June 30, 2012

Enjoy our new album!

Rabi Is & Budd Reef

Rabi Island

We set sail for the short 25 mile sail north to Rabi Island in partly cloudy skies but soon the weather turned for the worse. A wall of black clouds was coming up fast and soon it was pouring rain and our visibility was down to a few hundred feet. The Mahi that was following us did seem to mind a took hold of the purple cedar plug an the fight was on! This was our third Mahi of the season and turned out to be the biggest one too! After a 20 minute fight and a few squirts of whiskey in the gills and it was all over with another nice Mahi in the freezer.

The waters around Fiji are dangerous with numerous uncharted reefs and most admiralty charts in this part of the world date back to the late 1800’s so we are always extra cautious going through the passes.

Since we arrived 5 weeks ago we have heard of 3 boats lost this season. The first was a boat Touché that left from a bay we had just been in a few days before and bumped on their way out of the narrow pass and they decided to keep going to keep an appointment to pick up guests in Savusavu. One bad decision led to another and they soon found themselves being crushed on the reef by 20 foot waves. Another tragedy was boat that was bound for Tonga from Nuie (the same route we took) and hit an island and the two sailors aboard were never found. Our friend Bob on Braveheart was one of the boats that spend time in the unsuccessful search for survivors The last boat to be lost was another bad chain of events or not enough chain of events….the owner lowered the anchor and went ashore without making sure the anchor was set properly. After way to many bowls of kava with the chief they returned to where they left the boat and it had vanished! They had anchored the boat on a rising tide and had not put enough scope (chain) out and the rising tide lifted the anchor and the boat drifted off with the anchor hanging in clear blue water. The owners spent $12,000 on a search plane to locate the boat but at this point we are not sure if it has been recovered or not?

Rabi is a island inhabited by the Banabans a people displaced from Ocean Island by mining operations. They were given the land by Fiji and are now their own people. The men have homemade dugouts that they fish from and like most of these islands the Methodist Church plays a big role in supporting the islanders. We were warmly greeted by several locals who came by in their boats offering local fruits.

The next day we drove SD around the 8 mile long island and saw all its rugged coastline and stopped in a few bays, one was Albert Bay on the north end of the island and we met a lady drying copra (coconut meat0 over a fire next to her small hut.

Later we went to the village in Katharine Bay with our bag of gifts and handed out toys, shirts and candy to the kids. One thing we found that is a lot of fun is bottles of bubbles. I take a big wand and make huge bubbles and the kids jump around popping them. We hand out small bottles and they have so much fun with this simple gift. Candy is a real treat for these kids and they are very polite and everyone says thank you and waits their turn. When you ask if everyone received candy they are honest and make sure all their friends have received some before asking for more.

We walked through town up the hill to the 70 Year old church that took 50 years to build! The pastor met us and gave us a tour of the facility and some history of the village. This building was huge, at least 150 feet long and 8o feet wide. The lower level was open space used for community meetings and the upper level was the sanctuary. Built out of block and concrete it has held up to decades of storms and still in pretty good shape, the only real damage was that they lost the roof a few years back in a typhoon.
 Across the bay is a small river that leads to another part of the village that we drove SD up. The village has about 500 people living in it and it is amazing how nice everyone was to us. The small generator is shut off by 8:00 pm and at 5:00 am and drum is sounding at the church to signal prayer time and the start of a new day.

The next morning we set sail for the Lau Group and along our way decided to stop at Vanuca Island in Budd Atoll, along the way for the night. The anchorage here was marginal in deep water but we were able to get the hook to set and let out all the 300 feet of chain just to be safe. We lowered SD and took off across the lagoon to a small uninhabited island for a walk around. I hiked up the steep hill to the ridge and enjoyed a beautiful view!! Too bad behind that view was another storm heading our way! I rushed back down and we got in the dink just in time for the rain to start.
 It rained hard and blew for just 10 minutes while we raced back to Downtime hoping the anchor was still set. It was all good and the island we were anchored next to had blocked the winds and the boat had not moved, but I still did not like this anchorage….we were way to close to a rocky shore.

