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.

Vacaia 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.

Naviivi Bay

 

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.

Naviivi bay from on high

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. 

Green mound bay, Nairai

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.

Herald bay, Gau

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.

Coconut point, Gau from Herald bay

 

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.

Sawayake village Gau

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.

Fishing from bamboo raft

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.

Levuka, Ovalau

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