June 2012

The life of a sailor

Posted by on 7:19 am in 2012, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 30, 2012   For me sailing has always been a life long passion, one that started at an early age. I can not remember a time when the sight of a sailboat would not fascinate me. My mind would spend countless hours wondering what it would be like to glide across the water with just the wind filling my sails. I always knew that someday I would sail across oceans just for the enjoyment of it all. I always knew I was a Sailor.Sailing for me started when I was 16. I was born and raised in Southern California in a small town a few hours inland from the coast. My first sailing adventure started with a borrowed 16 foot Hobiecat that my uncle owned. How difficult could it be right? Well, the first few hours were interesting to say the least! My friend Tony and I were able to get the boat rigged and into the water for the first time with out much trouble. Soon after we were gliding across the lake thinking we got this figured out! About that same time the first big gust of wind caught us off guard and promptly flipped the boat over. Not all that uncommon with Hobiecat’s but my first time being flipped over in the water! Tony and I swam the mast around into to the wind, then swam back to the hulls, we pulled on the righting line which we looped over the pontoon that was up in the air and watched the mast slowly lift up out of the water and back up into the sky. Just like I read in the instruction book!! Well no sooner did the boat came down on both pontoons that it promptly flipped over the other way! Once again we righted the boat, this time with the main sail loosened up a bit. Well this time the boat stayed upright but took off across the lake at an alarming speed, leaving Tony and I behind treading water in the middle of the lake!! After some time we were rescued and given a ride to the Hobiecat which had safely beached itself on the far side of the lake. I will never forget that lesson, do not let go of the boat!! When I was 17 I purchased my first sailboat, a brand new Hobie 18! Oh the hours of fun we had on that boat! Tony and I would fly her on one hull all the way across Lake Perris! We would get done with work then drive as fast as we could to the lake and sail till dark. Those were the days! I still have that boat and do not think I will ever part with her. By my late 20’s I was ready for new and bigger adventures. I read the pages of all the published sail magazines and dreamed of the day I would sail the ocean. In 1996 I was ready! I chartered a state room on a 50 Sailboat in the BVI. “Stop The Wedding” was a 50 foot Benateau with 5 staterooms. Cliff was the Captain and the other staterooms had people from all over the States. Sally from Maryland, Tom from Chicago, A guy we called AT&T from California, and Andrew from...

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Rabi Island

Posted by on 7:01 am in 2012, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 30, 2012   We set sail for the short 25 mile sail north to Rabi Island in partly cloudy skies but soon the weather turned for the worse. A wall of black clouds was coming up fast and soon it was pouring rain and our visibility was down to a few hundred feet. The Mahi that was following us did seem to mind a took hold of the purple cedar plug an the fight was on! This was our third Mahi of the season and turned out to be the biggest one too! After a 20 minute fight and a few squirts of whiskey in the gills and it was all over with another nice Mahi in the freezer. The waters around Fiji are dangerous with numerous uncharted reefs and most admiralty charts in this part of the world date back to the late 1800’s so we are always extra cautious going through the passes. Since we arrived 5 weeks ago we have heard of 3 boats lost this season. The first was a boat Touché that left from a bay we had just been in a few days before and bumped on their way out of the narrow pass and they decided to keep going to keep an appointment to pick up guests in Savusavu. One bad decision led to another and they soon found themselves being crushed on the reef by 20 foot waves. Another tragedy was boat that was bound for Tonga from Nuie (the same route we took) and hit an island and the two sailors aboard were never found. Our friend Bob on Braveheart was one of the boats that spend time in the unsuccessful search for survivors The last boat to be lost was another bad chain of events or not enough chain of events….the owner lowered the anchor and went ashore without making sure the anchor was set properly. After way to many bowls of kava with the chief they returned to where they left the boat and it had vanished! They had anchored the boat on a rising tide and had not put enough scope (chain) out and the rising tide lifted the anchor and the boat drifted off with the anchor hanging in clear blue water. The owners spent $12,000 on a search plane to locate the boat but at this point we are not sure if it has been recovered or not? Rabi is a island inhabited by the Banabans a people displaced from Ocean Island by mining operations. They were given the land by Fiji and are now their own people. The men have homemade dugouts that they fish from and like most of these islands the Methodist Church plays a big role in supporting the islanders. We were warmly greeted by several locals who came by in their boats offering local fruits.   The next day we drove SD around the 8 mile long island and saw all its rugged coastline and stopped in a few bays, one was Albert Bay on the north end of the island and we met a lady drying copra (coconut meat0 over a fire next to her small hut.     Later we went to the village in Katharine Bay with our bag of gifts and handed out toys, shirts...

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Rainforest of Taveuni!!!

