Our Current Position

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Friendly Fiji

After a burst of activity early on, it has been a pretty chilled out week. We left Buca Bay on Sunday, motoring out through the reef into the Somo Somo Strait heading for Vanua Balavu at the northern end of the Lau Group. Winds were light on the west side of Tavenui and so we ended up motoring for much of the day down to Vuna Point, just south of Paradise resort, where we stopped on the way up. The weather was pretty average with drizzly rain and stormy skies.

Stormy skies as we left Taveuni, but we did have this magnificent rainbow

We left Vuna Point at about 1600hrs with a plan to sail overnight. Whilst we knew we were going to be close hauled and bashing into the SE trade winds, we hadn’t expected the winds to be so strong (forecast wrong again!) or for the sea state to be so bad. We ended up at a terrible angle, tacking backwards and forwards and not making much progress towards our destination. There were strong squalls coming through which meant we had to keep the sails reefed down and progress was very slow. Debi was horribly seasick which also added to the unpleasantness of the whole trip. By 0300hrs we were both feeling pretty miserable and beginning to fear that wouldn’t actually arrive before sunset that day so we made the decision to put the engine on and attempt to motor directly to our destination. It was still very slow and uncomfortable but at least we were going in the right direction. We arrived at our anchorage off Daliconi village at about 1530, grateful to be there at last.

Frigate birds soar high above our anchorage searching for fish

On Monday we went ashore to Daliconi village to offer Sevusevu. This is a traditional ceremony in Fiji for visitors to seek acceptance into a Fijian village. We took along some small gifts of Kava root, stationary for kids and a few toiletries. After a couple of enquiries we found the village headman known as the Turaga ni Koro, who took us to the chief of the village and guided us through what was a pretty simple ceremony. Once accepted, we were free to roam around the village and to stay and swim, snorkel and fish in the bay.

Chief of the Daliconi Village

The lower part of Daliconi Village

At anchor off Daliconi Village

Daliconi village was fascinating. There were two parts to the village. The first was a group of houses built around the beach and on the slopes facing out to the bay. Most of these were simple houses, some wooden and some of concrete block construction. Cyclone Winston, which passed through Fiji 3 years ago, had destroyed parts of the village and the remaining houses were the strong ones or had been rebuilt. The second part of the village was up over the hill and included more houses, the school and the diesel generation station.  There was also quite a lot of taro being grown.

The school

We had a nice walk around the area and on the way back got chatting with a retired policeman called Isreli. He invited us into his house, fed us delicious bananas and explained to us how his family is one of five “clans” who live in the village. Each clan is allocated land on which to build and where they can plant. Isreli used to work in Suva, but returned to Daliconi on retirement with his wife and they built their house. Their children are living in other parts of Fiji or overseas but do visit and some have desires to return to the village one day.

Isreli and his wife

Life in the village is pretty simple. Each clan has an area of land where they grow vegetables and fruit. Some people fish in the bay and they look after each other. Isreli said that the only bill he has to pay is for electricity from the diesel generator. That’s just as well, as his government pension is somewhere in the region of $150 a month.  Some houses have supplementary solar but a lot of houses seemed reliant on the diesel generator.

On Tuesday we topped up our water supplies. It’s always good to do this when we are anchored in beautiful pristine water. We then headed north for about five miles to the Bay of Islands area. We threw out the fishing line as we left and twenty minutes later were rewarded with a 4kg tuna! Pandemonium ensued as Debi tried to steer us off the reef while not looking at  Pat landing the fish which he had to do right next to her.  When we got to the Bay of islands, we anchored once again alongside Blithe Spirit and had sashimi with soy sauce and wasabi and fresh baked bread for lunch. It’s tough, this cruising game.

Food for the next few days

At anchor in the Bay of Islands
For the last few days we have been anchored here in the Bay of Islands and have no plans to leave anytime soon! This really is paradise. The bay is completely protected and is littered with little volcanic islands that have been undercut by the sea, creating beautifully wooded mushroom shaped islands, with lots of caves and inlets. We did a sundowner trip with Blithe Spirit in their dinghy around to an isolated inlet where there is a massive fruit bat roost. They were all just beginning to wake and the sky was filled with massive fruit bats. 

Undercut volcanic islands

Heading to see the bats at sundown with Sally and Stuart

Fruit bats at sundown
The snorkelling at the Bay of Islands is the best that we have seen so far in Fiji, with coral fringing the many islands and the occasional isolated bommie. It will be hard to leave here.

Off to do some exploring
Sea Monster surfaces for air
Endless fun watching these guys hide amongst the coral
This beautiful collection of coral is only a 100m swim from X-Pat

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Our First Week of Fiji Cruising

Our first week of cruising the islands is already over! We headed over to Paradise resort on the SW corner of Taveuni island last Friday, along with Blithe Spirit. It was a good sail of about 50nm and so we left early morning. The wind was hard on the nose most of the way but not too strong and so not too uncomfortable.

Debi in Paradise

Moored off Paradise

We were met at the resort by a man on a kayak who assisted with getting us on to one of their moorings and informed us that the resort was having a Fijian evening, with dinner, dancing and a kava ceremony. Not to be missed! So it was a fairly hectic rush to get ready and head across to the resort for the evening. Of course things didn’t go entirely according to plan, as we had to get the dinghy blown up and the outboard engine fitted. The outboard refused to start and we think it was flooded. Fortunately, Sally and Stuart were also heading to the resort and so provided transport for the evening.

Cocktails in Paradise

Fiji Night in Paradise

Saturday was a bit of a miserable day as it was pretty steady drizzle all day. Pat managed to get the outboard going and did a bit of snorkelling. Then we went ashore and had a bit of a damp walk along the coast and had a look around the resort. Terri and Allan who own and run the resort do a fantastic job of making cruisers feel welcome and nothing is too much trouble. Highly recommended.

On Sunday we went for our first two dives of the trip on the well known Rainbow reef. The dive team from Paradise resort were fantastic and there were only four of us diving. Debi had some problems with equalisation and buoyancy on the first dive, which was a shame, but the second dive went very well and we drifted along the reef seeing beautiful coral and lots of small reef fish.

Debi the Diver

We had planned to stay at the Paradise resort for a few days but on Monday Allan, the owner warned us of a trough coming through, which would bring northerly winds which are not good in the bay. So we quickly collected our laundry and along with four other boats made a quick exit across the Somo Somo Strait to the sheltered Viani Bay. We discovered our autopilot wasn’t working on the way over and so had to hand steer for the few hours across there. Fortunately it was an easy fix the next day. That evening we had a nice evening on Blithe Spirit where Stuart cooked a delicious fish curry.

Tuesday was a bit of a dull day and therefore a lazy day. We did head over to Daveta Bay for an hour in the dinghy to do some snorkelling. Stuart introduced us to some coconut eating fish! Unfortunately, Debi’s ear problems have returned following our dive on Sunday and she now has an ear infection, so no snorkelling.

Seagrass in Daveta Bay

Snorkelling in the Mangroves

Feeding the Coconut eating fish

Wednesday was also dull, windy and therefore lazy. We should have gone ashore for a look but the weather wasn’t very conducive. Sally and Stuart came over in the evening for dinner, Debi made a vegetarian Moussaka, and a few drinks.  A very enjoyable evening.

With the trough gradually moving off and the winds back to the south-east we decided to part company with Blithe Spirit and head around the corner to Nasau Bay. This involved motoring inside of the reef with Pat on the bow watching out for uncharted reef. We tried fishing on the way but no luck. On arriving at Nasau Bay we found it was very deep for anchoring with coral around the shore. It is therefore a delicate balance to get close enough to shore to anchor in reasonably shallow water but not too close to the reef. We managed to find a patch of about 17m deep and were preparing to anchor when we drifted over a patch of reef and the next thing we knew we only had 4m of water under the keel. We managed to get back to deep water without touching bottom, but it was a real lesson in the need to keep a good lookout. We ended up anchoring in 23m of water and moved the next day.

Yesterday we headed around to our current location in Buca Bay. We were again motoring inside the reef with Pat doing look out on the bow. We saw a huge turtle basking in the sun, our first of the trip. It must have been a meter in diameter. This was only a short trip and so we were at anchor by midday and decided to head ashore.

At anchor in Buca Bay

The local school

We had a nice 6km walk along the coastal road, passing through the local school and then a Mission. The Mission grounds were beautifully kept and we had a brief chat with one of the gardeners there. There is a clinic at the Mission, which is manned by overseas volunteers. All medical services to the locals are apparently provided free. 

