Merry Christmas!

 

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Pohutakawa – Kiwi ‘Christmas Tree’

Wishing all our friends and family around the world a very Merry (Kiwi) Christmas and a happy, healthy, fabulous New Year!

It’s Saturday morning and we have finally finished the repairs we needed to do after the passage from Vanuatu: the sheave box is re-installed and we’re set to go sailing. It’s been hard yakka, Damian spending a lot of very uncomfortable time at the bottom of the anchor locker, and finally finishing late last night. Given our late finish, we’re going to be in the Bay of Islands for Christmas Day, hoping to be somewhere that looks something like this:

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(Look carefully and you can see Sel Citron in the bay – I took this photo a couple of summers ago).

We’re looking forward to doing a bit of this for the next little while:

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Plans, as ever, are loose, but we’re basically going to be cruising around the North Island: Great Barrier Island, Bay of Islands and places in between. Looking forward to catching up with some cruising friends and visitors are welcome!

Also hope to get back to Oz at some stage over the summer, so hope to see many of you soon.

Lots of Lemony Christmas hugs from us.
Kerry and Damian

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

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Welcome to Inzud…

FROM THIS:
Leaving Aneityum in our wake…

new-zealand-07613TO THIS…
Landfall in New Zealand, Bay of Islands

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G’day from slightly soggy Inzud!

In my last note, we were leaving Port Vila, headed for Aneityum as a staging post to head to NZ. By the time we got there, there was a Tropical Low (the possible genesis of a cyclone) starting to spin up in the Coral Sea. We could have left and tried to outrun it, but last time we did that, we got smacked (en route to Tonga in 2013). So we elected to stay put and let it blow through.

We spent a relaxing week with our buddy-boating mates on Kiapa: snorkelling, walking and swimming…and generally making the most of our last days in the tropics. Continue reading

And the Sun Sets on Vanuatu…

vanuatu-2016-04993Just a quick note to let you know that we are setting sail at Dawn’s crack tomorrow morning, bound for NZ. We are SO not ready to go – it’s still miserable in NZ and it’s just gorgeous here – but Bruce the weatherman has found us a window. The plan at this stage is to sail to Aneityum at the southern extremity of Vanuatu (our point of arrival back in July) and wait there for the green light from Bruce. That may be as soon as Friday, or we may end up waiting for the next window… Either way, I’m not sure we’ll have internet in Aneityum, so I am sending this while I still can!

We have had a lovely time cruising in Vanuatu, and have covered a lot of ground, from Aneityum to Espiritu Santo and east to Ambae and Pentecost, as well as Erromango, Efate, Malekula, Maewo and Nguna.  We’ve climbed Mt Marum on Ambrym and looked down into a crater of molten lava; swum with turtles and dugongs; dived the President Coolidge wreck and taken the Millennium Cave tour.  On Ambrym, the island of black magic, we attending the three-day Back to the Roots festival and all over the country we’ve met so many friendly and hospitable Ni-van locals.

We’ve been to some truly gorgeous places, including Port Olry and Hog Harbour (Champagne Beach) on Santo, where the scenery is straight out of your tropical island travel brochure, and Ambae, where we had the beautiful bay, depicted in the attached photo, to ourselves and witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen – the beach in the pic is black volcanic sand, by the way!

Boat-wise, we’ve had – for once! – a relatively problem-free season… though we did have to replace our Mass Combi inverter/charger, flying a new one up from NZ at a cost of around 8 boat units, total…ouch.

The only down-side has been the endlessly frustrating internet – or lack thereof. It has been largely non-existent, or at best dial-up speed, for most of the season. In the end, we pretty much just gave up, so apologies for our lack of communications and blog updates. My mission on passage is to get some blog posts ready to upload when we get to NZ… stand by to stand by!

We’ll be updating our progress and you can follow us at http://www.yit.nz. If we take this window, we should be back in NZ by around Thursday next week – it’s around 1050 nautical miles to Opua from here.

Sending Lemon lurve,

Kerry and Damian

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Palm Trees Out the Porthole at Last

Port Vila, Vanuatu

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Ahoy from Port Vila, Vanuatu!

