Monday, 17 November 2014

Last post from Whangarei, New Zealand.

Kika has been hauled out, scrubbed and painted. We even varnished the saloon table! 
Kika relaxes after a long journey and takes the weight off her keel!

Bridget has arrived by air and we are about to take off and explore New Zealand in our bargain basement camper van "Daisy" purchased by eagle eyed Colin on Gumtree. When Bridget and I go back to the UK at Christmas, Colin and his daughter Jenny will go exploring in the camper van . In the meantime Colin is sailing Kika down to the port of Tauronga where she will be shipped in March 2015 to Flushing in Holland where I will pick her up and go and see the Tulips before sailing back to North Wales.
Some of Kikas crew over the past 16 months have kindly put pen to paper and sent their reminiscences so here they are!

Vincent Roddy - our Spanish Professor and top session musician.
(Conwy North Wales to La Coruna in Spain.)
Vince relaxes as we are entertained aboard Sephina

"Excited, I was also very nervous about the start of Jon and Colin’s round the world trip, especially crossing the Bay of Biscay way out in the Atlantic, away from the coast. I then made a fatal error and googled “Biscay Crossing”, which enabled me to read a selection of horror stories to make me even more wary of what I had let myself in for. Maire had absolute trust in Jon, having worked with him for many years – I had played music with Jon many times in public and that was (Maire assured me) a far less accurate guide to what we had in store.
I had the adventure of my life; after the sedate first afternoon sailing to Holyhead, we were up and away early in the morning for my first overnighter to Arklow, about 11 hours sail if I remember correct. It was scary to experience being completely away from the shore for the first time but I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of helming, navigating and learning to read the signage at sea under Colin’s expert and patient tuition.
After several days’ wait in Kinsale, it felt like a phoney voyage; it had all come to a standstill as we awaited the right conditions to set off for La Coruña but music, Spanish lessons, tourism and anti-fouling occupied us until we left.
I still think about the days at sea, especially over Biscay, whenever I catch sight of the ocean; I appreciated every aspect of the experience, night watches, sunrise, sunset, whales and dolphins, and learning from Colin and Jon at every turn. A couple of moments stand out, playing music as Clive sailed past in Sephina, the last whale which passed astern by only a few yards when I was on watch and being able to play some tunes even as we froze in the rain on our route to Cork.
I realised last June, when I was lucky enough to get on another yacht for a week, that I had learnt so much and that I had really “got the bug”. Thanks again for a wonderful experience! "

Nick Orr.
Occupation Barrister - Nickname "the judge". Expert raconteur and keeper of the ships digestive biscuits. We never discovered his stash!
(Gran Canaria to Marigot Bay , across the Atlantic)
A relaxed Nick (having just been fortified by one from his McVite stash)

Hand steering all the way from Gran Canaria to Cape Verde (due to non-functioning wind vane).  Hard work and long hours but enormous fun with Kika going like a train (by her standards).
Atlantic clouds in fluffy rows during the day and brilliant stars at night.  I couldn’t have enough of them
Watching Sherlock Holmes in the cockpit on Joe’s laptop.
Eating the freshest fish, especially Joe’s big tuna.
Finding the digestives, a vital food source, hidden by Jenny.
Colin complaining during a squall that he had been hit in the face by a flying fish.  He took it personally.
Lou showing us all her experience during the same squall.
Dancing whenever the opportunity presented itself, though not as dirty as some of the dancing at the ‘jump-up’ at Gros Islet.
Kika’s wonderful stability whenever we had heavy weather or heavy seas, particularly when we left Cape Verde and during the last 24 hours before St Lucia, showing all the advantages of a long keel.
Fantastic crew.  We had a ball.

Jon dislocating his shoulder.   Actually it was quite exciting, administering morphine and so on, and, in retrospect, it was good to see Colin and Joe giving the skipper some serious grief.  At least we didn’t have to administer a diazepam suppository!  I hope the most recent repair is more effective than the previous one.
The mass of ropes on the front of the mast.  I never worked them out.  I’m sure that some of them are just for decoration."

Tony Power. Occupation - top jeweller to the celebs, Champagne Socialist, Stand up comic and Winner of all general knowledge quizzes
(Tuamotous Islands and Tahiti)
Tony gets to grips with some loose tackle on the foredeck

"So much I could write about the details of an outstanding trip with you but I guess I was most impressed by the relentless amounts of Coral (from Tetiaroa), Beer & Dancing Girls.
Please see pic...."
Relax and please sing along to the sound of music "Tony simply remembers his favourite thingsssssss...and then he won't feellllll.... so bad".

Hugh Clifford . My oldest pal. We had the great mutual misfortune to be at school together since the age of 14. Our relationship has steadily deteriorated over the years, especially in print!
(Tuamotous Islands and Tahiti)
Hugh and Tony...sometimes a caption cannot do justice to the shot!

"Ho Osborne; and so the odyssey approaches conclusion;
Bridget has kindly invited all the Cliffords to Jollity Farm for Christmas, so we shall all look forward to seeing you then; well, providing  you do note drone on about your trip, and insist on examining, and explaining, each photograph;
 As you said when first we spoke about the trip all those years ago it was a trip of a lifetime, but for all the wrong reasons; I know that Tone and I certainly did not think we would travel more miles in the inflatable than on Kika;
 You will be pleased and relieved to learn that I am currently composing my report, at some length; I regret that you do not  feature in a favourable light; amiable Colin, does so, of course, and I would not hesitate to join him on a future trip!"
(Sadly Hughies final report seems to have got lost somewhere in the internet. We think it must have corrupted his files.... Ed)

Peter Quilliam,
Fisherman extraordinaire, Top stew chef.
(Panama to Marquesa Islands)
Pete has never been this relaxed before!

An awesome experience and something I doubt I will ever better. Great company and very , very competent skipper and first mate . Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your amazing adventure.

I quote from an entry in my own log on the long jump from Galapagos to the Marquesa islands and one day in particular.

19 thApril (now named by me as black Saturday)

The day didnt start well. Early morning the skipper rudely woke me up to get at the tools under my bunk saying the engine had blown up! An oil pipe had blown off and the sump now held all of our engine oil!! Not what you want to hear part way through a 3000 mile journey from the Galapagos island  to the Marquesa islands!! A bit of an initial panic but 2/3 hours later all was fixed. Just as well these chaps can turn their hand to most things. 

Lunchtime.....I'm cooking when there's a huge bang and clouds of acrid smoke appeared around the chart table just behind me. Definitely an electrical problem!  All was switched off and the regulator suspected but after much head scratching and deep thinking  it turned out that the inverter had blown up. I can assure you that the last thing you need mid Pacific is a fire when there's no chance of help arriving for god knows how long....if ever. Yet again our skipper and first  mate rose to the challenge and sorted the problem. Useful chaps.

