NZ-Minerva Reef-Lautoka-Malolo-Namotu-Mamanucas 2014 (M's NL) [pics] (eng)

Mon 14 Jul 2014 23:00

17:36.118S 177:26.377E
June 1 - September 10, 2014
Michael's Newsletter

We spent 6 weeks in New Zealand working on Andromeda. By the time we were done, it was  end of May getting pretty cold.

There was even ice on the dock a few mornings!

We decided it was time to head to Fiji as soon as the wind looked good for this 1200 nautical mile trip.


Back in the water after 6 weeks working on her, all clean and shiny, like new! New rigging, epoxy barrier and paint, many repairs and improvements.

Last finishes waxing the hull to preserve the new paint before leaving Whangarei, New Zealand.


The first few days we had good wind and a fairly comfortable ride, sometimes even running for hours with a spinnaker up.

The air was still fresh so we enjoyed every sunray while it lasted and took off the bimini.
And we even caught a beautiful huge Mahi-Mahi.

But then the wind came up from the wrong direction and the swells built, the sea was very confused so the ride became rather uncomfortable We even had lots of water coming over the cabin top and bimini which is very rare.

We headed for Minerva reef, a sunken atoll, and we were lucky to just make it against the wind and waves.

The wind increased to 30-40 knots with constant rain squalls coming down.

We were very happy to be anchored safely inside.

For 4 days it was even too rough to enjoy the normally superb snorkeling and diving but we were happy to just rest after getting so banged around for the past two days and nights.


Anchored in Minerva - finally the rainy clouds left and we had some sun.

And could do some sowing repair on the ripped bimini top.


We waited for a week for the weather and winds to improve before we set sail for Fiji, still another 800 nautical miles away. Fortunately, the rest of the journey
went pretty smoothly with the exception of a broken alternator and wind generator. Iris emailed ahead and found a machine shop in Lautoka that could fix both
and Lautoka was also the port of entry.


After 14 days at sea it was great to be back at civilization - and having a wonderful market with great fresh produce and cava to stock up. Cava drink is made by grinding up the dried plant and soaking in water.

 Custom demands you give some dried cava to local chieftains as a “Sevu- Sevu” arrival gift. We tried some at the many stands in the market and it put a smile on our face rather quickly. No wonder the Fijians are so welcoming and nice.


Iris finishing up putting back rebuilt alternator, new mast head light right.

We spent a few days checking in, re-provisioning, and having new bearings put in the alternator and wind generator.
And we made friends there with a local cab driver that took us out to a great dance club where the locals rather than tourists hung out. 
We had a fantastic time and danced till the wee hours of the morning.


Our next well recommended destination was Musket Cove only 30nm away.

Musket Cove is comprised of a big resort and marina that is very cruiser friendly. It is located in a very sheltered harbor where many cruisers hang out.

There are usually at least 20 to 30 boats there and most evenings you could find a lively crowd at their very cool yacht bar and a volleyball game going on on the beach. It’s a great place to meet new people and socialize with friends.

When hungry the restaurant was only a short walk down the beach and the food very good.

Musket Cove is also great place for daily walks and swims, good therapy for my back.

Near to Andromeda was a reef we swam along a few times a day. We got to know the coral and its inhabitants very well.

Very sheltered anchorage and a resort with all the amenities one could wish for. To the right the view from the restaurant overlooking the pool and anchorage.

The reef is visible at low tide. At times when the anchorage is crowded we are very close when the wind blows us that way.

Musket Cove marina from the air. A new friend Kurt does areal pics with his drone and a gopro. Really cool.

It got down to the 60’s F a few nights so our sweet bartenders Va and Josie had to bundle up. This is very cold for them. We loved the design

  of the beach bar with all the wood and supports using the whole tree. Bar and tables are giant slabs from huge hard wood tropical trees.


Normally, after several days at Musket Cove we would head out to a little island called "Namotu" only an hour away. Here, the water is crystal clear, the beach has beautiful white sand, and a short dinghy ride away are some of the world’s best surf breaks! Fortunately these include 2 where you don’t have to be one of the world’s best surfers.

I am usually one that goes for it but found out the hard way that a break called "restaurants" was beyond my physical condition and ability.

It was a big day and the waves were barreling well over head high.

About 35 expert surfers were lined up at the takeoff, well inside of me so every wave had somebody on it by the time I was ready to paddle in.

I tried a few times going in a bit to catch some of the smaller waves but inevitably a big set would come through and totally wipe me out every time!
I experienced very long hold downs and the waves break on a shallow reef that also banged me up a bit. And paddling back out through these waves was no easy task especially when you’re exhausted already.

My spirits were further beaten down when one guy yelled at me for being in his way (my duck dive under was not good enough) as he came ripping down inside the barrel. After a bit of a heated discussion he suggested that perhaps I should not be there. I said, possibly, but after coming so far I had to try!

Well, fortunately there were other breaks that were not so crowded and more my speed. Most times Iris could join me on her boogie board and we both got many waves and had a great time. If I limited my sessions to an hour or so my back was usually ok.

The wind came up one day and we wanted to go kite boarding. Namotu is a private island (with a small resort catering mostly to surfers). I asked the owner, a guy from Australia, if it was okay to rig our kites up on the beach. He said OK but for that day only. I think it would have been better if Iris went over in her bikini and asked?

When the surf was good a few other boats would come out to Namotu for the day but normally returned at night. Depending on the tide and wind the anchorage could become very uncomfortable. Catamarans are more  stable though at times, it could be a bit bumpy, but tolerable on Andromeda.

Namotu Island, Tavarua and Viti Levu in the backgroung.


