|Logbook||Entry 15 - 2006|
Date First Posted: October 16, 2006
Log Entry Start Date - September 8, 2006
Log Entry End Date - October 16, 2006
Locations Covered - Fiji and New Caledonia
Present Location: Noumea, New Caledonia
Latitude: 22 Deg 16.6 S Longitude: 166 Deg 26.4 E
Weather: Mostly cloudy, gusty, occasional showers, and cool
Distance covered since last entry: 1335 nautical miles
Total distance traveled since departure from Antigua: 9369 nautical miles
We made a mid-day departure from Neiafu in order to time our passage around a set of Fijian islands and reefs called the Lau Group in daylight, and to arrive in Savu Savu after daybreak. Our winds were relatively light, once again calling for a lot of motoring, but in turn a very uneventful passage except for our encounters with the floating pumice from the volcano near Tonga. We had heard that there was a large floating raft of pumice that another boat had gone through, but didn’t have an updated position. The actual underwater volcano creating the pumice is just about 60 miles southwest of Vava’u, and it seems that our route going northwest around the Lau Group helped us avoid most of the problem.
As we approached our turning point about two thirds of the way to Fiji, we began to encounter literally rivers of pumice floating on the surface. Because the seas were fairly calm, the pumice was floating in streams roughly parallel to our northwest course due to the southeast winds. Using our fish net, Nancy collected samples of rocks about two to four inches in diameter, although most of the pumice was about the size of pea gravel. We had seen larger pieces that had been collected in Vava’u the size of grapefruits.
The parallel streams of pumice were sometimes up to 100 yards wide and ¼ mile long, and given that we were now over 300 miles from the volcano, only a single layer of pumice thick. We were concerned that the pumice might go into the engine cooling system and either clog the strainer or damage the water pump impeller, but haven’t noticed any problems (yet). We crossed paths with these streams a couple of times and were really surprised that they had not dissipated at the distance we were away. In fact, later in our cruising around the southeastern end of Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu, we continued to see pumice streams and small rocks floating in the water.
What we saw was apparently minor compared to the original raft that was reported, and we later heard reports from several boats that took a more westerly route through the Lau Group to Fiji that they encountered much larger areas of pumice. Our friends on the sailboat Stormsvalen (Norwegian) took these pictures of the pumice as they passed through. The irony is that the pumice looks like a carpet of a sandy, rocky desert in the middle of the ocean out of sight of any land.
The areas they went through were larger than ours and the pumice thicker. They left a track in the pumice as they went through, and were able to actually see their shadow in it. For boats traveling through the pumice during higher winds and seas, the problem was airborne pumice that pelted them and their boats. Our friends on Tortilla Flat had pumice covering their deck.
Our first port in Fiji was Savu Savu on Vanua Levu. Fiji consists of hundreds of islands, although most of the population lives on Viti Levu, the largest island, and Vanua Levu, the second largest island. Suva, the capital is on Viti Levu, and was our port of entry back in 1997. It is a large city, perhaps the largest in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand. The drawbacks to going there are that it is not very attractive, it is more bureaucratic, and tends to have a lot of rain. Savu Savu on the other hand is small, and the visiting sailboats are a major part of their economy (we later learned, however, that it has a lot of rain too). There are two marinas with moorings in the channel along the waterfront of Savu Savu. The Copra Shed Marina is the more prominent and we called them as we arrived early in the morning (the first early morning arrival we’ve had). They sent a boat out to greet us and help us tie up to a mooring, and then later shuttled the various officials so we could clear in. This included the health officer, customs, immigration, and agriculture. In spite of the repetitive forms, the process was easy, inexpensive, and professional without any requests for gifts.
The Copra Shed Marina building is a restoration (replica) of one of the oldest buildings in Savu Savu, which was used for loading the copra (white insides of coconuts) on to boats during the past centuries. Today it hosts two restaurants including a very good Japanese sushi restaurant, the Savu Savu Yacht Club (basically the favorite waterfront pub), travel agents, a liquor store, art gallery and small boat chandlery. The best deal of all was the laundry which did ours for a fraction of what we’ve been paying in the past.
