Justin – Kadavu, Fiji

We have now been in Fiji for over two months (nearly three by the time this is posted) and have become accustomed to village life in the outer islands, even though we live independently on the boat.

On Kadavu, and the smaller islands of the Great Astrolabe Reef, villages are typically about an hour or so apart and located close to a sheltered bay where small boats can be moored safely. The boats are the villagers main means of transport as there are few roads and virtually no cars or other forms of mechanised land transport.

When anchoring close to a village, it is expected that the crew of a yacht first go and present a ‘sevusevu’ to the village chief whose village, under traditional and Fijian law, owns the surrounding land and sea.

The ‘sevusevu’ ceremony normally takes place in the chief’s house or the village’s community building and involves the presentation of unprocessed raw kava root called ‘waka’ by the yacht’s captain and crew. After introductions, the chief will usually recite a short welcoming speech in Fijian and formally accept the yacht’s gift of kava signifying the visitors acceptance into the village and the chief’s approval for the them to move freely around the village and surrounding waters.

Often, the ‘sevusevu’ ceremony will also involve the drinking of kava which is mixed in a ‘tanoa’, a large traditional bowl handcrafted from a single slab of indigenous hardwood called ‘vesi’.

Each person is ceremoniously served a half coconut shell of kava. Before accepting the cup of kava, the person receiving it is expected to clap once loudly with cupped hands. The kava should be drunk in one sweep after which the person again claps five times loudly with cupped hands.

We usually try to dress respectfully when doing ‘sevusevu’. This means a long sulu for women and a collared shirt and sulu for men. The acceptance ceremony, besides being expected, is a really good way to get to meet the people of the village and we normally find ourselves being ‘adopted’ by a family who become good friends.

Makogai villagers perform a 'Meke' (welcome dance and singing ceremony).

Makogai villagers perform a ‘Meke’ (welcome dance and singing ceremony).

Kava session in the community hall at Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Kava session in the community hall at Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Kava being offered as part of the welcome ceremony (Makogai)

Kava being offered as part of the welcome ceremony (Makogai)

When anchored off a village, a typical day for us would normally start with an early morning swim from the boat or a snorkel on a nearby coral reef. We would then have breakfast consisting of bananas and pawpaw, which most villages have loads of, followed by porridge or Fijian breakfast crackers. If we still have bread then we might have toast. The Fijian bread is really good but unfortunately doesn’t keep long and is only available in larger centres.

DSCF1070

Boat Brekky, Savusavu.

Boat Brekky, Savusavu.

Off for a snorkel at Vanuabalavu, Bay of Islands, Northern Lau Group

Off for a snorkel at Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Northern Lau Group

After breakfast we might take the dingy ashore and go for a walk through the jungle up to one of the village farms or plantations, see if we can help the villagers in some way, or take one of the local boats out to the barrier reef which surround the lagoon, to dive one of the passes.

Most islands are surrounded by coral reef, which often lie anything between a few hundred metres to ten nautical miles offshore. The reef forms a barrier and encompasses a lagoon of calmer, shallower water. Every now and then the barrier reef is broken by a deep water pass which allows the tide to rise and fall in the lagoon.

Jarrah on Great Astolabe Reef

Jarrah on Great Astolabe Reef

Great Astolabe Reef

Friend Di, diving on the Great Astolabe Reef

Great Astolabe Reef

Great Astolabe Reef

Justin on the Great Astrolabe Reef

Justin on the Great Astrolabe Reef

Justin and Khan. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Justin and Khan. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Jarrah sneaking a ride down into the blue with friend (adopted grandparent) Ken. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Jarrah sneaking a ride down into the blue with friend (adopted grandparent) Ken. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Justin resurfacing. Naigoro Pass, Kadavu

Justin resurfacing. Naigoro Pass, Kadavu

These passes are usually the best places to dive as they are deep and the water is clear.

On the Great Astrolabe Reef which surrounds most of Kadavu and extends for about twenty miles northward, the lagoon has numerous coral reefs with crystal clear water and heaps of fish.

The coral is magnificently coloured and varies enormously in shape and form. On a typical dive, besides the brightly coloured fish living amongst the coral, we often see reef sharks and turtles, and occasionally manta rays.

For the last couple of weeks we have been sailing with another yacht from Melbourne. Ken and Di aboard ‘Platinum IV’ have been sailing around the Sth West Pacific for a number of years and have heaps of diving experience.

Di in particular, being a former biology teacher and avid diver with decades of experience, is a wealth of information on the different types of coral and other marine life. She also loves showing Jarrah and Khan all the different animals that inhabit the reef and has them captivated by her explanations of how they feed and behave.

Ken is a mechanical engineer who can fix just about anything and still runs a consultancy business six months of the year.

After cruising the islands of Vanuatu and the Solomons for a number of years both Di and Ken have both found rewarding and useful ways to help the people on the outer islands.

