19 November 2020 | Suva, Fiji
19 November 2020 | Savusavu and sailing
21 October 2020 | Matei, Taveuni
21 October 2020 | Koro Island
21 October 2020 | Savusavu
15 September 2020 | Viani Bay
01 September 2020 | Savusavu
18 August 2020 | Savusavu Fiji
We have our Visa, kinda
19 November 2020 | Suva, Fiji
Diane Brown | Rain and Lightening!
8 Nov 2020
Sailed nine hours around to Suva with spinnaker up the last six hours in 10-15 knots of wind. Had visits from dolphins and yes, more Petrels. First thing Monday we checked in with Immigrations, stood in the queue and got our number and were quickly told if we could wait a short while they would produce the visa letter for our special permit for yachts. We waited, and waited until they asked us to return at noon for the correct person to stamp our passports. It was quite hot but we needed a good walk and went further into town to the crafts market and around the fresh market. We decided to go back early just to sit in the AC waiting room but turned out by the time we got our new number and waited half an hour it was noon.
The visa letter was issued and we paid the remaining fees only to find it was only for six months--not the year for which we had applied. And three months had already passed for essentially in less than 3 months we have to apply again! Without getting aggressive, I asked why we didn't qualify for the one year. Not quite sure what the response meant but he kept repeating we next would qualify for a 3 year residency. It is what it is and we are just grateful to be safe here with zero Covid.
Diwali, Festival of Lights and new beginnings started on Friday and the Suva Yacht Club had a celebration Saturday so we ended up staying through the weekend to enjoy the party and fireworks. It is also a major gift giving event so the stores were filled with extravagantly dressed men and women in Hindu outfits. Parks and restaurant held family picnics and gatherings. We had many questions from people we met about the election results. They have experienced several coups here but were surprised anything like that could happen in America.
I now have new prescription glasses and sunglasses again! Last pair went overboard a year ago and John has been freaking out about my lack of distance vision. They do the lenses in-house we so we took off for a couple days to Beqa (pronounced Mbengga) to re-visit the inner reef until the glasses would be ready. We anchored at a new spot behind a tiny deserted island with some surprise pinnacles that did not allow us to get too close. The water was shallow enough that I could play with my weight belt and do some free diving practice without a wetsuit even. A VERY large turtle went about his business totally ignoring us. Out last night out there we finally saw another sunset green flash! I've just bought a real Canon camera and was practicing.
Sadly the weather changed so not difficult to pull up anchor and head back to Suva for my glasses. We had 15-20 and rain squalls with confused swell all day. The final insult was our fishing lines fouled one another and we spent the final hour unraveling everything while avoiding commercial traffic back into Suva harbor.
Leleuvia Eco Resort
19 November 2020
Diane Brown | Sunny and windy
6 Nov 2020
Leleuvia Island Resort
What a joyful surprise we found at Leleuvia Island Resort. We had intended to use it as a one night stop over on the way to Suva. We began to anchor in gorgeous sand away from the resort which is usually good manners. They sent out a resort boat and encouraged us to come up to the resort mooring balls and join them for dinner and kava on a Thursday night?! Most resorts right now are mainly open and serving on the weekends only- unless you pre-reserve. Once moored I checked in on the VHF with the resort to confirm that indeed were open and serving. They assured us yes but only a single menu item which was just fine so long as I didn't have to cook. We saw staff arriving and prayed they had not been called in just for us; turns out the staff arrive Thursday to prepare for guests arriving Friday and stay on the island until guests depart the next week. We had a good walk all around the island before a corn chowder, fresh fish and pumpkin curry dinner. We joined the staff for a bit of kava before getting a ride back to Tabu Soro,
Next morning while drinking our first coffee the resort boat arrived with a woven palm basket of ripe papaya and he encouraged us to come onto the island and use their many boats and open air gyms and massive over-water swings and play areas. Right then and there we decided to stay through the weekend since getting to Suva early wasn't that important as Immigrations office would not be open until Monday. Turns out the owner here was a big part of the Proa (or Uto ni Yalo on website) traditional boat that crosse the Pacific to Hawaii and beyond. Instead of tacking, you slide the clew of the sail back and flip it over on same side of the boat alma. This is part of a training center for locals and these floating raft with double outriggers with bright yellow sails get used daily. My paddler friends will note that they steer or rudder with a paddle
A couple families "regulars" arrived for school holidays with all age groups and the volley ball sand court was in full swing. At low tide you can not only walk all the way around the island but seems like a half mile out onto the two surrounding reefs. It felt like Moses opening the sea. Each morning was perfect for taking the board and snorkeling gear out to explore the coral mounds. The other families used the surf boards, SUPs and kayaks as well to soak up the warm turquoise water. We even had a small ray show off behind the boat one morning.
