Friday, December 31, 2010

missing boats!

Two absent owners of boats that were on the river during the flood have contacted us via comments on the blog or the YouTube video.  I have put in a call to the VMR488 rescue service to get any information on the boats locations.  They are checking records.  I also put out a call to the boats still on the river asking if anyone knows the whereabouts of these two boats.  This is the most information I have at this time.

S/V Kalalau last seen by us on moorings downtown may be hung up behind Spinnakers restaurant.  No confirmation on this but a light blue hull was seen there recently.  Will try to get a confirmation.

S/V SuseaQ last seen by us on moorings in center of river was part of four boats that became entangled and lifted their moorings as they drifted downstream.  The four were in sight for days until the river rose higher and pushed them downstream.  It is believed SuseaQ is stuck behind Paddy's Island but again no confirmation yet.  Just informed by VMR that the owners are flying in from the US and SuseaQ is believed to be behind the island.

Will post a followup if I get further information.

Meanwhile the good news is that the flood waters have receded by approximately 3 meters and the current is slowing. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Toketie in the Bundaberg Flood on the Burnett River

December 24, 2010

Burnett River, Bundaberg, Australia

Christmas Eve!

This is without a doubt one of the more difficult Christmases aboard Toketie. Being on the other side of the world, away from family and friends is hard enough but more bearable nowadays with email and skype to make you feel closer. No, this year it is the circumstance we find ourselves in!

As you know from previous entries, we were moored in the river in downtown Bundaberg in Australia. We were enjoying the luxury of hot showers, or cold when the humidity went into the 90s and the breeze stopped. Being able to walk into town and wander through air conditioned malls to buy groceries. And we have met some wonderful people here through contact with Fred and Lesley, the Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers.

But we are busy as well. There is always a list of maintenance chores on board, getting the new wind instrument repaired, trying to solve the main sail track rigging problem and of course the routine daily chores of cooking and cleaning. We have been out to restaurants a few times with moderate success. The fresh prawns and scallops from the fishing boats at the marina are a treat.

But last week, the heavy rains that have plagued the East coast of Queensland this year, causing much flooding, have finally reached us on our little moorings on the river. With a particularly high tide and a spill of water from the dams upstream, our buoys were submerged and the mooring lines were tense.

So we had them move us from the center of the stream to near the edge where the current, still powerful, was not quite as trying to get to the dock. Debris from the fields upstream floating down river and getting caught up in mooring lines lifted four boats, moorings and all and floated them downstream in a tangle of hulls and rigging. For the time we were safe at the edge. But the rains were relentless and three days before Christmas, the water was so high, they were moving boats out of the marina. The marina itself was flooded and the fuel dock and main wharf cut off. Again boats were breaking loose in the heavy flow and colliding with other boats downstream, breaking them from their moorings. It was a mess with more rain in the forecast and no one willing or able to say how high the waters will go.

One by one, the fishing boats and local pleasure boats were heading down the river to escape what might be coming.

December 23

1430 hours

So with the last two hours of falling tide, we dropped our stern lines and I motored forward into the five knot current to give Linda enough slack to let the bow lines go. Our $200 worth of heavy mooring lines are attached about two meters below the river surface and maybe we can retrieve them some day. We pointed the bow into mid channel and gunned the engine to give us steerage in the strong current. Huge clumps of grass, mud and branches floated everywhere on the surface.

To add to our distress, the marine radio had been reporting for days that many of the floating buoys marking the river channel were out of position due to the flooding. So we ran like smoke and oakum, blind, downstream, hoping the high water would get us over the shallow bars, and on a falling tide! Not the best of situations but our only option really was to get to the river's mouth.

1530 hours

It was a fast ride and we covered the eight miles in less than an hour. At a bend about ½ mile from where the river empties into the big shallow Hervey Bay, we pulled off into a corner that we thought was out of the mainstream, and with Toketie's 60HP straining against the current managed to get our anchor into the bottom.

We sat up all night taking shifts on anchor watch. Huge clumps of debris were coming down the river and could drag the boat if caught up in the anchor chain. With a boathook we cleared the bits as they wrapped around our anchor chain. But we were holding and safely out of the worst of the town basin. I watched a small sloop ghost by under the full moon as it dragged its anchor. With no one on board it made its way around a bend and likely lodged among some moored boats. Later a huge trimaran looking like a Klingon battleship drifted by, also deserted and not lit. Here it is caught up on a sailboat and small power boat. It would later break all of them free and the group was last seen going out to sea. We were lucky nothing ran into us.

Next day we called the marina at the river mouth but there was no room at the inn. So we are anchored along the side in the river with about twenty feet of water below us. No wifi signal, so no internet. No cell phone, just the VHF radio for emergency contact. There is nowhere to land the dinghy and the current is too strong for it anyway.

Christmas Eve for us, was not so bad, confined on board and exhausted from constant vigilance to the floating lumps coming down the river. More rain and strong wind warning are forecast over the next few days so we expect to be stuck here till the flooding subsides. The option of running out to sea is dangerous as we would be in the large shallow Hervey Bay with strong wind warnings turning from SE to NW so would be exposed. Not knowing the local hurricane holes did not help.

The good news is that Linda did manage to find a ½ dozen bottles of an excellent Wolf Blass Silver Label Pinot Grigio and squirrel them away for the holidays.

So as we sit here in the torrential tropical downpours watching the river flow, we can raise a toast to family and friends far away but not forgotten!

