VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 16 POSTED ON: 2/10/2012
In January, we were in Vava'u! We were anchored at the Mala resort that is still in construction and few of the projected activities are in place yet. So for now, it's mostly a disco and a few older bungalows to rent. The team is mostly from California, young people. They have plenty of ideas and enthusiasm and are all very welcoming and friendly. You may recall me mentioning, 2 months ago, the grand plans of the manager to have rock stars visiting with their yacht ... nothing happened as they are way behind schedule and perhaps it will be next New Year (I even doubt that!). Apparently the Pet Shop Boys (one of our favorite group) wanted to come :) Wx has been nice: quite hot but with a slight breeze and infrequent short showers We spent week to do some deck work and to paint part of it with the help of Willy, a 23-year old Tongan, & Kava, his friend. Willy worked in the family plantations before and this is his first real (paid) job. His wife is bearing a baby for March. Kava only speak a few words of English but Willy (who speak 2 words of English) does translate for him. Unfortunately we made the mistake to buy our paint locally from a local business that had a very old stock of Dupont paints … and gave us the wrong mixes! Last Sunday, we went again moped ridding around the island to explore and bring back fruits (got papayas and avocados). In February we had a tropical depression coming our way ... but it went South of us, closer to Tongatapu, the capital island. Subsequently we lost internet for 4 days ... not really sure if the problem was caused by cyclone Lola or by former satellite problems! The wx started to deteriorate with more wind and more short showers. Cyclone Olaf was approaching the Samoa islands, North of us, was giving us that wx! We went back to our cyclone/permanent mooring where the wind was much lower due to the protection of the shore. One day when I got up, I could find Zoetje to let him in! I found him like a parrot on the swimming ladder!!! Don't know when he slid overboard ... but he wasn't the least distressed or tired :) Soon, we'll have the anti-skid on deck again and less chances to fall overboard! The funny guy never barks to let us know where he is when he needs our help :( We have another cyclone that looks like it will pass North and then East of us ... with 2 more tropical depressions west of us ... active cyclone season this year. So far, the Cook Islands have been quite unlucky with 3 cyclones in 3 weeks :( March log Since work doesn't get done (still waiting for the paint:( we decided last Wed to take off for a week of cruising in the outer islands nearby (no place in the Vava'u is further than 15 nm away from Neiafu harbor :) We anchor in front of beautiful deserted islands, walk around them, sometimes find some coconuts or papayas and snorkel or spearfish around. Yesterday, we caught a nice parrotfish that made an excellent meal of poisson-cru last night. Zoetje likes those days a lot as he can spend more time ashore :) The local yard is still busy with a fishing boat and we start to wonder if we should haul out here at all! It is pretty rickety, local labor is pretty unskilled, any materials we might need won't be available and everything moves so slowly in Tonga! We are making some inquiries in Fiji again and decided to not risk the haul-out here as the yard is very rickety and we lost our confidence in any Tongan business to achieve anything good and in time :( So, we postpone the haul-out once more, this time to Fiji (in Suva probably)! April saw us enroute to Fiji! For once, we are early in any migration … generally we are way behind the pack! We decided to stop hitting our heads against the wall trying to do more boat projects in Vavau! When the tint finally arrived this week, the owner of the business refused to give us some credit for the first batch of diluted paint we got from him and refused to guarantee the quality of the new batch! Perhaps he saw 'pigeon' on our forehead ... but to push too much, even the mild tempered explodes one day! He threatened us with calling his lawyers :) and with calling immigration! As we checked out, I found out that he did complain to them about me but they smiled as they heard my story and did not give me any difficulties checking out:) Lately, we heard all kind of scandalous stories about Tommy Farr, the big Vava'u businessman, in cahoots with the Crowned Prince! Looks too that he makes more and more enemies and the banks may seize his assets soon! Sometimes, it is best to cut our losses and we wee definitively getting fed up of Tongan businesses and people! We saluted our local friends and finalized any bills with our workers... 'Bula' from Levuka, the old capital of Fiji! After a 4-day passage of about 450nm from Vava'u, Tonga, we arrived in Fiji. We sailed with either the genoa (+ mizzen sometimes) or with wing to wing (genoa + another headsail on the opposite side) with winds mostly from behind. When you look behind, you are glad not to have to run into those waves and swell ... but to ride with them! No damages except for a small rip in the headsail that got bigger and for a huge rip in the spinnaker when we failed to launch it properly and it ended up under the boat :( Those sails will be repaired soon. Official check-in procedure here in Levuka were painless as we had heard (compared to check into Suva, the capital). The people here are so much friendlier than in Tonga :) They smile and greet you and enjoy talking with you instead of the total disinterest and apathy common to Tongans! The next morning when turning on the local ssb radio net, I was called to see if I could help a yacht that ran aground on the coral barrier reef about 3 miles from us. Indeed, s/v Star Reach, a 51-foot Erwin sailboat with 4 people onboard (an American couple in their 60-70 and a guest with her 7-year old boy) ran aground the evening before when they misjudged where the pass leading into the lagoon was! The GPS told them they were way off ... but in their eagerness to enter before nightfall, they identified the wrong church ashore as the leading line to enter! They ran aground at high tide and as the tide was falling, the boat listed more and more on the side in barely 2 feet of water at low tide. Needless to say they didn't eat much or sleep much that night. At first light, at high tide again, a local fishing boat tried to tow them off into deep water outside ... but failed! 