John and Brian, who are crew for the Hawaii to Seattle passage, flew in to Honolulu a few days ago. Provisioning was one of the main tasks and since the passage could take 25 days or more, we did a big shop at Costco. We also increased our fuel capacity by adding 3 more jerry cans on deck, so we now carry a total of 145 gallons of diesel. Other projects included getting the wind vane back on the boat with the new rudder and control lines, re-installing the masthead windex, re-filling the propane tanks, and stowing everything in the cabin.
We spent 10 days of Christmas Island (Kiritimati Island) while waiting for new crew to fly in. We arrived on a Monday and flights only come in once a week on Wednesdays, but we had to wait for the following week for the crew exchange (Doug and Adam flew out the same day Andi and Justin flew in). London is the main village on the island and consists of a few small grocery stores (with very limited food), 2 gas stations, a bank, a school, and not much more. At 2 degrees north of the equator, it was very hot and mostly dry. Here are some pictures taken during our stay:
Kiritimati (‘ti’ is pronounced as an ‘s’ so it sounds like Christmas) is one of the largest atolls in the world and has a population of about 4000. It’s part of the Line Islands in the country of Kiribati. Fishing and very limited tourism, mostly from sports-fishermen, are the main sources of income. We anchored in 35′ of water just off the village of London, on the north-west side of Kiritimati. The entrance to the lagoon is too shallow for Apropos to safely transit, but the anchorage has been calm for the past 7 days. A nice breeze and frequent dips in the water helps with the intense heat at 2 degrees north of the equator. A 15 minute dinghy ride takes us to a central location in London that’s within walking distance to a few small stores, a bank with an ATM, a gas station with diesel, and the customs & immigration offices. The stores have limited groceries such as rice, canned goods (vegetables, soup, spam), limited snacks, beer, soda, and produce such as potatoes, oranges, apples, onions, and garlic. We hitchhiked most of the time to get to where we were going. Several times we jumped in the back of a big flatbed truck that was transporting kids home from school. The kids seemed amused at 3 white men hanging on for the bumpy ride along the partially paved roads. There are no restaurants in London, but a hotel about 4 miles north has a limited menu with cheap and tasty fish and chicken dishes. We hitchhiked there several times.
We made 6 trips over the course of 3 days to the gas station to re-fuel the boat (65 gallons). An option was to have a 200 liter barrel delivered to the commercial pier, but organizing the barrel delivery, transferring it to jerry cans, lowering it down 40 feet into the dinghy, then ferrying it to the boat seemed like too much trouble. Both tanks are now full with an additional 10 gallons in jerry cans, so that should be more than enough to get us through the windless days between here and Hawaii.
I found most of the adults on the island to be polite but not overly-friendly like they were in Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. Only a few sailboats stop here each year so they are probably not accustomed to yachties. Most are very limited with English, so communicating is difficult. We radioed customs the morning after our arrival and were told to stand by for boarding instructions, then they didn’t respond until the following day. I was then instructed to pick up 7 officials in my dinghy and transport them back to the boat. In the end, only 3 officials returned with me to the boat, and nobody even went below deck to inspect before clearing us in! I think some decided not to come because of the long dinghy ride in the rain! The only other boat here has been anchored for 3 months and is in trouble for bringing pot into Kiritimati (the Portugeese owners are in Hawaii preparing for their legal case).
Getting anything done here has been difficult. I wanted to top off the propane tank and after asking several people, we were told that the KOIL (Kiribati Oil Co) could do it. We ferried the propane tank in the dinghy to shore, then tried to hitch a ride since it was a couple of miles away and the tank was heavy. A motorcycle offered to take me and the tank, so I hopped on the back and held on for dear life. When we got there, it was 1pm and they were closed for lunch until 1:30. By then, Doug and Adam arrived and soon the workers returned. Actually, they were there all the time but closed the door to the office. When they opened, there were 10 people sitting on the floor playing something that looked like bingo but there seemed to be betting involved. They didn’t move when they saw me and had me wait until the end of the round, then told me they only exchange tanks, no refills! I then decided we would have enough propane to get to Hawaii since we have a reserve tank that lasts a few weeks.
