Sunday 21st July…Well for the past week we have just been hanging on trying not to get blown away!! Right now it is blowing 30kts( gusting up to 40kts) with blinding rain and a one meter sea all blowing straight into the beach and Blue Base. Jane and I are watching ICE carefully, as we are on a lee shore with a reef only four boat lengths behind us. I go forward and check the anchor bridle every three hours day and night. Gregory swam ashore yesterday because of the crazy motion on ICE and is now sleeping ashore…parts of Blue Base have been dismantled to save the stress on the tents and the team are all hunkerd down…not exactly the tropical paradise hey!! but at least we are on site…!!
When we set out at 0500 on Friday 12th, it was still blowing..so for 11 hours we rolled our way to Nomuka in a 25kt easterly wind and two to three mtr sea occasionally going higher!!..we could not set sails or flopper stoppers as there was too much gear onboard..there were bodies all over ICE, quite a few looking a bit green and dreaming of chicken farms and wondering why they were here..none of the cargo moved but a few things were rolling around down below..so I sat in the chair for 11 hours till we turned for the run into the anchorage just as the sun came out..it is a great spot, beautiful beaches and a classic island with a small rise at one end..the surrounding coral reefs look spectacular with a beautiful Blue Lagoon..though it is open in anything from the north east to the west..…we all looked over to where we believe some wrecks lie on the main island of Nomuka and started dreaming!!..Dropped anchor and explored the beach for a camp site. Pleanty of gardening to do as everything is overgrown, so the work began clearing a site and unloading. There was a general air of excitement even though all could see pleanty of work ahead..By days end two tents were up, basic gear ashore, dinner was delivered from ICE and everyone ducked for cover as the Nomuka Iki airforce started attack operations..with zero wind, every mozzie on the island was airborne! But the defenses held…sort of..some were hit during the gardening, but every one slept after a big day!
Saturday 13th started early with Bacon and eggs for the troops delivered from ICE, sun shining gentle breeze and paradise everywhere..and itchy bites !! but we all had to work..unloading , digging, cutting, clearing , erecting , sorting, all day. BLUE BASE was taking shape AND LOOKING QUITE ORGAINSED..SEVEN MONTHS OF PLANNING AND PREP WAS PAYING OFF..we would all rather be out playing in the deep blue as it was a beautiful blue Pacific day..unbelievable !! but everyone was focused. I knew the weather would not hold, so kept encouraging everyone to go for it, which they did!!..slowly all had their own tents and their own little world a bit sorted by days end, so it was a very tired group that crashed that night..The sleeping tents each took on the flavor of the inhabitants and were looking quite homely with pleanty of instant furniture and comfy beds with baby mattresses!!..Huey had the store tent a scene of total German efficiency and organization. while the girls gave shape to a classic outdoor kitchen and Richard took to setting up all the electrical gear, some of which was damaged in transit.
Sunday 14th started with wind and rain, more unloading and gardening and by midday the effort of the past days caught up with everyone, so we all had the afternoon off to explore the island . I was stuffed..and just slept off a big headache!
Monday 15th was a great day..more unloading and setting up outdoor galley and each team member sorting their specific areas of responsibility. We are all amazed at how organized we were looking, banners were up and Blue Base was alive..not bad for three days..there was still pleanty to do, but even the composting “dunny” was fired up and operational!! Alex created a throne that even royalty would be happy to sit on, A yacht had arrived with a family from NZ..all divers, so we had a huge Barbie for 14 that night with some lively banter swapping stories between a crazy bunch of diverse individuals, all here for very different reasons..with the slight breeze about, the “IKI airforce” could not fly and with all the solar lights and newly rigged party lights, BLUE BASE was the place to be..everyone was happy!! Harriet took the full force of the mozzies, obviously with tasty blood, so her feet were a real mess..most others had some hits and a few feet were also cut up from all the gardening, but all told, things were OK…The Desalinator was in position but not set up yet..
Tuesday 16th.more work trying to set up fridge, freezer, desal etc….some challenges for desalinator plumbing, as we need to lift the salt water up from about 5 mtrs and 36mtrs away, also keeping all the sand out..it has its own tent and is powered by the big generator..we have two Generators..We inflated the Big Red 4.7mtr dive boat and towed to ICE to fit the 25hp Yamaha, and had the big Grey 5mtr Avon boat deflated on the beach for a small floor repair..wind increasing now so getting harder to work…all the team want to know when they can go diving…we need all the communications set up, base station etc, all the three dive boats operational, desalinator up and all dive safety systems organized and checked first with everyone familiar with the crisis management plan, so hopefully by the weekend?? Maybe??
