Schooner Seawanhaka

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Posting - Fiji - '04

Date and Time:

September-October 2004


Suva, Fiji

View Photos from Fiji '04:


September 15 - SEAWANHAKA is cruising on a fair trade wind, broad reaching on 15-20 knots from the east, sunshine and following seas, enroute to Fiji, finally. We passed the shadow of the volcano island of Late off to starboard in the middle of the night. Clear sailing now across the Pacific to the Fijian archipelago. We checked out of the Kingdom of Tonga yesterday at Neiafu, Vava'u. I know, we left Vava'u 3 weeks ago, but just had one horrendous week of bad weather. We left Nomuka headed to Nuku'alofa on the 6th, but were blown back by a SE gale. We were tucked in between a couple of coral heads at Nomuka Iki for 4 days of gales, winds to 48 knots, days of steady 35-40. Uncomfortable and tense, anchor watch set, but we faired well with the anchor dug deep in the solid sand. After an evening of torrential rains and lightening, like a strobe light going off in the clouds, we got the anchor up and departed on what appeared to be a light NW. Within 30 minutes it had freshened to a 50 knot westerly, increasing to an anemometer reading of 61, doing 7 knots boat speed running under bare poles. That's 68 knots true, hurricane force being 60! Running east then south to within 23 miles of Nuku'alofa, the wind shifted to a strong SW. 24 hours later we'd been blown 130 miles to the north, and moored back up in Neiafu! Whew!, who would have ever expected 6 straight days of gales from 3 different directions of the compass during the trade wind season in the South Pacific. The local meteorologists refer to it as a "squash zone". A huge high south by New Zealand, and a very low low north over the islands, creating a tremendous pressure differential, releasing its force as very strong winds. We hope to be into Fiji by the weekend. - Capt'n Bill

September 21 - Bula from Fiji! After a 5-day passage from Tonga, we arrived safely in Fiji on Sunday morning. We had some good weather and some bad weather along the way, but fortunately nothing like the horrible stretch of weather in Ha'apai. SEAWANHAKA and her crew are all doing well. Mike, sadly for us, is flying out of Nadi on Thursday night. He's off to the States to play with viruses and eventually rid the world of HIV/AIDS...some would say a much better use of his time & energy than beating up young British kids from other yachts and getting attacked by flying squids (see earlier postings for more details). Suva is a METROPOLIS compared to the other places we have been during the past few months. The city is modern, large, cosmopolitan. We are looking forward to hanging out in Suva and exploring the nearby Fijian islands, which are world famous for their fantastic diving/snorkeling. Fiji is our first stop in Melanesia (the other islands were all Polynesian) so there are some definite differences in both the culture and the built environment. We'll keep you posted and have some new photos up in a few days. Cheers! - Elizabeth

September 26 - We spent a very rainy but fun day hiking around the Colo-e-Suva Forest Park yesterday. While it was less than 10 miles away from the bustling city of Suva, being in the rainforest felt like we were worlds away. The trip up gave us a chance to sort through the Fijian bus system (something we did quite well with) as well as the opportunity to check out the suburbs. The rainforest was lush and green and full of waterfalls and freshwater pools for swimming. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were almost the only people in the whole park, despite the fact that it was a Saturday. After our hike, we headed up to the Raintree Lodge, a beautiful eco-lodge on the edge of the rainforest that was built with only one tree removed. We had drinks and enjoyed the gorgeous lagoon that surrounds the lodge. - Elizabeth

September 30 - It's been a busy week around SEAWANHAKA. It's amazing after you've been out on a long passage how many little errands need to be done. Suva is the kind of place where you can get anything you need but it certainly takes a little hunting to find it. In addition to finding his way into the local Greenpeace office to see what could be done about the regular oil slicks in Suva Harbor, Captain Bill has been busy arranging a slipway to haul SEAWANHAKA out of the water for some work to be done on her hull. Suva has a reputation among yachties as being a great place to work on your boat and it seems to be true…Bill has found a whole crew of Fijian guys who come highly recommended to do work on classic wooden boats. I'm very curious to see the haul-out process - I will keep you posted and take lots of photos. Meanwhile, I spent yesterday volunteering for Fiji Habitat for Humanity, helping build a little house up in the hills above Suva for a Fijian named Joe and his son. I wandered into Fiji Habitat this week and was given a guided tour of the process and the worksites by the director. It's a pretty different operation than the Habitats I've worked for in Seattle, Indiana, Baltimore and Georgia but it seems to work very well…since the organization was formed only 10 years ago, Fiji Habitat has built 580 houses! I'm looking forward to volunteering with them again. So, I guess the theme of the week is construction work…both on land and in the harbor. - Elizabeth

