1990 - 1996
|1990 - 1992 by Places||1992 - 2000 by Places||Follow Cruise by Year|
Click photo for larger image and Boat specifications.
The following is an account of the Canadian registered Sailing
IsaLei-Rua on her Pacific voyages between 1990 and 1996. This journal was written
by Larry Anderson, her
skipper and owner on the dates indicated, while at sea
anchor in foreign ports. These accounts were sent periodically, in the
a newsletter to our friends and relatives as well as the Bluewater
Cruising Association in Vancouver for publication in their newsletter.
After installing a lot of new gear with the help of our son, who came down from Edmonton; and checking to make sure everything was ship-shape, we left Bellingham, Washington, USA and headed west, out the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Just before open ocean on the Washington side, is the tiny port of Neah Bay. We pick up the account there...
We are sitting here in Neah Bay, Washington today rather than heading out for San Francisco because unbelievably there is a south- west wind. Of coarse that is the direction we want to go so there isn't much sense in leaving today. They only get SW winds out here about 2% of the days in the year so hopefully tomorrow will bring a better situation. The weather forecast promises NW winds but as everyone knows that probably means SW winds again tomorrow. The American weathermen don't seem to have any better luck than the ones in Vancouver.
Peggy is in today doing last minute laundry while I am writing letters and doing a few things on the boat that need to be done before leaving. As a matter of fact, she just called me from the laundromat on the radio to say she will be ready to come back in about 15 minutes. So I'll put this on hold for now and pick it up again when we are at sea in the next few days.
We left Neah Bay this morning; good wind, great sailing!
Well here I am again. I thought we'd be in San Francisco by today but we haven't had much luck in the way of winds. The first 2 days out we made a total of 255 miles, which was great; fast sailing day and night. However the last 3 days have been windless. I think we have made a total of 130 miles in those 3 days. The forecast is for more of the same so we may set the dubious record of taking the longest time to do this trip. I just popped my head up topsides to check we aren't going to be decorating the bow of some Exxon tanker and we are doing 2.05 knots (could crawl faster). We are sitting at lat. N40 deg 29 min; long. W126 deg. 00.5 min which is about 120 miles south of the Oregon - Calif border about 70 miles off the coast.
Well I'm not going to complain about lack of wind any more. The last 36 hours have been exciting to say the least. Sat afternoon around suppertime the winds returned; 25 knots of them with 12 - 15 foot seas. We spent the last 2 nights and yesterday surfing down waves the size to 2 story buildings. Didn't get a lot of sleep as there was a lot of noise and motion. Things are much better today. It's 12:45 and we are actually motoring to charge the batteries and because the wind has all but disappeared. Should be in San Francisco tomorrow morning around 0900 if all goes well. Even if the wind doesn't return at all, we can motor in from here as we are only 85 miles out. When we get to San Francisco we will have put on almost 1100 miles since leaving Lynnwood Marina in North Van.
We arrived at 1030 today and we are now tied up at the San Francisco Municipal Marina. Nice place, but not close to very much. I can see at least 2 other boats from Vancouver so we'll have to get over after and say hello, but right now the first thing on the agenda is about 12 or 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Found a great Chinese restaurant to eat lunch before the big sleep and really enjoyed it.
Planning to stay in San Francisco area for about 2 weeks and then move south to meet up with 10 or 12 other Canadian boats in the Channel Islands off Los Angeles for Canadian Thanksgiving and then get to Disneyland etc the following week. We will probably leave San Diego for Mexico around the first of December.
Well we've made it as far as Santa Barbara and are presently moored in the Santa Barbara Marina. The weather has really warmed up since we rounded Point Conception. The temperatures are in the 85 F range during the day and 60 at night. We have stopped at several interesting places along the way including Monterey, Carmel (where Clint Eastwood was the mayor), Morro Bay and now Santa Barbara.
One of the more pleasant stops was at Morro Bay where we were welcomed by several members while moored at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. They invited us to a barbecue at the club and we had a great time.
There is lots to see and do here in Santa Barbara; great beaches, and even greater happy hours that last for 3 hours every weeknight. There are 4 other boats in here from Vancouver right now.
Left for Channel Islands today and will spend a few days there relaxing and exploring the caves on these islands.
Arrived in Long Beach today and will spend at least 2 or 3 weeks here taking in all the usual things that people do when in the Los Angeles area (Disneyland, Queen Mary etc).
Still here in Long Beach but we are planning to leave on Monday Nov 5 and will head for San Diego. Have had a rental car for the last 2 weeks but took it back today. We ate at a place called 'Medieval Times' in Anaheim last week. The restaurant is in an arena like building. While you are eating your meal (a whole roast chicken, ribs, baked potato, veggies and a desert) you watch knights mounted on magnificent horses, put on an hour and a half long tournament which includes combat while on horse back and on foot after they knock each other off their horses. Very realistic and very well done. By the way, you don't get any knives or forks to eat with because they weren't invented at this time in history; you use your hands just like they did and eat from metal plates. The night we went there were over 1,000 people there.
Saw Johnny Carson last night and the show was terrific. Have seen several other TV show tapings as well. Temperature here in LA still up around 80 - 85 during the day. It's hard to believe but we have only had one day of rain since leaving Vancouver on Aug 8. We don't miss it a bit. I saw in the LA Times weather page that Vancouver has been getting lots of rain and Alberta has been getting snow and cold weather already.
Making out fine driving on the freeways. Have even been out on them during the rush hour. I don't know why they call it the rush hour as the freeways are nothing more than parking lots for thousands of cars at that time of day. In some places there was 8 lanes of cars going each way and everyone was stopped. Smog terrible in downtown LA. One day we were only able to see a few blocks.
Arrived in San Diego today. Weather quite cool the last few days but still around 65 degrees. I guess we must be getting accustomed to the hot weather if this feels cool. We are planning to leave San Diego around the 26th of Nov for Mexico and hope to be in Puerto Vallarta for Christmas. There are lots of Vancouver boats in San Diego waiting for the last of the Mexican hurricanes to dissipate before heading south. Drove down to San Diego from LA last week for a party thrown by the former owners of one of the large marine stores here. They put it on every year for the Canadian yachties who are in town waiting to go south. It was quite an affair with about 40 people from 16 boats there. Had a real nice time.
We went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park on Monday. The park is over 3,000 acres and the animals run wild in huge enclosures. It is very interesting to see lions & tigers etc in a wild, natural setting. They have a monorail that takes you around the back part of the range and you can walk through the closer in areas. Going to the zoo tomorrow and will take in Sea World next week. Also on the agenda for next week is a trip to Tijuana. We are going to take the trolley from San Diego to the border and walk across. Should be fun.
Republic of Mexico
Turtle Bay (Bahia de Tortugas). We've stopped at a few small anchorages here in Mexico and also stayed for 3 days at Ensenada, a city of about 50,000 people. Ensenada was nice but very noisy and the people were not quite as friendly as in the smaller towns. There are lots of US tourists there also as the cruise ships come in twice a week for an afternoon. When the ships are in, the prices go up between 50% and 100%.
We have been here in Turtle Bay for 4 days and will be leaving for Magdelena Bay tomorrow (weather permitting). Magdelena Bay is about 230 miles down the coast so we expect it will take us around 48 hours. On the way down to Turtle Bay, I caught a 4 ft Mako shark. When I pulled it along side I saw that it had 1" teeth that filled it's mouth. I knew immediately that I didn't want this sucker on the boat. I pulled it out of the water by the 350 lb test steel leader I was using. It fought so violently that it straightened out the huge 3" hook I was using. It still wouldn't come off the hook as the barb was imbedded in his jaw, so I had to twist the hook with some pliers until he shook himself free. I wasn't too happy to have my hand that close to those teeth but I was lucky and was able to get it off without it getting me.
Still haven't had much wind for sailing (about 30% sailing), but we are putting up with the motor. The only time it really bothers us is on the overnight passages. The noise makes it difficult for the person off watch to sleep.
We like it here in Turtle Bay a lot. The town has all dirt streets which they water down every 2 days or so and lots of small businesses that are run out of a portion of their houses. The people are very friendly and everything in the way of basics can be obtained including diesel fuel and water. We had to carry the fuel and water out in the dinghy in jerry jugs however, but it was fun work.
Dec 14 - 20
Spent this time in a place called Bahia Santa Maria. The anchorage is normally calm but we spent two pretty bad days here with winds gusting to 45 knots blasting the anchorage causing the seas to build up to about 6 ft. It didn't make for a very comfortable time. The night of the second bad day we got a radio call from one of our friends who had just lost their rudder about 5 miles outside the bay. We got two guys to help us from two other Canadian boats and went out in 15 - 20 ft seas to try to find him and get a tow line aboard him. We found him fairly easily with the radar but getting a line aboard him was another matter. We actually got it aboard him on the first try but it was very hairy trying to get within 20 ft of him in those seas in the black of night. We towed him in slowly and were back at anchor by 11 pm. Took a long time to unwind that night.
The lobster fishermen would stop by some days and trade lobsters for wine, champagne, ham etc etc. You haven't tasted anything until you've tasted a lobster freshly caught.
Arrived in Cabo San Lucas (southern most tip of the Baja Peninsula) yesterday morning after a two night sail down from Bahia Santa Maria. We are presently anchored in the inner anchorage and plan to spend all the holiday season here. About 20 other Canadian boats in Cabo so we should have a very nice Christmas and New Years.
There is a place here called Papi's Deli that is the center for the cruisers. They are putting on a potluck dinner on the beach today and on Christmas eve they are having a big get together at the deli for about 150 people. Not the same as being with friends and family at this time of year. It will be different than any other Christmas we have spent.
Enjoyed Christmas dinner with some friends aboard their boat "Keeha". She had kept a 20 lb turkey frozen since San Diego. So between three boats we had a great dinner and a nice evening. The folks from the third vessel are from Ontario and have just taken their boat through the Panama. They had a few interesting tales to tell.
Today will be spent getting some fuel filters for the engine and getting about 6 boats fueled. There is no such thing as a fuel dock in Mexico so you carry it in jugs from the gas station which here is about 1/2 mile from the harbor. We are going to pool all the jerry jugs and hopefully will be able to carry 70 or 80 gallons per trip in a half ton truck we are hoping to get. Oops, just heard on the radio telephone that the town just ran out of diesel fuel so our fuel run will have to be tomorrow. Good thing we didn't get the truck yet.
We are just now trying to get a reservation for about 20 Canadian boats at a beachside restaurant for New Years eve. This place is located on one of the best beaches in the Cabo area and is supposed to have great food. Actually we have yet to get a bad meal here in Cabo; the restaurants are very good.
We left Cabo San Lucas this morning after a wonderful 17 days. We spent the entire time anchored in the inner anchorage. It was crowded, but most people were very conscientious about their anchoring and after a while you get used to another boat 25 ft away. There was a great deal of camaraderie amongst the yachties and we have made many new friends both Canadian and American. All in all, we found Cabo a great place to spend the holiday season with lots to do and see.
We are presently heading for a small anchorage called Los Frailes where we plan to spend 3 or 4 days before heading across the Sea of Cortes to Puerto Vallarta. There is no wind and we are motoring so I am taking this opportunity to get this letter started.
Spent 4 great days in Los Frailes having beach barbecues, exploring, and bumming around in general. Left on Jan 14 for the Mexican mainland and had a great sail for the first day with winds around 25 knots all day and night. We traveled in company with the vessels Windig from Portland Oregon and Travarra from Vancouver. The next day the wind dropped and we had to motor the rest of the way to Matenchen Bay (just south of San Blas), where we now are anchored. The day we arrived was the final day before the deadline for Iraq and there was lots of activity by the Mexican and US navy in the Sea of Cortes. We were boarded by the Mexican navy just outside of San Blas. They were very friendly and efficient and only stopped us for a few minutes. They were fully armed with sub machine guns and side arms but in no way were threatening towards us.
This bay is a nice anchorage and nearby there is a bus to San Blas that costs 1000 pesos (33 cents). On one of the buses, most of the windows were missing, the bolts that hold the seats in were rusted away and there were holes in the floor that you can see the road going by underneath. Some seats were missing their backs as well as their padding, so it was quite an exciting trip especially when the driver got it up around 110 km/hr. The other buses we caught were much better than this one, but I'll never forget that ride. There is good shopping in San Blas and the prices are about half what they are on the Baja side. Saturday is market day so it was a the day we did our shopping. The veggies were beautiful. Near the bay is a place to take a "Jungle Trip into the mango swamp, which was excellent. Lots of wildlife and a great little restaurant at the end of the trip. We saw lots of exotic birds, turtles, snakes, and a large green iguana.
Here we are in Puerto Vallarta, or rather Nuevo Vallarta, which is a marina located 12 km north of the main city. Arrived on the 23rd. We found that the channel coming in here had 7.0 ft of water which is 2" more than Isalei-Rua draws. Was quite exciting when the depth sounder started reading 6.9 ft. but we made it in without touching. We had sounded the channel with a lead line before we went in so we knew we would clear.
The buses here in P.V. are for the most part in terrible condition with doors that won't close, windshields so badly broken that it's like looking through a spider web, etc etc. The price is right at 400 pesos (12 cents) a ride in the city of Puerto Vallarta. I think each driver owns his own bus because they are decorated up with names like "The Titanic". Twice we have been on buses that were racing other buses, so they could get to the next stop ahead of the other bus and get the passengers. No mean feat on cobblestone roads. The streets in P.V. are made from stones, which makes for a very rough ride but they seem to stand up fairly well. Hard to walk across, I wouldn't be surprised if sprained ankles are the major complaint at the doctor's offices.
There are quite a few boats in here that stay here for long periods of time and quite a community feeling is prevalent. Some boats will probably never leave. The weather is always good and it never gets cold.
We are doing boat maintenance today and the water pressure is so low that if I take the hose up on the boat, no water will come out. Just not enough pressure to get it up 3 ft. Oh well hopefully manana. We were going to get diesel fuel for the boat today also but when we went to the fuel dock, they were out of fuel. Guess what the guy said - "manana". It's funny, if I had run into this type of thing in Vancouver, it would have probably made me a bit upset, but not any more. I guess I must be becoming a Mexican. I even find myself saying "manana" sometimes.
We found an excellent spot to watch the super bowl yesterday in P.V. and had an excellent lobster dinner with a free drink and about 10 pieces of garlic bread for $13 US. They sure can cook lobster down here. It was delicious!
We are anchored in Bahia Tenecatita, about 100 miles south of P.V. Coming down here we turned over the 3,000 nautical mile mark. Arrived on the 2nd, and will probably stay another 2 or 3 days. A small palapa restaurant on the beach here serves cold beer for 67 cents a bottle and pop for 33 cents. They also serve the best garlic shrimps we have ever had for $4. You get a huge plate (about 30) with Mexican rice and refried beans. There is also a small river that is interesting to explore by dinghy where many different birds nest. Travelling up the river, there were fish jumping everywhere but we hadn't taken our gear. Maybe tomorrow we'll get back up there and go fishing. The river went very near a beach on the ocean and found a lot of Mexican families enjoying a day at the beach. Near this beach was a reef that National Geographic Magazine wrote about, nicknamed "the Aquarium". The snorkeling was fantastic. Thousands of brightly colored fish large and small.
Yesterday I did underwater maintenance on the boat. The engine water intake and the head intakes were almost plugged up by a crusty white substance that has to be scraped off every few months. While I was down there I also scrubbed the prop and put new zincs on. When I scraped off the crusty stuff, about 500 mackerel came right up to my mask in a frenzy to eat this stuff. They just seemed to come from nowhere. For a few minutes I felt like a fish. About an hour later we spotted a large Manta Ray about 3 meters across slowly swimming through the anchorage right on top of the water. Glad I wasn't in when he dropped by!!!
We left Bahia Tenacatita this morning and at present we are headed for a town called Melaque, about 15 km north of Manzanillo. By all reports, this is an excellent little town to spend a few days in. I will report more about it in my next letter.
We sure enjoyed all the letters that came in the Christmas cards so keep them coming. We don't get much news from Canada down here so it was real nice to get them.
Left Manzanillo this morning after a great week at the Las Hadas Hotel Marina. This place has to be seen to be believed. It is rated in the top 10 in the world for resort hotels and it is not hard to see why. The pool is huge with 2 islands in the middle of it where a few iguanas live when they aren't swimming in the pool with the bathers or walking around the lounges at pool side. There are also about 16 tennis courts (both clay and asphalt) and an excellent 18 hole golf course. Las Hadas is about 20 km from Manzanillo so we took the bus into town the 4 days we went in. To get to the bus was a beautiful walk through the hotel grounds, tennis courts and golf course. This is the kind of place you see on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" TV show. We got to enjoy it for 1 week for free as we anchored just outside the marina. I shouldn't say free as we went out for supper a couple of times at the hotel and that certainly wasn't free but we had a good time. Of all the cities in Mexico we have been in so far, we liked Manzanillo best. The city itself is not a tourist town like P.V. or Cabo San Lucas so you are seeing Mexico as it is rather than as they want the tourists to see it.
Well we have turned around and are now heading back north for the summer, as we want to be well out of the hurricane belt before June. On the way north we are going to stop at the anchorages we liked the best and also check out the ones we didn't stop at on the way south. We will likely spend the rest of 1991 in the Sea of Cortes.
We have had the boat in the marina at Nuevo Vallarta just outside of Puerto Vallarta since the 12th. We stopped here for a couple of weeks on the way down the coast. The price is right and it is nice here.
Last night we got back from a trip up to Guadalajara, a city of over 4,000,000 and boy did we enjoy it. Lots of historic buildings, great shopping, a huge downtown market (4 floors covering 1 block) and very friendly people. Took in the ballet put on by the University of Guadalajara ballet school, which featured dances from 5 of Mexico's states and also from pre Hispanic Mexico. It was one of the highlights of our visit here in Mexico.
We went up on the bus, which took 6 hours over some very scary narrow winding roads. There are no shoulders on Mexican highways and they are mostly 2 lane with each lane about the exact width of a highway bus. When a large 18 wheeler and a bus meet on a curve it's inches between them. I think if a guy is a poor driver, he probably wouldn't live long enough to get good. Our bus pulled out and passed trucks at places I wouldn't have passed in a sports car; on curves, up hills etc etc but you don't here of many bus accidents. The one disconcerting thing though is the number of crosses beside the highway. In Mexico, if someone is killed on the highway, their relatives erect a memorial at the accident sight and maintain it with flowers etc. I guess it must be the cars that are taking the beating. We came back on the train. It took 5 1/2 hours from Guadalajara to Tepic. We then took the bus from Tepic to Nuevo Vallarta arriving back at 7 PM last night. The prices for transportation down here are very cheap. The train fare was $17.60 for 2 and that included a large lunch of fried chicken, salad, desert and juice. In Canada we would have paid more for just the lunch. We ate supper on the bus; we bought two tortas (sandwiches) and beers out the bus window when it stopped to pick up passengers. Best sandwich I have ever eaten. I guess I'd better wrap this segment up as we have to unpack and get the boat back in order. We had put stuff from the decks down below when we went away so we have to get that back in place.
Yesterday we took a day trip in another Vancouver sailboat "Traverra" over to Yelapa, about 15 miles across the bay from P.V. and had a very enjoyable day. This town has no road to it so all their transportation is done by horse, mule or donkey. It's the first town I have ever been to in life where there wasn't a car. I don't think I would have been very happy living pre 20th century. The paths through town were covered in manure and in this heat it was pretty ripe. The dinghy trip back to the boat was quite an adventure. The surf had come up while we were ashore and we completely flipped the dinghy in the surf on the way out. The wave that hit us was at least 4 ft high. I lost my prescription sunglasses when the dinghy landed on top of me. Good thing we hadn't started the motor yet or it would have sucked salt water into it a done a lot of damage. As it was it was full of water but not much got into the carburetor and it started right away on our second attempt out. We almost lost it the second time too. When we got hit this time, we had the motor running though and we were able to blast our way through at about a 75 degree angle. The dinghy was almost vertical but it didn't flip; the ride was wild! Once you get through the breaking one near the shore, you are ok but sometimes that first one can be fun.
We arrived in Mazatlan 4 days ago and have just begun to explore the city. So far we have been to the downtown area and the "Golden Zone". The Golden Zone is where all the large hotels are situated. The streets are filled with white tourists and prices are the same as in the USA. Most of the restaurants there serve 90% Gringo food. It was kind of nice to get BBQ ribs and french fries though, since we haven't had anything like that since November. The downtown area is a hustle bustle type of city with lots of interesting things to see and do. Yesterday we went to the Museum and when the man in charge of the place found out we were from Canada, he gave us a personal guided tour explaining each and every piece in every exhibit. Took a long time but was very, very interesting. Today we are just going to relax on the boat and rest up after 3 days of tramping around. I'll bet some of these exploring days we put on 5 or 6 miles.
Well that's it for this chapter. Hopefully we will get to Vancouver in June for a visit. We are thinking of taking the train and seeing some of the inland part of Mexico and US. We have to find a suitable place to leave the boat though so it all depends on whether such a place is available in the North end of Sea of Cortez out of the hurricane belt.
Just returned from a big clam bake/beach party at Mouse Beach at Santispac Cove in Conception Bay on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. There were about 30 people from Canadian and U.S. boats attending. The reason for the name of "Mouse Beach" is that around sundown, about 10-12 mice appear out of the rocks and eat everything in sight including any human food left from a beach party. They are very interesting to watch and really quite tame as the gobble up everything in sight.
The weather here has been very, very hot these last few weeks ranging up to 42 C during the day and down to 35 C at night. As a result, we spend a great deal of our time snorkeling and diving for scallops and clams, which inhabit the bay by the thousands. The water temperature ranges between 33 and 36 C.
Nearby is the little town of Mulege (pronounced Moo leh hay) which has about 4000 inhabitants. You can get all the necessities such as fuel, groceries etc there and the prices are quite good. To get to town from here, you have to hitch hike in 13 miles. It is never a problem getting a ride in or back to Santispac. We got a ride in yesterday with a Mexican family in the back of a pickup truck. Keeping us company in the back was a 55 HP outboard and a large tuna fish. It was quite an experience having a 40 C / 100 KM/hr wind blowing in our faces but we survived ok. We got a ride back with a fellow from Vancouver who was working in Loreto (135 km south of here) building houses. He was born in Spain but said he didn't tell anyone here where he was born as the Mexicans still haven't forgotten what the Spanish did to them in past centuries.
This morning we moved about 3 miles to a small unnamed cove in Conception bay where we found clearer water for snorkeling and a little more cool breeze. This afternoon about 30 dolphins swam through the anchorage along side of the boat and that was quite a sight to see. Lots of great sea life in these places. It's like snorkeling in the Vancouver Aquarium in the tropical fish section. Yesterday we saw some colorful Angel fish that were about 12-14" long and beautifully marked.
We are now in a small mining town on the Baja just north of Conception Bay called Santa Rosalia. The French built this town in the last century to mine the copper ore found here. It is an unusual town in that all the buildings are made of wood whereas in most other Mexican towns and cities everything is made from brick or concrete. The mine is now closed but a nice town is left with very nice people. There is a man made harbor here and the anchorage is very secure. The other night we had 50 knot winds with a terrific thunder storm go through just after dark. We were all quite concerned that the boats might drag anchor, but only one boat did and they re-anchored immediately.
Well we're still in Santa Rosalia, where we have fallen in love with this little town. The restaurants and taco stands in town are excellent, the harbor is secure, the marina offers showers, cold beer & pop and everyone is very nice to us. I must tell you about the hotdog stand we ate at last night. It sells, without the word of a lie, the world's best hotdogs or `exquisitos' as the owner calls them. You only have to eat one to become instantly addicted. They come wrapped in bacon and loaded with everything you could imagine and then some; all for the price of 83 cents. I'm sorry we didn't try them sooner but it's probably just as well as they don't look too good for the waistline.
