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Leg 4 - 2012, Update 1

August 1, 2012, 2200 hrs, 13.48 S, 172.10 W, Log: 157,738 miles
Baro: 1011.2, Cabin Temp: 85 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 84.5 F
Broad reaching @ 6.8 kts with 13 kt SE trade winds, mellow seas

SURROUNDED BY ISLANDS AND MOONLIGHT!

What an amazing start we’re having to Leg 4 since leaving Apia, Samoa. Currently we are between the main Samoan islands of Upolu, Savaii and Apoolina. With nearly a full moon, almost flat seas and 15 kts tradeswinds, Mahina Tiare is in her element, gracefully scooting along silvery seas.

In between Leg 3 & 4 Amanda and I enjoyed our traditional few days away from Apia Marina, anchored nine miles east in secluded and protected Saoluafata Bay. Sunday afternoon returned to the bustling little city of Apia and Monday we rented a car for the day making grocery and errand runs in the morning, then driving nearly to the far western end of Upolu Island to check out Aggie Greys Beach Resort.

Aggies Hotel in Apia is the historic and iconic hotel where James Michener wrote “Tales of the South Pacific” and a favorite of ours for excellent Samoan feasts and exciting traditional dancing. A few years ago the family built Samoa’s first upscale 160 room beach resort which we’d heard great reports of. It seemed nearly an hour’s drive along the coast road until we reached the airport then hotel, but once we’d parked and walked into the lobby that looks directly out to the pool, beach and ocean we both breathed a sigh of relief. Peace and quiet! No barking dogs, trucks and forklifts moving shipping containers, maintenance workers banging ships hulls as they chipped rust away all day, every day. Instead we heard Kiwi and Aussie kids excitedly playing volley ball in the pool and running around on the beach. We found a couple empty chaise lounges and enjoyed just sitting by the pool. Amanda remembered her swimsuit and went for swims in both the ocean and pool and then we enjoyed a superb candlelight dinner on the beach as three of the staff made the magical evening even better by playing guitars and singing traditional songs.

Very early yesterday morning we parked the rental car near the town market and packed it with fruit and vegetables, then made a last run through Lucky Footown and Farmer Joe’s, our two favorite supermarkets before heading back to the marina to unload and pack it all away.

This morning I was on the downtown doorstep of Immigration before they opened at 9 and within another hour I’d also completed customs and port outbound clearance. At noon our gang arrived, stowed gear, enjoyed lunch and we set sail after Amanda completed mainsail raising, reefing and dropping instruction.

August 3, 2012, 1100 hrs, 13.29 S, 176.08 W, Log: 157,972 miles
Baro: 1011.2, Cabin Temp: 86 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 84.7 F
13 miles from Beveridge Reef, 134 miles to Niue Island
Broad reaching @ 7. 5kts with 19 kt SE trade winds, mellow seas

HANG ON - LANDFALL AHEAD!

Stewie happy to be at sea and continually learning

The sailing has been fabulous - we’ve hardly touched the sheets and only had to gybe once as steady trades occasionally reaching 25 knots has had Mahina Tiare surfing along through paradise like a freight train.

Wallis Island, like a miniature version of Bora Bora lies on the horizon just seven miles ahead and Amanda has just started her rigging orientation class with our eager crew on deck. Just about the time she is done teaching, we should be nearing the narrow and somewhat tricky Passe Honikulu where maximum currents reach 6 knots.

We’re off to an excellent start with our Leg 4 gang. Our three Aussies are all surfers (even though two are in their 60’s!), and three of our six are pilots and I think all are kayakers, hikers, snorkelers and several are divers, so there are non-stop stories of travel and adventure. They have really done their homework researching the pass, channel and potential adventures ashore and in the lagoon on Wallis, so I think they will hit the beach running!

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Leg 4 - 2012, Update 2

August 11, 2012, 0600 hrs, 17.26 S, 178.57 E, Log: 158,421 miles
Baro: 1010.2, Cabin Temp: 78 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 79.3 F
At anchor, Makogai Island, Fiji

SOUTH PACIFIC CRUISING AT ITS BEST

Dropping the mainsail as we enter the lagoon

Wallis Island was superb. Passe Honikulu was a bit challenging as we encountered up to three knots of ebb current, but the reef edges were easily visible and Paul B got a serious amount of navigation experience as he plotted us through multiple course changes in the twisting channels through coral reefs to the anchorage off the Matu Uta wharf.

Several guys were still working (two years and 6 million euros later!) on the wharf redevelopment, but it looked like very little additional progress had been made since last year. Our gang took off exploring the town and found dinner ashore. Early Saturday morning several of us headed ashore for a run where we found a veggie market in the women’s handicraft center and stopped by the supermarket to stock up on still-warm delicious French baguettes. After swim and breakfast we set sail for an open area in the lagoon where we practiced Lifesling overboard retrieval before sailing five miles back almost to the lagoon entrance, anchoring off Ile Faioa, in what we think has to be one of the prettiest anchorages in the world.

Stewie snaps the gang on their snorkel safari

Once anchored, six strong sets of hands quickly pulled me to the masthead where I was able to remount our Lopolight tricolor/anchor light. It only lit up for a second when turned on, but once we were at sea it worked fine, much to my relief. I’ll have to work on a more secure mounting arrangement after we complete Leg 4. Following Amanda’s teaching Rig Check, our crew snorkeled the considerable distance to the islet to check out the beach.

Sunday morning four of our crew was in the dinghy to head ashore at dawn. What at lower tides would have been a beach run turned out to be mostly a beach scramble and hike. When we finally got clear beach on the rugged windward coast we covered a considerable distance expecting to have to back track, only to be surprised to fine a clear trail across the island from ocean side to the lagoon.

With ESE winds, our 240 mile passage to the entrance of Nanuku Passage, the entrance to Fiji was a perfect close reach. The moon was full, the seas forecasted at 1.6 meters were about the flattest we ever see in the Pacific and Mahina Tiare zoomed along with winds reaching 29 knots. The weather charts showed we would be passing through a trough and sure enough, we got a couple of real gully-washer squalls. Our goal had been to reach Walangilala Island which marks the entrance of the difficult Nanuku Passage before dark but with the excellent conditions we sighted the island just after dawn Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, neither the lighthouse nor the RACON were working this year.

Crew discuss our weather options after storm tactics class

Nanuku Passage is between several subsurface reefs, has strong and uncharted currents, and the most recent chart is from 1854 (with updates to 2000), so all of our crew got serious navigation practice as we frequently updated our position on paper charts. The fine sailing conditions continued once we changed course to round the southern tip of Taveuni Island and by 0100 Wednesday we rounded Passage Point sheeted in the sails and set a course for the final five miles to the entrance of Nakama Creek and Savusavu town. It was drizzling off and on as it always seems to when we make landfall here but we had an excellent sail, right in on past the commercial wharf, and to the first of the yacht moorings.

It had been a week or so since we’d last heard from Robert and Lesley, Amanda’s parents, so we very quietly and cautiously started checking out names on the stern of any boat that looked like a Beneteau Oceanis 423. Sure enough right off the Copra Shed Marina dock we found them. By this time it was 0200 so we resisted my original plan of shooting a raucous flying monkey toy through their open hatch, instead we tied to one of only three available moorings and celebrated a safe passage and landfall with hot chocolate and cookies.

Copra Shed Marina www.coprashed.com/ called health, immigration, customs and bio-security, and by noon all officers had boarded us and we were free to move to the one available side-tie floating slip.

After launching the dinghy and mounting the motor at first light Amanda and I quietly motored through the fleet of moored yachts to greet Robert and Lesley aboard Gracias. They’d been enjoyed a peaceful week anchored nearby off Cousteau’s dive resort since arriving from NZ and it was wonderful to see them.

Savusavu’s two “marinas” are shore-based establishments (Copra Shed and Wai Tui Marina) with a total of about 60 moorings. Copra Shed has always had space for a few yachts to Med-moor stern-to the bar and restaurant deck but last year they added ten floating marina berths along the foreshore. Kind of funky, but we’re always delighted to moor in a way that allows our crew to come and go without needing to use the dinghy. At the head of the gangway crew were especially pleased to discover showers and loos along with Setari; the most helpful laundry lady, plus in the Copra Shed building the yacht club bar, two restaurants, marine store, art gallery, travel agent and foreign exchange office with internet cafè.

On the 8 am morning cruiser’s net we had learned that it was “Fiji Night” at Wai Tui Marina, http://waituimarina.bebi-electronics.com/, so we enjoyed an excellent Fijian dinner and the chance to meet cruisers from all over the world for the reasonable price of F$15, or US$7.

Stewie, whose father had been born in Labasa, the sugar mill town on the opposite side of the island (his grandfather had been the accountant for the mill), hired a mini-van and driver and Thursday morning after Diesel Engine class all of the guys took off for Labasa.

The lads and driver ready for adventure

Hilltop view of Labasa Sugar Mill

With hard hats donned everyone is ready for a mill tour

The impressive workings of the sugar mill

Meanwhile Amanda worked on a mainsail repair and I applied for our cruising permit and cleared out with customs. Our last chore was reprovisioning and it is always a delight to renew friendships with the lovely Indian and Fijian women in the town public market.

