21 February 2013 ~ 5 Comments

Southport

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Today I am fighting another storm at anchor. But usually I spend my days in solitude working on the boat while hearing the hustle bustle of the city and the marine action zoom all around. Mornings I have coffee with other solo sailors where some of them talk about, “one day I will sail away from Australia and see the world….”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 December 2012 ~ 3 Comments

Glad we are safe in Oz

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Here is today’s  Grib (weather file we use when sailing) that shows the cyclone over the area we cruised in Fiji. Winds to 100 knots.

 

 

02 December 2012 ~ 1 Comment

BULA FIJI!!

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BULA FIJI!!

BULA!  That is hello in the friendly country of Fiji and easily the best greeting we have come across yet.  Everywhere you go locals are yelling out “Bula!” to you.  Sometimes they say it so loud and quick you think they are trying to startle you but you just give them your best “Bula!” back and everyone is left smiling.  As I write this we are on route to Australia and the last official port of call that I will see.  It’s been a ridiculously amazing 9 months aboard Ruby.  Seeing some of the most beautiful islands and meeting some of the most wonderful, friendly, energetic, and interesting people in the world.  Except that boat Saltbreaker…they were pretty lame.  But for the time being, lets step back in time….

We left Tonga on October 9th as the sun was setting behind a pink and blue sky.  With the wind in our favour we trimmed the sails to point us right for the capital city of Suva in Fiji.  Over the next two days the weather, wind, and fishing gods all treated us well.  We quickly landed 2 Mahi Mahi both over 20lbs and sushi was thankfully back on the menu.  Our luck ran out a bit on the 3rd day as the wind temporarily disappeared forcing us to sail south around the Lau group of islands as we would not make the desired pass before night fall.  So on we trudged with what little wind there was pushing us along at two to four knots.

As we rounded the group of islands on the fourth day I noticed a buoy floating in the water off in the distance.  We decided to inspect the situation and changed course slightly to intercept it.  As it came close enough to pick up it suddenly dove under the hull and got tangled up in the rudder.  Moving quickly into action Moret and I managed to dislodge it and found that it was attached to some pretty heavy line, maybe 500-1000 pound test.  To gain some good karma and possibly some good treasure we cut the buoy from the line and started bringing it in.  We ended up hauling in about 400m of the stuff with various attachments but mostly rusty hooks.  The line has since proven very useful as our own hand line, which has since caught us another couple Mahi Mahi, and taking it in will also prevent any sea faring animal to get needlessly caught up in it.  Our good karma paid off when we bagged our third large Mahi of the crossing.

We wouldn’t make it to Suva before nightfall; however, we had read that it is well lit and has a large area for anchoring. The next day we were surprised to find the Norwegians aboard Aud (also known as Peace, Love and Happiness) were tied up to the dock.  We met up with them and shared a few extremely cheap pitchers ($5CND) with them until the yacht club closed and then headed out to the liquor store to pick up a few quiet ones to drink aboard Aud.  The night ended up going on a little later than expected but luckily we had nothing to do as the city shuts down on Sunday.

Once finally checked in we headed into town and learned of the MHCC mall where we began our friendship with Savu, the friendly young local who ran the liquor store.  We would see him many times as we toured around the largest city in the South Pacific.  We found Suva to be a very cool city.  With many Fijian-Indians living in the city you are surrounded by little shops selling anything that could be imported from India or China, hundreds of people busy about their day, and most importantly, numerous curry houses.  We filled ourselves to the gills as we hit up the various curry houses which served delicious food for what worked out to be less than $5CND. Our noses eventually led us to Ashiyana where we were transported into a world of flavor and delight.  Wow’s and mmm’s would spill out of our mouths as we devoured curry after curry.  We ended up having to meet the master chef, Mr. C, and promised we would be back the next day.  Sure enough, they reserved the big table with the lazy susan for us and we had another euphoric eating experience.

