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Leg 4, 2013 Apia, Samoa to Lautoka,Fiji

August 7, 2013, 2030 hrs, 16.52 S, 179.16E, Log: 167,171 miles, 8 miles to Savusavu, Fiji
Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 81F, cockpit: 81F, seawater: 81F
Surfing smoothly straight downwind at 7-8.1 kts in 27-22 kt ESE tradewinds in smooth seas under full sails

We started Leg 4 by setting sail, the afternoon our expedition crew joined, for Wallis, a small French island 380 miles WNW of Samoa. This seems to be the year of fresh trade winds as we started out with 18-25 kts and these winds lightened only as we approached lovely Wallis Island on Saturday.


Jim keeps watch as Roni steers under the shade of the sun umbrella

Crew stand by to gybe

As two of our crew had fought a difficult battle with seasickness trying many different drugs and theories, we were happy to anchor in the lee of Isle Faioa, just inside the lagoon’s single pass. Within minutes everyone dove or jumped into the warm and inviting water and after class and a nap, several of us headed ashore to explore.


Allison and Bob marvel at the size of the bush hermit crabs
We were amazed how many coconut palm and pandanas trees had been blown over in the previous December cyclone and it was a real scramble to beat our way through the tangle of downed trees the half mile or so to the wild windward beach where breakers shot spray high into the air. We tried to find the trail back across the islet, but with darkness approaching gave up and hiked several miles around the southern tip and back to the dinghy.

The following morning nearly all our crew joined us for a sunrise beach hike before returning for breky and marine weather. That afternoon we transited the lagoons seven miles of twisting coral channels, having everyone practice Lifesling overboard retrieval before sailing to the exposed anchorage off the town wharf. Amanda taught three strand splicing and helped with study time while Stewie and I ventured ashore to check out the Gendarmerie hours.


Liza and Bob work out the current weather fax charts

First thing Monday morning we all headed ashore at the wharf and landing for sunrise runs or walks.


We were surprised when happened upon a roadside site a porker was having its hair burned off with a blow torch, readying it for being roasted on a spit.
A couple of old locals guys were weaving coconut baskets and some younger chaps were preparing fire and rocks for a umu or earth oven and Amanda quickly joined in the weaving party and promptly got hands on instructions on how to weave a basket. After enquiring as to what the feast preparations were for we were told it was funeral preparations.


A pickup truck loaded with a HUGE fire-roasted pig joined our gathering.
As we were admiring the size of the pig and the umu preparations another two pig loaded pickups arrived along with the daughter of the deceased who invited us to the morning kava ceremony. Thinking that this might be a lengthy process and the fact that we were dressed in our running kit we politely declined her offer.

Upon returning to MT we had our own piggy breakfast of sorts with yummy freshly baked croissants, pain au chocolate and crusty baguettes. Clearing into Wallis required us all to appear at the Gendarmerie so we then trouped up the hill to their compound. The officer checking us in asked details of where we were sailing after departing Wallis, and then confused me by saying, “I go too!”, explaining that it was his (but not his wife’s) dream to sail around the world.

We then set sail for the narrow pass, eight miles to the south, slowing down to let a rain and wind filled squall pass before heading out. We had squally conditions on the first half of the 380 mile passage, but even with three reefs in the main made much better time than expected, arriving at the entrance of the challenging Nanuka Passage just before dawn on Wednesday. Once we confirmed our position we were able to ease sheets and bear off by 30 degrees, and start surfing on the final 100 miles to Savusavu.


Wing and wing as we surf Nanuka Passage
All day Wednesday we passed islands and a couple ships. Nearly every time we’ve made this passage previously we’ve had 30-40 kt winds and squally conditions. Not this year! We had clear skies and excellent sailing until the wind finally headed us just a couple miles from the entrance to Nakama Creek and Savusavu.

It was totally dark though clear as we crept along Nakama Creek at only 2 kts dodging 50+ moored and anchored yachts off Waitui Marine and Copra Shed’s landings. Amanda spotted Gracias, her parent’s Bob and Lesley’s Oceanus 432 that they had just sailed up from NZ to meet us, and they were still awake to shout greetings as we passed. A boatman from Copra Shed Marina lead us to the only available mooring and Dolly Singh, the ever-conscientious and attractive marina manager who had returned to her office after going home for dinner, greeted us over the radio assuring us that she would be alerting officials first thing in the morning regarding our inbound clearance. We put on the kettle, enjoyed tea and bickies and a surreptitious visit from Robert and Lesley before everyone collapsed in their berths, looking forward to a full night’s sleep.

Clearance was completed by 10 am and Dolly had one of Copra Shed’s brand new marina berths waiting for us. Both our fridge and freezer had been slowly getting warmer and Robert had booked the top refrigeration mechanic on the island who amazed us by working non-stop from noon until 10pm, successfully repairing and recharging both systems.


