy lawn, planted with a profusion of tropical plants. Palm fronds rustled in the light breeze. Collared lories, a kind of multicolored parrot, squawked in the lofty flame tree, and swung upside-down on the branches. The sun was shining, and the air was a pleasant 85F. Around the lawn, tucked into small jungles of greenery, stood several bures (huts), accommodations for the resort's guests.



Covered patios perched near the cliff edge, overlooking the boats in the mooring field, and the Somosomo Strait beyond. What a gorgeous place!


SCOOTS in Paradise

We walked through the large, covered outdoor restaurant and entered the main building to a chorus of "Bula!"s from the resort staff, and introduced ourselves. Mags, the manager on duty, told us that the crews of boats moored at the resort are treated as resort guests. Which meant that we ran a tab the whole time we were there, and were able to use the resort facilities as if we were staying in one of the bures. The staff learned our names and knew which boat we were on. It was such a friendly and welcoming place!

During the two weeks that we stayed at Paradise, we had a truly fabulous time.

We enjoyed birdwatching,

A red shining-parrot

bass playing,


Eric and our friend, Martin, from s/v Acapella, playing bass on SCOOTS

walks along the coastal dirt road, usually accompanied by the resort's two dogs, Brownie and Beethoven, who both like to chase cars - yikes!


Walking with the boys

snorkeling, including a ride on the resort's dive boat out to the world-famous diving spot, Rainbow Reef, where we snorkeled with our own guide,

exploring around the village

We encountered an LDS church with just the essentials: a sign, a meeting hall, and an outhouse

celebrating 31derful years of marriage,


helping our friend, Karen, distribute free reading glasses to some of the local residents,



lots of tasty meals in the outdoor restaurant, where we socialized with other visiting yachties and interesting land-based guests from all over the world.

One day, we made a visit to Bobby's Farm - also known as Nabogiorno Farm - an ecological reserve just up the road from Paradise Resort. Besides learning about some of Fiji's native flora and fauna, I was really hoping to see an orange dove, a shy and seldom-seen bird that inhabits some of Fiji's northeastern islands and has been seen on Bobby's Farm.


Here is a photo of an orange dove taken by our friend, Alison, who has seen one. I haven't seen one yet.

We saw a lot of birds at Bobby's Farm - many-colored fruit doves, vanikoro flycatchers, kingfishers, orange-breasted honeyeaters, black-faced shrikebills, slaty flycatchers, spotted doves, and a dozen red shining-parrots - but not any orange doves. Cyclone Winston had devastated much of his property, Bobby said, felling trees, stripping vegetation down to the bare earth, flooding, and spraying salt water all over everything. Prior to Cyclone Winston, there had been two orange doves living on his property, a mated pair. They survived Winston, but perished at the claws of feral cats a few days later. Oh well. Clearly I wasn't going to see an orange dove today.

Bobby spent several hours showing us around his property, sharing his love for and knowledge of the local flora and fauna. He told us that he had been practicing conservation and natural farming on his property for 37 years, where his family has resided for several generations. He is hoping to raise funding that would allow him to reach out to local students and residents, to invite them to his properties for ecological programs and to teach them about the natural world around them.

On our walk, which took a couple of hours, Bobby showed us lots of interesting things...

...a grove of fruit trees (mainly citrus), where he's employed a system of propagation known as "air rooting," which we'd never heard of. Here is what he does:
(1) Cuts a ring around a stem and removes the strip of bark.
(2) Puts some soil close underneath the barkless ring on the stem. (I don't know how he does this.)
(3) Waits.
According to Bobby, the plant will sense that the end of one of its twigs is no longer receiving nourishment. Sensing soil nearby, the twig will grow roots down toward the soil.
(4) When the roots have grown a bit, Bobby cuts the branch off below them and plants the rooted twig in the ground.

Bobby also told us than when he strips the twig while the plant is fruiting, the fruiting hormones are already present in the twig, so when the twig is planted, it will produce fruit the first year.

...quite a few huge, old-growth hardwood trees that had fallen during the cyclone which he was in the process of converting into lumber, for use as building materials on the island. This was a tough job, as many of the trees had fallen in areas of dense jungle

...how to sip coconut water through natural straws - hollow sticks broken from a nearby bush - from some green coconuts that Bobby had hacked open with a machete. While we sat there, several red shining-parrots came around, hoping for some crackers. Bobby obliged



...that the middle of a sprouting coconut contains a spongy material that he calls "natural birthday cake." It does actually taste a bit like cake!

