Adventures of Maia | Blog
An adventure, sailing and cruising throughout the world with Laura, Dick and Ellie.
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This passage remains a blur, is it night 4 or 3? (on our sail from Port Moselle to Bundaberg). After motoring for the past 12 hours, we are sailing again! It is interesting to me how different the nights and days can be. With the low and highs comes the ups and downs. 

The dark nights… with the new moon rising around sunrise, we have had no moonlight. The cloudy obscure nights are difficult, it is hard to see anything. We have seen two boats on AIS, Crazy Love on day 1-2 and Houtmangrecht, a large ship on night 3. On the clear nights the stars do a superb job of lighting up the night. Last night felt warmer and muggier than the previous night. Tonight, feels warmer and the moisture not so intense. We have less clouds in the sky. We just got splashed with a wave, that made me jump. Things have been calm, but now that the winds have picked up, it appears the swell is too. 

I’m very grateful for the beautiful weather we have now, unfortunately, this includes the 2 meter (6 foot) swell that has been somewhat behaving itself. By that I mean that it has been tolerable… The sleeping has been difficult, as you get rolled around in the berth, but walking around the boat has been manageable. I think I only have a few bruises so far. Of course, the winds are predicted to pick up, which will mean the swells and the wind waves too. I wonder is it more tolerable because this is our 30 something overnight passage where we have sailed through the nights, so we are getting more used to it? Or has this passage really been mellower? Most likely the truth lies somewhere between the two or with the two. 

What it is like to be out here in the middle of an ocean on a 41 ft sailboat, the two of us, my husband and partner in this endeavor? He is the captain; I am the co-captain. After our 3 years and 9 months living on Maia, we appear to have developed a fairly good groove. We have our routines, and both watch out for the other. He is the Captain because he knows and understands all the workings of the boat. When we started out, I wanted to help and learn… but it turns out, Dick is really good at everything and he is used to working alone and I do NOT want to change the oil in the engine or take apart the boat to install a new widget and then put it all back together. I’ll help whenever he wants a helper, which is not often. I enjoy exploring and being social (he does too, but he is just as happy staying aboard working on this or that). During the last several months of cruising, I would go off to play with friends and would come back to have projects completed. It seems to be a win-win for all. 

Being out here on the Coral Sea, 400 miles from land is part of our journey. For me, the least desirable part, but to get from here to there… New Caledonia (our 10th country to visit) to Australia (our 11th country to visit), the “passages” are necessary. We need to cross the expanses of Ocean to get to land on the other side. I’m working hard on not being miserable while we are out here. It is not a fear of being away from land for me. It is not the thought of being hit by a rogue wave or being shipwrecked. It is the actual passage, the wind and swell or lack of wind, and lack of sleep that seem to be difficult parts. When the boat is rocking and rolling it is hard to do much of anything. When awake, I find it best to be up in the cockpit, and generally for the first day I sit and stare out at the Ocean. There is an adjustment period that happens. Podcast’s help me make it through the first night shift or two and then as I become more accustomed to the rocking and rolling or as the rocking and rolling subsides, I become able to function more. I can write, play word games, sudoku or maybe even read. Today, I cooked an awesome Sunday brunch. As the wind quiets, the swell quiets, but then the loud engine comes on. Even though I sleep better, the ongoing “hum” of the engine can make me crazy. 

To help make it all better I remember what an amazing life we are living. I feel spoiled and grateful for being able to explore and travel to these countries that were never a part of my dreams, but here I am… Currently sailing to the land of Oz, the one country that was my dream to visit since I was a little girl. 

Overnight Monday to Tuesday… We are a mere 154 miles from Bundaberg. We had a full day of little wind, so we motored, but took advantage of the quiet and made water. Sails came out just before dinner, so we had a calm and quiet dinner in the cockpit of garlic rice with broccoli and onions. We are using up as much of our fresh produce as we can and hope to have none when we arrive on Wednesday. The calm and light winds have been nice but are expecting the trade winds to strengthen today with a possibility of some showers. Today it was super clear, beautiful, and sunny and the sky is filled with stars tonight. 

With one day and one more night to go we are super excited to arrive! We have been studying up by perusing our guides, not sure where we will explore first. Been reading about whales and turtles, need to find out about kangaroos and koalas!!!

We had a spirited 37 hours in the Coral sea, sailing from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Drueulu, Lifou, New Caledonia. We departed at 0430 on Saturday, September 28 and once there was no longer protection from land the wind picked up to 19 knots and we came upon boisterous 2-3 meter (6-9 foot) seas with occasional deep rolls (Ugg, not fun). The sea state created additional havoc on Maia and by 0730 we had slowed twice by heaving to. The first time Dick re-capped one of the diesel jugs, the second time we rescued the kayak, that had slipped or had been pulled out of the kayak rack (bars holding it to the rail) by the annoying swell. We also raised the staysail, which was a good move and allowed us to sail more comfortably with the dynamic sea.

The wind and sea quieted themselves along our passage, by Sunday morning it was beautiful sailing weather and we had unfurled the genoa and were sailing at a respectable 5-7 knots. At 1230 we were sailing along the island of Lifou, and excited to get to the anchorage. It seemed we just had a little further to go… we thought just a bit east and then a quick sail across Santal Bay. Finally, at 1720 anchor was down and we were thrilled. We joined the 20 some boats that were anchored with the Loyalty Islands Rally. We realized we were the second to last boat to arrive as there was talk on the radio that Crazy Love with Connor aboard was due to be arriving the next morning, hopefully in time for check-in to New Caledonia!

We had a sizeable dinner trying to consume our fresh food that we expected Biosecurity to remove when they arrived in the morning. (They confiscated our lettuce, bananas, and cabbage.) Down Under Rally director, John, dropped off our New Caledonia entrance paperwork first thing on Monday. By 0915 Dick was picked up and taken to “Songlines” (the catamaran that housed Rally headquarters) where Customs and Immigration were professional, quick and efficient in processing Maia along with the 20 other boats. At 0945 Conner arrived, just in time for the check-in. We set up the dingy and by noon putted over to visit Crazy Love and pick up our stash of chips he brought us from Fiji. (Corn chips were pretty much non-existent in Vanuatu, Laura’s comfort food of choice.)  

We enjoyed our 3 plus weeks exploring New Caledonia. The highlight was Ile de Pins! We anchored in Baie de Kuto, for 4 nights. It was a beautiful large tropical bay with a large crescent sandy beach, rocky shoreline with large trees overlooking the shore. From our October 18 logbook entry, “Loving it here in New Cal! Have been finding the locals (Kanaks) to be welcoming.”

French is the main language spoken, with little to no French in our vocabulary, we found conversing with the locals difficult. However, our first day at the local market, Max came to talk to us (after he had taken his two large bags of rice to his vehicle). He was very friendly and spoke great English and explained that he had spent time in Oz (Australia) along with other English-speaking countries. He also told us that the big bags of rice were for a “camp” they were holding while the children were out of school. They taught lessons in the morning and then went out in the afternoon to experience those lessons. He also recommended that we only anchor at night in Baie de Kuto, but it was ok to day anchor at other locations. We had been told that there had been some trouble between the locals and tourists in this area.

While in Ile de Pins we decided to rent a vehicle. Connor joined us for a wonderful day tour around the Island of Pines. We picked up our car at 0800 from Nataiwatch and sped off to the Wednesday local market and scored fresh fruit and vegetables. We’d heard not so good things about the market, but it was perfect for us. We got bananas, papaya, lettuce, baby tomatoes and a large bunch of spinach. Dick and Connor also picked up a fresh sweet bakery treat. Next a quick stop at the ATM located just across from the market. Then we were off to explore. A quick stop at the statue of St. Maurice which was surrounded by some lovely pole carvings. We toured past a couple of beaches and then made our way to the highlight of the day, the Natural Pools. After parking the car, we meandered through shallow streams and towering pines, which open into a beautiful turquoise lagoon. We were pleasantly surprised with snorkeling as we found an amazing array of fishes, beautiful clams, colorful coral, and we even saw a sea snake hiding in the crevasse of a rock! Connor tempted us to swim on the outside, so we jumped into the pulsing ocean and enjoyed a quick swim exploring the deep waters with large craters below.

