Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time to Pay Our Dues

Blog Location: On route to Vuda Point
Current Position: Musket Cove
Current Position: 17°46.2' S 177°11.3' E

We awoke early on Monday morning to begin preparations for our trip to Yadua Island. The first thing we needed to do was bottle the beer we had been brewing. We didn't want it to get all stirred up if the passage got too rolly (which of course it did). We hauled up the anchor, sounded our fog horn, and waved goodbye to the village as someone stood standing on the beach waving a huge yellow flag. I immediately put out a fishing line and as soon as we passed around the reef we caught a huge waloo. I had been fishing these exact waters in the dinghy and hadn't caught a thing and now we caught this fish big enough to feed the entire village. I looked at KT and said should we go back and give it too them ... she gave me this look like.. "I got up at 6 am to leave so we're leaving". We motored around monkey face point and once we left the shelter of the reef the wind and seas picked up a bit. We got two more HUGE strikes on our lures, one that broke a hook and another that hit the swivel and split my 400 lb monofilament in half with a huge ball of split line hanging off the lure face.

The Vatu I Ra channel is known to be rougher than most of Fiji in a South easterly blow, and it did not disappoint. We had 25 knots off the beam with full sail up.. hmm time to reef. We had to motor around the point to the anchorage on the South west side of Yadua but it was well worth the effort. The wind died in strength but was still a little gusty under the protection of the cliffs. We met the village representative and the caretaker for the lizards home. The island feels like a scene from Jurassic park and is the only place in the world where the green nested iguana lives. After we finalized our formalities with the two locals we invited them for a cold drink. We also offered them some of our huge fish which they gladly accepted. We also gave them some Kava for our village sevusevu because we weren't planning on going to the village. We tried to talk in our limited Fijian and they were happy to find out we came from Naiqiri village, it turns out their minister was last positioned in Naviqiri only two years before. We asked if it was possible to get permission to visit the iguana island but the caretaker, who was quite young, said no. "Oh well, no Iguana soup" laughed KT .. luckily they both 'got' the joke and laughed along.

We spent the next morning hiking around the island and enjoying the great view back at the mainland and over the reefs surrounding the island. It was good exercise and the views were well worth the effort. We also spent some time trying to get over to a great sand beach that the locals had described on the other side of the anchorage. When we finally got there we were both amazed at the quantity of plastic that was covering the beach. Renaissance 2000 a boat that came in later said they had carried their trash for a couple of weeks and finally dropped it off in a trash can near the government buildings at Coconut Point, only to watch the same bag go floating by later as the sun was starting to set.

I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the bottom in anticipation of the motoring we would be doing over the next couple of days. It was a mess, Naviqiri is a very murky bay with a greenish water, I didn't realize how much stuff had attached itself to the hull. I also figured that anything I removed then, wouldn't have to be removed once I got to the boat yard. It was the hardest scrubbing I've had to do, but after almost three years on one paint job I guess I had to pay my dues. We had an impromptu cockpit party after the boat Wandering Star came over to ask if we were "the Billabong" mentioned on Ascension's Website. We laughed at all the friends we have in common, I guess they spent an extra season in Mexico so they were a year behind the friends we knew.

The next day we motored the entire way across to the Nananu-i-ra pass, in company with another boat that was following exactly in our tracks. We anchored in a protected bay and moved across to the other side when the dark clouds and wind start appearing. We caught up with Indra for drinks and heard about their great trip to Rabi Island, although it was to Catherine bay instead of Alberts cove where we had visited last year. The next morning we needed to start early to make the 55 miles before dark. I got up, got everything ready and went to start the engine.. nothing. We have NEVER had a problem with the engine since we've left.. hmm.. Seems like a fuel problem (can't be much else on a diesel) so I started right at base of the engine and noticed that the kill button return spring had broken, about a 30 second fix. I was very happy it didn't break while we were going through a tight pass or really needed the engine. We motored all the way to Latouka and anchored in a very muddy bay just north of the town. It was such a wet mud bottom the hook took 10 to 1 scope to "set".

The next day we started early so that we could get to Sawini bay and I could get a ride to the marina to clarify an email about our haul-out that afternoon. It was a crazy bus ride and the guy forgot to tell us which stop to get off at, even though we explicitly told him where we were going. The marina would be a tight fit but there were some catamarans there so we would easily fit. I got a quick ride back to the boat and got her ready for the boatyard. Right after we left the anchorage the wind picked up to 20+ knots right on the nose. We entered the narrowest channel we've ever been in with the swell behind us. KT put the boat in neutral and we were still doing 4 knots right past a sign that said max speed 3 knots.. oh well. We passed the yacht club bar and I could have had someone hand me a beer from the porch we felt so close. KT did a great job and was very glad to get over her fear of being close to other things while driving the boat. By 3:30 we were on the hard and ready to begin our bottom job.

