Minerva Reef and Fiji Part One - Savusavu, Fulaga, Taveuni & Viani Bay (May to
On the last day of April, we said
our good-byes to New Zealand and headed north to the tropics. We were
well into the Southern Hemisphere Fall by this time, so the days had gotten
shorter and the air much cooler, and we were happy to be headed north to
warmer weather. Our route from New Zealand would take us first to
Minerva Reef, and after a visit there, we would continue to Fiji, where we
planned to spend the next several months.
Passage from Whangarei, New
Zealand to North Minerva Reef (April 30 to May 7, 6 days + 19 hours, 825
nautical miles). The stretch of water between New Zealand and the tropics
is one which has caused grief for many a sailor, so both of us were
apprehensive as our departure date neared. We were quite fortunate to
have had a good passage from Minerva Reef to New Zealand 17 months prior, and
for that passage, we engaged the services of Bob McDavitt, a well-known weather router in this area.
So, when it was time for us to leave New Zealand and head back north, we again
got in touch with Bob. When we told Bob we were ready to go, he
recommended waiting a few days because he was watching a low pressure system
that he wanted us to avoid. We heeded his advice and waited, but some
other boats went ahead and departed. Those other boats had a couple days of
very unpleasant weather, and we ended up with another good passage - thank you Bob!!
our departure paperwork with New Zealand Customs in the morning, we left Marsden Cove Marina
shortly after noon and rode with the ebbing tide as we motored out the mouth
of the Hatea River. Once we cleared Whangarei Heads,
we turned north-northeast, and with 10-12 knots of southwest wind and slight seas, we set our sails
wing-and-wing and glided along very pleasantly. That night on Rich’s watch (8
pm to 2 am), he was quite pleased to see that the AIS receiver we recently
installed was working as advertised and alerted him to two commercial ships,
which passed within a couple of miles of us. Although we still always keep a
lookout for these ships and any other boat traffic, commercial ships and
larger boats are usually broadcasting an AIS signal, which gives us the ship's name, course, speed
and closest point of approach - much easier than following a blip on radar to determine whether or not we’re on a collision course.
If we are on a collision course, or passing closely and want to be sure that
the ship is aware of our presence, we can call the ship on the VHF radio by using its name,
which will generally get us a response. Our calls to "big ship at position such and such"
often go unanswered.
night watch (2 am to 8 am), the winds got a bit lighter (8-10 knots), and we sailed through
an area with a strong west-setting current and confused seas. Our speed
diminished, but we managed to sail through it (our speed dropping to 3 knots
for a while). There were a number of fishing boats in this area of strong
current, and they were not transmitting an AIS signal, so Jan had to
keep an eye on them and maintain a safe distance to avoid not only the boats
but also any fishing lines or nets. It kept her on edge
for a couple hours.
The next few
days passed relatively quickly. The winds backed from the southwest to the
south to the southeast, and we continued under sail. That low pressure system
we were watching was forecast to move off to the southeast, but it turned south,
which put us closer to it than we would have liked and gave us some unpleasant
seas (2-3 meters), but it also gave us better winds (15-20 knots), so we were
making good progress. Those folks who left a couple days ahead of us sailed
through the low pressure system and saw up to 50 knots of wind. Yikes!!
passage, we kept in touch by radio with several other boats which were also on
passage, checking in twice daily to ensure everyone was doing well. We also
listened in on a radio sked for boats (about 20 of them) traveling with the Island Cruising
Association (ICA) Rally, which left from Opua, New Zealand
the day after us. The ICA Rally sked was particularly helpful
because they were providing daily weather updates, which we used in
conjunction with the weather information we downloaded through our HAM radio email.
the middle of our passage, the winds died out, and we had to motor for about
12 hours. But, it was a short lull, and shortly thereafter, a weather trough brought a few hours
of squally weather and up to 25 knots of westerly wind (on our beam). It
was not a strong system, however, and about 12 hours later, the winds were back
down to 12-15 knots and the seas were pleasant. When the seas calmed down, we
put out our fishing lines and landed a mahi mahi (about 15 lbs.). Yum!
Daily progress as charted on
our passage from New Zealand to Minerva Reef
About 60 miles
from Minerva Reef, the wind completely died, so we fired up the engine
again, but since it was late afternoon, we needed to motor slowly to arrive at
our destination after sunrise. Seas were calm, the air was pleasantly
warm, and we enjoyed a hot shower in the cockpit, the water heated up by the
engine. That night, we saw the
running lights of a few of the ICA Rally boats in our vicinity; they were also planning a stop at Minerva
Reef. Our timing was such that we passed South
Minerva in the middle of the night, and as we motored past,
we saw anchor lights of some of the faster ICA Rally boats who arrived earlier
that day. North and South Minerva are very remote, uninhabited parts of the Pacific
Ocean, so it seemed a bit incongruous to see a dozen or so anchor lights in
South Minerva as we passed by.
Early the next
morning, as we approached North Minerva Reef and waited for better light to
enter the pass, we motored along the outside of the reef hoping to land
another fish, but after a couple of passes and no hits, we decided to head in
and anchor. There was a fair amount of current coming out of the pass
(about 4 knots), but Slip Away has a strong engine and we powered on
One of several beautiful sunsets while underway
North Minerva Reef at low tide
and South Minerva Reefs (May 7 to 23).
Minerva Reef is owned by Tonga, and it’s a bit of unspoiled paradise. There
are two reefs – North & South – and each is an atoll, formed by ancient sunken
volcanoes. There are no islands or land masses here – only reef, which is
exposed at low tide and covered at high tide. There is a break in both
North and South Minerva Reefs, which gives boats access to the inner lagoon
and provides a fairly well
Minerva is a circular shape, and the lagoon is about 3˝ miles (5.5 km)
across. South Minerva reef has a figure eight shape, and only the north lobe can be
accessed for anchoring. The lagoon at South Minerva is about three miles (5
km) across. The reef at North Minerva is slightly higher, so that
anchorage is generally better. The lower reef at South Minerva can make for a
fairly rough anchorage at high tide. We anchored in several locations within
each of the lagoons, mostly depending on the wind direction.
North Minerva Reef in December 2011 on our way south to New Zealand, and we
were very excited to have an opportunity to stop here again on our way north to Fiji. With about a dozen ICA Rally boats in the anchorage with us, it didn’t feel particularly remote,
but the folks from the rally were all quite friendly, and they departed after
a couple of days, leaving us to enjoy some solitude. Some of the folks on the
rally had caught more fish than they could eat, and one of them gave us some
fresh yellow-fin tuna. Outstanding!
visit to Minerva Reef, we spent 8 days and visited only North Minerva. We
spent twice as much time on this visit and got to both North and South
Minerva. It’s 25 miles from North to South Minerva, so with our average
speed of 5 to 6 knots, it takes four to five hours to get from one to the other.
