It has been a month since I last wrote! Time has flown! I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized July was gone and it is time to update this blog (I promised family and friends to journal once a month)! As much as I love to write, it is hard to pull myself away from island living. I didn’t want to get out of the water, off the trail, leave the village or beach! Fortunately, a light (warm) rain is dusting WindCutter today, so with cookies in the oven (an old habit) and a nice breeze blowing through the cabin, I’ve snuggled up with my hot kava (ah, I mean coffee) to write about our adventure!
To best describe how I feel about this adventure, I have to let you in on a little secret! As long as I can remember (age 3 or 4), I liked to imagine how wonderful it would be to fly like a bird. I envied them. Unrestrained, flying from land to land, exploring new places! But I no longer envy birds. I actually pity them now. I watch them land wearily on our deck, resting before slowly flying away. They seem limited. They can not travel great distances like we can. It is much better to be a sailor. Sailing has given me wings.
So with that thought, I write. Our “wings’ are our sails, and we have successfully ‘flown’ to many beautiful islands in Fiji. What a magical place this is! So far, we have sailed the Mamanuca’s, and the Yasawa’s. We have crossed the Bligh Sea remembering Captain Bligh who forged the way (he wasn’t kidding when he warned about the numerous reefs here).
It hasn’t all been ‘easy’ but all of it has been lovely! We have battled high winds and confused seas. We have been drenched by waves and blown off coarse. We have dodged rocks and reefs and at the same time marveled at natures beauty; porpoises, turtles, whales, waters with hidden treasures, sandy shores that sheltered us from storms along the way. We have anchored off of white crescent beaches lined with palm trees, lush hills and wind swept valleys.
Fiji’s loveliness isn’t just in the view, but in the culture as well! It is like stepping back in time visiting islands devoid of running water, electricity and plumbing. People drunk on simplicity, who do not measure happiness by possessions or professions but by relationships. Fijians consider YOU part of their recipe for happiness. You become instrumental in building the bridge that leads to happiness. Once you understand this, you eagerly embrace Fijian hospitality!
Everywhere we go, we are moved by the love of the people here. Children run to shore to help secure the dinghy. Villagers greet you with a smile and invite you to lunch when you walk by. If you give your name, Fijians will remember it the next time they see you and greet you with a kiss. Taxi drivers invite you to dine in their home. If you visit an island more then once, you will be “welcomed home”.
Sometimes there are no people on the islands we visit and thus no phone or internet service. It is peaceful and serene and more than once we have said to ourselves, “It doesn’t get better…” until we laugh at the redundancy of that statement! We have learned to be still. To enjoy a sunset. I have a million pictures of sunrises and sunsets but I know I will take more as they are ever changing and always new. I have learned to hear the change in the wind, and know how to read the sky.
Sometimes the seas are rough, and all of time they are unpredictable.We constantly dodge reefs. I’ve gotten used to balancing on the bowsprit, alternating binoculars, with my walkie talkie, while hanging on with my other hand (I call out the reefs approaching). We travel only during the day (night would be suicidal). Sometimes we travel with friends taking turns leading the way. If the wind is not favorable, we change direction. Time is not a constraint. Sometimes, we’ll stay on an island an extra week or two, or three just because we can!
We finished up seeing the Yasawas and then galloped through the Koro Sea averaging 8 knots (a great speed for Windcutter with winds on her beam at 30 knots) Many times the sea sloshed over the side, and high winds knocked me on my tail more than once! When it’s really rough, we tether on, hold on, and stay in the cockpit! It’s not always a pleasant ride but I think we are used to riding out the bad weather now. We are no longer afraid of it. Our friend put it simply: “Sailing is a wet and windy sport”. Yup! We are thankful to have such a seaworthy yacht to go to weather with! Sailing an Island Packet in rough weather is a like riding a waterbed down a slide! You know you are are on a secure vessel that is made to endure tough conditions.
For me, sailing is worth being uncomfortable at times in order to find the ‘magic’. Craig has calmed down (no longer gritting his teeth when the passage is sketchy). He has gained confidence in our boat and his skills and takes the helm with confidence. The more we sail, the more we learn. The more we learn, the safer we feel. Craig and I have both grown in confidence and ability. It’s a good feeling.
