Saturday, 11 October 2014

Fiji to Tonga passage, 04-10-14 to 10-10-14

Our lights are broken again. I just don't understand. I'm tempted to just chuck the whole fixture out and get a new one, but then that would be the third we'd bought in under a year. Which is ridiculous. The bulb jiggles loose downwind, and now it stops working upwind as well. The anchor light comes and goes, which is fun. We'll inspect it further after we've rested and recovered. But I'm so sick of lights.

I hate passages so much. The bilge pump is still broken, but it wouldn't make any difference if it was working. When we're heeled over for days all the water in the bilge tips over to one side and can't get near the pump. Water starts bubbling up over the edges of the floorboards. And there's a decent amount of it when we're sailing upwind - it creeps in down the mast, through the bow and from who knows where else. But the boat gets pounded and some of that water makes it into the bilge. Is this just a serious design flaw? Is this normal? We heel over and the bilge water never makes it down to the pump. I have no idea what the solution to this is. I don't think there is one. We stay on the same tack for days, sometimes it will be weeks. So we never flatten out and the water never makes it into the bit with the pump. I hate passages.

Our boomvang broke on the way here too. At like 3 am in an erratic sea with waves coming from all directions spraying saltwater over everything. Something on the pulley snapped. We haven't investigated it properly yet, but the boom swung out to the side as we lost control of the mainsheet. Not okay.

I was so proud of how Garth fixed it, and this is a perfect example of why I feel safe sailing into nowhere with this man. He's always fiddling with everything, trying to learn new things. If I leave rope around for him to play with it always gets turned into a monkeys fist, just because he can. We bought some stupidly strong rope to use on the windgen and after using what he needed, my silly husband spent a whole day making little rope things. He was immensely proud of them. I don't even know what they're called, but the rope is spliced back on itself, with a ball on one end and a loop through the rope on the other. The ball goes through the loop and then I think when you put weight on, it works like a shackle.

They were meant to be for rigging up the spinnaker because they're light and strong, which is obviously safer for the kite and it will make us go that tiny bit faster. He'd even attached one to the spinnaker halyard already in the vague hope of some downwind action. So at 3 am when we lost the boomvang, he just went forward and grabbed his little toy off the halyard. Then (attached to the jacklines) he braced himself against the toerail as he reached out into the darkness for the boom, with waves smashing over him. It took a lot of struggling and some quick re rigging with the mainsheet, but he managed to get his little contraption around the boom and just hooked the mainsheet pulley into it. So we didn't have a boomvang, but the mainsheet was working again. He just trimmed the sail and went to bed. 

I have no idea how he thinks of these things. As in my mind actually boggles. I'd forgotten that he'd even made them, the deck was really dangerous with all the waves smashing over it, and it was 3 am, dark and cold. My solution would have been to drop the mainsail until the sun came up. He would have been seriously lucky not to fall over if he'd tried to latch the pulley on with rope - when the mainsheet is gone, the boom just flops around wildly over the water. So it was just a little thing and it didn't take him long, but I know exactly how bad that scenario could have gone... The most likely outcome being him getting smacked in the head as the boom swung around, then carrying him into the water as he held on to it trying to attach the pulley. So I'm really proud of him.

The passage was pretty rough and neither of us was happy. It took four days of me being quite ill before I got my sea legs. So I spent a lot of time either being sick or feeling rotten for taking too many seasickness tablets. And then being sick anyway. Garth was seriously unhappy because we didn't go far enough south at the start of the passage because there were islands in the way, so we had to keep tacking. Then we had to motor the last seven hours into Tonga to make sure we arrived in the morning with plenty of time to get through customs. They don't charge extra to clear in on the weekends here, you just can't do it. So we didn't want to rock up on Friday afternoon to find all the officials too busy to clear us in. We would have spent a long and hungry weekend stuck in quarantine.

Customs were really lovely - one of them was even wearing a grass skirt which was a nice touch. More so because that's just how a lot of people seem to dress rather than him putting it on for show. They're quite conservative here - he was wearing an ankle length sarong-like skirt with the a knee length grass wrap over the top, latched on with a smart looking woven belt. And of course the typical Hawaiian shirt on top.

They didn't want to have anything to do with our fruit and veges, which Garth didn't get a chance to throw out before we arrived. The fridge doesn't have to work as hard when we're offshore because the air outside is a lot cooler, so everything was frozen solid. The biosecurity guy told us to keep them and that they were better on the boat. I told him they were frozen and he was quite insistent that we'd be better off keeping them. They obviously didn't want to have to deal with incinerating anything. They also made sure to mention that it was illegal to bring any of it to shore, so it's lucky we're not staying long! Over the side it goes, as soon as we're away from land. Which I guess is actually a lot easier than them having to go through the proper procedures on shore.

