Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lautoka and Denarau Island Marina

Fiji is divided into several customs districts, and we are required to file a cruising itinerary with each one and to check in and out with customs at each district's main port. The west side of Viti Levu is under the jurisdiction of Lautoka. Lautoka is a commercial port with one big wharf for freighters and a decent anchorage for yachts. After checking in at Lautoka, we went to Denerau Island Marina and Resort. There are lots of restaurants there (some pretty disappointing), but we were able to eat out (pizza and ice cream). Denarau has a number of marine businesses: chandleries, canvas/sailmaker, electricians, haulout facilities, etc. There were some really big yachts there. Also, a number of island ferries, tour boats and cruising sailing ships. Denarau Island itself is a big development with big hotels and a big golf course. We hadn't seen anything like this in Fiji (or New Zealand). Our friends say it's like Florida.

Nadi, a busy Fijian town with all the normal businesses you would expect, is a short bus ride away. The buses run frequently and the Fijians also use an informal jitney system. Riders just flag down passing cars for $1 F, same as the bus fare. It was great.

We originally planned our trip to Denarau because our batteries were failing, and Bill got some advice from the manufacturer about equalizing them to recover their function. Because Fiji AC power is 240v and our boat is wired 110v, we needed a transformer. Bill got several quotes ranging from $330, $600 and $1700 (Fijian$), all for the same item! We got the $300 one and Bill made some modifications. The equalization (slow charging for 24 hours) worked, so that was a big relief. However,.....burned out... Our mainsail had been really falling apart so we ordered a new one. Doug Christi in Seattle designed it and sent the deisgn to Lidgard in in Auckland to build it and ship to us in Fiji. Doug had just done a sail for Jiminy, a sister-ship in Seattle, so he was familar with the rig. Bill, of course, made thorough measurements and was able to properly specify the sail without the sailmaker needing to visit the boat. It only took a couple weeks to get the whole thing done, and overall the cost wasn't much more than getting it all done in Seattle.
It takes a village....
The sail was delivered to the boat and went on OK, until the bat cars were attached. They new cassettes didn't fit the existing cars properly. Doh! Bill removed the new ones and attached the old ones and that worked. The headboard wasn't drilled quite right, so Bill had to fix that as well.

bending on the main, it's.. a big job

it looks a lot smaller now
The new sail is dacron and is cut quite flat, compared to the old, stretched out sail. But it works well.. Several weeks went by before we had the right trade wind conditions the sail was designed for.

The first few times we used the sail, it was reefed.  So it was a while before we could really see how it looked in action.

Jarana was berthed at the end of a long dock that was also used by a couple large, tourist ,sailing ships that came and went most days.  At night some of the crews and night watchmen would have a kava circle on the dock.  They would just sit down next to the boat, prepare kava in a plastic washtub, and play guitar and sing.  They always welcomed us to join them.  On our last night, we stopped for a while and brought some kava to share.  They seemed really pleased at the gesture and we had a wonderful last evening with them.  Many of the guys are from the remote Lau group.  Although, some of them are related, they all miss the  their large, extended families far away.  Bill gave them our old mainsail to use for a canopy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Robinson Crusoe Island

We made a short and pleasant overnight passage to Robinson Crusoe Island. The route passes through several reefs.  During the night I was inattentive too long and got a few miles off course, and a few miles too close to one reef.  I corrected course in tim.  But it was a strong reminder to check the plotter often, even when I think I can see where we are.

It's a small  backpackers resort on a small island inside Likuri Harbor on the southwest end of Viti Levu. It sounds remote, but it's close to the busy, big resort section of the big island.  The Robinson Crusoe staff put on a great show on Saturday nights.  It's a jazzed up version of the kava ceremony and singing and dancing that we enjoyed in the villages.  Flaming sticks are part of the act.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to Ono Island, Naqara Bay

There was lots of clowning around

The wind was changing so we were able to go back to Naqara on the north side of Ono Island, just north of Kadavu.  We wanted to dive the famous Great Astrolave Reef, and we thought we would be able to go to a dive resort up there.

When we arrived in Naqara, several boats we knew were there.  Steve from Dignity is a great organizer and had set up some events with the villagers already.  So after sevu sevu we all enjoyed a meke, an evening of singing, dancing and eating at one of the homes.

