Category Archives: Westerly

July update with James on board – part 2 Vanuatu

Camomile sailing to Vanuatu

The passage from Fiji to Vanuatu took 3 1/2 days, it was James’s first blue water ocean passage.  We motored out of the reef with Norman and Sara on Norsa and Geoff on Seafauke who took some great pictures of Camomile with her sails flying.  I ran a net in the evening and had about half a dozen boats to call and take their positions and weather reports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a good wind but unfortunately the sea was a bit lumpy and James took to his bunk.  By the third day he was getting really bored but fortunately he managed to catch a yellow fin tuna, he managed to catch a second one but it got away.  On the forth day James spotted land first and by 3pm we had motored around the south side of the reef and anchored in Anatom, James jumped straight in the water for a swim.

 

 

 

 

James trying out an outrigger canoe

Anatom is the most southerly island of the Vanuatu group and has for a long time been overlooked by many yachts because it lacked any check-in authorities and the sail back from further up the chain against the prevailing South Easterly would be a hard flog at the best of times. This has now changed so we waited quietly at anchor in the protected lagoon behind Mystery Island and recovered from the passage until the following morning when the local policeman came to process us.  We had several local people approach the boat in dug out canoes offering fruit and veggies and James couldn’t resist having a try out in one of the outrigger canoes.  It was more stable than he was expecting.

Presentation of the leis

There were enough yachts in the anchorage for the local tribe to roll out their recently conceived welcome evening, which started with a presentation of leis, a welcome song, and displays of traditional skills like making fire with a stick and tinder.

 

 

 

Tribal evening in Anatom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James joining in with the traditional dancing

This was followed by traditional dancing, after which we were encouraged to join in, and a banquet of locally prepared food. This was their first and so we were the guinea pigs but it was an honest and enjoyable evening that was a great success.

 

 

 

We couldn’t resist getting in the cooking pot

Mystery Island turned out to be a contrivance for the occasional cruise liner but despite this there was good snorkelling to be had and a pleasant walk around the perimeter of this small sand cay with an airstrip down it’s middle.  We found this set up in the middle of the ‘market’ square.

 

 

 

Monument to the missionaries

Meanwhile, on the mainland, the village featured a church ruined by an earthquake while, in front of it stood a “reconciliation” monument to missionaries killed shortly after their first arrival in these islands. And, yes, without cast down eyes, shuffling feet or mumbling we were told, “they were eaten”. Interesting if slightly worrying for the casual visitor that there are those in the community who can recount this heritage entirely without trepidation.

Our first view of the volcano at Tanna

After a long day sail we arrived at the island of Tanna and it’s active volcano, which was the highlight of this leg both for Bill and for James who is interested in geology as part of his Open University work.

The anchorage at Port Resolution was thought by Captain Cook to have promise as a harbour because when he named it, less than 200 years ago it was deep. We anchored in good holding in about 7 meters, which due to the land being pushed upwards, is a lot less than the captain found on his lead line. As we approached we observed seawater steaming in some areas and could hear the roar of regular eruptions. Tanna was talking to us at level 3 of 5 where a 5 means evacuate or get hurt.

The trip to the crater is a 40 minute 4×4 pickup ride along tracks which look like something from the set of an extreme off-roader commercial. The ladies swiftly ensconced themselves in the cab, leaving the four men in the back where low hanging boughs swept just inches above our heads, the torrential rain, full of black grit, permeated every crevice of our clothing, and the ride bucked and rolled in a spirited attempt to liberate itself of the human cargo hanging on to it for grim death.

Think safety

At last, and quite suddenly, the rain stopped, the jungle gave way to a vast black ash plain and the driver pulled over and parked. I don’t really know what I expected, barriers, informative multiple signage, a briefing on how to avoid getting hit on the head by descending molten magma perhaps. None of the above were present, just a solitary sign proclaiming “Think Safety”.

 

Tanna volcano

The driver told us to walk up the slope to the crater and then turn right but to avoid the choking fumes we turned left and went higher and higher to the accompaniment of nerve grinding booms which we could now feel through our feet.

 

 

 

 

Tanna volcano

Awesome is a word that has been hijacked by generations of comic books finally becoming an adjective applied to the latest and perfectly banal mobile phone or a new ipod case. These things are not awesome but looking straight down into a crater watching lumps of magma half the size of a car being hurled hundreds of feet into the air certainly is awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanna volcano

James was suddenly 5 years old again. Shrieking and yelling he took off at a run, hundreds of feet right up to the highest point of the crater. Sue and I, clinging to each other for moral support with me pretending not to be scared witless, made our way up about half way before we realised that the splodge shaped rocks strewn around the gravelly ash slope we were picking our way through could only have been created in one way. We stood our ground however and, as darkness gradually shrouded us, the explosive emissions of glowing molten rock gave us the show of our lives.

We returned to Camomile in darkness and shed our wet and gritty clothing hoping that the heavy rain would get the black ash out of it. Wrong, the following morning our decks were covered in this abrasive grit, which had got everywhere.  We spent 3 hours sluicing the boat down in attempt to get it away from winches and cars. Even the nearly new stainless rigging was showing orange streaks in the acid rain and I could swear that the Treadmaster deck looked even more threadbare than before.

It was definitely time to leave though sadly we had to part company with our good friends Norman and Sara as they made their way back to Oz and a flight home to the UK.

Our next and even more poignant goodbye was to James who picked up a flight from Port Vila three days after we checked in at the capital. He had recharged his batteries, eaten lots and was set for some skydiving in Fiji as he passed through there on his way back to the UK.

