Sunday 30 December 2018

Tuvalu to Marshalls - Days 4 -5 - Last dispatch from the South Pacific

Crossing the Equator for the fourth time in Fluenta.


Greetings from the middle of the trip, where the winds don't seem to have seen the forecast.

We are less than 30 nm south of the equator at the moment, so this is quite likely our last letter from the Southern Hemisphere :)

We thought we had sailed into the bigger winds yesterday morning, when we had up to 10 kts. Victoria baked bread (white only, as it turned out that even in vacuum bags, our whole wheat flour did not appreciate its long sojourn in our cupboard) and it seemed like we were making good progress.

We celebrated in the afternoon that we were more than half-way from Fiji in our usual Fluenta style with a sunset bag of chips. Dinner was 'mahimahi alfredo' with the last of the previous day's mahimahi (a nice change from fish and rice) in a building sea, and again it seemed like we were into the wind, battening down for squalls overnight.

We slowed down just before sunset to let a big squall move ahead of us. By after dinner, the squall had passed, the sun had set, and the evening was very dark: the glory days of the waxing moon from early in our trip have made way for the dark nights of the waning moon, which is now not making its presence felt until well after midnight.

As I was settling into my watch with calm seas and light wind, a dark shadow moved in beside and front of me. It was amorphous and didn't seem to have the defined shape of a typical squall, so I didn't think much of it. Next thing I knew, I had 16 kts of wind, rain, and shifting winds that clocked around from every direction. Each time I looked at the radar, the picture looked the same: a big splotch of colour was sitting on top of us, and not moving off very fast.

Somehow, this squall set the conditions for the next 24 hours. Even post-squall when the wind dropped, and I motored in search of the prevailing (forecast) winds, we could not find consistent conditions; at one point I watched the wind clock around 270 deg on the compass before wandering back.

We weren't the only creatures confused by the weather: when Johnathan and I were reefing the genoa in the pouring rain, we heard a thunk then a squawk, then I shone my light on the back deck and a little black and white bird had fallen to join us. A group of birds had been circling our sails calling to each other in the dark (it sounded like they were commenting on this funny sea creature they had stumbled across, or it could have just been complaints that we weren't throwing fish bits over the side). Our little friend spent today on the back deck, nursing a drooping wing, and watching the goings on with interest. Johnathan has been our resident vet, moving him to safety when he wanders out into the area of the active lines and offering some of our leftover fish (which he hasn't eaten). I'm not sure what we will do if it is still aboard when we arrive to clear in, and I am hopeful that a few days of R&R will be just what the Dr ordered to restore the wing to full operation.

Turdy Birdy who stayed with us for a few days.
We had another reminder that we are not alone in the ocean this morning: a pod of dolphins swam by mid-morning. They were clearly on their way somewhere, because they did not stop to play or say hello. They were purposeful in their movements and moved past the boat without any interaction or acknowledgement.

No pictures of the dolphins but here is the gecko that adopted us.  What he is doing on the upper decks I do not know.
Max spent most of his afternoon watch alternating between motoring and sailing. He and the kids put up our spinnaker pole to give the collapsing genoa some structure, and this helped us make some progress. It shows how deeply asleep I was during my off-watch that I was completely oblivious to these on-deck maneuvers!

We had another suppertime squall tonight, but this one gave us a push with winds into the teens for about three hours. It hovered off our stern and literally pushed us forward. After it finally passed, we have had winds from the south for much of this evening (putting our destination pretty much dead downwind) so having mounted the pole for the genoa this afternoon, and are moving along wing on wing at the moment. The winds continue to be changeable, so as soon as we get set on one course, it seems like it is time to gybe to a different one. I am finding that it takes a lot of judgment to know when the winds are about to change back to what they were and when they have clocked to a new direction and the sails need to be adjusted accordingly. It strikes me that there is some kind of life lesson in these reflections as well :)

Getting past the squalls

A typical tropical squall.
I have commented a lot on the brightness of the sky when we have been sailing under the full moon. The last two nights have offered a little of the opposite perspective. It is almost as if a grey wool blanket has been settled over the sky just above us: the darkness is deep and complete. Without the moon, there is almost no variation in the clouds, and with the thick cloud cover, there are hardly any stars. There are no other lights around, so we are engulfed and enfolded in shades of black and grey. It is always a relief when the moon starts to make its presence known!

