d 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490

 

 

1st Report for  2006:        

New Zealand to Fiji

(March 23rd - July 9th)

 

As you probably read in the last report, "Taniwani" spent some time on the dry at Riverside Drive Marina in Whangarei, while we went home for Christmas and all of January. And then Beate and Harald toured New Zealand by car until early March. Here on "Taniwani's" website we just drop a few pictures of this nice time in a very beautiful country:

 

 

 


 

Back on Board

After this nice tour it was time to look after "Taniwani" again and get the boat ready and back into the water. Unfortunately many of the jobs we had done by local outfits in Whangarei, that were meant to improve and maintain "Taniwani", had been done very poorly and in some cases like the deck, more damage than good had been done. Had we known this before, we would have delayed most of these jobs for some more years. 


So we were a bit depressed at the beginning and it meant work for us for several weeks to get some of the problems sorted out again. Summing it up it seems that New Zealand isn't the place for yacht refits that it likes to suggest and one pays at least European prices for much inferior quality. Add to this that our outboard motor was stolen off the boat while high up on the dry and you can understand that we leave New Zealand with quite mixed impressions.

 

 

With all this delays it was not before March 23rd that we could leave Whangarei. We waited for high tide in the early afternoon and then slowly motored down the winding river and to Urquharts Bay, right before coming out into the open sea, where we anchored for the night.

The next day was Harald's birthday and our first sailing day in this year. It was a good day, nice wind and perfect sailing out to the Great Barrier Island, some 40 miles off shore. And for a change we were really happy with the fine job that Pelle, the Swedish sail maker in Whangarei, had done maintaining our sails and the rig tuning, Harald had done himself.

Great Barrier Island turned out to be another really pretty place and the area around Port Fitzroy has a number of land locked bays all well sheltered, with just two small entrances to the whole area. This was really good as we were expecting bad weather to move in, in a day or two.

Before the torrential rain and storm hit, we had a pleasant day exploring just a small part of the island. Then as the weather hit we couldn't leave the boat for two days as it was raining heavily and the wind went up to 60 knots. "Taniwani" seemed to lay happily to our trusted and heavy anchor gear while one of the big game fishing boats drifted by and ended up in the oyster farm at the end of the bay. It was the roughest night we ever had at anchor and in some of the gusts "Taniwani", a very stiff boat by comparison,  leaned over enough that one had to worry about the wine glasses falling over.

Every storm has its end and so this one calmed down after three days so that we could think about heading south to Auckland. It hasn't been our plan to go there by boat again, but we were phoned that our life raft that we had delivered for servicing three months earlier was finally ready.
With the wind now coming from where we wanted to go, we took it easy and sailed to Kawau Island as an intermediate stop. There is a nice and welcoming yacht club, where we had some drinks and a simple dinner.

The following day then brought us to Auckland which looks really fantastic when approaching from the sea. We were surprised to learn that no berths are available when we called on the radio. Both Westhaven and Viaduct Harbour claimed they are full and so we were lucky, that Bayswater, just two miles across from Auckland had space for us. It turned out the best choice anyway with a overwhelming view of the Auckland skyline and a convenient ferry service right into the heart of the city.

Next day we took the ferry into town and since we expected to carry our life raft all the way from Westhaven to the Ferry terminal, some two kilometers, we brought along our little foldable "beach trolley". Our plan was to pick up the life raft and then shop some fresh produce and head back to Bayswater. But when we arrived at the place that serviced our life raft, we were told it wasn't quite ready and we should come back around 4 pm to pick it up.

So we strolled through the city of Auckland, some of the parks and some of the shops for many hours and finally, late in the day were able to pick up the life raft. It was late Friday and people were getting ready for the weekend. Many small boats heading out of  the harbor. We too wanted to leave next morning and sail to one of the little islands near Auckland to wait for better conditions to go north again.

Saturday morning together with many locals we headed out of Auckland, having a last look at the beautiful skyline. It was also then that we discovered that our life raft, which now rested in its bracket on deck, had sprung open. Not that it inflated, but it still cracked the container wide open as apparently the glue holding the sealing rubber tape hadn't quite cured. We thought on bringing it back on Monday but then gave up on the idea and decided to help ourselves. It was just the topping of the New Zealand series of jobs poorly done.

Instead we had a nice, if a bit rainy, weekend at the Putiki Bay on Waikeke Island, not far from Auckland.

We spent the weekend relaxing, doing some small jobs on the boat and yes, swimming in the cold water!

 When on Monday the wind eased to some 5 knots, still from the northwest, we decided to use the opportunity and motorsail north as far as possible.

  
We left still in the dark around 5:30 and  had a place some 50 miles north in mind. By the time we got there, we were making still good progress and so we moved on to Tutukaka and covered almost 80 miles.

On that trip we were checked twice by New Zealand's customs. First an airplane circled us and then called us on the radio and interrogated us. Three hours later we see a motor boat coming up from behind and once it had caught up with us, had the same list of questions.

Tutukaka we already knew from last year, and like last year we anchored outside the marina and went ashore for a simple dinner. And like last year we were soaked by late evening rain on the way back. What was different than last year was, that now a small New Zealand Navy patrol ship anchored very close to us and a second one rafted up to it. As soon as they had anchored, the RIB was lowered and a number of them went fishing, after that they had a social evening on their aft deck. They didn't have their wake-up call until seven in the morning, when we could hear the electronic imitation of a boat whistle and the call: Wakey, wakey ! By that time we were already enjoying our breakfast.

