Monday, December 22, 2014

A Christmas Greeting to All our Friends

Merry Christmas
From Kaija & Gary
Snapshot 2014 - We sailed the South Pacific.  Visited the Marquesas’, Tuamotos, French Polynesia, Raiatea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Maupiti, Mopelia, Suwarrow Cook Islands, American and Western Samoa, Tonga and now the beautiful islands of Fiji.  We survived a plane crash and caught a Whale…it doesn’t get much better than this! Livin La Vida Grande!
As I write this it is raining pretty smart with a little lighting to brighten up the day.  Kaija is busy making Christmas wreaths and baking cookies for the marina staff and their families of the beautiful Vuda Point Marina where KaijaSong is safely planted in a Cyclone pit. 
2014 has given us many wonderful memories.  Meeting some of the most amazing individuals and incredible families who have shown us the simple Joy of Living.  On tiny isolated islands, often times having so little it confirms again for us that real Joy comes from your Head and Your Heart!
We take this opportunity to say Thank You for Your Kindness to us.  Your act of kindness made a difference.  A Wise man once said “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a lone mosquito”.
2015 promises to be another terrific year.  With trips planned to Australia and Canada then “back to sheep” (ship) to continue our journey.  Those are the plans, but we know “Man plans, God laughs”.  We trust that Our Way is His Will.
We send our best wishes to you for a very Merry Christmas.  We hope that it is spent with those you Love and that you experience the true Joy of the Season and the true meaning of Christmas.  It is the celebration of the Birth of the Christ…the Greatest Miracle of All.  He is the Great Creator, the Maker of the Wind the Master of the Seas and the Director of All Our Dreams.
Dream your Life…AND LIVE YOUR DREAM!
Wishing you Peace to Rest,
Love to Share,
Happiness to lighten your way
An­d Abundant Joy,

Kaija & Gary,
Sv KaijaSong


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fiji - The Land of Mystery, History and Incredible Joie de Vie - October 15 - Present

Fiji - The Land of Mystery, History and Incredible Joie de Vie - October 15 2014 – Present

We arrived in Fiji after a wonderful three day passage from the Hapai Group of Tonga.  The winds were strong, the seas were fair and the fishing fantastic.  As we passed into Fijian Waters travelling thru the pass just north of the Lau Group we were carried along by swift moving current and strong winds aft the beam and KaijaSong danced over the waves with great delight.  As we came upon our first Fijian islands the sun was setting and we sailed into the sunset amidst the beautiful lush landscapes, tall and rugged reef rimmed islets that held so much history and mystery as a far away place long dreamed of and now so ever present in our view.

During that last night of passage we were aware of the many hidden reefs with breaking water abundant as we skipped between the islands.  When morning broke the fishing began in earnest and it wasn’t long before we landed our biggest yet Wahoo…a whopping 4 footer, full of life and fight and some of the tastiest eatin you can imagine.  Not long after that we hit and landed our biggest yet Mahi Mahi…another 4 footer…WOW…it don’t get much better than this folks…but wait…there’s more…moments later we hooked and landed a beautiful tuna…a Trifecta of Fishing…what a welcome to Fiji!



We arrived at Savu Savu late afternoon and were welcomed by Princess and Dolly…you think I’m making this up???  They are the contacts for the Copra Shed Marina and they were as pleasant as their names.  They made all the arrangements for customs, immigration, health and the Bio hazard folks (they are very careful of any food or plant material), but alas, they could not have been nicer and the paperwork was done within minutes…WELCOME TO FIJI!.

We spent our first week in Savu Savu getting caught up with friends we had not seen for some time…Mike and Liliane Sv Makeo whom we had not seen since the San Blas, and Richard and Fran Sv Red, last seen in the Marquases and Bev and crew Sv Kokoh who we saw last in Tonga.

