Fiji 2016

July 2016

Back at Savusavu….there are always lots of repairs and maintenance to be done on a boat. When you are cruising full time you never get to the top of the list because if you do, than it means you haven't done any sailing, cruising or enjoying yourself. What is the point of that? In the meantime life goes on all around us. Here is a great rainbow that came right up Nakama Creek and whilst I was photographing its approach, S/V Sabir got some great photos of True Blue V. Thanks for sharing them with us Sabir!


True Blue V, Nakama Creek, Savusavu 2016

Push PLAY for Savusavu Rainbow and find out where the Pot of Gold landed.

Cyclone Winston was the strongest Tropical Cyclone to make landfall in Fiji and the South Pacific basin in recorded history. Winston increased to Category 5 intensity on February 19th and passed directly over Vanua Balavu where a national record wind gust of 306km/hr was observed. Peak intensity on February 20th recorded 10 minute sustained winds of 230km/hr and a pressure of 915 hPa shortly before making landfall on the main island Viti Levu. Cyclone Winston killed 44 people. 40,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Approximately 350,000 people (40% of Fiji's population were significantly impacted by the storm). The nation's government declared a State of Emergency on 20th February for 60 days. Immediately following the cyclone, the governments of Australia and New Zealand provided logistical support and relief packages. (There was much praise for the Australian and New Zealand Navy). In the following weeks, a coalition of international support, including intergovernmental agencies bought 10's of millions of dollars in aid and hundreds of tons of supplies to residents in Fiji. In some cases entire communities were destroyed. 40,000 people required immediate assistance. (Source Wikipedia)

Many of our favourite cruising destinations were affected.

Sea Mercy Volunteers at Makogai Island. This island took a direct hit from Cyclone Winston 5 months ago.

We were on our way back to Savusavu but decided to call in and catch up with the Sea Mercy Fleet who have been working on the island since Cyclone Winston. Some of the fleet we know. Ian and Wendy on Catamaran Outsider (Australia) have already been here for 2 months. They have taken on the role of Sea Mercy Project Managers for Makogai and are committed to rebuilding the local school and a community hall. David on S/V Anahata spent cyclone season in Marshall Islands with us and has already been here for 5 weeks. Vessels come and go for various lengths of time. Some volunteer a little, some volunteer a lot. There are also several land volunteers who are staying in Sea Mercy tents near the village. The Sea Mercy barge brings materials from Nadi. On board there is a generator and water maker which makes this a great "first response" vessel. A big thanks to Geoff who has also been volunteering his time to operate it.

Below is a slideshow of photos taken from our first day assisting with Sea Mercy Makogai. As your can see it really is an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Push PLAY below for Sea Mercy Fiji at Makogai.

(I am having some problems here - I have removed these 2 movies and hope to get them back up soon)

Push PLAY for a day on the job day at Makogai with the Sea Mercy Volunteers….Sailing With A Purpose. It’s easy as ABC.

June 2016

We are expecting visitors. Cheryl and Ray. They are going to fly into Nadi, transfer to Labasa and take a scenic taxi drive to Savusavu where True Blue V will be waiting at the Copra Shed Marina for them to board. Craig and I have discussed their travel plans at length and for a true Fijian experience we decided it would be a good idea if we departed Savusavu, sailed to Coconut Point, followed by Yadua Anchorage. Next stop is the Yasawa Island Group; Sawa-i-Lau to do a Sevusevu ceremony and see the famous limestone caves. Other stops we anticipate include Blue Lagoon (think Brooke Shields), snorkel with Manta Rays at Nanuya, scenic Navadra Island and Musket Cove Island Resort before our final destination and their point of departure Port Denarau International Marina.

At Yadua Island.

Cheryl and Ray getting their feet wet at pristine Yadua beach.

All the best beaches have a fallen tree to sit on and pose for a photograph.

Ray is a keen coconut tree climber whenever he goes ashore. No more coconuts on this tree. You will have to find another tree Ray.

This is Sawa-i-Lau, which was one of our favourite stops.

Going ashore at Sawa-i-Lau. Craig is pointing at something up the beach but it looks like he is pointing as the boat. He is dressed ready for his Sevusevu ceremony.

The local ladies hang out in the local village making crafts and mats. The children are all at primary school. When they get older they go to the mainland for their secondary education.

Hey goosey! The local village is neat and tidy although they did sustain some damage from Cyclone Winston especially with their crops and coconuts.

Chery and Ray with our Fijian friend who has just been out fishing. Lunch time in the tropics.

Meet a real local. His hut was damaged in cyclone Winston but life here goes on. What a great face. It is sun-lined with life, love and laughter.I wish my lighting was better so his face wasn't so shaded but I like his hat too. Yes, I suppose I like the fish too.

early morning in Sawa-i-Lau

This is an early morning photo I took whilst everyone on board True Blue V were still asleep. A local Fijian is fishing from his canoe. I watched him paddle around casting his nets and retrieving them. I also watched him bail out his canoe several times as it was obviously taking on water. At one point, he climbed out of his canoe into waist deep water so that he could bail his canoe.

We went into the village and did our Sevusevu ceremony. We were welcomed to the village. This is a tourist stop with cruise boats so the locals want us to buy, buy, buy like a tourist. So OK we bought a couple of shells which we didn't need and coconuts to drink on board. But I mentioned we were from the yacht and I could trade some flour. We visited the village later. I took a bag of flour in. They gave me some more shells which I didn't need in exchange. But that is not the point. It is important to trade. It is a give and take thing. The lady said come back tomorrow and she would have some bread for me. We were out of bread so that sure sounded good to me. Some flour for some bread. She pointed to a canoe on the beach and asked Craig if he could fix it. Craig said he had some fibreglass materials on the boat and would fix it tomorrow morning but it must be kept dry. After repairing one canoe another local arrived and asked if he could repair his canoe too. The nice lady gave Craig some bread to bring back to the boat. I had given Craig a small Koala with an Australian flag to give to the lady. She laughed when he gave it to her. And this is how Fijian friendships go. I feel we could go back there and enjoy each others company again.

It is often said "You have not been to the Yasawas if you have not visited the Sawa-i-Lau caves". I always prefer to visit these places without the hordes of tourists and that is certainly one of the advantages of being on our own timetable. Check out our experience in the movie below.

See our Sawa-i-Lau Caves movie below.

Press PLAY for Sawa-i-Lau caves. Music is by U2 and is called Race Against Time.

"Vessel Underway"…. is serious business in the Yasawas. We are motoring. There is not a breath of wind but lots of coral reefs to watch out for.

With so many reefs around it helps to have Ray on lookout on the bow. Cheryl is on the instruments changing our autopilot course directions. I am at the helm keeping an eye on our Navionics Charts and Craig is down below checking SAS Planet satellite images with a GPS locator for True Blue V. No worries here!

Cheryl loves fresh Mahi Mahi and at $50/kg back home in Australia is keen to fish everyday. It doesn't come any fresher or tastier. Guaranteed.

Craig does his best to oblige and we all love eating it. Cleaning it is the biggest chore and not one of Craigs favourite things to do. Vinaka Craig!

Marshall Islands 2016

May…Passage Making back to Fiji

We arrived back to True Blue V in Majuro Harbour and quickly got supplies, fuel, water and prepared for our return passage south to Fiji. The new chain that we had ordered had arrived from the US and we needed to get that from the hardware store and into our chain locker before we could depart. Our concern was that the winds in the North Pacific were from the NE and were getting lighter and would soon disappear altogether with the change of season. We wanted to use the NE winds to get us to the Equator. As we moved further south into the South Pacific the winds were lights so we thought we would be doing alot of motoring. (Which is what happened). Or bashing into the SE trade winds. (Which is also what happened) Or meeting troughs and convergence zones (Yes, we got all of that too). Well with 1700nm (3500km) to travel and an Equator crossing you could expect a bit of everything.

This is our first night at sea on our way back to Fiji. All good and we are glad to be underway.

Some days are always better than others on passages.

We stop taking photos when we get too tired or passage weary. But obviously this was a good day.

These squalls seem to be super sized. Crossing the equator from North to South always brings unpleasant weather. You just have to keep on going and get through it. The quicker the better.

We stopped for 3nights at Tuvalu to get more diesel, rest and eat before continuing on to Fiji. The whole passage took us 18 days. So May was all about passage making. Either getting ready for a passage, enduring a passage or arriving at the destination and getting over a passage. The good thing about Fiji and arriving back in Savusavu is that because we now know people, both locals and other cruisers, it now feels a little like coming home. Bula! Bula!

April…an unexpected trip to Australia

April disappeared quickly as Craig and I arrived back from Maloelap Atoll and secured the boat in Majuro Harbour. Health and family issues were taking us unexpectedly back to Australia. Perhapt this might explain why there have been very few photos and Blog updates lately. Sorry.

This close is too close.

We had just gotten back from Australia when Craig had a nasty incident in the dinghy. This photograph shows where our Tohatsu 9.8hp outboard propeller hit his arm 3 times at high speed. Everyone thinks it won't happen to them so they don't wear their safety cord.

Craig was in the dinghy and approaching the dinghy dock at slow speed. A power boat was tied to the dock and had a line trailing out with a kayak attached. Craig was about to go over the line so he put the engine in idle and lifted the motor (like he has done 1000 times before). However this time something different happened. The engine did not lock in, fell sideways, engaged at full revs and threw Craig out the back whilst it spun on its stern at high speed before flipping. Craig was in about 9 feet of water and trying to stay submerged as the outboard and dinghy spun out of control. His arm came in contact with the propeller. This photo shows how close Craig came to losing his right arm. After that, he promised to always wear his safety cord/red curly cord. Or turning off the engine which I think is what Tohatsu recommend.

If he had been wearing it the outboard engine would have cut out as soon as he was thrown out of the dinghy. Actually come to think of it our outboard would not have flipped the dinghy and ended up in saltwater either! All good reasons to wear safety cords.

March…Maloelap Atoll, Marshall Islands

Hanging out in Maloelap Atoll. Our arrival on the beach bought some of the local kids running down to meet us. Of course the camera came out. Lori from Free Spirit was trying to take a photo of the kids. The idea was that they would wave but the kids have got their own poses they like to use. I thought this was funny.

See our Maloelap Atoll Movie below...

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Meet the local kids. 20 seconds, unedited.

The local kids will happily follow us around all day. We were entertaining them and they were entertaining us.

The local kids love to see their photo on the camera and will pose all day and are fun to have around.

Posing…is American style.

Cool poses but can you just move your hands down a little so I can see your face.

Their huts are well made out of local materials and allow for plenty of air flow. It is very important that they remember and practice traditional skills and not become too dependent on outside help. Being self sufficient is how they have survived for so long. Of course modern life has bought solar panels, lighting, transport, RO water makers and other comforts to make life easier.

Check out Craigs coconuts as we walk along the beach.

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Push Play and Craig will show you his coconuts. 15seconds

World War 2….Taroa Island, Maloelap Atoll

In 1939 the Japanese built a seaplane and land plane base at Taroa Airfield with 2 runways and support buildings and facilities including a radar station.

During WW2 a garrison of 2940 navy men and 389 army men was commanded by Rear Admiral Shoichi Kamada. The perimeter of the island was heavily fortified by 12 heavy coastal artillery and 10 heavy anti aircraft guns.

The US Navy began attacking Taroa Island in February 1942 with carrier based aircraft and shelling by warships. The attacks grew in frequency after Majuro and Kwajalein had fallen to the US.

Today, Taroa Island is like an outdoor museum and although some things are rusting away with salt and time, other things such as unscathed bunkers look like they would have back in 1942.

This island was heavily fortified by the Japanese in World War 2.

Rusting guns showing the effects of time, salt and wind.

Our young tour guides are always on duty

Pill boxes blown up by American air raids

Japanese bunkers… this one avoided the bombs and looks in good condition

WW2 in Maloelap Atoll - Here is the movie and pics. It is about 4 minutes long. The music is Forgotten Years by Midnight Oil.

Push Play for the movie which includes our dive on a sunken WW2 wreck just off the beach. The mast of the sunken Japanese wreck can be still be seen sticking out of the water. The wreck is Tarushima Maru, a Japanese supply freighter which was scuttled in 30 feet of water to prevent capture.

February 26th… Vessel Underway to Maloelap Atoll. It was just an overnight passage but it was windward and we were hard into the wind all night. Waves and swell were forward of the beam and it was a rough, wet passage with winds 30+knots and occasional squalls. We were glad to drop anchor at Airuk Island where we spent a couple of days before moving 25km north inside the atoll to Taroa Island where the Japanese fortified themselves in preparation for WWII. I asked the Mayor what happened to the local people when the Japanese arrived. He said they were killed. Some of them managed to escape by walking across the reef at low tide to another island where the Americans rescued them.

Meet Randal who is the newly elected Mayor of Maloelap. He came out to our yacht to welcome us. We had a laugh at his T-Shirt which says "I'm just like you, only smarter and better looking."


Farewell to Exodus as they sail off into the sunset…We have shared many fantastic times and it is sad to part company with long term cruising friends that we first met in Mexico. They are at the end of their journey and will head south to Tonga where they plan to sell their Lagoon 400 fully equipped and cruise ready for the next owner. We wish you the very best for the future.

late January….There is more than 1 way to catch tuna around here.

Our friend Tim from Catamaran Exodus loves to go spearfishing every chance he gets and his favourite fish is Dog Tooth Tuna. This is his best Dog Tooth Tuna to date which he speared in the pass at Majuro. We are excited about some fresh tuna coming our way. Mmmm…delicious.

January 26th….is Australia Day wherever you are in the world. We were fortunate to meet Aussies Luitenant Commander George McKenzie and his wife Angi just in time to be invited to 'Wallaby Downs' which is the accommodation compound for the Royal Australian Navy. Thanks for a great day which was enjoyed by all with drinks, BBQ and pool volleyball games.

LCDR George McKenzie and I say "Cheers to Aussies on Australia Day"

Happy Australia Day! from 'Wallaby Downs' in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Just like home…the men fired up the BBQ for an Aussie feast. Big smiles and cold beers not too far away.

Australia vs USA in pool volleyball. I think this may be the only swimming pool in Majuro.

Keeping hydrated between volleyball games. Beer, pool, BBQ…..yep, that does look like Australia Day.

Angi and the girls enjoying the Australia Day celebrations at 'Wallaby Downs'


Nothing could have prepared us for the huge fishing fleet of 40-50 vessels sitting here in Majuro harbour. Why are they all sitting in harbour? Shouldn't they be out fishing? How can they make money?

The problem as I know it is….The US fleet requested 2000 fishing days for 2016 during an August negotiation session. However several companies said they could not or would not pay their portion of the $17m quarterly payment due 1st Jan 2016. On the 15th of January the owners of the tuna companies and the countries of the fishing rights are meeting here in Majuro to renegotiate contracts.

So right now 37 US flagged Purse Seiners have all halted fishing because the industry defaulted on its US Treaty agreement to pay its first quarter fishing day fee of $17m on Jan 1st and the Forum Fisheries Agency has not issued licenses to the US fleet for 2016. Meanwhile 2 domestic companies which operate a tuna loining plant on Majuro have yet to reach agreement on a price for fishing days with Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority MIMRA. So they account for 12 fishing vessels sitting in harbour with no licence to fish. Market price for for tuna is low at around $900 per metric ton. It seems the bottom line is there is no point fishing if you are not making money and you can't fish without a licence. The countries with the fishing rights want their money. It's a crisis!

Craig and I are heading out to F/V Pacific Ranger to check out what a tuna fishing vessel is like on board.

Opportunity…some of us yachties got to thinking that now would be a perfect time to visit a fishing vessel. Preferably one with a helicopter and an english speaking captain. Eric from S/V Ariel IV met with a Captain and 5 of us yachties were granted permission from the owners to tour the fishing vessel with access restricted to certain areas.

Push Play for our 2min movie and pics on board Pacific Ranger.

The real value was in learning about Tuna Fishing and their operations.

Some of what we learnt is:

* The boats were Taiwanese and the Americans bought in and reflagged them. They are now jointly owned.

* The Captain is American usually on 2 x 4month contracts per year. He uses a translator to communicate to crew.

* Everyone else on board is from China, Taiwan, Phillipines, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, PNG and other Pacific Islands. Crew sign on for 2 year+ contracts. The most common language on board is Mandarin. Fighting is not tolerated although whilst we were in harbour there was a huge fight where 1 crew was murdered and the other stabbed.

* They can carry 1 million kilogram of tuna on board which is frozen whole in brine. The ship will come back to Port when full and the fish is then transferred to a mother ship. The target fish is Yellowfin and Pacific Skipjack tuna.

* They don't fish at night. It is too dangerous. They use nets, not long lines. The fishing net alone is worth $750.000 usd. His advice to yachties is to steer clear of fishing boats. Use AIS and your radar at night.

* The Helicopter is used for spotting up to 50 miles from the ship. It is also used for herding the school once the nets have been deployed.

* A FAD (fish attracting device) can be made up of anything to create a structure below the surface of the water. i.e. palm fronds and scrap bits on board the boat. The little fish are attracted to the structure and they in turn attract larger fish. It can take up to a month before lots of fish are attracted to the floating eco system. The longer it is left the more fish it attracts. A GPS with a strobe is attached. In the meantime the fishing vessel may have left the area so it is quite acceptable for another tuna fishing boat to steal the FAD and benefit from the fish if they come across them.

