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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday 29th May 2010

We have decided to leave Samoa tomorrow, headed for Suva in Fiji. It is Independence Day in Samoa on Tuesday and while it would be interesting to see the celebrations everything will be closed from this afternoon until Wednesday morning. We don’t have the time to wait here for another 3 or 4 days so we cleared customs yesterday (all of the Government offices are closed on the weekend) which gives us 48 hours to leave.

Another boat arrived today and as luck would have it, it was Richard, who we met in Hawaii. He had a friend who joined him on the leg from Honolulu to Palmyra Atoll and then through to Samoa, which would have been wonderful after doing the California to Hawaii leg single handed. It was great to see him – we thought that we had missed him but would perhaps catch him in Fiji so this was a nice surprise. We enjoyed catching up and sharing stories over a few drinks. He’ll stay in Samoa for a few days and then continue on single handed to Suva, where we may well see him again.

We will have our tracker on but after our last effort we're not expecting it to work... The trip to Suva is only about 650 miles so we should arrive in about 5 or 6 days (wind dependant of course - fingers crossed for no doldrums!). We will cross the date line on this leg so will finally be on the same day as Australia - getting closer and closer to home!

Thursday 27th May 2010

We hired a car today to go to Robert Louis Stevenson’s house and to explore the island a bit. An interesting experience as Western Samoa has only recently started driving on the left side of the road, so we were driving on the left, in a left-hand-drive vehicle, with the arrows on the road still pointing the old (and therefore wrong) direction! That made for a few interesting moments!

Robert Louis Stevenson’s house was great – a really nice place, and we could understand why he chose to come here and to build and live in such a nice place when he was sick and dying. Some say it was asthma, some say TB; I think the latter was true. He was buried on top of the mountain next to his house. Quite a trek and not one to do in thongs and without a supply of water so unfortunately we didn’t go up there, but the house was good to see and the grounds were also pretty speccy.
Note the fireplace - the first in Samoa! But never lit due to the heat, and also due to the fact that there was no chimney. It was purely for decoration, to make RLS and his guests feel at home.

RLS study

Dining / Ballroom

Perfect spot for a quiet gin and tonic on a hot day...

Statue symbolising the end of cannibalism in Samoa!

Every day, two people were selected for the honour of being the Chief's dinner.
One day the Chief's son decided he felt sorry for two of the men and set them free, binding himself in their place to be presented to the Chief.
On seeing his son (who was still alive at this stage) the Chief decided to end cannibalism and they started feasting on fish instead.

We continued our drive through to the other side of the island. A pretty drive on very skinny roads – so skinny that when a truck came past us in the opposite direction too fast we didn’t have anywhere to go and it swiped the passenger side mirror. What a fright! Luckily they pulled over and we got their details, although the passenger was madly beeping the horn and telling the driver to get back in the car. We always pay extra to get full cover on our rental vehicles and this was no exception, however on return to the rental place we discovered that they had never heard of paying extra to drop the excess so, if we were to go through insurance, it would cost us 3000tala (around $1500 AUD)! Hang on, we said – it wasn’t our fault so won’t the other driver pay? Oh absolutely, but here in Samoa we pay the bill and then go and visit the other driver who will apparently pay us back. And if they don’t cooperate we take a Police officer with us. What a palaver! It turned out, however, that a brand new mirror was only about $150 AUD so we paid that and should be able to claim it back on our personal travel insurance. We didn’t like our chances of tracking down this other driver ( we had a phone number and rego plate) let alone getting the money from her, particularly as her husband was so keen for her to leave the scene of the accident and just drive off.

After that bit of excitement we continued around the island passing through lots of little villages. It seems that they are made up of a group of houses and a couple of communal open-air buildings, plus a small shop of sorts, and not much else. It also appeared that there were a lot of people having a snooze in these communal buildings and not a lot else was going on... We also noticed that the houses had graves in their front yard, most complete with massive tombstones and some with shelter structures built over them and masses of flowers covering them. Some were enormous, and some houses had 3 or 4 of them. Rather than bury family members in the local cemetery, most locals opt to bury them in their front yard. It’s never dull to see how people in other cultures live!

