I've often read that the best days of a sailor's life is when he buys a boat and the day he sells his boat. I definitely felt relief both when I sold Sudden Stops Necessary and Nixon Was Cool just because selling a boat is not that easy, but I wouldn't call it joy.
Had lots of life changing experiences on Sudden Stops and will definitely miss her lots. She is going to a new home in Queensland, Australia and I am sure she will be well sailed after! Bye Bye Stopsies..
The 600 mile sail down from Bundaberg to Sydney took us through the beautiful sandy straits, gold coast, Laurieton and Pittwater. One low pressure system after another hit the east coast, apparently the worst start to the Aussie summer in 50 years (just our luck!).
Nope, curved masts are not in.. Brit Alex Thompson’s Hugo Boss racing boat is advanced but not that advanced.. After both our digital cameras gave up the ghost, we bought the cheapest digital camera ever.. A Kodak $30 special which had an additional psychedelic feature that we didn’t pay for!
The other side of Hugo Boss was black… I thought that was pretty cool.. (I am easily impressed) As we approached Sydney on the 23rd of Dec, we started seeing many Sydney Hobart race boats practicing before the start on Boxing day.
Approaching Sydney, Glenda excited to see it for the first time!
Approaching the Opera house and harbour bridge! So lucky it wasn’t raining like every other day that week..
“Is that really the Sydney Opera House under the boom?” Anchored in farm cove right next to the opera house and botanical gardens.
The view from astern was also pretty impressive with all the CBD skyscrapers… Our wind generator was apparently going a little psychedelic.. at least according to Kodak.
The view from the dinghy..We were the only boat in the anchorage, and the whole experience especially at night under the skyscrapers with opera house all lit up was one of the most memorable of the whole trip!
Sudden Stops, the Opera House and me, all in one picture…it's all a little too much! We were able to get on to the botanical gardens by securing the dinghy next a break in the wall, but the park wardens in their speedy golf carts were soon on to us, shooing us away..
Sailing under the Sydney harbour bridge!
We spent Christmas with my friend Connor anchored near his place in Longueville..
Connor slightly skewed by Kodak but happy as we took his wife Lisa and their kids Sophia and Gabriel sailing on Sudden Stops..
On Boxing day we went to see the start of the infamous Sydney Hobart ocean race with friends Connor, Tylney & Clare. Can you spot us anchored in Watsons bay on the top right of this Carlo Borlenghi photo?
This is what our view of the start would have been if we had a 500ft mast and a decent camera.. Alas our view was obscured by all the roving spectator yachts.
From Longueville we sailed past Darling Harbour to anchor near the fish market to do a little sightseeing..
Glenda doing what she does underwater when she sees fish..
Darling Harbour by land…
Hyde park.. Am I in London or Sydney?
Opera house with a little Kodak bend in it..
Anchored up with millions of other boats to watch the new years fireworks near Sydney Zoo.
The fireworks according to Kodak.. Now I know why Kodak went bankrupt..
What the fireworks really looked like.. Pretty awesome!
Leaving Sydney Harbour for broken bay and Pittwater on Jan 1st. My last sail with Sudden Stops. Boo hoo.. 🙁
Wonderful flat water sailing as we approached Pittwater.
Sudden Stops in the Royal Albert Yacht Club marina for a week. Here I removed the windvane, took all the stuff off the boat and gave it a good clean..
Leaving Sudden Stops on the yacht broker’s mooring. She is officially up for sale now.. anyone looking for 38ft performance cruiser or racer? Gonna miss her. Had an emotional farewell party for her before I left. We had some good times over the 6 years that I owned her. At least I am leaving her somewhere warm and nice, she can't complain 😉
Leaving Fiji through the Malolo pass (in the background). The 450 mile passage from Musket Cove, Fiji to Vanuatu was quick but a little bumpy with 3.5 metres swells left over from a squash zone near New Zealand.
Stops anchored in Port Resolution, Tanna. Hammer our Japanese single-hander on Maverick 2 had got in that morning as well and had already organized a trip to the Volcano!
Glenda showing off the truck that we took up the volcano. It was a bumpy offroad ride that had our teeth chattering!
Saw many huge banyan trees on the way.. reminded me of Lord of the Rings!
Glenda climbing up the crater of the live volcano.. duh.. duh.. duh..
The Volcano erupts!
We waited until dark and took a video of the two craters erupting and bubbling with red hot lava. It’s amazing that they let us get so close to the live volcano.
After Tanna we wanted to sail to Port Vila to check in but got derailed by a newly formed trough that was not forecasted and decided to wait it out at Erromango island.
