07/20/2015, Rabi Island Fiji
22 July 2015- Catherine Bay, Rabi Is, Fiji.
Photo is of Jack and Alan having a Waikato beer at Viani Bay.
Rabi Island is off the NE corner of Vanua Levu. Rabi (Rambi) was settled by the people of the island of Banaba in Kiribati, in 2000. The British government bought Rabi with the islanders own phosphate royalties. Their island had been ruined by phosphate mining and wartime invasions and atrocities. Just a few miles away is the island of Kioa which was purchased by Tuvalu just after WWII and some Tuvaluans came and settled there. So we are still in Fiji and yet not exactly Fiji.
We left Suva on a beautiful clear morning, the sun began to fill the sky with light just as we left the passage. With no wind we motored off into a pink and gold sky. After days of cloud and wind it was a nice change to see the clear sky. The batteries needed a charge and the water maker filled the tanks then half way to Gnau the wind came in lightly and we motor sailed the rest of the way. Gnau is a big island 50 miles east of Suva, we visited there in 1991 on Sousa with Sarah and Andrew.
With the sun high in the sky we found the pass easily although the tide had just began to ebb and the outflow was causing small waves. I could feel Tuatara being pushed around as I steered in with Alan up the mast giving directions. The anchorage at Herald bay looked lovely but we knew there was a NW change expected that evening so we motored on down to Waikama. After a week of lovely weather there in Sousa we had woken up one morning to a screaming norwester and our stern was bouncing up and down uncomfortably close to the coral reef off the beach. We hastily up anchored and high tailed it to Waikama. So with those memories in mind we had a night in the not so pretty but safe anchorage at Waikama. By the early hours of the morning the NW wind had been replaced by the reliable SE and now we were bouncing up and down in drizzle. Convinced it would be a different day around the corner we motored back to the favoured anchorage, wearing coats against the cold as much as for the rain protection. Fiji has been quite cold until about a week ago.
In the hour it took to return the day had changed, the sun came out and 3 yachts were anchored where the day before there had been none. The yachts had sailed from Suva overnight and had come in at first light. These were 3 of the kid boats we had met in Suva. After anchoring in a bay in Fiji, sevusevu must be done as soon as possible. Sevusevu is a ceremony where the visitors present the village chief with a bundle of Kava and in return he gives permission to anchor in their bay and come ashore on their land. So we arranged to meet on the beach and walk over to the village together. One of the boats had another family visiting so it was quite a crowd which gathered on the beach, 10 adults and 10 children.
We set off to find the track through the tangled trees, the one which we said was just behind the beach. When 20 people couldn't find the track I was relieved to find out the Swedes had also been there before and agreed there was a track. Just as one too many tracks were ending up in a muddy pig wallow someone found a track up the hill onto a grassy road. We set off in drizzly rain(again) on the road to the village of Sawaieke in the next bay. We were a spread out damp raggletail bunch by the time we got to the edge of the village, frogs and pigs had waylaid the kids. We found someone to take us to the chief, who as luck would have it was about to start a Friday afternoon meeting/kava session so the kava bowl was all set up ready to go. Once we were all quietly seated on the floor, the 4 skippers presented their kava, welcoming words and prayers said, a bowl of Kava was prepared. A round of kava was given to all the men starting with the Chief then the oldest elder then Alan being the oldest visitor. The women had kava on the second round, the kids all got bananas. The circle around the kava bowl expanded as the village men arrived for their meeting. Luckily after one bilo of kava it was ok for lady visitors to decline another. It has been 10 years since I have had a bilo of Kava, it still tastes like dish water! The afternoon was getting on and with the grey clouds outside, the responsible members of the group...the women, were getting a little concerned about getting back before dark so we could find our way through the bush to the beach. The Chief assured us if we walked on the road a little further a short track to the beach would become very clear to us and anyway we couldn't go until the Kava bowl was empty, which apparently was, for the men, about 4 bilos each. A bilo is a cup made from half a coconut.
As we left Sawaieke for the trek back over the hill, village kids and parents were returning from a Sports day where they had won the rugby and netball. They were very proud to say they were off to represent the island in Savusavu. The chief had reminded us that the famous Fijian rugby player, Serevi had come from the island of Gnau.
