08/13/2012, Vunaniu Bay
We spent yesterday still in Vunaniu Bay relaxing after two straight days of motoring in just about no wind and calm seas. Totally the opposite of the forecasts we had heard. That was just fine with us.
Late in the morning, we launched Puff and took off for shore. The custom in Fiji is that if you are going to spend a day anchored in a bay and there is a village in that bay, you MUST go ashore and give a gift of Kava, also known as Waka. This is a root that is grown all over Fiji and other islands in the South Pacific. The root is ground up, put in a bag and soaked in water and then drunk. It has the look of dirty water and puts your tongue and mouth to sleep. It can be quite relaxing if you drink enough of it(so we have heard).
We carried our bundle(purchased in Lautoka) ashore and we were greeted by two of the local kids and two women of the village. They escorted into the village to the house that is owned by the man who owns the village(Joshua). He's 82 and still getting around quite well. He even goes out in the bay fishing, rowing his own boat! I should be so active when I'm 82! We met his brother(70) and were led on a small tour of the village toward the chiefs home. The chief is actually Joshua son. Why Joshua isn't the chief, we have no idea. When we got the the chiefs home, we was out so we returned to Joshuas and had a nice chat. We met several of Joshua sons and their children and grand children. Two of Joshuas sons were in the military, one killed in Lebanon several years ago. After a nice cup of tea, we headed back to Zephyr with an invitation to return later for the proper Sevusevu ceremony.
At 1800, we climbed back into Puff and headed ashore for the ceremony. We were greeted ashore by more of Joshua's sons and escorted to the main house. There are over 100 houses in Vunaniu so it's one of the largest villages in the islands. The chief was still gone but we were advised that he had accepted our gift of Kava and were welcome to stay in the bay as long as we wanted to. We could come ashore and visit their homes and people anytime. Vunaniu is just 35 miles west of Suva(the capital) so I'm not sure how many boats visit their beautiful bay but we were welcomed with open arms.
We sat on the floor in the main house with Joshua and several of his sons and their wives and children and grandchildren. The children all stood around next to us and just stared at us. I'm guessing they don't get many cursers stopping into their village and the children had rarely seen foreigners. The youngest was 18 months and the eldest was probably 7. Most attended the local school several miles down the road. One of the youngest was in kindergarden. Jo, Joshua's son did the Kava ceremony for us, opening bags of pre-ground Kava. Each small bag costs about $1.00 or $2.00 and the roots are then placed in a cloth bag and dunked in the water in a large ceremonial bowl. It takes a while, but with much mushing of the bag the water works its way through the roots and the water takes on a earthen color. Once done, a prayer is said around the circle for the Kava and then we start drinking. The first bowl is to the male guest(me) for drinking. I was asked "low tide or high tide?" Not knowing what that meant, I said "high tide". More kava was added to my bowl!!! Low tide=small bowl. High tide means a full bowl. Everyone says "Bula" and then I start drinking. It took me a few times but I got it all down. The proper way is to chug the entire contents in one big slug. Once I drank it, there was more hand clapping and it was then refilled and passed to Tracy. She was the only women in the circle. Others were present but they sat farther back away from the bowl. She drank her's right down followed by more clapping and more exclamations of "Bula"(Fijian for Welcome). We, being the guests had our own bowl(the inner shell of a coconut). The rest shared a bowl. As the evening progress, we gathered more and more of the sons and their wives and children all gathered around the bowl.
The Kava ceremony is a time of gathering where stories of their day are told, questions are asked and people learn about what is happening in their families lives and the lives of guests. They were very interested in our travels and our lives aboard and ashore. Where had we gone? How long had we been traveling? Where did we come from? Did we have any children? It made for a fascinating evening for everyone. We learned about their family life and it's closeness. All of Joshuas sons(except for the son in the military)still live in the village with their wives. Joshuas brother is the minister for the church of the village. His wife had been a school teacher(passed away 3 years ago). We learned about their daily lives and they learned about ours. They were surprised that when I "retired" from the furniture business, that I had gone to work for Tracy in her company. It's not the normal for a man to work for his wife here in Fiji. The women in the group all had big smiles on their faces.
We finally said goodbye and headed back to Puff about 2030 having had a great time learning about their families and their lives. The sons escorted us back to Puff and then pulled her to deeper water so we could row out to where we could start our motor. One thing about Vunaniu Bay, it has a large delta at the village probably caused by the river that passes by the village. The shore is a good 1/4 mile from where it gets to shallow for motoring and the oars come out.
