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Hot News 12/20/04 Lowell, Arkansas - USA

We have moved to Arkansas and Jim has joined Tyson Foods Inc.  We get asked a lot about how we got from Vanuatu to Arkansas.  First off, it is not as big of a change as it sounds.  Arkansas is more like Vanuatu than it is like Los Angeles or San Francisco.  Northwest Arkansas is actually very pretty and the fact that several big companies are headquartered here means that it has some of the features of a big city without the big city.  Our very good friend has site that gives a good perspective on the real estate here.  NWAproperties.com

We always knew that we would have to work again and Vanuatu is not the place to do it.  We still have our house there and we stay in touch with our friends.  We plan to visit almost every year and spend more time there as soon as we build up the finances to the point that we don't work full time.

We are going to some web development focused on local business promotion here like we have done for Northern Vanuatu with Santo Today.   The Go West website remains surprisingly popular so we are leaving it running.  We are still happy to answer questions and respond to your e-mails so keep them coming.  Write to gowestsf@yahoo.com .

Hot News 09/26/03 Aore Island, Vanuatu

The Hot news has gone pretty cold but the amazing amount of visitors that still come to our site encourage us to keep it available.  We are living in paradise in Northern Vanuatu.  This is the place that James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific.  We have created a site to give a modern view at Santo Today and we would like you to visit.

Hot News 02/11/01 Aore Island, Vanuatu

We have not thought much about the web page lately.  We have abandoned our effort to form a US based limited partnership to purchase property in Vanuatu.  We struggled with the poor air connections from the US and didn't get good feedback from the first group we brought to have a look.

This hasn't deterred us from our efforts in Vanuatu.  We will try to wrap up the page in the next several months by finishing Australia and wrapping up the vessel and lessons learned sections.  Thanks for your interest and support over the years...Jim and Hellen

Hot News 9/9/00 Aore Island, Vanuatu

We have been really bad!  There has been so much going on that it was too difficult to update the web page.  This was made worse when we discovered in late July that Go West had been heavily damaged while in transit on the Rossel Current just north of New Zealand.  The ship got into very heavy seas just after leaving New Zealand and the bow of the ship was going under water.  Our boat was being pulled under and the straps and cleats couldn't handle the full buoyancy of the boat.  The beam strap on one side broke and the beam cleat on the other side failed after being bent like a pretzel.  The boat went up and then came down slightly crooked on the cradle and smashed it right out from under it.  

Several hours after this the crew came out and strapped it back down but the many impact points and holes told the tale of a pretty rough ride for several hours.  We met the boat in Vancouver and worked with the insurance company until it was determined that the boat was a constructive total loss.  Now we wait for the check (the check did come).  It is insured in Australian dollars so we are not waiting with joy as the aussie dollar falls.

We arrived in Vanuatu and we have moved into our new house.  It has been crowded as we have the only working stove, frig, phone and electricity on the plantation at the moment.  One house is almost complete and another starts in a few weeks so the traffic at our place will slow down soon.

We have a VHF and we answer to West End on channel 68.  We would be happy to have a visit from  anyone coming through the area on a yacht.  By next season we will have a big mooring built out front for visiting friends.  

Hot News 5/1/00 Brisbane, Queensland (Australia)

We are committed (or should be) and we will be moving to Vanuatu.  The Paradise Plantation project is proceeding on schedule and we are making plans to move to the island paradise.  Part of these plans involves selling Go West which is sad. Hellen says it is just like our houses, we have just got it the way we want it and now we are going to sell it for someone else to enjoy.  We will still update the web page for Australia and the trip over.  We will also maintain it for a while to update our progress but soon after we get settled in Vanuatu we will publish a web page for Paradise Plantation and we will have a section for personal news and gossip.  

We feel bad that we are discontinuing our journey just as the web page was gaining popularity but we are embarking on a new and, we think, equally interesting journey and we hope that you will still follow along.

Hot News 3/16/00 Brisbane, Queensland (Australia)

It has been a long time since we have updated the web page.  This is not technically true as we have been working away on a business proposal related to a resort development in Vanuatu.  Our house is situated on the plantation that we are attempting to purchase.   E-mail feedback to Gowestsf@yahoo.com

We have also been studying our statistics on the web site and we have learned some amazing things.  We actually receive about 3 times as many visits as our counter suggests.  Most people bypass the first page and go straight to the Hot News or Ports of Call.  This indicates that we are mostly viewed by repeat visitors.  We really appreciate the amount of interest in our web site.  At the moment we are on top of our e-mail so this is your chance to send a not with a question or a comment.  Send them to gowestsf@yahoo.com.   

