Posts Tagged ‘qamea’

Cruising Fiji During Cyclone Season

Friday, March 14th, 2014
Cyclone Evan courtesy

Cyclone Evan courtesy

As I’m writing this, Cyclone Lusi has just passed south of Fiji. The 19th tropical depression of the season is gathering power over Samoa and is supposed to form into a cyclone early next week. All these tropical lows send people running from Fiji down to New Zealand and Australia for the Summer. I myself spent 4 Summers in New Zealand following the prevailing wisdom. These notes are for those who aren’t wise, in the prevailing sense.

I’d unsuccessfully looked around online for advice on cruising Fiji during cruising season. I’ve know a few people in the past that have cruised the Mamanucas and Yasawas while keeping a reserved spot at Vuda Point Marina to fall back to in case of bad weather. There were also a good contingent of cruisers this year who kept moorings in Savusavu, but escaped out to Cousteau Resort for weeks at a time between lows.

Neither of these options really sounded good to me. I’d been to the Yasawas, and while they’re nice, I tend to stick to the less touristy spots. Instead I decided that I’d range out from Savusavu, coming back every 4-6 weeks to resupply.

I was worried about the heat. My buddy Grant on Lochiel had spent the 2012/2013 season in Vuda and cruising in the Yasawas. He assured me that the heat wasn’t that bad. As a point of fact, the weather was generally much nicer during cyclone season than during the cruising season. Average temperatures were in the low 30s as opposed to the high 20s in the Winter. It actually rained less between lows during cyclone season than during the cruising season. The water was still cool enough to be refreshing. My crew did rely pretty heavily on a spray bottle filled with water to keep her cooled off, but I generally found that ample fans and the occasional swim was enough to stay cool.

Mélanie regularly spraying herself down to cool off

Mélanie regularly spraying herself down to cool off

There was an amazing amount of lightning all season long. I always felt a bit exposed when I was the tallest point in the anchorage. I did see lightning hit a boat in Vuda a few years back, but didn’t hear of any boats getting hit this year. Just in case, I kept most of my electronics disconnected when I wasn’t using them. I don’t know if this would have helped in the event of a lightning strike, but it made me feel better.

I used a number “hurricane holes” in northern and eastern Fiji and have heard of a few more. Here’s my run down on the ones that I’ve actually been to.

Savusavu (16 46.6677 S 179 20.0401 E):
I normally pick up a Waitui mooring whenever I’m in Savusavu. Unfortunately none of the moorings West of the Copra Shed are really suitable as cyclone moorings. Their ground tackle might be fine, but the spot is too exposed. I was able to pick up one of Curly’s moorings for a 30 gusting 50 knot low that passed through. The winds started from the north, but then switched to the west blowing right up the anchorage. My spot right off the Surf and Turf was nice and calm while all hell was breaking loose further out, especially for the two boats in front of Waitui. Waitui Marina’s float was destroyed and much of the dock was wrecked as well.

Waves picking up, I didn't get any pics when it was really bad

Waves picking up, I didn’t get any pics when it was really bad

Asari and what remains of Waitui's dock

Asari and what remains of Waitui’s dock

One boat broke their mooring lines at Savusavu Marina and ended up on the beach. Fortunately it landed on a muddy spot and didn’t suffer much damage. The rest of the boats on Savusavu Marina moorings rocked and rolled a bit, but it wasn’t bad. By far the best moorings are the ones between Copra Shed and the end of town.

Mooring line fail

Mooring line fail

Unfortunately these moorings were all reserved by the beginning of cyclone season. In order to rely on Savusavu as a hurricane hole, you have to reserve and pay for a mooring for the whole season. For this reason, I only came to Savusavu for the one low and only because Deviant had left his mooring and gone to Vuda for a haul out, so I knew I’d have a spot.

There were two boats that anchored in the mangroves between town and Savusavu Marina. It’s a tough spot to get into, there’s no wind and there’s lots of bugs. That being said, both boats stayed there for free all through cyclone season.