The town of Savu Savu lies along a single street facing the water, and while still a bit “dusty” and “2nd world” in appearance, it had two relatively modern supermarkets, several small shops and hardware stores, several restaurants including Chinese, and a great pizza restaurant where we had wi-fi Internet access overlooking the water. The anchorage is very secure and there were many boats that looked like they had been around for a long time. In fact, some of the boats didn’t look all that safe to leave. We had beautiful sunrises early in our visit, with the sun coming up just at the end of the channel facing the town.
While Neiafu and Vava’u is a focal point for nearly all boats crossing the South Pacific, the number of boats reaching Savu Savu is much smaller. Some boats simply stay in Tonga until the hurricane season and then head directly south to New Zealand. Others go to Suva and either carry on to Australia or also head for New Zealand. The ones that do end up in Savu Savu seem more likely to be headed for Australia, and a few days after we arrived a couple of boats with friends we met in Tonga followed us in.
The scenery around Savu Savu was quite a change from what we’ve seen since French Polynesia. These islands are quite large and mountainous, and clearly have wet and dry sides as the trade winds blow moist air up over the ridges. Generally the southeast sides are wetter with some rainforests, while the northwest sides are drier. The smaller islands to the west of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are particularly dry. We were tempted to hire a car or taxi and drive over the mountains, but didn’t feel we had the time. We also considered staying a few nights at a small eco-resort on a river up the south coast of Vanua Levu, but it would have been a 3 hour taxi ride each way over bad roads, just to end up sleeping on the floor in this remote place. We did meet the owners who were very interesting. Tom Whitby is a descendent of a Nantucket whaler that had come to Fiji in the mid 1800’s, and one of his three Fijian wives. This great great grandfather had been very influential with the head chief and was involved in building the old capital of Levuka. The family ultimately was granted a plantation with 15,000 acres of land in the south-central region of Vanua Levu.
After waiting a few days for our cruising permit which had to come from Suva, we backtracked along the coast to a couple of scenic bays. Viani Bay is very large, similar to Falmouth Harbour in Antigua, except that there is only one tiny resort near the entrance and only a few homes around the shores. We spent two nights and could have spent more in this bay which is known for the diving around its reefs. Back toward Savu Savu, we stopped at Fawn Bay, which has wide reefs protecting it from the seas to the south, and a deep, zigzag shaped entrance. The small islands on the edge of the reef look interesting and the reef is shallow enough that at low tide you could walk across it.
After returning to Savu Savu we had a reunion with some of our old sailing friends on Shiraz, Sandpiper (USA), and Tortilla Flat, while meeting more boaters from places near and far. Sandpiper (UK) is an older boat with a couple from Plymouth, England, Floating Point, has a couple onboard from East Lansing, Michigan that has been cruising for 10 years in the Pacific. We have all been discussing our future routes, and after being stuck in harbor for several days due to rainy weather, it seems that everyone’s plans changed. One of the locals, Curly Carswell, is from New Zealand, and has now become a Fijian citizen and established himself as the local cruising authority. He has a houseboat and large sailboat, along with a shop where he offers land tours, diving, and even his own homemade fishing lures. He provides a weather forecast on a local radio net every day, and has now given two seminars. The first, which Nancy attended, was an introduction to the local Fijian customs of offering Yangona (Kava) root as a gift to the local chiefs at islands that cruisers visit. The second discussed cruising routes and local knowledge about reefs, weather, and anchorages. Most of our friends attended this seminar, and he basically talked us out of our original route and into a significantly different itinerary.
Curly is truly a unique individual with a great outlook on life, and a love hate relationship with Fiji. He provides support for the local search and rescue operations, operates the dive recompression chamber, and acts as a one man chamber of commerce promoting cruising in Fiji. We shared dinner with him at a local restaurant offering “lolo”, a meal prepared in an underground pit, with meat, fish, chicken and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves. Standing behind Curly are Tom from Sandpiper, and Steve and Rene from Shiraz. Ironically, the owner of the restaurant was a German woman who has lived here for eight years. She had just gone back to Germany to see how she felt away from Fiji and decided she would rather continue living in Fiji given the low stress lifestyle.