Hot News 1/25/00 Brisbane, Queensland (Australia)

Its good to be home.  Over a month on the road got a little old.  Australia is big and spread out and we were running out of enthusiasm by the time we got to Melbourne.  It seemed like every information kiosk we visited told us that their top attraction was the Botanical Garden.  We even saw (though didn't visit) a botanical garden in the desert.  Museums and botanical gardens became like churches and castles in Europe.  New Zealand spoiled us a bit because it packed more interesting sights in to a smaller space.  It was also about 30% cheaper to live on the road in NZ.

From Melbourne we traveled to Canberra via the the Rutherglen wine region.  This was once a very important wine region supplying a great deal of wine to mother England up until the turn of the century when the vineyards were wiped out with phylloxera.   Almost all wine production stopped with just a few farms producing small amounts.   Most of the land converted to livestock.  Today wine is coming back with many small wineries producing reds, whites and fortified wines.  They are excellent and we really enjoyed the wineries we visited.  Most are so small that they don't even distribute nationally.

Canberra is home to, we believe, the finest national capital building in the world.   The capital building was completed in the 80's and it is stunning.  Hard to do justice with a verbal description so wait for the pictures.  It was designed by a US architecture firm and we heard some grumbling in our tour group over this.   Australians are ultra-nationalists.  Actually it was the daring of selecting the design that deserves the credit.

Canberra is also home to some fine museums (ugh!).  The War Memorial Museum was very well presented showing the amount of conflicts that have taken Australian lives that were of little consequence to Australia (sound familiar).  It was interesting to see the pounding that Australia got from the Japanese during W.W.II.  Darwin was bombed numerous times and subs entered Sydney harbor repeatedly.

From Canberra we moved on to Sydney and we stayed with a friend we met in Vanuatu.   Susie is featured in the US President Coolidge page kissing the Lady.  We had a real nice visit with her family and we really appreciated the opportunity to stay in central Sydney for several days without spending a fortune.  We caught up with Bruce, Pam and Skipper from Aquhabi as they sailed down to Tasmania.  Aquhabi was anchored in Sydney Harbor with Darci for the New Years Fireworks and they said it was an incredible show.  Buddy and Ruth from Annapurna drove down and we all got together for a day at Darling Harbor.  Darling Harbor is the downtown Sydney waterfront and it is a very attractive entertainment center.  This will be a real hub of activity for the upcoming Olympics.

From Sydney we blasted back toward Brisbane with a stop in Coffs Harbor.  It was a fast but exciting lap around southeastern Australia.  Now we are back on the boat and beginning our annual maintenance.  I will try to finish Vanuatu and work on Australia over the next month or two.  Keep an eye on us...Jim and Hellen on "Go West" 

Hot News 1/7/00 Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)

We rang in the New Year in Coober Pedy.  It was a good party.  The town is really fun with mines everywhere.  There are some really nice underground homes and if you like opals, then this is shopping heaven.  We bought a nice piece for Hellen's mother (don't tell her) as she likes opals.  We also bought a jar of opal chips from "Fire in the Stone" and we were amazed at the variety and color of the stones.   They are the bits that come off when they are cutting a stone.  Hellen also "fossicked" in a place in town where visitors can poke around.  She did pretty good.

We toured "The Breakaways" which is a desolate area that is often used in movies.  Mad Max III was filmed there and the upcoming "Red Planet" and "Star Wars, Episode II" also did location shooting there.

We moved on to the Barossa Valley which is the home of the Australian wine industry.   We were surprised that several wineries were founded in the 1850's.  Being snobbish about California wine we thought Australian wines were new on the block but the tradition of wine making is actually longer here.  We were also surprised to find many excellent ports.  We gained a lot more respect for Australian wines and we consider them an even better value.

We made a quick stop in Adelaide but we didn't do it justice as we are overloaded on museums and botanical gardens.  We aren't doing cities with the same enthusiasm.   We spun down along the southern coast and we particularly enjoyed the Nelson Light Station.  We had marginal weather along the south coast but it cleared up as we arrived in Melbourne. 

We will tour Melbourne and get the car looked at before continuing on to Sydney.   We will spend some time with friends before we head back to the boat, we miss home...

Hot News 12/30/99 Coober Pedy, South Australia

We took off on our driving "walkabout" 2 weeks ago and we have already covered over 3,000 kilometers.  I wish it was this easy in the boat.  This time the "Go West" land yacht  is a 1987 Mitsubishi Magna wagon with no frills but air-conditioning, a must when crossing Australia in the summer.

We started off heading north and cut inland at Rockhampton.  Our first stop was Rubyvale where we took a tour of the sapphire mines.   We toured with the nice folks at the Rubyvale Gem Gallery.  The tour provides a good understanding of the history of the area and the different methods of mining.  You even get to try your hand at it and Hellen put here shell hunting skills to good use spotting sapphires.   Eileen Brown, one of the owners, graduated from Marin Catholic High School which was next door to my Redwood High School and we were only a year apart.  Its a small world.

