In Rotuma, the anchorage is calm but exposed to the north and northwest.
11 December 2010 | Rotuma Fiji
Rebecca with Patrick
Captain Cook sailed north through Tonga. He heard there were islands to the west called Fiji, where the warriors were fierce. The cannibals in Tonga were also fierce but cunning. They could smile and entertain and appear "friendly", all for the purpose of creating opportunity to overcome the superior arms of Cook. But Cook, coming from a strong military background, was forever vigilant and always kept interactions with the natives weighted in his favor. William Bligh was sailing as an officer under Cook on this voyage of discovery. Cook would not return but Bligh would.
In 1789, Captain Bligh and his crew of 18 castaways were the first Europeans to sail through Fiji waters after narrowly surviving the warriors of Tonga. In Fiji, at the northern most point of the Yasawa group in northwest Fiji, Blighs small yawl was nearly overcome by a catamaran full of cannibals. Bligh had no way of knowing he should turn north, where on Rotuma, 300 miles away, he would find an abundance of tropical vegetables and fat hogs. And being the most contradictory of south pacific islands, there is no oral or written history of the Rotumans ever being cannibals. A wayward band of castaways, as it had been the custom, would have been welcomed.
Rotuma was eventually discovered by Captain E. Edwards, sailing the brig Pandora. In 1791, the British Admiralty sent Edwards on a serious mission to scour the Pacific for that mutineer Fletcher Christian and his band of scoundrels who commandeered the Bounty and sent Captain Bligh and his men adrift. Edwards stumbled onto Rotuma and other uncharted islands but Christian was no where to be found.
The next European ship to visit Rotuma was the British missionary ship Duff which was searching for souls to save in 1797. In the mid 1800s Rotuma became a popular stop for world roaming whale ships in need of fresh food and fresh water. In more recent times, few outsiders were allowed to visit Rotuma.
After 2 ½ days of sailing we approached on the horizon a very green mountainous island, all alone in the ocean, looking much like the volcanic islands of French Polynesia. We rounded a couple small in diameter, but tall, islets on the north east corner. These green spires were nearly mobile with birds clouding like bees on a hive. Brick House jibed over and sailed behind the protection of the islets and a reef. We dropped anchor in a calm pond of turquoise very close to shore. But for one stretch of fine white sand beach lining the shore from a rock pier, the shore was 15 foot high black lava rock protected seaward by the shallow reef. On the passage we had kept a good watch, night and day so were starved for sleep. We promptly fell into the bunks. It was Saturday, noon time, and we anticipated waiting until Monday morning to clear customs.
An hour later, a car horn honked with determination on the nearby wharf, and when we poked our heads up to see what the commotion was, it was the officials motioning for us to come get them. With cloudy eyes and hazy brains, we launched the dinghy off the foredeck. Patrick went for 2 rounds of bringing a total of 4 people out to the boat.
After serving cold drinks and being nice to the officials, we were cleared in. Turns out that we are boat #8 to clear in or out of Rotuma since this place became an official clearance port. They treated it like we were an international arrival, just for practice. It used to be that for a sailboat to come here, they would have to get special permission in Suva, sail here, and then sail 250 miles back against the wind to go back to Lautoka to check out of Fiji. Now boats going north have a convenient stop to break up the trip.