 We set sail the next morning for Explorer Island and another adventure.
Until then live your dreams!!
Peace!! Pete and Daria

The life of a sailor

For me sailing has always been a life long passion, one that started at an early age. I can not remember a time when the sight of a sailboat would not fascinate me. My mind would spend countless hours wondering what it would be like to glide across the water with just the wind filling my sails. I always knew that someday I would sail across oceans just for the enjoyment of it all. I always knew I was a Sailor.

Sailing for me started when I was 16. I was born and raised in Southern California in a small town a few hours inland from the coast. My first sailing adventure started with a borrowed 16 foot Hobiecat that my uncle owned. How difficult could it be right? Well, the first few hours were interesting to say the least! My friend Tony and I were able to get the boat rigged and into the water for the first time with out much trouble. Soon after we were gliding across the lake thinking we got this figured out! About that same time the first big gust of wind caught us off guard and promptly flipped the boat over. Not all that uncommon with Hobiecat’s but my first time being flipped over in the water! Tony and I swam the mast around into to the wind, then swam back to the hulls, we pulled on the righting line which we looped over the pontoon that was up in the air and watched the mast slowly lift up out of the water and back up into the sky. Just like I read in the instruction book!! Well no sooner did the boat came down on both pontoons that it promptly flipped over the other way! Once again we righted the boat, this time with the main sail loosened up a bit. Well this time the boat stayed upright but took off across the lake at an alarming speed, leaving Tony and I behind treading water in the middle of the lake!! After some time we were rescued and given a ride to the Hobiecat which had safely beached itself on the far side of the lake. I will never forget that lesson, do not let go of the boat!!

When I was 17 I purchased my first sailboat, a brand new Hobie 18! Oh the hours of fun we had on that boat! Tony and I would fly her on one hull all the way across Lake Perris! We would get done with work then drive as fast as we could to the lake and sail till dark. Those were the days! I still have that boat and do not think I will ever part with her.

By my late 20’s I was ready for new and bigger adventures. I read the pages of all the published sail magazines and dreamed of the day I would sail the ocean. In 1996 I was ready! I chartered a state room on a 50 Sailboat in the BVI. “Stop The Wedding” was a 50 foot Benateau with 5 staterooms. Cliff was the Captain and the other staterooms had people from all over the States. Sally from Maryland, Tom from Chicago, A guy we called AT&T from California, and Andrew from Europe. Cliff the Captain was from England and had quite the personality. The BVI is the perfect place to go sailing for the first time! It has many islands to explore that are just a few hours sail from each other. This is where I fell in love with the ocean. This first sailing trip was one I will never forget with people I will be friends with forever. This is where there dream to sail around the world became reality, this is where it started to feel REAL!

We live in a day and age where there is no logical reason to cross an ocean in a sailboat. The only boats theses days that make sense to us are the freighters laden with thousands of containers on their decks or the cruise ships that give you all the luxuries of a fine resort. We live in a in a time when we want to get there NOW! Just the thought of traveling somewhere at 7 miles per hour in a sailboat does not even register as fun or logical in most peoples minds. We are in an era where we measure the travel distance to across oceans in hours not days. To some a 14 hour flight to Australia is just too long a trip? That same trip in a sailboat would take weeks of non stop sailing. Sure there are people setting records in multi million dollar sail machines that can do it in days, but I am talking about just taking the time to just sail and enjoy the experience.

I spent years researching the right boat to sail around the world on. Over the years I have sailed on many different models and types of sailboats. I have chartered boats in the BVI and St. Maartin for the last 12 years, mostly renting 42 to 51 food mono hulls. For the offshore experience I crewed on two ocean passages from Newport, RI. The first voyage we sailed to Tortola on a Hylas 54 a really nice boat to be on for my first offshore passage! The 1400 miles took us10 days at sea with no land in sight the entire trip. The second trip a year later we sailed to Bermuda for 5 days at sea. I will tell you just being in the North Atlantic in late October is adventure enough on any vessel. We encountered plenty of rough weather rough seas. I just could not get used to mono hull, they would lean over in a gust of wind. Wind to me should make a boat go forward not lean over sideways? The next season I Chartered three different Catamarans and knew this type of boat was it for me! I had my mind set on a 45 to 50 foot catamaran. Like cars there are lots of brands out there. Most built outside the USA and two major areas they are built are France and South Africa. Being a tall guy over 6 feet the French boats were too short, I kept bumping my head!! Others were to expensive for what you got for your buck. Others had no storage and lots of living space others were made to be chartered not sailed across oceans.