Amanda taught braid splicing at a Copra Shed picnic table while the refrigeration guys were beavering away down below

Friday our crew went off on adventures to a waterfall while we reprovisioned and tidied MT.

We’d planned to leave the dock and anchor out a few miles down the coast for snorkeling and a quiet evening, but Allison ran into Rachel, one of her best friends from high school in Florida who has been working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji for the past two years, so we enjoyed an amazing dance show by local children plus and entertaining dinner ashore at Copra Shed with our crew, Rachel, and Robert and Lesley.

Yesterday morning we slipped our lines and headed out at 0700 on a windless 55 mile passage to Makogai, where we are now anchored.


Amanda, Rachel and Allison enjoyed an impromptu dance with the performers

Allison and Rachel

August 12, 2013, 0530 hrs, 17.26 S, 178.57E., Log: 167,219 miles, At anchor, Makogai Island, Fiji Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 81F, cockpit: 81F, seawater: 81F

Once anchored Amanda taught sail design and trim while I went ashore to meet our good friend Kamele, head of the Fisheries Dept. turtle and giant clam propagation program, only to find he had gone to Suva for a funeral. Waisaki and his wife Kara, whom we’d met during several previously visits, kindly gave us permission to come ashore and said that we could present sevusevu, the ceremonial bundle of kava at 7pm that evening.

What a lovely evening we had! Alicia, the lovely youngest daughter of Philip, the oldest man on the island and nominal chief, mixed and served many rounds of kava and then father and daughter plus others sang and played guitars and ukuleles - some Fijian and some western songs.

Yesterday we got up early and Amanda taught everyone how to go aloft safely to learn rig inspection. Roni, whom we’ve nicknamed “Wonder Woman” free-climbed 62’ to the masthead, with only Allison tailing the slack and Liza on safety back up - a first ever for a woman expedition member!


Allison’s masthead view of Gracias anchored off Dalice village on Mokogai
We then divided up the boxes of school books that Amanda’s brother David had collected for us in NZ and hiked 1.5 hrs across the island to the only school where we again met Luisa, the same school teacher we had enjoyed visiting and delivering school supplies last year. She heard Amanda’s signature bird call and knew it must be the MT crew arriving. She totally remembered us from last year and laftrer greeting Stewie by his Fijian nickname “Labasa Boy” she asked after Amanda’s dad, the airline pilot, scientist and eye doctor. As with last year, her school teacher husband and another teacher were away at a teacher’s conference on Viti Levu, but we enjoyed her showing us the school and learning more about this sparsely-inhabited island. She said there are now eight families in the school village and six at the fisheries compound.


Crew in a classroom delivering school supplies to Luisa and her son.
The island’s sole source of income is in staging weekly dances for two liveaboard dive boats that bring their guests ashore. After several years of saving, the entire island population is going on a two-week vacation to “the mainland” as they call Viti Levu. They have chartered a bus from Patterson Shipping, one of the ferry companies, and the entire entourage of about 50 will circumnavigate Viti Levu. They’ll be visiting the sugar mills, Fiji water, the marina’s and goldmine while camping out at friends and relatives around the island. Only a few of the children have been off the island, other than go to Levuka, a 50 minute boat ride away, and Luisa said the parents are even more excited than the children.

As a thank you for our visit two of her students climbed a tree for drinking coconuts and then promptly grated mature nuts knowing that last year Amanda requested some for cooking. Stewie then decided to liven things up by teaching the boys cricket and quickly scouted about gathering up wickets, bat and tennis ball. The impromptu cricket match started quite a riot and all was well until we thought we’d lost the ball in the bush. It’s was good thing Amanda also understand cricket because we Americans didn’t have a clue what was going on!


Amanda gets ready to bat as Stewie coaches the bowler

The village children loved showing us the turtle ponds

Upon returning to Dalice, where MT was anchored we visited more with the villagers and enjoyed time with the village children.


John, Lisa, Roni, Allison, Bob. Stewie and Amanda with Kara’s large baking pan overflowing with our dinner treat of umu roast pig, taro and pulsami (delicious spinach cooked in coconut milk).
Kara asked Amanda if we would like some roast pork and taro. Her husband and dogs had been successful the night before and she had just pulled their Sunday roast dinner out of the umu, or underground earth oven. Once we’d completed cruising medicine and storm survival classes Robert and Lesley who are anchored next to us joined us for a real feast aboard MT.

Here’s our Leg 4 team:

Liza, 13, 8th grade
I have sailed since I was nine on Toppers and El Toros but I wanted experience on a larger boat. My passion is water polo and I enjoy sailing too. I am 1st chair violin in orchestra and did six years of Tai Kwan do.

Roni, 49
I’m a cruiser want to be having never really sailed but have a “can do” attitude and after two weeks with John & Amanda feel like I might survive cruising. I work as an Army Colonel Radiologist so that I can play when not in uniform and spread happiness. Mahina Tiare III was all about new adventures, laughs and learning in a positive and very safe environment. Perfect preparation for cruising adventures ahead!

