Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Destination: Rakiraki Area

Picking our way through the reefs demands attention and
patience. I am at the helm and Dennis is watching the
water for color and surface changes. It is exhausting.
You can see a reef behind us. There is much more of it
under water surrounding it! And many not charted ones!
With the generator and water maker in fine shape now, we decided to venture from Vuda Marina across the top of Vita Levu toward Rakiraki on the north-northeast side. We had read about the wonderful snorkeling and diving in this area. Of course, the wind would be on the nose so the Iron Jenny would give us our momentum. Besides, we soon learned that it is nearly impossible to sail windward through the reefs to cover this area. Or sail at all among the reefs!

While the distance is not that great, it is a slow methodical trip. First of all, as everyone has indicated, the electronic charts are almost worthless! There are many unmarked reefs all over Fiji. In fact, the World ARC participants could probably create a book of all we have found and noted the latitudes and longitudes! Maybe it could be sold to support dental health in the outer islands – or some other good cause for the native Fijians. There is much need in the outer islands. We are collecting used eyewear and new toothbrushes to bring back next year.
30 waypoints to get us across the top of Viti Levu!
Making this trip should not be done without Curly’s Waypoints! At times it looks like he has a waypoint on a reef, but in reality, his waypoint is fine – the electronic charts are off! Don’t head out into this area without them. And do make sure that Curly is reimbursed even if you get the waypoints from someone who has attended the seminar. He deserves to be paid for the effort!

My version of extreme sports at Safari Adventure Lodge!
We had placed 30 of Curly’s waypoints on the chart plotter just to get from Vuda Point to Nananu-i-Thake near Nananu-i-Ra on the inside route! Rather than try to push our luck with the light, we decided to anchor overnight halfway between Vitia Wharf and Vitia Sewa. There is a little inlet there where we were out of the main channel and protected from the wind. We continued on to Nananu-i-Cake on the second day arriving mid-afternoon.

The winds are howling!
We had 15-20 knots winds on the nose at times and there is a heavy current pushing the boat toward land. We assume this is why Curly’s waypoints are so close to the reefs on the sea side. Even motoring, it was hard to steer on the route lines due to the heavy current. Our chart track looks like a drunken sailor was at the helm!

The weather hasn’t been the greatest. Day one was sunny and beautiful, but the winds were high and gusting. Day two started out sunny and beautiful and soon turned ugly! The winds picked up, gusting over 25 knots. It rained on and off and at one point the visibility was near zero. Not fun when picking your way through the reefs. Fortunately, a large pleasure yacht came along and we followed it until it was out of sight. We met up again with it in our final anchorage. We were much wetter and more exhausted, though.
A beach walk was just the thing to stretch our legs!
On day three, the winds were steady at 20-22, with gusting to the high 20’s so we decided to stay at anchor and ride it out. It looks like we may have one more day of this before we make a move toward Suvasuva on Vanau Levu. Actually, on the fourth day we moved to a more sheltered anchorage a few hundred yards away. The holding was great - fortunately. We stayed here two more days with winds gusting to the high 30's and steady in the high 20's. Quite a wild ride!

A nice way to spend an afternoon off the boat.
We called the Safari Adventure Lodge for a ride in to have lunch and walk around the island. This was an interesting place as it is heavy into windsurfing, diving, kite surfing and other exciting adventures for the brave at heart. We enjoyed meeting the staff and guests. We had the use of their facilities until it was time to catch the staff boat that would drop us off at our boat. Due to the high winds that kept knocking out their wind generators, the electricity was off more than on all day and evening. Therefore, no Internet! Darn!

We looked into diving with them, but the high winds were restricting visibility as well as safety issues so we would have to wait for a couple of days. Okay, we have time! It has been quite cool for a few weeks now (it is winter and we are getting cold winds from the Tasman Sea) so I haven't been real keen to spend a lot of time in the ocean. But with wetsuits, it will be warmer.

