Sunday, 6 November 2016

Crossing the Bass Strait to Tasmania

After returning from Perth on Wednesday night, Thursday I stocked up on supplies, we installed the replacement batteries and the helm seat we had made in Cronulla:) We left the harbour and anchored out on a courtesy mooring at Jibbon Bay, the first National Park in Australia and the second in the world!!!  
Friday marked the beginning of our passage to Tasmania. A pity it was so cold and we were on time constraints as it looked a beautiful coastline to explore. There were whales and dolphins the whole way down the coast:) quite spectacular.  










Stops along the way were Jervis Bay, Bateman's Bay and Eden. We fuelled up and reprovisioned at Eden ready to do the big mission across the Bass Strait.
When researching anchorages and approaches to Tasmania I had unfortunately read far too many reports about the "mythical" Bass Strait and was filled with trepidation. It required 36 hours sailing for a start with just Ron and me which was the longest we had done by ourselves. 
I am happy to say I have done it but am not in a huge hurry to repeat the experience haha! The wind was at 90 degrees to the boat and was around 30 knots so difficult to keep on course without tacking. To keep the sail at an angle to maintain wind we were heading out to sea. To get back on course we were punching in to the seas with the wind on our nose getting nowhere. The wind was meant to shift around to the North which would have been perfect but it really didn't come until too late. In the end we just had to punch into it for a few hours to get in before nightfall.
Our first anchorage in Tasmania was at Lady Barron, Flinders Island. It required crossing a sandbar. The wind being so strong and the water so shallow caused steep short waves and once again we were punching into it. Ron was getting frustrated but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel!  
There were 2 courtesy moorings available but for a boat with a maximum length of 14m so we didn't feel we could go on the mooring, particularly since the wind and current was so strong. Gusting 50 knots! This left tying up to the wharf as our only option. We were pretty sure our anchor wouldn't hold and we were in for a 3 day storm:(
We were both pretty tired by this point but the next hour was one of the scariest hours of my life! The wharf where we were tying up was L shaped with the short end going across the bow and the length of the boat alongside. There was a massive current pushing against the side of the wharf and waves under the boat that were high enough to smack the wing deck!
With just the 2 of us, Ron nudged the boat in, with me at the bow with a rope ready to throw over the pole and a fender in case we were going to hit.  Fortunately, we had put all the fenders down as the stern was pushed in against the wharf by the current and the wind and one fender took all the weight!  The bow was coming in fast to the jetty and the motors were not strong enough against the wind and the current.  The bowsprit held us off and I slung a rope over as fast as I could.  It took a couple of hours in the freezing cold to get tied up and after the endless rush of adrenaline I was absolutely exhausted!
No rest for the wicked though!  We were up again at 4.00am, in hailstorms, to try to get a rope to a second jetty to hold us off the wharf.  The fenders could not keep up with the wind, current and rise and fall of the tide.  Ron, being the Kiwi bloke that he is, cast a fishing line from the second jetty, weighted down with a shoe, attached a rope and reeled it in. Voila!  We had a rope holding us off.  He is truly amazing!
We were in Tasmania!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Casy Island, Baie de Prony




With having decided to spend 2 months in Noumea this year, we were able to see a lot more than in 2015.  One of the highlights was Casy Island.  Not just because it is a beautiful spot but largely due to the island’s tour guide; Moose.  Moose, a most loveable dog, was left on the island when a resort was abandoned by its owners.  This may sound harsh but, in fact, Moose loves his home and doesn’t want to leave.  He is well looked after by visiting boats, can fish for himself and is sponsored by Brent and Ana off the catamaran Impi who have set up a fund to pay for his vet costs.  We were totally amazed when we saw Moose leap off                                                                            the wharf on to the back of a stingray!!
