Our plans to resume cruising around Fiji kept being delayed as strong winds and rain lasted several days, and we did eventually hire a taxi to drive us over the island to Lambasa, the largest town on the island. This trip was interesting as we traveled through rainforests on one side, and dry sugar cane fields on the other. We stopped at a spring near the top of the mountain to refill our “Fiji” water bottles. These are the square shaped bottles sold in grocery stores in the USA. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant overlooking the bus depot, and were fascinated by the diversity of people getting on and off the buses. Jerry was our driver, and he gave us a lot of insight into the village life and traditions in Fiji. For instance, he explained how a man has to give a whale's tooth to his fiancée's family as a gift. If he doesn't have one (they are very valuable), someone in his family or community will provide it. In turn the fiancée's family or community will later make a gift of a whale's tooth back, so in effect these teeth are circulated back and forth.
On the wet side of Vanua Levu, the principal crop is copra, taking coconuts from tall palm trees grown on vast plantations. It was strange to see these majestic trees with a reddish orange trunk (perhaps from fungus?). We had seen artwork with trees with this color of trunk, but had never see trees like this before.
One of our stops was at shed used for drying copra, the insides of coconuts. These two small children were tending the fire built in barrels below a metal screen upon which the copra is laid. Their parents were walking up with additional wood for the fire. We saw a number of similar facilities in other villages we passed. Back in French Polynesia, the copra was dried just by laying it out on flat metal racks or the ground.
The villages along the road had neatly maintained and painted houses and buildings. This building is a community church.
As we crossed from the south side of Vanua Levu from Savu Savu to Lambassa, the main town on the north side, the weather changed from overcast and rainy to clear and sunny. This is a view of Savu Savu bay with the town just visible over the ridge crossing the far side of the bay.
Once we passed over the mountains, the skies cleared and it became hot. The terrain also changed from tropical rainforest to a dry alpine region with pine tree plantations on the highlands and sugar cane on the flat coastal plains.
This time of year is the peak of the sugar cane harvest. Trucks with stacks of cane began filling the roads as we approached the sugar mill outside of Lambassa. At one point, hundreds of trucks were lined up along the side of the road waiting to unload. The sugar mill processes the sugar and it is then loaded on ships that anchor in a channel a few miles away from town. We thought the "harbor" would be interesting and had Jerry drive us there, but found out it was simply an isolated bay with a single ship in it.
Although Fiji is a relatively modern country, we did still see oxen pulling carts in the cane fields. The culture of Fiji was significantly altered when the British developed the sugar cane plantations two hundred years ago. Many immigrants from India came to work in the fields, and now the native Fijian population is barely larger than the Indian population. Much of the land outside of the plantations is owned in common by the native Fijians, and their culture tends to be very laid back. On the other hand, the Indians couldn't easily acquire land, and ended up becoming the merchant class. Politically this has turned into a major problem over the past several decades. There were several coups in the 80's as the native Fijians tried to reclaim and hold on to power in spite of the Indian population. Today, the constitution is written so that the native Fijian chiefs really hold the power in the government and the Indians are somewhat disenfranchised. In spite of all of this, Jerry said that both cultures generally do get along well, although intermarriage has become very rare.
When we did start sailing from Savu Savu, we headed south across the entrance to Vatu-I-Ra channel, that separates the two main islands. Curly had told us that this was a better route than going further west first, and crossing the channel after it narrows. I’m not sure his suggestion was the best for us, as we were still exposed to strong winds, and had steeper seas for a longer time than friends that took the western route. We stopped at Makogai, an island that used to have a leper colony and now is used for marine research relating to giant clams. The next day we cruised inside the barrier reef along the north side of Viti Levu, and with the protection of the reef and the big island, the passage was calm, but we had rain next to us most of the day.
On the third day of our cruise around to the west end of Viti Levu, we caught up to Shiraz and Sandpiper, who had taken the more western crossing. The winds allowed everyone to sail through the reef's channels until the end of the day when we motored the last few miles to Lautoka, one of the main cities on the west end of Viti Levu, and the port where we will eventually have to do our clearance paperwork.
