Friday, November 4, 2016

4 November - Home

My journey home from Whangarei was a continuation of a great trip.  The bus to Auckland was luxurious and even had free wifi so I could keep Lori updated on my progress.  The infrequent bus schedule necessitated my arriving at the airport five hours before my flight departed.  I checked in, got rid of my luggage, and headed up to the departure lounge to discover a pub showing the World Series on TV.  Wow, perfect timing!  I got to enjoy the best extra innings World Series game 7 ever as well as a couple of pints of craft brew and some nachos.  When the entertainment was done it was time to head over to my departure gate.

Overnight flights are not my favorite.  I had to take the red eye at least once a month during the last ten years of my working career, and I got pretty tired of them.  For my work trips I did discover that some powerful prescription pain medication made the seats a whole lot more comfortable and let me sleep.  I was rummaging through my backpack at the airport in Auckland and was pleasantly surprised to find a little baggie of those pain meds that had apparently hidden there for years.  My flight home was wonderful.

I have been giving the reasons why this cruise was such a success a lot of thought.  It can primarily be attributed to Clay’s leadership.

I have written many times about how critical team selection is on a small boat passage.  Clay hit a home run here.  The team was completely compatible, and their individual skills complemented each other.  A couple of times topics of discussion among the crew ventured into potentially contentious areas and Clay, always on duty to keep us happy, deftly steered the conversation back into safer waters.

Clay’s meticulous approach to preparation and his conservative approach to weather, sailing, and safety optimized the likelihood of a drama free cruise, and that’s what we had.

Of course, a well fed crew is a happy crew.  Gail made sure we were happy with many precooked dinners during the passage, a fully stocked galley, and gourmet meals when she was aboard.

Clay and Gail, when is the next cruise?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

2 November - Journey's End

12PM position 35-43S 174-19E. In a slip at Riverside Drive Marina, Whangarei.

The headland on the coast that guards the entrance to the Whangarei River looks a lot like Makapuu. We passed it, made a ninety degree turn to starboard, and started a three hour journey inland through a spectacular natural harbor and river system. First came the bay, protected by the headland, with little fishing boats we had to dodge to get past. In the commercial harbor we passed an outbound 600 foot lumber carrier loaded to the gills with logs. Along the shore were an oil terminal and the lumber depot that had acres of 30 foot high piles of logs waiting to be shipped out. Then came the river delta with a maze of channels and marked shoals. Once past the delta, the river got narrower and started twisting and turning as we worked our way inland. The properties along the banks were mostly residential, but we passed shipyards, marinas, and a yacht club. We even had to pass under the only bascule bridge in the Southern Hemisphere after calling the operator on the radio to open it for us. Finally when it seemed as if the river couldn't get any narrower, we were there at the Riverside Drive Marina.

The tide had been ebbing for our entire journey up river. It slowed us down by a knot, but the real exciting part was getting the boat into the Marina slip which lay across the current on the down-current side of a finger. There was major potential for disaster, but Clay pulled it off like a pro, and the next thing we knew Jambalaya's 7,000 mile voyage from Hawaii was over.

I didn't have time to blog yesterday because we immediately got to work getting the boat ready to haul out. All the sails came off, refrigerator got emptied and defrosted, linens were removed for washing, personal gear removed, yada, yada, yada.

We had an excellent celebration dinner at an Irish pub in town last night with too many toasts and too many shots of scotch and tequila (ouch!), but we all survived.

John and Tom are catching the bus to Auckland this morning to meet their wives. I'm staying a day longer to help Clay remove the headstay and forestay so the travel lift can pick up the boat. I catch the bus south tomorrow, and will be hugging my lovely, patient, tolerant and understanding wife, Lori, at the airport in Honolulu at 6AM the next morning.

Clay and Gail will stick around a few more days to watch the boat come out of the water and make sure it is secure on the jackstands. Then they will head home too.

Monday, October 31, 2016

31 October again - Tutukaka

12PM position 35-37S 174-33E, slip E-13, Tutukaka Marina

I've lost track of what day it is here so you get two 31 Oct posts and yes, I sent the last two out of order. Sorry about that.

Simon's adventures in Patagonia sounded like a lot of fun, but there is no way I would ever do anything like that. I don't do cold. The guys from Charleston who I used to work with in the Navy's dry dock safety program will back me up on that. They used to call me "The Hawhiner" because I complained about being cold on some of our winter work trips.

I'm not exactly enjoying the climate here in New Zealand. It's a beautiful country, but it's cold.

I often find myself thinking about my hot tub in Hawaii, and how nice it would feel to be soaking in its 100 degree water. It's not like I can just warm up here with a hot shower. Water is scarce on a cruising boat. Most of our onboard showers are taken on the swim step at the back of the boat because the boat's shower compartment in the head is being used for gear stowage. The swim step showers have got to be quick to conserve water and out in the open you get cold in the wind as soon as you finish showering.

I'm focused on this topic because we pulled in to Tutukaka Harbor yesterday afternoon, and after securing the boat and having a couple of beers in the waterfront bar, we all took hot showers in the Marina restrooms.

One token gave us 5 minutes of scalding hot water, and it was 5 minutes of heaven. Life was wonderful again.

We decided to stay put in this quiet natural harbor for a second night. The wind is continuing to blow out of the south today, but it is supposed to be northerly tomorrow which will give us a down wind run for the final 37 mile leg into Whangarei.

We are spending the day getting the boat ready to haul out in Whangarei including washing, drying, and folding the dinghy, flushing the outboard engine, and doing laundry.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

30 October - Marine Mammals

The two whales we saw yesterday weren't the only mammals seen swimming here. Clay has gone swimming at least once everywhere we've anchored. The water temperature here is 62 degree F, cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey (google it), but not cold enough to keep Clay out of the water. It's certainly cold enough to keep the rest of us out. He climbs out after his swim saying something like "toasty!" Yea, right. He keeps trying to talk the rest of us into joining him, but we're not biting.

We departed Whangaroa at 9AM yesterday and had a perfect beam reach in offshore winds back down to The Bay of Islands, anchoring in Oke Bay at 3PM. Simon says this is his favorite spot in this area, and I can see why. It's the most remote anchorage in The Bay of Islands, is well protected, and has a huge sand beach at the head of the bay.

31 October - Ten Pounds of Rice in a Five Pound Bag

12PM position 35-27S 174-33E

That's what it feels like sometimes with five of us on this little boat. We function pretty well both in awake mode and asleep mode, but the transitions between the two can be difficult.

Clay and Gail share the master stateroom forward. Tom and I sleep on the setees on either side of the main salon, and John sleeps in "Aftcabinstan", the port aft cabin under the cockpit.

During daylight hours we all use the settees for reading, eating, and socializing so Tom's and my sheets, blankets, and pillows have to be stowed elsewhere. We're keeping them on Clay and Gail's bunk.

There's not enough locker space for all of us, so we are living partially out of our sea bags. The sea bags are all stowed in the half of the double Aftcabinstan bunk that John doesn't use. The lockers we do use for personal gear are in the forward and aft cabins. Clay, Gail and I have lockers forward and John and Tom have lockers aft.

The transition is easier in the morning because Tom and I are usually up first. The first one awake starts the coffee. We fold up our bedding and it stays piled on the settees until both Clay and Gail are up and have set up their cabin for daylight mode. If I want any of the stuff in my drawers I'll wait until the Captain and Admiral are both finished foreword.