July update with James on board – part 1 Fiji

James behind the wheel

Boys and engines

We turned up at the hot and humid arrival hall of Fiji’s Nadi International Airport with at least 2 hours to spare but we were both so excited about the arrival of James that we were far too keyed up to sit around Port Denerau where the boat was moored. This would be the first time I had seen my son in 3 years and though Sue had seen him just last year on a brief visit home this was the first time he had been on the boat since well before we left. We also knew that he needed the well-earned 6 week break he was taking from his busy life.  We took a pause to purge the jet lag and reacquaint ourselves with each other. Both of us being engineers, work on the diesel’s cooling system for which James had brought some much needed new parts with him from the UK and then we were off.

Enjoying a meal together

We started with an overnight stop in Vuda point to take James to the First Landing resort and our favourite place to eat.  Our waiter friend Norman (name) found us a good table and served us with the usual delicious fare we had enjoyed before.  James agreed the food was wonderful.

 

 

Camomile at Vuda point marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James relaxing on deck

We had visited this western side of Fiji and the Yasawa group of islands twice before and were dying to take James to see all the best bits.  Having rendezvoused with Norman and Sara on their Malo 36, just before sunrise we gently motored out of a quiet bay near to Lautoka and made the day passage northwards skirting Bligh Water.  This stretch of water was named after the infamous captain who, in his open boat, was chased through here by war canoes, into the Tamasua Passage.

 

James playing football with the village children

After a long day sail we arrived at our first village anchorage at Nabukaru sheltering from the trade winds behind Sawa I Lau island. Anchoring up over night we went ashore the following morning with the traditional offering of Kava root (a pepper with a mild euphoric effect when ground and mixed with water) for the village chief. This gesture is always well received as it marks a sign of respect by the visitor for their culture and, though the days are long gone where protection is needed, grants you their blessing to freely visit their homes and territory.

The lifestyle here is basic and though the houses are often block work with corrugated iron roofing some traditional huts, made with local materials from the surrounding jungle can still be found among the overcrowded living conditions of the newer buildings.  Fijians have the readiest smiles of all the peoples we have met yet on our travels. They are fun and love you to join in. James had a blast playing football with kids on the beach and touch rugby with the men, who were keen followers of the World Cup via radio, on their improvised pitch at the school.

Inside the cave

A visit to swim one of the nearby limestone caves ducking under a flooded passage to emerge in a creepy chamber with a vertical shaft letting in just a dim vestige of sunlight to penetrate the gloom was a first for Sue. Underwater caves and spiders, well done her!

 

 

The village women cooking the dinner

Sailing south now and starting mid morning ensured that the sun was high and behind us so that we could navigate the reefs by eyeball. The charting for the outlying islands is crude, inaccurate and incomplete so this is the only reliable method to use although I have found that Google Earth with its detailed photographic images, which clearly show the reefs, is incredibly precise if you can arrange to download the area you are in.

Sani and her family

After the 11 mile hop we anchored up in Blue Lagoon named after the original movie of the same name that was filmed here.  We had come to pay a visit to Sani and her lovely family who had been so kind to us on our last visit almost 2 years ago. We all received a warm welcome though sadly Ratu Saleem, the old chief who had so impressed us before with his worldly wisdom and intellect, had passed away.

 

We joined the villagers for Sunday lunch

We stayed for Sunday and went to church which is an uplifting experience by the sublime and enthusiastic harmony of the congregation’s singing. Sunday lunch was prepared and eaten in the open air together with the whole of Sani’s extended family and James, who had been scuba diving off nearby reefs, turned up to regale us with tales of his latest adventure instantly disappearing under a host of small black bodies wanting to swing from his arms as he spun them in circles.

There was a sad goodbye to this kind and generous family, as this was likely the last time we would see them but time pressed on and we sailed another short hop south to anchor in Narewa Bay surrounded by miles of curving white sand beach against a backdrop of jungle and swooping mountainous ridges.

The view across Narewa Bay from the top of the hill James climbed.

The jungle and hills were too much for James and pack readied he made off with a machete to plough through the jungle and on up the steep slopes beyond while his old man looked on from the deck of the boat and wondered how many times he would run out of puff if he tried to do that. Across the narrow isthmus, in a lagoon, a WW2 plane wreck can be found in around 3-4 metres of water on a sandy bottom.

 

A beautiful manta ray

After we had inspected this we sailed south again to the nearby Manta Ray pass. As the name suggests the huge rays, often more than 4 meters across, are sometimes seen here. They are gentle, graceful creatures that come to feed on the small organisms carried by the currents sluicing through the pass and can be safely shadowed at a respectful distance with just a snorkel and mask. We were in luck and James was treated to the rare and exciting experience of swimming and free-diving with these amazing fish.

 

 

A birthday bonfire

Our next stop was south of the Yasawas in the Mamanutha  group, by the island of Navandra, uninhabited except for a goat. Some of Fiji’s best coral lies beneath the stunningly clear sea in the bay and exploring the deserted beach here and on the island next door was a lovely adventure. James decided to build a big fire in honour of my birthday, which we celebrated while there, but decided not to light it.  It was to be our last taste of the rustic outlying islands with our next stop being the Musket Cove resort on Malolo Leilei. With Camomile med moored stern to a modern pontoon which forms a bridge to a tiny palm covered sandy island with a bar and a range of driftwood fired BBQs we put our feet up for a few days after our recent adventures. Civilisation is welcome when it comes in this form.

