Friday, July 21, 2017

Palmlea Farms and Kia Island

The wind finally settled enough to make the 18 mile run along the northern coast of Vanua Levu to a mangrove surrounded anchorage in front of Palmlea Farms. We came here last year and got to know the owners Julie and Joe – former cruisers. The "farm" is a small resort with a few rooms, a nice restaurant with great view and hundreds of goats. They raise the largest meat producing goat and have quite an operation. We enjoyed two evening visits and nice meal with Joe and Julie. They had several guests the second night so we scooted out of that anchorage and came to Kia Island.

Kia Island is located in a large horseshoe bend in the Great Sea Reef. So it is surrounded on three sides reef and the water is crystal clear. There are three villages on this island – Daku in the northwest corner, Ligua in the southwest corner and Yudu on the southeast east side. We came to the middle village Ligua that has the school for the entire island. The children arrive in the morning from the other two villages by a "school boat" - an open fiberglass 22 foot boat with a 60 horse Yamaha. There are 56 children in the school.

Upon arrival we had to re-anchor several times to avoid the many "bommies" in the bay – and Michael had to keep diving in to check that we were clear of them. Where's anchor boy? A boat did come up as we were anchoring to see if we needed any help – it was two guys with about nine giant lobsters on the floor! Once settled in about 30 feet, we went to shore for sevusevu.

Because we had been here last year as well, we did know a few folks and Save (prononced sah-vay), the torongo ni koro, was on shore to meet us. It was great seeing him again. Last year we did some nice family pictures for him but had to leave because of weather prior to delivering them. Luckily our friends, Lance and Michelle from "Sweetwaters" made the delivery for us! Save thought that was pretty cool. We did sevusevu with Save and Varesi, the village elder.

After a nice visit we went to the school to see if they wanted school photos and then to Save's house for tea and pancakes. (this is a traditional treat with tea of fried dough – very tasty).

The anchorage is interesting here – the wind funnels around the high island around the north and south points. Where we anchored, we would get gusts from either side of the boat at different times, which meant that Astarte would go around in circles. With all the bommies around this makes for interesting noises aboard and hopes that we don't get tangled or do damage to the reef. It gets a little rolly when the tide is at its highest point as the waves come over the protecting reef structure and we get some swell. But it doesn't last but a few hours a few times a day.

We did school pictures the next morning and had intended to have Save and his grandchildren out to the boat later in the afternoon. But we got some sort of stomach bug – no surprise with all the hand shaking and kids around! So we asked to postpone the visit when Michael delivered the printed photos to the school. Perhaps tomorrow.

We are the first boat to come to shore at Kia this season. That makes it interesting with lots of boats stopping by to visit Astarte on their to or from fishing expeditions. The island is renowned for fishing prowess. They provide much of the fish for all of Fiji. They work hard at it though. One boat of four young men stopped by after they had been out for two days on the reef – this is an open 22-foot fiberglass boat – no bimini or protection from the sun and certainly no facilities for comfort! They were out there in this for 48 hours.

The next entry will be some observations on the changing village life in Kia.
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At 7/20/2017 9:43 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.04'S 179°05.22'E

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Windy Fiji

It is blowing 20 plus and has been now for a few days. It is predicted to last until NEXT Thursday and then only lighten a bit before more fronts, troughs etc. hit the area. We are settled in an okay place in Vunisinu Bay – a pretty large cut in the reef that goes quite away back. But the wind is still hooting through here, but luckily we don't have too much fetch. The noise of the wind though gets old and we are only into day two of the solid bluster. We have 175 feet of chain out in 4 meters of water (14 feet) so we should hopefully hold well. The gusts make us heel over though so you have to hold on below. Feels like being offshore.

We enjoyed our visit to Navidamu Village. It was like visiting family – many people remembered us from last year. We had Tomasi and his wife to the boat for coffee and cake. He is the "toronga ni koro" and we learned a lot about how village life works and why this particular village seems more industrious than many we visited. They have lots of village projects that are initiated – a new one is for the women, who will collect seaweed, dry it on racks that have been built on the beach and sell it. Plus, there is lots of weaving of mats and baskets going on in the community building. This is also the village where every family has planted sandlewood trees. Sandlewood when mature (20-30 years) sells for $150 (Fijian) per kilogram of the wood to the grower. That means each tree is worth a small fortune to a family. Many villages plant and grow the trees, but this one has a mandatory tree growing plan, as ordered by the chief.

On Thursday afternoon, we went to visit the school. It is a relatively large district school of 110 kids or so. About half live at the school because their village is too far for a daily commute. They come late Sunday and leave Friday afternoon. It was a really special visit as the teachers got the entire school out in the field, neatly lined up and seated and we talked to them and they asked some questions (how old are you? What do you eat? And things like that!) Then the children sang us some songs. One was particularly funny (though we couldn't understand the Fijian words, one of the teachers explained it). The youngest children sang and danced about the villagers fishing, gardening and then how the white men came and stole the people and stuffed them on bags! No wonder we get strange looks from some of the youngest children! We were invited for some juice and snacks and then watched the kids play some sports – the young girls were playing net ball and the boys "flag rugby." On our way from the school, a young boy ran up and gave us a big bag filled with "white bone" (or bokchoy cabbage). We later traded with another boat that showed up in the anchorage – a stock of cabbage for two papayas. It was the first boat we'd seen in a few weeks.

We also found one day (Wednesday) where the wind was a bit lighter and we took the dinghy up the Draketi River. The Dreketi is the deepest river in all of Fiji. We left bright and early when the tide was high so we could make a direct route from Astarte to the mouth of the river. It gets very shallow and has sticky mud banks. We made it into the river (getting a tad damp on the way) and then worked our way up the river several miles to the village of Dreketi. It is more like a very large bus stop as large buses stop here on their way to Labasa or the ferries in Nabawalu. There is a small vegetable market, a few small groceries and a place to buy fuel. We needed some gasoline to re-load the tank for the trip back. We were able to buy fresh bread, some fresh fruit and vegetables and had a roti lunch out. The people were very friendly and we got lots of invites for tea or dinner – but had to pass so we could make it back to the boat. We picked the only calm day to do this. The wind has been more consistently strong this season. And though on the north coast (which should be the lee of the island) it seems to really come roaring over the hills in big gusts. It is disquieting and we don't remember it as much from last year. Maybe our memories are going.

We left Navidamu yesterday (Friday) and left internet behind (bummer) and made a short trip to what we had hoped would be a more protected anchorage and bay. The trip was long for less than ten miles. We had very strong head winds and big wind chop. At times we could only motor about 2 knots against the conditions. We made our way into the deep bay – as far back as we felt safe to go and dropped the hook. Unfortunately the wind is still howling through the rigging but we certainly have less fetch here than we would in Navidamu.

Based on the weather forecast, we may be stuck here for some time. This looks like the best bay on the charts within a 20 mile radius. Our next stop we hope is at Palmlea Farms to visit Joe and Julie. Don't know when we'll make it there. Don't want to bash into 20-30 knot winds for 20 miles.
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At 7/14/2017 9:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°28.69'S 178°57.45'E

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Naviqiri Grapevine

Many cruising yachts think that they can sneak into an anchorage and nobody will know they are there. They are so wrong.

After our adventures in Koroinasolo, it was time to turn the northwest corner of Vanua Levu and get on the north coast. This meant that we would sail around "monkey face"" " mountain and through some narrow cuts in the reefs. It was a relatively calm day and the seas were flat, so certainly a good day for this trip. We put the headsail out and had a pleasant sail around the point and through the reefs until the wind was on the nose and then we motored. We worked hard at spotting the "monkey's face" but still aren't certain we saw it. Even with great directions from the teachers we had aboard! Maybe we just don't have good enough imaginations.

Our destination was the village of Naviqiri where we spent almost a week the previous year. We arrived early afternoon and went into the village that afternoon for sevusevu. Sera and Freddy were our hosts last year and Freddy is also the "toronga ni koro" so we sought them out. As soon as we landed the dinghy, several women from the village recognized us and we were welcomed back as family. Sera came up to us and one of her first questions was, "you lost something in Koroinasola?" The grapevine had worked fast – that anchor and chain event had happened the previous day – and already it was news in this village. Others also asked about it. So if you think they don't know what's happening in their own anchorages and even in surrounding villages...you are very mistaken. The grapevine is alive and working overtime in Fiji.

We did our sevusevu and found out that the chief had been one of the men in the meeting Michael attended in Koroinasolo. So he heard the story first hand and brought it back to his village. We enjoyed a visit with folks and went back to the boat with a few fresh lemons (for lemon cake!) We had Sera and Freddy to Astarte the previous year and served them tea and lemon cake and since then we know Sera has asked other visiting yachtie friends of ours for "lemon cake".

