Schooner Seawanhaka

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Postings - Fiji to Australia

Date and Time:

October - November - 2005


Fiji to Australia - 2005

View Photos - Fiji to Australia:



SEAWANHAKA has left the archipelago of Fiji Islands astern as we are blown by a brisk 15-20 knot trade wind on our course west to Vanuatu, 450 miles distant.

We checked out of Lautoka, had a nice farewell dinner at the Bekana Island Resort, Seth and I closed down a few nightclubs, and on the morning breeze had a great sail across the smooth waters of the lagoon to the Yasawa Island group. We sailed the spectacular west coast of Waya Island, and anchored in a stunningly beautiful bay on the north shore, the remote westernmost anchorage in Fiji Islands. Had the last Fiji swim this morning, stowed gear, latched down the hatches, weighed anchor, and worked our way through the shoal water, before finally sailing out into the deep blue water of the South Pacific Ocean.

Keep an eye on this page for daily updates, being brought to you by Sharon Cowan, formerly sailor on BUZZ, who sailed on SEAWANHAKA in New Zealand. She will be doing postings from Boston, Massachusetts.

October 16

Position at 00:23 UTC:

17 44.0 S

173 58.8 E

The watch shifts began in earnest, 2 hours on and 6 off, and it was challenging conditions steering and being on deck so harnesses were donned. A little seasickness was experienced by Seth and Silke but with Sharon's culinary expertise in the galley it wasn't long before both were tempted into eating again.

The night watch was a delight with a not quite full moon and Mars, Venus and Saturn to keep the watch company.

No fish caught to date but with memories of Captain Bill's exquisite snapper dish at Waya we all look forward to the first catch on the open sea.

SEAWANHAKA has traveled 173 miles in her first 24 hours and let's hope the winds keep blowing till Vanuatu.

Mate Seth

October 17 - SEAWANHAKA "Moonlight Shadow"

Position at 22:24 UTC:

18 32.578 S

171 33.382 E

On this, the second passage day, a full moon brought closure on a gloriously satisfying and smooth daylight sail. Crew morale remained high with good team spirit, whilst SEAWANHAKA continued to give much pleasure with her balance, poise and performance.

The winds favoured us and above average progress was being made. Today Seth mastered the mechanics of a bucket bath, with the aid of a harness, and had great fun at the bow cleansing both his body and soul in the warm and, at times, bracing wind. My turn for this new exhilarating experience will be tomorrow.

The watch system was, initially, quite a shock to my system, but as time progressed the exhaustion and inertia subsided and a much easier and enjoyable groove was found.

A crew consisting of an American (Captain Bill), a German (Silke) and two English (Seth and Sharon) could, not surprisingly, perhaps cause initial communication problems and, indeed, this proved to be the case but from a surprising quarter. There appeared to be some problem with Bill understanding Sharon's interpretation of the English language (which may sound familiar to her friends)! How ironic then that Silke should come sailing to the rescue, being both an English teacher and English/German translator. Which proves just how far international relations have progressed in recent years!

As dusk wrapped her cloak around the day's events, a mesmerizing moon magnanimously illuminated secure passage through, the sometimes, swirling swells of the South Pacific as SEAWANHAKA continued her uninterrupted journey through the dark silent night. I have found the 2000 hours watch and the following 0400 hours watch, when the sun rises, particularly enjoyable and atmospheric.

Somewhere in the middle of the deep deep blue, fellow mate, Silke, cooked up a fish feast with the remainder of the fresh local snapper from Lautoka, aptly assisted by the former Cat Stevens' 'Moonlight Shadow' soothingly serenading one and all through the schooner's speakers. What a dinner location!.

Although I was exploring the east coast of Australia, it has been well worth the interruption and is an experience not to be missed. The longer I am aboard SEAWANHAKA the more she works her magic.