By Saturday, October 19 we were attached to the dock at Nomea Marina in Port Moselle Harbor. This was where we would spend our final five days in New Caledonia. As always when we reach a new city, we enjoyed exploring the area. Wandering around we found a lovely monument “to Honor the US Forces who by their presence from March 1942 to February 1946 during the Pacific War, insured the freedom of New Caledonia”. It has been interesting for me to begin to understand the power of the United States through the history we have seen, which has played a part of keeping the countries of the Pacific free. We took the local bus and enjoyed a visit to the Aquarium del Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie. It was a fun learning experience as they had pictures of the fishes we had seen while snorkeling throughout the islands. It was serene seeing closeup the large exquisite turtles swimming in the outdoor pond, but there was also a woeful feeling.

We decided to use Noumea Yacht Services to check out of New Caledonia. The office is on the Quay near the marina. The agent, Audrey, drove us to customs. We walked into a non-descript building, up the stairs and the women behind the counter looked at our passports, then at us (making sure we were who we claimed to be 🙂 then stamped the passports. Our agent took the rest of the paperwork and we arranged a 1400 meeting at her office. We enjoyed a nice cuppa nearby, completed our provisioning and made our way back to Maia. The next day, Thursday, October 24 at 1125 we were leaving the fuel dock and motoring out of Port Moselle Harbour. We were on our way to Australia!!!!

We left Port Denarau, Fiji on Saturday, September 7. Our passage was quite boisterous to start, with late afternoon & evening winds in the 20-knot range. We had SE cross swell that was in the 6-9-foot range, and it was rocky and rolly. Not our favorite, but as always, we endured!

On day two, the West winds eased and were in the 14-17 knot range, the swell quieted and we had a beautiful sail. At 0100 the winds had diminished, and the motor went on. When I awoke around 0900, there was a strong onion-like, burning smell, when Dick opened the engine compartment the smell became really strong. We turned off the engine and sailed under partial main and genoa.

Dick went into full investigation mode and found the start battery cover dripping acid and battery too hot to touch!!! He disconnected the battery and smothered it in baking soda. The engine compartment seemed extremely warm before the battery was disconnected. We switched to the house batteries, so the engine could still be started. All seems to be ok!? Luckily, a fire was averted!

For the rest of the passage we continued to have light winds, varying between 4-9 knots, we sailed whenever we could, but in reality, we motor-sailed for the rest of the trip.

On September 11 at 0800 we arrived at the southern-most island in Vanuatu; Aneytium and dropped anchor in Anelghowhat Bay. In the bay is Mystery Island, which is a Cruise ship destination. Vanuatu, formerly New Hebrides, is an archipelago of 83 islands and is around 1,750 km east of Australia. We had received permission via email to check-in to Vanuatu at Aneytium, however, there were no cruise ships stopping in the near future, so we were told we needed to check-in at either the island of Tanna or the capital of Port Villa. We had our quarantine flag flying for several days while we chilled and explored the area. One afternoon we dinghied to the beach and scouted the local village, Keamu. We found the visitor’s center (that was mostly there for cruise ships), a bank, and a couple small shops. Luckily one of the villagers gave us directions to an out of the way shop, where we could pick up a local sim card for cell service access. We also enjoyed snorkeling and walking around a quiet Mystery Island.

We took our time getting to the Island of Tanna, as we were enjoying the peace and quiet of Aneytium (we were the only cruisers in our anchorages). When we arrived in Port Resolution, on September 17, there were several other cruising boats. We launched the dingy and contacted the Port Resolution Yacht Club on the radio as they were to arrange our check in to Vanuatu. As it was late afternoon, we stayed aboard Maia and enjoyed our evening in the cockpit, watching the sunset and then seeing the glow from the Mount Yasur volcano, light up the sky!

Our week in Port Resolution went quickly with our walks around the area, close-up visit to Yasur (what a surreal experience), a bumpy and beautiful drive into the large town of Lenakel, boat projects, including our Go West Rally application and a few gatherings with other yachties. Now that we had joined “the Down Under, Go West Rally” we had a timetable to depart Vanuatu in about a week and continue our sail West.

On September 23, we enjoyed a brisk day sail to Dillions / Williams bay on the island of Erromango. Our max speed for the day was 11.8 knots! & we were sailing with reefed sails for most of the day. As we got behind the Island, we thought the wind was calming, and un-reefed the main, but soon there-after the wind picked up with force. We reefed the main again, (have we mentioned how much we like our Leisurefurl – in boom roller fulling with electric winch?)!

We were anchor down in the large beautiful Williams Bay at 1714. Early the following morning we were welcomed by Davey, a “older” gentleman who paddled out to us in his newly built dugout canoe with an outrigger. He brought us papaya, bananas, and a large lemon. He asked for rice, flour and sugar and offered to take us on a walk on the island. We met Davey on the beach at 10:30 and walked us up a beautifully landscaped path to the “Yacht Club” that he had built himself! Davey introduced us to his wife, and we presented them a few “gifts”. Then Davey took us on an engaging walk through the small village, beautiful forest and to the river where we had a lovely dip at the swimming spot. He was a good tour guide and explained about this and that as we walked. That afternoon he stopped by Maia to pick up some diesel and came aboard for a chat and a cup of coffee.

At 1700 we had the engine on and as the sun set were leaving Williams Bay. We had an ok overnight sail to Port Villa with winds 16-24 knots and rolly swell that increased as the night wore on. We were happy to arrive at 0800 to the Port Villa Harbour.

Whew, we had a blur of a visit to Port Vila. Upon our arrival in the bay (on Sept 25), we called Yachting World marina on the radio, trying to find out if there were any mooring balls available. Otherwise, we would anchor on the outside. We got no reply, so we slowly made our way into the inner harbor, going through the narrow red and green markers, only 5 feet deep! and then under the low wires, whew, we made it! We scouted around for free mooring balls and saw some white, yellow, and black, which were the correct ones? We hailed a dingy, loaded with other cruisers, they said find a free yellow one, and there should be a guy coming to help. As we looked around, we saw the marina guy coming our way. He helped us tie up to a mooring ball and said we could check in at any time. Once we straightened up on deck, it was nap time. When we got up from the short nap, we hauled the dingy off the deck and put the motor on. Then gathered laundry, shopping bags and packs, as we were heading into Port Vila to check a few things off our list. 

As we dinghied in, we noticed Shamata at the fuel dock, (a boat we had met in Mexico and had seen occasionally as we cruised around the Islands). We stopped by and chatted with them and they gave us a quick synopsis of Port Vila; where to go, the best stores, restaurants…. After our quick hello, we registered with the marina, dropped the laundry at the office, and were on our way to start exploring the Port. 

We decided to wander up the hill to the grocery store and Indian Restaurant (run by a southern California couple!) that was recommended. Our trip was successful, as lunch was yummy, the grocery store had just what we needed, and we found a well-stocked hardware store that had the dinghy motor oil that was also on the list. While I grocery shopped, Dick went to the cell phone counter to top off our local sim card. The woman at the counter was not able to help (because of a language difference), but the security guard stepped in and found that we had already paid for additional time, so he updated the phone. Angels are everywhere!

We walked back to Maia with full packs. We stopped and picked up part of the laundry that was finished (luckily the sheets had just dried). BTW, it was fantastic to drop the laundry off while we were out getting other things accomplished, especially since we were cramming a lot into a short visit. We stayed aboard for the evening, had a granola making session and enjoyed a quiet evening in the harbor. 

Friday was check out of Vanuatu day, which did not go quite as planned. We stopped by the office on our way in and were told the electricity was out, so the Port would not open until 1:00. We decided to take a walk around town and enjoyed the sights of the city. We walked past the happening farmers market, there were beautiful flowers and lots of fruits and veg inside the open-air market. We took a long walk along the waterfront and then enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch at lovely restaurant.

