Farewell Fiji

Crystal clear waters at beautiful Navandra

Saturday 30th September 2017

19 52′ 722 (S) 172 56′ 036 (E)

We sit encircled by the royal blue of deep water, under a cloudless sky, we are caressed by a gentle breeze, the sea is calm, its rippled surface overlaying a lazy ocean swell. There are no other signs of life, no boats or aeroplane tracks, no birds, not even flying fish on the decks. We sail steadily towards our destination, Noumea the capital of New Caledonia, which lies 350nm away. After a quiet night we feel rested and relaxed.

Our last few days in Fiji were spent in Vuda Marina preparing for this passage. At some points they were also relaxed – best day to go is Friday. And at other times a big rush – actually the weather has changed, a Tuesday departure looks perfect, can we be ready in two days?

For this passage not only were we looking at the weather forecast but also the tide times. In Vuda we needed to depart 3hrs either side of high tide to ensure enough water under us at the fuel dock and the sand bar at the exit. Luckily this weeks high tide was in the morning and coincided with the customs people who each morning conveniently come to the marina to check yachts out of the country. Fast forward 3-4 days and we will arrive at Canal de la Havannah the pass through the reef encircling the large South Lagoon at the bottom of New Caledonia. This channel can have currents of up to 4kts, so you are advised to enter on a rising tide, not to mention that the 20kt winds forecast for our arrival are perfect for a wind against tide chop on an outgoing tide. It is then over 40nm inside the lagoon winding around headlands, islands and reefs before you reach Noumea all best done in good light. Timing of our arrival is therefore critical.

So in between, laundry, provisioning, cooking passage meals, standard engine and generator checks, sorting out rigging and clearing the decks there has been much calculating and copious amounts of rubbing out.

In the end we left Thursday, this gave us plenty of time for all our jobs and gave us the opportunity for a bit of an Oyster Owners get together. With five Rally boats in the marina there has been plenty of friendly introductions, a visit from the Rally coordinator and a night at the bar filling a couple of crews in on our favourite spots in the Yasawas.

Abdul the taxi driver (Abdul blue car, he tells us we should call him, to distinguish him from all the other Abdul’s who are also taxi drivers but, presumably, without blue cars) was as helpful as ever, running last minute errands and even appeared at the dock to wave us off. We also had a final fairwell from Clare and Darren from Knockando, our last night dinner together was scuppered by a sudden squall but we did manage a cup of coffee in the morning. Even the restaurant staff waved us off emotionally. Vuda will remain one of our favourite places.

Motoring out of Vuda Marina

Having assured customs we would be leaving immediately, we let go the lines around noon and motored for a couple of hours before slipping, hopefully unnoticed, into Momi Bay on the far southwestern corner of Vitu Levu. Our best time to arrive at the Canal de la Havannah is mid morning on Monday, when the tide turns but giving ourselves plenty of daylight to reach Noumea. This unfortunately means that we need to take our time and have a slow passage. Anchoring meant we left Fiji a few hours later, and meant we could eat lunch, shower and get an afternoon snooze, before setting off at 5pm out of Navula Passage and into open water.

We were expecting that evening to pass through a rain band but the accompanying high winds whipped up the waves creating a very messy sea and turned our first night into an uncomfortable start. Thankfully by sunrise everything had calmed down and we, despite the grogginess bought on by the seasickness pills and lack of sleep, started to get into the rhythm of things. We have now had 24hrs of great sailing, only problem is that despite a number of reefs in the sails, Raya is in her stride and is going too fast. The winds are expected to gradually die so the plan is to adjust our timings during the expected day of motoring we will have to do on Saturday/Sunday. For now we are just enjoying the calm and the blue nothingness all around us.

Sailing into the sunset

Census in Sawa I Lau

Sunday 24th Sept 2017

Our presence in a remote bay in the Yasawas has been recorded officially and for eternity. Last Sunday morning as we sat anchored off the Island of Sawa I Lau, with just one other yacht, a mile or so from any other signs of life we were visited by a local boat. It’s occupant greeted us with the normal wide smile and enthusiastic greeting “Bula Bula” but unusually, for the Islanders, spoke with perfect English. He asked not for the anticipated bunch of cava but if he could take down some information about everybody onboard. It turns out that it was census day in Fiji and our presence remote or not needed to be recorded.

Raya anchored off Sawa I Lau

Our final set of guest has left us, it has been a busy summer and nice as it’s been to have everyone onboard it felt good to have Raya back to ourselves. Sasha and Julia’s visit will be remembered for the fantastic snorkelling we have done, this week we finally got to see the magnificent mantas again, we were also treated to sharks, sea snakes, and a huge titan trigger fish. The last couple of swims were done without Rick who had a bit of an earache and the sight of the three of us after a long tiring snorkel, struggling, ungainly and giggling trying to lift ourselves into the dingy, whilst gradually being swept out to sea, went thankfully, unrecorded but will stick in our minds for quite a while.

Excellent snorkelling off Manta Ray Island Resort

We have played Rummy cube, attempted a game of bridge, drank far too much wine and beer, eaten far too much food and talked and talked. We were actually treated with enough wind during their stay for a couple of sails but for our stay in Fiji we have basically been a motor boat. In fact we have motored so far that on our return to Musket Cove we actually ran out of fuel in the main tank and in, luckily, calm open seas we had to top up from our reserve tank.

Team Raya on the sand bank at Musket Cove

Yesterday we came back into Vuda, ready for the girls early flight this morning. We are getting use to the tight squeeze of yachts here but the space we were presented with this time was the tightest of all. In fact after two tries it was fairly obvious we weren’t going to fit in going stern to, so Rick turned us around and managed to wedge us in with bows to the wall. The normal skilled marina boat boy wasn’t around and his replacement had no understanding of what was going on. Without the efforts of Sasha one side and Julia the other, both armed with large blow up fenders we would never have berthed unscathed.

And we are not the only Oyster squeezed in here, after bumping into only a handful of other Oysters throughout the whole Pacific crossing, suddenly we are inundated with Raya look a likes. In Manta Bay another Oyster 56 had anchored right next to us and at Musket Cove there were three other Oysters including Oyster Blew 56/23 the boat built right after Raya who is 56/22 and here in Vuda there are five other yachts, the Oyster World Rally has arrived in Fiji.

We however are on our way out of Fiji, we have a few days to clear up and prepare then weather permitting it’s on to New Caledonia at the end of the week.

Familiar Bays, New Adventures

Sunday 17th September 2017

The wind continues to howl past the boat for the fourth day running and we are beginning to feel a bit tired of it. This morning hoping for a drop in the winds we came up from Blue Lagoon to Buasali Bay and are anchored off Sawa I Lau. It is incredibly beautiful and although the island and the reef are protecting us from the swell, it is still extremely blowy and the fetch rough enough to make dingy rides rather wet, swimming from the boat unpleasant and use of the kayak tricky.

Sawa I Lau is unusual amongst the Yasawa Islands as instead of being composed of volcanic rock it is a slab of limestone that has been thrust upwards by past geological activity. Being limestone it’s cliffs have been eroded to form an encircling notch, reminiscent of the islands in Tonga and the rocks are scarred with caves, cracks and vertical grooves. We took the dingy for a closer look and marvelled at the fascinating shapes created by a millennia of erosion.

Sawa I Lau

Sawa I Lau is where we came a month or so ago to visit the caves, in fact we have been revisiting, with Sasha and Julia, many of the places we have been to before but we are finding plenty of new and interesting things to do. At Manta Bay for instance, we found a different snorkelling spot just off the beach along from the resort and had one of the best snorkels we’ve had all season. Instead of the normal walls of coral, the area was dotted with bommies, these were in turn surrounded by fish. The reef fish were larger than we often see and in the bright afternoon sun and clear waters their colours shone out. We watched a blue spotted ray emerge from its sandy resting place, a giant moray eel slink from one rocky hole to another and a pair of pennant banner fish dance in unison.

Blue spotted Ray

As always the rolly conditions quickly drove us north to Blue Lagoon, but even here and despite the windy conditions we found plenty of new adventures to entertain us. About a mile and a half across the Lagoon from the anchorage is an mangrove, lined inlet. Undeterred by the conditions we dressed suitably for a wet ride and set off to to take a look. At its head there is a small village, a tiny resort nestled amongst the trees and a little way up the valley a fruit and veg farm. The village vegetable boat had topped up our fresh supplies the day before so we didn’t venture inland but we decided we needed sustenance before we faced the wet upwind ride back to Raya, so we headed for the resort. We were welcomed first by a metre long Octopus that was swimming in the shallows where we landed the dingy, it swam straight under the dingy for cover and spread its legs out into the sand in all directions, cartoon like, to stay still in the current that was washing over it, as we drew the dingy away it elongated itself and headed off into deeper waters.

Octopus on the beach at Waitui Basecamp

After wading from the sand bank across a mini Lagoon to the resort, Waitui Basecamp, we were enthusiastically greeted by the young Australian owner. We spent a pleasant couple of hours drinking beer, enjoying the rather different view and eating a slightly dubious baked rice and vegetable lunch.