We spent our days in Suva checking out the old colonial buildings, churches, museums, gardens, and going to a movie theater.   The market in Suva was also something to behold. It was full to the rafters with lovely fruit, vegetables, and kava, and all at a fraction of the cost we are used to. Although we were falling in love with the city, the one down side to Suva was the rain.  It would rain on and off in mini downpours constantly.  One cabby mentioned that in Suva “it rains and you work.  It rains…and you work.”   Luckily for us a lot of the locals work by making glorious carvings and with the dollar at about 2 to 1 in our favour we would lose ourselves in the handicraft markets buying up souvenirs by the armful.

Our last night in Suva was spent with our friend Savu from the liquor store (yeah I know, the names are confusing!).  He took us out to some of his favorite places in town, notably a reggae bar where dancing was highly encouraged.  After picking up some cheap BBQ street meat, we headed back to Ruby for a night cap.  Savu passed out in the galley and we all slept soundly (until I had to dinghy him back to shore at 6am!).  After some provisioning we would leave Suva in the evening for an overnight sail to Port Denerau on the west side of Viti Levu.

We arrived in Denerau in the afternoon and decided to head to the town of Nadi (pronounced Nandi) to check it out and find some curry.  Unfortunately it would turn out we had been spoiled by Mr. C and the curry was not up to our new lofty standards.  The town was much older than Suva with much less to offer regarding bars and restaurants.

While Jen and 80 were on leave from Ruby living a decadent lifestyle for 24-hours (they received a gift of a night stay in one of the fancy resorts) we spent the days doing jobs on Ruby and taking the dinghy up the river for a little adventure.

Shannon’s friend Noriko from Vancouver joined us aboard Ruby for a two week stay.  We then decided to tour the Yasawa Group of islands but not before an overnight stop at Beachcomber Island.  The island is touted as the party island of Fiji so naturally we had to investigate.  Our friend Chris aboard Dragonfly decided he would dinghy out the 9 miles to join us.  While the place had the potential to accommodate up to 500 party rockers, there were only 30 people including us holding down the fort.  Pretty much us, 2 Norwegian girls and a group of about 20 Chinese tourists, who were all rocking out to that song Gangnam Style and requesting it to be played over and over again, were the only people there.

We sailed up to Waya Island the next morning and dropped anchor off Yolumbi Village.  There is a tradition amongst visitors and villagers in Fiji in which the visiting sailor brings kava root to the village chief as a gift.  If the chief accepts your gift you, a small ceremony takes place that essentially welcomes you into their village and you are free to walk around and explore.  If he declines the kava you must leave immediately.  Fortunately we were never declined, and it was cool experience to witness.  Shannon, Noriko and I went snorkeling that afternoon around the coral reef and saw a blue spotted sting ray, the first one I had seen this trip.  Later on we joined some of the town people, including acting chief the admiral Josh, ashore for a cheap meal of rice, fish, and kasava root (which I believe is like tapioca) as well as a few rounds of kava.  The proceeds from the cheap meal went to the support the rugby team on the small island so they could travel to the mainland for matches.

Bright and early the next morning Josh took us to climb up to the Chest of the Sleeping Giant….a nearby mountain  It’s called this because if you look at the island in a certain way it looks like…you guessed it…a zzzleeping giant.  After mostly a scramble up the side of the mountain we reached the top of the chest and were treated with a fantastic view of the surrounding islands.  One of which was the famous Tom Hanks Island where the film Castaway was filmed (not to be confused with the island called Castaway Island).  After taking in the view we headed back down for a tour of the pretty village and the plantation where we got Noriko her first taste of fresh coconut.  We also tried some sugarcane which was a nice sugary treat.

After lunch 80, Jen, and Noriko went to the local school and hung out with the kids and teachers for an hour. They became the guests of honour and sat in a few classes while all the kids scrambled to get their picture taken. Later on that afternoon we noticed our friends from Nakesa were on shore, brought in by one of the little ferry boats.  We learned that they were anchored over at Octopus Resort, just a few miles up the coast with friends on the sailing vessels Cant and Double Bruyn.  So off we sailed to meet up with them.  We ended up having a spontaneous dinner party aboard Ruby that night.

We spent the next day chillin’ at Octopus Resort with our new and old friends playing volleyball, swimming in the pool, snorkeling the coral reef, and enjoying the occasional cocktail.  After dinner we had a few quiet one’s aboard DB where we witnessed Paul , who is famous for his various pass out positions, fall asleep with his head on a plastic wine glass perfectly surrounding his eyeball.  I can’t imagine that it would be too comfortable but he didn’t seem to notice.

