Thursday, June 30, 2011

Levuka, Fiji

Levuka church

Levuka hospital

A missionary school

The former Mason Hall, Levuka

The former Mason Hall, Levuka


Town water supply, Levuka

Hillside above Levuka
Levuka is pretty little town; old storefronts with facades like something out of the American West.  A surprising number of stores, given the size of the town, though there are 8000 inhabitants on the island as a whole.  Tuna canning factory seems quiet but apparently employs 1/10 people here.  Cpt warns not to swim here because of sharks.  Amusingly, Water Sports Levuka does dives around the pier and harbor entrance- guess there are some fun nasties down there to swim with!  Saw some juvenile blue starfish under there.    I’m all set with swimming here.
Had an afternoon beer at the Ovuala Club after accidentally walking in on a regional chiefs meeting at the town hall and shaking hands.  Next door was the burnt-out remains of Fiji’s first mason hall.  All the rituals with skulls and stuff had the locals believing the masons were practicing witchcraft.  After some local Methodist ministers got them worked up in 2000, they burned it down.  Doesn’t look like the FD even tried to do anything about it, naturally.
FD had two adorable lil fire engines that I wanted to put in my pocket and take home with me.  From Japan, where they did 15yrs service, then 15 yrs Suva, and new here apparently.  They seem to sit out in the ocean breeze every day, so that won’t last.  Nice paint anyway.  The guys said the one in house when we stopped carries 2000L.  Nice NZ snap-connnections, and pre-connected hard suction.  Not sure where on the thing they had room for any equipment or pre-connects or supply line.  Couple guys in blue overalls manning the station.  15k to other side island to respond, only one station, but talk about getting lots of substations. 
Hospital was pretty run down looking from outside, really in need of paint etc.  Landscaping OK though, as in most places.  Went in for some seasick pills.  Chemist gave me some meds free, which later turned out to be anti-emitic/anti-psychotics…think I will toss those!  Inside the hospital was better than tonga- baseboards intact, floor cleanish, etc.  But hard to believe the place was built in 2002.  New teeth cost $175.  Embalming $200 Fiji, morgue costs $50/day after 3 days, and $100 day after 6!
Just gorgeous backdrop here of steep basalt cliffs with veg clinging.  The center of the island is an extinct crater with a village in it. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kadavu, Fiji


Poorly marked twisting passages through hard-to-see reefs

Kadavu village

Channel through the mangroves

Kadavu village

Penned pig over the mangroves

Kadavu village

Kadavu village

Chief Sami of Kadavu village

Left Dravuni for Ono first, but it looked not too exciting on Ono, so we kept going.   Autopilot not working after the fire, so I’m steering the whole way, very happily.  Cpt showing me all kinds of stuff, so it’s a great day.  Watching whole way across and steering around lots of shoals on the chart, though nothing much visible.  Just a couple coral heads looking dark under the water as we left Dravuni.  Past lil inhabited islands and Ono-- steepish vegetated slopes, not much beach, very little village-clad area.  Skipped anchoring at Ono and headed for Kadavu passage. 
Apparently the chart is off- had us going right over a shoal at one point when there was clear water… lots of marks missing, lots of coral heads not marked.  Enjoyed very much steering and watching dark line on dark blue background on small screen in bright sun and scanning for coral heads and scooting plotter ahead to see winding course ahead of us all at once- a nice challenge.  Hot and low wind from behind us, sweating and drinking lots but no sunburn gotta base tan now.  Perfect conditions for the passage.  Curved around southeast side Kadavu, weaving to avoid coral patches as they appeared as light blue patches ahead.  Couple nice towns with big churches, etc, really sheltered anchorages.  Seemed most towns here are on a river.  Dive resort in behind a little shore reef with a big sheltered section of Astrolabe reef beckoning brilliant blue next to a passage out beyond.  Sections with tons of marks missing, Cpt surmises locals have taken them in spite/trick.  Big waves curving over and pounding onto Astrolabe Reef, Cpt sees good but dangerous surfing- a right hand and a left by a passage.  The outer reef passages are maybe ½ mile wide average, big surf either side.  Our inner passage is maybe 1/3 deep clear water, and the rest narrow channel, places you have to steer around lines of reef or coral-head laden open areas.  Dangers are pretty easy to spot though 
Then a weird narrow passage… chart plotter showed the passage going right over shoal, a critical marker was missing… we headed up towards a pair of small islands with a mark next to them, all you could see was a long line of reef to the south and Astrolabe to the east.  Though maybe we’d have to go back the way we came, but fast running out of room to turn around.  Cpt takes wheel.  Glad he’s here- I’d be shitting myself if I was alone.  Narrow passage shows itself at the last minute - maybe 40’ wide with coral rising up at sides.  It makes a 90 degree turn halfway, then there was a good current running against us.  Watched coral on bottom as we motored slow, seemed like we were standing still for a bit.  Quite an awesome experience through there.
Couple bays later we arrived at Kadavu Village.  Anchored at river mouth, it shoaled up real quick, just time to stop and reverse.  I forgot about dingy and risked wrapping its rope around the prop.  Got the hang of spotting coral and marks pretty quick on passage.  Great fun. 
Tried to take dingy in, but found coral right away in every direction.  Low tide so we gave up til later.  Sound of singing on loudspeaker from church on hill.  Sunday.  Tons of big fish and schools of fish jumping. 

