2017 in a Nutshell

2017 was a year full of happy memories.

We started the year travelling in New Zealand and then in May joined a cruise and traveled half way around the world, landing in Lisbon Portugal to greet Tony’s kids and grand kids.  A post to follow in the new year regarding our trip.

My daughters also later arrived with boyfriend and fiance.  We so enjoyed having our kids with us.  Showing them our heritage and culture and beautiful country.  We had a very special occasion where Alex proposed to Evelyn in Sagres Portugal and now look forward to having two more son in laws and two weddings to attend.

We enjoyed an amazing trip with Adilia and Phil where we traveled through northern Portugal and stayed at some pretty awesome Posadas.

Our plan was to stay 1 month in Portugal but extended our trip 3 times staying a total of 5 months. We spent some pretty special times with Roy and Lauren, Tony’s mom and Aunt Emilia.

Now we are happy to be at home in Vancouver to spend Christmas and New Years in Calgary with family and friends.

Looking forward to 2018 and making new memories.  Setting up our new home, possibly sailing back in the Caribbean on Joalea, Jessica and Jason’s wedding this summer to name a few.

Tony and I would like to wish friends and family a beautiful Christmas with joy and happy memories and a spectacular New Year!

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We returned from Canada mid January after a wonderful Christmas and New Year.  It was cold back home but well worth visiting friends and family.

We had left our boat at Marsden Cove Marina while we were away and were happy to come back and get her ready to explore New Zealand.  Getting JOALEA ready to explore involved a few maintenance items.  We needed new chain and also had a transformer built to accommodate 220V power as our boat is a 110V.  This is all part of getting JOALEA ready to travel in Europe as most countries don’t have American power standards.  As always these things always take longer than expected and we ended up finally leaving the marina on Feb 12th.

Travelling South East, our first stop was Great Barrier Island, 47.2nm from Marsden Cove.  We spent a little over 2 weeks anchoring in several Bays.  It was very pretty with few boats around.  The busiest was Port Fitzroy where they have a little store and a ferry dock that takes people around the islands.  We had to make the required stop at Smokehouse Bay where there is a working smokehouse on shore and an open bath with hot water…it isn’t the Hilton!

The island had some fantastic hikes (New Zealanders call them tracks), well marked and well maintained.

From Great Barrier Island we made our way North back to the Bay of Islands where we first made land fall last year November on our passage from Fiji. The Bay of Islands is an area on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  It is one of the most popular fishing, sailing and tourist destinations in NZ.

We stopped at several islands with anchorages that JOALEA could anchor without hitting bottom.  Having a deep keel of 7’6″ does limit where we can go when dealing with huge tides.  We stopped at Maunganui Bay, Deep Water Cove, Parekura Bay, Opunga Cove (Orakawa Bay), Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island and Roberston Island (Motuarohia).  Roberston Island is where Captain Cook made his first landing in New Zealand in 1769.  He was responsible for extensively charting both North and South Island of NZ and gave the Bay of Islands its present name.

There were many hiking trails on almost all of the islands with beautiful vantage points overseeing the Bay of Islands.

A little history.  It is believed that New Zealand was first discovered about 1000 years ago by the great Polynesian navigator Kupe who sailed from his homeland ‘Hawaiki’ (not Hawaii) the Society Islands, Samoa, and possibly Tahiti.  Kupe named the islands ‘Aotearoa’ Land of the Long White Cloud.  He returned to Hawaiki and left instruction on how to get there.

About 400 years later the Maori arrived back in Aotearoa and began to populate the North Island.  The Dutchman Abel Tasman landed in 1642 and charted part of the coastline and named it Staten land, believing it was part of Australia.  When his mistake was discovered the country was renamed Nieuw Zeeland.  Although Abel was the first European to visit the country it was the British who made New Zealand part of their empire.

There were many wars with the Maori and invading settlers.  Finally in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and Maori, establishing British law in NZ.  The building where the treaty was signed has been preserved and is a popular tourist attraction.

Throughout NZ there are many Maori historic sites as well as little towns with old colonial era buildings. Most of all there are a lot and I mean a lot of cows and sheep.

