Where are we

Thursday 22 June 2023

Anchored in Musket Cove

Our first three days in Fiji consisted of provisioning (mostly me) and fixing things (totally Tim).

First, I baked/cooked all the necessities we’d run out of in the last day of the passage.

Cooling in the cockpit we have granola, cooked white beans for chilli, roasted Red Skinned Peanuts and not a Baker’s Dozen, which is 13, but maybe a Captain’s Dozen(?) of banana, raisin and walnut muffins. They were not yet fully cooled at time of photo.

Then shopped together. The next day I shopped alone and the last day I shopped with Zoe from Into the Blue.

As I was taking the photo of bananas, fresh plump huge juicy ginger and lumpy local lemons, I noticed a hole in one of the bananas.

How in the world could I choose a bunch of bananas with bloody great hole in it?

I hadn’t.

This is an example of the culprit, a Red-Vented Bulbul. 

I had a flashback to our first visit to Fiji of calling over to a family a few boats down, ‘There’s a bird eating your mangos!’ It was tthis type of bird. You can’t mistake the handsome crest, the flash of red or the holes in your fruit. :/  There was also one watching from the rigging of the boat next to us.

Day 4 was the day we left Vuda Marina for Musket Cove and I woke up with a scratchy throat.

Two negative Covid tests later, I appeared to have a nasty cold. I felt bad enough not to leave Larus and my coughing and sneezing was sufficient to repel boarders.

A week later I’m mostly better, but Tim woke up this morning with a scratchy throat.  Zoe says Bill, on Into the Blue, has also woke up with a scratchy throat.  I will claim responsibility for Tim’s scratchy throat, but the only people who actually came onboard were Philip and Claudia on Bruno’s Girl who we lured over with falafel last night. 

Too soon to tell if that was a mistake. Fingers crossed they are both fine.

It is the pits to not feel like doing much of anything and running out of ready to eat food. We were up to our eyes with ingredients, had just finished our last frozen passage meal and our loaf of bought bread had gone mouldy so something had to be done.

Luckily I really like cooking and had some tried and true, new and interesting things I wanted to have a go at and that perked me up.

I have a great wholewheat bread recipe that has worked 3 times on the trot with excellent results. The flour is 2 1/2 cups wholewheat and 1 1/2 white flour. The new tricks I’ve learned is to add the yeast to the water first so it softens and mix that with all the other ingredients and them let the dough hydrate for 30 mins before kneading.

My other problem is that the oven heats from the back so the loaf must be turned several times to cook evenly. The loaf also rises so well that I can barely get it into the oven. There is maybe a finger’s width of space between the top of the loaf and the top of the oven, and I need to put a tin hat on top to stop it from burning for the third and fourth turn.

Still once you know all that, it’s a breeze.

I found the most beautiful chillies at the market - Habaneros, some sort of hopefully milder green chillis and Bird’s Eye Chillies. 

 I read up on how to best keep them and you wash them, dry them, trim the stems and then store them in the fridge for up to a week.

I soon had some out to make some Sweet Chilli Jam from my Caribbean cookbook. It’s is delicious with cheese.

This is the local ‘spinach’, which isn’t spinach at all but does the job. 

The bunch was too big to get into the fridge and I could see it needed using sooner than later. Having asked a lady how to prepare it, I picked the leaves off the tough stems and roots and then steamed and froze them for later. The bunch made about a cup of very nice looking greens.  Half went into day 2 of the pasta sauce we had for dinner that night.

I have all sorts of fresh things stashed about the boat and will have a good look tomorrow. I lost most of one of my three pineapples as I let it get over ripe. Too tired to care. All the bananas are now in the freezer, but in the aft cabin there are 4 coconuts, a bunch of limes and a large watermelon that I need to focus on.

For the watermelon: I need to make ice in the freezer to chill it and then get a bunch of people together when we’re no longer infectious to enjoy it as none of it will ever fit in the fridge.

For the limes: I also have a tin of condensed milk and bought cookies for the crust to make a Key Lime Pie. This is one of Tim’s favourite desserts, but we need a flat fridge space so it can set. Hard to imagine when that might be.

