30 June 2010

Day 175: Fiji – 30/06/10

We have lots to do before we leave Port Denarau to head for Musket Cove so the day starts early.  I strip our bed and head for the laundry.  Although I have my washing machine it’s just so much easier to do it all in the big top loader.  Unfortunately, there’s only one machine and it’s being used.

Rather than going back to the boat, I go over to the spa again and see if they can fit me in for a bikini wax there and then.  As it’s so early, I am in luck – or am I?

Discussing my options with the therapist, I turn down the offer of a Brazilian.  I don’t want to look like a plucked chicken or a little girl, and I certainly don’t want a Hollywood.  We settle on something in between.  I have a quick shower and then hop onto the treatment table where I have an encounter with a beautician that would rival any I have had with a gynaecologist.  It’s a good job that I’m not modest.

Anyway, all neat and tidy, I go back once more to the laundry, trying to ignore the rather uncomfortable feeling that the couple of no doubt tiny bits of remaining wax are giving me, and find that, once again the machine is in full swing and another guy has just arrived before me with two enormous loads of washing.  However, he is a perfect gentleman and says that I can go first as I am leaving at lunchtime.

I hang around for a while until the machine finishes.  No one turns up to empty it so I get a plastic bin bag from the office and empty it myself then dump my stuff in and go and do the last bits of food shopping.  After that it’s back to the laundry to do the drying where I meet a lovely woman, Simone, from Australia whose husband is French but was born in Birkenhead.  They had seen Jeannius and noted that she was registered in Liverpool, and having met me she says she will send her husband down to talk to Mike as you don’t meet many Liverpudlians going round the world.

I go and pick up the boots and slippers from the Ugg shop for myself and Jutta and when I come back I discover that Mike has bought what looks like the entire supply of pumpkin rotis from our little Indian lady.  The fridge is full of them so we have some for lunch in order to clear some space.

P1010735 Photo:  Ugg slippers and a sarong – colour co-ordinated of course!

Mike goes to pay our marina and generator bills.  The marina bill is amazing.  Seven days dockage plus electricity and water (and my God we used a lot cleaning the boat) comes to about the same as one night in Nanny Cay in the BVIs, and we had all the facilities that Port Denarau offered.  What a bargain.  The generator repairs are obviously more than we had hoped but Mike is so pleased it is fixed that he doesn’t care.

Silvia and Simon arrive and shortly after we throw the lines off and leave the dock.  It is only about ten miles to Musket Cove but the crossing is very lumpy and rather uncomfortable.  We watch another catamaran behind us attempting to sail the course before its captain eventually gives in and motors just like we resort to doing.

Immediately we are into deep water we switch on the water maker.  This hasn’t run for over six weeks and there is a chance that the filters will have clogged up (stuff starts to grow in them) but we are lucky, they haven’t.  Mike tests the water immediately it comes out and although it is fine, he leaves it running to flush the system through before Silvia and I start to bottle it.  Once the water making is complete, Mike empties out the holding tanks.  Ugh.  I hate using them but they are a necessary evil in a marina.

It’s quite a tricky passage through the numerous reefs and Mike constantly watches the chart plotter and the depth gauge to weave his way in, with Silvia, Simon and myself keeping a sharp lookout too.  When we arrive in the tiny marina, there is hardly enough room to swing a cat, but Mike manages to swing a much larger cat than the proverbial one and slowly backs us in next to Tucanon while I lower the anchor to keep us in place at the bow.  We put out the fenders and tie Jeannius stern to, the height of the dock making it really easy to step on and off the boat, unlike most of the harbours that we have been in so far, Port Denarau being the only other exception.

From first glance, Musket Cove looks like a lovely resort.  There are long sandy beaches to both sides and all the facilities that you would expect – restaurants, bars, a couple of shops, a laundry and a spa.  Nothing is as convenient as at Port Denarau and you have to cross sand to get to all of it as it is quite spread out, but it’s nice all the same.  Most of the boats are already in and with their flag buntings out, they look quite the part.  This image will be ruined, however, when we get our pathetic bunting out.  Ah well.

P1010646 Photo:  The cats lined up in the shallower part of the marina

P1010713 Photo:  Most of the fleet are lined up

Noeluna come in on the other side of us.  It’s so lovely to see Marie-Anne and Matthieu again.  They have had a pretty constant stream of friends and family recently and have not been around much.  Marie-Ann introduces me to her friend Jennifer from New York and her French husband, Olivier and we immediately get talking pearls!  I am really disappointed that Noeluna are leaving the rally.  They were always leaving in Australia, then it became Vanuatu and now they have decided to leave from here and head to New Caledonia where they will leave the boat and fly back to Singapore.

Silvia and Simon move their luggage to Sunrise, the boat that they sailed on all the way to Bora Bora.  They are leaving the rally as Silvia has a job interview in Sydney next week and have really just come over to Musket Cove to say goodbye to everyone.

The rally is also losing Marie and Charles from Dreamcatcher.  They have decided to go to New Zealand and tour around there for a couple of years before joining another rally again for the passage back.  Lastly, Donal from A Lady, is leaving after six months crewing so there’s lots of change.

There is a welcome cocktail party on the beach in the early evening, offering everyone the chance to be bitten alive by the most voracious biting things (probably mosquitoes but could be sand flies or ants).  Lots of people leave to go back to their boats and spray themselves copiously.  Mike and I are already sprayed up to the eyeballs although I can feel the little buggers landing every now and then.

The free rum punch seems to be pretty free of alcohol and after two glasses, I can feel nothing.  Then the wind picks up and as we head for the barbecue, it starts to rain for the first time in weeks.  The queue is horrendous and people keep pushing in.  In Johanne fashion I point out the error of their ways but they pretend they can’t understand me and continue to push their way in.  I won’t comment on which nationality they are!

Unfortunately the barbecue is the worst one I have ever eaten.  We manage just about to get seats under cover in order to dissect what we are about to eat but end up eating very little of it.  The quality of the meat is poor and it is over cooked and over salted.  Never mind.  Tomorrow night’s is free, courtesy of the WCC.

29 June 2010

Day 174: Fiji – 29/06/10

Vi turns up to have another go at the generator, but this time he brings along a real expert.  After some very simple re-wiring is done (wiring the breakers the way the last ones were done wasn’t working) Mike starts the generator and it produces electricity at the right voltage level – thank God for that.  We can now relax.

We had been intending to go into Nadi to buy some malaria tablets.  Vanuatu is apparently rife with malaria (depending on who you speak to and which website you visit).  Irene from Tucanon has been checking that everyone is aware of the dangers and is going into town along with Susan and David from Voyageur to buy them.  I have already checked out the pharmacy at the port, which helpfully (?) sells everything except drugs and they ring the one in town to check if they are in stock.  There are only two doses of the ones we want, and as Irene is the one organising everything, I feel it would be a bit off of us to sneak in and buy them.  In the end, JB comes up trumps as he bought enough for himself for the whole trip and is now leaving in Australia so when he visits us for a lunchtime beer, he offers us his remaining supply.

Mike and I have been putting off cleaning the boat while we have engineers trampling all over it (that’s his excuse anyway) but when they leave, we can ignore it no longer.  Connecting up the hose and getting the Ajax out, we scrub the decks.  I think that I can get away with just hosing the dust off the bimini but as I rub my hand over the top, it leaves prints and I realise the whole thing needs to be rubbed down.  Walking over the bimini is not easy.  There are just two thin strips which have  supporting structures below so I resort to lying on my tummy with the hose protruding from underneath and wiping my hands across the surface, producing the dirty bimini equivalent of snow angels.  On top of that, I end up soaked and looking like a contestant in a wet tee-shirt competition.  The local guys cleaning A Lady look highly amused.

Sylvia and Simon turn up at the boat and we arrange to give them a lift over to Musket Cove tomorrow as they want to say goodbye to everyone.

It is boiling hot (trust us to start cleaning in the afternoon) and after a couple of hours we are both exhausted.  We finish the tub of ice cream from the freezer and have a lie down before going to Lulu’s to meet John and Donal for a drink.