If you managed to follow us on yit.nz, you’d have read that – by and large – we had a pretty good passage from NZ, considering it was the middle of winter and weather windows at this time of year are more like louvres than bifold doors! The wind didn’t shift aft of the beam the whole trip, so it was mostly beating to windward in 20-25 knots or motoring, but the seas weren’t too big which made it bearable.

We arrived in Aneityum, the southernmost island of Vanuatu, on July 9, feeling pretty weary since it was just the two of us on the trip. We were greeted by our friends on Field Trip, with fresh island bread, pawpaw and coconut, and more palm trees than you can poke a stick at! It’s a very pretty village and anchorage and the local ni-Vanuatu people are really friendly. The Field Trips had already been there three weeks, and had been adopted by the village – their son Michael was even attending the local school!

It’s incredibly remote (no internet, hence not posting our arrival) yet, bizarrely, it’s more ‘connected’ than most places in Vanuatu, thanks to the idyllic little island across the lagoon referred to as ‘Mystery Island’ (see above photo, thanks to Mark on Field Trip and his drone). It’s the most-visited place in Vanuatu: 180 cruise ships a year stop by and offload their hordes for a day at the beach. While we were there, two arrived, a day apart.

Since we’re so far behind ‘schedule’ (such as we have one), we didn’t stay that long, and headed north via Tanna and Erromango Islands and arrived in Port Vila the day before yesterday. We had a great couple of days sailing on the way up – finally! – and Damian caught a cracker of a Spanish mackerel, which has been feeding us (and friends) for the past four or five days.

Erromango was an interesting stop. We met Chief Jason and his son, Junior, who took us to see a cave full of human bones. Erromango is legendary for its historical hospitality customs, as in ‘Come for dinner!’…. where the guest is on the menu. The caves had a lot of bones scattered around in varying states of decomposition, including a number of skulls, all with perfect teeth (obviously from before the white man’s sugary diet was introduced!) and a corroded belt buckle that had presumably once belonged to a tasty European. Fortunately for us, that tradition hasn’t survived and the locals are now well fed and friendly!

We’ll stay in Port Vila for a few days – we’ve got a few jobs to do, and it’s likely to be our only opportunity for reasonable internet for the foreseeable future. We’ll then start to make our way north and hope to catch some of the marvelous festivals that Vanuatu hosts each year.

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Vanuatu Bound

It’s been a long time between blog posts (I haven’t even looked at it myself in months) and scant communications generally from this end – sorry about that. Truth to tell, with a few notable exceptions (see below), it’s been a fairly disappointing first half to the year and I haven’t felt like sharing the pain. Well, ‘disappointing’ would be something of an understatement, actually…

It took Damian, working with York the electronics guru, from early December when we arrived, until early March to sort out and repair our electrical fry up: all 14 circuit boards, and their daughter boards and sister boards and basically their whole extended family had to be re-built, during which time, the boat was totally pulled apart. An expensive and frustrating exercise. Meanwhile, we were tied to the dock in Fairway Bay, unable to venture anywhere, which put paid to our summer season of exploring the waterways of NZ. On the positive side, Damian is now a reasonably competent electronics engineer…

The first ‘notable exception’ to the grief was in early February, celebrating our friend Lionel’s 60th birthday party, followed by seven of us hiking the Waikaremoana Great Walk (one of NZ’s nine Great Walks) – I’ll post a separate story on this on the blog, but here are some piccies.

It was sensational: a five day walk essentially circumnavigating the lake, passing through beech forests and silver fern groves shimmering with mist, staying in the Department of Conservation huts along the way. The huts were fairly basic and you got to sleep reeeeally close to a bunch of complete strangers (nose to nose) but we organised for water taxis to deliver our packs to us each evening for the first three days, which happily meant we could drink wine every night. The only way to ‘tramp’, really!

Back on Sel Citron, the electrical work finally concluded and we decided to jump in the car for a much-needed break from boat sh*te. We drove down to Wellington for a couple of days, visiting the breathtaking Gallipoli exhibition, where Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and his wizards have installed eight, 4x life-size figures, each telling a different Gallipoli story. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a trip to Wellington just for that.

