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Epic Sail back to Savusavu & WE HAVE THE BIKES!!

We had an awesome sail back to Savusavu with Jason and Eric, our new neighbors. Despite the impressive lure spread of half a dozen teasers and a variety of lures we didn’t catch fish – we all agree that our spread was just TOO good and the fish were so impressed that they couldn’t even bite. We covered the 58nm during daylight and sailed through the Nasonisoni pass, where the first picture was taken. Thanks again for your help guys! You’re welcome back aboard anytime!

As soon as we dropped the hook off Jacques Cousteau resort, we headed up the hill to enjoy a great evening with Bruce and Jen at their awesome new house! It is incredible and has expansive views over the bay. If anyone is interested in rentals check out Fiji Beach Shacks dot com. It’s the pod and bamboo houses.

We came back to Savusavu for provisions and some business. It’s nice to have amenities again and Alyssa is in heaven with the veggie market and unlimited hot water showers!

In other news, after three long and completely exhausting days in Viti Levu, Bruce and I finally have the KLRs in Savusavu!  It took 3 ferry rides, two dirty hotels, a ton of back and forth, mountains of paper pushing and a serous “Fast and Furious-style” bike ride through busy Suva; but we got the bike here and plated!  Tomorrow me and Alyssa plan to go for a nice Sunday ride up the hibiscus coast.

Stay tuned for another seriously exciting update to come next week. I don’t want to spoil it just yet.

Cheers from Savusavu!

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Tropical Depression 17F Decided to Teach us a Lesson the HARD WAY!!

Technology is very useful when it comes to weather forecasting….until it isn’t… Well, last night we were reminded the hard way that unsettled weather is just that…and when the barometer drops we best be on high alert for weather from ANY direction. Well, the GFS model was calling for the “eye” of the TD to pass just to the south of us, so we anchored on the north side of the bay and prepared for wind out of the NW. Well, late last night and without a change in forecast the “eye” passed just north of us and with it brought very strong winds from the SE!!  Around 0300 we found ourselves on a lee shore with 3-4 miles of fetch built up and tossing us around like a bucking bronco! The wind was only about 30 knots sustained but it was the exposed position that was our problem. Our friend Jessie laughed at us for having deployed 150 feet of chain in only 10 feet of water but let me tell you how glad we were to have all the gear out in the middle of that dark torrential storm! Although we were both kept awake by the motion, Ellie didn’t move her position at all and kept her ground. It was a long nervous wait for daylight. Once the sun came up we could see how big the wind waves had gotten and they were about 4-5 feet, which is very large for wind-driven waves in a protected bay. For those of you on SF Bay just imagine anchoring in the middle of the bay in the summer. Ya – not ideal! Well, the resilient Mermaid make quick work of getting both anchors up and we motored slowly to windward bashing into the 25 knots that remained. By mid-morning we were anchored in the lee of palm-tree covered Lekumbi Point and finally out of the worst of the wind waves. We are still dancing around in 25 knots sustained wind but without the huge wind waves which makes all the difference in comfort level.

We feel we keep a healthy respect for the capabilities of weather and sea conditions but perhaps this time we leaned too much on weather forecasting. Our takeaway is that next time we will not rely on the GFS model/Windy.ty to tell us which direction the wind will come from in a passing revolving storm. Instead we will prepare for wind from all directions and either go up a river or head to a cyclone hole. Low pressure systems can and do change direction and intensity quickly and outside of best forecasts. 

Well, now that the system has passed we can expect clearing weather and some much needed sunshine! We hope the inability for this system to intensify into a named storm is signifying the end of cyclone season. We’re ready for settled weather, sunshine and a cooler breeze!

Here are some pics of the storm as it passed over us and a few more of what we do to keep sane while hunkered down waiting for crappy weather to pass. Cheers!

17 April 2016

Lekumbi Point, Bua Bay, Vanua Levu, Fiji

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The beautiful Mermaid cooking up a storm...no pun intended
The beautiful Mermaid cooking up a storm…no pun intended
Setting up my crab trap!
Setting up my crab trap!
Our current haven from the wind waves: Lekumbi Point
Our current haven from the wind waves: Lekumbi Point

 

Mermaid preparing to drop tandem anchors. We love the pine trees that line this bay!

