21 Jun Sailing to Fiji (from Opua, New Zealand)
June 9 & 10, Day 1-2:
We are continuing to sail westward (and northward) on the great Pacific, traveling from Opua, New Zealand to Savusavu, Fiji! We expect a 7-10 day journey with a possible stop at Minerva Reef. We are on Day 2. We left the dock yesterday, Sunday at noon. We motored out of the Bay of Islands marina, then anchored while Dick cleaned the bottom. After being in the Marina for two months there was build up on the bottom, including lots of barnacles. Dick was able to tryout his new toy, a diving hooka. (It is kinda like scuba gear, but the compressor stays on the boat, so it is easier to swim around). After the Captain was happy with the bottom cleaning and had taken a hot shower, we pulled up anchor at 1500 and departed the Bay of Islands. After 6 plus months, we are leaving New Zealand! On the AIS we could see sv Tioga (with captain Frazier, who we met in Tonga), further ahead was sv Whisper and sv Ice Bear. We have all scattered, the last boat we saw on AIS was Ice Bear early this afternoon. So far, our patience waiting for a weather window has paid off!
It is now Tuesday at 0200, I have another hour on my night shift. The weather has been calm and gentle. We had no wind until this evening around 2100, when I came on shift. The wind began picking up, so out went the genoa, engine went off and we started sailing! We had been “motor-sailing” (when there is little or no wind, commonly we sail with one or two of the sails out, the sails may provide a little propulsion, but most of it comes from the engine.) Having a sail out also helps the boat stabilize a bit against the swell. Tonight, we’ve had wind between 8-16 knots. Since it is right on the nose we’ve been sailing close-hauled and had to tack once so far. It feels great to have the engine off and sails out.
It is always difficult at the beginning of a passage, luckily, we have had good weather. I’ve been feeling tired, and sometimes wondering, why are we doing this? I know I am not the only one who has a hard time adjusting back to life at sea. At the beginning of our journey (2016) we met sy Anna Caroline (a Dutch couple) at the northern end of Vancouver Island who had sailed all the way from Holland to British Columbia. They talked about how the first several days of a passage is always hard, they joked about always wanting to sell the boat. We have never felt that distraught, but I do wonder… Are there people who do really enjoy this? (If you do, please comment!)
Thursday, June 12; Day 3-4
1200 Here we are, out on the wild blue Pacific! When I crawled out of the quarter-berth this morning, Dick said look ahead. Much to my surprise, there was a sailboat at about 10 degrees, she was going to be passing our bow, about a mile ahead. Dick had been tracking sv Ice Bear, for a while. They first appeared on our AIS and then when they were about 3 miles away, Dick could see them on our radar. She looked beautiful in the deep blue water with the beautiful light blue sky, scattered with clouds behind. We called and chatted with them on the radio, all was well aboard with their 3-person crew. Ice Bear was one of the boats that left Opua with us and are also on their way to Fiji.
I feel a little piece of mind knowing that other boats are in our vicinity. We also have an email check-in group with others that left Opua in the same weather window. Last evening, we heard that another boat who had left Opua on the same day, had put out a Mayday distress call. (This was downgraded to urgent.) They had lost some of their rigging, so their mast was compromised, but were working on a fix and felt they had enough fuel to make it back to Opua. (This did change, they ended up abandoning ship and were airlifted to shore, leaving their boat out at sea. The boat was recovered several days later! Uggg)
Today is a beautiful sunny day, with a few clouds around. We’ve had good winds from the South West, 15-20 knots all day. We’re sailing at a broad reach and Maia is enjoying speeds of 6-8 knots. We have a reefed main, full genoa and staysail set. Swell is 2-3 meters from the SE, so we are getting some surfing in. Spirits are high as we make our way North. We are about 2 days out from Minerva Reef, we will stop there if it behooves us.
Yesterday, Wednesday, we had a front come thru that brought afternoon showers and a lull in the wind. Dick took a lot of the afternoon shift, while I caught up on sleep! By sunset the front had passed, we were sailing again, had a peaceful night, a waxing moon that set around 0100, then a starry sky filled the night.
Meals have been going well, as we froze meals before our journey and filled up our new Engel freezer. It has been nice to pull meals out each day for dinner and then easily cook them in the oven or on the stove top. Tonight, we’ll have chicken soup and quesadillas (with fresh avocado). We’ll probably snack on some of our homemade pickles, for appetizers :-). For breakfast we eat separately (as I am sleeping in after staying up on my shift until 0300-0430). We’ve been enjoying Lala’s (that’s me) homemade granola. For lunch we also prepare our own, whenever the mood strikes us.
Saturday, June 15; Days 5 – 6
Friday, day five we had lots of wind, beautiful sailing weather and a clear almost full moon. As the winds blew from 18 – 23 knots, all day (and night) the swell got lumpy and made it difficult for moving about and sleeping.
Lighter winds returned this morning and the swell has mellowed. We turned the engine on at 1100 and have been put, put, putting all day (into the night). The weather has warmed, and it felt Hot this afternoon! No foulies (foul weather gear) worn today!
It is a quiet and calm night, and the clouds are spread across the sky. The moon has peeked out a few times from the thin clouds that give a pinkish tint to the sky. The moonlight shining through the clouds, gives off enough light to see all around. With the calmness, there is a distinct 360 horizon.
The night shifts have gone well. Is this because of the long naps, the fullish moon? Why do I (Laura) get energized at midnight, 0100, 0200? Listening to podcasts, writing, playing word games, all seem to help with the late night / early morning awakeness. Sometimes, I “daydream” as I gaze at the open ocean, moon and stars. Seeing a shooting star seems to deliver a small bolt of light and energy into the quiet night.