The next day, accompanied by the crew from Crazy Daisy, we took the path to Lo’s Tea House on the windward side of Nanuya Island. As the track reached the summit the full strength of the easterly wind hit us. At about 25 maybe 30kts it felt quite strong and we all remarked how it was impossible to imagine the 185kt winds that have just hit the Caribbean.

Windward side of Nanuya

After the hot walk, down by the beach the breeze was very welcome, Lo’s donuts were as sugary as always and we enjoyed the cleansing effect of the lemon tea, before settiing off on the return journey. Instead of continuing on the track across the top of the island we turned left and followed an alternative path that dropped down towards a valley. The upper track passes through mainly grasses and areas of sugar cane, the valley path had many more trees, gullies were crossed by makeshift bridges, it had a much more jungly feel. After about half an hour and just as we were beginning to feel like intrepid explorers the illusion was broken as we emerged out from the tress into the tended grassy area of palms and huts at the beach used by the Blue Lagoon cruise ship. A ten minute stroll up the beach led us back to the dingy.

Intrepid explorers

Hoping to sail south tomorrow, fingers crossed for the Mantas and less wind.

Where Next ?

Monday 11th September 2017

As we start to plan the details of our next move from Fiji to New Caledonia and onwards to Australia, lurking at the back of our minds is the question of where we should go next year. From the beginning, this trip, had been about getting to and sailing in the Pacific, as we near our first continental landfall since leaving the Americas we have to face up to the fact that the Pacific crossing is almost complete.

The journey so far.

If we could conjure ourselves back to Panama we would happily do it all again. The reality, however, is that we have no magic wand and an eastward sail, more or less back the way we have come, would mean long periods against the prevailing winds, not something we particularly want to do. Another alternative is to sail up past Japan to Alaska and down the west coast of Canada and the States, for us wimpy warm weather sailors that all sounds a bit cold. We could of course just stay this side of the Pacific sailing the circuit from New Zealand or Australia to Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. This is a tempting option, but the cyclone season is seven months long, which means we end up spending a lot of time and money just kicking our heals waiting to get back to the Islands. We are therefore facing up to the fact that we have to start to plan our departure from the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. With access to the Suez Canal still a no-go area, the route home is via South Africa and the Caribbean.

Basic route back to Europe

This route is rather heavy on long ocean passages but provides plenty more exciting places to visit and possible diversions but making the decision to leave the Pacific is a hard one.

Rick contemplating the future.

Back in real time we are having a final trip through the Yasawas with our last set of guests, Sasha and Julia. Their first day started well with the wind behind us and strong enough for us to actually sail from Vuda to Musket Cove. Unfortunately, that evening, those same winds bought thunder, lightening and heavy rain. With all the hatches closed it was too hot to stay below so we all perched under the sprayhood counting the seconds between the flashes of lightening and claps of thunder, noting that the masts from the couple of super yachts close by would make much higher and better lightening conductors than Raya’s. In the lulls we took it in turns to check the aft pole light for signs of the Manta and made plans for the following couple of weeks.

Today has dawned hazy and serene, I still marvel at how one place can be transformed over a few short hours, last nights stormy sky and sea is today’s calm idyll. It’s an early start as we have a six hour trip north, no sailing today I think.

Sasha and Julia enjoying the calm sea.

Hair and High Winds

Tuesday 5th Aug 2017

My news feed is full of tales from the Caribbean sailing community preparing, the best they can, to sit out Hurricane Irma. We have a soft spot for the BVI, as while chartering there, many years ago, the first small seeds were sown for our current adventure. Irma, at cat 5, is the strongest type of hurricane and due to hit these beautiful Islands later today. It is difficult to imagine how terrible it must be for the people there, as well as the cruisers abandoning their yachts for safer ground.

The weather in Fiji has been much more benign, I’m glad to say, but not wall to wall sunshine, last week it was mostly cloudy and wet. As we motored in light winds out of a downpour we had on a much smaller scale our own weather phenominum, as we looked behind us we were alarmed to see a water spout forming down from the clouds. Fortunately we were sailing away from it not towards it, we watched as it gradually faded as the cloud reached the land.

Water spout just a mile behind us

Out in the Yasawa Islands it has been the normal cat and mouse game hiding from the wind and swell. With both of us fighting a cold we could have done with a bit of a lull. We have to thank Ashley for being an extremely undemanding guest, as we coughed and spluttered our way through the week. In between showers and doses of paracetamol we have done some very good snorkelling. No mantas at Manta Bay but again a great drift snorkel through the pass, then in Blue Lagoon we enjoyed the fantastic coral on the north reef and had fun once more at the beach reef. We took bread to feed the Sargent majors and some parrot fish came to join the party, painfully they didn’t seem to be able to distinguish between the bread and my extremities! Having got a few shots of Ashley in the feeding frenzy I decided it would be safer to turn my attention to the reef. It is nice and shallow here and easy to take good close ups of the fish.

Back onboard Raya we put Ashley to work, one of her many skills is as a hairdresser, this was not a opportunity to be missed. Now there are some moments in life when you expect to be able to get five minutes peace. Sitting with a hair colour on your head is one of them, in a hair salon you’d sit with a cup of tea and a gossipy magazine, at home you’d expect to relax or chat, on a boat however you end up on the bows resetting the anchor. We had arrived in Blue Lagoon a few hours earlier and anchored comfortably to the side and behind a 120ft superyacht. Just as I relaxed for the required half hour the colour takes to hide my grey bits, a strong southerly appeared from no where and the superyacht suddenly became perilously close. She had been sitting over her 100m of anchor chain in the light breeze and the higher winds had stretched it out moving her right on top of us. Moving a superyacht is quite an effort, Rick offered to move instead and so up on deck I came, looking totally ridiculous, hair dye splattering in the 20kt wind, at least it wasn’t raining

Trim for Rick

As one of our yachting friends says, champagne problems, especially when compared to the disaster about to strike the Caribbean. We are now back in Vuda Marina feeling safe and ready for a few days rest.

Ash in control

Mantas at Musket

Wednesday 6th August 2017

Our spotlight that illuminates the back of the boat, makes for easy landing from the dingy at night and also casts a pool of light off of the stern into the water. This light attracts insects, tiny fish and krill, these in turn lure in other creatures looking for an easy meal. It has provided hours of entertainment over our travels but none so much as our experience last night. We returned from our BBQ at the bar to find a beautiful black and white Manta Ray dancing in the spot light. It swooped and rolled scooping up the mass of krill as it went, oblivious to us watching and filming it or the dingy almost on top of it. Mesmerised we watched its graceful twists and tumbles often right on the surface, other times it went deep only to re emerge ghostlike from the darkness. As it rose to the surface we could see the huge cavity with which it filters the food rich sea water and as it rolled it exposed its white underbelly with two remora stuck fast.

Scooping up the krill has he comes to the surface.

Back flips exposing the white underbelly and two remora.

The only disappointment was that Charlie and George, still drinking at the bar, missed the show, especially as the Mantas didn’t put in an appearance the two days we were at Manta Ray Bay. Luckily the drift snorkel through the Tokatokanu passage is one of the best snorkels we have found here with or without Manta. We take the dingy up current through the pass, jump in and drift with the strong current back over the coral towing the dingy behind. It is a fantastic sensation as you fly over the reef passing over a million fish big and small, spotting eagle rays and sharks on the way. At one area of the reef shoals of chromis, small turquoise fish, form dense lines of a thousand individuals that sweep and undulate around the contours of the coral looking like fast flowing underwater rivers. When we pop out the other end we just jump back into the dingy and do it all again, and again, and again.

Rivers of Chromis sweep over the coral

For our final day with the boys, we motored out with our friends on Knockando to a sandy cay, surrounded by nothing but turquoise sea. The snorkelling was a bit of a disappointment but the location was so remarkable in the calm conditions that we just swam and floated about enjoying the view. We moved on to the outer reef at Musket Cove in search of better coral but a sudden dramatic increase in wind drove us back to the anchorage and an evening in the bar.

At anchor off Sandy Cay

George and Charlie hopefully had a great time with us, they were fun to be with and they appear to have remembered to take all there belongings with them but have kindly left us with the colds they bought from Sydney. As we all coughed and sneezed our way into Denarau harbour, Raya sounded much like a plague boat. We swapped the boys for Ricks niece Ashley, the poor girl will have to put up with two ill old people for a day or two.

The extreme beer drinking experiment was not really a success

Musket Cove

Friday 25th August 2017

We have spent a pleasant four days in Musket Cove sat in the resort’s small marina. With three restaurants, a large pool, beaches to explore and a bustling activities centre it feels like being on holiday. Some of the time at least. Unfortunately we have had a lot of cloud, some rain and a cool wind that has, due to the direction we are tied to the pontoon, been screaming into the cockpit, at times, keeping us hiding below. Jumpers have been worn!