Bob, 51
I am a lifelong coastal and inland sailor now recovering from a 20+ year hiatus. As my family gets ready for a year-long cruise to the South Pacific from our home in Hawaii, I was seeking offshore and coral reef experience. Now we just need to find a suitable boat for our adventure!

Allison, 27
I am the director of a product for a San Francisco start-up. I’ve lived in the Bay area for six years and have been racing in the Express 27 and Vanguard 15 fleets for two years. I’ve sailed my entire life, starting out in Optimists when at age seven and working my way through Lasers, 420’s, J-24 etc. My primary reason for joining the expedition is to gain more experience toward doing either the Transpac or Pacific Cup races, as well as gain cruising experience for future vacations.

Stewart, 62 (aka Vegemite Kid, Labasa Boy or Suga)
I am a part-time accountant on Australia’s Gold Coast, or so my staff would suggest. I surf too much and love to sail and travel. This is my third expedition aboard MT and you never stop learning. My father was born in Labassa at the sugar mill (on Vanua Levu, the island that Savusavu is located on) hence my nickname, “Labasa Boy”.

Jim, 72
Jim is from Wyoming and has worked all over the world in heavy construction. He had to leave the expedition in Savusavu due to medical issues.


Liza takes a noon shot
Monday morning, August 12th, we set sail through Vatu-I-Ra passage for Volivoli Bay and accomplished plenty of teaching and navigation practice on the way.


Volivoli staff gathered around the kava bowl after their performance
Volivoli was a new anchorage for us but we’d heard there was a small kiwi-owned budget resort ashore with road access for running and we were delighted with what we found! As soon as we anchored one of the dive boat crews came by, welcoming us to the anchorage and ashore. Once ashore we learned that there was a meke, or traditional dance, planned at sunset on the beach so we all timed our runs and hikes to be back for what turned out to be a lovely evening. The dance group were the hotel, diving and grounds staff and although they weren’t totally organized the music, chanting and dancing was authentic and very traditional.

We had planned on a second running through of Lifesling overboard rescue Tuesday morning before setting sail, but the winds went walkabout and we ended up motor sailing all day to a strange but favorite anchorage of ours off Ba Roads. The anchorage is far from

Allison, with her racing spirit, keeps us ahead of Gracias
land and near a shipping channel but in shallow water with sandy bottom and an amazing 360 degree view. Gracias caught a fish and rafted up to MT so everyone could check out Robert & Lesley’s Beneteau Oceanus 432 and have a shared dinner.

At first light Wednesday morning we motored 12 miles to Lautoka, a customs port of entry and commercial port to check in with customs and sign crew off at the immigration office in town. After immigration, we got the taxis to drop us at Lautoka’s amazing public market. It covers one square city block and offers an amazing cacophony of sights and smells with spice, kava, fish, vegie and fruit sellers. We then raised anchor and headed 11 miles down the coast to Vuda Marina, only to be told the small marina was filled with a waiting list. Using Stewie’s local phone we made back-up reservations at Denarau Marina, six miles further south, but decided to drop in at Vuda Marina to top up fuel and chat with the manager. As it turned out, before we even started fueling, Maria, the lovely Fijian manager came running out saying, “Mahina Tiare, we have room for you!”

When we wedged MT into the just-vacated bow-to mooring space a group of ten marina workers gathered at our bow with a guitar and ukulele, serenading us and saying, “WELCOME TO VUDA!”. That is the most amazing greeting we’ve received at any marina in the world.


MT in a cozy spot at Vuda Marina
We covered a couple last teaching topics before our crew enjoyed showers, ice cream and lattes. That night we had a wonderful graduation dinner next door at First Landing Resort where many of our Leg 4 & 5 crew enjoy staying.

Thursday morning after giving MT a very thorough clean our adventurous Leg 4 crew departed on great adventures: Allison was off to go kiteboarding on a small island near Volivoli, Stewie caught a ride to Musket Cove with former expedition member Mike and Karen Radley on Option One and the Rooks tribe (with the older two daughters having just landed) set off to explore and snorkel at many islands in the Mamanuca group.

Amanda and I, joined by Robert and Lesley rented a car and did an overnight trip around the SW corner of the island to Suva where we did a huge shop at Cost-U-Less (similar to Costco in the States) and checked out the start of Suva’s annual Hibiscus Festival. Now MT and Gracias are anchored off Musket Cove Resort where Amanda and I were married on the beach a few years back. Last night we enjoyed a barbecue ashore and tonight I think we’ll have dinner aboard Gracias. Life is grand.


 

Leg 4 - 2013, Sailing Itinerary

leg 1 | leg 2 | leg 3 | leg 4 | leg 5 | leg 6 | leg 7


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