This movie below is awesome and was put together recently by Chief Officer Dani Idris of the Pacific Ranger, an employee living and working on board a tuna fishing boat. You will learn a lot just by watching the movie below. Press Play and get on board.

Push play for a wonderful insight into the excitement and team work that happens when you are Tuna Fishing in the Pacific. It is 12 minutes long and you will want to watch it more than once. Well done guys! As Dani says "Keep Spirit Brothers, the Ocean Awaits You".

7th January The Marshall Islands are located just north of the Equator between 4degrees and 19degrees North latitude and 160degrees and 175degrees East longitude (about half way between Northern Australia and Hawaii). The country of 29 atolls and 5 islands covers just under 1 million square miles of the Central Pacific and is made up of 2 island chains (Ratak (Sunrise) and Ralik (Sunset) with a total land area of about 70 square miles. The Marshallese population is just over 60,000. The capital and main port of entry is Majuro.

Majuro….07.06N 171.22E We are so glad to be here. It has been quite a journey since leaving Fiji 9th November 2015. We can now settle in and make ourselves at home. There are American hardware stores which will assist us with getting small maintenance and repair jobs done. American style supermarkets are a treat with products we have not seen since the USA. Fresh fruit and vegetable are available with a limited variety.

Looking out over Majuro lagoon. Behind the yachts there are alot of fishing vessels at anchor. The locals are letting balloons fly at the end of a Memorial Day Fishing Competition for a local girl who died 3 years ago.

Kiribati 2015

Our passage to Tarawa, Kiribati…had lots of squalls with wind 30-40+ knots and heavy rain at times. We found it difficult to make any westing until the last 2 days when the wind turned SW for us giving us a straight run to Tarawa. We crossed the Equator during the day and did a countdown to 00.00.00S before heading into the Northern Hemisphere. There was plenty of wind on the journey although on the last day we had 13knots on the nose so we decided to start the motor so that we could get a good night sleep at the anchorage. The 470nm passage took us 4 nights and 5 days. The wind and squalls took their toll on our headsail which we had restitched by Marshall Sails only 2 months ago in Fiji. Looks like we have to do it again by hand.

The Kiribati Flag….This photo was taken outside Parliament House. This monument represents the Kiribati Flag.

The image of the bird on the Kiribati flag represents authority, freedom and command of the sea. The sun rising over the red sky represents the equator and the blue and white wavy lines symbolize the Pacific Ocean and the 3 island groups of Kiribati (Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Island groups). I like it and I think it is a pretty cool flag. We are supposed to fly it whilst we are here in Kiribati but I have no idea where I would get one. Luckily, no one seems too worried about our flag etiquette.

Betio….Don't come here for your holiday. Betio is in South Tarawa and it where the commercial harbour is and where we must come to clear into the country. The anchorage has good holding but the best plan is to get in, do what you have to do, then get out. It is a good port to refuel with petrol and diesel, using jerry cans and the dinghy to transport them back to the boat. There is no fuel wharf as such. There is a tiny small boat harbour but one look at it and you will never want to take your boat in there. Would you want to take the risk of rats on board? Or cockroaches fattened up by copra and something called a rhinoceros beetle which I never want to meet. Not to mention all the health risks. There is LPG available and supermarket items but don't count on anything fresh in the last month. If you do see anything fresh, buy it immediately and buy lots of it.

I am struggling to take a photo here. There are 100,000 people on this atoll. Many are in Betio living in poor and crowded conditions. Sanitation and hygiene is poor. There is no sewerage plant…that is the harbour, beach and lagoon. I saw the local ferry discharge its holding tank directly into the small boat harbour. They even gave a little wave as they did it. I felt sick as I have seen kids swim here. What chance have they got?

How do you manage rubbish on an atoll? With great difficulty and so the lagoon also becomes a rubbish disposal area. There is a landfill site which has a prime waterfront location but there is not enough collection of rubbish from the streets and bins. The local people live, work and play in amongst it all. Unfortunately on a hot day when you really want a swim it is not enticing to go for a swim. There are health risks to swim here and even more so if you already have any cuts or open sores. Red Cross is here and it looks like they have their work cut out for them. They offer health services including HIV/AIDS support. In third world conditions such as these you will also find Hepatitus, Dysentry, Diarrhoea, Infections and I have also noticed some of the locals have nits. I have seen them going through each others hair picking them out. I know anyone can get nits but they don't have the money to spend on treatments so it is apart of their daily life. So keep your hat on! especially on those crowded buses.

The locals rely on rain water for their drinking water and in dry conditions that can be in short supply. The roads are either dry and very dusty or muddy after the rain. On a more positive note the people seem nice, friendly, a little curious and a little reserved. They open up if you greet them first with a Mauri (hello) and a smile. It's sad because the people are the best part. Most of the people are dressed reasonably well. I think alot of charity clothing from Australia comes here.English is not their first language. The supermarkets are OK with a good enough selection of Australian and NZ goods but fresh foods are lacking. Anything that is half decent disappears quickly. One lady had a trolley full of great carrots and left about one dozen rotten ones in the tray. I have not seen any carrots since and that was a week ago. I have seen wrinkly old red and yellow capsicum, cabbage which we don't eat and the same old onions I saw a week ago. On the road stand you can get fresh bananas and pumpkin. I saw one tray of eggs in Bairiki but I don't think it is something the locals eat. The islanders live off fish, coconut, taro, bananas and breadfruit - everything else is imported. Yes, you can get beer here!

It's early days. We hope to check out other areas here in Tarawa and have applied for permission to visit some of the outer islands but I don't think we will renew our 30 day visa.

The WWII Battle of Tarawa happened here in Betio. I can see Red Beach from True Blue V and this is where the fierce Battle of Tarawa took place. I am keen to check it out.

According to Landfalls of Paradise by Earl Hinz…...During the early days of 1942 the Japanese occupied several of the Gilbert Islands as part of their expansionist move. They heavily fortified Betio Island in Tarawa Atoll. After the Japanese southward expansion was stopped at Guadalcanal, the US forces next wanted Betio as an air base from which to attack the Marshall Islands to the north. In 1943 a great seaborne force comprising hundreds of US ships and planes and thousands of marines descended on the strongly fortified Japanese at Betio. History was made. 76 hours later Betio was a denuded island and the Japanese force of 4,500 persons ceased to exist. Today only the rusting hulks of tanks, amphtracks, and landing craft dot the water, while on land rusting coastal batteries and concrete bunkers sit beneath swaying palm trees.

Craig and I walked the beach to see what has been described in the tourism brochure as an outdoor museuem. We soon came across a tank which is half buried in the sand at low tide. I wonder what else has been buried by sand and time.

This is Red Beach. It was once a beautiful beach but that was a very long time ago. Now it is littered with rubbish, rusting tin cans, clothing, large fishing vessels washed ashore, WWII stuff and poo. It is also at risk from overcrowding, super high tides and weather events.

This Japanese gun once pointed as a threat out to sea but it now points quietly inland away from the reef.

The guns tell a story of a battle hard fought and many lives lost.

Japanese big guns took a hit from the US forces and now lie rusting in the sand


The Americans weren't the only ones here. This is a memorial to 22 British, Australian and New Zealand lives lost. It says these men were brutally murdered by the Japanese. I don't know the story behind this memorial but I don't think these men died in war action. Perhaps they were taken as prisoners of war.

Japanese concrete bunkers now have more recent graves surrounding them.

Concrete bunkers take up prime beachfront position. American landing craft got hung up on the reef due to an error in tidal predictions. That would have worked in favour of the Japanese but not so good for the Americans.

Other happenings along Red Beach…

This is a locally made canoe and it has a sail. We often see it out sailing in the lagoon but I am never close enough to get a photo of it with its sail up.

Fishing vessels washed ashore take up prime beachfront position.

Turtle = Food

Warning...This is a turtle shell left on the beach after being slaughtered and eaten. Whilst walking along the beach we came across locals who had caught a large turtle and they were cutting it up. We passed by quickly not wanting to watch the rest of the turtle killing. Although we found it disturbing, I accept that this is their way of life. This is how they live and this is a food source for them.

Foreigners who complain about local lifestyle practices can easily alienate themselves and make it difficult for future cruisers/tourists and foreigners who follow. This happened recently in New Caledonia after a cruiser complained to the police that the locals had killed a turtle. The locals reacted angrily by banning foreigners to their island saying that foreigners don't understand their way of life. Fellow cruisers also criticised the cruisers saying if they wanted things to be just like home then they should stay at home.

Too bad about the turtle but great smiles.

I asked if I could take a photo and they were happy for me to do so. I have edited the photo so as not to show the turtle as it will upset too many people. Local kids on the beach are very interested in anything that is going on.

Fishing, boating and beach life in Tarawa.

Beachfront property along Red Beach. With so many real life problems these people are also concerned about their island disappearing with Climate Change. Even in calm conditions high tide is not far from their houses. The more immediate issues affecting people daily are health and sanitation. To be quite honest, Craig couldn't get off this beach fast enough. Personally, I am ready to move on from Betio. It's time for us to find a place that is clean enough to swim and enjoy Christmas. We have been given permission from Customs and Immigration for a 10 day visit to Abemama Atoll.

Abemama Atoll….75 miles south is an overnight sail and we arrived at noon at a large atoll with access through a wide pass into a lagoon. We have anchored up in the north east corner and have good protection from the prevailing wind and waves. A trip to shore shows us that the people live in a very traditional way.

Only materials found on the island are used for most of their buildings. It is a good thing that they don't get cyclones here. We are on the equator.

This open air bure is made totally with traditional materials. Pandanus trunks and leaves, Coconut trees and twining. The floor is a coral base covered with village made grass mats. It is a work of traditional skills. Some of the locals sleep here at night. We met some of the locals and they offered us to sit in the bure with them and enjoy a coconut drink. Some of the children couldn't stop staring at us prompting their elders to say to them "haven't you seen a white person before?" Of course, they then cracked up laughing.

Traditional way of life is lived on the outer islands. It's a far cry from a western way of life but actually life here looks pretty good with a lot less to stress about. I commend and admire people who live in a self sufficient way. Sometimes it makes city life look way too complicated.

We met a local named Tanro who was happy to show us around his village area. We first met him when he sailed his canoe past our yacht when we were at anchor. He had good english and explained their way of life to us. He is the local warden and will fine you if your pig is not on a leash.

Local rules….you have to keep your piggy tied up or you will get into trouble from the local warden. Rules are rules!

As we walked around the island we came across a Taro pit. Taro is a root vegetable and is relied on by many of the islanders as a food source. In atolls where the soil quality it so poor the locals create pits and mulch them so that they can grow the taro in a fresh water pit. This is a healthy pit but at other islands their taro crop is under threat from salt water at high tide. If salt water gets in it will kill the crop. This is one of the impacts of climate change in the Pacific atolls that you will hear people talk about.

What happened to Christmas?

We had planned to have Christmas with our friends at Abemama Atoll however when a weather opportunity arose to get 75nm north back to Tarawa; clear out and then continue north to Majuro we decided to take it. Our visa is only good for 30 days and if we did not take this opportunity then we would be forced to go between Christmas and New Year. The weather forecast looked better now than later and with all the public holidays (4 days over Xmas and 3 days over New Year) we made our decision to go now. We arrived back at Betio, Xmas Eve morning and dropped anchor just before a large SW trough hit bringing 30-35knots of wind to the anchorage. We had no choice but to drop the dinghy and get the outboard on even though Craig was in the dinghy bouncing 3feet in the air and swinging around. Of course there was much yelling, screaming and swearing.

Craig zoomed off to the harbour. He was on his way to get us cleared out of Kiribati before the government offices shut their doors for 4 days. His day got worse as his hat blew off and landed in the disgusting harbour water. I saw him going around in circles trying to get it back with the dinghy leaping into the air. Finally he had the cap in his hand but there was no way he was putting it back on his head. First stop was Immigration but it is a 10km bus ride to get there. He was going to have to ride the crowded bus with no cap. Crammed into a 12 seater van with 20 other people doing the Twister riding along with hands splayed for bracing and faces with squashed noses flattened on the window. When is a Tarawa bus too full? Ha, it never is!

Immigration was the easy part. Next stop was Customs back at the Betio harbour. The Customs Officer said "When do want to leave?" Craig said "I want to clear out today and depart tomorrow." Customs shook his head…"I can't do it, we have no power. Come back tomorrow." Craig said "Tomorrow is Xmas Day." Customs said "I will have someone on Standby for you." Craig decided to come back later in the afternoon. He hoped the power would be back on.

The Port Authority was the next stop to pay our $50 departure tax. Craig walked into the office. The Cashier girl looked at him, looked at the clock, said "lunchtime" and walked out. Craig decided to use the lunchtime hour to buy beer as he was surely going to be needing it when he got back to the boat. Customs eventually got their power back and had to do some work after all.

Christmas Day was spent alone on the boat in Betio harbour. It didn't feel like Christmas at all. We decided to depart Boxing Day bound for Majuro. The forecast still looked good although it was changing daily.

Boxing Day….Our Passage was terrible. It is OK to turn around and come back.

We departed Betio Harbour at 10am and sailed at 7 knots past Abaiang Island which is about 30nm north of Betio. At this pace we were dreaming that we would arrive in Majuro in 2 1/2 days. Well, that moment was to be the best part of the trip. It was all downhill after that. The wind didn't listen to the forecast of 15-18 knots at all and the swell became 3m with bumpy, choppy seas on top. After Abiang the winds started to shift and take us northwest. The wind increased to 30knots and squalls came through bringing 35-40knots. True Blue V was pointed as hard into the wind as she could go. It was a thumpy, bumpy ride and there was no rest for the crew on board. It was blackness overnight as nothing could be seen outside the cockpit.

By morning we assessed our track which was dismal and many miles west of any intended position. We decided to tack which took us East. That was our 2 choices. East or West. We could no longer make any north as the swell and seas were coming from that direction. We thought we would try for Butaritari Island for shelter but after many hours going East we realised we could make the Easting but would not be able to make it the 20nm north to get there. At Majuro, the weather was deteriorating and they were preparing for 40knot winds and 4m swells generated from an approaching Low. The only choice left was to turn around and go back 50nm to Abiang Island that we had passed with glee 24 hours ago. Once the decision was made the boat was turned around to travel with the wind and swells. We were much happier and the boat motion was much more comfortable. We arrived at Abiang at 9pm. It was too late to go through the pass so we hove to for the night with 2 hour night watches. I was so tired that I had to set an alarm at regular intervals to wake me as I was falling asleep sitting up.

Next day we waited for slack tide to enter the Abaiang Pass. We were still tired and stressed and bloody Navionics charts weren't correct again. It seems they are quite happy to run people aground. SAS Planit is only good if the danger spots are not under a cloud!!! Eventually we got our anchor down without running into anything. We gave ourselves a day off to rest, watch movies, eat popcorn and recover our sense of humor. Where has it gone?

Our Passage to Majuro was too rough to continue...

This Movie is aptly named "Shake, Rattle & Roll." Push Play and come along for the ride.

We have just turned the boat around and will return to Abaiang Island and wait for another weather opportunity to travel north to Majuro.

Gratitude comes with hindsight….We knew we had made the right decision to come back. Now we were thanking the world and the lucky stars above. As Craig was standing near the boom, he noticed that the shackle that secures the outhaul for the mainsail was no longer seized and the bolt was only half a turn from being undone. Had this occurred during our voyage, we would have been in crisis mode. We would have had a free-ranging, flapping mainsail in some of the worst conditions we have encountered. Typically these things like to let go at the worst possible times. So glad it didn't.

Abaiang Atoll…We did have permission for a 10 day visit here but that cancelled out once we cleared out of the country. We are now sitting here very, very quietly waiting for a weather window to continue north to Majuro. This time we think we will try to make some Easting early before those NE trade winds get to us. We have emailed the other boats to let them know not to call us on the VHF radio. We have listened to their constant VHF chatter and they obviously don't realise that the locals will follow every conversation with great interest. What else are the locals going to do for entertainment and news? We have heard them follow conversations to other stations and even suggest they come over for a beer! If a weather opportunity doesn't come soon we will have to go back to Tarawa and clear in again. Oh no!

3rd January 2016 Ahh! What a life? Abaiang has a better quality of life than Tarawa. We have not been ashore but this canoe sailed past finally giving me my canoe photo. We are planning to depart today and are bound for Majuro. Our new plan is to get east first. When the northeast trade winds find us we can make north. Please may we have a better journey this time.

Tuvalu 2015

Our passage from Fiji to Tuvalu.

Friday, 8th November…...We departed Savusavu, at 1730hours and motor sailed overnight to the top end of Taveuni Island. With neap tides, calm seas and little wind, we passed through the Somosomo Straight with ease. It seemed as though we had timed it perfectly with the NNE flood and the SSW ebb of the tides. Perhaps more good luck than good management. At other times this area of passage making has either been a real battle to get through or a dream run.

As forecast, the wind started to fill in from the SE and we had wind for the whole way to Tuvalu approx. 600nm. This is the first leg of our journey to the Marshall Islands. Swell is less than 1m and seas are calm. Boat motion is comfortable. We sail to our Thikombia Island Waypoint and then change course for a direct run to Tuvalu. It was downwind sailing with a poled out headsail whilst the wind remained SE. When the wind shifted to the East we were on a starboard tack all the way to Tuvalu.

SPCZ South Pacific Convergence Zone….It started as cloud and the occasional rain shower. The further north we travelled the more cloud and squalls we encountered. As we closed in on Tuvalu we noticed many large thunderheads in the distance. They seemed to get more active of a night time and travel in a line. Some of these systems form quickly and pass over us with blustery winds, rain and lightning. We see lightning in the sky but hear no thunder. Lightning always makes us nervous. It is said "If lightning wants your boat, there is nothing you can do to stop it". Sometimes we can use radar to sail or motor around the squalls. Avoidance is good.


We are surrounded by thunderheads on the horizon.

It is Monday and we receive an email saying our friend Sally is in Tuvalu. She is due to fly out on Thursday so we should hurry up and get there. With 140 miles to go and no desire to spend another night at sea we start the motor. With good wind and a little help from the iron horse we do our best to arrive at the Tuvaluan anchorage before dark. It was 1730 hours when we dropped anchor. Just in time for a good nights sleep. There is nothing like a good nights sleep after a passage at sea. Our passage was fast and we completed it in 4 days so we were very happy with that.

We have arrived at Funafuti, Tuvalu. 08.31'S, 179.12'E

Tuvalu islands lie just below the equator and west of the dateline. Their nearest neighbours are Kiribati being 200 miles north and Fiji 600 miles to the south. Tuvalu is one of the smallest countries in the world. It has a total land area of 11 square miles however its 9 islands are spread out in half a million square miles of ocean.

The view of the shoreline from our boat. This is a very low lying atoll under threat from Climate Change, rising seas and cyclones. They rely on rainwater to fill their tanks.


It was great to see Sally (left) again. You never know where you might bump into her these days. Also Deanne and Janet from S/V Navire. Photo courtesy of Exodus.


Thank you to Tim and Deanne for hosting sundowners on Exodus. Photo courtesy of Exodus.

Going ashore…


Strolling through town and checking it out. Everyone rides mopeds here. Breadfruit hangs from the tree to the right of Craig although fresh fruit and vegetables are limited as to what they can grow in their sandy soils.


There are 2 bakeries to choose from. With fresh bread in the bag, Craig is heading back to the dinghy dock.

The Airport is a big deal here in Tuvalu. It's great and not like any other airport I have ever experienced. Everyone hangs out on the airstrip. They exercise, play soccer and cricket, hang out, dry clothes, stargaze, ride their mopeds along the airstrip. There are 2 flights each week. 1/2 an hour before a plane arrives the local firetruck arrives with sirens blazing and runs up and down the airport strip clearing all the locals off it.


Nobody walks around here. They don't even ride push bikes. It's all about mopeds. Unfortunately this airport was placed on the most fertile strip of land, by the Americans for WW2. Now it is the centre of activity.

Airport happenings….we are at the airport. Paul (blue shirt) is waiting for his girlfriend to arrive and our friend Sally will be departing to Fiji on the same plane. The firetruck has cleared the runway and is standing by. That is Deanne from Exodus on the left as they are also going to the Marshall Islands.

The local Taiwanese growers market….


Market Day is Friday 0600hours and Tuesday 0700hours. However we have some very clever cruisers amongst us and they pre-order and arrange a time and day to collect.


The local growers market which is sponsored by the Taiwanese government. We were able to get fresh lettuce, bok choy, cucumber and green peppers. Green beans and papaya were also available with the pre-order system. Fresh is always best, if you can get it.

Commercial Fishing is big business here. Taiwanese fishing boats and tuna fishing. Wow! Check out these photos. The large fishing vessels come back in to harbour full of fish. They unload to a mother ship. Fishing vessels and mother ships are coming and going all the time. Combined with FADS (fish attracting devices) and helicopters this is a big $$$ industry.


A mother ship sitting high in the water, waiting to be loaded.


Loading a mother ship. I think that may be a FAD at the stern of the fishing vessel on the right.

There is aTropical Low sitting just above Tuvalu. Thunderstorms, squalls and heavy rain will be experienced within 150nm of it. And that is exactly the kind of weather we are getting. The good news is that everyone has a full water tank.


We just missed this shower as we sailed over to the northern pass where there are a couple of islets to explore….


but we are not going to miss this one.


Sultry weather in the tropics.

Exploring the atoll…There are up to 10 boats here in Funafuti at present. Most of us are travelling north to the Marshall Islands although some are heading to the Phillipines via Micronesia and some have Kiribati as their destination for the cyclone season.


It is only an hour or so across the the lagoon but once you arrive there are deserted islands to explore.


True Blue V is anchored alongside the reef.


Hermit crabs gather to feed along the sandy beach.


I never thought I would see Craig go up a coconut tree to get green drinking coconuts but this tree made it easy for him.


This small island is surprising lush and green and appears to be a nesting site for birds but in amongst it we find some WWII remains.

World War 2 American military bases were established at Funafuti, Nukufetau, and Nanumea during WWII. Funafuti was home to the B-24 Liberator bombers of the US Seventh Air Force, which launched raids against Japanese bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls. Warplanes enroute from Wallis Island to the Gilberts were refueled here. Japanese planes did manage to drop a few bombs in return. Local Funafuti holidays include Bomb Day, which commemorates April 23, 1943, when a Japanese bomb fell through Funafuti's church roof and destroyed the interior. An American corporal had evacuated the building only 10 minutes before, thus averting a major tragedy.

On a deserted island near the pass, we found shells and bullets; a magazine rack with many unexploded bullets. They had been put in a sand pit and a fire burnt on them. Perhaps not the recommended way to dispose of them.


We found a couple of sandpits like these on the island.


A magazine rack of large bullets.


You can see the size of them. They are quite large and meant for destruction.


I wouldn't want to be sitting by the fire when that goes off.

Travelling north to Kiribati….we have asked permission to be able to clear out of Tuvalu and still be able to stop at Nanumea which is one of their islands 250miles northwest. It would break up the 700nm trip nicely. It is a special request and not one that is granted lightly. Unfortunately some cruisers have done the wrong thing in the past and it always makes it difficult for those who follow. However, we have been granted permission for a very short visit to Nanumea! Thank you Tuvalu Immigration and Customs.

Our passage to Nanumea Atoll…...We sailed through the first night but the wind dropped to 6knots on the nose. We have had many hours of motoring over glassy seas with no sea chop and a light swell. The weather has been blue sky and sunshine up until today. The gribs show us we are in between 2 lows. Today was overcast and squally. We had wind again today and were able to sail right up to Nanamea Atoll however we will have to wait until tomorrow before we can enter the lagoon.It is 2am and we are currently hove-to off Nanumea Island. It is our 3rd night at sea but it is calm. We are still doing night watches but at least we can sleep when we are off watch.

Nov 23….arrival at Nanumea Atoll.

Fishing Report….about 2 miles offshore we hooked up with a Sailfish. It was about 7 feet in length and the biggest fish we have caught. Some local fishermen arrived just in time to help us land it.


See the whole story by watching our I'm a Big Sailish movie. I am glad these guys arrived when they did as I am not sure how we would have got it on board. We took some fillets from the fish and gave the rest to the fishermen. Everyone was happy.

Push Play for the movie "I'm a Big Sailfish"

The Nanumea Pass

In WWII the Americans blasted a pass for small boats to access the lagoon. it is reportedly only 5 feet deep and 60 feet wide. Our draft is 5 feet so we will wait for slack water after high tide at 2pm before we enter the lagoon. We have some waypoints for the pass but they only go to show that our Navionics Charts are inaccurate and will have us anchoring on land. We downloaded SAS Planit satellite images before we left Fiji and along with eyeball navigation we are confident of having our anchor down safely tomorrow afternoon.

23rd November….Entering the Pass….is rather scary. We looked at it at low tide and we could see the reefs lining the pass in. The reef extended out from the markers and had breaking waves. We could see there was still water flowing out. We waited for Exodus to arrive which was then about mid tide. Tim and Craig went in through the pass in the dinghy and reported a 2-3 knot current. Locals that they spoke to said to wait for high tide and the best time with least current would be around 2pm. So it was as good as it was going to get. With Craig at the bow watching for breaking waves and bringing us in through the centre of the channel by pointing left or right, I was at the helm with positive acceleration surfing through the entrance. One wave hit the starboard stern and pushed us to port as Craigs arm started waving frantically to starboard. I corrected to starboard and he waved to port. Then we were in the channel where it was protected from waves with no current. Depth was good with 10 feet+ under the keel at high tide, showing 7 feet briefly on the lagoon side. It was a spring tide. All of our depths are under the keel and we have a draft of 5 feet.


This photo shows True Blue V inside of the lagoon waiting at the end of the channel for Exodus which is about to come through. Photo courtesy of Exodus.

We pulled up in the lagoon and turned to watch Exodus Catamaran approach the pass for their entry. We were not the only ones watching. The locals and fishermen had lined up to watch too. I'm sure when they said small boats they were not thinking keeled yachts and catamarans. Exodus arrived at the pass and I saw their bows rise high as they surfed over a swell as they came to the entrance. The same breaking wave that caught our starboard stern caught their starboard stern and I saw them get pushed to port too. Then they straightened up and were in. We moved further into the lagoon and dropped anchor off the village. After a passage it is nice to relax, eat and sleep. Tomorrow is another day.

24th November…What a great day in Nanumea. We went ashore to visit the local policeman with our official papers from Funafuti. He welcomed us and we went for a walk around town meeting the locals.


Big smiles. This is the local pastors kitchen. It used to extend out towards the reef but it also suffered cyclone damage. Still it is a pretty cool tropical kitchen with a great oven.


These girls made us smile. They have been playing with lipstick and have it all over their face.


There is a lineup at the local bank. At the other end of the building is the police station although crime is not an issue here.


The local church

The local church has the best view from the pointed spire which is one of the highest in the South Pacific. The Pastor gives us permission to go up and check it out. With a 360 degree view we can see our boat in the lagoon, the ends of the island and out to sea. The beautiful leadlight throughout the church is also a feature.

I thought we were the tourists…

We were invited to a big lunch for the 70 tourists who would be arriving by a boat name Silver Discovery. They specialise in expedition cruises visiting remote islands. The last tourist boat to visit was here in 2010! It was obvious to us that the locals spent alot of time preparing for them.


Everyone was welcomed with coconut drinks and a big smile. Talofa!


Everyone was involved and happy to get their photos taken. Of course that was the moment when my camera announced the battery was exhausted. Luckily we had the GoPro as a backup.


Young and old turned up to make the tourists welcome. Nanumea Atoll is really off the beaten track and they don't get many visitors. It is not the easiest place to visit. Ideally you will visit the island and then go back 250nm to Funafuti to clear out. Not going to happen for most of us cruisers.


Decorations were made and poles were wrapped in pandanus leaves.


Once everyone was welcomed we all walked 300m to the Meeting Hall for lunch, singing and dancing. The tourists on Silver Discovery only had a very short time on the island 12pm-4pm. 4 hours! Way too short. Many of them went off snorkelling and diving or sightseeing around the island, missing the singing and dancing which we thoroughly enjoyed! Thank you Namumeans for putting on a great show for Silver Discovery and inviting us to enjoy it with you.


Tim, Craig and me inside the Meeting Hall waiting for speeches to begin. Photo courtesy of Exodus.

Watch our movie to see the effort the locals put in to welcome the big boat tourists.

Push Play for Tourist Day in Nanumea.

Thursday 26th November…a day exploring around the island and sharing Thanksgiving with our American friends on Exodus.


Tim organised transport to take us on a tour of the island to see WWII wreckage and the southern end of the island. Photo courtesy of Exodus.


There are a couple of US plane wrecks and old tanks scattered throughout the bush. We would never have found them on our own.


We found a local who knew where to find the WWII tanks and plane wrecks.


This plane wreckage is quite mangled and looks like bits are missing. I remembered admiring the Pastors outdoor kitchen oven and it reminded me of this plane. Perhaps some innovative recycling went into that oven.


There was alot of erosion with sand and palm trees washed away. Cyclone Pam came through here last year and caused damage to the beaches and housing.


Some of the tourists on Silver Discovery were coming to check out the local cemetery as part of their sight seeing. I am not sure why, perhaps there is something of interest there. We zoomed past as there was a storm approaching and we were keen to get back to the boat before it arrived. We still have time to check it out on another day.

The end of the day was spent celebrating Thanksgiving with a potluck on Exodus which included a baked stuffed chicken, roast pumpkin and onions, mashed potato, beans, gravy, bread, corn dish, meatballs and tomato sauce. Delicious and quite a treat.

Some of the local boys paddle out to say hello.


These boys are regular visitors to us and Exodus in their homemade canoe.

Departing Nanumea Pass….I really recommend waiting for slack high tide. It wasn't quite slack tide but we committed to going through. Once you start, there is no changing your mind. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of current right at the entrance and it was pushing our long keel to port. Craig's arm started waving frantically to starboard and although we were travelling at 6knots and turning to starboard it seemed to me like we were still going to port. The water was like a washing machine and by the time we popped through to deeper water my arms and legs felt like jelly. That pass is definately not for the faint hearted. Of course, Craig was laughing and saying "it was fine, we were in the middle of the channel."

Update on the Pass….Another 6-8 boats arrived in Nanumea after we left. One boat, Free Spirit got into serious trouble entering the pass. They thought they were going to lose their boat when they landed on the reef and were on their side with the propeller out of the water. One wave pushed them further on the reef but by some miracle a larger wave came and pushed them back off and into the entrance where they manouvred back out to safe water. A second boat scraped along the reef as they departed the Nanumea pass. Both boats were OK although perhaps a little traumatised. So if 10 boats went in and 2 hit, that is a 20% strike rate. You might want to really think about whether or not you stop here. That is the most dangerous pass we have taken True Blue V into and I have no desire to do it again. If you decide to stop, then take your time to check out the pass and only enter or depart at a slack high tide with someone on the bow ensuring you are in the centre of the channel at all times.

We are bound for Tarawa, Kiribati which is 470nm NW. Bon Voyage!

Fiji 2015

Please note: If there is no recent update it is because Internet is either non existent or signal too weak. Sorry! but that's what we get when we go to remote places. We will certainly update when we can. Bon Voyage me mateys!

5th November 2015….Here is the Master Plan…. we are bound for Marshall Islands. We depart Fiji tomorrow and will sail 600nm north to Funafuti Atoll,Tuvalu 08.31'S, 179.12'E. We may stop here to rest and to wait for good conditions before continuing 700nm to Kiribati in the North Pacific 01.21N, 172.55E. We should be safe from South Pacific Cyclones here. We hope to stay and explore some of the outer islands and will probably be here for Christmas. Some time in January we will continue on to the Marshall Islands 07.06N, 171.22E where we hope to do lots of exploring and diving. Weather permitting of course. Unfortunately, internet is not as wonderful and cheap as in Fiji so updates may be few. However, we will continue the blog with movies, photos and adventuring so that when we do eventually get good internet again, you won't have missed anything.

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It's a long way from Fiji to the Marshall Islands.

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Cyclone Season …. is upon us again. The 2015/16 Fiji Cyclone report was released by Fiji Met on 22nd October. At the time we were on our way to Futuna to renew our visas. We felt secure in the knowledge that we had an excellent cyclone mooring in the protected Nakama Creek, great internet/phone access, surrounded by friendly Fijians with promises of excellent cruising for the season. However, the El Nino factor…. the Fiji report is based on statisics from 4 previous El Nino seasons. In an El Nino year we can expect more cyclones. We can also expect more severe cyclones ie. Cat 3-5. In 1997/98, our biggest El Nino year, there were 16 cyclones in the Sth Pacific of which 7 were Cat 3-5. This season for Fiji the report says we could see 2-3 cyclones with 1 being greater than Cat 3. Every cruiser has to decide what is right for them. At the end of the day we take responsibility for whatever choices we have made. We have decided not to stay in Fiji for cyclone season this year. Instead we are going ahead with Plan A….we are going to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific…the 4th least visited country in the world. It's time for a new adventure!

Video below is "Matagi Island and returning to Savusavu."

We are at Matagi Island pretending we are on vacation. Forecasts show strong winds for the next few days so we think we will just wait until it calms down before we go anywhere. That is the beauty of cruising. Time to wait.

Horseshoe Bay is protected in SE winds and it is expected that we ask permission to go ashore. This island is owned by the Douglas Family and it has been in their family for generations. They have a kid-free resort here. With time poor guests paying $1000's for a week long vacation we do our best to respect their privacy. For example, each day only 2 guests arrive at 10am. We assume they have booked the beach for their day. There is a cabin on the beach which is surrounded by rainforest. The staff arrive earlier and prepare it for their guests and activities such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking etc. At noon each day the the local resort boat arrives with 2 eskys. Gourmet food and chilled drinks. I keep wishing they would call into our boat and drop off those eskys. What great food has the Chef prepared for them today? At 2pm the resort boat arrives and picks them up to take them back to the resort.