And that brings me to the Fijian proverb I left you with last time: Vinaka vakaniu, sega na ka e biu means, “Good like a coconut” ! It describes a person that is like a coconut because every conceivable part of him (or her) is very useful! If you read my last blog, you know I used that proverb to describe Craig (aka my husband). Craig is very resourceful and if you sail, you know how important it is to be able to fix things quickly! At this moment, Craig is trying to figure out why our batteries are not holding a charge. I have no doubt he will solve this problem. Since I wrote you last, he has repaired the VHF, the winches, attached a new sail, and changed the oil in the generator and engine. He donated and installed a solar controller for a village that needed it (to have village light). As the Fijian proverb goes:,my husband is “good like a coconut!” I feel safer knowing he can fix almost anything that breaks! Me? I hang over him, trying to learn as much as I can but honestly, he is light years ahead of me in the game of “fixing” things. The man is a amazing! So, if you go sailing, take a good coconut like my husband with you (but not MY husband)!
For those of you interested in the details of where we went, here’s a brief synopsis of our trip (minus a few islands we stopped at that I can not name):
End of June we sailed with Rhapsody (laura and Allen) and Jean Marie (Jackie, Walter and Marcus). We anchored off of the deserted island of Navadra (Mananuca islands) in 65 feet of water. We had a great time exploring the beautiful white sandy beaches (Craig found a nautilus shell) and snorkeled the live reef nearby! Jungles on the island had wild goats grazing. We found a foot path that led to a cave where we found an ancient ceremonial site (it gave Jackie and I goosebumps)!
After a few days we sailed South with high winds and seas to Dua Rua Toolu Va Lima (Waya) and anchored in 55 feet of water. We were greeted by dozens of children from the village who helped pull our dings to shore! After presenting Kava to the chief and gaining permission to explore, I passed bubbles and candy to the kids and we hiked around. This island has a small village. Later in the week, I was invited to attend the village school and teach an english lesson to First Graders! What a treat! During recess , the entire school brushed their teeth together (oops…I hid the candy after that… lol) The ladies from the village sold hand made crafts and taught me how to make an ankle bracelet from shells. After a few days, one of the ladies wanted to see our yacht so we brought her aboard. She brought her two year old who had a great time running around! As we shared cookies, she surprised me with her knowledge of American politics! She expressed concern over recent Supreme Court rulings and expressed concern for Christians schools in America (most schools in fiji are Christian)! Shocked, I asked her how she received world news so quickly (no electricity on this island!). She told me her pastor read the paper to the congregation yesterday. He said to pray for American! Wow!
We anchored briefly on the other side of Waya. Rhapsody had engine problems and had to be towed in by local fisherman. Allen solved the problem within a few hours and they were on their way.. (another good coconut)!
From there we traveled to Nalauwaki Bay where lots of pigs and dogs roamed the island. It was funny to see pigs swimming in the ocean! This was not my favorite stop as wild dogs roamed the island and barked at us . The chief was pleasant and after savusavu (kava), we walked around (with a stick to shoo the dogs away) and enjoyed swimming in the bay.
We headed to Naviti, Somosumo Bay but it was so rough we didn’t stay long. We anchored in Natovolu Bay and stocked up on limes from a small resort located there.
The next day, we sailed to “Blue Lagoon” on the island of Nanuya. This was one of our favorite stops and we stayed several weeks . You can get here only by seaplane or boat. Highlights here include Nanuya Resort (boater friendly), Bay of Plenty (try the sour sop fruit there), cave diving (wow!), beautiful hikes, beaches and islands nearby to explore! There is a live reef on the east side that has fantastic snorkeling and diving.
We met new friends on Nanuyu, Robin and Kevin and Bee. We also met an adorable (abandoned) pup that I named Wilson (he was left on the island by a sailor). Robin and I desperately tried to find him a home. I am hopeful sailors will continue to care for him or better yet adopt him (Craig said no, but I am still trying to convince him)!
From Nanuya, we left our sailing friends (who were headed back to Vuda Marina). We headed SE across the Bligh Sea (named after the famous Captain Bligh and story ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’).
