Tag Archives: fiji

Passage: Dodging a Cyclone

Trying to find a weather window from FIji to New Zealand requires a lot of patience and faith.  This passage is known to be one of the most challenging and difficult passages in the Pacific.  Why do you ask?  It is because you have to cross 20 degrees of latitude forcing you to go through several weather systems.  

It takes a lot of strength to prepare myself for a passage – mostly because I know I get so sea sick and it just is not fun for me.   Picking the right window is imperative to having a safe journey.  So we rely on a lot of sources and professional help.

Matt constantly checks 5 weather sources including Predict Wind which has 4 models and Windy.  Our friend Donald is checking on Maxsea and we are working with a professional weather router and hired a passage guardian.  This is on top of the assistance that we get from being a part of the Island Cruising Pacfiic Rally.  

So, we are comparing a lot of resources and information to determine when we should depart on this passage.

Time to go, NOW

We started noticing a rather ugly system forming to the NW of us.  It looked like a cyclone formation but it was way too early in the season so we were flumaxed!  After watching this formation for a few days our weather router advised us to leave immediately as this system was forecasted to go over Vanuatu and then head straight to Fiji.  Hmmmm

The problem was that another, smaller system was forming to the west of New Zealand which would make for a difficult arrival.  So, we watched for another day, talked to all of our experts and made the decision to depart.

The Plan

Depart Fiji as soon as possible and push the boat hard to ensure an arrival by the 26th of October. It is doable, but not ideal.  So, we cleared out of Fiji on the 19th of October at 1330 with a few other boats.

If you remember, our passage last season from Fiji to New Zealand (click here to re-read it) took us 6.5 days and we had a fairly decent journey.  We left with 50 other boats and were very comfortable in the weather window we selected.

So, leaving with only a few other boats in between two systems was extremely nerve racking!  The plan is to “hammer down” and just get there.  The weather models were showing a slight detour to the east before continuing on the rhum line (direct shot from point A to B).

First 48 Hours

The first 48 hours were miserable. We were bashing into the waves making it pretty uncomfortable.  We reefed the sails and pushed onward into the 3m seas.  Yuck.

We headed more east than we wanted because the winds were taking us there.  We ended up going 90nm out of our way to keep the wind in our sails.  Great, love adding more time to an already long passage.

A sunny spot during our gloomy days.  Two birds landed on Sugar Shack and enjoyed a bit of a rest.  It is really unusual to have birds land on the boat when you are hundreds of miles away from land, but it has happened.  I think this is maybe the 3rd time it has happened to us in all of our travels over the last 13 years!  

This little bird landed first and just sat at the helm.  I think he wanted to take the helm from Matt.

The second bird came a few days later when the weather eased up a bit.  It was a red foot boobie and he/she stayed with us for well over 16 hours.

On the one hand it is cool to have proof of life but on the other they poop everywhere!  We tried to shoo him away, but darn if he didn’t keep coming back.  So, we just left him there and hoped the big seas would wash his poop away.

Burning a Lot of Diesel

After two crappy days, we covered 330nm. Not a horrible start, but nothing to brag about that is for sure.  Then we were blessed with a couple of nice sailing days.  The sun was out, the seas were more consistent and came at longer intervals (still 2.5m) and we were pointing closer to the rhum line.  The down side was that we had wind on the nose which meant we had the motors on.  We fully anticipated motoring a lot on this trip as we needed to arrive before the system.  We motor sailed a lot trying to get the most out of each power source.

Matt doing a jig because the skies are blue (he is wearing his dry suit!).

During one of our particularly nice sailing periods we had a breakage.  One of our rail cars for our jib sheet decided it was done and popped off.  It made a horrible noise which forced us to jump up rather quickly.  Luckily the sheet was on the wench and Matt was able to secure a “fix” using dynema.  Not a permanent solution, but it will work until we can get a new part.

The top left is the working rail car on port side and the rest of the photos are the damaged and temproarily fixed starboard car.

A Few Good Sailing Days

We had several good sailing hours which helped lift our spirits.

And a few really beautiful sunsets and sunrises while at sea.

In the mean time we are constantly watching the two systems.  The larger system on the NW got a name…cyclone Lola.  Her trajectory is over Vanuatu and then moving over Fiji.  The lower storm (not called a cyclone yet) is still being called a Tropical Storm.  But as you can see, lots of boats have decided to leave Fiji, Minerva Reef and Vanuatu to get to safer territories.   Keep in mind that the boats are miles apart – we cannot see any of them.