After sailing the Bay of Islands we returned to the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua and decided we were now going to do some land travelling.  We bought a couple of cheap bikes, hired a car for several weeks and drove the whole of the North Island.

It would take pages of writing to detail all that we saw but the highlights are worth noting.  We drove to the west coast and up to Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga about 210 km by road to the furthest point of NZ, then down the center of the island.  The next day we made our way up the East Coast all the way up to Kaitaia.

New Zealand roads are very winding no matter where you go.  You look at a map and ‘Oh yeah, that will only take a couple of hours’, well triple the time to arrive.  The roads are all well paved and speed limit seems to be 100 km/hr even on these zigzag roads.  I think it was the first time I felt motion sickness in a car!

Beautiful green pastures with rolling hills and many cows and sheep throughout the island.  We went on a lot of Cycle trails which were amazing.  In fact right in Opua is the start of the Twin Coast Cycleway, cycling from the Bay of Islands to the Hokianga Harbour which is on the West Coast.  We took the trail as far as Kawakawa as it’s 20km return back to the marina.

Another stop on our way South of Auckland which couldn’t be missed, was The Shire.  Home of the Hobbiton movie set where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies were filmed.  It was really cool and I now feel I need to see all of the trilogies again.

We spent several days in Rotorua a region of many lakes, geothermal hot spots and amazing bike trails. Continuing south we headed towards the Hawks Bay region, known as the agricultural and wineries region of New Zealand.  We stayed in Napier which is a unique Art Deco styled city that was restored after the 1931 earthquake.  We did some cycling trails and visited several wineries which were nice.  The weather unfortunately wasn’t great for a few days as New Zealand was hit with cyclone Debbie that dropped a lot of rain and there was a lot of flooding in certain regions.

From Napier we went across the island to Palmerston North where we were delightfully surprised.  Our hotel was centrally located and again we did more cycling although some of the trails showed the aftermath of the flooding in the region.  After Palmerston we decided to not visit the South Island and returned to Opua to sail a bit more before preparing to leave JOALEA to go on our next adventure.

We are very excited to fly to Sydney Australia to join the Sea Princess that will travel to places we wanted to see but decided we wouldn’t sail to.  We will be 45 days at sea arriving in Lisbon Portugal in July where all of our kids will be there this summer.  This sea journey will not involve 24 hour around the clock watches, boat maintenance, cooking or cleaning 🙂

Stay tuned and as they say….pictures tell a thousand stories.

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We can’t believe 2016 is coming to a close.  It was a fantastic year of travel and having family visit us in French Polynesia.

We spent the first half of 2016 in French Polynesia spending time in Moorea, Raiatea, Hauhine, Tahaa, and Bora Bora.  We had Janine, Mike, Benjamin & Hailey and Evelyn visit.  We then travelled to Palmerston, Cook Islands.  Visited Niue, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and finally New Zealand.  We left JOALEA in Whangarei, NZ and are so happy to be home visiting family in Vancouver & Calgary for Christmas and New Years.

We met so many wonderful people in our travels which is what gives us so much joy in our life.  We miss our family so much throughout the year but meeting wonderful people makes it all worthwhile.

One of the many highs, Jessica and Jason got engaged.

Along with all the highs there were some sad moments where we lost loved ones.  Our tio Silvino in particular and last night my cousin Lourdes.  May God keep them in peace.  When we lose loved ones it reiterates how important it is to enjoy every moment in life that we have and appreciate the people we have in our lives.

We wish for peace, faith, and happiness not only at Christmas but for the whole year.

We wish for time so we may reflect on the blessings that we have.  That we express our love to those who are dear to us.  That we take the time to share and thank those who have blessed us.

May you never feel lonely, because there are those who care and love you.

That you realize you are special and unique, you make a difference, not only at Christmas but all year round.

We wish for positive thoughts, that we never quit, never give up, and continue to learn.

We wish for the love and peace of God to be yours always.  Have a Merry Christmas and New Year full of blessings.


