Leg 5, 2002 : Pago Pago, Am. Samoa; Wallis, Futuna; Suva, Fiji
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Leg 5, Update 1
Our week in Pago Pago was relaxing, and we got caught up on many of our small projects. We were ready to
October 10, 2002 0130 13.50S, 175.49W Log: 62,862 Baro: 1010 Cabin Temp: 81F
Broad reaching at 6-7 kts in 30-38 kt ESE winds, under triple-reefed main and 30% jib
35 miles to Wallis Island
go ahead of time and as our crew had arrived Friday night, we invited them to join us Saturday noon for lunch to get a head start on safety orientation to enable us to set sail Monday afternoon instead of Tuesday morning.
Pago Pago harbor
on a quiet day
On the customs office forms I listed Wallis Island as our next port, but in reality, we planned to stop first at Niuafo'ou, if it meant better weather and an easy wind angle. A stationary front, sometimes called the South Pacific Convergence Zone parked over Samoa Saturday night, causing torrential downpours and minor flooding. It had moved just south of Samoa by Monday afternoon, and we hoped to avoid it.
Day 1: We left Pago motoring in calm winds and sloppy seas, but by 0200 on Day 2 winds had built to 25, gusting 30 in occasional heavy rainsqualls. We tried to choose a course that would keep the motion as comfortable as possible, but one by one nearly all our new crew succumbed to mal de mer. By 0800 hours we knew we had passed through the stationary front as saw the wind shift from WNW to WSW and around back to the normal ESE direction, but stay in the 25-35 knot range, with large, confused seas. Talk about trial by fire! This crew didn't get to break into passagemaking slowly, but they have quickly become excellent and attentive helmspeople, with not a single jibe made while sailing deep angles in heavy conditions.
This afternoon, Day 3, it looked like we were in the clear as winds dropped below 20 knots for the first time, seas moderated, and the sun came out. We decided to heave to for three hours to ensure a daylight arrival at Wallis Island, and to have leisurely showers on the aft deck. The buckets of seawater must have been in the low 80;s as we soaped up and scrubbed down before freshwater rinses. Amanda, always ready for a swim, tossed the Lifesling over and jumped in, alternating between swimming for dear life and clinging onto the fast dragging Lifesling line.
Jerry takes his trick at the
helm in yet another downpour
After our showers and while we were waiting hove-to to delay arrival, we saw a band of squalls approaching to windward, and we are still in those squalls, eight hours later, with winds of 30 knots, gusting to 40. From the NZ weatherfax we just received, it looks like the stationary front has moved over us again, and is sliding slowly southward. By this time tomorrow it will hopefully move to the south and put us in the clear. We know several protected anchorages on Wallis, and are definitely looking forward to some quiet time.
Let me introduce our Leg 6 crew:
Sam Parker, 59 aboard for his third consecutive expedition, an all-time record. We appreciate Sam more every day. During the week between expeditions, Sam flew over to Western Samoa, a separate country and checked out the harbor and facilities. He said there were 18 cruising boats anchored in the harbor and that the town of Apia was attractive, very friendly and interesting. That settles it! We are stopping there next year!
Jerry Eaton, 57 of the San Francisco Bay area is the husband of Karen Eaton who crossed the Atlantic with us one year ago on Leg 8, 2001. We got to meet Jerry as he was waiting on the dock, anxious to see how Karen liked the crossing. As an extended cruise under sail had been Jerry's dream, he was delighted to find Karen literally bubbling over with excitement. Within two weeks Jerry retired from his job as station manager of the CBS-owned San Francisco television station and ordered a new Hallberg-Rassy 43, which will be completed this December. Just after this expedition, Jerry is flying to the Hallberg-Rassy yard to see their new boat that will be nearing completion. Their 43 will be stored at the yard until April when they take delivery and sail to Norway, then down to England and on to the Med. What an exciting adventure they have ahead!
Denise Parker, 48, is a nurse and medical practice administrator from Wooster, Ohio whose husband Craig sailed with us on the previous leg. Craig is now taking care of their four boys, aged 11 to 25 and she and Craig are excited about taking delivery of their new HR 43 in April. They plan to keep the boat in Annapolis, Maryland for a season or two before shipping her to Lake Erie, a little closer to home. Denise and Craig currently have their Hunter 380 for sale.
