John, Sharron and Doug around Fiji

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September 9th 2010
Published: September 15th 2010
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Around Fiji

We stayed anchored off the Royal Suva Yacht Club till Saturday arvo on 28th.

After a last visit to a supermarket, the fresh veggie market and a petrol station for more engine oil for Hakura, we were ready to head out of Suva Harbour. One slight problem, it was going to take 6 hours motoring to get to Beqa Island and we had less than 6 hours day light left, so we headed to the Bay of Islands (the site of the former “Tradewinds” Hotel) for the night and then an early start on Sunday for Beqa.

We arrived in the Bay of Islands about 1500 and were able to pick up a mooring for night.

Motored out of Suva Harbour heading south to Beqa Island, leaving at 0750, 29 August. Arrived off Lawaki Beach House 1421 hrs and anchored in 12 metres of water. It is a beautiful location with great snorkelling; much better than Vava’u.

The area off Lawaki is marine reserve and has lots of great fish life along with colourful coral. I saw my first coral cod of the trip. Coral cod (along with the similar coral trout) are a prime eating fish so they are heavily impacted by fishing and often missing from inshore reefs.

I swam ashore and met Sam one of the owners of the Beach House. I was standing on the beach talking to a dog and then heard a strong “Bula” from the shade and turned to see Sam sitting there.

He made me welcome and was delighted to hear that John and Sharron were coming ashore as well.

We stayed till the morning of 31 August anchored off Lawaki. We did lots of snorkelling and swimming. Had an enjoyable dinner ashore at the Beach House on the 30th.

The Lawaki Beach House is a small very comfortable resort on the southwestern side of Beqa run by Sam (a local Fijian) and Christine (a expat Swiss). The location is quiet and peaceful with great safe water just off the beach. The hosts and staff are very welcoming and effective. John and Sharron had stayed here for the few days waiting for us to arrive from Tonga.

On the morning of the 31st we up anchored and motored south around Beqa, reaching the northeast corner about 1345. One of the many different sights we had were several people fishing from what appeared to be simple bamboo rafts. They were only a few 100 meters offshore, though they were siting in the water the whole time.

Headed northwest across the Beqa Lagoon for the northern entrance and then west to the Lautoka side of Viti Levu. The sky was full of cloud and there were several heavy showers around us. We stayed dry till nearly out of the lagoon at 1445. This was after John had cooked great pikelets with honey and peanut butter.

It rained hard several more times during the night though I managed to not get wet.

Sharron did her first overnight passage and stood her 2 hour watches. She will make a great bluewater sailor yet.

We slowed dropped our speed to 4 to 4.5 knots from 0000 hrs after we were off the western side of Viti Levu so as to reach the entrance through the barrier reef well after sunrise.

The wind pickup during the early hours of the morning and was from behind so we had to drop the revs on the motor even more to stay about 4 knots.

John and I located the entrance and John motored Hakura through while I stood just in front of the mast looking for coral. The entrance was narrow through in the seas it was very obvious. We were through just after 0800 on September the 1st.

The sea was nearly flat on the inside and once past the inner end of the entrance we headed northwest towards Musket Cove and some well earned rest.

On the way in we saw several patches of fish feeding and I put out the trolling line. Again we did not get any fish and only managed to lose another lure. That makes three gone with no sign of the fish being on the line.

Picked up a mooring in Musket Cove at 1020 and we were able to have our rest.

I must say that the 2nd was not one of my great days. John and Sharron headed into the beach and resorts before 1200 and I stayed on Hakura doing some house keeping and writing up the drafts for the blogs. I thought that they would be 2 hours, they thought 2 or 3 hours. After about 4 hours John came back. He did cop an earful from me. I was not pleased. It took me 24 hours to calm down.

We are still friends and still on Hakura, which is the main thing. Thanks John and Sharron.

1100 on the 3rd we motored into Musket Cove Marina to top up water, fuel and food. By 1230 we were heading out west and south of Malolo and Qalita Islands; very beauty locations with a resort in every bay or headland, or so it seemed.

After rounding Qalita Island we headed north towards the anchorage at Navadia, trip of about 3 hours in bright sun and very little wind.