The boys order a long beer.  I think it means a large beer.  In fact it means a huge amount of beer in a very tall container which has a column of ice running through the middle and a tap at the end.

P1010632Photo:  Donal, me, John, Mike and one very long beer

Mike and I then meet Jutta and Jochem to go to the Indian restaurant and on  our way there we go into the Ugg boot shop.  I order some bright pink slippers for myself and Jutta and Jochem both order boots.  They will be made in the morning and delivered to the shop by 11 am.

We have another good meal (well except for Mike who makes the mistake of ordering duck curry which is mostly bone). 

P1010634 Photo:  Me, Jutta, Mike and Jochem

On the way back we bump into a gang of WARC crew members who are still at Lulu’s and drag another table over to join them.  Mike gives up and goes back to the boat, leaving me with a band of drunken reprobates.  But I only have one glass of wine!  Honestly.  As no one at the table had been there for my birthday party last week (their boats hadn’t arrived) they sing Happy Birthday to me, then Jutta sings it in German.

P1010635 Photo:  Me, Joe and Jutta

P1010638 Photo:  Jared, Fabian, Bev and Mo

P1010639Photo:  Bev, Mo, Oisean, Donal and Fabien

I decide that I need to make an exit after the one glass is drunk, and leave the drinking to the younger ones.  I’m sure that a couple of hours later I can still hear Jared singing – but I could have been mistaken!

28 June 2010

Day 173: Fiji – 28/06/10

Our little Indian lady turns up at the dock at 7.30 am with our chicken rotis.  She doesn’t have any change (no surprise) so Mike ends up buying some more pumpkin ones too.  The engineers don’t arrive first thing and I begin to panic, but by the time I’ve been to the supermarket and bought a few things and come back, they have arrived and are working away.

I go to the spa and book some beauty treatments – an all over exfoliating sugar rub, a back massage and a pedicure.  I need some pampering.  As I am having three treatments, I negotiate a discount, expecting 10% but am offered 20%.  This means that all three treatments come to a total of about £55, a bargain in comparison to what it would cost in the UK.

A Lady arrive and Dreamcatcher, Ronja and Wild Tigris leave, then suddenly I spot Jutta and Jochem walking towards the dock.  I am so pleased to see these two from Chessie.  They have been stuck in Tahiti for six weeks having repairs done to their sail (it shouldn’t have taken so long but in usual workman fashion, it dragged out).  In the end they came straight to Fiji from Tahiti, missing out the Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga.

I wander up the dock later on to see Jutta and Jochem, and give them a pumpkin roti as I know they like Indian food.  I come back with their notebook for Mike to look at as it has stopped working and all their photos of the trip so far are on it.

The chicken curry rotis (I actually thought I had ordered chicken curry not chicken curry rotis) are not up to her pumpkin standards but we eat them for lunch anyway.

I go along to the spa just before 4 pm and take a shower before she starts – you get hot and sweaty just walking a short distance and I can’t bear the thought of the therapist touching me like that.  I have the all over sugar rub first, which is literally all over, breasts and all.  It’s a good job that I experienced this once before in India otherwise I would have shot off the table with shock.  Then came the back massage – probably the best one I have ever had, then the pedicure.  It was a total treat, a lovely place and very good value.  I manage to resist the sales pressure of the she-boy who runs the reception and just buy the one tub of body cream which I want anyway. 

I’m amazed to find that it’s dark when I leave.  When I arrive back at Jeannius I am greeted by a pretty despondent Mike.  The generator starts and cranks out the electricity but when it was first turned on, it shot out 205 volts (it’s meant to produce 120 volts) then settled on about 150 volts.  That is no use.  Something is wrong somewhere and Vi has gone away scratching his head, promising to return in the morning.  Neither Mike nor I are hungry but in order to cheer Mike up I offer to go and buy him some ice cream on my way to just say hi to Jutta and Jochem on their boat.  Mike tells me not to get on board Chessie.  He know that if I do, it will be ages before I leave because I will end up having a glass of wine and then the ice cream shop will be closed.

Saying hi does entail getting on board and having a glass of wine but I insist on leaving after 20 minutes or so and get to the supermarket, only to discover that they do not close at 8 pm as I had thought but somewhat earlier so I leave empty handed and have to disappoint Mike.  I just hope the generator gets fixed tomorrow.

27 June 2010

Day 172: Fiji – 27/06/10

We have nothing for breakfast so I give Mike a slice of banana bread, saving the last slice for Stephen as he said it was his favourite and he didn’t get a piece on my birthday.  I take it up to him and he offers me a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s 9.30 am – I think he has the wrong impression of me – so I try to change the image and ask for water instead.  He gives me some packets of Thai curry mixes as he knows I love them and his mixes from Malaysia are brilliant.

We are outside on the dock mid morning when a little Indian lady wanders up and asks if we would like some homemade pumpkin rotis for $1 Fiji each.  Yes please!  I buy two and order four chicken curry rotis for Monday.  The pumpkin ones are delicious but very hot.

Some of the boats start to leave.  Crazy Horse and Ocean Jasper re-fuel then make their way over to Musket Cove.  Lady Lisa, Wild Tigress and Grand Filou come in.  We realise that the huge super yacht, Archimedes, has also left the dock.  You’d think we’d notice that thing disappearing but we don’t.

I decide to do the laundry as there is a self service one here but when I arrive the only machine is being used.  I wait for a few minutes then an elderly gentleman arrives and says his washing should be ready in a few minutes.  We start to chat.  What a lovely man John is.  We saw his boat in the bay at Lautoka a few days ago.  He tells me how he sails his boat single handed (he must be mid to late 70s) and some of the difficulties this entails.  I am full of admiration.  Having left the very North of America 18 months ago and getting to Australia, he is now headed back, via Hawaii.

As he loads the tumble dryer, I load the washing machine, and as it’s a huge American thing, I can get two washes into one.

I get back to the boat and suddenly realise that I have left my handbag in the laundry room.  I go to leave the boat and as I emerge, John is there clutching my handbag.  What a sweetie.  He had remembered the boat name and had come to find me.

Once the laundry is complete I go to the supermarket and buy some basics and am wandering around when I meet Heidi and Casey.  I go with Heidi looking for some hair products and take her to the spa which turns out to have some nice products of all description.  They show us around and it is beautifully tranquil.  I decide there and then that I deserve some nice treatments and take a brochure to look at back on the boat.

I bump into Stephen who confides quietly that it was his birthday yesterday but that his wife had let the cat out of the bag when his wife shouted happy birthday to him over the internet on Skype and the rest of his crew heard.  I immediately go back to the boat and get our last packet of sweet microwave popcorn which I know he loves and had been looking for in the supermarket.  (He gave me a packet of butter popcorn as an extra birthday present.)

I doze off in the afternoon, waking up just in time to freshen up before going over to Voyageur for sundowners, then it’s back to the boat for a shower, hair wash and film.  Neither Mike nor I are particularly hungry so we end up finishing the ice cream and macadamia nuts.  What a strange meal.

26 June 2010

Day 171: Fiji – 26/06/10

I wake up just about hangover-free.  Phew, that was close!  I had arranged last night to go shopping with Maggie and Matt this morning but at 10.00 am there’s no sign of either of them.  Then I bump into Rosemary who tells me that Matt has just crawled out of bed feeling somewhat the worse for wear so I leave him alone.

A bit later I see Maggie and we decide to go out for a girlie lunch (Maggie’s birthday treat to me) and a shop.  I show her around Port Denarau and we end up going to the Hard Rock Cafe where we sit and natter for over two hours while we eat.

Matt comes in just before we leave with Sophia and Shaun.  The poor dear really does still look very ill, but having started before my party last night, and continuing until 4 am, I not surprised that even his young metabolism hasn’t been able to cope.