 

Sue and James on the local bus

We returned to Vuda point where Sue and James decided to go into town on a local bus, windows aren’t necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A final meal at First Landing

We had a final meal at First Landing followed by a dance show performed by some locals with a wonderful photo opportunity afterwards for James.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James with the dancers

Time was moving on and so should we. Sadly it was time to bid a fond farewell for probably the last time to Fiji’s shores, one of the most beautiful countries on our travels so far.

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Fiji

June Update

I haven’t had a chance to write anything on the website for ages so here is a summary of June. (This has taken 2 days on a wifi hotspot to just post!)

Trying to get the dinghy ashore

We left Vanua Balavu on 1st June and headed for Taveuni which is an island on the eastern side of Fiji.  There were some  nice restaurants where you could take the dinghy to.  Unfortunately on this day it was low tide and we struggled to get it ashore.

 

 

 

 

The next day Sara and I went ashore to try and get some much needed fresh veggies.  We got a few bits but also met a really nice lady who organised for someone to take us to visit the Bouma national park and waterfall, which was where the last Blue lagoon film was shot.

Sara and I walking along the jungle path

 

 

 

The next morning we went ashore to meet the car and after a 2 hour drive we arrived at the national park.  We had a lovely walk to the waterfall, which took another 2 hours.

The ladies from the village doing their washing in the stream

 

 

 

 

The path took us through a village and these ladies were using the water from one of the streams to do their washing.  I wished I’d brought mine so I could have joined them.

The top of the river led to the inner pool with the waterfall in it.

 

 

 

 

We reached the waterfall only to discover we had to wade and swim to the inner pool to see it, lucky we had brought our swimmers.  We got in and discovered the water was really cold, although we were grateful for the cool down.

Bill jumping into a smaller waterfall

 

 

 

We had the pool to ourselves and Bill climbed the rocks several times to jump into this smaller waterfall. We tried to swim under the main fall but the force was too strong, it was like being hit by a hammer.  We dried off and ate our picnic and walked back to the park entrance where our driver was waiting patiently in the car.

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The GPS changed from west …….

 

 

 

 

 

On 6th June we motored south.  The island of Taveuni is the only place in the world that the 180 degree meridian line crosses.  It’s possible to stand with one foot either side of the ‘line’.  We really wanted to go ashore and do that but the wind picked up and we couldn’t anchor.

… to east

 

Instead we watched the GPS change from west to east.  We’ve been crossing the Meridian line back and forth over the last year or two but this is the last time.  As the Red sea is now a no go area the next time we see the GPS change back from east to west will probably be off the coast of South Africa.

We continued down to Viani bay on the south east corner of the Northern island of Fiji.  We met up with Aurora B an English boat we met in NZ at the end of 2010.  Camomile and Norsa were invited on board for drinks.  The next day we snorkeled the Rainbow reef and can honestly say we have never seen such a beautiful reef with so many fish swimming around it.  We drifted over the reef with the current and the scenery below us was spectacular.

Beautiful blue water

 

 

The 8th June saw us motoring without a breathe of wind to Savu Savu.  I took this unusual photo on the way.  It’s me looking into the calm water over our bow. The water was like a millpond.

Camomile moored at the Copra Shed marina

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Savu Savu on the 8th June (Happy Birthday Thomas) and caught up with lots of boats we had met in NZ.  We feel we have come full circle in the South Pacific because Savu Savu is where we checked into Fiji with the Blue water rally 2 years ago and having crossed the meridian line for the last time we are now on our way home.

We stayed in Savu Savu over a week with Norsa enjoying a few nice meals together and restocking the boat after our stay in the outer islands.

We left on Saturday 16th on the inner passage between the reefs south of the North island, across Bligh water, then north of the South island, with Norsa following us.

Lifting Camomile at Vuda point marina

 

 

Tuesday 19th we arrived at Vuda point marina ready to lift Camomile.  Bill wanted to repair some patches on the Cuprotect and also we wanted to check the keel after hitting the reef in Kadavu.  We lifted Camomile at Vuda point two years ago and found them very reliable but we were still a bit apprehensive.

The scrapped keel

 

 

 

The damage to the keel wasn’t that bad, just a bit of the antifoul scrapped off.

Boat maintenance in the sun

We were put next to some beautiful palm trees for a few days while Bill and Norma worked on the boat.  Sara and I went into town to sort out the Australian visas and more shopping in Lautoka.  Vuda Point is next to First Landing resort which has a fantastic restaurant.  We had some nice meals while we were there.  It was too hot to cook on board while we were on the side – that’s my excuse any way.

Camomile among the Superyachts

 

 

 

 

 

We went back into the water on 22nd and on Saturday 23rd we motored across to Port Denerau where we motored among the superyachts.  Port Denerau is only a short drive to the airport where we eagarly waited for our son James to arrive on Sunday 24th.

If I can get the wifi to stay online I can post James in Figi blog.

Vanua Balavu aka Exploring Isles aka Fijian Bay of Islands

We are in the Yasawas having a wonderful time with James and I’m sorry the blog has got behind again.  I wanted to share our photos of Vanua Balavu with you before we move it forward.

 

Camomile anchored in the Bay of Islands

We stayed in and around Kadavu for 9 days with mixed weather but always with strong southeast trade winds.  We really wanted to explore the southern Lau islands further south but it would have meant sailing into the wind, which just wasn’t feasible with the present wind strength.  Eventually we decided to abandon that plan and to head straight for Vanua Balavu, which was a 36 hour sail in a northeast direction.  We left on Wednesday 23rd May at 4.00 after setting a snail’s trail on the GPS the day before so we could leave in the dark.

