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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010 - A rainbow at night????

We awoke cheering because although we have enjoyed SavuSavu immensely, we had never intended to spend most of the month of May here.  By now we had envisioned being much further along in our travel plans on Fiji's eastern side.  That's all right.  We have had a chance to spend some special time with Bob and Kim (Northern Winds).  They even tried to convince us to stay a little longer and leave with them next week, but we are itching to go.  We tied up to the water dock, filled the tanks, gave Destiny a nice bath, hit the market, the bottle store and finished up every little thing we needed to before bidding adieu to this charming little town.

We went all of 4 miles today, anchored just outside Cousteau's resort.  We enjoyed just sitting and having a relaxing lunch.  I spent most of the rest of the day cleaning the fruits and veggies I'd picked up at the market, shelling purple-hull peas, and watching the boats shuttle resort guests back and forth to the reef for snorkeling. Frank spent most of the day watching it all through his high-powered binoculars and giving me play-by-play descriptions of the activities at the resort.  Late in the afternoon I was downstairs in the galley and heard him laughing his head off.  I popped up the companionway to see what was up.  He told me that a resort boat had come by our bow with white people in it decked out with film gear, and some guy was filming our boat with one of those professional cameras with the big furry microphone attached.  While they were doing this, Frank was eyeing them through his binoculars.  So they were filming him watching them? It gave us a big laugh.  Who knows who or what was being filmed. This resort is apparently quite high-end.  It's still run by Jacques Cousteau's son, John Michel.

It was such a pleasant night that we decided to dine in the cockpit.  It was just after 8 PM, we were chatting about the beautiful full moon and how pretty the sky looked as the stars were twinkling just so and how the big dipper is SO big here, then along came a cooling sprinkle of rain and a nice breeze.  I noticed a strange color configuration in the sky and said to Frank, "I know you will think I'm crazy, but I think I see a rainbow!"  He leaned out and sure enough we were looking at a very large gray-scale rainbow that went all the way across the bay.  Neither of us has ever seen a moon rainbow.  It was just spectacular.  We could barely see the hues of the color spectrum. How I wish we had professional camera equipment to capture this amazing sight.  We kept saying to one another how special this was and how fortunate we were to be at the right place at the right time to witness this phenomenon. What a thrill!

Tomorrow we have an 8-hour trip over to Vianni Bay where we hope to meet up with Ivory Quays, Just In Time, Scallywag, Liberation and Avant Garde.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 28, 2010

The past week has been strange. Our wifi has not been working, so we called the guy who owns the service. He came out to the boat, fiddled around with our external antenna, disconnected our router, looked thorough our bag of cables and parts, took some things including two spare routers that we had, said he would trade us these for an external antenna for my laptop which he would sell me for $289 but that he didn't have in stock just now, then told Frank that his laptop needed to be serviced to make it work more efficiently and left the boat with all this equipment saying he had another appointment. After the smoke cleared, we realized he not only had some expensive equipment but Frank's computer as well and we didn't really know what had just happened. My head was spinning because I couldn't believe how smooth this guy was. We got Frank's laptop back the next afternoon but have no idea what he did to it because it seems to be working the way it was before. Meanwhile I researched the antenna that the guy wants to sell me, and found it on Amazon for $39.00. I do not think I will be buying his! I have left it up to Frank to deal with what we are going to do about that guy taking our "stuff". I'm too angry to deal with it.
Digicel is one of Fiji's cell phone operators and has just come out with their broadband stick. We can purchase one for $99.00 and pay 04/mb of usage, via "top-up". Several of our friends who had gotten fed up with the wifi guy, had bought them and were very pleased. Frank and I decided to follow suit. We went down to the Digicel shop and bought one. It would not work on either of our laptops (his Dell, my Mac), even after several yachties tried to assist. We took it & Frank's Dell to Digicel to see if they could get it to work. After 4 more hours of their fooling around, it would not work, so they took it and told us they would get us a new one. They were out of stock but more are coming in on Wed. That was on Monday. They now have our $ and our stick.
Then we heard that we could get a sim card for our Vodafone stick. There is no longer a Vodafone dealer in SavuSavu, so we ordered one to be delivered from the Vodafone representative who comes once per week. He arrived on Tuesday but with the wrong type of sim card. He assured us that one would be delivered to us by 8:00 AM Wednesday morning. It did arrive, and Frank and I spent the better part of the morning trying to get it to work on either his Dell or my Mac - Is this Déjà vu or what!?!? Fortunately Bob and Kim from Northern Winds had arrived from Opua the previous day so Bob helped Frank get his installed. It will not work on my Mac, although the materials state that it will. Apparently these things are so new to Fiji that they aren't configured.
Tuesday, we received a message that our CV joint/shaft had been shipped and were given a tracking # from DHL. YAY!
Wednesday arrived. Digicel said our stick didn't. DHL said our shipment would be here in the afternoon. Frank's Dell went haywire - we got the big bad loud alarm and a scary blue screen with white writing that said some intimidating things. We shut it off. We took both laptops into the wifi guy's shop to try to download security updates on his and for me to check our emails on mine. Our friends on Mahurangi have not been heard from for over a week and they supposedly departed Opua on May 17. They are not responding to emails (Sailmail) or radio calls. I was hoping to hear from them. I did get an email from them saying they were securely anchored at Minerva reef and had a story to tell us when we see them in Fiji. Thank God they are safe. The internet was so slow it took me over an hour and a half to download his security update. Then we got the blue screen again. We packed it up and walked it down to SavuSavu computers, which is run by an American guy named Erik. He said he would need to keep it to run some diagnostics. OK. Fine.
Wednesday afternoon arrived. DHL said the part did not. It will be here Thursday AM. Digicel said come back at 8:00 AM, Thursday.
Thursday arrived - no shipment and no Digicel stick. Most of our friends have now left and have gone cruising and diving. Thursday evening we are sitting at the yacht club waiting for Kim and Bob to go to dinner. Cell phone rings. It's DHL. The part just came in on the plane - they are driving it over to us at the yacht club. Hip, hip, hooray! Frank stowed it on the boat and we went out to a lovely dinner. We made plans for Friday to install the part, go to Customs to get checked-out to leave here, hit the market, pick up Frank's laptop and hopefully get our Digicel stick.
Friday morning we got up early and installed the new CV joint and shaft. It was a two-person effort and we merrily made it our first priority. We then got a call from Digicel. The stick is here! I trotted on over with Frank's new Sony laptop because his Dell is still in the hospital. Frank headed over to see wifi guy about our stuff he took the other day.
After many failed attempts the Digicel ladies got it to install, and then said all we have to do is buy the "top-up" so we can get online. I told them we had already bought the top-up and that they should apply that. Uh Oh. That top-up went with the other modem/stick. I said, OK, just give us another one. They called the main office. Can't be done. It went away with the other stick. I said OK, give us a credit for the amount and we will apply a new top up. It doesn't work that way. They said come back tomorrow. I said "No". They said come back after lunchtime. Meanwhile a horn honks, someone yells my name. I turn around to see Frank driving away with wifi guy and yelling, "be back soon". I gathered up our stuff and walked back to the marina, plopped down with a book and ordered something to eat. It is 10:45 AM. Frank shows up at noon. (be back soon???). We return to the Digicel place where I leave him and go to pick up our Dell from the hospital. The Dell is fine. There seems to be something we are plugging into it that is causing these problems - perhaps the Iridium Sat phone - that is making it unhappy. I took a few minutes to get online and check emails and send a couple. A friend sees me online and mentions how sad it is about the loss of (a mutual friend whom I will not name). I didn't know, so I asked. Turns out my friend checked into a hotel and committed suicide. I'm crushed. I packed up everything and went back to find Frank. He is still at Digicel. He still hasn't gotten to Customs to turn in our paperwork. So off he goes and I stand there wondering what is going on. It seems there is some difficulty getting the top up loaded. Frank returns an hour later - it is now 4:00. The Digicel people have blown out the stick and now it doesn't work. They have no more sticks. We got our money back and left. I felt so sorry for those girls at the counter.
So, we are back on board Destiny. It's 5 PM. We are going to get cleaned up and go for a nice dinner with Kim and Bob. We're checked out of SavuSavu. Tomorrow morning we'll hit the market and take care of a few last minute chores that didn't happen today and be off. We are heading to Viani Bay to do some world-class scuba diving and some snorkeling.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 20, 2010 - Taking care of business