Tuesday 25th May 2010

An important lesson learnt today – when a local electrician comes to help with something on the boat, say no... Ok, so obviously that can’t be a blanket statement and of course when we ask about getting shore power at the marina and a local electrician is sent, there’s an element of trust. Big mistake in this case.

Our boat, being a US boat, runs on 110 volt power when plugged in to a marina and also has an inverter that charges the batteries with the shore power rather than having to run the engine which is a noisy, smelly experience and also uses up diesel. This gives us the power for everything at sea from the water pressure and water heater to more important things such as the auto helm, chart plotter and GPS. We only had a shore power cable for US 110 volts but Samoa is 240 volts, so the electrician was going to wire us into the shore power so we could charge our batteries without having to run the engine – an acceptable solution and not uncommon. We possibly should have been alerted when the electrician zapped himself, but unfortunately we weren’t and when he said he was done our switchboard lights were flashing red and the ‘reverse polarity’ light was on. Was he sure he had done it right? Because by the looks of that we thought he had wired it up incorrectly. He didn’t know what those lights meant. Did we want him to do something else? Yes we wanted him to fix it! Did he – the electrician of the group – think that perhaps he had reversed the wires? He said he didn’t know - he doesn’t know anything much about the American system and had no idea which was the live wire. So it seems that he guessed, and guessed wrong... What did we want him to do? We suggested that it would have been a bloody good start to let us know that he didn’t know what he was doing in the first place, and that perhaps he could just disconnect the whole thing??!

It ended up that our inverter was blown which meant that the batteries would not be charged through it when we ran the engine, and our batteries went flat to the point where we couldn’t even start the engine. Not a situation we want in the middle of a passage, needing (and wanting!!) our auto helm, navigation lights and GPS system! By some stroke of luck, however, Stu and Max found a New Zealand electrician who managed to fix the system enough that we can get to Suva where we will have to buy a new inverter. Ah yes, another boat-related cost. Hooray. But I suppose at least we can get to Suva... I think next time we’ll forgo the luxury of shore power and just charge with the engine in the marina!

Quote of the day: What does ‘boat’ stand for? Break Out Another Thousand. How apt...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday 26th May 2010

We arrived at the Samoa marina at about 9:00am on Sunday (23rd) and the first thing we saw was the mast of Stu's parents boat Ariel - what a welcoming sight! Stu called out 'Ariel', and two minutes later Stu's parents were running over to help us tie Pelon up in her marina berth.

We have now had three days of much missed family time, but the best part is that Stu and Max can go off and do their boat stuff while Bronwen and I can talk about everything EXCEPT boats - bliss!!

We've had a fair amount of rain here so far, although I suppose that's to be expected as the dry season has only just started. It is really hot here (which I love, particularly now that I'm used to having a constant coating of sweat!!) but so good to be back on land and in yet another country that we're looking forward to exploring.

We have also heard rumours that there's a shop here that sells Vegemite...

Friday 21st May 2010

After a rough night last night the wind is back, however we've only just seen the last of the drenching rain (9:00am) and there is clear, blue sky on the horizon heading our way.

We reefed in teh jib yesterday evening as we saw a squall coming and decided to keep it reefed overnight.  This turned out to be a good decision as, while we still had periods of calm, we copped a number of squalls.

On one watch I saw a flash out the corner of my eye and, after peering in that direction for a minute, I saw it again - lightening! It was quite a distance away and heading away from us however at about 4:00am we got our turn. I love thunderstorms at home and in the past have complained that Hobart storms don't tend to put on a good show. This one, with its low grumbles of thunder and huge amounts of lightening (sheet and fork) would have been fantastic to watch - from the safety of a house...Sitting in the middle of the ocean with a 60 foot metal mast being the tallest thing for miles and miles was not the most pleasant situation to be in. I was very thankful when it all blew over at about 7am. Our first, and hopefully last, encounter with lightening on this trip. Bring on the big thunderstorms, but only once we've finished this trip and we're safely back on land!

The weather last night has made the sea quite lumpy and the movement of the boat is pretty uncomfortable, but at least we've got wind again and are moving quickly towards Samoa.