Limestone islands

It wasn’t a very pleasant sail although it was a fast beam reach.  The sea was very lumpy and I was sick several times.  Bill didn’t get very much sleep and poor Norsa had another breakage.  A large wave hit their deck and broke the reefing line for the genny therefore releasing the whole sail. Norman battled on deck for an hour trying to wind some of the sail in by hand but decided to wait for daybreak and then release and drop the whole sail.  We stood by while they struggled on deck with it then we both continued to Vanua Balavu.

Camomile leads the way

We arrived together at midday with Camomile leading the way into the reef.

Our position on Thursday 24th May

17º 10.5 south

179º 01.0 west (we crossed the date line again on the way)

 

 

 

 

Vanua Balavu is one of the most beautiful anchorages in the south Pacific.  We discovered it 2 years ago and wanted to return one last time before we leave the Pacific later this year.  The water was a beautiful turquoise colour and the shimmer from the sun is reflected in the limestone undercuts.  We took lots of photos; here are just a few of them.

Limestone undercuts

 

Limestone undercuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limestone undercuts

The coral was beautiful too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little blue fish amongst the coral

 

The colour of the water tinted the gel coat turquoise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies making a coconut mat

On Monday 28th May we motored around to the village of Daliconi to do sevu sevu and pay the chef for our stay in the Bay of Islands. We were shown around the village and met some happy ladies making coconut matting.

 

 

 

 

Bill and Norman chatting to the locals

While walking up to the school Bill and Norman met these lads on their way for lunch.  We didn’t stay in the anchorage because the wind was still blowing strongly and we wanted to get back to the protection of the Bay of Islands.

 

 

 

 

Camomile anchored off of the village of Daliconi

 

 

 

 

 

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The chartplotter out by about a mile

On Tuesday we sailed around to Lomaloma for supplies.  The chartplotter is all over the place here and can’t be trusted.  This shows the screen with Camomile sitting in the middle of the island instead of by the mauve symbol, which was our actual position.

 

 

 

Camomile and Norsa tied to the buoy

The anchorage was a bit exposed so the next day we motored into Bavatu harbour, another beautiful south Pacific anchorage being surrounded by turquoise water and coral reefs around the edge. There was a large buoy just inside and we managed to tie Norsa and Camomile to it together.

 

 

The village on the hill

After landing at the far end and walking to the top of the hill we found a lovely village surrounded by beautiful forest which, after walking for a mile or two, led to a stunning outlook over the Bay of Islands.

 

 

 

 

Bill and Sue on the steps

We walked back to the other end and found a flight of steps that led back down to the harbour.  We stayed to the end of the week before heading back towards Taveuni.

 

 

 

 

Our last view of the beautiful Bay of Islands

Inside the Astrolabe reef, Kadavu

Anchored off Yaukuvelevu Island in the Astrolabe reef

Camomile, Norsa and Forteleza left Suva at 06.00 on Sunday 13th May for a fairly racy sail into a south easterly down to Kadavu through rough seas.  After a gruelling 7 hour beat we arrived at the Herald passage, entry into the Astrolabe reef.

The anchor chain disappearing into the beautiful turquoise water

 

 

 

Our position 13th May

18º 47.9 south

178º 31.4 east

Anchored off Yaukuvelevu Island in the Astrolabe reef.   

The water’s a beautiful turquoise blue and so clear we can see the anchor and it’s chain on the bottom.  The snorkelling here is fantastic with lots of different coloured coral with striking coloured tropical fish. 

The island has a half built resort on it and the workman were a bit noisy so the next day we left to sail south around the island of Ono.  We got to the anchorage and could see a lovely sandy patch close in and started to motor towards it.  I was on the bow on coral spotting watch.  I could see the coral on the bottom and called back to Bill that we were over coral who was watching the depth gauge.  I told him to go right because there was a patch in front of us that looked shallow but there wasn’t time to turn and we felt the keel glance along the coral as we slid over it.  Fortunately it was just a small coral head and we came off it quickly but it was quite scary so we turned around and anchored further out.

Our position on 14th May

18º 55.8 south

178º 28.6 east

Anchored off Ono Island, Kadavu

Norman decided to try the cava with some of the villagers.

While walking on the beach the next day we met some locals from the village in the next bay who invited us all to come over and see their village that afternoon.  Six of us arrived in three dinghies on the beach later that day.  In Fiji when you visit a village it’s customary to perform ‘sevu sevu’ which means a bunch of kava is presented to the chief.  Kava is the dried root of the pepper plant that can be bought in presentation bundles from the local markets.  Once ground into a powder and mixed with water it forms a non-alcoholic, mildly narcotic drink which looks and tastes like dishwater!  Once we landed on the beach we asked to be taken to the chief to perform our sevu sevu.  We were shown to an old hut with a wizened but friendly old man sitting on the floor inside.  The only furniture in the room was a bed and an old dining chair but he preferred to sit on the floor.  Bill presented some cava on behalf of us all and it was received with a little Fijian prayer and some chanting, each bit followed by three claps which we all copied.  Norman decided to try the cava with some of the villagers.

The school hiden amongst the palm trees

After sevu sevu we were invited to look around the village and take photos if we wanted.    The villagers encouraged us to chat to everyone.  We all wandered up to the little school on the hill to take a look at the children. 

