Pendana Arrives Safely in Fiji
Vanuatu to Fiji Passage Complete
I am pleased to report that Pendana has now arrived at Port Denarau Marina in Fiji, cleared Customs, Immigration and Quarantine and successfully completed its first ocean crossing as a family.
Departing Port Vila, Vanuatu for Fiji.
Before I begin apologies for the last blog and the spelling and typo errors but as I was keen to get the blog released, I failed to pass it through the Commander who is a proof reading god and, as such, errors were present. Sorry, will lift my game and not bypass the Commander and Chief again!
Our departure from Port Vila was somewhat challenging. When we were an hour from leaving a tug boat came alongside and started paying out a large line directly in front of our vessel. As we soon realised, they were about to pull a yacht from the beach which had been washed ashore in Cyclone Pam. This meant our precise plan on when to depart had now been officially trashed and as such, we departed around three hours, twenty mins earlier than planned. Both tug and tow line came very close to Pendana but luckily not close enough to cause any dramas.
Tug Paying out the tow line.
View from pilothouse window.
Most who know me, know that I am a pretty conservative guy who manages risk very carefully. Going to sea on a small boat, being miles from help carries a certain risk as does crossing a busy road. Claire, the girls and I have managed over the past almost four years, to build enough knowledge regarding Pendana’s systems, navigation and confidence to enable us to now experience the peace, tranquillity and isolation that going to sea affords.
As this was our first trip alone, Commander Claire and I discussed at length the watch cycle. Two hours on, two hours off? Four hours on, four off? Even the idea of eight on, eight off was entertained. That being said, however, we decided – against advice I might add – that we would settle on a six on, six off watch cycle. Claire would take the 9am-3pm and 9pm-3am watch while I took the 3pm-9pm and 3am-9am watch. Much of the reasoning behind this watch cycle is due to the fact that I am one of those folks who needs his REM sleep and the idea of going to sleep for two or three hours only to wake again was not appealing at all.
So how did we go? Well the six on six off soon became four on four off which then became five on five off. I think for our run to Samoa we will be using the five on five off routine as it affords us – at this stage – enough of everything we require.
Passing through Navula Passage.
The approach through Fiji’s outer reef and through the Navula Passage was without incident although the lead lights that were supposed to be there were not causing me to ask myself and the Commander a few more questions than otherwise would have been necessary. Arrival into Port Denarau and it’s marina was a breeze (although entrance to marina is narrow). I must confess that I do not like seeing coral reefs either side of me, or anywhere for that matter, as while they may look very nice whilst below, these reefs present an ever present danger to Pendana’s hull and could, if presented with the opportunity, rip Pendana’s hull open and cause untold damage. And then there are the sharks ….
Coming into Marina. Note: if one stray outside the markers one will run aground very, very quickly.
Turning to starboard to slip into our berth.
View to our stern from berth C40.
Emmmm, going to make for an interesting departure. Very narrow channel.
Commonly referred to here as the ‘Google boat’, alongside in Fiji.
The passage to Fiji from Vanuatu was, in a word, wonderful. No, not wonderful, more like magical. No, that’s not it. Superb, extraordinary, exhilarating, empowering perhaps? No, sorry but there is not a single word that encapsulates the passage, but I am pretty sure you get the idea. Big blue skies, endless horizons, deep blue-ocean and the reassuring hum of Pendana at work is incredible. Calm seas and light winds presented the ability to move freely around the boat the entire run which made such a nice change from our earlier passage from Sydney.
The middle of the ocean! It was calmer than this looks!
Another gorgeous sunset.
On our run to Fiji we covered 535nms in 72 hours at an average speed of 7.43kts. We burnt 320USg / 1,211Ltrs of fuel and consumed a little more chocolate than we should. Again, Pendana and all of her systems worked flawlessly. While in Fiji, I will do an oil change on the main engine and also the water maker high pressure motor and before we depart we will at some stage need to fill her fuel tanks with around 2000USg / 7500ltrs of fuel before our next passage. Now for those thinking the speed on this trip was slow, well it was and for a reason. We may have just made it on Sunday night before dark but as there was a risk of not making it we set off with the plan to arrive on the Monday morning at first light. As it turned out we ended up running at 800rpms, drinking 2 USg per hour / 7.57Ltrs doing 6.7kts for much of the last day as we tried to slow down. As it turned out we did do a small 10nm detour on the morning of arrival to allow enough time for the sun to rise.
Detour clearly visible on tracker map above. (well picked up Ken!)
