Sunday, September 30, 2007

Friday 28th September

At Sea

18 40.552 S
177 04.487 E (at midnight)

Happy Birthday Mum, we are thinking about you as we make our way to Noumea.
Happy 25th birthday Daniel, hope it's a good one

As soon as it was a decent hour to go ashore Gerry dinked in and caught a taxi to the port authority (he was probably banging on the door waiting for them to open). I began the tidy away and lock stuff down process ready to leave as soon as possible. Gerry was a surprisingly short time and was back in time for some breakfast and to help with the last of the stowing gear away. The dinghy was hauled up onto the deck and tied down and the life jackets and headsets donned- we were ready to leave. Hauling up the anchor took a while, it was firmly entrenched but it did come up eventually and we began to motor out of the harbour at 10 15hrs. Once we were clear of the anchored boats we turned into wind and hoisted the main sail with the first reef in place, then turning back on course we unfurled the jib half way, the wind was blowing at about 17 knots as we cleared the harbour and switched the engine off- it was nice sailing to begin our trip. The sky however was grey and overcast, we were prepared for rain at any moment, happily it didn't eventuate and we sailed all day without any real problems. I felt a little wobbly at first- nothing too bad but enough to make me stay on deck and not want to venture below very much. We crept out between the Fiji islands; dodging the reefs and had cleared the very last island by 19.00hrs. We ate dinner and began the night watches. The entire night was good as far as sailing went, the wind picked up to 19-25 knots but the swell remained pretty constant at around 6 feet, we roared along doing between 7 and 9 knots all night. It was a good start to our trip.

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Thursday 27th September

Suva
Fiji


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

We woke today expecting this to be our last day here, With a couple of things still to be done we set off in the dinghy as soon as we had finished breakfast. As we no longer had a car we caught a taxi and asked the driver to take us to a place that Gerry had heard of- he wanted to buy a bilge blower and the "marine store" at the yacht club didn't have one. The bilge blower was to put into the exhaust system for the generator to help cool it down faster and hopefully to extend the life of the generator by allowing it to run at a cooler rate. We spent the next hour chasing all over town for this bilge blower, going from one recommendation to the next, in the end we were unsuccessful, nowhere had one and most places had never even heard of them! West Marine- all is forgiven! At the final stop we paid off the taxi driver and went and bought some new fishing hooks and trace to beef up the lures that we have got in the hope of landing one of these monster fish that keep slipping the hook. We then detoured to the internet cafe and wasted half an hour there answering mail and I tried to type yesterday's blog- not very sucessfully as the computer shut down before I had finished it- I gave up! Next it was a stop at the Indian resturant for our last curry before leaving Fiji, the place was packed but we did manage to eat. We thought we would have a last look around town and as we did so we stumbled across a free music and dance show being performed in the park, we watched for a while but stupidly had not taken the camera ashore so there are no pictures. next stop was the handcraft market where we perused the locally made carvings and basket ware- we didn't buy a ,thing they appear to be mass producedalthough each stall owner professes to make them! Our final stop was the pot authority; we needed to check out before leaving the place. After filling out numerous forms(in triplicate) we were finished with immigration and just had customs to go; there came the stumbling block-all the officers were in a meeting-"come back tomorrow". What can you do?
We got a taxi back to the dock and went for a drink at the bar followed by dinner in the Wok on the water-our last Chinese meal here.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday 26th September

Suva
Fiji


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

Today was the day for reinstalling the generator, that meant it was the day for me to make myself scarce from the boat whilst the re installation was underway. Of course we woke to pouring rain - not the ideal weather to go wandering around the streets window shopping. I bagged up all the dirty laundry and amid the pouring rain took the dinghy into the yacht club where I deposited the laundry. Next I took the car into town and after finding a vacant parking meter made my way to the internet cafe where I spent the next hour loading the blog and looking at our emails - I even answered a couple! Having finished with this I made my way back to the car, it was still pouring down, and then headed to the only decent supermarket that we have found. I shopped till I could fit no more into the trolley, it was quite good not to have Gerry peering over my shoulder as I perused the shelves. Once I had finished I loaded the car up - not much space left for anything else, and made my way back to the dock. I then rearranged the shopping into fewer bags and then began the trudge backwards and forwards to the dinghy, loading it with the shoppping. 4 trips later the dinghy was full and in I climbed. I had to bail it out before going anywhere as there was about 4 inches of rain water in the bottom, once that was done I was off and running back to the boat. Gerry came out tied the dinghy up and helped me to unload the shopping. Whilst I had been away he had managed to fit the generator back and had just done the first test run - all seemed to be running well. I didn't ask too many questions about how it had gone - I really didn't want to hear all the problems! Just as Gerry began fitting the casing back into place he dropped a spanner down the back of the engine - to retrieve it would have meant taking the whole Generator out again, needless to say the spanner is still down behind the generator! We stopped for lunch and then Gerry took the hire car back to the office whilst I stashed the groceries away. On his return there were a few more minor ajustments to make to the generator before he was happy with it. We were going to go ashore and collect the laundry at 15.45hrs however the heavens opened just as we were about to take off and it bucketed rain for the next couple of hours, we finally made it to collect the laundry an hour and a half after they were supposed to close, they too were caught by the rain so we managed to get the laundry after all. As there rain began again we had a drink at the bar and then fish and chips in the Wok by the water. As soon as the rain got a bit lighter we bailed out the dinghy, loaded up with the laundry and made our way back to the boat for the night at least we could run the generator and have the fans etc on tonight.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday 25th Septmeber

Suva
Fiji.


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

Yes we are still here and we woke up to glorious sun shine this morning. First thing today we went to the machine shop – everything was supposed to be ready for assembling today. Gerry went in whilst I waited in the car, about 45 minutes later he appeared and said I might as well go off and do something whilst he stayed to “help” them. Things weren’t looking good if he was going to help! I took off and spent the next hour and a half searching for some new fishing lures without any luck, the parking was difficult in town and I couldn’t find the shop that we had seen on a previous drive by. When I returned to the machine shop the frame still wasn’t quite right and I felt that I was rescuing them from Gerry’s wrath by taking him away for lunch. We went back to town and to the café we had found a couple of days ago – the bad dog where we had a delicious pizza for lunch. Whilst we were eating it began to pour with rain – who ordered rain it wasn’t us! Our next stop was the internet café – just to get our daily fix of email and internet then it was time to return and see if the frame was ready. Well it was ready but not quite right; Gerry waved his arms about and suggested things they should do - a few more adjustments had to be made so we made ourselves scarce whilst the guys did the work. Eventually we returned to the shop and the frame appears to be done, the fitting it to the casing will be our next obstacle but that will be on the boat so the guys in the shop won’t hear the names that they will be called. We loaded the entire generator back into the car and took it back to the dock. For once the gods were smiling on us as the rain had stopped and the tide was at its high point, making it as easy as possible for us to transfer the generator into the dinghy and then from the dinghy onto our boat (it weighs enough to cause a back injury if everything isn’t just so) . Anyway the good news is that all the parts are now back on the boat awaiting reassembly tomorrow. The bad news is that the screw holes for the frame don’t line up with the previous ones; I’m going to make myself very scarce tomorrow by going off and doing the grocery shopping whilst Gerry reassembles the generator! We decided that we needed to go ashore for a drink and some food at the Wok on the water before returning to the boat and retiring to bed.

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Monday 24th September

Suva
Fiji.


