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Leg 5 - 2003, Suva to Lautoka, Fiji

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Update 1
Leg 5 - 2003, Suva to Lautoka, Fiji
September 4, 2003 0600 18.57S, 178.16W, Log: 70,889, Baro: 1014, Temp: 74F
At Anchor, Daku Bay, Kadavu Island

Returning Home to the Village
Of all the places we visit in the South Pacific, Daku feels like a place we belong.

Mahina Tiare moored at Tradewinds Hotel, Suva
Leg 5 is off to a great start! Our four expedition members joined us Wednesday at noon at the Raffles Tradewinds Hotel where Mahina Tiare was moored stern-to, and we immediately moved to a quiet anchorage off a little park island to start orientation. After an introduction to coastal piloting and dinner at the Royal Suva Yacht Club, we raised anchor yesterday morning at 0600 and Amanda started deck and mainsail orientation as we motored out Suva's busy pass. We passed a ferry and several fishing boats and set sail south. Usually SE winds means that the passage south to Kadavu is close hauled, choppy and wet.

Mahina Tiare getting fuel at Royal Suva Yacht Club
Yesterday the weather goddess smiled and provided us with N then NE winds, 12-17 knots, so we had a perfect broad reach. About midpoint in the passage we stopped to practice Lifesling overboard rescue procedures, and when Linda's hat blew over while she was sailing to rescue the balled-up newspapers, she got to perform a double rescue. Perfect sailing conditions also meant perfect teaching conditions, so Amanda taught bowlines, figure eight knots and properly securing lines to cleats and rigging a preventer. We also inventoried our three Abandon Ship containers and talked about priorities in assembling your own emergency supplies and demonstrated our collision mat.

Julie throws in the Lifesling while Yvette is spotter

Julie returns to the helm to retrieve the M.O.B while Mo is spotter.

With islands visible on all sides, crew learned to take and plot bearings as well as GPS positions on the chart. Radar orientation is always early on our list of teaching priorities, and although we didn't have any ships to track on the passage, we used a small island as a target to align the VRM (variable range marker) and EBL (electronic bearing line) on.

We were all preparing newspaper heads on deck to practice Lifesling man overboard procedure when John suddenly saw off starboard something jump out of the water. Within seconds dolphins on both sides of the boat surrounded us. We all jumped up with cameras in hand and headed for the bow as the dolphins were bow-riding M.T. What a wonderful experience to see dolphins in the middle of the ocean playing with you. They stayed for ten minutes, and then disappeared as fast as they showed up. Someone later said that seeing dolphins like we had means good luck for the trip, and I think they were right, so far it's been heaven!

Dolphins on the bow!

Yvette, Mo and Linda watching dolphins

Coral piloting and anchoring provided our last challenges of the day. Daku Bay is large, but very encumbered with coral heads, and only part of one of the beacons marking the major coral patches remains. Expedition members used a new Fijian chart, F11 that includes a detailed inset of Daku Bay, and had an excellent chance to see how water coloration indicated depth. With only 1' of water under the keel at times, Mo threaded her way to a sandy-bottomed basin, completely clear of coral. We have just 2' of water under the keel at low tide, but excellent protection.

With just ten days on this expedition, we really have to be organized to make sure we don't miss topics in our instruction schedule.

Jimmy and Gwenda Cornell had alerted our friends in the village that we would be arriving yesterday, and when I ran ashore in the dinghy to see if it was an appropriate time for us all to come ashore to perform the sevusevu ceremony, nearly the entire village was on the beach, waiting. Our friend Epi said, "Gather your crew and come as soon as you can, the chief is waiting".

In a few minutes crew finished their swim and showers, donned pareus and long skirts, and we headed ashore.

Sevusevu with chief Sai on the right
Sevusevu is a ceremony where visitors (Fijian or kavalagi) ask permission to visit and present the chief or mayor with a bundle of kava roots. The chief makes a speech thanking you for coming and giving you permission to anchor, swim, fish, and welcoming you to walk through the village (Fijians are great orators!) one person accepts the kava for the village, everyone chants and claps and then bowls of kava are ceremoniously presented to everyone present. This may sound like a hassle, but it's not. It is a very social and wonderful part of the fabric of Fijian village life.

After a round of kava, Amanda asked if she and the crew could be excused to go and visit with Kata, Epi's wife. I waited out another round, then followed. I could hear the laughter long before I reached Kata and Epi's house. Kata's 19 year old attractive daughter Mariah was home from boarding school, plus Cheryl, daughter of yachties anchored in the next bay, was staying with the family, and our crew were having a great time.