We took the car ferry across to the South Island and spent a couple of weeks exploring around the top end of it. We walked the full length of the Abel Tasman Great Walk, which I’ve wanted to do for years, and would have done the Heaphy Track as well, but we bumped into Easter and all the huts were booked.

We were on a walking binge, so we also did a day of the Queen Charlotte Track, and a couple of walks around Nelson Lakes, including (not quite intentionally) a 35km day hike around the lake, backed up with five hours straight up a mountain the next day.

In the midst of all this, our car broke down (it wouldn’t be a Lemons adventure without something breaking down!) and we had to borrow a car from the mechanic: a beaten up old banger with no matching panels but a spoiler on the back. So we toured Inzud looking like Starsky and Hutch for a week, putting over 1000km on the unsuspecting mechanic’s jalopy. Meanwhile we were in Golden Bay for the worst floods in living memory (of course – we were cut off from the rest of the country for a day), and the garage where we’d left our car (on the other side of the mountain) was the worst hit area of all. When we arrived to pick it up, it was high and dry (luckily) but surrounded by sodden wrecks…

While we were in  Golden Bay, we did a day trip out to spectacular Wharariki Beach…

 

Anyway, we had a lovely time. Back on board, we headed up to Whangarei to haul out, ahead of a bottom paint and some scheduled warranty work. That all went as OK as yard work ever does. It was when we went back in the water that the fun really began…And guess what? Bart the mast builder was involved! I can’t even bring myself to write about it yet, it was just too much agony, but suffice to say, I hereby bequeath the word ‘Bart’ to the world as a new four-letter word. Please feel free to use it in whatever expletive form it works.

I’ll write more while we’re at sea, but right now I’ll have to keep you in suspense as I have to run: we have FINALLY (only six weeks later than intended) weighed anchor and we’re heading out to sea, bound for Vanuatu. Usual story: should take us about 6-7 days. Bruce the weather guru is predicting a less than lovely trip – a lot of strong head winds, which will be pretty unpleasant, but that’s what happens in the middle of winter.

Hopefully next time you hear from us we’ll be somewhere warm with palm trees out the porthole.

 

A Passage to New Zealand

Fairway Bay, Whangaparaoa, New Zealand

By: Kerry

Fiji 20151-6700Every passage has one memorable day – good or bad.

This one was spectacular – a windless, sun-drenched day, the sea a smooth and delicate powder blue, motoring across a mercury mirror surface. After the first couple of days of the trip, when the sea was cranky and confused and we were getting thumped in 25+ knot south-easterlies, it felt like the ocean was letting out a long, slow breath.

We made the most of this last taste of the tropics, breaking out the BK and boardies, and gorging ourselves on tropical fruit smoothies: pawpaw, mango, pineapple and bananas. Yummo.

The glorious day slid into a sunset that went on for ages: pinks, reds, lemon yellows swirled in the water. I watched a flame-orange sun slip below the horizon and just as it did, we rose on a swell and it popped back up: it was undeniably GREEN! The elusive green flash! True – I promise!

I took one or a gazillion photos: sunset at 30°30’S at 20:00hrs, crossing the axis of the Sub-Tropical Ridge.

 

Later that night, I was on the midnight to 2:00am watch. It was the dark of the moon and with no light pollution for hundreds of miles, the Milky Way stretched clear and sharp, like a white rainbow from horizon to horizon, almost bright enough to read by.

I watched the Southern Cross come up and sat on the bow in the darkness, feeling the warm breeze off the water and trying to identify all the different constellations. The bow wave trailed ribbons of phosphorescence and unidentifiable sea creatures glowed momentarily and vanished like flashes of lightning in the ocean.

Despite the rough-ish conditions, we’d made good time in the first few days – 210 nautical miles a day, which was very respectable in the conditions. What a difference a mainsail makes!

We crossed the STR axis and a day later, the wind filled in and we were barrelling along at around 10 knots, with full main and gennaker and the hulls humming. Top speed around 13.3 knots in 18 knots apparent: not bad for a ‘fat chick in lycra’ as our friend Lionel calls us! One of the best day’s sailing we’ve had on the boat.