Posted by on 7:27 am in 2012, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 29, 2012   We started our adventure at the crack of dawn with another beautiful day of sunshine. It had rained hard during the night and this usually gives you nice weather the following day in this part of the world according to Jack .       Jack had offered to take care of Super Dink while we went on our island adventure for the day since he needed to do a little shopping in town anyways. We picked him up along with Petr and Sara and were on our way across the channel for the 8 mile trip to Taveuni. The seas were calm which kept us all dry on the way over during the 30 minute ride. I let everyone off on the beach with all our bags and then anchored SD out a ways and somehow managed to get back to the beach with dry pants until I realized I left my flip flops in SD……I waded back out to get my shoes and on the way back in turned into Capt. Grumpy wet pants. Jack found us a taxi driver to take us around the island and soon we were on our way down the bumpy road to Bouma National Park. Raymond was our driver for the day in his 10 year old Toyota four wheel drive super cab that had several hundred thousand miles on it. The guide book had claimed there was a sealed road to the park but this soon deteriorated into a one lane gravel road. We bounced along for over an hour down this muddy road to the park and I think Raymond got a kick out of driving right through the middle of the biggest mud puddles he could find to see how big a splash he could make! As we drove around to the east side of the island the rain started, not a heavy rain but a steady slow rain and it never stopped. We passed trough several small villages along the way and people were out walking around like rain was part of their usual day. I guess when you get his much rain you can just wait for it to stop to get anything done or else nothing would get done, not like much gets done on an island anyways. Life here is simple and the men walk around with machetes which help provide for them with what they need out of the rain forest. We finally made it to the park and were the only ones crazy enough to hike on this soggy morning. The trail headed off up the valley to the first of three waterfalls. The path was well maintained with recently trimmed grass and 30 minutes later we arrived at the roaring falls. With all this rain the river was really flowing and the falls were crashing over the cliffs. It was amazing the amount of wind and mist that blew off the base of the falls as the water tumbled down.   The next falls were an hour up river over the steep muddy mountains. At least there were steps cut into the hills and good footing was never hard to find. We arrived at the second falls soaking wet and by the time we got the third...

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New pics!!!

Posted by on 7:28 am in 2012, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 20, 2012   I took few pics at sea, so enjoy them! It’s a pity that my camera could not go to down more than 33feet  (((...

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Viani Bay, Rainbow Reef

Posted by on 8:57 am in 2012, Diving, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 17, 2012   Sailing back to the east in this part of the world is never fun and this trip was no exception. There was a 10 to 15 knot wind on the nose and had both engines pushing us along at only 6 knots. Luckily the swell was small so the ride was much drier and smoother than last time we made this trip. We had the lines out and within an hour we had our first fish on! A nice size Mahi took hold of a pink and blue/metallic squid jig and was jumping wildly and taking line. It was nice to not have to deal with sails and we had the fish on deck in within 30 minutes. Catching the fish delayed us, so we chose to anchor in Fawn Harbor which was 10 miles short of our intended destination. Early the next morning we made our way to Viani Bay before the winds kicked up and I navigated my way into the first bay I saw on the charts that had a boat anchored inside. Well this was definitely NOT Viani Bay as the local fishermen pointed out we were still a few miles from Viani. Later we found out this was the bay that the first boat of the season to go down last departed from. Touché sank just two weeks prior and was a total loss, broken up by the reef by 20 foot waves in mater of hours. The owners had set sail in bad conditions trying to meet a deadline to pick up guests in Savu-Savu later that fateful day. They had felt a bump leaving the pass and noticed the bilge pumps running continuously (never a good sign) as they sailed on. They were facing onshore winds (On reef winds to be exact) and decided to launch the dingy in case things got worse and they had to abandon ship. Well this was strike two on a very unlucky day and in the process of launching the dink lines wrapped around the main propeller shaft and killed the engine. Now they were dragging dingy which limited steerage and were soon blown onto the very reef they were trying to avoid. They barely had time to gather there pass ports and valuables before the boat began breaking apart. They were able to cut the dingy loose and ride it over the reef to safety but in the process lost the bag with their valuables. Hours later help arrived and a search found the bag and the rescuers brought them safely to shore. The fishermen were very friendly and we left them smiling wearing new Downtime hats and a bag full of fresh Mahi. An hour later we were finally in the right bay and safely anchored in 30 feet of water. It did not take long to find “Jack” who’s family owns most of the land surrounding this bay. He came rowing up in his aluminum skiff and warmly welcomed us to his own piece of paradise.   Jack and his family have lived here for several generations and his hospitality is known by hundreds of his friends throughout the world. If you have the time you can spend hours with Jack listening to his colorful life stories and experience...