December 25

0430 hours

Just as dawn was breaking or 'at first sparrow fart' as Captain Jack Wynters would say, a large raft of floating debris struck our anchor chain. The clump of sod and weeds and grass wrapped around the chain pulling the bow down and Toketie was dragging her anchor downstream. I frantically worked with an aluminum extending boathook to attempt to free us from the debris. After 45 minutes I managed to break it into pieces, taking the strain off the anchor chain enough so that we stopped our drift between two unoccupied boats anchored behind us. We raised the anchor and motored forward, re-anchoring where we had been.

1430 hours

When the tide changed, easing the flow downstream, we re-anchored in an area we thought might be free of the floating debris and out of the main current. In the process of lifting the anchor, the bow swung and put enough pressure on the chain to rip half of the windlass out of the foredeck. Fortunately it stilled turned and we got the gear up and reset closer to a row of pilings and rows of moorings, most with boats attached. Unfortunately when the tide turned to ebb and the current doubled, we dragged again. Michael on Eliza, which was hanging on two anchors close into shore, rowed over in his 'tinny', caught on to Toketie and climbed aboard. As we drifted slowly backwards, dragging our anchor, I motored again to ease the pressure. Brendan on 'Jorga', moored fore and aft behind us kindly tossed us one of his stern lines which we eased back on to hang off the mooring behind him.

Heavy rain continues to fall.

December 26

0330 hours

The tide is now half way through the ebb and the current is building. Brendan's one frayed mooring line is all that is holding us. So I start the engine and motor forward for three hours to ease the strain on the line.

1000 hours

The tide is rising and though the flow downstream is still strong, the tide slows it to about three knots and I launch the dinghy and motor forward with the 5HP to attach a line to 'Jorga' ahead of us. Using the line to hold me in place, Brendan eases me back downstream where I attach a second mooring line so that Toketie is now hanging off a two ton concrete block on double mooring lines. I then drop back down to Toketie and tie off her stern to attach another mooring line aft to the mooring behind us. We are now secured fore and aft and feel confident we can take the strain of the increasing current.

December 27

0330 hours

But the drama was just beginning. Two other yachts that have become entangled upstream of us are dragging down on us. One of them was an unmanned catamaran that broke loose upstream and crossed over a beautiful Hans Christian named 'Cloud Nine', locking them in a permanent embrace.

Ian on 'Cloud Nine' deployed every anchor he had and still the current pushed them back till they collided with 'Jorga' ahead of Toketie. They stabilized there temporarily till another unmanned steel boat, 'Wa Pe Ka', came loose and collided with them, moving Jorga's two ton mooring block back so that his stern was now in contact with our forward mooring buoy. The steel boat came free and scraped its way back outside of 'Cloud Nine' and floated off downstream. It was still dark so I could not see where it ended up. But with that pressure off, 'Cloud Nine' and the catamaran slowly drifted back down past 'Jorga' threatening to hook Toketie on the way by.

I cut our stern line and pushed the rudder hard over to keep us far enough to starboard to allow the tangled mess to clear us. The current was running strong again with the ebb tide and our mooring lines now led off the roller and under the bobstay. If we continued this for too long, it threatened to chaff through the lines holding us.

As daylight came, the strong wind forecast turned NW and without a stern line, Toketie started sailing on her hull surface upwind and into 'Jorga'. I could not leave the helm for a minute and had great difficulty keeping from running over 'Jorga' against the easing tide.

0800 hours

Meanwhile Linda got on the VHF and called the Port Bundaberg Marina at the mouth of the river to see if we could possibly haul the boat out or get into a slip. One fellow was in the office but no one was operating the travel lift. He called them for us and they said they could come in to work for double time on all charges! The marina told us that they had a slip possibly coming free as a boat was scheduled to leave and said he would let us know in an hour after contacting the owners. An hour later we called him back and he said they were not leaving but he had another he could put us in if we were willing to pay for the slip size which was longer than our boat. At this point, it did not seem like a good idea to quibble!

Before attempting to extricate ourselves from the moorings, I offered to help 'Cloud Nine' and the catamaran entangled immediately behind us attach to the mooring behind us. This was easier said than done as the current was stronger than our outboard could handle. Someone on the VHF heard us and offered to come down from the marina area in a power boat to assist. Well we waited for this Steve guy on 'Azur' and finally he cruised by to assess the situation and after leaning out his side window and giving each of us his opinion decided it was too risky for him and left, wasting an hour of our precious time. His opinions, by the way, were crap! At this point the owner of the catamaran arrived with a better dinghy and 9HP outboard which he was barely able to hold into the current. While steering Toketie back and forth in the wind and current, I dropped a line back to them and he hung off his dinghy attaching mooring lines to the catamaran, stopping their downstream drag.

In the attempt to leave our mooring, we sailed over our lines and managed to wrap them around the keel. The wind gusts were now hitting 30 knots against the current. I cut one mooring line, put the helm hard over to Port and Linda cut the second line freeing us and putting us out into the channel away from 'Jorga' and the 'Cloud Nine' debacle. With full throttle and the strong tail wind, I could just make headway upstream to get around the row of pilings and into the main channel of the river. As I turned to run downstream with the current I was doing 6 ½ knots, slowed by the strong headwind. The marina was about a mile and in no time we were alongside it and getting directions to the slip. Out of the main flow of the river, there was less current but we still had to dock downstream into the slip. With help on the dock, we secured Toketie in the slip and breathed a huge sigh of relief to be safely out of the river channel.

