Our Ever-Changing Backyard--Sailing with Scoots

17 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
13 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
12 June 2019 | Marsden Cove Marina, Ruakaka, NZ
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

Passage to the Tropics - Day 4: Happy Father's Day, the China Net

17 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Hello! We've had a lovely day and night here, since I last reported. The nearly-full moon was very bright last night. It turned a swath of sea into a golden road, sparkling with moon-shine, leading from the horizon to right where SCOOTS slid through the calm water, and lit up the rest of the sea over a vast distance. It backlit the towering cumulus clouds that loomed nearby, replacing their otherwise sinister presence with a soft, friendly glow.

The sea has been calm, and the wind very light, for the past day or so. That's nice for sightseeing, but not so good for sailing. A couple hundred miles from our destination of North Minerva Reef, we either had to slow down to arrive at the pass into Minerva at dawn in two days, or speed up to arrive before sunset in one day. Being no good at slowing down, we pressed Yanmar the Magnificent into service. He's been doing a great job of moving SCOOTS toward Minerva Reef at a speed that will allow us to enjoy sundowners there with our friends tomorrow evening.

This morning, Eric awoke to find Father's Day emails from both of our kids. Eric and I had forgotten that today is Father's Day in the States, but Kelly and Nick remembered. Well done, guys. You made your dad's day.

In addition to the usual long-range radio net that we participate in - The South Pacific Cruisers' Net - whose participants cover a few thousand miles, we have also set up an informal radio net among some of the fleet of us who left Marsden Cove last Thursday. Eric dubbed this the China Net, for reasons that I'll soon explain. Current participants include Liam & Annie on the boat, Gone With the Wind; Dave, on the boat Rewa; and Gail & Tony on the boat Cetacea. It's fun to chat with someone on another boat twice a day, to see how things are going with them.

As an aside, you may remember Dave and Rewa from my reports of our passage from Fiji to NZ last Nov/Dec, during which we and Rewa were in visual and VHF contact for the whole way. Well, once again, also by happenstance rather than by design, we're traveling in close proximity.

OK, so why the China Net? While we were all still in Town Basin Marina, in Whangarei, Liam - who, along with Annie, is Australian - began to amuse Eric with some Aussie rhyming slang. For example, the phrase "I'm gonna hit the frog," for an Aussie, means "I'm going to leave." Why? Well, it means to "hit the road." "Road" rhymes with "frog and toad." But instead of saying, "hit the frog and toad," it's just shortened to "hit the frog."

Another rhyming slang that Liam taught Eric was "china," as in "you're my china." This means "you're my best mate." Why? Well, "mate" rhymes with "china plate." But instead of saying, "you're my china plate," it's just shortened to "you're my china."

And so, because our informal net is composed of good friends, including the Aussie who shared taught us the rhyming slang, Eric calls it the China Net. Which I think is quite apropos.

Here are today's numbers... The Numbers at Noon: 6/17 Position: 26 32.11'S, 179 22.51'E Course: 026T Speed: 7 knots motorsailing Water temp: 73F Air temp: 74F Barometer: 1019 Wind: 7 knots SSW Seas: nearly calm Miles gone: 626.5 Miles to N Minerva Reef: 196.7 Miles last 24 hours: 168.3 (7 knots avg)

Passage to the Tropics - Day 3: Moderation, the magic latitude, my new electronic friend, butter, and earthquake

16 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Hello! Last night's pleasant sail was a nice contrast to the previous night's raucous one: we enjoyed moderate wind of 12-17 knots on the beam from the west, and small waves of 1 meter or less. Very smooth, very consistent, very quiet. SCOOTS hummed along at 7-9 knots the entire time.

Last night, we crossed 30S. This is a special latitude for yachties traveling north and south in these parts, because for some reason, the fronts and troughs that are attached to the Lows that swirl around in the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and sweep across this stretch of water, seem to carry less oomph north of 30S, than they do south of it. Once you're north of 30S, the talk is that fronts that you encounter *tend* to be less severe , and you're less likely to get (though not immune to getting)sternly whacked by a front. For all the press 30S gets, you'd also expect to see rainbows and unicorns on this side of it.

What we got was a drastic reduction in the wind speed, from the 20-25knots that we'd seen the night before, to the 12-17 knots that I already mentioned. No kidding, that actually happened, right around 30S.

We had no drama today of any kind, in fact I'm having a hard time finding things to report about.