We will probably go up to San Diego on the bus (15 hours) next week to get some bottom paint and other things for the boat. We also need new snorkels and we have to pickup a case of pork and beans. They don't sell pork and beans here and we don't want to head across the Pacific without them. Since the whole of the Baja is a duty free area of Mexico, we won't have to pay duty on anything we bring back with us, so we want to get everything before we head across to the mainland again in December or January. At this time we don't have much of a schedule except to be in La Paz (south end of the Baja) around the beginning of December where we will haul the boat out and paint the bottom etc. We can't head south any sooner as we would be in danger of encountering a hurricane. The hurricane season ends in Mexico around the end of November.
Just got back from San Diego this morning at 0745. Had a good trip up and back and we were able to get lots of sleep on the bus. We bought out San Diego I think and gorged ourselves on Chinese and Italian food while we were there. Both the trip up and back were overnight so it didn't seem as long as it really was. The Baja highway is a real heart grabber. It is never wider than the bus and shoulders are non existent. Pretty exiting where you meet an 18 wheeler but these bus drivers know their stuff and the trip was most enjoyable. This trip, we had to take the 2nd class bus in order to get the times we wanted but these busses were great. The one going up had air conditioning, which wasn't really needed. The temperatures in the central Baja are quite cool after the sun goes down.
We only spent 2 nights in San Diego, up on Friday and back on Sunday. It was quite cool in San Diego while we were there which made it an extra bonus.
We arrived up in Bahia Los Angeles (about 125 miles north of Santa Rosalia) yesterday about 11 AM after a 27 hour sail north from Santa Rosalia. Not much wind, a lot of motoring.
The day before we left Santa Rosalia, Peggy had a very interesting experience with the local policia. When Peggy and her friend were out doing some last minute shopping for our trip here, she was stopped by the local police and asked to accompany them. She didn't realize what he wanted and just told him where she was from etc. They then went into a store and continued shopping. When they came out, the cop was nowhere to be seen but as they walked past the bank, he suddenly appeared and opened the door and insisted she come inside. When she got inside, she was met by a Mexican whose first words were, "I'm here to translate for you". At this point, she knew something was up. The proceeded to ask her if she had been in the bank the day before and received 5 million pesos from the teller. She replied that she had only received 2.5 million pesos. It seems that the teller was 2.5 million pesos short and she thought she had given Peggy the extra. They took Peggy's word for it and let her go but, it shows you just how fast you can get into difficulty for no reason. A little later we walked past the bank and the tellers all were smiling and waving. It seems they had found the missing pesos.
We are anchored in a very remote cove just north of the Bay of Los Angeles with another boat, Alegre from Portland. Tonight we were over to their boat and had poached Triggerfish that Gordon and I had speared today. It was the first time I had used my spear gun and I had a lot of misses until I perfected my technique, (then I only missed 75% of the time). They were sure good. We had scalloped potatoes, carrots and celery in an onion sauce, wine with the fish, and date loaf for desert. So you can see, we eat pretty good out here. Tomorrow we are going to look for clams and scallops and make up a great chowder for tomorrow night.
The beauty of the Baja was nowhere more apparent than here tonight. Sunset was a fiery red over a range of mountains that lit up all the hills and valleys around us in a beautiful bright red. It was breath taking. The complete silence is also very unusual as there are no roads for miles, no planes overhead and no boats with noisy engines. Just spooky (but nice for a change) silence.
We are anchored in Puerto Refugio now where it is a little cooler; both the air and water temperature. I even needed a blanket last night, the first time since we arrived back from Canada in July. The snorkeling and spear fishing here is excellent. Many thousands of beautifully colored fish that you can swim amongst without them even noticing you.
Two days ago we took the dinghy 2 miles across to Isla Granito, which is home to a large sea lion and seal population. We got into the water with our snorkel gear on and swam for about an hour with them. At first it was very intimidating as some of the sea lion bulls looked to be in the one ton range. They would swim by at a high rate of speed as though they were trying to impress us with their swimming ability. The longer we were in the water though, the more at ease we got and soon we were swimming within five or six feet of them. They were sure curious about us as they would try to sneak up from behind us for a closer look. It was something I will never forget.
We're now back in Sta Rosalia at anchor. We had a great 29 hour sail down from Refugio with good wind all the way. The last 7 days I have been rewiring the US boat Whisper out of Portland that had sustained heavy damage as a result of an electrical fire aboard last month. This is too much like working again what with 8 to 10 hour days the norm but it is an unwritten law out here cruising that one helps anyone who has had this type of misfortune with whatever skills you possess. The yachties have helped out by doing fiberglassing, electrical, cleaning, scrubbing etc etc and it looks like a few more weeks work will put the boat back cruising again. The estimated damage on the boat if it were fixed back in the USA was about $30,000 but with all the volunteer work, it will probably only cost him about $8,000 and a lot of that will be replacing and repairing electronics. The electrical that I am working on was badly damaged. About 95% of the wiring will have to be stripped out and rewired. Unfortunately the boat was not insured, as are most of the yachts cruising, as the cost is just too high.
We are going to be here for a week or two to finish up the wiring on Whisper, get our visas extended and give some of the tropical storms a chance to die down before we head too much further south. We have 263 nautical miles to get to La Paz and about 15 anchorages we want to stop at along the way. We'll have to get moving pretty soon if we want to be there by mid November.
Today we had a class of 26 kindergarten children aboard for a look at the boat. They had all seen the yachts anchored in the harbor but had never been aboard one. We loaned them a picture book of Canada and gave them a little Canadian flag each. We enjoyed it as much as they did.
We left Sta Rosalia a few days ago and had two days of great sailing south to Caleta San Juanico where we are anchored in the company of just two other boats. We went snorkeling today and had a great time. The water was crystal clear and the numbers and colors of the fish were astounding. We saw a Parrot fish that was 1 meter long that woke us up in a hurry. We spent about 4 hours in the water today and will probably go again tomorrow. We also collected some very pretty shells along one of the deserted beaches.
Today finds us anchored in a small bay on the north end of Isla Monserrate about 125 miles north of La Paz on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. We have been here for 3 days one of which was spent repairing a balky refrigeration system that decide to pack it in. There are no other boats here and we are anchored just off a beautiful sandy beach about 1 mile long. Last night, we were visited by 4 huge moths. They were blackish in color and about 7" across when sitting on Peggy's arm. At first they were a little intimidating but after a while they didn't bother us as they flew around in the boat and cockpit. One of them even landed on the book I was reading up in the V berth. It had eyes as big as a bird.
Sometime in the next few days we are going over to Puerto Escondido to pick up a new raw water pump I am having shipped down from San Diego. There is a yacht charter company there called the Moorings that will hold parcels for yachties. It is very good of them as they don't get anything out of it themselves and it is good to be able to give an address to someone in the US or Canada if parts are needed. Our water pump started to leak and make a noise so I am going to rebuild that one and carry it as a spare and install the new one.
Now anchored at Honeymoon Bay 3 miles from Escondido still waiting for the pump to arrive. We are the only boat here and the anchorage is beautiful. You can actually see grains of sand on the bottom in water that's over 50 ft deep. We have never seen water so clear and it's also 83 degrees so it is nice for swimming and snorkeling.
We are now anchored in a small well protected bay on Isla San Francisco, about 40 miles north of La Paz. A very unusual weather phenomenon is occurring outside - it's raining. We are being hit by the remnants of Tropical storm Nora which is passing about 100 miles SE. The winds are about 35 knots and the rain is coming down in torrents. The boat hasn't had a washdown like this for many months and we are getting our water tanks filled through the deck drain. This anchorage is very secure with excellent holding for the anchor on the sandy bottom. Yesterday we went out and speared 5 fish on the reef and had a great fish fry party on Isalei-Rua for 8 people. We had a great time playing Pictionary until 2300 hours when this storm hit. It was quite dicey for the people going back to their boats in their dinghies in the dark but everyone made it safely. At that point the winds were only about 20 knots, not the 35 knots we are now experiencing.
We will head for La Paz in a day or two where we plan to haul the boat for bottom painting and an underwater check. We haven't been in a city since July in Guaymas so it will be a nice change. It is beginning to look like we'll be in Nuevo Vallarta (about 25 km north of Puerto Vallarta) for Christmas this year, but in this business of cruising you never know what with the weather etc. Too many variables, to be sure of any schedule.
We are anchored in La Paz now and are experiencing a 35 knot north wind blasting through the anchorage. We are well anchored and haven't dragged anchor but a few boats have so we are spending this time aboard writing a few letters and catching up on chores we haven't had time to do. We don't want to leave the boat and go ashore with this wind and besides we would get soaked in the dinghy. The waves are about 3 ft high out there. So today I have added 2 very bright florescent light fixtures, one over the table and one in the galley. I've also added a red light (for night vision) in the head and a new regular light fixture in the forward cabin. I guess I'm getting old; my eyes need more light to function.
We have been here for 3 days now and have found La Paz to be a very clean friendly city of about 50,000 people. Lots of great restaurants and shops and friendly, helpful people. Many trees and shrubs which is quite a surprise as just a few miles north the Baja is barren wilderness.
Well that's about it for this time. Probably won't get off another letter until French Polynesia when we will be able to tell you all about the 25-30 day crossing to the Marquesas.
(For those of you in B.C., good luck with your new socialist government. It seems funny that with the rest of the world shunning socialism, the people of B.C. chose socialists to lead them from the mess the Socreds left. Politics never cease to amaze me. I can hardly wait to see who replaces the PCs in Ottawa when Mulroney gets kicked out. Maybe the Reform Party will surprise???)
We are now in Marina Pacifico at Nuevo Vallarta getting ready for Christmas. The marina here is a shambles and we don't know if we will be staying here for Christmas or not. Up until yesterday the power has been off for 8 days and the water has been off for 3 days. When it came on yesterday, it was like mud coming out of the tap. They also have all the docks torn up putting new surfaces on them and you don't dare to walk on them after dark for fear of stepping on a nail or worse yet falling through an open spot of which there are several. Now only half of the marina has power so we just moved the boat over to one of the docks with power. Maybe we will move to Puerto Vallarta or move south to Manzanillo if things don't shape up here in a hurry.
We had a great sail across from La Paz to Nuevo Vallarta making the 380 miles in 3 days and 4 hours. Good winds most of the way. Some pretty heavy seas the last few hours with the decks awash most of the time. As long as there is good wind to keep the sails filled, the boat is quite comfortable even in the heavy going but when the winds drop and the seas stay up, it can be quite rolly. The boat handles the rough going very well and we have a lot of confidence in her.
Well we are still at Nuevo Vallarta where we spent a very nice Christmas. On Christmas eve there was a huge pork roast with about 100 cruisers attending. Pork is a traditional Christmas eve dish here. On Christmas day there was an anonymous rotating gift exchange amongst the cruisers that was a riot, very funny with lots of junk changing hands. We cooked a turkey dinner on Christmas for us and two other boats, Bob & Ruth Valentine (Seahope) and Bill, Norma and Billy Wing (Seapod), both from California and had a very nice time. Not like being with family but these people have become very good friends and are like a surrogate family. We were into Puerto Vallarta last night with them and had a great time at one of the local night clubs. On New Years eve our dock had a big dock party with lots of super munchies and nice people. Another good time was had by all.
It's raining today as it did yesterday so I'm taking this break to catch up on the letters. Very unusual to have rain in January in this part of Mexico but I hear that the weather is doing strange things all over.
Now that Christmas is over, we have been spending a lot of time getting the boat ready for leaving in March. Nothing serious, but lots of things to check and routine maintenance to do. We had to buy a new dinghy (a 10.8' Achilles) as the one we had was starting to feel the affects of the sun. The sun in the Sea of Cortez this summer was a real killer for any plastic and rubber products. Things just fall apart after being exposed for just a few months. We have made a fitted cover from a special sun resistant cloth for our new dinghy. It took us 9 days to make because of all the compound angles and cut outs it had on it. Lots of work but it will probably extend the life of the dinghy considerably.
The past two days we had a couple of nice happenings. On Sunday night, we went over to the little town near the marina where they were celebrating the last day of Christmas. There was a large gathering in the town square and we were made to feel very welcome. A lot of the marina employees live there. At 10 PM they lit off a fireworks tower that was covered with different kinds of fireworks. That's when things got really lively. The fireworks is designed so that pieces come off the tower and go snaking through the crowd, spinning every which way. I had one go past my face about 6 inches away and it showered me with sparks as it went by. Lots of excitement and surprisingly, no one got hurt.
Then yesterday we went on a picnic up the river into the mountains. There was about 20 of us all packed into a old Mercedes bus that one of the cruisers owns. After we ate, out came the guitars and one of the guys had a dobro (bluegrass type) guitar. He is a pro and was pickin' up a storm when a couple of the Mexican entertainers from the nearby restaurant came down to listen. They really enjoyed themselves. When we walked back to the highway, there these two Mexicans were with their guitars. They proceeded to give us a short concert right beside the highway. Got some great pictures. They promised to come to our potluck dinner out at the Marina on Wednesday night with their families.
Well I guess the 17 months with only 10 days of rain has finally caught up with us. The last 2 weeks here have been like living in a shower. It has rained so long and hard that all the surrounding area is badly flooded. Lots of livestock have been lost and a lot of crops and property damaged. These people are poor enough without having this happen to them. The government had to release water from a dam up the river because it was in danger of bursting which has also added to the problem.
Excellent weather for the last week or 10 days, so we went up into the mountains for a hike beside a beautiful river where the movie "Predator" was filmed. They still have the crashed helicopter their. Beautiful restaurant built right out over the riverside. Great swimming in clean fresh water.
The next 2 weeks we will be very busy. Yesterday we hauled the boat for bottom painting and maintenance and the following week, friends who cruised with us last year in Mexico aboard Traverra, are flying down from Vancouver for a week. It will sure be good to see them again.
We have spent the last two days slaving away scraping, sanding and painting the bottom of the boat. I had forgotten how rotten a job it was. Oh well, I guess it can't be all fun and games. We plan to keep the boat out of the water for one week and do lots of little chores that need doing.
Finished the work on the boat and have moved into the hi-rent district here at Marina Vallarta in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Plan to spoil ourselves silly for the next 10 days and then we'll move back to Nuevo Vallarta. This marina is surrounded by very nice condos and several multi million dollar yachts are in here from all corners of the world. The guy who owns McDonald's has his yacht here now. Must be worth at least 3 or 4 million!
We are still undecided as to whether the El Nino will affect our plans for the South Pacific this year. If we don't go this year we plan to stay in the Puerto Vallarta area and travel inland by bus a few times. We won't finally make up our minds until the third week of March. Then if we decide to go, we'll leave within the week.
We have had a problem getting our mail this time and as of today have not received the mail package sent from Canada on January 3. All the mail since mid October is in that package so we won't be able to answer any letters sent our way. It's beginning to look like it may never arrive.
We're leaving for the Marquisas tomorrow and are very excited about finally getting under way. The cruisers had a big going away cocktail/hors d'oeuvre party for us last night with about 50
people in attendance. It was a lot of fun. We got a roll of toilet paper from each of them. Most of the rolls had funny messages on them and it was lots of fun reading them out. Today we are doing all the
little last minute things that have to be done just before leaving such as cleaning the boat, and rearranging the boat for a voyage instead of dockside. We don't sleep up in the V berth when under way so all the stuff that doesn't have a secure place gets put up in there. That leaves the rest of the boat completely functional and neat.
We are going to miss Mexico a lot, especially the people we have met, both cruisers and Mexicans. Some of the cruisers we have met will probably become lifelong friends. There are some fantastic people out here doing what we're doing.
Left this morning to a fanfare of boat horns and a loud skyrocket. These cruisers here are crazy but we love them. We have had a lot of wonderful times with them and it's very sad to be seeing most of them for the last time.
This morning finds us approximately 750 miles due west of Acapulco. We have had great sailing with 141, 158, 153 mile days in 20 - 25 knots of wind. Then late yesterday afternoon the winds dropped to about 8 knots and we are presently doing 2.5 knots. I just copied a weather fax and it looks like more of the same for at least 1 more day. I see that there is more wind down around 11 degrees north so I think we'll head a little more south and see if we can find it. The first 2 days were very tiring, getting used to the motion and interrupted sleep again, but now we over that and getting along just fine. We are doing 5 hour watches during the dark hours so that the person who is not on watch gets a good long sleep. The rest of the day is broken up into 2 and 3 hour watches.
We left Nuevo Vallarta the same day as 3 other boats. Believe it or not after 600 miles and 5 days we are within 25 miles of 2 of them. In fact until the winds dropped yesterday, one other boat (Zee Vogel -
Los Angeles) was within 200 meters of us. Our two boats are almost perfectly matched speed wise even though they are 44 ft long and we are 37 ft.
Weather out here is great, with daytime temps around 28 and nighttime's around 20. Makes for very comfortable sailing.
We are now at 9 43 N and 122 36 W and are having a great sail. A few squalls last night with winds to 30 knots but we rolled in about half of the headsail and were thundering along at 7 - 8 knots. Seas about 10 ft but boat handles them beautifully. Today, as the boat crashed through the seas, we were amazed by the number of flying fish that were flying out of the waves. The boat would come down and about 50 flying fish would fly out for about 50 - 75 ft. They can really go for a long ways. Quite often in the mornings we find dead ones on the deck. The most we have had was 21 one morning. We also get squid on deck but so far not too many. The boat Zee Vogel that we were so close to for so long at the beginning of the voyage had to abort and head back to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico as they had autopilot failure and genset failure. The genset they could probably have lived with but to hand steer all the way to the Marquesas would have been too much. They were very disappointed when they told us on the radio they were turning back. On Isalei-Rua we have a wind vane that does most of our steering under sail and an electric autopilot for when we are under power.
If all goes ok, we should be into Hiva Oa tomorrow morning around daybreak. Since crossing the equator, we have had excellent sailing 24 hours a day and have made daily runs of 154, 160 and 145 miles. We are really looking forward to getting in tomorrow. Lots of bird-life out here. It's amazing to see them all even when we were 1200 miles from any land. Had a bunch of dolphins swim with us for about an hour last night, playing in the bow wave.
French Polynesia - Marquesas
Arrived Atuona, Hiva Oa at 0800 on the 15th. It took us 23 days and 23 hours to sail here. We had to take the mainsail down at midnight to slow the boat down so that we would arrive in the daylight. Our best day was 168 miles and our worst was 14 miles. We had several days over 150 miles. Only one gale along the way that lasted about 6 hours with winds around 35 knots. There were lots of squalls between 8 degrees N and 3 degrees S that would last 10 minutes to an hour with winds around 30 knots and very heavy rain.
We are anchored with 22 other boats in the harbor. There are boats from Norway, South Africa, New Zealand, France, Australia, Germany, USA, and Canada. The boat from Norway is a 100 year old wooden ketch. Most of them came from Panama and Galapagos. The boats from Mexico are mostly enroute and will arrive in 10 days or so.
If you think things in Canada are expensive, you won't believe these prices (all in USA dollars): Eggs $5/dozen, lamb chops $30 for 6 small ones, $6.75 for a large can of pork & beans, carrots at $1 each
and $15 for 4 chicken legs. I'm sure glad we stocked up in Mexico. We have enough food on board to last until New Zealand in November so all we will need along the way is fresh veggies, fruit and meat.
While at the museum today, we met the ranking French army officer, a captain who spoke some English. He took us out to a Marquisan wood carvers house where we bought a beautiful carved ceremonial dagger. He also showed us the graves of a famous French painter and writer. He drove us around in the back of a small 4 wheel drive French army troop transporter. The people here are very friendly and after seeing us around town a few times, they nod and greet us everywhere we go.
We are leaving Atuona tomorrow for a beautiful anchorage about 11 miles away on the neighboring island of Tahuata. Capt. Cook stopped on this island on one of his voyages through this part of the world in the 18th century.
We left Hiva Oa last night at 5:45 PM and sailed the 62 miles to Oa Pou arriving at 10:30 AM this morning. Checked in with the local Gendarme and took a look at the town of Hakahau. Beautiful tropical flowers and plants in everybody's yard. We saw huge Diefenbachias growing wild that would cost $100 in Canada. Many friendly people.
I had a funny thing happen to me today. I bought a cardboard 1 liter jug of Tahiti mixed juices. It was hot and I needed something to gulp down to quench my thirst. After I had drunk about 3/4 of it, I felt dizzy and wobbly. I looked at the label and then saw that it contained 10% alcohol and I had just gulped down 3/4 of a liter in about 3 minutes. Needless to say I felt no pain for the rest of the afternoon. That's the first time I've ever seen booze sold in cardboard containers. I must say though, it tasted pretty good.
The harbour here is protected by a very large stone breakwater. Tonight there were quite a few Marquisan men practicing in their long outrigger canoe. It looks like they're preparing for a big race as they were running and doing exercises on shore before getting into the canoe. Those guys really make that thing move.
So far, since we have arrived in the Marquisas we have seen boats from many different parts the world. In just 4 anchorages so far we have seen boats from: Canada, USA, France, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain, Guernsey and Italy. A very interesting, international community out here cruising!
Spent the May day celebration in Hakahau Bay on Oa Pou and had a great time watching the N. Marquisan championships in soccer, volleyball and outrigger canoe racing. On top of that, we went to a Marquisan feast last night that was a 6 course meal with 5 hours of Marquisan entertainment; dancing, singing and even a comedian (spoke French, so we didn't get too many of his jokes). The evening ended with a disco. We didn't get back to the boat until 1 AM. This morning we moved to a deserted bay on the north end of Oa Pou with a beautiful little village nestled along the bottom of the mountain. The mountains here are very high (over 1000 meters) with huge thin spires sticking up on the tops of the mountains. Very picturesque!
We are now on the island of Nuku Hiva. This is the last island in the Marquisas we will visit before heading for the Tuamotus. We spent last week in a beautiful anchorage in Anaho Bay on the NE corner of the island. Did a lot of snorkeling and saw our first shark while snorkeling. He was a 5 to 6 ft reef shark and he swam about 20 ft from me. I think he was just as scared as me. While there we hiked across the mountain to a beautiful little village which was beautifully manicured with tropical plants and flowers everywhere. It was well worth the 1 1/2 hour each way hike.
We are now in Taiohae Bay checking out of the Marquisas with the gendarme, fueling, provisioning and making a few repairs. We will stop in Daniel's Bay for a couple of days to say hello to Daniel and his wife Antoinette. They have welcomed cruisers to their bay for many years and we are looking forward to conveying greetings from friends in Vancouver who were here in 1987.
Lots of rain the past week. I bailed out the dinghy today and there was 6 inches of water in it and that was just overnight. It's pouring now so I'll have to bail again tomorrow morning. My guess would be that there has been at least 20 inches of rain in the past 6 days, but with the temperatures near 32 C all the time, you don't get cold when you get wet so it's not really that bad.
In Daniel's Bay now and have enjoyed the last few days meeting Daniel and Antoinette. They are super people. Yesterday Daniel waved us over to the shore and gave us a large fish that he had just netted. He had a large sack of them. The other day he gave us a rack of ribs from a wild boar he had shot that afternoon. Very tasty, not like the pork we're used to but very good. We have spent quite a bit of time visiting with them. Between our butchered French and his limited English along with a few hand signals and drawings in the dirt, we make out ok. He has a logbook of all the boats that have visited his bay since 1987. Lots of our friends in there. Also in there was Jacques Cousteau. Nice to be such fine company in his book. We went to the adjoining bay yesterday and met Simeon and his wife. He is a fine carver. I bought a small tiki carved in sandalwood for my Mexican silver neck chain. They are also very friendly people and very interesting to talk to.