After lunch the next day we said our goodbyes and headed off to Manta Ray Island, the home of Manta Ray Resort.  Yes, many of the islands in this region of Fiji have small “backpacker” resorts on them and while the islands do have traditional names, the smaller ones simply go by the name of the resort.  These small resorts were staffed with friendly people, were very un-pretentious, were relatively cheap, and are located in some of the most gorgeous places we have seen. The whole region is serviced regularly by small ferries so one can travel around to the various islands and resorts. Manta Ray Resort offered wood fired pizza’s every night as well as eggs benny for breakfast and all for dirt cheap.  It was so good that when on our way back to Port Denerau a couple days later we made a point of stopping in for breakfast.  After Waya Island we continued north to Naviti Island for a few days. By giving another kava gift we were welcomed into the village of Somosomo. We explored the village, hiked to the other side of the island, snorkeled a WWII Japanese plane, and a few of the Ruby crew even went to Church. 80, Shanns, and Noriko put on their Sundays best and went to check out the service and hearing the singing that is famous throughout the S. Pacific. They got a special shout out from the Minister, and he then translated half of the service into English for them.

On our way back south to Denerau we stopped in at Lautoka, the 2nd largest city in Fiji, to do some provisioning.  We met up with Aud again and had a few quiet ones aboard their boat.  We also managed to drift into them in the morning, just barely nudging them around 6am, forcing us to re-anchor a little further away.  As the day went on we started hearing chatter over the radio about a rumor that we started a week earlier concerning a Halloween party at Beachcomber Island that night.  So off we headed alongside Aud and Dragonfly racing each other to the island.  Double Bruyn and Nakesa were already there and Cant was coming in from the west.  Overall, there were the 6 boats anchored off the lee of this tiny island and we were all friends.

By the time we arrived on shore the party was well on its way.  At least it was with the yachtee’s as the backpackers there were relatively quiet and none had thought to bring a costume.  I was dressed as Captain Canada, Alex was a Chinese Long Liner complete with quote “long line, long time”, 80 was a 70’s Olympic gold medal tennis star, the girls were Charlie’s Angels dressed as fairies, the boys from Double Bruyn and Cant along with Graham from Nakesa were all Amy Winehouse, from Aud Chris was Jesus, Andreas was John Lennon, and Dominic (their new crew) was a ghost.  We lit up the place, taking over the dance floor, table tops, the beach…we tried our hardest to get some of the backpackers to get into costumes but all we got out of them was one girl going round with makeup drawing scars on faces.  Highlights were watching Graham busting out his best break dance moves on the sand dance floor and finding Andreas passed out in a little kayak at the end of the night.  Oh and I created a new burger.  Since the bar didn’t have any burger patties left and they did have plates of calamari, I had the chef jam as many calamari into a burger bun as possible and serve it to me with all the fixings.  A new sandwich called the Horbzger (TM) was born.  As normally happens when we all get together a good ol drunken night ended happily with only 2 of the girls having problems keeping upright.

The next morning we headed back to Port Denarau bright and early.  Had to pick up some groceries that I couldn’t get in Lautoka and make it to the airport to pick up the Mills’s’s’s’s.   All my rushing to get to the airport in time was however for not as the plane arrived an hour late due to daylight savings!  Why these people recognize daylight savings and why they didn’t work it into the flight arrival time is beyond me.

We (Alex and 80) woke early and we headed to the famous Musket Cove (Malololailai) where we heard Cant, DB and Nakesa were anchored.  I didn’t wake up until 10am when we arrived.  We headed to shore, walked around the giant resorts and swam in their pools.  Eventually we got all the crews together again and fired up the outdoor wood burning BBQ’s they had set up at the island bar for a feast.  We spent the evening chatting on the beach and dancing to the music.  Later back on Ruby we had a guitar jam session and after, a dance party in honour of Noriko’s last night as crew.