Our next stop up the coast was not so far and also well known from last year: The Whangamumu Bay, with some remains of an old whaling station and no road connection. This time there are already two boats anchored in the large bay and shortly after we anchored, our Navy friends from last night came in and anchored as well. An hour later their rib was heading for us and we thought, the captain wanted to invite us for a beer. But it wasn't that, they just had the same list of questions for us as the customs plane and boat the other day. Seems like there are days or weeks where New Zealand is particularly well guarded!

The next day brought us back into the Bay of Islands and again to a place well known: Urupukapuka Bay. We quite like the place and it is also the first decent anchorage in the Bay of Islands when coming from the south. We spent a lazy afternoon and night there and called Opua Marina to reserve a place for the next day. The marina is quite busy and with plenty of local demand, they do not have very many visitor berths. For our size there was nothing so we had to upgrade to an 18m berth. But at some 17.-, that is still quite affordable when compared to other countries.

We were also looking forward to eating ashore as somehow we found the food served in the Bay of Islands better than anywhere else in NZ. That is true for the relatively simple food at the yacht club, as well as for the restaurant in Opua and some places in Paihia.

With all the trouble we had in Whangarei with the replacement of our old and worn dodger, we there didn't dare to ask for the addition of removable sun-shades to cover the see-through parts of it. Here in Opua are Titan Canvas makers and they are members of the same Ocean Cruising Club as we, so we dared a try there. It worked out fine and was done in a day and we are very glad we got them.

For the weekend and for Monday we rented a car at ripp-off price, but then it is the only place in Opua and we wanted to see Eva's art exhibition and vernissage at the Whangarei Cruising Club on Saturday. Eva, Even and their three kids we had first met in the San Blas islands. They sailed their nice Nicholson 60 called "3t", along the same route as we and we had met very often. "3t" was sold to an Australian family just before Christmas and the family is currently grounded, with Even working at a ships joinery and Eva further refining her artistic talent.

 

So on Saturday, April 8th, you could see the many paintings she made during their journey and off course, if you liked some, buy some. Eva is a real talent and so we liked and bought four of her pictures. Three as gifts and one for "Taniwani". It was a nice get together of many of us who had come the same way last year. For some of them New Zealand is the current end of the trip, some will go on in various directions.

For the afternoon, the marine industry of Whangarei, (some of whose members we were not particularly pleased with), organized a farewell party for the cruisers who had like us "wintered" there. It was the best Maori show we had seen so far.

After a more lazy Sunday, we also needed the car on Monday to drive down to Gulf Harbour, where Wetnose had wintered. Like for many others, the journey of the Wetnose family also ended in New Zealand and since their arrival Wetnose had been on the market. Now a seriously interested buyer was flying in from the States and Wolfgang came back from Germany to finalize the deal. As always he was so nice to carry some of our mail and spares and so we met on Wetnose for a last time. "Taniwani" inherited a good deal of medicine and a few spares from Wetnose's vast supply.

Wolfgang had some days of trials and negotiations ahead, but promised to come up to Opua towards the end of the week, for a last nice dinner.

Back in Opua we found our sun covers done and the new LED-Navlights had also arrived, so that we could leave the marina for a few days out at anchor. So we first went to Motutua Island for the night and the next day visited the extremely popular Roberton Island, which is pictured on any tourist prospectus of the Bay of Islands. 


We hit a less busy time and enjoyed the indeed very pretty island, with its hills from where you can overlook the bay and with its small lagoons that almost separate the island in many. Then for the night we went back out to our favorite Urupukapuka anchorage, where we met up with Kikki and Henry from ENDELIG, who were coming up north for a week of sailing with friends.


Their plan was to sail here for a week with their friends and then rush back down to Whangarei, leave Endelig there and return by bus to Opua to sail with us to Fiji. This idea had come up one evening, when Henry explained that they would leave Endelig in NZ  till October and return to England for several months.


 

After that they would go straight to Australia, where we would most likely meet up again. Since they were going to miss Fiji and some other places, we offered them to visit us in Fiji for some time. The answer was: "Would you mind if we sailed there with you?" Off course not. So they booked a flight back to NZ from Fiji for May 13th, and they would be ready to join us in Opua by April 20th, the rest was open and up to the weather.

Well, while Endelig moved on to pick up their friends, we sailed to Russel and anchored there for a night before going back to the marina to await Wolfgang. A last nice dinner with Wolfgang in Paihia, and then a few days for last preparations and "Taniwani" was ready for the ocean again.

Now, deep into autumn, the weather in New Zealand was getting colder and wetter every day. Time had come to heating the boat in the morning and we were eager to leave for some warmer climate. But, up in the tropics, the cyclone season wasn't clearly over and cyclone Monica had just been born in the Coral Sea, now heading towards Australia. General wisdom says that beginning of May is safe and that is what also Bob McDavit, the local weather guru suggests in general.

But with the idea of keeping an alert eye on the cyclone situation and getting way out of its way if one developed, we felt that we could start if the weather otherwise looked favorable. And in fact it did look quite good and we would have started on April 18th, but off course were to wait a bit for Henry and Kikki. When they arrived on the 20th, the weather outlook was still good, maybe with not enough wind towards the end of our trip, and so we decided to go right away. Only two hours after Kikki and Henry arrived, we were at the fuel dock topping up duty free and then by 4 pm we were under way.

Beate had worked out a watch schedule that is too complicated to describe here, but seemed to suit everybody quite well. One of its features was that every day you'd have different watches so that everybody could experience things like sun rise and it was designed to have shorter watches (2 hrs) at night time and longer watches (3 hrs) during the day. With four people life gets very relaxed anyway and everybody was quite happy. We also had rolling cooking assignments, which meant interesting cooking competitions.