2 hours later, the local dive operator came and tried to tow them on the inside ... but failed also! Mike, a Canadian retiree living here, offered me a ride there to see what I could do to help. When we got there the owners were a little be overwhelmed by the events and were immensely relieved to have me taking charge of the salvage operations. Another local fisherman came with the customs and port officers to investigate. Very ironic to have the officials carry out the check- in procedure standing in waist deep water with their official dress and the skipper filling forms from a 45-degree heeled boat :) After assessing the situation, I decided to mark with fenders and life jackets an exit channel to the interior and to plan towing at about 5pm (next high tide at 615pm). Went back to the town and coordinated 4 small crafts for the towing. Back to the stranded vessel by 4pm, I prepared towing lines and briefed the coming towing vessels about what to do and signals I will use to direct them. The secret in similar situation is to coordinate correctly all forces applied instead of using brute force (and often making more damages!). While one boat was pulling the sailboat at an angle (by pulling them sideways from the top of the mast), 2 boats pulled her forward at an ever-changing angle from each other to guide her in the designated channel. It all went quite smoothly and everyone was happy and proud of his work! Beforehand, I had a talk with the owner about making sure to indemnify all local boats involved for their expenses and time as too often, sailors without insurance like him, barely thank the natives and disappear for ever later ... leaving the helpful natives quite unhappy about that kind of reciprocity :( He agreed completely and will go get money at the bank tomorrow to pay everyone. He also agreed to my suggestion to treating everyone to a dinner at a local restaurant. Will go tonight the Kim's, Chinese restaurant who has an 'all- you can eat buffet at US$6! The boat was towed right next to us in the anchorage and Daniel, the skipper, repaired plenty of things yesterday, I repaired a small leak with underwater epoxy. The rudder was badly damaged and will have to be temporarily fixed before they can sail towards Suva and shipyards. The keel was also damaged, with one part missing (to be found soon hopefully). By luck, propeller and transmission shaft were untouched :) Tomorrow, Jean-Claude, the general manager (French!) of the fish freezing factory & cannery will be back on island. Being a sailor himself (he showed me the video of his Mooring's managed catamaran in the Caribbean), I am sure he will help with all their machinery! Had a little time yesterday to do grocery and clothing shopping: much better selection and prices than in Vava'u! Quite an adventurous week as you see for us this week! Next week, we plan to explore some of this island and sail to Suva, the big metropolis to organize Jackie's trip to California in May. We had a nice week in Levuka. Went to some local restaurants to eat local food (much finer than Tongan foods) and did a land tour where we learned about Fijian history. The village of Lovoni is settled in an ancient volcano crater. The one phone in the village is out of service since 2 months now! We decide to divide our 65 nm trip to Suva in 3 segments so we don't have to sail at night. Did the first 2 legs with some motoring, as the wx has been quite rainy lately with little wind (not so great for sailing :( Bula vinaka from Suva! Whaw! Suva is as big or even bigger than Papeete on Tahiti. May be small compared to Brussels or Sacramento ... but for us having spent the last 2 years in the Cooks, Samoa and Tonga ... this is the big city! The nice thing is that most people are smiling (yes) and are happy to talk with a stranger (yes!). We have been wearing the sole of my shoes away in a week of discovering things around and in doing all kind of things we needed to do: clear Customs, get a cruising permit from the Fijian Affairs, get the sewing machine repaired, buy a new stereo system for the boat, buy Jackie's plane ticket for her 6-week trip to Michigan/Grass Valley, surf the internet and more things! Population here is about 45% Fijian (Pacific islanders attached to the land), 45% Indians (many born here ... full story later) and 10% of Europeans (mostly NZ & Australia) and Asians (Chinese, Koreans, ...). Quite a mix and some time explosive if you remember the coup just a few years back (more about that later). We got lots of rain this week and even the sunny side of the island had many floods :( A tropical depression passed without developing into a cyclone, by luck :) Yesterday, I met by chance an Indian businessman that happens to be an excellent friend of the Consul of Belgium (EU representative) and took us yesterday to the Merchants private club. He knows plenty of people around and is very friendly ... we are quite another world for him ... as we are quite interested to explore some Indian culture and local insider life! Bruno, the Belgian Consul was flying away for a week so we will meet him only in 10 days or so. Lots of fun ... lots of new experiences and lots of things accomplished ... cannot complain :) May log We are moored in the protected anchorage of the Tradewinds Hotel, about 15 min bus ride from downtown Suva (capital of Fiji). Tony, ex-owner of the hotel and big wealthy businessman has his own sailboat here in front of his villa and has installed 5 moorings, free for other yachts to use. Almost cyclone-proof, this anchorage is cleaner and more protected than off the Royal Suva Yacht Club, closer to town ... and the bus ride is only 5-10 min longer and 15 cents Fijian (about 10c US or 8 cents Euros) more expensive (60c ride versus 45c :) Last WE, Mohan, an Fijian Indian I met by chance, introduced us to 2 of the 6 Suva Clubs: the Merchants Club (400 members - Club House with Snooker tables and darts + bar & restaurant) and the Fiji Club (700 members - Club House with the aforementioned and outdoor pool + indoor squash court). We returned his hospitality by inviting him onboard and taking him for lunch at a Chinese restaurant downtown. Good introduction to local life! Next to us, Dolphin Queen, a monohull with Leo & Ria (Dutch living in NZ since over 15 years now) and their 4 kids (3 daughters & 1 son, age 12-4). They left their other 4 kids (18- 14?) in NZ for their studies... They are at the beginning of their round-the-world cruise and plan to be back in NZ in 5 to 7 years. Ria is quite busy as boat schoolmistress! Leo used to run an audio store so he helped me a lot with electronic knowledge :) We borrowed some MP3 music and some movies from each other. Suva, true to her reputation, has been quite rainy so far! In a month or so, the wet season should be over but in Suva, it remains to be seen ;) Glad we fixed our rain leaks in Tonga! Boat projects are advancing steadily: got new hi-density foam in our salon cushions so now we don't feel the hard surface underneath anymore :) We started modifying the galley/entertainment area: took the original heather off and got a new cabinet made: a big file section and 3 drawers to store CD, audio tapes and plenty of things like vitamins, dog food and more that used to be on shelves all around. The Indian carpenters are doing a good job if not the best or the fastest :) On Friday we went for a full day white water rafting in inflatable. 