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 New Zealand, Cyndi is once again (after going off on a tangent to do information pages about the Marlborough Sounds and Tasmania) writing about our first season in Fiji. Rich has already lost interest in last Monday. To sum it up:

Cyndi is writing about our season in Fiji 2013.

Rich is writing about the here and now, in New Zealand.

Rich and Cyndi


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Evenings in Vanua Balavu (Bay of Islands, Fiji)

September 19 – 23, 2013

In an area like this, it’s impossible to pick a “best” time of day or even the best type of day. Cloudy days actually enhance the glow of the water in some areas, while other areas become most vivid in full sun. Rain gives the area a mystical feeling, while sun invites swimming, snorkeling, and experiencing the magic under the water.

Windy days are odd: it’s mountainous enough here to create wind bullets. What this means is that conditions can be relatively still, only to be interrupted by a sudden, strong pffffffft when a gust blows through, abruptly swinging the boat around on its anchor. Generally we stayed put while this was going on.

Perhaps our favorite time of day was early in the evening as the sun got low in the sky. The small islands would remain lit up while the mountains behind them fell into the shadows. When the sun went behind the hills, that was our cue to go outside, have some wine, and watch changing light.

A while later, we’d go watch the full moon rise.

Generally we were asleep not long after this point, but here I’m going to take an entry directly from my journal – a moment from when I got up at midnight and stepped outside into the cockpit:

“I woke up and went outside in to the most amazing sight: a full moon shone above our bay over still water, which meant the hills were all reflected perfectly in the water below. The water was totally opaque and greenish in the light, like a dark-gray jade, but the green vegetation on the hills was visible in the light. In the sky there were clouds, but a light scattering of stars was visible here and there. The full moon shone brightly, and everything looked closer and closed in, like we were in one of those waterholes in the middle of a jungle mountain lake. Night bugs were singing, and the scene was still, yet so full of life. It was fantastically beautiful. Suddenly I could hear a barking pigeon doing his huff, huff huff, sounding much like a barking dog or howler monkey, and it echoed in our bay. Rich stirred and I told him to come out here and see this. He did, and appreciated the moment as much as I did.”

(Note: I don’t wake him up unless it’s really worth it.)

So often, in the face of something special but subtle, it’s easier to give into the temptation of returning to the TV program, surfing the internet, fixing dinner, or—hardest to break away from—sleeping. But if we can muster the will and effort to break off from these activities, stop what we’re doing and go experience the moment, the rewards can be great. It’s not always easy to get up, to listen to the person saying, “you should come out and see this,” but it’s worth it. –Cyndi

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Cyclone Gita

February 20, 2018

Ex-tropical cyclone Gita is bearing down on us. It’s lost a lot of it’s punch but it’s still a real storm. Forecasts just a couple of days ago showed gusts up to 60 knots (although it’s losing strength fast).

This is our second ex-tropical cyclone this season. In addition to wind and rain, they bring tropical heat and humidity that’s been most uncomfortable.

But most uncomfortable of all is what Cyndi woke me up with today…

“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Gita, who?”
“Gita ‘nother line on the boat!”

I thought I’d share my pain. -Rich

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Medical Kit Survey

February 20, 2018

I received this email today and thought I’d share it with other sailors…

We are a group of medical students from Norway, Germany and India making a customized marine first aid kit as a bachelor thesis at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Netherlands. Unfortunately, not much research actually exists about what problems sailors face whilst at sea. In order to get a better overview, we have created a brief questionnaire that will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. This will provide us information about injuries and illnesses that you may have faced during your trips and how you dealt with them. Feel free to post the link to our questionnaire on your blog if you think your followers have valuable insight to share! If you would like for us to share our findings and recommendations for a medical kit with you, we kindly request that you indicate this in the appropriate section in the questionnaire.

Link to questionnaire: https://goo.gl/forms/Se2pT3n4K2yiIFJa2

The survey took me about 15 minutes to complete and it is well thought out. It got me thinking about our medical kit and I decided I’d find a better first aid at sea book, and oh yea, more good drugs! -Rich


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Chartplotter Alarm Project

February 18, 2018

Our new Simrad NSS9 EVO3 chartplotters have very quiet alarms, but they do have an alarm-out signal that can be used for an external alarm. To make sure we hear alarms for things like boats entering the radar guard zone and dangerous vessel on AIS, I built an external alarm using, at it’s core, a little Arduino single-board computer.

Here’s a very short video of the alarm in action…

(Note: the black box that says “Hear It” on the front is not part of the alarm. That’s actually a speaker for the SSB radio that has a built in DSP (Digital Signal Processor) to make voices much easier to hear and understand over the radio. Highly recommended.)

Here are the details in case you want to make your own external alarm (some assembly required ;-)…

The schematic for the circuit…

Since both the LED light and the alarm draw more current than the Arduino can safely supply, I’ve used two 2N2222 NPN transistors to switch them on and off. The external alarm signal from our Simrad EVO3 chartplotters is open-collector so when the alarm is activated, the alarm input is pulled low. When it’s not active, it’s tied to +5 volts through the 1K resistor. That resistor is a fairly low value so that the stray EMI from the SSB won’t trigger the alarm.

And a breadboard layout (done in Fritzing)…

Click this link for the Fritzing Files for the Above

I used an Arduino Nano but almost any Arduino will work. I picked the Nano because it has a built in voltage regulator and I can supply the alarm with ships 12 volts (which on Legacy, may run as high as 14.8 volts).

I put the extra bits on a perf-board and soldered the Nano on that same board (yes, I know it would have been better to socket the Nano but it turned out to be a tight squeeze to get the parts in the box).

The piezo is from Jaycar – here. It really isn’t quite loud enough and I may replace it with a louder buzzer.

Waterproof Piezo Buzzer from Jaycar.

I found the lamp housing at a local marine store. It’s not easy to find one for a boat that’s all-around red. I’ve been on the lookout for something that would work for this application for a while and finally found it at Steve’s Marine in Tauranga, New Zealand.

The lamp I used inside is also from a marine store and is an all-around white LED bulb similar to this one from West Marine: here. A red LED bulb would have been better, but I made do with what I could find locally.

And here’s the code (or sketch as it’s called in Arduino parlance):


There are some notes at the top of the sketch that I hope explain it pretty well. There, I noted that I should have selected a different digital I/O pin for the alarm in signal that doesn’t interfere with programming the Nano. That should be a very easy change.



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Hidden Worlds’ Annex (Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 19 – 23, 2013

Just outside the area we named “the Hidden Worlds,” was yet another intriguing area. Along the shoreline a small island, barely separated from the larger land mass, hid two pools just behind it.

As we motored in, the water went from very bright blue to a beautiful green in the pools themselves. In shallow water under the ledges we could see hundreds of bright blue damselfish.

Below, a gallery showing the entry to one of the pools . . .

And then a few photos of the pools themselves . . . (click to enlarge/scroll through any of the galleries in this post.)

The photos above were taken on different days, cloudy days lending it a subtle glow to the water while full sun brought out an almost neon brightness.

After exiting the pools and traveling along the ledges along the shoreline, we had a nice view of our boat behaving herself in the anchorage across the channel. Yet another lovely spot in a lovely place. – Cyndi

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Hidden Worlds (Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 19 – 23, 2013

Above, a map showing the “Hidden Worlds” area in Vanua Balavu’s Bay of Islands.

We stumbled across this area when we returned to check out an anchorage possibility we’d passed by when we first arrived. Would it be more protected for upcoming winds? Not enough to justify moving (this goes back to when we decided to use our stern anchor and stay put where we were). We did, however, discover a beautiful area behind the anchorage. Below, the intriguing pass that led into this area.

Inside we discovered a large inner pool surrounded by steep-sided cliffs and bushy growth. A tiny rock island sat in the middle, and the surrounding blue-green water had the characteristic brightness of so many of these hidden areas. (Below, a gallery of photos of this pool—you can click to enlarge and scroll though the galleries that follow.)

It was quite beautiful, but even more beautiful was what we found behind a small island that bordered the back end of this pool. There were two passes, one on each side of the island, that led to yet another area. (Below, photos of both passes)

This area’s pool was larger, yet it felt more enclosed and remote, a truly secret hidey-hole. The water glowed green and blue and thick vegetation covered its rock walls. It was an absolutely beautiful spot. –Cyndi

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Snorkeling Around Our Anchorage (Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 19 – 23, 2013

We enjoyed snorkeling at the island by our anchorage, an easy swim from our boat. It didn’t look very exciting from above, but the water below the ledge was filled with interesting fish: many variations of blue damsels and probably hundreds of Picasso triggerfish ranging from inch-long babies to fairly large adults. They actually had burrows that they’d dart into if we got too close. We’re always excited to find even a single Picasso trigger; so seeing so many was pretty exciting, and we’ve never seen the burrow thing.

On one outing, we swam along the island to the small pass and made our way through to the other side. It wasn’t as prolific with the fish over there, but it was still worth a visit, especially when we spotted a trigger fish we’d never seen.

