LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2001
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Log for the week of Sunday October 7, 2001 Savu Savu Fiji to Suva Fiji by APW
"You always get to write about the good stuff!" Phil complained to me once again. If he means by "good stuff" the close calls we have with Iwalani, then I guess all the near misses do fall on some of my weeks. I don't like writing about them anymore than experiencing them. So I shall save the worst for later.
We began our week in the way we ended last week. We were all set to pull up the anchor and head south, when we heard a call for sv Iwalani on channel 16. It seems that Alitia's computer had decided to go through its death throes once again that morning. We gathered together tools and books and headed into shore. This time Phil had resolved to erase everything, reformat the hardrive and quit diddling around. Easier said than done, since the computer didn't even recognize it had a hard drive. It was foggy and gray, with periods of downpours and drizzle. It was just as well we stayed inside working on a computer. Somehow it seemed slightly ironic to be in a village in Fiji, with the omnipresent rooster crowing, parrots flying overhead and palm fronds scritch scratching on the tin roof; where we should have been putting into practice "sevusevu*" and the age-old kava** ceremony- and here we were fixing a computer.Phil needs more experience working with different types of computers and why not be doing it from our boat in Fiji? It sure beats working on a computer in some dingy basement in Boston.
So much of computer repair is sitting around waiting for systems to be checked or programs to be loaded. I was so bored, I did the dishes for Alitia. She may have a T.V. and a computer, but they don't have hot running water, a telephone or a car. Come to think of it, those things aren't necessary in the tropics. I went for a walk in the rain to the "famous Whippy brother's boat yard", touted up in our cruising guide. It was not exactly a booming business. Several boats were propped up single file on stands looking very forgotten and neglected. Most were now homes to mongoose families.
We were done with the computer by five o'clock. We went out to the boat to make CD's for some of the programs we re-installed on the computer. It was a very nice of the cruiser to give this computer to Alitia, but it would have been even nicer if they had given some of the software cd's that went with it. Alitia's sixteen year old daughter Rosie wanted to come out to the boat with us while we burned the cd's. Phil entertained her with computer games while I made quiche. At eight o'clock we went back in and had another dinner of taro and lamb-neck curry. I must say that I am always game for eating new and different things.In fact, that, more than anything else was something I was looking forward to, before we even began this trip. But, the only positive thing I can say about taro, is that it must be exceedingly good for you in order to taste so bad. It's a little like eating a rain-soaked roll of cooked toilet paper. Breadfruit is only slightly better. This particular taro had been cooked in the hot springs, behind the local supermarket. Alitia and others leave pots on the springs on their way to work and then pick them up later on the way home. No muss, no fuss, all natural slow cooking. It did little to improve the "flavor" of the taro.
After the family went through the computer, getting Phil's guidance along the way, we found out that the Windows 98 games hadn't been automatically installed. We told Alitia we would return in the morning, make sure the computer was still behaving itself and re-install the games.
Tuesday morning everything worked fine. Everyone bussled about the small house getting ready for work and school. Alitia's grandmother made us breakfast- porridge, leftover lamb-neck curry, and fried taro. Not exactly a "going to sea" kind of breakfast. We did our best not to offend anyone.
In our haste to get to shore and make sure the computer was working, we failed to listen to the morning radio net. For two days we had been too far from town to get the "Fiji Times" newspaper, which in addition to peculiarly written news reports, had comics and very accurate local weather maps. We had been downloading weather faxes from the single side band as well as receiving the EGC weather bulletins from the inmarsat. Savu Savu is an incredibly protected anchorage, even further down the coast toward Alitias village, we were still in the lee of the prevailing winds, which were between 25 and 35 knots. You kind of get complacent when everything is so calm around you. We were both anxious to get to Namena island, twenty miles south of SavuSavu, which was reported to have very good diving. Savu Savu was just too comfortable.If we stayed there any longer it would get more and more difficult to leave. As far as we could tell from the weather we received on the boat, the skies were going to continue to be rainy with SE winds 25-30 knots. In Savu Savu, our wind generator looked like a statue. As soon as we got out around the point and out of the protection of the barrier reef, we were hit with NE winds around 20 knots. The barometer was steady at 1015. The seas were bigger than the wind warranted and I really regretted our Fijian breakfast. The taro was bouncing around my stomach like a hockey puck. I might have to add an important part to Amy's rules of seasickness. Never eat anything that is no better going down than coming up. I think I can see why a lot of cruisers are vegetarians. Candy and spicey food aren't bad in both directions, but let me tell you, lamb neck curry and taro are ten times worse the second time around.
Someday, I am going to write a letter to "Armchair Sailor" and tell them that their salespeople are giving out a lot of mis-information. We were all set to order all the charts we would need for the world before we left. The woman at Armchair, said don't, because plans change and we can pick them up as we go. That information is so inaccurate as to be almost criminal. We have no "charts" of Fiji. For navigating in Fijian waters we are using a pirated CD which had been given from boat to boat, amongst the entire fleet out here. The original CD was apparently Russian. We made a copy from Willy Bolton's copy. Surprisingly it is very accurate and has charts of the entire world, excluding the US, on one CD. If we could buy paper charts we would, to use as back ups. But they have not been available anywhere. So, instead we print out little 8x12 sheets of all the places we are going to and this is what we are now using for navigating. For the long passages, we do have the big charts.
