Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Well that's it for now - nothing much to update except that we have been either walking the beach here on Mololo Lailai, reading by the pool, swimming or just hanging out. Nice here. Hard to imagine how hard we work to get here, but now that we are we enjoy it to the max.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Friday afternoon we heard that our friends on Morning Light were just arriving into Port Lautoka safe and sound following a less than ideal 10-day passage. They were followed by Scarlett O'hara, who had the survivors of Elusive on board, arriving just in time to get checked in before the offices shut down for the weekend, and. We were quite relieved to know that they were all safely tucked away as we continued to await news of the arrival of Bold Spirit and The Dorothy Marie ("TDM"). We had heard that TDM's autopilot had quit on them while they were still 4 days out, leaving them to hand steer their way here. I'm sure they were getting weary.
Dave and Jan on Baraka had come by earlier to gather donations from the gang to pay for hotel accommodations for Steve, Wendy and their son in Lautoka. We happily pitched in knowing that they would appreciate some space of their own for a couple of days, and some peace and quiet to get themselves sorted out. They were all still in quite a state of shock after having watched their beautiful boat sink into the depths of the South Pacific. Fortunately, Earl and Marsha (Mahurangi) were heading into Lautoka on personal business and were able to set it up so that all that Elusive's owners had to do was give their names to the front desk and be shown to their room. Dave and Jan had also sent ahead some wine and snacks for them. What thoughtful people they are!
On Saturday, exhausted yet happy Glen and Sally aboard TDM navigated the barrier reef into the safety of Fiji's Momi Bay. On Sunday we heard that Bold Spirit had also made it in. We breathed a sigh of relief and cheered their arrival. It will be good to see them all and to bring the gang back together again. The rub was that Saturday afternoon brought a storm with high winds and rain. I wished that I'd gone to shore earlier in the day for at least a walk or a swim because by mid-day there was no leaving the safety of Destiny and her mooring. The winds howled and the rain whipped us – at least giving us another nice rinsing off. But it was much too choppy to set out in the dinghy. We spent the weekend reading. I read "The Shack", while Frank finished a book that had been loaned to us, which he could not put down! It is called "Rescue in the Pacific", by Tony Farrington (also a yachtie), depicting the horrific and disastrous "Queen's Birthday" storm of June 1994. It was a late season storm that just happened to develop in the passage area of some 60 yachts heading north from New Zealand toward Tonga and Fiji. With sustained winds of between 50-75 kts, gusts of up to 100, and raging seas building wave heights to 100ft., this storm set off the largest scale rescue effort in the history of this area. After Frank finished it he told me I should read it – that it would probably scare the fillings out of my teeth but we both needed to read it so that we can discuss strategy. He was right on all accounts. I poured through it just as he did and then we spent considerable time discussing modifications and improvements relative to us and to Destiny before our next passage. This book had a profound impact on us and on every other cruiser we know who has read it. I don't know if the average reader would "get it". Tonight at dinner during a discussion of the book, Christine from Morning Light pointed out that she had read it before she and Jaime began cruising. It did not have the same meaning to her then that it would now that they are making passages and dealing with these crazy weather systems while at sea.
Also over the weekend we got word from our Houston friends, Debra and Sandy that they are coming to visit us the 1st of June. We had been hoping for this news since our trip back home in January, but they had to wait for certain things to align before they would know for certain. The bonus – they will be here during my birthday. We have a week to get ship-shape for our guests, and we are pleased to do so.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Fiji is comprised of two major islands, Viti Levu, ("Great Fiji") is the largest island, Vanua Levu, ("Big Land") the second largest, then a third smaller island, Tavenui, followed by island Groups, such as The Yasawas, the Lau Group and so on. Musket Cove is on a very small island called Malolo Lailai in the Mamanuka group. In order to move around in Fiji we may not always go via Destiny, because in order to do so we must have a permit from and to each island or group we wish to take her. For trips into town on the main islands there are other means of travel.