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Saturday, November 5, 2016 we left Fiji 9:45am with clear blue skies heading to Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand. It’s known to be a bit of a treacherous passage as there are one front after another and one has to time it just right.

We joined the ‘All Points Rally’ put on by Island Cruising Association. It was actually after the talk we attended with John Martin, ICA that we finally made the decision to head to New Zealand instead of Australia. We also felt that we hadn’t seen enough of Fiji and would like to return next year so the decision was made. We hired Bob McDavitt our weather router from NZ and also had John, from ICA give us some advice along the way.

We sailed for seven and half days. On day #2 we had to start motoring at 3am and then motor sailed for a day as the winds had disappeared but the fish were out to play. That morning it was overcast with very light winds, we caught our first tuna. We thought it was a Blue Fin but now think it was a Skip Jack. We had just finished cleaning it up and putting it into the freezer, but Tony the fisherman that he is, had to put the line back out….less than an hour later we caught another tuna. This time a Yellow Fin….guess what we had for dinner?? Tuna of course. I refused to let him put the line out again.

The next few days were uneventful. Back to sailing but the seas were 2-3 meters. We started to get into a routine, still getting limited sleep. Neither of us are good at taking naps during the day. We tried to stick to a 3 hour watch schedule. It really helped having all the meals prepared before leaving. Not fun to cook in rough seas.

Friday, Nov 11 (day #6) winds started to pick up 15-20 knts and by the next couple of days we were getting 25-30 knts and sometimes over 30. We got the tail end of the front and it was a bit rough. Our weather router kept us going further west. We were concerned we were going to end up in Australia instead of NZ. Saturday 9am we finally changed our course from 191◦ to 107◦ and as he predicted the wind did shift to W SW. The whole trip was done on one tack.

We arrived 4:45am on Sunday, Nov 13 at the entrance to the Bay of Islands with finally lighter winds. A couple more hours in, at precisely 6:30am, a total of 1328 nm, we tied up to the Q Dock (quarantine area) Opua marina.
There were several other boats on the Q dock but we were lucky to be the first boat to go through custom clearance. The officers were all very polite. We arrived with hardly any food, no fresh fruit or vegetables. Definitely no Honey…it’s a big no no. They did throw out my one frozen package of beef chilli and most disappointing they threw out my beautiful wine marinated roasted organic chicken 😦 I’m still suffering from the disappointment. I hate throwing food out especially when that would have been a great dinner.

The next couple of weeks we spent attending Rally events and seminars. The ICA do such a great job. The New Zealanders are so friendly. One of the events we had an evening cruise to all the best anchorage spots and fishing spots in the Bay of Islands. Our most favorite was an afternoon at a local winery ‘Omata Estates’. Located on the beautiful Russell peninsula in the Bay of Islands. The vines grow on the clay slopes with beautiful views and a delightful lunch with new friends.

After the rally events we left Opua and made our way down further south of the North Island to Whangarei, Marsden Cove marina. It’s a bit out of the way but the water is much cleaner and the facilities are beautiful and new. Everyone is most helpful. We’ve rented a car and within a half hour we’re in Whangarei and only a couple hours away from Auckland.

We look forward to going home for Christmas and then returning to further explore New Zealand.

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The exact origins of the first inhabitants of the islands of Fiji remain a mystery. Apparently the Fijians had no written language and relied on memory for their history. Most historians commonly accept that the first settlers arrived around 1500 B.C. What they do know is that Fiji was settled by two distinct races, today known as the Melanesian and Polynesian races.

The Melanesian people made their way to Fiji from the islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the eastern Solomon Islands. These settlers were dark skinned with many of the physical characteristics of the Negro race. The other settlers of the island of Fiji were taller, lighter skinned, and with straighter hair. They are referred to as the Lapita people, named from an area in New Caledonia. The Lapita people were skilled sailors and navigators who lived mostly by fishing along the coasts of the islands on which they lived. These people and their descendants form what is now known as the Polynesian race.

The first European to visit the area was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1643. The English navigator James Cook also sailed through the area in 1774. However, the individual most commonly credited with the “discovery” of Fiji was Captain William Bligh, who sailed through Fiji in 1789 and 1792 following the mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty.

