"North Star," a Shannon 38 Pilot House Cutter #82 is in the Mediterranean after crossing the Atlantic directly from the Chesapeake Bay to the Azores. Owner Jim Curlin and a crew of two friends made the passage in 22 days to a landfall in the island of Flores. A log of the trip was documented in real time by daily satellite feeds to Globalstar while in route. Jim is a Ham (WB4GBS), so e-mail communication was maintained with family and friends (and Bill Ramos at Shannon) throughout the trip by the Winlink 2000 system via amateur SSB.
Jim's wife, Pat, met him in Horta on the island of Faial in time to attend the Ocean Cruising Club Rally. Afterwards they cruised among the Azores islands then on to Lagos, Portugal, in the Algarve. The Curlins entered the Med. and after a couple of days in Gibralter made the short passage across the Strait to Ceuta, a Spanish port in Morocco, then on to Smir, Morocco where the neighboring boat was that of His Royal Highness, the King of Morocco. Excursions to the ancient towns of Tetouan and Chefchaouen, the latter a Berber village in the Rift Mountains gave a taste of the culture of North Africa and a sample of its beauty.
Returning to the Spanish Coast at Benalmadena on Costa del Sol, "North Star" continued eastward, stopping each night in a marina, since natural anchorages are nearly non-existent in the Spanish Mediterranean. All told, only three nights were spent on anchor. After logging more than 4,000 miles, "North Star" is on the hard in Port de Torredembarra midway between Tarragona and Barcelona for the winter. After putting the boat up, Jim and Pat toured the South of France, visited their son and his family in Paris and returned to the States two weeks later. They will return to Spain and continue cruising the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Corsica, and western Italy. Plans are to leave the boat in Italy and after a few months, reapeat the routine by cruising to Venice, Croatia, and Ionian Greece, with lay-up in Preveza, Greece, the home of their daughter-in-law.
We recently completed an epic (for us) five month voyage on our new Shannon Voyager 36 Motor Yacht Puffin. In the past we have cruised from San Francisco to Alaska and back in our 37' C&L Trawler and have chartered trawler yachts on both coasts. Our cruising was always at displacement speeds of around eight knots or less.
Eight knots is a pleasant, unhurried speed providing long range, low noise levels, and tranquility. But there are those times when you want to beat the storm or get into port before dark or simply cover more distance in less time. That's when we heard about Shannon's Voyager 36, a trawler yacht on a planing hull. It seemed the better of both worlds! After a trial run we put down a deposit for hull #16.
Although Shannon is located in Rhode Island, three thousands miles from where we live in San Francisco, we kept in constant touch with the folks who were building Puffin, our dreamboat. Bill Ramos sent us a steady stream of photographs starting with a pallet load of fiberglass and drums of resin. We flew back to Rhode Island several times to watch the progress and confer with the builders. We opted for an extended hard top over the aft cockpit for the shade and as a place to keep an inflatable dinghy. President Walt Shultz incorporated a nifty electric davit which allowed us to launch or retrieve the dinghy in a few seconds. A great feature. It keeps the dinghy out of the way yet quickly available.
We choose American cherry for the interior cabinetry and a minimum of exterior woodwork. Shannon's woodwork was superb! We elected to omit a noisy genset in favor of six heavy duty batteries and an inverter which runs the hair dryer, waffle iron, toaster, and a dozen other items without problems. Best of all we can slip into a quiet cove without disturbing the scene. One luxury item was an ice machine on the aft cockpit, which was soon deemed a necessity by our guests!
And then one glorious day last June we took possession of our Puffin! Since she was on the east coast we decided to cruise the eastern waters before sending her to her ultimate home in San Francisco. We left Bristol for our first leg of a journey which ultimately was to total 4,500 miles and five months. The first twelve miles we were accompanied by Shannon folks who helped us check out the many systems on board. She carried close to two tons of diesel and water yet Puffin came up on plane at 12 knots and continued accelerating until she topped out at 23 kts! We did most of our cruising thereafter at a pleasant 12 knots. One surprise to me was how quickly she stopped when the power was cut, a great feature when a partially hidden log suddenly appears in front of you and there is no room for turning!