For the coconuts: I’d quite like to make some toasted coconut chips, and some fresh grated coconut. The latter will freeze if one has space in the freezer. Happily coconuts last a long time.

PS - I have added the missing photos to the previous 2 posts.
PPS - It is the shortest day of the year down here.
PPPS - Tim has now started sneezing and is planning when to take his LemSip. :(  More about him in the next blog.

Monday 12 June 2023

On the Customs Dock, Vuda Marina, Fiji


We are welcomed to Fiji by the Vuda Marina staff on the Customs Dock.

We are very pleased to be back in Fiji. We are just entering the cooler drier season. The nights are cool but the days are still pretty warm.  I’m already sweating hard at 0930 in the morning.

We are currently awaiting the arrival of the Customs, Immigration and Bio Security officials.

I have to sew a bit of rope into our brand new Fiji courtesy flag so will be back later.  

Pale blue for the sea and emblazoned with a coat of arms featuring the Dove of Peace, a bunch of Bananas, Cassava plants, Coconut palm and above all, the Rugby playing Lion.

Thursday 8 June 2023

Minerva Reef North

The last two days of our passage to Minerva were a mix of motoring and sailing often in the company of a fleet of Chinese fishing boats.

I chose this photo as we were going quite fast. We were never less than 2 miles from the nearest and they were almost stationary.

We’re not sure what was up with their AIS as the boats were almost always pointed due north and remained in a neat ‘V’ shape as we passed through them. It was perfect squid formation; they are the synchronised swimmers of the sea. As they advance, retreat or sidle sideways they maintain the same spacial relationship to each other. 

We arrived Monday around noon at low tide, dropped anchor in a bommie-free patch of sand. Bommies are rocks or coral heads in an otherwise sandy anchorage. The water is dark blue but so clear that even in 15 metres of water you can see them quite clearly with the sun at your back. You can’t, however, tell how tall they are.

Anchored as we were at low water, we relaxed in gentle winds and the smooth calm waters in protection of the outer reef. 

That sliver of light brown is a portion of the reef.  This photo wasn’t taken on the day we arrived. The overcast conditions seem to give more contrast. There is quite a wide border inside the visible reef that isn’t deep enough for a yacht to anchor.  Getting. To get a good photo, one p might well need a drone.

This wonderful state of affairs lasted several hours until the tide turned. 

As high water approached the sea state got bouncier and bouncier as the reef and its topical protection disappeared.  The movement was by no  means unbearable, but still enough to cause a case of mild case of the staggers should you choose to do anything other than sit.

We re-anchored to the southeast end of the reef and offered more protection  even at high water from the prevailing conditions. Zoomax, who joined us there the next day, said it was MUCH better in this location.

One spends a lot of time trying to pick the perfect spot and even then, as happened the Wednesday morning, we spent a ‘fun’ hour unwrapping our chain from around an unexpectedly tall bommie when we swung around when the tide changed. Tim snorkelled and directed me from the water to go this way, that way, the other way while we untangled ourselves.

Carla on Ari B took a photo of Larus and the sunset.

It took us a little while to appreciate that you plan your daylight hours around the state of the tide.  At high tide, there is some protection from the reef, but quite a lot of water does come over the top. There are always waves crashing on the outside of the reef trying to get in. It can get very lumpy and rough.

We had one walk on the reef at not quite low water and there was a steady blanket of water flowing down into the reef in sort of wide flat steps or rock and coral and pockmarked with deeper pool and puddles. The terrain was quite rough and uneven, and good foot wear is a must. It can be hard to judge the depth through the layer of water swirling across tide pools and  into the dips and crannies. It is easy to miss step, which I did a number of times, and came back with some scrapes that we washed and medicated once back onboard.

Thank you, Leanne on Perigee for the gift, given  back in New Zealand, of Lucas’ Papaw Ointment which contains fermented papaya.  It’s coming in very useful.

We went ashore with Alex and Carla on Ari B. They are serious hunter gatherers and at low water they are often on the reef spear hunting lobster and octopus in the tide pools.  They caught 6 lobsters since we arrived but the octopuses have managed to keep their heads down.

