Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Storage at Vuda Point

In a Ditch and all Wrapped up

Its open front and back to let the breeze through
Yesterday, Sapphire came out of the water and went into a ditch. She is resting on old tyres. Over the weekend I had been doing my best to get everything dry, and today did the final tidy up after removing the sails and the bimnini cover. I filled up the diesel tank to the top and taped over all the little slots in the mast that halyards emerge from to minimise the lielihood of rain getting into the boat through them and lastly, as  you can see in the photo I laid a cover over the boom and tied it to the toe rail in the hope of further reducing the likelihood of rain getting in. It was suggested I buy Kitty Litter and leave it in the boat to absorb moisture but I couldnt find any in Lautoka when I visited on Saturday.

However the best thing that Ive done in terms of getting Sapphire ready for the long lay-over and trying to make sure I dont return next year and find her in a mess again, is to recruit a charming elderly Indian man called Bharos to keep an eye on her for me. I came across him last Friday as I was wandering round the marina inspecting the boats that are here both in the water and already in the Trenches. It transpired he was doing  the rounds of a handful of boats that he was keeping an eye on for their absent owners, and later after further enquiries I learned he was well regarded and so asked him if he could add Sapphire to his List.

He comes to the marina every day except Sunday so will air the boat frequently and also keep leaves from blocking up the cockpit drains, birds from  making nests under the dodger and of course wasps from making theirs in the Hydrovane!  If water does get in he will get rid of it - and all this for $50 a month. Now I feel so much more relaxed about leaving the boat here.

Apart from doing stuff on the boat I havent done much more than take the Bus into Lautoka a couple of times just to check it out and buy a few things.The Bus trip was fun as it went down a couple of No Exit roads that were rough and bumpy, past Cane Farms and the rural homes of mostly Indian people. ON the return on Monday the bus was packed with happy laughing school kids - in fact everyone here seems really happy! Lautoka was busy and had a much larger shopping district than I was expecting. I was surprised at the "Indian" feel of the place, as most of the shopkeepers seem to be Indians, and often one passed Indian  restarants and takeaway places that scented the air nearby with spice and the unmistakeable smells of Indian cooking.  I had a haircut for$4 ( $2 Australian) and later was told I paid double the usual Price! ( But the cheapest haircut Ive ever had was in Ethiopia - 24 cents!) There is also a huge Market where Fijians sell a massive variety and volume of local produce including all sorts of fish. While I was there on Saturday a huge Parade with marching Bands blocked off traffic in the main street for half and hour  - it was  a Rally for Jesus!
Drumming for Jesus
Ive  really enjoyed my little holiday here at Vuda Point - everyone is wonderfully friendly and helpful. Ive also enjoyed staying in the only "Apartment" at the Marina - I couldnt resist its nice little kitchen, bathroom, double bed and elevated view across the Marina, or the nearby Coffee shop and Restaurant. So I have slept well and eaten well, but now its time to get moving again.Tomorrow I fly to Auckland and at the end of the following week to Darwin to start work again. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Long Day, but a good one!