Marcia and I then headed for New York and the Hudson River. Our plan was to cruise four or five hours each day and arrive at an anchorage or marina by mid afternoon. We then had plenty of time left for exploring on foot or bicycle. We kept two folding bikes in the engine room just ahead of the two big Cummins 270HP diesels. Certainly one of the most memorable thrills was cruising down the East River past the Manhattan Skyline, under the Brooklyn Bridge, then coming face to face with the Statue of Liberty. We spent several days exploring the Big Apple before heading north up the mighty Hudson. With numerous side trips including a glorious week on Lake Champlain, we worked our way to Montreal. One pleasant stop was anchoring off West Point and dinghying ashore to tour the US Military Academy.
We entered Canada via the St. Lawrence River and stopped at a vacant pier with a customs telephone on a pole. An officer with a very French accent asked a few questions, then said, "Welcome to Canada. Enjoy your stay." We moored at Dorval's Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club near Montreal and were treated like royalty. One club member, when asked where the nearest grocery was, directed us to a market a couple of miles away. He then said, "Take my car. The keys are in it." Such courtesy occurred over and over on our trip, reassuring us of the basic goodness of most people.
We then went upstream on the Ottawa River locking several times. One huge lock raised us 65 feet and took 11 million gallons of water to raise us and five other small craft. At first we were intimidated by the locks but quickly learned the routine. By the time our voyage was over we had traversed over one hundred locks on the Hudson, Chambly, Ottawa, Rideau, and Erie Canals without incident. The nimble Puffin became very responsive to any required maneuver.
Ottawa, the capitol of Canada, charmed us with the changing of the guard at Parliament and the six mile winding canal that takes you through town. Leaving Ottawa we headed down the Rideau Canal and the breathtaking beauty of pine forests, lakes, loons, and vast flocks of migrating ducks, geese, and swans. The many locks on the Rideau are manually cranked open and shut by young, uniformed Canadians. The grounds adjacent to the locks vie with each other for grooming and care. One lockmaster played an accordion for us as we were gently lowered to the next level. Then, the gates were cranked open and we were off for the next leg of our journey to Kingston on Lake Ontario.
We crossed the Great Lake and entered Oswego's canal to the Erie Canal and Mohawk River. About thirty locks later we again entered the Hudson River at Albany and backtracked our way to Bristol for some warranty work. Shannon workmen greeted us at the dock and did their work quickly and with care. By then we had become friends with most of them.
Next, we headed up the north Atlantic coast, exploring Maine's intricate and beautiful coves and islands. Then further northward we again entered Canada and cruised into the Bay of Fundy and the world's greatest tides. At one point we witnessed a minus 7 foot tide followed by a plus 48 foot tide. What was a vast rocky field six hours later became a deep bay where whales cavorted.
We returned once more to Bristol for a maintenance check up and a brief rest. Then southward to Delaware and Chesapeake where we holed up at Cape May waiting out heavy seas on the Delaware. We hardly suffered, as we prowled the local scene taking in a Halloween parade and quaint farmer's markets with local crafts on display.
Finally the seas calmed and we traversed the Delaware Canal into Chesapeake Bay and all of its historic landmarks. As we started up the Potomac we were boarded by the Coast Guard. After many questions and a look-see they bade us farewell with admiring glances at the handsome Puffin. We landed in Washington, DC at the Gang Plank Marina located in the very center of town,. We were moored next to the Presidential Yacht Sequoia in plain view of the Washington Monument. We stayed for a week, exploring the Smithsonian and the other sites. One day, the marina was literally buzzing with helicopters overhead, sharpshooters on the roof tops, and men in black suits and sunglasses with walkie-talkies preparing for a presidential visit to Sequoia, which for some reason never occurred. Friends drove us 12 miles upstream where the Potomac is a beautiful tumbling rocky mountain stream challenging the hardy kayakers who were there testing their skills to the limit.
We left Puffin in the hands of Shannon who prepared her for the low bed truck, which was to haul her across the continent to sunny California. She arrived the week before Christmas and is now quite at home Emeryville, across from the Golden Gate.
Having been a power boater all my life I know that all boats are a compromise, but there is very little I would change on Puffin. And, I am grateful to Shannon for their professionalism in carrying out our dream.
BREAKFAST IN BED on the Rio Dolce
A favorite destination of many Shannons visiting Central America is the Rio Dolce in Guatemala. Ursula and Terry Louckes told a story about feeling that the were the only people left on earth motoring through this primordial rain forest on their Shannon 43 ketch INTERGRALE until they rounded a bend in the river and found two other Shannons already anchored there. This year Robin Leigh aboard his Shannon 38 ketch BREAKFAST IN BED visited the Rio Dolce and emailed us this report.