We stopped at night 3 times but traveled pretty much straight through to Alice Springs in the middle of Australia.  Alice Springs is situated against the MacDonnell Range mountains.  The MacDonnell Range has a few narrow canyons where the water flows from one side to the other.  These are known as Gaps.  The town was developed as a telegraph station in the 1870's and a person heading out into the bush was heading out through the Gap.

We spent a half day at the Aboriginal Cultural Center site learning about their culture and history.  It was very interesting and we gained a much greater appreciation of their ancient and well developed society.  It has only been the last few years that the government has been granting large tracks of land as Aboriginal reserves.  At the center we spoke to Arthur who is an elder spokesman for the tribe.  He explained that they have no intentions of trying to claim privately owned land but it may be possible that they might claim land that is currently leased from the government for grazing.   The Aborigines were a nomadic people and to retain their ways they need a lot of land.  I learned to play a didgerido or didjeridu and then I had to buy one.   This is the cylindrical aboriginal instrument that makes the humming sound that is most associated with the Australian outback. 

From Alice Springs we headed out through the gap and on to Uluru. Uluru is known to most as Ayers Rock.  Uluru is the Aboriginal name and Ayers Rock is not used much anymore.  It is really quite a sight, much bigger than is appears in photographs.   A short distance away is Kata Tjuta which is formally known as the Olgas.  It is sort of  a Salvador Dali version of Uluru.  We climbed up a little way on Uluru but chickened out at the chain.  It is steep and several people have died from rolling off.  A big millenium celebration is planned at the rock but we decided to move on to Coober Pedy.

Coober Pedy is from the aboriginal words "kupa piti" meaning white man's burrow.  It is the Opal Capital of the world.   As it was first mined in the early 1900's the miners just lived in their mines leading to the name.  This tradition continues today with most residence living underground in purpose built subterranean homes.  Living underground protects from the summer heat which may rise over 120 F.  We are here in summer but our luck is good and it is only in the high 80's.  Here we will celebrate the millenium before heading off to the southern shores of Australia and around to Melbourne.  We will try to post an update in a couple of weeks in Sydney.  Don't give up on us...Jim and Hellen lost in the Outback.

Hot News 11/10/99 Brisbane, Australia

Talk about getting behind.  We have covered a lot of ground since the last Hot News was penned.  We spent a month in Luganville and had a really  great time.   This was the place where we stopped and really got to know Vanuatu.  We moored at the Aore Resort and I made quite a few dives on the USS President Coolidge wreck.   I also did an amazing shark dive all with all with Aquamarine.  I took a lot of pictures but they didn't turn out that great but there are a few worth looking at.

We also bought a house.  We have been looking for a house in the tropics on the water in an attractive vacation spot and cheap and we finally found it on Aore island across from Luganville.  We really loved it there and we plan to visit often.

We departed Luganville Mid-October with the destination of Bundaberg, Australia.   We set our course to take us by Huon Island north of New Caledonia, Chesterfield Reef in the middle of the Coral Sea and Kenn Reef 200 miles northeast of Bundaberg.   The first 2 stops are in the territorial waters of New Caledonia and they do not appreciate visitors unless you first check in at Noumea on the Southern end of New Caledonia.  Huon is frequently patrolled by the French Navy.  We decided we would only stop at Huon if we had a problem with the boat or weather.  This wasn't the case so we kept sailing for Chesterfield.  As we approached Chesterfield the wind died so we felt a stop was in order.

We got a sense of the concern by the French officials because the small sand islands are amazing nature preserves and too much human contact will definitely put them under stress.  The islands at Chesterfield Reef were low sand islands with low vegetation.   They were used as nesting grounds for a large variety of sea birds.  As you approached the smaller birds would take off and abandon their nests and the Frigate birds would swoop in and steal eggs and young birds.  Not a pretty sight.  There were sand islands without vegetation which could be landed but you had to be on the lookout for turtle nests so as not to step on one.  The best bet was to walk below the high tide line on sand islands.  The shelling was amazing.

Turtles were everywhere.  They were doing "it" all over the place.   They do it in the water but a pair drifted up to the beach and ended up out of the water as the tide receded.  That's right, they do it for hours at a time.  Slow but sure.  We had to keep an eye out for them because they were too distracted to get out of our way as we approached and departed the reef.