We don't go to the beach during those hours and we don't run the generator until they are gone. Not so hard. I also try to come up with my own gourmet meals. Today is Beef Tacos for lunch and Chocolate Mud Cake for dessert.

late September

An early start as we pull up anchor and head to Fawn Harbour on our way to a private island called Matagi.

A seaplane arrives at Cousteau Resort and lands right in front of us. We enjoyed the unexpected show whilst sipping sundowners. The staff greeted their VIP guests on the dock with warm Bula's, guitars and singing. Or perhaps it was Jean Michelle himself as I have heard he is in town and you can go diving with this legend. We saw their dive boat out at Namena Island and the conditions were perfect.

Namena Island is one of our favourite places. An underwater paradise. It was also a chance to catch up with Exodus and Fluenta. The weather window was an opportunity not to be missed. It is only a 3 hour sail from Savusavu and we were all provisioned and ready to go, so off we went. Check out this dive we did on Chimneys. Conditions were calm. Last time we were here there was wind chop and a ripping current so today was a pleasant change.

Push play and come for a dive on Chimneys with us.

Namena Island is also a beautiful place for nesting sea birds. Fluffy chicks still in their nests and curious youngsters show no fear as they hone their flying skills around the anchorage.

This fluffy chick needs his sleep.

This little guy has fallen out of his nest but I saw mum still feeding him and he was practicing his flying exercises so I have my fingers crossed that he will be dive-bombing our fishing lure or pooping on our decks one day.

The red footed boobies breed here. In Mexico we saw blue footed and yellow footed boobies so we really appreciate seeing the red footed boobies here in Fiji.

16th September...After Suva we did an overnight sail to Savusavu. We stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables and decided to head out to Namena Island.

Calm conditions in Savusavu means it is near perfect diving conditions at Namena Island. In Fiji you have to go when the going is good.

12th September…Suva is the best place in Fiji for provisioning. It is said "If you can't get it in Suva, then it is not in Fiji". So after 4 days of shop till you drop we will depart early tomorrow morning for an overnight passage to Savusavu. We had a pleasant experience here but will be glad to move on as our boat which is anchored in the harbour is often surrounded by a smelly diesel slick. That and Suva has the same hectic pace as many cities. We had some taxi drivers who just grunted and some that were very friendly and talked the whole time. Car horns were used as weapons along with raised voices and the usual arm gestures. It was great to see, city life is the same everywhere!

This is what a Chinese tuna-boat raft up looks like in Suva harbour.

Hmmmmm…no wonder we haven't caught any tuna yet.

The commercial harbour in Suva is business as usual.

Fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables on the corner in Suva.

4th September….Vanua Balavu means the "long land".

A very moody photo of Bay of Islands at Vanua Balavu. This photo was taken from the lookout which is reached by a short dinghy ride, 271 steps up to the trail which leads to the Caretaker's village and Mbavatu Plantation. Continue past the only internet repeater tower; follow the road up the hill to Allardyce grave site and arrive at scenic splendour. Well worth the effort.

The Caretaker's Village. The owner is not always is residence and the caretaker looks after everything whilst he is away.

This little house is the only place around which has an internet repeater signal and we were told we could go up there and make use of it. Vinaka!

A quick email check in and phone home. You have to do it when the opportunity arises.

The previous owner lies buried here. I must say he certainly picked a good spot.

Looking out to a neighbouring island. There are reefs everywhere so careful navigation is required in these waters. Too many boats have come off second best when they tangled with Fijian reefs.

September 3rd...

Good Morning! This is the view from our cockpit. Craig is still sleeping and I am drinking my coffee and playing with my camera. It is a Nikon Coolpix and has more functions than my last camera. Timber framing…interesting. This time I got a waterproof camera as water is what killed the last 2. I haven't checked to see if it floats.

September 2nd…Another Walu! Very nice, but the thrill of the catch soon wore off when the dinghy started to deflate.

One angry Walu, 2 sharp treble hooks = 1 hole in the dinghy.

Now is a good time to start mumbling something about cruising being all about doing repairs in exotic places. Such is life. Where is the dinghy repair kit?

Internet...This is what it looks like trying to get an internet signal in a remote location at Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu. There are a couple of villages nearby where there is a tower on a hill but it doesn't always mean you will get a good signal. It really is a bonus to get any phone or internet access out here. That is one thing Fiji does really well.

In search of a signal….We left True Blue V, went on a 10minute dinghy ride, walked across a beach….just to check email.

We are at Mbavatu Plantation located in the fjord-like harbour at Nabavatu. It is privately owned land but armed with our Letter of Introduction from Copra Shed Marina we are allowed to enjoy their free mooring, scenic walks, and make use of their limited facilities. Vinaka! How good is this?

The local yacht club. Well, sort of. It is not open and we are the only boat here. If you want to get a cold beer though, you would be wise to bring your own.

This bay should be renamed Walu Bay. We just caught 3 by trolling around in the dinghy. This fish was the biggest so we kept it and gave the other 2 and the prized head to the local Fijian village on top of the hill.

Game on! Walu on the left and, trevally on the right. Not too bad for a little trolling around the bay in the dinghy. And yes, I did catch these 2. They are destined for a a fish curry night with friends.

Craig caught these 2 fresh coral trout which are perfect plate size. He stuffed them, wrapped them in foil and cooked them in the oven. They were melt in the mouth delicious.

Hanging out with friends…

29th August…It was too windy to go diving but our little bay was perfect for wakeboarding behind the dinghy with the crew from Skabenga and Eleutheria. Check out this 1minute movie for the highlights in wipeouts!

Push Play for some wakeboarding fun.

Craig is about to high-five Bruce on his way past True Blue V. This is a fun way to spend the day. Thanks guys.

27th August

We have heard there are caves around here so we all head out in our dinghies at low tide to explore. It is alot of fun as we zoom around, race and explore to find the caves.

Push Play to check out this movie.

It's Happy Hour as we raft up our dinghies and float around whilst catching up with cruiser friends Eleutheria and Skabenga. L-R Alyssa, Jen, Bruce, Lewis and Craig.

We last saw our friends in French Polynesia. Everyone has stories of their adventures over the last 12 months and it is always entertaining with plenty of laughs.

We have just arrived at Daliconi Village for sevsevu. It's time to meet the Chief and present our kava to him. Everyone looks great in their Fijian sulus and the locals really appreciate us respecting their traditional customs.

We met and presented our kava to the Chief's sister and Joe the Village representative. We are all sitting on a handmade mat woven from pandamus leaves that the village ladies make themselves.

August 24….Its's whale time again and within 1 hour of departing Levuka we came across these humpbacks who were having a wonderful time breaching, spy-hopping and slapping. It was a great show and Craig did well to get these photos as we sailed past at a distance doing 7knots.

Breaching/Jumping: Leaping clear of the water, often vertically, then falling back with a splash.


Spy-hop: Slowly emerging vertically from the water to raise the head clear of the surface, before sinking back without a splash.

Lob-tailing/fin slapping: Forcefully slapping tail flukes or pectoral flippers onto the water surface, creating white water.

I love the whales. These are the first humpback whales we have seen in Fiji. During the 1850s Levuka was one of the Pacific's main whaling bases for sperm and humback whales. By the 1880s whalers had moved south as the populations were decimated and steam driven whalers managed to brake through the ice of Antarctica to find more concentrated groups to hunt. The government declared Fiji's Exclusive Economic Zone as a Whale Sanctuary on 11th March 2003 but numbers are still very low for this endangered species.

August 23….Finally it is time to do some real cruising again. All the work is done and we are heading back to Vanua Balavu in Northern Lau to catch up with some friends who spent their summer in Hawaii. Our plan is to get out and enjoy some Fiji cruising as we are seriously considering heading north to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific. It is the 4th least visited country in the world. There are very few services up there and a boat has to be self sufficient. This is one of the reasons we have been doing so much work on our boat lately. We are getting our boat ready for another off-shore adventure.

Craig is at the helm with his cup of tea. It is 6.30am and it rained all night. Viti Levi Bay brings out the rainbow as we depart.

We caught a nice Spanish Mackerel along the way so it will be fish n chips for dinner and fresh fish in the freezer again.

We stop for 1 night at Levuka. It is a typical Sunday afternoon in Fiji and the town looks like it is asleep. Sunday is a day of rest. The sound of guitars and singing can be heard coming from the local churches. It is a good place to top up our fuel tank and wait for the expected southerly wind to arrive tomorrow for our overnight voyage to Vanua Balavu.

More maintenance! This time it is the engine. The exhaust elbow was removed and checked. There was a little bit of carbon build up but only a couple of millimeters which cleaned off easily. Tick that box. The heat exchanger was next. It was disassembled and the cooling tubes were removed to be checked and cleaned. Tick. The fuel injectors were removed and taken to a diesel injector shop where they were cleaned and tested. One of the injectors had an irregular spray pattern, one had a small drip and the other 2 were ok. They came back looking brand new. Next on the list was a service to replace fuel and oil/oil filters. Check and tighten any loose bolts. Clean up. The last job of the day was to tidy up some loose alternator wiring. Start the engine and woohoo all good to go. She looks good and sounds good. It must be nearly time to go cruising again.

Our Yanmar engine 4JH2TE. We do our best to keep it clean and maintained.

Out and about again. Yay! but not for long as we will soon head back to Denarau to get our engine maintenance done.

Navadra Island…..unedited. A stunning spot with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.


Here is a slideshow of some of our favourite photos here in Fiji. I have tried to capture the essence of our stay in Fiji with songs such as Bula and Ni sa Bula which are 2 Fijian favourites. Fiji is a wonderful destination with lots to see and do but it is the people that make it really special. They are the happiest and friendliest people we have met.

Push the PLAY button to Fiji.

True Blue V goes back in the water.

July is all about getting boat work done. We have hauled the boat at Vuda Pt Marina and we are staying on it whilst we get boat work done. Life on the hard is hard.

The view from our boat which is currently high and dry, looking out over the circular marina. There is a long list of boat jobs to be done but certain jobs can only be done when the boat is out of the water. This is the plan...

Boat is hauled and washed down. Bottom sanded, 3 coats of bottom paint. Repairs to some electrolysis around freezer plate, propeller to be cleaned, rudder bearings and spacers checked + new packing, new stern gland packing, new zinc anodes, replace thru hull fitting. Other jobs include drop all anchor chain and mark out new 10m lengths, end to end chain, check and charge batteries, check sails and restitch, clean dinghy, clean BBQ, clean and polish hull. Once we are back in the water we will check our engine maintenance list and a climb up the mast to check that all is good up there. And that will be our July.

In this photo, we have put our first coat of bottom paint on. It is blue but the final coat will be black.

Bottom Paint…We previously had Petite Trinidad SR bottom paint on our boat and we were very happy with it. If we could use it again we would but we cannot get it here which probably has something to do with changes to the marine environment protection laws. We are now using International Ultra which is a hard bottom paint. There is a big push for us to use soft bottom paint which is a self polishing ablative paint, but in 12 months there will be none left on the bottom of the boat. It will need doing again. How is that good for the environment? We figure that if we use the hard paint and scrape off the bottom with a plastic scraper every 2 months then the paint will last longer.

Craig stands beside the work bench. True Blue V has her black top coat on.

With no fridge/freezer working on the boat Craig heads to the bar for a cold beer and a well earned break.

This is a cyclone pit. There are 35 of them here at Vuda Pt Marina and they are usually booked out by the end of July. The keel sits in the hole and the hull is supported by tyres. The boat needs to be properly prepared with all sails and excess windage removed. It is certainly an option for leaving your boat in secure long term storage during cyclone season. The good thing is that there are no other boats to bump into.

1st July….We are anchored in Viti Levu Bay which is a large bay located at the North East end of the main island. It has great protection from SE winds and with a forecast of 20-25knots, gusting to 35knots we decided to stay for another night.

True Blue V is at anchor in Viti Levu Bay on her way to Nadi.

It's nearly the end of June and we are ready to depart Savusavu. We have a new windlass installed and it is time to make our way to the big island Viti Levu. The boat needs to be hauled out and have its bottom painted and there is a long list of maintenance jobs we would like to get done. Then we will be keen to get out and do some Fiji sailing and exploring.

Everyone loves a Marching Band and the Fijians are putting on a show for Crime Prevention Week.

Also in town is the USS Mercy.

The USS Mercy has arrived in Savusavu with 800 personnel on board. They have been warmly welcomed by the locals as they are offering free dental, optical, physiotherapy and medical services. The line up for some services is 1km long and includes babies, schoolkids and the elderly. In addition to these highly sought after services they are entertaining the locals with the fleet brass band. Businesses are benefitting as they spend up big in town so everyone is happy. The USS Mercy also went to Vanuatu and assisted the local people after Cyclone Pam.

15th June. Continuing boat jobs.

Craig is fibreglassing in the cockpit workshop. Our old Muir windlass is on the red mat and has serious corrosion issues from dissimilar metals. The new ones are made from stainless steel but before our new windlass gets installed we are making some changes to our chain locker.

Craig is fibreglassing a shelf which is to be installed in the chain locker. The idea is that when the anchor chain arrives at the chain locker it will hit the shelf and slide off it and into the deepest and widest part of the locker. This will prevent the chain castling in one big pile at the narrow part of the locker which is what happens now. Craig then has to run down below deck and haul it back before continuing with the job of bringing the anchor up. This can happen 3 times with 200feet of chain and it is a real pain in the butt that makes hauling up the anchor a much slower process. Our new shelf should make hauling up the anchor and bringing in the chain much easier.

30th May. Boat maintenance.

I really enjoy doing boat jobs and there is always something to be done. It is a great way of getting to know our boat. As full time cruisers we now have time to do these jobs ourselves. In our previous busy working lives we used to congratulate ourselves if we could find a day to go sailing. We would get out onto Moreton Bay and say "hey this is great, we should do it more often." Limited time meant we often had to pay someone else to do essential maintenance jobs. When we do our own maintenance we learn how to pull things apart, how they work, what is causing problems, what needs replacing, cleaning or lubricating. Ideally, this will prevent problems when we are underway.

It's time to clean and lubricate all of our winches on board.

We like to make sure we have everything we need before pulling things apart in remote anchorages.

Hot Springs

There are hot springs in Savusavu. This photo shows the steaming shoreline at low tide.

Just behind the building is a stream and more thermal hot springs.

The locals use the hot springs daily for their cooking needs. This photo shows 2 pots of food which the locals are cooking in the boiling water. The stream which runs beside it is cool water.

25th May…Bula, Bula! and Welcome to Fiji! Our friends on Exodus arrived this morning after spending cyclone season in New Zealand. We went to the bakery and greeted them with 2 fresh loaves of white bread. After a long passage, that is always appreciated.

Tim and Deanne are very happy to be arriving in Fiji. We have been invited over for "safe arrival drinks" once they get checked in. Lunch will be burgers at Surf & Turf and there goes the day!

23rd May...Savusavu

Our visitor has gone home and Craig and I are enjoying a calm evening in Savusavu. Aaahh, the serenity.

22nd May….Sailing in Fiji. This is the movie which covers our visitor David on board, our trip to Vanua Balavu, Koro Island and back to Savusavu. We hope you enjoy.

Sailing Fiji….Hit the Play button and come along for the ride.

May 20th….Wednesday was all about the fishing on the way back to Savusavu. Mahi Mahi. Mahi Mahi. Yes 2 big ones landed on board and both caught on the handline with a pink lure. Craig had just finished cleaning the first one and the second one arrived. We put the fishing lines away after that. No more fishing today.

David was very happy with the first Mahi Mahi but couldn't believe it when the second one arrived. We are keeping the fish head for our Fijian friends back in Savusavu.

Fish No. 2 was time to pack away the gear and celebrate. Then the big clean up…boat and fish.

Monday afternoon…we departed for Koro Island. Approx 92nm. We discovered a problem with our in-mast furling main so we sailed through the night with 15-20knots wind and just the headsail out. We chose Koro Island as we can pick up a mooring there (anchor windlass still not working) and it is only a day hop back to Savusavu. Craig took David on a quick tour and the next morning we went snorkelling on the outer reef.

David is doing his best "Oh what a feeling" pose. A little bit higher David.

This is the resort at Koro Island and it is open for locals, guests and cruisers to use their facilities.

Current location…..Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau.

Sunday…A day of rest. Swimming, watching movies, exploring and coffee on board Cat Impi.

I am the only one carrying a camera so it looks like I have to take my own photo. Another bad hair day in paradise.

Cat Impi are anchored close to us in their very own secluded anchorage location L-R Ana, David, Craig and Brent

Saturday…..After a swim and a big breakfast of french toast with yogurt, banana & passionfruit Craig and David worked on getting our anchor windlass working. Unfortunately, it is still not working.

Later that day we met up with Cat Impi and Nautilus for lunch and to help celebrate Katrine's birthday. We spotted this beautiful beach yesterday and it was a great place to picnic, swim and snorkel.

The beach has a nice cleared area with shade & stump seating. We were surprised to find there was another beach and bay on the other side of this clearing. It is only 100m from beach 1 to beach 2.

The beach and bay on the other side.

David enjoyed snorkelling at the point in front of the bay and saw schools of parrotfish.


