Fiji by the numbers

Barney's excited to see the red building - it is the Copra Shed Marina.

Barney’s excited to see the red building – it is the Copra Shed Marina.

by Christine Kling

We are enjoying a blissful Sunday afternoon here with Learnativity swinging on a mooring ball here in Savusavu, Fiji. We arrived Friday afternoon at about 3:30, just in time to clear in with Customs, Immigration, Health and Biosecurity. We still have to apply for our cruising permit on Monday, and that must be faxed to Suva for processing which will take about 3 days. We will also have to go to the various offices tomorrow to pay our fees. In case you’re interested, here is what it will cost us to clear in for our six month stay in Fiji – and remember, this is in Fiji dollars and it’s 2 Fiji to 1 US dollar, so cut all prices in half to know the US cost.

Clearance fee to Copra Shed Marina for use of their (very short) dock while clearing  $15.00

Health quarantine fee  $172.50

Biosecurity   $89.70

Refundable bond for the dogs $1500 each = $3000

Cruising permit $8.00

The actual costs add up to less than the $300US it takes to clear in to the Bahamas for a 3-month stay, but the bonds for the dogs are a bit of a pain. The dogs are not allowed off the boat, and if they are caught ashore, we would forfeit the bond. Otherwise, we are to go to Biosecurity at whatever port we depart from and inform them of our departure one week before we leave. The bond will be refunded then. Wayne has come in and out of Fiji several times and this has never been much of a problem.

We had anchored two nights en transit across the Fijian waters to get to this Port of Entry, the first night in a sheltered bay at the western end of Yadua Island, and the second night off a small Fijian town called Nabouwalu where there was a ferry dock and the anchorage was tucked in behind a reef.

This shows our passage through the reef strewn waters from Yadua to Savusavu

This shows our passage through the reef strewn waters from Yadua to Savusavu

There are really only four ports of entry in Fiji and we wanted to clear in here because it is the farthest east. Since the winds blow from the east, it’s easiest to start in the east and then work your way downwind back through the islands. We did our two upwind legs just trying to get here, and typical of the last week’s passage, it was blowing 25 and gusting to 30 so it was a quite a wet motorsail.

Once we were cleared in, we went ashore for a walk around the town. Savusavu is only about 5 blocks long, but it was late on a Friday afternoon and things were bustling. Fiji has a large Indian population that settled here through having been brought as indentured labor in the 19th century, and a group was singing and beating on tambourines on a corner. The bus and jitney station was crowded with people making their way back to their villages. This is probably the second largest town on the island of Vanua Levu. The bigger town is Lobasa, but it is at least a 3-hour bus ride away on narrow winding roads, so this is the big city for many around here. There were several clothing stores, lots of little miscellaneous shops that sell canned goods and phone cards, a bakery and the open market. We visited one of the three banks and got some Fiji dollars, and by the time we made it back to the Copra Shed Marina, the sun was setting and the bar was calling our names. In the end, we stayed for dinner and made it cook’s night off. The fish curry I had was excellent, and Wayne’s tuna was super, too. The Australian Shiraz was $7 Fijian a class and the entrees were about $20 Fijian each. The restaurant in the marina is one of the more expensive places in town to eat.

Yesterday we went to the market and bought our first fresh produce in three weeks. Papayas (1.50), pineapples (2.00), cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, bananas, tomatoes — it was like sensory overload, and the prices are very reasonable. We added fresh bread at the bakery, and we had the makings for a wonderful dinner and breakfast on board. I got a sim card for my iPhone and I now have a working local phone with a data plan, and we signed up for the wifi from the Copra Shed Marina, 7 days unlimited $30 Fijian. Tomorrow, we will buy a cellular stick for the router. With the cell towers on the high mountains here, they have very good cellular coverage throughout most of the islands.

Deadlines are always a bit of a problem for sailing, but I’m pleased to say we made it here in plenty of time – even with our 3- week passage. I’m supposed to start the edits on the new book on the 26th, so the numbers have worked out very well.