The first Europeans to land in Fiji were shipwrecked sailors and runaway convicts from the British penal colonies in Australia. By the middle of the 19th century missionaries arrived in the islands and converted the Fijian people to Christianity.
Then there was the British rule and in order to provide cheap non-native labour for the plantations, the government looked to the crown colony of India. From 1789 to 1916 over 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji for labour. Today, the descendants of these labourers make up approximately 44% of the population of Fiji. Native Fijians account for about 51% of the population. The rest are Chinese, Europeans, and other Pacific Islanders.

Despite its history of political and racial turmoil, dating back almost 3500 years, the islands of Fiji are an beautiful and an excellent tourist destination and we look forward to exploring them.

We left Port Muerelle,Vavau Tonga on Friday August 26th and headed for Fiji, arriving in the bay of Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji, 2 1/2 days later and 446nm. The passage was good. A bit rolly at times but had a beautiful sail on the second day. We caught our first ever yellow fin tuna, 26nm out of Tonga and were greeted by a beautiful pod of dolphins in the entrance passage to Savusavu.
October is almost over and where has the time gone.

We unfortunately spent the first 3 weeks in Savusavu waiting for parts and the weather was not conducive to leaving as Savusavu rains a lot…like every day 😦 We also had some work done on the boat, specifically the cap rail re-varnished. I won’t say much here on the experience, accept that you get what you pay for.
The weather changed to the better and all jobs were done and we couldn’t leave fast enough. We met some great people in Savusavu and provisioning is good but we were ready to leave. We headed towards the Yasawa group.

Our first stop 44nm for an overnight was Bua Bay, western Vanua Levu. It was a huge bay and it was a bit eerie being the only boat there. There was this little village of Bua in the distance and a few houses hidden in the mangroves. We left in the early morning for a quick hop to Yadua. A small island on the way to the Yasawa group. We anchored in Cukova Bay. Yadua was a pretty little island which also has a tiny volcanic islet called Yadua Taba which has restricted access due to it being a Wildlife Sanctuary for the Crested Iguana, locally known as ‘Vokai’. It is one of the rarest Iguana species in the world.
We met a couple of sailors which were Turkish Swiss. They had been cruising in Fiji for the past 3 years and were a great wealth of information. They told us of some great snorkeling spots. We ended up snorkeling in the most amazing coral we had yet to see. There was an abundance of fish, with many species we had never seen and the coral was in excellent condition. We spent several days in Yadua as we were finally starting to unwind and enjoy swimming off the back of the boat and doing lots of dingy exploring and amazing snorkelling.

Yasawa Group
Sailing from Yadua through Bligh Water (named after the famous Captain Bligh, from HMS Bounty, his passage through here in 1789) to Yasawa Island at the north end of the chain. Although a short trip of 51.4nm, you need to do some planning to first navigate through about 5 miles of reefs when departing Yadua and then 10 miles of reefs on the approach to Yasawa Island.

We spent the next few weeks stopping at several anchorages throughout the Yasawa group. There were many beautiful anchorages and we met a lot of interesting people and cruisers.