Next day we headed into village for sevuseve. High tide and easy to go up river.  Found the village school- tied up dingy to log.  Felt like going upriver in Apocalypse Now.  Mangrove channels, litl tin and wooden houses, mountains and mist in background.  Bula from a couple people at school, little shy kid or two, but otherwise entire village almost deserted.  Slippery muddy logs to walk on, a concrete path or two.  In east section, high ground, all houses wood and painted the same light blue.  Aid Project? 
Crossed rickety bridge of random gappy boards to muddy path.  Soil red and clay, luxuriant foliage.  First house around bend was the minister's   Dark faces, flattened noses, eyes sorta hooded and sleepy looking, look friendly when talking but sometimes sorta sullen when just sitting thinking.. Smaller than Tongans, sorta European sized, variation of skin darkness, some quite dark mocha.  Melanesian features look better on men than woman, though some younger girls are very pleasant looking in a cute way and with good figures. 
Chiefs house was, again, one of the more modest in the village - steel roof and plywood walls coming apart at bottoms.  Leave shoes outside, if you still have them after the shoe-sucking mud walk across the yard.  More concrete paths in a ring along the village, very popular with the dogs, especially the second day when we stepped over one every 50’ or so taking afternoon naps on the cool concrete.  Lots of multicolored chickens with little ID ribbons tied to their feathers.  Few people around, minister took us to chief after we had talked to him awhile. 
Sat on mat floor, chief friendly right off, laughed a lot.  We showed our boat papers and he offered to drink kava with us. 
This house had family pics up high on the walls.  It consisted of a dirtfloor kitchen full of wandering chickens and a large room- ¾ for gathering and ¼ for a two-bed sleeping area.  There were plain floor mattresses for sleeping, a saw and kava bowl on wall, some hanging cloths to sep sleep area, few books and magazines, big wooden china cabinet thing with legs in tuna cans held some plastic ware, lots tea cups, cassava-coconut cake for breakfast/guests… hurricane lanterns, no electric there, kava roots…The village has flowing water from several handpumps… The was a hydroelectric put in by an aid group, above the falls, in ‘96, but now it's just broken pipe and seized motor.  Diesel generator came from an aid group in 06 but it broke and no one knew how to fix it, now batteries gone too.  Church and ministers house have private generators.  Seemed like everyone was in a meeting today.  Chief was gong to go work in garden, just caught him and drank kava all morning and part of afternoon instead. 
Asked them lots of questions, made lots of jokes - laughed at our 2nd-rate Suva kava, told them about Antarctica- they were astounded that there was a place with no sun half the year.  The chief very solemnly showed us a faded pic of a guy from Alaskan he'd met in 1986 and asked us to tell him 'hi' when we got back to the US... Talked about his family - one petulant teenage daughter at home, a second in school at the mainland.  The spend most of their time farming, and sell kava- they said Kadavu is main kava source, best stuff, with a different taste than other places.  Joked about the minister being a girl for not drinking much kava.  He had a couple bowls, asked if I wanted some, I had 3 of 4 half bowls and felt a lil invigorated and relaxed.  Very nice tradition.  Chief said a long formulated greeting when he officially accepted us, then some more over the kava, some speak-and-response stuff, and lots of clapping - finish kava, clap once or more, said something in Fiji, minister tipped over the last drops onto the ground.  We were a lil lost during the ceremonies but it seemed fine.  Cpt offered to look at generator, but we couldn't do anything about the lack of batteries. My knees were stiff at the end from sitting crosslegged for hours.
One little shop in village, with food.  Cheap durable goods at Chinese shop.  This was isolated way over to the side of the village- not sure if for convenience of landing goods or cause of racial stuff.  Owner friendly, seemed really eager to talk to someone.
There's a little dive resort north of the village - very nice place, thatch and wood neat buildings, beaut open common area with hardwood shining floors.   Friendly bonded looking group of maybe a dozen there, mostly middle aged couples, a couple young couples and a young guy or two.  Nice mix budget and upper market accomodation.  Lots bird calls and grunts and hoots in forest. 
The next morning we went for a great kayak through the mangroves.  Rained heavy in night and morning and brown currents of runoff swirled at every paddle stroke at the river mouth.  The main river channel about 100’ wide with bar across the mouth.  Hardly any current.  Cloudy. 
We took a righthand side channel paddled through trees.  Glad we don't have to worry about crocs yet.    Real beaut and evocative in there, greens, hanging vines, giant pea pods, bats, screeching blue birds.  I’d like to see a Kadavu musk parrot.  Pigs in cages on stilts over river.  Freerange pigs on islands at low tide foraging amongst mangrove roots.  Paddled into 20’-40’ wide channels winding amongst mangroves.  Eventually a channel opened out into the village.  Tied up at ministers house and walked in, today tons of people around, everyone saying hi, working in smokehouse, drying roots, many sitting in homes, kids running around.  When is school?  Lots of pre school ones, one calls come eat!  Beaut plantings around - all the flowers, 7’ tall orchids.  Men here wear western clothes, women nice two-piece dresses with tops that come down over hips, or  shirt and sarong.  Sandals, or rubber  boots when wet. 
We brought snacks today to the chief and the teenage daughter was super excited about it.
Walked around village with the chief, sat and talked for a lil while, wife was folding laundry she did yesterday.  We visited the waterfall.  The chief has chronic back pain - coconut fell on him and broke his back when he was young.  He picked some leaves for pain relief on the way back - alternate oval serrated fuzzy leaves with round qtip like white flowers in a bunch, sorta like toothache plant flowers?  Waterfall was really beaut- three levels, volcanic rock with layers oxidation running down and coloring the stone with warm colors. Cpt and I both swam around in spite its flooded state.
Over to Lion Rock to snorkel in afternoon, tricky trip over reef in dingy, had to paddle some.  Nice to use arms again.  Cloudy and rain for snorkel.  Sea snake black and white, 3’, moved with beaut grace, hanging form surface then oozing down to bottom into coral and up again.   Lots juvi fish, angels bright, wrasses, Moorish idols, one new kind tunicate.  Some sponges and brain coral.  Drop off into channel sandy with dead rolled down coral.  Oar lock froze up on way back to boat and we almost ended up no the reef.  Cold trip in through rain- time for hot coffee!  Had some coffee fudge that stayed in fridge all the way across f NZ.  Frozen chic for dinner.  Not much at Chinese store for food - crackers, canned meat, cookies, 2 chips, oil, oats,…
I write in the evening after Cpt's asleep, one cabin light on, sitting at table legs bent up, feet on seat, typing.  Sound of dingy splashing off stern, anchor chain rubbing, water in drains shifting back and forth.  Slight cool breeze flowing through boat.  Plantains gift from minister on table next to me, money and camera drying from waterfall.  Will I miss this life as I think someday?  Better appreciate it now…