Then one day I came across Voyage Catamarans. I had seen them in magazines but never had a chance to come aboard one. I was at the 2008 Annapolis boat show when I first boarded Silent Faith a Voyage 50. I fell in love at first site. Lots of headroom, living space and storage. I thought this boat would be perfect!! After some thought, I made an offer since she was listed for sale. It was a fair offer, just not the kind of number the owners were ready to accept at the time. Well there is a reason for everything I say. Just 6 months later my phone rings and the Voyage Broker Clardy is on the line. I had mentioned to Clardy at the boat show that if a boat came on the market like what I was looking for to give me a call first. Well this was the call I was waiting for. Clardy had found a Voyage 58 that just came on the market. A 58 foot catamaran was more boat than I was looking for but, I was on a plane the next day to Panama City, FL. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to see the potential boat of my dreams! Downtime had been listed on the market 3 years prior by her first owner. I can not tell you how many times I read that website listing!! I knew everything about her but never thought I would own a boat like this. 8:00AM could not come soon enough the following day. I remember walking down to the dock with great excitement knowing this was it! This could be the boat I was going sail around the world on!! Little did I know the current owner of Downtime had just rebuilt all the major systems on the boat. New everything!! Downtime was Josh’s 18th boat and man does Josh know boats!! He had the boat hauled and soda blasted then repainted the bottom with the best marine paints. There were all new beds. Linens, and upholstery. New water pressure systems, new cockpit enclosure, new sails and lines, WOW this boat was better than new!! And the best addition to Downtime was a brand new 15 foot Caribe tender with a 60 hp Yamaha on the back!! This dingy was the nicest one I had ever seen, WOW! It is not too often people sell boats after they spend this much time and effort to rebuild and restore them to perfect condition. I thought to myself “This Is It!” I made an offer and an hour later we had a deal!! This was my dream coming true, the beginning of my trip around the world!!! Thanks Josh & Clardy!

For as long as I can remember I have been reading everything about sailing and boats. I have seen technology evolve into some truly remarkable and user friendly equipment. Sailboats have transformed from handcrafted wood works of art into fiberglass, almost indestructible works of engineering. The equipment and electronics have come along way in the last 30 years. We now have very reliable engines and generator systems. With these we can continue moving when there is no wind and charge battery banks to run the boats electrical systems. The equipment available for boats is amazing. Most boats today ar equipped with auto pilots ,satellite phones water makers, ice makers, refrigeration systems, propane stoves, microwaves, electric lighting, power winches and windlasses, radar, AIS (Automatic Identification System which is my favorite tool that shows you all the ship traffic within in a 25 mile radius on your navigation screen!), And GPS plotters that shows you your location on a map everywhere in the world! All these conveniences have definitely made life more comfortable and safe, but do come at cost. Electronics and saltwater do not mix very well and there is a constant battle to keep all these systems operational. The simple sailing life just is not that simple any more. On a boat like Downtime there are two 75 HP turbocharged Yanmar diesel main engines and two 6 KW northern lights generators. These generators make power to run air-conditioning, make water, or charge the battery bank that has 20 batteries. The power runs through the main control panel has over 100 different electrical switches that control the systems. More than 40 different pumps to move various liquids aboard Downtime. Several of these pumps filter sea water to make fresh water with a Reverse Osmosis System. This process involves pumping sea water through special filters called membranes at 4 GPM @900 PSI. This in turn produces 1.25 GPM of 99.2% pure water which is allowed through the three separate membranes. Over 70% of water with concentrated salt returns to the ocean. Using this process you have unlimited fresh water although at a cost of roughly $.25 cents a gallon. Other pumps supply fresh water to sinks and showers, others take that same water after it is used and pump it overboard. Just imagine every glass of fresh water has been pumped 3 times by the time it touches your lips!! Five more pumps to run the refrigeration systems and 6 more to run the air-conditioners! Two more pumps if you simply use the restroom!! I am talking A LOT of pumps!!