After lunch we took a dinghy ride across the harbour and tied up to a Customs & Immigration boat. As we walked into the building there was a group of others appearing to also be checking out of the country. We were handed forms to fill out and once those were complete, they were handed in and we were told to go to Immigration, and to Ports & Marinas to pay our fees. As we were finishing up with Customs, I noticed we were the last yachties in the building. I realized we just made it in time to check out before the offices closed! As we arrived at the Fuel dock, they were closing but told us to quickly get our fuel containers and they would fill them. Next time we will be timelier with our check-out procedures!!!

September 28 at 0430 the engine was on and we were on our way to New Caledonia!

July 30 – We are on our way to Suva with a planned stop in Gau. When I came on shift at 2100, it was a lovely clear night, the Milky Way was bright with the Southern Cross visible toward the one end. A few clouds covered the stars for a while, but the sky has cleared again, and everything is shining bright. We are currently heading towards the constellation Scorpious, the sea has calmed, and you can see the star trails across the water. The luminescence is streaming out in waves from Maia, and I’ve seen 5-6 shooting stars. Feeling grateful for the calm weather, even though we are motoring. 

We found ourselves heading toward the big city of Suva on July 31, we could see a band of clouds that seemed to surround it. The clouds and mist stayed with us, most of our time in Suva. We had heard that there were lots derelict boats and wrecks in the harbour and we found it to be true. It is a rather large harbour, and there are lots of large ships around, and not just single ships but ships that are rafted to each other. (Most of these boats look like fishing vessels.) It is hard to tell which boats are still working or if they are all helping each other stay afloat. There are also large 100 ft cargo boats going in and out of the wharf and the harbour. 

Our main order of business in Suva was to go to the American embassy and get my passport renewed. An appointment was made for Monday morning, 0930 with the Embassy. Instructions were given to bring my passport, $110 usd, along with the forms filled out and a new passport photo. 

As always, we enjoyed scouting out the city and found grocery stores, mobile phone sim cards and a place to get the passport photo taken. It was a 20 minute walk into town, but also found the taxi’s reasonably priced. On Sunday, we decided to venture around the city, found a nice cafe for lunch and had a refreshing walk, with a little rain and little sunshine along the waterfront. 

When we originally arrived in Suva harbour, we noticed a large ship anchored with lots of satellite dishes and thought it could possibly be a hospital ship, but that did not seem quite right. While walking around we saw it tied up to the wharf. Dick saw the name and looked it up, it was a Chinese Military ship.   

Our trip to the American Embassy was interesting. We arrived and were buzzed into a small building where we were questioned by security about our business, were required to walk through a metal detector and leave our backpacks and phones. Once we were cleared, we were directed to follow a walkway to another building. As we approached we were buzzed in and entered a large office where there appeared to be local folks waiting to be helped. We were pointed to a closed door and found a small office with a window where our embassy worker appeared quickly. She reviewed the documents and said that we would pay the $110 in the bigger office. Dick took the cash to the cashier, while I waited, in the office. Once the payment was made (this took some time as they had to run upstairs to find US$ change) and the paperwork was deemed to be correct, we were told that within two weeks the new passport would arrive. We decided to have it mailed to the Vuda Marina, as we expected to be stopping thru there in a couple weeks. 

Another must do in Suva was to get our B&G chart plotter fixed, it was shutting off at inappropriate times and we could not scroll in closer than 5 nautical miles. After much time was spent on the phone and emailing with West Marine trying to find out how the warranty would work, clever Dick decided to search online for the plotter problem. He found that the last update could be the source of the problems, so he did the latest updates and fingers crossed the problems will be fixed. (This did fix it for a while…)

After our visit to Suva, on August 8, we headed to Beqa, a small island to the Southwest. As we were approaching the island, we saw a boat on AIS heading in from the opposite direction. Once the boat name came up on AIS, we were not all surprised to see that it was Muskoka. After the big city, we enjoyed being in this quiet, little bay. We took a dingy ride to Lalati resort and around to explore the area and decided to have sundowners that evening at the resort. The resort were very welcoming. 

Dick took advantage of the calm water and cleaned the bottom of boat. Once he finished, he was very congested. We were not sure if it was from cleaning bottom or if it was a cold. However, he rallied the next morning to go for a little paddle as the kayak was finally repaired, and we were in the beautiful calm bay. Dick continued to not feel well for a couple days.

By August 13, we were sailing along the South coast of Viti Levu, the “Mainland” of Fiji. The winds have been quiet in the morning and picking up in the afternoon. We have had been enjoying some wonderful downwind sailing. 

As we have been making our way along the coast it has been captivating to watch the swell crash against the reefs. As the swell reaches the reef it arches up and shoots up in a jade green color before exploding on the reef in great clouds of white ‘soup’ that are 2-3 times higher than the jade green swell! Up ahead we see a white haze that almost looks like smoke or a halo coming off the surface of the water, it is the crash of the waves.

One night we stopped at Likuri Harbor, which had a beautiful white sand beach and the Robinson Crusoe resort. That evening we enjoyed the traditional Fijian feast (they even had special gluten free chicken available) and show. The fire dancing was spectacular.

We had heard a lot about Musket Cove and we were not disappointed when we arrived on August 14. As we pulled into the mooring ball area the wind freshened and we had a little difficulty picking up the mooring line. As we were making our third approach, we noticed a guy rowing a small dingy and were thinking, where is this guy going? He is going to get in our way! Well no, he was rowing out to help us! He was able to hand up the line and we tied up to the only open mooring ball.

Lots of Fun was had at Musket Cove. It was awesome reconnecting with Connor, (Sea Casa, now Crazy Love). Jennifer’s (Starlet) birthday party was super with a live band (consisting of cruiser friends), wonderful food, dancing, catching up with old friends and meeting new. We also had a date night at Dick’s Place Bar & Bistro, we enjoyed a fabulous buffet sitting by the pool with a sunset view over the beach. 

One day we decided to head out to Mana Island with some others to go snorkeling. To get there we motor sailed past Castaway. Once we arrived, I bailed as I realized I was not feeling well, I had caught the cold!!! (Dick had had a cold!) We spent an uncomfortable bumpy (mostly wind choppy) night at Mana and headed back to a mooring ball at Musket Cove. 

While tied up, I was feeling pretty miserable, Dick noticed we were not getting any charge into batteries, something was amiss with our electrical system. As it had been a couple weeks since we had applied for my visa and Dick was pretty sure we had a problem with the alternator, it appeared to be a good time to head to Vuda Marina. August 20 we had a nice afternoon sail to Vuda.

Dick worked with Summer Electrical, while I tried to be as low key as possibly as I had definitely caught the cold. Once I was feeling a bit better and the alternator was being re-wound, we took a taxi ride with Gail & Tony (Cetacea) into Lautoka. We had a great day exploring the town, enjoying lunch at a tiny Indian food restaurant and picking up a few “necessities” at the hardware, grocery and liquor stores. 

As much as we were enjoying Fiji, we were ready to start preparing for our departure and sailing further West to the islands of Vanuatu. Once the alternator was back and re-installed, we made another trip into Lautoka, purchasing Vanuatu dollars, buying more food, as we would have a 3-4 day passage and were not sure when we would be in a real town to shop once we arrived. 

As an appropriate weather window to start a passage was not apparent, on August 29, we sailed back to Musket Cove to wait for the weather to clear. Dick ended up coming back down with the cold, this time he got it even worse. I was able to play with others (I had several fun sailing and snorkeling days with Harlequin). While Dick recovered, he also worked on boat projects. It was a surprise to come back to the boat and find another project completed. Dick never ceases to amaze me!

