OCTOBER , 2012

October 1 – 31, 2012

We had a week and a half before our guests from Canada arrived.  We wanted to explore the southwest side of Vanua Levu so we headed that way on October 4.  We had five beautiful days in very sheltered bays.  It was very windy but we were quite protected from the strong southeast tradewinds.  We were also inside an extensive reef system, which meant that we were protected from swell.  The problem was that there was no end in sight to the strong southeast winds and we needed to get back to Savusavu.  That would mean heading back into the wind.

We decided that we would leave for Savusavu on Tuesday, October 9, at 0200h.  We knew that the wind often died out during the night.  On the evening of the 8th, we were tempted to leave at 1900h, as the wind had already died out, but we had not rested during the day and we were getting sleepy.  We decided to stick to the original plan.  At 0100h, we awoke and we could hear that the wind had picked up.  We left anyway.  We used our track with our established waypoints to work our way slowly through the many reefs.  There was half a moon, which helped a bit.  Thankfully, this was one area where the channel markers that were supposed to be lit actually worked.  So many navigational lights in Fiji have been destroyed by cyclones and not been repaired.

As soon as we rounded the first point of land we were hit with headwinds and our progress slowed considerably.  It was a very long day back to Savusavu.  It didn’t help that we had current against us the entire way.  We had anticipated, based on what we had experienced on the way in, that for part of the journey we would have current with us but that didn’t occur.  At times, we were only going 2 knots and we put on both engines.  The funny thing is that every time we thought that things would improve when we rounded the next point of land and changed the wind angle, the wind actually tracked with us.  We had headwinds the entire trip.  At 1500h we finally dropped anchor at the Cousteau Resort anchorage, close to the town of Savusavu.

We headed in to Savusavu the next morning and picked up a mooring at the Copra Shed Marina. 

While in Savusavu, Paul had an opportunity to participate in an “international” Laser regatta which featured 3 members of the Fiji Junior National Team and three yachties representing Canada, Austria and New Zealand.  In the first race, Paul, partnered with the Fiji Junior National Champion, easily defeated Austria and New Zealand.

In the second race, sailing single-handed against Austria and Fiji (one of the teenage Fiji junior champions) Paul was early at the starting line and is seen here in last place as he dips below the starboard starters at the sound of the starting gun (actually just a shout from shore).
Halfway up the first leg Paul managed to take the lead only to capsize shortly after doing so.  With a big smile on his face, the Fiji junior sailed past Paul, as Paul righted his boat as quickly as he could.  Paul could be heard good naturedly harassing the Fiji junior from behind, shouting, “You’d better watch out, I’m going to catch you”.  And catch him Paul did as they crossed tacks just a boat length from the windward mark.  The Fiji junior with his lighter weight threatened to regain the lead on the downwind leg, but Paul was able to hold him off, just barely.  As they rounded the leeward mark they were side by side with Paul on the inside advantaged position.  From this point, all Paul needed to do was to cover his opponent for the short beat to the finish line and not make any mistakes in his boat handling.  At the finish gun (really just a shout) it was Canada first, Fiji a close second and Austria well behind.  Although these Fiji juniors are real Olympic hopefuls, Paul is definitely a Laser ‘has-been’ who has had his moment of glory.

Dianne and Doug, Paul’s cousin and her husband from Canada, were due to arrive at 1530h on Thursday, the 11th.  It was a pleasure to host them again on Bella Via.  They had visited us once before in late 2010 in New Zealand.

We saved all of our shopping needs until the morning after Dianne and Doug arrived as that gave them an opportunity to explore Savusavu.  Once we had completed provisioning for a couple of weeks we left Savusavu and stayed one night back at the Cousteau Resort anchorage. 

In the two weeks plus a few days that Dianne and Doug were aboard we visited several anchorages along the southern shore of Vanua Levu in an effort to give them a realistic view of what cruising in Fiji is like away from the hustle and bustle of big towns, resorts, and tourists.  We had a wonderful time with lots of laughter and good conversation.  Doug particularly enjoyed the snorkelling opportunities.  It was a challenge to stay cool in the heat of springtime in the tropics.  The temperature inside the salon every morning was almost 30 degrees. 

Dianne and Doug left the boat on Sunday, October 28.  They flew to a resort in the Yasawa group of Fijian islands for six nights before they returned to Canada.  Thanks for a great visit Dianne and Doug.  Here are a few pictures from their time aboard Bella Via.

We took Dianne and Doug back to Namena Island where Paul particularly enjoyed the diving and snorkelling.
One of the first villages we visited was Nanuca in Fawn Harbour.  Paul and Doug had met Elizabeth and her husband Joe and a friend when they were out fishing the day before.  The next day we went into the village and looked for Elizabeth and Joe.  We ended up being invited into their house for conversation and met some of their family.  We were served a lot of fresh mango and actually learned the proper (and easier) way to carve up the fruit from their son SK.
At the same village as above, we had gone first to the chief’s house with our gift of kava, which is called ‘making custom, or sevusevu’.  The chief’s wife told us that her husband had gone to Savusavu.  She accepted our gift and then chatted with us for a few minutes.  She returned to her weaving after giving us permission to wander through the village.
Our guide to Elizabeth’s house was actually her son SK who had greeted us when we had arrived at the beach.  On the way through the village we came across this man who was returning from his garden.  SK told us that there were several horses in the village.
On our way back to the dinghy we passed this friendly group who were relaxing under the shade of several trees.
The next village that we visited was Dakuniba, which we had visited last year with our friends Bob and Julia.  We knew that we would be able to see the sevusevu ceremony at this village if Chief George was home.  Sure enough, Chief George welcomed us and we sat on his porch on a mat and offered him our gift.  He chanted the traditional speech in Fijian accompanied by several handclaps.  We asked later if we should clap when he does or just sit there and were told that either is acceptable.  Here is Chief George with Dianne and one of George’s several grandchildren.
Doug got up early one morning and was sitting in the cockpit waiting to show us his catch.  In truth, he found this herring lying dead on the carpet in front of him.  We’ve seen lots of fish jumping but it’s hard to imagine how this one managed to make it all the way onto the cockpit floor.
Doug was quite excited when we caught this giant trevally while we were leaving an anchorage.  It took quite a while to bring the giant fish aboard.
Here we are at dinner at a resort on Taveuni Island.  We were treated to a few wonderful meals off the boat by Dianne and Doug.  We always enjoy the conversations with the people we meet in the resorts.  The guests are from all over the world and, in this particular place, were mostly there for the diving opportunities.  Our boat was anchored in the lagoon just off the beach in full view of the dining area on the porch and we answered several question about where we were from and about our lifestyle.