What did turn out to be really special was the large bombie we’d spotted from the dinghy on previous outings. This thing was huge, the size of a living room, and in contrast to the rocky sides of the islands, it was covered with an amazing array of corals. There were hard corals of all kinds, beautiful soft red corals, and sea fans. It had pinnacles and valleys that were right out of something Disney might create. As for fish, there seemed to be thousands of them, and they weren’t bothered by our presence.

We found the best way to enjoy the bombie was to drift over it, then swim back around it and drift over again. We did this a few times, and it was as good as any snorkeling we’d done to that point. We saw many fish we knew and a few we’d never seen before. I was kicking myself for not bringing the underwater camera, and unfortunately we didn’t get back there before we left. Hopefully we’ll go back someday and it will still be the same. (Sadly we’ve found cyclones can dramatically change coral reefs in shallow waters; something we saw firsthand when we returned to Tonga in 2014.)

These areas weren’t far from our boat, but we had some good snorkeling even closer, a bombie right near us. We first visited it to make sure it was deep enough that Legacy could drift over it safely even at low tide. It was, the top of it about 12 feet under water. What a surprise it was to dive down and find what looked like a simple rock from the surface was home to an impressive array of tropical fish, our own underwater aquarium! Up on the surface, it just looked like a rock again. Thus, I had good incentive to practice free diving and was much improved by the time we left.

At a glance, the Bay of Islands doesn’t look like it would be much for snorkeling as it lacks large areas of coral reef, but every snorkeling outing we made turned out to have things of interest. And of course the big bombie was world class! –Cyndi

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A Beautiful Rainy Day (Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 22, 2013

During our time in the tropics, we stay comfortable at night by keeping our hatches open. Rain is surprisingly infrequent because cruising season coincides with the dry season, but when the rain does come, it generally starts lightly, giving us a gentle wake-up and time to close up the boat before anything gets wet. Occasionally though, we get a downpour that gives us a rude awakening and gets us scrambling to close the ports before things gets soaked.

In spite of the drama, I like downpours. They’re pretty exciting when they’re heavy, and then soothing when they lighten into a steadier rain. And it’s always a plus for the boat to get a freshwater rinse.

This night we had a downpour, then woke up the next morning to rain and gusty winds. As long as we’re in a safe anchorage I enjoy this sort of weather: it’s a signal to take some time out, enjoy a second cup of coffee, make something more elaborate than cereal for breakfast (today it was eggs and fried potatoes), read, and just watch the world outside. When the rain stops, we relish that wonderful earthy after-rain smell. (You can click to enlarge/scroll through the galleries that follow.)

The rain didn’t last very long, but clouds passed over the rest of the day. The changing light made a color show on the water, an ongoing kaleidoscope of glowing teal greens and blues with passing breezes creating silvery highlights.

Later, we had a tropical-rain night sky, the moon mostly obscured but so light we could see the cloud pattern in the dappled gray sky. The night insects were singing, and we had a light trade-wind breeze as Legacy gently rocked from side to side. The whole scene felt wonderful. Sunny days are great, but rainy days can be extra-special. –Cyndi (Below, a brief video of our anchorage during the cloudy afternoon.)

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The Jade Pool (Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 19 – 23, 2013

Between our anchorage in Fiji’s Bay of Islands and the Deep Blue Lake was a very pretty pass . . .

A photo of the south pass between our anchorage and the Deep Blue Lake

But we also had the option of cutting through one of our favorite spots in the area: the Jade Pool. (Just a reminder: I’m making these names up, but here’s a map showing where this stuff is.)

Jade Pool
Legacy's Approximate Anchorage
South Pass

The Jade Pool was only a stone’s throw from our boat, but a group of motus (rock islands) separated it so completely from our anchorage that it seemed like a separate place.

We had to pass between motus to enter, but inside was a large shallow pool with celadon green water. That combined with the vegetation on the islets made it feel like a magical green world. I’d love to have spent more time there just basking in the color green. We did visit a few times and, sunny or cloudy, it was always beautiful.

Below, some photos showing the motus and the jade pool inside of them. (You can click to enlarge and scroll through galleries that follow.)

One time we came here to swim and snorkel. I was happy just swimming, but Rich told me to get my mask and head over towards him. There, he’d found some colorful small fish, exotic and beautiful. We continued on around some of the motus finding baby Picasso triggerfish and lots of damselfish. It seems our Jade Pool was a nursery for a variety of fish species.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the underwater camera, but below are some photos showing the Jade Pool under a cloudy sky and in bright sunlight. –Cyndi

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