Saturday, October 15, 2016

Islands of the Yasawa group, Fiji, continued.

…….And we did stay longer, 5 days in fact we stayed in Yasawa bay 4 of which we had this wonderful place to ourselves to swim, walk and explore the bay.

Reluctantly we decided to move on from this very relaxing and beautiful place so we headed south a short distance to Nabukeru Bay, still on Yasawa island. Again we had the anchorage to ourselves selecting an anchor site not listed in any of the guide books but in our humble opinion better than those listed, mainly because it provided better protection from the SE winds and was much closer to a lovely beach. 

Able's catch
The three of us piled into the dinghy to go and explore a number of long white sandy beaches, one of which we met up with a local Fijian man called Able who was spearfishing for his supper. We spent some time chatting to Able, whose English was excellent, and took him in our dingy to a few of his favorite spearfishing grounds where he caught a wide variety of fish, many of which were beautifully coloured, almost too good to eat.

We had a one night stop in Somosomo bay before moving on again as it was time to move as the weather forecast was predicting the development of a deep low pressure system that would bring strong winds and heavy rain to Fiji and we would prefer to be in a marina for the predicted winds of 40+ knots so we headed further south to a small island called Navandra, not the most protected anchorage I have been to and it was a bit swelly but it was beautiful. When we arrived a mega yacht called Senses was just leaving the anchorage and we looked up its name, its apparently owned by Larry Page, founder of Google, a lovely boat with all the toys including a helicopter.

MV Senses. Navandra Isand. Fiji

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

To the Yasawa group of Islands, Fiji

With light winds forecast we headed west from Budd reef to the Paradise resort on Taveuni. We called on the VHF radio to book a mooring and looked forward to relaxing at the resort but when we arrived the mooring they allocated put us too close(10ft) from another boat and there were no alternate moorings so we headed across the Somosomo strait to Fawn harbour. To enter the harbour you have to navigate through a narrow channel between the reef and with poor light and with poor Fiji charts it was a bit nerve wracking but perfectly fine in the end. We anchored in 55ft of water off an island and settled down for the night and planned an early departure for Savusavu in the morning. 
Fawn Harbour

We tied up to the fuel dock at Savusavu at around 11am and said hello to our friend Bongi and started our list of tasks: fill water, fuel, propane, food, phone top up etc. We ended up staying 2 nights and managed to complete all our tasks and have two Chinese meals, yum. 

Route from Savusavu to Yasawa Is. Click to enlarge
Route from Savusavu to Yasawa Is. Click to enlarge
Unfortunately our time is running short in Fiji and we want to visit the Yasawa islands which are located in north west Fiji so we departed early in the morning on the 120 mile passage. The route takes us through a few tricky reefs and across Bligh water, a large body of water fringed by reefs, which we plan to transit at night arriving at the pass at the northern end of the Yaswawa chain at dawn. The wind was a pleasant 10 knots on the beam in the morning as we navigated through the reefs and into Bligh water and then the wind built to 20-25 knots but the seas were only about 1 mtr. Nice. The problem was that we were going too fast as this would mean that we would arrive at the northern end of the Yasawas at around midnight and we need daylight to make passage through the islands. I shortened the sail taking down the mainsail. Still going too fast so I furled the headsail to the second reef. Still too fast. In the end I took all our sail down and we were still sailing at between 4.5 and 5.5 knots dead downwind. Why is it when you want to go fast there is no wind and when you want to go slow there is too much wind? With all sail down and heading dead down wind the ride was a bit on the rolly side. We could heave to and wait for daylight but then the wind might become light as the forecast was only for 10 knots. We carried on and eventually arrived at the northern end of the Yasawas forty minutes before dawn. We navigated through a couple of islands and around some reefs and headed for Yasawa bay and with the aid of Google earth images dropped the anchor in 25 feet in clear sand. 

Wow! What a beautiful bay. In front of us stretched a white sandy beach and clear blue calm water we could not wait to go ashore and explore but first SLEEP as its been 24 hrs for me with no sleep.

Anchorage in Yasawa Bay
Yasawa Bay

Later in the afternoon we went ashore and stretched our legs. This anchorage certainly lives up to expectations. We walked the length of the beach and relaxed in the water. I can see this is going to be a place we will stay longer than we should. 

Katya being a geologist....

Sunset over the Yasawa islands

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Yanuca island. Budd reef, Fiji.

After another calm night in Viani bay we took advantage of the continued light winds forecast to head east under motor with the destination being Yanuca, some 45 miles away. We had to motor but that is the price we were prepared to pay to be able to visit this tiny group of islands and its small village.
School anchorage. Yanuca. Budd reef

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Yanuca island is one of six small islands that sits inside a lagoon and is surrounded by Budd reef and it is the only island that is inhabited. We anchored in School bay in crystal clear waters with an uncluttered sandy bottom where we could easily see our anchor in 40 feet of water. It's nice to know that the anchor is set well and that if we swing around we will not get caught up on a coral bombie. Looking around us we say the school, set just off the white sandy beach and could hear the children playing and singing. This has to be one of the prettiest anchorages we have been to on the trip and we had the place to ourselves, something we have not had since we were in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico back in November of last year. Quite perfect. 

Sarita anchored in School Bay, Yanuca, Budd reef

Fijian custom dictates that we have to present ourselves to the chief of the island and seek permission to anchor and explore the islands. The ceremony is called servuservu. The girls put on long skirts and I put on a pair of shorts that covered my knees. We boarded the dinghy with our bundle of kava root and set off to shore but we were defeated as the tide was low and the fringing reef prevented our landing. We would have to wait until tomorrow morning. As we got back on the boat the VHF radio crackled to life with a request for the boat in School bay to reply. It was the chief hailing us as he wanted to know when we would be coming in to meet him. We explained about our landing issue and he agreed that it was not possible and we arranged to meet the following morning at 9am. 

The following morning, after a very pleasant night at anchor, we managed to land the dinghy on the beach in front of the school and we found the path that leads to the village, a walk of about 1/2 a mile. We walked along the beautiful sandy beach thinking how lucky these children were to have such a wonderful school set on the shores of this island. The track ran along the shore then up a steep hill and then down into the village where we passed the pig pens with dozens of piglets rummaging around the piles of coconuts for food. We continued on until we met the local parson who told us where to find the Chiefs house. This is the first time we have had to do servuservu and we were not quite sure of what to do but we had the basic information. As we approached the Chiefs house we were greeted by a woman who told she was his daughter. We took off our shoes and entered the Chiefs house and sat cross-legged on a mat on the veranda. I placed the kava root package in front of him so he could choose to accepts it or not. 
The village children walking back home from school
We introduced ourselves and explained where we come from and where we were going and what we would like to do while we were in these islands. We asked questions about their island and village and inquired about the chief's son, Willie, also known as free Willie, who reportedly takes yachties to the island of Corbia (pronounced Thorbia) which is a caldera island. They explained that Willie was away in Suva as his wife was getting some hospital treatment. The package of kava was still sitting on the mat but eventually the chief picked it up and confirmed that we could explore the islands, fish, swim, snorkel and anchor. In some ceremonies the kava root is then pounded down into a powder and mixed to make a mildly narcotic drink. Some other time perhaps.

The chief then kindly took us back to our dinghy in school bay in his boat, gently gliding across the shallow reef that separates Yanuca and Maqewa islands and dropping us back on the beach.  The chief had kindly offered to take us to Corbia island the following day and we agreed that he would pick us up at 9am. 

Now free to roam Jude and I took off in the dinghy to explore some pristine beaches and reefs and other islands, Katya meanwhile stayed back on the boat doing her schoolwork:  multiplication of fractions.

Jude and I walked up and down a few perfect sandy beaches and swam in the clear warm water before returning to Sarita for some lunch. We were not feeling that well and both had rising temperatures. As the afternoon and evening progressed our temperatures increased to just under 39c. It looked like we would have to cancel our trip but we could not contact the chief to let him know. 

In the morning I felt OK and my temperature was back to normal but Jude was still running a fever so I took the dinghy over to the village along with a bag of goodies for some of the children and explained that Jude was not feeling well and could we postpone it until Monday which was fine with them. 