Doug and Adam checked into the only hotel in London for their final night since their flight leaves early in the morning, and the airport is on the north side of the atoll. The hotel hosts mostly fishermen and transports them to the airport on Wednesdays, the only day flights arrive and depart from Kiritimati. We found out they have a big farewell dinner and party for the fishermen on Tuesday nights, so I joined Doug and Adam at the hotel. We enjoyed a leisurely day at the hotel/beach overlooking Captain Cook’s Island. The sports-fishermen arrived in the late afternoon with stories of their catch of Wahoo, Grouper, Tuna, Bonefish, Travalli, etc. The dinner was quite the feast–salad, potatoes, fresh Wahoo, lobster, ceviche, and dessert. Entertainment included a girl dancing and a group of about 20 men and women singing. They placed a flowered headband on everyone’s head prior to the meal as a way of welcoming us to their feast. Afterwards I said goodbye to my Samoa to Kiritimati crew and dinghy’d back to the boat in the dark. Getting the engine and dinghy on deck is normally a 2-person job, but I had prepared a 4:1 block & tackle to hoist the engine, and a halyard to raise the dinghy, so all went well.
Tomorrow my new crew flies in from Hawaii and lands at 3:15pm. They’ll be on the same airplane that my old crew takes to Hawaii, so maybe they will see each other at the airport.
Yesterday we provisioned, cleared customs and immigration, and got the boat ready for the next passage to Christmas Island, located at 2 deg N, 157.5 deg W. It’s about 1265 nm away from Samoa and we’ll be crossing an area know for light winds and squally conditions, so we’re estimating a slow passage taking approximately 15 days. Here’s the crew on our last night in Apia having pizza and beer.
New Crew–Doug and Adam flew into Samoa to join me on the passage to Kiribati. Doug is a former co-worker I’ve known for 15 years and has sailed on my boat in Puget Sound. He comes with lots of jokes that are usually not that funny! Adam was found through my crew search when one of my former crew members unexpectedly returned to Canada. He comes with lots of sailing experience with 2 Atlantic crossings and sailing in the Med and is working on his Coast Guard Masters License.
The sail from Fiji to Samoa took us 5 days, 21 hours. We were able to sail the entire way and motored for only 10 hours, mostly after rounding the NW corner of Upolu Island in the shadow of the SE trades. This was an unusually fast passage for this route and we were helped by a southerly component to the trade winds. We docked at a mostly empty marina in Apia and celebrated with coconut drinks and Samoan beer. Dave and Denise are now blue-water cruisers and hope to continue sailing on their own someday to Alaska.
Apia is a great little town and Samoans are very friendly. My new crew (Doug and Adam) for the next leg to Christmas Island flew in and joined me on the boat as Dave and Denise went to a hotel and prepared to fly back to Seattle. We spent the next several days getting ready for another departure–provisioning, re-fueling, and fixing things. We also did some fun things like going to church and taking a tour around the island to experience some Samoan culture.
The church service in Apia was outstanding! We walked about a mile to the biggest Catholic church in Samoa. Out of respect for Samoan culture, we all wore sulus to the service. The church architecture was amazing with the detailed paintings, marbled floors, colorful stained-glass windows, and high ceilings with wood carvings. The sermon was mostly in Samoan and lasted about 90 minutes. What made the service so special was the singing and how the interior acoustics amplified the voices.
We took a half-day tour around the eastern side of Upolu. Our guide Junior told us lots of interesting facts and stories as we stopped at waterfalls, beaches, and historical sights along the way. One of the most fascinating places we stopped at was a swimming hole called Sua Ocean Trench. It’s a huge hole about 200 feet deep with 10 feet of seawater in the bottom and an underground trench connecting to the ocean. We climbed down the ladder and swam in the water with our snorkeling masks. The ocean surge forced seawater in and out of the trench and changed the depth of the water by a few feet. We also had a traditional Samoan feast at the Taufua Beach Restaurant & Fales consisting of pig, raw marinated fish (ceviche), taro root, chop suey with chicken, taro leaves with beef, and octopus in coconut milk.
After 6 months in Seattle, including the rainiest Dec/Jan/Feb ever, I returned to Fiji with a suitcase full of boat parts—new halyards, pump re-build kits, shackles, wind instruments, dinghy parts, watermaker filters, vhf radio mic, stern light, flags, charts, etc. Another checked bag held a few clothes, some favorite foods, and 4 cans of Fremont IPA. We filled the remaining space/weight limitations with items to give to the villages that were hard hit by Cyclone Winston—the biggest cyclone in the southern hemisphere that hit Fiji in February.
