October 02 -04
16 13.237 S – 179 24.973 E
Posting by Barb:
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.
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 ???
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.