Away from the major towns on the bigger islands, most villages have no roads or mains electricity. A trip to the capital to purchase supplies and any sort of machinery is a long ride in an open boat and a major expense which most people can only undertake rarely. Capital equipment like brush cutters, generators, outboard motors, boats, TVs, solar panels, batteries and the like are major outlays for a family, or even a village.

Unfortunately, these often break down and while many of the villagers have ingenious solutions to the problems they face, most have little experience in repairing machinery, few tools and little access to spare parts.

While sailing together with Ken and Di, we have spent a day or two in each of the villages we have visited, repairing various machines, fixing fibreglass boats and trouble-shooting problems with solar panels. Ken and Di carry lots of tools and spares which they have found are often not available in the villages.

Di has developed a real knowledge and skill in repairing sewing machines which are extremely useful to the women of the village but often lay idle because they are broken and nobody knows how to fix them. Most of the sewing machines are based on hand or pedal driven Singer machines and are often easily fixed by cleaning and lubricating the moving parts or adjusting the tensions on the cottons and bobbins. According to Ken and Di most of these hand driven machines are easily fixable especially if you have a few spare parts.

Ken also carries a supply of epoxy resin and fibreglass and basic electrical tools. Over the past couple of weeks we have helped him repaired a couple of boats, outboard motors, solar panel systems and even had a go at fixing a few TVs and DVD players.

Di working her magic - fixing one of many, many sewing machines as well as teaching the owner how to service and fix it in the future. Nambauwalu village, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Di working her magic – fixing one of many, many sewing machines as well as teaching the owner how to service and fix it in the future. Nambauwalu village, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Jarrah loved assisting and learning from Di. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Jarrah loved assisting and learning from Di. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Ken and Justin working on some wipper-snippers. Matasawalevu village, Kadavu.

Ken and Justin working on some wipper-snippers. Matasawalevu village, Kadavu.

Ken and his keen assistant Khan.

Ken and his keen assistant Khan.

After a day ashore or in the water we usually end the day with sundowners aboard one of the yachts or a kava drinking session in the village.

Sundowners on 'Lafiesta' L-R: Angelina, Di, Ken, Justin, Jarrah, Rachael, Khan and Natalie

Sundowners on ‘Lafiesta’ L-R: Angelina, Di, Ken, Justin, Jarrah, Rachael, Khan and Natalie

Sundowner with friends  Di and Ken and a wee bottle of rum. Nambauwalu Bay, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Sundowner with friends Di and Ken and a wee bottle of rum. Nambauwalu Bay, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Rachael and Khan preparing dinner.

Rachael and Khan preparing dinner, onboard.

We loved having our Melbourne friends Reima and Adrian come and visit us for about 10 days....and they really took to being cooking crew!

We loved having our Melbourne friends Reima and Adrian come and visit us for about 10 days….and they really took to being cooking crew!

Caution: A few sundowners sometimes leads to thinking it is funny to try on Di's 'Mother Hubbard' dresses!

Caution: A few sundowners sometimes leads to thinking it is funny to try on Di’s ‘Mother Hubbard’ dresses!

DSCF6044

The view from Tom and Kerry’s (a retired American couple now living on Kadavu) house, where we were generously invited over for a delicious dinner. Near Matasawalevu Bay, Kadavu.

One of many birthday celebration where we were spoilt by dear freinds from 'Platinum IV' and 'Lafiesta'. Vunisea, Kadavu.

One of many birthday celebration where we were spoilt by dear friends from ‘Platinum IV’ and ‘Lafiesta’. Vunisea, Kadavu.

Surprisingly for Fiji, the nights at the moment are fairly cool and we have been using a light dooner during the night – I suppose it is, after all, the middle of the winter.

Our plan at the moment is to try to leave Fiji to sail for the southern islands of Vanuatu in about mid-August. This will hopefully give us a couple of months exploring Vanuatu before sailing back to Australia.

DSCF1805

Khan always finds a cosy (?) spot for a snooze. On passage from Kavala Bay to Vunisea, Kadavu.

After a walk through the plantation village from Bavantu Harbour, we had an excellent view over the Bay of Islands, where we'd anchored over the past week.  Vanuabalavu, Northern Lau.

After a walk through the plantation village from Bavatu Harbour, we had an excellent view over the Bay of Islands, where we’d anchored over the past week. Vanuabalavu, Northern Lau.

On passage from Vanuabalavu to Suva - a nice place to sit...until a rogue wave drowned us both!

On passage from Vanuabalavu to Suva – a nice place to sit…until a rogue wave drowned us both!

After a 'big' food shop it seems we'll never find a place to store everything, but we always do.

After a ‘big’ food shop it seems we’ll never find a place to store everything, but we always do.

We gave Marc, from Dravuni village, a lift, as  we sailed 40 nm back to Suva to pick up our visiting friends Reima and Adrian.

