Starting a new chapter


by Christine Kling

One week ago today we were still in the Lami anchorage in Suva Bay, and we were getting tired of the gray, rainy days. We’d seen mornings with temps in the low sixties and the water was in the low eighties. We wanted heat. The western end of Fiji is the leeward side of the big island of Viti Levu, and it is where the warmest weather is to be found. We talked about it and made the decision to skip Kandavu Island and the Great Astrolabe Reef this time and head west for a while. We could return to Kandavu’s famous snorkeling when the water warmed up a bit later in the Southern Hemisphere’s spring. With about 120 miles to cover in total but only around 90 miles to a pass through the reef, we decided to depart just after noon on Sunday.

Wayne had been keeping an eye on a problem with our engine cooling system for several weeks. When he would do the typical pretrial check of engine fluids, the cooling water was often low. Learnativity has a fresh-water-cooled engine and the system uses a keel cooler which is essentially a looping length of steel pipe welded to the bottom of the boat. Wayne was adding water every time we left, and he knew the system had a pinhole leak somewhere, but he wasn’t able to see where it was going. This big steel boat has inside ribs and stringers that separate the bilge into unconnected parts. The sections he kept checking didn’t have any water in them.

Somewhere about the time we cleared the entrance channel to Suva Harbor, the engine overheated, and Wayne discovered there was no water in the system at all. The mystery pinhole had grown to something much bigger, and it meant we could not run the engine at all. Because Wayne wasn’t finding the fresh water that leaked out of the system in the bilge, he thought the pipe must have rusted through on the outside and the water was leaking into the sea.

We had an uncomfortable night sailing downwind in 25-30 knots of wind and very confused seas—each of us wondering what this new development would mean to our cruising. Our plans had been to keep sailing until September and then to haul out at Vuda Point Marina to do a bottom job. But recently, we have started to talk about selling Learnativity and building a new boat. It’s just talk right now, but we had started thinking about doing a bigger boat renovation to pretty her up and list her with a broker just to see what happens. Maybe, once we refinish the interior teak and repaint the hull, we’ll just decide to keep her and sail off for more cruising. This new twist in our cruising plans could give us the time in the yard we would need.

IMG_0413But even more importantly, in the short term, to get to the western end of Viti Levu, we had to go through a pass through the reefs. That could be dicey without the engine. We wouldn’t know until we got there if the wind angle would allow us to sail through.

Around midmorning the next day when we finally got some quieter water in the lee of Viti Levu, Wayne went below and rigged a bypass system to run fresh water through a length of hose in the engine room. But while Wayne was below MacGyvering that system, I sailed past the main reef pass, the Navula Passage. I’d already watched two sailboats enter and they had dropped their headsails and motored through. I decided that with our ESE wind, we would probably be able to point our way through the Malolo Pass and not have to tack. By the time Wayne got the engine working, we were already well through Malolo pass.

However, once in the lee of Viti Levu our winds had been steadily decreasing. As we sailed through the “foul ground” sections inside Malolo Pass, the wind dropped down to 5-7 knots and our speed dropped to 1.5—barely enough to have steerage. Off to our left was Musket Cove, a resort and cruisers’ hangout. We had intended to go there, but now that we were engineless, we decided the prudent thing would be to head for the marina and boatyard. It was past noon already, and we still had about 17 miles to go to reach Vuda Point. No problem normally, but at 1.5 knots, not so good. We ran a trial and found we had about 9-10 minutes to run the engine until it overheated, and it was just enough to get us out into clear water beyond the pass.

As Wayne continued to work in the engine room, I tried to get every bit of speed I could out of the light flukey winds. Finally, around 2:00, the wind picked up, and soon I was doing 4.5 to 5 knots. We sailed up close to the mooring ball off Vuda Point and furled the main. With just the jib, we tried to sail right onto the mooring ball, but once Wayne let the jib fly, we lost way faster than expected, and we fell a few feet short. He fired up the engine, took us up the last few feet, and I grabbed the mooring line with the boat hook. We’d made it.

As we toasted the sunset that evening, we talked about what to do next. Wayne had finally found the section of the bilge with the accumulation of fresh water and it’s located under the fiberglass bathtub. It looks like the hull rusted through inside the keel cooler. It is going to be a big and complicated repair job. We considered taking a slip in the marina to work on the boat, but decided in the end to just haul out so we can get started on lots of the big jobs we want to undertake—including figuring out what to do about the keel cooler and repainting the topsides. So, after two days on the mooring ball, we were towed into the harbor and then started the engine to make our own way into the waiting slings of the travel lift. We have decided to spend the cyclone season here in Vuda Point, so we will be on the hard for about the next six or seven months.