The internet signal has been down and this time not intermittently, but completely down.  We heard that it is out on the entire island for who knows why and for how long.

Yesterday we went separate directions; Frank in pursuit of propane gas and for a fitting that broke off our tank when he disconnected it; me for other things.  Primarily, I'm trying to find some kind of rubber mat that is large enough to lay on top of the freezer and fridge in order to keep help keep the cold in.  With this heat, our freezer compressor never shuts off and is working itself to death.  We found that if we pile folded beach towels on top of the counter, large enough to cover the door seams it helps but because I need use of the counter space towels are not a good long-term solution.  In fact, neither are mats but they are easier to deal with in the meantime.  I went into nearly every hardware and miscellany shop in town before finding something suitable.  They are bright purple!  Who cares at this point?

Then I trotted over to the video store to see what I could find for sale.  These video stores are not altogether legal.  They sell & rent copied and pirated movies.  I do have principles and refuse to buy the pirated DVD's, but have no problem laying down my $2.00 per for decent copied ones.  I made sure to ask if these were authentic copies (there's an oxymoron), or are they the ones that someone sat in a movie theater with a video camera to film.  I managed to buy 16 DVD's for the princely sum of $32.00, Fijian.

By now the sun was getting high in the sky and the heat is just about unbearable.  I went into the market for some fresh veggies and was so overcome with profuse sweating that I forgot what I needed.  I settled for a couple of salad items and then left to meet Frank at the yacht club.  After lunch I had to beg and plead with him to walk across the street to the grocery store so that I could pick up the few things I still needed.  All he wanted to do was return to the boat, turn on the A/C and take a nap. Me too!

We chatted with neighbors, Ivory Quays and Just in Time, and found that no one else had the energy to do anything. Cop Out, Lady Kay and Shilling have all left to go sailing.  We of course are still awaiting the CV joint to arrive from the States, so we are going nowhere soon.

For dinner we agreed on fresh fruit and yogurt smoothies and a movie.  So we settled in to watch "Invictus".

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 18, 2010 – Leaks and more leaks

Sunday night I was awakened from my slumber 3 times to the sound of the bilge pump working away.  Of course Frank does not awaken so easily.  The third time occurred at 3:00 AM, and it went on for quite a while as I heard water gushing out of the thru-hull at the stern.  I got up, grabbed a flashlight and began looking in bilges.  I saw an obvious stream of water running down the side of the main bilge and then a bubbling trickle in the engine compartment.  I woke Frank up to tell him, but his response was a groggy; "What do you want me to do about it now?  The boat isn't going to sink before morning."   This gave me no comfort but I returned to bed and slept fitfully until 7:00 AM.

