Saturday, September 30, 2017

Exploring Noumea

Shortly after we secured Van Diemen to the marina dock labeled "Visitors" yesterday, a very attractive woman who worked for the marina walked down the pier and told us that we needed to leave because another boat was expected shortly. "Are they visitors?", we asked her.

"Oui, Messieurs", she answered.

"But we are visitors too," we pleaded, "and we were here first." She would not be swayed. The other visitors apparently had some pull, so we cast off and powered across the harbor to the anchorage. We dropped the hook on the fringes of a mix of visiting, local, and what looked like derelict boats to await the arrival of the quarantine officer. Three hours later a dinghy from another cruising boat delivered the officer who was moving through the anchorage inspecting the day's arrivals.

We've been allowed to keep prohibited food items in the other countries we've visited because the food was going to be consumed on the boat. This quarantine officer was a bit more of a stickler, and he took our lamb sausages, three Fijian steaks, some celery, and a big bag of chicken. Zappa and Marie brought some vacuum packed prime Australian fillets with them when they joined the boat, and I suspect there would have been a fight if the officer had insisted on confiscating them, but since the meat was Australian he let us keep it. He also let us keep our ham and eggs, but only if we ate it all right away, so we had the world's largest omelet for lunch. Once again we weren't hungry on Van Diemen.

After our friend from quarantine departed we took down the yellow "Q" flag, all piled into the dinghy, and went ashore. Our mission was to find WIFI, a place to watch the Australian Rules football season championship game, and get a beer. A bar that fit the bill was right there next to the dinghy dock, but that was too easy to be the right answer. We needed to explore and see if there wasn't some place better. First we hiked down town where we found free WIFI advertised on lamp posts. It was indeed free and pretty fast too. We all caught up on our email and I got in a Whatsapp video chat with Lori. Asking around, we were told that a good bar to watch the football game would be the Fiesta Cafe "just over the hill".

We wisely decided to travel via taxi, and split up into two vehicles to get there. "Just over the hill" ended up being a couple of miles away, and when we arrived we found The Fiesta just closing for the day (it was Saturday). We had released the first taxi before figuring out that the bar was closed but held the second taxi to send half of the group back to the marina. Michael, Marie, and I started walking back hoping to flag down a taxi on the way. Of course, there were no taxis to be found out here in the boonies. About half way back we found a citizen sitting on a bench who helped us catch a bus back to town. We arrived back at the marina about an hour behind the first group. We found them in the marina bar drinking beer and watching the game. The game, beer, and food were all good so we stayed there for dinner finally returning to Van Diemen at 8PM. A second bottle of wine was consumed aboard along with a tutorial card game of "May I", a version of gin rummy.

This morning at sunrise we were awoken by a man shouting from a power boat along side, "Bonjour Messieurs! A ship, she is coming. You must move!" We scrambled to get the engine on, hoist the anchor, and pick up a vacant mooring out of the fairway just before a 600+ foot cruise liner entered the harbor. Hopefully we can either hang on this mooring or get a slip in the harbor until we clear customs and immigration first thing on Monday morning.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bonjour Noumea

0800 position 22-17S 166-26E. Tied to the visitors dock, Port Moselle Marina, Noumea, New Caledonia

The wind remained light all day as forecast and we've been under power the entire time. We have all caught up on our sleep during the hours of darkness over the past few days so all of the crew was up during the day yesterday. Rob spends his time during the day puttering around the boat fixing and checking things. He seems to be happiest when he is doing that. The rest of us are reading, socializing, or working on meals.

Meals are major events at Chez Van Diemen that occur more often than necessary. Nobody is hungry here. Yesterday started for me when I came on watch at 6AM to have Michael offer me some of his homemade fruit cake to go with my coffee. I had no idea fruit cake could taste that good. It is filling too and I didn't need anything else for breakfast, but I ate some papaya anyway that Marie had prepared and left on the saloon table. Michael made grilled cheese, tomato, and chutney sandwiches for lunch. Somebody busted out the peanut M&Ms during the afternoon.

I spent the day thinking about how to prepare the two kinds of tuna for dinner. I decided to start with an aku poisson cru appetizer. The fish was cubed, soaked in lime juice for fifteen minutes, and mixed with shredded carrot, chopped cucumber, onion, and coconut milk with a touch of salt. I think it was pretty good because Geoff asked me for the recipe. The main course was pan fried ahi in a lemon/butter/caper sauce, pesto pasta, and green beans. A chocolate bar was split among the crew for desert. The only thing missing was a nice bottle of wine, but we don't drink at sea. The crew was happy.