We headed for an anchorage on the south side of Kadavu in the morning.  Wind and cloud and low sun made for a very different picture from last time we went through the passage - Cpt spotting some reefs I had trouble seeing.  Out through reef break, following local powerboat going fast.  Surf looked big and scary from inside and I kept thinking about KonTiki's landing on a breaking reef, since I'd just read the book.  It looked even worse from the outside, the back of big blue breakers rearing up onto the unseen reef and throwing a pall of mist up into the air along the long miles of Astrolabe reef.  The sea got pretty steep and rough at the passages entrance- a violence of motion I normally would have delighted in, but was content today to merely weather it without getting nauseous.  Damaged by inner ears in Antarctica, and now I get seasick.  I got down from the lazarette cover and stood in front of the wheel, braced against B’s wheel loop and steered.  I’ll get over seasickness by merit of sheer stubborness. 
Seas calmed a lot and we sailed along on a reach a few miles outside the reef - actually a lil too close for me!  I wasn’t very with it for some reason today and did a shitty job of steering - trouble keeping eye on compass and shifting viewpoints and correctly gauging my corrections on the pitching, shifting boat.  Got a bit frustrated. 
Through passage into Vunisea area and Galoa Harbor, where we anchored.  Channel marks missing and chart off.  Muddy water in Galao made it hard to see shoals.  Surrounded by mangrove swamp. 
Took dingy to try and get into town.  Found a pier and trucks and people, but waves washing against pier too hard.  Considered trying to anchor out… Locals were on/ beside the pier, of tied up to sticks stuck into the mud just off to the side.  We picked a tree on the opposite side of the inlet and tied up to it, with the anchor set off the bow.  Wonder if the dingy will ever be stolen in one of these places, or the kayaks.  Big 40’ raft of pumice and trash at shore.  Eruption lately?  Worst stuff for dingy.
Walked through some narrow muddy trails through gardens.  Tried to cross the river, but it was deep and only a slippery log and 10’ 4” bamboo across it, with no rope.  Went back and came up through a piggery and walked up hill into town.  Police station with two laughing female deputies and a sullen male yelling into a cell phone out back.
Road up the steep hill was made of aluminum fencing buried under dirt and what looked like some old irregular concrete.  Big secondary school where the students didn’t wave. Found market at bottom of hill as sign promised- baker was kiosk with a plate of orange glazed breads and a plate of unglazed breads, that's all.  Chinese shop smaller than the Kadavu village one, even though this place is much bigger - weird.  Got some coconuts and walked back.  Three drunk guys on road back.
First place with no sevu sevu or checking in.

 Next day, up early in AM for very awesome kayak paddle.  Went upsun to pink cliffs - porous basalt with caves.  Sand/mud bottom, not much life other than barnacle rocks with birds perched on top.  Nice island with interesting basalt layering and an irregular cap of limestone.   Tree with mystery fruit.
B worked on wiring and I cleaned tools.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dravuni, Fiji

We left Suva and Dravuni- a small island just north of Kadavu Island- the same morning - good wind came up in night and good crossing.   Cpt leans against wheel and has me do same to see if I feel light electrical current.  This later turns out to be relevant. Sun in front of us and it's a lil hard to see reefs and marks and a big rock or two.  Coral head right in middle of channel.  Not picking out a lot of the stuff that Cpt saw, but this changes later. 
Tidy forest paths on Dravuni