Frank got up, and after we had our coffee and some breakfast ("brekkie" in these parts), began looking for the source of the leaks.  I heard a lot of "Oh, no's", and "Shoot's", and some other expletives. We have sprung two separate leaks, which I'm sure he will explain on his blog.  He spent most of the morning trying to sort it out.  Because he had taken away the companionway stairs and opened the generator compartment, I was stranded in the cockpit with my book.  I couldn't get down no matter how hard I tried so I sweated and read.

Finally at around noon he emerged and announced that he had to make a quick trip to shore…"Be right back!"  It was not quick, and he was not right back.  He was literally gone for hours.  Two or three times I happened to look out to see him racing to and fro in the dinghy, but to where I could not discern.  What on Earth?  He returned after 3:00 with a hose and mumbled something intelligible that I understood to be an attempt at jury-rigging something.  Of all the spare parts and pieces we carry, never are they the ones we need.

My god it is hot here!  When a breeze comes we just lay our heads back and enjoy the precious moment of relief.  But my poor husband did not have that luxury – he worked and sweated in that swelteringly hot compartment for hours.  I kept pleading for him to let me help him, but he said that there wasn't anything I could do and that there just wasn't room for us both even if I could, so I returned to the cockpit and began shelling black-eyed peas for dinner.  I have been informed by other yachties that there are blue jobs and pink jobs. This was apparently a very blue job.

When he stuck his head up again it was 4:30.  He said, "I'm going for a beer, wanna go to the yacht club?"  I declined because by now I was involved in my own pink project.  He needed a few hours with the blokes at the bar.  It is therapeutic and sometimes educational.  As a matter of fact when he returned he was feeling a little bit enlightened and better about our problems after hearing the other guys share their woes.  We are not alone when it comes to yacht maintenance and feeling helpless.  Frank's biggest concern is that even simple parts are not easily attainable in Fiji, nor are they affordable.  Tuesday's project will be spent searching for parts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 17, 2010 – Hanging around SavuSavu, Fiji – and congrats to my daughter!

Saturday, after hitting the market fairly early we and a few other cruisers decided to get of here and spend a couple of days anchored outside of the city harbor so that we could swim and make water.  The harbor is definitely NOT a swimming hole, nor a safe place to make water.

Ivory Quays, Liberation, Just In Time and Lady Kay shot directly over to the chosen spot; a pretty anchorage over by Cousteau's Resort. We had a lovely sail out in the large bay, and decided to enjoy the winds a little longer before going directly to the anchorage.  Suddenly, the winds blew a squall our way just as we turned to head toward the other boats.  We couldn't see 10 yards in front of us.  The winds whipped up so suddenly that we reefed in the sails and slowed down until we could make our approach safely.  The surrounding area is littered with fishing buoys and floating nets, so we had to have a visual to pass through the gauntlet.  Eventually the rain let up allowing us to get settled.  I thawed out a corned beef brisket for dinner and then we settled down to watch the rainsqualls come and go for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.  It certainly cooled things down for us.  The next day was sunny and pretty.  Frank and I were sitting in the cockpit contemplating a swim as we watched Michael and Jackie (Lady Kay) dive in and swim by.  Jackie was seemingly enjoying a leisurely breaststroke, when she quickly turned and headed back to her boat.  I called out asking, "How's the water?" She yelled back that it was fine except for the little stingy things that were attacking them.  They both scrambled back aboard Lady Kay. That put a big damper on my desire for a nice swim.  I pulled out my book.  Frank did the same.

Michael and Jackie invited everyone over for sundowners at 5:30. We thought perhaps we'd go snorkeling over by the reef but then the winds switched direction turning our comfy lee shore into a bucking bronco.  Waves were whipping all around us and tossing us to the point that we were getting un-cozy real quick. After chatting up our neighbors, one of them told us that he had checked the grib files and noted that we would be in for a rough night if we stayed here, so reluctantly we all decided to hightail it back into SavuSavu.  We were the last boat in the group to weigh anchor, and as Frank was using the boat hook to guide ours in, the darn thing flew out of his hand and away it went into the washing machine (that's what the waves had become).  It is a floating boathook, so we felt confident that we could retrieve it.  I was tempted to dive in after it but I was manning the helm and could not.  We both tried to keep our eyes on it as Frank unlatched the dinghy from the davit and got it deployed.  The chop was getting worse and the winds fierce as I was fighting the to keep the helm into the wind so that he could deploy the dinghy.  I wanted to tell him to forget about the boat hook, but we really need the darn thing to get back onto our mooring.  What a mess.  The dinghy was bucking violently as Frank tried to board it. Oh my god.  I lost sight of the hook.  He did too, and poor baby drove all around searching for it in vain.  After about 15 minutes he threw in the towel and then we stared the dance all over again trying to get him back on board Destiny.  He looked so defeated.  By now it was too rough to get the dinghy back up onto the davit, so he bridled it and we towed it behind.  We raised the sails, and enjoyed a fantastic broad reach back to the channel leading into SavuSavu.  Once in the mooring field, a couple friends in their dinghies came to help us get the mooring secured.  We freshened up, I whipped up a baked brie stuffed with toasted pine nuts, drizzled some apricot preserves, grabbed some crackers and off we went to meet up with everyone for a fun evening aboard the Lady Kay.


Later in the evening, with the help of our new external wifi antenna, I got online to check email, hoping to hear from my daughter.  Yes!  She did it!  She bought her very own first house, and closed on it this very day (actually yesterday).  I am sooooooo proud of her.  Go Jen!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13, 2010 – Another Lazy Day in Savu Savu

We declared today a reading day – and this time intended to make it happen.  Frank propped himself up in the cockpit with his book and a cup of coffee and said to me, "Barb, let's don't make any plans today; no going out, nothing social.  Let's just stay on the boat and eat in tonight."  I agreed and removed some chicken breasts from the freezer to thaw in the sink.  I worked on a few little projects and then shortly after lunch, Val from Ivory Quays and Leanne from Just In Time invited me to go into town shopping with them. I happily accepted, and off I went with them.