The night time transition is tougher. We all have to decide on a common bed time. Everyone vacates the settees, Tom and my bedding is retrieved from the forward stateroom and set up, everybody stows and retrieves gear for the night from the forward and aft cabin, and everyone goes to bed. The last sound before the snoring begins is Tom saying "Good night, John Boy" (Waltons), and somebody grunts.

At the moment we are bashing to weather in 25 knots of wind and lumpy seas trying to get to Tutukaka Harbor. We've got the small jib up and a double reef in the main and 15 miles to go. We should get there mid afternoon.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

29 October - Exploring Whangaroa

We decided to sleep in yesterday morning, and nobody stirred from under their deep covers until 730AM. After a late breakfast we moseyed down to the south end of the harbor, about 3 miles from where we spent the previous night, nosing into every bay along the way to look for promising anchorages. We dropped the hook off the little town of Whangaroa and dinghied ashore to explore.

We found the town drunk all alone pursuing his passion in the local pub. He told us that the trail to the top of St. Paul's Peak, which overlooks the town, was down the street opposite the wharf. It was a somewhat strenuous hike for the out of shape crews of Jambalaya and Puanani to reach the 700 foot summit, but the views at the top and beer in the pub afterwards made it all worthwhile.

We decided that the western arm offered the best shelter with its nearly 1000 foot surrounding cliffs, so we returned there taking a slight detour to check out the "water buoy" in one of the eastern arms of the harbor. Some folks in the pub told us about a buoy that had fresh water piped to it directly from a spring on shore. It was placed there so cruisers could refill their water tanks at no charge. We found the buoy but didn't try it out. What a civilized country!

The mother of all headaches woke me up early this morning. My vitamin I was in the drawer under Clay and Gail's bunk and I didn't want to disturb them, so I went for a paddle in the dinghy to try to work through it. Sometimes exercise helps. The water was mirror smooth and there wasn't a breath of air. I paddled around the cove closest to the boat for a half hour and was on my way back when I heard the splashing and breathing of some large marine mammals. A pair of small whales, perhaps pilot whale size, swam right by Jambalaya on a tour of the bay. The noise was loud enough to wake John, who came on deck to watch them. Everybody else in the anchorage slept right through it.

We're headed back towards the Bay of Islands now, and it is a beautiful day. There is a light offshore breeze blowing. It's not strong enough to sail yet so we are motor sailing at present, but the wind is forecast to fill in. I can hear the boys on deck unrolling the Genoa now. Looks like we're going sailing!

Friday, October 28, 2016

28 October - Naps

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the cruising lifestyle is naps. Every once in a while you find yourself in a calm anchorage on a lazy afternoon with nothing that needs doing and the bunk calls to you. There's something about the gentle rocking and turning of the boat, the sound of water lapping against the hull, and the seabirds crying in the background that puts you to sleep. Yesterday afternoon was one of those times, and most of the Jambalaya crew could be found toes up, snoring away gently as the boat swung to her anchor in Whangaroa's western arm. Yes, there was exploring to do, but it could keep until the crew was rested.

We awoke from our naps to find Mark and Kana in their dinghy at our stern eager to mount an expedition up the river at the end of the western arm. We loaded both boat's dinghies and took off at high tide for a nearly mile long trip up a twisting and turning canyon until we ran out of water. The highlight was an active waterfall falling from the top of a 1000 foot high cliff. We would not have believed that a place like this existed here if we hadn't seen it for ourselves.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

27 October - Western Arm, Whangaroa Harbor

1400 position 35 00.5S 173 43.8E, at anchor in 20 feet

We dinghied ashore yesterday after lunch to go for a hike on Moturua Island. We found beautifully manicured trails that took us across the top of the 500 foot high island to a beach on the exposed ocean side. The views were spectacular. Kana looked but didn't find any mussels which are supposed to be plentiful along the island's shoreline. We found a dead penguin on the beach, an unfortunate first sighting of these birds, and I found what I believe is the world's smallest blowing conch. No, it doesn't sound very impressive but I'm keeping it anyway. We also found some hilltop pillboxes from WW2.

Last night after dinner we finished watching "Mars Attacks", a cinema classic that we started watching the night before we departed Fiji.

At first light this morning we departed for Whangaroa, 30 miles to the north. We had to motor sail most of the way in light headwinds, but the wind freed and increased as the day wore on and we were able to sail the final few miles into Whangaroa.

Halfway through the passage we caught two eight pound fish. Their species remains a matter of debate among the crew, but I think they are rainbow runners. We will eat them tonight likely not knowing with certainty what they are.

The entry into Whangaroa Harbor is a 200 yard wide gap between 500 foot high cliffs. Once through the entrance, the harbor opens up into a labyrinth of fiords that twist and turn for miles into the island's interior. We anchored in the "Western Arm" of the harbor in Rere Bay at 130PM on Simon's recommendation. It is spectacularly beautiful with high cliffs surrounding us. It almost feels like we are in a river canyon. There are a couple of other boats at anchor at this end of the harbor, but it feels deserted here in the western arm.

Have I mentioned how well we are eating here aboard the good ship Jambalaya? Gail is putting together some real feasts in the ship's basic galley. Last night we had baked Mexican chicken. This morning it was egg McMuffins. Lunch was Vietnamese pho with chocolate for desert. Clay says he doesn't like to eat at restaurants, because he always eats better at home. None of us can understand why he doesn't weigh 300 pounds.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

26 October - Waiwhapuku Bay, Moturua Island

1200 position 35 13S 174 12E, at anchor in 13 feet

This morning it looked like we were done with low pressure systems for a while so we left Opua Marina and motor sailed ten miles to a protected anchorage in a little bay between Moturua and Motukiekie Islands. These relatively high islands provide good shelter from wind and waves, and the hiking ashore is supposed to be great. We'll find out about that this afternoon. Some of the islands have isolated fancy houses on them, but not Moturua. The chart says it's a wildlife sanctuary.

There are hundreds of protected anchorages like this one In The Bay of Islands, and all of them within a 50 square mile area. This is going to be fun.

Monday, October 24, 2016

25 October - Down Under

Coffee is an important part of my life. Here in the frigid and breezy New Zealand climate it is a critical part of my life.  None of us can figure out how to order it here though.  One can't just ask for coffee.  It's either a "long black", a "short black", a "flat white", or something else I can't remember. There's also an "Americano", but we're so embarrassed about the political situation in the US, there's no way any of us will order one of those.  This morning Tom and I walked into a McDonalds and asked for "senior coffee".  This was a new one for me. Apparently old folks, like me, get cheap or free coffee.  What we got was a shot of espresso in a coffee cup with a little pitcher of hot water on the side.  What?  The only way to be sure we'll get the real thing is to make it ourselves on the boat. When I get coffee figured out here I'll let you know.

We've been delayed a bit here in Opua by weather.  There's a front rolling through today and it's pouring and blowing outside.  This system should be gone by tomorrow, and our plan is to head north to Whangaroa Bay after overnighting somewhere in the Bay of Islands. 

We have had a great time here is Opua. Two days ago we had an epic 7 hour tour of points north by car with 5 of us shoehorned into something the size of Honda Fit.  Yesterday we went tramping (Kiwi for "hiking") through a nearby Kauri forest preserve. Good fun. 