...how quickly termites can repair a breach to their home: Walking by a termite mound, Bobby pierced it with a small stick, creating a hole. Termites rushed out and swarmed all over the mound. Later on our walk, when we passed by the termite mound again, the hole was gone, the termites having repaired it so well that we couldn't even see where it had been

...what a cacao tree and pods look like. Bobby cut open one of the pods and gave us some cacao seeds to suck on: The flavor was sweet and slightly sour; and nothing like chocolate

...a tree that produces a sweet/sour fruit right from its trunk, rather than on its limbs, and

...several large species of fern that seem to be growing upside-down, with their supports on top of the fronds, rather than underneath.



When we got back to Bobby's house, his wife had made us a lovely Indo-Fijian lunch, many of the dishes containing fruit and vegetables grown on their property. We had enjoyed a very educational and pleasant morning, even without seeing orange doves.

The mooring field at Paradise is usually flat calm, nicely sheltered from the tradewinds from the southeast or east, which tend to blow most of the time. There's only one thing that turns Paradise into Hell: a northerly wind.

When we had been at Paradise for about a week, the wind shifted and began to blow from the NE, funneling along the western shore of Taveuni, kicking up a considerable amount of chop. When the chop reached the mooring field, the dinghy dock became too treacherous to use, as the area around it became a washing machine, and the moored boats began to hobby-horse on their moorings, which was not only very uncomfortable, but also threatened to rip the mooring anchors from the bottom.

Clearly it was time to take SCOOTS somewhere else. "Somewhere else" was Viani Bay, about eight miles away, across the Somosomo Strait, where the anchorage offered shelter from the strong northeast wind. We called Alan on the radio and told him that we were heading across to Viani Bay and would be back in a few days, when the wind switched back to southeast.

We enjoyed five days in Viani Bay, a lovely place worthy of a blog entry of its own. Sadly, I probably won't write one, so I've included some photos as a poor substitute. But you'll get a flavor for the place.


SCOOTS in Viani Bay


Banyans near shore where I went kayaking


Some boys who helped me launch my kayak off the beac
I went looking for an orange dove there, too, but didn't see one.

When the wind blew from the southeast again, we sailed back to Paradise, where we enjoyed another week of bliss.


SCOOTS holding up the rainbow

Paradise Lost

04 March 2019 | Koro Island
Vandy Shrader
*Though SCOOTS and her crew are hanging out in New Zealand until May or June, I've posted a blog about the time we spent at Koro Island, Fiji, from last September. Enjoy!*


We'd decided to visit Koro Island next, exiting the reef through Makogai's nebulous NE pass, rather than its main pass, to the west. The morning was calm and sunny as we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor and motored toward the pass, Eric at the helm and I at my usual post on the bow, both of us with handheld radios. Visibility was superb, and as we passed the first waypoint I was able to see the coral heads lurking nearby. Eric kindly told me when we were going to be making a turn, because it's kind of nerve-wracking to be heading straight for a reef. The waypoints were spot-on, and though I was holding my breath, we transited the pass without any drama. Hooray for accurate navigation!

I was really excited as we approached Koro Island about six hours later. Having read about Koro's verdant jungles, vibrant bird life, the eco-conscious Koro Seaview settlement, and the inviting Dere Bay Resort, and seen them in so many beautiful photos online, I couldn't wait to experience them. Maybe the resort would even arrange a birdwatching trip!


Makogai and Koro Islands

As we neared Koro, I called Dere Bay Resort on the phone number listed on their website, to inquire about tying up to one of the mooring buoys they manage in the bay. No answer. A little while later, I tried again, with the same result. No problem; we'd just tie up to a mooring buoy and sort it out with them later when we dinghied in. I grabbed our binoculars, and scanned the bay for mooring buoys and found two: one with a boat already tied to it, and another floating unoccupied nearby. As we made for the unoccupied mooring, we realized that the boat was Pilgrim, whose crew of Sheryl and Ron we hadn't seen since last year. It would be fun to get reacquainted with them.


Where SCOOTS anchored in Dere Bay

As we approached Dere Bay, on the northwest corner of the island, the hillsides and the resort's dock – a long, elegant structure that features prominently in photos on the resort website – began to come into focus, I realized that something was off. None of it was like the pictures I'd seen. Though there were some areas of jungle on the hillsides, there were also large grassy patches where trees had been ripped out, and large swaths of brown, composed of dead and defoliated trees and denuded soil.


