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
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 :(
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
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
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 :)
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
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!
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 !!!
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
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
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
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
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 :)
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 (!)
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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!
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
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 :)
We are now anchored of the North point of Taveuni, the 3rd largest island in Fiji
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!