Sunday, July 31, 2016


In the spirit of the political season and with everyone doing "fact checking" on what is said or written, we thought we better come clean. So here are a few fact corrections to the previous log entry.

"Mirror MAN" is actually "Mirror WOMAN." Yup, it wasn't a guy flashing us blind with the mirror but a woman. We went on a dinghy exploration to a nearby beach and on our return, the person again climbed the hill and this time was waving at us with a white cloth. So Michael decided to spend the afternoon finding out what this was all about. He walked to the house near the hill (passing the derailed sugar train – more on that to follow) – and met the family in the house. Sure enough, he met the woman who was the signal carrier whether mirror or white cloth. She didn't want her picture taken however. Michael enjoyed a cup of tea with the family and promised to return with "his wife" the next day.

The next fact to correct is that the sugar cane train was pulling not 25 cars as stated – but 59 cars. On his journey of discovery, Michael came up to the train that lost a cane car into the mangrove swamp. He chatted with the engineers and learned a ton more about the cane industry, the train and the process. They have at least three engines. Two can haul up to 80 cars filled with cane. At one point of relatively steep incline though, they have to pull up 40 cars at a time. They have a new engine that is much more powerful and it can pull 200 cars at once...even up the incline.

The derailment was caused by someone not stacking the cane correctly. It is at a point where the tracks as also quite uneven. They had to wait for a tractor to come along and haul out the car in the water and replace it on the tracks. Meanwhile, one of the young girls from the house (where mirror woman lives) came down to serve the train engineers tea. How nice is that!

So that is the fact corrections. We added some pictures today to the photo page.!
We did return to the house the following afternoon (after a morning of lots of projects because we had some rain the night before so laundry was a necessity!) We were served a cup of hot fresh cows milk. They had asked Michael the day previous if he drank cow's milk. Now we understood why he was asked. The whole family was there for our visit but not many spoke english so it was a bit challenging. We don't speak Hindi and the chance of us learning it is slim – a very difficult language. We had brought some small gifts and chocolate cake – they had asked for some reading glasses and some Panadol (aspirin). It seems Panadol is becoming a big request. After visiting for awhile, Michael ended up taking some nice family pictures, see new photos added today. He printed them for delivery the next morning. It is amazing how valued photographs of the family are to almost everyone. (It reminded us of the young woman we met in Tonga who only wanted a picture of her father from us.) When he brought the photos to the house we were gifted with some fish curry. Bet it's hot!

We will probably move on tomorrow to the big town of Labasa. We need to pick up some fresh vegetables and fruit, a little more fuel and some other supplies. Plus we'll see this town which is very "Indo-Fijian" with Hindu temples and mosques and we're certain there will be curry restaurants. It will be fun to see it. First we have to get there and figure out where to safely leave the boat and get into town.
At 8/1/2016 2:40 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°17.14'S 179°28.09'E

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Mirror Man, Mangroves and Meteors

First: check out some new photos posted.

We moved on to a new bay along the north coast of Vanua Levu leaving "Bula Bay" on Thursday morning in good light so we could spot the shallow spots along the way. It was a pretty easy 8 mile trip and we motored to charge up and make some water.

As we approached this bay on the west side of a small island called "Tivi Island," we were met by the flash of light from the western hillside. At first we thought someone was doing some welding. Then perhaps we thought something was just reflecting the bright sunlight. That part was correct...what we finally saw was a man with a giant mirror on the hilltop. He was blinding us with the light. As we moved into the bay, he seemed to follow us running up the next hill with his giant mirror. We waved but couldn't get closer to the shore to make sure all way okay. Later when we met a man here, we asked about the man with the mirror and was told that he does that for any boat that comes this way and indicated that perhaps he was a bit wacky. It is sure interesting out here!