Thursday 20th May 2010

The bird was in the same place all night when we went up for night watches, and this morning it seemed in no hurry to move on. We decided it was overstaying its welcome for two reasons – first when it took up post between the winch and the wheel and would wave its 15cm beak menacingly when we tried to use either; and secondly when we saw all the bird poo – how can one bird make so much mess??!! Stu once again shooed it away, much to the birds disgust, and after much squarking from both parties it took off. Not one to give up easily it looped around and came back straight away, but after more shooing it took its cue and flew away. I have to say, it was quite nice to have someone else to talk to but I can only handle the stench of one boat-mate!


Still no wind… At least yesterday we had a decent current pushing us along, but today we’re moving really slowly and are being driven insane by the constant creaking as the sails move around trying to find a constant breeze.

We have been watching a lot of dvd’s but have to watch the battery power on the boat because, not being able to get diesel on Fanning Island (or at least not diesel that we knew was clean) we have to watch what we use. It’s nice to take a break from the monotony of this leg of the trip though and watch someone else’s story for a couple of hours each day.

I have tried to limit myself to one book a day, but even with that rule I’m just finishing my last and will be breaking in to Stu’s sailing books by tonight.

Wednesday 19th May 2010


The wind has died out and we’re lucky to be travelling at 2-3 knots. And it’s still very hot; probably exacerbated by the lack of wind that normally sends some cool air down the hatches. As it is now, though, there’s little respite from the heat apart from our salt water ‘baths’ which are great at the time but leave a coating of salt on the skin which, when dry, feels like you’ve been sweating anyway.

Sweating! The drenching in sea water (which is lukewarm!!) is lovely to wash off the sweat and grime of the day but within half an hour we’re once again dripping in sweat. We’re drinking about 3 or 4 – or more - litres of water a day each and I swear it just runs straight through our bodies and out our pores. Oh, for a fresh water shower and a loofah to scrub off all the grime for that super clean feeling that our salt water washes don’t fully provide.


A big sea bird was circling our boat this afternoon, getting closer and closer before being brave enough to try to land on the back of the boat. A couple of attempts, but he changed his mind at the last minute. Then all of a sudden ‘thump’ – a very ungraceful landing right in the middle of the cockpit between Stu and I. The bird sat up, looked a little dazed but seemed quite relaxed being so close to us. So relaxed, in fact, that it decided Stu’s knee looked far more comfortable to sit on than where it was, so over it hopped much to my amusement and Stu’s shock. Turns out that big birds have big claws for gripping so that little novelty didn’t last for long, however it wasn’t at all happy with Stu shooing it off and gave him a good couple of squarks right in his face before staggering to the edge of the boat add falling off.

Two minutes later, take 2, although this time it landed on the lifelines and spent the next 10 minutes figuring out how to balance on a thin flexible railing on a moving boat, before deciding that it would make more sense to sit on a flat bit.

It spent the next couple of hours preening, not at all caring that we were only a foot away. It didn’t much care for the salmon we offered (not that we expected it to, but boredom makes us try anything for amusement!!)

Saturday 15th May 2010

We crossed the equator today at about 4:00pm, toasting Neptune with a mouthful of gin (me) and scotch (Stu) and splashing Neptune’s share over the side.

GPS position S00°00’00

Gin for Neptune

Damn hot on the equator - not much call for anything other than bathers

The weather is incredibly hot, which I think is great but Stu thinks is too much. I suppose if it were a few degrees cooler it would be better – as it is we can’t sit up on deck for too long or we’ll burn to a crisp (even though we slather ourselves in 30+) and the deck is so hot that to stand on it even for a few seconds burns the soles of our feet to the point where they feel like they are melting off. But it’s not raining and it’s not stormy, so I’m not complaining!

As the sun went down and the stars appeared, it was nice to see the stars of the Southern Cross dominating the sky again. Crossing in to the southern hemisphere really makes me feel like we’re so much closer to home and, while I don’t want to wish away the rest of our holiday, that’s a really nice feeling.

Thursday 13th May 2010

Travis and Bruce (Sugar Daddy) came over to help us finish off the sail and rigging repairs. Who would have thought that in such an out-of-the-way place we would find a sewing machine and a rigger?! Someone is definitely on our side…! As with all things boat related it took a little longer than I thought it would, but soon enough we were on our way again. While I had a bad gut feeling about leaving last time (perhaps I should listen to that more often!!) we’re feeling really good about leaving today. Still a bit sad to be leaving because we’ve met some wonderful people, but hopefully we’ll get the chance to meet up with some of them again and no doubt there will be more people to meet at our next port. Also, with us saying longer at Fanning that we’d originally planned it might make it easier for Richard (who we met in Honolulu) to catch up with us and meet us in Samoa or Fiji. Unfortunately we’re now quite behind schedule to meet Stu’s parents in Samoa but we’re hoping that they are still there when we arrive – we’re both a little bit homesick (although we only notice it on passages!) and we’re really looking forward to spending some time with family.

