Archive for December, 2010

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Saturday, December 18th, 2010


The people of Fiji are in general amazingly friendly and the customs folks were as well. Unfortunately while I was clearing out, it came up that Bodhran was at Vuda Point marina 12km down the road and not in front of the customs dock. The rule is that you need to be anchored in a specific spot off the dock for customs to clear you out, but they usually don’t leave the building to check if you’re there. I’d never heard of any boat actually being inspected before departure. They were very friendly and polite, but they wouldn’t clear us out with the boat in Vuda Point.  Tiffany and I had taken a cab in to Lautoka to get our final provisioning done, clear customs and get off before noon so we could clear Nuvula Pass and get out of Fiji’s reef system before dark. Now we had to go back to Bodhran, motor 2 hours up to Lautoka and then deal with customs. There was a chance that we’d still be able to make the pass before dark, but alas when we reached the darkened customs office, the power was out and they couldn’t print off the form we needed. We waited for an hour or more before the power came back on, but then needed the immigration officer to return to stamp our passports. Finally everything was in order and we were all ready to go when they decided to inspect Bodhran. No big deal, but normally you do that with incoming vessels and there was no way the 3 of us would fit into my little skiff. So Tiffany stayed on shore while I skiffed the official out into a 15 knot headwind trying my best not to soak both of us. The inspection lasted all of 3 minutes. I’m sure it was just a little retaliation for me trying to clear out without bringing up my boat. By the time that we pulled up the hook there was no way we could make Nuvula pass before dark, so we went down to Sewini Bay and had a good nights rest before taking off at dawn.

The first 4 days of the passage were pretty miserable. The forecast was for 10-15 knot easterlies (beam reach). It turns out that we were hard on the weather fighting into a 20-30 southeasterly for the first 3 days which eventually became ESE on the 4 day giving us a little respite, but the damage was already done. We’d spent a considerable amount of time caulking, trying to shore up some persistent leaks at the hull to deck joint before we left. Well it seems like it was all for naught. Between the waves breaking over the deck, the lee cap rail constantly dipping and the tropical rain, many gallons of water crept in down below and soaked pretty much everything inside Bodhran capable of absorbing water. After 4 days, the wind backed into the NE and went light for 2 days. We spent a day wing on wing and then even flew the spinnaker for the most of the next day before losing our wind all together. We motored the last 36 hours into Opua. The final day, the wind chop had completely vanished leaving the surface of the ocean looking thick and shiny, reflecting whatever colors could make it through the overcast. We spent the day lounging on deck, listening to saved up episodes of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”, watching thousands of jellyfish, by the wind sailors, flying fish, dolphins, shearwaters, petrels and albatrosses all brilliantly visible in the wave-less sea.

Not a breath of wind

Lounging in my new favorite chair listening to NPR with 80 miles to go:

I never seemed to have my camera ready when this guy came by. He flew visited us every 20 minutes or so for hours. It’s amazing to see an albatross floating on the water, folded up he’s the size of a large turkey and still completely buoyant:

I almost never enter a new place at night, preferring to heave to 10 miles or so offshore and wait for daylight. I made an exception this time. The weather was forecast to degrade and I’d spent all of April sailing around the Bay of Islands and knew the passage down to Opua well. So I kept a lookout for traffic and marks while Tiffany helmed us down the long channel where we tied up to the quarantine dock just before midnight and ended our 1050 mile passage in just 8 and a half days, thoroughly exhausted, but unable to sleep on such a motionless platform. Customs and quarantine went off the next morning without a hitch and we pulled into a berth in the marina to try and clean up the boat and launder everything we could. Unfortunately it’s been raining and is forecast to rain for the foreseeable future, so my cushions may not dry for a while yet, but 8 loads of laundry later and we’re in pretty good shape. We’ll be moving out to the anchorage today where we’ll leave Bodhran while we head down to Auckland to spend another Christmas with Arek and Iwona.

A rainy cold morning at the quarantine dock in Opua

Off to New Zealand

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Sunset from Vuda Point:

We had a bit of a scare last weekend. A low that was forecast to form over Vanuatu and was keeping us from setting sail for New Zealand, ended up developing into a Tropical Depression (cyclonic storm with winds >35 knots). It was expected to pass just south of Fiji with a greater than 50% chance of developing into a full cyclone (winds > 64 knots). Vuda Point marina where Bodhran has spent the majority of the last 7 months was built specifically to be a cyclone shelter and is as good a place as any to weather out a storm. It was surprise that almost no one in the marina took any kind of precautions against the possible weather. My neighbors on Caladonia (mutual friend of Bernie and Michelle on Momo) and us were the only ones in the marina to put out extra lines to the storm stakes driven deep into the ground on the other side of the walkway. In total I put out 10 lines and took down the awnings. I’m sure that it was due to Tiffany and my diligent preparations that the cyclone veered even further south and we were hit by nothing except a few rain squalls.

Weathermap of the tropical depression passing Fiji:

The low has been hanging out south of Fiji right on the rhumb line to New Zealand keeping us in port, but providing us with 3 good sunny days to take care of boat projects. So we’ve fallen back into our routine of the last few weeks, coffee, breakfast, 3-4 hours of boat projects, a trip to the pool next door at the First Landing Resort, dinner, and then an evening movie. Two weeks of waiting for weather and working on Bodhran has got her into great shape for the passage, which looks like it may start on Monday. The low is dissipating and the trades will be filling back in on Sunday. With no more lows on the horizon and a big high moving eastward across New Zealand, we should at least have a good beginning to the passage, of course after the first 48 hours anything can come up, but we’ll be beyond the normal range of cyclones within 3-4 days of leaving.

Our afternoon oasis away from the heat of the marina, they had two big awnings over to pool, but took them down in case the cyclone hit:

Tiffany got the foredeck and and part of the starboard side painted. We’re about half way done changing all the non skid from beige to white. You can’t go barefoot on the beige in the tropical heat:

Got the monitor windvane all cleaned up and serviced with nice new spectra control lines:

We also finally got around to making bug screens for the companionway and the hatches. Normally at anchor bugs aren’t a problem, but here in the marina they were killing us:

So we’ll leave from the marina on Sunday and anchor off Lautoka where we’ll clear customs and get groceries Monday morning and hopefully be on our way to New Zealand by mid day. I faxed NZ customs and gave them an estimate of Dec 17th for our arrival, but if we get some headwinds, we might not be in until Christmas.