Of course, perfect sailing days don’t go on forever and, as we drew level with North Cape, New Zealand, the wind turned southerly, the sea turned crappy and we had the worst day of the trip within sight of land, when we should have been protected!

We’d been headed to Auckland, but with the wind blowing 25-30 knots on the nose and things flying around the cabin, with worse forecast, we decided to detour to Marsden Cove. We’d never been up the channel in the dark before, but we made our way in through the confusion of the channel lights. We pulled up on the Customs dock and turned the engines off at 11.55pm, 6.5 days and 1200 miles from Vuda Point.

We cleared Customs next morning and Kiapa sailed in to meet us. Our first evening’s meal was supplied by Irene and Lionel: freshly caught scallops – my favourite!Fiji 20151-01418

A big sting ray had a suck on the fish frame that I dangled off the stern as I was processing the kingfish

A big sting ray had a suck on the fish frame that I dangled off the stern as I was processing the kingfish

On Friday, we sailed with Kiapa down to Fairway Bay Marina on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, just north of Auckland City. Having not had a bite all the way from Fiji, Damian hooked up one under-size kingfish, followed by a very decent one that put up a formidable fight!

We’ll be based in Fairway Bay while we get the electrics fixed, but that’s about as far as our plans extend at this stage.

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Diwali

Denarau, Fiji

By: Kerry

The Festival of Light is one of the big celebrations on the Hindu calendar. Fijian Indians decorate their houses with lights, exchange homemade sweets and it’s a bad night to be a dog, as EVERYONE lets off firecrackers.

Anjee Prasad, who owns Farmboy, the wonderful service that will deliver fresh produce to us just about anywhere, and who is a force of light herself, invited a group of us to celebrate with her and her family (husband Kamlesh and daughters Angelie, Angeline and Ashleen) at their home.

It was a trip back to childhood, to the ‘good old days’ when you could still hold a ball shooter in your hand…

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A Brief Trip to Taveuni

Musket Cove, Malolo Lai Lai, Fiji

By: Kerry, photos by Kerry and Pete

 

Fiji 2015-1367We’ve been trying for two years to get to Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island, to the east of Vanua Levu. So far, we’ve failed.

So once we farewelled the family, we sailed across the country, all the way back east, where we’d come from at the beginning of the season. It took four days, re-tracing the inside channel along the north shore of Viti Levu, then hopping across the Koro Sea, sailing only by day to avoid the reefs.

The plan was to meet our friends, Pete and Gwyn, cruise for a week with them, and then to spend the rest of the season exploring the eastern side of Fiji. It’s totally different to the west (which is in the rain shadow of the big island). It’s incredibly verdant, with thick jungle covering the islands down to the palm-fringed waterline and stunning beaches.

It’s much less ‘developed’ than the west – far fewer and much smaller resorts and more opportunity to hang out with the locals in the villages. And the diving – particularly the soft corals – is some of the best in the world. I’ve been waiting a loooong time to get there!

Continue reading

Family Time

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

By: Kerry

Fiji 2015-1338Just as we bought Sel Citron in 2012, my mother Corinne was diagnosed with secondary cancer. Consequently, our plan was to get the boat to the tropics as soon as we could so that she could come and stay with us while she was still well enough.

Sadly, her health deteriorated more quickly than anyone anticipated. Being a boat and water person all her life, she’d have loved to come cruising, and it was terribly sad for all of us that she never made it.

So having my uncle Graham, Mum’s only sibling, on board was the next best thing and we had a lovely time with him, my aunt Pat and cousin Katrina cruising the Yasawas.

Continue reading

Road Trip to Suva

Suva, Fiji

By: Kerry

Every now and again, it’s great to get off the boat and travel some other way: a road trip to Suva, with a shark dive thrown in, seemed like the perfect getaway.

We stayed the first night at Pacific Harbour, did the shark dive next morning, then carried on to Suva, where Irene and I hit the fruit and veg market for a gander.

Continue reading