The yacht feels so empty and quiet now that Paul, Jenny and baby Max are gone.
The 3 weeks we spent together just flew. We had such a wonderful time, full of laughter, precious bonding time with our beautiful grandson Max, sails to different islands and anchorages and Paul euphoric in his self appointed position as hunter/gatherer supplying fish not only to our family, but most of the families living ashore wherever the yacht was anchored. He became a very popular man with all the locals who were impressed with his love of fishing that brought so much success!
Here are just a few of his fishing moments:-
Straight after picking up our family from the tiny airport in Matei, Taveuni, we sailed to one of our favorite anchorages just 10 miles away on Matagi Island, to make the most of the balmy weather, snorkeling and introducing Max to his new super duper floatie in a quiet pristine location.
After a couple of days, we motored across to the other side of Matagi to anchor at nearby Qamea Island, where we introduced Jenny, Paul & Max to the Mitchell family we had met through our friend Eddie, and several related families live in an assortment of homes along the sandy shoreline of Namata Bay.
A month or so ago, when posting pictures of time spent with this family on Facebook , we also discovered that our close friends in New Zealand- Marion & Colin had also befriended the Mitchell family in Qamea whilst cruising Fiji in 1979 and again in 1994 and we were able to send them current information and photos of family members.
Jenny found that whenever we went ashore, Max would be graciously plucked from her arms and gently crooned and caressed by the women (and sometimes the men). Max seemed quite content to be lovingly passed around from woman to woman who all wanted to kiss and cuddle the the chubby ‘kai palangi’ (white baby), and show him off to all the other families in the village. Jenny was honored to receive a handmade bark mat from the Driver family in Naqueque Bay and a handwoven raffia mat for Max from Yanuca village in Budd Reef- a traditional gift presented to a firstborn child in a family.
Unfortunately the rain poured down for much of the two days we stayed at Qamea and we were caught ashore without rain gear, so Max was placed in my plastic carrier bag for the dinghy trip back to the yacht and slept through the entire experience.
Hoping to escape the rain clouds, we sailed back to Naqueque Bay which we have used as a base here in north Fiji for some while. Naqueque is a long narrow protected bay with a shallow mud bottom to anchor in, and Eddie Smith and his large family who own a substantial property ‘Loboki’ (pronounced Lomboki) along the shoreline have welcomed us into the heart of their family.
Once back at Loboki, we introduced our family to Eddie and his nephew Arthur who had his children visiting for the weekend and after the prerequisite ‘kava ceremony’, Paul spent the next couple of days in a frenzy of fishing as he discovered an unlimited supply of trevally, small barracuda and mangrove jack in the mangrove surrounded bay. The families ashore were rapt to be given enough fish that they were able to smoke the surplus to lay in supplies for the next week when we headed off sailing again. We also managed to fit in a day’s hike with Eddie from Loboki through bush, mangroves, forest and hills to Viani Bay, with the added adventure, (worthy of Frank’s reputation), of having to stumble our way back in the dark through dense bush with one small torch between us until the rising creek allowed Arthur to meet us in our dinghy to execute a late night retrieval.
On our next trip we sailed north 25 miles to the small group of islands in Budd Reef. We had been there a couple of previous times and Frank had given Willy and his father Chief Isoa our old VHF radio last year and returned to fix it this year and give them our spare battery. It was blowing 15-20 knots and these islands are renowned for roly anchorages as the swell curls around the shoreline, so we chose to anchor in the lee of the westernmost island. Here, we were surrounded by coral bommies and deep drop offs, but we managed to find a sandy patch to drop our anchor and Paul & Jenny were enthralled to snorkel in crystal clear water and beautiful coral.
The following day we moved to the school anchorage so that we could pay a visit to the village with the family, but we still all arrived totally drenched with the wind on current effect as we passed through the shallow passage to reach the bay where the village of Yanuca lay. We were given a warm welcome by Isoa, his wife Elizabeth and their family and Max was once again whisked away to be indulged with affection by the ladies.
With a forecast of winds freshening further we left Budd Reef after a few days and sailed with the wind 20 miles to Rabi Island. It was a pleasant sail and we arrived at Albert Cove late afternoon, well protected from the swell or winds. We went ashore briefly to offer our sevusevu but Paul later caught a large trevally at sunset which was most welcomed by the young family who lived with their 3 young toddlers in very primitive conditions in an open hut with mud floors just back from the beach.
Next day the men made a fire on the beach, as they had done every few days during Paul & Jenny’s stay, to burn the recyclable rubbish and disposable nappies, whilst Jenny and I wallowed in the warm shallows with Max. The wind increased but we were well protected in the bay and Paul continued to catch a few more fish which he offered to the family ashore, who were most grateful to help feed a number of visitors they received over the weekend.
The rain followed us so we decided to leave and sailed down Rabi back to Naqueque Bay for a couple of nights.
Paul replenished the locals fish supply before requesting one last sailing trip specifically to troll for fish. We decided to head across to the top of Taveuni Island to Qamea Island and back over several days, deliberately skirting close to a number of reefs.
The trips we had over the next few days were what makes this lifestyle so appealing- fast and exhilarating sails using just the wind to power us along and even better was that Paul’s vast efforts experimenting with various rigs and setups proved successful and he caught us a beautiful Spanish mackerel to add to our growing supply of fish in the freezer.
We enjoyed another visit with the Mitchell family at Qamea where Paul yet again supplied the family with a couple of decent fish whilst we were anchored there.
On our brisk sail back to Loboki for the last few days of their stay, Paul was devastated to have 2 mahi mahi slip off the hooks whilst pulling them in, and have a massive fish (wahoo?) take the entire lure and tracer in another catch. He was slightly appeased by catching a good sized mangrove jack in Naqueque Bay along with a few more tokens for the families ashore. It was undoubtedly a most successful fishing trip for Paul whose only other wish had been to catch an elusive dog tooth tuna.
All too soon, we watched Paul & Jenny pack their bags and we sailed back to Matei to drop them off after 21 days of such a wonderful time spent together.
We had loved the time with our young family on board Stars End 2. It has been a treasured time bonding with our beautiful grandson Max who turned 5 months whilst in Fiji and a wonderful opportunity to watch him grow and develop in even three short weeks.
I have not jiggled a baby or sung so many nursery rhymes in 30 years, and I am not sure who more enjoyed my scratchy voice singing remembered childhood songs- Max or Jenny, (she would shriek with laughter at my rendition of ‘Senor Don Gato’!
Paul & Jenny are amazing parents and love the yachting lifestyle so much, they are encouraged to see if this dream could be woven into their own grand plan.
It was an emotional farewell, but we know that Paul, Jenny & Max will travel to wherever we sail to visit us again soon.
Meanwhile, we returned to Stars End 2 and sailing back to Vanua Levu- yes, you got it- we snagged a 13 kilo tuna on our trolling line. It wasn’t a dog tooth, but a yellow fin, and it was so funny as I only threw the line over in deference to Paul, and was scarcely watching it, until I noticed the bungy cord was pulled tight and the line felt heavy! Sorry Paul. Love you guys longtime and hope we see you again soon.
PS- Many apologies. When Paul arrived in Fiji he informed me that many of my blog pictures no longer come up on my postings. A quick search has made me realize that my obsessive organizational trait encouraged me to delete most of my WordPress library in an effort to free up space on my website, not realizing that it also erased the photos from my blog page too. I am slowly slowly having to locate, upload and re enter every missing image, but only when we have good wifi internet and spare data. Thank goodness for this same organizational streak which means I have all my photos chronologically placed in folders on my hard drive that I hope, will make this process slightly less laborious.