was sitting on deck the today, enjoying the sun and just
looking around contemplating. The thought struck me that that
we're here in Tonga, enjoying another island, but that
“Ri-Ri”, the yacht that got washed onto the reef in
Palmerston, wouldn't make it here. My legs are healing up and
almost all the scars have gone, save for one that I got when I
slipped down between the bow and the pulpit onboard “Ri-Ri”
when a larger than average wave knocked us. I guess the
physical scars are healing, but I can still remember vividly
the feeling of being inside “Ri-Ri” as she was breaking up
on the reef. I'd been wondering how Frank and Gail were going,
when I received an email from Gail.
read the email and tears welled up in my eyes. I know I'm a
guy and I'm not meant to cry, but I did, I cried again
thinking of all the things Frank had gone through. After all
his tragedy and loss, that he'd have to fight to get his few
remaining possessions off the island left me shocked. How
could people be so cruel. But, and there's a big BUT here –
as Gail rightly pointed out, in any place on earth, there's
good and bad people, and most of the people on Palmerston were
good. The number of people that helped when “Ri-Ri” was on
the rocks was incredible. I saw school children helping pull
lines, I saw women wading through the water to make human
chains to ferry Frank and Gail's belongings ashore. They
didn't just work for an hour or two, they worked all day and I
never heard a word of complaint from anyone. Cruisers are
amazing. The support and comraderie that rallied around this
tragedy was inspirational. Cruisers, many of whom had never
met Frank or Gail came to provide whatever assistance they
could. After the tragedy, Frank and Gail were looked after by
the island and were taken in like family.
for me, will always be bitter sweet. We met some wonderful
people that we'll remember for a lifetime, but there'll always
be a little black cloud in the back of my memory. Whenever I
remember Palmerston, I'll always remember Frank and Gail and
“Ri-Ri” and the tragedy there.
we are, finally sailing after motoring in light winds for the
last two days. We left Tonga last Thursday night in a rush.
We'd originally planned to leave Friday lunchtime, but were
told by some friends that the weather front that was scheduled
to be coming in mid next week and bringing strong winds and
large seas with it was coming sooner than expected and would
be here Monday night. They say you should never have deadlines
when sailing, however we're meeting our friends David and
Michelle in Fiji on the 13th,
so need to be there in time to collect them. The weather front
looked like it'd shut us down for five to seven days, so we
decided to grab the opportunity and leave quickly, lest we not
make it to Fiji before our friends arrive.
winds for the last couple of days have been too light to sail
in, so we've been motor sailing, burning up our precious
diesel. The winds are picking up now and we're sailing again
which is nice.
Sunday we had no winds, then Sunday they filled in with a
vengence and we were wishing for a little less. Again it
wasn't so much the wind that was making the trip uncomfortable
but the seas. As soon as the wind came, the seas picked up to
about 3m and were straight on the beam (the side). They were
short and sharp and gave us no respite as they made us roll
from side to side.
day did have it's highlights though. We crossed the
anti-meridian and sailed across the date line, crossing from
today into tomorrow as we went from the western side of the
world to the eastern side of the world … and back into our
home quadrant (south and east). This is the final part of our
sail and it's a milestone to be so close to home.
made landfall in Suva, on the Fijian island of Viti Levu
around 11:30pm after coming through the channel and into the
quarantine zone. We radioed the Suva Port Control on VHF16 as
we approached the harbour and were relieved to be given
permission to enter through the pass and stop in the
quarantine zone, a special area they've set aside for all the
boats that haven't yet checked in. We were told that under no
circumstances were we to disembark or to have any contact with
anybody until after the officials had come and cleared us in.