During the afternoon the winds dropped further so we dropped all sail and launched our secret weapon...a parasail. High tech ,very expensive and very impressive when flying. The wind continued to drop and it was flogging and struggling in quite light winds then soon after deployment it snagged on the pulpit and...........ripped. Our last intact sail knackered. What next!!

Not a good day!! They say things come in threes so we should be ok now..... well for today anyway! So weve now ripped or damaged almost every sail in one way or another. Some patched and still useable but two fairly wrecked. Still, we're all in one piece and still alive. The Skipper somehow manages to maintain a positive and calm outlook despite the setbacks as does Colin. Good to know you're in very safe hands.

Nigel Clay. Top Orthopaedic Surgeon, expert fisherman and fantasist!
( Rarotonga to Tonga)
Nigel, a man with a very active and vivid imagination, he can never relax.

The editorial committee liked his report so much that we are offering a prize to anyone able to spot the one bit of truth in it!
  Outward bound
  The real reason for me being invited to join Kika was, I believed (at first at any rate), to act as fishing coach. Jon knew of my substantial prowess in matters piscatorial. When he discovered the denizens of the South Pacific were too much for his bent pin and a worm method it seem obvious he had no choice but to summon me. I asked if he wanted me to bring anything  but was reassured that he had loads of high tech fishing gear on board (partly true) but that they didn't know how to use it properly (Very true). He also told me it was constantly warm and sunny (untrue) and not to bring any warm clothes. Or waterproofs. And only a very thin sleeping bag.
I will never believe anything that man says again.  This, as it turned out, was a ruse to lighten my luggage to make space for the stuff he did want which included a solid steel bench vice, a litre of HP sauce and a catering sized bottle of Branston pickle. On top of all that he asked  me to pick up some specialist reading material from the top shelf at the newsagents, the nature of which I can’t disclose but is perhaps understandable after several months at sea. Oh, and also my guitar. So I not only had to get a large musical instrument halfway round the world on airlines who would prefer them to sit in a fare-paying seat, but also had to endure the constant raised eyebrows of security personnel who regarded the vice as a potential weapon and the Branston pickle as a Biohazard Capable of Destroying Life As We Know It. 
I  arrived on 2nd August after the aircraft made two abortive attempts to touchdown. Not a good start.  The all-important affidavit I should have had from the Skipper confirming my place as crew member, as I later discovered, was  sitting in the Drafts mailbox on his computer so they wouldn't let me into Rarotonga until I converted my single ticket to a return at great cost.
To be fair, Jon was at the airport to meet me, he had got the beer in and to begin with it wasn't pouring with rain. However the next ten days in Rarotonga was described by the islanders as "the worst weather we've had for 25 years". "Sorry about this Nige, this is the coldest its been since we left the UK" said Jon in his wooly jumper with Colin nodding in agreement and shivering.
Despite the thundery rain and cold winds we enjoyed Rarotonga, its people and its chickens. Colin even located a hire "car" for one day, at a price which fitted in with the skipper's tight-fisted budgetary policy. It was little more than a biscuit tin on wheels ( and a rusty one at that) and there was an ants nest in the hole in the dashboard where the radio used to be.
It was luxury, however, compared to Colin's so-called bicycle.  A velocipede of the folding type, it has been strapped to the deck for a year pickling in sea water. Where there had once been chrome and gleaming paint there was now an-all over orange patina of corrosion. It had no pump so the bald and perished  tyres were as soft as three-day-old party balloons. The brakes didn't work at all, though they sounded like they came off a tram. It is sooooo dangerous. "Nothing wrong with it, purely cosmetic" Colin announced, proudly "Its fine. You don’t need brakes really,  just don't go too fast (as if) and put your feet on the ground to stop."  I had to ride it to Rarotonga prison to collect my ukelele. I then realised that not only is the infernal thing an accident waiting to happen but it has tiny wheels which make it look a lot like a clown's bike so that other road users point and fall about laughing at you like braying donkeys. Especially kids in school buses  "Look at that man on his silly squeaky bike with flat tyres  haaa! haaa! haaa!"
Blue water and fishing
After ten days  we set off for our first long passage.  "Were staying here it's too rough" all the other yachties said but Jon is made of sterner stuff. Sally sensibly escaped to another boat and Seasick Steve aka Richard took her place. Colin dutifully lashed his bike to the deck. I loosened the rope when his back was turned and we set off.
It was rough all right. Richard was soon confined to his bunk totally unable to do any of the chores on the boat and being waited on hand and foot. Not much sign of sick, I noticed, though but the groans sounded convincing. "Still bad Richard?" I would enquire each morning after sitting up half the night doing his watch for him. "Oh yes still bad. Have you made the tea yet? And just the one boiled egg I think." It was now time to get down to the serious business of  fishing. "Righto Jon lets have a look at your tackle" I said. "No, put it away, I mean the fishing tackle" I added hastily at this sudden reminder of his Jewish ancestry. As it turned out he had quite a good rod and reel and some nice lures but only two fishing lines. One was on the reel and about 30lb breaking strain ( which I would describe a "sporting" given the size of the quarry) and the other was about half a mile of black monofil which I estimate was around 700lb, the sort of stuff commercial fishermen use for long-lining swordfish. This was wrapped round a wooden frame which Jon had cobbled from four bits of scrap wood and a few screws. It was the crappest bit of joinery I had ever seen. "Did you make this Jon?" I asked trying not to laugh.  "Yeah, s'alright init?" I shook it  and it promptly fell apart. "You've broken it" he protested,  but I think he knew it was futile to argue structural mechanics with an Orthopod.
Anyway I did show them how it was done and that evening we dined on Dorado steaks. Unfortunately the next time I hooked a fish it was a Marlin which leaped out of the water thrashing its beak around. I was really keen to get it on board in the hope that it might do some serious and hopefully terminal damage to Colin's bike but it snapped the line. The next big fish took the bait while I was down  below and I came up to see line stripping off at a rate of knots. Unfortunately whoever had loaded the line on to the reel (and I am not pointing any fingers at anyone, Jon) had omitted the elementary step of tying the line to the spool. So we lost the lot (I say we meaning not me).
