Bull Mahi

Our fishing mojo returned as we cruised in the waters around Malekula. We hooked a 1.35 meter bull mahi in between squalls as we sailed from Gaspard Bay to Banam Bay. It was an exciting catch—we were in 1-1.5 meters of choppy, confused seas as Dominic reefed the sails and reeled in the catch. I stood by with the gaff, hooking him through the chin so Dominic could subdue the fish over the side of the boat and hoist him into the cockpit.

We caught a second mahi in calmer conditions. We were sailing eastward between Malekula and Pentecost, in the lee of Ambrym’s twin volcanoes, when the reel started chirping. I reefed the main as Dominic reeled in a smaller 1 meter mahi. I gaffed her through the gills, and Dominic hauled her into cockpit to be cleaned.

Nearly two years underway, we’ve got our fishing routine down to a choreographed pas de deux between captain and crew. The timing couldn’t be better to start catching some fresh food; we’re nearly three weeks out of Port Vila and our last grocery store, and the fresh food supply in the icebox has been getting increasingly sparse. But we’re well stocked on salsa and beans, and my tortilla making skills are in full bloom. Fish tacos for days!


After leaving Awei, we spent a few nights in Gaspard Bay and then worked our way around the southeastern lobe of Malekula to Banam Bay.

We visited Gaspard Bay to spend more time with the dugongs. There is a resident community of five or six living among the mangroves in the grass-bottomed bay. We spent one squally afternoon watching their spines crest and their tails pop up out of the water. One morning, they were circling Helios and I hopped in for a swim. I heard them munching on the grass, and one swam and surfaced a few feet away. The visibility in the water was so low I didn’t get a clear look, but I appreciated the pink fuzzy form and the flipper flapping in my direction.

Both bays had excellent hiking. Fabrice is the local village leader in Gasbard Bay, and he sent his 13 year old son Marshall, four year old daughter Michelle, and his wife Cindy to guide us on a hike to the main road. Marshall had his machete and hacked through any vegetation threatening the trail and gathered papaya, cacao (the seeds are roasted and shipped to Europe for chocolate and the fruit tastes just like green apple jolly ranchers), spongey sprouted coconut, and mandarin oranges for us to enjoy as we went.

In Banam Bay the people were equally friendly. A gaggle of little kiddos greeted us at the beach when we first landed, playing soccer, holding our hands, showing us their cartwheels and somersaults. A group of five or six teenage boys led us to the local waterfall. There was a long, flat road circling the bay that made for excellent, leisurely walking where we spotted chestnut mannikins, green ground doves, and these technicolor parrots that fly in cacophonous flocks all over the island.

Awei Island

The anchorage behind Awei, part of the Maskelyn group on the southern tip of Malekula, has been our favorite anchorage in Vanuatu so far. It is protected from the ocean swell by both islands and the reef connecting the two, making for waters that are consistently pancake flat. The islands define the anchorage to the east and west, letting dawn’s fingers climb slow and dusky up the mast before the sun appears and brings with it the sweltering, fly-swatting realities of spring time in the tropics.

And in this island paradise, the wild west thrills of Vanuatu continue:

I spotted a large lobster hiding in a rocky nook while diving on the eastern edge of the pass. I pointed it out to Dominic, and he speared it with marksman-like precision. When he put his hand on the reef to retrieve the catch, unknown to him a giant moray eel reared its head out of an adjacent crevice, the eel’s jaws no more than five inches from his shoulder. Back in the dinghy, I told Dominic about his close call and his face drained to a ghostly white, a white only lobster in drawn butter could recolor (and then lobster tacos…mmm).

We went out to snorkel sugar lump reef, which was itself unimpressive, but we found a bommy in the pass that looked cool so we hopped in the water. The bommy was full of fish, schools of cornets and oversized parrot fish. Once on the far edge, we looked into the blue beyond and saw a large grey shark aggressively charging, back arched, through the water. It was coming at us when we saw it, then made a sharp turn to the left. The shark bolted passed us once more, clearly hunting, and we decided to drift back to the dinghy and get out of the water as quickly as possible.

