TABU SORO - Never Give Up

19 September 2022 | Rotuma Island, Fiji
19 September 2022
19 September 2022
07 July 2022 | Currently in Savusavu with internet
02 June 2022 | Vuda Marina
15 December 2021 | Vuda Marina
26 November 2021
26 November 2021
20 October 2021 | Makogai Island
20 October 2021
20 October 2021
20 October 2021
20 October 2021
20 October 2021 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu
15 August 2021 | SavuSavu
15 August 2021 | Port Denarau, Viti Levu
15 August 2021 | Yasawa-I rara
23 July 2021 | Yasawa Island - South End
23 July 2021 | Naviti Island - West
23 July 2021 | Musket Cove

Oh Rotuma

19 September 2022 | Rotuma Island, Fiji
Diane Brown | Breezy
August/September 2022
Oh Rotuma

Keith and Cheryl and Karen at Vuda had told us stories of Rotuma, a Fijian island over 300 miles north, with terrific beaches and resourceful folks. We decided we needed an adventure so provisioned with extra everything as they only get a supply / Ferry boat once a month out there. And then we ended up sitting at Yasawa I-ra for almost two weeks due to very high winds gusting 30-35.

It took about 50 hours of sailing as we had great 25 knot winds (:but huge swells). It is so much bigger and taller than I had imagined! Heads up there are a couple small and one large island not even on the chart so approach during daylight.

We came around the West side of the island through a pass that Navionics showed as narrow and very shallow but turned out to be very very deep and wide. It reminded me of Tuamotus with steep volcanic cliffs straight into the sea. Make Bay looked so inviting we put down anchor and slept. By afternoon it was low tide and we realised it was good we hadn't gone in any closer as the shallows came out within 100 yards of Tabu Soro. In fact it was so shallow there was no way into shore even with the dinghy except once the tide came up.
We waited until the next day and wound thru a tricky little channel running along some really sweet little houses above lots of black lava rocks. Plan was to hook up with the Albert family but we had no idea where to find them on this large an island. Prophetically John said well we will just have to hitch hike.

We had a text message from Keith saying that he heard from Rotuma a boat had arrived and assumed it was us. Turned out we had anchored at the only cell tower on the island and had just a bit of Digicel service as it was close to the airport and Government Station.

It is so very shallow and we were hesitant so once we saw a little house with a pier and a Hobie anchored off we stopped to ask directions. A great couple, John and Hareta Bennett, assured us it was navigable and told us they knew Ratu Albert and gave us directions to the school where he worked in this exact bay and village of Matusa. The school day was nearly done so we walked around the area until Master Albert, as the kids call him, was done for the day and walked us home.

What an amazing family of ten with both parents so patient and tons of other children showing up to play volleyball in their front yard until too dark to play any longer. We immediately felt at home and made plans to return for an official Rotuman welcome ceremony. Meanwhile we had to get back to Tabu Soro before the tide went out even further. Thank goodness for the torch (flashlight).

Meanwhile next morning BioSecurity and Police/Immigrations phoned Ratu and Salote asking about our visit and protocols about arrivals. Salote is very good at communicating with common sense and gave them enough information to calm them down. All John and I saw was a police boat loaded with folks coming into Maka Bay directly to us at speed. They asked permission to board and seemed very friendly but official. In the swell and wind, loading everyone up to our deck was quite tricky for everyone involved. Turns out we should have reported in at the wharf on the NW side of the bay even though the Government Station was in this bay and no cell service on that side of the island. All was well once they confirmed after review of our documents from 2019 we had already checked into Fiji and had no prohibited items aboard. Relief!

We spent a wonderful week getting to know the children and family, as much as tides allowed. The Rotuman welcome ceremony was very moving. After dinner they gave us the place of honour on a handmade mat and silk cover. One of the girls put wreaths symbolising the seven districts of Rotuma on us and the littlest one annointed our heads with oil drops to show thankfulness for a safe trip across the waters and sprayed with fragrance. Ratu was explaining and narrating the ceremony while Salote videoed the entire thing. Very emotional evening all around.