Crab scarfing a coconut left by locals

Anchored off Dravuni in 18' sand with some grassy patches.  Went for a swim right off- good to be back in the tropics!  Surprised to see town had dock and lots of fancy thatch shelters along beach.  Motored in and presented sevu sevu greeting and offering to the chief.  We got in and an older guy was on dock and greeted us.  Lots friendly dogs around, no pigs or chickens surprisingly.  A group of 6 or 8 guys was sitting on the grass up from the pier and greeted us.  Houses - some really nice for here, almost all well painted wood with metal roofs, nice light blue roof on the school looked new and was held down with a rope resting on logs and running down to where it was tied to two concrete pads in the ground.  Against wind I guess, though no one else had the same.  Elaborate fence around school that we puzzled about.
Asked for chief and were pointed in to house across from pier, which strangely was one of the oldest and most rundown looking.  His wife greeted us, round rolly teddy bear-like happy woman.  She led us into the main room of the house, which, like Tongan main rooms, was mostly empty except for pictures of family high on the walls.  Talked about her kids.  She said he was in the bath, waited and talked to her a bit and he came in and changed in a second room behind a semi transparent curtain.  Came out and said ‘yes’ in answer to a question from his wife, then ‘papers’, and that was the end of the conversation. 
That evening I was sitting on the companionway steps, Cpt at the chart table, and I got a couple lungful of something nasty and started coughing.. Smelled chemical, but it was very faint and almost right away it was gone.  Wandered around sniffing for it for awhile, we fig’d it came from island, or maybe refrigerator which gives off some phosgene when hot (phosgene it was, turned out).  Wish I’d identified it at this point, as it might have saved a lot of damage… we were reading in dark with headlights later, starts getting smoked up high in the cabin, then gets down to us and I smell it strong all the sudden.  The smoke detector didn't go off.  Get up and turn on light and see how smoked up the cabin is… Cpt starts searching engine area, moves some stuff and crawls back to the engine access panel, and then I see a little bunch of electrical wires flare up over his head.  We kill power to those wires, smother the fire, and ventilate the boat.  Not much of the boat itself is singed, but there's all kinds of shorts and melted wiring- running through the starboard side of the main wiring center and back up into the wheel.. Cpt figs compass light got juiced by something bigger and overheated.  Scary how easily something like that can happen, even to someone who does electrical work as carefully as Cpt. Good thing we were on the boat when it happened.
Next day we started fixing the damage then motored out to the lil island with the beach in between two hills of volcanic rock.  Climbed up some loose crumbly stuff til the burrs stopped me for a nice view of the coral and volcanic dikes around me.  Big shells and hermit crabs, jumping crabs, coconut trees vines and thick brush.  One set of footprints- mine.
Snorkeled off a nearby uninhabited island.  I thought very beaut, Cpt bored with tropical reef life in Pacific.  Lil blue fishes like everywhere, lots jellyfish with light stings, one weird zigzag jelly thing not sure what it was, a small blacktip shark and some other big fish out in the deeper water, cool school of little fish that looked iridescent purple from afar, then blue, then green-yellow when you were over them.  Tons of little triggers but no big ones.  Best Christmas tree worms ever!  Beaut bicolors, many had CaCo3 tube home with a spike sticking out that I haven’t seen before.  Usual plethora of wrasses and parrot fish. Some wrasses were extremely beautiful.  New little horizontal banded fish with purple bottom.  Some little new orange shrimp or crabs hiding in burrows in ball of coral.  Lots of cold and warm currents, and many more jellies on western side.  Shallow sandy area warm like bathwater.  Swam most of way around the island. 
The third day we walked around the village.  Seemed like a couple hundred people maybe.  Little graveyard at north end path, couple more paths that went to south and across to other side of island.  Some steep hillsides with moody-looking dark jungle draped with vines.  Taro and mat fronds planted along sides, coconut trees, papayas, mangoes… lots poinsetta like flowers, purple morning glory like vines, yellow hibiscus-types and blue spikes kinda like mint but no odor.  Seemed like a little more diversity than Tonga, but maybe just cause stuff is blooming now.  Graveyard like in Tonga, raised concrete graves, some with cloths draped over the graves and colorful decorations.  Little overgrown but path well-trod and ended there.  Beach with tons of trash washed up on it, including an intact flourescent light bulb and a camera film case that we picked up to use as a container.  Rocks with tide pools with little sculpins peering at us myopically.
Walked up big hill, nice view.  Mystery water tanks on way - group up hill away from village, no visible catchment.  Electrical junction boxes along raked decoratively planted path, but no generator in sight.  Buried wire- alot of work for something that's not getting used.  Must have been an aid project.  Pigs and chickens all in pens, then gardens beyond.  Everyone says hi but seem uninterested in long conversations. 
Climbed hill and found Aussie couple messing around up there, funny.  I liked them, they're here doing solo, self-motivated relief work - education, medicine, and water containers.  She’s a retired teacher.  They brought a nurse over from Vunisea to do training here for a few days.  They spoke for awhile about how respectful kids are here, like in 1950s in the States.  They came here a few years ago on a cruise, and come back for a few months each year now.  Great views from the top of the hill of crystal clear water and the verdant island.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Suva, Fiji

