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- Hans on The Yanuca island and a difficult farewell
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Author Archives: dafdaf
A few days ago I mentioned big news and I guess now it’s time to let the cat out of the bag: We’re in the last weeks of our voyage. Soon – probably sometime in July we’ll return to Berlin. Back into the concrete jungle, yes. Well. Now it’s out.
Of course some of you will try to encourage us to stay and I really appreciate it but be assured: It was not an easy decision. And somehow we wished we could continue. But the time is not the right one. We’ve been sailing three years, crossed two oceans, lost one yacht, had many adventures, met wonderful people and were able to see and live in the amazing beauty of the South Pacific. It’s a good time to stop.
We also searched for ways to continue our travel or fast routes to sail back to Europe but nobody on board really wants to cross the Indian ocean and even less the Atlantic from south to north with very few and short landfalls in between. We all miss our family and friends a lot and – it has to be mentioned: Since our shipwreck we always have been very short on money which sometimes complicated things.
Soon we’ll try to go back in our previous lives but not quite yet: We still have some weeks left and want to visit Tikopia in the Solomon Islands and climb the volcanoes of Vanuatu. Later we probably will end up in Australia which seems to be the best place to sell a boat in the Pacific.
And just as we made up our mind, the South sea throws this unbelievable gorgeous island called Yanuca in our way. Together with the family from the SY Time Lord we’re the only souls around. The kids wander off and disappear for hours looking for crabs on the beach and investigating a lost resort hidden by the palm trees. We snorkel in the crystal clear water, see turtles and sharks. Dolphins swim and jump in the bay and in the evening we have a wonderful camp fire on the beach. And to top it all off, we experience a rare ‘blood moon’ as we return to our boats.
But still, today in the afternoon we’ll pull the anchor out of the coral sand and sail through the night towards the western islands. We try to reach Malolo Leilei (what a name !) in the morning and probably stay there for a week to celebrate easter and Violas 6th birthday.
Two days ago we arrived in Lami, a little village west of Suva. Here in the little bay, we finally met some more cruising families which is extremely welcome. The kids have endless fun and are messing up a different boat each day. ;-) In the meantime, the captain crisscrossed through Suva to get all papers, copies, photographs together and verified by the german consul. Now a pack of paper is underway towards Canberra where the (nearest) austrian embassy will hopefully issue me an emergency passport.
Suva being the largest city in the tropical south Pacific is home to 50% of all escalators – namely: two ! There is also three or four traffic lights and a cinema. And today I will wander off to see ‘Rio 2′ with the kids. Heh. After stocking up a little, we’ll probably be out on sea in a few days, visiting the island of Benga and finally arriving in Malolo Leilei where we plan to celebrate easter and (even more) Viola’s sixth birthday.
Also we made a huge decision and have changed our long term plans but more on that in an upcoming blog post.
Together with my two visitors we did a snorkel/diving trip to Namena. And today we’re back again with the usual set of underwater pictures.
Before leaving from the Costeau Resort, I had to go diving because the night before I accidentally dropped part of our barbequeue. My first attempts of freediving down to 18m were unsuccessful – so I went down again with proper diving gear and actually could find that little thing lying on the ocean floor. Second thing to do: to replace the lower shrouds that got damaged months ago in a storm when sailing towards Tonga. My brother brought the needed replacement parts with him from Europe.
Then – finally ready to go, we set sail and have a beautiful cruise towards Namena. The breeze is light but enough to let us glide along with five knots and we reach our destination an hour before sunset.
Next day we hop into the water and again we’re all amazed by the pure beauty of the reef here in Namena. The number of different animals seems to be without end – as is the form and color of the different hard and soft coral. During every single dive we run into some sharks (small white- and blacktip reef sharks) which is quite common. Usually the sharks come around for a short look and a few seconds later they disappear into the endless blue.
Quite different on the second day: a pair of little white-tip sharks start circling us and instead of being afraid, they come closer and closer while still circling us. I try to scare them off and actually put my fins in their face but they still continue to circle and their movements get more rapid and intense all the time. Needless to say: we don’t like that and although these sharks are usually completely harmless we jump out of the water and into the dinghy. Here we still can see the sharks circling us – sometimes close enough to touch them. Weird.
