06-June 2011

Savu Savu, Vanua Levu to Costeau, Fiji - 3 nm

After a week of catching up on sleep and school, we were ready to depart and find a spot to anchor for a while. We motored 3 miles to Costeau Island. It was not very protected and there seemed to be a lot of black flies there at dusk - we only stayed two nights.

Costeau to Viani Bay, Vaua Levu, Fiji - 49.76nm

The Raymarine Navionics Charts were accurate. The pass was easy to enter and the bay opens up and is very wide. It is a very peaceful, beautiful place. The Fisher family has been living here for decades and Jack Fisher makes his living by working with yachties. He will take you out snorkelling and diving for $10.00 per person. His wife will do your laundry and he will take your trash. The snorkelling was great, beautiful coral and many fish. Over Rainbow Reef we actually saw a full rainbow, the purple wall and white wall (more for divers but the snorkelling was great) and the cabbage patch was really nice. We saw a white tipped reef shark, a couple of Neapolitan wrasses and a small turtle.

calm Viani Bay

The family in Viani Bay decided to organize a school fundraiser. The school is located on Viani Bay but the kids come from around the island, most get driven by a motor boat if their parents can afford the gas if not they must walk to school. The fundraiser was so the school could buy gas for the outboard so they could get to sporting events in neighbouring Tavenui.

We met Jack’s cousin Harry Smith (surprising names- no?) The family prepared a lovo for us which they do every Sunday for themselves. A lovo is a traditional indigenous Fijian banquet in which food is prepared in an underground oven. A hole is dug in the ground and stones are put inside and heated by an open fire, then the food is covered by plam fronds, then layered on top by a tarp, then the earth is piled on top of that.

While the food was cooking underground, the kids had a chance to go play a game of soccer with the local school kids. You don’t have to ask Ryan twice when anyone asks him to play soccer, he was in there like a dirty shirt! However after about 20 minutes the visiting kids were too hot and had to opt out. Shortly thereafter it was time for the school kids to depart for the day. We went down to the shore and waved good-bye, it is still funny to us to see a school-boat instead of a school bus, but this is reality here.

The food was glorious – whole chickens, cassava, rourou (taro leaves boiled in lolo (coconut cream), cabbage salad, custard with pineapple, banana and papaya. They also cut a coconut and stuck a local straw in it for the coconut water – very refreshing. They made our plates from palm fronds, palm frond necklaces, and we all sat around on chairs and ate the delicious meal.

After dinner the men started drinking kava, also called yaqona or grog. Kava is an infusion prepared from a type of local pepper plant. It looked like a bowl full of dirty, muddy water to me! There are certain protocols to be followed at a kava ceremony. Sit cross-legged, facing the chief or person making the kava drink, and the tanoa (large wooden bowl). Never walk across the circle of participants, turn your back to or point your feet at the tanoa. The dried root is wrapped in a piece of cloth, and mixed with water in the tanoa and squeezed out, then they offer the drink of the concoction from a bilo (half a coconut shell). Clap once, accept the bilo, say “bula” meaning cheers or literally “life” and drink it down in one go. Clap three times in gratification. This is alot to remember but I think our captain did well (I only heard him clap once out of time!!) Initially the plan was to bring the food to the yachts in the bay but it ended up being a great feast and evening on shore with lovely locals.

Viani Bay is a great place to relax for a while and just let the days go by. We really enjoyed it.

Weather Woes

How can you tell that you are a true Canadian? You talk about the weather every day -- doesn’t matter if you haven’t lived in the country for over three years! In New Zealand we were too cold all the time, now we are too hot, by 800 in the morning it is already 29 degrees Celsius with 75% humidity. We are dripping sweat before we have even had our morning coffee. I think we are at the tail end of summer, it is still raining everyday, there is not a breathe of wind and it's terribly hot. Now we are NOT complaining we just have this need to state the obvious. We have taken to going for a morning swim before school, so everyone can think straight, this seems to be working out very well. What a life!

