Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The cyclone that hit Fiji last winter blew this bure askew.

We had a wonderful day today. It started off with breakfast in a Fijian household. Yesterday when we joined up with our buddies, we went ashore and did our sevusevu ceremony and a villager showed us around. It was a lovely village, a cyclone had gone through this season and done some damage to the village and the crops, but the village was clean there was a green space in the middle and the houses were spaced out nicely, not all crowded together.
When we landed on the beach a fellow asked us if we wanted some lobster and we readily agreed, thinking we would be getting another great deal. Once we had negotiated a price, we got around to asking if Barry could go with him. It was decided that Barry could go with him but he would take him in our dinghy, no problem. It was an opportunity you might never get again, fishing in the dark with a local for lobster. Barry set off at the agreed time and I thought they would be gone for hours, they showed up at the boat within 10 minutes, Ari did not have any batteries for his underwater flashlight. We rounded up 2, all we had on the boat, and then Barry went over to Argonaut and they had 2 more so the lobster expedition was on again. They went out to a reef and Ari speared a few fish, Barry said it was easy because the fish seem to be sleeping and you just swim up to them and stab them. The Fijian fishermen use a long thin steel rod and they also have devised a rubber slingshot which will shoot the rod as well. Barry said Ari was no dummy because he would stab the fish and then give them to Barry who would put them on another rod and swim around after Ari as he went hunting for other fish. If there was a shark in the vicinity who would he attack, the guy swimming about or the one who was holding dead fish oozing with blood!! There were still no lobster at this point, so they guys headed off to a different spot. Barry decided to stay in the dinghy at this point and Ari came back with 4 very small dead lobster. Barry explained that if he had been in on the kill he would have asked that they leave the small guys until they grew up a little, but it was too late and small as they were we really enjoyed them, they were quite tasty. I am really not to sure about the deal though, they used our gas to get there and back and Ari ended up with 4 brand new D cell batteries for his flashlight.
BUT....on the way back to shore Ari invited both boats to breakfast the next morning, so that is how we started out day. Breakfast consisted of tea, fried pancakes, cold boiled yams and paw paws or papayas. We met Ari's wife, his daughter, his sister in law and a cousin. When breakfast was served we ate and our hosts would not touch the food, it is the Fijian way, the host does not eat until the guests are finished. This interaction with the local people was the kind of experience I was looking for when we started cruising.
Cave entrance
After that wonderful beginning to the day we set off for another anchorage 6 miles away, we followed Argonaut who has previous boats paths on their computer. This is a great comfort because you know wherever they have gone there are no reefs so life is quite a bit less stressful. We stopped at a gorgeous spot that is known for its caves. After hiring a guide from the nearby village Barry and I walked up the cement steps that lead into the cave, took off our shoes, walked down the platform and then entered the water. The entry into the cave is about 5 meter in diameter, then as you swim out the rocks open up and there is a huge cathedral like structure that is open to the sunlight. It is amazing. There is a second cave that you swim into under water. When you enter you cannot see anything, our guide, John, had a torch and it's dim light showed us the low ceiling. The acoustics were fantastic, the echos of our voices rang out. John slapped his hands on the water and the sound boomed out raising goosebumps on my arms. After leaving the caves we explored up another lagoon by dinghy, the rock structures were quite striking.
Liz and Mike came over for dinner and we had a lovely time. As I was finishing the dishes Barry checked on the engine, something had not quite worked properly when we had turned it off. The wind had come up and we all were a bit concerned because the anchorage is deep and there is a cruise ship anchored just behind us so if we drag at all we will be spoiling the paint on a Norwegian boat. Well glory be if the %$#%@^$# engine would not start when Barry tested it. Well what next, I guess life was just too good to be true today. After fretting and fussing for about 1/2 an hour with me in the background going, can we just think about this in the morning, Barry explained very calmly that if we dragged anchor and we could not get the motor going, what then!! That set me back on my heels, I never think these things through. Barry hit the restart button on the engine and lo and behold the it started, we have no clue as to why it stopped but now I know where the restart button is and what a lifesaver it can be. So I guess all is well that ends well. Tomorrow is another day.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

If you look closely you should be able to see Cat's-Paw IV in the middle of the picture.