We worked our way through the shops looking for lightweight dresses and skirts because we are finding that those are cooler to wear than even shorts and a tank top.  Most of the shops were dusty, dank, dark and looked like their inventory came from my grandmother's garage sale.  We did manage to hit paydirt in two of them, however. One was a "souvie" shop that had clothing in the back.  Half of the ladies wear were beautiful saris and the other half was pareos and sundresses.  I didn't buy anything there, although Leanne picked up two wrap skirts.  The other "hit" was actually a grocery store.  Off to one side were racks and stacks of clothing.  So there we were among the 10-kilo bags of flour browsing through the dresses.  We of course are laughing the entire time and wondering how the things were sized.  Val, who is very petite, asked if there was a fitting room available.  Leanne and I tried to stifle our laughter as the clerk led her through the stacks of flour to a little room that was probably no larger than a broom closet.  We heard Val knocking elbows against the wall as she struggled out of her blouse and into the sundress.  A few minutes later there came a loud and urgent banging noise from the little room.  The clerk lunged for the door and heaved it open as Val tumbled out nearly fainting.  She had gotten locked in there and was overcome by the heat.  As she stumbled out she declared, "Bloody Hell!  I nearly blacked out in there! The floor is piled with rubbish!"  Leanne and I tried very hard to look sympathetic as we were doubled over laughing.  We decided to forego trying on our dresses.  After all they only cost between $7.50 - $13.00 (US).  If they didn't fit we'd give them to a poor islander. I picked up a t-shirt for Frank on the way out that I will give him for Father's Day.

We went to the market for some fresh veggies and fruit.  Sadly, the two cyclones that hit Fiji a few months back all but wiped out the crops here, but there are a few small pieces of this and that to be found.  So sad for these poor folks. They are scraping by as well as they can and doing it with a big smile on their faces.  There is such gratitude to be found here.

After our big shopping spree we found the boys firmly planted at the yacht club bar.  The girls and I ordered our new favorite thirst quencher – lemon, lime & bitters.  As I reminded Frank that we were not supposed to be socializing, and asked him if he had thought to put the chicken breasts into the fridge.  The look said it all.  Thank goodness they are shrink-wrapped.  Apparently after dropping us off to go shopping, Jock and Dave had come straight to the bar.  Frank followed not long after. He never gave that chicken a second thought.  Apparently everyone else had declared this a "eat on the boat night", but as we sat there we realized cooking on the boat sure would heat up the galley.  Hmmm. What to do?  Leanne piped up, "Let's do Chinese!"  What a brilliant idea!  We all returned to our yachts to stow purchases and change for dinner and went back to our favorite (and the only) Chinese restaurant in town.  We feasted again for $15.00 (Fijian) per person.  Our bank accounts love Fiji.

May 12, 2010 – SavuSavu – taking care of business

I had 4 projects on my plate today: finish transferring the seasonal clothing, tidy up the galley from breakfast, walk up to the hospital with Frank to pay the health inspector our fees for coming into their country "disease-free", and to read my new Jonathan Kellerman book.  My plans, however, got changed.  While Frank had been "repairing" the dinghy motor yesterday, he had a little accident spewing oil all over the dinghy.  He had used up the bottle of dishwashing soap to clean it up.  When I went into the floor locker where I store spare kitchen supplies and cookery, I felt something wet.  It tasted salty. Uh-oh.  That is not good.  It is never good.  I began removing its contents.  There was a 2-inch puddle in the bottom of the locker.  Everything had to be cleaned and dried.  The water was sopped up out of the locker, but before I replaced the contents I wanted to know where the water came from.  Frank thinks it happened when he replaced the paddle wheel on our knot speed indicator, so we'll let it go at that and hope for the best.  After we got it all put back together I returned to my list of TTD's.  In the meantime Frank has declared this a reading day and sat down with a non-fiction book called, "Inside Delta Force".  He is having trouble putting it down.  By noon I was finished tidying and stowing so we gathered ourselves together for our trek to the hospital.  It is a 30-minute uphill walk.  Frank wanted to take a cab, but we NEED the exercise after being at sea for over a week.  We stopped to grab a quick lunch at the Captain's Table, and ran into people, turning lunch into a 2 ½ -hour social visit.  At 2:30 we headed to the hospital.  The walk wasn't so bad.  Although the heat is stifling, we found spots of shade along the way and caught a nice breeze every now and again.  We eventually arrived at the hospital, which looked very third world.  While we paid our fees we ran into Dennis and Janet from s/v Shilling.  They were on the same mission, and so during our walk back down to town, the boys decided a beer at the yacht club was in order.  Of course as we sat at the club, other cruisers would trickle by and pull up a chair.  We had gathered quite a large group and were having a gay old time when Janet smacked her head with her palm and said, "Oh crikey! We are supposed to be on Cop Out at 5:30!"  Ken and Wendy had caught a huge, 2.5 meter mahi mahi on the way up and had invited us all over for a pot luck tonight.  We all began mumbling about what we were going to prepare for the side dishes as we made a mad scramble for the dinghies.  We enjoyed a feast on Cop Out, with 4 other couples.  Finally after stuffing ourselves and sharing lots of boat stories we fell into our dinghy exhausted.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 11, 2010 – SavuSavu & The Copra Shed Marina