The next night, another party was held, same crowd, more kava and even more lively.

Since we enjoyed the Fijians' singing so much, Steve organized the cruisers to perform "Let it Be", by the Beatles.  It was pretty pathetic compared to the Fijians, but they appreciated the attempt.
more clowning around

The weather was a little rough, so we never made it to dive.  Then we both came down with colds, so that really put an end to that plan.

Later, we were able to get in some snorkeling off Paikea Mist, while Gloria, Michael and their kids went scuba diving.

We made another short trip to Kadavu, but our batteries were dying.  They were only 8 months old!!!  Yikes!  So we headed off to Viti Levu instead to solve that problem.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kavala, Kadavu Island

Kadavu Island, is a large island just south of Ono Island.  It was only a few miles from Nabouwalu Bay on the west side of Ono to Kavala Bay at the north end of Kadavu Island.  The passage between them is protected by the famous Astrolavbe Reef.

We left Nabouwalu Bay because the wind was predicted to swing around to the west and would send wind and waves into the bay, making it uncomfortable.  So we moved south to Kavala Bay, taking a sheltered anchorage behind a small reef at Kavala Village.  Bill went ashore alone to do sevusevu, as Kathi had a bad cold.  Bill was gone quite a while and had a good time helping drink the kava he brought.  Ironically, Kadavu Island's economy is based on kava farming.

Kavala is one of 60-70 small villages scattered around the shores of Kadavu Island.  The island is steep and mountainous in the middle, and most of the island has no roads.  People get around by boat.  There are a few small resorts as well.  I don't think it has an airport.

The next day, the weekly cargo ship made its stop across the bay from us.  Dozens of small boats came zooming in to meet the ship, unload goods for the local consumers and load up kava to send to the Suva market.  The kava we bought in Suva for sevusevu at Kavala, may have come from Kadavu.

Meeting the weekly ship
Small boats bring goods and people back to the village.  This boat had a stack of stacks of flour and rice covered with a tarp n the middle of the boat

Sitting a bit low in the water
As you can see from the photos, the weather has been cloudy quite a bit, with showers.  About every couple weeks there's a cycle of rainy weather and shifting winds, then a few sunny days, before cloudy, wet (and pleasantly cool) conditions resume.

On to Ono

We had a terrific sail south to Ono Island.  It was a day passage and we arrived at Nabouwalu Bay in mid-afternoon, in time to get ashore for sevusevu before evening.  Sevusevu is a ritual where visitors present kava to the village chief (ratu) or headman (turaga), requesting permission to visit the village and its surrounding lands and waters.  When we get ashore, somebody comes to meet us and escorts us to the chief or his stand-in.  It's very brief and we usually have a pleasant visit and get acquainted with a few people.  [hmmm, sorry no photos so far]

Fijian homes are sparsely furnished and we usually sit on mats.  Often there are family photos on the wall and that gives a good conversation starter.  It's interesting how many Fijian men have served in the armed forces overseas in either UN peacekeeping assignments or in Iraq or Afghanistan.  In fact once in a while you see a newspaper headline that a Fijin soldier has been killed over there.

Nabouwalu Bay is a particularly beautiful and calm bay. One night however, it was so stormy that the bananas hanging in the cockpit blew off the stock, just leaving some peels...

Savoring Suva

We spent a week in Suva on Fiji's biggest island, Viti Levu.  It's a small city of 200,000, with a busy commercial and fishing port in a large harbor enclosed by a protective reef.  There are several scraps of shipwrecks on the reef that remind us to take extreme care.  Part of the visit involves the ritual of visiting Customs to clear in .  Fiji is has several customs districts, and we have to clear in and out as we move around the country.

Everybody says Suva sucks, but we enjoyed it.  Granted it was a bit noisy.  There are big rusty fishing boats running 1-cylinder generators day and night,  Nearby shipyards and drydocks seem to work around the clock.  But it was interesting and not that loud.

We anchored off the Royal Suva Yacht Club, though scruffy, it's convenient, clean and friendly.  And interestingly, there's a prison across the street. 

RSYC has a big open clubhouse, a mediocre cafe and a big open friendly bar.  G&Ts $3.50Fj ($2.50 US)!!! Yay!