Savu Savu is located on the island of Vanua Levu and is a great place for diving, shopping and safe little hurricane hole used by many a cruiser as an alternate to hauling their boats during cyclone season as we were about to do in Vuda Marina on the big island of Viti Levu.  One of the long standing residents/cruisers is Curly who provides a plethora of local knowledge of navigation to the newbies…like us…thank you Curly. 

We departed Savu Savu for Namena which is hailed as one of the top 10 diving locations on the planet.  We were not disappointed despite less than perfect weather and water conditions…diving/snorkelling Grand central station and the Pinnacle were outstanding. 
Next we travelled to Makogai to see the giant clams and again we were not disappointed.  They are regenerating the giant clam population in the islands and we look forward to going back.

This is year 10 for us in the cruising lifestyle which is a milestone and also a point when things start wearing out and breaking down on the boat.  This is the main reason we decided to haul KS for the season and effect as many refit repairs as are required to keep our home safe, comfortable and looking good.  It is also an excellent opportunity to purge the boat of so many things we have picked up and packed along the way…looking forward to having the waterline back where it belongs.

We are now sitting safe in a ‘cyclone pit’…a design quite unique in our sailing experience, but once you see how it works it makes perfect sense.

Our first month has been one of tearing things apart and working on the big jobs…we have the diesel tank repair behind us and glad of it.  Next is redoing all the canvas including sail repairs, new stackpack, new dodger/bimini blah blah blah…and I can tell you that the pockets are quickly ridding themselves of any loose change…hahaha…this will be an expensive time, with bottom painting, topside touch-ups…prop rebalancing…new cutlass bearings, new new new…WOW!...don’t laugh if you get one of those emails from us saying we are in FIJI and we don’t have any money please send us some hahahah….I’m laughing now but by about March It may not be quite so funny.

We have already made some great new friends and so far enjoying our time here in this beautiful paradise…altho..must admit…I can honestly say…it will be better  when we are back on the water and not just looking at it.

We keep you posted on our progress.  Till then,

Keep dreaming your life and living your dream…IT’S ALL POSSIBLE IF YOU ONLY BELIEVE!










Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Kingdom of Tonga - Sept / Oct 2014

Tonga – Niuatoputapu – Vava’u – Ha’apai – Sept Oct 2014

We arrived in Tonga after a pleasant sail/passage from Pago Pago American Samoa in early September.  
The people were very happy to welcome us and our Check-in procedure was more like a party than the bureaucratic process we normally experience.
We stopped here to deliver relief and aid supplies collected by Kaija and friends Eagle and Betty from Pago Pago had collected. 
This island houses some 800 residents, most without power or running water.  There are a few old cars but not enough gas to keep them running and the supply vessel come once each 6 months.

Just prior to our arrival the King of Tonga visited who promised to supply a new generator for the island.  He stayed long enough to collect the island's biggest pig, then departed. 
While we missed the King we did get the Bishop.  During our visit and Bishop of the Catholic Church arrived to show his support by having a fund raiser with dancing by the three local villagers. 

The Bishop held Confirmation services for many of the island youth.  

We enjoyed many gatherings with the locals and fellow cruisers including church services and enjoying the hospitality of Sia and Nicku who hosted a pig roast for the cruisers.

We spent 3 weeks on this isolated stretch of sand and made many new friends including one sweet young lady named Narita who presented Kaija with a typical Tongan necklace...Kaija presented her with a string of pearls and made a friend for life.
We will long remember our Tonga time.

We continued south to Neiafu Vava’u which is a port of entry for the Kingdom of Tonga.  Here we enjoyed reunions with many of our cruising friends and enjoyed the annual Billfish tournament with anglers arriving from as far as New Zealand and Australia. 
 The Tournament was won by a wee lady ‘Denise’ on her boat Mv Escalade.  Considering her small size (smaller than Kaija) she sure put the larger swaggering blokes to shame.  After the tournament was over Denise went on to set a new Tongan record for Billfish landing a 230 Kilo beauty on 24 Kilo line...well done Denise!