Nothing much else happened. I updated some of the games on my phone with the Internet in Fiji, so I pretty much slept, played on my phone and stared at the horizon. There was a beautiful full moon for our whole trip, making life easier. It looked like something out of a vampire movie for a few days, illuminating the clouds around it and half disappearing behind them every once and a while. It was stupidly bright though, which meant I didn't have to stare at the horizon for quite as long as normal through sleepy eyes. I can't wait until we can just relax without worrying about constant passages. I also can't wait until we're old and rich and sailing really fast downwind on a nice comfy catamaran. I'm so jealous of all these retired biddys lying around on comfy couches, being able to put things down without them tipping over and having enough hot water on board to have water fights in between hour long showers. But I guess while I'm young enough to shave my legs hanging upside down off the back of the boat into the water, we'll stick with what we've got.

Xxx Monique

Friday, 10 October 2014

Fiji, Suva 3-10-14

It's our last day in Fiji. I hate leaving Fiji. I love the food, the people and the fact that it's a tropical paradise. I always want to stay. We sailed to Suva from Lautoka, pretty directly. We did get to anchor each night though and one of the places we stopped was a sheltered little bay at Nananu-i-Ra island. It was beautiful, nestled in amongst a few little resorts.

The water wasn't amazing but it was clear enough, so we took the dinghy over to a little reef near our anchorage. It wasn't that interesting but it had been a hot day so it was lovely just being in the water. There were scattered bits of soft coral rather than a solid reef, and some of it was quite pretty.

We sailed to another reef a bit further out the next day (motored, to be exact), which was exactly what we needed. It was very Fiji. There were millions of different kinds of fish swimming around us and the coloured coral was beautiful. Unfortunately I was trying out my new gopro pole, with the camera on the wrong setting. So I have a lot of photos of nothing and none of the turtle that came right up to me and gave me a fright, or the amazing caves we found to dive through.

It was too deep for me to try them out but Garth gave me a fright by wandering off towards another side of the reef and then popping up from underneath the coral right next to me. I'm easily started when there's the possibility of sharks. So that was really amazing and made us both very happy. If we hadn't found at least one beautiful reef I think it would have been hard to drag me away from Fiji.

Suva is interesting. We haven't been here before and weren't sure what to expect. It's a big city, much bigger than Nadi or Lautoka. We read on Noonsite (which is supposed to be like a bible for cruisers, with lots of useful information) that you had to pay $15 per person to tie your dinghy up at the dinghy warf. We arrived at 4pm and just needed more bread and pineapples from town, so I was having none of that. We rowed over to the road and dragged the dinghy over thick mud to tie it up to a tree. Then when we came back and the tide had gone down a bit, I nearly lost my shoes as I sunk down past my ankles into the goop. Whatever, we saved $30. Except I asked the barman at the Yacht Club on the way back and he said we could just tie up out the front, no problems. They even have security guards watching it. Damn Noonsite. So the next day we headed to the dinghy wharf, but we went down the wrong leg of the tiny marina and ended up pulling the dinghy up over a small wall to tie it to another tree. We eventually found the other dinghys... There were only like 15 there, I'm sure anybody else could have missed them as well.

Pretty beach just outside Suva

The vege market here is very much like the one in Lautoka, but a lot bigger. The seafood section is more interesting though. Tucked away behind the market were tables of seaweedy looking stuff, crabs tied together to prevent them crawling away (though that didn't stop them trying), piles of clams and trays of other strange looking things that were obviously in the seafood family. Round the corner was the fish market, with stalls all lined up along the street and a very distinctive fishy smell wafting past them all. Everything was stupidly expensive though. The supermarkets, the bakeries and the fruit and veges all cost more. I thought $1fjd for a green coconut in Lautoka was steep, in Suva they were $2 ($0.20 each when we were in Vanuatu. I've been spoiled). A pile of three or four pineapples in Lautoka were $2, in Suva the small ones were $2 each (about $1.20 aud). This displeases me, especially considering we wanted to do some more provisioning before we left. We got very little, which might hurt when we get to French Polynesia and everything costs three times more. I did haggle for the pineapples though, seeing as our next passage will be maybe a week. I wasn't leaving without at least seven pineapples. 

