Friday 31 July 2015

Eastern Fiji

Eastern Fiji:  10 June to 17 June
Tonga to Fiji

The weather forecast was for light winds when we left at Monday lunchtime and we planned to arrive on Thursday morning.  A relatively slow sail to cover the 295 miles to village of Lomolomo, the main village on Vanua Balavu in the Lau Group which are the most easterly islands of Fiji. The first day and night was light winds and we were on track to arrive on Thursday morning. The next day the winds increased and we were on a broad reach making 8.5 knots all day. If this continued we could make Wednesday lunchtime to enter in daylight with the sun high in the sky so we could see the reefs, but we would have to average 8 knots which seemed unlikely. The worst case was that we arrived at 5pm and would have to hang about all night before we could enter – night entry was not an option.

The winds continued to give us good speed but gradually backed and we were pushed further south than we wanted. We made the decision to motor sail the last 8 hours so that we could arrive at 1pm since the alternative would be to wait until morning. As we approached the entrance to the lagoon we could see a sailing boat stuck on a reef outside the entrance to the lagoon that had obviously been waiting overnight to enter.

Entry was nerve racking through the 50m wide entrance with waves breaking over the reef either side.  Once inside, we had another 15 miles of reefs and isolated rocks to navigate within the lagoon, many of which were not on the charts. So Catherine spent 3 hours standing at the bow looking for reefs and rocks so we could take avoiding action. Arrived in the anchorage at Lomolomo exhausted!

Lau Group - Vanua Balavu:  Wednesday 10 June – Wednesday 17 June

The next day we completed the entry process and we set off in the afternoon to Bavatu harbour where we were due to have a rendezvous and drinks with all the other boats.  Another 20 miles of navigating reefs with Catherine on the bow ensuring we missed the “bombies” (coral heads), reefs and other rocks.

The charts were pretty accurate for the reefs and rocks actually on the charts (many were missing) but when we got to the anchorage, a big island obscuring the entrance was missed off entirely.
We had a welcome ceremony by some of the villagers with traditional dress and war like cries and as a group we presented a gift of Kava root. Later that evening we had drinks in the yacht club (or hut as we might call it) and drank Kava with the locals while they sat round with guitars and other instruments singing songs long after most people had gone. I was the only one with a dinghy left at the end of the evening and so took everyone back to their boats after a very enjoyable evening.

The suggestions that we travelled around to Dalaconi village in convey the next day was welcomed by everyone – anything to make the journey easier. So 20 boats followed the lead boat who knew the area well and had indeed written the definitive guide to sailing around Fiji. 

Singing Traditional Songs

The village had put on a feast for us in the evening together with

Traditional Dancing Sitting Down

traditional Fijian dancing and singing. The feast is one of the few ways that the village can earn any hard currency and the only boats that go there are those that have crossed the Pacific – too difficult to sail from mainland Fiji the 200 miles east against the wind and tide. 

The next morning we went to church. Again the people were very welcoming and after a rather long service with a full choir singing we were invited to lunch. This we regretfully declined but we did spend some time talking to the elders and the schoolteacher. Education is now free in Fiji and so this village has a total of 30 children who go to school there before boarding in the capital at age 12.

Afar VI anchor in Bay of Islands
We spent the last few days in Vanua Balavu in the Bay of Islands, some 80 small islands in the lagoon. Beautiful setting where we were able to spend a relaxing couple of days exploring the islands in the dinghy.

Bay of Islands

Exploring the caves in Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

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