Returning to Helios after a jaunt on the paddle board, I was on all fours as I tied the painter to the board's handle. Dominic came into the cockpit just in time to say, “There is a [venomous!] sea snake swimming toward the board…the sea snake is coming onto the board…crawl forward slowly and stay calm….”. Stay calm, I did not. Thankfully, my forward motion jostled the snake off the board (and their mouths, reportedly, are too small to actually bite a human).

It’s dangerous beauty out here, y’all!

Epi Island

There’s something untamed about Vanuatu. Ni Van Mother Nature doesn’t hold back—she's as likely to wow with her majesty as she is wound with her might.

Our cruise north from Havannah Harbor fell into the majestic category: an easy 15 knots over our stern quarter and calm enough seas that I took a turn steering by hand for the last hour of the ride just for the fun of it. The anchorage, Lamen Bay, is beautiful, a shallow bite on the northwestern end of Epi Island with jungle vines cascading into the water and perfect mermaid grottos carved out of the rocks. The beach has dark sand, so the water is a tranquil, deep turquoise.

The bay is filled with the largest turtles we’ve seen. Any dip in the water was a swim with the amphibious locals, and they were continuously surfacing around Helios to breathe. Snorkeling, we could watch as they swam in pairs, or startled each other, or swam through schools of fish, and we started to recognize individuals by their physical markings.

I was also treated to our first dugong encounter. Dugongs are similar to manatees: large, grass-eating aquatic mammals, but with dolphin-shaped tails. I was out for an afternoon paddle and admiring a circling hawk, when I saw what seemed to be a small pink whale in the water directly ahead. Dugongs are known to be skittish, but this one was curious about the paddle board, breathing slowly and circling twice.

We lingered in the bay for three nights to wait out a patch of foul weather in the forecast. Foul it was—though punctuated by gloriously clear mornings, we spent two afternoons being pelted by rain drops the size of bullets. Dominic took a deck shower as the wind piped up to 30 knots and described the experience as “painful...but effective.”

There were three active volcanoes in view, and we spent the night after the deluge watching two calderas smolder an angry red as the third fall victim to a violent and continuous lightning storm.

Then an unforecasted swell picked up from the southwest, Lamen Bay’s only exposed angle. We spent the night rocking and rolling like we were underway in heavy conditions. Dominic tossed out the stern anchor to keep the bow of the boat pointed into the swell, which was helpful, but after a restless night we upped both anchors to head for more protected waters.

The fishing has also been high drama in Vanuatu: we’ve had one bite that got away and another that snapped the line and broke Dominic’s secondary rod. Cruising north from Epi to Malekula, our flasher got chomped in half and all of the mirrors were ripped off.

She dazzles us with her wildlife, drenches us with her storms, dismisses us with her waves, and destroys a fair amount of our fishing gear—in these waters, Mother Nature is fickle and fierce!

Havannah Harbour

After getting our fill of wildlife on our way out of Port Vila, we spent the day sailing north to Havannah Harbor. We had excellent wind, 14 knots from the southeast, and calm, easy seas. Our views of Efate’s western coast were palm studded and brownish-green dry. Conditions held until we were enclosed by Efate’s fringing islands, Lelepa and Moso. Once in Havannah Harbor’s lake-like bay, we anchored in the northeastern bite.

Dominic had stopped off at the patisserie in a final lap of errands before we left town, so chocolate croissants added an extra sweetness to our cruise up the coast.

The land surrounding the anchorage was mostly flat with dark banyan leaves punctuating the palm fronds, cliffs rising toward Efate’s central plateau in the distance. The water looked invitingly clear, but the scant tourist information we had indicated that the dive shops in the area specialized in tiger shark viewings, so we resisted the temptation to go for a swim.

Paddle boarding in the area didn’t disappoint. The water was clear enough to see the large coral formations decorating the shallows of the bay, and I spotted a school of barracuda lingering near the beach. There is a shallow pass between Efate and Moso that provided excellent exploration, long powdered sugar beaches and killer views of Mt. Taputaora, the extinct volcano on nearby Nguna Island.