Next day Salote walked us up to the Government Station to allow BioSecurity to scan in our documents to complete our check-in. It seems that some point a yacht brought in the Samoan fruit fly which has turned into an infestation with no natural enemies like bats to control it. They want to check the boat before we leave over at the wharf. Apparently we don't have to check back in at Viti Levu. Lote introduced us every one we met along the way and took us to the Post Office which is also the food market, bank and school supply store. The monthly supply ship had been delayed but was to arrive mid-weeks so the shelves were pretty empty.

They are nearly complete on a new hospital up on the hill across from the old clinic. There is cable pulled for internet to stumps at various spots by the high school and the school Ratu's teaches; but has not been terminated to any locations yet as a single person is on-site and has that job for about 3,000 population. It was weird that chickens roamed free with no fear but we couldn't find eggs until the supply ship arrived.

Saturday they invited us to church and we spent a fun day meeting people, sang songs in Rotuman and English, then borrowed Elizabeth's truck to go around the island with stops along at special beaches, pools, French built churches from the 1800's, and to see pineapples growing like air-plants on volcanic rock net to the ocean. It is a lush verdant peaceful land and Salote said if you throw out a bit of vegetable scrap it will grow.

The second week we moved over to the wharf where the water is more protected and over gorgeous white sand in ten meters. The yearly Government Services ship had arrived the same day so we anchored a bit away from the wharf. Teams of government and bank employees went out daily to each village to sign up for any needed services and bank debit cards set-up and home health walkers and devices delivered.

Hitch hiking works really well here. We needed to contact BioSecurity to check out and clear that we had no fruits that could carry the fruit fly back to the main island so got the dinghy into the beach and picked up a ride on the yellow school bus that was shuttling around the Government Ship folks. We rode with a guy from Mistry of Education that was headed to the high school who talked a bit about the lack of internet and computers putting these students at a disadvantage. Here is an article that was in the local newspaper the following week about donating a touch screen computer-- one to the high school and primary schools.
Ministry of Education link>2022/09>page

On our way back from BioSecurity we hiked a ways enjoying the cool overcast afternoon with the feel of rain and so many unusual bird sounds. Myzomela is a striking red headed bird endemic with a small habitat of only Rotuma was what I was hoping to see but heard some crazy bird calls. About the time it started to rain we were picked up by a work flatbed with about a dozen guys who had just finished a mission project clearing with huge chain saws around a home for an older couple.

We had an easy sail back 300 miles to Manta Pass then into Vuda to deal with more visa paperwork. Once we had internet again I found out my daughter had been worried when we didn't check in and had called our beacon provider to be sure they had her updated contact phone. They contacted the Coast Guard who contacted Fiji Navy and within 10 hours they had responded with pictures of our passports and the boarding in Rotuma by police to be sure we really were her parents. Now I'm not sure if the Police came out because of us not checking in correctly or because of the search....

Tabu Soro is certainly getting well known in Fiji.

Our First Guest!

19 September 2022
Diane Brown | Perfect for snorkelling!
Our First Guest!
July 2022

Sailor's rule says if you have a schedule, be ready for trouble. Sure enough we had pushed it staying in Natewa Bay because of the gorgeous reefs and people so had to push by with a short visit to George and into Savusavu. We had a hint it was busy when six boats anchored outside at Cousteau resort but maybe just prep to leave once wind warnings rescinded. Rain and short down pours hid the town moorings until upon them and we realised the entire bay was full-up. One ball remained but when I tried to catch the loop it was so full of barnacle crud I lost the boat hook and we had to do an abort and leave without provisions. We joined the group out at the point by Cousteau and pulled up weather conditions.

There is one narrow pass with recent and past sunken ships on one side that we have been taking regularly when the tide was in our favour but the current through is maybe 3-4 knots so you have to play or fight to keep steerage either direction. We decided to double reef the main for stability and back up and went for it a bit early current wise-after an amazing view of a whale breaching in front of the entrance. We must have been at slack as this was the calmest easiest passage ever! Normally we would anchor and pause to recover on the other side but decided to push on as it was still only mid-morning. While threading through familiar reefs with sails full up and down wind to our stop near the wharf we were shocked to be in 20ft/7 m of water instead of the 100/30 meters on the charts. A total cluster trying to pull down sail and start motor to retreat. We did a huge loop to the outside of the reefs, adding hours, but ended up safely at the nights' intended anchorage.

