Thursday, August 20, 2015

Catching up...Luckness is in Fiji

I haven't updated this blog in quite some time.  I'll post a couple of articles to bring it up to date.

I've mentioned before that I have been working on a software project, a new GRIB (weather file) reader and viewer for the Mac.  Its called LuckGrib and is now available on the Apple App store.  Its name is pretty unique, so if you google for LuckGrib almost all of the hits you find will be related.

There are YouTube video's posted which showcase a few things in the app.

Towards the end of the app's development I was enlarging the Beta program and decided to invite someone who to me is a weather guru, David Burch, the author of Modern Marine Weather and many other books.  It turns out that he has a Mac and has been very supportive of the app, offering suggestions and encouragement.  He posted a review of the app here:

It was quite a lot of work to go from having nothing at all to a working product, in around 8 months.  I'm really happy with how the app turned out, and if any of you buy a copy, I think you will be too.  I'll be doing some more enhancement to the app over the next year, but I'm going to also start cruising again - so, with that out of the way, on to more cruising related topics.

In my last post I said that I had arrived in Tonga.  Of course, I arrived there from Minerva Reef but had not yet posted any pictures of my stay there.  Here are two:

While I was there, I remember thinking to myself "Pretty nice, but the blues aren't as beautiful as they were at Beveridge Reef."  Everything is relative.  It might not be the most beautiful reef in the world, but it was still an astounding place.  Anchoring in what feels like the middle of the ocean is something that should be on all sailors bucket list.

I've already talked about the trip from Minerva to Tonga.  What I didn't really get into was the circus which was the checkin procedure.  Non-sailors may want to skip ahead to the picture of coral and start reading again there...

The docks that are available for you to tie up to as part of the Tongan customs checkin procedures are less than ideal.  The officials require you to go to the dock.  I've heard of one or two boats which anchored out, but that is really frowned on, the officers really don't want you to do that, they want your boat beside the dock.  Last year when I checked into Tonga I knew a little about the dock but arrived fairly unprepared, hoping that it would work out ok.  Luckily there were a gaggle of boats already on the dock and I was able to side-tie to a large monohull, which made the whole process very easy.

This year when I was arriving, I had a real plan in place.  I had noticed that the weather was blowing from what I thought would be a favorable direction to blow me slightly off of the better of the two docks, the fisheries dock.  As I approached Neiafu, I called into the local VHF net asking when high tide was that morning and had several boats reply.  So I slowed down and arrived around 1 hour before high tide with high expectations - I'll just motor slowly up to the large empty dock, at high tide, and have no problem at all.  (At low tide on that dock, Luckness' caprail is below a concrete lip and with the surge, the dock would basically batter Luckness.  Damage for my boat is guaranteed there at low tide, and boats had taken damage at that dock while I was there last year.  I know of one sailboat that needed to replace parts of their standing rigging after an encounter with that dock...)

As I got into sight of the two docks I noticed that the one I wanted to tie up to already had two large steel fishing boats tied to them, leaving two short spaces between them - it would be something of a challenge to get in there.  Also the wind direction wasn't quite right, it would be pushing me onto the dock, getting out of those short spaces would be something of a challenge.  The other alternative was the cargo dock - this thing is massive, its designed to handle small freighters and ferries.  As I was heading past the long dock with a frown on my face I noticed a sailboat tied to the side of the freight dock and they offered to have me side-tie to them.  Perfect!  I circled once to adjust the dock lines lines and fenders and headed back to them.  As I headed back, they cast their lines off and left the dock - apparently they had just finished their checkin and it was time for them to leave.  This left me and my small boat contemplating a side tie to this dock.  There was some help on shore, and they appeared to be sailors.  So I went for it and ended up tied up there.  A boats length behind me is a concrete wall.

I realize non-sailors will find this all very tedious and if you haven't skipped over this section, you're probably wondering why you didn't.  This docking is far from ideal.  If I was to step off my vessel, getting back on would be very tricky.  I could pull a line taught to bring Luckness close to the dock and have the officials take a large step down and out to me, but if I went ashore I would need to leap across to the boat.  Anyway, the side tie worked out pretty well.  I was being blown off the dock and was in no danger there.  With a different wind direction, this would not be a place a small boat would want to be.  The officials had a bit of a challenge boarding, but none of them fell in.  Once again, after all the paperwork was done there was a round of the officials asking for gifts.  Unlike last year, I was prepared for this and got by very lightly, giving up a couple bottles of beer.

When it was time to cast off the lines, the helpful folks who were there to get me onto the dock had long since walked off and I was basically stuck until someone came along.  There was no way for me to get onto the dock and free my lines without having Luckness blow off downwind, which I really wanted to avoid.  Eventually someone came within shouting distance and I was able to talk them through what I would like them to do and I was out of there and heading towards a mooring and a good nights sleep.

It was nice to be back in Tonga.  I stayed there until early July and spent my time between Neiafu and the local anchorages.  Cruising is very easy in this area, and this is a theme I'll come back to when I start talking about Fiji.  Unfortunately I took very few pictures while I was there.  Here are a couple:

The coral in Tonga isn't fantastic.  I hope to be posting pictures from Fiji of its local coral...once I get out and see some.  More on that later.

A new marina is being built in the Vava'u group, close to Neiafu.  Think of this as a baby-picture, of the infant marina that's in the process of growing up.  This was from mid June, 2015.

I left Tonga in early July and sailed over to Fiji.  It was a nice passage, the hardest part was going slow enough to arrive at the points I had picked to be there in daylight so that I could verify the locations of reefs and land - wanting to avoid both.  The entry into the Fijian waters turned out to be very easy, and my next problem was to continue going slow enough to arrive in Savusavu in the morning of the next day.  When the biggest problem you have on a passage is having to slow down, that's pretty good.

I arrived in Savusavu expecting there to be customs mooring balls to tie up to as that was what all the cruising guides mentioned.  It turns out that there is now a customs dock that the Copra Shed Marina where I was arriving is using instead.  Check this out:

A customs dock that floats!  As I arrived, two of the staff walked over and accepted my lines and tied me up, as they have been doing for all the arriving boats.  Checkin was very simple, part 1 is aboard the boat and then in part 2 you walk around the town paying a couple of fees.  No gifts were requested.  This all left a very good initial first impression, which has been building since being here.

I'll cut this post off here, more to come.   (and to avoid any dramatic buildup, as they say, "its all good.")


  1. Glad to see you posting again! I came across your blog within the last couple months and spent some time getting caught up on your journey, specifically when you did Hawai'i and onward. Loving your blog and just wanted to drop a quick line to say HI!

    1. Hey, thanks for your comment. Welcome to my blog!