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Matangi Island

Another day of motoring. At times we had up to 10 knots of wind but mostly it was on our nose. On a couple of occasions we were able to get the headsail out to assist but not by much. Our destination was the old volcanic cone that is Matangi Island. We had mixed luck fishing along the way. Something took the lure on the fishing line and ran away with it. It was exciting for a moment as the line went zinging off but it went limp. Near the tip of Taveuni we caught a smallish mackerel on the pink squiddy. I put the big safety pin through it’s lower jaw so we could spend a moment to identify it. I must have messed that simple operation up as the pin was soon open and fishless. I’m pretty sure it was a mackerel similar to the nasty spanish mackerel prevalent off the coast of South America so maybe it wasn’t a good eater but now we’ll never know.

Along the way we had a little cheer when we crossed from East to West over the 180 degree longitude meridian. We decided we were all a day younger. We also passed (more specifically were passed by) El Regalo who’d been anchored Somosomo, Taveuni. On arrival in the bay we were treated to the sight of a beautiful bay with turquoise waters, colourful corals and surrounded on three sides by steep, tree covered cliffs.

Once anchored Helen and I went out in the dinghy to check depths around the boat and make sure there were no threatening coral heads. There was a little beach with a hut and a couple on it. We dinghied over to see if it was connected to a resort on the other side of the island. We were immediately threatened by the guy who didn’t seem interested in our lack of desire to come ashore but more interested in threatening to call the resort and have us expelled. He pointed out he’d “paid a lot of money the have the place the themselves.” Perhaps he should ask for his money back as all the beaches in Fiji are public up to the high water line. We would have been in our rights to go ashore as it was low tide at the time but despite his rudeness I had no desire to ruin their day.

Back on the boat we all took off snorkeling from the back steps. The water was a little murky but still allowed us to view some fascinating coral and fish.

The afternoon was spent relaxing, reading, sleeping and watching the colours change as the sun set. I did a repair job on our VHF mike as the speaker wire was not forming a good connection. Colin helped me with a small repair to the sail slider which had come out of the baton. Helen cooked a great curry for dinner which was complimented with a few bottles of vino.

I’d lost track of days. We’d planned on two full days anchored off Taveuni to do some land exploration there. I had thought that gave us time for two nights over here but we only have one. So today we’ll head the seven or so miles back to the tip of Taveuni and settle in there.

Feet on the ground

First full day on land after a hefty passage is always a nice experience and Monday was no exception. Shortly after breakfast I dinghied over to the Jacksters who had arrived the evening before to say hello and give them the low down on greeting the officials. Once back on the boat, we gathered our things and we all dinghied ashore. Paul headed off to do his own thing and sort out his next steps.

Helen and I went to the Copra Shed office to announce ourselves and order our Fiji cruising permit. We then made our way down the high street (the only one of consequence) to explore Savusavu and find the various places we had to pay our bills. Helen, as usual, visited most of the Supermarkets to case out what foods are available and the prices. Most items are available at a very good price so once we’ve depleted our vast New Zealand stores we know we have plenty here.

We bought a SIM card for our phone so now we can make local calls. My phone is discharging it’s battery rather quickly so I may have to do something about that but for now it will do. Sorting out an internet connection became somewhat more awkward. The Fiji Vodafone website claims they have 3G services in a lot of places and 2G for a lot of the rest but this is not the case in Savusavu. I can’t use my phone to bridge data services and need a data card for the USB stick given to us in New Zealand. However, the store that sells the data cards wasn’t sure if the stick would work and asked us to wait for their tech guy who will be here Tuesday or Wednesday. No rush on getting connected is ok.

We bumped into Frank on Tahina who was also on similar errands to us and we walked together to the hospital to pay for the health inspection. We parted company with Frank when we reached town as we had different ideas about where to eat. Helen and I ended up eating at a restaurant quite close to the Copra Shed which served an excellent chicken curry. During lunch the heavens opened. May is usually the onset of the dry season and that hasn’t happened yet.

After lunch we explored the high street in the opposite direction before returning to the boat for the afternoon. Not long after, Paul was dropped off at the boat by John and Pam from Passages and we invited them aboard for a beer and a chat. Paul has now worked out his plans for the rest of his stay in Fiji. He’ll be leaving us on Wednesday to start a very well priced Scuba Certification course here in Savusavu before heading to the mainland on the Sunday night ferry. He’s going to sort out his flight today and once those details are ironed out we can officially disembark him from the boat.

