15 September 2020 | Viani Bay
01 September 2020 | Savusavu
18 August 2020 | Savusavu Fiji
26 July 2020 | Vanua Levu
17 July 2020 | Northern Yasawa Islands
28 June 2020 | Yasawa Islands
25 June 2020 | Port Denarau, Fiji
18 June 2020 | Near Navula Reef/ Cloud Break
13 June 2020 | Port Denarau
28 May 2020 | Port Denerau, Fiji
Visiting George and Family
20 September 2020
17 Sept 2020
Back to See George
A bit of a wind event is predicted mid-week so we headed around the corner back up into Naqaiqai (pronounced Nahsisi) Creek to see our friend George. S/V Nacuda was already anchored up there and young Johan got to stop his homeschool to wave hello as we came around to anchor nearby. We couldn't visit much due to the wind chop but nothing like the swells and whitecaps outside of this secret little cyclone hole.
We went over to visit George and bring him some items he had requested from Savusavu but found he and his brother and wife, Mariana, quite busy getting ready for family to arrive so made it quick. After the wind had calmed some we went back to the compound where they were making another batch of virgin coconut oil. It is a couple day process to scrape the meat even with their machine grinder then press out the oil by hand (as their hydraulic jack press is leaking) separate out the meal for chicken feed, the oil separated from water and milk to be filtered into bottles. It is so very tasty and great both for cooking and personal use. A chicken curry was simmering on the outside wood stove/oven and pineapple pastry was cooling for their tea. Everything from their land by hand. It amazes me.
Mariana took me up to the top of the property where they have four generations of family graves. Today was the anniversary of their 22 year old son's death a couple years ago and family was arriving shortly to spend the night and honor it together and drink grog. It was a beautiful spot with views to Kioa and up the creek. I wonder if we force ourselves to move too quickly away from our grief in our culture and might benefit from assembling and celebrating our loved ones a bit longer.... It sure sounded like they had a great time celebrating.
Mariana likes to fish and get away on her own. She proudly showed me her small hand reel and the size of the hook. The bait is just flour mixed with a canned meat on the hook to you can't really jig just let the line hang and not jerk until you really feel the fish is hooked. The men folk were obviously quite proud of her and told of the huge catches she brings back. Ive noticed that many women here love to fish even though it is typically the men that go out for overnight fishing trips. The women seem to find it a great time to go out together or alone on nothing more than a foam board or old kayak and sit visiting and fishing for hours. It feels like I fit here in somehow.
John was thrilled when they sent us home with one of the pineapple pastries along with bananas and papayas to share with S/V Nacuda.
Going to Town - Somosomo
20 September 2020
15 Sept 2020
Dive Academy had a food and fuel run scheduled to the town of Somosomo on the island of Taveuni for Tuesday morning before low tide. We joined them to get oriented, get some outboard gas and fresh fruit. Taveuni is a long island and the International Date Line cuts right through the island making it possible to have one foot in today and another foot in yesterday. The first store we saw had a sign saying "the first store open". It was a short taxi ride to the fuel station where everyone lined up their jerry cans while I watched trees full of bats overhead. There is a resort right under the fruit bat "camp" nicknamed bat resort. Taxi took us back the the long boat and we took the fuel back then returned to the main section of town to find an ATM and do some shopping.
I loved the old cinema building with 1950's versions of Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny painted in the arch. There was one four story building with rust in all the exposed iron that was the staples market then about eight tables, some with sheds that were stocked by farmers' wives with the fresh vegetables and fruit. It's always exciting as you grab things you don't see often first (like cilantro, basil and green beans or green onions) then get the basics that are always available like Chinese cabbage (bokchoy), local vine spinach, right now tomatoes, chilies, squash and cucumbers. A super exciting find was fresh roasted peanuts inside the school uniform, fabric/miscellaneous store; so I bought a half kilo.
John meanwhile is talking with our taxi driver, Jass (Vutarus' grandson), who turns out was working with Di and Warwicks friend Noel Heinz and remembers SeAx of Allegra. So they were having a great time and we got his phone number for our next trip over and Jass promised to take us to all John's old haunts and up to the falls and the infamous water slide. He also invited us to come to his house for dinner.
Jone had more shopping to do for the Dive Academy so we took the taxi back to the boat and hung out on the beach where the tide was out to wait. John explored the little store nearby and found it to be NOT so little. Once inside it opened onto a separate fabric store and tailor and the other side opened into a huge connecting hardware and parts store. I enjoyed an ice cream outside and visited with the resident fruit stand women who had a plate of 8 small papaya for $5. I may need to make banana papaya bread as many are ripe already.
We sat on seawall behind the store made of filled plastic barrels of concrete to keep waves from swamping the houses and business. The government has dedicated a budget for retaining walls to keep the rising sea waters out; but in small remote areas like these it is more likely that the villages must make the attempt to stop the encroaching waters. The lower level starts as volcanic rocks stacked; then they added a concrete topper, then barrels into concrete and topped with wood stringers. I wonder what the next level will be? We visited with an older couple from Nasau Bay on Vanua Levu who had come across to Taveuni as their daughter worked at the hospital and had booked them to see a visiting eye specialist. They were in their Sunday best and were also waiting for the tide to rise sufficient to get the boats over the reef and home.