A real highlight of this trip was seeing the Whales.  This is truly a reason to visit Tonga.  These are among the planets most Majestic mammals.  They are so completely graceful despite their mammoth size above and below the water.  Baby Humpback whales are born at 4 meters weighing 2 tons and full grown adults reach 18 meters and 50 tons.   We are reminded of the diversity of the great Creator and all the wonders of our beautiful world.
We continued south to the Ha’apai Island Group. 

These islands so much like the long sand swept beaches of the Tuamoto Islands of French Polynesia and so different from the northern Tongan Vava’u islands. 

The waters here are crystal clear and the fish and reef life abundant.

We depart Tonga grateful of our experience sharing with these beautiful people who were so grateful for what supplies we brought with us.  We are    reminded once again of the wonderful life we live and how blessed we truly are. 
We and looking forward now to our visit to Fiji.
I am sitting in an internet cafĂ© with no power and my computer is dying...I will post the remaining pictures from Fiji. 




Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Pago Pago, American Samoa – June 22 – Aug 5 2014

Our passage from Suwarrow to Pago Pago was downwind…I mean dead down wind, which for most of us rag hangers can be somewhat unpleasant especially in light winds.  We departed Suwarrow with 15 kts of breeze, making good speed.  But on the morning of the second day the winds faded leaving us with lumpy seas as we rolled off one wave top into a trough, back winding the sails which announce their unhappiness with the conditions by emitting and ear splitting crack akin to a rifle shot.  We were not able to turn on the engine for any prolonged periods as we were dealing with a considerable leak in the fuel injection pump and it was important to preserve that pump at all costs for when we really needed to run the engine on our arrival into Pago Pago harbour.  And so alas, we were forced to Gybe back and forth adding extra miles to the passage but necessary to keep some pressure on the sails and keep the boat moving.  On day three after two days of fishing and not a nibble I decided it was time to catch a fish.  I had been dragging my Tuna squid and based on the condition of the squid, there were fishing biting but not hooking.  I decided to try something new.   I took my largest red and white Rappella with two #6 treble hooks and ran it in tandem with a 10” silver bullet with blue and white feathered skirt with a double #9 tuna hook on 85 lb. test on my trusty Penn Senator and laid it out approx. 150 ft. behind the boat.  I settled down with my book to wait for a strike.  About a minute and a half later I heard that line pop and my reel was smokin.  I mean it was running fast and hard.  I grabbed my heavy leather gloves and grabbed the line and within seconds realized my glove was on fire.  My glove was smoking.  I want to tell you the rest of the story, but as it turns out it is such a good story it has been purchased for Publication by Bob Bitchin Editor of Cruising Outpost soon to be in a store near you.  (this is the first story I have ever had published.  It is called A Whale of a Tale, or A Tale of a Whale)
We arrived in Pago Pago in the afternoon of June 22.  As described in Lonely Planet’s South Pacific Guide American Samoa juts out of the Pacific like the jagged outline of a shark’s smile.  This small set of islands has natural beauty in profusion. Enroute Pago Pago we sailed by the extravagantly handsome Ofu known for having some of the world’s finest islandscapes and beaches with white sands, clear waters, abundant marine life with a majestic rainforest backdrop.
Pago Pago, is the Tuna Capital of the planet, home to Star Kist Tuna and the large protected anchorage is lined with wharfs and docks two and three deep in the large Tuna fishing fleet boats knows as Seiners.  These are not small boats, ranging from 100 – 200 ft. in length complete with their own helicopters to find the Tuna.
The anchorage is not ideal for cruisers accustomed to some of the more exotic coconut lined sandy beaches to park their boats.  And the sweet smell of Frangipani and Banana palms is outweighed by the smell of Charlie tuna being processed on Cannery row which is upwind of the sailboat designated location.  However, aside from the obvious, Pago Pago has a great deal of charm.  It’s friendly people who love to smile, the simplicity of life, the great little buses playing their music or movies who happily turn off the major road to deliver you to the doorstep of exactly where you need to go. Try asking that of a transit bus driver in Toronto or Chicago, lol I'ma tellin you now, it ain’ta gonna happen amigo.
Upon our arrival we met Eagle thru our friends Todd and Gayle Sv Small World II. Eagle is Samoan and delightful.  She loves to hike and along with Kaija and Gayle they have hiked all over this island and enjoyed so much of the natural beauty. 