Having explained some of the systems you are must be thinking, how do you keep it all running? Being skilled in repairing and maintaining all these systems is a rather important role as Captain. You have to wear several hats when you sail these days. You do lots of preventative maintenance and a good supply of spare parts are a must to keep systems operational. Keeping a well stocked inventory of parts and tools is a continual battle. You either have the parts aboard or wait in the next port until parts can be found.

For navigating Downtime has two separate GPS navigation systems. But, even with the latest charts and software there are times when we appear to be driving across land on the plotter? We had this happen several times in Belize. In other remote areas you really have pay attention to where you are at all times and watch your depth sounder. Other places you do not want to travel at night since the charts are 100 years old and GPS charts are just to accurate compared to the maps, the land is charted in the wrong place?

Imagine if GPS (Global Positioning System) was around 200 years ago? The lives of sailors and countless ships that it could have saved. It was not long ago when you would have to study the stars to be able to use a sexton to find you way. To use a sexton you would line up a known celestial body at a precise time with the horizon to get the angle that you would read of your sexton . Then you would do some serious math using reduction tables to be able to approximate your position to within 2 to 5 miles. You would then plot this position on your chart. During the day while sailing you would keep track of the miles you traveled and compass heading and religiously and log them on your chart. This process is called dead reckoning. To measure speed they would to throw a “knot line” over the stern rail. This was a device constructed with a long rope with knots every 60 feet and weighted flat board attached to the end to stop it in the ocean. As the boat moved along the crew would throw over the “knot line” then count the knots as they paid out over a set time, giving you your speed by dividing distance by time. Now we simply turn on the GPS and it shows where we are, how fast we are going and all integrated on a moving map system!! NICE!!

GPS maps and all this other technology would be nothing if we did not have access to weather information. Lets face it weather is still the most dangerous part of sailing. No mater how strong the boat is a ocean storm is still something you want to avoid at all cost. With satellite phones and SSB radio we can access weather data any where and any time in the world. Data can be sent automatically to weather fax equipment to keep you informed of changing conditions. Gone are the days of the surprise storm at sea, at least for the wise and prepared that is.

Ok so you are thinking, You have all this equipment and this huge boat and you still have to learn how to dive it! To figure out how it all works, know which switch to flip. What sail to put up when wind conditions change. Well this can only come with experience. When I first bought Downtime I had friends of mine help me sail the maiden voyage. We sailed from Panama City, FL to Ft. Lauderdale where I got my first lesson in docking her. We arrived late the third night of sailing and tied to a mooring ball to wait for daylight. After getting some sleep we ate some breakfast and then fueling up at a floating fuel station. Then we headed to the marina. I can tell you I was more than a little nervous! Downtime is a lot of boat to put next to a little dock. I attempted to back in just like the other boats on the dock, but I did not notice one important thing. The tide was going out and there was a 2 mph out flowing current carrying me sideways!! I was almost into the dock and then as if in slow motion noticed the bow of the boat next to me get caught in the shrouds of Downtime!(the cables that hold up the mast) Cherish is a 105 foot mega yacht and Downtime came to a stop with her bow resting on one of my cabin top winches! The crew of Cherish came out yelling “What the @)#*!@ are you doing/” I calmly said: I have no FREAKING idea I just bought this thing on Friday!! After some tense moments and help from the other boaters we got Downtime tied up to the dock. No damage occurred to Downtime and amazingly just small scratch on the front of Cherish. Sorry Cherish… Docking lesson one learned, watch for tide movement!

A lot of people ask me if I get board being on the boat for long periods. I tell them I do not have enough time to get board. With a tender like “Super Dink” yes that’s what we named her….You have access to so many more places at anchor. I have driven SD hundreds of miles in the Bahamas discovering new places. We took SD to Guatemala from Belize one day, over 100 miles a trip that would have been three days in Downtime just to see The Rio Dulce. Other days we load up the scuba gear into SD and find new dive sites. Then there are all the other cruisers to go meet and make new friends with.

