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s/v Sand Dollar
Monday, October 15, 2007 - Yahoo Wahoo
10/15/2007, Tomba Noloma Bay, Viti Levu, Fiji

There continues to be a dearth of wind today, forcing us to motor-sail to the next anchorage along the north coast of Viti Levu. The landscape is mountainous with lush vegetation on the windward side of the hills but only dry grass and shrubs on the arid, leeward side. There are a few villages here and there along the coast highway and sugar plantations inland. The snorkeling visibility is not good here as there are many rivers bringing silt into the bays and lagoons. There is a large cruise ship anchored a couple of miles from us so we must be approaching the tourist region of Fiji.

A word about the political situation: Fiji has had its troubles in recent times because of a power struggle between the two main ethnic groups which each make up about 50% of the population, They are the native Fijians on the one hand, and the East Indians on the other, who were brought here hundreds of years ago by the British to work on the sugar plantations. The strife seems to be concentrated in the capital of Suva and appears to have little effect on foreigners. When I ask local people about the situation they reply that it does not involve them and that they have become used to the coups d' etat. It does not seem to be stifling real estate and resort development.

This morning I finally caught a fish, a 10 lb. wahoo which makes succulent table fare. We had chilled sashimi on rice with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce for lunch and grilled fish steaks marinated in teriyaki sauce for dinner. There is enough for three more meals.

All else is well onboard. Tomorrow we head to the port of Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji.

Sunday, October 14, 2007 - Motorboat Ride
10/14/2007, Nananu-I-Ra Island, Fiji

Today we motored 35 miles through a maze of reefs and small islands on the north coast of Viti Levu, the principle island of Fiji. The wind was very light, never over 10 knots. The route was marked with poles and sticks but they are poorly maintained and can never be completely trusted. Fortunately, we had good light all day so that the reefs were very obvious.

Our anchorage is in a small bay next to an island which appears to have a real estate development for foreigners, probably Kiwis. There are about a dozen very beautiful beach houses and some large opulent homes on the tops of hills. Also, there is a small "eco" resort on the bay.

All else is well onboard. Tomorrow we will continue heading west as long as the weather is good.

Saturday, October 13, 2007 - Pleasant Sailing
10/13/2007, Naingani Island, Fiji

We left Makongai at 9:30 this morning for the short sail to an island called Naingani. The wind was 10-12 knots on the beam and the waves were very small making for nice sailing. From this point on in Fiji there will be very little swell because all the remaining water we will cover is protected by islands and thousands of reefs. That's the good news. The bad news is there is lots of real estate to run into. Navigating here is more challenging than in the Tuamotu.

Naingani is a small island with steep sides and a barrier reef. The village, on the other side of the island, is inaccessible from the anchorage so we did not present "sevu sevu" to the chief. The snorkeling was not spectacular and I saw no fish of edible size. This is, however, a very pleasant, quiet and beautiful place to spend time.

All else is well onboard. Tomorrow we will leave early to travel west along the north coast of Viti Levu, the principle island of Fiji.

Friday, October 12, 2007 - Giant Clams
10/12/2007, Makongai Island, Fiji

The former leper colony here has been transformed into and ecological research station for the purpose of restoring a species of giant clam which suffers from over-harvesting. Baby clams are incubated in special tanks and then grown to adult size in designated areas of the lagoon. They are then transferred to various locations in Fiji in the hope that they will repopulate the reefs. These huge clams are almost three feet long!

The underwater visibility is quite good for snorkeling. However, most of the coral is dead and the fish are small. I did see a large sea turtle basking on the surface near the boat. There were no sharks of any size which is surprising.

All else is well onboard. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will leave for another island 18 miles to the south.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 - Leper Colony
10/11/2007, Makongai Island, Fiji

Sand Dollar weighed anchor at 6:20 AM this morning for the 50 mile passage to Makongai Island, the site of a former leper colony. The trip was uneventful but the entrance to the lagoon was nerve racking. There were no channel markers but reefs everywhere. Fortunately we made it in without leaving any bottom paint on the coral. The anchor was put down near a small village located at the ruins of the leper colony.

The normal procedure when anchoring near a village is to go ashore and ask permission of the chief and then present him with "sevu sevu", a small bundle of kava roots. This small act is a formality which has been customary for hundreds of years and is expected of cruisers. After I presented my gift, the head man conducted a short ceremony and then welcomed me to the village and gave me a tour of the ruins. The leper colony was built by French missionaries in 1911, had 5000 occupants at one time, and was closed in the 1960s. Very few intact buildings remain today while the ruins are overgrown with all matter of vegetation. The surrounding countryside is mountainous and lush. The hundred or so people living on the island survive without roads, a supply ship or an airport.

All else is well onboard.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - Cousteau Resort
10/10/2007, Lesiceva Pt., Vanua Levu Island, Fiji

This afternoon Sand Dollar moved about five miles to an anchorage near the entrance of the bay, affording a quick start for tomorrow's passage. We are about 200 yds from an exclusive resort owned by Jacque Cousteau's son. I snorkeled on the adjacent reef but was disappointed in the visibility. However, there was plenty of healthy coral and abundant sea life.

Tomorrow we will leave around 6 AM for the 50 mile passage to Makongai Island which is southwest of here. It was a former leper colony (I hope!). The weather forecast promises pleasant sailing with 15 knots of wind on the beam.

All else is well onboard.

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Sand Dollar
Who: Don Pratten
Port: Beaux Arts, WA
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