It took us a week but we got it done. It was probably the easiest haul out we've had because I took advantage of the fact I didn't have any 220 volt tools, to hire the Fijian labor. They wanted $f10 to rent the sander or $f16 to have some one do the work, that comes to paying $3.60 US to have someone else get dirty. Of course the labor isn't exactly first rate so I did rent the sander for a couple of hours to get it the way I wanted. She turned out great and I even splurged and had the topsides polished. Billabong was looking in top shape once again.

In the boatyard, we made friends with an older couple from Canada. Ralph and Ruth, who built their own boat. They had been cruising in the early 70's with their kids and built their second boat exactly opposite of what their first boat was. This one is 60 feet long and weighs almost half as much as Billabong and has a very unique three masted rig that Ralph had built himself. Each mast weighs only 130 pounds and even though she is long and narrow she never heels more than 15 degrees. We went down below and KT said that their saloon was bigger than the living room in her old apartment. It's a pretty amazing boat that is now 30 years old. They had hit a slightly submerged drift net that tore off their skeg, strut and bent their prop shaft so they couldn't motor. Ralph was rebuilding everything and fixing up the paint where the boat who tried to help them crashed into the side. Ralph was quite the character talking about the old days of sailing, cruising with kids and his working life. Turns out Ralph used to be the European VP of Digital and had spent a lot of time in the town of Maynard, the next town over from where I grew up!! Small World. It turns out that ALL of their kids are out cruising now with their kids. I guess life as a cruising kid can't be all that bad. Ruth was a sweetheart and gave KT some canning jars after KT gave Ruth an online cookbook series she has.

We caught up with some old friends and made some new ones. All in all it wasn't that bad of a week in the yard.. the only thing that sucked was the cockroaches, they were everywhere. We were sitting in the cockpit enjoying a post work beer when five landed right in the cockpit. We both threw down our drinks and started chasing the little buggers. After we were sure we got them all we relaxed again with our beers only to find out one had flown straight into mine.. luckily I saw the roach prior to taking in a big gulp!

On Saturday, we took a trip into Nadi with Cookie Cutter, some Canadian cruisers we had met last year. We had a great time catching up with them earlier in the week and they invited us to Nadi with them in their rented car. They are psychotic shell collectors and we got to see the rare shell collection at Jack's (a souvenir shop) some costing over $700. Yikes! We had a nice dinner on Denerau island, where a lot of the resorts are.. It was pretty funny to watch as the bartender was trying to make Peter a two person cocktail for $f20. First he fills the glasses with ice, Peter says "a little easy on the ice their eh buddy." and then Peter pours some out. The guy says "I make the drinks" and fills it back up to the top. He starts pouring the booze in the blender and runs out so he has to go in back to get some more, Peter immediately starts removing ice cubes from the glasses. It was too funny to watch. It got even funnier when the guy returned, finished making the drink in the blender and then poured ALL the ice out before added the mixed drink. He was just chilling the glasses. Peters face was pretty funny once he realized the confusion.

We bumped into more old friends and decided it was time to head out to Musket Cove to enjoy the water and sunshine before we leave Fiji for Vanuatu. What a different world it is out here. Full of cruising boats and resorts with no villages. It's a nice change but I can't imagine spending the entire season here and saying you've visited Fiji. Oh well, right now I'll enjoy the amenities, the cheap drinks and the cruising community, knowing what Fiji is really all about and glad that I got to enjoy all my time here!!

Continue reading "Time to Pay Our Dues"...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Still in Naviqiri Village

Blog Location: Naviqiri Village
Current Location: Musket Cove
Current Position: 17°46.2' S 177°11.3' E

After the paw-paw bread disaster we decide to bring the village kids out to the boat. I shuttled people back and forth and we ended up with 30 people on board. Everyone wanted a photo taken and loved checking out the boat. They especially loved our electronic zapping fly swatter that says do not touch right on it. Of course they loved the spark and zap it gave them. One little kid Tui was< up on deck while I was explaining things below. We was talking in Fijian, "Chris I can hear you but I don't know where you are!!" I got a couple of good photos, one of all the kids on the right side of the boat, and then the other of the boat while they were still sitting; we must have been out of the water by a good foot on the other side.

Our second week started out rather mellow and slow; Sunday we played cards, a Fijian game called trump, where we tried desperately to throw the cards down with the same oomph as they did. It was amazing to watch, they would slam the card down with almost a whip cracking sound. They laughed hysterically as we tried, and failed to copy them. KT made some banana bread with chocolate chips which the villagers loved. We "had" to leave the village so the kids would go to church, so we went to visit a bush house where the family raised goats. It was rather funny to arrive and have them running a little generator so that the kids could watch a movie. They were having a great time and we thought they understood everything until KT described exactly what was happening.. oh.. they said. Now I understand why Stephen Segal is the most famous actor in Fiji, simple dialog with lots of actions that they can understand. It was a rather fun visit as he explained that he trained the goats when they were young to return to the pen. He takes them up into the hills and then back again, I guess after a couple of days they just keep returning home at the same time. It was kind of funny to watch them come running down the hill to home, only to be sold to the Indians for food later in life.

