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The Hits Keep Coming

Rated NFM (Not For Mom)

Days 2 & 3 Fiji to New Zealand

Before we begin we’d like to apologize that there are no pictures with the last couple of posts. Our Iridium Go seems to be giving us some trouble getting them uploaded. We will post a gallery of pics from this passage when we reach New Zealand and have regular internet again.

I awoke from my post watch nap on the second day of our journey to a much different world. There was sunshine,15 knots of wind and nice easy swells between 1.5 and 2 meters. Wow! What a difference a few hours can make out here on the open ocean. It was truly a beautiful day with brochure sailing. We were making 5.5-6 knots and enjoying a wonderful day at sea. It was so nice that I spent most of the day in the cockpit and even stopped to make some chicken salad and Dan & Grape Ape’s favorite meal, Fijoles de la Hoya. That evening when my watch came up I was actually happy to be going on deck. It was simply spectacular out on that moonless night with a crystal clear sky and millions of stars that could be seen from horizon to horizon. Ahhhh! THIS is my idea of sailing!
But, as luck would have it I went to bed after my watch and awoke on the morning of day three to another blustery day with choppy seas and three meter swells, Lord of Lord, would you please make up your heavenly mind?

We were getting tossed around quite a bit and while I was much calmer than I was on the first day out I was still miserable and could think of nothing more than having this trip be over! I just wanted to be back in New Zealand sitting in a pub with a cold pint of ale in front of me. Add to this I had a raging headache which is an ailment that rarely afflicts me.

After giving Dan a couple of hours to take a break and sleep I came back down below and headed for the bunk. Even though it was bouncy and I would literally be lifted off the mattress several inches every few minutes I found a way to sleep and I slept for several hours. I was secretly hoping I wasn’t coming down with something as I’d been sneezing a lot the night before. On passage is no place to get sick. Dan needs me out here. Later I would realize that my headache was caused by dehydration. The first couple of days on a passage are sort of difficult to manage in the best of weather and with the weather we’d been dealing with I simply was forgetting to drink my share of water or even eat well. Two things for which Dan would chastise me for later.

I woke up from my slumber around 1500 because it sounded like holy hell was being unleashed outside. The crashes and booms in the bunk were loud and terribly unsettling. I slowly made my way to the companionway being sure to hold tightly to the hand holds and anything else I could grab to keep from being knocked down. I poked my head outside and Dan said we weren’t making much progress at all. From the looks of the sea I could understand why. We were beating into the swells with the engine hard on it and only making about two knots. Soon after our conversation he decided it wasn’t worth beating us and Dazzler up for so little forward progress so we decided to hove to. That’s like parking in the ocean.

Hoving to is a maneuver that allows sailboats to ride out bad weather and/or slow things down so you can make repairs, cook, sleep or whatever. If you plan to sail the open oceans mastering this skill is a must! When you hove to you place the boat at just the right angle to the swell then lock the wheel and the sail in place. This creates a slick in the water in front of the oncoming swells. This slick actually disrupts the forward motion of the wave and calms it down so the boat glides gently over top of it. You cease making any forward way and move ever so slowly in the direction of the wind and current. It’s actually pretty cool to see and experience it. We’ve done it many times in our travels.

We decided we would hove to until the wind and swell clocked around later that evening. I know this will sound crazy but once we were in position it was literally like being at anchor. The swells were a little over two meters and we just floated over top of them so nicely. Dan and I relaxed below for a bit and then he took a nap while I harvested ice, read a little and started dinner. We actually stayed hove to for six and a half hours!
Around 2230 while I was taking my pre-watch nap Dan decided the weather had changed enough that he fired the engine and we were on our way. The firing of the engine woke me up but it was the crashing into the waves that got me out of bed. I crawled up the companionway stairs and opened the hatch. “I thought we hove to so we didn’t have to get beat up like this.” I blurted out. Dan replied, “It’s better than it was and we are able to maintain five knots.” Not liking the answer I grumbled under my breath and headed back to the bunk to see if I could get a couple more hours of sleep.

I wasn’t in bed a half hour when I heard a sound that made my hair stand on end and caused me to sit straight up. It sounded like the release of steam from an old steam engine. I came flying out of the bunk and as I reached the galley I smelled it. Something was hot…maybe even on fire. I hollered up to the cockpit but by that time Dan was already shutting her down. He came below and I told him what I heard. He could obviously smell the hot engine smell.

He immediately opens the door to the engine. I’m praying nothing is on fire and thankfully we didn’t see any flames but he can’t see enough to determine what’s actually wrong so he has to remove the cowling from the front of the engine. This requires also removing the stairs to the cockpit.
Last year when we sailed to New Zealand from Tonga we had the engine overheat and it was a bad impeller so that’s where Dan went to look first. Before he could take it out he needed to close the seacock so he had to dig into the quarter berth to open the door to the side of the engine. This is when things start getting messy in the cabin because all that stuff has to come out and sit somewhere while he works. It’s a mess with things laying all over the seats and floor and counters. I’m literally having to climb over sails and boxes and stairs to move about the salon. Finally I make a place to sit at the table and plant myself there.

Back to the problem at hand….as he reaches in to the close the seacock he sees a big hole in the engine exhaust thingy. It looked like the outside of a piece of metal that had a bullet pass through it. Aha! This could be our culprit. At least we were fairly certain this is where that steam release sound came from. The big question is how the heck are we going to fix it? At first he decides to use fiberglass but this could take a while to harden and we don’t want to be sitting here for any longer than necessary. Then he remembers this Minute Mend multipurpose putty that he bought in New Zealand earlier this year, This should work perfectly. So he gets the putty out and works it into the hole. It sets up in thirty minutes. While he’s waiting he decides that even though the impeller looked fine he is going to replace it just to be safe. Well, good thing he pulled it out because there were a few veins that had splits in them. Really? We just replaced this a year ago. Arghhh!

Once the new impeller was in and he putty had set up Dan fired up the engine to see if we were back in business. I was below with my head in the quarter berth door checking to be sure the putty was holding and not leaking and Dan was looking out back to see that the engine was peeing over the side. All was good on my end…not on his so he shut her down.

At this point I could no longer help so I went back to the corner I carved out for myself at the table and Dan set about on a process of elimination. He checked several things and finally pulled a hose off the top of the engine. He had me hold it while he fired up the engine to see if water came out of that hose. It did. He reattached it and checked some other things then fired her up and suddenly she was peeing again. Hooray! We’re back in business!
We cleaned up the mess and stowed everything back in its proper place and off we went. We decided that Dan desperately needed some sleep so I’d take the first watch. After all, it’s more important for him to be firing on all four cylinders than it is for me. He went to bed and up to the cockpit I went with my snacks and Coca Cola in hand.

It’s 0330 on Halloween morning. As I sit down and settle in tears begin to fall. I’m not sure why I’ve been so emotional on this trip but I am and I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s because of the two different stories we read in the past couple of weeks about boats that sank just outside of New Zealand. On one a man from Tauranga, NZ died while three others on the boat were rescued. On another, a German flagged vessel, they all were rescued after their boat had been demasted. Maybe these stories are sitting in the back of my brain feeding me with thoughts of doom. I don’t know but I do know I’ve been a bit of a wreck and I hate it. I’m not usually this way.

As I sit in the cockpit crying and talking to God I realize I’m being a baby and need to just stop it. I’m much tougher than all this and I know we will get there. These things are just part of the type of sailing we do. So I dry my tears and start reading my book. I could use a little humor at this point.

About a half hour into my watch I get a snout full of diesel fuel fumes. It’s strong, really strong and it’s filling the cockpit. I pull back on the throttle and call Dan. He felt us slow down and was already on his way up. As soon as he opens the doors the fumes smack him right in the face. For crying out loud what is this now? Haven’t we had enough already?

Dan puts on his clothes and foul weather gear and heads out on deck. Within moments he sees that one of our 50 liter fuel jugs has a crack in the side. He we go. We hove to for the third time in less than 12 hours. We will have to siphon the fuel from the jug into the main fuel tank in the dark. Joy oh joy! NOT!