Suva's central business district is bustling, with department stores and many small shops and restaurants.  And real drugstores!  And coffee shops with good coffee!  We hadn't seen those in months. 
We provisioned at the supermarkets and the big, colorful municipal fruit/vegetable/kava/spice and flower market.

Cassava,Dala (taro) etc
Taxicabs are numerous and cheap $2.50-$3 Fj, ($1.50+ US!) so it was a breeze getting around.

We met some new people around the yacht club: a Finnish family was anchored next to us, a couple from Nanaimo and N Carolina, and Peter from the shipwrecked Troutbridge who was working on his boat,  Then we all went our separate ways....After a week of shopping and internetting, we weighed anchor and set sail for Ono and Kadavu islands to the south.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Levuka, old colonial capital of Fiji

Levuka turned out to be the "Mayberry" of Fiji.  Lots of friendly townsfolk.  The customs agent was outraged at the exhorbitant price somebody charged me for papaya.
Lovely people

Combined bell tower and range maker

Town Hall
Old Masonic Temple

Old Royal Hotel Lobby - very Graham Greene, no?

Hotel Veranda, enter Peter Loree

Every place since burns rubbish


More About Makogai

There's more to Makogai than giant clams and the Leper Colony ruins.   We went to church at the other end of the island by boat.  It was a Methodist service conducted mostly in Fijian, so we didn't understand too much.  But there was lots of "testifyin'".

Bag Lady and preacher

Of 1,000 graves, only a few are visible.  The "rest" are swallowed by the jungle

Makogai Island Fiji

We went a few miles south to Makogai Island, site of a former leper colony.  It has a great curved and protected bay.   
Leper Colony Ruins

Our host in jail

Currently, the site is used for breeding giant clams and turtles. The clams were really amazing:


Incredible blue lipped clam in tank on shore

Clam on the reef
another tank specimen

Savu Savu, Again

We left Dolphin Bay and headed back to Savu Savu. The weather being much cooler, this visit was more pleasant than before. We made some new cruiser friends and the young Danish couple we met at Dolphin Bay were in town for a couple days. So we all hung out.

SavuSavu - steamy tropical backwater

We finally got the bikes out and took a bumpy ride down the unpaved road along the shore to the Cousteau Resort on the point.

We got water, fuel and provisions and moved on to Namena Reef. Namena Island is a sliver surrounded by a large reef. It's a private reserve. We had a very bumpy anchorage, got the anchor chain wrapped around the keel and spent 45 minutes undoing "anchor chain macrame" around the coral when we left.

Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat

Dolphin Bay resort is a low key, un-fancy Gilligan's Island kind of place. They can accommodate 14 guests. In addition to the hospitable Swiss owners, Viola and Roland, the wonderful Fijian staff and the delightful British, French, Slovenian, German and Danish guests, enjoyed some wonderful company for a few days. It's kind of nice to see some new faces and make new acquaintances as many of our cruising companions have moved on. here.

We spent several enjoyable days hanging out (and eating ashore) and went on some great dives.
Finally, here are some photos.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Matagi Island, not a mistake this time

We moved east to nearby Matagi. We were pleased to see our Dick & Patricia from the Netherlands on Geremar, beautiful Malo 48. Matagi is a tiny creseent shaped island formed by a sunken volcano caldera. The only development is a small resort at one end. The bay formed by the caldera is steep sided, with a pretty beach and lots of coral. The resort brings a few guest over to a the beach for picnics. (We were asked not to disturb them. hmmm)

We did a little snorkeling outside the bay. The bay opens to the north and the wind was predicted to swing around from that direction, so after peaceful nights, we moved around to Qamea Island. We anchored at Namata Bay at Qamea, on the east end of Qamea. There are several houses there and lots of boats coming a going. Our friends Howard and Lorraine from Tasmania on Namzamo were there. One night we had drinks aboard their boat and the following night, they planned came to Jarana to watch a movie with us.
Namata Bay
ur itty bitty movie projector has turned out to be a good way to entertain our friends with a movie. Since Jarana has a big plain white bulkhead, we can project films on it. We can almost comfortably seat 4 people for viewing.

I (Kathi) spent all day cleaning the boat interior for "company".   I was exahusted by the end of the day.  But the wind was changing to the north quickly and Namzamo was closer to a reef.  So they decided to stay aboard that night.  Because the wind had passed through the north quickly, so we decided to head back to Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat on Vanua Levu for a couple more dives on Rainbow Reef.  (Bill had previously dived with them one day while we were at Viani Bay.)