Max does a lot of the sail changes, often on his own, but I was very proud today that both Victoria and Johnathan helped me with gybing when Max was off-watch. In the pouring rain, Victoria and I rigged the 'big preventer' (for this first time this passage) this morning and set up the main to run deep downwind. This evening, in the pitch dark, and the rain, Johnathan and I gybed the boat when the wind veered and became unfavourable on our current course. (The good think about these warm air temperatures is that a little rain just cools us down; later in the year we will have to be more disciplined about keeping dry). Ironically, by the time we had completed the change, the wind had begun to back around again, but with a bit of patience, the new course proved the better one. It is times like these that a crystal ball would come in handy! As it turned out, the wind on this new course eventually settled down and gave us the first steady progress towards Majuro that we have had in ages: once the wind clocked around to the South, it stayed there all night. It turns out that it was a good call to gybe when Johnathan and I did :)

We remain hopeful that the winds will be as forecast tomorrow, and we will be able to sail all the way to Majuro.

Love to all,
At 2018-12-26 1:56 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 00°09.42'S 175°24.90'E

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Tuvalu to Marshalls - Day 3 - Games in the cockpit

Grade 10 at sea.  Projects due on arrival in Majuro !


Today was lovely!

The kids and I played Yahtzee (a Christmas gift) in the cockpit all morning. It was fun because it engaged everyone, including Benjamin, who was my dice-rolling partner. Johnathan finished as champion but everyone was hooked :) Victoria liked the game because she could keep knitting Christmas mittens in between turns.

More knitting
When Benjamin woke up early in the morning, Victoria told him all the devices were still in the oven for protection from lightning, so they got busy with markers and paper. By the time I emerged from my off-watch, Benjamin had created a 'dinghy-donkey' dinosaur that was as tall as a tree, had red and green stripes, and ate apples as its only food. This creature captured his imagination for most of the day.

More mittens for the Fluenta crew in preparation for Alaska.
The most exciting thing to report today is that we have not seen lightning for 24 hours. We still kept our devices in the oven as a precaution (and to prompt Benjamin to play with something that didn't plug in), but the skies have been much more subdued than they were the first night.

On the other hand, we have not seen wind above 7 kts, either, so we are making slow progress. Fluenta sails beautifully on a close reach in light air, so it seems like magic to have 6 kts of true wind and over 5 kts of boat speed. We have motored here and there when the wind dropped even lower, but for the most part, we have just been ghosting along on flat seas.

Flat seas make for easy cooking, so dinner tonight was freshly fried Mahimahi and rice. Lunch today was leftover mahimahi and rice from yesterday :) Lunch tomorrow will be the same. After that, we need to catch another fish.

Johnathan and I had a nice chat in the cockpit when the rest of the boat was sleeping. These are the moments under the stars that my mama-heart holds on to. We are pretty sure we had dolphins following us for a few minutes: we could hear puffs of air, and we could see streaks of bioluminescence. I wouldn't let him shine a flashlight on them, so we just had to guess, but we certainly had some kind of company on our watch for a little while.

Much love to all,
At 2018-12-26 10:57 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 02°57.11'S 176°51.84'E

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Thursday 27 December 2018

Tuvalu to Marshalls - Days 1-2 - Christmas, Sunshine, Lightning, and Whales!

Christmas Eve!


After a lovely, but quick, Christmas at anchor in Tuvalu, we stowed all the presents and decorations and set off for the Marshall Islands on the morning of Boxing Day. "Monsoon Westerlies" are expected in the area next week, and it was surreal to think that the area around Funafuti, where we had a sea of glass and less than 5 kts of wind, could see 25-35 kts westerlies and heavy rain for a week or more.

Lego !

and then into the new books !

Benjamin is very impressed with his new jacket and backpack.  All ready for BC except he will need socks and boots too.

The days have been idyllic: sunshine, light wind (some motoring, some sailing), making water, taking showers. We caught a mahimahi on both days, so dinner tonight was rice and fish, which was perhaps a nice change from the Christmas roast and leftovers that have made up the previous meals. The temperatures are climbing as we head for the equator - we saw 34 deg in the cabin, and over 32 deg sea temp today.

Last night, on the other hand, was an endurance event, both physically and mentally. We spent the evening sailing very slowly, with winds around 6 kts, close reaching. We began seeing lightning well before midnight, and numerous squalls broke into Max's off-watch as I needed him to come to the cockpit. At one point, we encountered a mass of squall activity that stretched for miles: no matter how we looked at the radar picture (which was literally a picture - I snapped photos of our radar screen at the chart table to show Max in the cockpit) there was no obvious way out to clear skies. I had just been contemplating starting the engine as the wind had dropped off, when we went under the dark cloud and the wind went from 6 kts (barely enough to sail) to the mid-20s in short order. Soon, Max was reefing the main and I was furling the genoa, in an effort to reduce our sail area as quickly as we could.

The wind and rain made things interesting, but they didn't test our nerves the way the lightning did. I found myself developing a new, and visceral, appreciation for folks who have lived in a bomb zone: lightning was flashing all around us, and there was no way to know whether it would get close enough to strike us. Each flash that I saw caused an instinctive startle reflex. Rationally, I knew that no matter how close they seemed (bright enough at times to dazzle my night sight) with a count of 15 second as the nearest roll of thunder, they were still some distance from us; however, emotionally, my nerves were jolted with each strike. Just when I was thinking that I hadn't seen any lightning in a while, a massive, jagged horizontal flash lit up the two clouds beside me, looking for all the world like a drooping electrical wire between two poles in a kids' cartoon. Yikes. Not over yet, I guess! Needless to say, once the lightning was close enough that we were hearing thunder, we put the laptop in the oven with the rest of the hand-held devices that were already there and unplugged our Iridium GO, all in the hope of minimizing damage in the case of a lightning strike.

In general, squalls will move with the wind (ie they go from upwind to downwind) but at one point, we had such a windshift that upwind became downwind so it was hard to tell which way the clouds would go! After a 100-degree windshift, we found ourselves sailing due East with wind out of the North. Even though it might have been a temporary situation due to the cloud above us, we decided to tack to maintain a better course (and to maneuver away from the darkest mass of clouds), even if we had to tack back in a few minutes. As it turned out, that wind stayed strong steady for at least an hour, so it was a good decision.

The after-supper person (ideally me) is usually on watch until about 2am, at which point they wake the other, who has by then (ideally) had 5-6 hours of sleep, and is ready to stay awake through the rest of the night. Being the first night on passage, last night was not exactly ideal. Dinner and Benjamin's bedtime both took longer than usual, so by the time I was ready to relieve Max and take the watch it was already about 10:30. The squalls started by midnight, and they kept needing both of us to either react or make decisions, which meant that Max spent most of his off-watch in the cockpit (sometimes for just a few minutes, and once for over an hour). With such a broken off watch, it was 4:30 this morning before I shook Max to come and stay in the cockpit.

This morning, Max and Victoria were preparing for a (generally rare) morning squall when they noticed a massive bait ball of fish near the boat. This in itself is unusual and the situation was made more unusual when they saw the tell-tale 'puff' from a whale: some kind of large whale was fishing next to us! This is one of the random ocean encounters that we hope for, but rarely see.

The kids have spent their time reading, playing video games, and knitting. This afternoon, I woke to see them 'tripling' on the couch, which I find to be one of the loveliest sights to behold: all three kids are engaged and playing cooperatively together, despite a 10-year age gap, with three blond heads lined up on the port bench.

The morning clouds cleared away, and the afternoon was sunny. By supper time, the sea was so smooth (<2kts wind) that it looked like molten glass rolling by us. After one squall at 10pm, where Johnathan helped by closing all the windows and hatches downstairs, I have spent my (much more typical) evening watch bracing for bad weather, but actually enjoying a clear and cloudless sky. We are expecting the wind to fill in my mid-day tomorrow, but for now we are motoring with about 3 kts of wind, without a squall in sight (the 12nm radar picture is clear). What a difference a day makes!

Much love to all,

A Christmas dinner feast !

Christmas Dinner in the cockpit.