While we have been in Fiji for almost 10 months, this was the first time we have participated in a Kava Ceremony. In the islands off Lautoka, most are now populated by tourist resorts where the ceremony isn't done any more. It was a wonderful evening.
08/12/2012, Vunaniu Bay
Well, plans got changed this morning after hearing the latest weather forecasts broadcast over our SSB radio. Fiji Met was calling for 15-20 knot winds from the southeast and hazardous seas. Other forecasts were for a bit lighter winds but getting worse as the week progresses. We decided to pull up the anchor and take our chances and get farther across the base of Viti Levu before it got really nasty.
We headed out waiting for the worst and instead got one of the nicest days we have had in quite some time. Winds were less than 3 knots and seas barely had a 1 to 2 foot swell. Instead of running into the east to west current we had been warned about, we had a following current that helped speed us along at between 6.5 and 8 knots. We were making great time. We decided to go for broke since we had such good speed and make for Vunaniu Bay(18 15.676S 177 52.094E), about 41 miles farther along the coast.
With the anchor up(nice and clean for a change), we headed out at 0845 and pulled in just after 1500. As we headed across, we saw lots of clouds building over the island but they all stayed away from us. It was a beautiful sunny and hot day. Perfect for a nice bit of motoring.
We dropped our anchor and settled in and relaxed for the evening having the entire bay to ourselves. Surprisingly, a catamaran just pulled into the anchorage--at 2300 hours!!!! What are they crazy!?!!?!? You have to go through a cut in the reef to get in here and even in daylight, I still stood watch at the bow. Maybe they have been here before. That's the only reason I can find to come into a reef strewn section of the Fijian coast.
I'll let you know what tomorrow brings. The weather is supposed to get worse(maybe yes, maybe no) if the forecasters get it right.
08/11/2012, Robinson Crusoe Resort, Likuri Harbour
What a day(and night) it was.
We dropped the lines to the marina just after 1000 this morning and headed for the fuel dock. Our good friends, Paul and Karen off Gigi were there to take our lines as we came in. It's great to get help when you need it. We finally headed out after taking on 48 gallons of diesel at a cost of $228.00US. About $4.78US per gallon. High I know by US standards but cheap around most of the rest of the world. We finally headed out of the marina at 1030 and turned South. We were headed for Momi Bay, just inside the passage out through the reef where we planned to go tomorrow to start the trip to Suva,the capital of Fiji. Winds were next to nothing so we pressed on under motor power. It seems that what we did to the motor may have solved the problem of air in the diesel lines. Once we got to Momi Bay, it was still calm and only 1300 so we decided to press on for the Robinson Crusoe Resort in Likuri Harbour about 15 miles farther than we had planned. We made our way through the reef that surrounds this side of Viti Levu with waves crashing on either side of us as we passed. Once through, we turned left and headed around the south side of the island. Waves continues to crash onto the reefs all along the south side of the island. We're not talking small waves either. These were big rollers that could swallow a boat whole if you got to close. We had finally escaped the pull of the western side of Viti Levu after almost 10 months here in Fiji. Around we went in almost calm winds and barely 3 foot seas.
There is a narrow channel through the reef that surrounds the island that leads you right into the resort. It's on a river so there is no coral to dive on but the countryside is beautiful down here. We dropped the anchor at 18 03.153S 177 17.043E about 1530, five hours after we left the marina covering just under 30 miles.
The weather really surprised us as the forecast from Fiji Met(the countries weather service) had called for 15-20 knot of wind and 3-5 foot seas. We got less than 5 and maybe 2-3 feet of swell once we exited the reef. We haven't gone ashore yet but the views of the countryside are just great. The resort was putting on a show for it's guests tonight and we could see the fire dancers on shore putting on what appeared to be quite a performance.
What was really fascinating about today was the nighttime sky. It's rained a bit recently(big time in Nadi today)and so the air is extremely clear. The night sky was incredible. Add to that the fact that there was nothing but still water around us at the anchorage and we could see the reflection of the Milky Way and all the stars in the water around our boat. Stars by the tens of millions were bright above us in the heavens and reflected in the water below us. This is what cruising is about for me. Spending time under the stars far from city lights and experiencing the beauty of our universe. It's great to spend time in the cities and meet the local people and experience their culture and heritage, but don't get me wrong, tonight was SPECIAL!
08/10/2012, Vuda Point Marina
Well, it's been 9 days here and the ugly weather has passed(we hope) and it's time to set off again. We're going to be heading south and make our way around the island to Suva, the capital of Fiji. If the weather holds, we will jump from one cove to the next till we get there. Normally, the weather around the south side has prevailing winds(and currents) from the east so it may take a while to get there. From there, hopefully AMerican Samoa. We have till the end of September to finalize our plans and with Mother Natures help, we can get there.
Stick around, I'll post more as we head out. Internet is supposed to be available around the south coast.
08/04/2012, Vuda Point Marina
Well, this morning dawned with total cloud cover and the possibility of rain and that's just what it did. Not a lot but still more rain. With that in mind, I made more cinnamon rolls for breakfast. A little treat on a cloudy day.
Once breakfast was done, we started in on more jobs. We need to make the most of our time here at the marina. I washed off the deck and got off some of what the rain didn't last night and today. Lots of sand out of Puff since she is inverted on deck. We filled the water tanks again finding a leak in the valve that directs the water between our two tanks on the port side. Not around any seals as we would have expected but out the end of the bronze fitting that controls the valve. The original valve had a square head on the shaft so you could put a wrench on it to direct the flow to the proper tank. Sometime, one of the four sides got either broken or cut off and it has left a small pin size hole that water would come through when we were filling the tank. I mixed up so water proof epoxy putty that I crammed into the small hole and that should take care of that. With what I had left(made too much), I crammed it into the small hole in the frame on our Honda generator.
I hooked up the hose to our out board motor and turned on the water. Started up the motor and flushed it's systems and let it run for a while since I'd installed a new fuel filter on Thursday. I wanted to make sure there would be no surprises when we started her next time.
On to the fuel line for our Ford Lehman engine. For those that have followed our blog for a while, you'll remember our problem of the engine just up and quitting when it got air in the diesel fuel lines. This time, I went for simplification eliminating most of the connections in the line and adding lots more hose clamps and even some caulking to one of the connections.
I smeared caulk on the metal tube that goes all the way back to the fuel tanks and then slid the proper size hose over the tube and clamped it on with three hose clamps. It had only had one! Up the the auxiliary fuel pump(helps bleed the system) and added a new fitting(again 3/8 inch) and used Loctite on the threads to the fitting. Two more hose clamps and then did the same to the opposite side of the pump. Over to the Racor filter where I changed out the fitting to again 3/8 inch so all the hose is the same size. More Loctite to seal the threads and two hose clamps and it was done. Simple and efficient. No more fuel line switches or reducers. Just one hose to the pump and a second to the primary filter. Here's a picture of it. We eliminated 12 connections, all of which could have been the problem.
We also found a water leak at the raw water pump. I switched our the seal on the plate that covers the pump and once we started the engine, no more leaks. Big jobs done!!!
Now we're going to take a couple of hours and walk over the the bar/restaurant where there is a games session going on. All work and no play is bad for the sailor.
08/03/2012, Vuda Point Marina
Yes, I know. I didn't think we would be back here again, but the Mother Nature had other plans. The forecast was for wind--25-30 knots from every direction including from the west and rain--up to an inch possible.
With the winds that were coming and the fact that they were coming out of the west for a while, one of the last places we wanted to be was Musket Cove where you are totally exposed to a western flow and it wouldn't be pleasant.
With that in mind and the fact that our engine had decided to gulp some air in the diesel lines, we decided to go back to Vuda and get it and other things fixed. The list isn't that long and we hope to be out of here early next week.
So far, I've changed out the seal on our fresh water pump(found out it was leaking on the way into Vuda Point. Changed the fuel filter on our outboard motor(maybe she will run better now). Ripped out the entire fuel line that was in the engine room. Hey, I'll find out what is wrong one way or another. I figured I take it to our Hydrolink store in town and get some new ideas on how to fix our problem(air in the lines). In the way into town, I spoke to the folks off Silver Ruffian and he looked at our lines and made some great suggestions on how to get rid of 3/4s of our connections. Once at Hydrolink, I bought the necessary fittings to get the job done, hopefully once and for all. I'll post pictures once I get it installed. Meanwhile, here's a picture of what it looked like before I ripped it out.
We went into town with Paul and Karen off Gigi to have lunch and get "stuff". Parts and food and stuff. What every cruiser picks up when they get to civilization. Tomorrow, we're off for Nadi and Namaka to get more things. It just goes on and on.