Twelve Thoughts From Tonga to Fiji


1: We arrived in Suva, Fiji at 10:00 AM local time Thursday, which is exactly what we forecasted to the Fijian Government in the fax we had to send them when we left Tonga last Monday. It was an easy 3 night, 2 day passage in calm seas and gentle winds.

2: Only the English would make a colony out of this 300 island country and place the capital in the single spot where it rains 300 days a year, ignoring hundreds of other islands here that are tropical paradises year-round. (Thought courtesy of Michael Calder).

3: In Tonga we had a moment straight out of the Keanu Reeves film “Speed”. We were doing a quick afternoon motor on Sophie between islands. I was driving. Sandra Bullock (Jenna) came up to the flybridge and said “Oh, you have the engine controls on downstairs.” (Sophie has dual steering stations, and you can switch between them depending if you want to operate the boat from inside or outside.) I said “no, I am driving from up here.” But the “up here” engine control indicator light was off. So I switched it to “up here”. Nothing hapened. I went downstairs and tried to drive from there. Nothing happened. We couldn’t slow down the boat. We couldn’t even turn off the engines, which were both running at 2400 RPM in forward, pushing Sophie along at 7 knots. We couldn’t stop the boat, which is about as big as the bus in the film. Thankfully we had a couple of miles of sea room between the islands in flat seas on a sunny afternoon. It would have been worse if we were in a harbor in the rain trying to dock as we smashed into other boats, fuel tanks, swimmers and fishing nets. There was obviously a blown fuse or circuit breaker between the controls and the engines. Jenna took over the wheel and calmly drove the boat in broad circles while I calmly hunted around engine rooms, electrical panels and various crawls spaces looking for the location of the fault. I couldn’t find it. After a while I called Steve Schufrieder at YachtMasters in Seattle. He installed most of the electrical systems on Sophie. I think he was in his backyard having a beer with a friend, but it was hard to tell because Sophie’s engines were loud. So I hung up and decided to kill the engines by closing the fuel lines that feed them. Each engine “dieseled” for 2 minutes, then died. In the meantime Jenna had calmly rolled out the jib, and we knew we could always sail into Port Maurelle (home of the pig roast) if we couldn’t get the engines back on. I called Steve back, and he suggested I try the emergency starting circuit on Sophie’s port engine. Sophie doesn’t have dedicated engine starting batteries. It has a single bank of 12 volt batteries with 2200 amp hours of capacity (for sailboats, that’s a LOT) which we use for the “house” (lights, stereo, dishwashers, navigation, etc.) as well as for starting the engines. In the event of the house battery bank running out, there is an emergency starting battery for the port engine with its own dedicated circuit to the port engine’s controls. So I turned off the main engine battery switches, turned on the emergency battery switch, and the port engine controls lit up with a happy sense of eagerness to please. I fed the engine some fuel using the manual priming pump on the fuel filter, pushed the engine’s Start button, and it started right up! The starboard engine’s controls remained dead to the world. This was all good news because it meant that we could drive the boat with one motor to Port Maurelle and get a mooring, that our engine controls were not broken, and that we had blown a fuse somewhere. Steve Schufrieder suggested it was the main engine fuse. I went back to Sophie’s main electrical panel, which is located under a bench in the aft cockpit.


I’ve looked at this panel hundred of times but never noticed that right in the middle of it was a label “FUSIBLE MOTEURS” or “ENGINES FUSE” for those of you who do not read French.


It never occurred to me that Sophie would have a single fuse between both engines and both sets of electrical engine controls. (It’s the little white box under one of the cables in the photo). She does, it’s 300 Amps, and we blew it. We also had two spares (Thanks Steve!!!). So we motored with one engine into Port Maurelle, grabbed a mooring, spent 10 minutes replacing the fuse, and then continued on our way to Tapana Island. We dropped an anchor, went swimming, drank rum cocktails, and ate fish for dinner. The End.

4: Sandra Bullock wishes she could look as good as Jenna does right now.


5: I seem to cut my hands every day.  Our friend Will from Hydroquest calls them “Boat Bites”. They most often come from hidden hose clamps in the bilge. (I am now a master marine sanitation expert and never have to worry about job security for the rest of my life.) The worst ones come from fishing. In Port Maurelle I caught a reef fish using bait off of Sophie’s stern to prove to a neighboring 7 year old boy that you could actually catch fish in the harbor, and the little F&*%ER (the fish) had a hidden barb at the base of his tail that punctured the tip of my left middle finger, causing me incredible agony but fortunately no poisoning. Another bad cut came when I stabbed myself in the thumb with a fileting knife when I tried to cut the gutline from the head of a mahi mahi at the exact moment a big wave hit Sophie’s stern step (which is where I was standing). Every time I cut myself I yell out in pain, and Jenna comes running with a worried look on her face assuming I am having another bad injury.

6: We’ve been in Suva for 4 days now and have counted at least 20 shipwrecks in the harbor, including Dolphin Face here.

doplhin face

You anchor near them, you moor near them, you eat near them, and you drive past them. They are everywhere, and it is a little disconcerting.

7: Right now it’s the early morning of Father’s Day in Fiji. Children here celebrate Dad by buying him presents and feeding him meat and fish. I am waiting for everyone to wake up and celebrate me.

8:  The Royal Suva Yacht Club has an outdoor bar adjacent to an enclosed playground. Yacht club members sit at picnic tables and drink Fiji Bitter while talking rugby and boats as their children safely play right in front of them.


The Seattle Yacht Club needs to build one of these.

After playing, the children hang out in the bar and pose like models.


9: We caught a mahi mahi on the trip from Tonga to Fiji.


It was our first offshore trolling success on Sophie since the day we caught the wahoo and 2 mahi mahis off Bora Bora. While in Tonga, Steven Fell and I upgraded our meatlines to 400 pound test and built new shock absorbers.


They worked extremely well. I now think the main reason I fish is so that I can pose in photos with my tattoo.

10: The visit from our friends the Fells was a great success. While they were here we drank three bottles of Baileys, and we only drink it in our coffee during breakfast. They are a great family, no one got hurt during the trip, and we love them very much.


Every time the Fells attempted to have a family photo taken for a Christmas card, Hazel figured out a way to insert herself into the photo.

11: Leo and Hazel have developed amazing boat hair.

hair front

Front and back.

hair back

12: Happy Father’s Day everyone! Make sure you go out and celebrate dad today, (which in Fiji is Sunday right now).

2 thoughts on “Twelve Thoughts From Tonga to Fiji

  1. You all look fabulous! Happy Father’s day! Glad you are getting to live out your dream. Also glad we get to enjoy your travels on line.

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