Havannah Harbour also has a certain about of historical cache; given its excellent natural protection, it was used as an anchorage for a portion of the US’s naval fleet during World War II. We weren’t able to find any of the wrecks from that era rumored to be in the area, but our favorite point of interest was man-made: a wrecked mega-yacht, Blue Gold, slumped on its side on the shores of one of Moso’s villages. Supposedly, the vessel was involved in drug running and impounded by the Vanuatu authorities before being blown ashore during a cyclone.

Port Vila

Port Vila was alright as far as urban centers in the South Pacific go. The weather was calm, and the holding was excellent. The water was jade and cellophane clear. Plenty of cruising boats came and went; a dinner cruise ship with a wild upside down sail cruised by at sunset; helicopter tours launched in the afternoons.

Everything in town was located on the main drag running along the waterfront: open air markets, grocery stores, souvenir shops, gelato stands, travel agents, combo Thai restaurant and massage, a slightly derelict looking Grand Hotel, and some upscale looking condos. We found what we needed, and the prices were right. My hopes for “grocery stores magically airdropped from Paris” proved to be overly optimistic, however. We found a decent patisserie and a romantic Cafe du Village, but le fromage magnifique? Non.

More importantly, the vegetable market didn’t disappoint. There was the usual array of cabbage, carrots, parsnips, egg plant, tomatoes, and miniature bell peppers, as well as rarities like fresh made cassava chips, raspberries, and pamplemousse. The market is open 24 hours a day, closing Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. Such hours yield an exhausted looking work force. Many vendors were asleep at the cutting board, and those that did acknowledge our existence glared with dagger eyes as they sold us lettuce. Well stocked, but not the friendliest market place we’ve visited. We were there Saturday morning, though, so we’re willing to assume the vendors were just really ready for some time off.

Everyone else we interacted with was helpful an cheery. The taxi-buses cruising through town were easy to navigate, and the drivers were helpful. Two fellows working at the ferry terminal along the quay helped us load our wares into the dinghy. The restaurant staff was always convivial, chatting about our families and homes, making sure I had a blood orange frangipani to pin behind my ear. We had two elegant meals on shore: filet mignon wrapped in bacon (the beef in Vanuatu is amazing; they’re a major exporter to Japan), and mussels in garlicky white wine sauce. Both were enjoyed as the sun set over the bay and candlelight flickered against the tablecloth and stemware—two luxuries we just about never enjoy these days, so we savored the sensations and basked in the elegance of it all.

Despite a pleasant long weekend, the best part of our stay in Port Vila was our departure: two tropic birds bobbed in the swell as we left, and a pod of large dolphin provided brief escort to the passage out of the bay.

Around Tanna


A few more photos from our adventures around Tanna: above, the sandstone (ash-stone?) cliffs that herald the entrance to Port Resolution; below, the Dr. Seuss worthy trees that lined Shark's Bay on the southern coast of the island. 


It was a few hours walk from Port Resolution to Shark's Bay; below is the bluff we had to scramble down to make it to the beach. 


But the scramble was worth it. The water was a clear, deep blue, and there must have been hot springs nearby because the temperature ran hot and cold with each wave. We also had beautiful Mt. Melon in the background to keep us company.


Banyan Trees


And in the shadow of the volcano grow colossal banyan trees. We only saw those in and around Port Resolution, but they were magnificent and they were everywhere—shading the roads, sliding off cliffs, lining fields of volcanic ash. There is one banyan on Tanna reported to be the size of a soccer field, another the foundation of a guest house...an exciting place to sleep after a trip to the volcano!


Mt. Yasur

Standing at the rim of an active volcano is terrifying. Earth seems completely alive, vindictive and grumbling and explosive, like at any moment a dragon or a slew of enraged gods would appear and throw any onlooker into their hellish bowl of gurgling, molten tomato soup.

Our first look out point was a few meters away from the edge, where we could hear the noise and see the smoke and only imagine what horrors quaked in the center of the caldera. Then from the rim, we could see into the crater. There were three vents, one that flamed continuously and two that erupted with great drama every 15 minutes.

Our guides allowed us 20 minutes at our second location, as the air-borne lava was falling perilously close!

(Brevity here because our current cafe in Port Vila is adorable, the sun setting, and connectivity is tenuous—full description of the Mt. Yasur experience will have to wait for the memoir.)