December 29

For us, we hope, the worst is over! But even as I write this our friends and many others are still out on the river tucked into any nook or cranny or hanging off their moorings. The flood waters continue to rise, more heavy rain has fallen, and boats upstream continue to break loose and fly downstream like loose cannons. The entire MidTown Marina we were in is under water and the main jetties and fuel dock have broken loose and are floating downstream. These huge heavy pieces along with the large clumps of floating debris are striking boats hanging on to whatever they can. Although we had the Harbour Authority tug come by several times while we were on the moorings, they were not willing to come to anyone's assistance. They made a feeble attempt to separate the catamaran from 'Cloud Nine' but gave up quickly. They were also unwilling to do anything with another unmanned, anchored boat that was drifting back on us. No other official presence was on the river assisting anyone in any way. I suppose if someone asked to be lifted off and abandon their boat, they would have sent someone out to pick them up. But only the other boat owners, and some real heroes among them, were active on the river trying to catch runaway boats and throw off whatever ground tackle they had on board to minimize the risk of them colliding with boats further downstream. We have heard of no deaths so far in this area. The closest was when two men took a dinghy out to one of the stranded boats to give them food. The dinghy overturned and they managed to get both out of the water but one man was elderly and needed medical treatment. Another boat got him to shore to a waiting ambulance.

The flood has apparently broken water level records now back to the 40's and is still rising. La Nina has been very cruel to Australia this year!

dinghy landing ramp downtown

four boats entangled downtown

debris in the river

Klingon Battleship entangled!

S/V Cloud Nine and catamaran entangled

S/V Cloud Nine and catamaran coming down on Toketie

Monday, December 27, 2010

Toketie on the Burnett River!

This is a short clip of Toketie on the Burnett River in Bundaberg, Australia. The river continued to rise washing out most boats and the marina wharfs. Many vessels have been lost out the river to sea.

We are safe, for the moment, in a marina near the mouth of the river after 5 days of hell.

I will write more and try to upload some pictures when possible. If you go to YouTube and search on Bundaberg flood, several other videos show the town and the marina we were moored in.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Avro Baby

so bored....Linda has borrowed Bert Hinkler's old Avro to take flying lessons....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bats at dusk!

Every night at dusk, thousands of flying fox fruit bats pass over us on their way to feed in the orchards downriver!  They are as large as pigeons!

Toketie in Bundaberg!

Toketie attached fore n aft in the river in Bundy! 

Midtown Marina

The fishboats tie up to the funky old docks at Midtown Marina in Bundaberg!  When the tide is really low, the little dinghy landing dock at the marina is in the mud so we tie up to the floating fuel tanks and scramble over the fuel dock.  The prawns, scallops and fish don't get any fresher than they are coming right off the boats....we especially like the large banana prawns!!

dinghy landing

This little dock was put in by the town for people living on the river to land their dinghies!  It has a beautiful walkway all lit up at night going up to the street!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Arrived Aus!

After a bumpy but good passage, Toketie motored into Hervey Bay and up the river to Bundaberg Port Marina in the wee hours, arriving at sunrise with time to shower and swab the decks before clearing customs, immigration and quarantine. The yellow duster has been folded away once again and we are officially in the land of the Joey! Tomorrow the plan is to motor the 7 miles up the river to midtown and check out the city of Bundaberg which will be our home for the next while!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nearing Aus!

Been a long night with strong currents against us. Motorsailing now with 29nm to the channel. Hope to clear into Bundaberg in the morning!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 6

Idyllic tradewind sailing continued today with a steady 15 knot breeze from the East. About 170nm to Bundaberg! The sun is shining and all is well on board Toketie.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 5

Beautiful sunshine with large swells from NE and SE making for lumpy confused seas. Light steady breeze directly off stern. Not going as fast as we like but making decent time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tradewind sailing!

Quite a relief after the first couple of days where we saw some of the biggest seas we have experienced. Veritable mountains of water following us(fortunately) with tops curling over like a herd of wild horses as they rushed past us. In the night, the motion of slewing down the face or taking one over the side, along with the phosphorescence, told you what you were in! But last night and today, the wind has calmed down to 15 knots or so and the seas are much smoother. This is the fourth day of the passage and we hope to make landfall in Bundaberg by Tuesday, only 380 nautical miles away!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lest We Forget

It is not hard to find a moment of silence on the sea. The sound of the water rushing by the hull. The wind in the rigging. It is 2AM, a day ahead downunder, and it is pitch black on my watch with a few lonely stars peering around the clouds. No, there are many moments of silence at sea. And much time to remember!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

rocking n rollin!

Toketie shot out Dumbea Pass through the main reef from New Caledonia doing 7.8 knots! Not that we wanted to but the wind was blowing and we could not shorten sail at the time. Since then, its been a sleigh ride! Our windomometer quit on us but maybe just as well...huge mountains of water cascading down behind us and slewing Toketie as we surf down their faces. We made good 150 nm the first 24 hours meaning we averaged over 6 knots. Not bad under trysail and half a jib! It has been a tiring day and night though and we are still being tossed around in big seas but the big gusts have lost their punch and we have settled down to a more comfortable 5+ knots. Lots of clouds around and a few drops of rain but nothing too serious yet. About 600 miles to go to Bundagerg!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

on to Australia?