It’s great to be back in Fiji, and I look forward to seeing more of how much these islands have changed in the last 40 years.

Fair winds!


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Scraping away…


C.E. Grundler

Time sure doesn’t fly when you’re scraping away decades of bottom paint, which is why as we drove up to the boat this morning my assistant and I were debating what day it was. It’s been all hands on deck as we check off the punch list towards seeing Annabel Lee afloat again, at long last. My daughter’s significant other has been lending me a hand on boat-work, and in exchange I’m trading cars with the kids for the summer. He and my daughter are taking a cross country road trip to several national forests; my JettaTDI wagon will give them far better mpg as well as more room for their camping gear, and I’ll get back a car covered in great bumper stickers.

We haven’t scraped up to the bootstrap – we’re still debating lowering it to match the actual waterline – and there’s a whole lot of sanding and sealing to follow, but we’re definitely getting there. I’ve been splitting my days between intensive writing and equally intensive boat time, fueled by the headway I’m making. Over the coming weeks the running gear will be going back together, the decks finished up, we’ll be dealing with the salon windows — and then it’s into the water. And on that note, I’m getting back to work.

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Not sleeping is the enemy

By Christine Kling S/V Learnativity, voyage to Fiji
Sunday, May 17th, 7:00am
Position 12.41S 179.04E Wind 15-20SSE, course 210, boat speed 5-6 knots Distance to Bligh Water entrance 240 Bearing 195

You can follow our progress on this tracking map:

The sun is just up and I am sitting up in the captain’s chair watching the sea through the salt-caked glass of the boat’s cockpit windshield. Wayne and the dogs are down below sleeping. We are doing lots of hobby-horsing in the confused seas and wind chop and that is slowing our speed down and making for a less-comfortable ride, but I’m pretty sure he is able to sleep through it. And, I am feeling good for the first time in about 24 hours.

After our three-day stop in Funafuti atoll, our sailing conditions have been variable, but the only constant has been when there is wind, it is on the nose. Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day with lighter winds. We tacked and sailed almost due east all day and gained back much of the easting we had lost. But the night before we had lost the wind and the flogging sails, shaking out reefs, then the starting of the engine, then the uncomfortable restless doggies in the berth had added up to no sleep for me. On my night watch from 2-7, I had a headache, and by the time I hit the bunk around 10:00 am to try to catch up on sleep, I felt hot and cranky and the overhead sun was cooking me through the hatch. Again, I did not sleep.

Exhaustion is the sailor’s enemy. The chance of your doing something stupid and injuring yourself or damaging the boat increases greatly. Fortunately, I am a good sleeper about 90% of the time, but those few times when I don’t sleep well can wreak havoc with usual sense of well being. It can become a vicious cycle where I become too exhausted to sleep. So last night when I went to the bunk around 8:30 for my off watch, I tossed and turned. Then a squall hit and the boat was over-canvassed. We were heeled over so far, though I was trying to sleep crosswise in the aft cabin bunk and my feet were braced against the cabinetry, I was still sliding down the bunk and ending up in a fetal position with two panicked dogs scratching me for help. I got up to see if I could help, but Wayne had it under control. When it became clear the higher winds would last beyond the squall, he started the engine, both to reef the mainsail and to avoid a tuna boat that had appeared. In the 8 years Wayne has been cruising on this boat, he has updated the electronics significantly, and it has a great touch screen chart plotter with digital radar and an AIS transceiver. Running all these instruments at night uses lots of juice. He can set a safe zone alarm around the boat and if anything from land to ships to squalls appears in that zone, an alarm goes off. The radar is set to do 10 sweeps every 15 minutes and the AIS is always on. This is how he sailed as a singlehander spending nights in the captain’s chair napping.

Once that tuna boat was inside our perimeter, the alarm kept beeping.