We're just about to the Tuamotus in fact the GPS says we're 70 miles out. The only problem with that is we don't want to get there in the dark so we have slowed the boat down. The only thing we have up is a triple reefed main and we are still doing 4 knots. The wind has blown like stink, between 25 and 35 knots, all the way here so it really screwed up our schedule. These islands (atolls) are only 3 or 4 feet above sea level so they can be hard to spot both by eye and by radar. They are actually nothing more than rings of coral with lagoons in the center. There is usually a pass with lots of current, through the coral into the lagoon so your navigation has to be sharp.
Have been at Kauehi Atoll since the 25th and have really enjoyed it. It is very beautiful here with white sand beaches, green water and coral reefs with loads of tropical fish. There is a village with 55 very friendly inhabitants who have made us feel very welcome. There are 3 vehicles in town and about 50 bikes and scooters. We are the only boat here and only the second boat to call in this year. The first was also a boat from Vancouver, our friends Hugh and Sylvia Greenwood aboard Almucanter. A coincidence is that we both have the identical boats (Reliance 37s). A further coincidence is that of the 9 Reliances made, 3 of them are now cruising within a few miles of each other in French Polynesia. The third Reliance is Wavesweeper. They are just returning from the Mediterranean via the Panama Canal, French Polynesia, Hawaii and home to Vancouver. They have been gone for 5 years. We spent a nice evening aboard with them and several other Canadians in Taiohae Bay a while ago.
Yesterday I snorkeled out over our anchor just to check out the set and when I got back to the boat I found that we had some guests who had made a home for themselves under Isalei-Rua. There were 5 sharks ranging in size from 1 to 3 feet. They took off when I got close. Today we have been throwing scraps off the boat and watching them tear around going after them.
Now anchored at the atoll of Toau, about 40 miles from Kauehi. The lagoons in the atolls can only be navigated safely between 1000 and 1400 since all navigation is done by eyeball, with Peggy up about 15 feet in the rigging with a small handheld radio. She spots the coral heads and radios down course corrections to me at the wheel. The colors are easy to see and as long as we stay in aqua or darker we know we will be ok. Anything light colored we stay away from. Another thing we have to consider are the currents in the passes to get into the lagoons. Some of them have currents of +5 knots in them so its best to go in at slack water if possible.
We just got back from snorkeling where Peggy spotted a 7 - 8 foot white tipped shark swimming directly at us. He went by about 6 or 8 feet away. Scared the crap out of us but he went merrily on his way and didn't give us a second look. We were snorkeling beside a coral head in about 10 feet of water. We were out of the water and sitting on top of the coral head like rockets. After about 5 minutes we went back in and never saw him again. This shark had another long fish attached to his undersides by some kind of suction I would guess. One thing for sure is that they sure are fantastic swimmers. They don't seem to be moving anything but yet they move very quickly. One would never outswim one if he decided to make a social call.
Last night we went on the outer reef after dark to try to get some lobsters. They come out after dark and roam the tops of the reef. There was a lot of surf so they didn't come out but it was sure a neat experience being out there on the reef in the pitch black with huge breakers slamming the edge of the reef only a few feet away.
We haven't seen another yacht since we left the Marquisas. After being in so many crowded anchorages it is kind of nice to have some solitude. We chose to take a route through the Tuamotus that few yachts take. The only people we have seen since we arrived at Toau were a boat load of natives that live at the other end of the atoll. They stopped by for coffee and we and a nice visit aboard for an hour. They spoke only a few words of English but with my fractured French and some hand signals we made out just fine.
We have moved to the southern end of Toau and yesterday we met Appollo, a lone Tahitian who has built himself a great house out of coconut palm fronds. They are woven and then put on the walls. Very weatherproof and windproof. The floor is crushed white coral and everything is clean and neat. He has been fantastic to us. Yesterday he invited us to go with him to get coconuts, which he pulled off the tree with a very long pole. Last night we walked the outer reef with him between 2200 and 0100 with 2 Coleman lanterns and got 3 lobsters and 10 red snappers. We speared them with a long 3-pronged spear. We didn't get to sleep until 0230 this morning but it was great fun. Its quite a chore walking the reef with a very hot, heavy lantern in one hand (which must be held at chest level to keep it from being splashed), a spear in the other and a sack full of fish around your neck. In addition to that, you are walking over rocks, coral etc with fast running water up past your knees . Occasionally a large wave breaks over the reef and you get pummeled with a wall of white water a couple of feet high. If you fall and the lantern goes in the water its probably the end of it. I am sure stiff this morning but I'm sure that will be overlooked when we eat the spoils of our venture.
We arrived in Papeete at 1630 today after an unpleasant crossing from the Tuamotus. The first day out we had heavy seas with 30 knot winds, the second we had light winds with very sloppy seas and today we had 15 knots of wind right on the nose. We had to motor into it or else spend another day out so we elected to motor in. We are anchored with 2 stern lines to shore with boats on either side only 20
feet away. There is very little room left in the harbor for any more boats, we were lucky to get this place.
Well that's about all for this time. We will fill you in on Papeete in the next letter. We plan to spend 2 or 3 weeks here so there should be lots to tell.
Enjoying Papeete very much. There are all the services here for both people and yachts that you could ever want. Marine prices aren't too bad what with all the competition. We replaced our 3/8" backstay yesterday and the rigger charged us $297 US for the wire and swaging. That's about $50 less that shipping one from Canada. I had noticed that there was one strand of the wire cable broken when I was up the mast doing some checking when we were in the Marquisas so we wanted to get it replaced at the first opportunity. It was still strong enough to do the job but we didn't want to take a chance on losing the mast if the wire broke under load at sea. Took all day yesterday to get the old one down and the new one made and installed.
One of the best bargains anywhere are le trucks that serve a variety of hot full course meals every evening along the Moorea ferry dock. There you have your choice of 25 - 30 different trucks with most meals about $8.00. The smells are wonderful and the food is too. There is a even a pizza truck that has a large brick wood burning oven to make the pizzas in. Restaurants are pretty expensive but with le trucks, who needs them.
Very crowded with yachts in Papeete right now but we have a good spot tied stern to along the rocks right in the city. We'll probably stay for a couple of more weeks at least. I still have a few more boat projects like changing the oil, and checking out various other things while we are in a place where we can get replacement parts. Going to try to do one project per day until finished.
The climate here is fabulous. The temperatures vary about 10 C between night and day. Night temps about 20 C. Humidity stays around 60% and we've only had rain one day for about 1 hour since arriving. I think summer might be a lot hotter but two days ago, winter started here so I guess that accounts for the cool temps. We have almost finished our boat chores. Today we are repairing the mainsail cover and staysail bag. The stitching takes a real beating in the tropical sun and has to be restitched periodically.
Tonight we had a big potluck on shore with about 40 or so people attending. We invited several of the European boats but none of them showed up. The Europeans seem to stick together and don't mix with the
North Americans much. Most of them speak quite good English so its not a language problem, maybe just a cultural thing.
You'll never guess what is directly off our stern across the road -the IBM distributor for Papeete. I might drop in and say hi sometime before we leave just for old times sake.
This morning after watching the outrigger canoe races, we decided to jerry jug fuel from the gas station and refuel the boat. We bought 188 liters (41 Imp gallons) of diesel for 10,360 francs which works out to about $130 (Can) and 31 liters of gas for the outboard (6.8 Imp gallons) for 3200 francs (about $40 Can). Gas was $1.30 Can/liter or put another way $5.91 Can/ Imp gallon. A fast easy way to blow $170. Next major fuel stop will be American Samoa and hopefully the prices will be little better. The prices here can be a little disconcerting if you let them. If one dwells on that aspect, it could ruin the fun of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth. So far we have been successful in that regard.
After refueling we went to the first day of the Bastille day celebrations which are a month long bash here in French Polynesia. We saw the agriculture competition with beautiful tropical flowers, vegetables, fruit and animals (goats, cows, pigs, sheep and rabbits). Very interesting! Lots of great Tahitian music and very colourful clothes worn by the Tahitian ladies. Most of the women were wearing garlands of flowers around their heads as well.
Having the boat backed in next to the main street in Papeete has some drawbacks. Last night we were sitting in the cockpit when there was a loud bang and the next thing we saw were two people laying on the pavement one of whom had a large Harley Davidson on top of him. Two motor cycles had collided at high speed and bingo, lots of excitement. The people laid there for 15 or 20 minutes before the ambulance people got them loaded up and neither moved a muscle that whole time. We later found out that the woman died and the guy was still in a coma 10 days later. After living away from civilization for the past year it was a rude reminder. Well, enough of the depressing news. We are looking forward to more Bastille Day activities in the next 10 days or so and then we will head for Moorea where the snorkeling is reputed to be the greatest place on earth. Looking forward to that!
Today marked the official start of Bastille Day celebrations and this morning we were at the opening ceremonies with all the dignitaries and big wigs. All the various island groups that are going to compete in the singing and dancing were there and gave us 3 hours of spectacular entertainment. The dancers and their costumes were beautiful and the drums that accompanied the dancers were excellent. To say were enjoyed it would be a gross understatement; we were enthralled by the whole experience. We had front row seats in the grandstand by some luck. I think I got some great pictures. There were only seats for about 1000 people so we were at the right place at the right time on this one.
Yesterday we celebrated Canada day with 6 other Canadian boats as well as 10 or 12 American boats. We had a huge Canadian flag and planted it just off the busiest street in Papeete where we had our potluck on the grass. We got lots of nice comments from the local pedestrians. When we were going back to the boat in the dinghy we heard the sounds of Tahitian drums in the distance. We decided to investigate (just in case they were boiling up a missionary or two) and found one of the Tahitian dance troupes (about 40 dancers) practicing their routines. We spent 2 hours being entertained by young Tahitian men and very beautiful Tahitian women gyrating to the beat of some of the most stirring drums and other percussion instruments imaginable. The percussion instruments other than the drums were bamboo pieces and carved out wooden tubes with slots on them that they hit with a piece of carved wood. The sounds and beat gets right into your soul. Going back tonight with my mini recorder to see if I can get some of it on tape.
Still in Papeete but leaving on the 12th. Lots of great entertainment going on every day. Today we stumbled onto a French TV crew at the cultural center and before we knew it Miss Tahiti, Miss Heiva and Miss Papeete were being interviewed 10 ft in front of us. Then we moved our chairs over to where the Tahitians in grass skirts (men & women both) did about an hour of great dancing again for the TV cameras. My chair was no more than 3 ft from the nearest dancer. Thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Going to really miss this place.
Tonight 20 yachties got together and invaded the local Italian restaurant. Had a boisterous time with good food and great company. The cook was a Frenchman working in a Tahitian owned Italian restaurant; quite a combination, but food was very good.
Guess what - we're still in Papeete with the day after tomorrow our probable departure day. We keep on finding great things that are happening and just can't leave this wonderful place.
Today is Bastille Day (French National Day) and the French military had a great time playing soldier and parading all their hardware and handing out medals etc. Leading the parade was the execution squad of the French Foreign Legion, with their axes over their shoulders and rubber aprons; very gruesome. As Canadians we are not used to seeing soldiers parading with bayoneted sub machine guns and axes. The French might have finally found someone they can intimidate with their army - they don't do too well against anyone who might shoot back. I guess that every so often they have to remind the Tahitians who the boss is and how futile it would be to have any independence inclinations. In addition to all the soldiers, there are 5 French warships in the harbor.
Still here! We decided to stay for the Friday and Saturday traditional dance competitions. Went last night and were treated to the most beautiful display of dancing and wonderful brightly colored costumes that one might imagine. Dancing started at 2000 and went right through until 0030 the next morning. Can't wait for tonight's performance. The winner of the competition here in Papeete goes to the giant South Pacific Festival that is held every four years. It is held in a different location each time; this year being held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. We considered going there for the festival but the harbor there is very small (about 6 boats) and we have heard at least 20 boats say they are going. No alternate anchorages so I think we'll have to pass this one up.
Big forest fire on the hills behind Papeete last night. There was a steady rain of ash falling at the dance competition and the boat was totally covered with it this morning. Still burning but now it looks like it's under control and a lot less ash is falling today.
The following nights dance was even more spectacular. I think we saw what will be the prize-winning group in the professional category. They had about 150 dancers in bright orange and grass costumes and they were absolutely outstanding. They didn't finish their program until 0200 after dancing for 2 1/2 hours straight. I doubt if any other group could top their performance.
We are now anchored at Moorea in a little place called Robinson's Cove. It is just large enough for 4 boats and we have a stern line to a palm tree on our own private secluded shady beach. Our friends Gordon and Joan on Alegre (Portland) are anchored beside us; just our two boats here. We've been here 6 days now and spend most afternoons laying on the beach under a tree with a beer and a book, and most evenings playing cards over some exotic liqueur. Gosh this is a tough life, but I guess someone has to do it. Tomorrow we are moving into the next bay over (Cook's Bay) where Capt. Cook anchored when he was here. We got a glimpse of Cook's Bay yesterday when we walked 4 km into the hills to a viewpoint from which we could see for miles. It was very spectacular.
Cook's Bay. Anchored in front of Club Bali Hai which is a time share resort that welcomes yachties. I guess they feel we help entertain their guests. They have happy hour every Tues. and Fri., which is very popular with the yachties. They also give us free access to their pool, showers and book swap. The town of Paopao is at the head of the bay and it has good supplies and most important of all a bank to rejuvenate our empty wallets. All in all this is a nice stop.
A week ago we sailed overnight the 88 miles to the beautiful island of Huahine [hoo a heen eh], one of lesser-known French islands. We anchored on the reef across from the small town of Fare for two days in 15 ft of crystal clear water. Today finds us on the south end of the island tucked between the barrier reef and the island. To get down here we had to wind our way between the reef and the island using eyeball navigation. You get used to it after a few times; the colors of the various depths of water show up very clearly between 10 AM and 3 PM when the sun is high. Snorkeling is excellent with visibility at least 75 ft. Saw lots of new varieties of tropical fish. Every time we go snorkeling, we see new varieties. Hard to believe there are so many different ones. The last two days have been very stormy with rain and winds topping out in gusts around 50 knots so we have been confined to the boat. Today winds back to normal. The storm hit us just as we were sitting down to watch a professional dance troupe from Papeete put on a show just up the beach. We saw only one number of a two-hour show. We teased them that their first number must have been a rain dance.
We are now anchored on the NE corner of Raiatea near the town of Uteroa. I hitchhike into town to get supplies and never have to wait for more than a few minutes. Today the first car along stopped. This is a beautiful town with no tourism and very friendly people. We are enjoying it very much.
Arrived Bora Bora on the 23rd after nice sail from Raiatea. After spending the first two days anchored off the town of Vaitape (deep anchorage - 80 ft) getting fuel, water and fresh veggies we moved to the south end of the island. We are anchored just off the Hotel Bora Bora in 18 ft of crystal clear water. We could see several large stingrays on the bottom when we anchored but none were near the size of the giant mantas we saw in Mexico.
I was talking to my friend Bob on "Seahope" in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico last night on the ham radio and he was telling me about the hurricane that went through the Baja area of Mexico the day before. The winds were 110 knots and there were 17 sailboats on the beach at San Carlos and several others damaged elsewhere. San Carlos is the where we left the boat last time we visited Vancouver. The boats that went ashore were all on moorings, not at the marina as we were. It is quite unusual for hurricanes to get that far north in the Sea of Cortez. Glad I'm here!
The atmosphere here on Bora Bora is much different than the other islands. Here the tourist is the sole source of income, prices are sky high ($35 US for 2 hamburgers and chips) and yachties are not really welcomed, probably because we aren't willing to spend that kind of money. We are enjoying the great snorkeling, the walks and the fun with the other yachties but there is no interaction with the locals at all, in fact there seems to be a bit of animosity towards tourists.
Today we found out on the short wave radio from yachts in Mopelia, a small island west of Bora Bora that they have declared their independence from French Polynesia and if a yacht visits there, they won't be welcome if they fly a French courtesy flag. Also French yachts are not being allowed to enter the lagoon. It will be interesting to see what is going to happen in the next few days. The French gendarme here says not to go there under any circumstances because of the disturbances whereas the yachts that are there are saying on the radio that the locals are welcoming them with open arms, and that one should not miss the island. It's not on our agenda but we will be watching with interest what happens.
A further update on above situation: Yesterday the French navy sealed off the pass at Mopelia and wouldn't allow any boats in or out of the pass. This morning 3 French warships with 80 marines aboard left Bora Bora for Mopelia. Since there are 8 persons living permanently there, that makes 1 warship to subdue every 2 people and 10 marines for each person. Will probably make for a fairly even fight if things get nasty. The yachts there have been told they cannot leave until further notice but no one seems to be very worried as we spoke to most of them on the sideband this morning. This afternoon the 80 marines stormed ashore and arrested the 8 separatists and the next day a landing craft landed 100 new residents complete with their possessions from the island of Maupiti to resettle the island. The yachts there were also allowed to leave.
We plan to leave for American Samoa tomorrow morning but the winds have been rather light for the past few days. Hopefully we will get enough to make a fairly quick passage. We'll find out tomorrow.
This morning finds us 50 miles from Pago Pago, American Samoa. We have had a good sail from Bora Bora making the 1125 miles in 9 days. Looking forward to more reasonable prices again, however by the length of the buy list we have, we'll be leaving here with empty wallets too. Oh well, I guess that's life!
September 23, 1992
Here we are in Pago Pago, American Samoa enjoying ourselves as usual. Contrary to popular belief you can have a great time here. The people here are the greatest; very friendly, helpful and outgoing. We have spent three nights at the cultural center watching the Samoan contingent practice dancing and Kava ceremony procedure for the South Pacific festival held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands in October. One of the high chief's sons befriended us and drove us to the propane place to buy 2 new tanks. He was one of the dancers and is one of the few Samoans allowed to have the tattoos from knee to waist because he is next in line to be chief.
Shopping here is the greatest. Almost everything you see in Canada is on these shelves at very reasonable prices. We bought Rogers sugar (Vancouver packed) cheaper than it is in Vancouver - figure that one out!
Harbor here is much better than we expected. We were a little taken back when we were coming into the harbor and saw at least 15 wrecks of ships and fishboats all over the reefs and shore. They were driven ashore in the last hurricane. In the inner harbor, the sailboats are told to anchor in the west end away from the Korean fish boats which is good because they are nothing more than floating hunks of rust. They are very carelessly operated and in the past have had a few scrapes with yachts. You can only move your boat within the harbor with permission from the Harbormaster or a large fine is in order, but you are told the rules when you check in so there should be no complaints.
The last few days have been the greatest. We have been driven to the other side of the island by Veta, the chiefs son mentioned above and have been made very welcome at the cultural center by the director and the head of the dance group. We have free run of the place and they seem to be very pleased we are taking such an interest in their dance and culture. We had Veta, Karen who is one of the female dancers and Sai the director of the center out to "Encore", our Seattle friend's boat, where we put on a joint breakfast for them. They seemed to enjoy themselves but didn't like the motion of the boat, which was very, very minimal. I guess if you're not used to it though, it can be a problem. Sai brought us a whole series of books on Samoan culture and plants of the tropics. Tomorrow afternoon we will sail, weather permitting to Western Samoa which is an independent country but very similar to American Samoa culturally. Sad to leave our new friends but we have to get moving. We had only planned on 5 or 6 days here and have ended up staying 2 weeks.
Had good sail over to W. Samoa arriving at 10AM. After dealing with the officials, customs, harbor control, health and immigration we headed to town and found a very clean friendly city of about 35,000 persons. The policemen all wear white bobby helmets, blue shirts and blue lava lavas (skirt type of garment worn by most men in the Samoa's) and no guns or night sticks. Every morning at 8 AM the police band marches down the main street (blocked off) along with the full police force where they raise the flag in front of the police station. I went in this morning and video taped the ceremony.
Last night we went to the famous Aggie Grey's Hotel where we saw a fabulous 1 1/2 hour dance show, including a fire dance and a great buffet for 32 tala each (about $15 US). One of the world's great bargains! This hotel, owned and run by the Grey family is a first class operation. Aggie's daughter and granddaughter performed with the dancers who are all staff of the hotel. The fact that they clean rooms and work in the laundry etc during the day makes the quality of the show even more outstanding as the amount of energy required for the show is immense and the quality of the dance is outstanding. The obvious warm feelings between the Grey family and the staff make the whole experience even more special. The architecture of the hotel is very modern in the front lobby area but traditional Samoan everywhere else. The roofs are all hand woven and tied and all the posts are carved with Samoan figures. The hotel advertises that their prices are low and you never leave the table hungry. Prices for a standard room is $85 US and for a separate fale (bungalow) $105 US. Rooms in the new wing run from $120 to $190. A meal plan can be had for $35 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lots of Kiwis and Aussies here on vacation as well as a touring Aussie rugby team. The Samoans are 5th seeded in the world so they will have their work cut out for them.
[Note: In Russell, New Zealand for the last 6 months of 1999, we rented a cottage owned by Aggie Grey's daughter who is mentioned above. She visited in November of 1999 and we were able to say hello again]
I have gone Samoan with my clothes and now wear a lava lava (skirt that all men wear in the Samoa's) a lot of the time. Wore one to Aggies last night and got lots of good comments from the hotel staff. It is much cooler and after overcoming the initial reluctance I am now quite comfortable in one. Today we're going into town to get a couple more.
Yesterday was a day we'll not soon forget. We got an invitation to watch the W. Samoan dance troupe for the South Pacific Festival do a dress rehearsal for the Minister of Youth and Culture. There was the minister, his wife, us and two other yachties. The performance was spectacular with the fire dance as the finale. This is a dance where a male dancer twirls one or two long, sharp, flaming knives at great speed. Looks very dangerous. After the fire dance the whole troupe came down and placed their grass necklaces around our necks and shook hands. It was a very moving experience. Then, after the performance was over, we talked at length to the minister, who had been in Vancouver in 1991 for a meeting. A few of the dancers took us outside for pictures with us which of course we did and will send them a copy when we get them developed.
We are very happy that we decided to take the more northern route to Tonga taking in the Samoa's. Most yachts went from Bora Bora to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, Nuie and then to Tonga. We hear on the radio that they are having a good time but nobody has had the wonderful warmth of the local people like we have found in the Samoa's. We will never forget the Samoans and would like to return some day, maybe by air. The South Pacific festival is being held here in October 1996 and it is something I would dearly like to see.
The Kingdom of Tonga
Arrived Niafu, Tonga this morning after a rousing sail from Apia taking less than 3 days to do the 380 miles. Just south of W Samoa, I was laying in the cockpit reading and I heard some loud breathing. When I jumped up, I saw we had 2 full grown Humpback whales (approx 80 -100 ft long) about 100 meters astern of us just lazily swimming along with us. They were very close together and I couldn't see if they had a calf with them so started the engine to let them know we were there. I don't think they had seen us because the instant the engine fired, they dove and we never saw them again.
Now in the Vava'u group in Northern Tonga and enjoying it very much. Yesterday I made friends with on of the locals who had come out to the boat to remove the sea urchin spines from my foot. He did it the old Tongan way by removing them with his teeth. It was quite painful to say the least as he would scrape his top teeth over the punctures to slide them out. I had stepped on an urchin earlier when pushing out the dinghy and had about 15 punctures. After the medical was taken care of he asked us if we would like them to make us a Tongan feast on the beach that night. Naturally we said yes and in less than 2 hours they had killed 2 small pigs and had them cooking in an underground oven along with some breadfruit. There were 8 yachties and 8 locals, we had a great time. The yachts supplied salads and desert.
