Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Great 30 Mile Sail

We enjoyed multiple days in the bay we learned was called Drata by the locals. It is a well protected and not very populated spot. We stayed to the front of the bay but found out you can go quite a way into the inlet where you get even better protection.

We met Nesu and his son who were setting nets from their canoe. He told us that at one point their were ten boats in the small bay – that would be a bit crowded. He told us we could have come in much further. We were fine where we anchored though every afternoon a sea breeze (or wind) picked up and blew into the bay. One night we had some squalls that lasted quite awhile and blew a good 20 plus for several hours. The holding was good for us (another boat that came in did drag – but they didn't put out much chain). We were in 20 or so feet.

Nesu and his son came to the boat for a visit – they always say the kids want to see the boat – but we know it's the adults! They say its a "Once in a lifetime experience." Later in the day, he came back with two boats – his canoe and a kayak and his five kids and wife! They all wanted to see the boat and take pictures. The baby was only 6 months (look for the picture of Michael holding a baby – a "once in a lifetime" capture!) Good baby though, never cried or threw up which is what we usually get! They had a cell phone and were taking tons of pictures aboard. They posed in every area of the boat – galley, bathroom, chart table, etc. What they take pictures of is funny to us – things like the small LED push on light in the walk through or the galley foot water pump and a box of Weetbix (a dry cereal popular in the islands and NZ).

We left on Wednesday as there was some bad weather expected starting on Thursday. The visibility was great so we took advantage of going through the reefs in good light. There are some pretty narrow areas with S-turns. We put our head sail up as soon as we got out of the bay and sailed the entire way. It took less than 7 hours to make the trip and we started pretty slowly but picked up speed as the wind built through the day. Sailing inside the reef is sometimes pretty scary but it is also terrific with good light. The seas are flat calm in the protected water so it is very smooth and comfortable. The wind was directly behind us so every time we had to turn 10 or 20 degrees we had to jibe.

We arrived in a crowded Saweni Bay – a popular anchorage near Lautoka and Vuda Point Marina. People stage here prior to checking out of the country from one of these two spots. There was one big problem though when we came in...all the boats were facing out of the bay with a lee shore and it was blowing a good 15-20 knots kicking up a big fetch. You could surf on the waves crashing in the bay. It looked incredibly rough – but we had no other options at this point and would have to drop the anchor and hope the wind subsided soon which would then make the waves disappear as well. A few hours – yes hours – later that happened but it was pretty uncomfortable until we turned to shore. Nothing like getting seasick at anchor. We have this great 30 mile smooth sail to come to an anchorage and get beat up!

It settled for the night. The anchorage is quite large and there are about 20 boats here now. We watched a Canadian boat come in at dusk and hit the reef in front of us. It is deceiving if you haven't done your homework as there is a reef about 200 meters from shore but some boats find the cut in the reef and do go close to shore. So you see these boats anchored close to shore and think you'll join them. And then, BANG you hit this reef you can't see because by now it is too dark. Luckily they weren't going to fast and a nearby boat sounded a horn trying to warn them.

We know a few boats in here so it will be nice to have some social times with yachties. We do enjoy village time, but sometimes it is a bit of work. There is also internet here so we can get some planning done as well as paperwork for our return to NZ. We will start looking for a good weather window in mid-October – earlier than we would normally go. We usually luck out with better weather later in November.

We'll have to make a trip into Lautoka at some point (a bus runs by here) and pick up some provisions. The last run was Ovalau, several weeks ago and there is a "Hot Bread Kitchen" in Lautoka so Michael can get his meat pie! Vuda Marine is totally booked up – so we'll try to get on a list to get in there at some point to fuel up and get laundry done before passage (and a much needed cook's night out!).
-----
At 9/25/2017 3:27 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°23.36'S 177°47.65'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Nananu-i-Ra and Beyond

We spent almost a week near Verevere village in Toba Basaga Bay. It was a friendly village and Simi took us (along with Karen and Cheryl from SV Interlude) to a nearby waterfall and swimming hole. It was terrific to get a nice swim in cool fresh water. A little natural jacuzzi and massage was had thanks to the pools and waterfalls.

At one point there were three boats in the bay – Interlude, Del Viento and us. Interlude left after one day and we had the pleasure of meeting Del Viento aboard their boat the following evening. Windy, Michael and their two daughters Eleanor and Frances hosted us to sundowners. It was a fun evening getting to know new folks. We learned that Michael is the editor of the boating magazine "Good Old Boat" so that was fun to talk articles and ideas with him. Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to get something published in that magazine! They were nice folks and Frances, the younger daughter made some killer fried plantains. We had a visit from a local boat asking to check our cruising permit – something we heard from customs and immigration. They have asked the local villages to do more checking to make sure all boats in Fiji waters are there legally.

"Del Viento" left the following day, leaving the bay all to us again. We took a nice walk along the road towards the point giving us a beautiful view of the bay and beyond. It was a great walk and on our way back through the village we met a nice family who offered us a piece of property to build a house on! They are generous here. Then going through the village there was a police officer who took a lot of information from us. That was a first for us. It really does seem Fiji is getting very conscious of checking on foreigners on their shores. They all do it in a very friendly, non-threatening way.

We finally left the comfortable bay and made a 20 mile trip to an offshore island, Nananu-i-Ra. It was through lots of reefs with s-curves and hard turns. We had no wind and good sun, so it was a great day to do it. We anchored near some pretty flash vacation homes against a sandy beach. It was a pretty deep anchorage surrounded by some reefs. It was certainly different scenery than the villages; with these large fancier homes with lots of solar, wind generators and landscaped property. Most looked empty except for the Fijian caretakers.

We went ashore near some of the smaller resorts and dock and learned there were not many guests on the island at the time. We took a long walk along the island's sandy beach and went around to the windward side as well. There were a few sunk boats there – sad to see. Winston did a fair amount of damage here as well. Though most of the vacation homes either suffered no damage or were already repaired.

We left on Saturday morning and aimed for a bay about 18 miles away. It was great sail with the heady only. Once we got there, the afternoon northerlies kicked in with a vengeance and the bay was very uncomfortable. It was only 1230 so we decided to up anchor and move on again. On leaving the bay, we went over an unmarked shallow spot (not on charts nor on google earth maps). We went from 50 feet to 4.5 feet ! Frightening! We moved another 17 miles west along Viti Levu's north coast. It was blowing about 15-20 knots so we sailed pretty quickly with a very reefed headsail negotiating carefully through the reefs. We were approached, when going through a very narrow cut in the reefs just past a sharp turn, by the New Zealand Royal Navy's black fast inflatable again. It was loaded with probably eight folks all geared up. Because we were sailing through the reef, we split duties – Michael would only pay attention to the boat and Barbara would deal with the authorities. As they got close, they were taking many pictures of the boat and us. We told them that they had boarded us already in Rukuruku a few weeks back. That it was Jordan and Frasier who came aboard. Frasier happened to also be aboard the inflatable and he gave us a big thumbs up. They told us to have a nice day and they moved on without reboarding us. They are checking everything!

We got to the new little bay that doesn't have a village nearby and anchored behind a nice sandbar near the mangroves in about 20 feet of water. It looks like good muddy holding and we are protected from everything but NNW or due W winds. That's good because last night just after dark the wind really picked up to 20 plus knots for a few hours. We let out a bit more chain and soon after we did that it settled down again and was a very flat night.

We met a fishing boat yesterday that stays in a house on a nearby hill on weekends. The three folks (Lani, Jim and Joshua) asked if we wanted a fish. They had a couple good sized sweet lips in the boat. Again their generosity always amazes us. We thanked them and passed on the offer.

Today, we'll do some dinghy exploring. Perhaps at the end of the bay there is a small stream with some laundry water! It is a breezy day but sunny and a comfortable temperature. We'll probably stay a few days here – though there is no internet. We are about 25 miles west of Latoka.
-----
At 9/25/2017 3:23 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°23.36'S 177°47.65'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, September 16, 2017

North Coast of Viti Levu

After a fun evening watching some local guys play rugby in Rukuruku, we left the following morning for the 30 mile trip to the northern side of the "mainland" which is what the locals call the biggest of the Fijian islands – Viti Levu. This is an area we have never visited and thought it would be a fun new adventure for the last few months in Fiji. Like the northern coast of Vanua Levu that we visited earlier in the season, this is a coast few yachts visit or if they do, they pass through quickly. We had a very nice sail across with headsail only and doing about 5.5 knots on average. Very comfortable – and a small tuna caught along the way that we released. We were even able to sail once we got inside the reefs along the coast.

We settled into a place called Toba Basaga near the village of Verevere. The bay has a narrow entrance with long rocky spits that come out from the land on each side of the entrance. Then there is a large rocky "island" in the center of the bay. We nestled along the eastern side in about 35 feet of water. It looks like a good sandy/muddy bottom.

There are three villages around the bay – two near the shore and one quite a way up a hillside. We were surprised at how much damage there was here from cyclone Winston. There are still several tents and many homes being rebuilt. The sound of chainsaw competes with the roosters! We didn't think that Viti Levu was that hard hit – but it seems this northeast corner of the island certainly had a lot of damage.