Our Second Visit to Naselesele, Our Second Mistake

The next day the weather was fine and we headed back towards Naselesele where we knew there was a good store (shop). It was Sunday and we knew it wouldn't be open, but we planned to shop on Monday and leave again on Tuesday. Ha, it was not to be.

The wind came up in the night and built and although the anchorage is protected by a huge reef, there's a long fetch for the wind waves to build inside of it. There are only 2 wee islands to windward of us, so we felt quite exposed to the brunt of the wind from the southeast. There were a couple small reefs behind us, so if we drg anchor we might hit one rudder first.  Not good.  The anchor held well, but we didn't dare leave the boat for a day or so. After a few days, the winds finally settled down, we were able to get ashore and do our shopping, eat out and get on the internet. It was time to move on to nearby Matagi.

After the winds subsided and the weather cleared, we overheard radio traffic among the friends we were with at Matawa.  Most of the group was moving on to the north side of Vanua Levu and we were headed the other way.  We would continue to be on our own and we would miss them.

Buca Bay, Our First Mistake

The wind was forecast to veer around to the north and Matawa is exposed in that direction, so we decided to move on. We also needed some supplies and the cruising guide said there was a store. So we headed south towards Buca Bay. The bay is also somewhat open to the north, but has some sheltered anchorages. It's on the east side of Vanua Levu, which mind you, is the second largest Fijian island.  So we didn't expect it to be completely remote.

Buca Bay is quite open and there were a few settlements around ,but it was difficult to figure out exactly where to go. There is one tiny jetty (a dock), but with few buildings near it. A ferry stops somewhere in the area, but it was hard to figure out where it might land. So after circling around, we headed towards the largest group of buildings on shore. We saw a bus pass by along the shore, so we couldn't be that remote. There was a woman and child fishing from a raft near the boat so we asked was the store nearby. Big smile, then blank stare. We reasked if there was a shop nearby. Big smile, oh yes, here in the village. The houses were very poor indeed, and although there was a fair amount of litter on the beach, the village itself is neat and tidy, as are most Fiji villages.

It was very quiet, just a few adults in their yards. We passed a small, shuttered shack, which turned out to be the shop. A tall man came out from one yard and we asked where was the shop. He smiled and said hello, sort of. He appeared to be disabled or retarded and we couldn't really converse.

We then figured out that the shuttered shack was the store and friendly young woman came from across the lane and opened it up for us. The stock was meager to say the least: onions, rice, toilet paper ($2.35fj - how many could afford that?, I wondered), canned tuna, and gummy candies. A few onlookers stopped by to see what we were doing.  I bought some tuna, onions and rice although I didn't really need them. There was long list of names on a sheet posted on the door. She explained that the villagers take turns paying for the village generator fuel. The store owners bring a truckload, and then each week different families pay for the week's allotment. The price of oil had really jumped in 2010 and 2011, and it's a real hardship on these people with very little cash income. They can't trade fruit for fuel.

The bay was a bit open and we didn't want to stay, so we headed across the bay to the east side of Kioa Island. There is huge aquaculture area there. No pens were in evidence, so we think it is for pearls. The island is high with steep bluffs and thickly covered with jungle. We anchored in a quiet by fringed by mangroves, The steep sided shores usually lead to steep sloping seabeds, making it difficult to anchor a safe distance from shore. We found a reasonably shallow spot (40-50ft) where a stream outflow left a pad of sediment. There was no wind and the water was glassy. This is a very unusual circumstance in the islands. With no signs of habitation, no boats, and no sounds but birds and the occasional fish splashing.

We spent a very peaceful night there.  It was to be the last for several days.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rabi Island, Fiji

We left Naselesele after a week and moved to Katherine Bay at the south end of Rabi Island (pronounced Ramby).  The inhabitants were relocated from Banaba Island near the equator.  First the British swindled them and exploited the guano deposits, devastating the environment.  Then the Japanese invaded and enslaved the population.  Somehow the survivors were evacuated by the British to Rabi in 1945.  I guess Rabi was purchased or otherwise appropriated from the Fijians for copra plantations (coconuts).