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

Another wet day – who would believe it? We began our day with checking on the progress of our frame for the generator, only to be told to come back in the afternoon and it might be done – yeah right! Our camera decided that it was going to play up and not zoom in and out so we thought we would try and find a service place to see if we could get it looked at. The camera, a Sony Cyber-shot is only a year old; we had bought it in Perth especially for this trip. Anyway we headed into town and made our way to the largest store we could find advertising Sony cameras, we asked the sales clerk about servicing and she gave us an address where Sony equipment is sent, it was pretty close to the yacht club so we drove there and Gerry went in to ask the questions. It was only a few minutes before he reappeared – not a good sign; sure enough we had the right place but they didn’t service cameras there, all the cameras were sent to a different place near the airport. We gave up; the problem seems to be intermittent so hopefully we will still be able to take pictures of the rest of our trip. Having gone through this wasted exercise we thought we deserved a cup of coffee so we found the nearest Republic of Cappuccino, which turned out to be the local version of Starbucks. We ordered coffee and cake at the counter (the biggest difference was that we didn’t get asked if we wanted Tall, Grande or frigging gigantic – it only came in one size, imagine that!) and were directed to sit down – ah a soft fairly comfortable chair, bliss! The coffee and cake was bought to our table and we wallowed in the comfortable chairs whilst slowly polishing off these frothy, cream topped, freshly ground beans made over into unpronounceable beverages and decadent chunks of gateaux. That was lunch out of the way for the day! Our next stop was the internet café where we checked our email, answered the ones that we really couldn’t ignore and posted the latest blogs. By the time we had finished there it was absolutely pouring down and it was not going to be any fun wandering around the shops as we had planned, we did try to chase down a new camera – just in case but didn’t actually find one in the end, all the duty free shops must be at the airports as we didn’t find any in town. We did however manage to find the jewelers and bought me a new wedding ring to replace the one that I managed to loose overboard just as we were leaving Tahiti. I’m happy with the replacement but it still feels a little strange and after 29 years of the old one I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise. We thought we would test the camera to its limits and then drove out to the parliament building gates so that I could get a photo of the guard in a skirt. I had to jump out of the car for the picture as there was no parking in front of the gates and I took a couple of photos from the far side of the road, I then crossed over to take a closer photo and was hailed by the 2nd guard – in combat fatigues hiding in the sentry box. I politely replied and invited him to stand along side his traditionally dressed counterpart for a photo; he was obviously pleased to be asked and stood to attention next to his mate for the photo – see the traditional and contemporary guards in the photo! Having got my photos we decided that it was a perfect afternoon to spend at the museum – out of the rain. We drove there and spent the next couple of hours wandering around the exhibits, learning all sorts of interesting stuff about Fiji and its inhabitants; it was definitely worth the visit.
We also did a quick tour around Thurston Gardens, in which the museum is set; they are quite lovely gardens and I think that in dry weather they would be a great place to spend some time.
With a couple of hours left until it was dinner time we headed first to the machine shop – there is progress but the frame isn’t ready yet and then back to the boat so that we could run the engine and top up the batteries and run the fridge (it will be so nice to have the generator back in working order so that we don’t have to keep doing this). Between rain showers we returned to the club and had a drink before setting off to an Indian restaurant that we had seen and fancied trying. The food was very good and we made pigs of ourselves with a banquet style meal. Full to bursting we returned to the boat for the night.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday 23rd September

Suva
Fiji.


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

We woke today to a small amount of blue sky – hooray, we were beginning to think that it had all gone away for ever. The morning was spent doing nothing special, just relaxing and reading our books. We had planned to go to Yum Cha at the Capital Palace restaurant in town (it is apparently quite well known here for the weekend Yum Cha) as Gerry hadn’t been feeling too well when he went to bed last night I didn’t push to go but just before lunch he suggested that we go out, stopping for Yum Cha on the way. So we dinked ashore, drove to town and were lucky enough to find a parking spot right outside the Capital Palace. We made our way inside and sat down, the only white faces in the place, everyone else was oriental – a good sign in a Chinese restaurant we felt. The Yum Cha was unlike ones that I have been to in the past in that this was a buffet style where you had to go up to the table and decide what you wanted and they then bring it to your table; every other one I have been to you sit at your table and waiters bring out trays of food and circulate and you take what you want as they go around. Anyway we made our choices, the food arrived at the table and we pigged out on the food. It was very enjoyable and I was glad that we had got there. Once we had finished eating we thought we would have another try at finding the road that we missed yesterday and go for a drive. Map in hand (upside down and back to front to see if it made a difference) we headed up a side street, we found what we thought was the road and began traveling on it. Eventually we hit the first ‘big’ town; yes we were on the right road – yippee. The road was a little better than the one we had traveled on 2 days ago but it still didn’t seem like a major highway to us. The pot holes were less but we think this was because the road was less used than the one to Sigatoka. We continued to drive all the way to Korovou, about 50 kms; there was little to recommend the journey, no spectacular sights and pretty mundane scenery after the first few kms. Instead of driving alongside the ocean we were following the Waimanu river which turned into the Rewa river; there wasn’t even any river activity to keep us amused! When we reached Korovou we elected to return to base, we had had enough driving around. Back at the yacht club we dinked out to the boat and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before heading ashore for dinner. Gerry although feeling a little better didn’t want to go far so we ate at the club again – we have almost gone through the menu once so it must be almost time for us to leave here! The good thing about eating at the club, well 2 things – it’s cheap and there are always other people to chat with and share sailing stories with. Then it was back to the boat to run the engine and charge the batteries before bed.

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Saturday 22nd September

Suva
Fiji.


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

The day started with a division of labour, Gerry went ashore to the machine shop to see how they were going with the frame for the generator whilst I stayed on board and swept out the interior of the boat and cleaned the shower sump etc – all the fun jobs! Gerry returned to the boat just as I was about to sit down and type the blog, he had gone via Micky D’s and bought us breakfast (even though we had already eaten toast before he left); honestly he is a junk food addict and just couldn’t go past a Macca’s without going in. So would the frame be ready today? Of course not, did you really expect it to be done when they promised – it’s now going to be ready on Monday, I’m not taking any bets on whether it will be ready or not. This had kind of thrown our plans for the weekend as we had planned to do the re-installation all day tomorrow, then the final stock up for our onward trip on Monday morning before returning the car on Monday afternoon; now we have to have the car for an extra day to make sure we have transport to get the generator back to the marina, ho hum! After eating the Mac whatever they were we dinked back ashore, deciding to go for a drive around to see if we could locate the road that heads north towards Rakiraki and go for a drive in that direction to see whatever there was to see. We headed towards the center of town which was teeming with people, everyone and their dog was out shopping and milling around the town center streets. We followed several roads out of town always ending up back where we started – the map isn’t particularly good and the roads have few indications as to where they end up; despite it not being our intention we saw pretty much all the streets in the center on town and enjoyed the bustle of the city. We also managed to find our way out to the big football stadium, drove along the water front road, saw the parliament buildings with the guard in his traditional Fijian uniform (we though it would be quite difficult to take a guard in a skirt seriously, but he does have a rifle slung over his shoulder so I guess we wouldn’t laugh in his face); found the historic buildings of Suva – the library, the Fintel building, the old town hall, the Grand Pacific hotel (a shadow of it’s former self from what we could tell)

and the Fiji museum with it’s surrounding Thurston gardens. The worst thing about it all was that there was no where to park so photos were impossible to obtain, we will have to try again before the car goes back; I especially want a picture of the guard in his skirt! What we didn’t manage to find was the road heading north that we were looking for.One thing that I've failed to mention so far is that the Royal Suva Yacht club is directly opposite the Suva prison - if you get too drunk it might be difficult to know which one you are at! Eventually we had enough of driving around and gave up, headed back to the yacht club for a few drinks, met up with some fellow travelers and sat chatting with them until it was time for dinner – what a way to pass the day! We ate in the yacht club as it was pouring with rain and we couldn’t be bothered to go further a field for the evening. Once we had eaten it was back to the boat as Gerry was feeling a bit off colour and wanted to go to bed early. I sat up for while and read whilst the engine was running to top up the batteries then I also went to bed. Good news the pillows are finally dry.

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Friday 21st September

Suva
Fiji
.