We gave Mark, from Dravuni village, a lift, as we sailed 40 nm back to Suva to pick up our visiting friends Reima and Adrian.

Morning explorations by kayak and paddle board. Nambauwalu, Ono.

Morning explorations by kayak and paddle board. Nambauwalu, Ono.

Us! Fresh but still scruffy from a swim in a waterfall pool.  Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Us! Fresh but still scruffy from a swim in a waterfall pool. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

All water is precious.  Khan and Jarrah worked hard and proudly caught 10 litres from the sunshade.  Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

All water is precious. Khan and Jarrah worked hard and proudly caught 10 litres from the sunshade. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Farewelling  friends Reima and Adrian at the bustling Kavala Bay jetty - heading off on the Suva bound ferry.

Farewelling friends Reima and Adrian at the bustling Kavala Bay jetty – heading off on the Suva bound ferry.

Trying out stern lines by dingy at a close anchorage.  Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

Trying out stern lines by dingy at a close anchorage. Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

DSCF1301

Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

DSCF1351

Anchorage at Bavatu Harbour, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

DSCF1324

Scrapping fresh coconut off the back of the boat, who needs coconut milk in a can?

DSCF1520

Hey I think our dingy is at max load. With Reima and Adrian. Nambauwalu, Ono.

DSCF1481

Beautiful colors on the reefs everywhere we go. Dravuni, the Great Astolabe Reef.

 

Advertisements

Rache – 12th June. Levuka, Ovalau. Fiji

After arriving at Savusavu on 22nd May we initially just enjoyed being on land…and in Fiji.  Enjoyed the kick-back friendly little town, surrounded by lush tropical jungle, exploring the market and town, an across island bus trip to Labasa, conversations with locals, fresh fruit for brekky and debriefing with other arriving yachties.

Savusavu

Savusavu

Savusavu

Savusavu

Washing day at the water tap. Waitui Marina

Washing day at the water tap. Rache and Jarrah at Waitui Marina

Yacht decorations aka drying clothes.

Yacht decorations aka drying clothes.

Justin and Jarrah at Savusavu market.

Justin and Jarrah at Savusavu market.

Labasa gardens

Labasa gardens

Can you beat  a piece of market watermelon on a hot dusty day?

Can you beat a piece of market watermelon on a hot dusty day?

We checked out a local rugby union game....and were very glad we weren't out there getting flattened!

We checked out a local rugby union game….and were very glad we weren’t out there getting flattened!

Justin thinking life's not bad...deck over looking my boat, sunny day, beer in hand...

Justin thinking life’s not bad…deck over looking my boat, sunny day, beer in hand…

For a few weeks we weren’t able to get far from where we landed in Savusavu – back and forth a few times to a nearby reef for snorkelling and a change of scenery.  We prepared to leave a few times, but rough seas and strong winds were against us (and lots of other sailors and fishing boats), so we weren’t able to go.  It was cruisy in Savusavu and in fact we were a bit daunted by the renowned difficulty of cruising in Fiji – you know reefs – good for snorkelling, not good for hitting with boats.  Paper and electronic charts are poor and inaccurate, so we’ve done lots of talking and soaking up local knowledge for anchorages we might like to stop by and waypoints through narrow reef systems.  We have our bundles of waka (kava) to present to local village chiefs for ‘sevusevu’ (ceremony where visitors to seek acceptance into a Fijian village) and a rough plan of the route we’d like to take for our now seemingly little time in Fiji. We will enjoy where ever we get as it all looks amazingly good.

So we left Savusavu on 4th June and anchored about five mile away, at Passage Point, hoping that the wind would drop off and give us a window to head east out to Taveuni, Qamea and beyond to Vanua Balavu in the Lau group.  The forecast was for the wind to remain strong and the sea rough so we were prepared to see if we could tack (bash) into it or if not give up on trying to head east and head back to Savusavu or further south-west.

On the morning of 5th June we left the shelter of our anchorage and the protection of Savusavu Bay. We entered a rough sea with 20 knot SE winds, so it wasn’t long before we decided Taveuni was too difficult and changed our course to south west and Namena Island.  Actually it has been hard to ‘give up’ on getting to the Lau Group and we kept open the possibility of maybe getting there later, by watching for a break in the predominant Easterly trade winds.

We entered Namena through the torquoise reef waters off the Namena Marine Reserve which surrounds the island. We spent a few days at Namena with excellent snorkelling off the back of the boat, with beautiful fish and coral, turtles, sharks and bird life.

At anchor Namena Island and Marine Reserve.

At anchor Namena Island and Marine Reserve.

Coral Reef blue, clear to see in the full sun.  Departing Namena Marine Reserve.

Coral Reef blue, clear to see in the full sun. Departing Namena Marine Reserve.

All hands on deck ready for 'reef lookout' as we depart Namena.

All hands on deck for ‘reef lookout’ as we arrive at Makogai Island.