One of four classrooms in the school

 

 

 

The schools here look very sparse compared to the bright classrooms our children are used to.  Although all the children had a uniform on some of them were third or fourth hand and were looking very worn, also note none of them have shoes on.  When our boys were young they were often encouraged to fill a shoebox for less fortunate children than themselves.  We’ve done it many times, as I’m sure some of you will have done. 

The children were presented with a charity box of goodies

 

So imagine our delight when we arrived at the school to see some of these boxes being handed out.  The boxes had come from NZ and had obviously been intended for Christmas because there were hand drawn pictures and letters and Christmas cards from the children who had assembled them.  It was wonderful to see real children receive them, even though they were 6 months late.  When asked why they had taken so long the teacher said they had been held up in customs for a long time.  Why does bureaucracy have to affect the children? 

This little girl was pleased with her box

The boxes were categorised for either a boy or girl (there are girls in this group but it’s difficult to tell because they have such short hair and the boys wear a sula instead of trousers) and there were also 3 different age groups so as each child opened their box it was full of things relevant to them and the smiles on their faces brought tears to our eyes.  Some of them contained woolly socks or hats which probably won’t get worn but most of them had some sort of reading material, coloured pens and pencils and, more importantly, little toys which many of the island children simply don’t have. 

The children sat around in groups and investigated the contents of their boxes

What amazed us was that the children received them very gratefully and politely, there wasn’t any pushing and shoving, they just waited until they were given a box. Once handed out the children took their boxes into little groups and investigated what they had.  We saw no arguments, no swapping and no ‘his is better than mine’ comments they were just so pleased for each other; it was truly heart warming. 

Norman read them a story

Norman started reading one of them a story and was soon surrounded. When we get home these boxes are going to be my charity but they need some form of tracking until they reach their destination.

Sara helping the girls unpack their boxes

Camomile sailing passed Ono

Our position on 17th May

18º 52.4 south

178º 29.6 east

Anchored off Naqara village, Ono, Kadavu

 The wind shifted again and so we sailed back up to the north of Ono and anchored in front of a village called Naqara.  We went ashore to do sevu sevu and the six of us were invited to a meal the following evening.  Joe, one of the elders of the village, met Norman and Sara, and Kerre and Tony, and Bill and I on the beach.  First he showed us the school.  This part of the island is more isolated without any tracks across the land so the school is a boarding school. 

The children sang to us in the dining room

Children as young as 7 were living in fairly poor conditions Monday to Thursday and then they go home by boat on Friday afternoon.  They all seemed to be coping ok and the older ones helped to look after the younger ones because there wasn’t any kind of housemother scheme.  There were 4 showers shared between about 50 children; outside of course.  It was all very basic.  Lollipops were distributed to a small group that followed us around and in return they sang to us in their dining room. 

The Fijian meal in Joe’s house

We went back to Joe’s house where we were all given beautiful leis to wear that had been made by the ladies of the village who had also specially prepared a lovely meal for us.  It was served on plates on a tablecloth spread out on a coconut mat on the floor.  We all sat on the floor around the mat, my knees are not good for sitting cross-legged but we made ourselves comfortable.  We didn’t recognise any thing but Joe explained what it all was.  First we had the most beautiful coconut crabmeat served in their own shells in coconut milk, there was also aubergines cooked in garlic and tomatoes, fish wrapped in taro leaves, cassava, which is a root vegetable similar to sweet potato that had been prepared in a variety of ways, to name just some of what was on offer.  Although it was a bit bland because they don’t use herbs or salt it was interesting to try some traditional Fijian food and mostly very nice.  Although they offered us water to drink we politely declined and chose to drink our own.  I’m sure it would have been ok but we thought we ought not to risk drinking it.

Bill and Joe

They wouldn’t allow us to pay them for what we had eaten but asked for a donation to their new generator for their church instead, which we were happy to do.  After the meal we were joined outside by the chief, he thanked us for coming and for our donations.  Bill thanked him and the villagers for their hospitality.  Joe and some of the others walked us down to the beach and helped us launch the dinghies.  They waved us off with happy smiling faces.  We just love this country.

5 days in Suva

Royal Suva yacht club

Our position on Tuesday 8th May 2012

18º 07.3 south

178º 25.4 east

Anchored outside the Royal Suva Yacht Club

 

After a good nights sleep I conferred with the other boats and we agreed I would start calling the RSYC at 8.00 to arrange for the customs to come and clear us into the country.  Fiji is the worst country we have come across for bureaucracy.  I’m sure Indonesia will rival it but at the moment Fiji is even worse than Panama. 

The bar at RSYC

Consequently it took the RSYC quite a while to arrange for the various government bodies to come and clear us in.  At about 11.00 a launch finally turned up with 3 officials bringing the necessary paperwork to each of the 4 boats then they came back to us and started the process.  There was a representative from the customs, immigration and quarantine (practique) all very nice people but each with forms to fill in and money requested. After about an hour and F$262.50 (about £90) they finished with us and continued onto Norsa but half way through announced they were stopping for lunch and would be back in the afternoon!  We just have to smile sweetly and accept it or else they could make life difficult.

The catamaran Troutbridge up on the hard

Finally we were all cleared in and able to go ashore.  RSYC was built in the sixties and still looks like it although the people are very friendly.  It has a secure dinghy pontoon, fuel and water, a little restaurant and a bar.  We had a long chat to Peter off of the catamaran called Troutbridge.  Unfortunately he hit the reef at the entrance this time last year and has spent the last year trying to salvage it; not sure if he’ll do it, she looked in a bad way still and her engines are sitting in a Fijian workshop some where in pieces.  In the evening we sat down for dinner with Norman & Sara in the little air-conditioned restaurant, a welcome relief from the 34C.

