Our Ever-Changing Backyard--Sailing with Scoots

25 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
21 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
19 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
14 October 2019 | Savusavu, Fiji
27 July 2019 | Tavoro Waterfalls, Taveuni Island, Fiji
15 July 2019 | Viani Bay
23 June 2019 | En route to Savusavu, Fiji, from N. Minerva Reef
20 June 2019 | North Minerva Reef
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

I Spy Something Blue...

25 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
Vandy
I Spy Something Blue...

We�'re in the eighth day of what�'s usually a seven-day passage for us, and which will probably end up being a nine-day
passage. That�'s what happens, when you go a couple hundred miles west of the rhumb line: you have to tack back. We
knew that would happen, but decided when we left, that it was worth it to us, to have a nice nine-day passage, rather
than a sucky shorter passage. Or to wait around in Fiji to see whether that cyclone that was in the forecast would hit us
or not.

When we left, one of the models showed it making a direct hit on Fiji sometime this week. Since then, it has gone from
being an imaginary cyclone to a real cyclone �- Cyclone Rita, to be specific. It�'s taken aim at the island nation of
Vanuatu, about 600 miles west of Fiji, and is predicted to fizzle out in a couple of days. So our friends who chose to
stay behind in Fiji, hoping that the cyclone wouldn�'t come, and waiting for a better weather window, may just receive
that. Good on �'em. I hope they have a great passage. As for us, you may recall that our hurricane plan is RUN. So we
did. And it�'s been quite a nice passage, so far.

Out here, about 190 miles north of New Zealand, the sun is shining and we have blue skies above us. In fact, every day
of our passage so far has been sunny and blue, every night starry and clear �- except for yesterday, which was cloudy.
If we�'re going to be out here for a couple of extra days, it�'s good that the weather is nice. The seas have also settled
down, and are undulating slowly, like an expansive blue plain.

Every inch of SCOOTS�' exterior is covered in a thick layer of salt. Friends of ours, on arrival after a particularly
splashy passage, have a tradition of having a shot of tequila along with a dash of sea salt swiped from the hull. It�'s a fun
idea; we might do that when we get to Opua.

About a half dozen large, chocolate-brown shearwaters are flying zigzag patterns behind SCOOTS, scanning her wake
for tidbits. I may have thrown them some pieces of meat. I was going to tell you which species I think this is, but on
consulting my bird book I just discovered that there are four or five large, chocolate-brown shearwaters native to NZ,
so I�'m just going to leave it at that. An albatross also showed up for a slow, regal fly-by, the C5 to the shearwaters�'
C130. So I�'ve gotten to see my albatross.

We�'re in what I�'m calling Phase 3 of our passage: tacking back to NZ. You may recall that Phase 1 was: sailing SW to
stay ahead of the Low that was rolling in from the east, but not so far west that it would take forever to get back; a time
of some angst (on my part), partially relieved by obsessively studying the forecasts, trying to figure out where that point
was. Phase 2 was: squash zones; sailing in higher winds and seas; lots of heeling, pounding, seawater washing over the
deck. Each Phase is taking about three days. Phase 1 and Phase 3 have had comfortable sailing conditions; Phase 2,
not so much.

When I last wrote, I described the conditions during our first day of squash zone sailing. The next two days were
similar. We did end up far enough west, when the Low made its closest point of approach, that we never saw more
than 22 knots of true wind, or more than 29 knots of apparent wind. The seas never rose above about 8 feet, were
about 8 seconds apart, and most were rolling rather than breaking. The meter-high wind waves, however, added some
chaos to the mix, coming at us at a higher frequency, bouncing SCOOTS around a bit.

Yesterday we entered Phase 3. The wind slowly eased down through the teens to the less than 5 knots that it is now,
where it will remain for the next couple days. The seas have also slowly abated, taking on that slow, low, rolling that I
mentioned. After days and days of sailing, we fired up Yanmar the Magnificent yesterday. He�'ll provide most of our
propulsion from now on, until we tie up at the Customs dock in Opua, hopefully tomorrow evening.

When we were scanning the horizon for traffic yesterday afternoon, we spotted a sail about a mile away. This would be
only the second boat we�'d seen on our passage, the other being a cargo ship several days earlier. Our call on VHF
was answered by the boat�'s skipper, who told us that it was s/v Taliesin, Lin and Larry Pardey�'s second boat, which
they had sold. He was tacking to NZ as well, having left Tonga two weeks earlier. In case you�'re not familiar with Lin
and Larry, they spent decades sailing all over the world in their first boat, s/v Seraffyn, and later, s/v Taliesin. They
shared their adventures in several interesting and entertaining books, books that have been instrumental in recruiting
many people into the cruising life, yours truly included. Though we had no intention of cruising �"their�" way, which was
quite minimalistic - Seraffyn had no head (yes, they did �"bucket and chuck it�" for years), nor engine, and I believe that
Taliesin has a head, but is also engineless �- we were drawn to the mobile, self-sufficient, out-in-nature, exploratory life
that they described.