24km of river thru beautiful gorges! Lots of fun and the wx was just perfect. Rivers Fiji is run by Americans ... from California :) They knew Grass Valley and area well :) Small world! Beginning of the interior renovation projects on Sloepmouche this week! After 2 local carpenters finished the new cabinet, I decided to make myself the audio shelf and the new galley/entertainment partition. Jackie stained all the exterior plywood before she left for the States ... amazing how good looking is this Fijian plywood once stained! I epoxied them and finally assembled everything. This morning, I had fun filling the cabinet and the new stereo system is performing quite well. We have now 4 salon speakers and for wheelhouse/cockpit speakers with nice switch box. It is all connected to the new Kenwood CD/MP3/VCD car player we bought here. I use the cassette walkman player with the 12v->3v converter I made with electronic parts from Vava'u (no need to use 2xAA batteries anymore). Little by little I get digital versions all our tapes so some day we will exclusively listen to MP3 CD that hold about 10 hours of music each and that we can play random so we have our own radio station ... without advertising, without news and the usual BS ... and with only music we like :) While Jackie is in California, Zoetje and I are working on the boat here in Suva. Little by little the improvements in the galley are taking place! Installed the new LED anchor light I bought from a small company in Savusavu (was cheaper than if I had made it myself from parts at RadioShack ! Those white LED are fantastic: they give a lot of light for almost no electricity (perfect for us living on 12v :) Did go yesterday with Discover Fiji Tours to a great inland tour. This tour combines river canoeing on the beautiful lower Navua river + a Fijian village tour including kava ceremony, lovo lunch, dancing, arts & crafts) + Magic Waterfalls + leisurely bamboo rafting. Professionally organized from A to Z with a smile! Not to be missed. They invest 40% of the business income into reviving old villages (1st village has now a population of 800, next 2 villages have about 300-400 each and this new one has already 80 people!) Tourism can help in keeping the young people in the country! June log Half work, half leisure this week! Started working on putting new ceilings and new lighting in the salon. Doing a nice job takes time (as Jackie always says :) Last Monday was a public holiday and after working on the computer in the morning, I went with Zoetje and another cruiser on the nearby river. Zoetje was delighted as he had a chance to check to shore :) Went 2 days ago on a hike with cruisers that stay at this anchorage. And finally, yesterday, I was invited for a cave tour starting 2 hours away from here. By luck public busses are numerous and inexpensive! Just 3 of us on the tour, a real private tour! Visited a pretty impressive cave where people hid in the past and lived under siege for a month. The usual kava ceremony when we arrived at the chief's bure (house) and a short bili bili (bamboo raft) down the river. But I didn't swim as it was in the murky water of the river (no waterfall on this tour :( Next week, I will work more inside and hopefully do most of the ceilings (except perhaps the spray painting of the ceilings?!?) Plenty of boats now in our anchorage! Over 30 boats already arrived in the Auckland (NZ) to Suva race! The first one beat the old record by more than a day : made it in less than 4 days! Wish we were that fast ... but comfortable like we are and carrying everything we do :) I have some friendly contacts with some cruisers around. Last night I invited Fabien on a French sailboat & Bernard + Carmen from another French boat "le Pilou Pilou". They have sailed since quite a while too and we had plenty of stories from common friends in French Polynesia to share! The President's Cup Sailing race was a flop: only 8 boats participating with only 3 participating to all 5 races :( No prize money ... little incentive for the 40 boats just finishing the Auckland (NZ) to Suva race to stay and participate in this small regatta compared to the long race they just finished. Bad organization, bad information, I could never know what was going on when!! I decided to go on Friday, the last racing day to at least watch some ... to hear that the last race was yesterday as they decided at the last minute to race on the lay day!! What a joke! Most of the other boats sharing the anchorage with me left ... little wind for the next few days ... and one French left direct to Noumea!! Apparently 4 sailboats were abandoned and people rescued this week between NZ and Fiji (rough wx!) and one ended up on the reef in the Lau group coming from Tonga yesterday. His excuse was that he couldn't find any chart in Tahiti !!! July log The Sloepmouche family is together again :) We are all happy to be back together! The 180 Lbs of luggage Jackie brought back has been stored away already and now, little by little, we install the new toys and use the parts she brought back to finish the boat repairs we are making. It has been quite windy lately and we find the temperature cool with that South wind (like your North wind in the Northern hemisphere!). We are looking forward to the warming when the summer comes (in Nov). Jackie slept in 3 days in a row ... Monday, time to start getting things done again :) We cleaned the hydraulic hoses going from the helm pump to the rudder cylinder. The new pump is quite similar to the old one we had ... so it won't make any difference as far as diminishing the helm turns! So we will have to try to solve the autopilot difficulties to handle the helm in a different way :( Now, it seems that the correct oil to replenish the system is not imported in Fiji :( Will have to find an alternative!!! We also adjusted the valve tappet clearances on our diesel engine and replaced the sump and top gaskets. Cleaned the bilges there and made the usual oil & filter changes. The four other boats sharing the anchorage with us now are all cruisers we met before and we have lots of socialization with our American friends, Jon, Sue & Amanda on Ocelot. Jon is a computer and website specialist and I get some ideas from him about developing our own website. If you want to check his website you will learn a lot about their cruising. It is very well done but takes them so much time :( We are anchored off Ono island in the Great Astrolabe Reef. After over 3 months close to Suva, we finally left Viti Levu (main island of 2 in Fiji) to start exploring the other groups of islands. We timed our passage just right to make the 40 nm crossing to the Astrolabe Reef as the wind was getting