I don’t get back to the boat until nearly 4 pm.  There’s just enough time for a little nap before we get ready and go over to Tucanon for sundowners.  We should have been going to Voyageur but their generator engineer (see, it’s not just us) is still working.  I am very good and just drink water.  There’s a limit to all this drinking for me and to be honest, I can’t afford the calories!

We go out eat with Irene and Dick (Tucanon) and Susan and David (Voyageur) to the Indian restaurant.  On the way, there is a performance by a local dance troupe which we stand and watch.  I love it.  The girls’ movements are so fluid and I don’t know how they get their hips to move like that.  I wish mine would!

P1010620 Photo:  Local Fijian dancers

The Indian restaurant comes up trumps again with a great meal.  Even Susan and David who are not curry eaters enjoy it.  Today the food is served really quickly too, even though it is very full, unlike the other night when it was slow – and nearly empty!

P1010622 Photo:  Curry munchers at Indigo

25 June 2010

Day 170: Fiji – 25/06/10

I wake up at 3 am needing to use the loo.  In an effort to flush the system through properly, we are still doing the 50 pumps of the toilet handle for each go and I am well and truly awake by the time I have finished.  Of course, by this time Mike is awake too and we decide to have a cup of tea and use the internet.  My birthday starts early this year!

Although I try to go back to sleep, I fail, although Mike succeeds spectacularly, snoring his head off (which of course is probably why I can’t manage it), but I lie there and try anyway, eventually giving in and making another pot of tea.

We go out for a late breakfast at Lulu’s.  I order a soft tortilla covered with tomato and cheese, with two fried eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms on top.  Along with a mango milkshake I am completely stuffed at the end but it is really delicious and worth the extra pound of fat that it will no doubt add to my stomach!

P1010606 Photo:  Birthday brunch at Lulu’s

From the restaurant dock we can see Jeannius in the distance dwarfed by her neighbours.  The harbour setting is quite lovely.

P1010608 Photo:  Jeannius looks like a toy in comparison with the super yachts

P1010610 Photo:  Mountains, mangroves and mudflats

We go to the little supermarket and buy some wine and nibbles for tonight then go back to the boat to do a bit of cleaning and tidying up and I also make banana bread.  Our electrician turns up to try to wire our system to accept charge for the batteries from the shore power so that we don’t have to keep running the engines (the generator would normally be doing this for us, and using a lot less diesel in the process).

The marina manager appears and asks us to move the boat from one side of the berth to the other to accommodate a yacht that is coming in later.  Quite why the opposite side of the berth should make a difference I am not sure, but we all stop work and people help pull Jeannius from one side to the other using the warps with Mike assisting at the helm and I move the fenders from the port side to starboard.

Eventually the boat is tidy and clean enough inside to receive guests and the banana bread smells delicious.  I go down to have a shower and a little lie down, but my cabin is too hot so I go in the stern one which has intermittently had the air conditioning unit on and is slightly cooler even though it is now switched off (as the electrician is still working).  I lie down on the bed in a thin cotton dressing gown but am still too hot so I open the gown up, put my legs in the air against the ceiling and luxuriate in the cool air of the fan.  A few minutes later I hear the stairs creak, and call out, thinking it is Mike.  There’s no reply but suddenly a shadow appears in the doorway, stops then hurriedly retreats – the electrician – and I’m lying there stark naked!  He doesn’t say anything as I quickly cover myself up then a hand appears around the corner as he tries to switch on the air conditioning unit to see if everything is working as a result of his rewiring.  Poor lad.  He will have been far more embarrassed than me.

Mike appears in the doorway a few minutes later and says that Crazy Horse and Ocean Jasper have just arrived and he has been to invite them over tonight as well so it really does look as if tonight is turning into quite a little party.

He follows this up with the bad news that we have to move Jeannius again.  The marina staff are very apologetic but they have a boat coming into the berth which has engine trouble and can’t manoeuvre properly.  I hurriedly get dressed and go out on deck along with Vi, the electrician.  There’s no time for any embarrassment as I scuttle around moving the fenders back to the port side and move the warps.  Mike eyes up our new spot warily, not convinced that we will fit in it as there is already a fishing boat there.  How he gets it into that tight space is beyond me but he turns us 180 degrees and backs in.  The wind is blowing us onto the fishing boat and one of the staff leaps onto it and with his back against Jeannius and his legs against the fishing boat, he walks us along, keeping us apart.  Once we are tightly secured to the dock I can see that there is literally two feet of space separating the two boats.  Mike is so good at this!  I am full of admiration.  I would have hit the dock, the fishing boat and probably knocked a few of the bystanders off their feet too!

The electrician goes back to work but is still on board when the guests start to arrive so he stays for a beer too.  He’s a sweet lad, who knows his stuff on boats and worryingly doesn’t seem at all fazed by having walked in on a naked female.  I hope he doesn’t think I was lying there as an invitation!

I am bought champagne, wine, a limited edition Crazy Horse t-shirt and a chocolate muffin birthday cake with a sailor candle on the top.  I have a lovely time although Mike neglects his duty as photographer and only takes a couple to record the evening.  Everyone sings happy birthday to me while I blow out my birthday candle.

P1010616 Photo:  Blowing out my birthday candle

P1010617 P1010618 Photos:  Me and the lovely, lovely Matt from Crazy Horse

I have a lovely cuddle with Matt, proof that I am genuinely turning into a dirty old woman and I guarantee that my arm is around his waist in the above photo, regardless of what it actually looks like!!  And I am sure that when I tried the dress on in the shop, it didn’t show that much boob.  Ah well, they do say if you’ve got it … !

I sit out on the trampoline with Maggie, Bob and Matt for a while then people start to leave to go out to dinner and I get up to say my goodbyes and thank-yous.  I have a lovely evening, but it’s not over yet.  As I am clearing up (well putting bottles and glasses together on the side for dealing with in the morning), the crew from Wild Tigress turn up and join us for a drink, then we go out to eat. 

Mike and I choose a Fijian restaurant but although my meal is good, Mike’s is disappointing.  As we wander back to the boat, we meet Maggie and Matt who try to talk us into going out for further drinks but birthday or no birthday, I know I have met my limit and don’t fancy a hangover, even though the idea is tempting (of the company not the hangover!).

We walk past Voyageur on the way back and are dragged on for another drink (yes, Susan, I lay the blame squarely at your feet!), but eventually we do get back to Jeannius and flop into bed.

All in all, a wonderful start to another year in my life.  Thanks everyone!

24 June 2010

Day 169: Fiji – 24/06/10

Mike goes up to the yacht services offices to arrange for our generator parts to be picked up from the airport and for the engineer/electrician to come and inspect the job.  Amazingly, a couple of hours later there is a knock on the side of the boat and the parts are hand delivered to us.

We go out for a closer look at the port facilities.  The shops are very cheap, even though they are probably more expensive here at a tourist resort than in town.  I end up buying two dresses (the equivalent of £10 each), a pair of Havianas (half the US price) and a handbag that won’t go grungy as it’s plastic (almost against my religion, that one).

As we walk back to Jeannius we bump into Stephen who says that he and Francois are taking a taxi into the local town, Nadi, and as Mike has to hang around the boat for the engineers, would I like to join them?  I would.  I rush back to the boat, quickly have some lunch, change into something more suitable for town (trousers and less skimpy top) and off we go.

In the short, 10-minute ride to town, we pass fields of tapioca, bananas and sugar cane.  In fact, the feel is much more like south-east Asia than an island in the South Pacific.

Nadi has one main street, quite long and full of shops, but very scruffy.  I hate being hassled and people trying to engage you in conversation for the sole purpose of dragging you into their shops, and this is something that happens all the time here.  We wander down the main road, Stephen looking for a gas lighter for his stove and me looking as ever for my champagne coloured pearls.  At the bottom of the main street is the largest South Indian temple in the whole of the South Pacific.

P1010597 P1010600 P1010602 Photos:  The Sri Siva Subrahmaniya Swami temple, Nadi

We go back up the other side of the road, still looking.  We have to go in a strange assortment of shops looking for Stephen’s lighter.  They seem to sell them in supermarkets, hardware stores, the Fiji equivalent of pound shops, but today we eventually find a bright pink one (half full of fuel) in a stationery shop.