Pretty place to tie up to the dock – Musket Cove Marina

The weather started to change last Sunday. After a nice day spent Saturday off Octopus resort, meeting up with our friends from Crazy Daisy, Sunday morning we headed South. There was zero wind, the calm flat sea was dark and oily and with clouds building, the atmosphere was heavy and oppressive. Rick slightly under the weather with a tummy bug, snoozed in the cockpit, everything was so still and the ocean so empty it felt like I was the only living thing around. Then has happens in the tropics, the rain starts and the world comes back life. So it was, a very bedraggled Raya and crew tied up at the dock.

Monday dawned dry but windy. Musket Cove is connected to the mainland by the Malolo Cat, an hour ferry journey across to Denarau Port. While I stayed aboard cleaning and preparing for the arrival of our next guests, Charlie and George, Rick took the ferry across to complete some chores and have a look around the chandlers. With a shuttle from the airport to the ferry it was also an easy way for the boys to reach us the next day.

Moored one boat down from us on the dock were Clare and Darren from Knockando and frequent visitors to Musket, over a drink at the bar they filled us in on all the local information, including the best snorkel spots, a run down on the restaurants and how to buy cheaper beer.

This turned out to be invaluable, Charlie and George arrived exhausted from their exploits in Indonesia and Sydney but still able to sink a can or two of Fiji Gold and keen to get into the water. A mile off the marina is a long sandbar, as the sunshine appeared from the morning cloud, the white sand glowed in a turquoise sea. We took the dingy, sluggish under the load of four people, out through the shallow marina channel, through the anchored cruising yachts and past four or five super yachts. One giant, Dragonfly, is a sleek 240ft long by only 32ft wide motor yacht and Google tells me is the fastest superyacht around and Google should know, it is owned by one of their co-founders.

Charlie and George on the sandbank, Musket Cove

The snorkelling off the bank was murky but the lack of visibility was compensated for by the thousands of fish. Along side the normal array of reef dwellers we spotted a group of 2ft long trumpet fish and numerous trigger fish, including a group of my favourites, Picasso triggers.

Picasso Trigger Fish

We availed ourselves of the resort facilities for another couple of days. The boys went diving, we all enjoyed the self cook BBQ at Pirates bar, we swam in the pool and stocked up on the slightly pricey supplies at the shop. Then having made Raya shipshape yesterday evening, we plan to leave on the high tide at 9am this morning and head for a night at Navandra.

A last thought, I spotted this article on the BBC news website and it made me smile.

The problem of having to ration your energy requirements to make that essential cup of tea was big news in the real world, for us in Raya World, this is an everyday feature, just replace electric car with water maker/water heater/toaster.

Busy Blue Lagoon

Saturday 19th August 2017

We spent another 4 days at anchor in Blue Lagoon doing nothing very much but watching the world go by. Sandwiched between three islands this seems to be one of the few spots in the Yasawas that is free of the effects of ocean swell and so an ideal place to catch up on some sleep, do a few small jobs and relax while a trough passes over the area . Quite a few other boats obviously agreed and the anchorage was relatively full.

As we entered through the reef last week one boat name caught our attention and led to a ‘what a small world’ moment. Onboard, having sailed up from their New Zealand base, was the sister and brother in law of some friends of ours from our old home town of Cranbrook. In fact it turned into a very sociable couple of days with all the crews getting together most evenings at the Yacht Club bar in the small Nanuya resort.

Raya at anchor in the Blue Lagoon

Despite its uncrowded feel it’s a busy area. Surrounding the large lagoon hidden amongst the trees are two or three villages, three or four backpacker and more up market resorts, a glamping site and a beach area used by a small cruise ship that comes in once a week. All the resorts in the Yasawa and Mamanuka islands are fairly small and they blend well into the unspoilt landscape.

In fact the whole economy of the area revolves around the tourist industry, the villages provide the staff, grow a lot of the fresh food and are involved in the transport of goods, locals and tourists between one island and another. There seemed permanently to be one boat or another crossing the lagoon.

The villagers whizz about in their all purpose longboats that convert into everything from the school bus, to a fishing boat, a taxi or goods delivery van.

Fridge delivery

The villages and resorts are kept supplied by landing craft that ply back and forth from the mainland. In such treacherous waters, even with their shallow drafts delivery is dependent on the tide. We watch in admiration at the skill with which these large boats are navigated through the anchorages and complex reef systems.

The larger of the two landing craft keeping the islands supplied with goods.

A few tourists arrive daily on seaplanes that noisily land frighteningly close to the yachts. However most people arrive on the Flyer, a bright yellow catamaran that will be forever synonymous with our trip here, it daily delivers and picks up passengers from almost every resort in the island group. Bringing in its wake not just waves that set us rocking but a fleet of small boats that act as go betweens, transporting goods and guests from the Flyer to the shore.

The Yasawa Flyer

On Wednesday we added another form of floating transport to the Lagoon, setting out on our kayak to feed the fish off the reef half a mile away at the other end of the island. We could see the sky was darkening but the sea was calm and the wind nonexistent, we didn’t think a little rain would harm us. About halfway a sudden deluge began, it brought so much rain we could hardly see even the few metres in front of us. We paddled to shore and hid under a palm tree, five minutes later it stopped and we carried on our way. Then through the trees we saw another band of rain approaching, the wind had began to pick up, the signs weren’t good, so we quickly turned for home. Not being particularly proficient paddlers the trip back was rather, shall we say, challenging, especially as we kept getting fits of the giggles. By the time we reached Raya there were 2ft waves running and it was blowing 25kts, thank goodness we were upwind, I think had we paddled out the other way we might still be out there!

Not the best time to chose to take out the kayak.

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.

Fairwells and Favours

Thursday 10th August 2017

We stayed in Manta Ray Bay one more night, not only to swim again with these wonderful creatures but also in the morning to fulfil Matts ambition to dive with sharks. Sharks and many other large fish often gather in areas of the ocean where, in a form of symbiosis, much smaller fish swim around them removing parasites and algae. These smaller fish, often small varieties of wrasse will even enter and clean inside the sharks gills and mouths. One such cleaning station exists on the reefs that run in the passsage just south of the Manta Ray Resort and is almost guaranteed to have sharks present.

Matt and I signed up for two dives, it was a bit early on the tide for the sharks so they took us first for a cave dive. Personally I find caves a little barren, much preferring the coral gardens and walls with all their colour and life, but it was fun twisting our way through the narrow passages, each turn revealing a change in the light, dark corners or bright shafts of sunshine. Unfortunately near the end of the dive the route took us sharply down and through an archway, Matts ear didn’t equalise adequately and he was left in a lot of pain. Between dives I called Rick and he bought us over some chewing gum, Matt desperate to do the shark dive chewed energetically to loosen the ear area as much as possible. Still in pain he managed to clear his ears enough to get down to the cleaning station and was rewarded with close encounters with white and black tip sharks and a large grey shark that cruised back and forth with his mouth wide open allowing the tiny yellow wrasse to clean his teeth.

Saturday dawned with hardly a breadth of wind, we were headed to Musket Cove where Tony and Gilly were leaving us for a couple of days of luxury at the resort there. It had been a shame that the wind had never been right for us and they never got a proper sail. Especially as when we started to approach our destination and its surrounding reefs, where it’s too tricky to sail, it suddenly picked up. By the time we were anchoring in the cove it was blowing 20kts and white horses topped the choppy waves. Not the best conditions for dinging people and their suitcases into shore but all were landed safely, if a little damp. Later that evening we joined them in the resort restaurant for a final supper and discussed what a good couple of weeks it had been. They had been perfect guests.

Tony and Gilly enjoying the snorkelling

The next evening it was time for a last meal with Matt, now back in Vuda we had an enjoyable time listening to another really good band playing at the Boatshed. Still with earache we waved him off armed with Ibuprofen for the plane. We will miss him, especially his enjoyment and knowledge of the fish and coral and his youthful energy helping around the boat and dingy.

Great having Matt onboard

Our second reason for returning to Vuda was to overhaul our high pressure pump for the watermaker. Just as we were leaving a few weeks ago Rick discovered an expert in Laukota, a town just fifteen minutes up the road, the pump was beginning to become a bit unreliable, a service was overdue. With a bit of nudging, they finished the job in two days and Wednesday afternoon Rick with our ever helpful taxi driver Abdul drove up to pick it up. Then a complication, there always seems to be a complication, the company would only except cash. Since our return to the UK we seem to have triggered multiple security alerts and our cards are being continually blocked. After no luck at the ATM Rick tried the bank but they had no facilities for international exchange. While, frustrated, Rick called me to see how much cash I had, Abdul appeared out of his bank with F$2000 to lend us, what amazing generosity. While Rick recovered the pump, I called the banks in the UK and armed with a stash of all our cards I managed between them to make the marina ATM give me just enough money to pay him back.

We are now back at Musket Cove to catch up with friends before heading back up to the Yasawas and a bit of a break before our next guests arrive.