On the radio net we have been hearing of a lot about volcanic activity between Tonga and Fiji. Close to twelve islands and reefs have suddenly appeared from nowhere. Well not exactly nowhere, because if you do check the coordinates against the charts you see that there actually submerged seamounts in some of these places. The depths will go from 6000 meters up to 130 meters. A very large island has been born on our EXACT rumline from Samoa to Fiji, one week after we went by. As you may recall, this was a rather unpleasant passage, with twisting violent winds and thunderstorms. Now we know why! The water was boiling and bubbling, ocean indigestion from a volcano erupting under the surface, heating up the air and creating localized violent weather. Can you imagine sailing along and then all of a sudden seeing an island rise up out of the ocean!! Another reason to keep the radar on all the time. The radio also has issued warnings about avoiding "breaking gas bubbles". A boat is no longer buoyant in these gas pockets and could sink down, flood and never be heard from again. One more thing to worry about!
Back to our passage. Two hours later we reached the pass to Namena. Two markers were supposed to line the entrance, but were nowhere to be seen. With high gray seas it was very hard picking out the breaking reef. Luckily the Russian program was very accurate, so we were able to follow the computer in.
This probably will mark the official retirement of "David" our Delorme tripmate GPS. The GPS receiver output was not compatable with the Russian moving map program, so in French Polynesia I bit the bullet and bought (from West Marine over the French phone lines a nightmare in and of itself) a "real" GPS- a Garmin, which gives the map program the right data. David will not be forgotten and will be used as back up, if the Russian program dies. With this new system we no longer have to scan "real" charts and register them on the computer, an ordeal which took several hours before we set off on a passage.
We got in as much of the "lee" of Namena island as we could. We still had three foot seas and thirty five knot winds. It was very beautiful. We were anchored next to a rookery and had boobies, frigate birds and fairy terns all around. A long strip of pale sandy beach stretched along the shore. No signs of humanity. For evening entertainment we watched the wind generator amp output gauge. We set a new record of 40.6 amps. The evening fax and barometer were pretty benign. But because it was still so windy, Phil spent the night in the cockpit afraid we would drag anchor. I turned on the anchor watch alarm on the new Garmin GPS and fell fast asleep. At about midnight the wind dropped off, Phil came down below to bed, exhausted. We awoke the next morning to the soft lap of waves against the hull. No more crashing anchor chain and howling rigging. For some reason Phil got out of bed to poke his head up and look around. This is very unusual, as I am always the first to drop and the first to rise. All of a sudden I heard him in the cockpit yelling "Amy get up here."
"Let me pee first" I replied.
"No there isn't time!"
I grabbed a shirt and brought up a shirt and pair of shorts for Phil, we never did have time to put them on. The wind had changed direction and was now pinning us to the shore. A huge wall of horizontal gray water was coming toward us. The wind was now blowing sixty knots. We could longer hear each other, even if we yelled as loud as we could. I went up forward to get the anchor up, while Phil started the engine and tried to maneuver Iwalani away from the very close shore. All around us birds from the rookery were being tossed over the surface of the water like tumbleweeds in the desert. It was hard ignoring their desperate cries. The wind was so strong it had whipped the waves down flat. The rain felt like someone was shooting roofing nails at us with a nail gun. The wind was trying with all its might to push us onto the shore, Iwalani and the Westerbeke motor were stubbornly trying to back up. The anchor held fast, for a moment I thought, 'we are holding, she wont drag on to the shore, why move?' but only for a moment. I saw what was happening to the birds and we didn't know anything about this wind. For all we knew, it could increase. We had to get the anchor up and maneuver around to the backside of the island. Finally, after what seemed like ages I got all three hundred feet of chain up. I went back to the cockpit so I could hear Phil's shouting. With the engine in full reverse, we were hovering in place, Iwalani's bow pointing to the shore just fifty feet ahead. With no sails up, all Iwalani's windage is forward, which makes her weathervane downwind. She could not round up into the wind even with the motor assisting. Water was cascading down the small opening in the companionway, soaking everything in sight, including "Danny" Phil's computer which is used for all the things we rely on, navigation, weather faxes and Inmarsat e-mail. We had not put the sail covers on when we arrived, so we draped the sailcovers over the opening, which helped a little to curb the deluge. We decided to put the engine in forward and steer to the left, running along the shore and hopefully gaining maneauverability enough to skirt the end of the island and continue down the Eastern shore towards the lee side. It worked. We whizzed past coral heads just off the beach and re-anchored on the other side of Namena. Somewhere along the way we put some clothes on, which only became cold soaked rags in seconds. We re-anchored, but left the engine on and in gear to take up some of the strain on the anchor chain. Small landbirds grabbed on to Iwalani, in a last desperate measure to save themselves before being tossed out to sea. And then the wind let up. Not completely, but at least enough for the birds to make their way back to shore.
I went down below, got sick and made some cocoa for Phil who was shivering and shaking but still grasping on to Iwalani's tiller. He warmed up after putting on his winter coat and foul weather gear. I learned two lessons. First of all don't rely on the Garmin alarm to indicate that the anchor is dragging. During this whole episode it never was turned off and Iwalani's position changed by two miles. We never heard a beep out of it. Of course it was kind noisy with the rigging and all, but if you were sound asleep and in a noisy anchorage, the anchor drag alarm should wake the dead. Number two lesson, if all we saw was sixty knot winds, (confirmed later by the Fiji weather bureau), I sure as heck can't imagine what a cyclone is like. One hit Fiji a few years ago with 240 kilometer winds. You would die in that kind of wind from the ocean- suffocation or cellular un-glueing.