As things settled down, I did fall asleep, but then I was awakened by a slamming cabinet door, then the plywood-backed cushions jumped off the little seat, then Wayne’s tool bag full of wrenches fell off its shelf. At that point it was quarter to two, so I struggled out of the bunk, braided my hair, and made my way topsides.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” I said as I gave the captain a mock salute. He wrapped his arms around me and said, “No, you go back to sleep.”
“But, it’s my watch, and you need your sleep, too. One of us should be well-rested.”
“No,” he said. “I’m used to this. I sailed by myself for years. I can nap a bit on watch.”
I let him talk me into it. For the next three hours, I slept the wonderful deep sleep of oblivion, and I awoke to a beautiful dawn and a husband I adore.

Fair winds!
Christine .

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Helicopters and hitchhikers

by Christine Kling

S/V Learnativity, voyage to Fiji
Saturday, May 9th, 6pm
Position 05.23S 177.50E Wind 0, course 145, boat speed 6.5 knots

You can follow our progress on this tracking map:

We left Majuro last Saturday, and we have been at sea every day since. Our world is life aboard this 52-foot boat, and we do not have TV or Internet or broadcast radio. We are ending our third or fourth day of motoring all day through a glassy rolly sea. I’ve lost count. The autopilot steers the boat, and we cook, read, work on the boat, and the days pass in a pleasant rhythm of small but glorious events.

For example, as I write this the sky is all lit up with one of the most spectacular sunsets. Gray bulbous clouds rest on the horizon while above the fluorescent blue sky is streaked across with bright red-orange clouds. It looks almost like geological strata in rock.

The days blur together, but these moments stand out, and we are never bored. There is so much to do, books to be read, meals to prepare, and I haven’t even started to teach myself to play the ukulele I bought in the Marshall Islands.

I usually sleep the first part of the night from about 9-2, and then it’s Wayne’s turn to sleep as I take over on watch. So, just at first light I was keeping an eye on the chart plotter. I looked up from the book I was reading to check again, and there was an AIS (Automatic Information System) target very close to us. That means there’s another boat out there. How did he get that close without me seeing him? I jumped up and pushed the buttons to see what info the AIS offered. There was no boat name, but it said he was only moving at 1.5 knots, and that he was “moored.” Yeah, right. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean? He was about 14 miles away. I turned around to look at the horizon to see if I could see the glow of his lights, but there was nothing. When I turned back to the chart plotter, the icon on the screen of the little AIS target boat was gone.

Ah, okay. It’s a tuna fishing boat and he must have nets in the water. That’s why he’s not moving, and why he doesn’t want to broadcast to the competition where he is. For some reason he switched on his AIS for a few minutes, then shut it down again. An hour later, the sun was well up in the sky, when I heard an odd noise coming from the same direction where the phantom tuna boat had been. I looked at the sky and saw the helicopter. He made a beeline for our boat. These big tuna purse seiners use helicopters to go out and spot the fish. We would often chat with the pilots at the Tide Table restaurant in Majuro – or just listen in to their conversations about what life is like on those boats. Most of the pilots are American, Kiwi or Aussies. This chopper had two guys in it, and they flew around the boat four times, so close they were whipping the water around the boat into a froth. As you might imagine, this close to the equator with no wind, it is hot. Add to that the fact that our 165 hp diesel engine has been running for days, and you can’t imagine how hot it is inside the boat. Most swim suits are made out of nylon, and they don’t breathe all that well, so we spend all day dressed only in our cotton underwear. So, when the helicopter arrived, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was only wearing a bright pink bra and pale pink panties. I jumped up and waved to the guys. I gave them a thumbs up to let them know we were okay, but they kept going around and around the boat. I guess it was more interesting than looking for tuna watching this crazy lady dancing around in her underwear.

Around midday, Wayne announced it was time to shut down the engine to check the oil, water and filters. We unfurled the genoa and tried to get the boat sailing. Under full mainsail and genoa, we were able to do 1-1.5 knots, but the sails were constantly flapping and flogging as the boat rolled on the long swells. As usual, when Wayne emerged from the engine room, he was covered with oil and sweat. The boat was barely moving, so he unclipped the lifelines leading to the transom steps and made his way down. He flipped the swim ladder into the swirling water under the stern and climbed in.