We find the handcraft market and on a stall I find some freshwater pearls.  I tell the lady that I am looking for gold coloured pearls (I didn’t think the term ‘champagne coloured’ would mean much to her).  It turns out that gold has little meaning either as she brings out pink ones then white ones.  I give up using her ‘expertise’ and pick a pair out myself which are more of a deep cream and ask her how much they are.  $120 Fiji – too much.  The price immediately drops to $80 Fiji.  I say no.  “How much you wanna pay madam?” she asks.  All this time I am feeling them between my fingers – they feel remarkably, and suspiciously smooth.  I ask her if they are real freshwater pearls and she replies that they are 100% genuine freshwater pearls.  I raise them to my mouth (God knows what I will catch) and touch them on my teeth.  Completely smooth.  Fake.  “These aren’t real” I say.  She then goes into true Bollywood movie actress mode, saying that the cheating wholesaler must have send her the wrong ones, she will telephone him right away and complain to him and at the same time she is reaching for another strand which she describes as “101% genuine freshwater pearls” (which they are – I do the same test).  But she has blotted her copybook – I wouldn’t buy anything from someone who had so blatantly tried to cheat me and treated me as though I was completely stupid.  We leave.

We continue the hunt for pearls and in a pukka shop I actually find exactly what I am looking for - at a cost - $7500 Fiji (about £2500).  They are beautiful and I make the mistake of trying them on.  I have three assistants serving me – no pressure there then – but they are good hearted about it.  I disappoint them when I use the “I’ll have to check with my husband” get-out routine although their spirits are momentarily lifted when Stephen appears, only for them to be dashed again when I tell them he is my friend not my husband.  One of the assistants rushes after me, pressing a card into my hand with her name on for when I come back – obviously on commission then!

P1010603  Photo:  Sigh!  The strand I let go

Since I have now bought far too many other pearls to even contemplate trying to talk Mike into opening his wallet for these babies (and don’t fancy the messy divorce) and instead I settle for the freshwater ones in another branch of the same shop, costing a fraction of the price, a mere $99 Fiji (about £33).  I now need a halo.  Such restraint, especially with it being my birthday tomorrow.

P1010629 Photo:  Champagne freshwater pearls – much cheaper!

As we are walking out of the shop, a local guy entering at the same time sticks his arm out and slides his hand into my crotch.  This takes place so suddenly that I stop dead in my tracks wondering if I imagined it.  But I haven’t.  I turn to look behind me but he is continues into the shop and doesn’t look back.  I can’t believe that someone has had the audacity to do this (and I am modestly dressed today, no legs or cleavage on show at all) and it leaves me with a very unpleasant feeling.  When I tell Stephen what has just taken place he is in favour of finding the police but there is no point, so we go and have an ice cream instead then get a taxi back to Port Denarau.

We invite the crews from Skylark and Voyageur over tomorrow evening for a drink to celebrate my birthday.  Major boat cleaning will have to be done before that!

23 June 2010

Day 168: Fiji – 23/06/10

We have a comfortable night.  The sea is like a mill pond - no crashing or banging around – and the anchorage is wonderfully quiet as there are only about five other boats here.  Although it doesn’t wake us, when we are awake and the main doors of the boat are opened, we can hear wailing coming from town, sounding very much like the call to prayer from a mosque, or maybe it was just some poor sod dealing with customs and immigration!

I notice that the boat is covered with black pieces of what looks like rubber or fibres of some sort.  Bloody hell, what part of the boat is falling apart now?  Then I realise that it is the fallout from the local sugar factory.  Sugar is one of the main crops here and all over the island you can see fires and their great plumes of smoke from both the many processing plants and the burning of the stubble.  Here in Lautoka, is one of the biggest plants producing the largest amount of fallout.  It smells good though – a sweet, smoky aroma.  More deck cleaning required!  Does it never end?

Mike starts to call the port authorities again around 8 am but gets no reply.  He keeps trying until after 9 am and eventually gives up and digs out the telephone number for customs, using my UK mobile to call them.  This mobile has been out of commission since we left St Lucia in January (apart from a very limited service in Rarotonga) but leapt into life yesterday, much to my great surprise – and delight.  He is passed from one person to another person in his quest to find out exactly how we check in, but eventually after about 10 minutes (at £1.20 plus VAT per minute, I might add) he has all the information he needs.

He takes the dinghy ashore and comes back about an hour later having completed all the paperwork for the customs, immigration and health departments.  Although we had been told that the officials would all board the boat, nobody was interested in doing so and they were all very friendly, more interested in watching the World Cup football than causing us any trouble.  However, we have to go into town to complete the formalities for quarantine and to get a cruising permit.  I go with him for a look around.

The sea, which was a mill pond when he first went out, now slams the dinghy against the barnacle encrusted dock so getting out onto slippery concrete steps is interesting but I manage it without injury or loss of dignity.  For the first time since we left St Lucia we lock the dinghy to the dock.  We wouldn’t have bothered had we not noticed that everyone else had and also that all the other boats in the anchorage pulled their dinghies up last night, a sure sign of outboard motor theft in the area.

We get a taxi to the Quarantine Department in town and Mike fills out the relevant forms.   The rather officious guy asks us what food we have aboard and where we bought it.  Mike says it all came from Carrefour in Tahiti and I start to say some of it was from Panama when I get a kick in the shin from Mike to shut up.  I find out later that Panama is on the hit list of undesirable places as far as produce is concerned, but on this occasion we get away with it.  The guy is uninterested and just going through the motions.

We have to pay an incineration fee for our one bag of rubbish which we have to deliver to the dock later on, but we have no local money, so while I wait in the office, the taxi takes Mike to the nearest ATM.  When he comes back, the fiasco starts.  They have to take the payment in cash but have no facilities for giving you change.  None of the staff has any.  None of the public coming into the office has any.  The taxi driver doesn’t have any.  Eventually after trying a couple of shops Mike cobbles enough together to pay them slightly over the correct money.  Why don’t they have a float?

When we get into our taxi, Mike gives me a stern lecture on honesty when dealing with officials.  Answer any question truthfully but give as little information as possible, never volunteering anything which is not asked for in case it is be used to hang you.  And don’t ask questions, lose your temper or even look irritated by their procedures.  Above all, look like you have all the time in the world.  Mike suddenly remembers why he never usually takes me with him on these trips.  I am a liability!

Next stop, a cruising permit from the Commissioner’s Office.  This involves a drive to the other side of town and an opportunity to look at the surroundings.  It’s a scruffy little town with little to recommend it to be honest, although as it’s not a tourist destination but a town living around its port and sugar refinery, I suppose it’s to be expected.

The Commissioner’s Office is a hub of activity – freeze framed!  I have never (outside of India) seen so many people, doing so little.  Everything happens oh-so slowly.  In order to give us the (free) permit, we have to hand over 5 different pieces of paper, all of which need to be photocopied by one of the slowest photocopier operators I have ever seen.  Each page is scrutinised and turned various ways before she gets it into the copier.  Her finger pauses each time over the ‘copy’ button before she actually presses it as she gazes vacantly out of the window or at the growing number of visitors arriving at the desk.  I wish I could film it all but a ten minute video would look like a still photograph!!

We wait patiently wishing we had books with us and finally, after about 20 minutes, we are done.  There’s smiles all round at the production of yet another piece of paper and we are free to go – back to customs.

Again, there are about ten customs officials, all standing around watching the football on TV (well it is nearly lunchtime closing).  They are a friendly bunch and ask us about our travels as one of them does the paperwork.  I glance up at a picture of our Queen on the wall and suddenly everything clicks into place.  All the paperwork, all the bureaucracy – Fiji used to be British and we taught them everything they know, just like India.  In fact, over a third of the population of Fiji is Indian as we brought them over as cheap labour for the sugar plantations.