Yes on the way we caught a fish, about a 3 to 4 kg Spanish Mackerel. We now have two theories on how to catch fish. Theory number 1; buy some meat for the next couple of days. Theory number 2; send Doug below to sleep. We will return to more on these theories later. Now for a description of how we landed the fish.

The scene is John is on the helm with Sharron in the cockpit with him. I was below asleep on the short bunk. John notices the line has a fish (the line is the 40 meter 300 kg white rope with 600 kg swivel and large game lure). Sharron starts pulling in the line and they called for me.

I awoke to calls of “We’ve got a fish! We’ve got a fish!” so I jumps up and immediately falls over. Unbeknown to me my right calf has gone to sleep and did not work.

New scene, I am on the floor wondering what has happened and trying to get to the cockpit for the fish. John and Sharron are now wondering what to do first - the fish or Doug.

I am sorry to say they chose Doug before the fish. Luckily the line was strong and I was able to get my leg working again fairly quickly.

We landed the bright shiny fish into the cockpit where it was thrashing around its head (full of big sharp teeth). Yep, the teeth flashed past my leg and then there was blood (only a very little through enough to get us all to agree not to put our fingers near its month).

We ended up with 6 good steaks and 2 big fillets, enough for 3 dinners and 3 breakfast of left overs.

We arrived and anchored at Navadra 1655 on the 3rd. A great spot with splendid looking reefs through we only had a short look around. We had a rollie night with a small swell making it around the headlands.

We left Navadra at 1030 and headed north towards Manta Resort, which is a low key resort on the northern end of Nanuya Balavu Island. We anchored there at 1530 after a steady sail for the first part of the trip.

Now on this leg I went below and again there was a strike on the game rod this time. Though by the time I got up the fish had gone. So we are still not completely convinced on which theory has the weight of evidence behind it yet.

We anchored on the northern side of the channel between Nanuya Balavu and Drawaqa Island.

Why were we here?

John had been here before and had dived with manta rays (very large stingrays up to 6 meters from wingtip to wingtip) in a nearby channel. We were here to see if the rays were still here and could we get to see them as well.

Mid morning on 5 September we headed out to the channel and anchored Ethelred and went looking for the rays. We had seen a couple from the surface just before we anchored but there was no sign of them below the surface. After about an hour of looking we decided to sit in the boat and watch the boats from the resort that were also looking for the rays. After about another half hour one of the resort crew spotted the rays and we all (about 10 resort guest and John and I) jumped in and swam around just above the manta rays. After about 15 minutes John had got Sharron in the water as well.

Well done Sharron and John.

There were two mid size rays circling just below the surface with us all swimming madly after them. I’m not sure why we swam around madly as the rays were circling and they would pass under you if you just stayed put. I decided this after talking with a young lass (they were all young from the resort) who was tiring. We had just said that we could stay still and next minute the rays were passing under us (followed by all the others madly swimming along).

After another hour of following the rays John, Sharron and I called it a day and climbed back into Ethelred and headed back to Hakura for lunch.

Another reason for visiting this place was the great snorkelling in the reserve off the resort. A part from the diverse numbers of reef fish, I saw many predatory fish species that I had not seen in the other locations, including trevally, several cods and small darts. There were also large triggerfish and I did see a very large Grant Wrasse. In addition, there was a large octopus and a school of large sardines that would sweep past occasionally opening their mouths to filter out the plankton. Overall it looked a vibrant ecosystem within easy snorkelling distance from the resort.

That afternoon the wind picked up from the east and began to blow at 20 to 25 knot. We and Hakura were in a safe location as the island to the east of us gave us protection, such that the two other yachts and Hakura would often be siting at different angles while the wind was blowing hard against the resort just a quarter of a mile away. We were going to have dinner in the resort but decided to come back to Hakura in the last of the light rather than in the dark.

The wind dropped over night and was less than 10 knots during the morning though it did get back up to 20 knots in the afternoon. This meant that we stayed put on the 6th and apart from visiting the resort for web access and lunch (and to get John’s shirt and towel that we had left behind the day before) we did not do much that day.