We were visited by a fishing boat with Simi, Tom and young Tom and "boy" (that was his name). They came aboard and we learned about the villages and the area. We were invited ashore the next day to the village of Verevere which is a bit hidden from where we are anchored.

On Saturday, we went ashore and met Simi again, who happens to be the "Toronga ni koro" or headman. We did our "sevusevu" with him in his home. We learned lots more and got a nice tour of the village from Ben. There is much rebuilding still going on and still a lot of bare foundations left standing(albeit a little crooked) from the cyclone. This village was very lucky though because their water supply is from a deep spring and the dam remained intact and they were never without fresh water. They have lots of well built concrete sidewalks throughout the village and pretty gardens right in the village. In fact, there was even a horse and an few goats in the village. The horse looked like he was looking through one of the windows in a house. We were told of a waterfall nearby – so we may head there on Monday. We had hoped to do a snorkel today – but the wind has picked up again.

We will work our way along the north coast and slowly make our way around the northwestern corner to get towards Vuda Point where we will clear out of the country. Don't expect to see many boats along here, but you never know.

It is a pretty bay with lots of bird song in the morning. Many people (mostly women) fish from small rafts and boats in the afternoon. This is a nice spot and even with the wind there is little to no roll and good holding.
-----
At 9/17/2017 2:14 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°32.56'S 178°22.75'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, September 11, 2017

New Photos

Two new albums have been posted including an album of underwater pictures...including the giant clams.

Still in Rukuruku and enjoying our time here. We visited the school yesterday afternoon to bring them some books and a computer (from Sandy and Rankin). We got entertained by the children. They sang us some songs, asked some questions and just hung out with us. One of the books in our bag of books we brought was a Harry Potter...and it was one the kids were all eager to read. We had tried to select some newer books and reading material for various age levels and reading capabilities. Our timing was pretty good as it is "Literacy Week" here.

It is interesting how in all the schools we visit, the children have school chores at the end of the school day. This includes sweeping the classrooms, organizing the books, taking down the flag (to a drum beat and everyone respectfully stands up from whatever they are doing as the flag is lowered) and even includes cleaning the toilets.

Upon our return to the boat around 5 pm, we were visited by a large inflatable with five uniformed, helmeted men from the Royal New Zealand Navy and Fiji Customs. They were doing boat inspections. Two came aboard and checked our paperwork and passports and the Fijian Customs officer went below for a quick inspection. They were very polite but formal. The big Navy ship was just out of sight around the bend. They then went to the neighboring Kiwi boat for a quicker stop (they had already been checked out in Kioa a few weeks previously). They were checking local boats as well as foreign vessels.

It looks like we dodged Irma in St. Pete though we are still waiting to get word about our home. The folks in Rukuruku were praying for Irma to not harm our home – they really are nice folks. Also many thanks to the many friends who sent us hopeful thoughts and offers of assistance should they be needed...you don't know how much they are appreciated.
-----
At 9/12/2017 3:31 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°38.35'S 178°45.16'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Rukuruku Re-Visit

First, the "what's wrong with this photo?" entry. Thanks for all the responses to the question – they entertained us. Of course, most got it right – the large stalk of bananas on board should have meant that we would never catch a fish. But we did!

We had a very "sporty" sail over to Ovalau Island from Makogai (sorry last entry said (Matangi- wrong island!) It was only about 20 miles but it meant crossing Bligh Waters and the seas were pretty big with 20 knots blowing. But we went fast and actually only about 10 miles was in the open water – the rest was at least calmed a bit by reefs. We did it in record time on a beam reach.

We are now on Ovalau Island and anchored off the village of Rukuruku in a protected bay. We came here last year which was post Super Cyclone Winston. The kids were sill having their classes in tents and the school and teachers' housing was pretty much destroyed. Things have improved a bit – though the school has yet to be fully repaired. The head teacher from last year, Mister Sefa has retired and Louisa is the new head teacher. We met her last year as well.

It was like coming back into our own community. When we did our sevusevu with the chief (Mateo -the same one as last year), he remembered us. When we went to the school to see Ms. Louisa, the kids remembered us – even our names, many yelling "Hello Michael." Taking all those pictures last year must have made an impact. We saw some people from the village we remembered as well – so it was very nice to be back.

On Friday, we took a tour with Bobo, of Bobo's Farm whom we met last year in the village. He runs a small ecotourism cabin. We were joined by Janet, David and Harry; kiwis from the sailboat Navire anchored in the bay as well. We were met by Bobo in the village and we hiked up to the waterfall and swimming hole on his property. It was a nice walk through the bush and a beautiful spot with no bugs – just nice cool, refreshing fresh water. From there we went through the farm and got lots of great info on various native plants. There were interesting plants that when you throw the leave against someone it sticks...like velcro. Or the medicinal value of the mile a minute vine against mosquito bites. Plus lots of herbs and spices. The cyclone unfortunately wiped out a lot of the cocoa trees and vanilla orchids. They are slowly coming back. After our waterfall adventure and garden tour we had a really special lunch of all Fijian foods including fresh water prawns, taro in coconut cream, wild yams, sweet potato, a salad with ferns and fresh greens from their garden, kumquat juice...all incredibly tasty.

On Saturday, we took the "truck" transport into Levuka, the old capital. It is about an hour ride over very hilly, curvy roads. The truck was packed which always makes it fun and entertaining. People crowding the side benches and standing or sitting on propane tanks or whatever. Kids holding on to the railings above the cab and hanging on and even falling asleep while standing! You always learn a lot on the truck and meet new friends. Once in town we did some shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables and there was a good selection. Last season right after the cyclone, there was little to choose from as the gardens were all destroyed – so it was very nice to see such a good variety of tomatoes, cukes, cabbages, bok choy, pumpkins, bananas, plantains etc. A good choice with the nice friendly ladies all selling their produce with big smiles, laughs and hugs.

We also got some dinghy fuel as well as diesel and learned that we didn't have to carry it back to the truck this year – that the truck would come by the petrol station for pick-ups before it left town. We stopped by with our friends from SV Navire for a cold soda in the Hotel Royal – the first still operating hotel in the Pacific. It has a very colonial feel.

We have some things to bring to the school (books and a computer from our friends from Gypsea Heart) and will do that on Monday afternoon. For now it is interesting to be here after the big cyclone that hit them last year while watching as Hurricane Irma takes aim for our home in Florida. We are hoping for the best – but not much we can do about it. At least by being out here on Astarte – we are only worrying about a home and not a boat or ourselves. Our best hopes go to all our friends and neighbors and hope they are all safe.
-----
At 9/3/2017 2:52 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°26.47'S 178°57.22'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Leprosarium and Giant Clams

We are anchored in Delice Bay at Matagi Island in the Lomoviti Group. The island took a direct hit and was badly damaged by Super Cyclone Winston in 2016. Many of the residences on this side of the island were wiped off the face of the earth – with parts of some buildings on islands miles away.

The fisheries facility was nearly destroyed. 4500 baby clams that were in the hatchery during Winston were lost. Now only a few tanks remain intact – but the program to start the giant clams in a hatchery and then place them in safe locations is still in progress on a much smaller scale. We saw probably 300 tiny clams getting their start in some of the tanks. They sure are little fellas when they start! A snorkel in the bay took us over about ten really GIANT clams. The largest living ones we had ever seen. The kind that would grab Tarzan's foot in the old TV series! Giant! They are about 30 years old. They do seem to grow quite fast based on the size of the babies and the giants.

It is our understanding that the giant clams mate for life. But then again, they are so big and don't exactly move around – so that is probably inevitable. You can't escape from your partner very quickly in the clam world. The program here was probably quite impressive but the cyclone really did a number on the project.

The island was home to a very large leper colony started in 1911. There were 5000 residents in a well built "city." It is now a heritage site and we were taken on a walk by the ruins. There was a butcher, store, cinema, jail, school as well as lots of residences for the people living here. We went up to the cemetery in which there are 1500 buried. People from many Pacific Islands came here to be housed and it shut down after an effective treatment for the disease was finally found. The hospital in Suva is named after a French doctor who, according to our tour guide (the fisheries man), discovered one the treatments.

The earlier history of the island is equally interesting. Fiji has a history of tribal warfare. The Men of Matagi were renowned for their prowess on the battlefield and many big chiefs would try to get these warriors to serve on one side or another. One of the big chiefs back in the 1800's tricked the men into coming to fight and while they were gone sold half the island from under them to some Europeans. After they returned, word was that they were going to be attacked and the other half of the island sold to the same Europeans, but the islanders managed to sneak away in the night and moved to another island.

Our guide and Fiji "history" teacher is one the men in charge of the "clam" fisheries. He actually lives in Suva (where his family is located) and they rotate coming out to Matagi to work. He was particularly proud of the 100 year old Lister diesel engine which (until very recently) runs the fisheries generator. It is awaiting a new starter engine at the moment. There used to be three of these old engines on the island – this one was moved from the other side of the island here to use for the clam operation.

Yesterday after we completed sevusevu here, we went on a great snorkel. First to look at the giant clams just off the dock and then to a free standing coral patch. This was like diving into the most clear, beautifully stocked aquarium. There were so many varieties of fish of all sizes, colors, shapes and families. The coral was in good shape and varied. There were deep walls as well as shallower areas on top to really enjoy watching the changing scenery. You'll see some pictures when we get internet again. We decided to risk taking our camera in the water again!