We haven't done much else here, aside from buying groceries and carrying them a long way back to the boat. The taxis here only cost a few dollars, so normal people would just pay for a lift. But we're not normal. We've mostly eaten pineapples and very fresh cream buns. We went to the movies the other day, which was a stupid thing to do in Fiji but really fun considering we spend all our time at sea and on islands. Side note - even Fiji popcorn is better than the dodgy stuff they give you in NZ.

Cool mountains

We did get sucked into buying souvenirs though, even though we just wanted some household items. I'd obviously rather buy something locally made than some cheap plastic junk they've had to import, but try telling a poor little guy in a room full of stuff he's hand carved that you just want a soup spoon. We found a place along the waterfront that was filled with little stalls of handcrafted things. Some of the people were at their desks making things, or sitting in the walkway weaving bags. We followed the river, which runs past the main mall and the cinema (the fish market was set up along the other side). When we got to the waterfront we just followed it along for a while in the opposite direction to the markets and we found these lovely handcrafted shops. If you're getting souvenirs, this is the place.

Most of them are happy to barter, and everything is beautifully made. We found a mahogany mortar and pestle for about $9aud (we had to ask everyone and eventually the store owners talked amongst themselves and a lady emerged from the group and dragged it out from a box under a bench). She wouldn't budge on the price and I'm not surprised - it's beautiful. And I got a soup ladle made out of a coconut shell for $10fjd (I didn't even have to barter, she just dropped the price from $25 immediately. I suspect the prices are just as high as they think you can pay and they don't go any lower than they think it's worth. The price of hand painted things will get dropped in half, but still stays expensive). We've been eating a lot of stews lately and don't have anything to dish them out with. So we actually needed that. And Garth decided he had to have a little pineapple bowl to 'put stuff in' when he's cooking. It's too small to hold anything. When I find olives again I'm going to put olives in it. Then I shall eat them. I miss both olives and bacon dreadfully. And chocolate. Chocolate here is in the form of oreo cookies or wafer sticks - you don't see many chocolate covered biscuits on the shelves. Cooking chocolate is in the cold section with the butter, and chocolate as I know it is kind of hidden away at ridiculous prices. I ended up finding a tiny milky bar for $4. It was amazing, but I wasn't paying $14 for a block...

I think I quite like Suva. Not as much as Lautoka but definitely more than Nadi. It's a nice city. I think because it's just busy being a city instead of relying on the tourism industry to keep it going. There's a lot of it we didn't see, but that's always the way. The harbour is filthy though. I would freak out if I fell into that water. When Garth was taking us to shore in the dinghy, my job was to stare down into the murky depths in case I spotted the rubbish before it got wrapped around our prop. It was mostly plastic bags, which were annoying to keep picking off the motor. I wanted to fish them all out and feed them to whoever threw them away instead of leaving them for the turtles to eat. But I'd never get them all. It's sad finding so much rubbish in these countries, but I guess on a bigger scale they're not much different from us in terms of damaging the environment - they don't have much technology or electricity or cars or mass amounts of pollution. Just rubbish in the water. Which I think/hope was just hanging around in the harbour instead of being sucked out to sea.

The harbour

The fuel dock in Suva is not ideal. We're coming across a lot of problems by sailing the wrong way across the South Pacific. People fill up their fuel on the western side of Fiji at the marina near Lautoka or the one near Nadi, just before they head off to the islands, New Zealand, Australia or further north. People don't fill up on the east coast, because you don't go east. The fuel dock was only for small boats, with a 2m draft at high spring tides. There's no way we were getting in there. So Garth ran back and forth all day on the dinghy filling up water and fuel, while I ran all around town chasing officials so we could check out.

Cute little village on the way to Suva

So now we're off to Tonga. We have to decide whether to spend a few days in Tonga and a week in the Cook Islands, or the other way round. We shall decide when we get there! I'm just looking forward to French Polynesia and no more racing against time or Cyclones. Until we get to the Americas, when we have their cyclone season to worry about as well.

Xxx Monique

Resort at Nananu-i-Ra

Garth towing the dinghy at Nananu-i-Ra


Outer reef

Our boat is watching us

He always holds my hand

Lots of islands everywhere

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fiji, Lautoka 30-09-14

It's really hard to figure out whether I love or hate Fiji. There's reefs everywhere, which makes sailing stressful and means we have to concentrate a lot more. But there's reefs everywhere, which means lots of exciting places to go snorkelling. The fruit and veges are amazing, but meat is harder to get. And everybody is so friendly and carefree, but that means nobody is ever in a rush to get anything done. We arrived in Fiji at 10pm and anchored in the quarantine area overnight. Customs didn't get around to seeing us until 4pm the next day. So we were just waiting around for what seemed like forever, with me literally pacing up and down the deck. We had ditched all our fresh food before we arrived as well, so we were starving with only tinned food to eat. I could even picture the road into town and smell the warm, soft bread from my favourite bakery. But we had to wait.