Wednesday 12th May 2010

We got back to the entrance to Fanning Island at about 1:00 am but couldn’t risk entering at night due to the reefs and a lack of lights on the island so we drifted until light, keeping watches.

As soon as we got in Mike came over in the dinghy to see if we were ok, and as soon as we had anchored back in our old spot people were on the VHF asking what had happened and offering assistance - once again, demonstrating the cruising community spirit! By 10:30 we had about 8 people on deck helping to unwrap the sail and drop it, and as luck would have it Travis, from Sugar Daddy, is trained as a rigger and to Stu’s delight he offered to go up the mast. He was up that mast in 30 seconds flat – obviously a spider monkey in a previous life… Travis found the problem – the jib halyard had wrapped itself up somehow which caused it to jam but also bent the foil which frayed the halyard almost all the way through.

Pieces of the foil

Looks like a potential disaster was avoided… Travis very generously offered to fix things for us – splicing rope, filing the damaged foil and helping us to raise the sail.

In another stroke of luck, Mike and Kirsten had a sailmaker’s sewing machine on board and Mike brought it over for us to fix our torn sail. He then offered to sew it for us, knowing the intricacies of the machine, and after a couple of false starts the sail repair was done.

Stu is helping Mike, although possibly in the same way that my brother 'helped' Dad make models when he was young - Dad let him hold the glue :)

Mike and Kirsten also invited us to their boat (Kia Kaha) for lunch where we were treated to fish followed by coconut pancakes. They have been super generous to us and have fed us a couple of times, to our great appreciation.

Tuesday 11th May 2010

We actually managed to leave today!

I felt a bit emotional about leaving. This has been my favourite place so far, in no small part due to the people we have met and being able to experience the community of people from all walks of life. We would also have loved to stay a bit longer to get to know the place more, but as I’ve said before we’ve got that ever-ticking clock counting down the weeks until we have to be back at work (and the ever-dwindling bank balance telling us we can’t put work off any longer!). It was very easy to get used to life with no phones, no internet, no TV – living simply, catching fish for food (mostly thanks to Mike, but had we stayed longer we would have fished more ourselves). It was very relaxing.

About 40 miles out we hit a squall. This is nothing new, and they are quite common in this part of the world due to the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergance Zone), which is the area encircling the earth near the equator where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together. Squalls can be nasty but usually only last for 10 or 20 minutes – as Stu puts it they aren’t dangerous but they will find weaknesses on the boat. During the day they are easy to spot on the horizon but obviously at night they come with little warning and it’s usually all hands on deck to reef the sails quickly.

This squall hit around dusk and it wasn’t bigger or wilder than any others we’ve seen, however this time our furler jammed as we were reefing the jib and we were stuck with our sail half way, not able to set it or furl it. Luckily in this case we had managed to furl it enough to ride out the squall reasonably comfortably and it was over quickly, however now we were in the precarious position of not being able to do anything with our jib – frustrating in light wind when we would want to let more out and dangerous in heavy weather when we would want to furl it. We couldn’t drop the sail as it was, and there is no way that I would be able to hoist Stu up the mast to do anything. Also, the foot of the sail had torn leaving it weakened and not as reliable as we’d want. Stu managed to roughly wrap the sail by hand and we made the decision to go back to Fanning.

Monday May 10th 2010

The plan was to leave early today, however last night was very rough and Stu was up and down all night checking the anchor to make sure we weren’t dragging. Neither of us slept well. It was rough most of the day too, with no one leaving their boats as it was too rough for dinghies but also no one wanted to be on shore if their anchor started to drag. We had a lazy day reading and watching dvd’s, and at about 4:00 when the weather calmed down Mike and Kirsten delivered some steaks from the massive wahoo that Mike had caught yesterday. Delicious!

Again, we decided to delay our departure until tomorrow.