We anchored at Vatia Wharf and then continued Northeast around the top of Vita Levu where we anchored in Nanau-i-ra. From there we headed Southeast (around Vita Levu) and anchored in Naigani. Beautiful and serene, we enjoyed quiet coves and lovely islands!. I saw several sea turtles here and porpoises at the bow! From there we headed for the island of Makogai where we found a lovely anchorage and an even lovelier island!
Makogai Island is a gem! This island has a small village, a resident chief and beautiful jungles and beaches! It is fringed with coconut palms, and a bay that reflects every shade of blue and green that you can imagine! Craig helped the chief install a solar battery charger and the chief loaded Craig up with bananas and papaya. The village invited us to Island night. We had a great time singing, dancing and drinking Kava with these amazing people.
The islands history is fascinating! In 1911, it had a hospital and housed patients with leprosy. The island still has remnants of a hospital, churches, jail and cemetery but now it is virtually deserted! The small village and caretaker are all that is left on the island. Hard to believe at one time, leprosy patients were brought here in cages on ships and forced to live away from family and friends! It was a leprosy colony for 58 years and eventually evolved into an “island of hope” where modern medicine allowed patients to recover and return home. The leper community became a working community where residents lived, and worked the land (if they could).Doctors and nurses volunteered to live on the island with the patients. It closed after 58 years when a cure was found. The government still owns and protects this island from development so it is a great stop!..Today, it’s used as a nature reserve. You can dive close to shore and see giant clams and sea turtles! Papayas, bananas and coconuts are plentiful! We even found internet by hiking to the top of a mountain and using our hot spot! We could have stayed here months…but changing weather forced us on.
We headed for Vanua Levu. This island holds special memories for Craig and I! We were here twelfve years ago to celebrate an anniversary! It was on this island that we fell in love with fiji and the people here! We talked about Vanua Levu for years (so much that our daughter chose this island for her honeymoon destination)! We told ourselves that one day we would return to Vanua Levu on a sailboat!
Last night, we made dinner reservations and returned to the Koro Sun Resort where we toasted success! WE made it! Not only is this island as beautiful as it was twelve years ago, but some of the friends we made at Koro Sun are still here (Millie and Margie). They remembered us and we had a great time catching up! To make this stop even more special, we also ran into old friends from Mexico, SVChara (Bob and Joyce) and SVHotspur (Mary and Jim and Caroline)! Needless to say, we are having a great time catching up with old friends and enjoying this beautiful island once again!
It’s humbling, that we have come full circle. Vanua Levu is where our dream began. It was our first coveted “sailing” destination and the motivation for buying WindCutter! When we left California over two years ago, we knew we wanted to come here! That we are here now is a dream come true. We are so thankful. Whatever happens after this will just be “icing on the cake”!
Are we ready to go back? No, at least I am not. But I know time changes things and people. I am fully aware we have family back home that we love and want to be near. So we are praying about our future. To stay, or go? Can we figure out a way to have both? We don’t know.
We will be in Fiji at least a month. Cyclone season begins again in November. It’s an ‘El Nino’ year which means warmer ocean temperatures make weather unpredictable and tropical storms more likely. The weather is already proving to be uncharacteristically intense. We hope in the next few months to sail to Tavaruni, and explore the Lau group before we have to move WindCutter out of harms way! I hope to get my diving certificate while I am here so that I can dive some of the famous reefs we’ve heard about! Not knowing the future seems to be the consensus of most of the sailors we know. It’s all predicated on the weather so most of us live day to day, week to week, month to month. And we love it!
What we DO know is that we are grateful for another month of wonderful sailing! ! Fiji is our favorite South Pacific destination so far because of the people and the numerous island destinations! So, for now, “Bula Vinaka!”
Until next time,
Carol & Craig
Uses of a coconut:
Leaves: brooms, baskets, arrows, roofing
Husk: pots, bowls, musical instruments, fuel
Coir (elastic fiber): mats, brushes, ropes, nets
Oil: moisturizer, sunscreen, hair conditioner
milk: potassium, electrolytes, boasts immunity
sap: wine, syrup, sugar
trunk: funiture, drums, canoes, containers
roots: mouthwash, toothbrush