Approaching Port Vila after an overnight from Erromango.
Port Vila is supposed to be one the most beautiful ports in the south pacific and it did not disappoint. Here is the view from the top of our mast.
The dinghy dock next to Yachting World, whos mooring we picked up.
Celebrating landfall with local Tusker beer named after the huge tusks on pigs from Vanuatu.. We also had Tusker beer in Kenya but that was named after the tusks on elephants..the real thing!
This tiny sea plane kept taking off and landing right next to us in the anchorage.. James Bond would have loved it.
“Yu Nidem Help? Mi Helpem you” The local language Bislama a form of pidgin English was pretty amusing..
“Sigaret I Kilim Man”
Walking along the beautiful waterfront in Port Vila..
Glenda really got into the swing of things..
A kava bar.. Vanuatu's Kava was a lot stronger that Fiji's and was sold at these local kava bars which were equivalent to local pubs.. except all the locals were spitting and clearing their throats to get rid of the kava taste. Some local Aussies we befriended Claire, Gurleen, Dylan took us to one of the popular kava bars. It was a pretty cool experience, and we got a little tipsy on kava.
Glenda at the market provisioning for the passage to Bundaberg, Australia via Chesterfield Reef
Final sunset drinks…
with the final beautiful sunset in Port Vila..
Leaving Port Vila the next morning for the 600 mile passage to Chesterfield Reef..
Beautiful sailing with the asymmetric spinnaker in 10-12 knots of breeze with less than 1m swells. It didn't last long and we were soon in 20 knots with 2.5m+ swells.
Nope the GPS wasn’t on the blink. I navigated using the sextant for the passage from Port Vila to Chesterfield Reef. I am hoping to use this as a qualifying ocean passage to get to next and final Yachtmaster level: Ocean
Arriving at Chesterfield reef! a uninhabited horseshoe shaped reef in the middle of the ocean between New Caledonia and Australia.
Sunset at Chesterfield Reef with 8 other boats.. We had a potluck and bonfire one the beach with some of our buddy boats S/V Discovery, S/V Ceiydh & S/V Connect4.
The beaches on the reef were magnificent..
Yes another beautiful beach..
The coral reef was also exposed in a lot of places.
And incredible amount of birds.. Chesterfield was supposed be a UNESCO bird sanctuary… no kidding.
A bobbie in it’s nest.. They were so many of them everywhere.
After nearly a week, we left Chesterfield through the south west pass bound for Australia!
Can you see it? Australia Ahoy! The 450 mile passage was one of our best ever. Ideal tradewinds of 12-16 knots on our quarter and 1-1.5m swells.
Glenda slighty happy, as we go through the Bundaberg Port channel markers.
Sudden Stops enjoying a well earned rest in a Bundaberg Marina slip.. It was great to be back in civilisation but we started missing the south pacific islands almost immediately.
According to the ship’s log we had covered 10,303 nautical miles from San Francisco to Bundaberg. Almost half way around the planet!
The 460 mile passage from Haapai Tonga to Savu Savu Fiji was an exercise in dodgems, my childhood computer gaming skills came in handy! First we had to dodge sixty or so uncharted hazards and then as we got closer to fiji we had to thread our way through unlit reefs in the Lau group at night. Just a month ago a boat was lost on these reefs.
Landfall in Savu Savu on Vanua Levu the second biggest island on Fiji. It was one of the most beautiful ports we had been to.
It was pretty cool to see so many Fijians of Indian descent, but the real cool thing was all the Indian food… We had curries every night and loaded up on Indian savoury snacks!
After filling up with water, diesel and provisions we made our way to Viani Bay on the eastern side of Vanua Levu which is near the famous Rainbow reef. We were the only boat there.
A local Fijian called Jack showed us a place to anchor Stops right on the edge of the Rainbow reef..
The snorkeling was amazing, especially the soft coral. The currents however were really strong and we were glad to have Jack’s local knowledge on where to avoid the current.
Glenda enjoying some local pampering in Jack’s house.. The homemade lemongrass tea was damn good!
Next up we went for a two tank dive to check out the famous white wall and zoo dives on the Rainbow reef with a local dive shop..
We didn’t have a underwater camera that goes that deep, but here is the next best thing.. A video of diving the famous White Wall from youtube.. The wall of white soft coral looks almost man made.. It was pretty amazing.
Glenda wearing the latest fashion in necklaces (look good and never get lost). We are taking orders now.. only $199 each. We sailed to the dateline between Vanua Levu and Tavenui where we crossed from the western to the eastern hemisphere!
The proof: 180 degrees 0 minutes east! Glenda dropped a point for her artwork here as well..