The water temperature is down to 75 degrees F now, 11 degrees cooler than it was in the Marquesas and Tahiti and 5 degrees cooler than Fiji. It might be a bit too cool to comfortably snorkel here. Nights have been a bit chilly. The evening crew uniform is fleece, long pants, and socks in our shoes. It is great sleeping weather too.

Our destination was Noumea, New Caledonia's capital which lies on the large island's southwest corner. To get there we needed to round the barrier reef which extends forty miles to the south of the main island. The Isle of Pines, a picturesque island seven miles in diameter, lies on the southeast corner of the barrier reef. We sighted The Isle of Pines late in the afternoon on the starboard bow and at sunset it was abeam ten miles away. It was green flash weather, and the entire crew was on deck to witness the sunset followed by a debate about whether or not a green flash occurred. I didn't see it, but my cataracts prevent me from seeing anything anyway. Van Diemen rounded the southern tip of the reef at midnight, and when I came up on watch at 2AM we could see the loom of Noumea and the lighthouse marking the pass through the reef to the west of the city. In the calm conditions entering the pass through the reef and winding our way through the channel to Noumea was no problem. At sunrise we were just outside of the small boat harbor and at 6AM were tied up to the visitors dock. Another passage completed and we cheated death once again.

Now we get to play the waiting game with customs and immigration....

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fresh Ahi

0800 position 22-19S 169-01E. Day's run 214 miles.

Yesterday morning at 10AM the wind backed far enough to the south to allow us to sail in the general direction on New Caledonia. We set a double reefed jib along with the single reefed mainsail and shut down the engine. Close hauled we were sailing 20 degrees low of our course to the mark but making eight knots.

The wind continued to back to the south and we were slowly lifted up to our desired course during the day. By 6PM we were aimed for New Caledonia and starting to ease the sheets. We were under full sail by 11PM.

Unfortunately the wind continued to back and started dropping off. At 2AM the engine went on again and we have been powering ever since. It looks like we are stuck in a stationary high pressure area and will likely be under power the rest of the way in to Noumea.

The fishing was pretty good yesterday afternoon. We landed three more small tuna (aku) and decided to keep them for a meal. Fortunately Michael had already started making dinner when we landed them. I say fortunately because Michael spent the afternoon making a fabulous beef stew that we all enjoyed. I will do something with the fish tonight when it is my turn to cook. The pressure to perform is on. All of our dinners have been great and I don't want to be the one to prepare the memorably mediocre meal.

In typical Van Diemen fashion, it was looking like we were going to arrive in Noumea over the weekend when clearing in through customs might be a problem. We scoured the chart to see if there might be a fun little island to stop at along the way and kill some time. Rob found Walpole Island on the chart, not too far out of our way, and we altered course a few degrees to head there. I took a look in a book I had brought along, "South Pacific Anchorages", by Warwick Clay, and I'll be darned if it didn't have a write up about this little spec of land 120 miles east of New Caledonia. An island formerly mined for phosphate, Walpole reportedly has a decent open roadstead anchorage on its west side. After giving it some more thought we decided to give it a pass. We are currently in a confused swell with seas from the southwest, southeast, and east. The southwesterly swell would likely make the Walpole anchorage uncomfortable. Instead, we altered course to head over the top of the "Banc De L'orne", a seamount that rises up from the 4,000 foot deep ocean floor in this area to a depth of 130 feet. We figure the fishing might be pretty good there. As I was typing this we were crossing over the top of the seamount and caught a nice five pound yellowfin tuna (ahi). This is the best eating tuna there is. I think I now have a chance to produce a memorable dinner.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Half Way There

0800 position 21-15S 172-09E. Days run 209 miles. Just past the halfway point of the passage.

The wind continued to die off as the morning progressed yesterday. Shortly after noon Van Diemen's boat speed dropped below seven knots so we turned on the engine to give the sails a hand in moving us along. By 4PM the jib started collapsing in the waves so we rolled it up and continued on motor sailing with the mainsail only. The wind died off completely during the evening, and shortly after midnight filled in from the west at about six knots. It wasn't quite strong enough to sail, and it was from the wrong direction. It has been slowly backing toward the south and increasing since then, as forecast, and we are hoping to be able to turn off the engine and sail soon.

