Thursday, October 6, 2016


One of the things that we love about living on the sea is the constant change in our surroundings. Take the ocean.  Below is what we saw after leaving Yadua crossing some of the bluest and calmest stretches of water we've seen.  The water was so clear you could easily see 100 feet into the depths, maybe more.  The sun's rays seem to just go on to infinity.

When we diverted from Tonga to Fiji, we decided to make this year's Fiji tour  a pure reconnaissance mission for next year's more in depth exploration.  Our itinerary was to sail West to the Yasawa Islands, then South to Musket Cove with short stops along the way, eventually arriving at Vuda point for provisions and departure clearance to New Zealand.

Our next destination after Yadua Island was a bay called Yasawairara at the northern end of the Yasawa group.  When we arrived the color of the 30 foot depths over pure white sand changed from the iridescent blue above to a turquoise so beautiful it made your eyes hurt.

Ashore we were greeted by these charming Fijian children whose smiles and cheerful disposition was contagious.  They took us through their village to the chief's house, stopping at one point to announce of our arrival to the villagers by beating on a huge hollow log.  The drum looked like it had seen years of such calls.

The Chief and his wife greeted us and invited us into their home where the ceremony called Sevusevu was performed.  The idea is we offer a gift of kava as a way of requesting permission to use the village's land, beaches, ocean, etc.  We were graciously granted permission to stay as long as we wanted, "a week, a month, a year..." and offered some land to live on if we wanted to stay and live ashore.  Later we joined the Chief at their 4:00PM church services.  We couldn't understand a word of that, but the singing was inspiring with everyone including the children belting the songs out at the top of their lungs.

Despite living in conditions that would rank far below the level our country calls poverty, it seems these islanders want for little and are among the happiest, most joyful people we've met.

As we left, we took our regular positions aboard Moonshadow:  Deb at the helm...

... and John on the bow giving the sign that everything is looking good.

But besides checking out the view astern, John logged a lot of time on the bow watching for coral reefs.  In this part of the world coral reefs are everywhere and the navigation is challenging.  Thankfully, we can utilize Google Earth imagery to augment our navigation, but it also takes one thing everybody has two of: eyeballs!

Along the way, we couldn't help wonder if we'd somehow gotten our navigation wrong as some of the hills here remind us of Northern California's wine country.

Soon we were finding the transition from very remote islands to touristy resorts.

The first clue was the mode of transportation.

Compared to the shock of landfall in Papeete after weeks in the remote islands of the Tuamotus and Marquesas, these scattered signs of modern civilization were easier to digest.

In fact, we decided to go directly to a place where we could do some real digesting.

But soon enough we were back to anchoring in yet another stunningly beautiful cove.  Here we used our scuba tanks to clean Moonshadow's bottom in water so clear we could see the bottom 65-70 feet below Moonshadow.  This became important when John's hookah hose snagged and released his weight belt and slowly sank to the bottom, it's black form in the shape of a semi-circle, clearly laughing at us from well beyond our diving skills.   Fortunately, new cruising friends Mark and Ursula aboard Anahoa are certified Scuba Divers and fetched it for us.

Next stop was Musket Cove, or as Deb likes to call it Buccaneer Bay.  Somehow that name, which may refer to an actual place somewhere, but nowhere in Fiji, got stuck in Deb's head.  Either that, or there's something wrong with her buccaneers!

As blue water cruisers, we meet people, become friends, then say goodbye, move on,  and wonder if, when, and where we'll ever see them again.  What we've really enjoyed is that we do, in fact, run into these friends in far away and unexpected places.  That was the case with Steve and Linda Dashew, who we met in Beaufort, North Carolina, and again in Camden, Maine, back in 2012.

Steve and Linda have created something in excess of 60 blue water sailing yachts all around the same concept:  Large, rugged, fast ocean passage makers that can be handled by two, even elderly sailors, most often husband and wife.  We think they did a pretty fine job on that.  Now they are doing the same thing for cruisers on the dark side (the sailor's term for power boats).

In Camden, we took this shot of three of Steve's creations: 62 foot Moonshadow, 74 foot Interlude, and his radical blue water power boat, 83 foot Wind Horse, all lined up for a portrait.

Little did we know then that we'd be anchored within shouting distance on the other side of the earth one day, but here we are next to Steve's latest wonder and personal 78 footer, Cochise.

Like Wind Horse, Cochise is a fast, long range ocean crossing power cruiser, looking like nothing else.  Unlike Wind Horse, an 83 footer, 78 foot long Cochise is nearly twice the boat in terms of volume, interior space and modern technology.  Learn more about Steve's power boats here.

After we got our anchor down, Steve came by to invite us over for sundowners.  We spent the evening with our mouths agape, marveling at the rugged, yet elegant little ship that Cochise is.  If this is the dark side for sailors, we could be convinced to switch teams!

The next day Steve let John row his feather light skiff, equipped with carbon sculls and a sliding seat.  It has been 25 years since John rowed his single shell at San Diego Rowing Club, so this was a treat.

Returning after a fun row, Deb's photo put the size of Cochise in perspective.

Later, we were invited to ride along while Steve put Cochise through her paces as part of his data collection and shakedown prior to his upcoming voyage to Florida, then Greenland next year.

The state of the art glass cockpits on both the flying bridge and the salon provide every piece of performance and navigation data you could ever want to know.  The chart plotter display reveals that we were making full speed, full rudder 180 turns to put the stabilizers through their paces.

This was about the only time we heard any noise from the engines three levels below.

We were between the inner and outer reefs South of Musket Cove where the water is always smooth, and where we found a perfect place to take some aerial photography with our drone.

Steve often hires a helicopter, pilot and photographer to get shots like this, and now thinks he knows what he hopes to find in his Christmas stocking.  Check out more photos on Steve's blog here.

When we returned we enjoyed the view outside the massive windows of Cochise's great room.  Moonshadow, one of over 60 sailboats to evolve from Steve's creative mind still looks pretty darn nice sitting nearby.  

As the moon set over Moonshadow's boom, we wondered when and where we'd see Steve and Linda next, and couldn't help but think that this reunion - the Dashews seeing a boat they created 30 years ago anchored nearby after over 100,000 miles of blue water cruising and still going strong - must feel pretty good.