We will definitely go back next year and stage from there to the Lua Groups.
A Birthday to Remember
19 November 2020 | Savusavu and sailing
Diane Brown | Sunny and windy
4 Nov 2020
What an awesome birthday spent sailing between semi deserted islands then coming back to civilization & wifi to find birthday messages from all over the world! Facebook has become such a life saver to keep up with everyone and help me feel closer to you all despite 6,000 miles, Covid and politics dividing us.
We left Savusavu the day after my birthday here in Fiji and headed for Namena Island Reserve hoping to hide inside the reef and dive or snorkel. We read you pay a per person nominal amount which helps pay the locals not to fish the reserve. The wind and tide had other plans blowing from 20-25 the entire four hours south.
It was amazing day as we were visited for hours by large mischievous endemic Fijian petrels. While very playful and entertaining to watch as they used the swell off our three sails to swoop and dive or just restfully glide above the boat, they soon got bored and began attacking our fishing lines. Normally they are very adept at feeding of the flying fish in any conditions. We were moving six-seven knots with a 3 meter swell on the beam coming up off the waves and back down into them. A petrel would swoop down for the lure just as we tumbled down a wave and away the lure would jerk. They kept at it for an hour and we stopped worrying they would every figure it out and get hung up in our gear. Suddenly both the reel and one of the landlines zinged and the birds were grabbing the lines instead or flying through them and getting hung up. We brought in all the lines and the birds appeared to leave the area; so I put out the reel and sure enough three of them were back attacking the lines and lures.
During all this we had to get through a narrow reef inside to Namena and then exit again when we decided against staying out exposed there for a rough night. The petrels just kept swooping by my face as I kept a watch from the bow pulpit. It made me laugh so many times as they turned sideways and gave me the eye. Finally John got frustrated and told me to pay attention to the reef instead of the birds. Hmmm.
We headed to the Government Fisheries Station on the island of Makogai. We still had time to safely reach that well protected bay before 3 in the afternoon and still have enough sun to see our way around coral and reefs-- barely. After a bit I put back out the fishing lines and the birds were nowhere to be seen for quite a while. Then the reel and one hand line took off screeching and we looked back at dozens of birds assuming they had caught our lines. I started reeling in the hand line and realized we had either a bird or a smaller fish on. John was having trouble even getting any purchase to bring in the reel and had a very large fish on. We had just run through a feeding frenzy-- not just our playful birds. Turned out I was able to get a small tuna in on the hand line while John continued to fight with the reel. Remember now we are in swell up to 10 ft and pitching up and down waves. He'd get enough balance and traction pull the line in a couple turns before the fish would take the line back. Finally the fish got away and maybe a good thing for our small cockpit. It was just too rough and too close to the entry of reef around Island; so we just left the tuna until we got anchored.
We will have to return to Tabaka or the Makogai Research Sustainable Fisheries and Climate Change Mitigation station and do the tour of the baby "giant clam" nurseries which they use to restock the reefs around Fiji. Just overnight we saw three turtles, a manta feeding and many fish bait balls in the bay and around the surrounding reefs. Cyclone Winston, 2016, put the station out of service until early 2019. There are lots of different projects ongoing. (fisheries.gov.fj)
5 November 2020
So, we had more petrel experiences leaving Makogai to go behind Ovalau culminating in our first ever bird catch. It was horrifying to reel the panicked bird in hoping he would shake himself free and slow enough not to drown it. It looked like the hook was down its throat until John got a towel over the head and I used pliers to pull the hook out of his beak. He quite happily flew off but that ended our fishing day for sure as huge flocks were following us just for something to do apparently.