Flying the Fiji courtesy flag and yellow Quarantine flag

First view of Fiji

Suva harbor

Sunken cat in Suva harbor

Another wreck in Suva

Riverfront slums, Suva
Fijians check in process was funny.  Waited til today since we got in at 1500, and would have had to pay $200 in overtime to check in yesterday.  Fat man in boat dropped off papers, and we spent an hour filling out lots of forms in duplicate before they returned.  A boatload of 6 laughing, joking customs people climbed into the cockpit and filled it up.  Cpt put on a shirt and did the paperwork stuff, and the one Indian girl came below and looked at the provisions, then said just to not bring anything on shore.  Wow, easy.  The other officials charged $50 for the boat to transport them out and $175 for health officer and other fees- but they didn’t do anything at all!  One guy took our passports and stamped them with a 4 month visa, then they all left, telling us to check out at Kings Pier when we left. 
Apparently you have to check in and out pretty much everywhere you go in Fiji - at ports, you have to check in with the govt, at you have to check  in with the village head and bring a present.  You have to stop at 4 different cities to get cruising permits for the 4 different zones of Fiji.  You're supposed to check in with the coconut authority pretty much everywhere- they're worried about rhinoceros beetles. 
Suva is a bit smaller then I pictured, with 200,000 population.  Bigger than Tongatapu though, with some 10 story+ buildings in center, of various ages and designs.  Things under construction were covered with giant heavy-duty hunter-orange tarps.  The harbor was sorta busy- lots of fishing boats and ferries, small container ships.  B says Papeete was much busier, but also really run-down, with a messy market just like Suva's cause the French let all the infrastructure go to hell.  Lotsa Chinese boats here, and the biggest thing in the harbor is a multi-story cruise ship that came in after dark last night after we went to bed early.  They let their passengers off to wander the little shops for the day and left at 1700.  The blue glare of a giant TV on the top deck was visible even after they had cleared the harbor entrance.
The entrance was a fairly wide and well marked channel through a reef that just comes above the surface at low tide.  There is some weird rock formation way down at the west end, or maybe a big wreck.  A dredger was a work when we came in.  The  harbor water is warm and green and full of trash and rafts of floating vegetable debris from shore- good for clogging up intakes.
We entered the quarantine circle as shown on the electric chart.  The old circle shown in the book was on a shoal that’s occupied by some half-built abandoned heavy-duty concrete structure on stilts with some nice verdant stuff growing out of the top.  The water isn’t as gross as expected, as you can actually see the bottom on the shoal.  Not far from the structure, in the direction of the yacht club, is a sunken fishing boat.  Its port side just clears the water at high tide.  After we left Suva, an unfortunate friend of ours crashed his dingy into it in the dark, on his first night in Suva.
While waiting for customs we unpackaged the dingy and inflated it and put deck boards in after re-gluing the bottom inflation pouch.  The rubber of the bottom was showing some wear and tear- the surface flaking off, but then it’s as old as the Marquesa.  The little outboard worked like a charm as soon as it was started up- good, since I hate to think what trouble we’d be in without it in some of these reefs we visit, downwind and down current of the boat with no paddles or radio… but there is the anchor- just got to get back off to the reef… spose 2 pairs of flippers would be adequate under most any conditions.
I untwisted the main sheet and cleaned out the stuff that got wet with saltwater- tupperwear, pots, tools, etc.
Dingy $5000, Cpt worries it won’t last and he cant’ afford another…
When we anchored it was right in the middle of a great big oil spill.
Finally we’re all cleared and pretty quickly we’re off into town.   It's pretty typical 3rd world, maybe a lil cleaner than Bangkok, less crazy, and no stray dogs.
The yacht club was nice.  Motored in past a lot of local boats tied up med-style to a pier on one side and a breakwater with palm trees growing on it on the other.  Mostly local boats, and some cruisers, half of which looked to be abandoned.  At the end there was a half-sunk cat hauled up partway onto a ramp.  It was high-tide and the water was well above the waterline in it on the port hull.  It looked like it hadn’t been in good shape to start with or maybe spent a long time sitting out on a reef- big rust stains running down the cabin, and the dark blue suncover and flags were torn to shreds.  Later we learned that the skipper had fallen asleep and run onto a reef- holy crap!  Not sure where.
The yacht club reminded me a bit of Mama’s in Tongatapu, a little less nice tho- no sand underneath, less breezes blowing through, a lil less open.  In back by the office there was a nice big dark-wood dancing area with a lil bar in back.  A group of locals and a cruiser or two were singing karaoke.  The Fijian on the mike was intimidatingly good.  The girl at the desk was nice and quiet and very hard to understand.  This seemed to be a  theme from here on in Fiji.  I basked in the cool air blowing through the holes in the office glass.  It’s hot here, but not oppressively so.  It seems that every time it starts to get a bit too much, some clouds and a cool breeze roll in.  It hasn’t done anything but shower so far.  Winter- short days, 7-5 sun.  Still, I feel sorry for those coiuple American students who opt to go to S Pac U every year.  Suva isn't the prettiest place to spend 4 years.
We wandered into town with grocery bags.  The yacht club is located right next to the jail- haha.  Jail was a really dismal looking place- old soot-stained concrete shaped into castellations with the dates 1912-1913 etched into a peak.  Happy Fiji’ and biblical quotes adorned the exterior wall that was topped with 4 layers of barbed wire.  A couple guys in beige uniforms with lace-up high boots and crimson berets looked straight out of some African dictatorship. 
The streets were old and haphazardly repaired, the sidewalks made of large uneven concrete squares that rocked and protruded hazardously in many spots.  We passed by a mysterious poured concrete apron that sat 3” above street level and was still surrounded by forms in front of a car place.  A street sweeper in long clothes and an orange vest swept garbage into neat piles for the wind… must be the most depressing job in the city.  We passed a few houses of concrete painted multi-colored with yards like Tonga- grass and tropical plants, some fruits and vegs.  Directly across from the yacht club is a tall steep interesting hill, contoured with old tree roots and rock lines, several neat trees providing shade.  No idea what it is.  Behind the waterfront is a low ridge of hills with suburbs.  The city center is a miles or two south of the yacht club. 
Several people said bula to us as we passed by.  I walked down the same street alone later, and got a couple very bold stares from Fiji men. Not exactly a nice neighborhood here by the yacht club.  Next door is the working waterfront, full of old rusty fishing and cargo ships.  Occasional curry places and corner venders of oranges dot the blocks of miscellaneous concrete and steel commercial shops and outfits.  The next thing south of the jail on the inland side is a rotary club, couple shops, and a Fiji Bitter brewing co.  I could hear it operating last night over the sound of boat generators in the harbor.  A couple other industrial processes were audible too. 
We continued south and passed three supermarkets all right next to each other, along with tons of other shops.  Found Cumming St but it was a bit of a disappointment- nothing that I really wanted.  Bus station, and a big produce market of two levels and vendors spilling over under shade awnings outside.  At the very edge was an old man selling what looked like cherries, and even though I figured they were awful I had to come back and buy some, just in case there were actually cherries!  They were $1.40. 
Exchanged the $990 NZ from the car- that should pretty much cover Fiji costs hopefully.  Stooped at lil wire-clad alcohol shop and got rum, Chinese variety for deodorant and some fruit soaps, seeing some cruiseship people now.  Supermarket for drink mix, dairy.  Then produce market - upper level seemed to have more customers than lower, so I stayed up there.  Pretty good selection and cheap- cheaper than Tonga I think - eggs, apples 40c, import pears and oranges, pineapples, papaya $2, lemons, local oranges, limes, weird watery green thing, cucumbers, lettuce $2, 4 or 5 other greens, carrots,$2 for 3 tomatos, eggplants $2 for a huge plate, watermelon, flowers, rolls of that bark cloth stuff, lots of other things, bananas $3 big bunch…
Walked home all loaded down.  Fuel dock is 1.6 meters deep.  Had a beer - not bad, and went back.

 Sat June 11
Long weekend - the queens bday observed.  Bkfast cereal then into town - propane, fresh water from faucet- eek.  Cpt says you can't pour bleach into the water tank cause of the RO filter - so hopefully we can avoid taking on tap water from here.  80 gal front tank, 50 rear. Tastes like mildew and strong sulfur smell from filter when making water- time to clean. 
Back to boat and read while Cpt changed oil, fuel filter- very nasty, and ATF on engine.  One battery had broken its mount during the crossing and slid to side a lil- screw sheared, new leak wood wet, propeller shaft brake loose- wire needs tightening, electric priming pump for fuel loose connection.  5 hrs. 

Partly cloudy today with occ shower (showers last night too, but only on my side!?), 83 degrees, reading KonTiki.