Sue Grimm, 44, an orthodontist also from Wooster, whose husband Tom kept Leg 4 lively. Susan and Tom have a Beneteau 40.7 that they race out of Cedar Point, Ohio. Sue is more interested in cruising than racing and is a totally dedicated student, recording and retaining everything we cover. She is also and absolute ace on the helm in heavy weather and says that their kids, Heidi 13 and Tim 11 are great sailors.
Chuck Yingling, 60 just retired as a professor of neurosurgery at University of California San Francisco. Chuck and his wife Pat live overlooking the entrance of San Francisco Bay where Chuck enjoys sailing his Baba 30 out of Sausalito and they've just enjoyed cruising the canals of France.
Carl Nichols, 47 of Spokane, Washington, grew up surfing and sailing in Southern California and Mexico, but moved to Spokane for college and is enjoying raising his sons, ages 7 and 10 with his wife Yvette on 18 acres of land. They also raise cattle and enjoy sailing their Columbia 36 out of Everett, WA. We look forward to Yvette's joining us on Leg 5 next year in Suva.
October 12, 2002 09.00 13.17S, 176.10W Log 62,910 Baro: 1011 Cabin Temp: 83F
At anchor, Wallis Island
We didn't feel the bump as we crossed the dateline as it was still rough. Having lost a day we were now arriving at Wallis early Friday morning after another dark and squally night surfing along under triple reefed main. Our entrance through the pass into Wallis lagoon was dramatic with high winds and large following surf, and we were happy to be in the flat, though still windy lagoon. Not quite ready to tackle town we anchored at a small motu for a quiet breakfast, refreshing swim wee rest before learning from a yacht anchored nearby that customs office closed at 1:30 on Fridays.
An aerial view of the NE outer
reef and motus of Wallis Island
After navigating the 2-mile channel to the town of Mata-Utu we anchored off the supply wharf.
Amanda and I just made to customs and immigration before they closed for Le Weekend and were able to clear in and out at the same time. We all then spent the afternoon exploring the village ashore, having a leisurely meal and arranging for an Island tour in the morning. We choose to stay anchored off town for the night even though the boisterous conditions of 20-34 kts meant anchor watch for the night.
I had given Amanda the Scrabble computer game for her birthday and both official Scrabble dictionaries (thanks to Jerry) so she had been honing her skills on night watch. She had also aroused the crews' interest and an eager party of five (Sue and Carl working as a team) went to match. Competition was fierce as everyone (except Amanda) had years of Scrabble experience with their children.
Leg 5, Update 2
October 15, 2002 0200 17.02S, 180 Dateline, Log 63,249, Baro: 1012, Cabin Temp: 83
Broadreaching at 7.5 kts in 19 kt easterlies, 3 mi off the coast of Taveuni, Fiji
Our stay on Wallis was pleasant, but the wind didn't let up, blowing 20-30 knots until two hours before we set sail for Futuna Island. The weatherfax charts from New Zealand told the story; a stationary front running from Samoa to Fiji was responsible.
Our crew enjoyed a pickup truck tour of the island by Christian, a local small hotel owner who showed them the restored fort where human sacrifices were conducted. Chuck sat in the place where people were beheaded, and said he felt… This is a new one for us! We had never heard of this restored archeological site, and hopefully next year when we visit Wallis it won't be blowing a hoolie, so instead of standing anchor watch Amanda and I can check this out with our crew.
Wallisians performing a
Mid-afternoon crew returned and I was greatly relieved to raise anchor and move from the lee shore off
town to the relative shelter behind the motu near the lagoon entrance. After class the clouds parted, winds dropped from 25-35 to 15 knots and for the first time our crew got to see the stunning colors of a South Seas lagoon. We visited the motu and explored its miles of coconut tree-lined white sand beaches and were impressed by the huge surf crashing on the outer reef.
Lanutauake crater lake - Wallis
Leaving the choppy water of Wallis pass behind, we set a course for Futuna, a sister island, 135 miles away. Our clear skies only lasted a few hours, and then it felt like we'd sailed back into the stationary front that had followed us since Pago as we endured another dark night with lightning, rain and wind from different directions.
As we made landfall at Futuna the wind at was wrapping around the island and it initially looked like the roadstead anchorage, wide open to the SW, would be a on a lee shore. Breakers were visible on either side of the small indentation in the reef as we approached, but thankfully the wind was missing the bay and we were able to easily anchor off the new wharf in 25' with a sandy bottom, free of coral.
