Monday, September 19, 2016

Fiji Phase One

After two nights and a day sailing from Tonga, a
 glorious sunrise welcomed us to Fijian waters.  Having endured weeks of rain and gloom in Tonga, seeing and feeling the warm sun was a welcome development.

We planned to arrive at the eastern edge of Fiji's waters at dawn because we still had day of navigating the countless reefs atolls and islands in the Lau Group of Islands.   

We were sailing along with our buddies Tim and Jerri Miller who sail their brand new Atlantic 47 Agility.  This amazing catamaran is either a schooner or a ketch.  Nobody really knows because the rig is so new fangled.  What she has is two foiled masts like wings, from which two club footed staysails are carried with electric roller furling.  The boat can sail under the masts alone because they are each airfoils that produce lift like sails.  The result is almost push-button sailing from the forward cockpit.

Tim and Jerri took some incredible sunrise photos of Moonshadow that morning, for which we are so grateful.

It's so rare to have a picture of your own boat sailing, 
but to get these with the lighting was just awesome.

Plotting our track on the Google Earth site made us realize how big this Pacific Ocean really is.  And how much water we've put under Moonshadow's keel in the last few months.

Our landfall was Savusavu, a bustling one street town with a yacht harbor that draws all the yachts passing through Fiji.  This is the nearest port of entry for yachts arriving from the east of Fiji, so that explains most of the boats here. 
Moonshadow was the 157th boat to check in through Savusavu this year.

The harbor is just jam packed with cruisers.  Moonshadow was too big for the available moorings, so we took a slip at the Copra Shed Marina.  The slips were just 30 feet long, so we Med-moored with our anchor out in the channel, and our stern lines tied to the Savusavu Yacht Club.

After cruising through remote islands Savusavu offers the opportunity to shop for things you haven't seen in a while, and it seems you can find almost anything you need here...

...including Fiji water.

Along with Agility and our other buddies Mark and Deanna aboard Speakeasy, which had arrived in Savusavu a week earlier, we made a formidable team to tackle sight seeing, eating and drinking. 

The hike to the top of the hill was a good way to work off all the calories and take in the view.

Soon Tim and Jerri had arranged a day of sight seeing in two taxis.  First stop was the copra processing plant.  Here the girls are studying hard for the expected quiz at the end of the tour.

Next up was a hike to a waterfall, but first we stopped to pay tribute to the local village that owns the waterfall.  Through centuries the land has been held by tribes and tradition is to first gain permission to visit.  This is done by presenting a gift of kava to the Chief.  This time, because it was early in the morning and the village men were still in bed, instead of the Chief, we got an elder woman who performed the ceremony.

Accepting the gift of Kava equates to giving permission to join the village, swim in the water, anchor in the bay, hike on the beaches, the whole nine yards.  If the gift is refused, that means we are tonight's dinner.  

You know how this ends:  We hiked up to the waterfall through some really lush country...

... stopping to admire the vivid colors...

...then there it was, spilling into a cool pool of clear fresh water.

Check another waterfall off the list.  By our count this is the fourth waterfall hike we've shared with Mark and Dee.

The day long tour finished with a visit to a Hindu temple and a huge lunch.

Back at the marina, we realized we'd better make plans to visit some of the surrounding islands and bays.  Our friends were leaving for the western coast of Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian islands, while we planned to head east.

Heading east anywhere in the tropics is never a great idea, as Sojourn demonstrates here.

But Moonshadow just plows on through this kind of seaway and in a few hours we found ourselves in the lee of Taveuni, Fiji's third largest island.

Across the channel from Taveuni we found Viani Bay, which appears to offer great protection from weather approaching from any point on the compass.

Speaking of weather, we also found ourselves right under a stationary front which produced rain, clouds and gloom for a few days, reminding us of Tonga.

But, snug in our cockpit we watched this family traverse the span between a small island and the larger island across a sand spit that is knee deep at low tide and overhead at high tide.

This family picked the right time to head home after a day visiting and fishing.

Eventually, we carried on to the north to Albert Cove on the north end of Rabi Island.  Like most of the anchorages here, the water is deep everywhere except along the shore where it quickly transitions from well over 100 feet to 30-40 feet sand with coral bommies, to solid coral that dries at low tide.

A small challenge which rewards with spectacular views.

It was here that the weather turned from crud to "fine".  In these parts when the weatherman says it will be "fine" the picture below is what he means.

There is just one family that lives here in Albert Cove.  This mother's (we forgot her name) Great great grandfather was relocated here from his ancestral home of Banaban by the British in the early 1900s.  Banaban, maybe 600 miles to the north, is is not part of Fiji but rather belongs to the Republic of Kiribati.  The relocation was done when Banaban was rendered uninhabitable by phosphate mining operations.

The family (Mother and Dad, children ages 3, 2, and 1; grandmother and an aunt) has some pigs, chickens and plentiful fruit growing in the lush surroundings...

... but not much else...

... unless you count the fact that where they live, it's paradise!

The last night before the stationary front moved out provided the sunset that just kept giving.  It started out looking like a potential dud, but then...

... the ever changing sky yielded a tapestry of colors and textures that lasted...

... long past the actual setting of the sun.

On our return to the south, we stopped for another night in beautiful Viani Bay.  The next morning the air was so still and the water mirror smooth.  We had to delay our departure just to take it all in.

Besides raw beauty, Viani Bay has Charmaine and Jovan.  Charmaine appears at Moonshadow's stern in her kayak where Jovan climbs up the ladder and makes himself at home in the cockpit.  

After all, who can resist this face?

If you can believe her story, Charmaine is 15, and her son is three.  Her mother died last year and her father left to Savusavu for work.  So Charmaine offers fruit to all the yachties for money.  My guess is that with her story and Jovan's face, none of the yachties refuse.  We didn't.

Things could be worse.  Charmaine and Jovan live here.

And they are under the constant watch of these ancient faces...

... and this guy.

With the weather finally cooperating, Deb is taking in the beauty of another fine sunset.  John is just taking in the beauty.

And just after sunset, by simply turning our chairs 180 degrees we were treated to a beautiful harvest moon rise.

So now we're back in Savusavu for dinner, some supplies, and an internet fix.  Then it's off to Fiji phase 2:  the western side of Fiji where we'll explore the Wasaba islands.

1 comment:

Aidan Barrett said...

Hi J & D
Loved your recent blogs. The arrival into Fiji looks so great. And the Google earth picture of the distance you have covered is really amazing. Well done. Seems like the Pacific is an endless exploration ground. Pity Tonga turned into a long wet period for you. Hope everything has dried out by now.
All well here in S D. Hope your family are well.
I have been sending 'posts' to your blog more or less since you left. I have no idea whether any of them have ever reached you. May I suggest that you make a brief mention in a blog that you are receiving those blogs and perhaps who sends them. It would be nice to know that we are reaching you.
Meantime Robin and I send you our very best wishes and wish you continued safe travels.

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