At 1 pm we have completed everything and go back to the boat.  I ask Mike when we are going to deliver our one bag of rubbish to the dock.  “F*** that” he says and we start to get the anchor up.

The fact that the sea bed here is a thick clay-like mud means the holding is great and there’s nothing for the anchor or chain to get caught around.  The downside is it comes up covered in a thick grey gloop, so disgusting that I have to get the sea water hose out and clean it off, link by link, as I pull the chain up.  While I am at it I hose off some of the sugar debris.

P1010585  Photo:  A woman’s work is never done

We leave the bay and head south again for Port Denarau, our home for the next few days while we get our generator repaired (hopefully).  From a distance it is hard to see the channel into the marina but gradually the red and green markers come into view and we trundle slowly in.  We are allotted a berth in the superyacht section, next to the enormous motor yacht, Archimedes – a real David and Goliath situation.  Archimedes is a gleaming, shiny, blue hulled yacht, about 233 feet long (we are 43 feet).  Basically she all but blocks out the light!  There are other, slightly smaller motor yachts all around us and I have to say that the sight of Jeannius amongst all these monsters is quite comical, especially as they are all so shiny and clean and Jeannius is absolutely filthy!  Well we don’t have a crew of 20 scuttling around cleaning every day.

P1010594 Photo:  Jeannius rubbing hulls (not literally) with the superyachts

We are finishing getting tied up when Stephen (Skylark) arrives to welcome us.  They are here getting their sail repaired.  We chat for a while and I go back to Skylark to meet Magda, Francois’ wife, who has just spent a couple of weeks with them and is flying back tonight.  We have a couple of drinks and arrange to go out to eat with Stephen and Ed at the local Indian restaurant later on.

As it gets dark, and we are leaving the boat, I gaze up at Archimedes, covered in her twinkly lights, and can’t resist taking a photo.

P1010589 Photo:  Jeannius and Archimedes

The Indian restaurant provides us with a lovely setting and a really good meal and Ed is a total sweetheart by treating us all to the whole thing.  Service is a bit on the slow side, but then Indian staff on Fiji time?  Anyway, in good company, we are in no rush.

When we leave, we wander around Port Denarau to see what it has to offer.  Basically everything as it turns out.  A small supermarket, a good selection of shops, pharmacy, bank, post office, at least ten restaurants and amazingly, an Ugg boot retailer.  Ugg boots in Fiji?  I was so surprised I just had to go in and ended up chatting to the owner for quite some while.  He makes them for Ugg here and they are about a third of the UK price.  Apparently he does a roaring trade!

P1010588  Photo:  A pretty selection of thick, wooly boots, just what you need for Fiji

To be honest, Port Denarau has everything you need while you are staying here but it’s not like being in Fiji – it could be anywhere as it has no actual local flavour.  But it will suit us for the next few days and it’s great to have the freedom to get off the boat whenever I want without having to deal with the dinghy.

22 June 2010

Day 167: Tonga to Fiji – 22/06/10

The wind continues to blow during the night and a slight change of direction means that when we change watch, we have to change the position of the genoas from being goose winged to being on one side, and we still continue our 7 to 8 knots.

When I wake up, we are sailing past Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.  From our distance, two miles off land, it doesn’t look particularly interesting, and certainly looks different to the lush green islands that we have been used to in the rest of Polynesia. 

P1010546 Photo:  Not the view I expected

But this view is not typical.  Fiji has 333 islands and atolls.  The two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu have rugged interiors complete with rainforests, rivers and waterfalls.  Viti Levu is 100 miles wide, quite the biggest island we have seen for some time and it takes us all day to get to our destination, Lautoka.  The wind continues to increase, gusting up to 37 knots at one time, and giving us speeds of nearly 11 knots.  No wonder it’s so bloody uncomfortable!

At the south west of the island we pass into the lagoon and for the first time in ages, we see large commercial vessels and pleasure craft.

P1010549 P1010555 Photos:  Signs of life at last

At least in the lagoon, the protection from the reef means that the waves subside, and the wind gradually dies to 15 to 20 knots.  We arrive at our destination just after 4.30 pm, having called the port authorities to alert them to our arrival.  We put the anchor down and for a while it drags and I have to let a load more chain down as we are in quite deep water, then with a jerk, it digs in and holds securely.  We call the port authorities again to say that we are ready to be boarded by all the officials but they have gone home, so we sit back and watch yet another beautiful sunset develop on the horizon and little fishing boats zooming backwards and forwards across the anchorage.

P1010565 Photo:  Fishing at sunset

Tomorrow we will have to go through the bureaucratic rigmarole of customs, immigration, health and quarantine.  I have a couple of glasses of nice wine and cook all the vegetables we have left in case we are boarded and they are confiscated.  Then we go to bed early – we’ll need our strength for officialdom!!


Our position is:  17 deg 35 min S, 177 deg 26 min E

Distance so far:  8701 nautical miles

21 June 2010

Day 166: Tonga to Fiji – 21/06/10

Another day of doing, seeing and catching nothing.  The journey is less comfortable though, with lumpy waves, less well spaced out than yesterday.  They hit the boat in an irregular pattern, making it and therefore us, lurch uncomfortably.  Time after time I nearly go sprawling as I lose my balance.  Taking food out to the cockpit is especially interesting and mine nearly lands on the floor.

We make good speed though, averaging over 6 knots, and going up to just under 9 knots at times with just the genoas out.

At 11.16 (and 47 seconds) precisely, we cross into the eastern hemisphere for the first time in Jeannius’ life.  Although he is in bed at the time, I am told to get Mike up so that he can watch the position indicator on the chart plotter change from showing a westerly position of longitude to an easterly one.  He seems very excited about this, which is a good indication of just how bored you can get on these trips and how little it can take to get you going!

Mike and I seem to have changed sleeping patterns on this trip with me getting to sleep quite quickly and him sleeping less well.

Towards the end of the afternoon the wind steadily picks up and the waves get even bigger and more uncomfortable, but unbelievably, I don’t get sick.  It’s my turn to do two watches and we start to race along at a pretty constant 7.5 knots in 25 knots of wind still with just the genoas out.

P1010545 Photo:  Nothing to photograph except sunsets, but they are glorious!

As the evening continues, land starts to appear on the radar (not to be confused with the large squalls which keep appearing and which seem to follow us although we manage to just keep out of their paths).  In the distance, and at the time Mike predicted, I can see the lights of Suva, the capital, and for the first time we see fishing vessels, lit up like Christmas trees, those lights obscuring their navigational lights so you have no idea which direction they are going and they are too small for the radar to pick up.  More vigilance than ever tonight, methinks!


Our position is:  18 deg 28 min S, 178 deg 31 min E

Distance so far:  8588 nautical miles

20 June 2010

Day 165: Tonga to Fiji – 20/06/10

We continue our merry romp through the sea at a pretty steady 5 to 6 knots through the night and the wind doesn’t mess around but keeps us on course.  I take the midnight to 4 am watch and Mike doesn’t wake me in the morning but lets me wake by myself at 8.30 am and then brings me tea in bed.  What a sweetie.

Mike and I do the usual ‘ships that pass in the night’ business – he goes to bed when I get up and vice versa.  We do get to spend a little time together now and then, but after lunch I find myself alone again in the cockpit, staring out at blue and white stuff – blue sea with white caps and blue sky with white clouds.  It’s incredible how many hours I spend sitting looking at nothing.  Every now and then I think I see things in the water but it’s my eyes playing tricks on me, desperate for something else to look at.

Trying to find the correct place to actually lie down in the cockpit is difficult.  It’s too hot to lie on the side that is in the sun, but if you lie in the shade, the breeze makes it cold enough to require a t-shirt.  Well, it does for Mike.  I stubbornly refuse and get goosebumps.

By the afternoon the wind has picked up to a steady 20 to 25 knots and the seas are heavier, the waves higher but well spaced so we have that lovely, smooth, roller-coaster type ride that I love.  It becomes obvious that at this rate we will not only make up the time we lost at the beginning, but also arrive at Suva in darkness, something we don’t want to do.  We may continue to the next port of entry instead to avoid this.