It’s startling how much water rushes past when the boat is only doing 1.5 knots. Wayne was hanging on to the ladder in the sparkling clear blue water, and his body was trailing behind as the boat towed him. “This feels great!” he said. When he got out, I had to strip down and try it. He was right. Skinny-dipping in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 90 degree water is amazing! It’s fun-scary knowing the boat is moving, and you have to hold on tight because you could never swim fast enough to catch up. The blue of the water, especially under the boat, was magnificent! It’s very odd being towed behind your boat knowing that the water under you is at least 5 miles deep, and you have no idea what sort of critters just might swim along and see your little body looking like bait.

After we’d both soaped up and rinsed off several times, we were finally back up on deck when we noticed a little bird, dark head and white body, sitting on our lifelines. He was hitching a ride, and when I hung my towel out on the lifeline not far from him, he just cocked his head and looked at me as if to say, “I just need to rest up for a bit. You don’t mind do you?” He wasn’t the least bit afraid.

We are now well past the halfway point of our passage having covered just over 1100 miles. It is fun being able to post these blog posts by email through our Iridium Go satellite communicator, but I must admit, I do miss being able to read the comments on the blogs. Even if I won’t be able to read them for another week or so when we finally arrive in Fiji, I hope you will leave a few words to let me know how it feels to be joining us on board the good ship, Learnativity, for this voyage to Fiji.

Fair winds!

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Ever have one of those days?

Where you get up early, all fired up for an ugly day of dirty work. I mean Tyvek suit/Mask/Respirator/Gloves day.  This comes from a winter of boat near-abandonment, in a shed that has again become the domain of feral cats and pigeons in the rafters.  A winter that came and went while I knew I’d have a horrendous cleanup, not just from time and wildlife, but a cleanup that remained after that final nightmare deck glassing, which would have never been completed if not for my daughter’s significant other.  And he was with me again as we excavated the boat from months of overdue cleaning.

Yeah. A good day. Dirty, tiring, but oh so satisfying, the see the boat re-emerge from beneath the debris. We tossed junk in the dumpster, loaded my car with anything that didn’t need to be there, then headed home and off-loaded. A very good day, and I still had time to shower and then write before dinner. I sat down for a quick snack first, while the dogs jumped in the pond out back.  And then it hit me.

I didn’t see one boat bag when we got home — the one with my phone, wallet, and pretty much everything else important. And I know where it is…in the salon, beside the helm. That shower’s going to have to wait.

Yup. Definitely one of those days.


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Two of my books are now free

By Mike Jastrzebski

Key Lime Blues, Book 1 in my Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller series is now free in the following eBook stores. Here are the links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

Key Lime Blues-Apple interior

A Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller, Book 1

For some people working in the family business means suits, power lunches, and afternoon meetings. For Wes Darling it was guns, lies, and dead bodies.

The Darling Detective Agency was founded in 1876 by Aaron “Dusty” Darling. Now Wes’s chain smoking, stressed out mother is grooming Wes to take over. How does he handle his mother’s demands?  He heads to Key West, moves onto a sailboat, and takes a job tending bar at a little joint called Dirty Alvin’s.

Life is carefree until his mother’s lover, a man who mentored Wes for years, is murdered on a Key West beach. Reluctantly, Wes is drawn into a spinning web of murder, sex and deceit.

First there are his mother’s pleas for help. Throw in a six-foot tall red-headed stripper, a retired mobster who acts like it’s the 1940’s, a pair of dim-witted hit men, a phobic psychic named Elvis, a small fortune in stolen diamonds, and what do you have? Mayhem in Key West.

This slightly humorous mystery about an ex-private investigator who runs away from responsibility to live the good life is bound to make you wish you could do the same.

