Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Gale & One Knockdown

S/Y Aspen – July 30, 2010 – Log #46
Position: 17 degrees 44’ S 168 degrees 18.0’ E (UTC +11 Hours)
Port Vila, Vanuatu

The forecast was not the best but it promised to be a tolerable sail to our next stop, Vanuatu, as we departed Fiji. We stocked up on some great Fiji drinking water and sailed out of Musket Cove and our protected marina located behind the reef that encircles Fiji.

The wind was blowing 20 knots and it helped push us merrily on our way westward. This leg is a 520 mile passage and we expected it to take 4 nights and 5 days. Nearly the entire Rally fleet was with us so it was fun keeping in contact as we sailed near one another.

On our third day at sea Fiji issued a Gale warning for our area. A Gale means we should expect winds in excessive of 30 knots. Unfortunately Fiji was a day late with their warning since we had the gale on our second night! Geeze!!

At night we always reduce our sails for safety, just in case something like this happens. In this case we had reduced them even further because the winds were very strong, gusting up to 48 knots now and the seas uncomfortable, to say the least. Yet we felt secure with our nighttime preparations as we sailed into the night.

At about 7:00 pm one of the larger waves came hissing alongside Aspen and it decided to see what the other side of Aspen looked like. Instead of just peeking around our stern this rather enormous wave made a path right over the top of Aspen, dumping it contents of sea water right on top of us! Water poured in through our companionway and even through the dorade vents that are designed NOT to let water into the boat. That was not nice!

Maria has some choice words to say about this, as you might imagine!!

We then closed the companion way top and even put a board in place, something we have never had to do before.

It was so rough and uncomfortable that we decided not to go out into the cockpit for our watches but to stay below, popping our heads outside every 20 minutes to look for other ships. Again, safety first for the crew.

Our trusty autopilot had control of Aspen as we sailed through the blackness, steering us far better than either of us could in these foul conditions. The wind began shrieking through the rigging with a high pitched scream, as huge seas hurtled themselves against the side and stern of Aspen, trying to throw Aspen off her course but to no avail, luckily. We were now setting records with our speed, topping out at nearly 10 knots with very little sail up!

At the darkest hour of 11:20 pm, on Maria's watch of course, Aspen sailed beside the trough of a large wave and leaned normally toward her left side to take the force of the wave that would come at us. This wave must have been a monster because it immediately threw Aspen violently in the opposite direction causing Aspen's right side to became parallel with the sea as we lost all forward motion and control and stopped instantly. Water poured in through the little opening in our companionway as things became abnormally quiet inside of Aspen where we were huddled. That is called a knockdown!

It seemed like an eternity that we laid on our side but it was in fact no more than 5 seconds before Aspen proudly rose up from the sea, shook herself off as she seemed to sneer at the cascading waves all around before continuing strongly on her way westward carrying her precious crew with her.

We arrived safely and without any damage to Aspen in Port Vila, Vanuatu early this morning.

Oh yes, Maria and Steve are fine too!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fiji Fun

Happy Birthday Maria in Fiji!

Captain Steve drinking Kava.

Paul, a sailor on Jackamy didn't care for the Kava.

Dinghy Races in Tonga

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More of Fiji

Wild captain sailing between the reefs!

The village is above water at low tide but at high tide it can get a little wet!

The Copra Shed Marina at Savusavu, Fiji

Aspen didn't go to the marina but took a mooring ball. It seemed safer (see the picture above).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kava, Birthdays and Reefs

S/Y Aspen – July 20, 2010 – Log #45
Position: 17 degrees 46’ S 177 degrees 11.0’ E (UTC +12 Hours)

Kava, Birthdays and Reefs

The sail from the Cook Islands to Fiji took us 4 days with tolerable winds and seas and we passed the international dateline. Passing the date line means that we are now in the eastern hemisphere and we are a day ahead of the rest of you. So if you want to know the future just ask us!