One of the nicest experiences was at Makalati Bay on Nacula Island. We presented our bundle of Waka to the village chief’s wife (the chief was away provisioning in Lautoka). Waka is a bundle of roots that is appropriate and required to present to the village headman. We stocked up in Savusavu’s local market before we left. The Fijians use it to prepare the “sevusevu”, in Tonga it was referred to as ‘Kava’. Sevusevu is a significant and ancient ritual that is the central component of all life-cycle rituals, healings, social gatherings and community meetings. It is also required as a visitor to gain access to the villages and surrounding beaches.
We also offered some provisioning, rice, pasta, bread yeast and some fashion magazines. The magazines were a real hit with the girls. I also luckily had an older pair of sunglasses that the chief’s wife had requested as she had eye problems. She was very happy with the glasses and also invited us to attend church at 10am the next morning. We kindly accepted and felt we had to go. So the next morning we were ashore early to deliver our gifts and were escorted to the church by a young lad in his finest, her grandson. Tony had to borrow a Sulu (a man skirt) and I had to wear a long skirt and have shoulders covered. Also found out that you can’t wear sunglasses or hats in a village.
It was quite the experience. The service went on for over 2 1/2 hours in Fijian. Little did we know until after the fact that the first Sunday of the month all the nearby villages of the island meet at this service. The singing was amazing with beautiful harmony. Numerous readings were read and then one of the ladies from the choir got up and to our surprise did a reading in English from John’s gospel and addressed it to us and welcomed us to their parish and then asked us to get up and say something. Tony was poking me in the ribs for me to get up. So here I was put on the spot and had to address the whole community. We were the only two Caucasians in the church and I had all hundreds of eyes on me. I don’t remember what I said exactly but I did introduce us and told them where we came from and how long we had been sailing for and thanked them for welcoming us to their parish. According to Tony I did real well. After the service we were invited to lunch but unfortunately we had to leave to try and catch the high sun for our arrival to our next stop Nanuya-Sewa Island also known as the “Blue Lagoon”. Named after the movie “Blue Lagoon” with Brooke Shields. There was such controversy at the time due to her being so young with nude scenes. We happened to have the movie on our hard drive and watched it…gosh it was corny. I remembered it being so good when I was a kid.
Nanuya resort which is newly owned and run by an Australian and is very cruiser friendly. The resort has a mini market, cruisers bar and a beach area for the cruisers. The grounds are well kept with an organic farm that supplies the resort. We had a lovely dinner at the resort with friendly and excellent service. The whole area has long beaches and many reefs which are very beautiful in color but tricky to navigate.

We stopped at a couple more anchorages before heading to Vuda marina on Viti Levu (the main island) to pick up some other parts that had arrived. We picked up our part, had a rough overnight anchorage outside the marina in the bay and headed to Musket Cove Marina anchorage on Malolo Lailai Island. Musket Cove is a really beautiful resort with a little marina and all kinds of things to do. We had a nice day on our arrival. Had a nice end of season barbeque with some fellow Canadians. Attended a seminar on the weather and routing to New Zealand.
Today we sit on our boat with a low front that is dropping huge amounts of rain and looks like it’s going to hang around for a few days. I think I’ll bake some bread and make pizza.

Our plan for the next few weeks is to return to Vuda marina, have the boat hauled out on Oct 17th and have the boat anti foul painted, which hopefully won’t keep us there too long. In the meantime, try and see a bit of the island before an appropriate weather wind to head to New Zealand.

Since I wrote this blog, Joalea has been hauled out and no longer has a fuzzy bum. If all goes well she will be splashing her new clean bottom Friday morning. Once in the water we will head to Denarau marina, provision and wait for the perfect weather window to head to NZ.
We had a hard time deciding whether to head to New Zealand or Australia. Fiji is spread across 18,372 square miles of the South Pacific, and consisting of 332 islands, of which 110 are inhabited, we’ve barely touched the surface. We think we’d like to return next season depending on our passage to NZ.

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Kingdom of Tonga

Situated east of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific, Tonga (also called the Friendly Islands) consists of 150 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. Most of the islands contain active volcanic craters; others are coral atolls.

We arrived in Tonga, Vava’u group on Monday July 25th after leaving Western Samoa Sat. July 23, 2016.  We sailed 310 nm, just under 50 hours.  The passage was relatively good if you consider big seas, flopping sails and everything on the boat being tousled around including the crew, it was great…we arrived in one piece.

We headed straight into Neiafu as it is where custom clearance is required.  Clearance went well.  Just got writer’s cramp after filling out numerous papers. I swear it’s the way to keep civil servants employed.

The harbor is very spacious with many moorings run by local businesses.  Neiafu was quite lively with a lot of restaurants, businesses catering to the yachties that come and go and the ones that arrived and never left.

Within the first week we were treated to a visit from the King and Queen at the Tongan Agricultural festival. They apparently go around visiting their islands for this special yearly event. The current royals are very approachable.