stronger and more on the nose as we approached ... but we made landfall in Dravuni before nightfall. Dravuni is a small island visited by cruiseships (yes!) a few times a year and by many cruisers as it make a convenient first or last stop in the Suva-Astrolabe passage. We presented 1lb of kava powder (strong kava from Tonga) to the chief who invited us in his house. We were permitted to go around the island, take photos, snorkel around as we wished. That afternoon, they had a big ceremony for a couple married for about 10 years. The wife family offers a big feast to their daughter and village. Plenty of woven mats, pillows, ... were displayed in the village communal hall to everyone to see, several people spoke in public (in Fijian) and we all drank kava. Surprisingly, our lips and legs didn't go numb as often they do to everyone (either the kava was weak or we have a good tolerance to it!). After we ate with some of the villagers in one house (the real thing, no chichi for tourists :) I (Luc) ended up rebuilding the starter of the communal boat as natives know even less than me :( The wx bulletins showed us some nasty wx coming our way so we left for a more protected anchorage to sit the bad wx coming! It had been quite rolly and uncomfortable those 3 days in Dravuni anchorage. We had a great sail 6+ knots (in 25 kts of wind) the 10 miles run to Ono. We are now in a bay only open towards the west. The strong winds 20-25 (with gusts to 35) blow right on us from the shore and fortunately the fetch is short so the seas are not big. Not too uncomfortable. Alas, yesterday, one of our wind generators seems to have broken something internally in the high gusts and does not produce anymore energy :( They are supposed to resist winds over 60 kts!!! And 5 min ago, as I wrote this, the second wind generator went 'kaput' the same way. So much for quality equipment!!! Both are under warranty ... but now will come the fun to take things apart, pay shipping back to US, wait for parts to come back, ... Looking forward to all that :( We are in Naigoro harbor, on the NE tip of Kadavu. Early in the week, we stayed on the West coast of Ono where we had fun interaction with the natives. Went with 3 young adults hiking in several places. One was a hike up a hill and down to a grotto that lead us right onto the ocean cliff. The next day, we went snorkeling there by dinghy. Good photos opportunity and Zoetje even came with us on a hike way up another hills where we had great panorama photos. Went also scuba diving on a reef 1 mile off the bay with a couple of Californian cruisers that came 2 days in the anchorage. Did copy good music from each others too :) Went night diving by ourselves at the entrance of the bay and came back with 2 nice lobsters! Traded with locals for fruits and mud crabs. Jackie read about those delicious mud crabs they get in the area so we asked an old guy to get some for us. Easy it was for him to put a trap with bait and get 2 during that night (with another 2 escaping :) The mother and daughter offered to cook them for us and Jackie was interested to see they don't boil them but steam them so the flesh doesn't disintegrate ... ah those cook tricks! Good anchorage it was during 3 days of solid tradewinds. Our hydraulic steering gives us trouble too! We had the master cylinder all reconditioned in Suva with new o-rings, we installed a new helm pump and cleaned all the hydraulic hoses. What more can you do? It should be maintenance-free for years now! ... it leaks at the cylinder! So we have to collect what leaks and refill the pump ...periodically! So, back in Suva later, we will have to take the cylinder apart and see why those new seals are leaking :( Did silicone one of our windshield window to stop rain leaks there! So you see, our time is a mix of fun activities and maintenance / repair work on the boat! But is that not our lot, all of us, mix of fun & work? As long as the balance is acceptable :) August log We visited the village of Kadavu (as the name of the whole island). Did sevu sevu with the chief (welcoming ceremony where the visitor offers kava roots to the chief and the chief grant him permission to come and go in the village. He asked us to look at his new vcr that he couldn't look videos with. I cleaned the heads as those old video tapes where quite contaminated but it was an alignment problem (so he will have to send it to Suva for repairs!). Fortunately for them here, being remote as they are, Suva is only 2 hours away by speedboat (50 miles). His wife showed us some amazing waterfalls, right there in the village. The setting was so scenic that we went back the next morning with our wetsuits (cold!) and the new still camera. Made over 100 photos ... so we should have some good ones. Had dinner at a isolated resort. Next day, we went to the next village for sevu sevu, waterfall visit and to take some photo of a local wedding! Quite interesting. Moved to 2 different locations where we did some snorkeling in passes (drifting). The whole area is quite remote: no phone or TV except in the main town; no bakery, only a few isolated shops selling basics. We sailed to 3 different anchorages this week. Visited a 'rich&famous' resort under construction (opening in 2007?) > targeted to the movie industry! Visited a very nice resort (about 100 Euros/night) incl 3 meals, the Tiliva resort, run by Barbara (UK) and Kim (her husband born in the near village but British soldier until retirement. Went scuba diving with a local dive center. Traded with the shop here at the Kavala bay Village. Swam in another (!) waterfall. As far as projects: we installed new gaskets on our cockpit sliding doors (to stop sea water from entering during rough passages). We still have the serious hydraulic leak at the piston of our steering (that was serviced in Suva 3 weeks ago :( and we have now a gear oil leak at our electric windlass. We contain those leaks ... hopefully until we get back to Suva in about 2 weeks. There we can fix all that plus both our windgenerators :( But how more equipment you run, how more maintenance and problems you have ! Poor natives here have no concept of that ... they want to acquire anything they can especially electricity that gives them DVD, movies! We are now at the Papageno resort on the North coast of Kadavu. We made a promotional DVD for the resort! (see our www.youtube.com/sloepmouche channel) Nice people, nice setting, good diving but alas mixed wx! Today, we finally sea the sun after 4 days of cold and gray wx! Had a shark feeding dive, a wreck dive and tomorrow we should dive with the mantas! The resort belong to a Californian school owner lady (from German origin) and was acquired by her while she visited many years ago. She is here now on one of her rare visits. The dive master is Maori (NZ) but married a Fijian girl and is completely integrated. We stayed