The next morning we returned with lemon cake in hand and had a nice tea. That was followed by a long trek up the hills for a promised great view. Our guides on the walk were three young children (it was Saturday so no school). We had Rosie (grade five), Charlie (grade seven) and little Charlie (kindergarten). The were very polite children – "Man Charlie" (that's what we ended up calling the older Charlie) carrying Michael's backpack the entire trip which he accomplished without shoes. The other two did the hike in flip flops! Little Charlie got the nickname "Speedy" (or Speeti in Fijian) because he probably climbed the hill three times running up and down and talking non-stop in Fijian. Rosie would politely walk near us and pull away tall grasses from our pathway or pull sticky nettles off Barbara's skirt!

The walk was steep on back roads and paths and over a burned out area. The views from the top were worth the effort. We could see the entire bay and even the other side to Rukuruka Bay. The island of Kia could even be seen in the far distance.

Upon our return to the village, we took our three young guides to Astarte. Only Man Charlie was at a yacht once previously. They were excited about the ride in the dinghy (they called it "speedboat" though it doesn't go very fast with five people). We served them some cookies and soft drinks and gave them the tour. They became "celebrities" on shore because they got to see the yacht. We were served a nice local lunch by Sera and Feddy of freshly cooked yams, chopped dalo leaves in coconut milk and fresh papaya. Yum.

We headed back to Astarte as we were quite worn out from the heat and long trek up the hill. Of course we had the huge following of children to help us launch the dinghy.

We decided to take off on Sunday for the twenty plus mile trip to the next stop. When we went to start the engine though – it wouldn't start. Michael knew exactly what it was because he had commented a few days prior about the battery switch seemed to not be a solid connection. Luckily we kept the old one when we replaced it with this one a few years back. It was located, still worked and then installed. The engine started and off we went.

We arrived in Navidamu Village around 3 pm but because it was Sunday, we opted to not go into the village to do sevusevu. We would do it the next morning.
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At 7/7/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°39.37'S 178°35.73'E

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Chiefs, Teachers and Koroinasolo Justice

We stayed a few days near Koroinasolo Village. We took a walk to the primary school which has four teachers and 52 students Grades 1-8 (they combine 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th, and 7th and 8th.) We met the head teacher, Mr. Tom and agreed to come back the next morning to take "class photos" at 10:30. The next day came – but the head teacher and another teacher weren't there as they made a trip into Labasa (the largest town in the area – about a two hour drive away). So we agreed to come back the next morning.

Michael decided to take a walk that afternoon up the road. He met road workers and learned about the area. Upon his return to the dinghy, he found that our anchor and chain had been taken and someone tied the dinghy to a nearby float. Not a good thing! He went back to the town and looking for Milly, whom we had met earlier in the day (and taken a picture of her baby which we had printed and given her). Milly spoke very good english, so Michael asked her the proper etiquette of getting to see the village chief and explained why. She told him he really needed the "toronga ni koro" to introduce him to the chief – but Philip was also gone to Labasa. Michael told her he would be back first thing in the morning to see Philip and the chief. She asked if he wanted to see the police that were in town, but Michael declined at this point.

Thursday morning came and Michael was well prepped on how he was going to deal with the chief regarding the missing anchor and chain. He dressed in his sulu and made his way to the village. He found Philip, who happened to be in a meeting with the chief and several elders. He explained exactly what had transpired and how disappointed he was that a village that depended on the sea for its livelihood would steal, boat equipment from another boater. He also told them he would prefer to deal with it locally through the chief first rather than dealing with the police – which got him lots of positive nods and approvals. He was invited to sit in a place of honor next to the chief and one of the members at the meeting left. The chief and elders continued their meeting for a short time in Fijian, and after a while, the man who had left returned, and the chief turned to Michael and told him his anchor and chain were back in his dinghy.

Sure enough, next to the dinghy there was our anchor and chain. With this happy outcome, we decided to continue with the planned picture taking at the school. When we arrived at the school, everyone already knew about the stolen anchor and chain. In fact, the entire village knew!

We took class pictures and returned to the boat to print them. As we left town, we saw Milly again and thanked her for her help and she was pleased that we got the anchor back and was so sorry something like that had happened in her village. We had arranged for the four teachers and spouses to come to the boat that afternoon at 3:30 to see the boat (none had ever been aboard a "yacht") and pick up the photos. At 3:15 Michael went ashore to pick them up. He waited and waited and finally at 4:15 returned to the boat. At 4:30 they showed up – I guess that's Fijian time! We had a great visit with them and they took more pictures aboard – posing selfies in every part of the boat!

After a few hours they departed with one of the teachers taking off her skirt as she was leaving to give to Barbara. (She did have shorts on underneath!). They were a hoot.

Friday morning was calmer than the previous week and it was time to move on so we went around "Monkey Face" Mountain and sailed to our next destination. At the next stop we learn that the Fijian Village grapevine is very effective.
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At 7/7/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°39.37'S 178°35.73'E

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(no subject)

Chiefs, Teachers and Koroinasolo Justice

We stayed a few days near Koroinasolo Village. We took a walk to the primary school which has four teachers and 52 students Grades 1-8 (they combine 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th, and 7th and 8th.) We met the head teacher, Mr. Tom and agreed to come back the next morning to take "class photos" at 10:30. The next day came – but the head teacher and another teacher weren't there as they made a trip into Labasa (the largest town in the area – about a two hour drive away). So we agreed to come back the next morning.

Michael decided to take a walk that afternoon up the road. He met road workers and learned about the area. Upon his return to the dinghy, he found that our anchor and chain had been taken and someone tied the dinghy to a nearby float. Not a good thing! He went back to the town and looking for Milly, whom we had met earlier in the day (and taken a picture of her baby which we had printed and given her). Milly spoke very good english, so Michael asked her the proper etiquette of getting to see the village chief and explained why. She told him he really needed the "toronga ni koro" to introduce him to the chief – but Philip was also gone to Labasa. Michael told her he would be back first thing in the morning to see Philip and the chief. She asked if he wanted to see the police that were in town, but Michael declined at this point.

Thursday morning came and Michael was well prepped on how he was going to deal with the chief regarding the missing anchor and chain. He dressed in his sulu and made his way to the village. He found Philip, who happened to be in a meeting with the chief and several elders. He explained exactly what had transpired and how disappointed he was that a village that depended on the sea for its livelihood would steal, boat equipment from another boater. He also told them he would prefer to deal with it locally through the chief first rather than dealing with the police – which got him lots of positive nods and approvals. He was invited to sit in a place of honor next to the chief and one of the members at the meeting left. The chief and elders continued their meeting for a short time in Fijian, and after a while, the man who had left returned, and the chief turned to Michael and told him his anchor and chain were back in his dinghy.

Sure enough, next to the dinghy there was our anchor and chain. With this happy outcome, we decided to continue with the planned picture taking at the school. When we arrived at the school, everyone already knew about the stolen anchor and chain. In fact, the entire village knew!

We took class pictures and returned to the boat to print them. As we left town, we saw Milly again and thanked her for her help and she was pleased that we got the anchor back and was so sorry something like that had happened in her village. We had arranged for the four teachers and spouses to come to the boat that afternoon at 3:30 to see the boat (none had ever been aboard a "yacht") and pick up the photos. At 3:15 Michael went ashore to pick them up. He waited and waited and finally at 4:15 returned to the boat. At 4:30 they showed up – I guess that's Fijian time! We had a great visit with them and they took more pictures aboard – posing selfies in every part of the boat!

After a few hours they departed with one of the teachers taking off her skirt as she was leaving to give to Barbara. (She did have shorts on underneath!). They were a hoot.

Friday morning was calmer than the previous week and it was time to move on so we went around "Monkey Face" Mountain and sailed to our next destination. At the next stop we learn that the Fijian Village grapevine is very effective.
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At 7/7/2017 7:15 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°39.37'S 178°35.73'E

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Baulailai to Koroinosolo

After a few days in Baulailai, we moved on to the next location … a new place for us. Prior to leaving Baulailai, we did meet the Indo-Fijian family that lives in the bay - Nilesh, his wife and three children. We enjoyed our time in this pretty spot watching the hundreds of goats on the hillsides, listening to the very loud cows hidden in the trees and hoping the fire we saw burning on the other side of the hill wouldn't make it over the ridge. The fire burned a very tall tree and it was alight most of the night looking like an old fashioned beacon. I had cut my foot while launching the dinghy in the morning, so we wouldn't be able to hike around or snorkel for a few days so we made the decision to move on. Its not a bad cut, but in this tropical environment it is always safer to keep it dry and out of the water.

We entered Rukuruku Bay, an inlet in the far northwest corner of Vanua Levu after negotiating our way around the reefs at the entrance of Baulailai. This is a long narrow strip of water between the hills. When inside it looks land-locked. We made our way down the few miles in 10 meter water towards the village at the end of the bay. There were seven fiberglass boats with outboards at anchor near the village – so it looks like a prosperous village. We had been told it was a very traditional village by Nilesh.

We anchored in about 4 meters of water (13 feet), but the spot is still very windy despite the tall hills all around. After lunch, we went to do our sevusevu in the village. Sevusevu is a ceremony where visitors present a gift bundle of yagona (the dried plant which makes the drink kava) to the chief and asks permission to visit the village. When you get to village and make your way ashore, you ask for the "toronga ni koro" (the man who will connect you with the chief for the presentation ceremony). As we made our way up a path through some gardens we asked a man working in the garden for the "toronga ni koro." He said it was he and his name was Philip. He took us into his home and it was the shortest ceremony we ever had. We never got taken to the chief, Philip simply invited us to sit down on the carpet, he asked Michael to write down our names and the boat name and then he clapped three times, took the yagona and that was it!

We then were invited to the other room for a cup of tea and some freshly baked rolls. There we met George, his wife and youngest daughter and an older girl. Later another young girl came into the house in her school uniform. After our visit with the family, we took a short walk around Koroinosolo. The village is on a hillside so there are three levels of homes. At this point, we had our large entourage of children showing us around. Michael took out the camera and that got all the kids posing and giving their hand signals! They love their picture taken. After our short walkabout, we got back to Philip and George and family's home where a young boy scurried up a coconut palm to get us some drinking coconuts. These young boys are amazing. The coconuts were then opened – one the traditional way on a stick that was imbedded in the ground and then "the faster way" with a machete or bush knife.

We got back down the hill with about 20 or so children who then helped us launch the dinghy which was now hard aground with the outgoing tide.

Today, we'll head back to the village in the afternoon to go visit the school. We watched as the fiberglass boats all left this morning with five guys in each. They came blasting out with a quick "drive by" Astarte with waves and yells. Off to work!

We'll probably stay here a few more days then make our way around the northwest corner of the island and get on the northside of Vanua Levu.

Happy Fourth of July – Patricia on Gulf Harbour Radio his morning played the USA National Anthem over the radio prior to the weather report.
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At 7/3/2017 7:42 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°44.16'S 178°31.60'E

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sailing North Through the Reefs

We enjoyed a few days anchored near Nasonisoni Pass. On Friday, a Fijian holiday, we headed 25 miles north towards Nabouwalu. This is a ferry stop and where we met the Prime Minister of Fiji last year. We had also made friends with a family here and we thought it would be fun to visit Police Constable Michael and his family again. As we approached Nabouwalu though, the winds were really blowing and there was quite a swell. So we decided to skip the stop and go ten miles further and get into the more protected Mbua Bay. This is a deep bay and very sticky mud for holding. There isn't much wind protection from the short mangroves, but its relatively shallow (5-6 meters) and lots of room. It was a windy night, but the anchor held well and there was no swell. Sorry though that we missed saying hello to our friends.

The next morning (Saturday, July 1), the sun was shining and steady 15-20 knot SE breeze was still blowing. We decided we'd take advantage of the good visibility and make a 14 mile trip to Bualailai. It is another spot we stopped in last year and remembered liking. It is inside a reef and surrounded on three sides but relatively high rocky hills with mangroves along the water. There is a sandy beach on one side and river/stream.

We managed to sail the entire way with a small headsail – not wanting to go too fast through the reefs. It was very comfortable, less rolly than the previous day's trip. Last year when we did this trip we went the opposite way and fought the trade winds – so it was a lot slower going, less comfortable and certainly required the services of our trusty engine and diesel fuel. It has been nice to be able to sail up the coast this year because we decided to go around the island clockwise instead. We'll pay the price on the other side!

We hope this will be a comfortable stop to spend a few days. Weather permitting we'll take a good walk, snorkel, explore in the dinghy and perhaps meet the family that lives up the stream. It is pretty protected here though the wind is still blowing off the hillsides. Lots of goats on the hillsides to watch.
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At 7/1/2017 8:05 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°44.92'S 178°28.98'E

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