I went looking for lobsters and though I struck out I had a very close encounter with a turtle.  I was drifting along and a turtle approached slowly.  I assume it was a horny young male but that could just be sexist viewpoint.  He came up within a meter and I started to get nervous looking at his large beak and wondering if they were territorial.  I waved the shaft of my speargun in his face and he wasn't bothered.   He approached close enough that I was about to push him away on his shell when he realized that I wasn't the turtle of his dreams and he suddenly high tailed it out of there.  Five minutes later I was passing over a deep chasm and here he comes again from below approaching face to face.  This time I wasn't concerned and let him get a good look.  He approached very close again and left just a quickly.  The third time I was swimming up to the dinghy and he approached from the other side.  We peered around the outboard at each other.  He had a look of "not you again" and swam off at a leisurely pace.  I wish I had a camera.

We stopped at Kenn Reef which is in Australian waters.  The Australians don't mind stops in uninhabited anchorages as you approach as long as they aren't excessive.   Kenn Reef has several sand islands but without vegetation so they aren't used by nesting birds.  Turtles do use them for nesting so care must be taken.  The water was very clear but I didn't get in because an ear was bothering me.  The chart was way off.  Something like 2 miles and it seemed to be inaccurate in the placement of hazards so an entry should only be attempted in very good light.  We will publish the corrections we determined when we put together the Ports of Call.

We sailed on the Bundaberg and had the only bad weather of the trip just outside.   We hit a squall line a few hours out and had lightening hit the water on either side of us and 35 knot winds.  It was short and the sun was shining on the other side.  We had a great trip overall with 10 to 20 knot winds for 5 days and light winds most of the rest of the time with just a few hours of 25 knot winds.  The best passage yet.

Clearing in to Australia was very easy.  They do charge A$120 to clear in and it goes to A$240 on Saturday and A$275 on Sunday.  Try to arrive on a weekday.  We arrived Sunday late afternoon and they let you anchor after 5PM in a quarantine anchorage for a Monday morning check in.  We lost very little to the Ag inspection.  Just pick up the pamphlet they provide at their consulates and it will be easy.

We are now in Scarborough Marina just north of Brisbane after a nice sail down through the Great Sandy Straight with stops at Tin Can Bay and Maloolabah.  We don't what our plans are yet but we will get busy on the Ports update.  Hopefully we will have it knocked out in the next couple of weeks.  Keep watching.

Hot News 9/14/99 Luganville, Vanuatu

I do this all of the time.  After I knock out an update I get lazy about keeping up the diary.  Right after we posted the last update we cast off from our mooring buoy and headed for the north side of Efate Island.  We stopped in Havana Bay and spent one day before we headed out to Ngouna Island to anchor off  Na Ora Matoua for the night.  This was planned to be a quick stop but the weather rarely cooperates with our plans.  We stayed 3 days waiting for the winds to subside from the 30 knot range.  Reinforced trade winds are common when a strong High passes below.   Bruce and Jean from R. Phurst arranged a dinner on shore and we got a tour of the village and a simple meal for 500 vatu per head.

Eventually the wind died to 25 knots and the rain let up so we were off for a fast ride to Epi, 42 miles away.  We planned to leave at 6:00 but our anchor chain got caught under a coral head at 60 feet so I had to dive it.  I thought it was clear up to the anchor but it got stuck again and I dove it again, this time with a Spare Air at 55 feet.   A Spare Air is a 3 cubic foot air tank designed to give you a few breaths if your dive equipment fails.  I got down and got the anchor free just as the air ran out.   I started a relaxed ascent remembering to breath but 55 feet seems like a long way when there is nothing to breath in.  It was amazing that I always had something to breath out.  I don't think I will do that again.

I finally got going at 8:00 but we were doing 7 knots with ideal winds so we arrived in Revolieu Bay by 3:00 and we got entry advice from Darsi, already at anchor.  The locals were very friendly and they told us about a local Dugong with a calf that would let us approach.  We were excited and the next day we began the first of several fruitless Dugong hunts.  We are beginning to think that the Dugong is the Loch Ness Monster of Vanuatu.  I know, I know, there are pictures to prove it.  I've seen pictures of Nessie also.

A low formed to our west while we sat in this west facing anchorage so I thought it was prudent to get to a more protected anchorage so we headed for the Maskelyne islands on the south of Malakula Island.  While in transit we talked to several boats that had other weather info and they down played the low so we detoured to Laman Bay on Epi to continue the great Dugong hunt.  We not only didn't find a Dugong, we had to endure the rolling a bouncing from the west wind coming off of the unimportant low.  Of course Murphy's Law had some part in all of this.

From Epi we headed for Banam Bay and some peaceful sleep.  Here we viewed our first custom dancing put on by the villagers for a crowd of 14.  This was the second biggest spectator group they had present since they began performing for visitors 4 years ago.  They often perform for 4.  It was very special.  At the end the chief asks that we tell our friends and then asks each of us what we thought.  I mentioned that we had a web page and we would post pictures thinking he wouldn't know what I was talking about, after all, the village didn't have electricity or a phone.  Wrong!   His son was so excited that they organized a special showing the next morning of custom magic.  I don't know how well it photographed but we will be doing a big spread on this village and their performances.