Also, Mind Demons, my psychological thriller is still free by download from my website when you sign up for my reader’s group. Here’s the link: Free download of Mind Demons.

Mind Demons

If you like the free books I hope you’ll consider buying my other books. Click here for links to my other books.




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Iridium – Away we GO!

by Christine Kling

This week we finally fired up our new Iridium GO in preparation for leaving to sail down to Fiji. Already, I love the Go.

Previously, when we sailed from Fiji to the Marshall Islands in January 2014, Wayne used his satellite phone to send emails and to post his blog every night. It was a connection (when I had none) but it was slow and it took umpteen tries to get connected. It was like the worst memories you might have of the days when we used telephone modems and just getting a connection was something worthy of a celebration. We hadn’t had time to set me up on the sat phone, and as a tech geek myself, I felt a bit left out of the communications party, slow though it was. So, I decided to take the matter under my own control, and I bought myself the Iridium Go.

So how is this different from having a satellite phone to use as a modem? Is it faster? First off, it’s important to note that the connecting speed is no different. It is still painfully slow. And depending on the situation with the satellites overhead, it is often not even possible. The HUGE difference is that with the Iridium Go, users can select a plan that offers unlimited data for $125.00/month.

Yeah, I know, that sounds steep, but the thing is Iridium satellite phone data minutes are not cheap. When you are trying to connect but the connection fails and you have to start over, they charge you for every single minute during the attempt. It doesn’t matter that you are simply trying to connect. On our way from Fiji to Majuro, Wayne went through several hundred dollars worth of sat phone data minutes just sending out his blogs. And sat phone minutes expire. Iridium has this really dastardly scheme whereby if you don’t want your minutes to expire, you have to buy another huge package of like 500 minutes. Now with the Go there is no more worry about expiring minutes.

And with the unlimited data, the plan includes five voice call minutes. I imagine we will keep those in reserve in case of emergency and then on the last day of the month before they expire, we’ll call someone to say hello.

One other really important difference with the Iridium GO is there is no contract. If you arrive someplace and sit for several months, you can deactivate the account. It will cost $50.00 to reconnect, but that’s better than continuing to pay $125/month when you don’t need the service.

So, now I hope to be able to post to the blog each week we are at sea by email. I went into the back end of our WordPress blog and set it up to allow me to send my blog to a certain email address and it is supposed to automatically get posted.

We were supposed to leave yesterday afternoon, but the engine wouldn’t start. We spent last night here at Eneko and so this morning I do still have Internet. However, I am going to post this via email anyway. I hope it works.

The engine is now running, the instruments are on and we are ready to drop the mooring. Off to Fiji!

May 2, 2015 local time is 8:30 a.m.

Fair winds!


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Learning the ropes…

2015-04-29 14.43.35C.E. Grundler

Yesterday was one of those glorious spring days, and absolutely nothing beats a boatyard in spring. After the long and brutal winter we’ve had here in the northeast, the optimism for the season ahead has everyone grinning, including my four-footed partners in crime. Rex and Loki know their way around and they know their boatyard etiquette, though Rex’s attention span, or lack thereof, keeps him on the leash. Now I had a third kid in tow, and this was her first day in this fascinating, distracting world of boats, yard cats, and a wide river. So once again it was ‘good example dog’ Loki who had to tow the line, literally.

2015-04-29 14.43.26

We’ve tried this technique with Rex, but gave up out of sympathy for Loki. Rex had a talent for wrapping Loki, and anyone else he could, into tangles that any set of ear-buds would envy. Emma, on the other hand, paced herself to Loki, exploring this new world that Loki was confidently navigating. Loki seemed to enjoy the attention he drew, walking his own personal 1/2 scale ‘mini-me,’ and introduced Emma to old friends and new. Emma wasn’t so sure what Rex or Loki had in mind with all that water, though.

2015-04-29 14.00.20


2015-04-29 14.00.18

She’ll have to think about this one a bit more.