Guarding the Presidential palace

The next day six of us got into 2 taxis to go to the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to get our cruising permits, the final piece of paper to make us legal in the country.  Amazingly it was free! The ministry was next door to the Presidential palace and we all had to have our photos taken with guard in his smart uniform.  The poor guy looked really hot. 

Norman and Sara from Norsa helped.

We walked back into the town to sort out sim cards for phones and internet dongles.  Technology has moved on in Fiji over the last year and dongles were available quite cheaply but we’ve since discovered the signal still isn’t strong enough to upload photos and large documents onto the website in many of the islands so I’ll still have to  send blogs by the SSB radio and I’ll add the photos when we get a better signal.  We headed back to the yacht club and ate in the restaurant again in the evening with Kerre and Tony of Forteleza and Connor and Marian of Toucan, joining Norman and Sara and Bill and I.

 

 

Wandering the streets of Suva

On Thursday Bill and I went into town again for a wander.  There’s two sides to Suva, The old part with it’s little shops and emporiums full of tat standing side by side with the big modern shopping mall with it’s bright lights and smart shops. 

 

 

Old Suva on the left of the river and the modern shopping mall on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the shopping mall

 

Beautiful Indian clothes for sale

There’s a strong Indian influence in Suva.  There are lots of Fijian Indians restaurants here but we decided to play safe and have a McDs for lunch, well it did have free internet. 

 

 

 

 

Norman and Sara joining us for a drink

We got back to the RSYC just as it started to rain.  We waited for what we thought was a lull in the rain but we mistimed it.  Half way out to the anchorage the heavens opened and it POURED.  Tropical rain maybe warm but it soaks you in minutes.  We arrived back to the boat soaked to the skin.  Later in the evening we assumed no one would want to come to our planned drinks evening but this is Norman and Sara on their way. 

Norman in his swimmers

Norman decided it was easier to come in his swimmers and change once he arrived; nothing keeps Norman away from a drink!!

 

 

 

 

 

Oranges for sale in the market

On Friday Sara, Marian and I decided to have a girls day while the men did boat ‘stuff’.  First we went to the market to stock up on fruit and veggies because it’s difficult to buy things in the islands.   Although green these oranges were very juicy. 

 

 

 

A row of cobblers!

It’s also possible to get your shoes mended by these boys.

We went into the mall and had lunch then Sara and I had our hair cut.  Mines a bit short but it will be cooler. 

We took our boat papers to customs and waited an hour to clear out of Suva and obtain clearance for Savu Savu, our next main port in Fiji.  Despite there being 6 people in the office only one lady could process us and she was out but eventually she turned up and we got our clearance.

Saturday we relaxed on the boats ready for the sail the next day although we went ashore for one last drink in the yacht club.

Goodbye to GBI Hello to Opua, BOI

Walking up to Te Ajumata with Mount Hobson behind me.

This blog should have been entered before we went on our road trip but my computer broke down with the blog in it.  It’s been to the nice geeky laptop doctor and it’s all better now.  Sorry this is so late.

We had one last hike to do before we left Great Barrier Island, the walk to the summit of Te Ajumata.  We left the Broken islands on the Monday morning and motored south again to Blind bay.  On the Tuesday morning we landed on the beach and started up the road to the entrance to the track.  It was a nice walk because the path was more open than the Mt Hobson walk.  We stopped half way up for a view across the valley to Mount Hobson. 

We made it to the summit

We finished with a rapid climb to the trig at the summit.  We had great views across to the East side of the island.  We would have liked to get over to that side of the island but the weather just wasn’t right.  There were easterlies forecast and there aren’t any sheltered anchorages on that side. 

The beach in the distance looked stunning.  The walk had taken 4 hours and we got back to the beach where Camomile was anchored on her own; we were just in time for lunch.

Camomile waiting for us on the beach

Anchored next to Aqualuna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We continued south back to Typhena bay where we met up with Blue Water rally friends Gabbie and Jonathan on Aqualuna with their friend Donald.  We stayed a couple of days catching up before we both left on Thursday for Whangaparapara to shelter from the West winds coming up. We waited until Sunday for good winds to head north back to the Bay of Islands. 

Bill cutting up our delicious fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazingly we caught a fish on the way.  Any one that sails with us regularly will know this is a rare occurrence.  We think it was a Kahawai but it certainly tasted delicious.

The lighthouse on Cape Brett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trip took 2 days with an overnight stop in Tutakaka.  We enjoyed some wonderful sailing on both days with the cruising chute flying for most of Monday.  We took it down to motor past the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on the outer edge of Cape Brett, a bit of a notorious acceleration zone.  There are a number of trips out to visit this rock but we saw it for free!

The Hole in the Rock

The Twins rocks

We continued down into the bay passing the Twins rocks on our way in.

The next morning we awoke to these beautiful reflective scenes as we looked out from the cockpit.  We weighed anchor and motored into Opua where we had a list of jobs to complete.  Bill will put more detail on the website soon. 

Stunning early morning reflections

Bill and Sue nearly fish food!

On our way to the broken isles

After our hiking we decided we needed some R&R, for a change!  We left Kaiaraara bay and motored back towards the Broken Islands, a group of islands off the west coast of Barrier island.  We had planned to visit them with Norsa but as it had been raining that day we had continued onto Smokehouse bay.  We tucked ourselves up inside an inlet off of Rangiahua island.  We had the beautiful anchorage to ourselves. 