The girls took a ride on the Ferry to Aunu'u Island and discovered some of it's many mysteries.

Even I, not a hiker so much, have enjoyed hikes to the far side and to Nu’uuli Falls which are spectacular.

Kaija and I decided to fly over to Upolu for a 4 day break, no cooking or cleaning for Kaija, and no sailing or maintenance for me. A mini vacation.  There was a lot of wind and this flight could have been our last.
The plane, on landing, experienced what is termed in Airway’s parlance as an ‘Off Runway Excursion’, what that means, dear traveller, is the plane did not land on the runway.  The fact that I am writing about it lets you know we survived. 
Suffice to say, it was a cross wind landing involving a lot of ‘crabbing’ by the pilot and at the moment when the wheels should have touched down, a gust lifted us and sent us flying, skidding, bouncing, trembling 500 feet thru the adjacent grass gully stopping only when the tail of the plane was hanging over the boundary fence. 
We were very happy to walk off that plane and give thanks to the pilot who maintained a steady hand and thankful that his hand was in the Master’s hand. Thank you Heavenly Father.
We enjoyed our stay on Upolu starting with Apia the capital of Western Samoa. However, we were soon caught up in traffic light and lots of traffic driving on the wrong side, commercialism at every turn, people hocking and begging on every corner, something you do not see in American Samoa. We were happy to take our rent a car and see the quieter side of this island. 
Over the next three days we did find some natural beauty and spent stayed in two lovely hotels and one evening in a very exclusive resort spa equipped with Tennis, Golf, swimming pools, hot tubs, sauna, massage and a 5 star dining experience.  And why not, you can’t take it with you.
We enjoyed a visit to the home of Robert Louis Stevenson who live here for 4 yrs. before his death.   His Estate is surrounded by acres of beautifully manicured botanical gardens.  The Estate tour takes you into his inner dwelling furnished with well kept antiques including a side table of which we own the exact match and a Settee set the matches a set owned by my parents.  RLS had two wishes regarding his burial.  To be buried with his boots on and buried at the top of the familiar mountain behind his home where he often rode his horse and received the inspiration for his writing.  Both of these requests were in outside of local custom, but because he was so revered on the Island, both wishes were granted. The long hike (similar to the Vancouver Grind) to his tomb, in a heavy downpour, was rewarded with brilliant sunshine and spectacular views.
We recommend for anyone visiting this island to start with the STA (Samoa Tourist Association).  Jade and Patricia along with the remaining staff welcomed and assisted us in a most professional yet personal fashion.
Our flight back to Pago Pago was thankfully much less exciting than our flight over.  We were happy to be back aboard KaijaSong and return to the comfort and familiarity of our own bed.
It is time to prepare for the next leg of our journey, the Kingdom of Tonga which will begin with a Relief stop at the Island of Niuatoputapu in Tonga’s far north.  This island was struck by a Tsunami in 2009 that killed 9 and they are still in a state of recover.  They have no electricity on an island of 900 people and in need of help.  We have purchased bolts of fabric, fishing tackle, collected used eye glasses and sunglasses, dive fins, clothing, school supplies and candy for the children.  We are looking forward to our visit there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Suwarrow – Cook Islands May 19 – June 18 2014