Our position is:  18 deg 29 min S, 178 deg 39 min W

Distance so far:  8445 nautical miles

19 June 2010

Day 164: Tonga to Fiji – 19/06/10

We actually manage to leave at 8.45 am, expecting another couple of WARC boats, Destiny, Dreamcatcher and Ronja to follow on from another anchorage but they change their mind and we end up heading out alone, but that’s fine.

The weather is nicer than yesterday, the sky bluer and the wind less gusty, blowing at a pretty steady 20 to 24 knots and right on our tail.  We goose wing the genoas out in full and with the waves coming right behind us we have a comfortable sail.

We lay in the cockpit reading, although for a short while I stretch out naked on the huge side cushions and sunbathe – it’s just so lovely to have no clothes on again after trying to dress ‘modestly’ for nearly two weeks!

After lunch, Mike goes to bed as he is doing two watches tonight and I lie in the shade.  I sit up to have a drink and spot a white shape in the water, swimming in the opposite direction.  It looks like a hammerhead shark but is just too far under the surface for me to see fins or anything.  I watch it swim past then turn back towards us and in the direction of our fishing line.  Shit!  I don’t want to catch that thing whatever it is as it looks about five feet long.  Thankfully, it’s no more interested in our lure than the other fish are and just disappears.

When Mike wakes up I go to bed but don’t sleep properly, just doze.  Mike comes down some time later to tell me that we have a bite on our line – about time too – unless it’s that bloody shark!  Whatever it is, it’s big and has taken nearly all the line.  Mike pulls it in slowly and I get ready with the camera, but as usual it manages to get off the line although thankfully our line and lure are left albeit looking rather tatty and chewed.


Our position is:  18 deg 35 min S, 175 deg 43 min W

Distance so far:  8307 nautical miles

18 June 2010

Day 163: Vava’u, Tonga – 18/06/10

We are supposed to be leaving Tonga at first light according to the customs official.  Fat chance.  Mike decides he wants to listen to the morning broadcast of the Cruisers’ Net at 8.30 am and then has to go to an ATM to get some money as all the checking-in procedures in Fiji seem to demand cash for something or other on arrival.  In the end it’s about 10.30 am before we actually leave.

Some of the boats that were leaving today have decided not to as the weather forecast is predicting higher winds and seas than of late, but nothing looks ominous, so we head out behind Brown Eyed Girl.  Lady Liza and Eowyn are somewhere ahead of them.

We get both the genoas out but have them reefed in as the wind is gusting up to 28 knots even before we have left the shelter of the islands.  In the distance I spot a fishing boat and tell Mike it is there, altering our course to avoid it as we get closer.  All of a sudden I spot a fishing buoy right on our starboard side – it was impossible to see before as we are heading straight into the sun.  The engines are on but in neutral so we think we have got away with it then we see this stationery marker start to follow the boat and realise that its line is tangled around one or both of our propellers.  By this time the fishermen are waving at us to get us to take evasive action, as they don’t realise it’s already too late for that. 

Cursing like mad (unusual for him), Mike watches the line to see which prop it is caught around.  It seems to be the port one so he switches on the starboard engine and turns the boat into the wind so we can furl the genoas.  The fishermen approach in their boat, pulling themselves closer using the line.  We apologise and they apologise.  Then Mike goes down on the steps (not easy as the boat is thrashing around a bit) and cuts the line.  We still have tons of it attached to us but at least we are not attached to the fishing boat any more.

It’s obviously far too rough out at sea for Mike to go under water and deal with the remaining rope which is now streaming behind the boat, so we head back into Tongan waters and go to the first sheltered anchorage we find, but with only one engine and a strong headwind, this takes us over an hour.

We put the anchor down in a nice sandy patch but as we drift backwards letting more chain down, the sea bed becomes strewn with rocks and coral – not good.  Mike snorkels down and after a few goes comes up with about twenty feet of thick nylon rope which has been curled around our port propeller.  He then goes to check the anchor and finds that the chain has got caught under a huge rock.  Great!  Here we go again.  I let down another twenty feet or so of chain – if we can get some slack, Mike can dive down and pull it out from under the rock – but as quick as I let it down, the wind blows us backwards and the slack is taken out.  Mike can’t shift it with the boat’s weight against him.  He decides to find another place to anchor and swims around looking for a suitable place to re-set the anchor – if we can get it up!

He comes back on board and puts the engines on, moving the boat forward as I pull the chain up.  Suddenly we pitch forward and the windlass slips.  Christ!  We are stuck – again – and not a WARC boat in sight.  I put the hook on to save putting additional strain on the windlass and we have another go.  The line attached to the hook stretches about eight inches, about a sixth of its total length, but holds, and we pitch forward again.  Mike drives the boat diagonally to the anchor (luckily the water is so clear we can see it), and with a jerk, we come free.  I quickly pull the chain up before it, or the anchor can become caught again, then lower it in the new spot.

Although it’s only lunchtime, Mike is so pissed off that he feels like going nowhere, and after something to eat and a couple of beers, we go below for a sleep.

Maybe we’ll get further tomorrow!

In the evening we are watching TV when a moth of the hugest and hairiest proportions I have ever seen flies in and flaps around in front of the screen, just two feet away from me.  I am absolutely terrified of moths (and butterflies for that matter – they are just pretty moths) and have no hesitation in getting someone else to kill them if they are anywhere near me.  Give me a horrid spider any day - at least they just scuttle - but moths fly and might get in my hair.  I’m not quite sure what I think they are going to do there but the thought sends all reason straight out of my head.  I shut the computer screen down as the light seems to be attracting it and it immediately flops down and lands between my sarong and thigh!  This is just too much and I leap up screaming and slapping my legs, run down the stairs and shut myself in one of the cabins.

From my position of safety I can hear banging around upstairs then the sound of spraying.  I stick my head out to see the monster being taken out and thrown overboard.  We settle down again to watch TV and within minutes there are another two monsters in the room and within seconds I’m back down in the cabin.  One lands in the frying pan and Mike slams the lid on him, ready to be taken outside, but the other one refuses to die even when sprayed and hit with a shoe.  Eventually he does give up the ghost and we settle down once more, this time with the doors and hatches firmly shut.  I’d prefer to sweat (still no a/c) than have those things around.  When I go to bed I find moth dust all over my side of the sheets, evidence of it’s battle with Mike.  Ugh!!  At least at sea there are no moths!

17 June 2010

Day 162: Vava’u, Tonga – 17/06/10

It’s confusingly still dark when I wake up, even though it’s almost 7 am.  Mike is already up using the internet as after today we will be without it until we get to Fiji.

He goes to arrange for us to come alongside the dock for water and they tell us to go right away before anyone else gets there, so we tie a fender on our mooring ball and go straight over.

We get tied up and I fill the water tank (after Mike has tested it and found it to be OK).  Then we start the process of cleaning the boat.  She is still covered in grit from the road in Rarotonga, and it is well and truly ground in.  It doesn’t matter how hard we scrub, without some sort of bleach infused scouring material all we can do is remove the top layer but nearly two hours she starts to look a bit more respectable.  I even have a go at cleaning the cockpit cushions but am wary of how hard to scrub because I don’t want to remove any waterproofing that may still remain.  When I get some Scotch Guard I will really have a go at them.  They look a lot better even being rubbed over with plain water.

P1010541 Photo:  Scrubbing the cockpit cushions – glamorous, huh?

When we have finished I get changed and to into town to pick up the groceries that I ordered yesterday, and Mike gets his Hooka out again to have another go at the propellers.  Whatever he did yesterday made them rattle a bit and they need adjusting.  It’s one of those things that you just have to make an adjustment and have a go and keep doing it until it’s right.  Unfortunately it’s a laborious process with the damn propellers being under water. 

In town, all my goods are ready, and Mimi has cooked my breadfruit as promised.  Laden down with these, two huge hands of bananas, onions,  tomatoes and a few other bits, I struggle back to the boat absolutely shattered.  There are too many hills in this place! 