Once into the bay we got as far in as we felt comfortable with the depth. We dropped the hook in about 6 meters (20 feet) of water. We had the whole huge bay to ourselves. The area is less green as this is the dry side of the island. But the hills are quite dramatic with rocky ledges and huge black rocks strewn about. There is this one large very round rock that sits on top of a hill. The foreground is green with plantations of sugarcane growing. It is harvesting time and the longer we send here the less green cane we will see. Then along the shoreline are mangroves surrounding the entire bay. We should have bought that crab trap in the little store on the Wainikoro River and caught ourselves some "muddies."

After anchoring, we launched the dinghy and went ashore to get permission. But we had a hard time trying to figure out where to go. Finding the cut through the mangroves was challenging at best. We went one way and worked our way around, over mud flats and through the trees to end up along the sugarcane train track. But there didn't seem to be many houses around. So we went back out and around and went the other direction. Here we found another narrow cut through the trees that led to the train tracks. We tied the dinghy to the narrow bridge with the tracks crossing, climbed up and went ashore. We had to work our way around some of the train cars that are filled with cut sugarcane. We stopped at the first house that we saw and met Krishna. He told us to go along the road and look for a "Fijian fella" to get permission. The indigenous Fijians own most of the land. The Indians were brought in generations ago to work the fields when the British ran the country. Though most of the Indo-Fijian families have been here for generations, there is a clear distinction between Fijians (indigenous Fijians) and the Indo-Fijians (Indian Fijians). The language used here is Hindi Fijian. It is quite different culturally than the other side of the island.

We found a house along the main road where we met Jope (not sure of the spelling). He told us it was okay to be anchored there and we had permission to go wherever we wanted. It is always strange, because you aren't really sure if he is the one to give you permission! But it was good enough for us.

We made it back to the boat past many grazing cows and bulls.

The next day, we came back in (knowing the way this time) and decided to find the local shop and school. We met a man as we were climbing out of the dingy at the railroad bridge name Jiten. He was the secretary at the school and became our guide. His English was excellent so he was a great guide. He told us a god must have sent him to meet us. We walked back and he pointed out highlights and translated for us as Michael wanted to take some pictures of men loading some sugar cane. He pointed out his land which is actually freehold land – there are a limited amount of certain tracts of land that can be bought and owned by non indigenous Fijians. His grandfather gave some of his land for the school and cemetery.

The school, Wavuwavu Primary, was a very tidy place. We met the head school teacher and went into his office where we treated hospitably with a lovely chilled glass of juice and nice conversation. There are 83 students in the school and 6 teachers (plus head teacher). The parents seem quite involved with the school and the kids all seemed very well behaved and attentive (even though we added disruption!). We left a few school supplies though have decided that library books are going to be what we bring from now on!

After that we went to the shop and headed back to the boat. As we got back to the railroad bridge, we were lucky to meet a couple of men moving one of the empty cane carts off the tracks. Soon after that we heard the train coming and watched (within feet) as the train loaded with about 25 cars full of cane motored by us. Quite the event!

That evening, the sky was crystal clear and we shut off all our lights and watched the meteor show in the sky. With very little light pollution we saw about dozen meteors zip overhead. It was a perfect night to view. An end to a lovely day...

Today, we will probably head out to the point for exploring a bit of Tivi Island. We are sitting here until the convergence zone drops down and a trough passes through. This is a good place to wait out the weather – plus we need good visibility to move through the reefs. Hope we get some rain – the laundry pile is getting big!
At 7/25/2016 8:13 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.52'S 179°31.92'E

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bula Bay...NOT Blackjack Bay

Today we learned the local name of the bay where Astarte is comfortably anchored. It is locally known as "Bula Bay." As the folks we met said, "it is a welcoming bay...Bula!" We learned this piece of information during our river adventure. We decided to dinghy up the Wainikoro River. It is a pretty wide river but has lots of mud bars as you approach – so it was good we were doing it on an incoming tide. We made our way into the river and mosied on up. It is a mangrove sided river which fronts an interesting background landscape of hills with rocky ledges. The more distant background is quite craggy, mountainous edges.

A little way up he river we came to a small railroad bridge. This is where the sugar cane train crosses from the fields to the sugar refinery near Labasa. Near the edge of this bridge is a small inlet that we followed to the end. At the end is a muddy/rocky landing at the base of a store/fuel station/LPG exchange/kerosene building. This is the local store where you can buy almost everything (except bread and fresh stuff!) We were an unusual we had lots of friendly "bulas" and handshaking and introductions. One of the store employees proceeded to point out everything they had. His first line being, "we have white wine." That's probably the thing that every white cruiser comes in and buys! We didn't need white wine, but we did pick up some onions, cookies, noodles and a cold soda for the trip back. After our purchases, we met some local Fijians outside the store and had lots more introductions, a Fijian language lesson and lots and lots of questions. A local open fiberglass boat also came in to do some shopping and we chatted with them quite some time as well. Michael was taking pictures and everyone loves to see their photos on the back camera screen. The sugar train engine came by, so that was fun to see and we got some pictures of that for the train loving members of our family!

It was a fun social time around the store. The store also had a pool table and sold kava as well. In fact, the store employee asked Michael if he drank kava and then asked if he wanted some! It was before noon! We made our way out the river and saw several other local boats making their way up the river to the store as well. The boat we met at the store helped give us directions to get over the river mud bars.

The people here are amazingly friendly and helpful. It is always great fun to meet them and visit with them. We always learn a lot. This side of the island is not jaded with cruising sailboats because they don't see quite so many – and those that come this way are the boats willing to go off the beaten track. This is proving to be a good idea so we have to keep going and make it through the tricky parts of the reef. From this point forward – at least for awhile, we will stay inside the "Great Sea Reef" the barrier reef on this side of Vanua Levu. It will mean we'll need good visibility.
At 7/25/2016 8:13 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.52'S 179°31.92'E

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Blackjack Bay

Traveling where few other boats have been has been interesting. The northern side of Vanua Levu is certainly off the beaten track, though you would wonder why. It hosts the third largest barrier reef in the world. You would think divers would be all over it! There is not much infrastructure to support a tourism business on this side, as it is where most of the sugar cane is grown. There are large sugar plantations and a sugar refinery in the largest town on this side. So we are traveling thanks to the help of some other cruisers who have ventured this way and left some information, way points and small chartlets to help us along.

We left Also Island early on Monday morning to make our way through a different cut in the reef. It had a few doglegs, but Michael did some good work looking at Google Earth charts and the various bits and pieces of info we could gather. We made it through, put the sails up and had another great downwind sail for about 25 miles. Our destination was another good opening in the barrier reef. This pass was called Sau Sau and was pretty straightforward. There were four fishing boats near the entrance and it was very deep. Our Garmin charts were pretty accurate except for depths. We saw much deeper water than the charts indicated (a better problem than the opposite). We made our way to a tiny inlet against the main island. We faced a beautiful long white sandy beach with palm trees. On each side were these rock faces. The rocks are very interesting. Many are hollowed out creating this strange landscape of cave like rocks with large overhangs. A series of them on one side at low tide looked like "hobbit" houses."

The bay has been named "Blackjack Bay" by one boater in a Fiji guide. It was named by the author for the other boat in the bay with him. It is near Wainikoro River. The river gets a fair amount of small boats going into it. This morning a boat stopped by to say "bula" and told us they were heading up the river to a small store and the medical center that is there. They also wanted to take pictures of themselves with our boat. You can tell cruising boats are still pretty rare here. But cell phones are everywhere. And "selfies" are universal.

Yesterday, a different boat with a large family aboard went by and didn't stop but all yelled "bula" and waved. We are guessing we'll have a few stop by. We'll call this home for at least a few days and perhaps take a dinghy explore up the river. We may also try to figure out where the nearby village is to go and do our "sevu sevu" ceremony. Because they see so few boats here, we are thinking it will be much more interesting to meet some of the local villagers and see a different side of Fiji village life.

We also have this beautiful sandy beach to walk in search of the nautilus shell. Lots for us to do. We are anchored in about 35 feet of water with what seems like a good sandy bottom. The water is not very clear here inside the reef though – so probably not much snorkeling. The river outflow probably gets it pretty murky.

Blackjack Bay:
Lat: 16 14.53s
Long: 179 31.92e

No fish caught on this passage either – though we had one bite that tore up the lure pretty good – have to sharpen the hooks!
At 7/25/2016 8:13 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.52'S 179°31.92'E

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Albert Cove and Also Island

We are behind on log entries! Albert Cove on Rambi really is a picture postcard anchorage. We went ashore to meet the folks who call this place home. There are two families who live here – not connected by any roads to the main village. One family was gone (by boat) and the other family was a lovely young couple, John and Pauline and three young children (a boy and two girls). They live a true subsistence lifestyle. And as almost all the folks we have met that ave very little – they are the most generous of people. John immediately climbed a tall coconut tree and dropped down two green cocos that he then opened for us. We sat and visited in their open home. She wanted to know if we were dentists as she was in dire need of one as she had a terrible toothache. We provided at least some panadol (aspirin) for her. She also asked if we had a spare dive mask. We found one and brought it the next day along with a few other items for them. We traded for some additional drinking coconuts.

The next day we watched as John went out around 9 am with mask and fins and dragging a half of a 50 gallon plastic barrel. He swam out to the reef (easily a half mile) and returned at 4 pm. We met him in the bay and gave him a dinghy ride to shore expecting that he would be exhausted. He had a small amount of very small fish and one giant clam. Tough work to feed the family!

We did a few great beach walks in search of nautilus shells. We found an almost perfect one on one beach and that inspired us to look on more beaches. It was fun exploring. Saw some great eels in the tidepools and got stuck ashore and had to wait for the tide to come in to get the dinghy out.

It was a great place and well worth the visit. Perhaps we'll come back with our guests! After several days here, and joined by three more boats – we decided it was time to move on. Getting an early start we made it through the reef and our destination was around Udu Peninsula and to a place called Also Island. It was a 45 mile trip and a terrific sail almost the entire way. The bad news - no fish though we tried!

We made our way around the peninsula that juts off the northeast corner of Vanua Levu and through a narrow cut in the fringing barrier reef. Then we worked our way back to the island. There is an interesting story about this island. It was "given" to a couple who arrived here by sailboat in 2000 or so. Jim and Kyoko came aboard the sailboat "Also II," a Passport 42. They worked with the local villagers helping to fix outboards, repair buildings, solar panels etc. After a time, the villagers did not want them to leave, so they had a meeting and gave them this island to live on and to start some businesses on that would help the local communities. They started a boat repair/boat building shop and trained local men to make open fiberglass fishing boats. They repaired boats and outboards. They also started a virgin coconut oil making operation...including the patenting of a new copra dryer. They opened a small backpackers guest house and a small store. They sell fuel as well as buy fish from the local fishermen for resale in the nearest big town. Jim and Kyoko also have a huge farm where they grow 1000 pineapples, watermelon, all types of vegetables and fruit. It is really quite an amazing enterprise. They employ the local Fijians and teach them skills.

We also had been listening to Jim for awhile on the SSB radio where he hosts a morning net called "Rag of the Air." He provides weather info, check ins for boats and lots of chat. A bit too political at times for us. But nonetheless it was good to put a face with the voice.
They were very gracious and welcoming. We ate daily with their employees for lunch which was delicious plus enjoyed a night of pizza with Jim and Kyoko. Jim's Sunday pancake breakfast with Kyoko's fresh fruit salad was another treat. Michael tried to help Jim with his SSB radio which went on the blink while we were there – but there was no joy on that front. We took a nice walk along the island's paths and just had a fun time with talks, cards, and shared meals.

We managed to break ourselves our way (too easy to stay and keep getting fed tasty meals and buy freshly baked bread). This morning, we left Also Island. More on the next destination tomorrow.

The adventure around Vanua Levu continues.

Also Island
Lat:16 26.63s
Long: 179 56.24e
At 7/21/2016 6:58 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°13.24'S 179°50.14'E

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Friday, July 15, 2016


That's how New Englanders say "lobsters" or as New Zealanders would call "crays."
Michael scored a lobster. Not with his hunting skills – but with his newly found computer skills! He helped another boat in the anchorage here in Albert Cove with his pactor modem and winlink set-up. He got it back working (even though the computer language was in French!) As a thank you, the boater gave Michael a freshly caught lobster. So the dinner menu aboard Astarte had a quick last minute change to green salad and a lobster. It was a very tasty treat as we hadn't had one for quite awhile. The boater did not give up where he caught the critters.

We had a fun adventure yesterday (pre-lobster). We needed to check into Rambi at the main city of Nuku. But because we are in a remote area, there are no roads nor buses from here. So we dinghied 2.6 miles to the next big bay, Eritabeta (or Elizabeth) Bay. Continuing our theme of this year's cruising – we had to "boomerang" on the dinghy. We got just passed one point and the dinghy motor died. Michael saw a small leak in the fuel line, so he got it restarted and we came back to the boat. After a repair (we had a spare fuel hose) we were off again. We made it to what we thought was Eritabeta – though we weren't 100% sure. This bay had some of the most amazing clear water and beautiful corals we have yet seen. But because of all the coral in this bay it took some effort to find a place to put the dinghy. We rolled it up on some mud flats – tide was quite low. We put the anchor out and hoped we wouldn't have to swim out too far to get to it when we returned.

We met a nice lady on the beach who was digging for clams. Her name sounded just like the name of the bay – Eritabeta...though she said it was different but our ears couldn't hear the difference. She made us laugh as she told us she almost hid behind a rock because she was afraid we were going to shoot her(We were pretty sure she was joking)! Now we don't know if this is because she knew we were from the United States...or just that we were white people. We told her we were friendly and she told us she was friendly too! It was a very funny conversation.

She pointed out the way to Nuku and told us there was a truck that goes there at 10 and again at noon It was just about 10, but she also said that the walk was about a half hour. We followed the road to Nuku on our walk meeting some friendly folks along the way. Again, this is a country where people speak Banaban – or Gilbertese and not Fijian. So no "bulas" but rather "mauori" as their hello. It is a challenging language for our tongues to wrap around their pronunciation.

We got to the main part of town about 50 minutes later and it was a nice walk – lots of kids, pigs and drying kava along the way. We stopped at the Council of Leaders building to pay our respects but nobody was there. We went on to the small police station to check in. There was a police officer there and he took our check-in and was very friendly. He did seem a bit surprised we came to do the check in.

After we did the formalities, we roamed around the town. We stopped in lots of the little shops that were stocked very minimally. When we asked about bread or a baker – we were told by one woman, "there is no bread in Rambi." It seems that most people must bake their own and none is for sale. No fresh fruit or veg either – just the few tins of corned beef, tuna or mackeral and lots of 2-minute noodles!

We stopped by the primary school and talked to the principal for a bit. The school has more than 300 children and English is the primary language. She was a lovely woman who seemed quite committed to the school.

We never saw the 10 am truck and so we decided that the schedule was "Fiji Time" versus GMT. We decided that we weren't loaded down with bread, veggies or fruit, so we could make the walk back as well.

We made it back to the dinghy which looked a way out there, now that tide was in. One man waiting for the truck yelled for a kid to go and retrieve it for us – but we thanked it but told him we could get it with no problem. It was just about thigh high water. We made it back to Albert Cove a bit damp. Another boat was in the anchorage – so now here were three!
At 7/14/2016 6:57 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°26.63'S 179°56.24'W

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

In the West

If you didn't notice the last entry from Katherine Bay – the longitude was W not E. We have crossed the date line meridian 180. However, we did not have to change the date on our calendar. There seems to be a dog leg for the actual "date" line so that Fiji as a country stays on the same day. Though we have crossed back and forth today (on our trip to Albert Cove), all that happens is that it makes our GPS change colors!

Also, we had a good internet signal in Katherine Bay, so Michael posted some pictures on the web site. A whole variety – so enjoy.

