Saturday 29 June 2019

Bats, departure from the Lau Group, SavuSavu

Nicki here again,
One of the recommended 'things to do' in the Bay of Islands at sundown is to visit a small inlet which is home to many thousands of bats, who hang in the trees during the day and then all fly off to feed as the sun sets.  We took a drink with us in the dinghy and in the company of Jean-Francois and Marie of Cassiopee and the crew of Charm we watched the spectacle.
Unfortunately afterwards as I stepped back onto Tintin in the dark I lost my footing and fell in - usually no drama in the warm water but unfortunately I still had my camera around my neck! Unsurprisingly, the salt water damage appears to be terminal….. 

We spent a relaxing couple of days in the Bay of Islands, paddle boarding and snorkelling over coral gardens, socialising and having afternoon naps when we felt like it!

Our departure was rather more exciting than we wanted due to an overheating engine which required Rob to again work his magic replacing the impeller while underway, with assistance from Richard, as Pim and I sailed the boat reaching backwards and forwards / tacking in a patch of water which was fortunately clear of coral - the timing was fortuitous.  Once all resolved, we motored out through the NW passage through the reef and almost immediately Richard caught a queen mackerel, followed an hour later by a small tuna which Pim brought in.  We all enjoyed fish curry for dinner that night on passage.  

There was rather more fish than we could eat in a few meals, so after arrival in SavuSavu and moving to a berth alongside, we invited some others on board Tintin to have a 'taste' of fish in the late afternoon yesterday; this turned into quite an impromptu party with more than 25 people arriving on board (including spilling over onto the foredeck and around the saloon table encouraging Richard as he cooked round after round of fish goujons)! All the fish was eaten up and almost all our alcohol supplies went too  - fortunately we are in a good spot to replenish all provisions here in the small town of SavuSavu.    
As forecast, it is now raining heavily; nonetheless we hope to depart to head W tomorrow morning, heading for the Yasawa Group of islands.


Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Lau Group

From Little Bay, navigating carefully around the NW side of the island we made our way to the Bay of Islands, with small rocky outcrops dotted everywhere, lots of bays to chose from although with mostly rather deep water we anchored and pulled the stern into the shore with ropes, tying round rocks and tree-trunks.

Little Bay, Vanua Balavu, Fiji

The following morning we departed LomaLoma at 9am and motored N, picking our way through the coral patches.  Enroute we ran the water-maker, only to have the hose leak, causing the boat's instrumentation to indicate that the engine was overheating.  So while Rob investigated the rest of us set the sails and sailed close hauled with a look-out positioned on the bow - fortunately Rob quickly identified problem was the water-maker high pressure hose (aaarrrh!) and we were soon motoring again - and were able to enter into Little Bay through a very narrow passage to a beautiful tranquil anchorage.  We all went in the dinghy through to the next inlet which was surrounded by mangroves - indeed the mosquitos were quite ferocious that night.   

LomaLoma more images

Arrival into LomaLoma, Lau Group, Fiji

Hello, Nicki here,
Tintin arrived into Fiji a week ago clearing into the beautiful Lau Group of islands; since I now have good communications I am catching up with some images from the last several days (and filling time while it is raining heavily at our mooring here in SavuSavu!)

We had a lovely downwind sail from Vava'u, Tonga to the 'Tongan Passage', a pass through the fringing coral reef which surrounds Vanua Balavu.  We had an uneventful landfall, however one of the other WARC boats Aurora B had a problem with their engine just outside the reef, and so they sailed through the pass and to the anchorage, with a number of other boats accompanying them in case of any problem. Fortunately visibility was good which made navigating through the reef straightforward, and 2 dinghies helped them to nose the bow into the wind for anchoring. 

While awaiting Customs clearance in LomaLoma Rob graciously moved out of Tintin's forward cabin allowing Richard and me to have more space; of course this prompted the Quarantine and Customs and Biosecurity officials to arrive while there were lots of bags piled up on the saloon table! We were cleared in without issue, and then went ashore to explore - buying crisps and other important rations from the single store and were given papaya and bananas from David, one of the villagers. We walked up to the radio mast to get our bearings and admire the view - noting that a number of other WARD boats were motoring W around the island with the sun in their eyes late in the afternoon, making it very difficult to see any coral heads in the water ahead.  The energetic types joined David's family in a short game of rugby before heading back to the shop for an ice-cream - our first frozen food since Bora Bora!

Thursday 27 June 2019

Look the other way...

Last night, I came up on watch at 1:00am to be congratulated by Pim on
a significant milestone - we're now in the eastern hemisphere.
Practically, it's un-important (although some navigational software
struggles with routes that cross the 180deg line). The significance is
psychological- until now I've thought of home and the UK as being
behind me, now it's ahead. In fact, the shortest route home is
directly north from here, but that's difficult to get your head around.

Before we left the bay of Islands, I cleaned the engine water inlet of
leaves, seaweed etc. As we were approaching the pass in the reef, the
engine overheat alarm went off - I'd forgotten to open the inlet again
and the impeller had overheated and stripped. Doh! Nicki and Pim sailed
back and forth while Richard and I struggled in the overheated engine
room to change the impeller. 30 mins later we were on our way again -
there are times when and experienced crew really helps!

We've now arrived in Savu Savu (not to be confused with another big
town - Suva, or the kava ceremony - Sewu Sewu, or the village where
Aurora B and other WARC boats are - Somo Somo). After some
negotiation, we have a marina berth with power and good internet, so
we're well set to sit out the weekend of dirty weather.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Bay of Islands

After clearing into Fiji at Lomoomo in Vanua Mbalavu, we've had the
chance to slow down for a few days. We moved north to a small bay,
co-incidentally callen 'Small Bay'. A narrow entrance led to a
steep-sided bay about 200 in diameter with a further, narrower channel
leading to a larger inner bay. It would be possible to get to the
inner bay at high tide, but we contented ourselves in the outer bit.
Echoing around the bay were what sounded like monkeys, but actually are
oriental barking doves - making a big noise for such a small bird. We
met another english family there, anchored in their aluminium lighting
centreboard boat. They are approaching the end of a 3 year voyage and
planning to return to the UK so their 2 sons can start secondary school.

While their we were approached by Tui, 'caretaker' of the local land.
He asked that we do Sewu Sewu. For the those unfamiliar with Fijian
custom (i.e. most of us) whenever you anchor in a new area, it is
polite - almost a requirement - do do Sewu Sewu with the village
cheif. This consists of presenting him (never her) with some Kava root
which hey make into a slightly hallucinogenic and very unpleasant drink
which is ceremoniously prepared and drunk. After that, you're free
to anchor and visit the village and surrounding area. Tui was on
only the caretaker - not the chief - so he couldn't or wouldn't
perform the ceremony, but was keen to take the portion of Kava,
supposedly for the chief to use later.

Next day we motored with some intricate navigation through coral to
the Bay of Islands. Its a small area of small islands, all with
steep limestone cliffs, undercut at water level giving a maze of
stunning little bays and ancorages. We're now ancored in one of
these small bays, tied back to the cliff to stop us swinging into the
other side. Yesterday afternoon, Joe from Charm took us climbing uo
one of these cliffs - the initial 7ft from dinghy to vertical cliff
was the most difficult, The rocks are firm and great for climbing,
so I climbed as high as I dared before dropping back into the sea.

There's some rough weather predicted for the weekend, so we're going to
set sail this afternoon for Savu Savu where there is good shelter.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Towards Fiji

The fleet has set sail from Tonga to Fiji. About 1/2 of the boats left
on Tuesday, but we left on yesterday morning with the rest.

Jo has now flown home, so there are only 4 of us onboard. It will be
strange for me to carry on sailing without her after such an amazing 9
month voyage together, but I won't be far behind.

Some time ago - before Bora Bora, in fact, the high pressure hose on our
watermaker burst. My brother Steve quickly sourced a new one and sent
it ahead of us. You wouldn't believe the hassle involved in actually
getting package delivered. After arriving in Tonga from Fiji on 6th
June, it took a further 2 weeks, innumerable phone calls and emails, 2
trips to the airport and some more money before I finally got my hands
on it on Tuesday. Perhaps I appreciate it more because of the effort
involved in getting it. Anyway, it's fitted now, and we're all happy
that daily showers are now allowed - perhaps even encouraged!

We're now about 100 miles from Tonga, 200 from Vanua Belavu - the
island in the Lau group of Fiji where we clear customs. Customs
clearance is not normally possible here, meaning there are few
visitors so we're looking forward to visiting some pretty remote

Monday 17 June 2019


Moonrise over Vava'u with Jupiter above and large fruit bats in the trees

Sunday 16 June 2019

Birthday hike

After church a bunch of about 40 of us set off to walk up Mount Talau, a really happy way for me to celebrate my birthday with ARC friends and families.
Here I am with Lara from Charm and the view we had looking east across Vava'u to the ocean beyond

Sunday in Tonga

Tonga is traditionally very religious and on Sunday most people attend church, then relax and have a family feast. We went to St Joseph's Cathedral this morning and witnessed the most beautiful uplifting harmonic singing from the congregation. Everyone is dressed in their formal finery. For men this is a colourful shirt and a long skirt with a rush mat tied around the waist. The women were in smart dresses and wore decorative rush belts, with beautifully braided hair and flowers behind one ear.

We are the champions of the world (...Arc, group 2, monohull division)

Saturday 15 June 2019

Tongan dancers

Botanical Gardens Vava,u, Tonga

Nicki here,
Today we had a visit to the 'Botanical Gardens' - actually privately owned, with a tour by the gentleman who had planted most of the garden over many years. Very colourful with some very large spiders. His 'safety briefing' started with the instruction not to stand under palm trees in case of falling coconuts!

The walk ended at a restaurant at the beach where locals were collecting seafood at low water (cockles/ clams I thought) and we were invited to try kava, given lunch and then a demonstration of Tongan style dancing by some of the young people of the village. Curiously, Tongan dance moves for women typically require the girls feet to stay in the same spot, involving lots of gentle hand movements and swaying but no actual movement below the knees. The boys appeared to have much more fun, and clearly all the Tongans watching really enjoyed the show. Photos to follow...

Tonga days

We've had several grey rainy squally days here in Tonga but yesterday the sky cleared for long enough for us to find a beautiful anchorage at Avalau Island. 
Swimming from Tintin to the beach we found a clown fish family (like Nemo) and a couple of lion fish taking cover under a coral head. In the shallows was an inquisitive black and white striped sea snake.  In the brief window of sun we flew the drone above the white beach, palm trees and azure water. For memories when back in the UK winter!

Today the fleet has gathered from around this archipelago back at Neiafu, for the ARC prize giving dinner, our first full get together since the Marquesas in March.
It will be bittersweet for many as several boats will be leaving the ARC once in Fiji. Personally I'll be sad to say goodbye to many wonderful friends, but at be same time I'm very excited to be returning home in just a few days to be around when Bridget and James return from university. 

Pim will be leaving Tintin in Fiji, and Rob will follow me from Vanuatu in July, when Tintin will be handed on to Nicki and Richard for some more exploration in New Caledonia before they sail to New Zealand in September.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

In Vava'u

We're currently on a mooring buoy in a small anchorage off a desserted
islet in the Vava'u group of islands. The weather is grey, damp and
relatively cool and we're having a very quiet morning hoping that the
weather will clear so that we get good visibility for snorkelling and
diving this afternoon.

After our arrival in Tonga, we had a happy evening meeting up with most
of the WARC fleet. Some of them we hadn't seen since Tahiti, so it was
good to chat and share a beer or 2. On Tuesday, we left the town of
Naifu and went to an anchorage called Port Maurelle - no visible
signs of habitation ashore, but quite a few non-WARC boats.
Generalising hugely, I think that Pacific islands east of here are
generally visited by yachts heading west across the Pacific whereas
Tonga and islands eastwards are often visited by boats coming up from
NZ for a season and the most common flag for yachts around here is NZ.

Yesterday, we visited 2 caves - both spectacular in their different
ways. In the morning, we hitched a lift with our friends on Charm to
go to Mariners cave. Invisble from more than 10m away, its entrance
required a dive underwater for several metres before emerging into the
airspace. I was first in and it was slithly unsettling heading into
the blackness with just a hope that I wasn't going into a dead-end
cave! Once in, as the water surged in and out, the pressure in the
cave changed
- very noticeably in the ears, and also by the sudden appearance and
disappearance of mist as water condensed and vapourised with the
pressure changes.

In the afternon, we went to Swallows cave - a much bigger cave
accesible by dinghy. The afternoon light was slanting in lighting up
thousands of little bait fish taking shelter in the cave. Free-diving
among them was wonderful as the shoals moved this way and that. Pim
goes deeper than the rest and it was something out of a nature
programme seeing him swim under and through the fish.

We then moved onto this anchorage and were joined by Charm and Aurora
B. We had a memorable evening on Charm with many laughs and even some
serious conversation. Apparently, the video of me trying to get an
After 8 mint from my forehead into my mouth using only facial muscles
is quite amusing. Hmmm.

