Migrations 20


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9 May 2012 - 4 August 2012
South Minerva Reef (Tonga), North Minerva Reef (Tonga), & Fiji

Published from Thailand, February 2013

A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.
  ― George Carlin


When other cruisers come aboard Migration, they are always surprised at how much space is below deck. She's a big boat, especially for two people. Bigger than we need... but she's the boat we have, and we love her.

However, compared to most houses in western countries, she's small -- about the size of a very small studio apartment. Yet within that space is a kitchen, two 'bathrooms', a shower, a pantry, five (!) beds, an 'office' (nav station), and lots of cabinets and cubbies and hidey-holes to store everything we think we might need to eat, drink, cook, wear, snorkel, sew, entertain, dive, fish, play, paint, write, read, maintain, fix, and of course, sail without outside assistance for weeks or months. In short, she is stuffed with stuff.

Yet all of this stuff -- well, most of it -- is necessary. It's pretty difficult to run to the hardware store for a #10 panhead machine screw when we're 500 miles from shore. There's no popping over to the supermarket if we're out of butter. And that's a good thing. Out of the remoteness comes self-sufficiency, self-reliance, an appreciation for what we have... and also a desire to reduce how much we have.

Wait. A desire to reduce what you have? That doesn't make sense. Most of the time you can't get more stuff and you want to get rid of stuff?

Yep. One of the great benefits of this life is that it forces us to focus on every single thing we possess. We have to know where it is (we may need to find it in the dark in a rolling sea), we are conscious of how much it weighs (an overloaded boat is a slow boat, and worse, can be unsafe in rough weather), and because of the space limitations of a boat, we have to be ready to move many things to get to whatever it is we really need that is buried under what we don't want at that moment. Less can be better.

Yet, even the most basic cruising boat is a treasure trove of riches compared to the possessions of most of the islanders we meet. No wonder they think every cruiser is a millionaire. Most boats have more stuff in them than a typical islander (depending on the country) might possess in an entire lifetime.

Then we come back to visit the United States -- a country seemingly devoted to a principal goal of buying lots of stuff. Or we visit Singapore -- a country that is almost one big mall. It's a strange world we travel in and the contrasts keep us thinking.

During the last 6 months, we travelled nearly 8 ,000 miles through the waters of 12 countries. We visited people with heaps of stuff (like in Singapore), and also visited people in Papua New Guinea where an empty bottle or broken screwdriver can be a treasure.



I'm writing this from Thailand and you may ask -- and have good reason to -- why are you in Thailand? The short story is this:

Migration is 44 years old. She was built out of mahogany plywood covered in fiberglass. Polyester resin was used for the fiberglass and now the bond between the fiberglass and the plywood is breaking down. I refiberglassed her bottom (below the waterline) with epoxy resin when I bought her. Much of her deck has been reglassed. And Alene and I reglassed the undersides of the wing decks in Mexico (Migrations 5). But that leaves the topsides -- everything between the deck and the waterline. Everything that's red. Alene owned and refit two Cross trimarans before we met. I spent the first 7 years of my ownership of Migration working on her. We both decided we didn't want to fiberglass, sand, and paint over 75 square meters (800 square feet). We looked at the cost of having the work done in NZ and it was very expensive. Australia would be more expensive. It was about this time that we received an email from friends in Thailand. They had just had a lot of work done and it was cheap and good.

So... instead of sailing back east toward French Polynesia, which we had planned to do, we made the difficult decision to head west. Very far west. But we did want to visit Fiji again before we left the Pacific. And so the story continues...



Our trip north from New Zealand (our 3rd) was relatively uneventful this time around. Unlike the previous two years, we did not encounter a NE gale that forced us to seek shelter at Raoul Island. We'd had enough of that.

But we weren't going straight to Fiji. Of course we would stop at our favorite spot between the tropics and New Zealand: Minerva Reef. However, this time, we first visited South Minerva.

When leaving New Zealand in the fall, you
need blankets and slippers when on watch.
It might help to stay awake as well...

As we approached South Minerva Reef we
caught a very nice wahoo. Oh yum!

In our past updates whenever we refer to Minerva Reef we really are talking about North Minerva Reef. There are two of them; about 18 miles apart. We'd heard the pass and anchoring were more difficult in South Minerva but this wasn't the case. Just as in the north, it's a magical place -- there's nothing here but reef... and no stuff to buy.