October 15 - SEAWANHAKA has been hauled out of the water for 2 weeks now and progress continues to be great! Peter and his competent crew of carpenters have been absolutely wonderful. They have replaced about 20 frames (which were original from when the boat was built in 1925). Additionally, they have been pulling out some of the older fasteners (the bolts that connect the boat's planks to the frames) and replacing them with new stainless steel ones. These guys work so fast that they have worked themselves out of materials. Captain Bill has purchased every 4-inch stainless steel bolt on the island for SEAWANHAKA and is looking for more from New Zealand! Needless to say, the Captain has been pretty busy managing the work crews and making the decisions on the construction work. I have been taking lots of photos of the haul out process so check out the special "Suva Haulout" page. Meanwhile, we are having lots of fun hanging around Suva. This morning was payday so we hosted tea and baked goods in the boatyard for all the guys. After a couple days of being in the way around the boatyard :), I decided to travel around the island of Viti Levu, staying in beach cottages and hostels along the way. The island is spectacular, full of mountains, beaches, rainforests, lagoons, farmland and villages. After being a backpacker for a week, I was very happy to come home to Suva and SEAWANHAKA and the cruising lifestyle. So, life is good here in Fiji. - Elizabeth

October 22 – Today is the big day! SEAWANHAKA is scheduled to go back into the water at high tide (around 2 in the afternoon). The haul out process has been a huge success! Our capable carpenters have done an amazing amount of work during the last 3 weeks and SEAWANHAKA is better and stronger than ever! Today, Bill is treating everyone in the boatyard to a big Fijian BBQ to celebrate a fantastic job done by all. By tonight, we should be floating happily in Suva Harbor next to the other cruisers. - Elizabeth

October 26 - SEAWANHAKA went back in the water on Friday and we spent a few days getting everything cleaned, stowed and reconnected. She looks and feels really solid…ready for her big trip across the ocean to New Zealand in a couple of weeks. During the last few days, we took a much-needed break from the work. We explored a little more of Suva on Monday (hard to believe we haven’t seen everything here yet). Tuesday we went for a sail around the harbor and out into the ocean. She sailed like a champ and we still remember how to sail her! We are anchored in a little lagoon called the Bay of Islands for a couple of days. As we were sailing in, two people in a dinghy rushed over to warn us of a submerged wreck just ahead of us. We steered clear of the danger and they turned out to be from Friday Harbor (SEAWANHAKA’s home port) and rather famous in the cruising world – John Neal and Amanda Swan-Neal. Both write sailing articles for magazines, including “Cruising World” and John wrote a famous book years ago called “Log of the Mahina” which inspired a lot of cruisers. We had John over for a pleasant visit SEAWANHAKA. Bill had previously met John 20 years ago in the Northwest and 10 years ago in French Polynesia. That’s how it is the cruising community…you never know who you will see in the next port. - Elizabeth

October 28 – Today, SEAWANHAKA is back in Suva Harbor after her jaunt over to the Bay of Islands for the last few days. We motored back this rainy, stormy morning. Yesterday, we went out to Pacific Harbor, about an hour west of Suva and did a two-tank dive in Beqa Lagoon. Beqa is world famous in the diving community for its soft coral. We had a great day, saw a shark and tons of the beautiful soft coral. We stopped in for lunch at this gorgeous tropical island called Yanuca, small and remote and beautiful. Today is my last day in Suva and my last day on the crew of SEAWANHAKA. I’m traveling west to Nadi to fly back to Indiana where I will visit my family for the holidays. Then it's back to life in Seattle. It’s been a wonderful trip. Good luck to the new crew who will be arriving soon for SEAWANHAKA's voyage to New Zealand. Thanks SEAWANHAKA and Captain Bill for an amazing adventure! See you again soon! - Elizabeth

SEAWANHAKA sailed out of Suva Harbor on a nice SE trade. A 20 mile reach across to Beqa lagoon. Into the lagoon through Bala Passage, around the north side of the island of Beqa and 10 miles across the lagoon to the beautiful little island of Yanuca. Anchored in crystal clear water off a nice quiet resort run by an American couple Sharon and Dan. World class dive sites within a half mile of the boat. The lagoon is known for the most prolific soft coral in the world, and there is a nice wreck dive, and caverns and a wide variety of marine life. Just south of the island is one of the best surf breaks in Fiji, Frigate Pass.

Great swimming, snorkeling, and a short hike over the ridge to the native village of Yanuca. We paid our respects to the chief of the village in the traditional way by offering a supply ofKava. He went through a ritual, and accepted the offering, welcoming us to the village. Fortunately it was mid-morning and he didn't offer to have the Kava served immediately. Kava, yaqona in Fijian, is made from a root, and has been best described as tasting like tea made with dirt! SEAWANHAKA is now anchored in Nadi Harbor at the west end of Viti Levu, enjoying the dryclimate, w/ the sweet aroma of burning sugar cane fields following the crushing. - Captain Bill

View Previous Postings:

July 26 - September 14, 2004 - Kingdom of Tonga
July 5 - 24, 2004 - Apia, Samoa
May 31 - July 3, 2004 - Pago Pago, American Samoa
May 22 - 30, 2004 - Pacific Ocean Crossing
May 17 - 21, 2004 - Fanning Island, Kiribati
April 24 - May 16, 2004 - Pacific Ocean Crossing
April 19, 2004 - San Diego Bay, California
April 4, 2004 - San Diego Bay, California

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