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Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Reason Why We're Not Moving




We can't seem to get enough of Savusavu, even if our alternator DID work beautifully. After spending $160 in American Samoa for repairs, we're perturbed at its response - melty hot and spewing smoke. Jim found a dear repairman here to work on it for us. We're in no hurry to leave.

A giant yam in Labasa's market

Men waiting for 20 hours to enter the sugar mill
with a truck loaded with sugar cane

A view of Savusavu

Choosing a sunny day, we caught a bus to Labasa, the largest city on the island of Vanua Levu. The marketplace is 5 times larger than Savusavu, but the people are just as warm and friendly. It was a gorgeous drive, about 2 ½ hours, and it was an excellent way to breathe in the geographical diversity. The climate change was obvious as the bus ascended into the mountains. Pine trees mixed with palms was a little confusing. People waved warmly as we passed by the villages.

Busted by my sneaky photo - Labasa

My favorite Fijian, Laila
The internet is so wonderful in Savusavu that we don't mind the occasional rain. After a yearof downpours and huge expense/curse words at the incredibly slow to non-existent pings in Pago Pago (which has apparently improved in American Samoa through ASTCA), we are delighted to be able to catch up on family, banking, news, friends, etc... with a flip of the switch... and all three of us at the same time for a mere $12US for 8 gigs! More importantly, we've used the time to catch up on home-school. Based on her gift and aptitude for “words”, we enrolled Carolyne in an online writing course . On other sites she's also learning programming skills. She loves creating Visual Novels. Jim is busy working on revenue producing sites and maintaining existing ones.

I liked his shiny pants





A boat of young people from all over the world performed circus acts and music - they called themselves The Alternative World Sailing Community - and we enjoyed a fun evening of music and fire. We walked in the Flora Tropical Garden, taking in the view overlooking the ocean. Local women cook their meals in the natural hot springs in town and Carolyne and I strolled by to check it out. We didn't see any cooks in the “kitchen”, but the boiling water bubbling up from the ground was pretty cool – I mean, hot.

Gorgeous spider in the botanical gardens



Hot springs in Savusavu


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stingrays in Moorea, French Polynesia

When we sailed into Moorea, French Polynesia July 2014, we had an incredible experience. 

Locals insisted that we must not miss feeding the stingrays. Fresh fish is their favorite, we were told. So, we dug out some skipjack tuna from our freezer we caught on our way to Tahiti.

Carolyne and Cassidy help  bring in the catch of the day...
to feed our pet sting rays!


We took our dinghy up the channel about a mile to a sandbar where several tour boats gathered. We were astounded by what happened once we got into the water with our fish chunks!


VIDEO: The Hotspur Crew Feeds the Stingrays... and sharks
(video by Carolyne)





Thursday, July 30, 2015

Savusavu, Fiji is Very Affordable - except the first week

Because Savusavu has so much to offer (aka BUY), it can be a little rough on the cruising pocketbook. Our first week hurt – but only a little - and we loved every minute of it.
It was so worth it!
(All our spending is recorded in US dollars.)



The first expense was our welcome tax - or clearance costs. 
Certainly not the way we like to spend money, but expected whenever you check into a new country.
Total = $172

Restaurants can be affordable or expensive – depending on where you eat. Surf n Turf is a favorite in Savusavu with prices for burgers at $7 and smoothies around $4. Our particular favorites, though, are the small “hole in the wall” type establishments that are frequented by the locals, like Mum's Country Kitchen and Ili's, both serve fresh curries and roti. The cost per person is about $3 and the food is very good. We were so excited about all the cheap food that we ate out at least once everyday our first week. And it added up!
Caters mostly to tourists and retirees. The menu is huge.
Mum's is yum! 
Ili's is very small, but very tasty!
Our first week eating out we spent: $113 eating at restaurants and $28 at the bar
Total = $141

So far, we have found no coin laundry facilities. There are 2 laundry businesses; each one is connected to a marina. The cost is $6 a kilo at one and $5 a kilo at the other.
Total on laundry our 1st week= $10

Fijian women making crafts.
There are lots of little touristy businesses selling kava bowls and skull smashers and brain pickers. Fiji, afterall, was a cannibalistic society like so many other Pacific islands. And although I would really, really like to have one of those fine kava bowls to serve my salads I am debating how I would ever get it off the boat when we sell 'Hotspur'. Talking to other cruisers who have been here for multiple seasons, Savusavu is THE place to buy your souvenirs, trinkets and can't-take-it-with-you's. We did buy a bamboo keychain from a paraplegic man, but that was in the name of charity since I don't have any keys. For myself, I settled on a very cute dress I found. But for the sake of my marriage, I am filing that under “Clothing”... not “Souvenirs” or “Keepsakes” or “Things My Husband Hates & Thinks Are Stupid”.
Total our first week we spent ZERO on trinkets, but clothing costs ran $29.
Hand carved brain pickers.
Or relish tray forks.


We arrived with plenty of groceries since stocking up in Pago Pago. Customs removed nothing from the boat, but asked us if we had frozen and canned meat, which we did. We were instructed to eat the frozen beef as soon as possible. Not sure why. The only items we lacked were garden variety and we quickly ran to the market to buy a few things. We were joyfully surprised to find all the gloriously fragrant and ripe fruits and vegetables bursting with color from the stalls. And very affordable!
Total our first week= $17


No, this is not the Nimbus 2015... this is kava root.