But, with the right conditions, we could sail, and this is an excellent
fishing area. We did lots of fishing, but unfortunately, we didn’t do so great
at catching. On our four passages between the Minervas (twice in each
direction), we had numerous hits on our fishing lines but landed only one rainbow
runner. Also, we lost five lures, which was very disappointing. We were dying to
catch a yellow-fin tuna, but no joy!
Google Earth shots of
North & South Minerva Reefs
Rich eagerly awaiting a strike on one of his lines -
where are those darn fish?!
This rainbow runner gave us a couple of good meals
Although we enjoyed scuba diving the pass at North Minerva
during our previous visit, we did not
have dive buddies this time, so we opted to explore a number of snorkeling locations
inside the reef. We found several great spots – beautiful coral heads with
super clear water at high tide, and some great sightings, including numerous
juvenile fishes (the rockmover wrasse was the most unusual but unfortunately
we didn't get a photo of it), lots of colorful giant clams, and a big turtle who must have
been very old given the amount of algae growing on his shell (forgot our
camera that day!)..
This school of squid was hanging out beside our boat.
The color of the water inside Minerva Reef was such a beautiful blue!
Such a cute juvenile anemonefish
days at North Minerva, and with a weather forecast looking like the next
couple of days would be fairly settled, we decided
to venture down to South Minerva. We arrived at South Minerva at the
same time as a rain squall, so we waited outside the reef until it passed, and the sun
came out briefly so we could find our way into the lagoon. We didn’t have any
waypoints, only charts with very little detail, so we needed to keep a sharp
lookout for any obstructions. We got in safely, dropped our anchor and
since it wasn't very sunny, we decided to wait until morning to snorkel.
When we downloaded an updated weather forecast the next morning, it didn't
look at all like the previous day's forecast. Unsettled weather was on
its way and due to arrive the next day. Dang it! We didn't want to
stay in South Minerva in bad weather, so we'd have to head back to North
Minerva. Before leaving,
however, we jumped in the water and snorkeled the reef at the south end of the
lagoon. It was gorgeous! We knew we had to come back!
We sailed back
to North Minerva and sat out the bad weather – not a lot of wind, but lots and
lots of rain. We topped off our water tanks and filled all of our
buckets, and the rain was still falling. It seemed a shame to let all that fresh water
We had over a
week of solitude, which was quite nice, but we were ready for some company
when a few other boats started to arrive. The weather was settling
down again, so most of the other boats were opting to go into South Minerva, and we
headed down there to join them. Alicia and Alfredo (s.v. On Verra) are avid
lobster hunters, and on one of their morning hunts, they came back with six
lobsters. There were six boats in the anchorage at that time, and they
offered each of us a lobster. Each boat cooked their lobster and brought it
to a potluck dinner that evening on s.v. Changing Spots, a catamaran which
comfortably held all of us. That was one great potluck dinner!
Catch of the Day - 6 nice-sized lobster!
Each boat rolled a die to determine which lobster it would cook for the
Alfredo (s.v. On Verra) - the "lobster whisperer"
Good eating on s.v. Changing Spots
We spent five
days in South Minerva, and a few more boats joined us during that time. We
started out anchored in the south end of the lagoon and snorkeled that area as
well as the pass. When the wind switched around to the north, we moved and
anchored at the north end of the lagoon and snorkeled there. Although the
weather was settled, there was a fair amount of swell outside the reef, and we found
the South Minerva anchorage at high tide to be pretty
uncomfortable. Both of us were woken up most nights for an hour or two
when the ocean swell came in over the reef, and it got quite rocky and rolly.
One needs to be comfortable swimming with sharks at Minerva Reef
Vulcan Spirit arrives at South Minerva
Blue-Spot Butterflyfish and Orangespine Unicornfish
Our last night
in South Minerva was quite memorable, and not in a good way. A nasty
storm brewed up (wasn't in the forecast) and passed right over us. It
had the worst lightning we’ve ever seen,
winds up to 40 knots and driving rain. Minerva Reef took a direct hit from
this cell of bad weather because the winds clocked completely around the
compass – north to west to south to finally southeast, with a period of
relative calm as they eye of the storm passed over us. Several boats (us
included) dragged anchor, and On Verra lost their primary anchor and
chain - their snubber broke, all of their remaining chain pulled out of the
locker, and the shackle attaching the chain to the boat pulled out of the
fiberglass. They had to
re-anchor in the middle of the storm with their spare anchor and rode (which
of course had to be dug out from its storage space). But they, and
everyone else in the anchorage, kept their cool, did what needed be done, and no one went on
the reef or suffered any significant damage. Storms at anchor are never
fun, but this one was especially bad because it was slow moving – it lasted a
total of 6 hours, from midnight to 6 a.m. It was a sleepless night for all
morning, after On Verra had retrieved their anchor and chain (they had
set a GPS waypoint at their anchoring spot), we decided to head
back to North Minerva. South Minerva was beautiful, and we had enjoyed the
company of our friends there, but we needed a good night’s sleep. Winds were
blowing out of the southeast at 15-20 knots, perfect for a good sail back up
to North Minerva. Our friends Mark & Anne (s.v. Blue Rodeo) decided to join
us at North Minerva. We slept really well that night!
The next day
was our last one at Minerva Reef, as we were seeing a good weather window to
sail to Fiji, and we felt it was time to move on. We spent the day
preparing for our passage, but before leaving,
we wanted to snorkel the pass at North Minerva one last time. We enjoyed all
of the snorkeling we had done at both North and South Minerva, but the pass at
North Minerva was still our favorite spot. Mark & Anne (s.v. Blue Rodeo)
joined us and shot video with their Go-Pro camera - great footage!
intending to leave for Fiji the next morning, but after taking a second look at
the distance we needed to cover, we decided to leave that evening. We ended
up departing after dark, which we normally prefer not to do, but we’d been in
and out of the pass at North Minerva several times so we could follow our
track on our chartplotter. Even better - there was good moonlight, so we could actually see the
break in the reef.
from North Minerva Reef to Savusavu Fiji (May 23-27, 3 days + 12 hours, 460
nautical miles). Shortly after motoring out of the pass at Minerva Reef,
we set our sails and shut down the engine. Winds were a very pleasant 10-15 knots,
a little lighter during that first night, but enough to sail slowly. The next
morning, we landed a wahoo, which improved our fishing attitude since we lost so
many lures over the past couple of weeks at Minerva. We had great sailing
winds for most of this trip – no more than 20 knots - although the seas did get
a bit rough (6-9 feet or 2-3 meters) for about 12 hours. Overall it was an excellent passage, with a
beautiful full moon on our last night out. The winds died on that last night,
so we motored the last 12 hours, and we made landfall in the early morning,
following our friends Sandy & Rankin (s.v. Gypsea Heart) into Savusavu. As we
approached Savusavu, Jan turned on the radar a couple of times, and was having
trouble reconciling what she was seeing on the screen with what she was seeing
with her eyes. She finally realized that the radar picture was upside-down.
Rats! It appeared that the lightning storm in Minerva had messed with our
electronics. Fortunately, as far as we could tell, that was the only thing affected, but
we’d need to get it repaired.
It was on this
passage that we celebrated a milestone - we had now traveled over 30,000
nautical miles on Slip Away. One can complete a circumnavigation in a
couple thousand miles less than we have sailed, yet we're still only one-third of
the way around the world. But, we've found so many lovely distractions
along the way!
Following s.v. Gypsea Heart into Savusavu at
Fiji is a
nation of islands located in the South Pacific
- approximately 1,300 miles (2,100 km) north of New Zealand and 2000 miles
(3,200 km) east of Australia. Its territorial limits cover 500,000
square miles (1.3 million square kilometers), but only
7,000 square miles (18,300
square km) of this is dry land. There are over 300 islands, many small
ones and four larger ones - Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu.
The capital of Suva and the international airport at Nadi are located on Viti Levu.
The 180-degree meridian separating the eastern and western hemispheres runs
through the island of Taveuni, but the international dateline is adjusted
eastward so that all of the islands are in the same time zone.
inhabitants of Fiji were of Melanesian descent, and Fiji was once known as the
"Cannibal Isles." Abel Tasman was the first European to sight Fiji in
1643, and he sailed past the islands, describing an area of treacherous reefs. In the 1830's, a whaling station
was established on Ovalau Island, and in 1840, a U.S.-led expedition produced
some of the first charts of the area. In addition to whaling, the
commodities of sandalwood and bęche-de-mer (sea cucumber considered an
aphrodisiac in Asia) brought traders to Fiji in the early 19th century.
Missionaries also arrived in the early 19th century to convert the locals and
preach against cannibalism.
In 1874, Fiji
became a British colony, and shortly thereafter, Britain began to bring
indentured laborers to Fiji from India to work the cotton, copra and sugar
cane crops. The indentured laborers were brought on five- or ten-year contracts,
after which they would be free to return to India - at least that was how it
was supposed to work. Most of them
ended up staying in Fiji, and many brought their families to live there too.
Indenture officially ended in 1919, but by this time over 60,000 indentured
laborers were in Fiji. (There is an excellent book, Tears in Paradise
by Rajendra Prasad, which tells the story of the indentured laborers and their subsequent
struggles in Fiji.)
are referred to as Indo-Fijians, and the population mix in Fiji today is
approximately 57% indigenous Fijians, 37% Indo-Fijians, and 6% other races.
There have been tensions between the two primary ethnicities since colonial
times, but a thriving economy appeared to keep the situation from boiling
over. The basis of the racial tensions has to do with land leases - laws
introduced in the late 1800's forbid the sale of native land, so that
indigenous Fijians are forever guaranteed ownership of more than 80% of land
in Fiji. But, that's just the basis and the tensions run much
deeper between these two very different cultures. Fiji became an
independent nation in 1970, and shortly thereafter the economy suffered a
setback. Racial tensions grew and starting in 1987, the government
experienced a series of military coups, the last of which occurred in 2006.
That military government is still in place, but Fiji is scheduled to have elections in 2014.
combination of a temperamental world economy and Fiji's internal political
strife has kept the country from flourishing financially, and a quarter of
all households live below the poverty level. However, extended family
networks of both Indo-Fijians
and indigenous Fijians help to support one another.
history might lead one to believe that Fiji might not be an attractive
destination, but that would be an absolutely incorrect assumption. We've
known a number of people who have cruised in Fiji, and everyone has had
overwhelmingly positive things to say about it. Many people spend years
cruising Fiji before moving on to other destinations, and some have imported
their boats and taken up permanent residence (within the confines of the
immigration laws). Despite the racial tensions, we found the Fijians to
be some of the friendliest people we've met in the world. There were
times we sensed the racial tensions, but that was really only on the island of Viti Levu (the largest, most industrial and most populated island), and at no
time did we feel threatened. (Mostly we just heard negative comments about the
opposite race - indigenous Fijians calling Indo-Fijians "greedy" and
Indo-Fijians calling the indigenous Fijians "lazy.") We found no Indo-Fijians living on the outer islands,
so at least to us outsiders, the problem didn't seem to exist in those
In addition to
the friendly local people in Fiji, it has many picturesque tropical islands to
explore and offers outstanding scuba diving and snorkeling - Fiji is
known as the soft coral capital of the world. We were happy to have
several months to explore these beautiful islands.
Vanua Levu, Fiji (May 27 to June 27). As we arrived in Savusavu, we
called the Copra Shed Marina on the radio and arranged to take one of their
mooring balls. Arriving in Fiji meant clearing in with
officialdom, but this was easily accomplished as the marina brought the
Customs, Immigration and Health agents to our boat to complete the
paperwork. We were checked in shortly after noon, and then we were thrilled
to go ashore and have a walk. We hadn’t been on solid ground for almost a
month! Although Savusavu is the second largest town on the island of
Vanua Levu, it's still a small town with a population of just under 5,000.
Nevertheless, it had pretty much everything we needed. We found an ATM
to get some Fijian dollars, visited the local market to buy some fresh fruits and
veggies (which we’d been out of for a couple of weeks) and ate a meal at a
restaurant. Civilization has is benefits!
We spent the
next couple of weeks in Savusavu. We hung out with friends,
enjoyed meals out, shopped, walked and did a few chores. A Kiwi-expat
named Curly Carswell who has lived in Fiji for many years gave a seminar on
cruising in Fiji, and it was well attended. On a rainy day, Jan asked a
couple of girlfriends to go shopping with her, and by some stroke of luck, she
found a great dress for the upcoming wedding of Rich’s son Erik. Since we
hadn’t been scuba diving in over a year, we opted to do a dive with a local
dive shop before venturing out on our own. Several other yachties wanted
to go, so we booked the boat and filled it with our friends. It was a
fun day out, but we weren’t particularly impressed with the dive sites we went
to that day.
The Copra Shed Marina was a nice gathering place for happy hour
Curly telling us about some of his favorite places in Fiji
A rainy day at the Savusavu fruit and veggie market
After a couple of weeks here, we
were ready for a change in scenery. We went on one last sightseeing excursion with Ali &
Richard (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) to the
Flora Tropica Gardens, a beautiful
botanical garden with an incredible variety of palms. Ali & Richard rode
their bikes to the garden. We took a taxi and then walked the 3 miles (5
km) back to the marina – not a difficult walk, but it was hot and humid, and
we were pretty sweaty by the time we got home.
The beautiful grounds of Flora Tropica Gardens
A collection with some very unusual palms
Healthcare in Exotic Locations - An Unplanned Trip to Suva
Rich was a
little grumpy after walking back from Flora Tropica Gardens, but Jan
attributed it to the heat and humidity and didn’t worry too much about it.
However, the next
morning, as Jan was taking her second sip of coffee, Rich announced to her
that he had a “problem” and showed her a significantly enlarged hernia.
Yikes! He’d had this hernia for a little while, but it was small and wasn’t
bothering him. Since he would be turning 65 shortly and would therefore be
Medicare-eligible, we anticipated having the hernia repaired on a trip back to
the U.S. However, it was now obvious that we needed to do something immediately.
Rich wasn’t in a lot of pain, but it was uncomfortable. He couldn’t push
back into place, and it hurt when he tried.
Here we were
in a relatively remote area of Fiji – what to do? We’d seen the local
hospital here in Savusavu, and that was not reassuring. However, we were
aware that there is a medical school in Suva, the capital city of Fiji, so we
thought there must be good services available there.
person we called for advice was Curly, who reassured us that there is an
excellent private hospital in Suva. He also suggested that we go see Dr. Ishaq, a local doctor at the Savusavu Medical Center (different from the local
hospital). Upon examining Rich, Dr. Ishaq felt there was some urgency in
attending to this, and he made a couple of phone calls –
first, to the local airline to get Rich on a flight to Suva later that day,
and second, to the Nasese Medical Center in Suva to schedule an appointment
with a surgeon that evening.
Rich flew to
Suva that afternoon. Jan wasn’t able to get on that flight (Rich got the
last seat), but she was able to get on a flight the next morning. Before
Rich took off, we
sorted out cell phones for each of us so that we could be in touch with one another.
Our friends Ali & Richard (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) assured Jan that they would
make sure Slip Away was taken care of while we were gone. Since
Slip Away was on a
mooring, we had no shore power, and the generator needed to be run for an hour
or so most days to keep our batteries charged.
Medical Center where Rich was referred by Dr. Ishaq was not the same facility as the
private hospital which Curly told us about, and Rich’s initial impression
wasn’t completely favorable. It’s not a big hospital, but rather a small
clinic. Rich arrived on a rainy day, and the waiting room was packed with
people and dirty – lots of mud tracked in off the street. The exam room was
clean, but not as modern as he might have hoped. We have seen doctors and
visited healthcare facilities in third-world countries in the past, but
needless to say, Rich was feeling apprehensive about having surgery and wanted
to make sure this place was first-rate. We weren’t really sure how to check
on the clinic’s reputation, but then Jan thought to "Google" it, and she found the Nasese
Medical Center listed on the American Embassy’s website – a very positive
indication. Once Rich got past the waiting room and initial exam room,
the surgical facilities were excellent.
Jan arrived in
Suva the next morning, Rich was operated on that evening, and the surgery went
well. The surgery was performed by Dr. Sitiveni Vudiniabola (aka "Dr.
Siti"), and he was not only an excellent surgeon, but also a super nice guy.
Rich had had double inguinal hernia surgery in Panama City (Panama) in 2010,
and Dr. Siti advised us that those hernia repairs were intact and done well.
This was a new hernia - a femoral hernia (near the femoral artery), a more
unusual hernia and more common in women than men. Shortly after Rich's
surgery, we found out that Dr. Siti had done surgery on our
friend Jim McConn, who was cruising in Fiji a few years earlier. Small
Dr. Siti checking up on Rich
A few years earlier - Dr. Siti with our friend Jim (s.v. Spanish Stroll)
Rich spent the
night of his surgery at the surgical center (his 65th birthday!), and Jan met him
there the next morning. We spent some time talking with Dr. Siti, and he was
pleased that Rich was doing so well. We left the Medical Center and checked
into a bed & breakfast called Island Accommodation for a few days so that Rich
could rest and recover before returning to Slip Away. Island Accommodation
was quiet, accommodations were extremely comfortable, and the folks who ran
the place were delightful. Their normal bed & breakfast rooms were booked, so
they gave us a room in a two-bedroom flat. The other bedroom was empty, so we
had the whole place to ourselves – living room, dining room and full kitchen. It was the perfect place for Rich to recuperate for a few days. Suva’s
downtown area was about a 20 minute walk away, so Rich rested, and Jan walked
into town most days. Our B&B was located near Fiji National University where Dr. Siti
teaches at the Medical School, and on our last day in Suva, he stopped by to check on Rich and gave
him the OK to go home.
When we flew
to and from Suva, flights in and out of Savusavu were sold out, so we ended up flying
in and out of Labasa, which is the largest town on Vanua Levu and a couple
hours away from Savusavu. When we flew to Suva, we took a cab from Savusavu which cost FJD $100
(about USD $55). We learned we could take a “luxury bus” from Labasa back to
Savusavu for FJD $8, and Rich said he felt well enough to give it a go.
The bus ride was fine, not the most luxurious bus we’ve ever taken, but it was
air-conditioned with relatively comfortable seats (as opposed to being packed
into an old school bus). The trip took about 2˝ hours, and they showed a
movie on the way – The Call with Halle Berry – a horrible, violent movie.
We (and especially Jan) are not big fans of suspense films, and we felt somewhat embarrassed watching an
American movie like this in a foreign country.
Do these people think that this is an example of life in the USA?
The Labasa Bus Station with a couple of the non-luxury buses
Rich patiently waiting for our bus to arrive
Our bus to Savusavu - not bad!
arrived at the bus depot in Savusavu, we were met by Richard (s.v. Vulcan
Spirit), who grabbed our bags and walked us to our dinghy, which he had
brought to the dock for us. When we climbed on to Slip Away, we found a cake
in the cockpit, left by our friends Heather & Jon (s.v. Evergreen),
and shortly afterward Richard & Ali stopped by with some
fresh fruits and veggies for us. We were feeling the love!
We spent a
more weeks in Savusavu. Rich was recovering well, and we caught up with more
friends who had recently arrived from New Zealand. A number of these folks
had really rough passages from New Zealand to Fiji, and we were reminded again
how lucky we were to have had a good one! Most of our friends came into Savusavu, stayed a short
while and then moved on. It was hard to watch everyone come and go, and
we weren’t particularly thrilled with hanging out in Savusavu, but Rich needed to
recuperate before we ventured further afield. We found good company with Bob
& Ann (s.v. Charisma) who were also stuck in Savusavu for a few weeks waiting
for parts for an engine repair. We had only recently met Bob & Ann, but they
ended up looking after Slip Away for much of the time while we were in Suva so
that Vulcan Spirit could go out scuba diving for a few days.
Slip Away on her mooring in Savusavu
One Sunday afternoon we attended a "lovo" at the Planter's Club in
- a good meal for FJD $10/person (about USD $5.50)
after Rich’s surgery, we found an opportunity to move on. Although Rich
wasn’t ready yet to go sailing in any kind of seas, a motor boat ride on calm
seas would be just fine, and we had a weather forecast calling for several
days of light winds and calm seas. We debated about where to go, and were
especially interested in going somewhere in the Lau Group of islands, which
are some of the most remote and traditional Fijian islands. Bob & Ann (s.v.
Charisma) suggested heading with them to Fulaga in the Southern Lau. Fulaga
is in the very southeastern corner of Fiji, and since the prevailing
tradewinds are southeasterlies, it’s one of the hardest to get to and
therefore one of the least visited islands in Fiji. Fulaga sounded very appealing, so that was the plan.
We had a
few chores to do before departing, and we normally have a fairly established
division of labor, but since Rich was on “light duty”, Jan needed to help him
with a few of his jobs. So,
in addition to making sure we had food (which we’d need a lot of since we’d be
in a remote area for a while), money (fortunately, not much of that needed), clean
laundry, our cruising permit from the Customs office, kava (a gift for the
local village chiefs) and a course charted to our destination, Jan also had to
our fuel by hauling several jerry jugs of diesel and gasoline from the local
gas station. The job is made easier by a cart, which we use to transport the jugs from
the dinghy dock to the fuel station, and Jan usually found a helping
hand from one of the other guys when it came to loading the full jerry jugs into our dinghy.
used a winch and halyard to haul the full jerry jugs up on to Slip Away’s
deck. After a few trips, we were ready to go.
from Savusavu to Fulaga (June 27 to 29, 200 nm, 43 hours). We
left Savusavu late in the afternoon and as expected, spent our first few
hours motoring with very little wind. That evening we had a pleasant
surprise when the wind came up to 8-10 knots from the northeast, and we
enjoyed a few hours of sailing. The sailing didn't last long, however,
as shortly before midnight, the wind died completely. The engine came
back on, and we motored the rest of the way to our destination. We arrived outside the entrance to Fulaga early in
the morning, and we needed to wait a few hours for the sun to get higher in
the sky (for better visibility) and for slack tide to enter the lagoon.
There was no wind and the seas were glassy calm, so we turned off the engine
and drifted for a few hours while we waited. We cooked a nice breakfast, showered,
turned on our watermaker to top off our water tank, and tidied the boat.
Shortly after 10 a.m., we started the engine and motored into the lagoon.
Arriving Fulaga in flat calm conditions
Google Earth shot of Fulaga
Fulaga, Lau Group
(June 29 to July 13).
The island of Fulaga sits near
the southeastern corner of the Fiji archipelago. It consists of an oval
rim of jungle-covered hills which almost completely surround a lagoon that
measures about 6 miles by 5 miles. On the eastern side of the island,
there is a break in the reef which allows access to the lagoon, and inside the
lagoon are numerous mushroom-shaped limestone islets. It's all quite
beautiful and there are several good spots to anchor. There are three
villages on the islands with a total population of about 400. Fulaga is
very isolated with no airport and infrequent visits from ships. The
locals live mostly off the land and the sea, with fish, coconut, taro and taro leaves
the main staples of their diets. A number of the villagers are wood
carvers, and they send their carvings by ship to the main islands where they
are sold to the tourist industry.
The main village at Fulaga is
Moana-i-cake, and our first order of business upon arrival was "sevusevu." Sevusevu is a ceremony in which we present a bundle of
"kava" (or "yagona") to the
village elders (sometimes the chief, and sometimes another representative) and
ask permission to visit their island, swim in their waters, fish, snorkel,
scuba dive or whatever. Kava is a pepper plant, and the root is pounded
(in previous times, chewed) and mixed with water in a large bowl. The
liquid is drunk and if one drinks enough, it has a narcotic effect. In a
kava ceremony, everyone has an opportunity to drink some kava, accompanied by
some chanting and clapping. This was our first opportunity to do
sevusevu, and there is an air of mystery about it before the first time, but
it was all very straightforward.
Charisma, Evergreen and Slip Away
all arrived in Fulaga on the same morning, so we all went ashore together to do
sevusevu. Dress is important for the sevusevu ceremony - everyone (both
men and women) wears a "sulu" (a sarong or pareo). We landed our dinghies on a beach near a trail and walked about 20 minutes to the village. As
we reached the edge of the village, one of the locals met us and walked us to
a small shelter where we presented sevusevu. The village elder accepted
and blessed the kava we presented. They already had some "grog" mixed up
in the large kava bowl, and we each had an opportunity to drink a small "bowl"
(served in a coconut shell). We'd heard that it tasted like dirty
dishwater, and both of us were a little concerned that we might gag on it, but
fortunately that didn't happen. We didn't think it tasted like
dirty dishwater, just dirty water, and since the drink is mixed from the root of a
pepper plant, it made our tongue and lips tingle a bit.
The crews of Slip Away, Evergreen and Charisma dressed in our sulus
for our sevusevu ceremony
Village spokesman blessing our gifts of kava
Signing the village guestbook at the sevusevu ceremony,
with the kava bowl in the foreground - doesn't that look tasty?!
Ann from Charisma getting her first taste of kava
The next day was Sunday, and we
were invited to attend church in the village. Heather & Jon (s.v. Evergreen)
planned to skip church and go for a walk, but we and Ann & Bob (s.v.
Charisma) decided we'd give it a go. When we got to the church, one of
the young girls named Sera escorted us to seats, and after some of the other
came into the church, we realized all the adults were sitting on the other
side of the church - we were seated on the kids' side. The music was a capella - no instruments, but beautiful voices singing with
enthusiasm. The kids were seated in the pews in front of us, and every once
in a while, we'd see one of the local men walk up the side aisle carrying a
long stick. If one of the kids was misbehaving, he or she would get a
poke. After a few times of seeing this guy walk up the aisle, the four
of us also seemed to straighten up a bit when he walked by.
After church, we were invited to
lunch at Matai and Ma's house. Matai is the grandson of the chief, and
he and his wife Ma took us under their wing while we were in Fulaga. There
was a nice spread of food at lunch, and it was quite tasty - fish and octopus
soaked in coconut milk (delicious!), taro and cassava (starchy vegetables),
and pulisami (young leaves of the taro plant, soaked in coconut milk).
During lunch Matai asked if we would be interested in doing a hike the next
day to some vista points, a cave and a ceremonial place with skulls and bones
from the days of cannibalism. We were all enthusiastic about this and
agreed to meet him in the village the next morning. After lunch, as we
walked back to
our dinghies, we ran into Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen). Their walk
along a path leading out of the village led them to another smaller village,
where they ended up attending church and having lunch with another family.
They, too, had a good day.
Fulaga kids dressed up in their Sunday best
Lunch at the home of Matai & Ma
The Chief's home in Fulaga
Chief Daniel, his grandson Matai on the left and Matai's son Wise on the
Matai's father is deceased.
In addition to the crews from Charisma, Evergreen
and Slip Away, a few others joined us on the hike the next day. The hike
was challenging, but the views of the island and lagoon were stunning, the
cave was interesting and the skulls and bones were a bit eerie. After
the hike, Ma served us all a plate of curry rice for lunch. We were
amazed at the hospitality extended to us and the generosity of these people
who live such a basic existence.
Spelunkers - crews from Blue Rodeo,
Charisma, Just in Time,
Evergreen & Slip Away
The hike involved rock-climbing in certain
Skulls and bones left over from cannibal
Our lovely hosts Matai & Ma
Bird's eye view of Fulaga's lagoon
On another day, Jan visited the
primary school in the main village with Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen).
The kids in kindergarten performed a few songs and dances for us (so cute!),
and we spent some time seated at the front of a class of 5th graders, telling
them about our boats, where we lived in America, the places we've visited
in our travels, and answering any questions they had for us. While we
were visiting the school, Tai, one of the village elders asked if he could
bring a few of the kids out to our boats on a Saturday when they weren't in
school. Jon, Heather & Jan agreed, and the following Saturday, Slip Away
and Evergreen hosted six little girls (7 and 8 year olds - three on each boat)
for about an hour. Tai joined us on Slip Away and served as a
translator, which helped a lot because the kids didn't speak much English.
Jan baked them chocolate chip cookies, which disappeared in a flash, and they
brought us lovely gifts - carvings of dolphins and turtles and a purse for Jan
woven from pandanus leaves. We reciprocated with gifts to them of
notebooks and colored markers, which appeared to be a big hit.
Vulisere and Penina in their school uniforms
Visitors on Slip Away (l to r) Penina, Laisiana, Vulisere and
village elder Tai.
In the foreground are a couple of the wood-carving gifts they brought
We ended up spending a total of
three weeks in Fulaga. We moved between a couple of anchorages - one
near the village and another closer to the pass and outer reef. Both
anchorages were excellent. They offered good protection from wind and
seas, great holding in sticky sand, and there were few, if any, coral heads to
ensnare the anchor chain. A number of boats had taken
advantage of the weather window to get to Fulaga, so there were about 20
of us scattered among a few anchorages, but there was plenty of room, and it did not
seem crowded. There were numerous places to explore by dinghy, and we did
beachcombing and snorkeling. Rich didn't scuba dive since he was still
recovering from his surgery, and Jan did only one dive because conditions were
often rougher than either of us felt comfortable with. The best places
to dive were in the pass and on the outside of the reef, which were exposed to
the tradewinds. The tradewinds
blow their strongest in July and August, and therefore the seas are also their
roughest. On one of the rough days, one couple who went out to dive the
pass were flipped over in their dinghy. Fortunately, no one was
seriously hurt (a few scrapes and bruises),
and there were several others around to assist them, but that incident
made us even more wary. There were numerous
places to snorkel which were protected by the fringing reef, so we spent
most of our time exploring those, some of which were excellent and others just
so-so. We did snorkel the pass a couple of times in moderate
conditions and saw some great stuff, including a school of very large bumphead
parrotfish - very cool!
Pretty reef and colorful fishes
Vibrant soft coral
One of our favorite sightings - an emperor angelfish
Turtle well camouflaged on the reef
Snowflake moray eel
Long-nose butterflyfish swimming in "gin clear" water
Mushroom-shaped limestone islets inside the reef
Climbing back in the dinghy after a snorkel
Snorkel excursion with Bob & Ann (s.v. Charisma)
We could have been content hanging
out in Fulaga for much longer, but there was lots more we wanted to see in
Fiji, so we sadly said good-bye to the local people who had so graciously
welcomed us here. From Fulaga, we were heading back north to Taveuni and Viani Bay (on
the east coast of Vanua Levu).
Passage from Fulaga to Taveuni
Island (July 13-14, 187 nm, 32 hours). We got an early start from Fulaga
and had a smooth exit from the pass. Since we were headed north, the
southeast tradewinds were working in our favor. With 15-20 knots of wind on our
starboard quarter for most of the trip, we averaged over 6 knots on our passage north to Taveuni -
pretty fast for Slip Away! We had good wind until we entered the Somosomo Straits,
when we were shadowed by the island and becalmed, so we motored the last 12 miles
to a spot near the northwest end of the island where we dropped our anchor.
Taveuni Island (July 14-17).
Taveuni is Fiji's fourth largest island and known as the "Garden Isle"
because it is green and lush with beautiful rainforest and waterfalls.
It is volcanic and high, with two peaks over 1000 meters (3280 feet), Des Voeux Peak (1195
meters or 3920 feet) and Mt. Uluigalau (1241 meters or 4071 feet). Much
of the eastern side of the island has been designated as National Park. There are
no major towns on Taveuni, but the largest village of Somosomo has a couple of
grocery stores and a daily market selling fruits and veggies along the side of
the road. The 180th meridian of longitude runs through the middle of Taveuni,
with half of the island in the eastern hemisphere, and the other in the
first order of business when we got to Taveuni was to buy some food.
Three weeks in Fulaga had depleted all of our fresh fruits and veggies, and we
had used up quite a few canned and dry goods too. Somosomo
has a Morris Hedstrom grocery store (aka MH, which is Fiji's largest grocery chain),
as well as the roadside fruit and vegetable stands, so we
planned to do some provisioning.
After a good night's rest at our anchorage near the northwest end of the
island, we moved Slip Away to an anchorage in front of the Taveuni Ocean Sports Dive
Shop. We were told that this was a good anchorage, and it was five miles closer to the grocery store, which made
it a walk-able distance. We dropped the anchor, dinghied ashore and
started walking toward town, but we didn't get far when a local guy stopped and
gave us a ride. We did our shopping and caught a cab back to the anchorage,
and when we returned, the tide was out, and an on-shore breeze had come up. Neither of us felt comfortable in this anchorage -
Slip Away was way too close
to a reef which came out from the shoreline. Before the groceries were put
away, we weighed anchor and headed back to the previous night's anchorage.
That night and the next morning, we
had some high winds and heavy rains, but Slip Away was quite secure,
and we were both happy that we had returned to this spot. The wind and rain abated in the
afternoon, so we took the dinghy ashore and went for a walk around the north
end of the island. Taveuni gets a lot of rain, and the island is very
green - very pretty! We walked past the airport to a small village and
found a small grocery store, where we got an ice cream - boy, did that
taste good! This store actually had some better stuff
than the MH in Somosomo, and we picked up a few more items.
That evening, the winds shifted a bit, and we got some ocean swell wrapping
around the north end of the island, making our anchorage rolly. Time to
School patrol boys in Somosomo
Rainbow on the morning of a stormy day
Viani Bay, Vanua Levu (July 17 to
August 6). The trip from Taveuni to Viani Bay near the southeastern
corner of Vanua Levu wasn't far - just
17 nautical miles across the Somosomo Straits. The wind was gusty - 15
to 25 knots - but the seas weren't bad, and we sailed with just a headsail, a
pretty easy three-hour trip.
Viani Bay is a good anchorage as a
base from which to scuba dive in the Somosomo Straits, an area generally referred to as Rainbow
Reef, which hosts some of Fiji's best diving. A local guy named Jack Fisher
and his wife Sofie live in Viani Bay, and Jack is a bit of an icon in the
cruising community. He is a very sociable sort, loves the
company of the cruising community and provides excellent "tour guide" services to us. When Jack was
younger, he drove a boat for a dive shop, so he knows the locations of all the
good scuba diving and snorkeling sites, and he will accompany cruisers on our
boats to take
us out to snorkel or dive on the sites, most of which are only a few miles
from Viani Bay. Jack doesn't dive with us, but when we're in the water scuba diving or snorkeling,
provides surface support by either staying on board the mothership or following
our bubbles in the dinghy and picking us up at the end of the dive. He charges FJD
$10 per person per trip, and we also provide snacks and lunch for him.
Since most cruisers are on somewhat of a budget, this is a fantastic deal for
us and makes it affordable to do repetitive dives on these world-class
dive sites. And, we understand that Jack is generous with the money he
makes. The kids in Viani Bay are transported to school by boat, and Jack recently bought them a new
Kids in Viani Bay getting dropped off by the
local school boat
Although trips with Jack are a
great way to dive the sites in this area, friends who had previously been in Viani Bay
suggested that we do the famous "Great White Wall" dive with a
local dive shop and highly recommended Taveuni Ocean Sports. Most dive
shops only dive the Great White Wall a few days each month - during neap tides
due to the currents at that site. The dive was available a couple of
days after we arrived in Viani Bay, so we booked the trip. We were
having some rough weather during that time, but we got a lucky break on that
day and had settled conditions. (They had cancelled the dive scheduled
on the previous day.) The Great White Wall is an underwater wall that is
covered by white soft corals - very unique. It is a drift dive because
the coral polyps are open only when the current is flowing.
White soft corals on the Great White Wall dive
Some of the other colorful soft corals on the Rainbow Reef
A few days later,
our friends Kerri & Andrew (s.v.
joined us in Viani Bay, a rendezvous we'd be planning for a few weeks. They
are good friends and great dive buddies. In addition to doing several dives
together, we shared meals, adult beverages and lots of great conversation. On
our first dive with Jack, he took the four of us to the Great White Wall on
Slip Away, but our second dive at
this site was more of an
adventure than we would have liked when a strong current came up toward the
end of the dive. Slip Away was tied to the dive site mooring, Jack was
on board, and our dinghies were in the water trailing out behind Slip Away.
We used our dinghies to get in and out of the water with our dive gear -
easier than trying to do it from the mothership. It was helpful that the
two of us dove the site previously, as we knew the lay of the land (this was
Kerri & Andrew's first time).
We descended, swam through a large cavern, drifted slowly along the wall at about 70 to 80 feet of depth, then came up to the
top of the wall at about 40 feet and swam back toward the mooring. Kerri
& Andrew surfaced a few minutes earlier than us and had climbed in their
dinghy. We were nearing the end of our dive and started swimming toward
the base of the mooring, when we felt the current starting to build. We
ended up crawling along the top of the wall, grabbing onto rocks to make
forward progress. Rich reached the mooring line first, held on, and stuck out his fin so Jan could grab it and
pull herself to the line too. We ascended holding on to the line, which
took a fair amount of strength as we estimated the current was running at 4 or
5 knots. We did our
three-minute safety stop at 15 feet, and when we surfaced, we were pinned
against the bow of the boat. We had a long line sitting our on deck, and
Jack dropped it over the side to us. We grabbed on to it, and he held it
while we drifted back
to the dinghies. We were able to grab and hold on to the dinghy, but
with the current, it was impossible to hold on while taking off our dive
gear and climbing in. Kerri is a PADI dive instructor and saved the
day for us. She and Andrew were still in their dinghy, and although our dinghies were close in proximity, they were not
close enough for her to climb from one to the other. She had to jump
into the water in order to reach our dinghy and pull herself in. Once she was in our
dinghy, she took our gear from us and helped us in. We were remembering
friends telling us that Jack provides a "good service," but he has "his
limitations." We also now understood why friends suggested that we
dive the Great White Wall with a dive shop. This experience with Jack
didn't instill a lot of confidence, especially since it was our first dive
with him, and we shudder to think of what could have happened with
less-experienced divers. Subsequent dives
with Jack were done at sites with less current and went fairly well - a few moments of adventure but nothing like that
Our friends Kerri & Andrew, s.v. Mariposa
The scuba diving from Viani Bay was outstanding!
On subsequent trips, Jack took us to sites called The Fish Factory and Cabbage Patch - a few times
to each site, and each time was a new and different experience. The
water was super clear, the soft corals were beautiful and colorful, and we saw
great marine life, not only tons of fishes but also numerous nudibranchs,
small "sea slugs" which are generally not plentiful and can be difficult to
spot. There were usually a few boats in the Viani Bay anchorage, and we
all took turns being the "host" boat, taking out whomever wanted to dive or
snorkel for the day. We
took Slip Away a couple of times - once with a total of nine people on board. The day of our last dive in Viani
Bay, we went out on a catamaran called Spirit of Africa, which was a real
treat because cats have so much more room than mono-hulls.
An octopus grabs on to Rich's glove (lower left-hand corner)
at the Fish Factory
A juvenile palette surgeonfish swimming among damselfish
Rich & Kerri (s.v. Mariposa) enjoying the front deck on Spirit of Africa
Crews of Spirit of Africa, Mariposa, Puddy Tat and Slip Away
enjoying a pot-luck lunch after a morning dive
In addition to diving and
snorkeling trips, Jack also accompanied cruising boats on other day trips to Taveuni - grocery shopping in Somosomo and excursions to the Tavoro
Waterfalls in the Bouma National Heritage Park. As with the diving, those who want to join in all ride along
on one boat, and we each paid Jack FJD $10. Jack organized the taxi
service to either the grocery store or the waterfalls for us, and he stayed
and guarded the dinghy. (Although we ran into very little crime in Fiji,
Jack told us there were some issues with theft on Taveuni, so he wanted to
make sure we had no problems.) Jan did a couple of grocery runs to
Somosomo during our three weeks in Viani Bay, and the two of us rode along on
s.v. Kailani for the excursion to the waterfalls. Kailani is a 63-foot
boat, and 14 of us went on that trip. We met some new folks that day,
the waterfalls were beautiful, and we had a great time.
Kerri (s.v. Mariposa) takes in the
view on the hike up to the Tavoro Waterfalls
One of the three Tavoro Waterfalls
Jan braves the chilly water and goes for a
Our hosts for the day Jen & Harley (s.v.
Enjoying a cold beer on Kailani on our way
back to Viani Bay
On one of the days when Jack took
some others to do a shopping run to Somosomo, it was a perfect day to dive with flat calm conditions. So, the two of us and Kerri from Mariposa took
our dinghies out for a dive. (Andrew went over to Somosomo with Jack, so
he wasn't able to join us.) We headed out to
the Great White Wall mooring, where we tied up Kerri's dinghy. Kerri
then joined us in our dinghy, and we motored a bit further west along
the wall (about a mile), hoping to find the Purple Wall. We weren't exactly sure where
to start our dive because there is no mooring on the Purple Wall. As we were pondering whether or not we were in the right
spot, a dolphin swam by our dinghy. We followed the dolphin along the
wall, and when it turned off and swam back out into deeper water, we decided
to jump in and see if we were in the right place - and we were! During
this dive, Rich towed our dinghy along on a long painter (line), so we wouldn't have
a problem if the current came up. The Purple Wall dive was beautiful -
we actually liked it better than the Great White Wall. We drifted along
back toward the Great White Wall, and when we surfaced after the dive, we
were just a few meters from Kerri's dinghy. Perfect! And, this
time we experienced no strong currents - just enough for the soft corals to be
in bloom and for us to enjoy an easy and beautiful dive.
On Sundays, we did not ask Jack to
take us diving because we knew that he, like most Fijians, attended church,
and we didn't want to impose on his Sabbath day. As is customary in
Fiji, we were invited to attend church and have lunch in the village on Sundays. On
the first Sunday we were in Viani Bay, Kerri & Andrew hadn't arrived yet, and
since we had such a nice experience with Sunday church and lunch in Fulaga, we decided
to give it a go here too. Paul & Catherine
(s.v. Kahia) were also planning to go, so we offered them a ride
with us in our dinghy (sort of like carpooling).
Purple soft corals on the Purple Wall Dive
Church in Viani Bay is generally held in someone's house, but on this
particular Sunday, they held it in one of the primary school's classrooms
because they were having
a special celebration, with several of the smaller villages coming
together. Church in the villages usually starts about 10:30 and lasts about an hour, but
this special church service lasted FOUR hours! They started with the
normal service, and then went into some penance type of thing where the
minister sat at the front of the church with a list of names. As he went
down the list and called out a name, the person (or sometimes a family) stood
up and apologized to the community for some wrong doing (like stealing cows).
Several people were sobbing as they confessed and apologized for their
wrong-doings. This lasted well over an hour. After that, the
minister washed everyone's feet (about 30 minutes), and then the minister preached
what sounded to us like a fire and brimstone sermon (another hour). All
of this was in Fijian, so we didn't understand a word! But, Jack explained it
to us later. Most of the local people were sitting on the floor in the
school room. We were honored guests, and they sat us on wooden chairs on
the side, but near the front. After about three hours, Jan's butt
couldn't stand another minute on the hard chair. She noticed some of the
locals had wandered outside, and she snuck out the side door. About a
half hour later, Rich came out. We were more than ready to leave and go home, but we
had given a ride to Paul & Catherine, and they were still inside. Rich
decided to run back to Slip Away to get a hand-held radio for them, so
they could call us when things wrapped up. We had no idea how much
longer this would last! However, just as Rich made it back ashore with
the radio, the church service ended. Lunch was being served, and we were
starved, so we decided to stay and eat. The food was excellent
- the best we ever had in any of the villages.
Paul & Catherine (s.v. Kahia) with Jack Fisher
Jack explaining the four-hour church service to us
The meal served after church was outstanding!
The next Sunday, when Jack asked us
if we wanted to come in for church and lunch, we politely declined.
Church that week was a normal one-hour service, it was held at Jack's
house, and it sounded like his feelings were a little hurt that no one came in
for it. We did go in for church and lunch the following week because it was
Jack's birthday. Church that week was held at one of Jack's relatives' houses, the
service was an hour with guitars accompanying the singing, and lunch was very good. Jack's daughter baked
several birthday cakes, and she served each of us a large plate of cakes - way more
than we could have ever eaten!
After Jack's birthday party, it was
once again time for us to move on. We were into August now - where had the time
gone? Before leaving, we had a few things to do to get ready, and a
recent addition to our "to-do" list has been bottling beer. We've been
using a Coopers Beer Kit to brew our own beer, and we try to time it such that
a new batch of beer is bottled before taking off on a long and/or potentially
rough passage. Sailing off with a batch of beer brewing in the big vat
is risking a big mess! So, we bottled our beer, did laundry, prepared
some food, got the boat ready, said our good-byes and headed off.
Over the next few months, we
continued to explore Fiji - Ono & Kadavu, the south and west coasts of Viti
Levu, and the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island Groups. We also took a short
break and flew back to the States for a very special wedding - Rich's son Erik
and our new daughter-in-law Chrissy. The continuation of our Fiji cruise
and the wedding will be covered in our Fiji Part II web page.
Rich bottling beer