These islands remind us a lot of the Gulf Islands of B.C. except with palm trees. Lots of great anchorages within a few miles of each other. Snorkeling is great and we have seen many new species of fish we haven't seen before. Pretty good shelling too.
Today finds us anchored near Tapana Island. Yesterday we went to Pepe's floating bar which is run by a Basque (province of Spain) who has made a oil drum raft with a bamboo shelter. Have a Tongan beer while listening to Pepe's stories and classical music. Then we went to the La Paella restaurant, which is a large bamboo open sided shelter near the beach, owned by Pepe's brother and other assorted relatives. We had a wonderful Spanish paella meal, and the listened to the world's most wacky band. The place is lit with a dozen kerosene lamps and has a sand floor. Pepe is the drummer whose instruments consist of tin cans, sticks, bells, a triangle and whatever else he finds to beat on. Two men played keyboard and guitar and the two wives played saxophones. The music was their version of some of the old time rock and roll favorites. We had a great time with great food. Tonight we are off to Matoto's Tongan feast here in the corner of the bay.
We are now getting the most rainfall we have seen since leaving Vancouver. It is like a prairie cloudburst except it isn't stopping. By this morning the dinghy was full to the top. I bailed it out at 9 o'clock and again at 4. That's more than 15 inches of rain between 10 PM and 4 PM. There is a trough of low pressure stalled over us so who knows when it will stop. The wind came up this morning to about 25 knots so it is not a pleasant day; good thing we are anchored in a very secure anchorage with all round protection. It was just like having Isalei-Rua in a car was for 18 hours. Everything is sure nice and clean though and our water tanks are full to the top.
We took in another feast last night and this one was also excellent with native dancing girls, good music and great food. The girls, before they dance, put oil all over their bodies. During the dance the people are supposed to go up and stick bills (money) to their bodies. They don't get paid to dance except for the money stuck onto them. Lots of fun putting it on!!! Had people from three other boats over to Isalei-Rua for coffee to celebrate 3 birthdays after so it turned out to be a late night. Lots of fun!
Doing a lot of trading with the locals for fruit and veggies. The hottest item is canned corned beef (yuck). We had a few cans on board since Vancouver and they traded us 3 breadfruits for 1 can. The breadfruit is sliced thin and deep-fried into chips. Excellent with salt and vinegar!
We sailed over to the west side of the Vava'u group three days ago and have enjoyed some excellent snorkeling in some beautiful coral gardens. Many different colors and types make it like an underwater garden. We also saw some small fish in the tidal pools near shore that can walk on land. They hop out of one pool and take 2 or 3 large hops on the land and jump into the next pool. They use their front lower fins, which have toe like growths, as feet. One thing we noticed too was that they never jump in the wrong direction, it's always directly towards another pool. Yesterday as we were walking along the shallow water near shore, Peggy found a spider conch. She is cleaning it up and it looks like she will have a beautiful specimen. Weather has been a little iffy lately,, with quite a few rain showers off and on but the winter gales that usually inhabit the area between here and New Zealand (NZ) seem to be tapering off so it will be time for us to take leave of beautiful Tonga until next year. We are planning to leave next week sometime when the weather window to NZ is right. No sense getting beat up if we don't have to.
The GPS shows we are 197 miles from NZ this morning and we can hardly wait to get there. We left the Vava'u group in Tonga 6 1/2 days ago and have covered just over 1,000 miles since then. We have had exhilarating sailing with winds mostly around 20 to 25 knots but had several hours between 30 and 35. Winds on the beam the whole way, seas between 5 ft and 12 ft. One thing for sure, when we get there we will have an extremely clean boat what with all the green water we have taken over the decks. Isalei-Rua had begun to look pretty shabby what with all the stains in the hull and deck from anchoring in some pretty dirty and polluted waters. Not now, she looks just like new again.
Arrived NZ a few days ago doing the 1200 miles in 8 days and 4 hours for a 6.12 knot average. That's the best long distance average since we've left.
So far we love NZ. The people are very nice and the towns here in the Bay of Islands in northern NZ are quaint and clean as a whistle. Prices quite good as $1 CAN buys 1.49 NZ.
I had a lamb burger last night. It had minced lamb, kiwi fruit, mint jelly, tomato, lettuce, mayo etc and was it ever good. I think I'm going to pig out on lamb here as it is sooooo good. Much better fresh than the frozen lamb we got at home.
Our plan at the present time is to spend a few weeks in the Bay of Islands, head north to a couple of very nice bays which we will cruise for 2 or 3 weeks and then start working our way south towards Auckland. We don't know where we will spend Xmas yet as we don't know how long we are going to spend at each place until we get there and check it out.
We plan to stay in NZ until next May but another possibility available to us now is to stay for 18 months. Extensions are now available on the temporary boat import permit as well as visas for us, so at this time we have no idea what we will be doing. The people here are very similar to Canadians in the way they think and act so we feel quite at home here. The cool temperatures of late-15 C at night and 21 C during the days are also nice after two years in the tropics.
Since arriving in New Zealand one month ago we have been thoroughly enjoying ourselves here in the Bay of Islands. There are 3 boat clubs here in the bay where we have been made very welcome. They have regular club nights each week with cheap meals and drinks along with good company. The Opua Cruising Club, the Russell Boat Club and the Keri Keri Cruising Club have gone out of their way to make us right at home and we have enjoyed their hospitality very much. While we were at the Russell Boat Club one night, we met Peter and Heather Paget former Blue Water Cruising Club (a Vancouver offshore sailing club to which we belong) members who sailed here in 1990 and have established residence here. They have purchased a home in Russell and enjoy living here very much. We had a very nice visit with them.
On the negative side, the weather has been terrible since we arrived in NZ, with heavy rain every 2 or 3 days and high winds. Everyone says it is very unusual and hopefully it will become more like summer's supposed to be. It hasn't really affected us too much as we have been able to get a lot of boat projects done. Tonight as I write this we are huddled along the east side of Patunui Bay while 25-35 knot winds are screeching over top of us. We have good protection here in 12 feet of water and there is not even a chop on the water where we are. A little further out, I can see quite a chop developing. Glad we're here. The weather forecasting here is quite good and Keri Keri radio reports it twice a day. Tonight there are 35 knot winds forecast from the east. To keep a handle on the weather for myself, I have been making extensive use of the weather fax facilities we have on board. I receive the signals on the sideband radio and feed them into a controller which decodes them and then feeds them into the computer. I can then display the weather map or satellite picture on the screen, print it or save it to diskette for viewing later. We were able to sail down from Tonga in good sailing conditions due to the fact we had been watching the fax and were able to pick the right time to leave.
Had a very nice Christmas. We had 3 other boats over for turkey dinner and we really enjoyed ourselves. That's not to say we didn't miss you all very much, but when we are away like this, our boating friends are like a surrogate family for us. We have had some wonderful Christmases since we left with some very, very special people.
We are still in the Opua (Bay of Islands) area but will move north on Monday after fuelling and getting propane and water. For the second year in a row we ran out of propane while cooking Xmas dinner. Lucky we carry 2 tanks and while it's a little inconvenient to change them, it only takes about 4 or 5 minutes
We are now in Whangaroa Harbor, about 25 miles north of the Bay of Islands where we have been for the past week. Enjoyed a quiet New Years with our friends Joan and Gordon from S.V. Alegre, Portland.
Lots of great seafood here, oysters everywhere and lots of clams. We got 300 good sized pipis yesterday in an area 2 meters square. Whangaroa is a large bay with many small bays on either side. The entrance is very narrow so no ocean swell gets in. The anchorages are all very well protected as the most fetch that can build up is about 3 miles even if you get caught without wind protection. Quite a difference to some of the anchorages in the islands, where we would be anchored on the inside of a reef somewhere with 2000 miles of ocean on 3 sides.
While in Whangaroa we found the Big Game Fish Club and were warmly welcomed there. Free use of the HOT showers and full use of their facilities. They serve a great full course meal every night and a cheap bar. Just the kind of place us cruisers like to find. We also found a lodge that serves up a huge, thick, juicy T bone steak for dinner for about $6.67 Canadian and you could cut the steak with a fork it was so tender.
The NZ beer is the best we have had yet and I would say (sadly) that it puts our Canadian beer another notch down my beer evaluation report.
This is the official Isalei-Rua beer evaluation report. Number in brackets is score out of 10 points:
1. Lion Red, DB Bitter or Northlands Dark Ale, New Zealand (9 1/2)
2. Mexico - Pacifico, Tecate (8)
3. Canadian (generally) (7)
4. Western Samoa - Valima (6)
5. Samoa/USA - US brands (5)
6. French Polynesia - Hinano (5)
7. Tonga (1 1/2) - you have to be pretty thirsty to drink this crap!
In order to get a 1 rating, the beer has to have insects or butts in it, so you know now what I thought of the Tongan beer. One doesn't appreciate a beer until you've spent time in the tropics. Sweet drinks like soda pop just don't quench the thirst like a cold beer. I'm sure glad we have the reefer to keep them nice and cold.
We are now heading south to Whangarei where we will start our boat maintenance projects; sail repairs, anchor chain regalvanizing, replacement of rusted exhaust parts etc etc.
Today however, finds us in Whangaruru Harbor where we arrived an hour ago in a 35 knot gale which came upon us while sailing from last nights anchorage, Whangamumu Harbor. We only had about 12 miles to go so the sea didn't have a chance to get up and we had a very fast sail with minimal seas (a sailors dream). Whangamumu was an old whaling port and there were lots of ruins of the old whaling station still around. The buildings were all gone but the boiler and concrete vats were still there. The NZ government has put up an info board to explain what was remaining. It closed sometime in the early '30s. There are certainly some interesting names of places here, mostly Maori names. Here are a few: Kikowhakarere Bay, Kohimarama Beach, Maramaratotara Bay, Upukuotangata, Whangaparaoa Bay and Wharakahikai River just to name a few of the ones that twist one's tongue the most. (Wow did those drive my spellchecker crazy). The 'wh' is pronounced 'ff'in Maori and most people here pronounce it that way. I think we'll sit out the weather here for a couple of days as the updated forecast I just now listened to promises rain and 25-30 knot winds for 2 days. No sense being a masochist, I'm for comfort!
Now in Tutukaka Harbor and enjoying a little civilization again. Were to the Angling Club last night for supper and had one of the best meals since leaving Vancouver. We started with a venison appetizer and when it arrived it was raw meat in a marinade. We had been introduced to raw fish in Mexico, so we decided to have a go at it and found it to be delicious. For the main course I had chicken breast filled with melted creamed cheese, covered with an apricot sauce with assorted perfectly cooked veggies or as they call the here - veegees. It was excellent. I found out later that their chef is from France.
Tutukaka is very sheltered with an entrance about 150 meters wide so we have no swell here. Lots of wind with gusts to 45 but very comfortable in here. This is the first place however, where we have had to worry about keeping on the proper sides of buoys in the dinghy. Yesterday, when going to shore at half tide, I cut inside a marker and immediately went aground. The water is very cloudy and we couldn't see bottom until we were on it. When the tide dropped to low tide, there were only dredged channels in the harbor marked with buoys, the rest of it was all sand and mud.
We are now in the Whangarei town basin tied up to a very short finger which doesn't float. At low tide we have to climb down a slippery ladder 10 feet to get to and from the boat, however it is sure nice to be able to go ashore without using the dinghy for a change. There is a fresh water hose nearby so we can use all the water we want. Whangarei is a very nice town of about 45,000 people that has everything in the way of boat services, entertainment, and good shopping. Its a little tough on the wallet though as we had a very long list of things that we needed. I should rephrase that, it's a lot tough on the wallet!!! We plan to be here for a month or so and then start working our way towards Auckland for a glimpse of the big city. We are doing a minor refit on the boat while we are here in NZ including a haul out which will be done in Auckland. The plan at this moment, is to leave NZ at the end of April and go to Fiji, then to Vanuatu and New Caledonia and on to Australia for the next hurricane season.
The way into Whangarei town basin is up a shallow river. We came up 2 hours before high tide and saw 8 to 9 feet on the sounder most of the way. We draw almost 7 feet loaded as we are, so it was quite exciting. I saw 6.4 once and felt the boat slow down as we plowed a little soft mud. There are beacons every 100 meters or so but the channel is very narrow. Power boats will move out of the channel to give the deeper draught sailboats more room. One U.S. boat tried to sail up the river and was hit by a gust of wind just when they were beside one of the 15 - 20 foot high beacons, caught their mast and in about 10 seconds did $5,000 worth of damage. The gusty wind conditions are very common here and we were warned beforehand by the Kiwi yachties not to sail in the river for that very reason. I guess they didn't here it or decided not to heed the advice. It was pretty common knowledge amongst the overseas yachties.
I have been very impressed with the marine businesses I have been dealing with here. Had a stainless exhaust elbow made for $60(Can) after getting a quote for $130 (Can) beforehand. This person also did some stainless welding on some other exhaust parts on a rush basis and did a great job. Everyone seems to want to help as much as they can and prices are very good. I would estimate that groceries are about 25% less than Canada and marine stuff about 60% of Canadian prices.
Tonight we are off to the movies to see Dracula. It is on a triple bill tonight from 7:30 until 2 AM. Great clubs and restaurants here with great prices. Beer by the jug (about 1.5 litre) at the Yacht Club is $3.60 NZ ($2.40 Can) and burgers are $2.50 NZ. It seems there is a provision in NZ liquor laws that allows private clubs to serve food and drinks to members or their guests. So a group of people will get together (usually yachties or sports fishermen) and form a club, rent a place (often shared by other clubs) and they're in business. For us to go in, all we have to do is sign the guest book, get the bartender to sign after our names and enjoy. Lots of very friendly people with no punks or drunks. Most clubs are very strict about behavior and members loose their privileges if they cause problems. Lots of families there with their kids playing pool or darts and having a beer/soda or two.
We have spent a lot of time since arriving here working on the boat. We have taken the headsail in for repair, mended our canvas, repaired the exhaust system on the engine, had the anchor and anchor chain (300ft) regalvanized and remarked, repaired the outboard, washed 17 loads of clothes, thoroughly cleaned the boat inside and out, climbed the mast to check out the top, replaced the wire in the mast for the anchor/nav lights, waterproofed the bemini over the cockpit, got charts and cruising guides of Australia, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea copied plus many smaller jobs. Hopefully next week will be playtime again. The last time we really spent this much time doing chores was in Mexico before we left, so that's not too bad. I find that if I keep on top of things and make repairs, as they are required, it never becomes a big problem. The things we are getting done here are mostly things we can't do ourselves.
We found out about a grocery wholesale here and did a major reprovisioning. We were able to get the GST waived as well as getting wholesale prices. They even delivered to the boat free. The only problem is that the boat has descended another 2 inches from the extra weight. Oh well, I guess we'll have to eat the waterline back to where it's supposed to be.
Sailed the 40 miles over to Great Barrier Island where we are now anchored. This place reminds me of the Gulf Islands in BC. Lots of nice hikes and quiet anchorages. In this bay, known as Smokehouse Bay, a family has built a bath house with a real bathtub and shower for the yachties with a wood burning stove which will heat the water in a large tank so you can bathe in comfort. There are also 6 double laundry sinks with hand-operated wringers where laundry can be done and revolving clotheslines to hang your clothes on to dry. They also built two smokehouses to smoke fish in. We'll explore the island for a couple of weeks to give the wallet and us a rest before heading for Auckland. I think I got tennis elbow reaching for it so much in Whangarei. Oh well, what's money for if not to spend! (I seem to remember saying that before somewhere along the way, probably Papeete).
We've been holed up here on Gt Barrier Island for the last few days while the remnants of Cyclone Polly go by. It came down from Fiji and when it got near the N tip of NZ, it came to a stop. We have had 30 - 40 knot winds here for the past 4 days. We aren't going to be able to spend as much time exploring this beautiful island as we would have liked. We still want to explore the islands near Auckland before we actually move into Westhaven Marina at Auckland. Once we get there, we won't get any more cruising in because as soon as we leave Westhaven, it's over to Gulf Harbor Marina to haul the boat and prepare for the trip to Fiji at the end of April.
Before we left Gt Barrier we managed to get quite a bit of hiking (tramping in NZ). One day we hiked to the top of Mt Hobson (elev 2060 ft). It took us 9 hours to do a 20 km long circle trip up and back on a very steep, primitive trail. Did several other shorter hikes to waterfalls, viewpoints etc and had a great time. While there, we met a very nice couple who live in a little bay just east of Auckland. They have offered to take us on a motorcar trip to Rotorua where all the geysers are. Looking forward to that!
We left Gt Barrier a few days ago and had to motor all the way to Waiheke Island just east of Auckland Harbor. Weren't too happy about that but I guess that's life. We anchored in Man o' War Bay on Waiheke and hiked up to Stony Batter which is an old WW II heavy gun site that protected Auckland. Lots of interconnecting tunnels and interesting things to see. Good hike - about 12 km round trip and only 745 ft up on a much easier trail than Mt Hobson.
Yesterday we were on the beach on the other end of Waiheke, when a total stranger came up and asked us if we wanted a tour of the island. Of course we accepted. He drove us all over the place showing us all the sites and telling us all the local scuttlebutt. Had an excellent time. We are finding NZ people the most friendly yet. We will really miss them when we leave.
Tomorrow we will head into Auckland where we have reservations at Westhaven Marina. First real Canadian style marina since Nuevo Vallarta. Have mixed feelings as we have had such a great time cruising the islands and harbors of NZ but we have heard that Auckland is not to be missed. Auckland with over 1 million people is the first large city since San Diego when we went there by bus from Mexico in Sept 91, so we're ready for a big city and what it has got to offer.
We have been following the recent election in Aussie and it's very interesting to note that the party who said they were going to institute a GST, was thrashed at the polls. A lot of talk on talk shows here in NZ with people saying that if their politicians had made the GST a part of their election platform, they would have been thrashed too. I guess the same is to be said of Canada. If Mulgooney had said he was going to institute the GST, he would never have gotten in last time. Maybe Canadians should ask the various parties next time, which one will phase out the GST, and then vote for them. The politicians here are already saying that the GST has outlived its usefulness and that a more progressive form of taxation would be better. Whatever "progressive" means, I don't know. I wonder if they do. By the way, the resignation of Mulrooney was given a lot of airtime and ink in the press here. They said that this is what happens to a politician who jams something down people's throats dishonestly and that their politicians should take note as the next ones to have that happen to is them.
The talkshow hosts/hostesses are extremely outspoken, especially with the politicians they interview. Surprising they get anyone to be interviewed. Mind you, when they won't come on, they really roust them with comments like "I wonder what he's got to hide" or "I guess what they are saying must be true". So with that to look forward to, I guess they feel it's better to at least try to defend themselves. The big scandal here right now is that the president of the Highways Safety Commission just got busted for drunk driving (double the limit) and refuses to resign. Says they can't do without him. (Makes you want to puke).
Lots of excitement in Auckland today as the NZ cricket team just knocked off the Aussies for one of the few times in recent memory. I used to think cricket was a boring game, but when you know some of the rules and see people who can play the game well, it's very exciting. Pretty dangerous too, as the batter is facing balls thrown at over 100 mph that are allowed to bounce, curve and sometimes thrown deliberately at the batter. They wear helmets, cages and leg pads to stay alive.
About 5 weeks ago, the NZ hopes of a third junior world softball championship in succession were dashed by the team from Canada who won it all. Sorry we weren't in Auckland at the time to see it and offer our support.
Enjoying Auckland a lot. Took bus up to the north end of town to get parts for boat but also enjoyed a nice tour while getting there. Auckland is a very busy place with lots of motorways (freeways), traffic etc etc, the same as any city of over a million people. Downtown area is very vibrant, not deserted the way some N American cities have become. People here are also very helpful and friendly. Tomorrow we are taking in a South Pacific cultural day at the park by the zoo. Looking forward to that. Many thousands of South Pacific Islanders living here as they have free access to NZ.
The cultural day at the park was excellent with groups from all the islands doing their singing and dancing. They all live here in Auckland but still keep their individual cultures alive. The Cook Islanders were superb with their dancing. Very similar to Tahitian with the fast drum beat and the quick rotating hip movements. Very nice indeed! Its too bad we couldn't have worked the Cooks into our cross Pacific agenda. Maybe another time. Of course the food there was from the different areas and was very good especially the Malaysian food, lamb brochettes with peanut sauce. Took in the zoo while at the park. It takes up about 1/4 of this huge park (Western Springs Park for those of you who're lucky enough to have visited Auckland). The zoo is huge with many unusual exotic animals. I normally don't like zoos because I don't like seeing the animals penned up (they always look so unhappy), but this zoo has huge areas for the larger animals like hippos rhinos, giraffes, lions etc., so its not as bad as going to Stanley Park zoo with the small cages. Got to see our first live Kiwi bird. A bit of an ugly bloke.
Suva, Fiji: We left Gulf Harbor on May 2 heading for Fiji. The first 2 days out were ideal sailing conditions but then the winds unexpectedly swung NE and we found ourselves tacking for 2 days. After this went by us the winds went SE. Now this is what we were waiting for except that by noon they were blowing 30 - 35. That's the way the wind stayed all the rest of the way to Fiji; gales of 30 - 35 from the ESE with squalls to 45 for 5 days straight. The seas built up to 5 meters with the occasional ones much larger. This is the first time we have sailed in gales that lasted this long, where the seas built up so high; and we were very pleased how Isalei-Rua handled the pounding.
We arrived Suva harbor at 1700 on the 12th and were instructed by Suva Port Control to anchor in the quarantine anchorage and await instructions at 0800 the next morning regarding check in procedures. The minute we got our anchor down in the quarantine anchorage, near the Royal Suva Yacht Club, a dinghy came alongside and the people attempted to pass us brochures and other info. We told them that we were under quarantine but they insisted that the officials wouldn't mind a bit. When we politely insisted that we were under quarantine and would be happy to receive their info the next day after clearing in, they became upset and left in a huff. I mention this because this seems like a good place to explain what quarantine actually means. It means that ALL PEOPLE ON BOARD YOUR VESSEL SHALL HAVE NO CONTACT WITH ANY OTHER VESSELS OR PEOPLE, OR GO ASHORE, UNLESS INSTRUCTED TO BY THE OFFICIALS, UNTIL YOU AND YOUR VESSEL HAVE GONE THROUGH THE ENTRY PROCEDURES OF THE COUNTRY YOU ARE ENTERING. We have seen many instances where yachts totally ignore quarantine regulations. All they are doing is ensuring that the cruisers who follow will have to face even more stringent rules besides opening themselves to large fines and bad feelings with the local officials. Remember, an upset customs official can rip your boat apart from top to bottom if he wishes. The next morning we went to the King's Wharf which is the freighter wharf (large and ugly). We needed all the fenders we had aboard on this dock and a fender-board is a must(a 6 ft length of 2 x 8 that sits outside the fenders and usually up against a pole or other nasty obtrusion on docks) or your boat will likely suffer damage. The check in went very smoothly with none of the horror stories from previous years cruisers happening this year. None of the other boats who checked in ahead of us had any trouble either so I guess the problems, whatever it was, has been solved.
Last night we ate at the Royal Suva Yacht Club and were treated to a fabulous gourmet meal for McDonald's prices. I can see we'll be eating there a few times!
Enjoying Suva very much. We were down to Fijian affairs this week to get our letter authorizing us to visit the various islands. The policy this year seems to be that you only get 10 islands to visit, so plan your itinerary carefully and ask for island groups instead of individual islands. There are several islands that you do not need permission to go to for various reasons. They are: Rabi (spelled Rambi on some charts) and Kioa which are privately owned and the four main islands which are Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Ovalau. As well, any island that is owned by a hotel or resort, it is not necessary to get those on your letter. Several islands in the Yasawa and Mamanuca group fall into this category, as there are a lot of resorts and dive enterprizes there. Makogai, the former leper colony does not require permission either. There is a Fijian Affairs office in Lautoka where you get permission for the Yasawa group.
