Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 9 – Kia Island

October 8 – 10

16 13.966 S 179 05.974 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

This was our Murphy’s Law anchorage. We attempted to go to Kia mid day with a plan to anchor on the reef mid-way. The chart showed some areas where it may be possible to anchor. When we did arrive there were just to many coral heads for anchor chain to wrap around even if we did float the chain. So we had to make a quick decision to continue to Kia and arrive in the dark or go back to Malau and head to Kia Island early in the morning. We opted for the safer choice and headed back to Malau. When we finally made it to Kia we decided to anchor on the east side of the island where there was no village.  As it was late Saturday evening we didn’t want to be in front of the village on a Sunday.  At least on the other side we could play in the water without being disrespectful of their day of worship.  After 7 tries to set the anchor it finally grabbed something!!

If you look very closely you may see Denny on the top of the knob!!

If you look very closely you may see Denny on the top of the knob!!

On Sunday Denny climbed the nearest knob to get a good anchorage picture. He came back with a few, very itchy spider bites (no poisonous spiders in Fiji). The wind was starting to pick up but I decided to do a kayak trip to a nearby small rock island where Blue Footed Boobies seemed to be hanging out. I hoped to find an interesting nesting ground. Half way between the island and the boat I managed to roll the Kayak. The swim back to the kayak was a long one and of course it would be the only time I chose not to take the VHF radio. I made it back safely without any shark bites and got right back in the kayak to try again (Denny was oblivious of my peril still nursing spider bites). I managed to circle the island which did house a lot of birds but by the time I got close the only evidence of any life was the stench of years of well-aged seabird poop.

Denny's picture from the hill of our anchorage

Denny’s picture from the hill of our anchorage

The wind continued to grow and by Monday morning instead of heading to the village to do Sevu Sevu we decided we had to leave our not so protected, not so great anchor holding spot and head to our next destination.

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 8 – Malau

October 4 – 7 

16 21.734 S 179 21.586 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Dennis:

Our exit from the reef to Malau went kind of as planned with Barb as lookout on the bow.  Only Barb was doing a lot of yelling “Port! Port!,  Starboard! Starboard!”, as we wove are way through the coral heads that loomed just below the surface.  It was quite exhilarating to finish the reef passage unscathed. We anchored just off the village of Malau in a comfortable twenty five feet of water with a mud bottom .(water so murky we couldn’t see anymore than 2 feet below the surface).  We were between the buoys for the propane terminal and what looked like an abandoned jetty for the saw mill.  This was not going to be a quiet place at all.  As we found out it is also were the local nearby villages come to catch the Labasa bus so we had boats going by all the time.  Everything about this anchorage was in contrast to our last stop.

We were able to watch a propane tanker come in and offload  some propane, not quite the same technique that would be used in the USA but it works.  Also watched a ship come in at high tide and beach himself in the soft mud next to the jetty.  He stayed there for a couple of days while they loaded and off loaded materials.  

The first day I went to shore and took in our propane tank to get filled.  The first guy said no they didn’t have the correct fittings to fill the tank. But as I did not seem as though I was going to go away another guy said he would check. He went into a shack and came out with a hose that would adapt to fit US tanks.  He proceeded to take an old piece of wire and scrape off the crust and dirt. I was a little skeptical but my options were few.  He then took the hose over to a large 200 pound tank and connected the hose to it and opened the valve and let liquid propane shoot out the end of the hose, a good reason not to smoke.   He screwed it to our tank and removed the bleeder screw and opened the valve and he sat there with liquid propane flowing down the tank like lava and a propane fog filling the air.  When the it was full and a stream of liquid shot out he installed the bleed screw and wallah we had a very very full  tank.  I am sure it is fuller then any time in the past, all for $11.60 Fiji, less than $6 US and I am sure that more of it went into the air than went into the tank. 

