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.

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!

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