Posts Tagged ‘turtle’

Christmas Island, One More Delay on the Trip Home

Friday, May 23rd, 2014


What mixed feelings I have about this place. Halfway between American Samoa and Hawaii, it’s the only island within 1200 miles that has airline service. I thought that I had a length of wire long enough to replace my headstay, but it turns out that my spare was 16” too short. If I had run to any other island, I wouldn’t have been able get wire flown in and would have certainly had to come up with a less satisfactory, jury rigged solution. That’s the good.

The bad is that the passage to the lagoon has shoaled and it’s no longer possible to get inside the lagoon. Instead, I’m in a roadstead anchorage rolling away in the swell that wraps around the north side of the island. The motion of the ocean makes it difficult to work aloft and made for a trying ordeal when I took the headstay and furler down.

Additionally the beach along here is all coral. It’s a bit sharp to comfortably drag an inflatable up from the surf line. Oh yeah, that swell comes through and makes landing a dinghy that much more unpleasant. Fully doable, but the better option is to make the mile long trip through the pass to the old wharf on the inside of the lagoon. The pass is shallow and gets pretty good sized waves, especially when the wind is blowing against the tide.

The bright side of the long dinghy ride into town is that the water is absolutely beautiful and the sea life abundant. Large schools of fish dart away from your skiff as you pass through and I’ve yet to make the trip without seeing a sea turtle or a manta. The other day there were four mantas at once feeding off the point a few hundred yards from where I’m anchored.

Speaking of sea life. I came back to the boat the other day and was treated to a show as 40+ spinner dolphins were jumping and playing a few hundred meters from the boat. I went over and was able to get my little skiff up on a plane. The dolphins loved it. I had as many as 7 at once swimming in front of me, jumping and dodging back and forth.

Town itself isn’t much to write home about. Besides the weekly plane service, they get a few ships a year from Honolulu and Fiji. Even “fresh” food can be months old and prices are astronomical. Prices are in Aussie $. 1 egg = $1. 1 apple = $2.20. 30 pack of Budweiser = $105. Needless to say, I won’t be stocking up too much here. I did fill up 20 gallons of diesel to replace most of the 30 gallons that I burned on the trip here from Samoa. At $1.60 per liter, it wasn’t too expensive.

When it’s working, there is internet available and the local telecom run internet cafe. It seems to be down half the time and is pretty slow, but at $1 per hour at least it’s reasonably priced.

I was joined in the anchorage a few days ago by a Islander Freeport 41 named Journey (sailingissexy.com). Eric and Elizabeth are a young couple from San Francisco, 6 months into a 3-5 year cruise. They were good fun to hang out with, but only stayed for a few days before taking off for French Polynesia. They’d just come from the tropical paradise of Fanning Island and weren’t inclined to spend too much time here at Christmas.

Yesterday I scrubbed Bodhran’s hull so that I’ll be all ready to leave once I get my headstay fixed. I’d cleaned it in Pago Pago before I left. That was one of the most disgusting experiences of my life. The harbor water there is so foul and an amazing amount of growth had built up in the 4 weeks that I was there. Even though I was moving for most of the last month, I’d had a nice colony of gooseneck barnacles attach themselves to the hull while I was underway. It’s amazing how these little fellas float around in the middle of nowhere and then glom onto whatever happens along.

This morning was a bit of a heartbreaker. Criag Short up in Honolulu had tried to ship me a new length of wire to replace the headstay, but it was bumped from the flight. There’s only one flight a week, so I’m stuck here for at least one more week……sigh!

Makogai, Ovalau and a Big Ole Yellowfin

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

We stuck around Namena a day longer than zee Germans. There was a northerly wind forecasted so they bugged out to get back up to Cousteau before they had to bash the whole way. We decided to go with the flow and head south to Makogai.

We had a forecast for 10 knots out of the north for our trip south, but it never materialized. Instead we motored in flat calm seas pulling two fishing lines behind us. Mélanie spotted a bunch of boobies going crazy over a bait ball and we abruptly changed course. The first hit came fast on the rod. Mélanie worked hard to try to get it in, but it was too strong and nearly spooled all the line off the reel before it shook the hook. It did create a knot which we didn’t get fully worked out before we got another strike. This one too through the hook as we didn’t have any drag setup because of the knotted line. I worked out the knot and got the reel ready to go again for the 3rd hit, but even with maximum drag, the fish spooled me. These guys were just too big for my rod and reel setup.