18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

We woke to yet another overcast miserable day, not ideal for drying pillows but a good excuse to use up the last of the lemons on pancakes for breakfast. After breakfast we headed ashore as Gerry wanted to check on the progress of the new frame for the generator. We had to take all the parts for the generator (including the engine) in with us to the shop today so we struggled to maneuver the heavy bits out of the boat, into the dinghy, out of the dinghy onto the dock, into the car and finally into the shop, honest to God I don’t know how we did it but we managed without any injuries; the worst thing is that we have to do the whole process in reverse once the frame is finished – now there’s something to look forward to! When we got to the machine shop they were drinking Kava and offered Gerry a bowl, he declined (wimp!) but it was only 09.00hrs – a little early to begin drinking we thought, and these guys are making our new frame – be afraid!. After dropping everything off we decided to go on a sight seeing drive and headed off along the coast road towards Sigatoka. The road rivaled the Queensland highway from Cairns to Brisbane, it was full of pot holes, infrequent road markings and quite twisty. The scenery also bore a great resemblance to Queensland – lush, green vegetation, palm trees, hibiscus and glimpses of the ocean all along the route. The villages varied greatly from quite well kept to absolute S#*t holes. There weren’t nearly as many churches here as we had seen in Tonga but we saw a few; the biggest difference was the presence of resorts along the way where obviously the rich and famous vacation (Dog’s breath this includes you!). We covered 128kms and it took us almost 2 hours – it wasn’t a fast road, or car for that matter despite it being a hire car! We arrived just in time for lunch which we ate in a small café, it wasn’t anything to write home about but it filled a hole. We found Jack’s – the most publicized souvenir store in Fiji and made a couple of purchases there then we wandered along the main street staring at the shops windows, I have to comment here about the most beautiful saris that we saw in the windows, they were spectacular but Gerry wouldn’t let me spend any more money (boo and hiss). It began to spit with rain so we turned the car back towards Suva; the drive back was a very wet one as the monsoonal type rain fell for almost the entire trip. We arrived back in time to check on the progress of the frame – not ready, possibly tomorrow (HUH!) From there we went to the yacht club for a drink and a little later on we made our way to a restaurant that we had seen along the water’s edge. We were early (would have qualified for the early bird prices in the USA) and enjoyed the peace and quiet whilst we ate; just as we were finishing our main course the place was invaded by a load of very noisy fossils who were there for the seafood buffet, we left very shortly after and made our way back to the boat for the night. Pillows? still not dry, maybe tomorrow! To make matter worse the monsoonal rain had found it’s way under the floor that Gerry has up in the cockpit for the autopilot repairs and run down the interior which is right over our aft bed, one side of the bed is soaking wet, it’s not my side so I’m not saying anything more about it!

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Thursday 20th September

Suva
Fiji.


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

Our day began with rain – it seems like we are destined to have rain where ever we stop! After eating breakfast, once the rain had stopped, we went shore with our pillows which needed washing and the generator (minus the engine) as Gerry thought that it needed new bearings. After dropping off the pillows for laundering the first stop was to drop the generator off and arrange for it to be fixed, they said to return in the afternoon and it would be done – yeah right! The next stop was just next door, where we collected the hydraulic cylinder which has new seals fitted and the shaft was polished as it had a few scores on it which may have contributed to the loss of hydraulic fluid. Gerry then suggested that we go to the internet café and catch up with the blog uploading and read our email; we drove around to the place and there was nowhere to park so I jumped out of the car and went to log on whilst Gerry drove around until he found somewhere to park. The saga of my trying to log on at a strange computer doesn’t bear repeating, enough to say I had to ask the geeky Asian boy who was taking the money how to get into the programs; to his credit he was very patient and didn’t make me feel too stupid! I got there in the end, plugged in the memory stick and nothing appeared on the screen to say it was there – yet another job for Geeky boy, now known as computer God! At last I was set and began loading the blogs for the previous week, as you can see I did manage eventually and even put some photos on too. I was just getting into my stride with the loading when Gerry arrived and began pestering me, he gave up and went and paid for half an hour of his own so that I didn’t have to hurry, however he needed the stuff he had saved to the memory stick “as soon as you are finished with it” – honestly anyone would think we didn’t have a second memory stick that he could have used. Blog loaded and emails read I logged off and Gerry then finished up with whatever he was doing. By now it was close to lunch time so we walked to a nearby café where we ordered an early lunch. Once we had eaten we made a dash to the supermarket, well that’s how it started out however the “supermarket” was no longer a supermarket, it had turned into an electrical goods store. We asked directions to the supermarket and after a very roundabout trip found one – we weren’t very impressed it wasn’t as good as had been described to us - we must have the wrong place! We asked the check out chick if this was the only MH supermarket – Oh no there’s the big one over the hill and far away! We did eventually find it but it was off the main road and easily missed if you followed the direction we were given. By the time we had got the shopping Gerry was keen to get back out to the boat and fit the hydraulic cylinder back in place, we just missed getting wet as the rain began again once we were on board, luckily it didn’t last very long and Gerry was soon able to refit the cylinder whilst I handed him tools and played assistant.

Just before 16.00hrs we dinked back into the yacht club to collect our pillows, we bundled them into the back of the car and took a drive along the sea road to the Tradewinds hotel where we had a late afternoon drink and snack. The hotel overlooks a small lagoon where a few yachts are tied up to mooring balls, it is very picturesque and quiet there and we made enquiries about the moorings and the use of the hotel facilities, including the internet. As it turned out the hotel doesn’t own the moorings and we couldn’t find the man who does, the on duty manager said we could use the hotel facilities if we were moored there (I would stake my life on a bet that if we rocked up having moored he wouldn’t be on duty and the manager of the day wouldn’t let us in!), the internet cost was $12 (Fijian) for an hour as opposed to $3.50 at the café we went to this morning; I’m seriously doubting the value of a move there! Anyway it got around to time to return and collect our generator which we did before heading back to the yacht club for dinner. We ate at the Wok on the water and enjoyed the company of a few fellow sailors for a while there. Between the showers we dinked back out to the boat with pillows in hand but left the generator in the car as it had to go to the machine shop in the morning for fitting on the new frame. I kicked myself when I undid the bag with the pillows in, they weren’t quite dry and there was no way that we could use them; I went to grab the pillows off of the forward bunk to use instead only to find that they had gotten wet when Gerry hadn’t closed the hatch properly a couple of days ago, so now we have 6 pillows that need drying out as well as a mattress protector and who knows what else I will find when I strip the rest of the junk off the forward bunk, and believe me it’s not easy to dry these things on a boat when it’s raining! We eventually slept with just one thin pillow each; hopefully I’ll be able to get them dry tomorrow.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday 19th September

Suva
Fiji.


18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

We both slept like logs and woke up feeling on top of the world. It didn’t last long as we ran out of water in the port tank whilst Gerry was in the shower; we still had a full starboard tank so it wasn’t a disaster. We emptied the water jerry can that we had on deck into the port tank to begin the refilling process. The harbour here doesn’t look like a place where we want to run the water maker so we are going to have to cart water back from the dock each time we go ashore until the tank is full (that means at least 5 trips as the tank is 30 gallons and the jerry can holds 5, remember we have already emptied the first 5 gallons into the tank).
Gerry offered to take us ashore for breakfast – who am I to refuse that offer, it beats having to cook! We left it until around 08.00hrs, not being too sure what time breakfast was served and then dinked into the club taking 3 bags of laundry with us as we were running out of fresh clothing plus the water container from on deck to fill up. To our horror the breakfast service didn’t start until 09.30hrs, we had to wait and we were starving! Gerry filled the jerry can with water and took it back out to the boat whilst I sat waiting in the club – if I’d gone back out to the boat I would have ended up cooking breakfast, I wasn’t stupid! Eventually Gerry came back ashore; he had spent the time out on the boat taking the front casing off of the generator. We ate breakfast and dropped the laundry off and then we both headed back out to the boat. The jobs of the day were to take the generator apart and get the frame into the workshop for duplicating and remove the hydraulic cylinder and take that in for resealing. Both of these jobs are one person jobs as the space to work in is very tight, of course the other person (me) had to be the ‘gofer’. As is always the case when any job is under way the tools were spread the length and breadth of the boat, add into the mix that we have to tear the nav. station apart to get the generator out and stash the shelving etc. somewhere whilst we work – well you can imagine how the boat interior looks until the work is completed. Incidentally, thanks Steve for making the nav. station fittings so simple to remove and reassemble, it certainly makes things as easy as possible when we are working on the generator (that’s at least once every 6 weeks!) By lunch time Gerry had the generator apart and the frame ready to go ashore; he then started on the hydraulic cylinder whilst I prepared lunch. Once we had finished with lunch it was time to take the bits in for repair so off we went in the dink and then by car to the machine shop. Everything looks hopeful, they say they can do the work – we shall see in due course! The biggest problem is that we have to lug all of the generator ashore to fit it onto the new frame and then lug it back out to the boat once it’s done, the generator weighs around 160lbs – not exactly lightweight for transporting and manhandling in and out of the dinghy and car. Having dropped off the bits for repair we took a drive around town so I could get my first glimpse of the place, it is on similar lines to Papua New Guinea and brought memories of that place flooding back. Following our drive we returned to collect our laundry, filled the water container once again and made our way out to the boat where we stowed the laundry and emptied the water container into the tank (3 more trips to go). For the next couple of hours we read and relaxed amongst the debris onboard, then we dinked back ashore, (forgot the water container!) took the car into town and ate at an Indian restaurant that had been recommended to us. The food was VERY spicy – it even made my eyes water! Once we finished eating it was back to the yacht club for a couple of drinks, which turned into a few more as it began to rain and we weren’t going out to the boat in the rain. In fact it poured down for a good hour – we were captive in the bar! As soon as the rain stopped we dashed to the dink (now known as a swimming pool) bailed out enough water to prevent us from drowning on the way and hurriedly returned to our boat where we found that someone (I will leave him nameless) had left open the hatch over the galley and the stove, pots and pans and counter tops were awash with rain water. I mopped up the mess whilst Gerry helped by watching. Not long after that it was time for bed; with all the hatches closed it was going to be an uncomfortable warm, humid night.


