September 28, 2011

Fiji: Suva and a visit to The Kadavu Group

We departed Lavuka as soon as we cleared in for the 40 mile trip to Suva just before lunch with cloudy skies and brisk winds out of the SE.  Our course was SW and we were close hauled with the winds coming from 60 degrees off our port bow and averaging just over 7 knots.  It was a bumpy, wet ride and we were fighting the clock to make port before dark. We rounded the SE corner of Viti Levu just after 4:00 pm and and found ourselves quickly running out of daylight.  Luckily there was a bay that we could anchor in that we found on the charts and set our course for Luthala Island 7 miles closer across the bay from Suva. 

The outer reef into the bay was strewn with the rusty remains of several wrecks and I was more than a little nervous as we past Belcher Rocks and carefully made our way through the shallow cut in the reef.  When you watch the depth meter go from several hundred feet to the low 20’s in just a 100 yards you always wonder just how shallow will it get?  We saw the bottom rise in the clear blue water to just 16 feet before it dropped back to 80, the depth of the inside passage.  Whew!! we had a whole 10 feet to spare!

With the anchor buried in soft mud just before dark and Downtime safely in a protected bay we had a restful night sleep but woke the next day to still more stormy weather.  Our first mission in Suva was to restock the produce refrigerator and after a quick breakfast we set off in SD across the bay to the market.  Wouldn’t you know it, half way across the skies opened up as we made our way to the Yacht Club in pouring rain.  We left SD at the dingy dock and got into the cab with wet butts and off to the market we went.

The cabs here are easy to find and really cheap, it was only $2 US to get to the market a short 10 minute ride downtown.  The market is just short of amazing with hundreds of vendors peddling the local produce. One section is just water melons and pineapples and in other areas you can find most any thing your heart desires produce wise.  Upstairs is where they sell Kava and other dried goods.  Kava is the local nova cane tea drink that numbs your whole body as we would soon find out.  We bought a few kilos to be used as gifts to the chiefs at islands we would soon visit.  Then it was downstairs to do some serious produce shopping.  An hour later we had our Home Depot bags full of all we could carry for about $50 US.   Every vendor had the same prices and treated us nicely, but freshness was what we were looking for and there was plenty of really fresh stuff here.  We finally had to hire a guy with a wheel barrow to follow Daria around to haul all the vegetables she was buying.   Outside on our way to the taxi stand we walked through the flower vendors and there were giant birds of paradise, beautiful orchids  and many other colorful flowers on sale.

Another $2 got us a ride back to the Yacht Club where we were met by the manager with a message that Customs had called them and was wondering where we were at?  We told them we had weather problems and would be in shortly after lunch to clear in. With customs you learn to tell them what the want to hear not necessarily what is really going on.

It took us another 20 minutes to motor SD across the bay in 2 foot chop back to Downtime.  Daria put our market plunder into the refrigerator after a quick rinse/dry and packed it into green food saver bags, which really work by the way…

We weighed anchor and headed back to town with Downtime to meet the customs officials after lunch.   We called them on the radio like we were just clearing port and were directed to anchor in from of the Yacht Club.  When they asked us when we arrived? We said we just dropped the anchor, which we really did just do…that was good enough for them, and $45 later we were all cleared in.  I was told the $45 is for  Bio-Security and looking in just 3 lockers was sufficient for the required search?  They were not to concerned with our herb garden with soil from Roatan, Galapagos and Tahiti, go figure?

There were a few other things we needed to do while we were in Suva one was to get a new Passport for Capt. Pedro and the other a Visa for Daria to visit NZ, oh and some more spare parts!!   Apparently the water maker low pressure pump did not like the salt water bath it took on our way over and was making strange noises due to bearing failure.  We took the motor to Fiji Motor Winders and they cleaned, re-baked and put new bearing in for just under $100 US and had it ready the next morning!!  Unbelievable service!!  Thanks guys!!  To top it off the owner of this shop found a new seal for the pump, one I had already been to 4 shops to find and had all but given up on.  What service!!!