As we were deciding where to anchor, we passed a group of boats near a resort on an island just across a channel from Lautoka, and Nancy asked if there were any boats we knew. At just that moment, we were coming up behind Anthem, our Australian friends that we had last seen two months earlier in Raiatea. They had gone on ahead when we flew home during the summer, and then they flew home from Fiji. It was very lucky that we happened to see them after all that time and distance, especially when the very next day they were going to leave for Vanuatu and then New Zealand, and we would then have never seen them. The island side of this channel was more scenic than being off Lautoka itself, which is a large agricultural port with smoking sugar mills and factories. We did end up with black ash from either the sugar mills or the brush fires along the coast, all over our deck the next morning, and had to wash the boat down using salt water. We had hoped to do our exit clearance at Lautoka and then get permission to spend a few days at Musket Cove, a marina/resort on a nearby island, but we were told that once we do our clearance we are supposed to leave Fiji and not stop. As a result, we headed for Musket Cove.
This end of Viti Levu, and the islands to the west (Mamanutha’s and Yasawa’s) are supposed to be very dry and rain free. Well, they looked dry, but on the day we arrived, there were dark gray clouds and heavy rain all around us. We passed through the reefs just before Musket Cove as the rain started, making it difficult to see our route. Because of the rain we took a mooring instead of going into the docks at the marina. The next day, the weather cleared and the view from the top of Malolo Lailai (the island with Musket Cove) was great. A few miles north from this view is "Castaway" island where tourists are told that the movie by that name with Tom Hanks was filmed. In actuality, the movie was filmed on another island just a bit further away. This would have been our first marina dock since July, but being on the mooring isn’t all that bad, and only costs about $6 per day.
Musket Cove is sort of Jolly Harbour (our old homeport in Antigua) of the South Pacific. Founded by Dick Smith, a sailor, many years before, it has blossomed into a large resort with a modern marina, lots of rooms, restaurants, and home sites. There is ferry service to the mainland about 20 miles away, and even an airstrip where scheduled flights come several times a day. Since our last visit, the size of the resort has nearly doubled, and we thought the second swimming pool with a sailboat sitting in the water at one end, acting as a bar, was especially interesting.
The beach is still filled with windsurfers, kayaks, small sailboats, and plenty of guests, primarily from Australia, which is only a three hour flight away. In fact, there are two additional resorts now along the shore. The scenery is great with colorful reefs and rolling hills. Our plan was to spend only a few days before checking out and heading for Vanuatu and New Caledonia, but a large storm is predicted to be on its way, and we’ll have to stay longer. It’s hardly a problem other than losing some days we were hoping to cruise with a full moon toward Australia. We played golf a couple times on the nine-hole course on the island. It was almost as good as the course at Jolly Harbor, but that isn’t saying anything. It was still a lot of fun and the views of the reefs along the course were just as good as anything we saw when playing golf in Hawaii. We had a mini golf outing with several of our cruising friends.
Geoff and Paul took their diving certification classes here in 1997, and Paul found out that our instructor (Api) was still here. Paul took a refresher class one morning and then went out on a dive with a small group during the afternoon. It was good to get some practice using the equipment since we sometimes need it for working under the boat, and the dive was on a nice reef area with lots of fish and coral. Api seemed pleased to hear that Geoff had gone on to become a marine biologist.
Staying in a resort area like Musket Cove isn’t quite the cruising we had planned for Fiji, with small remote sandy islands and reefs, but it does have the attraction of seeing a lot of our friends and having lots to do. At the end of narrow isthmus bordering the marina docks is the Musket Cove beach bar, one of those famous cruising destinations to watch the sunset. Every evening we would rendezvous there with one or more groups of friends before heading to dinner. One night, we went to a Pig Roast at the resort with the “Europeans,” with Stormsvalen from Norway, Tortilla Flat from Austria, and Auweia from Germany. The couple on Auweia had been cruising for 12 years and planned to continue for maybe 8 more. They had interesting stories of their adventures in getting their boat painted in New Zealand (it took over two years, 4 attempts to do the work, and it still wasn’t done well). An alternative to the restaurants is to use the BBQ’s set up around the beach bar that are provided by the resort for cruisers to use. They stock lots of firewood, and the local market sells special packages of meat just for grilling.
By Friday, September 29th, the day we had planned on returning to Lautoka to clear out of Fiji, the predicted weather moved in, and the “dry” side of Fiji became overcast and rainy. The outlook called for this to continue for several days. We decided to stay at Musket Cove and arrange to pay for the customs and immigration officials to come over from Lautoka and clear out several boats instead of having to double back the 25 miles to the mainland. We did have a couple of brief periods of sunny weather and took advantage of it to go snorkeling. The snorkeling was outstanding with some of the best coral and fish we’ve seen for a long time. Of particular interest were the crown of thorns starfish we saw. These have become a real problem for coral which they eat and destroy. Apparently their only natural enemy are tritons, an attractive shell which is being collected and sold, upsetting the balance of nature.
On Tuesday, the officials came out to clear out about 8 boats that have been waiting to leave for either Vanuatu or New Caledonia. Because of our delays, we are headed for Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia instead of Vanuatu. We’ve had a good time in spite of the weather in Fiji with barbecues with many sailing friends we’ve met from all over the world including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Canada and the USA. We even met back up with our friends on Baccalieu, a boat that was part of the Blue Water Rally that had dropped out and decided to cruise longer in the Pacific.
As we left, we arranged another radio net for the boats that were leaving and check in with them twice a day in addition to checking in with the “Rag of the Air” radio net run by Jim in northeast Fiji.
Our first day and night brought stronger winds than predicted and we averaged between 8 and 9 knots. At this speed we could get to New Caledonia in three days instead of four, but the winds are predicted to die down, so we’re not counting on it. We are looking forward to seeing some sun as it has been overcast and at times very dark due to the lingering area of unsettled weather that doesn’t seem to want to move away from Fiji. The satellite picture shows a bank of clouds all the way to our destination.
For the first time since our trip on Encore I, we had a bird land on our boat just before dark, and stay perched on our radar arch until dawn. We think it was a red footed booby, something like a large sea gull with bright red feet and a long blue bill. We named it Bobby, and it was interesting seeing it tuck its head under its wing during the night and sleep balanced on the slippery stainless steel arch. It stayed until dawn, and unlike the Darwin finch we had visit us enroute to the Galapagos in 1997, it didn’t seem particularly tired or sick being a long ways from shore, just happy to get a free ride for about 100 miles. It did turn our back deck into a literal “poop” deck.
The winds were pretty strong and instead of the usual southeast tradewind direction, we had winds from the southwest and south, giving us headwinds for one of the first times since we left Antigua in January. Encore!! sails pretty well to windward and our speed stayed up, although the boat gets a lot wetter with spray coming back from the bow, and we are on a greater heel with a bit more motion. Without trying to point as close as possible into the wind, we are about 10 degrees off our desired course and if the wind doesn’t back around more to the southeast, we will need to either tack or perhaps motorsail to get a few miles further south.
As it turns out, on our third morning, right after checking in with our radio net, we turned the engine on to angle more to the south. After just a few minutes we had a lot of smoke coming out of our engine room, and we had to turn the engine off. The first reaction was to assume the engine was overheating and check the cooling water. Sure enough, the rubber impeller that was in our salt water cooling pump for the engine had worn out. This is not uncommon, although we had just checked it recently and it seemed just fine. Replacing the impeller isn’t usually a big deal and we carry many spares. In fact it didn’t take all that long to install the new impeller, but after restarting the engine, we still didn’t get any water out of the exhaust, so it seemed we must have a blockage somewhere in the cooling circuit. Again, this isn’t uncommon as when the impeller fails, small pieces of it break off and can get stuck in the piping and the various heat exchangers on the engine.
Troubleshooting the blockage was a bigger challenge. It involved taking sections of pipe off that we had never done before, and opening up the ends of oil coolers, etc. Sitting at a dock doing this is hard, but when sailing in good size waves, strong winds, and having the boat heeled and bouncing on occasion makes the job a lot less fun. While Paul stayed below to work on the engine, Nancy stayed on watch all day and did a great job of driving the boat. We kept up good speed and even sailed closer to the wind so that we wouldn’t have to tack or motor sail after all. Thankfully, the clouds had all broken up and it was the nicest weather we had seen for many days. After close to 7 hours working on the engine, constantly starting and stopping it to see how far the water flow was getting, we finally ran it long enough for smoke to again appearing, only this time we discovered a secondary problem caused by the failed water pump impeller. On our boat, similar to many other boats, the exhaust from the engine is mixed with the cooling water before being discharged overboard. The water cools the exhaust hoses and by running the exhaust through a box that acts like a muffler, the engine noise is reduced. This box, called a waterlift muffler, was our problem. Made out of plastic, it had gotten too hot when the water pump failed, and it had melted in places causing holes in its sides. The exhaust then came into our cabin and the water which was now flowing from the water pump simply drained into the bilge.