The weather is supposed to be cloudy, rainy and "troughy" this weekend – so we'll sit here through that. We may stick around a few days when it gets nice again to get in a few more snorkels as the water here is very clear and because it is a marine reserve things look pretty healthy and bountiful.

There is one other boat here – a Belgium boat that just arrived in Fiji. We traded for some lovely pawpaws (papayas) from the folks on the island.
-----
At 8/31/2017 7:13 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°26.49'S 178°57.21'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back to Savusavu and Out Again

Left Nasasobo in blustery conditions – but had a rip-snorting sail all the way to Savusavu in record time. It was too rocking and rolling to even put out the fishing line so we didn't test the dual stalks of bananas against fish.

Had a nice week in Savusavu. We went to an event on Friday night at the Cousteau Resort. It is a very impressive resort. The event was put on by the Savusavu Tourism Group and included a great meal and music. The food was spectacular with serving stations for various make it yourself salads; a stir fry station and dessert columns. Plus servers were walking around with satay chicken, fried prawns, fish, calamari and other treats. The music was a good live band and of course, some people went into the pool! It was a great excuse to get into this exclusive resort and it was well worth it! We were grateful to Preeti at Copra Shed for scoring us a few tickets to the sold out event!

We did lots of reprovisioning, giving away bananas to everyone we could, and generally enjoying some social time with other yachties after our few months of seeing very few boats. We had lots of cook's nights off and a few ice creams!

On Thursday (yesterday), we left Savusavu to make a 48 mile run to Makogi Island. This is a fisheries reserve island and owned by the Fiji Government. They are trying to repopulate the giant clams and turtles. More on that later when we get ashore.

We left because the winds were predicted to be 15-20 from the northeast – a great direction for our sail SSW. However, the wind never quite materialized and we ended up sailing just a short while and had to motor sail most of the way. We did score another mahi though – again this one with loads of bananas aboard. We managed to land it as well and hope to give some of it away to the fisheries people here. We enjoyed a nice meal of it last night (plus lunch and dinner today!)

This is a new stop for us – and we hope to be here several days. Unfortunately there is some bad weather coming this weekend – so not much hiking ashore. Hope to get a snorkel in today to see the giant clams.

Nice to be in a new spot.
-----
At 8/31/2017 7:13 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°26.49'S 178°57.21'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, August 26, 2017

FISH ON!

What's wrong with this picture??????

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rabi and Beyond

We spent a few lovely days in Albert Cove on Rabi by ourselves and then had four boats arrive. We did a nice beach walk but no chambered nautilus to be found. Then we did a nice snorkel at the cut and saw lots of big fish, little fish and colorful things. The wind was predicted to pick up and the anchorage was a tad crowded and we were in deep water, so we decided to make our way south to Katherine Bay.

It was a boisterous sail then slow motor sail with one mahi caught along the way. We made our way into the bay and had the place to ourselves. We set out a good 175 feet of chain in a good muddy bottom for the upcoming weather. Because we caught another mahi we were hoping to give it away (or trade for vegetables). But it was Sunday, so the bay was lacking in fishing boats. The next day we finally got someone's attention – and gave him some mahi fillets but he told us he grew grog (kava) not vegetables. But promised us some drinking coconuts. On Monday, we went ashore to find Mr. Brown whom we met the year before and gifted our old genoa. Unfortunately he was out of town in Suva. We had a young boy as our escort on our walk showing us every small store in the town. We were in search of eggs.

The next day, we were joined by a few boats. Peter and Junior came out to the boat in a kayak and gifted us a HUGE bunch of tiny bananas...unfortunately we aren't sure if they will ever ripen as they were picked pretty green. But it's the thought that counts. They wanted a tour of the boat. Peter is Mr. Brown's grandson – so we were at least able to get a message to him. The next day these boys brought out a bag of papayas – but the fisherman we gave the mahi to had already brought us three lovely papayas and the coconuts so we didn't need more paw-paws (that's what locals call papayas).

We were stuck in Katherine for several days – a few were pretty lumpy when the wind came from the south-southwest. We had an anchor drill at night during the worst of the weather. Though we were first here, a boat anchored too close to us and when we turned and stretched our anchor chain, we were way too close to them and they looked like they had no intention of moving – so we did. It took two tries, but all was good. It just made us mad that we were first in and the ones that had to move...that's wrong! We weren't dragging – just finally stretched out! Oh well, good practice.

From Rabi, we left for the south coast of Vanua Levu and Nasasobo Bay. We sailed a short time, but the wind died or was on the nose. We settled into this very protected bay and with the winds from the north or northeast we were snug as can be. David and his grandson Robert came by to say hello and we gifted him with some mahi...oh, did we forget to mention we caught another one on the passage here! Same lure. He invited us to come ashore and he'd get us some fruit – not impressed with the very green bananas we had! We went for a nice snorkel way out towards the big reef at the entrance because it was a calm day. Later we went ashore to find the group of men all around a kava bowl (or a float cut in half to make a kava bowl) Michael enjoyed a few bilos (cups) of the grog and we got lots of grapefruit off the tree and some lemons. Then delivered to the boat, we got anther huge stalk of bananas (these already turning yellow) and pawpaws...so we have plenty of fruit.

We were planning to leave today, but it is a bit blustery and stormy looking and B doesn't feel great. So we decided to sit here another day and then make the run to Savusavu.
-----
At 8/20/2017 7:00 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°45.07'S 179°51.06'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Widow Maker

An iridescent green skirt over a red skirted lead headed lure seems to be the magic fish catcher on Astarte. It is our widow maker. The last eight fish we've hooked have been on this lure. We've even managed to land some! We call it the widow maker because two of the recent fish we've managed aboard have been mahi – and because they mate for life and we've landed the male bull mahi...there are a few mahi widows. That makes us sad.

On our trip yesterday around Udu Point on the northeast corner of Vanua Levu, we were told by some locals that we were guaranteed to catch a fish around the point. Boy, were they right!! We first hooked a medium sized mahi. Got it near the boat before it shook itself off. Then an hour or so later, we hooked what we thought was a tuna because it never came to the surface. Because we have no internet to confirm what it is, we think it is a rainbow runner. We got it to the boat, landed it and Michael cleaned it and we got several good sized fillets. It was redder meat. We had it for dinner last night and it was very tasty.

About an hour later, after we made the turn around the point, we hooked a HUGE mahi. It was a fighter and because we were sailing at that point it was harder to slow the boat down. We got the headsail in to slow it to 3.5 knots and Michael fought the fish for quite awhile as it kept running when it caught sight of the boat. We finally got it near, gaffed it and even managed to get it aboard. It barely fit through the space between the back stay and the railing. He was a very strong fish and it took both of us to hold it down to get a tail loop on it. It is probably the largest (not perhaps the longest) mahi or fish we have ever landed aboard Astarte. We hooked and released a larger marlin.

We think we are catching fish now because we were gifted a vacuum sealer from our friends Sandy and Rankin of SV Gypsea Heart. Since we have a good way to save the fish for future meals – we are now catching more!

Our travels since leaving Bula Bay have taken us to a few stops. We were first did a 25 mile trip to Taligica Island. It was just an overnight stop though we did have late afternoon visitors to the boat for a tour. As one said, "once in a lifetime experience."

We left the next day to head another 20 or so miles to Nubu. Nubu (pronounced Noom-Boo) means "deep" in Fijian. It was an interesting narrow cut into the reef and an "S" curve to get to the anchorage. We were looking for a home for a few days to wait out some predicted heavy winds. We got relatively close to the shore but still had to anchor in 50 feet of water. This was a very pretty anchorage and near a small river. Our friends on "Land Fall" had told us about this spot and said there was a small cascade/waterfall at the river end. We dinghied to find it and found an very interesting spot. It wasn't the easiest spot to get up but we found a side with lots of footholds to make our way to the river. There were many, many deep pools – very deep – in the river with small trickles over the edges. They went on and on. The river was sided by lots of trees, butterflies, birdsong and it was very pretty.

We came back the next day with a loaded dinghy. It was filled with dirty laundry, water filters from the water-maker to be cleaned and shower gear. Tide was lower and we had to walk the dinghy over the shallow mouth of the river – but once over that we could motor back to the stream. We got everything ashore and started our projects in a beautiful, shady spot. Most of the pools were too deep to even stand up in. They had steep sides. By the sides of the stream you could tell that during rainy season the river flows pretty mightily.

We repeated the routine the next day with more laundry (we hadn't done any for five weeks!) and Michael took a pretty good hike up the stream. It was a very nice spot.

We did put out a second anchor because of the predicted wind and because we were in such deep water with reefs around us. It gave us more peace of mind. We set the danforth anchor with the dinghy. During our stay here, we had three local boats stop by the boat to visit. They had nets that they were using to go out fishing. We invited two of the boats aboard and enjoyed meeting the people and learned about the area (including that it was called Nubu which means "deep.")