We ended up crossing Bligh Waters with huge lovely following winds the next day and into Nadi airport area and /Vuda to pick up parts and provision and deep clean Tabu Soro ready for Deirdre's arrival 5 a.m. next morning. Beru ,our taxi driver, advised we did not need to leave until we heard the flight arriving overhead. There is almost no traffic and we arrived about 6 am only to wait another hour as Dee had to clear through along with the other flight from LAX. She had a suitcase full of parts and camera gear and we just hoped they had not stopped to examine her bag. So excited to see her come through those doors!
She had to do a covid test within 72 hours and was amused to find it done by the marina office staff. So off we went to town to town to show her Lautoka and the fresh farm market and buy some kava. The next morning we where out of there and headed to Yasawas.

John had agonised for a month over Plans A, B and C; each with varying degrees of sailing since Dee is a great sailor. Finally he asked Deirdre what she wanted from her first holiday in a while and she went with sail some, swim every day! Which was plan A which did not require overnight sailing. We had a delightful time showing her some of our favourite Yasawa Island spots, including and abbreviated sevusevu and village tour, Manta Ray pass, Fijian night and buffet at Octopus resort and making new friends wherever she went. I still have the young engineer at Blue Lagoon asking if she is coming back. We wrapped up with a visit to Musket Cove as many friends said she had to go there then into Port Denarau to catch her flight at Nadi Airport.

I learned a new game called 'Hive' with the tiles she brought and can now play her online when we have internet service. Thank you Deirdre for sharing with us. John is sure he gave you some bad cruising habits but you were terrific!

The Biggest Bay in Fiji

19 September 2022
Diane Brown | Windy and Wild
July 2022
Natewa Bay, Vanua Levu
It's so good to be able to move around freely again. We spent some time diving and swimming with mantas with Viani Bay Dive Academy, visited with George at Naqaiqai Creek and sailed up to Rabi to see if the little family was still there at the fish camp at Albert Bay. They had returned to the village for school unfortunately; but we enjoyed a good anchorage and excellent snorkelling.

The past two years we have sailed past and considered visiting Natewa Bay, the largest bay in Fiji. David and Susan spent some at the tip of the bay and loved it. Charts show massive amounts of reef at the Savusavu end and super deep at the north entry. We could find no information in the guides and online so John called the dive shop on the Savusavu side to ask for anchorage options. They said yachts did not come there since it is pretty far and had no suggestions. With a severe wind advisory due any day we decided to use the deep bay as a hideout. It was a trick getting around the semicircle of reef protecting the entry then worked our way back up to the east side for wind protection. The only anchorage noted on Navionics by the entry turned out to be too deep so we spent about four more hours deeper inspecting any coves or creeks for shallow space sufficient to anchor for a night. The intense deep blue of this massive bay indicated the depth but it was too deep for our instruments to register; just the three dashes.

The second day some young men on a bamboo raft came over to tell us about the village ahead but very politely advised me I would need to cover up more to visit the village. I thought I was pretty respectable wearing a huge coverup over my swimsuit.
We headed deeper into Natewa Bay toward a village which showed a road that had bus service to Savusavu. A fibreglass local boat hailed us asking what we were looking for and I told him we wanted to get close to the reefs. His father and Headman Luke said they would show us the closest anchorage to the reef and by their Lea Village. As they ran alongside the depth meter suddenly went to less that 12 feet and John freaked out but the water was still deep dark blue??? In an instant we were surrounded by a huge pod of pilot whales playing alongside the boat. They stayed with us for almost an hour. Ran came aboard Tabu Soro to give anchorage directions and we towed the fibre boat to save them fuel as recent price hikes have hit hard.

