25 February 1996


Fleet 23 upheld it's winning tradition last September at the 1995 Musket Cove Cruiser's Regatta in Fiji. It all started in Tonga when Micheal got hold of a flyer describing all of the events that would be held in conjunction with the Musket Cove to Port Vila, Vanuatu Regatta. As we read through the items planned for the week long get together, the two day Hobie Cat Challenge caught our eye. We gotta be there, I said. And that was that.

Did I mention that we sailed BACK to Tonga this year? Here's a good example of how we plan our cruising season. We sailed from Bay of Islands, New Zealand on May 8th headed for Minerva Reef. We made it there, through a gale, in seven days. After resting for about four days, we let the wind decide where we would go next. If the wind had a lot of south in it, we would head for Tonga. If not, we'd head for Fiji. So we ended up in Tonga where we stayed for about six weeks catching up with old friends and making new ones. After a pleasant three day sail we made landfall on the island of Ovalau, on the eastern side of Fiji the first week of July. Dean and Judy Dickinson were scheduled to meet us in Suva the end of the month so we slowly made our way to one of the busiest ports in the southwestern Pacific.

I have to laugh when I think back on the cruising season. It was a ton 'o fun! Dean and Judy stayed with us for almost two weeks. We did it all, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, diving, water ballet ( you'll have to ask Dean ) and drinking kava. We spent most of the time at the islands around and including Kandavu, and ended up anchoring next to a traditional Fijian village that happened to have a first class dive resort next door. But I'm straying from my original thought...the Hobie Regatta. After Dean and Judy left, we sailed from Kandavu north about a hundred or so miles to Malololailai on the western side of Fiji where the Musket Cove Resort and Yacht Club is located. Imagine our surprise when we entered the lagoon and saw over a hundred other yachts at anchor! Since our arrival in Fiji we had only shared two anchorages with another boat. We started partying the first night there and didn't stop for a week. First it was a party on a friends' boat ( one of many such parties ), then a fun race ( on another cruisers' boat ) to a neighboring resort, then the around Malolo Race ( another cruisers' boat ) and finally the Hobie Cat Regatta. What was billed as a two day race went three days and counted 48 teams participating. It was a single elimination, round the buoys type race using four, fairly tired resort Hobie Cats. Two teams, two boats raced, and if you won you got to go again. That was all the incentive we needed. It felt great to be back on a Hobie and racing! On the first day, all starts were Lemans starts from the beach. That was replaced the next day with a standing water start because the boats took a beating. Micheal didn't have his go-fast hat, but he did wear his Nike T-shirt and I wore my lucky Hobie Team Texas cap. We managed to get into the semis and then the finals, it was really exciting. There was a lot of camaraderie among the contestants and a free flow of tips, especially from the Texas contingent. We readily admitted to being "old" Hobie Cat sailors. In the final race we found ourselves up against the sailing instructor from the resort ( local knowledge ) and a cruising friend as crew. We were a little nervous at the start; boy did that bring back memories! But we finished well ahead of the other boat in light and shifty winds. What a blast and we even won a couple of prizes. We also came away with bruised and scraped knees and shins, but sometimes it hurts to have fun.

So, after all of the cruisers except us left for Vanuatu, we sailed back to Kandavu to meet Noe and Resa Garza. Another great adventure. We had a week to sail southeast, against the prevailing winds to Kandavu to meet their plane. It was only an overnighter, but it took three tries before we made it. As Noe and Resa were flying in to Vunisea, the main town on Kandavu on a little puddle jumper, they admitted to being concerned that we might not be there when they arrived. They had not heard from us in over a month. Imagine their surprise and relief when they spotted Vela Dare anchored in the lagoon at the end of the runway! They stayed ten days and we did it all, again! What a blast. I guess we're lucky that we love to swim, snorkel, hike, hunt for shells, socialize, drink kava and FISH! A week after they joined us, Carl Leonard arrived. The energy level picked up and we continued to have fun. Next time you see Carl, ask him how deep he dove through the Evil Trench. And ask Noe about bloody yank showoffs, the preferred path and Nambukulevu. We said our good byes to Noe and Resa and a day later Carl's girlfriend Pam joined us. She stayed five days but made the absolute most out of them. After everyone was gone a lonely quiet settled over the boat. Micheal and I thought that we might be experiencing some sort of empty nest syndrome. Having our friends on board to share the fun and sun and having the time to get to know them a lot better was a wonderful experience.

So, eventually we sailed back to New Zealand. And oh yes, we suffered through the obligatory gale. It's really great to be back here, the TEMPORARY home of the America's Cup. And guess what? Rob and Laurie Cronan just left the boat a few days ago to explore the south island of New Zealand by car. They only stayed for six days but we managed to make the most of the time we had; sailing, fishing, hiking, swimming and even cleaning and eating scallops fresh from the sea. Yum! I wish I had a photo to send of Laurie helping Micheal and me clean scallops. It was a lot of fun.

So there you have it, ten months in two pages. There is a lot of detail missing, but maybe we'll save that for another article or two. Thanks to everyone who sent Christmas cards and letters. It means a lot to us being so far from home.

Cheers for now...

Micheal and Trude
S/V "Vela Dare"

Cruising February 1996

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