Larry and Barbara on Santana
I was surprised and delighted to learn that Lynn and Barry Thompson who had taken my Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminar 15 years ago and later joined me for one of my first sail-training expeditions to the South Pacific 12 years earlier on Mahina Tiare II were anchored in the next bay aboard Sunrise, their Wauquiez Hood 38 sloop. Cheryl was their daughter who had flown down from California to visit with them. I am very excited to see them this morning. This is the ultimate reward for me, to see folks out living their dreams that I have been able to assist in their journey. We also met another couple, Larry and Barbara on their Pacific Seacraft Crealock 34, Santana, just before leaving Suva, who had taken our weekend seminar at Orange Coast College in Newport Beach, CA. A third couple came by when we were anchored at the Tradewinds, saying they too had taken the seminar and were now anchored at Musket Cove, so we will see them next week. It is sure exciting to meet so many people whom we have helped realize their dreams!

Leg 5 crew - Mo, Linda, Julie and Yvette
We have a great crew on Leg 5, all eager to learn, and for different reasons.

Linda Prout, 46 is a nutritionist from Oakland, California who with her husband Glen, just purchased a Farr 63 Pilothouse located in Monaco. Glenn has now moved the boat to the south of France and is busy outfitting it now. Linda thinks their house may have just sold, she has already packed her belongings, and will fly to France to start cruising the Med as soon as the expedition is done. Talk about motivated to learn! They hadn't planned to buy a boat until next spring, giving Linda more time to take classes and prepare, but they found a great boat at the right price and so she is taking notes on everything.

Julie Barve, 31 lives in the high desert not far from Palm Desert, and after enjoying her first sailing experience in the BVI's last year, decided with her Swedish husband Petter, that while their kids were young (Madelina, 8 & Audree, 5) that cruising would be a great way to share an adventure as a family. Petter sailed in Sweden as a boy, and after attending our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminar in San Francisco last March he became excited about the idea of cruising with his family. Within days after the seminar he signed up for our most difficult leg of all (typical Swede - he loves a challenge!) Leg 1-2004, Auckland to Tahiti, and soon after Julie signed up for this leg.

Maureen Kessler (Mo), 38 is a friend of Julie's, used to work in the film industry in Hollywood, but moved to the desert to escape LA after her husband sold his steel business at 35. Mo is having a great time raising her kids, Courtney, 5 and Carson, 22 months. Although she raced on friend's boats earlier and owns a water ski boat now, she is excited about learning as much as possible during these ten days with the goal of teaching Mark her husband sailing skills during a charter in the BVI's. They also hope to join Julie and Petter in different countries.

Yvette Nichols, 36 is a nurse from Spokane, Washington, whose husband Carl we enjoyed sharing Leg 5 - 2002 with. Carl and their two sons, Joel, age 11 and Kyle age 8 would like nothing better than to spend a couple years offshore cruising, and Yvette is gaining more confidence by the day and learning everything she can. She is a natural sailor, and they spend at least a month on Liberty, their Columbia 36 cruising the waters of British Columbia and the San Juan Islands.

Although we didn't intend for Leg 5 to be an all women expedition, this is giving Amanda the opportunity to take the lead in teaching, and me to be more in the background. I'm enjoying being more in the supportive and less in the lead role.

Following is the new teaching and sailing outline that Amanda has drawn up for Leg 5. Next year's schedule will be similar, so if you are interested in a mellow introduction to offshore cruising, consider sailing with us on Leg 7-2004. Click here for detailed information on Leg 5 Fiji.

Update 2
September 13, 2003 17.40S, 177.23W, Log: 71,068 Baro: 1012 Cabin Temp: 87F Tied bow-to, Vuda Point Marina, between Nadi and Lautoka, Fiji

Friday morning class was cruising medicine, where we inventory our Medical SeaPak and discuss prevention and treatment of common medical problem. We followed medical with everyone going aloft for rig inspection, then servicing and rebuilding winches.

Going aloft lesson
By the time Amanda was done teaching, the tide had come in enough so that we could take the dinghy directly to the landing at Vunisei village.

When we visited the school in Vunisei last year bringing requested school supplies, the headmaster asked if we could bring more schoolbooks. Just a month ago in Pago Pago we learned that Diane Daniel, the director of the Seafarers' Center had schoolbooks that she was trying to find homes for. It turns out that the Kinoole St. Church in Hilo, Hawaii had collected dozens of cases of new and used schoolbooks and shipped them to Diane to distribute in Samoa. Diane told us that none of

Hiking up the hill to Vunisei School.
the Samoan schools she contacted wanted the books, so she had been asking yachties to take them to smaller islands in Tonga and Fiji where they would be welcomed. We managed to get four 60lb large boxes of new schoolbooks stowed in our aft head, and the biggest challenge was to get them up the steep, winding path and steps to the school at Vunisei.

