The Rose---Final Days
10 October 2014 | Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji
12 October 2014 "Sota Tale"-to meet again Final Days
Dear Family and Friends, The knowledge of this being our last week on the water for this season has been ever present in our awareness making each adventure and quiet moment especially precious and poignant. We spent the week sailing in the Yasawas in the midst of abundant strong winds and rocking swell. Many boats, including many of our long time cruising friends, hid with us in the protection of Blue Lagoon awaiting the end of that tempest. It was a bittersweet time of camaraderie and goodbyes. Two of the boats will not be back next season as lives return to the normalcy of work and family and land. Their cruising chapters have come to a close. A lunar eclipse midway seemed a potent metaphor overshadowing our journey and although the night was boisterously blustery and cloudy that full moon found a way to dash amongst the clouds and peer out even while veiled in shadow. We had planned to sail up to the Sawa-i-lau caves for a second and more detailed exploration but even that had to wait a day while the howling wind shouted itself down to a sigh.
Once the wind finally tired, we sailed the last leg north to the caves and were not disappointed as we donned our scuba gear, dropped to a depth of 25 feet and entered a side tunnel off the cave entrance room. The tunnel continued sloping downward to 35 feet and opened into a dark but spacious water filled room without any airspace above but bounded by beautiful corrugated and draping mineral lined walls like melted wax from a dripping candle. Shining our lights at the cave floor I noticed the gentle sway of tiny brittle stars, their snake-like legs perpetually combing the silt bottom for food. These brittle stars were small, perhaps only the size of a half dollar and they were completely without pigment and shined in the soft, brown mud like pure white stars. They were the only life we saw during our exploration. Glancing behind us we could still see far away a reassuring sliver of bright, light-filled blue water from the entrance. Opposite the entrance the cave narrowed again into another tunnel which wound onwards and increasingly upwards, surfacing after some time into a spacious, air-filled room with only the dark puddle of the tunnel opening in the floor and a long gash of skylight high above providing soft light.
We returned from whence we had come but this reversed direction felt entirely different since we began our return by swimming at a steep angle downward in the tunnel which at this point was relatively narrow and thus gave the feeling of swimming down into a drain or a well. Also, although we had swum quietly through on our first pass, the ultra fine silt which layered every horizontal surface, nook and cranny had swirled into suspension and now blocked all visibility. My light only made the visibility worse by illuminating each and every floating particle. I would have needed to grope my way back if not for the fine white line we had strung along our path. Holding one hand outstretched in front of my head to prevent accidental impact, I followed this line down through the suspended sediment as one would follow the dotted road lines while driving on a very foggy night. The water finally cleared again once we entered the spacious middle room where the brittle stars lined the floor and the water was still and the sliver of blue water beckoned from beyond the blackness. From Sawa-i-lau we sailed south to Somo Somo Bay on Naviti Island for the night, then on south to Octopus resort on Waya for another night before our final day sail to Vuda Point Marina. At Somo Somo we spent another windy night. The bright rising moon illuminated towering cumulus clouds so they shone eerily silver while silently boiling up over the dark water in a rush of expansion sharply juxtaposed by the frozen backdrop of a mountainous ebony island silhouette. Intermittently bold flashes of sheet lightning overexposed the entire scene followed by reverberations of rolling thunder and a smattering of fresh rain. Just as the moon rose we noticed hundreds of striped worms swarming at the water's surface. They were only 3 or 4 inches long, fine and a bit flat and their number increased to thousands as we shined our lights into the darkening water. They wriggled frenetically for about half an hour and then completely disappeared without trace or explanation. The next day, at Octopus, we had hoped to visit some new friends in the village of Nalauwaki just a short walk over the hill from Octopus to Waya's northern bay but we were informed there had been a death in the village the day before and we felt compelled to respectfully leave them their privacy. We sent our condolences but we sadly missed our goodbyes and left feeling a bit incomplete.
The last day-today-was a sailing day-- deliciously breezy with white caps dancing and cresting wind waves foaming as we flew along weaving amongst the coral heads and reef bits between Waya and Viti Levu with just our jib very close to the wind and averaging over 7 knots. By mid afternoon we were safely tied to the Vuda Point Marina central mooring ball with confirmation of our Monday morning appointment to haul The Rose out to cyclone pit G7.
And so all too soon it is done. Fiji is beautiful but most beautiful of all is her people who seem to breathe life into a worn out world. Memories of the smiles will linger as will the scenery, the songs and the feasts but it is the warm Fijian hearts which have changed our hearts forever. We will be back in March to see what the next adventure brings but for now it is time to let all the experiences echo and re-weave themselves deeply within us.
All is well. Pat and John Gans s/v The Rose at Vuda Point Marina, Fiji