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Fulaga, and the Little Dive Compressor that Couldn’t

Down to just the two of us, having left Jeff and Julie in Vanua Balavu in the northern Lau to make their gradual way back to the States.

The passage to Fulaga (foo-LONG-ah) in the southern Lau was a short overnight. When entering and exiting via reef passes, as this trip entailed at both ends, it’s best if you’ve got some daylight so that someone on the bow can spot the dangerous bits under the water before smacking your boat up against them. Our friends John and Kathy aboard Mystic Moon were making the same passage. They left a bit earlier than we did in the late afternoon, then we leapfrogged by them during the night and arrived a couple hours ahead of them at the reef entrance.

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Susui Island, the Color Pink, and Hemingway

Our last anchorage before bidding Jeff and Julie a sad farewell was the small island and village of Susui. Though we spent only 4 or 5 nights here, we all fell rapidly in love with the place. We really clicked with Jacob, the kind, quiet man who met us when we came ashore and escorted us to the chief’s house. We were only the 5th yacht to visit the island this year, and the first motor yacht to visit, ever.

On the Beach in Front of Susui Village

On the Beach in Front of Susui Village

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Vanua Balavu, and Thoughts on Cruising Under Power in Various Boats

From Viani Bay, we made our way southeast to the island of Vanua Balavu (VAH-noo-ah bah-LAH-voo) in the northern Lau group. The Lau group is the easternmost group of islands in Fiji, reportedly the least visited islands in the South Pacific. This is in large part because (as related to us by one of the Lau’s village chiefs) several decades ago, recreational drugs were brought ashore by some cruisers. This caused quite a stir among the very conservative Fijian villagers, resulting in the chief of the entire Lau group ordering the whole group closed to all tourism thenceforth. For the past several years they have tried to relax this strict isolationist policy, first by issuing only a handful of permits annually to a very few lucky cruisers, then as of last year, opening it up on request to all cruisers holding Fijian cruising permits. Since one still has to clear into Fiji in the middle or western islands, then travel a couple hundred miles against the prevailing trade winds to get here, the Lau group is still a relatively remote destination.

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Savusavu and Viani Bay

While underway on the calm inter island passage between Suva and Savusavu, Jeff encouraged Stan to fiddle with our speed and interrogate its effect on fuel consumption, engine load, etc. We have lots of data at our fingertips from our Maretron monitoring system, which can be displayed any which way we want, so it was a fun exercise for them.

Our ‘normal’ cruising speed is 9.5-9.75 knots over ground at 1700-1750 RPM.

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2014 Season. It’s ON.

Our cruising season is well underway by now, but we’ve been remote for so much of that time, without internet access, that we haven’t had a chance to publish any blog posts. Now that we’re back for a quick stop in Suva, capital and largest city in Fiji, for some provisioning and picking up of boat parts, we are locked and loaded in terms of photos and text. I plan to publish one post each day for the next several days, at which point we’ll be all caught up.

When last we ‘spoke,’ Stan and I were wintering in Seattle, while Buffalo Nickel braved the cyclone season tucked up on the hard in Vuda Point, Fiji. There was warranty work we already knew needed to be done, but Circa had thought they could send some of their crew over to us in Fiji to accomplish that in the spring, leaving us free to begin our cruising season in early May from right within western Fiji.

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Loveless in Seattle

Now don’t jump to any conclusions, there be no divorcing going on here. It’s just that we are, in fact, in Seattle. And the Loveless is a scrumptious Seattle cocktail named for the Loveless building down the street from us. While mostly we just want to share our thoughts with you regarding our boat and our travels in this blog post, that title was simply too compelling to pass up. So let’s save the cocktail recipe for later, shall we?

Back to where we left off, so many moons ago now, wrapping up our short first cruising season aboard Buffalo Nickel in the Fiji Islands. Since we had commitments in the States at the beginning of October (namely the joyous occasion of Stan’s sister Kathryn’s wedding to her beloved Glenn) we decided to leave the boat on the hard in Fiji, in a cyclone pit, until our return for next cruising season in April.

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Geek Stuff: The Helm

I know many of our followers are boat geeks like we are. If you are not one of those, you might want to skip this read, it’s all about the electronics we use for piloting and navigation.

What, you ask? No more pics of Fiji?? Well, now I feel bad. Okay, here:


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Kristy, Josh, Nemo and the Whiskey Smash

Our last visitors this season were daughter Kristy and her boyfriend Josh from Hollywood, CA.


We packed a lot of activity into their time with us… a week after their departure Stan is still hitting the Advil. This is largely due to a new watersport we added to our repertoire: water skiing. Josh brought us a rig and a pair of skiis from the States, and Plug Nickel rose to the occasion admirably. Note Kristy’s well executed camera wave below. Look ma, one hand!

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A Tender Moment: Introducing Penny

As we alluded to in an earlier post, we hold the opinion that no single tender can serve every purpose well. You’ve met Plug Nickel, our big bad tinny. Here’s little Penny, our 125 lb aluminum bottomed RIB.


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A Visit from Julie and Brooke

by Val

Well, long time no blog! It’s been a very unusual cruising season for us, in that we found ourselves entertaining a parade of family and friends here in Fiji. It’s nearly impossible to curate photos and compose a blog entry while guests are aboard; much too busy having fun.

Now that we’ve been left to our own devices, we’ll be making up for lost time and logging numerous posts about our activities and our new boat.

I had to make an unscheduled three week visit to the States in July, but as you heard from Stan, he was able to entertain Kari and Bret in fine style. They are not experienced boaters, but enlisting their help during the week or so spent hopping among the Yasawa islands turned out to enhance their experience rather than detract. It doesn’t hurt that all the routine activities like anchoring, deploying and retrieving tenders and water toys, etc. are so easily accomplished on Buffalo Nickel.

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