Ambrym 25th Sept – 5th Oct
I weighed anchor and left Lamen Bay at first light, at first there was no wind but it soon kicked in. I settled on a double reefed main and yankee setting course one through between Lamen Island and the NW tip of Epi for Sangorpitu point on Ambrym. There was some good scenery, to the East was the perfect conical active volcano of Lopevi with a little closer the island of Paama.
Away to the west was the island of Malakula and ahead to the North Ambrym itself with the twin volcanoes of Benbow and Marum.
With a good wind I soon made the 27 miles to Craig Cove, but although I ventured into the bay as far as the anchorage I didn’t stop. To my mind it was not sheltered enough , its a deep anchorage too so getting a suitable depth to anchor looked too close to the shore and besides it is said the holding is not good. Since it was still before midday I carried on, rounding Dip point to the lee of the island. I did investigate the anchorage at Baoumi point but there was a little bit of swell here and again it didn’t feel sheltered enough. Carrying on soon the wind increased and I had 30 knots close hauled. I eventually anchored off the black sand beach at Ranvetlan in 7 m. This felt right, more sheltered although the wind was still very strong with williwaws, causing the boat to sheer about quite wildly at times. Miles run 45 in 9hrs 45 mins. I had seen only 1 yacht all day, that anchored in deep water just past Baoumi point.
The wind remained strong with a strong wind warning for the next two days. A NZ boat arrived next afternoon and they later reported that they had had 37 knots of wind. I stayed aboard all day.
Next day although still windy it wasn’t so bad so I ventured ashore. I met a group of school kids walking back along the beach to their village from school. I walked along the beach and then the track to the village of Ranon. I was greeted by a boy sitting under a huge mango tree who handed me a mango to eat, delicious it was too. The older boys came past fresh out of school and chatted with me. Almost all of them carrying machetes and catapults. The machetes or knives because they are such an essential tool of life here, for clearing tracks through the woods, harvesting fruits and yams, breadfruit and such, the catapults for shooting down mangoes from the trees. Most people, even women & quite young children here always carry a machete or knife all the time
I thought of the situation in England where they wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near school let alone out on the street carrying knives. But there is no violence or stabbings here and it made me think that it is our politicans and police that have it wrong. It is not the carrying of knives that is wrong or the problem, it is the hatred in peoples hearts that begets the violence.
I had a walk through the village and ate a plate of rice and meat at a sort of fundraiser. Saw some wood and stone carvings.
Another day I walked along the coast past what I took to be the the ruins of a copra plant to the other village Ranveltan, returning a little way inland by the track.
Leaving here I sailed back to Baoumi point to investigate the hot springs there. However with it being so far into the dry season, they were dried up. There was just a slight sulphurous smelling pool of still water behind the black sand beach. I pressed on inland up the course of the river but it was dried up too.
Returning to the beach a bit of a swell had started so it was time to clear out quickly. Back past Ranon I anchored at Nupol.
Ashore next day I walked along the track past the village of Magham to Olal. Here I was lucky as they were sacking up the copra, carrying it down the beach to a lighter to tack out to a freighter anchored offshore outside the reef.
I was a given a new fruit for me a Ningauvung or Rose Apple- a bit like a pear in texture. Here by the stamped earth ground of what looked liked a meeting place by the kava shack were some of the wooden carvings that are distinctive off the island. Ambrym is a centre of magic in Vanuatu and home to the Rom dance. Unfortunately it is the wrong time of year for me to see any.
Another walk took me along the coast and then inland into the hills. I was hoping to get to the village of Fanla, a kastum village but I took a wrong turning. Back on the main track I met a man just returning from his garden in the forest carrying what turned out to be nuts in his turned up t-shirt. He said if I had time he would take me to his house and crack some for me. We walked into the village and outside his hut he had a special stone with a depression in, the nut was stood up on end and crack with a hammer. Tasty they were. His brothers all came around to say hello. When I left he gave me 2 fresh bread rolls still warm from the oven and a pawpaw.
I am just continually knocked out by the friendlyness of the NiVans. They have so little but are so generous
Lamen Bay, Epi Island 19th – 24th Sept
After a day to rest and relax at Revolieu I set off for Lamen Bay just 13 miles up the coast. There was a strong wind warning out but reasoned in the lee of the island things would be manageable. As often in the lee the winds were very variable and gusty and it seemed to take forever to round Cape Foreland, perhaps the current was against me. As I neared Lamen Bay the wind really piped up and I had a head wind of about 25 knots. There were about 7 boats anchored here but fortunately anchoring went well, it can be tricky in very strong winds and I dropped the hook in 9m and the holding was good in white sand.
Next day the forecast was not looking good 30 knot winds were predicted for the next few days so I moved a little closer inshore to anchor in 6m, reasoning it would be a trifle more sheltered. Shane & Hannah in a NZ cat “Beachlands” offered & helped me in this as sometime is strong winds it is difficult to maintain control raising the anchor whilst single handed.
“Beachlands” took me ashore for coffee at a lovely little spot next morning as I hadn’t yet inflated my dinghy with the winds so strong but I did later and I took a walk along the beach past the village and airstrip and through the conservation zone right up to the NW point of the island. Apparently turtles lay eggs on the beaches in the conservation zone. I had seen lots of turtles swimming about in the bay, but unfortunately didn’t spot any dugongs for which the bay is famous.
One evening I was invited for dinner aboard “Beachlands” with Shane, Hannah & Allanha. Had a nice curry and drinks, a very convivial eve.
We also had a meal at “Benintoes”, the wife of the chief at her lovely little restaurant all decorated with strings of sea shells. We had previously spent some time collecting shells on the beach with her to add to her strings.
After some day the winds eased and all the boats bar me and the French couple I had first met in Anatom, cleared out. I though I would wait a day to give the seas, which had been forecast for 3m swells, more chance to calm down.
I went for a longish walk inland past another village up a very steep hill and then a little south, nice views in parts and very interesting. I planned to leave the next day after picking up some bread that eve baked by Beni for me.
Port Villa & passage to Epi 9th -18th Sept
I ended up staying longer than intended in Port Villa. Jan & Richard were on their way back from Santo here so I waited an extra couple of days to see them again. Then the weather turned bad and it rained just about non-stop for 3 days. When eventually the rain stopped it was very windy with a strong wind warning out and very rough seas and big waves. So although this was frustrating as I wanted to be on my way, it was better to be here tied to a big strong mooring in a sheltered place than out at anchor somewhere. I could pass the time wandering through the town.
One day it dawned fair and although it was still quite windy the strong wind warning had gone. I had originally meant to hop up to Havanna harbour in the north of the island but a rhinoceros beetle scare was on and the whole area had been declared a no go zone.
In this case it was about 80 miles up to Epi, so another night passage was on the cards. I left the mooring in the late afternoon, giving myself a few daylight hours to clear out of Mele bay and get around Devils point which has a reputation for rough seas.
It was still windy with the wind at the top end of the forecast level of 15 -20 knots and the seas fairly rough and rolly. I settled for a triple reefed main and the staysail and was still making 5 knots.
It turned out to be a long sleepless night largely on account of other traffic. Just before dusk a yacht past going south. Later the first boat approaching from my stern I was able to resolve as would pass my stern and pass on my port side some way off.
The second set of light seemed to be going not that much faster than me and was always seemed to be in the same place astern. Boats around here don’t seem to have AIS, that most valuable tool I couldn’t relax. Hours later it was much closer, its navigation lights hidden by the blaze of 2 great spotlights and it seemed to be heading straight for me. I took the unusual step for me of trying to call them up on channel 16 vhf but could get no response. Maybe they had heard me though as they seemed to change course slightly went past my stern and passed me on my port side. I was quite relieved. I was kept on my toes by more lights ahead, another boat this time going south and passed some way off and I spotted a yachts tricolour some way off. seemed a busy old night so I prudently decided to forgo my usual naps at night.
Dawn revealed Epi ahead and the Shepherd islands way off to the east. One had the perfect volcano cone profile and I wished I was passing it closer. Off the SE corner of Epi there are some submarine volcanoes, quite active apparently, probably not wise to go that way!
The seas were calmer once in the lee of the island and before too long I was lining up the boat to go into Revolieu bay to drop the hook and catch up on a little sleep after a passage of 87 miles and 18 hours.
Erromango & Efate 29th Aug – 8th Sept
The next hop was 50 miles to Dillon bay on Erromango island. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to do this in daylight hours, there is just 12 hours of daylight here. I weighed anchor just before sunrise and had a nice view of Mt Yasur the volcano “pothering” out its smoke.
The forecast had been for 10-15 knots from SE but it was stronger than that so I was able to keep up a good speed and 11 hours later I had dropped anchor in Dillon Bay. I was very pleased with that.
David from the village paddled out in his outrigger dugout canoe with a gift of bananas, pawpaw and the biggest lemon I had ever seen. I gave him some flour and rice, the supply boat only visits once a month so they run low of things at times
He has built a “yacht cub” ashore for visiting cruisers. Next day I visited him there, he has set himself up as a guide. He showed me the village, the gardens and a delightful swimming pool in the river where I had a lovely dip. He told me the names of the trees and their uses some as a source of incense (sandlewood) others to use as lamps, and which trees they made their dug out canoes from. I was surprised to learn that there are Kauri trees here and they have created a protected zone for them. Afterwards I had lunch with them, rice , yams, fried bananas, manioc, a stew/soup of beef and cabbage fresh squeezed lemon juice and of course pawpaw. Again I learned a little more off the island. Although it is quite a big island there are just 2 villages and there is virtually no development on the island and it is largely off the tourist track.
Some strong winds arrived so I stayed put for a couple of days as the forecasts were for 20-25 knots and very rough seas and I didn’t fancy getting beat about.
It was 80 miles to Efate, the next island and the capital Port Villa, so it was to be a night time passage. Setting off late afternoon once the weather had eased I was hoping for a quiet and peaceful passage, trouble was the wind had eased so much there was virtually none. I had to resort to motoring, at least the seas were calm, shame about 12 hours of engine noise though. Still arrived in Port Villa and was soon secured to a substantial mooring ball.
Ashore it was a bit of a culture shock, shops, banks, restaurants, busy with traffic, all the trappings of a tourist town and the place seemed overrun with Aussies. Well I suppose it’s just a fairly short hop for them, a bit like Brits jetting off to Spain or Greece for their holidays. Still it was good to replenish the stores on things that I had run out of or was running short off. There was a strong French influence about the place, some french supermarkets and the bread was baguette style.
With such a sheltered & calm mooring field here I thought it ideal to clean off the bottom of Sea Bear after all she had been in the water for 6 months now. I was lying in the dinghy, arm in the water scrubbing the waterline when the moorings boatman spotted me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to clean the hull for me for a very cheap price. So now we have a nice clean hull again, it makes quite a difference to the sailing performance.
Tana 24th- 28th Aug
Leaving Anawamet bay just after sunrise I was headed for the island of Tana. Calm at first the wind and waves soon picked up and we had 2 mad half hour periods when the wind went from about 15 to over 25 knots and more very quickly raising quite a sea. Fortunately later it eased a little later but the sea state remained rough all day. Rounding point Yewao, the wind was up to 25 knots again but we could head into Port Resolution where although the wind remained strong the seas flattened out and I could anchor in about 6 m. There were about 6 other boats anchored here, the main attraction here being Mt Yasur, an active volcano. Port Resolution was named by that man Captain Cook again, seems like I have been following in his wake for a couple of years now.
I visited the village ashore and was given a welcoming gift couple of bunches of bananas and a big pawpaw by Johnson.
I arranged a trip to visit the volcano through him. In the afternoon we were driven in a 4wheel drive pickup to the reception centre at the the foot of the mountain.
After a ceremonial presentation and a “volcano” dance by the villagers we drove up the 4wheel drive track to a grey ashy plain. A walk up to the crater rim in the late afternoon and we could peer down into what looked like the pit of hell.
Further around the rim the bubbling lava was plain to see and every now and then and explosion would send molten fragments high to splash on the crater walls. As darkness fell the sight was even more spectacular. It was an awe inspiring experience to be so close.
Another day I walked around the bay and up steep forest tracks to Enpitoka jungle farm. Philimon the chief wasn’t there but his wife showed me around the gardens and showed me some of the crops they grew which included: yams, taro, manioc, tobacco, onions, cabbage (but not the stuff we know, this was leaves of a small tree), kava, lemons, bananas and coconuts. She also gave me some slices of pawpaw to eat.
On the way back I stopped for a chat with a young man in one of the small settlements in the forest and he explained how the villagers acted collectively.
Much as I enjoyed staying in Port Resolution the anchorage was a little rolly and there were so many more islands to explore so I decided to move onto Eromanga the next island in the chain.
Passage to Vanuatu, & Aneityum, Anelcauhat 14th – 23rd Aug
Before leaving Vuda the staff gathered on the dock and sang me a farewell song.
It was about 20 miles to Navula passage, out through the reef. By the time I got there it was growing dark, the wind had picked up and was blowing hard I knew it would be rough outside and the smoke from a fire on the hillside was obscuring the leading lights. I didn’t feel like passing through the reef in those conditions, so although you are not supposed to I turned into Momi bay and anchored there for the night. Much refreshed next morning I set out again, the wind had dropped and I had an easy passage out through the reef and could set course for Vanuatu, 450 miles away. I was aiming for Aneityum, the most southerly of the islands. It is not an official port of entry but you can ask for special permission to clear there, which I had done and it had been granted. The great advantage of clearing here first is that you can then work you way north up the island chain without having to beat against the trade winds. The passage went quite well although the 2nd day turned out very windy with rough and at times very rough seas coming from abeam and breaking. Several times waves broke against the boat and into the cockpit. I managed to stay dry in the shelter of the spray hood. We had a full moon for this passage so the nights were far from dark even with cloud cover.
The only other boat I saw was on the last eve, I had just spotted the island about 60 miles a way and shortened sail to slow down to preclude a nighttime arrival when I spotted a sail astern. It soon passed me.
Sunrise of the 5th day out found me about 4miles off the SE corner of the island, just about perfect timing I thought. As I skirted the Southern coast and rounded the reefs there I noticed several sailboats leaving the bay. Great it was the rally boats leaving meaning an uncrowded anchorage. I am not a fan of these yacht rallies of which there seems to be more and more. It means a great crowd of yachts in anchorages all at once. With the rally boats left there was plenty of space for me to choose a nice anchor spot in about 7m of water. My noon to run runs for this passage were all over 100 miles which was pleasing.
After a brew of tea I inflated the dinghy and went ashore. My luck was in, Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity officers were all still here, they are not on the island full time so clearance was painless quick and friendly. A stroll through the village and along the beach completed the day.
Next day I walked along tracks and beaches to the next bay and village, all very delightful.
No real roads on the island, people live in simple woven huts by fishing and farming. They speak a form of pigdeon English though many speak English too. They are mostly a little shy but friendly and welcoming always with a greeting.
I walked up to this waterfall in the forest.
Sammy who I’d met on 1st day took me a village inland from Anelcauhat and introduced me to Ali who guided me there. I wouldn’t have found the way by myself. A vague trail, muddy in places, over fallen trees, under fallen trees, crossing gulleys and across the river on slippery boulders 5 or 6 times and after 2 or more hard hours we got there.
Had a refreshing cold swim in the pool under the falls. I had taken some nuts with me and offered some to Ali. From his quizzical expression studying a cashew nut I could tell he had never seen one before, but he enjoyed them. Having left at 10 I was back on the beach and my dinghy about 4 just a little tired.
The bay is open to the West so one morning when the waves started into the bay and a gentle at first west wind, it was time to move out. Francoise the Frenchman in the other boat at anchor came across with some query about english words in descriptions of other anchorages on the island. We decided to head up to Anawamet bay on the North coast, this should give some shelter from the west. It would also be a handy spot for jumping off heading north
Anchoring here, the village chief paddled out in his dugout canoe to say hi and welcome us and I had quite a long chat with him about his village and the island.
It was fairly cloudy when I weighed anchor in Suva harbour but i hoped it would clear later. Approaching the leading marks for the passage for the reef I had a bit of a scare when a big tug that had been on station headed straight for me. I turned the boat around and he altered course to still point at me. Transpired that he just wanted to warm me there was big tanker heading in to the channel and please pass starboard to starboard. I suppose he had tried to reach me on the radio but mine was off, I reason that I can’t be below to respond to the radio and on deck steering and looking out at the same time! The channel through the reef is pretty wide so there was no problems passing the inbound tanker. Once out I could set the yankee, the main was already hoisted and set a course for the start of the Beqa channel about 20 miles away. It was grey and drizzly but the sea was pretty calm and fairly gentle wind of 10 – 14 knots from astern wafted us along. Gradually the weather cleared and the afternoon turned out fine. The narrowest point of the channel between the mainland and the reefs of Beqa is about 1 mile wide, there was a marker on the reefs of the mainland but none on the outlying rocks of the islands. It’s a case of trusting the plotter plus of course careful eyeball navigation. Once through I could shape a course to give me a good offshore clearance before evening. The Coral Coast has a bad reputation for yachts and I wasn’t about to flirt with it too closely at night. I kept a careful eye on a boat far ahead but heading my way. Judging it would cross my bows I was ready to alter course when it was obvious that the Chinese fishing boat was just going to plough ahead seemingly regardless. In the end it passed about 200m ahead of me, I didn’t see anyone in the wheelhouse and no-one on deck and no AIS signal. All rather worrying for the passage at night. With dusk I put my customary precautionary reef in the main and settled down for a long night. Later an increase in the wind called for a 2nd reef in the main so i was glad i already had the 1st in. I saw the lights of a couple of ships one bound west the other east but they were well clear of me.
Just before the dawn I spied the light on the SW corner of the mainland. It was light when I rounded it and gybed to head for my waypoint at the start of the Navula passage. The wind was increasing, now 25 knots and the seas quite nasty so in with a third reef and now just a scrap of the yankee. I was a little concerned about passing through the reefs in these conditions but the entrance is wide and well marked with two massive beacons. As I drew near, now with the boat close hauled, I sailed into the lee of the reefs which calmed the seas considerably and I was pleased I could hold the correct course. Once through I continued on the same line to arrive in Momi bay. It was still blowing strongly but I anchored at 10.20 am in about 8m in the shelter of the bay. 26 hours for the 96 mile passage. Time for cuppa then a short nap.
I stayed here the rest of the afternoon and the next day whilst the wind still blew strongly.
My friends Jan & Richard on Morpheus were in Vuda marina so I made my way there, mostly motoring as no wind. The entrance is a channel cut through the reef, it doesn’t look its supposed 25m wide at low water and with the depth showing as 2m at it’s shallowist I entered with due caution. The marina is in the form of a circle with boats Med moor style bows pointing to the wall, stern lines attached to buoys. The staff help you moor thank goodness. To disembark means climbing over the pulpit to step onto a wooden platform, how hard or easy this is depends on the state of the tide.
Much as I try and mostly avoid marinas it is good once in the while, pretty easy shore access, unlimited fresh water, showers ashore and of course a bar and restaurant. It is relaxing and was good to catch up with friends, not have to cook for a few meals and listen to some live music.
Monday and from the road junction I caught the bus into into Nadi, Fiji’s 2nd town. Here I visited the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple, built in Dravidian and Vastu Vedic traditions, it is stunningly decorated and painted. I ate a nice lunch in the vegetarian restaurant there. A wander around the town and market completed my visit before catching the bus back.
The rope cutter on the propshaft had been making funny noises for a while and I knew that I would have to dive on it to sort it out but conditions at various anchorages had not been ideal, too windy, choppy seas or filthy water with no visibility. Time to do it, I arranged a canvas bag underneath and after repeated dives dismantled the rope cutter. It was badly worn for some reason so I wont be refitting it. The water wasn’t the cleanest here but at least I could nip for a hot shower as soon as I had done.
Whilst here I also took a bus to Lautoka, this is the sugar capital of Fiji. There is a big sugar refining factory here with trucks and little railway carts loaded up with cut sugar cane. It is a very Indian town, busy and bustling.
It is time for me to leave Fiji so in a couple of days I will check out and make for Vanuatu.
Levuka & Suva 23rd – 31st July
Levuka was situated in a beautiful setting, a backing of a high amphitheatre of jungle covered hillside with rocky peaks. It was the original capital of Fiji and was were the secession to England was signed. The capital was transferred to Suva later when limits of space made themselves felt here.
Nowadays it feels like a slightly down at heel township although the Tuna cannery seems to be doing well, there is slight smell of canned fish permeating the town. It was a bit strange to be back in a place with roads, cars shops and resteraunts after my time on the islands.
I walked south down the coast to the place of secession marked by a bronze plaque and the original treaty house, now looking sadly neglected with vast patches of the thatched roof missing. Inland I climbed up the 199 steps of mission hill and carried on up the valley to a small waterfall where the towns water supply comes from. There were nice views over the town from here and many little shacks where everything had to be carried up by back.
After a few days I decided to make the trip to Suva. It was too far to go in daylight hours so late afternoon saw me weigh anchor and sail out through the reef entrance for an overnight passage. The wind was very variable mainly S/SE so to go S meant a lot of tacking. One tack to stand out eastwards from the coast and then a long tack S/SW almost going in the desired direction, gradually closing the coast until a mile away from the reefs then tacking out again. It was a wearisome business but eventually the lie off the coast turned around the corner so to speak and I could lay the desired course. Gradually I could go from hard on the wind to a beam reach then a broad reach and finally a run as I rounded the reefs off the SE corner of the mainland.
Eventually I came into line with the leading marks for passing the reefs to enter Suva harbour and could gybe to sail in. As befits a major harbour used by big ships, the beacons marking the reef edges and the leading marks were good, Once in I made my way across and anchored off the Royal Suva yacht Club by early afternoon. Only 75 miles but it had taken me 22 hours.
Next day I walked into town. Suva is big and bustling and there are a number of department stores where apart from the cliental you could think yourself back in the UK, such a stark contrast to the islands. I shopped at the excellent fruit and veg market, had a nice curry for lunch and caught the bus back to the RSYC.
We had another trough come through when I was anchored here, high winds, plenty of rain and a choppy sea which confined me to the boat for 24 hours.
Another day in town saw a visit to the botanical gardens, which I found a little disapointing.
Much better next day I took a bus out to Colo-i-Suva rainforest reserve. Had a nice walk around here, there were some nice waterfalls and pools including one with a tarzan type rope swing.
The path I took out was steep ‘rooty’ and muddy. Heard lots of birds but they are very hard to spot amongst all the trees.
After several days I felt it time to leave the harbour is busy full of ships, many rustbuckets and wrecks and the water is dirty and polluted. I weighed anchor and headed out one morning, next stop 100 miles along the coral coast.
Tavenui – Qamea – Nairai – Gau – Ovalua: 9th-22nd July
At first I was the only yacht anchored off Vacaia Bay, Taveuni, but later more yachts joined me there including a family I had met in Katherine bay. They had caught a Mai mai that morning and like me and unusual these days had no fridge so they gave me some generous sized fillets. Good eating this. It was a beautiful spot here. I walked to the supermarket past the airstrip at the tip of the island for bread and stopped for a beer on the way back sitting on a lovely veranda overlooking the bay.
Ilil who I had briefly meet in NZ and then bumped into again, joined me for a couple of days as I said I would give her a lift to Qamea. Had a good sail around the north of Taveuni but just as we were about to go through the reefs to Qamea the cloud mist and rain came down. Fortunately it only lasted a little while. According to the charts the reefs were supposed to be marked with beacons but they were missing, probably wiped out by one of the cyclones. Anyway safely through we proceeded until we could safely turn into Naviivi bay. The reefs halfway in are at least marked and we could anchor beyond them. Two guys in a boat came out to talk to us, went away then returned shortly with a note from his Mum who was an Auntie of someone on Taveuni that Ilil had got to know. We were invited to visit so putting on my sulu and grabbing a bundle of kava we were ferried ashore in the school boat, made sevusevu with the headman of the village and then went to visit Angela and family.
There are no roads on this island and the children go to school by boat.
Next day on the way for a walk towards another village we past a group of 7th day adventists who had just finished their morning service. They invited us to lunch with them and would brook no refusal. So we sat down in the shade of their church cum shelter crosslegged around some big straw matts with vast bowls of Fijian fare. Resuming our walk was up a steep narrow overgrown and very muddy track, plenty of slipping and sliding. I turned and and returned at the top of the hill.
Ilil left to stay at another village and I set off for the long trip to the island of Nairai. The winds were light and sometimes non-existent for this 90 mile passage so it took me over 30 hours .
I anchored off the village of Tuvo Lailai in Green Mound bay. Next day I went ashore to make my sevusevu with the headman. This the main village on the island was very small and there are no roads or vehicles on the island at all. They live by farming and fishing.
The day turned out rather miserable, completely overcast sky high winds and rain and kept that way all night and into the next morning. The anchor had dragged a little in the night so I wasn’t happy at this anchorage. Late morning the weather looked to be clearing a little so I took the opportunity to weigh anchor exit the reef and head over the the nearby island of Gau where after entering the reef at the middle passage I anchored in Heralds bay.
This might be some version of paradise, crystal clear waters yellow coral sand beaches, coconut palms and a steep hillside behind. I saw turtles and you didn’t need to snorkel to see the brightly coloured fish and soft corals – just row to the beach.
No-one lives in this bay though they visit it to fish or gather coconuts. The village of Sawayake lies in the next bay around the corner. Next morning I found the track that led there through the forest. Once again dressed in my sulu I made sevusevu with the headman and was welcomed to the village. The headman had lived in England a while, at Catterick camp when he was with the Royal Signal Corps.
Wandering about I was invited in for tea and many people wanted to talk to me. Walking back I was thrilled to see my first Fiji parrot close up, brilliant red and green. Back on the beach with the dinghy was a man and two of his sons. We sat and chatted and they gave me green coconuts to drink, delicious and refreshing. Some women were fishing from their bamboo raft. It was a glorious day.
All change in the night, high winds and rain and from the S or SW so bringing some swell into the bay so the boat had swung through 180 degrees. It was unpleasant and slightly worrying. All next day overcast sky, wind and occasional rain.
Neither of these bad weather spells had showed up on the long range forecast, all these while it was supposed to be fine – so much for forecasts.
Next morning there was some breaks in the cloud and the wind had eased a little though still strong. I had had no bread for days and was right out of fresh vegetables being away from shops for so long and anyway it was time to head west so I weighed anchor and headed for Ovalua. I still had 20 -23 knots of wind at first and moderate to rough seas but with the wind on the beam, 2 reefs in the main , staysail and partly furled yankee Sea Bear made good speed. I thought the 30 mile passage might take 7 hours or more but within 6 we were in through the reef at Levuka and safely at anchor.
To Rabi island and elsewhere
Eventually the forecast was looking better and I left Savusavu. First hop was just about 5 miles down the coast to anchor by the reef just past Costeaus resort.
It meant the saving of about an hour on the next day a day to round passage point and head east along the coast. It meant motoring most of the day but I did a couple of hours sailing in the middle of the day before the wind died. The entrance through the reef to Fawn harbour had a dog leg but visibility was good and safely inside I crossed the lagoon to anchor. A very peaceful tranquil place this, just the distant roar of surf on the reef. I stayed the next day having a peaceful but lonely birthday.
Leaving through the tricky entrance then east again, a flat calm so more motoring. I headed for the reef entrance of Vivani then carried on around the SE tip of Vanu Levu and up to the narrow mangrove lined bay of Naqaiqai. The wind was back but anchoring in 6m the holding in mud was good and the water sheltered. Next day was blowing hard so I remained here.
Next place to visit was Bucca bay, passing Kioa island where they were out fishing from their outrigger canoes. It was calm when I got to Bucca but no sooner having dropped the hook the wind sprang up blowing from the NE. The bay is open to this direction so a chop soon built up. Nevertheless I did go ashore for a walk. I thought that since there was a wharf that a ferry went from served by a bus from Savusavu there might be a shop, I could do with fresh bread but there was none. I did get some pink bananas though and some nice ginger.
It wasn’t really on to stay overnight on account of the wind and chop so I ups anchor, retrace my track to Kioa island. Entering the bay by the village I thought better of anchoring here, I couldn’t find anywhere suitable shallower than 20 m and the bay wasn’t sheltered in the prevailing conditions. I nipped back across to Naqaiqai. I would have liked to visit Kioa, the inhabitants are from Tuvalu, 800 miles to the north, displayed to here when their own island was threatened by sea level rise from Global warming.
I crossed the Somosomo strait to anchor of Somosomo on the island of Taveuni. A couple of the world ARC boats were anchored here. The anchorage doesn’t have a lot to recommend it apart from giving easy access to the shops. I bought a new sim card for the phone, had a chicken curry and bought fresh vegetables and bread.
The weather forecast was for a trough to arrive bring strong winds rough seas and much rain. Time to seek some shelter, the best prospect seemed to be Katherine bay on Rabi island. I had a bit of a rough passage back across the strait, winds gusting to 27 knots and breaking seas. The fringing reef of Rabi is about 4 miles offshore, the passage in not marked so some tension. Once inside the reef I had hoped the reef would break the waves and calm the seas but the reef is not shallow enough so it was rough all the way in finding a careful way between the inner reefs. Once inside the bay although the wind was till strong the seas were much calmer and I anchored in 9 m much relieved to be in.
Rabi although part of Fiji is populated by Banaban Islanders from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati). Their island was made uninhabitable by the extraction of phosphate a tragic and heartbreaking story caused by corporate greed and British government connivance.
You are supposed to report to the Rabi police here so according I took the morning bus, a 4wheel drive truck with bench seats, to Nuku the capital. There is just the one road on Rabi, well a dirt track really that runs through the jungle and along the coast. Nuku is not much of a capital, a village with just a few official buildings. None of the official building were occupied but enquiries pointed me to the policeman’s house- it was the one with the police bike outside. One oh his sons raised him from a nap and I presented him my papers and he made a few notes in a note book. It hardly seemed worth the effort. It was now about 11 in the morning, the next truck back I was told was not until 3. There was nothing to do in Nuku, so I decided to set off walking.
It’s always a nice way to see more of a place. Past a few small villages where the kids always waved and the adults greeted me with Mauri, the traditional greeting. I was the only white face around. The people are different from Fijians much more like Indonesians I thought.
I ended up walking all the way back, took me over 4 hours the last hour in heavy rain. Not one piece of traffic passed me in all that time. Passing by a house in the last hour as the rain came down I was called over to the veranda where gathered about 8 or 9 menfolk. A big bowl of grog (kava) was being passed around so I was pressed to partake, there is a fairly strict equiquette to this the cup is handed to you by the person on your left, you are supposed to drain the cup in one whereupon everyone gives 3 soft cupped hand claps. The elder here said he must sing for me so he sang and performed a meke dance partly in English partly in Kiribarti. He said there must be 3 songs and 3 bowls of grog. It was entertaining and enjoyable. Then I resumed my trudge back in the rain to the dinghy and so to the boat. Back aboard I stripped off in the cockpit so as not to take the wetness into the cabin.
The bad weather had certainly arrived but the anchorage was snug and secure.
Some days later I moved around to Albert cove towards the north of the island. Getting in here was a double reef entry, first an outer reef then an inner reef to gain entry to the cove itself. All reefs unmarked of course, I was glad the light was good enabling you to spot the shallow water, even so it is a bit nerve wracking.
The cove was a lovely spot, yellow sand beaches backed by coconut palms. Only a couple of people live here to harvest the copra, there is no road or track access, just by boat.
After a while here I decide to go back to Somosomo, I was long out of bread and fresh veg. Good light is needed to get out of the cove so an early start is ruled out, the sun needs to be well up in the sky to see the reefs clearly. It limits your sailing time to say between 8.30/9.00 am until 4 pm
I didn’t have enough time to make it in one hop so stopped again in Katherine bay.
Back in Somosomo I was disappointed – there was no bread. Apparently no flour on the island because the ferry to the island from Suva had stopped running. I didn’t get the full story whether this is temporary or full time.
The anchorage at Somosomo is I find too rolly for comfort so I moved about 6 miles to the north of the island. Matai was recommended in through the reefs with flat water but the light was poor when I arrived and I didn’t like the look of it so went back half a mile to another anchorage off a beach.