Lance and I arrived on the same flight to begin preparing Apropos for passage-making. Lance is 1 of 3 crew flying into Fiji, and will be aboard from Fiji all the way to Hawaii. We have a long list of chores: bending on sails, putting the dodger and bimini back on, reconnecting the solar panels, clearing out the cabin, re-commissioning the water maker, painting the bottom, and repairing a number of items. The biggest repair will be to replace the wind instrument atop the mast that was lost during Cyclone Winston. New wiring and a conversion device need to be added to make the new wind anemometer running on NMEA 2000 compatible with my NMEA 0183 system.
4 Days later—
Lance and I got lots done our first 2 days, working in sweltering heat and humidity. Then, just like that, the weather changed as a tropical depression moved in bringing high winds and torrential rains. We then focused our tasks to those inside the cabin and continued doing small outdoor tasks during the lulls in the wind and rain. A second–and larger–tropical depression is following and will hit in 2 days. These 2 systems will delay our departure date by a few days since we need to wait for sunny weather to paint the hull bottom and have some welding done on the wind vane. I’m also waiting on a wind vane part that was shipped from Australia to arrive.
Dave and Denise arrived early this morning, showing up in a taxi during one of the biggest downpours. They are my 2nd and 3rd crew-members and will be sailing from Fiji to Samoa. The four of us continued cleaning and preparing the cabin for passagemaking. During the biggest downpour and highest winds, we all went out on deck in 40 knot winds. The horizontal rain stung but the shower was refreshing! Check out the wind speed where we are in the panel to the right….
Karen and Jacintha flew to Sydney while I remained in Fiji for another week to finish prepping the boat. I had a very busy 7 days doing most of the work myself and finding more tasks that needed done along the way. The remaining tasks to be completed (from the last blog post) mostly got done:
Change generator oil, STORE BELOW. Remove BBQ grill, STORE BELOW. Remove dodger and bimini canvas, STORE BELOW. Remove jacklines. Remove solar panels and STORE BELOW. Run trace lines through masts and remove halyards.
- Polish and wax hull.
Fix bilge pump leak. Fix gelcoat dings, bubbles, and scratches (hire out). Drain water tanks and hot water tank. Remove everything on deck and STORE BELOW.
- Polish stainless steel stanchions, dodger frame, bimini frame, bowsprit, wind vane.
The hull polishing/waxing didn’t get done because of the delay in the gelcoat repairs (see below), so the workers promised to do that after I left. Some of the stainless steel polishing got done and the rest will be done when I return.
Ten years worth of docking and maneuvering and hoisting the dinghy into and out of the water, along with the new bubbles caused by the tropical heat, had all taken a toll on the once pristine gelcoat on the hull. I decided to have the repairs taken care while Apropos was in the pit and before I flew out. They first opened up the bubbles and found they were only in the gelcoat, not the fiberglass, so that was good news. These were mostly near the waterline and for some reason the majority were on the port side. After grinding and filling all the defects with a poly filler, they hand-sanded to get a smooth surface. Next they tinted the gelcoat and sprayed or brushed it on. After drying for 24 hours, they wet-sanded the gelcoat to blend in the edges. Unfortunately, the new gelcoat turned out to be way too bright which made all the repairs stand out. Apparently the gelcoat was not tinted enough for a good match, and the only way to fix it now is to gelcoat or paint the entire hull! My flight was leaving in less than 24 hours so there was not much I could do about it. I’ll have to have it re-done either when I return to Fiji or when I get the boat back to Seattle.
At the marina, there were day-laborers for hire at an hourly rate of $6Fiji (only $3US), so I hired Bruce to polish some of the stainless steel. There’s a lot of stainless steel on Apropos–stanchions, bowsprit, turnbuckles, pushpit, wind vane, etc. And to think I almost had it done in Mexico for $200US. He did a great job and got about 1/3 of it polished and it only cost $18US, talk about cheap labor!
Finally, I hired Moses as a caretaker of Apropos while I’m gone for 6-1/2 months. He will stop by once a week and open the hatches to air out the cabin, wash the decks, check the battery condition, and inform me of any problems.