Our final stop in Fiji, was Port Denarau. As we had been out another week or so, we took the bus into Nadi to do our final provisioning before checking out of the country. We also enjoyed spending time with Harlequin and Starlet, it is always hard to say goodbye. The check out process was a little confusing as we could not get a clear answer on how things were going to happen, before they happened. Mid-morning on September 7, Dick dinghied in from the anchorage and ended up bringing the customs guy all the way out to Maia. Clearance forms were filled out, he checked our alcohol stores, stamped our passports and we paid $105 fjd. He let Dick know that we could have come into the Marina and anchored nearby for the clearance. However, in reality, I think he enjoyed the dingy ride, especially the ride going back to the office, as he asked if the dingy could go fast, and fast Dick did go!

We reached the anchorage in front of Daliconi Village at 1340 on July 16, arriving with Starlet and Harlequin. We heard talk on the VHF radio from other boats who had arrived earlier in the day, they were arranging for inbound crews to meet on the beach to present our sevusevu gifts to the Village. Once we anchored, we quickly prepared to go in, getting the dingy ready, and getting ourselves dressed appropriately for the welcome Ceremony. Women in long skirts, men in slacks or long shorts and nice shirts. Our preparation was a little slower than the rest of the group, so luckily Starlet picked us up and we joined the group of Yachties assembling on the beach. We were met by two men from the village, who were there to escort us to the Chief. 

The 20 of us were led a little way through the village to a non-descript building, where the Sevusevu would be held. We handed our offerings (mostly of Kava) to the older of the two men and were ushered up to a large open room. All of us visitors, sat in a horseshoe shape around the room facing the chief. We were greeted and prayers and blessings were recited in Fijian once our gifts were presented to the chief. At the end of the ceremony we received permission to explore the village and the nearby lands that are controlled by this village. The ceremony was short and sweet, and not all that serious as we were told that the Chief’s wife had recently died, and he was looking for a White Woman. Our guides got a big chuckle out of this.

One of us Yachties asked if there was a store in the village. Those who were interested, were led on a small tour up and around, past the schools and to the small shop. The door was closed, but our guide spoke with a couple young boys standing around and they hurriedly went to get the shopkeeper. She came quickly and a few items were purchased. The store had mostly dried goods, if we wanted fresh produce, a truck ride to the village of Lomaloma would be necessary.

That evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset that shone down across the reef and the full moon rise over Daliconi village, as well as a calm and quiet night sleep. 

The next morning, we were off to the Bay of Islands, just a mere 3 miles away. We motored our way out around the reefs and small islands and made our way into the magical world of Ships Sound. Here we anchored in a small alcove, with both bow and stern anchors, we were surrounded by large rocks, islands and bays of every shape and size. We spent a full week enjoying the peaceful surroundings. We relished some amazing snorkeling, had fun exploring caves, stand-up paddling, rowing in the dingy, socializing and just plain relaxing. 

There was a good number of boats here in the Bay of Islands, luckily near our small bay there was a bigger bay where there was room for a large array of boats. While we were there two different Superyacht’s came and went, but by our weeks end, it was filled with many fellow Yachties. We enjoyed hanging out with Harlequin, Starlet, Muskoka, and Zensation. Midnight Sun also caught up with us. It was fun to run into Begonia, who we had met in Suwarrow a year ago. They are a couple who has wandered far and wide on their catamaran. They are the only boat we know of who sailed down and around the South Island of New Zealand last season!

I know it sounds like all fun and games, but we did do some “work”. Water was made, laundry was (hand) washed and hung out to dry. The beautiful sunny weather finally gave us a chance to patch the kayak that had exploded last year in the Cooks islands. It now needed time to cure and hopefully soon we would stich it back together. Excited to think that we’ll be back in the kayak before too long.

On July 23 we moved on to Nabavatu Harbour, (Mbavatu) a large bay with tall fjord-like walls and a small dock. The land surrounding is a working plantation. We enjoyed hiking up through the beautiful countryside to a look-out that had an awesome sunset view of the Bay of Islands! 

Our next lovely anchorage was Little Bay, a narrow bay only .1nm wide, that fit 5 of us nicely (Zensation, Starlet, Muskoka, Harlequin & Maia). We may have been able to squeeze in one or two additional boats, but its name is apt, Little. Cindy and Gert (Zensation) planned a beach party bonfire. As they were getting wood ready for our fire, Tui, the local caretaker came to visit. He had Gert bring him around to each of the boats and let us know that we could either give him our Sevusevu now or tomorrow hike into the village with him to present it directly to the Chief. The beach party turned out to be a surprise 50th birthday party for Gert. We had great night partying with the crew.

The next morning at 0945 we dinghied to the beach where Tui was caretaking the land. He led us on a beautiful hike through the forest to Mavana village. Tui asked if any of us would be interested in fresh produce and along the way he would yell to farmers and let them know that we would be back later. The village is located on a beautiful big bay, we had a short Sevusevu ceremony with the chief and Tui. We checked out the village store, had a lovely lunch hosted by Tui’s wife Boey, and met his daughter and granddaughter.

Our final stop in Vanua Balavu was the village of Susui. On Friday, when we arrived, we joined a pack of 15 other boats, sv Rewa had arranged a cruisers feast that was to be hosted by the village. It was a fundraiser for the village and a fun gathering for us Yachties. For those of us that had arrived in the last couple days our evening started out with a Sevusevu ceremony. We arrived at the social hall at 1600 with our gift of kava. Each boat presented their gift and the blessings imparted, and we were given permission to use their lands. Kava or yangona is a root that is ground, then mixed with water and drunk during a sevusevu ceremony. A person may notice its effects, tongue and mouth numbness, sleepiness. There were 20 or so yachties and about 8 male villagers sitting around in a circle. The Kava was served by two men, a cup was dipped into the big bowl and taken to an individual. When presented with the kava you clap once and say Bula. Then you drink the contents in one gulp and clap three times. The number in the circle ebbed and flowed as yachties and the village men came and went. Local women do not participate in kava ceremonies. Once we had our fill, we moved on to socializing outside the hall. It was an enjoyable evening with an amazing feast, prepared by the village women, with entertainment by the children, who put on a little show with songs. 

That night the winds picked up and we had quite the weekend, with two nights of strong wind and cleansing rain. We had some trouble sleeping with strange noises the first night, then actual swell on night two. Unfortunately, we did not have the flopper stopper out, it would have helped some with the rocking and rolling. 

Sunday afternoon it calmed enough for us to go in for a walk, we picked up Jennifer (Starlet) and Lisa (Harlequin) and were greeted by a group of 5 or so local kids who joined us. Lisa organized some of the kids in picking up trash while others helped in shell hunting. A couple of the boys teamed up with Dick (so cute) and he had a large load of shells by the time we got back to the dingy! We had the kids lead us to the other side of the Island and we enjoyed the Ocean view and long sandy beach. Unfortunately, there was trash everywhere. It looked as though the village had started large holes for dumping, but it felt like wherever we walked you would see plastic dumped here and there.

Several boats left during the strong winds, on Sunday, however we waited for things to calm a bit. On Monday, when we first got out of the protected waters, we had a 3 meter swell. So glad we did not head out earlier, as it must have been rough, but I’m sure the others enjoyed their sail. We are off to the big Island of Viti Levu and the capital city of Suva.

Monday, July 1 was departure day from Savusavu. That morning we had another provisioning session, stocking up on food and other necessities as we would not be near stores for the foreseeable future. We were heading out to explore some of the Northern outlying areas. If weather permitted we would also head to the Northern Lau group. Early afternoon once Maia was shipshape, (everything put away and stowed for sea), we motored to a nearby anchorage in front of Jean-Michael Cousteau resort. It was wonderful to jump in the water and swim! The water was cool and refreshing. We also had fun rowing around in the dingy, during a beautiful Sunset. We were eager to explore Fiji!

Our first cruising destination was Viani Bay, east of Savusavu, still on the Island of Vanua Levu. It is a beautiful big bay on the Somosomo strait, which is known for its amazing Scuba Diving areas, the Rainbow Reef, (with the White Wall and the Cabbage Patch). We were excited to meet up with Starlet, Harlequin, and Peregrine, and have friends to play with. Starlet graciously took us out a couple days to the Reef and while they dove, others of us snorkeled. We would take a dingy out from the mother ship Starlet and snorkel in amazing spots where the coral is alive and vivid, with a diversity of fish. We had several awesome days out. 