Rough Passage North – Back in Bua Bay – and Another Possible Cyclone!?!

Monday afternoon we decided we’d had enough of Suva and put to sea into stiff trades and rough seas. We had to choose the lesser of two evils: sail into stiff trades but have settled weather, or wait for the low, bringing a break in the trades, rain, poor visibility, and a roll of the dice…. We chose settled weather. With that decision came a tough bash around the corner for 8-10 hours until we could put the trades on the beam and tear off for Vanua Levu. Ellie handled it way better than we did. The poor Mermaid was feeding the dolphins all night. I held it down but swallowing was a real chore; it was VERY rough. Topping off all the fun was incompetent and poorly lit Chinese fishing vessels dancing all around us showing every heading and and light combination possible. I must have tacked half a dozen times within 10 miles of Suva harbor, but we finally left them behind and once we rounded the island we were able to put the wind on the beam for a (relatively) much better ride north. We dodged some ferries and other shipping traffic but other than a visit from the dolphins the next morning the rest of the passage was uneventful.

We spent Tuesday night anchored off Nabouwalu Jetty. Poor anchorage due to the swells wrapping in and rolling us around all night. But the holding was excellent and I was able to go ashore in the morning to take care of some business for our property. Later that afternoon we sailed to Bua Bay and finally escaped the swells. We love the protection this bay affords and we had an excellent nights sleep. Yesterday was spent on boat chores like making water, changing the heat exchanger zinc, and organizing the boat.

Today we have been scrutinizing the forecast which is calling for the tropical depression (17F) to pass through Fiji in the next 36 hours. It has a moderate chance of becoming a cyclone but the current forecasts are calling for winds out of the NW then WNW up to 40 knots. Given the forecast we debated running for Savusavu but it was upwind and guaranteed a tough bash which we could not accomplish in daylight. We considered going up the river here but with only 6″ under our keel at high tide we though it was >50% chance of us running aground and getting stuck. Since our friends were tied up and couldn’t assist with their long boat we took the third option. We headed for the N side of the bay, found a big flat sand/mud patch in 12 feet of water, put out 150 feet of chain shackled to two anchors in tandem and a huge snubber. If the forecast doesn’t change substantially we will ride out the passing low here with minimal issue. Right now it’s a lee shore in the SE wind but the wind should start backing around to the E then NE tonight and come from the N then NW tomorrow. We are expecting heavy rain and lightning. Once again we prepare for battle with Mother Nature; hope she is nice to us again!

Wish us luck for what is hopefully the last potential cyclone of the season. We’ll let you know how we fare.

Cheers!

Anchored:

16 48.58 S, 178 33.42 E

Mermaid preparing to drop tandem anchors. We love the pine trees that line this bay!
Mermaid preparing to drop tandem anchors. We love the pine trees that line this bay!

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Spared the Wrath of Mother Nature – TC Zena has Passed without Incident

Zena approached Fiji as a Cat 3 cyclone and we were battened down and ready for battle. Luckily for Fiji and for us Zena took a turn south and also weakened on approach due to upper level shearing winds. She weakened to a Cat 2 then 1 before moving away. We had gusty winds in the anchorage but nothing over about 30 knots. There was lightning all around and dark ominous cloud cover and the heat and humidity in the north wind was oppressive. At daybreak we are enjoying sunshine for the first time all week. We also have winds from the south which will hopefully bring cooler drier weather. We have at least a whole day of work to put all Ellie’s sails and canvas back on. We were definitely over prepared for this one but it could have turned out very differently. 

Headed into Suva again to run an errand for our friends and then we will sail out of here tomorrow. Should be a nice sail with moderate trades from the SE. Finally!

Vinaka Vakalevu Mother Nature!