the whole week at the Papageno Resort. Done some exciting diving with them: shark feeding, mantas rays, ... Took plenty of photos & videos of the diving and the resort in order to make that promotional video for them. Went to a nearby waterfall. Most nights we were invited at the resort for cocktail & dinner and had plenty of socialization with the few guests there. Last 5 days, a family with 3 young kids was here (she is British, he's French). Mixed wx also (nice sunshine / overcast drizzle) with temperatures still cold for us. We visited the small village of Daku and advised them on how to run tours for passing tourists. Went to another village to show them how to use & maintain the Honda 3,5KW generator we sold them. Later, we will get a smaller 2KW for us as back-up. Taught them safety precautions too! They are all happy as they finally will get electricity to power light fixtures in 10 houses and the community hall! Amazing in this day and age to bring electricity somewhere, isn't it? You have to understand that we met many village here and in other islands where people still live without electricity ... and are they so lucky without knowing it! Because once you get electricity, you need plenty of money to power the generator and to buy all kind of appliances :( But that's progress! September log Back in Suva! We had a fast passage from Kadavu (Papageno Resort) to Suva last Monday. 15-25 kts aft of the beam made us go at 6-7.5 kts! We caught a 6ft sailfish that gave us more than 20lbs of good fish. Some we ate as sashimi that night, some went in the freezer to be cooked later and Jackie canned the rest. Nice gift from the sea! We started repairing all that was broken :( Got a new seal for the windlass, cleaned the aluminum body that is rotten a way ... nothing much we can do ... lets hope it lasts a bit more! Had a electrical shop cleaned and rebuilt the motor that had been inundated with the leaking oil. As soon as the wx gets dryer, we can mount everything back in place! Our ripped mizzen sail was repaired at the sail loft. The leaking cylinder of our steering system was overhauled again and hopefully the seals won't leak for a while! We completely remounted that already. Tightened more bolts and nuts in the engine room to stop some oil leaks that we thought we had under control before :( We have now just one month to check out of Fiji as our visas expire then. Will sail to Wallis & Futuna (French Territory) to visit and then come back to Fiji for another 6 months (cyclone season)! We are back in Levuka, on Ovalau, our first port of entry in Fiji coming in 5 months ago from Tonga! We left Suva to do island hoping to Savu Savu but adverse wx slowed us down and we made it only as far as Wakaya, the exclusive resort island East of Levuka. As we were approaching, motor-sailing, we saw white smoke coming out of the engine room vent! We checked the engine room carefully with our fire extinguishers ready but happily saw no flames at all. We decided to continue running the engine until we negotiated the narrow pass thru the reefs and were safely anchored inside the lagoon. We investigate then and found that the starter had shorted and melted some electrical wires! No starting the engine and running it until the starter was repaired. The exclusive resort (about US$3,000 /night) does not welcome cruisers ashore so we didn't seek help there. There was one yacht anchored there, an old hand of the SPac cruising, friend of the owner of the resort but except for being civil was not helpful in any way! That's ok, we are self-sufficient! We took the starter apart ... took our spare starter apart > the spare doesn't fit as it is slightly longer (tnx Brian! former owner!) and we cannot fix the burned one by ourselves. We had 2 choices: sail to Savu Savu 60nm away where someone could perhaps rebuild the starter or sail to Levuka 10nm away where we have access by plane and ferry to Suva where we mostly will find someone to rebuild the starter! Winds being predicted very light and from the wrong direction to continue to Savu Savu, we had a surprisingly easy sail to Levuka. To move out of our protected anchorage and to negotiate the narrow pass thru the barrier reef, we used our emergency propulsion system ie installing our 15hp outboard long shaft to our swim platform at the stern and motor that way. No problem steering the boat with the helm (outboard blocked in medium position) and catching the wind in our sail for extra propulsion. Once out of the reefs, we just sailed all the way thru the pass of Levuka and in the anchorage :) Here we met again our friends Jean-Claude, the general mgr of Pafco (tuna canneries) who, a sailor himself (owner of a catamaran with Moorings) is most helpful to passing yachts. After a few more years here, when he retires, he wants to cruise the S.Pac on a bigger cat that he is going to buy soon. His electrician was unable to completely rewire the starter motor as that's what's needed but they called parts shops in Suva and located some refurbished starter for us and also for one of their forklift (just needed a starter for themselves). Yesterday, I went with Ram (our Indian friend from when we pulled the grounded sailboat off the reef 5 months ago) by speed boat to Viti Levu where we met a taxi coming from Suva with both starters. Had some trolling underway as we had time ... caught 2 fish, one of them a nice size Spanish Macquerel that we ate all together at JC's local girlfriend pizza parlor. Today, I will install the refurbished starter (hopefully they gave us the right model!) and US$500 later, we may be back in shape :) Tomorrow, I should get the parts to repair our 2 windgenerators so when that's all A-OK, we will be even in better shape energy-wise!! We arrived in Savusavu on Friday. We had a great sailing trip from Macogai. We didn't even think the night before that we would sail that day as the wx forecasts were not that favorable. But while taking some green coconuts for water, we saw that the wind was stronger and from a better direction than forecast. So we decided to go before the winds changes. We did 6 to 7 knots (quite good for us!) and we covered 40 nm easily. Caught 2 bobbies fishing ... we both did :) Those guys are so light ... got them off the hooks without too much troubles ... they may have a sore beak for a few days, tho! Nice to have some great sailing sometimes 20-25 kts from aft of the beam! Before that trip we spent 3 days in Macogai. Nice hiking with visiting the old leper hospital and buildings. Great spearfishing too: in a few hours we got 6 fish (sweetlips, trigger, parotfish) ... about 20lbs! We are in Savusavu. Lots of cruisers here! Since a few years now the area has been developed and is very cruiser-friendly: 2 small marinas with moorings, bar, marine store, internet access and more. Alas our ham radio is in bad shape: corrosion damaged