Instead we turned to the handline. We switched out the blue squid, which the tuna had been ignoring, for a blue rapalla. Fortunately the fish were still in a feeding frenzy as we circled around for another pass. The handline went taught and Mélanie started dragging it in. Unfortunately the fish spooked when he saw the boat and she wasn’t able to handle the line. We lost another one.

We came up with a new plan for fish number 5. When the handline went taught again, we kept motoring along for 5 minutes to tire the fish out. This tactic worked like a champ. Mélanie wrestled the fish alongside the boat and I hit it with the gaff. I don’t know how big the other fish were, but this beautiful yellowfin tuna was 30lbs and nearly destroyed my port visor above the nav desk during his death throws. It took us an hour, but we finally had our fish. We set off for Makogai.

We anchored off the old leper colony and took in the yellowfin carcass and ¼ of the meat for Camelli and the crew. It turns out that the Minister of Fisheries for the Eastern Division of Fiji was visiting the research station. Camelli didn’t have much time for us, but was appreciative of the tuna.

We went back out to the boat for a nice sashimi dinner including some ginger that we’d picked ourselves over a month ago for just this occasion. Afterward I went in for a music/kava session with the fellas at the research station. It was interesting chatting with the Minister of Fisheries. He was by far the most worldly, educated Fijian that I’d ever met.

Unfortunately the wind picked up out of the NW and gave us quite the rolly night. We had to bail on Makongai. The waves were wrapping around any protection, so we decided to take advantage of the northly to head down to Ovalau 25 miles to the south.

We had a great sail in 15-20 knots of wind. The highlight of the day was passing through a pod of pilot whales. They were holding on station and we got a good look at lots of them, but it was too rough and I didn’t have my camera out.

The pass into Ovalau was easy to navigate in the clouds and we continued our boisterous sail down the west side of the island to Wainaloka bay. Wainaloka is listed as a hurricane hole. It’s certainly a beautifully protected anchorage with great holding, but it’s a bit big to use as a hurricane hole. Still if you’re caught in the area, this is the place to go.

We were running a bit low on supplies, so we took the skiff in through the mangroves to the village and started walking towards Levuka, the old capitol of Fiji. Unfortunately we missed the 8:30am truck and there was no traffic of any kind on the road. After a couple of km we ran into a fisherman who’d also missed the truck, though he didn’t know it. Eventually we were able to call a taxi to take all 3 of us into town.

The cession of Fiji to the British took place in Levuka back in the 1860s and the town hasn’t changed much since. Walking the streets, you’d think you were in an old west town, as long as you didn’t look to the east towards the Koro Sea.

Mélanie and I walked around town and checked out the sites, poking our heads in and out of the various shops containing lots of things we didn’t need. We visited the small museum and saw a good shell collection and some of the history of the place. In the end Levuka was a poor provisioning stop. Fresh veggies are hard to come by except on Saturday. We ended up with some apples, carrots and beer from the MH and that’s about it.

We spent the last two days hanging out at a sandbar between the anchorage and Moturiki. It’s completely covered at high tide, but has a wonderfully sandy beach that appears at mid tide. Of course we had another photo shoot, played crib and generally had a very mellow time. From here it looks like we’ll be heading south to Leluvia and eventually Suva. The wind is looking light for the rest of the time that Mélanie is going to be here, so there’s probably going to be lots of motoring in our future.

Diving Namena with Zeeee Germans (fine David is Austrian)

Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Bodhran , Odin and Suvarov

Bodhran , Odin and Suvarov


The first time Mélanie and I snorkeled out on Point Reef at Cousteau, David from Suvarov sailed by us in his little Walker Bay sailing dinghy. We figured that he was coming out to say hi, but instead he was just out for a day sail. On our way back from snorkeling, we stopped by Suvarov to introduce ourselves. Within a minute, David was asking if we’d been to Namena. I’d sailed through Namena en route from Makogai to Savusavu, but had never stopped. We tentatively made plans to head out there when the weather permitted.