There are moorings in the bay, just off the jetty.  The water is crystal clear and although not teeming with fishlife, some friendly cod hung around the back of the boat:)  Great spot to snorkel, kayak and paddle board:)


 












Sunday, 7 August 2016

Tanna, Vanuatu

Since leaving Fiji we have struggled with internet and will continue to do so while in Noumea:( So while we are anchored in a spot with reasonable reception I will try to update our adventures since leaving Fiji....
With no deadlines to meet or flight schedules to be in port for, we were able to pick the perfect weather window:) Winds in the right direction, seas big but NOT on the nose and wind speed just right for putting up the mainsail and jib and sailing - no motors:)
It looked like it was going to be a fast trip, averaging 9 knots, making the trip roughly 12 hours shorter - always a bonus in my view! The nights were spectacular! Clear, cloudless skies filled with the constellations of stars and our own Southern Cross to guide our way. I can see why Ron has always said I will love crossings:) I will never love them haha but I certainly loved those beautiful clear, starry nights:) 
All keen fisherpeople on board, we were of course, towing lures behind the boat. Not having had particularly good luck in the past we were somewhat surprised to hear the star drag go off on 2 lines at once! Trub and I were only ones up so we turned the boat up into the wind and yelled, "Fish on!" Ron and Steve came running up and grabbed a line each and started reeling them in. Ron's line was coming up first so Steve got the gaff and they tried to land the fish - looked like a big yellowfin tuna - good eating! After a comedy of errors, the fish unfortunately went under the boat and managed to wrap around the prop:( Not good! Ron had to cut him off and let him go:( Back to the fish on the other line.... Steve and Ron reeled it in and it was a big skipjack tuna - not as good to eat but a good fish nonetheless:)
So we were on our way again... When under sail, we have to feather the props to stop them turning. It soon became apparent that the prop the fish went round had caused a problem and Ron had to do his thing and jam the prop with screwdrivers and vice grips! We dropped the main and turned the starboard motor on for the next 10 hours, averaging 4.5knots. In the morning when the seas had calmed and there was no wind, Ron went over the side with the hubba bubba line connected to the air tank to cut the line round the props. All good! We were underway again, both motors at 1800RPMs to try to make up some lost time:)
I had requested permission to clear in at Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu. It is the best anchorage on the island but not the official clearance port. We dropped anchor at 9.00 Thursday morning, 70 hours. 
My impressions of Tanna are; a very pretty island with spectacular rock formations, crystal clear water and white sandy beaches all around the coastline. Port Resolution was a harbour of sorts but  essentially a horseshoe that opened straight out to the ocean, too shallow to anchor around the inside curves of the headland. A steady ocean swell rolled in but not too uncomfortable:)
The most unusual sight was the abundance of fishermen in dugout canoes just sitting on the water in the bay. Some loud voices would start whooping and all the fishermen would start paddling madly and put out their nets. We learned later that spotters on the hill could see the fish bubbling and would yell to the fishermen where to go! The system worked well:)
Customs and Immigration drove an hour over a dusty, gravel road to clear us in and we decided to give them our skippy tuna:) 
Port Resolution is at the base of the volcano so we were fascinated by the bubbling rock pools and spouting geysers from the cliffs below the mountain. We went for a walk up to the 'yacht club' and a wander around the village. A very pleasant experience:)
It was Independence Day in Vanuatu so the whole island was celebrating. We needed to reprovision and hoped to get up to see the volcano so after a couple of lovely days at Port Resolution we headed around to the other side of the island, Lenakel. The winds have to be right to anchor at Lenakel as it is virtually right on the coast with poor holding and huge swells coming over a reef but the conditions were good enough for us to stay until we could clear out on Tuesday. The local markets were open for fruit and veges and we had enough meat to get across to Noumea so we stocked up and relaxed taking in the colours, voices and views of Lenakel:)
While ashore I asked a local driver if he could take us up to the volcano. He agreed for a price so Ron and I went up that evening while Steve and Trub stayed with the boat:) They had been twice before. 
What an absolutely, mind blowing, once in a lifetime experience! It was the main reason we went to Tanna instead of going straight to Noumea and I am SO glad we were able to see it! The drive over the ash covered base of the mountain felt like I imagine driving on the moon would be like! And the volcano..... Unbelievable! We literally walked up the side of the crater like mountain goats and stood on the edge as the ground rumbled and shook and lava spewed out sending showers up into the air! No fences, no viewing platforms from a safe distance! Right on the edge! I will remember that for the rest of my life!