Mainsail being dropped as we enter Futuna
Amanda and I hurried ashore, hoping to catch the Gendarme before lunch, but that didn't happen as he drove by, headed for town as we neared his office. I flagged him down and he said to come back after 1400, so we ran crew ashore where they found the only restaurant, run by a French woman and her daughter, serving tasty home made pizza and ice cream.
M.T anchored at Futuna
Setting sail just after dark, we hoped to sight uninhabited Welangilala Island at the entrance to the infamous Nanuka Passage. One of three channels used to enter Fiji from the East, Nanuka is favored by commercial ships and knowledgeable yachts crews. Still, 150 miles of sub-surface reefs, strong currents, and poor chart surveys make this the most difficult area for navigation of our entire South Pacific itinerary. The most recent British Admiralty chart of this area is from surveys conducted from 1878-81 and has not been updated with satellite imagery, so GPS is of somewhat limited value here. Radar
is a useful tool for measuring distance and angles off land, but many of the reefs are just below the surface. Add to that strong, uncharted currents and it becomes clear why at least one ship or yacht are lost to the reefs in this area each year.
Crew gather for a group
photo on Futuna wharf
We did manage to sight Wailangilala just before dark, but neither the 90' tall lighthouse nor the recently added Racon were functional. Once past the island, we eased sheets onto a broad reach, scooting along at up to 8.5 knots on a lovely broad reach with half a moon lighting our track around the southern end of Taveuni Island that we just passed.
Savusavu became a Port of Entry for Fiji a few years ago and we have really enjoyed a few previous visits to this old plantation port. A few years ago Tony Philip and Geoff Taylor, two keen yachtsmen from Suva established the Copra Shed Marina. They turned an ancient shed used to store copra (dried coconuts) into a fuel dock, yacht club, restaurant, bar, dive shop and small store. With moorings out front and a convenient dinghy dock, plus total hurricane protection provided by an island surrounded by mangroves out front, their idea has proven a winner. We just overheard on the radio that there is now a competing operation next door, so it will be fun to see the developments in the past four years since our last visit.
Leg 5, Update 3
October 23, 2002 2100 18.07S, 178.25E Log: 63,428, Baro: 1012, Cabin Temp: 79F
At anchor near Royal Suva Yacht Club, Suva, Fiji
Day 11, Oct 16
Denise and Sue, the "Nerd Girls", studying hard
We arrived in Savusavu amid gusty, squally winds and were directed to a mooring in front of the Copra Shed Marina, www.savusavufiji.com. Quarantine, immigration and health inspectors were clearing other boats in at the time, so we didn't have to wait long for clearance. As soon as we were allowed ashore, crew landed on the dock with laundry and shower supplies in hand. We enjoyed a fun afternoon checking out the colorful and friendly public market, looking in the packed little Indian shops and scooping out a restaurant for dinner. We settled on a new one, the Bula Re Café in the heart of this bustling little town of 3,000. Owned by a German (we think) woman, this is the first Fijian restaurant we have ever seen. The food was tasty and very attractively presented, with dalo (taro root) included with most dinners.
At the Savusavu Yacht Club (part of the Copra Shed Marina) we had been invited to a sing-along at the new Waitui Marina Bar next door, so we all headed there after dinner. We also got the scoop on the new marina.
Dinner at Bula Re Café, Savusavu
Curly Carswell, a salty kiwi of indeterminate age had been sent by the NZ Army to train US and Fijian troops in jungle warfare in Fiji 30 years ago. He liked it so much that when
he was wounded in Vietnam, he set his sights on permanently retiring in Fiji. He has since started several hotels, taken of and gone cruising and retired several more times. We first met him a few years back when he was operating Eco Divers & Tours out of an office in the Copra Shed. Recently he and his wife Liz have struck out on their own, establishing 20 hurricane moorings, a dinghy dock, new showers, a reading & video room and bar. The next phase will see marina berths, spas utilizing the natural bubbling hot water along the beach and a restaurant. We wish him, and anyone catering to the cruising yachties all the best!
For details on Waitui Marina, check out www.waituimarinafiji.com.
Curly Carwell, owner of
Wai Tui Marina, and his staff
We walked in on a very lively music night! One cruiser played a mean fiddle, another had a guitar, and lots had percussion instruments. Amanda danced a sailors hornpipe, several of the women, including one from Hawaii danced the hula and Tahitian Tamure, and to top it off, the Fijian bartenders came down and sang haunting Fijian songs. It was a delightful evening, and I think the first of many at Waitui Marina.