Viani Bay, Vanua Levu to Bacalevu Bay, Tavenui Island – 8.6 nm

We headed across the bay seeing a few dolphins as we went to go the village of Naqara. After many days of hard work, the school year (Andrea Grade 5, Ryan Grade 3 and Cari Grade 1) was finished and it was time to send it all in, if we could find a decent internet cafe. We walked around the little town, lots of little stores, a row of fruits and vegetable stalls along the main road. We ended up having lunch in a restaurant on the main drag but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. A stroll across the bridge through the neighbouring town of Somosomo which is the largest village on Tavenui and had quite a large grocery store. We were told to take our hat off once we crossed the bridge and we did so but saw many people with caps on so we put ours back on!

The internet cafe that we found was more like a desk in the home of this local Indian family. The owner of the store was from England originally, sailed to Fiji fell in love with the place and a local Indian women and he now makes Naqara, Tavenui his home. I set up my laptop in the back room, along with crying toddlers, women gossiping, teenagers playing loud music, and the proprietor conducting his business!! It was not was I was used to but it was great and he only charged me $4.00 for 3 hours!!

While I was engaged in that task, Chris, along with our friends on Oso Blanco and Kamaya took a cab to the Waitavala Water Slide, where you launch yourself down a series of mini waterfalls and slide down the rocks to a little pool at the bottom – great fun. Although I was a little concerned when they got back and told me that the cab driver had given them a brochure about the water slide with the following heading “Visit the Waitavala Water Slide – will be Typhoid Free in 2011” – a tad alarming!

On the way back they stopped at the International Dateline, where the 180 degree meridian cuts straight through Taveuni, along the side of the road there is a small red survey beacon marking the spot. The kids were amused by jumping from one day to the next.

Bacalevu Bay, Taveuni Island to Nasau Bay, Vanua Levu – 8.7 nm

This bay is a big horseshoe with coral around the edges however it was not at all protected and if the wind switched it could have been very uncomfortable so we just used it as a day stop and had a lovely snorkel on one of the reefs in the bay. We saw a black-tipped reef shark, a white-tipped reef shark, a moray eel, lot of fish and coral, however some of the coral was dead and we saw a few crown of thorns star fish whose natural predator, the conch have been reduced in numbers by over-fishing and so there is an abundance of these starfish who grab onto the coral and suffocate it thereby killing large areas of coral.

Nasau Bay, Vanua Levu to Kioa Island - 10.76nm

We left in the later part of the afternoon so decided to head for a northern anchorage where we thought it would be protected. Our charts were not accurate; they showed a depth of 50 feet when in fact the anchorage was very deep. We anchored in 80 feet of water only to drag, as I was pulling up the anchor I could tell that something was not right as it was way too heavy. Our poor windlass motor had a difficult time pulling this massive piece of dead coral stuck on the anchor up but it did and we eventually got it off by pulling the anchor away from the boat with the spinnaker halyard and reset. Yeah!

Kioa Island is inhabited (pop 600) by Polynesians originally from the tiny, coral reef island of Vaitupu in Tuvalu. Because of weak soil and overcrowding on their home island, they decided that the best idea would be to buy another, more fertile island and start a relocation program. In 1947 they purchased Kioa for $15,000! Initially they had fears about how they would deal with the climate and if they would be eaten by Fijian cannibals! In 2005 the residents of Kioa were granted Fijian citizenship. We regret that we did not go to the village anchorage instead so we could have met the locals.

Kioa Island to Nuko, Rabi Island 11.17nm

Rabi Island has four villages populated by Micronesians originally from Banaba, in Kiribati. There homeland was ruined by phosphate mining and influx of settlers and more so during WWII when the Japanese invaded Banaba and massacred many villagers. Rabi was purchased for the Banabans by the British Government with Banabas own phosphate mining royalties. In 2000 the survivors were resettled here.

We stopped in the town of Nuko to ask permission from the chief and to let the police department know that we were going to be on the island however it was the Queens birthday and therefore a public holiday so the police office was closed and the chiefs were not there. We did manage to find the policeman at his house and he granted us permission to stay on the island, he did not want anything from us. We offered him some kava but he declined. We walked around the town, chatted with some very friendly locals, walked up to the Methodist church for a beautiful view then departed for Albert Bay.