12 June - Sun 2011
Cpt cleaned out water intake filter - big hole in it, its new in Samoa - $100 plus shipping Groco.  Fixed battery mount.  I cleaned saltwater out of pots cupboard and mildew from overhead insulation material. 
Afternoon trip to Lami, Nw of Suva.  Some little tin shacks along river, but mostly pretty nice houses and  fairly recently done road in good shape.  Amazingly well cared for greenery along sides of road - grass carefully cut around lots of tropical flowering plants for miles and miles.  Only turns crappy as soon as you enter Suva city.  Houses further on better, some thrown together tin and steel and concrete, but most nicer concrete pretty well painted etc.  Of course only thing up to western well to do neighborhood standards was the church.  Mysterious wire-bound compound with black and white stumps/poles lining fence.  Lots buses and even more taxis, well-dressed people mainly Fijians coming from church, busy market that closed at 1400.  Lots of mangroves and estuarine rivers emptying into Suva bay.  Nice anchorage over there at trade winds- couple lil islands, pretty looking and cleaner.  Boasted at least two large wrecks, one on its side and one broken in half in a passage coming in.  Couple docks with big boats backed in. 
There’s a new sunken boat in Suva harbor- towed in last night with float bags… it’s now been dropped and is almost completely under, waiting for god knows what. 
Fijians mix of friendly and neutral.
Tomorrow is queens bday.

13 June - Mon 2011
Morning I cleaned and Cpt cleaned water maker.  Water in, through raw water filter like engine filter never cleaned, then bypasses charcoal filter and thru electric primer pump, then ruffled filter, then into piston pump to 800 psi, to RO filter, to pressure guage and lil regulator, flow meter, and to tank.  Pex metal clamps and plastic valves.  Came as kit 2006? $6000.  Cpt put in cleaner filter and filled it with freshwater f tank that went through charcoal filter to remove any chlorine, which would destroy the RO filter $1000’.  Then close intake valve and bypass charcoal, flush thru cleaner filter and primer pump and pressure pump and RO filter guage bypass loop with everything running for 30 min or so.  Cpt installed all this, poured himself a new fresh water tank out of epoxy - brushed on and fabric layers along the fiberglass sides, bilge drains in the bottom, about 8’ long and not that deep, 80 gals.  Back tank does not communicate with it.  Drilled outlet etc into top.  Also built wheel and arch with cupholders next to it- wooden wheel before. 
Fiji museum- pretty nice, outrigger sailing canoe sorta like the Kontiki on top, looked to be built of logs with plank on top for hulls, bamboo shelter, triangular sail on one side, great big steering oar.  More boats and bugs, then unattended gift shop and nice 2 story back section, Lapita, pre-Euro Fijians, most craft skill seeming to come from Tonga and Samoa, cannabalism and weapons, Euro whaling sandalwood beche de mer, killing rocks, shoes of missionary who got eaten, arrows, porcupine fish hat, giant beetles, natural hx, wedding dresses, paintings, etc.  Nice museum.

14 June 2011
Into town yesterday for last day prep.  Lotsa lil things to find. Took taxi to Ministry of Foreign Affairs - guy didn’t know where it was and drove to the run down govt buildings, then past the museum park to nice new ones that they just occupied last Feb.  Really beaut nicely painted twin curving buildings of several stories with nice design and lots windows with green grass and pavilion in middle, gates, etc.  Right next to sprawling grounds of presidents residence- cool-looking white pillorred building up on hill.  Guard with funny weapon marching in front of gate at one side.  Chinese aid sign on fence.  :Nicely appointed inside, with guards at doors, Ac, high ceilings, really fance woodwork around elevators.  Nice girl there said we had to go back in town to immigration, looked at sheet and it actually said ministry of Fijian affairs.  We went next door to that and it turned out to be right one, big room with mess of desks and big stacks of folders and papers, everyone really friendly.  Nice looking tall guy in blue shirt, tie, and blue shirt J sandals does our papers then we ask were the ministry of health is and he walks us way into town and says take a left up there and its on the right, you can’t miss it.  Nice talk on way, but he’s very quiet like all Fijians it seems.  Walk all over looking for ministry, come back down one street and its an unassuming building with the sign covered over with a black trash bag/  Hilarious.  Only see it cause Cpt has feeling and stands and waits for wind to blow torn bag up.  Officious inside, horrible posters.  Nice view of city. 
Go down hill and stop in lots of lil Indian general clothing and goods shops.  Tons of lil attendents walking next to you as you shop- lots of staff employed in every shop, as opposed to the museum shop where everything was just laid out unattended for the taking.  
Spent couple hours at USP bookstore, AC, standing on one leg resting.  Happy to find some geo and eco books plus the big Crocombe hx guide.  I’d like to hear one of his lectures, but classes are out right now I think.  Lots of students from all over wandering the campus.  Indian cab driver talking about getting kicked off his sugar plantation and now it only makes 25,000 where before it made $300,000, Fijians, drink all the time, daughter schoolteacher makes $7000NZ?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The New Zealand to Fiji Crossing

Last min stuff- talked to customs, they’ll be here Sat to check us out.  Both visas all good.  Laundry, last shopping, celebratory buffalo chicken and cheesecake, and too much rum. 
Marquesa burns about 8 gals/day to motor.  Good day = 120 miles, calc with 100 miles/day

Day 1
Left Opua.  Last breakfast eggs benedict, checked out with customs, and presented paper to Fullers Marina for gas rebate -> diesel came to $300 NZ for 200L  yikes.
Going out the bay took a lot less time than coming in did- almost no wind, and only large long gentle swells coming in towards us and making some good surf against the islands.  No farewell dolphins, though Cpt says you get them sometimes.  Called dad from mid-Bay.
Once out on ocean the breeze picked up a lil to mabe 15 knots and we did 5.5 knots.  Outpaced three or four other sailboats during day.  Then sunset and wind shifted and we turned more NW.  Funny lights on horizon - red and green and white, seemed to separate and then come together, then speed off suddenly over the N horizon.  Guess they passed sorta close to appear to be moving so quick.  In the midst of this, the Am couple we saw at customs, Pursuit starts calling to a cat on the radio “this is pursuit, calling the catamaran at 34S 175E, calling the catamaran with no running lights.  So I was much more concerned about the potential that some idiot was sailing out there, asleep below with no lights on.
Stood watch for about 4 hrs on and off, til around 0100.  Felt ill a couple times and had to lay down briefly.  The first of 13 days of seasickness. 

Day 2
Made about 100 miles yesterday
Sun just set, sitting writing this at desk with headlamp while Cpt sleeps.  He didn’t get much past two nights. 
Really weak and shifty winds all day.  Cpt did 8 sail changes and trimmed dozens of times, to little avail.  We did about 100mi yesterday, today prob less.  Motored for just a lil while.  Cpt says this is his worst 2-day run ever.

Day 3
About 90 miles yesterday.
Feeling a bit more seasick, but wearing patch.  Not as bad as last time.  Wind picking up to around 15 knots. Sunny, but still cold and spending most of day below.

Day 4
About 120 miles yesterday
Coldish today, feeling sick and slept most of day.  Cloudy, motion fairly violent and winds around 20 knots.

Day 5
70 miles yesterday
Winds were too strong yesterday, and swell and current= only about 70 miles over ground.  Sky cloudy, cold, feeling quite sick and stayed below sleeping.  Hard to focus my contacts now after so much day sleep.  Bad day for Cpt - I slept midships on floor, about 0800 got up to go to the head, and hear a shouted curse.  A hard wave stuck the main hatch and water came pouring in- inexplicably, to me, as its sealed tight with new silicone.  Rough and nasty irregular seas today- like giant fist hitting side of boat.  Cpt says all crossings this year have been nasty like this.  He left companionway open til water came thru the skylight, then put running boards in.  Sailing on genoa aone with 20-30 knot winds.  Cloudy.  Ramen noodles.  Cpt has sore ribs from sleeping on narrow settee on side, et al.  Boat has lots of leaks- flowing in by the cupful from under galley port.  Old ceiling leak from main hatch, books on port side wet, lots water coming in over bookshelves on starboard… it’s lots worse than on the way south to NZ.  Cpt worried it’s getting under deck/under paint and flowing in, rotting wood…I think it was dry in rain, but under these sorta heavy seas its coming in big time.  Cpt really seems to hate ocean crossings.  Possible the leaks are all just coming from stanchions and chain plates.  Have asked Cpt to go through survival bag with me and teach me to operate SSB radio, but he's not keen.  "Lets just assume nothing's going to happen"  I'll just do it when he's not looking.

Day 6
90 miles yesterday
Not on computer for long time while sick and catching up now.  Nice clear skies after midmorning, woke to noticeale temp change and mugginess. Slept on floor again- pretty comfortable but easy to get  an achey back. Had towel over me in case of 4th wetting incident, woke up a some of the bigger crashes and the mirror attacking me unexpectedly at around 4am.  Wondering what to do in event of a knockdown.  Felt better around midday, cereal for bkfast, cheesy noodles lunch, pb sandwich dinner and a couple carrots. 
Hungry all day, but feeling pretty good.  We’ve had a lot of trouble making any easting- had 30 miles at first, then strong SE and E winds pushed us back to 174 40’E by 26S.  Suva is roughly 19S 180E, so we are around 400 miles west of where we need to end up.  McDavitt says window next is 10 June, gribs show strong easterlies up to 24S, then a day of weird shifty light winds, then northerlies and easerlies, light.  Going to Vanuatu is always an option, but a sucky one as you have to sail halfway up the country to check in.  Personally I would stop at New Caledonia, though mbe fees make it not worthwhile.  Waiting anxiously for wind to start clocking around to the south more- but that s not shown til 24S,  gtibs are changing a lot every day, so running NNW and hoping for a change in forecast.  Might be 11 days altogether or more now.  Cant focus contacts sleeping in them too much.

Day 7
96 miles yesterday
Surprise in the form of a flying fish in the cockpit today.  Strangely, after I handled it I touched my eye and this resulted in a good deal of pain and several mins rinsing.  A couple hours after that I broke out in hives on arms and some on chest and back.  Not sure if this was fish, or eye drops, or wet salty cushions, or stopping the eardrops, or what.  Don’t seem to be getting worse at least, applied hydrocortisone.  Tossed fish.  Also figured out that the blurry vision is from scopoderm - thank god for the read-book-aloud function on the kindle.
Had a bath and changed outside.  Will see now how I do without patch.
Sunny today with some intervals clouds, warm - 75F, reading Stephanie Plum to pass time.  We’re still heading direct NE and were at 174 40’ by 25 30’S this morning-  very far west.  Raised ZaZu and they are also off, but are a degree north and west of us.  They lost their self-furling- so obviously Cpt did the right thing in reducing sail when he did, even though it slowed us down.  Getting new gribs now
B showed me radio some- press clear-cler-#-enter.  Stuff over 1000 or so tends to skip over us.  ABC is aussie channel- some news there.