Next up we made our way to the Yasawa islands by sailing south of Vanua Levu to Coconut point in very little wind. From there we made we an overnight passage with 12-15knots across Bligh waters arriving at the barrier reefs at sunrise. It was pretty straightforward, and saved us several days not taking the traditional route down to Vitu Levu and then back up from Lautoka.
Arriving at the majestic Sawa-i-lau island in the northern Yasawas.
Stops anchored with the village in the background. We had a traditional Fijian dinner at the Chief’s Bure (traditional Fijian dwelling). One of the dishes was an Indian dhal..looks like indigenous Fijians have taken a liking to the Indian food as well.
Snorkelling the caves at Sawa-I-lau was pretty amazing.. The main cave was cool, but the guide helped us dive down to enter the Whispering cave which was totally dark.. He then used his arms to create a mini tidal wave which hit the sides of the rock causing a reverberation that turned the whole cave into a drum and we were inside it!
Glenda taking it easy on a float in the caves.
Glenda enjoying the beautiful lagoon and beach at the foot of Sawa-I-lau..
Finally Glenda’s childhood dreams come true! The sandcastle, fiji style.
After Sawa-I-lau we dodged some more reefs to head down to Blue Lagoon.. yes, this is very Blue Lagoon where the movie with the same name was shot.. unfortunately it is not longer uninhabited.. We hung out with S/V Distant Shores who invited us over for dinner with Gary on S/V Dash.
Glenda feeding the fish some moldy bread we had left over. They loved it and got me thinking that I should try it..
Fiji is the only place I have been where they cultivate coral to replace the damaged reefs.
We saw our first SEA SNAKE!!
Next up we sailed down to Naviti island to check out the snorkeling at Manta ray pass. We anchored next to a 40ft French flagged Leopard cat with Robert and Martine who invited us onboard for a drink. We later figured out that I had bought one of their watercolor paintings in 2005 in the Tobago Cays when I was on a bareboat charter. Robert came up to our boat to sell his wife’s paintings and at that time was on a 33ft steel hull yacht. It’s such a small world!
The snorkeling was pretty good, but no alas no Manta Rays.. apparently it is too late in the season 🙁
We had a beach BBQ at Cuvu bay with S/V Takalani who are from South Africa. Stof had apparently been to Nyeri the small town in Kenya where I was born.. small world!
Glenda was a natural at Bocce ball, but they still beat us.
Very light winds on our sail to Waya, the next island in the Yasawa chain..
Can you spot Sudden Stops anchored in Waya bay?
The Waya village Chief and his grand daughter. We performed the Sevu Sevu ceremony with the chief which involved clapping my hands and laying the dried kava wrapped in newspaper at his feet. Luckily he liked the look of us dodgy characters and picked it up (which is a good sign). Glenda then got us invited to a kava drinking session with the chief later that evening.. sweet!
With the chief's blessing we explored the village and found one traditional Fijian dwelling called a Bure..
Glenda enjoying the beach action..
Finally the kava drinking ceremony! The kava root is ground and then mixed in with water in the large bowl.. (which incidentally is plastic fishing bouy chopped in half!)
Chet excited because he gonna get some kava! We were seated in a circle with the Chief.
Glenda guzzling down the kava. She had the honour of the first gulp.
We also invited the dutch couple on S/V Tranquilo to join us for the festivities. They later invited us for dinner on Bart’s amazing 56ft custom built aluminium boat designed by Gerard Dijkstra.
After Waya were had a short sail to the beautiful and pristine uninhabited island of Navandra..
The visibility was 60+ feet, awesome!
We discovered the world's ugliest fish.. it's going up on mingers.com
Fiji was the only place in the south pacific where I couldn’t rely on my Navionics or CM93 electronic charts. There were too many uncharted reefs and unsurveyed areas. So we navigated using google satellite images converted to raster charts and displayed in OpenCPN on my PC. The satellite images very clearly show the reef boundaries. This was a lifesaver especially on the passage from Navandra to Musket Cove, which even the Yasawa Pickmere’s paper charts didn’t cover.
The famous Musket Cove Yacht Club where we promptly became lifelong members. We got there just in the nick of time to experience the last summer BBQ which we enjoyed with our friends on S/V Dash, S/V Sidewinder and S/V Karinya
Glenda demonstrating the benefits of being a member..
Next up was a quick trip to Port Denerau Marina to top up on Diesel and water.. They put us on the same dock with a whole bunch of expensive yachts like the 160 ft Georgia sloop.. We must have been the smallest boat there..
