Tuesday, July 30, 2013

North or South?

No this isn't a Civil War quiz...it is the big question we are now facing. After speaking with people who have traveled extensively in Vanuatu, we have made the decision that we shouldn't rush through Fiji and spend only a month in Vanuatu and New Caledonia. SO...we have decided to delay our Indonesia adventure for a season. The reality is once in Indonesia it is simply too difficult to get back to this area and we spent a lot of time and effort to get here. With that decision made, it makes no sense to go to Australia for this cyclone season. So where do we go? We see two options. One is to head from Fiji to New Caledonia and then back to New Zealand for cyclone season. We could explore more of NZ this time because we have less boat projects to tackle. Perhaps we could make it further south this time and even spend more time in Auckland. After that we would return to Fiji then quickly on to Vanuatu where we would spend most of the season. Option Two would be to head north to Tuvalu, the Kiribati Islands and then spend cyclone season in the Marshall Islands. That would take us back over the equator. After "wintering" there we would then follow the same route back to Vanuatu.

It is a tough call and either option would be okay with us. We are waiting to talk to a boat who has done the Marshall Island route last year. It is certainly the less traveled route and it makes you wonder "why?" Reading about some of the potential weather conditions (too much wind or too little wind and some big time squalls) may be why so many boats avoid this route. But if you read about some of the islands, they are also quite intriguing because they retain indigenous lifestyles. Many of these islands are quite remote and very few cruising boats make this trek. That holds some appeal to us after being on the well-traveled route for so many years. The joy of cruising is that your plans are made in sand at low tide and it just takes a couple of conversations with other boaters to sway your previously made decision. We have to make the decision though before we move from Fiji. North? South? Perhaps we should simply toss a coin and let fate make the call for us! But should we do two out of three or five of seven? Too many decisions...

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Malolo Lailai in the Mamanuca Group

Goodbye big city and hello to the island group of the Mamanucas in Fiji! We had a successful and efficient (timewise anyway!) run into the capital of Suva and managed all our errands (though we couldn't find two of the boat bits we would have liked to score). We got our teeth cleaned and checked by the head of the Fiji Dental Association Dr. Vikash Singh (highly recommend by other cruisers), got some Vatu currency for our next country Vanuatu; picked up the thermostats for the refrigerator/freezer (unfortunately one doesn't work – bummer); resupplied the meat cache for the freezer; picked up a good variety of fresh vegetables; enjoyed a good hot curry; got some questions answered at the Australian embassy/Visa center; downloaded Australian charts after a SD card search/bad card/new search; re-provisioned some basics; and bought a few crafts and saw some of the city. Did the local bus travel and enjoyed that as well as getting some good leg miles in.

So on Saturday mid-morning, we untied from the free mooring ball in Lami and headed towards the western side of Fiji. On this side, the winds are supposed to be lighter and the sun shines more. We were ready for some more steady good weather. This side is also supposed to have great great snorkeling – but it is also the side with more resorts, more backpackers and more tourists. It is closer to the international airport and because it is supposedly sunnier – the more developed tourist area. That means prices will be a bit higher as well.

We had a great passage from Suva – we motored out of the cut through the reef than sailed the rest of the way We had a nice beam reach for the first part and then as we turned the corner it was a downwind sail. The whole trip was about 110 miles – so we didn't need to go fast. A little way out of Suva we caught a lovely mahi. Of course we caught a fish – the freezer was full to the brim as was the fridge! So after the one fish we stopped trolling. We'd fish in the morning after eating some of the passage food and emptying out a few containers. We got a beautiful green flash at sunset – always a treat!
The seas were about a 1.5 meters so we had a little roll but it was an overall pleasant trip with a few light rain showers through the night. We arrived at the cut and were headed for Momi Bay to anchor but we got a call from our friends on Superted who were at Malolo Lailai at Musket Cove. That was only about ten miles further and it was only noon so we decided to go the extra distance.

As we arrived behind the reef of this island, the large luxury motor yacht at anchor revved up its helicopter and we watched as it left the deck. We knew we were now in the high rent district! We motored our way inside the reef around to the leeward side of the island and saw lots of sailboats at anchor and on moorings and found a spot to drop our hook. We were greeted by Jean and Matt and tidied the boat from passage. We enjoyed a nice mahi dinner and will explore the island with Jean and Matt this morning on a walk and then perhaps get some laundry done. There is a laundromat here (yippee!)
Several boats we hadn't seen for some time are here and some boats we've heard on the "Drifters' Net" are also here so we'll say hello to some old friends and hopefully meet some new ones as well.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Overnight Passage to the BIG City

Our time in Ono Island's Nambouwalu Village was indeed special not unlike all the villages we've had the pleasure and honor of visiting. We had a lovely lunch with the pastor, afternoon tea and cakes with locals and other cruisers; Barbara's first kava ceremony; and a specially prepared "lovo" dinner. We hiked around the area and on the last day – the sunniest and calmest, we had a great snorkel with great visibility and beautiful coral. Michael went harvesting Yaqona with Kuru, and then did some printing of forms for him as a thank you. It was indeed a treasured village experience.

But it was time to move on and so we decided to do an overnight passage to the capital city of Suva on the island of Viti Levu It was only a 55 mile or so trip – but that is that funny distance for us to make it there early enough to get through the reefs and anchored safely without worrying. In this case it was just a bit too short a trip for how fast Astarte wanted to move. Even with relatively light winds (10-15), we were smoking and did everything in our power to slow the boat down. We sailed with the smallest possible headsail and still were making too fast a speed and arrived 10 miles from the entrance to the reef at 4 am. We did a few tacks across our line to kill time, avoid some boats and waited for the sun to come up before attempting the reef passage. The channel is a large ship channel, so it is well marked with a bright blue set of range lights (that they turn off promptly at sunrise!) We made it through and wound our way past a few island to an area called Lami where the owner of several of the marinas is Fiji provides some free mooring balls. We snagged one of these and are settled for what promises to be a very busy week of projects. Even though we both got very little sleep on the passage (going so slow meant the boat rolled quite a bit and it was tough to stay in one spot in bed long enough to sleep), we did hit the ground running (or at least walking.) We launched our dinghy and tied up near the police boats. Then we hiked to Lami Town and started the search for a few boat parts and needed items. At one store we were directed to another that was "a five minute walk." So we walked...and walked and walked. After 50 minutes still no beer factory (that wasn't the destination just the landmark). So we decided to skip that project (the inline filter for the outboard), catch a cab and head to Suva to get the fridge thermometer and some carb cleaner. We would also check out a few stores we hoped. We got some projects done and then decided we were exhausted and would catch a local bus back to Lami and do some of our shopping there. We enjoyed a nice Chinese lunch out, did some shopping for some much needed (or wanted) fresh veggies, fresh baked bread and a few more errands. Then we walked back to where the dinghy was anchored and got back to the boat. We are glad we made it in early as two more boats arrived and the moorings were now filled.

After a great night's sleep in a flat anchorage safely moored, we started today's adventures with a bus ride into Suva to get what we hoped was the filter for the outboard (no joy – wrong part) and then caught a cab to the Australian Embassy where we hoped for definitive info on the visa for Australia. After getting there we found we needed to go elsewhere and so our cab driver, Nalish took us to the right spot. He became our "guy" when we needed a cab (and we have an invite to dinner at his house). After the Visa info stop, an internet recharge, a banking stop to change the old Fijian bills to the new ones (the one's with Queen Elizabeth will no longer be accepted), and a provisioning stop at a "Cost U Less" (Costco style store – but it doesn't really cost you less) we had our "guy" gets us back to Lami and the dinghy. At the dinghy dock, all the police officers helped us load our bags to the dinghy! Tonight, we'll enjoy some fresh mahi that JanBart caught on the way here – and gave us a giant filet! We've "caught" fish now from the Chapter Two's (a nice yellow fin meal) and mahi from JanBart – and we managed not to lose any lures!

Tomorrow more projects. The rest of the list for our Suva stop includes jerry jugs of diesel, propane re-fill; find and get the outboard filter; Rx refill; dentist appointments; bank for Vanuatu currency; and some more re-provisioning of paper products as well as food supplies including some meat. Plus we hope to see a few of the sights of Suva and perhaps visit the museum and craft market. So it will be a busy week. We hope to get it all done and be gone (weather permitting) by Saturday morning.

After so long in remote islands with small villages, limited electricity and dirt roads it is very weird to be anchored near a main road with lots of traffic, to see the lights of the homes and businesses all night and to hear the noises of the city – horns, sirens and motors. Good for a short stay and then we'll look forward to another tranquil anchorage.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Ono Island

Another new island … Ono Island, part of the province of Kadavu, is where Astarte is currently anchored. We are settled into a deep bay near the village of Nambouwalu. At high tide, the bay looks a lot bigger than it is. At low tide much of the bay near the village shallows to bare mud flats. Coral reefs surround the outer edges with a few rocks and corals sticking out of the water as fair warning to avoid anchoring too close. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and were the only boat in the bay. We went in for our "sevusevu" which was very casual. Weiss met us on the beach and took us to the chief's house where we sat and presented our package of yaqona. He chatted a bit about how some boats are bringing packages that are too small! Luckily, ours was a true half kilo and he seemed pleased and proceeded to give us permission to walk around the village, snorkel and take pictures.
We enjoyed a nice peaceful afternoon and two additional sailboats joined us in the anchorage – two British boats, one of whom wrote the guide book to the Lau Group.

Sunday morning, we decided to attend the church service. We have found that this is a way to really get to know a few of the villagers and they seem so pleased when you attend, Plus, in most places, the singing is quite wonderful. This was another Methodist church – the predominate religion in Fiji, and the minister greeted us and asked us to write our names down and where we were from. Again, we were asked to sit in the front row. Twice, during the service, a bit of English was spoken to officially welcome us and thank us for attending...we are getting good at understanding enough words in Fijian to know when they are talking about us (that and the stares of all the people in the church at a given moment!). After church, we were again invited to lunch at the minister's home. It was a smaller affair here – only five of us at lunch, the visiting preacher, the pastor (or minister), the church operation's manager Joe and the two of us. It was quite a spread and as we were in the home, people of the village stopped by to bring in more food throughout the meal. We ate very traditional fish dishes (three different types), taro, cassava, and some dalo leaves and other green leaves that were cooked in coconut milk. All very flavorful and filling. We were served a lemon leaf tea picked from the tree out back and there were hot peppers and kumquats on the table for using with your fish.

We had a great conversation at lunch about the village and changing customs and the culture. We were invited to join in for some kava later in the afternoon. Barbara was also invited so she could try her "first" bowlful. We returned to Astarte with the minister coming aboard to send an e-mail along with another gentleman. We visited for some more time and then they had to head back for a 3 pm church service. By this time, the bay was filled with boats. Gypsy Heart, Evergreen, Superted, Victory and Blue Rodeo were all anchored. This was the most boats we've seen in one place since Savusavu! We knew most people and boats so it was fun to have a reunion.

We went back into the village around 4:30 pm and most of the other boaters were there, having just done their sevusevu. We went to the minister's home first where all the boaters had gathered for a cup of tea. Then we were told we could go to the chief's house for some kava. The Astarte and Superted crews were the only daring ones. The ceremony was traditional – but the passing of the bowls was actually quite quick. There seemed to be more drinking and less talking. Barbara got a "low tide bowl" first. This means you get a small quantity. A high tide is a full bowl. The coconut shell bowls were passed around and after you've drunk down the bowl, you clap five times and hand the bowl back. We each had a few bowls and then we were thanked for our attendance and basically – excused. We think it was because of "the women" - that perhaps the men wanted to have their territory back.
We went back to the boat and Gypsy Heart hosted everyone aboard their boat so we joined the fun. It was good to see some old friends and get caught up again.

On Monday (today), we (along with the Superteds and Gypsy Hearts), took a nice walk to what was called the hot springs (though Weiss told us they are more like warm springs). Michael luckily saw the bubbly part in the stream – it would have been easy to miss. It was a very small and shallow pool – so not what we had hoped for "spa day!" We continued our walk through the various "plantations" and farm fields. We saw lots and lots of taro growing, some peppers, some cassava and some unknown plants. Not many bananas – disappointing as we always hope to score some. After a nice walk, we came back to Astarte for tea and cake. It seems to have become a tradition aboard Astarte to have a "Let them eat cake" party around Bastille Day. Anne on Charisma reminded us of that on the radio net this morning!

It was a nice day and now we are settling in for what is supposed to be a few very windy days. Tomorrow there is a "fundraiser" feast on the island. It is a traditional "lovo" - which is an earth oven – where they cook the foods. Most of the boaters are planning on attending.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

The “Grog” Expert

We remain in Kavala Bay where we have enjoyed land excursions. Because this is the yaqona capitol, Michael has decided he would learn everything he can about kava (which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows "Hawk"). The drink locally is simply called "grog." On our walks and in the local store, anyone we would meet would be peppered with questions about the yaqona plant, the harvesting, the drying process and ultimately, the drink itself.
On one hike yesterday, we roamed first in search of the waterfalls and then continued on to the village of Solotavui. The place was pretty quiet as one of the two big ships that come in weekly was due in shortly. It is a big event weekly when the boats come in with people and supplies. But as we were walking by, a young man came up to us, introduced himself as they all do with a hearty handshake, and invited us to stop by and say hello to his grandfather and have some "grog." This was around noon. We walked to the house and sure enough there was a circle of men seated on the floor, pounding the yaqona and making grog. The men were actually on a break from building a home. They were waiting for some supplies off the ship. They invited Michael to join them (it is a patriarchal society and this grog drinking is a bit of a "men's club.") Michael said he would pass on the kava but had some questions, so in he went. Barbara was kindly invited into the home next door where a few women were busily cleaning (what's wrong with this picture??!!)

Michael did get lots and lots of his questions answered. He got to sample a few bowls of some primo "grog" - five or six year old Kadavu grown. The older the plant, the more potent the kava. But they don't let it grow to long as hurricanes can ruin a crop and a five or six year investment. The yaqona is the currency in this area. People bring the bundles of dried plant to the store and they get credit for $30 F per kilo ($32 if it is older and taller). They then use those credits to get what they need in the store from fuel for outboards, generators or lanterns, to cooking propane, food stuffs or household goods. It's interesting because we bought some yaqona at the store and were only charged $30 per kilo – so there isn't even a markup from what the people get for credit.

The drinking of grog comes with a bit of ceremony. This includes the "tanoa" - the bowl from which the kava is made and served. This is made from a single slab of wood, usually vesi – a local hardwood. Some are very old and have passed through generations. In the room where Michael was drinking, the tanoa was 20 years old but there was one that was more than 200 years old hanging on the wall. The kava is served in a "bilo", a half shell of a coconut that is polished. Everyone drinks from the same shell (though in Michael's grog brotherhood, there were four shells being passed about!). The sharing of the bilo is supposedly to cement the communal bonds. Then there is the clapping or "cobo" (pronounced thombo). This is not a polite "golf clap" but rather a hearty thunderous clap with cupped hands. Each village or community seems to differ a bit on the number of claps. Michael was told it is normally three claps, but in Kadavu, it is always five. That is done when you down your bilo of grog. It is supposed to indicate – "my bowl is now empty" (and probably "bring on some more!")

After a few bilos of grog, Michael and his numb tongue left. He said this grog was better tasting than the Komo grog he had at the 21st birthday. Barbara remains a kava "virgin." We were invited to join in another evening grog drinking session on shore with Roosi, Mika and some others who told us they gather each evening around 6 and we were invited.

Our walks the past few days, besides being grog research, took us to the local school as well. It is quite a hike and the campus is quite large. It houses a primary school and kindergarten of about 150 students plus a secondary school with more than 200 students. This is a Kadavu Province school, so students in the secondary school live on the campus and go home every five weeks or so. There were dormitories and teacher housing as well as classroom buildings. We met with Timothy, the principal of the secondary school. We also spoke with the headmaster of the primary school and left him some drawing paper and colored pencils for the students. The students are all very polite. They teach in English and there was a sign on campus that "English speaking is compulsory".

Along the "road"on our walks, we met many people. It looks like just a mud path, but it is indeed the main road. Folks would all stop and visit with us awhile, always with a handshake. Even the farmers gathering firewood or cassava or coconuts, would stop and put down there load and machetes and chat a bit. Barbara is getting quite good a hiking in a long skirt – as that is the appropriate attire here and all the women wear them even when working in the fields or walking along the muddy paths.

The island grapevine does work – we learned where our friends boats were on the other side of the island and how many boats were in each bay. When people met us and heard a name, they would say, "oh, you're from the yacht." The fibers (the fiberglass launches) that zoom by will often yell, "Hello Michael." And, yesterday, we had one of those fibers stop by and invite themselves aboard! It was Johnny and his niece Seela from the next island over, Ono where we will be headed today. They invited us to their village though we will probably anchor in another ay with a bit more protection.
This has been a fun stop and we got to know some Fijians better and Michael is certainly getting to know about "grog."

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Kava Capitol

NEW PHOTOS are up! Lots to see from the Lau Group (Komo Island and Bay of Islands), sailfish catch, 21st Birthday and more.
We've been on the move again as we travel around Kadavu Island. On Monday, we negotiated the passage from Kadavu Village to an anchorage in Kavala Bay. We got tired of the constant easterlies on the windward side of Kadavu. Prior to leaving though, we did spend a nice Sunday afternoon snorkeling near "Lion's Rock" (yes it looks just like a standing lion) where we had great visibility and saw lots of pretty fish (but the camera was left aboard). The dinghy ride back though was quite long, bumpy and cold.

At about 1000 (10 am) Monday, we pulled anchored and headed off to tackle a tricky inside the reef passage for which we needed good light and calm conditions. It took about three and a half hours to make the 15 mile trip that took us through narrow cuts between reef patches and through areas of quite deep water. We had a good write-up from a very old cruising guide on how to make the passage on the inside of the reef and followed it carefully. The guide indicates which hills to line up and what points of various rocks need to be kept to port or starboard along with compass courses...so it was bit complicated and daunting. There are some markers (sticks in the ground) but many are missing. One part of the pass is quite narrow and requires several jigs and jags through narrow and shallow reefs (and one of the important "markers" was indeed missing). Luckily the sun was out and Barbara kept watch on the bow for the entire trip. That, along with the handy local fishermen who seemed to show up at the opportune times to indicate which side of a certain patch we should favor. We made it and then entered Kavala Bay and managed to figure out the last marker with the help again of a "fiber" (that's what they call their fiberglass fishing boats), that was coming out as we were about to cross a shallow area.

Kavala Bay has a village on each side – Kavala on one side and Solotavui flanks the other. The bay is surrounded by hills with pine trees, palm trees and masses of ferns as well as lots of other growing things. There is a colony of flying foxes in the pine trees on one side of us and we hear the barking pigeons and the parrots. After we got anchored we launched the dinghy and went to shore to do our "sevusevu." We decided to go to the "store" that was close to where we were anchored and leave the dinghy there and walk to the village. After meeting Roosi (spelling unknown – but that's the pronunciation) and Mika to get permission to leave our dinghy, Roosi decided to show us the way into the village as our guide. They really are that nice here! We took the low route in- because it was low tide you can walk along the shore to the village and then we returned via the "road." This must be taken when the tide is high. At the village, Roosi went in search of the Turaga ni Koro ("the headman") but he was not there (at his farm); then he went to seek out the chief – again, nobody home. So we then went to look for the Number Two Chief, who was available to meet us and do "sevusevu." It is funny that they do have every contingency planned – with the hierarchy well established. We had offered to come back the next day – but Roosi said, "no you're here now, you can do sevusevu." So with the formalities completed, the yaqona handed over and permission granted with the Cobo (claps), we then headed back to the "store" and the dinghy. This time we would take the road back which is a trail – past several farm plots and because of all the rain – a mighty muddy trail. Roosi was a great tour guide though, pointing out things of interest, including the "kava"(which means "intoxicating pepper" in latin) or yaqona plant (which we hadn't seen in the green, growing form yet.

Kavala is known as the "Kava" mecca. This area's main income is derived from the growing and selling of yaqona – the plant from which the kava is made. Kadavu is known to grow the "best" yaqona and "Kadavu Old" is the primo stuff. We hope to get to try some of the good stuff before we leave this area. They sell the dried yaqona for about $30 Fijian a kilo and Roosi told us an acre of yoqona can bring about $30,000. It takes three to five years to grow and the older, longer and bigger the root – the better the kava.

We look forward to being here a few days and exploring the waterfall and seeing some what is supposed to be remarkable bird life. We did spot one or two of the colorful parrots. Roosi stopped by the boat this afternoon with some bananas. He said he'd come back later for a tour of the boat – but hasn't returned yet. He did ask before he left if we drank kava...so who knows what that means!

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Island, New Village

After Michael and JanBart fixed the swings near Komo School (the afternoon entertainment for the local villagers) and left some books and newspapers for the villagers who had asked, we left lovely Komo Island for the 172 mile passage to Kadavu (pronounced Kahn-dah-voo). We left at 1600 on Thursday and expected to arrive on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the wind died and we barely were making 3 knots much of the passage. But we did sail most of it, putting the pole out to keep the headsail full and just sailed along. The seas were relatively calm though heading downwind, the boat tends to corkscrew around a bit and make the ride more uncomfortable than it should be based on the moderate seas.

In order to avoid staying out an additional night, we turned on the motor (or as we like to say now, "the steel drum band started"), at 0600 on Saturday morning so we could make it through the reef pass in good daylight. We had also hoped to snag a fish finally as we had gone too slow the entire previous day (though we did drag the lines all day). We grabbed a small tuna-type fish as we motored and kept hoping for a big mahi. The tuna fed us that night and was quite tasty. "SuperTed" got a nice 20 pound mahi as they came near the pass...we didn't have the same luck!

We arrived through the pass at 1130 and it was one of those scary passes. There were big breaking waves on each side of the narrow pass, about 200 meters wide. Just as you get into the pass (lining up some hills according to the chart), and if you look to the side, you get the most frightening sight! The breaking waves and white wash is something you don't want anywhere close to a boat – and there it is! We made it through and then wound our way inside the reef enjoying the flat calm of the inside!

We found our way into the anchorage near the village of Kadavu which has about 200 residents (100 of which are children). There is not much room in the anchorage and our friends "SuperTed" and "Victory" were already anchored. We nestled our way near them (not as much room as anyone would like), but the holding is good so we didn't need to put out as much rode as we normally would.

After we were settled at anchor, we got a lift into the village with "SuperTed" and "Victory" to do our "sevusevu." Getting to shore was a challenge as it is exceptionally shallow and, because the bottom is muddy, visibility is non-existant. Finding the path to the town required getting out of the dinghy and dragging it a bit. We put the dinghies near the school which was packed with young lads eager to help and be entertained by us getting out the dinghies and gathering up our stuff. They were friendly, talkative and literally lead us to town. We did feel a bit like the "Pied Piper" with our gang of boys around. They chatted about their school, the village, but mostly about their rugby team. They won a big match the day before and were still enjoying the halo effect of the victory with new folks to tell. The school headmasters son, Moses, led us to the Turaga ni Koro's home. We waited awhile in the home as the headman was out farming. When he arrived, we visited awhile. JanBart handed over the "kava" gift, but was met with an unusual look as this didn't seem to be expected. We made some errors we believe as we never used the words "sevusevu" with the Turaga ni Koro. He is not the "chief," as was explained to us by Moses on the walk back through the village. But it seems the village chief is a "Seventh Day Adventist" that doesn't see guests on Saturdays. We are presuming that the Turaga ni Koro will pass on our gift and all will be okay. The headman did give us permission to anchor here as well as snorkel and fish and go to the next anchorage. It was certainly a different "sevusevu" than we were used to and we guessed that we had done it a bit incorrectly.

We will hope to stay on Kadavu for at least a week and explore a few anchorages in the area. Unfortunately, there is still no phone or internet here so we can't post pictures.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Three Days of 20 Plus Knots

We are still anchored off Komo Island in the Southern Lau Group of Fiji – and we are waiting for the wind and waves to settle. Since late Sunday (it's now Wednesday),the wind has been a steady 20 knots. The bay where we are anchored is open enough that the waves build, especially at high tide when they crash over the protecting reef. So we are rocking and rolling at anchor waiting for some settling of the easterlies. If they come a bit more from the southeast we would have a little less fetch and more protection from the island. The island itself isn't very high, but it does give us a bit of relief. The good news is that our anchor is well dug into good sand and we are only in about 30 feet of water. The bad news is that we are boat bound. Last night was particularly rolly and windy with gusts in the high 20s. The weather "gribs" (our weather reports), make us think that this won't be ending today either. Perhaps tomorrow it will start to lighten and our plan is to get out as soon as we can safely make way out of the reef and into conditions that are tolerable for a passage. Right now the winds are big and the seas are REALLY big – so we'll settle for a rolly and noisy boat and bit of discomfit for at least another day.

The dinghy patch seems to have held and we re-inflated the "car" and went to shore on Monday. We had told the schoolmaster that we would bring some books in and he wanted us there for the 8 am assembly of students. But it had rained a bit on Sunday night and we knew the path over the hill into the village would be a slippery and muddy mess so we waited until after lunch. The sun came out and we had hoped it would dry the trail. There hadn't been much rain for awhile, so we also hoped the rain would have been soaked up quickly by the thirsty land. It was a good plan. The walk was a tad slick, but not bad and we made it to the school after lunch.

The school has 32 students from ages 4 to 14. It is a tidy two building complex with several classrooms. There are also living quarters for the teachers and a small playground. The village also has a cricket pitch (field). The students are in uniforms and are well-mannered and seem enthusiastic. If anyone would like to send a postcard to the school or would like to be a "pen mate" with a student, here is the address:

Komo Village School
P.A. Komo
Lau, Fiji

They study in English, but it is their second language. We delivered books from New Zealand and the schoolmaster was very appreciative. He said their library is quite limited and reading material for the students is welcomed.

After our time at the school, we went to hunt out our hosts from the previous day's luncheon. We wanted to thank them and give them a few items as a thank you gift for their generosity. So we went looking for Vara, the minister's mother. After being sent on a bit of a circuit, we located her, thanked her and then walked a bit more around the village. Everyone again, was exceptionally friendly, offering us drinking coconuts and asking if we had any reading materials. It seems that adults and students alike have a shortage of reading materials. One gentleman, the father of Jone from the birthday event, asked if we had any novels or magazines as he wants to improve his mind and his English. Because we are now reading so much on our Kindles, we carry far fewer books for trading or gifting. That's one of the downsides of the electronic readers that are taking over as the cruisers' library.
The villagers seem to want us to come in daily – multiple times, constantly asking if we'll be back later. We didn't made a visit at all yesterday being boat bound due to the conditions. Perhaps today we'll see if it calms enough to take another walk in. Michael would like to repair one of the swing sets they have in the playground. And perhaps we can score a few bananas!

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