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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