We spent much of the morning struggling with internet.  We had purchased our Wifi access the previous day and were reminded we are back in the land of …"if you want Wifi you gotta pay – dearly".  We purchased the maximum 30 hours for the ungodly price of $150.00.  Now we have GOT to remember to logout whenever we finish being online or it will be an expensive "oops!".  And although the salesperson told us, "Yes, yes of course you can pick it up on your yacht, No problem. We have very good signal.  Good antenna."  No we can-not.  Because I had to find something to complain about that is it.  We just stuff our laptops into the dry bag and tote them to shore in our dingy. We were spoiled in New Zealand being able to get the signal just about anywhere through our Vodafone "stick".
I had intended to go through our clothing and sort out the summer stuff from the winter stuff and to put away anything that has more than a short sleeve.  But we got distracted.  It is hotter than blue blazes here.  Everyone is commenting that the heat seems to have intensified.  Five minutes out of the shower and the profuse sweating begins.  Your clothes stick to you as you are putting them on.  I guess I grew up in this kind of heat but don't remember it being so intense because we were always in air-conditioning.  Here you just have to live with it.  We will acclimate eventually. After all we left NZ wearing double layers of sweats, so it will just take a bit of time to adjust.
We are moored just about 100 yards from the dinghy dock at The Copra Shed Marina, run by a wonderful young lady named Dolly.  Her husband, Robin is chef at the café in the same building.  The set up here is quite convenient.  Within one building are a small chandlery, a boutique, a Wifi office, a yacht club (with bar and restaurant), a café, a real estate office, and a tour-booking office.  Dolly is arranging for our parts to be shipped to us here.  She will also arrange for our laundry to be picked up and washed, dried, folded and delivered back to us for $9 per load.  We can rent cars, mopeds, bicycles and watercraft.  There is a large grocery store across the street, and "downtown" is but a few steps away.  The town is only 3 blocks long, yet it has several stores (clothing, food, hardware, gifts, crafts), and a modest fresh market.  There are a variety of restaurants as well.  All in all we have found ourselves stuck in a good place.  So for 3 – 4 weeks, this is home.
Cop Out (Ken and Wendy) arrived yesterday, along with a couple of other boats.  The yachts we know here are: Ivory Quays, Cop Out, Liberation, & Lady Kay.  The majority of our cruising buddies who are heading here are either still stuck at Minerva Reef or in New Zealand all awaiting a good weather window for departure. 
Quite by accident we made some new friends yesterday, a German couple named Carmen and Ralph aboard a catamaran named "Relax".  We were leaving the yacht club when Bill from IQ asked for a tow.  Apparently their dinghy motor had quit on them.  So off we go to tow them, then our motor quit. We had gotten only half way to their boat and were adrift when along came another couple in their dinghy asking if we needed a tow.  So we tossed him a painter and started a little conga line of dinghies back to the boats.  It was one of those times we laughed until our abs cramped but you would have had to have been there to appreciate the comedy.  Anyway, we visited with Ralph and Carmen for a while learning that he is a retired fighter pilot with the German air force and more recently retired from Lufthansa Airlines where Carmen still works as a flight attendant.  What's more is they are friends with our buddies Glen and Sally from "TDM", and Dave and Nathalie from "O'Vive!"  Small, small world keeps turning around us.
Frank set to work on the dinghy motor and after a little over an hour later, he quietly came into the cockpit.  I ask him if it is fixed.  He said, "Yes".  I asked him what was wrong.  He said, "I'm not telling you".  Of course I pressed him.  He knows better than to tell me something like that.  He said, "I am too embarrassed to tell you!" Eventually he sheepishly confessed that when he had hooked the motor back onto the dinghy after our passage, the fuel hose got attached backward.   He asked me not to tell anyone.  I didn't. However, at happy hour later on, lubricated by several .5 liter Fiji Bitters (beer), he made a voluntary full confession to the gang gathered around the table.  They found it uproariously funny as did Frank.  Such are Man Rules.