Monday morning we took the one-hour ferry ride with Marsha and Earl, whose yacht is "Mahurangi", to Denarau Island. We stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Café – can you even believe this? Then from there we took a cab over to Nadi (pronounced "Nandi"), which is actually on the main island of Viti Levu. The two are connected by a bridge – much like Galveston to the Texas mainland. Anyway in order not to complicate this – I won't get into geography. If you look at a map of Fiji you will get the general idea.
Nadi is a larger version of a dirt street village with loads of souvenir shops, including the clothing stores (just like many towns in Mexico), and with a very large Indian influence. Our main objectives were to get: 1) Cash from the ATM, 2) detailed local cruising maps, 3) Kava root, 4) fresh fruits and vegetables, and 5) lightweight dresses and apparel for visiting the villages. Women are forbidden to wear shorts, short skirts, and swimsuits in the villages. Men should wear long pants or "Sulu". You are also expected to remove hats and sunglasses when addressing a local, and we are advised that backpacks, shoulder bags and cameras should be carried in the hand – not slung over the shoulders or worn on the back – out of respect. The rule of thumb is you cannot be too conservative. We were also advised to stock up on cigarettes to hand out to village leaders and chiefs. Aye! I am not happy to be promoting lung cancer especially since it was so difficult for me to quit smoking! But when in Fiji…
The boys set off for the bank and the map store while Marsha and I tried on dresses and skirts. Then we all ventured to the market, which is an open-air market such as we have attended in many other countries except that this was a bit of a surprise to Frank and I as first time visitors. Clearly one half of this gargantuan market was dedicated to the selling of and consumption of Kava! We have been advised many times over of the importance of purchasing the proper amount and type of Kava for presentation to the Big Chiefs. This is serious business indeed! It was really kind of creepy for Marsha and I because there were aisles and aisles of booths, with toothless men and women sitting among mounds of Kava Root, pounding it into powder, wrapping and weighing bundles of the stuff, while mixing and drinking the noxious substance. Most of them sat around with blank stares – rather stoned stares, or smiling deviantly at us as we stumbled about wondering where the heck Frank and Earl got to. Eventually we found them, still back toward the main entrance happily drinking free samples of this gawd-awful brown sludge. They were beginning to develop the same goofy look of the locals. Marsha and I were so distracted by them that we left without purchasing a single parcel of food.
Eventually we made our way back to Denarau where Marsha and I parked the boys back at the Hard Rock Café and sought out a local bakery, small (indoor) grocery, ice cream shop and whatnot, paying much higher prices but preferring the cleanliness of this to Nadi. We will go back another time for a trip to the temples and tourist attractions and to sample the local flavor of the indigenous foods.
Today is Thursday. I don't know where the time goes. We have just really enjoyed hanging out by the pool, hiking around the little island here and having dinner with friends from the other boats. It is so lovely here that we wish we could share it with those we love and we think of you all often. We are awaiting news of the arrival of our nephew's baby, which should be any day now. Internet is still hit and miss. Some days we have a great connection and other times none at all, or sketchy at best. The Sat phone is hit and miss. Today the Skype was working so we talked to our folks on the phone, called my daughter and sis and a couple of friends – made contact with some, left a few voicemails on some and not on others but felt good that we tried. Although we buy cell phone SIM cards in the local country, it is so expensive to call, and we do not always have access to internet/Skype. So we grab what we can get when we get it. I still marvel at how much of life we took for granted back there where everything is so convenient. We remind ourselves as often as possible that life is about much more than that! WE are getting to experience the REAL world - the USA is just a Fantasy compared to so many other countries and cultures.
Tonight we will have Sundowner over on Warm Rain. Tomorrow – who knows?! We are still asking for prayers for our group of friends still trying to make the crossing from New Zealand to Fiji. Our trip was an easy 7 ½ days. They have all been going at it for 8 days now and due to rotten weather and seas are still 3-5 days out, and of the group one boat has already met a tragic fate. We appreciate any good and kind thoughts you will send their way.