We started with a 20 knot wind from east or slightly north of east and made quite good progress into the first night, with some more beating and some more wind the next day. That day both Beate and Harald felt a bit seasick, but not too bad and had to get used to the life at sea again. Kikki had taken some medicine and Henry was doing just fine anyway.

By Saturday, our third day out everybody was fine and we had plenty of wind, switched to the stay sail and reefed main. 

When we eventually reverted to reefed Genoa, the reefing line of the staysail went off the drum after furling it, and half the sail unfurled again before we could stop it.
 

Harald, applying a temporary fix to the problem was well soaked on the foredeck. But this was a small problem compared to what the next day had in store for us:

While the wind picked up further on Sunday and went into the 30 knot+ range, a hose came off the holding tank, which then unloaded its flavored content all through the engine room, mostly into the separate not self draining bilge under engine and generator. Harald must have been well beyond his initial slight sea sickness, as he was able to clean out the mess without too much trouble. 

By that Sunday night we had logged 575 miles, about half the distance to Savusavu our destination. That was three days and 8 hours, and pretty much the average going for "Taniwani" in the 170+ miles per day range. But it wasn't to last and Monday had very light wind from exactly behind for us. So it was sailing with Gennaker and slow sailing - we only managed 138 miles. An all time low for "Taniwani" that we would actually beat again on that trip.

But no reason to complain too much. It was now quite smooth, with just some old swell remaining and we just had a good time reading, talking or playing Canasta. And while on this Monday we could still sail, the Tuesday was even worse and we motored for 22 hours. 
On Wednesday, with the wind still very weak but now from Northeast, we could sail for some time, but still had 11 hours on the engine and only 134 miles made good.

The Thursday started similar with the engine helping until 3 pm, at which point it was clear that we would reach Savusavu in the middle of the night and we reverted to very slow sailing and Canasta playing well into the night, while gently passing between reefs and islands.

At day break we were right at the cape that we needed to round to enter into Savusavu bay and by half past seven we were tied up on a mooring of Copra Shed Marina.

 The folks from the marina automatically informed the various authorities of our arrival and soon a young lady was brought out to our boat to perform the health inspection. 

After we had been declared safe to deal with, several other officials were brought out to "Taniwani" and a huge amount of paperwork was done relatively quickly. 

The people couldn't have been more friendly and they even apologized for the vast stack of paper form that needed to be filled out. 

These forms are obviously not designed to clear in the average sailing yacht and one has to answer question like: "Did you observe any unusual death rate amongst the rats on board?"

Like we had been told, Savusavu is the best place to enter Fiji, red tape is kept at a minimum, a cruising permit for all islands except for the Lau group is quickly organized, (1 day), by the Marina.

The little friendly town has everything you need and a wonderful market with fresh produce, all in short walking distance from the marina. Only the climate is something to get used to: When we arrived it was still very hot, and too much of a contrast to New Zealand where it had been getting quite cold before we left.

Well, you have the choice to stay longer in New Zealand and experience even colder and uglier weather, but arrive in a Fiji that has cooled down a bit. We were very early, and the marina in Savusavu celebrated us as the first boat of this season offering us free beer at the yacht club bar.

 

 

So we spent a relaxed weekend in Savusavu, before moving out late on Monday, just to the cape three miles away for some snorkeling. And snorkeling in water that is 31 centigrade warm was another new experience.

The next day we sailed the 30 miles across to Koro Island where we anchored at the northern shore and then went to check out the village and try our first Sevusevu. In Fiji, you cannot simply go and anchor at places, swim and dive, or explore the land without first getting permission from the chief of the nearest village. Visiting the chief and bringing him a bundle of Kava roots is tradition and the whole procedure is called Sevusevu.

This is not as easy as one would expect, since it can be a challenge to get to the village. Most of the shoreline is framed by what is called a fringing reef. Many dry out at low tide, but even at high tide it can be difficult to get ashore. We had to wade through half foot deep water for some 100 yards before reaching the shore where a very friendly man was patiently waiting for us and then walked us through the village to the hut of the chief.
The one room huts typically have three walls with a door each, the fourth wall being closed containing the sleeping section. Visitors are usually asked in through a specific door and asked to sit down on the floor again in a certain area. 

With the chief now sitting down across from you and the rule that you should not be higher up then the chief, you need to kind of crawl towards the chief to present your Sevusevu, which you lay down in front of him. 

If he picks it up, which he almost certainly does, he has accepted your gift and you are now welcome to his land and village. He then goes on to give a talk in Fijian language saying something like, you who brought this valuable gift, are most welcome and you should feel at home in the village, he now feels responsible for your well being and safety.

Our first chief to meet, was a skinny and friendly looking old man. Aside of the Kava we also gave him a "Maria Theresia Thaler" a classic old Austrian silver coin and some "Taniwani" collectables. And so the chief felt that he wanted to walk us through his village to the central meeting place where the men are relaxing at the end of the day drinking their Kava. In this village the place was beneath the quite large church.

So we had our cups of Kava and some nice small talk and an invitation by the headmaster to visit the school the next day. And this we did: 

The next morning the tide was much more favorable and we could drive the dinghy all the way to the village where somebody took it from us and anchored it. The school is a short walk outside the village as it is shared with the next village. We find several buildings hosting classes from kindergarten up to the 15 to 16 year old students.

We find the headmaster teaching that last grade and were immediately invited into the classroom. We were impressed by nice and attentive kids, very interested to hear where we came from and finally the singing they offered was simply fantastic. Now we had to visit every class or they would have been disappointed, and everywhere the same lovely kids, very well behaved but curious. Again each class gave a singing or dancing performance. 
 

 

We left some gifts for the school and after Harald had looked at the schools broken lawnmower, we all strolled back to the village said good bye to everybody and took off to sail to our next destination, the island of Makogai. 

Makogai is surrounded by an extensive reef and there are just two passes to enter. We went for the safer one at the northwestern side of the reef, a 4 mile detour. 
In Savusavu we had bought Curlies waypoint collection and he had a route going into Makogai (red waypoints). Also according to chart and guidebook, there should be beacons on the island forming a range line. As so often in this area, there were no beacons any more and the reefs are very hard to see, so we followed Curlies route and had some serious rushes of adrenaline when it shoaled to 5m where it should be 15m.  But then we were quickly into the lagoon where it gets deep again. 
While crossing the 3 mile stretch towards the island, we did our usual chart verification via radar by measuring the islands position and found that the chart was off by about 80m to the north. Once that was corrected everything was fine again. Now we could see that we came in very close to the northern side of the pass (black track), and at some point in time we had even erred a boat length north of Curlies track - so no wonder it got shallow.

Until the 1960ies Makogai was a leper colony with some 5000 infected people, now a few people live here to maintain the clam farm that the government had installed to grow their beautiful and big clams and set them out in the islands. The folks make use of some of the remaining buildings of the leper colony. As it was already late, we postponed the visit to the next morning.
At 3am, in the middle of a tropic thunderstorm, the sat-phone rings: Our son at home is telling us that a Tsunami warning was issued for Fiji. Apparently there was a substantial submarine earthquake near Tonga. Then Henry's son calls and then Harald's brother. We figured it must take the Tsunami about two hours to travel from Tonga, but could not figure out when it had actually happened. Yet we felt quite confident that we wouldn't have too much trouble as we were inside the huge reef and anchored quite deep at 18m. Well, nothing happened, but there was not much sleeping that morning any more.

After breakfast only Kikki and Henry went ashore for a short visit, Beate and Harald thought they would come back here anyway and then have some more time available. We didn't want to spend too much time here, since we had quite a list of places that we hoped to visit while Kikki and Henry were on board and that day we wanted to move on to Levuka. Leaving the Makogai lagoon, just before going through the critical pass, we caught a big Wahoo.

 

Levuka on the island of Ovalau was the first capital of Fiji and it has retained some of that old colonial charm. 

We had a very nice stroll through the streets and in the old country club beckoned to a table with two local guys who apparently already had a few drinks.  Well, that way we didn't have to do a lot of talking and learned a few interesting things about Fiji.

Our very nice dinner we then had at the "Whale Tale" a restaurant highly recommended in the guide book.

The next day was different as for the first time we moved between outer reefs and the main island for a whole day. It was a day without wind and so we just motored, but were quite busy confirming chart and position all the time with bearings, transits and radar. And just as we thought the charts were quite spot on we entered a new chart area and found it off the GPS position by half a mile - means you can never drop your vigilance here unless you cruise in an area that you have been through before. We use all charts that we can get our hands on and if they disagree, one is certainly warned, but in this case three different charts all based on the same BA chart were agreeing. The other problem is that one cannot be sure all reefs are actually charted and so it is wise to stick to the routes recommended in the old charts, assuming many ships have done the same before. 

After about 50 miles in this style we reached Nananu-I-Take where we anchored for the night. This is an island at the northernmost corner of Viti-Levu, the big island, and it was the first place we saw in Fiji that had several tourist developments. Especially the Island north of our anchorage called Nananu-I-Ra has several Resorts.

The next morning we carefully worked our way out through the reef passage into the Bligh Water,  a relatively deep area about 50 by 25 miles wide, but framed by reefs all around. Bligh Water was named after Captain Bligh and his crew, who by then were in their open boat heading westwards. Bligh and his crew were chased by Fijian war canoes through the treacherous, coral-strewn waters to the north of Viti Levu and narrowly escaped death at the hand of local cannibal warriors. It is interesting to note that Bligh still managed to take soundings for their lordships of the Admiralty during this dramatic chase! Not being chased, we had some nice reef free sailing  for some 25 miles northward to the island of Yadua. There again a careful entry into the reef chain and then into a reef protected bay, called Cukuvou Harbour.

This is a really lovely bay with gorgeous sand beaches and a beautiful coral reef. When we arrived a group of boats just left from the beach which looked like a little camp site. We landed with the dinghy to find out what was going on and were met by a big friendly guy. 

He told us that the group had left to spend the Sunday at the village at the other side of the island and just he was left behind to guard their catch. That catch we found to be sea-cucumbers that they collect scuba diving on the off-laying reefs, in a depth of some 30m. They then get cooked in a big kettle, sliced open and dried in the sun. The resulting product they can sell for some F$ 90 (Euro 35.-) a Kilo at the market in Lautoka, from there the stuff goes to china where they pay a yet much higher price.

It is the young men from the village that have to do this hard job and during the week they camp out in this bay, as it is quite a long walk to the village. We gave the nice man a cold beer and a photo of himself and their catch and then enjoyed a wonderful evening in this idyllic anchorage. Despite our slightly accelerated pace through the islands in order to give Kikki and Henry an optimal impression of Fiji, we decided that this was a place where we wanted to spend a full day. We also felt that a long walk over to the village would use up the better part of a day and that we would rather do some scuba diving and snorkeling instead.

And so we had a real fine day at anchor doing exactly those things. Late in the afternoon, the boats with the divers came back in from the village and one came out to see us. The son of the chief brought us fruits and vegetables and conveyed the best regards from his father. They were quite happy to come on board for a cold drink to take back the Kava that we normally would have brought to the chief as Sevusevu.