Monday, May 10, 2010

May 11, 2010 - Final Approach and Arrival at SavuSavu, Fiji

May 9th, as we neared Koro Island, the wind dropped considerably and our boat slowed to between 1.5 - 3 knots. Our hopes of arriving before nightfall had been dashed, however we had received the good news that if we arrived after 6 PM on Sunday we would not be charged overtime fees. Rather than spend another night out we decided to carry on. It literally took hours for us to inch forward a mere 8 miles (if you don't sail this doesn't make much sense, but sailing for wind does not happen in a straight line. You may go 15 miles to move ahead 5). We saw another yacht several miles away and while we were wondering who that could be, Bill from Ivory Quays hailed us to say that he and Val were going to slow down so that they could guide us into SavuSavu Bay. Mystery solved. They were about 10 miles ahead, which in these conditions was a big time sacrifice for them although they did not see it this way. Good friends, those two! We still had at least 20 miles to go before reaching the lighthouse at Lesiaceva Point. This point guards the entrance to SavuSavu Bay and is encased by a large coral reef that extends 150 meters from shore.
So because the seas were flat clam and I do not idle well during times like these I baked a loaf of bread, solved several su doku puzzles and vacuumed the entire boat. Frank had to break away from the helm or lose his mind, so he tidied up with me. Progress was slow but steady until dark when we really did lose our wind and became a floating bob. By now it was black as pitch outside giving us a feeling we were in a dark tunnel with pinholes in the ceiling. It is an eerie feeling when you know there is land and coral out there but you can't see it. We finally began to make out a few distant lights dotting the shoreline. Frank had long since overlaid the chart with the radar and marked IQ on "Marpa" so that the instruments could guide us along. This is a good thing because some of those dots along the shore began moving. They were boats. A few of them were getting closer and were showing up as large "blobs" on the radar heading directly toward us. We turned on all of the foredeck lights so that incase their radar guy was snoozing at least someone would get a visual on us. One of these vessels looked like a moving city as it approached IQ just ahead of us. They were not monitoring VHF channel 16, so Bill began scanning and hailing them. He finally hit pay dirt when one of them responded that they were overnight vessel-carrying ferries and that yes, we were in their path. Bill put out a "securitie" to all stations alerting traffic in the area of our situation (that one of us has no power). Thankfully, they diverted and gave us the right-of-way. Eventually we were able to see the flashing light on the point so we gave it a very wide berth. By now it was getting quite late and we still had at least 5 miles to go in a very hazard-ridden area. Frank alerted Bill that we were going to try the engine and if it didn't give us the ungodly clang/knock, then we would carry on at just under 4.5 knots. We just couldn't risk drifting with no wind through this pass. If you feel worn out reading this and wish we would get on with it - imagine how we felt.
Every now and then the clanging and knocking would begin. Frank would ease off the throttle until it would taper off and then rev back up. By now it was 10:30 PM, over 10 hours since we had reached Koro island just 30 miles away. We were getting pretty tired - this straining to see and to be on guard and the adrenaline it pumps through a body takes its toll after a while. Our eyes were getting jumpy too. We finally negotiated our way into the bay when Bill called to tell us that we should be aware of two large unmarked and unlit shipping barrels that will be floating somewhere in our path as we enter the channel. Oh joy!
God Bless Ivory Quays! They slowed and began to align their boat so that they could give us a direct line to follow them into the channel. Thank goodness their mast light shone a line for us across the becalmed water of the bay. Although I was up on the bow by this time I couldn't see a blasted thing, I tried shining our 3-million candlepower torchlight into the water, scanning for obstacles but all I could only see about 5 feet out while it was deflecting too much light back into our eyes, nearly blinding us (the water was so calm it acted as a mirror). We passed one of the barrels just about 6 feet to starboard. The son of a gun was all but invisible until a small light from shore illuminated it for the few seconds during which I had happened to scan in that direction. Phew! We never saw the other barrel; therefore we surmised that we passed it unseen somewhere along the way. God was still large and in charge for sure.
We eventually navigated through the channel and into Nakama Creek in front of the commercial wharf at SavuSavu. After a few failed attempts at setting anchor because the depths here are erratic, dropping from 60 - several hundred feet in a heartbeat, we got well set. Bill and Val were so close we could hold a conversation. We thanked them profusely for a well done piloting effort and then settled in for a much needed rest.
May 10, 2010
The day began at around 8:30 a.m., when Dolly from The Copra Shed Marina hailed us on VHF 16. We laughed as we peeked out of the hatches to see that we had in fact anchored right on the fringes of the mooring field. Dolly informed us that Simon, the head of security, would be coming out to guide us to our mooring. She said once we got set, Simon would bring the Health and Customs officials out to clear us. We were cleared by 10:30. At around noon we dinghyed over to the Copra Shed to get acquainted with our new little home. We received our info packets and headed straight to the bar/café where we ordered some delicious curry lunches and settled in for the afternoon. We declared this a "do nothing day". After a short while, we disbanded to take naps and agreed to meet back at the Yacht Club for dinner.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

May 9, 2010 - Happy Mother's Day!

We are continuing to feel the blessings of fair winds as we slowly make our way through the small islands scattered along our path to Fiji's 2nd largest island of Vanua Levu. Last night we spotted the Tri-colors of two other yachts (possibly Ivory Quays and Lady Kay), flanking us as we moved slowly along. We have been in touch with yachts that had stopped at Minerva and are now kicking themselves for not having continued onward, in spite of the discomfort, as we had done. Some who were headed to Tonga decided to carry on after a day or two and are being met with winds right on the nose. Others coming toward Fiji are getting such light winds yet confused seas that they are forced to motor. Many of the group that ducked in there are still sitting and waiting for better sailing conditions. We made the right decision and have been rewarded greatly.
Last evening conditions had achieved a nice level of comfort aboard the good ship Destiny enabling me to prepare a delicious Pasta Carbonera with shrimp and fresh basil. We were so happy to be able to sit and eat without bracing both our food and ourselves. We enjoyed a truly comfortable night of both sailing and sleeping. Today we are amazingly still sailing along at very decent speeds ranging from 3 - 7 knots and the boat is actually level. The seas have calmed considerably. We received a call from Ivory Quays on the VHF thanking us for the passage prayers, saying that we must be living right because God was surely looking out for us. They have done this jaunt from NZ to Fiji countless times over the years and have never had such a good passage. Indeed we are tremendously grateful.
I enjoyed a nice chat with my parents about an hour ago, wishing my mom an early happy Mother's Day, since it is still Saturday in Texas. We'll try Frank's mom next.
One more night out and then we will be enjoying some shore time soon.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