From here we went to Ambrym which is the island of volcanoes and magic.  It is possible to hike up the volcano and look down into molten lava craters.  It is a 4 hour hike up hill and it was too hot to consider.  We went for the 45 minute up hill hike to Fanla.  The chief of Fanla is a Great Chief and he is considered to be the most powerful man in Vanuatu with the magic he conjures from the volcano.  We were fortunate to make friends with his son John and he took us to meet his father and tour his village.  It was a special experience but not what we expected.  Chief James was a nice man and we had a good visit with him and his sons as well as a nice tour of the village.  We saw beautiful carvings and a tusker pig.  The chief seemed to be most interested in providing tours and performing magic for a pretty steep price.   John, our guide and his son, knew we weren't that interested so he kept steering us clear without offending but it was a little weird.  Chief James is an interesting man but he definitely wants to make a buck off of visiting yachties.  We walked back sown to our boat and collapsed from the steep hike.

Next we were off to Lolton on Pentecost Island.  Pentecost Island is world famous for the land diving that is performed there each March and April.  Each Saturday brave young men leap from a scaffolding built of branches lashed together with vines.   They leap with vines attached to their ankles to stop them just as they hit the ground.  It is the original bungy jumping but it is far more dangerous.  This is performed near Homo bay but we didn't stop as the anchorage has a bad reputation for excessive fees and vandalism.  We sailed to the northern side of the island to anchor is the protection of Lolton bay.  Here we bought bread from Walter and toured the village.  There is a guest house run by the local pastor and they serve dinner and have music performed by a local string band.  We didn't eat but we heard the band out in the anchorage and they were quite good.  In the guide book it says that once they start it is hard to stop them and boy is this true.  They started at 7:00 PM and finished at 7:00 am! 

From here we crossed to Maewo island and the beautiful anchorage of Asanvari.   This is the most beautiful anchorage we have seen in our travels.  There is a waterfall on one side and a picture postcard village on the other.  Chief Nelson loves visiting yachts so he set up a yacht club.  With a donated kerosene refrigerator he provides cold drinks and beer (when he isn't out)  to visiting yachties.  They will provide dinner and rubbish disposal and even do your laundry all for reasonable fees.  The anchorage is protected from all but Southwest to Northwest winds so this seems like a place to hang for a while.  We were amazed to find it all to ourselves.  We will stay a couple of days before we cross to Espiritu Santo and hit the big city of Luganville.  Here I will dive the US President Coolidge and Million Dollar Point.  These are some of the most famous dives in the South Pacific and I hope to get some good pictures.

More soon...Jim and Hellen on "Go West"

Hot News 8/27/99 Port Vila, Vanuatu

We had a passage with everything from Fiji to Vanuatu.  We left with Ahquabi knowing that a front was lurking between us and Vanuatu but we decided to leave because it was weak and figured we would have good sailing after we cleared it.  I noticed a low on the forecast below Fiji but I didn't think about it.  That low formed right in front of us and we sailed right over the top of it.  It wasn't too bad because the 25 knot winds kept clocking counter clockwise as we sailed over so the seas didn't get a chance to build but that night we had seas from 2 directions and it was one of the most uncomfortable nights I can remember.  The next day things calmed down and we got some sleep (none the night before).  Then we entered the front.  There wasn't much wind and just a few rain squalls but we had to motor for about 12 hours.  Then the wind picked up and we thought we were off for 2 and half fast days to Vanuatu.   Wrong.  The wind died again and we were motoring.  Now we started to get a an adverse current of about 1.5 knots.  We went from thinking we would arrive late Sunday night to thinking that we wouldn't get in until Tuesday morning.  The wind slowly picked up again until we were flying along at top speed and we ended up getting in Monday morning in 30 knots of wind.  It stayed blowing like that for 3 days so we will take our passage which was actually one of our better ones.

Port  Vila is a modern city.  We were able to post this update which is a testament to their telecommunications capabilities.  We have also improved our image compression so you should notice faster load times on the new pages and also on the first page.  Right after this posts we are off back to the backwaters so you won't hear from us until Australia, I mean it this time.

Check in again in late October...Jim and Hellen on Go West.

Hot News 8/17/99 Back to Musket and Beyond

We have had an eventful 2 weeks since leaving Musket Cove.  We started anchored off the resort at Denerau which is a plush Sheraton.  They were quick to leave a flyer on our boat that we were not welcome at the pool or beach but we were invited to spend money at their bars and restaurants as long as we could behave in a civilized fashion.  Not unusual treatment for cruisers but a shock after Musket Cove.  It is amazing that the resort has a marina and sponsors a "Race Week" yet keeps cruisers at arms length.