Later in the afternoon I went back ashore with Paul to drop off some laundry. The services here are very cheap and we have many loads to do so we’re splitting the effort. It turned out our cruising permit was already prepared (we had been told it could take days) so I collected that and set about obtaining a permit to visit the Lau group to the east. As we were heading back to the dinghy I bumped into Bert from Boree who was not looking overly happy. He mentioned he was having trouble connecting his PC to his TV again (I’ve already helped him out once before with this) and I said I’d be happy to help out again. The real reason for his discontent is he’d just been given an outrageous price for a ventilation fan for his engine room to replace the one that had failed in passage. I looked at the spec sheet he had in his hand and gave him the good news. Ages ago I’d erroneously ordered a wrong sized fan for a spare and had exactly the part he needed. What a coincidence. He dinghied over to our boat to check it out and it was just the right thing. We did a deal which was good for both of us then headed over to Boree to fix his TV. It took about 10 seconds to find the problem.

By the time I was back at the boat it was time to head back to the Copra Shed to hang out. Brian and Jodon from El Regalo were there having just arrived and soon more piled in. After a couple of beers we all headed to the restaurant over the road where Helen and I had eaten earlier. We ended up joining all the tables in one section of the restaurant. Apart from us, we had the True Companions, El Regalos, Tahinas, Garimas, Jacksters and Kilkeas at the table.

The evening turned out cool and dry. Did we just witness the start of the dry season?

We’ll be here in Savusavu for a few more days to sort things out and recuperate from our passage. We need to fill a propane tank and there’s our internet to sort out. We also need to disembark Paul. If we stay too long we’ll get fat, particularly if we keep on eating two meals per day. If the weather stays good we’ll probably hike to the top of a nearby hill where there is supposed to be a good look out.

Last day in Whangarei

What a day. We started the day with one last wash. The genset started ok but not with the zest we know it can with a good power supply. It’s battery was getting tired. A quick decision was made and it was off to the battery store to buy and then install a new battery. When I moved the original battery I tucked it way out of the way which meant pulling loads of stuff out of the generator compartment and then squeezing myself into a very tight place to work. Glad we did that as the genset starts perfectly now.

Next task was to head for Opua to sell the car back to Phil from Cars for Cruisers. I had an agreement with Rob and Ruth from Albatross III to head up to Opua too and give me a ride back. Just before leaving we bumped into a young lady from the NE US whose on a traveling trip and was looking for passage up to Fiji. We offered to take her up to Opua and back to investigate things there and learn a bit more about making what she was trying to do work.

On arriving in Opua I let Lauren off to explore the area and agreed to meet up at the Fish and Chip shop at noon where I’d promised to buy lunch for everyone for helping out. The deal with Phil went through smoothly and soon I was walking away with a cashable check.

While waiting for Lauren to show up I bumped into Andy from Zephyrus which was a pleasant surprise. We chatted for a while and I asked about people looking for crew. He had a good lead and shared it with Lauren when she found us. About 12:30 Rob and Ruth turned up having seen some friends. Unfortunately the Fish and Chip shop in Opua had closed down so we headed off to Pahia for the banks and shops there. Half way there I realize I’d left my GPS unit somewhere so we headed back finding it with Phil.

Leaving the others to look around I first went to Westpac to cash the check using my passport to prove my identity. She had to call Phil to verify the check was ok to cash and he approved with the caveat I owed him a GPS unit. She found the explanation of his remark quite funny. My next stop was the ANZ bank to deposit most the cash keeping enough to pay for our new kayak.

With all the financials handled I found the others and bought all Fish and Chips on the waterfront which turned out to be overfilling but delicious.

Rob took us north out of Pahia for a different route back to Whangarei. A few miles out of town I realized I didn’t have our folder containing our boat papers and passports. Not again. So back into town we went. I checked first at the Westpac. The teller grinned hugely and went to the safe to retrieve my passport. I found the folder in the ANZ where I’d left it. Where was my head???? I checked to make sure it was still in the right place physically. I think my brain had already set sail.

No more mishaps beset us as we traveled back to Whangarei. Rob helped me collect the kayak which we placed on the boat. Helen had spent the day making a clean boat immaculate for the evening’s party. By now there was not much time left. I performed a few small jobs around the boat before showering and soon after folks began to show.

All in all we had the pleasure of welcoming the crew from Albatross III, Attitude, Blue Penguin, Boree, Callisto, Clara Katherine, Division II, El Regalo, Imagine, Jackster, Leu Cat, Marquesa, Proximity, Sail Away, Scream, Sea Mist, Sidewinder, Stray Kitty, Tahina, True Companions and Tyee along with one or two marina neighbours. That was about forty people at once. It was a great test of our through hulls as we were down about 6-9 inches in the water. We didn’t sink.