Late Island : resembles Rangitoto
Now that I am here in Fiji, what happened getting here doesn’t seem that important, but for the record I shall describe that last 24 hours, the first half of which was so mentally challenging I was going to title this Post “I went mad and Shot myself”. As I previously explained I was trying to arrive at Navula Pass, which is the passage from the ocean into the reef-sheltered waters off the western side of Viti Levu, at first light yesterday, Thursday. Approaching unfamiliar land is a risky business in a yacht even in daylight, because we rely on charts and GPS signals to show us exactly where we are and where the nasty hard bits like reefs and islands are. So its harder at night and more so if theres only one pair of eyes, and of course at night one prefers to sleep. So, arriving early,in the dark, is too risky, but arriving  much later would mean there wouldn’t be enough daylight for me to get to Lautoka and back to Vuda Point before dark, and I couldn’t contemplate traveling these busy waters full of yachts, ships, fishing boats, motor cruisers, tourist boats and local traffic, reefs and various other hazards in the dark.   So really what you would like is a nice steady consistent breeze from a convenient quarter, a sea state that’s kindly, so the boat approaches the coast nice and easy at dawn or a little after: which is not what happened! For one thing, the breeze at first was too strong and even with the main reduced by 2 reefs and no headsail, with wind at 20 knots and gusting higher, we were going to  be at the Pass 3 or 4 hours before dawn. An obvious solution might be to slow the boat down by reducing sail further or even heaving to – but I  knew the wind wasn’t necessarily going to remain strong and if it lightened I could end up arriving much too late! So I was reluctant to slow down, at least initially, but I found myself getting quite cranky at the wind for being so unnecessarily strong. Next issue was that the sea state and our angle to the swell had us rolling rather horribly and whereas  mostly  the boat will roll away from vertical and then back, now it was rolling past vertical to the opposite side and hence it was impossible to lie in the sea berth comfortably and get any sleep. I knew I would get very little anyway, but early in the night I had hoped to get a few naps but this was not to be. Making it all worse was the rain, which meant the cabin all closed up but drips getting at various annoying places, and then when I went out to adjust the Hydrovane – a task that takes about 30 seconds – I got wetter than I thought I would and then developed an intensely irritating itchiness on my back and arms and legs, something that has afflicted me for years whenever I get wet. So I was feeling mighty cranky and itchy and sleep deprived, started to feel quite angry and frustrated with everything, started shouting at the bloody wind and the damned itchiness and the horrible short lumpy sea that was throwing the boat round and the stinky dampness of everything…

Anyhow the wind did reduce somewhat, and in fact it finally stopped completely and the Hydrovane tried to make us turn in a little circle. The rain however only got heavier and when dawn finally arrived, darkness was replaced by greyness and a wind that was too light to be of any use to anyone, and I was still about 10 miles from the Pass. Much as I love to sail, and feel defeated whenever I have to use the engine, there was no other choice unless I wished to wallow around in the ocean going insane for another day or two, but to start the motor. I put dry clothes on and then the wet weather gear, which is huge bright red over-trousers that come up almost to my armpits, and a bright red all weather Jacket with a rain hood and Velcro strips to seal the sleeves at the wrist and another flap that  comes round under your chin. Out I went in the grey gloom and the pouring rain, and having already worked out my compass heading started the engine and stood there in the cockpit hand steering for the next two hours, all the while wondering when I would get to see Fiji, which was only a few miles out to my starboard side. Instead all I saw most of that two hours was thunderous rain pouring into the sea, the drops so heavy they flattened the tops of the waves and made a grayish haze that often made it impossible to see where exactly the sea stopped and the rainy sky began. I nervously looked about me for ships which  could have been 200 meters away and be invisible in these conditions. At intervals I would open the companionway and clamber down into the cabin dripping water over everything and check my position and heading on the Chart plotter, confirming we were getting close but still I could see nothing.

With 2 miles to go I noticed whiteness in the grey sky to one side, and then wonderfully I saw a faint outline of hills, and then as if in answer to a prayer the whiteness became a little streak of blue and the rain slowed and finally stopped and  as the  low rain clouds lifted I could see details on the hills and the ocean horizon. Before long I  came to the Pass and entered the smooth sea inside the reef, Nadi Waters it was called on the chart, flat calm, windless quite peacefull and with a low grey sky above the hills. It was such a wonderful relief and a great feeling to get my sanity back, take off the wet weather gear and simply motor to Lautoka, nearly 20 miles away.
The clouds lifted and there was Fiji
 At Lautoka I came across a bigger yacht with a crew of two that had left Vavau the same day I did, and I heard them on the VHF getting instructions on what to do to clear Customs, so I did what they were doing and went  to a designated quarantine area to drop anchor. I wanted to tie up at the wharf but was shouted at by a man in a yellow hard hat and orange jacket to clear off and anchor where the others were. My problem was that I was seriously sleep deprived and exhausted,  and could barely contemplate hauling out my dinghy, inflating it,  lowering it into the water, and mounting the outboard just so I could go in and pay money and get papers stamped by “Officials” – and yet that was what I would have to do!  But then I decided to ask the yacht that was also checking in if they would give me a lift in with them – their dinghy was suspended from davits off the stern – and they agreed.