With about 70 miles to go before we entered Fiji, in the dark of course, Captain Steve noticed a blip on the chart plotter that indicated a ship coming directly at Aspen's bow. As he analyzed the approaching target he activated the radar and again plotted the position of the ship - on a collision course with Aspen and moving fast. Our electronics enables us to positively identify an approaching ship and in this case our target was called EOS. It was a 305 foot sailing ship and making 17 knots right toward our bow.

Captain Steve used his not-so-friendly voice as he called EOS on the radio. EOS answered quickly and after several minutes of discussion EOS was persuaded to look at their radar to identify Aspen directly ahead of them. EOS thanked Aspen for contacting them and asked for passing information. Captain Steve said we will pass port to port, knowing that EOS would be forced closer to the reefs than Aspen. EOS agreed, without looking at their chart, and the game was on! Eventually as EOS passed Aspen port-to-port they again called Aspen and announced that they would have to change course in order to miss the extensive reefs directly in their path. Duh, they finally decided to look at their chart!!! EOS now became very interested in Aspen's travels and we talked for quite some time as we eventually bid each other a pleasant voyage.

After some research on the internet we discovered that EOS is the 2nd largest private sailing vessel in the world and is owned by Diane Von Furstenburg, the famous fashion designer. Maria was disappointed that she didn't throw us a care package of clothes as she passed.

Arriving in Savusavu, Fiji we were warmly greeted by the village elders. A Kava ceremony was organized for the Blue Water Rally and representatives from all of the countries in the Rally were requested to share in a toast with the head of the village. Captain Steve represented the USA. The other countries present were the UK, Sweden, Holland and Canada. However, there are sailors in the Rally from Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland but they are females and a Kava ceremony is restricted to men it seems.

In time honored tradition the visiting sailors sat alongside the head of the village and were offered a cup of Kava, one representative at a time. Kava is a non-narcotic, non-alcoholic drink made from the Kava plant. It is made from the root of the Kava plant and mixed with water in a large wooden ceremonial bowl. A half coconut is dipped into the ceremonial bowl for each representative. The first cup should make your mouth numb and after many cups of Kava your body is supposed to become numb. You must drink the entire half coconut full of Kava in one drink and clap your hands together three times afterward. Captain Steve's turn came all too soon and as he drank the pale brown liquid he could only think of dirty dish water, that is how it tasted to him. As Captain Steve successfully drank the entire amount everyone clapped three times signifying their pleasure. Captain Steve's mouth did not turn numb nor did any other part of his body!

After the ceremony everyone had a chance to try Kava. Admiral Maria thought it was disgusting and agreed it tasted like dishwater.

Both Maria's birthday and Steve's birthday were celebrated this month. Steve's was first with a nice party that Maria arranged on Tonga at a local restaurant. Steve's birthday fell on Sunday, July 4th and everything in Tonga is supposed to be closed on Sundays by order of the King since it is a religious day. However, rules can be broken and a very friendly local restaurant called the Giggling Whale opened for the Blue Water Rally celebration. Maria had a nice cake ready for Steve and the party was well attended. Some of the British in the Rally conveniently had trouble remembering the significance of July the 4th in the USA :) The party lasted into the night until the local police came by and had a talk with the owner of the restaurant complaining about the excessive noise. It was a nice end to a great day!

Maria's birthday was celebrated at the Copra Shed Marina in Savusavu, Fiji. Once again the Rally sailors showed up in time for happy hour and were treated to a fantastic chocolate cake that a local lady baked for Maria. The birthday song was appreciated by Maria and included an extra verse that the British use when they sing the song. Maria also enjoyed a 1.5 hour massage as her present and the massage was rated excellent by Maria. The local price for a massage is $15 US and no tips can be accepted because it is rude to tip in Fiji! Happy Birthday Maria!

There are reefs everywhere in Fiji hidden amongst the 322 sun-drenched tropical islands. The guidebooks that we have are 20-30 years old but our electronic charts are accurate. Even so, one of the Rally boats managed to collide with a reef going 5 knots. Luckily they are a steel boat so they worked themselves off the reef after about 5 minutes and continued on their way. They have now joined the Reefers Club!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fiji Photos

Captain Steve anxiously awaiting his turn at the Kava coconut cup.

Sea grapes to eat