Wai Tui bar staff take a break
from serving to sing couple of Fijian tunes
Crew busy writing their journals
On Day 12, our industrious crew had organized an expedition by four wheel drive truck over the mountains of Vanua Levu to the sugar mill town of Labasa. Rosi, our colorful Fijian guide got the truck to stop where some Indians were cutting cane and made sure that we all got a taste of raw sugar cane. Carl couldn't resist trying to cut cane with a cane knife. We gained a new respect for the industrious Indian people who labor many hours a day cutting cane in the hot and dusty fields.
Day Excursion Team Photo
Rosi our tour guide explaining cane cutting
Carl try his hand at cane cutting
Curly and Rosi had organized an excellent lunch in an old ex-colonial hotel in Labasa, as well as an extensive tour of the sugar mill. It turned out that the mill had just temporarily broken down before we arrived, so we could really see how everything worked, since it was a little quieter than normal.
Labasa's main street
Rosi gathers us back into the jeep for a few more bumpy miles
Labasa Sugar Mill
Before we knew it, it was time to set sail again.
Day 11, Friday, October 18
With 65 miles to sail including the tricky Makagi Passage near the end, we left Savusavu at 0530 for our passage to Levuka on Ovalau Island. We noticed a Passport 51 leaving at the same time as us, but we slowly pulled away from them, thanks to several sail changes and some excellent helmsmanship. All day long the Passport was close astern, but when Sue took the helm coming through Makagi Passage, there was a glint in
her eye - no way was she going to let the larger boat gain on her! She managed to stretch out our lead considerably! Who says cruisers aren't competitive?
Girls Rule...as Sue steers and Denise
trims to out race a fellow cruiser
We arrived in Levuka (www.BulaFiji.com/Levuka.htm) with plenty of daylight left, thanks to the fast passage, and after clearing customs we headed ashore to enjoy our favorite town in Fiji. In the 1850's, Levuka was a booming whaling port, similar to Russell, New Zealand, and Lahaina, Maui. It was here that King Cakobau and most of the leading chiefs ceded Fiji to Great Britain in 1874.
Amazingly, the town today looks almost identical to photos from the turn of the century. The historic wooden seafront buildings have been carefully preserved, and an excellent museum is housed in the old
Morris Hedstrom grocery store building next to the wharf. We all ended up at the Royal Hotel, a timeless beauty, now catering to backpackers instead of to colonial British planters. The hotel is like a museum and with a tropical plant filled courtyard and gracious common areas. Its charm provides a wonderful quiet retreat to bygone days.
The old waterfront of Levuka town
That night and the next morning it rained so hard that the dinghy nearly sunk. We hid below and practiced splicing and sewing until mid-afternoon when the sun broke through and we had a great sail to tiny Leluvia Island, where we enjoyed great snorkeling with tons of brightly colored fish and vibrant soft coral.
Day 13 was our last passage, about 50 miles to Suva. We started out close reaching in 15-18 knot
winds, but on the final stretch into Suva the winds went light and we motorsailed.
Jerry sews the finishing touches
to a seat slipcover as Chuck completes
the final stage of a braid splice
It felt like a homecoming in some ways, anchoring off our yacht club, the Royal Suva, and going ashore to see how much the club had been tarted up for the 70th anniversary. Our crew jumped at the showers, then we sat around the lawn picnic tables chatting with other cruisers before enjoying a tasty farewell dinner at the club restaurant.
On our final day, I headed to town at 0715 with papers and passports in hand, to check us in with customs and to sign crew off with immigration. When I returned to the boat, nearly everyone was involved in the Scrabble championship that Chuck eventually won but no one was in a hurry to go ashore. That is the
mark of a successful expedition for us, when we get to port and expedition members are enjoying each other's company and being on the boat to the point that they aren't in a rush to go anywhere.
Everyone enjoying sunset drinks
on the lawn at the Royal Suva Yacht Club
Eventually crew decided to all fly to Musket Cove Resort and Yacht Club on Malololailai Island together for a couple of days of snorkeling, diving, exploring and probably lying around the pool!
Amanda and I have enjoyed a quiet time, getting four coats of varnish on and getting MT in top form, because as soon as Leg 6 is completed, her parents are arriving from Tasmania for a week-long visit at Musket Cove.
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