One night at Viani Bay resort, we had a wonderful dinner prepared by the resort, another night we had a super fun July 4th celebration, a potluck with good ol’ American food, potato salads, coleslaws, potato chips, BBQ chicken, sausages, cake prepared by the resort and flares lit for fireworks!!! Several mornings we had Yoga on the beach, led by Tessa, another cruiser. It was wonderful.

One afternoon we helped replant the reef. The reef inside the bay had been damaged by Cyclone Winston, Jone and others from Viani Bay resort regularly come out to re-plant the broken stag coral. It’s a simple process of finding the downed coral and re-cementing it to a coral base. After planting, Jone took us on a tour of the reef, and on the outer edge we found some beautiful coral with a wide array of fish. On the following Sunday, Dick and I snorkeled the reef and enjoyed a beautiful calm afternoon. He paddled over on the standup board and I motored over in the dingy. After our enjoyable snorkel, it was super calm, so I rowed the dingy back to the anchorage. It was super fun getting back behind the oars. (Great training, for my sometime in the future, Grand Canyon river rafting trip :-). 

After a week in Viani, we motor sailed to Catherine Bay on the island of Rabi. As there were several reefs we needed to pass through, as well as Islands to navigate around, it seemed the prudent thing to do 😊. Part of the pull to Catherine anchorage was swimming with the Manta Ray’s and we caught up with Harlequin there. The Manta’s are known to be feeding in the pass, while the tide is flowing. Harlequin took us out and anchored on the outside of the pass and then we motored the dingy to the top of the reef, over the side 3 of us went, while Henk manned the dingy. We quickly floated with the current and soon spotted a Manta Ray. Now it was game on! We all climbed back into the dingy and motored back up to the top of the pass, against the current. While in the dingy we began seeing the Manta’s wings coming out of the water. We would watch where the Manta’s were and then jump into the water and try to swim with them. It was quite the adventure and we were able to get a few pictures. Henk experienced a close-up as we dropped him right in front of one of these beautiful creatures.

Lisa and I also walked on shore one morning and enjoyed seeing the village of Buakonikai. There is a large Methodist Church, that is a grand and beautiful landmark from out on the water. However, up close it is somewhat tired looking, but it was busy that morning with a women’s fellowship meeting. As we wandered through the village, we met a couple of locals, one lovely man gifted us bananas.

We were told Albert Cove, on Rabi was a beautiful anchorage and we found it so! The water was a gorgeous tropical green and it was backed by a large crescent sand beach. Our first evening we were invited for dinner aboard Starlet, with Harlequin and Midnight Sun. (Our first time meeting John and Wendy.) Dick scuba’d one day with Mark from Starlet and enjoyed swimming deep around the large coral bommies. While down there he noticed that the fish did not dart away as they do when snorkeling. While he was “diving” I went snorkeling on the wall outside the reef. We enjoyed our time immensely at this picturesque tropical paradise, spending more time snorkeling, walking on the beach, socializing, while seeing many rainbows and watching beautiful sunsets.

Generally, each day, we are looking at weather. We have a “Predict Wind” subscription that we use with our satellite device, IridiumGo when not in cell range. The weather gribs provide all sorts of details, wind, rain, swell. We find it a necessity as we travel to know when to sail from one spot to another, or to pick out protected anchorages or know if a storm is on its way. While here in the Northern sector of Fiji, we were watching to see if we would get a “weather window” to sail / motor to the Northern Lau group of Islands which are Southeast of us. Here in Fiji, the Tradewinds generally blow from the Easterly quarter… East, Southeast…. So, we were hoping for either a lull in the winds or a westerly breeze to make the one-day journey “uphill”. To set up for this we will move south to either Taveuni or Qamea to shorten our sail to Vanua Balavu.

After 4 days at Albert Cove it appeared the winds would be easing, and we would have an opportunity to sail to the Lau. Harlequin, Starlet and Maia headed back to Catherine Bay. That afternoon we had a “muster” and decided on a plan of action. We were going to anchor on Qamea which would give us an easily navigable route away from the anchorage, for our 8-10 hour sail to Vanua Balavu. As we had been away from civilization for a while, the fresh food supply was dwindling, so a stop at a market was necessary. We also wanted to scout the route out of the anchorage, as we would have a pre-dawn early departure to arrive at Vanua Balavu, Daliconi Village during mid-day. That next morning Starlet and Harlequin would head to an anchorage on the Island of Taveuni, get a taxi to the town of Somosomo and do the provisioning. Maia would sail ahead and scout our passage for our 0400 departure. We all would meet up at the anchorage on Qamea in Naivivi Bay!

Our strategy worked and everything went according to plan. On Monday afternoon, once we were all snug in the anchorage, Lisa and I had a wonderful paddle through the Mangroves surrounding the little inlets, we heard birds singing, and enjoyed our up-close time in Nature. We discovered that the inlets led to small villages spread in and around Naivivi Bay.

The following morning, at 0400 Maia, Starlet and Harlequin were motoring out of Naivivi bay and were on our way to the Northern Lau Group!

We arrived in Savusavu on Friday, June 21 (our days will be getting longer here in the Southern Hemisphere, Happy Solstice)! After we were visited by Health, Immigration and Biosecurity and given clearance, we strolled into town to find an ATM and reconnoiter Savusavu. Our main task of the afternoon was to get Fijian dollars and take our payment to Revenue and Customs. It was a beautiful sunny, humid day, which unfortunately meant that walking around town was hot and uncomfortable, we had arrived in the Tropics!

After our exploration around the busy city of Savusavu, we went back to the Copra Shed Marina “Yacht Club” for cold drinks and an enjoyable dinner with friends from Starlet and Harlequin. Lisa, Jennifer and I set up a date for Saturday morning at 9:00 am to go to the Town “Farmers” market and do some other shopping.

The Town market is just up the street from the marina, about mid-way through town. We wandered through the groups of locals hanging around in the park and bus centre. The market is spread over a fairly large area, stretching from the Bus Centre to Namaka Creek. Closest to the street are seemingly makeshift “booths” with pop-up’s or tarps as roof for shade. The fruits and veggies are spread out on tables and most vendors seem to be selling similar produce. Some have only a few items while others have a wider selection. As we wander through the 50 or so vendors, we buy a few things here and there. As we are wandering around, I retreat to the shade whenever possible, as I am already feeling the effects of the heat and humidity.

We make our way into a more permanent structure, which is constructed of wooden posts with a tin roof, where additional vendors are located. Here we see more of the same produce being sold, but also find a woman selling her jewelry, and a kava vendor.

As our provisions of fresh food on Maia were low, I continued to purchase more produce and am getting fairly overburdened with all my purchases. I look out from the market into the harbor and I notice Maia is close by! I message Dick as we have internet, and he comes by in the dingy and relieves me of all the purchases including a flat of eggs!

The girls & I continue our morning outing. As we are leaving the market, I see a guy selling mandarin oranges. I buy a stack of about 6 and have a snack. The mandarins look green but are very juicy and refreshing on the hot morning. We make our way towards a dance event we were told about from the lovely customs official. When we arrive, we are disappointed as it appears to be an event put on by a chicken and snack company, who are selling junk food and currently no one is dancing. Is it because of the heat of the day?

We decide to do more shopping and make our way through town. After stopping in several stores and buying more things, ($3 liters of Perrier in glass bottles!) we come upon a jewelry store, Jennifer had wanted to stop into. As we enter, we are greeted by a vivacious young girl (4 yrs) who is bouncing off the walls. Her mother, the young shop keeper apologizes as she says her daughter is usually not like this. As I am enjoying a chair, I spy the culprit of the overly enthusiastic young lady, orange soda! (This brings back memories of Trevor’s 5th birthday party, where orange soda was served, and the energy of the party increased at least 10 fold.)