This morning we woke fairly early and after doing last minute internetty things we dropped of our key to the shower block and headed out. As we headed down the river the winds were light and behind us. And cold. We motored on batteries alone for about 30 mins before turning on the generator. Near the river mouth we caught sight of True Companions ahead of us and called them on the radio to greet them.

As we rounded the heads we hit a dead patch and used the opportunity to raise the new main. We crossed our fingers hoping for wind as we really wanted to see how our new sails would perform. We didn’t have to wait too long and soon we were in winds that were to vary between 10-20 knots as we headed up the coast. We were gobsmacked by the improved boat performance. Before the boat speed would fade below about 12 knots under main and jib. Now she was achieving above 1/2 wind speed all the way down to 9 knots on the beam. We’ve never seen it so good.

We have found a couple of issues. The reef points on the new main are higher up than before and now the 1st reef only has a turn of spare line at the winch which is not enough to reef on the fly. We also have new modes of vibration on the luff of the main which we need to figure out how to handle. Apart from that everything seems to be in amazing shape. It feels like we have a new boat.

Our original plan had us making our way up the coast in smaller steps. With reduced wind tomorrow and nasty northeasterlies forecast for Friday we’re aiming to cover as much distance as we can today and complete the trip to the Bay of Islands tomorrow where we can find shelter from any type of wind. Our goal for today is the Whangamumu Bay which we visited last November.

We’ve now settled into a pleasant sail up the coast putting on and taking off our warm clothes as the sun goes in and out. We have about a knot of counter current but we’re doing well against it. We even have a line out for fish but nothing caught yet. We’ve shed the land life and are back on the water.

3rd Sunday on the hard

Because we’d planned the afternoon off, the work accomplished list for Sunday was relatively short :

  • Lubricated all pulleys and sliders
  • More varnish onto shower sill
  • Replaced line cover over pulleys (involved spending 1/2 hour picking out a hole in tube of sealant)
  • Cleaned mess on cabin top (from gluing last weekend)
  • Created sail bag zip handle
  • Fixed nav station light which had been flickering
  • Found and sanded more gelcoat patches

Around midday we packed it in, tidied up and had a brief lunch before heading into town to watch the Tai Tokerau Haka Road Show.  The show was an opportunity for three of the local (normally competitive) traditional singing/dancing groups to showcase their work along with a few other entertainers.

The show was to a packed hall and had a fundraising (for Christchurch) element to it.  Curiously they had a Butlins style host who introduced each act.  The opener was a great singing chap who the audience knew as a contestant on NZ Idol.  Next was the first of the singing/dancing groups.  If we thought we were treated last Friday, it just got better.  With about 15 females and 15 males in traditional costume we were given several different performances all strung together seemlessly.  The crowd would cheer when certain songs began presumably because they were familiar.  All the male led performances for this group and those that followed seemed to be some variation on the haka.

Next came two sisters, a 14 year old on the cello and a 10 year old who played the violin so well it almost brought tears to the eyes.  They played 2 songs to huge applause from the audience.

Next came the smallest of the three traditional groups about the same size as the group we had last Friday.  Between them and the final group was a round of raffle winners.  The last traditional group was the same group of performers as we had last Friday but beefed up in numbers.  They exceeded their prior performance by a long shot.  The larger audience brought out more enthusiasm and with more of them and bigger acoustics their performance sang out.

And there it could have finished except they decided to bring all three groups together on stage to sing and dance three traditional numbers which they all knew.  Fantastic stuff.

It was no surprise that we ran into cruisers in the hall.  We ended up sitting right at the front in front of Brian and JoDon from El Regallo.  We bumped into Kathy from Attitude on the way out.

We didn’t stay too long as we had a little more to do.  We drove to Bunnings to pick up a few bits and pieces for the boat.  On the way back to the boat we stopped off and had a walk around the wetlands area we’d seen many times and vowed to visit.  It was a quite pleasant and very easy walk allowing us to see a number of birds, etc. quite close to town.

Back on the boat it was now 4:30 and we lost the will to go back to work and cracked open a couple of beers instead.

Dinner was another couple of NZ steaks.  I’m going to miss these.  We’ve never really cooked steak too often but we’ve treated ourselves to nice filets just a little too often recently.  Afterwards we settled down for a movie.