Next Pita, the warden of the protected adjacent island of Yadua Tamba dropped by to tell us that it is forbidden to land on that little island, as it hosts a unique species of iguanas, that was once almost extinct. Now he tells us the population is back to some 3000 and they are thinking on setting some out on other islands. At the moment no visitors, other than government approved scientists are allowed on the island. As a government official he is also supposed to check the cruising permits of the visiting yachts, but he doesn't want to see ours. Nowhere in Fiji did we ever have to show it.

Next morning we weighed anchor at first light and followed our old track back out through the reefs. Once out again in Bligh Water, we could sail undisturbed for over 30 miles. We were going westward this time in order to enter into the northern part of the Yasawa group of islands.
The Yasawas are said to be very nice for cruising and diving, but not as unspoiled with some serious tourism. Entering the Yasawas from Bligh Water isn't particularly simple:

 Coming from the East, the reefs start more than ten miles before reaching the islands, which  renders bearings of island ends or the like not very accurate. And, as usual in these areas, the charts may not correspond with the GPS positions at all. It is also difficult to accurately determine the necessary GPS correction if the radar targets are so far off. In the end we took the best possible mix of position fixing and carefully approached a maybe 300 meters wide, 200  meters deep and 4 miles long pass through the reef chain. From there we aimed for the opening between the northernmost and the next of the main Yasawa islands.

We ended up in one of the most beautiful anchorages we ever have been to. Anchoring deep (22m) and as close as we could get to an island that looked like a smaller version of Gibraltar rock. That island called Sawa-I-Lau also houses a magnificent sand stone cave and the rugged shore line reminded us of Niue.

 

Soon we went ashore to the village to present our Sevusevu to the chief. This went as before with the small variation that the chief asked us to see the art and souvenirs produced by the women of the village. Obviously a consequence of the regularly visiting tour boats here, and you cannot but buy some little thing, like a shell or necklace from each of them.

 

Never the less this was certainly a place to stay another day, if only to check out the sand stone cave. But also the scuba diving at the western end of the passage was rather nice.

Going south, we skipped the middle part of the Yasawas, called the Blue Lagoon which we were told was just a bunch of resorts and lots of dead coral. 

 

Our way south was a complicated path along the eastern side of the islands to a bay in the south of Naviti Island. In the shallow path between the next island to the south, one can often see big manta rays we were told. Well, we saw none of those, but snorkeling there was very nice anyway.


 

Slowly Kikki's and Henry's time was running out and so we sailed through to the Mamanucas all the way south to the famous Musket Cove. This is one of the few gathering points of cruising yachts in the islands. If you come to Fiji on your own keel, you can become a lifetime member for  one dollar, and your name will be engraved on a wooden beam in the pub.

Musket Cove Yacht Club and Musket Cove Resort were founded many years by a fellow cruiser and OCC member and so the resort is one of the few that welcomes sailors. We were lucky to arrive on a Thursday, as it is that day of the week that sailors can enjoy a big dinner buffet and a local dancing show at the resort. And so we treated ourselves to a decadent evening, before heading to Vuda Point Marina on the big island the next morning.

While it must exist for some ten years now, the marina is on no chart and we had to search along the coast to find the entrance channel that was cut through the fringing reef. The marina is a convenient 20 minute cab ride from Nadi International Airport, and that is why we had chosen it for dropping off our friends. It is an unusual marina, with a small entrance basin and then a circular main basin, maybe 100 meters in diameter.
Boats pick up two stern moorings and approach the perimeter of the basin with the bows. There are little balconies with water and power, one of which you share with your neighbor. It is a bit difficult to clamber onto it from your pulpit, but the boats are laying there really well and secure. If you want your boat very safe and return home during the hurricane season, they offer dug out holes on land into which keel and rudder of your boat disappear, while the boat rests on a bunch of car tires on the ground. Hard to imagine that much damage to your boat could happen in even the worst hurricane.

Next day Kikki and Henry left by plane, back to New Zealand, to care about their own boat before returning to the UK until October. Beate and Harald now switched back into a slower mode continuing to explore Fiji.

_/) _/) _/)

Now we had no particular plan other than being back in Savusavu in about three weeks to meet up with Mahi-Mahi. A nice cruising family from South Africa who we first met in the Tuamotus. They were about to leave New Zealand and had offered to bring a replacement water heater from New Zealand as ours, despite of being good 316 stainless steel, had corroded through and was leaking. 

They are also keen divers and Harald was looking for some nice diving company.  But there was plenty of time, as Mahi-Mahi wanted to spend at least a week in the Minerva reefs, before continuing on to Fiji.

We thought we would use the time to sail south around Viti Levu, (the big island), and visit the southernmost island of Kadavu and the Great Astrolabe Reef. 

Now, after some really hot and almost windless two weeks, we had stronger southeasterly winds and decided to wait a few days. For that and some relaxing we left Vuda Point and sailed to the northern side of Malolo. Other than a large Perini Navi, we were alone up there, despite Malolo being full of resorts. Two days like that and still strong SE winds, and so we went the five miles around Malolo to visit Musket Cove again. 

This time we became proper members of the yacht club and we met some folks that had just come up from New Zealand with very little wind motoring five days in a row. So maybe we were lucky.

We waited another two days for the wind to change, but to no avail and so we decided to move north around again.

