S/V Nereida sails around the world

Cairns - work stop! Up the mast again...

Saturday 21 July

Trip up mast today to take off tricolour/anchor light fitting - couldn't undo top to change tricolour bulb so brought whole unit down after managing (with difficulty!) to unclip base from mast top. Unit was eventually opened by using water to dissolve salt in dirty join - no broken plastic!! Cousin Susie suggested replacing BOTH bulbs since 10 yrs old - sensible idea... So back up mast on Sunday to replace unit. Most of Sunday will be spent finishing domestic battery connections (job started on

Saturday) - all cable terminals being cleaned/sanded to bright metal before being replaced onto new batteries (slow going!), along with completion of windlass servicing and dealing with deck cable fitting.

Has been very windy (& cold) for last few days & forecast to remain so over next week. Regularly using my warm Musto fleeces & jacket - never expected to need those onshore in tropical Cairns!! They're getting unusually cold weather just now, they tell me.

Last week was very busy - hauled out on Monday at Norship Marine & pressure-washed keel ready for antifouling. Jotun (Australia) kindly donated self-polishing bottom paint ("Nereida" has always had Jotun antifouling applied & I've found it very good) & the prop was cleaned and coated with a 3-part system. Local OCC Port Officer John Cornelius has very kindly been giving me a lot of time & help with a variety of jobs, taking me around in his car to chandlers/shops etc & making use of his local knowledge

- all very useful & much appreciated. My cousin Mandy and husband Chris have continued to be really supportive & helpful in so many ways. Various people at Norship have also been very kind & helpful - of several of them, I must especially thank Rex & Stef for their help in sorting out shaft seal & seacock access problems and battery bank replacement (I hope Rex's back recovers!) & Hermann in the paint shop (& also Bill) has gone out of his way to chase up various people for me. By Thursday afternoon,

"Nereida" was back in Marlin Marina - who I must sincerely thank for their unexpected generosity in waiving their berthing charges during my stay in Cairns. The staff there (Sandy & Joe especially) have been very friendly & helpful.

Items dealt with so far here have been:

* Icom SSB radio repaired by Brian Swinton - many problems found, but now working beautifully...

* Laptop repaired by Steven at TJ Microsystems - coming to the end of its life, but now useable again (for the time being!)....

* Evinrude outboard repaired - will be a back-up now to the new 2hp Yamaha outboard purchased here (can't afford to be without a reliable outboard motor!)

* Mast/vang connection re-made after I found previous one 'eating' into Al vang end-fitting on my way here- Georgina at Blackwood's was very kind & helpful...

* Prop anode replaced & keel antifouled

* Engine oil & filter changed

* 1st reefing line replaced

* Ants (from Fiji) eradicated... I hope!!!

* Incorrect Zodiac rowlock/oar parts replaced - hopefully, I'll be able to row it now without oar 'popping out' all the time!

* All pillows/cushions/carpets cleaned

* Updated Nobeltec world charts 'dongle' received & activated - especially useful for passage-planning (very 'user-friendly' software, I find, & GPS positioning is pretty accurate) - latest Australian charts included so will be immediately useful for passage north to Cape York/Torres Strait & across Gulf of Carpentaria to Darwin.

Jobs outstanding, & to be done before moving on, are (in addition to replacing tricolour fitting at mast top & finishing battery connections):

* Servicing of Anderson winches (usually a job I enjoy, but well overdue). Good thing they're so well engineered that they survive long service intervals!!

* Re-bedding of fitting to deck where electric cables come down below from beside mast foot (hoping to prevent major seawater leakage I've been getting in big seas)

* Generator oil change (& cleaning away old oil from under engine)

* Wrongly-sized new double clutch for reefing lines replaced with correct one

* Freeing up of 'frozen' removable inner forestay fitting

* Tidying up of present chaos onboard....!!!

* Provisioning with Indonesia & Indian Ocean passage in mind.

I've thoroughly enjoyed being massaged twice by Alison, at the local fitness centre. After an active, rough sail here from Vanuatu, my upper body felt it needed some sympathetic treatment! She definitely made me feel pampered!

An unexpected coincidence was the arrival in Cairns of the Latymer Rugby Tour group from the school in London where I used to teach Mathematics - I spent a pleasant evening with them on Friday - and the weekend has seen my aunt Sheila and cousin Susie flying in to spend time together - I've not seen them for quite a few years so we've had a good reunion.

Slow progress ...but a nice place to be in!

After TV, radio & newspaper interviews/coverage, I'm finally getting boat jobs dealt with... outboard & dinghy (oars) problems, SSB radio, computer, cleaning above & down below, dealing with leak by mast, engine & generator oil changes, replacing broken first reefing line and wrong-sized clutch, antifouling, tricolour bulb, etc ... the list is long!!
My dock neighbours on the fishing charter boat 'Kohara', skippered by Jeff, looked at my trolling line & decided I needed help to organize it better with appropriate lures, wire leader, bungy etc, so I'd catch something as I sail north soon. They very kindly spent some time on two lines - "guaranteed to catch fish with that".... We'll see...... I've promised to email them with news of my catch(es), after I get going finally!!
Sunday was spent relaxing - walking my cousin's dog on the nearby beautiful beach in the morning, under a clear blue sky, & then looking around Cairns and the Tablelands (old volcanic plateau) and its tropical rainforest and other sights.. trees, ferns, birds all very different, of course, from European and American ones I'm used to seeing... an enormous 'curtain fig' vine, growing high up and hanging down to the ground,... bush turkeys, kookaburras, ibises, & many more birds...

Australian landfall in bright sun!

Just a short note to confirm safe arrival in bright sun in Cairns - lovely last sail after lumpy seas & variable wind under grey skies for the previous few days. Pacific leg completed...
Quite a group of people on dock at Marlin Marina - being made a fuss of by Cairns media & townsfolk ... all making me feel very welcome - very pleasant!
Lots of work projects to get done during time here - so will be busy. But cousin Mandy making sure I get to see Cairns and surroundings also - looking after me well!

Land ahoy!! Australia sighted! Tues10July07

At sunset this evening, I'm pretty sure I sighted Australia.... from 100 ml off the coast, I could see what looked like red mountains low on the horizon below the grey clouds - land ahoy!!! ETA Cairns sometime tomorrow, possibly before midday. Never having been to Australia before, I'm looking forward to it, although I have such a long joblist & so many boat problems to sort out during my 10 days in Cairns, I'll be lucky to see much of the area apart from yards, chandlers & workshops!

Today the wind has been up & down like a yo-yo - one moment we're speeding along at just over 7 knots on a close reach, and I'm thankful I only let out the 3rd reef & no more this morning, the next, the wind has died and we're lucky if we're making 4 knots, on a beam reach... could be the broken cloud cover, but quite frustrating - difficult to know how much of which sail to have out for the best. Overnight, the wind was strong and big, lumpy, beam seas had built up, regularly throwing us around. I reefed right down, mainly to avoid making Cairns around dawn (the result of our good speed over the last couple of days) but partly to try to make the boat more comfortable!

I've been feeling quite cold, especially after sunset - my cousin tells me it's 5 degrees C colder than is normal at this time of year - my luck! So I've had to dig out my nice warm Musto gear - I can't get over how very comfortable, as well as warm, the bottom & mid layers are. From what I've seen on this 1200 ml passage from Vanuatu, I'm expecting to need to use the sturdy outer Musto Ocean foul weather gear for the Indian Ocean crossing, when I'll have similar winds (SE Trades) in possibly stronger conditions. Amazing how quickly the seas get up in strong winds & knock you about!! (Later: Just had to go up and furl in the genoa a bit more - the sky has cleared, in part, it's pitch dark, except for some stars, the wind is up more & we were rushing along, heeling overmuch, especially as a wave hit,... things were beginning to jump about down below...seas have built up again... oh, what fun...we're still doing over 7 knots at times!!)

I've been emailing a lot, talking to my cousin Mandy who has been fabulously helpful (for which I'm extremely grateful), organizing a lot for me in advance of my arrival on the boatjobs side - & she has included in that several TV & newspaper interviews on arrival, as well!

I've done quite well on the 'forbidden' food side - very little left that I'll be sorry about losing to Quarantine when they come on board tomorrow at Marlin Marina (where I've a berth waiting).

I've actually seen just 3 ships over the last two days, although several showed up on my AIS unit as I came close to Australia - several Chinese and Japanese heading N, making for their home port from a port in either N.Z. or further south in Australia - but nothing since leaving Vanuatu prior to that. With my path being directly across the shipping lanes here, it was comforting to have the AIS alarm 'beeping' at me to warn me when one of them was within 16 miles of me, so I could check to see if there was any problem arising.

24hr distance run to midday (by log), having slowed down overnight: 124 n.ml

Midday (EST) posn: 16 06'S, 148 06'E Distance to Cairns: 145 n.ml. (At 9pm, EST, distance: 85 mls, ETA ~ 10-11 am)

E.T.A. Cairns: early Wed morning 10th July '07

Fast sailing! Sun/Mon 8/9 July07...POSTSCRIPT

Sitting watching the sunset with a mug of tea in my hand, wondering where today's strong wind got to.... We've been mainly ambling along since this morning, with the odd gust of wind pushing us up to 6 or more, rather than around 4.5-5kn! (Presently 11knots of SE wind, boatspeed 4.6, SOG 5.7 (that fair current doing a good job!).... 5 mins later: wind SSE 14kn, boatspeed 5.2, SOG 6.3 - up & down all day!)

I forgot to add statistics for last two days:

24hr distances run to midday(by log): Sun:137 n.ml Mon: 147 n.ml

Monday midday (EST) posn: 15 48'S, 150 18'E Distance to Cairns: 278 n.ml.

E.T.A. Cairns: early Wed morning 10th July '07

Fast sailing! Sun/Mon 8/9 July07

Sun
Unscrewed & removed both varnished ledges and companionway hatch cover after seeing 3 more ANTS...!! No sign of any nest (or even of more than just one ant 'passing through'), but gave me the chance to spring clean the area - & set my mind at rest that there weren't lots hiding in there! Saw no more for rest of day, but keeping a wary eye out...
Beautiful day's fast sailing - mainly 15-20 kn of SE/SSE winds, either on or just for'd of the beam, giving usually well over 7 knots SOG, with fair tide. Foul tide is less than fair and doesn't last for long during the day. Put one reef in mains'l overnight but didn't make any difference to speed, just reduced heeling in the bigger seas we were getting. Still have little stays'l hanked on - so still cutter rigged! Interesting to see how it affects genoa (hardly, from what I can see - but then
it is v. small) & speed (think we're going a bit faster with less heel).
Suddenly occurred to me that one leg of my proposed course, between South Willis Islet & Magdelaine Cays and Coringa Islets & on past Holmes Reef, would be untenable in the forecast strong S wind for today - so changed course to take us 5 ml N (& so safely to leeward) of Sand Cay, Diane Bank - means a slightly longer passage, but not by much (about 10 mls). It would be nice to reach that point in daylight so I can see where any shallows are - hopefully well off & out of sight to port! No telling
how accurate chart is re GPS positioning. (My other route would have given me the chance to judge that from the position of the S. Willis Islet LH.)
Found a very small flying fish on deck - totally different from ones I've seen before - mottled brown & black wings and body.

Mon
What a lumpy sea around sunrise and on into morning! Decided it was result of combination of SE and SW swells - certainly made things jump about. Had to rescue the port nav light which I noticed dangling on its cable from the pulpit holder. Took off my trousers to go forward (yes - it's got cool enough for me to be wearing some!) knowing I was going to get thoroughly wet retrieving it..!!
Found a good-sized flying fish this morning - the kind I've seen previously - will have it for lunch.
We've made such good progress, that not only are we expecting to arrive Cairns Wednesday, rather than Thursday, but unless I can keep my speed down to around 6kn my E.T.A. is around dawn - I may have to slow down to arrive at a more 'civilized' hour for berthing & contacting Customs!!

Over halfway - now for the Great Barrier Reef! Sat 7 July07

What a great day's sailing! After an uncertain start, the grey clouds disappeared, the wind backed and increased slightly - and we've been beam-reaching at well over 6 knots ever since. Although there is an increased swell (from the S & so on the beam), it hasn't been too bad & we're not getting thrown about (yet!) as we were on Tuesday..
"Nereida" is 'creaming' along - absolutely 'in the groove'. When she's sailing along like this, I often think, fronm below decks, that she's slowed right down, she is so quiet - but on, checking, I see we're going fast but smoothly - beautiful!! Whether having the staysail up has made a difference is difficult to tell - but I suspect it has. We've more sail area out lower down, so maybe not had to reef as soon as otherwise we might have had to... We've also a bit of a fair current, so our S.O.G.
has been well over 7 knots a lot of the day - at this rate, we may get to Cairns on Wednesday, rather than Thursday ... but still too early to be sure of anything where landfall is concerned.
Winds are forecast to strengthen a little to around 20kn on Monday, just for a day, and all the forecasts for the next 5 days show SE-SSE winds, maybe just S of SSE - so that all looks good!
Actually, I just checked - wind is now already SE 20knots, our boatspeed is 6.5, giving 7.3 SOG as I write this (1600 EST/0600GMT). Lovely to have such a good current helping us along!

24 hr distance run to midday (by log): 138 n.ml.

Saturday midday (EST) posn: 16 15'S, 155 32'E Distance to Cairns: 580 n.ml.

Crossing the Coral Sea Thurs/Fri 5/6 July07

Thursday was a real 'ambling' day. The wind, having filled in strongly over Tuesday night, gradually died down over Wed ... & kept on dying, so most of today has been really light - - motored twice for a couple of hours, when speed got down to 2.5-3.5 knots!

Gave me the chance to play with storm staysail on newly-positioned inner forestay - getting prepared for possible use in Indian Ocean, if not before!! Was taken aback to find a split pin lying on deck beside the foot of the stay - had come out of a clevis pin... how?? Needed to knock clevis pin back in place with hammer before replacing pin. Then I had to fiddle about with the sheet leads rather.... in the end, abandoned the cars and lead the sheets instead via block on midship cleat to jammer
& block on quarter & thence onto cockpit winch - works fine. With the wind just abaft the beam, the apparent wind is just for'd of the beam - so keeping stays'l up for time being to see how it goes. First time I've sailed "Nereida" with cutter rig! With full genoa and full main in 14kn of breeze, we were making about 6 knots - so was better than earlier in the day. I've also been thinking that Trades in Indian Ocean could well give same point of sail as I'm getting on this passage. Strikes me
that I won't be poling out the genoa on this passage... wind is too far forward and likely to stay so.

Been looking over food stores, thinking of Aussie Quarantine regulations - have pate (3 tins from Tahiti), meat and cheese to finish or get confiscated. So it's pate to have with fresh bread bought in Luganville for lunches (with cheese & biscuits when pate finished), had duck a l'orange (Tahiti) for dinner Wed night, have 2 tins of beef - to make curry or stew, with lime & mango pickles I still have, and will make a chilli con carne with the tin of mince still left... easily enough 'lazy' dinners
there until I arrive in Cairns and that's not touching the eggs I have and a bit of fresh meat I've still got in fridge - I'll be forced either to chuck excess overboard (before reaching Aussie waters!) or let them feel good and confiscate it from me..! Think I could well put on weight over this passage.....! Enough pamplemousse for three more b'fasts - they're gorgeous! And christophene for munching on between times....as in Mexico & Caribbean - light green pear-shaped object, white & crunchy
inside with very big flat 'seed', normally cut and skin peeled away. Can be cooked as veg, but I prefer it raw - makes a nice salad.

Have already contacted Aussie Customs by email to give notice I'm arriving next week! (You have to let them know of imminent arrival at least 96 hrs in advance)

I'm looking forward to Cairns - but I've so much to do boat-wise, I'm just hoping I'll get to enjoy the place itself before I must leave on the 24th for Darwin!! I've been emailing my cousin & people in Cairns trying to organize so many different things in advance of getting there, to make sure they all stand some chance of getting done within the time-frame I've set!!

Been chasing minute ants from Vuda Point, Fiji, again - had hoped recent heavy rain and seas crashing onto deck would have drowned them - but they obviously found a couple of protected places - and with sun today and yesterday, they've been out & about foraging...

Well, the wind suddenly picked up again just after I wrote my midday Friday log. I'd noticed an incresed southerly swell had suddenly appeared, it having been pleasantly smooth over the morning, so I had to reef the mains'l (just one reef at present in F4-5 winds: 17kn, gusting 20kn) and furl in the genoa a touch - may put a 2nd reef in mains'l if wind increases any more towards nightfall - but in meantime we're making much better speed than overnight and this morning!

24 hr distances run to midday (by log): 128/130 n.ml.

Friday midday (EST) posn: 16 10'S, 158 02'E Distance to Cairns: 728 n.ml.

To Australia - Tues/Wed 3/4 July '07

Well - we certainly got the wind we wanted - and more!!
Suddenly, at 0300 over Mon/Tuesday night, there were clouds & rain... and wind a-plenty at 19 knots ..and increasing! Seas increased also - so knocked sense into the log/speed impellor - which began registering!
Winds were from S to SSE, at 20-25 knots, but the apparent wind was just for'd of the beam so we were close-reaching almost due west with a S swell - very uncomfortable, especially as the seas increased to 3-4 metres and regularly flung us onto our 'ears'. Crests were generally smooth but occasionally we'd catch one just beginning to break - bad news!! Seas were regularly sweeping over the decks & testing our water-tightness - I've one or two places to check out, once we're in port!!
Initially, one reef seemed OK, but as wind increased, had to put 2nd reef in mains'l - & also in genoa. Of course, the good news is that we made excellent speed - generally 6.5-7 kn and from Tuesday afternoon there was a very definite fair current/tide helping us along - so we were making great progress towards Cairns!
Around sunset, the heavy grey overcast moved away to the north - and the rest of the night was almost clear, with a near-full moon rising a little later - lovely! OF course, the seas were still big, but the wind has been very gradually lessening a touch. By 1am, I was able to let out the 2nd reef & now (Wed afternoon) the wind is ESE/SE 15-20 kn so we are broad-reaching under full sail with 2m seas from SE.
Today is Nereida's 10th birthday - so I've been paying her some attention, as befits a birthday girl - cleaning up a bit after our pounding. We'll shortly have a birthday tea - or at least I shall! It's been a much pleasanter sailing day today, despite the occasional big wave - more like typical Tradewind conditions, except we're not running downwind enough for me to have to pole out the genoa - maybe later....
Last night, some boobies came by at sunset, obviously thinking of roosting in our rigging - but we were moving around too violently & they soon thought better of it! This morning, I sat in the companionway with the early sun on my back, eating a pamplemousse from Port Vila market, watching a graceful, tiny petrel skimming the waves so closely it kept touching the surface with its wing tips - life seemed pretty good at that moment!

At midday today, we had covered 151 n.ml.(by the GPS) over the 24 hr period & had 974 n.ml. to go to Cairns.

"Nereida" heads for Australia!! Sun/Mon 1/2 July

ON MY WAY!! Left around 3pm EAST (Eastern Australia Summer Time) from Luganville (4pm local time) - feeling quite excited about final Pacific sail to Australia.

Having to motor (with 'push' from tide just now) to get away from 'no-wind' zone around Vanuatu, in hope I can get sailing by early Tues -wind looks as though it should be good then, although may go light again on Thurs for a day or so. Just rounded South Cape now, on SW of Espiritu Santo, & am now on course for Cairns (or, strictly speaking, on course to a little 'jiggle' around Barrier Reef islands on way to Cairns!!)

Such heavy, heavy rain overnight Sat and also on & off during Sunday - I was expecting some, but not so much... got drenched! Stopped me getting re-fuelling completed as I'd hoped. But cleared/tidied up in meantime and sorted out paper charts and confirmed route around Gt Barrier Reef area - so not time wasted. Refuelling was very slow because I used little 12V in-line pump to pump fuel out of 20l cans very low down in cockpit locker into 10l ones for pouring into tanks, but both tanks nearly
full now - leaving me feeling much more comfortable! I should have way more than I need, assuming good sailing conditions.

Monday's weather was far nicer - after more heavy rain overnight, clouds cleared away soon after I headed in to town to clear Customs & Immigration at 0700. Just as well I went in early, because I found Immigration open - but he was busy writing a note on the door telling anyone else to come back at 10 o'clock! Then on to Customs - painfully slow filling in sheets of forms... had to pay Port/Light Dues at Harbour Master's office before Clearance Certificate could be issued - I was staggered to find
the cost was 7,000 vatu (~$70 ). I only had 5,000 on me, so had to walk back into town to find bank or ATM to get cash - so much for my hoping to get return ferry back to 'Nereida' at 0830 ready for a quick get-away! (Might have managed it if I'd had the extra cash..) Anyway, had a very nice breakfast at the 'Nataranga' in the main street, since next ferry wasn't until 1130 so no point in rushing. Paid dues & went back to Customs... to find a little queue... eventually obtained my Clearance Certificate
for passage to Cairns and then filled up 2 10l jerry cans with diesel - have actually filled both tanks completely now in expectation of a day or so of motoring away from Vanuatu before Trade winds fill in, as hoped.

So arrived back at Aore to deflate & stow dinghy & generally finish preparing for passage to Cairns - beautiful sunshine....clear water.... blue-tipped stag coral growing by jetty...fish jumping everywhere.... but NO wind...!!

Just had AIS alarm beeping at me - ship 16ml to W of me heading on 155T (I'm heading 265T) - so shouldn't be any problem - can see it on radar also.... Full moon just rising in clear sky... should be a nice night! Especially if I can stop motoring and get sailing... speed/log impeller must have some gunge in it or maybe an animal has made it's home there - it's not working!

Good news - one of the Cairns people has replied to say they can get Evinrude gasket & piston rings so that looks hopeful - I may yet get a working outboard!

Distance to go: approx. 1200 n.ml.

SPCZ overcast - Vanuatu Fri/Sat 29/30June

Thursday ended up very calm & peaceful, unlike the rest of the day which was grey & rainy. I sat out in cockpit in the moonlight, having first put plenty of anti-mosquito cream on, & after arranging mosquito netting over boat hatches!! Completely dark & seemingly uninhabited where I was anchored - & I only just managed to get there before light failed. I relied on Nobeltec charts & chartplotter (both! - trying to reduce chance of error!) for position of anchorage in lee of tiny island of Uri in
Port Stanley on Malakula island. Fortunately, they were both accurate. I'd chosen an anchorage to come into that looked fairly straightforward - no coral heads lurking too close by, nice sandy bottom instead, since distance was a bit tight for a day passage...but even so, I felt really uncomfortable coming in to anchor without any chance of seeing through water at lurking coral in the near-darkness. Other closer anchorages looked a bit dodgy for entering in bad light, let alone at night....
I'd had to motor-sail a lot, trying to make sure of getting there in daylight, with strong winds gusting up to 25kn as I left and very little a bit later - they kept being highly variable - mainly NW-NNE & so 'on the nose'! What might have been quite a good sailing day was rather ruined trying to get too far ... only benefit was batteries being well-charged!!

A couple of small boats, each with several people in them, were going back to another nearby island as I came in at sunset (not that I could see any sun.... dark grey clouds....) - smoke showed where they were probably heading for. Very basic, traditional subsistence living around here. Gather this is a marine reserve for giant clams! Had 3 or 4 dolphins leaping around boat as I made for channel between islands to get in... always nice! And actually found a flying fish on deck later in the day
- from previous overnight passage, presumably - and saw several more today - flying over surface of the sea a long way.

As I left this morning (Friday), at first light, a couple of dug-out, outrigger canoes appeared - one with a single person in it, the other with two... women, it turned out, hoping for a tow towards the local market where they were taking their oranges.. unfortunately, my path was nowhere near theirs so, regretfully, I couldn't help, much as I would have liked to if only time had allowed it.

I was hoping to get to Luganville in time to check-out for a possible weekend departure, weather permitting... although looking at the available grib files isn't encouraging - not until 2nd July (Monday) do the winds begin to look better - settled SE Trades looking more likely then, with very light & variable N winds before that.

I have various things I must do before I start that passage, so I made for a 'resort' anchorage on the island of Aore opposite the town of Luganville at the S. end of Espiritu Santo, with a regular little ferry over. On arriving soon after 2pm & picking up a mooring, having had to motor-sail all the way against a headwind, I busied myself filling with diesel from my jerrycans - I don't know yet if I'll be able easily to refuel in Luganville over the weekend.... & it was actually NOT raining for a
change!

Yet again, it was a day of dark grey clouds and occasional rain showers - the northern islands of Vanuatu demonstrating that they are in the S Pacific Convergence Zone (not the ITCZ around 5N &/or 5S, but the SPCZ around here & on to Fiji & N.Cooks which gives frequent bad/rainy weather/storms).

Saturday: Went over to Luganville to see where Customs & Immigration are- both firmly closed until Monday, when I'll clear out. Diesel situation not at all simple or easy (no fuel dock to fill up at) so will leave without buying more fuel - will use up my spare from my stowed jerry-cans instead - needs using anyway, since not good to store for too long. Will just take me a time to finish doing it tomorrow, having already spent time on that today...
Town of Luganville very run-down, with shops struggling to make a living, just two basic hotels and almost no eating-places - except one pleasant one, run by a woman from Seattle(!) whose husband runs a vanilla plantation. I shall miss diving on the 'Coolidge' wreck - pity since it's reputed to be very interesting - luxury liner requisitioned by the US in WWII for troop-carrying and sunk nearby after hitting two mines (I must have sailed over her on my way in here!) There's also a connection with
Kauai here - the story of 'South Pacific' was written here - 'Bali Hai' is supposed to be the nearby island of Ambrym. (The film was made on location in Kauai.) Lots of remnants of the US military presence here on Espiritu Santo.

Vanuatu

Left Pt Vila an hour or so before sunset, making for Lamen Bay on Epi Island. Was surprised to find myself having a pleasant, if rather sedate, sail under bright moon, in fairly calm seas and none of the showery conditions there had been all day up to, and including, leaving - clouds cleared away completely. Boatspeed just 4-4.5kn (was 2.5 not long before!) in 10-12 kn of E wind, but SOG only 3-3.5 - clearly a strong S-going tide/current. A little later - things improved - heading due N on a beam reach, wind got up a bit & boatspeed around 5kn, SOG 4kn... But later still was back down to 4kn or less...! Seemed to vary a lot. NW Efate coast is quite low & has no lights - including one (Fl 2 (10s) supposedly) on a tiny island I skirted well off the coast - no light seen! Later still (around 10.20pm), it got quite 'bumpy' again & the wind got up quite a bit also in the open water between the islands.... & stayed that way for most of the night. I put one reef in the main & that worked quite well until morning when the wind died, so I let out all reefs..... only to find a strong NE wind gusting from time to time as I approached the anchorage in NW of Epi. Lamen Bay turned out to be very green & very big - plenty of space and the reefs well off to either side were perfectly clear to see. In fact, a French boat just leaving told me I could have found good sand & holding close to the beach anchored in 4-5 m... instead of the 9-10 m where I'd stopped well astern of two Australian catamarans (the only other boats here).

Pt Vila was a pleasant & interesting stop. Came in on Monday morning, after a 'bumpy' fast sail from Fiji, to anchor near the quarantine buoy off the town just as the sun rose over the hill behind (good timing!). One hour different from Fiji here - GMT+11hrs (PST+18). Had to wait for Customs, after calling "Yachting World" who organize check-ins here - very pleasant, helpful people. Around 9am, Moses turned up to ferry me, with several others who had arrived over the weekend, over to Customs (LOTS of repetitive forms to fill in!) and then back to our boats to await the Quarantine officials' visit - not too long to wait before the two came on board to check on a long list of items - all went smoothly and they took away some (very sour!) mandarins from Neiafu market and my rubbish - to be burned. They allowed me to keep several items of fruit & veg (also eggs) which I was about to cook or eat that same day, so long as any waste went into their yellow quarantine bins... Total cost so far.... 3000 vatu (~US$30)... then I was helped in picking up a buoy (necessary with the deep water & poor holding in most of the bay) before being taken ashore to get some cash & visit Immigration - another 2000 vatu!

Wandering around town was interesting, despite being very 'touristy'. (Loads of 'Duty Free' shops aimed at the many visiting 'kiwis' - NZ is only 1000 mls away & cruise ships call frequently in season) But frequent showers... The locals are Melanesians, not Polynesians, and look very African to my eyes - crimped hair, not straight, and very dark, unlike the locals in the islands I'd been to further east - all very friendly, with lovely smiles! The covered market was great - lots of fresh fruit & veg, sold mainly by women in their 'Mother Hubbard' dresses, introduced to the island by the missionaries of the 19th century. I was fascinated by the large baskets used to bring the produce to market - made from a single palm leaf plaited & intertwined beautifully - cheap & effective but eminently disposable & degradable! While the women were waiting for custom, they sat on the ground on mats also made from plaited palm leaves. They don't seem to wear flowers, as the Polynesians routinely do. I've been enjoying giant 'pamplemousse' and papaya since my visit to the market.

There's a good dinghy dock in Pt Vila by the 'Waterfont' restaurant/bar close to the mooring field and the 'Yachting World' office & I met quite a few cruisers there - serves good food & it's a good meeting place!

I was given some very useful anchoring & other info on Vanuatu by a boat ('Drumbeat') here in the Lamen Bay anchorage - have been busy copying it all to different places so I don't lose it..!

As a result, I've just discovered why Vanuatu is so rainy and has rather unpredictable weather - it is 'permanently' in the Convergence Zone! I was lucky to see blue skies & sun this morning! Tonight, the wind is still up and there are lots of rainclouds around. Tomorrow I'll make for an anchorage on Malekula Island -54mls so have to get up early!! Then Friday, I hope to get to Luganville, ready for checking out to Cairns... we'll see how that goes!!

Been reading up on health hazards here - mosquitoes commonly giving malaria & dengue fever, sea snakes with fatal bites, many water-borne diseases caught from ice, water-cress etc, several different poisonous/spiny fish etc to step on or touch by mistake, aggressive dogs, sharks, man-eating crocodiles.... etc, etc. I'm not over-inclined to go swimming/paddling & not feeling very comfortable here....!! Even going for short walks on the islands can cause problems - need to check OK with locals so as not to offend or intrude onto certain sites by mistake.

Deep ocean sailing has none of those problems!

Outboard problems - TG for helpful fishermen!!

Wed 20th June
Didn't finally anchor off Queen's Wharf at Lautoka until about 4.30pm - too late for Clearance. A really strong NE (15-20 kn) wind came up this afternoon - as I was heading N & NE! So had to bash into 20-25kn apparent with chop building up - took way longer to get there than expected and then mosied around trying to decide where would be sensible to anchor in that wind - usual anchorage was wide open to NE wind & big chop so came around to SW of Queens Wharf in lee of Vio Island. Fine mud, so
anchor dragged quite a bit initially, but wind then died right down, so safe overnight (put more chain down...) Sunset was lovely - looking over a clear expanse of water towards a few islands way over on the horizon (usual lovely delicate colourings & bright 'evening star' near crescent moon ). Wanted to get up early to be waiting for 8am Customs opening, to get away towards Vanuatu (Port Vila) straight after. Noticed fuel seemed to be leaking from 'new' outboard....

Thurs 21st June
I arrived at the door of Customs/Immigration promptly around 8 a.m., despite having had to get towed in by helpful fishermen when the outboard stopped & I drifted well away from 'Nereida' and couldn't row back fast enough against the freshening breeze... One oar doesn't fit the rowlock properly and always keeps popping out - that doesn't help the rowing efforts. I had taken spare fuel, but actually couldn't undo the engine fuel tank cap - they'd fastened it too tightly the day before...!! And basically,
it had simply run out of fuel ...it having leaked out overnight...!

Finally, after giving me various instructions & their having also changed the gear oil for me, my outboard was carried back for me to the dinghy near Customs - first by the young lad & then by one of the security guards at the Customs gate - who wanted to know if I would find him a wife in England!! I then started off fine - but soon after, the engine died ... I suddenly realised that the fuel line had been closed ready for carrying the engine back to the dinghy ... but the switch was stuck tight
in the casing .... I couldn't budge it until I remembered I had a 'Leatherman' in my bag & so was able to prise it open... all this time I was drifting away from shore!! So I finally made it back to 'Nereida' (anchored a good distance off) & got almost to within arm's reach when the engine died again....no!... I couldn't start it... looked in the tank, not much there, so topped it up .... but still couldn't get it to keep going once started....Of course, I'd drifted well away from the boat by now...tried
rowing .... no use.... So got yet another tow in after signalling to a passing fishing boat (who thought I was just giving a lengthy, friendly wave - they only came to me when I frantically beckoned to them!!) They were all highly amused...!! I was lucky to be anchored in the path of fishermen returning to their little harbour... What makes you think I have no confidence in this 'new' outboard...??

I lifted the dinghy, raised the anchor & sailed away, late in the day, goose-winged eventually, downwind in a lovely 20 knot breeze, but that gradually died until by sunset, there was nothing. I motored on as the sky darkened & headed for the reef & Navula Passage. The pass is very wide & there was no problem seeing the flashing light on the N side, nor the quick flashing leading lights in Momi Bay behind me.... so although I came out through the reef in total darkness, I felt quite comfortable
- & the Navionics charts on the chartplotter helped in that they were, again, correctly positioned, as I could see when I passed (in good deep water!) quite close to the flashing reef light, following the (back) leading lights. I'd hoped to make that passage in daylight, but it's clearly perfectly safe at night.

Fri 22nd June
I'm now headed due west to Port Vila, Efate Island (Vanuatu) in light winds, with hot sun & not much swell. Decided to clean & adjust galley portlight - ended up taking entire inside fittings off because I'd forgotten how to adjust hinges.... good move because all now spotless (for the moment!) & hinges nice & tight. Ended up cleaning a lot of the Lautoka smuts off the deck also - no mistaking a boat that's just cleared Customs in Lautoka - smothered in black specks & cane particles from the smoke
from the sugar-cane processing plant close by!

Have also spent quite a time, on & off all day, chasing minute ants.... gained them from Vuda Pt marina via mooring lines & they clearly thought they'd found a new home... numbers are decreasing but slowly! (I'm hoping I don't have any 'cane beetles' hiding & making a family on board - I saw several before leaving the marina & was assured they're not cockroaches, despite looking very much like them.... do I believe this?)

Motoring earlier (5-9kn astern) & motorsailing at present, trying to make up for delayed departure from Fiji - hoping to make Pt Vila daytime Monday to clear in - don't want to lose yet another day to paperwork.. If wind picks up a touch more, maybe I can get rid of motor, for peace & quiet...

Just had midwinter's day here - explains why the sun is rising so late (6.46am), giving a really short day!

Sat 23rd June
Another hot, sunny day of motor-sailing - full canvas, goosewinged in afternoon with poled-out genoa. Wind gradually increased so that finally, by 4pm, I was able to switch off the motor - and sail properly... & peacefully!! Swell has built up - there seems to be some from NE & some from SE, often quite large. Near sunset, wind had increased sufficiently for me to take a reef in the mainsail, but we're still making over 6 knots... and should stay this way overnight and into Sunday, according to
weather forecasts.

"Bula!" from Fiji - up the mast!

I had a good sail over Friday night (apart from a second major squall which backed the sails), the seas calming as I got into the lee of west Viti Levu towards morning. I reached Vanula Passage (reef pass) soon after sunrise..... good news was a lovely relaxed early breakfast under full sail to that point, bad news was the leading marks being on 077T - so absolutely impossible to see against the sun... The wind was light & dead 'on the nose' so I had to motor in. Fortunately, the Navionics charts
on my plotter were spot on, entrance was very wide and a local boat came speeding past me just then towards the entrance. Shortly after that, while I was still searching for those leading marks, a big Panamanian tanker came out through the same pass - where it had been, "Nereida" could surely go!! By then, I'd spotted the two light structures either side of the pass anyway, so all was fine. Just had 20 more miles of easy motoring in bright sun, flat calm sea & almost no wind to Lautoka where I
had to inflate dinghy & lower outboard once I'd anchored off, ready to go ashore for check-in.... all ready by 1.30pm.

I came into Vuda Pt Marina on Saturday. Very nice place, full of friendly Kiwis (& v. friendly locals - nice!), many of whom have just arrived from NZ. Quite a community here (some long-term) - a real hurricane hole! Very different from Lautoka ("Sugar City") where the check-in involved LOADS of paperwork, but all very friendly & helpful. Of course, they had to come (in my dinghy out & back!!) to "Nereida" to 'inspect' her (with soft drinks consumed & checking on declared amount of alcohol on
board), which cost me F$20 (Health) on top of the F$40 for the Customs clearance. Avoided another F$15 charge (by Quarantine) by not giving them my rubbish - was very little there & I said I'd take it on to Vanuatu(!!) with me. In fact, I added it to a newly-arrived nearby Kiwi boat's black sack waiting to be taken ashore when I chatted with them later as they were being 'inspected'. I'd had to walk in to bank in town to get money, past dozens of trucks & lorries piled high with sugar-cane waiting
to offload at the processing plant, which was giving off lots of sooty smoke - "Nereida" was soon covered in black specks.

It's Z+12 here, so at least reading the chart-table clock, set to GMT, is easy!! And I found my instructions for re-setting my barometer/clock - so that's finally been changed to local time now, not the Mexican winter time (PST - 1) it's been showing since leaving Zihuatanejo in March!

This is an excellent, large, cruising area, inside the barrier reef - lots of little islands to explore.

Big news of Saturday was that I finally climbed to the top of the mast by myself! Can't honestly say I enjoyed the experience... & complicated by trying to make myself 'safe' using harness and clipping onto steps as I went up (nothing else to clip onto!!). Started off without - and felt very vulnerable halfway up so came down ... My tricolour hasn't been working for a time (bulb presumably gone) - trouble is, having finally got up there (some difficulty avoiding shrouds etc while placing feet
on steps at top!), I couldn't get bulb out - couldn't see how to undo fitting for top bulb...grrr!!! And both hands not easily available to work with, since have to hold on to something as well - must figure out a way to deal with that - tried wrapping harness line around mast-top but not too successful... Maybe I should use gri-gri &/or jumar clips on spinnaker halyard as a safety line... But did change the steaming light bulb halfway up the mast, which had also gone, and, later, the port nav
light down in the bow ... good to have the spares on board, although chandlery here is quite good.

Outboard is playing up ... should have been one of Sunday's jobs but didn't get far with looking at it - fuel problem, it seems - carburettor? Took a long time to download emails in the morning, what with PC playing up & poor connection giving 'decompression error' in first two tries at download ....! Had to switch off & restart PC several times.... I've had to give up on the one laptop - too unreliable - so just using chart-table (Nobeltec) laptop - tried putting ferrite (choke) on wire by laptop
input - but didn't seem to help - it was still playing 'silly devils' & hanging up when I tried connecting on frequencies around 13/14MHz (OK on lower/higher ones) However, later, I noticed it was better - maybe because I'd wound the cable around the choke a third time &/or maybe because I'd moved the laptop further from the SSB radio...?? Live music Sunday after lunch was excellent - too much socialising again - gets in way of doing boat jobs! Meant I did way less than I should have ...

Was thinking of taking bus in to Suva on Monday - Queen's Birthday Public Holiday here (second Q's B'day - had one 2 wks ago in Nuie!)... but decided I'd better sort out motor - neighbour is excellent mechanic & said he'd help me. I took the carburettor off & he dismantled it & cleaned it thoroughly - but motor still not behaving. (I'll need it in Vanuatu.) Later, to get rid of salt and soot, I gave 'Nereida' a thorough freshwater hose-down in the heat of the afternoon - a thoroughly enjoyable
job!!

Tuesday was a successful, if long, day. Managed to get a gas bottle filled which they said they couldn't fill in Papeete (with butane, not propane, but that's OK). Then I was lucky to be directed by my neighbour to some really helpful, friendly Fijians close to Customs in Lautoka (Dan's Outboard Motor Repairs) who inspected my outboard, checked the carburettor over & decided the head gasket had gone due to overheating. The load of plastic that had wrapped itself around the prop on Friday after
I ferried the officials back to shore, following the check-in 'inspection', when the motor suddenly started misbehaving, must have also presumably plugged the cooling water intake. That diagnosis was bad news since parts for an aged Evinrude were clearly not available here but they then proceeded to go out of their way to find a 2h.p. replacement - I would have preferred a Yamaha, but the smallest for sale at the local agent in Nadi was an expensive (& heavy) 8hp. Then they remembered that a friend
had a 2hp Suzuki for sale (lying around for the past 18mths, it turned out, but not that old) so I was taken to look at it & bargained him down from F$450 to F$300 (100sterling) on the understanding that it would be thoroughly serviced to make sure it worked reliably before parting with any cash - a necessary proviso, since it didn't sound too much like wanting to come back to life initially, even with a new spark plug! Having explained my sailing to them, they understood my need to be able to get
to & from shore when at anchor without being forced to row (they clearly didn't think a 'lady' should have to row anywhere, let alone in a soft-floored multi-directional inflatable, and as for sailing around the world.... they reckoned that was far too dangerous!!) So one hour and a nice mug of green tea later, having parted with a total of F$330 to cover their time also, with lots of smiling, handshakes & good wishes, I was brought back to Vuda Pt marina at sunset with 2 outboards. I had also found
time over the day to get to an Internet cafe (F$1/hr, including use of headphones for Skype - about 50 US cents per hour!!) and to Fiji Meats for some good, fresh, inexpensive meat for my forthcoming passage (they will vacuum pack & freeze meat if you ask them).

I was interested to see the little single-track railway bringing in high loads of newly-harvested sugar cane in tiny trucks from further south to the Lautoka processing plant which I was told operates continuously from June to early December.

I gather the NZ High Commissioner was expelled from Suva on Thursday - but no-one seems to know exactly why (except maybe a personality clash?)!! Also heard on Sunday there'd been a major earthquake in the Solomons - tremors being felt here - but that's well off my path.

I hope to clear out tomorrow morning (2 days later than planned), ready to leave for Port Vila, Vanuatu - a 5-day passage.

"Nereida" crosses the Date Line - now officially East of Greenwich!

Sunday 10th June

Spoke to people on 'Rag' net (8173) this morning about forthcoming passage to Fiji - may get someone about to enter Suva tomorrow to see how long it takes to get cruising permit - otherwise consensus seemed to be to head straight for Lautoka (if only one stop, to clear in & out , no cruising permit needed). Have a few days to firm up on where I'll make landfall in Viti Levu (Fiji), since either way I just head due west from here. E winds are forecast, so will be dead downwind.

Presently anchored off a little island down in SW corner of Vava'u group (Ovaka) - feeling pretty uncomfortable in rather shallow water,not far from the beach and jetty & with very shallow reef area not far astern....!! Fortunately, wind is not strong just now - but will have to keep an eye on it overnight. Had to raise my anchor soon after getting here because local boat tied to jetty had a LONG stern anchor line which reached way out to under my chain - as we discovered when he left loaded
down with locals going back to Neiafu. (I'd seen the line on coming in & thought my anchor & chain was well clear of it!) Hadn't realized there was a problem with this Moorings-recommended anchorage until I arrived rather too late to go to any other.

I'd had a lovely relaxing Sunday at the other anchorage (Tapala), finishing a novel sitting out in the sunshine before ambling over here mid-afternoon. Alternative anchorages nearby don't have safe, easy access so are not very good for leaving from in early hours of morning - at least from here, once the anchor is raised, I head due west clear of all dangers to leave for a point north of Late island & on to the Southern Lau Group & Fiji. Must say, it felt very unsettling at times moving around
this area when the sun was in the wrong direction to see clearly where marked coral heads or reef areas near my path were!! It'll be nice to get out to the safety of deep ocean tomorrow!!

It has been very useful to have the accurate Moorings paper chart that Derek, the manager here, kindly gave me on Friday. Unusually, the Nobeltec chart is not detasiled enough & the Navionics charts used on the chartplotter, while far better & nice & clear, is positioned 2 cables N and W of where it should be for GPS input - not a lot, but enough!!

The new volcanic island reported by the skipper of 'Maiken' last August is temptingly close to here - but I'll restrain myself from going to see it....

I raised the outboard & dinghy, deflating it, around sunset so I'm ready to leave here at first light (if I've not already left earlier... I've just noticed that with the tide down a bit more, waves are breaking over some rocks uncomfortably close to me...!!) (Later: Well, I'm relieved to report that the depth here is still around 12-13 ft, having only once dropped (1-2 hrs ago) to 11.4ft for a time - so it looks as though the tide will not cause me a problem, nor the wind, which has been
up & down around E 5-10 knots max.... so maybe I can afford to have a decent sleep before taking off tomorrow! It's pitch black outside - feels a bit weird out here on anchor - no moon & no shore lights, just a light-house flashing every 5 secs off to the west - my path out tomorrow..)

Mon 11th June

Got away early as planned, in good wind, and the volcanic shape of Late Island was fading away to the ESE as night fell. The new volcanic island is about 20ml S of Late Island - I passed over a fault line with lots of recent volcanic activity with some trepidation!

Sat in the cockpit as the sun set, watching the clouds, with delicate colours fading as the night fell. Stars appeared - bright Venus in the west and a really bright star (planet? Saturn?) high up in the East by Sagittarius. The Southern Cross is high up - but what a DARK night, with so many stars but no moon...! Always feels odd to be sailing along, often very fast, in the pitch dark, with no possibility of seeing anything ahead... Definitely a time to be sure you're keeping well off any
dangers... land, reefs...!! I'd poled out the genoa earlier so the sails were set up nicely for downwind overnight - so long as no squalls come along... (Amazing... I'd JUST written that on Thurs evening when we got hit by a squall - sudden backing of strong wind under a dirty black cloud... so there we were, both sails backed, heading off north towards a big reef in the distance.... had to rush up on deck to sort things out!! Decided to reef down for overnight peace of mind... too many grey
clouds about.)

My position report to Winlink Monday evening:

TIME: 2007/06/10 05:49 (GMT)
LATITUDE: 18-44.51S
LONGITUDE: 174-05.71W
MARINE: YES
WIND_SPEED: 8
WIND_DIR: E
CLOUDS: 5%
BARO: 1013
TREND: 0
AIR_TEMP: 27.0C
COMMENT: Anchored off Ovaka island, Vava'u group, Tonga. To Fiji at daybreak

Tues/Wed

At 0343, I saw two bright points of light on the horizon astern - wondered what they could be - they got brighter & larger.... & then joined up to form a delicate crescent moon 'flat on its back'!!
After a morning of light & variable winds, with a few light showers, the wind settled down to a nice ESE 4-5. Good 'tradewind sailing' at last - which continued over into Wed also - very nice day's sail in sunshine with a much-reduced swell! The only problem arose overnight because I was heading towards the reefs of the Southern Lau Group - I had to reef the sails to slow down, so as to arrive there in daylight - I didn't dare take chances with the charts possibly being well off-position since
the passage through the group of atolls was only a few miles wide - too many stories of charts in this region being several miles off (Met a couple who wrecked their yacht last year on Niue reefs - they said they gave it a 2-3 mile clearance but their chart was 5 miles out...)

At 1156 GMT (2356 local time) Wednesday, "Nereida" passed into the Eastern hemisphere - we'd crossed the real Dateline (180deg E or W, take your pick!) at 18deg 27.55'S and are now East of Greenwich. Fiji time is the same as NZ at GMT+12hr (except Nov-Feb when they go into 'summertime' so as not to be beaten by Tonga into the New Year!!! Introduced for the Millenium celebrations!)

Thursday

I had to be careful of my route - too many isolated islands & BIG reefs around Fiji area.

At 0420, I'd taken the pole down after the wind had veered suddenly & backed the genoa - presumably under a cloud. I had to work on the sails in the moonless dark using my headlamp for light - what a blessing that headlamp is, leaving hands free for work..!

The rest of the day was a delight in that it was mainly sunny & the wind went more SE, up to 15-20 knots, so we made excellent speed, broad reaching, often at 6-7knots. Of course, the downside of constant strong wind is that the swell builds up - back to a 'bumpy' ride again!!

The ongoing problem I've had over Wed & Thurs is my Winlink computer deciding it's giving up the ghost - occasionally working but mainly forever shutting itself down suddenly after 'blinking' at me, often refusing to start up again, so it's become totally unreliable. Since all my emailing & obtaining of weather info has been done on that computer, this has been a major headache. I managed yesterday to get the info off that computer (emails/addresses), using an external hard drive (which it is
currently no longer 'seeing'!) & onto my 2nd computer - but that PC is also misbehaving when I connect it into the HF radio, 'hanging up' when I try to connect on 14MHz.... grrr!!!... and telling me that 'Com port 4 is already occupied' (of course, it is... that's the radio connection...!) & it keeps 'hanging up' when I try to close it down - re-starting the PC being the only way I can then re-connect into Winlink... so my 'log' has been delayed as a result.... Oh, and, of course, that computer
requires the inverter since it blows the 12V circuit whenever I try to power it that way, so that's a major power requirement now... Oh, what fun computers are...!