Perhaps to try and get into the spirit of the near future we watched the 50s movie ‘South Pacific’ which turned out to be too long and a struggle to get through.  We soldiered on even though Helen ended up playing cards on the computer and I spent most of the time watching the live telemetry and commentary from the Malaysian Grand Prix.  A quick check on IMDB revealed the usual con about movie locations.  None of it was filmed in the South Pacific.  The closest location was Hawaii (20 degrees north of the equator) and the rest in Ibiza (Spain), Malaysia and LA.  All I can say is “Bloody Alonso”.  Nothing to do with the movie or Ibiza – he drove into the back of Hamilton.

It’s now Monday morning.  Real time blog readers can get the same weather forecast as us at metservice.  We might just get a continued good run of weather ahead and be out of the yard by the end of the week.

3rd Friday on the hard and an excellent break

The weather this week has been very alternating.  Every other day we have variable weather and on the alternate days we have a consistently good day.  Yesterday was a consistently good day.  Confused?  Because we had an afternoon event planned we had a shortened work day but we still made progress :

  • Sanded all the gelcoat touch ups
  • Replaced temporary split pin at top of mast
  • Added a layer of varnish to the shower sill
  • Picked up new code zero halyard
  • Replaced old main halyard (which was in the code zero halyard’s position) with new code zero halyard
  • Assembled gooseneck twice.  First time I thought I had it on the boom upside down but I discovered I was wrong about this after removing it.
  • Installed new main sheet
  • Reattached sail bag
  • 80% inflated dinghy (which was returned from having handle/rollock reattached)
  • Filed off ridges from inside boom in order to install new sheave for outhaul/third reef

On the external projects more progress was made than anticipated.  The dinghy arrived.  The anchor roller strengthening is now complete.  The chain chute is complete.  The props / shafts were returned from having a hole drilled and pin inserted. The new sheave was cut.  Our window inserts are now expected early next week and I postponed the forestay work to Monday.

I actually had a little time to study a few Euler problems and have now developed a strategy to solve one of them which I’ll implement over the weekend.  It’s interesting going back to them as at first they all look far too complicated to solve but sooner or later dormant brain cells wake up from their slumber and go to work.

Around 2:30pm we broke for the day and cleaned up for our afternoon out.  The town of Whangarei was putting on a farewell seminar/show for the cruisers who’ve spent time (and presumably quite a lot of money) here in the town – particularly on services to their ocean battered boats.  First was a very impressive traditional Maori challenge, far better than the one we saw at the Maori experience in Rotorua.

Next we had a half hour lecture by weather guru Bob McDavitt.  For those that don’t know him, he puts out an excellent cruising forecast each Sunday that makes a relevant read every Sunday.  As such he practically received a heroes welcome by the cruisers as a result of this service.  He does offer professional guidance / route planning to those that wish it.  His half hour brief was very informative.  He confirmed the weather scenario for leaving north that I’m now already anticipating.  More importantly he helped us understand the broader context for the weather patterns and their near term impact.  We’re in what’s called a declining La Nina situation which historically extends the cyclone season.  Thus the general recommendation is not to leave until May.  This fits our general plan which was to be ready by the third week in April and to take the first available weather window.  That window should now appear early May.  This extra time allows us the opportunity to flex our new wings (once installed) with a sail, perhaps, up to Opua before we leave.

Next was the BBQ which was a fine feast.  I thought I was taking a little of everything but my plate ended up piled high.  Having had a light and early lunch I was famished and polished off the lot.

Finally we were given a cultural Maori performance by a national competition winning local singing group.  Again – far better than the ones we’ve seen at tourist attractions.  We are lucky to have the opportunity in our lives to go cruising and further privileged to be given such joyful, harmonious and passionate performances.

We were not alone for this farewell presentation.  We sat amongst old friends from the ‘class of ’10’ puddle jumpers : Attitude, Boree, Callisto, El Regallo, Imagine, Leu Cat, Proximity, Scream & Tahina.  There were plenty of others there too and the sad thing is was our need to catch up with old friends prevented us from really making any new.

Being in the company of so many friends and having the Polynesian dancing and singing going on made most, if not all, of us keen to start our crossing and get back out into the wonders of the South Pacific.  Just got to get the boat work finished !!!!!

We finished the evening by inviting Frank and Karen over to a messy Dignity to share a bottle of wine.  Almost like being back out on the water.  Except for the gentle rocking.  The slapping of waves.  The warm nights.  The beautiful beaches.  The great snorkeling.  No yard dust.  Not having to pee in a bucket.  Ok – so not quite so similar but we’re on our way soon.

ADDED LATER: All too easy. Euler problem nailed. Off to work.