For us, this also marks a sort of closing of the circle. Vida Point Marina is where I first met Wayne, Ruby and Learnativity about twenty months ago. We are laughingly calling this the end of our “first date.” Now, for this new chapter, we have become full time Fiji residents in Vuda Point, located between Nadi and Lautoka. Not many people are excited about the prospect of living on their boat on the hard, and I know it sounds crazy, but we are both very happy to be here. Wayne will be making progress at getting the boat into top shape, and I will have long hours to write. We have air-cooled refrigeration on the boat so it still works in the yard, and we are a stone’s throw from the heads that are equipped with on-demand-all-you-can-use hot showers. The marina has a nice restaurant, a lovely little coffee shop, and small convenience/grocery store, as well as a whole flock of new people to get to know.

During our time out of the water, I intend to finish this new Seychelle novel I’ve started. I’d been finding it difficult to get into the writing while sailing in the Lau Islands, but now I won’t have those distractions. Just as our cruising life has started a new chapter, I am finishing up with the outlining stage and ready to start Chapter 1 of the new novel. Who wouldn’t be excited by that?

 Fair winds!


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A funny thing happened to me on the way to the boat…


Lots of docks. So many boats. And this is just one part of the south side.

C.E. Grundler

Sometimes life can take some surprising turns, presenting the strangest opportunities and most unexpected challenges at just the right time. Sometimes it takes years for those moments to arrive, and sometimes they can completely blindside you — but I’ve had lots a practice being blindsided over the last few years, and I’ve gotten pretty good at handling just about anything you can throw at me.

I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason, even if that reason may not be apparent at the time. And while I was driving down to the boat with my canine crew for a day of writing/boat work, contently enjoying my lack of employment, I was completely unaware that major changes were happening at the marina around the corner, where I’d worked a few years back. Unknown to me, my name was the one that kept coming up for the Dock Master position. People who’d worked with me said I was the right person for the job, and anyone who knows me knows this job is perfect for me. So, when I found myself meeting with the owner and the manager of Haverstraw Marina to discuss my becoming Dock Master of the thousand slip marina complex — well, let’s just say I had a lot to consider.

Ultimately, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and the last two weeks have been a blur. Last week it became official, and I’m only starting to catch my breath now.  The timing couldn’t be more ideal; a few months ago a job like that (any job, for that matter,) wouldn’t have been an option. But I feel fantastic, I’m healthier than I’ve been in years. And what a job! I’m working among many long-time friends, seeing boaters I hadn’t seen in years, and making new friends by the day. The picture at the start of the post was taken just outside the marina office — that’s the view from my desk, though much I’m spending much of my time on the docks and throughout the yard. Haverstraw is a convenient stop for Great Loopers, and we have a steady flow of visiting boats coming and going, so you never know what the next day will bring. And with roughly seven hundred customer boats spread over four dock complexes, it’s rarely dull.

There is one down side to this that I had to accept. It’s a simple equation of time. I only have so much. There’s no way be finishing up Evacuation Route as soon as I’d hoped, yet again. But finish I will, and I’ll move forward with future books knowing my best material  always came from working jobs like this — though not quite on THIS scale. 

Screenshot 2015-07-23 09.10.52

As for Annabel Lee, she’s on the fast track to launch, if only for a very short cruise to her new home and deep-water slip waiting at Haverstraw.





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The Summer Cottage

This week I take a break from Write On the Water to introduce a guest author – Susan Kietzman, a friend, colleague and author of three novels. Susan’s latest book, The Summer Cottage, was released this past May by Kensington.


by Susan Kietzman
The only thing almost as sweet as summer, are the few months leading up to it, when we, still bundled in wool sweaters and long pants, daydream about the upcoming lazy days at the beach and refreshing swims in Long Island Sound. My mother and her two sisters share a cottage on the Connecticut shoreline, which as many of us who can – taking time from work and other routine obligations – travel to every year. It’s a simple place, across the street from an expanse of lawn that stops at cement steps that lead to the sand and water. The cottage reminds me of my childhood, as I have been there every year since I was born. It reminds me of family.