Sunday 9th May 2010

After having our passports stamped and getting our clearance papers, we were talking again to the ‘tourism’ lady we had spoken to on our arrival. She asked if we had any dvd’s that we didn’t want anymore so we headed back to the boat to get a few for her. In return she said we could choose a stamp from the collection she had on the table, which was pretty cool – I wouldn’t think that many people would have a stamp from Kiribati. But no, she didn’t mean one stamp, she meant one collection of stamps! We said no at first, as some of the stamps were $10 and $15, but she insisted. Then we offered to buy them, but still she wouldn’t hear of it and so we were lucky enough to walk away with a collection of Kiribati stamps!

We got back to the boat and were greeted with an almighty stink from the holding tank. We couldn’t face 10 days of sailing with that stench so Stu decided to have one last crack at fixing the macerator pump problem. As much as we tried to avoid it eventually we had to give in and the result was a bilge filled with waste and a boat that reeked to high heaven. We did find the problem though – the impellor in the macerator pump is broken, which we should hopefully be able to fix in Samoa – and after a fair amount of bilge pumping, holding tank cleaner and disinfectant we had a clean bilge and a boat that no longer stank. Luckily, because Phillip and Laurence came over an hour later to say goodbye.

We decided to delay our departure until tomorrow as it was now about 4:00pm and we like to have at least half a day of sunlight to get ourselves back in the routine and (for me, anyway) to psych ourselves up for night watches and broken sleep.

Saturday 8th May 2010

We spent most of today preparing the boat for leaving tomorrow, however of course there was still time for fun. Mike and Kirsten invited us to go for a drift snorkel where we dinghy out through the channel then (towing the dinghy with a rope around Mike’s leg) ride the incoming tide and current back to the boats. There wasn’t a large number of fish but there was more variety than what Stu and I saw scuba diving in Waikiki. The water here is so, so clear, and even without seeing masses of fish it was a great way to fill in an hour and cooled us all down nicely too.

Mike, Kirsten and Ocean came over for goodbye drinks. They seem to be seriously considering coming to Hobart, which would be great!

The Many Moods of Ocean

I'm happy

I'm thinking of doing something evil
(complete with one raised eyebrow)

I'm very serious and important and look down my nose at you

I've had enough

Kirsten brought over some books to swap – my lifesaver, as I have been re-reading the books I brought and had swapped at the book swaps at Hilo and Honolulu. Unfortunately the book swap stands had very little in the way of quality reading, full of sailing-related stories (Stu got ‘Rescue in the Pacific’; and this after reading some cruising disaster book before we left. Not what I want to fill my brain with while we’re bobbing away out here!!) and trashy romances *shudder*. However, desperate times called for desperate measures, but it meant that poor Kirstin got the dud deal in our book swap. (If you’re reading this – sorry!!).

Friday 7th May 2010

Mike invited Stu out fishing today so Kirsten, Ocean and I went for a walk on the island with Kandis, another cruiser. She and her husband are here from Hawaii for a few weeks for a surfing holiday, but in the past they circumnavigated with their two sons on their trimaran.

Everyone says hello and waves; especially the kids, some of whom would bellow “hello” and wave until we are out of sight. They are very cute although it’s a bit sad seeing some of them with their severely distended bellies, needing worming or better nutrition or something (probably both!). Apparently the supply ship isn’t highly reliable and staples like rice and flour had run out months ago, so the locals were living on a diet of fish and coconut, with the odd papaya thrown in while they lasted.

Stu and Mike were successful on their fishing trip (although I think Mike stays out there until he catches something). They were back after about an hour having caught a Rainbow Runner and a Giant Trevally. (photo to come)
Stu hadn’t been for a wander around the island yet so we went over to have a look at the remains of the cruise ship days. We had been told in Hilo that a cruise ship went to Fanning Island twice a week so we had been surprised that we hadn’t seen it on our passage. A foreign cruise ship can’t go from a U.S. port to a U.S. port so they would detour to Fanning to avoid a fine. The cruise company had pumped millions of dollars in to Fanning Island, building bars and restaurants, supplying outriggers, bikes and kayaks for hire, helping to fund the school and generally making the place a tourist haven for the cruise ship passengers. Of course this provided jobs for the locals, provided income and also provided some medical assistance and the like. Now that we’re here we’ve found out that the cruise company decided it was cheaper to just pay the fine and they stopped coming about 2 years ago, leaving everything on the island and, after giving the locals a taste of tourism, income and assistance, basically just dumped them. The buildings they left still have names on them – like ‘The Sand Bar’ – and big pizza ovens, cooktops and iceboxes are still there and in good condition but unable to be used because of the power required to use them.