I can report how thrilled I am with our new Iridium GO satellite phone. The impetus for getting one stemmed from my difficulty in downloading weather forecasts and sending emails over the SSB (Single Sideband Radio - our usual method of acquiring forecasts and email while at sea) during our last passage. It seemed like a good idea to have more than one method of communicating while at sea. We can make calls on it, and send and receive texts, BUT, best of all, we have access to data, delivered to us by a constellation of Iridium satellites that encircle the globe. (That would be all the way around the sphere, for you flat-earthers.)

This morning, the wind did as it was forecast to do, which was to change to a direction that was right behind us, and drop in velocity. It's forecast to stay light for most of the rest of our passage, with maybe a bit more filling in in a couple of days. We'll see about that. For the moment, Yanmar the Magnificent is purring away, moving us forward at 6 knots. The waves are still less than 1 meter and the air is warming up. In fact, I've been going barefoot all day. AND, the butter has started to soften.

Oh, here's something interesting: this morning I received an email (yes, by using the Iridium GO) from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), informing us that at 1055 local time, a M7.4 earthquake occurred in the Kermadec Islands. Based on the data, there was no threat of a tsunami. But what makes this interesting to me is that the Kermadecs are only a stone's throw away from us, maybe 200 miles to the east. That's a pretty big earthquake.

That's it for today's report. Below are the numbers for the past 24 hours.

The Numbers at Noon - 6/16 Position:

Passage to the Tropics - Day 2: Requiem for a sail, lots of wind

14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
The day began with light wind, mostly from behind us. We took down the mainsail and put up two of our headsails - our big Code 0 sail and our jib - wing on wing, to catch the wind. This works really well, is much quieter than having the mainsail up in these conditions, and we don't have to worry about accidentally gybing it if the wind switches from one side of the boom to the other. Later, when the wind came more forward, we took down the jib and put up our staysail, on the same tack as the Code 0.

We like our Code 0. It has worked hard for us over the past 6 years, and has some scars to show for it: Back in 2014, as we were sailing down the Pacific Coast of Mexico, our spinnaker pole broke. In the ensuing melee, the guy (one of the ropes holding the ends of the spinnaker) got loose and went zinging past the forestay, where the Code 0 was furled up quietly, minding its own business. As the guy went zinging past, it burned a hole through the Code 0, all the way down to the metal furling rod, leaving a series of holes in the sail that, when the sail was opened, looked as if it had been on the wrong end of a machine gun. We patched all the holes, and put the Code 0 back in action.

Then, in 2016, as we were crossing the Pacific, flying the Code 0, it swept across in front of the mast, getting caught on our foredeck light, which protruded forward from the mast about twenty feet up. The sail tore almost completely across, as it tried to free itself from the light. As Eric and I stood on the deck, looking up at the carnage, trying to figure out how to get the sail off the light, and then down off the furler, the sail gave one more herculean effort, ripping the foredeck light off the mast, and flinging it into the sea, freeing itself in the process. We were then able to pull the sail down, whereupon it spent the remainder of the trip across the Pacific in its sailbag.

When we got to New Zealand several months later, we took the Code 0 to a sailmaker in Opua, to see if it could be salvaged. To our delight and surprise, the sailmaker said that he could fix the sail, but that there were probably only a couple more years of life in it. He made a really nice repair, and our Code 0 was back in action, helping to move SCOOTS along to more destinations.

Today, two years later, our Code 0 was doing just that: catching the wind and moving SCOOTS north toward Fiji. The wind was still light - well below the tolerance of our Code 0. I was standing in the cockpit, looking up at the sail, when BAM!, the sail exploded. A gust must have caught it, and in an instant, a portion of the clew (the corner of the sail where the sheets - ropes - are tied) separated from the rest of the sail, still tied to the sheet. The rest of the sail - still attached to the furler - began flapping in the breeze, as pieces of sail detached and fluttered down to the ocean.

It was a very sad scene.

But we didn't have time to ponder it. Immediately, Eric and I jumped into action, furling what remained of the Code 0, and pulling in the sheet, still attached to the clew of the sail. We put on our PFDs and harnesses, clipped in, and then, as I hoisted the Code 0's cover up over the messy furling job, Eric climbed up onto the pulpit and, holding onto our jib forestay with one hand, and a boathook in the other, proceeded to stuff and prod the wad of sail into the bag as I raised it. All of this operation made more interesting by the 2 meter waves that rocked the boat. Yes, this is our life sometimes.

We eventually got the sail tucked into its cover, where it now rests, permanently retired from duty. It had a good life, our Code 0. It got to see a lot of the world, as it moved SCOOTS along over many sea miles. I guess that's all a sail would really want.