Family can be one of those loaded words, depending on who you’re talking to. There are those of us who have good childhood and adult experiences with our siblings and our parents. And there are some whose experiences are not, well, anything to write home about. Bad or good, however, it’s hard to deny the power and influence of family.

As small children, we learn just about everything there is to know from our family members, from the very basic but necessary physical tasks of drinking from a cup, eating with a fork, tying shoes, putting on clothes to the more complicated, nuanced, psychological, and emotional tasks of learning what it means to be right or wrong, how to give and receive love, what comprises the essential elements of good character.

When we are young, we look to our family members for comfort when we skin our knees, for a hug during a nighttime thunder storm, for friendship when all our real friends are busy, for the sense of understanding we feel only when we lock eyes with a brother, a sister, a father, or a mother. When every member of a family is still living at home, a bond among them forms – even during times of disagreement or distrust. When everyone is eating at the same dinner table and sleeping in bedrooms several feet from one another, when everyone is breathing the same air, they are more apt to connect, in one way or another.

The Thompson family, of my latest novel, The Summer Cottage (May 2015), is like these families. The book’s chapters flip back and forth between 2003 and 1973. In 1973, everyone is still at home – although their time together is growing short. Thomas, the oldest child, is 18, and poised to leave in the fall for college. Charlotte, at 17, is as recalcitrant as many 17 year olds can be. Pammy is shy and insecure, like many 13 year olds. And Helen, at 10, embraces every day with the innocence and honesty of a fourth grader. Their parents, John and Claire, are attentive: John is thoughtful and wise, and Claire is outspoken and competitive. She insists her children play sports, including, when they are at the cottage, family kickball. Helen loves the game because she loves being outdoors in the summertime, and she adores her family. Her older siblings are not as keen, as they view the game as imposed on them by their overbearing mother.

Almost as quickly as a back yard kickball game is over, so is this fleeting time of family unity. Most of us can remember when we left home for the first time. Like Thomas, we are 18. We graduate from high school and move to the next stage in life, and we, often cheerfully, leave our family members behind. We proclaim ourselves independent, with all the arrogance it takes to make that statement. Our parents’ values now seem old-fashioned and staid. And we lose track of our siblings because they have often moved away, too. A sense of relief fills the space we have been craving.

Years pass. Eventually, though, we often return to our family members – not always physically but certainly emotionally, when we realize that we don’t, after all, know everything. We return for guidance when life’s myriad choices confuse us, for help in crisis, for the retelling of stories that no one else knows as well as a sister or a father. Every summer, when I am able to hear both my brothers tell these familiar stories, I am already laughing three words in.

Family members share a closeness that is impossible to duplicate – if only for the history you share. Siblings and parents have known you the longest. They know your secrets, your foibles, your proclivities. They know your middle name. It is this closeness that reunites families after periods of separation.

However, sometimes adult family members need more incentive then good memories to put their pleasant lives on hold in order to attend a weekend reunion. It’s easy to get comfortable with how we do things. It’s easy to stay away from a parent who has been tough on us. In The Summer Cottage, Claire knows this about her children. Thomas and Charlotte live far away from her now. And Pammy, living closer, hardly visits. So Claire, who is ill and knows her death is imminent, decides that the only way to see her children again is to force it.

So they acquiesce to their mother’s wishes and return to the shore, along with the others who have entered their lives since 1973, knowing that July 4th weekend in 2003 has the potential to be wonderful, awful, and everything in between. And while Claire would like to think she can control their time together, it is really up to Thomas, Charlotte, Pammy, and, most of all, Helen, whose love for her older brother and sisters is the real reason they come.

the summer cottage

For more information on Susan Kietzman:

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Hello big city!

Learnativity at anchor in Fulanga

Learnativity at anchor in Fulanga

by Christine Kling

We are on a free mooring tucked away in a corner of the big bay in Viti Levu where the city of Suva can be found. Our little bay is on the opposite side from the big city, but we are only a short bus ride away and even better, we now have access to the true fast Internet! Wayne and I have both been sitting on the boat this lazy Sunday gorging on the joy of Internet that can actually play videos!!

Since this Internet is such a luxury, I am going to blog with more pictures than words this week — just because I can!


We sailed overnight from Fulanga to the island of Matuku one week ago, and we had more adventures there and got to know the wonderful villagers. The island was very different from the low bay islands at Fulanga. Not too many boats go to Matuku, and seriously, it is their loss. There were two other boats in the incredibly protected anchorage when we were there and both of them were from Germany.