This wind pattern was predicted in the forecast before we departed Fiji, and once the breeze fills in from the south it should keep blowing from that direction for a day or so. Anticipating this, we have been hedging our bets and have been sailing well south of the rhumb line since we left. We are now fifty miles south of the direct route from Fiji to New Caledonia and our positioning should allow us to ease sheets and sail faster and more comfortably once the southerly fills in than we would be able to if we were further north.

We've seen a bunch of commercial vessels on the AIS during our passages but we don't often see other sailboats. Late yesterday morning we passed the 49 foot sailing vessel "Aclyone" which was a mile to the north and headed in the same direction. Rob recalls seeing her somewhere earlier in the trip.

The seas have been flat enough to allow us to make full use of the galley, and with little to occupy our time the crew has been creative in the kitchen. Zappa and Marie made egg sandwiches for our first lunch at sea. Rob made a chicken pasta dish for dinner that night. I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast yesterday and a salad for lunch and Geoff made grilled lamb chops, roasted potatoes, and green beans for dinner. Nobody is hungry aboard the good ship Van Diemen.

The calm conditions have also allowed for lots of socializing. These Australians are a bunch of characters and all know how to tell a good story.

We see some strange stuff out here. Yesterday afternoon we passed through some current lines and came upon a patch of chocolate brown water that looked like sugar cane field waste. It was a couple of hundred feet wide and stretched off toward the horizon to the south. We were more than 250 miles from the nearest land at the time.

I am pleased to report that the fishing has improved. We've had four strikes, three hook ups, and landed two small aku on the Corstorphine lure collection. With a little fine tuning we are confident that we will soon be landing larger and more delectable species.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New Caledonia Bound

0800 position 19-30S 174-48E. Days run (22 hours) 213 miles.

Yesterday morning at 8AM Rob walked up to the Customs and Immigration office in the Vuda Point Marina to check out, but they hadn't opened for the day yet. The officials eventually showed up at 9AM, an hour after their official opening time, and we got our clearance. No problem, we had a bit to do to get ready to go to sea. Rob and Zappa had noticed that a seam on the mainsail was opening up, so out came the sailmakers kit and our resident surgeon, Michael Vaughan, sewed it up with the assistance of his scrub nurse, Zappa. The rest of us headed up to the store to spend the rest of our Fiji dollars on beer, bread, and snacks. At 930 four Fijian marina employees serenaded us on the dock with a guitar to wish us farewell. It was very cool and unexpected. When they were finished the leader of the group said, "So you are departing now, yes? There is another yacht waiting offshore to come into the dock to check out." I suspect they sang us the song to hurry us on our way. By 10AM we had cast off and were powering south for the pass out of Fiji's barrier reef at Tavarua.

We remained in the lee of Viti Levu until we were about two miles south of Tavarua. As the twenty knot trades filled in from the south east we put one reef in the mainsail, killed the engine, and unrolled the jib to the second reef. Van Diemen was zipping along at ten knots, right on course. We were heeled a bit more than was comfortable though so we put a second reef in the main and didn't slow down at all.

Honey and Kimo Corstorphine, pals from Hawaii, have been reading this blog and felt sorry for us because we catch so few fish despite our heroic efforts. They are experienced and successful fishermen, and the day before I flew back to Fiji they gave me a bunch of their lures so we wouldn't starve to death out here. Two of their lures were set on the hand lines when we cleared Tavarua just after noon, but I am disappointed to report that we saw no action before we pulled the lines in at sunset.

At 10PM Geoff and I were socializing on watch getting to know each other when a meteor lit up the sky to the south. It moved slower than any meteor either of us had seen before, and the colors as it burned went from white to yellow to green. It was as bright as fireworks but moved a bit faster.

The wind started dropping off at midnight, and when I came back on watch at 4AM I found that the boys had unrolled the reefs in the jib. Rob and I went from the second reef to the first in the mainsail at sunrise. The updated weather report says that the wind should continue to die off and we will likely be under power before too long.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Monday, September 25, 2017

A New Team

0800 position 17-41S 177-24E.  At the customs dock in Vuda Point Marina, Fiji

I enjoyed a relaxing two week vacation in Hawaii with Lori visiting with friends, completing a few projects around the house, and sleeping in my own bed.  On my last two nights at home Lori took me to see a couple of plays, "The Full Monty" and "The King and I".  I think she is trying to culture me so it is time to go back to sea.