Looking good for a weather window this week! Hopefully Tuesday we
will lift the hook and head West to the land of kangaroos! Still
strong winds in the forecast but they are all behind us and looks like
the troughs and fronts might settle down for a week to let us
pass...never enjoy the squalls, lightning and heavy rains! It is
about 800nm from where we are (Noumea) to where we are going
(Bundaberg) so we hope to do it in a week. I will try to update along
the way if I can!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Toketie on the move....almost!

The Toketie crew have 'officially' cleared out of New Caledonia but are sitting in the anchorage watching the weather patterns form over Australia and out into the Tasman Sea! They are a lively bunch, I must say! Highs and Lows, fronts and conversion zones....almost makes you want to pull a 'kiwi' and just go and take yr lickin! But tonight a half dozen or more OCC boats are gathering on 'Szel', a Deerfoot anchored next to us so we must put in a presence! And last night we had the crew of 'Bold Spirit' on board for the dinner they gave us in Fiji.....its so easy to come up with excuses! We have topped up the diesel, the water, the provisions so are running out of excuses...but for that darned weather! To top off the pre-departure anxiety, we are in a strong La Nina year....which is a cold current cycling below the ocean West of S America.....the pundits have declared it will enhance cyclone activity in the S Western Pacific...and guess where we are?
So we hope to cast off soon....its only about 800nm to Bundaberg on the East Australian coast and that is our destination. We think we will park there and travel a bit! Now all we have to do is get there!!! For those out there who pray (Julie:), we'll think of you too!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

another dive!

five months in the tropics and I can't seem to find a
worries....Sukanuk to the rescue and Anthea gives me a trim....just
before suiting up with the dive gear again to clean Toketie's bottom
for the very particular Australian quarantine authorities...then over
to Sukanuk to do the same....only to be chased (literally) out of the
water by a shark who was just too interested in me for
comfort.....amazing what adrenaline will do for you.....

a dive

the trip to the top of the mast resulted in the wind transducer
jumping out of my hand (or it could have been an albatross flying by
and clipping it with its wing)....anyway it did not bounce off the
deck but splashed into the chuck at the dock....only 20
problem...borrow Derek's dive gear and down I it! Bloody
thing still doesn't work.....

Saturday, October 23, 2010


a Colin Dipper concertina arrives in the anchorage......

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday night race!

Everywhere we go, the racing scene is out in force on Wednesday nights in the summer!  Noumea is no different and we were treated to a spectacle in the anchorage as dozens of boats flew spinnakers on the downwind leg.  The wind then shifted 180 degrees and they flew them home as the sun set.  The French do love their sailing!

Friday, September 24, 2010

There goes the neighborhood!

View of Noumea Harbor!

Busy place!  Freighters, cruise ships, navy vessels, yachties!!

Parc Forestier!

We had a very long hike  yesterday, about an hour and a half, much of it uphill!  But the views were spectacular along the way!  We were looking for a park with some rare birds in it.  Turned out to be a zoo but they are breeding pairs of these endagered Kagu birds so we'll forgive them!  The Kagu only live in New Caledonia and are on the WWF endangered species list. Known as the 'ghost of the forest', they are flightless and normally live in very remote locations.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

marine reserves

Lots of these big turtles swimming around in the amazingly clear water!  They are very curious and swim around the boats but dive as soon as you look at them.  The small islands near Noumea are mostly marine reserves so all sealife and birdlife are protected.  It makes for a lot of stuff in the water!  We saw a Dugong, a kind of whale also known as a 'sea cow'.  It feeds on grassy weed and is very friendly.  Lots of fish of course and a few sharks to spice things up!  Weather has been cool (20-25) since we arrived but is warming up now as we move into summer here.  All in all a very comfortable climate and friendly people that speak a weird language that I recognize from my childhood!!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Toketie crew in New Caledonia!

The Toketie crew have been exploring some of New Caledonia for a few weeks now!  Unfortunately the internet service seems very poor here so we don't have very good access.  Culture is interesting, very European flavor, with a mixture of the local indigenous Kanak population.  Noumea is a small city with most of the country's people crammed into and has homeless people down by the waterfront.  We did get out to some of the S anchorages though and on a hike managed to take this picture of Toketie from the top of a hill!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cruising New Caledonia!

Toketie made it out of the anchorage in Noumea! The city was fine for a week, lots of bagettes and croissants! And the wine is excellent here...full bodied red Beaujolais and Bordeaux at prices even we can afford! But we are now sitting in a remote anchorage at the end of an inlet with our good friends from Sukanuk that we have not seen since NZ. Took a dinghy ride up a shallow river to a small waterfall and supposed 'hot springs' which were not hot but a nice pool anyway. Clouding over and a stationery front to the S will keep us here for a few days and then hopefully do some more exploring.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arrived New Caledonia safely!

Made it! Not a bad passage overall but the cold beer and hot shower will be very welcome!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Approaching New Caledonia!

With 110nm to go, Toketie is on her final approach to New Caledonia! The sky is deep blue with a smattering of puffy white cumulus clouds or 'tradewind clouds' as we refer to them. The wind is very gentle from the SE and the seas are kind. One can not ask for much more in an ocean passage! We hope to clear Havannah Pass and enter the main reef early afternoon on Friday (in New Cal). The AIS (Automatic Identification System) we installed paid for itself in the wee hours of this morning as the 'Coral Coast', a very large freighter, was bearing down on us directly ahead on a reciprocal course to ours! Calling the vessel on its MMSI # alerted a crew member who then had a look out the window and confirmed he could see us! The vessel then very kindly altered course to pass us safely.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Smooth Sailing!