We are particularly enjoying the restaurants in Suva. A huge plate of rice and any kind of curry or Chinese dish costs from $C2.25 to $C3.00, so lunch for 2 with a couple of beers runs about $C7.00. There are literally hundreds of little restaurants all over downtown Suva which serve high quality low cost food.
We purchased a Minolta 35DL underwater camera here for $C227, better than the lowest U.S. discount catalog price. I bargained him down from the price on the box which was $C445. Knowing the U.S. discount price definitely helps so you don't try for a price that can't be met. Cameras, electronics and some other things are brought into Fiji duty free, but any accessories are very expensive as they are subject to duty. Most places downtown are bargainers paradises. I love to bargain and consequently have had a ball, especially buying clothes which are very cheap (Levi 501 jeans $C17.80 and Hobie shorts $C12.90).
On the SSB net this morning, we heard some very disturbing news from Gulf Harbor Marina. An American boat that was up on the hard, was damaged when the cradle collapsed. Gulf Harbor Marina's position on the situation is that they are accepting no liability due to fine print on the back of the contract that states that the haulout is entirely at the boat owner's risk. So even though the problem was caused by the failure of their cradle, they are not accepting responsibility. The boat owner has consulted a lawyer who says that in these circumstances, they are liable. The SSB reports also stated that the mood of the overseas yachties there is not good, and that a lot of them have given notice and are moving their boats out of the marina. Most of these people were staying in New Zealand over the winter and had planned on staying there for the whole winter. The marina's attitude in this matter has been widely discussed here in Suva amongst the yachties and now every one of them, including us will not go back to Gulf Harbor to haulout when they next return to NZ. It's too bad because it was a nice modern marina and the price was pretty good. Auckland area has lots of marinas so it shouldn't cause too much of a problem for boats coming in looking for transient moorage. (The matter was settled out of court to the boat owner's satisfaction a few weeks later partly due to the yachtie pressure and also legal precedents that would have put the marina at a legal disadvantage).
One other situation I will mention happened here in Suva yesterday. A person took his 4 year old Johnson outboard to Carpenters Marine, the local OMC dealer for repair. When he went back to pick it up, he was told they had replaced all the seals for the problem but it couldn't be repaired because it had a cracked block. It was his lucky day though because they just happened to have that particular model on sale and they would give him a great deal on a new one. This person being a little suspicious, took it to an independent repairman who found that Carpenters hadn't even taken the motor apart (the paint around the bolts was still intact). The problem turned out to be a small seal that was leaking. A similar thing happened when another cruiser took his liferaft in for recertification and was told it was no good and another one who took his fire extinguishers in for service and was told they couldn't be recharged. We had our extinguishers refilled at Southern Security and other than an attempt to charge us more than the price quoted on the phone, we were satisfied.
Finally out of Suva where we stayed about 3 weeks longer than planned but then that seems to be the norm for us. We are presently anchored in Hereld's Bay on the island of Ngau, about 55 miles NE of Suva. Entering the pass through the reef was a little tense. We couldn't see any trace of the reef even though we were where the reef should have been. It turns out that the reef here is quite a bit deeper than most other islands. We didn't see any colors until we were right in the pass. We used the transit line on the chart on a mountaintop and a point of land which was spot on.
When we arrived, the man whose land we were anchored in front of came and took us to see the chief. We did our sevusevu ceremony and were shown around the village. The ceremony took all of 5 minutes and is a nice way to be welcomed; we enjoyed it. We were invited to the village that night for kava (grog) drinking but couldn't make it due to low tide and a reef that blocks the village.
After leaving Ngau, we went over to Levuka where we topped up our fuel and water tanks and bought groceries. The town doesn't have a lot of shopping but you can get the basics. We left after the wind shifted to the south and put us downwind of the fish plant. You must check in and out with the customs people here but it only takes a few minutes.
We are now anchored in the bay on the NW corner of Makogai. Lucky for us the anchorage has all round protection as the past few days have been steady gale force winds covering the whole SW Pacific due to a huge 1041 mb high pressure center south of us, that has been moving very slowly east. This is, by far the highest pressure we have encountered since leaving Vancouver. The morning SSB net on 6516 khz at 1930 zulu has been alive with stories of boats being blown out of anchorages in New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga.
There is good snorkeling, shelling and hiking ashore and a sea turtle and giant clam (tridacma maxima) raising facility. Both these are endangered species and it's nice to see the Fijian government trying to stop the extinction of these two beautiful creatures. The marine biologist running the station, told us that if the Fijians continue to slaughter the sea turtles at the present rates, they will be extinct in Fiji in 6 years.
We left Makogai late in the afternoon headed for Buca Bay on the NE corner of Vaua Levu and sailed all night so as to be entering Somo Somo Staights at about 0900. That way we could see the many coral patches in the vicinity. Although the Fiji 51 chart has a GPS correction on it, we still wanted to be able to see the coral heads. The chart proved to be extremely accurate with the correction entered into the GPS and everything was spot on. We have seen charts that have been as much as 1.25 miles off position, so one has to very careful when trying to locate passes through reefs etc. The GPS is great, but good old-fashioned navigation is very necessary.
We elected to go straight there from Makogai instead of stopping at Savu Savu on the south shore of Vanua Levu, as a lot of boats do. That way we wouldn't have to power into the prevailing trade winds to get to the Somosomo Straits, the gateway to NE Fiji, where the islands of Taveuni and Rabi are located.
We have been here in Buca Bay for 4 days. It is very quiet here and well protected from the prevailing winds. There is a small store with basic supplies and some frozen meat at the plantation. Fuel is also available here at similar prices to Suva. The plantation is where the small ferries from Taveuni anchor. Spring water is available from a tap near the pier at the Seventh Day Adventist College. Be sure to ask the principal before using the tap.
Today we took the bus over the mountains to Savu Savu to get fresh veggies etc ($C2.60 each way). The trip took 2 hours each way and was a wonderful way to see Fiji from a different perspective. We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure, saw some great scenery, and met some very nice people along the way. At Savu Savu, there is large vegetable market and several small supermarkets as well as hardware stores, outboard repairs, a dive shop etc. Several mooring buoys in front of the Savu Savu Yacht Club and 2-3 spaces at the dock with 220 power and water. Excellent pizzas right on the dock and the yacht club bar on the second floor make this a good stop.
We have moved up to Katherine Bay on the southern end of Rabi Island where the transplanted people from Ocean Island, Kiribati now reside. Excellent anchorage protected from all but the SW. Mud bottom in 20 feet. The people here are very different from Fijians both in looks and customs. On Sunday, we attended church and were warmly welcomed. The local primary school teacher took us on a guided tour of the village. Yesterday we took a 1 hour bus trip into the main village of Nuka. It is very small with only 1 store and a few government offices. Don't count on getting anything but the most basic supplies (flour, sugar and a few tinned goods). The road was a one lane dirt road, extremely steep and winding with some of the grades at least 30%. The poor British Leyland bus was only able to go 2-3 mph in bull low on some of the grades.
We asked the locals where the best reef for snorkeling was but they emphatically told us to stay out of the water due to the large number of very large sharks that have been spotted by the fishermen in the immediate vicinity. They have put out baits for the sharks and are hoping to land some for their own use (whatever that is???). Last year on Taveuni, just a few miles from here, there was a swimmer killed by a large shark and 2 weeks ago a dog was eaten in just a few feet of water there also. We had become quite blase regarding sharks because we see one or two each time we go snorkeling; but they are usually the black or white tips between 3-6 feet long. They don't bother swimmers and seem just as wary of us as we are of them, but it does pay to be cautious and heed the local's advice in regards to sharks. Being inside a shark's stomach is a bummer of a way to end a cruise.
Now in Naqaiqai Bay on the NE corner of Vanua Levu. This is the bay that Peter and Ethyl on Whiteshell spent a lot of time at last year. We know now why they spent so much time here. The locals in the bay are the most friendly and warm that we have so far encountered anywhere. We have had many of them aboard for tea and were invited up the river to one family's home for Sunday church services and lunch. The snorkeling is pretty good outside the bay and all in all it's a wonderful spot to spend some time.
One comment about yachties receiving mail packages in the South Pacific. Don't have mail sent to Tonga. The horror stories on the morning net about mail going missing are too numerous just to be an occasional problem. It looks like Tonga has a major problem with mail being held at Poste Restante.
We have now moved down to the SE corner of Vanua Levu in beautiful Nasasomu Bay. The bay rarely sees any yachts as the chart shows the bay to be mostly drying and Calder's guide doesn't mention it. In fact we are anchored in 20 ft where the chart shows there should be zero ft. This is a well-protected anchorage with good mud holding. The snorkeling on the outer reef is excellent, the best since the Tuamotus, and the locals are very friendly. Be sure to ask the villagers to take you up to the stones carved by ancient Fijians; a nice walk through the jungle.
The killer shark I was referring to earlier over at Taveuni was caught this week. It was reported to be 30 ft long and have the remains of 2 goats in it's stomach. They hired a professional shark catcher to come in and get rid of it as it was starting to affect the number of tourists coming to the dive resorts.
The locals in Nasasomu Bay have been wonderful and yesterday they invited us to go with them across to the island of Taveuni. We went over in their boat, a 28 ft wooden home built sailboat and had a wonderful time with them. We met all their relatives on Taveuni, bought supplies and took in a sports day for all the island's school children. The day was one that we will remember as one of the best of the trip.
Today finds us back on the main island of Viti Levu only this time on the reef strewn north side. The reefs are quite well marked with beacons and are drying at low tide. None the less, one should only travel between the hours of 1000 and 1430 when visibility is best. We sailed overnight from NE Fiji and arrived in Namarai Bay (just east of Viti Levu Bay) a few days ago. We did sevusevu the first morning we were there and after that we were treated to many nice experiences. Today for example was Sunday and after we went to church we had a wonderful lunch at one of the villager's homes and were invited to return at 1600 for grog drinking. The grog is not nearly as bad as we have been led to believe in fact I quite like it. It's not the grog that is the attraction though, it's the stories and fellowship that exists in the group. There were several women present and Peggy was made to feel very welcome.
We are sure glad we changed our plan and are spending 6 months here in Fiji instead of trying to do Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia all in the same year. Just not enough time to do it right.
We have reached Lautoka on the west side of Viti Levu after travelling the north coast of the island inside the reefs. To look at a chart one would think this is not possible but by travelling between 1000 and 1430, using US charts 83611 and 83597 and following the beacons, the trip is very enjoyable and easy. There is a recommended track marked on the charts and we found this to be very good. There are quite a few nice anchorages and villages along the way.
There is a small yacht club/haulout/marina facility here called Neisau Marina. It is a dredged area of a mud flat with 2 large red and green posts marking the beginning of the channel. Do not stray from the channel, the depths are less than 3 ft. There is fuel and water available on the dock and butane is also available. The cost of anchoring out is $F3.50/day and this includes the use of free water and showers and pay washers and dryers. The food at the yacht club is good and reasonably priced.
We have decided to return to New Zealand this cyclone season and then head to Australia next May. That way we will be able to start in the north and work our way south as the following cyclone season approaches and eliminate a lot of backtracking. After the year in Aus, who knows?
We are still in Fiji, this time however, we are in the NW part in the island chain called the Yasawas. This area is much more tourist oriented than the other parts of Fiji. We are in a beautiful bay called the "Blue Lagoon". Some of you may remember the movies done here. It is a truly beautiful place with miles of white sand beaches and beautiful coral reefs. Along the way we have stopped at the southern most island of Waya and the one south of here called Naviti. Both islands were nice stops but other than this bay, the anchorages were quite rolly. In one anchorage the wind came up and we were actually taking water over the bow. Needless to say we were out of there the next morning pronto. Blue Lagoon Cruise ships stop in here and there is at least one anchored here every night. They anchor at the other end of the bay so there isn't much interaction between the yachts and the tourists. A few of them come by to say hello but mostly they swim or windsurf near the ship. The ships are about 140 ft long and take about 40 people with a crew of around 8.
Today we went across the bay and visited Otto and Fanny who have two bures for rent to tourists. They cost $F45/night but less if taken for a week or month. The accommodations are beautiful and a real bargain.
We are going to stay here for a few more days and then head back to Lautoka to take in the sugar festival, postponed earlier.
On our way up here, we stopped at the north end of Naviti at Somosomo Bay. We walked across to the east side of the island and snorkeled on a WWII US fighter plane that crashed near shore during the war. The plane ran out of fuel after a reconnaissance mission to the north. The pilot was able to swim to shore and is still alive in the states. His daughter was here this year to see the wreck. The water wasn't too clear as we were there on a rising tide but I did get some pictures that aren't too bad.
Back now in Lautoka and enjoying the Sugar festival very much. They had Indian night, and Indigenous night where they entertained us with wonderful dancing and singing. We also saw the Indian fire walking. Last night they crowned Miss Sugar and Miss Charity. Since Canadian International Airlines was the major sponsor of the festival, they won trips to Vancouver. Watch for them on TV, they are both very beautiful intelligent girls.
We are at Musket Cove Yacht Club on the island of Mololo Lailai on a mooring buoy, and we are enjoying a bit of the good life as experienced by the fly in tourists. We joined the yacht club for a lifetime fee of $F 5 and will have our names and the boat name carved into the ceiling beams in the yacht club bar along with the hundreds of other members. There are two very nice resorts in the bay, good snorkeling and since we are renting a mooring buoy, we are able to make us of a lot of the facilities. Yesterday we had a thanksgiving potluck at the barbecue provided and there were 6 Canadian boats in attendance plus an Aussie boat and some US boats. A good time was had by all and as usual we ate too much of the excellent food provided by the various yachts. We flew a very large Canadian flag and claimed the little island where the barbecue was for Canada. Now we are going to apply to the government for an aid package of a million or two to get their new acquisition off on the right foot.
When we were in NE Fiji, we picked a bucket of coffee beans and several cocoa bean pods. We peeled, dried and ground them. The coffee has an excellent flavor but if you have more than one cup, you don't sleep for 2 days. The cocoa however makes delicious chocolate cakes etc. We'll use the coffee when we go to NZ to keep us awake on our night time watches.
Back in Lautoka again preparing to leave for NZ. We will wait for a weather window that will give us easterlies or southeasterlies to go south on. We're going to point for the north tip of NZ so in case we get westerlies near NZ; then they won't cause us problems. We will watch the faxes as we go and modify the plan if necessary.
We left Fiji late yesterday afternoon and are so far having a good sail. The weather faxes are looking good although it doesn't look like we will get a lot of wind in the next few days. Very comfortable so we won't complain.
Arrived Opua at 0130 this morning. This was the first time we have made a night landfall. The entrance to Opua in the Bay of Islands is well marked with range lights and lit beacons so it wasn't too bad. We had had lots of sleep on the way down from Fiji as we had light winds and smooth seas most of the way (10 days as compared to last year Tonga - NZ in 7 days). Agriculture was waiting for us on the dock and checked us in, in about 1/2 hour. Around 0730 Customs appeared and they also took about 1/2 hour to do their thing. Both were very friendly and efficient.
Lots of Canadian boats in the anchorage. They are: Samara II, Cristata, us, High Time I, St Leger, Khahtsahlano, Windrose, Tieras and Ocean Angel all from Vancouver. Most of us are all grouped together in the anchorage so it almost looks like an anchorage in the Gulf Islands of B.C. with all the red maple leaves flying. The drug and firearm officials with dogs went through the anchorage today. We didn't get checked but most of the boats did. The US boats got both dogs, the Canadians only got the drug dog. I guess its because not too many Canadians carry weapons.
We are now anchored in beautiful Pomare Bay in behind Russell where we enjoyed it so much last year. Just going to relax for a few days and renew old acquaintances from last year.
Arrived back in Opua for the big US thanksgiving turkey dinner today and it was very good. About 200 cruisers and a few locals made for a good time. This is now an annual event and most cruisers seem to be planning their arrival in NZ to coincide with it. Makes for a crowded anchorage but its only a few days until the boats start to go their separate ways. We will move out the day after and go elsewhere in the bay.
We spent the last few days up in Crowles Bay getting our fill of delicious oysters and clams. Put a few in the freezer also as the daily limits are 500 oysters for the two of us plus 500 clams. We didn't need anywhere near that many though to freeze up a few meals. They will be good when we leave the Bay of Islands and move south.
On our way back to Opua, we saw a flock of Blue Penguins swimming right beside the boat. We had seen dead ones washed up on the beaches last year but no live ones so this was quite a treat. I got so excited at seeing them, I forgot to get any cameras out. Oh well, next time?
Arrived Whangarei yesterday, moving up the river on the tide. We are on a pile mooring down the river about 200 meters from the town basin where we were moored last year. I think I like it better here as it is not so noisy or crowded.
On the way here we spent 3 days in Whangamumu. This year we were by ourselves mostly; last year in Whangamumu in January there were at least 50 other boats. We also spent 3 days in Tutukaka enjoying the BBQ at the Big Gamefish Club every night. Nice friendly people, lots of fun!
This year we are going to have Christmas dinner aboard Alegre, Joan and Gordon's boat from Portland. Terry from Whisper (the boat that I helped rewire in Mexico after the fire); Terry and Janine, Cristata and Frank and Tracy, Symphony from San Francisco will also be there. Frank and Tracy have spent the last 12 months doing a complete refit on Symphony, a 27 year old aluminum boat so they are ready for a party.
We had a very nice Christmas this year. We gave gag gifts, had a wonderful dinner on Alegre and played cards well into the wee hours. We each supplied one gift each for a male and female. The gift we gave for a male was a big hit. It was a dancing "Jolly Pecker". Wind it up and this rubber pecker dances in wild gyrations around the table. We were all in stitches for at least 1/2 hour. I got some good videos so you'll all be able to see just how demented cruiser's entertainment is sometimes.
New Years Eve dinner was on Isalei-Rua and we had 2 other couples for turkey dinner. New Years Day we went to Omoo, friends from Florida and had a very nice dinner and evening also.
Today the fun was over though, as I spent most of it in the engine room, changing oil, fuel filters, zincs etc etc etc. These jobs have to be done if the fun is to continue. Whangarei is a good spot to do boat work especially if you don't have a car. Everything is within walking distance of the mooring area and there are lots of good marine businesses to deal with. My list of jobs is not near as long this year as last year's.
I have been having lots of computer trouble lately. It was acting very strange, enough so that I was pricing a new one. It turned out, however to be a virus that we brought aboard on a fax diskette we were given to try out. I found over 60 infections in just about all my programs. I bought a virus scan/kill diskette from the shareware dealer in Auckland for $10 and it was able to kill it in all but one of my programs. If any of you with computers aren't scanning for viruses occasionally, it would be a good idea to purchase an antivirus program. The virus I had was identified by the virus scanner to be the Jerusalem virus, one that attacks only programs ending with .exe and .com. If your computer has a hard drive (we don't) it can do a lot more damage. This virus program by the way scans for over 2650 different viruses. The name of the program I used was Viruscan but I would think there are many on the market that work very well. (Note: This text has been scanned and is virus free)
Weather very hot here lately. Today the thermometer reads over 30. Apparently there is a cyclone coming this way from Aus that should bring gale force winds and hotter weather to NZ this weekend. Since we are still in Whangarei, it won't make too much difference to us as we are well protected and tied fore and aft to piles in the river.
Just getting the last of the boat jobs done. Yesterday we finished a 3 day job of rebedding some ports and replacing gaskets on 6 others. Today the guy is here fitting our new dodger. The other one finally gave up to the sun. This one is made from a new more sun resistant material so hopefully it will last better. Blue this time instead of white.
Last Sunday we were fortunate to be able to actually touch a live Kiwi bird. Since they are a nocturnal bird they are rarely seen in the wild. This one was at the injured bird center. It had been caught in a possum trap and lost one foot. Their feathers are more like hair with a thick down under them for warmth. At the same place they also gave a demonstration of sheep shearing with an old mechanical shearing machine hooked up to a small diesel engine. Quite interesting, it sure doesn't take long to shear a sheep with one of those things. Apparently they use electric shears now that are even faster.
Big depression here in NZ today. They lost to Aus last night in the world series of cricket by over 50 runs (a slaughter). There were over 50,000 at the game. Aus now goes on to meet S Africa in the best of three final. Now that I know the rules of cricket, I find it very entertaining. I can see why it's so popular in so many places in the world. That and rugby.
Big rejoicing here in NZ today. In the Whitbread, around the world yacht race, NZ Endeavour came from 11 miles behind as the yachts came around the North tip of NZ, and caught Tokio, a Japanese backed boat, 2 miles from the finish line at Auckland. They finished 2 minutes and 13 sec ahead to win this leg of the race from Freemantle (3200+ miles) Australia to Auckland. There were about 25,000 people at the wharf that went nuts as they realized it was Endeavour crossing in the dark and not Tokio. It was around 2 AM and the city went wild with many people rushing from home down to the docks where the boats were coming in. We have been following the race all across the southern ocean for quite a while and are really pulling for Endeavour. These boats were averaging 26 knots some days in the roaring forties. Just can't imagine being on a sailboat going that fast. We are going fast at 7 or 8 knots.
Well that's about all for this time. Thanks for all the Christmas cards and letters. We sure enjoyed reading them all. For those of you who missed the last mailing, the next one leaves Roger's sometime in April. That will be our last one for a while as we cross the Tasman Sea to Aus.
Left Whangarei this morning after 6 weeks on a riverside pile berth. We have always liked Whangarei and this time was no different. Whangarei has nice people, good yacht services, grocery shopping, Chinese restaurants, pizza joints, a very friendly RSA (Kiwi equivalent to our Canadian Legion). My Legion membership entitles me to reciprocal membership both here in NZ and in Aus at their RSLs).
An interesting thing happened coming down the river this morning from Whangarei. We were operating the engine at 1500 RPM because we were running the reefer. When the reefer was finished, I tried to run up the RPMs to about 2000 but found that the most I could get was 1700. We temporarily took a mooring buoy that just happened to be vacant along the river's edge and I dove on the prop. What I found was 2 dozen or so barnacles about 2" long and many smaller ones. These had grown on the prop in just 6 weeks in the river. Never had that happen before where the prop was loaded so bad that the engine wouldn't come up to normal RPM. We have a 42 HP diesel that runs through a 2:1 reduction gear which is a lot of power to turn a 15" prop so you can imagine how bad it was. Actually, that is the only negative thing about Whangarei; the amount of agricultural nutrients in the water. The dinghy also needed cleaning about every 3 weeks but what was on it was more coral and slime and a lot of tiny barnacles, nothing like the giants on the prop.
While in the river, we made friends with 30 or 40 ducks including Grandma and Grandpa, two very old ducks who would eat right out of our hands. They would come to see us every morning and evening to be fed. Good thing Pac and Save had lots of day old bread on sale or they would have kept us broke. When we left, they all came over and swam down the river for about 200 meters alongside of us quacking their heads off. It was almost like they knew we wouldn't be there to feed them any more. I hope the old pair find new people to feed them, I don't think they are capable of scrounging too much for themselves. After we had been there for about 3 weeks, we noticed that as soon as we appeared on the dinghy dock to get into the dinghy to go back to the boat, the ducks would leave the shore where they were all resting and swim directly out to IsaLei-Rua. They had learned to recognize us by sight. Amazing! I think the old saying "bird brain" is definitely not an appropriate way to describe someone lacking in grey matter.
We are on the way to Great Barrier Island to spend 3 or 4 weeks. We stopped there last year but didn't get to stay long enough as we had to get to Auckland and get ready to haul out the boat.