The village at Matuku was very prosperous and well kept. The chief wasn’t in residence, so we did our sevusevu with the chief’s spokesperson. He told us he had a fiberglass boat with in need of repair and asked if we had any resin. Wayne told him to stop by the boat later. That afternoon, he stopped by with two of his five daughters in the boat and while dad got his resin and hardener, the girls got a bag of candy and everyone went away happy. The next day when we were passing through the village returning from a hike, a couple waved us over and invited us into their home for coffee and cookies. They were the owners of the one shop in the village (a shack about 6 by 10 feet) and he was the lay leader of the church. In the Lau group of islands, most of the people are Methodists, and the villages and islands often have to share ministers. If the ordained minister isn’t in attendance, a villager is in charge of the service. I asked our new friend what these things were that looked like little canoes, and he told me that they were the church bells. They beat on them with a stick to call people to the church.


It was another overnight sail from Matuku to Viti Levu and I must admit, as much as I love visiting the remote islands, I was really happy at the prospect of going shopping and getting more food. It had been more than three weeks since we had seen much in the way of fresh produce and I knew Suva’s market was one of the first places on my go to list. The market did not disappoint.


When you’ve got to the point where you are hoarding your last quarter of an onion, a place like this can send you into overload. At the market here they sell everything by the “heap.” So each of those heaps of eggplants are $2 Fijian (which is $1 US) or those heaps of fresh ginger are $1 Fijian.


Wayne came armed with our shopping bags and we filled them up! Papayas, green beans, tomatoes, oranges, lettuce, corn, cucumbers. Then we arrived at the seafood section and there were mussels and clams and fish.


Okay, but I drew the line at the octopus. Not that I don’t like it, but I wasn’t really sure how to cook it. And there were so many vendors selling these huge octopi (?) that I am now worried for the species here in Fiji – and please don’t ask me what the green stuff is on the other side of the octopus. I think it was some sort of seaweed. There was lots in the market that I couldn’t identify.

So, the boat is full of veggies, the wine locker has been replenished, and the crew is gorging on Internet, so you’d think we’d be ready to leave in a day or two. But I have received the copy edits for Knight’s Cross, and I’ve been so busy dealing with the 1000+ emails and catching up with news and friends, I’ve barely started to look at the manuscript.

We just might be here in Suva for a while.

Fair winds!



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Backing up…

C.E. Grundler

I’d imagine anyone who has lost a significant chunk of writing to a computer hiccup might find themselves a bit backup-obsessed, so I suspect I’m not alone in my various means of ensuring my WIP doesn’t vanish into digital dust. Scrivener is a superb writing tool with much to offer, including peace of mind to use neurotic writers in the form of multiple automated backups. Save a copy when you open, another when you close, not to mention every two second or so that you stop typing, unless you change that number, not that I’ve seen it affect performance either way. With a little tweaking in the Preference settings, you can have backups safely tucked away on your hard drive, the cloud, and everywhere in between, so long as you have the right boxes checked off.

My particular cloud of choice is Dropbox, which works seamlessly with many other programs, including an app on my phone that allows me to view and edit .rtf files. Under File, the Sync option can upload to Dropbox, and check for changes

The end result is a current, and fully editable copy of my work whenever I’m away from my computer. Granted, there’s only so much editing I’d want to do on a phone screen, but it allows me to review passages and tuck in notes while I’m standing on line in Motor Vehicles. Lately, I never know where I’ll find myself next, and that access is quite handy.

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Heading south.

By Mike Jastrzebski

Now that my new Wes Darling sailing mystery, Stranded Naked Blues, has been published (if you’re interested here are the links: Amazon, Nook, Apple, Kobo, & Google Play) I’ve begun to prepare the boat to head south again.

Don’t get me wrong, St. Augustine is a beautiful city, but it’s still too cold in the winter for us. We miss the teal blue waters of South Florida and the Bahamas.


We plan to head out in October or November and at this time we have no idea where we are going. The Keys? The Bahamas? Both and then on to the Caribbean? We’ll let you know when we know.

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Sota talay

by Christine Kling

We spent a week at Fulanga, and the only thing that made me want to leave was the fact that I have the copy edits of my new book coming on the 16th, and I will need to be somewhere that has Internet. So yesterday, when it looked like the sky might clear of the ever-present clouds around 12:45, Wayne turned to me and said, “What do you think?” We decided to take off and an hour later we were motoring out the pass at the high tide slack water. The pass looked completely different from the maelstrom we had entered through eight days earlier.