Checking in  took 3 bloody hours! And I wanted to get back to Vuda Point before dark so was having to bite my tongue and not complain or get irritated at the whole process : one question I had to tick Yes or No for was “Is there any Holy Water on board?” And to pay fees, I had to take a fifteen minute walk up to  the shops and an ATM, before I had even been certified free of the Plague and various other horrible infections! In fact the biggest delay resulted from the long time it took the Health Officer to come down to the wharf – a jovial fat bureaucrat who took our fees and issued the Certificates of Pratique without even looking at the forms we had filled in for him. I SO wanted to complain about him…

Finally two officials had to come out to the Boat! And when we emerged from the Offices on the Wharf it was once again pouring with rain, so we all got soaked as we squeezed aboard Barflys little dinghy and the officials clambered on board and made a 1 minute inspection, and a  request for the last packet of Bluebird potato Chips. I think they were disappointed I didn’t have any liquor on board.

So finally I heaved up the anchor and motored into the pouring rain again, this time without the foulies so I just got completely soaked, and my fingers went all white and wrinkled. I quickly lost all sight of land and following my inward  path on the Chart plotter headed back down about 5 miles to Vuda Point, the clouds once again parting and allowing me to see where I was heading at the last critical moment, not half an hour before sunset. The Marina Office by this time was closed so I tied to the Fuel dock with the help of the night security guy. Next I had a lovely hot shower, the first real hot shower I have had since I left Papeete at the beginning of August ! - and after my shower had a lovely meal of Cajun spiced Wahoo and salad, and two Fiji Bitters, returned at last to my damp and stinky cabin, lay down on the bunk and when I next opened my eyes it was morning.
Vuda Point Marina in the morning

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Made it!

A quick note: I arrived at the Marina about 30 minutes ago just as the sun set so now I shall have a shower then a meal at the restaurant then back here for a huge sleep. Today - the last 24 hours  - were exhauting. I shall write more tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh great, Rain!

There have been no further dramas and I thought I was going to be writing about how cleverly we have avoided getting caught in showers moving southeast from somewhere to the northwest of Fiji. This was because in the morning the horizon to the north was grey and black and it was impossible to see the island of Kadavu though it was mountainous enough to be seen from 12 miles away. In fact yesterday afternoon I had seen the island of Matuku, also to the north and even further off but the horizon then was mostly clear. The horizon to the south this morning had some blue sky and broken cloud and Sapphire seemed to be tracking westward along the seam where the grey and the blue skies met. Around noon I passed the westernmost part of Kadavu which momentarily was visible through the gray, but I continued west a couple of hours to ensure I had a good sailing angle to Navula Pass when I finally gybed to starboard and began heading north of north west - and within 30 minutes we were in the showers! So I am confined to barracks as light rain comes and goes, its all grey sea and grey sky out there and we make tracks for a passage through the reef about 80 miles away. I still havent unrolled the headsail, so I am continuing with a single reef in the main at sedate pace through still bumpy seas. If I had more sail out I could go faster but less comfortably, but more importantly would arrive at the Pass in the middle of the night. This way I am hoping to get there just after sunrise - in other words, knowing how good my timing of these things has been so far, sometime before lunch tomorrow! From there its about 20 miles to Lautoka where I will clear Customs and then I double back a few miles to Vuda Point Marina, which, by this time tomorrow I should be close to tying up at. If thats . A sentence.. I just hope they have showers right there because there were none in Vava'u, and its all a bit damp and grotty in here, what with a rubbish bag of empty cans of tuna and mackerel, my own damp clothes and bedding...