It is now Sunday at 0420 and South Minerva reef is 10 (cautious) miles off to our Starboard side. We will be heading into the reef pass on the north west side of North Minerva reef and will enter after dawn using the GPS waypoints we used (and confirmed) during our visit last October.
Sunday, June 16; Minerva Reef
We entered the pass at 0800 and made our way to our old anchorage on the NE side. Sel Citron was also anchored there. We tried to give them a wide enough berth so they did not feel imposed upon. Sel Citron has been part of our email check-in group, we were hoping to meet them later in the day and possibly get a little socializing in.
It took us a bit of time to get the anchor down, (finding just the right spot.) Also, had to gaze and be amazed at the clear beautiful water. I called Dick up on deck to see the heap of chain sitting on the bottom, that we could clearly see 30 feet below.
We had a delicious Sunday Father’s Day brunch, followed by naps, although I found it hard to sleep. It was so quiet, hearing only the sound of the waves hitting the reef and the bubbles coming up from the bottom of the boat. It felt wonderful being anchor down inside this seemingly calm reef.
We decided to get the dingy off the deck and get her ready, so we could escape the confines of our 41-foot tiny home. We found this a warm process, and both jumped in the beautiful warm greenish, blue tropical water. Captain Dan from Sel Citron stopped by to share his stories of hunting the crayfish and invited us to join him and his crew for dinner at 1730 ish. We continued to enjoy our quiet afternoon, checked the weather and discussed boat projects that should be completed before leaving Minerva reef. We had an entertaining evening on Sel Citron. It was great to get off Maia and party with the “boys”. They had fresh fish for appetizers, huge crayfish (lobster) tails for dinner, we brought a salad, Dan made a tasty dessert and plenty of wine was shared.
Monday, we caught up on some extra sleep, made water with our watermaker and diesel generator. Dick worked on the Genoa reefing line that was chaffing. We checked the weather and got in touch with Bruce, the weather router, who confirmed that leaving Tuesday morning around 1000, would be good to make it to Savusavu by Friday afternoon. We hoisted the dingy, tied her on deck and got Maia ready for our continued passage to Fiji.
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and full moon rise with Minerva Reef all to ourselves. Quite the surreal experience being the only ones enjoying this magical place.
Thursday, June 20; Day ???
At 1100 the wind is blowing slightly, the swell has gained a little punch, we are motor-sailing with the main and genoa. By tomorrow, Friday afternoon we want to be into Savusavu! Because of this, we are on a time schedule. Fiji is strict about check-in, if you are outside of “regular” business hours (M-F), overtime charges apply. Currently, it’s hard to just sail, because our speed goes way down and then we are worried about not arriving on time. So, we are motor-sailing, but the engine is driving me CRAZY! It’s probably a combination of everything, bigger swell = queasy stomach = sea sickness = feeling super crappy = seasick meds = tiredness = crankiness & negativity ☹
We spotted land by 1200, the southern Fijian island of Mataku! We still had to sail North, to an approved port for check-in. In the afternoon the wind picked up, and we started sailing! Unfortunately, along with the wind the swell also picked up. We took turns on the helm, alternating with napping, though I napped more and by late afternoon we had a nice steady wind with bigger swell (2-3 meters), we were bumping around quite a bit. We’d been sailing 7-7.5 knots all afternoon; we were now making great time with arrival into Savusavu by early morning. By the time I started my nightshift, we were able to furl the genoa to make things a little more comfortable. Our max speed for the day was 10.6!!!, with an average speed of 6.47 – wow, that’s a good sailing day!
Friday, June 21 (Happy Solstice, we are going into longer days 😊)
Around 0500 we rounded Karo Island and then had a straight shot for Savusavu. As we neared the Island of Vanua Levu, the winds slowed, and we leisurely made our way into the Savusavu Bay. We called the Copra Shed Marina on the radio several times, but only received a reply when were almost in front of the Marina. The good news was that they had a mooring ball available for Maia. The even better news and surprise was that our friends Lisa and Henk, from Harlequin, were there and tied up to the dock! (They had left New Zealand about 6 weeks earlier.) Also, awaiting our arrival was Jennifer and Mark, mv Starlett, who had left New Zealand a day before us.
The marina guy, Siti motored out to us in his small tender, pointed us in the direction of the mooring and handed us our mooring ball line with a winning smile. He let us know that we would first be visited aboard by Health. Because another sailboat arrived just before us, the health officer would visit them first and then come to Maia. We took the dingy off the deck, mounted the motor and got it ready to motor the officials to and from Maia. We had just finished getting the dingy ready when the health officer was dropped off on Maia, from our new neighbor, also checking into Fiji. After we answered the officers questions, he filled out forms, warned us about not drinking the tap water, and keeping protected from Mosquitoes, he signed us off and told us we could take down the quarantine flag! Dick dingied him into the dock and we awaited the visit of the Immigration and Biosecurity.
Our visit with Immigration and Biosecurity went well. The officers were friendly, questions were answered, forms were completed. We were cleared to move about in Savusavu. We still had to apply for our Cruising Permits so we would be allowed to visit the outlying islands.
When we enter a new country we purposely enter with little or no fresh produce, eggs, honey as these are items that are commonly confiscated. However, the little we had, was not taken :-). (Yea, I got to keep my New Zealand honey!)
Our next task was walking into town, finding an ATM to purchase Fijian dollars!