After five days in Nubu we made our way around Udu Point to leave the north side of Vanua Levu and start our way south again. We had a 37 mile trip to Rabi Island (pronounced Rahm-bee) and Albert Cove. This is one of our favorite spots – and one we took Kathryn and Mark to last year during their visit. Normally there is a family that lives on shore – but right now there is no other boat here nor anyone ashore. We have the place to ourselves. And Kathryn and Mark will be happy to know, the "guardian spade fish" are still here.
-----
At 8/10/2017 7:02 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°26.68'S 179°56.24'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, August 3, 2017

DIFFERENT WAYS TO CATCH A FISH

FIRST – New photos on page.

We continue to enjoy our time on the north coast of Vanua Levu. After we left Kia island and Michael recovered from his hike with Save to the top of the split rock, we made our way to Malau and Labasa for a reprovisioning run. On our way here, we caught a small fish of unknown variety, but it was tasty for dinner.

We anchored off the lumber mill and took the dinghy to shore where the guards at the mill would watch the dinghy which you tie up right behind their guard shack. Tuni, Daniel and Simi, the guards were all on hand and we had a nice visit while we waited for the bus.

We caught the 0830 bus to town and did a shopping run for meat, produce, diesel, bread and ice cream. We caught the 1300 back loaded down with watermelon,a jerry jug and many bags. We picked up sweet treats for the guards as well. The next morning, Michael took the propane tank in to the fill station on shore (we paid for the fill in town the previous day). The timing was good because just as he was returning, the cooking gas ship came in to moor, to put in 50 tons of cooking gas to the station and they don't do fills when the ship is in!

From this quick stop we made our way to Tivi Island about 10 miles away and slowly sailed most of the way. Like last year, we were met with a "mirror" greeting. Someone on shore flashes a very large mirror at you as you enter the bay. Once anchored in this quite protected anchorage, fixing the dinghy is the high priority. It is taking on lots and lots of water because the port side tube is separating from the floor and leaves quite a gap to let in the water. Michael managed to do a temporary repair to hopefully cover us until we return to NZ for a more major warranty repair.

We also sat out some bad weather in Tivi – a morning of 35 knot winds – and a bit of rain (the first we've seen since we left Savusavu).

Once the weather was past, we made our way another short jump to Bula Bay (that's what the locals call it – most boaters call it Blackjack Bay from an old guide). It is near the Wainikoro River and a pretty anchorage. We made our way up the river to get more diesel – it was easier to do it here than by bus – so we would get two more jugs. It was a fun trip up the river, several fiberglass open boats passed us. They are so kind here. One boat filled with a giant barrel of fuel and six men (all smoking) on board slowed down as the passed us. That's better than they do in the Intercoastal Waterway!

We stopped and chatted with some folks on shore near their garden. They told us there was also a boat in Tivi Island ...we told them that was us the other day! One evening a boat with three fishermen, stopped by the boat in Bula Bay. We usually don't like it when boats come after dark. They were heading out to the reef to fish for the night and wanted to see the yacht. We invited to come back the next day in daylight. They did return around 4 pm the next afternoon and gifted us a beautiful fish. They called it a salmon cod – it was a pretty red fish with blue speckles on the skin. It was nicely chilled and a good size. That's one way to catch a fish – invite fishermen aboard to take a look at the boat. It was a very tasty treat as well – very firm white fish. Lighty sauteed it was a very tasty meal.

The next morning, two of the three returned to the boat this time with a large casava in hand along with the "how to" on cooking it. Aleki and John had become "friends" and liked knowing the people on the yacht. We had half the casava that night for dinner. We did a snorkel near what we called "Kiss" island – the shape was like a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss. It wasn't great coral – quite algae covered and pretty beat up – but there were some pretty fish to be seen.

We left Bula Bay and went out Sau Sau Passage through the reef. It is a pretty wide opening in the Great Sea Reef. Once outside the reef we would head east along the outside of the reef for about 20 miles. The wind was right on the nose – so we motored. The goal was to catch a fish – this time on a line and not getting one tossed into the boat from a friendly fisherman. Optimism was the keyword of the day for fishing. We had a spoon off the handline, and the fish catching "green and red" squid on the pole. We were barely making 5 knots against the wind and swell. We had the main up as well to try to steady the ride. Just as we were getting towards the end of the trip with the next reef entrance about 2.5 miles away, the rod's reel started to spin off at a high speed. "Fish On!"

Michael fought the battle with a very nice bull mahi. We actually got it to the boat and after several attempts to gaff it – the line broke! But Michael had his hand on the leader so he wrapped his hand around it (not a good idea) – but we got the mighty fish aboard and tail looped. It was a strong fish still even after a gaff and a long fight. It was a beauty.

After filleting it – it was a six meal (for two people) fish. We enjoyed the first helping that evening in our new anchorage near Tiligica Island. Within an hour of anchoring, we've already had three guys on board to see the boat and take pictures. We are an unusual sight on this side of the island.

Fishing has been better aboard Astarte – two on the line, one as a gift – three different varieties and we'll enjoy the mahi for several meals.
-----
At 8/3/2017 8:23 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°11.30'S 179°46.26'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, July 24, 2017

Village Life

We talk a lot about our visits to various villages here in Fiji. You've seen some photos on our photo page of villages. But here are some descriptions of a few different types of villages we've got to know.

Most are a lot larger than your first impression. You see a few homes from the water and usually one larger roofed building which is almost always in the best location on the hill, and it's the church. Once you enter the village, you see many, many more homes than you first thought – they are tucked way back, often tiered along a hillside. Some are settled more in the brush. Because we are always visiting water-sided villages, they often have at least one fiberglass open launch with a Yamaha outboard (15 to 40 horse depending on the purpose). Some villages, like Ligau here in Kia, have many boats because the village income is based on the sea – fishing in this case. The boats are tied to wooden poles (branches) stuck in the mud or they use a homemade re-bar grapple style anchor.

Once in the village, all the homes are open. The windows seldom have glass in them – though a few are the old-fashioned slatted "jealousy" windows. Breeze is critical in these tropical climates – so they do what they can to get some air through their homes. Some homes have some basic furniture – but most have very little in terms of conventional furnishings. The floors have beautifully woven mats made from the pandanus leaves. We often see women weaving together in the community rooms or in the shade and often see the pandanus drying in yards. They even have mats that they roll out for company – which we often get when we go in to do sevusevu or are invited for tea. The family gathers on the mats for all meals – they have better knees than we do! Sometimes, there are chairs, tables and sofas in the homes – but that is usually the exception. Many now have beds – though some still use the woven mats as their place to sleep. Because the homes are so open to the elements, it does make sense not to have too much "stuffed" furniture that would collect dampness, mold and critters.

Some villages have no general electricity – not on city power! There are lots of solar panels popping up and they are getting bigger and bigger and more refined with large installations. When we first visited villages, you'd simply see these little panels or flashlight/lanterns that had solar outside sitting in the sun during daytime hours. Now days, places like Kia where we are now, have just had solar panels put near each persons house on large poles connected to large batteries with 300 watt inverters. Some villages also use a village generator – this often runs for a set amount of hours each day – often only two hours each night. If a village has a major clinic or school, it often has its own generator.

Kids go to school from "kindy" to grade eight. Many villages that are large enough have their own schools and sometimes a few villages have to combine. If the villages are close enough the students walk to school or as in Kia, get school "boated" to the central village. If the villages are too far, sometimes the students are housed at the school like a boarding school from Sunday night until Friday afternoon. We were told in Navidamu that it costs $250 Fijian dollars per student per year for the housing which the government pays. They are certainly doing it on the cheap (that's about $125 US). The government pays for the schooling including transportation, meals, teachers, classrooms and some supplies. The parents must provide school uniforms and some school supplies and backpacks. The country used to charge school fees – but that has recently been eliminated with the government picking up that tab. It has put a large importance on education and the school fees made it difficult for some families to send multiple children to school. Most classes are taught in English, though Fijian is still the language you hear spoken most by the children and they are very shy about speaking English. We are pretty sure they understand more than they speak.

Church is the central part of village life and the villages pretty much shut down on Sundays and every puts on their best clothes and heads to the church. Drums often beat a countdown to the service (every fifteen minutes) to make sure nobody is late.

Sports are still favored in many villages – the kids certainly play rugby and netball. Some soccer and volleyball is also around. There are some adult teams as well, that challenge nearby villages during special events and holidays. Rugby is THE sport in Fiji thanks to the gold medalists "Fiji Seven" Rugby team from the Rio Olympics. Kids still run around and are typical of kids everywhere.

Over the few years we have noticed that some villages are changing – as is everything in the world. Fewer people are gardening now because if they have a way to make money (like fishing) they can just buy stuff. Rice is now eaten more than the root vegetables that were grown in the gardens like cassava, taro or yams. That is leading to more diabetes as well amongst the populations. Because there is more and more solar power, there are more and more televisions in the homes and satellite dishes on the roofs. When we were having tea the other day at Save's home, a group of women were sitting in front of a very large television watching Chinese soap operas – glued to the screen. More cell phones are popping up and when the teachers from Koroinosola visited the boat – they couldn't take enough "selfies."

You can't stop "progress" and everyone deserves a chance to upgrade their lifestyle. But it is still really special to get to some of these villages where community is central. People working together for the betterment of their village and their futures. We still like not seeing a television in sight and seeing people gardening together, weaving together and laughing while sitting in the shade of the large mango trees.