The reef is several miles across with room for quite a lot of boats. There were 15 to 20 boats during our time there. All boats that go off shore can communicate via VHS radio. They may or may not have other methods like satellite, but they always have VHS radio. 

The VHS radio is kept on 24/7 while on passage and is set to Channel 16. The theory is that to chat to another boat you make first contact on Channel 16, which is the listening channel. 16 is the channel, worldwide, that you use for emergency and first contact traffic. During an emergency, the Coastguard will tell other vessels not to use 16… except in an emergency. If you are calling for a chat or to plan social events, once you have made contact, you move the conversation to a different designated channel. This is important as only one radio can transmit at a time. If you sit on Channel 16, no one else can make social, informational or emergency call. 

It is also just plain irritating having to listen a pair of boats organising their amazing social lives particularly when you aren’t invited. ; )

We are just now on our way to Fiji. The sails are set and we’re going along nicely at 5.5 knots in 10 knots of wind just ahead of the beam. Light winds are forecast so we are expecting a slowish passage, but that suits us fine.  We plan to arrive Monday or Tuesday so have planned the passage to take 3 or 4 days so as not to incur any overtime charges for clearing in on the weekend.

Cruisers are nothing if not frugal, and we’re not in any rush.

Saturday 3 June 2023

200 nm to Minerva Reefs

It’s been a mixed and mild passage with weather forecasts that, more often than nought, haven’t panned out. 

Our first 200 nm were under sail. Not expecting much wind, we were surprised to get 15 to 20 knots from the southwest not 4 hours out of Marsden Cove.  We averaged 300 nautical miles in the first two days - 153 and 147 nm. Normally we average 130 nm a day, so these were amazing numbers.

Maybe Tim’s compulsive hull cleaning every time we dropped anchor was paying off?  

The sea state was less than expected and probably down to being in the lee of New Zealand for the first two days.  Though it was rather rolly, it wasn’t the bad type of roll where you are flung from side to side or the fridge contents make a break for freedom every time you open the door. This passage was surprisingly smooth and we sailed comfortably with one reef in the main sail. 

We also had a ‘blip’ appear in the forecast on day 5 or 6 when we could expect to be in the Minerva Reef area. Depending on which weather model you looked at, we could expect a little wind and rain, or a small fast moving depression with potentially 30 knot winds gusting 50, or as the Australian model briefly suggested a Weather Bomb. Yikes.

Early in the passage, all one can do is watch, wait and try to get into a position where we have the choice of arriving in Minerva in daylight and in time to get well anchored, or alter course to sail under the system, or hove-to below the system and wait for it to pass.

Both the depression and ‘the Bomb’ disappeared completely from all the forecasts.

Unfortunately our lovely wind also disappeared yesterday.  We are crossing the centre of a large High pressure so it is to be expected, but doesn’t mean we have to like it.  We’re having a mix of light to no wind. Forecasts suggest that there will be wind, but we seem to be in a ‘always tomorrow, but never today’ scenario.

We’re not in the rush we were, but it would be nice to get there without using lots of fuel. 

We expect to spend several days in Minerva Reefs as Fiji is expecting wind and rain in the coming days and who wants to arrive in that?

We’ve had two visitors onboard in the last two days.  

First, in the middle of the night I had a large flying fish join me in the cockpit. Every time I tried to pick it up, it spread its wings and flapped wildly.  Eventually I got a towel over it, scooped it up and chucked it over the side.

Second, we had a very tired swallow came aboard as dusk was approaching. It really really wanted to come below and we really really didn’t want it to, so I made up this paper bag and basket house.  

Come below it did though, and we plucked it off the paper towels in the galley, the sink splashback, the clock and transferred it back the its house each time. It was so fast. One minute it was outside and the next, perched somewhere unexpected below deck. When it next came to roost in my bookshelf on top of my cookbooks, we gave up and left it in peace after getting a tea towel underneath it.  By the time I woke in the morning, it was gone.

It is quite a thing to have a tiny wild creature in the palm of your hand.

All is well onboard.