I had never realised Jon has profound exhibitionist tendencies and an evangelical attitude to nudism at sea. You might think being on a boat with flapping sails thrashing ropes and fishhooks everywhere would be a bit of a disincentive to  "letting it all hang out". Jon however throws caution to the wind and with it, his pants.  As soon as Kika is alone in the ocean all the kit comes off and he strides around the deck, his 'neck and giblets' swinging gaily in the breeze. "You should try it Nige. Sea air tightens the scrotum you know, takes the slack from the sac as they say. Look at mine!" " He's right you know," said Colin climbing out of the hatch naked "its the only way to sail". Richard, now recovered from his mal de mer emerged, his body glistening in the sunlight clutching a bottle of baby oil "anyone for a massage?" 
Niue - how the mighty are fallen.
Our adventures on this delightful island and especially our heroic sea rescue are detailed in the blog. It is not widely known however that  just before we left for Tonga the two senior crew members of Kika  suffered the humiliation of having to be rescued themselves. It was a scenario straight out of a Laurel and Hardy film. It began with  Jon in the dinghy getting it ready for departure. He unloaded the oars and then the motor. Bobbing about in the empty rubber boat he watched in horror as the knot he used to secure the painter to the Kika's handrail unravelled itself casting him adrift in a stiff breeze. In no time he was several yards away.
 " Grab that bloody painter before - too bloody slow, come on come on!....Throw me a bloody rope... not that one, Oh, for fuck's sake.... throw me the oars then , the oars,  the bloody oars get a bloody move on...come on, do something somebody!" You can imagine the pandemonium.
Quick thinking as always, Colin stripped off and dived in, then realised that he had forgotten the oars. Richard and I were then shouted at in stereo.  By the time we had thrown them to him Jon was disappearing into the distance shouting "Help!" in an increasingly hysterical high-pitched voice. He rather let the side down I thought considering there were Yanks about.
In desperation he started paddling furiously with his hands but was still going backward at the same rate that Colin was swimming forwards. It ended up with the dinghy coming to rest against a boat on the other side of the harbour where the by now exhausted and hypothermic Colin caught up. They were finally rescued by the polished boatmanship of  a nine-year-old boy  from one of the other boats who launched his dinghy and towed the bedraggled pair back to Kika.  Richard and I of course were most concerned but unable to render assistance as we were paralysed with mirth. " Could we have another of your knot lessons  Jon? " seemed an apt remark but it didn't get much of a laugh. They were to busy paying the lad to keep his mouth shut.
Voyage to Tonga
Another four days at sea with Richard seasick, Jon and Colin oiling their naked bodies on the foredeck, while I did all the sailing. Progress was slow, the boat being quite heavy with the crate of AK47s and ammo which Jon had bought in Panama with his NHS pension lump sum. This was the true purpose of his voyage and apparently masterminded by Bridget who is an international arms dealer, using General Practice and being a farmer's wife as a cover. She had struck a deal with the Tongan Liberation Movement and they promised to exchange the weapons for high grade cocaine. They would get 1000% return on the investment from Mr Big in New Zealand who had kindly agreed to pick up the drugs mid-ocean in his Stinkpot, as Jon called it. In anticipation of the forthcoming wealth the Kika was additionally weighed down with several cases of Dom Perignon 1975. Jon is exceptionally fond of the stuff and can polish off a bottle for breakfast no problem. He likes to keep a cold one in the freezer at all times and we had to keep his glass topped up when he was at the helm. 
Tonga and sadomasochism
We had to say goodbye to Richard shortly after our arrival in Vava'u as he is a very important chap in the BOA sorting out doctor's pay, clearly vital stuff as it’s a struggle for us to keep up with managers’ salaries even though we get the blame for everything. Sally joined us again and I was evicted from the Princess Suite and had to doss down on the settee in the living room. Actually Princess Suite was rather flattering as it was actually right next to the bog. One disadvantage of that particular berth was its acoustic amplification of anything going on in the little room next door.  Sally is an early riser and an avid reader and clearly quite deaf and anosmic as each morning she would lie happily in bead reading Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu  apparently oblivious of the wet farts, straining noises, splattering turds, the groans of relief and the thick faecal miasma which heralded the dawn of each new day."( Perhaps a little more detail here please ....Ed)
A remarkable woman though, one of the most seasoned explorers I have ever met (she sprinkles celery salt on her body every morning).  Sally has travelling light off to a fine art. In a very small portmanteau she has a costume for every occasion. One night after Jon and Colin had been on the rum and magic mushrooms all evening and smoking some awful weed that smelled like a bonfire she appeared in a full dominatrix outfit including a red latex basque, leather hot-pants, fishnet stockings and thigh-length leather boots. In one hand she had a riding crop and in the other a pair of rubber gimp masks and an enema syringe. "I hope you boys are going to do as you're told!" she said "Not you Nigel ,obviously, because you're not weird but you might find it instructional to watch." "And take photos please!" said Colin eagerly "Use my cameral!".  "Yes Madam!" said Jon obsequiously kissing her boots "we are your humble slaves and we will do whatever you say, no matter how humiliating" Horrified I watched as Jon and Colin once more stripped off all their clothes and donned the gimp masks. There then followed scenes of such depravity that I had to make an excuse and leave. I  motored across the bay until the screams of those two poor men ringing across the calm tropical lagoon faded into the distance and made my way to the Mango bar. I returned an hour later to find Sally with her nose buried in Proust again and Jon and Colin standing up rubbing Germoline into their scarlet posteriors looking extremely happy.
It was from Tonga, after many more adventures that I had to say farewell to my travelling companions. It had been such an eventful five weeks and I will carry the memories with me to the end of my days. I had been with a band of the most  brave kind- hearted, stalwart and honourable people the like of which one would be lucky to meet in a thousand lifetimes.
Jon, Colin Sally, Richard, it was a pleasure to sail with you.

