Fiji to NZ 2018

Every passage is different, even ones that you’ve made before. We’ve just completed our third passage south from the tropics to New Zealand. During this passage we motored more hours than we’ve ever done before, a choice driven by the conditions – very light to nonexistent wind from the south as well as several days pushing through a north-setting current* – and the need to make port before a forecast  of strong south winds. But it wasn’t all frustration: We had some great sailing, too.

Rand was running fuel consumption calculations daily to ensure that we had enough to get in. We arrived with 8.3 cm of fuel in the tank, or about 15 hours of motoring available. Closer to the bottom of the tank than we have ever been. By way of comparison, we used about that much fuel in 2010 on the thee month voyage to Hawaii from Astoria, around the islands, and back to Astoria.

Last year, we made this trip a month earlier, arriving on November 6. Some of the differences in wind and current conditions between the two passages may be due to seasonal variation. Or simply to the unusual regional weather pattern in the SW Pacific that has been happening over the past several weeks, having nothing to do with the changing season. We speculate, but don’t have enough data to hazard a guess.

In any case, we arrived in good shape on Thursday evening, December 6. We had some of our most boisterous sailing while rounding Cape Wikiwiki and into the Bay of Islands in the late afternoon. Strong headwinds and heavy chop at the cape and in the outer bay made it most efficient to hand-steer the last 10 miles under motor, with only the double-reefed mainsail up. Halfway up the bay, protected by the surrounding hills, the conditions began to moderate and by the time we glided up to Q dock the water was glass-smooth and the wind a mere vesper. We were happy to be able to dock at 9:40 pm while there was still some light left in the sky. A small celebratory whiskey to mark our arrival was followed by a quiet, uninterrupted night’s sleep – the first in nine days.

Some statistics for this passage –
Passage duration: 9 days, 9 hours, 15 minutes
Time under motor: 114 hours, 30 minutes (51% of passage)
Time under sail: 110 hours, 40 minutes (49% of passage)
Fuel used: 242 liters or 64 gallons
Sail changes: 44 (includes tucking in & shaking out reefs)
Average time between sail changes: 5 hours
Unauthorized passengers: 1 gannet that circled overhead one evening, scouting for a perch before landing on the crane; it stayed 3 hours, leaving its calling cards on deck, and then disappeared.

*As a result of our experience with currents on this trip, Rand is now obsessing about understanding ocean currents and their computer models available to sailors, such as OSCAR.

Garden of the Sleeping Giant

There’s a small group of yachts here in Port Denarau Marina – the “malingerers” as someone called us – who are waiting for a good weather window to begin our late-season passages south. We check the weather forecasts and study the models twice a day. After absorbing the latest update, we wander down the dock, second cup of morning coffee or the evening beverage of choice in hand, stopping for a chat (or consult) about the latest weather prediction with whomever we run into. It’s the current favorite topic of conversation. Rand has organized two weather confabs — lots of talk about 500 mb, vorticity, troughs, ridges, highs, lows, and avoiding tropical depressions.

But we aren’t spending all of our time studying our laptop screens. Last week the crews of Velic and Scoots decided to visit The Garden of the Sleeping Giant. We all wanted to get out for some sight-seeing and Scoots had a new camera with a zoom lens to try out. Continue reading

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.