Monday, October 31, 2011

In Auckland


Twister arrived Auckland yesterday (31st of October on this side of the date line) evening and tied up to the quarantine dock, right in the heart of downtown. I had to wait till this morning to check in with customs, immigraton, etc. The whole procedure was quick and painless, and the best part was it didn't cost me a cent. The sail down from Fiji was wonderful. I could not have asked for better conditions. Twister covered the 1140 miles (1140 in a straight line, I probably sailed more than 1200) from Suva to Auckland in 9 and one half days (I departed on the morning of the 22nd and arrived the evening of the 31st) for a daily average of 120 (as always, nautical) miles which gives an average boat speed of 5.0 knots (using 1200 miles, it works out to be 126 miles per day, 5.3 knots).

Twister at quarantine dock
The first couple of days were spent beating into 20-25 knots of southeasterlies, and it seemed there was as much water going over the boat as under it, but Twister handled it like a champ, often going over 6 knots. This helped me find a couple of previously undiscovered (but fortunately minor) leaks in the topsides. The rest of the passage, the winds eased a bit and became more easterly for very comfortable and fast reaching (ie with the wind at 90±15 degrees to the boat). I started out wearing nothing but shorts. The temperature became noticeably cooler each day, and by the time I reached the latitude of the north cape I was wearing socks, boots, long pants (trousers), and a woolen hat--the same gear I wore departing California. Not surprising since the latitudes of New Zealand's North Island (34 to 42 degrees south, rounded to the nearest whole number) are roughly the same of those of California (33 to 42 degrees north) and it is now spring here as it was in California when I left.
When I passed latitude 30 south, I began to see albatrosses and petrels which are common seabirds in the southern ocean. I think I could identify sooty shearwaters and white-chinned petrels among others. One day I spotted what I'm pretty sure was a Wandering or Royal Albatross (Wikipedia says their range is 60 to 28 degrees south) and a humpback whale which snuck up on Twister from behind and let out a big gasp of air, startling the captain. Auckland is at 36.8 degrees south, by the way.
I'll fill in some more details later. Now it's time to find a pub.

Friday, October 21, 2011

next stop Auckland

I'll be departing Fiji shortly. Next stop, Auckland, New Zealand. I hope  the ca 1100 mile passage will take 11 days, but it could take 15 or more depending on the wind. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lako Gunu Yagona

Suva, Fiji, 17 October 2011.
More pics
Fijian pronounciation guide: q = ngg, g = ng, c = dth, b = mb, d = nd. Once you figure that out, it’s pronounced as written.
Fiji is the most exotic (for lack of a better word. Rejected alternatives: foreign, different, interesting) place Twister has taken me so far. Yet it’s easy to get around and interact with the locals as they all speak English. In Fijian (ie native Fijians as opposed to Fijians of Indian descent) society, family connections are everything. When two Fijians meet, it appears to me that the first thing they do is ask what village they hail from and try to establish some sort of family or at least regional link. Confusing to me is that almost everyone is referred to (in English at least) as brother, sister, father, mother, uncle or aunt (occasionally cousin) no matter how distant the relationship. There are rules for which type of cousin one ought to joke with or not and with in-laws, whether one is supposed to talk to them at all. This is all my very superficial and very incomplete understanding—possibly everything I just wrote is completely wrong.
                I have participated in several kava (yagona in Fijian) sessions. Kava is a mildly intoxicating drink (made from the root of some plant) enjoyed in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and several other places. Most westerners say it tastes like mud. It looks like muddy water, but I actually find the taste refreshing. The immediate effect is a slight numbing of the mouth. After several bowlfuls, I notice a mild sedation, similar to the effect of a beer or two, but without the stimulant/euphoric aspect of alcohol. The most I’ve had in one sitting is around 15 bowls (made from ca 1/3 of a coconut shell). I definitely felt something, but only a mild buzz. It appears to me that Fijians like nothing more than sitting around and drinking Kava—they’ll do it all night if there is time and enough Kava. Perhaps it just gets better and better the more you have (like beer).  One other effect I observed is waking the next morning a bit groggy (which is funny because they also call the stuff “grog”).
LT and Greg at Frigates
                I finally got some surf in Fiji. My friend, Greg, was in Fiji last week to work on his NGO, Pacific Blue Foundation, but he managed to take a break for surfing. We surfed Frigates Reef on the southwestern end of the Beqa Lagoon barrier reef. The break is maybe 4 miles from the nearest land (Yanuca Island)—definitely the farthest away from land I’ve surfed. We had two days of nice shoulder to head high waves and one day of mediocre surf.  By coincidence, one of the villages Pacific Blue Foundation works with, Yanuca Village on Yanuca Island is one of the villages I had visited the weekend before Greg arrived. Pacific Blue Foundation has organized a traditional sailing canoe (Drua) race in Suva the last two years. I was able to attend this years race which took place on Saturday the 15th after being postponed due to squally weather the previous Saturday.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Soggy Suva

     I think it has rained every day I've been in Suva. My laundry has been hanging out to dry for over a week. I wonder what it's like during the rainy season. All the rain aside, I like Suva. Food is good and cheap. There is the traditional Fijian fare--cassava, taro root, taro leaves with coconut milk--and indian food--curried everything often wrapped in roti bread.
guard at presidential palace
     You can get anything repaired here. People in Fiji are poor by western standards, so things don't get thrown away when the break. I've gotten my backpack (zippers replaced), cell phone, and shoes repaired. The shoe repair stalls are especially numerous.
     I had planned to be surfing off the west coast of Viti Levu today, but my efforts to get to Nadi yesterday were derailed. Oh well, there is a surf break at the entrance to Suva Harbor that I hope to try out today.
Monday the 10th is Fiji Day which is the day Fiji became independent of Great Britain in 1970.
     My plan is to set sail for New Zealand around the 20th of October depending on the weather forecast. The 1100 mile passage to NZ will probably be the roughest of my Pacific crossing. I expect it to take about 10 days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Back in Suva

A few pics from Suva
Friday morning I motor-sailed from Suva Harbor to Vaga Bay on Beqa Island (as in Samoa and Tonga, written g's are pronounced ng). After anchoring I dinghied ashore to perform sevusevu, a ceremony wherein a gift of kava is presented to the village chief and he in turn gives you permission to walk around, swim, etc on their lands and waters. While the terrestrial part of Vaga Bay is beautiful, the underwater portion was less appealing, so the next day I headed to Yanuca (c's are pronounced something like dth) Island, passing by the private island resort on Ugaga Island on the way. After stopping in Yanuca Village on the east side of Yanuca Island to perform sevusevu, I continued to the most sheltered and picturesque southwestern end of the island where I anchored in a beautiful little bay off of Batiluva Resort. They are a few miles from Frigates Passage surf break (which is on the western end of the Beqa Lagoon barrier reef) and many of their guests are there for that reason. Yesterday I sailed then motor-sailed back to Suva with the intention of returning to Yanuca for a few days of lounging and surfing.

The population of Fiji is something like 60% native Fijians and 40% Fijians of Indian descent. The Indians were brought here by the British around 1870 - 1930 to work on sugar plantations. The Indian and native Fijians seem to live pretty much segregated from each other aside from business interactions. The Indians appear to own and run most of the shops and local businesses. Almost everyone speaks English (which I believe is the official language), but the native Fijians speak Fijian as their native tongue and the Indians speak Hindi.

I have bought a local sim card, so please give me a call anytime at 679 743 7927 (679 is the Fiji country code).