While we were in St. Martin I took a kite surfing lesson. After just one lesson I was hooked!! We now have 9 kites and 3 boards and are ready for any wind condition to kite surf in. While sailing we troll fishing lines where ever we go. Some days it is amazing what you pull out of the ocean, other days you wonder where all the fish are at? Living on a boat you spent so much more time just living, you eat most your meals aboard which means cooking and dishes. When you do get off the boat you usually head strait for the market to restock the pantry or find that part that broke along the way.

Living on a boat have time to read that book you bought, or write that story you never seemed to have time for on land. You become aware that life is not just about getting up to go to work just to do it all over again. The people you meet along way become life long friends which you look forward to meeting down the road. On a boat life is a fresh and new adventure every day, waking up to see the sun rise and taking the time in the evening to see it set. A life of taking care your boat and being aware what the weather is doing around you. A life of surrounding yourself with the environment you love. 

And it's very important to find a right person with whom you can share your dreams and adventures. I  am lucky, I found Daria, she is the best girl and the partner of whom it's only possible to dream.

This is a the life of what you always dreamed of, this is a the life of a Sailor.

Capt. Pete Tuls

June 29, 2012

More pics!

Enjoy 2 new albums from Fiji
Savu-Savu and Viani Bay and Taveuni Island

Rainforest of Taveuni!!!

We started our adventure at the crack of dawn with another beautiful day of sunshine. It had rained hard during the night and this usually gives you nice weather the following day in this part of the world according to Jack .

Jack had offered to take care of Super Dink while we went on our island adventure for the day since he needed to do a little shopping in town anyways. We picked him up along with Petr and Sara and were on our way across the channel for the 8 mile trip to Taveuni.

The seas were calm which kept us all dry on the way over during the 30 minute ride. I let everyone off on the beach with all our bags and then anchored SD out a ways and somehow managed to get back to the beach with dry pants until I realized I left my flip flops in SD……I waded back out to get my shoes and on the way back in turned into Capt. Grumpy wet pants.

Jack found us a taxi driver to take us around the island and soon we were on our way down the bumpy road to Bouma National Park. Raymond was our driver for the day in his 10 year old Toyota four wheel drive super cab that had several hundred thousand miles on it. The guide book had claimed there was a sealed road to the park but this soon deteriorated into a one lane gravel road. We bounced along for over an hour down this muddy road to the park and I think Raymond got a kick out of driving right through the middle of the biggest mud puddles he could find to see how big a splash he could make! As we drove around to the east side of the island the rain started, not a heavy rain but a steady slow rain and it never stopped.

We passed trough several small villages along the way and people were out walking around like rain was part of their usual day. I guess when you get his much rain you can just wait for it to stop to get anything done or else nothing would get done, not like much gets done on an island anyways. Life here is simple and the men walk around with machetes which help provide for them with what they need out of the rain forest.

We finally made it to the park and were the only ones crazy enough to hike on this soggy morning. The trail headed off up the valley to the first of three waterfalls. The path was well maintained with recently trimmed grass and 30 minutes later we arrived at the roaring falls. With all this rain the river was really flowing and the falls were crashing over the cliffs. It was amazing the amount of wind and mist that blew off the base of the falls as the water tumbled down.

 The next falls were an hour up river over the steep muddy mountains. At least there were steps cut into the hills and good footing was never hard to find. We arrived at the second falls soaking wet and by the time we got the third falls we were totally drenched. The third falls were definitely worth the effort of getting there and the trail bought you right to a nice pool at the base.

After the hike we had lunch at the park entrance and then headed back to town. On the way back we gave away toys and candy to all the kids we saw along the road and stopped at a roadside stand and bought a few fresh vegetables. We had waited until Monday to make the trip so we could do some shopping, but it turned out it was a national holiday being the Kings birthday and all the markets were closed. So much for Jack’s shopping trip….At least he found us gas for SD at a mere $7.00 per gallon.

This was the end of clear weather for diving so we headed north the next morning to the next islands.

In our next adventure we will be exploring Rabi Island
Until then live your dreams!! Peace!! Pete and Daria

June 20, 2012

New pics!!!