Majestic Mantas

Thursday 4th August 2017

The banging of the drums summoned the resort guests to the boats, Manta Rays had been spotted in the channel. All around us cruisers jumped into their dingies and we all raced to the shallow passage that runs between Naviti and Drawaqa Islands where the Mantas come to feed.

The scene above water was fairly chaotic five or six resort boats, half a dozen dingies, two or three large groups of snorkellers and a couple of dozen individual swimmers all jostled for space. Our hopes of a close up sighting were not that high, we couldn't imagine the Rays would join this melee. But then a resort guide raised his hand nearby, everyone swam towards him, we slipped into the water from our dingy and there just a few feet below us was a huge Manta. A gasp from Gilly, a squeal from me, we could hardly believe what we were seeing.

We spent over an hour swimming with these majestic creatures, at over 4m across they filled our vision, they glided over the coral with just the slightest undulation of their wings, swooping gracefully to turn, ignoring the excited crowds above them. Effortlessly flying against a current that took significant energy for us to overcome, gradually the crowds fell away and the years of pounding up and down swimming pools gave Matt and I the advantage, we swam alone with one Ray, escorting it out towards the open sea. At one point it drifted to the surface coming within touching distance and revealing a community of cleaning fish on its underside, he seemed unbothered as Matt dived around him snapping photos. Such an amazing experience and a real privilege.

When we managed to drag our eyes from the Mantas we realised that the pass was brimming with other fish. Shoals of a thousand Blue Chromis, Yellow Tailed Snapper and an almost translucent, filter feeding, rather scary, unidentified fish that seemed to dislocate its jaws to open them abnormally wide in its bid to scope up as much plankton as possible.

N.B. Apparently the filter feeders mentioned above and pictured below are Long Jawed Mackerel, thanks Cindy.

Team Raya returned to the boat awestruck, decision taken to go again tomorrow.

The Blue Lagoon

STOP PRESS : Wow! Just swam with Manta Rays – pictures and details to follow.

Wednesday 2nd July 2017

The Blue Lagoon has kept us captive for a few more days than expected. The waters have remained calm despite some high winds, the beach is long, with white sand and backed with palms, the snorkelling is great and the resort has a cruiser friendly beach bar, why leave?

To encourage a tentative Gilly to join us, we started with a gentle snorkel off the beach. Our expectations weren't high but the few people already there seemed to be enjoying themselves. What a great surprise, the small reef was teeming with fish and when Matt started feeding them with the bread we had bought we were inundated with Sargent Major's. The next day we stepped up the level and took the dingy out to the large reefs in the channel where we found pretty coral, a huge variety of small fish, Matt even spotted a turtle chomping on the reef.

. Gilly feeding the Sargent Major's

Sunday at lunch in the Boathouse Bar, despite the rain it was still warm and pleasant, we saw the resort ran tours up to some limestone caves. We could have sailed up in Raya but thought it would be nice to let someone else take the strain for the day. What we hadn't counted on was that this meant we would arrive with all the other resort boats. Our hearts sank, the beach was full, luckily nobody on our trip was in a hurry, so we waited in the shade until things cleared. The caves were reached by following a path around the cliffs and then descending down some steep steps. The water that filled the first cave was lit by a large gash in its side letting in daylight, the second cave, reached by diving down through an entrance in the rock, was in complete darkness. Rather eerie until the guide shone his touch upwards and light filled a smaller cavern. Luckily Matt had his dive torch as well to light the many crevices. Fun but not an unmissable experience.

Limestone caves at Saw-I-Lau

Tuesday we felt it was time to stretch our legs, we had been told that the path up and over the island led to, bizarrely, a tea house that sold chocolate donuts. The view from the top of the hills was magnificent, revealing clearly the reefs we had painstakingly navigated around just a few days previously. After a hot but pleasant 40mins we descended into a small village of tidy gardens and colourful dwellings and right on the beach, Lo's Tea House. In true Fijian style most of the items on the menu were unavailable, we settled on lemon tea and, of course, donuts. The tea comprised of three lemon leaves, freshly picked from the tree outside the back door and boiling water, it was surprisingly tasty and very refreshing. In contrast the donuts were probably the most wicked things you could eat, dripping in oil and sugar, they were delicious.

Lo's Tea House

In between all these activities we have finally got out the kayak and actually managed to steer it around the bay. A good couple of days

Rock and Roll

Saturday 29th July 2017

It was a relief to finally find calm waters as we entered the area known as the Blue Lagoon. We had had two rolly nights and we were all ready to be rid of the swell and to enjoy some flat seas. It was a shame we had had to move on so quickly because the previous two anchorages had both been very picturesque and inviting.

Thursday morning we left Vuda, via a top up at the fuel dock and headed out towards the Yasawa islands, a string of volcanic islands that run down the western side of Fiji. It was a lovely sunny day, not quite enough wind to sail but onboard with us, were Matt and our friends freshly arrived from the UK, Tony and Gilly. Five eager people enjoying being out at sea and looking forward to a couple of weeks cruising. A great morning was topped off when the boys landed a large Wahoo just as we rounded the reefs off the Island of Navandra.


Navandra is two small islands at the south of the Yasawa chain, they are uninhabited and have white sand beaches surrounding a rocky interior, true 'out of the guide book', South Pacific scenery. The anchorage was a bit uncomfortable but it was too beautiful to leave. We settled Raya at anchor, made a salad and were eating the Wahoo about as fresh it comes, just an hour after it was caught.

It was great to be back swimming from the boat and the reef off the beach gave us some good snorkelling. That evening we joined cruisers from the half dozen boats in the bay for drinks around a beach bonfire. We discovered this was a very special island, the fading light cast a pale grey wash over everything, slowly it turned to pink in the setting sun, our surroundings made the rocky water worth while.

The morning brought more swell and the surf breaking onto the beach gave for an interesting dingy landing, but with five of us to control it and drag it clear up the beach we got ashore. The sand was powder soft and the huge boulders in the centre of the island gave the place a rugged feel. At one end a big jagged lump of rock was joined to the main island by a spit of sand. We paddled, shell spotting, watching hermit crabs and tiny white crabs that tumbled along the sand in the breeze.

Once back on the boat we reluctantly upped anchor in search of calmer waters. The plan was to gradually make our way north through the chain and the nearest likeliest looking bay was on the north end of the island of Waya. From the chart Nalauwaki Bay looked well protected from the forecast wind and swell direction. On arrival we found the dramatic hills, reminiscent of those in the Marquesas Islands, delivered visually and did a great job blocking the wind, however, the swell somehow was creeping around the headland, deflecting on the opposite shore and making us roll more than ever. Two late in the day to move on we made a bid, in the dingy, for a few hours ashore. There was a village, a nice beach and paths leading up into the hills, but despite the enthusiastic arm directions from a villager on the beach, the crunch of the bottom of the dingy on the coral dissuaded us from venturing in. 

Early the next morning we left and postponing stops along the way we headed for what has to be the most protected bay in the Yasawas, we are anchored off Nanuya-Sewa and very lovely and flat it is too.

Ready for the Islands

Tuesday 25th July 2017

Much as we like it in Vuda we are now more than ready to get away and out to the islands. We have had a couple of very hot, humid, windless days, we are being plagued by mosquitos and tiny biting noseeums and then there is still the ongoing challenge of being attached to the fixed dock, that often requires scaling a near vertical passerelle as you leave or return to the boat.

Good to have Matt onboard to help with all the provisions

Since our return from the UK we have been busy preparing things for our guests. Matt arrived yesterday and Tony and Gilly join us tomorrow. So it has been a week of cleaning and provisioning. Luckily we have had the help of Abdul the taxi driver to ferry us around to the shops and run us to and from the airport.

This part of Fiji is relatively built up, lining the road into town are houses and light industry interspersed with fields and fields of sugar cane. Sugar export is the countries primary source of income and the industries presence is very obvious in this part of the Island. Trucks loaded with canes pass us on their way north to the large sugar mill in Lautoka and smoke billows from the plant and scattered fields on the hillside, leaving a sticky dust on our decks. The development of the sugar industry has not only effected the landscape of Fiji, at the beginning of the 20th century as the plantations grew there was a massive influx of workers, most came from India and now their decendence make up nearly 40% of the countries population.

Once past the fields of sugar cane and just beyond the airport is the supermarket. By Pacific Island standards this is a good supermarket with a much wider range of food than we have seen before. Matt and I fill the trolley while Rick picks up our ordered frozen and vacuum packed meat and buys copious amounts of wine. Then it’s on to the large fresh fruit and veg market. Heaps of produce weighed heavily on the tables and stunning flower arrangements added to the colourful scene. One very full taxi returned us to the marina and the exhausting job of getting everything onto the boat and put away, begins.

Colourful Nadi market.

