Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Looking back on the passage, with photos

After a very solid night's sleep we are beginning to feel a bit less bleary-eyed and have started to sort a few things out here. We're back to internet (approximately 4 times the price it was in Fiji via a mobile dongle) so have posted a few photos below.

Overall, the passage was successful in that we got here without damage and, mostly, in fairly comfortable conditions. However we motored for much longer than we wanted and found the final few days a tad stressful Thankfully the final day's great sailing put a smile on our faces.

The stats were:

Total Miles: 1231nm
Total time: 9 days, 7 hours, or 233 hours
Average speed: 5.3 knots (disappointing, we usually average closer to 6)
Total hours of the engine running: 117 hrs = 52% of the time!!!! Aargh!
Total fuel burned 365 litres.
Average consumption 3.1 litres per hour

If we'd elected to wait for another wind, however, it would have been another 8 days and we're not sure the window would have been any better. So, we're glad to be here.

A few photos, below:

Motoring on a glassy sea - an all-too regular occurrence

Great to have the Parasailor flying, but still gentle conditions

Just a great piece of kit - we love this sail
The tanker Victoire turns to help us

Syphoning diesel from the Victoire's container into the main tank under our berth 

This gauge got a lot of scrutiny !! When we arrived the needle was at the very bottom of the red sector
Our passenger clings on
The blog will go a little quiet for the next month but please do check it every now and then - we'll aim to do some kind of update once a week.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Safely in to Opua

We made it safely into Opua at 16.00 and didn't run out of fuel! Wonderful, exciting sailing today (in up to 30 knots of wind) was a reward for all the hours of motoring and all the concern about impending weather systems over the past week. Our arrival was greeted by loud rumbles of thunder and the strong southerly winds will arrive here at about midnight; at the moment, though, it's completely calm. It feels pretty odd not to be moving up and down!
So, we're off to the Opua Cruising Club for supper and a couple of well-earned drinks and then it'll be an early night. We suspect that we'll sleep well!
We hope that you have enjoyed the passage with us and we'll post some photos in the next day or two.
This is Maunie signing off. Out.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Day 10: One good Tern surely deserves another

This little fella flew around Maunie a couple of times yesterday evening and landed on the solar panels above the cockpit. Presumably the slippery glass surface had enough salt crystals on it (they are everywhere!) to give him some grip and he seemed unperturbed by us taking photos of him. He stayed there, resting, till first light in spite of the rolling of the boat and the racket we made doing a sail change, though we'd hear him complaining when an extra big roll made him slide – we aren't sure if the squeaks we heard were from his beak or from his claws screeching across the salty surface like nails down a blackboard.
Well we ran out of fuel, to all intents and purposes, at 15.30 yesterday. We have a few litres (anywhere between two and eight, we just can't tell) left in the bottom of the tank to let us motor the final yards into Opua but the will-we, won't-we drama continues as you'll read later. Anyway as silence descended as the engine was switched off, we hoisted the Parasailor and ghosted along at only a couple of knots for about three hours until the wind finally arrived. We had a great sail into the night but decided to switch back to white sails at 01.30 when things began to get a bit boisterous. The phrase 'switch back to white sails' doesn't really convey the work involved – it took nearly an hour of careful coordination between cockpit and foredeck in windy, rolly conditions to lower and pack away the spinnaker, set up the pole and unfurl the yankee and then do a difficult downwind hoist of the main, with a couple of reefs in it. I have to say that Dianne is brilliant at all this, managing the sheets in the cockpit and then coming to the mast to lower the spinnaker – all without complaint in spite of the lack of sleep.
Since then the wind has been up and down and the waves are making us roll but we have been making good progress. The good tern, sorry turn, that the Victoire did us has made a hugely significant difference to our predicament. Without their fuel we'd be nearly a day behind and  facing the 30 knots against us on Friday morning. However, we aren't taking anything for granted just at the moment. At current speed we will arrive in the Bay of Islands late afternoon in heavy rain (which will at least wash the salt off Maunie and maybe us!) but there's still a risk that we may sail straight into the middle of the low and run out of wind! Finger very much crossed.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Day 9: Hoping not to snatch Disaster from the jaws of Victoire.

Good morning from Maunie. A slightly earlier post today as (we hope) we'll be busy with sails this afternoon.
As expected we motored through calm winds last night and the wind still hasn't filled in as I write (10.00am). The latest forecast is that we should get a sailable breeze from the NW this afternoon. The extra revs on the engine to make her move at 5.8 knots rather than 5 knots seem to make quite a difference to fuel consumption and we are wishing we had been even more cheeky with the tanker Victoire and asked for 50 litres! Still, we have used a hand-pump to empty the dregs of diesel from the reserve tank and put them, through a filter to remove any tank-bottom sediment, into a jerrycan. The five litres in that can will be our 'motoring-in' fuel, to avoid an embarrassing engine stoppage as we arrive in Opua where the current runs fast, and the diesel remaining in our main tank will last 7 or 8 hours (we are back at plodding speed, but thankfully have a favourable current at last) by which time the wind should be here. Wow, it's closer than comfortable but we are so pleased that we got the fuel we did from the Victoire as we'd be stopped in the water now without it.
We have 165 miles to run to the Bay of Islands (and about a further 6 miles into Opua) so we should, if we can maintain a 6 knot average, be in sheltered waters by 3.00pm tomorrow, Thursday. The latest inshore forecast is:
Forecast Wednesday 28th October:
Variable 10 knots. Northwest 15 knots developing this afternoon. Sea slight.

Northerly 15 knots, changing Thursday evening southerly 30 knots.
So it's still keeping us on the edge of our seats – that southerly could arrive earlier, of course, and even if it doesn't, we will be sailing into an occluded front (basically a warm front caught up by a cold front) which will give us heavy rain, poor visibility and even possibly thunder storms tomorrow! We like a dramatic arrival but this might be taking things too far!
Anyway in the meantime there is lots to do today, preparing the spinnaker lines for a hoist as soon as the wind comes, cooking a chicken curry up in advance for this evening, and preparing the boat for potentially heavy weather. We'll both try to get some decent off-watch sleep too as tonight might keep us busy. All being well our next update on the blog will be from the dock in Opua but there will be another position update on

Day 8; " I told you we should have stopped at the last services!"

We are motoring through a high pressure system so the wind has dropped away and our precious diesel reserves are dwindling fast. No matter how many times we did the calculation, we kept coming up with the same answer: "It'll be bloody close whether we run out or not". Meanwhile, with the windy and wet forecast for our arrival day, Thursday, in mind we really wanted to open the throttle and get some speed on rather than dawdling at 5 knots to conserve our fuel.
Most of you will be familiar with the feeling I'm sure. Driving up the motorway, you see the Services sign but say, "No, we'll go on to the next ones. They have better food.." Less than a quarter of a mile past the exit, the fuel gauge mysteriously drops onto the red zone and the orange fuel warning light blinks on in reproach. "No, it can't be 47 miles to the next services!". From then on, you're reducing speed until indignant HGV's are overtaking you, their drivers no doubt wondering why you're driving at 60mph, and you have that sick feeling in your stomach as you envisage a trudge along the wet hard shoulder if the car conks out 3 miles from safety.
So we've been feeling those kind of feelings about our ability to motor through the next 20 hours of light wind, on top of a level of apprehension about the weather that is waiting tfo greet us. The forecast for the coastal area of Brett, where we'll make landfall, is:
Becoming Wednesday evening northerly 15 knots. Rising early Thursday northerly 25 knots,
then dying out late Thursday. Developing early Friday southerly 25 knots,
easing to 15 knots later. Sea rough at times. Moderate northerly swell.

Anyway, with all these thoughts churning around our heads, we were just having some lunch today when an AIS signal popped up on the chart plotter. A ship was approaching at 12.5 knots from our starboard and the CPA (closest point of approach) was calculated to be about 800 ft. As the ship got closer the AIS system identified it as the m/v Victoire, on passage to Tahiti and that she was a tanker. A tanker?
First priority was for us to call her to confirm that we had seen her and that, as the 'give way' vessel (approaching from her port side), we would alter course to starboard to pass behind her. The captain was very friendly and thanked us for this. We then thought "well, it's worth a try!" so called back and explained our predicament with the fuel and the oncoming weather and asked if they might be able to let us have 25 litres. Knowing that it would be impossible to stop the 285 ft tanker, Graham suggested they drop a not-quite-full can into their wake, with a retrieval rope attached, and we'd chase it and pick it up with the boathook. Which is exactly what happened. Honest, we'll post photos on the blog to prove it. The Victoire didn't slow down at all but did quite a scary s-turn towards us; we saw the can hit the water at their stern and picked it up in a textbook man-overboard manoeuver.
Bless the captain and crew of the Victoire and thanks to whoever was looking kindly upon us to send a tanker to cross our bows! We've added about 8 hours range to our motoring so are now back on the pace at just under 6 knots. The northerly wind should kick in tomorrow so apart from the big gusts, rough seas and heavy rain on Wednesday night, we should be fine.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Day 7: Gentlemen should never go to windward

It has been a trying day on Maunie. We knew it was coming but the high pressure to our west had delivered the southerly winds that we really didn't want so we have spent the last 24 hours trying to get the boat going in roughly a useful direction. The winds have been up to 20 knots and have kicked up a lumpy sea that is slowing us down – it's like driving down a track full of boulders.
Normally our options in this situation would be to ease the sails a little and sail a less direct but faster course or to drop the foresails and motor-sail with the engine running hard to push us through the weather on a better (closer to the wind) course. The former would take more time and the latter more fuel and, unfortunately, these are both luxuries that we can't afford.
We are on a bit of a race against time just now because our current ETA for Opua is Thursday afternoon, just as a deep low pressure system arrives there. This should give us following northerly winds on the final day but if we delay we'll hit adverse SW winds and quite strong ones. We've already mentioned our fuel calculations and we know that we will have to motor through calmer winds tomorrow before the northerlies arrive on Wednesday so we can't squander precious diesel now.
So this has made things uncharacteristically stressful today and we are both pretty tired after disturbed sleep. We're looking forward to calmer waters tomorrow and just hope all our navigation and fuel calculations are right! Meanwhile it's good to hear other boats on the radio – we run two 'skeds' each day, morning and evening, so can compare weather conditions and positions. One boat reported that a Minke whale came alongside him yesterday then dived under the boat; unfortunately it miss-timed the manoeuver and collided with the keel so is presumably still nursing a sore head!
News from the outside, non-bumpy world would be very welcome on board (we did get the rugby scores!) so do drop us an email if you have a minute to spare.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Day 6: The {D,V} Equation and Other Calculations