Swatches of brown and green

The dock was neither long, nor elegant, but instead had been severed into two shorter docks – and these canted at alarming angles – with both the thatch-roofed palapa at the end, and a long middle section missing completely.


The dock from the Dere Bay Resort website


The dock as it now is

A few of the homes comprising the eco-conscious settlement stood intact on the hillsides, but all that remained of many others were foundations or a few cement support beams or just an empty, roofless, windowless husk. Though some homes were being repaired, many were in various stages of being reclaimed by the jungle and the weather, after being ruthlessly ravaged by Cyclone Winston two years earlier. In fact, I learned later that the villages at the north end of the island had been especially hard-hit.

Clearly, the storm had done more damage to Koro than I'd realized; none of it is reflected in the websites for either the resort or for Koro Seaview Estates.

After SCOOTS was secured to the mooring, I took advantage of the settled conditions; I floated our kayak and paddled around the shallow lagoon, peering down through the clear water to look at the extensive coral reefs below.


Some parts of the beach were bouncing back

Eventually I paddled toward shore, hoping to see some of the birds behind the tantalizing calls I'd been hearing. Homing in on the raucous sounds, I floated in the calm shallows near shore, scanning the trees with my binoculars. I was soon rewarded with a flash of maroon, and then a tease of blue, which soon revealed themselves to be a parrot! And then another. And another. I had some great views of the birds, which were red shining-parrots, large birds with green and blue wings and tail, and – in the variety that lives here on Koro – a deep maroon throat and chest. A stunning contrast – made even more spectacular by the bright sheen of the blue and green feathers. No wonder they're called shining parrots!


A shining parrot!

The main resort building itself looked intact, from our vantage point in the bay, but the true test came when we dinghied ashore, later in the afternoon. After swinging by Pilgrim to say hello, we tied our dinghy to the remaining section of dock near shore, and waded to the beach through knee-deep water. (The reason why the resort dock was so long is because the water is very shallow – much of it even dries out at low tide – for a long way out.)

The main resort building didn't look too bad, having either withstood much of Winston's wrath, or been repaired. Inside, we encountered a group of about a dozen ex-pats who live on Koro. Through no planning of our own, we'd managed to arrive during their weekly happy hour. Good timing! For the next couple of hours, the few employees who still worked at the resort were kept busy serving beer and wine, while we enjoyed chatting with the islanders. Some regaled us with harrowing stories of their experiences on Koro during Cyclone Winston, others reminisced about the days when they'd explored the South Pacific aboard their own cruising boats. As far as I could tell, the resort is now just a meeting place for locals; I didn't see any paying guests. No birdwatching trip was going to be booked. And I've since learned that the property is up for sale.

After happy hour, we stood on the dark beach pondering the state of the tide (it had gone out) and how best to get our dinghy back to SCOOTS (across several hundred yards of ankle-deep water). By now, the wind had come up and so we had the added luxury of being slapped with choppy waves as we slogged through the shallow water pulling our dinghy behind us, occasionally tripping or banging our shins on big chunks of debris that were hidden beneath the surface. At least the water was warm. When it was finally deep enough for us to use our dinghy, we flopped our drenched selves in and took off across the black water toward SCOOTS.

The next day, Eric and I went ashore to explore a bit on foot. As we walked on sandy paths and cracked concrete roads, we encountered several dwellings that had clearly once been quite posh, but which now had been abandoned to the insects, vines, and elements after being severely damaged by the cyclone.


A house left in shambles

We also happened upon a row of cute beachside huts, most of which were in good condition, all sitting empty as though they were waiting for tourists to return.


Cute little huts

That night we enjoyed dinner at the resort (prearranged the day before, to make sure they had enough food) with the crew of Pilgrim. We tied our dinghies to the cross-members of the dock pretty far out, hoping that there would still be enough water to float them when the tide went out during dinner, and then clambered up the wooden cross-members to the dock planks for our walk to shore. After dinner, we were happy to see water under the dinghies; not enough for us to use our outboards, but enough for us to row into the wind and chop, until we reached deeper water, farther out.

The wind blew hard for most of the time that we were at Koro, which unnerved us a bit, as, not being scuba divers, we had no way of assessing the condition of the mooring to which SCOOTS was tied. For this reason, we're always more apprehensive when SCOOTS is tied to a mooring, than when we're anchored. But this time, we were especially on edge because the two remaining moorings had been through a major cyclone and were no longer being maintained by the resort. And no matter which way the wind blew, SCOOTS always seemed to have her stern pointed to a coral reef.