Unfortunately, a number of resorts on Nananu-i-Ra have
been abandoned. Like many of the islands we have visited,
resosrts were over built and usage is down.
Upon return to the boat, we realized the generator had failed - again! So we decided to return to Vuda Point Marina to see what could be done to it. Hopefully, we will return to Rakiraki next year as this is one of the best dive sights in Fiji. And, of course, we did not make it to Vanau Levu so we will have to do that area next year, too.

We still have a month before we head to Vanuatu and want to do some more exploring. We plan to go to New Zealand and then back to Tonga in the spring to rejoin the World ARC there. We missed a lot in Tonga and would like a second shot at it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Our Fishing Score

We caught a number of tuna when Nick
was on board - always right at dinner time!
We have sailed nearly 12,000 nautical miles (nm) and done some fishing, but not as much as other boats. The fish are so big and our freezer is full so we don't want to catch more than we can eat fresh. And we have had our share of tangled lines and lost lures. That makes the "free" fish fairly expensive per pound! But fishing is fun and adds excitement to our days at sea.

As of now, our score is:

9 for S/V Trillium's catch
6 for the fish who have taken our lures
1 for the bird (who lost his life when he dove for a lure and got hooked)
 1 for the huge fish that cracked our pole and got away with     the big one we we trying to bring in (apparently this  happens frequently when a fish has been hooked and  slows down a bigger one snatches it often taking the lure and part of the line!)

Nick reeled in several tunas.
It was a sad day when we watched the bird make a foolish decision. Several of them kept circling and diving at our lures. We tried to scare them off by clapping, yelling and blasting the horn. They were insistent on going after our lure bobbing along near the surface. They must be color blind. Who would want to eat a hot pink hula dancer?

One was not to be turned away.  He ended up with a hook in his eye and beak. By the time we got him to the boat, it was too late to save him. He had drowned on the long reeling in process. We had to cut the hook to release him from the line. Both he and his partner had been diving at our lures. They were targeting their dinner, as were we. Neither of us were successful!

Priska removing the hook form the bird.
Priska, an intensive care nurse from Switzerland who was crewing with us, took care of the bird until we had to release him to the sea. It's partner kept circling and followed us for hours. Foolishly, it kept diving at the lures, too. So sad. We all felt bad about it. Michael from Denmark reeled it in, but found it too upsetting to handle the bird. I am glad Priska stepped up as I am not fond of feather creatures except to watch from a distance.

Dennis usually fillets the fish and I clean and cook it! We
only use the fillets and toss the rest back to the sea.
No blood allowed on the teak decks!
Our only catch of MahiMahi was in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Pacific Ocean, we had only caught tuna - yellow fin and blue fin. We had been hoping for a Wahoo or MahiMahi as we have had a lot of tuna. In fact, fresh tuna is relatively inexpensive and fresh daily in the markets. Here they call it blanc tuna for white meat as compared to the more red meat tuna. Personally, I like the blanc best. It is much less expensive than ground beef.

A Wahoo - FINALLY!

We finally landed a 36" Wahoo after losing two lures. Wahoo have very sharp teeth so it could have been one who bit off one lure. We are changing the fishing lines to 100 pound test as the fish out here are huge and we will run out of lures if we can't keep them on the line!

And sometimes it just turns out to be a mess!
At least we had several meals from the Wahoo. The first dinner was lightly breaded with a breaking mix from Annapolis Seafood Company. Next I made fish curry with pumpkin and potatoes over couscous, Then we had fish chowder for the final meal. Michael didn't  eat any animal meat or poultry so we had a lot of fish when he was onboard.

We haven't fished in Fiji as all of the fish belong to the villages. If one does catch a fish, you must take it ashore and hand it over. The villages own everything from the sea and whatever grows on land. We will put lines back in the water on our way to Vanuatu. But we have meat and poultry to consume before we reach New Caledonia and New Zealand where they have strict laws on what you cannot bring into the country.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heading North in the Yasawa Group

How about a moonrise instead of a sunset!
After an overnight in Somosomo Bay, we continued north toward Tavewa and Nanuya Lailai Islands. We were planning to anchor at the Blue Lagoon (sorry, no Brooke Shields here now) and have dinner at Otto and Fanny’s. The reputation of Fanny’s chocolate cake with ice cream was drawing us!