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Monday, 27 June 2016

Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau Group

We made 600L and poured it into 20L containers
Before leaving Savusavu we loaded the boat up with aid for Taveuni and Vanua Balavu.  We learned that many of the villages lost everything and Sea Mercy were still in need of boats to deliver aid and make water.

Our first stop was to Taveuni Island to what we soon discovered was not a yacht friendly wharf.  The organisers for distributing aid on the island arranged to meet us with 2 utes and were there to help us tie up.  Ron put the anchor down and tied the stern to the wharf.  A group of young Fijian boys jumped aboard and created a line to pass the bags of aid along.  Made short work of it!
Aid for Cyclone Winstone

From there we anchored the night in Viani Bay 4NM across the Somosomo passage to Vanua Levu.  We were welcomed by a pod of pilot whales that I first thought were dolphins.  But they were black and their fins and tails were wrong shape.  Viani Bay is a beautiful spot and a safe anchorage.  It is reportedly very good snorkelling but we decided to continue our journey to the Northern Lau group with the intention of returning on our way back.
 
Unloading at Taveuni Island

We carried on around to Sau Bay where our friends, Cathy and Harry, recommended and thought we might stop there.  The wind was blowing straight in and we were not that comfortable anchoring for the night so, we once again decided to press on.

From Sau Bay we crossed back over the Somosomo passage and rounded the top of Taveuni.  There is an island on the Eastern side called Qamea Island where we anchored in a bay about halfway down called Naiviivi Bay.  It has a very shallow entrance with a narrow channel to the anchorage behind but it is well marked and a very beautiful spot.

Sea Mercy Flag
It was another 50NM to Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu and a bit of a slog getting there as it was on the nose all the way.  We were able to tack a bit when the wind was in our favour and the trip was certainly worth every bit of the slog!  Once again, we were welcomed by pilot whales in the Nggilanngila Passage in to the Bay of Islands. It really was like Thailand without the steroids.  Very beautiful scenery with mushroom islands and peaks.  The weather was not fabulous but we had a couple of days to ourselves to explore after helping out the villages with aid and making water.  We now fly a Sea Mercy flag after our efforts with relief after Cyclone Winstone.

Sailing with the Code Zero


It was a good sail back with the wind behind us and we were able to sail most of the way over 2 days, getting our big Code Zero sail out.  Fabulous!  Got into Savusavu at 6.00pm with a storm hot on our heels!  We will stay here until we get a better weather window and make for the passage through the reef out of Vanua Levu to destination unknown until we see what the wind is doing.



Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Vuda Point to Savusavu, Fiji, 2016

Savu Savu at sunset
I arrived in Nadi just after lunch on Sunday and Ron had a driver waiting to pick me up.  Ron had Emotion 2 in Vuda Point Marina both as a safe place to wait for me and to install the new starter motor once I arrived.  It had been very windy just before I arrived and there was nowhere near the airport for Ron to safely anchor especially since he could only start and run off one motor:(
The weather was amazing:)  Clear blue skies, calm waters and very hot!  My one regret was not being able to swim off the marina!  

Next day Ron’s cheap taxi man picked me up to take me shopping!  This is always an out of this world experience as they do everything for me… carry the shopping bag, barter with the seller, pick the best produce, find what you are looking for and can’t find!  It is kind of hard to accept but really helpful!  So, Vodafone for sims, produce markets for fruit and veg, butcher for meat and supermarket for the rest!  The produce was quite depleted of some things due to the cyclone, especially bananas!  Our favourite!  But still all that I needed:) All done but it took 4 hours!!
Headed out of the marina the next day and set sail for Musket Cove.  We decided to plan our route with the wind to save money on fuel so that appeared to be the best way to go… Midway across the wind changed!  We continued to Musket Cove anyway, dropped the anchor and enjoyed an evening with sea breezes once out of the marina.  Having arrived late afternoon I did not feel like a swim so 3 days in Fiji and yet to get in the water!