As always in between times I’m on the look out for exciting bird life. There is a tree with ripe red fruits next to the boat that is attracting Red Vented Bulbuls, starling like birds with a red patch under their tails and a crest on their heads. Scattered through the undergrowth are small brightly coloured Parrot Finches with bright green bodies, red heads and red tails. Then today perched on our neighbours rigging was a Pacific King Fisher. Hopefully in a couple of days we’ll be back amongst the sea birds.

Pacific King Fisher

Friends in Vuda

Vuda Marina

Thursday 6th July 2017

We have found the best spot to pass the time of day in the marina is sitting at the outer table in the Boatshed Restaurant and Bar. Not only is the view great but there seems to be a permanent cooling breeze even when there isn’t a breath of air onboard Raya. In the evening as the marina is full of cruisers, here to reprovision or get repairs, the atmosphere is very sociable, from 5.30 onwards the Boatshed is again the place to be.

View from the Boatshed Bar

The cruising community in the Pacific is really quite small, so when fifty or so boats are all in one place we can pretty much guarantee there will be boats around that we know. Just in the last week in the marina or nearby we have bumped into friends from Full Circle that had greeted us as we were towed into Opua last October, kindly giving us some food after the New Zealand customs had stripped our larder bare. 

On the oppposite wall to us is Freebird II skippered by the engineer who helped fix our engine and having left Opua, the day before us, shares the experiences of the horrendous trip up to Savusavu. 

Yesterday, Started with a Kiss sailed in, our first contact with them was on the radio when we spotted each other mid passage between Bora Bora and Tonga and have kept in touch ever since. We spent a convivial few hours together in the Boatshed when they lured us into an evening of rather too many Mai Tais and today they have shared their anchoring waypoints for the Yasawa Islands, our next port of call. 

Finally, a few boats around from them is Taistealai who we haven’t seen since they arrived into the berth next to us in St Lucia in the Cartibean, eighteen months ago, having both just finished the Atlantic crossing.

We have also met a whole new group of boats, having been so tightly squeezed together it would be impossible not to make friends. To starboard there is a large yacht that helped guide us in to our tight berth, they have a three year old red head, as I glimpse him running back and forth I keep getting flashes of Matt at his age. On the other side of us is a boat from the World ARC, a rally that circumnavigates the globe in just 16 months. We had a very enjoyable evening with a group of them on Friday, their timetable takes them off to Vanuatu this Saturday, they will be in South Africa by Christmas, it’s exhausting just chatting with them.

Unusually alot of this chat has been about the unfortunate catalogue of medical problems that is besetting the crews at present. One person has been laid low with a horrible viral infection caught from a mosquito bite in Tonga, Dengue Fever. Another has a serious intestinal problem and is having to be flown out to New Zealand and yet another guy is in hospital with a badly broken leg having somehow fallen off the dock walkway into the water. The rustle of papers fills the marina as its occupants are prompted to check out that their medical insurance documents are in order.

Talking of insurance, Vuda is known as a cyclone safe haven. On the protected side of the island and with numerous cyclone pits many people persuade their insurance companies to allow them to keep their boats here during the summer instead of sailing to lower latitudes as we do.  The cyclone pits are long thin 6ft deep trenches cut into the ground, where wedged in with tyres, boats sit hoping for some protection from the violent winds. They have proved effective in the past but I’m not sure we would feel happy enough to leave Raya in one. We have met people who were here during Cyclone Winston, Vuda was not hit badly but nearly twenty yachts dragged on to the reef further east in Savusavu. One captain told us how he motored against 130kt winds and zero visibility for four hours to keep his boat from breaking away from its mooring. 

Cyclone pit

I think we’ll keep to our plan of spending the summer in Australia.

Fender to Fender

Thursday 29th June 2017

Getting on and off the boat from our stern-to berth at Vuda Marina is, to say the least, interesting and each yacht is squeezed in literally fender to fender. Our view from the stern is of a boatyard, we are less than a hundred metres from the noisy boat lift and a fuel depot sits just outside the perimeter. However, the place has a friendly, ramshackle feel, there are plenty of trees to cheer things up and the marina staff were welcoming and seem efficient, we rather like it it here.

We arrived in Vuda Marina yesterday after a nice couple of days in Musket Cove. Musket Cove Resort, famous for its annual September regatta and the warm welcome it offers to yachts all year around, is on an island in front of a basin surrounded by reefs. The channel in is narrow and busy with yachts, resort dive boats and ferries, for the first time in Fiji, our charts were a bit off but luckily it was well marked and the day was bright.

Musket Cove

We arrived to a calm blue sea, white sand cays and a sprinkling of superyachts, Rick even managed, at the poolside bistro, to find that elusive burger, we decided to stay a day or three. But as is the way with living on a boat, by mid afternoon a breeze had sprung up, the tide had come in and we were bouncing about in a short chop and thoughts of snorkelling, dingy safari’s or finally breaking out the new kayak were put aside. I did try swimming my six laps around the boat but with each breath came a wave and a mouthful of water.

With the forecast set for it to stay on the windy side, after two nights we sailed over to Vuda. As we motored into the circular Marina we were shocked when they directed us to the smallest of spaces, about to protest, we looked around to see every boat squashed in cheek by jowl. Rick did a brilliant job squeezing us in while I repeatedly ran from bow to stern passing lines to the dock boys. Just occasionally it would be good to have some crew!

Squashed in Fender to Fender

There is a two metre tide here and the dock is a concrete wall with a short, rickety wooden pier  built out to each berthing spot. Most boats are using the narrow marina planks to disembark, luckily we have our slightly wider passerelle but at very low tide that becomes too steep so we are using the dingy as a stepping stone to a ladder. 

Getting off the boat is a bit of a challenge

In fact being attached to a fixed dock with the rising and falling of the tide makes everything more complicated. It took a while to work out all the lines but we got there in the end and having rid ourselves of two weeks worth of rubbish and washed down the decks, things began to feel better. Next job is to figure out how to restock our supplies, then we will spend a couple of days getting a few maintanence jobs done.

But for now, it’s time for a cold beer, we are are off to investigate the bar.

Skirting the Reefs

Sunday 25th June 2017

We realised how fast we’d been sailing when we both noticed a drop in wind and speed, we looked up to discover we had only slowed to 7.5 kts, our normal cruising speed. For the previous two hours Raya had been comfortably sailing at over 9kts, in fact for a while we were gliding along at over 10 kts. As we entered the notorious wind acceleration zone that is created by the squash of air running between the two main islands of Fiji, the breeze that was at first struggling to fill our sails quickly increased to around 25kts. The area leading up to the narrow Vatu-Ra Channel and into Bligh water is surrounded by reef and so despite the increased wind the sea stayed relatively calm. We had found Raya’s sweet spot, a force 5/6 wind, hitting us at 110 degrees, in calm seas, fantastic sailing.

We had woken early for a prompt start for the 50nm from Makogai Island to Volivoli Bay on the NE corner of Vitu Levu. Unfortunatley it was pouring with rain and we sat in a dripping cockpit waiting for a break in the clouds. We had, as is our habit now, recorded our track on our entry in through the reef so the lack of light was not too much of a problem for our exit but we didn’t fancy sailing in the torrential downpour, we made a cup of tea. Finally a little after 8am the rain started to ease and we raised the anchor. Our late start luckily turned out not to be a problem, our high speeds soon made up for lost time and as we approached Nanano Passage the sun broke through spectacular clouds and the reef systems were easy to see. 

We had decided on this spot off Volivoli Point as our next stop because in the cruising guide it was revealed that the resort here was cruiser friendly and had the best cheese burgers in Fiji. Having been in small remote anchorages for quite a while now the promise of a cheese burger was embarrassingly exciting. Much to our disappointment burgers were no longer on the menu, in fact the food was a bit of a let down all round. However our surroundings more than made up for the lack of culinary excellence. The wind had dropped and the sea was still and shiny, like an oily soup, there were reefs to explore with our snorkels and in the distance the most spectacular backdrop of escarpments. As the sun moved and the shadows of a few clouds skidded across their surface, the colour and texture of the rock was set in constantly changing relief.

Anchored off Volivoli

We were gradually working our way to the West and a bit more civilisation, so this morning we took off again to wend our way through the reefs on the inner passage along the north coast. It was an interesting route, the arid hills backed by rugged mountains a complete contrast to the jungle covered slopes we were use to. The weather was very calm in the quiet between two weather systems, a haze lay around us and with perfectly flat seas produced a surreal and relaxing environment. But this was not a journey for napping, the route took us skirting past and around numerous submerged reef systems, concentration and frequent direction changes were the order of the day.

We are using a combination of things to navigate the reefs, firstly of course are our eyes, in good light with the sun behind you most shallows are easy to spot. Then of course we have our charts and they prove, most of the time, to be extremely accurate. But occasionally they can be a bit off, so as a check we also plot waypoints taken from other cruisers websites, such as the essential Pacific guide put together by SV Soggy Paws, official cruising guides and often just from friends that have been places before us. And this year we are also increasingly using Google Earth, the satellite pictures show reefs and shallows that are often difficult to see from sea level. 