No shortage of coconuts here

The Mission

A walk down the coastal road

Amazing - Papaya just grow on trees here

We had left our dinghy next to a local house and when we got back to the dinghy we were invited in. We sat on the verandah overlooking the bay and ate fresh picked bananas and papaya. The house was basic and Ismael, the owner, lives there with his wife, son, granddaughter and two great grandsons. They live by growing papaya, kasava, tarrow and bananas on the steep slopes behind the house and selling them at the local market. It is very much subsistence living.

Ismael and his Great Grandson

Picking up some fruit growing tips

Ismael's place

The view from Ismael's House

Today we have been chilling out in the bay. We went ashore and took some gifts, including some fresh baked banana muffins from the bananas he gave us, for Ismael’s family. We then had another walk along the coast in the other direction. Tomorrow we plan to head south to Vanua Balavu at the northern end of the Lau group of islands.  The water is 26.5 degrees so frequent cooling swims throughout the day will be in order but the snorkelling has, so far, been a bit disappointing.

X-Pat anchored in Buca Bay

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Savusavu and Surrounds

How nice to be in a marina after 15 days at sea!  The best part is the fact that the boat is completely still and silent and we don’t have to get up at regular intervals to do watches.  Then there are showers, what bliss.  Our first few days in Savusavu were spent relaxing, cleaning and exploring the town and preparing the boat for cruising further afield.

All tied up at the Copra Shed Marina

Copra Shed Marina

There is no refuelling pontoon at Savusavu and so diesel needs to be bought from a local garage and transported to the boat in 20 litre jerry cans. We teamed up with Pied de Lune and Blithe Spirit and between us we must have moved about 600 litres of fuel. Fortunately there is a garage just opposite one of the pontoons and so we were able to take Stuart’s dinghy to the pontoon and then it wasn’t too far to carry the cans.  We visited the local market to check up on the produce – it looks like we are going to be eating a lot of aubergine!  We also bought some odds and ends to give to the villagers on the more remote islands.  Kava is a requirement so we bought a few bushels of that, and also some basic supplies, notebooks, crayons, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap to give to the women and children. 

The main (only street) in Savusavu

Joint birthday celebrations

The other nice thing about being here is the ability to eat out.  First night was pizza – and red wine!  The cafĂ© here does enormous pizzas, we had so much that we ended up having it for breakfast the next day as well.  The second night here was Pat’s birthday so, after sundowners on Pied de Lune, we went to the local Chinese restaurant, which was very nice.  Then, on Sunday nights, the marina has a BBQ with a local band playing so we went along to that.  Great music and delicious food.  Tonight we may try out the restaurant at the yacht club before we head off and revert to Debi’s cooking once again.

We have been trying to get our laundry done at the marina but there is one poor woman who has been inundated with washing and one of her machines is away for repair. So it has been 5 days of chasing her up. Thankfully, with Debi checking up on her every day, it has finally been done.  Most of the stuff can be put away as it’s what we used in New Zealand and much too hot for here but we are both glad to get some clean underwear again, it was a close call.

The Shoreline at Savusavu

Yesterday we took a local bus across to Labasa, which is the main town on the island. There isn’t much there to see, but the bus trip around the bay and then across the mountain is spectacular. There is plenty of tropical rainforest on the south side of the island and then this gives way to pine forestry as you go over the mountain. On the northern side the area is cultivated with the main crop being sugar cane. We got to Labasa at about 1130 and discovered that the only two buses back were at 1230 and 1600. Not wanting to hang around until 1600 we had a quick walk around and then hopped back on the bus for the two hour return trip. Not the most comfortable of buses and both drivers seemed to be under the impression that they were driving a rally car and not a bus but it was good to see a bit of the island.  We also had a chat with a fellow passenger, a local who informed us that he is a production assistant for Australian ‘Survivor” which is apparently currently being filmed here.  Don’t envy them with dealing with heat and mosquitoes!

The bus to Labasa

A village in the mountains

Another stop to pick up passengers

Catering for the bus trip

The market at Labasa

Today we finally received our cruising permit, which allows us to leave here and cruise around the Fijian islands. Our plan is to depart the marina tomorrow and head back towards the exit to this bay. We plan to anchor off a resort tomorrow, which is owned by Jean Michel Cousteau, the snorkelling should be good and we have been told that cruisers are welcome to have dinner and drinks there.  We won’t be staying at $1000 per night though! Weather permitting we will then head off to Taveuni, an island to the south east on Friday.

Friendly Fiji

After a burst of activity early on, it has been a pretty chilled out week. We left Buca Bay on Sunday, motoring out through the reef into...