Again it was a motoring adventure as it is nearly impossible to sail inside the outer reefs and miss all of the smaller and unmarked reefs. Yes, that is right! Unmarked! And UNCHARTED! There are many that do not show up on the charts. In fact, every sailor here agrees that the electronic charts are inadequate! While they provide a visual, the reefs are not where they show them! You have to continuously watch the water ahead and look for changes of color and texture. Going slow is also advised. If you just look out across the sea, you would think you could sail forever. But what lies below will take the wind out of your sails and put a hole in the bottom of your boat!

Dennis examining the purple coral and sea life below him.
We traveled up the western side of Yaqueta, passing Devoluai, and Matacawa Levu before entering the passage between Tavewa Island and Matacawa Levu. It was another pass filled with reefs and few marks to guide you. By the way, a marker in the water here is nothing more than a pole or stick, often broken, bent or missing! Dennis and Stuart stood on the bow watching for color changes in the water.
On the way we stopped to snorkel near Manta Ray Bay. The coral and sea life was wonderful - the prettiest coral we have seen so far. The pictures can't capture the true colors, but there was a lot of purple coral, blue starfish and many colors of fish. The black and white sea snake, which is extremely poisonous did not get much of my attention. I was out of there! We took the dinghy over to look for the manta rays but it was too rough to see anything. Also we were told that they don't come in until early evening.
We snaked our way in and found an anchorage off the Blue Lagoon Beach on Nanuya Lailai. Some of the best snorkeling in Fiji is here, but it was too cold and windy for us to jump into the water. It is winter here in the Southern Hemisphere - not like a Michigan winter, but not very hot either. Comfortable warm days and cool nights.

See the sea snake nicely camouflaged in the coral and sand!
We had a delightful dinner at Otto and Fanny’s on Tavewa Island. They sent a boat to pick us up and it turned out to be a dinner for four! The other resort guests had left earlier in the day so we had the place to ourselves. Harry and Emily had prepared three entrees: fish, chicken and pork. All were delicious and we devoured them like I had not been feeding the crew! It is always a treat to eat someone else’s cooking. Unfortunately, the dessert was banana cake with a cream sauce. It was wonderful, but we were tasting chocolate cake and ice cream all the way up the island chain. Maybe next time!

A sea urchin? Or is it a Crown of Thorns - both very
serious stingers!  Don't put your feet down!
After an overnight at anchor, we headed back down the same route since we had marked some dangerous spots on the way up. Instead of exploring and picking our way down the east side, we were more interested in getting back to Waya where we could anchor overnight. Sondra and Stuart had a plane to catch on Friday and we wanted to be back to Vuda Point Marina on Thursday.

It was nice to see S/V Circe and S/V Tulasi anchored in Nalauwaki Bay and have a chance to catch up on their explorations. They are heading to Vanuatu the first week of August and we might consider going along with them. S/V Flomaida may be joining them on the passage, too. Most likely we will hang out longer in Fiji since there is so much to see here.
Tonight's palette! Stunning!
Back at Vuda Point, it was time to say “goodbye” to Sondra and Stuart as they fly to Vanuatu for a week in Port Vila before heading back to Annapolis. Originally, we were all going to sail to Vanuatu with the World ARC Fleet, but the generator needed more attention so we stayed behind. Unfortunately, we missed our official "It's been great having you with the World ARC photo." as it was supposed to be taken in Vanuatu! Oh, well. Maybe they will take a "welcome back to the World ARC " photo when we rejoin next spring!

