Monday, August 07, 2017

The Hotel California

Savusavu was chosen as our arrival port because it has a relatively easy entrance, is yacht friendly and we had heard great things about the market and facilities there.
After an ocean passage if only of 11 days you find yourself looking forward to ‘facilities.’

We actually arrived at the mooring about 1045 but we had both been up for hours.
 It’s quite exciting making landfall. The grey lumps on the horizon materializing into green, textured islands. The ships and other boats to keep an eye on. The reefs around the entrance becoming clearer as we approached with the big lumps of broken coral sat on top giving the reef a dangerous spiky sharp-toothed look. The smell of the land or the reef as you get closer. The fact we had got ourselves to a foreign land by ourselves.

As we followed the coast around into the entrance of Savusavu we passed the Jean Michel Cousteau resort on the point and noticed several yachts anchored off close into the white sand beach and palm trees.
Coastline at the entrance to Savusavu inlet
Friends of ours on the yacht Carpe Diem had recommended Waitui Marina run by Jolene as the friendlier of the options for mooring once in Savusavu.  We called them on channel 16 as we rounded the commercial ‘Dock’ into the mooring area. As a foreign yacht clearing in we had no option but to pick up a mooring and wait for the Customs, Immigration, Health, and Biosecurity officers to visit us onboard replete with forms of one sort or another.
Waitui Marina building and dock
Jolene sent out Daki the boatman in the marina runabout to show us to our mooring, help us tie on and then we had but to sit back and wait while he rounded up the officers and ferried them to us.
We had followed a tanker into the inlet and therefore had to wait until they had cleared in before the officers of the various departments could get to see us. Time for a cold beer and a sandwich after our traditional tot of Rum toast to our new anchorage. Its soo good having a fridge/freezer on board – Cold beer! Cold Cheese! Ice Cubes!
Shortly however the cockpit was full of chatty, efficient and cheerful officials, it’s a small town and everyone knows everyone else, they all seemed to enjoy the catch up while they passed myriad forms, bills and other paperwork around the table to Phil and I for completion, filing, etc.
As always with officials coming onboard I offered them a drink, they all seemed to relish the cold lemon squash but they weren’t as impressed as we were by the fact we could supply ICE CUBES!!
Once they had all been taken off to the next boat by Daki we could lower our yellow Q flag and go ashore. We manhandled the dinghy over the side from the foredeck where it has lain lashed down since we were ready to leave Opua nearly 5 weeks prior.

Bruce and Snowbird under a double rainbow
Our mooring was very close to the dock and near a yacht called Snowbird from NZ that looked like it had seen better days, as we rowed past we saw the skipper looking at a new sail in a heap on the foredeck scratching his head.  After we had completed the formalities with Jolene in the Marina office we sat enjoying our first cold beer ashore waiting for the ground to stop swaying. The old chap who had been trying to make sense of his sail rowed ashore and sat down next to us and introduced himself, after approximately 1 minute we had ascertained that we had mutual friends in Opua, he had spent a lot of time sailing with Ian Woods, I worked with Ian’s wife Dianne and they had both been to our house shortly before we left for farewell drinks – it was a bit mind blowing that the first yachtie we spoke to had close ties with people we knew from back home!
It transpired that Bruce had had a new mainsail made nearly a year go but had only just got around to fitting it. Over the course of the time we spent in Savusavu Phil gave him a hand, so did Daki to get the new sail on, fitted, reefed down and the cover back over it. Every day a little bit of progress but hard work on your own.

We had a few days to kill waiting for our cruising permit so one day we took a bus trip over to Labasa on the other side of the island. It is the main town on Vanua Levu and a lot drier that the south and eastern side which catches all the rain from the tradewinds. Still couldn’t find a thermometer to tell exactly how bloody hot it was, nor fuel filters.
It was good as they don’t get many tourists over there, we took ages walking through the market as everybody wanted to talk to us, especially as I had picked up a bit of sugar cane from the road and they all wanted to know why I was carrying a stick around.
whats the stick for?

I can't even - she's got a stick!

spices at Labasa market

Sugar cane on its way to the factory - where my stick came from :) 

When we initially checked in with Jolene in the ‘Marina office’ we said we’d be there for about a week she looked up smiled and said, OK but -– it’s a bit like the Hotel California here.
Hotel Waitui Marina California

unprepossessing maybe

Like many of the islands we’d been to in the Caribbean it certainly attracts your ‘interesting’ types. Expats from different countries trying to make a living in various levels of nefariousness, ‘professional Trip Advisor writers’ (really?) people caught in the net of island life not really sure how they got snagged but not really sure how to move on either.
Savusavu is a really comfortable town to get ensconced in, it has everything you need for daily life (apart from Ford Fuel Filters) the people - originals and the imports are all really friendly and willing to sit and chat.

It rained a lot in Savusavu
Kerry in the rain (emergency umbrella from the dollar shop)

Waitui marina in the rain

Savusavu in the rain 
Wild Sweet in the rain
Luckily we managed to get a spare set of fuel filters DHL’d out to us, the customs clearance for cruising permit came through and after about 10 days we could up and leave.
Multitasking Doctors
Multitasking shops


not what you'd expect to go bombing through the anchorage

and this is my fish - caught on a handline and a bit of bread!