After sailing out of the rain and clouds overnight to clear blue skies and sunshine with a gentle tradewind large off the port quarter, we are having some of our best sailing ever! (touching wood)

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Motored for 24 hours with no wind. Good offing from land, now sailing very slowly using drifter. Clear skies and trough ahead appears to have moved south.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Toketie ready!

Well, after a few very relaxing days in Momi Bay, Fiji, it looks like
tomorrow, Saturday in this part of the world is a good day to go to
sea! We avoided leaving port on Friday the 13th for fear of tempting
fate. Weather looks fairly light ahead but we shall see what it
brings. Managed to connect to Airmail so should be able to provide
brief updates by HAM radio en route.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Leaving Fiji!

We have not actually left Fiji yet! We are anchored in Momi Bay, a small bay within sight of the main pass through the reef. The winds have been howling for days and a trough of bad weather is approaching New Caledonia so we thought we would hide out here and wait for things to calm down a bit before venturing forth. A 35 knot tailwind and cross seas is not our choice of sea conditions! It is forecast to start to settle down tomorrow so we will look at the weather in the morning again and decide whether to set out. Tried to get into Airmail over the HF radio today but had no luck connecting so might not be able to send updates along the way. We will, however, be doing a radio schedule with Derek and Anthea on Sukanuk who are in New Caledonia now.
The extra day in the anchorage was welcome as we had a few loose ends to tie up before going to sea.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Toketie on the move!

Well, we have left the security of the marina and are now anchored off the sugarmill town of Lautoka. A nasty looking cold front sits between us and New Caledonia, however, so we will cool our heels till it passes. We are fueled, watered, propaned, and otherwise provisioned to head West so when the weather looks right, we will clear customs and immigration and head out the pass for open water! It is about 40 miles to the pass from here, about a 600 mile passage and another 40 miles inside the reef to Noumea in New Caledonia. Hoping the Convergence Zone with its squalls and thunderstorms stays North of us and the tradewinds from the SE are steady along the way!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

laundry day!

Slaving in the hot Vuda Point Marina, Fiji!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Living in the minute!

Once again….my apologies to all of our loyal vicarious blogging
sailors out there! I know I have been negligent in updating you on
our situation. There is no excuse, as usual, and I plead lethargy!

In brief…I survived two months of refitting Toketie…Linda arrived to restore me to sanity….and we escaped to Musket Cove for a few weeks of much needed rest. Soon being bored with resting, we took scuba diving lessons and earned our open water PADI diving certificates and made four ocean dives!

But we are back in the marina, doing the final preparations for leaving Fiji…a very mixed blessing….as we do not feel we have really finished with this place….but it is time to move on and the call of
the West is strong so we get up early to take the 'chicken bus' into
town…run around like mad photocopying charts and guides, buying whatever we can find to stock the cupboards for the journey ahead….one more trip up the mast, fuel, water, gas…all the nicessities…..and the parting with friends, always hard as everyone follows their own personal dream….but the ocean's track is not written and only by moving somewhat blindly into the future can it be known….so now we look at the weather charts and prepare ourselves to leave the safe confines of life ashore for the open sea….I think we are ready!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Toketie's TODO lists!

Toketie's 'todo' lists come in many flavours! The hastily scribbled
note on a yellow sticky! Or worse the hastily scribbled note on a
scrap piece of paper! The formal organized list for the day! Or the
formal organized list for the particular marina or anchorage. Then,
of course, each list will have the critical 'must do' items, perhaps
prior to sailing or prior to a passage! And then there are the 'would
like to do' items that are usually the ones scribbled on any available
paper as they usually occur to us while underway or busy with
something else! And then there are the 'dream on' items, things we
would like to do but can't foresee a time when we can afford them.
Routine day to day things that never make the list but take up a lot
of time include preparing meals, shopping, cleaning the galley, doing
the laundry etc..
But whatever flavour they come in, there is usually at least one list
at any time. Occasionally they are consolidated and maybe even
prioritized. I know it sounds pretty anal for the cruising lifestyle!
But we find that if we don't make note of these things and refer to
the notes, there is less chance of things getting done. And most days
we can wake up and look at the list and decide what we feel like doing that day…if anything! We try to cross an item or two off the list each day. That way, we can enjoy the rest of the day without feeling guilty about not getting anything done, you know, that nagging feeling that you should be working instead of snorkelling or hanging out at the pool!
The list(s) are like an accordion though. It seems that whenever something gets crossed off of it, two more things get added on! But that is the nature of the list! And slowly things get done and we can look around at our cozy little floating home and feel good about it!
Bigger items, like the recent repainting of the decks, require lots of planning and resources (like money)! Smaller items only require that you find the necessary pieces and tools, usually well hidden or buried at the bottom of a locker. So often the smallest task can turn drawers or lockers upside down to accomplish. But then everything goes back to its place and life returns to whatever 'normal' is on

For example, at the moment the list is down to the following:
Rig lazy jacks
Soak rusty tools in diesel
Polish and remount brass bell
Test HF radio
Support for cockpit table
Call Willie to schedule paint touch-up
Refasten lifeline netting
Clear out V berth
2 cycle oil and diesel oil
Battery water
New fire extinguisher

So if you thought we were just lolly-gagging about in paradise here,
well we do a bit of that but…..oops….gotta go….the list is calling!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Up the mast!