Safe and sound in Minerva Reef.

The snorkeling inside Minerva South was excellent.

Christmas Tree worm tucked inside luminous
green coral.

We hung out at South Minerva with the crews of Bodhran, Guava Jelly, and Riada II: Jason & Mercedes; Riki; and Dave, Brett, John, & Jo. We had a blast together. Riada II, being full of adventurous Kiwis, showed us how to get lobster in the crevasses on the windward side of the reef. They're nuts. But we enjoyed the lobster!

Left: Notice Brett's head in the middle of the reef cut. Crazy Kiwi!
Right: That's me. I got one! Dave holds dinner in the green bag.

We had some good times... and ate very well.

Minerva Reef by Olaf Ruhen is a great book about 17 Tongans who were shipwrecked
on South Minerva in 1962. They sheltered in the wreck of a Japanese fishing boat for
102 days. Alene is standing next to the engine block -- all that remains of the wreck.

Fish jerky made from the last of the wahoo.

We sailed on to North Minerva where it got very crowded over the next few days as the next wave of boats arrived from New Zealand.

For a couple of days, Migration was the dive boat taking out the crews from some of the other boats.

Exploring the reef.

A baby octopus hitch-hikes on Alene's shoe.

Heaps of boats at Minerva Reef.

A gannet pays a visit to Jason's boat, Bodhran.

Another great visit to Minerva.



All was well until the night before we left. A little turn, a little tweak, and something went a little zing in my back. Before I knew it, I was on the floor. We needed to leave the next morning because we had a good weather window for Fiji. That meant Alene had to do nearly all the sailing. I was good for lying in the pilot house and keeping watch... that was about it.

Luckily the forecast was accurate and we had fine sailing. Alene did a great job hoisting the sails, winching in the sheets, and doing everything that required any effort at all.



We arrived in Savusavu and, as with most places that we like and have returned to, it felt pleasantly familiar. But this year it was crowded. More and more boats are coming to Fiji and more and more are clearing in at Savusavu. 

One of the reasons we enjoy our time in Savusavu.

Suzi and Dave (s/v Sidewinder) made a giant birthday cookie to start ADR's birthday
celebration a few days early. We had some great music nights aboard Migration. Thank goodness
Jason (s/v Bodhran) had the talent to keep a slew of amateur musicians on beat and in line (sort of).

Like most island nations, Fiji is a dichotomy: plenty to buy in the cities or large towns, and relatively nothing in the outer islands. Though we like Savusavu, we love less busy and populated places. We headed east as we did last year. Our first night we anchored in Galo Galo. We took Plover on a little trip up a narrow channel to a tidal lake.

Setting off from Migration it was calm. As we continued inland, the current increased. Suddenly
a very low bridge appears ahead. No turning back now! There was just enough room... as long as we ducked!

It was very serene in salt lake.

Alene explores the mangroves.



We continued east to Viani Bay where Alene got in some good dives on Rainbow Reef. Unfortunately, my back was still a mess so I couldn't join in. Jack Fisher, the local the cruisers use to find the dive spots, suggested his wife might help. She came out to the boat and gave me a massage with her feet. It was helpful in a very painful sort of way.

Alene is happy because she's been scuba
diving on Rainbow Reef!

In spite of being very small, Sofi's
feet were remarkably strong.

We zoomed across to the island of Taveuni and met up with Riada II and Guava Jelly for Alene's BBQ Pizza Birthday Bash.

We sailed back to Viani bay where our friend Janet (from Phoenix Morris in New Plymouth, NZ) came to join us for a visit. She had an adventure meeting us as she took the local ferry from Suva (24 hours away). But after she arrived, we had several days of nice weather and lots of fun.

Walks on shore, relaxing on the boat, music nights, snorkeling... we think Janet had a good time.

Viani Bay is not accessible by road. The children go to the single school by boat each morning. I've been wanting to do more school visits in the islands, so we contacted the headmaster to see if he was interested -- he was. We also asked if we could use the school to show a movie. Most children in this area have never been to a cinema -- though they've watched DVDs on a television.

We showed The Muppet Movie (the original)
and some old cartoons.

The next morning we returned to the Ucunivatu School
This sign as the school motto:
Sweat First, Reap Later.

