Years in the making, months in planning, weeks in preparation, hours in second guessing, minutes in a panic and it has come down to this, only seconds left (actually, a few hours) before we depart and leave Australia’s fair shores and make way to our first port of call, Port Denarau, Fiji.
Hang on…… Fiji? What happened to the first stop being Port Villa, Vanuatu? Cyclone Pam, that’s what! Don't they say, plans and boating are all written in sand at low tide? Anyway, we have decided that due to the devastation in and around Vanuatu, courtesy of the worst cyclone to hit the region since records began, that we would by-pass Vanuatu and head directly to Fiji.
Fiji lies some 1,705 nm to our northeast and at an average speed of 8 knots we expect this journey to take 212 hours, or 8.85 days, while Pendana consumes some 1,272 US Gallons of diesel fuel. If we are able to achieve our hull speed of 9.5 knots then this will shave around 33 hours from the overall run time. That being said, however, it is unlikely that we will see average speeds anywhere near 9.5 knots as we are working against both wind and current. Yes, we are going the WRONG WAY AROUND!!! Oh Joy!
There is a slim chance we will be able to catch the East Australian current where it breaks from the north/south transit along Australia's east coast and heads to the northeast towards New Caledonia. That being said, however, anyone who has tried to catch a current will understand how hard it can be so I am not holding out much hope. Best to prepare for 8 knots and anything better in terms of average speeds will be a bonus.
Below represents our route detail and waypoints as we make our way to Fiji although this will change and probably already has due to re-routing and seeking more favorable conditions than a direct rhumb line route would deliver.
For example Wednesday's planning had us departing Sydney on a heading of 048 degrees true, so there will be some likely variation from above. Planning route detail below:
Arrival into Fiji looks pretty straight forward with the outer lying reef being the only real challenge. After speaking with a few folks who have navigated the Navula entrance it appears that it is well marked and reasonably straight forward in daylight hours. As such, we will make sure our arrival at the outer reef is in daylight hours and not on a moonless night.
Port Denarau Marina, while narrow, is without too many hazards other than the obvious sandy shoals. So far the folks at quarantine and customs have been friendly and incredibly accommodating. Let’s see if that changes when they are confronted with our 110 lb. Head of Security - Caesar the Magnificent!
Now, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion and says, hang on, you can’t clear customs and quarantine at Port Denarau, well you can if using a clearing agent which is what we are doing. We decided to use an agent in Fiji to make life just a tad easier for all concerned and while we do not plan to use them again until Panama, we thought that this, being our first international passage, was a good idea and just made sense.
The mood on Pendana right now is one of sheer excitement with a tad of terror thrown in for good measure. Coastal cruising vs ocean crossings are (I am led to believe) about as far removed as a moped is to a jumbo jet. Having an issue or breaking down a few miles off shore is a very different matter than being 300 nm from anywhere and, as such, a whole new level of checks, double checks and triple checks have taken place to ensure we are good to go.
As we head off I asked each aboard what port, sights, location they were looking forward to the most. Responses below:
Commander and Mission Chief, Claire:
Phosphorescence on a moonless night. A cold glass of champagne on arrival! The people we are yet to meet and all to the beautiful places we have yet to see - too many to mention - and let’s not forget, plenty of CALM seas please!
First Officer and all round Apple whiz-kid Abi:
Hawaii, San Francisco, my new school and don’t forget the otters! Oh, and going to West Marine with dad – NOT!
Second Officer and part-time comic Bianca:
I really want to see the swimming pigs in the Bahamas. I also want to see Hawaii and the Glaciers in the Pacific North West ("PNW"). I am excited to see everything if the truth be told.
Head of Security, Caesar the Magnificent:
Going to a dog park in Hawaii and meeting up with some American dogs – I am sure we will all become good mates. I also want to see my first Canadian bear – I think that would be good. My job, however, as Head of Security is to keep Pendana safe and that’s my primary objective you must understand!
Oscar, Jazz and Fifi (the cats):
We all want to eat the flying fish that happen to land on our decks! Unfortunately Mum says we can’t eat the birds, mind you, have you seen the size of some of them! We are also looking forward to annoying Caesar the Ridiculous!
And for me, making safe haven in any port sounds pretty darn good right now! That being said, however, the watershed moments would have to be making landfall in the USA, going under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Pacific North West and all it has to offer (I am currently reading Wagonner’s Guide to the PNW. Wow, could spend a lifetime in the PNW and still not see it all!), transiting the Panama Canal even though it looks like it’s going to be a lot of hard work, visiting Cuba, cruising the Bahamas, cruising past the Statue of Liberty NYC, making landfall in Halifax Nova Scotia, crossing the Atlantic to the Azores, steaming up the river Thames, passing into the Mediterranean and seeing the rock of Gibraltar and on and on it goes but for now, right now, let’s just say I am looking forward to arriving safely in our first port.
It will be very interesting to see, with the passage of time, how this list stacks up when faced with the reality of living on Pendana day in, day out! Needless to say, as it stands right now, we are all very excited and look forward immensely to all our stops but the ones listed above are currently what we believe will be the stand outs! No doubt this will change.
As mentioned in a previous blog, moving forward, the blog itself will not focus so much on the destinations, as there are travel guides for that, but rather our emotions, thoughts, feelings and the issues we face as a family and running our little ship as we head off, around the world. What is it really like living in a shoe box with one dog and three cats? What surprises us? What doesn’t? Who leads and who follows? And on and on it goes. It will be very interesting to see, if in fact, the reality of crossing oceans lives up to our hopes, dreams and imagination. Will it be a paradise with the odd bad day thrown in or will it be a living nightmare from which there is no escape! Is it really the journey that counts or is it the destination? Maybe, it’s a combination of both? The bottom line is, we do not have a clue in relation to what reality will actually be like but one thing is for sure, both Claire, the girls and I, won’t be left wondering!
For our first leg Captain Mark James will be joining us. It will be great to have Mark aboard and will help to ensure that if any of us suffer from the rare psychological condition – “deep sea madness or ocean madness” – then at least we will have a proven back stop in Mark. Ocean madness is a condition that is completely undiagnosable in which a person, who finds themselves far from land (i.e. at sea), basically loses the plot and goes a little crazy – so having Mark aboard will bring some comfort just in case Claire or I suffer from this passage ending disorder. It also only seems fitting that Mark gets to be with us as we venture off into the sunset, as he was there when Pendana entered Australia so it is only fair he is there when she exits.
Now on a side note, I have recently purchased a DJI Inspire drone specifically for this trip. With fellow bloggers leaving me behind on this front the time to act and finally buy one was now! The other day Ken (kensblog.com) sent me his first drone video – amazing! Laust Sondergaad owner of the beautiful Nordhavn L’Adagio has shared a number of his drone videos – again, stunning and as both have shamed me into action it was time to act. So stand by for some, (fingers crossed), stunning videos and photos of Pendana from a whole new perspective or one rather expensive underwater shot!
In closing, once again thank you from all of us aboard Pendana for the words of encouragement and support, which I might add, have come in from all corners of the globe. It is truly appreciated and something way beyond what we had ever expected – just goes to show you that folks on boats and even those without are pretty darn good!
Again for those wanting to follow our progress live 24/7, a map with our location can be viewed on the location page of www.pendanablog.com on the location page. As a reminder, both Abi and Bianca both now have their own blogs which can be found at www.abisworld.net and www.bonaboat.com and no doubt will update their blogs once we are in Fiji. Also, a reminder that I plan to send an image to both Facebook and Instagram daily as we make our way across the Pacific.