Well as I am about to post this Frank just received word that Jeff and Erin had baby Logan yesterday - on Jeff's birthday. Congrats you two. Erin, I know you were way past ready to have that little guy in your arms.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009
Saturday morning we all met on the little island, at The Bar for a chart meeting. Dave and Judy are Kiwis and fellow cruisers who sailed here from New Zealand many times over the years and one day decided not to leave so they run Musket Cove Resort, and keep it very cruiser-friendly. They gathered us round for a Fiji Islands cruising tutorial giving us tips on safe passages, where to anchor, when and where to buy the proper size and amount of Kava root to present to village chieftains upon arrival at their bay/inlet/village. Fascinating stuff indeed.
Then we had free time until closing night ceremonies at 6 PM. Frank and I went to the Coffee Cove and had seafood pizza for lunch then we went back to Destiny to take care of some housekeeping items.
At 6 PM we donned what meager Pirate gear we could scrape together and went ashore to The Bar. There was some ritualistic preparation of Rum punch and a social hour, followed by a chicken curry dinner. Afterward Phil announced the prizewinners. "Warm Rain" won Best Story, "Baraka" won Best Protest and Best Dressed Pirates, Destiny won "Most accurate ETA" (misspelled on our plaque "Accutate"), "Mahurangi" won Best Kept Log, "Different Drummer" won Largest Fish Caught, & "Vivacious" won Best Brag.
Sadly, to end the night, Alan from "Charisma" approached us to tell everyone that he had just received the horrific news that "Elusive", a J-44, who was traveling with a group of our cruiser friends (Morning Light, The Dorothy Marie, Scarlett O'Hara, etc.), sank 500 miles north of Auckland. Owners, Steve and Wendy are excellent seamen, so needless to say we are all shocked and very upset by this news. They had their son aboard and were fortunately rescued by John and Renee of Scarlett O'Hara. They are unharmed and are continuing the journey to Fiji aboard S O'H. No one knows for sure what happened only that they were taking on water. We await further news.
Today is Sunday. Not much going on. Frank is working on boat stuff and we are just enjoying doing nothing.
Yesterday kicked off the official rally events. We all gathered on the island to participate in the highly competitive lawn games, consisting of versions of Lawn Darts, ring toss and a type of lawn bowling. Each yacht was represented by her crew. "Different Drummer", "Mahurangi" and "Vivacious" had additional crewmembers, while we remaining 3 boats, "Destiny", "Baraka" & "Warm Rain" had only two team members each. Apparently these games are much more common among Kiwis because as they all excelled at them, and we basically sucked! In the first two games we were set against Tom and Dawn of "Warm Rain". Tom just about wore us out because after each round he would get out the measuring line to actually measure within a hair each team's distances. I'm thinking he was some kind of engineer or accountant in his working life. Frank and I were good enough with "eyeballing" our marks. Ah well, sigh. We had a good time though, and finally found our niche in lawn darts. We won against everyone we played, although when "Warm Rain" was sent to play us of course Tom argued over each round until we just turned up the juice and blew them away – end of debate!
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Friday, May 15, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Monday afternoon we arrived at Musket Cove, on the island of Mololo Lailai, dropped anchor and then, after tidying up a bit we sat down to a lunch of pork chops. Just before leaving New Zealand, and of course just after we had fully provisioned the boat, the Fijian government issued an edict prohibiting the import of pork products from New Zealand. Just that week 10 university students had returned to Auckland from Mexico, testing positive for Swine Flu, hence Fiji has determined that all pork in New Zealand must now be infected. Makes perfect sense – right! Well, we have been eating up our pork products since then in an effort not to import them into Fiji. I'm getting a little "porked-out".