Fulanga isn’t a fully formed atoll – yet. It is an “almost atoll.” See, nearly all the islands in the Pacific were formed by volcanic eruptions. The islands started out as volcanic peaks like the islands of Hawaii, and coral reefs grew around their fringes. But after thousands of years, the volcanic islands erode away and eventually all that is left is the fringing coral reef around a lagoon where the volcano once stood. Along the reef, parts of the coral base collect sand and earth and little motus or small islands appear and you have a fully formed atoll. At Fulanga, reef surrounds smaller islands that form part of the remains of the volcanic rim – it hasn’t yet fully eroded away. Inside the lagoon, little pieces of the volcano remain. They are eroding though, and they now look like little mushrooms with narrow eroded bases and wider tops with palm trees growing out of them. When we first arrived after our harrowing trip through the pass, I felt a little like Alice arriving in Wonderland. The sky was half covered with ominous dark clouds, but the late sun was shining through them creating a very eerie light. Our engine had quit and Wayne had disappeared into the engine room. Under mainsail alone, I quietly sailed through the dozens of little oddly shaped islands looking for an anchorage. I wouldn’t have been entirely surprised to see a caterpillar smoking a hookah atop of of those mushroom islands. It is one of the most unusual places I have ever seen.

One of the other things that makes Fulanga so special IS the fact that it is more cut-off from the modern world, although that too is changing fast. We sailed down from Vanua Balavu in a good weather window and we were one of seven yachts to arrive on Saturday or Sunday. We all went in to present our sevusevu to the village chief together on Monday morning. The whole group of us hiked over the hill and we were met at the outskirts of the village by Tai, who would be our spokesperson. He presents us to the chief and formally asks if we may anchor in the lagoon at his island. I had also wrapped a sulu around my shorts when we got to the village, and everyone is expected to wear shirts that cover the shoulders, no hats, and no backpacks. Tai led us to the chief’s house where we entered and sat on the wood floor of the small house.

In this case, the chief was a slender old white-haired man wearing the traditional sulu skirt, but also a T-shirt and track suit jacket with socks on his feet. It is unusually cold here in Fiji this year, and even the Fijians are complaining about temperatures in the 60’s. We all presented our packages of Kava root and the chief and his spokesperson said the ritual thanks, prayed and clapped and all of this was in Fijian. A woman who was sitting off by the door spoke up when the men had finished and she translated the gist of what the men had said. Then she told the group it was okay to take photos of the chief if they wanted to. She was interesting and her English was so good, I grew very curious about her. It turns out she is the chief’s daughter, but when she went away to work at a resort in Viti Levu as a girl, she met an American and married him. She now lives in Albequerque, New Mexico, has seven kids and she drives a big rig. She had come home to visit because her family had told her that her father was not going to church. Strange world, eh?

In addition to the donation of kava, the yachts were each asked to make a $50 FJ donation to the village. In return, each yacht is assigned a host family and one by one we were paired up with our hosts. Our family consisted of Net and Aliote, parents of one daughter who is off at boarding school in Suva. Net is the post master of the village. He took us back to his house and we sat on the floor. His wife Aliote arrived and she served us tea and plain white rice. Net explained that they were low on provisions because the once a month supply boat had arrived in a storm and determined it was too dangerous to enter into the lagoon. They then off loaded the village’s food at a nearby island and the weather had not been good enough for the islanders to go fetch their food.

Getting to know Net and his wife really made our visit to Fulanga. Though Aliote didn’t ever speak English, Net said she understood lots and when she didn’t, he translated for her. Wayne noticed the solar power set up in the corner of the room that first day we had tea, and we learned that the government had added solar power to over 50 homes in the village just over a year earlier. The government paid for it and each home now pays $18/month for their power. We learned that the Post Office has a satellite phone and anyone in the village can use it. And the school has a satellite TV system, so they can get news. Net even said that sometimes at the high point on the island, people’s cell phones can connect to the cell tower on Lakemba Island and they can text their families on Suva. Net taught me my first Fijian words that first day when we left his house. “Sota talay,” he said. “It means ‘see you later.'”

