Archive for September, 2013


Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

I can’t believe that I’ve been in Savusavu for 2 weeks now. How can this happen? Whenever I come to scenic Savusavu on Fiji’s second largest island, I always stay at the luxurious Waitui Marina. By luxurious, I mean all the fresh water showers that you want to take. That’s where my bar stands. Waitui has a rickety dinghy dock off the end of an old pier, a covered little area to hang out, two bathrooms with shower stalls and a freezer where you can make ice overnight and take it out to the boats. The marina part consists of 20 or so moorings scattered throughout Nakama Creek where Asari will be waiting to help you tie up your lines as you come in. For USD$5 a night it’s a pretty good deal. There’s also the Copra Shed marina further up the creek, but it’s a bit more posh and Waitui suits my style.
With that kind of luxury, you could imagine me staying for a little while, but two weeks seems a bit excessive. Well the heavens opened up and it dumped constantly for the first 5 days I was in town. It was hard to get any projects done, but I did get around town and took some good pics. Riki and discussed the possibility of sailing up to Futuna to reset our import permits on our boats.

When you arrive in Fiji you get a permit allowing your boat to stay in Fiji for 18 months. If you exceed 18 months, then you have to pay tax amounting 30% the value of your boat. To reset this 18 months, all you have to do is check into another country and come back. The small French island Futuna is only 250 miles NE of Savusavu. Riki is leaving his boat here for cyclone season and needed to reset his time. I decided that visa wise it’d make more sense for me if I were to go in November, so I let Riki take off on his own while Christian and I stuck around.

With all the rain and the wind, it was hard to get many projects done, but I did pick up a 130 watt solar panel from the local hardware store and replaced the 60 watt panel in the middle of my array. Now I just sit back and smile as I watch the amps roll in. I also got a tip that there was a trail on the island across from town, so I went over and checked it out. It was mostly bushwhacking, but I got some good views, ran into a gnarly looking spider and met some local guys on the beach that turned into a party on Bodhran.

Once Riki took off, it was going to be at least 5 days before he got back, so Christian and I decided to stick around even though the weather had improved, but the real reason that I’ve been haning out in Savusavu so long is my good internet connection and sports. Many of you may not realize that I’m a huge sports fan. It’s one of the biggest things that I miss while I’m out cruising and wouldn’t you know it, I hit Savusavu just in time for the opening weekend of the NFL. I hadn’t found anyway to watch the first Seahawks game, but I followed it on ESPN’s gamecast. Of course it was played at 5am local time and the bars weren’t open. I did hit the bar for the afternoon and night games. Since then I’ve found European sites that allow me to pick up the games on board.

On top of all the great NFL action, I’ve also been able to watch all the America’s Cup races. This years cup has been the sensational. I’ve been captivated, watching 72 foot high speed catamarans match racing on San Francisco Bay at speeds of 45 knots. It’s been amazing.

Riki is back now and I should be moving on, but I sprained my ankle the other day when I was out taking pictures. I can probably hobble around enough right now to sail, but it’d be safer to wait a couple of days, but by then it’d be getting close to next weekends NFL action, so I might be stuck here even longer.

Vanua Balavu

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Bats noisily chirping to each other as they suck the nectar from the flowering trees behind us, Irie, Guava Jelly and Bodhran lie rafted together in a sweet little anchorage while a low pressure system rolls overhead. Doris, Hannah, Riki and I had skiffed through this little hole 3 weeks ago. Awed by the steep walls, clear water and beautiful coral, we idly chatted about trying to squeeze one of the big boats back in here. The arrival of Christian and V on Irie turned idyl chat into a mission.

Shallow, clear water combined with dramatic rock formations and caves make the Bay of Islands in Vanua Balavu one of the top anchorages that I’ve visited. Irie had taken a detour to Namuka-I-Lau when Guava and I sailed up here, so Riki and I had a week to explore the bay and get to know the good people of the head village on the island, Dalaconi, before he got here.

Riki had been here last year and we warmly welcomed into the village. Not that we aren’t always warmly welcomed into Fijian villages, but it’s special when the people already know you. Few cruisers go back and retrace their steps. We didn’t spend too much time in town, but we did make the trip to Loma Loma to pick up some meager groceries. Of course we also spent a few nights drinking kava and playing music and we came back to the village again when Irie came in to do their sevusevu. I’m afraid that I’m going to give Dalaconi short shrift here. I did get some great pics and had some good times there, but we’ve got to get back to that mission.

The three boats made their way back up to the Bay of Islands 5 miles to the north. The next day Christian, V and I went out fishing/dinghy exploring. We went through that same little hole that Doris, Hannah, Riki and I had gone through a week before. This time Christian pretty much decided that he was going to get Irie in there. I’ve been thinking about staying in Fiji during cyclone season this year and it’d be valuable to scout this place out as a hurricane hole.

The next day at high tide, we made it happen. Armed with a hand held depth sounder and my camera, V and I took off in the skiff to scout/document the way in. Riki climbed aboard Irie and started playing guitar. For some reason that didn’t seem to help, so he climbed up Irie’s mast to help spot coarl heads.

It should be mentioned here that Irie is not a particularly maneuverable vessel. She’s a 33′ steel bath tub with a big keel running her entire length. She draws a moderate 5′, but if we needed to turn sharply, it’d be all over. Prior planning was the key. Too bad I was busy taking pictures instead of measuring depths. Actually we’d scouted the route ahead of time. It all looks very tight, but there were only two spots where the passage underwater was really cramped. Christian has been at sea for many years now and calmly navigated these constrictions like they were wide channels.

Christian decided on a nice sandy patch after the second constriction to drop the anchor. Once it was set, Riki looped a stern line around a tree and brought it back to Irie. The anchor wasn’t quite in the right place, so Christian and Riki worked as a team snorkeling down the 15 feet to the bottom to shift the anchor and chain to just the right spot. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a 45lb anchor set by hand! Once everything was set and a few celebratory beers were drunk, it was Guava’s turn to come over.

There’s no pics of Guava or Bodhran coming in, but we scouted a shorter route to the anchorage for the other boats. It looked like there was more coral on this route, but it was deeper and much shorter. I climbed Guava’s ratlines while Christian hung out in the water with his mask to mark the shallow points. Just like that Guava was in and rafted up along Irie. The tide had come in, so Bodhran anchored outside for the night. The next morning Riki came out to help me in. The wind was blowing and it was pouring rain, but by now this was old hat. All three boats came in without incident and no coral was harmed in the making of our raft.

We spent a week rafted up in that sweet little anchorage. Bodhran was only 10 feet off the rocks, but we were surrounded by hill on all 4 sides and the wind barely touched us. Derrick and Allison off Kalida and Geza and Eva off Rotor were still anchored outside, but came over for a potluck. We all went snorkeling together through a cave in one of the islets that had a large air pocket in it. Geza and Eva donated their longboard so we could tow it behind Christian’s dinghy. I can’t believe that I didn’t get any “skurfing” (skiff surfing) pics, but good fun was had by all.

One day we decided to bushwhack up the hill behind us. The rock all along the bay is very sharp and jagged and the jungle is dense and foreboding, but Christian thought that he spied a mango tree up there. If one of us was going to be here during cyclone season, it’d be valuable to know if there was fruit in the neighborhood. So V dropped us off on the shore at the head of our little bay and Riki, Christian and I set off with our machetes and cane knife to scout the hillside.

We immediately found a sweet little cave on shore, so I had to climb in and take pictures from it. From there we ascended up to the base of the “mango” tree. The consensus is that it’s not a mango tree, but looks like a mango tree and still could be a mango tree. By this time we were already ¾ of the way to the top, so we pushed on and were rewarded by a view looking out over the outside lagoon with a distinctly good looking wall for snorkeling.

So the next day was snorkeling outside on that wall, which was indeed pretty spectacular. In total Riki and I spent over three weeks in Vanua Balavu. The fishing was good. The scenery was great. The people are as good as anywhere in Fiji. Huge fruit bats greeted us at the end of each day and chirped us to sleep at night. All that would have been great on it’s own, but a big thanks to Christian for having the drive to try and get us back into that spot. Finding a spot like that made Vanua Balavu truly special.