I knew I could carry one box, we split another box into carry bags that our crew carried, and then I enlisted some young, strong Fijian boys to carry the other two boxes. I was staggering, huffing and puffing and drenched in sweat by the time we reached the school, but the Fijian guys didn't even break a sweat, as they are used to climbing hills daily to their garden plots.

It was Friday afternoon, and we were shown around the classrooms before the teachers assembled all the students in one room. It's hard to see it, but if you look closely in the following picture, you'll see a pile of books surrounded by some very enthusiastic Fijian students. The teachers asked us each to introduce ourselves and say a little about where we are from, then the children sang so loud and beautifully that it had several of our crew in tears.

Linda is very impressed with the nutrition lesson

Children saying thanks for the new books and supplies

We would like to thank Yvette Nichols for donating calculators that the teachers requested last year, and Diane Daniel in Pago Pago as well as the Kinoole St. Church in Hilo for helping out this year.

Half our crew chose the 45-minute hike back to Daku village, led by the singing school kids.

Starting out on the hike home to Daku with Jale and Emily
Saturday we sailed 12 miles south to Drue, for dinner at Dive Kadavu, The perfect 15-knot winds provided an excellent opportunity for Amanda to teach reefing and sail trim, plus this passage through reef-strewn waters provided excellent navigation practice.

Landing through the surf proved challenging, as the normally sheltered (in prevailing SE winds) anchorage was now a lee shore in unusual SW winds. We timed the sets of breakers, surfed in on the back of a moderate wave, then quickly dragged the Avon up the beach before the next set of breakers crashed ashore.

After a great hike up the hills behind the tiny dive resort, we had an enjoyable evening with Rena, the Australian owner and some of her Fijian crew. They were between groups of dive clubs, so we were the only dinner guests.

Getting back out through the surf that had come up even higher after dinner was a mission. We all stripped down to swimming suits and went charging out into the surf dragging the dinghy. The shore fell away quickly, so suddenly the girls were in deep water and struggling to climb (fall) into the dinghy, all were laughing hilariously, while I was trying to concentrate on getting the motor started before the next set of waves crashed down on us. Amanda, still in deep water, gave a mighty shove and dove into the dinghy as I got the motor powered up...phew!

The following morning we had an excellent sail back to Daku in time for church in winds peaking at 18 knots. Church was packed, the singing vibrated through everyone in the building, and the assistant headmaster from the Vunisei School was the guest minister. After church, Little Epi (as he is still called, even though he is as tall as his father now) and his cousin uncovered the lovo (earth oven) and pulled out all kinds of delicacies that his father explained to us at dinner. Epi and Cheryl had built a special outside shelter for this meal, consisting of roofing iron and thatch palm fronds.

Opening the lomo for lunch

Epi explains the Fijian lunch menu

We sat around for hours, chatting and enjoying the special time with our friends. After we were nearly done eating, friends and neighbors came by to sample the leftovers. Amanda's new fish curry dish was a big hit, as villager's usually only catch little reef fish.

At two that afternoon all the kids went back to the church for "Sunday School" which consisted of

Amanda and Yvette join in with the children's Sunday school singing practice
the older kids teaching the younger kids new songs. Yvette and Amanda joined in, making new friends and all the kids came down to the beach to say farewells when we headed back to M.T.

Monday morning several of us went for an early snorkel, finding lots of vibrant soft and hard coral and fish, I then taught overall passage planning, using World Cruising Routes and Pilot Charts, followed by marine weather.

Our crew was interested in learning how to make masi (bark cloth, illustrated with traditional patterns) and after class crew and Amanda visited Kata and her daughter Mariah to be shown the entire process. Masi is made from stripping the inner bark off the paper mulberry tree, pounding it flat, and then printing it with dyes made from mangrove roots and soot.

The village children say farewell from Daku beach

Kata demonstrating masi

Following lunch under the new shelter, Sai, the village chief came over for a round of kava with our crew as a way of saying goodbye. In 25 years, we have never seen Sai so relaxed, telling jokes and hamming it up while having his picture taken with Mo and Julie. Now over 80 years, Sai still goes up into the hills daily to work in his vegetable garden.

Sai led the few villagers that had joined us around the tanoa (kava bowl) in the Fijian goodbye song, Isa Lei, told each of the crew that the village hoped they would come back on their own boats with their families in the future.

We watch Kata with interest as she paints the masi
Epi and several of the villagers had made the long run down to the boarding high school at Richmond, 20 miles away, planning to be back by noon. We kept looking off to the south, hoping to see their 20' boat on the horizon, even after we had raised anchor and set sail on our overnight passage to the Mamanuca Islands to the west of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji.