Ok, so regular readers will be itching to know if the optimism of yesterday's blog, vis-a-vis flying the Parasailor, was justified. Well, we had wonderful sailing through the night as the wind increased a little and swung from behind us to a broad reach (i.e. over our right shoulders) but at 3.00am Dianne woke Graham up from his off-watch dreams for a review. Maunie was charging along at 7 –7.5 knots but was becoming a little more difficult to keep in a straight line.
Di was right to make the call so we sat and did a quick calculation of the D > V/2 equation (where D is Discretion and V is Valour)  and decided that we should drop the sail and move back to white sails. This is always an extra challenge at night but with good planning and care we achieved it without dropping the sail or lines in the water and were soon back sailing at about one knot less. At 125 sq m the Parasailor is 70% bigger than the combined mainsail and yankee so it certainly makes a difference and the wind did continue to build as we reached a weather front at about 7.00am. It would have been a challenge to manage a neat drop of the wet spinnaker if we'd still had it flying in those conditions so we patted ourselves on the back for Di's good call.
Once we were though the front with about 3 hours of drizzle and variable winds, we've popped out to the west of it so have lovely sunshine but with the wind light and moving steadily to the SW, which is the direction we are still trying to go.  We've been looking at all the weather information that we have and it seems that the forecasts are continually changing for the low pressure systems converging on NZ as we do the same. The good news is that the low pressure that threatened to whack us on the nose on Wednesday seems to be moving more slowly so we might escape a bashing. However the bad news is that we've had to do some more maths.
It now seems as though we are going to get lots of very light wind over the next 3 days so Bob's latest routing model suggests we'll need the engine for about 65 hours (ugh!). We've been working out our usage so far (an estimate based on previous engine runs as we don't have an accurate fuel meter on board) and we think we have enough fuel for about 72 hours at slow speed (5 knots). That speed should be fast enough (just) to get us into Opua before the adverse winds arrive but our estimate is probably accurate to only +/- 10% so it could be very close on whether we run out of diesel.
It could be a lot worse, of course, we could be bashing into a head wind now and feeling decidedly uncomfortable so we'll just have to take what comes and keep a light hand on the engine throttle.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Day 5 - Very Steady as She Goes

After a lovely day's sailing yesterday, the wind quit work just before midnight so we motored through the night and most of today. Apart from the Yanmar Rumble, it's been a good day, though, with bright sunshine and calm seas so we were able to do some boat jobs that would be less fun if it was lumpy.
The main task was 'in flight refuelling' since Maunie's main tank was down to about one quarter this morning. We have six additional 20-litre jerry cans of diesel stowed deep in the bilges in hard-to-access lockers so we dug them out and transferred the fuel. Diesel is messy, oily stuff and you just don't want a spillage but we are able to access the top of the main tank, in the floor of our sleeping cabin, and can unscrew a filler cap there rather than having to heave the heaving cans onto the deck to the main filler. Using a neat syphon tube which which runs through an airtight bung to fit in the neck of the jerrycan we can pressurise the tank by blowing through a breather tube in the same bung and then let the fuel syphon out without danger of spillage. Much better than sucking on the syphon tube and hoping to avoid a mouthful of diesel!
Refuelling completed we were also able to dig out our duvet (unused since May) and warm clothes and seaboots for the colder weather ahead. Speaking of which, the forecast does still suggest some pretty lumpy seas and strong winds on Tuesday night as we approach Ape Reinga, the northern most tip of NZ, so we are still sailing SW to put ourselves in as good a position as possible to face the strong south-westerlies.
Knowing that it'll be nasty ahead makes us enjoy the current calm conditions all the more. At about 5.00pm the breeze finally returned, from almost directly behind us, so we hoisted the spinnaker and are now sailing along at about 4.5 - 5 knots. All being well the wind will build a little during the night and the clear sky and bright moon suggests that we won't get any rain squalls that make spinnaker sailing at night stressful. We'll let you know tomorrow!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Day 4 - Crossing the Honey / Golden Syrup Line

At the moment Maunie is happily romping along at 6 to 7 knots and we're living life at an angle. Now some people would find this strange to enjoy the challenge of doing everything on board heeled over to starboard; well not us, as life at an angle means sailing which is what Maunie does best. We're making the most of this as we may lose this wind in the next 24 hours and be back to motoring, or what our good sailing friends, Adam & Cindi refer to as 'burning dinosaurs'. (Adam & Cindi have had to sit out the season back in NZ but it's good to have them 'on board' as they kindly send through e mail weather update - cheers, mates!)
A key point in the passage to NZ is what happens with the weather north & south of 30 degrees south; ideally you want to get any challenging conditions out of the way north of this line. We've a fair way to go before then (currently 23 degrees south) but Bob, our weather and routing guru is guiding us to a position so that we can be best set up to handle the SW winds that we are likely to encounter south of the 30 degree line.
Another crucial line that is approaching faster than 30 degrees south is the cross over from honey to Golden Syrup or brown sugar on Dianne's porridge in the mornings (don't worry, she does add fruit too!) Again, some readers will be asking why we didn't just ensure that there was enough honey on board to avoid this dilemna. Well, it's not quite that simple as honey is one item that NZ biosecurity insist on confiscating, even if it was originally from NZ. Dianne had pondered whether to buy a small re-stock but Graham had insisted that we'd only end up handing it over so Skipper Keating ruled on that one! BTW, Graham has muesli!
Meanwhile, on the subject of food, our decision to depart on Tuesday meant a quick dash for pre passage provisioning. We should have plenty of ingredients (fresh and frozen meats along with fresh veg) and we did manage to make up some lasagnes on the day before departure to have as easy meals. Conditions last night allowed us to prepare a chicken curry so we also have that ready to go. As we watch the weather we'll make the most of any calm conditions to make up other meals ready for more challenging conditions if they arise. It's not that meal preparation is impossible at an angle - just slightly more of a balancing act. Plus, it's a treat to just fling a meal in the oven. One thing's for certain, the arrival of any calm conditions will see a batch of Dianne's choc chip cookies.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Day 3 - Slow Progress, but Progress Nonetheless

The engine went of at 01.00 this morning so we had a peaceful night with pleasant, if rather slow, sailing. The pesky adverse current meant that we were only averaging about 4 knots so were falling behind our plan but we are happy enough. The breeze increased to about 11 knots late morning and so we are now making a more respectable 5 knots and sailing almost south west.
The plan is to keep heading west of the direct route for another couple of days to be better placed to meet some SW winds that we are likely to encounter south of the 30 degrees south latitude. Bob the weather guru has also given us some more positive news that the strong wind front, forecasted for the 28th as we approach NZ, looks as though it might have been a computer anomaly in the forecast as it now seems less daunting in the more recent updates. Still something to watch for, though.
Otherwise, all's well aboard and we have twice-daily radio chats with other yachts on the same passage via the SSB radio. Ithaka have left Noumea so are ahead of us and the the west, Navara is a day ahead of us and enjoying faster sailing better winds and Obsession is about 15 miles on our port side. It's good to be able to compare conditions and it's motivational to know that other crews are out with us in the very empty-looking ocean.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Day 2 - Doing the Yanmar Rumble

The wind has been notable for its absence since yesterday afternoon so we've been plodding along under engine. The throttle on the Yanmar diesel has been tweaked to find a 'sweet spot' of economical cruising (at just over 5 knots and 1700 rpm) with minimum noise and harmonic vibrations. It's actually a pretty quiet installation, as boat diesels go, but we've be a lot happier if the wind was our motive power. Still, the upside was flat water and undisturbed off-watch sleep last night so we're happy enough.
Today it's grey and drizzly and the latest update from Bob McDavitt, our weather guru, is that we should get about 10 knots of SE wind this afternoon which should be enough to sail in roughly the right direction.  However, it seems that the weather patterns in NZ may be turning unsettled and he's giving us early warning of strong southerlies as we approach North Island next Wednesday. Oh, good. This is where, we hope, Bob will earn his money, giving us a revised route to sail around the worst of the weather. Now that we have passed the last of the Fijian islands with their handy cell towers, we can't get those nice internet weather pictures so Bob will be our eyes and expertise, to add to the Grib weather files that we can access via the sat phone.
We are motoring in company at the moment – Lisa and Lester on Obsession are a couple of miles on our starboard beam. We first met them in Denarau, Fiji, last year and again in Fulaga this year so it's nice to have some company for the occasional chat on the VHF. So that's about it for the moment; all's well aboard Maunie and we'll just keep heading toward the cold weather!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

More on-passage photos

Another island passing by, another cell tower - this time it's Kadavu which is giving us some internet coverage. As expected, the wind died this afternoon so after a lovely three hours of sailing the Parasailor came down and the engine went on.

Graham takes the job of preparing for the night watches very seriously so did some hard work on the foredeck with the headphones and the beanbag.

Full concentration on the foredeck beneath the sunshade, er , staysail

As you can see, this passage-making is pretty tough
It looks as though the engine will be drumming away throughout the night and into tomorrow too but we aren't complaining. This must be the smoothest start to a voyage that we've ever had!

Dianne gets her rewards tonight for keeping watch while the skipper was inspecting the inside of his eyelids this afternoon. She does the midnight till 04.00 watch whilst Graham gets the 20.00 till midnight and the 04.00 till 08.00 watches (but, as we swap watches the next night, it's not that much of a reward).

First photo from the passage

We're just sailing past Bega island to the south of Fiji so manage to get shaky internet. We expected it to be flat calm out here but we have managed to have the Parasailor flying for three hours in brilliant sunshine - a great start to the voyage!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Leaving for New Zealand

We'll be departing Suva at 09.00 local time today, Tuesday. The weather window looks 'interesting' - not much wind for a couple of days and some headwinds at the end of the week but nothing above about 18 knots as far as the forecast has it at the moment. Mind you, it's all a bit unsettled so we'll see what we get!

The routing will include quite a big zig-zag around the weather systems so is about 1230nm and so we should be into Opua around the 29th. As usual we'll aim to update the blog each day and will update http://www.yit.co.nz/yacht/maunieofardwall with our position each morning. As ever we can receive emails (without attachments) on passage.

Looking forward to being on the move again!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Maunie is injured, and we feel terrible

Like every anchorage, we approached the muddy bottom of Suva harbour with care, particularly with the weather we've been having recently. However we re-anchored here ten days ago after re-fueling and have happily sat through 20+ knots of wind, so were absolutely confident that our anchor was securely dug in. The anchor is rated for a 50ft boat and we had 50m of chain out in only 7m of water depth (usually we'd go for 35m).

So this morning as the wind dropped we felt totally happy to leave Maunie for a couple of hours to go shopping and get some lunch ashore. What we didn't expect was a sudden rain squall in our absence which caused the wind to change direction by 60 degrees and blow at 25 knots, but only briefly. It was enough to 'un-set' the anchor, however, and then it ploughed though the soft mud until our lovely boat hit something hard - a big steel mooring buoy with a commercial tug attached, a hundred metres behind.

Thank goodness our friends Carl and Linda on Navara spotted Maunie moving and raced over in the dinghy; Lester and Lisa on Obsession joined them a minute or two later. We always leave the keys in the ignition so, thankfully, Carl was able to start the engine and motor Maunie clear before the expensive Windpilot steering gear was damaged. Unfortunately the metal buoy had already done damage to both sides of her shiny hull.

The buoy which collected Maunie
Ouch - steel beats fibreglass

The starboard side took the worst of it
The first we knew of all this was as we climbed out of the taxi from our shopping trip and were met by Carl; it was so shocking to hear that Maunie had been hurt. The amazing crews of Obsession and Navara had moved her to a mooring, with the help of the Yacht Club boatman, and we can't thank them enough for saving her from really serious damage. Thankfully we found that the red paint left by the buoy could be polished off but some serious scratches remain, some of them revealing the original blue hull colour:

The good news is that there is no serious damage so the cosmetic wounds will have to be addressed when we get to NZ. The bad news is that our insurance has a £1000 excess whilst we are out of NZ waters, so today has been an expensive as well as upsetting day.

And it's still bloody raining here!!!!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Talented Fijian Women, Dodgy Weather and talking to Prudence and Patience

We knew the weather would be awful today (and for the next few days) so took the chance to go up to the Vodafone Arena, near the University, yesterday for the 'Women in Fiji Expo'. Wow, what an sensory overload awaited us: women had been chosen from islands and villages across the country to show their handicraft skills and there was a huge range of woven and sewn items on display. We knew that a couple of the ladies from Fulaga would be there, including Salote whose husband is Mini (the canoe-builder), so it was great to surprise them when we arrived at their stand.

Salote (top left) and her colleagues with just some of their wares - the show was an opportunity to sell as well as demonstrate

With some Honorary Fulagans - Dianne, Linda (from Navara) and Lemba

More products from Fulaga - these ladies are from Jiko's village of Naividamu

Brisk trading - it was great to see the women who had made all these items, rather than dealing with retailers

A novel use of traditional weaving
After all that, we had a complete culture-shock with a visit to the very smart cinema nearby to watch 'The Martian' - entertaining stuff and our first feature film on the big screen for nearly two years!

We returned to Maunie at 6.00pm just as the rain arrived and it has been with us solidly ever since, for over 24 hours. Knowing it was on its way, we'd bought a couple of metres of acrylic canvas so spent this afternoon cutting out new halyard bags to replace the old and rather tatty ones in the cockpit. It looks as though tomorrow will be even wetter so hopefully we'll get them sewn up with the sewing machine and fitted; one less job to do in New Zealand.

This approach is one we'll have to keep to, it seems, as the weather certainly isn't co-operating with us at the moment.

On paper, our journey doesn't look too tricky - 1050nm as the crow flies from Suva to Opua, which should take between 7 and 8 days. The problem is that we are dropping south out of the Tropics where the prevailing wind is SE to NZ where it tends to blow from the SW. The transition between these wind directions will be a weather front which can bring strong squalls, particularly if we encounter it close to NZ. Further complexity is added by strong low- and high-pressure systems following each other across the Tasman Sea from Australia.

The forecasts are only accurate to about 3 days ahead so we rely on watching the patterns of highs and lows and leaving when they look "good". In other words, when they are in relative positions that replicate voyage times that have gone well in the past. As you can imagine, this isn't an exact science so all we can do is pick a likely-looking window and go for it, altering course from the straight line to skirt around the adverse wind and waves as best we can.

The odds of a successful crossing are improved if we start in a period of relatively stable weather and, unfortunately, that's not what we have right now!

This is a screen-grab from the excellent www.windyty.com website which takes the GFS GRIB forecasting model and turns it into animated pictures, showing wind strengths and directions (plus lots of other options). It works for all the open sea areas of the planet, so have a look if you haven't already seen it, as it's quite mesmerising. This photo is for right now (9.20pm as I write) and you can clearly see a swirly thing (as they are not technically known) just north of Fiji. It's a Tropical Disturbance - one notch down from a cylcone (as southern-hemisphere hurricanes are known) - and it is currently delivering pretty horrible weather to us. At the moment it's not too windy but our anchor-drag alarm will certainly be on tonight as the wind is expected to increase and the rain is pretty much continuous. 

The problem with these TD's is that it's pretty hard to predict where they will go next and they usually move surprisingly slowly (unlike the winds revolving around them!); however, the forecasters all seem to think it'll move west to give Vanuatu a bit of a battering, though nothing like Cyclone Pam in March. So in Suva we'll have another couple of days of heavy rain and strong winds and then the big question is how long will it take for conditions to settle down enough to make an informed judgement about a possible voyage south. An email from the forecasters at Gulf Harbour Radio in NZ today recommended staying firmly in touch with Prudence and Patience!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A wildlife video

The decent internet here has allowed us to go back through our videos and find one which we never got around to posting on YouTube. This one was taken two years ago in Galapagos and shows some of the amazing wildlife there - Marine Iguanas, Giant Tortoises and Seals.

You can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DbaiQAppWU

Monday, 12 October 2015

The colonial sights of Suva

This week promises to be windy and wet so we're doing the city thing as well as some boat jobs. Here are a few more photos of some of the old colonial aspects of the city that we've visited over the past few days:

A period photo of the Grand Pacific Hotel, now restored to more than its former glory

The airy central hall

We treated ourselves to a huge and delicious lunch. The glasses contain dessert and water, not alcohol!

The reception team pose for a photo shoot. The staff are impeccably trained and very friendly
 The size of our lunch dictated a long walk so we passed some other interesting sights:

The guard at the President's residence

The Suva bowls club - it could be England, apart from the trees
We also visited the very good National Museum which had a great display of traditional canoes, including a drua catamaran, built in Fulaga in 1906:

The beautiful drua
 There was also a display of modern wedding dresses which are made with tapa cloth which is traditional material of beaten bark fibres:

Dianne was given a warm welcome by this chap as we walked around the displays:

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Enjoying Suva

We are thoroughly enjoying the city experience of Suva - it's a really busy place and yet retains a friendly feel to it. We've completed some good re-stocking of food stores and bought some new clothes to replace our salt- and sun-damaged ones. We took a bus up to the University of the South Pacific which takes a scenic route along the waterfront past some iconic old buildings. Our timing wasn't great, though, as the bus stopped at a Catholic School en route at the end of the school day and it filled up completely! Getting off at the next stop was a challenge.

At the downtown Bus Terminal

Looks ok and fully air conditioned - and only 70c each for the journey

Colonial buildings hemmed in by modern shops and offices

The City Library

The Grand Pacific Hotel - left empty and derelict for about 20 years but just re-opened aft a multi-million dollar re-build

The bus filled to (over) capacity with school children
Yesterday we were delighted to meet up with Batai, who was the island nurse in Fulaga when we were there last year. He now works for the Corrections Department in Suva so is based in the prison just opposite the Yacht Club. He came over with a colleague, Tamara, and we had a great catch-up.

With Batai and Tamara at the Suva Yacht Club

It's pretty windy here at the moment, thanks to a very big high pressure system south of Fiji but at least we are getting some good weather. Suva is known as 'soggy Suva' due to the amount of rain and the humidity which prevail here so we are enjoying the abnormal conditions. 

We're looking at weather windows to head south to NZ and there may or may not be an option on Monday so we are keeping an eye on it. It's a challenging 8-day passage and we need to pick the right weather as boat who get it wrong have a very uncomfortable time indeed. Meanwhile there's loads to do here, both on board and ashore. Graham is very happy to have fixed the water leak in the generator pump, thanks to some excellent help from the Dive Centre who procured a new seal, and, after a delay in Customs, some spare parts for the water-maker have arrived to allow us to do a service on it. Meanwhile Saturday is Fiji Day so we are trying to find out what will be happening in town to celebrate it. No one we have talked so far to seems to know!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

In Suva, after an almost perfect sail

We arrived in Suva yesterday after an almost perfect sail. We'd left Vunisea in Kadavu a couple of days before to sit out a very windy Friday in the lovely anchorage of Namara and that was a great, challenging beat into the wind. However, yesterday's departure was in sunshine with a 15-17 knot wind on the beam (ie blowing at right angles to our course to allow us to ease the sails and get Maunie really going well).

A few white ones over the bow

Making between 7 and 8 knots

We filmed a short, 3-minute  video of the sail and you can find it here:

The arrival into Suva was easy but quite a culture shock after the islands. However it's been fun to be here so far.
The shock of seeing the city after weeks out in the islands

Huge rafts of rusty fishing boats in the harbour
With impeccable (but entirely lucky) timing, Lionel and Irene from Kiapa and Kerry and Damian from Sel Citron had come over to Suva yesterday in a hire car to do the famous shark dive near Bega, just along the coast. We met in the Royal Suva Yacht Club for a beer, had a meal in the city in the evening and joined them at their very smart B&B this morning to watch the rugby.

At the start of the England vs Australia match
Apart from the result, it was really great to catch up with them all.