PS. have finally got to an internet cafw and loaded photos for Tonga - have a look

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Tuesday 18th September

Suva
Fiji
.

18 07.331 S
178 25.470 E

The rest of the night passed with neither of us getting much sleep, we were both too excited at the thought that the passage was over. We finally dropped the main in the early hours just before dawn as it was flapping around and really not doing very much to help us along and for the last part of the journey we motored. Of note was the sunrise, the sky was full of cloud and as the sun came up behind them a circular rainbow formed which was something neither of us have ever seen before, my photo doesn’t do it justice but I tried!

We motored into the harbour in between the rain bursts and dropped our anchor amongst the boats there (we were the spectator sport for all of 5 minutes with everyone watching us anchor; but as we did a brilliant job of setting the anchor first time we weren’t much fun to keep watching!). Once the anchor was down and everything switched off and stashed away we got the dink off the foredeck and readied it for going ashore. A huge cooked breakfast was the order of the day followed by a hot shower and then Gerry took off ashore to clear us in and hire a car whilst I did some fridge cleaning, laundry gathering, cleaning and re organizing of the lockers. I had just begun to type up the blog notes when Gerry finally reappeared (having been gone for nearly 4.5hrs) We caught up with information and then Gerry had a sleep whilst I finished typing these notes. The lack of sleep during our short passage had finally caught up with Gerry, I had to wake him up in order to go and have dinner. We dinked into the yacht club where there is a restaurant called Wok by the water – serves Chinese food incase you didn’t guess. We ate our fill, chatted with a couple who were just picking up there boat, having left it here for a few months and finally when it all became too much we dinked back out to our boat for an early night.

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Monday 17th September

At sea

18 26.364 S
178 53.110 E (at Midnight)

The remainder of the night was dark and lumpy sailing. Gerry had a small amount of jib out when I went out on watch as the wind had died away again and he was also running the engine to keep us moving along – talk about one extreme to the other! I took over and by 01.15hrs the wind had returned and was blowing 15 knots on the beam, off went the engine and for the next hour we sailed. Of course it didn’t last and I ended up turning the engine back on again; at the same time the jib was flapping and back winding the main so the jib got furled away. Our next bit of excitement was Gerry spotting a strobe in the water – attached to a fishing float leading to a string of floats and finally a fishing boat, luckily we missed them all. By dawn the wind had dropped to under 10 knots and the swell was down to 2 – 3 feet, we were 5.5 miles off course but this was OK as we had to skirt an island that laid between us and Fiji by at least 5 miles. We put the fishing line in the water – well sooner or later we will catch something! I went back to bed at 07.00hrs for an hour and a half and in that time we hooked a fish and Gerry went to reel it in but it slipped the hook, in fact it bent it so far out of shape that he had to change lures. This was of course the only fish that we hooked all day. By mid morning we managed to sail for a while but it wasn’t to last very long as the wind dropped to 5 knots and we ended up putting the jib away and switching on the motor. Now you may have noticed that our Long/Lat at the top of the page now shows an E; at 12.05hrs we reached a milestone on our trip – we crossed the 180o line – the true international date line. We felt a slight bump as we crossed from the West to the East heading (I think that was where we fell off the edge – YES the world is flat!) anyway we are now counting down the Easterly degrees as we head towards home.
If you look at the photo you might think that I’ve lost the plot as far as the time goes but I haven’t. We have encountered a strange phenomenon with our chart plotter clock – it changes according to GMT or UTC by adding or subtracting hours that you set; now I guess you’re thinking that we didn’t set the hours right – wrong! The + or – only allows you to alter the clock up to + or – 11 hours and Tonga has a time of + 13 hours which our plotter just won’t allow us to do so we have to try and remember to add 2 hours to the time shown. Unfortunately it doesn’t get better in Fiji as the time difference there is + 12 hours, we have to wait until we cross the 160o East line before we can put the clock right at + 11 hours! So all you boat owners with chart plotters does your clock do the same thing check it out?
For the rest of the day and night we motor sailed as the wind didn’t pick up enough to do anything else, it was boring but with the music blaring loudly we managed to pass the day in relative comfort.

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Sunday 16th September

At sea

19 28.724 S
178 54.484 W (at Midnight)

At dawn the sky was overcast and by 08.00hrs it was raining, the weather forecast for today had been for 15 knots – huh it blew 22 – 28knots on the beam. We put the jib out (reefed) to try and steady us as we were rolling badly; the swell was 10 feet and quite uncomfortable. For the entire day we saw nothing, no fish, whales, ships or sun. I would go as far as to say it was a miserable day of sailing however by tea time it had calmed right down to 15 knots (well they got it right at last!) and the swell had died away to 1-3 feet, it felt almost eerie. I went off to bed at 19.30hrs as Gerry took first watch; half an hour later he was screaming for me to come and help him on deck, I raced out in my sleep attire (!) as he threw the jib sheet at me and said we need to get the jib away. We were being hit by a squall which was gusting up to 25knots. Gerry was having to hand steer as the preventer was still on the main and as the wind picked up speed going forward of the beam causing the main to flap and try to crash across to the other tack; George couldn’t adjust quickly enough hence the hand steering. At the most crucial moment our wind indicator failed – we had no read out of the wind speed or direction then it flashed back on again, then off, then on – it was playing its own stupid game of chicken and we had to guess where the next gust of wind was coming from. Once we finally got out from the squalls the wind indicator settled back down and behaved perfectly. We think it may have been something like lightening or ozone in the clouds going over that affected the operating of the wind indicator, we were not impressed though. Gerry had to steer us off course to keep the wind on our beam and we ended up being just over 4 miles off track by the end of the squalls (yes there was more than one). Once there were no further squalls on radar I tried to go back to bed but was back out on deck within 15 minutes to help out. Eventually I went back to bed and slept for an hour and a half before Gerry woke me up needing to sleep himself.