We were just happy to be in a sheltered bay and to get a good
in traumas! I can't believe the running around. Fiji has got
to be the hardest, most time consuming place we've ever been
to when it comes to check in. I spent all day today checking
in and I have about another day's worth of running around to
do tomorrow. This is crazy! Worst of all, I have to do it all
again every time I move from one port to another port. How
crazy is that?
put in some fuel and sailed an overnighter from Suva to Nadi
on the south western coast of Viti Levu, where our friends
David and Michelle are flying in to join us soon.
Work Work … oh how I wish it would all end. We've got
blistered hands from all the scrubbing and cleaning. We've
been sorting, cleaning, tidying and polishing from dawn to
days are good days and some days are sad days. Cruising is a
great way to live, to spend time with the family and to
explore the world However there's always costs with being so
far from home. Today I received an email from my father that
my Uncle Sep had passed away. We'd known it was going to
happen for a while, but secretly I was holding out hope that
perhaps he would still be alive when I returned so I could see
him once more. I feel so far away from my family and from
everything in my world back home in Australia. It's confusing
some days because right now my world is here, on “Connect4”
with my family, but I know there's a life going on in Adelaide
that I used to be a part of, a world that's continuing even
though I'm not there. I know there'll be mourning that I'm not
a part of. I know there'll be planning and catching up with
relatives that I'm not a part of. I know that the family will
be rallying around my aunty and my cousins, but I'm not there
Sep was the sailor in the family, he used to be in the navy
and loved the sea. When I first showed him the photographs of
“Connect4” when we were negotiating to buy her, I could
see the twinkle in his eye and the excitement in his voice as
I told him of our dreams to move aboard and sail to the great
places of the world. I'd hoped that when I got back to
Australia, perhaps I could have shown him aboard “Connect4”
and let him watch the DVD's that we've made of our voyages so
that he could have shared in our adventure. I'll never forget
his words of encouragement for our wild dream, nor the
excitement that was so vivid in his eyes as I told him of our
dreams to sail.
woke up early and caught a taxi to the airport to meet our
best friends David and Michelle, and their three children
Jessica, Teagan and Tyson, who are flying in to spend a week
with us. Cheryl's known Michelle since high school and our two
families have been closest friends for many years. Our Friday
night cards nights have been a remedy to a hard week for many
years and just having each other in our lives gives us a
chance to vent frustrations and share highlights with each
other. We've sharing many memorable life experiences other
over the years as we all grew up, then married, then had
children so it's special that they get to see and to share in
our adventure while we're on “Connect4”.
all the things we go without when cruising I'd have to say
that missing our closest friends has been the biggest cost.
Some friends help balance your life and make life all the
richer for just being your friends. David and Michelle are all
this and more, so to finally see them again after nearly 2
years apart is very very exciting.
getting told off by airport security for waiting outside the
visitor waiting zone a couple of times, our friends finally
came through customs and we were all back together again. The
three children looked a bit taller and talked a bit more, but
after 10 minutes we'd forgotten that it had been almost 2
years since we'd last seen each other.
onboard “Connect4” we excitedly showed our new crew every
corner of “Connect4” then made them comfy before heading
off for a short sail to find a perfect deserted island for the
night. Sadly, despite out best efforts in finding the perfect
hideaway, we were foiled. Everywhere we went we either had bad
holding, little shelter from the wind or both, so we ended up
checking in to Musket Cove Marina for the night. I don't know
about them, but after being away for so long, I just wanted to
find somewhere to park the boat, feed and get the kids into
bed and then spend some “adult” time catching up and
hearing all that had happened since we'd last seen them. While
we've been gone, David and Michelle moved to Hong Kong for
work, so a lot has changed for them also.
all nine of us sailed from Musket Cove up around Castaway
Island and over to Honeymoon Island where we anchored and went
ashore to explore and snorkel.
had a nice 15-20 knots of wind off our beam and since we
stayed inside the reef we had beautiful smooth water. Perfect
conditions for our friends to get the feeling of sailing as we
skimmed across the crystalline turquoise waters, weaving
between the shoals. Sailing in perfect conditions with the sun
shining and the wind warm on our skin we were all happy. We
watched as we whizzed by the islands, fringed with rings of
pristine golden sand; “Connect4” was bounding along at
over 8 knots, no doubt enjoying herself as much as we were in
these tropical waters.
left Honeymoon island late in the afternoon and found a
sheltered little bay off the corner of Castaway Island. We
anchored in around 17m of water then launched the dinghy and
went ashore to have a little bonfire and enjoy a quiet drink.