Dan grabs the jiggler siphon doodad and we head to the port deck. The jug in question is heavy and just two days ago the handle broke. He’s going to have to untie and move three other jugs in order to slide this one down to the fuel hole on deck. I’m there to hold those jugs in place and keep them from going overboard, It takes twenty minutes or so just to get things ready and start the process of siphoning. The two of us are sitting there in the pitch black with just a tiny spotlight from his headlamp to light the project. We barely speak a word. I think we both are feeling a little beaten down and this is just the end of the third day. We still have nine more to go.

It took us just over an hour to get the fuel transferred, get the jugs re-secured, clean the fuel from the deck and get ready to get back underway. It’s just before 0500 when Dan heads back down for some much deserved rest. As for me, I hunkered down in the cockpit under the dodger where I sat watching the white ocean foam spill out from under Dazzler and pondered what in the world could happen next.

Until next time…
Jilly & Dan

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OMG…What Perfect Timing

Sometimes the stars align perfectly and you end up at the absolute right place and at the most perfect time. This is what happened to us today.

This morning we left the Vuda Marina area and made the four plus hour trip to Wayasewa Island. It is a wonderful day on the water even if we don’t have enough wind to sail. The sun is out, there is a light breeze, the water maker is no longer leaking and all is right with the world.

On the west side of the island there are two marked anchorages on the chart. As we approach from the south we see two boats are already in the southern anchorage so we keep moving north. Soon a huge bay opens up to the east of us and we cross through the reef into a most spectacular place near Noboro Point. (pronounced “Nam boro”)

To our right on the south side of the bay we see two villages and further north at the other end of the bay we see another one. Directly in front of us is a narrow opening that separates Wayasewa Island to the south from Waya Island to the north. This northern point of Wayasewa is Noboro Point. The tide is on its way in but there is still a narrow, sand land bridge between the two. The water here is simply amazing. I’m on the bowsprit looking out for coral and I can see well over a hundred feet down in this clear azure blue water. I can see my shadow in the water and the sun is directly behind my head. It’s rays shoot out from the shadow in all directions. It’s like I’m making a sea angel instead of a snow angel. It’s so awesome! Yes the sun is perfectly set in the sky to provide me with the best possible views of the bottom and, of course, the ever dangerous coral.

We motor in toward the point until we get to around forty feet of water depth. Dan makes a few circles with the boat to make sure we are not anchoring over coral or rocks and then calls me to the cockpit. When the anchor goes down he works the bow and I work the helm. With our headsets on he can tell me exactly what to do and that keeps him on the bow to handle any trouble. Plus, let’s be honest, the anchor is heavy and even though we have the windlass (electric winch) there are times you need some extra muscle up there. My guy always does the man’s work and leaves me to do the easier jobs. It’s just one of the many reasons I love him so much.

It wasn’t long before we got our anchor set and I shut down the motor. Of course I also went below to get our anchor down beverages. No anchor down ceremony is complete without the icy cold, sweet nectar known as beer! As we sit in the cockpit we can’t help but feel a sense of peace. Here we are at this incredible anchorage and there isn’t another cruiser in sight. Oh yes! This is absolute nirvana!

After a couple of beverages we prepare ourselves to go to shore to present our kava to the Chief and ask for permission to stay. 

Sometimes I have a love/hate relationship with this tradition. Yes, I truly enjoy going into the villages and meeting the people but the fact that it is “required” sometimes makes you feel like a kid being forced to go to church or school. But we always try to do the right thing as we see many others who simply do not. Like we always say… “their country…their rules! If you don’t like them. Go home.”

As you probably know by now I’m required to wear a sulu (pareo/sarong) that covers my knees and I also must have my shoulders covered. I typically wear my Dazzler’s Watch shirt but for some reason I decided to wear a T-shirt I got in México. It’s from a bar called Los Muertos. For those who don’t know, the name means…The Dead! I honestly picked it because it coordinated with my sulu. As it turns out, I could have picked something more appropriate for the day but I’m not sure anyone actually knew what it meant even though there is a skull in the design. Put it this way, I hope no one knew.