Well good news all around, Barry got the watermaker going and we found the vegetable farm, so once again life is good. Barry is not sure what he did to the watermaker but it decided that it would work again after Barry mucked around with it (his words). I am eternally grateful that he persisted with it and we once again have ready access to fresh water. I did a little laundry yesterday as alot of my favourite clothes were getting pretty salt encrusted and they were not fun to wear anymore.
The tale of the vegetable farm is a little more interesting. Liz (off of Argonaut) and I set off about 4 in the afternoon to find the farm. We had been told not to try and get there before high tide as you had to go up a channel in mangrooves and it is non negotiable at low tide. We set off with a pretty good idea where it was. We managed to negotiate our way around several reefs, and then headed toward the end of the bay, luckily a sailboat was heading that way so we hailed them and asked if they could direct us towards the farm. Lo and behold, the farmer was on board, he had gone out on a fishing expedition and had a lovely large fish to show for it. With superb directions we motored over to the mangrove channel and found the end. The bank was extremely muddy and I almost did a faceplant into the mud as I stepped ashore. We found the farmer's wife and she took us down to the garden. There was about 3 acres of garden and she picked our vegetables as we followed her around. We left with eggplant, cucumbers, green onions, green peppers, bok choy, basil, coriander and hot peppers, all that came to $10.00 Fijian. What a deal and the cucumbers were to die for and the bok chok was excellent in the soup I made today. On the way back we were motoring into the waves and we got completely soaked. We arrived back at the boats just as the sun was setting. We were very glad that we did not have to complete the journey in the dark.
The next day Barry and I went for a 2 tank dive. It was marvelous. The first dive was called the pinacle and it was a huge vertical corral reef, it was covered with yellow and orange soft coral, really lovely. The second dive was in the cabbage patch, and featured corral that looked like cabbage leaves. It was amazing the leaves were huge. I picked out a spotted sting ray laying low on the bottom. It was great to be able to share the experience with Barry, otherwise known as Jacques!! Barry has been contemplating a new career as "DIVE MASTER".

Today we moved anchorages, Argonaut chose to continue on further north not liking the looks of where we stopped. We went ashore and had a wonderful hike up into the surrounding hills. The views were spectacular, I am so thankful that Barry's surgery went well and that we are able to tramp around together once again, YEAH!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This is shortly after we had be dumped out of the dinghy on our first beach landing in Fiji, it was a gorgeous spot.

Moonduster on the beach. The folks that hung out the laundry now have ownership of her. Not a great position for a sailboat. Wayne, the owner, did not listen to the warnings he was repeatedly given by the locals and Moonduster was uninsured and once he was on the reef he just walked away from her.

Barry salvaging parts, this picture shows how agile he is now, a year ago there was no way he could have climbed up there, cheap parts or not.

The view from the walkway from one side of the island to the other, I marveled every time I saw this view.

These are the guys who dove our chain and helped us get our anchor off the choral,Ben and Sia. Thank goodness they came to help or we may still be there!

