Episode 5 – Here at last

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Oceania » Fiji » Suva
August 25th 2011
Published: August 30th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

Captains Log: Voyage covered 1257 nautical miles taking 9 days and 18 hours at an average speed of 5.4 knots. Fastest 24 hour run was day 2 at 158 nautical miles with an average of 6.6 knots. The slowest days run was the eighth at 115 nautical miles, an average of 4.8 knots.

The Bigger Picture:

The return to Opua through the gale was fairly dramatic as can be imagined. The following week was a little fraught as the repairs were made to the boat and a question mark sat over whether we would be able to travel north again or would have to be satisfied exploring some of the New Zealand coast – not a particularly inspiring prospect given the temperatures (I have since heard Auckland has had snow!).

Luck was on our side however, as a weather opportunity presented itself and the Captain made the decision to make for Fiji on Thursday, 4th August. We spent a few days out in the Bay of Islands testing said repairs (making sure Little Buckie would not have to be exposed to quite so much drama this time round) and doing a bit of fishing which young Alex loves. One morning I woke up in the little cove we were anchored in and climbed out into the cockpit to welcome the morning and there sat a huge bird looking up at me dolefully. (Captains note: He was a Northern Giant Petrel) It has been a long time since I saw such a large bird up so close and he (I am assuming he was a he) had clearly decided that if he sat and made eyes at me long enough he would be fed. When the Captain regained consciousness after his nights sleep I called him up to observe our new guest after which Baza (my nickname for him) had a new best friend who fed him much of our bait, some bread and any other morsel that could be found for him. Other birds, gulls and the like, could see what was taking place and they were not at all amused! Poor Baza was dive bombed, screeched at and thoroughly abused by the other birds, but he just sat there serenely bobbing along beside the boat, clearly aware that he had the last laugh. When we finally up anchored and headed out for the day I half expected him to come along with us, but that was the last we saw of him.

Back in Opua it was full on again, fueling, watering up, last minute provisions, a good nights sleep and once again on the 4th August we headed northward, this time for Fiji. Maybe we will get to see Samoa and the other islands another time, but for this year with the time it has taken to get away from New Zealand, for whatever reason, exploring the Fiji islands seems the best idea.

The first three days were much as they had been the first time out. We underwent a period of adjustment to the movement of the boat, the winds were constant and the food I had once again prepared before we left came in very handy – thanks again Beth! I know I was hanging out to get into the 20’s (Capts note: 23degrees 27minutes south latitude is the Tropic of Capricorn and the beginning of the tropics) due to the belief that once we had cleared the shelf NZ sits on, it would be plain sailing and I was still a tad nervous after experiencing the gale we had been through last time.

By day two I was not feeling at all well – I had a fever, nausea and a headache and I had had no sleep so was not feeling my usual ray of sunshine. I had not taken motion sickness tablets this time round because they knocked me around so much last time, so it would have been easy to explain my symptoms away as sea sickness, but I did not think that was the case. And then on my last shift of the day a strong gust of wind inverted the sail which gave me a hell of a fright though it was quickly put right by the Captain (I learned once again to have confidence in Hakura – she really is a great boat and handles anything). However, when I was due to go up for my next shift in the morning, I simply was not up to it and much to my chargin I had to miss the shift and get Alex to go up in my stead. I lay on the bunk, still having had no sleep, trying to make myself relax thinking maybe it was nerves making me feel so lousy and decided that if I gave myself enough time to get something to eat beforehand I would be fine for the next shift. So two and a half hours later saw me making a hot drink and eating weetbix for my breakfast in an effort to get back on deck, a meal I promptly threw up and had to take to my bunk again – I was mortified. While the guys were great and did my shift for me, it does put a strain on the rest of the crew if one cant do their turn so I was very conscious that we were all tired and I did not enjoy the feeling that I was letting the side down. In another three hours I managed to get back on track and did not miss another shift though I was not well for the rest of the trip.

We finally reached the point in time where we had to turn back last time, and the wind died. Literally – there was nothing. We spent the next 24 hours motor sailing, if I have learned anything from this whole experience it is that at sea nothing is predictable. To quote the Captain – “you just have to deal with what you are given!” True that and very prophetic. We were happy to see the wind when it appeared again, though confess to having enjoyed the calm seas immensely while we had them. However, the wind would get us moving quickly, conserve fuel, and we would be in Fiji in no time… The Captain put a reef in the sail, but it made no difference, we were hooting along. So he took another reef in the sail, and we went faster! Have you guessed it yet? Yep, we were headed into another gale. Can you believe it! We listened to weather reports, studied the model we had been given to sail by and nothing and nowhere pointed to the weather we were experiencing. So for 24 hours we were dealing with extremely strong winds again and rough seas.

During one of my night shifts I was going along nicely when something literally fell out of the air into the cockpit. Initially I thought something had fallen off the mast, a frightening thought, but on closer inspection I discovered that we had received a visit from Freddy, the flying fish. What possessed him to fly onto the boat is beyond me but we actually found quite a few found on deck over the next few days and seeing the odd one airborne became quite common all the way into Fiji. So common in fact that when young Alex announced that he had seen one, one day I was blasé enough to scoff ... “hundreds?” “No, just one”.

The wind finally died and we were motoring again – but not for long. Back the wind came and it kept getting stronger. This time I got wet, was unable to get dry or warm and for me the trip was pretty miserable in health terms. And then having dealt with the severe weather, we were becalmed again and there followed long stretches of motoring.

The Captain, a tribute – I can cope with most things. But there comes a time when I loose it. And that time came this trip and was been ongoing. I can only use my ill health as the cause for my ill humour and less than usual fortitude, but when the wind was at its worst, and I was in the cabin listening to all the sounds I had had enough. We had not expected such winds, and for them to be ongoing was the pits. The boat was healing to the port side so the Capt came and lay down beside me and spent some time reassuring me that all was well. His consideration throughout the trip was amazing – the little things he thought to do to make it enjoyable and easier for everyone were ongoing – he was always cheerful and optimistic no matter how tired he got. And tired he got! Not only did he do his own shifts, he was also always checking the course, radioing in to Taupo Radio our position, fixing anything that needed fixing as we went, checking weather reports – his job was never over and often he would be operating on minimal amounts of sleep. Thankfully, he was on the helm when one of the main bolts that holds the sail in place came away. His quick thinking averted what could have been a major problem and he soon had it fixed. He was simply awesome. And, the teamwork that developed between him and Alex with sail changes and anything else that needed doing was great to watch. Well done team!

When my nerves were jangling on edge he rose and went up on shift two hours early and changed course. This sent the boat on a different tack and stuff flew around the cabin – plus we were heading into the waves from a different angle so the noise down below was deafening and a little alarming at times. I confess – while the men were up there on the helm, I let it all out and cried till there were no more tears left in me…. Then I got up and started tidying the cabin and making everything secure for the tack we were on. And, so typical of the sea and the experience, by the time I got up on watch the weather had finally cleared, the sea had flattened out, the sky was clear of cloud and the stars and moon sat in the night sky awaiting my inspection, the Capt had music playing and I experienced the very best of what sailing is to me right after reaching the worst of it.

And that, thankfully was the bad weather behind us. The winds we got after that were perfect for sailing (except they did not allow us to go in the right direction!) the sea remained calm, the warmth of the tropics pervaded and we all looked forward to reaching Fiji.

And here we are! We finally made Suva after having to go in completely the wrong direction for a while because of the winds and ended up with the wind dying and having to motor in. The stationery low that is sitting over Fiji meant that as we approached we were getting rain and it bucketed down. We spent the last night just dawdling off Suva so that we could enter the harbour first thing in the morning (Sunday 14 August) and here we are! Arriving Sunday meant we could not get customs clearance until Monday so we were confined to the boat. We had one minor adventure when the boat was sitting too close to another yacht, the anchor chain had wrapped itself around something on the bottom and we could not get it loose – that meant getting a diver out, who took about four hours to get to us after saying he would be right out, and then took three minutes to clear it!