We did leave Katherine Bay this morning (Thursday) and headed 15 miles along the Rabi coast to a bay on the northwest corner. It is known as Albert Cove or Motawa. We did manage to sail most of the way which was pleasant – though not speedy (certainly not fish catching speed). Albert Cove is the picture postcard anchorage. The white sandy beach is studded with swaying palm trees. The water is all shades of beautiful blues and aquas. Reefs surround the boat so we can just jump overboard for a quick snorkel to one or another of the patch reefs. We anchored in about 40 feet of water in what seems to be a sandy bottom. Though there are reefs around, we think we found a good spot, though a tad deep. There is a breeze through the anchorage over the top of the hills. Windier than we would have thought, but there is no fetch or roll. There are two small huts along the beach, and we have read that there are two families that live in this area. There is no road to the area.

We do need to get to Nuku to check into the island. We thought it was a closer walk from here – but that's not the case. It would actually be hard to get there from here by land. So we will probably dinghy around to the next bay and walk from there to the town of Nuku. If the weather holds, this is a place we could sit for awhile. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Latitude: 19 26.63s
Longitude: 179 56.244w
Fish Count: Still Zero (though we keep trying!)
At 7/14/2016 5:37 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°26.63'S 179°56.24'W

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sailing Through the Reefs

We left our lovely and protected anchorage in Nasasobo Bay to make some progress on our adventure around Vanua Levu. We decided to make a bigger jump and head to places we had not been to in the past. The first step was getting through the Dakuniba Reef break. The winds were about 15 knots and there was an incoming tide – so there wouldn't be standing waves – but we would be fighting both those elements. The going was very slow with big waves crashing on each side – but we worked out way through the cut and started east. Our track took us to Somosomo Strait towards the island of Taveuni and then north. We went through a few cuts in the reefs and then around Kioa Island. This is an island owned by residents from the island of Tuvalu (an all atoll nation that we loved). We then got to our destination of Rabi Island (pronounced Rambi).

Rabi Island is another island that is in Fijian waters but actually settled by inhabitants from another island. The people here are all Banabans. They came from Ocean Island in Micronesia, (also known as Banaba in the former Gilbert and Ellis Islands (now Kiribati)). Their island was devastated by phosphate mining. The British (the miners) bought Rabi for resettlement of the islanders. It is a very sad story. The first group that came from their home island which is located near the equator, suffered greatly here because the weather and waters were so much colder. Many froze or died from illnesses associated with the temperature, food and housing differences. They are citizens of Fiji (since 1945), but speak their native tongue which is Gilbertese. They preserve their age-old Banaban traditions including music and dancing which is said to be very different than the Fijian dance. We hope in our time here we can see some.

We anchored in the southern most bay, Katherine Bay. We had hoped to stay here a few days by checking in with a council member that leaves in one of the homes here and then taking the "adventure" ride into Nuku where we have to formally check in with the local police and council. But the anchorage based on the current winds and swell is not that comfortable. It is not horrible and one night was quite doable. But instead we will head around the island to a place called Albert Cove on the northwestern side and settle there for our visit here. It is 15 miles around but we need good light to get through the various reefs. We will then be able to walk a few miles into Nuku for our permission.

We can see some Cyclone Winston damage on the island – mostly leafless trees, some coconut palms that lost their tops and some hillsides that are bare. But there are still healthy mangroves lining this bay and much green landscape. The gardens seem to be replanted and growing. There are still many homes here – don't know if any others were lost.

It is a pretty bay and a pretty island. It will be fun to explore this different culture.
We did fish on the way – so far fish count ZERO!

Latitude 16 31.608s
Longitude 179 59.388w ***note west not east
At 7/13/2016 3:58 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°31.61'S 179°59.39'W

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Sevusevu, Snorkels and Hikes

We remain the only boat here in Nasasobo Bay. We went around to Dakuniba Village on Sunday afternoon – Michael in his sulu (skirt) and Barbara also skirted with yaqona in hand. We crossed the two logs over the stream into the village and asked for the "turanga nee koro" the head man to take us to the chief for sevusevu. This is a very important ritual when you enter any new village. It is asking for permission to be here and it is a sign of respect. The "headman" takes you to meet the chief and acts as your intermediary in the ceremony You give the headman your gift – a half kilo of yaqona. The yaqona is the dried roots that are used to make their drink "kava." A full ritual ceremony would include the making and drinking of the kava – but more often than not, that part is left out for foreign visitors. So the yaqona is presented some words are spoken in Fijian, a few cobo (claps) are made and then permission is granted. You are asked to tell a little about yourselves and there is a some small chit chat. The chief will tell you that you are welcome to walk around, snorkel and anchor. We asked if someone could take us up to the petroglyphs the following day. Chino, the headman we met would take us. We returned to our boat and a snorkel.

We went snorkeling just off the boat. It was a bit of a swim to the small reef inside the bay near the mangroves. The water wasn't very clear, but it was shallow enough to see. Michael spotted a blue spotted creature under a rock – actually two different ones in two different holes. It was the "Blue-spotted Ribbontail Ray" (Taeniura lymma). It was a new thing to see and cool. Saw some great soft corals and sponges including the very pretty xenia white soft corals that opened and closed as they fed and were like bouquets of small white flowers. Also some some larger white leather corals. Lots of small tropicals – various butterfly fish, spadefish, blennies, triggers (including the beautiful Picasso) and many more smaller varieties. It was a good swim and some nice things to see.

A local man came up to Astarte on a kayak and asked if we wanted any pumpkin. He was heading to his garden to get some. He brought us back a nice one (tried to give us three large pumpkins!). We took one and in trade he wanted "curry." That was a first! So we gave him some curry powder (along with a few other things as the pumpkin the market sold for more than the curry was worth!) He seemed happy.

The next morning we went back to the village for our hike. We anchored the dinghy and went ashore. Chino met us and we started on our hike up to the waterfalls and rocks. Pio, another young man also joined us. It is a trail that isn't taken very much and Chino had to use his bush knife in a lot of spots. You had to watch for vines, stumps and rocks underfoot. It was pretty and the birdsong was nice. We asked him to point out the barking pigeon – which we heard. Never saw one though the description was "it's smaller than a rooster." The trail had a few places where you had to cross downed trees over small streams or gulleys. We got to the waterfall first which had some damage from the cyclone. Many large trees were down on the rocks. The boulders were huge and randomly set. Pools of water nestled in various holes and a larger stream ran down the rocks. We made our way further up to the rocks that had the carvings.

The petroglyphs are subtle and unless you looked for them, they may be hard to see. The story is that the rocks that they were on, were at one point standing up (ala Stonehedge) but an earthquake knocked them down The drawings or writing is unknown – but it is thought to be of mystical significance or for use in ceremonial rituals. It was interesting to see...and something not many people know about.

The weather changed during the afternoon – a trough was coming over Fiji. But we didn't get much rain – just more clouds and rain.

Today – a snorkel on the outer reef.
At 7/9/2016 6:47 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°45.09'S 179°51.06'E

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bats, Birds and Barking Pigeons

We left the anchorage at the Cousteau Resort (under reconstruction after Cyclone Winston – so that provided entertainment as they were putting in a new seawall and dock) – for a second time. This time the winds and seas were much more favorable, with very light winds and barely a swell. Unfortunately, that meant a motor sail. We were headed to one of three places...and ended up in Dakuniba. We had been here before in 2013. We came in through the barrier reef through a narrow cut but it was well marked by two sticks. We made our way back into the bay avoiding a few other reef patches and anchored in about 45 feet of water near "Bat Creek."

We have the entire bay to ourselves. There are a few homes on the opposite side of the bay and a hillside that looks quite devastated by Cyclone Winston. But otherwise, it is quite lush with healthy mangroves, lots of trees and plenty of birdsong.

The best part of this bay is why the creek is called "Bat Creek." There are hundreds of flying foxes (very large fruit eating bats) in the trees that line Bat Creek. You can barely see them hanging in the trees during daylight hours. The show really begins as the sun sets and the bats start to wake up and get ready for their night of fruit hunting. They are quite noisy with loud chirps. Then they start to leave the trees. A few at first and then more and more and more. Then it starts to get spooky to see all these large bats in the air flying over the boat against the darkening sky and moonlight. In the morning as they return to their roost – they are again quite loud...and then they go to sleep and all is quiet (at least from them.)

The other treat here is the bird song. It is very varied and beautiful. That is with one exception (well two if you count the roosters). Fiji has a bird called the "barking pigeon" and it sounds just like a dog barking. Quite loud with two "woofs." We forgot about that until we got here and remembered a local telling us about the bird last time we were here. Haven't seen one – but you sure can hear them.

It was a very peaceful night with barely a ripple on the water and no construction sounds, generators or traffic. It is nice to again be in an anchorage. We are glad we aren't in the nearby Vianni Bay that sounds quite packed with boats and lots of radio chatter. We had to turn the radio off so we could enjoy our natural sounds.

Today is Sunday – so things are quiet for the locals – most attend Sunday church services and have a shared meal. We watched as four people from the houses on the bay here loaded in a kayak and paddled across the bay. They most likely have a path to the nearby village for church and social time. It was fun to see the four in the kayak (no larger than a two person kayak) make their way comfortably across the bay This afternoon, after church and Sunday dinner, we will head to the nearby village of Nasasobo to do our first "sevusevu" of the season. This is the giving of a bundle of kava to the village chief and get permission to be here at anchor, to snorkel and to explore the area. Once those formalities are completed we will either head for a snorkel or head up Bat Creek.

It is really lovely here.

Latitude: 16 45.09s
Longitude 179 51.08e
At 7/9/2016 6:47 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°45.09'S 179°51.06'E

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

At Anchor Again

We finally escaped from the $8 curries and $5 fish and chips (Fiji $, so half it for the US equivalent). Savusavu is a great town and we enjoyed our 12 days there on a mooring. It was a great place to get cleared into the country, relaxed after passage and restocked with needed items. Barbara got two skirts made while in town for wearing to villages. We enjoyed time with other cruisers and reconnected with some folks we knew from the Marshall Islands. So it was a pleasant time but you could get trapped there.

We paid our bill to Copra Shed and untied from the mooring ball. We had planned to leave at daybreak today and make it about 40 miles along the southern coast to either Fawn Harbour or Dakanuba. The rain came down in buckets and the wind howled most of he night – and when we awoke it was still very windy, drizzly and grey. To get in many of the places in Fiji you need good visibility to get through the reefs. Today did not promise good visibility. It would have been easy to stay put on the mooring – but we decided to make a break as planned. Instead if the 40 mile trip though, we would only go a few miles outside the bay to anchor near the Cousteau Resort. We had never been in this anchorage though many boats stop here.

It is right near a point with lots of reefs around. The resort looks to have taken some serious damage in Cyclone Winston and a lot of work is being done on the seawall, dock, bures and buildings. Not sure if it is even opened. There are six boats out here at anchor and it took us a few tries to get in the right spot. As we were about to anchor we saw quite a sight. It seems some sort of ink spitting creature was getting attacked in the water and we kept seeing these long shots of ink come squirting out of the water. It was quite a sight – though we never saw either the attacker or the attacked. Just big gulps of ink squirts. We had the water making running so we hope the tide was running the ink away from the intake.

Michael did get into the water to check the anchor (where's anchor boy when you need him). The visibility wasn't great, but the new anchor was well imbedded into the sandy bottom. We will hope for good weather in the morning to make the leap down the coast a bit and start our adventure around this island.

For now, its nice to be in a lovely breeze at anchor. Happy Fourth of July! Not expecting any fireworks here.

Latitude:16 48.63s
Longitude:179 17.27e
At 7/4/2016 2:40 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°48.63'S 179°17.27'E

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