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Saturday 15th September

At sea

20 26.508 S
176 31.994 W (at Midnight)


At last the leaving day arrived; we checked the grib early in the morning and it looks like we have a small window in which we can get to Fiji. The wind is supposed to be 20 knots for the first 24hrs then drops to 15 and by the third day it is meant to be 5 – 10 knots. We are never 100 percent convinced by the reports but we have to have faith in something so we decided to head off. At 09.15hrs we donned the life jackets and headsets, hauled up the anchor and motored towards the waypoint. As Tonga is surrounded by reef it took us a good hour to clear the reef, the wind was about 18 knots so this was OK. As we got towards the last bit of the reef Gerry said “look Nick, there are whales blowing over there”. Sure enough out to our starboard side there were the tell tale plumes of spray every once in a while, suddenly they began to broach and crash back into the water – quite a spectacular sight, unfortunately they were just a little too far away to get pictures of. I had the camera at the ready just incase one got nearer but the closest one was at least 200 yards away and from what we could tell they were humpbacks and just juveniles, none that we saw were very large. I was a little sad that Abigail wasn’t with us as in the month she spent with us we didn’t see a single dolphin or whale and here we were surrounded by them. Anyway it was a good start to our passage. Once we cleared the end of the reef we turned into wind and hoisted the main with the first reef in place and then poled the jib out on the same side to give us a bit more grunt. The wind was blowing 15 – 20 knots on the beam – we were happy and hoped it would stay that way. Our only problem for the moment was that George was requiring topping up with hydraulic fluid every 15minute (we were getting through about 10mls. of hydraulic fluid in that time); fixing George is most definitely on the top of the list for jobs to be done in Fiji, Gerry is going to see what they are capable of doing before deciding whether to have the existing cylinder resealed or the new on installed, either way something needs to be done. The fishing line went in the water and we had one huge fish on the line at around 16.00hrs unfortunately it leapt into the sky and dislodged the hook – these darned Mahi Mahi are slippery suckers to land! Of course that was the only bite we had so there was no fish for dinner. We had a pleasant sail for the rest of the day but as night approached the wind came aft of the beam and we ended up taking the pole off the jib and putting it away and then putting the preventer out for the main to stop it crashing over to the other tack when the wind gusted behind us.

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Friday 14th September

Pangaimotu,
Tonga


21 07.471 S
175 09.750 W

More waiting, the weather looks like it will begin to clear tomorrow so that may be our leaving day but again we will be checking in the morning. The worst thing is that the weather clears here and 3 days out it is bad again around Fiji; as the sail will take 3 days we don’t want to arrive there in bad weather any more than we want to leave here in it.
Yet again our day comprised of eating, sleeping, reading and discussing our travel plans. We are trying to be extra careful with the water rationing because although we have full tanks we haven’t been running the water maker so we aren’t replacing what we have been using; it will be so nice to have a Hollywood shower when we get home!

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Thursday 13th September

Pangaimotu,
Tonga


21 07.471 S
175 09.750 W

Well the weather report and grib charts showed sustained high winds for the next 48hours so we will be sitting tight and waiting for the calm after the storm. Once we had checked the weather we got down to the business of relaxing whilst waiting for the weather window. We ate, slept, read, ate some more, slept some more and read for a change. Meanwhile the wind howled around us and it spat with rain a couple of times.
This waiting for a weather window sucks! One boat left and went into the harbour today and another yacht arrived and took its place – not very exciting but it was the event of the day where we are!

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Wednesday 12th September

Pangaimotu,
Tonga


21 07.471 S
175 09.750 W

The horror of the day was that we ran out of water. We hadn’t been making any in the harbour as it doesn’t look too savoury to begin with; luckily we had our spare 5 gallons in the container on deck so we poured that into the tank to get by until we could fill the tanks later in the morning. Around 09.00hrs we were just about ready to leave, we started the engine up and I cast us adrift from the boat that we have been rafted up to for the last few days. Our first top was at the fuel dock where we filled our jerry cans (having emptied them into the tank before leaving) whilst at the same time we ran a water hose from the tap to fill our water tanks. The water must have trickled in, it took forever but at last we had full water and fuel tanks and spare cans on deck. Gerry paid the fuel bill and we cast off from the dock motoring out of the harbour and across the bay to Pangaimotu Island, a distance of 4 miles. Once we cleared the harbour we were surprised at the wind, the forecast had been for 20+ knots and we had been so protected in the harbour that we hadn’t noticed that the wind was blowing that hard. Once we were in the lee of the island though we were once again protected from the blowing. We dropped our anchor and it set immediately, we then sat in the cockpit eating lunch and making sure that we weren’t going to drift off unexpectedly. There were just 3 other boats anchored nearby so there was plenty of room for everyone to swing in wide arcs if the wind got up higher as the forecast was suggesting. The rest of our day was spent reading, checking on our weather charts for the best time to make our crossing to Fiji and just veging out. Gerry offered to take us ashore for dinner but the hassle of putting the dinghy in the water off of the foredeck was beyond either of us and we elected to stay on board and eat at home. As the evening closed in the wind began to pick up speed and was averaging around 27knots, happily our anchor was very firmly planted and we didn’t move at all. Our latest weather report makes it unlikely that we will be leaving here tomorrow but we will be checking again in the morning for the update.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday 11th September

Nuku’alofa,
Tonga


21 08.317 S
175 10.867 W

A very happy birthday Jean, many happy returns of the day.

We planned to do the restocking and checking out stuff today in the hope that we would be able to get away from here tomorrow. This was the last day we would have the car so we had to make sure that all the running around stuff was finished before returning the car. We headed out first to the customs office; found that we had to pay the harbour master first so that meant a trip to the bank as we weren’t sure how much it was going to cost. Once we had some money in hand we decided that the day couldn’t proceed without a coffee so we went to café escape and spent half an hour there having a decent cup of coffee. As the supermarket was close by we stopped in there next and loaded up with the few things that we had run out of, by now I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that chocolate and snack bars were at the top of the list. From there we went to the market and loaded up with fresh fruit and vegetables, the market was excellent and the produce better than a lot of places that we have been. We made a detour to the bakers and bought some pies and cake – well you can never have too much pre prepared food! Finally it was time to go to the harbour master’s office and pay him, surprisingly the fee was only about $30 so we didn’t need half of the money we had drawn out of the bank. We tried a couple of times to pay the car hire place but the lady that runs it was out each time, we gave up and returned to the boat to unload the shopping before trying a third time – this time with success, it was arranged that we would leave the car at the wharf and she would pick it up in the evening – a good arrangement as it meant we had the car for the rest of the day. Our next stop was for lunch at Friends café where we also checked our emails, the internet on the boat had been out of action for 2 days so there were a few things to answer and sort out. Late in the afternoon Gerry returned to the customs office and got our final clearance papers – we are set to go now as soon as the weather clears; there has been some bad weather around Fiji that we want to miss if possible. A final trip into town to try and fax our arrival details to the Fiji customs people (they want to know at least 2 days before you arrive that you are coming). This was un unsuccessful episode as the fax machine in Fiji just didn’t pick up and the file was too large to attach to an email; in the end Gerry emailed them a short version of the information they required along with an explanation of the difficulty he had sending the form they require – we aren’t sure how everyone else manages to send it but it definitely isn’t easy! Having done all the essential stuff we went back to the boat locked the keys in the car (as instructed) and then walked across the road to a Korean restaurant. This was a first for us, having never eaten Korean food before, it was a mixture of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese. We enjoyed it immensely, leaving the place full but with the feeling that given an hour we would feel hungry again! We read a bit before going to bed; hopefully we will have internet in the morning so that we can check the weather before leaving here to spend the interim at anchor behind one of the small islands.