After washing the salt water out of the inside of Iwalani, I got on the VHF and SSB radios. I found the Fijian voice radio station. A Fijian with a rolling R Scottish Broue accent came on and said Verrry RRRRough seas, Verrry Rrrrrrrough seas, winds Norrrrrrrrtheast winds Norrrrrtheast. He must have been in a windowless office.We were now anchored near a "resort" that was supposedly owned by an American couple. Much to my surprise the owner, a woman named Joanne, responded. Her husband offered to send his "man" out to tell us where the best anchorages were, as he knew the underwater terrain like the back of his hand. I thanked them both but told them I would never risk another person's life or equipment, for our benefit. Then he said we already found the two best spots to anchor on the island. I asked them if they knew anything more about the weather forecasts. The radios were still calling for NE winds of 20-30 knots. No one had said a word about the 60 knot wind from the SW. Their forecasts were no different than ours. A DeHavilland beaver flew overhead looking for the island of Koro. They are filming a movie there and this guy was lost. He was probably an actor or part of the film crew. Koro is a pretty big island to lose.
Phil and I pulled out Bob McDermot's book on weather for this part of the Pacific. Sure enough he described a situation that can develop when a strong high is to the South. A serious low can develop seemingly within hours, with gale force winds, with no appreciable pressure drop. Creating what he calls a squash zone. By the time we get this weather figured out in the Western Pacific it will be time to leave. We took Danny apart and dried out all his inards. The speakers made a crackling sound, but he fired right up and all the systems worked.
The following day was sunny and clear. We had not seen crystal blue skies in a very long time. We rowed to the sandy beach anxious to explore the island. A ferocious sign telling cruisers to go away or go to the dock and pay landing fees had blown down in the storm and was covered with leaves and debris. We pretended we never saw it and continued on down a well-made path toward the resort.
We walked under huge thick trees where boobies, frigate birds and terns had been nesting. Everything was a shambles. Boobies lay limp in the remains of their nests or lay in the path, too weak to move on. I could hear my Uncle Charlie, former director of Cornell's Ornithology department, lambasting me for caring for birds in situations like this. I would be doing nothing beneficial for the gene pool. My argument to him had always been it gave me skills and knowledge to treat the endangered birds. I left these poor guys to suffer whatever mother nature intended.
We met Joanne, (her husband had taken his boat to SavuSavu), she let us wander around the island since they had no guests. The tourist industry in this part of the world has been hit hard, by the events in New York. We heard that they had impounded "Three" and "Four", the tour boats in French Polynesia for failing to pay their fuel bills. It seems to me like this would be a great time to travel, security would be at its best. Anyway, this was the first place I would want to fly to. There are six "bures", little woven huts with a bed, bathrooms and shower. Gas powered lights, no electricity. Each house is very far from it's neighbor. One was perched overlooking a sandy beach where Phil and I found our first chambered nautilus shell. I am not sure what the food is like here, but anyone wanting a vacation to get away from it all, on the most beautiful secluded island I have seen, can check out: www.bulafiji.com/web/moodys or email Joanne her address is firstname.lastname@example.org Phil ranks KiaOro, Rangiroa in the Tuamotus higher because of the protected anchorage, internet and French Cuisine. Not me, this is about as good as it gets in my book. Another nice spot, a little less remote is the Cousteau resort on the peninsula of SavuSavu. I don't know why I am telling people about these places, because now they will probably get ruined with overweight overwhites. Maybe I am too mean. I guess that anyone who slogs through all our logs, to find stuff like this out, is worthy of Fiji.
Despite almost losing our boat in Fiji, it is still the most beautiful place we have come to. Why we spent so much time in French Polynesia and the Samoas is beyond me. Here there are no obnoxious jet skis, tour boats, cruise ships, bungalow hotels ten feet apart, tourists or airports. The entire cruising fleet, class of 2001 is in Tonga, so in most anchorage's we are by ourselves. There are real trees here. Big ones that look like giant rhododendrons, some palms, and others I have no clue of the name or classification of. Miles of sandy beaches and the snorkeling and diving is the best so far.
The Fijians are genuinely friendly, not fake-friendly for the tourists. The Indian population is a little more aloof. But, the Indian influence adds an exotic flavor. Smells of curries. Flashes of gold jewelry on beautiful, lithesome women wearing saris and silks whisping down the streets like rainbow colored smoke. I have always loved Indian clothes. I splurged and bought a "suit" as they called it, a long skirt, shirt and head piece of sea colored silk with incredible gold embroidery. The sales girl assured me that it could fit any size as the shirt had expandable laces in the back. I got back to Iwalani and my boat biceps and sedentary girth prevented me from even getting my arm through the fabric. One of us will need surgery to fit the other. I am firmly in favor of wearing incredible art, if you have to wear clothes at all. The Indian women would wear this dress just to go out for shopping, this wasn't even a "fancy" one. The price? Seventy dollars US, not including the tailor or surgeon I will need to wear it.
Just as we were getting ready to leave Nemena a dive boat arrived with "my cousin" Cabot and the Michael and Francoise from Heart's Content. We were invited on board for a lecture from the resident Marine biologist about coral reefs and the symbiotic relationship between the zooxanthellae algae and the coral polyps. I felt a little guilty taking advantage of this woman's knowledge without paying the hundred-dollar dive fee. The main lesson we learned is that the brown looking yucky stuff is actually indicative of a healthy reef. The pretty pink, yellow and purple colors are just algae, sponges and anemones. A dead reef, is covered with lots of green algae, which we saw in parts of French Polynesia and Nuku Hiva, or is bleached out white. By putting the digital camera in a waterproof GPS bag, we are now able to take photos underwater. The fish think it is some kind of laser gun and all hide in the coral.
