Thursday, August 10, 2017

Widow Maker

An iridescent green skirt over a red skirted lead headed lure seems to be the magic fish catcher on Astarte. It is our widow maker. The last eight fish we've hooked have been on this lure. We've even managed to land some! We call it the widow maker because two of the recent fish we've managed aboard have been mahi – and because they mate for life and we've landed the male bull mahi...there are a few mahi widows. That makes us sad.

On our trip yesterday around Udu Point on the northeast corner of Vanua Levu, we were told by some locals that we were guaranteed to catch a fish around the point. Boy, were they right!! We first hooked a medium sized mahi. Got it near the boat before it shook itself off. Then an hour or so later, we hooked what we thought was a tuna because it never came to the surface. Because we have no internet to confirm what it is, we think it is a rainbow runner. We got it to the boat, landed it and Michael cleaned it and we got several good sized fillets. It was redder meat. We had it for dinner last night and it was very tasty.

About an hour later, after we made the turn around the point, we hooked a HUGE mahi. It was a fighter and because we were sailing at that point it was harder to slow the boat down. We got the headsail in to slow it to 3.5 knots and Michael fought the fish for quite awhile as it kept running when it caught sight of the boat. We finally got it near, gaffed it and even managed to get it aboard. It barely fit through the space between the back stay and the railing. He was a very strong fish and it took both of us to hold it down to get a tail loop on it. It is probably the largest (not perhaps the longest) mahi or fish we have ever landed aboard Astarte. We hooked and released a larger marlin.

We think we are catching fish now because we were gifted a vacuum sealer from our friends Sandy and Rankin of SV Gypsea Heart. Since we have a good way to save the fish for future meals – we are now catching more!

Our travels since leaving Bula Bay have taken us to a few stops. We were first did a 25 mile trip to Taligica Island. It was just an overnight stop though we did have late afternoon visitors to the boat for a tour. As one said, "once in a lifetime experience."

We left the next day to head another 20 or so miles to Nubu. Nubu (pronounced Noom-Boo) means "deep" in Fijian. It was an interesting narrow cut into the reef and an "S" curve to get to the anchorage. We were looking for a home for a few days to wait out some predicted heavy winds. We got relatively close to the shore but still had to anchor in 50 feet of water. This was a very pretty anchorage and near a small river. Our friends on "Land Fall" had told us about this spot and said there was a small cascade/waterfall at the river end. We dinghied to find it and found an very interesting spot. It wasn't the easiest spot to get up but we found a side with lots of footholds to make our way to the river. There were many, many deep pools – very deep – in the river with small trickles over the edges. They went on and on. The river was sided by lots of trees, butterflies, birdsong and it was very pretty.

We came back the next day with a loaded dinghy. It was filled with dirty laundry, water filters from the water-maker to be cleaned and shower gear. Tide was lower and we had to walk the dinghy over the shallow mouth of the river – but once over that we could motor back to the stream. We got everything ashore and started our projects in a beautiful, shady spot. Most of the pools were too deep to even stand up in. They had steep sides. By the sides of the stream you could tell that during rainy season the river flows pretty mightily.

We repeated the routine the next day with more laundry (we hadn't done any for five weeks!) and Michael took a pretty good hike up the stream. It was a very nice spot.

We did put out a second anchor because of the predicted wind and because we were in such deep water with reefs around us. It gave us more peace of mind. We set the danforth anchor with the dinghy. During our stay here, we had three local boats stop by the boat to visit. They had nets that they were using to go out fishing. We invited two of the boats aboard and enjoyed meeting the people and learned about the area (including that it was called Nubu which means "deep.")

After five days in Nubu we made our way around Udu Point to leave the north side of Vanua Levu and start our way south again. We had a 37 mile trip to Rabi Island (pronounced Rahm-bee) and Albert Cove. This is one of our favorite spots – and one we took Kathryn and Mark to last year during their visit. Normally there is a family that lives on shore – but right now there is no other boat here nor anyone ashore. We have the place to ourselves. And Kathryn and Mark will be happy to know, the "guardian spade fish" are still here.
At 8/10/2017 7:02 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°26.68'S 179°56.24'W

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Thursday, August 3, 2017


FIRST – New photos on page.

We continue to enjoy our time on the north coast of Vanua Levu. After we left Kia island and Michael recovered from his hike with Save to the top of the split rock, we made our way to Malau and Labasa for a reprovisioning run. On our way here, we caught a small fish of unknown variety, but it was tasty for dinner.