The water is clean, clear and aqua blue. This is a pristine location unaffected by pollution and the spoils of man.

It's time to explore. This is an amazing anchorage. There are so many bays and inlets and rock pinnacles that it is easy to spend the whole day exploring. There are 2 other boats around the corner in another bay. They are Cat IMPI and S/V Nautilus. There could be 100 boats here and they could all have their very own anchorage and not see or hear anyone. We are the 4th boat here this season. 1st Guava Jelly, 2nd Cat Impi, 3rd Nautilus and 4th True Blue V. Last season only 20 boats visited and signed the Visitors Book at the Village.


David on passage to Lau

David flew in to Savusavu on Tuesday and Craig met him at the airport at 3.45pm. After a welcome beverage at the Copra Shed Marina, we pulled the dinghy up and headed out of Nakama Creek on our voyage to Lau. The wind was on the nose so we tacked back and forth all night. The next day the wind turned SSE giving us a straight line to Vanua Balavu. We made a decision around dark to heave-to for the night. We thought this would be a good exercise as we could have dinner; get some sleep by establishing a 2 hour watch system; be well away from islands & reefs and practice heaving to. It worked well. We reefed in the main and headsail, backwinded the headsail and turned the rudder to windward. We drifted an average of 1nm/hour. At 3am we let out the headsail and were underway again. The wind was not in our favour so it took all day to get to our destination. We arrived at 4pm and enjoyed a beautiful calm anchorage and a good nights sleep.

Our first visitor aboard experience. Craig's cousin David is arriving 12th May.

Some cruisers have visitors and some never do. It is easy to understand both points of view. Afterall our 45 foot boat is really a small 1 bedroom apartment with a storage room for sail bags, fold up bikes, boxes, air conditioner and boat stuff…lots of stuff. It used to be known as the aft cabin but that was before we became live a boards. We initially thought we would get all that gear off the boat and David could have his own space but it is easier to leave it all there. We asked Dolly at the Copra Shed Marina if there was somewhere secure to keep it for a couple of weeks. She asked is it valuable? does it need to be secure? which is bit like "do you want it back?" Yes, it is valuable to us but I am sure others would like to ride the bikes too! So probably best to keep it all on board. At least we know where it is.

Space is relative. Sometimes we may go to a boat (usually a catmaran) and exclaim "Oh, nice space!" Others will come to our boat and say "wow your boat is huge". My eyes widen "really?" It doesn't feel huge when trying to cook a meal with limited bench space that also lifts up for fridge, freezer and pantry storage. Some cruisers have even stepped into my very limited space known as the galley and exclaimed "wow you have plenty of room for 2 people in here!" If they are helping prepare something then i will smile and agree and together we will drink more wine. If they are in my way and just hanging out then I might say "No, its definitely a 1 person galley." I try to resist the urge to pinch their bottom but have not always been successful much to their shock and surprise. Craig has even learnt to ask "Permission to enter" as he always wants to lift the bench and grab a beer at the worst possible times.

Making bread…..this galley space is occupied.

David was due to arrive on 2nd May but weather showed a (BFH) Big Fat High was sending honking SE winds our way with up to 30/35 knots and rough seas. David is keen to do some sailing and would have been disappointed to sit at a mooring in Savusavu for 6 out of his 9 days. Lucky for him he was able to change his flights. Visitors need to know that we have to work with the weather. It is what it is. Passage planning is important as arrival at new anchorages should be planned for when the sun is still high in the sky and reefs and coral heads can be seen. Navionics cannot be blindly trusted and a google earth backup is a good idea. Some tried and trusted waypoints are handy too. If we arrive at a village before 3pm then the villagers will be expecting us for a Sevusevu ceremony. Bula Vinaka! None of this is an issue. It is all a balance between where we want to go, when we want to go and whether or not we can get there at the right time.

They have seen your boat arrive, they are now waiting for you to visit their village.

The biggest advantage of sailing here in Fiji is that very few people have access to the outer islands. It is not just about the destination but also about the journey to get there. To be welcomed into a remote village and to see how these people live in their daily lives is an experience you will not forget. If you stay long enough it may even change how you think about your own life. Either way it will leave you wanting to come back for more. It is a privilege for us to be able to share this experience with our dearest friends and relatives and Fii is the best destination to do this.

How now to Lau! Departing 12th May.

The Lau Group is a large area of 188square miles and consists of 60 islands of which 30 are inhabited. All but 8 are very small. The islands are east of the 2 main islands Viti Levi and Vanua Levu and may be referred to as Eastern Lau, Eastern Archipelago, Northern Lau, Southern Lau or just Lau. Lau is not easy to get to and the lack of resorts, transport, entertainment, shops and facilities make it a perfect destination to arrive by boat. 2 of the islands have a small airport/runway and is serviced by a weekly flight but only in good weather conditions.

Lau Islands shown by Google Maps.

The Fiji Government has only recently allowed the Lau Group to be opened up to cruisers. Cruisers must first clear in to the country and apply for a Cruising Permit or risk a huge $$$ fine. Our cruising permit is good for 6 months. This area is so remote that Fijians of this area follow a subsistence lifestyle that has not changed too much from their ancestors. The island life may be simple and the people may be poor in material terms but they are rich in family, history and traditions and a lifestyle removed from our western society ways. For us to be accepted into a village we must present a gift of kava to the Chief and ask for permission to be there. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that someone pulls into your driveway and sets up a tent to camp for the night. It would be very rude if they didn't show you any respect by coming to ask you if that was ok. What if they started to pick your flowers and use your water? The Chief will usually welcome you to his village and grant permission for you to anchor/fish/swim/dive/hike/go to church…..etc. It is truly a wonderful way to start a friendship and get to know the local people.

These photos from the Internet. Images of Lau. I look forward to getting my own photos soon.

It is important that we as cruisers visit the area with the right attitude. Cruisers need to be self sufficient. Fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to find and the local people are not used to the idea of selling things that are normally shared freely with friends and family. We will take some items that may be useful to them. These items may include toothbrushes, school items, soap, laundry soap, simple medical treatments, thongs, clothes or some other consumable item which could be used to trade, donate or simply say thanks. No alcohol, no lollies. Our visitor, David, arrives on Tuesday and then it is off to Lau for a visit which I already know will be too short. He is bringing a new camera for me and I can't wait to get snapping again. Lau is remote and internet/phone access may be variable or non existent. Some of the best anchorages in the South Pacific are waiting for us in Lau. I can't wait to get out there and check it out.

1st May 2015….is the official end of cyclone season and the official beginning of the the cruising season. We have applied for a Special Permit which will allow us to stay an extra 6 months without having to leave the country. We are loving Fiji for the simplicity of life, happiness, laughter and light-heartedness of the local people.

Chief Moses at Qamea Village is still our favourite chief in our favourite village.

Farewell to S/V Lady Carolina…..our sailing buddies whom we first met 2 years ago at the dock in La Paz, Mexico.

In true style S/V Lady Carolina departed Savusavu as the sun set today. With Kyle at the helm, Steve in his bright yellow mankini outfit and Carolina and Joel up on deck, we escorted them out of the harbour. Craig and I were in our dinghy, with our huge pirate flag flying and a very loud horn to ensure everyone in the anchorage noticed. Along the way, Craig handed Steve a cold beer as he had promised they would have one last beer together. We stopped at S/V Guava Jelly and picked up Ricky and Wade before continuing our escort to the entrance of the harbour. Farewell dear friends! We will miss you more than you know. Bon Voyage!

Easter Tuesday….Up anchor at 0600 hours for our full day passage from Qamea Island back to our mooring at Savusavu. 30 knot wind against tide made the first 6 miles very unpleasant as we passed close to reefs and surf breaks. After that the wind was on the aft quarter and although still a vigorous ride it was much more tolerable and later in the day enjoyable. Craig was determined to catch a fish and put the handline out. With main and headsail out, doing 7kts boat speed we hooked up a 184cm Short Billed Spearfish.

Check out that blue fin. Sorry about my thumb but I am not used to taking photos with my phone. I slowed the boat to 5kts and Craig did a great job getting it on board.

This is the biggest fish landed on True Blue V. We will share it around and still fill the freezer. The fish head is highly prized by the Fijians so we are keeping it for our friend Simi at the Copra Shed Marina. It will make his day.

One of my favourite photos...

Chief Moses with his grand daughter Josephine. I told Moses I would bring him some of the photos next time we visit.

Easter Sunday…Floyd invited us to church at 10am and to lunch with his family afterwards. Everyone dresses up and the singing is beautiful. The service was conducted in Fijian and they made us feel very welcome. Lunch with Floyd and his family was very enjoyable and we tried some new & tasty Fijian dishes. I made a Walu seafood chowder, boiled rice and chocolate cake which we added to the feast. Thank you Vatusogosogo for your hospitality and friendship and making Easter so enjoyable for us.

They are very proud of their village church as they had to build a new one after Cyclone Tomas blew away their old one in 2010. They saved the money to build by doing regular Meke (fijian dancing) shows at a resort on a nearby island. Their goal now is to build a community building out of concrete blocks - a strong building that will provide shelter in a cyclone. Only 3 of their houses survived that cyclone and they said all the leaves on the trees were stripped bare. Wind reached speeds of 240km.

Easter Saturday….Floyd from the Vatusogosogo village offered to show us his garden today. It was different to what I expected because I was thinking he would show me a square plot about a 1/4 acre. Thats Floyd in the photo below.

Instead he took us on a hike through bushland, past his relatives homes, up and down hills, across creeks and through the footy field whilst showing us trees, plants, roots, bananas, kava, eggplant, taro, cassava, chilli, string beans, corn and everything else which they grow to eat. They grow and eat everything and sell kava for income.

The local fruit and vegetable market. Taro leaves up front, long stringy leaves for weaving, banana trees, coconut trees, breadfruit and papaya. Floyd gave me a breadfruit and cassava root to take home and make hot chips with. Thanks Floyd!

Unfortunately it rained really heavy and my camera got flooded. I don't know if it will survive. It is currently drying out in uncooked rice. Fingers crossed. No, it's definitely gone to camera heaven.

Good Friday…..We had a great day hanging out in the village today. Moses invited us and IMPI to join him for a traditional fijian lunch after church. Anna and I both cooked up some dishes to take in and share. It was a feast which we all enjoyed.

The camera loves the kids. The kids love the camera.

Sam is pounding the kava root to prepare it for drinking later. Ana & I have returned to our boats leaving Craig & Brent to do some serious kava drinking with the men. Not too serious….mostly laughing and telling stories. The more kava you drink the more relaxed you get and the less talking you do.

April 2nd….. The Qamea Mud Walk. Craig, Brent and I went to the village to see Chief Moses to do our sevusevu ceremony. Unfortunately we arrived at low tide so I opted to stay in the dinghy. Apparently we could have gone to a nice sandy beach 200m away and walked along a path to arrive at the village. Now we know! I thought you might enjoy watching the mud walk. I enjoyed watching it from the dinghy.

Push play for this movie which is about "nothing" but mud walking. Good for a laugh. Song is Can You Do This by Aloe Blacc.

Moses invited us in to drink kava with them later in the day.

Chief Moses in the middle is a real family man and exudes genuine warmth and hospitality. All the kids adore him.

Carla, Frances, Moses and Sam enjoying kava with us.

High tide makes all the difference as the kids race Craig & me in to shore.

April 1st 2015….Up anchor at 0700 hours. We motored across the Somosomo Strait to Waiyevo. A taxi into town and some more provisions before venturing on to Qamea Island which is on the other side of Taveuni.

The best of the fresh foods grown by locals is always at the street market.

Prices are good and the locals are friendly.

The fish are back and everyone is happy about it. We caught this toothy guy, a Walu, on the way to Qamea. Catching fish always makes a good day even better!

Tuesday, 31st March….only 1 month of cyclone season left. We are at Viani Bay and making the most of the cooler weather.

Jack Fisher is at the wheel and heading S/V Salsa out of the bay. As you can see everyone else on board is enjoying a break from the helm. We are all off to snorkel a dive site located near Taveuni Island called The Fish Factory. We had a very enjoyable morning and saw lots of healthy reef, an abundant variety of small fish and ended the dive with white tip reef sharks cruising around under us.

Viani Bay….It's Monday morning

The local kids are off to school which is just across the bay. You can see flowers floating behind their boat. Jack tells me they are called wedding flowers and fall from the Vutu tree. Every morning these beautiful flowers float past our boats with the outgoing tide.

The Vutu tree flowers only at night. This is the fragrant wedding flower. It falls from the pod which is shown hanging from the branches. During the day there are no flowers.

Its always good to get off the boat for a beach walk.

The rolling hills of Viani Bay. This photo L-R Cat IMPI, Salsa and True Blue V.

Taveuni Island….

Craig is rowing the dinghy into shore. Saturday mornings are a good time to stock up on fresh fruit & vegetables as the locals bring in their fresh produce to sell.

The local police boat. A multi purpose boat which gets used for many things including getting supplies and transporting family and friends across the Somosomo Strait.

Where are the Hot Springs? This is our 3rd time at Fawn Harbour and we ventured out to find the hot springs. Last time we tried to find them it had rained so much that the road was so wet and slippery with mud that we gave up. Today, we asked a local "is it far?" He replied "it is a bit far."

On the road to the hot springs.

Oh yes, that is definitely hot. Like a really hot bath.

This pool has a little bit of hot and a little bit of cold. It is nice but I am feeling a bit nervous after Craig jumped out in a hurry. He wasn't sure if something bit him or he sat on a stick.

True Blue V at anchor in Fawn Harbour. The tide is going out and you can see the outer reef. This is a suggested hurricane hole.

End of March…..25th It is cooler and we can sleep easier at night. That has got to be good. It is a relief that the hot tropical summer is coming to an end. We have ventured out of Savusavu again and we are now at anchor at Fawn Harbour.

We simply love being out of the harbour and at anchor.

Check out this homemade canoe. A sheet of iron folded in half. OK so its abit close to the water but hey this if Fiji and they could probably fit another 3 people in there. Friendly locals paddled out to offer us fresh papaya and fruits grown in their garden. They are planning their own trip to Australia in 2015 to do some fruit picking. Enjoy!

S/V Lady Carolina are heading back home to North America soon. Brent and Anna from IMPI generously hosted a farewell party for them. Goodbye, good luck and thanks for many great travelling adventures & special moments. Many of these have been captured in our movies and will always bring back great memories. Also in this photo is Staffan & Eleanor and their daughter Erika from S/V Salsa. They have joined the Sea Mercy team and are taking their boat to Vanuatu to assist the local people in outer islands, after Cyclone Pam caused massive devastation. We wish you the best and will follow your journey with great interest.

Mid March…Cyclones. We have been having a great cyclone season with no real threats to speak of. Cyclone Pam has been our first major threat with warnings of a Monster Cyclone approaching. It is reportedly the largest cyclone in the South Pacific since 2002. As per our cyclone plan, we returned to our mooring at Savusavu and started preparing our boat for strong winds and the possibility of a direct hit from a monster storm. Yes, we imagine the worst. We know cyclones are unpredictable so we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Not everyone does this. Afterall it is a lot of work. However, we are finding that the more we pull our boat apart then the easier it is to put it back together. It's a great way to get to know your boat. We pull it apart, clean it, notice repairs & maintenance and can store the sail, bimini and dodger whilst they are still dry. Sails are easier to get down and fold when there is little wind and no rain. We ended up with some gusty NW winds and small rain squalls but nothing to worry about. Certainly not enough rain to fill our tanks.

All good here! Check the picture below. Fiji is in the top right corner breathing a sigh of relief after escaping the worst of Pam.

We watched the weather reports and tracked the cyclone which to our relief headed more S than E. Unfortunately Vanuatu copped a direct hit from Severe Cyclone Pam Cat 5 when it swerved SW towards them. We currently know that Vanuatu has no communications, massive devastation and loss of life and we wait to hear more news with heavy hearts.

This picture was taken on 15th March with Cyclone Pam well past Fiji and Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It should lose alot of strength by the time it arrives down in NZ but I know our cruiser friends down south are preparing for Pam and expecting strong gale force winds and heavy rain. Batten down folks!

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Cyclones are unpredictable so it is important to keep up to date with their latest track.

March…A visit to Labasa whichis a busy Indian market town with a population of about 25,000. It is a working town that services Vanua Levu's major cane-growing area. Located on the Northern side of the island it reportedly has little to interest the average tourist. The bus ride over costs 6fjd and takes you high up into the mountains and rainforests, past pine forests and then down to the cane farms on the delta. The Labasa river snakes around the main street which is long and lined with shops and restaurants.

The Indo-Fijians are very friendly and the prices are much better than Savusavu. I missed the market which is supposed to be really good. Cruisers travel to Labasa to see Optometrists, Dentists and Doctors and also to search for mechanical parts, computer/electrical items, materials, clothes and hardware items that are hard to find or cheaper here. Labasa is pronounced as Lam-basa. It may not be very exciting for tourists but we liked it. It's real and has a down to earth farming community feel about it.

The challenges of living in the tropics on a boat…during the summer cyclone season in Fiji.

Warning: This article may dash the illusion of tropical bliss. However it is what it is!