Tiare, one of the very friendly -- and
photogenic -- local kids.

The school library. Not a lot of stuff here.

The kids were great, although getting them
to ask questions is always a challenge.



The eastern Lau group of Fiji was little visited until recently due to the difficultly in getting a cruising permit. But the permit is no longer required and many boats are starting to arrive. We sailed to the south end of the group to avoid the crowds. After an overnight sail we anchored at Komo Island.

Sailing south through the Lau Group we saw no other boats.
Here we are passing Thithia island which really should be
Hat Island, I think.

Komo island is a small island -- only a couple of miles long -- and has one village of 146 people. Locals visit neighboring islands in small boats, or can take the once-a-month supply boat to Suva.

We anchored on the protected north shore while the village is on the south shore.

Hiking across Komo to the village.

Once ruled by Tonga, the islands of the Lau still show Tongan influence
in the distinctive rounded architecture of the huts.

There is always laundry hanging in every Fijian village....

...And aboard Migration as well. Windy days
are good for drying -- as well as for creating
bizarre shirt animals.

Local women work daily making magimagi
mangi mangi): rope made from coconut husk.
It is sent to Suva where it is sold to be used by
resorts to give buildings a traditional look.

There are no cell towers on the island but from the highest point you can get a signal from
a neighboring island. We walked up with the three school teachers and one of the students:
Inoke, Mateni, Save, and Jone. "Where's the island with the mobile signal?" I asked.
There was some disagreement.

We invited our friends onboard Migration for a drink. (That's them carrying Plover across
the rocky beach.) There's no alcohol on the island so they were happy to share a beer.

Village life on Komo.

My back wasn't doing well so Alene represented us when we were invited to the school for a dance presentation. Here are some videos:


Komo School students dancing and singing.

Komo School boys doing rhythm dances.


Under a bit of a time crunch (more about that later), we left Komo and sailed south to uninhabited Yagasa.

Fine snorkeling and beautiful cliffs.

We stayed for only two days -- just us and the thousands of birds that live there.
As we left we put out the fishing lines while sailing along the reef.

We got two hits and quickly pulled in both lines. Unfortunately, the sharks were quicker.

Fulaga (pronounced foolahnga) has a reputation as one of the most beautiful islands in Fiji. Off the normal sailing routes and, until this year, infrequently visited by cruisers, it was just the sort of place we like to seek out. However, there are no charts to speak of and even Google Earth is useless.

Not a lot to go on. Notice how Google Earth (left) has a blurry Fulaga while neighboring
Ongea has plenty of detail.

Luckily, before we left Savusavu, we found a website documenting a visit from another boat and had enough info to help us through the narrow pass.

Sailing along the edge of the outer reef and entering the shallow pass.

Fulaga's inner lagoon is dotted with hundreds of beautifully carved mushroom-shaped islands.

We chose to anchor off a beautiful beach on one of the few larger islands within the lagoon. How fortuitous! The sole resident -- and owner -- of the island is 75-year old Bera. At this time he was being visited by his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter from Suva. They were all so welcoming.

Our first anchorage in Fulaga.

Bera, Millie, Buna, & Cama.

Bera usually lives alone on the island -- just him and his dogs. Though bent over and bow-legged, he can still climb a coconut tree and re-roof his home with woven palm fronds.

Our first day we were invited to lunch: A typical
Fijian meal with nearly everything cooked in a
hole in the ground.

We learned a lot from Bera and his family. There is no electricity, of course, so little light at night. He has an old transistor radio that can just barely pick up a station from Suva. He eats what he grows or catches, except for some rice.

Yet, this man is wealthy. He owns the island he lives on, as well as another in the lagoon. A few years back an Englishman offered to buy his island for a large sum; he wanted to build a resort. Bera refused. It is clear that he is content with what he has.

Bera's wife lives in Muanaira, one of the three villages on Fulaga, because she doesn't like being out on the island. Bera needed to go to the village for a meeting of the elders and we offered to take the family aboard Migration.

Migration ferries our hosts across the lagoon.

A visit to Muanaira village.

After a few days we moved to the east end of the lagoon to be near the pass which offered fantastic snorkeling.

ADR tows Plover while she snorkels. Lots of fish in the pass entrance.

Graceful spotted eagle rays and a cute purple nudibranch.

Heaps of fish!

