Friday, June 28, 2013

Arrived Fiji

TIME: 2013/06/29 03:14 UTC (15:14 local)
LATITUDE: 17-58.56S
LONGITUDE: 179-13.71E
Anchored Gau, Fiji

In reality we arrived in Fiji last Monday, but it's taken me almost a week to update the blog. Check-in at Savusavu was smooth. As we approached the Savusavu commercial wharf (the ferry wharf at the entrance to Savusavu) we hailed Copra Shed marina on VHF 16 and Simon from the Copra shed helped secure s/v LightSpeed to a mooring. We arrived at 12:30PM just ahead of the 1PM lunch hour, so Simon ferried out most of the officials after lunch arriving around 2:30PM. Quarantine, Customs, Immigration, Biosecurity and Health forms were completed in about 45 minutes. The $172FJD Health fee was a bit of a surprise seconded by the $89.50FJD biosecurity boarding fee. Our feline Shell also required a $1500.89FJD refundable bond payable in cash at the Biosecurity office near the Westpack bank. The health fee was payable at the Hospital which is a 20 minute walk from town or a $8FJD taxi ride round trip. A one way walk in the burning afternoon sun was enough for us so we taxied back to town for $3.70FJD.

1USD = 1.88FJD, so dividing all prices by 2 gets you in the ballpark.

With all of our check-in procedures completed we enjoyed TWO chicken curry dinner for a total bill of $19FJD which was less than half what we would have paid for any ONE meal in French Polynesia. After the dinner we had one beer at the Copra shed marina bar and then went strait to bed sometime around 7PM. The next day we moved the boat to a small dock across from the fuel station and MH grocery store and gave the boat a good wash down and filled up a water tank. But first I had to walk a few blocks to town to find a new hose. In all I stopped at 4 hardware stores to find all the pieces and parts as hose and ends are sold separately. Most of the shops had hose, but few had any ends that you screw on to the faucet. A further complication is that the hose fittings are different that those you find in North America as these are smaller, so even if I had my own hose it wouldn't have fit on the locally used spigot. About $50FJD later I had a 30 meter hose with requisite ends and a new spray nozzle and we got busy giving LightSpeed a good wash. About half way through the new hose end popped off the hose and I had to dive into the bay to retrieve it. It turns out the hose I purchased is not reinforced and under pressure it starts to inflate like a giant water balloon and soon the end pops off. Now I know why none of the local hoses I've since seen have a sprayer attached as this clearly is a path to a ballooned and ruined hose!

With the boat all de-salted and pretty cleaned we began to pull away from the dock when our kitty climber rope on the starboard side caught in our propeller and we had a dicey time maneuvering to an open mooring in the tight confines of the crowded mooring field on just one engine in the ebbing tide. The 'kitty climber' ropes are for our cat Shell to climb back in the boat if she falls in the water (not that she knows this!). Apparently, one of the ropes was a few inches too long and the braided line caught the tip of our propeller stalling the engine. Another swim was required to unloose the rope and all was fine with no damage or issues. Just a few moments of excitement as I glided LightSpeed to an open mooring with the maneuverability of a one legged duck.

The next few days we did a little shopping and caught up with boater friends that we hadn't seen since last season. Curly has a new haul-out trailer that we thought we might use for hauling LightSpeed for a paint job, but the main deck is 16' wide which is a little too wide to conveniently haul LightSpeed as her underwing is only 14 or 15' wide.

Anxious to get our haul out completed we set sail for Suva with two planned intermediate stops at Koro island and Gau islands. We anchored at Dere bay at Koro and enjoyed a free mooring and warm welcome from the expat community of about 45 homes of which half are full time residents. In consideration for the use of the free mooring yachts are encouraged to go ashore in the evening and have a beer with the locals around 5PM. It wasn't too difficult for us to oblige with this request and had a nice time and a few beers. About 5:30AM the next morning we got underway for Gau where we're now anchored for the night and planning to leave early in the AM for Suva. Fishing was slow today with two catch and releases of a Spanish Mackerel and small Skipjack tuna.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Staying connected in Fiji... Mobile internet set up.

For most of our travels the last 8 years we heavily relied on a high power WIFI system to connect to shore side WIFI hotspots. In Mexico we used Banda ancha (Broadband) 3G via a USB dongle and it was pretty cost effective. In French Polynesia it was back to WIFI and now in Fiji we again have the option to use mobile broadband 3G via a usb dongle or via a SIM card installed in a compatible 3G capable device. Since we have been cruising for so long and are getting pretty frugal we have fallen behind our USA peers in terms of gadgets. Our few indulgences as of late are a Google Nexus 10 tablet, but it's WIFI only and Motorola Droid X from a few years ago, but it's a Verizon phone and thus doesn't use a sim card. So, here were are in Fiji where we can get cheap fast 3G mobile broadband and we have exactly zero devices to utilize the service.