At 2018-12-26 2:35 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 04°59.03'S 178°32.55'E

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Sunday 23 December 2018

Fiji to Marshalls - Days 4-6 - Earning our Entrance to Tuvalu

Yup, I think we are in Tuvalu
Greetings from Tuvalu!

We anchored for Christmas Friday afternoon under sunny skies, with the "Q" and Canada Flags secured snuggly to their halyards, and freshly caught mahi mahi at rest in our fridge, expertly filleted underway by Victoria. With Christmas music from our bluetooth speaker providing the soundtrack, we entered the long and narrow western pass to Tuvalu with a minimal current and set our anchor by 4:30pm.

Getting ready for Christmas.  Note the coconut manger.

Getting ready for Christmas.  Victoria crocheted nativity set and the goofy dog and penguin date from our distant land life.
Leaving Fiji last Sunday, we kept the idea of stopping as a quiet option in our back pocket, mentally preparing ourselves for the 'romance' of Christmas-at-Sea (likely hove-to for 24-36 hours), but privately hoping that we would have favourable weather to be at anchor at Tuvalu (as the 'romance' would have worn through pretty fast with the winds in the squally convergence zone gusting almost instantaneously from light to 25 kts all night).

Both of the last two days (days 4 and 5) at sea were pretty much repeats of earlier days: sunny skies, calm seas, and light winds (max 8 kts), which made for glorious sailing (if sometimes a little slow). We didn't see anything besides a couple of plastic bottles from the time we left Fiji until we were approaching Tuvalu, where we saw two very small open boats heading for the nearby fishing grounds; we had no traffic of any kind on our AIS. Even if we don't see them visually, we usually have some freighters and fishing vessels as much as 40 nm away on our AIS display. We seemed to be the only occupants of the ocean for hundreds of miles, with the exception of the odd seabird who swooped in to have a good look at our fishing lures. This is a rather humbling sensation.

The kids had fun keeping themselves occupied (which included baking sugar cookies with home-made coloured sugar (V&B), listening to four audio books (J), 'tripling' on Minecraft (all three), standing watch (V), making Christmas presents (V), and maybe even doing some school work (V - she even used our satphone to call into her weekly conference with her teacher at 0730 Wednesday morning)). The days also presented the usual boat challenges (for instance, the bronze handle to our head not only wiggled itself loose, but chafed away some of its bronze around the shaft key, which had become misaligned; thankfully Max managed to press the key into the proper position and then get the set screw on the handle to snug down more tightly. I think I was the one who had erred a little too much on the side of caution a week or so earlier when we had it all apart). Max also took advantage of the flat conditions to transfer diesel from our jerry cans to our internal tanks; he does this with a siphoning hand pump into the cockpit tank.

The glamour of cruising ... transferring diesel at sunset.
The evenings (when I usually write emails) were a different story - thus the delay in sending this update. As a matter of practice, we learned to store our hand-held electronics in the oven as some protection against lightning. There didn't seem to be much rhyme or reason for electrical activity (benign, gentle-looking clouds would fill the sky with lightning, and big angry ones would be silent and dark) but most nights we would see lightning several times each hour. Instead of spending long stretches at the chart table, with occasional glances around the horizon at the cue from my timer, I found myself glued to my seat in the cockpit watching for lightening and the big clouds that indicate approaching squalls.

It is hard to describe the horizon, but we were surrounded by fantastically shaped clouds, sculptured lumpily and exuberantly in three dimensions out of the most vivid imagination: it is easy to imagine all kinds of people and cartoon creatures going on about their business above us. The nearly-full moon was our companion for all but the last couple of hours on watch, so the sea and the clouds were lit brightly enough that we hardly needed a flashlight to see the sails. For most of the evening, it was extraordinary to have an almost perfectly clear sky, the nearly full moon reflecting off of a gentle sea, and not much more than this crazy line of clouds in the distance as company. Amazing.

In general, after this quiet early evening, the squalls would start by 11pm. During my watch, I would observe an ominous shape upwind of us until I was certain that we were in its track, then I would call Max to come to the cockpit, where we would reduce the sail area, close the rain panels, and hang on! If you look at our plots through the Predictwind tracker, you will notice sudden turns away from our track that carried on for as much as two miles: these are the points were we turned downwind to reduce the apparent wind and the forces on the boat.

At 0130 on Wednesday evening, with about an hour left in my watch, and in preparation for a sizeable approaching squall, I was at the chart table watching the radar, and monitoring the wind on the instruments (steady at about 11-12 kts). I felt like things were about to shift, so I woke Max (somehow he manages to single-hand through these squalls, but I find it easier when there are two of us in the cockpit for furling, etc, especially when the easing winch and the furling winch are on opposite sides of the cockpit and the rain enclosure is preventing the winch handle from making a full turn). By the time I got to the companionway stairs, the wind had shot to 17 kts and kept climbing to about 22 kts. We were close-hauled on wind-hold (which means that we set the wind angle for the sails, and the boat adjusts its course to follow the wind shifts), which meant that the apparent wind was significantly higher. By the time I managed to turn the boat downwind, our speed through water had reached almost 10kts! Thankfully the sea-state was slight, and the boat responded quickly to the autopilot (and there is an autopilot control at the companionway in addition to the ones at the helm and the chart table). We ran downwind with the sails still sheeted in (to reduce their effective area), but it still took about 20 minutes before we were able to turn towards our course again. We decided on an early watch change, so before long, I went off-watch and Max was in his own company in the moonlight watching a clear sky and cloudy horizon as if nothing had just happened (other than the wind never shifted back to the point that he could actually aim the boat at Tuvalu).

On Thursday night, we had a similar situation, only it didn't end with the usual 'run downwind and then return to our course' technique. As 11pm approached, I had the sense that we were sailing into darkness, and that we were going to have to earn our anchorage in Tuvalu for the following day. The winds had been steady around 10 kts all evening, and we were sailing comfortably, albeit close-hauled, but the sky ahead was black in every direction. The only saving grace was that I didn't see any lightning. By 11:30, I felt the first drops of rain and the tell-tale change in the wind (at the edge of a squall, the wind usually shifts about 30 deg and jumps significantly in strength); entering a squall area is like going through a door: one minute all is calm and quiet and the next the wind has been turned on. Max and I turned downwind and reefed the genoa together; even with a small sail area, we were travelling at over 8 kts. The next step was for Max to reef the mainsail; even with the reef, we were still hurtling along. I had a look at the radar, and the screen was a mass of green (which means rain) - the cloud stretched out about six nm. As with the night before, we quickly had 25 kts and pelting rain. Even when we thought the system was abating, it only caught its breath and came again with more gusto. Finally, after about an hour of sailing together, we decided that we would once again do our watch change a little early, and then I would come back on after a few hours of sleep in the saloon.

Max sailed through one squall after another for the rest of the night; at one point we heeled so much that Victoria came running from the forward cabin because the sound of the water about her ears in the top bunk had woken her up. In the course of the next six hours, the wind and rain never really abated and continued to blow straight from our desired course. Tacking with the wind shifts of up to 90 degrees meant that progress towards Tuvalu was slow. There was no doubt but that we had to earn our place at anchor!

Our final morning at sea was particularly exhilarating. With a full main and most of the genoa, we churned along in 12-14 kts of wind. Victoria and I adjusted the size of the genoa to keep the boat under control, but our boat speeds were still in the 7.5-8.5 kt range, which is high for us. We were squeezing every bit of speed out of Fluenta that we could as the end was in sight, and there was a chance that we could enter the lagoon at Tuvalu with enough light to transit across to the town and anchor before dark, but since we could not actually make our course - as hard on the wind as I could push the boat, we were still as much as 30 deg away from our mark, anchoring before another night at sea was not a given. Eventually, Max and I elected to enter at the Western pass rather than the Southern pass (which we had used before), as much because we could sail to it as because it was more protected from the swell.

If the lagoon were a clockface, the pass would be just below 9:00, so after all this excitement, we had a beautiful and leisurely sail around the outer edge of the reef (ie once we passed the '6:00' position at the southern edge: it was one of the most picturesque periods of the passage, with the motus and reefs providing a backdrop to blue and turquoise waters and sunshine. The pass was narrow and very long, but with satellite imagery, and constant communications between the bow and the helm over our bluetooth headsets, we navigated it without incident.

After a fast, but windy, motor across the 6nm of lagoon, we anchored off the town of Funafuti. The kids had been told that they could decorate for Christmas only once the boat was tidied up and end-of-passage chores done: it was amazing how quickly and thoroughly they got through a job list that would usually have resulted in much complaining! Once the boat was tidy, they set to work to make it feel like Christmas - right down to the white snowflakes that Victoria helped Benjamin to cut out :)

Now that we are in Funafuti, it looks like we will have a weather window to carry on with our journey to the Marshall Islands on Boxing Day .. stay tuned for our next at-sea update.

Love to everyone and Merry Christmas,


[Aside: even at anchor it has admittedly taken me a couple of days to craft this update. During this time we have been in Christmas holiday mode. There are (solar) Christmas lights all around the cockpit and the saloon, a crocheted nativity set cozied in beside the singing stuffed animal collection, decorations and shiny beads encircling our living space, and tasty things either already made or on the menu. We have done some basic post/pre passage maintenance, and started watching the weather for the continuation of our passage. As it turns out, given our late-Friday arrival before a holiday weekend and planned Boxing Day departure, we won't even clear into Tuvalu at all. We will just keep flying our Q flag and not going ashore.]

Lots of space for yoga.

At 2018-12-23 9:16 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 08°31.53'S 179°11.34'E

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Tuesday 18 December 2018

Fiji to Marshalls - Day 2-3 - Nice days and Lightning at night

Still not much wind ...


A quick note to cover two days - in my usual time of writing last evening, we had the laptop unplugged and the small devices (VHF radio, satphone, GPS) in the oven. We were not doing some kind of strange Home Economics experiment: we use the oven as the closest thing to a Faraday Cage that we have on the boat, and we put the electronics in there when we have lightning, of which we had plenty on our second night! Thankfully, it was at a distance, and mostly downwind of us (meaning the clouds weren't coming our way) but it is disconcerting to see the entire night sky lit up every few seconds!

Watching the world go buy at 6 kts.
Both days were pretty similar: stretches of motoring interspersed with stretches of light air sailing. You can see the difference in our track when we motor and when we sail: the sailing track veers off in a wobbly line that follows the wind, while the sailing track heads straight down the rhumb line [although at the time of sending this we are actually sailing down the rhumb line at a reasonable speed].

Fish on !

The fish may have been too big ...

Victoria getting ready to fillet this little mahi mahi

The kids are settling into a routine of being on deck, playing video games, and watching movies together. It is quite cute to see Benjamin snuggled in beside Johnathan's shoulder with one ear bud each. When watching alone, Johnathan has taken to wearing the bright yellow ear defenders over the ear buds in order to hear better over the sound of the engine.

It is actually quite pleasant to be ghosting along on a calm sea at 2-5 kts :) It is a dead-end thought process to notice that we could just about walk faster than we are sailing at times, but every 25 min that we don't motor is another 1/2 gallon of diesel that we don't have to carry in a jerry can (of course, I used the 'royal we' there, as it is always Max's turn to carry the diesel, and what I meant was that it was another jerry can that he didn't have to carry!) It is a slow trip at times, and I am certainly grateful for our Perkins engine that we can flash up when the doldrums get to be a bit too much.

Love to all,
At 2018-12-19 6:40 AM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 12°01.25'S 178°45.23'E

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Sunday 16 December 2018

Fiji to Marshall Islands - Day 1 - Glad to be back at sea

Not a lot of wind


The flurry of preparations have been completed, the last phone calls have been made, the last treats at the grocery store obtained (extra butter for Christmas cookies, via the paddle board!), and at last we are at sea. After a busy season that culminated in a surprise trip to the boat yard, there is something to be said for the simplicity of just sailing the boat.

I am not generally fit to sit at the chart table on the first night, but the combination of Bonamine and flattened seas have made for a pleasant first evening watch. This is usually the busy time, with squalls expected throughout the night, but today (thus far) it has been Max and Victoria with the busy afternoon watch instead. We had a forecast for single-digit winds, and instead, they had up to 22 kts behind us, which was an exhilarating start for the father-daughter team while I took my first off-watch sleep. We had some steeper seas earlier (wind against current, perhaps) but now they are just rolling powerfully behind us as we sail on a broad reach.

I am having one of those evenings that people visualize before they sell their house and sail away: the sky is a high and bright dome covered in stars, the moon is reflecting off the water lighting up the whole area, the wind is steady at around 12-15 kts, we are moving along at anywhere between 6-7+ kts, and the motion of the boat is pleasant. Benjamin lay down on the aft bench of the cockpit and just fell asleep with no drama. Johnathan poked his head up through the aft hatch and we had a conversation about how beautiful the evening was (and about whether he might enjoy army or air cadets more when we got home). Lovely. I am sure we will have all kinds of conditions as we make our way towards Canada, but so far, this evening is one for the memory books.

This afternoon, Max and Victoria had a much busier watch, with shifty winds and eventually a gybe. I have to say that it was pretty nice to be laying on the aft bunk, off-watch, while the two of them completed the maneuvers; a few years ago, I would have had to come up on deck to help, but with strong and capable teenagers in our crew, the grownups can get much more sleep! At times, Victoria and Max were surfing down waves at 8-10 kts! There is a unique sound when we have the waves at just the right angle behind us and a wave comes surging powerfully under the hull; we heard it regularly this evening!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ... Victoria and Benjamin decorated our little tree yesterday. Most people at home have to lash their tree to make sure the cat doesn't knock it down; in our case, it is lashed to the bulkhead so that the boat's motion doesn't send it flying! This afternoon, she made my mom's Sunbeam Cookies while I was asleep. For me, these are a taste of childhood, and so good!!

We already caught our first fish, but it was a barracuda, so we sent him back from whence he came. Barracuda have a stronger likelihood of passing along siguaterra, so we don't generally keep them.

We don't know where we will be for Christmas - but we will keep you posted on our wherabouts, or you can track us via our blog or YIT.

Love to all,

PS - The night-watch layers report: Seatemp is 29.6 deg C. Air temp is about the same. I was comfortable in the cockpit with a light hoodie, shorts, and no blanket (of course, the rain enclosure was closed).
At 2018-12-16 10:38 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 16°05.66'S 177°18.82'E

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Saturday 15 December 2018

Moce Fiji and How To Track Fluenta.

Hard to believe but Fluenta is leaving Fiji after 2.5 seasons of visits over the last four years.  As we are heading north we are sad that we are unlikely to revisit this beautiful country with its lovely friendly people anytime soon.  We did cover a bit of ground in Fiji though. Below is a screenshot of our Yachts in Transit posts over the last four years.  Still so many places we missed !

We will be heading north soon but you will be able to to follow our progress in two ways.  You will notice at the top of the blog you can see our position on the Predictwind tracker.   I only just fixed the html for this so I hope it continues to work.    You can also click on the link here -> Predictwind Tracking page to get a full screen version of the chart.  Interestingly, in the new version you can also view the weather that we are forecast to be seeing at the time.

If you select the 'options' in the upper left corner the menu shown here in the middle appears.  If you select one of the three weather arrows you can see what weather the forecast thinks we are experiencing.  You can also toggle between a map or satellite view.

The tracking page with weather overlay selected.  We are at the red dot.
There is a new functionality in Predictwind Offshore enabling us to posts notes on the tracking page too.  More to follow after we test how it works for us.

As we have done for the last few years, we will usually post updates to Yachts in Transit daily on passage and when we change anchorages .  Our page on Yachts in Transit is here.

We will shortly be beyond the world of normal internet.  Facebook has changed a lot of its policies so we are no longer able to post to Facebook remotely nor are our Yachts in Transit posts being mirrored on Facebook.  We will still post directly to the blog with our Iridium Go.

As in previous years, a reminder that if you notice that the tracking is not working please do not revert to "panic stations".  There are all sorts of technical and operator issues that could cause the systems to not work.  If we do have an actual emergency we will activate the EPIRB(s) and PLB(s), use the SOS buttons on the Iridium Handheld or Go and/or call RCC directly.

Moce, Vinaka vaka levu Fiji for all the good times.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Time to Play - Sunset Kiting at Musket Cove

When I first learnt a bit about kiting I was fascinated and then I watched the awesome blog posts and videos from our friends on SV Estrellita. At that point I knew we needed some new toys.  The first place I went out to learn a bit about kiting was with Livia and Carol at Musket Cove in 2015 so it was really cool that Liz and I managed to sneak in a quick sunset kite at the same place before we needed to be responsible and return with Fluenta to the boatyard.

Sunset selfie with the kite still flying.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Scheduled birthday and Unscheduled haulout - Slight change in plan ...

Pre-Departure Photo.
It is great to have plans.  Sometimes though, the boat gets a vote, or veto, on the plan ... We had intended to depart our favourite little town in the South Pacific, Savusavu, for a quick trip to Wallis and then back north to the Marshall Island.  However ... we noticed an ever so slight weeping (a leak would be an exaggeration) in one of the thru hulls .  Considering the miles ahead we did the prudent thing and sailed around to Nadi so we could haul out at Vuda Marina and replace the fitting.

Feeling the time pressures we did not wait for a good weather window and went despite the lack of forecast wind.  We did manage to sail about half of the way but it was a lot of motoring around the south of Vitu Levu.  Considering that the last two times we went around the south coast of Viti Levu we had rather "invigorating" sails it did seem odd.

We arrived in good time and talked with our new friend Kiti at Yuves Marine about options for the thru hulls.  Since we had to haul out anyway we decided to replace three old thru hulls and add a few more coats of antifouling.  We could not find the materials we wanted for the thru hulls so we called Steve at Steves's Marine, the best little chandlery in New Zealand, for help.  Steve and his team - who are mostly his family - had the required collection of parts on their way to us in Fiji in no time at all.  Thank you Steve and family !

The Hempel antifouling that Daryl of LinkUp Paint recommend when we were in Tauranga was doing well so we ordered another 10L from Kiti to apply since we were going to be out of the water anyway.  A long ways back to Canada !

There was a bit of delay in the parts arriving so we had time to head off for a play with our new friends on SV Sonadora.  We went out to Musket Cove again and then finally a night anchored out near Cloud 9 for Benjamin's birthday.

Finally, the fun had to come to an end and we hauled out, did our work and got back on our way again a few days later.

A few photos from our time below:

Sad day leaving the Copra Shed.  Pretti and Seti took such good care of us over our three seasons visiting.

As did Siteri !

Benjamin was given handmade cards by Pretti and her son Benjamin.

Back to Vuda.  Upgrades to the playground though

and then to Musket Cove.  Room to play at the Island Bar

and making Christmas wrapping paper.

Dingy surfing on Benjamin's birthday.

Dingy surfing on Benjamin's birthday.

and lots of lego.

Then to the pseudo-Fiji world of Denarau for Benjamin's birthday.  The Denarau marina staff asked why we did not haul out at Denarau.  I explained that Fluenta is our home and you are not allowed to live aboard in their yard.  I asked what a room ashore at Denarau for a family of five would be ... $1000 Fijian/night.  Hmm ... that is one reason to go to Vuda as well as a greater choice in contractors.

A Minecraft cake by Victoria of course but ably assisted by four (!) boys.  Victoria was very patient !

Complete with snowmen as Benjamin is quite fascinated by the concept of snow.

Great night out with the Sonadora crew.

and one tuckered birthday boy.

Alas, the fun comes to an end and we are back into a boat yard.

Cleaning the hull.  The antifouling was in good shape so we did not pressure wash but rather used some scotchbright pads.

Our reefer compressor is water cooled so without the sea ... a bucket of water suffices for a short period.  A living thermodynamics lesson.

The fancy switch for our propane solenoid stopped working so I wired in a new switch and Victoria made and installed a new cover from an ice cream bucket.

Time for more antifouling !

Yuve Marine getting ready to treat Fluenta to some Propspeed.  Normally we do not bother since it is no hassle in the tropics to jump over the side and give the props a quick scrub before each passage.  Less fun once the water temperature starts to drop on the way home.

The joys of living in the yard.  Mud, bugs and the ladder.

A bit of plumbing ...

The Headmistress at work with her able assistant Johnathan.

Ready to launch but then the travel lift broke.  Vuda managed to get it fixed over the weekend and had us launched only delayed by two days.