Installing a new steaming and deck light on the forward face of the mast!  Got it on just before the weather went south bringing a vigorous 50 knots to the anchorage overnight and heavy tropical rain.  Deck light came in handy when someone dragged anchor and went steaming by in the middle of the night!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Toketie in Musket Cove!

We have escaped the confines of the marina and are enjoying the Fiji the tourists see!  Still have a list of things to do on board but much more pleasant doing them out here where we can swim with the colored fishies!!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The TradeWinds!

The trades have finally arrived!  Steady and strong from the SE....bringing lower temperatures and very cool nights to Fiji!  Makes for much more comfortable days.....and nights you can actually fall asleep in!  The locals are quick to put on sweaters and jackets but for us hardy Canucks....going from 30C+ degrees to 26 on board is easy to take. 

We have bent the sails back on to Toketie!  She rocks gently at the slip and teases us with her desire to leave the confines of the marina and once more feel the wind in her sails and the water gliding past her keel!

This week we hope to escape to Musket Cove and relax on the hook briefly while we plan our next leg!  There is so much more of Fiji to explore but New Caledonia beckons so the plan at the moment is to sail 700nm West to sample the baguettes before carrying on to Australia......

Monday, June 28, 2010

Andre's book!

Our good friend Andre that we met under very unusual circumstances in Mexico a few years ago has just had a book published.  His views are very direct, always entertaining and contain layers of meaning. 

You can find it online or through and it's called "Oceanborne Madness??? A self-alleged Aliens views about Humanity"

The weak in spirit need not apply!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Toketie afloat once more!  The crew are very happy!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Toketie painted!

Most of the hardware has been bolted back on....still lots to hook up and stow....very pleased with the new paint job!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back in the marina!

Well, I have moved out of Abdul's house....I'm sure the cockroaches(those that survived) will appreciate having the place to themselves!  I am still not on board Toketie at night as I have sanded the floors and am varnishing them, between putting the portholes and deck hardware back on.  Our friends Russ and Sue on Antipodean are off travelling for a week and I am boat sitting for them while they are away. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Deck painting finished!

Big day yesterday!  Rolled on the anti they pulled the tape off.  I sanded the floor inside all day!  Only eight days till the admiral arrives....have to get this old bucket shipshape!!
Pictures to follow......on a side note, one Fijian, a security guard at the marina, is renting a few doors down from me.....he invited me over for kava but I have not been able to make it yet!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Moce! Moce!

pronounced 'mote' means goodnight or goodbye in are the boys heading home after a long day making Toketie look pretty again!


I was sitting on the picnic table outside the marina café this morning, hiding from the sun, and watching the activity on Toketie across the way.  Mohammed, Abdul's brother, and currently my neighbour, also a taxi driver, was sitting beside me.  Naturally the conversation turned to religion and after agreeing that most religions were basically the same in terms of having one God, Mohammed said God makes one path and man makes many!  By this he meant the distinctions between Moslem and Christian or any other variation on the theme.  So I asked him if he had been on the Hajj ( or حج‎ in Arabic) which is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is currently the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah in the Arabic language).  The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham).  Well Mohammed had not as he could not afford it but he did have in-laws who have been several times.  Abraham sounded familiar from a previous incarnation of mine and I wondered how it was that people could stray so far from their roots.  But Mohammed had a fare to attend to and I wandered back to watch them spray several coats of paint on Toketie's decks, marvelling at what an interesting life it is at times!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Hindu Temple

...the community seems to include Hindus as well as Muslims...though I have yet to meet one of them.  Their Temple sits along the road to Abdul's house and I did see someone sweeping the dooway this morning.....the stupa in the background has a painting of Hanuman, the monkey king on it......if I recall my E religion classes.....

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sugarcane train!

If I'm still around when they start cutting the cane and hauling it to the mill in Lautoka, I will get a shot of the cars loaded with stalks of sugarcane.  This is the work crew heading back to town!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Abdul's house

....mentioned to Abdul in passing today that I had a couple of cockroaches scurrying around last night....without missing a heartbeat, he said "well, keel them".....and I responded "I did"!!

Sugarcane train track!

....miles from nowhere....

Thursday, June 03, 2010

8:08 Special

So I rode the train into work today!  No seriously!  You might well wonder how that is possible. 

Running parallel to the road to Abdul's house is a small gauge railway track.  It is used by the miniature locomotives that haul the miniature flatbed cars loaded with sugarcane stalks to the mill in Lautoka.  Probably close to par with tourism on the west side of Viti Levu, the sugar refinery is often a bane to cruisers who anchor in front of it to check into Fiji.  The fine black soot from the chimney makes for very messy decks.  

But this morning as I stumbled bleary eyed and coffee less out the front door of Abdul's house at 8:05, running behind my usual scheduled 7AM departure, I found what looked like a caboose with open benches on both sides and the engineer controlling it by a large lever in the center, working its way slowly down the track.  Eyeing an opportunity too good to be missed and thinking how much sooner I could get that long black coffee to go, I waved and gave them the Bula Bula greeting common in Fiji.  I was soon aboard and clickety clacking my way down the track with only one stop and a quick reverse of the engines….to pick up some coconuts that had fallen by the wayside!  These four friendly fellows were a maintenance crew and were examining the track in readiness for the sugar cane harvest that would start later this month and run through to September.  Jumping off at the marina entrance with a friendly wave, I scored my coffee and made my way around to find the crew getting set up for another day on Toketie's decks.  The day went well, lots of sanding and filling and I slipped away in the afternoon for a dip in the pool at the resort, having to buy a cold Fiji Bitter to justify my transgression.


these little fellows love the paper lanterns.....they attract lots of bugs....

