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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Leg 5-2010

August 21, 2010, 1215 hrs, 17.19 S, 179.00 E, Log: 141,777 miles
Baro: 1013.7, Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 90 F, sea water 81.3 F


Ron and Sam working on our first day passage

With SE trades of 18-22 kts and flat seas we are surging along at a solid 8 - 8.5 kts enroute from Savusavu to Makogai Island for the start of our Leg 5 adventures.

We spent the week between Legs 4 & 5 in Savusavu. This was the first time Amanda and I have ever spent more than a couple nights there, and we really fell in love with the little sleepy river town. We had the opportunity to set up a great sailing adventure photo shoot with Tor Johnson from Hawaii, time for kayaking, meeting cruisers, and Amanda got in some stand-up paddleboarding with a new kiwi friend.

Several yachties have moved ashore in Savusavu while others live aboard on Nakama Creek and work ashore. The town seems to be slowly growing with a new restaurant or two, the grocery stores were busy and the vibrant public market was bustling while the local pearl farm looked prosperous.

We got a reasonably early start this morning for the 50 mile passage (first half to windward) to Makogai Island and have been “racing” Sagatarius, a Kiwi Chico 40. They started out with full sail, we tucked two reefs in the main and rolled one in the genoa, so it took us awhile to catch up and pass their very well-sailed sloop. They never eased up and ended up anchoring not long after we did.

Sagittarius looking great

View from Sagittarius of MT on the chase

Leg 5 is an inter-island expedition with lots of fast coastal sailing and one overnight inter-island passage. Our crew consists of two veteran expedition members; this is Sam Parker’s 11th expedition and Ron Poulton’s 6th. They met during an expedition around years ago, discovering that they lived close to each other near Palm Springs. Neither Sam’s wife nor Ron’s partner are keen sailors, so they keep joining us in different parts of the world every year or two, frequently for multiple legs, back-to-back. Ron used to be a keen surfer and sailboat racer and Sam has owned many boats, cruised Mexico with his wife Sandy and currently moors his Island Packet 370 in front of their beach house.


August 27, 2010, 0620 hrs, 17.57 S, 177.10 E, Log: 142,015 miles
Baro: 1015.2, Cabin Temp: 82F, Cockpit: 76F, sea water: 82.2 F

We’re just nearing Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island after an amazing night passage from Kadavu, the southernmost island in Fiji. From the time we set sail until now, the sailing has been perfect. It started deep downwind, and we ran wing and wing for a few hours, then as the wind shifted to the north under the brilliant full moon and clear skies, we gybed the main across onto a port tack and have been broad reaching ever since. The sun is just about to burst over the mountainous profile of Viti Levu and we are only one mile from changing course to sail in Navula pass.

Backing up a bit, we enjoyed our landfall at Makogai along with meeting the kiwi couple from Sagittarius after our 5 hours of racing for the five hour passage. They told us they didn’t even fish as they were afraid it would slow them down. (Now that’s true Kiwi sailors). Ashore we met our friend Kamele, the head of the fisheries research station, and he proudly showed us the numerous concrete tanks full of baby giant clams and the large ones they use for propagating. Kamele said the new military government had recently increased funding for the project and that the raising and transferring throughout Fiji of the endangered giant clams has been having great success.

Viewing the clam the clam nursery pools

Close up of a mature giant clam

Villages cleaning fish on the village beach

When snorkeling around the anchorage we were struck at the incredible health and abundance of coral and fish. Vibrant colors, every shade of the rainbow of soft and hard corals, plus numerous anenomes.

Sunday we set sail 25 miles south to Leluvia, a tiny island on the way to Suva. Just after we anchored, a boatload of Fijians sped past, waving and motioning for us to go ashore. We had first anchored off this tiny island years ago when we were cruising in company with Amanda’s folks. Back then the place was a busy backpacker’s paradise. This year the island’s only two guests, Australians who were snorkeling and working on their tans greeted us on the beach and said everyone else, including all of the Fijian staff had taken off for town, probably Levuka, on the boat that passed us. They had taken the key to the cooler with them, so there was no chance of cold drinks to watch the sunset with, so we went snorkeling instead.