We had a long but enjoyable sail up the coast to Cabo Tres Puntas where we stayed over night before the last leg to Livingstone at the head of the Rio Dulce. En route we lost two lures and two reels of fishing line completely to something rather big! Checking into Guatemala was a breeze and we found Livingstone to be a great little town. The people are friendly, it is cheap and there is loads going on. We did a day trip to the Seven Altars (water pools and water falls) and the next day made the trip up the river. I have to say that the Rio Dulce is probably one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. The river quickly narrows and the sides reach up to 300ft of tropical rain forest almost vertically falling to the water. Local fishermen cast their nets from small dug-out cayucos on each side as the river winds its way through the canyon to a lake called El Golfette. We stayed the night at the head of the lake and competed the journey to Lake Izabal the next day. We are now anchored outside a marina called Marios with stunning mountains all around and tropical rainforest reaching down to the water all around the lake. The stress of staying here for the next three months is going to be a killer!.
IMAGINE rounds Cape Sable
Liza and Jim Troutman just completed an Atlantic Circle aboard their 1987 Shannon 37 cutter IMAGINE. One of their most interesting experiences was rounding Nova Scotia's Cape Sable. Here is Jim's report:
The alarm sounds. It's 0500 July 24th. I've been half awake most of the night with the normal feelings of anticipation mixed with the mind racing thoughts of trip preparation. I listen to the weather broadcast even though I know what it is going to be like today. We've been in Nova Scotia aboard our Shannon 37 cutter IMAGINE about six weeks and have had a high pressure anchored over us for the past two days. No wind, just as expected. Outside the snug cabin is a thick fog. It has been that way all night. We knew it was coming. Yesterday we could see our breath as we sailed along the coast.We had had a glorious spinnaker run westward along the southwestern coast in our first steady easterly wind of the trip. It was a bright-blue crystal-clear day with one foot waves lapping at IMAGINE's hull as we scooted along. Our intention was to visit Shelburne, our port of entry in early June. But the weather was just too good to stop. We were sorry to miss the friendly people who helped us clear customs and welcomed us to Canada. We wanted to take advantage of these rare easterly breezes. At sunset, with the breeze dying, we anchored between two fishing wharves at Port La Tour. The anchor settled into soft white sand in twelve feet of water.
During the night we knew the fog had settled in. The constant dripping from the rigging and the exaggerated sounds of a dog barking on shore kept us aware of its arrival. Once or twice I had gotten out of the warm v-berth to look out the port and saw only the aura of sodium vapor lights on the wharves a quarter of a mile off. We didn't want to round the Cape in fog but that was better than winds opposing currents. On the Chesapeake we were accustomed to one foot tides. But on this trip we became acclimated to the eight to twelve foot tidal ranges of Nova Scotia. However, we had not experienced strong tidal currents and did not wish to, especially at the Cape where streams run at about four knots and the bottom is shallow and irregular. In addition, there is a mixing and upwelling of the cold waters from the Labrador current and the Bay of Fundy. Not a place for the faint of heart.Our cruising bible was Peter Loveridge's A Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia. We found him to be truthful but not intimidating. He is a local who lives not far from the Cape and has rounded it some forty times. He writes, "It is never something I undertake lightly. Cape Sable is regarded by Nova Scotia yachtsmen as the local equivalent of Cape Horn. The reputation is well deserved."It is 0530 by the time we get a bite to eat, make the decision to try for the Cape, and have warmed up the engine. There has been a steady stream of fishing boats leaving the harbor and the fog seems to be thinning a bit. Perhaps we will get to see the Cape Sable light house just inside Old Man Rock. We know well the possibility of fog in these waters. Yesterday we carefully recorded the waypoints of the navigation markers as we entered the harbor. We will run the reciprocal courses on the way out. Today we will practice our team work. Liza, IMAGINE and I have been working for this day the entire voyage. Now the test. Liza takes the helm as I raise the anchor. I go to the nav station to monitor the radar. It is always tense in fog for us. We know the radar works well. We have had it for two years and practiced on the Chesapeake, in Maine, and on a Bermuda trip the previous year. But fog is mystical. It changes sounds and perceptions. We can see whatever we imagine coming out of