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Well Sh*t…Here Comes a Cat 2 Cyclone

Category 2 cyclone Zena just finished lashing Vanuatu and decided to come pay us a visit. The forecast is calling for her to pass just south of Viti Levu between midnight and daybreak. We are still in the Tradewinds anchorage off the Novotel and are secured well to the mooring but two things make us uncomfortable. One, we haven’t personally dove on this mooring due to abundance of jellyfish, horrible visability and the owner telling us it was just inspected; so to a large extent we are blindly trusting the mooring. Two, more boats are coming into this small bay to seek shelter and with them brings more risk of boats dragging down on us. 

According to Windy.ty we are in a good spot as the strongest winds will be somewhat blocked by the island. That could end up deceiving us and only time will tell. The most exposed wind direction would be wind from the west as the opening to the bay is west of our position. Hopefully the storm will be moving fast and will only briefly blow from that direction. We are well protected from NW to SE where hopefully most of the intensity comes from.

We have multiple lines and chafe gear to the mooring. We also have our huge FX-55 anchor on the rail and ready to be deployed. We would like to put it out but then we won’t swing and we would end up with a huge mess of tangled rodes. So the storm anchor will rest on the rail ready to be sent overboard if necessary.

We just put our mainsail back on and we are so reluctant to remove it but better safe than sorry. We will drop the sails just to be extra cautious. Hopefully the winds won’t reach hurricane strength here and the Windy.ty forecast is accurate but with cyclones, nothing is certain.

Wish us luck that Zena doesn’t come closer and that we ride it out unscathed. It’s gonna be a long night! 
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Staying Put in Suva – Not Putting to Sea Just Yet – Go Away Cyclones!

The wind was howling over 25 knots today and we know it was over 30 outside the reef with very rough seas. Instead of beating Ellie and crew up out there we weighed our options and decided to stay put. It would have been very difficult to push into those seas. Of course we made the decision after sweating all morning prepping the boat for passage; we had the dinghy stowed, monitor set, sea berth made, mainsail on, dorades plugged, meals prepped and everything stowed…..and then we called it off. We are on a cyclone mooring owned by Tony Philip in the Tradewinds anchorage (another “recognized” cyclone hole); the mooring is for his 90 foot yacht so we are hopeful it will hold Ellie just fine. The current forecasts are calling for two tropical depressions to pass over us on Tuesday and Wednesday. What has us worried is Fiji Met has raised its cyclone warning to “High” on Tuesday. Hopefully it doesn’t form until it’s well south and east of us. As a precaution we are going to dig out the storm anchors and strip windadge tomorrow. Such is cruising Fiji during cyclone season!

Wish us luck! 

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Float Plan – Overnight Run – Suva to Savusavu – Outrunning the SPCZ!!

After two (mostly productive) weeks in busy Suva the unsettled weather is forcing us to retreat north. We have one more day of easterly trades before the SPCZ descends on us and with it brings tropical depressions and the potential for another cyclone. Currently Windy.ty is forecasting a 996mb low pressure circulation; and that’s enough to get our attention. Its forecast to hit here Tuesday and we don’t like the protection in this anchorage and we don’t know the holding down there so we’re out at first light. We will sail direct to Savusavu, an overnight run of 140 nautical miles. Tomorrow will be a tough and wet bash into 20+ knot trades but after the first 40nm we can fall off and put the wind just slightly forward the beam and it should be a decent overnight sail north. The current forecast is calling for heavy rain overnight and then the wind to slack off almost completely by Sunday morning. Hopefully there is enough to keep our sails up so we don’t have to motor while getting tossed around in the remnant swells.

We’ll write from Savusavu and let you all know how it went. Wish us luck and good weather. 

Oh, and NO BIKES yet. We patiently waited the first week for the container to be released, we impatiently waited the second week and now I give up. I know it’s Fiji time but come on! We will wait for the phone to ring asking us to come get the bikes, THEN we’ll come back to Suva and pick them up. It’s been a frustrating introduction to shipping companies here. Next time I’ll wait to receive word via a floating coconut before eagerly coming to Suva like a kid on Christmas morning.

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We don’t feel like meeting this one so north we sail!