Phil's ear is a little better. Although he is still on oral antibiotics, the infection is cleared up. His tympanic membrane looks good, but he still has this strange fistula on the posterior wall of his ear canal. I made a foam ear plug and using antibiotic ointment as a sealant, we finally could get him back in the water to snorkel. He only recently has been able to hear out of that ear. He has promised to stay on the surface and not dive down. It seemed very unfair to be so close to heaven on earth and not being able to see the underworld!
Saturday we left for Makongai Island, twenty miles south of Nemena. It is government owned and was originally a leper colony. They are trying to grow clams and raise sea turtles for release back in the ocean. We met one other couple in a boat called Aka. They have been cruising between Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand for seven years! After, the recent episode with the Fijian low, I was reluctant to go to Bundeberg, Australia. I had originally wanted to go to Sydney, but Phil didn't want to go any further South than we needed. So, after talking to Aka, we have decided to go midway, to a place called Coff's Harbor, between Sydney and Brisbane. It is out of the cyclone hot zone and it would be no problem to leave Iwalani for a month to travel to New Zealand. They do have a quarantine station there, so hopefully Stewart won't be a problem. Hopefully, we will still be able to find someone to do the tests on his heart, as well as find an ear, nose and throat specialist for Phil. Iwalani is looking more and more like a tired old wreck. It's amazing what can happen to a boat in a year and a half. Our first month in Australia will be spent stripping everything off and repainting and varnishing. The French bottom paint still looks good, knock on wood. APW
*SevuSevu is the giving of gifts by a visitor to a chief or native Fijian. Usually the gift is kava. **Kava, a dried root from a pepper plant, is in the deadly nightshade family. It is a potent diuretic as well as a sleeping agent. It also can numb the mouth and make the legs weak. We are too chicken to try it. It looks pretty gross.
Log for the week of October 14, 2001 by PS
Our worldvoyagers e-mail account has some problems. If you have been getting your mail returned it's because some person accidentally (or otherwise) sent us a nasty virus, which has multiplied our e-mail and clogged up the system. We have been trying to get it fixed, but haven't had any luck. It's a bit confusing for me, because we use webmail.worldvoyagers.com instead of connecting directly to our Internet service provider. I don't know if the mail virus is at our ISP or at webmail.worldvoyagers.com. Our latest attempt, as a temporary fix, is to increase the mailbox size to 1,000. Because the mail doubles itself every time we check it, it won't work long.
Monday we were up at 5:30 am. Our plan was to get to Suva before sunset. We had to motor-sail all day because the wind was less then 10 knots and we needed to cover 75 miles. Things were pretty uneventful until the approach to Suva harbor. I was determined that we find the range markers for the entrance before dark, in case the lights were out. Most of the navigation lights in Fiji are. Seems the government is short of money. Anyway, Amy found the orange and white striped markers and we headed in. The radar and the c-map programs were agreeing with each other. Everything seemed fine till I heard Amy say, "The lower range light went out. They both turned on then the lower one blinked out." "Get on the radio and tell harbor control." I said. She got on the VHF and told them it was out. They insisted it was working. The radar and GPS had us right on the inbound range so we continued in. The 10-mile long reef, which was only one hundred feet away, showed up on radar exactly like the chart. If it didn't, I would have turned around. I was still nervous without the lower range working, so I decided to give harbor control a call myself. "You say the lower range light is out. OK, we will notify maintenance." was their reply. Well, so much for my idea that a woman can get better response then a man on the radio.
Ten minutes later the light was on. Of course by then we were in the harbor. We made our way though the anchored boats and dropped the hook around 9 PM.
Tuesday we took the dinghy into the Royal Suva Yacht Club dock. We asked for directions to customs. Even though we had already checked in with them in Savu Savu, we still had to check in again at Suva or face a heavy fine. I think there should be a world standard to check-in protocol. After being shown where to go, on a tourist map, we headed for town. The sidewalks were blocked off due to road construction. We had to remind ourselves that the cars and busses that zoomed by were on the "wrong" side of the road. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it, but I know that it's dangerous for tourists from the States.
You may recall that I think tourist maps are never correct. Sure enough, we ended up at the navy base. A man leaving the base kindly offered to take us to Customs. After walking several blocks and checking different buildings we arrived at the correct office. Our unofficial "Guide" Albert, was an 18-year veteran navigator for the Navy who had the day off. Seems he didn't know where yachts were supposed to clear in either. Anyway, he was kind enough to stay with us till we got it right. Afterwards, we asked him about places to go in Suva. Even though he had lived here his whole life, he was reluctant to make recommendations. Must be the military in him. He finally compromised by walking us to the tourist bureau. As we walked along, we asked him about what kind of equipment he used on the navy ship to navigate. Radar and GPS was all he had. To re-pay him for his kindness in guiding us around, we asked him if he would like a GPS moving map program. "Sure." Was his reply. It turns out that they did have a computer on board, which he could use. He had the next day off, so we agreed to meet at the yacht club at 10 AM. We planned to bring him out to Iwalani so he could see how it worked.
I spent Wednesday morning copying C-Map and printing out the instructions. I had my doubts about his superiors going along with putting a moving map program on the ships computer. After all the latest trouble in the world, I was sure they would think we were trying to put some computer virus in their system. Amy and I went in at the appointed time. Albert did not show up. Too bad. I was hoping to do my part in upgrading the Fiji Navy!
After waiting 30 minutes, we walked into town and checked out the Movie Theater and the DVD shops. Nothing good was playing at the theater so we headed to the DVD store. After a bit of a hassle we were able to rent a DVD. Seems the big city shops are not as trusting as the ones in Savu Savu. We had to leave a $100 (Fiji) deposit.
