Sunday, August 21, 2016

To Southern Lau Group

We left the SW end of Taveuni Island and sailed in lots of wind and waves directly into the wind coming from the SE. With a reef in the main (not the full main sail) and the genoa (the head sail), we had the rail in the water and were sailing fast. We were aiming for the gorgeous and remote island of Fulanga in the Southern Lau group of islands in Fiji. Throughout the night, we could not get far enough east, so we aimed for Totoya Island, another island in the Southern Lau about 30 nm west of Fulanga. 

We arrived early – before sunrise – so we tacked back and forth outside of the pass in the reef around the island. Once the sun rose, we could see that the pass was wide and deep so we headed in and anchored in a quiet bay, had a nap, then went for an afternoon snorkel. 

A French boat from New Caledonia, SV Ilo, was anchored on the other side of the bay and the two men aboard began whistling and waving their arms at us. We thought something was wrong, so we rushed over. They had been snorkelling and caught 3 large lobsters. They wanted to give us one. We said, no thank you, as Malcolm is slightly allergic and Dina is not keen on cooking lobster, but they did not comprehend us turning down fresh lobster, so one ended up in Tubby. We thanked them, returned to our boat and promptly released the lobster back into the water.

The trade winds were quite strong, so we decided to give up on heading upwind to Fulanga and sailed west instead to another island in the Southern Lau group, Matuku. But first we had to unwind our anchor chain from a large rock. This involved Malcolm snorkelling at the front of the boat telling Dina which way to drive the boat and Dina running between the helm to steer and the front of the boat to work the windlass.

We arrived at the anchorage off the village of Lomati on Matuku Island. The bay has a tricky entrance and is surrounded by mangroves. The water was murky and the bottom dark with good holding. We immediately noticed the sounds of many birds which seems quite rare for Fiji. The island also had many pine trees.

We went ashore and met Jay, the village ambassador. The Chief was away farming but we were welcomed to meet with the women who were weaving in the communal building. We did sevusevu with the Chief the next day. It was one of the more personal ceremonies. Although we could not understand the Fijian, we heard the Chief say our names, “Vancouver” and “Canada”. In addition to the requisite kava, we also gave the Chief many glow-sticks for the children of the village. We then went for a walk with Jay and his daughter, Margaret. We walked up behind the village to get a good view of our boat in the bay. Jay collected coconuts along the way.
Anchored at Matuku  
Jay climbing for coconuts

Margaret helping with the coconuts

We enjoyed the fresh coconut at Jay’s house where we meet his wife and son. As we walked back to the boat, a woman rushed out of her house to give us bananas. The next day, as we were preparing for an overnight sail to the Great Astrolabe Reef. Jay and Margaret came by in his small boat and gave us a woven palm basket filled with eggplants, zucchini and bok choy!
Jay and Margret
Margret and her brother - back in the village

Savusavu and Labasa

After Zophia left, we spent a few more days in Savusavu getting ready to head out again. This means provisioning and doing some boat jobs like filling our water tanks, picking up and installing the four AGM batteries that we had ordered from China, and getting extra cockpit cushion covers and salon curtains made.

Before leaving Savusavu, we took the bus to the Northern coast of the island to the town of Labasa. The drive across the island is very scenic. We went on market day and it was a bustling town. The market is much larger than in Savusavu and much of the produce in the market in Savusavu comes from Labasa.

Is this grafitti?

Local Bus to Labasa

Labasa market

Labasa market

Bok Choy at the Labasa market

As we were waiting for the bus back to Savusavu, we struck up a conversation with a local woman who was also returning to Savusavu. She worked for the Ministry of Immigration and visited the boats as they arrived to Fiji for the official check-in process. When our bus arrived at the station, there was much pushing and we asked Malcolm to go in front of us, push onto the bus and save us seats. Unfortunately, in all the mayhem, Malcolm felt his wallet lifted. It happened so fast, none of us could detect who had done it. There was nothing to do about it.

Rather than push onto the bus, the local woman stayed with us. She felt terrible about what had happened. As the next bus was in two hours, she invited us back to her boyfriend’s house for tea and cake. With the return taxi being late and a bit of a traffic jam, we almost missed the last bus back to Savusavu!

A few days later we left Savusavu, trying to work our way east to get to the Lau Group of islands. So, we motor-sailed, close-hauled, in the rain for 8 hours eventually anchoring off of Paradise Resort on the SW tip of Taveuni Island. By then the rain had stopped, so we joined del Viento, Interlude V, Moondance, Kiapa, Onivas and Koza for happy hour at the resort.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Northern Fiji with Zophia

 A few days after Anna left, we welcomed our daughter Zophia on board. We started by exploring a bit of Taveuni, which is known as the Garden Island. Instead of paying the tourist price for a tour, we took the local bus to a conservation area known for its three lovely waterfalls. Due to the bus schedule, we only had time to hike to the first two. Of course, the scenery was great and the swimming was very refreshing after the hiking.

The next day we took local transportation again, but this time in the opposite direction to the “Natural Water Slide”. When we arrived, there was a large Fijian family there. They were having a great time and happily showed us how it works best (you block the water with a few people and then let a small torrent go when you’re ready to slide).

After grabbing some provisions in Lomolomo, we sailed north-east to Budd Reef a few hours away. As usual, we had to sail upwind a bit but it was a nice sail to the anchorage at Yavu island. The next morning we all snorkelled in the amazing reef between Yavu and Yanuca islands.

After lunch we motored a bit more NE to Cobia Island, an extinct volcano. We enjoyed bonfires on the beach and a scenic hike almost to the top of the island. The caldera is flooded with sea water, and provides a beautiful scene.

After a few relaxing days, we headed to Viani Bay on the SE tip of Vanua Levu. The bay was quiet and relaxing. Cheryl and Karen, on SV Interlude V, told us about Dolphin Bay Dive Resort and we quickly made plans to spend the day there. We were picked up at 7 AM and taken a few bays over to the resort. We had coffee, tea and cinnamon rolls. The while Malcolm dove the Rainbow Reef with Roland, 

Malcolm returned to the resort between dives for coffee, tea and homemade cookies. Zophia and I went out with him for his second dive, but while he dove, we snorkelled all around the Cabbage Patch.

We returned to the resort for an excellent lunch, time in the hammock, massages followed by happy hour and a candlelit dinner on the beach.

Zophia’s return flight was from Savusavu on Sunday, so we reluctantly left Viani Bay on Friday. The weather was grey and rainy and, although the wind was cooperating by coming from behind, the seas were sloppy and very uncomfortable. After about 7 hours, we picked up a mooring in a grey, drizzling Savusavu and made plans for a chocolate milkshake and Chinese food for dinner. We were late to the celebration of Fiji’s Olympic gold medal win in rugby! The locals were jubilant and the following Monday was proclaimed a national holiday!