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Night to Remember

Yesterday had been a pretty easy day really. I had my dinn er and tidied up and lay down to rest about 7.30, and I was asleep a little over half an hour later when abruptly all hell seemed tyo have broken loose. I was woken suddenly by the contenets of shelves opposit e tumbling across the cabin along wirth a hellish roar of wind and sea as the boat seemed to suddely be about to capsize, lying over on its starboard side at a crazy angle. It was pitch black, and I woke in a hell of a panic, quickly grabbing my headlight and gloves and tether and sliding back the hatch to see what had happened. IT was pretty obvious - the wind had leapt to 29 knots massively over powering the full main and all the headsail and the boat was pushed over side ways so the chaotic sea was crashing along past the starboard toerail ; I couldnt believe the change had happened almost instantaneously and now if something else didnt change almost instabntaneously I could see things breaking, damage and mayhem all round. And then thunderous rain started bashing down on me. It was a frightful experience - my first action was to release the main sheet - the main wasnt all out as to do so would have the sail chafing on the spreader but i let the rest of it go - to hell with the sail I thought - and the boat came up a bit bu still the entire headsail - which is a No 2 genoa - was still poled out to port but tearing and straining at the forestay, backed and ballooning in towards the mast. I had no idea what direction we were pointing or where the wind had come from but the thought of getting that sail in filloed me with dread - I could see it getting out of control and flailing wildly and dangerously untl it flogged itself or something else to pieces. I wrapped the furling line around my gloved wrist and braced myself with my feet on the edges of the cockpit and a winch and using my foot to control the easing of the sheet to the sail let a little out and pulled and heaved as hard as I possible could - the line dug inot my wrist but it felt as if the line was a steel wire attached to a ten ton weight - no movement in the slightest. I let a little more line out with my foot and heaved again ; again nothing - how the hell was I ever going to get this sail in - and all the while we are crashing along in big seas and rain. At that moment with a lurch the sail flapped momentarily and I reeled in a quarter turn - and immediately lost it again as the wind slammed back into the sail - but now I knew what to do! I waited and with the next lurch pulled again and kept the turn, and again with the next one until as the sail got smaller I was suddenly able to wind it all in, straining and panting and gasping, my mouth as dry as if it ha been wiped out with blotting paper. And now Sapphire was almost perpendicular again, but the full main was way out to starboard. The wind was still howling and the rain punding down, the sky pitch black, but with the headsail contained everything was stable. I went below to look at the chartplotter to see where we were being blown and to see where the nearest land was - it was 60 miles away - a small island and we werent being blown towards it anyway, so I waited to think what I should do next. I imagined this must be a rain storm, a squall that would soon blow over so decided not to do anything with the main - it was too hazardous for me to be out on deck in these conditions, and I hoped it would all be over in an hour, or maybe two, so I sat in the cabin listening to the howling wind and rain, the rattling halyards slamming back and forth on the mast, the occasional flap of he sail and the intermittent thump and occasional crash of a wave into the hull, the contents of lockers and storage spaces banging back and forth which each lurch and roll. Its easy to imagine disaster at times like this, to remember stories of shipwreck or loss in the night but I kept saying to myself - "The boat is strong, she is tough, she can handle this, we've been in sea like this before, it will blow over, just stay calm, nothing is broken, the boat is dry, its just a squall the boat is tough, she can handle this..."

But after two hours - which seemed more than an eternity - nothing had changed except that the rain had stopped. ANd looking out I saw stars. I then began to realise this was a front passing across, a trough that had been mentioned in weather forecast earlier but had been expected to pass further north of Fiji. We had considered delaying departure for this front but decided to go when its projected course moved north! So I was going to be in this for the long haul - well all night at least I imagined - and still the whole main sail was out. Try as I might I could not summon the necessary courage to get back out to try and rein it in. The boat was being pushed in a safe direction at about 1 knot, and nothing was broken, and I convinced myself to stay in bord. So there was nothing more to do - I lay on my berth and tried to ignore the chaos and racket around me, and eventually had some sleep. Every time I woke, it was the same, the same noise, the same motion and clattering, the same howling wind. My plan was to get the main in at first light. And how long was that night! The hoped for easing in conditions, the hoped for return of daylight seemed never to come.