Some Final Thoughts on Fiji
We enjoyed spending over a month in Fiji. The people are so friendly and everyone greets you with a smile and cheery “Bula” (hello). From the remote and poor village of Nasea to the urban area of Lautoka, the Fijians are very welcoming and generous. Some of the best diving and the most beautiful beaches in the South Pacific are in Fiji. The cruising is more challenging here then in other South Pacific islands because of all the reefs and narrow passages, so we were more conservative with our planning and did no overnight passages. We saw and heard about several boats running aground, most escaping with little or no damage, but one that was a total loss.
As I was about to step onto the airplane to leave Fiji, an airport employee saw me carrying my ukulele and asked if she could see it. I listened to her play it while finishing my coffee, thinking about how lucky I was to spend so much time in Fiji!
We ended our year-long cruise with a nice relaxing stay at Musket Cove on Malolo Laila Island. Only 20 miles from Lautoka, we found the anchorage and marina full of yachts waiting for the big regatta coming up in a week. We spent 3 days there enjoying the resort pool and restaurants and for $5, became life-time members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club–the requirement to join is that you must have sailed here from a foreign port!
Vuda Point Marina
We hauled out Apropos at Vuda Point Marina on September 4, 2015, a little over a year from when we left Seattle. The travel lift took us to the wash-down area and the bottom paint looked better after a good pressure washing (we’ll re-paint the bottom in 6 months before departing Fiji). Next was the drive to pit #40, where Apropos will remain for the cyclone season. The workers were very meticulous with adjusting the tires to keep the boat upright and level. It was a bittersweet moment–on one hand we realize a direct hit from a big cyclone could severely damage Apropos, but on the other hand we are ready for a break from living on a boat and looking forward to visiting Sydney and returning home to Seattle.
Vuda Point Marina
But first, there is a lot of work to do! Not that sailing and maintaining a boat for 10,000 miles is all play, but we did get used to a slower pace of life while visiting lots of cool places and meeting lots of nice people. Now we had a long list of things that needed to get done in a short amount of time. I decided to spend an extra week after Karen and Jacintha fly to Sydney so I could get everything done before leaving Apropos for 6-1/2 months. Here’s the task list (strikethrough denotes completed):
Sort through a year’s worth of stuff that was added on the boat and decide what to keep. Remove all 4 sails, fold, and STORE BELOW. Clean, deflate, pack up the dinghy, and STORE BELOW. Change engine oil and filter. Empty and clean Racor diesel filter bowls, replace filters. Flush engine with fresh water. Drain water from lift muffler. Flush dinghy engine with fresh water, STORE BELOW. Repair dinghy chaps canvas and genoa sail chafe areas. Remove, wash, and dry weather cloths, STORE BELOW. Clean refrigerator, stove, microwave, freezer. Remove and service windlass (hire out). Pickle water maker. Wipe interior with tea tree oil & vinegar solution. Remove wind vane paddle and vane, STORE BELOW. Find a caretaker to look after Apropos while we’re gone.
- Change generator oil, STORE BELOW.
- Remove BBQ grill, STORE BELOW.
- Remove dodger and bimini canvas, STORE BELOW.
- Remove jacklines.
- Remove solar panels and STORE BELOW.
- Run trace lines through masts and remove halyards.
- Polish and wax hull.
- Fix bilge pump leak.
- Fix gelcoat dings, bubbles, and scratches (hire out).
- Drain water tanks and hot water tank.
- Remove everything on deck and STORE BELOW.
- Polish stainless steel stanchions, dodger frame, bimini frame, bowsprit, wind vane.
A common theme in the above tasks is STORE BELOW, the problem is, there is only so much room for storing things below! With the rainy summer season in Fiji approaching, humidity and moisture become an issue. If things are packed too tightly, air flow gets reduced and mold could grow on things. We ended up donating a lot of things (clothing, food, toys, etc) to different people working at the marina. We also filled up 6 duffel bags to carry and check in on our flights out.
With 4 days left before I fly to Sydney to join Karen and Jacintha, 16 of the above tasks are completed. Should be a fun 4 days!
A long 1-day sail took us to Namea Island, a small island with a surrounding barrier reef and a small resort. Namea is a protected marine reserve and is one of the top dive sites in Fiji. Only one other boat was anchored off the sheltered west coast of the island when we arrived. We dinghy’d to the wharf and climbed the steps leading to the resort. A fee is collected from all cruisers and goes to the village that owns the island as compensation for not fishing inside the barrier reef. The island is also a bird sanctuary with a huge population of red-footed boobies, who gracefully soared a few feet overhead our dinghy as we went ashore. There was only one couple staying at the resort that day, so they told us we could use the resort beach for a few hours. It was the ideal beach setting, what one dreams about when thinking about the South Pacific—soft-fine sand, warm-clear water, hammocks hung between palm trees, and not a sole in sight! We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there.
