Tuesday, 21 December 2004

The 1st Year cruising...Fiji, Vanuatu & Australia....May 2004-Nov 2004

As I'm writing this in November 2007 our first year of cruising seems such a distant memory.

We have been, seen, experienced and visited so many wonderful places since we began. That 1st year was very special, the people we met, places we visited and the huge amount of new things we had to learn all combined to make it a busy year.

We joined the Ponsonby Cruising Clubs' "Auckland to Musket Cove" rally and set off on May 08 2004 with a small fleet of rally boats, destination the stunning Musket Cove set on Plantation Island on the West Coast of Fiji. The New Zealand run up to the tropics is never an easy one, and ours was no exception. Some rather undesirable weather enroute reminded us that our new life of sunset cocktail hours in coconut palm fringed white sandy beaches must be earned!!! We were lucky to have friends Ian & Peter onboard, both very experienced sailors to help Mark as I really wasn't too much use at all. 2 days out of Fiji the winds died, the sun burst through, the winter clothes and wet weather gear were shed and the smell of land beckoned.

We had a great 4 months in Fiji, basing ourselves at Musket Cove and exploring the Yasawa Islands and the Mamanuca Group, all on the West Coast of this tropical paradise. Still so much to see - might just have to go back on day. Late September in rather blustery conditions we left Fiji and had a fast downwind sail to Vanuatu. Again we had extra help with Ian and his wife Jane onboard which certainly makes the evening watches much easier with extra sleep rations for all.

After a short stay in Port Vila we set sail northwards through the chain of islands. Vanuatu is so different to Fiji with volcanic peaks rising up out of a deep blue sea. The trade winds blast through the islands so Mark was kept entertained with ideal sailing conditions, and we always managed to find a lovely sheltered anchorage to enjoy. The snorkelling was not as good as Fiji but we did swim with the Dugongs at Lamen Bay, and have some great dinghy excursions and onshore walks. 7 weeks was not enough but as the beginning of the cyclone season was getting closer and closer we left Luganville with Auckland friend Tony onboard and pointed the bow westward, destination Brisbane.