May 8, 2010 - Day 8 Getting Closer, Fiji in sight

Bliss turned into angst as our fast moving progress was plagued with building seas. During the night of the 6th and throughout yesterday the ocean swells became monstrous. It seemed as though walls were forming around Destiny as she fearlessly surfed from one to the next, sometimes turning completely sideways as though skating on a sheet of ice. I informed Frank that the galley is closed for business - no coffee service, no tea service and no meals were being offered especially anything that required the use of knives. So we ate fruits and nuts, carrots, celery, granola bars, apples and yogurt and dreamed of munching down on a big juicy burger or a nice chicken breast.
All in all it has been and continues to be a thrilling ride. These are the kind of conditions one longs for whenever racing. It's just that racing for several days, although thrilling is not conducive to using the toilet, cooking, eating or even just sitting. Neither one of us, however, would trade calm seas and lighter winds for comfort right now. Our goal is to get as far along as possible before the winds abate and we are forced to struggle. So far, the universe is conspiring to get us to Savu Savu. Thank you, God!
Last night as we continued our northward trek, we began to shed the double layers of sweatshirts and pants, going instead for cropped pants and lighter weight clothing. Frank is already in shorts and t-shirts, running around barefooted. Days and nights are getting warmer. The moon has gone into hiding. Although we have encountered numerous squalls and rains, the boat can't seem to get a good fresh-water wash down. With these high seas and the salt spray coming into the cockpit everything is salt encrusted, including us and our clothing. Yesterday we both attempted to take showers. I went in first. It was such an effort, I felt like I was in the ring with a raging bull! When I got finished I was worn plum out, and Frank raised an eyebrow at me as he asked me what on Earth I was doing in there. Then it was his turn. I sat and laughed listening to Frank getting banged and slammed around, groaning and groping. When he got out, he said, "Wow! That was a workout!" I just smiled and nodded. 'Nuff said.
So, today at around 11:00 a.m., off in the distant haze we spotted the first land in over 7 days. It is one of Fiji's small & apparently uninhabited islands. We may not approach any anchorage or shore before 1st clearing into the country. We may have to cheat a little if we begin to get too close to Savu Savu before Monday morning. Fiji's rules are bizarre for arriving yachts. If we arrive outside of business hours then a huge fine (called overtime fees) is levied against us. So if we arrive on the weekend, we will be billed fees of $400 - $800 depending on the day and time of the "encroachment", and the mood of the Customs officials. We love how they call it overtime when they don't actually do anything until Monday morning. Today we can't sweat that stuff. We still have 150 miles to go…it is now 1:20 on Saturday afternoon. If the forecasts are spot on, we won't have to worry about slowing down because nature will take care of that when the expected low comes through some time today or tomorrow. In the meantime, we sail on!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 6th, 2010, Passage from NZ

A common phrase line in the book, "The Alchemist" indicates that the entire universe conspires to help us fulfill our destiny. Frank and I have decided it is not our destiny to sail to Minerva Reef. We tried to go there unsuccessfully in 2008 and were prevented from doing so and now it appears as though this will again be the case for us.
After an erratic day of sailing, the winds came hard and firm, pushing us much too fast, therefore, last night in order to maintain our heading we fought to reduce our speed so that we would not arrive at Minerva in the dark. We could have averaged 9 knots during the night but reefed in both sails so that we could maintain a max speed of 4- 5. We had a very rough night. Today the discomfort continued to the point that I am absolutely sore all over from having been tossed all around. We are both very tired today.
So around 9:30 this morning Frank and I had a pow-wow. He gave me all of the information at he could gather so that we could make a sane decision for ourselves and for Destiny. If we continue on the present course we would be forced to "hove to" for several hours outside Minerva until a daylight approach could me made. Then we would need to motor into 30-knot winds and 3 meter seas to the entrance of the reef. This we are told would greatly stress our engine. Our engine is fine, but we cannot afford to run it that hard with the malfunctioning CV joint on the drive shaft. At least that is my understanding. Long story short - we can turn toward SavuSavu, Fiji and literally fly with these winds right now and forget trying to force ourselves into Minerva. This is a no-brainer.
As soon as we turned the boat we began surfing with the huge waves and Destiny settled into a comfortable rhythm at a speed of between 8-10 knots. Now this is more like it!

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 5th, 2010 - NZ to Fiji, Day 5

Today, Wednesday, marks day 5 of our passage to Fiji. Yesterday began with very erratic wind conditions that continued through much of the early part of the day. Our goal is to stop at Minerva Reef for a couple of days on the way up if we can get into position to enter the narrow pass at the entrance. It is like threading a needle, and if we do not get a good angle for approach early on, then it will be a "beat" to get there. We can't afford that right now with limited use of the engine, therefore, paying attention to wind and wave forecasts and proper planning is paramount for this undertaking. That is not my department, but Frank is very adept at this. Our present goal is to "east" as far as possible from the rhumb line so that when the predicted winds do shift we will be able to ride them to the entrance.
Right. So the better part of our morning was spent easting with little or no wind. Occasionally we would enjoy microbursts that would give us a little push. Dead calm would generally follow such a burst, which is hell on a boat that has no use of the engine with a sea state that is quite choppy, lending to whipping of the sails and slamming as the boom tries to fight its preventer. It certainly jars the soul and leaves one feeling entirely helpless. We steadily persisted pursuing what bits of wind we could capture.
Finally, the winds freshened and we were able to get going by mid afternoon. We sang praises and prayed that this would keep up right on through. Frank took the early watch, waking me at 10:00. He said to awaken him at 01:00. I knew he was running on sleep deprivation, and was getting dangerously close to exhaustion. He said it was a good night for sailing, although he had encountered a couple of squalls. It seems the minute he fell into the bed I began to encounter the march of the squalls. They would appear on the radar looking ominous, and thankfully, they consistently marched toward us from the east, giving us a much needed lift. Throughout the next 5 hours, like clockwork they came, blasting Destiny with 20-30 knots of sustained winds for approximately 15 - 30 minutes, followed by depleted winds of 4-5 knots and flat calm. On and off, up and down almost like clockwork I'd reef the sails and release the sails. I was into a good rhythm and too energized to sleep so I stayed on until 03:00, when finally I was tired of fighting the calms which much harder to deal with than the high winds, and turned the helm over to Frank.
Today has been pretty much of the same as last night, although on a smaller scale and with less frequency. We are enjoying it tremendously appreciating the winds and feeling thankful that we have not had to fret over our inability to use the engine. The Good Lord has heard all the prayers coming our way! 199 miles to go to the entrance of North Minerva, as of 2:30 PM (14:30 hours).