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ode to Cat Stevens!

.....or ongoing adventures in Abdul's house


If the reference is too obscure, look it up!  No, I have not converted to Islam….yet!  But if these peaceful people are any indication, I can understand why someone might consider it!  Being more of a Hindu, however, in spirit at least, I am finally feeling part of the community.  This morning started at 7, long after the roosters had announced it, and after my daily ritual ablutions, I locked the door and started the trek down the road from Abdul's house.  In no time, a car pulled over and picked me up.  Turned out to be Fayez, Abdul's son.  Abdul 2's son that is, the one who is away in New Zealand at the moment.  Very friendly young man who only drove taxi on the weekends.  Today he was on his way into Nadi to his job selling cars at the dealership.  The Abdul family are definitely movers if not shakers!

A long day at the marina with many ups and downs, not only on the ladder.  The welding job on the bowsprit had been going sideways yesterday so a call to the boss had him show up this morning to see how things were progressing.  A few steps backwards, removing some of the work, and forward again to what we hope is a proper solution.  Interlude on Camdeboo with a screwdriver to check their anodes….seems we will be going ahead with some refitting there as well.

And the Toketie decks were buzzing with bodies but not much seemed to be changing!  Turns out they have been waiting two days for a couple of bags of silica sand to complete the sandblasting (all those spots I found that they overlooked the first round).  A phone call to the boss again, who is in Suva for the week, but still accessible and not satisfied with that, I made my way up to their workshop and found the foreman who was filling in.  More phone calls and the missing sand is on a truck and presto the truck goes whizzing by!  So we hitched up the compressor, grabbed the spare gas can and back to Toketie, waiting patiently in the sweltering humidity of an overcast sky, threatening rain any moment.  But the gods were kind and they blasted away while the welder welded away and they all had to work till dark to get the primer on the sandblasted parts.  So lots got done, we dodged the rain bullet again and all I had to do was make my way back to Abdul's house! 

Recalling how pleasant a walk I described only days ago, I set out again!  The security guard said a bus was due about now but having learnt what 'about now' means in Fiji, I did not wait for it.  Half way down the road, with the bugs chasing me and the darkness all around, a car came up and pulled over….this time it was Ali, Abdul's nephew.  Another very pleasant young man and also in the taxi driving business…but apparently for someone renting Abdul's house, all local taxi rides are gratis!  He pulled over near his house to talk to his friend along the road, a burst of East Indian dialect and the only phrase I caught was 'Temple of Gold'….movie night for the guys….a Bollywood special!

Back in my bungalow, the clink of ice cubes and it's a hot shower and Bounty Rum night before diving into 'Lord Jim' that I traded a spy novel for in the general store.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Abdul's house

For those of you who have been following our blog faithfully these past few years, I apologize for boring you lately with the details of our refit(s)!  I know a couple of you might be interested in the details but the rest of you armchair travellers undoubtedly have been holding your peace and wondering when I would get on with the adventure!  So if you haven't completely given up on me and are still reading this….I will attempt to share a moment or two of cruising life between the cruises.

I have been back in Fiji for 5 weeks now and totally focused on getting Toketie back into sailing trim.  But I realized today on the short walk back to the house I've rented from Abdul the taxi driver, that the refit is just the background to being here.  I won't attempt to describe living on board in the yard.  For those of you who have done it, you will understand, for those of you who have never lived on a boat in a yard…well, I don't think you could imagine what it is like.  You board on a ladder, you can't use the head (that's the bathroom for you landlubbers), you can only run water to brush your teeth if you place a hose and bucket below to catch the water, then of course you have to empty the bucket! 

And it is hot!  Where Toketie sits she very rarely gets much breeze, if there is any in this marina.  A small fan moves air around inside but it is stifling all day and about 2AM it begins to cool off and fresh air falls down through the hatches and I put down my book and breathe it in with relief, hoping at last I might be able to get some sleep.

Twice in these past 5 weeks, I have had to book into the First Landing Resort next door.  It is not outrageously expensive.  In fact, they have a reduced rate for cruisers from the marina next door.  While we painted the bilges, I spent three nights in a bure, that's what the Fijians call a cabin, to avoid inhaling the toxic epoxy fumes.  I enjoyed the luxury of my own hot showers, my own head, and even the odd dip in the swimming pool!  And a week or so later, while sandblasting the topsides, I booked in again and this time they gave me a beachfront with a big soaker tub….I was in heaven!  But like all good things, that came to an end and once more I turned the six volt fan to face me and read my book while dripping sweat onto a towel on board.  I know, it sounds gross….you should try it sometime!

But tonight, after the workers left for the day, I had a bite in the yacht club bar and a couple of cold Fiji Bitters then decided to see how far a walk it was to Abdul's house down the road.  The sun was setting to my left and after ten minutes the hardtop road turned to potholed gravel but the birds were holding forth in great chorus, the smell of the grasses from the fields, the miniature locomotive that hauls the sugarcane stalks to the mill going by and people in their yards doing what people do at the end of the day when the heat of the sun relaxes enough to allow you out to water the garden or burn the rubble.  Several dog packs gave warning but kept their distance as I walked by.