This muffler was mounted under a seat in our pilot cabin alongside the engine room. It has one large hose coming from the engine and two slightly smaller hoses that lead overboard. The unit was wedged into place and after spending several hours trying to remove it so we could possibly patch it up temporarily, we gave up. It was now after midnight, 14 hours after we started working on the engine and we needed to get some sleep. We had checked in with our radio net and told them that we might not be able to use our engine and might need assistance when we got to Noumea.
After sailing all night, we started again early the next morning trying to patch the holes with the muffler in place, and on one side, this was probably OK, but the back side was very inaccessible and it was doubtful we had gotten the holes completely covered. Complicating matters was running out of the caulking and other materials we wanted to use. So, although the repairs might have been sufficient to run the engine in an emergency, when we checked in to our radio nets, we asked for someone in Noumea, to arrange for a tow for us into the marina. We had great help, with boats that listen in on the “Rag of the Air” radio net, getting in touch with us and offering assistance. We had the boat Erin Baie (not sure of the spelling), in northern Vanuatu, staying in touch with us every few hours making sure we were OK and trying to help us contact some boats they knew were in New Caledonia. Alicia, onboard Onverra, a boat anchored in Noumea, also got in touch with us and arranged with the main marina so that we could get a tow into the docks if we could sail that far.
We had to enter a pass about 60 miles from Noumea and then navigate around the southwest end of the main island of New Caledonia and through several channels to get to Noumea. Without steady and strong winds from the right direction, making this passage would have been difficult if not impossible. Nancy's prayers were answered and we had the right conditions to attempt the trip. Our backup plan was to sail into any one of many beautiful anchorages along the way and drop our anchor and wait for a longer tow.
Meanwhile Erin Baie had also called the marina and confirmed that they were expecting us and would help us in. Except for one pass where the winds were light and the tidal current against us strong, limiting our speed to just over 2 knots, we had a very nice sail through the channels, just taking our time. The mountains on New Caledonia are drier than we've seen elsewhere in the Pacific, and in places you can see the effects of the extensive nickel mining they do here.
We arrived in one of the main harbors of Noumea just around 4 PM, and Alicia told us to pull up behind their boat and anchor while waiting for the marina to give us a tow. As we set our anchor, Alicia came over in a dinghy along with Fatty Goodlander from the boat Wild Card. He is a well known writer who contributes to many sailing magazines and it was interesting to meet him in person, if only for a brief time (he doesn’t look like his nickname).
As we cruised up the channels, we hoisted our French courtesy flag and the yellow Quarantine flag. Whenever you enter a new country, you show the yellow flag until you have cleared in with the officials. This practice dates back hundreds of years when the quarantine flag warned other boats to stay away in case of diseases onboard. Today, they still sometimes have forms that ask if people have died or been sick during the passage, but mainly the quarantine is to ensure that certain kinds of food are kept away from the land in order to protect a country's agriculture. Most places will confiscate all of your fresh vegetables, eggs, dairy products and meat. In Australia we even had our cans of pork and beans confiscated.
In spite of all the assurances from the marina, after a few conversations in French between them and Alfredo, Alicia’s partner on Onverra, it seems they wanted us to wait until Monday at anchor (this was Saturday afternoon). Thankfully another boater, Roger from the boat, Tradition, stopped by and mentioned that we were anchored too far from shore and would be in the way of some of the commercial traffic and needed to move. We explained that we couldn’t use our engine and he went into the marina and convinced them to tow us in then. With only a little more challenge getting pushed into a boat well with a strong crosswind, we were safely tied up at the marina Port Moselle in time to go ashore, get cash from an ATM and have a nice dinner at the marina restaurant.
Noumea is a large, relatively clean, and modern city. With neon lights, a McDonalds restaurant, high rise buildings, and wide boulevards, it surpassed Papeete in Tahiti as an attractive destination. There are several large marinas, and the one we were at in Port Moselle had hundreds of boats including at least one very large sailboat. It didn’t take long to meet another group of boaters, several from the USA as well as from Australia and New Zealand. The marina arranges for the quarantine, immigration and customs officials to visit your boat, and by 9 AM Sunday morning, we had already completed most of the formalities. After registering with the marina and visiting the market next to the marina (surprisingly, Sunday is the major market day of the week) we took a long walk through the city and it’s central park. In contrast to the market, the city looked like a ghost town on Sunday, even the little ice cream stands were closed.
On Monday, the city came back to life, and we started to arrange for the repair or replacement of our muffler. Two marine chandleries were only a few blocks away, and at the first, they offered to send someone over that afternoon to help us. They sent us to the other chandlery for some items we wanted, and found one of the most well equipped marine stores since we left the USA. We had to stock up on boat cleaning products for our first dockside boat wash we will have had since Raiatea in July. We’re actually looking forward to it, having unlimited water, and a pub only a hundred feet away to go have a beer afterwards.
Willie, from the Ship Shop Service chandlery, came by that afternoon, and after hours of hard work was finally able to get the old muffler out of the boat. This involved cutting wood frames, and heating up hoses with a heat gun to soften them. They had already checked, and the model muffler we had, was no longer made, so they will have to come up with another arrangement with different parts. Ideally the fix can be permanent, but if needed we could just get by with a temporary fix since our next passage is to Australia (only 5-6 days) and once there we will be leaving the boat for a couple months while we are home for Christmas. Then we’ll just add this to our list of projects to be done while we are gone. Actually, our project list has been relatively short lately. Our biggest job is to make more repairs or replace the canvas dodger and awning we have over our cockpit. It has seen a lot of use, and we’ve been replacing zippers at every stop. The stitching is now coming apart at places from being in the sun for over 5 years. Other than that, it will be time for another oil change for the engine, and then getting the boat ready for being gone for two months.
We were hoping to leave for Australia as soon as our muffler problem is solved, taking advantage of the still nearly full moon, but the forecast is for some strong winds, so we may be forced to wait, and then get some time for some sightseeing around New Caledonia. We realize now that even taking most of a year to cross the Pacific still isn’t giving us the time to cruise as much as we’d like. In hindsight, we spent only a short time in the Tuamotus, visiting only one atoll, we could have spent more time in Tonga, and much more time in Fiji. We’ve now skipped Vanuatu altogether, and bypassed some of the outer islands and anchorages in New Caledonia, having come directly to Noumea. Just like our experience cruising the North Channel of Lake Huron in the Great Lakes, we better understand the boaters that make the trip from New Zealand up to Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia for many years in a row.
It is now Sunday, October 15th, and we’re still waiting for the muffler to be reinstalled. They are making an adapter to fit the muffler they have in stock to our installation. We have been told it will be done Monday morning and we’ll try to leave that afternoon or Tuesday morning. In the meantime, we finally got a free wi-fi account that we can use from the boat, allowing us to check email, lots of weather sites, and upload this log entry to the website. We’ve been able to catch up on how U of M is doing in football, as well as the amazing Tigers. It is ironic that the last time we cruised the Pacific, U of M went undefeated while we missed going to any games, and this year they seem to be doing well, and the Tigers are in the World Series for the first time in decades.
Our next stop is expected to be Bundaberg in Australia. It is about 150 miles north of Scarborough Marina near Brisbane where we will leave Encore over Christmas, but is easier to clear in with Customs and Immigration, and to navigate at night or in bad weather if necessary. If we get further delayed, however, we will have to head directly to Brisbane and clear Customs at Manly, about 30 miles south of Scarborough. The weather forecast suggests that if we leave Tuesday morning, we will avoid some rain and unsettled weather expected Monday, but then will need to average over 7 knots in order to arrive in Bundaberg before Saturday night, when rainy weather arrives there.
Then we’ll have a few days to cruise to Scarborough and prepare Encore to be left for the two months we’ll be home for the holidays.
P.S. On Monday, they told us the part wouldn't be ready until Wednesday. We asked them to do better and got it finished Tuesday night.
This site was last updated 11/29/06