Normally, when arriving in Fiji a yacht must check into the country at one of 4 designated ports – all of them dirty, congested and teeming with bureaucracy, "they" say. Musket Cove is not one of them, however; the ICA (Island Cruising Assoc.), made special arrangements with Fijian officials to come to Musket Cove on Thursday, May 14th to process the boats participating in the rally. Nice. Unfortunately, most of us arrived 3 days early and were sitting in an unauthorized port of entry, flying bright yellow "Q" flags – a definite and glaring violation of Fijian Customs Regs. But what else could we do? We were just following directions. Both the ICA and Musket Cove were in contact with the officials so we let the powers that be duke it out while we grilled our steak dinner, kicked back and read books and waited. Until we were released from quarantine there was really not much else to do. Eventually a representative from Musket Cove Marina came by to tell us that we must leave here and go check in at Lautoka. OK, fine. We would do that but not this day. Fiji's reef system is abundant, complex and dangerous to boats, hence it is inadvisable to move about the waters unless the sun is relatively high (generally between 11 AM – 2 PM), and the dangerous areas can be spotted. It was now 3:30 PM. We agreed to go to Lautoka on Tuesday, assuming that no official inspector would be creeping around this late in the day looking for violators. Then later in the evening, we received a call on VHF informing all rally boats that Customs, Health, Quarantine and Immigration would be arriving on the first ferry in the morning to get us cleared. Great! We slept well knowing that we didn't have to move after all.
Tuesday morning we all waited and waited. No word from Musket Cove or from the rally leader, "Different Drummer". Finally at mid-day we were told that the officials would not arrive until Wednesday, but that we were (now) OK to remain at anchor as long as we did not disembark our vessels. We were in "Time out!" Again, no problem. At 5:30 PM we received a call on VHF alerting all rally boats that beginning 6 PM, officials would be boarding us and conducting clearances. "Destiny" was 2nd in line. I would say "unbelievable", but it really isn't. So it goes that at 7 PM, a longboat full of giggling and jabbering Fijian officials came aboard. There were 5 of them: 2 from Customs, 1 Immigration, 1 Health Dept., and 1 Bio-security/quarantine. They were the friendliest folks yet. They looked at our food and other supplies, saw that we still had some prohibited and restricted items aboard but told us as long as we didn't take them ashore while in Fiji all was well and good. We got our stamp of approval and away they went, giggling and jabbering into the night.
Monday, May 11, 2009
On Friday, May 9th we enjoyed yet another lovely day of sailing and caught a 31" Yellowtail (?). What a pleasant and luscious variation that was for our taste buds. By nightfall, the seas had laid down and the ocean was as flat and placid as a mountain lake, literally shimmering with the mirrored reflections of the moon and stars. We later mused that had we bent low over the rails we might have seen our own reflections on the water. We thought this was a night to beat all previous nights at sea until Saturday night trumped even this one.
Saturday was a game of leapfrog between us, "Mind the Gap" and "Charisma". Each of us alternately passed and then trailed one another until "Mind the Gap" refusing to use his motor fell many miles behind.
By 6 PM, while watching a magnificent sunset, the orange glow of a rising moon broke the horizon to the east. We sat slack-jawed as we witnessed a brilliant burnt orange harvest moon boldly emerge, so mesmerizing us that we felt we were witnessing a sacred birth. And we marveled at the beauty of this incredible phenomenon of moon emerging while sun setting. Both of us alternately turned our attention from the sunset to the sunrise as each cast it's dancing colors across the sky from each end of the horizon to meet in an explosion of kaleidoscopic patterns overhead. We felt humbled. We felt awed. And we felt something deeply spiritual as we sat silenced by this moment. For a while neither of us wanted to move. So we just sat and let the serenity wash over us, feeling very thankful. The ensuing night proved to be just as lovely.
Sunday morning the seas began their angry thrashing, and the winds did not seem to want to do anything to help us out. We mostly motored the day through and then shared a gourmet Ramen soup dinner last night - our final night of the crossing.
It is now 11:15 AM on Monday - Sunday in the USA; Happy Mother's Day to our Moms and all the other Moms out there on the other side of the dateline. We just entered the Navula Pass into Fiji's coastal shores (inside the surrounding barrier reef). Within a couple of hours we will be anchored at Musket Cove where we will: 1) sleep!, 2) tidy the boat, and then 3) enjoy a grilled steak dinner. Then we will sit quietly and discreetly at anchor until Wednesday when Customs will arrive to check us into the country.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
1-2 cups diced fresh fish (Mahi Mahi)
1-2 limes juiced
1-2 lg. radishes, sliced paper-thin
1 large tomato, diced
1 very small onion finely diced
Salt to taste
2 lg. cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin
Cracked black pepper to taste
1 stalk mild celery, diced
1 avocado diced
Toasted sesame seeds
Soy sauce &/or dash of Tabasco
Cover diced fish in limejuice and toss until well coated. Let sit 10 minutes then add next 8 ingredients and let sit for at least 20 minutes to marinate. Just before serving, dash lightly with (low sodium) soy sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
During the rally there are various competitions among the cruisers. We don't participate in all of them; in fact Frank is kind of a Grinch about these things. I love them and enjoy the camaraderie of joining in. Anyway this year they are:
Best kept cruiser log (Captain's log)
Largest fish caught on passage
Best Story - using all of the boat names in both rallies
Best Nautical Brag (tall tale)
Best dressed pirate - at the arrival bash
Closest ETA (we had to write our best guess and hand it in to the rally coordinator prior to departure from Opua)
So, yesterday I wrote a fairy tale/story and submitted it. We'll see how we do.
Today we have had NO WIND! In fact at times there isn't much more than a wisp. I read an entire Scott Turow book since my watch last night. We tried the gennaker but all it did was flop around so we doused it and opted for the engine. Weather reports are not promising much for the rest of our passage. Only 345 miles to go!
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Thursday, May 7, 2009
So far the passage has been a good one. Sunday, May 3, we awoke to crystal clear blue skies and although quite chilly the weather was grand and the day was exciting for us. We gathered at the Opua Cruising Club at 9:00 AM for the "group photo" which included all boats going to both Fiji and Tonga. We bid farewell to friends who were either leaving later on or heading in other directions. Bill and Judy (Bebe) and Glen and Sally (The Dorothy Marie) came by to help us cast off lines at 10:30 AM, then we pulled into the bay and began slowly circling the anchorage waiting for all of the other rally yachts to get into position. It felt like getting ready for a race, and our adrenaline was surging. We waited for the 10-minute signal, then the 5-minute horn, and then the countdown to start. A thrill ran through our bones as the fleet set off and for a short while stayed relatively close together until we hit open water, where the Tonga fleet sailed eastward as we set a course almost directly due north. For the first day we rolled along in the aftermath of the previous gale. Seas were pitchy and the wind was right on our back. It was too rough to raise the gennaker or the whisker pole for a comfortable wing & wing downwind run, so we turned on the engine and chugged along. For a while we remained in VHF radio contact with Baraka and Warm Rain, but after the first 24 hours we began to lose them. Each night at 19:30 (7:30 PM) the rally boats report in on a "Sked" (what we call a Net), checking in with Opua Offshore Radio's Des Renner. Des first gives a weather report for all cruising areas for both groups, and follows with a roll-call type check-in. Each yacht is called upon to give position (longitude and latitude), course/direction, sea and wind state, boat speed and general status of the crew. This is not so different from other Nets we have participated in, but this is the first professional one we have been part of, and is required of all rally participants. If anything were to happen to us, Des would know roughly where to begin the search - God forbid!
By day two I was getting sick on the diesel fumes that were pervading the entire cockpit and saloon. I developed a severe headache and nausea. Perhaps because he cannot smell this did not affect Frank in the least. In fact nothing much in the way of smells or stomach disorders affects Frank. He is made of cast iron. Nonetheless, he agreed to go off course a bit and chase the wind so that we could avoid running the engine downwind unless we were getting too far off track. Meanwhile, we snagged a beautiful small Blue Fin Tuna. So for dinner I rubbed the fillets in a little wasabi and then seared them in sesame oil, ginger and a touch of soy sauce. They were delicious.
Tuesday evening we picked up a great westerly wind right on the beam and sailed smoothly and perfectly for about 24 hours. We are playing tag with three other yachts: Charisma, Air-we-go and Mind the Gap. The moon is nearly full and lights up the skies like a spotlight at night. The atmosphere is so clean and clear out here that the stars shine with a brilliance we haven't seen since the Marquesas. I see several falling stars each night and constantly marvel at this beauty God has graced us with if we are silent and still enough to enjoy it.
It has been great beam reach sailing for the past 2 days and so nice staying in radio contact with our friends and being reminded why we are doing this. Thank goodness so far this passage has been most kind indeed. If all goes well we hope to arrive in Fiji on schedule.