We'd collected some coconuts on Honeymoon Island earlier, so
we cut them open with the machete and made tropical drinks of
fresh coconut milk, rum and grenadine as we watched the sun
set and the kids roasted marshmallows over the fire. What a
perfect way to end a perfect day with our best friends.
onboard “Connect4” we enjoyed a feast of spaghetti
bolognese served in two rounds. With nine onboard at the
moment meals from our little galley are a fairly hectic.
dinner over, the kids fed and tucked into bed, the adults got
some quality time chatting and catching up in the cockpit, as
the lights of the tiny islands flickered and sparkled around
us. Words can't describe how nice it was that night for the
four of us to be back together again. Our friends have
travelled half way around the world, just to see us. We're so
blessed to have such great friends. It's so nice to be back
sailed from Castaway Island back down to Musket Cove after a
nice pizza lunch on the island. The sail back was uneventful,
but as we were motoring in through the bay to the marina we
received a PAN-PAN from another cruiser who had spotted a
large (100') yacht dragging anchor in the small bay, right
onto a reef in the gusty 20+ knot winds.
many cruisers in little dinghies raced out to assist the
yacht, we turned “Connect4” around and motored over to
where the yacht was. By the time we got there, the yacht was
sideways against the reef, with the wind blowing it onto the
reef – not a great place to be in.
quickly rigged up a line from the anchor snubber which I
secured to the bow of “Connect4” then left coiled on the
deck in case we were needed. With the wind blowing and the
swell starting to bounce us around, I took the helm from
Cheryl and she went on deck to spot. It was getting hard
holding our position near the yacht.
brought “Connect4” in as close to the stern of the yacht
as we could, waiting to see if we could be of assistance.
About this time, the crew who had all been onshore came racing
out in a dinghy and scampered onboard. It's funny the images
you remember. I can vividly remember seeing four or five of
the crew frozen in mid air for a split second as they
simultaneously leapt from the tender to the transom of the
yacht, arms wide, faces alarmed; Lemmings following a lead,
not sure if they would span the gap or fall in.
the crew safely aboard “Antares III”, a brave cruiser in a
small dingy approached the bow of “Connect4” and gave us a
mooring line from the stricken yacht. Cheryl took the line and
cleated it off and in return passed them the end of our
mooring line we'd set up on deck.
one line tied mid-ship on “Antares III” and the second
line on the stern of the yacht, I tensioned the lines then
powered “Connect4” in reverse; both engines at maximum,
yelling their protest. I could feel the engines labouring and
the whole of “Connect4” was shuddering against the strain
of the massive yacht as we tried valiantly to pull it sideways
off the reef.
David and Michelle were all on deck, keeping watch on the
lines and the reef that we were getting dangerously close to;
not wanting to give up but also not wanting to end up wrecked
on a reef it was a fine line to walk. At one stage we drifted
over some reef or rock and the depth sounder squealed an alarm
of 1.5m at me. We draw 1.35m! The strain on the deck cleats
was significant but “Connect4” held her own and performed
valiantly against the wind and the swell and the weight of the
massive yacht. With the engines still holding full power in
reverse and the whole of “Connect4” reverberating with the
exertion our little boat performed a miracle and her efforts
slowly brought the stern of the yacht around into the wind,
clear of the reef just enough for the crew to start the
engines and reverse the yacht away from the reef. As soon as
they were backing up and free of the reef, we released the
lines and moved off to a safe distance. With our lines safely
back on deck but our hearts still in our mouth, we slowly
turned around and motored into the marina and tied up.
safely tied up on the dock, David and Michelle commented that
we certainly were giving them an exciting introduction to
week in Musket Cove with David and Michelle went all too fast.