The walk back was a repeat of the trip over, rain, wet grass, pigs and trying not to step on small frogs jumping across the path. As the chief said, we walked a little further and found the path that just took us a few metres through the trees on to the beach, no pig wallows to step around this time. As the light dimmed we dragged our dinghy out over the rocks exposed by the low tide and got back to Tuatara in time to put the anchor light on.
The next day we went around to the village by dinghy and had a look at the church and the village in finer weather. Sawaieke doesn't seem to have changed much in 24 years, the hall and the church look a little more dilapidated. The people are still welcoming and they still think that Gnau Kava is the best in Fiji... but then on Kandavu they say theirs is best, go to Taveuni and nothing is better than Taveuni kava. I am not sure if they ever get to taste each other's kava to really know.
We decided that Sunday afternoon was the time to leave to get to the Northern Lau islands in a good weather window, short, but 24 hours was all we needed. By 8 am the next morning the window was shut, the wind was on the nose and the Koro Sea was big and lumpy. We were 40 miles from the pass into Vanua Balavu but we could not make enough progress motor sailing or tacking across the miles we needed to go before dark. A 38 metre yacht crossed our path heading for Vanua Balavu also, we looked at their speed of 4 to 5 knots against the rough sea and thought if thats all they can do there is not much hope for us. In the middle between Taveuni and the Lau group we left a track of indecision on our chart, should we go north to Qamea or west to Taveuni and pick up a mooring at Paradise resort. We eventually decided on Paradise, with a name like that it should have been a no brainer. We turned west and had a quick but windy downhill ride to the south end of Taveuni. The wind was still whistling around the SW corner as we crossed the bay to Paradise. We wondered just how sheltered this place was, just a few metres from the mooring ball the white caps stopped, the wind eased as we tied on to the mooring, Paradise found!
My first overnight passage in 18months had not been enjoyable, I felt tired and bruised. Alan had kindly taken a longer first shift while I adjusted to unusual seasickness. We were both tired so we stayed on board leaving going ashore until the next day. 24 hours after leaving Gnau it was nice to have a cup of coffee in peaceful waters. The next day the sun was out for the whole day an unusual occurrence so far this season at this end of Fiji. The weather seemed to have turned the corner, maybe just the influence of Paradise. The resort is primarily a dive resort, although there was also a wedding party there preparing for their tropical nuptials. The resort is owned by an Australian couple, however their Kiwi friends Phil and Faith were there giving them a hand. Phil had lived in Hamilton as a child and had gone to Hukanui primary, many years before our kids. The resort is very welcoming to yachties or as they call us "our sailing guests". The moorings are free with the understanding we use the bar and restaurant. Happy hour coincided with sunset so no hardship to go ashore and have a cold beer as the sun goes down. The pool was also free to use but there was no need as Tuatara was sitting in the clearest cleanest water we had been in for a while. The staff were very friendly and helpful. One afternoon we decided to go for a walk up the road, the restaurant manager saw us going and called us back to give us a bottle of cold water each. He must have had intuition as to what was going to happen. We had walked a little way and we were having a sit down on an old boat by the side of the road while we had a cool drink of water. A young man in a ute stopped thinking we were hitchhiking, not unusual on Taveuni. Alan said why not, we can go for a bit and walk back. Well the bit turned into the next village way down the coast. We went further than we thought while Alan and the driver talked rugby. Apparently the bus was due to go back towards the resort at any minute so he let us off at the bus stop. A local young man came to the stop and confirmed the bus was due. Five minutes later the bus roared around the corner but kept going with some apologetic waving and something in Fijian. The young man informed us that there had been a breakdown and for some reason that bus could not stop and pick us up and that there was to be no more buses that day. We looked at the time, nearly 3pm, time to walk and hope we get a lift. The young Fijian set off walking and soon disappeared out of sight. We strolled along waving to the vehicles going in the opposite direction, passed the broken down bus which had two very greasy men working on the wheel bearing, still no one going our way. We were just commenting on the nice man who gave us the water when a truck stopped to pick us up. He had a load of dry brown coconuts he was taking to the oil factory right near the resort. It didn't seem so long a distance sitting in a truck but we would have been tired if we had walked all the way. As we walked past the school there was the bus that couldn't/wouldn't pick us up, loading up with kids. The emergency seemed to be they had to be back for home time, not sure the two minutes stopping to pick us up would have upset the school run too much. No harm done we met some nice people and saw a little more of Taveuni than we expected. After 3 nights on the mooring we said we would leave for Viani Bay, all of 10 miles away, the next day, but then two boats came in we knew, so we stayed another night. The next day it really was time to leave but not until we had looked around the resorts vege garden, their very smart new piggery and a visit to the little chickens which had just arrived. Paradise is trying to be self sufficient and are certainly moving in the right direction. '