The next morning was my appointment at the embassy and I took a cab up the hill to the new embassy.  This place gives you just a glimpse why the USA has such a huge deficit.  If this building cost less than $100 million I will eat it! No questions asked… Of to the side of the path was a huge 100x200 foot tent that they used to have parties under.. hmm? Party at the embassy!!   The security left me wondering what is so important inside an embassy?  To get in first you must make an appointment and have proper identification.  Then you meet the first guard the guy who drew the short straw that morning and has to work outside on his feet in the heat all day and tell him your name and show ID.  This guy then radios to the three guys inside behind the bomb proof glass paneled room to open the 300 pound stainless bullet proof steel door which lets you into the scanner room where they the “Big Straw people with chairs and AC” check your ID again and scan you and your bag.  Then, once cleared you are buzzed out into the courtyard that is between this security building and the main structure which is a 200 foot walk down a concrete sidewalk.  Once there another short straw guy is there to recheck your name and ID.  If the waiting room inside is full you are asked to wait under a stainless steel shade along the path.  Once there is space inside you are buzzed into the outer door and scanned by 3 more people and then finally buzzed through a fourth door to a hall way and ultimately into a fifth very secure door to the waiting room where another guard “bigger straw guy AC but no chair” asks you to have a seat in front of a TV broadcasting  CNN from the states.  Inside there are 5 widows that looked to have VERY thick glass with agents talking though microphones helping applicants.  I was the only American in the waiting room and did not have to wait long and was taken to a special room and processed in about 15 minutes. $110 later I was on my way wondering how our government could spend so much and do so little….I bet it cost them over $1000 to process a passport here!, but to our amazement it was ready to pick up in just over a week!!  I went to pick it up the following Friday and was told to be there before noon.  When I arrived I was the only one there and went through the security and 5 doors in 10 minutes and on my way out saw the band show up under the tent and the catering truck.  Looks like everyone gets Friday afternoons off and parties at the embassy!

Daria’s Visa application was much simpler, go to the post office and mail the form across the street to the Reserve Bank Building where normal countries have embassies.  Hers visa was free and was also done in a week but we will have to renew it in 90 days…..

Later that afternoon we went to the museum and saw some really cool things.  It is hard to believe they were still eating people here just over 100 years ago on little man shaped plates with round 5 pronged forks!  They had an original outrigger canoe on display, a small 40 foot version of the 100 plus foot sailing crafts that used to carry goods between the islands.  There were lots of old clothes and costumes on display and an exhibition about global warming and the effects it is having on some of the low lying islands in the area done by local schools.

Amazingly we had all our chores done in three days and were ready to get out of Suva and find some better weather.  Suva is on the SE shore with mountains to the west and it seems to always be raining here? 

We left the next morning after a night of rain to go to Kanavu group, Dravani Island just 45 miles to the south.  On our way we sailed past a small island with a lighthouse inside, it was to rough to get inside and anchor so we continued on to Usborne Passage and into the main lagoon.  We anchored off of one of the many island, Dravani and a Dutch boat  “De Ware Jacob“ with Jaap and Renee aboard.  The next morning we took our Kava gift and other gifts for the kids and went to the village to meet the chief.  Well, the chief was not quite as impressive as the last and the whole meeting felt well rehearsed. He accepted our Kava like it was our duty to him and not a gift, and then said we were free to look around the village.  That was the last we saw of him but other in the village were very nice and asked us to church and lunch the next day which we gladly accepted since they were celebrating Fathers Day.

As we walked around the village we handed out toys, shirts and candy.  But to our amazement the simplest toys were the best.  I would blow up a beach ball and all the kids would just stare, wondering how something so big could come out of such a small package?  The other favorite is a small water filled toy that has a dolphin and small rings inside. When you push the buttons the rings float up and you have to get them on the dolphins nose.  For the 2 year olds we have small rubber balls with happy faces on them, just small enough for their little hands to grab a hold of and create another smile!!