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Monday 10th September

Nuku’alofa, Tonga 21 08.317 S 175 10.867 W A very happy 17th birthday Joshua, we hope that you have a great day. Here it was the day I’d been dreading for a while – Abigail was leaving today and flying home. We were up early and ready to take her out to the airport for the 10.00hrs check in. Abigail’s luggage seems to have doubled in size since arriving on the boat, the bag she took home was gigantic, full of all sorts of mementos (some of which I had bought for her along the way from Jacksonville through the Caribbean etc – at least they aren’t cluttering up our boat any more!). We left the boat around 09.00hrs (incase we got lost on the way) and did a detour to the cemetery so that we cold take a coupe of photos of the adorned graves – they are a sight to behold. Next we stopped at the car hire place to make certain that we had the car until tomorrow – we do so that’s no problem. Next stop was the International Airport; it wouldn’t even make the grade as a regional airport in the USA but at least the planes go in and out of it. Abigail checked in, paid her departure tax and then we all went up on the observation deck to await the arrival of her plane. There were 3 flights going out at roughly the same time and none of the planes had arrived yet; they all turned up within half an hour of each other and just 40 minutes before the flight to Sydney was due to leave. Abigail’s flight was the last of the three to leave and by the time it finally took off Gerry and I were the only people watching from the observation deck. We waited until we saw the plane rise into the sky, waving Abigail and Bear off on what we hope was a safe and comfortable flight home. Gerry and I then stopped off in town for some lunch, exchanged our books at the book exchange and then went on the hunt for a pharmacy as I needed to fill a prescription. It took us a while and 2 stops at different places to get the medicine but I now have sufficient to get me home. Gerry checked us out at immigration whilst I was finding out about my medicine; we are planning to leave here as soon as we have a good weather window, which at present looks like being maybe 5 days away. We intend to move away from the harbour area and anchor off of a nearby island for the next few days until we are ready to go. After running around for the medicine we tried to find somewhere that sold club soda in cans and eventually had some success at a service station, it’s difficult to find sugar fee soda here of any sort so we were lucky. Having found the soda we stopped for ice cream and then headed back to the boat for a couple of hours so we could run the engine and charge the batteries before going out to Friends café for dinner. It seems very strange not to have Abigail on board with us tonight, very quiet and not altogether right; I miss her and Bear already.I have tried to attach a video of bear steering at the end of this blog - hope it comes out!
video

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Sunday 9th September

Nuku’alofa,
Tonga


21 08.317 S
175 10.867 W

All the tourist type books that we have read said that Tonga “closes down” on Sunday, we were about to find out for ourselves if this was true. We expected to hear the church bells ringing from some horrendous hour in the morning (they are reported to begin at 04.00hrs) however by 08.30 hrs we still hadn’t heard any ringing – this was our first surprise of the day. After a leisurely breakfast we decided to go and see if we could find the famous Ha’amonga – this is a man made stone arch on similar lines to the ones at Stonehenge in England. Our car ride to find this monument took us through the center of town which was indeed dead – there wasn’t a car to be seen on the road anywhere except outside of the churches which were obviously doing a roaring trade, and through several small villages where again every church seemed to be full to overflowing. We counted 5 churches in one town which appeared to have only 20 houses and we wondered how they all survived, maybe they take it in turn to be the church of the week. Anyway our drive took us out along the east road and we hoped to see the terraced tombs on our way but somehow we missed them – as I have said before it is not a well signposted island and finding places is extremely difficult and asking for directions is the biggest waste of time ever as the Tongans give answers that are open to all sorts of interpretations. We did however manage to find the Ha’amonga; we chanced upon it as we rounded a corner and it was off to the side of the road. The car screeched to a halt and we piled out to read the information board and take some photos.
There are a couple of theories as to why the Ha’amonga was built, the most popular being that it acts in the same way as Stonehenge is thought to act – as a seasonal calendar. There was actually a small tour bus at the site when we arrived so obviously some one works on Sunday! After taking our photos we trouped back to the car and continued round the east coast, our plan was to try and find the Stalactite cave. We traveled the road but couldn’t find the turn off for the cave – again no signs anywhere and when we reached a village with a name posted on the church outside we realized that we must have drive right past the turnoff without noticing it, we voted not to go back to find it, these roads were pretty bad on the suspension and not so hot on the bodies sitting in the car either. We drove back through town and found the other business that was open on a Sunday – the bakery, where we bought fresh bread and doughnuts and made our way back to the boat for a late lunch. Our afternoon was spent quietly onboard, with me typing blog notes and loading photos on the computer whist Gerry slept and Abigail began organizing her stuff ready to pack – this was her last day with us, she flies out in the morning. Dinner time came round and we went across the road to the café reef which we had discovered yesterday; we had a very nice dinner there before returning to the boat to help Abigail finish packing her bag and copy the photos onto disc for her. We all went to bed late, making the most of our last evening together for a while.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday 8th September

Nuku’alofa,
Tonga


21 08.317 S
175 10.867 W

Another slow start to the day – everything is very laid back here, no one seems to be in a hurry and everything starts in “island time”. After breakfast we had planned to go and look around the museum and then go on to the flea market just a bit further up the road. The road was quite congested around the whole area from the museum to the market and as we got to the museum gates we found that they were locked – the place was closed even thought the signs said that they were open on Saturday mornings! Our first stop was a washout, so we went a little further to the flea market where hundreds of people were trying to park, cross the road or get by, Gerry parked the car whilst Abigail and I began to make our way into the market – at around the same time that it began to rain. The stalls were full of stuff we didn’t need or want – it was more like a car boot sale and I feel sure that most of the clothing for sale was second hand. There wasn’t a single craft item for sale and no food what so ever. We walked every isle to be sure we didn’t miss anything and then headed back to the car in disappointment. So what next? – lunch of course at a different café with equally good food and service (incase you are ever here the 2 cafes are Friends and café Escape). Following lunch we thought we would try to find the blow holes on the west coast road. We followed the map as best we could; at this point I think that I need to explain that the map is a tourist map of the place with very few roads marked and nothing in perspective, it is the only map available whereas all the locals know where they are going! It seemed simple enough and we thought there would be enough road signs to get by. Road signs? What road signs? We found ourselves on what we would consider farm tracks or outback roads with potholes and craters to drop into and allotments lining the sides of them. We kept going; after all, the island is only about 22 miles long and we must, by reason of it being an island, end up back where we started eventually. The gods must have taken pity on us as we suddenly chanced upon a sign that said blow holes; a quick turn and of we went down another rocky road. Success! We arrived at a clearing above the blowholes, parked the car and took in the experience.
The wind was blowing quite a bit so the “blows” were quite spectacular. We took a few photos and watched for a while before making our way back to town via the Mormon Tabernacle road. We knew when we had arrived there as everything suddenly looked very westernized, clean, tidy and organized. The whole area, houses, school, church, admin buildings etc look like they have just been transported there from the USA; they make all the local dwellings around them look like unkempt dumps. Anyway we found the right roads to get us back to the boat and after a short nap we elected to try and find a Chinese restaurant for dinner; we had been told of 2 but one of these no longer existed so we were going to find the only remaining one. From the outside it looked terrible but the food was OK – not brilliant but quite edible. We ate our fill and then thought we would repeat last night’s coffee and dessert at the café, only to be thwarted as the café closes early on Saturday! We made our way slowly back to the boat and on the way noticed that there was a small café on the wharf, a quick detour followed and we found Café Reef which was open and had delicious coffee and cake. Once we were done with coffee it was time to return to the boat for the night.