A spider we encountered on our ramble through the bush. He was huge.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Our buddies we have been kind of waiting for, Mike and Liz on Argonaut, finally showed up. We spent 3 days at a very safe, non rolly anchorage. We combed the beaches, had lunch ashore and checked out their reefs to see what shape the coral was in. One our buddies showed up it was time to be on the move again. Yesterday we landed at a spot that supposedly had a sunken WWII plane that you could snorkel on. We went ashore and found a path through the bush and went exploring. We got sidetracked in the bush and wandered around for about 10 minutes looking for the path. Finally we discovered it and followed it out of the bush into a big grassy field. I felt like I was in Africa, the grass was taller than our heads and I kept expecting lions to pounce of wild boar to come charging out of the grass. We did not even spot a gopher.
At the end of the path there was a lovely clearing where an older Fijian couple lived. They looked out upon the most gorgeous lagoon I have ever seen. At low tide the lagoon was mostly free of water, it was sand everywhere and there were large tree covered islands protecting the lagoon on all sides. WE had not taken our snorkel gear so today we returned and asked where the sunken plane was and were given a very good drawing on the sand of where it was located. Barry and I walked out about 300 meter before the water got deep enough to snorkel and we found the remains of the plane. It was a P39 whose pilot apparently made and error and down he went. The small brightly coloured fish had made it their home and were happily swimming in and out of the engine block. Clara, the lady of the island, had requested sugar and tea when we asked if she needed anything yesterday so today we happily gave it to her and she reciprocated by giving us what she referred to as lemons. We aren't sure what fruit they are, they are kind of shaped like a fat lemon, they vary in colour from yellow to green and the insides are orange. They are quite sour but taste kind of like a cross between a lemon and an orange. Squeezed with a little sugar and cold water they make a very refreshing drink.
When we got back to the boat today a fishing boat came up and asked if we would like to buy some lobster, and did we ever.
These lobsters were huge, bigger than I have ever seen, Barry and I each had one for dinner about three in the afternoon, and felt like royalty as we ate the lobster with butter and the strange sour fruit squeezed on them. Tomorrow we will head further north to a spot called the Blue Lagoon where there is a farmer that will sell vegetables to cruisers, we are almost out of fresh fruit and veggies and are being very careful with our precious water.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We have had a lively last few days. We tramped over the hill to scavenge some parts from the beached yacht Moonduster. We got a very nice jam cleat that we can use for ten dollars Fijian, about six Canadian, new it would cost approx. $50.00 CND. Barry had to climb aboard the yacht and unscrew it, I have some great pictures. On the way back across the hill we met three different local guys who asked if we were from the yacht anchored off the village, they said we should move. Barry wasn't quite sure whether to believe them but after the third guy told us to leave we did. When we arrived back in the anchorage by a resort one of the boats that had left the same time as we did, except from Vancouver, was there, it was great to see them again and we spent some quality time together. The wind kicked up and was blowing about 35 knots in the gusts, but it was offshore so all of us decided we could go to shore and have dinner. It was the night before our 36th anniversary so we splurged. It was wonderful, there was an awesome sunset, we drank kava on the deck of the resort while the Fijian employees serenaded us and all the other diners. We had a lovely meal, more singing and then there was a quiz night organized by the resort that we were encouraged to join. It is a celebration that will linger in my memory for a long time.
That night the winds were continuing to blow. Barry got up about midnight and determined that our buddies were not where they should be, their anchor had dragged. He woke me up out of a sound sleep, I was in panic mode immediately, the last time I had been woken up like that was when we went aground in the Marquesas. He immediately reassured me that we were safe and explained that Cop Out was not where it should be. They were about 100 meters from where they had been when we went to sleep. We honked our horn, called them on the radio and shone our million watt candle power light on their boat, no reaction. We were convinced they had not moved since we had started watching them but thought that if we didn't make an effort to wake them and they dragged further and came to grief we would not be able to forgive ourselves.
The wind had flipped our dinghy over, thank goodness Barry had the foresight to take the motor aboard so we had little trouble turning it over. Barry put on his lifejacket, lowered the motor into the dinghy and off he went. After banging repeatedly on their hull they woke up and Barry apprised them of their situation. They reanchored safely but none of us was able to go back to sleep for a couple of hours. Barry stayed up and did anchor watch until the wind abated around 0330 and then came to bed.
The next day the wind was still up so we decided to stay another day, we were getting low on water so Barry was going to stay aboard and make water and I went off with the other women for a hike. When we returned Barry informed me that he had been unable to make any water, apparently one of the pumps was malfunctioning so all we had left was about 6 gallons of fresh water. I think I just reported what a wonderful job the watermaker had been doing, man I should know better than to praise a piece of equipment that belongs in a boat. What a conundrum, what should we do, return to the marina, a 6 hour motor away, and see if anyone could fix our problem, ask the resort if we could fill up our water tanks and continue on with our trip, being extra careful with our precious water. In the end we borrowed water jugs and went ashore to fill up after Cop Out had given us 20 gallons of water maker water as a favour. It was not a problem topping up our tanks so today we left and continued further north.