Luckily, Vodafone Fiji sells a pre-paid Flashnet 3G USB dongle that includes 1GB of data for $29FJD (about $15US). You can add 11GB of additional data for $100FJD and it's good for 60 days... lesser amounts are only good for 30 days or less. Now that we have internet access via our laptop PC with the Flashnet 3G dongle, the next question was how could we share the internet amongst ourselves and the other devices. I actually have a TP Link TL-MR3020 3g/4G router aboard just for this purpose, but the Vodafone 3G dongle was too new to be compatible and even the Vodafone people didn't have a compatible router. So one of the options is go with a software solution like Connectify that can turn your laptop into a wifi hotspot for other devices. Connectify works great and we purchased the $25 annual license while in Mexico for use with the Banda ancha, but while at the Vodafone shop in Savu Savu I was tempted by a super cheap 7" android tablet for $229FJD. The tablet running android 4.0 was also a fully functional phone and it could create a mobile hotspot. So, I dropped the cash despite knowing I'd get an earful from Kathy. Yes, I got a drubbing, but now we have a cheap tablet serving up the internet to our other devices. So far it's been incredibly handy and at the super cheap price I'm happy to take it anywhere without fear of wreaking a super expensive gadget. It's also a back up chart plotter running the Navionics App, google earth, Sailsafe anchor alarm, etc.

A few tricks for other travelers if you go the tablet route. The SIM chip that comes with the tablet is a Voice SIM that you can also use for Data. This is great, but the cost for the data is almost three times as much as for a flashnet SIM. So go ahead and buy the flashnet 3g dongle and then swap the chips. BUT, then the tablet won't work as a phone and you need the Vodafone guys to change the 'APN' a mobile networks setting within the tablet. For us this was a fine solution as I just took the chip that was in the tablet and popped that in an old quad band cell phone so we have a dedicated phone and the tablet is just to serve up internet to the other devices aboard including our PC laptops and other android devices like my Nexus tablet.

It's great to be connected while underway and so far we've been super impressed with the 3G coverage between islands.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fiji Fishing

Three Yellow fin and one Mahi Mahi as we sailed by Taveuni Island, Fiji as seen in background.  Hope to arrive in Savu Savu on Monday afternoon.  A feat tonight aboard s/v LightSpeed with David and Kathy Kane aboard.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wallis and Fatuna

June 20, 2013
Anchorage Position: 13°20.4528 S 176°13.5172 W
Wallis Island

Check-in/out at Wallis is super easy and quick and FREE. The locals are super friendly making hitch hiking around the island easier than catching a cab. The grocery store is well stocked if a bit more expensive than French Polynesia and there is an enormous hardware store with incredible inventory.

We'd enjoy spending more time here exploring the land and lagoon, but the weather looks good for a sail to Fiji.

For those heading to Savu Savu, Fiji we'll pass along some advice from friends who've been in country for 6 months. Brown sugar, mayonnaise, chocolate, nutella, cheese, bullion and cat litter are best purchased elsewhere as they are either very expensive, unavailable or strange like the sweet flavored mayonnaise.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Arrived Iles Wallis

TIME: 2013/06/17 05:11 UTC
Position: 13-20.34S 176-13.47W
Anchored Iles Wallis

Overnight I was struggling to slow the boat down so we'd arrive at Wallis around sunrise. First I dropped the spinnaker and unfurled the jib which shaved a few knots of the speed and still we would arrive well before daylight. Ultimately, I stuck all sail and we were still averaging 3.5-4 knots under bare poles in 16 to 20 knots true at 150 apparent.

Nearing Wallis, but well before first light I dropped line in the water to try some night fishing with no luck. Low slack tide at the pass was scheduled for 5:30AM and we hit the pass at 6AM riding smoothly in on the minimal flood tide. In the early morning light it was hard to discern the edges of the pass, but the navigation adds were numerous and the CM93 (January 2010) charts were spot on. Once we cleared the pass we turned East just as the sun broke the horizon and blinded us with low angle light glaring off the water. Feeling tired and unwilling to battle the glare for several miles as we negotiated the well marked but coral studded lagoon we dropped anchor at the first opportunity and had a nap. Then feeling invigorated we jumped in the water for a quick snorkel which revealed some really nice coral and fish. Around 11AM we checked email via SSB and received advice from friends Jeff and Jose that we should move 4 miles to the west side of Wallis and anchor by the wharf with the large oil storage tanks. The new anchorage is very calm if not so scenic as the first. Jeff and Jose dinghy'd over and we invited them aboard for a nice several hour chat. Jeff is a vet and a boat builder so we talked cats of both the feline and sailing varieties.