Several of our crew had apprehension about the overnight passage, but we had the anchor up by 1630, so there was plenty of time to get everything on deck squared away and everyone well oriented before dark. In fact, with a full moon, it never got really dark. In the middle of the night the wind dropped and we experienced a cool, misty drizzle - quite a surprise! Julie and Mo, being from Palm Desert were freezing, and borrowed blankets from Amanda.

By 0300 it cleared, the wind picked up and we had a very mellow sail. Sunrise showed us the rugged outline of Viti Levu and breakers to starboard, as we paralleled the coast, sailing close past Tavarua, the famous surfing island. Our landfall was Musket Cove on Malololailai Island, one of our all time favorite spots where we were married on the beach in 1998.

Mo and Yvette with their new Daku friends
As it was the middle of Musket Cove Yacht Club Race Week, we didn't know if we'd find a place to anchor or not, but it turned out that there was plenty of room, and things ashore weren't that crazy. With a 600-acre private island to explore, plus a gorgeous pool, beaches, shops, restaurants, a fun barbecue bar on an island and 65 cruising boats from dozens of countries, crew had a busy time ashore.

Everyone was invited to join in the race week festivities and Amanda, who had just stepped ashore, won a North Sails briefcase in the bowline-tying contest, organized the kiwis into doing a Maori haka war dance before competing against the world in a tug-of-war (Kiwis won), and politely declined the slippery pole competition. At the barbecue I nearly died of smoke inhalation trying to get the green wood to light - where was Robert, Amanda's dad, the premier barbecue fire starter when we needed him?

Musket Cove has a great deal for the barbecue. It's free, and they provide the firewood. If you are too lazy to bring your own food, the grocery store sells you a pack with fish, chicken or steak, garlic bread and a salad for a few dollars. The bar provides plates, utensils and condiments without charge (and does the dishes!) and you can also buy a salad and foil-wrapped potato there as well. It is a fun way to meet other cruisers, and we met yet another couple that had taken our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminar, Terry and Tove Brown from Siri, a handsome Waterline 14.3 cutter from Vancouver.

Class the following morning was sail repair.

Our final passage was north to a tiny, uninhabited island where Survivor Fiji had been filmed, just south of the Yasawa Islands. We had excellent sailing winds, flat seas and lots of sun to pick out the numerous, poorly charted reefs. Once anchored off Vanua Levu, Amanda taught celestial navigation and we tried to go ashore. Huge breakers made landing on the main sandy beach impossible, but after snorkeling along the shore, I was able to land Mo and Julie on Navadra, the neighboring island. There they found lots of remains from an Australian television crew that had just filmed Treasure Island, a Survivor-type knock off show.

Sextant class

Happy Birthday Yvette

In the evening we celebrated Yvette's birthday. Amanda baked a creative apple spice cake and we all gave Yvette tropical presents we'd sought for her.

The surf had gone down the following morning, so we landed ashore and explored the tiny, uninhabited island. It seems we almost always forget to bring big rubbish bags for beach clean-ups, but we found a couple that we easily filled. Among the usual plastic trash Amanda collected 10 plastic pegs and 5 toothbrushes.

Amanda collects plastic trash on Vunua Lailai Island
The 25-mile sail to Vuda Point Marina, located between Nadi (where the international airport is) and Lautoka (sugar mill town and busy port) provided more excellent navigation practice with plenty of unmarked coral patches. We started out motorsailing into the wind, but gradually it clocked around until we could shut the engine off and still maintain course between the coral reefs, and we had a great sail in flat water as we closed on Viti Levu. Amanda surprised us all (me included!) by staging a man overboard drill, which our crew retrieved perfectly.

Once moored bow-to in Vuda Point Marina everyone pitched in to give Mahina Tiare a total scrub down, then Amanda handed out the tests. Soon after Linda reported that she finally reached Glenn by telephone, their house had sold, and she would be heading to their Farr 63 in France shortly.

Vuda Point Marina

Crew graduation dinner at First Landing Resort

Our final dinner together was next door at First Landing where the food and singing were even better than last year. Started by an ex-Peace Corps volunteer in 1977, this is one neat (and not too expensive) place to stay if you're joining us in Fiji.

So, there you have it, a successful expedition. All teaching goals met, good sailing (no fish caught, booo!) and lots of fun. If you're looking for a mellow way to check out tropical cruising in 2004, consider joining us on Leg 7-2004, Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2004.

It's now September 17, and we are anchored near Musket Cove again, putting on a coat of varnish every morning, and enjoying leisurely boat projects before a sunset swim at the pool every late afternoon. Life is good, and we are really looking forward to our next two legs where we will visit islands for the first time in four years, plus hopefully explore some new places.

Read the log updates from Leg 1, Leg 2, Leg 3, and Leg 4.

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