Our second last night in Fiji was spent in Port Denerau where we again met up with Cant, DB and Nakesa for Graham and Phaedra’s daughter Atlanta’s birthday party.  80 and I attended some of the festivities but exhaustion eventually set in and we called it an early night.

Once rid of Noriko (jk Noriko…we love you!), we headed up to Lautoka to fill up on veggies and check out of Fiji.  We ended up having to spend a night there as there was no way we were getting a customs officer to come out to see us on a Sunday.  None the less we made the best of it by snorkeling around an abandoned resort where we saw clown fish and a blue spotted sting ray.

Once checked out of customs, we made one final stop at Tom Hanks Island to record some choice scenes from the movie Castaway with all of us acting out some sort of scene or another and taking the piss out of it whenever we could.  I mean the island they used is surrounded by 5 others and 3 huge resorts.  Come on Tom….

Horbz

29 November 2012 ~ 5 Comments

Australia

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We have arrived in lovely brisbane. Staying in the river right downtown, with 60 story skyscrapers not 100 meters from our stern. a little bit of a contrast from the last 8 months.

 

29 November 2012 ~ 6 Comments

Nearing Australia

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Hello,

We are still on route to Australia, and all is well. Australia has some strict laws on bringing food into the country so we have been eating up a storm. A couple days ago the wind shut off, and the going has been slow. We spent one day dealing with it while trying to squeeze every ounce of speed out of Ruby, but only managing 2-3knots. Then yesterday morning the wind completely died and we motored most of the day – the longest stretch we have had to motor since Galapagos!

As I write this the wind has just returned and we are now sailing towards Brisbane at 5knots. We are 30nm out and should be arriving “down under” tomorrow. CHEERS.

3am local time
26.54.27 S / 153.47.56 E

26 November 2012 ~ 4 Comments

Squid

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Yesterday, we were trucking and sailing between 5-8knots in good sailing conditions.  Today, we are averaging 5-6knots with the wind behind us and the sun shinning.  We have about 280 miles before we near Brisbane and land.  We caught two flying fish, one squid in the front net and one small mahi mahi from the long line.  The crew is slowly going stir crazy, but that is nothing new.
Yesterday mileage: 168 Miles
position 26 03.458 S 158 27.626 E
4 pm vanuatu time

24 November 2012 ~ 1 Comment

Cruisn

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The wind has filled in from the s-se, (14-20) but with it brings confused wavey (hi) seas, that is making this broad reach a bit of a pain. Cruising along in sunny weather with the land of OZ on the horizon.

Today, 5pm Nov 24th Oz time, we did 182 miles.

23 50.3 S , 163 52.9 E

24 November 2012 ~ Comments Off

Leaving New Cal

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November 22, 2012

We left Tanna in a thick veil of heavy showers and strong wind. Fresh in our minds was the excitement of being very close to an active volcano, spewing out molten lava.

We drove in a 4×4 on a sketchy road to the summit of a 1000 foot strata volcano. We walk up  to the crest of the steaming volcano while hearing booms in the distance. We wait for awhile and peer down the edge of the crater amongst the tourists and see the dim glow of lava in the caldera. Out of nowhere comes a giant shockwave in the mist, then a loud boom that shakes your feet, body and soul. Upwards showers molten lava a hundred feet in the air, showering down on the side of the caldera. Wow! You cant really explain the eruption, but you truly realize how powerful this is, and how small we really are. It was incredible. Talking to our friend, he said a pyroclastic bomb flew over his head an hour earlier. Yes, you must keep your head up.

After a night in a swelly bay (not the good kind) we checked out (took 11 hours) and we were on our way, just in time for the outskirts of a forming Low we were trying to leave before it hit, was upon us. (not bad, only 21-27 knots) The first night was rainy, cold, windy, and rough. The next day was nice and sunny and we got to put up our newly repaired #1 spinnaker. It has been 6 months since we have seen old blue up on the halyard and was nice to see.
The wind changed and we have been beating into it for the past day. Now we just turned the corner at the south end of Nouvelle Caledonie and our now finally not sailing close hauled. (8 knots in 14 knots of breeze) Yesterday afternoon we caught a nice 20 pound mahi mahi and are trying to fill our freezer with fish. First day was 125 miles. We have 849 miles to go.