I can’t wear a hat so this requires that I do something to my hair. Since I wear a hat while cruising it’s always a challenge to make my hair look presentable. I’m sure you’ve noticed when looking at the pics from our village visits. It is what it is though so I just do my best. Today Dan decides he’s going to wear his sulu with a colorful bula shirt. It will be the first time he’s worn his sulu into a village and it will turn out to be the most appropriate time ever.

With our “approved” clothing on and the requisite kava in Dan’s backpack we jump into Sparkle and head to shore. The shoreline is covered with coral but the villagers have some buoys out that mark a small channel up to the shore. As we arrive there are two young boys, maybe four or five years old, playing in the water. Their faces light up with giant smiles as they giggle and perform silly tricks to get our attention.

It’s a steep beach so the landing is one of those ones where we have to be quick to prevent the swell from swamping the back end of the dink. There’s nothing like having to jump out of a dinghy into two feet of water while trying to prevent your sulu from getting soaked, not showing your legs and not letting the dinghy float away at the same time. Given that this is Dan’s first time having to do it in a “skirt” I’m sure it was a bit of a show for the ladies sitting under the shade trees twenty feet away. 

Dan secures the anchor in the sand while I approach one of the ladies and introduce myself. She tells me her name is Nietze and welcomes us to the island. There are a couple of other ladies lying there on blankets and as I walk up they scramble to secure their sulus over their shorts. They smile and greet me with the traditional Fijian warmth we’ve come to know. With the anchor secure Dan approaches and I introduce him to my new friend. He greets her with a big smile and asks to see the Turaga Ni Koro. (Chief’s right hand man) Immediately there is a lot of talk amongst the women. It’s all in Fijian but we gather from their looks and tones that they are trying to figure out where to find him. Nietze heads off in one direction then comes back and heads in the opposite one. There’s a lot of back and forth and people calling out but before long an older man, slender and about 5’6” appears from behind one of the houses. He’s wrapping his red, patterned sulu around his waist as he walks towards us.

Dan reaches out a hand to shake his and introduces us. The man tells us his name is Sampson as he gives us a smile. His English is not very good but he likely understands more than he speaks. After all, English is the official language of Fiji and all school children must learn it. Dan asks about meeting the Chief and Sampson escorts us into a home directly behind us. He invites us in and motions for us to sit on the floor. 

It’s a typical Fijian bure with no furniture, a mat on the floor and colorful material hung around on the walls and over the openings. This particular bure also has very colorful, patterned paper similar to wallpaper on the walls. The “wallpaper” isn’t glued to the wooden walls rather it’s nailed there so in places it sags from the moisture that is ever present in the islands. Sampson very quickly and abruptly asks for the kava and then says a quick prayer in Fijian. Then, in his broken English he tells us he is going to give us a tour of the village before taking us back to the school where we will have some kava. At least that’s what we got out of it.

Before we even have a chance to ask a few questions Sampson is leading us out of the bure and off we go on our tour. At this point we’re getting a pretty strange vibe from him. He seems to be a bit short with us as he’s rushing through the village pointing out the church and houses etc… We’re almost beginning to feel that this is going to be the same type of thing we experienced at Nabukeru Village but we just keep walking, talking and taking pictures. (Note that we never take the first photograph until we have asked for and received permission. It’s just common courtesy out here.)

As we are walking Dan is asking lots of questions about the village. Sampson tells us that during Cyclone Winston in 2016 the village suffered extensive damage. He then points to the top of the mountain and tells us that everyone on the island went to the top of the mountain during the storm to avoid the storm surge. I’m looking at the top of this mountain and thinking two things. First, how in the heck do you get women and small children to the top of this rugged and steep mountain? Second…how terrifying must it have been to be up there with no structure for protection during the storm?

A rather odd looking bug we saw on the island. Can’t seem to identify it even online.

For those who don’t know, Cyclone Winston was considered the most intense tropical cyclone as well as the strongest to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere in over 120 years. At its peak winds reached 190 mph. Over 40,000 homes in Fiji alone were destroyed leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. Over 40% of Fiji’s population of 900,000 was adversely affected by Winston and in the end they say the cost of the storm was over $1.4 billion USD.