This is a stunningly beautiful country. Hilly and green with deep bays and open pastures. Sheep appear to have been mostly replaced with cattle since the last time I was here. The people are very friendly and the beer is good. 

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

22 October - Simon

We got together with the Puanani crew last night at the condo Gail had rented to swap sea stories and celebrate our successful crossing. Dee got a puncture wound in her thigh fighting with a sailfish on the second day. The wound turned out to not be serious, and she has almost completely recovered. Otherwise Puanani's trip was as uneventful as ours and they had a great time.

This morning I telephoned Simon Willis, an old shipmate who lives here in The Bay of Islands. Simon came down to the boat and we spent the day reminiscing and catching up over lunch and a few beers.

Simon and I first sailed together 40 years ago in the LA - Tahiti Race. Simon was the best in the business back then. He had just become available to sail with us after he resigned from eventual Whitbread Around the World Race winner Flyer's crew due to a personality conflict.

I was still honing my sailing skills back then, and I learned a lot from Simon. Being a Kiwi, he was also an expert at enjoying life and he was a mentor to me in that fine art as well.

We sailed together again in the '77 Southern Cross Cup and Sydney - Hobart Race.

I last saw Simon in Maloolaba harbor on Australia's Queensland coast. I was there cruising with my Dad in '82, and from the cockpit of Kanaloa I instantly recognized Simon's distinct saunter and profile walking on the dock 50 yards away. I yelled out his name and received a boisterous "Neuuuudle!" in reply. It turns out he had just completed the single-handed Trans-Tasman Sea Race on his home made 26 foot sloop.

Simon was a tough guy. A couple of years ago, in his mid-60s, he sailed his 40 foot sloop to Chile via the Roaring 40s. After sailing around Cape Horn he was single handing to the Caribbean when he had a stroke. He managed to sail the remaining 3000 miles partially paralyzed to where he could get medical care in Grenada.

He looks healthy, but he said the stroke has left him weaker and that his memory isn't what it used to be. He is certainly frailer. I didn't recognize him walking on the dock when I first saw him today and he didn't recognize me either. Perhaps we're just a couple of old sailors now, living off the memories of our youth. Simon hasn't lost his spirit though. Every local we passed knows him, and in typical Kiwi fashion the greetings included an exchange of good natured insults and some laughing. I could see that he is still an icon in this yachting community.

If things work out, Simon and I will be sailing together again next year with another old shipmate, Robbie Vaughan, when we help Robbie sail his boat from LA to Tasmania.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

21 October - Landfall

1200 position 35 18.7S 174 07.2E.  Opua Marina

The wind finally filled in from the northwest at 10 knots and we shut off the engine at sunset.  We sailed all night in flat seas and arrived outside the Bay of Islands at sunrise.  We doused the sails and powered the ten scenic miles in to the town of Opua and tied up to the quarantine dock.

This is the time of year when cruisers migrate from the tropics to New Zealand.  All of them wait for a weather window, like we did, so boats tend to arrive here in swarms.  We found seven other boats already at the quarantine dock that had arrived since the end of business hours yesterday.  

The New Zealand authorities are extremely professional and efficient, and by 1030AM all of the formalities had been completed for all of the arriving vessels.

Puanani arrived at the quarantine dock shortly after we finished up with customs.

It took 8 days to complete the 1100 mile passage.  We had a day of bumpy sailing when the winds came out of the south, but the rest of the passage was lovely.  We never saw more than 20 knots of wind.  It did get a bit chilly at night as we approached New Zealand with multiple layers, gloves, and hats required to keep warm.   We were very lucky with the weather.  3 hours after arriving in Opua it was blowing 30 knots in the harbor.

After clearing customs we moved to a slip in the adjacent marina where we found Gail and Blossom waiting for us.  Now it's time for a shower, a nap, and a beer in no particular order.  Then we'll look into exploring the Bay of Islands.

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20 October - A Tragedy Avoided

1200 position 33 41S 173 29E. Days run 129 miles.

The center of this high pressure area is a boring place. There's no wind. The seas are like glass. We're not catching fish. It's been 2 days of the same as we power south. There's nothing to do as the autopilot maintains a constant heading.

We stand our watches, but in retrospect it wouldn't have mattered if we didn't. We've seen no ships and no adjustments to sails or course have been necessary.

We're staying busy reading, sleeping, telling stories, listening to music or podcasts, eating, and talking about the next meal.

Then, in a split second, the boredom turned into adrenaline when the knot securing the sun shower to the wind generator mast came undone and our warm bag of solar heated shower water fell into the sea.

There was no hesitation as the highly trained crew of Jambalaya lept into action to retrieve this piece of equipment so critical to the crew's personal hygiene. Tom pulled in the fish lines as I disengaged the autopilot, throttled back, and turned the ship around. Clay bounded up from below, grabbed the boat hook, and retrieved the floating bag of water as we passed.

The action was over almost as quickly as it started, the sun shower was back on deck, and we were once again headed for the land of the long white cloud.

John snored on in his bunk, blissfully unaware of the drama that had taken place around him.w

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

19 October - In The High

1200 position 31 32S 173 17E. Days run 133 miles.

We are smack dab in the middle of a huge high pressure area that is slowly moving to the east as we move south through it. We did get in 4 hours of sailing from 8PM to midnight when the wind filled in from the northeast but otherwise we've been powering. It is glassy out here now, and the forecast calls for at least another day of this before the high moves off and we get westerly winds. If we can keep the speed up we will make it into Opua just before the westerly winds increase and shift to the south.

It is really cold out here at night now. Last night I had on long underwear, 2 sweatshirts, sweat pants, wool socks, deck shoes, and a wool hat. John was using chemical hand warmer... and there's zero wind chill. It is great sleeping weather.

We are seeing more and more Portuguese man-o-war out here, but not much else. Occasionally a bird will stop by to inspect our lures before moving on. We haven't seen any other sea life since our dolphin encounter a day and half ago.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

18 October - It's all downhill from here

1200 position 29 23S 173 10E. Days run 154 miles.

We had an excellent spaghetti dinner last night that Gail had pre-made and frozen for us. It was superb. Thank you Gail! Dinner was followed by a rum drink to commemorate our reaching the half-way point in the passage. Excellent stories followed.

Early in their careers, Tom and Clay were officers in the same Navy transport squadron. Most every officer in the squadron had a nickname, usually obtained through some comical episode, and we got to hear the stories behind the names. "Wheels Up", "No Show", "Leaf Eater", "Stains", and "Booster" we're a few discussed.

Just before sunset a school of twenty or so dolphin arrived to put on a show for us. These were the smallest dolphin I've ever seen.

The wind continued to back during the night allowing us to head directly toward New Zealand for the first time since the wind filled in. Tom and I decided that our midnight to 4AM watch this morning was the best one of the trip so far. The boat was screaming along in smooth water at nearly 8 knots under a full Genoa and one reef in the mainsail headed straight for Opua. It doesn't get any better than that.

Nothing lasts forever, and the wind started to die off toward daybreak. Average speed dropped down below 5 knots, and the engine came on at 930AM. We are heading straight into a high pressure area that lies between us and Opua. We may have to power for a couple of days to get through it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

17 October - Half Way

1200 position 26 49S 173 36E. Days run 150 miles.