The next day we caught the bus into Labasa and searched out the Yamaha dealer to fix our outboard prop. The prop was now slipping so bad that we could no longer go faster than an idle.  The dealer said he did not have one but could order one from Japan and would have it in a month or so, for a mere three hundred dollars.  We said no thanks and asked if anyone else would have one.  He sent us to a back alley shop that tried to sell us one that was for a fifteen HP and was at least twice as big as ours.  This guy sent us to another place deeper into the alley to an old blacksmith shop that had opened in 1911. dsc_6681-copy As we entered the place it had one four foot fluorescent fixture hanging in the middle and there were piles and piles of old junk everywhere. In the back sat the original forge. I can’t even imagine just how hot it must get in this old tin building when they fire that thing up and get it hot enough to work steel.  I asked the guy if he could fix it and he said it would be $28.00 dollars and to come back at three and he would have it done.  When we returned it was almost done and as you can see, it was no great work of art (3 new brass bolts), but it would get us by until we could get to a place, the US probably, where we can get a new one.  dsc_6721

 Grog pounding.                                  A very happy place to work

Grog pounding. A very happy place to work

dsc_6687-copyNext we stopped at the Grog Pounders just so I could take a couple of pics of them pounding kava.  It was another dark dingy place and I walked right past the counter into the back and took a couple of pics.  I don’t think anyone else had ever done it before because the women working were really glad to have their pictures taken.  It made their day!  People here love to have their picture taken, it goes with just how friendly they all are. dsc_6688-2 Now off to have lunch at a local restaurant,  I had sweet and sour chicken, which was more like sweet and sour batter balls, Barb had Chop Suey, a much better choice.  Then it was off to the market and replenish our veggies, (cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choy and lemons). 

We sat in the shade to escape the heat while waiting for the bus. As  we sat there an old man came up to me and asked me were I was from.  When I said the US he got all excited and asked if I could do him a ‘BIG FAVOR’.  I could tell by the look on Barb’s face that she thought we were really in for it now.  So he started by telling me that he wanted help from Muhammad Alli to set up a boxing club in Fiji. Barb quickly explained that Muhammad was dead. But he was aware of that and he had sent the letter to the family via the mayor of Louisville Kentucky a month ago and had not heard back from him yet.  He was hoping that the mayor could talk to the ‘Alli’ family and get some help for his boxing club.  Now since I was from the US and so close to Louisville, maybe I could talk to the mayor and the Alli family. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and gave me his address so I could write him back after I had checked with them.   His wife was chatting with Barb and Barb was saying how hot it was. The woman got up and went over to a stand and came back with two big ice cream cones for us.  After which they said goodbye and went off to catch their bus leaving us to eat these dripping, sticky ice cream cones.  Fiji hospitality, barely making it day to day with little income but yet choose to buy us ice cream.

The last place I went was to the plywood plant to get a tour as I had met the supervisor the day before.  OSHA (for our non US friends it’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has never been near this place!!  Not one piece of equipment has a guard or any type of safety device.  The tour started with the logs entering the plant and going to the peeler where a log is reduced to a coil of thin veneer in thirty seconds.  This is done while a guy walks above pulling out the poorer pieces.  The veneer then goes to dryers and sanders and then it is glued and  pressed. Only the smaller press was working, the larger one was broken (who knows how long it has been out of commission).  It is than sized and graded.  All this is done with a lot of manual labor and with equipment that is so old.  An example is the final inspection and grading which is done by two guys that flip over every sheet by hand and stamp each one using an ink pad and a rubber stamp (there was no reject pile at all). The people are very proud of what they do , take a lot of pride in their work place and love to show it off.

On our last evening we had our first home BBQ hamburgers with fresh lettuce and tomatoes!! It was so so so good after all the fish and Fiji food! Malau was an interesting and entertaining stop.

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 7 – Cakau Reef

October 02 -04

16 13.237 S – 179 24.973 E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

cakau-reef-passage

Our GSR passage charted on OpenCPN

We did not want to cruise the North side of Vanua Levu without at least one anchorage on the ‘Great Sea Reef or GSR’ (The world’s third longest continuous barrier reef and runs for over 200 km).  Before we left Denny had charted us a route from our anchoring point to our planned destination. Once inside the reef I stood at the bow to circumvent any uncharted ‘Coral Bommie’ hits. But we pretty well motored through the planned route.

