Monday, March 29, 2010

Communications re-established

Apologies for the radio silence, but once we left Mana island and headed north, we have not had access to the internet. After a week of spending many hours at sea in frustratingly light winds (aftermath of the Cyclone Thomas), we finally got back to Nadi in time for our flight back to Melbourne on Friday evening. The trade winds did not blow at all until our final day.

Anxious days were spent at our most northerly point, Monuriki, as we were marooned due to lack of wind. We were eventually forced to set sail at sunrise each day, where we could catch a few knots of wind before the sea would turn to glass by 0930 hrs.
This meant taking our chances of a night at sea, should we be caught inbetween destinations if the wind were not to return that day.

However, the time spent stuck on islands waiting for the slightest breath of wind allowed us to explore and snorkel. Matt caught a Walu fish (looks a bit like a tuna) which we shared with a family in a village, after the chief had given them instructions to look after us for the night. We also spent our time exploring the reefs, and on one occasion searching with the waterproof video camera for a shark (much larger than the reef sharks we had seen) that Matt had previously spotted whilst snorkeling in the early hours.

We got used to the constant onslaught of crabs trying to get into our sleeping arrangements, until we modified the mosquito net into a 'crab net'. However, despite it's clear improvements in keeping them out, it also stopped them getting out once they had got in!

The final night was spent on Bounty Island, where we spent the evening and folowing morning doing a pre-arranged photoshoot with Meg, a commercial photographer from New Zealand. We then enjoyed for the first time a consistant 8 to 14 knot tradewind that blew us back to Nadi Bay and our flights.

Watch this spot for a few shots of the trip once I've got them downloaded.......

Sunday, March 21, 2010

To Tom Hanks Island

Progress has been slow the past 4 days. Very light winds left behind from cyclone Thomas has left us floating around at sea for hours and even puling ut the backup paddles on one occasion.

We have made our way to Mana Island and after arriving finally got some decent breeze and sailed around for 2 hours just for fun and to remember what it's like to plane.

So today we are trying to get to Monoriki Island (Tom Hanks Island) via another island to broker a deal with the chief which will no doubt involve passing a few fiji $.

We've had rain on the last 3 nights so hoping for a dry evening for a change.

Monday, March 15, 2010

On a wing and a prayer

Successfully checking in all the gear (with no, or limited, hit to the wallet) is one very stressful leg of the journey for the adventure traveler.

One can pray for divine intervention, one can hope, one can take matters in to his own hands. If you've got some hot tips for our return trip please let us know. At $8 per kg it's expensive, but better than $50kg which was quoted!

(Pic: mat and Adrian at Melbourne airport ready for check in).

One mandatory item for the kit?

In the event there's no 'join me for a meal' offer from a local inhabitant, I'd have thought 100kilos of excess luggage aught to be more than enough to be self sufficient....and some.

But you tell us. If you were to carry just one item in your kit to be sure you got fed and were well rested for the next day of windsurf touring, what would you take?
(pic: mat & adrian ready for airport drop off)


Stranded with Pommie 'Fat'packers

Cyclone Thomas , a category 3 to 4 (out of 5) cyclone is about to hit us. In the calm winds we have this morning, Matt and I, in frustration, were keen to make a dash for it to get to Mololo, the first major island from Nadi, before the cyclone hits us. However, should we find ourselves becalmed ahead of the storm, we could could be caught and then find ourselves in serious trouble, especially if we have a mast failure. We have therefore elected to postpone our launch until Tuesday morning, when according to the computer generated cyclone prediction models that we are following, the storm will be moving south and away from us. Nadi is currently under curfew, where all businesses are being shut down to weather the storm. So its another night enjoying the charms of noisy drunken pommie backpackers.

Below you can see our passage plan as we head north from Mololo island. The second image below shows the deserted island of Monoriki (made famous in Tom Hanks movie 'Castaway'). We aim to spend our second night on it, where Matt promises me he will catch us fresh fish, and cook it. Poms are banned from going anywhere near the galley!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

100kg of Excess Baggage!

Last night at Melbourne Airport Matt and I stood quietly in the rather long queue full of package holiday tourists, carefully discussing which check-in attendant would look most favourably at our ridiculously large packages - two 4.5m boardbags and rig packs, stacked up adjacent to the check-in desks. Previous experiences with too much gear had shown it imperative to avoid the caucasian battleaxe, and go for the smiling gay guy, and with Matt's well kempt hair, tan and designer stubble, we thought him best qualified to make the first approach. If the 146 kg total wasn't alarm to our wallets enough, the heaviest board with bag weighed 44kg, 12kg over the maximum allowable, with no possibility of its weight reduction. Utilising all of our combined wit and charm, Air Pacific pulled some strings and took it for us via another terminal. After two swift pints to replace lost fluids, an uneventful flight followed to Nadi. Upon arival we comandeered a whole resort mini bus by kicking out the other tourists and paid for their taxi, as our kit took up the whole vehicle. Now we are weighing up our launch date options to avoid Cyclone Thomas, a level 4  Cyclone about to hit us on Sunday evening!!!!!!! See below............