It was not easy finding our proposed destination, we negotiated a rather hairy pass, the water was only 4 meters deep and we draw close to 2 so there was little margin for error. When we went to put up our genoa, we discovered we had forgotten to tighten the halyard so it dropped down and started coming out of the foil on the furler. We quickly wound the sail in but did not get a good wrap and whenever we turned into the wind about 1/2 meter of the sail flogged and flapped about, this is death to a sail because it causes excess deterioration of the sail, so all in all it was not a fun day. We salvaged what we could of the day when we finally anchored somewhere semi protected (but we may be on coral). We put the dinghy in the water and went off to explore a nearby coral reef. I swam at least 500 meters on the way back to the boat, that released some of the frustration that had built up. Life on a boat is seldom boring but more often the challenge of fixing whatever breaks that day can put a big dent in your enjoyment of the day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We had our first interaction with a Fijian village today. In Fiji, whenever you anchor in waters that are close to a village you are deemed to be in their territory. You must request their permission to snorkel, or walk on the lands around the village. You are not allowed to fish because the fish and any other creatures in their waters belong to the villagers. To request permission to anchor you participate in a ceremony called sevusevu. You take a bunch of kava root to the village and ask to see the chief, you give him the roots and he performs a little ceremony and then you make your requests. Kava is the root of a plant that the Polynesian peoples pound into a powder and then drink. It has a mildly narcotic quality, it causes numbness in the mouth and I think depending on the strength can cause other symptoms such as a feeling of euphoria.
When we arrived at the village location yesterday we anchored where there was a big patch of coral. The first thing we asked after the sevusevu was over was is there was a better place to anchor and we were told that there was a patch of sand in another location. The other thing we asked was whether or not we could climb the hills. They told us to come ashore whenever we wanted to go climbing and ask one of the boys and they would show us the path to go climbing. Once you have done this ceremony they accept you as part of their village and take care of you. This was ably demonstrated this afternoon.
We decided we would pull up our anchor and move to the sandy spot. Our chain had become hopelessly tangled up in the coral. Barry tried to get it free, first of all, he snorkeled down and tried to pull the chain up. By the time he reached the bottom, at 6 meters he had about 10 seconds of breath and then he had to resurface. He said it was stuck and asked that I get in the water and try to direct him as he steered to boat around so we could try and free the boat by just juggling the chain around while motoring. We tried that for about a half an hour and we getting nowhere, the chain was wrapped around underneath the coral. There was a huge 50 meter motor yacht that had pulled into the bay today. Barry called them up on the radio asking if they had diving equipment that we could use to free our chain. They said that they had to do some diving themselves but they would come to help us after they had finished. Just as Barry got off the radio I heard a "bula" (hello in Fijian) from the side of the boat. There were 3 Fijian guys next to the boat, two were in the water and one was in a little tin canoe. The fellow in the water looked through his mask down into the water and down he went, when he came he indicated that I should motor forwards and low and behold the boat moved. He had gotten us free in one dive. Man were we ever relieved. The 2 fellows in the water, Ben and Sai came aboard and they showed us where the sandy spot was. We dropped anchor, gave the guys a tour of the boat and offered them chips and Diet Coke. We found out a little about how they live, they marveled at our gimballed stove and were fascinated with our binoculars. We hope they will be our guides in a couple of days when we go hiking up the hills. I wonder if we hadn't gone ashore to do the sevusevu whether they would have come to help us??
Our buddies on Argonaut, Mike and Liz from Seattle are supposed to join us tomorrow, hopefully they will. Barry said to let you know how well our water maker is running. We had not topped up our water tanks since leaving Vuda Point Marina so yesterday we turned on the generator and put the water maker to work. Barry thinks it is putting out about 10 gallons an hour, more than it has ever done before (We had it repaired in New Zealand and the water is very warm here which increases production as well.) We run the generator at the same time as the water maker because it would seriously run down our batteries if we did not.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We are at Waya Island, it is the start of the Yasawa Group of islands in Fiji. The scenery is spectacular with towering mountain peaks that lead down to steep slopes from the shoreline, which are covered with palm trees. We are currently anchored off another resort although it is inaccessible because there is a huge onshore surf and we dare not try another dinghy landing. There are 2 other sailboats in the anchorage. With an off shore wind and an on shore surf everyone is really rolling back and forth. We feel slightly superior because we have the "flopper stopper" a device which dampens our rolling so we think we are rolling significantly less than the other 2 boats. We purchased the flopper stopper in San Diego because there are notoriously rolly anchorages in Mexico.

