A Day in our Life at Anchor

Sunday 12th August 2016

Of course a large part of the charm, and the challenge, of our life afloat is that we don't really have typical days, but sometimes it is good to take ones eyes off the highs and lows of life and focus on the everyday.

Saturday we were anchored off the beautiful island of Navandra, we had arrived the afternoon before, sailing north to escape the crowds and choppy waters at Musket Cove. I find I wake early most mornings and love to catch the sunrise, this Saturday morning, the sky was streaked with high clouds that lit up long before the sun appeared above the hills on the eastern side of the bay. The sea is calm but overnight a swell has begun to creep in. Navandra is a remote uninhabited Island and the early morning sounds were restricted to the childlike bleating from a couple of goats somewhere on the island and the distant roar of waves crashing on the reef. I search with the binoculars but I can't spot the goats on the shore or perched on the large rocky outcrops that poke out from the undergrowth. They sound close and must be hidden amongst the trees.

I make myself a cup of tea, turn off the anchor light, unfurl our ensign and settle down to check my messages and look at today's weather forecasts. There is only a weak 3G signal here so things are slow, but it soon becomes clear that despite the roll we are anchored in quite a good spot. The tall mountains on the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu cast a wind shadow that, depending on the direction and strength of the wind, falls generally across the Lasawas. Its size and exact position changes from day to day and appears on the wind maps in blue, representing light winds. Today a thin finger of blue stretches out and falls over Navandra, either side of us is swathed in the oranges and reds of forecast high winds. When Rick wakes we take the decision to stay another night in the bay.

Unfortunately yesterday when we came in, keen to tuck as far in as possible out of the wind, we anchored a little close to the reef, we were probably fine but all night we were slightly anxious of our position, especially if the wind direction changed. If we wanted to stay and relax we needed to move, so we pulled the anchor up, motored backwards and reset it a bit further out.

Once settled we got on with some jobs, Rick checked and topped up the engine oil and then turned on and checked the newly reinstalled watermaker high pressure pump. I wash a line that was used to attach us to the mooring buoys in Vuda. Sitting submerged in the unclean marina water for the month we were there, it has languished, avoided, in various spots on the boat looking and smelling disgusting ever since. As the boat swings with the breeze we are turned broadside to the swell, which rocks the boat uncomfortably, my bucket sloshes soapy water, Rick wedges himself to avoid spilt oil.

The white beach beckons but we can see the surf rolling in and know from experience that, in these conditions, it will be too difficult to land and relaunch the dingy with just the two of us, so we opt instead on going snorkelling. It feels refreshing to be in the water, we have great visibility below the surface and the view above the water is stunning. It's a pleasant half hour, we see nothing particularly spectacular, I spot a large grouper however I can't catch him for a close up look and the coral is not in good condition but there are plenty of reef fish. Particularly abundant are the pretty striped surgeon fish that seem to be everywhere we look.

Snorkelling in Navandra Bay

Back onboard Raya it's time for a beer and to make some lunch. Rick knocks up some French Onion soup while I make some cheese scones. I carelessly, in these rolly condition, tidy last nights wine glasses to a basket on the counter. Just as I am about to put the scones in the oven, the boat lurches, the wine glass tumbles and the scones are lightly sprinkled with shards of broken glass. We are much more conscious of waste than we were before we entered the Pacific and instead of rejecting them we spend ten minutes picking over the tray before popping them in the oven.

We survive lunch without lacerating our mouths and spend, as we often do, a few hours in the afternoon relaxing. It's not easy laying on the bed when it's rolly, Rick lies star like across the bed to read his book, I take a brochure, about the delights of spending the cyclone season in Australia, on deck and start planning our period 'down under'. I look up every now and again to marvel at my surroundings. In the mid afternoon sun the colours seem to have, if possible, intensified, the trees even greener, the beach even whiter, the sea even bluer. The only sign of activity is a group of children from some of the five other boats in the anchorage clambering on the rocks and running on a far away beach, now at low tide even the surf is quiet. The swell however continues to roll in.

Bracing against the rolling of the boat

The sun sets undramatically behind a build up of cloud on the horizon but leaves behind a splendid pink glow that fills the sky. We had read of the dramatic Perseid Meteor shower due over the next few days, so as soon as it is dark enough, with all lights extinguished, we sit on deck to see if we can spot some shooting stars. With the moon yet to rise it is a spectacular scene, Jupiter shines brightly low in the sky, Antares a red twinkle to our West, the cloudy expanse of the Milky Way stretches above us. We spot the Southern Cross and the plough, upside down this side of the equator, but no shooting stars. (We learn later that the shower is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere).