Mark met us at the Jewelry store, and we headed to the Kava store. Not impressed with the quality, we made our way back to the town market. By this time, I was done, over-heated and I looked it. (My face was all red and I had been wiping sweat off of it for several hours.) I called Dick and he dingyed over and picked me up. When I got aboard, I took a cool shower and a nap, and I felt better once I woke up.  

On Sunday afternoon we went to a Fiji cruising seminar by Curly. Curly is well known in the cruising community, he is originally from NZed and has been living and cruising around Fiji for many years. He talked about his favorite routes and gave us waypoints for different passages down to the Big Island, Viti Levu. It was informative and were glad to have the resource available if we choose to stay in contact and get future routing information. 

While sitting in Maia’s cockpit one afternoon we notice a sailboat puttering nearby. As we look at the transom, we see the boat name, Sweet Dream, then we see the hailing port, PARK CITY, Utah!!! We call on the radio, introduce ourselves. As it turns out Frank Larsen (Lars), lived in our Park Meadows neighborhood, before starting to cruise. (Lars with his crew Laura are also sailing around the world, but at a much quicker pace on the World Arc.) As circumstances had it, they left the harbor that afternoon and we did not get to meet in person.

Monday was a business day, finally meeting with the marina staff, applying for our Cruising permit, getting a local sim card for internet access and more. We were slowly acclimatizing to the heat and humidity. We were hoping to get on our way quickly to start cruising, however it wasn’t until the following Monday that we were on our way. Besides waiting for our cruising permit, some rain and wind arrived, which made us stay put a little longer.

On the Sunday before we left a Cruise Ship arrived in Savusavu. It was fun to see the Marina and Village transform. Outside of the Marina along the sidewalks, 20 or so booths were set up with Crafts and tourist paraphernalia. There was a band playing from 11:00 am into the evening at the Marina. We enjoyed strolling through town and drinking some cold ones at the Marina bar.

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!

It appears this Blog Post is a long time cometh. What to say? We’ve stayed busy during our mostly, land life in New Zealand!

If you are “friends or followers” on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve been able to watch our travels through the pictures we’ve posted during our Blog hiatus. For those of you who are not on social media, or those who would like more details about our journey, please follow along for a synopsis our 7 months in New Zealand. 

It was so exciting to arrive in New Zealand (on November 12, 2018)! It was a place we’d always wanted to visit, and here we were, at the Bay of Islands Marina, in Opua, New Zealand. The most amazing part was that we had SAILED from the US to New Zealand! When we arrived on the Quarantine dock, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by our good friends from Summer, Muskoka, & Harlequin, who had all arrived earlier that afternoon. It felt great to be on the land, in a first world county. We were quickly cleared in by health, biosecurity, and customs and made our way to a slip in the marina and we were able to move about on land! It was great after spending 8.5 days at Sea and 11 in Minerva Reef, we were happy to climb off Maia and wander around the Marina and the little community of Opua!

We spent from November 12 to January 29 in the Bay of Islands. Our first couple days we got our bearings and began to adjust to our new land life. It was spring and the weather was warm. The day after we arrived, our good friend Helen, from Nighttide, offered us a ride to the nearest grocery store (a 15-minute drive). A couple days later, Helen and I continued our shopping spree a little farther away in a town called Kerikeri. We went into some Op Shop’s (2nd hand stores), smaller shops around town and to a farmer’s market. It felt good to be able to enjoy well stocked stores.

Dick and I got our bikes off Maia and took rides on the rail trail, (which starts at one edge of the Marina). What fun to be on land, riding on a trail, through beautiful countryside! We also began exploring the area by foot on the other nearby trails. Our first weekend in NZ, we were invited by our friends Laurel & Leo (sv Summer) to a rural cottage on a working Dairy farm, near Donnelly’s crossing, about a 3-hour car ride West! We were treated to a spectacular drive through the beautiful green rolling hills and farmland of New Zealand. We stayed in a lovely 2-bedroom cottage. What a treat to sleep in a bed and take long hot showers in a private bathroom! On Sunday we went on a road trip and explored the Waipoua Kauri forest. It was an amazing experience to hike among the majestic ancient Kauri trees, the biggest one we visited Te Matua Ngahere, whose girth is 52 feet and has been living for over 2000 years! 

After our first land exploration of New Zealand, we decided to have a muss and discuss our 6 months visit to New Zealand. (We have these meetings regularly to plan our time.) What places do we want to visit? What things do we want to do? What boat projects will need to get done before we sail North in May/ June? Our project list goes on and on (it’s a lot like house projects, but the project list seems to keep growing on a boat, living in a saltwater environment tends to wreak havoc on things). New projects get added to the list as we are sailing; when we realize that things are not working the way they should, improvements need to be made, some of which are for safety.   

We’ve already mentioned a few friends that we were happy to see when we arrived, but we kept running into more friends at the Marina that we had met along our South Pacific journey. It was so fun to see everyone and re-connect. Our social calendar was quite busy for a while, a highlight was having a surprise birthday party aboard Maia for young Adrian’s sixth birthday, (sv Yonder). It was awesome seeing the excitement through the eyes of this amazing young man. 

On November 20th, Dick and I decided to rent a car and go explore the “big city” of Whangerei, about an hour drive south of Opua. We had heard it could be a good place to take Maia and spend time at one of the Marina’s. We had a pleasant time scoping out the area, but the rainy weather did not help with our decision to keep our home base in the Bay of Islands. 

On November 22, we enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner at the Opua Cruising Club with some of our US and Canadian friends! On the 23rd we had a fabulous girl’s bike along the rail trail to Kawakawa, (a 22 km round trip ride) and enjoyed a lovely lunch at a restaurant named Elaine’s. 

The month of December went by quickly. We did some exploring in the “Northland” by ourselves and with friends. We took drives and went on hikes & ferry rides to tour the area. We took the ferry across the bay and drove to the town of Russell and took a long drive back around to Opua, driving through the forests and farmland. We drove to Kerikeri, did some shopping and visited Rainbow Falls and took a beautiful serene hike along a small part of TeAraroa, “the long pathway”. (Backpackers will hike this path across NZ from tip to tip!) We went to the Thursday afternoon Paihia farmers market and the Saturday morning Packhouse market, shopped at more “Op” shops (thrift stores). We drove west to Hokianga Harbor and took the ferry across from Rawene to Parnell and explored more of the rural northland. 

For my birthday weekend (December 9th), we traveled to Auckland and enjoyed a 2-night hotel stay and toured the city on foot. We walked around “Auckland Central”, Albert Park, out to the waterfront, the Wharfs and Viaduct harbor area. We checked out Marine stores and enjoyed some yummy restaurant meals. We went to the Grey Linn’s farmers market. We made it back to Bay of Islands Marina for a delightful time with friends, celebrating my birthday with a little party. It was a beautiful evening and we gathered on the Marina grassy area where we enjoyed the summer weather, ate, talked and played a little bocce, and enjoyed sweet treats (2 gluten free cakes) brought by friends. 

For the Christmas Holiday we untied from the dock spent a couple stormy days at Roberton Island, a mere 2-hour sail from Opua. We met friends from Muskoka, Harlequin and Manna for a Christmas Eve celebration with a potluck dinner aboard Muskoka. Besides the wet and stormy weather, we had a lovely time. We took a couple walks on shore, enjoyed the amazing lush green scenery and gorgeous rock and sand beach. When we left Maia to dingy over to Muskoka for our Christmas Eve celebration, it was pouring rain. We had a wonderful dinner, with singing of Christmas carols afterward. As the weather was expected to go from bad to worse, we headed back to the marina and enjoyed a lovely Christmas dinner aboard Maia with our friend Leo. It was a pleasant way to spend our first (“summer”) Christmas away from our family.