Cyclone Lola

Cyclone Lola is a little brat. Even though the main system is pretty far away from us it was causing some really weird wind shifts.  All we could do was hammer down and push the boat as fast as we could.

The top images shows how the cyclone forms, the wind strength and the direction.  The bottom two photos show how truly dangerous this cyclone is.

Cyclone Lola decided to head more SE and looks like it will converge with the Tropical Depression that was forecasted to hit NZ.  Wonderful!  I am sure you know, but red is bad, black is worse and gray is horrible.

Lucky for us we were able to skirt the outer edges of the storm and make it in to port without too much trouble.  We arrived in NZ on Thursday morning and were rafted up to our friends on Dandelion by 0900.  Thank God!


We patiently waited for the officials to come onboard including bio security who took a ton of food, customs and immigration.  They even brought a dog onboard (that was a first for us) to sniff for weapons, drugs, and cash.  Look at his little booties…so darn cute.

New Zealand has very strict biosecurity rules.  We are not allowed to bring in shells, wood carvings, feathers and lots of foods.  Prohibited foods include all meats (cooked, uncooked, canned), dairy, cheese, nuts, produce, vegetables, fruits and more.  We had provisioned for three people to be at sea for 10 days.  Since it was only 2 people at sea fo 6.5 days we had a lot left over.  It is hearbreaking to watch them throw away perfectly good food.

But….we are super happy to be back in NZ and safely tucked in a berth.  

Pasage Summary

  • Total Miles, on rhum line: 1097
  • Total Miles Traveled:  1179
  • Total Time:  161.36 hours / 6.5 days
  • Total Engine Time:  72hours (YIKES)
  • Average Speed:  7.3kt
  • Max Speed: 12.1kt

Just some of our Tasty Passage Meals:

Matt prepared loads of tasty meals.  I was a little distracted and only got photos of a few dinners.  Below we have seasoned pork chops with grilled onions, grilled pineapple and mashed potatos.  To the right we have seasoned chicken fajitas with bell peppers and onions.  Bottom left is Matt’s famous bahn Mi and pulled pork over a baked potato.  Yummmm.

Our poor Island Cruising Pacific Rally 2023 Flag took a beating during our trip from New Zealand to Minerva to Tonga on to Fiji and back to New Zealand.  She deserves a rest.

All in all it was not a horrible passage and it certainly could have been a lot worse had we gotten caught in either of the storms. I am so grateful that we have such a strong and well made boat and a captain who takes care of both of us.  It would not have been such a favorable passage without the help of Donald, our weather router, the passage guardian, and Viki with Island Cruising.

My favorite shots…look at the sliver of a moon in the top photo.

Our blogs run 8-10 weeks behind live events.  This blog occured toward the end of October.  Did you catch our loast blog where we do all the prep work for this passage?

Mana Island: a Refuge

After a crazy, fun filled week of activities, games, racing, and partying during the Musket Cove Regatta we seek out a refuge.  There is a weather system coming so we decide to head to Mana Island in the Mamanuca’s. But, first we stop at the outer reef in search of some crystal clear turqoise waters.

This was such a pretty spot, no other boats and gorgeous waters.  However, the winds started shifting making it pretty uncomfortable and rolly, so after one night we were off to Mana Island

We had really, really light winds for this very short downwind run.  We decided to put up the parasail because we were in no big hurry.  It was lovely, the sun was out, the breeze was cool, and the sail was gentle until we lost all of the wind.

It sure was nice while it lasted.  We arrived mid-day and took the afternoon off relaxing.  The next morning we had a beautiful sunrise.

Mana Island

We stopped at this lovely little island a few times last season (read 2022 blog on Mana Island).   We found a little spot in between a few reefs to anchor.  We let out enough scope to avoid the reef and were not expecting any neighbors.  To our surprise one small monohull anchored near us, but then left the next day because the winds pushed them too close to us.  Then another catamaran anchored between us and the reef and we had to tell them, politely, to move.

We had strong winds at 33kts out of the North, but Sugar Shack weathered the storm.

Hike Around Mana Island. 

There is a really lovely beach right in front of us, just beyond the reef.  It almost disappears at high tide, but during mid and low tide you can enjoy long walks.  Our beautiful walk starts on the beach and then wraps around over some coral/rocks to another beach.

This beautiful bird was catching some lunch and pretending not to see us.

Then it is straight up the hill where we pass the heli pad for Tadrai Island resort and the resort itself.

There are some really gorgeous views.  Can you find Sugar Shack in the top photo?

