Archive for July, 2013

Vuda to Nananu-I-Ra

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

My intention was to take this blog in a bit of a different direction this year. As it turns out, I’ve just been too busy. I know, I know, stop laughing, but really I haven’t had much down time since I got to Fiji almost 2 months ago. Instead of trying to write more article like posts, I’m just going to go back to my good old travel blog style and get this thing caught up.

It took a month to fix the cyclone damage and get a new dinghy shipped to Vuda Point. Riki on Guava Jelly had been out in the Yasawas during that time, but came back to join me when I was ready to leave. I’d made lots of good friends with the yard workers at Vuda and had an amazing sendoff with 10 or so of the marina employees singing me “Isa Lei” the traditional Fijian farewell song.

Vuda treated me well, but it was high time to get back out cruising again. Guava Jelly and I set our sights on heading East. We were thinking Savusavu to meet up with another good buddy, Christian, on sv Irie. First Riki wanted to check out Nananu-I-Ra. He’d picked up some kite boarding gear back in Seattle and was eager to try in out. Nananu-I-Ra is on the NE corner of Viti Levu and gets consistent trade winds. It also has a kite boarding/dive lodge there to get some lessons from if needed.

We set off from Vuda and made it all the way to Seweni Bay the first day (about 5 miles). It was a great sail and a good test for some of the repairs made to Bodhran. From there we did the passage up to Nananu-I-Ra in 2 days of mostly motoring in flat calm conditions.

We got into Nananu-I-Ra and dropped the hook in a nice protected spot away from anybody. Riki had emailed Warren from the Safari Lodge for info on Kite boarding. Turns out that he’d spotted us coming in and came on over in a panga not long after we got there. Warren gave us the down low on kiting spots and the prices for lessons. He’s a very nice fella, but I decided that I’d forgo kiting and Riki decided to try and teach himself.

The next morning Riki and I took the skiff out to kite point and got down to business. I won’t describe the events, but needless to say Riki really needed lessons and had a good bump on his head to drive the message home. Warren and the lodge kite boarders showed up and we slunk away in the background while they got set up. Then came a couple of cruisers, Phillip and Teri on Blue Bie. Phillip took pity on Riki and gave him some lessons great improving our condition. By the end of the day Riki was flying his kite nicely and I was getting some great shots of Phillip and Teri jumping and doing flips on their boards.

The next day saw Riki out body dragging through the water learning kite control while I took more pics of Phillip, Teri and all the Safari kiters. We’d moved Guava Jelly, Bodhran and Blue Bie to the lee of kite point so that we’d be closer to the action. After another fine day on the point, the three boat’s crews settled in on the beach for a nice camp fire under an amazing starlit sky.

The third day found Riki up on his board for short spurts and then the ripping of his kite. Oops. So up came the hook and we decided to move anchor again and relocate closer to Safari to see if Warren could sew up Riki’s kite for him. I was able to give a bunch of kite boarding pics to the guests at the lodge. Warren is a busy man, so we set into a couple of days of snorkeling and hiking around the island while we waited for Riki’s kite to be repaired.

This post is going to get too long, so I’ll stop here. We’re in Savusavu now hoping to leave for the Lau Group today or tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll get caught up on the rest of the story before I leave.

Back to Fiji

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

After a 7 month hiatus, I’m back in Fiji. I left Bodhran in November in the care of the good folk at Vuda Point Marina. Vuda Point has specialized cyclone pits dug that they line with tires. Boat’s keels sit below ground and the hull rests, fully supported on the tires. It’s a great system, alas the pits were all reserved by July. I was having such an amazing time in Fiji with Riki last year that I decided on a whim to leave Bodhran here and go home for cyclone season so that I could return in June and sail Fiji in the proper season. Of course that was November and the pits were all full, so I left Bodhran in the water and rolled the dice.

Vuda Point hadn’t been hit by a cyclone in 4 years. They have systems in place to break waves coming in from outside the marina. I backed into my spot, attached my anchor chain to the mooring in the middle of the marina, borrowed fenders to supplement my own, and ran my stoutest lines to the seawall. It was the best that I could do. I got on an airplane and left my boat to face what might come on her own.

Cyclone Evan hit on December 17th. A category 4 storm which plowed right over the top of Vuda Point. Huge trees were toppled. The trees that did remain had all their leaves stripped off. Waves came in over the reef, through the dogleg in the passage, through the chain/airplane tire surge gate and were still breaking over the bows of the boats inside the marina. My neighbor Grant off Lochiel did his best to make sure Bodhran was prepared, but he had to motor for hours to keep his boat off the seawall. Amazingly Bodhran would probably have been fine if not for the huge 65 foot ketch that the put next to me. Our freeboards were such a mismatch and the fenders were all blown out from between the boats by the wind. Bodhran got caught under the neighbors rub rail bending two turnbuckles, two chainplates, a boarding ladder, a stanchion and ripping up 12 feet of cap rail. Additionally the larger boat drove Bodhran down on the stub dock buckling the stern rail, snapping off a vhf antenna, breaking up more caprail and damaging the fiberglass on the corner of the stern. Great was kind enough to send pictures so I could see the damage, but I had to wait for another 5 months to return and care for my poor boat.

I landed in Nadi International Airport on June 5th. Almost 6 months after Evan hit. I expected to see cyclone damage everywhere. I asked my cab driver about it. He said that everything was pretty much back to normal after 3 months. Cyclones are a fact of life in the tropics. People know how to deal with them when they hit.

I got into Bodhran at 3 o’clock in the morning, too tired to survey the damage. The mildew was overpowering, but sleep would not be denied. I awoke to the birds chirping as the sun came up. Amazingly all the trees had regrown their leaves. Vuda Point looked much as it did when I’d left it. The only sign of Evan were a few missing trees that had been replaced by some new planting.

It took a week to get hauled out. Progress was slow. I’d spent my first winter in the US in 7 years and my body took time to re-acclimate to the tropical sun. I hired Baobob marine to repair the damaged stern rail, had a couple of local fellas wax the hull and do the bottom job while got to work repairing the cap rail and replacing the cutlass bearing.

There wasn’t any damage that I couldn’t repair except for my dinghy. I’d left my year old Aakron Beachmaster dinghy rolled up and in it’s storage back during cyclone season. When I took it out of it’s bag, the tubes had separated from the transom and the handles and bow roller fell off. When I began to pump it up, the tubes went too. The glue had softened up during the heat of the southern Summer. I contacted Aakron, but got no response. Apparently their warranty is voided if you take their product into the tropics. I contacted Tim and Alison at Northland Inflatables down in New Zealand where I’d purchased the dinghy.

Tim and Alison were great. They went back and forth with Aakron for me for a week. In the end Aakron said that I could pay to send my dingy to New Zealand to be repaired and then pay to have it shipped back to me in Fiji. The whole process would have taken months and I still might have ended up constantly chasing leaks in a sub-par product. Tim and Alison proposed an alternative to me. They’d sell me a new slightly smaller dinghy from a different manufacturer at cost and they’d replace the oarlocks for free so that I could use my 7.5 foot wood oars. They also found an air freight option to send it up to me for a quarter of the price that I was being quoted in Fiji.

It too me 4 weeks to get out Vuda Point. Bodhran is back in shape. I’ve got a way to get to the beach. My outboard isn’t running as of yet and I’ve spent way too much money, but it could have been a lot worse.