After two days, we were ready to say goodbye to Koro. We slipped our line from the mooring, motored out of Dere Bay, and set our sails for the island of Taveuni, Fiji's Garden Island.








Arrival in NZ, including an unappreciated free boat wash and light show

05 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
Vandy
Dec 3-4.

After a day and a night, the fast, noisy, rolly, splashy beam reach was beginning to wear on us. Yes, we were making great time, but trying to live aboard with those conditions was somewhat sporty. Though it was a whole lot better than bashing to windward! The forecast indicated that northwest winds would eventually fill in, moving the wind angle (which was now west) behind SCOOTS' beam, making a broad reach, which is a more comfortable point of sail, than this beam reach.

A couple times an hour, Eric would tease me, �"When is the northwest wind coming?�" My answer was always the same: �"It'll be here by this evening.�" At which point he would give me a �"yeah, right�" look. I'd studied the forecasts; the wind was going to turn northwest eventually.

Sure enough, just as we were finishing dinner, the wind slowly began to clock around, ever so slowly creeping away from west, toward the northwest. Three hours later, when I woke up for my first watch, the first thing I noticed was the silence. The second thing was the steady motion of the boat. Yes! The wind had come in from the northwest! SCOOTS was on a broad reach! Cue the angels' singing. When I poked my head up into the cockpit, where Eric was finishing his first watch, I was surprised to find that SCOOTS was screaming along at 8-9 knots, with hardly a sound or a bump. Excellent!

We enjoyed this lovely broad reach all night long and into the morning, making great progress toward New Zealand without all the noise and shenanigans.

One of the absolutely delightful aspects of this passage has been the unexpected company of our cruising compatriot, Dave, who was single-handing on his lovely ketch Rewa. We left Denarau Marina a couple of hours apart, each with our own plans. Cruisers usually expect to be out here on passage alone. Even if we hoped to travel with another boat, the problems inherent in trying to maintain similar speeds in all conditions over the course of several days would make it prohibitively troublesome. But through some quirk of fate �- and probably also some complicated mathematical equations having to do with boat speeds and such �- our two boats managed to stay within one to ten miles from each other, for the entire passage. Without either of us making any changes to our own plans. It just happened.

And it was so much fun! Several times a day, and even in the wee hours of the night while we were doing our watches, we chatted on the VHF radio, about all sorts of things. When I wasn't able to get Grib forecasts over the HF radio, Dave, who has an Iridium sat phone, called over to give us a synopsis of the latest weather that he'd downloaded. For fun, Dave came up with some contests �"Guess what time we'll arrive at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.�" It's been really great, having someone else to interact with, out here on the ocean.

During our passage �- which I've already admitted earlier wasn't ideal from a weather standpoint, but was doable and was the best we could hope for in the coming weeks �- we kept a very watchful eye on the progress of the Low pressure systems and their associated fronts. In order to have a safe �- and maybe even a comfortable �- passage to New Zealand, we needed to be at the right place at the right time, with regard to these weather systems, for the entire week.

For instance, that Low that formed and spun in the Tasman Sea while we were on our way did, in fact, move south and weaken as it was forecast to do. But then it got sneaky. On the day that we were scheduled to arrive in northern NZ, the Low was forecast to re-strengthen in its new position in the south and, like a spiteful brat, throw three or four new fronts up north toward us. One of them looked like it was going to form an arc over the top of NZ, just as we arrived. If we were fast enough, we might be able to get underneath it before it formed. Go SCOOTS go!

As the sun rose on our last day, and NZ was in our sights, it looked like we had successfully outrun the final front and threaded all the necessary weather needles along the way.

And yet...

As dawn was approaching, I noticed that, every once in awhile, some of the clouds to the west of us briefly lit up. Was it the beam from the lighthouse on North Cape reflecting off the clouds? No, that was too far away. As I continued watching, and more clouds lit up, a sinking feeling came over me. That was no lighthouse; that was lightning.

During all our time in the South Pacific, we've seen very little lightning; and had none around us. Now, here, in New Zealand, were we going to sail through a lighting storm?! Yes, apparently we were. I'd expect this in Panama, but in New Zealand?! I woke Eric up a few minutes early and together we readied the boat for the possibility of a lightning strike: we disconnected our HF antenna from its tuner, attached a pair of jumper cables to the main shroud and let them dangle over the side in the water, put our various portable electronics into our green metal �"lightning�" box and the oven, and girded our emotional loins for the storm.