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Friday 7th September

Nuku’alofa,
Tonga


21 08.317 S
175 10.867 W

Abigail and I had a plan today – we wanted to go to the market whilst Gerry did “stuff” on the boat. We were a little slow getting moving – catching up with our sleep but eventually we got Gerry to take us to the laundry where we dropped off everything that needed washing and then he dropped us off at the market at about 10.30hrs. Our plans were a little thwarted as the guy we were rafted up to intended to leave today, this meant that we had to be on hand when he was leaving to disconnect our lines from his boat and then tie back up to the big ship once he had moved out of the way – this was going to be a job requiring at least 2 of us to be on hand. The guy let us know that he was planning on leaving at midday so we had to be back at our boat by then to assist. Anyway Abigail and I wandered around the marketplace for an hour whilst Gerry went to check out the supermarkets – he was looking for somewhere that sold cheap hydraulic fluid a we were going to need a bit more to get us as far as Fiji. The ground floor of the market place was full of fresh fruit and vegetables which we didn’t need just yet but it was good to know that they were available at all times here and the quality and variety seemed to be really good. The upper floor contained the craft work and the material and clothing. We looked at everything, were pestered to buy all sorts of rubbish that we didn’t want and came away after an hour having bought nothing – there was always another time! As we were leaving we noticed that at the back of the market there were a few more stalls with craft stuff – these had a great deal of Tapa cloth and carvings which seemed better quality than we had seen upstairs. Abigail fell in love with a bag (there’s a surprise – she is the bag queen after all!) but we put off buying it for the moment. When the hour was up we met Gerry at the appointed spot and drove back to the boat. Our neighbour was just getting ready to leave so we organized our lines and maneuvered the boats so that our neighbour could leave and we took his spot. Once we were securely tied back up we drove into town for lunch at one of the popular tourist cafes, it’s opposite the New Zealand high commission so naturally it was full of Kiwis. Following lunch we returned to the boat so that I could catch up with loading the blog and Abigail and Gerry had a sleep. Around 16.00hrs the pair of them went to collect the laundry; unlike everywhere else we have had laundry done it came back to us just stuffed in the bags, not folded so we spent the next half hour or so straightening out clothes and folding them before storing them away. It was now time for some dinner so we took off in search of somewhere to eat. We though we would try the sports bar and grill, but once we got there we found that it was just a watering hole and only served burgers which we didn’t want. We had one drink there and then proceeded down the road to a nice looking restaurant called the Waterfront (Italian, supposedly) We went in and ordered drinks then perused the menu – it was a short menu with prices beyond belief for what they were serving, a scotch fillet (no size or weight) cost $45 plus 15 sales tax! We decided that we weren’t particularly hungry at those sorts of prices and both Abigail and I settled for a bowl of soup whilst Gerry had a fish dish. Now don’t get us wrong here; if it had been in the Ruth’s Chris league we would happily have paid out that sort of money but it really wasn’t anywhere close! The service was appalling and when Gerry gave them cash for the bill he had to ask for the change as they weren’t going to give him any. Now you may think that they must have been busy but there were only 2 other tables (5 people) apart from us n the place and there were 4 wait staff – so now that I’ve had my say you will realize that we are voting with our feet – we will never go there again and we are letting everyone know how it was. To make up for the lack of dinner we went to a café for coffee and dessert, which was just fantastic and then we returned to the boat for the night.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday 6th September

Nuku’alofa,
Tonga


21 08.317 S
175 10.867 W

We are here and very glad to be so! All of us slept fairly well and woke up needing a pancake fix for breakfast which I made. Gerry went to run the generator and was dismayed to notice a dreadful sound coming out from it; a little investigation shows that the frame has cracked YET AGAIN! I’ve no doubt that a rude email will be winging it’s way to the maker, meanwhile we have to contend with no generator, it’s a good job that the freezer is almost empty. At 09.00hrs the taxi that Gerry had arranged to collect us and take us to town arrived and we gathered up our documents, bank cards and wallets and headed off to the bank, after a bit of hassle my card did work and we got money then I had a go with Gerry’s card and got his to work too – the machines here are old and you have to go through several screens to achieve anything but it did eventually work with no problems. Our next stop was the car hire places and after a tour of them all we finally settled on one and hired a car for 5 days, that way we can get around, see the place and take Abigail out to the airport for her flight home on Monday. Our next stop was a café for lunch – very westernized place but the food was great. Now that we had our own wheels we visited the port authority, the hydraulic repair place (they advised we were better to get it done in Fiji) and the airport (so we knew where we were going). On our trip to the airport we took in several places of interest – Cook’s tree at the place where he landed, the Princess’s residence, the crown Prince’s residence, the royal tombs, the royal palace (not that you can see much of it from the road), hundreds of Churches of all denominations (the Tongans are very religious) and loads of grave sites.
I have to comment on the grave sites as I have never seen anything quite like them, the bodies are interred in a tomb above ground, the mound is then festooned with all sorts of things from silk and plastic flowers to bed quilts on frames, garden lights, statues and headstones – they are a sight to behold. We also located the shops, laundry, market places and the museum. We found out that there was a cultural show on at the museum in the evening so we booked to see it. We returned to the boat for an afternoon nap and at around 18.00hrs got ready to go back ashore to eat and then see the cultural show. Our dinner was at a nearby restaurant called The Billfish and we had an excellent meal there before rushing off to the museum. We arrived just in time for the show (it was a dinner show and we had opted to miss the dinner); all of us were happy that we had made the effort to go as the show was superb, it was very different from the Polynesian shows that we had seen previously and although both were music / dance exhibitions they were nothing alike. We took more pictures and video clips and even a couple of pictures with Abigail and some of the dancers in costume.
At 21.00hrs we headed back to the boat where we ran the engine to charge the battery and run the fridge prior to going to bed.

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Tuesday 4th / Wednesday 5th September

Nuku’alofa,
Tonga


21 08.317 S
175 10.867 W

We managed to sail for the rest of the night, at times the wind reached speeds of 30+ knots but the swell was relatively small so it was fairly comfortable (or we are even more used to it!) As dawn broke the winds dropped a little and we put out a small amount of the jib to try and stop us from rolling so much, we put the fishing line in the water and then took turns in trying to catch up with some of the lost sleep. Just before lunchtime the cry went up – Land Ho! (Thank God!) Our approach to Tonga was through the reef and as soon as we got in the lee of the first little island we furled the jib away, started the engine, turned into wind and dropped the main sail. Back on track again we unfurled the jib to see if we could sail in most of the way – there was still about 7 miles to go through the reef at this point. As the wind bent around the first little island it came around on our stern and we were sailing comfortably with just the jib so we turned off the engine until we got to the tricky harbour maneuvering. We tried but were unable to raise anyone from port control and ended up motoring in and finding our way to the med mooring spot. It was still blowing a gale and would have been impossible to med moor under the conditions without some help from some one on the shore so another yachtie got us to raft up alongside him – he was rafted to a fishing ship that was docked for repair work. As soon as we were securely rafted up Gerry raced ashore to the bank and to try and get us cleared in whilst Abigail and I did the tidy up on the boat and recorded the log information. Gerry returned with an hour with the news that he had experienced a problem with trying to withdraw money from our Australian account – the machine wouldn’t take his card and kept saying that there were no funds available on mine which was rubbish, it meant a trip into the bank was going to be the first order of the day tomorrow. We were all very tired and couldn’t be bothered to go ashore for dinner so we ate on board, had showers and went to bed early.
You will have notice the date at the top is 4th/ 5th – although we technically arrived here on the 4th we have in fact crossed the international dateline as we entered the harbour at Tonga. The date line apparently deviates around Tonga so we crossed the date line at 175 west rather than the 180 west that it should be.

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Monday 3rd September

At Sea

20 58.301 S
173 24.199 W (at Midnight)

At around 03.0hrs Gerry and I changed watches and whilst we were both in the cockpit a huge wave hit the side of the boat making it lurch unexpectedly. It caught me off balance and hurtled me across the cockpit, I hit the side of my face and jaw on the winch and my leg on the table as I fell – the bruises were instant, anyone would think I was battered if they saw my jaw line. Gerry couldn’t sleep for worrying about me in the cockpit so he ended up staying up with me until dawn which remained overcast but with a few patches of blue sky. I tried to sleep for a couple of hours once dawn broke, just to get rid of the thumping headache that followed my collision with the winch, by 09.00hrs I was up and making coffee for us all. There was a gradual improvement in the weather during the morning and by midday it was good enough to unfurl the jib fully again and put the fishing line in the water. I went back to bed in the early afternoon as my headache was persisting, it didn’t help when Gerry turned the engine on at 15.00hrs (the wind was now not moving us along fast enough to arrive at Tonga in daylight). At 16.00hrs Gerry yelled from the cockpit for help, there was a fish on the line! First Abigail and then I went to assist; we reeled in a tuna which was big enough to get good size fillets for us all for dinner. By 18.00hrs we furled the jib away and prepared dinner – the tuna tasted good after no fish for so long. The night watches began with us motor sailing; I started the second watch at 22.00hrs and then the wind began to increase as it has every night. By 23.00hrs I had turned off the engine and was flying along with the main only as the wind had reached 26 knots and was aft of the beam again.