I arrived back in Denerau yesterday to find a mostly new team aboard Van Diemen.  For the leg to Australia we have Michael "Zappa" Bell and his wife Marie Minslow, Geoff Wells, and Michael Vaughan (no relation) aboard in addition to Rob and me.  Zappa and Marie had been aboard for ten days already, sailed in the Musket Cove Regatta on Van Diemen last week, and even made it out to Navadra with Rob and Renee for a couple of days.  Michael and Geoff arrived in Denerau the day before I did.  Renee flew out to the USA yesterday afternoon leaving me as the last Yank aboard the boat.  The rest of the crew are Australian.

Van Diemen was anchored off of Denerau when I arrived, and there were numerous dinghy trips ferrying crew, provisions, and gear to and from the boat during the day yesterday.  At 4PM we pulled the hook and powered five miles to Vuda Point Marina to tie to the customs dock for the night.  Our plan is to clear customs this morning as soon as the office here opens and depart for New Caledonia before noon.

The forecast calls for light to moderate trade winds for the next week or so, perfect for a downwind slide to New Caledonia.  This should be fun.  None of us aboard have sailed to New Caledonia so it will be a new experience for us all.

This is being sent via WIFI at the Vuda Marina.  The ship's radio/modem has been acting up since I returned yesterday and we haven't been able to get it working.  Hopefully we will get it figured out and will be able to send and receive our daily emails and blog, and receive weather.  We shall see.  If you don't hear from us until we get to New Caledonia in four or five days it means we didn't solve the radio problems.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Looking Over the Horizon

At anchor aboard Moku pe’a in the lee of Coconut Island, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii

Late yesterday afternoon Lori and I decided to exercise Moku pe’a one last time before I head back to Fiji on Saturday night to rejoin Van Diemen.  The trade winds were strong so after sailing around Kaneohe Bay a bit we dropped the hook for the night behind Coconut Island, one of our favorite protected anchorages.  After getting the boat secured we sat back to enjoy a cocktail and watch the KYC Happy Hour Race fleet round the leeward mark nearby as the sun set over the Koolau mountains.  After the mark rounding action died down I checked my phone and found that two emails had come in, one from Rob in Fiji and another from my buddy Matt Dyer in Washington.

Van Diemen had just competed in the annual Musket Cove regatta in Fiji.  Rob was pleased with her performance in the long distance race where they finished third behind a Santa Cruz 52 and an Oyster 82.  The Santa Cruz 52 got away from them (no surprise there) and they traded places with the Oyster a few times before the larger boat pulled ahead on the long beat.

Matt was emailing to firm up plans for Lori and I to join him and his wife Vicki next summer aboard their trawler for a month of cruising in southern Alaska.  Nearly all of my previous cruising has been aboard sailing vessels in the tropics, so the Pacific Northwest on a powerboat will be a new experience for me.  Matt and I double handed a couple of passages together aboard Moku pe’a, Tahiti to Hawaii in 2011 and Tonga to Tahiti in 2014.  He is a great shipmate.  An Alaskan commercial fisherman, Matt knows both power boats and this part of the world well.  We will be in good hands and we are really looking forward to next summer’s cruise. 

As we sipped our cocktails and read the emails Lori said, “Isn’t it amazing that we can be anchored here in Hawaii communicating simultaneously with friends in Fiji and Washington planning cruises to Tasmania and Alaska?”  It is amazing, and we are very lucky to have these opportunities.  

Watching the fleet round the leeward mark

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pictures from the last few months

It is great to be home, and I've been busy with doctors appointments, dinner with my daughters, cleaning Moku pe'a's bottom, hiking, trying to fix my computer, getting through Lori's honey-do list, and spending as much time as possible with my lovely wife.  I'm just now getting some time to work on the blog.  With internet access I can post some pictures, so here is a sampling from the cruising Van Diemen has done since the middle of June.