In some places we are still like a spaceship that has landed in their bay. People still want to come out and see the boat. There are still great and funny differences – we were showing one of our fish identification books to someone aboard and when we look at it we comment on how pretty or unusual the fish are. Our guest was commenting – "Oh that's a really tasty one. That one's good. That one is bony....etc." Food gathering is still a high priority.

We are still privileged and honored to get invited to the warmth, kindness and generosity of these villagers. Glad we are experiencing this now and not in ten years!
-----
At 7/24/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.05'S 179°05.21'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Friday, July 21, 2017

Palmlea Farms and Kia Island

The wind finally settled enough to make the 18 mile run along the northern coast of Vanua Levu to a mangrove surrounded anchorage in front of Palmlea Farms. We came here last year and got to know the owners Julie and Joe – former cruisers. The "farm" is a small resort with a few rooms, a nice restaurant with great view and hundreds of goats. They raise the largest meat producing goat and have quite an operation. We enjoyed two evening visits and nice meal with Joe and Julie. They had several guests the second night so we scooted out of that anchorage and came to Kia Island.

Kia Island is located in a large horseshoe bend in the Great Sea Reef. So it is surrounded on three sides reef and the water is crystal clear. There are three villages on this island – Daku in the northwest corner, Ligua in the southwest corner and Yudu on the southeast east side. We came to the middle village Ligua that has the school for the entire island. The children arrive in the morning from the other two villages by a "school boat" - an open fiberglass 22 foot boat with a 60 horse Yamaha. There are 56 children in the school.

Upon arrival we had to re-anchor several times to avoid the many "bommies" in the bay – and Michael had to keep diving in to check that we were clear of them. Where's anchor boy? A boat did come up as we were anchoring to see if we needed any help – it was two guys with about nine giant lobsters on the floor! Once settled in about 30 feet, we went to shore for sevusevu.

Because we had been here last year as well, we did know a few folks and Save (prononced sah-vay), the torongo ni koro, was on shore to meet us. It was great seeing him again. Last year we did some nice family pictures for him but had to leave because of weather prior to delivering them. Luckily our friends, Lance and Michelle from "Sweetwaters" made the delivery for us! Save thought that was pretty cool. We did sevusevu with Save and Varesi, the village elder.

After a nice visit we went to the school to see if they wanted school photos and then to Save's house for tea and pancakes. (this is a traditional treat with tea of fried dough – very tasty).

The anchorage is interesting here – the wind funnels around the high island around the north and south points. Where we anchored, we would get gusts from either side of the boat at different times, which meant that Astarte would go around in circles. With all the bommies around this makes for interesting noises aboard and hopes that we don't get tangled or do damage to the reef. It gets a little rolly when the tide is at its highest point as the waves come over the protecting reef structure and we get some swell. But it doesn't last but a few hours a few times a day.

We did school pictures the next morning and had intended to have Save and his grandchildren out to the boat later in the afternoon. But we got some sort of stomach bug – no surprise with all the hand shaking and kids around! So we asked to postpone the visit when Michael delivered the printed photos to the school. Perhaps tomorrow.

We are the first boat to come to shore at Kia this season. That makes it interesting with lots of boats stopping by to visit Astarte on their to or from fishing expeditions. The island is renowned for fishing prowess. They provide much of the fish for all of Fiji. They work hard at it though. One boat of four young men stopped by after they had been out for two days on the reef – this is an open 22-foot fiberglass boat – no bimini or protection from the sun and certainly no facilities for comfort! They were out there in this for 48 hours.

The next entry will be some observations on the changing village life in Kia.
-----
At 7/20/2017 9:43 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.04'S 179°05.22'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Windy Fiji

It is blowing 20 plus and has been now for a few days. It is predicted to last until NEXT Thursday and then only lighten a bit before more fronts, troughs etc. hit the area. We are settled in an okay place in Vunisinu Bay – a pretty large cut in the reef that goes quite away back. But the wind is still hooting through here, but luckily we don't have too much fetch. The noise of the wind though gets old and we are only into day two of the solid bluster. We have 175 feet of chain out in 4 meters of water (14 feet) so we should hopefully hold well. The gusts make us heel over though so you have to hold on below. Feels like being offshore.

We enjoyed our visit to Navidamu Village. It was like visiting family – many people remembered us from last year. We had Tomasi and his wife to the boat for coffee and cake. He is the "toronga ni koro" and we learned a lot about how village life works and why this particular village seems more industrious than many we visited. They have lots of village projects that are initiated – a new one is for the women, who will collect seaweed, dry it on racks that have been built on the beach and sell it. Plus, there is lots of weaving of mats and baskets going on in the community building. This is also the village where every family has planted sandlewood trees. Sandlewood when mature (20-30 years) sells for $150 (Fijian) per kilogram of the wood to the grower. That means each tree is worth a small fortune to a family. Many villages plant and grow the trees, but this one has a mandatory tree growing plan, as ordered by the chief.

On Thursday afternoon, we went to visit the school. It is a relatively large district school of 110 kids or so. About half live at the school because their village is too far for a daily commute. They come late Sunday and leave Friday afternoon. It was a really special visit as the teachers got the entire school out in the field, neatly lined up and seated and we talked to them and they asked some questions (how old are you? What do you eat? And things like that!) Then the children sang us some songs. One was particularly funny (though we couldn't understand the Fijian words, one of the teachers explained it). The youngest children sang and danced about the villagers fishing, gardening and then how the white men came and stole the people and stuffed them on bags! No wonder we get strange looks from some of the youngest children! We were invited for some juice and snacks and then watched the kids play some sports – the young girls were playing net ball and the boys "flag rugby." On our way from the school, a young boy ran up and gave us a big bag filled with "white bone" (or bokchoy cabbage). We later traded with another boat that showed up in the anchorage – a stock of cabbage for two papayas. It was the first boat we'd seen in a few weeks.

We also found one day (Wednesday) where the wind was a bit lighter and we took the dinghy up the Draketi River. The Dreketi is the deepest river in all of Fiji. We left bright and early when the tide was high so we could make a direct route from Astarte to the mouth of the river. It gets very shallow and has sticky mud banks. We made it into the river (getting a tad damp on the way) and then worked our way up the river several miles to the village of Dreketi. It is more like a very large bus stop as large buses stop here on their way to Labasa or the ferries in Nabawalu. There is a small vegetable market, a few small groceries and a place to buy fuel. We needed some gasoline to re-load the tank for the trip back. We were able to buy fresh bread, some fresh fruit and vegetables and had a roti lunch out. The people were very friendly and we got lots of invites for tea or dinner – but had to pass so we could make it back to the boat. We picked the only calm day to do this. The wind has been more consistently strong this season. And though on the north coast (which should be the lee of the island) it seems to really come roaring over the hills in big gusts. It is disquieting and we don't remember it as much from last year. Maybe our memories are going.

We left Navidamu yesterday (Friday) and left internet behind (bummer) and made a short trip to what we had hoped would be a more protected anchorage and bay. The trip was long for less than ten miles. We had very strong head winds and big wind chop. At times we could only motor about 2 knots against the conditions. We made our way into the deep bay – as far back as we felt safe to go and dropped the hook. Unfortunately the wind is still howling through the rigging but we certainly have less fetch here than we would in Navidamu.

Based on the weather forecast, we may be stuck here for some time. This looks like the best bay on the charts within a 20 mile radius. Our next stop we hope is at Palmlea Farms to visit Joe and Julie. Don't know when we'll make it there. Don't want to bash into 20-30 knot winds for 20 miles.
-----
At 7/14/2017 9:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°28.69'S 178°57.45'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Naviqiri Grapevine

Many cruising yachts think that they can sneak into an anchorage and nobody will know they are there. They are so wrong.

After our adventures in Koroinasolo, it was time to turn the northwest corner of Vanua Levu and get on the north coast. This meant that we would sail around "monkey face"" " mountain and through some narrow cuts in the reefs. It was a relatively calm day and the seas were flat, so certainly a good day for this trip. We put the headsail out and had a pleasant sail around the point and through the reefs until the wind was on the nose and then we motored. We worked hard at spotting the "monkey's face" but still aren't certain we saw it. Even with great directions from the teachers we had aboard! Maybe we just don't have good enough imaginations.

Our destination was the village of Naviqiri where we spent almost a week the previous year. We arrived early afternoon and went into the village that afternoon for sevusevu. Sera and Freddy were our hosts last year and Freddy is also the "toronga ni koro" so we sought them out. As soon as we landed the dinghy, several women from the village recognized us and we were welcomed back as family. Sera came up to us and one of her first questions was, "you lost something in Koroinasola?" The grapevine had worked fast – that anchor and chain event had happened the previous day – and already it was news in this village. Others also asked about it. So if you think they don't know what's happening in their own anchorages and even in surrounding villages...you are very mistaken. The grapevine is alive and working overtime in Fiji.

We did our sevusevu and found out that the chief had been one of the men in the meeting Michael attended in Koroinasolo. So he heard the story first hand and brought it back to his village. We enjoyed a visit with folks and went back to the boat with a few fresh lemons (for lemon cake!) We had Sera and Freddy to Astarte the previous year and served them tea and lemon cake and since then we know Sera has asked other visiting yachtie friends of ours for "lemon cake".

The next morning we returned with lemon cake in hand and had a nice tea. That was followed by a long trek up the hills for a promised great view. Our guides on the walk were three young children (it was Saturday so no school). We had Rosie (grade five), Charlie (grade seven) and little Charlie (kindergarten). The were very polite children – "Man Charlie" (that's what we ended up calling the older Charlie) carrying Michael's backpack the entire trip which he accomplished without shoes. The other two did the hike in flip flops! Little Charlie got the nickname "Speedy" (or Speeti in Fijian) because he probably climbed the hill three times running up and down and talking non-stop in Fijian. Rosie would politely walk near us and pull away tall grasses from our pathway or pull sticky nettles off Barbara's skirt!

The walk was steep on back roads and paths and over a burned out area. The views from the top were worth the effort. We could see the entire bay and even the other side to Rukuruka Bay. The island of Kia could even be seen in the far distance.

Upon our return to the village, we took our three young guides to Astarte. Only Man Charlie was at a yacht once previously. They were excited about the ride in the dinghy (they called it "speedboat" though it doesn't go very fast with five people). We served them some cookies and soft drinks and gave them the tour. They became "celebrities" on shore because they got to see the yacht. We were served a nice local lunch by Sera and Feddy of freshly cooked yams, chopped dalo leaves in coconut milk and fresh papaya. Yum.

We headed back to Astarte as we were quite worn out from the heat and long trek up the hill. Of course we had the huge following of children to help us launch the dinghy.

We decided to take off on Sunday for the twenty plus mile trip to the next stop. When we went to start the engine though – it wouldn't start. Michael knew exactly what it was because he had commented a few days prior about the battery switch seemed to not be a solid connection. Luckily we kept the old one when we replaced it with this one a few years back. It was located, still worked and then installed. The engine started and off we went.

We arrived in Navidamu Village around 3 pm but because it was Sunday, we opted to not go into the village to do sevusevu. We would do it the next morning.
-----
At 7/7/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°39.37'S 178°35.73'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Chiefs, Teachers and Koroinasolo Justice

We stayed a few days near Koroinasolo Village. We took a walk to the primary school which has four teachers and 52 students Grades 1-8 (they combine 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th, and 7th and 8th.) We met the head teacher, Mr. Tom and agreed to come back the next morning to take "class photos" at 10:30. The next day came – but the head teacher and another teacher weren't there as they made a trip into Labasa (the largest town in the area – about a two hour drive away). So we agreed to come back the next morning.

Michael decided to take a walk that afternoon up the road. He met road workers and learned about the area. Upon his return to the dinghy, he found that our anchor and chain had been taken and someone tied the dinghy to a nearby float. Not a good thing! He went back to the town and looking for Milly, whom we had met earlier in the day (and taken a picture of her baby which we had printed and given her). Milly spoke very good english, so Michael asked her the proper etiquette of getting to see the village chief and explained why. She told him he really needed the "toronga ni koro" to introduce him to the chief – but Philip was also gone to Labasa. Michael told her he would be back first thing in the morning to see Philip and the chief. She asked if he wanted to see the police that were in town, but Michael declined at this point.

Thursday morning came and Michael was well prepped on how he was going to deal with the chief regarding the missing anchor and chain. He dressed in his sulu and made his way to the village. He found Philip, who happened to be in a meeting with the chief and several elders. He explained exactly what had transpired and how disappointed he was that a village that depended on the sea for its livelihood would steal, boat equipment from another boater. He also told them he would prefer to deal with it locally through the chief first rather than dealing with the police – which got him lots of positive nods and approvals. He was invited to sit in a place of honor next to the chief and one of the members at the meeting left. The chief and elders continued their meeting for a short time in Fijian, and after a while, the man who had left returned, and the chief turned to Michael and told him his anchor and chain were back in his dinghy.

Sure enough, next to the dinghy there was our anchor and chain. With this happy outcome, we decided to continue with the planned picture taking at the school. When we arrived at the school, everyone already knew about the stolen anchor and chain. In fact, the entire village knew!

We took class pictures and returned to the boat to print them. As we left town, we saw Milly again and thanked her for her help and she was pleased that we got the anchor back and was so sorry something like that had happened in her village. We had arranged for the four teachers and spouses to come to the boat that afternoon at 3:30 to see the boat (none had ever been aboard a "yacht") and pick up the photos. At 3:15 Michael went ashore to pick them up. He waited and waited and finally at 4:15 returned to the boat. At 4:30 they showed up – I guess that's Fijian time! We had a great visit with them and they took more pictures aboard – posing selfies in every part of the boat!

After a few hours they departed with one of the teachers taking off her skirt as she was leaving to give to Barbara. (She did have shorts on underneath!). They were a hoot.

Friday morning was calmer than the previous week and it was time to move on so we went around "Monkey Face" Mountain and sailed to our next destination. At the next stop we learn that the Fijian Village grapevine is very effective.
-----
At 7/7/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°39.37'S 178°35.73'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

(no subject)

Chiefs, Teachers and Koroinasolo Justice

We stayed a few days near Koroinasolo Village. We took a walk to the primary school which has four teachers and 52 students Grades 1-8 (they combine 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th, and 7th and 8th.) We met the head teacher, Mr. Tom and agreed to come back the next morning to take "class photos" at 10:30. The next day came – but the head teacher and another teacher weren't there as they made a trip into Labasa (the largest town in the area – about a two hour drive away). So we agreed to come back the next morning.

Michael decided to take a walk that afternoon up the road. He met road workers and learned about the area. Upon his return to the dinghy, he found that our anchor and chain had been taken and someone tied the dinghy to a nearby float. Not a good thing! He went back to the town and looking for Milly, whom we had met earlier in the day (and taken a picture of her baby which we had printed and given her). Milly spoke very good english, so Michael asked her the proper etiquette of getting to see the village chief and explained why. She told him he really needed the "toronga ni koro" to introduce him to the chief – but Philip was also gone to Labasa. Michael told her he would be back first thing in the morning to see Philip and the chief. She asked if he wanted to see the police that were in town, but Michael declined at this point.

Thursday morning came and Michael was well prepped on how he was going to deal with the chief regarding the missing anchor and chain. He dressed in his sulu and made his way to the village. He found Philip, who happened to be in a meeting with the chief and several elders. He explained exactly what had transpired and how disappointed he was that a village that depended on the sea for its livelihood would steal, boat equipment from another boater. He also told them he would prefer to deal with it locally through the chief first rather than dealing with the police – which got him lots of positive nods and approvals. He was invited to sit in a place of honor next to the chief and one of the members at the meeting left. The chief and elders continued their meeting for a short time in Fijian, and after a while, the man who had left returned, and the chief turned to Michael and told him his anchor and chain were back in his dinghy.

Sure enough, next to the dinghy there was our anchor and chain. With this happy outcome, we decided to continue with the planned picture taking at the school. When we arrived at the school, everyone already knew about the stolen anchor and chain. In fact, the entire village knew!

We took class pictures and returned to the boat to print them. As we left town, we saw Milly again and thanked her for her help and she was pleased that we got the anchor back and was so sorry something like that had happened in her village. We had arranged for the four teachers and spouses to come to the boat that afternoon at 3:30 to see the boat (none had ever been aboard a "yacht") and pick up the photos. At 3:15 Michael went ashore to pick them up. He waited and waited and finally at 4:15 returned to the boat. At 4:30 they showed up – I guess that's Fijian time! We had a great visit with them and they took more pictures aboard – posing selfies in every part of the boat!

After a few hours they departed with one of the teachers taking off her skirt as she was leaving to give to Barbara. (She did have shorts on underneath!). They were a hoot.

Friday morning was calmer than the previous week and it was time to move on so we went around "Monkey Face" Mountain and sailed to our next destination. At the next stop we learn that the Fijian Village grapevine is very effective.
-----
At 7/7/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°39.37'S 178°35.73'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Baulailai to Koroinosolo

After a few days in Baulailai, we moved on to the next location … a new place for us. Prior to leaving Baulailai, we did meet the Indo-Fijian family that lives in the bay - Nilesh, his wife and three children. We enjoyed our time in this pretty spot watching the hundreds of goats on the hillsides, listening to the very loud cows hidden in the trees and hoping the fire we saw burning on the other side of the hill wouldn't make it over the ridge. The fire burned a very tall tree and it was alight most of the night looking like an old fashioned beacon. I had cut my foot while launching the dinghy in the morning, so we wouldn't be able to hike around or snorkel for a few days so we made the decision to move on. Its not a bad cut, but in this tropical environment it is always safer to keep it dry and out of the water.

We entered Rukuruku Bay, an inlet in the far northwest corner of Vanua Levu after negotiating our way around the reefs at the entrance of Baulailai. This is a long narrow strip of water between the hills. When inside it looks land-locked. We made our way down the few miles in 10 meter water towards the village at the end of the bay. There were seven fiberglass boats with outboards at anchor near the village – so it looks like a prosperous village. We had been told it was a very traditional village by Nilesh.