Reefs around Volivoli showing up clearly on Google Earth but hardly visible at sea level.

Having safely negotiated the string of hazards along the north of the island we sailed on towards Lautoka. It became depressingly obvious that we were approaching more populated areas when the normal collection of leaves, branches and coconuts that float by us all the time, were now joined first by polystyrene take-out trays, then by old carrier bags and an assortment of colourful plastic waste. The traffic picked up as well, since we have left Savusavu a couple of weeks ago, except for the odd yacht or local longboat, we have hardly seen another boat. Lautoka docks were busy with tankers, ferries and tourist boats, we sailed on past and although quite crowded with yachts have found a peaceful anchorage for the night in Saweni Bay. More reefs tomorrow however, as we head for Musket Cove

South from Savusavu.

Thursday 22st June 2017

Undoubtably one of the loveliest parts of our life is waking continually to a different view. This morning we are anchored off Makogai Island in the middle of the Koro sea to the northeast of the main island of Fiji, Vitu Levu. My view is limited by the low cloud that is bringing us showers, but brightened by the arch of a complete bright rainbow bridging the main island and a small rocky outcrop.

Last weekends view was very different, we sat just east of the Cousteau resort, about 3 miles out of Savusavu. A road lay between the narrow beach and the hills behind. Buses, trucks and taxis ran frequently out to the resort, the newly surfaced road crunching under their tyres. About three times a day we were surprised to see a small tanker that drove slowly past and, with what seemed like the Fijian equivalent to salting, sprayed the new surface with water. Dotted through the hill above the road were upmarket western style villas, with large verandas, cultivated gardens and four wheel drive cars tucked in the garages, above them, was woodland. One patch particularly fascinated us, a group of large trees were swamped with vines, these seem to have completely taken over the crowns and were draped and running off the branches. It made us think of bright greeen, melting ice cream cones

Vine covered trees looked like they were melting in the heat

Once we had sat out the high winds, Tuesday we ventured outside Savusavu Bay and sailed the 20nm to Namena island. Namena is a tiny island in the middle of a oblong lagoon edged with reef, it is a marine reserve and one of Fiji’s top diving spots. It was a fast broad reach, in a beam sea and we we’re looking forward to a smoother time once we got inside the pass but we were to be disappointed. The Fijian reefs systems all seem to be a couple of meters lower than the similar structures we encountered in French Polynesia, the consequence of which is that the ocean swell enters much more easily over top.  The lea of the island gave us some protection but with breaking waves, snorkelling and diving on the passes or reef walls was not going to be feasible.

We were relieved when we spotted the one mooring buoy in the bay, anchoring in the windy conditions with choppy waters in a sea bed littered with coral heads was not inviting. Just over a year ago this area of Fiji was right in the eye of Cyclone Winston and Namena Island was hit by winds of up to 145mph. Many trees were lost and still litter the island and the resort that perched on the hill above the beach was completely destroyed. The Island is now derserted, but our friends on Blowin Bubbles who are very keen divers were here a couple of weeks ago, had checked the mooring out, added new floats and given us its coordinates. 

The view from the cockpit was again different, a craggy limestone headland sits at the end of the otherwise palm covered island. There are reportedly 600 breeding red footed boobies nesting on Namena and we had a great time watching all the avian activity. We assumed the main flocks of birds were the boobies although we never spotted their red feet or their characteristic fish catching method of formation diving. In fact they didn’t seem to be feeding at all, all their time was spent with dramatic inflight dancing (flirting?) or protecting their nests from flocks of frigatebirds and a couple of very determined hawks.

Loved the dead tree, looking like it had been splattered onto the rock

In search of calmer waters we sailed on towards Makogai Island, with lessening winds our crossing was slower but very pleasant as we gently pushed further south. Makogai Island was also hit hard by Cyclone Winston and is still trying to recover. For nearly seventy years the island was used as a leper colony and people from all over the Pacific were sent here to be cared for by the nuns and priests that ran the hospital. The ruins of an obviously sophisticated settlement are scattered everywhere across the island, along with, we are told, an extremely poignant grave yard. More recently this bay at Dalice on the western side of the island has been taken over by the Fisheries Dept as a research and conservation centre. A lookout post was positioned on one of the highest hills for counting and cataloguing passing whales and in the bay was a large turtle and giant clam hatchery. Since Clyclone Winston these activities have been reduced to just one family, slowly, trying to restart the program. They kindly showed us the tanks containing hundreds of half inch long baby clams. In about six months time they will be big enough to be transferred to cages and put out into the bay and then eventually transplanted to marine reserves all around Fiji.

Sadly for now the only giant clam we saw was an empty shell, a meter across, sitting on the beach. The four clams that were reportedly on the bommie in the bay have all gone. They are a delicacy in Fiji and a giant clam can be worth thousands of dollars and in the hunger that followed the cyclone anything edible was no doubt fair game. The Goverment is beginning to rebuild the infrastructure at the site, so the tiny clams we saw today should have a more protected future.

We may not of seen clams when we snorkelled in the bay but there was plenty of colourful reef fish including this clutch of anemone fish. 

Anemone fish off Makogai Island

Reality Check

Friday 16th June 2017

There was a particular moment last week that made us smile, a classic cruising moment. All around us was wonderful blue sea, palm trees, coral reefs and sunshine, however we were below. Having not been anywhere near a shop for over a week I was kneading dough to make some bread. I am doing this while straddling Rick who is prone on the kitchen floor, head deep inside the engine room. He is trying to fix a recalcitrant high pressure pump so we can make some water. There is a rich odour wafting from a large bowl of rotting food waste waiting to be donated to the local pig, a long list of waypoints for our next reef strewn trip sit waiting to be plotted onto a chart and on deck is a mountain of towels and swimwear refusing to dry in the 85% humidity. It may seem like we spend our time in the islands drifting from one idyllic spot to another but this life is often quite challenging.

Sunday having spent the night anchored in Buca Bay, we took Penny and Stephen ashore to meet their taxi, luckily we had gone in plenty of time – no taxi had been ordered. Frantic discussions ensued as another car was cajoled into the four hour return trip to Labassa. As we waited anxiously the quiet dock began to fill up, car loads of people also with suitcases joined us, then two jam packed busses arrived, the chaotic scene added to the tension. Then a large boat appeared in the distance, suddenly the reason for all this activity became clear, it was the scheduled ferry to Taveuni. Finally a car, of slightly dubious road worthiness, but willing to do the trip to the airport, made its way through the crowds. We waved a fond fairwell, slightly worried that the car wouldn’t make it up the first hill, little alone all the way to Lambassa. Happily our concerns were unfounded, they made their flight in one piece and with time to spare.

Penny and Stephen’s last sail

Back on Raya we still had a couple of problems to sort out, the most serious of these was the problem with the high pressure pump for the water maker, which was refusing to start. Having no water maker serverly curtails our indepence from marinas and the small towns around the coast, we made the decision to return to Savusavu. We followed our track back through the reefs and into Viani Bay for the night, once anchored Rick took one more look at the pump and there it was, a broken wire on the starter capacitor, easy to fix, we were back in business.

However, a return to Savuavu had a few other atractions. Not least the ability to rid ourselves of nearly two weeks worth of rubbish. Rubbish continues to be a big issue onboard, even with the care we take to unpackage everything, it still builds up depressingly quickly. The only answer is to store it until we reach a large enough town that we feel will dispose of it responsibly. On top of that we were also low on fresh provisions and the calm of the harbour would be an easier place for Rick to work on the boat. So the next morning we headed west and with SE winds were rewarded with a great sail back to Passage Point and Savusavu.

As we left a chilly New Zealand our water temperature read out suddenly informed us that the sea was a balmy 30C, we had bigger things on our mind at the time and forgot about it. Then a couple of weeks ago the log packed up. The log is on the same transducer as the water temperature and is basically a small paddle wheel that sticks out through the hull. The rate at which it spins gives us our speed through the water, clocks up the miles we have done and is the core information that the instruments use to calculate true wind speed and direction. None of this is vital, it is good practice to sail with just apparent wind readouts from the wind vane and the GPS gives us speed over the ground but still it would be good to get it fixed. After much analysis by Rick and a conversation with Andy from Green and Regis, our instrument people in Southampton, Rick has rigged an ingenious fix. This involves using a LED bulb as a makeshift resistor that fools the unit into thinking the water thermometer is working and switches back on the readings from the log. A good example of making use of the finite things we have onboard.

Alternative use of an LED bulb

As we approached Savusavu we could see crowds of masts, it is now well into the Fiji cruising season and the area is very full. We opted to anchor just outside the entrance to Nakama Creek, still within easy dingy distance of town but with the added bonus of catching more of the cooling breeze. On Thursday afternoon we watched as another 56 sailed in, unfortunatley the normal Oyster welcome was rather subdued, onboard they had a devastated couple they had rescued from their sinking boat. The yacht had hit a reef the day before and despite being successfully refloated by nearby cruisers and a dive boat, that night they began taking on water that they couldn’t control and they had to watch as their home and all their belongings slowly sank beneath the waves. A sobering reminder to the rest of us of how careful we have to be.