It's hot, too hot. It's humid, too humid. It's sweaty, too sweaty. Clothes are bothersome. They are hot and annoying and undesirable.

Rain…well it is the wet season. Rain can be lots of little showers where you have to rush around and shut all hatches and port lights quickly. As soon as you close everything the boat immediately starts to heat up. As soon as the rain shower passes the hatches are opened again. This is not much fun when you are sound asleep and then woken by rain drops on your face or arm. Instantly springing out of bed to shut everything down because you know those first few drops are the only warning you will get before a torrential downpour. Of course a few drops always get in here and there and now we have warmth with moisture. It's uncomfortable but mould loves it and thrives everywhere. Timber veneers, gelcoat, pillows, carpet, clothes, anything leather, fruit and veg, coconuts, you name it - mould loves it. So armed with vinegar and bleach it's a battle that is difficult to win, but one that you can't afford to lose and can never give up trying.

Every so often we will get a Heavy Rain Alert. When it rains it pours…it means abundant water and for me its time to get to work. It's wonderful and heaps cooler outside the boat anyway. It's time to fill buckets, jerry cans, water bottles, open up the water tank, have a shower, wash the cockpit; cockpit cushions; dodger clears; deck; clothes, dishes, flush the water maker; flush the anchor windlass, the bilge and shower sump. And sometimes its just nice to sit on the coachroof and enjoy. I get great pleasure watching pure Fiji rain water fill our water tank. I usually look around at the other boats and I see no one. Everyone is staying warm and dry down below. They have missed a great opportunity and are usually seen at the dock filling their tanks with the questionable local supply.

Then the sun comes out and its time to put everything out to dry again.

Jobs…Cleaning the bottom of the boat regularly helps keep it clean from growth and barnacles. Our Air Line Hookah system has been a good investment and Craig and I like to clean the bottom ourselves. Its a great opportunity to see what is happening down there. The more you do it the easier it is. We have been very happy with our bottom paint but it has been a couple of years since it was done and it is time to haul the boat and do it again. Armed with 2 plastic scrapers we take a side each and usually get the job done in about 2+ hours. A little longer if the zincs need changing. Craig found 2 baby lobsters this time. 1 hanging inside our bowthruster and the other in the marine forest around our freezer plate.

Engine Maintenance….Craig has been busy. This month included replacing an exhaust hose, tightening engine mounts, changing oil & fuel filters, replace oil, tighten the fan belt, replace an impeller,change engine mats.

Pantry Weevils….have inspired a huge clean out. Infested foods have been thrown out and everything has been date checked and stored in containers. We have discovered we have lots more storage on our starboard side which can be used to free up some space in the aft cabin. It's not all bad as those dreaded pantry weevils are responsible for me finding another 3 boxes of white wine from Mexico!

Forward Head…the toilet! Yes everything will need maintenance at some point. It has stopped working and this job is designated as a "blue job". Yes, Craig can have that one. He has been busy clearing lines and in future we will take further preventative maintenance as this rates as one of those "least desirable" jobs on a boat. Luckily we have 2 toilets on board!

And so that brings us to the end of February. With only 2 months left of the cyclone season, It is a time when we start to think about the cruising season ahead. Some cruisers who left their boats here for the summer are starting to return to their boats. Others who stayed in Fiji are planning their next voyage to far away places. We are thinking that we might just stay here in Fiji and do it all again because the diving here is some of the best in the world and there is so much more to see, explore and learn. We feel it might be too early to leave.

Fiji is a great country and it really is hard to beat a big Fijian smile. Bula Vinaka!

Saturday is race day and the kids sail Lasers in the Nakama Creek. Last Saturday, the starting line and turning point was our boat at its mooring. There was lots of yelling and laughter whilst the kids on the start boat Kalia jumped overboard for a swim. All good fun.

"Dan Does Fiji"……is my latest slideshow/movie. Dan is Steve's best friend and he visited Fiji staying on Lady Carolina. I put together a movie for him and captured some great moments that we all shared (including Brent and Anna from IMPI). Film and photos were shared by Dan, Lady Carolina and us. I am happy to share it with you all as it captures the fun we all had doing our advanced diving course and swimming with pilot whales.

Push play for "Dan Does Fiji"

Middle of February….Savusavu. The last couple of days have been awesome. Craig and I have been doing our PADI Advanced Diving Course. It has been a long time since we did our Open Water so it is all new and exciting again. Our first adventure dive was Deep Diving and was down to a depth of 40m with hammerhead sharks. Someone should have invited the hammerhead sharks because they obviously had other arrangements and didn't show up. Our next dive was Navigation which was ok except my dive buddy was Craig and he kept pointing at where I should go. I'm supposed to use the compass Craig. Night Diving was last night and our dive location was "Lighthouse" out near Cousteau Resort. It was a beautiful evening both on and under the water. Everyone enjoyed it.

Today we went to Namena Island/Reef which is one of the Top 10 diving locations in the world. On the way to Namena we came across a pod of Short Fin Pilot Whales. This was unexpected and totally delightful. Our fast dive boat came to a stop so that we could check them out but it wasn't long before several of us wanted to go snorkelling with them. I jumped in off the back of the boat and saw Dan with his head under the water filming. When I got closer I thought "that's not a whale, that's a shark. And it's big!"

It is amazing how your desire to snorkel with Pilot Whales can overcome your fears and anxieties about being in the middle of open water with oceanic sharks around. (Photo by Dan)

The whales had moved away so we all appreciated a tow to their new location.

Craig, Kyle, me and Brent at the end of the tow line

Soon we were close enough to the Pilot Whales so that we could swim out to them. Notice how we are all staying close together. Don't worry, that fin that we are all heading to is a Short Finned Pilot Whale. We were able to swim behind the whales. They stayed just in front of us and were not worried by our presence. In the first group was a mum with 2 calves. We were heading back to the boat when someone yelled "there's more whales over there" and off we went again! Great fun.

At Namena….Our first dive was called "The Chimneys" which is 2 pinnacles rising up from the bottom, covered in soft corals and small fish. Depth is about 60-80 feet and we circled down and around the first one and then crossed over to the second pinnacle before winding our way back to the top. It was a great dive with lots of thriving soft corals and every kind of small fish hiding in amongst it.

We enjoyed lunch at Namena Island at a beautiful white sandy beach with coconut palm trees. Thanks to Ana from IMPI for supplying lunch for Craig and I.

After lunch we proceeded to our next location known as "Grand Central Station" for our final dive of the day. This dive had larger fish including a huge Humphead Wrasse, White Tip Sharks, Grouper, Sweetlip, Barracuda and lots of schooling fish. Unfortunately visibility was not very good but that didn't stop us from enjoying it.It was a big day out and we had a fast trip back to Savusavu. Craig and I slept well that night.

Thanks to Rodney and his team from Namena Diving for making our Advanced Diving Course a highlight and very memorable experience of our stay in Fiji. Awesome.

End of January….We are back in Savusavu to see what happens with the weather. There were lots of lows and threats of a cyclone developing so we motored all the way back and now that we are here it looks like it has fizzled out. We will reprovision, do some maintenance jobs and hang out here for a short time. Finally, a map to show where we are!

26 January, Australia Day was celebrated at Rabi Island.

We celebrated on board with a BBQ stuffed chook, spuds, pumpkin, carrot and onion, spinach and beans, gravy, fresh bread/rolls, followed by chocolate mousse. We flew the flags and played Australian music all day. We invited everyone in the anchorage which was a total of 4 Canadians from Lady Carolina to come over and party. It was a fun day.

We are at Rabi Island….Rabi lives to a different set of rules than the rest of Fiji. Some things are the same such as monetary, postal, education systems, kava drinking (Fijian implant) and Methodism. The local language is Gilbertese and the social order is that of the Gilbert Islands. Cooking is done outside in thatched huts. The islanders fish with handlines from outrigger canoes. To understand why Rabi is different you have to know some of their history. So here it is:

1855 At the request of the Tui Cakau on Taveuni a Tongan army conquers some Fijian rebels on Rabi. The Tongans depart and the local Chief sells Rabi to the Europeans to cover outstanding debts. Until WWII an Australian firm Lever Bros ran a coconut plantation there.

In 1940, the British government began searching for an island to purchase as a resettlement area for the Micronesian inhabitants of Ocean Island (Banaba) in the Gilbert Islands (presently part of Kiribati) whose home island was being ravaged and destroyed by phosphate mining. With the outbreak of WWII the Japanese occupied Ocean Island. Back in Fiji, British officials decided Rabi Island would be a better homeland for the Banabans and so in March 1942 they purchased Rabi from Lever Brothers using L25,000 of phosphate royalties. Meanwhile, the Japs had deported the Banabans to Kosrae in the Caroline Islands to serve as labourers and it was not until December 1945 that the survivors were bought to Rabi, where their 4,500 descendants live today. (Ref: Moon Handboooks South Pacific David Stanley)

Rabi at low tide. We went for a walk to check out the beautiful white sandy beach and meet Bill and his family who live here.

Bill asked us if we liked coconut water…yes…he then sent his son up the coconut tree to get coconuts for us. You can't get much fresher than that.

Thumbs up! Coconut water is sweet and delicous and I think it is good for you too!

After drinking, Tabitha shows us how to open the coconut and scoop out the soft flesh to eat. Also sweet and delicious.

Matthew and Tabitha guided us on a hike to Smiley Bay where we met the local family. Mr Kee Ke (left) caught a large gummy shark in his net yesterday and is holding its tail. He is with his 2 sons and Matthew is in the red shirt. That is a roll your own tobacco/cigarette in Mr Kee Ke's mouth.

The shark is cooking in the pot and Matthew has his hands in the sharks mouth. What a smile.

21 January…Taveuni Island at anchor. We arrived earlier today at Waiyevo and dropped anchor. If you are coming here be sure to check out Sliding Rocks. A 20 minute walk will bring you to a creek and further up is a waterfall where the local kids like to ride the sliding rocks. Some spots are like a slippery dip and local kids go down standing up. Today, we had the place to ourselves and it was wonderful to feel the chill of fresh water. I can't remember the last time I had goosebumps but we gladly sat in the pool and played for over 2 hours. Feeling cold was a real treat.

This is a beautiful spot which we will come back to.

17 January….Snakes Alive! I had just climbed back onto the boat after cleaning the waterline when Craig said "Hey Leanne, look at this. There is a sea snake swimming right where you were cleaning".

This is a fine specimen of a highly venomous black and white banded sea snake. They are usually docile and will not attack people unless they are severely provoked. They have little mouths too small to open wide enough for a good bite, however, with venom 20 times stronger than any land snake "Who the hell wants to find out?"

16 January, Viani Bay…..Jack Fisher! We have picked up one of Jack's moorings which is right in front of his house. He rowed his boat out to welcome us and generously gave us a bucket full of bananas, pineapples and pumpkin. Everyone knows Jack, especially cruisers. He is 3rd generation European descent and he and his family own alot of the land around Viani Bay. He says he knows all the best spots for snorkelling, diving, anchoring etc and he wants cruisers to use his services for a fee. It is not a bad deal especially if you get one of his moorings which are free.

This is Jack Fisher on board with us heading out to do some snorkelling. Anchoring here was tricky and I doubt we would have dropped the anchor without Jack's guidance. I would have felt more comfortable if someone had stayed on board. However, Craig and I snorkel-drifted down along the scenic reef and Jack followed us in our dinghy. Taveuni is in the background (left) and after snorkelling we went across the Somosomo Strait to Waiyevo to pick up a few supplies. It was a great day.

13 January, Hit the road….on a bus from Fawn Harbour to Napuka return. It was a 5 hour return trip in an open air bus on a long dusty dirt road through numerous Fijian villages. We thought we would arrive at the village of Napuka, hop out, stretch our legs, have a bite to eat, a cool drink, use the restrooms and a walk on the beach. Instead, the bus started to do a 3 point turn to turn around and I asked the man sitting across the aisle "How much further to Napuka?" He said "This is it". So I asked "How long have we got before the bus heads back?" He said "We are leaving now". Oh.

Everyone wanders out to see family get on and off the bus. When our bus meets another bus coming the other way the drivers stop and have a chat. Meanwhile people on our bus recognise friends and family on the other bus so they start to wave and call out too. Its all very sociable.

The ladies are working making brooms and crafts to sell. This is also a food stop and people hang out the window to buy cooked corn and sliced watermelon. The guy we asked about Napuka leaned over and handed me 2 slices of fresh watermelon for Craig and me to eat. I accepted his kind gesture and couldn't keep the smile off my face as I heard Craig whisper in my ear "but I don't eat watermelon!" I really wanted to take his photo as he ate the whole piece including seeds but my hands were full.

The Fijians love the water and they love to play. These kids balance on the rail and wait for the busdriver to give the signal to jump.

11 January….Sunset at Fawn Harbour……on our own after Cat IMPI returned to Savusavu today. Poor Brent got cut up quite badly by his new helicopter drone so he needs to be closer to the hospital. He received a big gash in his arm requiring 12 stitches and his little finger had about 8 cuts. In the tropics it is very important to take care of any cuts to avoid infection. No doubt, they will be keen to get it all fixed up and get back out sailing again.

9 January…..Fawn Harbour, Vanua Levu. Weather: hot and humid, not much wind. During this last week we have been back in to Savusavu to reprovision and we have spent time at Cousteau anchorage. Yesterday, with no wind we motored 34nm to Fawn Harbour.

On the way, we spotted a pod of Short-Finned Pilot Whales. They grow to a length of 3.6-6.5m and are described as jet black or dark grey colour with a rounded bulbous forehead. The dorsal fin is set forward.

It was the highlight of my day to see them as I have never seen them before. I hope to see them again and have more photo opportunities. We saw 4 separate lots with a total of about 30 whales. Cool!

2 January 2015…...Levuka, Ovalau Island. This is Fiji's First World Heritage Site. Founded in 1820 by European settlers, shipwrecked sailors and traders, Levuka soon became an important port and trading post. It is described as a rare and outstanding example of a late 19th century Pacific port settlement. It was once the capital of Fiji but by 1882 the expanding town needed more room. It was limited by the high mountains surrounding it and so Suva became the new capital. A visit to Levuka is like turning back time.

The main street of Levuka follows the waterfront. Tomorrow is fresh market day where the locals bring their fresh produce in to town to sell it. They start arriving and setting up at 4am.

We are anchored right in front of this church.

The timber and tin housing reminds me of Queensland. The shops here are good for reprovisioning and diesel and petrol can be obtained from the Service Station.

2014 New Years Eve….Happy New Year from Makogai Island, Fiji! We are excited to be here and have been invited to shore to celebrate with the locals. Church is at 8.30pm, partying and kava drinking from 9.30pm and the children dance for us at 11pm. Midnight is celebrated and then I expect there will be kava drinking until the wee hours.

Well, that was the plan. Church didn't finish until about 11.00pm and the service was all in Fijian so we couldn't understand it. It was long and boring and nor could we escape. Earlier in the day Craig and Steve took the Chief some extra kava so that they could drink with him and the locals on NYE. However later in the evening the Chief told Craig that he had already drunk Craig and Steve's kava! On a positive note, us cruising ladies made little chocolate cakes to hand around to the locals. The kids played and it was nice to hang out with the locals for a while. From Mexico to Fiji, 2014 has been a wonderful cruising year for us. Welcome 2015!

29 December…..At Makogai Island. We arrived yesterday and went straight to shore to meet the Chief and do our Sevusevu ceremony. From 1911 to 1969 this was a Leper Colony and many of the old buildings still stand. Today it is owned by the Department of Agriculture and they grow Giant Clams and Hawksbill Turtles for rehabitation to Fiji waters.

We are all sitting on the steps which are the only remains left of the hospital. After our Sevusevu ceremony the Chief's father spoke to us about the history of Makogai. Patients arrived from all over the Pacific and separate villages for ethnic groups were constructed to promote peace and order. Women were kept separate from the men. In total, over 4000 patients landed on the island.

It is interesting to walk around what is left of the Leper colony. Old kitchens, a lock-up, housing and foundations, even an outdoor movie theatre is still here.

Of course the cemetery is close by. There are about 1500 people buried here in the cemetery.

These Hawksbill Turtles are about 2 years old and will be returned to Fijian waters soon. Notice they have a pointed hooked beak. Reports say that this program is working well.

The Chief shows us the Baby Giant Clams which are growing in this tank. Once in abundance on Fiji's reefs, many species have been overharvested. It's great to see Fijians being proactive about rebuilding the giant clam population on their reefs.

27 December…..At Koro Island. This sand island only appears at low tide.

which makes it a great place to get together for an afternoon beverage with friends and locals.

Any excuse to get off the boat for a while.

Merry Christmas everyone! Be safe and enjoy. Thanks for following our website.

Christmas Day was spent at Cousteau anchorage. It was a quiet and very enjoyable Christmas for us. We played Christmas carols and enjoyed a BBQ roast chicken dinner followed by fruit cake and custard. Later that day we got together with the other cruisers at our anchorage and enjoyed drinks on board Cat Impi.

Merry Christmas! from me, Anna & Carolina.

22nd December…..Cousteau Resort at anchor. There is a strong wind warning and we are all watching 4 Tropical Lows whilst we wait for good weather to venture out again.