We left Aneityum six days ago, cruising 50 miles northwest for Tanna with one thing on our minds: volcanoes. Tanna is home to Mt. Yasur, famed as one of the most easily accessible active volcanoes on Earth.

Our corner of the Pacific hasn’t had any wind to speak of for the last two weeks, so we motored for the duration of the eight hour voyage. Seas were calm and there were no other boats in sight, but we did find ourselves crossing wakes with a few thousand south-bound black petrels. They streamed by for hours by the thousands; we assumed it was a seasonal migration, a flock heading south for the summer to roost.

The day was hot, the sky clouded with a stubborn haze. We weren’t able to make out Tanna’s silhouette until we were only a few miles off shore. First to appear was Mt. Melon, and then we started to make out the dark plumes of smoke and ash rising from Mt. Yasur; it was one of the higher drama landfalls we’ve made since arriving in the Marquesas in May of 2015. We visited the low-slung heights of Mt. Yasur on our second day on the island and got to stare directly into the fuming depths of her caldera (ample pictures to come when connectivity allows!).

The high drama continued—we quickly learned that active volcanoes make for challenging roommates. Anchored in Port Resolution, we could hear the thunderous rumbles coming from inside the volcano, and ash would fall like black sand raining from the sky. Helios was particularly vulnerable; she would get a few new coatings of ash throughout the day, and each morning we woke to darkened hatches and a fresh blanket of soot. (“Maybe you don’t need to be anchored quite so close to the volcano,” my mom said when I described the debris).

Although, dropping the hook in a volcanic hot-zone brought thrills that no other anchorage has. Our visit to the volcano was an unparalleled soul-shaking thrill; there are hot springs lining the bay with jacuzzi seat stones that made for a spa worthy soak; though the coral left something to be desired, the fish were huge, and we spent 45 minutes being serenaded by whale songs as we swam. Plus, the ashy dirt makes for an incredibly fecund island. Wandering around the island, we saw extraterrestrial flowers, bougainvillea the color of electric salmon, and a robust population of banyan trees that tempted us both toward a Swiss Family Robinson style defection from life lived at sea level.

Our stay so close to Mt. Yasur made clear that life in the shadow of an active volcano is a daily roll of the geological dice. Not wanting to press our luck too much, we weighed anchor this morning to make way for Port Vila. We’ve heard rumors of excellent restaurants and grocery stores that seem magically airlifted from France—rumors enough to make my tummy do some volcanic rumbling of its own.

Streaked Fantail

We couldn't to find a guide to take us to Aneityum’s waterfall, but our friend Kenneth was willing to point us to the trail and send us off to explore on our own. The first part of the trail was a road that extended through a sparse field of pine trees still smoking from the fire that burned the night before. I had asked Kenneth if the fire had been to clear the underbrush or if a garbage fire got out of control, but he didn’t seem to know.

Then the road turned grassy and meandered through a well manicured village. There are primary and secondary schools on the shore, but there seemed to be a preschool in action in this smaller town. Beyond the homes, the road turned into a single lane path. We hiked for about a mile until we found a stream perfect for picnicking, passing a rusted through tractor and a scattering of violet orchids.

This single mile of jungle path had a more exciting array of birds than we’ve seen in some time. Our favorite was the streaked fantail, a cousin of the fantails who kept us company on so many pleasant walks in New Zealand. When we left, I was sure we would never see another fantail again. But here are their streaked Pacific cousins, just as gregarious and playful as ever. A trio of them joined us as we walked, flitting along the path and tumbling with each other in the air.

The scarlet robin was also a frequent visitor, as was the cardinal honeyeater, both small birds with big, flamboyant coloring. I had a brief glimpse of a whistler in the canopy, and a few other birds we can only tentatively identify. We realized, with horror, when we got back to Helios that we are outside of the geographical range of our go-to bird book.

An excellent excuse to start searching for a bookstore! No luck on Aneityum, and unlikely on Tanna, the island 50 miles northwest of Aneityum, where we are currently pitching in the swell in the shadows of Mt. Yasur. The next island on our itinerary is Efate, home to Vanuatu’s capital, Port Villa; hopefully we’ll have some literary luck.