On October 29, we sailed back to Dakuniba to spend more time with David and Margaret (locals who live in a settlement near the village) and for more fishing. 

On our first visit to Dakuniba Margaret had told us that she and several other villagers from their Catholic Church would be processing on a walk to the Catholic Church in Savusavu.  The walk, early in December, would take three days to complete.  The priest had cautioned them to purchase good quality walking shoes because the trek would not be easy.  After Margaret left the boat, Doug had discussed with Paul the appropriateness of us donating some money towards the shoes.  We all agreed that it was something we wanted to do so the next day before we left the anchorage we gave David an envelope of cash for Margaret’s shoes.

When we arrived back in Dakuniba the second time, Margaret came out to the boat with a basket full of fruit and expressed thanks for the gift and told us that she was going to Taveuni the next day to buy her shoes.  She ended up staying at Taveuni for almost one week and thus we didn’t get a chance to spend any more time with Margaret this season.

In our few days remaining before we headed back to Savusavu, Paul spent a lot of time with David.  If they weren’t fishing, they were going by dinghy up the creek to his brother’s house to assess his solar panel installation.

At a metre long, this is the largest barracuda that Paul has ever caught, though David (on the right in the picture) says that he’s caught one significantly larger.  The teeth on this thing are absolutely vicious.  We only kept a small fillet of this fish.  The rest of it went to David, his brother William, brother-in-law George and their two 70+ year old aunts who live in this little settlement consisting of four homes.  The day we departed the aunts sent David to Bella Via with a gift of a half dozen freshly laid eggs.  So very touching!
This photo is only being included because it is the first time that Paul has ever caught three fish at one time with only two lures being trolled behind the boat.  Paul had been trolling for two hours with no activity when, BAM!!!  BAM!!!, both lines simultaneously started spooling off line with the reels screeching away.  Paul went for the light tackle rod first, producing the trevally he’s holding in his left hand.  By the time he reeled in the second line he found not one but two more trevally hooked onto the same lure. What a great way to add fish to our freezer fast.
David learned that Paul knows a little about electricity so he asked Paul if he would take a look at his brother, William’s, home solar electrical installation.  They reported that 12 volt appliances worked during the day but not at night despite having a large 12V battery in the system.  Paul could barely believe his eyes when he confirmed that this ancient, crazed solar panel pictured here, was still functioning.  Paul was able to determine that the panel to the right was indeed dead and he helped David and William replace it with a third newer panel that a yachty had given William some time ago.

Unfortunately none of this helped solve William’s night time source of power, for Paul found that the solar regulator was not functioning and it was causing the battery to become significantly overcharged until it would no longer hold a charge for any significant length of time.  The battery was already bulging at its sides from past overheating.  Paul gave them the bad news that, at the very least, the battery would need to be replaced as well as the regulator if William was to avoid killing a new battery.

This led David to ask Paul to check out his home solar installation.  Here Paul found two huge solar panels wired to two automotive batteries with no solar regulator.  Paul was able to confirm that both panels were producing immense amounts of power, more than the batteries could handle without a regulator.  One of the batteries was completely dead and the 2nd tested to be in very good condition.  However, the case felt very warm to the touch, much warmer than it should be.  Paul removed the dead battery and did his best to explain some strategies that David could use to avoid overcharging his one good battery.

Paul has observed that it is not uncommon for these remote homes to have acquired an old solar panel and a battery.  Very seldom do they also have the solar regulator that keeps the battery from being overcharged and suffering an early death.  Paul wishes he knew of a simple, inexpensive solar regulator solution that could be recommended to these needy people.

It’s Thursday, November 8 and we’re back in Savusavu.  Our time in Fiji is almost finished.  Our Kiwi friend, James, arrives next Wednesday, the 14th, and we will hopefully set sail for New Zealand shortly after.

We are spending our time readying the boat for the ocean passage, preparing meals, and studying the weather.  We are following the progress (through the Winlink Position Reporter) of several boats that left almost one week ago and, unfortunately, they have been hit by the first tropical storm of the season.  There have been reports of one couple who abandoned ship and are in a life raft and others with broken parts and damage to their boat.  Our friends on Meikyo, Liliane and Michael, are ahead of that pack and, although have had strong winds and big seas, are two hundred miles from New Zealand so the worst is over for them.

The tropical depression actually formed in Fiji and travelled southeast.  The most wind we had yesterday was 20 knots from the northwest and west.  Right now, it is looking like a good weather window will open up next week.  We’ll see.  Our next Journal entry will discuss our passage and our entry into New Zealand.


    Journal 2011