It probably sounds boring to you; but for us this was a pretty exciting day!
Even more diving at Rainbow Reef
20 September 2020
14 Sept 2020
Diving Cabbage Patch & White Wall
John had waited patiently and did boat chores that required him to tear into deep storage spaces for spare bilge pumps, etc. He appreciates me being absent during these forays; as do I. We scheduled two dives in the strait, a return to ‘The White Wall’ and a new spot for us ‘Cabbage Patch’.
Sunday morning was brilliant sun and calm wind and waters as we sped out to the reef. Jerry our dive master was very excited to be out diving again with visitors and went through the dive review telling us what he hoped we would see. Due to the tide we were doing it the opposite direction from last time; so going down the stair/cave to about 60-90 feet then drifting along the “white wall” to the short cave up to 30 feet. Jerry was checking out each of his special spots and pointed out several Orangatang Crabs in nooks and one along the vines coming out from the wall. He also found a crab in some pink bubble coral (looks like bubble gum blown up). The drift was a little faster this time but I enjoyed it more due to the sunlight and colors.
We took a break back at the beach in Viani in order to pick up Marina who was teaching an open water beginners course with a 10 year old cruiser off S/V Renegade (Santa Cruz residents who just lost their home to fire). Jerry took John and I down first as we would be at deeper depth than the beginner class. At first I was disappointed as the sand stirred up a lot of particulate and the reef seemed quite dead-especially the huge stag horns broken and sideways. Jerry played with a sand dab as it shot along the bottom and then pointed to new growth on an old sideways stag horn coral. It has taken ten years but the coral is recovering from Cyclone Winston damage and a prior bleaching event. As we turned around ahead of us was this glowing lime green mountain of cabbage coral totally intact. I about dropped my regulator squealing. Inside each crisp green “leaf” lived many types of fish and it felt like a huge fish nursery reaching for the sun. We spent the rest of our air wandering around and hanging over the gigantic cabbage corals. I looked down and my air gage read only 500. I’m usually coming up with 1000 left in my tank. I let Jerry and John know my tank status and they signed to me that we would slowly ascend to our 15 foot safety stop.
It was a spectacular way to spend a Sunday.
15 September 2020 | Viani Bay
Diane Brown | Gorgeous and clear
Viani Bay / Dive Academy Fiji
13 Sept 2020
We decided to make a get-away from Savusavu for a while and headed back to Viani Bay. Marina and Jone at Dive Academy Fiji were expecting us and we caught one of their new moorings after a long semi-bash north. I've not been seasick in over a year but this eight hour trip took me over the edge; cleaning up the broken contents of a plastic hair shampoo bottle was my undoing.
We ended up with seven boats in Viani Bay at one point over the extended weekend and Dive Academy was thrilled. One of my goals this year was to learn more about free diving so when Jone recruited for a class I threw in my anxiety and signed up along with three other cruisers for a full class. Thursday night Dive Academy arranged a potluck on the beach and we met do the online and caught up with old and new friends. I had to rush home and cram the e-learning module from Padi in before class.
Friday, the first day we were in shallow water learning how to relax, stimulate the mammalian reflex and breath-up for breath holding. I started at a pathetic 34 seconds and by the fourth go round was just over 2 minutes?!? It is a very inward sport and not at all about doing better than my classmates. We cheered one another on and our confidence built quickly. The dynamic section is more about learning efficient movement underwater to conserve oxygen longer. It took a couple tries to get my weight belt correct but then I was able to focus on diving down shallow, whipping the extra long fins with straight legs and gliding. I was so caught up in the technique I forgot I was holding my breath...
Saturday morning we took the dive boat out to Rainbow Reef to a sandy bottom area with the float and a long line to a weight which would be adjusted deeper each turn. A trick I forgot to do the first dive is to gently begin clearing sinuses just as soon as you duck dive under the water. About 3 meters down I realized and tried to clear but not successful so had to turn back up to surface. The next two tries I relaxed and was able to clear my ears and reach modest depths of 30 and 40+ feet. The last dive my ears would not clear and I knew I was too tired for another try but felt successful and confident with practice it will get easier.
Jone and John from Nacuda (New Caledonia family) had spear guns along so after a break we went back in to watch them fish for the bbq celebration after class. It took much patience and many dives but Jone brought up three parrot fish before his band broke. We went back to Viani bay and our boats to dry out and then headed to the beach for the "final" paper test and a beer toast from Jone for passing! The fish tasted amazing as well as the breadfruit with garlic and bokchoy/carrot salad. Dive Academy only uses local ingredients and has trees and crops growing in every niche.
So one amazing thing off my bucket list!
Curly in Savusavu
01 September 2020 | Savusavu
Diane Brown | Spring with afternoon showers
31 August 2020
Curly in Savusavu
We've been hanging out on a mooring at Copra Shed for a week now awaiting a call from Immigrations approving our Yacht Special Purpose one year visa. At first it is exciting to be back in a town with stores and restaurants to have lunch out and the yacht club bar for sundowners. After about four days John gets antsy so I called Immigrations to see if any word on visa after one week and if we can leave for a while. They advised against our leaving since our visa has expired and is due any day. Verbally she assured me they cannot fine us since we filed plenty early for the extension.