Had we been at anchor, we would also have disconnected our VHF antenna, but since we were sailing in an area of relatively heavy boat traffic, with decreased visibility, we left it on not only so we could communicate with other boats, but also because the antenna also carries our AIS signal, which sends our position to other boats, and allows us to see them. Already, before dawn, I'd had three communications with the helmsman of a Chinese cargo ship that our AIS was indicating would come too close to us. We eventually sorted out our respective courses, and passed about a mile apart.

With rain bucketing, and lightning streaking down to the ocean in every direction �- sometimes quite close by, the thunder shaking us only a few seconds after we saw the bolt �-Eric took a position under the dodger near the chartplotter, where, with the radar going, he monitored the storm's position and tried to steer SCOOTS around it or, when the storm grew to engulf us, through areas that weren't as dense. I couldn't watch, and since there was nothing I could do, to help Eric or to guarantee that SCOOTS wouldn't be struck by lightning, I went below and took slow deep breaths, trying to be calm. Eric would occasionally call down, to tell me what the storm was doing. We each weathered the storm in the way that suited us.

We eventually emerged from the storm, our nerves frayed but our electronics intact. A few miles to our west, Dave and Rewa had also emerged from the storm untouched. I had never been so close to lightning; Eric told me afterwards that some of the lightning strikes had been so close that he could hear them �"sizzle�" as they streaked down to the water. Yikes.

Once the storm was behind us, the wind turned from the southwest, which was in front of us. We sheeted our sails way in, and turned on Y the M to help out. With only about 20 miles to go, and no significant waves to pound into, as the wind was off the land, the ride was pretty comfortable. Dave brought Rewa close and we took photos of each other's boats and chatted on our handheld radios. He even tried to send us a message via paper airplane. Alas, it ditched in the ocean.

At 7 pm, Eric slid SCOOTS over to the Quarantine dock at Marsden Cove Marina, I jumped off with the spring line, and just like that, our passage was over. We had arrived! A few minutes later, we caught Dave's lines when he brought Rewa into the space just behind us. With our Customs clearance scheduled for the next morning, the rest of the evening �- for the few hours that we could keep our eyes open �- was spent on board SCOOTS, the three of us sharing a celebratory drink and creating a dinner using meat and produce that the Biosecurity people would certainly have confiscated in the morning.

The next day, after clearing in, Rewa and SCOOTS made the trip up the Hatea River, to the Town Basin Marina, where many of our friends �- some whom we hadn't seen in a year �- were waiting on the dock to catch our lines and welcome us home with hugs and champagne. I love this life!

Position: 35* 43.49's 174*19.64'e

Fiji to NZ- Day 5

01 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
Vandy
Dec 1.

The strong winds that told us we were still traversing the cold front continued through last night and into this morning. We had sustained winds in the low 20s, all from behind us, which is much nicer than winds in the low 20s from either the front or the side. The waves were all following seas, too, which was nice.This was the weather system that I'd been worried about since leaving Fiji, not knowing how much oomph it was going to pack. The answer: not that much.

Looking at the succession of NOAA satellite photos that began coming in at sunrise, I could see that while we were located at the outer edge of the bulk of the system, a small area just in front of us had filled in with pretty colors. In these pictures, pretty colors are bad: they indicate different amounts of convective activity, i.e, potentially stormy conditions. Behind us, the front had split into two, and was growing in size and intensity, The whole thing, including the area between the two fronts, was ablaze with large swathes of pretty colors. We were glad to have gotten across most of the front, before it grew.

As we traversed the small area of convective activity, we got a lot of rain, and the wind increased. We saw some gusts of just over 30 knots, but mostly the wind stayed in the upper 20s. About two hours after it began, we seemed to have emerged onto the other side: patches of blue sky appeared in the clouds, and the wind dropped to 13 knots and backed to the west. Of course, we put our mainsail up. Our friend, Dave, on s/v Rewa, who was still a couple of miles behind us, put his up as well. Off we sailed along a lovely beam reach.

During the night, Eric went on deck to attend to a line (rope) on the foredeck. While he was up there, I kept an eye on him from the cockpit. He was wearing his harness, and clipping to our jacklines, but we still always spot each other when one of us is on deck, especially at night. SCOOTS was rolling and tilting a bit, so he sat down on deck so that he could use both of his hands to tie the line. When he got back to the cockpit, I smelled a very strong fishy odor. Sniffing around, I discovered that it was coming from the seat of his pants. When I shone a flashlight at the source of the smell, there, on the back of his pants, was an outline of either a squid or a flying fish. Eeuw. Ah, the glamours of the cruising life!