So that's it folks from Kika and its crew. We thank you sincerely for reading all this dreadful travelogue to the bitter end, but at least you will know to avoid the slide show

The skipper had rehearsed his slide show with this very appreciative audience
Jon Osborne(skipper and scribe)
The Skipper, a rare moment of relaxation!

Colin Sharratt ( first mate and photographer)
The photographer and friends relax ...and below some photos from the Galapagos where poor internet limited the uploading of photos

In search of a tasty morsel...

and there it is...

but did he get it?

he sure did!

Perhaps the owner hadn't paid the mooring fee!
As timeless as a voyage across the ocean, goodbye
A late entry posted from Germany..............

Susanne Liese: Our dear friend from German; gourmet chef, supplier of ships snacks and breath of fragrance in an otherwise noxious boat cocktail of bilge water and male body odours!
(Nuku Hiva to Tahiti)
Our ray of sunshine

First of all I have to thank Jon and Colin again for allowing me to be part on such an amazing trip!
I grew up in Germany with a father flying and sailing most of his life, which had a great influence on my addiction to travel. Taking every chance of an adventure it took a blink of an eye to accept the invitation of Jon and Colin to take part on the trip from Nuku Hiva to Tahiti.
I took more than a month of vacation and nobody could change my mind.
During this four weeks I've had the time of my life, having time to think about a lot . . . having disruptions with "too much exitment" according Colin (at the end of the four weeks twice) . . . Jon, good to know the shoulder have had finally a repair . . .
Sailing the Pacific on a well founded vessel together with three gentlemen was indeed a favored life!
Lucky am I having no night watch just relaxed sleeping were my system could attach to the constant moving of KIKA. From time to time I've joined the one on watch in the early evening for a chat but just then to concentrate on the stars. what a show, they were extraordinary bright and vivid.
Now I'm able to relate to the stories of my father I've listened during my younger ages.
Daytime was my duty with watch and cooking, helping hands from all sides, Colin, "Otto" and Jon.
Behind the helm I felt at ease and comfortable after a while when one of these sickness put a strain on me. As soon when consentrating on a job the sickness faded away, even cooking in the gally did the trick.
I liked to spoil the "boys" with some goodies from KIKAS oven. There was a time of more than 6 plus myself  coexisting members, old crew, new crew visitors of other boats and of course Jon and Colin.  . . - " Tahiti here we are".
I enjoyed the trip immensely!
While there is always much to do at home, on sea you can live a relaxed live.
Seeing dolphines, baby killer wale, manta ray and much more was a thrill. These pictures I'll keep for the rest of my life and do not need any technical equipment for it, my brain is so much more capable of it.
All the friends of Jon and Colin I've met on the trip and beforehand in Gran Canaria and St. Lucia, thanks for all your company and get-together over this last year I've enjoyed it immensely.
Hope we will have time to reflect, think and talk about this adventure together.
Many more thanks to my crew Jon, Colin and "Otto", I had a great time! My favourite photo is below...
Jon and Colin relaxed swimming and KIKA in the background!


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Fiji to New Zealand

 Going to New Zealand is a complicated business, as you have to first cross a high pressure system just below Fiji , and then catch the end of a low just as it passes New Zealand and the wind turns Northerly. If you get it wrong and cop the beginning of a low, you could be battling into a South Westerly Gale as you approach New Zealand. There are some good weather web sites, a daily discussion at 7am on Gulf Harbour Radio on the Single Side Band Radio from New Zealand, and a professional weather routing service by Bob McDavitt.
In harbour the SSB doesn't work because of interference, so we asked Bob McDavitt for advice. He advised Thursday or Friday for a weather window so we got our act together and made preparations to leave on Friday 3 October.
Lautoka's undercover market

We took the bus to Lautoka city where we vegetable shopped in its enormous market. Everything in Fiji is very reasonably priced. Provided it isn't imported it costs about a third of the UK price. On the way back the bus was invaded by schoolchildren of all ages. They were all impeccably turned out, laughed and chattered and were looked after by and polite to the other passengers.
On a sunny Friday morning we said goodbye to our cheerful and sociable crewmate Sally, who wants to go diving in Vanu Atu and had a musical farewell from the marina staff who sang a song as we were towed off the mooring.
We're Leaving. They were very pleased, so sang out loud!

 We've had a lovely time in Fiji with happy friendly people who were unfailingly courteous and helpful. I'm sure the place has a great future.
A final wave from Sally

We exited the reef via the Navuka passage at around 4pm and found ourselves in a big sea and 20-25 knot SE winds .We needed to do be close hauled for a course towards New Zealand, so with two reefs in the main we had a bumpy old time of it. Both Col and I felt sick the first night , so our old standby corn beef hash was as much as we could manage. Only 1,100 miles to go!
The heavy weather continued for two days, but gradually the wind  came round to the East and eased and Kika did well on a fine reach. Its now Tuesday morning and Kika has been doing splendidly, bowling along at 7 knots overnight. Our daily average distances have been 135-145 miles. We listen to Gulf Harbour Radio at 7am manned by two volunteer enthusiasts Patricia and David who monitor your position, and provide a half hour of discussion about the weather all over the SW Pacific. A brilliant service, much appreciated by long distance yachtsmen. Gulf harbour is in Northern New Zealand where the weather is currently bad with South Westerly gales from big depressions down South. We're just hoping its going to calm down by the time we get there. Apparently the yachts to the North of us are having a bad time with 30 knot Easterlies.
However so far Bob McDavitts advice has been spot on for us. We hit the centre of the high on Tuesday afternoon for a brief period with very light winds, and they have now backed slightly to the East enabling us to set a course direct for the tip of the North Island which is 570 nautical miles away. Our distance run today was 140 nautical miles. Not bad for the Morris minor of the seas!
Wednesday 9 October was an eventful day for us. The winds dropped so we started the engine, only to hear a odd rattling sound after a while. On lifting the engine cover one could see salt water in the engine tray spraying from the water pump pulley wheel. Sure enough on stopping the engine we could feel that the pulley wheel had play in it which meant that the raw water pump bearings had gone. After a bit of breakfast we rumaged around and found spare bearings for the pump supplied by Jabsco. We took the pump off the engine and then disassembled it with some difficulty on the saloon table. The bearing that had gone with a lot of mangled metal and spring was the one next to a rubber seal just next to the pulley wheel. When we finally got the pulley wheel off the shaft and tried to fit the beating supplied there was too much play between the bearing and its housing. The bearings supplied had been for the other end of the shaft. It wasn't going to be possible to repair the pump which meant only being able to run the engine for a minute or so before we needed to switch it off due to the danger of overheating.
The water pump is located bottom right.