Pizza anyone?

Outrigger canoes
(Pelon in background)

The locals make good use of the bikes and outriggers but maintenance is very minimal (or non-existent) and lots of things are in a state of disrepair. Gunther, who has been living on his boat here for about 6 months, helps a lot with maintenance of the few scooters and flatbed trucks however apparently he is thinking about moving on in the next week or two so who knows how well things will continue to run once he’s gone.

Dinner on Sugar Daddy (the Gun Boat) provided a great night. Amazingly even with 20 people on board it didn’t feel at all crowded! The highlight of the night was definitely Kirsten’s fish curry –absolutely delicious and so good to get such a flavor burst after days of eating the boring stuff we’ve got left. I’m also finding that the spices I bought in the U.S. are very bland. Even a good couple of heaped teaspoons of chilli powder added to a dish can’t be tasted!

We had a great night chatting to everyone, discussing where we’d been and where we were heading next. Unlike us, everyone else has either an indefinite amount of time or months and months to go before they have to get home. We’re starting to count in weeks now and while I initially thought that 6 months would be plenty of time, now that we’ve only got about 11 weeks to go I’m keen to just keep going. Fanning Island in particular has sparked this new enthusiasm as it’s our first ‘real’ cruising experience I guess, where we are in an anchorage with a few other boats, all of whom are so friendly and helpful, and just good fun. It’s also very inspiring to hear other people’s experiences, like Mike and Kirsten who spent a lot of time in the US, Canada and Mexico before starting sailing and who suddenly had to manage cruising with a baby; the Sugar Daddy owners and crew who have travelled 100,000 miles together in three years on a few different boats (that’s more than three circumnavigations!!!); Phillip who retired and decided to cruise indefinitely, doing some legs single-handed and some with crew he finds on the way (currently sailing with Laurence who is taking 12 months leave from work); Michael and Kandis who have circumnavigated with their kids and are now just taking little breaks; and Rob and his wife Louanne who are fulfilling a retirement dream and have been joined by his son and his son’s girlfriend for a few months. Everyone else has rather fluid plans while we’re got a strict deadline and are struggling to create an itinerary that will get us home in time when there’s so much we still want to do and see! A few boats are thinking about coming to Hobart – we’re really hoping that they do.

Initially we thought that two days would be plenty at Fanning Island but now that we’re here we really don’t want to leave, however we have the constant ticking of the countdown clock in our heads almost to the point where even in this tropical paradise we can’t really fully relax.

Thursday 6th May 2010

More. Rain.

It’s still not unpleasant, to be honest, but we have all of our washing hanging up outside. Granted, it’s getting a good fresh water rinse, but I think a 2 day rinse is plenty and we’d like to leave with things as dry as possibly (at this rate I guess “as dry as possible” means “soaking wet”…!).

Kirsten came over this morning with a bunch of bananas for us – yum! That may not seem too exciting, but we had hoped to restock with some fresh food while we were here however there is nothing available! Apparently the locals live on a diet of fish, rice, coconut and a few papaya and bananas, with staples delivered every 3 months on a supply boat. When we asked where she got them, she replied ‘it’s a secret’. Who cares – we have some more fresh fruit! Cruisers are super generous wherever we have been so far – there’s a real adventurous spirit and everyone wants to get to know everyone, plus I guess we all know how we miss certain things on a passage, so can appreciate what the offer of a few bananas means.

