Circumnavigating Vanua Levu

Vanua Levu

Frank & I had decided to visit Also Island on the north-eastern tip of Vanua Levu, which was the home of Jim Bandy.

Jim Bandy's home on Also Island

Jim Bandy’s home on Also Island

In 2001, Jim & his wife Kyoko were traveling through Fiji as part of a world circumnavigation, when they happened to anchor their yacht ‘Also 2’ near the village of Cawaro on Cikobia Island. Like many passing ‘yachties’ who offer their skills to help villages along the way, Jim, a motor engineer, started by helping to fix an outboard engine. He then helped them to purchase a new outboard engine for their only village boat and installed it.
The villagers realized what an asset Jim would be to their community & were so grateful to the couple for their help, that as an incentive to encourage them to stay on, they gave them an island, and Jim & Kyoko never left Fiji or returned to their cruising life!
That was over 13 years ago & during that time, Jim & Kyoko have given a great deal of assistance to the local communities through charitable work, as well as providing paid work for a number of villagers who help in his boat building work, the shop he runs and around his home & grounds on Also Island.

However, for Frank & I, the main reason we wished to pay a visit to Also Island, was to meet the person behind the renowned ‘Rag of the Air’ HF radio net that Jim started in 2001. Every morning at 0700hrs on 8173khz he chats with yachts who check in & he shares weather information for the entire South Pacific region.
(For his story- http://www.alsoislandfiji.com/rag-story.html)
Frank & I had communicated with Jim on Rag of the Air when heading home to Brisbane, after purchasing Stars End 2 in American Samoa in 2009.
(For that story- https://starsend2.com/our-yacht-stars-end-2/)

Under sail with reefs nearby

Under sail with reefs nearby

From Rabi Island, it was 40 miles across over the northern tip of Vanua Levu, with some meandering through reefs, to the entrance of Nukusa Passage where we could follow our way points down to Also Island. The Garmin chart plotter and CM93 computer charts both showed that this area was extremely shallow (falling as low as 0.9m), so with a 1.8m draft, we were doubtful we could get as far as Jim’s place.
We were prepared to anchor further back and dinghy down to Also Island, but as we slowly motored through the shoal areas, we were surprised to find the depth considerably more than the charts indicated.
However,  that didn’t stop us hitting a reef! As I mentioned in my last post, Frank & I find our way through all the reefs & shallows using a combination of GPS, electronic & paper charts, google earth images and keeping a good look out. The google earth image did show the faintest indication of a reef, but we were so preoccupied with which course to steer that we ran onto the reef before we realized, going from 5 meters to 1.7 in a matter of seconds. Luckily, we were motoring very slowly, and Frank was able to reverse us off with a minimum amount of coral crunching, (later inspection revealed just a few minor scratches on the keel, even removing some unwanted barnacles!)

'Waikere'

‘Waikere’

 

 

As we rounded the point and head downriver, we could see another yacht anchored close to where we presumed Also Island to be located, and the water was deep enough to allow us to reach that far before anchoring nearby in only 7 meters of water.
The other yacht was an attractive wooden 43 ft yacht ‘Waikere’ from Puponga (northern tip of South Island) New Zealand.
Serge (originally from Belgium) and Carole (originally from Switzerland), had arrived the day before and we all four hit it off from the minute we met.

 

 

 

Jim's home

Also Island

Frank & I went ashore to pay our respects to Jim on Also Island. His wife, Kyoko, was visiting Lobasa to receive some rest & recuperation after a bad case of flu so Jim was most appreciative of some ‘yachtie’ company & chuffed that we had made the effort to visit him on his island.

 

 

 

 

 

Jim & Kyoko's home

Jim & Kyoko’s home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchtime on the verandah

Lunchtime on the verandah

Sitting outside on his verandah area (which was the hub of all the local comings & goings), we heard many stories about his life & how he & his wife had sailed to this corner of Fiji and never left. It was most enlightening to hear all about the dynamics of trying to assimilate into Fijian life with all it’s bureaucracy!

 

 

 

 

 

Sammi & his wife Mela in the shop

Sammi & his wife Mela in the shop

Frank 'fiddling 'in Jim's workshop!

Frank ‘fiddling ‘in Jim’s workshop!

 

We stayed almost a week at Also Island. Jim was so welcoming, and happy for us to come and go onshore, inviting us to share meals and for Frank & Serge to help him with his temperamental main 240 volt generator for the island. Frank was glad for the opportunity to use Jim’s slipway to repair our dinghy as the rubber pontoons had come unstuck from the aluminum hull

 

Cooking with Sisi, Carole, Sereima & Miry

Cooking with Sisi, Carole, Sereima & Miry

Carole & I had the best time with the ‘ladies’ from the local village who worked for Jim, around his home and gardens, & in the mini supermarket he had established that was well frequented by all the villages nearby. On several days, Carole & I chose various recipes that were practical due to access of ingredients (both from their supplies & our own), and with much laughter and joking, we spent our days cooking with Sereima, Tokasa, Mela, Sisi & Miry in Jim’s camp styled kitchen.

 

 

 

Nikki preparing Asian salad with Miry & Sereima

Nikki preparing Asian salad with Miry & Sereima

Carole showing Sisis & Sereima how to cook ratatouille.

Carole showing Sisis & Sereima how to cook ratatouille.

Beautiful Tokasa with Carole & Nikki

Beautiful Tokasa with Carole & Nikki

Sushi and sashimi lunch on Also Island

Sushi and sashimi lunch on Also Island

We cooked up ratatouille & Asian salad, scones & banana cake, pizzas and (when Jim’s Japanese wife Kyoko returned from Lobasa), we made sushi & sashimi. The ladies also cooked up traditional Fijian food for the workers each lunchtime and Carole & I both enjoyed watching how to cook some tasty curries using just basic ingredients with lentils & vegetables.

Jim Bandy & Sammi taking us to the hurricane hole

Jim Bandy & Sammi taking us to the hurricane hole.

Heading through the mangrove inlets

Heading through the mangrove inlets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hurricane hole

The hurricane hole

Along with Sammi & Ruben, the 2 local men who worked for Jim, we treasured our time spent with these wonderful people & took away fond memories of Also Island.

On our last day, Jim took the four of us to see a hurricane hole down a nearby river, as an option to consider if we wanted to stay the cyclone season in Fiji. Much as Jim would have loved us to stay and help with some of his many projects, both ‘Waikere’ and ‘Stars End 2” were not prepared to forgo our cruising season around Fiji.

 
So after a great week, we bade our sad farewells and left in joint company of ‘Waikere’ to head down the west coast of Vanua Levu.

SE2 sailing from Also Island

SE2 sailing from Also Island

 

 

We sailed through the Nukudmo Passage through the reef and over the next couple of days, enjoyed some great sailing. We were still required to tack several times to avoid shallow areas or reefs, but were thrilled to be sailing with the wind behind us and often reached speeds in excess of 7 knots.

 

 

 

Sundowner drinks on the beach with Carole & Serge

Sundowner drinks on the beach with Carole & Serge

'Waikere' & 'Stars End 2' at anchor

‘Waikere’ & ‘Stars End 2’ at anchor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found, to our mutual delight, that ‘Waikere’ & ‘Stars End 2’ were very compatible yachts, sailing at similar speeds. ‘Waikere’ definitely sailed into the wind much better than us, (being narrow and built for speed), but in downwind conditions or reaching, then SE2 came into her own, and fairly flew, so it became a bit of a game between Frank & Serge as they tweaked the sails, attempting to playfully race each other to our next destination for the day.

Serge & Carol on board the 'air conditioned' bus.

Serge & Carol on board the ‘air conditioned’ bus.

At low tide, we had a looong way to drag the dinghy over the sand!

At low tide, we had a long way to drag the dinghy across the beach!

We reached Malau Island. Although it was an industrial area (with a timber mill, sugar silo and gas terminal), from the shore we could catch a bus to the township of Lobasa 6 miles away. We caught the bus 2 days in a row, and were delighted at the friendly reception we received from the other passengers, who shook our hands and were so interested to find out where we were from.
They were like a number of Fijians we had met, incredulous that we had sailed all the way from our own country, across the ocean in such a little yacht they could see anchored in the bay!

Young schoolchildren, whose mothers had ushered them on board the bus for school, unabashedly sat and stared at us with shy smiles on their faces.

Like Lautoka (on main island of Viti Levu), Lobasa has a predominantly Indian population, due to the sugar cane industry which over several generations, saw a huge influx of Indian migrants to work in the fields. There has been much discord between the native Fijians and the Indians who, with their strong work ethic, have now taken over many of the thriving businesses & are far better off than the indigenous population.

Trucks waiting to drop off their delivery of sugar cane.

Trucks waiting to drop off their delivery of sugar cane.

Cane train

Cane train

On our bus ride into town, we passed a train with scores of wagons piled high with sugar cane. Nearer to town & zig zagging along the slip road that led to the mill was a snaking line of lorries & tractors several miles long, again all piled high with sugar cane from private farms all over the district, waiting to drop off their delivery to the sugar extraction mill. We were told it is not uncommon for the drivers to wait all day in queues of hundreds of vehicles, and in fact, we saw men napping in their trucks, or relaxing under a nearby shady tree accepting with true Fijian style, the long wait ahead of them.

The Indian shops are a riot of colors.

The Indian shops are a riot of colors.

Lobasa enjoys a busy thriving atmosphere, with hoards of people rushing around the markets and shops. Carole & I took some time out for a leisurely wander around, checking out the shops & admiring all the brilliant colors and glittering fabrics of the Indian saris for sale.

Serge had made an emergency appointment with a dentist he had been recommended and he was not disappointed when he had to have the tooth removed (with little fuss) for the grand total of $40. (They apologized for the cost which was increased, being a foreign patient & because Serge had requested 2 courses of anti-biotics as a precaution!). The full mouth x-rays he had been obliged to have taken at the local hospital the previous day had cost him $30, a far cry from the Australian system which had cost us over $200!

Lobasa markets

Lobasa markets

Lobasa Markets

Lobasa Markets

 

Lunch in Lobasa

Lunch in Lobasa

 

 

We enjoyed our time on land, indulging in some icy cold drinks in an air-conditioned hotel in Lobasa & in some prerequisite local food, but once our yachts were stocked up with fresh supplies we were happy to move on.

 

 

 

DSCN2946

Whilst stopping in their kayak to discuss our departure, Carole & Serge noticed a black & white sea snake swimming around our yacht, searching for a place to exit the water. With boat hook in hand to fend off the impudent serpent, I followed the snake’s exploration right around the yacht before it discovered our floating rubber dinghy tied on behind. It managed to slither out of the water, up over the outboard engine and then before we could blink, it had found a gap and entered a crevice under the engine cover.
Frank argued that it was too big a deal to remove the outboard cover (which was also fastened with the harness we use to raise & drop the motor from the yacht), and suggested the snake would simply exit on it’s own accord.

Sea snake

Sea snake

I hastily assured him that nothing would make me go on board our dinghy again, until I had seen the offending creature wiggle away.
A few hours later, Frank needed to go shore and upon his return, convinced me that he had found the snake coiled inside the dinghy and had thrown it overboard. What has me confounded is that an hour or so later, whilst Frank was yet again in the dinghy, I noticed ‘another’ black & white sea snake swimming nearby, and when Frank hastily hit the water with the paddle to scare it away he accidentally decapitated the critter.
My question is this- What are the chances of seeing 2 black & white sea snakes in one afternoon after 5 months in Fiji without glimpsing a single serpent. I am not convinced that this wasn’t the same snake and that my husband made up a white lie to me!!!

SE2

SE2

 

The next morning both ‘Waikere’ & ‘Stars End 2’ had another exhilarating sail to Nukabati Island, 16 miles further along the coast. The wind rushed over the steep hillsides & blew strong gusts of wind across the bay, and we scooted along under sail at speeds of up to 7.6 knots.
Anchoring in the lee of the island, the strong winds howled all night. We had a restless sleep as the 30+ knot gusts caught the yacht, spun her around and as the anchor grabbed, gave an almighty wrench as the chain groaned with the strain.

 

 

Roast dinner on board Stars End 2

Roast dinner on board Stars End 2

With strong winds still blowing next day, we decided to stop & catch up with lots of jobs until the weather improved. We did a great pile of washing which dried fast in the sunshine & strong winds. Frank did some plumbing checks in the galley and then ‘played around’ with the water maker which was sucking air.
We watched a beautiful sunset that night followed by a clear sky full of stars, so I celebrated by cooking up a pork roast meal with all the trimmings, which we shared with Carole & Serge.

Heading to Nasea village in Nukabati Bay

Heading to Nasea village in Nukabati Bay

The following day, Frank & I took the dinghy across to the far side of the bay, where the small village of Nasea was virtually hidden behind dense mangroves. We offered our sevusevu (kava offering) & were shown around by Paul, the only male left in the village with a few women & children, as the remainder were attending a local funeral.

Nasea village

Nasea village

As a first in Fiji, we were most impressed to see solar panels mounted onto the roof of each home, courtesy of the government.
With the tide receding fast, however, we were unable to stay long or the water would have become too shallow to motor back, so we waved farewell and detoured on the way back to the private resort on Nukabati Island which was in sight of our anchorage, & sheltered from the prevailing wind.

 

 

Inside Nukabati resort

Inside Nukabati resort

 

Nukabati Island Private resort

Nukabati Island Private resort

Nukabati Island

Nukabati Island

 

This resort caters for only 14 guests in beachfront bure’s, and costs $710 a day (all inclusive). Since we were not guests, we were unable to eat there, but they kindly offered us tea & coffee which we sat & enjoyed in the opulent surroundings of their main dining/ lounge area.

 

 

 

Burning rubbish at Nedago Island

Burning rubbish at Nedago Island

 

By the following morning, the winds had abated, & so once again in company with ‘Waikere’, we sailed for several hours across to Nedago Island, which is part of a series of offshore reefs surrounded by mangroves, several miles off the coastline.

 

 

 

 

nedago 2We found a narrow indentation in the reef that offered a protected anchorage and though it was an overcast day, we found a sandy beach to burn some disposable rubbish and enjoy some snorkeling in the deep drop offs near shore. It wasn’t particularly clear or exciting terrain underwater but we were glad to cool off. Though overcast & sultry, it was exceptionally hot & muggy, and we experienced similar conditions for the next few days.

 

 

 

 

Exploring up the Lekuta River

Exploring up the Lekuta River

Next day, we headed back to the coast of Vanua Levu, to the entrance of the Lekuta River which meandered inland for many miles. Using our larger dinghy with the 15hp Yamaha outboard engine, Carole & Serge, Frank & I decided to go on an exploratory expedition upstream! The river was fairly narrow & bordered by beautiful old trees that leaned over from the rocky shoreline. It obviously rains a lot in this area, as the vegetation was lush rain forests overrun with vines & mangroves.

 

 

 

 

Magnificent old trees bordered the river

Magnificent old trees bordered the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank & Serge checking Google Maps on iPad to check where we are!

Frank & Serge checking Google Maps on iPad to see where we are!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yaduna

Yaduna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_9032A few miles along, we glimpsed a few homes among the bush and several longboats & home-made punts tucked into the riverbanks.
6 miles upstream, we came to a small settlement with a bright yellow wooden fishing boat tied up alongside the bank, with several men aboard. We asked if it was alright to pull alongside and us ‘girls’ hastily made ourselves ‘proper’ before clambering ashore! This entailed making sure we appropriately covered up our bare shoulders, and Carole wrapped a sarong around her shorts to cover her bare legs. The men started laughing and once coerced to share their sense of humor, they reassured us that if their women were in our country, they would be frantically uncovering themselves to fit in with our etiquette!!

Lekuta wharf

Enjoying a cold beer

Enjoying a cold beer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked up the riverbank to the newly created village called Yaduna consisting of 4 buildings on the main road which had just been bitumen-ed. Of the 4 buildings, there were 3 general stores all selling similar products and a number of local villagers congregated under the shade of the verandas, chatting and passing the time of day.

 

Carole seated outside the store

Carole relaxing on the luxurious seating provided!

As we have become accustomed to, we were welcomed profusely with shouts of “Bula, bula!” (hello, welcome) and inundated with interested questions as to where we were from, & how we had arrived here at the township. As per usual, the blue streak in my hair received it’s own assortment of shrieks of approval and comments!
On this subject, I am so glad I decided to keep the blue streak, as it has proven a remarkable ice breaker and a topic of conversation on a daily basis wherever we go. There is rarely a day passes when we are on land that I don’t hear passers-by call out in the street “I love your hair!”

 

DSCF5771
We all agreed that this felt like the hottest day we had experienced yet in Fiji, so we were delighted to discover that one of the micro supermarkets sold cold beer! We bought a couple of ‘tallies’ and sat down to refresh ourselves whilst we chatted with the locals out of the hot sun.
On our way back down the river, we followed the yellow fishing boat and caught the enticing smell of onion & garlic as they prepared a meal of fish and rice to eat before spending the night fishing out in the bay. Just as we came to the river entrance, the hot sultry day released a welcoming cooling downpour.
We all arrived back at our yachts drenched and the rain continued on & off all night, which we didn’t mind at all as it gave us almost 40 liters of rainwater that ran off the hard dodger roof down hoses & into our containers placed on either side of the cockpit.

Monkey Face Peninsula

Monkey Face Peninsula

We run our desalinator every few days for the basic water needs of the boat like showering & washing up, but we have a separate tank for drinking water. Frank usually throws away the first 1/4 of the collected rain water which would be polluted with the debris on the roof, (but I can always use this for washing clothes) but the remainder is often less than 100 parts per million of TDS (total dissolved solids) which is remarkably pure considering the water we get from the desalinator is typically around 195 parts per million.

Next day, we continued passed Monkey Face Peninsula (for the life of us we couldn’t see a monkey face at any angle!), and along the coastline to Rukuruku Bay. I spent most of the 13 mile sail working on my blog as we had remarkably good internet access for the first time in weeks, but as I stuck my head into the cockpit to check our progress, I noticed the hard rapela lure at the end of the trolling line was sticking out of the water at a strange angle. As Frank pulled in the line, we saw a decent sized (15 kg) fish hooked onto the lure. We thought it was a mackerel but after emailing a photo to Paul, he told us it was a waloo.

Another catch- waloo we think!

Another catch- waloo we think!

Filleting our fish in the cockpit

Filleting our fish in the cockpit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Dinner on SE2

Fish Dinner on SE2

 

 

For those blog watchers who didn’t appreciate my lurid description of Frank killing the mahi mahi, you will be pleased to know that this fish seemed to have exhausted itself by the time we had reeled it in, and needed no dramatic killing procedure!
I invited Serge & Carole on board SE2 for dinner, and yes, fresh fish was on the menu with potato gratin & salad.

 

 

A boisterous sail to Yadua Island

A boisterous sail to Yadua Island

Yadua Island, 12 miles away off the coast of Vanua Levu, was our next destination. By the time we had maneuvered through the marked shoal areas and a narrow reef passage, a 25 knot SE wind picked up with stronger gusts, so we set the sails ready for a fast trip. SE2 was powering along at well over 8 knots when I noticed the trolling line pulling on the elastic bungee attached to absorb the shock when a fish takes the lure.
I wasn’t even aware that Frank had bothered to put in a line as we don’t like to catch more than we can eat or give away to local villages & we still had fish in the fridge & freezer. We were certainly not in a position to slow down (by going into the wind), surrounded on both sides by breaking reefs, so whilst I concentrated on steering, Frank pulled in the line with great difficulty, took the hook out of the fish and threw it back into the sea. I was more disappointed that we were unable to take a photo for Paul to admire our catch!

Waikere & Stars End 2 anchored in Cukuvua Harbour

Waikere & Stars End 2 anchored in Cukuvua Harbour

As we head across the Bligh Passage, the swell picked up significantly, and the exposed waters became rather too boisterous for comfort. Luckily, our speed meant that we reached Yadua Island in record time and once in the lee of the island we were able to explore the various bays to find the most protected anchorage. We finally stopped at Cukuvua Harbour on the western side of the island which was out of the swell. However, it couldn’t prevent the violent gusts of wind from swooping down over the hills, rushing across the water to propel the yachts bow to one side, jerking violently as the anchor chain grabbed & make us feel as though we were on a fairground ride.
The wind continued all night and well into the next day, when it became quite overcast and started to rain.

 

 

The camp

The camp

The colorful longboat

The colorful longboat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pancakes on 'Waikere'

Pancakes on ‘Waikere’

Whilst we were content to just mooch aboard SE2, safe & snug, & socialize with “Waikere’, we had watched a couple of longboats with over a dozen men land on the beach the day we arrived, set up camp with one small tarp for cover, and various groups wandered the beach & along the rocky shoreline to throw out hand lines. Once the rain came, we saw them sheltering under their tarp & the trees, and cope with a miserable windy, wet night huddled around a fire trying to cook & keep dry.

 

 

 

The boys from Lautoka camping on the beach at Cukuvua harbour

The boys from Lautoka camping on the beach at Cukuvua harbour

I thought of my own sons, & my heart went out to them, so next morning, with the wind still strong and little else to do, I decided to bake some comfort food to offer the men on the beach. Mid morning, Frank & I puttered the dinghy to shore where we received a friendly welcome & a rather surprised but very appreciative reaction to the large platter I offered them full of chocolate cake, apple, walnut & ginger cake & anzac biscuits. We chatted for a while and learned they were 15 young men from Lautoka on Viti Levu who were on a ‘boys trip’ to dive for sea cucumbers on the reefs off Yadua Island to sell & make a profit. Their trip was a bit of a washout, with the wind and rain working against them, but they seemed to enjoy their homemade treats and were extremely grateful for the care package we also offered them, full of dried goods to supplement their food rations. They loved posing for the camera and even though some of them seemed quite shy we were impressed at their courteous manners and friendly manner.

Nikki clambering up the cliff face!

Nikki clambering up the cliff face!

 

 

Serge & Carole came ashore too, and we decided to look for a path we had heard about that led from this beach to the only village on the north-eastern side of Yadua island. The boys insisted on sending one of the young men to act as guide and we enjoyed stretching our legs on land even though we were unable to find the path.

 

 

Yadua Island- view from hilltop

Yadua Island- view from hilltop

By the following day, the rain had stopped & the wind had settled down. The young men came past in their longboats to say goodbye and offered Frank & I the gift of a snapper fish, (as a thank you I imagine) and we took the dinghy ashore for a stroll. Frank stumbled across the elusive path, that led from the back of the beach and with Serge & Carole, we decided to go for a trek. The path led through dense bush, & forested area to more open terrain with rocky outcrops and thick head high grass. As we moved away from the beach, so the temperature soared and it must have been 40 degrees as we started climbing from sea level to about 300 meters high where a marker lead (for safe entry into the harbour) stood at the top. There was a wonderful cool breeze up here & spectacular views back to Cukuvua Harbour & across to Yadua Taba.

 

Yadua Taba- nature reserve for endangered breed of frilled lizard

Yadua Taba- nature reserve for endangered breed of frilled lizard

This is a small uninhabited volcanic islet at the south-west corner of Yadua, made into a wildlife sanctuary by the National Trust of Fiji in 1980, for the rare crested iguana (Vokai) and with restricted access.
It was too far & too hot to walk to the village on the other side, so Carole & I returned to the beach whilst the men walked a little further. On the way back, we foraged for paw paws that were growing wild among the dense rain forest. We soaked them in a bucket of salt water to remove any bugs that we might unknowingly take back on board and then enjoyed cooling off in the shallows, waiting for Frank & Serge to join us a while later.

 

 

 

Pawpaws

Pawpaws

Tramping through the jungle

Tramping through the jungle

 

 

A welcome swim after the long walk

A welcome swim after the long walk

Frank's new wig of seaweed

Frankie has seaweed hair!

 

 

Cukuvua walk

Cukuvua walk

 

 

We had read that this bay had some good snorkeling spots and although Frank & I tried four locations around the bay, the wind & rain must have stirred up the waters and we had to suffice with fossicking along the shoreline instead.

 

 

 

3rd fish in a row!

3rd fish in a row!

 

 

 

On our return from Yadua, for the third sail in a row, we caught yet another fish on our trolling lure- this time it was a young barracuda (as determined by Paul), and good eating as it was, we decided to give trolling a miss for the next week whilst we used up all our supply of fish on board.

 

 

 

 

DSCF6568We reached Vanua Levu again at Bau Bay, on the north-west coast, and coast hopped over the next couple of days in head winds & stormy conditions. We had to tack 10 times back & forth across Wainunu Bay & rounded the bottom of the island near the ferry terminal at Nabouwalu. The next day, motor sailing through the Nasisonisoni Passage was particularly exciting as the gap was so narrow and with wind on tide effect, the yacht did some impressive wave jumping. Once through here, we had a couple more tacks to avoid some offshore reefs and then we were able to sail the remainder of the 40 miles to Savusavu.
Vessels started appearing on our AIS (Automatic Identification System), and we passed several yachts in close proximity. There were many more villages & townships visible along the coastline and after weeks spent around the north of Vanua Levu where we had only seen one or two other yachts, coming into the large town of Savusavu felt like arriving at the Big Smoke!

Savusavu entrance

Savusavu entrance

We rang ahead & organized a mooring near the Copra Shed Marina at Savusavu and our first night, Serge & Carol, Frank & I had a wonderful meal out at a local cheap Chinese restaurant, frequented by many ‘yachties’.
As we were paying our bill, we started talking to another couple at a nearby table. Bobbi & Noel are an American couple who were leaving Fiji next day to deliver a catamaran to Pago Pago In American Samoa. When we mentioned that our yacht, a Freedom ’39, had been purchased from there, they looked surprised & asked the yachts previous name. They just about fainted when we told them ‘Mainly’, as they were good sailing friends of Joan & Dan Olszewski, the previous owners, had been devastated to learn about the tsunami & Dan’s death, and had been on standby to purchase the yacht themselves if our deal had fallen through, and deliver her back to USA.
It seemed such an incredible coincidence to meet like this and we had a good laugh when they told us that Joan had told them that a young Australian couple had purchased ‘Mainly’ so they now wondered if we had bought the yacht from that couple! Obviously we don’t look that young anymore!!!!

Sunset at Savusavu

Sunset at Savusavu

We had a great week and a bit in Savusavu.
We had spent a couple of months without good internet access, so we had a lot of business to catch up with online. I needed to send news to my family & my father and updating my blog ensured that friends at home & overseas would know we were safe & what had been happening in our lives.
Frank did many jobs on board plus the never ending maintenance jobs on the engine, water maker & our trusty fridge & freezer which are struggling to keep up with demand! The insulation on the freezer in particular is disintegrating, and leaking moisture into the cupboards and floors around it, creating in floor air conditioning in the galley! We put some insulation on the bulkhead between the freezer and the stove but still need to run the generator for several hours a day to keep the freezer happy. Frank is planning some major refrigeration repairs once we have finished our cruising season.

Contemplating which meat to buy!

Contemplating which meat to buy!

 

 

With much of our pantry foods depleted after 5 months, I re organized all the lockers and cupboards & then updated all my computer based lists of stored items and figured out what non perishables I needed to replace. I also cooked up a storm to freeze meals for when our friends flew over to Fiji.

 

 

 

Semi polishing the topsides

Semi polishing the topsides

The yacht needed some TLC too, so we hired two Fijian men who offered their services to clean all the stainless steel on the deck and remove the oxidization with abrasive pastes & followed by polishing the topsides. They worked hard and the boat positively gleamed once they had finished.

I had also sorted through the donated goods I still had packed away, and gave some huge bags of assorted goods to Semi & his brother-in-law, Richard. Semi is a father of 8 & impressed us with his entrepreneurial skills, soliciting his boat cleaning services to all the yachts who arrive in Savusavu, whilst also buying up land where his family could live and propagate a future business in growing kava and farming. He would later franchise out his boat cleaning business to his brother-in-law Richard, a courteous, quietly spoken father of 3.

 

 

Richard

Richard

The shiny bowsprit

The completed shiny bowsprit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank still struggling to find his land legs!

Frank still struggling to find his land legs on Serge’s bicycle!

DSCF5887

 

 

 

Drinks at Cousteau resort

Drinks at Cousteau resort

Drinks at the Copra Shed

Drinks at the Copra Shed

We managed to do plenty of socializing with other ‘yachties’ whilst in port, but especially because Carole was leaving from Savusavu to fly back to Nelson and Serge would continue sailing ‘Waikere’ single handed for the time being. One day, Frank, Carole & I walked to the Jean Michel Cousteau Resort about 6 miles from the marina. Serge joined us on his bicycle and we enjoyed some expensive drinks at the resort at the end of the walk.

 

 

 

On board Waikere

On board Waikere

Frank & I had really enjoyed the past month spent in the company of “Waikere’. They are a great couple & it was fun to have another yacht to keep apace of, and sometimes even try to overtake!! We had enjoyed many evenings on board each others yachts, sharing sun downers & meals and experienced forays onto islands, beaches, and up rivers exploring new territory!

 

 

 

 

Sun downers on SE2

Sun downers on SE2

It ‘s sad to farewell friends, but as we have discovered many times now, it is uncanny how often paths cross again when you least expect it. Serge is undecided as to where he will head after Fiji- there are simply too many choices and the world is there for the taking, but we know we will keep in touch and hope for a catch up somewhere before too long.

For Stars End 2, we took our departure from Savusavu in order to head east back to Taveuni where our close friends Dave & Lanie (from Gypsy Lee) will fly in on October 16th for a couple of weeks cruising with us.

 
We sailed 60 miles in one day. It had been suggested at the marina that the winds would be too strong to leave port.
Yes, it was another boisterous sail in 20-25 knot winds but a couple of hours out, the seas settled a bit & we made such good progress that we continued on past Fawn Harbour where we were planning to stop for the night.
As we passed Viani Bay, we completed the circle of our circumnavigation around Vanua Levu.

 

Washing day!

Washing day!

 

 

With stronger winds predicted, we anchored in a small narrow inlet called Naqaiqai Bay where we spent several days doing some house/boat work in preparation for our visitors and exploring the area. We aired all our hanging clothes, did lots of washing and tidied up the yacht. I tried unsuccessfully to complete this latest blog update, but the internet reception was so poor, that I was unable to upload photos at all.

 

 

Frank & I made friends with the family who live in this little bay.  Marina, her husband Willy and brother in law Eddie could not have made us feel more welcome on their family property called Loboki. When we first paid them a visit, they had family staying for the weekend from Viani Bay,  a nephew Jason & his wife Anna & their six children. With Willy and his twin brother, all 3 men work as caretakers on a private resort there called Whispering Tides.

Loboki

Loboki

Enjoying lemon grass tea in Loboki kitchen with Marina, Eddie & Hannah

Enjoying lemon grass tea in Loboki kitchen with Marina, Eddie & Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking across Viani Bay from the hilltop we walked across

Looking across Viani Bay from the hilltop.

Frank & Eddie surrounded by the dogs in front of the Fisher home.

Frank & Eddie surrounded by the dogs in front of the Fisher home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pied Piper of Loboki!

The Pied Piper of Loboki!

Eddie enjoying his 'rollies' made with local tobacco

Eddie enjoyed his ‘rollies’ made with local tobacco

 

 

 

Trees in the rain forest

Trees in the rain forest

We were invited to ‘grog’ evenings (kava drinking), and enjoyed some wonderful Fijian cooking by Marina. One day, Eddie took Frank & I for a leisurely 2 hour walk through rain forest, natural bush land and mangrove swamps to Viani Bay on the other side of the hills. Five of their dogs & puppies followed us the entire way there & back, which made for some interesting dynamics as they met & interacted with all the other dogs that families here seem to possess in high numbers. (spading dogs is not common practice ).

Eddie told us the story of how great tracts of this land around Viani Bay were given to the Fisher family in return for building a large wooden ship for a paramount chief on Taveuni Island several generations ago.  Jack Fisher, one of the descendants who lives in Viani Bay, offers his services to yachties as a guide to show them (for a nominal fee) the best snorkeling & diving spots around the area. We were invited for tea with another of the family, Dan Fisher, at Viani Bay, & were introduced to a number of families in the area, As we walked, we enjoyed hearing nostalgic stories from Eddie about the land he grew up on and he shared memories of his life. It was a full day and we were pretty tired by the time we walked back to Loboki that afternoon for tea & cake from Marina.

 

Dinner on board SE2

Dinner on board SE2

One evening, in an effort to repay some of their kindness, we invited Marina, Eddie & Hannah (their niece whom they are raising) for dinner on the yacht. (Willy was at work at Whispering Tides).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading towards Taveuni

Heading towards Taveuni

We left the protected anchorage at  Naqaiqai Bay, to cross the Somosomo Passage to Taveuni Island the day before our friends were due to fly in,  as the intense low pressure system north-west of Fiji was predicted to bring winds in excess of 30 knots. We needed to find a safe anchorage where we could safely pick them up in the dinghy to bring them on board Stars End 2.

We were beginning to think the weather prediction was exaggerated as the winds were not too bad- until the middle of the night when we were woken with the boat rocking & rolling as sudden gusts swung the yacht around sharply on it’s anchor. This morning, the day Dave & Lanie arrive, the visibility is down to less than half a mile and the wind is gusting 30 knots. It is also pouring with rain and there is surf rolling onto the rocky beach where we have to land! Hmmn- this is going to be interesting!

DSCF5892At least I have been able to complete this blog which will have to suffice until after our friends leave at the end of October, when I shall hopefully have exciting adventures and pictures to share. Till then- Moce, sotatali (Bye, until we meet again)!

 

Advertisements

3 responses to “Circumnavigating Vanua Levu

  1. Hi Nikki and Frank…thank you for your amazing Blog of your sea adventures. Miss you guys. Stay well. Lots of love Jeff, Rose & Lachy xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s