We were effectively a sailing vessel with no auxiliary engine. We had got a forecast through from Gulf Harbour Radio that morning that in two days there was a front coming through , behind which there were South to South Easterly winds. Normally with wind on the nose in the final stage of a passage you can just motor it. However without that option we need to sail East so we can lay Opua close hauled when the South East winds come through and we spent the day on a reach clawing back in a South Easterly direction.
That evening the wind slackened and went round to the North so we could only do 3 knots, but to our surprise the full moon began to disappear and we witnessed a full eclipse of the moon, the second one we have witnessed on this voyage. We knew it was an eclipse when we saw a sickle moon with the sickle sideways on. In the southern hemisphere you only see the sickle underneath ,like a big smile. The moon was totally obscured for around one hour.
Thursday 9 October has been a lovely day. The nights are getting colder as we are going South. Those thermals have come out of storage and we use sleeping bags at night. We were greeted with a lovely blue sky and gentle Northerly winds taking us in the right direction. The day warms up pleasantly like an English summers day, and because the sea was calm I was able to do a few repair jobs on the boat, and bake some bread which turned out very well. Once you've been at sea for a while everything steadies down, you get into a relaxed routine and you stop worrying about when you are going to get there.Opua lies about 340 miles away almost due South as the crow flies but we are continuing to sail SE to get a better angle on the wind when it changes.
We may well pull into an anchorage in  bay of islands and wait for a flood tide to help us get up the channel to Opua as we will need to tack up it with no engine. Gulf Harbour Radio have kindly offered us extra time to discuss our local weather tomorrow.
Overnight on the morning of 10 October there was very little wind with the sails banging. We have moved on at about 3 knots. Overhead in the upper atmosphere the mares tail clouds are curved indicating changeable winds. I think we must be fairly close to the front. lnterestingly in the whole week we have been at sea we have not seen a single other vessel or light. It just shows that once you are out of the shipping lanes, you are truly alone and without an EPIRB you would stand no chance of being picked up.
We went through the front early in the morning with heavy rain and wind from all directions . At 7am we talked to Gulf Harbour Radio who told us the forecast had changed and that instead of South East winds ,we were going to get a SW gale as two new depressions had formed either side of the North Island. Going East with the retrospectoscope had been the wrong thing to do as Opua was now 200 miles away dead into the wind .We had a long struggle ahead to windward.We progressively reefed down to 3 reefs with a scrap of genoa. The wind got up to gusting 40 knots overnight and the boat was being tossed around. It wasn't possible to sleep off watch and there was so much leeway we could only go at 60 degrees to the wind. Everything on board was wet and cold, and corn beef hash was the most I could manage to cook. When the gunnel is under water and the bow sends over a huge drenching of water every third wave as you hit a breaker doing anything above or below decks is an enormous struggle.  Cup a soup comes into its own!
In the morning(Sunday12 Oct) the wind had moderated to 25 knots. We hove to for Col to cook breakfast, which improved morale(bacon and corn beef hash leftovers) and rigged the No 2 Jib on the inner forestay. This reduced our leeway by at least 10 degrees . Overnight we had almost gone backwards. By Sunday afternoon we had only made 20 miles in the last 24 hours and were still 190 miles NE of Opua. On deck as well as the usual storm petrels there was a beautiful huge albatross come to say Hello
With the No  2 rigged we were able to tack and lay a decent course just off the North Cape of New Zealand and gradually made progress. By 6 pm we were 160 miles North East of Opua. We had reported our late arrival and engineless state to Maritime radio on the SSB. They were very helpful and will pass the message on to customs who apparently get interested if you don't turn up when you said you would.
Monday 12 October can be summed up by the phrase, "what a difference a day makes"
At 7 am we had very poor copy on Gulf Harbour Radio and but got a relay of the weather from Harry on Melua in Vanu Atu. The forecast was Southerly winds being variable then calm. Not good as with no motor we might be adrift for some time. A boat called "Per Ardua" behind us said Saturdays storm was the worst conditions they had ever been in. We then dereefed the main ,only to create a large tear where the edge of the stack pack batton ripped through the sail ( with no motor it was impossible to get Kika right into the wind) spent about 2 hours taping the sail up which was difficult because there was still considerable swell from the previous days storms. Just a get you home repair really. We were getting our heads round being stuck out here for some time, however then things started to pick up .
Kika punched on at 4.5 knots on course for Opua under full sail, the sun came out and with the sea moderating I was able to dry some kit out.
I rumaged around in another box looking for sail tape and came across an unlabelled bag of what looked like water pump bearings that Nick Ager the previous owner had left.
So in the afternoon Colin and I got the water pump apart again. Although the bearing we wanted still wasn't there, these were a much better fit. After a bit of a struggle with the pulley wheel we fitted the new ones and packed the pump with grease. We fitted it back onto the engine and the result was a functioning pump with a slight drip underneath . It looks like it might just work for a couple of hours or so, enough to get us up the channel and into Opua- we hope!
The wind has also kept up for longer than we expected. At 1.30 am on Tuesday 13 October as I write this it has moderated to 8 knots and we are ghosting along at 2.5 knots and the good news is we are only 65 miles North West of Opua. The 65 thousand dollar question later today when the wind goes entirely will be whether to chance it and use the engine
Some wind kept up all night leaving us 45 miles off the bay of islands at 7am in the morning. An easy run you might think. With the wind variable and down to 4 knots we are making progress towards the bay of islands at a tantalisingly slow 1.5 knots. We can see the mountain off Cape Brett which looms ever so gradually nearer. At 2pm we are 26 miles out from the bay. We are resisting the temptation to motor it as we may need the water pump bearing to work if we are fighting the tide in the bay with no wind.
In the evening at 13 miles out of the bay, the sails were banging about and we were drifting. I was sorely tempted to go for it, but Colin wisely recomended waiting for the morning. At 1am on 14 October we started the engine with some trepidation as we were drifting backwards with the tide off Cape Brett. The pump leaked but the pulley wheel looked good and sounds OK. We have baled sea water out of the engine tray every 2 hours and kept going at 1400 revs which gives us just under 3 knots.
Sunset as we approach New Zealand after twelve days at sea.

Sunrise entering the bay of islands is beautiful. Its quite cold first thing at about 8 degrees and a low mist just shrouds one or two of the islands. A couple of bottle nosed dolphins have already said hello and welcome to New Zealand. Seabirds swoop all over the place including gannets with special red caps on their heads and we've seen the first other boats since leaving Fiji. The bay is a verdant green and we have a 360 degree panorama of rocky outcrops, partially wooded hills, rather like rather like Devon coombes and a few scattered dwellings ; as we head up the channel to Opua marina and the quarantine dock. We are very relieved to be here!
The approach to Opua Marina

We arrived on the quarantine dock at 9.30 am under engine and stepped onto the dock. Col and I shook hands. Kika has come a long way and looked after us. The customs and immigration people were very decent. We had to throw away some food, but that had been expected.

We showered, changed had lunch and took the water pump off to Mike in Power Marine, who thought we had done quite well with the sea repair. He made a beautiful job of reconditioning the whole pump, which is now working perfectly after we had reinstalled it.
Mike has our water pump in hand.

Opua yacht club is just down the road. Its full of friendly people, many of whom are from the UK originally. Its a great club , with regular racing, a German beer evening which we attended ethusiastically, and they do a very nice steak and chips.
We took a couple of days off to walk to Russell on the forest track. The tracks here are all beautifully marked, pointing out different trees and animals. In some ways everything is very familiar and then you come across beautiful flowering tropical plants and bushes and hear parrots and other tropical birds that remind you we are somewhere else. The more familiar herons, kingfishers and gannets have different plumage, but are the birds we would recognise at home.
A lovely Spring day. Easy going across the mangroves..

in this sub tropical climate...

with great views into the bay.