A white tip reef shark on patrol. A squid hangs out near Migration's anchor chain.

Swimming back to the boat from the pass provided other fantastic views.


Snorkeling the Fulaga pass.

Fulaga is simply gorgeous.

We hated to go but we'd arranged to meet our Kiwi friends David and Janet in only a few days, and we had 175 miles to sail. We'd met David and Janet in Tonga and Niue two years prior when they were cruising their own boat, s/v Navire (see Migrations 15 & 16). Now between cruises and back in cold Wellington, they were coming to visit for 12 days.

We had a fine overnight sail with only the occasional rain shower. We were headed for Ovalau, the small island off the northeast corner of the main island of Viti Levu.

With only an occasional rain storm to dodge,
the 175-mile downwind sail to Ovalau was pleasant.



Levuka was once the capital of Fiji. It's on the east coast of Ovalau, an island just a few miles off the main island of Viti Levu. It's a small town (only a couple thousand people) but in the 1800s was the center of all commerce in Fiji. It still retains its colonial architecture.

Levuka is backed by towering cliffs and mountains.

Levuka's main street reminded us of an old western town.

Kiwi friends arrive!

As a regional town not very far from Suva,
the local stores have plenty of stuff --
although not always the stuff you want...

...unless you're looking for tinned fish!

24 years ago, Alene visited Fiji on her backpacking trip around the world. She stayed on the small island of Yanucalailai. We left Levuka and sailed around to the other side of Ovalau to see what it was like.

"There it is!"

ADR stayed in a bure like this one -- now
abandoned and overgrown.

Posing in the same spot with her photo from the last visit.

David is suspicious. "Is there someone smiling behind me?"

We had a fine spinnaker sail to the north end of Ovalau and hung out for several days at the friendly village of Rukuruku. What a lot of wonderful people live there!

Rukuruku is built on the hill overlooking the sea
to the northwest. That's Migration in the distance.

David plays rugby with some of the school kids and makes friends with a local dog.

Lovely people and a gorgeous bay.

Kava is the main export of RukuRuku. A truck drives
to Levuka with the crop nearly every day. We hopped aboard.

All is well...

...until you see the route you are about to take!

I did a school visit at the Rukuruku school.

Afterwards we drank kava with the headmaster.

Stuff makes its way around the world.
This cute little girl has a Barbie.


School children sing
Isa Lei, the traditional Fijian farewell song.


On the truck (they called it the "carrier lorrie") to Rukuruku we'd met a local woman who invited us to her son's birthday party. It was amusing, interesting, delicious, and entertaining.

The outdoor lomo oven used to cook dinner.

The kids loved the balloons we brought.

Dinner on the floor followed by a chocolate birthday cake we baked. The cake was expertly
decorated by David.

The next day we invited Mere and her family
aboard Migration.

The weather was certainly not the best that Fiji had to offer. It was very windy and actually a little cool. But we braved the winds and sailed to Makogai island for some snorkeling and a visit to the turtle and clam farm.

Run by the government, Makogai breeds turtles, coral, and giant clams. We visited
briefly last year but didn't mind returning as there's some great snorkeling in the bay.

Apisai comes out from Suva to oversee the
operation. Here he demonstrates the bell
used to signal when the generator is going off.
It's an old scuba tank and very effective.

A day sail brought us to Naigani  for a
brief overnight stop and snorkel. And
an opportunity for Alene to use our
deluxe marshmallow-roasting skewers.

Interesting school of fish feeding at Naigani.

We'd heard about two excellent dive sites nearby: E6 and Hi8. Both are pinnacles that rise up from the seabed two thousand feet below. The next morning we set off in search of them. Unfortunately, the charts in this area are slightly off and I wasn't paying attention. We grazed a reef on the way out as we were hoisting sails. Luckily, no damage. But it was a good reminder to stay vigilant and not put too much faith in the charts.

Here's the chart and our GPS track.

Here's our GPS track on Google Earth.

And here are the two of them overlaid. See how
the reef sticks out into water that is supposed to
be 45 feet deep? Luckily, we just skimmed the edge
and scratched the paint on the keel. But I have no
excuse... I should have been watching.

E6 off the starboard bow. Not something
you want to sail close to at night.

Stupendous snorkeling along the coral wall dropping straight down into the blue.