Monday we sailed 50 miles for Suva making a brief stop for fresh bread and Tuesday at first light we set sail for Kadavu. We had a fast close reach south and although Sam and Ron had to tuck a reef in for a few hours once the seas calmed in the lee of the Astrolabe Reef and Kadavu it was back to full sail.

An encounter with pilot whales as we leave Mokogai

Sam and Ron stowing the main as we enter Suva Harbour

The lads around the kava bowl

Daku is a very protected bay with a small village that I have been visiting and bringing school supplies to for around 25 years. I was pleased to find my long-time friend Epi Ravono at home after a long day working at his mountain side garden sorting dried kava roots for a ship due to arrive that night. We had a potluck that evening, Amanda making a huge pot of pasta pesto with smoked fish and Kata, Epi’s always-cheerful wife and daughter Mariah contributing taro, pulasami (spinach leaves with coconut milk and corned beef) and fish.

As always, many of the neighbors joined us for kava before and after dinner and as always Epi sounded out his new ideas on how to raise money for the village. Last year he was very keen on growing vanilla, this year he is eager to start a small dive operation. We asked how business was at Pagageno ( and Dive Kadavu, two nearby and well-established small dive resorts, and he said “Very quiet, not much business”. I gently explained that Daku is very difficult to reach, has no accommodation, and would have tough competition, but Epi is keen to talk with the government about getting their own operation started.

Amanda and Kata with dried Vanilla

Mariah with her daughters Millie and Elizabeth along with a friends boy.

Tuesday we had a fast sail ten miles down the coast to Drue Village, home of Dive Kadavu Resort. They only had five guests (they probably have room for 30 or so) but welcomed us for dinner after which Ron eagerly signed up for a two-tank dive for the next morning. It was interesting to talk with the guests from Italy, Holland and England along with viewing the colorful coffee table photo album of guests pictures which certainly captured the incredible diving here.

Ron had two private dives – he was the only diver going out in the boat with the divemaster. Late that afternoon we set sail for Musket Cove Resort, 120 miles to the east on the small island of Malololailai.

Ron suited up and heading off on the dive boat

Trying for a sunny photo shoot off Drue

September 2, 2010, 1720 hrs, 17.46 S, 177.11 E, Log: 142,057 miles
Baro: 1015.2, Cabin Temp: 85F, Cockpit: 87F, sea water: 82 F

Back at Musket Cove!

We enjoyed some of the best snorkeling ever at a couple of offshore reefs near Musket Cove, ( a great time barbecuing ashore at Ratu Nemani Island, some hiking and trail running, kayaking, great dinners ashore, and then it was time to set sail for “the mainland” as locals call Viti Levu.

The hilltop view of the anchorage at Musket Cove

Afternoon snorkeling anchorage at the Sand Bank

The 'Bula Shirt' BBQ Boys...try saying that after a few Fiji Bitters

MT’s location at Musket Cove from Google Earth

We squeezed into one of the few available bow-in moorings at Vuda Point Marina ( ,and set to work to tidy up and wash down MT. After a wander around the boatyard, (which appears to be running a full capacity in marina space, haul out projects and storage) Ron and Sam smartly packed for they were off to circumnavigate New Zealand’s South Island. They’ll be returning to MT for the next leg to Vanuatu and are sure to be bringing back many stories of their NZ encounters. Amanda and I rented a car and made an overnight run to Suva specifically to shop at Cost-U-Less; an offshoot of Costco. Prices are dramatically lower and the quality higher than any store we’ve found in Fiji. The goods are imported from New Zealand, US and Australia and are aimed at bulk buying. After packing away our new goodies we set sail again to Musket Cove. Here we are; catching up on projects, writing, along with getting ready for Leg 6.

>>>>> Sail back to Leg 4

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