But, inevitably it did. By morning the wind was 22 knots and as soon as I could see everything, donned the safety harness and gloves and went up top to finally reef the mainsail - I took in two - reset the Hydrovane and suddenly we were off again, surging down and over and through these wild swells, overjoyed to be on our way again and over the horror of the night just gone. Later I took the pole in and noticed the headsail was as tightly wrapped around the forestay as a cigarrette paper around a needle, I had never seen it so tight. And later I found that one of the sliders on the main had broken but I made a temporary fix with a short length of cord.

And now, right now we are 100 miles from the bottom end of Kadavu, and its about 100 miles ffrom there to Lautoka. I have one reef in the main and we are making 5 to 6 knots in about 16 knots of breeze, the sea state is much less chaotic, and I feel tired, but OK.. The headsail is still wound up.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

A Tip for you

I might have mentioned this before, but if I am ever teaching a young doctor something surgical I usually tell them to remember one thing : "The enemy of Good is Better" This sounds counter-intuitive at first but is a useful check to the urge to fiddle with something thats good to try and make it better. Mostly you just cause more bleeding and it takes twice as long. Needless to say I am not a perfectionist but a pragmatist! But I should have taken my own advice today when I decided to gybe to starboard to see if I could get a better angle towards the south of Kandavu. Its quite a job getting the pole back out the other side, trying to rebalance everything - and then to discover things were better the way they were and to have to re-do it all again - it took me about 2 hours before we were smoothly sailing downwind again back on Port!

For lunch I had a can of Watties Cream Corn with bread and cheese, and a Kiwifruit. I have to say I am quite fond of Watties canned food - the cream corn was excellent, as are their baked beans and the ones with meatballs had actual meatballs! I had the second half of last nights pasta and mackerel for breakfast so I think I will have a light dinner tonight - maybe noodles or soup.

So I am about half way, having squeezed Sapphire through the gap between Nuku Songa and Latoa island fifty miles south of it! And avoided those blue circles! But the wind has lightened further so we are traveling a bit more slowly with all sail out directly west, as previously mentioned to the bottom end of Kandavu about 180 miles away. Bob the weather guru suggested there might be showers further north today and I have seen rain falling from clouds passing north of me and twice had the merest sprinkling of rain, but otherwise it has been a pleasant day with plenty of clouds about. If the wind stays where it is ( yeah right!) there shouldnt be much to do till Kandavu late tomorrow. I am reading A Tale of Two Cities on the Kindle.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ocean mysteries

Before leaving Niafu I checked the Hydrovane bolts. To do this I first remove the U shaped seating that occupies the aft end of the cockpit, and then open two circular inspection ports that screw into the vertical face of the transom. Reaching through as far back as I can, with my armpit against the edge of the inspection port I can just manage to apply a Vise-Grip to the nut after a lot of fiddling around. Then I tighten the bolt from the outside, and repeat for the other bolt. They both required about 1/4 of a turn - hardly anything. As I happen to have a piar of vise-grips, I decided to leave one one each nut for the duration, and so today when I checked the bolts all I needed to do was lean out over the back of the boat with the correct socket and tighten it up again - in fact they were both still nice and tight, but it was almost a pleasure to check them so simply for once. I shall do it each day.