The down side of this is that you end up in the lee of Viti Levu soon and then there is hardly any wind. But it sounded still better than beating into 25 knots of wind for a whole day and a whole night to make it to Kadavu.  So we had some very nice and fast sailing for about 20 miles, but after passing Lautoka it was over and we had to motor through the canals between island and surrounding reefs for another 30 miles until we anchored for the night in Vatia Bay on the northwestern shore of Viti Levu. From Lautoka on we were quite alone, to the right the island with very few villages, to the left extensive reefs... The same was true the next day until we again reached the area of Nananu-I-Take with its resorts. This time we anchored closer to the southern island as the wind was blowing very strong from the southeast and was throwing up quite a chop.

We decided for another day here at anchor, so that we could relax a bit and maintain our anchor windlass which had been acting up lately. Sometimes the motor didn't want to start unless you slightly turned it by hand before and since we were carrying a spare motor and numerous parts we thought we'd give it a major overhaul. 

For us cruisers the windlass is a very important piece of equipment that has to work hard almost every day.  Here in Fiji one has to anchor in some 20m of water most of the time which means to drop and wind in some 70 m of chain every time - a lot of hard work. 

But what we thought would take a few hours, took up the whole day. Due to corrosion like stainless steel screws in aluminum and a bent shaft, it required drills and angle grinder to virtually cut out some of the old pieces. But it was worth the effort and all is working fine now.

And we moved on, out of the pass that we already knew and across Bligh Water, to the western end of Vanua Levu, where we anchored in the lee of a beautiful looking cape, called Lekubi Point. Here we wanted to just hang out and relax for some days. If you are not in one of the major gathering places like Musket Cove, Vuda Marina or Savusavu, Fiji feels really remote. We had not seen another yacht since leaving Musket Cove, and so we were quite surprised to hear "Erin-Brie" loud and clear on the VHF talking to another boat. It turned out they were in Savusavu, some 50 miles as the crow flies and across hills. Normally impossible for a VHF connection.

Then, some time later we hear "Necesse" our Finish friends that we first met in Tenerife and called them. They were not so far away and moving west fast as they had now signed up for the Darwin to Indonesia rally, which meant for them to be in Darwin by mid July. We chatted for a while and wished them a good trip, we will not likely see them again in the near future.

Next on the radio was "Filia Venti" who heard us talking to "Necesse" and they were anchored just some 10 miles south of us at the road village of Nambouwalu. They promised to sail up to our place the next day and bring some fresh produce from the market. "Filia Venti" is also on a fester schedule, wanting to go to Thailand this winter, but not as hard pressed as "Necesse". But we would also see them for the last time and so we decided that we would sail together for a few days and visit the lovely island of Yandua again.

Next day "Filia Venti" turned up bringing fresh vegetables and fruits as promised and we had a nice fish dinner on board of "Taniwani". Our sail to Yadua next day was very nice, first with a gentle Genoa only down wind passage through the reefs of Vanua Levu, and then closer to the wind a real fast shot along Yadua's north coast and around into the now well known bay of Cukuvou Harbor. Strangely, three yachts were now entering the bay at almost the same time: "Taniwani", "Filia Venti", and the Swiss "Canigo" - all a sudden it was "crowded"  and we all met for sundowners on "Taniwani".

Now we had time to explore the nice island and the next day Heike and Klaus of  "Filia Venti" joined us for the long march across the island to the village. "Canigo" chose to move on, after many years in the Pacific they are now ready to get home quickly. Long before we got started on our hike, the women of the village already appeared in the bay.

They had come the long way very early to spend the day fishing with nets in shallow water. We kept meeting folks from the village along the way, some went fishing, some had to look after their plantations. Whenever we asked whether we were on the right path to the village, the answer was: "Sure, just follow the road". What road?? It was a small footpath and in some areas it was hard to figure out where it continued. 

Anyway, it was a hot day and we had to go uphill, pretty much as high as the island, before we could slowly decent to the village. It took us two and a half hours. 

Once it the village, the first person we met and asked for the way to the chief, was a nice young lady named Salome. She took care of us and bought us to the chief where we offered our Sevusevu.
 

Even by our standards, kava roots are not cheap at approximately 15 per kg, on the other hand a recommended half kilo gift would make enough to keep  a group of 20 drinkers happy for an evening. So the chief happily accepted a bundle from each yacht and welcomed us to his village and island. 

We spent some time chatting with the chief and then were asked to see the new baby twins. 

 

 

 

As always the locals hope that we can take photos and make some prints for them. And certainly we did.



 

 

After some time at the beach and strolling through the village we finally started again walking the long way back to our boats.
 

Salome left the village later, but quickly caught up with us again and accompanied us almost to the other side before she got side tracked by some good looking young men returning from fishing.

 And just before reaching the bay again, we met the convoy of women, including Salome's mother. Their catch they had wrapped up nicely in palm leaves to protect it from sun and insects. But what a small catch for a whole days work by some ten women!

 

By the time we arrived at our boats we were really tired and very impressed by the villagers who seem to walk that path every day seemingly effortless.  It was another nice evening in a beautiful anchorage, and our two boats were alone as the villagers had returned to their homes and the sea-cucumber divers were still in Lautoka selling their catch.

The next day, Fiji-Indian fishermen from the big island came into the bay to ask for cigarettes and got some from us. Interestingly the indigenous Fijians do not seem to smoke. Later when Pita, the ranger, showed up again we heard that the fishing waters around Yadua belong to the village and they do not like these fishermen coming over from other islands.  Pita came for some small talk and he was keen to see if we could spare a DVD with a movie. Again we could.