David and Michelle stayed in the resort and we stayed onboard
“Connect4” in the marina. We went to the beach together,
we swam at the pool together, had BBQ's together and shared
nearly all our meals together. The kids took turns having
sleep overs in each other's rooms and the adults got together
nearly every night to play cards, to talk and to just hang
out. We swapped stories, we laughed, the girls got to exchange
their daily quota of words as only girls can, while us boys
just enjoyed some guy time together talking about “blokey”
things, catching up on the last 18 months.
so nice being together again – some friends fit like an old
pair of jeans and we're very blessed to have such trusting and
special friends that we can share not only our highs with, but
also our lows, and know that they'll love us no matter what.
only thing we've decided, that perhaps we'll do next time we
all catch up, is that Michelle's going into forced quarantine
for a couple of weeks before we let her mix with the general
population. When she arrived she brought with her the remnants
of a cold from Hong Kong that she generously passed around
between each of us. I guess that's the cost of being so close.
It's probably not really Michelle's fault, but we've blamed
sad hearts, we loaded up all of David and Michelle's
belongings and after a final swim in the pool, we cast off our
lines and motored away from Musket Cove and back towards
Denarau. We picked up our now familiar berth in the marina
then David and I took a taxi ride to the hotel to drop off the
bags and to set up the room for the children. Back at the
marina we met with Cheryl's mum Virginia, who's joining us
onboard “Connect4” for a couple of weeks holiday here and
went out to dinner with David and Michelle at the Hard Rock
Cafe – what a treat. I'd never been to a Hard Rock Cafe for
a meal before and the food was exceptional. The best part was
that David shouted the whole meal, what a great friend!
dinner we said our goodbyes, but it wasn't so bad because
David's project in Hong Kong is finishing up after Christmas,
so they'll be moving back to Adelaide mid January, about the
same time we will be, so we'll see each other again very soon.
visit has been great because it just reinforced the fact that
our friendship isn't diminished by time or distance - real
friends are still there for you and you really do pick up from
where you leave off.
love you guys!!
our fuel tanks full and our water tanks at capacity, we
dropped the mooring lines at Denarau and motored out through
the narrow pass and headed out towards the south western
entrance on our way down to Robinson Crusoe Island, a distance
of about 25NM.
raised sails since we had a nice northerly blowing, but no
sooner had we cleared the reefs surrounding Viti Levu than the
wind turned onto our nose and the black rain clouds came. We
dropped sails as the wind increased and pretty soon we were
motoring into 28knots of headwind as the sky turned black and
we were engulfed in rain as we slowly made our way down the
coast towards Robinson Crusoe Island.
arrived and anchored in about 4m of water in the lee of the
island then went ashore to have a look around and listen to
some island music.
getting closer to home now and I know that when I get home
things are going to change. Some days I look forward to
getting home and integrating back into life, while other days
I wish that this sailing life could continue indefinitely. The
closer we get to home, it's almost like the pull of life back
in Adelaide is reaching out to grab us and suck us back into
its web. I've been thinking about work and school for the kids
and all the many things we'll need to do to reintegrate back
into society. I'm not sure I want to, but I know I have to.
