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:

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:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


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: