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.