Sunday 9 June 2019

Tintin’s arrival in Tonga

Nicki here from Neiafu, the port of entry into Tonga's Vava'u group of islands. We are currently sitting at anchor opposite the wharf waiting for our turn to go alongside and receive the Tongan immigration officials for clearance into the Kingdom of Tonga - unfortunately there is a long queue as many of the World ARC boats have recently arrived; sometimes travelling with so many boats on the rally has disadvantages.
We had a good sail from Nuie ~ 250 nautical miles pretty much along the rhumbline with a decent sailing breeze most of the way, largely forward of the beam so we used plain sails rather than our downwind sails. After a glorious starry night departing Nuie we had mainly cloudy skies thereafter - with occasional torrential downpours (notably usually when I was on watch!)
On passage we enjoyed watching whales blowing and broaching, with the juvenile whales leaping spectacularly high out of the water; Rob was the eagle-eyed whale spotter on both occasions.
Pim requested to take on the role of skipper for this specific passage, to build up his sailing experience. He took his responsibilities very seriously and managed the boat speed carefully to ensure that we made our landfall into Tonga during daylight hours yesterday afternoon. (He also paid great attention to sail trim throughout - now nicknamed 'Pim the Trim' and is proving his extended range of skills by cooking pancakes for breakfast for us all right now).
As we sailed around the high limestone cliffs to make our entry into the sheltered harbour of Neiafu, Richard hooked a beautiful big =][wahoo which was quickly gaffed, bled out over the transom and then filleted on the foredeck with help from Pim. It tasted delicious for dinner last night! We anchored in a small quiet bay just outside of Neiafu and celebrated crossing the date line - thereby missing a full day (nominated to be Nuie's Saturday)with a few glasses of wine.Our arrival was on Sunday in Tonga, which is a very Christian country, and we heard church bells and people singing hymns, but otherwise it was very tranquil and quiet with few signs of life ashore. (Swimming is forbidden by law for Tongans on Sundays).

Today dawned grey and damp, with the weather forecast indicating more of the same with strong winds later today - so a good day for going ashore and catching up on emails etc. Jo flies back to UK in just over a week so we hope that the sun shines for us all later in the week so we can explore and enjoy diving/ snorkelling, before various WARC functions over the weekend prior to Tintin heading on to Fiji with target departure on Tuesday next week.

The fast pace of the World ARC is challenging - by comparison when I cruised in the Vava'u group with my own boat 'Rhumbline' 18 years ago (yes really it was that long ago!) Mike Forbes and I enjoyed doing 'nothing much at all' in the anchorage at Port Maurelle for nearly a week!

All is well on board Tintin - the only minor gear failure on passage was a cupboard door latch in our cabin: fortunately Rob and Jo have a job lot of spares.


Saturday 8 June 2019

Over the date line

En route to Tonga we will cross the date line, even though we
haven't reached 180 degrees west yet. Tonga has chosen to lie
west of the date line so there is a bit of a kink in the line to
accommodate this!

So at midnight tonight we will be fast forwarding from Friday June 7th
to Sunday June 9th, with no mention of Saturday 8th of June in our log

Tintin is romping along through the seas, well behaved in the gusty
winds with a reef in the main and the wind just forward of the beam.
It has been a great day. This afternoon Rob spotted a whale ahead, and
we saw a humpback whale breaching the sea three times, about half a
mile off. The whale came up vertically out of the water to its full
length, then crashed back with a huge splash. Sorry no photo!

We have been treated to a spectacular sunset so here is a photo of that

Leaving Nuie

We're currently on passage from Nuie bound for Vava'u in Tonga. It's
240nm - so relatively short by Pacific standards, but still we're
having to work for it.

Nuie is a slighly odd island. One of the smallest nations in the
world, it is still feeling the effects of a 2005 cyclone. Many of the
islanders were evacuated to New Zealand at the time, and thousands
chose to stay. As we drove around the island, at least 1/2 the house
were desserted and in various states of disrepair. Also along the
roadside were hundreds of well-tended graves - including one chap who
dies in 1994 who fathered 23 children. So they keep busy.

The anchorage in Nuie is completely open to the west, and the wind -
albeit light - was due to back from North to South overnight. We
therefore left last night just after sunset. It was a quiet night of
gentle sailing and motoring, but today the wind has filled in from the
SW, and we're bashing into it. Considering there is no land to affect
the wind for hundreds of miles, it's amazing how variable and gusty
the wind can be. We hope that the wind will continue to back so that we
can ease the sheets, and we should arrive sometime tomorrow

Thursday 6 June 2019

Getting ashore in Niue

Niue is a big sheer sided rock in the Pacific and there is no easy way to land the dinghy here due to the ocean swell.
So there is a crane on the dock, which has a huge hook swinging down. The way to get your dinghy ashore is to manouevre the dinghy under the hook, hook up to strips on the dinghy and get someone ashore to press the up button! Easier said than done when the swell is big, but our technique is improving 

Niue customs office