We are just around the corner from Savusavu. We spent 3 days back at our mooring where we reprovisioned and topped up the tanks. We are keen to get back out and explore some new islands. There is alot to see and do and at this time of year there are very few cruisers. The locals say this is the best time to go cruising.

Cousteau….This is a lovely spot to anchor. It has a white sandy beach and is protected in East and Southeast winds. We are hoping to get to Makogai for Christmas but that all depends on the weather.

11th December ….. We are heading back to Koro Island with our sailing buddies Impy and Lady Carolina. On the way there Impy and us catch a Mahi Mahi and we all decide to organise a BBQ to celebrate Anna's birthday.

Time to BBQ the Mahi Mahi with a bit of help from the locals who helped with organising a venue at short notice.

Yesterday we visited the closest village which is about 2 miles away and presented our Kava to the Chief. It is a simple thing to do and goes a long way to building goodwill. He generously offered us a cold drink and biscuits and has now given us permission to snorkel and fish in his waters.

Fijian kids extending their hands in friendship

Craig stands ready to pound the Kava root. He is wearing his Sulu and Bula Shirt. Looking good Craig! Behind him is the Village school and where they play rugby.

My 2 new friends have been collecting coconuts. They offered me some mangos and I gave them some lollies. Everyone was happy.

Craig checks out the view from one of the blocks of land. He is pointing down to Dere Bay where our boat is moored. You can see the pier from the resort extending out over the reef. One of the locals has started digging the holes for foundations.

At Koro Island. Craig paddles the kayak in to pick me up from the dock. That's my kind of transport these days.

Savusavu…..hanging out here and waiting for the weather to improve so that we can get out of our safe harbour and go sailing again.

Strong wind warnings and heavy rain are keeping us from venturing out. However, we have filled our water tank, jerry cans and water bottles. I suppose its time to watch another movie.

Still raining! I must be bored. No one is leaving their boats.

I really enjoy the local market. This is where we buy our fruit, veg and kava. Its also nice talking to the local ladies and having a laugh with them.

Fiji. December. Namena Island lies south of Vanua Levu and is a privately owned island. Today we have sailed here with Lady Carolina and Impy and anchored just around the corner from the Resort.

Of course we will go into the office and and pay our landing fee!

The island is surrounded by reef and is part of the Namena Marine Reserve. Because of overfishing, the local villages who own their fishing grounds declared their 'Qoliqoli' a no-take zone over 15 years ago. This area is known for its World Class Diving.

Rodney at Namena Diving has a half price special on their diving courses so we are planning on coming back to explore some of these wonderful dive spots and doing our Advanced Dive Course at the same time. I can't wait to see the underwater sights.

The island itself is a nesting spot for Red-Footed Boobies, Long Tail Tropical Birds and Hawksbill Turtles.

Baby Booby waiting for a feed.

Koro….Our next stop is Koro Island. It is about 20miles east of Namena Island. We don't have much information on it but it is so close that we will call in and check it out.

Dere Bay, Koro Island is an area where a developer has subdivided the land and you can buy 1 acre blocks and build your escape-to house. There is a small expat community living here and a small resort. It is a very pretty spot and snorkelling off the reef is very good. Note: November 2014, the Fijian Government legislated to stop Foreigners from being able to buy free-hold land. I don't know how Foreigners are going to be able to sell if they already have property here. It's a minefield of problems.

There are 14 villages on Koro Island and I have heard they all get together on Saturdays to play rugby. I'd like to see that although I think I will have to wait for the football season to start up again.

Coconut trees = Coconuts!

November. Qamea….off to see the Chief.

We are all wearing our fijian outfits. A sulu skirt, chumba top for the girls and a bula shirt for the boys. We dress to impress the Chief as a sign of respect. Kava is offered to the Chief and sometimes they will invite you to stay and drink with them. It is a very important tradition and must be done to be accepted into the Village.

Moses is the Chief and he is preparing the kava. The pounded root powder is mixed with water and then strained through the cloth. Our ceremony today is very relaxed and informal.

We were all given lemongrass tea and roti wrapped with coconut milk whilst we were waiting for the kava ceremony to begin. The Kava Ceremony must be done soon after arrival. At this Ceremony the Chief welcomed us to his village and we can now come and go freely for the next 6 months. Photo courtesy of Lady Carolina.

Sitting around the kava bowl. Although this can be a very serious ceremony this informal gathering felt almost like playing a drinking game. The chief hands you a bowl which is a bilo. A bilo is a drinking bowl which is made from a half shell of a coconut. Clap once, accept bowl, say "Bula", drink all in one go, everyone claps 3 times and says "Maca" (the c is pronounced as th) This means the bowl is empty.

The girls want us to take their photo and show them the picture but there are not too sure about it all.

The Chief gets a phone call on his mobile phone and heads to the back door to take it. Some things are just like at home.

November…..Fiji…….Before we know it we are back from our trip to Australia.

We spent days getting the boat back together and headed out of the harbour with sailing vessel Lady Carolina to check out cyclone holes. We are already in cyclone season and will need to be prepared. Fiji Meterological tells us it will be an average season of 6-10 cyclones of which Fiji has a moderate risk and can expect 1-2 cyclones with one of those being Cat 3 or higher. The fruit trees such as mangoes and breadfruit are heavy with abundant fruit. The locals believe this is a bad omen for cyclones. It is Mother Nature telling us to stock up now before the cyclones arrive.

A local sits under a mango tree. It is a great season for fruits but the locals are worried. Some have told us we are "very brave" to stay here in cyclone season. Perhaps they are being polite and really mean we are very "stupid".

This raft is built from bamboo poles and is called a bilibili. It is known as a one-way raft as it is built to travel only one way down the creek to make it to town. Locals also use them to cross the river.

The view from Copra Shed Marina. Many boaties leave their boat on a mooring here for the wet season. We are next in line on the waiting list for a mooring ball.

It is November and we are officially in Cyclone Season. We have no mooring and have not yet decided on our strategy for dealing with Cyclones. This is now being given our full attention.

It is early morning and we are back on True Blue V and underway again. It is great to get out of Savusavu for a while. We are off to check out cyclone holes around Vanua Levu with Lady Carolina.

Recommended Cyclone Holes NE side of Vanua Levu are:

1. Fawn Harbour. A beautiful harbour with a narrow entrance through the reef. A nearby village and a road which can go all the way to Savusavu. Good holding in mud. The outside reef offers protection but we feel the harbour is too large and in a cyclone we may have storm surge, waves and wind which may make us too vulnerable. No tie up in mangrove lined creeks.

2. Dakinuba. Just a few miles further on from Fawn Harbour. The same outside reef offers protection. Shaped like a clover leaf. Excellent holding in sticky mud. Some possibilities of tying up in mangroves but on further inspection not suitable due to access, rocks and small coral heads close to mangrove lined shore. It is too open to the sea and the bay is big. We would be relying on our anchors here. There is a small village of about 30 people.

3. Naiqaiqai. Can be accessed by travelling inside the reef from Dakinuba although there are some tricky parts travelling through reefs and coral heads. I like to travel at low tide in good sunlight to lay your first track. That way we can be in the centre of the pass and follow our track with more confidence if we need to use it in poor visibility. Today, we followed close behind Lady Carolina as they already had a track and it was mid tide and overcast. There are some good advantages to 'buddy boating'. I liked this anchorage, good holding in mud and mangrove lined in most areas without the coralheads or rocks. Could possibly tie up to mangroves on one side and anchors out on the other. Protection from Kioa Island although no sheltering reef. We would be sharing this anchorage with local dive boats and large ferries.

4. Qamea Island. Much smaller cyclone hole than the others but when we dropped anchor we had difficulty with setting it. Lady Carolina had the same problem. I think the bottom is a hard flat coral base and we were dragging over the top of it. We did eventually find some mud to pick in to. A local showed us a mangrove lined entrance to a creek which was about 5 feet deep and would fit 2-5 boats in (depending on size). We would be sharing this anchorage with the local dive boats.

Decision Time……What is our strategy for Cyclone Season?

We have checked out the 4 best recommended cyclone holes 30-70 miles north of Savusavu. Depending on the path and category of the cyclone these would offer shelter. We (and Lady Carolina) have now been offered a mooring in protected Namaka Creek, Savusavu.

Our strategy is to take the mooring and use it as a base to return to should a weather event occur. In the meantime we all want to get out of Savusavu, explore, meet the people and enjoy the cruising season in Fiji.

September, 2014 Arrival in Fiji

Moorings at Nakama Creek, Savusavu.

Hiking and exploring in Waisali Nature Reserve. This 116 hectare reserve protects one of Vanua Levu's last unexploited tropical rainforests.

Savusavu, Vanua Levu…we have been here for almost 2 weeks now.There is alot to see and do so we have decided to stay for summer which is also cyclone season. We are going to fly home to Australia before the cyclone season officially begins 1st November. We have to prepare our boat just in case an early cyclone arrives and we are not back in time. This is alot of work and involves removing sails, securing lines, cleaning, storage and general storm prep such as closing seacocks and battening down the hatches.

True Blue V with sails, bimini and dodger removed. She is ready if an early season cyclone comes whilst we are away. Australia here we come!

A quick trip back to Australia…...Sydney Harbour Bridge. We're back!

Visiting family. An Aussie BBQ feast is prepared. Craig with his dad and brother-in-law David.

The Chalker Family get together. The Christmas you have when you are not here for Christmas. We had lots to do in a short period of time and it was wonderful to catch up with family and friends. Unfortunately it is impossible to see everyone that we want to see and the time passes too quickly.

These local galahs are regular visitors in the backyard.

You always know you are back in Australia when you see this sign.

Bluey is going back home to Pt Richmond soon and we now have 2 new crew on board. A Kangaroo and a Koala Bear.

Just like old times. Back on Brisbane River with Captain Jack and Deckhand Ann onboard a Citycat.

Brisbane. The best way to get around is on the ferries and citycats8th September….Suva...Just arrived in the biggest city in Fiji after a 182nm overnight passage from Vanua Balavu. Vigorous sailing with a bit of everything thrown in. Glad to be at anchor now and looking forward to exploring this vibrant city in between provisioning to the max.

Tonga 2014

August 22nd…..Catching up with a childhood friend

Craig and Ralph were childhood friends when growing up in Port Stephens. Their mums still keep in touch and discovered that their boys would be sailing back across the Pacific at the same time. Ralph departed from the Caribbean, we departed from Mexico and here they are in Tonga enjoying a cold beer and a beach potluck. Thanks mums! That's "Ankles" in the background. He has been on board with Ralph since Panama. Unfortunately they had some delays when their boat got struck by lightning and all of their electronics had to be replaced.

The sun goes down and we all hang out around the fire. True Blue V, Knot Tide Down, 2Dream & Kailani. The tide comes in and we all go home.

Spectacular views over the reef at low tide. Blow holes, rock pools, corals and lots of exploring to be done.

A beautiful blue starfish.

Now that is a rock pool.

A Tongan Feast…...There are 42 anchorages around Vava'u. The Sunsail Moorings Guide lists them all and has symbols to indicate Feasts/Snorkelling or Restaurants. We are at Moorings 11 and there is a Tongan Feast at 3 Little Birds Restaurant so we catch up with Lady Carolina, Exodus and Dreamweaver and all feast together. Some of the locals play their guitars under a big shady tree and enjoy a large tub of kava. We enjoy the feast, the locals, music and the kava. It is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The feast consisted of about 11 dishes including spit roast pig, a raw fish dish similar to poisson cru, octopus, clams, pasta, salad, curry vegetables, taro, roast beef wrapped in taro leaves, lamb wrapped in taro leaves, fruit salad. All you can eat.

After the feast we sat around enjoying music and kava

We are anchored away from the main moorings in front of a delightful island called Tapana. The beach looks ideal for a potluck and campfire so Craig and I go ashore to get permission from a local resident. She says it is no problem.

A good excuse for everyone to get off their boat for a while

The weather and the water are getting cooler now…..everyone is pulling out their long sleeve shirts and blankets.

Neiafu, Vava'u………This was a slow, bumpy passage with winds and swell from the SE. Because we had made a stopover in Niuatoputapu we now needed to head in a South direction which meant we were heading into the 25-30 knot winds and 2-3m swell. Instead of a downwind run and a 1 night passage we knew this was going to be a slow 2 night passage. We departed with 2 other sailing vessels Knot Tide Down and Kailani.

Safe arrival drinks with Knot Tide Down and Kailani at the Bounty Bar. L-R Tony, me, Craig, Carolyn, Steve and Bill.

In the background is Hemisphere which at 152 feet is the longest catamaran in the world. There are a few cool bars and restaurants around and it generally looks like a great place to hang out. There are also lots of anchorages close by, nice beaches and caves to explore as well as being a favourite place for the humpback whales to mate and have their young. I think we are going to like it here.

New Potatoes, New Potatoes, da da da da……..We departed Apia, Samoa at 5am with the intention of sailing through to Vava'u, Tonga. It would have been a 340mile voyage and the weather showed that we should expect 15knots wind from a S/E direction. Instead we got a consistent 25-30 knots with gusts in excess of 30 and no sign of abating. At 5pm we decided to alter course to stopover halfway at Niuatoputapu (affectionately known by cruisers as New Potatoes) a northern island in Tonga. We arrived at noon the next day.

A calm anchorage and a good nights sleep. There are lots of pigs on this island and we have been invited to a pig roast tomorrow night. Sorry piggy.

It was a 3km walk into town. We would have hitched a ride but no vehicles came along. This is the local bank where we exchanged cash. Next door is Immigration. A tsunami in 2009 wiped out alot of local buildings and homes. They were replaced with pre-fab constructions like these. There is no electricity on the island, only generators. The locals grow their own food and sell copra.

Here is Tony and Steve from S/V Knot Tied Down and Carolyn and Bill from S/V Kailani. As you can see they managed to hitch a ride and were pretty happy about it.

Looking towards Tafahi Island, an extinct volcano 9km north of Niutoputapu. 500 people live on the island and they produce some of the highest quality kava and vanilla in the South Pacific.

Carolyn, Craig, Vincent and Dominique at the Saturday afternoon pig roast.

Meeting the locals is always a highlight. Warm smiles and warm hearts. William has offered to take the men out 'lobstering' on the reef Monday night. Fresh lobster is guaranteed and we are all looking forward to that. Unfortunately we missed the opportunity to go lobstering because the weather said it was time to go.

Off to church…..a dinghy ride to the wharf and then a ride to church in the back of a pick up truck. Just like a local. What else are you going to do on a Sunday?

Everyone dresses up in their best clothes and attend church on Sundays. It is the one place you can always go and hang out with the locals whilst they sing their hearts out.

We hiked to the top of the mountain. It was tough going but we were rewarded with island and reef views and whales in the background. Yesterday we snorkelled just outside the reef and were impressed with some of the best coral we have seen since leaving Australia.

Samoa 2014

See our Samoa Movie in Movies 2014!

We are at anchor in Samoa harbour. There are 50 men on board this canoe including a drummer and the guy steering. When I pulled out the camera to get a photo, everyone laughed as the guy steering yelled out "Hello Baby!" Not what I was expecting but pretty funny.

There are plenty of churches and government buildings. They seem to contrast with the rest of the buildings around town.

29th July…..A visit to the Cultural Village was a highlight of the day. We learnt about the Samoan culture and way of life. It all revolves around family and extended family and their land is owned by the whole family. We, ours, us. When a girl is born into the family she is born "to be served" and when a boy is born into the family he is born "to serve". There is much to like about the Samoan way of life. Samoans have retained their ancient customs as nowhere else in Polynesia. fa'a Samoa is the Samoan way.

We saw how Tapa is made from the bark of a tree, learnt about the traditions, courage and committment of tattoos to the Samoans, how to build an Umu oven from hot coals and banana leaves; ate the cooked food of fish, breadfruit, taro leaves soaked in coconut milk & wrapped in breadfruit leaves; tried our hand at weaving palm fronds, watched the wood carvers and enjoyed performances of songs and music.

Building an umu oven. Hot coals and banana leaves layered with food. The men do the cooking. Sounds good to me.

The naval to knees tatoos are a visual badge of courage as it takes many highly painful sessions to complete the tattoo. Once the tattooing begins, it cannot end until completed or the subject will be permanently marked with dishonour.

An overnight trip to nearby Savaii Island begins with a ferry trip…..

Craig and I joined up with newly engaged Dell & Yee from S/V Chiara Stella. The plan was to share taxi & hire car expenses for an overnight trip to nearby Savaii Island. Accommodation was booked and we stayed in a Samoan style fale which included dinner and breakfast.

An open air fale with mosquito netting around the bed. Its right on the beach.

The view from our bed. We slept well with only the sounds of lapping water on the beach.

Sightseeing during the day took us through traditional villages, to waterfalls, blowholes, lava fields & swimming with turtles.

The locals entertain the tourists by throwing coconuts in the blowhole. The coconut blows high into the air. Of course, the higher the coconut goes the more entertaining it is.

Turtle time....I went for a swim with the turtles. It was fun. They get up close and a little too personal when they nip your toe or your bottom. It seems like they have a bit of fun of their own.

We were not planning on coming to Samoa but we are very pleased that we did. We have learnt alot about their culture and found the Samoan people to be very genuine, warm and friendly. We didn't get to see and do everything we wanted to but did more than what we originally thought we would. We could easily come back here.

Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Is. 2014

IMovies…..was jammed with problem files which we could not find. I finally found them and Craig helped me delete them so the problem is solved and IMovies is now as good as new. I am so excited to be able to make movies again as we have some great footage to share with you.

It's a Movie Feast…...Be sure to check out our latest new movies especially my favourites "Manta Rays" and "Stingrays & Black Tips" as in Black Tip Reef Sharks! I don't think I realised just how many sharks were in the water that day. Also "Tahiti Dancing" is just a small sample of what I saw. "Pearl Farm" shows our visit to Raroria Pearl Farm. And the very latest is "French Polynesia" which is a summary of our time in Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands.

20th July…...Tonight will be our last night passage before arriving in Apia, Samoa. We have about 80miles still to go. The passage has gone well with downwind sailing averaging 15-20knots and a following sea. The highlight of the passage was catching a big Mahi Mahi and having fresh fish along the way. During the day we read books, watched movies and ate popcorn. We are looking forward to arriving in Samoa.

17th July……Departing for Samoa. We have decided to go to Samoa as we have heard good things about it and it is probably the only chance we will get to go there. We are out of alcohol so Craig is especially looking forward to a cold beer and we have heard we can get Australian style meat pies from the bakeries. Our passage will be 510miles in a WSW direction and we hope to arrive after a 4 night passage. We have enjoyed our visit at Suwarrow Atoll, but when the wind blows its time to go.

Ocean side at Suwarrow Atoll

I was surprised to find a Book Exchange and a Yacht Club at Suwarrow Atoll.

There are hammocks stategically placed where you can lie back and enjoy the view or read a book. I wish I found this hammock 3 days ago. It is much cooler here than on the boat.

A snorkel with the Manta Rays…..At around 0800 hours the Manta rays come in to a nearby reef to allow the fish to clean them. We went out for a snorkel in the morning and saw 1 large ray which was about 3-4 metres wide. He glided around under the dinghy in about 20 feet of water and was not worried about having company. Harry said there are about 9 rays that come in but some of them are quite shy around people.

Harry invited all of the cruisers to a Pot Luck on the beach. There are now 8 boats in the anchorage.

Harry prepared 2 large Coconut Crabs for us to try and his wife made coconut pancakes. It was delicious. Thank you!

"An Island to Oneself"……This is the title of the book New Zealander Tom Neale wrote after living here as a hermit from 1952 until his death from cancer in 1977. He describes his experiences of living on a remote atoll, isolated apart from the cruisers who visited.

Sharks……There are alot of sharks around Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands. We are now in the Cook Islands and there are still alot of sharks. We know several cruisers/friends who have had close encounters with them. All of their stories have involved spear fishing. 2 days ago we met S/V Iguana here at Suwarrow. They are on their way to American Samoa to pick up their new dinghy after a shark bit into their last one and destroyed it at Mopelia. After shooting a tuna whilst spear fishing they were followed back to their dinghy by the unhappy and still hungry grey shark who wasn't taking no for an answer. Today we received an email from Deanne and Tim on Exodus who are currently at Mopelia. I thought you might enjoy their story…..

"Good Times! Here's Tim's account of spearfishing outside the pass yesterday…..they were doing this even AFTER the guy's dinghy got chomped!

Alex and I went with a local guy here outside the pass to snorkel on a WW1 Navy shipwreck. Most of the ship is gone but you can still see some cannons, the anchor and many big gun shells embedded in the coral. Heo, the local guy, said we shouldn't spearfish near the pass since there are so many sharks there. I said "well, we can just take our spears along anyway, even if we don't use them." (yeah, sure…) We were only in the water 3-4 seconds before Heo says "Give me my gun!" I look over and see a huge school of yellowtail-like fish. Heo shoots into the school, but misses. Within seconds, several sharks appear out of nowhere and start looking around….good thing he missed. Later, he shot a small Jack and carried it back to the dinghy holding it above water so the sharks could not "hear" it struggling (vibrations more than anything of a struggling fish attract the sharks in a hurry). One fish in the dinghy, Heo saw a huge school of parrot fish, swam over and after looking around and seeing no sharks nearby, shot one. Hit in the belly, the parrot fish went nuts, swimming in circles on the spear. Within 2 seconds, three sharks appeared from behing the ridge of the reef and attacked the parrotfish. The first shark took half the fish, the second took the rest - no prize for third place. Within 5 seconds, 10 more sharks appeared in a frenzy. Heo had already let go of his spear gun and was swimming backwards but with no fish left to eat, the new sharks looked eagerly at anything moving in the water. I forced myself to relax and slowly removed my dive knife (I had just put my gun back in the dinghy, thinking we were done). As he kicked at a couple of small curious sharks I couldn't help but smile in my snorkel, thinking that he should have listened to his own advice. Once back in the dinghy, his big smile made me laugh and he suggested that we go inside the reef to fish some more".

The Black Tip Reef Shark. Craig calls them "the men in grey suits".

Those "men in grey suits" are doing laps around the boat. They are quite harmless and only about 3 feet long. We have been instructed not to feed them or put any food in the water. Other cruisers have done this in the past and attracted larger Tiger Sharks (which can be quite aggressive) into the lagoon. Harry says it is best to keep the bigger sharks outside the pass on the ocean side. He has requested that cruisers only clean fish on shore in his designated spot. When he has a good supply of fish scraps he will announce a "feed the sharks" time on the ocean side and we can all go and watch him feed the big sharks.

Suwarrow Atoll is a National Park in the Northern Cooks. We were glad to arrive after our 5 day passage. We had good wind for 4 days of the passage but we ran out of wind and motored the last day. A Resident Park Administrator named Harry resides here between April and November and cruising vessels are granted a maximum 14 day visit.

Harry is Customs/Immigration/Pest Control/Park Ranger/Tour & Fishing Guide and also a keen rugby league follower. Despite his colours, he is a fan of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He used to play Rugby for the Cook Islands. All the paperwork is done on-board just like you would expect at a remote atoll in the Cook Islands.

Harry mentioned that ever since he arrived last month he had been unable to transmit on his Single Side Band radio. One afternoon, Craig and Steve from Lady Carolina went in to check it out and found that his Tuner had been wired incorrectly. Together they got it sorted and we were able to do a radio test to our boat. Later that day, Harry was very happy as he was able to talk to Telecom and his boss via SSB. Well done guys!

This atoll feels like it is in the middle of nowhere.

Wing on wing sailing. The headsail is poled out port side and the main is starboard side with the wind coming from behind the boat. It can be a bit rolly at times but it is a good downwind strategy and we used it for our 680mile passage.

Tahiti 2014

July 4th…..Goodbye French Polynesia. Today is our last day here and tonight we are going into the village to watch the locals put on a show of dancing, music and drums. A grand finale to our 90 days in French Polynesia. We are getting the boat ready for a 5 day passage to Suwarrow Atoll, approximately 680miles west of Bora Bora. It will be our only stop before continuing on to Tonga.

Bora Bora….There are lots of hotels and resorts here to cater to the tourist. It is also the final check-out point for yachties departing Tahiti.

Checking out the town

Lift those heels Craig

June 23rd….Island time on Huahine

Craig checks out the local surf break at Huahine Iti.

Huahine Nui….. a relaxed island where we checked out the town of Fare.

The town of Fare on Huahine has a well stocked supermarket. We stocked up on bagettes and New Zealand rump steak which was the best steak I have had in a long time.

All of the French Polynesians love singing, dancing and music. They grow up with it and it is just their way of life.

Some local kids hanging out on a Saturday morning.

Moorea…..will be remembered for our time with the local stingrays, black tip reef sharks and snorkelling to see the sunken tikis. The stingrays were like friendly puppies, all over us and hoping to be fed. It was a bit overwhelming at first. I had a piece of fish in my hand and had stringrays trying to climb up me and follow me around. Back off buddy. I soon realised they like to be touched and really like to be fed. In the meantime, the water was full of black tip reef sharks cruising around not wanting to miss any of the excitement. I kept my hands close to my body.

This is the spot where everyone gathers each morning to play with the stingrays who are all waiting for a free feed. All the action is just beneath the surface. We did get some Go-Pro of it so I hope to share it soon.

Outrigger canoes are very popular and we see them everywhere we go. This guy tucked in and hitched a ride behind True Blue V as we were leaving Papeete. Tattoos are also the norm.

Tahitians love to dance….I went out last night with the "Carolinas" to see some Tahitian dancing at a local resort. Craig didn't come as he had had a challenging day and was happy to stay in. I hope we get to see a lot more of the singing and dancing before we leave French Polynesia.

The Tahitians were young and beautiful and the dances were lively and entertaining.

Photo time……gotta love Tahiti! That's "Chief" in the background.

L-R Steve, Carolina, Alyssa, Lewis, me, Craig, Tim, Deanne at "Happy Hour" Marina Taina, Papeete, Tahiti

Sorry, iMovies has "locked up" and doesn't want to play… no new movies until we can get it sorted. Hopefully that will be soon.

We just arrived in Papeete, Tahiti after a downwind, rolly 2 night passage. So glad to be here. The marina which holds 500 boats is full, all the moorings are full and everyone else (including us) is at anchor, where ever they can find a spot to squeeze in.

Sunset looking towards Moorea from Papeete.

Tuamotus 2014

Toau Atoll….Anse Amyot is on the northwestern side after a day sail of 35miles from Fakarava. It is a slot in the reef which appears to be a pass but is actually a cul-de-sac blocked by a coral bank across the inner side. There are 8 moorings here which is a nice change from having to worry about coral heads. We sailed here with Eleutheria and The Beguine. After securing to our mooring, Alyssa paddled over and Lewis dived on our mooring to make sure it was in good condition.

Lewis from S/V Eleutheria checked our mooring. It's called SANF. Sleep at Night Factor. All good, thanks Lewis.

We met Valentine & Gustav who live here permanently. They used to have a pearl farm but it was too labour intensive. Now they have moorings for cruisers, do dinner parties for cruisers and trade pearls with cruisers. We did not wish to buy pearls but when we heard they really wanted a DVD player which is something we have on board but have not ever used, we decided to do a trade. I have no idea of the value of pearls but Valentine seemed to know the value of a DVD player. Here is a pic of my newly acquired pearls.

I love the colours and shapes of pearls. I think I will have fun making them into jewellry and they will make great presents for Christmas.

Inside Fakarava Atoll….

A great sailing day inside Fakarava, travelling 30miles from south to north inside the atoll. Headsail only, travelling at 6-7knots all day. The channel markers make it easy although you still have to keep an eye out for coral heads. It's a great way of seeing the atoll as we were only 100-500 metres off the shoreline all day.

Bob and Joyce from Chara were also at Fakarava and Celeste and Paul from The Beguine had just arrived. We found a cool little snack shack at a local resort and stayed for a long lunch. It was so good that we did it again the next day with 16 of us.

Enjoying Fakarava.

Wrapped up with coral heads…….We moved to the northwest pass of Makemo and after a couple of hours of looking for a suitable anchorage we dropped anchor at a location recommended by another cruiser. It was close to the pass and convenient for a pass dive/snorkle. In hindsight, we knew as soon as we dropped anchor that it wasn't good. We were in 45-50 feet depth with possible coral heads under the boat. Craig told me the tide was an incoming tide but it didn't seem right as I watched water rushing past us at 4knots to get out of the pass. There were also back flows and eddies and to top it off winds to 35knots with daylight fading. We held fast all night as our chain wrapped around and around 2 coral heads below. It was a sleepless, worrying night as we knew we would have to sort it all out in the morning.

In this photo Craig in using the Airline Hookah system to clean the bottom of our boat and change zinc anodes. The 60 feet of Airline hose made it possible to recover our chain and anchor when it wrapped around coral heads 50 feet below.

At near slack tide Craig dived down with our Airline Hookah system and started to unravel the mess whilst I stayed on the boat controlling the anchor winch and engine. We eventually retrieved our chain and anchor and decided to exit the pass whilst the going was good. Fakarava was a 80 mile overnight trip and became the obvious choice based on tides and winds. Fakarava, here we come!

Makemo Atoll…….Time to move on so we sailed an overnight passage to Makemo arriving just in time for slack tide. We went through the pass and motored 16miles to the best anchorage in Makemo. We were pleased to have a white sandy beach and a long reef to snorkel, all to ourselves.

Inside Makemo Atoll.

Raroia Atoll, Kon-Tiki……….In search of the Kon-Tiki monument. We needed our handheld GPS & Soggy Paw's co-ordinates to find it. On a wee little coconut grove with nesting birds, the monument sits hidden in the middle with weeds growing over it. This is where Thor Heyerdahl's voyage ended in 1947 after its epic 4,300 mile, 3 1/2 month voyage from Peru. His raft was grounded on the eastern side of Raroia.

Here's cheers to pioneers….Thor Heyerdahl and his crew on board Kon-Tiki.

Pearl Farm Visit….17th May Thanks to Paul for organising a tour of the local Pearl Farm at 8am. They made us feel very welcome and it was a great insight into what they do. Craig got some GoPro and I got some photos so I will put together a mini-movie on our visit to the Pearl Farm. Farming black pearls is very labour intensive. They seed the oysters and hang them for 14 months at different depths. Different depths produce different colour/lustre of pearls. If the oyster produces an irregular pearl they discard it but if it produces a nice round pearl they reseed it with perfect round shells and continue farming it. The seed gets coated with the black pearl lining which is highly prized by the pearl farmer and consumer.

The prized farmed Black Pearl. The look on her face says it all….every girl loves a perfect black pearl!

Conning…….After our visit to the Pearl Farm we decided to move to another anchorage. We pulled the headsail out and had fun sailing the 4miles south with Craig on the "granny bars" conning (keeping an eye out for coral heads) and yelling directions such as "10 degrees to Starboard."

Craig keeping an eye out for coral heads

Coral heads come in all shapes and sizes. When the sun is high in the sky, or behind you, they are easy to see like the one pictured. When the sun is in your face, reflecting on the water, it is overcast, or the sea is covered by wind waves, then coral heads disappear and become very dangerous to us yachties.

Manta Rays!…….On the way we spotted more than 30 large manta rays swimming in the water. This was on our must-do list and Craig was so excited he grabbed the GoPro and dived in. I stayed at the helm but was thrilled to see at least 6 manta rays playing at the anchorage when we arrived. After anchoring I grabbed the GoPro and also dived in. It was wonderful and between the 2 of us we got some awesome footage which we can't wait to share with you in our Manta Ray movie.

Pearl Meat and Natural Pearls…...16th May We went snorkelling on one of the coral bommies today. It was great. Apart from fish we also saw a couple of black tip reef sharks and spotted a few pearl oysters growing wild. Craig and Paul from S/V The Beguine collected a few and we ate pearl meat and billfish for dinner. It was also a nice surprise to find some of the oysters had natural irregular pearls inside them.

Craig and Paul cleaning pearl oysters and saving the pearl meat for dinner.

South Pacific style…..A fallen coconut tree becomes the work bench.

An Oasis…..15th May Inside Raroia Atoll at anchor

Craig's got a lovely bunch of coconuts…..Coconuts galore! The coconuts fall to the ground and then sprout and grow into coconut trees.

These are floats that were once used for pearl farming. They are easy to find on the windward side of the atoll. We will use them to keep our anchor chain from wrapping around coral heads.

14th May Raroia, Archipel Des Tuamotu…...Tuamotus arrived…...Paradise found.

Raroia Pass…...The passes into the atolls can be a scarey ride with wind, tide, current and built up weather conditions all affecting the pass. Throw in a few reefs and coral heads and stress levels accelerate to new levels. For example, our tide research showed that slack low tide was at 10.00am on the 14th May and at that time we would have 0.01 knots of tidal flow out of the atoll. Reality was totally different. Lady Carolina went first and 1/3 of the way through the pass she looked like a rocking horse stuck in time and surrounded by white water waves. At 2700rpm on the engine, we were travelling at 1.0 knot of boat speed against a roaring outgoing tide. We decided to pass behind Lady Carolina and head to smoother waters before overtaking Lady Carolina and proceeding through the pass. Eleutheria were next and were already committed to a southern approach. They travelled through at 1/2 knot boat speed. Luckily, depth was good in this wide pass and we all inched forward and managed to laugh about it over a few drinks later that day.

Marquesas to Tuamotus……The Passage…….We expected winds of 12-16knots and worked on a 4 day passage plan averaging 5 knots boat speed from Marquesas to the Tuamotus. We actually had double the wind speed and multiple rain squalls. We could have done the passage in 3 days however it was very important to arrive at slack tide so rather than trying to speed up we were trying to slow down.

Did someone say beer?…..Steve announced on the radio that he would have a cold Pacifico beer waiting for the first boat to catch and land a billfish. We thought Steve would be pretty safe with that bet but never offer Craig a challenge and a cold beer reward at the same time.

The challenge winning billfish which we believe is a King Wahoo. Now he just has to clean it, cut it up and find room in the freezer. He can already taste that cold Pacifico. Thanks Steve. Wahoooo!

True Blue V 2016