I manage to get hold of Victoria and find out that her exam was not as bad as she feared it would be.  It’s great to hear her sounding normal again, and I push my motherly guilt back into my mental cupboard ready for the next time.

We motor back to our mooring ball,only to find that some bugger has tied his boat to it and cleared off.  We go to another one nearby, the only one left, and as I start to tie us on someone from another boat yells at us that the ball is already taken.  Tough.  I tie on anyway.  I am downstairs just a short while later when the guy whose ball we have taken turns up in his yacht, and Mike, being the gentleman that he is, calls me up to untie us again.  The people who have taken our mooring ball are still nowhere in sight, so Mike gets in the dinghy to retrieve our fender and as we need to go over to the customs dock for re-fuelling later, we head there instead.

It’s quite windy in the bay but luckily the wind is in our favour and blows us onto the dock quite gently and helpfully, and Sandro from Lady Lisa comes to take our lines to tie us on.  The boat is still soaking wet, and I watch with horror as the wind blows gritty dust all along the road to the boats.  Great.

Mike goes to get our duty free fuel certificate and returns to put dirty, dusty shoe prints on the side deck.  I yell at him to get his shoes off before he goes any further, which he does, but it turns out the insides of his shoes were dusty too and he leaves footprints all over the boat.  I am now beginning to lose it.

The fuel truck backs towards us, ready to fill us up.  We should have been able to take 400 litres, but just after 360 litres go in and Mike starts to slow the flow down, the fuels suddenly spurts out and a couple of litres shoots over my the cockpit.  I run to get the washing up liquid and some water, cursing all the way.  I am in frantic mid scrub when the customs guy arrives and attempts to clamber on board.  I shriek at him to stop, point out a thin path through which he can walk, and he comes on to do his paperwork.

When he leaves, Mike gets ready to release us from the dock and I stare in horror, with mounting fury, at the state of the cockpit.  Mike looks at me sympathetically, but shrugs and says it can’t be helped.  I just want to murder someone, preferably him. 

We go back to the anchorage, having decided to stay another night as we are both too tired to start a the passage to Fiji now.  Luckily we are able to take the mooring ball that Tucanon have just vacated.  The mooring ball though is uncooperative, with a short line on it.  I hook it easily enough but have to pull the ball right up to the deck to thread our warp through and only just manage to release it before it has my fingers off and I have to let it go without threading the second line through.  Mike tells me to leave it and that he will get in the dinghy and do it from there.  This should have been easy, but at the exact time he reaches the ball and puts the dinghy into neutral, the wind blows madly, forces the dinghy over the line I have tied on and Mike is nearly pulled over the side of the dinghy as the second line refuses to pull through the loop.  It’s a right bloody fiasco, although as soon as the wind drops again, he is able to complete the operation and hand me back the warp to tie onto Jeannius.

By the time he gets back on board, I am stomping around on deck shouting that I absolutely HATE f***ing boats and that I want to go home NOW!

I refuse to cook and demand instead to be taken somewhere where they serve decent wine.  We have a nice lunch and I down two very large glasses of wine before I am mellow enough again to come down off the roof.

As we have some Tongan dollars left , we walk back into town (for the final time hopefully) and buy me a wood and ox bone memory hook pendant which has been carved by a tufunga (a Tongan master carver.

P1010543 Photo:  Tongan Memory Hook pendant

On the way back to the boat, we stop to chat with Clare on the yacht Panulirus.  We met them in Rarotonga and they have even more problems than we do as their engine is not working at all and they had to be towed into the anchorage when they arrived five days ago.

Back on Jeannius we both fall asleep and wake up a couple of hours later.  Mike tells me that all the dirt in the cockpit has mysteriously disappeared, but I know it’s just the failing light and it will all be there in the morning to greet me!

Tomorrow morning we will head off to Fiji, 540 miles away.

16 June 2010

Day 161: Vava’u, Tonga – 16/06/10

We have our cup of tea then get the anchor up and return to Neiafu.  Once again, I drive the boat out of the crowded anchorage, under instruction from Mike of course, and manage not to hit anything on the way out. 

We choose a mooring ball a little closer to the dock this time, but the anchorage is really crowded and we don’t have much choice.  We are not the only rally here.  The ICA (International Cruisers’ Association?) are here too, and we all seem to want to leave for Fiji at the same time, which means that getting fuel and checking out is going to be a real game.

I am desperate to speak to Victoria but the free internet in the bay just flickers on and off so in the end I use the satellite phone.  It’s lovely to hear her voice, although she is worried sick about tomorrow’s exam, poor baby.  Again I am hit with guilt for not being there with her.  There’s obviously still a few threads clinging to those old apron strings!

We eventually get enough connection on the internet for Mike to pay for a few hours of proper connection and I manage to get the blog published for the first time in days.  Then it’s computers off and into town to get the check out process started.

The first joke is finding the immigration office.  For some reason Mike assumes that it is with the customs office.  It isn’t.  I helpfully point out that maybe checking where it was before we left the boat might have been a good idea.  He retaliates by walking much faster than my little legs can go and I end up following him like a good, little, obedient wife.  This probably goes down well with the locals!  What follows is a wild goose chase around town as we ask the different people where it is.  I don’t think anyone deliberately gives us wrong information, but they are very lackadaisical about directions and nearly everything can be interpreted a different way.  Anyway, we eventually find it, five minutes before lunchtime closing and of course it is shut.

Rather than go back to the boat we decide to have lunch ashore and look around for a restaurant.  We choose The Dancing Rooster as we have seen their specials board on the way past and they look good.

P1010461 Photo:  Entrance to The Dancing Rooster restaurant and bar

Mike orders a beer and I order a glass of white wine and check that it is Sauvignon Blanc.  The rather gormless waitress says it is but something on her face tells me she’s not sure so I follow her into the restaurant and she shows me a bottle of it – it’s Pinot Grigio.  Well, at least it’s not Chardonnay, although when it arrives it doesn’t taste like any Pinot Grigio I’ve ever tasted.

She shows us the specials menu which consists of everything except the special we have seen advertised outside.  We ask for the one on the board, and she disappears outside to look at what the board actually says, but when our meal arrives, it could be what we’ve ordered, given that we have no idea what Brazilian chicken is.  Still, it tastes good.

We walk down to the internet cafe and buy our brownies, then walk to the immigration office, which is now open for business.  This part is all very simple and the paperwork is completed within minutes.  Customs next.

We go back down to the docks, passing a couple coming in the opposite direction.  “I hope you’re not going to customs”  he says, “it’s closed.  They said to come back at 3 pm but we’re coming back tomorrow”.  Great.  We plod on as we are nearly there but get the same story.  We decide to wait for the customs guy to arrive and sit down on a bench to watch Tongan bureaucracy at full tilt.

Basically the office is a warehouse with a few desks at the front and all the goods waiting to cleared just behind.  There are cases of wine (a Sauvignon Blanc called Cat’s Pee On A Gooseberry Bush makes me smile - hopefully it doesn’t taste like it), crates of clothes (I see one being opened), fridges, sofas, sodas and loads of other stuff collecting dust as it waits to be picked up and have duty paid on it.  There are about ten obvious members of staff milling around but only one can clear out yachts.  I sit and watch one official move around his glasses, pens and stapler on the desk for about five minutes before he seems satisfied with the arrangement enough to actually pick up a piece of paper and write something down.  It’s frustratingly slow.

After about 30 minutes an official comes over (not the one we need though), sits down with us and explains the process of checking out.  This afternoon we order our duty free fuel.  Then tomorrow we pay our port dues (already paid but we don’t want to complicate things by telling him that) and get a piece of paper saying they are paid.  Then we bring our boat to the fuelling dock, get our fuel and at 3 pm (ah, there’s that time again) Lee, the customs official will turn up, board our boat and check us out.  Simple.  Probably not.  We’ll wait and see.