Customs arrived at about 2.30 Monday afternoon – too late really to do much though we did come in to the Yacht Club for a much longed for shower and dined at the little restaurant attached to it. The outboard motor on Ethelred (you will remember that this is the name of the dingy if you have read our previous blogs) failed and after an unsuccessful attempt by one of the other yachties to tow us the Capt had to row us out (not an unpleasant experience on a tropical evening if it is not raining).

So here I sit, in the Royal Suva Yacht Club, writing the blog. We bought Hakura in first thing this morning to be refueled and watered up, and I decided to get off and spend the time on the blog while the boat goes back to the anchorage. I have enjoyed an English breakfast from the restaurant (this I can recommend) and during the night my fever broke so I suspect I am going to live. Soon, Alex and the Capt will arrive on Ethelred and young Alex is going to go off on his own to experience Suva for the rest of the week. He will rejoin us Saturday when we intend to head for the outer islands and make our way round to Lautoka. The Capt and I have to spend the day going round Suva sorting out all the paperwork and payments required for our entry and cruising around Fiji, and we will go to the markets (I love the Suva market – cant wait to have a piece of fresh pineapple) to stock up on fresh fruit and veg and they have a great spice area we want to visit.

Pinch me! We are finally here! Waaaaahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Postscript: We spent a week in Suva – I love the place, though we did not get to spend much time in the city. I needed time to recover and as I was getting better the Captain came down with a cold and was not at all well for the week. Young Alex went off on his own for a few days, but returned, also not well, so we made a fine trio. The time we did manage to spend in the city was great. The people are very friendly, there is a multitude of different types of food to sample and we enjoyed the markets once again. It’s great to have tropical fruit on the boat. The weather has not been fantastic, even the locals are complaining that it is too cold for them. But it is very pleasant for us and we are looking forward to being able to enjoy the beaches and get into the water very soon.

Final note: We left Suva a week after arriving and headed out to Beqa Lagoon after spending a night moored at Tradewinds – beautiful. We have been anchored off Lawaki Beach since arriving just out from the Lewaki resort which is a very small, casual and friendly place where we go in to daily to enjoy the company of the owner, get fresh water, and enjoy the beach and snorkeling. Alex and Doug are finally starting to improve health wise and I am feeling great. I actually went for a long walk around the island yesterday – I felt just like a beachcomber and thought about the time in my youth when that was what I wanted to be. It is great to feel better and we are all now starting to enjoy it as we should. I think we are all starting to get a bit of tan! This evening we had dinner at the resort and sat chatting to Sam, the owner, and a young Swiss couple who are all off to see the World Cup from here. We have also met a NZ yachting family and Doug has made great friends, as always, with their two young sons. I am not sure when I will get a chance to blog again – we have issues getting to internet and we are not staying in marinas. Probably on the weekend we will head to the western part of the island (Lautoka) as young Alex is due to fly home early in September and we will be joined by other friends for a week or so.

Crew Comment: Alex speaks

When I joined the crew I had no idea what sailing was. Now it is my dream to get a boat in the future and sail around the world – sailing has become a huge passion of mine. This experience has been one of the best I have had since arriving in NZ, I am so pleased to be here. Doug and Lorraine have become part of my family. It is all very cool, and very different from the back packer lifestyle. Instead of drifting from people to people we have had time to bond and it is great.

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31st August 2011

adventure +
wow you guys really are having some adventures arnt you glad to hear you made it safely (thanks for the text too Gago) and are getting some sun. way to go Captain, sounds like you are doing a fantastic job looking after everyone! enjoy the sunshine lots of love Casey, Glenn, Joel, Brodie and Jack. XOX
1st September 2011

Hello from Te Puke
Hi there Doug and Lorraine - just read your blog over my morning coffee.Hopefully now you are all fit and well and topping up on the tans. You do have some eventful stories to tell - am glad you are now relaxing and enjoying a break and time out. - I guess it must initially feel strange to be on terra firma again. Cold snap due again with snow on the Desert Rd supposedly today. Certainly it is cooler that the last few days, but spring is here - daffodils everywhere and willow trees just starting to burst out in leaf and our plum tree is following them too. The hens are laying well again and despite the southerly winds one does feel like it really is spring at last. Enjoy the rest of your crusing and good luck for the trip home again.

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