Although the islands of Fiji are often referred to as a tropical paradise, they’ve been more like a tropical hell for the past 24 hours, as Tropical Cyclone Evan battered the island nation’s western portions — including Nadi, the third largest population center, and nearby Vuda Point Marina, where many cruising boats lay over for the season.
According to New Zealand sources, the Category Four storm’s ferocious winds, which gusted to 145 knots (168 mph), lashed the country’s largest island, Viti Levu, destroying homes, uprooting trees and causing widespread utility outages. In addition to damage caused by the strong storm surge, flooding was expected to take a heavy toll, as torrents of rain water run down from the watersheds of this tall, mountainous island.
Reports indicate that at least two large commercial vessels — one a bulk carrier and the other a container ship — went aground at the entrance to Suva Harbor (on the eastern side of Viti Levu, opposite Nadi), so the storm’s wrath was undoubtedly violent there also. Suva is also a popular layover for cruising sailors. Due to power outages, we’ve found little direct reporting by cruisers on the scene, but we do know that they made exhaustive preparations in the days leading up to the deluge.
The storm system — which rotates clockwise, as it is in the Southern Hemisphere — is expected to clear the Fijian islands today and dive south toward New Zealand, arriving a couple of days prior to Christmas. The colder sea water it will encounter en route, however, will undoubtedly diminish its strength.
Authorities in Washington are warning mariners of a massive dock that was spotted by a fishing boat on Friday about 16 miles northwest of Grays Harbor. The dock was reported to be about the same size as the 66-ft beast that grounded itself on an Oregon beach in June.
Searches by the Coasties have failed to locate the dock, which is presumed to be debris from the last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami. If you spot this or any other significant debris, you’re asked to contact local authorities and report it to NOAA via email. For more info on tsunami debris, check out the website NOAA has set up.
A little over two months ago, USA 17 — Oracle Team USA’s AC72 — pitchpoled on San Francisco Bay, severely damaging the boat and obliterating her massive $2 million wing sail. On Friday, Jimmy Spithill told local-Bay-sailor-turned-AC-reporter Genny Tulloch that 17‘s new wing sail is not only finished and ready to be transported from New Zealand to the Bay, but that the boat should be sailing early in 2013. "It’s been a good exercise to see how the team would react to a challenge like this," Spithill says in the interview below. "We’re just really excited to get back on the water."
Spithill uses the word ‘excited’ a lot in the piece, and for good reason. In addition to getting 17 sailing again, Boat Two — as they’re currently calling the team’s second AC72 — is on track to join her sistership on the Bay next year as well, which means sailors will enjoy the spectacle of two AC72s blasting across the Bay before the world descends for the finals next fall. That really is something to get excited about!
The 65-ft (82-ft LOA) schooner Kelpie of Falmouth, built in 1928 at the famous Harvey Gamage Shipyard in Maine and known as ‘the fastest schooner in the west’ during the many decades she was known simply as Kelpie in Southern California, arrived at Cornwall, England, in early December. She had just completed a 9,000-mile delivery — almost all of it under sail — from Southern California via the Panama Canal.
The 84-year-old schooner has been taken to the Gweek Quay Boatyard in Cornwall, where she will be refurbished by Asgard Yachts with new teak decks, a new interior, and a modified rig. The project manager is Charlie Wroe, who is also the project manager and skipper for the 135-ft Herrschoff schooner Mariette. Readers may remember that Mariette was owned and raced for many years, mostly in Europe, by Belvedere’s Tom Perkins prior to his building the 289-ft Maltese Falcon.
Kelpie has been renamed Kelpie of Falmouth to distingush her from a similarly sized classic yacht in Falmouth named Kelpie. Once her restoration is complete, Kelpie of Falmouth will be enthusiastically campaigned.
We’re embarassed to say we don’t know that much about Kelpie‘s days in Southern California, except that the Minney family sailed her to Tahiti in ’59. According to the colorful Ernie — who owns Minney Marine Surplus in Newport Beach — he, his father Capt. Bligh, brothers Owen and Joe, plus three other guys, initially set sail for the 300-mile distant Guadaloupe Island. When ‘Capt. Bligh’ couldn’t find it, he decided they should continue on to 3,000-mile distant Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. They made it, too, but without the use of the engine, which had taken on water, and after suffering a knockdown during which water poured into the main salon. We know of no other details of that adventure, other than that the three brothers eventually staged a mutiny. For what it’s worth, Ernie later circumnavigated with the 82-ft schooner Shearwater.