 

After three lovely days in this anchorage we said good-bye to "Filia Venti". They needed to move on to Vuda Point where they wanted to get the boat hauled out, since the folks in New Zealand messed up the installation of a new propeller.  They had filled the sea-water cooled bearing and stuffing box with loads of grease, so that it now got extremely hot when motoring. There is no easy way to get the grease out other than lifting the boat out of the water. But by the time we would be back in Vuda Point, they would be gone to Vanuatu, where they would leave before we got there. So another nice cruising couple to say good bye to for a while.

 

We also went on, but in the other direction. We sailed to the northern shore of Vanua Levu, into a small fjord like inlet, to a village called Koroinasolo. The village is up a little hill overlooking the bay and the brand new big church is visible from far. After anchoring well out in the slowly shoaling bay, we went ashore.

As it was Sunday, we had to wait until the chief would come from the church. In the mean time, Carlos, one of the teachers showed us around the village. The chief finally received us and we had the usual Sevusevu ceremony. In the end we asked the chief if they had anything mechanical or electrical that needed repair. 
There is not much of that sort in the remote village, that doesn't even have electricity, but they do have outboard motors. So the chief asked if we could look after some of those the next morning.

When Harald showed up next morning, the chief asked him to sit down next to himself in front of his house and have some small talk while he continued to prepare the remains of a turtle for cooking. 

Seems a very rare catch and if they get one it usually ends up with the chief. It is amazing how long and hard they work to catch a small number of fish and in light of that it seems that they will not put a big dent into the turtle population. In the course of the conversation, the chief asked whether we had reading glasses and we promised to bring our spare one.

Then Baia showed up, just with a towel wrapped around, as when the chief called for him, he was just having his morning shower. His broken outboard was the one that seemed to concern the chief most and so Harald went along with Baia to his house. Baia turned out to be a really smart and mechanically very skilled guy, though in essence he was a farmer and fisherman. In his mid thirties he was unmarried as he, as the oldest kid had to support his sick parents and a number of siblings that were studying on other islands.

The outboard engine had overheated and the impeller of the cooling water pump was gone. We didn't have the proper spare, but still had impellers for an electric toilet that we had thrown away recently. These had the same diameter, but were taller so that we could cut them to a fitting size. Also the fitting to the drive shaft needed some modification, but worked out fine.  

After that, there was an old manual, Chinese sewing machine, that didn't pick up the thread and three more outboard engines with smaller problems. 

In the middle of all this work, Harald was invited for lunch and siesta into Baia's house. Food was basic, but very nice and tasty, especially the spinach like taro leaves. 

 

Baia offered his bed, but Harald declined and all laid down on the floor after lunch for some relaxing and a conversation about our very different worlds. 

Late in the afternoon, we were waiting for the tide to rise enough to look at some of the other engines and while doing so, just before sunset, the fishing boat that went out early in the morning, filled with a large number of people, just came back from a day of fishing, all happy and laughing. From our perspective the catch was not big for the effort, but they seemed very happy.

 

 

Next morning, just before Harald was ready to go ashore with freshly printed photos and to to look after the last outboard, Baia came out proudly trying his newly repaired engine. He had his sister and her little daughter with him and it was clear they were curious and want to see our boat. We think it must be to them much like an alien spaceship landing in our backyard and the folks inviting you on a tour.

What we have is so different to what they know, it must just be exotic. This was confirmed, when Baia watched pictures of our journey on the screensaver of the laptop on the chart table. He got really interested when pictures of the villages in the San Blas islands popped up, and he wanted to see them again. 

Now he was looking carefully at the differences: Like here in Fiji, the huts are built from palm leaves and wood, but in the San Blas the walls are bamboo sticks tied together and here it is woven palm leaves, also the houses are much closer together in the San Blas. Baia was looking at all these details, and maybe some of these ideas will now appear in Fiji.

Well, at some point we had to leave the nice folks, said good-bye and sailed out of the bay and down to Nambouwalu, the place where "Fila Venti" was when we first heard them on the radio. Nambouwalu is a road town, and not a real village, so no Sevusevu ceremony, but a small market and two small shops. 

It is a big road intersection and the ferry from the Viti Levu lands here. When we approached Nambouwalu, we saw two other yachts coming in from the south and we almost arrived at the same time. They were "Erin Brie" and "Velocity" and it didn't take long and we all had a sundowner invitation to "Erin Brie". A nice evening with exchange of all the latest news.
Next day we separated again, them going west, and us doing some shopping and then going south to Makogai. The place with the old leper station that we now wanted to inspect closer.

The thrill this time was coming out of the reef chain that extends from Vanua Levu, but the entrance into Makogai was now well known. 

This time we anchored between the two islands, just south of the smaller one, since we were expecting northwesterly winds. While a bit deep, it was a really nice place and we had some of the finest snorkeling just off the boat.     

We just had a good time here exploring the little island and the reefs and on our third day moved over to the old leper station, to offer some Sevusevu and get a tour. 

The Kava was much appreciated by both the few folks in the station (4 families) and the visiting chief from the village across. He gave us a nice tour of the place and had great stories regarding its history.  One of several interesting things was the first cinema in Fiji, open air with a big concrete screen and a nice projector house all taken over by the jungle now. 

 

 

The old generator from the fifties was still running, providing them with power, but it was spoiling oil all over the place so that we could not get close.


We learned that some 5000 people lived here in the leper days and we saw the small part of a big cemetery that was being kept clean on behalf of the French government, who were paying the locals for that. Most of those who cared about the leper infected folks on the island then, were sisters from France.