We headed over to the village again today to see Immigration and spotted a shop hiding in an inconspicuous place (well, we assumed it was a shop due to the VB logo painted on the wall… and we were right!) Our enthusiasm was short lived, however, when we saw what little they had available to buy – tinned food (of which we already have more than enough), cordial (at $12 for a 300ml bottle they can keep it!!), soy sauce, crackers and Weet-Bix. In our excitement at seeing something familiar we bought a box of Weet-Bix, plus a packet of crackers (like Sao’s) and a cake mix (a great treat halfway through a long passage!). Three items. $22. Interesting enough, it was $22 whether we paid in US dollars or Australian dollars (so of course we paid in AUD, convincing ourselves that this somehow made it a bargain…). I guess it supports the community though, and we were able to improve our pantry ever so slightly (trust me – on a passage food becomes the highlight of the day!!). Stu hoped for some more beer, but they had sold out (already – and the supply boat was only in a few days ago!)


When we were in Honolulu there was a 60 foot Gun Boat catamaran in the marina - an ideal combination of luxury, comfort and performance (

It is owned by a lovely couple and crewed by a young skipper and his wife who does the cooking and cleaning. Not a bad way to earn a living! We were surprised to see it here when we arrived, and to our delight the owner paddled over this morning to invite us (along with everyone else in the anchorage) to a ‘pot-luck’ dinner tomorrow night (‘pot-luck‘ meaning everyone bring some food to share, and a bottle of something .) Of course we accepted – and then reality kicked in. We are down to our tinned food (apart from some fresh fruit) and pantry staples, so what on earth do we cook?? It’s looking like a pasta dish. Or a rice dish. Or a tin of beefaroni. Spam? The Gun Boat will no doubt have fully stocked fridges and freezers (they are cooking a meat dish, much to Stu’s utter delight), and numerous options. I just hope our meager offering goes down ok with everyone! I also hope that not everyone brings pasta…!! Also – “bring a bottle” – of what?? We have no wine and only 4 cans of beer. We’re doubting a bottle of soda water would be acceptable… Looks like we’ll have to bring out the big guns and head over with our bottle of gin and some tonic water. Although, being on alcohol rations, we may have to resort to decanting some gin in to another container to keep on our boat so we don’t drink the remainder of our ever-shrinking supply – we’ve still got a way to go!

Wednesday 5th May 2010

It rained last night. My how it rained!

(excuse the colour of the water – there was soap in the glass!)

And the rain continued on and off through the day.

It’s still hot though so it’s not unpleasant to get absolutely drenched, and we were swimming off the back of the boat anyway (add shampoo and soap and that’s our bathing taken care off while we’re here!).

We had planned to leave tomorrow morning but unfortunately we discovered a few problems. First, when I was in the ‘pantry’ getting something out I could hear a hissing sound coming from the engine bay. Turns out it was the sound of water spraying out of the hot water cylinder because a valve had cracked…

A few possible scenarios:

1. We fix it easily and all is wonderful again (highly unlikely, particularly as there are no facilities at all here that could possibly help us or provide parts)

2. We patch it up to stop the water leaking out (which may also mean we won’t have hot water until we can get it fixed)

3. We patch it up and can’t run the engine because it’s somehow buggered up the cooling system on the engine (a big problem because we need to run the engine to charge the batteries)

Thankfully number 2 proved to be the result. Not ideal, but it will definitely get us to Samoa and hopefully we’ll be able to deal with it a bit better, and a bit more permanently, there.

Secondly, upon trying to pump out our toilet holding tank we discovered that in fact nothing was pumping out because the macerator pump seems to be blocked… This has proved to be a rather delicate problem, as after numerous attempts to unblock the pump somehow from the outside we are now faced with the gross reality that we will need to undo hoses to unblock anything. Not having a pump out station here on Fanning Island means that undoing anything will result in about 50 litres of poo flooding in to the bilge…. Needless to say that isn’t even remotely an option! This decision was reinforced when the pressure in the holding tank caused to toilet to backfill, creating an almighty pong (I’m tipping it would beat Ocean’s nappies hands down in the stench stakes!!) and requiring Stu to bail it out with an empty juice carton (pumping it back in to the holding tank would be pointless as obviously it was already over full!). If those few litres of poo-water caused such a stench on the boat, we would surely die a slow, gagging death if we were to release 50 litres. Again, not an option. Ever.

A few other little problems have eventuated too – the navigation lights on the bow don’t work but we can’t find the source of that, and the furling line for the jib needs to be replaced.