We stopped at a Home Depot type store to buy a padlock for Iwatani's companionway. We had heard on the morning net about a boat that was ransacked in Apia, Samoa three hours after they arrived. This added insult to injury, as their engine broke down on the way in. So much for paradise. On our way out of the store the guard stopped me and insisted on signing the receipt. All for a three-dollar lock! A little overboard on the job security I thought.
Back out on the street the afternoon chaos was in full swing. People crowding the sidewalks, about a 50/50 mix of Fijians and Indians. Busses coming and going from the terminal. Young boys racing each other, pushing their wheel barrows in front of them. They were killing time between running courier service for people with more packages then they could carry from the farmers market. They represented Fiji's version of porters. Watching them race reminded me of a story a truck-driving friend told me. It seems that he was waiting his turn at the unloading dock, along with several other trucks. To pass the time they raced their rigs across the parking lot. In REVERSE! Brings to mind images of tractor-trailers swaying back and forth nearly out of control. I guess some kids never grow up.
The reason there is such a large Indian population has to do with the English. It seems that early in the early 1900's they brought them from India, as indentured servants, to work on the sugar cane plantations. When Fiji won their independence, the Indians elected to stay in Fiji rather then return to India. Their industriousness led them to run the shops in town and prosper. The present situation is a bit tenuous, as the government seems to be in a battle over just how much representation Indians should have.
On Thursday we took a taxi to the Fiji History Museum. The taxi driver was Indian. When he found out that we were on a yacht, he launched into his theory that the world was flat! Here we were in downtown Suva, Fiji debating about the shape of the earth. He was serious! I decided not to carry on the argument, which he felt that he had already won. Besides, he was turning around and facing me instead of the traffic. He also had a cracked windshield. Not a good sign. The experience was rather surreal. We could have been in down town New York, talking to an Indian cab driver, having the same conversation. We decided to walk back to the yacht club.
On our way, we passed a pick-up truck with a phrase written on the side that read " A gift to save the children Fiji from the people of Australia". I immediately thought it was some militant group of Aussie haters! The truck was parked in front of a child welfare office. I thought about it as we walked along and realized what they meant to say. Obviously the people that came up with that phrase couldn't see the forest for the trees.
Friday we checked out with customs and immigration. Customs went well, but immigration was another story. It took us an hour to get through the paperwork. We were told that we had to clear out of the harbor on Saturday morning or else. The immigration officer said he would be checking with harbor control to be sure that we did. Not a friendly sendoff. We hurried back to the local craft co-op, as we had some unfinished business to take care of. Earlier in the day we had stopped to check out what they had to offer. While in separate booths, Amy and I had simultaneously bargained to spend more cash then we had. Whoops! This was a cash only establishment, so we had to get to a cash machine, get checked out with immigration and return before closing time. We just made it. Amy was having trouble with the venders though. Seems they were so desperate to move their goods they were slashing prices all out of reason. It was sad really. Here were some hard working craftsmen, on the other side of the world from New York, affected by Bin Laden and his mad scheme of September 11th.
That night we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant. They had tables laid out around a hot grill, on which the chef prepared your meal. What was unusual was the fact that the only Japanese people to be seen were some patrons at the next table. The chefs and waitress's were all Fijian. The food was good and Amy downed a couple of pitchers (they are quite small) of hot sake. Amy has a weakness for sake.
Saturday we took our time leaving the harbor. We have discovered that leaving on a long passage is stressful enough, without rushing around right before we go. We put on our scopolamine patches and were headed out the harbor by 3pm. I started the Spectra Water-maker as we were leaving and checked it again five minutes later. We always let the first few gallons of water go into a five-gallon bucket. This gives the system a chance to clear itself and I can check the amount of dissolved solids in the water with a meter. (Amy just taste tests it. Turns out, she can tell me what the meter reads without ever seeing it. She'll make a great back up if my meter dies!) Well, when I went to check, there was no water in the bucket. Aggg! The water-maker (the most expensive one money can buy) was broken again. The last time it broke was in Huahine, two months ago. Amy and I discussed our options. I had a repair kit, so we could return to Suva and try to re-build it. We had forty-five gallons of water on board. The trip to New Caledonia would be about seven days. We decided to continue on. Repairing the water-maker would put us at least a day behind. We had been studying the weather and now was a good time to go.
We motor-sailed for the first few hours because the wind was light and on the nose. I had my usual 4pm to 8pm watch. A container ship passed between a nearby island and us just after dark. He must have been in a hurry. I don't like to see ships any closer than a mile and a half. After all, the ocean has lots of room. This ship passed within a half a mile. Once he was clear, all we had to worry about was a small reef with a wreck on it. I planned to pass within three miles. I was a little nervous because charts have been known to be wrong. When we were still 16 miles away I picked it up on radar. It's a bit eerie really. To be passing something, unseen by the naked eye, that could easily put an end to our trip. That early seafarers got anywhere at all and returned safely is a miracle.
Sunday the wind picked up from the southeast and we were making an average of seven knots. We decided it must be the French bottom paint. When asked on the morning radio net when we would arrive in New Caledonia, Amy hesitated. She told the net controller that the last time she made a prediction, based on our early hull speed, the wind died. In the back of our minds we had estimated four and a half days. Evidently you don't have to say things out loud for the wind gods to hear. Amy can fill you in on the rest of our passage.
Log for the week of October 21, 2001 Fiji to Noumea, New Caledonia by APW
Back once again in a land of baggettes, bonbons and high heels. How can women in a country where "moose" are made of chocolate and "pain" is crusty and consumed with every meal, stay so thin and leggy? It seems terribly unfair, but probably is tied into the thick web of cigarette smoke that enshrouds these spidery French beauties.