We tidy and check everything is shipshape on deck, lock on the dingy and go below to begin watching the TV series of the Crown, which with the cheap telephone data here, I managed to slowly download while in the marina. Rick has the last of the cheese muffins and with an uncomfortable crunch finds the inevitable chip of glass that slipped us by.

Then at what is commonly known as cruisers midnight – 9pm, we jostle for enough bed space to assume our star shapes and attempt to sleep. Rock and roll, rock and roll.

A day in our life on the river.

I wake this morning to a change in the weather, our “window on the world”, from the bed, is the hatch above our heads, for the past week it has been filled with unbroken blue but this morning there is a blanket of slate grey. The sounds are different too, instead of the slap of oars from the procession of early morning rowers passing just feet from our hull, I can only hear the fog horns from the cargo ships leaving the docks in Southampton.

Each morning as one of us steals ourself to get out of bed to turn on the heater, we miss our reliable, auto-timed central heating system, once on we quickly jump back into bed until the boat warms up. I glance out of the window but all is quiet on the river, a lone swan swims by, its feathers fluffed up in full display. Unfortunately for him this effort is in vain, as far as I can see, there are no other swans nearby so this performance is watched by just myself and a bunch of disinterested seagulls.

An hour later and the marina has woken up, the large yacht next to us is having its windscreen replaced, the sailing school boat a few berths down welcomes a group of sheepish looking students and a rib speeds past setting all the boats rocking. On the hard, as I take some rubbish to the skip, it is also busy. Half a dozen salty sea dog types are lovingly painting and polishing their crafts and there is a motor boat being put onto the crane to be returned  into the water, while another three boats line up on the working dock ready to be lifted out.

Onboard Raya, Rick has all the cushions up and is busy sorting spares into a selection of assorted boxes and filling every inch under the seating. As the only seat left is at the chart table I take out the chart plotter instructions and start work on recalibrating. The Raymarine display units ( the screens showing our electronic charts) are the only part of the navigation electronics we haven’t replaced, so I spend time deleting all the old routes and way points and setting the types of displays, alarms, etc. to the settings we want.

In the meantime a guy from Sailfish comes to check over the watermaker. When switched on we can supposedly make about 90 litres an hour of fresh water from seawater, amazing really. We have left this job to right at the end of the refit as once commissioned the unit does have to be used, ideally every couple of days or at least once a week and as we are sitting in the not so pristine waters of the Itchen river it is better to be run it while we are out sailing. Happily everything is working well. Once Rick is satisfied that he understands all the ins and outs the engineer leaves and we jump in the car to buy engine and generator spares. It is only a half successful trip but we do find a fantastic pub on the river Hamble for a light lunch.

As the day wears on the marina begins to empty of workers, most of whom don’t work Friday afternoons, and would normally start to fill with owners coming down for a weekend of boating. Today however people must have looked at the weather forecast and decided it would be warmer to stay at home, everywhere is very empty. The wind is whistling through the rigging and creating a chop on the river, the friendly black lab is hunkered down on the dock patiently waiting for his owner on one of the boats, even the ever present seagulls seem to be hiding somewhere, just the odd hardy soul sails past slowly.

Rick and I turn on the heating and settle down to some admin, he is responding to emails and researching the final few spares, while I type out a Mayday radio procedure sheet to be put next to our VHF Radio – lots of RED and CAPITAL letters.

It is almost high tide and so the tidal stream that rattles past the boat has reduced and the floating pontoon we are tied to is nearly at the level of the surrounding land, all the mud flats are covered. Our depth meter shows 5.2m, that’s under our keel so the river is now about 25ft deep, at low tide it can go down to just 6ft or 7ft. That’s a lot of water moving in and out twice a day and produces the strong currents that can make mooring so difficult here.

Late afternoon the sun threatens to appear but fails, Rick goes on deck to finish a piece of woodwork that he has been glueing and I sit down to write this blog. Opposite us more well wrapped up crews arrive for the sail school boats, a group of flirting swans take off magestically from the other side of the river and the choppy water continues to lap noisily at our hull.

All is well on Raya we have achieved quite a lot today and we have a friend arriving to take us to dinner, it’s time to break out the gin and tonic. We have been drinking Gin and Tonic with Jonathan for about forty years, but today he comes armed with ingredients for a very different beast. Hendricks Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, cucumber, lots of ice and finally a couple of twists of cracked black pepper. Surprisingly good!