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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.
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 !!
Although we already are anchored at the next postcard island, I still have to post some pictures of Levuka, our first contact with Fiji. I mentioned the funny haircuts but somehow forgot to shoot some pictures of the beautiful ladies of Levuka… Well, those will come later, I guess. Also worth mentioning is that Levuka once was the capital of Fiji ! Hard to believe as it’s a quiet, little Village.
As we found nearly everywhere else too, there are numerous schools and plenty of kids everywhere. All dressed up in nice, colorful school uniforms. A treat for the eye !
When we picked up the cruising permit, I noticed the schedule of the authority. It has a seminar on climate change for the employees. Yeah – when the big polluters of the earth still are arguing whether or not it’s true, the island nations of this world are getting prepared for the worst.
Maybe the people of Levuka will also start thinking of getting rid of that awfully noisy Diesel generator located in the center of the village that provides power for the whole island. There would be more than enough sun to power all homes here on the island and as for storage, I suggest to use that huge fuel tank up on the hill. One could use the excess power during midday to pump up salt water and use a turbine to generate power during the night. – Just a thought…. But I guess burning fuel is (still) just too convenient.
Alright. Enough of the ranting. There are also some pics of our little hike up the hill to the little freshwater pond. On the way the kids got a little toy cooking set and when we were back on the ship they promptly openend a restaurant on the foredeck. Let’s see if someone can decypher Viola’s menu. It’s a wild mix of german, spanish and english but it shows promise and she’s definately not lacking inspiration. Also – she’s still just five. :-)
Before leaving Tonga we spent a few more days at a little, lonely island called Nuku. We were already cleared out so we shouldn’t have stayed but it was just too hard to say good bye. See for yourself…. It’s crazy.
The last few hours in Tonga and we spend it in front of the computer. Hehehe.
Nah – not really. We will putter down to the main wharf and clear out of Tonga alright but tonight we’ll still spend one more night around the corner in a quiet anchorage. Tomorrow during the day, we’ll set sails and go to Fiji.
So here are some more pictures for you, taken in the ‘main town’ of Vavau: Neiafu.
Also we’ll be without internet of course and have only our SSB connection. But we should be back online beginning next week when we arrive in SavuSavu.
After our last sailing voyage we spent five days getting all the saltwater out of our boat and everything washed again. As we don’t like to repeat this experience, the newly found leaks were on the top of my ToDo list. And as the beach is too beautiful and the coral too colorful I look the other way grab screwdriver, hammer and chisel and start attacking the rust !
My starting point is the little vent in the kitchen. Sometime ago there was also an electric ventilator installed but corrosion has eaten it away probably years ago. The Vetus vent itself, I replaced back in Moorea as the old one didn’t even close properly. But somehow water still found it’s way in – so I remove it completely and discover some realy nasty stuff: The leak probably existed for many years and not much is left of the 4mm of steel that our deck is made of. So I start the old game: first hammering the loose material away, then brush the metal until it looks somewhat stable. After cleaning it, I soak everything with phosphoric acid. Half an hour later the acid has done it’s magic and converted all the rust to black ferric phosphate. Now I clean again with freshwater and let it dry. The epoxy primer appears on stage and gives the ugly spot a nice, watertight cover. During the next days, I will paint additional layers of white polyurethan paint. Time will tell how that combination works out….
But as I’m already at it, I crawl around on deck and open more and more rust spots. Some are easy, others quite nasty. The always leaking bathroom window was missing a fitting underneath the handle and the window itself wasn’t glued to the deck with Sikaflex or 3M-50200 but instead sat on a 1cm layer of filler (the one that is used for fixing bumps in cars *rrr*). In general I usually uncover two or three generations of household silicone which if at all is only to be used inside the ship. – Well it’s an amateur construction, one can tell.
Like this I work for five days on my knees with chisel and power drill in my hands.
We discovered that the hatch on the foredeck also leaks water *underneath* the frame and onto our children’s beds. So I take the whole hatch off and again ramove three layers of silicone and cheap one-component paint. I polish the aluminium frame and after painting everything in the above mentioned manner, I glue it back in with Sikaflex. Also I turn the whole hatch a 180˚ so it now opens to the front. That will let a lot more air into the cabin and make our life more enjoyable in those hot regions we’re cruising in.
My last item on the todo list ist the tiller, which I dismount to put in nice, water resistant marine grease and again glue everything together again. Now all the leaks have been worked on - if they really hold up against the waves only our next trip can tell…
Our second stop in Vava’u was anchorage no. 7 in the west of the island Kapa. (Yes, the anchorages here are numbered so the local Mooring base can find it’s ships again.) The was anchorage even more quiet than the one before and the beach absolutely stunning ! We went snorkeling every day and were impressed that there is at least twice the amount of different corals compared to French Polynesia. That gets us even more excited to go further west where the coral is supposedly a lot more diverse than here.
We again stayed four days and enjoyed ourselfes (more on that in the next post). When leaving for Neiafu we made a stop after about 1.5 miles on the western extreme of the island. Located here is the Swallows Cave that can be accessed by dinghy. One has to stay on the sailboat though as the water is way too deep to anchor in front of the cave. Inside the cave the colors play with the water and as the name suggests, the ceiling is covered with swallow’s nests. A thing not to miss when visiting Tonga.
Our first stop outside of Neiafu was at the anchorage No.16 on the western side of Vaka’eitu. A very peaceful little island inhabitated by only one family. We arrived there last saturday just in time to participate in a traditional Tongan feast with a pig roasted over open fire and many roots and vegetables baked in an earth oven. Veeery nice !!
Next day we took a hike together with Harald and Veronica from the SY Tagtraeumer – the one other austrian sailboat currently in Vava’u waters. It took some time for us to discover that we actually met before. That was in Mindelo, Cabo Verde in December 2011.
The walk over to the other side of the island leads through beautiful lush tropical forest and the beach on the eastern side is amazing. Unfortunately it was too windy and the sea to choppy to go for a swim.
We stayed for four days and then finally said good bye (again) to our friend Dan from the SY Red Sky Night. He took off towards Fiji to press on towards Australia.