Copra Shed Marina



The next day we changed our plans and headed back where we had come from to Lautoka.  I finally had a swim!  It was divine!  The water temperature is 26degs so almost a bath but I just love getting in the salt water! Magic! I felt as though I had finally arrived!
Waitui Marina



We stayed the night and headed off early the next day to begin our journey to places we had not been to before!  A new adventure:)



First stop was a 42NM motor sail through a channel with coral reefs and sandbanks either side to an anchorage for the night.  It was a very hot and sunny day with light winds.  Took about 7 hours with Ron catching a Wahu on the way!
The next morning we had a big day ahead of us so we left about 6.30 to go through the Nananu Passage through the outer reef to make our way to the second biggest island in Fiji, Vanua Levu. The conditions were perfect for sailing so Ron and I put the mainsail and jib up, turned off the motors and made a 10 hour sail across the Bligh Water, through the Vatu-I-Ra Channel and into Wainunu Bay on the island of Vanua Levu.  




It was a long day and although we both loved it, we were both over it by the time we found a suitable anchorage.  There was only one bay on the charts recommended for anchoring and it offered no protection from the SE tradewinds.   We realised afterwards that we may have been better to head slightly backwards and stay at Bua Bay around the other side of the island and made the passage across Wainunu Bay the next day.  Neither of us had wanted to do that though so we sailed an extra 2 or 3 hours to reach the head of the bay at the Northern end which offered some protection from the wind.  The anchor made quite a bit of noise across the seabed so we think it must have been a coral bottom which is why it would not have been a recommended anchorage:(

Although we took turns at the helm, we had a couple of passages to navigate and Ron needed me to look out for coral bombies so for a large part of the hottest part of the day, Ron was at the helm.  That night Ron suffered from disorientation and confusion and was unable to get his words out:(  It was very scary!  We had no internet to be able to confirm but I was pretty sure he was suffering from heatstroke.  It was the second time this had happened to him, both times after being out in the sun on a hot day.  He rehydrated, took some panadol, had a shower and felt a lot better.  We know to watch out for this in the future and in particular, to keep his fluids up!

Once again we needed to make an early start the next morning as we wanted to go through the Nasonisoni Passage through the reefs while the tide was still high and the winds still only at 12 knots.  The forecast had predicted winds to increase to 18knots and we didn’t want to come out of the narrow passage to huge swells.  It was an uneventful passage and although we experienced significant rise and fall at the ocean end, it did not affect us.  I had read a blog where the skipper had said it was their toughest passage yet so we were apprehensive!

Once through it was a 4 hour motor sail to Savusavu, a clearance port and very safe harbour.  Unfortunately the wind was just off the nose so we pointed as high as we could with the jib up and kept the revs down to 1500 and got along about 6 knots.

We dropped anchor, had a swim and have settled in ever since!  It is very pretty here.  There are 2 marinas, one quite derelict with mooring buoys and the other quite fancy but a bit pretentious.  You can anchor at the entrance or further up past the marinas in the creek.  We have stayed out towards the entrance.  There is a nice breeze and we can see all the comings and goings!  There has been a strong wind warning in force and the winds have been up since we arrived on Sunday so there are boats coming in all the time!  It is fascinating!  As Savusavu is a clearance port, many are coming from Tonga and NZ:) Others are just coming in for shelter from the wind.
We went in to town yesterday:)  We offloaded our rubbish, I went to the markets and the supermarket while Ron went to the chandlery and filled up the dinghy diesel drum:)  It has rained every day since we got here but as it is still warm, that hasn’t bothered me:)
The town is very pretty along the waterfront and the stores have all that you would ever need but they are typical island shops with unpainted shop fronts with little or no windows and very crowded narrow aisles.  The people are SO lovely:) They all greeted me on the street, are softly spoken and their smiles light up the world!  
There does not appear to be too much damage from the cyclone here but there are 3 or 4 sunken boats:(  It is the villages on the outer islands which have been most affected:(  Some completely wiped out, others 3 or 4 houses….

                       
We later learned that 22 boats escaped their moorings and were washed ashore.
Our plan is to stay here until the weather has improved sufficiently to sail 40 miles North to Viani Bay where the snorkelling is meant to be out of this world.