I took few pics at sea, so enjoy them! It's a pity that my camera could not go to down more than 33feet  (((
Underwater life in Fiji

June 17, 2012

Viani Bay, Rainbow Reef

Sailing back to the east in this part of the world is never fun and this trip was no exception. There was a 10 to 15 knot wind on the nose and had both engines pushing us along at only 6 knots. Luckily the swell was small so the ride was much drier and smoother than last time we made this trip. We had the lines out and within an hour we had our first fish on! A nice size Mahi took hold of a pink and blue/metallic squid jig and was jumping wildly and taking line. It was nice to not have to deal with sails and we had the fish on deck in within 30 minutes. Catching the fish delayed us, so we chose to anchor in Fawn Harbor which was 10 miles short of our intended destination.

Early the next morning we made our way to Viani Bay before the winds kicked up and I navigated my way into the first bay I saw on the charts that had a boat anchored inside. Well this was definitely NOT Viani Bay as the local fishermen pointed out we were still a few miles from Viani.

Later we found out this was the bay that the first boat of the season to go down last departed from. Touché sank just two weeks prior and was a total loss, broken up by the reef by 20 foot waves in mater of hours. The owners had set sail in bad conditions trying to meet a deadline to pick up guests in Savu-Savu later that fateful day. They had felt a bump leaving the pass and noticed the bilge pumps running continuously (never a good sign) as they sailed on. They were facing onshore winds (On reef winds to be exact) and decided to launch the dingy in case things got worse and they had to abandon ship. Well this was strike two on a very unlucky day and in the process of launching the dink lines wrapped around the main propeller shaft and killed the engine. Now they were dragging dingy which limited steerage and were soon blown onto the very reef they were trying to avoid. They barely had time to gather there pass ports and valuables before the boat began breaking apart. They were able to cut the dingy loose and ride it over the reef to safety but in the process lost the bag with their valuables. Hours later help arrived and a search found the bag and the rescuers brought them safely to shore.

The fishermen were very friendly and we left them smiling wearing new Downtime hats and a bag full of fresh Mahi. An hour later we were finally in the right bay and safely anchored in 30 feet of water. It did not take long to find "Jack" who's family owns most of the land surrounding this bay. He came rowing up in his aluminum skiff and warmly welcomed us to his own piece of paradise.

Jack and his family have lived here for several generations and his hospitality is known by hundreds of his friends throughout the world. If you have the time you can spend hours with Jack listening to his colorful life stories and experience his expert knowledge of Rainbow Reef as he guides you to the most amazing spots to dive. We were lucky to be able to have him take us on 5 dives while we were there. This is a real "Treat" as Jack would say to have your own personal dive guide. He knows these reef's like the back of his hand and charges just $10 per person for his time.

The first dive we took we drove Downtime out to the reef with 8 other cruisers and dove the White Wall, which starts with a swim through cave that brings you to a sheer wall covered in translucent white fan corals to the depth of 120 feet. We saw the usual white tip sharks checking us out and lots of colorful reef on the dive. Jack did a expert job finding a safe place to anchor Downtime where we did not have to worry about damaging corals or the safety of the boat. We loaded the gear in the dink and he dropped us at the starting point and was there to pick us up when the dive was complete a few hundred yards away.(Nice!)

The other dives were no less spectacular and Rainbow Reef is a amazing place to dive with lots of sea life and corals. On our dives we saw a sea turtle, a huge lobster, Napoleon fish (Daria calls it Angelina Jolli) lots of grouper, snapper and the occasional shark. The corals and reef fish were definitely all colors of the rainbow and we felt blessed to see all the beauty of this place.

The next night we invited Jack and the other boats over for dinner. We made Jack a nice New Zealand Rib Eye Steak and listened to a few of his many stories over a few beers. 10 other cruisers showed up and it was fun to meet everyone and hear of their adventures.

We were fortunate to have perfect weather while we were here, but all good things come to an end and rain was forecasted and our days of diving came to an end. The next day we planned a trip across the channel to Taveuni Island for a rainforest adventure with our friends on Endless, Petr and Sara.

Our next adventure is in the rainforest of Taveuni!!!

Peace! And get out there and live your dreams!! Pete and Daria

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June 16, 2012

Savu-Savu, Fiji

We arrived in Savu-Savu early Wednesday the 30th of may after a nice 3 day sail from Tonga. The clearing in process is straight forward in Fiji, you must send advance notice via internet at least 48 hours before you arrive and then call customs when you make port.