I made a roast chicken yesterday, an early Thanksgiving dinner for us. We have a tradition of eating a Thanksgiving
meal on this passage, except for last year, when we had Thanksgiving in Fiji. Since we�'ll have to surrender all our meat
and produce to the Biosecurity officials in Opua, I decided that we�'d better eat it sooner rather than later. Along with
some peas and carrots, I also made something like a cranberry sauce, out of dried cranberries (try getting fresh ones in
Fiji!), that I soaked in orange juice, and then cooked for a little while, adding sugar and spices. We were happy with
the result! And, the conditions on this first day of Phase 3 were reasonable enough that we were able to enjoy our meal
at the cockpit table, rather than holding our plates (or bowls) in our laps, for the first time on this passage.

Eric just reminded me that our bodies are going to have to start making their own body heat again, something they
haven�'t had to do, during our last six months in the tropics. He�'s right, of course. It�'s 68 degrees in the cabin, and
we�'ve been sleeping under a comforter for the past three nights!

I�'ll leave you now, with today�'s Numbers at Noon:
31 57S/173 44E
Course: 172T
Speed: 6.7 kn motorsailing
Wind: 2.9 kn from the NE
Seas: <1m
Miles gone: 1104NM (the rhumb line distance from Denarau to the Opua Approach is 1040 NM)
Miles to go: 188.6NM

We are looking to arrive at the Customs dock in Opua at about 7pm tomorrow.
Cheers, Vandy

Halfway there...maybe

21 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
Vandy
Hello again. We're just entering our fifth day of sailing from Fiji to New Zealand. I'm only posting to Sailblogs every other day because the motion of the
boat isn't particularly conducive to sitting inside staring at letters on a computer screen for very long. I am posting a short update to YIT every day , so if
you get a hankering to see where we are and what we're up to more often than every other day, you can pop over there. www.yit.co.nz

Since I last posted to the blog, we had one more day and night of absolutely lovely sailing, and then we entered the squash zone that I talked about.
We've been in the squash zone for about a day now, with perhaps another day of it to go. What it looks and feels like is...we have wind from 16-25
knots, from the SSE, and the waves have built to about 2.5 meters (about 8 feet), also from the SSE. We are going SSW so SCOOTS is still hard on the
wind. Every now and then, SCOOTS goes off the top of a wave, banging down hard into the trough behind it, or plows into a wave, instead of sliding
over it, bringing a cascade of water washing over the deck. Inside, as well as under our hard dodger in the forward part of the cockpit, we're cozy and
dry. Every once in awhile, though, it's as if some guy tosses a bucketful of water across the aft part of the cockpit, dousing everything aft of the dodger.

SCOOTS is well-equipped for these conditions, with two reefing points (places to shorten her mainsail) and a staysail (a headsail that's smaller than our
genoa jib), and a sturdy, streamlined construction. Yesterday, when the wind and seas rose, we swapped the staysail for the genoa, and pulled the main
down into the second reef. That kept the ride pretty comfortable for the rest of the day and night. This morning, hoping to make more headway to the
south, we pulled the mainsail up into the first reef. Less comfortable, more speed.

Given the conditions, we're pretty satisfied with our progress. We've made some headway to the south, and we've come far enough west to dodge the
most intense wind and waves of the Low. This is good, but in doing that, we've sailed by New Zealand. Yes, we're now west of New Zealand. While
this is a bit annoying, it's not a problem, really. We'll just have to tack at some point, and start sailing SE. According to the forecasts, it looks like a good
time to do that would be sometime on Sunday (today is Friday), as the wind is predicted to be coming straight out of the south by then, so sailing SE
would be another close reach. Hopefully not as close as our reaches have been for the past four days.

Two days ago, a tropicbird flew near SCOOTS for awhile. These are one of my favorite kinds of seabirds, and I almost never see them anymore, since
they're very rare in Fiji and not native to New Zealand. About once per passage, one does a fly-by, and it makes my day.

The Numbers
11/21/2019
24 37S/174 11E
Course 218T
Speed 7.0 kn
Wind 16 knots SSE
Sea 1.5m SSE
Temp 81F
Weather Sunny
Bar 1014mb
Miles gone 462


11/22/2019
26 28S/172 35E
Course 210T
Speed 6.5kn
Wind 16-21kn SSE
Sea 2.5m swell + 1m wind waves SSE
Temp 76F
Weather Sunny
Bar 1018mb
Miles gone 606
Bar 1018

Hello from the South Pacific - It's always about the weather

19 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
Vandy
Hello from the South Pacific!
We�'re on our way from Fiji to New Zealand. We left Port Denarau noon local time on Monday, so we�'ve
been at sea for two days now. The weather is sunny and warm, very nice. If you�'d like to follow along,
look for SCOOTS at Yachts in Transit (www.yit.co.nz <http://www.yit.co.nz/>). I�'ll be sending daily
updates.