We spent six glorious days exploring Aneityum. Pronounced a-nee-shum, it is the southern most of Vanuatu’s 81 islands that are sprinkled on a roughly northwest-southeast axis in the Pacific waters west of Fiji and northeast of New Caledonia. Aneityum was larger than we were expecting, a mountainous island home to a village of 2,000 ni-Vans (the Melanesian locals who make up 98% of Vanuatu’s population) and fringed with golden beaches.

The weather was still and sunny during our stay, so we had a full menu of activities to choose from each day: inland hikes, reef dives, paddle boards through translucent waters, and explorations of the nearby sandy islet, Mystery Island, set up as a small show village and populated only when cruise ships drop anchor in the large bay.

We had a few interactions with the locals, who are more reticent than their Fijian counterparts. We met Kenneth, the local boarding house manager who made two attempts at hiring a local guide to take us to a waterfall to no avail. The bureaucrats we worked with were nice and laid back and we met one local young woman interested in practicing her English, but longboats filled with 20 locals would cruise by and maybe one person would tentatively wave back at us.

The solitude is in someways peaceful (we can walk down the beach without two guides or a gaggle of kids in tow), but we miss the enthusiastic bulas and insta-family feel in Fiji; in Vanuatu, a hello and a smile seem much harder to come by. I suppose it’s not unlike regional differences one might find in the US, considering the stereotypes for southern hospitality and northern get-to-it-tiveness.

It will be interesting to see if the other islands in Vanuatu have the same introverted vibe. It may be that we are small tourist-dollar-potatoes in Aneityum compared to the hundreds of people who flood the island when the cruise ship comes to town, or perhaps Vanuatu's more tragic relationship with colonizing European nations has had a lingering effect on attitudes toward newcomers. Ni-Vans were forced and tricked into indentured servitude in Australia and around the western South Pacific in the later 1800s; Fijians were spared from this, one of their former rulers having brokered a deal to give the islands to Great Britain, stipulating that Fijians would never be forced into labor, in exchange for having personal debts forgiven.

We did find it curious that no ni-Van has ever lived on Mystery Island as they fear it to be cursed and the home of angry gods, but they have no problem taking their guests there to hang out: Queen Elizabeth when she visited (and named a beach after herself), every cruise-shipper who steps foot on dry land, we were given free license to explore. Maybe the old legends hold less weight these days, or maybe there is some subtle anti-tourist island trickery afoot, or maybe they just like show it off because the islet is one of the most picturesque beaches on Earth—powdery white sand, cyan lagoon, bug-free and plenty of shade, thunderous waves crashing on the reef a safe distance away...some of the many mysteries of Mystery Island.

The photo is the view of Aneityum looking across the bay from Mystery Island (we survived our visit unscathed by vengeful spirits); we have rudimentary cell coverage, so we can currently share one photo per post via the sat phone; more photos of adventures in Aneityum to come!

Yellow Fin Tuna

It was hot and calm in the early afternoon on Sunday. We were 120 miles off the coast of Vanuatu and counting down the hours until we’d be at anchor. Dominic tossed a large pink squid lure into our wake with the hopes of fresh food and a little amusement. I was down below, catching up via email with some good friends we haven’t seen in years (how the list of friends we haven’t seen in years grows longer!) when I heard the happy, frantic clicking of a fish stripping off line from the reel.

After the fish tired from its initial run, Dominic dropped the rod into low gear, fearing we had an outrageously large fish on the line as he was having to work harder than he did when reeling in the five-foot wahoo we caught a few weeks ago. After much toiling, the fish came into view three feet from our transom. It had the curvy tuna profile, and Dominic spotted its signature yellow fins. It was just over three feet long, but heavy and strong.

We brought the fish forward to our starboard beam; Dominic handed me the rod, after grabbing the leader line by hand, and then gaffed the tuna through the gills. He lifted the fish out of the water as I slid a slipknot around its tail. Dominic used the line to hoist the tuna over the lifelines and back into the cockpit. After some whacking and spiking, the fish was subdued and quick on its way to becoming sashimi.