Tomorrow we'll hitch hike to the big village on the other side of the island to check in with the Gendarmarie and Customs all of which we hear is very casual and FREE. Then check out the shops and grab a baguette and some nice French cheese.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Unexpected course: Sailing from Samoa to Iles Wallis

June 16, 2013
Position 13°45.57'S 174°07.92'W
Underway for Iles Wallis

Yesterday morning we made a early departure from Apia, Samoa heading for Fiji or so we thought.

We encountered some rough waters while sailing between the Samoan islands of Savai'i and Upolu through Apolima strait where current strongly opposed tidal flow. We recommend that other sailors consult tide tables and local fishermen about the appropriate time to transit Apolima strait to avoid the rough confused seas. At one point we slowed the boat to only 2 knots to avoid launching off the crazy steep confused seas that extended seaward nearly 10nm from the strait. Once clear of the shallow tormented waters the desired course to Fiji was quite uncomfortable with strong SE winds and swell almost on the beam and stronger winds in the forecast. There is no substitute for going where the wind blows, so we altered course 40 degrees to starboard to get the swell astern which resulted in a much more comfortable motion aboard. Luckily, the new course had us aimed at Iles Wallis a French atoll some 225 nm distant. I launched the smallest of our spinnakers as boiling black squall clouds blotted out the horizon and soon engulfed s/v LightSpeed in a tropical deluge and gusty winds. It was good to be on a comfortable heading, even it meant a radical change in plans and a unexpected destination.

You've got to ask why in the heck would we leave port with unfavorable weather? Especially, when I write so much about our regular study of weather GRIBS and WW3 wave models. The short answer is the weather changed on us. It all looked good up until the morning of our planned departure, then the GRIB files showed stronger winds and a less favorable wind angle. At this point we were really committed to leaving having already checked out of the country with Customs, Immigration and the Port Captain the day BEFORE. If we stayed through the weekend we'd be breaking the rules badly and likely be confronted with the need to check back in and then out again a full day affair. So, hoping for the best we decided to set sail and see how reality compared to the GRIB wind model. The GRIB file was spot on, so utilizing our flexible time table we changed course and are making the best of the weather by going with the flow. Visiting a totally new island will be fun considering many of our recent stops have been our second or third visit.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Suwarrow atoll to Apia, (Western) Samoa

 LightSpeed anchored off Anchor island at Suwarrow atoll.

 Apia, Samoa
 Storm damaged docks from Cyclone Evan

Maupihaa atoll pictures 2013

 Lobster lunch at Maupihaa atoll
 Improvised island shoes quickly thrown together when a sandy beach walk turned to sharp coral.
 Fishing for Varo lobster
 Low hanging fruit
 South shore of Maupihaa
 Postcard perfect
 Boat lift
 Copra with Hio
 Learning how to quickly pop the coconut meat from the husk.
 Husking coconuts until my 'soft' yachtie hands were pretty blistered.
 Copra drying in the sun
Remains of a old ship wreck on SE shore of Maupihaa.  Lots of small colorful ballast stones litter the beach.
 Hio catching lunch by running around a few fish that ventured too close to shore.
 Cleaning the fish
 Hio's kitchen
 Hio's stove
 Cruiser girls pose with the islands girls before a coconut crab hunt.
 Dave ready for a lobster gathering expedition
 Hio with the first catch of the night where we captured 13 lobster by walking the reef at low tide.
 Preparing the 'stove' to boil the lobsters
 Lobster boil in progress.
 While picking up lobster off the reef we also speared a bunch of sleeping parrot fish.  At night the parrot fish tuck themselves in a the coral and sleep.  Spearing these is almost as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
 Lobster dinner
 North shore hosts
 Parrot fish in coconut cream and lobster.
 Hio enjoying being King of Maupihaa.
Great times

Monday, June 10, 2013

Arrived Apia, Samoa

Just got internet update tomorrow with lots of pics from the last 30 days of fun.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Suwarrow to Samoa

May 5, 2013 (2300UTC)
Underway Position: 13°10' S 166°37' W
Sailing from Suwarrow atoll toward Apia, Western Samoa

Writing blog posts is becoming difficult as my keyboard is failing with several keys stopped working. Namely it is the letter after w in and the letter after y in the alphabet. When you see 'these letters' appear it the result of some creative misspelling and the wonder of auto correct to deliver up the properly spelled word, from there I cut and paste the 'letters' as needed. I've also noticed that capital letter version of j,k, and l are non responsive. This year we've had 3 computers fail from the tropical malady of salty air and high humidity. Anyway, looking forward to a new laptop computer and wireless keyboard in the near future.