it. This is true whether it is an ocean liner or a sea monster. They, of course, never appear but it does not stop us from imagining them.I'm rather snug and warm at the radar while Liza is chilled by the cold morning and the dampness of the fog. (EDITOR" NOTE: Just about every new Shannon today nowhas a radar/chart plotter repeater on deck.) so I hand her the still warm frying pan from breakfast and she places it under her foul weather gear. She has always had a better touch at the wheel than me. I tend to be a bit fast on the throttle and slow to react to the depth finder. On the other hand, I have had more experience in front of the radar screen. Such is the team work we have built. We each go with our strengths and our trusty Shannon takes care of both of us. As we depart the harbor it is clear enough to see almost a mile. Our optimism and expectations are running high. We notice that the few fishing boats ahead of us continue to disappear into a fog bank offshore but ... As we round Point Baccaro the fog comes in thicker than ever. We have about one-sixteenth mile visibility. We continue. We are in the open water of Barrington Bay and need to get to the Cape by 0730 to make low tide and the slack current. The radar is working great, the wind is light, and the boat is in step with us. Our goal is a bell buoy one mile east-north-east of the Cape. I have faint twinges of guilt as I watch Liza at the helm with water dripping off her face and her foul weather gear. We had carefully plotted our course the previous night with the latitudes and longitudes of all our way points. We know the courses and distances for each of the legs. Yet this is Cape Sable, the Cape Horn of Nova Scotia. We take our time. The current could change our course drastically in these waters. The bell comes up on radar before we can hear it. Liza sights it just off the starboard bow. Our confidence builds a little. The next way point is Black Rock. We are about to try a navigation technique we don't get to use on the Chesapeake Bay. In Nova Scotia we learned that rocks make wonderful radar targets. We head toward the Cape keeping the rock just one-fourth mile off the bow. The next bell is over two miles away and on the other side of the Cape.Mr. Loveridge suggests the best route is to keep the Cape one-fourth mile off. I set the range marker on the radar and watch the electronic bearing line move aft. Liza never sees Black Rock but I know it's there from the radar sweep. Another five or six minutes and the bearing line shows the Cape abeam. We have been able to hear the constant drone of the fog signal for the past thirty minutes. Every sixty seconds - baaarrooooooooong. It becomes a comfort to us. At the same time we occasionally hear surf off the starboard side-- not a great comfort. Liza calls me on deck. The water is now pretty squirrely. We are about forty five minutes late for the tidal low. We had been slowed down because of the fog. There are tidal rips everywhere but the depth is good at about twenty-five feet and the currents seem manageable. We imagine what this will be like in another hour when the Atlantic Ocean is rushing into the Bay of Fundy at full force and raising at a rate of three or four feet an hour. We continue on.Our second bell appears out of the fog. We are going to make it. Another mile and we will clear Black Point. There are no longer tide rips. We are motoring at five knots; the GPS tells us we are doing seven. We have not seen anything except the dense soupy fog and two bell buoys. At 0900 we sneak between Green Island and Cooks Ledge and ... and ... the fog lifts. There are several fishing boats nearby, painted the lovely turquoise blues and dark golds that make them highly visible in this weather. To our stern it is white with fog, but ahead is a new and different day. Winds come up at about seven knots from the southwest. We raise our fog drenched sails and rest the engine.We passed the test this time. We know we have not bested Mother Nature. That is not possible. We also know that Mother Nature is not out to best us. This is not a competition. It is a working relationship we've built up over the years. Mother Nature will do what she has to do. We will plan as best as we can. Liza and I prepare our boat and ourselves for what lies ahead. We like the feeling of satisfaction from the preparation, the teamwork, and the sailing. We sail. We don't know how to live without sailing. It defines our lives for us. We work with Mother Nature. The real team is captain, mate, boat, and Mom, not necessarily in that order. We love it.About five hours later we are tied to the town dock at Yarmouth. We squirted through the Schooner Passage with five knots of current assisting us. As another old salt on the adjacent boat from the St. John's River assisted in tying up, he asked us where we had come from. We said that we had just rounded Cape Sable. He said, "Fine day for it, somedays it's a dog's breakfast down thar."
