Sunday, July 31, 2016

Vanua Balavu

Jonathan anchored his boat, Chez Nous, near us in the Bay of Islands at Vanua Balavu. We sorted the supplies we had received from the Sea Mercy warehouse in Denerau and transferred them to Chez Nous.

We motored North around the top of Vanua Balavu and sailed South down the East side to Susui Island. The island representative, Jacob, met us on the beach and gave us a tour of the island.

Jacob and Dina walking along the beach of Susui
We met the ladies busy weaving mats and we visited the school that also received books and supplies we had carried.

School children at Susui
Susui Island, along with most of the Northern Lau, was hit hard by Cyclone Winston. Avea and Susui islands were still in the midst of rebuilding. Water tanks and systems, schools, churches and houses, as well as gardens were being rebuilt. We were able to offer Jacob 20 litres of diesel for the community’s one electrical generator. It is used for a few hours each night.

The ferry arrived in Lomaloma, the main village on Vanua Balavu, the next day and we went there to participate in the unloading of much needed supplies. People from all the surrounding islands and villages were at the pier to collect items from the ferry. We walked the length of Lomaloma, visiting the hospital and the school. We were pleased that the new printer we had brought with us from Vancouver, but never used, went to the Lomaloma hospital.

Traditional style building at Lomaloma
We then returned to the pier and helped Sea Mercy sort and distribute building materials for Avea, Susui and Cikobia islands. We also met the Chief of Avea Island which received some of the books and school supplies we had carried.

Jonathan sorting out goods at the ferry dock

It looked like it was going to be a cloud-free night, so Malcolm borrowed a wide angle lens from Anna and took his camera and tripod to the small island in the bay. He set up a time-lapsed session to photograph the stars.

Southern Sky at night
As we were on a schedule based on Anna’s return flight from Taveuni, we made our way back to the Northern tip of Vanua Balavu and anchored in a lovely, steep-cliffed bay with an unofficial “Yacht Club”. There was a small dock at the head of the bay and we had been told that a path leads to “The Plantation” where the manager, Citi, would be expecting us. SV Code Blue was also anchored in the bay, so we hailed them on the radio, introduced ourselves and made plans to go to the Plantation together.

The walk was nice, but the cyclone devastation was evident everywhere. There were hundreds and hundreds of fallen trees. The Plantation is co-owned by Tony, the owner of Vuda Point Marina and the Copra Shed Marina. He and his manager, Citi, have employed as many people from the island of Avea as possible as they knew these people had no other source of income after the cyclone. In addition to housing during their work rotations, Tony also authorised all meals to be provided to the workers at no cost. They are all busy clearing felled trees, tending the existing coconut trees (it is a copra plantation), cattle, pigs, chickens and ducks, as well as repairing Tony’s and his business partner’s houses on the plantation.
Pink pigs and pink dirt at the plantation
 One of the workers gave us a tour of the plantation which included a stunning viewpoint over the Bay of Islands to the West and another viewpoint to the East in front of Tony’s house.

"Yacht Club anchorage" seen from the plantation

Bay of Islands as seen from the plantation
To get back to Taveuni, we were going to be sailing downwind!! Due to the distance, we decided to head out in the late afternoon, sail overnight and arrive in daylight. As usual, when hoping to arrive at your destination after sunrise, the boat just goes extra fast and ruins the plan. With only the genoa (headsail), we were doing well over 7 knots in the SE trade winds and couldn't do much to slow down. As we were familiar with the Matai anchorage at Taveuni and knew our charts were accurate for this part of Fiji, we decided to anchor in the dark at 3am.

After sleeping late into the morning, we went ashore for a fine lunch at a local restaurant and some cold beverages. We watched our friends, Chuck and Lauri, on SV Free Spirit, pull into Matai anchorage and radioed them to join us for an afternoon beer. That evening, Anna treated us to a wonderful pizza dinner at Beverley’s Campground. We said goodbye to Anna at the airport the next morning.

Beer time Lunchtime at Matai, Taveuni

Monday, July 25, 2016

Picking up Anna and delivering supplies to cyclone damaged Vanua Balavu

Savusavu is a friendly small town with two marinas, restaurants (Chinese or Indian), a lovely market, grocery stores and various yacht services. We provisioned, had the arch reinforced, filled our water and cooking gas tanks and even changed the oil in the engine.  We motored out of Savusavu straight into the SE trade winds, aiming for the northern tip of Taveuni Island.

We motored about 2 ½ hours and decided to pull into Naidi Bay for the night. It was a good holding bay, well protected from the wind, but rolly. We were happy to hoist anchor the next morning and motor to Fawn Harbour.

Once we were anchored, Arthur Pickering kayaked out to say, Hello. He is the patriarch of the Pickering clan that lives in Fawn Harbour. Arthur invited us to his home for tea and asked if we could bring a volt metre with us… Arthur’s two solar panels weren’t working. After tea, some homemade biscuits (fried dough), and a trip to the hot springs, Malcolm was able to fix one panel and diagnose the problem with the other. We left Arthur with extra electrical wire and he gave us way too many eggs.
View of Fawn Harbour from Arthur Pickering's house
From Fawn Harbour we tried to sail to Taveuni, but there was no wind. We motored to Matai, on the NW tip of Taveuni Island, right by the airport. The next day our friend, Anna, from Toronto, arrived. We gave Anna the choice of either exploring some islands and going snorkelling, or heading out to the remote islands of the Lau group where we had to deliver the Sea Mercy supplies we were carrying. 

Anna chose the Lau group, so we departed Taveuni for the famous Matagi (or Matangi) Island and anchored in its beautiful Horseshoe Bay. There a pod of dolphins entertained us as they swam in unison feeding in the bay. The next day we motor-sailed Eastward, into the sunshine and into the SE wind, for about 8 hours to Wailagilala Island.  We don’t like sailing into the wind. The island looked lovely, with a beautiful sand beach, but we just had time to drop anchor on the inside if the fringing barrier reef, have sun-downers and get some rest.

Motor-sailing, again, South into the SE wind, again, we arrived at Vanua Balavu after about 5 hours. The Garmin charts were not accurate so we poked around and used Navionics and eventually anchored in the Bay of Islands.
Rock formations (raised coral) at Bay of Islands
The rock formations were amazing and the snorkelling was excellent. The next day we hopped in Tubby and explored around all the little coves and coral heads. Later that day we expected to rendezvoused with Jonathan, on Chez Nous, who was directing Sea Mercy activity in the Northern Lau Group.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kiteboarding and a little problem with the wind generator

As we sailed back east around the north side of Viti Levu we headed into the wind. The first day we motored for almost 4 hours until the winds and waves coming towards us made it unpleasant. We anchored in Vitoga Bay for the night. The next day we got an early start and motored into the wind and waves for another 4 hours then dropped anchor in Vatia Bay. For the final push to Nananu-i-ra Island, we set off at 7 AM and arrived about 6 hours later. This bay seemed to be home to some big jellyfish, which a local told us were harmless. We still didn't touch them and didn't swim until the next day when they all seemed to be gone (perhaps the wind or current moved them along?)
Big Jellyfish on the beach at Nananu-i-ra
We went to Nananu-i-ra to take kite-boarding lessons from Warren Francis, the owner of the Safari Island Lodge. Unfortunately, Dina had hurt her back and was unable to take lessons. However, Malcolm did do the standard progression from flying the kite while standing on the beach, to flying it while dragging through the water, and began the difficult process of putting it all together with having a board on his feet (the hard part). He did “Superman” a few feet above the water a few times but had a lot of fun and is hooked on the sport.

We spent over 10 days in Nananu-i-ra.  A lot of the time we were waiting for good wind for kite-boarding. Fortunately our friends on Free Spirit, Chuck and Lauri, caught up with us and we had time for exploring and bonfires on the beach.  Malcolm tried out the “Time-lapse video” feature of our new camera for one of the typical sunsets.
View from our boat at Nananu-i-ra

Fiji sunset with Good as Gold and Free Spirit at anchor in Nananu-i-ra

The wind can be pretty strong between the two main islands of Fiji, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, so we motored through the reef along the NE side of Viti Levu and anchored in the lee of Naigani Island before launching on the first leg to Vanua Levu. The next day we motor sail most of the day to Makogai Island in the Koro Sea between the two main islands.

Makogai was devastated by the Tropical Cyclone Winston. Volunteers, on sailboats and camping ashore, were there helping to rebuild houses and schools. We visited with David from SV Anahata who was going onto his fifth week of working with the Makogai community.

After visiting with David over a nice breakfast, we left for nearby Namena Island. The island is a nature reserve and the reef around Namena is famous for its dive sites. We entered the reef into the Namena lagoon and hunted around for a coral and debris-free area to anchor. Unfortunately, the island was ravaged by Winston in February.  The trees and vegetation is returning and so have the birds – Namena is home to a Red-Footed Boobie colony, along with frigates and other sea birds. The eco-friendly dive resort was reduced to just the foundations of the former buildings. Without any facilities at the island, diving has to be arranged in Savusavu, and a premium paid for the transport to and from Namena.
Live-aboard dive boat in the sunset at Namena
Instead of diving, we spent a few days of snorkelling and then we set sail for Savusavu.We were having a fine, sunny sail from Namena Island to Savusavu. A large pod of small, dark dolphins swam along with the boat for a while.  Suddenly, we heard a loud crash and shattering sound from our aft deck. After a few minutes of looking for the cause, we finally saw that the wind generator pole had disconnected from the stern arch. Instead of quietly falling into the ocean and ripping out the wires, it fell directly onto one of the two large solar panels on the arch. Instead of the wind generator blade breaking, it pierced the solar panel and was hanging off of it! The entire panel was shattered.

There was not much we could do while under way, other than secure the wind generator pole to the arch. Once we arrived in Savusavu, we were able to winch the wind generator up and out of the solar panel, stow the wind generator, lash the pole to the foredeck and get the arch spot-welded to reinforce it. Not only does the damaged solar panel still provide 50% of its usual power, but when looking at the wind generator, it is difficult to see any damage to it!