The next day we stayed on the boat working all day, but on Wednesday, we went ashore to meet Net and Aliote and we learned that it was a big day because at the school (which only goes up to grade 8) the kids in grades 3, 5, and 8 were taking exams. So standardized testing is even happening in Fulanga! The mothers in the village prepare the food for the kids, and afterwards, they took us into their home and fed us with a beautiful spread of fish cooked in coconut cream, a grated coconut and spinach dish and cassava (a starchy root vegetable). Even though the ship had not arrived and they didn’t have cookies or propane to run the oven, they will not starve. They grow most of their food and Net said he goes fishing 2-3 days a week. He has two garden plots and chickens and pigs. They were so wonderful and generous to us, we invited them out to the boat for afternoon tea the next day.

Wayne went in to pick them up and they were so cute in the dinghy waving at me and excited. I had baked a cake for them knowing that they didn’t have baking capabilities at the moment, but they arrived with 5 rotis and a huge tupperware of cassava, plus a lovely pandanus mat wall hanging that Aliote had made. We ate and talked and laughed until sunset. They both thought our dogs were hysterical and Net, a typical large Fijian man finished off all the cake. When they left, I gave them a signed copy of one of my books, and I gave Aliote a necklace that had been my mother’s. It had started raining a fine mist, and they had not brought any rain coverings, so I offered Aliote a trash bag to cover her hair. Net wanted one too, and it was the funniest thing watching Wayne standing in the dinghy with his two Fijian passengers with their heads covered with white trash bags grinning and waving good-bye. “Sota talay!” I called out, hoping that somehow, even with all the places I want to see in this world, some day I will return to Fulanga and see Net and Aliote again.

Fair winds!

This blog was posted by satellite email and I will be unable to read and respond to comments until I get back in range of cellular data coverage. Please don’t let that stop you from commenting though!!

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The wanderer and the worrier

by Christine Kling

Today is a drizzly, gray, stay-on-the-boat kind of day, which suits me just fine. It is a Sunday, and I need to recharge my batteries a bit. There is lovely music playing on the stereo, and the boat is anchored in a safe snug place. I need days like this.

Wayne and I are slowly learning the ways we are different and trying to learn how we function as a cruising team. He is the happy serendipitous wanderer while I am a bit more of the planner. Okay, I’ll admit it — the worrier (perhaps this comes from all those years alone as single mom, head of household, not certain that I was up to it). Wayne is always sure that things will have a happy outcome, while I am a bit more of the catrastrophizer. I’m always looking ahead and thinking about what might go wrong, and how I can be prepared for it. Wayne has lots more skills than I do, and he just wanders along feeling confident and deals with whatever happens when it happens.

In the week or so we spent at Vanua Balavu in the Northern Lau islands, we ended up visiting three different anchroages, Bay of Islands, Bavatu Harbor, and the main town of Lomolomo. Each was spectacular and lovely in its own way. We had thought we would be able to get some more food supplies in Lomolomo, but both stores were closed when we visited on a Thursday afternoon. We only saw three or four people in the village which seemed a bit odd. We met one fellow and chatted with him and he told us that he was from that island, but he had moved to Suva as a young man and had now returned to do business on this island. His was one of the two stores and he was just getting it ready to open. It didn’t have anything on the shelves – they were rennovating. The other was locked up. So my hopes of replenishing our meager supplies were dashed.

Friday morning we got up and made our way across the lagoon to the southern pass. The forecast looked good to try to make it the 110 miles or so just slightly east of south. The prevailing winds here are the southeast trades, but the GRIB files I’d been downloading predicted it would go east and a bit north of east. We sailed in much more boisterous winds than predicted all day and night. We could see three other boats on AIS who had left the island out the north-western pass. Around 2:00 in the morning when I relieved Wayne he told me, “This is it, no more easting.” The lighter winds never arrived and it was another slog to weather. One of the boats near us was much faster than the rest of us and she made it to the pass into Vulaga (pronounced Fulanga) about an hour after high tide. The rest of us did not have such luck.

What little information I had about this narrow pass on the eastern (windward) side of the island stated that when the tide is falling there is a 4 knot current in the pass. And when the wind is strong there are very large standing waves like river rapids. While low tide was at 2:20 p.m., the blog I had read also said that slack water wasn’t until 2 hours and 15 minutes after low tide.