Abdul's house is in a small Muslim village about 25 minutes walk from the marina.  I have taken Abdul's house for an indefinite time, as the work on Toketie's topsides involves sealing all the hatches, removing the portholes, more sanding, and eventually spray painting the decks and cabin top!  Impossible to live on board with that going on so in the interests of economy, I have taken Abdul's house.  Abdul is a fixture at Vuda Point Marina.  He is the source of all things and always there to help anyone find anything they need.  He and his brother, Abdul 2, live about two miles down the road from the marina.  The reason, I discovered, that they are both named Abdul is because their second names, which are really their given names, are difficult to pronounce, so for the 'yachties' convenience, they refer to themselves as Abdul 1 and Abdul 2!  They own the last three houses on the road past the marina.  Actually the road ends just before their houses and the bus makes its turnaround there.  It is a three bedroom bungalow with big fridge and two burner propane stove, living room, some furniture, a fan, lots of windows looking out into the hills, hot water from a solar tank and lots of peace and quiet…which is maybe why I'm writing this.  I surprised a gecko today, one of those little lizards that are everywhere, in the kitchen area.  But they are friendly creatures and have probably seen more of life than mankind.  They also eat insects so we welcome them.

In the five weeks, I have seen friends come and go, mostly go, from the marina.  This is not a place anyone chooses to stay.  It is a place one stays only to get work done or the 'waiting for a part to arrive' syndrome is in play.  No, life is much better out in Musket Cove or any of the hundreds of small islands that make up Fiji.  Barry and Ann on Cat's Paw IV arrived a week ago and are having some rigging replaced that failed on their passage up from New Zealand.  Looked like they got it today so I'll probably be waving farewell to them tomorrow!  John and Linda on Madhatter left a few days ago with three of their children and two partners to cruise the islands for a few weeks.  Then there are the 'characters' you find in every out of the way place!  There is Bob, who is resurrecting an original John Hannah Tahiti Ketch that was going to be burned.  He has it afloat and filled with Fijians.  His plan is to fix it up and charter it.  I hope he makes it!  And Steve just arrived from Samoa where he rode down Main Street taking out telephone poles in Tulak during the tsunami last year.  He has been sailing since the early 70s and is finishing the repairs here.  And the retired criminal lawyer from Hawaii who sits at the bar reading a novel while the beer flows.  And the list goes on….have to be careful or I could end up as one of these colourful characters!

I count down the days till my first mate joins me!  Hopefully I will have most of the dirty work done and we can put things back together and figure out where to go from here.  Our dear friends, Derek and Anthea, on Sukanuk left New Zealand for Australia a few weeks ago but sailed into the teeth of a very deep low and were hove to and blown North and East so ended up in New Caledonia!  Reports are they are enjoying it and with luck we may catch up to them there or in Australia by Oct/Nov when the cyclone season starts again.

So life goes on and I must remind myself that it is not the destination, but the journey that counts….just as well because the destination is a little fuzzy right now!


From the Toketie crew 'down under' the equator!

Friday, May 28, 2010

the painted bilge

a shot of the bilge after painting.....major improvement!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

progress on refit

Its been a really good week for Toketie.  Deck and cabintop have been sandblasted on all the rusty spots and the topcoat is being peeled away like a layer of onion!  We have a long way to go but so far the weather has been cooperative.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

under the big tent!

circus circus brings you death defying acrobatics on the high trapeze.....and sandblasting!  Toketie is cocooned and the dust is flying....."out out danged rust"......

Monday, May 24, 2010

ready to sandblast decks

all hardware removed and everything masked....hope the sun keeps shining so we can sandblast the rustybits tomorrow!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Toketie getting a facelift!

Big day today....stripped all the hardware off the deck and cabintop....including the hard dodger....getting ready to sandblast and paint the rusty bits and give Toketie a much needed paint job above decks!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Battle of the Bilge!

I believe we have won this one!  From forward to aft, we scraped, chipped and needlegunned everything down in the netherlands below the engine etc.....removing all loose paint and treating the metal, then priming, epoxying and topcoating till everything is clean and new!  Hopefully to stay that way for many years!  And now I have been busy stripping hardware off the topsides as we have decided to repaint the decks and cabintop where the years and ocean passages have not been kind!  RUST BE GONE!! 

It is a hard life, here in paradise!  But the beer is still cold and the people move at their own timeless hypnotic pace so....BULA BULA....and we will get Toketie back into sailing trim!  We still have not decided what lies ahead....but when the first mate returns in June we will look to that....perhaps New Caledonia!  Australia?  So many choices here in the S Pacific!

Meanwhile it is 30 degrees in the cabin and more when the sun beats down...the humidity hovers between high and higher.....but it still beats going to the office!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"rust never sleeps"

Paradise is not always what it is meant to be!  I have been back in the marina in Fiji for three weeks now and though I have sorted through several issues to get Toketie back into sailing trim, the old girl is looking pretty worn out where the tropics and crossing oceans has taken their toll.  The long neglected bilge area has paint peeling off and the topsides, newly painted when we left Victoria in 2006, are now looking pretty sad with rust streaks and deterioration of the topside paint.  Local resources are scarce and unpredictable so if we cannot resolve it here we are considering another season in New Zealand because we know the quality of work down there.  Meanwhile, the air is stifling and right now the Tropical Convergence Zone is passing over us bringing lightning shows and heavy rain at times.