WILD GOOSE Circumnavigates Newfoundland
Our return to the United States was certainly not uneventful and was a befitting farewell to Canada and the Maritimes. During an ideal two-day passage from Halifax to Maine, we encountered three humpback whales languishing in the current at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Per our usual stance, we veered course to come alongside the whales for a better view. They were quite tolerant of this sudden intrusion allowing us to glide between them only inches away. We watched breathlessly as they blew great stacks of frothy mist into the air and rolled gently at the surface before sounding to the depths for another mouthful of herring. Suddenly, as if struck by a playful audacious urge, one of the whales sounded to the deep only to re-emerge in the form of a 50-ton missile shot upwards by the energy of a powerful twenty-foot wide tail. The whale breached, coming completely out of the water vertically and falling back into the water on its side in a tumultuous crash only thirty yards from our bow. The splash and wake caused by this magnificent leviathan was phenomenal and all we could do was stand and watch, transfixed like electrified statues. Forget the pictures of that one! At least it will be forever photographed into our minds. Finally, our friend rolled one last time lifting his mighty tail out of the water and waving it several times before descending into the depths of the North Atlantic. Was it Neptune, the Roman mythological god of the sea, rising from his lair to punctuate the completion of our Newfoundland adventure? Or was the whale wishing us fair winds for the rest of our travels? We may never know, but we'd like to extend the traditional Newfoundland farewell to all of you:"Long May Your Big Jib Draw!"
After Newfoundland, Wild Goose headed South with the seasons to visit CubaIt was with a combination of excitement and cautioned anticipation when Mark and I left Dry Tortugas, Florida traveling to Marina Hemingway five miles west of Havana, Cuba. With little fanfare, we checked into the country with the Guarda Frontera, Cuban authorities. The next day we went to Old Havana, a wonderful city steeped in the richness of its history and architecture. Crumbling Neo-Classical and Romanesque buildings fill the ancient city which is a fascinating must-see for any traveler. We also drove to visit the Vinalles Valley. It was a wonderful look at the countryside with small thatch roofed huts and dark skinned men in straw hats, called campesinos, driving oxen-pulled plows through the fields of sugarcane and tobacco all surrounded by vast karst.Along in the deep water outside the reefs of Archipielago de los Colorados on the northwest coast, we heard the resounding Zing! of the fishing line. Through perseverance and good fortune, Mark landed a regal thirty pound Bluefin Tuna. Since Bluefin Tuna grow to over a thousand pounds, we happily thanked Neptune for the gift of a small delicious one. Sushi supreme! The trip along the coast toward the western-most cape, Cabo San Antonio, is picturesque. Small fishing dories were often rowed miles to sea with one to three men fishing with hand lines suggesting the perfect picture of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. Local fishermen are more than willing to trade fish or lobsters for rum, beer or fishing hooks and line. The cruising guides warn of delays while checking into or out of a port due to the bureaucracy of the Cuban system. At Maria La Gorda, on the southwest coast, we did experience a delay of our departure one afternoon. Not for the bureaucracy of the system, but because the three Guarda Frontera agents invited us to share a tequila drink given to them by a passing cruiser arriving from Mexico. They pulled a fresh coconut from a tree and mixed the coconut water with the tequila drink in cola cans with the tops cut off and smoothed for drinking glasses. The gift from the cruiser was indeed precious and the fact that they were willing to share it with us was a gift to be cherished. When I attempted to say in broken Spanish that perhaps the next time we returned to Maria La Gorda, the United States and Cuba would once again be friends, the elder Guarda agent acknowledged this as a possibility. "But we," he said, circling the tiny room with his arm, "we are already amegios forever!" Traveling south-eastward, we arrived at Isla de la Juventud, a large island rumored to be 'Parrot Island', the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island. Our son, Mat, and three of his friends met us there for a week of exploring along the Archipelago de los Canarreos, small mangrove islands with a long pristine coral reef extending along the entire south side. The colors of the water throughout these cays are unbelievable! Enormous lobsters abound on the reefs here and the kids fished, dove and ate their fill to max-capacity. At Cayo Guano del Este, we met Armando Artiz and Humberto Herrero, lighthouse keepers on this jagged limestone cay. Armando went snorkeling with us that day with fins held together with nylon fishing line and a spear gun he operated with deadly accuracy.
That evening, after a tour of the island and a spectacular sunset viewed from atop the lighthouse, they cooked for us fixing fish and lobster asodo or roasted in a small open pit and served with rice. It was a delicious meal on the open patio underneath the great light and we drank beer and rum with these fine men until the moon was high and the hour late. On many occasions, Cubans invited us into their homes to share their evening meal, a cup of strong Cuban coffee and their lively music.