We left in a couple of days and on our way out we hit a reef.  At 5 knots we collided directly with a small coral head about 3 feet down.  We went straight up on it.  I hit reverse immediately and we slid right back off.  I have to give Bob Johnson a lot of credit for his boat design and construction.  The Island Packet has a very gently slope down to the bottom of the keel and the impact was absorbed over about 4 feet.  It was very gentle even thought the bow was almost 3 feet out of the water when we stopped.  The construction can be thanked for the fact that we had only a couple of very small patches where we went through the gelcoat.  No where did we penetrate more than 1/8 inch.  It was amazing how little damage there was for such a powerful collision.  I am definitely sold on the Island Packet Full Foil Keel and I wouldn't go for a fin keel or even a cut away forefoot in tropical waters after this experience.

I was at a party about a week later and I admitted my accident to several fellow cruisers and almost all of them shared a similar experience.  There are many more boats hitting reefs in Fiji than anyone will tell you.  The good news is that most survive with only minor damage. 

We sold our house to our renter and she brought the papers down for signing at the US Embassy.  We are no longer landlords which makes things easier.  She was really happy to buy the house and we were happy to sell it to her though it was sad to say goodbye to a house that had so much of our sweat-equity.

Now we are back in Musket Cove and we will leave for Vanuatu, hopefully tomorrow.   Jim and Hellen on "Go West"

Hot News 8/1/99 Leaving with a Musket to our Heads

Musket Cove was really great and it is hard to leave. It is a resort that truly welcomes yachts. The Musket Cove yacht Club has over 7,000 life members. It is little wonder as it costs $1 for the skipper and $5 for each crew member for a life membership. It entitles you to access to all of the resorts facilities and services. It is not surprising that many boats show up with the intention of staying a few days and end up staying a few weeks.

They have inexpensive moorings and a small marina but the anchorage is large with good holding. There are a lot of reefs around but they are pretty well marked.

You check in with Ala at the boat shed. She will remember you name after the first visit and she is also very good at helping with problems. The Island Bar on the other side of the marina from the Boat Shed is the hang out for yachties. The feature beer and mixed drinks for F$2.50. They have barbecue pits with wood and cooking utensils for free. They even provide the plates and flatware so you don't need to dishes. What a deal!

Next to Musket Cove is the Plantation Resort. They were once linked but the partners went their separate ways some time ago and now they are separate. Technically your MCYC is not good at the Plantation but they welcome yachties. They have an excellent pool and really good tropical drinks and a good snack bar on the beach. Their lunch buffet is pricey but really good. It is a first class resort and it is generous that they welcome cruisers so buy a drink if you use their pool. 

We are off to the West Coast of Viti Levu and the big cities of Nadi and Lautoka...Jim and Hellen on "Go West"

Hot News Musket Cove 7/24/99

We are swinging on a mooring off of the Musket Cove Resort. We have not been writing updates because our laptop died. We sort of assisted in the suicide but we won't dwell on it in case there are any SPCC members reading.

We are now using our ancient Compaq laptop and the battery was very weak. Now it is dead. We are feeding it with an IV straight from the house batteries. E-mail has been difficult and weatherfax is impossible so we hope our main laptop is revived successfully and comes back soon.

Now that the Compaq is on an IV we can spend time typing updates. We have covered a lot of ground but we haven't stopped in a lot of places.

We left Suva and sailed to Ono. We visited the village of Nabouwalu on the Northwest side of the island. It is nestled in a protected cove which is a good anchorage in all but North to Northwest winds. The village is very friendly. Offered to prepare a dinner for us and asked that we donate something for a local cause in return. They put on the best native meal we have had in the South Pacific. We paid F$10 per person and they were very happy. We were loaded up with papayas and bananas.
Around the corner from the village is a long white beach with a single inhabitant. Leslie Taito decided to move away from the village so he could keep his own schedule and be closer to his gardens. He still goes to see his relatives on Sunday for church. He owns the entire beach plus the reefs out from the village. You need his permission to dive but he cheerfully provides it without expectation. He will guide you to good tank and free dive sites in your dingy for F$3 per person. This is cheap as he really knows where to go. I got my best underwater pictures so far on this dive.

He is interested in visitors. He would expect some payment but F$10 per day per person or couple would no doubt be adequate. He has a small bure which I am sure he would share but a tent would be a good idea. Bug spray is a must as the mosquitoes are numerous but it is truly beautiful and as close to a hidden paradise as you could find. Leslie could only offer fruits and basic vegetables and some fish so you would need to bring some provisions. Travel arrangements and tanks rental and refill could be arranged through a local dive operation called Dive Kadavu. They operate out of resort called Matana Resort (679) 311-780.
Before you book your tickets you should write Leslie at:
Leslie Taito
Nabouwalu Ono Kadavu
P. A. Naqara Fiji
This is roughing it to the extreme but if you are adventurous this could be a real original experience.