Namena is a marine reserve, famous for it’s diving. Unfortunately there’s no protected anchorage. The water is deep and full of coral. It’s really only tenable in light winds. It took two weeks, but Suvarov, Odin and Bodhran all jumped on a good looking weather window and left Cousteau for the 25 mile sail down to Namena.

David from Suvarov is an Austrian married to an Argentinian. His family left for the cyclone season while David stayed back to tend the boat. Bertel on Odin is German and in much the same boat with his girlfriend gone for the season. They’d both been jumping back and forth between Savusavu and Cousteau and were ready for a break in the cyclone season monotony.

We had fantastic wind for the sail south close reaching in a 15 knot Southeasterly. I’d been through the pass before and had no problem pulling into the anchorage and picking up the one mooring. It was actually a dive mooring for a wreck, but upon inspection looked plenty strong enough for Bodhran. Odin and Suvarov came in an hour later and anchored in 70 feet of water. I was very happy to have picked up the mooring.

Mélanie and I then went to the resort on the island to pay our $30FJD fee for snorkeling/diving in the marine reserve. The resort folk were friendly, but wanted an additional $50FJD per person for each day you wanted to land on the island. We decided to forego land and go for a snorkel.

The snorkeling right off the resort dock was fantastic with 4 giant clams right there in 10 feet of water. We then snorkeled the mile or so back to Bodhran and were treated to white tipped reef sharks, a hawksbill turtle, a sting ray and the healthiest coral that I’d seen in Fiji. Namena was looking like a very good stop.

The next morning we went back to the resort for information on the different dive sites. We didn’t get too much, but found out that slack water in the passes was 1 hour later than the stated times on the tide table and that the south reef was better on an incoming tide and the north reef better on an outgoing tide.

Mélanie went for another snorkel off the dock and saw a huge grouper. She’s turning into quite the fish these days and on the way back I dropped her off at another coral head near the boats while I went back to make breakfast. About 2 minutes later I heard screaming and popped my head out of the boat to see Mélanie waving me down. I quickly hopped in the skiff and pulled her out of the water thinking that she’d been stung by one of the huge jellyfish (Grape Jellos) that we’d been seeing around the area. Instead she’d had an encounter with a particularly neurotic barracuda that we’ve nicknamed Barry. Barry started out by staring Mélanie down with his big menacing underbite. He then proceeded to nip at her fins testing to see if she was food or not. It was about then that Mélanie decided she needed to get out of the water. For the three days that we’ve been in Namena, Barry has been a regular fixture patrolling around the boat, waiting for Mélanie to get back in the water.

Odin has a dive compressor on board which was really the impetus for this trip. David and Bertel brought their skiff and dive gear over to Bodhran a bit after noon and we took off to find the mooring just inside the north pass of the reef. We had the waypoints for a number of dive moorings around Namena, but this proved to be the only one that actually existed. Once Bodhran was moored, we took to the skiffs and went to a dive site called Grand Canyon. It turned out that the current was too strong and I was forced to keep the skiff tied to me while Mélanie and I snorkeled. The visibility wasn’t great and we couldn’t stay in one place due to the strong current, but it was still a fantastic snorkel drifting along a drop-off into a seemingly endless abyss.

We went back to Bodhran for water and snacks and then proceed to Kansas where David and Mélanie snorkeled while Bertel and I dove. The site is presumably named Kansas due to a great patch of soft coral on top that looked like a wheat field blowing in the wind. Kansas was very, very fishy. The highlight were two big trevally that kept swimming in circles around us, but down lower where 1000s of aquarium sized fish that stretched as far as the eye could see.

For the next 2 days we repeated this pattern. Everyone would come to Bodhran with their gear, then we’d head out to a different dive spot where we’d look for a mooring, not find one and then anchor the boat before taking to the skiffs. I dove on Chimneys and Fantasea and snorkeled Mushrooms (dive sites really do have colorful names.) After diving each day, we’d climb on Bodhran, crack some beers and head back to the “anchorage”.

This morning David and Bertel took off due to an impending northly wind. They didn’t want to get trapped down and forced to bash their way back to Savusavu. Mélanie and I are planning on heading down to Makogai 22 miles to the south, so a north wind would work nicely for us. We’ve made our way out to where we can pick up internet from Koro island. Hopefully the next blog post will find us having spent one more good day in Namena and then having a fantastic time down at Makogai.