Busy Savusavu

Albert Cove

Sunday 11th June 2017

In the North East corner of Fiji lies the small Island of Rabi, Thursday afternoon we anchored on its northern shore in Albert Cove. The population of Rabi are not Fijian but Micronesians, originally from the Island of Banaba, a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean near the equator and part of the Republic of Kiribati. Banaba came to the notice of the British Pacific Island Company at the end of the 19th century for its rich reserves of phosphate, over the next 40 years they gradually, with very little recompense to the locals, stripped most of the island bare. After further devastation caused by Japanese occupation during the Second World War the British bought Rabi Island with the Islanders Provident Fund set up for to receive phosphate royalties and moved the majority of the population to Fiji. Rabi is a beautiful and fertile land but not the home of these displaced people.

Albert Cove

We learn their society is run by elders and everybody acts together as a community, sharing childcare and food production. Albert cove has just three or four simple shacks. Members of the village on the western shore appeared to rotate their occupancy of the land around this bay to create an income from harvesting copra (dried coconut meat) for the production of coconut oil and growing Kava, a root with slight intoxicating properties, to sell to the Fijians. 

As we carefully wound our way around the coral reefs into the bay we first spotted Baea fishing the shallows with a large net. In Fiji the owners of the land also own the beach and the fishing areas around that land, it is therefore appropriate, in the more remote spots, to ask permission to anchor, explore the beach and swim in the sea. Tradition requires the presentation of a gift or to use the Fijian, sevusevu. This is normally a small amount of Kava root that is ground and prepared for a ceremonial drink. We had been told that the people of Rabi not being Fijian did not partake in sevusevu, so we went ashore instead armed with biscuits, Coke and Kitkats. Baea and her family were very friendly and she spoke good English, her husband cut coconuts for us to drink from and we chatted for a while. We, rather abashed, as they explained their history and the arrogant actions of our forefathers, they aghast, when asked how many people lived in our village, by the the concept of the millions of people living in London and fascinated by Penny’s status as a career woman. Further along the beach was Monique and her friend, cousins of Baer but much younger and after a polite introduction came an embarrassed request to charge her and her friends phone, having collected one from Baer too, we returned to the boat free to roam the bay.

Baea and Monique pose for a photo

Albert Cove is a piece of paradise, a long curve of white sand, edged with palm trees, mangroves and Futu trees, also called the  poison fish tree, it’s pretty flowers belie the dangers of the highly poisonous seeds that are contained within large box shaped pods. Beyond the beach area were high jungle covered hills and out to sea a double line of reefs lay under the bright blue water. The reefs not only made for good snorkelling but meant the bay was well protected from the ocean swell.

The next day we returned to the beach with the phones, it was a bit of a mystery as to their use, as the bay had not even a sniff of a signal. More immediately useful for us, and them, was the large bucket of food waste we bought ashore for the very grateful family pigs.

Food for the pigs

Baea had told us that an English man who had married a local girl had built a small house on the far end of the beach, now very old he had not visited for a while but the house was still perched on the rocks behind the trees. At high tide, so we could get over the encircling coral we landed the dingy on the beach. With our adventurers hats on, we scrambled through the trees to discover a fresh water pool, magnificent Banyan trees and high up a cliff, nearly engulfed by the undergrowth, a small blue hut. Just yards from the beach the atmosphere of the shady clearing felt very different, cooler, the colours muted compared to the brightness outside and slightly spooky, we didn’t linger too long and never discovered how anyone could have actually reached the hut.

Incredible roots of the Banyan trees.

Saturday morning as we slowly prepared to up anchor a longboat came around the corner to pick up Baer, her husband and friend and return them to the village. Their two small very pink pigs were scooped up and dumped squealing into the boat and they motored out of the bay. About an hour later a group of three young men armed only with a large bag of bananas came to take their place.

As news of more terrorist atrocities and the political chaos caused by yet another controversial U.K. election filtered its way to us through our satellite connection it was humbling to watch theses happy, generous people, living such peaceful and simple lives.

Sun setting over the distant hills of Vanua Levu

Cabbages on Rainbow Reef

Raya anchored in Viani Bay

Wednesday 7th June 2017
Sometimes you come across a sight in life that’s totally unexpected and unique. Although the name should have prepared us, the reef called the cabbage patch is astonishing, the coral here really does grow in formations that look like giant cabbages, none of us had ever seen anything like it. With no camera to take diving deeper than 15m we took no photos, but this was a sight that needs to be seen to be believed, the picture below comes cutesy of the http://www.diveacademyfiji.com

Cabbage Coral

With what appears to be a sparsely inhabited shore, Viani Bay surprisingly, is home to over 150 people. Fifty of these are children so the bay has its very own school. Each morning a couple of the narrow longboats they use here for everything from ferries to fishing, turn into the school bus and go around picking the youngsters up and dropping them on the beach in front of the school ready for assembly, the sound of fifty young voices joined in song drift across to the bay.

Beach at Viani Bay

Next to the school, hidden between the trees, is the Dive Academy of Fiji, run by the very friendly and experienced couple Marina and Jonnie. They invited us in for tea and biscuits as we discussed the options for diving the world famous Rainbow Reef. Having been sorely tempted to join the morning Manta Ray dive, we instead opted for two coral and reef fish dives in the afternoon.  The coral here although bashed by Cyclone Winston just over a year ago is recovering well. Marina came out to Raya to pick us up and our first dive, at Nuku reef, was on a gentle drop off. With a perfusion of varied hard and soft corals it was surrounded by countless reef fish. Shoals of small blue damsel fish, colourful inch wide angel fish and myriad other tiny species crowd the coral heads. Parrot fish, squirrel fish and picture perfect butterfly fish dart in and out of the crevices, a metre long trumpet fish hangs vertically above us, a grumpy titan trigger fish guards his patch and a couple of sharks linger lazily in the blue.

After an hour of surface time, spent again drinking tea in the dive shack, we went for our dive on the cabbage patch. We descended on to a similar scene to our first dive, highlighted by the appearance of a turtle, then Marina led us around a bend to the amazing sight of the cabbage patch itself. Each coral head is about a metre wide and the patch stretched out of sight in each direction. Again smothered in fish, larger species patrolled the top while the smaller ones live within the folds of the cabbages. Despite the lack of light from a dismal cloudy sky and the pressures on our aging ears, it had been a great afternoon.

The next morning we upped anchor and wound our way inside the reef system to Buca Bay. Described in the cruising guides as having two wharfs and a road, we are informed it makes a perfect place to pick up or put down crew. It also added that there was little or no chance for reprovisioning but oddly there was an opportunity to buy an ice cream. Sailing back to Savusavu would waste a precious day of Penny and Stephens time, so we sailed into the bay to investigate. With little signs of life, a small group of houses stood at the head of the bay and a few bigger buildings sat on the southern edge of the deep inlet, the expected wharfs from the boat appeared to have crumbled to piles of sticks and rubble. The water was a dark green and full of flotsam, we slowly entered the bay dodging large branches and coconuts, are hopes weren’t high. 

We dropped the anchor and Rick and Stephen took the dingy to investigate further, as is often the case, hidden behind the trees was a whole community. Besides the road connections to the rest of the island, there was an Adventist school, a small hospital and a tiny shop. There was one serviceable dock and an easy beach landing, the shopkeeper could organise taxis to the airport and although the shop had no fresh food it did sell delicious ice creams.

Banished to the swim deck to eat very melts ice creams.

Happy we could drop our guests here for their departure on Sunday we motored across to the northern coast of Kioa Island. A beautiful deserted spot and with the sun finally out, the beaches shone, the trees were a brilliant green and the sea was a vivid royal blue. We put on our snorkelling gear and went off to explore the encircling reef. Again the coral was healthy and the fish plentiful and diverse, unfortunately we also spotted half a dozen Crown of Thornes a distructive and invasive species of star fish. With no real means of removing them to be destroyed on land we sadly had to leave them where they were. 

It was a fine evening, we drank a gin and tonic and watched the sun dip below the hills of the mainland, a few minutes later the sky was washed in the palest pink, a soft breeze brushed the decks. Life felt good.

Back in Silky Warm Water

Sunday 4th June 2017

The rising sun pops out above the surrounding high hills and the anchorage at Viani Bay is suddenly bathed in sunlight. With not even a whisper of wind the dark, silky water reflects the hills, the only ripples are created by the occasional local small motor boat passing in the distance. The misty silhouette of Taveuni Island dominates the horizon, bird song drifts over from the wooded rim of the bay, a crowing cockerel, chatter and laugher reaches us from the village. It is so good to be back to our Pacific idyll.

Early morning in Viani Bay

With the fridge struggling to cope with copious mounds of spinach, lettuce and tomatoes, the freezer topped up with steak, chicken and tuna and the fruit bowls bursting with pineapples, manderines and coconuts, we headed out of the marina a few miles down the coast to an anchorage off the Michelle Cousteau (son of Jacques) Resort.

