I’ve been putting this post off. So much has happened since our last update (about our passage to New Zealand in November 2012), and I couldn’t think of a good way to explain it all. After much procrastination, I decided that you don’t have to know everything…just enough to get by.
And so here is a quick update culminating in present-day activities:
After arriving in New Zealand in November 2012, Alex and I sailed down to Mount Maunganui, where we quickly found ourselves at home with new friends and the closest thing to a normal life we’d had in a while. Somewhere between a week-long haulout that lasted a month and a strong desire to see family and friends back home, we abandoned the idea of returning to the tropics in May 2013.
Back in the states (I just skipped, like, 3 months here), it was strange to be sleeping in my old room and bumming around on friends couches (thanks Dralle for the unexpected month or more of couch space) while Saltbreaker, my longest-term home since leaving my mom’s place after high school, lay waiting in New Zealand. But waiting for what?
It was on one of several trips to San Francisco during this period that plans began to come together.
Alex, who had enjoyed life on Saltbreaker, was eager to do more travel by land. Since I wasn’t too excited about becoming a crazy-eyed singlehander, I was planning on returning to New Zealand in August to get the boat ready to sell.
In July, this feature-length article came out in Outside Magazine, exaggerating many things (it doesn’t smell that bad in the boat, and no, we never “came frighteningly close to a serious mishap”) but right about others (I do like cocktails of cough syrup and bloody mary mix).
As August turned to September, everything took a sudden turn; Anca, with whom I had resumed a very spatially-complicated relationship, expressed an interest in doing some traveling together…on Saltbreaker. In January, we flew to New Zealand and Saltbreaker.
The next few months are a blur of boat work and farewells. As we made our way up north to Opua, NZ, the natural departure point for the tropics, our friend Orion joined the crew, with plans to stay until late June.
We left on May 10th with a couple dozen other boats, all because the weather looked perfect for a crossing to the tropics. Unfortunately, as you may know, the weather doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to. One week into the passage, we got hit with 40-knot winds and 20 ft. seas, the worst conditions I’ve seen, and I got to practice heaving-to (setting the sails so the boat points into the wind, stops, and sits there somewhat comfortably) in heavy swell. Anca and Orion, on their first passage ever, held up surprisingly well, even though everything that had been stowed away ended up on the floor and a leaky hatch above the bed soaked our sheets.
After the blow passed, we pulled into Minerva Reef, a welcome stop after a difficult 10 days at sea. Minerva is a seamount, an almost-island, with only a couple rocks poking above the water at high tide. There is, however, a good anchorage inside the reef, and we met several other boats there. A couple of them I knew from crossing the pacific in 2012, and others quickly became new friends. With no land in sight, we pretended to be on solid ground during a night spent on Margarita, a large catamaran. The next day, we were actually able to set foot on submerged land, and climb up onto the only “dry” rock for miles.
After two nights at Minerva, it was time to take off. Four days later, 17 days after leaving New Zealand, we finally arrived in Fiji. Savusavu turned out to be a great first stop: cold beer, cheap food, and old and new friends.
Local Fijians are the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. Within thirty minutes of arriving, we had two invitations to visit nearby villages, both of which we accepted. One visit took us to a gorgeous waterfall, and the other involved attending a traditional wedding and spending the night in the chief’s home.
After a week of waiting in Savusavu for strong winds to ease, it was time to head out; if I had known we’d be there so long, I wouldn’t have vowed to eat ice cream every day.
Right now, we’re anchored in Viani Bay, where a local, Jack Fisher, has been taking us out snorkeling (Anca saw her first shark! And liked it!) and dropping off fresh fruit every morning.
Other than that, we’ve mostly been biding our time, waiting for an opportunity to head east to the Lau Group, a seldom-visited splattering of islands where traditions are apparently very much alive. The weather finally seems good to make the crossing, so we’ll head out tomorrow.