The passage from the Archipelago de los Canarreos to the mainland of Cuba requires crossing the Bahia de Cochinos, or the infamous Bay of Pigs. Once again we heard the Zing! of the fishing line. This time the lure produced the most divine marlin leaping dramatically from the water in graceful contortions to shake the hook. Such beauty and nobility is almost beyond words and after a battle that could have easily ended with this beauty as the master, we reverently disengaged the hook and set him free. Truly, one of God's finest creations! At the fascinating old city of Cienfuegos, we met a wonderful older Cuban gentleman with chocolate brown skin and deep creases around his eyes selling cut flowers along the city square. As we turned to leave, he grabbed a long green stalk with small white flowers and placed them in my hands wrapping his tough leathery hands completely around mine. "Put these in water and they will fill your house with sweet smells at night. Then, you will remember me," he said in Spanish. I thought of that old Cuban man every evening as the sun set and the cabin was freshened with a wonderful perfume from those flowers. The flowers faded but I will remember this kind man forever. A "town of museums", Trinidad, along the south coast of mainland Cuba, reminded us of Old World Europe with its narrow stone streets, small courtyards, flowering trees, chickens and camaraderie. Salsa music wafted through the hot afternoon air and filled this UNESCO World Heritage city with a poetic melody of history and art. Rounding the point at Cabo Cruz, we began the final leg of our Cuban cruise along the southeastern end of the island. This stretch of coastline provides a dramatic backdrop of the Sierra Maestra mountain chain with a peak of 1974 meters terminating at sheer cliffs along the coast then dropping off into the abyssal depths of the Oriente trough some 7,000 meters below. It is at this point that our globe has the most relief in the shortest distance. At Marea del Portillo, about 30 miles east of Cabo Cruz, we rode horses into the mountains to a waterfall. We watched a farmer plowing a small patch of land on the side of the mountain shouting directions to two oxen that echoed throughout the valley. The cascading waterfall set the stage for a spectacular panoramic curtain created by the Sierra Maestra mountains. A most delightful spot for a swim. It could have been a scene directly from a tourist magazine for Hawaii. Our final port in Cuba was the renowned revolutionary city of Santiago de Cuba situated about mid way along the south-east coast. Santiago de Cuba is a captivating city. Known as the "Hero City of the Republic of Cuba", Santiago de Cuba has been a great influence for Cuba's independence. Cubans fought with Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Santiago to gain their independence from Spain. Also in Santiago de Cuba, we visited the Moncada Barracks, the site of Castor's unsuccessful attack on the Batista government on July 26, 1953. Following the failed attempt, Castro was tried for treason in Santiago de Cuba and delivered his famous speech, History Will Absolve Me, which was later covertly released as the political manifesto for the continuation of the revolution. A fascinating and intriguing history of a fiercely independent country. We left Cuba to continue our cruising in the Caribbean crossing the Windward Passage to the island of Hispaniola. We saw our first green flash as the sun melted into the Caribbean Sea with Cuba just off the distant horizon. It reminded me of a large billboard sign I saw on a street corner in Santiago de Cuba. Written across the Cuban flag in the background, it read Cuba! Con Honor y Dignidad or Cuba! With Honor and Dignity. It was a great trip!
LONG PASSAGES Sails to Fiji
The odyssey of Judi Nestor and Bob Burns aboard Shannon 38 #1, LONG PASSAGES, the first Shannon ever built in 1975, has resumed. When we last left Bob and Judi, they had stopped their circumnavigation for three years in New Zealand.We left New Zealand (NZ) with very mixed feelings. We had made wonderfu1 friends there who we'll miss a lot, acquired NZ citizenship, and could proudly point to our shiny new NZ passports with pride. However, we are anxious to spend time on the sea again, and to see new cultures. So, on 20 June we left NZ for Fiji. One day out we sailed west to avoid an oncoming low and the rest of the trip was reasonably good - until the last day. Twenty-four hours of squalls and contrary winds a day from Fiji managed to squeeze water into several undiscovered holes of the boat, so we arrived in Fiji with cushions and other things wet. The final approach was in clear skies and we were glad to be anchored inside the reef after 11 days at sea,The entrance to Suva Harbor is a little forbidding with shipwrecks on both sides, reminders of past mistakes. We anchored in quarantine awaiting clearance the next day. We slept through the night for the first time in 11 nights.
Fiji is a collection of 300 islands with Suva, the capital, on the island of Viti Levu ('Viti' is the old spelling for Fiji) as the largest city. The islands are surrounded by coral reefs so the beaches are very protected, but it makes for dangerous sailing - the reefs claim unwary boats every year. UK bureaucracy lives on from colonial days and the number of forms from the officials was daunting - but we persevered and were finally checked it.In Suva, the place to be is the Royal Suva Yacht Club, an ex-pat hang-out with cheap beer, good B-B-Qs, mail service, fax machine, laundry, and all other essentials.