On shore we see the hull of a sailboat formerly known as Moonduster. Moonduster crossed the Pacific the same time as we did, but last year the owner did not heed local warnings and head for shelter when a cyclone was forecast. Now his boat, an S & S 46 lies stranded ashore, after being driven there during the cyclone season last year, it was uninsured. It is a stark reminder of how unforgiving the sea can be.
We had a good sail over to this anchorage, but Barry was on edge the whole time, there are reefs with breaking waves everywhere. You have to be alert at all times and keep an eye on your electronic maps, paper charts as well as an eagle eye out to watch for the reefs. I find myself getting uptight when Barry flits about the cockpit reminding me every 5 minutes about a reef that is still 4 miles off. I guess his vigilance has been rewarded so far as we are safe and sound in another anchorage in paradise. We are hoping another boat will join us here, but so far they do not want to leave the safely of Musket Cove. They were here last year and have already visited these anchorages. It would be nice to have some company but since we only have 3 weeks until Barry's brother Bruce joins us for a week we would like to explore this end of Fiji.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We have left Musket Cove and the comfort of semi-resort living. Semi-resort because we still lived on the boat but were allowed all the comforts of a resort. There were restaurants, activity centers, dive shops, grocery stores, bars, swimming pools and shower with laundry facilities. We had an account and could charge everything to our boat, you would just have to say Cat's-Paw IV and then sign a little chit. Lovely, except that is not why I came to Fiji so yesterday we upped anchor and left.
Fiji waters are quite tricky, they are charted but not really well and there are reefs and sandbars everywhere. We left close to low tide when the sun was behind us and we could see all the reefs and shallow spots. It is a little disconcerting when you are moving along and all you can see in the distance are breaking waves. Once we got closer we could see our way around.
The anchorage we are in is about 20 miles from the resort, but there is another resort just 5 miles away. We are in small bay surrounded on three sides by islands. There is a huge swell from the south at the moment that we are protected from by one of the islands but the wrap around swell makes it a little rolly. We have our flopper stopper out to dampen the roll and we are quite comfortable.
I awoke this morning to the cry of a baby goat, one of the islands is quite rocky and they were foraging on the cliffs about 100 meters from the boat. Yesterday after we arrived we went ashore, good thing we rowed rather than put on the motor. As we got closer Barry headed through the surf for shore and bam we were in the drink, the dinghy was upside down the oars were floating beside us and the camera which was in a plastic bag was floating about hither and yon. Barry's Tilley hat was floating between us, I grabbed his hat, (mine was still on my head as I had put on the chin strap), then shoved the oars at him and went to rescue the camera. As I got close another wave came crashing in and as I lunged at the camera it got away from me. I looked back out into the bay thinking it was gone but when I turned back to shore there it was washed up on the sand. I went and grabbed it, we righted the dinghy and pulled it up out of the surf. Barry opened the plastic bag and low and behold the camera was fine.
As we strolled along the shore a large bat flitted about the trees. There are lots of coconut trees, Barry brought a coconut aboard and he plans to drill a hole to see if the juice is still sweet. We walked along a sand spit that runs from one island to the other. As the tide came up the spit would be covered, when we went across waves from each side were washing over it. I felt a bit like that woman in the movie with Burt Lancaster that rolled about smooching in the surf. I did not float that idea with Barry as I am sure he would let me know what he thought of that.
On our way off the island we decided to swim the dinghy off rather than try and row through it. We made it, Barry was on one side, I was one the other yelling at each other every time a wave would go over to keep the dinghy straight and then swim like crazy. Barry was making better headway than I was because he had shoes on and could reach bottom longer than I could, I will not go ashore shoeless again. My feet got scraped up on the coral. I finally just grabbed the painter line and started towing the boat, Barry let go and swam. We got out of the surf and Barry got in and rowed until we were out of danger and then I got in.
When we got back to the boat, Barry just soaked our waterproof camera in fresh water and it seems to be working just fine. Yippie Aye Yeah for waterproof cameras. We plan to be out in the boonies until we have to return to pick up Barry's brother on July 7. Hopefully we will have good weather and continued internet access.

