OCEAN ADVENTURE 427 - Fantasy Island

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Fiji, the place to be? DON MCINTYRE explains...

OCEAN ADVENTURE 427 - Fantasy Island
OCEAN ADVENTURE 427 — Fantasy Island

It is a strange thing, leaving newfound friends when you move forward to new adventures. That’s part of this boating life and I am happy to have ICE on the move at last, bound for Tonga. Goodbyes are more like "see you somewhere", the world being such a small place, and there is a special understanding between liveaboard adventurers.

Everyone has "their story" and I have to say the longer I live aboard, the more I am enjoying the day-to-day depth of experience and understanding this lifestyle brings to your quality of life. Yes, I have a focus, wreck diving in Tonga, but the simple pleasures of living on the water are so good.

Eric and Susan Hiscock of Wanderer fame, sold the dream to me back in the late ’60s. Now I want to let you into a little secret. Fiji and Vuda Point Marina are both amazing! Not just the happy locals, cheap food and gardenlike surroundings, but boat maintenance is very cheap and highly skilled. It is a great place to base your cruising boat. Six months over summer on the marina for ICE was $11 a day, including power and water! Airfares are $600 return to Australia. Flying back and forward every month is still cheaper than an Australian marina. Within 50 miles of the marina are some of the best islands, diving, surfing and fishing in the world! But you probably know that, right? So just stop and think about it a little longer and see if it gives you any ideas? Then think of the reasons you should/could/can do it.

If you need help addressing your concerns, then you need to meet 59yo Wayne Hodgins. For 25 years he was a Strategic Futurist for AutoCad, the engineering software company. Five years ago he decided it was time to get a boat for the first time in his life. He found a 15-year-old, 33-tonne Roberts 52 steel ketch, built by Kristen Yachts in British Columbia. It was not setup for bluewater adventures, but two years later, after reading a few books, Wayne had fixed all that and set sail with his new girlfriend, Ruby, the little black wonder dog!

Together they sailed down to South America, then across to Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island, Tuamotos, Pitcairn Island and Suvarov atoll. In September 2009 they arrived in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Tied to the main wharf early one morning Wayne felt the earth quake, but did not think tsunami. Shortly after, while on deck, he noticed the wharf going up? No, he was going down! WHAT? Over 7m down. It didn’t make sense.

In just two minutes tuna and eels were flapping in the mud next to his boat… now on its side. When the water rushed back, it pushed the boat under the concrete wharf, smashing the side. Wayne hung on. Somehow it floated free. Rising quickly, he cut all the lines and got the engine started. Other crews left boats and ran. Most of them were lost and many lives too.

A wave took Ruby away, but somehow swept her back. He stuffed her inside his shirt and motored off into the harbour to dodge all manner of hazards, from huge tuna boats to all the vehicles from three car yards. There was chaos, death and destruction everywhere. They survived. He stayed for some time, helping with the clean-up and transporting food and building aid to outer islands.

For the past eight months Ruby has made us all smile and his boat Learnativity has undergone a major refit here at the marina and is now back to new. Wayne has a website and blog. On March 29 he wrote: "Year #5 begins!" It is a great read, about a solo sailor with cute crew!

Here is the blog opener: "If you will indulge me, I’ll do a bit of reflecting on these past four years of truly living life large. Sailing from one great experience to the next has taught an incredible number of lessons and created a life, which for me is nothing short of awemazing. Each day has been filed with more adventures, experiences, living, loving and learning, than I thought was possible for one person to experience in a full lifetime, never mind just four years." Go to www.learnativity.typepad.com for pictures and all the stories.

Many people leave boats here for the cyclone season. Some in "holes" ashore, others in the water, as it is considered the best cyclone hole in the Pacific. Some owners don’t come back. Their boats can sell for pocket money!

Carolyn Pike and Tony Cuthbertson flew from Magnetic Island, QLD, to bag one, a classic 1981 Gulfstar 44. It had 12 months of outstanding marina fees due, had overstayed its customs free period by six months, and the American owner had gone "quiet". The local "caretaker" found an undeclared .45 magnum handgun and 300 rounds of ammunition onboard, and took it all home. His kids started shooting up the backyard, so neighbors informed the police. BIG PROBLEM! The "owner" became even "quieter". Customs negotiated the valuation for duty purposes at $US38,000. It was paid, together with other outstanding amounts and a "purchase price" to the "owner". Carolyn and Tony had a "fixer-upper". They have been at it for nine months and adventures are just around the corner. They love this marina.

Their "other’ boat is now for sale on www.boatpoint.com — see Woollcott 34, $30,000, Atarangi. The price is VERY negotiable, so?

Just days before we set off, a new boat arrived at the marina from New Zealand. Onboard was Norwegian Lars Thoresen. He was sailing a 1985 production Twister 28, solidly built in the UK. These are classics ocean cruisers, with a strong reputation. I had seen this boat called Twister for sale in the USA nearly four years ago, setup with all the cruising gear. It was a bargain.

Lars bought it and shortly thereafter set sail from San Diego solo across the Pacific to New Zealand. No refrigeration, aircon or watermaker, just a couple of surfboards and all the real things, including his beloved Cape Horn wind vane. When I asked him what was the worst part, he stopped and said: "Hmmmm." He really couldn’t think of any, but loves the freedom. His girlfriend was flying in!

With the average size of cruising boats now around 44ft, it was so cool to see Twister! So many things to do, places to go, people to meet. Life, hey! WOW! I will be back in seven months.

Top photo: Serenity (foreground) sprang a plank while the owner was in Australia and started sinking. Marina staff had it on the hard asap! She is now sailing again.

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Lars hopes to sail his 28ft
Twister to Cape Town by Christmas, then up to Norway his home,
before "maybe" continuing his circumnavigation.

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Tom and Janis Bell from San Diego
have been cruising their tidy 1979 Alajuela 33 Tomboy for 26 years and spent this last summer in America, leaving their boat
"in a hole" at Vuda Point Marina. They are back and preparing to relaunch for more adventures.

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Carolyn and Tony from QLD bagged a bargain boat at Vuda Point Marina and are steadily completing a major refit. Golden sunsets are close at hand!

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Living aboard during a
refit is not usually fun, but
Carolyn and Tony say the atmosphere and surroundings of Vuda make it fun. They just cooked their first meal onboard!

boats fiji column 5.jpg
Ruby the wonder dog with her captain Wayne. Four years of Pacific adventures
have changed both their lives. It is a great read and could change your life?


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