Oh-so-dark-8pm!! I just had to gybe around Mbengga Barrier Reef in 20+ knots - think it 'only' took 30 mins, since I delayed gybing the genoa for a bit to keep well away from the reef and also had to reorganize the preventer before deploying the mains'l on the new starboard tack, but it felt like an hour or so!! Fortunately, I could see the flashing light on the S. end of the reef a couple of miles away, which was comforting, but I now have to make sure I don't get too close to another (unlit)
reef, east of Vatulele Island to the NW of here. The radar is showing that the GPS positioning on the C70 chartplotter is OK - always a relief to see that at night.

Expect to be safely in port at Lautoka tomorrow around midday - major reef entrance beforehand and then we'll see how well the Fijians conduct their clearance-in & out procedures... I hear there's a public holiday on Monday.

Let's see if I can send this off....

I just lost a day!

Ahoy!
Just to let you know I (unwittingly!) crossed the date line on my way to Tonga (Nieafu) today - thought it was UTC-11 on 5th June, but seems it's UTC+13 on 6th June!! So I'm now ahead of you all (or most of you!!) ...and I just lost the afternoon/evening of Tuesday & the morning of Wednesday.....
Had a lovely sail here from Niue in nice following winds, making excellent time to arrive early this morning and then 'ambled' under sail for as long as possible around the north and west of Vava'u to get here in between light showers and pick up a buoy off the Vava'u Y.C. at 2.30pm - no, sorry... 3.30pm local time!! Had a friend from Niue help me pick up buoy and will spend time this evening with L.A. couple from 'Lazybones' (introduced by Scott of Cal Y.C.). Will do inbound clearance with Customs
in the morning - no, I've not set foot on shore as yet...!! Seems like a nice place... counted over 50 yachts here in the very protected harbour!!
Bye for now.....!

Niue...& on to Tonga 30May-4June

Wed/Thurs 30th/31st May: Last part of passage from Bora Bora was no better than previous two days - big, rough seas crashing into us making life difficult - not pleasant! The wind stayed up (E/ESE 6-7) but the problem there was that I needed NOT to go too fast because I didn't want to arrive at Alofi anchorage before daylight - so furled genoa to just a scrap and effectively scandalized the reefed-down main to creep along at about 2 knots as I came around the N end of Nuie. I could see lights from
houses on shore - excellent news, since there were no navigation lights anywhere - so that enabled me to confirm what the radar indicated - that I was keeping a safe distance off. The wind was still strong and dead ahead as I nosed towards shore ...no leading lights, contrary to the chart, but some bright lights on the wharf & on a fishing boat nearby were helpful. I found my new Raymarine C70 chart-plotter a real boon in this situation - clearly the GPS position on the Navionics charts it uses
was spot-on and the depths & details shown seemed pretty accurate also - gave me confidence in the complete system! (In fact, a noticeable feature of my passagemaking since San Diego/Mexico has been the lack of any problem with my electronics/instrumentation - it has all been working really well (12V circuit apart!), including the autopilot, whether motoring or sailing, in light winds & big following seas ... )
I ended up anchoring just before daylight, having located where a couple of (unlit) yachts were moored to buoys, but had a problem with the steep-to seabed: started at 15m, but as I let out chain, found myself at 20m, so let out more chain - I was now at 30m...! Fortunately, the wind was less strong close inshore and the big seas had disappeared completely as I had come round into the lee of the island, so I let out a bit more chain & set it, put my Nobeltec into tracking mode zoomed right in as
an anchor watch - so I could see immediately if I dragged - & decided, after waiting a bit, that I seemed safe enough to sleep, intending to take a buoy in daylight.
I was awakened around midday by a call from a dinghy with divers in - a dozen more buoys had just been laid - & I was advised to pick one up. I thought I'd better do that immediately, in case I needed to call on 'Nuie Dive' to help retrieve my anchor if it were stuck in the old coral of the seabed! But all went fine, including my unaided picking up of the buoy despite the gusty wind, which I felt pleased about...!
I called 'Nuie Radio' to let them know I'd arrived & needed to clear in - they organized a friendly guy from Customs to meet up with me on the nearby wharf - only problem being that my dinghy was stowed deflated & would take a time to organize.. but he had no problem waiting for me... The couple from a nearby yacht came over to offer to help me get the inflated dinghy off the foredeck in the gusty wind and also attach my outboard - typical helpful boaters...! They were also able to show me how to
get my dinghy up from the water onto the 8-ft high concrete wharf - no nice dinghy dock to tie to here! The dinghy had to be raised, using an old hoist, moved out of the way using a 'dolly' & the hook lowered back down over the water again so it was ready for the next dinghy to use... not a simple procedure! I wasn't looking forward to reversing the procedure by myself to get back out to 'Nereida'! With a bit of practice, it worked out OK, but was always a slight worry, especially in the dark,
manoeuvring it all by myself...
Customs clearance went fine - I found all the Nuians to be very friendly people - & I then went over to the 'Nuie Yacht Club' to meet Mamata - a very helpful, nice lady who seemed to know everyone on the island & was able to answer any questions. Her husband Jim runs the Y.C. and mooring buoys.
Niue is definitely not an 'up-scale' tourist place - the exact opposite! A 'fish & chips' evening was organized at Jemma's restaurant nearby (wahoo was the fish served up - delicious!) & a dozen of us turned up for that. There are few places to eat or drink at - and everything closes down entirely over Saturday (except the evening) as well as Sunday. I organized touring the island by car on Saturday, sharing the car-hire with some other (Danish) boaters - we enjoyed our tour, were lucky to get a
day without rain, but couldn't find a single place to get even a soft drink or coffee!! There are few hotels but some houses/apartments for rent.
The island is very low, being basically one big block of coral limestone, raised up from the seabed over millenia. Niue is called 'The Rock' here - not to be confused with Gibraltar!! So, unlike the volcanic islands elsewhere, its soil is not very fertile and the surface is covered with rough rocks & stones. They had a tremendous cyclone in '03 which caused awful, widespread damage - as much from the raised seas as from the extremely high winds - & that, together with the many abandoned houses
of absent Nuians gone elsewhere for work, gives many of the villages a derelict appearance.
However, they do get quite a good rainfall & there are plenty of flowering plants, bushes, even a forest in the south, which 'greens up' the island. I saw very few birds, except for the hens & roosters everywhere, & was told this was another effect of the recent cyclone, but fishing is good. The main attractions are by the shore - diving & snorkelling in crystal clear water, enormous linked caves with fantastic limestone formations, arches, chasms, the surf crashing onto the south coast... the entire
island is surrounded by a step - a 'ledge' of foreshore reef which drops away almost immediately to great depths. It's definitely a place to 'get away from it all' among friendly locals - refreshing! But don't look for any gourmet cooking...! By the way, I heard, & then saw, a whale just off Nereida's stern overnight on Saturday.

Sun/Mon 3rd/4th June: Left for Tonga - heavy rain overnight & during morning, so I didn't leave until mid-afternoon, after dealing with dinghy & outboard & partly refuelling with diesel from jerry cans. The wind was following, around 16 knots, so I soon shook out all reefs, poled out the genoa to go goosewinged & was soon rolling around in the usual 1-2m ESE, quartering seas - but making good speed (6-6.5 knots) in sunshine, which was a nice change from the overcast I've seen so much of lately.
Overnight & Monday, the wind swung around a bit, so I had to gybe onto starboard tack & later gybed back again, to keep the mains'l from backing - we're pretty well on a dead run which is always a difficult point of sail... but at least we're sailing & not motoring! The wind has died a bit over the day to around 10 knots (ESE3-4) but I expect to reach Neiafu by mid-afternoon tomorrow (Tues 5th) which means I should have the sun nicely behind me when I head east through the reef area to the anchorage.
Time now to enjoy sitting in the cockpit with a mug of tea and my novel, I think...

West from Bora Bora: 25-29May (days4-8)

Friday 25th May: Sea has glassy surface with slight wind ripples (2-3 kn from ENE) and long, slow, gentle SE swell... All the weather info I'm getting shows a low stuck nearby to SW of me & a trough to N of me. Very light winds forecast for several more days - no chance of sailing, it seems, so must fill starboard tank shortly from jerry cans. Have switched to port fuel tank and also made the decision to skip Aitutaki (in the Cook Islands) - not worth the time spent motoring there, anchoring (outside reef - not deep enough for me to pass inside safely), inflating & lowering dinghy (& outboard), maybe having to clear in also & then finding no fuel in easy reach... So I'm heading (motoring) to Niue directly now. I calculate I've nearly enough fuel to motor all the way gently! I must leave some fuel in reserve so may end up wallowing for a bit, pretending to sail, if wind picks up a touch!! Didn't expect this much calm weather in SE Trades belt - variable, maybe - but flat calm....?? Southern Doldrums...!

At least I have no worries with regard to food or water!! My main concern is that 'smart' battery regulator is not always behaving as smartly as it should, when motoring. When the batteries are fully charged, it keeps on piling in the charge - so they end up overcharged - I keep having to keep an eye on the voltage & turn off the secondary alternator to stop charging. It's easier at night because I run all the lights etc I can, and it seems to cope better.

Time is getting very confusing!! I've recently re-set my chart table clock to keep accurate GMT, my ship's clock (in the main cabin) is showing Mexican time (PDT-1) from when I left Zihuatanejo, this computer is showing PDT (& also UTC), I'm speaking to Russell Radio who refers to NZ time... and my actual correct local (zone) time (at 158W) has just now changed from GMT-10 (Tahiti time) to GMT-11 !!! I'm sticking up notes to myself to keep on top of it all! Hate to think of the state of confusion I'll be in when I get to the Date Line... and then Fiji...!!

Later(8pm): The boat just got a good rinsing - just had some rain! I sailed for all of 35 mins under a raincloud before the wind died back to 3 knots again....!

Sat/Sun: Flat, flat calm most of the time, with wind getting up to 6-7knots later on Sunday - and finally switching from N to SSE - a good sign. Hopefully, it will strengthen more, as forecast, by tomorrow or Tuesday, to get sailing properly.

I've spent a lot of time finding out how to download weatherfaxes directly from New Zealand and Australian Met Offices using my SSB and modem to laptop (as for Winlink & Sailmail) - also finding which frequencies give the best picture (some can be unreadable - just a lot of black blobs!). Very useful info, once it all works, although yet another item where you have to get the timing spot-on (or miss the transmission completely!). It would have been nice to have had a standalone unit that just gets on with it - but Furuno had a 'hiccup' in their production of an updated version of theirs & it's supposed not to be available until later this year - or so they said in January.

Midnight Sunday - turned off motor for all of two hours thinking wind might be increasing... then realized that we were sailing at 1/2 kn - not getting very far...!

Actually spent time over the weekend reading a novel ('The Englishman's Boy') - haven't managed that for some time..! Very good one, too!

Monday morning (28th May): SAILING!!!! Around sunrise, I realized wind had increased enough - to SSE 11 knots - so finally switched off engine - so good to have peace & quiet again while making way under sail nicely!!

"Nereida" is now further West than she's ever been before. (Previous 'best' was 162 29'W on way around N. Pacific High, headed north from Kauai (Hawaii) to Sitka (Alaska) last July.)

Tues 29th May: Having a few connection problems - had hoped to send a weatherfax showing reason for my lack of wind over last week & weekend but that idea will have to be abandoned if this email is to get sent...

Wind increased to F6 over most of yesterday & overnight (around 20-25kn). We're between a low & a trough.. Had triple-reefed main with small genoa & was still making 6-6.5kn boatspeed. Wind has died back a bit now (midday) but we're still getting hit regularly by big, rough swell (3-3.5m) that has built up - my coffee mug jumped up & spilled twice, even though it was on the gimballed stove!

Expect to make Niue early Thurs 31st May. Deliberately trying NOT to go too fast - want to avoid getting to the anchorage in NW Niue in the dark.

Bora Bora ...& on to Niue 21-24 May 07 (Days 1-3 on passage)

So much for clearing out and leaving immediately on Monday... I had to wait until after their lunch-break for the Gendarmerie to issue my clearance out of French Polynesia & then had a major hassle trying to fill up with duty-free diesel at the nearby fuel dock - papers were supposedly 'incomplete/missing', he took cash only, and, to cap it all, AFTER all that, I discovered that his minimum for duty-free fill-ups was greater than I needed... Using up my remaining cash, I finally got just 18l at
125francs/l, instead of twice that at the duty-free price of 69 francs/l ... and left with a 'bad taste in my mouth' from their unfriendly attitude.
The weather was very squally and I did not feel ready to leave on a long passage after all that...
However, I was cheered up soon after by managing to pick up a mooring buoy unaided, on returning to Bloody Mary's - where I went for a nice meal later!

Tues-Thurs 22-24 May
Took time to hoist outboard & dinghy, deflate & stow dinghy... Released buoy around midday & sailed over to reef passage - motor-sailed out in flukey winds. ENE wind, dead astern... Long slow swell from SE and another competing swell from ENE.
Motor-sailed gently overnight with just 5 knots of following E wind. At sunrise, was about to turn off engine to get sailing when noticed 1st reef line had chafed through at cringle in sail - managed to tie it (wind being light helped) & luckily still have enough line at the cockpit to pass through clutch. Hope the knot holds and doesn't cause more problems. Managed to keep sailing over the day, eventualy poling out the genoa as the wind lessened & backed a little, but by nightfall, having already
downed the pole & gybed the main, boatspeed was down to around 2 knots in ENE 8knots, so ... back to motoring again....
During the night, I was awakened by the wind gusting, with dark clouds around. I turned off motor & hurriedly reefed the mainsail & genoa as the wind suddenly got up to 23knots from the SSE - at least we were sailing again.... but not for long ... 2hrs later we had just 5 knots from the SE, ...and so it went on over today (Thursday) .... Having passed through a mass of cloud around midday, when we managed another short spell of sailing, we're presently motoring in 3knots from the NW!! So much for
the SE Trades....! Light N winds are forecast, according to my grib files, for the next day or so....
I've spent quite a time today trying to find weather info sources via Winlink & Sailmail. Interestingly, when I looked at a f'cast issued from Fiji, it mentioned that the ITCZ was causing unsettled weather & gave its coordinates.... passing right through where I am! Obviously, the cause of the squall overnight. Also of interest - the barometer has not given any indication of use - it's stayed roughly constant at around 1012 for over two days.

I'm looking around me now, before going below to post this via my SSB radio - bright sunshine, almost no clouds in sight, except a grey mass on the N horizon (that ITCZ...!), motoring gently, to conserve fuel, with sails pretending to help, in 5 knots of N wind & a long, slow, SE swell. Haven't seen another boat since early Tuesday night and don't expect to sight land (possibly Aitutaki) for over two days.

Time for a mug of tea.... and to decide what to eat tonight. Yesterday's meal was steak and onions with fresh broccoli and fried potatoes!

Bora Bora


Bora Bora
Originally uploaded by svNereida.

Had a nice sail over from Moorea initially, but slowly wind died down so I ended up motoring overnight, knowing I could top up in Bora Bora. At daybreak, I was passing Raiatea, with Bora Bora just visible in the distance. The wind came up as I reached the SW end of Bora Bora, so I was able to have a nice peaceful breakfast under sail, watching the surf crashing spectacularly onto the reef as I passed towards the well-marked reef passage into the lagoon.

I went over to the Bora Bora Y.C. just to see what the anchorage was like and then headed down to Bloody Mary's and picked up a buoy there. I was kindly offered help picking up the buoy by David & Mary ('Kismet') on a nearby boat who turned out to be fellow-members of the O.C.C. with several mutual friends. We all went for a relaxed lunch at a very pleasant hotel beach restaurant nearby (Bloody Mary's, surprisingly, being closed on Sunday). On the way, we passed a black pearl 'Farm' - the dark

'cultivated' pearls were fascinating colours and the lovely pearly shell halves were hanging everywhere - I couldn't resist the offer of being given some... (shells, not pearls!)

Back at the boats, we found S. African friends of David & Mary had turned up - so I ended up with yet another highly sociable evening .... and late to bed. (I think I need to get to sea again to get some rest...!!)

Although there are clearly lots of hotels and tourist development here, it's all fairly low-level and doesn't seem to me to detract from the scenery too much - not from the water, at least.

Today I'm making use of my last chance to get on Internet for a time and then I'll be going to refuel and clear out from French Polynesia before heading towards Niue - a 9-10 day passage with the possibility of a stop midway in the lee of an island if I fancy it & if it's not overnight when I get close - I'll see - it's often simpler to keep on going, once you're in 'passage mode'! The forecast is for light winds for several days so the passage may take longer anyway - another good reason not to

stop.

I'd better send this now, so I can get to the 'gendarmerie' well before midday in case they close then.