We are presently 3/4 of the way to Opua NZ. As you might surmise from the title of this blog entry, we have had yet another , how shall we say, "interesting" trip. But we'll get to all that in a moment. Let's finish up on our Fiji experience first. When we last wrote, we told you about George & Millie, a couple of locals that we met on Ngamea. We got to know them a lot better in the ensuing week. George had an old sit on kayak, stored under his house, which we spotted and asked him about. He said he'd like to use it to get to work, either when he was short on fuel or because it saved him quite a bit of money. However, it was presently unusable because of numerous holes and leaks, which he had neither the tools nor the materials to repair. After letting him know that we might be able to help, he & Millie brought the kayak to our boat on his way to work that day. Millie spent that evening on the boat with us, and the next morning both of them showed up for kayak repair course 101. Thank goodness for glass cloth and west system! By the time we'd finished, we'd repaired 7 major holes, installed 2 hatch covers, added a drain plug, and fastened a D-ring and padlock so it can be secured when left unattended. George was so pleased with his now dry ride that he's going to get some blue paint to complete the restoration. One evening as we were finishing up work on the kayak, they showed up with a traditional Fijian meal which Millie had spent the day preparing for the four of us. A lovely time was had by all, during which Millie inquired whether we would be interested in visiting her native village? Of course we said "yes" and the following morning saw the four of us depart on TabbyCat while towing George's 15' powerboat. Millie planned to stay in her village for a few days and George had got the night off work so that he could return on his own the following day while we made our way back to Savusavu. Millie's village is definitely not on the cruiser route, and given the chart information available, we would never have gone there on our own, but George did an excellent job of guiding us around the reefs. Both he & Millie delighted in driving the boat... indeed except for picking up & dropping the anchor, we barely touched the helm ourselves. It was a real treat to be brought into a village that few outsiders have seen, to be introduced to her parents and spend the evening with family and friends. Millie's father is one of the clan leaders, and it was to him that we presented our SevuSevu. Paul recently asked us what Colin was pounding in the photos section of our previous blog entry. That is Kava, the dried root of the pepper plant, which having been pounded into dust, is mixed with water to produce a mildly intoxicating, lip-tingling ceremonial concoction which the locals affectionately call "grog". When visiting tribally owned lands, as we cruisers are, it is good etiquette to make a presentation of Kava to the local chief , both as a recognition of their property rights, and to be included under their protection during one's stay. Having made our formal presentation to Mille's father, through George, our Kava was taken away, pounded, blended with water, and copiously drunk by the family elders. We had a few "low tide" bowls ourselves, but must say we prefer a good Malbec any day. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to be included in local customs and was a very special moment for us. Once again, Millie provided a fine dinner, but all too soon, after an early morning breakfast on the boat with her, George, and her son Coco, it was time for us to head out. Seemingly the while village turned out to stand in the shallows and wave us goodbye ("mothe" in Fijian).
A slow but uneventful trip took us back to Cousteau point, where we anchored in the dark at 10pm. The following morning, while preparing to go snorkeling, we belatedly heard from Bob McDavitt, our NZ weather guru, that a departure on the following day (Saturday)for NZ now looked good... if we could get checked out in time. Immigration offices close at 4pm, and we were still 3 miles from the town of SavuSavu, so we frenetically pulled up anchor and beat feet into town. Amazingly we got our paperwork sorted, did some last minute grocery shopping, topped up the diesel fuel, and were enjoying an evening cocktail on "Champagne" , Clark Hamm's boat, by 7 pm. He'd been hoping to buddy boat with us, but wasn't yet ready to leave. The following morning we slipped away early for the 1,250 nm trip to NZ, hoping for an easier passage than last year's ordeal.(yeah right). Just as last year, we made sparkling progress for the first 3 days, including another 200 mile day. Thus we get to the title of this blog: The first bang was the parting of the wire outhaul line that holds the mainsail to the rear of the boom. That was quickly jury rigged with a rope run in place of the wire. The second bang was while flying along with screacher and a full main. The shackle which holds the screacher furling drum to the bowsprit went to meet its maker. That of course meant nothing was holding the sail to the front of the boat, and the drum came flying backwards, luckily outside the lifelines and therefore missing our new windows. Just as last year, we had to drop the screacher on the deck, and hurriedly stow it below through a forward hatch. ThankfullY this year we weren't surfing down monster waves during the process.
Of course the weather goddess was not done with us yet! Somewhat belatedly we heard from Bob that a low which had formed to the north of us, was intensifying instead of petering out as previously expected, as was now forming into a gale (wind speeds 38-40 knots). The worst of it was supposed to cross our projected route the following morning, so we decided to heave to, and let the storm pass by in front of us. Heaving to is a way of slowing the boat down in which you put the main sail on one side of the boat, and the jib on the other. Of course nothing on our trips to NZ is ever that easy. We spend the next 18 hours essentially stationary, with 35-40 knot winds howling all around us, while riding up and over increasingly higher mountains of water. Still, it was nowhere near as intimidating as last year. By midday the following morning, the winds had reduced to the mid 20's, and we spent an exhilarating afternoon/evening surfing down waves, sailing in the mid teens. Unlike last year, this time we were headed in the right direction, and Bob assured us that the winds would lessen, rather than form into a cyclone. Since then we've had a wildly varied mix of weather, lightning storms, gusty unpredictable winds, no winds and, right now, beautiful downwind reaches with the spinnaker set in 10 knots.
Other than the weather though, the highlight of the trip occurred yesterday afternoon while motoring due to a total lack of wind. We landed a really nice tuna that should see us eating fish for quite some time in NZ(which we don't buy there because it's so expensive). As of right now we are 130nm north of Opua, with an expected arrival time of either late tomorrow or early Wednesday morning. That's 2 days later than originally planned, but not bad considering the windless days and time spent hove to and drifting north.
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