The anchorage by Lea Village is probably only big enough for two to three mid size boats but the water clarity was almost frightening as it seemed like we could see the bottom too well in 10 plus meters. We went ashore with kava and met the most friendly folks ever and everyone in the village came down to see us. Headman Luke said the pilot whales were a sign or blessing on us. We ended up spending a week with them getting shown around the sights of the bay and trying to answer their questions as to why the yachts did not come to visit this place. Mere and I set up a FaceBook group page for Lea Village so they can share some of their love and very special bay.

Sadly, we had to get moving back towards Nadi to pick up Deirdre and said our farewells for now. Totally intend to return and explore some more of the reefs.

Kioa Island

07 July 2022 | Currently in Savusavu with internet
Diane Brown | Windy 35-45
Kioa Island - at last!
June 2022

Some of John's favourite memories of Fiji come from Kioa and his families' visit there twenty years ago. These last two years we have been reluctant and unable to visit due to covid exposure potential. Kioa itself requested no visitors during the worst of the epidemic despite cruising permits still being issued for cruisers.

Kioa Island is unusual. It is part of Fiji now; but the residents here all originated in the British colony of Tuvalu in the early 50's. The money to purchase the island in Fiji was earned working for American soldiers during WW2. Then Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now Kiribati & Tuvalu) had an over-population and environmental problems with rising ocean levels and sandy soil. Thirty-seven brave souls settled in the fertile, uninhabited Kioa Island approximately 75 years ago in a boat with 30 days of supplies paid for by their home community.

John remembers the small village hall, weavings and most of all the fire roasted coconut Kioa syrup. I was in awe of the dozens of wood hand-hewn outriggers still used daily for fishing and transport. As we approached the reef surrounding Kioa, we thought there must be a kayak tourist group paddling the area. Once anchored in the steep bay, dozens of men of all ages began coming in from their day fishing with greetings and welcome to come ashore.

The Headman was not available to welcome us until later that afternoon due to an all day council meeting. Once we had checked in and signed their visitor's book we walked the village watching the very social and industrious life here in a large village. The school used the traditional Lali slit log drum to call students in, and release for lunch, breaks and end of school day. The rest of the village was timed to a bell at the top of the slope that rung in the morning for wake-up, again for a.m and p.m. rugby and yoga practice, playtime for the children on the shore ended with yet another bell for dinner and evening lights out. It is a very civilised close village community despite being on a huge island with plenty of room to spread out if they wanted. Kioa has remained very careful of it's resources and land. No developers have been encouraged. The only business (other than canoe making, two stores and weaving) we saw was pearl farming at the north end of the island.

The anchoring is deep in front of the village and challenging - very close into shore so we sadly had to leave this bit of Polynesia in Fiji before we ended up on-shore ourselves.

Fiji Is OPEN!

02 June 2022 | Vuda Marina
Diane Brown | Wonderful
31 May 2022
Fiji is Open Again

Yes, I did return to the Tabu Soro after four plus months being stateside. The cataract replacement makes a technicolor improvement to distance vision. However, I realised it made my close-up much worse the first time I tried to dive and use the camera underwater. John thinks he is so funny asking "can you see that" on and off all day.

John had spent the last couple months doing finish carpentry, chasing leaks and adding a small winch and upgrading systems. He re-rigged a 6:1 pulley system so I can use it on the new winch on the outboard hoist. I need the exercise but some days it is nice -if a bit slower. John made a present for my return but held it until Mothers' Day. A spare piece of pylwood left over from the repairs turned into a reef snorkel/boogie board! It took me a couple weeks to do the canvas repairs and fixes John had lined up for me. The dual windlass cover was like a puzzle but finally came together looking quite a bit like a trussed turkey. That will take care of water entering there when cover is in use at least.

We did a shake down cruise North to the Yasawa's and got as far as Blue Lagoon stopping first at Malolo or Musket Cove which is booming again. Not nearly as quiet and lazy an anchorage with jet skis and local boats and ferries buzzing around constantly. Filming of "Survivor " series has closed off all the Mamanuca islands above Malolo so we skipped up to shark cove, Octopus Resort and then Manta Ray Pass to re-visit some of our favourite spots. So fun to visit some of these resorts that are now open again. Some interesting use of local materials for decor. Winter/Fall has come on with a vengeance of wind and rain so we moved every couple days to get to a calmer lee side. The flopper-stopper was in constant use for two weeks and the local fibre boats come by to see what the heck it is. Mostly they ask if it catches fish.