The wind died a little while later, so we fired up Y the M. We ended up motoring for the rest of the day and into the night, making our way across a large zone of light air, left behind when the front passed, hoping to get to the other side, where there was wind.

Position at 430pm 1 Dec: 27* 01.94's, 175* 09.17e Miles gone: 578 Miles to go: 486

We're more than halfway!

Fiji to NZ - Day 4

30 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
Vandy
Nov. 30 Another beautiful day! We're still motoring, as the wind has dropped to be of no use to us for propulsion.

Since we started using Backup Bender as our autopilot, I've been having to hand steer during the time that Eric attempts to send and receive our messages, and download our weather forecasts, over the SSB radio. This is because Backup Bender is more sensitive to the frequencies we use for these purposes, causing him to steer all over the place while we're transmitting. I liken it to tickling him under the armpits, while he's trying to drive.

We took regular Bender out of duty after he began driving with twitchy movements, a day or so ago. It's good to have two complete autopilots. Other than his sensitivity to our radio transmissions, Backup Bender has been doing a great job.

What all this means is that if I wanted a chance to have fresh forecasts in the morning (I did), I'd have to hand steer immediately after coming off my 4-7am watch, rather than doing what I really wanted to do, which was to take a snooze. The propagation in the morning has been so awful, that it's taken more than an hour to get the forecasts, if they come in at all.

After two days of this, I decided that I could live without fresh forecasts in the morning, and just use the evening forecast instead, since we're both up and fully-snoozed at that time of day. (Forecasts are updated four times daily, but propagation is best in the morning and evening.) We started that schedule today, and I like it already: propagation is better in the evening, so I don't have to steer as long, and I don't miss my nap.

We had a couple of fly-bys today: a masked booby and a red-tailed tropicbird each did some laps of SCOOTS, checking us out. I was particularly pleased to see the tropicbird. They're one of my favorite sea birds, and I only see one or two of them as I travel between NZ and Fiji; never once I get to the tropics.

Conditions were light enough today that we were able to play cards in the cockpit this afternoon. Five games of Spite & Malice. I won four of them, giving me bragging rights as �"Queen of the Universe.�"

We took the mainsail down this morning in preparation for the north winds that are predicted to pick up today and tonight, so that we could run with two headsails. Sure enough, the wind began to fill in from the north in the afternoon. It was almost immediately too strong for our Code 0 sail, so Eric rigged up our jib and staysail, wing on wing, which allowed us to give Y the M a rest, while the wind blows SCOOTS south.

Noon position: 24* 20.05'S, 177* 30.52'E

Miles gone at noon: 415 Miles to go: 649

Fiji to NZ Day 3

29 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
Vandy
Today we enjoyed another lovely sunny day. At night, the sky was full of stars, and the bioluminescent critters in the ocean made the surface look like liquid diamonds. The weather is definitely cooler now: we're both wearing pants and shirts during watches now, no longer sailing as Captain and Admiral Underpants. During my second watch tonight, I even put on socks. Socks!

Dinner tonight was a salad, and some of a lasagna that I'd made and frozen, back when we were in NZ. I wanted to make sure that we ate at least some of it before we arrived back in NZ, as the Biosecurity officials would certainly make us dump it into the big black garbage bag. And what a waste that would be!

Yanmar the Magnificent has been moving us along smartly during this period of light wind. We expect the wind to fill in from behind us throughout the day; we should be sailing by the next update. Also by the next update, we should have crossed though a front at the edge of that Low. We've been watching it, and it looks like it will be mostly wind (behind us, yay!) with maybe some rain thrown in. Nothing that looks too boisterous. I'll let you know how it went, tomorrow.

I'm really enjoying the gentle conditions we've had so far on this passage. In previous years, we would have been doused, shaken, and stirred for three days by now. Of course, the trip was faster. This upholds the sailing adage: you can have a fast trip OR a comfortable trip. After two fast trips to NZ, I'm really enjoying this comfortable one!

Position at 530am local time 30 Dec: 23 39.29s, 175 35.09e Miles gone: 374 Miles to go: 691

PS. We haven't had any critters on deck.
Vessel Name: SCOOTS
Vessel Make/Model: Able Apogee 50
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed to Mexico with the 2014 Baja Haha and had fun exploring Mexico until April 2016, when we turned SCOOTS west and headed to the South Pacific. As of late Nov. 2016, SCOOTS and her crew are exploring New Zealand.
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SCOOTS's Photos - Santa Rosalia
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