Nasasobo (16 44.9492 S 179 51.1202 E):
Nasasobo is a fine spot, capable of handling more than a few boats. The entrance is small and is protected by a reef. Holding is fantastic in thick mud. Along the western side, it’s deep very close to the mangroves. William (one of the locals in Nasosobo) mentioned that one shoal draft cruising boat was able to make it up one of the creeks into the mangroves on a high tide, but scouting it in the dinghy I wasn’t able to find any areas deep enough to get Bodhran anywhere close to the creeks in the north east corner of the bay. For my money the best spot is tucked into the northwest corner, tied to the mangroves with a couple anchors out.



The problem with Nasosobo is that it’s reasonably big. Some good waves could build up inside the bay during a blow. It also doesn’t have an internet signal, so you can’t track what the storm is doing once you get set. You can pick up a signal from Taveuni out by the reef if the weather is good enough to take your dinghy.

Naiqaiqai Creek (16 43.3945 S 179 53.3833 E):
I used Naqaiqai when cyclone Ian was approaching from the southeast. Naqaiqai has a narrow entrance. It’s exposed to the north, but Kioa would break up some of the really big stuff coming down. The bay gets shallow pretty quickly, but I was able to make it more than half way up the bay anchoring in 10 feet of water over thick mud. It turned out that Ian did a 180 and hit Tonga instead, so I didn’t get hit by anything more than 25 knots. It looked deep enough close to the mangroves to get in and tie off, but I didn’t do it myself.

An added bonus to Naqaiqai is a weak internet signal. It wasn’t enough to surf the net, but it was just enough to download gribs and check email.

Nice tight entrance at Naqaiqai Creek

Nice tight entrance at Naqaiqai Creek

Qamea (16 45.8276 S 179 46.8308 W):
I didn’t actually go to Qamea during cyclone season, but I’d been there last year and it looks like a good anchorage. I’d like to get in and scout the creek going back to George’s house, but never got the chance. Still it’s a protected little spot with great holding. It’s open the west, but Taveuni would knock down anything really bad from that direction.

Navatu (16 55.4526 S 179 00.7386 E):
Navatu looked on the chart to be a sweet little spot. I tucked back in here when Cyclone Kofi was approaching. Unfortunately there are shoals everywhere in this bay. The only really usable areas are behind the island and the northeast corner. I chose to anchor behind the island. In order to get suitable cyclone scope, I had to tie off a line to a tree on the island to limit my swing. As the storm changed tacks, I ended up putting two more anchors out so that I didn’t end up caught beam to the wind. It turns out that when Kofi passed, I had southerly winds. My big anchors were out to the north and west where the earlier forecasts had the worst wind coming from. I rode out the 35 knot winds on a 25lb Danforth. It did have 100′ of chain on it and held like a champ, but it was discouraging to prepare so much and have the wind do the complete opposite.

Navatu has a strong 2G signal that you can browse the web with as well as track weather and emails. It worked well for me, but it couldn’t accommodate more than 2 cruising boats.

Wainaloka (17 44.1331 S 178 46.0009 E):
I ran to Wainaloka after being hit by a fresh northerly while I was anchored in Makogai. I’d heard that it was a hurricane hole and after a lively sail I anchored in the northeast corner of the bay in flat calm water. The holding is good and it’s possible to get fairly close the the mangroves, but Wainaloka is far too big for me to be comfortable using it as a hurricane hole. Moturiki would prevent any real big waves from coming it, but theres still more fetch to the west than I’d find acceptable.

An added bonus to Wainaloka was the ability to catch a truck into Levuka. We did a quick resupply here. There’s not much fresh stuff available during the week, but apparently theres more on Saturday. The truck comes by the village around 8:30am. If you miss it, there’s not another one. There’s also no traffic for hitching.

Another problem with Wainaloka is it’s lack of internet signal. Additionally you can’t get a signal by water until you get to the north end of Ovalau. You can get a signal in Levuka if you take a shore trip, but I don’t like being in the dark with a storm approaching.

Tivi (16 16.9973 S 179 28.7380 E):
I didn’t visit Tivi this year, but I anchored there last year and kept it in mind as a hurricane hole if I was on the north side of Vanua Levu. The entrance dog legs and is protected by a reef. Tuck into the little notch along the eastern side. The holding is thick mud and it’s deep right up to the mangroves.

Vuda (17 40.8718 S 177 23.1560 E):
I left my boat in Vuda for the 2012/2013 cyclone season. Vuda took a direct hit from Cyclone Evan which was a category 4 storm at the time. Boats in the pits suffered little to no damage. Boats in the water with their owners on board also fared quite well, generally suffering only minor damage. A 65′ ketch was put next to my 32 footer the day before Evan came through. The storm passed right over Vuda and the wind came from multiple directions. I didn’t suffer any damage from the 40′ boat on my port side, but the 65 footer blew down on me tearing up 15′ of cap rail, destroying 3 turnbuckles and bending my chainplates. He had also put a chain behind me to keep him off when the wind was blowing the other direction. When the wind shifted, he drove me down into that chain bending my stern pulpit and 2 stanchions.

Vuda Marina

Vuda Marina

My takeaway from Vuda is that it’s a good cyclone hole if you can get a pit or if you’re going to stay on the boat. The pits were all reserved this year in June a full 6 months before cyclone season. I wouldn’t leave my boat unattended in Vuda during cyclone season again.

Boats tucked nicely into their pits at Vuda

Boats tucked nicely into their pits at Vuda

In addition to the spots that I mentioned above, there are supposedly very good cyclone holes at the north end of Vanua Belavu, up the rivers in Denerau and Lautoka, and by the Tradewinds Hotel in Suva. I’ve never been to any of these spots, so I can’t comment on them, but I kept them in mind as I sailed around Fiji this season.

Cruising during cyclone season turned out pretty well for me. I only saw 2 other cruising boats outside of the Savusavu area. Vodafone’s coverage in Fiji is good enough that I rarely went without grib files. When I didn’t have internet access, I was still able to listen to the Rag of the Air most mornings. There are definitely risks to staying in the tropics during cyclone season, but it’s very possible to keep cruising and not bail down to New Zealand.

Here’s a gpx file with most of my tracks from Fiji: JasonsFiji.gpx

Qamea part III

Friday, October 12th, 2012

This is how the kids get to and from the school at Naiviivi Village:

Life starts early in Fiji. Once the sun comes up, boats start transiting the bay from one village to another. The kids even go to school by bus. I was on deck drinking my morning cuppa when one of the villagers, Levi, hailed me from La’venture, a dive boat that was moored between Guava Jelly and myself. I didn’t feel much like yelling across the anchorage, so I rowed on over for a morning chat.

La’venture was dive boat from the Cousteau resort outside Savasavu. It had a blown motor and was getting a bit long in the tooth for resort standards so it was sold to a Fijian fellow a year ago. The owner was gone, but Naidu, the full time engineer, was left behind. Naidu is a very interesting guy. He’s Indo-Fijian, has a marine engineering certificate from New Zealand, spent years in the US and Canada working on logging machinery and is the most worldly Fijian that I’ve met.


Levi was out to talk to Naidu about fixing the village outboard which he was planning on doing later in the day. Right now he had plans to head out fishing with Vijen, a younger Indo-Fijian guy who’s looking after an American’s private land across the bay from the villages. Ricki and Vijen knew each other from earlier in the year. We grabbed a little bit of stir-fry beef from Bodhran to try and catch some bait and headed out in Vijen’s panga. Fishing was a bust. Vijen caught a couple of bait fish, but the wind and current were up and it was a difficult day for line fishing. Still, the day was sunny and I’d brought cold beers for everyone and it was a very pleasant way to while away the day.

Taking VJ’s panga into the village to get some sooke (Fijian tobacco) before heading out fishing:

Ricki and I had dinner that night with VJ, his wife, 2 year old son and his brother Ruven at the caretakers house behind the big American house. As we had discussed earlier in the day you’re now no longer supposed to call them “Indo-Fijian.” Eveyone is just Fijian, but I’m afraid that I still need the term “Indo-Fijian” as their culture is very different from the “Native” Fijians. For one, they speak Hindi at home, though they do know a bit of Fijian. They go to Hindu Temple over on Taveuni. They make lot’s of curries and have many other wonderful qualities that differentiate them from the native Fijians.

This is the property that VJ caretakes with the big house on the left and the caretaker’s cabin on the right:

The heaven’s opened up for the next 3 days as Ricki and I topped off our water tanks and sat below reading and watching movies much of the time. We spent the second day of rain working on our outboards over on La’venture. Sam, La’venture’s owner had come back to the boat. He and Naidu spent a few hours going over my motor, but to no success. Ricki did some work on his outboard as well but was unable to make much progress. So between us we’ve still only got one half working outboard. Ricki and I brought over a bunch of beers which we shared in payment for looking at the motors and using their spacious covered deck as a workspace.

I didn’t get any pics on La’venture, but here’s some rainy day activity pics:

Village kids playing on chunks of foam:

Ricki and Dan Lulu coming back with the day’s catch:

It was gettng dark and the La’venture crew invited us over for dinner. First they needed some kava. La’venture doesn’t have a skiff, so they asked Ricki for a ride to Hiram’s place. Hiram lives on some freehold land at the head of the bay and grows all the kava for the area. It was getting dark as Ricki drove Naidu and I back into a barely discernible path through the mangroves. Unlike the route to the village, the mangroves here grew together over the top of the channel creating a very spooky and magical living tunnel of vegetation.

After a couple of gentle groundings, we arrived at the head of the channel and then had to navigate the footpath to Hiram’s place. Of course Hiram had sold all his kava to the villagers. The last vestiges of daylight cast just enough shadow to stumble down to path without breaking one’s neck. Of course the venerable 64 year old Hiram had no problems. He was going to take us back to Waibulu village to by kava.

It was truly dark with almost no moon as we navigated back out through the mangroves. Hiram’s subtle hand gestures serving as directions to Ricki who admirably got us back out into the main bay without poking a hole in his skiff. My words fail me. I’ve no way to describe the magical experience of transiting these hidden jungle passages in the failing light with the irregular firing of a 26 year old Nissan 8 hp complaining about being run too slow the only sound.

Once in the bay, we knew the way to Waibulu village quite well and had no problem procuring kava and getting back to La’venture. Hiram took the seat of honor as kava was passed around and Naidu started making dinner. I took off to make some curry rice in the pressure cooker while Rick made a quick cabbage salad. We hurried back expecting dinner to be forthcoming. I’ve been eating meals at 9am and 3:30pm pretty much every day and like my routine. It was now after 7 and my stomach was complaining mightily. Naidu was making pumpkin curry and it was almost done. It smelled delicious. He then proceeded to start making roti (Indian flour tortillas.) Kava was being passed around at regular intervals as I sat with Naidu and learned about making roti as well as hearing about his kids in Sydney and his time working in Australia, the US and Canada. I got to know Sam, who had spent 10 years working in Whangarei, my home away from home in New Zealand. I talked with Hiram about his plantation and life as a freeholder living next to the villagers. Hours passed. The kava was filling my stomach, but my blood sugar was getting low. I felt like I was going to pass out. Naidu was making enough roti for a week and it took hours. Finally I said something and learned that you don’t eat while you’re drinking kava. If I was done with kava then by all means I should make up a plate. I felt bad eating in front of everyone else, but Rick joined me for our 10pm meal. We left about 10:30 and no one else had made a plate yet.

That next 5 days at Naiviivi Bay passed similarly to the first 5. We went snorkeling, we went fishing, went to church, and we took VJ and Ruven sailing on Guava Jelly to do some provisioning on Taveuni. Qamea is a special place with wonderful people. It was hard to leave, but cyclone season is on it’s way and I need to get over to Vuda Point for a haulout before it gets here. So Ricki and I took off yesterday morning and sailed to Catherine Bay on Rabi Island. We’ll probably hang out on Rabi for a few days before making our way up around the north end of Vanua Levu and eventually down to the west side of Viti Levu.

Here’s some more pics of village life at Qamea:

Hanging out with Seta, the Assembly of God pastor after church on Sunday:

Sunday Lunch:

The pastor’s house/church

Me on the hill overlooking NaiviiviBay

VJ and Ruven sailing on Guava Jelly

Here’s a time lapse video of Ricki and my 25 miles sail from Qamea to Rabi compressed down to 3 mintues:

Qamea Day 2

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Panorama taken with my Asus tablet our first morning in Qamea:

The sun rose over a glorious morning our second day in Naiviivi Bay. I drank my coffee and took pics in the soft morning light. Late morning, Dan Lulu came over with his son Chino, daughter Rosemary and a load of pumpkins and drinking coconuts for me. I’d asked him to bring over the village guitar to see if I could get all 6 strings playing. The guitar was missing a tuner and 3 bridge pins. I’ve got two spare sets of tuners on the boat and I thought that I had a bunch of bridge pins. Dan replaced the rusted out remains of the tuner with one of mine while I looked for bridge pin. Fortunately Rick had a couple as I was only able to find one. I also hooked him up with a new set of strings. I wanted him to string it up there and get it going, but instead I pulled out my Taylor and Dan picked along to Willie Nelson trying to teach me how to play a proper baseline.


It was a beautiful day and we decided it’s be best to go out for a snorkel on the outer reef. Dan dropped off Rosemary at the village and picked up his snorkeling gear and spear gun. Both Dan and Rick’s outboards were “sick.” Well for that matter, mine was sickest of all, but it was decided that we’d take Dan’s panga, but with my gas. Chino watched the boat. Ricki and I grabbed our cameras and Dan borrowed my spear. We spent a couple of hours in the water, off and off fighting a pretty good current. The vis wasn’t as good as it was on the outer reef, but there was some great coral. In the end Dan bagged 6 parrot fish.

Bodhran anchored in Naiviivi Bay:

Heading out in Dan’s panga for some snorkeling and fishing on the outer reef

Dan fishing with my gun:

Coral outside NaiviiviBay:

Dan coming back with a parrot fish:

Ricki posing in front of an impressive coral:

More of the reef outside NaiviiviBay:

Shot of the reef from the panga:

Poor Chino didn’t get to go fishing, he had to pole the boat back along the reef as we were snorkeling down current:

That night we went back into the village for kava sundowners. This time Moses, the chief from the next village, and some amazing guitar playing 20 somethings we there. I’d brought my spare guitar this time as we all passed around the 3 ½ guitars and a 3 string uke so that everyone got a chance. I’d brought my tablet in this time and was able to get a few decent recordings and some less blurry pics. It just didn’t feel right bringing a camera either the night before or this night, though I really wish that I had some pics to remember two amazing evenings by.

Ricki drinking kava on night 2 at the community hall:

All the kids loved my tablet when I brought it in. I didn’t dare show them angry birds:

Me and the elder men in the hall:

And here’s some recordings of the Band Boys. I wish I knew the names of the songs:
QameaBandBoys1: [audio:QameaBandBoys1.mp3]
QameaBandBoys2: [audio:QameaBandBoys2.mp3]
QameaBandBoys3: [audio:QameaBandBoys3.mp3]
QameaBandBoys4: [audio:QameaBandBoys4.mp3]

Qamea part I

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012


We left Matagi late morning, with a nice 15-20kt Sou’westerly wind blowing. I was motoring out from through the reef when the engine alarm started going off. I made a quick survey of the temperature and oil pressure gauges. They were fine…..Hmmmm? I thought that the alarm was only hooked up to those two readings. I then noticed that tachometer wasn’t registering. From there I quickly realized that I’d broken the alternator belt. I’ve been having problems with the alternator belts dusting for a few years now, but this is the first time I broke one. I was clear enough of the reef to sail, so I set the main and drifted downwind for 10 minutes while I replaced the belt. There was plenty of wind to sail, but I don’t much like navigating around Fiji’s reefs without the engine to get me out of trouble.

Pic of Bodhran Rick amazinly took by focusing his iPhone through a pair of binoculars:

Ricki and I had a great sail as we navigated the pass into the reef system around Qamea (pronounced go-may-ah). Then we cleared Nukubalauvu Point where we encountered a 1.5 knot counter-current and wind right on the nose. We each took a couple of long tacks across the channel, but were not making any real headway. So we fired up the motors and I fell in close behind Guava Jelly as Rick navigated the 100 foot wide pass into Naiviivi Bay on the West side of Qamea.

Bodhran Tacking in behind Gauva trying to make our way up the channel between Qamea and Taveuni:

I got a little close and Ricki had to scramble to get his fishing line in:

Rick spent the better part of 3 weeks in Naiviivi while I was up in Alaska working and was clued into the local scene. There are four villages on the bay as well as a couple of freehold properties. Before, Rick performed sevusevu at the largest, outermost village, but later learned that the main chief for the area lived in one of the smaller villages tucked back in the mangroves at the back of the bay. So we each grabbed a 250g bundle of kava to take in as an offering.

Rick deciding which bundle of kava to present along with his new formal sulu he recently picked up in Suva:

It’s traditional for any Fijian when traveling to another island or village to perform sevusevu. You make arrangements to meet the chief, place your offering, usually ungrounded kava wrapped in ribbon, in front of the chief. If he accepts, then you become a temporary member of the village and have permission to anchor, fish, swim and generally come and go as you please.

Rick and I went in to a ruined dock adjacent to where we were anchored thinking that it was the Chief Dan’s village. The chief had been at a conference in the capitol when Rick was last here, so he hadn’t been to his house. As it turned out we had mistakenly landed at the second village, while the main chief’s village was the third one. One of the women dispatched her teenage son, Paul, to take us back out passed the ruined dock and then back through a maze of mangroves to find the correct village.

Ricki going through the mangroves:

Paul driving Ricki’s skiff:

We were met at the head of the mangroves by woman who we told we wanted to offer sevusevu. She took us to the community hall, where 4 other women were weaving large floor mats out of pandanus. All of the women interrogated us as we waited for Chief Dan to arrive. They were particularly interested in out marital status and the fact that each of us were alone on our boats.

Waibulu(sp?) Village

Chief Dan then entered, carrying an air of authority and grvity uncommon in Fijians. Dan is probably in his mid-sixties, has one eye completely clouded over by glaucoma and is going bald but wearing a bright sulu and a warm smile. He sat down across from us, with the woman who brought us in sitting by his side acting as translator. Ricki and I each set down our wrapped bundles of kava. Dan immediately picked them up and placed them at his side. Refusing the offering is very rare, but if he had not accepted it would have been a sign for us to leave post haste. Instead the chief offered up a benediction in Fijian, welcoming us and asking for our protection. He then invited us back to drink kava and play music at sundown.

We returned just before 6pm. The sun was almost down, and the community hall was very dark. Chief Dan introduced us around to some of the other village men and we sat down around the kava bowl. There is a distinct hierarchy to the drinking of kava. One man mixes and serves out coconut shells full of the earthy mixture to the various men of the village in order based on their respective ranks. Ricky and I were honored to be served up right after the chief. After a bit of chit chat and a couple of rounds, we were requested to “play a country song.” I don’t think that Chief Dan’s english is that good, but he repeated his mantra “play a country song” for most of the night.

So the Jason and Rick show began. There were maybe 10 of us in the hall when we started, but soon there were kids pressing in at all the doors and windows. I don’t think that they’re normally allowed in while the menfolk are drinking kava, but it quickly became clear that ceremony was being suspended for the night and the hall filled to near capacity with all the women and children of the village. The chief’s son, also named Dan, came in and picked up an old guitar sporting only 3 of it’s 6 strings (Low E, A and D). I put my headlight on the floor between us so that Rick and Dan Lulu (I think lulu means junior or something like that) could see my fingers, but Lulu really didn’t need it. 42 years old and next in line to be chief, Dan Lulu had spent many an hour with that old guitar and knew it’s 3 strings backwards and forwards.

Iphone pics in the dark don’t turn out well, but this in Dan Lulu

And here’s Chief Dan playing guitar:

We continuously offered up our guitars and asked if anyone would play us a Fijian song. Chief Dan always led the response with “play a country song”……so we did……for a good two hours. Rounds of kava were timed with the breaks from each song. Sometime during the night the lights came on, then they went out…then they came on again. In the end they were on more than they were off. Finally the younger Dan borrowed my guitar and played while his 12 year old daughter, Rosemary, belted out amazing vocals as she shyly looked at the floor. From there the floodgates opened. Everyone was having such a good time that the boys were sent off to get their drums, spears and fans to perform a Meke for us. 4 of the teenage boys lept around in choreographed dance and mock combat to the sounds of drums and the harmonies of the entire village. The spectacular harmonies and pure joy in the hall almost brought me to tears. Then it was the girls turn. They performed what might be described as a Fijian version of the hula, but much more loose and playful.

Check out Rosemary’s pipes:

Ricki took this video with his iPhone. Not very good quality, in the dim community hall, but you get the idea:

When it was all finished, we played a couple of more tunes and then took our leave. We were walked down to the mangroves and everyone helped carry Rick’s skiff out to the deeper water, as the tide had gone out a good 4 feet. Rick skillfully, or maybe used blind luck to navigate the twisting channel through the mangroves and back out to the anchorage where I fell asleep on Bodhran fully satisfied after an epic day.

They sang us the traditional Fijian farewell song at the end of the night:

Matagi Island

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Bodhran and Guava Jelly’s route from Matei to Matagi

After two rolly nights in Matei, it was time to leave. It was raining and there wasn’t much wind, but Ricki and I were in need of a calmer anchorage. So we took off around the north end of Taveuni and set a course for Matagi (pronounced Ma-tan-gee) Island which allowed us to stay north of the many reefs on the west side of Taveuni. The wind picked up as we rounded the island, and so did the rain and I had a very wet, slightly chilly 2 hour sail before having to motor the last bit into the bay on the north end of the island. There’s a resort on the Southeast side. Ricki radioed ahead to ask permission to use the anchorage and to come ashore. They said that it was fine to anchor, but that we were not permitted to land. Oh well, it was still raining buckets and shore didn’t look all that inviting anyway.

Rainy afternoon coming into Matagi

Navigating reefs in the heavy clouds and pouring rain is not generally a good idea, but the reef at Matagi was visible even in the rain and we had good GPS coordinates from Curly in Savusavu. I gallantly allowed Guava Jelly to go first, just in case. Ricki set his hook and started scaling his barracuda that he caught en-route as I anchored close by in 40 feet of water. Before long we were down below hiding from the rain, drinking beer, playing cribbage and eating sashimi. Sunshine is nice, but it still wasn’t a bad way to pass the day.

Ricki cleaning his barracuda anchored in Matagi

I awoke the next morning to the sounds of feral goats bleating as they foraged along the beach. Dark clouds still rolled along overhead, but occasionally a touch of blue would make an appearance. We hoped that the rain would finally leave us, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. There were two wrecks charted on the reefs just west of the island and Rick was of a mind to go and check them out. His outboard has been acting up and mine is still running the wrong direction, but hey we got arms and if need be could row back to the boat if the motor started acting up. We cruised by where the first wreck should have been, but saw nothing beneath the steely gray water. We continued on a mile out from the anchorage to the second reef where we saw a bit of rust that was occasionally peering out between the passing waves. Fortunately we were able to get to the leeward side of the reef and drop an anchor in 20 feet of water.

View from the skiff back to Matagi at the snorkeling spot

Ricki going down the anchor line to make sure it doesn’t chafe on the coral

The reef was a pretty far out from the nearest bit of dirt, so the water was nice and clear, though the clouds prevented the visibility from being spectacular. I slid down off the skiff and immediately saw chunks of metal wreckage everywhere. The bit we saw before was on the windward side of the reef, but it seems that the ship broke up and a good portion of it made it across to the leeward side.

We began swimming anti-clockwise around the reef with one eye on the reef and one eye to the abyssal drop off where larger critters might by lurking. We had to keep our third eye trained on the swell as portions of the reef had a nice curl going that could ruin our day if we got sucked in and taken for a ride.

Purple and gold “Husky” coral

The wreck turned out to be a 100+ foot long steel boat sitting in just 8-10 feet of water, perfect for snorkeling. It was probably a fishing boat, but it was hard to tell. The engine block was fully intact, along with some electric motors and the drive train. The hull itself was completely broken up, but the keel lay nice and straight along the top of the reef showing it’s original size. The weather never cleared, but it was still a great snorkel.

Various pics of the wreck



We motored back to the anchorage looking for the other wreck along the way. We didn’t end up finding the other wreck, but I snorkeled on my hook and found that it was sitting right in the middle of a reef. So Rick stayed in the water and directed as I tried to lift my hook as gently as possible and then re-anchor in a sandy spot 100 feet away.

Rick’s pics of Bodhran re-anchoring



Amazingly I didn’t have to scrub the bottom or prop at all after leaving Bodhran in Savusavu for 4 months

After another rain soaked night, we awoke the second morning at Matagi to a bright blue sky with broken clouds showing off the spectacular reefs around the anchorage. It would have been a nice day to snorkel, but the wind was up, the visibility was good and it was an even better day to sail. So we pulled up our hooks and took off for Qamea.

Finally a bit of sunlight to see the beauty of Matagi’s anchorage by