We anchored in about 4 meters of water (13 feet), but the spot is still very windy despite the tall hills all around. After lunch, we went to do our sevusevu in the village. Sevusevu is a ceremony where visitors present a gift bundle of yagona (the dried plant which makes the drink kava) to the chief and asks permission to visit the village. When you get to village and make your way ashore, you ask for the "toronga ni koro" (the man who will connect you with the chief for the presentation ceremony). As we made our way up a path through some gardens we asked a man working in the garden for the "toronga ni koro." He said it was he and his name was Philip. He took us into his home and it was the shortest ceremony we ever had. We never got taken to the chief, Philip simply invited us to sit down on the carpet, he asked Michael to write down our names and the boat name and then he clapped three times, took the yagona and that was it!

We then were invited to the other room for a cup of tea and some freshly baked rolls. There we met George, his wife and youngest daughter and an older girl. Later another young girl came into the house in her school uniform. After our visit with the family, we took a short walk around Koroinosolo. The village is on a hillside so there are three levels of homes. At this point, we had our large entourage of children showing us around. Michael took out the camera and that got all the kids posing and giving their hand signals! They love their picture taken. After our short walkabout, we got back to Philip and George and family's home where a young boy scurried up a coconut palm to get us some drinking coconuts. These young boys are amazing. The coconuts were then opened – one the traditional way on a stick that was imbedded in the ground and then "the faster way" with a machete or bush knife.

We got back down the hill with about 20 or so children who then helped us launch the dinghy which was now hard aground with the outgoing tide.

Today, we'll head back to the village in the afternoon to go visit the school. We watched as the fiberglass boats all left this morning with five guys in each. They came blasting out with a quick "drive by" Astarte with waves and yells. Off to work!

We'll probably stay here a few more days then make our way around the northwest corner of the island and get on the northside of Vanua Levu.

Happy Fourth of July – Patricia on Gulf Harbour Radio his morning played the USA National Anthem over the radio prior to the weather report.
-----
At 7/3/2017 7:42 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°44.16'S 178°31.60'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sailing North Through the Reefs

We enjoyed a few days anchored near Nasonisoni Pass. On Friday, a Fijian holiday, we headed 25 miles north towards Nabouwalu. This is a ferry stop and where we met the Prime Minister of Fiji last year. We had also made friends with a family here and we thought it would be fun to visit Police Constable Michael and his family again. As we approached Nabouwalu though, the winds were really blowing and there was quite a swell. So we decided to skip the stop and go ten miles further and get into the more protected Mbua Bay. This is a deep bay and very sticky mud for holding. There isn't much wind protection from the short mangroves, but its relatively shallow (5-6 meters) and lots of room. It was a windy night, but the anchor held well and there was no swell. Sorry though that we missed saying hello to our friends.

The next morning (Saturday, July 1), the sun was shining and steady 15-20 knot SE breeze was still blowing. We decided we'd take advantage of the good visibility and make a 14 mile trip to Bualailai. It is another spot we stopped in last year and remembered liking. It is inside a reef and surrounded on three sides but relatively high rocky hills with mangroves along the water. There is a sandy beach on one side and river/stream.

We managed to sail the entire way with a small headsail – not wanting to go too fast through the reefs. It was very comfortable, less rolly than the previous day's trip. Last year when we did this trip we went the opposite way and fought the trade winds – so it was a lot slower going, less comfortable and certainly required the services of our trusty engine and diesel fuel. It has been nice to be able to sail up the coast this year because we decided to go around the island clockwise instead. We'll pay the price on the other side!

We hope this will be a comfortable stop to spend a few days. Weather permitting we'll take a good walk, snorkel, explore in the dinghy and perhaps meet the family that lives up the stream. It is pretty protected here though the wind is still blowing off the hillsides. Lots of goats on the hillsides to watch.
-----
At 7/1/2017 8:05 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°44.92'S 178°28.98'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Dreaded Nasonisoni Pass

Reefs in island groups provide many benefits to ocean life. They also a source of danger to boaters. Last week an Oyster 61 found a reef in southern Fiji with four New Zealanders aboard and was destroyed. The people got off safely and went to a nearby island and were later picked up.

When we were in Savusavu, a call went out on the radio seeking volunteers to go out and help a US flagged Hylas 44 named Kia Ora from Seattle that came to grief in Nasonisoni Pass. Michael was one of the four boating volunteers to go out with a dive boat from Namena Divers. The dive boat had a captain, two divers and two deck hands. The other volunteers were Ted from "Roundabout II," Ian from "Cables Length 2" and Pete from "Larakin." This international crew (Canadian, Australian and one that now calls Fiji home and US) went out in the early afternoon for the twenty plus mile trip to "Kia Ora" which had hit the reef in the pass. Because tide was out and still going out, they were hard aground resting on their port side. The divers placed a few anchors and a line to a coral head to secure the boat for the changing tide and did a quick inspection though the hull was mostly out of the water. After some time on sight and attempts to move the boat, Ian was willing to stay aboard with the stressed out couple overnight The dive boat and other volunteers returned to Savusavu around 8 pm with the plan to return to the stricken boat earlythe next morning on the high tide.

The next morning at 0730 the volunteers and dive boat went out again. When they arrived at Nasonisoni pass, the boat was upright and almost floating. Divers went in the water to inspect the hull with good instructions on specific problem areas to really look at carefully. They also checked out in what direction the boat should be pulled to safely remove it from the ree fwithout additional damage. A bridle was made up with Astarte's old anchor rode, and the dive boat got the Hylas off the reef. The dive boat then got all the anchors up while "Kia Ora" motored for about 45 minutes to check things out. The dive boat then reset the main anchor and "Kia Ora" motored back to the anchor for hook up. The dive boat and all the volunteers returned to Savusavu giving the owners of the Hylas time to rest and recover in a safe anchorage. "Kia Ora" did call the rescue vessel when it was about 2/3 of the way back to Savu Savu, asking that the dive boat return to help bring up their anchor. The captain said to get some rest and he would return in the morning. Stressing that a good nights rest was surely needed.

It seemed like a successful recovery. Until the next morning...
A call on the radio said that "Kia Ora" sunk and the crew had gotten off and dinghied over to another boat at anchor who were bringing then to Savusavu. "What?" was the exclamation on the lips of all the rescuers and dive boat personnel. The boat was left floating and there didn't seem to be any major damage to the hull. It motored quite awhile while their anchor was being reset by the dive boat. What happened? According to the owners, they say that boat started to take on water in the early morning. They abandoned their sailboat when the water was knee deep below and went to ask for assistance from the nearby sailboat at anchor. The boat was still floating but they did not want to go back aboard to recover any items or watch it. They simply came to Savusavu.

We can now definitely say the boat has sunk. As we came through Nasonisoni Pass today, we saw the very top of the mast with the wind instruments barely sticking up out of the water at low tide.

These lessons are great reminders how you must always be vigilant while cruising and especially when sailing around reef strewn waters. Much discussion over beers has taken place over the last few weeks. Finding where the water was coming in and trying our hardest to stop it was top of the list along with really listening for the bilge pumps working. We have also determined we need a very long, very strong line that could be used as a tow line should we need it. The line they had broke when the dive boat first attempted to tow it (that's why Michael brought Astarte's old anchor rode which was ultimately used as the bridle).

We made it through the Nasonisoni Pass today as we begin our travels around Fiji this year. We always have a bow watch when going through passes and sails down and motor on. We do our best to time tides so we enter on slack water.

Seeing sailboats lost on reefs is very sad – for the owners and also for the damaged reef. We have safely anchored just around the corner from the pass. Luckily the tide is coming in so we can no longer see the mast of "Kia Ora."
-----
At 6/7/2017 10:48 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°46.65'S 179°19.94'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, June 26, 2017

Escape from Savusavu

A variety of new pictures have been posted – so check them out.

It is so easy to get "stuck" in lovely Savusavu. You are safely connected to a mooring, restaurants abound with good, inexpensive fare ($5 US for fish 'n chips for BOTH of us! Or $8 US for a curry dinner for both). You can barely cook aboard for that amount. You can get fueled up relatively easily with convenient petrol stations. Cooking gas is a mere cab ride (for a few bucks) away. And there are plenty of places to meet your fellow boaters or locals for a Fiji Bitter beer. Internet is very good and we had some business to get done – so that was one reason we stayed so long.

But before we hit the three week mark in Savusavu, we did make our escape. We didn't get far – we are now anchored near the Cousteau Resort just outside of town. We had intended to make our way around a point and towards Nasasonisoni Point, but you have to hit getting through that cut in the reef at the right tide and today's tides didn't coincide with our timing. Tomorrow, we hope to get a VERY early start and make it to the reef close to slack water at 1000 – it is a 20 mile trip so hopefully we can do that.

It has been a fun time in Savusavu, especially this past weekend. While the America's Cup was being fought in the waters off Bermuda, the Fiji Nationals were taking place in Savusavu waters. This was for the "Optimist" and "Laser" classes. It would determine the sailors who would represent Fiji in other international sailing events. Our friend Dave on the beautiful yacht "Rewa" offered his boat as the committee boat and part of the start and finish lines. We went to help (or at least have a great vantage point to watch.) The kids were incredible and the winds were everything from mild to wild. We met some interesting folks aboard and learned about the Fiji sailing program. The young man and woman who each won the Laser class were pretty remarkable, intuitive sailors. The boy will be competing in China in December representing Fiji.

