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Chronologically Challenged Couple Cruises the South Pacific

Welcome to our blog.  Here you’ll find stories, pictures and hopefully a little helpful information about traveling around on a small sailboat.

To some, our blog may seem chronologically challenged, but it’s really not.  You see, our resident Capricorn, Cyndi, posts everything in the exact order in which it occurred.  Rich, with his short attention span, posts stuff the moment it occurs to him.  While we’re now in Australia, Cyndi just finished her posts about the New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds.  Rich has already lost interest in last Monday. To sum it up:

Cyndi is writing about  a few miscellaneous things from both the here and now and our past season before picking up where she left off in Fiji.

Rich is writing about the here and now, in Vanuatu.

Rich and Cyndi

chronologically-challenged-pics

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Picking Up Where We Off in Fulaga (Including Scenes From Our Previous Episodes)

Written September 13, 2017 – traveling back in time to September 14, 2103

Generally I like to do my blog posts in chronological order, but occasionally special projects grab my attention. More than a year ago, I stopped all blog posts in progress to do a New Zealand South Island guide based on what we’d learned. After that, I went on to work on a Tasmania overview project to help answer the question many cruisers have: Should we consider going to Tasmania? Is it worth the effort? What about the rumored wind and cold, etc?

As always, this stuff took a lot longer to do than I thought, and now I’m faced with question of whether to go back and pick up where I left off in the chronological blog posts. I know it can be annoying to read recently added blog posts that are actually from the past, but leaving out years of our cruising experience feels wrong. So finally I’ve decided to go back to pick up where I left off: Fulaga, Fiji, 2013.

Rich will keep doing his real-time posts, and occasionally I’ll throw one in, too. We’re currently cruising in Vanuatu and enjoying it so much we haven’t done as much blog posting as usual, but now that the Tasmania project is done I’m hoping to get back into doing blog posts. So here it comes, the continuation of our Fiji cruise in 2013.

Just an rehash up to that point: we crossed the south pacific in 2012 and spent a season in New Zealand before heading up to Fiji in June 2013. We based ourselves in the town of Savusavu and over the course of two separate trips visited the locations on the map below, plus a small jaunt to Namena island on a commercial dive boat. Below, a map showing what we did (corresponding blog posts can be found in the All-Posts-Map section of our blog.)

Savusavu
Fawn Harbor
Viani Bay
Dakuniba
Kennedy Bay
Albert Cove
Katherine Bay
Matei
Paradise Resort
Cousteau Resort
Namena Island

After another return to our home-base town of Savusavu, we provisioned as well as we could before making the two-night passage to an island group known as the Southern Lau. It was only recently open to yachties but quickly gaining a reputation as a must-visit area. Because so few cruisers had gone there up to this point, waypoints and information were sketchy. There would be villages, but no shops, markets or eateries. This would be about as remote as it gets and would take quite a bit of effort to get there, but the place was rumored to be spectacularly beautiful enough to make the journey worth it. Below, a map showing our trip south.

Savusavu
Fulaga (Southern Lau Island Group)

We arrived in the Southern Lau group of islands in late August and stayed nearly four weeks in the beautiful lagoon of an island called Fulaga (pronounced Fulanga). I was writing about our final anchorage when I bee-lined off into the other projects. For anyone interested, here (in chronological order) are the links to our Fulaga posts (Scenes from our Previous Episodes):

Going Through the Pass at Fulaga
Crossing the Lagoon in Fulaga
Arriving at the Anchorage for Muana i Cake
First Morning in Fulaga
Walking to the Village for Sevusevu
Muana i Cake Village
A Neighborhood Dinghy Ride
Church Day
A Fifty Dollar Pet Peeve
The Changing Light at our Fulaga Anchorage
Dinghy Ride Through the Islets
Back Across the Lagoon
The Sandspit Anchorage
The Blue Pool
Beach Party at the Sandspit
Snorkeling in Fulaga
Swimming Amidst Motus in Fulaga
Fifty Shades of Blue
The Sandspit
Our Sandspit Anchorage Neighborhood
Taking out the Trash
exploring the Sandbar Area
Final Visit to Shark Pass
Snorkeling the Fulaga Pass
Exploring the Motus
Final Evening at the Sandbar Anchorage
Our Motu Anchorage

In our most recent Fulaga post (the link just above), we had moved to our final anchorage, an amazing spot amidst small rock islands (aka motus) strewn across the intensely bright blue water of the outer lagoon. At the time we considered it one of the top three anchorages of our cruise, and now, even after all the cruising we’ve done since then, we’d still put it right up there.

We still have a couple more posts to do about this anchorage, and a general post or two about Fulaga, then we’ll be heading up to the islands of the Northern Lau Group.

So for now, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite Twilight Zone quotes:

“Press the button my friend. Send me back into time.”

–Cyndi

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Blue Holes, Peterson Bay, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

September 11, 2017

A blue hole is a large marine cavern or sinkhole, which is open to the surface and has developed in a bank or island composed of a carbonate bedrock (limestone or coral reef). -Wikipedia

We spent a few days anchored in Peterson Bay on Espiritu Santo Island and from there, visited three different blue holes, two by dinghy and one by car. All of them amazing! All of them different. (You can click to enlarge and scroll through any of the photo galleries below.)

Ri Ri Blue Hole we traveled to by dinghy – a short ride up a beautiful river. The challenge was getting under the road bridge as the tide was going out and the current was stronger than our poor little outboard motor. We ended up dragging the dinghy up the bank, across the road and down the other side all with the help of a local man.

Matevulu Blue Hole is a long dinghy ride up an incredibly beautiful river. It’s worth the trip just for the jungle ride up the river. The blue hole is icing on the cake.

Nanda Blue Hole was a car trip. We were able to borrow a car from a local expat friend for the 6 km trip. This blue hole costs 1000 vatu to visit (about $10 US) and it’s so worth it. This had the clearest water of those we visited, the clarity of the others was affected by an earthquake a while back. Nanda escaped this fate.

While we enjoyed swimming in all three blue holes, this one was especially nice with it’s crystal clear water. We didn’t bring an underwater camera. Cyndi on Bravo was nice enough to give us a couple of her pictures.

Where is all this great stuff? Here’s an interactive Google map. (Thanks Google!) -Rich

Nanda Blue Hole
Matevulu Blue Hole
Ri Ri Blue Hole
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Stainless Polish

September 10, 2017

Maybe it should be called “Boat Keepers Friend?”

Yesterday, during a very rainy 20 mile boat ride, we decided to do something about the heartbreaking condition of the stainless on our new bimini (installed a couple of years ago in Australia and it was oh so shinny). It had rusted badly, probably due to the acid from the vog (volcano fog) here in Vanuatu.

I’ve been working on the problem with thinking. I thought about how I would keep the polish off of the canvas – maybe insert plastic between the stainless and the canvas… maybe remove the canvas – ouch, maybe… None of these options were appealing. On a hunch yesterday, I tried Bar Keepers Friend.

Cyndi uses it on what little shinny stainless we have left in the galley and it works great. Though it looks like a scrubby cleanser, it doesn’t scratch stainless and leaves it with a mirror finish. I put some on a wet terry cloth rag for a little test and to my amazement, the rust wiped right off. A little on a cleaning toothbrush and the welds were rust-free. Even areas with some pitting cleaned up with incredible ease. I put some on a small corner of the canvas, rinsed it and there was no residue or stain. Amazing!

Inspired, I did the whole bimini. It only took about 15 minutes and it really shines now. I wish I had a before picture but trust me, it was bad. Here’s the after…

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A Final Tasmania Report: An Unexpected Stop in Stanley (Tasmania, Australia)

April 4 – 11, 2017

With summer turning to autumn, it was time leave Macquarie Harbour and head back to mainland Australia. This would be a big trip entailing an overnight passage just to reach the north coast of Tasmania, then a long journey over the top of Tasmania and up to the southeast corner of mainland Australia. From there, it would be another 30-miles north to a place called Eden. To make a trip of this magnitude we’d need a great weather window, and luckily we seemed to have one. Below, a map including our intended route (in blue) plus the one we actually ended up doing (in yellow).

Eden
Macquarie Harbour
Stanley

We left early in the morning of April 4, and after the current spat us out through Hells Gates at 9 knots, we had a calm sea and easy motoring conditions. This lasted all day and into the night, but around midnight the wind started to come more from ahead of us. Rich checked the weather and saw the latest forecast. It seemed the winds were shifting more from the north, and we needed a change of plan.

We had a couple of Plan B stops in mind but both were on the south coast of mainland Australia which would have us going into the wind–not acceptable. I remembered reading about a town on the north coast of Tasmania called Stanley. In my cruising-guide research, most towns on the north coast of Tasmania had gone into the “No” folder, generally because they were too shallow for us or didn’t sound all that interesting.

In the end, Stanley had been possible but didn’t sound worth the effort. The impression I’d gotten of Stanley was that of a small town with a harbor so full of fishing boats that we’d have to hunt for a temporarily vacant spot to tie up (and be ready to vacate should the owner return), or maybe anchor in a less protected spot. I knew it had a rock monolith that was popular to climb (called the Nut), but even that didn’t sound all that interesting. I pictured a small dreary fishing town where we’d have to switch places as they became available. No thanks. But now in our current situation, I had to give it a second look. I soon realized it would be a good haven for us, dreary or no, until another weather window appeared.

It turned out that all my impressions were way off (a reminder not to rely on cruising guides for info about the look or feel of a place–that’s a job for Lonely Planet). The town of Stanley lies tiered along the base of a steep-sided, flat-topped rock mountain, flowing out onto a relatively flat grassy isthmus and peninsula that connect it to mainland Tasmania. Even as we approached from a distance, we could see this place was fantastic looking. The boat harbor did indeed have fishing boat pens, but there was a huge back wall that was long enough for several visiting boats to tie up. Below, a satellite photo of Stanley’s town including Stanley Boat Harbour.


The rock monolith rises straight up from the boat harbor to a height of 470 feet, a rather astonishing sight. Below, a few photos of the harbor. (Click to enlarge/scroll through any of the following galleries.)

The hillside area of town is a short walk from the harbor, the street leading to it lined with charming cottages dating back to the 1800s, all restored with beautiful woodwork and gardens, with views of the shoreline and isthmus below. The center of town is full of cafes and shops in historic buildings. There are enough residents and tourists here to support a these cafes and a very good seafood restaurant. Down on the isthmus is what I call the “live and work” section of town, with modern buildings, modest houses, and business that serve daily life that don’t fit into the cottage theme of the upper area of Stanley

Climbing the Nut, it turned out, was nothing to sneer at. There’s a path for those who want to walk up, and a chair lift for those who want to ride. We opted to walk up, then take the rather long loop track around the top. By the time we’d done all that, already stiff and sore, we needed the chair lift to get back down.

We ended up spending a few days in Stanley waiting for another weather window and enjoyed each day. The walk from the harbor to the main part of town took about 10 minutes, but the changing light over the views of the shoreline, the isthmus, and the lower parts of town made it seem new each time. We also enjoyed some fabulous food and met some very nice people. We’d been sad to leave Tasmania; so this felt like a reprieve, one more chance to experience Tasmania’s exceptional food and scenery.

Of course after our Stanley experience, I wanted to give all the towns along the north coast a second look in my research. It turns out they each have something special to offer. We already plan to come back to Tasmania to see things we missed, including some of the national parks and the river city of Launceston, and now it seems we may want to try anchoring in some of these intriguing north coast towns if we’re brave enough to dodge some shallows and sand bars.

In the end, another great weather window came along, and we set off early in the morning of April 11 and over the course of 4 1/2 days made it all the way to Sydney. We have so much we enjoyed during this season’s visit to Australia, but Tasmania definitely stands out as extra special. So special, in fact, that we’re already planning a return trip sometime in the future.–Cyndi

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Hot!

August 31, 2017

We do a lot of planning around temperature. We try to get north before New Zealand or Australia gets too cold and try to avoid going too far north until winter sets in. We’ve been a little afraid of the heat in Vanuatu and delayed our northern-most excursions until August. So far, we’ve done great and the temperatures have been really pleasant. That changed a few days ago. Now it’s really HOT – so hot that we’ve been running our cockpit misters a lot.

(While cooling, the cockpit misters are not great for visibility for those of us who wear glasses!)

Cyndi, Legacy’s chief planning officer and cruise director, has done a great job keeping us from getting too hot (until now, but we’re hoping this is just a hot spell and will cool down a bit in the next couple of days). Among the tools she uses is earth.nullschool.net’s Misery Index (MI) found here  and in the screenshot below.

The Misery Index as seen at earth.nullschool.net

As you can see, we’re just in the red, too hot, section while some of Australia is in the blue, too cold, section. We try to keep it in the black.

Here’s an animated GIF below showing how the zone of misery has been moving south and how it’s predicted to move back to the north in the next few days…

More about our “cockpit misters” can be found here. Don’t leave home without them! -Rich

P.S. We also stay cool by riding Billy, our pet orca…

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Another Tasmania Report: Macquarie Harbour, Part 2 (Tasmania, Australia)

March 31 – April 3, 2017

While the Macquarie Harbour area has lots to see, it’s the Gordon River that’s the main attraction. There are two big motor catamarans that run day trips from Strahan to a landing five miles up the river called Heritage Landing. Once there, passengers disembark and walk a loop track through the rainforest before heading back to Strahan.

Private yachts, however, have the option of continuing on to a place called Sir John falls, about 20 miles up the river. It’s a spectacular trip as the river winds through hills covered in lush rainforest. Like Port Davey, the water here is dark, and, when still, creates a mirror reflection of the scenery above it.

We opted to make the (rather long) trip from Strahan to the Gordon River entrance, then continue to Heritage Landing. Here, we spent the night before heading to Sir John Falls the next morning. Below, some photos from Heritage Landing. (Click to enlarge/scroll through any of the galleries below.)

Once we’d tied up at Heritage Landing, we did the circuit walk through the forest. It was so pretty we did it again the next morning before we headed on.

As we made our way up to Sir John Falls, the river was still and at times so reflective it was almost disorienting. We did find, however, the famous changeable weather of Tasmania as it would cloud up and get chilly, then the sun would pop out again. Below, a gallery of photos of the Gordon River.

We barely got tied up to the landing at Sir John Falls when we got quite a downpour. It passed quickly though, and we made the short walk to the beautiful falls.

After enjoying lunch and the falls, we decided to head back down the river to Heritage Landing to spend the night. Once again we got to enjoy the amazing beauty of the river and its remarkably fickle weather as we had sun, clouds, and two separate hail storms during our trip down the river.

Spending the night at Heritage Landing (instead of Sir John Falls) gave us time the next morning to head to an area called Kelly Basin in Macquarie Harbour. Besides being a very pretty place, Kelly Basin has a couple areas of interest. The first is an old train yard with some relics from the past, including a cabin that’s meant to shelter anyone passing through and a path into the forest. The other area is the remains of a town with old steam boilers, brick kilns, and other artifacts. Here we ran into a Tasmanian surprised to see us, saying “you must have done your homework” to end up here. Not so much–this is a pretty mainstream area for boats who make it here–no special homework needed. Below, a some photos from the Kelly Basin area.

We planned to visit more anchorages, but once again a weather window was coming that would allow us to leave this area and get back to mainland Australia. We considered waiting for the next one, but helpful local fishermen advised us that with the season changing we should grab this one. With that, we decided to head back to Strahan and prepare to head north. We’d liked to have seen more of this area, but we’ll just have to come back some other time. –Cyndi

Travel Notes: There is a way for land travelers to get up the Gordon River to Sir John Falls: book an overnight trip with Trevor Norton on his large sailing yacht Stormbreaker. He’s a great guy, extremely knowledgeable about the area, and his boat is roomy and very comfortable. If we weren’t here on our own yacht I wouldn’t hesitate to book a trip with him (and I’m picky about this sort of thing). Depending on what trip you take, you can visit Sir John Falls plus visit Macquarie Harbour’s historic Sarah Island.

Visiting yachties should also seek out this man and borrow or buy a copy of his map with information about going up the river. Except for one short area near the entrance to the river, the water is very deep – often 50 to 70 feet deep even right along the shore. There are shoal areas but by observing the usual river navigation rules (stay to the outside of bends in the river), they are easy to avoid. We never came close to grounding.

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Another Tasmania Report: Macquarie Harbour, Part One (Tasmania, Australia)

Jan – April, 2017

Macquarie Harbor isn’t held with quite the same reverence as Port Davey, but it should be. It, too, is on the dreaded west coast of Tasmania, but more towards the northern end. Unlike Port Davey, it’s an area lush with rainforests.

Macquarie Harbour is large, nearly 20-miles long and 5-miles wide. On the west side is the pretty town of Strahan (pronounced “Straun”), and at the southeast end is the entrance to the Gordon River. In between are several nice anchorages and big fish farms. While this harbor has lots of good reasons to visit, the main tourist attractions are Hell’s Gates and the Gordon River. Below is an interactive map showing where the key points are, including some popular anchorage areas.

Hells Gates
Strahan
Gordon River
Kelly Basin
Farm Cove
Birchs Inlet
Elizabeth Island

Hell’s Gates is the entrance to this harbor, mostly very shallow, with only one narrow entrance having sufficient depth for vessels to pass through. All that water coming and going from the ocean can make for a pretty wild current. Since we could only enter and exit at slack tide, we never witnessed this big tidal show and wondered what all the fuss was about. Friends who’ve seen it have since assured us it’s really impressive when it’s flowing. Below, a few photos from our ride through Hell’s Gates. As you can see, it wasn’t all that hellish.

Once through the entrance, the first stop for a yacht is generally the town of Strahan. It’s quite small and lies along the waterfront at the base of a hill. It has a few historic buildings, a nice pub, fishing boats, a couple of restaurants, and it used to be a center for logging the Huon pine used to build wooden ships. The pines are no longer cut down but instead old logs are dug up, the wood still good because it pretty much lasts forever in any conditions. In spite of the peaceful and quiet feeling of this little town, it has a fair amount of tourists passing through because it’s the hub for the Gordon River tour boats.

Below, a few photos of Strahan. (Click to enlarge and scroll through any of the photo galleries in this post.)

We rode out a weather system in Strahan, both on a mooring and tied up to the dock, before setting off to do more exploring. What a lovely, pleasant place! One of our favorite things here was the heavily forested walk to Hogarth Falls, not nearly as well publicized as it should be, but I guess the Gordon River overshadows it. Alas, we didn’t spot any of the local platypuses who live in the river, but we did enjoy the beautiful walk and the waterfall. Below, a few photos from the walk.

After a few days, the weather cleared, and we set out explore the Gordon River, which will be the subject of the next Tasmania post. –Cyndi

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Two Dives on the Coolidge

August 17, 2017

The SS President Coolidge is one of the most famous wreck dives in the world. Since we’re moored only four miles from the wreck site, we thought we’d take the opportunity to dive it. Here’s some of what we saw…

The water wasn’t as clear as it looks in this video. The clear water was thanks to editing in Photoshop. That’s right. Photoshop will edit videos and you have access to all your favorite photo editing tools.

The video was taken with a really, really crappy first generation GoPro with the lens refocused for underwater use and no color filter. Not bad, huh? I think it’s time for us to get a new UW video camera. Maybe a new-fangled GoPro? Maybe one with an LCD so you can see what you’re shooting?! -Rich

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