January was a big work month. We hauled out (took Maia out of the water) to work on her bottom and a few other projects best done “on the hard”.  We had the bottom paint removed and sanded down, “smooth as a babies butt” and Dick put on an epoxy “barrier coat” and new hard bottom paint, that we hope will inhibit growth on the bottom and be better for our precious environment. We had the diesel injectors replaced, propeller serviced, new zincs installed, the keel bolts re-torqued, installed a new prop shaft seal, had the bow roller replaced, a new vang gooseneck installed, and, and, and! Dick replaced 3 of our 7 new port lights and replaced our leaky water heater. 

Laura’s big project was replacing our old bimini (shade covering in the cockpit). The undertaking began by watching Sailrite You Tube videos, studying all the steps to the process. Once comfortable with the stages, Dick and I jumped in on patterning, and sewing our new Bimini. A big shout-out to Sailrite who provide You Tube video’s for boat sewing projects. (Their prices on materials are also great.) We changed to a new color, “linen” which is a tan. The new Bimini looks great, next up will be the dodger and panel to connect the two.

Also, during January we prepared Maia for our sail South to Auckland and beyond. We planned for our land travel to the South Island in February and had a little fun biking, hiking and hanging out with friends. 

On January 29, we got back “out there” and had a wonderful 4-day sail to Auckland. It felt great being back on the Pacific and exploring New Zealand by Sea! My favorite site during this trip was sailing around Bream Head, with it’s beautiful dazzling cloud formations. 

We had a memorable February as Trevor and Macie came for a month and we toured New Zealand. They flew into Auckland, where we were currently located at Westhaven Marina aboard Maia. We began the vacation month with a sail to Waiheke Island and an overnight in Man O’war Bay. We had a nice visit ashore at the Winery. The weather was warm and sunny, a perfect start for our summer vacation.  

Next, we flew to Christchurch and rented a motorhome for a two-week tour of the South Island. Trevor had a list of things to see and do, so, we began checking things off the list. We saw a lot of amazing things, Forests, Glaciers, Waterfalls, Rivers, Beaches. We hiked as much as we could and kayaked in Milford Sound in the Fiordland, which was spectacular. We drove as far south as Dunedin on the East coast and as far north as Punakaiki on the West coast. We saw many wonderful things. 

After our 13-day tour in the Motorhome, we dropped Dick off at the Christchurch airport (he flew back to the States for a 3-week visit). We rented a Camper Van for our last week of touring in New Zealand. Trevor, Macie and I had a great week as we explored our way back to Auckland. We spent a little time in Marlborough, exploring some of the beautiful vineyards. Then we took the ferry from Picton to Wellington, over to the North Island. I splurged for a night in a hotel in Wellington, as always it was great to sleep in a “real” bed and take long hot showers. We visited a hot springs and went to a couple beaches to finish off the list of places to visit, as we drove northward. 

Once Trevor and Macie had flown away☹, I had a week until Dick returned. I was able to rest, relax and play hostess to Laurel and Leo who stayed aboard for a couple nights. Once Dick arrived, we prepared for our 3 week “sailing vacation”. We had a lovely time sailing out to Great Mercury Island, south to Cooks Bay, back North to Great Barrier Island and eventually back to Opua. It was splendid, sailing from anchorage to anchorage and exploring a wee part of New Zealand coastline. 

Next, Laura went back “home” to the states to visit family and friends while Dick returned to boat projects. For Laura it was wonderful to catch up with people and live the land life for a while. It was a whirlwind month with stops in LA, Utah (Salt Lake & Park City), Chicago and San Diego. 

Dick had his “work cut out for him”, projects included; installing the final 4 port lights, new stanchion bases, rebuilding bilge pumps, installing 9 batteries, including a new start battery, leisure furl maintenance and upgrades, installed new outlets and, and, and! It ended up being a good thing Laura was gone while Dick worked on projects, as he was able to spread out in our “little house”. It saved a lot of time by him not having to put tools and project makings away each evening. It wasn’t all work and no play for Dick, luckily friends invited to dinner and the Cruising Club for darts and Trivia nights. He spent his birthday with Laurel and Leo and went to sail Fiji and sail Indonesia seminars. (Thanks Dick!!!!)

Once Laura returned in mid-May, the project list got whittled down to only the required necessities before we set sail. A new NEMA cable for chart plotter was installed, steering cables were tightened, new shelves were built above the new battery bank for additional storage, and, and, and! As it usually goes, simple projects take longer. We twice re-installed the mainsail, as our friend and rigger, Leo, noticed that our sail was too long, once he had taken the time to get it fully lashed onto the boom. (Previously we had always had to stop before it was fully raised). We decided it was best for the mainsail to go back to the sail maker to get 6″ trimmed of the top.

There was also lots of administrative work to do, updating of charts and the chart plotter, bills to pay, studying of Fiji charts and taking care of entrance requirements, final Facebook and Instagram posts to post and Blog to write! We also began seriously watching the weather, as we’re waiting for an good “weather window” for our 10+ day sail to Fiji. 