22 49.21 S, 167 34.27 E

17 November 2012 ~ 2 Comments

Still in Vanuatu

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Hello. We are presently tied up to the wharf downtown Port Villa, on the main island of Efate in Vanuatu. We have just returned from cruising to a couple of the northern more secluded islands (Epi, Emae). We saw no other boats and visited a couple tiny villages. The people were once again very nice and welcoming but a little shy so we had to do most of the communicating. Today we said farewell to Ben, Patty, and Ashlin. We’ll be here in the city for a couple days before we head west for our final leg of the Pacific crossing. Will write more about Vanuatu later. Cheers.

Pictures of Fiji are now up.

12 November 2012 ~ 10 Comments

Tonga – Vava’u Group

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Hi everyone,

Well, we made it to Fiji, spent three weeks touring a few of the many islands, and are currently on route to Vanuatu.  Fiji place was amazing, similar to the Marquesas but not quite as beautiful.  We have learned why they call this place “the friendly islands!”  We have had Shannon’s friend Noriko from Vancouver on board since the 22nd, who left us the 3rd of November, and added the Mills’ to the crew list on the first.

But enough about where I am right now, I still haven’t told you about where I was last month!  Sorry but anyone who has been here knows it’s hard to find time to write.

We left Niue on September 20th with fair winds pointing us pretty much toward Vava’u Group in Tonga.  Soon enough we were seeing gusts up to 30 knots and the main was overpowering the genoa sending us in a 180 degree spin and putting us in irons.  After not recovering for the second time we decided it was time to put a couple reefs in the main.  This made for a smoother yet not slower sail; our main sail is a very powerful engine, still making 6 to 9 knots.

It was the second day of the crossing where we not only crossed the international dateline but caught a massive 20 pound barracuda!  Such a beautiful streamlined fish that tasted as good as it looked.  I also made English muffins on board Ruby for the first time to much acclaim.

When we awoke the next morning we had magically been transported into the future as the entire day of September 22nd pretty much didn’t exist.  I had begun my shift at 10pm on September 21st and when I had completed it it was 12pm, September 23rd.

I awoke at sunrise to rocky cliffs and a stunning red and green landscape quite reminiscent of the Gulf Islands off Canada’s west coast.  As it was Saturday we would not be able to check in until Monday so we anchored off one of the islets around the capital Neiafu.  We headed ashore and decided to walk the main strip looking for action.  Soon we came across a bunch of men, both old and young, playing guitar and drinking strange muddy water.  They invited us to join them.  After a few introductions we learned that they were the police boys club and meet every night to play music, sing and drink kava, the muddy water I referred to.  Kava is made from a root, pounded and mixed with water then drank in rounds in a social setting.  It produces an instant mild tingling in your lips and we’re told that if you drink enough you can become intoxicated.  We had about 4 coco cups full before decided to leave and have dinner and we definitely could fell some of the effects.  I’m sure the fact we hadn’t eaten in about 8 hours also helped.

The next morning we headed to shore to sign up for the Vava’u Regatta that just so happened to be going on that week.  The first event was the Tridecagonathlon!  Yeah, it took us all day to still say it wrong but as hard as it was to say it was fun.  The day was essentially a meet and greet with about 40 other yachties through a series of wacky games and events all emceed by the wackiest British guy I’ve ever seen with a bunch of his friends.  We got dirty, we got bloody, we watched Alex decimate pies by the minute, and the whole day culminated in one giant tug-o-war.

Needless to say we had an early night in preparation for the first race in the morning.  Checking in in the morning took much longer than expected and we ended up starting the race 10 minutes late however even with our handicapped we managed a 2nd place finish (out of 3 multihulls).  A solid start to the week’s races.

That night we had tickets to go to Augustine’s Circus Spectacular and since this may go on the blog I am not authorized to give out any information regarding the show except that you will have an experience like no other!

After the show we had plans to meet Mark and Vanessa from S/V Cornelia at a local’s house for a party.  Not only were we given poor directions, we managed to lose both maps showing how to get there.  We ended up wandering the streets for an hour, calling out for our friends, running into a group of locals who could not help us and eventually making our way back to Ruby.  It was an amusing evening to say the least.

