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.