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Savu-Savu, Fiji

Posted by on 8:13 am in 2012, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 16, 2012   We arrived in Savu-Savu early Wednesday the 30th of may after a nice 3 day sail from Tonga. The clearing in process is straight forward in Fiji, you must send advance notice via internet at least 48 hours before you arrive and then call customs when you make port. There were several other boats making port along with us that morning Sara Jean 2 and Merkava were two that we had met last season and were part of a group that sailed together from New Zealand this season. Needless to say it took most the day for the officials to get everyone cleared in and by 2:00 the last of the 5 officials left our boat and we were free to go ashore. Savu-Savu is one of the few ports on the north island that you can moor a boat in but anchorage is difficult due to the average depth of over 80 feet. While we were there one boat broke loose of her mooring and it was amazing to see all the cruisers come to her rescue. The following evening the owners invited everyone who helped save their boat for a nice dinner. The little town has over 20 restaurants that serve pretty decent food. The Indian influence is present and curries and eastern spices are in most foods. The first thing you notice is how inexpensive it is to eat here compared to New Zealand! A decent meal is under $8 US dollars. The first night in town we had dinner with several of the boats that arrived with us and it was fun to hear everyone tell the stories of their passage from New Zealand. The next day Daria and I did a dive close to the marina with Mark from Merkava which was a pretty terrible but we did see our first Toyota on that dive! Later we took SD (Super Dink) out to Jan Cousteau’s Resort and took a tour of the resort and had a ice cream and coffee. Then we went to the Marine Reserve which was also a disappointing dive since all the coral was wiped out by the last typhoon and the invasion of The Crown Of Thorns which devours all coral in its path.     Friday night we had the second poker night of the season aboard Downtime and met a few new boats that came to play. Daria was playing well and just about won, but settled for second in the end. While we were walking through town Sammy the guy who polished Downtime last year found us and the next day he and his friend spent the day polishing. Work here is hard to find and wages for laborers are low staring at $3 Fiji ($1.70 US) per hour. Sammy was getting the skilled labor rate of $8/hr so he was very happy to have the work.   We decided diving in this area was a thing of the past and the next day we rented a scooter for a land based adventure. We must have been the first to ride a scooter this far since everyone at Buca Bay were amazed that we made it that far.. Riding the first 20 kilometers was on paved roads and then it was all...

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Vavau south to Haapai

Posted by on 7:36 am in 2012, June 2012 | 0 comments

June 3, 2012 We set sail on Saturday the 18th of May for the Haapai Group just a short 60 mile sail south from Vavau. We chose to exit the reef and sail the open ocean to the east rather than dodge the numerous islands and hazards that lie directly south of Vavau. On our way through the pass we encountered several schools of Skipjack Tuna’s feeding and landed our first fish on a green 4 inch Yoshuri minnow lure. The fish was only a few pounds but made a great lunch. The winds freshened and turned easterly providing good sailing conditions for going south. A few hours later we had a strike on a pink and blue squid, this fish was a nice size Sierra Mackerel . This has been our luckiest bait in this area a simple squid skirt over a 4 0unce lead egg sinker with a 1/0 treble hook and stainless braided leader. A few hours later we had a double strike on pole rigged with cedar plugs. I knew these had to be tunas by the way they were stripping line off the reels. Daria worked the smaller of the two while I let the bigger fish take line. We hoped to land them both but the monster on my pole had other ideas and somehow chewed through the 200 pound leader!! Oh well, we were able to get one 25 pound yellow fin on the boat and fresh civechi was back on the menu. We put the poles up after our mini-grand slam and were concerned if we would make the anchorage before dark. These are treacherous waters with reefs and sea mounds rising up from the 6000 foot deep ocean floor. Tonga is basically a ridge of volcanic islands and there are still new islands forming today. There is one area where an island has come up out of the water twice, but now lies just below the surface. We sailed past another tiny island that was no more than a 300 foot diameter beach in the middle of nowhere. It was tempting to stop, but the reef surrounding this little piece of paradise looked more than willing to chew Downtime to pieces.   As we approached Haano Island the winds died and we motored the last few miles to an anchorage where we had encountered whales in last season. We slowly wound our way through the coral strewn pass and had the anchor set just before dark. The weather lately had been unsettled with the seasons changing, this being fall made for squally conditions. We had over 30 knots of wind during the night and were glad to be in a safe anchorage. We spent the next two days watching it blow while working on boat and doing some cleaning.  The winds finally let up and we went a few mile south to Lifuka to clear in. Lifuka is a small village and clearing in was no more than going to the customs office and telling them you were there. They told us to come see them before we left for clearance documents. As for the rest of the village, there are 3 or 4 small grocery shops and one small café. In the center of town is the local market...

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