We anchored off the lumber mill and took the dinghy to shore where the guards at the mill would watch the dinghy which you tie up right behind their guard shack. Tuni, Daniel and Simi, the guards were all on hand and we had a nice visit while we waited for the bus.

We caught the 0830 bus to town and did a shopping run for meat, produce, diesel, bread and ice cream. We caught the 1300 back loaded down with watermelon,a jerry jug and many bags. We picked up sweet treats for the guards as well. The next morning, Michael took the propane tank in to the fill station on shore (we paid for the fill in town the previous day). The timing was good because just as he was returning, the cooking gas ship came in to moor, to put in 50 tons of cooking gas to the station and they don't do fills when the ship is in!

From this quick stop we made our way to Tivi Island about 10 miles away and slowly sailed most of the way. Like last year, we were met with a "mirror" greeting. Someone on shore flashes a very large mirror at you as you enter the bay. Once anchored in this quite protected anchorage, fixing the dinghy is the high priority. It is taking on lots and lots of water because the port side tube is separating from the floor and leaves quite a gap to let in the water. Michael managed to do a temporary repair to hopefully cover us until we return to NZ for a more major warranty repair.

We also sat out some bad weather in Tivi – a morning of 35 knot winds – and a bit of rain (the first we've seen since we left Savusavu).

Once the weather was past, we made our way another short jump to Bula Bay (that's what the locals call it – most boaters call it Blackjack Bay from an old guide). It is near the Wainikoro River and a pretty anchorage. We made our way up the river to get more diesel – it was easier to do it here than by bus – so we would get two more jugs. It was a fun trip up the river, several fiberglass open boats passed us. They are so kind here. One boat filled with a giant barrel of fuel and six men (all smoking) on board slowed down as the passed us. That's better than they do in the Intercoastal Waterway!

We stopped and chatted with some folks on shore near their garden. They told us there was also a boat in Tivi Island ...we told them that was us the other day! One evening a boat with three fishermen, stopped by the boat in Bula Bay. We usually don't like it when boats come after dark. They were heading out to the reef to fish for the night and wanted to see the yacht. We invited to come back the next day in daylight. They did return around 4 pm the next afternoon and gifted us a beautiful fish. They called it a salmon cod – it was a pretty red fish with blue speckles on the skin. It was nicely chilled and a good size. That's one way to catch a fish – invite fishermen aboard to take a look at the boat. It was a very tasty treat as well – very firm white fish. Lighty sauteed it was a very tasty meal.

The next morning, two of the three returned to the boat this time with a large casava in hand along with the "how to" on cooking it. Aleki and John had become "friends" and liked knowing the people on the yacht. We had half the casava that night for dinner. We did a snorkel near what we called "Kiss" island – the shape was like a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss. It wasn't great coral – quite algae covered and pretty beat up – but there were some pretty fish to be seen.

We left Bula Bay and went out Sau Sau Passage through the reef. It is a pretty wide opening in the Great Sea Reef. Once outside the reef we would head east along the outside of the reef for about 20 miles. The wind was right on the nose – so we motored. The goal was to catch a fish – this time on a line and not getting one tossed into the boat from a friendly fisherman. Optimism was the keyword of the day for fishing. We had a spoon off the handline, and the fish catching "green and red" squid on the pole. We were barely making 5 knots against the wind and swell. We had the main up as well to try to steady the ride. Just as we were getting towards the end of the trip with the next reef entrance about 2.5 miles away, the rod's reel started to spin off at a high speed. "Fish On!"

Michael fought the battle with a very nice bull mahi. We actually got it to the boat and after several attempts to gaff it – the line broke! But Michael had his hand on the leader so he wrapped his hand around it (not a good idea) – but we got the mighty fish aboard and tail looped. It was a strong fish still even after a gaff and a long fight. It was a beauty.

After filleting it – it was a six meal (for two people) fish. We enjoyed the first helping that evening in our new anchorage near Tiligica Island. Within an hour of anchoring, we've already had three guys on board to see the boat and take pictures. We are an unusual sight on this side of the island.

Fishing has been better aboard Astarte – two on the line, one as a gift – three different varieties and we'll enjoy the mahi for several meals.
At 8/3/2017 8:23 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°11.30'S 179°46.26'E

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