The fresh wind and sea we encountered yesterday afternoon and overnight has slowly settled, as predicted but we still have a nice 18 knot breeze which has gone round almost to the east, so our broad reach has turned into a run and the headsail is poled out to port. If the wind goes much further around I may need to gybe onto starboard but it isnt forecast to do that so I shall wait and see. We've been making around 5.8 knots +/- .4 most of the afternoon, after a 24 hour run of 120nm, which is a good run for Sapphire. I gave myself an interesting lesson on balancing sail during the day, as I let out more and more headsail and then took one of the reefs out of the main : at one point our course on the chart plotter was a sinuous sort of scalloped track as the boat would turn up so that the main was backed briefly and then we would turn away and gain speed and then start again. I think what I worked out was there wasnt enough main, or else too much headsail, because once I took out a reef in the main, our path smoothed out to just where I wanted it. We are heading for a point somewhere south of Nuku Songa reef which is 90nm away but well north of two litle blue circles, one of which is labelled "Obstruction: always submerged, 3.6mters, 1979" and the other says "Obstruction: always submerged;Shoals rep 1993" Its hard to imagine what these are as they emerge from water reported everywhere around them to be over 2000 meters deep, but my curiosity isnt going to get the better of me. Having said that, I have noticed in the past the boats tendency to be drawn to places that I dont want it to head towards, so as I did last night, I will be extra vigilant tonight in checking our position and heading.

My nausea and anxiety have almost disappeared completely now so I am starting to enjoy the rhythm of the sea and the boat again, and tonight will cook a 'proper" meal of pasta with tinned fish and sauce. I had cheese lettuce and tomato sandwhich for lunch, and for breakfast, cereal after half a pawpaw and a cup of tea. I forgot to bring lollies this time but I have chocolate biscuits for the first time ever, and Bluebird potato chips for treats.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Departing Tonga

I let go of the mooring at 0915hrs, motored out of the moorings area and put up sdail. It was lovley sailing in flat sea down to the ocean, but now 8 hours later its not so lovley.The sun is shining but the wind is cool so I put on a long sleeved shirt. The wind is stronger than forecast but is supposed to ease over night which will be nice, as I now have 2 reefs in the main and tiny biy of headsail out, and we are still making a bumpy 6 knots in 2m seas. However as we almost going downwind, the boat is dry. Gusts have been up to 29 knots and its mainly around 23. We are 36nnm from Vavau, which has now disappeared behind me. We have just eased past the first obstacle, an uninhabited island called Late, roughly circular and cone shaped like Rangitoto in Auckland or perhaps Mt Fujiyama. There are cliffs all round and no lagoon so that might explain why its uninhabited. From here its about 200nm to my next waypoint, Nuku Songa reef at the southern end of the Lau group of Fijian ISlands that lie in a north-south direction like a barbed wire fence seperating Tongan waters from Fijian. There are a few holes in its array of reefs shoals islets and islands and a couple of recognised passages, but for me I think its safer just to go round the bottom, because inevitably I end up approaching these places at night when I need sleep and I am tired.

As usual on my first day back at sea I feel anxious and slghtly nauseated and have no appetite. Writing makes me feel worse so I will stop now. Hopefully tomorrow the wind will ease and make the sailing more enjoyable

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Friday, September 7, 2012

No Photos this time

To be honest I am still getting over the whales!

We've had  rain and wind and cloudy skies yesterday and today. I have done some chores on the boat - such as restitiching a seam on the dodger which was coming undone - and had long breakfasts and lunches chatting to other yachties, and last night went to the presentation about the traditional ocean voyaging Polynesian canoes, which was less informative than I had hoped it would be, but they did show a lovley video of the canoes out on the ocean, and lots of close ups of polynesian faces with tears in their eyes,hakas and emotinal reunions on distant shores.

Ive also met up with Mel and Andy, an Australian couple now living right here in Niafu. Mel is a doctor who I met in the Northern Territory three years ago, and she has opened a little medical practice just along the road. Their plan is to lease a small island and bild a little resort there, and already they have found an available one and been given most of the approvals. There is of course lots of red tape to get through.