We thank them for bringing some essentials for the boat - especially for the dark chocolate. We were having chocolate withdrawal! Friends and new crew usually bring nice surprises. It was great to have friends along for a few weeks. While we have many lovely new friends, we miss our time with those we left behind last fall. I never thought I would be the one to use Facebook to keep up on what is happening back home!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Yasawa Islands, Fiji: Waya

Sondra, our Sun Goddess, read a new book every few days!
Finally it is time to get out and explore the Fijian outer islands. Annapolis friends, Stuart and Sondra, have arrived to spend a couple of weeks with us. Since they have not had the island experiences of native culture, we will head up the Yasawa Island Group to introduce them to another world. We have seen many examples of song, dance, crafts, food and worship as we have travel across the oceans. It is always fun to see what the next place has to share with us.

Overview of the Fijian Islands: over 320 of them!
Our first real exploration of the Fijian islands was a sail up the chain of islands known as the Yasawa Group. These islands are northwest of Vuda Point Marina and it is about 90 miles to the most northern island. The Yasawa islands are inhabited primarily by the native Fijians. However, the most southern of the Yasawa islands now host a number of resorts as well as backpacker hotels.
The Fiji islands have more vegetation and less volcanic
rock then some in French Polynesia and they have
more white sandy beaches,, but getting to them is
a challenge with all of the reefs in the way!
Our first stop on our way up the Yasawa Island
Group was at the island called Waya which is the larger island just north of Wayasewa Island. We were not planning to go ashore here as it was just to be an overnight stop on our way to Naviti. Traveling through the reefs is a slow and cautious process, so we knew we could not cover a lot of ground in any one day. The key is to find safe places to anchor in good light before nightfall.

The wind was very light, almost non-existent so sailing was out of the question even if the reefs had not been an issue. They say that sails get raised about one out of every seven days. We are finding this to be true of cruising within the island groups. Obviously, they are always up when there is wind on an ocean passage so that helps keep the average up.

We anchored off this beach for the night, but did not
go ashore on Waya. Came back on our way down, too,
where we met up with S/V Circe and S/V Tulasi
Waya Island is just 60 km northwest of Viti Levu and is the highest island the chain at 579 meters. This is the place for hikers and the adventurous. Of course, when hiking it is important to watch the tide so you don’t get stranded somewhere at high tide. The beach you walked a few hours earlier will be non-existent when you return if you are too late!

There are four native villages on the island. This gives you the opportunity to experience the village visit with the sevusevu ceremony and explore. Although, we have heard that the lower islands get so many visitor that they sort of blow .off the tradition and tell you to just leave your kava gift on the table! This may be the result of too many day trippers on tour boats arriving at the closer islands. We will go to Naviti for our first sevusevu experience.

The terrain and flora are very different from the more
volcanic islands in French Polynesia.


Monday, September 15, 2014

A Visit to Naviti, Yasawa, Fiji

How is this for a fashion statement!
Fiji is an archipelago consisting of over 300 islands grouped around two large main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. We have been based on Viti Levu at Vuda Point Marina.

There is a diverse population of Fijian and Indian, who were brought to Fiji as laborers to work in the sugar cane industry in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The native Fijians of Melanesian descent live primarily on the outer islands while the Indian population is on the two larger islands where they are engaged in various forms of commerce.

The village "market."

Upon arrival at a village, there is a proper protocol to follow. And follow it you must! First of all, your attire must conform: no hats or sunglasses, shoulders covered, a sula wrap is worn over your shorts for men and women, shoes are removed before entering a building and no backpacks or bags carried on your shoulders - only by hand. I am not sure why, and it was difficult for me as I have always had some kind of bag on my shoulder from diaper bag to purse, brief case or computer bag.

Tewa was our guide (not sure of how to spell his name!)

At the shore, we were greeted by a young man, Tewa, who immediately corrected our attire as I was wearing a visor and sunglasses. I am very sensitive to the sunlight and always have my eyes shaded so I did not even realize I still had them on. Opps! The first thing you MUST do when you arrive is to visit the village chief. In this case, it is an elderly woman.