Knowing this you can imagine the thoughts going through our heads as Sampson explains the measures they took for protection. We simply cannot wrap our heads around what it would have been like to be on this mountain with those kinds of winds whipping around. The rain alone had to feel like needles being shot into their skin. This had to have been absolutely terrifying for these people. We’re saddened to think of what they endured but once again in awe of the pure, unadulterated resolve of these people to survive in an environment that most of us would never be able to endure for a moment.

We continue our tour of the village and arrive back at the spot where we landed the dinghy. At this point we’re thinking our time on the island is about to abruptly end but then Nietze asks if we would like to see their store. Of course we say, “yes” as it is the respectful thing to do. As she runs into the house where Sampson took us to pray over the kava we note that Sparkle is crashing on the beach with each hit of the swell. Sampson starts telling the boys playing on the beach to drag her on shore. There were six or seven young boys, maybe 5-8 years old, all trying to pull Sparkle onto the steep beach. She almost weighs more than all these boys put together so Dan went to help them and together they got her secured high on the beach. 

Soon Nietze comes out with her goods, lays a piece of material on the mat covering the ground under the tree and then starts putting out their wares. By now in our travels here we’ve learned the difference between locally made goods and the crap that comes from China. Most of what Nietze is putting out is from China but we do find a couple of locally made pieces and decide to buy them to help support the village.

With our purchases complete Sampson leads us off toward the school. At this point he’s becoming a bit more talkative and we sense he is warming up to us. As we approach the school grounds we see three large groups of people sitting on mats in the shade at the edge of the athletic field. Each group has a large kava bowl in front so we start to ask questions. Sampson just continues walking until we reach the group the furthest from our entrance onto the field.

As we approach this group of people we note that there is a large kava bowl made from a round plastic fishing float that has been cut in half. We saw these same floats used to float oyster trap lines in French Polynesia. Near the front of the mat there are many men sitting around the kava bowl. Each one is wearing a colorful sulu and a bula shirt.

The women are sitting in rows behind the men. They are all wearing the same style dress only each is in a different pattern. Some of them have children with them who are wearing clothes in a pattern that matches the mother. It’s something we’ve seen a lot of here in the islands and always makes it easy to know who belongs with who.

Sampson instructs us to sit on the mat. We take off our shoes and sit down as everyone’s eyes are upon us. We say a hardy “bula”as we look around. They all reply in kind, almost in unison, as they offer up their beaming smiles. Just after sitting Sampson introduces Dan to the village spokesman, Bill. I actually think he has a more traditional name but it seems they use English names sometimes as it probably is easier for us ke pelangi (white people). Within moments of sitting Bill asks Dan to come over and sit near him. Dan greets him on his knees as is proper when meeting a village elder. They speak for a few moments and then Bill asks me to come to that side of the mat as well. I bow down and introduce myself as he tells me to have a seat. Noting the hierarchy and the way the women are sitting in the “back of the room” so to speak I sit just slightly behind Dan and the other men at the front of the women. If you are a women’s lib fanatic I would suggest you stay far away from the South Pacific islands as this is a most definitely a man’s world down here.

It’s not long before they hand Dan a coconut shell full of kava. By now we know the drill. First you say, “bula”then clap and then drink the entire contents in one gulp. Then you clap three times and hand the bowl back to the server. I’m next and the server doesn’t hold back. He hands me a full coconut shell of the muddy water as well. It doesn’t taste that bad but it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice of drink. I gulp the mildly intoxicating liquid and hand the shell back.

Bill & Dan

As we sit here partaking in the kava and speaking with Bill and the others we learn that today is a very special day for the island. This is the one day of the year that they have a church fundraiser. The reason there are three separate groups of people is that there are three villages on the island of Wayasewa. Each group represents a different village. The island is comprised of around 60 families and 200 people give or take. In front of the groups is a small table with a few of the church elders performing an accounting of the monies received. These people belong to the Methodist Church and their fundraising goal as dictated by the church on the mainland this year is $21,000 FJD. That’s a lot of jack for people who make very little.

We learn that aside from fishing and selling coconuts and pawpaw (papayas), some villagers work at the resorts on the island. There are two. The resorts pay them as little as $150 FJD per week up to $300 or maybe a little more. (That’s $75 to $150 USD) If both parents work and make an average of $225 FJD per week they only make $21,600 per year. So, the church is asking the villagers to give approximately the equivalent of one family’s yearly earnings. Like I said, that’s a lot of jack.

We also learn from Bill that the money these people make at the resorts is considered “bonus” money in that the village basically takes care of these people for all of their basic needs. They fish and eat the fruits and vegetables that they grow. They get subsidies for power etc… He made it clear that the resorts have been a very good thing for the Fijian people and they are glad they are here even though we’ve encountered ke pelangi who believe the resorts are taking advantage of them. Do we think they could pay them more? Certainly, but everything is relative and the Fijian people feel they are benefiting greatly from the resorts. 

The small village church.

We learn a lot from talking with Bill and the others. All of the prayers and other ceremonial things we witness are done in Fijian. We would love to know what was being said. While he doesn’t translate everything, Bill is great at explaining all that is going on around us. And, as he continues to talk more people come out to participate in the kava ceremony and more and more kava is being handed to us to drink. We continue to drink and chat for a couple of hours. At one point I count 27 men and 13 women partaking in the ceremony on our mat alone. One man was missing his right leg from the knee down and his big toe on his left foot. He somehow manages to get around in all the sand and rough terrain on crutches. As we said before, these people have a resolve that is simply astounding.

It’s an incredible experience and we both love every second. Well, maybe not every second. When you are not used to sitting cross-legged on the ground it can be a bit uncomfortable after a while. Bill notices Dan fidgeting and tells him to stretch his legs out. I, on the other hand, must keep my knees covered and am stuck switching my legs from Indian style to behind me and off to one side. After all, can’t have the bottoms of your feet facing an elder and they are everywhere. My right leg keeps falling asleep and I want to yell, “For the love of God can I please just stand up now?” Of course I don’t but I dearly want to do it. The voices in my head are so loud I’m almost certain the people sitting next to me can hear them but I just keep smiling and trying to focus on the experience.

Just about the time I am ready to nudge Dan and tell him it is time to get back to the boat Bill explains that he needs to get back to his village. I take that opportunity to say that it is probably time for us to get back to Dazzler as it is getting close to dark. Bill tells us he will ask for permission for us to depart. He claps several times to get everyone’s attention and then speaks out in Fijian. A unified “Eo”(yes) comes from the crowd. We are free to leave which is good because after a dozen or so cups of kava I need two things….a head and a bed! Of course that’s if I can actually stand up without falling over on my tingling leg.

I manage to get up without falling down on the dozen or so people surrounding me. Before leaving I ask if I can get photos of Dan and Bill and also of the group. Everyone is so kind and agrees. One man is so cute he says we need to get a picture of him and me together. I can’t help wondering if he is getting himself in trouble with his wife but I agree. I do scan the ladies to see if any are scowling and it seems they all are laughing so I’m guessing it was okay. Perhaps I was the butt of some village joke or his wife was not there and they are all planning to tell her he was flirting with the ke pelangi. Either way the smile on his face made my day.

As we get up we thank everyone with a “vanaka vakalevu”. Sampson is at the edge of the mat where he has picked up my shoes and set them down for me to put on. He is quite the gentleman. The church elders from the mainland come over to thank us for being there and everyone smiles and wishes us a wonderful evening. I snap one last photo of the group as we follow Sampson down the beach to our dinghy. 

On the beach I ask Sampson if I can take a photo with him. He smiles and agrees. I then give him a small hug and he asks if he can kiss me on the cheek. I say, “of course” and kiss him back. He turned out to be such a sweet man who we obviously misread initially. Looking back we’re pretty sure he was rushing us through the village tour to get us back to the church fundraiser. We’re certainly grateful for the time we spent with him.

We say, “moce” (thank you) to Sampson and the young boy who help to push Sparkle back into the water and we head back to Dazzler. As we look back to the shore Sampson and the boy are standing in the golden light of the setting sun waving and smiling at us. I don’t think they will ever know how special this day was to the two of us. It certainly is one of our best days here in Fiji.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan