Monday, 26 November 2007

NZ here I come

After a busy busy three days, which included a 24 hour sail to Lautoka & two full non stop days cyclone proofing Barraveigh we have finally left Fijian waters!
It really has been a task getting everything done in 2 days. Both the sails had to come down & be packed away, kayaks, fuel jugs, ropes, cockpit cushions & the rest of the equipment on deck had to be taken off & put in storage. The fridge was emptied & cleaned, all dried food was checked, resealed & restored. Bilge floats were checked, some were replaced, all the thru holes were shut off, fresh water run through the outboard, all the water tanks were topped up & most importantly the gas (propane to you guys on the other side of the pond) was disconnected. Somewhere in the mist of all this I did the mundane laundry & attempted to pack my many souvenirs from the South Pacific into my rucksack! Being tied up in a marina is fab but it does have its disadvantages, one being wildlife! Ants climb onto the boat along the ropes, rats can swim into the exhaust holes, birds make nests inside the boom (we learnt our lesson from Panama!) & we won’t even mention the dreaded c word (cockroaches!). Barraveigh has been left with Vaseline on her ropes (stops the ants), the exhaust holes have been blocked with rags & the end of the boom has been taped up.
We left Barraveigh at 4pm, joined Golden Opus & set sail at 6pm. Exhausted we opted for the final shift & were immediately taken to our beds for some well earned sleep. With six crew & one captain this is going to be a luxury shift pattern compared to passages at sea on Barraveigh, 3 hours on watch with 6 hours off to sleep & relax. We are pretty excited about the leg to New Zealand & both keen to experience being onboard a different sail boat.
That’s all for now as I’m off to catch some zzz’s, so its goodnight & sweet dreams from me.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

all change!

Plans on Barraveigh never stay the same for long! The new plan is to sail to New Zealand as crew onboard a 72 foot yacht called Golden Opus, Ron Holland designed for those of you with boat knowledge! The captain is about to complete his circumnavigation having left New Zealand 8 years ago. We are joining him for the final leg. The boat is gorgeous with all the mod cons & more. Going back to basics after living the high life will be interesting!
We just have to get Barraveigh out of Suva & up to the marina. Easier said than done, a bad weather warning has just been issued for all of Fiji’s waters so we will have to stay in Suva a little longer than we had hoped.
Suva has been fun. We have been doing the tourist thing, changing of the guard ceremony at the Parliament building, checking out the keel of the Bounty (Captain Bligh) at the museum & the huge display of cannibal clubs & human flesh eating forks!
It goes without saying that I have once again been the diligent girlfriend making the never ending visits to every hardware store & marine shop in the city to stock up on supplies but I am reaching my fill, there is only so much a girl can take! ; )
Dan, a fan of Bobby’s articles on, invited us to spend the day at his recently opened zip line canopy tour on the outskirts of Suva. Its great to meet the people who are reading our adventures. Dan has been a huge help, showing us around the city & even taking time out of his own schedule to help Bobby purchase all the items on the “must buy” list. Zip lining was fantastic, I quickly got over my apprehension & initial issues with braking & spinning uncontrollably! It was a thoroughly enjoyable tour of the forest at tree top level. We had a blast, a huge thank you to Dan & his family for their hospitality.