An anchorage with the water a crystal clear, teal blue color pallet . Where does water end and sky begin. A picture simply  cannot capture the beauty

An anchorage with the water a crystal clear, teal blue color pallet . Where does water end and sky begin. A picture simply cannot capture the beauty

We anchored in deeper water the first night as we couldn’t really see well under choppy water conditions and waning daylight. The next day, under flat, calm sea conditions we moved the boat closer to the reef and anchored with 8 – 10 ft of water under the keel. This made it easier to explore the reef with our still ‘unhealthy’ outboard. What a beautiful anchorage with Sting rays traversing under the boat, the vivid blue, teal, crystal clear sea, the vibrant sunsets and the sensation of being all alone.

We went looking for some good coral reef snorkeling but never really found it. It seems like the threats that were identified 10-15 years ago such as siltation and over-fishing are still threats and the coral continues to slowly die. I did see first 5 ft. reef shark of 2016 but it seemed to be more scared of me than I was of him. There were a couple of local boats at the pass and of course Denny had to investigate. Maybe they had some knowledge of where we should explore. What we found was another American influenced industry. There were 2 manned boats assisting 4 or more scuba divers who spent 5 – 6 hours per day, 6 days a week underwater netting little fish for American household aquariums (they throw a net over a rock then use a stick to scare the fish out from underneath and into the net). They were getting paid $600/week, given access to free fuel and scuba tanks to catch these little fish that were trucked to Labassa flown to Latoka and then on to the USA. Many of the local divers now suffer from the ‘Bends’ or Decompression sickness. Something to think about the next time you see Tropical fish sold in pet stores. The boat attendant, after learning Denny was from the USA, of course had to ask about Trump ???

Wearing clothes is optional at the reef

Wearing clothes is optional at the reef

At 6 am the next morning we heard the now soon becoming annoying ‘Bulah’ cry. We scramble to get dressed and see the usual Fijian power boat and about 4 locals hanging on our Starboard side deck (not something we expected at our secluded reef anchorage). They asked if we had any tools they could borrow so that they could investigate the problem with their outboard motor. It turned out to be the ‘recoil’ and with a temporary fix which was a piece of ‘line’ for the ‘rip’ cord, which Denny provided, they were on their way back to the Labassa for a permanent fix. Considering the wind had picked, the dinghy wasn’t working properly and we were getting short on fresh vegetables and fruit we decided it was time to head to Malau where we could easily take a bus to Labasa. There we could re-stock and hopefully fix our broken outboard propeller.

 

dsc_6671

Fiji 2016 – Anchorage # 6 – Veravera bay

September 29 – October 2

16 14.701S 179 31.826E

Link to Google Maps

Posting by Barb:

 We had a beautiful sail using just the 160 jib from Tilangica to Veravera Bay. The Sau Sau pass was easy to navigate through and we anchored just outside of Wainikoro River. We intended to do another river tour but this time it would be with a ‘not so heatlhy’ outboard dinghy motor. Denny hit a rock at our last anchor while navigating thru some coral. I did my usual Kayak tour first and explored the surroundings. It was a mixture of white beaches and white maybe Gypsum rock. A small rock island nearby was home to sea snakes, crabs and small eels in the low tide pools. I had intended to climb to the top until I saw the sea snakes doing the same and that made me think twice. On the main Island I joined Denny who was exploring via dinghy. He found a small pineapple patch. The pineapples were still small and growing.

We did a slow dinghy tour up the river on a very hot day. The villages seemed to be mostly Hindi and area by the river banks appeared to be mostly sugar cane and cattle country. The cattle were tied to ropes, no shade and little greenery which doesn’t fit in well with the Hinduism concept of no-violence or well being to all life form (but I guess they must also be eating the beef). This part of the island has not seen much rain! We had to get out of the blazing heat so we had a picnic in the dinghy under the shade of some large trees with our usual snacks of sardines and crackers. dsc_6665We loitered there for a while until the afternoon heat was not so intense. There was some boat traffic  but the people seemed to be busier with day to day and not so interested in a quick chat. On our way back Denny took a detour through the mangroves and after many twists and turns I felt a little lost. I didn’t want to know if Denny felt the same, luckily his sense of direction is much better than mine. He did lead us to a dead end where my videotaping came to a crashing end (the Mangrove roots are hardier and denser than they appear). We exited the river from a different point and then had a very wet dinghy ride home. We both agreed it was time for change and so our next planned anchorage would be a reef stop.