We put up the jib alongside the staysail, which, with the forecast of more wind to come, was what we would have done anyway. As it got dark, the wind began to rise. During the night, it was consistently 20-25 knots, with some periods that were 25-30 knots. Fortunately, the waves didn't rise with the wind, staying at about 2 meters. The two headsails worked great, moving SCOOTS along at 7-9 knots, with one burst of 11 knots (a record for us). All in all, it was a loud, rollicking night.

This morning was sunny, and still windy, but the direction had changed from SW to W, so we took down the staysail and put up the main (with one reef), and continued on our merry way. An albatross did a flyby. I get excited every time I see one of them. They're SO BIG!

The Numbers at Noon: June 15 Position: 31 27.12'S, 176 44.36'E Speed: 8.8 kn Course: 019 T Wind: 16kn Sea: 2m swell SW, with 1m wind waves Clouds: 40% (which means 60% sunshine!) Sea temp: 68F Air temp: 67F Barometer: 1014 Miles gone last 24 hours: 159 Miles total: 297.5

Passage to the Tropics - Day 1

13 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Hello from the South Pacific Ocean about 150 nm from the northern tip of New Zealand! All is well aboard the good ship SCOOTS, as her crew regain their sealegs and remember how to sail her after six months in port.

We left Marsden Cove Marina near Whangarei, NZ, at noon yesterday, along with 16 other voyagers, most of them our friends, and all eager to ride the favorable weather window that was forecast between NZ and the tropics. It was quite a parade that left the marina, one boat getting underway after the other, for the better part of an hour, with some conch blowing, horn tooting, and "see ya laters." A very festive end to our summer stay in New Zealand.

The first part of the trip was kind to us recovering landies...very light winds and almost-flat seas. We fired up Y the M and motored across the sunlit water. Awhile later, though, this being the Northland in New Zealand, gray clouds gathered, floated over, and rained on us for the next six hours or so. Oh well, it was a glorious start, anyway.

With more than a dozen sailboats traveling nearby, our night watches required more than the usual amount of attention to the chart plotter. Throw in a couple of cargo ships and a cruise ship - who had the job of avoiding all us boats who were strung out along the coastline - and some fun conversations on the VHF radio with friends on boats nearby, it made for an interesting night.

We'd put a reef in our mainsail last night when I came up for my 10pm watch, because of some blustery wind that accompanied a squall. Being surrounded by squalls, I thought it would be a good idea to shorten sail. However. That was the only wind we saw that was higher than 10 knots for the rest of the night, and not wanting to wake Eric up during his off--watch (sleep is golden when we're on passage), we spent the night going slow or relying on Y the M.

This morning the sun was out again and the wind was up a little - 10 to 15 knots from almost right behind us, with 6 foot waves from our port quarter and beam. A bit rolly. Friends of ours on a catamaran complained that it was bouncy. I had to laugh...monohulls like SCOOTS roll, and catamarans bounce, with the waves. We each choose our poison. We took down the mainsail and put up our Code 0 and jib, wing on wing. We ended up taking the jib down and relying mostly on the Code 0, which is moving SCOOTS along quite nicely.

I'll check in again tomorrow.

The Numbers at Noon 6/14/19: Position: 33 52.44 S, 175 38.58 E Speed: 7.7 knots Course: 012 T Water temp: 66.2F (it was 60F when we left, so that's an improvement) Wind: 15kn SW Sea: 2m swell from SW Miles in last 24 hours: 138.5 Miles to go: we don't know yet, but at least several hundred. We haven't decided whether to head for Savusavu, Fiji, or North Minerva Reef.

Getting Ready to Leave for Fiji! :D

12 June 2019 | Marsden Cove Marina, Ruakaka, NZ
Vandy Shrader

After a lovely summer and fall in New Zealand, SCOOTS and her crew are preparing to leave for Fiji tomorrow. We've been watching the weather forecasts for several weeks, and NOW is the time to go.

Lots of other boats...maybe two dozen or more!...will be departing New Zealand tomorrow for various tropical locales. We'll have lots of company as we sail north for the next 5-7 days.

I'll do my usual daily check-ins here at Sailblogs, so you can see what we're up to.

You can track our progress at Yachts in Transit www.yit.nz, where I'll also be reporting each day.

And, Eric will be updating our position at Winlink as well, which shows our position on the "Where We Are Right Now" link on the right-hand sidebar.

See you out there!

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
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.
SCOOTS's Photos - Nuku Hiva circumnav
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Added 6 June 2016