Anchored on Gt Barrier in little place called Nagle Cove. We were invited to a BBQ ashore last night with the family that lives here. Had a very nice time talking over the history of the area. The largest ship ever built in NZ was built right where their house now sits many years ago. That may account for the fact that there are no trees left on the hills, just scrub brush. They are going to start a big pine tree planting operation here shortly, which they hope will bring some jobs to the island. Some people like that idea while others want it left just as it is. Somewhat like the debate in the Gulf Islands of BC!
We're still on Gt Barrier anchored in Forestry Bay near the tiny village of Port FitzRoy. We enjoy this bay with all its beauty and protection from all winds and seas.
The boats in the Whitbread around the world race are leaving Auckland today at 12:30, on the next leg of the race which will take them around the horn to Argentina, so there are many boats on the Barrier to see them go by. We were going to go out too, but the forecast is for 25 to 30 knot winds and 10,000 boats to say bon voyage to them. I think we'll go up to the boat club and watch it on TV. The Whitbread has been great for Auckland, the TV and radio has been inundated with Whitbread reports, parties, dinners, parades etc etc since they arrived. Kiwis sure like to party and they do it well.
We aren't getting much of the Olympics here. They have only a handful of competitors so it doesn't get much press. The daily newspaper devotes about 2 square inches a day, which is only a raw summary of the results. TV has an hour program every night but our TV is a different system than NZ use and consequently won't work here. We would appreciate any news of Canadian medals and accomplishments when you next write if possible.
Surprise, surprise, we're still on Gt Barrier Island. Now anchored in Keririki Bay, another excellent anchorage. There's been 35 - 45 knot winds the past 2 days as the remnants of cyclone Theodore goes by NZ. Still lots of punch with a center pressure of 956 mb two days ago when it was north of NZ at 30 degrees south. The center pressure now is 985 mb and it is now just east of the north island. Last night the forecast was for gusts to 70 but it never materialized, thank goodness.
Lots of the giant Green Lipped mussels in this bay. They are about 6 inches long and have the most delicious orange meat. Dipped in garlic butter or hot sauce, they are superb. Had a crowd on board and we polished off a big bucket of them. Even the regular black mussels grow big here but they can't compare with the green ones.
Today finds us anchored in Smokehouse Bay on Gt Barrier, again sitting out a SW gale. When the winds go south, the temperature goes down very quickly, in fact, last night there was snow forecast for the south island. Made good use of the bathtub on shore yesterday. Someone has built a bathhouse with a wood fired boiler to heat bath water. Just fire up the boiler, wait an hour, and enjoy. The bathtub is one of the old ones that is about 5 ft long so one can stretch out and soak. Lots more boats on Gt Barrier this year at this time, I guess due to the warmer weather conditions this year.
Well, we've been here in Gulf Harbor Marina for the past 10 days and as usual when here, are renewing many old acquaintances and getting things done before leaving for Aus. We are not going to haul the boat out this year in NZ, opting instead for Aus so have a little more time for visiting this year.
We have had to replace our liferaft this year and found that for a 4 man good quality raft it was going to cost us $C3000. Hard to believe that they cost that much but we consider it to be a vital piece of equipment so I bit the bullet and on March 15th ordered a new Beaufort raft made in the UK. The shipment is supposedly being delayed however by the IRA bombings at London's Heathrow airport. Sounds pretty far fetched to me.(Later found this to be BS)
I got my initiation in the art of driving on the left side of the road today and surprisingly didn't find it too difficult at all. Mind you, I've had a year and a half of riding in other people's cars but it's not the same as driving. The biggest problem I had was when turning into a driveway or side street remembering to turn into the left lane. It was also interesting the first few times shifting gears with the left hand and having the turn signals on the right side of the wheel. I think Kiwis know that when a car slows down, turns on the wipers and makes a turn that another kook from North America or Europe is on the loose. Easy to do when the wipers are where the turn signals should be! Oh well, I guess they do the same when in Canada.
We've moved the boat into Westhaven Marina in Auckland as we wanted a little city life before moving north. We are still waiting for the liferaft due to a combination of problems. Its hard to know what story to believe as they change so often. Today we were assured however, that it was "definitely in transit". Stay tuned for the next unexciting installment of "As the Liferaft Turns". More in the next paragraphs likely.
Not much new in Auckland from last year except the waterfront area where the Whitbread around the world racing yachts were tied up when here. They have built a lot of nice restaurants and shops much like Granville Island in Vancouver. Very nice!
No liferaft - more feeble excuses - very loud verbal confrontation! More to come. Would cancel if he didn't have our $1500.
Every day more BS on the liferaft - more...
No liferaft - more feeble excuses - can't trust myself to go anywhere near the store any longer for fear of doing severe verbal/physical damage to proprietor. I might go in there if my hands were tied behind my back and my mouth was taped up - but then I'd probably head butt him, so I'd better not. I guess it will be better to be free in Australia than in gaol in NZ. Peggy is going to take over dealing with them as a blood pressure control for me. Stay tuned! Donations of ulcer medicine welcomed -send c/o Roger.
Well we finally have our money back from De'Amalfi Co. and have purchased a raft elsewhere. On April 28, we found out that all stories about the raft being in transit, stuck in Hawaii, lost in customs, lost period, were all untrue. We are now informed that Beaufort, London has not even shipped the raft yet. Can you believe that!!! The guy at De'Amalfi actually thought we were going to wait for it to arrive. His words were " I can guarantee that raft will be here in 7 to 10 days" - sounds familiar, that's what we were told 7 weeks ago. We asked the guy for a cash refund on Thursday morning (we paid him in cash), but he stalled 2 days until Saturday so we had to take a cheque. He said "I didn't get a chance to get to the bank." If someone did business like this in Canada or the US, they wouldn't be around for long. The new company agreed to take his cheque as a deposit on our new raft. I think they almost hope it bounces - no love between these two places.
Oh well, now that the wait is over, we plan to leave Auckland tomorrow afternoon and go overnight to Tutukaka on our way north to Opua where we'll check out of NZ. I have to go in to Whangarei and have the filling that was replaced in January re-replaced. It fell out three days ago. April 1994 - not a good month!
Tooth all fixed but now stuck in Tutukaka with 30-50 knot winds blasting around us. If we hadn't had to stop for the tooth, we would have been able to get to the Bay of Islands before this weather arrived. Weather closed in late afternoon of May 6 and we've been here waiting ever since. This morning forecast is for winds diminishing this afternoon and for 20 knots tomorrow. Hopefully we'll be out of here and on our way early tomorrow morning.
A few days after leaving Tutukaka, my tooth started to hurt, not just a little but big time pain. When the dentist refilled the tooth, she neglected to re-sterilize the cavity, which went right to the nerve of the tooth. She just rinsed it and replaced the filling. Because of her not doing the job properly, I ended up with a badly abscessed tooth. This tooth mounts my lower bridge so it was quite important that I not loose it. When I phoned her from Opua, she told me to go to a dentist up here, that she had done proper dental treatment and it wasn't her fault. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Anyway, to make a long story short, I ended up having to have high-powered antibiotics prescribed and a root canal done, all because one dentist didn't take 4 or 5 minutes to do a proper job. I have written a letter of complaint to the Dental Assoc. of NZ but don't expect any recourse. The tooth has been fine now for 5 days so we'll be on our way as soon as the winds go to the southerly quarter.
Filled with fuel at 0830 this morning at Opua since the wind was down.
It was a little tricky going in with only 3 inches of water under the keel. They have the fuel dock area dredged to 2 meters so they say, but our sounder said we had .1 ft under us. We were 2 hours before low tide and this was the only time we could get in when the fuel dock would be open. We were really moving getting fuelled, watered and out of there.
We've been ready to leave for the last 2 days but the winds keep coming from the NW. Since that's the way we are going, we're going to wait for the wind to shift. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day.
Still here waiting for weather. Looks promising for tomorrow though. Filled our water tanks with rainwater 2 nights ago when a violent front full of spectacular thunder and lightning went through at 0330. Winds were clocked at between 60 and 70 knots. Trees were torn up and roofs were blown away. One couple slept through the whole thing including their roof being blown off their house into the next door neighbours greenhouse. At anchor, things were quite interesting to say the least. We were heeled over to 35 degrees on the worst gust. Luckily it only lasted for 1/2 hour. It calmed down as quickly as it came up and by daylight the winds were negligible and the sea was flat.
We sure hope that tomorrow the winds will co-operate and come from the predicted SW. We have had 2 weeks of nothing but NW 10 to 40 knots. I'm just not into a 1480 mile beat to weather so we've been waiting.
Arrived Gladstone, Australia yesterday after a good crossing that took just less than 14 days. Winds were mostly in the 10 to 25 knot range but there was some 35 - 40 that was a little uncomfortable. Boat handled well. We are now berthed in the Gladstone Marina. It was sure nice to be able to sleep for 8 hours in a row without having to get up to do a watch at midnight. This trip I read 20 inches of books which is a record for me so today I'll have to look for another boat with books to trade. We've got a few boat chores to do after the trip but not too many. We will probably stay here for 3 weeks and then start heading north to the Whitsundy Island area. The plan is to cruise the coast up to Cairns possibly and then head south to Brisbane for Christmas.
Enjoying Gladstone very much. It's a small city of 25,000 friendly people. The name of the main drag in town is Goondoon Street and several other names are just as weird. Sometime I'll type a list up of the best ones.
Getting our boat chores done and necessary parts ordered. We were out shopping yesterday replacing all the fresh fruit, veggies and dairy products that quarantine took away, and at lunchtime we had a hamburger, ordering a "The Works" burger from the menu. What we got was about 10 cm high and inside was: beef pattie, thick slice of cheese, a fried egg, bacon, relish, tomato sauce, onion, a slice of beet, lettuce, grated carrots, and a slice of pineapple all in a giant sesame bun. All this for $3.80 (Aussie dollar & Canadian dollar worth the same). No supper for us, after that feed for lunch. On the way back to the boat, we stopped in at the RSL (same as Royal Canadian Legion) for a beer and when we went inside I thought we had time warped to Las Vegas. Half the place was full of electronic gaming machines or pokies as they call them here, several rows of them. Aussies really like their gamboling we are finding out. They also have their own language when it comes to slang. Pokies; barbies -BBQ; crook - something not right, sick; ratbag - bad person, usually a politician. I'll add to this list as we learn more of the lingo.
We went to the movies today. The theatre was very interesting to say the least. We noticed first off that we had to go outside, down a sidewalk and behind the theatre to find the washrooms and secondly when we entered the theatre, there were no seats, just 15 ft long burlap strung between two rods - one at the top of your head level and one just behind the knees. Unusual but pretty comfortable! You didn't have to worry about someone sitting in front of you because you couldn't see them. When we went into the place we thought we were the only people in there but when it was over, about 75 people emerged from behind the burlap.
Learned another slang word today - throwdowns. That is a 250 ml beer bottle. The reason they call them throwdowns is because when they were first introduced a few years ago, they were sold at a rugby game in Brisbane. When the ref made a disputed call against Brisbane, the crowd pelted the field with these bottles. Hence the name "throwdowns". When you go to a beer store you can buy stubbies, throwdowns or tinnies. Funny how a name like that stuck. By the way, they were never sold in a rugby stadium again after that. Beer sold in the bar comes in a pot, that's what an 11oz beer mug is called.
Tomorrow we'll be on our way north heading for the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Looking forward to that a lot. We plan to do it in short daysail hops up the coast of 30 - 35 miles per day and take about 11 or 12 days. Lots of nice anchorages along the way. When we come south again we will probably make a long 4 or 5 day non stop trip back to Gladstone where we will pick up our next mail package and reprovision.
Happy Canada Day! Yesterday we had a great sail from Gt Keppel Is. to Pearl Bay doing the 48 miles in just over 8 hours. This now puts us about 120 miles north of Gladstone. At Gt Keppel, we got our first introduction to some of the beautiful birds to be found here. While sitting at a picnic table, we were suddenly swarmed by flock of beautifully colored Lorikeats. These birds look like a parrot but are about 1/2 the size. Bright red, green, yellow, blue with some grey coloring, about 25 of them came down and were sitting on peoples heads, shoulders and hands looking for handouts. One was even drinking out of a guys glass of orange pop. Wouldn't you know it, the camera was on the boat, we had just gone over to the resort to mail some letters and certainly didn't expect anything like that to happen. Today we'll take the camera when we set out to explore Pearl Bay. From the boat, it looks deserted with vast stretches of beautiful white sandy beaches but who knows what we'll find when we get ashore.
We've made about 80 miles toward the Whitsundays since Pearl Bay. The winds have been up in the 30 knot range for 6 days. That's nice for fast passages but not nice when the anchorages we need to stop at are subject to the large swell that is generated by these winds. We got chased out of one when we were rolling 20 degrees each way (40 degrees total). As soon as it was daylight, we were outta there pronto. Not much sleep that night. We're now anchored in the Percy Island group and this anchorage is where we'll stay until the swell goes down. Some swell but at least we can walk the length of the boat without grabbing onto the handrails. The weather forecast is for these winds to continue for at least 5 more days, so I'll probably read a few more books in the next few days. I wish I had kept count of the number of books I've read since Vancouver; I'll bet it must be 6-700.
The swell didn't go down but it moved around to the east which made NE Percy untenable, so what we've done is make 3 quick, long hops north about 100 miles. We are now at Brampton Island, just south of the Whitsundays, anchored off the resort. The winds have finally gone down and we had a nice calm sleep last night.
We had a very nice day yesterday at the resort enjoying our first showers in awhile and a meal out. We also enjoyed seeing the flocks of lorikeats swarming around and the large emu which stood eyeball to eyeball with Peggy when she was trying to feed it some bread. It wasn't interested in being fed slowly, it forced its' way into the bag she had and grabbed it all including her finger. I'm going to ask for a repeat performance today when I take in the video camera. The lorikeats seem to have an affinity for orange pop. If one pours out some pop onto a tabletop, there will be 40 or 50 screeching, ill tempered lorikeats appear instantly. These beautiful birds are quite tame to the point of sitting in your hair, hand or shoulders. We lost 1/2 our ice cream cones to them when we made the mistake of going onto the beach with them. We had lorikeats on every part of our bodies that would hold them. They had a lot of ice cream eaten before we knew what hit us. The rest of the guests thought it was hilarious and snapped pictures like crazy. We couldn't get our camera out we had so many birds on our hands and arms all attaching the cone. Reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds".
Tomorrow we plan to take the 7 km walk around the island in hopes of seeing some of the wild koala bears and kangaroos - (didn't see either but had a very nice walk).
The last two days were spent at beautiful Goldsmith Island, on the southern fringe of the Whitsundays. This excellent spot is just outside the area the charter boats from the Whitsundays are allowed to cruise. Hence, a quiet anchorage with only 2 or 3 other boats. From here north we expect to have fairly crowded conditions as there are over 180 bareboat charter boats available in the area plus people in their own boats. The way we figure it though, is that if that many people choose to come here to spend their vacations, it must have something good to offer. In the next few weeks we'll find out.
We have finally made it to the Whitsunday Island group and are anchored along with 40 other boats in Cid Harbour. Nice picnic area ashore and hiking trails so even though it's crowded, it's a nice stop. We'll spend a few days here and then head 15 miles over to Airlie Beach for fresh veggies, fuel, water and a meal out.
Airlie Beach, a small tourist town of maybe 2000 locals and 10,000 tourists and backpackers, has a good yacht club where we got great reasonably priced meals and drinks. Good bus service to the surrounding area so we took the bus to the next town, Cannonvale, to load up with provisions.
We haven't had as good sailing winds anywhere as good as here in Australia. Almost every day the trade winds have blown from the SE at 20 -25 knots or more and that has made for quick passages. We have been able to make our between island trips in just a few hours so we have arrived fresh and reasonably well rested.
The anchorage we're now at on Hook Island has beautiful beaches with shady areas where one can spend most of the day, do a little snorkeling, birdwatch or just beachcomb. I'll bet you think that we do this sort of thing every day; a book, a beer and a beautiful beach but let me assure you we don't do it every day. We do have maintenance and other chores that have to be done.
The bird life here in Aus is very different from anywhere we have seen so far. With the exception of seagulls and sparrows, most of the bird species are entirely new to us. Many brightly colored exotic birds as well as unusual other species. At our last anchorage we were awakened in the morning by the squawking of a flock of large white cockatoos flying around competing with a flock of parrots as to who could squawk the loudest. A pair of binoculars and a soft cushion, and you're entertained for hours. The cockatoos are just like the one Baretta had in the TV series.
Yesterday we found an beautiful coral garden and snorkeled until our teeth were chattering. Water not near as warm as Fiji but still not too bad. We saw several species of fish we hadn't seen before and had a nice picnic lunch on a long sand spit that told us when it was time to leave; it simply disappeared as the tide came up. We introduced a new Aussie friend to the wonders of coral snorkeling and he could do nothing but rave all afternoon at what he had seen. Today he's anchored beside us in a different anchorage and by 1130 he'd already been in for 3/4 of an hour.
We have been anchored on the north side of Hook Island, the northern most island in the Whitsundy group, for 3 days and have found some of the best shallow water snorkeling we have ever seen. Today we took the dinghy over to Manta Ray Bay, which is a marine underwater reserve and saw a beautiful coral garden that filled the small bay and thousands of colourful fish. These fish were not afraid and would swim up and nip at my fingers and underwater camera. In fact many times I wanted to take a picture and couldn't because there were so many fish with their noses right on the glass lense of the camera. My camera will not focus closer than 2 feet. I'd shoo them away but within 2 or 3 seconds they would be back. Never have I seen fish in the numbers as seen here.
After spending 5 days back at Airlie Beach enjoying pizza and Aussie tucker (food) we're back out at the islands again. The winds have been blowing 25-35 for the past 3 days but we figured if we got up early (about 6AM), we'd get across before they came up. Wrong! That plan worked for the first 1 1/2 hours but then 30 gusting to 40 hit us for the last 8 miles. Not usually a problem but this time we were towing the dinghy and it was gyrating around like it was possessed by the devil. Luckily we got in without mishap. Lots of boats anchored in this bay sheltering from the winds, some of which are chartered boats. The experience level of some of these people is measured in hours so they are not having too much fun. The guy next to us has anchored 4 times in the past 14 hours. He has an all chain anchor rode and no windlass and it takes three people to pull up the anchor in this wind. I don't know why they're doing it, they haven't dragged or gotten too close to anyone else.
One hour after I wrote the above, the people radioed to the charter company and insisted they come over and take them and the boat back - they just wanted off and right now. The exact words the woman used were, "Get someone over here who knows how to sail this thing and take us and the boat back - NOW." They did.
Yesterday we went to shore and were playing backgammon on a picnic table when we noticed some movement in the woods nearby. I snuck over and to my surprise was confronted by a large (1.5 meter) lizard with a very long tongue and tail. We both stared at each other in a Mexican standoff. All of a sudden it took off like a scared rabbit. I couldn't believe haw fast it could run. Over the next hour, we saw four more. They just seemed to be scouring the area for insects with their tongue flicking in and out grabbing them. One of them had half of its tail missing. This is one of their defences. When another animal grabs them with dinner on its mind, their tail comes off and they get away. They grow a new one in time apparently. I found out later that they are called Goannas.
Wind down today so will head out to Border Island, the most easterly island in the Whitsunday chain tomorrow for some more snorkeling. The anchorage is not suitable in 30 knots of wind so we've been waiting for this large high-pressure system to go by.
The snorkeling at Border was pretty good but the anchorage wasn't comfortable so we headed back to Airlie Beach and loaded up on fresh veggies etc and started heading north. Along the way we found a place where we could catch mud crabs, or I should say crab. We only caught one but it was over 12 inches across. It got loose in the bottom of the dinghy and for a minute we were dancing pretty lively. One chomp from those pincers would probably break a toe or finger. They live up the creeks amongst the mangroves. Good thing we had taken our crab trap. This was the first time it had seen the water since we left Vancouver and was one of the items on the throw out list. I guess we won't heave it now.
We also found a small resort that puts on an all you can eat smorg every Saturday that had small lobster tails (bugs), prawns and other seafood delights for only $15 each. I think I ate $30 worth of lobster myself. They'll probably put a surcharge on Canadians now. Serves them right for taking all the medals at the Commonwealth games. They sure are gloating about how many more medals they took compared to Canada. A typical radio announcement was "The latest medal tally is Aussie xxx compared to only yyy for the home country Canada. One has to feel sorry for the Canadians getting drubbed on their own territory" It actually got quite sickening listening to it after 8 or 9 days. I don't know how they managed to win so many, there's only 17 million of them and no one seems to be on a fitness blitz or anything like that. Maybe it's living upside-down here at the bottom of the world that does it!
Further north now but not very far, 12 miles to be exact. We've found a beautiful anchorage with a small excellent resort with no road access. A young former rugby player and his wife manage the place, cook in the restaurant, tend bar etc etc. Wonderful hospitality! We signed the boat and us in on the wall by the dartboard and saw we were the only foreign boat to stop in other than a Kiwi boat 2 months prior. The beach is excellent white sand and it's very quiet. Lots of wildlife such as kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes and many beautifully colored birds. Russell, the manager was telling us the names of them all and then took us on a walk out back to see the 'roos and Pretty Faced wallabies. Surprising how reasonable it is to rent one of their spacious cottages, only $60/night. These cottages have full cooking facilities, barbecues, 2 bedrooms and sitting room. If we keep on finding good stops like this, we may never make Townsville to get Peggy her birthday present.
Arrived in Townsville this morning after a 23 hour overnight passage. We needed a fix of city life for awhile so we opted to bypass the anchorages along the coast in favour of the 111 mile passage. We pulled into the marina at 0930 and are now comfortably berthed in our first marina since Gladstone in June. That makes 2 in the past 18 months.
Townsville is a nice city of about 120,000. Good bus system has allowed us to visit the shopping centers and other out of the way places. People here don't seem as friendly as other places but maybe it just that we're not used to city folks any more.
A Canadian boat just motored past our stern here in the marina and I see it is Vic and Lorraine on Maggie Drum, a Whitby 42 out of Vancouver. Nice to see them again. We haven't seen them since New Zealand 18 months ago. They're heading south from Darwin to Brisbane but 1 month earlier than us. Not too many Canadian boats here in Aus, in fact I know of only 3 at this time. It seems the Americans and Canadians get only as far as NZ and turn around, or if they are making a circumnavigation, only call in at Darwin on the north coast prior to entering Indonesia. Seems a shame to go all this way and not stop in this fabulous country.
Well the auto pilot is fixed, our wallets are empty and Peggy's hand has gone back to its normal size so it's time to move on. City living certainly has a way of emptying ones wallet. We took in the omnimax presentation of the Gt Barrier Reef and found it to be not up to what we expected. We were a little disappointed to find out it was produced by the University of Minnesota and not by Aussies.
Peggy had quite a scare when the back of her hand swole up to the size of a small egg and turned all purple. She had been at the veggie market just before and the doctor figures she was bitten by a spider, maybe a male redback. Good thing it wasn't a female or she'd be fertilizing the daisy's right now. Australia has hundreds of poisonous spiders and snakes. You really have to watch out if you are walking in the outback; we've been told to use a spider stick and wave it in front of us when walking down trails etc. The snakes are just coming out of hibernation now and there has been a couple of shows on the radio warning people to watch for them. One bloke phoned in to the talk show and asked how to get rid of two amorous 8 foot long snakes in the attic of his house as they had been keeping him awake with their thrashing around. They told him to leave them alone as they would be finished mating in a week or so.