We took a weather window that I would describe as �"the best that we would get for awhile, considering
the circumstances.�" I like to wait for an optimum weather window, but this year, my hand has been forced
by the forecast of an early season tropical storm that may in fact become a cyclone and will either impact
Fiji or Vanuatu sometime next week.

Rather than hanging around in Fiji to see whether or not it was visited by a tropical storm next week, and
then wait another week or two (into December now), for another weather window to (hopefully) develop,
we took what we had and we�'re making it work. This fits nicely with our tried-and-true hurricane plan:
RUN, rather than hide.

So here�'s what we�'ve got: The players in our passage weather are a High pressure system between us and
NZ (this is good), and a big, nasty Low forming well to the east of us that�'s going to move a little bit
towards us on Friday or Saturday as we sail southwest toward NZ (this is bad), but is not going to come all
the way to where we are (this is good). What it is going to to do, as it moves in our direction, is press on
the isobars of our High to make them squish together, creating what is aptly called a �"squash zone,�" where
the wind is stronger than it would otherwise be. And also, in this case, it will cause these strong winds to
blow from the south, which is basically the direction that we want to be going.

But, we saw that if we left last Monday, the forecast for the first three days called for light to moderate
wind, and reasonable seas, which would give us time to get south, and then head more west away from the
big, nasty Low as it moved toward us.

So that�'s what we�'ve been doing for the past two days...heading as much south as we can. We�'re on a
tight reach, which means pointing SCOOTS close to the wind (in this case we�'ve been sailing between 35
and 45 degrees off the wind) while keeping her speed up. She�'s been doing great, and while we�'re heeled
over a bit, the ride�'s pretty comfortable at the moment. Almost no water over the bow at all.

We expect to enter the squash zone sometime tomorrow, which means 20-25 knot winds and probably
some higher seas for a day or so. This may slow our southern progress, but if it does that�'s okay. We�'ll put
in some more west and keep going. West is away from the Low.

The winds should start to ease late Saturday or early Sunday, as the Low moves off toward the east and
the squash zone relaxes. Then, we�'ll figure out our best course to Opua.

Yesterday, while we were out doing some odd jobs on deck, a small private jet flew towards us from the
SW (nothing in that direction for like a thousand miles), and began to circle us. At first we thought it was
cool, and we waved. But on the third time around, it began to get a little creepy. We were relieved when
they finally headed toward Fiji.

Here are the numbers for yesterday and today, in case anyone�'s keeping track.
11/19/2019 �- 24 hours
20 02�'S/176 48�'E
Course: 194* True
Speed: 6.4 knots motorsailing
Wind: 5 knots SE
Waves: <1m SE
Water temp: 78F
Air temp: 85F
Sunny with a few cumulus clouds.
Bar 1011mb
Miles gone: 146
Miles to Opua: 912
No fish or squid on deck.

11/20/2019 �- 48 hours
22 09�'S/175 45�'E
Course 211* True
Speed: 7.4 knots mainsail and jib
Wind: 12 kn SE
Waves: <1m SE
Air temp: 83F
Sunny with almost no clouds.
Bar 1011
Miles gone last 24 hrs: 143; Miles total: 289
Miles to Opua: 769
No fish or squid on deck.

Full Masti! Family -Part 3: Cloud Nine, Now We Are Four, The Wishlist, Saying Goodbye, Now We Are Two

11 November 2019 | Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
Vandy Shrader
Cloud Nine is a floating bar, pizza restaurant, party spot and diving platform, anchored out by the reef near the Cloud Break surf spot, a few miles west of Musket Cove. We'd never been there, but we'd been looking for a reason to go. Now, with The Fam visiting, we had our reason!



A couple hours after leaving Saweni Bay, we threaded our way through the narrow entrance in the reef around Cloud Nine, and dropped SCOOTS' anchor in 40 feet of the clearest water I'd seen in months. I could watch the anchor drop all the way to the white sand! What a stunningly beautiful place!

With plans for a pizza dinner a few hours later on Cloud Nine, Tara, Eric, Kelly, Daniel, and I headed for a nearby reef to do some snorkeling. The water was calm and clear, there were lots of fish and colorful coral, even a giant clam!

Late in the afternoon, our friend Jose, who'd been hanging out on Cloud Nine, swam over to SCOOTS. During our chat, he mentioned that Cloud Nine closes at around sunset. Seeing as how it was already 4:30, we realized we'd better get a move-on!