We listen to the cruisers net run by Curly each morning for local weather and happenings and use his website "curlycarswell.blogspot.com" for fishing clues and parts sourcing. Curly in a normal season does many seminars for yachts checking in at Savusavu (before covid) full of local knowledge and navigation hazards, cyclone holes and even does routing and shares his own beloved anchorage listings with coordinates. This year has been pretty slow so we asked if he would do a mini seminar for us. We met him at my new favorite lunch spot the Surf and Turf which is close to where Curly is moored.
Curly is quite a character and has seen many folks come and go so once he and John had sized each others' skill set-up, I could sit back and observe. Fortunately John was able to hear him well which helped greatly with the transfer of knowledge. Curly also knows the back stories for the five or six boats that seem abandoned and which John has been speculating about since our first visit. His charting format is similar to the Steven Caldwell cruising guide from the 70's but with much improved GPS coordinates and many more anchorages and current resources. Other than a Lonely Planet and Moon Guides which are oriented to Fiji land and resort stays, there are precious few current cruising guides like in Mexico and Polynesia.
We spent a delightful rainy afternoon on the enclosed patio of Surf and Turf looking ahead to the next eight weeks of cruising before cyclone season sets in again November 1st.
Curly makes up his own fishing lures by modifying the barb and the head so they constantly turn more realistically, he also uses a shiny swivel to attract attention and beefs up the wire lead. I was surprised at how small the actual body is; but the hook is about the size we have been using. We got several and will change out our lines and stagger our runs. Sure would be lovely if it works!
We have made tentative reservations at Vuda Marina for the 20/21 cyclone season in hope we get to fly to New Zealand for Americas Cup in January if the borders reopen in time. John is confident Vuda will take care of the boat in our absence.
Anyhow, in a holding pattern waiting for Immigrations to call and hope to get out of town before the gnarly weather front shows up this weekend.
Taveuni and Diving Galore
24 August 2020
Diane Brown | Fine with evening showers
23 August 2020
Taveuni & Diving Somosomo Strait
After 20 plus years John has set foot on Taveuni again. I unsuccessfully tried to get him to write this blog but there is a lot of emotions behind achieving this goal. Fortunately due to the diving and cruiser friendly staff at Paradise Taviuni it exceeded my expectations. We grabbed a mooring off the South tip by Vuna Point/Reef maintained by Paradise Taveuni Dive Resort and quickly booked in for the next day's dive and dinner. They are open upon arrangements with a limited but tasty menu of items grown locally. They were expecting another yacht for dinner which turned out to be Poppy on her boat was Karen our yoga friend from Musket Cove and another friend Chris from Vuda Marina celebrating a major birthday. We had a fun time dining and catching up with them both.
Turned out we were the only two on the dive boat next morning so enjoyed private dives off the Vuna Reef "Orgasm" area and Steve's Corner the volcanic shelf just off the Reef. We saw much improved soft coral and colors compared to what we saw West side of Fiji over the last year. Allan and Tina, our divemasters, said the coral had been decimated by Winston, and though still small, has been coming back quickly due to the constant North to South currents through the strait. I was exhausted after two dives but happy to see my buoyancy and confidence has improved. I still work a lot harder than John does especially trying to manage the GoPro and light. An Oceanis 55 , Steve and Amanda, arrived onto a mooring by the time we had a nap and invited us over to see their well fitted boat.
Saturday Steve joined us diving while Amanda had a massage by Sonny at the resort. We did Rainbow Reef in the middle of the strait; "The Zoo" and "Daqkuniba (Behind the Fence)" both with mega color, a white tip shark, a turtle, nudibranchs, massive clam shells, scorpion fish and eels hiding out everywhere we went. It really helps to have a couple local dive instructors to see the sights. Tina said she has not been in the water for months due to lack of guests so was excited to visit and check if their special spots and friends still existed. Allen and Terrie employ many of the local residents when business is normal and have kept a traditional band on Saturday nights for the everyone to enjoy and use the resort pool and facilities. Kids were diving off the volcanic cliffs or into the newly painted and filled swim pool with groups hanging out on mats and chairs. I had a great time dancing with everyone that would let me and dining at the edge of the cliff.
Sunday was again back out to the middle of the Somosomo Strait to drift dive the "Great White Wall" and then the adjacent "Purple Wall" which ends with a staircase tunnel upward to our lift- out point. I'm exhausted but spent hours going over the goPro footage and am so grateful I get to see this much healthy reef. I've done some snap photos from the video so the kids can see the highlights and plan to cut and paste the best footage to a short summary video.
Today we must head back to Savusavu for our visa extensions. Suva Immigrations has decided we must pay for two applications despite us being married and require more fees to finish processing our yacht special purpose one year extension. At one level we are still hoping that New Zealand will re-open to cruisers before November as America's Cup is still scheduled to happen early 2021; but at this point we must prepare for a back-up plan to stay another cyclone season here in Fiji. Not a hardship at all!