We spent some time cleaning the boat and working on the computer, but we would always return to the village in the afternoon to play with the kids. We had Sera and Freddy to the boat for dinner again, I guess they've been to a couple of boats now so they weren't as impressed this time. KT made them pizza which they had never had before, can you imagine a world without pizza? We went on a couple of long walks and every time we saw someone they said, "where are you going?". "Just walking" we would say as they gave us a VERY funny look. If we said we were "going moce" (sleep) they wouldn't have had a second thought because THAT was something they could understand. I finally explained that we don't get to walk very far on our small boat so we enjoy it when we get the chance.. they still thought we were crazy!!

One night after a busy afternoon of playing with the kids and a drink of tea afterwards we headed down to the dinghy to go to the boat. Of course we had a bunch of people follow us to wave goodbye as we headed out into the moonlit night to find Billabong. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a black and white striped thing on the engine .. and it began to move. Yikes, holy cow.. what the.. it was a sea snake, one of the most poisonous snakes. We jumped around trying to get it overboard, flailing violently and forgetting about steering the dinghy. We made a couple of circles, headed right towards the reef, and pretty much made fools of ourselves to anyone who didn't know what was happening on shore. We finally got it overboard and we certainly deserved a good beer after that adventure. The good thing about a sea snake is they can really bite you because their jaws aren't big enough. I guess you can get bit in the skin flap between your fingers and toes so I pretty much fought it with a palmed hands. It was funny in hind sight, it's been rather cold in Fiji and I guess it was warming itself on the engine for a while.

The next day we explained to everyone what had happened and after a big sigh of relief, they laughed at us. We invited Aquila and Boxing Grandma to the boat for a breakfast of coffee cake and tea. It was rather funny to watch grandma run to her house, change her clothes and fix her hair, just for a visit in the boat. Not for us mind you, the boat!! She had never seen one before. After a tour and breakfast she said that we could go back and let her sleep there all day and she would be happy.

We spent the rest of the week learning more card games, "5-3-2" and "last card", and ended up giving them a couple of decks, theirs were like cloth they were so warn out. On Saturday the men all went out to the bush to harvest food for Sunday. KT and I played some more cards and I said that I thought we should learn how to make a basket. They use a basket woven from palm leaves to carry the crops back from the bush. KT spent about 45 minutes making a small one while the ladies all called her smart.. "some Fijian ladies don't know how to weave like you" they said. We also spent some time handing out some of the 200 no bake cookies she made to all the villagers, some of them loved them but some of the older ones thought they were too sweet.

The rugby star Oreise came back with his girl friend and was in a much more relaxed mood. You know you've been in a village too long when you end up in bed with the chief. It started out as a simple walk down to "check the boat" our signal that we are going to the beach to take a pee. Of course a couple of kids followed and I had to tell them to wait as I did my business. While they were waiting they heard a woman screaming from the chiefs house... "Chris Chris come quick" they said. I ran to the house as the kids stayed outside. The Chief's daughter was yelling at me to help her. The chief is bed ridden and had fallen over part way out of bed and she couldn't get him back up. Oh yeah and he was pretty much naked! She was pounding on his back and hysterically crying, all while trying to rewrap his sulu. So I leaped over the bed and grabbed him around the chest I didn't realize before exactly how big and heavy he was. I tried pulling him back but he wouldn't move. He was moaning incoherently and was completely dead weight. Finally I pulled with all my might and he flopped backwards onto the bed. She was still screaming and hitting his chest, so I ran out and grabbed one of the chief's helpers and he started pounding on his back as well. Turns out he was taking a pee into the bed pan and started having a heart attack. yikes!! Well word got out and everyone came over .. "Chris you saved the chief", Yet another story the can tell about those crazy white people from the boat Billabong.

On Sunday we brought in coffee cake for breakfast and some more cookies, they made us Fijian pancakes which are a lot like donuts without the hole. We had more people out to the boat; first Oresee, his uncle/dad, and friends came out. They loved hanging out of the boat and wanted their picture taken with their island in the background. They really wanted to see the video of us swimming with the whales and the sharks. I think we gained some new found respect after they saw that, Then we had the "ladies" out to the boat. They were much more excited and required two trips to get them all on board. They laughed and giggled as we gave them lemonade and started asking us all sorts of questions and wanted to see pictures of our family. Then they asked what we were going to do about a family. I was standing down below and I said "we're just practicing" hoping it would blow over.. I have never heard them laugh sooo hard.

We walked around the village saying goodbye to people that weren't hanging out by the shade building, and handed out more cookies. Everyone asked when we would be back, it was hard to explain that we didn't know. Maybe we would return with our family to see everyone grown up. They had a goodbye grog party for us and people gave us gifts of paw-paw, coconuts, bananas and pineapple for "our trip". We tried to explain that it was just a day sail but we excepted their gifts whole heartedly. We said goodbye to everyone but it was especially hard to say goodbye to Sera, Freddy, and Asinaca who walked us down to the beach that night. We returned to Billabong,
completely satisfied by our visit and looking forward to our eventual return.
Continue reading "Still in Naviqiri Village"...