Since Eric was net controller for the South Pacific Radio Net that evening at 5:30, and since dinghies aren't allowed to tie up to Cloud Nine, he dropped the rest of us off there at about 5:00, with a request to bring him back some pizza. With friendly shouts of "Bula!", three smiling Cloud Nine employees helped us from our dinghy to the floating platform, where loud electronic music was playing, and let us know that we had about 30 minutes to enjoy the place. Now, what would we like to drink?




After perusing the extensive cocktail menu, and the short pizza menu, we each chose a different, intriguing-sounding drink, ordered pizza, and settled into comfy seats to enjoy the ambiance and the scenery. Kelly, Daniel, and Peyton lounged on a large, cushy mattress at the edge of the platform while they enjoyed their drinks. "This is wonderful," Tara said. "The only thing that would make it better is Fijian music."




At 5:30 pm, closing time, the electronic music was switched off, and Fijian reggae took its place. Tara and I looked at each other and smiled. We enjoyed our drinks, our pizza, and a spectacular sunset. The employees went about their closing tasks while singing along to the music, unconcerned that we were still there. I'd told them that we'd be leaving a little late.

While we'd been enjoying our drinks and pizza, the wind had come up. What had been calm water when we'd arrived, was now choppy waves. It was going to be a very wet ride back, and I was a little worried about everyone getting safely onto SCOOTS' deck from the dinghy. I needn't have worried: everyone arrived back completely soaked, laughing uproariously at every dousing wave (what else can you do?), and managed to get safely onto SCOOTS' deck from the pitching dinghy.

The wind was now blowing more than 20 knots, in defiance of the forecast of calm, settled weather that had been pivotal to our decision to anchor here for the night. When Eric gave me a "WTF?" look, all I could do was shrug. With the prospect of a very windy night ahead, Eric and I, pros at taking down our large sunshade (AKA Bedouin tent) in high wind, because we always wait too long to do it, did so again, grabbing handfuls of the flapping fabric, pulling it down, and stuffing it into its canvas bag while the tie-down ropes slapped at our faces.

A couple of hours later, as inexplicably as it had come, the wind calmed down, and we were treated to a beautiful, calm, starry night, enjoyed especially by Kelly and Daniel, who slept on the dodger roof, with the Southern Cross and Milky Way as their night lights.

The next morning, we made the short trip back to Musket Cove, where, after a lovely morning and afternoon at the resort's beach, and a nice lunch, we said a sad farewell to Tara, Peyton, and Bob - who'd transmogrified during his time with us from Vanilla Chief, through Strawberry Chief, to become more of a Caramel Chief - as they boarded the Malolo Cat IV ferry to Denarau, and would catch their flight back to the States later that night.




During their time with us, Tara, Bob, and Peyton had completely relaxed into the cruising life: enjoying an unscheduled existence, a slow pace of life, and freedom from societal pressures such as feeling the need to wear a different outfit every day, to wear makeup, or to shave. Tara had taken off her watch when she'd boarded her flight to Fiji. and she'd left it off the whole time she was with us. She embraced every aspect of her time with us with full-on appreciation and gusto: she loved the colors of the water, the scents of the islands, the friendliness of the Fijians, the variety of the marine life; the songs of the birds on shore. She rose before dawn each morning, capturing the sunrise in a time-lapse video as she sat quietly on deck, and returned each dusk to capture the sunset. It was a beautiful thing to witness.




Now we are Four
After saying goodbye to Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief, we grilled some sausages at the nightly cruisers' potluck at the Island Bar, and talked about what Kelly and Daniel would like to do for the remaining five days of their vacation. On their list: snorkeling; relaxing; a visit to Tom Hanks (Monuriki) Island; trying kava; seeing mantas, sharks, turtles, and fruit bats.

We were joined by Chuck and Lauri from s/v Free Spirit, who'd wanted to meet Kelly and Daniel, particularly since they knew that Kelly had come up with the term "ginner," to describe the heavy hors d'ouevres and drinks that we cruisers sometimes enjoy instead of more "traditional" dinner fare. Having shared many ginners with Chuck and Lauri, this was a fun and fitting introduction.

Keen to get started on Kelly and Daniel's wish list, we left the next morning and motored north to Monuriki Island.



This time, we arrived before the tourist boats, and had the island to ourselves for a couple of hours. We wandered its beaches, tidepools, and jungle trails; Kelly and Daniel posed for a picture reminiscent of a scene from Castaway;



and we spent awhile lounging in the warm, clear water that lapped on the beach. The breakers were much smaller than when we'd visited with Tara & Co., and our dinghy trip back to SCOOTS was much less exciting. Nobody arrived with cruise bruises.

