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.