Wednesday 17th still working on desalinator and other bits but weather a bit windy..we were given 400ltrs of water from BILLY BUD a 36mtr mega yacht anchored offshore which was great!!..interesting boat and crew..been all over the world including Antarctica and Arctic, Australian Skipper I met in the late 80’s….Had a great team dinner ashore, relaxing and making future plans ..the new 25hp outboard was going well till we went to go home??..dead?? so took the RIB and 15ph Tohatsu, which has been giving us pleanty of headaches. Bad fuel and other little issues, so pleanty of unreliable outboards at the moment…the last thing we need…
Thursday 18th..WINDY!!..25kts gusting 30..all from the east/north east, so turning into a lee shore..seas are getting up too!! Not nice..too windy to do anything onshore ..I had to get John over to Nomuka (just over a mile away across a deep channel this strong currents and messy sea) to catch the ferry that night back to Nuka Alofa, as he is off to America for a wedding..will return in a couple of weeks…so with 30kts blowing straight across to Australia..I donned a wet suit and loaded survival gear in the RIB, John double Bagged his airport “carry on” and took his clothes off and we set out…but the outboard died and it was an on again off again struggle to get back to ICE 300 mtrs away…Billy Bud was on a radio safety watch with us so that was great.we only had one zodiac in the water..and they had theirs out diving with their very active owners in the 30 kt winds…we got back and in the end we 45 minutes later we decided to ask if they could run John over the mile or so, to drop him, which they did…I went too to assist as it was very rough so we dropped John..literally, up to his kneck, as he stumbled in the waist deep water on shore..it was very funny and with about 1.5mtr seas in the middle of the pass it was VERY WET!!..each way..THANKS BILLY BUD!!! ..for the rest of the day and night everyone just hung on…
Friday 19th …Blowing hard 30kts plus. Been trapped on the boat for basically two days now..then it was discovered onshore, that the Grey Avon, last seen deflated on the beach was missing?..I had noticed it not there a few days before, but just assumed the team had done the repair and rolled it up and away from the tides and till we got the other outboards organized?? It had been tied to some bushy branches, but the night high tides with the waves surging right up the beach must have ripped it aways…I suggested a search along the beach looking in the shallows…a short time later we got the call they found the Avon, so for a few seconds we were happy..then we heard it was all chopped up!!..OPPS!..just the day before some local fisherman made it to the island…no doubt discovered the abandoned boat in the sand, covered and looking like a wreck a few hundred meters from Blue Base . The fishermen obviously decided to salvage all the valuable ropes and bits..so chopped it up…simple as that…this boat had a few seasons use, so did not look new, but was a hyperlon boat with 10 years of life left…so it was a bit of a disaster….our team salvaged the transom ! A sorry sight…I fully understood the actions of the fishermen..they met our team on the beach as they arrived that day, so would not have assumed it was our boat..how could it go missing and not be noticed?? So it could not be ours….so it was all theirs….it was an important boat for us and the biggest …now we only have two dive boats…since April, the plan had been to have the new 25ft fast dive boat with us now, to use at BLUE BASE, which would make a huge difference.. but Mark in NUku Alofa has had some delays getting that built…so now we are down two boats from the original plan!! ..anyway we are going to Pangai next week to pick up a replacement 5mtr inflatable ZAP CAT that Mark used for his world speed record attempt some time ago..that will then give us three operational dive boats plus ICE…we are still hoping for Mark’s dive boat in Sept. ( though that is out of my control) as we need to get to EUA for some site investigations and can only use that boat?? Hmmm?? ..Not a good day!! Next season I will bring “spare” inflatables too!!
Saturday 20th…Rain and wind total overcast and cool!!..onshore they are rigging wind breaks and getting ready for days of heavy winds..it is blowing straight into the camp..gusting over 30kts again, quite rough onboard ICE but Jane has cooked an apple Pie and banana cake…Gregory is sick of the motion, so in the afternoon swam ashore to get a good nights sleep..we packed into a dry bag some fish I caught and Janes baking with a carton of cream. I have been watching the team through binoculars battle the winds..some tents have been removed and packed and big windbreaks have been set up and crative ways to strap tents down evolved….the weather is very frustrating for all and I do not like sitting on a lee shore that is for sure!!
Sunday 21st AM..the wind picked up during the night and now quite bad. Big squalls and low visibility with the tops blowing off waves ..Guess I would rather not be here right now!! Nothing to do but watch conditions and be ready to act if the anchor moves, but we know it is bedded in well. Raining hard, so no fun onshore for the team..managed to fill buckets into the water tanks and all available buckets and bins on deck, so that is a bonus..forecast suggest it will all swing late tonight..I hope so!!! Our overall plan is to be able to dive at least nine days a month or better…14 days would be our hope and anything above that a dream??..so the clock is ticking from now and the averages are not off to a flying start. To set up base we allowed a week!!..Interesting…