Viani bay is a lovely bay on the east coast of Vanua Levu. The bay is popular with yachties who want to dive and snorkel on the various walls, gardens and fish farms of the famous Rainbow reef. The anchorage is close enough to go in your own dinghy without paying the 300 dollar resort charges for a morning diving. Also living in the bay is Jack Fisher whose family owns most of the bay, he will take divers out in his long boat and take them to the dive spots for $20 each. His wife Sophie and daughters also cooked us a beautiful curry meal as a church fundraiser and apparently Jack puts on a great Lovo every so often. Although Jack was a diver he now just guides from above the water. Alan went with a group of yachtie divers and Jack for a snorkel and a dive. It was good that Alan had others to go with, the weather was good for going to the Nth Lau group but we took the opportunity for Alan to have people to dive with. So hopefully another weather window comes along. After several days of calm weather the SE is returning so we have shifted north to Rabi. When the weather eases again we will visit Jack and Sophie again for Alan to do more diving then across to Paradise for a night before ..well could be the Lau group or Savusavu.
06/29/2015, Suva Fiji
Suva Fiji 7th July 2015 I have decided at last to start up my blog again. I am not sure if there is anyone out there to read it however it is a good way for me to record our wanderings as I am hopeless with a daily log.
Tuatara and crew are in Suva preparing to leave tomorrow. We seem to have been here ages. Alan, Nigel and Geoff had a quick 7 day passage from Opua, my passage was a little quicker, a comfortable 3hrs on Air NZ. Christine flew up with me, so after a few murky days in Suva we sailed down to Kandavu, hoping to show Nigel and Christine a sunnier Fiji. I think we had 2 days of sun at most in the next 6 days. It wasn't the tropical holiday we all had hoped for. Our guests flew out of Kandavu to Nadi after an apparently thrilling hour long ride in a long boat along the coast to the airport.
We had planned to sail from Kandavu to the southern Lau island of Fulanga but wind and a burst pipe conspired against us. A high pressure hose on the watermaker burst so knowing we need to be self sufficient in the Lau we headed back to Suva to source repairs. The SE winds were well established so although no good for Fulanga we had a fabulous sail back to Suva.
First thing Monday the hose was repaired, a large pile of washing left with the laundry lady and we waited for a couple of hours for the outboard repair man to arrive, which he eventually did 24 hours later. While waiting for the man not to turn up we went across the road to get some bread from the shop attached to the corrections (prison) centre. No bread but a great little restaurant with delicious food cooked by Louie and 2 other prisoners. We soon realised this was a popular place for not only the corrections staff to eat but also the yachties, price and deliciousness meeting our needs. While waiting for lunch Alan was able to get a haircut from the trainee/remand prisoner barber ...all I will say is he got what he paid for!
Tuesday morning came still no outboard man so off to get the gas bottle filled, another delicious lunch across the road, this time sharing a table with the top brass . I had fresh water mussels with coconut milk. Eventually the man arrived, established that yes we needed a new prop on the outboard and in Fiji the Yamaha model is different so no, he couldn't help us. Thank goodness for the Internet and Google within an hour we had contacted Ian and Kevs outboard spares in Auckland, the 1 prop they had left for our motor was soon on its way to Suva arriving in Suva Saturday morning. Great service. The Yamaha dealer here could have done the same thing for us and added a handling cost and we would have been none the wiser, but it just seemed too hard for them.
The rest of the week was spent working on Tuatara, fixing the watermaker and visiting the splendid Suva market to stock up on fruit and veges ready for a Sunday departure and of course more meals across the road. We also kept an eye on tropical cyclone Raquel over the Solomans , we didn't want to be caught in the poor holding mud of Suva harbour if strong winds were to head our way. Alan was pleased the prop held us up because it meant he definitely would be able to watch the Super 15 final on TV. So Saturday was organised pick up the prop from DHL and watch the rugby then off the next morning.