Monday, 12 November 2007

30th October - the day we nearly lost Barraveigh

It didn’t begin well. I was awoken with news that s/v Aquantique had hit a reef in New Caledonia & our friend Bill was awaiting an air evacuation. After 11 years at sea, Bill, an experienced & skilled sailor, was about to complete his circumnavigation. We were stunned & heartbroken for him. It’s left us shaken, disaster can happen to any of us at any time.
From that moment the day steadily got worse. At anchor in the harbour of Suva (capital of Fiji) surrounded by large fishing boats & container ships a squall quickly kicked up. Building to 35 knots (substained) in a matter of moments, large waves began forming, so big they were breaking high over the bow. These are conditions you expect out at sea not in a harbour protected by an outer reef. Anticipating problems Bobby started the engine & moments later the anchor failed to hold & Barraveigh began to drag backwards. Bobby motored forward attempting to hold us in position, battling with the waves that would throw Barraveigh’s bow sky high, anchor chain straining at the cleats. I headed to the bow. Bobby needed to know where the anchor chain was so he didn’t motor too far forward. The waves were crashing so hard it was unsafe to remain up there. The squall continued for the next hour, Bobby successfully keeping us away from the reef & nearby boats but the situation was about to get worse.
Due to a fuel leak we had closed the fuel lines to the engine whilst we were at anchor. Unfortunately in the urgency of the situation neither of us remembered. The engine was being starved of fuel & taking in air. It came to a stop & we quickly set to work on bleeding the engine. It was a horrific situation, watching the distance between us & the tanker close in knowing there is nothing we could do to avoid hitting it. Despite bleeding the engine numerous times it still refused to start.
Someone must have been on our side though as the winds began to ease & Barraveigh ceased moving. It wasn’t over though. With no engine & an insecure anchor we would still be in danger if the winds picked up again. Our only hope was to find a mechanic to look at the engine but in order to find one it would mean going ashore, leaving Barraveigh to fend for herself & praying the winds would remain calm. Our friend Dan saved the day, he drove around Suva looking for a mechanic who would be willing to come out to the boat at such short notice. He returned to the Yacht Club with Tasi , a huge Fijian guy who towered above Bobby. They set to work on the engine & just when it seemed to be going well until Tasi dropped a screw into the bilge, which by now had fuel & water slopping about in the bottom. As always it was an important screw & not a normal size, we pumped out all the dirty gunk, put it through a sieved & still couldn’t find the screw…arrgghh
They headed back to the workshop (still with all our fingers & toes crossed that the winds wouldn’t pick up) & finally returned with another screw. It was nearly 5pm by the time the engine was working & we were safely reanchored. Bobby & I were mentally & physically exhausted. Neither of us had had to say a word, we knew we had escaped disaster by minutes, if the engine had failed earlier there would have been nothing we could have done to stop ourselves ending up on the reef or smashing into the other boats nearby. We had made a big error by not opening the fuel line but Barraveigh survived & we have learnt our lesson the hard way.
Never before has a gin & tonic & a good curry tasted as good as it did that evening!

Bula from Fiji

We made landfall in Savusavu. Again we inadvertently timed our arrival on a Sunday. Under normal circumstances this means you can’t leave your boat until Monday when immigration & customs check you in. Can you imagine being at sea on a 41 foot boat, only to arrive at land & not able to escape – talk about cabin fever! Luckily our good friends on s/v Barefeet were still in Fiji. They greeted us in their dinghy, had already arranged a mooring ball & smoothed the way with the officials, who had given the ok to spend the evening onboard Barefeet for a cold beer, a takeaway curry & a shower – Barefeet we bow to your forward planning!
Engine problems are now added to our list of things that need to be repaired. It is a growing list! The engine began leaking diesel from the throttle into the bilge on our way here. We will still be able to make the 200 odd miles to Vuda Point Marina where it can be fixed. Unfortunately exploring the neighbouring island of Taveuni is now out of the question, it will have to wait until next year. With both engine & generator problems (it’s not working again!) charging the batteries is an issue especially when it rains all day & there is no sun for the solar panels. It’s a toss up between using power for the fridge (which is now working thanks to a spare part from Barefeet) or watching a DVD! We have found the solution, filling the fridge with ice means we can turn it off & have both cold drinks & plenty of power.
The Fijian people are as friendly as I remember from my first visit in 2003. They greet you with a huge smile & “Bula” – hello in Fijian. The population is a mixture of Fijians & Indians, meaning there is no shortage of curry dishes to choose from! From our experiences the two cultures mix well together within the country. Elected governments are overthrown nearly every year although each coup seems to be bloodless & not particularly violent.
Fiji is made up of 300 islands, Savusavu is situated on the south eastern side of the second largest island, Vanua Levu. It’s a small town with few tourists, most shops contain two businesses which appear to be totally unrelated to each other, the stationary shop also sells meat & the barber is also the upholster who also sells fish! We have had fun learning the Fijian way ie moving at a slow relaxed pace. I’m getting better at it but don’t expect a changed person when I get home! I took a 6 hour round trip bus ride to Labasa. Sitting on the bus with all the school children neatly dressed in their school uniforms, locals selling their wares through the open bus windows; drinks, pineapples, snacks & even curries wrapped up in a roti just like a sandwich! It was fun if not a little bottom numbing & the route was certainly scenic. The buses don’t have any glass in the windows, if it rains the passengers assist in pulling the plastic sheeting down over the open air windows. Its fun, cheap & all part of the valuable experience when arriving in a new country.
We are keen to start the trip to Vuda Point Marina near Lautoka but are awaiting an area of low pressure (rain & more rain!) to move away. Stuck in Savusavu with s/v Barefeet we are doing what we do best, drinking, playing cards & name the tune competitions…. Being a Brit amongst American ipods I definitely have the disadvantage. The rain does mean that our water tanks are filling up & we now only drink Fijian rain water – talk about superstar tendencies!