23, 2010 – Suva Harbor, Fiji
and welcome to Fiji! The 1288 miles from Opua to Suva, proved to be one of our best passages so far.
We judge our passages by wind direction, sea size and direction, boat speed, boat repairs underway, and seasickness…..
We, sailors are very picky about our
wind. We like it strong enough for a consistent sail but not too strong which is ideally between 10 –
20 knots. We also like it somewhere close to the beam (on the side) or even slightly behind us.
What we don’t like is wind on the nose (in front of us) or close to being on the nose. For
Imagine, we tend to sail comfortably with the wind anywhere between 60 to 120 degrees off the bow. We can
sail closer hauled but the crew tends to get a little grumpy. We can also sail nicely, wing and wing (one
sail one each side of the boat) with the wind dead behind us. But on that tack, we do need to be more on guard on watch that
we don’t back wind any sails. But the key to a good sail is to have wind and not to have to run the
engine to get somewhere. With this 8 day passage, we only motored for speed 12 hours which is pretty amazing.
So we were very happy with that, especially the Captain!!!! The kids were a little bummed, though,
because the engine also charges the batteries and allows for more movie viewing on a passage…..so with the good wind
Cinema Imagine was closed often.
Another important component to any passage is the size, state, and direction and
direction of the waves. The worst sailing condition is to have large, choppy, inconsistent seas on the
nose. Imagine is a strong, sound boat and she can sail through some pretty nasty seas but again the crew
gets grumpy. This passage provided us with mostly following seas or just aft of beam which was a fairly
smooth ride. We had a couple of days when the chop picked up, but nothing too significant.
Imagine showed us that she loved her makeover with the go fast paint
and prop job. With the excellent wind and wave direction, we made record speed, averaging almost 7 knots
and arriving into Suva almost 12 hours earlier than the other boats that we left Opua with. Now Imagine
is a comfortable, sturdy cruising boat…..we are NOT a racer but I have to say we were all excited about her speed and
performance on this passage.
If you’ve been reading our blog long, you know that the old saying, “Cruising
is doing boat repairs and maintenance in exotic places,” is a very true statement. This statement
also holds true on the high seas. We have had passages where we have (or I should say Marc) has had to
repair a fuel leak, change a water pump at 3:00 AM, change a fuel filter, replace impellers, fix the water maker, etc. etc.
This is pretty par for the course of cruising and Imagine is no different than other boats. When
you have so many systems, things need maintained and things will break. But one of the beautiful things
about this passage is nothing failed……which provided a stress free passage and kept the Captain
out of the engine room.
Well the last key component to a comfortable passage is the crew’s tolerance to seasickness. Unfortunately,
the kids have all inherited Jane’s seasick gene (although thank goodness not as bad). Many passages
are plagued with the question, “Who barfed?” and usually it’s Mom. But after traveling
15K miles and trying about every over the counter, prescription, and holistic remedy, Jane finally found a remedy that works
for her, the “Pahia Bombs”. This is two stage pill treatment that is made by a pharmacist in
a small tourist town in NZ. Although, I’m not exactly sure what is in it, it works like a charm and
this was the most comfortable passage that Jane has ever had. Unfortunately, the kids are too young to
take it, but the OTC remedies work pretty well for them.
So after one of our best passages so far, we arrived in Suva at 3:00 AM on Friday morning. We
had looked at the charts and it seemed like a straight forward, well lit entrance and we made the decision to enter and anchor
in the dark. The charts and guide books were right and the harbor entrance was a breeze but what we didn’t
expect were the half dozen rusted out, unlit shipwrecks, anchored throughout the anchorage. Luckily, Jane
was on the bow with a spotlight and we were able to dodge the rust buckets, to find a safe, calm place to anchor and to rest
before the morning’s customs procedures. Now the shipwrecks indicate that this is probably
not the most beautiful anchorage that we will be in but we are still happy to get back to the tropics.
April 27, 2010 – Suva, Fiji
Well we have to admit that the first impressions of Fiji were not the beautiful beaches, sparkling turquoise water, and uninhabited
islands that we all envision. We awoke on Saturday morning to a large city, smelly city and a harbor with
dirty brown water littered with rusted out ships. Suva, the capital of Fiji, is a city of approximately
160,000 people which is 1/5th of the population of Fiji. Although, we knew that Suva would not be a picturesque island town, we chose to check in here so that we could have
easy access to explore the islands of the Great Astrolobe Reef, just 30 miles south of Suva.
Although we had heard rumors
that the check in process here was difficult, we had a relatively easy time of it. For a fee of US $20,
The Suva Yacht Club coordinated shuttling the three representatives from Customs, Immigration, and Health to Imagine.
