Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Lau Island Group

The easternmost islands of Fiji are a group of islands called the Lau Group. This is a remote group that has only been opened to cruising boats for about one year. Prior to that, you needed special permission to visit – a process that would take weeks – if at all! It is the group that we most wanted to see during our Fiji adventure. Partly because it is the least traveled route by sailing boats but mostly because the villages retain much of the traditional values. Coming from the other Fijian islands, it is an "upwind" trip so you have to wait for the best weather window to make the trip. We lucked out when we left on Thursday morning from Buca Bay. The 100 mile trip started at 0900 and we wound our way out of Buca Bay, past coral reefs and into the Somosomo Strait alongside Taveuni Island. We sailed almost the entire way – just motoring out of Buca and into Vanua Balavu.

The winds were predicted to start coming more from the north as the day wore on – and so Michael chose to go out the southern side of Taveuni. This proved to be good for several reasons - but the most important was that as we exited the south side, we caught not one, but TWO mahi mahi. Combined, the two were not as large as the one we grabbed a week or so ago! But we had fish in the fridge!

We couldn't quite stay on our rhumb line for most of the night and around midnight we needed to tack to get back on course and also avoid a fishing boat. Right after that, we were able to stay on the course line which was good as there were islands, atolls and reefs around and we didn't want to stray too far off the course line in the dark. We made great time as the wind was stronger than predicted and never died after midnight as predicted. We actually had to pull in a lot of sail to slow down so we wouldn't arrive too early. We wanted good light to get through the giant reef that surrounds Vanua Balavu.

We arrived at a good time and slowly made our way through the reef at Qilaqila which is pretty well marked with range markers to get you safely through. Then we weaved our way around the island on the inside of the reef and arrived at the anchorage near the village of Daliconi. Even before the anchor was set, the village was calling on the radio to remind us we needed to come in for Sevusevu. We arranged to do that at 2 pm. Our friends on "Victory" and "SuperTed", who arrived the day before, and "Gaku" who arrived earlier that day, were in the village at that point doing their sevusevu. We would do ours at 2.

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