But it’s not all scary down there: We also run into some turtles with I follow with the camera for nearly a minute. Same thing: Usually the turtles are easily scared but this time I was quiet enough to be able to follow them and get really close.
Of course we see tons of little clown fish, huge giant clams in all colors, groupers, sweet lips, snapper and other species too numerous to count. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story…
It’s been a long time since the last update. Way too long. And much has happened – as always. But the important thing right now is that my brother Oliver and his girlfriend Julia are here in Fiji and staying on the Suvarov fot the next twelve days.
They arrived yesterday, coming from Singapore and we immediately left Savusavu and dropped anchor in front of the Costeau Resort to go snorkeling. Their first impression is – well – quite good. Or rather: both were pretty speechless when they first dipped their heads under water.
And that’s just the beginning. Tomorrow we’ll continue to explore the local reef and it’s little fish and plentiful corals. If the weather holds up as promised, we’ll be sailing to Namena on Saturday. There the two will be shown the true, untouched beauty of tropical sealife. Expect some nice pics on our return !
After spending the first hours snorkeling around the anchorage, on the second day we sailed towards the outer reef where the ‘proper’ dive spots are to be found. We take Jason’s Yacht and tow two dingies in the back. Not far from the northern entrance to the reef we put the SY Bodhran on a mooring and use the dinghies to explore the reef.
The sea is calm and the visibility under water quite good. Sitting in the dinghy we can make out the dive spots and decide to go for a quick one at ‘Grand Central’ while Jason and Melanie are snorkeling with the incoming tide and drift over the reef back towards the yacht.
The second stop is at ‘Arkansas’ – a lonely coral column extending from -25m up to about -4m. While Bertel and Jason dive circles in the deep I’m free diving and again amazed by the sheer beauty of this site. The soft coral on the top looks like wheat fields (hence the name: Arkansas) and the rock is surrounded by colorful soft & hard coral, lots of ‘unicorn fish’ and numerous other species. We stay for quite some time and are all happy we made the decision to visit Namena.
During the next days we also explore the southern reef and the dive sites called ‘Chimneys’ and ‘Mushrooms’ as well as the ‘Four Sisters’. All of them breathtaking beautiful. Timing is important tough: the sites on the northern side should be visited shortly after high tide, while the ones at the southern side are best visited at low tide. The difference between slack water and out- or incoming tide is huge and the currents can get quite strong. If one got the timing wrong, it’s definately worth waiting in the dinghy for the current to change.
During the final dive at the mushrooms I dropped our camera which neatly sank into a depth of about 25m – which I guess it could survive – but despite wasting a full bottle of air on it, I still couldn’t find it again. So for the time being those will be the last underwater shots. Damn ! The Nikon AW110 was an awesome all-round camera and I’ll definately miss it a lot.
But good news for everyone who plans to visit Namena during the next months: When we arrived there was only one mooring at the anchorage and one about 0.5nm ESE from the northern channel. There are plans to put as much as five moorings near the island and numerous at the dive sites. That will make visiting those spots a lot easier for cruisers.
Thanks to Jason for many of those awesome photos. Please visit his blog to see more !
Even though the island of Namena lies only 25 miles from Savusavu it seems to be rarely visited by sailing vessels. I guess this is because there is not a lot information available about the island and (mostly) because there is no protected anchorage available. That means: ideally one should visit Namena in light easterly or with no wind at all.
We waited for some days and used the diminishing easterly to sail down to Namena, while during our stay we lie mostly becalmed and quite comfortable. ‘We’ that is the SY Suvarov, SY Odin and the SY Bodhran. Jason from Bodhran takes the mooring and we drop the anchor and 75m of chain in 23m of crystal clear water.
On the first day we payed our visit to the little ressort on the island and payed 30 Fiji Dollar for a permit to dive in the marine reserve – which is good for one whole year.
Even on the anchorage the coral are already quite impressive and the amount of fish is unbelievable. There are turtles, sharks, barracudas, groupers and endless little colorful tropical fishes around. During the first minutes I’m quite overwhelmed and don’t really know where too look… During the next days we will take the SY Bodhran and tow two dinghies towards the outer reef where the ‘real’ divespots can be found. Expect a lot more and even nicer pictures in the next posting.