Join us next time as we explore the Koro sea and islands.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Are We There Yet?

The ultimate ‘Are we there yet?’

How was the trip? They asked.

Boring, Beautiful, Exciting, Hot, Cold, Wet, and sometimes Wild.

Leaving Opua was like heading off on a highway, there were yachts everywhere, all racing North as fast as they could – we’d most of us been waiting nearly 3 weeks from our initial departure date of May 6th. There were a lot of boats like us sailing off independently as well as the 20 odd yachts left on the Island Cruising Association (ICA) Pacific Circuit Rally.
The first 24 hours was a great intro (if a bit lumpy) to our Ocean Passage, we had a big long ocean swell coming at us from the north and a brisk breeze coming at us from the South West. We managed to have a good start averaging over 6 knots for the first day and a half before the wind started to die off.

We had chosen to leave in a weather window that would see us catching the tail end of a low pressure system and its associated southerly winds before going through the middle of a high pressure system where there would be no wind and fair bit of motoring to get to the South Easterlies of the trade wind belt near the Islands.  This is a typical weather pattern for this part of the world, weather systems divided by troughs or fronts coming at us from the Tasman Sea.
Wild Sweet carries 300l of diesel in her tank plus we had 60l in jerry cans to top up with if we needed. At the rate of 2.2l/hour we had a reasonable amount of motoring covered off. Good job too.

The first day it was all about getting our sealegs, the wonder of being on our way at last and bedding down all the rattley bumpy things stowed in lockers. Preparing our first radio report for our 1700 check in on the SSB with Peter Mott at Northland Radio we had to make sure we had all the info in the right order as he had about 50 boats on his roll call every night and was to enter the info into a database then email our family back home as we radioed it through.

We saw a huge pod of dolphins, some stayed with us a while to play in our bow wave as we neared the 12 mile territorial limit of NZ waters and the end of my telecom mobile coverage.
Then we were on our own.

After the 1700 SSB check in we had to sort out a watch system so there was someone awake and on watch 24 hours a day. We ended up with
1700 – Radio sched with NLR
1830-2130 first watch – Kerry on, Phil off
2130-0030 second watch – Phil on, Kerry off
0030-0330 third watch – Kerry on, Phil off
0330-0630 fourth watch – Phil on, Kerry off
0630 Kerry on watch to do SSB radio sched with Gulf Harbor radio at 0700
0730 Weather forecast from Gulf Harbour radio
Position Plot at 1200
Lounging around, playing I-spy (I spy with my little eye something beginning with S!), trimming the sails, or staring at the horizon trying to not feel queasy.
Rinse and repeat for 11 days more or less.

So –
Boring? Yes by God, it was the Ultimate ‘are we there yet’ scenario when we were motoring 24 hours a day for 4 days on the trot, then a day of sailing, then another day of engine, this time into a heavy northerly swell which mixed up the fuel so well all the shit that lies at the bottom of your tank
(you know it does..) got sucked up into the filters and the motor splutters its last ….

The MOST AMAZING sunsets and sunrises especially over the flattest, oily swells, the sky reflecting so perfectly into the sea with colours that only nature can provide in such brilliance and combinations.
The Milky Way arching overhead and mirrored in the boat’s wake, phosphorescence shooting out like a rocket trail from the rudder.
Shooting stars falling into oblivion, the night sky so dark, the horned moon setting in its tangerine glory, so brilliant as to appear so close you’d think the devil himself was peeking over the horizon.
The random patches of glowing green efflorescence that could only be mysterious sea creatures just below the surface,  no shape or form, just a ghostly glow drifting past.

Only slightly cooked :|


Sunset/ Crescent Moon

Bowling down 3 metre swells at 9 knots in the dark, the trusty Hydrovane keeping our course without fault.
Watching an actual cold front come across at 3am, the horizon disappeared, the rain and black cloud gave the impression of being in a big grey bag, floating in space with no relation to what was near, far, sea or sky.
Watching tuna jump all around the boat, casting a rod out to have the whole 100m of line stripped from the reel in an instant! – That was not a skipjack tuna…
Checking out the Albatross as they came to check us out, one even landing on the windspeed indicator at the masthead and hitching a ride with us. Very curious creatures, they would spend hours flying around the boat trying to land on bits of it.


Sighting land after 10 days at sea, a foreign country no less.

Hot/Cold – we left NZ as winter was starting to bite. 9 degrees at night, still 20 odd in the day though. The water temperature rose from 20 degrees in the BOI to 30 degrees here in the tropics. The first half of the trip I was wearing my North Sea oil rig issue orange suit on night watches.
 The last few nights of the trip it was shorts and shirt.

Not a great deal of rain, in fact only one lot of showers as we got swallowed up in a trough between the cold front and the next low pressure system. Wild Sweet is such an excellent sea boat we (Phil) only got splashed in the cockpit a couple of times.  It got a bit wild for us when that trough went across so we hove to for the night and waited till it all settled down, we had to slow down anyway to allow us to arrive in the morning rather than after hours and there’s no sense in getting yourself bashed around for the sake of it.