From Namena we sailed to Makogai.  There we met a band of beautiful kids and village head Kameli who generously welcomed us into their village.  We spent about five days there, all of us enjoying the people, the island and spectacular snorkelling and we found it hard to say goodbye.

Kid games on Makogai Island.

Kid games on Makogai Island.

Brekky at anchor Makogai Island.

Brekky at anchor Makogai Island.

Makogai.

Makogai.

Asenace, Jarrah and Rosie. Makogai.

Asenace, Jarrah and Rosie. Makogai.

1,2,3 Jump! Rosie, Jarrah and Asenace. Makogai.

1,2,3 Jump! Rosie, Jarrah and Asenace. Makogai.

Always many hands to help the dingy off the beach. Makogai

Always many hands to help the dingy off the beach. Makogai

Makogai kids - Rosie, Asenace, Littea, Lai, Junior

Makogai kids – Rosie, Asenace, Littea, Lai, Junior

Junior the 3 year old boatman was on the beach to haul in and send out every dingy, usually up to his chest in the water.

Junior the 3 year old boatman was on the beach to haul in and send out every dingy, usually up to his chest in the water.

Asenace teaching Rache some singing games.

Littea teaching Rache some singing games.

Justin showing off his dance moves.

Justin showing off his dance moves.

Makogai games

Makogai games

Anni and friend

Anni and friend

This little fella was an amazing dancer, he did not miss a beat and other older children looked to him for dance directions!

This little fella was an amazing dancer, he did not miss a beat and other older children looked to him for dance directions!

We are tonight in Levuka, the old capital of Fiji.  We plan to leave at first light tomorrow to hopefully catch a window of lighter variable winds to attempt to head East to Vanua Balavu in Lau.

Khan 12th June 2014 Levuka, Ovalau. Fiji

Hi it’s Khan the animal reporter for the blog!

We were excited to leave NZ to sail to Fiji. Unfortunately we did not have any fireworks like we did when we left Geelong, oh well.

The trip was mostly rolly except for 2 days when the sea was so flat it looked like glass. On 1 of the flat days we went for a family nudie swim in the middle of the Ocean where it was four kilometres deep.

A few days after arriving in Savusavu in Fiji we went and anchored off a beach near a resort.

Khan still getting his dingy legs..off the boat, into the dingy..into the water

Khan still getting his dingy legs..off the boat, into the dingy..into the water

..but still smiling

..but still smiling

..thank goodness the money is safe!

..thank goodness the money is safe!

We did lots of snorkelling on a coral reef with some friends from another boat.

Their names were Josh, Nelia and Claire, who was 7 years young and my friend.

On the reef the fish would swim right up to you. Most of the fish were brightly coloured and quick.

 

Anchored near Split Rock

Anchored near Split Rock

Savusavu Bay

Savusavu Bay

Local women fishing from their rafts

Local women fishing from their rafts

Khan and Claire off to play

Khan and Claire off to play

Off for a snorkel

Off for a snorkel

Jarrah not happy about being sick for a few days

Jarrah not happy about being sick for a few days

Khan on friend Claire's boat - the coolest swing ever!

Khan on friend Claire’s boat – the coolest swing ever!

Jarrah, Khan, Claire and 100's of hermit crabs

Jarrah, Khan, Claire and 100’s of hermit crabs

Today Thursday 5th June we left Savusavu to try to go to the Lau group but the wind was too strong so we went to Namena. From Savusavu it was 18nm.

We arrived to see and hear so many booby birds. We went ashore and guess what it was – a big, fluffy baby bird. The baby bird saw us and it almost looked like it was trying to get out of it’s nest to see us!!! And one more thing – they were red or blue footed. The red footed boobys had blue beaks.

Namena Island - Red Footed Booby Bird colony

Namena Island – Red Footed Booby Bird colony

At anchor at Namena Island

At anchor at Namena Island

Excellent coral reefs off the back of the boat

Excellent coral reefs off the back of the boat

DSCF1080

Rache May 27th Savusavu Bay , Vanua Levu, Fiji

Already it is hard to think back to our passage from New Zealand to Fiji, it seems a long time go. Fiji time is easy to slip into and easy to just be in the moment here, so lucky I wrote some thoughts during the passage.

Our passage to Fiji was a mix of it all. We left surrounded by a skyline of squalls and although we found it hard to find our best edge for sailing, we started off with some excellent sailing and even felt fast!  At night we glided across the flat ocean under good sails and bright moon, followed by a night under motor when the wind dropped. Then sick of motoring, we just stopped. Drifting, bobbing in the ocean, waiting for the wind, a deep water mid pacific swim, we enjoyed the the sun, met up with fellow sailing (ie drifting) friends from yacht ‘lafiesta’ where Jarrah and Natalie had a between boat swim.

Image

 

Image

Surrounded by squalls, leaving New Zealand.

Drifting in Pacific Blue

Drifting in Pacific Blue

Mid Pacific Swim

Mid Pacific Swim

A family swim in the blue, blue pacific. No wind, blue sea and sky, warm, sunny and silky smooth ocean.

Arcturus II, Mid Pacific

Arcturus II, Mid Pacific

After VHF contact, we waited for our friends to join  us.

After VHF contact, we waited for our friends to join us.

IMG_2728

 

Jarrah and Natalie between the drifting yachts.

Within a few days of leaving Opua we had become aware of a strong weather system further north between us and Fiji. We initially planned to get to North Minerva reef before it hit, and seek shelter there. When the wind dropped out we changed our plan to ‘go slow’ and wait for it to pass to the East before we headed further north – this would mean at least four days trying to go slow.

After a couple of days drifting, the wind picked up and we sailed under bare poles to slow our northerly movement. To aide steering we had unfurled a tiny bit of the jib. As the wind and sea continued to build it felt we were wasting good wind by going slow (although later we were glad we had).  It was pretty yuck sailing with constant rolling side to side, as the swell hit us on the beam. It became hard to slow, with the rising, messy sea and strengthening wind and times when we were mostly inside due to the rain…rolling, rolling.

We sailed on hoping for improved weather and watched for any sign of a break.

Day 6 Squalls

Day 6 Squalls

Day 6 Weather approaching

Day 6 Weather approaching

Rache catching up on sleep off shift.

Rache off shift, catching up on sleep.

On an inside day we watched a wild, mad sea with our heads out the hatch.   Slam, crash into the boat…mountainous grey swollen swell approaching and pushing us, the flotsam aside. Sort of exciting and loved watching with Jarrah and Khan.

Rache and Khan on watch on a rainy day.

Rache and Khan on watch on a rainy day.

Day 8 Watching the weather.

Day 8 Under the Sprayhood, watching the weather.

After a long, wet  and rolly night and day, a bag of chips for dinner on the cabin floor.

After a long, wet and rolly night and day, a bag of chips for dinner on the cabin floor.

From Diary 19th May“Last night when we thought we’d past the worst and were on the home stretch, a reminder to be ever vigilant and ready for a change. In an instant a deluge of rain upon us from above, wind and breaking swollen sea, the moon taken from us by mist and cloud swirling and blocking our night vision.  Hard to get the genoa furled, me at the helm, thunderous rain in my ears and eyes, Justin working hard and yelling at the wind and Jarrah and Khan once again shivering tears and scared at the crashing sound of ripping winds and sea in the sails and against the hull…and mum and dad outside in it”.

“Tonight we are cautious and hesitant, not wanting a repeat of last night, seeing danger in every cloud“.

DSCF0933

Day 10.  After a long night…bed to far away to get to!

Day 10 Some welcome sun to dry off our wet weather gear.

Day 10 Some welcome sun to dry off our wet weather gear.

With some sun, blue sky and calming waters, a surprisingly rapid shift from ‘why would anyone in their right mind think this is fun?‘ to an ‘exhilarating, top of the world feeling, at one with the ocean and extraordinary to be here, what’s not to love?!!

Heaving mountainous ocean rolls up behind then underneath. For a moment we are top of the world, looking down across and down into the valleys of rolling ocean swell. Touch the sky then return gently as the ocean breathes out and the swell passes beneath and away.

Nights under a full ish moon. Slicing through the silvery water, bright as bright. Big moon. Big Pacific. Big adventure. Big fun!
DSCF0856

Enjoying night watch.  So bright under a big moon and light cloud...

Enjoying night watch. So bright under a big moon and light cloud…

IMG_2733

Beautiful today, blue, ever decreasing swell, ride the highs and bask in the wind and sun with clearing skies. Onward.

21st May. First island of Fiji in sight! Let the next chapter begin.

Dolphins welcoming us to Fiji.

Dolphins welcoming us to Fiji.

Jarrah has been ready for Fiji since we left home.

Jarrah has been ready for Fiji since we left home.

Yay Fiji! Savusavu, Vanua Levu

Yay Fiji! Savusavu, Vanua Levu

Aside

Rache 10th May leaving Opua

We have cleared customs in NZ and about to  head back  into the big blue.  Heading north for Fiji with a possible stop at Minerva Reef.  we are looking forward to some warmer weather and a good passage.

Time for a last handstand on NZ ground.

Time for a last handstand on NZ ground.

All aboard for Fiji.

All aboard for Fiji.

 

Bit sad but excited to be leaving NZ and heading north.

Bit sad but excited to be leaving NZ and heading north.

 

DSCF0817

Untie that boat I say.

Untie that boat I say.

...and off

…and off

see ya Opua.

see ya Opua.

 

783 nautical miles to North Minerva Reef……

Khan 10th May

We have been to the Auckland museum. It was awesome there. There was a big row boat that was made out of 1 big kauri tree. It could fit over 100 warriors.There was a house in the museum, where you sit in a chair and all of a sudden the volcano erupts and the whole house rocked. It was my favourite thing. We also went to the maritime museum.There were some of the old boats that they used.  You could go on it but we didn’t because it was too much money.  My favourite thing in the maritime museum was the video of Peter Blake sailing round the would.  I wish I could go back there and have more time to do everything. Now we are going back to Opua. In Opua we played with a friend of ours Natalie.  New Zealand has pigs(pegs) all over it. We have found about 35 pigs(pegs) everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DSCF5453

Khan and his bird friends Auckland

Khan and his bird friends Auckland

 

Comfy place for a sleep

Comfy place for a sleep

 

Our new sit on top kayak

Our new sit on top kayak

 

IMG_2678

Arnold the pig (a real pig, not a peg!)

Arnold the pig (a real pig, not a peg!)

 

DSCF0762

Khan’s Revenge!

DSCF0763

Jarrah’s revenge

DSCF0769If Khan and Justin can grow mullets….

 

Justin – 8th May. Opua, New Zealand

Time to sail north!

New Zealand has been really good but it is getting too cold now and it feels like it’s time to sail north! We have been back in Opua and and the Bay of Islands for about a week preparing the boat and waiting for a suitable weather window to begin our 1200 nautical mile journey up to Fiji.

It looks like we will be able to leave on Tuesday after the next low pressure system moves east of NZ, though there is another low pressure trough building in the Coral Sea which may delay our departure. If we depart on the tail end of a low, we should get west to south west winds before the next high moves across from the Tasman Sea. Hopefully the west quarter winds will carry us far enough north to pick up the south east Trade Winds closer to Fiji.  Postscript since writing this, is our now updated plan to depart on Saturday 10th May.

It’s pretty amazing here, there are heaps of boats from all over the world waiting in various ports to sail north. The marina in Opua is alive with activity, everybody completing last minute checks and provisioning their boats for the journey north and the subsequent months in the islands.

IMG_2687

 

DSCF0717DSCF0719

Exploring volcanic caves at Rangatoto (Hauraki Gulf, NZ)

Exploring volcanic caves at Rangatoto (Hauraki Gulf, NZ)

The Island Cruising Association has 3 flotillas, (or rallies as they prefer to call them) heading to different locations in the Pacific. One lot are heading for Tonga, another to Fiji, and a third to Vanuatu, Australia and then South East Asia. Most of these boats are either from NZ or are international boats who have spent the summer or cyclone season in NZ as part of an extended Pacific or round the world voyage.

It’s been really good fun mixing it with crews from all around the world and swapping stories (mostly exaggerated with the help of a few beers) of our adventures and stories of the high seas.

Although really pleased with the prospect of moving to warmer weather in the islands to the north it is with a measure of regret that we leave NZ. We had a great time cruising the Bay of Islands, the Hauraki Gulf and the coast in between.

Whangamumu Harbour

Whangamumu Harbour

 

Whangamumu Harbour

Whangamumu Harbour

The kids favourite, the reknowned 'sailor's bread'

The kids favourite, the reknowned ‘sailor’s bread’

The Hole in the Wall, Cape Brett, Bay of Islands

The Hole in the Wall, Cape Brett, Bay of Islands

Raising the anchor - Bon Accord Harbour, Kawau Island

Raising the anchor – Bon Accord Harbour, Kawau Island

DSCF0681

Barrier Island, about 50 nautical miles north of Auckland, was a highlight with lots of sheltered anchorages and great walks ashore. We have spent lots of time in the NZ bush climbing hills and identifying native birds many of which are now thriving on the islands away from dogs and cats and other introduced species. One of our favourites is the Tui which has a really raucous call, not unlike a wattle bird, and a little white pouch under its throat.

Auckland was good fun, though surprisingly quiet for a major city. We really enjoyed the Maritime Museum which covered NZ’s marine history from the arrival of Maori to the present. It also had a whole floor dedicated to Peter Blake who is probably NZ’s most famous sailor having won the America’s Cup and the Volvo Round the World race. He was also dramatically murdered aboard his boat in Uraguay while advocating for the environment movement.

The kids also really enjoyed visiting the National Museum and seeing all the animals and Maori artefacts. Rachael and I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more of NZ’s colonial history, especially as there is such a strong movement here for the recognition of Maori rights as the first people of NZ.

We are hoping for a good sail north and have spent a fair bit of time going over the boat in preparation for the passage. I have serviced the motor and have had the rig checked. We have also augmented our ‘toys’ onboard with the addition of a sit on kayak which is good fun to paddle around and explore little inlets and some of the amazing coastal rock formations.

 

Anchor chain and rode upgrade and sorting.

Anchor chain and rode upgrade and sorting.

Always good to have a small someone to fit into a hole

Always good to have a small someone to fit into a hole

 

...and do the cleaning whilst there!!

…and do the cleaning whilst there!!