The Commander and Chief, Claire, is slowly but surely getting into the swing of things. As most mothers and women know life on land with school aged children is a busy one. What with school runs, shopping, doctors, dentists, girly catch-ups, emails, sms’s and staying abreast of the news takes a lot of time and that’s before hubby comes home wanting to only talk in bullet points! Time, is now what the Commander has in abundance and its taking some getting used to. There is no doubt that the Commander is missing some special friends back home but hopefully, in time, she will work a way to satisfy those friendships and relax into her new life which is yet to be defined.
It’s funny really, when I was working I thought, how hard can it be doing a school run, a bit of shopping, lunching etc and was always amazed when Claire would sometimes say, “sorry baby I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning today as I was too busy”. Too busy? Too busy for what I would think to myself. It was only until I retired that I realised how poorly the women of this world have marketed themselves and the roles and jobs that they do. I soon came to realise how incredibly busy they actually are. Running a household, taking care of all manner of things so that we (the men) can go out and forge a career for ourselves takes an enormous amount of energy and I can tell you from direct experience, going to work is, without doubt, certainly easier than managing a household. Sorry guys, I appreciate I have done our sex no favours here but I think it is for this reason the Commander is taking a little more time to settle in as she now has so much more ‘time’ than ever before.
Now on our trip over we were fortunate have the company of an albatross. These magnificent birds of the sea are truly a sight to behold and Albert the albatross, as named by Abi and Bianca spent the night and most of the following day perched upon our anchor light.
Albert the albatross coming in for a landing.
Albert, slowing for touchdown!
Touchdown! (PS: I do hope this is in fact an albatross. I did look at some Google images and appears to be one but perhaps if mistaken someone can let me know)
Speaking of touchdowns, I decided that for Fiji we would use a clearing agent and I have to say I am glad we did as there is a tremendous amount of paperwork required. To give you some idea of just how much and, how many copies of each that’s required here is the list:
8 copies of the crew list
2 copy of Customs Advance Arrival forms (C2C)
3 copies of immigration arrival form of the Master/Owner’s Statement
2 copies of Notice to Owner or Master of Yachts
2 copies of Alcohol and Cigarette list
1 copy of Meat or Vegetable list that’s on board
1 copy of Yacht Certificate of Registry
1 copy of Health Form
1 copy of Bio Security Authority
2 copies of Coastal Clearance forms
Fortunately the clearing agent we use, Yacht Partners Fiji, who incidentally have been recently voted the second best clearing agency in the world, were incredibly organised and had me pre complete all forms before I had even departed Australia (other than the vegetable and alcohol forms). Not that we have a great deal of experience entering foreign ports as yet, I can’t speak highly enough of this company and in particular our main contact Josephine Morris (email:firstname.lastname@example.org). On arrival and within two minutes of shutting down our main engine we had six officials board Pendana and paperwork was passed from one to the other as Jo called the shots and made sure we were cleared as soon as possible. Twenty minutes later, job done and we were free to set foot on terra firma.
In all honesty, I rarely wax lyrical about terribly much but when a company performs above all expectation then it’s worth doing so. In this case Jo and Yacht Partners Fiji were brilliant. Contact details for those travelling this way below.
Yacht Partners Fiji
Shop 18, Port Denarau Marina, Nadi
M: +679 9927 986 F: +679 6751 135
Once we were able to leave Pendana my primary job was to find a USB dongle so connection to the outside world would be possible. As I departed for a quick walk to the Marina shops low and behold, if not two boats down from us, I spied a Nordhavn. N60#60. Gleaming and looking pretty new it wasn’t long before owners, Colin and Julie and the Pendana crew were chatting, comparing notes.
N60#60 looking very smart indeed.
Colin and Julie are New Zealanders, who have lived all over the world and call NZ, Hong Kong and Fiji home. N60#60 is a remarkable example of a customised N60 that makes total sense. Both Bianca and Claire loved every inch of her on our tour. Abi unfortunately missed the tour much to her disappointment. I must say, I have seen plenty of Nordhavns and this one was indeed special. Honestly, it felt as if I were in a six star hotel, the lines were perfect, the interior elegantly understated and the functionality spot on. There is no doubt that these owners were involved from the get go and focused on every detail. This truly is a remarkable N60 and one of which her owners should be very proud.
Photo above of Colin and Julie aboard the beautiful N60#60..
Now, some may or may not know this but for this trip I am currently using the services of weather guru to the stars, Mr Bob McDavit or MetBob as he is known to millions! What Bob doesn’t know about weather is not worth knowing. Bob is used by many a sailor to cross the Pacific which is his patch in the world and one that he knows like the back of his hand.