Mate Sharon

October 18 - Resolution Bay, Tanna Island, Vanuatu

(Named for Captain Cook's Ship RESOLUTION)

Position at 08:16 UTC:

19 31.492 S

169 29.733 E

I am feeling less than ship shape after what has been an incredulous 36 hours. Yesterday saw perfect conditions for sailing to Vanuatu with 20 knot south easterlies and minimal swell, Captain Bill decided that is was time to teach the European contingent on how to fish and after several dress rehearsals we managed to flawlessly catch 2 healthy skipjacks which were served with some spaghetti neapolitan. The day's events culminated in a school of about 20 dolphins playing alongside Seawanhaka in the moonlight. Awesome!

Daybreak began in contrast to yesterday with minimal wind but at least early bird Sharon cried "Land ahoy!" before she temporarily lost her sea legs and joined the ranks of the seasick crew.

So here we are anchored in Resolution Bay and are looking forward to a few days break from watch duty and getting acquainted with the locals.

Crew Seth

October 19 - Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu

SEAWANHAKA is anchored in a beautiful bay at Port Resolution on Tanna Island. The harbor is named after Captain Cook's ship on his second voyage. He stopped in here to take astronomical sightings to fix the position of the island. Legend has it that as he trekked the island he met a local woman working the garden, picked up a handful of soil, and made gestures to ask her what it was called in her language, she replied "tanna", and he named the island.

We had a very fast, smooth, 3-day sail from Fiji, highlighted by wonderful moonlit nights for the passage. The last afternoon we had quite a fishing event. We had a brisk 18 knot trade wind, doing 7-8 knots, good trolling speed. Within a matter of 2 hours we hooked 7 fish. Landed 2, released 1 small one, but unfortunately saw 3 really nice mahi-mahi break away to swim again. All in all a fun afternoon, particularly that none of the 3 crew had ever held a fishing pole before.

Just before sunset the island of Futuna rose on the horizon. We sailed past it in the moonlight, and at dawn had 4 more of the Vanuatu islands on the horizon, with our destination of Tanna directly off the bows. We were able to see smoke rising from Mt. Yasur, and even 15 miles at sea a very distinct rumbling from its tremors, which reportedly occur every 12 minutes! It was pretty easy to navigate in to Port Resolution, as the entrance to the harbor is directly below the volcano.

Today we took a truck taxi ride across the island to the island capital of Lenakel to check in with Customs and Immigration. 3 hours round trip, up past the volcano, over the ridgeline of the island, spectacular panoramas, a great island tour and introduction to Vanuatu.

Tomorrow I plan to deliver books to the Port Resolution Primary school, and an afternoon hike to the rim of the crater. It is the closest you can get to any active volcano in the world.

We are planning on leaving Tanna on Saturday the 22nd for the 200 mile sail to the southwest to Noumea, New Caledonia. We'll be breaking out the French dictionary and phrase book again!

Capt'n Bill

October 22 - Enroute to New Caledonia

Position at 06:47 UTC:

19 39.814 S

169 29.615 E

SEAWANHAKA is underway after a wonderful 4 days at Port Resolution. The highlight of the stay was living under the shadow of the volcano. Listening to it rumble, fire off a large stream of smoke every few minutes, and, when the wind shifted to the west, experiencing an ash shower, which blackened the new white decks! It was a small price to pay for the experience.

We were able to hike to the rim of the crater just before sunset one evening, and see the stunning display of power. There were 3 "holes" in the crater that were going off, firing large rocks and firey-red lava high into the sky. Once darkness fell, it was all a super fireworks show, red streamers lighting up the sky, and thunderous booms, so strong that you could feel the blast almost knock you over.

Yesterday was a day at the "long white beach" with a wonderful lobster lunch with all the local native dishes, all for about $5 US. A trip to the Port Resolution Primary school to drop off books and school supplies. They were much appreciated, as last year a cyclone went through and blew the roof off of the library room and destroyed most of what few books they had. We spent some time in the small village, met many of the friendly villagers, still living in thatched huts, no power, lights, or refrigeration. Living the life they have lived for thousands of years. Taro, kasawa, fish, coconuts, and making lots of babies! Kids everywhere!

SEAWANHAKA hosted another great sundowner party for the fleet in the bay last night, a nice mix of half a dozen cruising boats from all over the world, with a huge variety of cruising experiences and tales to tell. A good time was had by all.

Today we sailed out on a light north wind in brilliant sunshine, and had a nice reach down the spectacular east coast of Tanna Island. Just as the sun set, we rounded the southern tip of the island, picked up a nice westerly, and are making 5 knots on a starboard tack bound for the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. Capt'n Bill

October 23 - Enroute to New Caledonia

Position at 07:01 UTC:

21 15.508 S

168 31.140 E

The wind picked up just after midnight to around a steady 12 knots and good progress was made.

Around 0700, SEAWANHAKA found herself surrounded by a spectacular sight of a large pod of pilot whales relaxing in the early morning sunshine, it was noted, in a very unusual formation of adult pairs.

Unfortunately when the Captain shouted in a loud commanding voice, 'whales', both Seth and Sharon were each slumbering soundly in their cabins after their early morning watches and so missed this special event.

In fact Sharon, in particular, was taking advantage of the port cabin which was on the starboard tack and hence, therefore, this had in one swift tack turned from the 'ugly duckling' to a very popular choice for rest and relaxation, being the prime bunk on the boat.

The wind continued to perform to our wishes and as the sun set on another superb day's sailing it was agreed by all that, indeed, cruising life could be very agreeable.

Crew Seth and Sharon

October 24 - Greetings from New Caledonia

Position at 02:42 UTC:

21 23.9 S

167 53.4 E

SEAWANHAKA is anchored in beautiful Rho Bay, Ile Mare, in the French Territory of New Caledonia, a very remote outpost in the Loyalty Islands. We were welcomed into the country this morning by a nice breeze, brilliant sunrise and a dolphin escort.

We've had mixed winds the past few days. 0-15 knots, everything from NW to SE. As we rounded the northern reef of Ile Mare for our 70 mile run across the channel to the pass into the big island of New Caledonia, the wind went SW again. We opted to find a sheltered anchorage rather than beat across the channel. What a great decision! We are the only boat on the island, possibly the only boat in the entire Loyalty group. Sheltered up against a bluff with a secluded white-sand beach, surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise blue water. We dropped the anchor in 55 feet, and could see it all the way to the bottom! A great swim, a few boat projects, the last of the cold "Tusker" beers from Vanuatu, and we are in for a great afternoon of relaxation, good sunset views, and an evening of stargazing. Have you seen Mercury, Venus and Mars lately? They have all been spectacular.

Our plan is to depart in the early a.m. for another try at crossing over to the main island of New Caledonia and the capital of Noumea, described as "the most sophisticated city on a South Pacific island outside of New Zealand." Well, they are a French Territory. We're scrambling for a refresher with the French phrase book.

I am hoping to do a website update in Noumea with a new photo page so that you can all see the great places we have been sailing through...

Capt'n Bill

October 29 - Noumea, New Caledonia

SEAWANHAKA has had a delightful stay in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, and a real slice of France way out here in the middle of the South Pacific. The European community, mostly French with a mix of Kiwi, and Aussie, outnumbers the local Melanesian population . There have been some independence movements in the past, but they seem to be getting on well together at the moment.

The yacht club here is called "Le Bout du Monde" meaning "the far end of the world," which pretty much describes how far it is away from the rest of the French world. A very interesting community, one that we were quite surprised to find here. It is a very clean, sophisticated city. Definitely a step up from Suva, but also a bit more pricey. It is a very yacht-friendly place, with many cruising boats in the bay staging to cast off for New Zealand or Australia for the cyclone season, including several boats I have made friends with on my journeys across the South Pacific.

SEAWANHAKA has checked out with Customs, Immigration and the Port Captain, have our clearance papers, and will be sailing out in the morning with what looks to be a good SE trade wind.

Visit to see the new Fiji to Australia photo page of our journey. Capt'n Bill

October 31 - AUSSIE BOUND!

23 53 S

163 25.1 E

SEAWANHAKA is 200 miles southwest of New Caledonia on her way to Australia, the last leg of the journey crossing the entire Pacific Ocean. Interesting to note that even though the Pacific stretches from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska south to Antarctica, it is actually more miles from east to west than north to south.

We had a very nice 4-day stop in Noumea, New Caledonia. Fine French wine and cuisine; a wonderful local produce, fish and craft market; live jazz on the bay; fun nightlife; all mixed with a casual, laid-back south seas atmosphere. And, well, after Seth discovered all of the beautiful topless French chics on the beach I wasn't sure I was going to get him back on the boat and off of the island!

It was a great place for to run, cycle, and hike, hang out on the beach, and gather with cruising friends old and new before the trip across the Coral Sea. They know how to have fun here, somehow they have taken "All Saints' Day", November 1, and turned it into a 4 -day long holiday weekend!

SEAWANHAKA crossed the Tropic of Capricorn at 07:30 this morning, sailing a beam reach on a very smooth 15 knot SE trade wind. Even though we are out of the tropics, I am looking forward to a very fun summer in Australia. Our landfall destination is Coff's Harbor in New South Wales, with an ETA at the end of the week at the rate we are sailing, averaging 7-8 knots of boat speed. Capt'n Bill


Position at 06:04 UTC:

27 35.6 S

157 40.2 E

The shenanigans of Noumea are only a memory now and the distance between there and Seawanhaka is over 550 miles. She has run 176, 173 and 178 nautical miles respectively each of the 3 days of the Coral Sea passage with 15 + knot south easterlies blowing us to Oz.

The weather is more like that of the Tropics allowing shorts and bare feet and sunscreen to be splashed on.

No fish as of yet but we are a patient bunch.

Sharon's domesticity is unrivalled keeping SEAWANHAKA clean and sharp. Crew Seth


G'DAY MATES! SEAWANHAKA is very happy to have her dock lines secure to the wharf at Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, Australia. It was with a great sense of accomplishment that we made landfall off of South Solitary Island lighthouse, after having hove-to for the night to make our approach to the coast in the daylight. 10 hours of great anticipation.

SEAWANHAKA has transited the entire width of the Pacific Ocean, by far the largest body of water in the world. Since leaving home port of Friday Harbor, Washington, USA in May of '03, SEAWANHAKA has sailed 17,481 nautical miles working her way across the Pacific.

Twenty-three years ago, I was a kayaker/river runner. I had never been sailing. I was in Sydney after having been part of the American Himalayan Whitewater Expedition, making the first descent of the Karnali River, the largest river in Nepal. I walked around to the cove just south of the Sydney Opera house and met a couple on a little sailing sloop out of Long Beach, California, who had spent the last two years sailing across the Pacific. "That's my next adventure." Done.

Totally different feeling sailing into a new continent. A huge landmass spreading 3000 miles out to the west, with unlimited opportunities for exploring. Not quite as native as when Cook found it for Europe in 1770, but just as exciting for this sailor to have made landfall here on the great southern continent of "Terra Australis".

Coffs Harbor is a great place to start my Australian adventure. Good snug harbor; great cycling and hiking; endless miles of white sand beach; good surfing; a fabulous fish market only 50 meters from SEAWANHAKA; Coffs Harbor Yacht Club just down the jetty; and an entire community of welcoming Aussies. Capt'n Bill

View Previous Postings:

May - October, 2005 -Fiji Islands 2005
April - May, 2005 -Voyage from New Zealand to Fiji
December, 2004 - April, 2005 -New Zealand
November - December, 2004 - Voyage from Fiji to New Zealand
September 15 - November 14, 2004 - Fiji Islands 2004
July 26 - September 14, 2004 - Kingdom of Tonga
July 5 - 24, 2004 - Apia, Samoa
May 31 - July 3, 2004 - Pago Pago, American Samoa
April-May, 2004 - Pacific Ocean Crossing
May 17 - 21, 2004 - Fanning Island, Kiribati
April, 2004 - San Diego Bay, California

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