the last few weeks I've been working hard putting an inventory
and description of “Conenct4” together so that I can get
her advertised for sale. Ideally we'd love to have somebody,
another family, who'll buy her from us when we arrive in
Australia. That would be the best thing for us. We've mixed
emotions about selling her. We know we can't afford to keep
her once we move back home. But even if we could, I'm not sure
we'd want to. I know that we'd only get to sail her perhaps
one weekend a fortnight at best and the thought that she'd be
sitting in some marina growing barnacles on her hulls and
slowly deteriorating would break our hearts. She's meant to be
sailed, she's meant to be in the blue water, taking her family
from one exciting place to another, not to be tied to a dock
somewhere. “Connect4” is a fantastic yacht and she's
sailed us safely for almost 16,000NM. She's taken us to some
amazing places and has given us amazing experiences. We've
been to more places in the last 2 years than most people see
in a lifetime. Travelling by yacht has given us an inroad to
see the real side of the countries we've visited rather than
the touristy sides. We've had an amazing experience and I'm so
grateful for the opportunity.
some ways I feel like we've seen so much of the world and had
so many incredible experiences. In other ways though some of
the things I've hoped for haven't happened as I'd hoped. It's
hard to put into words what I feel now as I get closer to home
and the reality is dawning that it's almost over. Two years
away sounds like a dream come true. Sailing, for us, has been
a fantastic way to see the world. It's taken us away from our
daily rush of life, however I've realised that the choice to
rush and fill every day is a choice we make, conscious or
subconscious. We've slowed down since we've left Australia,
but in some ways I feel like we're still rushing and filling
our days. Perhaps there's never a real utopia. Even on a
yacht, 2000NM from land, there's always meals to be made,
schooling to teach, things to be repaired, jobs to be done.
Many times we'll fill our days with lists of jobs just so we
can leave the dock. Some days I think it might be easier being
back at work.
of my goals was that we'd be closer together as a family.
Perhaps I'm not the best person to judge if our family is
closer or not. I know we've been together through a lot over
the last two years. Are we closer as a family? I think so, but
perhaps not as close as I'd like. Perhaps I'm expecting utopia
again? Perhaps we'll never be as close as I dream of. Some
experiences in life get stored up and have more value later in
life. Perhaps this trip is something that will have paybacks
in years to come. Some days we have great adventures, some
days it feels like all we do is correct our children. Perhaps
that's just parenting.
for Cheryl and I, I think we're definitely closer. We
understand what makes each other tick better and we've learned
how each of us behaves under pressure. Learning how each of us
behaves under pressure and learning how to communicate through
these times has been perhaps the biggest thing we've learned.
My problem is that when I'm under pressure I become an
engineer (yeah .. shock horror). My left brain kicks in and I
become very fact and outcome driven. Emotion has no place.
This works well for me when I'm engineering and I'm surrounded
by other engineers who are also also outcome driven. As an
Ambulance Officer, this worked very well for me because I had
to detach myself from the scene in order to be able to get the
best outcomes for my patient. If I'd allowed myself to get
emotional with a patient, then I wouldn't have been able to
handle the situation. When I'm in a stressful situation with
Cheryl and “Connect4” my first response is to get matter
of fact and forget the emotions. I become outcome driven and
the only thing that matters is getting organisation, actions
and outcomes in a timely manner. This doesn't work when
Cheryl's involved - in fact, if I try it, I've learned that
after the stressful situation has finished, there's another
equally stressful situation awaiting me as I have to deal with
Cheryl and make good for all the lack of emotional
consideration I inflicted on her.
see, Cheryl, despite being able to cope well in high pressure
situations, performs a lot better when I can remember to
insert a little emotional consideration into my left brain.
This is something I've had to learn. Cheryl's also had to
learn that when we're in a stressful situation, my
matter-of-fact manner bears no personal reflection on how I'm
feeling with her. If I check if she's done a job I asked her
to do previously, it's only to ensure that it's done so I can
check it off my list, not because I think she hasn't or that I
don't trust her to do it.
both learned that we're different in many situations and
that's ok. It's just that we're made up differently and that's
something we can both respect each other for. That's the key.
Learning to work with each other's differences. More than
anything else on this trip, Cheryl and I have come, not only
to realise that we're different, but to be able to quantify
how and where we're different so that we can know how to
handle each other and bring out the best in each other.