We then made our way up to Saweni bay and Lautoka to checkout and provision for food.. Lautoka is little India, nearly all the shops were Indian run.
Even the signs in the produce market were in Hindi!
Towing Hammer on S/V Maverick2 who was a singlehander from Japan. I remember reading about him in Latitude 38 and amazingly we bumped into him at the customs office. We helped him with cruising guides and charts for Vanuatu.
Back at Musket Cove, final sunset in Fiji.
Fiji was pretty amazing.. it was a little more touristy than Tonga but its beautiful white sand beaches, pristine reefs and great indian food more than make up for it! We loved it.
We attempted to reprovision at sea on our 700 mile passage from Suwarrow to Tonga ;-) Had a couple of close encounters with ships..
Entering the Vava’u group of islands.. Glenda only slightly happy to see land..
Picked up a mooring bouy in Neiafu harbour.. First order of business after checking in was to pick up a new fridge evaporator from the post office (which had already arrived from the US in just 2.5 weeks!). Then it took 3 days to install it and recharge the fridge.. Yippee to cold drinks again! We had lived without a fridge for a month by then.
Paradise Chet style.. Surfing and eating a fryup at the same time at Aquarium café..
We celebrated my 38th birthday in Neiafu.. I said I wanted to mourn instead of celebrate since I was getting close to 40 and Glenda took this seriously by dressing appropriately the morning of my birthday!
She also used her artistic skills to paint me a custom tonga birthday shirt! Pretty damn cool!
We had Mark and Yuka from Merkava over for chicken curry on Stops. Chicken was cheap in Tonga and my mum’s chicken curry recipe was well used!
Leaving Neiafu, it was time to finally visit the islands!
Glenda had pineapples on her mind.. The pineapples were amazing in Tonga.. Sweet and juicy, the best we ever had!
The ark gallery at anchorage #11.. all the anchorages in Vava’u are numbered to make it easy for charterers. A little too commercial for me..
Glenda enjoying her first sail on a big cruising cat.. Port Maurelle, anchorage #7 where we went for a rendezvous dive on a 42 foot cat (Two if by the sea) with Merkava.
We didn’t have a underwater camera that goes that deep, but here is the next best thing.. A video of diving Shark Tooth Cave from youtube.. We didn’t see any sharks but found a pocket of air in the cave which we used to breath without the regulator for a while. Don’t know how it got there, but it didn’t smell to bad.
We also snorkelling Swallow’s cave. It was like swimming in nature’s cathedral. Then we had lunch and a hot shower on the boat. This is the kind of dive boat I can get used to.
Next stop was anchorage #16, where we hung out with our friends Daniel and Michelle on Evangeline.
On land we found a tree with fruits that were a cross between an orange and a lemon.. I was very focused on getting them down..
Can you tell that I had orange crossed with lemons on my mind?
Glenda very happy with our catch!
The snorkeling at the Coral Gardens near #16 was amazing..
Really colorful coral.. best we had seen since South Fakarava in the Tuamotus.
I tried some spearfishing but didn’t have much luck. Only a few big fish, but alas they were too quick for me.. I was getting old I guess.. just turned 38 after all 😉
Finally we went back to Neiafu where Glenda left another point.. Next stop a 70 mile sail to the Ha’aapi group which we were really looking forward to..
First anchorage was Foa where we were the only boat.. we explored the uninhabited island of Nukunamo next door to Foa by dinghy.
The snorkeling was pretty amazing.. This particular fish was very quick in shallow water
Next stop was the island of Lufika and the main town of Pangai to checkin with customs. Bought more frozen chicken.
We saw lots of whales on our way to Tafata island
A rainbow after the gale. Troughs and fronts seem to come through pretty regularly in Ha’apai and there aren't many anchorages that give you good protection in the 270 degree windshifts they can bring. We rode out a gale gusting to 45 knots in the Uiha north village anchorage which is protected to east by land and somewhat protected to the north and south by reefs. It was pretty rough and I stayed up most of the night on anchor watch and when the wind clocked back to the south we moved to the Uiha south anchorage to get more protection.
We explored the picturesque small village called Felemea in south Uiha..
We even made some new friends.. Mama Piggy, Piglet 1, Piglet 2, Piglet 3… They have so many wild pigs roaming around in all of Tonga.. We were always longing for bacon.
Next stop was the uninhabited islands of Uonukuhihifo and Uonukuhahake.. Don’t even to try to get me to pronounce those names.. These islands have a hermit… a cow! So weird.. it just roams around the island by itself. These islands were really nice, we felt like modern day Robinson Crusoes, but couldn't spend too long there. Another trough was coming through so we had to move to get more protection..