They arrived by 10:00 and within an hour we were ready to get off Imagine and start exploring the city.
Although, it wasn’t
the most beautiful area that we’ve seen, the people of Suva were warm and friendly. As we walked
the 20 minutes from the YC to the downtown area, we were greeted with “Bula” (Hello) from almost everyone we saw.
There are very few tourists who go to Suva and with a population that consists of almost 50% Fijian and 50% Indian
with a few Polynesians mixed in the very blond crew of Imagine stuck out in the crowds. But we could not
have felt more welcome. Although, Fijian is the official language of Fiji, language is the second language
and most people know some English and many speak English fluently so there was always someone to give us directions or even
walk with us to show us the way.
After walking through a shipping yard, literally, to finalize our customs
paperwork, we explored the HUGE fruit and veggie market. It was the largest that we have ever seen and
upstairs we were even able to purchase our Kava. Kava, a tranquilizing, nonalcoholic drink which numbs
the tongue and lips, comes from the waka (dried root) of the pepper plant. Although tempting (who wouldn’t
want to drink dried roots), we didn’t buy it for the enjoyment on Imagine. We purchased small bundles
of the root, to present (sevu sevu) to the chiefs in the small villages on the outer islands. This ceremonial
presentation allows us, cruisers, to be accepted into their communities and allowed to visit their islands and beaches.
While we were in Suva, our friends on CatMousses and Alexandre IV arrived. Since they arrived
over the weekend, they were not allowed on shore until Monday. Since the weather was blustery and the water
was dirty, we used the weekend to purchase anything that we needed from this bustling town, pick up Imagine after the passage,
play with friends (kids), and get ready to get down to the remote islands. The REAL Fiji awaits.
May 7, 2010 - Kadavu
The crew of Imagine is
finally back in the tropics and enjoying the real cruising life again….swimming and swinging off of the boat, playing
on the beaches, exploring uninhabited islands, barbequing on the beach, building crab hotels, skiing behind the dingy, spear
fishing and lobster fishing, and relaxing…..what a life. We had a gorgeous 30 mile sail from Suva
to the small island of Dravuni in the Astrolobe Reef. It was so perfect out that we were actually able
to nap and sunbathe on the back deck of Imagine and we caught a 4 foot Mahi Mahi. Can’t beat that!
The island was picture perfect, as well, with a small (100 people village) situated on a nice beach. We
were greeted at our boat by the mayor who invited us to come into the village for sevu sevu (kava) ceremony. It
was quite fun as all of us (that’s 7 adults and 7 children) sat on a mat on the floor of the chief house as he inspected
our cruising permit paperwork which allows to visit the outer islands and also accepted our Kava.
We stayed at Dravuni
and the surrounding islands that the village owns for over a week and had a lovely experience. The people
of the village were so warm and friendly. We visited the school and met the 12 children that attend the
two classrooms that teach grades 1 - 6 there. They sang a song and read to us and we watched them do their
daily journals…..although the school may look much different from those that we are used to, the lessons were similar
to what we would see at home. Children are children and learning is learning!
We were joined at the island by
our friends on Gillaroo but other than the four boats of friends there were no other cruising boats in
the Astrolobe Reef which made for wide open and quiet anchorages (except of course for the joyous screaming of 7 children).
Marc went fishing and lobstering with Rene from CatMoussess and Jacques from Alexandre IV and the mayor and other locals.
He has finally mastered the spear gun and our “He Man” brought home lobbies and fish often.
We even had one night when the whole family went out for a night snorkel looking for lobbies and fish.
It was a little spooky at first, diving into the dark water but our eyes quickly adjusted to the dive lights and the
kids helped Marc spot 2 lobbies and a grouper so it was another day of fresh seafood.
The locals welcomed us
with open arms, hosting a traditional dinner of chicken, pork, breadfruit, and bok choy cooked in a pit covered with stones.
attended church and were publicly welcomed at the service and even sang hymns from the Fijian hymnal. And
after church we were invited to a fantastic Sunday meal of fish, breadfruit, and rice at the home of the
mayor, Cry. Cry has a five year old daughter, who was enamored by Caroline. We gave
her many of Caroline’s clothes that she had outgrown which Valmi wore with a huge smile.
One of the big hits was
finally getting to drink Kava. All of the adults, were able to participate in the Kava circle.