So, the end result of all of that is that we will probably be here until Saturday, and we will have to use a bucket for a loo. Nice…

On a more positive note we were talking to another cruiser, Phillip, who has been cruising for about 4 years (all these lucky people with so much time, and we’re due back at work in less than 3 months!!) and he offered to give us rain water to fill our tanks. There is water available here but it would require boiling before consumption so we don’t want to put it in our water tanks. Phillip has a great water catchment set-up on his boat and due to all the rain (it’s still pouring) he has more than he needs. While we have enough more than enough bottled water alone to get us to Samoa easily, it’s always nice to leave a port with full tanks. We were able to put around 120 litres in our tanks and he’s happy for us to get more as we need it – there’s no shortage of rainwater here, and his containers fill in just a few hours. We also spent a nice couple of hours having a few drinks on board his boat.

Tuesday 4th May 2010

We arrived at Fanning Island at about 9:00 this morning after 8 days of hot, hot, HOT weather on our passage from Honolulu. The temperature would have been in the high 30’s easily, cooling (“cooling”…) to high 20’s/low 30’s overnight.

Fanning Island is a coral atoll and is part of the Line Islands in Kiribati. There is one entrance in to the atoll for boats which is through a channel between two breaking reefs.

Entrance to Fanning Island (from inside the atoll)
Note the waves breaking on the reef just outside.

We had read that the winds are a steady 10 knots with one or 2 days a year where it blows up to 40 knots. No points for guessing what we had… Approaching the island we considered whether the entrance would be too dangerous in the wind, particularly as our electronic charts lacked detail. In the US our charts provided very detailed information on water depth, current, tides, lights, landmarks, etc however the chart for Fanning Island had no such luxuries. We did have a paper chart however which told us that the water was deep enough, but we also had a Pilot guide which told us that the current could run at 7 knots. The other option was to continue onto Samoa – another 8 to 10 days away – so we made the call to try for Fanning. As it turned out the channel was easy to see because it was the dark blue strip of water between the amazingly brilliant aquamarine of the shallow water on either side.

We were surprised to see about 6 other boats anchored in the bay - in such an out of the way place we had wondered whether we might be the only boat. We anchored in 16 feet of beautiful teal water and were immediately greeted by a couple from New Zealand who have been cruising for 3 years. Their cruising life probably took an interesting turn about a year ago when their little boy – Ocean – was born. I know a lot of people do it, but I can’t imagine doing this trip with a baby. Kirsten did mention that dealing with nappies was a bit of a challenge. It seems to be part of cruising life to put up with a higher odour level than normal, but that’s just asking for trouble…

We waited for a few hours for Customs to come over and clear us in before realizing that things are a bit more relaxed here so we headed over to the village to check in. The ‘Government Offices’ looked like school rooms, each with a hand written sign on the outside and a desk and chair inside. We’re not sure how accurate the signs are as when the Customs office was closed we went to the Police office to ask about it and were greeted by a lovely lady who seemed to manage the touristy side of things, showing us the new stamps and postcards which had just arrived on the supply boat.

It really is quite untouched by Western civilization here – no electricity, no communication apart from an old Coden SSB radio (in questionable working order…) and VHF (which is only good for 100 miles at most, if it's a powerful one), no radios, no phones – nothing. On the other hand, there are hints of ‘tainting’ by Western society (which is inevitable) particularly in the amount of rubbish around the place, mostly plastic which they apparently throw in to the lagoon because it’s ‘good for the lagoon’. Everyone is really friendly and we’ve chatted to a few people. English is taught at the school but I don’t know that a lot of the residents speak it very well apart from the officials.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spot Tracker - Current Position just East of Samoa

Hello everyone,

It is Rich here (Stu's brother). Just a quick message to say that the Spot Tracker is working occasionally again. The good news is, that as of about eleven hours ago, they were slightly East of Samoa (the next destination) and were on course. It is hard to work out how many days, until they arrive as the Spot Tracker has only given one position and then stopped again. I am guessing they have about four days to go and we will be able to get a better idea when the next position is received.

As Kym and Stu mentioned in the blog prior to leaving, they expected a large black spot to exist in the middle of the Pacific and they were right! As you would have noticed, the Spot Tracker cut out about six days out of Hawaii, this was due to the Satellite coverage or lack there of.

I have already been contact with Mum and Dad who arrived in Samoa earlier in the week and they have set up some wifi E-mail, so we should hear from Kym and Stu as soon as they arrive.