Fiji is independent, quite developed with a solid infrastructure of food production, small manufacturing, and services with a population of 780,000. During colonial days many Indians were brought in to work the sugar plantations so today, half of the population is Indian. The Fijians have the political power and Indians have most commercial power, but are not allowed to own land and their voting is restricted. There is relative peace but there is a time-bomb which could cause strife when the Indian population exceeds that of the Fijians.
The S coast has many resorts that cater to foreign (mostly Australian and New Zealand) visitors. On a local bus trip around Viti Levu, one could see the N coast covered in sugar plantations, (Fiji's prime export), a narrow gauge railroad along the road to get the cane to market, a colorful school in each village, and many mosques. A trip up-river in an outboard-powered dugout over rapids led to a native village with small houses, a large elementary school, and new common house. They were very friendly and gave us our first taste of kava, a root extract used for relaxation and socializing. In quantity it numbs your mouth and really relaxes you -after 5 or 6 coconut shells, people slump along the walls and doze off. We felt little effect from the small quantity we took. It's taste? Dirt diluted in water!
Back down the river we floated on a bamboo raft, like the natives used, and were hard-pressed to keep our bums from getting wet. Back in Suva we built up our courage and set sail for the Astrolabe reef, an area 25 miles south of Suva that encloses about 20 islands including Kadavu.Our first day out we anchored in the lee of a small island and went ashore to perform our first sevu-sevu ceremonies. Fijian custom dictates visitors pay their respects to the chief, usually with a 1/2 to 1/4 pound of kava root. So we dutifully sat on the floor, exchanged pleasantries, presented a roll of kava wrapped in a ribbon, and asked for permission to tour the islands.
Permission granted and after watching the locals play a little volleyball, we donned our snorkeling gear for the first time in 3 years and explored the island. With the prospects of stronger winds, we headed for Kavala Bay on the island of Kadavu. The anchorage sheltered us from the 25-30 kt winds that was making life miserable for other boats still out on the reef. There we had one of the best weeks of our trip to date.
After presenting sevu-sevu at Solotavui we were invited to tea by Losena, a very bright and hospitable lady who lived in the village. Over the next week we had the privilege of eating a traditional Fijian feast and being guests at a kava session at their home and meeting many of the villagers. In turn we were able to help in a small way by fixing a couple of radios, adjusting a sewing machine, fixing a gas stove and declaring another stove a write-off. It was fun for us to take some of our fix-it skills acquired during cruising and put them to good use in the community. After a week of exchanging meals and gifts, we bid our farewell and planned to leave the next day. Losena and her family had the last word - they paddled out and gave us some beautiful handicrafts that they had made in their scarce spare time. The village had no electricity, TV, theaters, supermarkets, or other amenities but the people were some of the friendliest we have encountered in our travels.
Back in Suva a Fiji-USA rugby game provided a chance to root for the USA (you don't want to know the score). Finally it was time to move on to Malolo-Lailai, home of the Musket Cove Resort. Sailing along the S coast of Viti Levu, we discovered that 10 knots in an anchorage usually meant 25 knots with rough seas offshore - we should have learned our lesson from this. The approach to our first anchorage was a little scary since we could not find the entrance, compounded by an article in SSCA describing how a cruiser had entered the wrong entrance and ended up on the reef. Only luck and the help of some locals enabled him to save the boat after 2 days.
The next evening Cuvu Harbor provided a well-protected opening in the reef (with the obligatory wreck, this time a friend from New Zealand who tried to enter at night with no lights a month earlier). The anchorage, used by the Fijian Resort, great for the first couple of days, turned rolly. The Resort, however, made it worthwhile; for $125 we anchored all week with access to all resort facilities including: pools, volleyball, restaurants, massage, shower, water, etc. It was great hobnobbing with people who were spending $200-300/day. If anyone wants to visit a high-class resort, particularly with children, we heartily recommend The Fijian Resort.
Back under sail, in 25 kt as usual, we found Musket Cove a beautiful anchorage with clear waters, bright sun' sandy beaches and cruising buddies all around us. Musket Cove Resort was established by Australian Dick Smith and has become a haven for yachties. The next 4 weeks were filled with walks on the beach, a trip to the mainland to provision, a couple of scuba dives, including a night dive, and finally Musket Cove Regatta week. About 75 boats and their party-hearty crews joined in events ranging from races, pirate attacks on neighboring resorts, volleyball tournaments to best-dressed-ship contests, wet T-shirt and hairy chest contests, Bar-B-Qs, and pot luck dinners.By the end of regatta week, everyone was tired and ready to go sailing, so on the morning of 12 September we paraded past the committee boat as part of the 'briefest bikini contest' and headed for Vanuatu in the resort-sponsored race/regatta from Fiji to Vanuatu.