With the sea state so calm, we decided to take a chance and head north to Navadra. One of our favorite places on the west side of Fiji, Navadra is a beautiful lagoon bordered by three curving islands. White sand beckons from shore, and coral from below. The water is a lovely shade of dark turquoise. A flock of goats roams the islands, and who doesn't like goats? The flip side of all this perfection is the tendency for the anchorage to be rolly. When we dropped the anchor, mid-afternoon, the water was calm, and the forecast was for the settled conditions to continue. We decided to stay.

Kelly, Daniel, and Eric answered the call of the coral and went for a snorkel. They were rewarded with lots of colorful fish and coral, and a sea turtle. Afterwards, back on SCOOTS, we played a rousing game of Oh Hell,



our usual evening entertainment. Every now and then, a small swell would lift SCOOTS up a little bit on one side and she would gently roll back and forth a couple of times. This late in the day, we were committed to staying the night in Navadra - no one travels Fiji's reef-filled waters after dark. We hoped that the swells, still pretty mellow, wouldn't get any more insistent.

But of course, they did. By bedtime, SCOOTS had a moderate roll going, which continued through the night. Kelly and Daniel, who by now had their sea legs, rolled with it like true seafarers.

In the morning, we wasted no time in pulling SCOOTS' anchor up, leaving the now-rolly Navadra anchorage for the calmer water of Mana Lagoon, happening to arrive at low tide, just as we had with Tara, Bob, and Vanilla Chief. The entrance to Mana Lagoon snakes through a shallow, narrow cut in the coral, marked here and there with sticks, buoys, and poles as guidance. At low tide, it can be quite a butt-puckering - and yet a really beautiful - experience. Jagged coral lines the edges of the reef cut, only a few feet away on either side. Swirls and eddies in the channel catch your boat in their meandering flow, slewing it first one way, then the other, with the current. If your engine dies, you're toast. Beneath the surface, colorful coral bommies loom up, in water so clear that it's hard to tell how deep they are. Maybe they're ten feet below, maybe only two. Like Tara and Vanilla Chief a week earlier, Kelly and Daniel took all this in from SCOOTS' deck. It's not something you see every day.

As soon as SCOOTS' anchor was set in the sandy bottom of the lagoon, I went kayaking on the flat-calm water, while Kelly, Daniel, and Eric went snorkeling near the pass. Later in the afternoon, Eric dropped Kelly, Daniel, and me off at the pier. We walked to the north side of the island, in search of the turtle sanctuary, fruit bats, a young dog that lives near the backpacker resort, and ice cream. We found three out of four.

We bought ice cream in one of the resort shops, saw the turtles in the sanctuary, and found the dog, but the fruit bats never made an appearance. Not even one! Just a few days before, when I'd been there with Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief, dozens of them had flown over, or landed in the trees near the pool. We'd watched them for an hour. Today, not a single one flapped across the sky. We couldn't check that one off Kelly and Daniel's list. Along with mantas. Oh well, something for next time.

The wind had come up while we'd been on the island, which meant that we all got soaked by the choppy waves on our way back to SCOOTS. Like Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief before them, Kelly and Daniel also took the dousing in stride, laughing as each wave drenched us with salt water. Because what else can you do?

The next morning, Kelly and Eric went snorkeling near the pass, where they saw a black-tipped reef shark. After they returned, we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor and made our way back to Musket Cove. It was Thursday, the day of the resort's weekly kava ceremony and Fijian feast; there'd be no better opportunity for Kelly and Daniel to try kava and taste some traditional Fijian food. To make things even better, our friends on Gone With the Wind and Rewa were now at Musket Cove!

During the kava ceremony, the four of us each had several cups of kava, while learning some of the culture and history of Fiji. It was fun to experience this Fijian tradition with Kelly and Daniel.

When the kava ceremony ended, we joined our friends, Annie and Liam from Gone With the Wind, and Dave, Tessa, Nick, and Heike from Rewa, at a long table in the restaurant. Smiles, hugs, and introductions were shared, and then we all enjoyed a lovely Fijian feast together. Eric and I were happy that Kelly and Daniel and our cruising family finally got to meet each other.

The next morning, Daniel untied us from the mooring and we left for Castaway Island, where Kelly and Daniel would spend their last night in Fiji. After dropping the anchor, we dinghied around to the beach - staying much drier this time, than we had with Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief - for a nice lunch



and a hike up the hill, oohing and ahhing at the spectacular vistas.



Kelly and Daniel really liked the vibe of Castaway Resort, with its winding paths and cute bures tucked among tropical foliage; it was their favorite of the three resorts that they visited in Fiji.

Our last night together - like all our nights with The Fam - was a delight of card games, stories, and laughing. Lots of laughing.