On my return I went to explore a couple of the other islands and as the winds were light it was very pleasant to be able to take the dinghy between the islands.

Yanuca has about 70 people living on the island and we were told that there were about 30 children at school with another 10 still too young to go to school, that is quite a high percentage of children especially given that there were no high school children on the island as they go to Tavenui where they board.  There are no cars or even roads on the island and all of the houses are in the village with the exception of the teacher's and caretakers houses next to the school. There is no electricity on the island and water is limited to that collected from the rain. There don't appear to be any crops grown but do harvest coconuts to make milk for cooking and to feed pigs. Their main diet seems to be fish and the younger men free dive for sea cucumbers that are then sold on to China. 

Heading back to Yanuca with Christana

Jude and I discussed what if anything can we give them without it seeming to be charity so we went through the boat to see what we have onboard and came up with some food items that might seem like a luxury and I found some solar lights. Who knows what they thought when we gave them the gifts. It reminded me of the time I went to communist Poland in the late 1980's. We were told to take tinned meat to give to locals, in particular spam. We stayed with a lovely family in their home in Krakov and as we departed we proudly presented the Spam to our hosts who turned the tin over in his hands looking intently at it then handed the tins back to me and said: " We don't eat this shit in Poland"   Fair comment. 

Chief Isoa collecting us from Crater lake Corbia.
Monday morning came around and the VHF radio crackled into life " Mr Richard, Mr Richard" I responded to the chief's calling and we arranged to be collected at 9 am for our visit to the island of Corbia. When The chief, and his daughter Christina, arrived in their panga ( I don't know their name for the long boats) I handed the chief our outboard fuel tank so they could use our supplies rather than their precious fuel, we all boarded and headed across the lagoon about 2 miles and we were dropped off on the beach for the hike up the hill and around the rim of the crater. 

The climb was easy enough with thick dry roots providing great footholds for our ascent. Once up the top we followed goat trails along the rim and surveyed the crater lagoon on one side and the Budd reef lagoon on the other side. Christina, the Chiefs daughter, telling us about their clans history and customs as we went. We descended down the rim where we watched the fish on the reef going about their daily chores, hunting and being hunted, and waited to be collected by the chief.  We were taken on a tour of the crater lagoon and stopped off at a cave where small bats lived. Most of the bats fluttered silently about us, but some still hung to the wall watching us from their inverted sleeping positions. 
Chief Isoa.

We stopped off at a couple of the islands beaches, Isora giving us thirst quenching coconuts straight from the tree and Christina collecting shells for Jude and Katya before heading back to Sarita where we provided them with team and biscuits and chatted further. The heat has picked up and it's 34c in the cabin, the wind has also increased to about 10 knots and is now coming from the NE, uninterrupted across the lagoon. Will we have to move to a more sheltered spot?

The following morning we moved Sarita around to the village anchorage as the north winds were predicted to continue and strengthen. We motored the short distance and dropped the hook in a quiet spot in 30 feet with a sand bottom. 

Yanuca Village
In the afternoon the three of us took the dinghy into the village. We sat on the Chiefs verandah with his daughter Christina showing us how to weave fish and birds out of dried pandanus leaves to make mobiles. We talked about what daily life was like in the village as we made successive attempts to weave the leaves. Jude donated some of her jewelry making items to Christina and I gave a bag of fishing lures to Isora ( the chief). Other members of the village came to join us and the children laughed at our weaving efforts. 

Village anchorage

The Chiefs wife asked if we would like to try some kava and we gladly accepted the invitation. I went back to the boat to get some more kava root and the Chiefs wife pounded the root into a powder and then we watched as she expertly mixed the powder with water in a cloth used as a strainer and a grey liquid came out into a bowl. Johnny, another villager joined us with his guitar and we sat around playing and singing while we all drank kava. This is the first time we had tried the drink and it did have a mild effect on us but contrary to comments we had heard it actually tasted quite pleasant, a bit earthy perhaps, as you would expect from a pounded root. It was a great afternoon and we will be sorry to leave so soon as it would be nice to spend more time with the wonderful people.