Breadfruit after boiling for 20 minutes and
peeling the tough outer skin. Next you cut it
into pieces like French fries and cook it in
hot oil. Result: Island version of Frites!
We presented our gift of kava, paid our token "entry fee" to support their community, and received her blessing to visit the village freely. Although, we were always escorted by Tewa. Right after the sevusevu ceremony in the chief's home, we were invited to visit their market. I am thinking that I can buy some fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe some bread. Wrong! It was several ladies sitting on the ground with some handmade jewelry and fans for sale. I was able to purchase a breadfruit which was hanging from the tree.

Dennis offering some assistance in the camp.
There is a camp on the island where young people from around the world come to work on village projects. We visited the camp site and saw several project in the works. The biggest undertaking was the construction of a new communal village toilet and shower facility. It is going to be a great addition to the village. Dennis watched the natives working with an electric saw with no eye protection and a make-shift electrical hook up to a generator. I could just see his "products liability lawyer" mind working on the dangers of the situation, but he did not intervene.

There was a very serene feeling in the cemetery under
the palm trees. The graves were interesting.
We quietly visited the cemetery at the edge of the village. The grave markers are interesting. The larger graves were where chieftains had been laid to rest. The chief position is handed down from generation to generation within the same family. We understood the woman was the current chief as her husband had died. The next in line is her son. Since most people in the village are related, there does not seem to be a conflict over the leadership. It is understood.

Not a great photo due to dim light, but a look at the
native costume for the performance.
We were invited to return to the village at 7:30 pm for a village performance. Of course, this is a way they collect money from the yachties, but we did not mind. It was totally different from all of the performances we have seen to date. The older villagers sang and danced for us while the children watched through the open windows. They all had a good laugh when we were all pulled up to dance with them. Keeping a sula in place while dancing their way is a challenge! I think we were the entertainment for the children!

Kini explaining the island culture in her home. They sit
on the floor or ground and have little furniture. I have
difficulty sitting on the ground so I was offered a chair.
We visited the home of one of the a teacher who shared their culture and needs with us. We sat in her home with only a kerosene lantern for light. She gave me her Facebook address so we could be in contact; that is when I ask, "How do you access the Internet here?" As we left, her husband smiled and pointed to the generator sitting just inside the front door! Their high school son must use the Internet!

Our gift of papaya and bananas were delicious!
The Fijians living in the outer islands have a very simple lifestyle. They live off the land and the sea. We were offered lobsters for sale and given a large bag of  pawpaw (papaya) and a large bunch of bananas. The men go to the plantation - their gardens somewhere outside of the village - during the day and return around 4 pm with fresh items for their families. We were told they have everything they need for food as it grows there or they catch it from the sea. We also saw people gathering seaweed. Apparently, right after a bit of rough seas, there is a part of the seaweed they harvest.

This little guy has a club foot. It is unlikely
that any medical help will be available.
There is great need in these villages for
medical ad dental care as we know it.
There is no municipal source of electricity. In fact, they use gasoline generators when they need electricity; otherwise, they use lanterns and their senses. We were escorted through a village at night by a young man with no torch (flashlight). He didn't need light as he knows every step of the way. I needed my torch to keep from stepping in holes or tripping on roots! I gave him my flashlight when we left. I wonder how - and if - he will use it.

The sun was setting in the west as the moon rose in the east.

We can see a lot of need in these islands: powdered milk for the children, eye glasses, clothing for the children, school supplies. When we come back next year, we plan to bring what we can. If you have old eyeglasses lying around, consider getting to me when we are home in December. Probably someone here can benefit from them even if the prescription is not perfect. It may be better than nothing. We would also accept any light-weight school supplies (we will be flying with several stops and can't deal with too much weight or excess baggage).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Loving Fiji!

S/V Trilliium docked at Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Dinner at the First Landing Resort next door.
So far in our 12,000 nm journey, we have found that Fiji is our favorite place! The people, weather and culture are great. There are so many different islands to visit with each group having its own distinct culture. Even though we have spent a lot of time in Vuda Point Marina dealing with the generator, we have come to call it "home."
The beach near the pool and restaurant at Musket Cove.
We are regulars at the Boat Shed Bar and Restaurant as well as the First Landing Resort next door. Their pool is available for us to use, too. We have spent so much time at the resort that they call us by our first names. I have enjoyed the manicure and pedicure and am planning to get a massage before we leave again.

Here at the marina the gals in the office seemed genuinely happy to see us when we came back in from a week long trip to other islands. It is nice to be missed and welcomed back! They greet us with "Welcome Home!." And I can see it will be our home on and off for the 10 weeks or so that we will be in Fiji.

You can walk the beach for miles - at low tide!
It has become quieter as the rest of the fleet has moved on except for the nine boats heading to New Zealand in November. We are all cruising here and will leave in early August to go to Vanuatu and then on to New Caledonia before gathering as World ARC New Zealand at the end of October. Until then, we will be exploring these three countries.
Sondra and Stuart at Rendezvous Dinner. Stuart has
 crewed with us in two Caribbean 1500 Rallies.
Our friends, Stuart and Sondra, from Annapolis joined us for a two week visit. Unfortunately for them, the first week was in the marina dealing with the generator. Fortunately, Sondra loves reading and sun bathing so she just went to the pool for the day. They had a few days at Musket Cove with us before returning to Vuda Point.

The World ARC Rendezvous and farewell dinner for those of us dropping out for the year was held at Musket Cove Marina and Resort. We are now members of the Musket Cove Yacht Club. It is a lovely resort with a nice marina, pool, restaurant and 800 acres to explore. The World ARC has been stopping here for the past eight years.
"Bula, Bula" is the Fijian greeting meaning
"welcome" or "hello." The word for
thank you is "Vinaka."
Paul explaining the marks we will see on the trail.
Paul and Suzanna had a number of events and surprises planned for the fleet. There was one of their famous morning runs where the trail is marked with various symbols to tell you what to do and where to go - or not! Paul intentionally misleads people who think they can win the race! We were just walkers so it was fun to watch people retrace their steps after finding out they were on the wrong track. The message is: don't trust the guy in the bright yellow shirt!

The terrain is varied on the 800 acres of the Musket Cove
Resort. There are cottages tucked into different settings.
There are miles of beach and lagoons to explore and the great tidal change each day makes for an interesting beach area. Many of the boats were on mooring balls outside of the marina, but we were on the wall in a Med mooring slip - as in, stern to the wall. Since the docks were floating, the tide did not make it difficult to get on and off the boat as in some places.

A view of Musket Cove Resort from the hilltop.
It was a bittersweet celebration. Since we were in a free cruising period, the only "prizes" given were to those of us ending our 2014-15 Rally. We received our plaques. There were a lot of hugs at the dinner and on the dock as the fleet left a day early due to weather issues in Vanuatu. Some deep bonds have been made and strong friendships are in place, so it was difficult to say "until we meet again" as we may never see these special people again. There was some lip-biting and glassy eyes fighting tears - that's how special these new friends have become in the short six months together.That is the part of the cruising life that is hard. Although, you just never know where or when someone will sail back into your life! We do hope to visit some in Norway, Germany and Switzerland. And, of course, have extended invitations to come to Michigan and experience the Great Lakes!

Here are some photos of friends we will miss, but the happy times will always remain with us!

My good buddy, Merc! Where is Bob? That's Dave!

Tracy and Tim with their teenagers Brian and Lucy from
Philadelphia on Folie au Duex

We so enjoyed time with Sandra and Tom, the honeymooning
couple from Switzerland on Sweet Pearl.
Dennis with Mimi, Gro and Erhling from Norway on Saphir

Vittorio and Silvano from Italy (not sure where they found
these two ladies!) on Fiesta Lente
Wolf and Sebastian, our German friends
from CHICK-aLU
Tommy on Alpharatz

Pat and Stuart (UK) on Brizio with Imogene and Mimi