The next morning was Sunday and church started at 10:30 with the pounding on a hollowed out log not the ringing of a bell.  Half the village was there but strangely not the chief?  The church was a simple building with open windows and pews made from 2X8 lumber and the floor was plain concrete.  Too bad the services have all been in the native language, but the hymns are still all the same as I grew up with and we had a translator that gave us the gist of the message sitting right next to us

After church we ere invited to lunch by EVERYONE!  There were two different gatherings and it was hard to figure out what the polite thing to do was?  So, we said we would do both!!  We went to the first gathering  that seemed to have all the small kids with their families attending.  The meal was laid out on a long table cloth set on the floor upon woven mats out side a home under a shade next to the cooking place. There were 40 or so people there and the kids had their own place to eat next to ours.  The meal was prepared in huge pots and served in many serving dishes spread in the middle of the table cloth served home style.  For lunch there was all you can eat fresh fish, shark, taro, yucka, cassava, breadfruit and seaweed all of which you loaded on your plate with and drowned it in coconut cream sauce. We brought a bowl of Caribbean style ceviche which most poured coconut cream into and a few bags of corn chips which the kids loved.  The locals ate with their fingers but gave us a set of silverware.  There were no beverages or napkins but at the end of the meal a bowl of water and towel was passed around to clean your fingers.  Man I should try to sit Indian style more often….

After lunch we took a 40 minute hike up to the highest point on the island.  What a view!  You could see at least 20 islands floating in the deep blue water surrounded by turquoise reefs.  Most of the islands here have beautiful white sand beaches just waiting to have their first set of footprints put into them.

This island is frequented by sailors and even has a cruise ship stop at it once or twice a month.  The locals are savy to this and have learned to ask for whatever they can talk you out of, we left them with extra gear oil, epoxy, a spear gun shaft and fishing lures off of Downtime

Later that afternoon we took SD to one of the close by island that had a halfway built resort built on it and had a walk around.  We parked at the dock that was 90% complete made of really nice hardwood and concrete piers.  The two room bungalows they were building were really fancy and some had their own swimming pools and Jacuzzi tubs and showers in a garden area outside.  This place was going to be REALLY fancy if it ever gets finished…We heard the investors bailed during the last coo and then the whole economy thing left it high and dry of funds and now it just sits here deteriorating.  So if anyone has an extra 10 or 20 million laying around  I know where you could get a great deal on a half way completed resort and a really nice island.

One of the guys we met in the village name was Kry who was a diver and knew the outer  reef.  We asked him to take us diving the next day and the next morning we loaded SD with all the gear and went out to the reef with the lighthouse in the middle of it.  Daria and I went down first and were greeted by the locals 1000’s of colorful fish and 5 very curious white tip sharks who checked us out before swimming off into the abyss. The outer reef was a a couple hundred feet across with a outer100 foot wall of coral that had  lots of bright colors, crystal clear water and showed no signs of bleaching.  It is always amazing to dive in remote areas where you are most likely the only diver that has ever been there and to see such beauty.  The reef fish here are all still alive and swimming around it staggering numbers unlike many of the places we dove.

Our second dive was on the reef on the main island and Kry and I hoped to spear a few fish for dinner.  Kry knew all the good spots and this one was loaded with Grouper and within 15 minutes I shot two nice fish.  Thank goodness there were no sharks around to steal them from us. The dive was deep and I almost ran out of air chasing my last fish.  Lucky for that fish my air gauge showed just 200 psi. but I was still 100 feet down and was a little freaked out.  I slowly ascended to the surface and ran out of air just as my head got above water, whew close one!!  Hunting fish really gets your blood pumping and you use a lot of air down there getting caught up in the excitement of it all.  While Kry and I were diving Daria was snorkeling the reef taking pictures of all the coral and took some really good shots with her underwater camera.

