Mar 252009
 

Hundreds of enormous fox bats keeping the mossies at bay for us in Savusavu:
Hundreds of enormous fox bats keeping the mossies at bay for us in Savusavu

Some might think that a tsunami warning followed by two days of thunderstorms would be the best way to start out what for Bonnie, Greg and myself is sure to be our toughest sailing passage to date. Turns out that things have been going swimmingly, but it was a bit rocky to start. Whilst drinking our coffee the morning of departure from the Vuda Point Marina we were minding our own business listening to the local 80s rock station when the DJ disrupted a Duran Duran song to inform us that a 7.7 magnitude earthquake had just struck neighboring Tonga and that it was possible a massive tidal wave was bearing down on Fiji. The news quickly spread around the marina and much debate ensued as to whether or not the wave could get through the reefs and curve around both islands to hit us on the West side of Viti Levu. For our own part we doubted it, but figured that we’d have enough warning on the radio when the wave hit eastern Fiji to get Willow out of the marina and into deep water. Turns out that the wave never formed and the warning was called off. Still it’s the kind of thing that gets the adrenaline flowing.

Willow at the very picturesque fuel dock at Vuda Point:
Willow at the very picturesque fuel dock at Vuda Point

The crew sporting our new palm frond hats woven up by George, one of the yard workers at Vuda Point:
Jason Rose, Greg Krivonak and Bonnie Gauthier

After the tsunami warning was called off, we topped off Willow’s diesel tanks, said our goodbyes to everyone in the marina and set off on the 10 mile motor up to Lautoka. I’d already been to Lautoka with Bonnie on a provisioning run and was prepared for the insanity. The city is dominated by the descendants of Indian laborers brought over by the British. The shops are filled with impossibly elaborate saris and the smells of curry waft down the crowded streets. Our stop in Lautoka consisted of anchoring off the big commercial wharf in the company of three freighters. Greg spent his time delving through the bureaucratic red tape of a country just over a year into a military government and with a long history of corruption. Meanwhile Bonnie and I failed in our mission to find some outdoor cushions and bought a few more provisions.

We were required to leave Lautoka within an hour of clearing through the officials, so we crossed to a nearby island and anchored for the evening. Ever since I’d been in Fiji, there’d been daily rain and thunderstorms and that day didn’t disappoint. The next morning when we tried to take off around the north end of Viti Levu, the sky was black and lightning was flashing every few minutes. Normally that would be enough to keep anyone in port, but it’d been doing that pretty much every day so we took off anyway. It only took an hour and a sky growing even more ominous to turn us around and send us back to an even more protected anchorage. It was a good call, as we were soon hit by a squall that had Willow dragging anchor at 3 knots across the bay. Fortunately the next day found us with good visibility and building westerly winds that we used to make it the 150 miles to Savusavu on Vanua Levu.

Willow anchored off a typically Fijian verdant green island:
Willow anchored off a typically Fijian verdant green island

We pulled into Savusavu yesterday morning after a beautiful sail through the night. We’re having to skip lots of places on this passage, but I’ll be back on Bodhran next year and it’s nice to be able to scout things out a bit. Savasavu is the main cruiser base on Vanua Levu and it’s easy to see why with it’s beautifully sheltered harbor right off of a bustling small city. As per the norm, we already had friends here on Lotus and Malaika and were quickly clued into the local scene. So Bonnie and I had a productive day in town while Greg spent a miserable day cleaning out Willow’s black water system. Fortunately cold Fiji Bitters were at hand, but Bonnie and I had to stay off the boat until he was done. Now it looks like a new cyclone is forming over New Caledonia. It shouldn’t hit us here in Fiji, but it will effect our weather and probably keep us in port for a while. The minute the forecast calls for light and variable or anything not out of the east, we’re out of here and on our way to Samoa.

Coming into Savusavu:
Coming into Savusavu

Another great public market in Savusavu:
Another great public market in Savusavu

Greg, Bonnie and a stunning sunset in Savusavu:
Greg, Bonnie and a stunning sunset in Savusavu

 Posted by at 9:46 am
Mar 182009
 

Bonnie and Greg right after launching Willow at Vuda Point Fiji:
Bonnie and Greg right after launching Willow at Vuda Point Fiji