Heading back to Vuda-- slowly
02 November 2020
Diane Brown | Blustery and some thunderstorms
31 October 2020
Back to the Barn
It is late spring in Fiji and already we are watching weather reports a couple times a day for cyclone activity evidence out over the Solomons & PNG. There are very few sailors still out here in the Eastern section- most have already headed to Denarau and Vuda to settle in through April in or nearby their chosen cyclone hole. In fact it sounds a bit stressful with people claiming spaces in the mangroves outside Port Denarau --even prior to the first storm. So many cruisers are unable to leave and about 90 boats arrived from New Zealand and Tahiti this season so all are vying for spots. Fiji Meterological issued their 2020-21season predictions last week and call for a La Nina season with warm waters and 4-6 storms; three are predicted to be strong.
So we begin to move West visiting some of our favorite spots as we move slowly toward Vuda Marina. A stop in Matei, Taveuni for fresh fruits and vegetables plus lunch at Tarmonto or Raymond's place. It was so calm that day we decided to stay an extra and do the Wednesday night buffet at Raymonds and meet some locals, mostly expats. Of course by the time we dinghy back to the boat which is now hobby horsing in the swell, my cute dress and rare makeup and shoes are all a sticky mess. The almost-full moon helped us get safely aboard and bring the dinghy up on port side.
Rabi, Albert Bay, was a place we want to re-visit so have anchored up here to hide from some winds and maybe clean Tabu Soro's and the dinghy bottom while we can. Once we get to Vuda nobody swims in that water.
John is plotting multiple courses West to Lautoka/Vuda but depends on the winds which way we actually go; either North over Vanua Levu then jump down to the Yasawas or South across the Koro Sea to Viti Levu or South to Suva. Likely it will take us another week to get to Vuda but just now it is not too squirrelly out there to the West of us where the cyclones usually brew.
Matagi Island / Resort and Qamea
02 November 2020
Diane Brown | Rainy and overcast
22 October 2020
We had a headwind at 25 knots all the way across from Taveuni but well worth finding this romantic little horseshoe shaped bay. We've been content here for three days doing laundry and other boat chores when sunshine allowed. The water is pristine and visibility of our anchor to 60 feet depth.
We had a good scare when the propane stop stopped working totally as I attempted to start breakfast. The trouble shooting took several hours as John traced wiring and the hose from the full tanks to the stove. Sounds simple right??? Not when you have to tear out everything stored in between the two plus pull the oven out onto the floor. I fled the scene as soon as possible to explore the reefs around the bay on my SUP. Fortunately we have fair wifi here so he was able to trouble shoot wiring around the thermal coupler since it has intermittently been having a problem but always lights first thing in the morning for coffee. Then he ran across another article talking about oil build-up in the gas lines so he decided to check that first since the lines have been in use for about 20 years. He must have removed a half cup of oily fluid which took some time for gravity to work. So far burners light first time, every time.
The first night we saw some locals collecting snails and lobsters off the beach but nobody since then. It is really a treat to just hang out in pretty much ideal conditions. John asked if I was ready to leave yesterday and I decided we stay another day. So we rigged up a very small hand line like Marina used in the creek and I finally got to try it last night on the SUP. It worked pretty well as I paddle just off the reefs it jigs up and down. Something took my bait but I didn't respond quick enough to catch him so will try again this evening and bring along more scraps of bait.
25 October 2020
John had a secret plan to explore the bay he and his exwife tried to buy so long ago; but I picked up on it somehow and asked him about the past before he told me we were about to enter his little bit of paradise. Qamea is tropical jungle much like the Marquessas' with tons of volcanic cliffs and rocks flowing into the bay. I was surprised that with the winds he was going toward this fairly shallow bay when on either side were some very deep protected harbors.
Once he fessed-up and we anchored and set up all our rain covers, it was too windy to row to shore. One of the long boats stopped by and Ali who was doing some construction on one of the places gave us permission to visit the island. Next morning John had the dinghy off the foredeck and into the water quickly. It has a spectacular sandy beach even at high tide to land and tie-off on a palm tree and a little stern anchor to avoid water in the dingy. We spent a couple hours touring around the three home sites that had not been there in the late 90's. They were all vacant, likely due to Covid. One was very much a bachelor/surfer pad style which I actually prefer with the outdoor kitchen palapa and a separate palapa on the beach for drinks and entertaining then a very small coral stucco enclosed house for the bedroom. Two of the places had outdoor showers. The gardens covered over 3 acres and could sustain a good sized family. John was a bit disappointed as it was not his vision for the place. I could live here quite easily and it is only a 20 minute local boat ride over to Taveuni for supplies. Oh, the twists and turns our lives take.