The government is largely controlled by the king, his nominees, and a small group of hereditary nobles.  In the 1990s a movement began aimed at curtailing the powers of the monarchy.  Tonga gained UN membership in 1999 and since then there have been many changes.  The current prime minister Akilisi Pohiva became the first commoner to be elected prime minister.

The government is really pushing for agricultural growth and it was amazing to see the beautiful fruits, vegetables and seafood that are caught or grown on the islands.  The best of the best was displayed for the royals viewing.

We spent exactly a month in Tonga and had originally planned to stay longer but the weather was a disappointment.  We visited several anchorages but without clear skies it is very difficult to navigate in waters with lots of coral and reefs.

We saw huge sperm whales which was amazing but also too close for comfort in our little dingy off of Hunga Island.  Did some kayaking, hiking  when we had the occasional break in weather. Briefly jumped in the water off the stern to quickly jump out.  I only do bath water swimming, darn I’m missing French Polynesian waters 🙂

The night before we left we attended an authentic Tongan feast.  The food was good with roast pig on a spit and various other Tongan dishes.  The dancers were especially good with two little ones 4 and 7-year-old sisters that were so cute to watch.  The dance and the hand motions represent a story being told.

I even tried the local Kava which is a drinking ceremony that is taken seriously by the village people.  It is a beverage or extract that is made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific Islands. The name “kava” comes from the Polynesian word “awa” which means bitter and bitter it was.

In the South Pacific, kava is a popular social drink, similar to alcohol in western societies.  Its suppose to promote relaxation.  I didn’t fall asleep but felt stinging in my mouth. I’m going to have to make some excuse in Fiji as it’s apparently expected to share in the ceremony when arriving in some remote islands.

During our stay we met some wonderful people at the anchorages and it’s always hard to say good-bye but know that we will see them again further down the sailing road.

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We had never planned to go to Samoa but our travelling buddies wanted to check it out.  American Samoa was 294nm from Niue and we sailed in big seas with a couple of hours of motoring.  The total trip took us 43.5 hours.

Everything we had read about A.Samoa was so negative on how dirty it was etc.  We were surprised to find that the Samoans have tried to clean up their act.  We found the streets to be quite clean compared to other places we have visited.  The only complaint we had was the harbour is dirty, very noisy and where we were anchored, the smell from the Starkist Tuna factory blew directly into the harbour depending on the wind direction and it was unbearable.  We couldn’t wait to leave.

The provisioning was great , having American things we can’t normally find.  They have a Cost u Less which is similar to a Costco.  So we stocked up on things we knew we wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.

We took the local bus which was always interesting.  They are privately owned and very unique with big sound systems.  We managed to go on one hike that took us above the harbor with some nice scenery of the harbor below.

From American Samoa we headed to Western Samoa a 73.9nm, approx 14 hour trip.  We anchored in Apia harbor and the clearance procedure was a bit lengthy but super pleasant officials.  The harbor is not as busy as A. Samoa but a bit noisy with a bunch of Chinese fishing vessels that keep their rust bucket generators going all day and night.

Western Samoa is beautiful and the people even more beautiful.  We did a tour of the North/South East part of the island.  Stopped at some points of interest and found that there are many churches in Western Samoa.  We thought American Samoa had a lot of churches but W. Samoa has many more.

A brief history about the Samoan islands.  They were apparently first settled some 3,500 years ago as part of the Austronesian expansion.  European explores first reached the islands in the early 18th century.  Louis-Antoine de Bougainville named them Navigator Islands in 1768.  The United States reached Samoa in 1839. In 1872 the high chief of the tribes of the eastern Samoan islands gave American permission to establish a naval base in exchange for military protection.

Samoa had a Civil war in 1886-1894 between colonial powers and another civil war of 1898/9, which resolved in dividing the islands in the Tripartite Convention, between United States, Great Britain and Germany.

After World War 1, German Samoa became a Trust Territory and eventually became independent as Samoa in 1962 (they dropped the “Western” Samoa).  American Samoa remains an unincorporated territory of the United States.

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