Thursday evening we organized a “Curry Night” at the Indian café across from Wai Tui where we enjoyed an amazing selection of dishes that just kept coming and coming plus the company of crews of two Austrian yachts and of Robert and Lesley.

Vegemite Kid and Zen Master strike yoga poses

All too soon it was time to set sail. We really love Savusavu - it is a bustling little town with ancient smokey busses and transport trucks but everyone without exception is incredibly helpful, welcoming and friendly. It has been about 12 years or so since Savusavu became a customs port of entry and the town REALLY appreciates the business and variety that the yachties add and aren’t afraid to say so. Our final morning run yesterday was just to Hot Bread Kitchen where we picked up still-warm coconut buns and delicious mixed-grain bread before we slipped lines and set sail for Makogai Island, 53 miles away.

We’d been interested to see how Gracias, Robert and Lesley’s new (to them) Beneteau Oceanus 423 sailed. With Stewie aboard for a ride they kept us on our toes as the winds gradually increased. I had thought that Gracias’s flatter more modern underbody design might pass us in the lighter winds, but not so - MT was able to outpoint and outsail in lighter winds (Robert later admitted to some motorsailing) but as winds reached 12 knots Gracias’ speed was fairly close to ours.

MT enjoying the tropical breeze

Makogai Island has the site of a former leper colony where 5,000 people with Hansen ’s disease from around the Pacific were housed. Many of the buildings are still standing and some are used by the Fisheries Department who have established a giant clam nursery and turtle hatchery. Besides the five families of the fisheries staff the island’s only other inhabitants are squatters from various islands in Fiji that live in the old staff housing about an hour’s walk away. “Squatters”

Kameli and Paul B enjoying Kava

sounds kind of harsh for the five or so families living on the other side of the island as they are lovely folks, and two years ago we walked across to join them for church. This year our crew pooled their left over CFP currency from Wallis and we bought a substantial amount of school supplies to donate to the small school.

After anchoring Robert and I went ashore in the late afternoon to meet Kameli, the head of the Fisheries station, to ask permission to anchor and offer sevusevu, the traditional gift of a bundle of kava roots. Kameli had already recognized Mahina Tiare and said that Beth and Norm who had sailed with us to Makogai on Leg 4-2010 had just visited two weeks earlier. When we asked if he’d rather we’d present our kava that night or the next night, he said, “This is Friday night! Bring it tonight and we’ll all share some bilos of kava”.

The five Fisheries staff guys had taken one of the skiffs 1.5 hours to Levuka, the nearest town, to pick up supplies, and were supposed to return that evening. As it turns out, they stopped by the pub and also picked up beer and wouldn’t be back until the morning so we enjoyed an evening of kava with their wives and Kameli and his wife.

August 16, 2012, 053000 hrs, 17.40 S, 177.23 E, Log: 158,531 miles
Baro: 1008.2, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 83.1 F
Vuda Point Marina, Fiji

Saturday morning we covered Clearing Customs and Cruising Medicine classes with PowerPoint first thing, then packed up the school supplies and headed off on the 1.5 hr trek across Makogai Island to the school. It was a great hike and when we arrived one of the school teachers showed us the school and gratefully accepted the posters, exercise books and supplies, saying that many of their students’ parents can’t afford even the exercise books which cost the equivalent of US$.50 each.

The small school

Some of the teaching charts and books crew donated

Two of the teachers insisted we join them for kava on a mat under a shade tree. Feeling the effects of kava in the hot sun we welcomed the offer of fresh coconuts

A young boy skillfully climbs a tree for fresh coconuts.

Everyone helps out in taking the coconuts out of the garden

An lesson in coconut opening and drinking

Group photo with our new friends

Once back aboard, we motored MT over to anchor off Black Rocks, a superb snorkeling spot where several spotted turtles and we were amazed at the vitality and health of the vibrant reef.

Itaki, the attractive kindergarten teacher and a friend joined us for the walk back to Dalice, where we were anchored. Neither of the girls wore shoes on the rugged track nor did they break into a sweat as we struggled to keep up.

That evening our crew watched Pacific Rescue DVD of the Queen’s Birthday Storm and Sunday morning we raised anchor early to set sail on a 50+ mile passage to Nananu-I-Ra, as small island just N of Viti Levu, Fiji’s mail island.

Our passage started with light winds which built to perfect broad-reaching tradewinds perfect for celestial practice. Stewie, our navigator had his hands full dodging numerous reefs and even managed to sail us through the narrow pass and right to the idyllic anchorage.