Nuko, Rabi Island to Albert Cove, Rabi Island 5.9 nm

We motored the few miles to Albert Cove which is surrounded by reef, with a small entrance to get into the bay. You really do need good light to get in here as our charts were really off, they had us on land while we were in the anchorage. It is really beautiful, with a beach and some nice reefs for snorkelling and diving. There is a family living on shore and we are looking forward to going in to introduce ourselves and chat with them.

Albert Cove, Rabi Island to Budd Reef, Yanuca 25.84 nm

As we were coming into the anchorage otherwise known as Budd Reef, a man called us on the radio wanting to know who we were and asking us to come in and see him at the house with the blue roof.

Village etiquette and sevu sevu: Whenever we visit a village (no matter how hot it is!) the following rules should be followed: No hats, no sunglasses, women wear long skirts below the knee or a sarong, no tank tops as shoulders should be covered. Shoes are to be taken off before entering a house. Carry your bag in your hands, not over your shoulder; it’s considered rude to do otherwise.

Right after we anchor the proper thing to do is to go and see the headman or chief of the village before wondering around on the beaches, villages or reefs and bring some kava as a gift which is called sevu sevu. Sevu sevu is requesting permission to visit the village from the chief. The chief invites us into his house and we all sit cross legged in a circle and a little ceremony is performed with us giving the kava and the chief accepting it. Then we normally chat for a few minutes and tell them what we are planning to do and they so far welcome us to their home and tell us we are welcome to wonder around and do whatever we would like. It almost seems appropriate to do this wherever we go, we are in fact in these peoples front yards.

Yanuca village: Once we were settled we dingyied over to pick up our friends on Jackster and dingyied into the village. Everybody was very friendly, we presented our sevu sevu and after chatting for a while, discovered that the chiefs son (who was the one in fact who called on the radio) was a tour guide and asked us if we wanted to go out tomorrow to catch some lobsters and do some snorkelling and hike to the crater of a close- by island called Corbia. Certainly! His name was Will and we asked if we could hike up the hill behind his home, he took us up and it was a wonderful view.

After we got back to the boat, he called us on the radio to see if we like octopus as his sister just caught two of them. Chris went into shore to retrieve them and brought Will back to the boat with him. Because we didn’t know how to cook it, he offered to come on to the boat and cook it for us!! He prepared some coconut milk from a real coconut and went to work. It was delicious and very tender. It would not have tasted like that if I had cooked it (not my speciality).

Today was a very long awesome day: Along with our friends on Jackster, we picked Will up at 8:00 a.m. and he brought with him some of his mothers' coconut pancakes, so after an amazing breakfast of pancakes and coffee we headed for Cobia Island about 4 miles away. Along the way we were accompanied by dolphins playing along the boat.

We tied up to a mooring buoy and dingyied to shore and hiked up the hill for an awesome view of the crater. We saw Will's brother and some other guys on the island as well. They were collecting wood to bring back to the island for firewood to roast the sea cucumbers that they sell to China. They also were catching themselves some fish for lunch with spears in the shallow water. It was incredible to see that people still do this. After catching their lunch, they cooked it on an open fire. Back at the boat, I made us hamburgers for lunch because Will told us he really likes beef but never gets a chance to eat it, his diet consist of mostly fish and sea food. He seemed very appreciative.

After lunch we went snorkelling out on the reef. Besides the reef fish and coral, we saw a turtle, a squid and Will free dived down about 20-25 feet to get us a clam which he cooked up on the boat for a little snack. He diced it up with lemon juice and salt. We felt bad eating it actually because it was such a beautiful creature and so much of it goes to waste - we found out later where it had come from, and we did indeed feel bad for consuming it.

Will drove the boat on the way back to the anchorage but the day wasn’t over yet. Once it was dark, we got into our wetsuits and went hunting lobsters on the reef. Between us all we caught 6 lobsters, 1 crab and a parrot fish. We cooked it all up and had a pretty amazing feast on Stray Kitty. What a day!