Bob McDavitt is a New Zealander and has been a full time meteorologist since 1975 forecasting for marine, aviation and the general media in New Zealand and in Fiji. Some may not know but in 1998 he was awarded the “Henry Hill Award” for his enthusiastic approach to sharing ideas about the weather. Bob is a veteran of two campaigns for the America’s Cup (in Perth and San Diego), and has helped Swashbucklers break records crossing the Tasman Sea and circumnavigating NZ, Earth Race and Jessica Watson in her circumnavigation of the world. Nowadays he is in semi-retirement and continues to talk with weather users and help sailors cruising around the South Pacific travel safely.
Below, for those interested, I have inserted a copy, verbatim, of an email received on the 12th May where I have asked Bob for his long range thoughts about weather for our trip from Fiji to Samoa.
BOBs REPLY – “James, I agree with going next to Apia, Samoa. We can only attempt to do this when the trade winds relax, as they do occasionally, such as when we hopped from Vanuatu to Fiji. There are two possibilities in the next two weeks (neither are as good as our last trip, but then again, C’est la vie.
Option 1 is next Monday 18th May – Forecast winds that may be encountered along this trip are given by the red arrows ,, one barb=10 knots and half a barb= 5 knots
Option 2 Departure Sat 23rd May:
Background small arrows are surface current (not much). Grid of larger arrows shows coloured wind barbs. Blue/green shading is rain. 2 and 3 green lines are boundaries of 2 and 3 significant metre wave height. 1012 line is an isobar”.
Photo above of MetBob above!
Once a date starts firming up then I receive a daily weather update from Bob with the following information: Below is an example from when we left Vanuatu.
“James, I have been watching the squalls on satellite and see that they visited Tanna and Aneityum this afternoon but sort of sideswiped and missed Vila. They have left behind some cloud that should mostly clear Friday morning.
Probably better to leave early Friday rather than late Friday so that you get the best of the period of light winds. On Saturday these trade winds return, a head wind component but only around 9knots .
Here is table in UTC and degrees True, same decode and disclaimer as before departing from offshore Vila at 11am Friday local = 08 0000UTC go SSE to 18S then go east to Navula Passage
UTC- HH:MM|—-Lat:/ Long—-:| hPa | lull~avg~gust |Brg-Kt|TWA|Drift@Brg?T|Sig~ocnl
at 18S turn east , light head winds
ETA Navula passage Sunday morning.
Route distance 522.03nm| route time 2d 19h 04m||
Anyway for those into weather and in need of someone you can trust, then I highly recommend MetBob as do, many others. While I can forecast the east coast of Australia pretty well once you get outside of your home territory I truly believe it is mistake to attempt to call the shots on one’s own. Sure there are a myriad of sites I look at in tandem with MetBob’s suggestions and so far my own view of how the trip will be from my own research has panned out pretty much in line with Bobs. That being said, however, it would be a mistake in my view to not use a weather service. Bob McDavits website can be found at: http://www.metbob.com/index.html.
Finally, I have just finished doing an oil change on the main engine and after running the engine for 15 minutes I can now say that all went well. Now, for some this may not be a big deal but for me this is huge achievement as this is, in fact, the first time I have ever done one totally on my own. Abi, God bless her, was kind enough to help me out and was a great help as I talked through the process.
So, how long did it take, well…..get ready for it…… it took 92 minutes! That’s right 92 not 9 but 92 minutes. I know, I know, it shouldn’t take more than 30minutes but I wanted to go real slow to make sure I didn’t mess up. Did I mention that 92 minutes also included me changing a Racor filter? Anyway, I pretty thrilled that an ex-corporate guy with zero knowledge of engines has actually managed to do an oil change on one hell of a large Cummins. I have no doubt that my time will improve and I will look back on this and cringe but it is what it is and there are no secrets here. Also, I just want to say that not a drop of oil was spilt!
Side note: for those enjoying the updates on Facebook while we are at sea these will cease until we are some 400nms south of Hawaii as the KVH V7 system has no satellite in this part of the world that it can log onto and while KVH are keen to sell me a KVH V11 Seaband system, I am not anywhere near as enthusiastic. Perhaps I can steal one from Mr Google’s boat, as it appears to me that he has way too many domes that a single boat should carry! #domeenvy
So, that brings to a close our Fiji blog with the next not due until we reach Samoa some 700nms away. We plan to stay in Fiji for approx. 10 -15 days in total before heading to the Port of Apia, in Samoa where we will stay a week and then head to Kiribati and then…… onto Hawaii (Yay….!). The girls are particularly excited about making landfall in the United States of America as are Claire and I, as this will represent some new ground for us, as well, deliver the fun of getting used to reversed (IALA Region B) port and starboard markers!