This afternoon I have cleared customs, paid my Port Charges of $2.50 (!) and stocked up on comfort foods for the journey to Lautoka on the far side of  Viti Levu the main island of Fiji. Toniught I am going to a Circus - this is what its advertised as, but it sounds like fun.  I'm leaving in the morning. It should take five days but I will need to be on my toes as unlike most of the other legs of my South Pacific Tour, there are numerous little islands, reefs, regions marked "Volcanic activity reported" , shoals and other obstacles in my way.

Assuming all goes well, I'll have a few days to get the boat out of the water at Vuda Point Marina, and then head back to NZ to see  my first granddaughter, who is due any day now.

Next few Posts will be from the Boat at Sea.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Something Unbelievable

Neiafu Harbour: Sapphire is way down the other end
Two traditional Ocean going Polynesian Canoes. I'm going to a talk about them tomorrow night.

I went for a walk and came across these guys building a little house, and had a nice chat to them
These kids were from the place next door. the house was for their grandma

I just wanted to capture the sky
Today I experienced something that no matter how much longer I live, I would be surprised if it could be exceeded in terms of wonderment and breathtaking, awe inspiring ....words fail me. I cannot describe it and you will never know what it felt like until you too get to Vava'u and go swimming and snorkelling in the ocean with Humpback whales. There were eight of us who sped out on a twin engined aluminium dive boat threading its way through the myriad passges between utterly gorgeous little bush clad islets with bright white sandy beaches, through a narrow passage in a reef and into a vast reef fringed arm of the ocean, every eye scanning the horison for a tell tale "Blow" We came across a group of three - a mother, a calf and a "companion" whale thought to be a large male, 50 or more feet long, and taking it in turns in groups of four we slipped off the back into the clear ocean and scanning ahead and down into the depths eventually encountered these wondrous creatures as they surfaced for ten or fiften minutes, and disappeared in the deep then reappeared time and again, so we all were eventually exhausted after about three hours with this dynamic trio. We could have touched them they were so close at times, and their massive bulk and the frisky curiosity of the calf were mesmerising and beautiful. I am just not going to try and decribe the feeling - its impossible. You must do this. You absolutely must.

I took these with my cheap little underwater camera : Janet sent me the Charger when I was in Niue : Thanks janet

This is the Calf.

Neiafu : Ashore

We are so well protect6ed from the ocean here that if there is no breeze, the boat sits perfectly still - and it was almost eerie last night allying down to sleep with not a thing moving. But I slept well, and in the morning after my breakfast of the remainder of last nights rice and stew, and a good tidy up of the boat, the Officials arrived - at one mkoment tghere were four bulky Tongan men squeezed inot the cabin, and really there wasnt any room to move. Formaliities completed, I walked the couple of hundred meters into the main shopping area, dropped my rubbish into a bin and got some cash from an ATM to pay my Customs Levies, 123 pa'anga (the local currency ) in total.

My first impression was that Neiafu is a bit like a BackPackers town - numerous cafes with coffee and Pizza and Internet, cheap accommodation, T shirts, relaxed friendly and helpful, not at all upmarket, and fellow travelers at every stop. I kept running into people I had met in Suwarrow and Niue, but it was interesting to compare notes on the trip here from Niue. The larger boats all had to slow down if there was wind, so they would arrive in the mornings, some had very little wind, others had reasonable seas and wind al the way - which is as expected I guess weather being what it is but the boat that left the same time as I did agreed there was a bit more "weather" to contend with than we had been expecting. They confirmed my suspicion that my wind instruments have become inaccurate, having seen gusts close to 30 knots whereas mine only ever saw 23 and I was sure the wind was stronger than that in the gusts, and never believed in the lulls it was 16. I suppose I just add that to the list of things to do on the boat sometime in Fiji.