s/v Cat's-Paw IV

Saturday, June 05, 2010

We have been hanging out at the Musket Cove Yacht Club for the past few days. We are full fledged members of the club, you are only allowed to become members if you have sailed to Musket Cove from a foreign port, so it is an exclusive club!! The club is located on an island that is about 2 ½ hour sail from the marina we were staying at on a large island in Fiji. We are moored about 400 meters from the entrance to Musket Cove. There are several resorts on this island, New Zealanders and Australians come to vacation here, there are family time share situations as well as an adults only spots. There are several nice looking restaurants as well as a couple of small grocery stores. Cruisers are not looked upon as second class citizens here as we were in some resorts in Mexico. The resort provides a spot where everyone can meet nightly if they choose. There is a bar and tables and a wood burning bar-b-q. You can purchase prepackaged meals that you cook it consists of a half baked potato, your choice of meat and a salad, you are also allowed to bring all your own food in and cook it on the fire. It is a lovely location.
I have been taking big long walks every morning with friends we met 2 years ago, we leave at 0730 and today we wandered along the beach after climbing up one side of the hill and then going down to the beach. It was great to catch up with them and find out how their cyclone season had gone. Every afternoon we meet at the pool, where I manage to swim some lengths. We had dinner on another boat the other night and plan to have a dinner party for 6 tomorrow night.
I was hoping to do some diving here and went to sign up but they are unable to locate my Padi # so they will not allow me to dive. The dive shop asked if I was alone on the boat and I told them that my husband was with me but insisted that he couldn’t dive because he has problems with his sinuses. The dive master asked me if he could fly and I said yes and he said tell him if he can fly he can dive. SO I DID, and Barry decided to try it and signed up for the diving course. He has done 2 dives and quite enjoyed himself, he had no problems equalizing his ears and commented on the sharks, the turtles and the barracuda he saw underwater. He completes his training in a couple of days so we will be able to dive together, once I find out my number. That should be a lot of fun.
We are going to stay a week here and then head out for the more remote regions of Fiji. Our lowers are all fixed and Barry has managed to repair everything else we broke on our way here. Barry claimed we went sailing for 10 days and then we spent 5 days fixing everything. I haven’t been doing too many boat chores since we got to Musket Cove feeling the need for a bit of a rest having worked very hard for 6 weeks before we left NZ and then another week when we arrived. Someone lent me some Indian and Thai cookbooks so I scanned a whole bunch of new recipes, so I plan to try some out on our poor unsuspecting company tomorrow night. Hope all is well back in Canada.