Justices after noon yesterday we either snagged the bottom or a massive fish hit the lure on the reel. The line smoked out for about ten seconds and then went slack. The line had broken in front of the leader. We never did see what took it.

"Why are they fishing?", you might ask. "Haven't those boys eaten enough fish?"

Turns out John is a fishaholic, and just wants to fish. It's something to do...

The southerly winds forced us west yesterday, but they have been slowly lifting us, and now we're only 30 degrees off of our desired heading. We bumpy seas have smoothed out a bit, but nobody would consider this nice conditions.

This morning a cruise ship, The Pacific Pearl, passed a couple of miles from us on their way from Sydney to Tonga. We spoke to them on the VHF radio. We were going to ask them if they had any Grey Poupon but chickened out.

I'm standing watch with Tom Gannon, a retired Delta Airlines pilot. We have the 6-8PM and midnight-4AM watches. Clay and his cousin John Garth have the 8PM-midnight and 4AM-8AM watches. Daylight hours are a free for all. Yes, Tom and I have a better deal but the watch system was Clay's idea so we are going with it. Tom has sailboats in Maine and Florida and has two grown daughters like I do. We have a lot to talk about during our watches.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

16 October - Punishment

1200 position 24 45S 175 10E. Days run 130 miles.

We are being punished now for the good times we had on the first three days of the passage. At 7PM last night the wind filled in from the south and quickly increased to 20 knots. We put 2 reefs in the mainsail, rolled out the jib, and headed west. The wind we are now seeing is coming out of a high pressure system that is approaching New Zealand from the west. The wind is forecast to slowly back to the east over the next couple of days as the high passes south of us allowing us to head up until we are pointed toward the barn. It has already lifted us twenty degrees and we are heading southwest.

The seas built quickly after the wind filled in, and they are very confused. It feels like we are riding a bucking bronco out here - not very comfortable, and the boat is pounding a bit, but at least it is dry below and we are protected in the cockpit.

Clay and John teamed up for the third mahi preparation last night, fried mahi in an egg Panko batter. It was the best yet.

The autopilot drives the boat so there's not much to do out here but plan the next meal and solve the world's problems. Yesterday when we were all together in the cockpit, Clay announced that he had a serious question to ask us. "When you get divorced in Alabama, is your ex-wife still your sister?" Hmmm.... This led to a discussion on the various cultures where marriage to ones siblings is accepted, which led to a discussion on which states allow you to marry your first cousins. The jury is still out on that one. Yes, we are making progress out here on solving the world's problems.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

15 October - Glass Off

1200 position 23 27S 177 04E. Days run 137 miles.

I have never seen the water as flat as it has been so far on this passage. It feels like we are out in Kaneohe Bay on a calm day. Jambalaya's narrow beam and large sail plan makes her a great light air boat, and we are able to sail 5 knots in 6 knots of wind on a reach. We spent most of the night reaching along in that much wind under a nearly full moon. But the wind kept backing until it was out of the north. We need to reach to keep the speed up, which forced us to head southeast, 60 degrees off our desired course. That doesn't get us where we want to go, so we rolled up the jib at 4AM and have been powering ever since.

It was my turn to cook, so it was lemon, butter, caper mahi for dinner last night with a nice salad John made. Thumbs up from the crew.

The temperature is already dropping. I switched from my light sweatshirt to my hoodie during the first night, and I put on sweatpants as well last night. I'm using a blanket in bed now too.

We took advantage of a level boat this morning to lubricate a malfunctioning winch and epoxy in some of the dodger snap posts that had come out of the hatch cover. We are ready now for heavier winds that we expect tonight.

Friday, October 14, 2016

14 October - Smooth Sailing

1200 position 21 10S 177 09E. Day's run 158 miles.

The weather has been perfect since departing Fiji. The wind has been varying in strength between 6 and 12 knots from the east and it is now starting to lift us. The sheets are being eased, and speed is picking up. Seas remain nearly flat, and we are streaking south. We spoke to Puanani on the VHF this morning, and they were 11 miles behind us.

Baked fresh mahi and salad for dinner last night, French toast and hash brown potatoes for breakfast this morning. The Jambalaya Bistro is open for business.

We are getting comfortable and settling in to a routine at sea. The boat is in great shape and loving these conditions.

The long term forecast continues to improve. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

We received some bad news yesterday. My lifelong friend and shipmate Mark Walker passed away after a brief battle with liver cancer. Mark was always the first person I called when I was putting together a Lipton Cup crew for KYC. He was a skilled sailor, a great shipmate, and a good friend. I will miss him.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

13 October - On Our Way

1200 position 18 31.4S 177 08E. It was still raining when departed Denarau yesterday morning, but it started clearing on the way to Vuda and has been beautiful ever since. We had a calm and peaceful evening anchored in Momi Bay, and were underway headed South at 0600 this morning.

We motor sailed until we were outside the barrier reef, unrolled the Genoa, and shut off the engine. We've been close reaching on port tack ever since in flat seas and winds between 5 and 12 knots. It's been full sail in the light stuff, and one reef in the main when it's heavier. We are just about able to sail the rhumb line course to New Zealand with sheets eased a bit for speed. We are hoping for a lift to allow us to get some easting as the southeast trades are forecast to increase this weekend and it would be nice to be able to crack off a bit when it does.

At 1PM we caught a beautiful 40 pound bull mahi. We may not be doing any more fishing this trip.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

12 October - The Window

Dee and I walked out of customs at the airport in Nadi to find Clay and Gail waiting for us with their rental car. We drove back to the boats which were moored in the marina at Denarau. Most of the boats in the marina are super yachts, multi-million dollar beasts up to 300 feet long. Jambalaya and Puanani are nice boats, but they are out of place in this lofty crowd.

After getting settled in on the boats, we headed up to the condo that Clay and Gail are renting nearby, and spent the day discussing weather strategy for the passage and hiding from the rain that hadn't let up since we landed.

The last time I sailed from Fiji to New Zealand, thirty nine years ago, you departed when you were ready. Accurate weather forecasts weren't available back then, so you got what you got, and boats making the passage almost always got nailed by a low pressure system somewhere along the way. We got hit by a good one back then, and I remember it as being the coldest I have ever been... ever.

We have accurate long term weather forecasts now, and if we both time our departure relative to the passing lows and are even a little bit lucky, then it should be smooth sailing all the way to New Zealand.

It is looking now like a Thursday/Friday departure from Fiji is our weather window relative to the passing lows, so we are getting underway Wednesday. We'll head up to Vuda Marina where we can clear customs and then head down to Momi Bay, which is just inside the barrier reef. We'll overnight there and get an early start for New Zealand on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Little Things

11 October - Denarau Marina, 17 47S 177 27E

My sea bag is unusually full for the flight from Honolulu to Fiji. Besides containing the clothes that will hopefully keep me warm and dry if we run into heavy weather on the passage from Fiji to New Zealand, it includes tropical cruising attire in case we are delayed waiting for a weather window to make the passage south. But about a third of the bag contains special items for Jambalaya and Puanani and their crews.

There are 2 yoga mats that will hopefully make Jambalaya's hard fiberglass cockpit seats a little easier on her aging crew's okoles. There's a new 1 liter stainless steel French coffee press for Puanani, and a new iPhone for Kana to replace his dead one. I brought two rolls of weather stripping to better seal the doors on Jambalaya's refrigerator. There's 5 new "Luci" lights for Puanani. These inflatable waterproof solar LED lights are perfect on boats. They light up a cockpit all night and recharge during the day. I brought chocolate covered espresso beans to help jump start the Jambalaya crew on those early morning watches. Lori sent along some lemon peel and kaki mochi for Blossom to remind her of home.

It's the little things that make the difference on an ocean passage, and it looks like we have the little things covered.

Monday, September 19, 2016

18 September - Home Again

Lori and I arrived back in Honolulu early this morning after an enjoyable month in Fiji.  Many thanks to Clay and Gail for inviting us to  join Jambalaya's crew, and to the Logans for playing with us and taking us out to Malolo Island for a day.

We didn't have the ability to post pictures in the blog when we were in Fiji.  Sorry about that.  Here are a few shots that show highlights from a month of cruising in Fiji waters.

I'm heading back to Fiji on 9 October to help Clay sail Jambalaya to New Zealand.  I hope to blog during that trip.

Clay finds a Green Sea Turtle Shell, Koroinasolo Inlet
Sailing to Malolo aboard Puanani

Jambalaya crew hard aground
KYC Cruising Fleet, South Pacific Squadron, 2016
Hiking in Baulailai Bay, Vanua Levu

Thursday, September 15, 2016

15 September - Malolo

Malolo is a Fijian word for a different species of fish than our Hawaiian Malolo. It's also the name of the island we are anchored to leeward of.

We had a magnificent sail over from Vuda Marina, first reaching in a light thermal breeze from the west, and then in 20 knot trades from the east after we escaped the lee of Viti Levu. We fell in with an Oyster 80, which managed to sneak past us, but we had more fun.

This place has changed since I last sailed in here 40 years ago. Back then a single resort had just opened, and we were anchored next to Kialoa II and Windward Passage - just us 3 boats in the anchorage. There are about 50 boats anchored here now, with at least 20 percent more in an inner harbor that wasn't here before. There are at least 4 resorts now, numerous bars and pools, an airport, regular ferry service, rental hobie cats and windsurfers, and lots of people. All the development doesn't seem to have spoiled the place though. It is still magical.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

14 September - Neighbors

The boat moored on our port side is a puzzling program. It is a very nice, modern, center cockpit ketch, probably a $2M yacht. The very large hammer and sickle on the bow leaves little question about where it is from. I tried to make small talk, just to be friendly, with the pot bellied guy aboard her when we arrived, but he just mumbled to himself in response and ignored me. Hmmm.... It's just him and a very attractive much younger lady aboard. We can hear them speaking to each other in Russian. Double hmmm.... Marina gossip is that he is the professional skipper, and the boat hasn't moved in years. Yesterday he was in the bosun's chair at the top of their 80 foot tall main mast working on something. I was in Jambalaya's cockpit when I heard a loud "bang" from the Russian boat and turned that way in time to see a large pair of vice grips bounce off their deck into the water between our boats. A few minutes later an even larger tool was dropped from the top of the
mast. It made an even louder noise as it hit the deck and bounced overboard on the other side of the Russian boat. Those missiles could have killed someone with a direct hit, and they certainly left some nasty dings in the deck. The lithe gal, who was controlling the halyard, shook her head in embarrassment as those of us aboard the surrounding vessels shrugged our shoulders in bewilderment. Competent seamen don't drop tools like that. The Russian never said a word. Hmmm...

We have a Canadian family to starboard on a Stevens 47 sloop and we have become fast friends. Max and Liz, both retired Canadian military engineers, and children, Victoria, 12, Jonathan, 10, and 2 year old Benjamin are 4 years into their Pacific cruise. From a distance it looks like chaos, but closer inspection reveals a happy family loving life. Victoria says "Benjamin is VERY two", and he is, with periodic tantrums as he learns to control his emotions. The older kids are amazing, taking responsibility for boat projects, soaking in anything new, and reading during every slack moment. They've come aboard Jambalaya for an impromptu ukulele jam session and Victoria has taken hula lessons from Blossom on the lawn. In return, Victoria just gave Lori and Blossom a lesson in cake decorating... She's 12... We've been out to dinner with the family twice, and Lori and Liz are doing yoga on the lawn in the mornings before the kids wake up. I'm trying to talk them into stoppin
g in at KYC on their way home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


My previous experiences in Fiji were limited to the area around Suva, the country's largest city. It is a busy impersonal place that didn't leave me wanting to come back.

It is clear to me now that I had misjudged this country. The people we have met during this visit are friendly, happy, and hard working. Everyone greets us with a cheerful "Bula" (hello) as we pass. It is a 3rd world country and the locals don't have much, but they don't seem to want for much either.

We've taken a couple of shoreside excursions by taxi to see the sights, and in typical Lori Loyd fashion she has become best friends with our drivers, extracting every detail of their life stories during our cab rides. Most entrepreneurs here, including the cab drivers, are ethnic Indians. We've had Christian, Muslim, and Hindu drivers. All have kids that are either in or on their way to college. Nearly all the drivers have multiple jobs and are optimistic about the future.

Yesterday we were walking around Lautoka, Fiji's second largest city and it's sugar industry hub. The city is dilapidated, but remarkably clean and well groomed. A train engine, which hauls sugar cane from the fields to the mill in town, was chugging through the center of this busy city. As it passed by, the engineer noticed a young father holding his 2 year old daughter up to see the train. The engineer stopped, reversed the train back to where the family stood, took the child from her father, and held her tenderly as he gave her a ride 100 yards up and down the track. He handed her back to her Dad and resumed his journey. This is a kinder, gentler place than I had expected.

Monday, September 12, 2016

12 September - Fleet Awards

The Kaneohe Yacht Club Cruising Fleet, South Pacific Squadron, is pleased to announce the 2016 recipient of its "Blue Water Medal" for achievement under sail. The medal goes to Blossom Logan.

Here she is in the middle of the South Pacific after 3,000 miles of open ocean sailing, a fully involved and happy member of Puanani's crew. It is hard to believe that when she left Kaneohe Bay double handing with Mark at the end of April, headed south, that it was her first time sailing out in the ocean.... ever.


Living aboard a small boat is very different from life ashore, especially when the boat is not in a marina, which is most of the time down here. Water and electricity are precious, no paper is allowed in the toilet, your home rocks and rolls, you pull up the anchor and move just as you are starting to get comfortable after the previous move... It's not for everybody and it's not easy for anybody, but Blossom is right there doing her part, feeding her boys 3 times a day, baking cakes and sharing them with other lucky cruisers, shopping for provisions in foreign ports, and entertaining aboard Puanani... And all of it with a smile on her face.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

11 September - The Boat Shed Bar

We are really enjoying the Boat Shed Bar here at the Vuda Marina. Picture a large tiki bar with imperfect round poles for posts and beams and thatched coconut roofing and walls. There is seating for about 40 that surrounds the central sunken service area. The whole thing overhangs the narrow marina entrance channel so patrons can inspect the yachts as they come and go and even speak with the crews as they pass by.

To give you an idea of how narrow the channel is, a 40 foot sloop went aground just outside the channel yesterday afternoon. We were relaxing aboard Jambalaya at the time, and word spread quickly through the Marina that there was a boat on the stones. The best vantage point was the bar, so we headed there with most of the rest of the marina's inhabitants, grabbed a beer, and watched. The wind was blowing on-shore at 20 knots, and the boat was being hammered by the small surf. There was plenty of help on hand trying to get her off when we got there. They pulled her off with a large power boat after about an hour and she was still floating the last time we saw her.

Right now we're sitting in the bar enjoying cocktails and listening to one of the most talented bands I've ever heard. Look at the 5 band members, all very large ethnic Fijians, and you'd expect to hear traditional native music. Nope. Clapton, Eagles, Springsteen, Earth, Wind and Fire, Iron Butterfly, George Benson... These guys are great!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

10 September - Life is Goo

You really get to know your shipmates during an extended cruise aboard a small boat. There are 4 of us living on this 43 foot by 12 foot vessel and we are in constant contact 24/7. You can't move around the boat without having to slide sideways past someone else. If the entire crew isn't compatible, life can be problematic.

We've figured out that the 4 of us aboard Jambalaya are very compatible, and we are having a great time. Although we're not living in the same close proximity, we're also having a great time interacting with the crew of Puanani. Our friendly fishing competitions have been fun, and getting together with them to share a drink and tell tall tales at the end of the day has been a hoot. Clay and Mark also work well together, helping each other with boat projects and sharing tools, supplies, and expertise.

Part of getting to know your shipmates well is swapping stories, and we've heard some good ones. One of my favorites is one Clay tells about a boat he and a pal bought years ago. It was a first generation Macgregor 26, a real piece of junk priced accordingly. They had a hard time getting it from Keehi Lagoon to Kaneohe because boat wouldn't sail to weather, even in perfect conditions. The name of the boat when they bought it was apparently "Life is Good". However, the letters had been improperly attached to the hull with contact cement by one of the previous owners, and the "d" had fallen off leaving the name "Life is Goo". That name seemed to fit the tiny beat up unseaworthy hunk of fiberglass so they left it alone. Great story.

After much debate over numerous beers, The Kaneohe Yacht Club Cruising Fleet, South Pacific Squadron, has decided that our fleet motto is "Life is Goo".

Friday, September 9, 2016

9 September - Vuda Point Marina, 17 41.04S 177 23.02E

Two days ago we meandered 25 miles southwest among the reefs inside Viti Levu's protected lagoon to the Vuda Point Marina. This facility, located halfway between Lautoka and Nadi on Viti Levu's west coast, is owned by the same guys that own the Copra Shed Marina on Vanua Levu. It is a similar set up with restaurants, a bar, a marine hardware store, etc. They show outdoor movies twice a week, have a live band twice a week, and offer croquet on the lawn. The bar overhangs the very narrow entrance channel, and it is a great place to sit and sip a beer as you inspect arriving and departing yachts. This place is so civilized. At 4PM two gals from the bar walk around the marina pulling an ice chest behind them calling out "Ice cold beer! Heineken, Coronna, Fiji Bitter!" What a great service! It's almost like going to heaven. We may stay here forever.

This passage was the rubber match in our fishing tournament with Puanani. It was a bit lame since we were inside the reef, but Puanani won fair and square with a couple of pathetically small reef fish. We were skunked.

Last night we joined the crew of Puanani for dinner at the resort adjacent to the marina. We had a table right on the beach and watched the sun set over Malolo Lailai Island as we sipped our maitais. No green flash, but the air was still, the sky was clear, and everybody was happy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

7 September - A Piece of History

The crew of Puanani dinghied over just before sunset with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our "champagne sailing" crossing of Bligh Water. After that bottle was gone and numerous pupus were consumed, Clay busted out some scotch and we had toasts to Captains Bligh and Cook. Well lubricated, we drifted off to bed without noticing that we had skipped dinner.

Clay has been enamored with Bligh, reading everything he can find about him, and I have always been fascinated with Cook's achievements. Bligh was First Mate on one of Cook's voyages of discovery. The voyages of Cook and Bligh have had a direct impact on my family which helped pique my interest in these men.

My father sailed around the world in 1939 as the First Mate aboard Irving Johnson's 96 foot schooner Yankee. Pitcairn Island, where the Bounty mutineers settled, was one of their stops during the voyage. After 3 days at Pitcarin, Yankee continued on around the world finishing the voyage just as the US was becoming involved in WWII.

One Saturday afternoon in the mid 1980s I was working with my Dad in his garage when the mailman delivered a large Manila envelope. We stopped what we were doing and opened the envelope to discover that it contained a letter from the estate executor of one of the Yankee crew from my Dad's voyage. This man had left "his most cherished possession to the shipmate who took such good care of him during their voyage aboard Yankee".

As Yankee's First Mate, my Dad was a watch captain and this man was assigned to his watch. Dad told me that this man was handicapped, and he wasn't able to do everything the others could. Dad said he told him to just do his best, and the rest of his watch mates would pick up the slack. My Dad didn't think this was a big deal, but being treated with kindness and respect apparently made a significant and lasting impression on this man.

A few weeks after receiving the envelope, a package arrived containing a "sister hook", a wrought iron fitting from the Bounty. This man had managed to purchase it from the descendants of the Bounty mutineers during his 3 day stay on Pitcarin Island in 1939.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

6 September - Bligh Water

This morning The Kaneohe Yacht Club Cruising Fleet, South Pacific Squadron, set sail from Yadua Island heading southwest across the infamous "Bligh Water" to Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island. Bligh Water was named after Captain William Bligh who was set adrift in an open boat after the Bounty's crew mutinied nearby in 1789. Bligh's subsequent 3618 mile voyage to Timor in this little open boat was an amazing feat of seamanship. It gives Clay and me chicken skin to be able to sail through the same waters Bligh did. Crossing Bligh Water under sail is a must do on the bucket list for serious ocean sailors.

The chart points out that "examination of aerial photography of the area indicates that additional coral pinnacles exist over which the depths are uncertain..." Yikes! So we had a lookout posted for the entire crossing. We didn't see any of the aforementioned pinnacles.

We got an early start because we had 45 miles to sail, so just after sunrise the anchor came up and we snuck past the half sunken overturned barge which was partially blocking the pass out of Yadua's lagoon. The fleet was having another fishing tournament, and this one was particularly important to us after the humiliation we suffered the other day. We put out the hand line first, and I was just turning my attention to the second line on the reel when a fish hooked up on the hand line. It was perfection. Puanani, from 150 feet away, watched open mouthed as we landed a 15 pound Spanish mackerel about a minute after putting our first line out. We were hooting and hollering, of course, just to make sure they witnessed our good fortune. We've caught a lot of fish since departing Savusavu, so in came the lines. We were done fishing for the day at 7AM. Puanani didn't catch anything so the day's glory was ours.

This was our longest and most exposed passage, so we watched the weather and delayed until the forecast indicated moderate winds from a favorable direction. It worked out, as we had glorious broad reaching conditions and everyone aboard had a good time. Clay said it was the best sail ever.


We are anchored for the evening in a tiny unnamed bay on Viti Levu's northwest coast

Monday, September 5, 2016

5 September - Yadua Island

There was a lot of action here in our sleepy little anchorage today. This morning we walked on the beach and talked about how nice it is to have such a lovely spot all to ourselves. But just after finishing lunch we looked out the pass to the west to see a tugboat towing something strange behind it coming around the point. After some debate with Puanani on the VHF radio, we determined that the strange tow was in fact an overturned barge.

The next topic of debate was their destination. "They'd be crazy to try to pull that thing into the lagoon" was the consensus. Perhaps they were crazy because they did try to pull it into the lagoon and they ended up putting the barge on the reef right at the narrowest part of the entrance channel. Fiji apparently doesn't have government agencies that care about folks damaging their reefs. This kind of thing would result in huge fines in Hawaii.

To add to the intrigue, a couple of hours after the barge went aground a small sailboat arrived outside the pass. Clay spoke to him on the VHF to fill him in on the barge situation. Good thing, as the Irish skipper's initial come back included bewilderment about "not seeing that thing on the the chart". They managed to make it into the lagoon without incident and anchored next to Puanani. Clay and Mark recognized the boat as one they had seen in Savusavu.

I don't know if I can handle any more excitement. We are supposed to be relaxing here.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

4 September - Cukuvou Bay, Yadua Island

It looked to us like the wind had dropped a bit, so we took off this morning for Yadua Island, 10 miles west of Vanua Levu. Since we're now sailing in company with Puanani we decided to have a fishing tournament on the way.

It blew like heck once we got out of Vanua Levu's lee, but the wind was well aft of the beam so it was a quick, easy sail with a double reefed main and half rolled up jib. We got skunked and unfortunately heard over the radio that Puanani had landed a single 3 pound kawakawa. How embarrassing - losing a fishing tournament to a 3 pound kawakawa.

We are anchored now in a beautiful protected bay, open only to the west, with wooded hills behind white sand beaches. The hills aren't high enough to protect us from the still strong trade winds, but we are anchored right off the beach so at least the water is flat. We heard that this 2x3 mile island is inhabited, but we've seen no sign of humanity since we arrived.

We were barely anchored before the crew of Puanani came over by dingy to share their catch with us. I'm not sure they weren't just lording their victory over us, but the sashimi was excellent. I'm pretty sure it wasn't kawakawa. It looked and tasted far too good.

Clay spotted cuttlefish behind the boat, and after we jumped in to snorkel he found a pair of remora hanging out by the keel. Lori and I swam in to the reef and almost immediately came face to face with a 4 foot white tip shark. That kind of took the excitement out of snorkling so we headed back to the boat.

I'm just finishing an excellent book, "Resolute", about Great Britain's series of spectacular failures in their attempts to discover the Northwest Passage in the nineteenth century. I love a good book, but there is always something happening at home that prevents me from reading. There is no TV, radio, newspapers, appointments, or other distractions out here so there is plenty of to read.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

3 September - Korinasolo Inlet

We've been hunkered down in Koroinasolo Inlet for 4 days now as the trade winds blow themselves out. It is not a bad place to be stuck. The seas are flat in this landlocked anchorage and we are secure with 2 anchors set.

Puanani caught up with us yesterday afternoon and she is sitting peacefully at anchor 100 yards to port. Mark, Blossom, and their son Kana who joined them in Savusavu on Tuesday, came aboard for dinner last night and we swapped stories about our respective journeys here. They had a tougher time with the weather than we did. They stopped at Namena too, but it wasn't comfortable in the heavier winds. It was too windy for them to anchor in Nabouwalu, but they did find shelter in Baulailai Bay. They caught a fish that none of us can identify, but it was good eating.

This morning we all dinghied ashore so the Puanani crew could present Sevusevu to the chief, and then we went for a hike. The hills behind the village are planted with a non-native pine that is currently being harvested. It looks like the hills in Northern California with heavy equipment, clear cutting, and fully loaded logging trucks. It is surreal seeing this right next to a native Fijian village.

After lunch we headed in the other direction by dingy to a beach at the entrance to the inlet that we had seen on the way in. We could hear goats and cows making noise above us in the bushes and they sounded like people talking. We are still not sure if people were there or not. Clay found an entire green sea turtle shell on the beach. It was a bit weathered, but would have been a great souvenir. Too bad we couldn't keep it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

1 September - Koroinasolo Inlet

Yesterday afternoon the four of us took the dinghy in to the village of Koroinasolo to present sevusevu to the chief and ask permission to visit his village and bay.

Upon landing we were immediately surrounded by a dozen children who stayed with us throughout our visit. We immediately noticed the 15 or so very nice and relatively new fiberglass skiffs with Yamaha outboards at the landing and dozens of scuba tanks that a couple of men were filling with the aid of a gas powered compressor. The men told us that they regularly dive for sea slugs that are exported to China. The dive gear was all provided by the Chinese merchant in Labasa to whom they sold the sea slugs.

We were taken up the hill to the village where we were presented to the chief, an elderly gentleman who was missing a foot and didn't speak any English. His son translated for us. Clay presented some kava to him, which made him very happy, and Gail presented a bag of gifts for the village children; books, crayons, and a couple of pairs of sunglasses. The chief and his son immediately grabbed the glasses for themselves.

It didn't look like they have very many foreign visitors as we got a lot of attention from the villagers. Lori and Gail had all of the kids singing songs as they walked us back to our dinghy. It was a great experience.

The wind started to howl over night, so this morning we put out a second bow anchor. Jambalaya sails back and forth at anchor when it is windy. She heels to port and then sails off in that direction, turns, heels to starboard, and heads off that way. Each time she turns the anchor chain rattles as it slides on the bow roller. It is a pain, especially if you are trying to sleep. Putting out a second bow anchor set a couple hundred feet across the wind from the first anchor allows the boat to hang between the two. She doesn't sail back and forth, sits quietly, and it is far more comfortable for the crew.

It looks like we'll be here for a couple more days as windy conditions are forecast to continue.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Cruising Life

Lori and I are used to cruising aboard Moku pe'a, our Beneteau 35. She is the bottom end Toyota Corolla of cruising boats; safe, reliable, and seaworthy but not many creature comforts. Jambalaya, on the other hand, is a Saga 43. Just being larger makes her more comfortable, but she is like a BMW. She has lots of bells and whistles and we feel lucky to be cruising in the lap of luxury. Clay and Gail are wonderful hosts as well and the four of us are very compatible. Gail is a fantastic cook and Clay tells great stories. We are having a grand time.

Yesterday in Baulailai we went snorkeling in the morning and hiked to the top of the hill overlooking the anchorage in the afternoon. We decided to stay for 2 nights because we were in such a nice spot.

A couple of days ago Gail and Lori started working on a spherical 540 piece puzzle of the globe, and completing it became an obsession for all of us. I was up 2 hours later than everyone else last night finishing it only to discover that 10 pieces were missing. Doh!

We had planned to sail to an anchorage on the windward side of Yandua island today, but the forecast calls for 30 knots of wind tomorrow, and we would be exposed there, so we opted instead to head further up Vanua Levu's coast to Koroinasalo Inlet. We are currently anchored at the head end of this totally landlocked bay, and plan to head in to the village soon to conduct sevusevu with the local chief. Sevusevu is an offering of Kava in exchange for permission to visit their bay and village.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

30 August - Baulailai Bay

Michael, the skipper off one of the 3 boats anchored off of Mabuwalu, was very helpful with advise on where to anchor so we wouldn't be in the ferry's way when it arrived. He came over for a visit after we got settled, and the conversation about the best anchorages came up, as it always does among cruisers. We had planned to head next to Bua Bay, which looked good on the charts, but Michael said it wasn't protected from the wind and that there wasn't much to see. He recommended Baulailai Bay, 7 miles further up the coast, as a better alternative. So we changed our plan and decided to head for Baulailai.

That's one of the great aspects of a cruising without a tight schedule. Plans can be fluid and subject to change. It 's easy when transportation, lodging, and everything we want or need is contained in our little ship.

We headed west past Bua Bay under power and then unrolled the genoa to sail the rest of the way to Baulailai.
We hooked and landed a nice 20 pound Spanish mackerel at the half way point. We don't have Spanish mackerel in Hawaii. Too bad. Clay and I have decided that It is the best eating fish we have ever had.

It was a cloudy day as we entered Baulailai, and we anchored in 15 feet of water near the head of the bay. We thought we were in a pretty good spot until Clay dove the anchor and found a coral head 6 feet below the surface that we would have bumped if we swung at all. Yikes! The water was a bit murky at the head end of the bay and the coral head wasn't visible from the deck with the overcast sky. So we moved away into a deeper area further offshore and reanchored.

This is a beautiful spot and we have it all to ourselves except for some cows and horses we've seen on the beach and some goats in the hills. We've decided to stay here at least 2 nights so we'll have time to do some snorkling, hiking and exploring.

29 August - Mabuwalu

This morning we powered out of the lagoon surrounding Namena Island through South Save A Tack Pass, a mile from our snug anchorage last night. This pass was a lot easier to negotiate than North Save A Tack Pass, which we sailed through getting to Namena yesterday. The North pass has some shallow coral heads in it that we dodged just to be safe. It gets the blood pumping...

Once outside the reef we made a right turn and headed North back toward Vanua Levu. With the wind right behind us, we unrolled the genoa and had a quick sail up to Nadi pass and into the protected waters of Vanua Levu's southern barrier reef.

Fiji is the land of coral reefs. They are everywhere. The prudent mariner unfamiliar with these waters moves only when the sun is high and a lookout is posted. GPS helps, but nearly all the aids to navigation shown on the charts are missing. They were all likely victims of Hurricane Winston.

We stuck our nose into Nadi Bay, which was supposed to be a good anchorage, but it looked too bumpy, so we headed 12 miles west to Mabuwalu where we found a smooth spot to moor for the evening. There are 3 other cruising boats here, and it is a commercial port. When the 200 foot long ferry makes one of its thrice daily calls, it spins on a dime and backs in to the pier right next to us. It was quite a show.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

27 August - Savusavu

Fijian Immigration requires all visitors to have a round trip ticket in hand before they will let you board a plane to Fiji. There are three of us that will be flying in to help Clay sail Jambalaya to New Zealand in October, so we won't have the required tickets. To get aboard our flights, we will need individual letters of authorization from Fiji immigration. Poor Clay has been running the gauntlet with immigration for a few days now trying to get the letters. Every time he goes up there they tell him something different. I think the bureaucrats just like to jerk our chains. It ended up taking 12 trips before he triumphantly returned with the letters this afternoon. Fortunately the immigration office is only a couple hundred yards from the boat. You can imagine the additional frustration for anybody who has to conduct similar business via taxi. The story is the same with the bureaucrats in all of these South Pacific countries. It's part of the price of visiting paradise.

Jambalaya has been in Savusavu for almost a month now. Gail flew back to Seattle a couple of weeks ago to spend some time with her daughter, Grace, who is expecting her first child. Gail arrived back in Savusavu two days after our arrival.

We had a chance to do some exploring by land before heading off cruising. We took a taxi ride to a beautiful waterfall, went hiking to the top of the ridge overlooking the town, and explored the eclectic Indian shops along Savusavu's main road.

28 August - Namena Island

What a great day. As I write this I'm sitting in Jambalaya's salon enjoying a beer and listening to Neil Young on the ship's stereo. The sun is heading toward the horizon over an empty sea to the west. In the opposite direction 100 yards away lies Namena Island, protecting us from the tradewinds and swells.

We had a lovely sail from Savusavu, and even caught a 25 pound mahimahi on the way. We actually had a double hook up, and the second mahi must have known that we didn't want him after landing the first as he was kind enough to throw the hook just as we were bringing him along side to try to release him.

Puanani didn't sail with us today. Mark and Blossom will be staying in Savusavu for a few more days until their son Kana flies in to join them. They will catch up with us somewhere down the track.

Namena is a solitary mile long island 20 miles south of Vanua Levu. Namena was directly in the path of Hurricane Winston when it devastated Fiji six months ago. The island's resort was leveled, and the trees that weren't knocked down were stripped bare. Those remaining trees are exploding with new growth now as they try to reclaim their share of the sun light ahead of those around them. It seems like nothing could have survived such devastation, but the bananas and papayas are shooting up everywhere and boobies are nesting in the new tree branches.

We swam ashore to inspect the island at 3PM after the anchor was down and the boat put to bed. It is going to take a while for Namena to recover, but I suspect that this wasn't the first hurricane to hit the island, and it will bounce back.

The cruising guides say that Namena has the best diving in all of Fiji. I think Winston took care of that. The bottom around the boat and on the swim to shore was a waste land.

It is still a nice place to visit. We haven't seen any sign of humanity since we arrived, and it is a nice resting spot as we make our was westward.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

26 August - The Copra Hut Marina, Savusavu, Fiji

Lori and I are off on a new kind of cruising adventure for us, this time as crew aboard Clay and Gail Hutchinson's lovely Saga 43, Jambalaya, in Fiji.  We arrived in Savusavu on Vanua Levu after an epic 33 hour trip that was delayed by a cracked window on our 737 caused by a bird strike.  Fiji Airways was very kind and professional though, and I will fly again with them anytime.

We found Jambalaya in a slip at the Copra Shed Marina, a very well run operation that includes a couple of restaurants, a bar disguised as a yacht club, a marine hardware store, and even a couple of rooms for rent upstairs.

Savusavu is a protected oasis on Vanua Levu.  There are boats here from the US, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Spain, France, Italy,….  just about everywhere, and they are crewed by real characters.  The fleet congregates in the bar daily as sundown approaches to swap lies and lubricate.  We have been meeting Mark and Blossom Logan off the Beneteau 39, Puanani, there for drinks every night before we head off for dinner.  Punanani and Jambalaya have been cruising together since they left Kaneohe Yacht Club in May. 

This place reminds me of the outpost town on Luke Skywalker's home planet, Tatueen, in the first episode of Star Wars.  Cruisers roaming Fiji's northern cruising grounds gravitate toward this welcoming port to reprovision, make repairs, pick up crew, and socialize.  Walk into the bar, and conversation stops as all heads  turn to inspect the newcomers.  After a moment the patrons return to their drinks and tall tales and the volume returns to normal.  All manner of creature can be found there, boisterous Kiwis laughing loudly at every word spoken, Germans and Italians conversing in their native tongues, and the Americans we are used to seeing.  Listen in on the conversations, and you will hear talk about boat repairs, anchorages, passages, vessels, and local attractions as the cruisers get to know each other.  The whole operation at the Copra Shed Marina is overseen by owner Jeff Taylor, a larger than life character that can be seen roaming the halls by day and holding court in the bar after normal working hours.  Jeff is a big man that reminds me of Jabba the Hut.