Our time at Suwarrow atoll was pleasant, but visiting Suwarrow on the heels of the exceptional experience at Maupihaa atoll took some sparkle out of this remote Cooks Island National Park ... too many rules. The rangers at Suwarrow are great, but the rules are pretty oppressive limiting anchorage to Anchorage island with all other motus off limits. No walking on the other motus, no beach fires, no fishing in the lagoon, no lobster hunting at night, no, no, no. On the yes side, one morning I went fishing at 6AM with the assistant ranger named Ngatupuna. He picked me up at the boat in a 16' aluminum skiff with a poorly running Yamaha 25 outboard. We set off to run the pass and fish outside in the ocean for Tuna and other pelagic's like Wahoo and Mahi Mahi. The 2 cylinder engine was only running on one cylinder and was hard to start, did not idle and had little power. Heading offshore to fish on the windward side of the atoll in the squally weather seemed an arms wide open invitation for disaster. Ngatupuna is a Cook Islander, but left the Cook Islands when he was 12 to live in Australia and only just returned to the Cooks last year. Ngatupuna was the designated boat man for Suwarrow atoll, but as we limped toward the pass I wondered how much time Ngatupuna had in boats while living in Australia.

Just before the pass I called a timeout to look at the engine. A nearly severed spark plug wire was readily apparent, so I shifted the broken wire a bit so, it might make the occasional delivery of a spark to the lower cylinder and we set out sputtering toward the open ocean. Ngatupuna had no concern for the maligned engine and seemed oblivious to the risks of open ocean fishing. Soon we had handlines of dubious construction and creative knot tying trailing behind the boat. In less than a minute Ngatupuna had a big bite, but lost the fish from the 40 foot handline. Next it was my turn to battle a nice Yellow fin tuna to the boat, but just before hauling the fish aboard a shark attacked and I yanked only the bloody remains of a tuna head aboard. We chased feeding birds as we trolled along the lee shore of Suwarrows treacherous wave pounded reef. Threatening dark black squalls built on the horizon, the faulty engine sputter along on one cylinder and my nerves were racked by all the potential ways I could die that morning. Would I be dashed to ribbons of bloody flesh on the reef, torn to bits by hungry sharks, marooned at sea as the boat drifted past the atoll into a dark lonely sea or simply drown in the confused seas when the boat flipped?

Around 4 miles from the pass we hadn't yet landed a fish and I reluctantly called uncle and asked Ngatupuna to head the boat back to the safety of the lagoon. A party was planned for the evening and our job was to catch the main entree, but I'd had enough of tempting fate in a small broken boat at sea for one day. On the return trip I landed a nice Yellow fin tuna, but with a party of 14 for the BBQ ashore one fish would never do. Ngatupuna suggested we try fishing again in the afternoon, to which I politely demurred. To his credit Ngatupuna did go fishing again that afternoon and not only returned alive, but with 7 Wahoo to boot. We had a delicious BBQ with the other cruisers and Ranger Harry played a few songs on his guitar accompanied by Ngatupuna who sang some traditional Cook Island songs.

On another day Kathy and I made a drift snorkel through the Suwarrow atoll pass. The quantity of fish was remarkable with huge schools of Parrot fish and plenty of sharks, the coral was not so impressive due to the high water flow that constantly scours the bottom. Outside the pass the coral was nice as was the visibility with lots of grey sharks patrolling the waters.

Yesterday, we decided to get underway for Samoa. The weather conditions and forecast for the first day of our passage were outside of our normal comfort parameters, but we were anxious to get going. Swell was forecast to be 3.4 meters and winds around 20 knots with squalls. We set our storm spinnaker and blasted down the foam topped waves at remarkable speeds into the teens. On one big surf we hit a solid 17.8 knots speed through water and 19 knots speed over ground. The overtaking breaking waves created a noisy under deck rumble and crash as they moved between the hulls. Squalls unleashed a furry of added wind and a solid deluge of pelting rain. Both Kathy and I were feeling a little seasick, but the forecast called for moderation. Overnight, the weather instead intensified with base winds a steady 25 and 30 plus in squalls. One hour we averaged 10.1 knots with just our tiny storm spinnaker of 300 square feet flying. Around 2:30AM a spinnaker sheet parted for unknown reasons and the sail flogged wildly. I rolled out the jib to cover the flogging sail for the takedown, it was a wet messy job in the howling wind, rain and spray. Afterwards I treated myself to a quick shower to rinse off the salt. The remainder of the night we flew a mostly furled jib and still averaged over 7 knots.

Today the wind is still steady around 22 knots and we're still flying the jib with good results. The seas have yet to abate and it looks like our entire ride to Samoa promises to be boisterous.

That's it for now.