Thursday, April 29, 2010

Underway for Vanuatu

April 30, 2010-We spent our time waiting for a good weather window at Musket Cove, where we continued to take care of small projects. I had a lot of varnishing to do, and Steve had boat projects as usual.

The low that kept us from leaving Fiji was heading our way, and it arrived on Saturday night around midnight. We heard the wind pick up and the rain begin so we went on deck to make sure that everything was secure. The dinghy was tied to the side of the boat, but the waves were really putting a strain on her tether so we decided to bring her up on deck in 25 knots of wind and stinging rain. We got her tied down but were now thoroughly soaked and a little cold, which we could not believe because it had been hot again lately. We actually had to pull out a couple of light blankets that night.

Around 3:30 in the morning the worst of the storm hit. We were both sleeping on the settees in the main salon because it was more comfortable. The lightening was flashing, and there was a thunder that shook the whole boat. The winds were now over 40 knots of wind with gusts just over 50 knots. It sounded like a freight train coming through the anchorage. We had put an extra line on the mooring ball, so we felt pretty comfortable, but we always hear stories about moorings that fail. Needless-to-say, it was a long night, and we were short on sleep, but we survived the evening without any problems.

The next day was beautiful and sunny. We were talking to the other boats at Musket and found out that a boat with three guys aboard had left the previous afternoon only about eight or ten hours before the low hit us. We were surprised that a boat would leave with the forecast low approaching and just hoped that they were doing okay.

On Sunday we received a good weather report, so we checked out of Fiji on Wednesday morning. As we were leaving Customs, we saw the sailboat that had left come into the anchorage with everything on the lines to dry out and a shredded main sail. The skipper said that they had been hit very hard, and the boat had been knocked down with her mast under water, which took off the wind instruments. The stove came out of the gimbals, the engine was flooded when water came down below, and his dodger and bimini were ripped off. He also said that the waves were six feet above his head in the cockpit. This has to be one of the worst stories we have heard, and these three guys are pretty lucky. They limped back into Fiji to figure out what to do next. We are just glad that all three are all right.

We motored about 25 miles south to Momi Bay to anchor for the night. John and Renee on sv Scarlet O'Hara, and sv September, with the Austrian couple Hans and Gabriele aboard, were also there. Renee had us pick up two batches of brownies. One was for us, and the other we delivered to Hans and Gabriele. What a perfect way to end the day--with brownies!

The next morning was spectacular with the moon setting in the west as the sun came up in the east. There were beautiful pink clouds against a vivid blue sky-a beautiful day to begin a passage. Also, it was Thursday, which was good because all sailors know that you don't begin a passage on Friday-bad luck. September left just before us headed for Robinson Crusoe Bay for a few days, and Scarlet left just after we did. We left through Navula Pass and headed to the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna, but Scarlet is headed for Port Villa in the middle group. The winds were light so we motored for the first two hours, after which we were able to turn off the engine and sail.

The winds were between 11 and 15 knots all day, but we were still able to make good time. A few hours out, we saw the sea surface just boiling with fish. Steve put out his hand line, but we caught nothing. About a half hour later, we got a strike and pulled in a huge 55-inch Dorado. He was big enough that at one point his pull on the line was affecting our point of sail. We wrestled him on board and threw a towel over his head to calm him down. When we looked down, we saw the hook from the lure lying on the deck because it had broken off. What a loss that would have been. Now we have enough Mahi Mahi for many meals.

The seas were a bit rough yesterday, which finally got to me just as I was about to write the blog so I had to wait until today to work on the computer. There was a full moon last night, and the seas calmed down a bit so everything went well for our first night out. We should arrive in Tanna on Sunday if all goes well and the winds don't die down. I will post another blog in two or three days. Remember that you can click on the Yotreps link at the right to see our position, which we report every day.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Preparing to Leave Fiji

April 19, 2010—Our drive to Suva last Wednesday in “Abdul’s Rental Car” was interesting, to say the least. The road is a two-lane, paved road with pot holes all along the way, mostly on my side, and driving is on the left, so we had to stay vigilant about being on the correct side.

The drive took about three hours, and the only mishap we had was that Steve was stopped by a big Fijian police officer standing in the road. Nevin showed Steve the radar gun that read 74 kilometers per hour in a 60 kilometer zone. Now we were both watching carefully, but neither of us saw the speed limit change from the national limit of 80 kph down to 60 kph. Nevin asked Steve to get out of the car, and they went to a booth so that Nevin could write out the ticket. We would have to pay the $120F fine in Suva while we were there. Steve started talking to Nevin and explained that he really was trying to be very careful but never saw the sign. Nevin found out that we were here on vacation, and after Steve said again that he was trying to be careful, Nevin said, “I don’t want to ruin your holiday.” He let it go, he let us go, and we were very, very careful to watch for speed signs for the rest of the drive.
Suva is a large commercial town located on a very large bay. It is a major fishing port, and there are many large fishing vessels lined up at the dock and anchored out in the bay. It is also the commercial port for Fiji so many container ships unload goods in Suva.