The kayak has also given me a chance to work my paddling muscles as I haven’t managed a surf since Sydney. Without a car it is too hard to get to the surf breaks which are rarely close to suitable anchorages. I’m really looking forward to finding some surf in Fiji!

DSCF0787

 

Desperate for a surf. Mantauri Bay

Desperate for a surf. Matauri Bay

 

Unfortunately we didn’t make it down to Auckland to see the Saints play (probably just as well as they lost) but I hear they have at least won a few games!

 

Rache 4th April Bon Accord Harbour. Hauraki Gulf. NZ.

On Aotea (Great Barrier Island) we ‘tramped’ a beautiful day walk circuit (about 17 kms) up to the the top of Hirokimata (Mt Hobson). Thousands of stairs and speccy views as we climbed higher around the cliffs and up the ridges.  Our boat getting smaller and smaller beneath us.  We had a lovely day and it felt really good to be walking on land and exploring in the bush and we had a dip in the fresh creek on the way back down.

Image

 Kaiaraara Bay Aotea (Great Barrier Island)

Image

 Checking out the Old Kauri Log Dam on our way up Hirokimata.  Aotea.

Image
Miss Jarrah
Image
Jarrah and Khan going up anyway they can.
Image
Thought we were nearly there…but no still a looong way to go UP!
Image
Image
Made it to the top of Hirokimata (Mt Hobson). Yay!
Image
Image
Us and our boat – a dot of white in the bay way below. 
Image
Gotta love a swing bridge and there were many, this one instructed only 1 person at a time. 
Image
Jarrah and khan did fantastic walking and stair climbing, resorting to all fours when tired on some extra steep steps.  And then somewhat unfairly, they recovered far quicker than their ‘olds’, bouncing back with not a sore muscle in sight!
New Zealand so far continues to produce rugged and dramatic land rising sharply from the shoreline.  I can’t count how many times we’ve said “Just look at that!” or “How fantastic is that!” to a particular island or peak that has presented itself in front of us as we sail by or toward them. Then we snap lots of photos, hoping to capture just how magnificent the view is.  And of course the photos end up looking pretty mundane…trees and rock on a hill.  So lucky we have our memories…and you’ll have to come to see for yourselves!
We hired a car for a day and, gosh travelling at 50 k’s per hour feels soooo fast!!  I realised I really had no idea about the places we’ve been in relation to land based travel – sea charts yes, maps no.  Funny  then to find ourselves within an hour on land to where we’d sailed from over a week ago!
Image
Now we’re in safe hands with Jarrah at the helm.
Image
School work in the sun.
Image
2nd largest Kauri (widest girth at over 16 metres) at Waipu, during our car day trip. 
Image
 Sunrise. Aotea.  
Image
Jarrah and Khan have fun forming a kids’ gang when ever there is another kid.
Image
An ancient ‘lady of the waterfall’. Port FitzRoy Harbour. Aotea.
 So maybe we are settling into the kick back cruising side of our adventure.  There are too many  islands and bays and walks for us to have time to explore.  We have met many, many cruisers and we are but newborns when others talk of both their extended sailing and planned cruising time and destinations around the world.  Where cruising is a lifestyle choice not just for a year … Who knows we may just get inspired to continue?

 

Khan 5th April 2014 Hauraki Gulf NZ

Hi it’s Khan the Animal Reporter for the blog.

 

Image

Me swinging on one of the many cool tree swings at Paradise Beach, Bay of Islands. NZ.

We are finally in New Zealand where the dancing seagulls are.  They stand in a muddy puddle and then they start to do a bit of tap dancing.  They are trying to find food.  It has been so, so good in NZ where the seagulls are.  Now I will tell you about the sea slug and soldier crabs.

Image

Dancing Seagull. It is a bit hard to show him actually dancing, but his legs were going up and down, up and down so fast, stirring up insects for him to eat.

 Today, Saturday the 22 of March we were walking on the rocks, when I said “Dad what’s this” he thought it was an octopus but we realised it was a sea slug dying.  We tried to find something to pick it up with.  We found a container and a stick.  We scooped it up on to the stick with the container and Dad put it in the water.  He just whooshed back up on the beach, so Dad picked it back up and put it back in the water.  Luckily it swam away.  Then we went to a rock pool and watched the soldier crabs fight over something in a shell.  There were 2 big crabs fighting over the shell when another crab started to fight.  The crabs lived in all different shaped shells.

DSCF0500 On a walk from Paradise Bay.  Bay of Islands. NZ.

 DSCF0611

Swings at Smokehouse Bay, Port Fitzroy Harbour.  Aotea (Great Barrier Island)

DSCF0486 DSCF0488

Roberton Island, Bay of Islands.  where Jarrah and I collected lots of shells to make necklaces and decorations for our shop. 