In the morning, Kelly, Daniel and Eric went snorkeling one last time, and then returned to SCOOTS to begin collecting their things, and packing. Mid-morning, we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor and began heading toward Denarau, where we were expecting to anchor outside the marina and dinghy in. SCOOTS had been on the waiting list for a slip in the marina for a couple of weeks, but none had come available. We decided to call the marina, and check one last time, while we were on our way there. A slip had come available, last minute, that we could take for the night! This would make things much more convenient!

After tying SCOOTS up in her slip, we walked around the shops at Denarau, where Kelly and Daniel shopped for souvenirs and Bula shirts, and took in the vibe of the busy tourist hub. Shopping accomplished, we enjoyed a very tasty lunch at Indigo Indian Restaurant, which never fails to please. While we were there, Kelly and Daniel said that they felt as if the ground were swaying, and asked us if we ever feel that way. Yes, we do, we said, but you get used to it. It just comes with the lifestyle.

The hour of their departure looming, Kelly and Daniel packed their new purchases, and were ready to go. Their ride, Joe, met us in the parking lot in his taxi. After lots of hugs all around, Kelly and Daniel loaded their bags into the trunk of Joe's taxi, got in, and waved goodbye as he drove away.

As I watched them go, I teared up. I missed Kelly and Daniel, Tara, Peyton, and Bob so much already. We'd been looking forward to their visit for so long, had such a good time with them, enjoyed their company so much...and now it was over. Eric, noticing my expression, and maybe feeling the same himself, put his arm around me. As we turned to begin walking back to SCOOTS, he leaned his head toward mine and said, "How about a shot of some good rum?"

PS. I explain the origin of "Full Masti!" and "Vanilla Chief" in Part 1.

Full Masti! Family - Part 2: Wet dinghy rides and cruise bruises, looking for Wilson, chilling at Musket Cove, Now we are Seven

22 October 2019 | Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
Vandy Shrader
We'd told Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief that if you're a cruiser, it's pretty much a given that anywhere you go in your dinghy, you'll arrive with a wet butt. The next day, when we took the dinghy around the corner to the beach at Castaway Resort, looking forward to a hike up the hill and lunch at the resort restaurant, wet butts would have been preferable to the complete soaking we received from slogging through the choppy waves. (Our dinghy doesn't plane with five people on board.)

“We would've been drier if we'd swum here!” Eric announced, as he guided our dinghy through the shallows toward the beach. Dripping from head to toe, as we all were, Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief were good sports, taking their dousing in stride, with good humor. And why not? The weather was warm and sunny, the company friendly, the scenery spectacular. We were together in Fiji!


The Flying Piantanida Sisters in Fiji

Walking the meandering paths through the resort's grounds and the bush walk up the hill behind the resort, was a scenic way to stretch our legs. The trail included not just one but two vista points, each offering spectacular views from a different side of the island.



By the time we'd hiked up to the top of the hill and back down, our clothes were dry, and we were ready to enjoy lunch on the deck of the resort's beachside restaurant.

Our friends, Chuck and Lauri, anchored their boat, Free Spirit, near SCOOTS, and invited all of us over for drinks and snacks (“ginner”), giving Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief their first opportunity to experience the fun and warmth of the cruising community.

Anchored off Castaway Island, Eric and I were happy to see Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief slipping the yoke of their fast-paced life back home and relaxing into the slow tempo of cruising life and Fiji time: enjoying a slow pace, an unscheduled existence, and freedom from such nuisances as wearing shoes or makeup, shaving, and wearing a different outfit every day.

When we were ready for a change of scenery, we moved to the lagoon at Mana Island, about four miles away, where we received several more soakings in the dinghy on our way to and from shore. The next day, having learned that the extensive coral near shore made getting our dinghy to the beach at any time other than high tide nearly impossible, Eric dropped the rest of us off at the floating dock at the pier. Tara, Peyton, Vanilla Chief, and I enjoyed a day at the resort, lounging by the pool, visiting the turtle sanctuary, exploring the tide pools at low tide, and being charmed by the fruit bats who swooped in, late in the afternoon.


Lounging at Mana Island Resort

The next day, we motorsailed eight miles to Monuriki (AKA Tom Hanks Island), crossing, in the process, a stretch of water that wasn't protected by a barrier reef. Here, the ocean waves rolled through unobstructed. About a meter high on this day, they caught SCOOTS on her stern quarter, rolling her first one way, and then the other, in a corkscrew motion. Though we hadn't known beforehand whether Tara, Peyton, or Vanilla Chief were prone to seasickness, I'm happy to report that apparently they're not.