Maciej takes a noon site

Angella and Martin Minshall who had joined us for our April 2010 Seattle Offshore Cruising Seminar and now sailed their 36’ sloop Katie M II from Vancouver stopped by to say hello and joined us for breakfast the following day after crew had gone aloft for rig inspection.

We were all fishing but Lesley won the prize landing two trevally which Paul did an excellent job of filleting for our pot luck dinner aboard MT with the crews of Option One and Gracias. We had landed a large barracuda, but tossed it back because of concern of ciguatera.

Tuesday we were underway in the moonlight by 0530, arriving off Lautoka’s commercial wharf by 0800 when all but Amanda headed ashore to the downtown immigration office to sign off crew. I was amazed how uncrowded the office was and in just minutes we were done with the paperwork and headed out on a little taxi tour of Lautoka town.

Stewie overcomes his fear of heights while the gang haul away
Minutes later, Mike Radley, Leg 6-1996 swung by with his wife Karen to say hello. They were anchored nearby on their kauri Mummery 39 Option One and on Monday, they and Amanda’s parents raced us all day along the north shore of Viti Levu to an isolated anchorage called Ba Roads.

Amanda teaching sail repair

We stopped and walked through the huge public market covering one square city block, stopping to buy kava and pineapples and see the fish market. Normally when Amanda and I go to this market it’s jammed and bustling but at 9am it was quiet, the vegetables were beautifully organized and nearly all of the vendors greeted us.

We had heard that Vuda Point Marina http://www.vudamarina.com.fj/ had been totally packed to the gills, but were pleasantly surprised to find several open Med-mooring berths. That evening we had an excellent graduation dinner next door at First Landing Beach Resort http://www.firstlandingfiji.com/ where Stewie’s father, John and friend Bridie plus Robert and Lesley joined us. There were a few tears in the group when the Fijian band came over and sang Isa Lei, the Fijian farewell song.

Wednesday morning was a busy one, cleaning and packing, but once ashore, our Leg 4 guys were already making plans to sail with each other on their own boats and to sign up together for Leg 3-2014, Rarotonga to Hawaii. I think that means they really enjoyed each others company!

For us, Vuda Point Marina makes life easier than any other port in the Pacific with power, water, fuel, propane, a marine chandlery, small grocery store, self-service laundry all in one friendly and very reasonably-priced location. Additional bonuses are Lautoka town just a 15 minute cab ride away, and Malololailai Island, where we got married on the beach just a two hour sail away. How can you beat that?

Parents join us at first landing - Bridie, John, Stewie, Lesley, Amanda and Robert

Leg 4 Lads at Lautoka market Stewie, Paul C, Peter, Zane, Maciej, Paul B

Here’s our excellent Leg 4 crew:

Paul, 54 from San Francisco area
Paul must be very organized as he manages 22 passenger trains and crews and is very excited about retiring and cruising on his Bristol Channel cutter that he has been busy refitting.

Maciej, 58 originally from Poland, now living in Texas
Maciej told us amazing stories of watching the tanks roll into Poland, then emigrating first to Sweden, then Canada and finally the US, working as a software engineer. Now retired, Maciej has been looking for a cruising boat.

Peter, 47 now lives in Sydney, but previously lived and flew out of Dubai, where he kept a 30’ sloop. Peter now captains A330 jets to exotic places like Bali, Paris and Honolulu and is preparing his Jeanneau 40 for a sail north up the Australian coast, with stops planned in Surfers Paradise to visit Stewie and Paul.

Stewie, 60 from Coolangatta, south of Brisbane, Australia
Last year on Leg 5 Stewie earned the name “Vegimite Kid” for his near-fanatical love of the vile Australian toast spread made by Kraft. This year Stewie earned the moniker “Labasa Boy” when it was revealed his father was born in this sugar mill town and educated in Suva. Stewie is a keen surfer, runner, SUP boarder and yogi and has promised to teach us how to surf if we visit him again this year.

Paul, 61 is a surfing, running and yoga buddy of Stewie’s whom we met last year when visiting Stewie. He has recently designed and imported a line of SUP’s (stand up paddle boards) and is involved in real estate.

Zane Laser, 41 from Ohio
A keen dinghy sailor, Zane and his wife joined us for our Chicago Offshore Cruising Seminar and we could tell instantly that both had been seriously bitten by the travel and adventure bug. Zane is an eye surgeon that is making plans to possibly buy a boat to keep nearby on the Great Lakes and then eventually start moving it further south each summer.

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Leg 4 - 2012, Itinerary


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