Back at Vuda Marina to do some more maintenance, enjoy the social and get me the booster for Shingles ordered. It is not kept in stock here so the Pharmacist orders it then I pick it up in a cooler and take it to a clinic to be administered. Lots of cruisers arriving from the New Zealand rally even some old friends like Burmese Breeze, Colin of the big walu story in 2019/2020. Also lots of good-byes to people we hung out with these last two years in our Fiji bubble. Many are headed to New Caledonia which just re-opened to yachts. The yoga class expanded there for a bit: still doing David's TaiChi/yoga customised by Cheryl over the last couple years depending on our abilities/injuries.

So happy to see the Fijians celebrating the return to tourism and jobs.

Divide and Conquer

15 December 2021 | Vuda Marina
Diane Brown
Divide and Conquer
Early December 2021

Thanksgiving was spent at anchor off Yasawa Island. After a couple weeks we were in a scuttle to get back to Vuda with a couple of low pressure systems building around Solomons West of Fiji. Of course, this early in the year, they turned out to be nothing big but it gave its a chance to retrovision and order some parts.

John has begun to organize his work plan for the off season and it includes some pretty aggressive projects like redoing the part of interior flooring, replace water heater, canvas repairs and getting materials and parts takes some coordination. I have decided to return to the States for the holidays and take care of routine health appointments after almost three years and avoid the construction/destruction. Just as soon as I booked tickets, another variant of covid developed. Fiji has opened its borders to air flights again December 1 but returning may be another problem.
Once we had everything in motion, we decided to spend our last two weeks together playing around in the islands.

Summer in Fiji is really very lovely and some of the calmest water and best sunsets. It is officially a "La Nina" year so we've had off and on rain and lightening most afternoons in 90 degree temps. It is great to visit familiar spots and find new anchorages but I am seeing them all with new eyes knowing that I will be away a while.

Cell service is marginal some places so we have to get back into range near a resort every other week to catch up on the covid news and get incoming emails about changing forms, tests and affidavits I will need in order to travel. So far it is still a go despite the new variant. There is so much more commercial boat traffic now that Fiji is open to tourists; between supply barges and guest delivery boats we have to keep a good watch between islands. No more going down to start lunch or read an absorbing book. There is a feeling of excitement and dread to know we again share this paradise.

Looks like a possible cyclone forming, this time predicted to hit New Caledonia but that is fairly close so time to return to Vuda Marina and get me set up to travel. Our yoga group has remained strong despite al the comings and goings so we had a holiday lunch and took a 2021 group picture. It gives me great memories thinking of all the people I have met through Vuda yoga time. Today I will have my last Kokoda Fish for several months at the BoatShed Restaurant. I look forward to seeing family and loved ones but miss this home away from home.

I will get word out once John confirms his travel plans so we can see as many of you as possible - after the holidays.
Vessel Name: Tabu Soro
Vessel Make/Model: Hans Christian 38T
Hailing Port: San Francisco
Crew: John Dinwiddie &. Diane Brown Dinwiddie
About: John has been in the marine industry and before that construction for 30 years. Diane has been in hospital facility construction. We joined forces about 10 years ago and focused on the refit of Tabu Soro.
Extra: We both belonged to jeep clubs in the Bay Area and did many of the same runs. Diane was warned to stay away from the Santa Rosa 4x4's as they were a little crazy.
Tabu Soro's Photos - Main
92 Photos
Created 16 May 2020
End of our 2019 Cruising Season
72 Photos
Created 8 October 2019
33 Photos
Created 18 September 2019
2019 pics
16 Photos
Created 18 September 2019
19 Photos
Created 11 July 2019
24 Photos
Created 25 June 2019
2019 Cruising Upload from Nuku Hiva
41 Photos
Created 20 May 2019
January- March on the outside of Baha and Puerto Vallarta
No Photos
Created 23 February 2019
Pacific Coast Transit
15 Photos
Created 31 December 2018
Preparation. Leading up to actual transit
11 Photos
Created 17 September 2018