Below: Big day at Cloudbreak, towed in by jet ski.

For the world best big wave surfers! Amazing pic.

Restaurants on a fairly big day was too much for me. Perhaps next time when I am in better condition and have practiced for a week or 2.

In good company with Google founder’s super yachts. They had all the toys -and used them! Sea plane and helicopter coming and going all the time.

With new guests. Shame we were not on the list for dinner at least.


Iris getting a good one on her boogie board at Swimming Pools.

Good day at Namotu Left - got lots of rides.


Musket Cove also had a good place for kite surfing.
A big sandbar was exposed at medium to low tide a short ride away.

Iris had many wonderful sessions and was able to improve her skills. Depending on my back my sessions tended to be very short. I anchored Andromeda close by so I could relax in the hammock reading and also keep an eye on Iris. We usually had a few other kiters for company but it was never too crowded.

We fell into a comfortable routine spending time between Musket Cove and Namotu: socializing, surfing, swimming, kiting, hiking, and playing volleyball etc.

Fiji has many lovely island groups and destinations we wanted to explore but after all the work on the boat and the long trip from NZ, (my back being the worse from ware), we both had no motivation to go anywhere soon.

Sand bar very popular at low tide

Comfortable spot to watch all

Iris very relaxed and kiting well.

Michael out for a short spin about to jump jibe.


Sailing across the Pacific we didn’t meet many other couples we had a lot in common, or felt a bond for.

Here we met some people we really enjoyed spending time with and hopefully will see again.

In fact, we will see one of them very soon, Blanka, a lovely czech girl. After kiting one day Iris gave a fellow kite boarder a ride back to

SV Tevake, the boat he was staying at
He invited us to come back for drinks later that evening and we met all the friendly crew members including Blanka. We all got along well and became friends.

Small world, Blanka works in Barcelona managing a hotel and some apartments. We are booked to Barcelona end of October and she recently arranged a nice apartment for us to stay in.

Michael is lucky tonight with 3 blonds for company!

Good friends from SV Skye, Arjan and Maia with new baby Isabella. They said I was the only other one she would let hold her

In the Tuamotus we became friends and partied with 2 Mexican brothers, Jorge and Xavier, and their family/crew. (Each has their own boat.)

We ran into them again in Port Denerau. Happy reunion!

Sunday was BBQ night at the yacht club island bar. You pick your own meat or fish, grill it yourself and choose side dishes from the buffet. Always draws a goo croud.


We had been smelling diesel for a few weeks and discovered a small leak in or around our 600 liter stainless steel fuel tank. After exhausting searches and tests too numerous to detail we narrowed it down to a small crack in one of the bottom corners that you cannot see (or reach) because the tank is fiber glassed in at the bottom.

It probably happened in the very rough seas coming from New Zealand.

Through the inspection hatch we could access 2 of the three compartments in the tank.

We cleaned the bottom, thoroughly ground the edges down and then filled the corners with epoxy putty and then covered this with liquid epoxy.

After this repair I used a kite pump to run a pressure test and found that the leak was coming from the third inaccessible apartment!


After so much work Iris and I were pretty distraught as the repair now became extremely difficult if not impossible. The boat is basically built around the tank so there’s no way to get it out, or access parts of it, without cutting huge holes in the bulkheads or deck.

I finally came up with the idea of reaching in through the access port to cut a hole in the wall that separated the second and third chamber. Even with my long arms I could just reach that wall with the cutting blade on my angle grinder.

Unless you’ve tried something like that, it it’s impossible to describe how hard it is to cut a nice whole through 2mm stainless steel at arm’s length, and not go through the side of the tank by mistake! I built a support to rest my wrist upon which helped greatly. I just managed the job after much time and seven broken blades.

Now the hard part - if we can just reach the hole in the wall of the third compartment how do we repair it?

Thank goodness Iris could just get her shoulder and head through the inspection port so she was able to reach in and very patiently put the epoxy putty on the end of a stick and mold it into place.

She worked like this for many hours and her body suffered from the contortions. Great Iris has such determination!

We both held our breaths as I ran another pressure test.

And thank God it worked!

Pumping out the 200l gasoline.

Iris cleaning all the goo and sludge out. Nasty job.


We celebrated our success with some bubbly that evening! This whole ordeal ran over three weeks. We were soo happy to be able to fix this seemingly impossible problem!
I do find great satisfaction in being able to use my ingenuity to fix “MacGyver” things, sometimes with only limited materials and tools available.

Of course we hadn't planned in such a long repair time and at the end of it we realized time was becoming short before we flew to Germany and if we wanted to see
some of the other islands, we better get going. The wind forecasts looked good so we decided to cruise around for a couple of weeks.


Very close to our location at Malolo Island is the Mamanuca Group so we headed there. These islands are located within the barrier reef so the sailing was very tranquil.


We spent a very enjoyable week hopping around to various locations each with its own personality. One was where they filmed the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. It was also very memorable because while we were out kite boarding Andromeda dragged anchor and started drifting away pretty quickly in the 25nots! Fortunately, there was nothing close

by for her to hit so we hopped in the dingy and retrieved her without too much worry.

With so many islands so close together, very friendly people, no worries about crime, ideal climate, crystal clear water and great waves, Fiji truly is a cruiser's paradise!

The only thing lacking was fish to catch or spear for dinner. All the reefs we snorkeled on had been almost completely fished and spear-finished out, and even the smaller, but still edible fish, took off in a hurry the moment we were in sight!



We had a very enjoyable and relaxing week and would have liked to continue on to the Yasawa Group but the forecast looked bad for returning so we started our trip back.