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Day Passage Plan

Our first objective is to make Malolo Island on Sunday before the tropical cyclone hits us on Monday. There is a small uninhabited island 1.5km north of Malolo that we will head for, which is a 40km sail from our start point beside Nadi Airport. If the cyclone is going to hit the islands hard, we shall shelter on the Lee side of Malolo itself. Should Matt and I be storming along in fine fettle, we shall just keep going north to the next group of islands that begin approx 6kms north of Malolo. We trained for this in Port Philip Bay six weeks ago, when we got hit by 30knot knot winds, gusting 35 within a 12km stretch of open water we were crossing. My arms then elongated to the length of Matt's!

However, it's far too early to breakout our four piece kayak paddles in the event of a rig failure due to mast breakage in the middle of a tropical cyclone while crossing open water, so if the storm hits us Sunday, we will have no alternative but to sip G & T’s in Nadi until it passes!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fiji windsurf expedition 001

We're 5 days out from our departure for Fiji and have just received a long range forecast suggesting that a tropical cyclone is predicted to be hitting Fiji on our 2nd day of sailing!

You can follow the weather forecast here

We're told this system on its current forecast track will begin with freshening and then strong SE winds, (trades). As it moves down over Fiji the wind will most likely go through the NE and even NNW as it intensifies. TC are so unpredictable in their tracking that this is only based on the track current indicated. Should it decide to drop south and move down the eastern side of the group the winds would go through S to the SW.

So in summary we may be sipping cocktails by the pool on the mainland for a few days or doing speed runs between islands.

below is a rough trip plan, approx 500km for the round trip.

We are being assisted with local knowledge by Tamarillo Tropical Expeditions who operate an excellent sea kayak business from Kadavu island, visit their website and check them out.

Just purchasing the final bits and pieces for the trip which obviously had to include a roll of duct tape and a 5 piece fishing rod.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Creating the ultimate windsurf touring kit 001

After spending too many days sea kayaking in strong winds and getting up in the dark to beat the sea breeze I decided there had to be a way to travel on a windsurfer.

I heard about Gavin Le'Seur who windsurfed from Melbourne to Sydney on an old longboard in the 80's and made it! Another guy named Tim Gourlay sailed the Whitsundays with a friend on Mistral boards in the early 90's and who can forget Nick Moloney's epic trip from Victoria across Bass Strait to Tasmania on a mistral IMCO back in the early 90's.

After hearing all this I started with an old IMCO Mistral board with a custom made kevlar / fibreglass nose cone to carry all my gear for a week long windsurf trip.

the moulded nose cone secured the capsule to the board

bolted into mast track at the rear and it never budged

The baord performed reasonably well even with the extra weight on the nose and was best in approx 20 knots with an 8.5m sail but was quite uncomfortable in light breeze unless sailing upwind.

After a trip down part of the NSW coast i started dreaming up the perfect board for such an adventure. When on the beach at Elwood in Victoria I happened to meet Adrian Rowe who was in Aust from the UK and was a keen windsurfer, adventurer and a trained naval architect.

A few years went by then Adrian and I got working on the design and came up with the Scarper Tour 373.

Made in Melbourne by another pom Stuart Truscott from Dweller Designs

and graphics created by Craig McKenzie (a kiwi sailboarder) and Aaron Lee from Caramel Creative

At 373 litres, 4.2m long and approx 56litres of storage volume within the board accessed by 4 x screw hatches she is the ultimate touring board.

Studio photography thanks to

To keep costs down and simplify the project we used standard Neil Pryde RSX daggerboard and mast track and off the shelf marine hatches.

After testing in Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay (Victoria Australia) we found it carries the extra weight well, it's not super fast but very stable even in strong winds (30 knots) with an 8.5m sail and points well and handles the swell and chop with ease.

We built this board to survive a pounding in the open ocean so it's super strong but heavy even though we used plenty of carbon.

Our next prototype will be smaller, lighter and maybe a hybrid between our Scarper Tour and a new raceboard design.

We are off to Fiji on friday March 12th for a 2 week tour of the islands where we hope to gather some great ideas on the next board design while exploring the islands and enjoying the local hospitality.

Adrian on his Starboard Phantom Race 380 with an 8.2m Naish Redline.

I will be sailing the Scarper Tour with an 8.5m Severne Overdrive

On water photography thanks to

Unlike me who likes to take the kitchen sink on holidays Adrian loves travelling light so he'll carry 10 litres of water on the foredeck and a 25 litre dry bag on the rear which contains his food, clothes and camping gear (no sleeping bag).

I bet he'll be looking for a sleeping bag on the first cold night and i'll be warm as toast in my new Mont Hotwire Extender sleeping bag and Warmlite Primaloft insulated sleeping mat.

Adrian and I tested a few other pieces of gear last week including his new camera and custom made nose cone to hold on his water container (hope it works) and my Overboard waterproof backpack and electronics cases which were all excellent.
A huge thankyou to the guys at RPS boardstore in Elwood Vic for all their support and assistance with gear.

So stay tuned for further updates on the ultimate windsurf touring Kit and feel free to let us know your thoughts, ideas or otherwise....

Matt & Adrian