Yellow fin, also known as ahi, is known for providing some of the highest quality tuna meat on the market. We’ve been hoping to catch one since we first started dropping lines in the water during our Pacific crossing. This beauty was worth the wait; we had two full days of feasting before we even considered cooking it. We put some on the barbecue last night, and I’m happy to report that seared ahi tacos are some of the best fish tacos to be had.

Now, fingers crossed for a blue fin…

Passage to Vanuatu

In August, our friend Jeff crossed the Pacific from Hong Kong to San Francisco as passenger on a container ship—not to cruise the islands, not to swim with the fishies, just crossing an ocean for the sheer experience of being at sea, surrounded by water and wind. I tried to harness that sense of awe and wonder as we left Fiji last Friday for a 450 nautical mile passage to Vanuatu.

Then an hour off the coast of Viti Levu reality hit: the 20 to 25 knot forecast turned into sustained high 20s with frequent periods in the low 30s; outside Fiji’s protected waters for the first time in four months, we were reminded of the power the wind has to whip up the ocean and found ourselves in three to four meters of swell. Sitting in the cockpit of a boat our size, three to four meter swells looks like walls of water charging ominously at you. We watched the bubble in the inclinometer oscillate from 40 degrees to 40 degrees. Sounds resembling those from a high speed vehicular collision echoed as waves collided with our hull. It felt like we were crowdsurfing on the back of a cavalry of rioting horses…for twenty-four hours.

Thoughts of awe and wonder I did not have. Instead, I found myself praying for a ruby slipper miracle as I lost the contents of my stomach, profoundly understanding that there really is no place like home.

But the lesson of the sailing life is one of continuous mutability—be they hellish or heavenly, the only thing the winds and seas guarantee is change. By Saturday afternoon, we were running downwind with eighteen knots on our stern quarter and an easy one meter rock and roll, the agonies of the previous night already a foggy memory. Forecasts, thankfully, were for a further softening of conditions. We fired up the iron jib at around 0300 on Sunday morning as the winds died, expecting to motor for the next thirty hours into Vanuatu.

Things were calm enough Sunday afternoon for Dominic to toss a line in the water; some thirty minutes later we had a delicious beauty on the hook and a serious menu upgrade for the rest of the day. Then around 1400, Aeolus blew a glorious fifteen knots behind us, filling our sails and sending us flying through flat waters at seven knots directly to our destination. Conditions held as the light on the sails melted into gold. We were in love with life, sailing into the sunset toward paradise, feeling the awesome, wondrous bliss that only comes when in harmony with the water and wind.

We arrived in Aneityum, Vanuatu’s southern-most island, at 1000 on Monday morning, surrounded by bright blue waters, long sandy beaches, and plenty of fishies with which to swim.

Five Fiji Favorites

We're leaving Fiji! Maxing out our tourist visas to the very last day, we're raising anchor this morning and leaving for Vanuatu. Our four-month circum-Fijian navigation has been a dream—enjoying so many islands, adventures, wildlife, and wonderful people in such a small area has been a fantastic balance to the nautical-mile-making extravaganza that was our experience last season.

Instead of falling into a melancholic reverie, I thought it might be more fun to say good-bye to Fiji with an easy float down memory river...

1. My Parent's Visit

Our times on the boat were never as exciting and unpredictable as when we had these two onboard, and the passage north from New Zealand with my Dad was about as good as father-daughter bonding can get.

2. Dimitri!

It's hard to imagine another scenario in which we'd be able to entice one of our siblings to hang out with us for three straight weeks. Dominic and Dimitri did lots of trolling, spear fishing, waterfall jumping, and giggling while he was here, and he never shied away from amusing us with his feats of physical strength. So much fun!

3. Falaga

Despite the island paradises ahead of us, Dominic has already named Falaga his favorite anchorage of the South Pacific. With its turquoise lagoon, sugary sand beaches, homey village, and coral that wouldn't quit, I'm tempted to agree.

4. Mantas

We did nearly ten manta dives while we were in Fiji and gushed about them so much that our friends on Il Sogno gifted us a carved manta for our anniversary. It didn't hurt that the mantas were gliding over some of the 300-plus species of coral that thrive in Fiji and often crossed tales with lemon sharks, turtles, spotted eagle rays, and all sorts of oceanic delights.