 

 

 

Our position on 18th February

36º 13.5 south

175º 18.4 east

Our view from the cockpit

The water clarity was amazing and, for a change, warm.  We could see fish swimming around under us so decided to have a snorkel.  We didn’t stay in too long because we got cold quickly but in about 20 minutes we saw a small turtle, 7 stingrays and lots of edible fish.  We went back to the boat and I got the fishing line out with the snapper rig to try and catch one.  I carefully threaded a bit of squid bait on the hook and wrapped it round and round in bait elastic.  I hate this because it goes all squiggy not to mention that it stinks.  I took the dinghy in close and dropped my hook. 

Camomile tucked up in amongst the rocks

The water was so clear I could see the snapper taking the bait but they were too small, they have to be 28cms long otherwise they have to go back.  I kept pulling it away from the little ones but the big ones were nowhere to be seen.  The greedy wotsits managed to eat my bait without taking the hook!  I started again and tried 3 times but each time the little ones came and snaffled my bait so I gave up.  I went back to the boat and Bill decided that he would bring his superior fishing skills to bear. (He added this bit!!!) A wait and a moderate amount of swearing resulted in not a single bite so I didn’t feel so bad.  We’ve yet to catch one of these snappers, they are supposed to be delicious but I think the only way I’m going to find out is buy one from the supermarket!

We left Camomile at the anchorage

The next day was Sunday so we had a lazy day starting with a bacon and egg breakfast.  As we don’t have a car for a Sunday drive we decided to go exploring the bays in the dinghy.  The wildlife here is brilliant.  There was a Cormorant colony on the next island and they were making the most amazing noise.  It sounded like a child screaming and we were relieved to find it was just the birds.  On the other side of the island the water was quite deep and open to the ocean. 

What was lurking in the deep?

On our way back to the anchorage we saw what we thought was a shoal of fish disturbing the surface and decided to go and investigate.  We zoomed straight through it.  As we turned back round we saw a huge fin surface and realised we were in the middle of a bubble net made by a pod of orcas fishing for their lunch. Orca, or killer whales as they are sometimes known are one of the oceans top predators and work together to hunt. Bill realised quickly that they would have no problem turning our dinghy over and might fancy us instead of the shoal of fish we had just scattered. Realising our vulnerability we headed straight back to the shallows.  As I looked back there were 4 Orcas of varying sizes breaching right where we had been.  Nearly fish food, too close for comfort!!

Climbing Mount Hobson – Hirakimata

Mount Hobson in the distance

When we set out for Great Barrier Island we had in mind all the sheltered bays and anchorages our cruising friends had been telling us about but also wanted to climb to the highest point viewing the famous Kauri Driving Dams on the way. It is very possible that this idea came to us whilst under the influence on Norsa but it certainly was not made in the light of any previous experience of climbing a 2037 ft peak through a humid forest. However felt we were in good company as Norman and Sara are both experienced and fit and we had been on bush standard walks over half as long as this in Tuhua.

Norsa had to go

Our position on 15th February

36º 11.0 south

175º 21.7 east

We moved our boats to Kaiarara Bay where the valley leading to the mountain forms an inlet which shallows at its head and dropped our anchors in sandy mud full of hopes that the forecast rain for the following day would not materialise. We awoke to a dark cloudy sky heavy with rain so Sue and I decided not to risk it as 7 hours walking to the peak and back could get really uncomfortable in wet cloths not to mention that the visibility would be poor anyway. The dark clouds then did their thing and it came down in torrents all morning long so we settled into a lazy day. Norman & Sara braved the clearing weather in the afternoon and managed to walk a 3 hour circuit reaching the Kauri dam knowing that they had to leave the island the next day.  They came over to Camomile for a shared supper before leaving the next day.

Off for the shopping across the little streams

 

 

The most gorgeous puppy

The following day brought sunshine but was still damp and it seemed to us that the mountain tracks would still be saturated from yesterdays deluge so we decided to walk to Port Fitzoy for supplies. It took us 3½ hours to walk there but a detour on the way via a waterfall track turned out to be more worthwhile than expected.  When I clambered up the jungle culvert towards it I discovered the large pool at its feet to be full of bikini clad young ladies giving diving lessons to their kids. Sue was pleased when we reached the shop to find a 3 month old puppy tied up outside.    

 

 

 

7.4kgs of shopping in a backpack

 

Our shorter return trip only took 2½ hours but I had over 7 kilos of shopping on my back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tramping through regenerating bush

Finally Friday 17th broke clear so we were up and at it, landing our dinghy on nearby Bushes Beach and making our way through the heavily wooded terrain on a loose gravel track. The mountain is located in the centre of the island and various mountain tracks allow relatively easy access to the summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main Kauri driving dam

We had chosen the shortest but steepest route up the Kaiarara track past the sites of two Kauri Driving Dams. This track was posted at 3½ hours and after 1¾ of climbing up steep but very well defined paths with occasional flights of steps we reached the first dam.