 

Not much is left over from those days, and only the impressive stairs of the old hospital remained and they look odd as a solitaire structure on the beach. Now they grow giant mussels there, well the young ones are small and at still a small size they get set out in the islands where some of them grow to meter wide diver eating monsters ;-)

Off course they also had things to repair, but this time no outboards, it was TV-Sets for a change! In most of them the power supplies had failed because of the big voltage fluctuations caused by the old generator. 


A fourth day in Makogai and then we went on to Namena, about half the distance to Savusavu where we wanted to be a day later to meet up with "Mahi-Mahi". Namena is a little resort island in the middle of a huge reef that extends out from Vanua Levu some 15 miles. The resort is very high end and yachts are not welcome. Though nobody can hinder you anchoring there or going ashore as far as the tide line. 

We anchored at the northwestern end where you cannot see the resort, but a green jungle full of lovely exotic birds. We did some snorkeling there but it wasn't great when compared to Makogai. 

Coming in on the western side, the reef had a marker at its narrow pass, but going out to the east we found none of the charted markers and had to go on a reverse transit of the island and Makogai. Very slowly we found our way out and as soon as we were to relax, the reel of our fishing line went crazy. After some exciting minutes we had a 14 kg Wahoo on board.

Entering Savusavu we raised "Mahi-Mahi" on the radio, they had already arrived in the morning and were just done with the clearing procedures. We spent three days in Savusavu, doing some shopping and replacing the water heater with the new one that "Mahi-Mahi" brought along. Then, one afternoon we left to just go out to Reef Point, where we tied up near Michael Costeau's resort. 

Now Harald could go out diving on the long reef again with Joao, Ligia and Marco of "Mahi-Mahi".

Micheal Costeau's resort is one where yachties are welcome and we had sundowners there in a very nice setting. Our plan for the next day was to get up before first light, round the reef and head for Fawn Harbour some 50 miles to the east.
Unfortunately we had over 20 knots of wind from ESE. On Taniwani we could motor-sail with 6-7 knots into this, but on "Mahi-Mahi" a 47 ft catamaran, this was even harder and so we decided to give up after a few miles and turn south to Koro Island. That was fine sailing then and both boats arrived together at the northwest corner. This time we decided to anchor at Dere Bay on the western coast as it seemed more protected, given the current wind direction.

 

We spent a day there which was used on "Taniwani" to wash and dry all the cushions that got wet the other day, while motoring into the seaway with one hatch not properly closed by Harald. But there was still time to visit the village and offer our Sevusevu and time for a nice dive on the outer reef.


A day later, when the wind direction looked more favorable we did our second and this time successful attempt to sail east. It was great sailing now and both boats covered the 50 miles to Viana Bay very quickly. Viana Bay is a large bay on the eastern end of Vanua Levu, right across from the island of Taveuni, separated by the Somosomo Strait. 2.5 miles out, the bay is closed off by a long reef which is reputedly the best diving area in Fiji.

Most of the shoreline of the bay is owned by descendents of German settler Fischer. Now several families live along that bay. Jack Fisher is one of them and he has made a little business out of helping yachties dive on the reef. Himself he has retired from scuba diving, but he takes you out on your yacht to the reef, shows you where you can anchor for the day and than brings you to the best spots with your own dinghy, tending it while you are diving. He picks you up wherever the current takes you - and there is quite some current at times.

 

Jack is a very likeable man, with good manners and he knows the reef better than anybody. There are several nice dives, but some of the most amazing are the so called 'white wall' and the 'purple wall'. Both are vertical walls where the reef drops off into Somosomo strait. The names they have from the soft coral that grow on them and give them a unique appearance.

We had two diving days, leaving "Taniwani" in the bay and all going out to the reef on "Mahi-Mahi" guided by Jack. It was all excellent diving with two long dives a day. 

One of the days was overcast with slight drizzle once in a while and we used that to visit the island of Taveuni. 

 

 

 

 

Again we left "Taniwani" in Viani Bay and moved all onto "Mahi-Mahi" to cross Somosomo strait and anchor in front of the village of Wairiki. It is only an open day anchorage, but good enough for us to explore the area.

The first thing is a stroll to the anti-meridian, the meridian opposite of Greenwich, it constitutes the theoretic date line and one can stand  with one foot in yesterday the other in today. For practical reasons the line was moved east, to include not only all of Fiji, but also Tonga into 'today'. 

 

 

 

 

A few kilometers walk out of the village brought us to the big catholic mission, with a nice church where many students were sitting on the ground rehearsing songs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then back to the village for a drink in the garden island resort hotel and later, courtesy of "Mahi-Mahi", back to Viana bay and "Taniwani".


 

The days went by quick and it was soon time to part again from "Mahi-Mahi" and family. They had to go to Savusavu to meet visiting friends, and we needed to move west to Vuda Point Marina, where we would leave "Taniwani" for two weeks, while visiting at home for our son Markus' wedding.

 

The first day of our journey back west, we went back to our previous anchorage at Koro island. 

From there on to Naigani Island, a place new to us and really lovely:  While there is a resort on the southern end, it is entirely remote on the northwestern end, with a fantastic sand beach and absolutely great snorkeling. We really liked it there.
 Unfortunately we had to move on the next day, going through Bligh Water to Nananu-I-Ra and the next day all the way to Vuda Point. Back in Vuda Point we met several boats that we had not seen since New Zealand, but also "Filia Venti" again. Their life raft that had been serviced at the same place as ours in New Zealand  had now self inflated in the marina, while they were having coffee in the cockpit! Now they were waiting for the replacement.

We flew home to Germany from there on June 21st and are returning to "Taniwani" on July  9th. We plan a few more weeks in Fiji and then to sail on to Vanuatu.

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Next Report: From Fiji to Vanuatu to Australia

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