Russell is now a twee little tourist town, however in the 1830s and 40s it was the original capital of New Zealand, when the total European population of all New Zealand only numbered  some 2,000 souls. It was the R&R facility and sin city for whaling boats whose mainly American sailors came ashore for prostitutes and liquor. Disorder was so bad that the local Maori chiefs wrote to King George of England . He duly sent out a resident in the form of James Busby who set up house in Waitingi over the other side of the bay. It was a good opportunity to get in before the French who were showing definate interest and had even sent a frigate down.
Christ Church in Russell

James Busby got things together and invited all the Maori chiefs to a treaty signing at Waitingi in 1840. The English and Maori documents differed subtly on the question of sovereignty ,however the treaty contained important safeguards about land and control over Maori affairs by the chiefs as well as a guarantee of protection against other foreign powers ie the French.
The chiefs weren't stupid. They didn't like the French who had behaved badly. They were having a musket driven arms race with the Southern tribes and they fancied a bit of law and order especially to control those drunken European louts in Sodom and Gommorah( Russell) over the bay. They could also see that European technology and know how was worth having. So they signed up.
Of course, once settler numbers were up, perfidious Albion reneged on most of the treaty , the most significant betrayal was to confiscate large amounts of land from the Maoris. It was no wonder that the Northern Tribes rebelled in the 1890s and gave three regular British regiments of the line a good pasting before they were finally subdued. The Maoris countered artillery by digging a sophisticated system of fortified dug outs with zig zag trenches and subterranean tunnels, well before Trench warfare had been thought of.
A local Maori chappie
and his lady friend!


In the 1970s a big Maori protest movement sprang up, calling the Government of the day to honour the Treaty, especially as so many Maoris had fought bravely for the Commonwealth in two world wars. Today's settlement with the Maoris is based on the Treaty with a restoration of some land rights and a formal apology by the Queen. As a result the Maoris and pacific islanders form a dynamic part of New Zealand society, so different from the poor old Aborigines across the Tasman sea.
In Russell we visited the bible printing press, set up with enormous energy in the 1840s by bishop Pompallier of Lyon, France. He spoke excellent Maori and had a chart of his own genealogy and that of the catholic church that made sense to the Maoris, whose concept of ancestry and ancestral home is very strong. In 8 years using very old fashioned technology he produced 48,000 leather bound Catholic bibles in the Maori language an extraordinary achievement.
When disorder broke out and a Maori war party came into town, the good bishop and his brothers were left alone, printing out those bibles. The Maoris had declared the premises "tapu" (sacred untouchable ground). The brothers would have been unlikely to get any protection from James Busby across the water with a French flag flying over the premises. The bishop was next sent off down South by his Cardinal to tend to the thousands of Irish Catholics pouring into Auckland. He eventually went back to France in ill health and was buried in a paupers grave. His remains have only recently been returned to New Zealand where he is held in great regard
In the grounds of the Treaty estate we saw the most enormous Maori war canoe powered by 120 warriors. On the Queens visit it got up to 20 knots in speed and she asked if it could be named as Her Majesty's Ship( HMS). The locals agreed and are ready to paddle off any time there's any local bovver in the South Pacific.
A rather large canoe under cover- should have packed the wide angle lens!

On Monday 20th October , we cast off our moorings and anchored up in the bay of islands overnight, and then motored down on a calm day to another anchorage at Tutukaka bay where numerous dolphins frolicked around the boat. 
Dolphins at play

Our journey from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei took us out again to Cape Brett

The Cape Brett lighthouse

Wednesday saw us coming up the Whangarei River with the tide, past ship repair yards and all sorts of marine industry. We tied up at a lifting bridge. At 5 pm when rush hour had stopped we went through and were welcomed to Whangarei by the bridge controller. We were helped onto a berth by long term liveaboards at Riverside marina and were told that we were the first international cruising boat to arrive.

Lifting the bridge at Whangarei
Its great to be here. Everything you could want is to hand, and folk are very friendly. We are planning to haul the boat out here for antifouling and there are numerous skilled craftsmen at hand to help us out with some of the more technical jobs such as welding the boom and canvas repair. Our plans are for Bridget to come out in 2 weeks for a camper van holiday. Colin and me have bought one, cheap off the gum tree web site. Colin's daughter Jenny is coming out in December when Bridget and I go home at Christmas, so Bridget and I will hand over the camper van to Colin and Colin will also sail the boat to Tauronga Port where we've had a very reasonable quote for shipping Kika back to Holland on an onion ship. I will pick her up at the other end in time to see the tulips.
So dear readers this represents the end of our sailing journey. We will publish one further blog of reminiscences from friends and family who have come out for legs and made this trip such fun. One of fellow cruisers favourite topics of conversation are the disasters befalling other boats from sinking on reefs to having amputations as a result of flesh eating bacterial infections . My favouraite is a single hander on an American boat who got seriously ill two months ago.  He was taken off with a Mayday call and rushed to Hospital. Before leaving ,he set up the boat on a windvane with a tracker. 3 weeks later when he had recovered, he chartered a fishing boat, picked up his yacht in mid ocean and continued on his voyage.
So Colin and I are jolly pleased to have arrived here relatively unscathed . Kika has proved a safe comfortable passage maker. We have learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, become more practical and pragmatic people. However, when I asked Colin about this he said quite emphatically that he hadn't changed a jot ! Without doubt we  take home a fund of wonderful memories of the generous warm hearted people we have met and the places we have been privileged to visit. If you are considering a trip of this nature we can highly recommend it !