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Monday, May 3, 2010

May 4th Update - 4th day at sea

Our second night, during the middle of Franks's midnight to 3 a.m. watch - and the middle of my sleep, I began dreaming that someone was banging loudly on the door of my house with a pipe then I realized that it was really a loud clanking noise coming from within the bedroom. I startled awake, of course thinking "what the heck???", and began checking the lockers and engine room for the nature of this horrific sound. When I opened the floor hatch to the drive shaft it became deafeningly loud. I called up to Frank to shut down the engine. He came down, listened and began trying to troubleshoot the situation. He narrowed it down to a few potential problems which I won't go into because he has journaled this in more detail on his blog. We did, however shut down the engine and began the bob. It was a beautiful night and the moon and stars lit up the sky, giving us something to enjoy in spite of our little bit of trouble. As a safety measure we alerted the fleet and sent an email to family and cruising friends.

The winds finally picked up with daybreak and we enjoyed a fantastic sail for most of the day, making up for lost time but falling a bit behind the fleet. We crossed our fingers and prayed for this to keep up, realizing that we should not attempt to use the engine. Frank intended to phone Island Packet as soon as they opened on Monday morning hoping for some enlightenment. In the meantime we kept a positive attitude and attended to the business of sailing.

Our third night, I suppose due to the warmer waters we noticed the boat's wake alight with the sparkling of phosphorescence. That coupled with the brilliantly starlit skies made the lack of wind a nice distraction from the fact that we were losing precious ground. We watched as mast lights passed us in the night leaving us a little lonely. In fact when Frank relieved me close to midnight, the winds had all but died, we were only making around 2 knots. It was apparently so bad that he stayed up all night, not waking me until 5 a.m. when he was making his call to Island Packet Yachts. Gosh they are great! They maintain such an amazing hands-on and personal relationship with their owners. Warren of IPY talked Frank through a trouble-shooting process until they determined the nature of our mechanical failure, which Frank has detailed on his blog (I think). It is another part that we have just worn out, as they do on a cruising yacht, but for we would not normally carry a spare. He is making arrangements to get a replacement shipped to us in Fiji. Meanwhile we are advised that we should minimize use of the engine unless it is absolutely imperative to do so. We feel this is sound advice and are happy to know that we can at least turn it on when critical moments arise. So, here we are, happily tacking along chasing wind like the sailors of old. Many boats in the fleet are staying in touch with us, offering to assist any way that they can and are looking out for us. A friend of ours, Bill on Ivory Quays, was telling us (on the VHF) how much they feel for us and Frank replied, "Well Captain Cook did it this way and if he can, we can". Bill responded, "That's right-o, Frank, Cook didn't have a propeller to worry about".

It is now 10:30 a.m., Day 4. We have easted and although the winds continue their gust and relax routine we are getting a nice average speed of 6 kts out of our girl.

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May 1, 2010 - Blast off! Leaving New Zealand

When departure time arrives for an open ocean passage, the air is static with energy and emotions, ranging from excitement to anxiety. Everyone in the community of Opua in addition to the cruisers speak of nothing but weather, boat repairs, boat parts and where best to procure them, provisions from food to toilet paper and booze and where to procure these, boats looking for crew and crew looking for a boat to take them to exotic island destinations. Everyone wants to be heard and few want to listen. High-octane stuff! Although we will dearly miss some very special friends we have made here, Frank and I were ready to go.
Earlier on we had signed on to join the ICA Rally to Tonga, with plans to make haste from there to Western Samoa then on to Wallis, Futuna, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and ending up in Australia by the end of October. As is usually the case with us we changed our minds and have decided to go to directly to Fiji, then spend a month in Vanuatu and a month in New Cal before sailing to Australia. Of course, that is always subject to change. Although not going to Tonga, we arranged to sail with the ICA fleet as far as Minerva before turning northwest to Fiji. Hence, when the whistle blew on Saturday morning we waited a few beats to let the Tonga fleet depart and then off we went.
We left knowing that we would have a fairly rough sea-state and winds from behind, aka "downwind", which is not comfortable for some boats such as ours. I have been known to break away from Southern Lady tradition to curse (a lot) and to sometimes use foul language; however, I am often surprised and disgusted at the way some cruisers casually say things such as, "We're gonna take it up the butt today, Mates!" Some of the more refined sailors use "bum" instead. Anyway, that is how we took it for the first several hours. We all tacked and jibed trying to fill our sails without having to raise the whisker poles. These were not spinnaker/gennaker conditions. Eventually, Destiny found her sweet spot and sped away. We had a fabulous first 24 hours, making incredible time and distance. Our first sunset was just as lovely as could be, then before the near-full moonrise the stars shone brilliantly! The Southern Cross was just overhead amidst the glow of the Milky Way. It was a nice ending to a good first day out of the shoot. All we needed to do now was get in the groove for our night watches which seems so easy for others but we are just too excited to make ourselves go to sleep on demand.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

March 27 - April 2010, Melbourne, Easter and heading up the coast

Slotted for future blog post editing.

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March 2010, Part 2: Sri Lanka & Melbourne, Australia

Slotting this entry into blog for future updating.

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