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Friday, May 1, 2009
to the business of preparing for passage to Fiji.
We have joined an official cruising rally for our first time and are grateful to be part of the Island Cruising Association. The rally fee of $450.00 per boat is a worthwhile investment indeed, allowing us special considerations with regard to provisioning (duty-free and in bulk) for certain items, Customs paperwork at the departure and arrival points, Logs, charts, radio nets, and of course the opportunity to cruise with a group of yachts. For the nontechnical side, we have official t-shirts, battle flags, competitions/contests, parties and dinners. This entire pre-passage week has been filled with social and official activities for those of us who joined the rally. We are excited to be part of this group and feel some added level of comfort and security going to Fiji.
Fiji is caught up in yet another political coup at present. This of course adds another layer of complexity to travel to and fro. On one hand we are told that it is inadvisable to venture into high-tourist areas or cities. On the other hand we are informed that in order to encourage continued tourism, Fiji has devalued their local currency 20%, giving us .45 on the $ there. Fiji is a different animal as it were when it comes to countries. Aside from the desire to attain political amity, the system is (in our personal opinion) helter skelter. There are two tribal Chiefs who largely own and reign over most parts of Fiji as if Kings. They are treated like royalty and must grant permission to us to enter their coastal waters and to set foot on their lands. There are specific rituals we must attend to – aside from compulsory governmental documentation and customs regulations – such as the presentation of a particular weight and size of Kava root to
the King/Chief, which must be purchased at a designated market specifically acceptable to said Chief. I'm not sure what the penalty for failure to comply with tribal rules is but Customs violations will result in fines beginning at $1200.00 per incident – escalating per incident, so that 4 infractions will cost an individual $20,000 (Fiji currency). And blah, blah blah. Just read up on Fiji, you'll get it eventually. This is probably why most tourists just go to a resort, and get there via air rather than private yacht.
OK, so we have done everything we can do – Destiny is ready to leave. We have checked out of the country. All paperwork is done. Legally and technically we were to depart today at 10:30 AM, NZST. Weather has been deteriorating all week and it wasn't that great to begin with. Within the last week, 2 yachts have sunk and one is lost at sea just off the coastal waters between Auckland and Opua. One had made it all the way to the entrance to this bay trying to get here for the rally when his engine went out and he drifted into rocks. His yacht, "Three Amigos" sunk within 2 minutes! We don't have first hand news of the other 2. Because it is obviously too dangerous for us to depart, NZ Customs has granted us a one day delay for departure. There are some 20 Rally yachts headed to Tonga and only 6 headed to Fiji with us. Because of the political unrest in Fiji some boats have pulled out of our rally and are going elsewhere instead. We are
not worried. We are just a little anxious to get there and to find out for ourselves what all the fuss is about. So, this is probably the final post I will send from New Zealand. We expect to be at sea for 8-10 days and will be posting our position on the website. We will not have internet access obviously while at sea, but can be reached on our Winlink email. It is also likely that we will not have internet access at all in Fiji. We have heard that we will not, but times are ever changing so who knows!
running wires and cables in and throughout the boat. I fled!
I perfected my driving on the left side of the road and 5-speed shifting with my left hand skills, while sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle, by going provisioning and to the Laundromat. I even offered to take other carless cruisers shopping just to stay off the boat. I went over to Bebe to play Mexican Train dominoes with Judy. And I read a lot. Frank, on the other hand was in Heaven! He was in the thick of the onboard activity, crawling around the floor and burying his head in bilges to help Christian whenever allowed to do so or when not otherwise occupied with Bill tinkering with wires and cables. When Christian wasn't around, Danny the electrician was back in the same bilges wiring and connecting things – and repairing the faulted windlass connection. These men became part of our lives for over a week, during which time we seriously bonded with them. In fact, we have become friends with them and will connect with them socially when
we return next year. The canvas specialists were just here long enough to measure our large saloon windows for sunshades and to get them installed. Now Destiny is all set and better than new. She and we are ready to move back into the tropics.