After our dives we went back to Downtime and cooked one of the fish on the grill stuffed with rice, peppers and ginger.  Nothing better than fresh grouper cooked on the grill this way!!   After lunch Kry wanted to show me how they collect sea cucumbers and we set off to see if we could find a few.  The dive was in the middle of the lagoon in 100 to 120 feet of water that was murky with only 30 feet of visibility.  We dove down to 100 feet and swam a big circle while scanning the bottom for our prey, a foot and a half long sea slug that is 5 inches in diameter.  We only found one slug and were soon out of air and swam back to SD on the surface.   The sea slugs are one of the main cash crops in the outer islands and a nice size one brings $50.  They usually free dive for these and are pulled to the bottom holding a big weight and then spear the slug before dropping the weight shooting back to the surface for air.  Selling these slugs is how they can afford to drive around in new boats with big outboards on them and feed their families.

Back on Downtime Kry showed us how to make Kava and we had a few cups of the nasty tasting stuff.  When drinking it you first notice your mouth going numb and I am told if you keep drinking it your whole body goes numb but we did not find that out and stopped with a just few cups.  Thanks for the adventure and for taking us diving Kry!!

Later that day we motored south in Downtime and met several other boats anchored next to Buliya Island.  One boat was “Super Mario” which we met the week before with Paolo and his crew from Brazil, but the other boats were new to us.  “Malikalalou” which means: “that moment when everyone quits talking at once and you feel a spirit pass by”  with Rolando and Sara a Lebanese couple on a Privilege 435 and Andre and Alexandra from Italy  on “Andrea” a 50 foot Catana cat.  We invited everyone over for a party the following night on Downtime and would soon have 5 different nationalities enjoying each others company.

The next day Andre, Rolando, Daria and myself took a local out fishing in SD for a few hours because his boat was broke down but we did not have any luck.. After fishing we went back to Downtime and were getting ready for the party and we noticed a fire had started on the island!  Soon huge flames were burning everything in site!  Later that evening when it reached the top of the mountains it looked like a huge volcano as it spewed embers into the air.  The fire burned through the night and nearly burned down the village on the far side of the island. Luckily the fire finally burned itself out but by morning left all our boats covered in a nasty layer of black ashes.

We found out later that one of the local was just trying to burn some branches when the fire got out of control.

 We were finally able to check our e-mail on Paolo’s laptop with a Vodafone air card and found out our passport and visa were ready and the next morning we sailed back to Suva after the boat washing party. Nice meeting everyone!! See you somewhere down the road, and watch you ash!!

On our way out of the lagoon we trolled a few lines and caught a nice mackerel which we gave to the locals when we arrived in Suva

Back in Suva we had just a few thing left to do, get the documents, fuel up Downtime and do some final provisioning for Tonga.  On our way over to the yacht club in SD just as we pulled into the marina I felt something strange crawling on my lap, I went to brush it away and jumped as it turned out to be a 2 foot poisonous water snake!!!  MAN I just about jumped out of the dink with it running!!  The snake hit the floor and my feet hit the air!!!  I was driving standing on the side of the boat and people were looking at me like I was crazy!!  Daria was up in the front of the boat taking pictures of our new crew…Man I hate snakes!!!  We tied up SD and found a stick to lift him out of the boat and back into the water where he swam off under the docks.  Now anything that brushes me I think SNAKE!!! Yikes!!

One last stop at the cafĂ© to get a espresso and piece of chocolate cake for Daria  and she was ready to sail.

We hauled 80 gallons of fuel back to Downtime 40 at a time and on our second trip I noticed I did not turn a valve the right way and there was 2 inches of fuel on the locker floor!!!  I was wondering how safe it would be but I sucked it all up in the shop vacuum and pumped it through the fuel scrubbing system and back into the tank and 3 hours later the locker was back to lemony fresh. But what a mess and a lot of extra work!!

With the refrigerator full of fresh veggies and fuel tanks full of diesel we cleared out of Suva and headed north for a overnight sail to  Savusavu  which would be our last stop in Fiji before heading to Tonga.

In our next adventure we will be making the dreaded 400 mile upwind journey to Tonga!!

Until then live your dreams!!

Peace!! Capt Pedro and Daria

September 17, 2011

Our First Look at Fiji

We departed Futuna at 3:00 on the 29th for the short 160 mile sail to the NW shore of Vanua Levu.  We experienced much calmer seas and winds of just 20 knots to deal with this trip, much better than the last passage!  We did not see any other boats all night and go figure around 1:00 in the afternoon Daria and I were watching a movie and I got up to take a look around and we had a 100 foot fishing boat 500 yards off our port bow!! 

We enter through a pass in the Great Sea Reef and motored our way SW to a small anchorage just south of Mali Island that the locals call “Boro Boro”.   The inside passage kept us on a close lookout the whole time we traveled through it, we never quite trusted the charts and luckily never ran aground during the 100 or so miles we traveled inside the reef.  The charts here like a lot of other places are old and not very accurate and we would not recommend traveling these waters at night.

The next morning we loaded our bags with toys and things to give away and set off for a trip up the Labasa River that would take us to the small town of Labasa some 5 miles upriver.  The shoreline of the rivers mouth was covered with mangroves and it was hard for us to find the main outlet to the river.  We stopped and asked a local fishing boat “Four Sisters” which was actually being driven by four brothers for directions as we gave them all a Downtime hat.  They offered to show us the way and told us to follow them through the shallow delta to the mouth of the river.  Many thanks guys!! Good luck fishing!!

This is our 5th river that we have taken SD up and river adventures never get old.  This river was one of the larger waterways we have navigated  and the calm water was murky green and up to 20 feet deep in places.  The river wound its way through the low-lying tree covered swamps.  The wildlife was scarce and I think most the fish were all caught decades ago but the trees along the shores were amazing.  We almost felt like we were deep in the Amazon or some tropical jungle and the only people on earth.  Then back to reality we would round another bend and a few fishermen heading down would motor by and all give us a friendly wave and smile. 
 After several miles the trees thinned out along the shore and you could see farm ground in the clearings.  Most of the faming is of sugar cane, cassava root, yucca root and taro root.  The cassava and yucca are a starchy root that they use to make cakes with the ground cassava and a potato like side dishes from baked or boiled yucca. Either of them well cooked is hard to tell from a potato in my opinion.

The river took us right to through the center of the town but first we motored by a busy lumber mill and sugar cane fields.  Along the way kids came running and waving to the banks out their small homes along the shore and we pulled up close and gave those gifts and candy.  This is one of the poorest countries we have been to but you could not tell from the attitude of the people, everyone seemed to be happy and content with life.  At one home there were even saw pigs living an a pen over the water, I don’t think the kids would swim there though?

In the middle of town there is a two lane bridge crossing the river along with a well worn sugar cane railway bridge that had been worn into a unusable state years ago with rotting timbers and twisted tracks.  Now they haul the cane on small tractor pulled trailers and old two ton trucks to the mill miles down the bumpy road at the edge of the bay at Malau. It would be hard to imagine harvesting crops this way back in the states but here manual labor is still available and it is all cut and loaded by hand?  Every piece of cane is hand chopped with a machete and loaded onto the wagons and trucks for the ½ day trip to the sugar mill.  Nobody is in a hurry and the work slowly gets finished.  I could only imagine the hours of hard labor it takes to load a 400ft ship full of raw sugar! 

At the turn of the century as the sugar industry was developing Fiji imported over 60,000 workers from India to work the fields.  The islands population is now about 50 % Indian and the rest consist of Fijian’s and Some European descendants.   Virtually all Fijians are Christian and only about 12% are Catholic.  The Indians here are mostly Hindu with some Muslim.  There have been several coo’s in the last decade when the Indians tried to take over the government but failed, but the Fijians will not throw them out of the country because it would cause economic meltdown since the Indians like most places run most the small businesses.

Further up the river lay a fleet of fishing boats that look like they have not worked in quite a while.  Here in Fiji like many other places in the world they are experiencing fewer and fewer fish every year.  And with the price of fuel raising it makes it harder and harder to justify going out to catch them.   The fishermen we do see catch whatever they can and keeping everything that gets caught in their modern nets.  It is not hard to see what is happening….There are so few mature fish left to repopulate the rising demands…that soon they will disappear altogether.

We enjoyed our trip up the river and on our way back to Downtime we stopped by the village on Mali Island.  As we pulled up to the village all the kids came running to greet us.  Wow there were a lot of kids!!  There had to be around 30 and our bag of goodies did not last long.  One of the women of the village greeted us and offered to give us a tour.  We gladly accepted and were followed by a group of happy kids that had the candy wrappers flying!   The kids here are so much different than back home.  Most never even have seen a gamboy or play station and are happy running around swinging a stick and drawing in the sand.

The village had 30 or something homes and was located 2 miles off the mainland.  They had two or three small boats to fish and go to town with. There is no electricity and the water comes from a small spring up the hill.  There was a central place to shower which was no more than a little shack with a hose.  Other sources of water in the small village are provided by water faucets scattered throughout the homes.  The homes are simple structures, 4 walls and a tin roof with a few dividing walls.  The cooking area is built off the back of the home and the food is cooked outside over wood fires. Looking inside the homes the first thing I noticed was the lack of furniture.  I do not think there was a chair in the whole village and most are content sitting cross-legged on the ground on woven mats.  The floors are covered in woven mats that soften up the hard concrete floors.  The windows if there are any are “always” open with colorful curtains blowing in the wind and most have the doors wide open. 

This is was a small village and the Chief has a traditional built Thatched grass home in the center. We asked permission to meet the Chief and when we went inside his home he was laying on his back reading the Bible.  He invited us to sit down and our guide translated for us.  We gave him a Downtime tee shirt and a card with a picture of the boat on it and were able to tell him about our travels and he seemed happy that we stopped by and visited his village. 

The inside The Chief’s home was amazingly simple.  The all natural structure was build with traditional expertise I am sure with the skills that have been passed down for generations. Large wood beams lashed together with cords and palm leaves woven to make the walls and the roof.   The home was just 15 feet by 25 feet with two mattress beds (most likely the only mattresses in the village) on the far wall. There were three opening on the end we entered into that provided ventilation and natural light to the building.  The floors were covered in finely woven mats and were quite comfortable to sit on since there were several layers of them.  The chief had some really old pictures of family on the walls and the place felt like a home. 

 We left the Chief to reading his Bible and hiked up the hill to visit the village’s church.  The view from the top of the hill was something off a postcard and I wish we had been here on a Sunday to worship with them.

Back down to the main gathering area we sat down and talk with several of the other women in the village,  They told us living here was one big family and everyone knew everything about everyone, much like we had experienced from visiting other villages much larger.  Again I found myself wondering how all this works?  How do you sustain life on a island?

We thanked them for their hospitality and they gave us a few coconuts for the road.

The west coast of Vanua Levu is semi arid and reminded me of the central California coastline. The rolling hills had scattered green trees with patches of brown dry grass.  The mountains are ancient volcanoes that that once spewed their jet black lava but now lie dormant.

 These are the first islands that we saw the color brown on; the others were all lush green.  The valleys were planted in sugar cane and mangroves grew along the coastline. 

As we zigzagged our way through the reefs inside the passage we would pass the occasional fishing boat and on one reef we saw an entire family scouring the ground for any crustaceans they could find.  I don’t know exactly what they are searching for but they were spread out for miles along the reef as the tide receded.  We covered some 25 miles that afternoon and later just before the sun set we dropped the hook just of the small island of Nakuei, As we settled in another family was finishing up fishing the reef just off this small island and just before dark they past close by and said hello before heading off into the sunset to their own island to the west.  

We woke to a drizzling cloudy morning and to a sky with a thousand shades of grey.  The hills were cloaked in clouds and the smoke from the many fires burning in the sugarcane fields.  The smoke and clouds gave the mountains a ominous eerie feeling like they were coming back alive and the volcanoes of the past had awakened as the orange glow of the sun rose through them.  The unsettled weather had produced a sky of many colors with high rippled sand like clouds that were partially hidden by the puffy storm clouds that rolled off the mountain tops.  The gloomy sky turned the water a dark shade of grey-green but we felt the world coming alive for another day as the sun rose over the mountain tops creating even more spectacular colors as it traveled across the sky.

The weather had cooled off since we left Tahiti and now we found ourselves looking for sweatshirts in the morning.  It seems strange weather is occurring all over the world this year.  We heard they had snow in New Zealand for the first time in decades and it has been hot a blazes in Kansas causing terrible drought.. 

We continued our way south and by mid afternoon had cleared the SW point of Vanua and set our course for Yadua Island 15 miles to the south.  As we crossed the channel I saw a few bait fish jumping and decided to give fishing a go and two hours later we landed a nice Skipjack Tuna.  The winds were blowing from 15 to 25 and we made good time and cleared the tricky pass just before 5 in the afternoon


The next morning we lowered SD and went ashore to the small camp that was on the beach.  There were 25 or so people living in makeshift shelters and tents set up along the shore.  We were greeted by the man in charge, Peter who explained that he worked for the Fiji Environmental Agency and was monitoring the iguanas that live on a island close by.  The island is closed to all visitors without permission and home to 3 species of iguana.  The local iguanas are small 8 to 12 inch long and change color from tan to green depending on their environment.  The other iguanas are much larger that someone introduced some time ago and now are threatening to take over the island.  He explained that they just came out here a few weeks at a time to monitor the iguana population and to keep people of the island. I told him if it got out iguana taste like chicken that would solve the overpopulation problem….

After our short visit with Peter we loaded SD and set sail for the main southern island of Fiji just 35 miles to the SE.  We made our way through the pass and anchored of Nananu-I-Ra Island next to another catamaran Endless a Catana 50.  The boat turned out to be owned by Peter, a guy from Germany that Daria had met in Hamburg 2 years ago when she applied for a crew position on Endless.  Later while we were on the internet Daria found another friend she had sailed with was heading our way and when we woke Super Mario was anchored on the other side of us.  Paolo who owns Super Mario a swan 53 is from Italy and was the first boat Daria had sailed within the ABC Islands and later in Los Roques, Venezuela.  Sometimes the sailing world gets so small when you meet people you know, but two boats in one remote anchorage is amazing….

We would have loved to spend some more time catching up but we had a deadline to be in Suva by Tuesday to get my passport renewed and Daria a visa for New Zealand.  We set our course east to Oualau Island off the NW point of Fiji some 35 miles away.  The winds were light and we still had cloudy skies as we motored inside the reef passage.  At one point instinct told me to change course and moments later I saw a giant coral head pass by the side of the boat just a few feet below the surface, it left me wondering how many other near misses we have had in the last few miles inside this passage?

Lavuka is one of 4 ports where you can clear into Fiji and is located on the north shore of the island of Ovalau.  The harbor is just a concrete pier that jets out into the bay and there is little to no protection from the trade winds.  We rode out gusty 20 knot squalls in the rolling anchorage all night and in the morning launched SD and set off to clear in.  We were the only boat in the anchorage but to clear in and it took all morning as we waited for one department after another to complete the process.  Everyone wanted to go to the boat to do the paperwork and after two trips of hauling officials back and forth to Downtime and filling out at least 10 pages of forms we were finished and by noon ready go to Suva but not entirely cleared for Fiji for some reason?

Our next adventure will be Suva the capitol of Fiji

Until then live your dreams!

Peace!!!  Capt. Pedro and Daria