We go to the fresh produce market again and I go to Mimi’s stall.  She was the lady who explained how to cook the breadfruit.  I asked her about other ways of cooking it and in the end she offered to cook it for me and for me to pick it up from her in the morning, along with all the other things I have ordered.  Good saleswoman.  She’s made sure I get everything from her.

Walking back to the dinghy dock, Mike and I feel exhausted.  We have wandered around town getting hot and sweaty for four hours all told, and have basically achieved sweet FA.  OK, we stopped for lunch but we spent less than an hour doing that.  We chat to some of the other WARC boat crews at the Aquarium cafe, all of whom groan at our tale as they have either just been through the process or are just about to go through it.

Roll on tomorrow.  I can’t wait!

15 June 2010

Day 160: Vava’u, Tonga – 15/06/10

Just in case there are any more rocks or coral lurking in the general direction of our anchor, we need to get the bloody thing up before Tucanon leave in case we need help again.

Mike goes over to collect our water bottles from them then we start the anxious process of pulling up the anchor.  We have no problem.  Our little bits of plastic bottle are obviously working a treat but for how long I wonder?

We need to find somewhere where the sea is calm as Mike needs to go under the boat with his Hooka to have a go at adjusting the pitch on the propellers as he is convinced that we should be able to go faster than we currently do. 

We find a nice, quiet, calm anchorage, and tie up to a mooring ball.  It takes him ages to get all the gear ready but eventually he is in – and comes face to face with a huge blue jellyfish, about ten inches across.  Turning around he sees another one and gets out of the water quicker than a bat out of hell. 

P1010518 Photo:  Pretty from a distance, not so good close up, a jellyfish

It’s no good here.  We have to move.  We go over to the other side of the bay but it’s open to the sea which means that probably even more jellyfish will come though here at even greater speed so we abandon this one and sail to another anchorage a couple of miles away that we saw on the first day out.

We sail past Barnacle Bay, where we had the Tongan feast on Saturday.  Even from a distance I can see pigs on the beach – obviously oblivious to their Saturday night fate!

 P1010520 Photo:  Barnacle Bay

We reach our destination, which, although quite crowded, has plenty of space close in to the beach.  One of the other WARC boats, Kalliope, is already in and we wave to her crew as we pass.  The water is beautifully clear and it’s easy to see where we should start to put the anchor down in a nice sandy space.  There are some large rocks around but thankfully our anchor settles and the chain pulls back in a nice straight line, no where near any of them.

Mike gets all his gear on again and goes in again while I hover near the machine watching the pressure gauge.

 P1010521 Photo:  Mike under the boat with his Hooka

When he has finished adjusting the propellers he removes the green beard that has re-grown on Jeannius which takes a lot longer than he thought it would.  I in the meantime, make and eat my lunch (I get too hungry to wait any longer).  He eventually comes out of the water freezing cold, demanding a towel, food and beer, although I don’t think it was in that order.  Feeling how cold he is, hot chocolate would probably be better but we don’t have any and anyway, he definitely wants beer!

We watch a small fishing boat come into the bay.  It is really low down in the water as it is laden with so many fisherman, all armed with snorkels and nets.  One by one, and under direction from the guy on the bow, they jump in the water and swim around searching for fish, ready to use their nets.  It’s difficult to see how it all works but they hang around for ages.

P1010523 Photo:  Local fisherman

We have a late afternoon nap, waking at what we think is about 4.30 pm but which horrifying is actually 6 pm.  I put the kettle on for a cup of tea and look out over the bay, noticing that Noeluna has arrived while we were sleeping.  I call them on the VHF and chat to Marie-Anne for a while.  Apparently Matthieu and Ferdinand came by on their way to the beach and called out to us but we were too zonked to hear.

It’s beautifully quiet in the anchorage, even though there are so many boats.  We settle down on the cockpit cushions to watch the sun go down, another spectacular sight.


 Photo:  Another glorious sunset

We will go back to Neiafu tomorrow morning and start the check out preparations for Fiji.  I am desperate to get some internet connection so that I can contact Victoria to wish her luck with exam on Wednesday.  It’s times like these that I am wracked with guilt for not being there for her.  What we are doing is not the normal way round – your children leave you – you don’t leave them!  Bad mother!!

14 June 2010

Day 159: Vava’u, Tonga – 14/06/10

It’s amazing how much cooler it is at night here.  We wake up these days with the sheet up to our noses with only the fan on.  I am comfortable but Mike insists he is cold.  It must be my internal heating system that keeps me about ten degrees hotter than him.

We have a visit from Mark on the Lagoon catamaran, Isabella.  He swims over to our boat with a bottle of water in his hand because he wants Mike to test it (we met him and his wife briefly on Tucanon yesterday).  The anchorage has turned very rolly overnight and one by one the boats start to leave.  We were supposed to be getting another delivery of water from Tucanon this morning but it is too rough to comfortably raft up to them to do this.  Instead, then they head out, we follow them to an anchorage just around the corner which smells suspiciously like fish.  We pick up a day mooring while they try to anchor.  After about five attempts they give up, we let go of our line and we follow them around the corner to another anchorage which is more sandy.  We wait for their anchor to settle then come alongside them and raft up.

Dick passes us the hose and instructs Mo to turn it on.  Mike tests the water which seems fine and we stick the hose into our tank, filling up with about 200 litres, which, added to the 120 litres we already have, should see us through the next ten days or so until we get to the marina in Fiji.  I then fill our six empty water bottles and as I put the last cap on, Mike tests it again for Dick and it is off the scale!  Thinking that perhaps the batteries are on the blink, Mike drinks a mouthful of water and immediately spits it out.  It’s salt.  We can’t work it out and for a moment neither can Dick.  Then we realise that the water we tested at first was water that was already in the hose, and that when Mo switched the pump on, he switched to the wrong side and instead of pumping out water from Tucanon’s fresh water tank, salt water straight from the sea has been pumped up and is now sitting in our tank.

Dick is horrified and Mo is suitably embarrassed.  We now have to waste some of Tucanon’s fresh water to flush out our tanks and fill ours again, but first we have to get rid of it all.  We run it out from the galley and two bathroom sinks but it takes longer to drain it than it does to fill it from Dick’s tank.  Eventually though, and with lots of gurgling at the end, it has all gone and we start the filling process again.  It’s a good job that Tucanon has such a brilliant water maker and can make it so quickly as we practically empty their tank.  Eventually we have to stop as their pump overheats and stops (it just needs to cool down).

P1010511 Photo:  Mo begs forgiveness (actually he’s too busy laughing)

Dick takes our water bottles to fill in the morning when they have more water and we go off to anchor a couple of hundred feet behind Tucanon.

The anchor seems to settle the first time then drags and we shoot backwards so I have to take it up again, groaning all the way (the windlass not me).  Then suddenly it really starts to creak and groan and go very slowly but the chain continues to come up so we know we aren’t stuck.  I keep going to the bow of the boat to see where the anchor is and as it comes into view, it looks somewhat larger than usual.  When it is a few feet from the surface I realise why.  There is a f***ing enormous lump of rock or coral attached to it.  As it clears the surface of the water, I can’t believe that our poorly little windlass has managed to actually pull it up!

P1010512 Photo:  Our windlass is stronger than it seems!

The hook of the anchor is actually stuck through a hole in the coral.  No amount of shaking or poking with the boat hook is going to dislodge this easily.

Mo, desperate to redeem himself after the salt water incident earlier jumps into the water and swims over.  After a moment’s thought, Mike attaches a rope to Jeannius and throws the other end to Mo to thread through the hole in the coral.  Mike then takes the end back onto Jeannius and holds the coral securely.  Mo then quickly gets out of the way and Mike lowers the anchor again.  With the coral unable to go with it, the hook pulls out of it and the two separate.  All Mike has to do then is release the line and let the coral go.  It works, and the coral lands with a thud that Bev hears as she is swimming over.

P1010515 P1010516 Photos:  Dealing with the coral

Sometimes, it’s just one of those days!!