A visit to Monuriki is a must for anyone in the Mamanucas. This is the island where the movie Castaway was filmed. It's a stunningly beautiful place, with white sand, green palms, and water in every imaginable shade of blue. Though uninhabited, it's inundated with several boatloads of tourists for a few hours each day beginning at about 11:30 am. We arrived from Mana Island just as the Jolly Bula sailboat disgorged a couple dozen of them. As we pulled our dinghy up the beach, a Fijian man came by and told us that his village – “Over there, at Yanuya Island”– now requires a $10FJ per person “landing fee.” This was a new development since our visit two years ago. We wondered if it was actually the tour vendors who were extracting the fee, rather than the villagers. Tara graciously paid for all of us, since Eric and I hadn't brought any money to shore.

We explored the island's beaches and took a short walk through the jungle, looking for places that we'd seen in the movie.



Peyton shouted,“Wilson!” On a sandy hillside, the words “Help Me” were spelled out in coconuts. We laughed at how, had Tom Hanks looked out from the island in any other direction than the one he always did in the movie, he would've seen lots of other islands, many of them inhabited. After an hour or so, we returned to our dinghy, and, with careful timing and speedy execution by all, successfully boarded the dinghy and got out past the breakers. Successfully, but not without incident: Tara picked up a trio of “cruise bruises” in the process. Ouch. The marks of a true cruiser!

We sailed SCOOTS to the other side of Mana Island this time, dropping her anchor a few hundred yards off the long white sand beach, and enjoyed a couple days of snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing at this beautiful island paradise.

Musket Cove, on Malolo Lailai Island, was our next stop. With its large resort and cruiser-friendly atmosphere, as well as being a gorgeous spot, Musket Cove was another place we wanted to share with our family. Tara, Peyton, and Vanilla Chief loved relaxing by the resort pool,


Chillin' by the pool at Musket Cove

and hanging out with some of our cruiser friends at the nightly cruisers' potluck at the Island Bar. While at Musket Cove, we attended a kava ceremony put on by the resort. It was really well done! The man who acted as MC had a good sense of humor and also shared a lot of Fijian culture and history with us. As well as plenty of yaqona (the Fijian word for kava). As the eldest man present (by virtue of being one month older than Eric) Vanilla Chief was chosen to preside over the ceremony.


Vanilla Chief drinking kava



Mrs. Vanilla Chief enjoying kava


Peyton trying kava

Afterwards, we enjoyed a Fijian feast (complete with spit-roasted pig) and a meke (Fijian singing and dance). A full masti Fiji experience!

Now we are Seven

A couple of days later, we said goodbye to Musket Cove and motorsailed across to the “mainland” (the big island of Viti Levu), anchoring at Saweni Bay, just south of Lautoka, to await Kelly and Daniel's arrival the next morning.

Our taxi driver friend Raj picked Kelly and Daniel up at the airport and brought them to the beach at Saweni Bay, where Eric and I were waiting. After hugging Kelly and Daniel, we arranged for Raj and a friend to come back with two cars later in the day to transport all of us to Lautoka. We loaded Kelly and Daniel's bags into our dinghy, got in, and zipped back to SCOOTS, where Tara, Bob, and Peyton were waiting with more greetings and hugs.

In the afternoon, we all dinghied to shore, glad for the flat-calm water, as this was the first time our dinghy had transported seven people; had there been any texture to the water at all, it would have been a very, very wet ride. Raj and his cousin were waiting for us in matching Priuses, and after we split up into the two cars, they whisked us off to Lautoka.

We had two reasons for visiting Lautoka: first, we needed to do some more provisioning. Second, we wanted to show Kelly and Daniel a Fijian town. We accomplished both, and more, as Raj and his cousin acted as tour guides during our ride into town, pointing out such attractions as the tracks for the narrow-gauge sugar cane train; the rum distillery, its parking lot jammed with dozens of flatbed trucks piled high with bundles of sugar cane; the sugar mill; and the huge pile of pine chips that gets sent to China on ships and sold back to Fiji as particle board.

Our first stop was the public market. Walking along the aisles, between tables piled high with different local fruits, vegetables, or kava, Kelly and Daniel got to see how we typically shop for our produce. After the public market, we walked down the crowded sidewalk, stopping into Naginda's to check out their selection of Bula shirts, eventually ending up at the shiny Tappoo City mall, where we had lunch at the food court and shopped for groceries at Extra, the clean, modern supermarket. Waiting outside with our full shopping cart, we called Raj who, along with his cousin, turned up five minutes later, to take us back to Saweni Beach.


Enjoying a swim in Saweni Bay

The next morning, Kelly, who gets plenty of experience with mud and anchors for her job at the USGS, helped me pull up SCOOTS' anchor. She sprayed the cylinder of thick, gooey mud off the anchor chain, while I ran the windlass. Anchor up, we were off to our next destination: Cloud Nine.