We departed the wee world of Mopelia, our final stop in French Polynesia Monday morning May 19 for our 500 miles passage west to Suwarrow situated in the Northern Cook Islands approx. 900 miles south of the Equator.
Suwarrow has been described as a real Treasure Island and the most romantic Island in the world by Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson.  This very isolated atoll is comprised of a dozen small islets rimming the pristine waters of one of the best land locked lagoon harbours in all of the Pacific waters.  It is certainly on the path less travelled.
Though thought to be home to Polynesian settlers in times past it receives its name from the Russian ship Suvorov which landed on these barren shores in 1814. During the mid-19th century a ship from Tahiti found treasure in an old iron chest worth approx. $5 mill today.
During WWII the US set up a watch station on Anchorage Island, the largest of the group and some years later the island received its fame from a lone New Zealander, Tom Neale who came to live in isolation for 15 years between 1952 and 1977.  He wrote of his adventure and his tale, ‘An Island To Oneself’, is a testimony of his will and endurance and both Kaija and I found it a terrific read and one we recommend.
After reading his book, we too had a desire to spend time here, alone, and being a month or so ahead of the Pacific Puddle Jumpers Cruisers we hoped to do just that.
Our 5 day sail was uneventful with two exceptions.  On night two, being hundreds of miles from anywhere or anybody, we saw very bright light on the horizon.  We thought it a fishing vessel but had no read of it on our 48 mile radar and no response to our various VHF calls.  We were concerned not so much about Pirates but because some of these large fishing Seining vessels carry nets that run for 100 miles, drawn into a circle 33 miles across.  We did not want to become part of his catch.  It was not until the morning dawn that the light faded from view and we never did discover its origin.  The winds were light and we were sailing downwind and if we were to have any chance of making landfall during daylight hours we needed to pick up the pace.  It was time for the Spinnaker.  We carry an Asymmetrical Chute intended more for running on a slight angle to broad reaching.  Because we were DDW (dead downwind) I decided to use the Spin Pole in effect to allow for a better angle and a more stable set.  The breeze was between 8 – 10 knots and had been for many hours.  We hoisted the chute and trimmed her out and soon we were doing a comfortable 6 knots in the light breeze.  Excellent!  Well, just when you think you have it all under control long came a strengthening breeze and it took only a matter of minutes before it was blowing 20 kts., a lot more wind than needed when flying the chute, especially shorthanded.  We had a Chute sock, but I quickly realized that we were beyond dousing with the sock, it was time to blow the sheet and get it down quick.  With Auto driving hard to keep the nose down and avoid broaching I let the sheet fly.  Kaija, on the deck, was attempting to secure the chute by pulling down the sock.  This was not to be. She quickly let me know we had a slight problem.  Our chute had hour glassed around the head stay.  This was not good.  We were in danger of damaging the chute and unable to use our headsail in this current situation.  It required someone going aloft to sort this mess out.  We took a vote and decided neither of us was going up the stick in these conditions.  It would have to wait until we reached Suwarrow.
The next day with light winds again we were making slow progress under main sail alone and it was time to fire up the ‘iron genny’ (engine) in order to make landfall during daylight.  In these lighter conditions we continued to watch the chute curl, furl, and continue to wrap and rewrap itself around the head stay but with lighter stress and  I decided to relax the halyard a foot or so.  Gradually we watched the chute inch its way downward.  Ok…so it’s a game of inches…over the span of that day we slowly worked the chute down but it was not until the next morning as we arrived at Suwarrow that we finally managed to the get chute completely down and stowed and all the mess sorted…with no damage.  Thank you Lord!
As we arrived at Suwarrow we noticed a couple of boats in the anchorage.  But as we came thru the pass out came one and then the next.  Aha, were we to get our wish…Suwarrow all to ourselves.  Alas, as we rounded the headland we saw one boat remaining.  This turned out to be the Sailing Cat Sonadora owned by a nice lady Carol from UK enroute NZ on her second circumnavigation.  We enjoyed a day on the island with her crew and learned the ropes of successfully negotiating our way into the ripe coconuts with our trusty Machete.  Yes there is an art to it and once learned you will never be thirsty again…provided you are on an island with Coconuts.