2015-04-29 14.00.25

And then it’s back to work.  I’m trying to figure out how I can train these guys to scrape the bottom. But until they learn how to wear dust masks and Tyvek suits, they have to stay home on Haz-mat days. Fortunately, we don’t have many of those left.

2015-04-29 14.39.06

These guys don’t understand fiberglass dust. They only know where we’re going. These are their ‘we’re going to the boat’ faces.



2015-04-23 10.37.01

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She’s a real a museum piece. On occasion, you might hear a similar phrase when you walk the docks where you do your boating. In the case of Brilliant, it’s no exaggeration. She is a museum piece, owned and under the care of Mystic Seaport – The Museum of America and the Sea. Brilliant is also an amazing yacht. Even better, she’s a greyhound of a sailboat that still heads to open water, her sails raised, her hull heeled over as she makes way with both speed and beauty.

After spending a long New England winter in the water, cozied-up under her green canvas cover, Brilliant has been prepped for the season, her spars ready to be stepped.


This handsome schooner was built in the depths of the Depression in one of the finest yacht yards ever – Henry B. Nevins of City Island, NY – and her designer, Olin Stephens, went on to an illustrious career. Her owners, Walter Barnum, then Briggs Cunningham, and later Mystic Seaport – and her captains – maintained Brilliant to the high standard she deserves. The result is a museum artifact that is utilized and enjoyed, both as an exhibit and for her purpose – sailing.

For those who might want to keep count, that means that 83 years of sailing – and we’re talking about “put the rail in the water” sailing.


An astonishingly young Olin Stephens first gained recognition with his 1929 design Dorade, which famously campaigned in the Newport-Bermuda and Fastnet races. His designs resulted in the production of 2,200 boats, and his work can be seen in a long list of America’s Cup winners, including Ranger, Columbia, Constellation, Intrepid, Courageous, and Freedom. And among his top designs stands Brilliant, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful classic yachts in the world.

I find it interesting to think of the lasting impact of the shipwrights at the Nevins yard, or of her designer. If Stephens or Nevins were writers, you would list them among the greats. And in one important regard, Olin Stephens and Henry Nevins share a common trait with the likes of Faulkner, Wharton or Hemingway – their work extends beyond their mortal lives, their art remains and is consumed by those who appreciate their endeavors.

For those who enjoy these works, we are indebted to the librarians, curators, and, in this case, shipwrights who keep these works alive.

Early next month, Brilliant will head down river, out under the raised Bascule Bridge, beyond the Amtrak swing bridge, and into Fisher’s Island Sound and beyond, commencing and another season under sail.

All that, and a museum piece, too.


by John M. Urban

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Stranded Naked Blues-Available for Pre-Order.

By Mike Jastrzebski

Stranded Naked Blues is now available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,           The Apple Store, and Kobo for $3.99. The actual publication and deliver date is June 14th, but if you are thinking of buying the book why not pre-order now. That way you can be one of the first to read it.

Here’s the cover picture and the description:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]

A Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller

Wes Darling is back in Stranded Naked Blues, the third Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller. Wes is searching for fun and possibly a little companionship when he joins hundreds of other boaters at the annual Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Beach Party on Fiddle Cay in the Bahamas. It’s all about good conversation, free food, and free drinks. The last thing Wes expects is to be drugged and to have his boat torn apart while he’s out cold.

Wes’s search for answers to why he was singled out by the beautiful woman in a skimpy bikini forces him to turn to his friend, Elvis, the phobic psychic. Wes figures good psychics are almost impossible to find, but Elvis steers Wes toward the answers. If only Elvis could have foreseen the trail of dangerous women, dead bodies, and buried treasure that would leave Wes stranded alone on a deserted island during a hurricane. When Wes realizes that not only might he lose his boat, but also his life, he sets out to find shelter with only one thought in mind, survival.

A hard boiled sailing thriller set amongst the islands and teal blue waters of the Bahamas.

To order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or Kobo.


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