Eric & Amy are at sea today heading for the Fijian capital city of Suva here is their last post from the southern Lau Group.
120 miles southeast of Vanua Balavu now puts us in the Southern Lau Group. We are currently
anchored in Fulaga. Instantly upon arrival, we knew we didn't want to leave.
What we saw was a large atoll about 8 or so miles in diameter which cradles a
huge pristine 15-20ft deep lagoon with blue colors across the spectrum. The
atoll is riddled with incredible diving, mysterious caves and protruding lava
and limestone rocks of all sizes scattered about, similar to the feel of the Bay
of Islands in Vanua Balavu. Having islands within the island, there is also a
ton of shore area with white sand beaches. Everywhere you look, it is coconut
palm beach paradise... but the catch... as we learned on our first day... is its
SWARMING with mosquitos! We went hunting for coconut crab yesterday only to
literally be chased out by buzzing clouds of the starving critters. Standing
still might have been our demise, but fortunately there is no malaria, yellow
fever or dengue, and the damage done is very temporary. In other news, we did
sevusevu yesterday in the village on the other side of the atoll. (where we
present kava root to the chief) We were warmly welcomed with hugs, bananas and
green coconut. We visited the school to give some art supplies, and wherever we
walked thereafter, we had an entourage of preschoolers surrounding us, as
foreigners are strange and exciting new creatures. We later sat down with some
of the villagers, where they played music and carved wooden kava bowls. These
are the villages from which the crafts you find in big city gift shops are
sourced. The villagers here in Fulaga sell them to the supply ship which comes
from Suva once a month, and typically trade them for staple goods like rice,
sugar and flour. That said, a day's work for many of the men means sitting on
the ground, sharpening your tools, and carving all sorts of wood art, but mostly
whipping out many mini kava bowls. Meanwhile, the women were weaving baskets and
making braided rope out of coconut husks... very impressive. We started to talk
farming with one of the men, and his eyes went huge when he heard we brought
pumpkin and watermelon seeds. We will plant them together on Friday. The people
here are so kind with a huge sharing culture, and there's no limit to their
immediate friendship. Every family wants us to join them for lunch on Friday,
and just this morning, a couple paddled over to give us fish, breadfruit, and a
ton of bananas. Sadly, we will have cut our stay short and head back for the
mainland as we only have enough fuel and supplies to last a few more days. On
the plus side, it means we will soon be stocking up to take off for our next
destination... Vanuatu. With much love from the Lau, Eric and Amy
Here are a handful this is weeks's e-mails from Eric & Amy...
We are getting hit by a low pressure trough
today and it is raining and supposed to blow 35kts later. It is good that it is
raining though. We are low on water and as I write we are catching heaps. We
havnt used the water catchment system much this year because it has not rained
hardly at all since we have been in Fiji. Yesterday I caught two big lobsters
which was a welcome change of diet from fish. Amy ground up a couple of coconuts
and made coconut cookies so it is fine dinning aboard Secret Agent Man.
We are here in Fulaga in the very
southern bit of the Lau group. It was about 125 miles the night before last and
was an epic sail. We started off pretty close hauled and got slowly lifted the
whole way. We sailed through the heart of the group. It looks sketchy on the
chart because of how many islands and reefs there are but in reality they are
all pretty far apart and with the wind we had it was easy to stay 3 or more
miles away without altering our course too much. Also all those islands knock
the swell down so it the seaway way very mild. Amy did great except she kept the
gas on a little too hard on her last watch. We had full sail up in 15 kts and I
woke up at 500 and we were going 7knt with 11 to go so I hit the breaks and we
coasted in with double reefed main and tiny jib. Several of our friends are here
and we spent yesterday afternoon diving in the pass. The reef is pristine and
there are lots of big fish and sharks. My friend dave saw a bull shark, I saw a
6 foot white tip and a ten foot black tip and a nepolean wrass that was as big
as your kitchen table.
It is just as if not more incredible than vanua belavu. I will not waste time trying to describe it to you. Just imagine the most stunning tropical paradise you can and multiply that by ten. The sail was epic. We saw whales. It was 10-15 knots on the beam the whole way. We left at 1100 yesterday and had to slow down this morning. We have lots of fish and lobster and there are apparently coconut crabs here so we might stay a while. We are low on propane and petrol though so we might get a week here. Amy says Hi. We went over to dinner on Vulpia the night before last which was fun. They had salad!!! They flew it in on a private plane. We brought lots of fish cooked different ways and made big points. They are swiss and they were impressed with my french. They hit the reef a couple of days ago and wrecked their rudder so Brooke and cyrus will stay in vanua belavu for the rest of the season and then limp back to NZ as there is no facility capable of hauling a boat that big in Fiji.