important parts and the radio will have to been sent to Icom for repair (if worth it!). What a shame! A good radio and only 3 years old! Marine air does corrode everything! I try to order another radio asap as we need one before we sail to Wallis and Futuna in less than 2 weeks! My visa expires on Oct 4th and going out of the country will give me a new 4+2 months when coming back. But a radio is needed to get wx bulletins and to have emails! I may have to rent one radio until we get the new one! Pretty windy and gray the last 3 days! Jackie has been working on cosmetics on the new galley counter while I installed these pactor modems. This afternoon, we'll go for a ride around on our mopeds. Yesterday, I took them out and checked them. Tires were flat but engines started on the 3rd try :) Will try to collect some wild fruits (papayas and mangoes as the mango season just begins) We went for a day tour to Labasa, the capital of Vanua Levu. But the wx has been mostly gray, rainy and windy during the week. Finally the sun came out yesterday and today. The borrowed ssb radio works so and so ... we may not be in easy radio contact for the next few weeks :( Thanks to Paul, Jackie's friend and Frank, we should get our new radio here by the time we come back from Wallis & Futuna! Since in 2 days it will be exactly 6 month since we first arrived in Fiji, we have to go out of the country in order to avoid expensive visa renewals. We can either fly somewhere or go by boat. We decided to go visit the French islands of Futuna and then Wallis that we never visited before. But we won't just go for a day and come back as some do ... but take the opportunity to visit them for a few weeks before coming back here in Fiji for cyclone season. It's about 4 days of sailing to Wallis, the farthest. But we could break the trip in 3 legs: northern most part of Fiji, then Futuna and finally Wallis. We hope the wx will be favorable as coming back often is quite close to the wind :( The wx on open seas has been quite bad the last couple of weeks, according to sailors navigating then ... but I think it's getting better now. October log Another new country visited by us :) We are now in Avea bay in Futuna (as in the French Overseas Territories of Wallis & Futuna). The first time we ever heard of Futuna is when we worked with Kossy, the GO heading stage shows in Club Med Faru - Maldives 87'. Little did we know at the time that we would one day visit his island, lost in the S.Pacific :) Apparently, he is living in Noumea (New Caledonia) with his girlfriend at the time, Corinna, an Aussie gal! Another Club Med romance that lasted :) We had a 28-hour sailing from the closest Fijian island there is. We spent a night rest there in a very hazardous anchorage (full of shallow coral heads!) before heading for the 120- miles passage. We had a good 20 knots of wind the whole way and we had a good and fast sail the first half of the passage. Alas, the wind went close to the nose as we progressed North and a sideways current pushed us West, we had to add the engine power to prevent us from sliding too much West and thus have to beat our brains out tacking East to reach Futuna :( The ambiance is so different from Fiji here! The officials (Customs, Immigration, ...) are so much more relax and laid-back, sights have much common with other French islands ... quite nice! We met some teachers including a Belgian, Ivan, that left Belgium in 84' (like me). He lived in Spain and the French Pyrenee with his French wife and kids. Then got posted as Spanish teacher at La Reunion (a French island in the Indian Ocean) and now since one year, here in Futuna. He invited us last night for cocktail & dinner with the Parisian teacher that introduced us :) Nice evening! Yesterday, we toured the whole island (about 35 km road all around) on our mopeds! The wx was nice and we had a great time discovering all the sights, taking pictures and collecting some fruits! We are now anchored of Alofi, the small island off Futuna. We had a fun week in Futuna doing all kinds of exploration. We did 2 tours of the island on our moped (in each direction) gathering photos and fruits :) Went hiking along one of the small rivers with a boy as guide: swam in several pools. Zoetje came with us and really enjoyed it, even if his legs were sore the next day! Made some mango/papaya marmalade and local apple sauce. Yesterday, we took some new friends with us for the 6 nm motorsailing run to Alofi. We had Ivan, a Belgian teacher (of Spanish & Judo :), his 2 kids and 3 local friends (his French wife stayed home with a toothache), Alain & Colette (2 French teachers) and Andre (also French teacher). Everybody enjoyed the boat trip, the snorkeling and the conversation aboard. Ivan left Belgium in 84' like me but for the French Pyrennees & Spain. They left Europe only about 5 years ago. After a posting in La Reunion, they arrived 1 year ago here in Futuna, where they will be for 2 or 4 years. Alofi is uninhabited but natives have all their own fale (open air house) here and they come during the day to tend their crops. Did some hiking on the island: over 5 hours on Monday to go across the island to the Virgin Mary's cave and beaches and 4 hours yesterday to go to a different beach. Zoetje love the French islands where he can explore the shore without having to hide :) The other days, we did some work on the boat. Jackie is fixing the windshields she made for the cockpits and I We are still in Futuna. We spent 10 days anchored of Alofi, the small sister island to Futuna. Local families across the channel come 3 times a week to cultivate their fields. And the French teachers, gendarmes and other officials come here on WE or during school vacations. We made several day hikes across the hills on the island to secluded beaches. Good for the health to hike several hours like that! Did some snorkeling but nothing great was found as the area has been over-fished :( Our Belgian/French friends have their son, Leo, taking his catholic communion this WE so we are invited to some of the festivities with them. Will take photos and video and make them a souvenir DVD. Should be interesting to see the traditional ceremonies and to eat 'local' dishes :) We plan to return to Fiji next week when the wind is favorable. We should then get our new ham ssb radio that Frank and Paul got for us. Hopefully it will be the end with our difficulties connecting to emails on board! November log Last WE in Futuna, we had the luck to assist with our teachers friends to the Communion festivities on the island. Nice opportunity to participate to island life! We are now in the very few cruisers who spent a month in Futuna (most stay only a few days!) and we had a great contact with several French teachers there! We were all sad that we had to leave but cyclone season is coming and no place for a yacht in Futuna is safe