We've been at Magnetic Island just north of Townsville for a week and are enjoying it a lot. It's remote but has all the modern conveniences like takeaways, bars, restaurants and a great bus system. On the other hand though, you can walk a few hundred meters up one of the many hiking trails and be in a complete wilderness setting in 5 minutes. We went hiking last week in hopes of seeing a wild koala and were rewarded seeing one asleep in a tree fork beside the trail. It woke up when we started taking photographs. The only problem was that the slide camera decided to unhook the film inside and we lost the last 30 slides including the ones of the koala. We are going to try to stop on the way back south and replace some of them. We never were able to find another wild one to catch with the slide camera though.
Bought an all day bus pass yesterday and spent the day exploring by bus the way most tourists do. We were able to cover the whole island in the one day. The only good anchorage is on the north side so the bus was the only way we could do it. Very enjoyable!
We left Townsville at the crack of dawn last Sunday after staying for the big Townsville skyshow. Unfortunately the aircraft part was kind of a disappointment because the RAAF didn't have enough money for fuel to participate this year (God help the Aussies if anyone decides to invade them. Guess they'll have to rely on the Americans to bail them out again like they did in WW2). The fireworks display was very good. We had ring side seats because the fireworks barge was anchored about 1/2 mile from us.
The overnight sail from Townsville to the Whitsundays was one of those infrequent times when there were good winds and flat seas and we are now at Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. This beach is about 4 miles long and is the whitest silica sand we've seen. Strange thing is when walking on it and you scuff your feet, a loud squealing noise comes from the friction of your feet and the sand. Lots of people here as they fly them in by float planes for a day on the beach as well as the hoards of charter boats but it's like anywhere else these days I guess, if it's good it's crowded.
Have moved around to the south side of Whitsunday Island to shelter from 4 days of northerlies and have met a mob (Aussie term for group) of Aussies in the anchorage. The last two evenings were spent having beach barbies where we cooked up beaut (excellent) snags (sausages) and onions. The first night we wound up early and had a party on one of the Aussie boats. One of them was an amateur magician who entertained us all. Lots of laughs. The next night the barbie went on for 5 hours. Upon returning to the boat, I realized that I had forgotten to use any insect repellant because I started itching all over and found about 100 sand flea bites. An allergic reaction occurred and the next few days were spent swabbed in lotion and downing antihistamines. Next time I won't forget, believe me! The barbie was fair dinkum (very good) but the fleas sure weren't. More Aussie slang - "Lets take the tinny and rub the scrub" means lets get in the dinghy and go for a walk on shore.
I hope we aren't making a mistake by not riding these northerlies south, they don't come along too often this early in the year and we need northerlies to get the 500 miles to Brisbane. Time will tell.
Well we've been into Airlie Beach for fuel and supplies and are now sitting at South Molle Island in the Whitsundays waiting for a promised northerly tomorrow or Saturday. In the meantime we're being forced to wait here, sitting by the pool at the resort drinking the excellent Bundaberg rum and cokes, eating the poolside seafood smorgs, watching beautiful Polynesian dancers, eyeing the topless bathers on the beach, taking nice hikes through the national park and generally enjoying ourselves. It's a tough life out here but as per the old saying (slightly modified by me) - "If someone's gotta do it, it might as well be me."
For all those technically inclined who might want to know how copper wire was invented, it's an Aussie invention you know - two Melbourne solicitors fighting over a penny. Lawyers are hated everywhere I guess!
I hear that there is no baseball or hockey this season in N America. I guess a lot of people are going through severe withdrawal symptoms with no sports to watch. Thank god for football! Nothing like that here; we've got our choice right now of rugby league, rugby union (slightly different games), Aussie rules football (footy), soccer, horse racing, dog racing, netball, pro basketball, baseball, hockey (field type) and now the cricket season has just opened. Two Aussie cricket teams touring, one in Pakistan and one in South Africa and both doing very well and the Kangaroos, the national rugby league team is touring England and have been slaughtering the Poms (Englishmen). This country, like NZ goes crazy over their sports teams and consequently the newspaper weekend sports section can be 25-30 pages long. Horse racing alone takes up 8-10 pages. I have sure been enlightened to the fact that there are many other excellent sports being played in the world other than the ones seen in Canada. I will miss them when we return home likely in 1996.
We made it as far south as Gt Keppel Island, about 50 miles north of Gladstone, before the northerlies deserted us for 20-25 knot winds from the E and SE. We're holed up anchored off the resort bouncing around in the swell that is getting around the corner of the island. The motion forces us to go into the resort every day for a few hours just to get away from it. But the resort is a nice place, for example, today they had a rock band performing outside under the palm trees playing all the old Beachboy and CCR etc tunes from the 50s and 60s. Excellent and all for free. Free hot showers, a bar and restaurants also, so it's not a bad place to be stuck at.
We had some excitement aboard about 15 miles north of Gt Keppel when a very large humpback whale surfaced about 3 boat-lengths off our port quarter. We had seen it 1/2 mile or so ahead of us for about 15 minutes and then it disappeared for awhile. All of a sudden there it was. We were motoring so it knew we were there. Just was curious I guess. We didn't see it again after that. Whales are nice, but not that close.
We're just approaching Gladstone after an overnighter from Gt Keppel so I'll wrap this one up
Well we're still in the Gladstone Marina. Our friends Joan and Gordon on Alegre have arrived safely from Vanuatu and we're ready to head south but the winds are now blowing on the nose so we'll stick around until they decide to co operate and go back to the NE. It's a pretty good place to be stuck what with the nightly yachtie barbies up in the park and the nice town and people. Now that Joan & Gordon have arrived we have resumed our running cribbage tournament that has spanned the Pacific and lasted for about 4 years. Joan and I play against Gordon and Peggy. It depends on who you ask as to who holds the upper hand right now, but I'll put all speculation to rest and say unequivocally that we are quite a bit ahead at this time. The two nights we've played since they arrived, Joan and I have slaughtered them unmercifully. My estimation says we are leading 1024 games to 927.
Lady Musgrave Island. This reef surrounded island, one of the most southern islands of the Great Barrier Reef lies approximately 65 miles SE of Gladstone. The lagoon is entered through a channel that has been dynamited through the reef. The channel is deep but only about 50 ft wide. Fifty feet sounds like a lot but when there is a current running and the wind is on the beam it's downright nerve wracking going through. A XXXX Light Bitter never tasted better after we were anchored. By the way XXXX is Queensland brewed beer and it's almost sacrilegious to drink anything else here. The story (as told by a New South Welshman) was that they were looking for a name for their beer and didn't know how to spell "beer" so they named it XXXX. Pretty good stuff but not quite as good as NZ's DB Bitter.
The island itself is nesting grounds for Dusty Breasted Rails and there are thousands of them nesting in almost every tree on the island. They are quite tame and approachable, even when sitting on the nest. One morning at 0630, we walked down the shoreline and saw the tracks of several turtles that had crawled ashore the night before to lay their eggs. Many of the holes dug were still damp so we couldn't have been too many hours after they were there. Unfortunately the shoreline is too cluttered with coral heads to safely take an inflatable ashore after dark or we would have gone in the next night and hid in the trees and watched them. While here, I took the opportunity to scrape the hull which after the past few months in the warm tropical waters up north, looked like a shag rug (not too great for fast sailing). Once the stuff started to come off the hull I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of fish who came for a free meal, but after taking one bite, they would spit it out. In 30 seconds there were no more fish.
It is very interesting anchoring in a lagoon like this, completely in the open with ocean all around except for a tiny island that affords no protection. The seas are breaking all around with towering white plumes and the water inside is flat calm. Yesterday the winds blew 25 for awhile and we were still comfortable.
Had a wonderful overnight sail in flat seas to Hervey Bay where we entered the Gt Sandy Straits early this morning. Plan to spend a week or so in the straits.
Still in the Gt Sandy Straits and enjoying it a lot. Our first anchorage was off the Kingfisher Bay Resort. They welcome yachts and day users from the mainland and offer free hot showers, snack bar, store and bakery. We spent 3 days there and enjoyed it.
Yesterday we came south through the shallowest area of the straits and found it a little tense. We went over several areas where at low tide there would be no water (we were on a 10 ft high tide) and it was always in the back of our minds what would happen if we'd strayed out of the marked channel and gone aground. Heavy tidal currents of up to 4 knots, sometimes cross wise over the channel also made it difficult to stay in the channel which was at some places only 50 meters wide. You can't see the channel as the water is murky and the water extended for a mile all around us. Happy to be through it but a good navigation exercise none the less.
We're presently anchored in a little creek with 1 inch of water under the keel at low tide (soft mud bottom). There is supposed to be lots of mud crabs in here according to our Aussie friends but so far we've only been able to catch babies, you know the ones that eat all the bait and then have to be thrown back. Oh well, maybe today our luck will change in that regard.
The monsoons have arrived! In the past 2 days we have been pummeled by about 8 inches of heavy rain and more is forecast for the next 2 or 3 days. One minute the sun pokes through, the next its raining so hard you can't see the bow of the boat. We've filled everything we have with fresh water, had 20 minute showers and we still have full water tanks. Apparently some of the worst drought areas have had the same conditions as us and for them it's a lifesaver. A few towns were already trucking in water as their reservoirs were dry and that's got to be expensive.
The sun is out - Hurray, so we decided to take a hike along the old forestry road for a few km. We were just crossing an old log bridge when off to the side by the edge of the stream there was a lot of commotion. We turned just in time to see a wild dingo in the tall grass. I whistled like you would for a dog and would you believe it stopped dead and stared right at us until I made a slow movement to get the camera around for a shot. Then it was gone like a shot. We've seen dingoes before but in a game farm environment. It's much nicer to see them in the wild. So far we've seen the dingo, kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears, goanas, cockatiels, parrots, lorikeets and assorted lizards etc. in the wild and in each case it was a big thrill to see them. Right after returning from our hike, we were sitting at the picnic table when a 1 m long goana (lizard) sauntered by looking for insects for lunch. I started to follow it and when it went behind a big tree, I snuck quickly up to the other side of the trunk. The instant he saw me, it was up the tree like a blur. The slow plodding goana had just become a bolt of greased lightening. Couldn't believe how fast it could move. With 2 inch long claws they can climb anything. The minute I left the tree, it came down and proceeded on its leisurely way. The Aussie cruisers tell us that if you see a goana running toward you, lie down or it could mistake you for a tree and climb you. They say the claws make mincemeat out of clothes and skin. Apparently they have very poor eyesight.
What a difference 9 days has made. We went from the wilderness of Fraser Island to the hustle and bustle of Brisbane. We arrived here on the 9th after an overnight sail from the Wide Bay Bar, a distance of about 125 miles. The trip up the Brisbane River is very nice although long after sailing all night. Easy to navigate with all the latest state of the art range light systems. They are making a lot of use of high intensity white lights that can be seen day or night. They are visible only if you are in the channel and turn either red or green, depending what side of the channel you start drifting out.
We are presently anchored in the Brisbane River right in downtown Brisbane. A very clean beautiful city, the skyline at night is something else to see. Lots of paddle wheelers, and excursion boats on the river and one called "The Island" is a big converted car ferry that has a disco, restaurant, viewing areas and is about 300 feet long. Brisbane makes a lot of use of their river. Lots of parks nearby with free electric barbecues, picnic areas and riverside walkways etc.
The transportation system here is probably one of the best in the world with 6 different high-speed, train lines branching out 50 or 60 km in all directions, express busses and regular busses. Tied in with the trains and busses is the river passenger ferry system which run every 15 minutes up and down the river. Lots of people take the ferry to work and there are long lines during rush hour.
Lots of good things going on here in Brisbane over the Christmas season. Last Sunday we took in the Lord Mayor's Christmas show at the Botanical Gardens where they taped a 2 hour TV special with high profile Aussie stars. It was an excellent show by extremely talented people young and old, pop to country & western. Tonight is the "River Sings" extravaganza where boats from the large paddle wheelers to private yachts light up with lights and parade up and down the river singing carols. Over at South Bank, a short dinghy ride away is the Lantern Parade with camels, horses and all the usual Christmas characters. The price is right for all this - free.
We had a nice quiet Christmas. We had Joan and Gordon, an American couple we have cruised with since Mexico, over for turkey dinner Christmas day. Christmas eve we went to a big barbie over in the park with most of the cruisers attending. We exchanged novelty gifts and had lots of fun. Peggy got a package of British condoms that expired in 1992 and I got a great book about Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the world's largest computer software company. Most of the gifts were things on people's boats that they no longer had a use for. I'll bet there could be an interesting story about the condoms. Tonight we are having a big cruiser barbie and then over to South Bank park for a giant fireworks display at midnight. By the way - Happy New Year to all!!!
Brisbane is a great city for freebees, 5 nights a week there are first line movies shown at the park, every Sunday there are movies shown nearby at the state library a short dinghy ride away and all through the holiday season, free concerts nightly. Last Sunday's movie at the library was a 1916 Charlie Chaplin movie that had the audience in stitches and a Woody Allen comedy. Chaplin was truly a genius of comedy, I could watch his movies for hours. Two Aussie couples discovered the Hare Krisna Restaurant so the 6 of us trundled on over and ate up all their food. The cost was $5 each for all you could eat. We expect to see a sign banning all cruisers from the place next time we go. Either that or the place will mysteriously close just as we start up the stairs; and we didn't even have our heavy eaters like Gordon on Alegre along. The food was great and all vegetarian - lots of exotic spices and herbs.
We're still in Brisbane anchored in the river downtown. We will stay for the Australia Day celebrations on the 26th and then head for Sydney shortly thereafter. Not too much to report other than we are really enjoying it here. The other day we were treated to an all day car trip up the Sunshine coast north of Brisbane and took in a lot of the sights up that way. Last Thursday we took the "High Roller" bus down the Gold Coast south of Brisbane and went to Conrad Jupitors Hotel/Casino. For $10 each they bus you down and then give you vouchers for $5 for gambling and also a free meal in the pub (roast pork/beef dinner with desert). At the lunch break, after playing the poker machines all morning I was even with exactly $5. I went to lunch that must have blown my luck because it was all gone 15 minutes after I started playing again. Oh well! Since we had agreed not to spend much on the gambling, it gave us an opportunity to look the place over and take the monorail to the beach and other hotels. We had a great day, saw some of the Gold Coast and all for $20 - such a deal!
Australia Day was January 26 and there was lots of free entertainment at South Bank park and at the stage in the Botanical Gardens. The Australian cockroach racing championships were run at the Bomb Shelter, a good cruisers type restaurant/hotel under the Story Bridge near where we are anchored. Prizes awarded for the fastest roach, the best dressed roach and the best roach stable. Aborigine activities at Musgrave Park did not happen as scheduled. For them it is considered a day of mourning as they feel that is the day that the white man stole their country. We took in a show at the Botanical Gardens featuring big Aussie stars Wendy Mathews (former Canadian) and Aussie rocker Darryl Braithwaite plus other acts. The concert went for 4 hours. After that we walked downtown and watched a 1/2 hour fireworks display over the river by South Bank. They closed the Victoria St bridge so that people could use it for a vantage spot.
Several boats got together the last week we were in Brisbane and rented a minibus for a trip up to Lamington National Park. We had a wonderful time and spent the day. Lots of colorful bird life and great scenery along the way. Stopped at a famous pie shop (10 different kinds of delicious meat pies) that has been a Brisbane landmark for 30 or so years.
We are heading for Sydney now and are going via the south end of Morton Bay through the southern waterway to Southport. It is quite shallow in many places but by watching the tides and charts of the area we don't anticipate any problems. Lots of nice spots to anchor along the way.
We are being accompanied by 2 Aussie boats that we have spent a lot of time with in Brisbane. We'll really miss these people when we part in 3 or 4 days as we spent almost every day with them for the past 10 weeks. We all just seemed to hit it off right away and we have enjoyed their company a lot. We are now anchored with them by in south Morton Bay. Nice spot here. Nearby McCleay Island has post office, bank, and a small shopping center about 1 km up from the dock. Two other island nearby have nice walking areas. Lots of bush fires raging to the east of us, but a major storm last night appears to have put them out. The news this morning said that Brisbane got 100 mm of rain in 4 hours. Today we're sitting out 30 - 40 knots from SE that came in with the rain at 2 AM this morning so will probably be here for a few days.
We had a nice trip down through the southern waterway although one spot where the chart showed 2.1 metres at low tide, we found 2.1 meters at high tide. That gave us about 6" under the keel at that spot but we didn't touch bottom and the depths were soon registering 3 metres again on the sounder. The route was well beaconed and it was very scenic. We'll anchor tonight at Southport and wait for northerlies to go south on.
Southport, Gold Coast. This morning we are recovering from being hit last night by a tropical depression that came down the coast from the north. The storm was much worse than forecast with winds of 50 knots and 350 mm of rain in 20 hours. We dragged anchor at 0200 during the height of the storm and trying to re-anchor in those winds and rain was not a pleasant experience, especially when some boats in the anchorage did not have anchor lights displayed. Luckily the lights on shore silhouetted the boats through the driving rain enough for us to be able to re-anchor safely. When daylight came, we discovered we had stopped dragging only 40 or 50 feet from the sand bar on the other side of the channel. We also discovered that we had anchored in an area where the tidal current has scoured the bottom of much sand and once the anchor popped, there wasn't much to grab when 50 knots of wind was pushing the boat. I still don't know how we got past the boat behind us without creaming it. Someone upstairs must have been watching over us. I guess we'll spend today recovering and washing our shorts.
Interestingly, yesterday, late in the afternoon when the eye of the depression went over, the winds went from about 40 knots to zero in an hour. The sky cleared partially and things were quite pleasant. However you only had to look to the north to see what was on the other side of the eye and sure enough last night it rained buckets again for about 2 hours but thankfully not much wind. This morning looks good but the weather broadcast just said that the New South Wales coast is now getting pounded. I guess we'll stay here for a few days until the seas lay down.
I know you've heard this before but we are still at Southport waiting for the northerlies to blow again. The tropical depression seems to have disrupted the cycle of 3 days of northerlies and 7 days of southerlies. In the meantime we're having a good time here on the Gold Coast. Caught the bus yesterday with an all day pass and went down to Tweed Heads, NSW with stops along the way. This area is very touristy and you don't know whether you have time warped to downtown Tokyo or not; even the street signs are in Japanese and the prices at some places are in yen. The Japanese seem to have discovered NZ and Australia as cheap vacation spots as the yen/$ exchange is very much to their advantage in both countries.
Three days ago, with the promise of good winds for several days we set out over the bar at Southport Seaway. The bar conditions were rather lumpy to say the least. It felt that we were in a Maytag. That lasted only a short time and afterwards, for the next two days and nights, we had good sailing in 10-20 knot northerlies. The forecast was constantly saying NE 10-15 but last night at 0100, all hell broke loose. An unforecast southerly had sprang up out of nowhere. The wind went from 10 knots NE to southerly at 30 -40 knots in the space of 1 hour. That is serious on this part of the coast because there is a 2 to 4 knot north to south current flowing all the time along this area. Wind against current makes huge seas and by 0500, we were fighting 6 metre + seas. The only port of refuge was Newcastle, about 75 miles north of Sydney, but in order to get there, we had to wait until daylight, and go beam on to the seas for 14 miles, and hand steer. Whenever a big one came along, which after a few minutes we determined was every 6th or 7th wave, we had to steer over it and the ones we didn't, we took hard. Sometimes I was up to my knees in water in the cockpit until the drains got rid of it. Not a fun time! Oh well, I guess we'll see what Newcastle has for excitement until the weather allows us to move south again.
March 5 - 7
Newcastle is a city of 80,000, 80 miles north of Sydney. High-speed trains go every hour (every few minutes in rush hour) to Sydney. The 2 1/2 hour trip costs $17 return, quite a bargain. We take the train everywhere even to go downtown which is about 1 mile away. The system is very much like a European rail system. Vancouver could learn a lot from Australia about moving large numbers of people by rail. They don't have the fancy linear motor coaches like skytrain that cost double, just plain electric high speed self propelled coaches that are fast, smooth and cheap.
The Newcastle Show (fair) is on now and we took it in. Much like a Canadian fair except the carnival games are all different as are a lot of the rides. One of the events was a high-speed precision driving team using high powered Holdens (GM in Aus) - very impressive. The infield area was very soggy so some of the stunts appeared to be very dangerous in that they couldn't get traction and it threw their timing off. Exciting!!! Marching bands, farm animal showing, equestrian events, the midway, and the rest of the events made for a good day. Torrents of rain every hour or so kept the dust down but most only lasted for 2 or 3 minutes.
It appears this is the monsoon season. All of Australia has been getting buckets of rain the past few days. Floods are hitting the areas that were drought stricken only a few weeks ago (some places it hadn't rained for 4 years). It has rained buckets here in Newcastle since we arrived and the forecast says at least 3 more days. There is a high swell warning outside for the whole NSW coast and the Newcastle Harbour has been closed to all shipping since a few hours after we arrived. A cruise ship scheduled to depart Sydney yesterday has not been allowed to leave so I guess things are not too good out there. We can see the breakwater at the entrance to the harbour from our berth at the police dock and the waves are crashing over it. The forecast just now said a swell of 6 to 8 metres with 2 to 4 metre seas on top of the swell in some areas and also a report of a cyclone coming from the Vanuatu area headed this way. They loose a lot of their strength before they get this far south but it could make for some interesting sea conditions when the swell from that arrives and mixes with what's already here. Glad we're not out there. I'm guessing we'll be here for a few more days.
While here we decided to get our visas extended until June since now is definitely not the time to go out into the Tasman. What a shocker that was. The cost was $135 each and the requirement that Aussie medical insurance be purchased for an additional $232 per month or $696 in our case. $966 for 3 months is a touch excessive. Most other countries we have been to charge nothing to extend. Luckily after 3 visits to immigration and 3 phone calls to the NSW head of Immigration's office, they decided to accept my major medical insurance from Canada. Originally the immigration guy was adamant that Aussie insurance had to be purchased. Now we know why most yachts avoid Australia. We're glad we didn't, even with the excessive costs, because we have loved our stay here and will be very sad to leave.
The cyclone that has been coming down the coast came ashore at 2000 last night at Yamba, less than 100 miles north of here. The winds were down to around 50 knots and not too much damage was done. Most of the problems on shore were caused by flooding from the torrential rains associated with the system on top of what has fallen in the past week. The seas in this area became horrendous. The waverider buoys at the entrance to Newcastle Harbour by the breakwater measured 7 metres last night. Today the buoys read about 3 metres and the port is back open. Once the cyclone came ashore it lost its punch in a matter of hours. Hopefully now that it's out of the way the weather will get back to normal and we can be on our way again.
Vikja from Vancouver with Joe and Gladys aboard, arrived in Newcastle 2 days ago and was nice to see them again. It was a totally unplanned meeting. They are heading north eventually to Indonesia and the Suez Canal and we are still heading south hopefully to Sydney (if the NE winds ever decide to blow). Yesterday morning while Joe and I were sitting in IsaLei-Rua's cockpit, Lady Joy, the Harbour Cruise vessel came up to our stern and asked if we would like to take a harbour cruise including lunch with his compliments. We of course accepted and were treated to a nice cruise of the harbour and several miles up the river into the wetlands. It was a very nice day and a nice gesture by the captain. He has been working this coast on various boats for 40 years and had some interesting tales to tell.
Today we were in for another surprise. One of the pilot boat guys had seen our Canadian flags and asked us if we wanted to go out on the pilot boat when they put a pilot on board an incoming freighter and took another pilot off of an outgoing ship. Pretty exciting! We're sure being spoiled here in Newcastle and to think we would have sailed by if the storm hadn't blew us in. Aussie hospitality at its' best. I hope we Canadians are treating visiting Aussie cruisers with the same warmth.