Fijian Coral.jpg

5. As Seen from the Cockpit

Things above the water line weren't too shabby either. Our favorite vista was Waya Island, getting to watching the contours of her basaltic crags shift with the shadows over the course of the day.

Musket Cove


We've spent the last few days enjoying Musket Cove. It's our third time in Malalolailai's largest anchorage, and it feels like home. We are gearing up for our upcoming passage to Vanuatu, so we've spent the mornings inspecting and deep cleaning Helios, the afternoons enjoying long lunches at the cafe and hiking around the island, the evenings breaking bread and hanging out with friends at the beach bar. 

We are upping anchor in a few minutes to head in to Latoka for our final provisioning and completing our departure paperwork. We made our rounds in the dinghy this morning saying final good bye's to boats we've been cruising with since we first arrived in the Marquesas 18 months ago and boats we've grown close with during our travels in Fiji. Not surprisingly, the experience was something of a tear jerker.

But after a final jump off Helios' deck and into the lagoon, we comforted ourselves knowing that our passing sadness is only a testament to the good times we've had. Not to mention we still have eight weeks of tropical cruising, a few new countries, and many more adventures ahead.


Sotatale, Dimitri!


On Thursday night we sailed northwest from Kadavu to Musket Cove. The sail was great—18 knots of wind behind us and mostly calm seas—and we dropped the hook in the well populated anchorage at 1020. 

We took it easy the rest of the day, napping, eating burgers at the cafe, saying hello to our buddy boats in the area. But then on Saturday morning, we found ourselves saying good bye to Dimitri.

We're so sad to see him go! He was lots of fun to have on Helios and kept us busy fishing and exploring when we might have been tempted to fall into a fourth-month-in-Fiji laze. We also savored the time together as he is headed off on adventures of his own: he enlisted in the Navy and is headed to boot camp before we'll be home.

So see you later, Dimitri. Thank you so much for coming, love you and miss you already, and I only hope that spending three weeks on a 38 foot sailboat with your brother and sister-in-law wasn't too overwhelming.


Creepy Crawlers


It's not all sea fans and adorable baby reef fish out here; often the critters below the surface seem like some of the more diabolical species on Earth. Above, a crown of thorns star fish raises two of its spiked legs to launch an attach on a defenseless piece of coral. Below, a giant moray eel cruises across the surface of a coral garden making Dominic and I dart away faster than any shark has lately.


These are two gnarly slug-like beings we've been seeing all over the place. The slug above is in the upper right section of the photo, leopard print with black feelers sticking out of the top; the slug below is just all sorts of prickled weirdness. 


(And a pod of dolphin we woke to find playing near Helios a few days ago to raise the spirits!)

Astrolabe Reef


Our number one activity in Kadavu has been diving various sections of the Astrolabe Reef. We have visited a few famous hotspots (the Alacrity Rocks, the Naigoro Pass), but most frequently find ourselves jumping in and exploring whatever coral we find near Helios. 


Fiji is famous for her sea fans. We didn't find many while we were cruising through the Yasawas or Viani Bay; we wondered if they weren't able to stand up to the turbulence caused by Cyclone Winston. We found some lovely orange and purple fans in the Lau, but they're tricky to photograph! They seem to enjoy deep water and growing upside down under large coral formations. I spotted the lime green beauties below in 30 feet of water when we were diving near the Namalata Reef on Kadavu's northern edge.


And another baby fan, growing off the the shell of a giant clam underneath an overhang. 


These are two of my favorite underwater sights: above, a small piece of coral is a rookery for bicolored damselfsh; below, a school of bait fish cruising just above the coral.


Kadavu Sunset

We’ve spent the last few days cruising along the northern coast of Kadavu. We’ve been diving the reefs, paddle boarding with dolphin, dodging squalls, swimming with turtles and sharks, and relaxing in the cockpit while the sun paints evening colors in the sky. We’re still eating that wahoo we caught, going on six days of lunch and dinner (and the occasional breakfast) for three. Just another week in paradise!