There were several other boats making port along with us that morning Sara Jean 2 and Merkava were two that we had met last season and were part of a group that sailed together from New Zealand this season. Needless to say it took most the day for the officials to get everyone cleared in and by 2:00 the last of the 5 officials left our boat and we were free to go ashore.

Savu-Savu is one of the few ports on the north island that you can moor a boat in but anchorage is difficult due to the average depth of over 80 feet. While we were there one boat broke loose of her mooring and it was amazing to see all the cruisers come to her rescue. The following evening the owners invited everyone who helped save their boat for a nice dinner.

The little town has over 20 restaurants that serve pretty decent food. The Indian influence is present and curries and eastern spices are in most foods. The first thing you notice is how inexpensive it is to eat here compared to New Zealand! A decent meal is under $8 US dollars.

The first night in town we had dinner with several of the boats that arrived with us and it was fun to hear everyone tell the stories of their passage from New Zealand.

The next day Daria and I did a dive close to the marina with Mark from Merkava which was a pretty terrible but we did see our first Toyota on that dive!
Later we took SD (Super Dink) out to Jan Cousteau's Resort and took a tour of the resort and had a ice cream and coffee. Then we went to the Marine Reserve which was also a disappointing dive since all the coral was wiped out by the last typhoon and the invasion of The Crown Of Thorns which devours all coral in its path.

Friday night we had the second poker night of the season aboard Downtime and met a few new boats that came to play. Daria was playing well and just about won, but settled for second in the end.

While we were walking through town Sammy the guy who polished Downtime last year found us and the next day he and his friend spent the day polishing. Work here is hard to find and wages for laborers are low staring at $3 Fiji ($1.70 US) per hour. Sammy was getting the skilled labor rate of $8/hr so he was very happy to have the work.

We decided diving in this area was a thing of the past and the next day we rented a scooter for a land based adventure. We must have been the first to ride a scooter this far since everyone at Buca Bay were amazed that we made it that far.. Riding the first 20 kilometers was on paved roads and then it was all dirt and gravel from there out. Fiji is in the process with the funding from China of extending the paved road another 20 k and construction is due to be completed by 2014. We felt like celebrities as we rode along as literally everyone waved and yelled out "Bula!" meaning hello. This is the friendliest place we have ever visited and everyone seemed so happy to just be alive.

We had been riding 3 hours when we came across a small food stand was set up along the road. I bought a roti, chocolate cake and a drink for 3 Fiji dollars ($1.80 US) for a nice lunch. An hour later at the end of the road is a mission run by the 7th day Adventists that provides free medical care for the islanders who recruit doctors to volunteer at the hospital.

 The property itself is just short of amazing with acres of manicured gardens and well maintained lawns. There are several homes for the doctors to stay in and down near the bay is a swimming pool and cafeteria where the daily meals are served. Daria had a nice fish lunch at the mission store for $5 (2.75 US) and then we headed for home

At this point we had been riding scooter for over 5 hours and we had not passed a single gas station. We were about a third of the way back when the fuel tank chose to be 100% full of AIR!!! Here we were still 30 kilometers from town on a one lane dirt road in the middle of a jungle on an island in Fiji with only three hours of sunlight left. We had not been stopped more than five minutes when a bus went by (the wrong way though) so at least we knew we could ride the bus back to town. Then luckily a guy in a pickup drove over the hill and Daria gets him to stop in her short shorts and he offered to give us a ride back to town after he dropped of some parts 5 minutes up the road. Sure enough he was back in 10 minutes and we loaded the scooter in the back and he drove us to within 3 miles of town where I hired a cab to take me to the gas station to get a Pepsi bottle full of gas, enough to get us home. What and adventure!!

We passed several villages on this adventure and a few things we noticed is that not one house had power or a satellite dish on the roof and there are very few cars parked in front of he houses. Life is simple here and if people need to go to town they pay $2 to get on the 4 hour open window bus adventure that rumbles down the bumpy road to town 3 times a day.