Arrived Sydney Mar 17 at 0400. As a result of a 3 knot current in our favour, we arrived well before dawn. The entrance is well lit and with the radar it didn't pose much of a problem getting anchored in a small bay by Manly in the North Harbour. Yesterday we motored into Sydney Harbour proper and found a mooring buoy in Elizabeth Bay. Bus 10 minutes to downtown, laundromat and stores nearby - what more could we ask for. When we were coming down yesterday we went near the Sydney Opera House and for me it was an emotional moment as it marks the end of the voyage for us. All our sailing now will be done in the direction of Vancouver.
Went downtown yesterday to collect mail and orient ourselves, and found a very busy metropolis. People scurrying everywhere, running up and down escalators instead of letting the escalator take them, people crossing against red lights just to save 10 seconds - reminds me of when I was running in the rat race. I didn't notice things like that then, but I sure do now. I remember I used to do the same thing as them.
Have been taking in Sydney's many tourist attractions like harbour ferry rides, rail trips, the zoo, the Maritime Museum, Kings Cross, Darling Harbour etc etc. Enjoying Sydney very much but I'll stop this letter here and report more of our Sydney adventures in the next one. This week is strictly a fun week but next week we'll start to get the boat ready for the return trip across the Tasman to NZ. We still have lots to see here so we'll probably work 1 day and play for 5; that seems like a pretty good schedule.
For those of you who knew my father Jim, you will be sad to hear that he passed away in January at the age of 82.
We are in Sydney still acting out the roles of tourists. During the past few days we have taken advantage of the excellent country rail system and have visited the Blue Mountains, 120 km west of Sydney and Kiama, about 90 kms south. Both were excellent days out and gave us a chance to see some of the outback. The rail fares here are unbelievable. Fares to both places was $10.60 return each. Believe it or not the one way fare was $10. They have a policy of trying to keep the return fares (same day) to within 12% of the one way fares. The same applies to trips on the rail system within greater Sydney.
Most of the time when we return to the boat we get off the train at Kings Cross and catch the bus down to the marina. Kings Cross is the notorious Red Light district of Sydney. Interesting, while waiting for the bus or having a hamburger at McDonalds watching the hookers plying their trade from 8AM until who knows when. Yesterday we saw a young girl at 8 AM in a micro skirt trying to solicit customers and the temperature was no more than 10 C. Hard way to make a living! It doesn't matter whether you are walking with a woman or not, you still get the invitation "you lookin' for a girl"? I guess they approach anyone who looks new to the area. Good for my ego to have a 20 year old soliciting my body though.
Today was spent doing all the maintenance necessary like oil changes, greasing anchor rollers etc etc. I make a big mess doing the maintenance and Peggy followed behind me cleaning up so that now at 1600 the maintenance is all done and the boat is clean. I've just had happy hour and a delicious dinner of corn fritters and spare ribs is just about to be served so I better wrap it up for now and enjoy.
Well I've finally gotten up the nerve (while here in Sydney with access to large electronic supply houses) to convert my computer to 12 volts. It seems to be working ok and takes less than 1/2 the current that it used to when operating on the inverter. Now that I'm working AMTOR on the ham radio, the lower power consumption will be much better. AMTOR is a computer to computer teletype system that operates world wide between hams. I can get a message anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours and usually an answer back within 36 hours. I only have to be able to access a local BBS on the radio who will relay the message to a station with a satellite uplink who sends it via HAMSAT to the continent the message is being sent to. The ham there, with a downlink, relays the message to the BBS where the person receiving the message has his mailbox. My address here for example is: VE0MCT AT VK2AGE.#NE.NSW.AUS.OC which translates to VE0MCT -me, at VK2AGE -the Aussie station where I have my mailbox, #NE.NSW.AUS.OC translates as northeast New South Wales, Australia, Oceana. I just received a message from a friend in Turkey this morning in 14 hours and the downlink station was a Japanese station who relayed it to VK2AGE. It makes it possible to get traffic through even if radio propagation is poor because I only have to be able to access a nearby station to do all of this. Lots of fun!
A few days ago, we went to the opening day of the Royal Sydney Easter Show, which is just like our PNE. Lots of good things to see and for me a rewarding experience. We were sitting in the grandstand waiting for the entertainment to start at about 6:30 PM when I heard my name mentioned over the loudspeaker and then appear on the giant scoreboard. It said I was the winner of the 2nd chance lottery and to report to the Lotto booth in the Government pavilion. (Well my horoscope said this was the week to buy lotto tickets). It turned out that I had won 100 - $1 Scratchies (scratch & win). When we scratched them all I had won $54. For awhile, I will admit to having visions of Porsches and a mansion or two but $54 is better than nothing and it certainly paid for the day at the fair. Just to test my luck, I went and played a few draw poker pokies but it didn't take very long to find out my luck was not good on them. Maybe I'll buy a lotto or two today when I'm downtown.
Today is ANZAC Day. It is the equivalent to our Remembrance Day except Aussies are far more serious about it than Canadians are. We went to the parade today and it took 3 3/4 hours to pass. It consisted of mostly veterans from WW I up to Somalia UN contingent of 1994 marching by to the applause of thousands of Sydneysiders. Lots of military bands and about 20 pipe bands. Ten minutes after the parade went by, the 20 or so pipe bands all joined together and en mass marched back the entire parade route with wreaths to be laid at the war memorial. The sight and sound of a 400+ person pipe band was awesome.
Probably one of the reasons Aussies take ANZAC Day so seriously is that they actually had enemy action in Australia during WW II when Japanese mini subs torpedoed an Australian warship right in Sydney Harbour, and Darwin was severely damaged by an air attack by almost 200 Japanese bombers. Not only that, the Japanese got as far as Papua New Guinea which is only a few miles north of Northern Australia. Anyway it was quite a moving experience.
After the parade, several bars downtown gave free beer to anyone with medals or a uniform and the sidewalks were crowded with vets drinking their free beers. The taxi companies also donated about 200 vehicles to carry the WW I vets and anyone else who couldn't walk in the parade.
We hung around Sydney until May 9 and set out for Nelson, New Zealand. First three days out we had great northerlies but the fax was showing a large depression deepening behind us. Sydney Radio was calling for storm force winds to 50 knots from the south, so we decided to run north and take the winds on the starboard quarter. We were almost down to the latitude of Nelson, which lies south of 40 S. It turned out to be a good decision because we got 3 days of bad gales of winds over 35 knots with gusts to 50 for a few hours. Last night, after things calmed down, we had been blown north, almost to the latitude of the North Cape of New Zealand. New plan now is to forget Nelson and head for Opua in the Bay of Islands again. Today, we had a great sail and now, late in the afternoon, we are wallowing with no wind and all sails furled. The fax shows us nothing sinister approaching so we will just wait here for the wind to reappear.
Approaching Opua, NZ. This has been one of our more frustrating passages. Two gales, the last one having gusts to 50 for 6 hours generating huge 6 metre seas, several days of no wind and a few other days where we could only steer within 40 degrees of our course. However, here we are about to enter New Zealand at Opua no worse for the wear. We have decided to slow down and enter in the morning as the seas are calm and the winds are light. When I fired up the motor, there was a lot of vibration and the RPM wouldn't come up. I went over the side and found a 1 metre long branch of seaweed wrapped around the prop. I was sure relieved to see that because big vibrations usually mean big dollars. I wonder how long we've been towing that monstrosity around with us. Anyway, we are happy to be back in NZ and looking forward to a few days of relaxation after we get the shopping, laundry and a few maintenance things out of the way. Especially looking forward to gathering a few green lipped mussels and clams in the Bay of Islands.
We we've been here for almost 2 weeks and today I put the chimney back on the diesel heater (we took it off in Mexico in 1990). It has been damn cold the past week with gale force winds every day and temps around 6 C a couple of nights. A little too cold to heat the boat with the kerosene lamp like we did in Sydney when it got a little chilly. The heater, not having been used for so long, had the fuel-metering valve plugged solid with fuel deposits and bad fuel. It took all day to disassemble, clean and reassemble. I had diesel fuel, carbon etc all over me, as well a good portion of the boat. Now as I type this though, the temperature is 10 C outside and a balmy 25 inside - beauty (as the Aussies would say).
We have joined the Russell Boat Club as full members, and together with the other few crazies who are wintering here this year, are spending some of our evenings sitting around the fireplace in the clubhouse sipping an occasional DB Bitter (the worlds best beer in my opinion) and eating some great home cooked meals the ladies at the club come up with. Lots of fun and a great chance to mingle with the locals. This is our third time we've been in Russell in the past 3 years and we have been given a nice welcome by the locals who remember us from before.
We've been back in NZ for exactly 1 month today and where has the time gone. We have had a wonderful time renewing old friendships, making new ones and generally relaxing here in the Bay of Islands. As I've mentioned before, Russell is one of our favorite towns and the boat club, which we are now members of, is excellent. Two American cruisers and us decided to take our turn cooking at the club last Wednesday and we cooked up a big spaghetti dinner with salad and garlic bread. They must have liked it as all pots were empty when it was over. One of the cooks was Mary McCollum of Mighty Mary Too who is a 64 year old American lady single-handing a 24 ft sloop around the world.
For the past few days we have been up in Crowles Bay getting our fill of seafood. Clams, oysters and mussels abound and we have pigged out in grand style. Trading seafood recipes with other boats is giving us a lot of excellent ways to serve these delicacies.
The weather is certainly a lot colder than we have become accustomed to but our good old diesel heater has kept us warm and cozy. By Canadian standards it is not cold but after 5 years in the tropics, our blood must have thinned out more than we thought. The temperature has been getting down around 6 C at night and 10 - 15 C during daylight, so it's really not that bad. A good thing about being in the Bay of Islands during the winter is the complete absence of other boats and one has most anchorages to oneself.
The Kiwis are just now coming down from their Americas Cup high but if the NZ ALL Blacks win the world rugby championship tonight, they may never come down. All the games are being telecast live at 0100 from South Africa and the next day everyone looks like they have been pulled backwards through a knothole. Not much productive work done those days I'll bet!
The All Blacks didn't win the world rugby championship (lost 15 - 12 in extra time) and today there are all sorts of allegations about them being poisoned before the game. Last night at the wrap up banquet, the NZ, French and English teams walked out due to inappropriate comments made during a speech by the head of the S African Rugby Federation, and the awarding of a gold watch to the referee who worked the semifinal game the South African team was involved in. The award was for "helping South Africa get to the finals". About the poisoning, it seems that after the evening meal 2 days before the game, 23 members of the All Blacks suddenly became extremely ill and no one else in the hotel had any problems. In fact they were concerned as to whether they would be able to field a team for the finals. Some of the players were coming off the field during the game and vomiting on the sidelines and then going back into the game. Lots of controversy and it will likely give the media fuel for another month or so.
Happy Canada Day to all! The weather has been quite interesting here. The past 2 nights a metre of snow fell in parts of the south island and about half that on parts of the north island. A ferry going across Cook Straits between the north and south island lost 2 cars out through the rails of the ship and 5 others were piled up inside but did not get through the railings. Apparently a rogue wave hit them in 50 - 60 knot winds. Up here in Russell there has been 40 knots and the last of the boats heading for the islands are having quite a time finding a weather window to leave on. Some of them checked out 3 weeks ago and are still here. We were offered a mooring buoy here with a 2 tonne weight on the bottom so we feel quite secure. The rope on it is 1 1/4" and the chain below that is 1 "; a little bit of overkill but I don't like mooring buoys at the best of times. One never knows what's on the bottom but these here in NZ must be inspected every three years and this one has a 1995 tag.
The Russell Boat Club has sort of become our home away from home. Aside from cooking the meal for club nights every 10 days or so, we have participated in the annual clean up bee and other club activities. Since we will be here for a few months while winter is with us, and will also leave from here in May 96, we wanted to join the club and be active members. We felt that if we were going to enjoy the club's hospitality, we would like to give something in return and have made some new friends in the process. There is now a Bluewater Cruising Association, our Vancouver club, burgee hanging in the club and also a large Canadian flag so we feel right at home.
The locals are telling us that this winter is the worst in memory. The amount of snow on the North Island is a record. The main north-south link on the island was closed for 9 consecutive days (road maintenance privatized to a firm with inadequate equipment and funds - sound familiar anyone?) Ski resorts on the South Island have had to close because of too much snow. In the Bay of Islands, we have been getting fronts through every 2 or 3 days with cold southerlies and lots of rain. Oh well, it'll help thicken up our blood for our return home.
We successfully attempted our largest cooking escapade yet last weekend. It was the Russell Boat Club's turn to host the final race of the season, awarding of prizes and of course the host club has to put on a meal for the group. We cooked coq au vin with Italian potatoes, Greek peas, and a green salad and finished it up with a gourmet dessert. There were over 70 people served and we got many compliments from all the clubs. We were helped by 2 new friends. Of course we couldn't call the chicken "coq au vin" what with the French doing their nuclear foolishness, so we called it "chicken in wine" instead. Anything French is very unpopular here right now and there is a general boycott of French goods and lots of talk show action. Several yachts are leaving for the atoll where the tests are going to be done. The NZ navy is escorting them with a small unarmed supply ship. I just wonder if these people know what there in for, crossing the southern ocean in the winter. They don't call that area "the roaring forties" for nothing. Hopefully all will go well for them, but you wouldn't catch me out there at this time of the year for any reason. It was bad enough crossing the Tasman in May!
One of the highlights of the Bay of Islands winter is the Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival. It was held Aug 11 - 13 in Russell and across the bay in Paihia and brought hundreds of people into the area. We were treated to a wonderful weekend of very talented Kiwi jazz and blues musicians all at no charge. This is an annual event occurring in mid August each year and is held in the various hotels in the area. I have never been much of a jazz fan but after this weekend, I must say that my opinion has certainly changed. I enjoyed the performances immensely.
The social calendar is getting to the point where we need to carry a pocket planner. The Boat Club meals every Wed and Sun, the Russell Film Society every Thurs, pool games at the local Returned Serviceman's Club and the Bowl Club with some of the local blokes and various other events, invitations and various happenings around the area. It's nice to feel part of a community again after being transients for 5 years. This stop here in Russell has given us a break where we can enjoy shore-side activities and form new friendships with people whose interest lie in areas other than cruising. By the way, Buzz, a Kiwi friend and I have invented a new pool game which we call 'Buzzlar' (after ourselves of course) and its fast becoming the rage around town. Several people have already mentioned what a good game it is and they all seem to enjoy playing it. We only invented it a week ago. Who knows, maybe in a few years there will be a weekend set aside in Russell for the world 'Buzzlar' championships and people will flock into town just like the jazz festival.
Time marches on. Winter has come and hopefully gone, and now that the weather has warmed up, we have been hiking quite a lot. This weekend the Bay of Islands Wine and Food festival is on and we will of course partake of that. When we were here in the bay before, we didn't stay long enough to find out all the events that go on here but this time is much different. We are now even able to purchase the concession ferry tickets (sold to locals only) which gives 33% off the ferries to Paihia because we are being regarded as locals by most people in town. I'm glad that we have decided to stay put and meld into a community for awhile. Not that we didn't enjoy every minute cruising but as they say, a change is as good as a rest.
We are still cooking up a storm at the Boating Club and are now being considered their main cooks. We are cooking several times a month and having a ball. It's nice to be able to use a commercial kitchen instead of our little galley. It seems the Kiwis like gourmet cooking as much as we do. We have been warned not to make things spicey but we keep adding a little more into each meal and nobody complains, just the opposite in fact. Maybe some night we'll do authentic Mexican and separate the men from the boys.
I have had access to a state of the art computer system with Windows etc installed and I have been going over there 2 or 3 times a week trying to re-educate myself on computers and the latest software. I really am enjoying myself but find that 8 hours can go by in a wink. Today I spent from 9AM until 4:30 PM there. I have been writing a bit of poetry as well as a start on a short story and that's lots of fun. The short story seems to be stalled right now as a mental block has cropped up so will take a break from that for a few days in hopes it will help. I think that somewhere deep down I must have had a repressed creative streak while I worked for IBM and it's just now made itself known to me. Anyway, I'm enjoying myself immensely. Surprising how much improvement I can notice after just a month of writing. My first efforts were pretty bad. Maybe the ones I'm writing now are also bad, but I like them and I'm the only person I'm trying to please right now so it doesn't matter.
My computer work has resulted in a small project I have been offered. I am setting up a database for a small company to keep track of their customers and other records. Looking forward to it. I'm also working on trying to hook Russell Radio's fax machine into a computer. It is a stand-alone fax machine not intended to be used with a computer but Ritchie, Mr. Russell Radio wants to be able to view his weather maps before he prints them. NZ Met service is having lots of trouble with their fax quality and he is finding he's printing a lot of garbage which is quite expensive for him.
Sure not on the boat much lately what with the boat club, the writing and now these projects. In addition, we take a day every week or two and go to Whangarei or Keri Keri for the day to shop etc. Busy, busy, busy!
I have learned a new sport. It's fishing with rocks. How it is done is this: first, spot a John Dory (prized NZ eating fish) near the shore and start throwing rocks just beyond it. Because they have a very deep body, it soon strands itself near shore and falls over. You then race the seagulls to the prize. We have caught fish up to 2 kg this way. These fish retail in the supermarkets for $22.00/kg filleted.
We have also discovered Kerikeri oranges that are grown just a few km north of here. Usually they are being purchased 2 days after picking and the sweetness and flavour is outstanding. Best oranges by far we've ever eaten.
Haven't moved an inch since the last letter and still enjoying our stay in Russell a lot. Weather warming up nicely and we constantly think of you all up there in the midst of winter enjoying the snow and ice.
The importance of keeping a sharp lookout at sea was brought to everyone's attention this week when the American yacht Melinda Lee was run down 30 miles off the NZ coast by a freighter. There was a family of 4 on board and only the wife survived after being washed ashore in the Bay of Islands holding onto a partly inflated dinghy. The whole cruising community here in the Bay of Islands was distraught as the news broke yesterday. The boat had been reported missing the day before.
We organized a Christmas dinner at the Russell Boating Club this year and it was a big success. We served a traditional Canadian Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings to 68 people with the help of a great international team consisting of 3 Canucks, 2 Poms, 2 Kiwis and 3 Yanks. There was a gift exchange that was lots of fun in that you could either open your gift when your name was called or steal any other gift that had been opened by someone else and relinquish your unopened gift to them. We had a similar type exchange in Nuevo Vallarta in 1992 and it was fun then too.
Now that Christmas is over, the next big event at the boat club is the Tall Ships Race in January where they expect to serve 800+ at a traditional Maori hangi (food cooked in underground pits). Apparently it's a very moving sight to see these old 3 and 4 masted square-riggers charging across the start line that stretches across the bay in front of Russell. I'm hoping to get out on the rescue boat and get videos and slides of the big day.
Happy New Year everyone! We had a very nice new years last night. Spent a couple of hours in town dancing to a raunchy group from Auckland with about 4000 other people in a big tent which was a blast! Then, back to the boat club for 12 midnight where I made my debut as a backup singer in a small makeup rock band. We played and sang until 0230 and had a great time. I was thinking of buying a used guitar anyway but now I think I will for sure. Looks like lots of fun!
At new years, Russell is invaded by JAFAs as they're called. Translation - Just Another F***'n Aucklander. The worst insult you can be called in Russell is a JAFA. Anyway they invade by the thousands, set up tents everywhere and have a great weekend rocking, rolling, drinking etc all over town. This year they imported 16 additional cops from Auckland (the town usually has 1) and everything went quite smoothly considering.
The next big event on our social calendar is the "Tall Ships" race put on by the Russell Boating Club, which happens in January.
The "Tall Ships" race was as fantastic as advertised. We spent long hours at the club for the 5 days prior, getting meat carcasses cut up into squares, setting up marquees, outside bars and a tent for the rock band etc etc. One of my jobs was doing the cooking for the work crews each day which was a big job but the boat club had allotted 3 kegs of New Zealand's finest for the work crews and we had a lot of fun.
I was privileged, to be asked to go on the rescue boat on race day and I got great videos of the race. There were 65 boats, several of them square-riggers all the way up to 80 metres entered. After the race started, we went right into the thick of the action checking for any problems or mishaps but thankfully all went smoothly.
Around 6:00 PM the hangi was opened, eaten and enjoyed by over 800 people. Each package contained chicken, beef, lamb, pork, sweet potatoes, carrots, stuffing, squash, cabbage and probably a few things that I have forgotten. It was delicious! After that the prizes were given, the two bands played, a rock band out in the tent and a jazz band in the clubhouse. Lots of fun! I danced until I dropped almost. At about 11:30 PM I had run out of steam what with the 5, 10 hour days preparing and being up since 6:00 AM on Tall Ships day. I guess the old bod just ain't what it used to be.
We have gone sailing for a few days with a bunch from the club and have spent the past two nights eating fresh caught lobsters and abalone. These people certainly know how to party and having seafood delights like that certainly doesn't hurt. We had a great sail down here to Whangamoomoo, about 20 miles from home with the knotmeter hitting 7.5 a few times. Not too bad for this boat, loaded like she is, and with a very scummy bottom! Lots of fun when you have fast boat speed and 6" seas.
Last night at the Russell Boating Club night we had a very nice surprise. Peter Paget, former Bluewater member now living here in Russell, presented us with our 999 award for our passage from Mexico to the Marquesas in 1992. The award is made to members when they complete their first non stop voyage of over 999 miles. It is a nice brass engraved plaque.
It's hard to write about normal shore life but for the past while that's all we've been up to. Every week seems to be taken up with shopping trips to Kerikeri, Whangarei and Kaitaia, backgammon at the Strand Cafe, video night at the boat club, Wed and Sun nights at the Boat club for dinner, pool and darts at the Swordfish Club or Bowls Club, private parties, film society every Thursday, computing, writing etc etc. So as you can see, there not a lot of time left after the fun and games. I don't know how I used to find time to 'w o r k'. Anyway, we are going to have to think about getting ready to leave at the end of May heading for Tonga. We are hauling the boat out at the end of April for bottom painting etc so that will get us back into the work mode very quickly as its a dirty awful job.
And so ends the sailing adventures of IsaLei-Rua! (Map)
As you can see from the last paragraph above, we were planning to
Zealand for Tonga but that did not eventuate. Instead, we decided to
New Zealand residency and stay in NZ for awhile longer. Eventually we
residency, but by the time we did, Peggy and I had drifted apart. We
Peggy returning to Canada and I remaining in New Zealand. Eventually we
divorced in 1998. At this time, I am still living in Russell and Peggy
living in Edmonton. A sad ending to a fine adventure. But life goes on;
found a new mate, Janet Martin, an Aussie expatriate who has lived in
NZ for 35
years. She is a wonderful person and I am thoroughly enjoying having
her in my
life. Since continuing eye problems have plagued me for over a year,
boat is not being used, I have put IsaLei-Rua up for sale. She belongs
doing what she was designed for - not sitting on a mooring in Russell.
IsaLei-Rua was sold at Easter 2000 to an Australian couple. They have sailed her to her new home, Perth, Western Australia.
August 2000 – Larry moved to Queensland, Australia
2004 – 2006 - IsaLei-Rua’s new owners, the Donovans have sailed her from Perth to Tasmania, the first leg of an extended cruise. They spent 2005 mostly in Tasmania and in early 2006 started up the coast of New South Wales heading north. In July 2006, they cruised the Louisiades in Papua New Guinea, returning to Australia in November.
January 2007 – IsaLei-Rua is sold to Arie & Lenie Smit of Brisbane.
Web Page by Red Head
Copyright 1999, 2010, 2015
No person may make use of any portion or part of the above story without express written permission
of the author.
Updated 30 April, 2015
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