Halloween Fright

Thanks to Sara for this very topical, tropical, Jack-o-Lantern.

We had quite the Halloween fright on Velic yesterday.

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Lomalagi

Lomalagi at Matei from Velic anchored in paradise

We spent ten days on Taveuni Island with old friends Mark and Nancy. They flew out from the Pacific Northwest for a vacation in Fiji. A big focus of the trip was diving. We shared Lomalagi, a comfortable vacation rental house on the north tip of Taveuni in the village of Matei. Most homes and rental houses are named here and Lomalagi means ‘heaven’ in Fijian.

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Albert Cove: Hermits in Paradise

We pick up from our previous post in Paradise Resort, Taveuni, where we spent a very enjoyable week, including long lunch conversations with Morgan and Douglas of Tumbleweed. Douglas asked the most interesting question: “How has your sense of time changed while cruising?” I am still working on a good answer. But it has something to do with living life much more slowly and deliberately, while the days slide by more easily. Does that mean that time has sped up or slowed down? I will have to discuss with Mark, who is coming in October and understands these things.

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Paradise Resort from Velic. A wonderful, small resort on the the southern end of Taveuni island. The owners welcome cruising yachts, and that infuses a natural Bula attitude among all the staff.

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Fiji for Another Season

We are back in Fiji. Specifically, we are back in Savusavu, on the island of Vanua Levu. Savusavu is our favorite “landing spot” in Fiji. Suva, Fiji’s largest city, is on the main island of Viti Levu and is closer for yachts coming from New Zealand. But Savusavu, on the smaller island of Vanua Levu, offers a quieter, small-town vibe: One main street, a great market, several good grocery stores, and – of course – restaurants serving delicious Indo-Fijian-Chinese meals. And, Savusavu is just a pretty place with friendly people.

We are at the Copra Shed Marina again, as last year. Clearing in procedures were completed efficiently within a couple of hours. Next came hot showers and a cold drink on the clubhouse deck. We’re settled in now. The salt crust has been washed off, the sails stowed, and the cabin has had its post-passage cleaning. The sun awning is up, and produce has been replenished. Today we refilled the diesel tank and spare jerry jugs, ready to go. All is good.

We will probably be here in Savusavu until sometime next week, enjoying the local restaurants and hanging out with cruising friends. Plus, Rand hopes to get in some dives while we’re here. Then we’ll leave to take a look at some new-to-us anchorages around Fiji. And probably revisit some favorites from last season, too.

We stopped at South Minerva Reef for two days to wait for a low pressure system to move past, which brought unfavorable winds from the north. Some photos from our stop at South Minerva Reef on the passage from NZ:

White Hawk at South Minerva Reef 2018

South Minerva Reef at low tide looking east. Next stop in that direction: Chile, South America.

One of the small irritants we’ve been experiencing on passages has been the noise the anchor makes in the bow roller. As you can see in the photo, the Bruce Anchor makes a good pendulum, rocking back and forth on the roller, creating quite a thunk at each swing. Ideally the anchor would be off the bow entirely for ocean passages, removing weight forward and reducing pitching motion. And with the anchor chain completely stowed, the chain pipes closed water-tight. We tried removing the anchor for offshore passages, but then getting it back over the pulpit and out on the roller and shackled to its chain quickly as we approach an anchorage – after days or weeks at sea – is problematic. So we’ve ended up just leaving it in place, lashed securely to keep it from jumping out. It stays in place, but rocks back-and-forth, creating an annoying “clunk-clunk” in any kind of swell. For this passage, Rand devised a wedge system that grips the shank snugly. This new system is easily installed, easily removed, cheap, and doesn’t require any permanent alterations to the deck. Simple. Effective. We like it so far.

Wood wedges snugly grip the shank, keeping it from knocking against the bow roller’s sides.

 

Day 13 and counting down

We began Day 13 of our passage at noon today, counting from our departure from Marsden Cove, New Zealand, and including the 3 nights at anchor in South Minerva Reef. Around 4:00 PM on Thursday 26 July (NZST) we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and truly entered the tropics. Cabin temperature is now 24°C (79°F) and we’re barefoot again – the ocean is 27.4°C, or 81°F. We’ll be snorkeling soon!

We expect to arrive at Savusavu sometime the day after tomorrow (Monday). Arrival before noon would be nice. That would allow time for clearance procedures, followed by hot showers, cold drinks on the clubhouse deck, and a nice quiet dinner that someone else cooks. You think a lot about food while on a passage; fresh lettuce salads feature prominently in the imagination.

After over a week of mid-latitude weather, we now have classic trade-wind sailing with stable SE winds and scudding puffy clouds. We’re beam reaching on starboard, heading due North. The sailing is good today and we are reeling off miles. All is well on board. [end]

Minerva Reef Redux

In our second of second tries this year, like the hero Phineas Finn, we have returned – to the Minerva Reefs. Specifically, we’re anchored inside South Minerva Reef. In 2016 we stopped for a few days inside North Minerva Reef. People who have been reading our blog may recall the “Pizza on the Reef” post.

North Minerva Reef is the more frequently visited of the two, perhaps because the entrance is a little easier to navigate. This is our first visit to South Minerva Reef. South Minerva is a bit more remote, a bit wilder.

Experienced cruising friends who departed New Zealand at the same time as we did, and with whom we’ve been in contact over the past seven days on passage, recommended South Minerva Reef as their preferred stop: Fewer boats, and more lobster! John and Lynette provided encouragement and a bit of advice for making our way through the pass, having been here several times themselves. White Hawk and Velic are the only two boats anchored here. After lunch, White Hawk’s dinghy zoomed over with John & Lynette to welcome us and bring us three live lobster for dinner, caught this morning. Also an offer to accompany them on a hunting foray tomorrow. Weather permitting, I think Rand will join in the hunt.

The Minerva Reefs are amazing. There aren’t many places on this earth where you can anchor a small boat, encircled by coral reef, and see nothing other than the open ocean stretching to the horizon. The reef, which is awash much of the time, gives protection from ocean swell and encloses a deep sand bottom (but avoid the numerous bommies!) for your anchor to dig into.

The current plan is to wait out a another low system tomorrow – bringing squalls, blustery wind, and rain. We can see it approaching from the NW. It’s not a large or deep low, and favorable winds should return in a couple of days. When they do, we’ll pull up anchor & start on the next 400NM to Savusavu, Fiji.