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.
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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