Flock of eagle rays soaring in Bora Bora
Not much clearance under Van Diemen's keel off Naonao

Convict tang school in the coral river
Sunset at the coral river
Niue small boat hoist, Van Diemen in mooring field offshore
Piers, Rob, Noodle, and Doc off Niue
Dugout canoe, Hunga lagoon, Tonga
On the beach in Hunga with Van Diemen and the lagoon pass in the background
Rob swims out of Mariner's Cave, Tonga
Bavatu Harbor, Lau Group, Fiji
Bay of Islands, Lau Group, Fiji
Van Diemen on right
Saying goodby to PVD, Yandua, Fiji
Navadra, Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

Friday, September 8, 2017


0800 position 17-46S 177-12E. On a mooring in Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai Island, Fiji

Yesterday morning was filled with boat projects. Eric and I hoisted Rob up the mast for a rig check which was long overdue. Everything was fine up there. We cleaned the boat and Eric polished stainless steel deck fittings. The second dinghy got wiped down and stored away, probably for the last time. By noon the crew was tired and it was stifling hot so we all dinghied ashore to find lunch, shade, and something cold to drink. We ended up spending the whole afternoon shuffling between the cafe, the pool, and a couple of bars.

We'll take Van Diemen over to Port Denerau, ten miles away on Viti Levu, tomorrow morning. Rob and Renee will do some provisioning there and the airport is only a ten minute taxi ride away. Eric is flying back to LA tomorrow night and I will be heading for Honolulu. I get to spend two weeks at home with Lori before returning to Fiji and rejoining Van Diemen for the last third of the trip to Hobart. This is probably the last blog until I return to Fiji.

Rob has a list of projects he wants to get done aboard Van Diemen over the next few weeks. He has also talked about taking Van Diemen back to have a second look at some of the Mamanucas. The annual Musket Cove Regatta, a week of not too serious racing and partying, takes place September 15-20 and Van Diemen may participate in that as well. It looks like the regatta will be lots of fun. As of yesterday there were already seventy boats entered.

The crew for the next leg of the trip to the coast of Australia will be trickling in over the next couple of weeks and will likely all be aboard by the time I return to Fiji on 25 September.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Deja vu

0800 position 17-46S 177-12E. On a mooring in Musket Cove, Malolo lailai Island, Fiji

We had a great day yesterday. Shortly after breakfast we pulled the hook and powered south through the Mamanucas. I thought the Yasawas were nice, but they don't hold a candle to the Mamanucas, a couple of dozen scattered islands, which are much higher and more spectacular. None of our charts are very good for this area, so either Eric or I or both of us stand on the bow with the radio in hand while we are underway to watch for unexpected shoals. Shortly after departing Navandra Eric and I saw what we both believed were dolphin darting away from Van Diemen's bow underwater. The animals were about five feet long and gray. Eric saw two, I saw three. We kept watching and they never surfaced for air though so they must have been sharks.

Seven miles south of Navandra we powered between two unbelievably beautiful uninhabited islands with white sand beaches. The water was mirror flat and it looked like a good anchorage to me but Rob decided not to stop. As we powered past them the perspective changed and I clearly recognized the island I wanted to stop at, Monuriki, as the one where "Castaway" was filmed. It was an ideal location for shooting the movie because there was a second beach just over the point and out of sight from the one where filming took place. It was the second beach that initially attracted me and it was perfect for landing all the equipment and personnel required to film. Even better was the resort on the next island a half a mile away where all of the crew could stay during production.

We had a close call while powering past the resort. The air was so still that the surface of the water was glassy which is not good for visibility. We nearly hit a coral head off of the resort, missing it by just a few feet. Better lucky than good. We continued past the resort zigging and zagging through the shoals and past Malolo Island to a resort on Malamala Island Rene had heard about. They advertised a special smoothie that sounded good to her. When we got there we found an unattractive and small motu that didn't look inviting. We picked up one of their moorings (it was too deep to anchor) but the mooring was too close to the reef. A wind shift would have put us aground. We decided to give up and head to Musket Cove on Malolo Lailai, six miles away.

Musket Cove is a fully developed group of resorts, moorings, a marina with another under construction, airstrip, yacht club, many bars and restaurants, and a bunch of yachts. I counted at least forty boats on moorings and at anchor with a bunch more in the marina. We were lucky enough to find an empty mooring close in when we arrived and shortly after picking it up a rowing dinghy approached to speak to us. It was deja vu all over again. I immediately recognized Don, the unofficial harbor master, who welcomed us in exactly the same manner a year ago when Lori and I arrived here on Puanani, Mark and Blossom Logan's Beneteau 39. Don lives on his boat in the mooring field here and wanted to make sure we weren't too heavy for the mooring.