More on Musket Cove next time...Jim and Hellen on "Go West"

The Big City -con't  7/7/99

The 4th of July at the Royal Suva Yacht Club was an affair.  Bruce and Pam of Aquhabi organized a barbecue with about 8 or 9 boats.  The Sweet Dreams gang brought their ice cream maker which was a hit with all of the kids around the club.  Hellen made mini apple pies.  We didn't have any fireworks but this was probably lucky as we would have brought the local authorities down on us.  Rob and Mary from Carillion were the token Brits.  They suffered some abuse but the dished it out just as well.   I guess it proves they have learned a few things in a couple of hundred years.

There has been some alarming crime in Suva while we have been here.  A boat was boarded by 3 young men with knives.  The man and woman were tied up and harassed while the robbers took everything they could find of value.  They put it all in their boat and then couldn't start the engine.  They victim freed himself and called on the VHF and several yachties responded.  The robbers were beat with oars and subdued.   The victim took a little retribution with a baseball bat and the police felt the the job wasn't complete and applied a little more punishment.  They will be arraigned shortly.

A couple of days after this incident there was an escape of 5 prisoners from across the street from the yacht club.  They were on gardening detail in the cemetery.   There was also an armed robbery of the Cost U Less which is actually a US Costco but they couldn't get the name in Fiji.

Suva is a big city and it has poverty.  In rural Fiji poverty is common but there is no hunger and basic needs are cared for so it doesn't create desperation.  In the city it is different because a person must buy housing, food an almost everything.   Crime is the solution that some find but there is little tolerance by most Fijians.  

Special thanks to the staff at the Royal Suva Yacht Club for providing us with the facilities to update our site.

Next stop, Kandavu and the Great Astrolabe Reef.  Stay tuned...Jim and Hellen on "Go West" 

The Big City  7/2/99

We arrived in Suva, Fiji a few days ago and we have been cranking out the web page update day and night.  We have managed to slip away for a few happy hours at the Royal Suva Yacht Club featuring 80 Fiji Bitters.

We left Bud's reef and anchored in an open crater called Matangi.  Hellen said it was the favorite anchorage she has ever visited.  We spent 5 days just hanging out and swimming.  We finally got back in the tropical grove. 

From Matangi we went 5 miles east to Laucala also known as Forbes Island.  Malcolm Forbes bought the island in 1972 for a little over US$1 million and he proceeded to rebuild the village and build a new house on the hill.  He only visited for 3 to 5 days each year but he fell in love with the island and its people.  He planned to retire there in 1990 but he died just before he realized his dream.  His family buried his ashes on the island. 

The people of Laucala were heart broken.  It is really sad that he wasn't able to follow through because it would have been a special place.  The island was his dream but isn't wasn't shared by his family so they now have it up for sale at 10.5 million.   It is 3,000 acres or hectares and it has an operating resort.  If you have the money to buy it, Hellen and I will manage it for you.

"Hot" News  6/17/99

We are sitting in the peaceful but slightly rolly anchorage inside Bud's Reef behind the island of Yanuca.  It is Hot!  Well, 85 may not sound that hot but when it is the humidity as well as the temperature and there is no wind then it is pretty uncomfortable.  It forces us to swim and snorkel in along the reef inshore from the boat.  I know, its tough but someone has to do it.

We left Savu Savu with Blue J and headed to Viani Bay where we spent a couple of nice days and went for a dive on the Great White Wall.  I had a pretty bad dive and ended up getting sucked over the reef by the current just before the White part.  I felt like a beginner.  I may have gotten a few good pictures. We visited the village which is really a settlement and went to the school just as they were letting out.  It was impressive that all of the children were speaking fluent English by the time they were 12 years old.  They also had good math, history and geography.  Fiji is a country that does a lot with very little.

We then went to Somosomo on Taveuni for some provisions and then on to Bud's reef to hook up with Annapurna, Aquahabi, Stormfolgen and Impetuous for Jeff on Blue J's 43rd birthday.  The day we arrived we went with our kava to the village for sevu sevu with the Chief.  We each presented our kava and then we were invited to try it with some of the villagers.  It was our first taste of kava and it wasn't too bad.  I had 3 full bowls and Hellen had 3 no quite as full.  It does have a mild narcotic effect but it isn't all that potent.  It has a spicy taste with a hint of cinnamon.  We look forward to trying it again down the road.  Next stops are Rabi island, Taveuni, Gau and then on to Suva.  We will keep you posted...Jim and Hellen on "Go West"

Cool Town but its Time to Go  6/10/99

We bid farewell to Blurge.  He was off to meet up with a friend for some Fiji exploration.  Blurge was a perfect crew member and he couldn't have done anything to be better.  We couldn't wait to get him off of the boat.  It is funny how small the boat feels when we have other people onboard.