Amy is off hunting coconut crabs right now. I laid some bait out last night (coconuts) and we did get one small one and had him and fish for dinner last night. The mosquitos here are horrific. We went on an exploring tour yesterday in the dingy and went ashore e few times. By the time you walk 30 feet into the bush you have about 30 mosquitos on you. No Joke, a swarm. Your only retreat is onto the beach and into the water. It is the worst I have ever seen. Luckily it has been cool so we have been closing the boat up at night and killing the few that manage to get in. We will probably stay here through the weekend. We are running low on supplies. We have plenty of water and tinned food, but are low on propane, dingy gas, and flour. We are planning on sailing to Suva which is 155 miles away. That means one night instead of the two it would take us to get to Lautoka. We will spend a few days provisioning, doing laundry and checking out and then its off to Vanuatu. We have about 2 and a half months until we need to head to Australia but Vanuatu and New Caledonia are right on the way. Once we get to Noumea it is only 700 and change miles to Brisbane which is nothing so in a week or two we will be well on our way to OZ.
Eric & Amy
Hi all, Amy here with something interesting that Eric and I learned the other
I'm writing from Vanua Balavu, the largest island in the Northern Lau Group in
Fiji. A little more on the island; it is situated about 160 miles ENE from Suva,
Fiji's capitol, and about 100 miles off the shores of Vanua Levu, one of Fiji's
two mainlands. We have been staying in one of the 6 villages on the island,
Daliconi, population of about 140. A ferry from Suva brings supplies once a
month, a small airstrip can charter flights back to Suva, and even Vodafone,
Oceania's telecommunications tycoon, has placed towers on just about every
island in the South Pacific. On paper, Vanua Balavu is not nearly cut off from
the rest of developed Fiji, but in reality, it is still very isolated. Because
where does an island that deals mostly in trade within its villages come up with
the cash to pay for the astronomical costs of flights and wireless communication
to the outside world? They do export fish and crafts, but these earnings pay
for more essential things like education and infrastructure. Of all things
Daliconi scrimps and saves on in order to have some of the most basic privileges
of a developed town... like the coveted village washing machine, or a meager two
hours of artificial light after dark... we were amazed to hear one western
marvel has entered almost every family household: Facebook.
I was eating a simple lunch with a woman named Lako one afternoon, squash in
coconut milk with a side of breadfruit and lemon water. She stated how they
couldn't afford to include fish in their meals this week. She had just finished
weaving one of her gorgeous Pandanus floor mats when she began telling me how
fortunate the village is to have a computer, and how it has greatly improved the
children's education. It belongs to the middle school teacher (and teachers are
celebrities here in Fiji, but more on that another time), anyhoo, Lako was
fortunate enough to have a friend teach her how to use a computer a few years
back, and these days, that came with the almost compulsory lesson of setting up
a Facebook page. She soon admitted to LOVING Facebook. She uses it to
communicate with her children in Suva, and to chat with former Daliconians on
the latest in the village. I don't know how the teacher allots computer time
among the Facebook hungry zombies in the village, but I imagine the scene being
similar to that in a DMV, security guards and all. Fortunately, one of the
neighboring villages (where the island's highschool is) has a few computers as
well, and the younger folk from Daliconi can get their fix during school hours.
After learning that, it wasn't a surprise to hear most of the teens we
interacted with ask if we were on Facebook. Internet access in this country is
not cheap... roughly $20US per gigabyte of data. But the biggest offender is
the cost of electricity on this island, which is $6US per hour if you use more
than two hours a night. Back at Lako's, it was touching to hear that she had a
convenient means of chatting with her children... but at what cost? I thought
for a second... could that fish...food... have been indirectly sacrificed for
the latest social drug? Well done, Facebook... this was one of the last places
I expected to find you.
(ed. note) "... they paved paradise and put up a parking lot ... "
Amy has returned and the good ship Secret Agent Man has moved from Taveuni and Quamea islands into the Lau Group. This collection of 100 islands and islets lies to the southeast of the two main Fijian Islands and is a restricted area. Cruisers must have a permit, and have their papers to see this traditional area of Fijian culture. Less developed than the rest of Fiji this island group has been the intersection between the Polynesian Tongan culture and the Melanesian Fijian peoples. In this island group one finds very rare tourist facitiies and no commercial fishing (meaning more fish) which is a boon to the lucky cruisers who are allowed a view of what these islands looked like in 1774 when Captain Cook became the first european visitor. Here's a e-mail sent today from Eric and a few photo's off the internet. (You can imagine it is really Eric & Amy swimming around the limestone"mushroom".
We are in the bay of islands. It is on the NW side of vanua belavu. It is epic.
It is all limestone which I suspect is because it is an old reef that has been
pushed up by plate tectonics. We are catching lots of fish. There are 7 boats
here. They are all americans except for one Kiwi. We hung out in a cave that was
as big as your house yesterday and played dice sitting on bat guano. We are
anchored away from the others in our own cove. It is the best and most beautiful spot I have been to since leaving the US. I really dont know what else to say about it. This year is the first year people have been allowed to come here and it is totally untouched tropical paradise. We are back on our guitars and
playing lots of music. The villagers in Dalaconi (who we have made friends with
already)are throwing a party on monday for us which should be epic and we are
going down there early for church.
Eric & Amy
Amy is back on board. Just in time. Perfect timeing at that. There is mild low moving west to east to the south of us. This means that we are going to have the first Breeze that is north of east in a month and will be good if not perfect to sail to the Lau group. the timing is also good because the place where I met her on Teveuni was very exposed and might not have been tennable today. We got out of there and made it back to Qamea. We went to "honeymoon cove" (pic) for the afternoon. The breeze was already going NE yesterday so I took the decision to move to Naiviivi. After about 30 minutes trying to get unwraped from a coral head we sailed in here and Amy had a nap. Today we got the boat all cleaned up and we will leave here in a few hours for Vanua Belavu. It is not going to be fun. She is going to get her sealegs quick or not at all. It is going to be a rough night right on the wind. Well see how it is when we get out there but it has been windy out of the SE for a few weeks and just shifted. My friend bill did it two days ago in the trades. I talked to him on the radio and he didnt complain too much but I am suspicious of the conditions. Ill have dad post a report. Oh.. again I was reminded of how small a world it is today. My new friend "Rick" came over and gave us banannas. He is from Seattle and has lived at the same ranch as Amy in Costarica. That is two costarica connections in as many weeks as Amy has learned how to raise goats on Cyrus and Brooks ranch and has lived in the house they are building. Incredible.
Forgive me for this one. Good times around a fire on a classified Fijian beach.
Congradulations to the captain and crew of SV Doubletake. 1st overall, 1st in racing class A, 1st line honors in to Maui from Victoria BC. I know what that feels like and I am proud of you guys. No dramas I trust. A special shout out to Brad Baker and Ryan Helling. To the rest of the crew, Well done.
SV Secret Agent Man
They might do this in some schools, but none that I have ever been to. They did'nt floss but brushing your teeth after lunch is the truth. I love the girl washing on the right.
Ultimate frisbee International. Sorry Amy but the Belize disc was donated to the elementary school at Qamea.
Some people are travelers. Some people put down roots. I am now a traveler. So is Amy. I feel like my life is less cluttered and is surely less stressful at sea. All I have to do is take care of the boat, make sure we know the weather and have the charts of where we are and where we are going. I may carry on about how much work it is sometimes. And it is work maintaining a sailing boat by yourself. But we get to enjoy places in a way few people ever do. We get to stay put for free, or travel to the next spot for free if the wind is willing. We get to travel in a way that is unique. Why do we go home? This is why. (photo) Mom, Dad, Katie, Ingrid, my unborn niece or nephew... They all live in America. It is a trade off. Like Laura, Kate, and Neil in Australia, we have found something that is great, but it is on the other side of the planet. Thats all I have to say. Amy will give a full report in a few days.
While Amy was back in the US visiting her mom, sisters, and new niece Katie, I have been single handing again. Actually, not so much. I have been moving the boat around by myself, but luckily I was blessed with a great group of friends to travel with. We just today disbanded. Bill on "Solstice" is heading for the Lau group, Vulpia is back to Savu Savu to re-provision in anticipation of the owners coming for a cruise, and I have sailed to Taveuni to await Amy who is flying in in a few days. It was very sad splitting up but that is the way it goes. I agree with something Captain Fatty said once that he never says "good bye". It is a fairly small comunity and Im sure we will see eachother again. I feel very lucky to have been able to spend time with them, and for the most part the time Amy has been away has flown by. After we filmed at the school in Gamea we were a little bit too famous for our own good and we evacuated to an undisclosed tropical paradise (pictured) with our own, private, beach and reef. Thank you so much Bill, Cyrus, Brooke, and Lauren for some of the best highlights of the trip and several beach days that I will always remember.
The crew of Vulpia. From left to right: Cyrus, Brooke, and Lauren. Fellow mariners, world travelers, and kindred spirits.
These are from a while ago. We stopped overnight in a bay on the south side of Vanua Levu. It had a vast mangrove forest which was home to thousands of Bats. We approached with stealth, however there was a lot of current that carried us right into the colony and they ended up getting an early start on their night flight.
Dinghy raft up in the "Bat Cave Mangroves"
07/13/2012, Qamea School
Yesterday my friends and I filmed at the school here in Qamea. My friends Brooke and Cyrus have an educational outreach program, traveloutreach.org, and Lauren and Bill and I were lucky enough to be part of it yesterday. The Idea is an educational/cultural exchange between kids from around the world. Sometimes the kids teach something they have learned in school, and sometimes it is a cultural exchange. Yesterday was a cultural exchange. We spent most of the day ashore having fun with the kids. They were shy at first but quickly warmed up. They danced for us, I taught them how to play Ultimate frisbee and gave them their own disk, Lauren learned how to play net ball, we sang songs, and Bill and Cyrus filmed it all. Pictured here is Brooke getting funky while singing with the kids. Hit songs included tracks from Justin Bieber and Shakira which the kids had totally memorized. It was extremely high energy and lots of fun. However, I might skip the funeral today and move to boat around the island for some peace and quiet. We are quite famous now and I have had several visits this morning from kayaks full of kids wanting to hang out and have a look at Secret Agent Man. All good fun though. Its just hard to entertain like that as they would stay all day if I didnt have something terribly important to attend to. Hope you all are well. Good luck to SV Doubletake at sea racing to Maui right now.