We arrived at the corner of the island around 9:30 a.m., but we couldn’t quite point high enough to make it around to the windward side, so Wayne started the engine. We were trying to motor around the reefs when the engine quit. We were blowing down on a reef with only the reefed main up. Wayne jumped down into the engine room and I asked, “Can’t we start the engine for a minute so I can tack her around and we can slowly sail away from the reef?” Wayne said not to worry about it. I sat there worrying myself sick watching the reef get closer and closer. Wayne came out and tried to start it again and it wouldn’t start. I said, “We’ve got to get the headsail out and try to sail off.” We got the sail out and then we couldn’t get enough speed up to tack without sailing even closer to the reef. I swear, I was terrified. Our track on the iPad showed us actually on the reef, and in this case, the charts were quite accurate. Finally, Wayne tacked and I held that jib tight until I knew the sail had backed and we were around. It was far too much excitement for me.

We sailed around and Wayne worked on the engine for the next four to five hours. There were two other boats out there and they both had iffy engines, too. Wayne determined that our issue was bad fuel, so he changed filters and pumped fuel through a minor polishing and into a saddle tank instead of the bilge tank. Wayne was fairly certain the engine would run when we sailed close to the pass just after 3:00. We knew slack water wouldn’t be until 4:30 but we were losing the light, and we needed light to see the pass and the coral heads inside, so we started the engine and went for it. The waves were something! Wayne wrestled the wheel as we went through very close 4-5 foot waves that weren’t just standing, they were breaking. It was like riding the rapids and the pass was only about 100 feet wide. With the engine running full tilt we were only making about 3 knots of headway. We made it through and began searching our way through this incredible lagoon filled with these little mushroom islands, when the engine quite. Fortunately, we had kept the reefed main up in case the engine were to quit, and while Wayne disappeared down into the engine room again, I set about trying to see my way into someplace that would provide us a protected anchorage where we could sail the anchor down. Unlike most lagoons out here in the Pacific, this one was shallow and I was seeing depths from 35 down to 15 feet. But with the low sun, it was very difficult to see through the water. The chart for inside the lagoon is terrible, so I was using a cached image from Google Earth and hoping that what I thought were clouds weren’t really coral bits.

Learnativity has a huge main anchor. It is a 70 kilo Rocna, and we sailed the anchor down with our in-boom furling main which cannot be dropped in a second or two. We were traveling at about 3 knots and when we hit the end of that chain, boy did we come to a nice stop. We got the main down and for the first time in 36 hours, I was able to stop worrying. Wayne shot me that confident grin of his that seemed to say, “See, I told you it would all work out okay.” And as usual, he was right.

Fair winds!

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Better and better

by Christine Kling

Every day I think to myself, nothing can top this. But the next day does. Fiji truly is a land of exceptional beauty.

This evening we are anchored out far from it all and off the grid again. I will have to post this blog with our Iridium-Go satellite communicator again, so sadly, I cannot include any photos. We are anchored in Mbavatu Harbor off the northeast coast of Vanua Balavu in the Lau group of islands. There is one other boat anchored in another arm of this big bay, but we cannot see him. We can only see the impressive sheer cliff of gray, black and reddish rock on our starboard side and the thick green jungle-clad hillside on our starboard. The deep water (anchored in about 75 feet) is an amazing sea green. The rocks around us are under-cut and the sound of the wavelets lapping at the underside of the rock is startlingly loud. Off in the jungle some sort of animal (a bird I think) is making a noise like a cross between a bark and a hoot.

We left Vurevure Bay in the Tasman Strait’s corner of Taveuni Tuesday night at midnight and we crossed the 60 miles to the Lau group overnight. The weather window called for NE winds, but in fact they were so light we motored almost all the way and at one point we saw 5 boats other than ourselves on the AIS. Everyone else decided to come across at the same time. We made it through the pass and proceeded down to the village of Dalconi where we had to take a bundle of kava to the chief in an Traditional ceremony called sevusevu. I wrote before that most of the land in Fiji belongs to the village clans. Each village oversees a certain area — that is called its vanua. You must go to the head man and ask for permission to visit any of the bays or lands that come under his authority. To not ask permission would be comparable to having some strangers pitch their tent in your backyard without permission. As Fiji transitions into more of a western nation, these traditions can seem silly to some, but I hope that people here will continue to observe them. There were at least 6 boats that had to do this when we arrived, and we were glad to be the first ashore. Already the chief, who did not speak English, seemed pretty bored as he said the words of the traditional thank you and welcome. I guess this island will see about 200 boats or more this season. But, that doesn’t change that we are in his backyard. The woman who was translating for us also told us that they were requesting a donation for the village. We had heard about this before — they had started several years ago asking for a $30 Fijian per person anchoring fee, and many yachts had grumbled loudly. They now make it voluntary which is much better all around, however, I think that these out of the way islands that mostly live off the land and the sea have every right to ask yachties to contribute to the village. If that money pays for better schools, sports equipment, medicine for the clinic, fishing equipment, etc. I am happy to pay that modest amount.

We spent our first several days at the Bay of Islands. It is another beautiful spot. Hopefully, when we next get Internet I can share some photos of all the cut-away limestone islands. Our first evening there we saw these large fruit bats go airborne right at dusk. The next day we had a great time in the inflatable kayak exploring through all the little islands and bays and we found a tree full of fruit bats hanging upside down. We had the dogs with us and they heard the noise of the bats flapping their wings, but they didn’t know to look up. That’s probably a good thing since they would have gone nuts if they’d seen them.

One of the challenging things about navigating here is that the Navionics charts we have on the Raymarine chart plotter and in the apps on the iPads have this island set about half a mile out of its charted position. Today we moved around to this bay using a combination of Google Earth and the captured Bing charts on the Navionics app that managed to update one of the iPads. Mostly, the best navigational tool is the old eyeballs, but with chop and cloud cover even that can fail.

The temperature here continues to amaze us. To us, it’s cold! We’re sleeping under a blanket and when showering on deck or jumping into the water there is lots of shreiking (on my part). Overnight lows have dipped below 70 and that’s just not what we expect in Fiji. Even the locals are commenting on how cold it is this year.

Tomorrow we plan to hike up to the top of the hill across the bay where there are supposed to be impressive views of all the lagoon surrounding this island and down into the Bay of Islands. It’s difficult to believe that anything could be as beautiful as what we’ve seen so far, but every day it just keeps on getting better.

Fair winds!

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2015-06-24 16.54.10

EXHIBIT A. It’s rock solid. The worst work is over. It’ll float, run, and it won’t leak, but there’s still more to go.

C.E. Grundler

Some things seem to take waaaay longer than they should. Boat work, for one. (See Exhibit A., pictured above. ‘Nuf said.) And editing, especially with a work in progress that’s been derailed and restarted several times over now. (The book, not the…okay, the book AND the boat.) But when you’ve reached a point like this, where 90 percent of the worst is over, suddenly the momentum starts to build, and every day brings you closer to something solid and complete. And in both cases, things actually start to get fun as everything comes together.

Today’s agenda includes yet more work on the boat, and hours of keyboard time, hunting down the Backtracks. (Writing first, then boat. Always writing first.) Backtracks are what I call those bits of inspiration that weren’t in the original outline, weren’t even in the first draft and how could I not have seen it in the first place, if a certain character said “X” back in the third chapter, then that sends ripples to the second act, which shifts something else and…you get the idea. In the past, the moment one of those derailing little bits of sidetrack hit, I’d be finding the right spot to make the right adjustments, chapters back from where I’d been, and that’s a good way to spend time writing without really moving forward. The rule became: KEEP MOVING FORWARD, and ONLY FORWARD. Whatever page I’m on is where I stay. Period. No exceptions. I simply type <<BACKTRACK – Whatever idea, boiled down to abbreviated notes,>> and then continue on right where I was. Sort of like those bits of blue masking tape stuck at random points on the boat, flagging something I noticed while working on something else. I buy blue tape in economy packs, and you can usually tell where I’m working by the amount of blue tape visible — for example, the salon windows. Just stick the tape or type <<BACKTRACK>> as applies and keep moving. It’s a great way of keeping focused and actually making headway in many aspects of life.

As for headway, on Tuesday, my daughter, her boyfriend, and my car all exited New Jersey on their national highway Great Loop. Here’s a snapshot of the general route, give or take. Screenshot 2015-06-25 09.07.35

With the boyfriend’s sedan, it would have been half the trip in less space. My diesel Jetta easily gets double the range on the same fuel, and could hold a summer’s worth of clothes, cookware, tents, second hand donated camping gear, and so on, which meant double the trip on the same shoestring budget.

An hour after they pulled out, I officially wrapped up the second draft of Evacuation Route. Now, it’s just a matter of rounding up all those bits of tape little markers and making the appropriate changes.  And before the kids drove off, they said they expected two things when they returned: a finished book to read, and a floating boat to read it on. Which means it’s back to work for me.

And my car? Currently, it’s at marker #2 and the center of a campsite somewhere in the woods of the Huron-Manistee National Forests, in north Michigan.

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