We holed up in Ha’afeva for the next trough which got up 30 knots, anchoring on the west side first and them moving to anchor inside the reef on the east side to get protection as the winds clocked to the west.. The was the first anchorage we shared with another boat in Ha’apai!
We buoyed our anchor chain to keep it from getting snagged on coral as the wind rotated around. We had 10X out
After the trough we headed for the uninhabited island of Limu. This was the island we had been dreaming about when we heard about the amazing uninhabited islands in Tonga.. Visibility to 60 feet, pristine reefs, turquoise water, sandy beaches and WE HAD THE WHOLE PLACE TO OURSELVES..
Glenda the queen of Limu enjoying the beach under our royal sunshade..
Bonfire time on Limu! We cooked hotdogs and Mexican beans on the fire, but rats were soon surrounding us and Glenda started the rat wars.
I did some spearfishing to make fish curry.. We caught and ate this little monster, but it didn’t taste too good..
Sunrise on Limu with the moon going down..
Sunset on Limu with the sun going down this time..
The Ha'apai group was one of the best places we have been to on this trip despite the weather. We only saw 4 boats in the whole time we were there and had most of the anchorages to ourselves. Next stop Fiji.. some 450 miles west..
Suwarrow Atoll. I read about Tom Neale's life, the hermit of Suwarrow so was looking forward to seeing the atoll that he lived on alone for so many years..
Can you see it just below the 35 knot squall cloud? It was a 6 day, 700 mile sail from Bora Bora, with the last couple of days pretty rough as a front went through.
Glenda chuffed as we make it through the pass into the lagoon. I was worried about getting through the pass in 25 knots of breeze with 12-15 ft swells but it ended up being a breeze. Although we did have a 4 knot ebb tide against us, which meant we only made 1 knot of headway.. talk about a slow entry!
Cheated death again, thank god we didn’t end up like this boat.. Suwarrow has over 30 shipwrecks on it’s reef..
Finally anchored in the lee of anchorage island.. pretty nice view from the boat..
Aerial view of Anchorage island from S/V Savannah’s mast..
The pier that Tom Neale initially built..
I guess we are in the right place then.. phew.
Tom Neale’s house on the left and the “Suwarrow Yacht Club” club house on the right..
James and John, the park rangers the only two people living on Suwarrow. They live here for 6 months at a time and then go back to Rarotonga when the cyclone season arrives
The club house was a great place to hangout with James, John and the other cruisers.
The pot lucks with other cruisers were great fun. Made many new friends..
The young girls on S/V Gromit even put on a Polynesian dance show for us!
And then Glenda and the ladies got to learn the Polynesian boggie from them.. Glenda is a pro now, she is almost Polynesian!
The snorkeling was pretty good..
Especially when you see giant manta rays! It was amazing to swim with this beast. It was like a B2 stealth bomber, luckily I was not one of the targets
Also saw a spotted eagle ray for the first time ever!
Looking at all the fish made me hungry, so the boys and I decided to go spearfishing. Fred on S/V Songline and Randy on S/V Mystic were my accomplices
The boys with their fish and guns.. I actually speared 4 fish, but lost one big grouper to 5 sharks who tore it up and chomped the spear clean as I was slow swimming back to the dinghy with the fish .. It pretty awesome sight to watch so I didn’t mind losing the fish that much..
After filleting our fish, James offered the remains to the sharks.. another awesome sight. Thank god they don’t like me!
While I was out spearfishing Glenda had Art day on the island.. She drew a portrait of John. Pretty amazing likeness!
Glenda leaving a point on the club house..
She is creating the world’s biggest piece of art, leaving points at the key places she visits on the trip. She will then join the points together in a conceptual sculpture.. I am sure you will be reading about it in the papers soon!
John also gave Glenda a tour of their vegetable garden. They have to be completely self sufficient since there is no supply ship.
After 9 days, it was time to go.. We said our goodbyes to James & John, signed the log book and left them a few supplies.
Glenda used her artistic skills to spruce up my old beer flag which we nailed to the club house beam with other flags.. Hopefully it will still be here when I come back in 10 years time..
I tried to camouflage myself by trying to blend in with the palm trees colours so that we could stay past our 2 week limit but it didn’t work 🙁
Our final sunset in Suwarrow.. Sudden Stops is the boat rightmost but one..
Leaving in ideal sailing conditions with Suwarrow in the background.. It was a magical place, the rangers and cruisers formed such a tight knit community, we almost felt like we were leaving our family behind..
Next stop, the Vava’u Group, Kingdom to Tonga, 700 miles WSW!