Katherine Bay is a very quiet, deep V-shaped bay surrounded by mangroves.  There's a village with a really big church for such a small place.  After a night or two, we moved up to Motawa (Albert Cove) at the north end of the island.  Here's where we first encountered submerged reefs extended across what looks like open water.  We gingerly crossed a 16 foot depth before it dropped off again.

We later moved to beautiful Motawa at the north end of Rabi Island.   Motawa is a stunningly beautiful, curved cove, surrounded by craggy verdant jungle peaks.  There are protective reefs across the entrance and outside in the sea.  
Albert Cove (photo doesn't do it justice)
There are just a few houses and shacks.  Migrant farmers from the nearby small town camp there in shacks or thatched huts and gather crops (kava, bananas, copra, papayas and egglplant). And they spearfish.  The price of fuel is really high and is a real burden for these people who get around in big open boats with outboards. The residents were  friendly (and happy to see new faces probably), as has everyone we've met in Fiji.  A couple led some yachties on a hike.  They are all quite poor, so they need various things.  In this case, laundry soap, in addition to T-shirts and baseball caps.  The Banabans speak their own language (vs Fijian, though everybody speaks English) and maintain their own culture. They are delightful hospitible people and it was a pleasure to meet them.

We started running low on supplies, so we left to visit what we thought might be a "town" with a store.  That was our first mistake.'

Naselesale, Taveuni Island, Fiji

View of anchorage.  Jarana is tiny spec behind a palm
We left Viani Bay and met up with the rest of the fleet at Naselesele at the north end of Taveuni.  The anchorage seems very open surrounded by reef, and only 20-40ft deep.  But it turned out to be a good spot. 

Helen & Steve (not Kathi & Bill)

There is a store and a couple restaurants.  A big group of us took a bus to the famed Lavena National Park and took the guided walk to the waterfall.It's a great walk along the shore and then into the jungle.  There are pools below the falls to swim in, but they are very cold.  

More Viani Bay Photos

What lurks underwater:

Mighty Big Clam - looks more like a jack o'lantern

Cabbage Coral - big as garbage can lids!

Normal sized English Friends Jacqui & Dave, Jarana in the background

Friday, July 8, 2011

Viani Bay, Vanua Levu

Viani Bay is a few miles east of Fawn Harbor.  The extended Fisher family lives there, among others.  There's also a school.  Jack Fisher, the grandfather, is MajorDomo and dive and snorkel guide.  For a modest fee, he escorts you on your boat out to the famous Rainbow Reef that protects the bay.  He also delivers fruit and picks up rubbish.

When we were there, a number of our friends were also there, so Jack would escort us en masse out to the reef.   One day, our friends on Jackster hosted the group.  A couple days later, Oso Blanco, a big powerboat hosted us out at the reef.  What a treat!

The local school put on a lovo, which is the Fijian feast, as a fund raiser for their school.  They really know how to put on a feast.

Opening the lovo (underground oven fired with coconut husks)
Preparing the kava (mmm, looks good - Not)
Kava Circle (Bill in the loud shirt)

Kids keep the flies off the food with fronds

Lovo Laides

Fawn Harbor, Vanua Levu

We finally escaped rainy SavuSavu around the end of May.  Our first stop was Fawn Harbor Fawn Harbor is enclosed with mangroves and is a very protected bay. 
 Some of the locals use ingenious boats made from corrogated metal panels.
The extended Pickering family owns a big area of property there known as the Pickering Plantation.  There are a dozen houses or so spread out over a hillside.  Of Mr. Pickering's 8 grown sons in their 50s and 60s, only one is alive.  The rest died of either diabetes, alcohol or hypertension related illnesses.  The widows are supported by their children.  
Arthur (the oldest and only surviving son) and Sandra Pickering have 4 children.  Their oldest has just graduated from the University of the South Pacific with a degree in fisheries.  The younger children are in the local schools.  They also care for the 14yo retarded daughter of a niece who just left her there as an 11mo baby!  They also care for 4 nephews whose 35yo mother died suddenly of a stroke.  Their father works on a cattle ranch and visits when he can.

All this sounds like the consequences of bad western diets.  Sandra also cares for the 11mo old nephew whose mother is a school teacher.  This child is delayed developing and is not even trying to walk, and barely crawls.  He's not very playful and doesn't eat well.  There are some government clinics here with limited ability to help.