On Saturday night, we also went to a barbeque at the "Planters' Club." This is an older establishment and it was a fun night. The wahoo served as the fish option for the barbecue was very tasty. (cost $5 US each). The cruising community came out in force – and we sat with 14 other boaters.

While here, we also enjoyed a lovely dinner aboard Beth's and Ken's yacht "Eagles Wings." They caught a yellowfin tune on their trip from NZ to Fiji and we lucked out with an invite to share the catch. Beth prepared the fish in a very tasty way known as Black and Blue Tuna.

There was also a funky carnival in town – with a scary Ferris wheel that threw out electrical sparks on the night we went! We could hear the carnival's nightly entertainment from the boat – a mix of Hindi and Fijian music (and it sounded like a polka now and then!)

It has been a fun time here – but it is time to break free and move on to some favorite places. We did finally decide to redo last year's circumnavigation of Vanua Levu and visit some of the friends we made in the villages. This time though we decided to go clockwise rather than counterclockwise. We'll hit some of the old favorite spots and stop in some new places as well. We have no firm schedule – no guests this year – so we don't know how long we'll take.

We are loaded up with kava for sevusevu ceremonies (bought it form a kava dealer this year) and have lots more photo paper.

Congrats to New Zealand Team Emirates for taking the America's Cup 7-1. It will be exciting to get back to NZ and get to Auckland to experience the kiwi's thrill of victory.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Cousteau Resort
-----
At 6/7/2017 10:48 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°46.65'S 179°19.94'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ARRIVED IN SAVUSAVU, FIJI

We have safely arrived on the lovely island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. It was a passage of almost 11 full days (261 hours). As passages go, it was one of the better ones. There were lots of days of very light wind sailing/drifting – but with nothing big and bad in the forecasts, we were happy to sail instead of burning the fossil fuel. We hit one relatively short spell of winds on the nose and a few hours of really hearty winds as a front passed on Day 6 and the last 24 hours of the trip were quite boisterous with steady 20-25 knots and pretty large seas from behind. Of course, that happened when we were actually try to slow down to arrive in daylight – but we simply couldn't get the boat to go slow and still retain steerage.

Here are the numbers for the trip. Miles made towards destination by day: Day One: 130; Day Two: 145 (might be a new Astarte record); Day Three: 109; Day Four: 116; Day Five: 100; Day Six 70 (this was the day with head winds so we did several long tacks and probably covered well over 100 miles but only 70 towards destination); Day Seven: 97; Day Eight: 94; Day Nine 108; Day Ten 128.5; Day 11 (21 hours): 97.5.

We ran the engine for 36 hours only – not bad out of 261 hours of passage. We could have run it more as we had a few very slow nights – but they were pleasant and comfortable so why run the engine? We would have motored more if bad weather was on the horizon.

The fishing score: One striped marlin (got to the boat and released – saved the lure, but the billfish fish has a token piercing); one good sized mahi mahi that we got to the boat but it shook itself free right before the gaff...and we were kinda glad as its mate for life was circling around. One skipjack tuna – quite a good size and big fighter that we got on board. Not knowing at first it was a skipjack, Michael did filet half of it (then we read it is best used as bait!) All in one day and all on the same lure. On board the boat we had a flying fish, a houndfish of some sort (a long pointy spear and it flopped around our inflatable – not a good thing!) and some type of weird looking parasitic creature.

We didn't see much in terms of marine life. Michael heard dolphins around the boat one night but didn't spot any other creatures other than some seabirds – mostly boobies and petrels.

We had great weather most of the trip with little to no rain except the last 24 hours where we had pretty steady squalls with lots of rain and low visibility.

There were a few ships we passed along the way and our new AIS unit works great (except at night where the LED masthead light interferes.) We ran optional navigation lights so that the AIS would still work at night. We called a few of the ships to check on how our AIS was working – as well as the new radio.

We left Marsden Cove in New Zealand on May 27, 2017 at 1100 and arrived Savusavu, Fiji on June 7, 2017 at 0800. About a dozen boats left with us that day and even more from other ports in NZ so the route had lots of cruising yachts underway.

Michael hosted an ad hoc radio net each night at 1700 (with a different name of the net each night). It was good to follow the progress of the yachts that left Marsden together on the same day: 360 Blue, Freycinet II, Cables Length II, Scoots, Tregoning, Randivag, Roundabout II, Silhouette, and Avalon. A few boats got tangled with line or nets along the way, it seems the waters are getting more and more garbage floating about. Many of the boats headed to Minerva Reef where at one point the count was 21 boats at North Minerva and about 9 at South Minerva...that's a lot of boats in the middle of nowhere. We chose to continue to Fiji and not stop in that "taboo" to us territory!

Upon arrival in squalls in Savusavu, we proceeded to the Q dock at Copra Shed marina and awaited the officials for clearance. First came Matai the Health official. It was old home week as he was the same person who cleared us in last season. We had a nice visit and catch up with him as he did the paperwork ("Did anyone die on passage?") Then it was Kumar, the biosecurity man (again, same one as last year so we caught up on his family etc.) Next came the two women – one from customs (Camari) and one from immigration (Alivina). With formalities completed and stamps in our passports we were free to get off the boat. We were number 41 so far this season. We then checked into the Copra Shed with Preeti on hand to greet us.

We took a walk into town to get some Fijian money and meat pies from the "Hot Bread Kitchen." Michael got all the sim cards and gear for local phone and internet set up. Then we left the dock and headed out to a mooring ball (the same one we occupied for a few weeks last season). After a good nap, we went out for a few beers and pizza and to watch some of the rugby game on TV (The Lions (British Empire team of best of English, Irish, Welsh and Scots) vs. NZ Blues) from Auckland).

Now its getting the boat back in order from passage and deciding what we are going to do this season in Fiji.

Special thanks to all the folks who sent us messages while on passage (we enjoy them) and to Gulf Harbour Radio's David and Patricia for the daily weather forecasts and YIT site. Also hanks to Tony's Maritime net and all the net controllers for keeping a watch on us. Those contacts certainly help us on the passages.
-----
At 6/7/2017 10:39 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°46.66'S 179°19.94'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, May 25, 2017

TOMORROW

After fits and starts, stress over "to leave or not to leave" and looking at weather four times daily...tomorrow (Saturday, May 27) looks like the departure date. We aren't alone, there will be a flotilla leaving over the weekend heading to the warmer latitudes. From Marsden Cove where we are, there are at least a dozen boats waiting for the right passage weather. In other parts of NZ, more are chomping at the bit to take off. We had two other dates we thought looked good – but this one is the best so far so we'll take it. The last two ended up being quite boisterous runs for the boats that did leave....big headwinds and monstrous seas. So we are glad we waited...and are hopeful this will be a more pleasant run. We did have to apply for an extension for our visitors' visas...for what will end up being be two days! This extended wait also meant provisioning, cooking...re-provisioning, re-cooking and baking.

We have enjoyed the time with all the other waiting boats – we've had two sausage sizzles (one tonight), two rounds of Mexican Train dominoes games (one with nine boats) and pizza night. Michael took a tour of the nearby oil refinery with a group. He also finally spotted the leopard seal (see last entry) and it was chomping on a dinghy! His description was it was huge with enormous teeth.

So we leave – please send all your best thoughts for a safe and easy passage. We will keep up with position reports on the YIT site as long as all systems work on board. So feel free to follow our progress. There will probably not be many entries during the passage unless it is flat calm.

Finally...
-----
At 5/15/2017 8:41 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.22'S 174°28.12'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Departure in Sight

Well at least we hope it is! It is now Wednesday in New Zealand and we are anticipating getting away from the dock in Marsden Cove on Saturday morning. Some boats are taking off on Thursday and some on Friday and Saturday. The winds are still pretty strong with big seas on Thursday – and Friday is … well it's Friday. There is the old superstition about not starting a passage on a Friday. Our two experiences of leaving on a Friday have been the two worst trips we've had... so we'll go on Saturday.

Here in the Marsden Cove Marina we are hoping to see the Leopard Seal that has been spotted here. It has come up from her home ground in the Antarctic. It isn't exactly your friendly ball-tossing seal. This one seems keen on chomping inflatable dinghies. She has gotten four so far – one was up on a dock finger, one was hanging on the side of the boat, one hanging on davits (that's quite a leap) and one floating (but not now!). She also has taken a bite out of a few fenders as well. Perhaps they look like food or she is just a juvenile delinquent. They are a protected species so nothing can be done – though the marina has told the Department of Conservation that they probably should do something to protect her because there are four pretty mad people in the marina. We just hope to see her – keeping our distance from her mouthful of sharp teeth.

We have the boat pretty ready and if the weather holds over the next few days we'll be on our way to Fiji. It should take us ten to eleven days. So if anything big happens in the news – you'll have to e-mail us as we won't be able to get online! Remember, you can track our progress on the YIT site. www.yit.co.nz and look for Astarte. If the radio works we'll send a daily position report to them.

So now just the last minute off shore cooking, baking, tidying and securing the decks and below decks.

Fingers crossed for a great passage – and before our visas expire!
-----
At 5/15/2017 8:41 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.22'S 174°28.12'E

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com