More shows!!  The next night, after a slow morning, we headed out to see the Fakaladies perform their show at Tonga Bob’s Bar.  We sort of knew what to expect but were once again blown away.  It turned out to be a cross dresser burlesque show by five local men.   The show lasted about an hour and was awkwardly hilarious the entire time.  Locals and tourists alike were dropping dollar bills into their dresses for a quick personal dance.  Our favorites were Jack Black (because he looked and moved like Jack Black) and glasses guy who was clearly the manliest of the bunch and wouldn’t be able to convince a blind person that he was a woman.


The second race of the regatta was the next day and was right around the bay.  20 boats started at the same time all racing for the first buoy.  It was a pretty hairy first turn with 4 monohulls to the inside of us and a catamaran on our left.  We were able to fly our newly repaired Trident spinnaker and managed another 2nd place finish.

Days were just flying by and it was already the last day of the regatta.  Alex and I started our day off by diving down to a ship wreck in Neiafu Bay with Jens and Morton from S/V Samson.  The regatta would then take us from Neiafu Bay around the island, and a few others, to Ona beach for the awards ceremony and full moon party.  Taking our 3rd second place, this time against 5 multi hulls, we were awarded with many small prizes such as bread, kava, wooden pig and turtle carvings, tee shirts, and an All Blacks flag.  With spoils in hand we headed back to Ruby to get ready for the full moon party.

Dressed in our loudest clothes and shell necklaces we started off at Samson for cocktail hour then headed in to meet up with all the other yachties, including our friends Graham and Phaedra on Nakesa who we hadn’t seen for a long time.  Needless to say the night ended very blurry for a lot of people.  I don’t think there were more than one or two dinghies in motion the next day out of 40 boats until 4pm.  We did manage to make it over to Samson for cocktail hour and a few quiet drinks that evening before saying goodbye to them.

The rain would soon hit Tonga and lasted for 4 days.  We did manage to get in some wet exploring and some cold snorkeling despite the rains best efforts to dampen our spirits.   But soon the sun came out and with it came wind and humpback whales!  We spent an entire afternoon tacking back and forth watching whales jump and play on our way to a new anchorage.   The new anchorage was nicely sheltered and had one of the best coral gardens I have ever seen.  I headed there 3 times to snorkel seeing hawksbill turtles, reef sharks, and tons and tons of fish but the most amazing thing was diving down to about 10 feet and being able to hear the whales singing.  There was actually one time with 80 that we missed swimming with them by about 10 minutes.

Soon our friends aboard Saltbreaker would meet up with us and new adventures would begin.  We went hunting for lobster, unfortunately only seeing two and catching one.   That evening was the Lape Island local feast that we had all signed up for.  As it turned out it was the biggest one they have had yet with about 80 people, almost triple the population of the island.  We feasted on pig, various fried goodies, raw fish salads, and various other treats.  At one point we are talking to one of the locals and Dave on Saltbreaker asks if there is any island that we can go hunting on as he would like to try out the bow and arrow on a live target.  As it turns out Lape was having problems with a couple wild boars and allowed us to return in a couple days to hunt the pig.  We would return in two days time with the entire Ruby Soho, Saltbreaker, and Privateer crews, as well as Falcon and his mother  (I forget their boat name at the moment), outfitted with spears, knives, machetes  and bow and arrow to hunt boar!  5 hours later we would leave empty handed and exhausted.   Although there were a few boar sightings, we were unable to successfully catch one.  Needless to say we all went to bed early that night.

And so our crazy 2 weeks in Tonga would soon be at an end.  We were checked out by mid afternoon and headed to snorkel some popular caves on the way out.  First was swallow’s cave which was a huge cave full of bats with crystal clear water.  The second was a little scarier.  We had to swim down a metre then into the cave for another couple meters only to pop up into a pitch black air pocket.  It was an amazing adrenaline rush to swim into an underwater cave not really knowing what was on the other side.

Tonga was a phenomenal place and some of the best sailing we’ve seen yet.  I hope you all enjoyed this episode of Ruby and the Mighty Pacific.  Take care and good night.

Horbzzzz