We arrived Friday afternoon to the Port Mosel Marina in Noumea, New Caledonia. Despite being sea punchy, Phil maneuvered Iwalani into the marina slip without taking out any other yachts, docks or toy poodles. This was the second time in her life Iwalani lay in a marina slip. She looked a little like a draft horse in the starting gate of a thoroughbred race track. "Whoa, she's heavily constructed" is about the only comment we hear. Iwalani is sorely in need of paint and varnish, decorated here and there with vertical rust stains and bilge streaks. But hey, that French bottom paint still looks pretty good. Stewart couldn't have been happier with the new marina lifestyle and gave his paws up approval, by rolling over on his back and snoring like one of the three stooges, as soon as the dock lines were passed over the side.
Port Mosel marina gives overseas visitors one free night tied to a slip with two free drinks at the bar. We were anxious to take advantage of it all, but had to wait for the parade of officialdom to arrive and clear us in. We had barely started the ten pages of paperwork given to us by the marina office, when one by one the officers arrived with their badges and thick black soled shoes, leaving black waffle prints on the deck and cushions. On the customs form, they asked if there were any narcotics on board, or other prescription drugs. I wrote out my DEA number and all the drugs I have for pain management, anesthesia and euthanasia, which would have sent an official in the US into apoplexy, but here never even caused an eye blink. The last official on board was the quarantine officer, who spoke no English; but when he read on the form that I had declared a "cat" on board, he immediately went into a froth. "You must leave the marina immediately," he said in thick French. I did my best blonde routine and shaking my head said I didn't understand. I insisted he come down below and see for himself "the cat" who could no more climb up the companionway ladder and spew rabies virus around town, than fly to the moon. The official, who suffered from a lifetime living in close proximity to French pastries, could not have maneuvered his frame down our companionway. He could hear Stewart's loud snoring coming from our forward "stateroom" and must have been convinced I had a one hundred and forty-pound growling panther on board, not an eight pound tabby. The officer practically begged me not to bring Stewart up to the cockpit so he could see him. He just wanted us to leave and anchor off. By this time he was getting quite upset with me and my incoherent "Franish". I finally bit my tongue and shed no tears, and left Stewart snoring away, oblivious to the potential international incident he was causing. I wondered why the yapping foreign dogs I could see on other boats were not treated with as much discrimination. I am sure he would have been much happier if I had shown him my pet collection of AK47's, oozie's and rocket launchers. Finally, we reached a truce and we told him we would anchor off once we had had a bite to eat and a good rest. I wasn't going to give up my free marina night or free drinks over some bureaucrat's pet phobias.
Our passage to New Caledonia was "pleasant" enough, sunny skies and good winds for all but two days, when we resorted to using the engine. We saw no dolphins or other sea mammals. In fact the last dolphins we saw were a small species outside the pass to Bora Bora. Jelly fish, similarly seem very rare. The last jellyfish I saw was in the Caribbean. It makes snorkeling and swimming less stressful but it seems kind of odd. We did have a juvenile red footed booby accompany us for part of the trip.
The only other event of note on the passage was the loss of the letters "g" and "h" on Phil's computer. Now you may think that is no big deal, however it presents a few problems. No longer can we send e-mail from the boat to Phil's kids, parents or my sister. So, Whistle if you are reading this, I am sorry about our big fight. I was hoping we wouldn't sink and die, because I could never have gotten a chance to apologize. So I am sorry. It was my mistake, I read your email wrong- almost like the sign on the Fijian truck in Phil's previous log. Two interpretations and I read it the wrong way. Funny how we still fight with a whole planet between us.
Once we were forty miles out of New Caledonia we were faced with having to slow Iwalani down, so we could make the pass through the reef at day break. The wind had finally picked back up and we were going close to eight knots, which would have got us to the pass at midnight against an ebb tide. We just can't win with these passes. I REALLY hate slowing this boat down, but the only other option is to charge full speed ahead and then heave to, a few miles off. That's not much fun either.
At daybreak the next morning, we got through Havanna pass with not too much difficulty, sailing by many shipwrecks on the way through. New Caledonia is a geologist's heaven. It's mineral laden hills shine red and orange, much like the southwest U.S. No longer are we on a smoldering volcano. Pine trees, a species like those drawn by a three year old, cover small granite rock fringed islands, interspersed with palms and other exotic hard woods. Lots of birds twittering and singing. No houses or signs of people until we were just outside of Noumea. Then, all of a sudden, appeared the high speed cat ferry's, jet skis, hotels and high rise apartments. If you photoshopped out the nickel mining factory, Noumea could pass for a city on the south of France. It is more French than Papeete. Lots of great grocery stores, museums, movie theaters, patisseries, chocolatiers and lots of transplanted French people. No mention of what is happening back home from anyone. There is an American memorial erected a few years ago to thank the Americans and Mc'Hales Navy (no, only kidding) for protecting New Caledonia during World War II. On the memorial placard is a dying bouquet of bougainvillea.
Phil on our first night here, took me out to dinner at a great French restaurant and afterwards to a French movie, ( no sub-titles). Both of us came away with our own interpretation of the plot. Still, despite all this fattening food and sophistication, I miss the people of Fiji. They have to be the nicest people on the entire planet. If you could have the food of New Caledonia in the country of Fiji- you'd really have something.