We are moored off the Copra Shed Marina.  They provide a mooring, showers, help with officials and paperwork and mail service for $7 Fijian a day.  It is really great and the restaurant and Savu Savu yacht club in the shed are the main hangouts for the visiting cruising boats.

We have spent a week here and it feels like Mexico except that everyone speaks English.   It has the same funky but semi-organized feel as Mexico.  Prices are also very cheap for local goods.  The people are friendly to the extreme.

Indians and Fijians make up the bulk of the population.  They are almost equal in numbers with the Indians having come as indentured farm workers in the 1800's.  They don't mix a lot but they get along fine and it makes for a cultural diversity which is a real strength.  It is not a wealthy country but it very organized for economic standing and everyone seems to have received a reasonable education.  They are really proud people and it seems they have a lot to be proud of.

Tomorrow we depart Savu Savu and begin our travels around the Eastern side of Fiji ending up in Suva by the end of June.  Should be fun...Jim and Hellen on "Go West"

Safe Harbor  6/4/99

We arrived in Savu Savu Fiji yesterday and it felt great to have that difficult crossing behind us.  We sat for 7 days in Minerva reef with 30 knots of wind and huge seas crashing on the reef in front of us.  Finally on 5/30 the weatherfax showed the isobars spreading out and the wind dropped to 20 knots so Richard and Martha on Transit said lets go.  We shook the lobsters off of the anchor chain and headed out the pass.  The wind chop had settled but a 3 meter swell was still running but the boat was pretty steady and we were trucking along at over 6 knots.

Through the first night we had a steady drop in the winds and by morning it was blowing about 15 knots.  This wind would carry us for the next 2 days into the Koro Sea and once we had the islands and reefs of Fiji to block the southeast swell we had calm seas in the lightening breeze of 8 to 10 knots.  For the last 24 hours we drifted along at 4.5 knots in a gentle tropical breeze and calm seas and even a full moon at night.  It was the best sailing I could possibly imagine.  Thursday morning as we neared Savu Savu we had one of the best sunrises I have seen.  What a welcome to Fiji!

Checking in involves 3 visits to the boat by officials and 3 stops on shore and about 15 pages of forms.  It is like Mexico with everyone getting in the act.  Once complete, you then apply for a cursing permit which allows you to visit the remote parts of Fiji.  The only significant cost is $33 for the health inspection.  All of the officials were very nice and helpful.

Time now to chill out and get reacclimated to the tropics...Jim , Hellen and Blurge on "Go West"

The Eye of the Storm  5/26/99

We made South Minerva reef on Sunday the 22nd.  Winds the night before had continued in the 25 to 30 knot range and we were happy to be out of the big seas.  It feels like being in the eye of a storm because we sit in a mile wide reef that is surrounded by big breaking surf yet we are in a calm anchorage. 

It is still blowing 30 knots so we haven't been off of e boat much.   We are told that the winds will let up tomorrow and we will begin to head north again but we haven't seen a let up yet and we plan to wait until it does.  Blurge is getting anxious because he plans to meet someone on the 1st so time is getting tight.   He takes the set back with good humor which is part of what makes him such a good crew member.  This is a good example of the difficulty keeping a schedule while voyaging on a cruising yacht.  Flexibility s needed. 

Once we leave we will head for Savu Savu and plan to make it in 3 1/2 days.  Thanks...Jim, Hellen and Blurge on "Go West"

Its Getting Ugly  5/21/99

We left Tutukaka harbor on Monday May 17th and began what is a difficult 5 days of sailing.  The first couple of days were bumpy but OK with average winds of about 20 knots.  Our crew member, Blurge, took to the offshore sailing like he had been doing all of his life and he picked up the workings of the boat quickly.  Hellen didn't suffer Mal de Mer as much as previously thanks to the sturgeron we received from our good friends on Blaze. 

Wednesday afternoon and evening we began to get a taste of the conditions to come.  Winds picked up to 25 knots with gusts at 30 knots and the seas built into 8 to 10 feet steep breaking waves.  From this point we have been in conditions like this for the last 3 days and it doesn't look like it will let up.  We have decided to seek refuge in Minerva Reef which means that we are having to point 15 degrees higher and we are really getting pasted with breaking waves.  It seems to be the price we will pay for an escaped from these uncomfortable conditions.    Thanks...Jim, Hellen and Blurge on "Go West"


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