It was a lot of fun, if you consider drinking something that tastes like dirt fun. We all sat with
the locals in a big circle on a huge mat with a large Kava bowl in the center. Normally, women do not drink
Kava with the men but they allowed us female tourists to participate. It is quite a process which involves
clapping and a sort of “cheers” and passing a around a coconut shell as a cup. The Kava
didn’t taste good but wasn’t horrible and we felt a little numbing of the lips and tongue but nothing like doing
shots of alcohol. We learned that the men of the village drink Kava together 3 times a week or so.
It is really like guys going out to the local bar for a beer after work….some things are the same no matter
where you are.
After a delightful stay at Dravuni, Namara, and Yaukuve Levu we all headed down to
the big island of Kadavu. Unfortunately our luck and tranquility had run out and we encountered some pretty
nasty weather. The strong winds out of the east created a pretty rolly anchorage and the anchorages on
Kadavu had few beaches, deep murky water, and no snorkeling. We still had fun with our friends but it would
not be one of our top destination spots. So for the cruisers out there, we would highly recommend the Astrolobe
Reef, the island of Dravuni, and the surrounding uninhabited islands but you could probably skip Kadavu and not miss much.
From here, we head to Musket Cove in the Mamanuyha group which is the prime cruising ground in Fiji. But
before enjoying this area, Jane and the kids are heading back to the states for a visit. We are going to
celebrate Dave’s (Jane’s Dad) wedding. We are all so excited to be there, see friends and family
and participate in the big event. Marc will stay with the other love of his life, Imagine, and be joined
by our friend, Mark Lynch. So we will all enjoy our time over the month of May and be back to cruising
in June. Jane and the kids are looking forward to seeing many of you stateside.
May 27, 2010
– Lautoka, Fiji – Back from the USA
After a whirlwind two and a half weeks in the good old USA, Jane and the kids arrived back to Imagine
exhausted, excited to see Marc, and ready to tell lots of stories. Although, we were busy every minute
we had a rewarding, emotional, and just plain fun trip back “home”. We were able to combine
a trip back to Indiana for my Dad’s wedding with a few days in our hometown of Chicago. Thanks to
all of our friends and family who coordinated with our schedules to host many gatherings so we could catch up with so many
of our friends. And also, a huge thank you to Philippe and Michele, The Lynch’s, The Paczosa’s,
and my Dad and Michele for providing real houses for us to sleep in! It was really nice to sleep in a bed
that doesn’t rock, take hot showers for as long as we wanted, use a dishwasher, and just wander around a home.
The primary reason for
our visit was to attend my Dad and Michele’s wedding. It was a very special day and a beautiful ceremony.
All of the family was involved with Grant and Noah standing up with Grandpa and Caroline walking down the aisle with
the little flower girls and standing up with Michele. It was wonderful to see my Dad so happy and to be
there to share the day with him.
We loved seeing all of our family – especially spending time with my 94 year old Grandma (or
affectionately known to the kids as Old Grandma). It was also so fun to catch up with my great niece and
little nephews. They had changed so much since we left and the kids had a blast playing with them all.
course, while we were in the US we just had to enjoy some of our favorite foods that we hadn’t eaten in quite some time.
Some of our favorites were pizza, Pot Belly Subs, Subway, Lasagna (that I didn’t have to make from scratch),
real hot dogs (if there is such a thing), McDonalds, KFC, BBQ, Kraft Mac and Cheese (we haven’t found anywhere since
Panama) turkey sandwiches (turkey is sooo expensive everywhere), Gallons of ice cream, fresh milk (no UHT or powdered) and
eating breakfast out at a restaurant (we always did that in Chicago and hadn’t done since we left there).
We also had some delicious home cooked meals made by family and friends, which for me was the best food that we had
because I didn’t have to cook it.
OK, so not only did we eat a lot, we also enjoyed some good old US activities like Putt Putt
golfing, going to the movies, playing at Grandpa’s lake, riding scooters and bikes, shopping, shopping, and more shopping,
watching way too much Disney channel and just hanging out having fun with our family and friends.
The kids had so much fun connecting
with their friends from their old school and neighborhood. They had play dates and sleepovers and even
attended school. They had a great day visiting St. Clement and also going to school in the suburbs with the Paczosa kids.
after a wonderful trip “back home”, we loaded up our 8 bags with almost 50 pounds each which is the absolute most
luggage that we could check. We were filled to the top with books, boat parts, shampoos, electronics, zip
lock bags, sunscreen, school supplies and you name it. Although, we can buy many of these items in other
countries, they usually are so much more expensive. So we loaded up the bags with our stash from the good
old US and took off from O’Hare.
Now we are happy to be back to our home on Imagine and ready to enjoy the beauty of Fiji for a couple
more weeks after we rest up from a VERY long flight.