 

Justin – Barrier Island New Zealand – March 29

When I wrote my last post we were about half way across the Tasman Sea en-route to New Zealand from Australia and everything was going well. However, not long after that we received confirmation from Roger Badham, who had been helping us with weather forecasts via the satphone, that a cyclone (or at least the remnants of a cyclone) would be fairly close to Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand, at about the same time as we expected to round the Cape.

Things started to look a bit grim as we had already been at sea for over a week and were faced with three choices. We could try to beat Cyclone Lusi round the Cape, try to head for a safe harbour on New Zealand’s west coast, or  head north-east back out to sea, ride out the storm and then continue on to NZ.

Unfortunately, New Zealand’s North Island doesn’t really have any safe harbours on its west coast that can be entered in rough weather, so this quickly ruled out one of the options. Heading north-east and trying to avoid the worst of the storm at sea was also not very appealing as this would mean days of very rough weather and at least an extra week at sea.

At that stage, Roger was not completely sure of Cyclone Lusi’s track so we decided to continue towards Cape Reinga as fast as we could and see if things changed in the next day or two. The winds were fairly favourable and we put up as much sail as we could to try to give ourselves a chance of rounding the Cape before Lusi.

We logged two of our best 24 hour distances and predicted that we would be round the top of New Zealand by Wednesday morning and possibly be in Opua, a safe harbour on NZ’s north-east coast, by early Thursday morning. Roger was now also thinking that Cyclone Lusi’s effects would not become severe until sometime Thursday. We would however, have to tack into strong SE winds around the top of NZ and down to Opua. We decided to try to ‘make a run for it’ and beat Lusi down the coast.

On Tuesday evening we were just west of a very rugged and remote Cape Reinga with a very lumpy and confused sea.  We were struggling to make our required speed with the wind pretty much on the nose and strong tidal currents. We still were not sure that we would make it and that we had made the right decision.

Image

 Approaching NZ – Cape Reinga in the background

The wind gradually increased and we were forced to shorten the sails, however by about midnight, despite having to plough into some big seas, we had pretty well rounded the Cape and were able to gain more ground on a southerly tack.

As the sun rose on Wednesday morning the wind steadied at about 20 knots but was south-east and right on the nose. We had about 80 miles of tacking into strong winds and a very steep sea ahead of us but reckoned that we would make safe harbour before Lusi hit.

During Wednesday the winds increased a bit more so that we had about 20 to 25 knots most of the day. As we were still very keen to make sure we arrived in Opua as soon as possible we kept the full jib up with two reefs in the main. The southerly tacks were pretty good but the easterly tack was very uncomfortable because of the steep swell and waves. Doing about 7 to 9 knots, we were flying off the top of the waves and pounding into the troughs. The distance between the waves was very short which meant that after flying off the top of a couple of waves and burying the bow to deck level, the boat would not have time to rise above the next wave but would instead plough straight through it with lots of water coming up over the bow and running over the deck beyond the spray hood.

Image

Tacking down the east coast

As we were pushing the boat so hard, lots of water was finding its way in through leaking hatches and chain plates that had previously been water tight. It was exhilarating sailing but Rachael and I were ‘dead on our feet’ and Jarrah and Khan were ‘trapped’ inside because it was so wet.

The kids are remarkably tough and are very good at coping in rough weather. They didn’t complain much even though at times they were virtually sitting on the walls or in the air when the boat flew off the top of the waves and slammed into the troughs.

It was pretty tough mentally as well as physically as the noise of the boat crashing down so heavily kept us wondering whether the hull and rig would hold up.

By late Wednesday afternoon we knew that we had made it and beaten Lusi even though we didn’t tie up at the Custom’s wharf until about 1am Thursday morning. Although very tired we had a little celebration with the kids after having crossed the Tasman and been at sea for eleven and a half days.

Image

 Typically rugged NZ coastline 

Image

Late night arrival and celebration in Opua

After clearing Custom’s and undergoing a quarantine check in the morning we organised a berth in the marina and began preparing for the full force of the storm which was big news in New Zealand where people all across the north island were being warned to tie everything down and prepare for winds up to 120 kilometres per hour.

When Lusi eventually hit Opua we had winds of around 55 knots and stormy weather for two or three days. The waves in the bay, where there is little fetch, were big enough to challenge moorings. A couple of yachts had sails torn to shreds when they came loose during the storm.  The wind would have been stronger out at sea and it would have been a big challenge for us to ride it out. We were, to say the least, very grateful to have made it to Opua before Lusi really hit!

Image

Looking through the marina at Opua on day 2 of Lusi

It took us a couple of days to dry everything out, catch up on sleep and prepare the boat for some cruising round the Bay of Islands and the Hauraki Gulf.

Image

After the worst of the storm in Opua

As I write this, it is now a couple of weeks since we arrived in NZ and we are motor-sailing to Barrier Island north of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf. It’s a beautiful sunny day with light southerly winds and a calm sea. The NZ met service predict that the good weather will continue for most of  next week – so life is looking very good!