No, no, no ! Don’t you be worried ! Although having been seperated from my loved ones for more than a month now, the psyche of the skipper is still in good shape. Turbulent was the weather which got affected by a tropical depression during these last days. That’s why I’ll do another post with pics of wind and rain.
After being at anchor out at the reef for more than two weeks, a few days in Savusavu are a welcomed change. Because of the forecast I took down the big sunroof and gave it to a local tailor to stich up a few holes. Then we wait for the wind. The weather prediction was spot-on and despite being well protected behind the little island, we still had a constant 30 knots with gusts reaching into the 50ies.
It wasn’t too easy doing pictures with the rain coming in horizontally and the light being only slightly above candlelight-level while working mostly with maximum zoom. It was a lot easier on the next day, during the ‘golden hour’ when the water level was at it’s high and we could watch as an australian yacht was pulled out of the mud.
The Beneteau somehow got the mooring line around the keel and shaved through it after which the boat was adrift and ended up close to the mangroves. That was pretty lucky – as there is enough coral around to split the thin fibreglass hull. But the lucky boat got stuck in soft mud and could be towed out at the next high tide without any further damage. Two dinghies and a boston whaler from the local perl farm pulled on the mast to lift the keel out of the mud and a dive boat with 500hp pulled the yacht into deeper water.
Uh ! And I’ve even got more good news: After waiting for eight weeks, yesterday my christmas parcel finally arrived !! After months I’ve finally got a decent computer again. Yay !
My old MacBook Pro died in the caribbean when a glass of water was spilled over it. The replacement, a MacBook Air killed itself when the internal (SSD-) harddrive got knocked out. So I had to use the ship’s navigation computer, an old Asus EeePC. It’s a nice little laptop that draws nearly no power but for working with pictures and videos it’s the wrong equipment. That’s why I’m as happy as a child on christmas day to finally have a decent laptop that won’t lag behind when I’m typing my blog posts. Maybe it also has positive influence on the frequency of updates. Only two posts duting the last month ?!? That’s an all-time low, I better start writing again…
Good News Everyone ! This might be the last blog entry about engine cooling for at least a few weeks ! I know: you’re gonna miss the frequent posts on this really exciting subject. – I too will miss the excursions into the depths of the engine room every morning but it seems that new developments will shift my energy into different areas…
After I did a lot of testing, the final changes I made was to replace two more hoses, clean and polish the old waterpump, getting two new impellers (also for the bilgepumpe !) and finally connecting both pumps in parallel to increase the waterflow through the engine. And it seems to work as during the last test-trip from Savusavu to the Resort, the engine DID NOT overheat ! Ok. I was only putting along with 1500 revs but still. Also one has to take the water temperature into account and that settled at amazing 31˚C (!!) during the last weeks ! With that temperature, all watercooled gadgets will run into slight problems. I borrowed a nice infrared-thermometer from Dieter and now I could verify that the engine indeed doesn’t overheat: After running for one hour, the cylinderhead measured 62˚C and the water coming from the exhaust 52˚C. All good.
And as usual: when one thing is repaired, the next one will break. Our next patient is just beside the engine in the bilge: the watermaker suddenly wouldn’t build up any pressure. I suspected a seized valve which I took out and restored. Then the pre-pumpe wouldn’t start anymore so now I have to figure out how to get all the air out of the system. Well, well… next project.
In the mean time the rainy season went into action and the first cyclone ‘Ian’ (upgraded to category 5) missed Fiji and went over Tonga. Right now the storm is heading south where it will disappear over colder waters. The next one is just about to form in between Vanuatu and New Caledonia while here in Fiji the weather slowly returns to ‘normal’.
Sorry. I’m really too lazy today to do the english translation. But I copied some pics from the german version of the blog entry:
I live a pretty chaotic life – always have. And there are not many traditions that I stick to. But spending christmas with my family and – especially – eating the most amazing meal of the year: the christmas turkey of my grandmother was one of them.
And although I’m sad that I can’t see my family this year, we found a good replacement for the lunch itself. Two days ago we were invited to spend the 25th with a family in a village near Savusavu. Spending christmas in tranquility is a luxury most people of the western countries don’t have. And spending it out in the middle of nothing in a village with 123 inhabitants is a blessing.
The food got prepared the traditional way with heated stones, covered with palm and taro leaves. In the lovo were prepared: wahoo, chicken, pig, taro, breadfruit, little packages of fish with onions wrapped in taro leaves and steamed in coconut milk, etc… The feast was awesome ! After that we hopped in the nearby river for refreshment and the men (yes: only the men) sat together to drink cava and sing traditional songs. The kids spent all afternoon in the water, jumping from trees or paddling along with a little bamboo raft. This christmas will be one of my favourite memories of that journey so far !
Every now and then we excape the anchorage and get some fresh air out at the reef. Only four miles away there is the Cousteau Resort at the very end of the strip of land that encloses the Savusavu bay in the south. Out there, closer to the open sea the water is a lot nicer (although still far from clear), there is wind and the insects are less annoying.
A little trip like that brightens the mood and once we hop into the water and have a look around in this big aquarium, the day is safed. The difference to the more eastern parts of the Pacific are big and the diveristy of fish and coral still amazes me. Especially as we’re not in a proper dive- or snorkelspot. For that one shoud go out to the smaller islands or visit the neighbouring Namena, only 25 miles from here. The diving there must be one of the best in the pacific and we will check it out sometime.
As you can see in one image, the Suvarov already got decorated and ready for Christmas. The kids had a lot of fun engarlanding the whole saloon, hanging stars, balls and little angels. Viola spent hours cutting colorful stars out of paper and decorating the cockpit dodger. Otherewise there is not much reminding us of the year’s top consumption fesast. There are no huge masses running around on the streets, trying to get some last-minute gadgets, no decoration on houses or in shops and best of all: No stupid christmas songs !
To that effect, I want to wish all our readers and friends a verry happy christmas and a beautiful 2014 !
With all the heat in the engine room (and outside) we try everything to cool ourselves. A few days ago we set out on a little journey together with the crew of the SY Time Lord. Our destination: The Maroroya falls near the Nakawaga village. We get there by car (takes about 30′) and stop a little before the village where the path starts. The walk through the jungle is only about half an hour and very nice. Beautiful flowers and trees all around and soon the kids can hear the waterfall announcing itself through the thick, lush green.
The kids have a lot of fun walking through the forest and the hightlight- the bath in the cool, fresh water will not end. One can actually swim through the two little pools and go right under the fall itself. Where the water is quiet, in the little ponds the kids collect prawns – which they set free again after a while. (Too small to eat. ;-)
After a extensive picknick we start walking back. When we reach the road, we call for a cab which will take about 40 minutes to get here. As the sun burns down on us and we see a river nearby, we climb down and follow the creek until we reach deeper water. Another nice, cool bath, yay !
It was a really nice little trip – we should do that more often. Well – now that my engine project is on hold, I guess we’ll get out of the dreaded anchorage more often…
News on the engine front: After flushing the engine approx. ten times with 5% H2SO4, the cylinder head now looks like new. Also the sacrificial anodes are 50% gone. Heh. But the problem remains: when running the engine in idle mode the temperature is fine; when the engine has to move the boat, it will overheat after only three minutes. Ten minutes later we can already see a little steam coming from the exhaust.
Yesterday I again checked the impeller and replaced it (just in case) but that didn’t do anything. I also cleaned the seawater inlet and filters which means EVERY part of the cooling system now was checked.
My last hope is the following: I don’t think there’s enough water coming out of the exhaust. Maybe the whole system is flawed from the beginning and we just need a water pump with a higher throughput ? The manual says, it should pump 800l/h at 1400rpm which I will measure later. Any other ideas ? Anyone ?!?
With all the heat and without a breeze we’re not very motivated to do big adventures. But yesterday when it started raining again, we set out on a little trip with the dinghy. The kids wanted to explore the tiny island next to our boat. So we set out with cooling rain and paddled into the mangroves.
We zigzag through the maze of little channels, discover some hidden birds and try (without success) to catch some geckos from a half sunken bamboo jetty. We could definately use a few of those animals on bord to eat away those mosquitos that try to keep us awake at night. Our way is blocked by a piece of an old pontoon that must have drifted in here and we turn around.