The curries in Fiji were okay. Maybe at times, a little too many unidentifiable body parts, but still edible. The only other edible thing we discovered, was a snack sold by Indian's in small three inch paper bags- consisting of dried whole peas, peanuts and Chinese noodles. This may sound hideous but it is much better than potato chips, or cheese doodles and probably better for you. Most of the time, in Fiji, we lived off corgettes, aubergine and capsicum. This may sound terribly exotic, but is in reality zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers. I tried to get us some meat one day and told Phil, from then on, he was in charge of meat shopping. The meat store seemed pleasant enough- air conditioned and clean, until I started looking closely in the display cases. There were plenty of nice steaks and chops, but they were keeping company next to bins containing such delicacies as chicken feet, cow eyeballs, hearts, stomachs, tongues, ears, hooves and tails. We left empty-handed, because it only looked like work for me- trying to reassemble these poor animals. It certainly didn't look like food.
We've tried to keep in touch with the "Willy Bolton" crew over the SSB. We are now thousands of miles apart and its difficult hearing them on the radio. Their self-steering aparatus broke for the fifth and final time. Paul from "Renegade" is going to weld them up a new one, using parts and pieces from various autos in Tonga. It should be a work of art when he's done, as well as a much-improved design. As a professional car restorer, Paul's visits to junk yards probably get him drooling, unlike my visits to Fijian meat markets. It is nice that our two sets of different friends can at least spend time with each other, even if we can't. That's it for this week. APW
Log for the week of October 28, 2001 New Caledonia by PS
It's Sunday morning; the 28th and we are anchored in surroundings very similar to home. If you added white pine and fir trees to the shore and removed the few coconut palms, we could be in Down East Maine. The only sounds we hear are the land birds and the wind through the trees. There are a few other boats in sight. But they are keeping to themselves, as are we. The days are warm and the nights cool. We are missing one thing though, mosquitoes!
I began the week doing laundry by hand on the boat. Now you may think it a bit strange, but I actually look forward to it. This cruising life needs the accents of accomplishment once in a while. Doing the laundry also had a second mission. The water-maker was fixed and I wanted to get rid of the water we had taken on at the Marina. I had re-built the water- maker once again. You may recall that it broke down on our departure from Suva, Fiji for a second time. The problem was exactly the same as it was the first time, the spool valve assembly. Luckily, I had replacement parts shipped to us while we were in Bora Bora. At that time I had to pay $80 shipping, even though the parts were under warranty. I wasn't happy. If it breaks down again before we leave for Australia, we'll take on marina water and I'll have Spectra ship us the parts via a slow boat from California. Once again I believe we are subjecting a system to round the clock (around the world) usage which almost no marine system is designed for.
Our second mission of the day was to update the log. I have been trying my best to update it every week. Until real-time access to the Internet on Iwalani becomes available (not in time for this circumnavigation I'm afraid) I'll be doing the best that I can. As we were in a French territory, I expected this posting to be easy.
The marina had e-mail access, but didn't want anyone adding programs to their computer. We tried the nearest Internet Café but were getting the same ActiveX errors we had gotten in Samoa. Our third Café allowed us to install our FTP program, but it wouldn't work there either. Seems the guy behind the counter knew the IP address for the proxy server, but not the password. The fellow that knew that information was out for the day. We decided to return the next day and try again. All of our communicating was a bit tenuous because we were back in the land of the French. Most of them feign any knowledge that the English language even exists.
Amy thinks I shouldn't bother including this Internet stuff in the log. She says it's like a play. People don't care what goes on behind the scenes. I disagree. When we visited the forty-two foot globe I built at DeLorme Mapping, she saw the gigantic stretch of blue water in the Pacific and I saw the servomotors that make the globe rotate.
Back to the log. To fill in our day, we visited one of the local museums. That's a positive thing to be said for modern cities; they offer numerous art galleries to stimulate the mind and museums to teach us something about the history the of country we are visiting.
The Museum of New Caledonia had a modest entry fee of $1.35 US and was worth every penny. There was a full sized replica of a "Round House" along with historic native art, not the touristified stuff you see in the stores. Most of the exhibits had English and French labeling. Everything was very well done.
Tuesday we headed back into town to get the log updated. This time the man with the information we needed was there and he set up FTP Voyager for us. The café uses a network to save on redundant resources, so when it came time to use our floppy disc, they tried to send the files from the main computer to ours over their network as e-mail. Well, they couldn't get it to work. They had to resort to updating the drivers for a floppy drive on the computer we were using. All told it took three staff members 20 minutes to get us set up and running. They desperately needed cross training! I was very grateful they persevered, otherwise I don't think you would have seen last week's logs.
We took the bus to the Aquarium and were finally able to see a live chambered nautilus. They are truly strange creatures, living in the depths and feeding on, among other things, recently shed lobsters shells. We also saw lots of our favorite reef fish and some not so favorite, like sharks. The aquarium was small, but well worth the $10 US fee for both of us.
We decided to walk back to get some exercise and find a place to eat lunch. The trip to the aquarium was a bit unplanned and it was now 2pm. This also happened to be after the lunch serving hour. "It's not poscibill, the kitchen she is closed." was the reply we got from the first two establishments. We finally resorted to a roadside stand that was owned by a lady with a full sized American truck. The only full sized truck I had seen in the entire city. I bring this up because I saw her earlier, during our shopping trip to the "Casino" grocery store. She was trying to get out of her parking space and was having some trouble. It seems that the French drive smaller cars and have smaller parking spaces. After about 10 minutes (no exaggeration) of inching forward and back, slowly getting pointed in the right direction, she was able to extricate herself. This sorely tested the patience of the French drivers trying to get by. The honking horns showed they had no sympathy for this American Road Hog.
After lunch we continued our walk and saw a veterinary practice. Amy has been visiting vet offices in different countries and getting a feel for how they take care of their animals. Also, she talked about getting some blood work done on Stewart. We walked up to a door and Amy opened it. There she was face to face with the doctor in the treatment room waiting on a patient. He spoke some English and Amy was able to get across her request. He said to bring the sample in and he would have it analyzed at the local human hospital. We thanked him and closed the door. Feeling a bit awkward, barging in like we did, we looked around and noticed the main entrance on the opposite side of the building. Doh! I'm sure in the future; the vet will be locking the door. You never know when some American vet will be poking her nose in!
Wednesday we went on a mission for Stewart. We could stay at anchor the entire time we are in Australia or import him. If we import him, we can tie up to a marina, travel around in Australia and fly to New Zealand. There was an Australian Embassy in town and we thought they might be able to help us. After searching for the correct building several times, we finally got good directions and headed up to the seventh floor of a white marble building. The French secretary (in the Australian Embassy?) told us what we already knew. We insisted on talking to someone in authority and she finally relented and told us to wait. After about fifteen minutes the Australian ambassador greeted us. He had no words of encouragement. Having brought his two dogs from Australia, he had first hand experience with Australian bureaucracy. It's seems that even he had problems. One of the papers he filled out didn't have the correct number. And he was an Australian ambassador! He told us to call AQUIS in Australia to try and talk to them directly. (They hadn't answered a single one of our e-mails over the past year and a half). He didn't realize what a monumental thing he was asking Amy to do. She has extreme phone-phobia. He wished us luck and we headed to the Marina to use the phone.
The quarantine facility outside of Sidney couldn't help her and gave her the number at AQUIS. They said they couldn't help us and gave her the number of the Chief Veterinary Officer. Finally we were getting somewhere. It turns out that to import Stewart, we had to remain at anchor for three months then put him in to quarantine for a month. We can't visit him during the first week and then only once a week after that. But, after three months we could tie up to a marina dock and after Stewart's month in purgatory, oops I mean quarantine, we would be free to travel anywhere. That would still leave us two months to explore places by land.
The Chief Veterinary Officer also alluded to an airplane option. It seems that if we send Stewart to Australia by plane, he would only have to spend one month at the quarantine station. This would help in two ways. Stew wouldn't have to make the passage on Iwalani (like us, we don't think he likes the ocean passages) and we could arrive in Coff's Harbor and tie right up to a marina without being stuck out at anchor for three months first. Our trip to Australia would take about a week, which is the soonest we could visit him anyway. All this would have to be confirmed, in writing, by the CVO before we made any plans. The last thing we would want is to find out, after he boarded the plane, that he would have to spend four months at the quarantine station. That just would not be acceptable. When Stew signed on as crew, there was no mention of jail time!
With all this turmoil going on, we decided to head out to Prony Bay. This is the cyclone haven for New Caledonia, and was a place I promised Amy we would go to. The cruising guide talked about good reefs to snorkel on and hot springs near the river. We set off on Wednesday for the 30-mile trip, motoring against a light headwind. The charging system was acting worse then usual. After six hours of motoring the battery bank was loosing amp hours. The regulator was a Cruising Equipment brand of "Smart Regulators". Obviously this one was loosing its mind. It had always acted a bit weird, as the accept cycle would cause the alternator to go from a positive output to a negative output, switching back and forth about once a second. According to Nigel Caulders book about boat systems, this type of behavior should occur hundreds of times a second. After loosing too many nights sleep over the battery bank, I decided to put on a Lifeline regulator that I had bought before we left Maine. I held off changing it because it involved adding a bunch more wires to the system, defying my belief in KISS (keep it simple stupid).
Thursday was dedicated to the regulator, while Amy did some "right brain" work. Painting pictures of the surrounding landscape. Three hours later it was time to test my work. Lo and behold, no more surging alternator output. During the 1-hour run up to the head of the bay the batteries got fully charged. The bay narrowed to a few hundred yards wide and forty feet deep. The holding was good, making this an excellent cyclone harbor. We took a quick dingy ride to shore to stretch our feet and quickly covered them with a very persistent red ocher. We were wearing our "jelly sandals" and had to scrub like mad to get it off. Amy wanted to take some back to the boat to use as paint pigment. I just wanted to get it off so we wouldn't turn our decks from gray to red!
Saturday we decided to go for a long hike. The trails range from footpaths to dirt roads, some of which were washed out and barely passable by a small four-wheel drive vehicle. We headed for "Lac en 8" or so the sign said. We thought we would have a picnic by the lake then head back to the hot springs, back by the dingy, to ease our aching muscles. Well, after hiking for several hours, there was no sign of the lake. We settled for an old chrome mine pit that had a trickle of water running through it, then headed back. Amy said the only thing that kept her going was the thought of the Hot Springs. Now my vision of the Hot Springs looks something like this: steaming water in a pool large enough for several people to get into. Kind of like the hot tubs you find at fancy hotels. Well let me tell you, these particular "Hot springs" are nothing more then warm seeps. That's all we could find. Bits of warmish water oozing out of the riverbank into the stream. Major disappointment. (editor's note-I liked them!)
Sunday I decided to give the blisters on my feet a break and work on the compass. It has been loosing oil since the Galapagos. After a bit of a struggle to get all the pieces back in the correct order, I managed to add some acrylic sealant to the rubber o- ring seal. With any luck, my repair will work. The white kerosene ("special compass oil") which we had been adding over the past few months worked fine. It didn't cloud up or discolor. Well it's time I wrapped this up. Stay tuned for the saga of Stewart. PS