The main reason for our visit to Suva was to apply for a visa for Papau New Guinea. We want to stop at the Louisade Islands on the way to Darwin, but we won’t be in a regular port of entry. Therefore, we have to have the visas when we arrive. It was difficult tracking down the Papau New Guinea consulate, but we finally found it. They were very helpful and said that we could pay our $600F ($300 U.S.) application fee and return the next day to pick up the visas.

We returned to the hotel to drop some things off, went back down to the car, and found a dead battery. We returned to the room and called Abdul’s Car Rental to report the problem. They said that they would send someone over with a new battery. We figured that it would take a few hours because of “Fiji time,” so we grabbed a taxi and went out to Cost U Less to look around. As it turned out, the man showed up just after we left and replaced the battery. We were amazed.
We spent Thursday running around looking for parts. We were about to give up when we finally found a store called Protech that had all the electrical connectors that Steve needed. The two guys there were very friendly and helpful. We also went shopping at Cost U Less in order to get our Peter Pan peanut butter and other important items, and then we went to the central market. By then it was time to pick up our visas. We were pretty tired by the time we got back to the hotel; however, we had a dinner reservation at Tiko’s Seafood and Barbeque, so we got dressed and headed out.
Tiko’s is an old boat that has been remodeled and is anchored in the bay in downtown Suva. I had the tuna dinner (a huge piece of tuna), and Steve had a seafood medley of sorts. It was excellent food in a lovely atmosphere.

Friday morning, we made a quick run out to Cost U Less to pick up some cheese, salami, and pepperoni, and then we headed home. Getting through downtown Suva on a Friday was challenging because the traffic was heavy, and there are so many one-way streets. We stopped in Nadi to pick up some meat and bread and got back to Vuda around four o’clock. We were very tired, but we still had to unload the car, load it all on the boat, and then put everything away. We must have had 50 cans to store, plus paper products. The boat has not been this full in a long time. The good news was that our arch was completely finished and polished so we are ready to go.
We received an email from our weather router saying that April 22 through 27 looked to be a good time to sail to Vanuatu so we spent the weekend finishing up our major projects. Saturday was very hard, but Steve got the worst of the work done. Sunday was a little easier.
We will leave Vuda Point Marina tomorrow and go to Musket Cove to anchor for a few days. We had planned to check out of the country on Wednesday morning; however, our weather window for the sail to Vanuatu closed on us so now we will have to wait for the next one. Hopefully, it will be soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Projects complete--almost

April 13, 2010—The past two weeks have been very busy. Steve has worked with Devin on designing our arch and supervising the building of it. He spent two days up in the shop, and I think that his presence kept the guys on task instead of being pulled off for something else. The arch was supposed to go in last Friday; however, since Steve did not go to the shop on Thursday, our arch was not done, and we were put off until Monday.

In the meantime, Brian from Baobab Marine, who was handling our stainless work, got into a dispute with the marina owner over a tax being levied on all work done by Baobab. Brian’s position is that the tax is not being levied on all contractors equally. The marina told Baobab that they could not work in the marina after 5 p.m. on Monday, so on Sunday night Steve was totally stressed out that our arch would not be delivered and mounted. There are several boats here that are in the middle of projects, and the owners are not happy at all as they are caught in the middle.

Monday morning it was raining, but Steve did get our arch delivered, and we got it installed. Devin said that he would be back this morning to finish some spot welding and polishing, which he was. We are pleased with the work and glad to be done with it. Now if these two men can just work out a solution to a situation that will hurt both businesses and cruisers if it is left unresolved.
On Saturday the marina put on a small fair for locals and cruisers to display crafts and other nice things to buy. There was a band and food, and it went quite well. At five o’clock Mo, who is the lift operator at the marina, came with his family to deliver Lovo Lovo to us. His village did this to help raise funds for a road to their church. The meal included a whole chicken, a large piece of pork, a fish, a whole dalo and kumala (types of potatoes), and taro leaves cooked in coconut milk. The meal was delivered in a palm frond basket. It was a huge meal for which they asked $20F or $10 U.S., but we gave them $30F, and it was still a bargain. We ended up eating three meals from all the food.

Tomorrow we leave for Suva for three days to do some shopping at Cost U Less, which is similar to Costco and to visit the Papau New Guinea Embassy in order to get visas for our stop in the Louisade Islands. We also plan to do some sightseeing. It will be good to get awhile and see another part of Fiji.

Also, the refrigerator arrived late last week, so we were able to install it pretty easily since it is the exact same unit that we replaced. Of course, nothing is ever perfect—two screw holes had been moved, but we won’t complain. We now have cold beer and ice.