We sailed half way around the world, not a problem. The really amazing thing is that we are still good friends!
and a word from the bird!.....
Kika's voyage from Wales to New Zealand took 15 months.
The journey was logged with 3,691hours at sea
and with a total travelled distance of 15,312 nautical miles
and that is definitely not how the crow would do it!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fiji Bulletin

Arriving on a Friday evening in Savu Savu, we inevitably got stung for overtime rates when dealing with immigration, customs ,health and biosecurity.
Fortunately Mike in" Tashidelek "tipped us off that we needed to be sitting on a quarantine anchorage outside the river, so we moved quickly off the mooring and looked correct when the authorities turned up on Saturday morning. Apparently if you get it wrong or go ashore prematurely its a very large fine. The last offender got stung for $ 26,000. They were very pleasant but sprayed the boat thoroughly as there is some mosquito in Tonga they're not to keen on in Fiji.
Savu Savu at sunset

Ashore Savu Savu is a great town. The Indians run all the businesses and you can eat out as cheaply as it costs to cook. Lots of cruising boats end up here on a semi permanent basis and a New Zealander called Curley runs an entertaining radio net where you get the weather, local news of what's on, details of local businesses and even World News. You can ask questions and Nick the Irish lepricorn (another semi long term resident) rummaged around in his old boat and found me a piece of perspex to fit over a broken hatch cover. Who needs the internet when you've got Curley for half an hour in the morning!
Curley holding Court

Our visit happened to coincide with the Fiji general election. The situation is potentially volatile. The Indians were brought here  here as indentured labour by the British who thought they would not get a lot of work out of the native Fijiians .The Indians have been highly successful business people and their numbers at one point swelled to 52% of the population. The Fijians who own the land got worried, and when an Indian prime minister was elected, the army staged a bloodless coup by disarming the police force(largely Indian) at the point of a gun and taking over. Life got awkward for the Indians many of whom emigrated when they were kicked off the land they had leased and the economy took a nose dive. They now number only 40℅ of the population.
Since then there was a further coup by the present prime minister who recently resigned from the army and is standing for election as a democratic candidate. He's a bit of a thug and nearly beat up a New Zealand reporter who asked him whether he would stage another coup if he didn't like the result.
However despite censoring the press, he has the support of the Indian population as he has declared that all Fijian's are to be treated equally. He  has clamped down on crime and improved education. There is a Fijian party opposing him as they think he is going to do a land grab on their clan lands over which local chiefs have authority. He has already taken some for the government saying if you don't develop it you will lose it.
Democracy in action!

Anyway the ex general was widely expected to win , he did by a large majority despite the number of votes counted being much larger than the eligible voting population( shome mistake surely).The international observers declared everything to be free and fair and most people are happy because there won't be another coup, Fiji is going to be back in the Commonwealth and there should be a fairly stable climate for investment. Land prices are expected to rocket!
We hired an Indian lady at very reasonable rates, who gave the inside of the boat a good clean and also ran a curry making morning for myself and Penny Bates from " Esprit de la mer" on Kika. It was good fun but making a Dhal seemed a very laborious process and we had plenty of time to chat. Mala was a nice lady who had a tough married life. Like most Indians she spoke Hindi and English but virtually no Fijiian despite being at least the third generation born in Fiji. She had no idea where her family came from originally in India. It makes a big contrast with the Fijians who all know where their ancestral home village is even if neither they or their parents have been there.
We went to a cruisers seminar run as an income generator by Curley on his houseboat. Fiji is notorious for its reefs. Of the 300 or so cruising boats that come here around 12 a year sink after hitting reefs. One of the boats on our cruisers radio net "Amiable " has already sunk after hitting a reef in French Polynesia. The charter company "Mooring's" tried to run an operation here but gave up because the attrition rate was so high, sacking all their staff. The islands were originally surveyed by the Admiralty in the 19th century and GPS plotters largely rely on those charts. Sometimes on approaching a pass into a reef there can be an error of 200-300 metres. Unlike French Polynesia there are no buoys marking the passes. So there is absolutely no replacement for that ancient navigating instrument the mark one eyeball in sailing these waters.
We are sailing inside the reef going round the North side of the main island "Vita Levu". To avoid a nasty crunch, we need to day sail arriving before 3 pm when the sun is high in the sky and you can see the reefs which look either light blue or brown depending on the depth of water. My friend Clive( alias the gismo kid)  is probably laughing as I was too tight to invest in forward facing underwater sonar which would have been very useful.
Before we left  Savu Savu, Colin and Sally went on several dives ,one at 30 metres depth with hammer head sharks. I joined them on the last one where we went 20 miles out in the dive boat to an offshore reef near Nemena Island. We dived some pillar reefs , which are huge underwater mountains of coral. You circle round and round seeing sharks, huge numbers of brightly coloured fish darting in and out of the coral and complicated and beautiful underwater ferns branching out from the multicoloured coral bed. These reefs are apparently the best in the world but sadly you have to go offshore because pollution and water run off have depleted the reefs near the main islands.
We also had a day on the buses to a town Labasa some 3 hours away. The bus left town at 7.30 in the morning and took us from the bay around Savu Savu up into the mountains where there were some spectacular views across relatively untouched tropical rain forest.
On the road to Labasa

 On the Labasa side of the mountains , a lot of the rain forest trees had been replaced by plantations of fast growing larch trees. Virtually nothing grew on the floor of the larch forests as opposed to the rich undergrowth and animal life of the tropical forest. There are large numbers of sawmills all over Fiji.
The coastal land near Labassa was dominated by sugar cane plantations. One sugar beet plant can be cut 7 or 8 times before you have to replant. The land is then burnt off and ploughed before replanting. The soil ( originally volcanic) looked good. Everywhere there were Massey Ferguson 165 Tractors beautifully painted up ,some modified with sun canopies used both for ploughing and transporting trailerloads of sugar cane to the sugar mills. There were also trucks on narrow gauge railways built by the British similarly loaded up with bundles of cane.
Sugar cane on the move

and in the field

Labasa town was one large Indian market place with sales assistants everywhere trying to help you to buy, which we eventually did. The 3 hour bus trip back was trying as everyone was going home to vote in the elections, so we were packed in standing just like the London Underground , the difference being everybody talked to you.
We dinghied up the river to see our friend Irish Nick , who has a major project on renovating his old steel boat. He took us into the nearby village of Yaroi to perform the traditional ceremony of Sevu Sevu.
On most of rural Fiji and the islands the land is run by the chiefs on behalf of the clan. When you visit it is very important you bring some Kava root properly wrapped up in newspaper and ribbon. You give it to the village headman who then brings you to see the chief, where you sit cross legged on the floor with the soles of your feet facing away from the chief. We were also kitted out in Sulus ( traditional male skirts) as a mark of respect. The head man then says a few words in Fijian explaining to the chief where you have come from and offers the chief the Kava. At this point you need to keep your head down. If the chief likes the cut of your jib he will clap his hands and accept the Kava. After that you engage in a bit of small talk and you are accepted as a member of the village. Until then you are a non person. Once you are a member of the village you can come and go as you please and get shown around.
We spent the afternoon with James and Mosessa going to see their vegetables on the hill at the back of the village. Their young cousin climbed a 70 foot swaying palm tree bare footed to dislodge multiple coconuts. No climbing crampons for these boys! Armed with these, large bunches of bananas and chillies, we repaired to their front lawn ,dehusked the coconuts and drank the milk before eating the white part of the coconut. You never go hungry or thirsty round here.
Coconut hunter

on his way to the top

We left Savu Savu on the 23 rd of September in company with our Dutch friends Freda and Ernest in a big Catamaran called Tara. A lot of American boats were delaying their departure because it was rough, but Kika coped easily with just one reef in the mainin 20-25 knots of wind. We could lay a course for Nemena reef some 20 miles off on a fine reach and were interested to hear from Ernest that he had to use his engine. Catamarans are not brilliant to windward. Once we got to the reef it was significant to note that our two chart plotter systems were 200 metres out on the location of the pass into the reef. You definitely need good light to get in here!
Breakers over the reef on a calm day