We eventually got ashore just after 5, so I knew the vege market would be closed. Luckily people kind of hang around outside after the actual complex shuts down, with their produce laid out on the ground. So I knew I'd be able to get some pineapples. If I was to be honest, that's the only reason I'd been pacing all day.

I scrounged up our loose change from last time, which gave us a few dollars. Sweet! Then I went to get real money out of the ATM, only to find out that I'd forgotten to transfer cash out of my savings account before we left Australia. There was nothing on my card. So we went to get sim cards snd data for our phones, but the phone shop was shut. No problem, we had $3. So we went in search of Internet. Only to find that most places were shut, it being 6pm and all. We eventually found a LAN cafe that we'd been to the last time we were there, only to discover after we'd paid that the bank website wouldn't work because their version of Internet Explorer was too old. So now we had $1. I gave up and bought a pineapple, then used my NZ card that's supposed to just be for ongoing boat related bills. Then I used that money to buy more pineapples.

We eventually got sim cards, a luxury we don't normally allow ourselves. Then we hung out in Lautoka for a few days, because I just love it there. The anchorage is calm, there's bins and water straight off where the dinghy tie up, and it's such a friendly place. No tourists or tourist shops or anything other than a normal town. I tried to buy a postcard last time, but they don't even have those. The bread is always hot when you buy it, and it's all dense and soft inside like homemade bread. The people are super friendly, always saying hi and wanting to shake our hands as they walk past. And the vege markets make me happy. They're huge, open every day, and filled with amazing colours and smells. I always get overexcited there and buy too much.

Our anchorage in the harbour

They spread out way past the inside part, with people selling their produce on the footpath all around the building and under tarps across the road. I saw people watering their greens all through the day to protect them from the heat, and everything is always fresh - you'd expect it to be sad and wilty by the end of the day.

They have little chilled stands everywhere where they sell precut pineapple and watermelon. Last time I didn't try them, seeing as I bought bags of pineapples anyway, but this time I gave in. They leave a bit of the stalk on as a handle, making a perfect snack. I kept going back for more and I'm sure the lady selling them thought I was crazy.

Out of focus because I'm trying to be sneaky... Everybody is still looking at me
I always feel like a complete tool taking pictures in markets. I think because people are just doing their grocery shopping and I'm taking pictures of them - that would make me feel like an animal in a zoo, seeing as there's nothing picture-worthy about shopping for veges. But this time I snapped a few shots, even though I felt like an idiot. Garth refused to stand near me. It gets even more embarrassing because people here are so friendly and want to help, so they get in the picture and smile for me. Then I feel even worse for interrupting their day while they're trying to sell stuff. Whatever, it's so bright and colourful! Especially seeing as a large part of the markets is taken up by indo-fijian food. So there's big bags of colourful spices and lentils everywhere. They obviously go through a lot of curry powder! The combination of spices also makes everything smell amazing.

A Mosque takes up a large section of the street in the middle of town. It's a really beautiful building and stretches quite a long way. Something was happening when we walked past on Friday afternoon, with bells and pretty temple noises ringing our across the streets. I would have expected it to be a Hindu temple considering the large population of Indians, but there's a Muslim school next to it with all the students kitted up in traditional Muslim clothing. It makes the town so colourful, with people wearing such an interesting mix of Fijian, Indian and Muslim clothes. I'm in love with all the traditional Indian clothes in the shop windows, all bright colours adorned with shiny things. I wish I could dress like an Indian princess.

There's nothing else special about Lautoka, aside from the chilled out vibe you get as you walk through the streets. It's the 'sugar city,' with sugar cane being their main export and a big sugar mill near the harbour. Trucks loaded with sugar cane all park in the yard out the front of the mill, waiting to unload their harvest. That space quickly filled up and trucks started to line the streets, parking anywhere they could. We spoke to some guys sitting on the grass across the road in amongst an army of trucks, and they said they'd be waiting until some time the next day. There was no way of telling how many trucks there were - somewhere between 100 and 500 is my closest guess, without seeing where the line went. Whether the paperwork and the processing time are really slow or its just peak harvesting time I'm not sure. I felt sorry for all the guys stretched out across their front seats in the hot sun though.

We're on our way to Suva now, slowly making our way there with the wind dead ahead of us. We've only used 20L of fuel in the month since we left Australia, but we're bound to chew through the rest if the wind doesn't change direction soon.

Xxx Monique

Garth doesn't have time for pictures