Another mission was to find the Mitchell family and Irene who are related to George and Marissa from our creek hideout. So we moved to a more protected harbor to avoid some wind gusts in the 30's and I enjoyed listening to the singing from the church services ashore. A local boat stopped by the boat and invited us to hike on Sunday afternoon but the didn't materialize so we headed around the corner to another big bay that had several active families- but not the Mitchells.
Guess we should have asked more details but it is really a very small island.
Finally made it back to Taveuni
21 October 2020 | Matei, Taveuni
Diane Brown | gusty and mostly fine
20 October 2020
Abort Taveuni and divert to Viani then No name anchorage and finally Taveuni
The small break in weather did not even last us to Taveuni. Allan, Paradise Taveuni, got on the VHF and told us it was not safe to anchor at their site with the winds hitting 30's and from the West. Paradise Taveuni has the most interesting site with black volcanic rock rimming the beach and rock walk-outs to dive off. The pool sits on the edge of these volcanic walls. We totally understood his concern and decided to cross back to the mainland to Viani Bay only two more hours so had some still had some daylight left and we know that area pretty well. We were swept downwind maxing out at 38 knots of wind and I think we saw over 8 knots from this old girl several times despite the deadly roll.
Viani Bay is almost a u-turn back behind several reefs but still somewhat exposed depending on wind direction. I was looking forward to checking in with Dive Academy and getting some of their turmeric salt and maybe doing another free diving class. We were almost inside when John saw several sailboats hiding out there already in the most protected side so we diverted again thinking another hour to George and his safe narrow creek was safer. Fortunately we didn't have to go that far as John tried out a spot we had noticed before behind a small island barely connected to the main shore. We had snorkeled there before so knew not to anchor on the side with all the coral but behind the island for wind protection. It turned out to be an amazing starry night with some locals out hunting mollusks and lobster with torches after midnight.
Next morning, before wind could pick up the seas, we crossed back to Taveuni at the North end by the airport. This was a spot John and his folks knew from their dive and sailing times with SeAxe of Alegra. We anchored just off their old home and below the old Dive Taveuni which is now a very large Taveuni Resort and Spa- also closed due to Covid.
We were desperate after three weeks for fresh vegetables and fruit so John launched the dingy and I dropped our beloved dying Yamaha Enduro15 two-stroke down to the choppy waters praying John could seat it to the dingy before the next swell or roll hit. Success, and it started on the first pull after days of John tinkering with it off the transom. We made it to shore but the outboard is still sadly underpowered and limping along. Never mind that, it was time for John to reminisce and take pictures of places he had visited some 25 years ago. Mom confirmed he had the right house for Di and Warwick's place and we walked uphill to the little restaurant for lunch and local knowledge. Raymond soon had us fed on fresh walu and a taxi on it's way. Turns out we could get everything we needed up at this end of the island. The little store John remembered had quadrupled in size. Our driver waited for us then proceeded to show John around to all the spots he remembered, including the airport, now paved and . We loved the deep loamy soil and thick canopy of trees here and wish we had not shopped first as we went almost to the waterfalls. Our taxi man knew all the people John wanted to hear updates about and was happy to hear Di and Warrick are doing well. He stopped to show us his property and home but sadly relayed they are in a battle with the bank and government about past due payments that are supposedly forgiven which really only means interest is rising. They applied for funds from their retirement account but the government is not allowing them to withdraw what is needed to prevent losing their property. I'm not really clear here as what I read in papers and government posts is they are allowed to borrow some portion of their social security type retirement funds to cover expenses during this Covid unemployment. He didn't sound optimistic and his grown children are trying to assist.
We spent a nauseating rolly night and decided to head to Matagi Island early for a quieter anchorage. If the very private resort here were open, we would not be allowed to anchor. So off we go again.