Namea Diving has a hut near the wharf, so we booked some dives for the following day. We joined the couple staying on the island who were honeymooning from the states for two reef dives. I went on the first one while Karen stayed with Jacintha on the boat, then we swapped for the second dive. Namea is well known for it’s soft coral and healthy reefs. They have over a dozen dive sites around the barrier reef. The first dive went to Manta Mount off the south end of the island. A Manta Ray cleaning station (where they go to get cleaned by reef fish) is located on the outside of the reef. It was a great dive even though we didn’t spot any Manta Rays. Went down to 80’ along the wall and saw spanish mackerel (Whaloo), white-tipped sharks, and lots of soft coral fans. The dive boat dropped me off at Apropos and picked up Karen for the second dive at Neptune Mount off the west side of the island. She also enjoyed the dive and saw lots of soft coral and reef fish.
Makogai—A Former Leper Colony
The passage to Makogai Island was a 25 mile beat into 20 knot winds. We motor-sailed the entire way to keep a better heading and made it there in one tack. The bay is well protected from SE winds so the anchorage was nice and calm. In the morning, we did a quick sevusevu ceremony—the spokesman for the tribe accepted our waka, said a few words in Fijian, and it was over in less than 5 minutes. This is a more typical sevusevu in villages where lots of yachts visit.
The sevusevu offering granted us access to the island, which has a very unique history—Makogai is a former leper colony. Lepers throughout the South Pacific were brought here for treatment and to get away from the social stigma they faced at home. A young, educated Indian marine scientist who does research on giant clams gave us a tour of the former colony. The island was divided into wards to segregate people of different nationalities. If you were not too sick, you would live in one of these wards. Otherwise, you were admitted to one of several hospitals for treatment. We saw the remains of an outdoor movie theater, a hospital, a surgery building (where they performed amputations), a jail, and a large cemetery of mostly unmarked graves. Leprocy is a bacteria-infected disease that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. The nerve damage blocked pain so injuries were often not treated and got infected, which would result in amputations. In the 1950’s when leprosy cures were finding their way to Makogai, the survival rate improved. Eventually the lepers were moved to a bigger hospital in Suva on the main island of Fiji, and the colony was disbanded in the 1970’s. There are still a few survivors from the Makogai leper colony who return to visit this small island.
The other thing Makogai Island is known for is the research on giant clams. They have concrete tanks where the small clams grow for a few years before they can be transplanted elsewhere. We snorkeled around some mature giant clams next to the wharf in 10 feet of water. The color of the lips are from different types of algae. They also have a turtle rescue program for injured sea turtles. One of the large ones being treated was shot through the head with a spear gun, and lists to one side as he swims around the concrete tank.
During our stay on Makogai, we also had a great time with the children. They were shy at first but it didn’t take long before we were having fun on their rope swing, throwing frisbee, playing touch-rugby, and volleyball. Jacintha handed out a large bag of colored pencils and when she finished, they traded among each other for their favorite colors. We also left them with a nerf football and a frisbee. We traded some cans of meat, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for coconuts and bananas.
Transiting the Reef
The north coast of Viti Levu is full of dangerous reefs and narrow passes. We covered 90 miles over 2 days to go from Naingani Island to Nananu-I-Ra to Lautoka, the majority of it under sail. This type of sailing is quite opposite from blue-water passages, where you go hours or days without changing course. We used multiple electronic charts (Garmin, OpenCPN, and Navionics), known waypoints, and a good bow watch to get through safely. Having the sun behind you makes it much easier to see the color changes for spotting reefs. Each day we planned to leave a few hours after sunrise and arrive at our destination by 4pm. We also had a backup destination we could anchor at in case we couldn’t make it to our planned stop. Most of the maneuvering around the reefs was uneventful, but a few places provided more excitement than wanted! Along the way we caught 2 small fish, keeping one for dinner and throwing the other back in. As we moved around the top of Viti Levu, a change in climate and landscape was noticeable. Lautoka, on the west coast of Viti Levu, is warmer, dryer, and sunnier that the windward east side.
Lautoka and Bekana Island
After a long day of motor-sailing through the remaining reefs along the north-west end of Viti Levu, we anchored off Bekana Island near Lautoka. An outdated cruising report said the resort there was friendly to cruisers, so after taking the dinghy into Lautoka for lunch, we pulled up to the resort, only to find it closed. The new owners, Chris and Ashwin, took over the dilapidated resort 6 months ago and are doing a wonderful job restoring it. They invited us in for tea and to share their vision of what they plan to do with this resort and possibly others throughout Fiji. Instead of 5-star resorts that cater to the rich and famous, they want to build comfortable, green resorts that involve the communities they are near. This one, called Haven at Bekana, will be opening in a few months. I look forward to checking it out when I return for Apropos next year. Two of their children (Dave and Sarah) entertained us with singing and the guitar while Jacintha played with their grandchildren outside.
Village of Nasea
After leaving Savusavu, we headed 45 miles east along Vanua Levu and dropped anchor in Dakuniba Bay. We hopped in SV Javelot’s dinghy, and the 8 of us motored around to the next bay with 2 bundles of Waka (dried kava root). We didn’t know it at the time, but we mistakenly bypassed the main village of Dakuniba, and went ashore at the smaller village of Nasea, which didn’t show up on our charts. As we approached the shore at sunset, the villagers saw us and began gathering along the beach to greet us. The Turaga ni Koro (village spokesman) welcomed us to the village and led us into a house, which also served as the village hall with a room big enough to fit the whole tribe plus the 8 of us. There was no furniture or chairs, and no electricity or running water, and we all sat cross-legged on a woven mat on the floor to begin the sevusevu.
Sevusevu is an ancient ritual of offering Waka to seek acceptance into a Fijian village (it’s considered very rude to show up at a village without the offering). We were also prepared with the appropriate dress—men wear Sulus (a long wrap similar to a sarong), and women are expected to dress conservatively and have their shoulders covered. The ceremony began with a chant by the Turaga ni Koro, followed by the handing over of the Waka to the village chief. The chief coboed 3 times, which in Fijian culture means, “I am about to speak, thank you for listening while I do”. He then began reciting the traditional monologue and ended with a chant and 3 more cobos that indicate they have completed their introduction. Then, in English, he welcomed us to the village and told us that while we were there, “our home is your home and you are always welcome to return”.
Next it was time to make kava! The Waka we brought needed crushed and they had an iron pail and a heavy rod for doing so. We took turns outside in the yard beating the kava root to a course powder, then returned to the room where they placed the crushed kava into a fine mesh bag and stirred it around the large wooden bowl full of water. Over the next 2 hours, we sat around the bowl drinking kava, smoking hand-rolled tobacco, and talking. Even the kids (Jacintha, Ivan, Declan, and Finn) tried a sip of kava. When handed a cup of kava, you clap once, then drink it down, hand the cup back to the server, and clap 3 times (the clap must be a loud, manly palm clap, and it’s embarrassing when it sounds soft!). Some of the women were in the back of the house preparing wild boar over a wood fire for us to eat. They hunted and killed the wild boar earlier that day and had already ate, but insisted that the 8 of us eat. By then it was dark and many of the village children had fallen asleep on the floor. During the conversation, we learned that we were only the 2nd yacht to visit the village in about 7 years! Several times they mentioned how excited and happy they were when they saw our dinghy approaching their beach.
It was a great time to be there since all the kids were on school holiday and normally they would be on another island for school. Our plans were to depart the following day to move further east, but it was too hard to decline their invitation to return and spend a whole day with them. So we dinghy’d back in the dark to the anchorage with a promise to return.
We spent the following day back in the village where the kids enjoyed climbing trees, playing with their pet piglet, and just hanging our with their new friends. They fed us smoked wild boar, breadfruit, papayas, mandarins, and coconuts. They showed us around the small village of only 3 or 4 houses, and explained how they hike up in the hills to hunt the boar with dogs. I told them how abundant deer are back in Pennsylvania and how we hunt them with rifles and bow & arrows, but only during a certain time of year. Although they go to the main town from time to time to buy things, they mostly depend on trading. Their culture is so opposite from ours back in the states—where our way of life is to “work hard and save”, theirs is a laid-back “if it doesn’t get done today, it’ll get done tomorrow” and “we have food today, so we eat it all”. A 17-year-old boy showed me around the village and said how happy he was to live there because the beach was so nice and there were lots of fish to catch and wild boar to hunt. He said when he is around 23-25 years old, he will go to another village to “get a girl to marry”, and bring her back to Nasea. He’s never been away from the island where he lives or the neighboring island where he goes to school, but said he wants to go to Los Angeles some day (I told him Seattle is better!). They invited us to go lobster hunting with them out on the reef after dark but we had a long ride back to the anchorage so had to decline. When it was time to go, everyone gathered on the steps for a group picture. Then they loaded our 2 dinghies with a dozen coconuts and walked them out over the reef do a deeper part of the bay since it was low tide. We left them with 6 of Jacintha’s dresses, some canned food, toothpaste and toothbrushes. We also promised to put the word out to other cruisers headed their way to bring some fiberglass resin so they could repair the hole in their only fishing boat. Meeting them was an amazing and memorable experience and I hope some day to return.