We continued on through Vatu-i-Ra reef and the various reefs off of Qaralase Point. It was a bit nerve-wracking as the visibility was not the best it could be. But a couple of hours of careful navigation (nice to have 8 eyes on the boat) brought us to anchor off of Nanukaloa Village in Viti Levu Bay.

Celebrating our snorkeling adventure as well
as our successful navigation.

Nanukaloa means black sand.

We performed sevusevu with the chief who,
we were surprised to find, was a woman.
That's her on the left and our gift of kava
wrapped in newspaper on the floor.

Lots of friendly visitors in Viti Levu Bay.

We took the bus to the town of Rakiraki where we bought some provisions and David and Janet took us out to lunch.

The menu was interesting. Very kind of the owners to show photos of what you
are about to eat. Especially the dachshund goat.

Desserts start off fine, but then...

Our days of sailing, snorkeling, playing games and music, eating (Janet's an excellent cook),
massages to help my back (Thanks, David!) finally came to an end. We dinghied our friends
ashore and they caught the local bus to the international airport 75 miles away on the other
side of the island.



We'd been meandering around Fiji for over a month and a half. But what of Thailand? Weren't we supposed to sail there this year? Based on weather patterns, we wanted to arrive in Thailand by the beginning of November before the NW monsoon kicked in. We had planned to leave Fiji by the end of August. It was now 21 July. We had plenty of time... except for my back.

Though David's massage technique had helped, my back was still not right after nearly two months. Alene and I decided I should see a doctor so we headed south to Suva, Fiji's capital and the largest city in the tropical Pacific.

One of the first orders of business
whenever we get to a city is to see
if we can find milk for Alene.

And not only did we find milk, Alene won $333
Fijian (about $190 US) at the supermarket!

Suva is a large city (about 200,000 people in the urban area). It's the commercial and educational center for the tropical South Pacific. We went to the private hospital to get my back checked out. There was nothing obviously wrong so I started seeing a physical therapist who put me on an exercise regime. While we waited to see how my back would respond, we enjoyed Suva and readied Migration for her long voyage west.

City life in Suva.

It was National Toothbrushing Day while we
were in the capital.

I love this billboard. I didn't know that
rabbits are engine experts.

Suva has an incredible public market. Fruit, flowers, vegetables, fish, eggs, spices, grains... and kava (grog) are all in and around one huge building. It's wonderful and overwhelming.

Suva also has fancy air-conditioned malls and high-priced department stores, boutiques, and supermarkets. It's a shock to see how much there is after the lack of stuff in the outer islands.

Their visit with their father, Bera, in Fulaga over, Cama and Millie were now back in Suva. We took a cab to the outskirts of the city to visit them. This is a different Suva than most people see. Instead of a modern city, here it was like a series of local villages -- considerably poorer than the city centre.

Not much stuff out here. But some very nice people.

Read more about our visit in the SAYS ADR below.

 says ADR: Suva


On our way back to town, we spied a dance festival. We hopped of the bus and found that it was dancing from one of the islands in the Lau group.

Moce Day dancers being wrapped in material
removed from the audience tents.

As usual, we were invited to share kava.

This guy didn't speak much English but he was friendly.

Since we were staying for a few days more while I continued my back exercises, I contacted the International School Suva and was hired to do a school visit. We even rode home on the school bus with the students.

The school principal, Dr. Anna Marsden, was so welcoming. Alene and I had a really nice day.

My back was improving. I felt that if I was careful, I could avoid reinjuring it. The days were passing and we had a long way to sail. We anchored near the Royal Suva Yacht Club in order to get fuel on the next high tide.

Fiji is filled with scenes like this.

Fueling up in Fiji. Alene is in charge of the
nozzle. That's because I spill, and she doesn't.

Finally, on 4th August, we were ready. Our 6,000-mile journey to Thailand was about to begin.

Here we go!

So that's it for now. This update was getting too long and too delayed so the story pauses here. It will resume in Migrations 21 with visits to many more countries with all different magnitudes of stuff.

Thus... MORE STUFF will be coming soon...

Be good. Be safe. Have fun.

Where we've been May 2012 - August 2012

 2, 085 nautical miles traveled this period.
 30,386 nautical miles aboard Migration since leaving Long Beach in June 2005.


2008 Brooks Palmer www.clutterbusting.com

This site was last updated 11/22/17