Despite all this food onboard, we decided to spoil ourselves and take lunch at the resort restaurant. As they were only 50% full they were happy to let outsiders in, the service was friendly, with nice but pricey food and the best Mojitos we have had since Panama.

Out for lunch at the Michelle Cousteau Resort

 Out of the marina we delighted in being able to just flop off the back of the boat into the fabulous warm water. Things got even better when we discovered some nice snorkelling a couple of hundred metres away. Split Rock was as discribed, a large coral bommie carved in two by a deep gulley. Hundreds of reef fish crowded around the surprisingly healthy coral, including two large Clown Fish diligently guarding their Sea Anemone, a couple of bright turquoise and pink Parrot Fish and a large shoal of stripy Sergeant Majors. We had bought some stale bread with us which created a feeding frenzy, so many fish So close was quite scary especially when they started nipping at us instead of the bread.

Feeding the Sergeant Major Fish

The prevailing winds over Fiji are the SE trades, so travelling south or east has to be timed carefully. Saturday the winds were forecast to be extremely light with calm sea, so at 7am we set off for the 46nm due east to Viani Bay. With what little wind there was directly on the nose, this was always going to be a motor sail but the engine and the early start ensured we reached the pass into the bay with the sun high in the sky. Moonshadow were conveniently an hour ahead of us which meant we could watch their path through the reefs into the bay and confirm our route in.

Anchor safely down we swam and relaxed, thumbs up for Fiji so far. 

Too Hot

Wednesday 31st May 2017

Raya tied up at the Copra Shed Marina

It may seem churlish to complain but ITS TOO HOT! After seven months out of the tropics it is taking us a few days to acclimatise. With high humidity and temperatures around 30 C every small amount of effort brings us out into a sweat and sleeping is difficult. The Copra Shed Marina is half a mile up Namaka Creek and right in the middle of Savusavu town, so its not the best place to swim, emergency cooling down is achieved by driving the dingy ten minutes out into the bay and jumping into the water.

Cooling off with a beer

Our first job, once the customs formalities were completed, was to clean up the boat. The decks and fittings have been liberally hosed down, four bags of washing have been processed for me at the marina laundry and the new washing machine onboard has done a good job with all our jumpers and winter clothes, that are now, along with the heavy weight quilts, packed away in deep storage. And the cabins and salon are almost neat and tidy, ready for Penny and Stephen who arrive today. In between times we have been enjoying the company of John and Deb from Moonshadow, who are tied up next to us, with the odd drink, excursions to the excellent local chinese restaurant and swims in the bay.

Savusavu is quite a large town by Pacific Island standards and besides the Chinese there are another half dozen restaurants and plenty of shops. The town lies almost exclusively on one street that runs parallel to the creek, a line of colourful but ramshackle buildings. 

Savusavu photographed from the creek

There are few purpose built structures, everything from the customs office to the bus station to tiny, scruffy electrical stores are elbowed into whatever space is available. There is a large fruit and veg market that looks pretty good, there are a couple of supermarkets that aren’t badly stocked and we have found the ‘it’s better on the inside’ meat store that friends on Kinabalu told us about in Opua.  It has taken us a day or two to get out of the everything always available mindset that we had in New Zealand and back to the buying what you can when you see it statergy, that works best here. With a bit of flexibility provisioning for four people for two weeks shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

Luckily we were told in advance that despite appearances the meat here was very good.

We should get our cruising permit signed and sealed this morning, so once Penny and Stephen arrive we shall head out. First stop just a few miles down the coast but with clean water and a snorkelling reef I’m sure that the heat will be more easily endured.

Safely in Savusavu

Friday 26th May 2017

Raising the curtesy and quarantine flags as we enter Fijian waters.

Thursday as we neared Fiji, the stormy weather of the past five days had gradually disappeared and was thankfully replaced by rapidly calming seas and light breezes. As we finally relaxed the evidence of what we had been through lay all around us. Every inch above deck was encrusted with salt, damp wet weather gear hung from hooks and door knobs in both heads, one shower contained a pile of soggy clothes, the seats in the salon were a makeshift bed, general untidyness filled every corner. I had the odd bruise and bizarre muscle strains under my armpits where I had been hauling myself up and around with the handrails, Rick battled with a ‘too much stugeron’ headache.

In less than a day we had gone from putting our heads above the sprayhood to be blasted by spray filled cold air and risking a wave straight in our faces, to the delightful feeling of soft warm tropical air, from wearing two or three layers of clothing under our wet weather gear, to wearing shorts and applying sun cream and from having trouble getting any food down at all to enjoying a delicious lamb curry. Having spent most of the passage with extremely reefed sails, for over a day we had sailed with less than half a main and part of the staysail, now with every scrap of canvas out, we struggled to reach 5 kts and the engine had to come on. With delight we spotted our first sight of land the most southerly island in Fiji, Matuku, all was well.

Land Ahoy – Matuku Island

As dawn approached on Friday we were just 20nm from Savusavu, during the night we had seen our first boats in six days, a couple of fishing vessels passed us by, one a little too close, coming straight for us, at about 100m Rick spotted the whole crew waving hello from the deck. Then two more AIS targets appeared on the chartplotter, they were two boats we knew well. After sailing over 1150nm and leaving Opua 48hrs apart from each other we were converging on Point Passage, the pass through the reef into Savusavu Bay, within the same half hour.

By 9.30 we were all tied up to the dock in the Copra Shed Marina and after the initial euphoria of arriving, swapping tales of 60kt gusts, gigantic waves and how fast you can go with just a handkerchief aloft, and of course, drinking a very well deserved got here beer, we were ready to drop into our wonderfully still beds. 

Alas, formalities still had to be completed. Officials from four departments, Customs, Immigration, Biosecurity and Health took it in turns to file onboard to fill a myriad of forms and inspect the boat. If that wasn’t enough we then had to traipse around town to three different offices, paying fees and collecting our passports. In our tired state and swaying from land sickness, in temperatures of over 30 C, we hardly noticed the town around us but it definitly feels friendly and welcoming, plenty of time to explore, when we’re rested.

Early morning view from the cockpit

Ricky Puts His Shorts On – Finally

Wednesday 24th May 2017

As I picked myself off the salon floor, made slippery by our sodden boots and lethal by the heavy seas, I felt I had hit, literally and metaphorically, a low point in this passage. We were both very tired, it has been a rough, grey and wet crossing, For a few moments I indulged in a wave of self pity, but it’s just us out here, no other option than to keep going, so we try to smile for each other and get on with whatever has to be done to get us to Fiji.

Rick securing the pole
We finally left New Zealand on Friday. All that week the forecasts swayed from good to bad and back again, each day the decisions onboard each boat swayed too and fro. It started to become apparent to us that there was never going to be a perfect time to leave. We took the decision at the very last minute as we walked to the customs office, swaying from cancelling our appointment, checking out, cancelling our appointment or checking out? We checked out, they are very strict in New Zealand, once you have your exit stamp, that’s it, no turning back.

Now we are hopefully through the worst of the passage it definitely feels like the right decision, the prospect of a Mojito in the Copra Shed Marina Bar in Savusavu, Friday night, encouraging us onward. There were times in the last couple of days  however, when the boredom, indecision and chilly weather of the last few weeks in Opua seemed like a luxury. Almost from the outset we have had messy seas and as the winds built to a steady 30+ knots the waves grew bigger and came round onto our beam. Two or three times a day one would hit us wrongly and crash over into the cockpit. Twice these waves were bid enough to fill the cockpit floor with six inches of water, add in the spray from waves over the bows and frequent showers it has been a very wet and unpleasant few days.

The movement below made life extremely difficult, having to put on and off our heavy wet weather gear, boots and life jackets each time we changed watch was exhausting. The niceties of life, all thoughts of writing a ‘finally left New Zealand’ blog, even trying to read, were quickly put aside. It was all we could do to make sure we ate something and got some sleep. Shares in our seasickness medication of choice, Stugeron, will be sky rocketing.

The hoped for increase in temperatures were also slow in coming, so when we got our first glimpse of sunshine yesterday our spirits rose. This turned out to be premature, the breaks in the clouds did indicate us moving from the NZ high pressure system into the tropical trade winds but it was accompanied by frequent violent wet and extremely gusty squalls. As we watched them track across the horizon our hearts would drop knowing that this ominous blackness was coming our way. In the worst to hit us we registered 60+ kts winds, the last thing we wanted in our bone weary state was to be constantly trimming the sails and fighting the now very rough sea.

Raya of course has, as always, not put a step wrong, she just ploughs on and on, shrugging off the high winds and riding out the large waves. Shame her crew can’t ride out the storms quite so easily.

Now through the front the weather has improved dramatically, the winds are a nice 22kts and with the easterly miles we fought to make early on, we are now sailing comfortably down wind. Rick has his shorts on and it is calm enough finally, for me to write this blog.