After completing SOP1 we cracked a beer and over lunch I asked Rob why he didn't want to stop at Castaway Island (Monuriki). "Didn't you see the big 'No Trespassing' sign just above the beach?" he asked me. My nearly ripe cataracts had prevented me from seeing the sign. I suppose the island's owner controls access and charges a fee to visit the now famous island.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Explorers

0800 position 17-27S 177-03E. At anchor off of Navandra Island, Fiji

The Van Diemen crew spent yesterday exploring the islands and diving in the lagoon between them. Shortly after breakfast Rob and Renee took off on their SUPs headed in opposite directions. Eric and I took the dinghy into a beach on Vanua Levu that we hadn't explored the day before. I spent a couple of hours looking for fresh water. I was trying to figure out what the goats drink since it doesn't rain here very often. It remains an unsolved mystery. While I was traipsing around in the bushes I came across a number of surveyors tapes tied to trees. Rob reported seeing the same thing on his forays into the island's interior. Perhaps there is some development in the works? Rob is now King of the Mountain since he made it to the top of both peaks on Vanua Levu.

After a short break mid-day I went diving in the lagoon and then hiked the beach on Navandra. I almost got close enough to a baby goat there to grab it. I'm not sure what I would have done with it if I had.

Three of the four boats that were anchored with us our first night here left yesterday and were replaced by three others. This place isn't a secret, but it remains pristine.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


0800 position 17-27S 177-03E. At anchor off of Navandra Island, Fiji

One of the three Fijian cruising guides we are using stated that the anchorage at Navandra Island was their favorite in all of Fiji, so I figured it would be pretty good. I was stunned by what we found though. The northernmost of the Mamanuca group, the half mile long islands of Navandra and Vanua Levu (not to be confused with the main Fijian island of the same name) and the smaller Vanua Lailai, lie next to each other creating a "V" shaped anchorage between them open to the northwest.

We arrived late in the morning yesterday after a nine mile jump from Waya to find four other boats already at anchor off Navandra. The crowd didn't bother us like it normally does; It was too beautiful to care. We immediately noticed the clearest water we've seen since departing California. The quality of the bottom (coral or sand) could easily be determined from deck with the naked eye in water seventy five feet deep. We found an empty sandy spot next to Vanua Levu's reef and anchored. White sand beach extended most of the way around Vanua Levu and there was a sand isthmus between Vanua Levu and the smaller Vanua Lailai. All three islands are of volcanic origin and close to 300 feet high. They are heavily wooded with large trees. Directly ashore from Van Diemen we could see a deep cave in the lava rock behind the beach. This place begged to be explored.

I jumped overboard with my mask and fins. The snorkling was excellent. I swam ashore on Vanua Levu and stumbled up the steep beach to immediately find a perfect two inch long tiger cowrie shell waiting for me at the high water line. Score. The first thing I did was check out the cave. It was at the high point of the beach, well above the high water line, and shaded by trees on either side. The opening was twenty feet across and twelve feet high. The cave with its sand floor and high ceiling extended back fifteen feet or so into the lava and would have provided perfect shelter from the elements. My first thought was that the makers of "Castaway", which was filmed on another of the Mamanuca islands a couple of miles from here, screwed up on their site selection. This place was perfect. Then I realized it was too perfect. If Tom Hanks had come ashore here he never would have wanted to leave.

I spent two hours beach combing Vanua Levu and the sand isthmus between it and Vanua Lailai and exploring the ten acre forest behind the cave. It was interesting that the dense forest, lying on flat sand below the island's high hills, contained no low shrubs, just trees as large as four feet in diameter. It looked like there were paths all through the forest, but it didn't look like human traffic. This was the most spectacular island I had ever been on. Disneyland could not have created a more beautiful scene. There were no human inhabitants, which is puzzling. By far the most magnificent island we've seen, why are there resorts on the others and not here?

After a mid-day nap aboard Van Diemen to hide from the heat of the day, Rob, Eric, and I dinghied ashore to do some serious exploring. This time I brought shoes and my cameras. I immediately bumped into a wild goat. That explained the paths and lack of low shrubs. I hiked up to the top of the island and got some great shots of the scenery, and explored places my bare feet previously prevented me from going. Two hours later we were spent and went back to Van Diemen.