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Sunday 2nd September

At Sea

20 47.716 S
170 45.86 W (at Midnight)

We furled the jib away as the winds increased to 30 knots and the swell got back up around the 12ft mark. We made sure that the preventer was in place, neither of us wanted to move away from the safety of the cockpit to do anything; it’s amazing how long you can put off going to the toilet when you are under pressure! We were glad when dawn came around even if it was still cold and overcast, at least it was a bit lighter and we could see the waves coming at us. We were all cold and tired so I thought that it would be a good idea to bake some fresh muffins – it was difficult but worth the effort as it brightened us all up and helped us get through the morning. In the afternoon the wind dropped to a steady 20 knots on the beam and we ran with just the main up until 17.0hrs when Gerry thought we should try flying the jib out on the pole for the night; out it went on the same side as the main ad we flew along for a while with it there. Dinner followed by the start of night watches ensued; not long after I went to bed for the first watch I heard the commotion that accompanies the pole breaking free from the jib, it was to remain just attached to the mast for the rest of the night as none of us was game to retrieve it in the dark, the jib flew without the pole just fine. During this time the auto pilot did a great job of keeping us on track but it was leaking hydraulic fluid at an alarming rate, we had to top it up every hour, but at least it was better than having to hand steer all the time. Of course it rained during the night and was freezing cold;
we ended up getting our wet weather gear out and were bundled up in the cockpit like Eskimos!

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Saturday 1st September

At Sea

20 36.210 S
168 10.254 W (at Midnight)

After midnight things got even rougher, the wind picked up even more to 25 knots and gusts up to 30 knots; at times it sounded like a train was coming at us down a tunnel, we certainly got our money’s worth out of the wind generator! At around 03.30hrs we heeled over so far that the gunwale was underwater and the wash along the deck collected in the lee cloth and broke all the cable ties holding it in place except for 3. I was on watch and had to cut the remaining cable ties off in order to save the lee cloth from being lost overboard; this was all very well but now I could see the waves and the sea rushing past us at deck level whereas before it had been hidden by the lee cloths – it made it so much more scary. The other thing that happened was that the water collected behind the lee cloth had nowhere to go except into the cockpit and even managed to get underneath the strata glass curtains which were secured in place, I got a little wet! We continued to hurtle onwards until dawn which broke overcast; the sky was a horrid grey colour. Finally at around 10.00hrs the wind dropped to 19 knots aft of the beam and the swell dropped to around 6ft; Gerry checked the latest grib chart which showed that we should be getting up to 20 knots of wind – they were close for once! We pulled the jib half way out and put the preventer out on the main. The sun began to show signs of peeping through the clouds and a few patches of blue sky began to appear, at last it looked like we might get a decent day. Shortly after lunch the wind dropped even further – now down to 16 knots with a 6 ft swell, we were still roaring along at 7.5 knots but it was getting more comfortable (or we were just getting used to it). Mid afternoon we encountered another small problem, Gerry went to do something with water and found that there was none; we found this hard to believe as we had used next to none and we were full when we left port. A little investigation showed that we have a pump problem, Gerry fixed it but succeeded in breaking off the handle for the switch over to the other tank (he said it was corroded but who knows!) At least we still had water. The rolling continued and picked back up again as sun set approached, we decided to brave the MREs for dinner (that’s meals ready to eat or army rations for those of you who don’t know). We let Abigail select 3 packs and proceeded to delve into them, and experience what the Army guys live on whilst in combat zones, all I can say is thank goodness that they don’t know before hand what they are getting themselves into! The meals were a great source of amusement, the best things in the packs were the toilet roll sheets and the little Tabasco sauce bottles, the rest leaves a lot to be desired! As night fell the winds began to pick back up and return to the aft of the beam, around midnight we were doing 7 knots with wind speeds of 18 – 20 knots.

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Friday 31st August

At Sea

20 24.024 S
165 19.440 W (at Midnight)

As the night wore on the wind never recovered and we wallowed along doing low speeds and causing the sails to flop around. In the end it got so bad that at 01.00hrs we furled the jib away and turned the engine on – just to 1500 revs which increased our speed to 5.5knots. We motor sailed for the rest of the night and by dawn the winds were still light and the swell was almost non existent. Our forward head had decided to fill with sea water very time we heeled over so the prime job of the day was to change out all the seals on the toilet pump – definitely a boy job! As the weather was so light Gerry did the awful job in next to no time and we have a fully operational forward head again. Everyone managed to have a shower today as we were upright enough in the water not to fall over every time the boat lurched. After breakfast we threw the fishing line in the water – well it keeps us amused if nothing else! Gerry pulled a grib chart off the satelite which showed that the winds were increasing to 15 – 20 knots, gradually we saw 12 – 15 knots and poled out the jib and turned the engine off again. The afternoon proved to be good sailing with us doing an average speed of 6 knots, the sun shone all afternoon, the swell remained small and the sailing was reasonably comfortable – it was time for us to make a decision as to whether to go to Niue or straight through to Tonga from where Abigail had to catch her home bound flight. After much discussion we decided to head straight to Tonga – it meant being at sea for a couple of extra days now and making sure we get to Tonga with plenty of time to spare rather than getting in to Niue and then having to make a frantic dash to Tonga if the weather held out for us. Having made the decision we altered our way point and began to head straight for Tonga; as the afternoon turned to early evening the wind began to increase and when it began to reach 18 knots we took the pole off of the jib and reefed it in a bit. The sun set was quite spectacular (no green flash though) and the sky turned all sorts of dark brooding colours. By 18.00hrs the wind was reaching 21 knots and Gerry went out on deck to put the second reef in the main sail. Of course the swell increased at the same time so we were now hurtling along and being thrown around a good deal. The night watches began roughly with none of us able to sleep very well; the sky was cloudy and the stars were few and far between, the moon only managed an occasional appearance through the cloud cover and then it began to rain – a memorable night all round!

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Thursday 30th August

At Sea

20 27.011 S
163 02.986 W (at Midnight)

As the night wore on we were blessed with a clear sky and a few stars, the moon was just past the full stage and was still very bright. We continued to do 6 knots for the rest of the night. Dawn was getting later as we headed further west – it was getting close to time to move the clock back again. We eventually ate breakfast when everyone was up at 09.00hrs and then put the fishing line in the water – ever hopeful! By early afternoon the wind dropped to 12 knots and we began to wallow rather than sail, our speed dropped to 4.5 knots and it became a trying sail. Unfortunately things got worse and by early evening the wind had dropped even further, now down under 10 knots and the swell had dropped to 4 ft; our speed was now at 3.5 knots - in a good moment! We pulled the fishing line in at sun set, having failed to catch dinner – it’s a good job we aren’t relying on our fishing skills to feed us! The moon and stars put in their appearance and we continued to wallow along. The auto pilot was very thirsty and we kept having to top up the transmission fluid at frequent intervals all night.

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Wednesday 29th August

At Sea

20 55.970 S
160 56.603 W (at Midnight)

Everyone was up early and doing stuff to get ready for leaving. Gerry went ashore to pay the harbour master and then walked into town to check out with immigration. Abigail began to put things away and tie things down whilst I updated the blog site. Once Gerry returned with all our paper work in order he and Abigail hoisted the dinghy on to the deck and secured it down, this left us with the lines to shore to retrieve and the anchor to hoist. Gerry spoke to Noel on the boat next to us and arranged for him to cast our lines off when we were ready to leave. We had an early lunch so that we were not going to need food as soon as we got out on the sea, then with everything put away or secured down we were ready to leave. Noel cast off our stern lines which Abigail hauled on board whilst Gerry shortened up on the anchor chain and I steered the boat. Within minutes we were free of the dock and the anchor was up in place on the bow; we motored out to the middle of the harbour and went around in circles whilst Gerry and Abigail tidied up the lines and stowed them away. We motored out of the harbour and once were clear of the entrance we turned into wind and hoisted the main sail with the first reef in place, next we poled the jib out and turned off the engine – we were underway at last at 12.30hrs! The wind blew 17knots on the beam, the swell was 9ft and we were sailing along at around 6 knots – just a perfect start to the trip. We put the fishing line in the water for the sheer hell of it and of course caught nothing by the time the sun set and we put it away again. We began to roll quite a bit as night fell and it made it very difficult to sleep when not on watch. Gerry put the preventer on for the main to stop it from flopping across as we rolled. We passed just one boat at about 23.00hrs and saw nothing else all night.

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