Viani Bay and Jack
Viani Bay is a few hours motoring from Dakuniba Bay. We took the inside route, which winds its way inside the reef in more protected waters, but has a few very narrow passes. The narrowest pass showed us navigating into the green (indicating land) on our chart plotter, but we knew it was passable from other cruising reports and had known good waypoints to guide us. A good bow watch was still necessary to miss the shallow bommies (rocks) along the way. We learned of a Fijian man named Jack (and of his story-telling) from Curly’s cruising seminar that we went to back in Savusavu. Jack has lived along the bay for over 40 years and makes money by guiding cruisers on snorkeling or diving tours. He doesn’t actually get in the water, but stays on the anchored boat or in the case of drift snorkeling, drives the boat. So we arranged for him to take us snorkeling the following day aboard SV Javelot (a catamaran). We went to the 3 sites recommended by Jack and listened to his interesting stories along the way. Jack knows the area well and needs no chart plotter, he just points and says steer that way! The first site we anchored at was called the Cabbage Patch where we enjoyed the “cabbage” coral and many reef fish. The next site was along a maze of shallow reefs and Jack paddled along in a dinghy to show us the way. We saw a reef shark, lots of healthy coral, and plenty of small reef fish. The third site was a drift snorkel where Jack dropped us off at one location and guided the catamaran to the pickup spot as we drifted effortlessly along the reef. We crossed over lots of deep canyons and drifted over some thermal currents that were much warmer than the surrounding water. We saw some interesting schools of small fish swimming along with their mouths wide open, a sea turtle, and lots of healthy coral. Unlike some places in Bora Bora where they feed the fish in certain areas and take tourists to snorkel there, this was completely natural, non-touristy snorkeling.
Returning to the anchorage, we ended the day with a potluck aboard SV Javelot. The kids watched movies while the adults played 500, a very addicting card game!
The following day, we arranged for Jack to come with us to Taveuni Island, about 7 miles away. Called the “garden island”, Taveuni gets more rain than other Fijian islands and has lush vegetation. It’s also home to a flower that grows only in the mountains there. For this day-long trip, Jack charged a small fee to show us where to anchor, arranged taxi service to the Tavoro waterfalls, and looked after the boat while we visited the village and falls on the north end of the island. We again took Javelot and left Apropos behind anchored in Viani Bay. Another cruising couple who we met in French Polynesia (Steve and Ange from SV Pannikin) joined us. Along the way we caught a tuna while trolling a rapala lure.
The long taxi ride to the north end of the island was over mostly unpaved roads. We stopped along the way to pick up some fresh coconuts, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes. After a 45 minute drive, we reached the visitor center and the trailhead to Tavoro falls. The first falls, only a half mile away, was the largest of the three, both in height and water flow. The hike to the next falls took about an hour and included a small river-crossing. Since we had to be back at the trailhead by a certain time, we didn’t have enough time for the third falls, so we hiked back down to the large fall for some swimming. Of all the waterfalls we visited in Mexico and French Polynesia, these falls had the highest volume of water flowing. Trying to swim to the base of the falls was exhausting because of the large current generated. We were barely able to get close enough to touch the outer spray before swimming back to shallow water away from the falls.
We took the bumpy taxi ride back to the anchorage, crossed the channel to return to Viani Bay, and once again ended the day with a dinner (fresh tuna) aboard Javelot, followed by another game of 500. We said our goodbyes to Rob and Rachel from Javelot since they planned to cruise further east and our plan was to go west the following day. Jacintha will miss her friend Ivan so mom and dad will have to be her new Uno competitors.