We are going to stay here another day and check out the places we missed yesterday. If you have some spare time today, try Googling "Navandra Mamanuca" (it is sometimes spelled "Navadra"), "Vanua Levu Mamanuka", or "Vanua Lailai Mamanuka". There may be some pictures of this place online.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Monday, September 4, 2017

Exploring Waya

0800 position 17-16S 177-07E. At anchor in Nalauwaki Bay, Waya Island, Fiji

It is pretty clear now that we are right on the edge of Viti Levu's lee in a south easterly wind. As the prevailing wind shifted from south to south east in the mid morning yesterday the strong trade winds died completely here off Waya and we had calm conditions for the rest of the day. We must have slipped into Viti Levu's lee as the wind shifted.

The entire crew went ashore in two shifts to explore the island. Rob was in the first shift, and as he was heading back to the boat a native insisted on his making sevu sevu, the offering of kava for the privilege of visiting his village. Fortunately I had picked up a couple of bundles of kava for that purpose earlier in the trip. Rob came back to the boat, got a bundle of kava, and took it ashore to the guy who was waiting on the beach. I went ashore to hike after the heat of the day had past and with guidance from the first shift hiked across the island to the nicest tourist facility we have seen in the Yasawas so far, the Octopus Resort. A boat load of new guests was just arriving as I got there and the staff ashore was gathered and singing to welcome the new arrivals.

I walked back over the island and through the village fronting our anchorage. What struck me most about the village was the presence of garbage everywhere around its perimeter. White plastic garbage bags, most broken open and full of typical household waste like empty cans, plastic bottles, and paper products, had been tossed into the bushes on the outskirts of the village. It boggles the mind that they would choose to decorate their village that way. I continued through the village to hike up to the dam that was reported to be in the hills behind it. I followed the plastic water supply pipe up the hill to a dozen large water storage tanks above the village. The quarter mile long pipe was sitting on the surface and was held in position on the slope by haole koa trees. That pipe must break fairly often. The pipe feeding the tanks snaked back into the hills to the dam which must have been miles away. I followed it for about half a mile back into the island's interior before giving up and turning around. The pipe looked so fragile that I was afraid to get near it for fear that a gentle touch would break it. I didn't want to be blamed for damaging the village's water supply. I walked back through the village to the dingy and was followed by the same guy that pestered Rob for sevu sevu. He wanted money from me for walking through his village. I told him that my captain had paid him earlier.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Weathering the Storm

0800 position 17-16S 177-07E. At anchor in Nalauwaki Bay, Waya Island, Fiji

The southern Yasawas lie twenty five miles north west of Fiji's largest island, Viti Levu, a high circular island fifty miles wide. Viti Levu has a significant impact on the weather in the Yasawas. When the trade winds are blowing out of the south east, the usual direction, the southern Yasawas and the Mamanuka Islands, which are even closer to Viti Levu, are in the lee of the large island and light thermal conditions prevail there. When the winds shift to the south or north of east though, Viti Levu no longer blocks the winds and the Yasawas and Mamanucas are fully exposed. The winds in the smaller islands are sometimes even greater than the prevailing wind in these conditions if they happen to lie in the corridor where the wind accelerates around ends of Viti Levu. Typically this area of strongest winds lies very close to the edge of the lee. A prevailing wind shift of just a few degrees in these transition areas can change the wind strength from dead calm to thirty knots or more or vice versa.

The strong winds we experienced the night before last had died off early yesterday morning, and we weren't sure if it was a drop in the prevailing winds or if the winds had shifted a bit putting us into the lee of Viti Levu. It didn't matter, we wanted to take advantage of the calm conditions to jump the nine miles to our anchorage at Waya Island where we planned to hide from the strong south westerly winds expected last night. So we got an early start and powered south winding our way through the most picturesque islands we've seen so far in the Yasawas. We passed four small high islands each with a resort on a white sand beach. An hour and a half later we arrived at Nalauwaki Bay, a deep bay facing north on Waya Island.

It looked like six other cruising boats had come to the same conclusion we had about the upcoming weather and the best place to hide from it, because we found them at anchor in the bay when we arrived. They were nicely spread out though and it was a large anchorage so we were able to find a good spot away from the others to drop the hook.