Lifejackets/Harnesses are not necessarily designed with women in mind! My one was extremely uncomfortable and had to keep adjusting it around my lady lumps so, ladies, make sure you buy yours after trying a few on. I’m sure they are not all made equal.
Even if you don’t get sea sick (we don’t) then anti nausea tablets are very useful for the first day or two of a passage till you get your sealegs. We have some that dissolve on your tongue and work really quickly.
Precooked, frozen and vacuum packed meals are where it’s at.
Carry spares of your spare fuel filters, we had to change out our 3 fuel filters mid ocean, luckily we were at a comfortable and relatively flat point of sail, it was still a good half day with Phil upside down in the engine compartment swearing a lot and both of us getting covered in diesel.

Two radio schedules may seem a bit overkill to people who do this trip every year. I had arranged with Annette at Far North radio to check in every evening but we had trouble raising her so in the end we had a morning informal check in with Patricia at Gulf Harbour Radio who would enter our position and comments into our YIT page followed by a decent weather report and associated discussion by David.
The Northland Radio evening check in was great to keep track of other boats we knew of who had left around the same time as us. Plus Peter would then email our position report to our chosen shore based person who would then pass on to interested parties.


Wild Sweet in the background, Cold Fiji Gold Beer and frosty glass in the foreground at Waitui Marina Savusavu


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Antimeridian

I love Greenwich, every time we go back to the old country we visit Greenwich, the Observatory, the story of Longitude, the Harrison clocks. The sheer amount of seafaring history all in one place is a wonderful thing to behold.
Standing astride the Greenwich Meridian I had never really put any thought into what goes on on the other side of the planet at 180 degrees.
Putting our waypoints in the chart plotter for our trip north the other day we realised we would be sailing across and back over the Antimeridian going from 179 degrees some minutes East to 179 degrees some minutes West and back again.

OOOh exciting - technically we will be crossing over the date line - or where the date line should be  -I guess it got moved to allow countries to share the same day as its actually a bit over to the East of where we will be sailing.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hurry up and go

This is the chap that we are waiting for - once he's out of the way we can shoot northwards like a pinball between two spinning weather systems towards the sun and the tropics.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ready and Waiting

Waiting for the weather - I mean it's OK if you're out there and you get hit with 40kn winds plus and big seas, you'd hope that you and the boat would be able to cope OK. In reality it's going to happen at some stage but to sail off out into it knowing it's forecast, well, that's plain dumb. Also it would be handy if the wind was coming from the right direction - as soon as that baby is out of the way we should be good to go.
So in the meantime we have quit our jobs (till the summer), filled Wild Sweet with food, water, fuel, books, rum and clothes. We are hanging out waiting for the weather window that will see us at least until Minerva Reef, an atoll in the middle of the ocean which many yachties use as a stopover between here and the Islands.
I intend to be writing this blog and uploading it where we can get internet as we will not be online while at sea. Sharing the news to facebook as well. We will still be getting our emails at when we can access internet either through shore wifi or data on local SIM cards.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tree Pumpkins

We found a note on our doorstep yesterday when we got home from work.

The pumpkin vine had been trained to grow up a tree (that's another story) as we ran out of room on the ground.
The tree grows out over the neighbour's driveway.

We harvested two at the weekend as Phil was getting paranoid about the pumpkins falling on the neighbour's cars as the drove in or out - the picture above was taken on Weds evening after we found the note, we didn't even realise there was one growing there when we took the others off at the weekend, everything grows so fast here!

The thing is, it's still a really young pumpkin and is nowhere near ready, hopefully the next ones can grow somewhere where they aren't a danger to passing cars!  We have now pulled the vine back in over the garden and will just have to visit it each day to make sure its behaving.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Or 'Chickens' for those of you outside NZ.

If you've been keeping up with happenings at the Payne house you will know that we have been working on getting chickens in for a little while now. Ever since we explored the end of the garden at our new house (moved in just over a year ago) and found a bit at the end we didn't know we had.
'Ooh we can have chickens!' said Phil. We put out budding architect (Ryan) to work, to design and build a chicken house, Phil built retaining walls, and they both got stuck in & put up fences. All of a sudden we had a chicken house and run at the end of the vegetable garden.
None of this would have been possible without the constant nagging of a friend and colleague @peteinakl , support and inspiration from another friend and ex colleague @ianhowarth

Here is a video of the historic moment when our trio of Brown Shavers after having been confined to their house for most of yesterday were let out nto their new home.
They are point of lay pullets, which means that they are under a year old and will hopefully start laying eggs in the next few days (or at least in the next week or so). they are as yet unnamed but as we get to know them and their characteristics then I'm sure they wont stay nameless for long.
So if you can spare 5 mins of your life then feel free to groove on down to a bit of Diana Ross and click away....

The Hotel California

Savusavu was chosen as our arrival port because it has a relatively easy entrance, is yacht friendly and we had heard great th...