Well in between DHL and the kick off at the Cake tin Alan decided to clean the solar panels which are quite close to the new sharp blades of the wind generator. As I was in the process of turning off the wind gen I heard an almighty yell and dashed out side to see blood pouring out of the top of his hand. He had been too impatient and too close to the blades. We wrapped his hand in a towel and flagged down a passing dinghy....our motor was on deck having the prop fixed!! One of the fathers at the birthday party ashore at the Yacht club suggested we go to the Private hospital and flagged down a taxi. As Alan adjusted the towel the taxi driver glimpsed the blood and put his foot down. Luckily the cuts weren't as bad as it first seemed, the doctor had a look as he muttered about being very lucky. The nurse glued and dressed the cuts, Alan winced as it stung and soon we were on our way to the chemist for antibiotics. A good service relatively, pain free on the wallet but not on the sliced hand. So instead of heading for the pass out of Suva on Sunday it was back up the hill to Suva Private to get the hand dressed. The nurse was happy for us to dress it now as long as the cuts look healthy so tomorrow we leave Suva for the northern Lau Islands with a few stops along the way.
It has been 24 years since we had been in Suva, we have seen a more modern Suva with shopping malls, everyone holding a cell phone, a huge increase in taxis and cafes with flat whites and long blacks. Although the flat whites come with lovely frothy hibiscus flower decorations the long blacks are very long and even I can't finish them. Someone needs to import some nice small long black cups from NZ. Still, better than no coffee at all. The Suva market is still the same, full of produce during the week and then Friday and Saturday the place overflows with people, pineapples and purple octopus, as well as huge piles of cassava and taro, green bananas, fat plantain, shiny aubergines, fresh water mussels ....anything one might need for the weekend family lovo. The other thing that is the same is the grey drizzly weather interspersed with the odd sunny day or hour, hopefully those peeks of blue we can see in the east will still be there as we head east.
Christmas is fast approaching and the weather has been magnificent. We are enjoying living at Westhaven the scene is always changing, people and boats coming and going, the pohutukawa trees are covered in red, looking gorgeous even on a cloudy day.
Alan is working hard on Road Runner to get all the new bits and pieces fitted. Jim Pasco is up from Hamilton for a couple of days to help fit new batteries among other things. The thing I like about this project is all the retail therapy I have been getting although some of the Marine Industry can be very frustrating. On one of the few wet windy days (not wasting fine weather work time) we went to Lusty and Blundell, the Raymarine supposed experts, to price a new tiller pilot along with other bits, all adding up to a considerable amount of money. Their service was very poor we almost felt we had to produce a bank statement to prove we were serious. We left feeling quite despondent and confused with no progress made on the RR project. The salesman had even told Alan he was wrong about a tiller pilot that was on their own website, that it wasn't on the website and didn't exist. On returning to Westhaven we called into The Nav Station. Wow what a difference, Will was a breath of fresh air, he knew exactly what Alan wanted and could talk knowledgeably about all the products we needed. We left The Nav Station feeling confident that the RR project was on track again. Will even produced a Raymarine catalogue showing the Tiller pilot "that didn't exist". Just for the record, Lusty and Blundell, it is on your website too! I guess if we had turned up with super yacht written all over us we would have got better service. I just hope all our overseas cruising friends buying marine gear in NZ this summer get the Will treatment not the Lusty and Blundell type. Apart from that glitch we have had good service and it is so handy being here at Westhaven close to all the services we need. It doesn't hurt so much paying lumps of money over to helpful likeable people.
There are lots of things I cant help or don't want to help Alan with so that leaves me free to go for walking around Westhaven, St Marys Bay and Ponsonby. One day I walked across the newish over motorway walkway up through St Marys Bay admiring the views and beautiful houses.
There is one drawback of living in the marina, laundry cannot be hung out to dry, spoils the scenery. The management do provide a good dryer in the laundry however today I realised how many clothes I have that cannot be tossed around in hot air. The marina at Apia in Samoa had the same rules although no one took any notice of the rules. The marina there was falling to bits so a bit of laundry flapping in the breeze was neither here nor there. Today is hot and breezy so I risked a few things out on coat hangers. Clothes on coat hangers aren't really classed as laundry out to dry.. is it?