then! We left Futuna Thursday morning with wx forecasts of no wind until we reach more South then 15 kts of East wind (perfect for sailing back to Fiji) and no wind at all on Sunday. What we got was quite different! As soon as we were out of the harbor of Futuna, we got 15 kts of East wind. So we were quite happy to not to have to motor for a few hours before getting enough wind to sail. But after only a few hours we got between 20 and 30 kts of East wind with many gusts to 35 kts! The direction was fine but the speed is a little too much, especially with cross swells ... uncomfortable trip BUT at least it was fast. After one overnight like that, we arrived in the protection of several group of atolls and then the island of Taveuni. Seas became smoother :) But the wind calmed down too. By noon on Friday, we had to motorsail in very light wind! But we arrived before nightfall in a secluded bay where we had a good sleep. Saturday we cleaned the boat from seawater leakages, ... A small fishing boat came by in the afternoon and invited us at their home (the only one in this deserted bay). We went and got a great welcome! This extended family likes to meet travelers like us and we had nice conversation and tea & cake with them. They showed us their place and gave us fruits. We gave them gifts too and we promised to visit them again later when we go back that way again (in a few weeks). They said we now had friends there and will always be welcome. We are looking forward to hike in the area, collect fruits to make marmalade, catch mud crabs and do other activities with them. Nice to still be in places where people are so relaxed they look forward to meet other fellows! This morning, as we were motoring out of that bay (no wind at all!) ... still inside the outside barrier reef ... an alarm went ... engine water temperature way up the scale ... stopped the engine ... heat exchanger all dry and all the water and anti-freeze in the bilge. No panic ... with the boat hardly drifting at all and plenty of room around us, we lowered our dinghy ... took the outboard off and fitted it on the transom as emergency propulsion. Under the power of our 15hp Tohatsu, we motored out thru the pass at about 2.4 kts and made it in open seas. While motoring that way under autopilot, we investigated and found the impeller of the raw water pump all chewed up! Replaced it ... refilled the heat exchanger with water and anti-freeze ... no leak :) So we ran the engine again ... no problem EXCEPT for the water- lock in plastic which cracked with extra hot exhaust air without cooling water!!!)... we rigged a electric pump to pump out the water leaking in the bilge now! Afternoon, we got a great 10-15 kts of wind of the right direction so we could sail all the way here tonite. We are moored in Savusavu. Got our new radio and we had our laptop repaired (by taking the hard drive from our other broken laptop). We are now fully operational again with email and wx bulletins. Nice to get reliable and quick connections again! We patched together our waterlock that is part of the exhaust system when running the engine. It leaks just a few drops a minute and should hold together until we get the new one from California. Yesterday, we replaced one of our forestays (cables that hold the mast up from the front of the boat). The present one had a few broken strands and corrosion and our spare one, an old one that we replaced but kept for spare, is in better shape so we adjusted the length and there we go. Replaced the belt on the deck washdown pump also. Jackie continued repairing our 2 cockpit soft windshields. Many maintenance and repair projects as you see! A few day ago, I went in an Indian shop to inquire about getting our bush knifes sharpened and the owner invited us for dinner at his house later in the week. How often does that happen to you? He said they enjoy having foreigners at home for interesting conversations. Last evening, he came to pick us up in his old broken down car and drove us home. We met his family and had a nice Indian curry dinner, eaten the Indian way. Jackie learned how to cook some Indian recipes. We all had a great time! I will send business his way as he is a carpenter and does nice work. We are anchored in Fawn Harbor (16d43'S-179d42'E) ... about 35 miles away of Savusavu. We took advantage of some unusual West wind yesterday to sail East towards Taveuni. During the week we did several boat projects as usual: replaced one of our forestay, repaired our swimplatform where some 25 yr old teak felt apart (replaced with local teak). I installed 4 megapulse units with relays on a big fancy catamaran (with a rotating mast!). Luck had it that for Jackie's b'day, we were invited overnight in a fancy resort! They had a wedding (US couple) and no other guests. So we provided company and had a chance to check out the resort for our writings. George Harrisson stayed here once and was well appreciated. The owners were very nice and they run a very nice high class resort. Only 6 private bungalows in an old coconut plantation that is away from everything. So Jackie had hot breakfast delivered :) We have now 3 weeks to explore the area before going back to Savusavu to pick up our new batteries & generator arriving by cargo from the US and also other boat parts (tnx Paul:) We are now in Viani Bay (16d44'99S-179d53'30E) This is the Eastern tip of Vanua Levu. The world-renowed diving of Rainbow reef and the Great White wall are closest to here and we should go diving there this coming week! We spent 3 days on Taveuni, the 3rd largest island in Fiji until the wind made the anchorage uncomfortable and we sailed here, across the Somosomo channel. On Taveuni, we rode our mopeds to the South part of the island. When the small rubber gas pump failed, we hitch-hiked and later took the public bus to ride the rest and come back to the main village, our anchorage. Most vehicles are flat bed trucks so it is easy to climb in the back with the mopeds ... and people taking the bus, load plenty of stuff in the compartments below (like taro roots, grass mowers, jugs, bananas stalks and more. Try to do that in a civilized world :) We also went to the nearby waterslides where kids were having a great time! We did too! Other than some fun exploring, we had our share of boat projects :( More things you have, more breakdowns :( We have problems now with the electrical windlass, the gas barbecue and the video camera ... what fun! I am sure my great-grandfather Philemon is often proud of me when he sees how I fix some things :) December log We are now anchored of the North point of Taveuni, the 3rd largest island in Fiji (16d48'92S-179d52'36W). We spent the first half of the week in Viani Bay, on the opposite side of the Somosomo strait, on the East part of Vanua Levu (the 2nd biggest island in Fiji). There we visited Viola and Roland (German-Swiss) at the Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat. Very nice couple running a small no-frills resort and dive center. We made 4 dives with Roland on the world famous Rainbow Reef and Great White Wall. We saw an abundance of soft corals (reminded us of the Red Sea and Maldives) that don't exist East of here in the South Pacific. Also some nice hard corals and plenty colorful fishes. We were lucky to see 2 big manta rays - no matter how often you see them, you always enjoy their sight! Met briefly Jack Fisher (well know by the yachties), who takes them to those dive sites (provided you have you own dive gear and tanks). Got the run of his fruits garden :) Back in Taveuni on a trip with lots of sailing. A little difficult to get ashore as it is very swelly! But we founds ways! We took our mopeds to explore the North part of the island, especially the Bouma waterfalls. We hiked to all 3 and swam in 2 of them. Hitch-hiked back as one moped refused to start :( Were invited to 2 buffet dinners with lots of local Fijian food, miam! Spent last nite in a plush resort with Jacuzzi and all :) Now for the not so fun part: boat projects! We found plenty of water in our main bilges and discovered that the housing of our watermaker burst apart! Never seen something like that! By luck, we had a spare housing (from a boating flea market long ago) and 3 hours later, we were again producing freshwater :) Took the motor of our windlass apart and completely cleaned it as the brushes couldn't make contact because of some black deposit. It worked 10 min ... looks like we can take it apart again and re-clean it (with gasoline this time!) We are in Dakuniba bay, a very placid anchorage. We met again David, Margaret, Dicky and their extended family. Very welcoming people who enjoy the occasional visit of sailors! Went with Dicky for a hike with nice views and fruit gathering. Made some marmalade yesterday with passion fruits, papayas, mangoes and oranges. Later we will make more marmalade with bananas and pineapples. I fixed a waterproof light for them and did some work on their boombox ... nice to be able to fix someone else problems for once :) Went swimming in a small river nearby yesterday. At the beginning of the week, we were still in Taveuni where we did the coastal walk and more swimming in a river with double waterfalls! Got a bunch of avocados and pineapples. As for boat projects, I took our windlass starter motor completely apart again, this time washing it with gasoline instead of diesel, sanded all the contacts well ... now the windlass runs better than in ages :) Replaced the watermaker membrane with one spare and that works fine now! We bought the latest in EPIRBs (Emergency Position Beacon). The one on night watch wears it on his belt and once activated it should take less than 10 minutes for the rescue authorities to know our position and to contact our shore contact to find out if it is a false alert or not. When in dire peril on the sea, it is a nice feeling to know that efficient rescue (yes, they seem quite good) will be attempted quickly! We are anchored in Buda bay, on the East coast of Vanua Levu. Friday, we went to Savusavu by bus to get packages with boat parts we were waiting for. It was a "all-day tour" as we left at 8am and came back at 5pm. Most of the road is unpaved and the bus ride is a tour in itself :) Yesterday, we went to the river with the chief of the village and his family. Cooked breadfruit on a fire, added corned beef we brought, steamed some river prawn in a bamboo and had some papayas. The swimming holes were quite small and not great for bathing but we had a nice day with them and their 4 kids (4-9yrs). Earlier in the week, we did some hiking and snorkeling with our friends in Dakuniba bay. As boat projects, we did work on the watermaker (needed to replace the membrane with one of our spares), had to take apart and clean the windlass motor again :(, replaced our exhaust waterlock with the new one we got and more! We are anchored of Also Island, on the NE corner of Vanua Levu. For several years, I spoke with Jim on SSB during his net "the rag of the air". Jim (US) and Kioko (Japan) came in Fiji on their boat "Also II". They felt in love with the place and the villagers here gave them a small island to entice them to stay here permanently. Jim is good at fixing things and is happy to help the community around. So, for 4 years now, they live here, still on their boat, next to Also island, where they built sheds, offices, ... But Jim has plans now to build a house on the island and sell their boat as he has to concentrate his energy on one thing! Jim started building and repairing small fishing boats and hope to develop this business. We first met Jim in Savusavu (6 weeks ago) and he was dreading spending Xmas here isolated so we said we'll come visit at that time ... and here we are! When we arrived we went to the nearest village and made 'sevusevu' with the chief. You present him with kava roots and he accepts you (normally!) in the community. Here in Fiji, life in the country is very tribal and the chief controls what's happening in his village. He decides and organizes communal works, he acts as the judge in conflicts and sets the rules. This village is traditional in the way that nobody can wear a hat, sunglasses or carry anything on the shoulders inside the village itself! Those are chief's prerogatives :) Also women have to wear a dress covering their knees. Not too much hardship for visitors (except not to forget those rules :) Went to one of the villages for Xmas day for a Methodist church mass. Beautiful church singing as usual in the South Pacific islands. Nice meal all together after that. Went also to a fund raising day at another village on Tuesday with turtle meat for feast (we don't specially care for turtle meat but it's a treat for the locals!). They had family members living in Suva and other places there for the fund raising to build a new community hall. Yesterday, we helped organize a party for all the workers and families. Locals didn't care for old US/EU type of Xmas carols (neither do I :) and only concede listening to Xmas reggae songs!:) But mostly wanted to hear their own Fijian traditional songs. Last night, we had New Year’s Eve on Also island. Koyko got some turkey in Labasa the day before, Jackie made fried rice and a nice jello cake ... I shot old flares ... at 1930 local time as the local Fijians were going back to their village (having drunk all the kava :) and Jim was asleep already! By 830pm local time, we were both back aboard! We had a nice evening together then. On Friday, we had our traditional lobster dinner onboard with lobsters from Kadavu (thanks for our freezer!) as it is very difficult to get them yourself or to find fishermen having them and wanting to barter!
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