Crusoe Island was an amazingly friendly and happy little
island. It felt more like a family than a resort and we loved
the feel of place. We spent the day onshore using the island's
facilities and getting involved in the activities. One of the
islanders gave a talk about coconut palms and how they used to
use absolutely every part of the coconut tree in their
everyday life. Affectionately he called the coconut palm “The
Tree of Life” because they use the coconut juice for
drinking, they use the coconut milk and coconut cream for
cooking and for washing their hair in, they use the coconut
skin for eating, they burn the husks and the palms and various
parts of the palm are used for building shelters.
guide asked if anyone wanted to climb a coconut tree to
collect a coconut, half expecting nobody to offer. Nick,
however, was the first one to respond and picking a much
larger tree than any of us would have liked, he promptly
climbed his way up to the top, resting a number of times to
get his breath. We half hoped that Nick would get half way and
decide he'd gone far enough, but he kept going, soundly
defeating one other man who only made it half way up before
retiring. Nick's coconut palm was about 25m high and Nick went
right to the top, no safety line, nothing to catch his fall if
he slipped. It was a nerve wracking time for both Cheryl and
I. We hoped Nick would make it safely to the top, and safely
back down again. But we worried for the consequences of a
slip. Cheryl and I were both very relieved when Nick made it
back down safely again.
back on the ground, Nick's coconut juice never tasted so good.
guide told us stories about his descendants and explained that
the early Fijians were in fact cannibals and although they are
all Christians now, they ate the first few missionaries that
came to the island. He told a funny story about how they used
to eat everything, but struggled with the leather boots of the
first missionaries as regardless of how many days they boiled
them, they were still tough to chew.
the evening we were invited to join a Kava ceremony. Kava is a
traditional drink enjoyed by the locals most evenings. I'm not
sure exactly what there is to enjoy about this brown peppery
water though. Made from the roots of a local bush it has a
mild narcotic effect and tends to make your tongue go numb.
Truthfully, it looks and tastes pretty much like dirty sock
water with a hint of pepper.
know what's left in the sink after you've washed out your
dirty socks? Right, next time you've got a sink full of dirty
sock water, or for that matter what gets pumped into the sink
from your washing machine after the wash cycle. Grab the
pepper grinder from the kitchen, add a few turns of pepper to
the mixture, stir thoroughly then drink to your heart's
content. Mmmm .. now that's the nearest us white men can get
the kava ceremony, we enjoyed a lovo (underground oven) feast
and watched a traditional dance which included fire dancers,
sword dancers and some very vigorous and beautiful dances put
on by the staff. The men and the women dance with incredible
enthusiasm and it was breathtaking to watch. The locals love
dancing and the men and women all dance with amazing energy.
To watch the locals dance really reaffirms the view that
“White Men Can't Dance”
we would have loved to stay longer, we left Robinson Crusoe
Island early Thursday morning and motor sailed the 34NM to
weather was rainy and windy and on the nose again. There
wasn't much to report about the sail except that it was more
motoring than sailing, however one exciting highlight was a
small water spout that came within 5m of the bow of
first spotted it as a dark vertical line in the clouds, rising
like an ominous black shadow. I've never seen a water spout in
real life, but just the shadow in the clouds made my spine
tingle. It just looked wrong!
couple of minutes later I saw a disturbance on the water and
grabbing the binoculars I saw the water being swirled and
thrown around like swarf off a drill. A minute or two later,
it was clearly visible and was heading straight for
“Connect4”. We altered course to let it pass in front of
us, but no sooner had we changed course than it did too. We
backed off the engines and the water spout passed just in
front of our bow. It was only a small one, but it was
spectacular none the less.
arrived in Mana Island late afternoon and we went ashore and
enjoyed the pool and local facilities.
stayed in Mana Island some 9 years earlier, but we couldn't
quite remember exactly where our bure was. We looked, but
couldn't find it. Lots had changed, so perhaps our bure had
been moved or demolished.