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!!

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