The following day, Sonadora departed and our dream came true….An Island to Oneself!  No one else, no Wardens, or Field and Stream boys, no authorities telling us what to do or not do, no other cruisers…Paradise to explore!  – For 4 hours.
Then once again we were in the company of three French Cats a German Cat and three French monohulls…wow…a crowd.
  But being the friendly sorts we are, it wasn’t long until the beach parties began and we were all busy exploring the island Tom Neale journalled so well.
We found his original shack, cooking hut and garden and were introduced to the Suwarrow version of the Coconut Crab and did we find crab…WOW!
 That’s the beauty of coming to a place where few have gone before.  Mother Nature and all her inhabitants have a chance to replenish and flourish.  For the next few days we hunted crabs, fished and snorkelled the many reefs close to the anchorage.  They were beautiful and full of sharks, black tip, white tip, reef and greys they were all there and in large numbers.  As were the very large snappers and groupers and all manner of good eatin fishies, it was just a question of how fast can you swim, spear and walk on water.  The trolling was excellent and wasn’t long before the freezer started filling up.  Also, it wasn’t long until the crowd started to thin out and one morning we woke up knowing that we were once again all alone.  This time we had a few days and perfect weather to take the dinghy and explore the other islands rimming the atolls. In particular we wanted to go and find what Tom Neale described in his book as ‘The Perfect Reef’.  We did and it was….SPECTACULAR!  In the 10 years that we have been cruising and diving it was the most incredible reef dive we have ever had.  We weren’t in the water but a couple of minutes when, spear gun in hand, I had a large Pacific Jack, bigger than me, swim right up to my mask.  I could have kissed him, he was that close.  Needless to say, my trigger finger was twitching, but that wee small voice that belongs to my survival instinct said “Elmer, if you shoot that fish you are gonna die” and although I recognized that to be a little harsh, I knew if I shot that fish I would be taken for a ride to a place I may not come back from.  At the very least I would lose my gun and that’s no fun.  So I wiggled my fingers at him in my most friendly Nemo kind of wave and off he swam and so did I.  We spent a whole day exploring that reef and Kaija discovered a new species of fish we have never before encountered.  It was the Ambon Toby and Kaija, always on the lookout for a new fish, was thrilled.
Kaija found a bird sanctuary with thousands of nesting Terns and Gulls and was able to enjoy a real time of communion with them.
  I discovered a beautiful whale bone vertebrae and if it weren’t for the size I would have brought it home, it was a most comfortable chair, but alas, too big and too heavy for das boat.
Over the next many days we explored other islands, fished and swam and it reminded me of the movie Blue Lagoon with Kaija and me the stars.  It was heavenly, total isolation, serenity, perfection.  However, it wasn’t too many days before more boats started arriving and we once again found ourselves in the company of cruisers and a good time was had by all.  Todd and Gayle Sv Small World II from Hawaii, Tim and Katie Sv Marjana an Australian couple making their way home after cruising the Med for 6 yrs. and a pair of nice lads from the States, Hugh and Peter Sv Icarus recently College grads having a sailing adventure before selling the boat in Australia and head back to the land of Stuff and gainful employment.
Finally, the Island Authority/Warden arrived.  His name was Harry and in company with his assistant/wife he promptly proceeded to inform us of ‘all the rules’.  There was a whole lot of ‘you can’t do’ including fires on the beach, socials at the clubhouse etc., however, he was nice enough when he came to ask if we could install his SSB radio, which we did and made the best of the situation.  However, it was not the same with all the rules and regs and it was time to move on.
We discovered that we had a fairly major fuel leak coming from the fuel injector pump.  Despite my best efforts, this fix was way above my pay grade.  I needed help and there was no help in Suwarrow.  Originally, we had intended to sail for Tonga then Fiji, but given the distances it seemed a wiser course to head for American Samoa where at least we could get parts shipped in.  And that is what we did.  On the morning of June 18, in company with Sv Small World II we departed this Paradise of Isolation and headed for civilization.