I went to a cafe called Aquarium, one of several overlooking the large blind ending arm of the harbour with dozens of moored cruisers. WiFi is free if you buy a coffee, and several yachties were there with their laptops doing their email and what-not. It amazed me in Niue as well, how many people are on the net and for hours at a time every day it seems; I cant imagine what they are finding to do there all that time day after day, but one couple I saw in Niue and here too, seem never to do anything else or even talk to each other, but just sit there with their I-Pads or whatever they are, doing facebook or something. I could have brought my Toughbook and done something similar but I have found WiFi in these places can be rather slow, and I dont want to risk dropping it into the tide getting it to and from the boat so I use an Internet Cafe where available - its not free but it can be quick. I had fresh fruit and coffee and then a second breakfast of vegetable patties with sweet chuili sauce, and fresh coconut juice with pineapple.. It was very nice sitting there looking at the yachts and relaxing after all that sailing.

My main interest in Vava'u is whale watching so I have booked to go in the morning. I also found a place to hire a mooring from and moved the boat onto it later in the day, then pumped up the dinghy, reattached the Outboard to it and went back to town for a random walk round the back streets. I found a shop selling NZ Hokey Pokey Icecream so wandered off with a double cone and I could hardly have been happier. Later still I had NZ beer with my chicken kebabs dinner and in the dark when I got back to Sapphire, the sound of unaccompanied singing from a church choir drifted across the water. It had been one of those lovely days when you feel so relaxed and at peace with everything you wonder why everyone isnt doing what I'm doing!

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Monday, September 3, 2012


Tonight I am tied up at the main commercial wharf area in Neiafu, the main town on Vava'u. I arrived well before dark but too late for Customs and all that so I was advised to tie up here and wait till morning. The trip from Niue was really hard work! Big wind and seas to 3 metres so lots of hanging on and waiting for miles to tick over. The sea was really quite amazing but it was more amazing to see Sapphire plough on through it all. The wind and waves started in the south and gradually swung round to SE and later East, so as it went round little adjustments were made to the Hydrovane to keep us on track. Last night I was a bit slow in making the adjustments and we came to Vava'u a bit south of where I wanted to be so we had to sort of sail a bit more northerly for a while to get back on track, then over the top of the island and down the western side to a long passage between mamy islands to get to Neiafu. Once again I was greeted on arrival by a whale!

One astonishing thing happened on the journey : the Hydrovane Bolts came loose again! I was amazed! - I head a strange creaking noise, one I hadn't heard before and I think its a good rule to always investigate new sounds - and there it was - the lower bracket sliding sideways and back again about 1cm as the boat moved this way and that...well I knew excatly what to do so in 20 minutes had them all tightened again, along with a couple of good soakings as I lay awkwardly on the cockpit floor with my hand reaching back through the inspection port to the bolts in the transom....I am not sure what to think but will just have to keep checking them and tightening them.

So now all is quiet as my dinner heats up and my "Q" Flag flutters in a light breeze. I'm tired so shall sleep well tonight.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Slogging it out

In seas and weather like this, the best place to be is in my bunk. SO thats where I'm going again after sending this brief message. Its sunny and very windy with 3m swells. I have a tiny headsail out and two reefs in the main and we making round 6 knots over a very bumpy sea with white water everywhere. The wind and sea are from south so we arent going downwind which would make eveything so much nicer, but , 22 hours after leaving Niue we are half way there. I just want to be in Vava'u before dark tomorrow - on present indications we'll just squeak in. I will post again once we are there, late tomorrow.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Next Stop: Vava'u

A view of the southern end of Niue
I forgot to put this one up before: Its Tom Neales shack on Suwarrow
One of the hundreds of empty houses on Niue
We climbed down this ladder into a cave yesterday to snorkel in the cave.
The cave Pool was wondeful
Looking out from the cave
Very clear water : those little blue fish are almost iridescent in real life
 Lots of  little fish in Makapu Point Cave

The weather has settled and instead of waiting till tomorrow I am leaving later today, Friday. Ive taken the motorbike back, paid my yacht club dues, checked out with customs and after this will get some more UHT milk and few other groceries along with a loaf of fresh bread. That should be enough to get me to Vava'u in 2 days when it will be Monday there, on the other side of the International; dateline. Ive had a really lovely time in Niue but I am excited about getting back out into the ocean again.