Waya Island is the highest island in the Yasawas with peaks more than 1,200 feet high. We were studying the peaks with the binoculars after anchoring and Eric said, "Hey, somebody put a piece of wood in the shape of a horse on the top of that mountain!" A few minutes later the horse shape was gone. Much discussion and inspection of the mountains through the binoculars ensued until consensus determined that herds of wild goats were moving around on the tops of the peaks. They provided entertainment for the crew throughout the afternoon.

A strong south westerly wind filled in just before sunset as forecast and blew pretty hard all night. By this morning the wind had shifted back to east of south, and is expected to keep backing and dropping over the next few days. We'll probably stay here another day to let the weather continue to settle before moving to our next anchorage.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Interesting Weather

0800 position 17-08S 177-13E. At anchor in Vuata Bay, Naviti Island, Fiji

We jumped a couple of miles south to Vuata Bay yesterday. We found another resort ashore that looked like it was designed by the same architect who did the Korovou Eco-Tour Resort. This resort had a raft with a high diving board on it moored off of the beach. The rest of the crew dinghied in to check it out and found the resort open but empty. They are fully booked in a week though.

I think we are getting spoiled here in the southern Yasawas. Each anchorage is much like the last, a protected bay, a beautiful white sand beach, a resort ashore, decent snorkeling near the boat... There hasn't been much variety, but that is changing. There is some kind of weather system that will be passing through over the next couple of days that will make life interesting. The forecast varies daily but it looks like a bit of wind and swell out of the western quadrant that will make these west facing anchorages a bit dicey. Tonight the wind is forecast to swing west of south accompanied by a good sized southwest swell. We've picked out our hidey-hole for tonight, a north facing anchorage in a deep bay on the next big island to the south, Waya.

Our weather system started making its presence known yesterday. It rained all afternoon and evening and blew pretty hard last night, but the wind was out of the east so we were fine in Vuata Bay. Some of the gusts were up near thirty knots last night so Rob let out a bit more chain and turned on the GPS to make sure we weren't dragging anchor.

We made the best of yesterday afternoon's rainy weather for a movie matinee in the Van Diemen saloon theater complete with buttered popcorn. Eric chose "Raising Arizona" for the feature film.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Friday, September 1, 2017

Locally Owned and Operated

0800 position 17-06S 177-15E. At anchor in Natuvalo Bay, Naviti Island, Fiji

The Somosomo Bay anchorage was very rocky rolly due to a small swell from the north. It was so bad that we put out the "flopper stopper", a large plate that we hang in the water from the end of the boom to reduce the rolling of the boat at anchor. The rolling was still annoying though, so shortly after breakfast we pulled the hook and headed for a more protected anchorage three miles to the south.

We found one other boat moored as we turned the corner into Natuvalo Bay, but the forty foot Beneteau was kind enough to depart just as we arrived in the anchorage. This spot was much better protected from the north swell and it was glassy calm.

After we got Van Diemen secured Rob, Eric, and I dinghied ashore to check out the two resorts sitting behind the long white sand beach. The first, "The White Sandy Beach Resort" (how creative) looked like it catered to backpackers. We spoke to a Kiwi couple staying there and they said they booked it as a part of a package trip to Fiji. Meals on a set menu were included, so they didn't think there was a restaurant where visiting yachties could get a meal. We wandered down to the next resort, "The Korovou Eco-Tour Resort", which was more upscale. Here we found a restaurant that would serve us lunch.

We sat down at a waterfront table and the owner's brother Inya joined us. He told us that his brother Sairo had obtained permission from his large Fijian family, which jointly owned the land, to use the property for a resort. In return Sairo agreed to "take care" of the family. Sairo started with just a couple of bures (bungalows) and slowly built the resort into a very nice facility with accommodations for about fifty guests, a restaurant, and pool. The whole resort was very nicely done. We were pleased to see that the locals could build, own, and operate a resort here as well as anybody else and keep the profits in the country. I could see myself bringing Lori back to a place like this.

After lunch Eric homed in on a couple of single gals from Italy and the Czech Republic and talked them up in the pool. As Rob and I wandered down the beach a power catamaran ferry, the only form of transportation between the scattered Yasawa settlements and civilization, arrived to pick up and drop off guests from the two resorts. The staffs gathered and sang songs of greeting to the arriving guests. Pretty cool.

Eric expressed an interest in going ashore today to romance the Italian gal so I'm not sure when we will be departing for our next hop south.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: