Saturday, August 6, 2016

The First Boat in Years

We made our way from the industrial area of Malau heading north about 20 miles to an island called Kia. This was a pretty straightforward passage as Michael did a good job plotting the course through the reefs and we saw pretty deep water most of the way. Once we got close to the island, the greeting committee came out – a large pod of dolphins came to meet the boat and played in our bow wake for a long time. They were very active and great fun to watch as they maneuvered under the bow and over and under each other. They are magnificent mammals to watch when they swim and play.

As we approached the island, we started to wonder if it would eve get shallow enough to anchor! We couldn't find any info on the anchoring at this island and the few things we read about Kia talked about the approach to the island and how friendly the people were and simply where the three villages were. So it was eyeball navigation. We decided on the southwestern most anchorage near the village of Ligau. After a few tries, we found a spot amongst the coral bommies in a nice sandy patch. We tied some floats onto the anchor line to keep the chain above one bommie...more on that later!

Kia is about a square mile large and quite rugged. A rocky and relatively dry island, it is nestled in a large bow in the Great Sea Reef so is pretty protected from big seas on three sides. They get very few visitors. The islanders are known as some the best fishermen in the area and they go out daily along the reef to ply their trade. In Ligau, there is a "district" school that serves the entire island's population.

As we were anchoring, a large group of children came running out to the beach to yell "bula!" which was our first indication we were an unusual sight. After we felt like the boat was settled, which meant Michael diving in to check the anchor position (can't wait for anchor boys' arrival!), we got ready to go ashore for sevusevu. Things under water looked okay though a few boulders might catch the chain. We rowed ashore to the beautiful white sand beach. Because it was low tide, getting the dinghy over the coral and rocks was bit of a challenge. We were met ashore by a man named Save (Sahv-aye). His first line, "Bula, tides coming in." We dragged the dinghy up the beach (the wheels coming in handy!) and followed Save to do our sevusevu. He set out a mat outside for us to sit on and we met Varesi, the village elder. We presented our bundle of yaqona to Save who did the presentation to the "chief." Lots of soft spoken words were uttered (that we can't understand) and then the "cobo" - deep claps to indicate the end of the ceremony.

Once that was done, we were given permission to anchor near the village, walk around, snorkel and enjoy the hospitality. We made arrangements to come in the next day to see the school. Michael did another underwater reconnaissance and we settled in for the night. It wasn't a restful night as the floats we put on the chain decided to get themselves all tangled with the anchor chain and snubber line. The plastic floats were constantly hitting the boat and wouldn't float away. This required lots of effort (in the dark) to untangle the mess. It was 11 pm...and after an hour of work we got them untangled. An hour later – they tangled again. So we tried again to untangle – this time it was easier. An hour later – they tangled again and this time Michael cut them free from the anchor chain. We'd deal with re-anchoring in the daylight if we needed to.

The next morning after little sleep, Michael checked the anchor again and we were clear of the bommie and decided we would stay put. We went ashore to visit the school and met the head teacher. The school has 50 students, aged five to 15, and four teachers. The teachers live in homes near the school. The school "bus" is an open fiberglass launch that transports the kids from the other villages in the morning and again in the afternoon. We saw them leaving school as they'd come close to the boat and yell "bula." Weather permitting, we made arrangements to take some class photos on Monday morning.

After our school visit, we were met again by Emily, Save's sister, and she took us to Saves home where he gave us tea and rolls. She had made lovely flower leis which she tied around our necks. They were beautiful and very fragrant. We visited for some time and asked lots of questions about the island, village and fishing. They have set aside one part of the reef as a "tabu" area – marine sanctuary. They are very concerned about the future of their fishery and livelihood. Of course, it is all voluntary with no enforcement capabilities.

The island has a high peak with a giant, steep indent in the middle. There is a cannon up here as well as a cairn and stick. These are to commemorate the end of the Fijian tribal wars and the end of cannibalism. Michael wants to find a guide to get him up here – too steep for Barbara's knees.

We plan to stay here through the permitting. Unfortunately it sounds like some big troughs, fronts and big low might be headed here this weekend and through early next week. We'll have to keep an eye on the weather to see if we need to get away from here before the big stuff hits. We are a bit in the open from any northwesterly wind which is what is predicted.

Check out the location where we are on the YIT site ( They made it easier for people to register to look at boats. The google earth charts that show where we are can be quite cool.

No internet here – so we'll have to wait to put photos up (though before we left Malau Michael did put up a bunch of new pics). No skype here either. We are definitely more remote. But it is kind of fun to be the first boat here in years.

Kia Island anchorage:
Lat: 16 13.99s
Long: 179 05.22e
At 8/4/2016 8:30 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°13.98'S 179°05.21'E

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