Internet and phone service works well on the big islands in Fiji. We were urged by locals to use Vodaphone and not “Dodgie-cell”, a favorite nickname for Digicell service. We bought a $2 SIM card and took it home to see if our Mobile WIFI doodle we bought in Pago Pago was really unlocked. Hooray! It was indeed unlocked. Internet costs $12 for 8 gigs. Another HOORAY! So we went back and bought SIM cards and time for our 3 unlocked cell phones we purchased in Pago Pago.
Total our first week = $43


Wine and beer is taxed very high if you import it on your boat when you check into the country. But it is not terribly expensive locally, especially if it's on sale. We found Fiji Gold and Fiji Bitter to be a good value for your money at about $2.50 a quart. Broken Shackle and Vina Maria red wines run for $5-$6 a bottle on sale. So, we stocked up.
Total 1st week = $80
Just bragging, just bragging, just bragging!
There are lots of boat supplies in Savusavu. I bought some truck tarp to try and remedy the leaky bimini and dodger. And we picked up a few other minor things.
Total spent = $52

Grand total for our first week in Savusavu was: $544
(looks like we'll be eating on board for a bit!)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More photos

Since we didn't have internet in Nuiatoputapu, Tonga it was impossible to load photos. Here are a few more...

Our very tasty Giant Trevally catch. 

Hotspur all alone in paradise - and loving it!

Our friends, Sia and Nico and their children come for a visit.

Pandanus drying on the line and Hotspur on the horizon.

Carolyne and the 2 Sias

The beach was incredible...
fine white sand stretches for miles just beyond this tree.
Pandanus handmade flower - a parting gift from our new friends.

These thatched homes were all over the island before the tsunami in 2009.
They have mostly been replaced with kit homes.

The church bell at the Methodist church rings daily... at 5:30am.

We were invited to share a meal with Nico and Sia at their home.
Yam, tapioca root, breadfruit, hot papaya, taro... 

Watching a Disney movie on Hotpsur was supposed to be for the children...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Arrived in Fiji!!

Hotspur's final days moored in Pago Pago, American Samoa

Tongan friends in Nuiatoputapu

The children in Nuiatoputapu are darling - but they are not too sure about cameras!

After the 2009 tsunami, the thatched huts were replaced by kits.

Beautiful veggie gardens in Nuiatoputapu
The first 1/3 of the 3 night trip from Tonga to Fiji was delightful. The bonus was the fresh trevally we caught. It made many nice meals, including sushi, garlic & lemon butter, thai green curry and beer battered. We spotted whales along the way and the sapphire blue water was dreamy. But after Saturday, the next 3/4 of the passage stunk and our 3 night trip turned into 4 nights.

The school's principal wearing her beautiful woven "kie".
We lost the wind altogether, wrapped up our spinnaker (again) and already had enough fish from our trevally we couldn't justify bobbing around all day Sunday, lazily casting a lure from the deck. So, we started the motor... hot and noisy. And yay - by Monday the wind was back and we were making good time. Our grib files showed the weather getting nasty on Wednesday so we had plenty of time... but the nasty weather showed up without an invitation on Monday night.

Tin Can Island - Nuiatoputapu


I love the cardboard shade the man on the right is wearing!

Mom and child - Nuiatoputapu

Pandanus drying in the sun - Nuiatoputapu
We were seeing 25 knots on the beam from a SE front with heavy southerly swells – not dangerous... just uncomfortable. We had 2 reefs in the main and the jib was kerchief style to slow Hotspur down. We all were grateful I ordered new zippers and installed them back in Pago Pago – the side panels in our enclosed cockpit kept us nice and dry. Still, our canvas bimini and dodger began to leak with rain and saltwater. The Thompson's we applied dissipated quickly – I think the Sunbrella is just too old. We actually wore our foulies in the tropics to keep warm!
Hello warm and tropical Fiji?

Fiji?
Carolyne - our helper.
Woman weaving kie - Nuiatoputapu


A fishing pig - Nuiatoputapu

The little motu in Nuiatoputapu

Our creative daughter - Nuiatoputapu
To add a little salt in the sore, our auto pilot fell apart. The alternator Jim paid $160 for repairs in Pago Pago worked for less than 2 hours before it died. The stainless connectors on our preventer on the boom broke in half and when Jim rummaged through our bits and found a replacement... that ALSO refused to work for long and mimicked its predecessor in death.

We made it to the Fiji islands, but because of the weather (and the stringent government controls regarding anchoring) we missed the “official hours” to check in by a smidgen. Since we couldn't arrive in Savusavu before closing time, we had no choice but to heave to and wait out the blustery, ugly weather – or else we would have to pay exorbitant “overtime” fees. (Instead of $175US we would be looking at more than $400US.) This meant staying up for watches yet another night. And we were already very tired from not getting good rest in the howling, bumpy conditions. Therefore, we found a little cove where we hove to and jibed back and forth occasionally until morning. We didn't dare risk anchoring... we have heard reports of those who do not adhere to the policy of checking in first before dropping the hook being fined up to $10,000US! (To date, we have been told by a few that you can anchor right outside the Savusavu harbor entrance without being hassled by officials if you arrive in the dark. Rumor or not, $10,000 is a lot of money to risk to find out whether that is true or not!)
Sailing Princess - Nuiatoputapu

Endangered Pacific Hawksbill sea turtle - Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Sitka - Nuiatoputapu

Hotspur feeling very peaceful - Nuiatoputapu

The morning weather was no better, but we cheerfully arrived in Savusavu and found a quiet mooring ball at The Copra Shed after having all the pain-free, on-board visits from the proper authorities, who were all very courteous and polite. Although we were drop-dead-tired, we were eager to get off the boat and explore. We ran into various cruising friends we met along the way in Mexico and French Polynesia. It was great to connect again. We met for wobblies and pizza in the evening and turned in early.
Lots of work to make a kie - Nuiatoputapu

So far, we find Suvasuva enchanting! Lovely people, wonderful food, excellent prices, fresh market produce, lots of diversity and simply... it's just an amazing place.