We stayed in Savu-Savu for a week waiting for he weather to let us sail east to Viani Bay. Finally on Tuesday we had a good forecast and cleared out. We did our provisioning and had everything loaded when I discovered I could not find my passport! Thinking back to last place we saw it Daria remembered we used it at the vodafone store for ID and must have left it there over a week ago! I hurried to shore and sure enough the girl that helped me had saved it for me! Why she didn't call me on the phone we just bought is still a mystery!! While we were there we felt very safe and enjoyed the local friendliness. Crime here is very rare in this small town and like most places is only found in the big cities.

Our next destination will be to Viani Bay where we hope to do some diving on Rainbow Reef.

Peace! Pete & Daria

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June 3, 2012

Vavau south to Haapai

We set sail on Saturday the 18th of May for the Haapai Group just a short 60 mile sail south from Vavau.
We chose to exit the reef and sail the open ocean to the east rather than dodge the numerous islands and hazards that lie directly south of Vavau. On our way through the pass we encountered several schools of Skipjack Tuna’s feeding and landed our first fish on a green 4 inch Yoshuri minnow lure. The fish was only a few pounds but made a great lunch. The winds freshened and turned easterly providing good sailing conditions for going south. A few hours later we had a strike on a pink and blue squid, this fish was a nice size Sierra Mackerel . This has been our luckiest bait in this area a simple squid skirt over a 4 0unce lead egg sinker with a 1/0 treble hook and stainless braided leader.
A few hours later we had a double strike on pole rigged with cedar plugs. I knew these had to be tunas by the way they were stripping line off the reels. Daria worked the smaller of the two while I let the bigger fish take line. We hoped to land them both but the monster on my pole had other ideas and somehow chewed through the 200 pound leader!! Oh well, we were able to get one 25 pound yellow fin on the boat and fresh civechi was back on the menu.
We put the poles up after our mini-grand slam and were concerned if we would make the anchorage before dark. These are treacherous waters with reefs and sea mounds rising up from the 6000 foot deep ocean floor. Tonga is basically a ridge of volcanic islands and there are still new islands forming today. There is one area where an island has come up out of the water twice, but now lies just below the surface. We sailed past another tiny island that was no more than a 300 foot diameter beach in the middle of nowhere. It was tempting to stop, but the reef surrounding this little piece of paradise looked more than willing to chew Downtime to pieces.

As we approached Haano Island the winds died and we motored the last few miles to an anchorage where we had encountered whales in last season. We slowly wound our way through the coral strewn pass and had the anchor set just before dark. The weather lately had been unsettled with the seasons changing, this being fall made for squally conditions. We had over 30 knots of wind during the night and were glad to be in a safe anchorage. We spent the next two days watching it blow while working on boat and doing some cleaning. 

The winds finally let up and we went a few mile south to Lifuka to clear in. Lifuka is a small village and clearing in was no more than going to the customs office and telling them you were there. They told us to come see them before we left for clearance documents. As for the rest of the village, there are 3 or 4 small grocery shops and one small café. In the center of town is the local market where we bought fresh lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, papaya, bananas, limes and watermelon all at the best prices we had seen in the islands.

The people here are really friendly and we enjoyed walking around the village. There were 4 other boats in the anchorage and that night we had a poker game aboard Downtime. Poker seems to be a fun way to get to know people at a new anchorage.

The following morning we arranged a dive with the local dive shop and went out to a sea mound a few miles off the coast. The dive gave Daria a chance to dive with a really good instructor and practice her skills. She feels much better about diving now and actually enjoyed the dive in her new super warm wet suit.

We were hoping to get decent weather while in the Haapai Group this year but Mother Nature had other ideas with yet another weather system heading our way. We were looking at being stuck here for a week with west winds blowing (Not Good) or sail the last of the east winds to Fiji. We chose to sail to Fiji the following morning. 

The winds were blowing 25 to 30 knots when we set sail and within 15 minutes of putting the poles out we had a nice Mahi Mahi hooked. It was quite a challenge to get Downtime to slow down enough to get the fish aboard in those winds, and we finally had turn the boat into the wind to get the fish aboard. Later Daria made some fresh tortillas and fish taco’s that were to die for!!
We made the 400 mile trip in just under 3 days and even had to motor for 10 hours when the wind took a breather. We arrived in Savu-Savu with 4 other boats at first light on may 30th.
We will be in Fiji for the next 2 months so stay tuned.

Peace!! Pete and Daria