P.S. If you're wondering about the term Full Masti!, I explain it in Part 1

Pumice Among Us

14 October 2019 | Savusavu, Fiji
Vandy Shrader
Every once in awhile, we get a clear reminder of the volcanic origin of the islands in this part of the world. A bay will be shaped suspiciously like a flooded caldera...or a mountain will look remarkably like a cinder cone...or a beach will be composed of jumbled lava rocks...or steaming hot springs will bubble up out of the ground.

Sometimes, it's more than just a reminder; it's in-your-face, such as when, in 2015 the island of Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha'apai rose from the ocean, formed from a previously submerged volcano.Hunga Tonga


Or, as happened a couple months ago, some yachties sailing in northern Tonga found themselves surrounded by a massive pumice raft, about the size of Manhattan Island. Yachties encounter huge pumice raft at sea.

Accompanied by steam plumes and a sulfury smell, this pumice was the result of the eruption of a nearby underwater volcano.

Since then, the pumice raft has drifted west and broken up into smaller chunks, appearing first in the Lau Group of islands in far eastern Fiji. Later, following the path of Captain Bligh, pumice continued drifting west through the channel (aptly named Bligh Water) between Fiji's two largest islands – Viti Levu to the south and Vanua Levu to the north – and on to the Yasawa Islands of the western region.

This past week, as we traveled east along the northern coast of Viti Levu, we heard reports of pumice from other yachties in the area, but we didn't see any ourselves. Until we sailed across Bligh Water from northern Viti Levu to the southern Vanua Levu a couple days ago.


SCOOTS' track from Volivoli to Savusavu

As we entered the barrier reef around Vanua Levu, we began to see streamers and small rafts of pumice floating in the water.



Floating rocks...how cool is that?! That's not something you see every day.



Though mostly comprising rice-sized bits, there were also chunks about the size of marbles, golf balls, croquet balls, and bowling balls. Choose whatever sport you want; balls of that size were probably represented in the pumice rafts.



If a pumice raft is deep enough, it could cause problems for a boat, such as clogging the water intake of the engine (now you can't use your motor); fouling the rudder (now you can't steer); or abrading the hull (now you need a new paint job). The rafts we saw were less than an inch thick; SCOOTS' engine intake is two feet underwater, and covered with a grate to keep out all but the smallest bits, so we weren't especially worried. Though we did steer around the larger rafts when we could. Why ask for trouble?

A boat coming the other way called us on the VHF to tell us that he'd just come through Nasonisoni Pass, which was “full of pumice.” He'd transited the pass under sail, downwind, with his engine off, to minimize the possibility of those problems I mentioned. Yikes, we thought. “Full of pumice.” That sounded intimidating.

We were scheduled to transit Nasonisoni Pass the next morning, going the opposite direction, straight upwind. Tacking up narrow Nasonisoni Pass into 10-15 knots of wind wasn't a particularly delightful proposition. Was there really that much pumice? we wondered.

Soon after our radio conversation, we dropped anchor in Nadi Bay, a lovely spot with beautiful green, jungle-draped hills that sweep right down to vibrant, mangrove-lined shores.


Mangroves with pumice rafts

It also had pumice. Lots of it.



We wondered if this was a preface of what was to come, as we continued farther east.




Just to be safe, we consulted with our old buddy, the Prudent Mariner, to get his take on the situation, and came up with some contingency plans....

IF, on reaching Nasonisoni Pass, we discovered it to be chocka (that's Kiwi for “really full”) with pumice, we'd wait awhile, to see if the tidal action cleared it out. If it didn't, we'd take a longer way around. Alternative routes added 10 miles and 17 miles to our 35-mile trip, so we weren't keen to do that unless we really had to.

IF, on reaching Nasonisoni Pass, we found a “reasonable” or “negligible” amount of pumice, we'd transit the pass under motor, as we normally would, avoiding as much of the pumice as we could.

IF, during our transit of Nasonisoni Pass, Yanmar the Magnificent stopped running, we'd do a quick U-turn, pull the staysail out (it's the easiest one to handle quickly), and sail back out the pass downwind.

So, with our backup plans in order, we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor at 7 am the next morning, and headed toward the pass. We'd scheduled our transit to be close to low tide, hoping that if there was a lot of pumice, it might be stranded on the exposed reefs that lined the pass, rather than floating in the pass itself.




Maybe we were right, or maybe there just wasn't that much pumice around. As we motored along toward the pass, we saw some thin pumice rafts, but nowhere near as much as we'd seen in Nadi Bay. Nearing the entrance to the pass, we peered ahead, and scanned with our binoculars...almost no pumice at all. The ebb current caught SCOOTS and began to sweep her through the pass, adding a knot or more to the speed provided by Y the M. In fifteen minutes, we were through the pass without incident. We're not sure why our yachting friend had found the pass full of pumice, but I'm happy to say that we didn't.

So, for us, the pumice among us was just a really interesting side note to our travels in the South Pacific.






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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Added 1 October 2018