Wednesday, Day 1
We are on our way to The Bay of Islands and will be checking into New Zealand in Opua. How exciting! We have been looking forward to this for a long time. We had anchor up at 10:10. Six boats left the reef this morning, with this “Minerva Flush” cycle. Only three boats are still in the anchorage. We had a great 11 days in Minerva and now that our weather window arrived, it was easy to say TTFN …ta ta for now 🙂
It was fun motoring out of the reef, thru the pass. We saw 9 knots of speed over ground (the overall boat speed), with 5.6 knots thru the water (which means the water was rushing out of the lagoon with us thru the pass). It looked like a river with a big tongue, leading us out. It feels great to be back out on the water and sailing! Finally we have wind and mellower seas. We expect a 5-7 day passage.
We have about 14 knots of wind and are currently speeding along at 8 knots with a full main, full genoa and staysail! Seas are around 2 meter (six feet) from the SE, but feel fairly comfortable. (I did take a Meclizine HCI for sea sickness and am feeling good!)
Our mileage on day 1 – 170 nm, a record on Maia!
Thursday, Day 2
It’s a beautiful day, with a few clouds about. We are having a fun time sailing at 6-7 knots. The swell continues at about 2 meter, but we have some wind waves today, so it has become bumpier. Last night, we had one small squall that kept us on our toes. We have not seen any other boats, it appears we are on our own at the back of the pack.
It was nap time and I was trying to sleep! Ugh! BANG… drift off to sleep…. BANG… (waves hitting hull). Drift off to sleep…. Creeeeak, creeeeeak… (sails being adjusted). Rocking and rolling…. Am I truly longing for a ‘quiet’ night with the motor running????
We started an informal SSB net at 1700 local (utc 0400). We are checking in with other boats who are also on their way to NZ. The boats who are participating are a couple days ahead of us, so we generally have a light copy (hard to hear) on the others, luckily sv Pauline Claire has a strong signal, so they are able to “relay” to the others.
Mileage on day 2 – 148 nautical miles, another good day!!!
Friday, Day 3
I woke up from my evening nap and Dick said “look quick”! I was just in time to see the new moon set, it was a beautiful orange color and was going down just after the sun. Thinking ahead, this means that we will have moon glow at beginning of evenings for rest of passage! This will be during the beginning of my night shift. We are doing six hour nights shifts. This seems to work well for us as we get a good sound sleep during our time off. I am on from 2100-0300 and Dick from 0300-0900. During the days we take turns at the helm, both of us generally take a couple naps.
Currently light winds are blowing 8-10 knots, we are sailing along at 4-5 knots. This is my favorite weather, calm seas,  quiet night. Stars all around, the constellation Pleiades (where Maia gets her name) is playing hide & seek 🙂 Orions belt is out, big & strong.
We are feeling good!!! Excited with the great weather we have had so far. I am drinking my first cup of Green tea on the passage, and opened up our last dark chocolate bar (from Carefour in French Polynesia). Yummy! This should help me stay awake until 0300, when Dick takes over.
We are sailing with a full genoa, staysail and full main. Our plan is to turn on the engine when our speed slows to 3-4 knots.  At 2300 (11:00 pm) our speed is 4.5, the true wind speed is 10.3. Our estimated arrival is 3 days, 15 hours.
During the day today, the swell had calmed, and Dick took a 3 hour nap! It really helps our sleep when the sea quiets. Both the boat noises and bumpiness settles down. This afternoon the current was 2-3 knots against us, our speed over ground was 6 knots and the speed thru the water was 8. It is always a little frustrating, when this is happening.
As we have not seen any boats on AIS or on radar, it appears we are on a slightly different course than most of the others. We know other’s boats are nearby. Besides the radio net contact, we have been communicating vis sms messaging and email. When we receive other people’s positions we mark them on our mapping program. This afternoon we heard the NZ Air Force on the VHF radio with sv Goldina confirming their last port and when and where they expect to be checking into New Zealand.
Mileage on day 3 – 142 nautical miles, another good day!!!
Saturday, Day 4
We had a beautiful day today. Winds around 3-5 knots all day. Calm seas with a big rolling swell. The engine has been on since last night at 0100. Temperatures were in the 70’s! Enjoying the warm while we have it. (Currently we hear it is around 60 degrees in Opua.) Feeling blessed to have this amazing weather as this passage has a reputation of being difficult.
We had a lovely dinner with sautéed eggplant and onion with fresh ginger, garlic and turmeric. We also had a cabbage salad. We are using up the fresh food as we will not be able to take it into New Zealand. This was the last of the eggplant, garlic and turmeric.
The sunset was gorgeous and then I was able to enjoy a sliver of La Luna for about an hour before she set. Again she was orange, I thought I had seen the last of her as she disappeared behind a cloud on the horizon, but there she was again, gone and then back again. It was quite a light show.
We have another beautiful clear night. Sparkly luminescence is gracefully dancing off the hull of Maia as we glide through the peaceful sea. The stars are bright all around. There are a couple of large star clusters up above that have appeared the last couple nights in the dark sky. They remind me of the black holes in the movie Interstellar.
Mileage on day 4 – 156 nautical miles. It is looking like we may arrive in Opua on Monday!
Sunday, Day 5
We had a gorgeous day, with just a few clouds. Late last night (or should I say early morning) we had our first boat appear on AIS, her name is Gioel. She was 9.2 nm away, she has sailed our way and was 2 nm away at 10:00 am. She looked beautiful with her sails on the horizon.
The winds have remained calm, so we are still motoring. However, the seas have become a bit bumpy. We are wondering if we are getting swell wrapping around the North cape!
We heard from sv Sedna who is 100 miles from Opua that they had chilly, cloudy weather this morning, with some rain, fog and mist. We are about 100 miles behind Sedna, in this gorgeous weather! Yeah!!!
At 5:20 pm, we turned the engine off and sailed while we prepared dinner. The last of our sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onion and ginger sliced and diced with a few herbs, then put in the oven for roasting. We added our final 4 potatoes to the oven for baking. Now that the weather is cool enough we have been using the oven regularly.
By 1900 the engine was back on, speeding along at 7 knots with our sights on arriving on the dock in Opua tomorrow! I crawled in for a nap while dinner cooked. Once we were both in the cockpit we lit our “Fireboats” and watched them drift behind us. It was fun seeing the flame and occasional sparks as they would go up and then down out of site, then up again, sometimes seeming like they would stall for a moment before continuing on. We were amazed at how long the first flames lasted as it drifted further and further behind. (For our Fireboats we saved a few wine boxes, paper towels filled with bacon grease and a variety of other discarded paper products (no plastics, of course!) to smash into the boxes for this occasion.)
The night felt cooler, La Luna disappeared a little early behind a large low lying black cloud on the horizon. The stars, star clusters and luminescence are as beautiful as ever. We were leaving a beam of luminescence behind as we speed towards landfall.
Mileage on day 5 – 155 nautical miles. We will arrive in New Zealand tomorrow!
Monday, Day 5.5
At 8:00 am we had only 50 miles left to the coast of New Zealand! We have 100% cloud cover and some drizzle. By 9:00 the sun was peeking out and the drizzle was gone.
We begin hearing more chatter on the VHF radio. Between the radio and messaging our friends, we realized that most of them would be arriving early afternoon to the Quarantine dock in Opua. You are required to stay on the dock until you are cleared and at which point you proceed to the Marina dock, mooring or anchorage and then you are free to move about the country!!!
Our plans were to arrive around 5:00 pm, stay on the quarantine dock overnight and get checked in the next morning. However, knowing our friends would be on land inspired us to put the pedal to the metal! We increased our rpm’s from 2200 to 2500, which increased our speed from 6.2 to 7.4 knots. Our estimated time of arrival was 4:00 pm. Hopefully, early enough to get checked in.
Land Ho at 1042!!! We can begin seeing the outline of the shoreline and craggy hills just above the horizon. We are seeing more boats on AIS and hearing more radio chatter.
At 1:45 pm we are entering into the Bay of Islands, a moon shaped bay. The coastline appears to be jutting up out of the ocean floor. Rocks of all different sizes and shapes abound. White foam appears as the swell smashes up against the coastline.
Sails are in all directions, Begonia 3.0 nm behind; Giocel 0.6 nm ahead, Mazu 4.2 nm ahead, we assume that all are sailing to the Quarantine dock at Bay of Islands Marina.
I become a photographer, shooting pictures with our 3 “cameras”. Usually, none are able to express this natural beauty seen by our own eyes. Hillsides and cliffs covered in many different colors of green. Lush rolling multi-colored green hills, some adorned with carpets of a bright, almost fluorescent green. Brush and trees of dark green growing all over the rock. One tree is growing sideways off the hillside. When it lets go it will plummet down into the sea below. The sky has now cleared with a few low lying clouds about.
Dick is navigating through the bay. We can see at least 5 sailboats around and as we get in closer you can also see a variety of power boats, most appear to be fishing. We prepare for arrival, setting up our fenders and docking lines.
At 4:00 pm we arrive at the “Q” dock! We see Laurel and Leo from sv Summer motioning us in to the open dock in front of them. Then Scott, sv Muskoka and Henk, sv Harlequin appear to take out lines and tie us up! We have landed in New Zealand and our friends are here to greet us! Woohoo! As Laurie, sv Muskoka and Lisa, sv Harlequin arrive there are hugs all around, I hand Dick the camera to take a picture with my girlfriends! He snaps a quick shot, before the officials break us up and ask us nicely to get back aboard. We have arrived!!!!!
Our bio-security and customs clearances were quick, efficient and convenient. We had been to a talk in Tonga about entering NZ and had picked up a packet with the forms, which we had filled out and ready to go. Brian, our bio-security officer started the process by getting our approval for using a camera to check the bottom of Maia, then asked for our paperwork on bottom paint and cleaning which we had ready to show. Dick pulled out his computer to show him pictures of the bottom cleaning, he remarked about the clear blue water in Tonga and how great the photos were. Brian took a quick look around the boat, and had us open a few storage spaces. Then he began asking us questions about food. We we aware of the foods that were not allowed, so we had eaten them up or put them in the trash. Brian began his questioning, “Do we have…”, we would say “no”, “Do we have…”, “no…” He made a comment that “we were making his job redundant”. He quickly noted that our bicycle tires had been cleaned, when we asked if he wanted to see the hiking boots, he said he already knew that they had been cleaned and there was no need for us to get them out. 🙂
Next up was Customs. While Dick worked with Gary on our clearance, I asked if I could be excused to call the marina to see about a berth on the dock. Gary said sure and that I could contact them on VHF channel 73. Within 10 minutes, Sariana had set us up with a berth. As the office would be closed by the time we moved to our new home, she said she could give us a temporary code access number. She wondered if we had a phone, she could text the number to us. I said no, how about email? Gary overheard and said to just have her text the number to him! Voilà, we were all set. We were cleared to move about in New Zealand!
Final mileage from Minerva Reef – 806 nautical miles
Total time – 5 days, 6 hours