Picking up a mooring, we went snorkelling on the coral beds and were treated to an evening chorus from all the birds roosting in nests on the trees on the island. At a lower level there were blue faced boobies, and tropical birds of paradise with their long white tails. Higher up Frigate birds which look a bit like Pterodactyls soared on the hill lift from the island. Apparently on the other  side of the island there's a luxury hotel where you can experience the remote tropical island experience for £2000 a night. The Hotel only has about 10 guests. I think we would have got a frosty reception if we had turned up and asked where the showers were.
From Nemena we had a lovely sail the next day to Makogai Island.

 The anchorage was off a mariculture research station. After going through the sevu sevu  ceremony we were shown round. In the old days this island had been the Leprosarium for the whole of the South Pacific. It had around 4,000 residents most of whom died here. The cemetery under the trees was a spooky place with gravestones at all angles undermined by termite action.
The cemetery covered a large area, only part of which had been cleared.

The patients had lived in groups of huts together with their compatriots from their own islands. The layout showed the Europeans to have the best site with the most generous spacing. The colony had everything including a courthouse, two cell jail, and a large cinema where men and women sat on separate sides with the police in the middle. Contact between the sexes was forbidden for lepers.
Standing in front of the cinema projection room..

..and looking past the seating area towards the remains of the screen

In the 1960s with the advent of drugs like Dapsone the last lepers left, fortunately cured and the place became an Agricultural research station where they had introduced the Australian easy care sheep to Fiji. We saw a few in the fields on the main island of Vita Levu. It molts its own wool, looks a bit like a goat, baas like a lamb, and most importantly survives in the tropics.
The centres last reincarnation was as a mariculture research centre. Not much seems to go on, but they have got a few Hawksbill turtles they are growing in tanks for release. There was another tank where they were growing giant clams. These get placed on the sea bed along with the old iron hospital beds which are supposed to encourage coral .  We snorkelled down to them and had an underwater lie down on the hospital beds. Inside the clams lies an evil looking suction tube. Once the jaws of the clam close, a stray fish has got no chance gripped in its vice like jaws; if you stuck your arm in you would lose it!
Big enough to swallow your arm!

The clam tank

Our next overnight stop was at Naingani Island where we didn't see a soul. We then went gingerly inside the main reef off Vitu
Levu and picked our way into a beautiful anchorage deep in Vitu Levu Bay opposite a small village.
We got ferried ashore by a local boat and jumped on a local bus to go shopping in the nearby town of Raki Raki a one hour bus ride away. I got talking to a local farmer from the village called Makogai, and we had lunch together in town. He was 32 with a four year old daughter. He farmed on the clan lands in his village and sold his vegetables at the market in Raki. Makogai reckoned his family could survive quite well on 60 Fiji dollars a week(£20). He had no rent to pay, no heating or electricity bills, most of the families food came from their village supplemented by purchasing a large sack of rice and Gerry can of cooking oil. Health and education were free but clothing and transport were major items of expenditure and he was not planning to have more than 2 children. He supplemented his farming income sometimes by cutting and gathering sugar cane, back breaking work under a hot sun. Even small farmers like Makogai use quite large quantities of Nitrogen based fertiliser on their land, so the sugar beet boys use even more. No wonder the run off from the rivers is destroying the coral reefs.
Loading the narrow gauge railway wagons in the mid-day sun

The trusty tractor

We drank some Kava together with a nearby cruising boat from Hawii that evening ,presided over by two local lads who played flanker and second row forward in the village rugby team. Kava root is mixed with water and strained through a sieve into a Kava bowl . There is a routine of clapping and saying "bula" before you drain the coconut cup in one go. It tastes like mud and leaves your mouth and lips a bit numb. It is a social lubricant and relaxant and you do get a hangover from drinking too much. Somehow I don't think the drink is going to catch on outside Fiji.
Before leaving Vita Levu bay , Colin and I went ashore to pay our respects to the chief and do Sevu Sevu .
The village

 The village was beautiful and well established. Its water supply came from bore holes in the hills above the village ,which provided clean water even in dry weather. Electricity was coming to the village next year. It was Sunday morning , so we said bula(hello) to a handsomely scrubbed up group of kids attending Sunday school in their beautiful church before the service. The war memorial recorded men from the village who had fought and died with the British army in France in the First World War and in Malaya in the second. The head man and chief were charming. They pointed out an old nag grazing on a tether and joked they were going to send it to princess Anne as a present. They were very pleased that Fiji was going to be back in the Commonwealth and they seemed to regard their ties with Britain with genuine affection.
The chief!

The village..

and the children at Sunday School in their Sunday best

As we left the village there was a large sign saying "datum post "left by a Chinese mineral extraction company called Tengy. The chief said that the company had wanted to buy the mineral rights, but he had changed his mind and was going to say no. They seem to be waking up to what the Chinese are up to.
We left Vitu Levy bay on Sunday 28 September to make a passage through the reef to Tomba Lamonia Bay. The sea is calm inside the reef and we glided along with a following wind in lovely sunshine. It was rather like being on the Norfolk Broads on a sunny day, apart from the fact that there were no other boats, and rather than sliding into mud if you ran aground, the consequences of hitting a reef are serious. Although the inside passage was quite tortuous at times the chart plotter was accurate and you could see the reefs clearly. Anchoring in the middle of the vast bay was lovely as you eat dinner under the stars surrounded by a wide expanse of water with just a zephyr of a breeze preventing your gin and tonic from warming up too much.
On Monday 23 we passed through the last of the reefs ,just as the weather changed, the rain came down and we punched our way through a south westerly breeze to Vuda Point Marina. Its like a transit camp for cruisers, where all the boats are like swallows on a telegraph line discussing passage plans for Australia, New Zealand,Vanu Atu and back to the States. Unless you're dug in on a cyclone mooring everybody has to leave soon. Kika is looking for a weather window to cross the notorious Tasman sea.
Sunset at Vuda Point Marina