Wind was moderate, only 5-10 knots or so, but Judi insisted on keeping the sail small until we had sailed through the pass. Best decision of the day - within 15 minutes of passing through the reef we encountered some of the roughest water conditions we have seen, even though the wind was not all that strong. At one point the boat turned broadside to the waves, a 12' wave broke as it hit the boat knocking us over burying a spreader in the water and filling the cockpit. The conditions were a surprise to all boats in the regatta as many scrambled to reduce sail and repair damage. These conditions lasted for about 12 hours and then the next 3 1/2 days were smooth sailing except for some lightning the last night.
By midday on the 16th we crossed the finish line at the entrance to Port Vila on the island of Efate, Vanuatu. The committee boat greeted us with cold beer, baguettes, and fruit as we settled down to wait for the officials to check us in.A quick recap on Fiji: Well developed infrastructure, proud people even though it is not a wealthy country. Racial problems bubbling under the surface between Fijians and Indians. Prices are cheap so it would be a good place to visit.
Bob Burns and Judi Nestor,"Long Passages"
SHANNON'S SHOALSAILER 32
After a maiden voyage from our yard here in Rhode Island to home on the Chesapeake aboard his brand-new ShannonShoalsailer 32 Hull #4, "Water Music", Lee Mercer had the following comments: All in all, it was a great five days. The weather gave us a little bit of a number of varied conditions so that we could learn how the Shoalsailer would handle. Pea soup fog gave me an appreciation for the radar and GPS/navigation system. Winds up to 24 knots showed how well the boat sails in stronger winds and let us play around with the Schaeffer headsail and mainsail roller furling systems. Both worked very well. The power provided by the Yanmar 40HP diesel and MaxProp was great when we spent six hours on the Delaware Bay bucking eight foot head seas. I was pleased how dry the cockpit stayed even though we took green water over the bow on several occasions. Please tell Walt Schulz again how much I appreciate the excellent design and performance characteristics of the Shoalsailer. Thank Bill Ramos for serving so well as the coordinator of the whole construction and delivery process. He made buying a Shannon a very pleasant experience. Please give my best to everyone at your shop who helped make "Water Music" a very special boat. To end where I started, the Shoalsailer 32 is a great boat.
Lee was accompanied by a friend, Jeff Moon, and here is Jeff's impression of the Shoalsailer 32:
"After helping bring "Water Music" Shoalsailer 32 Hull #4 back to the Chesapeake from Bristol three weeks ago, I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with the boat. Quality is great, and it stood up to some real pounding (ask Lee Mercer about our six hours of constant head-on bashing up the miserable Delaware Bay!) without a creak. I was also amazed at its stiffness even without the daggerboards down, and particular its ability to go upwind, which I had frankly would be pretty poor. Overall---super boat."
We arrived January 24 in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, West Indies from Santa Cruz,Tenerife (Canary Islands). Twenty-three and one half days to sail just under 3,000 nautical miles. Rhumb line distance is 2800NM, but when have we ever sailed that?
On this passage the extraordinary seaworthiness and solid construction of our Shannon again proved itself. Except for the first day, the winds averaged over 22 knots and seas over 11 feet! On many days both winds and seas were higher.
No matter the conditions, Chautauqua (38/36) sailed swiftly downwind, riding the following (and often confused) seas safely and comfortably. We averaged127 nautical miles/day, with several days where we traveled over 130 nautical miles. Our longest day's run was 146NM. Conditions were too rough to make foredeck work practical or safe, so we made this passage under a double reefed main for all but six days, when we had a single reef in!
The boat took a continuous three week-plus pounding which included frequent boarding waves, being pooped twice and a couple of spontaneous jibes (it took a few tries to get the windvane steering properly downwind), confused seas and the famous "tradewinds roll"! We arrived in St. Lucia with no damage other than some chafe on the mainsail!
To sail so many days in sustained rough conditions is unusual on a "tradewinds" passage. Our boat's performance and strength is a real tribute to Walter and the crew at Shannon who built such a tough (and beautiful) sailboat! Thank you.
As always, this was a "shorthanded" passage, with just myself and Don aboard.
Priscilla Clark and Don Davis