Hmmm funny thing about the tropics, it’s hot! damn hot! I’m sitting here at the little cafe at the Vuda Point Marina near Lautoka Fiji. I’ve decided to help my good friend Greg and Bonnie sail Willow 3000 nautical miles against the trades from Fiji to Hawaii. It’s not really a pleasure cruise. For the most part we’re going to be waiting for light or disturbed winds and then motoring like crazy until we can get to the next island group. The plan is to go from Fiji to American Samoa, possibly the Cook Islands, Christmas or Fanning islands in the Line Islands and then Hilo all in about 2 months. Even if it’s not going to be the most enjoyable trip, at least we’re going to be hitting some island groups that I missed on my way across the Pacific in Bodhran. Speaking of Bodhran, she’s all buttoned up and secure in Whangarei NZ where she’ll ride out the southern Winter while I go home and work tug boats again. The weather’s been a bit nasty and I haven’t taken many pics yet, but hopefully I’ll get some more interesting blog material as we make our way across Fiji to check out of Savu Savu sometime next week.

 Posted by at 2:07 pm
Mar 062009
 

After 7 weeks hitchin around the two islands of New Zealand, it’s good to be back home on board Bodhran. I’ve just uploaded a photo album with all my pics from the last two months:

New Zealand Pics

From here, I need to extend my import permit to allow me to keep Bodhran in the country for another year without paying taxes on her. Then I’ll be flying up to Fiji to help Greg and Bonnie sail Willow back to Hawaii. That’ll probably take at least 45 days and then it’ll be time to get back to Seattle and start working tug boats again, cause I’m officially broke. Of course what do you expect after not working for 20 months?

 Posted by at 4:53 pm
Mar 012009
 

The quaint little mountain town of Arthur’s Pass:
ArthursPass

Well the corn is getting high and there’s a nip to the air. It looks like summer is winding down here in the southern hemisphere. My life has been dictated by rain most of the last week. There were four straight days of it in Franz Josef. We played the bars on a couple of those nights, but there were a couple of very slow days in there. Still it was better to be at Johnny and Greg’s house than trying to hitch down the road in the pouring rain. Funny how people don’t like picking soggy hitchhikers.

I got a lift out of Franz with Melissa, who’d also been staying at Johnny and Greg’s. We didn’t make it far, just up to Hokitika. I ended up staying at the same dreary hostel that I’d stayed at one the way down, but at least there was some sunshine this time. My first ride the next day, I was picked up by a couple who’d been working on mega yachts the last 10 years. They had just turned down a delivery job from the Galapagos to Tahiti. If I had met them a week earlier, I might have found some work. Well they only got me up to the junction at Komura. There a waited for 45 minutes until I got a ride to the far side of town, where I waited for an hour before being picked up by an East German fella who put me through to Arthur’s Pass.

The road across the mountains was stunning, and the weather was holding off so I actually got to see. Apparently the views from Franz Josef are even more spectacular, but in 2.5 weeks, I never really got to see the mountains. Well Arthur’s pass certainly is a quaint little mountain town with two restaurants, two hostels, a little store and lots of trailheads. I got into town mid afternoon and started scouting out day hikes for the next day. Turns out that a bunch of us from the hostel went out for beers and Susan offered me a ride all the way up to Picton. Well that’s a 7 hour drive and would probably have been 2 days of hitching, and since the weather looked like it would have spoiled the views from the trails I decided to skip the hike and get up to the ferry.

That night in Picton found Susan and I at the Juggler’s Rest. I was sitting on the front porch playing my guit-fiddle when one of the other guests asked me if I was in Nukualofa last November. Well what do you know? The crew of Oops was also staying at this little 6 room hostel. Well we were sitting around chatting about sailing through the Pacific when one of the Kiwis piped up and mentioned that she worked in sales for a major paint distributor and would be happy to get Oops and myself friends and family discounts on bottom paint. Bottom paint is pretty expensive, so I was certainly glad to make a new friend.

Leaving Picton on the ferry:
Picton

The ferry across to Wellington was uneventful. I decided that hitchin out of Wellington would be difficult, so I busked for an hour or so and then caught the afternoon train up to Otika. Otika was supposed to be a pleasant little beach town, but in the driving rain somehow it’d lost some of it’s charm. What was charming however was my room above the local dive bar/horse betting parlor. It certainly had an ambiance to make Tom Waits proud.

Boiling mud pool right next to Rotorua
Thermal

Yesterday, I caught the bus from Otika up to Rotorua. I got in late and after trying a couple of backpackers whose receptions were closed, I ended up staying at the dingiest worst hostel of the trip. Kitched stacked to the ceiling with dishes, you had to rent bedding if you wanted it and the bathroom was flooded with standing water. Made me wish for my dive back in Otika. I think that I’ll be hanging out here today, checking out the thermals and boiling mud right in the middle of town, but I’m definitely changing my hostel.

 Posted by at 9:27 am