Day 8
70 miles yesterday
Most awesome lightning storms all night- incredibly active, about 1 flash/5 secs, tho there were systems on the horizon with one/sec= like a heartbeat.  Most of it was to the west, off towards new Caledonia at first.  Dark clouds coming about a thumbs width up off the horizon.  I noticed the flashes from inside and mentioned it, then came up to watch.  I ooh-ed as a large ball of lightning traced a bright snaking path sideways along the top of a high cloud.  We watched side flash after side flash, so bright and dangerous. Cpt  gets out lightning monitor and fastens it to the main sheet under the dodger.  It flashes 8-12 miles, then a 0-6- Definitely close, since we can hear its loud crackle.  None of the rest is audible- its downwind.  We’ve got maybe 10 knots or so, light stuff, and we’re moving almost parallel but slightly away from the system at around 3-4 knots. 
The storm keeps up its amazing display for hours before we go to sleep, and it doesn’t slow down for the rest of the night.  Cpt talks about how lightning can destroy your electric system and antennae, and blow out your through-holes.  I go below and take a note of our exact position, time, and heading on paper, just in case.  Then we tack, hoping to head away from the storm and get some easting.  Unfortunately Marquesa only sails within 60 degrees of the wind, and we weren’t tight to it before or after tacking, so we only achieve a 160 degree turn.  The storm covers half the sky, so we arent headed away from it much more than before, but that’s the best we can do without motoring, which apparently might also attract a ground strike.  I can’t believe how much sideways movement there is to this storm- all north to south.  We are in an area of light and variable winds, the gribs show sudden shifts n-s, so apparently this is why.  This area extends a degree or two Fiji-ward away from us, and is supposed to last several days, so I wonder if we will be in for the same thing tomorrow night.  Cpt says this is the most active and sideways system he’s seen- too bad, guess it’s unlikely I’ll see many more like this one.  One of the most beautiful and terrible sights ever.
At one point I’m standing in the main hatch- not the safest place, but can’t help it, and I see a flash, then a green light starts flashing along the side of the solar panel, self-steering, and backstay.  I look around, trying to figure out what blinks green on this boat and could reflect… can’t find anything.  After awhile it stops, then starts again.  At a loss, I wonder if this could possibly be st elmos fire?  Pulsing like that?  Seems unlikely… then I show Cpt and he says it’s the green light on the solar panel that comes on when daylight approaches- its being set off by the lighting.

 Day 9
90 Miles yesterday.
For a few days we had almost no wind, and made almost no headway.
I was OK first day off patch, but second day started feeling shitty and at end of day gave up and put it back on.  I’m taking it off at night now, and so far no blurry vision or hives.
Cpt not happy about how much decks are leaking, and no wind.  We’re still out at 175E 25S.  I’m very hungry but can’t stomach much.  Eat salad like a wolf then lay down.
Nice crescent moon setting big and orange on the western horizon tonight.  Water is full of little phosphorescing-when-disturbed critters, show as white blurs in torch light.  There are millions upon millions of them in the upper layers of the water- spread out across the countless miles of big, seemingly empty Pacific.  Very cool.  Cpt says their out for the moon.

Day 10
60 miles yesterday  22 50S by 175 30E at 10am
  Felt better for a lot of the day- pretty golden in am and afternoon.  Cooked some spaghetti with sausage and peppers, wolfed it down with green beans.  This and cereal sated me for the day.  In evening discovered some of my hard candy were actually chewy toffee bonbons, and these were quickly dispatched.  Prob actually made cal quota for day today.
Almost zero wind all day, sea calm with long low Pacific swells and little wind ripples.  Lay out for an hour to work on base tan. 
In PM Cpt fished, caught 12” tuna, got a second hit.  He gutted it and put it in fridge to fry/BBQ.  Looked in water for my little white glowing buddies, but they were all in hiding.  Cpt worried about fuel, decided to motor til we couldn’t anymore then sail in with a lil reserve kept for the reef/shore area.  We've finished the front tank and the back one is at 3/4.

Day 11
 80 miles yesterday, roughly 21 00’S by 176 00’E at 10am
Only a couple hundred miles to go - exciting.  We could get in tomorrow.  Cpt not bothering with gribs anymore.  Not surprised these areas of light and variable winds are hard to predict; the gribs seems to have been fairly accurate when it comes to 15 kn and higher areas.
Reading the Warded Man - very good, passes time excellently.  Got on glasses and sunglasses together.  Haven’t bothered with contacts in several days-falling asleep at random too much, it would be uncomfortable.  Woke up to nice dawn to write this.  Actually it’s a red dawn - sailor take warning!  Getting pretty tired of laying down all the time and napping, so it will be good to get in tomorrow or the day after.

Day 12
105 miles yesterday
Motored all day til eve, when a wind came up and carried us into the Kadavu Channel.  10-15knots all night, brief lull to 4 knots when we came into the lee of Kadavu.  Island visible as dark hill on S end outlined against cloudy sky.  Brief shower in the straight.  Did a 2 hr watch, then later a 4 hr one.  Winds a lil shifty but not bad.  Zero boat traffic seen, other than a green diffuse glow on the horizon at the start of my 2nd watch.  Slept heavy down below. 
Freeze dried beef stroganoff for the meal.
Saw a turtle 20’ off the boat, and a beautiful jellyfish.

Whats left of the NZ courtesy flag

Leaving NZ behind

Open ocean, the first night

Catching dinner


Hundreds of miles of empty ocean

Hot, still, empty ocean
Day 13
Amazingly, still sailing, to the east- wind 10-15 pretty much right into Suva.  Some dark clouds ahead of us looking pretty unfriendly for a time.  Occasional showers, very rare moments of sun.  Sea very calm.  Passed pretty much right over a skull and crossbones on chart off Mbugga Reef - reef or rock I’m not sure, no change in water color and quite a ways out from the barrier reef.  Suva is in big river delta with yacht club at north end of town- prob we’ll anchor there, less chance of thieves. 
Fired potato slices for lunch.  Looking forward to some good food now- I got real hungry at a couple points midvoyage, but too nauseous to eat, think I’ve lost a bit over the past 2 weeks.  Best diet plan ever.
Saw a sea turtle last night- 20’ f boat, 3’ long.  Took off at a surprisingly quick pace when he saw/heard us coming.  He was out in the middle of nowhere.  Spent all eve yesterday hoping to see Fiji, but didn’t till dark last night when the hill was visible behind Kadavu, with a lighthouse on the S point flashing.  Would have been nice to stop at Kadavu anchorages incl Astrolabe Reef, but apparently they are pretty strict about checking in.  Cpt is worried about interracial issues and crime here, thinks maybe he won’t enjoy Fiji.  Lots to do on boat still - windlass links, sail repairs, rain cover repairs, depth sounder, pull stanchions and seal them and chain plates…
Checking in process is supposed to be pretty complicated…
But we're here!!!