On the way back we discover a little path that leads through the otherwise impenetrable jungle to the other side of the little island. Unfortunately I only have the small, waterproof camera with me – the big one would have done better shots. But at least there are some nice, colorful pics. Ey ?
And as I got started with the camera (and it stopped raining) I again went up the mast and took a few more shots. From up there the water looks surprisingly clear. From close-up that’s different and sometimes it also get’s a bit smelly. But I guess that’s just the mud that is exposed during low tide. On the pics you can see the Copra Shed Marina with the little jetties in front. There we spend some of the hotter afternoons when it’s getting uncomfortable on the boat. Well, here we will stay for the next months… Awful – isn’t it ? Also: don’t forget the mosquitos ! ;-)
The first days in Savusavu went by quite swiftly. The usual routine: getting the laundry done, some basic shopping, getting to know the village, etc.
As we determined before, the people of Fiji are extremely friendly, the Indian population is extremely enterprising and the Curries that one can eat at nearly every place are hot, delicious and affordable.
So the first impression is quite good. And that definately should be so as we’ll be here for the rain season which officially lasts until April. That doesn’t mean, we’ll be stuck here on the mooring but here we’ll have our base and hideout in case a taifun is announced.
As most all hurrican holes, Savusavu has the downside of plentiful rain, slightly muddy water thanks to the mangroves and the bay-in-bay setup and of course: mosquitos. Not exactly sexy. But it’s ok – especially since we discovered that hotel with a pool ! We’re kind of tolerated but also seemingly the only bathing guests anyway. On the way towards the pool we got two breadfruits as a present and as our path led us by the hot springs, we dropped one into the boiling water. After our refreshing splash we came back to pick up the nature-boiled breadfruit. Yamyam !
Jill from the SY Mollymawk just published her second article about home – or rather on-bord schooling titeled ‘The results of the home-school experiment’. First, I’d like to thank Jill for taking time to write such insightful articles but instead of plain interest for us the importance is actually a different one. Although we may sail another ocean, we’re in the same boat when it comes to schooling our kids.
Of course we read books, articles and it’s one of the most prominent discussion topics amongst cruising families. But there still is a lack of confidence. This probably is rooted deep in our upbringing – both my wife Guillermina and me went through a formal education of european style. I didn’t like it much whereas my wife enjoyed it. And while I choose a life of labor, my wife’s thing was an academic career. But both we liked the ideas and concepts layed out in our favourite book about schooling: ‘Learning all the time’ by John Holt.
But just being fond of that concept doesn’t create a school environment nor does it teach your kids the essential skills needed for life and self-education. While the only decision 99% of all parents we know at home have is whether it’s gonna be a public or private school, we face the endless insecurity of whether we do it right and if it was a good decision after all. Choosing the life on sea and teaching the kids on our own is difficult, sometimes hard work and not always very satisfying. Although it can be. While Viola, aged five keeps asking for reading lessons and wants to write stories, learn Guitar, etc. Bruno seems to lose interest after a few minutes. But then there are these other moments too. A few days ago, we sat in the Government building in Levuka, Fiji. Bruno sees a picture of all the ministers and wants to know exactly what they do, how they come to be in charge and even has suggestions to improve the situation. And while we wait for nearly two hours to get our cruising permit – instead of nagging and jumping around in his seat, we train mathematics and calculate how far a human could count if it were the only thing he was doing in his life. Through the window we watch toads trying to escape the blazing sun as the lawn is being cut and Bruno, aged seven, tries to understand why the toads won’t just go straight for the shadow to their right. We end up in a discussion about genes, brain sizes, adaptation, the moisture of the skin, the usual habitat of those reptiles, the difference between toads and frogs, etc. Yes – this is ‘doing school’ for us and that is what both we and our kids enjoy. – It doesn’t always have to involve book, desks and pens. But it has to be an enjoyable way of learning things.
Thanks to the crew of the Mollymawk we are once more ensured that we’re doing the right thing and that (given the right circumstances) it will work out well for our kids – independent of what their later plans for life will be.
Also when you’re at it, don’t miss out on the amazing books Jill wrote. Highly recommended !!