The next morning, 7 September, the wind had dropped so we headed south to take Sharron back to Denarau to catch her fight on 10 September. After a Herculean effort from John and Sharron to get the anchor up from 17 meters we sailed off towards Waya Island. When we started we were in the lee of the islands so the wind was less than 15 knots from the east. As we passed through the gap between the islands the wind picked up to between 15 and 20 knots. Hakura enjoyed the chance to fly under sail again. As we were going down the western side of Waya we came into the lee just as we entered an area of increased reefs. The wind was variable, sometimes being from behind and shortly afterwards on the nose. This made for interesting sailing when you add in the odd reef that was in the direct path during a wind change.

After tacking into the bay southern end of Waya we headed towards a deserted bay away to the east o the village, Natawa. It turned out that the beach was not deserted as there was the “ruins” of some bures (they were either abandoned or being rebuilt). We dropped anchor in about 10 meters (much to the relief of John) and went for a swim/snorkel/row ashore.

There were extensive growths of coral with a few very large individuals (some of which I would guess where hundreds of years old. The big difference between this place and many of the other placed we had snorkelled was the lack of fish.

While we were there a local boat came along and started fishing near by which most likely explained the lack of fish. I did not see if they caught any fish in their several hours of fishing.

We had a very pleasant night without any strong winds and woke to a bright sunny day of little or no winds. Another day of motoring coming up.

After a quick swim by all crew (yes, Sharron did go for a swim off Hakura in deep water - another achievement for her on this voyage) we pulled up the anchor by hand and headed south back towards Malolo Island.

It was a hot day and we saw lots of fish work, though again no fish took the line. I need to go to sleep below, me thinks. It was either this day or the pervious one that we had noticed smoke in the cabin when the motor was running (we subsequently discovered that a fitting in the exhaust system at the back of the motor had developed a crack), thus it was not really possible to sleep below with the motor running.

We called into Mana Island and had a good look around the lagoon but decided to head just a bit further south to Malolo Island. We dropped anchor in a Walu Bay (southern side of Malolo Island) just off The Walu Bay Resort. Unfortunately we were in 15 meters of water (the shallowest we had seen for a while around Malolo Island).

Sharron and John rowed into the resort and had their usual look around while I enjoyed the peace on Hakura. We had another peaceful night with very little winds, albeit from several directions.

The next morning was the last with Sharron on board (on this voyage) so we headed out for a nice spot for a snorkel and lunch before we dropped Sharron off. We headed for Vunavadra Island where the day resort of South Sea was located.

We dropped anchor just before 1200 and headed inshore (by rowing, swimming and snorkelling). Once ashore we were informed that there was $100 landing fee so back to Hakura we went (via a short snorkel in an interesting areas - a few giant clams though not very clear water and few fish). We had lunch and just before we headed off a chap came over and said they did not allow anchoring (without the $100 fee) so off we went.

We headed into Denarau and arrived at the Marina about 1630. After a quick check at the Marina Office we made our way to berth C6. After refilling the water and a quick clean up (Sharron followed Lorraine’s instructions and cleaned the head) we headed into the local shops to get a cool drink and later some dinner.

This process took longer than I first thought as Sharron had not seen a shop in nearly two weeks and you know the rest.

The cool drink was a tropical smoothe, with ice cream, in Lulu’s Bar right were the tourist boats unload. Plus there was a fabulous trio of keyboards and 2 guitars. Over the next few days John and I got to know this place and these guys well. I even got a couple of songs plays for “Mr Doug”. I really enjoyed the song they did in Fijian, the rest were too jazzy for me.

We had a lovely dinner next to a big wedding feast. They were all enjoying themselves and I suspect some were there for the long haul.

Later Sharron and John headed off to a place close to the Nadi airport and I settled down to more “Red Dwarf” watching.

So ended the Fijian wondering leg of my voyage into the South Pacific.

John and I are now looking for crew, getting as much of Hakura up and running as we can (the 2nd gas element on the stove is still beating us), and looking around the area.

It is very dry on this side of the island, more than normal with no significant rain for several months. Yesterday (11th) was 31 and humid, great for sleeping at night though very sticky during the day. We need to keep drinking the water. John has found a pool but not any beaches. He is not happy about that.

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27


A Fish at last!A Fish at last!
A Fish at last!

A spanish mackerel, note the blood on Doug's leg!

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