Kauri trees are majestic, can grow to an impressive girth and height and can live for thousands of years with the oldest living ones in New Zealand dating back around the time of Christ . Their huge weakness is that they are tall and dead straight. Straight enough therefore as sailing ship masts and easy fodder for the saw mill. Thus the Kauri logging industry was profitable in the island’s early European days and up to the mid 20th century.  However the forests on Barrier Island extended well inland where there was no easy way to get the logs to the sea. Kauri logs were dragged to a convenient stream bed with steep sides and a driving dam was constructed of wood with a lifting gate near the bottom large enough for the logs to pass through. The dam was filled, which might take up to a year, and then the gates were tripped and a massive torrent of water and timber would roar down the narrow valley to the inlet below where they were held in booms before being towed to the Auckland sawmills. The noise of this man made avalanche could be heard miles away and would draw crowds of onlookers but anything standing in the way of the wall of water and logs was annihilated. The logging industry decimated huge swaths of ancient growth so most of the trees we saw around us today were younger native forest and exists due to the efforts of the New Zealand Forest Service who were responsible for planting around 150,000 kauri seedlings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Short rest by a waterfall

We climbed on with some apprehension because the way ahead was steeper still. We need not have worried though because, aside from a few narrow tracks where we had to scramble a bit, it was mostly well laid path, good bridges and increasing flights of steps and walkways. By the time we got to the next waterfall though Sue had already counted 650 steps and we admired the commitment of the DoC people who had managed to haul all this timber up the hill to build tracks for our convenience. We were also starting to understand how hardy these Kiwi bush men (descended from the likes of the 6’8” George Murray whose sons Ivan and Jack were only an inch or so less) really were.  Before we moved on we stopped for a carb and sugar break because we reckoned if we were ever going to burn fat the next hour would be it. By the time we had met a couple on the way down the track Sue had counted 1600 steps but we were pleased to hear that “there were not that many more”. I fear they may have been suffering a rare form of Kiwi altitude sickness (take-pity-on-the-sweaty-poms-itus) for, actually, there were 2540 from bottom to top give or take a few.

Onwards and upwards

Upper kauri driving dam

Up to the last stint it was hard going but was at least broken up by sections of path to help you get your breath back between step sessions. We had a short rest by the remains of the higher Kauri dam which was similar but smaller than its big brother downstream but then came the last 1000 steps which were unrelentingly continuous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unrelenting steps into humid jungle

 

Don’t get me wrong, if the steps were not there we would have had no chance however, we both really felt it. Muscles burning, drenched with sweat and gasping we ascended flight after flight. Part of the problem was that, shrouded with the humid thick jungle like vegetation we had no idea how much further it was to the top. At the count of 2300 Sue stopped having decided that this was not such a good idea with a subtext of “by the way, was it one of mine by any chance”. She looked un-amused so I hastily retreated in the only direction open to me – up.

Two minutes to go

Happily we were on the home straight and met a small sign post that claimed it was only another 2 minutes to the top. It did seem to me at the time that the sign writer was related to the couple we met who were going down and was suffering the same delusion however because 10 minutes later we arrived at the summit trig point to a stupendous view.

We made it!

It had taken us 3 hours (30 minutes less than the prescribed time), I turned around to grab the camera, switched it on and behold, the view was gone, the cloud descended and it rained. Bugger.

Making the best of it we huddled and gratefully munched our sandwich lunch with raindrops dripping from our noses while the worst of it past. 20 minutes later the view was back and we could see at least 30 miles or more. Right across the Coromandel to the mainland with the island spread beneath our feet like a forested bedspread. It was great.

Going once ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going twice ....

Gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the top reappears

 

 

 

 

 

 

A

A long way down

 

After just ½ hour at the summit we started our descent. James, our eldest, had warned me that I would find this hard on my knee injury and he was right. But we retraced our path down the mountain and, as we made our way, the weather improved so, facing downhill we were treated to vista after vista through the overhanging trees. At last the steps stopped and we were back on the gravel track on more level ground so by the time we reached the final bridge it felt like the home straight. 30 minutes later we reached the dinghy and though we had started to suffer sore feet were really rather pleased with ourselves that we had managed a 7 hour walk in just 6. Not too bad for old duffers eh?

Glimpses during the descent

Smokehouse Bay – First bath in a year …

This bay lies within the natural inner harbourof New Zealand’s Great BarrierIsland and the shore surrounding it’s very sheltered anchorage is the private property of the Webster family who generously make it’s facilities available to any visitor there. As the name implies there is a working smokehouse on the shore. Unfortunately, when we inspected the inside of the smoke cabinets, some kind soul had left something unspeakable, which may at one time been a fish, on one of the shelves, something that the local insect population appeared not to have overlooked.  There was also a gutting table for cleaning fish catches along with cloths lines and old fashioned mangles for all that smelly yottie washing.

Bill and Norman stoking the fire

Of far more interest though, was the open air bath or, for the more modest dirty people, a bath house. Outside its door is a small “wetback” wood burning stove where all that is asked is you forage for and cut up (with the tools provided) enough wood to replace what you use to heat the bath water. Having not taken a bath for over a year Sue decided this was an opportunity not to be missed so Norman and I were dispatched accordingly to light and nurture a fire in the proper place.

 

Bath house occupied

Norman accomplished this with a slightly worrying enthusiastic efficiency so it was only a matter of waiting for the water to heat and our customers to appear naked. I am good at wishful thinking but not so good at waiting for water to boil and therefore the Welsh yardarm rule, which apparently states that drinking anytime is ok as long as a Welsh person is present, was invoked and the cold beer came out.

 

Sara choose the outside bath

It took about an hour for the water to warm but when it had Sara elected to bathe outside while Sue took the inner sanctum and the incongruous aroma of various bath-oils wafted throughout the glade. While the ladies soaked in fine style the old soaks (Norman and I who were also suitably oiled by this time) attempted to chop our fingers and other appendages off in the name of leaving a fair supply of firewood for the next dirty visitors. All good clean fun then and sadly no gratuitous nudity. Well not much anyway….

Sue's first bath in over a year.

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