A view from another hill/mountain.  One looking East over Sugar Shak and one looking West over the village and the famous Mana Island Resort.

We then walk the ridge line down to the village and back to the beach.  I love the colorful houses in the village.  It is still low tide (see lower left photo).  We stop at a backpackers resort to have a drink and witnessed Superman carrying 4 dive tanks!  What a site.  It is a lovely hike. 

Cicumnavigating Mana Island

The next day we actually walk aroudn the entire island, 4.6miles.  We did not realize we could walk in front of the Tadrai Island Resort so we were always cutting up the hill.  But this time, we walked the entire island.

We find a magnificent blow hole and a a little private pool that Matt decides to enjoy.

Not sure if you remember, but the TV series “Survivor” is shot on Mana Island (we mention it in our 2022 post).  When we do the complete around the island hike we find several Survivor sets (big open fields for challengs), the control room (where the director works), and the elimination stage.

Below is one of their cleared fields where they hold challenges.  We are not sure if these rafts are part of Survivor or just local island rafts.  But they were super cool and constructed of natural products: bamboo and vines.

A special preview just for you our trusty readers….the Honeymoon Survivor Australia was preparing to start filming as we were here.  We got a few snapshots of the sets before they even make it on film!

The top left is a special honeymoon suite, bottom left is their shower with lots of fresh water, bottom right is their very special toilet and top right is a pre-made raft.

So many walks and so many views…

And a good, hard walk wouldn’t be worth it without a reward…we have tasty drinks at the Mana Resort.

Super good hike requiring us to walk on beaches and over rocks, with a total trip of 4.7 miles.

Sandbank Day

There is a spit of land aptly called “The Sandbank” where day charter boats go for an afternoon picnic.  We have passed by it a number of times and this day we decide to take the dinghy over.  We packed some snacks and cold drinks and hit the road.

This sandbank disappears at high tide so you can only visit mid-to-low tide.  

Nothing but turquoise waters, a little sand, and some broken coral.  But truly beautiful to sit in the shallow water with a cold drink enjoying the peace.

I could get used to this little spot!  We snorkeled the reef and found some beautiful schools of fish and lots of hard coral.  Not much soft coral but that is to be expected.

We end up spending 2 weeks at Mana.  We walked around the island several times, enjoyed cocktails at both resorts and hung out with some friends.

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind live events.  This blog occured in mid-September.  Don’t miss out on the Musket Cove Regatta Festivities posted in our last blog.

Foiling: A Young Man’s Sport?

Foiling, all the kids are doing it!  They sure make it look easy as they let the air pull them up and fly across the water at crazy speeds.  It caught Matt’s interest and so he bought a full foiling package (board, fins, foil, kite, pull rope, jacket, and helmet).  

last seaon he was able to balance on the board and get momentum with the kite as I trailed behind him prepared to rescue him and or bring him back up wind.  But he only got a few practice runs in before he perforated his ear drum and had to stay out of the water.  Then we were in NZ where it was too darn cold to get in the water which brings us to today.

Back in Savusavu with our good friend Chris from “Seaglub.”  He is staying with us for a few days to host a party (more on that coming up in our next blog post).  He has a lot more experience and practice surfing, kiting, and foiling.  So, we all go out to see if Matt and Chris can foil behind the dinghy.

Getting Up

Matt used to be a huge wakeboarder and taught many of our friends how to get up and wakeboard and surf behind his mastercraft boat.  So, he uses his starting stance to get to his knees, then up on one leg, then both legs….balance….balance…balance.

With each try he gets better, he gets up easier, he balances more, and is able to get the board down when all it wants to do is go up.

One time the board just took off and I swear we all thought he was going to touch the sky.  I love his expression when he brings it back down and then his complete sense of accomplishment when he lands it.

Practice Makes perfect

of course there were lots of these….

Foiling plays tricks with your sense of balance and your center of gravity because it has the long foil (mast) underwater.  Matt is used to the board being the bottom, but with foiling, the fin on the bottom of the mast (which is 85cm below the water’s surface) is the bottom.

Which caused some more of these….

But Matt kept getting back on and trying.  His body took a beating but no blood was drawn.  Then Chris got up making it look easy (even though we know he has had much more time practicing).


I am not willing to say that foiling is a young man’s sport as these two handsome guys were out there giving it their all and getting it done.  I am sure with a few more practice runs Matt will be foiling like Chris.

Stay tuned for another update as Matt and Chris ditch the dinghy and foil with the kite!

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occured in mid-August.  In our last blog post we have an amazing snorkel experience at the Chimney’s in Namena.